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Abbott to press Obama for Asia-Pacific free trade deal

Australia will seek American support to wrap up talks on an Asia-Pacific free trade zone when Prime Minister Tony Abbott meets with US President Barack Obama.


Mr Abbott was due to meet with Mr Obama at the White House at noon on Thursday (0200 AEST), on the second-last leg of his North American visit.

Australian trade officials are quietly confident the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a 12-nation agreement to boost trade in the region – can be concluded by the end of 2015, given that 80 per cent of it has been agreed.

In the meeting, in which Mr Abbott will present the president with a hand-made surfboard bearing the presidential seal, he will emphasise Australia’s commitment to the alliance as well as boosting trade and investment.

The US is Australia’s number one source of investment, number one destination for investment abroad and its third largest two-way trading partner

Countries involved in the TPP represent a trading area of almost 800 million people with GDP worth over $27 trillion.

A White House spokesman said the TPP would be on the agenda, as well as Australia’s leadership of the G20, Afghanistan, and the rotation of US Marines through Darwin.

Security and stability of the Asia-Pacific, Syria, Russia’s actions in Ukraine and North Korea would also be discussed.

Mr Abbott spent his first day in Washington DC in a round of meetings made more hectic by chaos in the Republican Party.

The party was dealing with the fallout from Eric Cantor’s loss of preselection in Virginia and his stepping down as House majority leader – the second most powerful position in his party.

Mr Abbott held four meetings, the first of which was with House Speaker John Boehner who said Republicans broadly supported the TPP.

The second meeting involved senior Democratic Party leadership.

Foreign relations committee members were keen to pursue how Australia reached its free trade agreement with Japan.

A fourth meeting involved about 10 senators from both parties who were interested in China and Australia’s intelligence services.

Some of the senators expressed regret about the scandal caused by the Edward Snowden security document leaks.

It is understood he told the senators – as well as senior national security chiefs he met with later – that countries involved in the so-called “five eyes” intelligence partnership should never apologise for doing what is needed to protect allies and the national interest.

Mr Abbott also met with International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde.

The prime minister will tell a business breakfast in Washington that Australia has managed to be a good friend to China while also a strong ally of the US.

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Mickelson in early contention at tricky Pinehurst

The American left-hander, who has been a runner-up in his national championship a record six times, ground out an even-par 70 in the opening round at Pinehurst Resort to finish two strokes off the early pace.


“I drove it great,” five-times major winner Mickelson, whose most recent runner-up finish at the U.S. Open came last year at Merion, told reporters. “Every time I hit driver, I hit the fairway.

“I putted OK but didn’t make the ones you need to make, the 15, 20-footers, you need to have a good round.”

American Kevin Na and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion at Pebble Beach, both opened with 68s on Pinehurst’s fabled No. 2 Course where danger lurked on virtually every hole because of the unique turtle-back greens.

Swedish world number two Henrik Stenson, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama and Americans Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker, Jordan Spieth and Brendon Todd carded 69s while defending champion Justin Rose of England launched his title defence with a 72.

“I got off to a great start,” Na told reporters after mixing an eagle at the par-five fifth with three birdies and three bogeys on an increasingly firm and fast-running layout. “I had an early tee time and I was able to capitalise on that.

“A long way to go and I’m obviously at two-under par right now, but at the end of the tournament, I think even par is going to win this championship.”


McDowell was delighted with his course management to start the season’s second major as he recovered from an early bogey with an eagle at the fifth before picking up another shot at the par-four 14th.

“I’m very pleased,” said the 34-year-old from Portrush. “It wasn’t my best ball-striking display this morning, but you don’t have to strike it amazing around here, you just have to position the ball correctly at all times.

“I spent the last few days just preparing myself mentally for the challenge, really, knowing that this golf course wasn’t going to give much and it was only going to take.”

Snedeker, a six-times winner on the PGA Tour who is seeking his first major victory, made a sizzling start to reach the turn in four-under 31 but then went bogey, double, bogey to slide down the leaderboard.

“I got off to a great start on the front nine, and hit a bunch of quality shots, left them in the right places,” said the fast-talking American who totalled six birdies on the day.

“Conversely, on the back nine, I had a lot of tough putts and didn’t handle them well. My speed was definitely off a little bit. As the greens got faster, I didn’t adjust and hit some poor putts coming in.

“I don’t know how I made six birdies today, but you’re not going to have that very often. You need to take advantage of those shots when you can use them.”

Northern Irish world number six Rory McIlroy, the 2011 U.S. Open champion at Congressional where he blew away the field with a stunning eight-stroke victory, opened with a 71.

World number one Adam Scott was among the late starters, and was grouped with fellow Masters champions Bubba Watson and Charl Schwartzel in one of the most eye-catching trios of the day.

Australian Scott, who will be seeking his second major title after clinching his first at last year’s Masters, is among the favourites at Pinehurst after winning four times in his last 17 starts worldwide.

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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England ring in the changes for All Blacks

England coach Stuart Lancaster has made five changes to the starting line-up for the second Test against New Zealand on Saturday, calling in backline reinforcements for the must-win encounter.


With his entire squad now available, Lancaster selected the backline combination that England used in the Six Nations over the supposedly “second string” line-up that pushed the All Blacks in a 20-15 first Test defeat.

He recalled centres Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell, five-eighth Owen Farrell and halfback Danny Care, as well as naming Tom Wood at blindside flanker in place of James Haskell.

Manu Tuilagi switches from the centre to right wing, with Marland Yarde moving to the left wing to accommodate him.

Lancaster said the strong showing last week – when players who were involved in the Premiership final were not available – meant picking a team for the second Test in Dunedin was always going to be difficult.

“It’s been evident in training all along just how intense competition for places is but especially now we have the guys who arrived at the end of last week,” he said.

“We knew selection for this Test was always going to be tough, with the players who played at Eden Park putting their hands up and those who watched from the stands.”

England need to win on Saturday to keep the three-Test series alive.

England: Mike Brown; Manu Tuilagi, Luther Burrell, Billy Twelvetrees, Marland Yarde; Owen Farrell, Danny Care; Ben Morgan, Chris Robshaw (capt), Tom Wood; Geoff Parling, Joe Launchbury; David Wilson, Rob Webber, Joe Marler.

Replacements: Dylan Hartley, Matt Mullan, Kieran Brookes, Courtney Lawes, Billy Vunipola, Ben Youngs, Freddie Burns, Chris Ashton.

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No cash to Gillard, says former boyfriend

Julia Gillard’s one-time boyfriend has denied ever giving the former prime minister money from a union slush fund to renovate her home.


Former union official Bruce Wilson, who now works as a cook, made repeated denials to the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption on Thursday that he had paid for Ms Gillard’s renovations when the two were in a relationship in the early 1990s.

“I don’t recall that I ever gave Gillard any money myself, or asked anyone to do so on my behalf,” Mr Wilson said in a 91-page statement to the commission.

“During our relationship, Gillard was independent about everything, including financial matters.”

Mr Wilson said tradesmen and former colleagues who gave evidence to the commission that he had handed over cash to Ms Gillard and requested money be placed into her account were wrong.

Mr Wilson met Ms Gillard, then a lawyer with firm Slater and Gordon, in 1991 when she did work for the Australian Workers’ Union in Perth.

He was secretary of the AWU’s Western Australia branch but moved to Victoria in 1992 and became secretary of the Victorian branch of the AWU after beginning a personal relationship with Ms Gillard.

Former Wilson colleague, Wayne Hem, has told the commission he received a “wad of notes” worth $5000 from the union boss and was told to place it into Ms Gillard’s bank account.

Mr Wilson said on Thursday he didn’t recall having given Mr Hem the money.

He denied evidence from builder Athol James, who previously told the commission that Ms Gillard had told him during the 1994 work on the Abbotsford, Melbourne property that Mr Wilson was paying the bills.

And Mr Wilson also rejected evidence from his one-time right-hand-man, confessed bagman Ralph Blewitt, that he had tucked $7000 into the overalls pocket of a tradesman at Ms Gillard’s house to pay for work.

“This never occurred,” he said.

Counsel assisting the commission, Jeremy Stoljar SC challenged Mr Wilson’s version of events, saying: “There seem to be a long list of people, according to you, who are not telling the truth”.

At the heart of the AWU affair is a so-called “slush fund”, the Workplace Reform Association, established by Mr Wilson in 1992 with legal advice from Ms Gillard.

The commission has heard funds of about $2000 a week flowed into the WRA from construction firm Thiess to pay for supposed safety training, although no work was ever done.

Some funds were used in buying a house in Melbourne, with Ms Gillard attending the auction with Mr Wilson after discussing how to arrange a power-of-attorney at a Thai dinner with Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt.

Mr Wilson said he wanted to conceal the purchase of the house from the AWU but did not tell this to Ms Gillard.

The commission will begin investigating the Health Services Union on Monday.

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Brad Pitt adds support to Jolie at warzone rape meeting

The Hollywood couple — with British Foreign Secretary William Hague standing between them — posed for a bank of cameras as they arrived at the conference venue.


Jolie wore a black tuxedo-style jacket and trousers and Pitt a dark suit and sunglasses.

A government source told AFP that Pitt had wanted to show his support to the cause “but I doubt he’ll speak. He’ll leave it to Angelina: it’s her baby”.

Jolie’s co-host Hague said Wednesday the star power of Jolie, who is a special envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, allied with the work of governments, could be “formidable”.

“She has the power to speak to the whole world, to raise awareness, change attitudes.

“Governments like the one I am a member of hold in their hands levers of decision-making and action.

“And this combination can be formidable.

“And is in many respects a strong example of the future of foreign policy and how it should be conducted.

“It’s no longer the sole preserve of governments.”

The conference, featuring decision-makers and victims of warzone rape, has launched a protocol of proposals on how best to document rapes in war in an attempt to vastly increase the number of prosecutions.

Jolie has said up to 50,000 women were sexually assaulted during the war in Bosnia — but “only just over 60 people” have ever been successfully prosecuted.

Hague will meet Nigeria’s foreign minister on the sidelines of the conference on Thursday to discuss violence in northern Nigeria, in the wake of the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls by the Boko Haram Islamist group.

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Smith gets first All Blacks fullback start

Ben Smith makes a long-awaited start at fullback for the All Blacks after Israel Dagg hobbled out of contention for the second Test against England.


Wing Julian Savea returns to a reshuffled New Zealand back three in the only change for the Test in Dunedin on Saturday.

The hosts can clinch the three-Test series following their tense 20-15 win in the first Test in Auckland.

Kieran Read spends another week on the sideline even though coach Steve Hansen previously said the world class No.8 had trained freely last week and showed no further evidence of concussion symptoms.

Powerhouse left wing Savea was the other key omission at Eden Park but has shaken off a knee complaint to return, push Cory Jane to the opposite wing and Smith to fullback.

Dagg is rested, having struggled with a patella niggle for the last month.

Experienced fullback Dagg scored 12 tries in his first 23 Tests but has gone tryless in his next 16.

The attacking verve that marked the 26-year-old’s early Test forays has made way for a more conservative style of play in the 18 months since he scored his last try, against Scotland in Edinburgh.

Smith has stockpiled running metres and line breaks from fullback for the Highlanders over the past two Super Rugby seasons and could be set to unleash from deep in the comfortable surrounds of his home pitch against the English.

It is the 28-year-old’s first Test start at the back, having begun 12 of his 27 Tests on the wing, six at centre and nine off the reserve bench.

Aaron Cruden is retained at first five-eighth despite the strong challenge being mounted by Beauden Barrett while there are no changes to the forward pack, which was given a torrid workout at Eden Park.

Among the All Blacks’ best last week was No.8 Jerome Kaino, who will play his 50th Test.

The bench is unchanged, with lock Patrick Tuipulotu once again getting a chance to earn his first cap after being unused last week.

Hansen says a change in attitude, rather than personnel, is needed if they are to improve on a patchy start to the season.

“We have worked hard on our skillsets, attitude and the detail in our game, which wasn’t up to All Blacks standard last week,” he said.

Tickets have sold out at the 28,500-seat indoor stadium.

All Blacks:

Ben Smith, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (capt), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu, Victor Vito, TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Malakai Fekitoa

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Chelsea hope new boy Fabregas will boost firepower

Fabregas, 27, in Brazil with Spain’s World Cup squad, will return to London after leaving Arsenal to rejoin his boyhood club in 2011.


Spanish media reported Chelsea had paid 33 million euros ($44.6 million) for the 2010 World Cup winner, with a possible three million more linked to performance.

Switching allegiance from north to south west London, he joins Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side that finished third in the Premier League and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League last season despite having trouble scoring goals.

Fabregas is likely to team up with prolific Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa, a much publicised transfer target for Mourinho, at Stamford Bridge next season.

“I do feel I have unfinished business in the Premier League and now is the right time for my return,” Fabregas told Barcelona’s website (fcbarcelona南宁桑拿网,).

“Everyone knows Arsenal had the first option to sign me. They decided not to take this option and therefore it wasn’t meant to be.

“I considered all the other offers very carefully and I firmly believe Chelsea is the best choice. They match my footballing ambitions with their hunger and desire to win trophies.”

Fabregas, who played for Barcelona as a child before joining Arsenal at the age of 16, made 151 appearances under three coaches, scoring 42 times for the Catalans but, unlike his time in north London, never proved a favourite among the fans.


The Spaniard’s goalscoring flair will come in handy at Chelsea where compatriot Fernando Torres and his fellow strikers Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba managed fewer than 20 league goals between them last season.

Chelsea are also losing the club’s all-time top scorer Frank Lampard who often scored 20 goals a season in all competitions during his 13 years at the club.

Fabregas is moving into a crowded area of the team because Chelsea have a wealth of young, attacking midfield talent in Belgium’s Eden Hazard, Brazilian duo Oscar and Willian, Germany’s Andre Schuerrle and Egyptian Mohamed Salah.

The Spaniard became the youngest player to turn out for Arsenal when he made his debut in 2003 at the age of 16.

Fabregas won the FA Cup with the club but other trophies eluded the Gunners and the Catalan is clearly chasing sliverware.

During his three years at Barcelona he won the league and the Spanish Cup but their superiority could be on the wane after they were eclipsed by Champions League winners Real Madrid last season and the rising force of La Liga winners Atletico Madrid.

While Fabregas has an impressive string of international honours to his name with World Cup and European Championship medals, he has, as yet, missed out on Premier League and Champions League glory.

He clearly hopes to remedy that under Mourinho who has won both trophies twice.

Fabregas joins an expanding band of Spaniards at Chelsea where Torres has said he plans to stay, Cesar Azpilicueta is settled in defence and Brazil-born Diego Costa looks likely to be leading the line when the new season opens in August.

The midfielder has been given the number four shirt vacated by Paris St Germain-bound David Luiz.

Xavi, Fabregas’s 2014 World Cup colleague and former Barca team mate, said the transfer was “great news for Cesc”.

“I see him looking very happy,” Xavi told reporters in Salvador. “It’s a great opportunity for him to be signed by a good team.

“He was hopeful it would happen. He now knows what his future holds for the next few years but of course it is a very important loss for Barcelona.”

(Editing by Martyn Herman and Tony Jimenez)

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Port regain skipper for AFL blockbuster

Port Adelaide’s Travis Boak will return to captain the AFL’s ladder leaders in Saturday’s clash with Sydney at the SCG.


Boak, goalsneak Angus Monfries and speedster Matt White have all recovered from injury and will tackle the Swans in the highlight of round 13.

“All three are ready to go and they’ll really add to the team,” Port coach Ken Hinkley said on the club website.

Sam Gray and Ben Newton were both dropped, but the absence of Jared Polec (ankle) is a setback for the Power.

The Swans fared far worse at the selection table, Ben McGlynn’s fractured thumb forcing him to join Kurt Tippett (knee) on the sidelines.

Pint-sized tackling machine McGlynn will miss two matches like Tippett, with Mike Pyke and Brandon Jack promoted in their absence.

Dual Brownlow medallist Chris Judd, Richmond veteran Chris Newman, Hawthorn ruckman David Hale, GWS defender Phil Davis and West Coast’s Josh Kennedy are among the fit-again players returning on the weekend.

Judd will play his second game of the season, having lasted six minutes as a substitute in round five when he returned from pre-season Achilles surgery.

Upgraded Hawthorn rookie Ben Ross will make his AFL debut on Friday night against Carlton, Luke Lowden making way and Billy Hartung nursing an elbow injury.

The Blues dropped Jeff Garlett.

Former Melbourne midfielder Colin Sylvia will make his club debut with Fremantle after joining the Dockers as a free agent in the off-season.

Fremantle replaced injured key defenders Luke McPharlin and Michael Johnson with Sylvia and Alex Silvagni for Saturday’s game at the MCG against Richmond.

The Tigers made four changes.

Newman, Aaron Edwards, Dylan Grimes and Shaun Hampson come into the team that lost to North Melbourne after a poor second-half fadeout.

Ben Griffiths and Matt McDonough were both dumped, while Ty Vickery and Matt Thomas will miss the match due to suspension.

Brisbane named an unchanged side for Saturday night’s clash with GWS at the Gabba, while the Giants called on Davis, Jeremy Cameron, Josh Hunt and Josh Kelly.

Adelaide’s Brent Reilly will play his 200th match after earning a recall for Saturday’s clash with North Melbourne, who dropped Majak Daw and Sam Wright.

West Coast will be well down on experience when they host Gold Coast on Saturday.

Retiring captain Darren Glass is joined on the sidelines by ruckman Dean Cox (soreness) and Sharrod Wellingham (omitted).

Rugby league convert Karmichael Hunt, who played his first game of the season in round 12, will miss the clash due to a knee injury.

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Sri Lanka can’t beat Root as England get on top

Root, 23, yet to nail down any one position in the batting line-up in his fledgling international career and dropped for the final Ashes test in Australia at the start of the year, compiled his third test century from 190 balls and struck eight fours.


He was given strong support by the recalled Matt Prior who was unbeaten on 76 at the close of play after the hosts dominated the final two sessions.

“It was quite a tough winter from a team point of view, and personally as well, so to come back and score a hundred meant a lot to me,” Root told a news conference.

“The position when I came in was obviously quite tricky and it was very pleasing to go on and get us in a decent position at the end of play.”England, fielding a new-look team after being humiliated 5-0 in Australia, lost three wickets in the morning session as Nuwan Kulasekara and Nuwan Pradeep made a bright start after Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews elected to bowl.

Ian Bell (56) was out early in the afternoon session, soon after bringing up his 40th half-century in his 99th test, to leave the home side on 120 for four before Root and Moeen rallied by sharing an 89-run stand.

Moeen showed few nerves despite making a slightly streaky start while Root became the fifth youngest England batsman to pass 1,000 test runs.

The pair batted for most of the middle session but after tea Moeen slashed at a ball from Rangana Herath, having earlier hit the first ball he faced from the spinner for six, two short of a maiden half-century, and the catch was taken by Mahela Jayawardene at first slip.

Prior, back in the team after injury and loss of form, was almost trapped leg before second ball when he was hit on the back leg by Herath and a video review found narrowly in his favour.


After that early scare the wicketkeeper-batsman offered good support to Root as the Sri Lanka attack tired and the pitch began to lose its green tinge.

The duo scrambled plenty of quick singles and took advantage of any loose balls to put on an unbeaten 135 for the sixth wicket.

Root said the partnerships with Prior and Moeen were crucial to establishing a dominant position.

“After a difficult winter the way Matty came back into the side was testament to his character and ability and it’s really pleasing to see him go on and make a score and hopefully he can do that tomorrow,” added Root.

“Moeen on his debut too, to play the way he did, to come into the side and play some elegant strokes and make it so easy at times, it took a lot of pressure off me.”

England, with a new coach in Peter Moores and with the international career of batsman Kevin Pietersen now controversially ended, got their new era off to a poor start.

Australian-born Sam Robson (1), making his debut along with Moeen and pace bowler Chris Jordan, edged a full ball off the lively Pradeep that was well taken by wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene.

Captain Alastair Cook, who had moved quickly through to 17 but never looked comfortable during his 26-ball innings, also played a false shot, attempting to cut a Kulasekara delivery that was too close to his body and chopping the ball on to his stumps.

After a shaky start Bell began to find his touch, confidently driving anything over-pitched and he brought some cheer to the crowd with a lusty straight six off Herath in the first over after lunch.

He was unable to maintain that momentum however, falling lbw to Shaminda Eranga after the original not-out decision was overturned on review.

“The first session and the hour after that we bowled really well, then after that it didn’t go our way. But I think we should back ourselves and come back tomorrow and do our job,” said Sri Lanka opening batsman Kaushal Silva.

“The last hour or so we tried to take wickets so that made it easier for them to score some runs. But apart from that I think the first two sessions we did really well, we stuck to our plans and bowled according to our fields.”

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

23/01/2019 0

From uni to Nauru in two days

She was a 22-year-old retail worker who answered a “fun” Facebook ad to work on a tropical island.


Instead, Nicole Judge found herself on Nauru, watching asylum seekers beating their heads against concrete and screaming for freedom.

But it was about to get worse.

The former JB HiFi worker left the Nauru detention centre for Manus Island in September 2013 to find “sick and defeated” men cramped behind walls, fearing for their lives as locals threatened them with machetes.

“I thought I had seen it all. I had not seen it all,” Ms Judge told a parliamentary inquiry on Thursday.

“Manus Island shocked me to the core.”

Ms Judge and her friend Christopher Iacono were both university students in 2012 when they responded to a Salvation Army Facebook “meme” describing Nauru as a fun holiday experience.

Two days later, they were both on the tiny island nation without having undergone a job interview nor any training on handling asylum seekers.

“I thought it was going to be some fun experience,” Ms Judge said.

“I didn’t even know what a refugee was.”

Ms Judge recounted her experience at a Senate inquiry on Thursday in Canberra probing the February 18 Manus Island riots that led to the death of Iranian Reza Barati.

While working as a case manager there, before the riots, Ms Judge reported seeing expatriate guards physically beating asylum seekers and insulting their religious and cultural beliefs.

When she complained about being sexually harassed by the guards, she was told by a manager to put up with it because the same thing happened in bars.

Mr Iacono, who worked at McDonald’s before becoming a support officer on Manus Island, criticised the Australian government’s immigration policy.

The government’s smarttraveller南宁桑拿网, website warns against travelling to Papua New Guinea because of high crime rates, gang rapes and ethnic disputes.

“This is the same government that wants to settle these foreigners there in that country,” he said.

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