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Qld treasurer not worried by plan critics

The Queensland treasurer says criticism of the state government’s plan to lease assets, by a leading economics professor, are more of a challenge to the opposition than his own plans.

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University of Queensland professor of economics John Quiggin has released a review of the Newman government’s so-called “Strong Choices” plan, which will lease some state assets for 99 years in a bid to battle the state’s debt.

Mr Quiggin says the plan will have an adverse financial effect and lead to a cumulative loss of approximately $9 billion by 2020.

In the paper, entitled “Strong Choices or Weak Arguments?”, Prof Quiggin states the 99-year leases are practically the same as selling off an asset and that Queensland’s financial problems are tied to its taxation system.

“Unfortunately, successive Queensland governments have maintained the fiction that we can be a low-tax state while still providing the same public services and high-quality infrastructure as other states,” he wrote.

“Until this delusion is abandoned, we will experience financial difficulties whenever government revenue experiences one of its regular cyclical declines, as is happening at present.”

Treasurer Tim Nicholls was on the Gold Coast on Monday to announce a $74 million infrastructure development at a notorious exit of the Pacific Motorway in the city’s north.

Mr Nicholls said Prof Quiggin concedes the core issue of the government’s argument, that turning Queensland’s finances around involves either cutting services, increasing taxes or selling or leasing public assets.

“What he is effectively saying is that there needs to be a massive increase in taxes if his policy prescription is going to get underway. We don’t think that’s the right option for Queensland,” Mr Nicholls said.

He said it would be impossible to gather state funds for projects such as the planned upgrades in Coomera that were unveiled on Monday without a plan and the Queensland Labor Party was yet to provide one of their own to voters.

Mr Nicholls said the professor’s statement actually challenges Labor “to say how they would fund things like exit 54. What is their plan?

“We’re now seven days into an election campaign, we haven’t seen an economic plan from the Labor opposition nor have we seen the detail of their costings. What are they hiding from Queenslanders?”

Gajdosova fighting back after illness

Australian wildcard Jarmila Gajdosova has continued her resurgence at the Sydney International with an impressive 6-1 7-6 victory over 13th-ranked German Anna Petkovic.

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Gajdosova, who reached a career-high No.33 in the world rankings in 2011, was told by doctors two years ago that she may not be able to play again after contracting a virus called mononucleoisis.

The illness compounded a tough period in the Slovakian-born 27-year-old’s life, with her mother passing away, her marriage to Australian tennis player Sam Groth ending and her ranking plummeting to No.232.

“I think it’s the first time in three years I feel physically fit and that I’m playing well,” Gajdosova said.

“I had a lot of ups and downs physically and mentally on and off court a little bit.”

After collapsing six times and feeling constantly fatigued, Gajdosova knew there was something seriously wrong but admitted she was shocked when a doctor told her she may never play high level tennis again.

“He said I will recover, but he just said only time will tell if would be fit to do my job again,” she said.

“I still have to go for blood test and everything to keep up and vitamins and proper sleep schedule and all sorts of things so it doesn’t come back.

“It took me a year to recover, so in that year I got kind of content with the fact that that may be it. I may not play.

“Then I tried and built up slowly … but the way I feel like now, it’s amazing. I feel like a new person. Hopefully, it stays that way.”

Gajdosova, who is ranked No.68 in the world, will meet last year’s Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova in the second round.

NZ man agrees he bashed girlfriend

A New Zealand man accused of bashing his ex-girlfriend with a motorbike helmet in a Bali street has agreed with a witness account of the assault.

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Richard James Wackrow, 40, faces up to two years and eight months in jail for assaulting his German ex-girlfriend, known in court papers as Lisa Christina.

The pair got into an argument after falling off a motorbike at Jimbaran on September 4.

The man who lived nearest to the scene on Monday told a court he saw the fight, and Wackrow throwing his ex-girlfriend’s phone on to the road.

The Wellington man slapped the designer and then hit her twice in the face with a motorcycle helmet until her face was bloody, said the man.

His nephew took her to hospital where a medical report recorded a broken nose and damage to her cheek and both eyes.

When the judge asked Wackrow – who has chosen to defend himself – if the witness statement was true, he told the court: “Yes, absolutely”.

Wackrow was arrested in September at Bali’s airport as he headed for Australia, where he had reportedly been living in Burleigh Heads, on Queensland’s Gold Coast.

Police had alleged he had a surfboard with him that was stolen from an American woman whom Wackrow had stayed with in June.

In August, the woman complained to police that Wackrow threatened to kill and “damage her face” in a SMS. He was accused of stealing a surfboard, mobile phone, two watches and money from her Canggu villa – but the charges were dropped due to a lack of evidence.

His trial continues later this month, and Ms Christina may give evidence.

He is one of several Kiwis in trouble with the law in Southeast Asia.

Antony de Malmanche, a 52-year-old pensioner from Wanganui, was arrested in Bali in December, allegedly with 1.7kg of crystal meth in his backpack, Peter Gardner, 25, was detained in China in November and could face execution by firing squad after his luggage was allegedly found to contain meth.

His Australian girlfriend Kalynda Davis, 22, was detained at first, but released.

In Thailand, New Zealander Taylor Grainger, 41, was arrested in December with methamphetamine and cocaine in a police blitz on the tourist centre of Phuket.

Wozniacki retires in Sydney due to wrist injury

The 24-year-old Dane, who lost the final of the Auckland Classic on Saturday, had already had her left wrist strapped when she was forced to retire at 6-4 1-1 down to Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.

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“I didn’t want to do it worse before Melbourne, so I’m just going to try and get some treatment on it and try and get ready for next week,” Wozniacki told reporters.

“I still have a week to go, so hopefully it’ll be fine… I’m confident that I’ll be fine to play in Melbourne.”

Zahlavova Strycova went through to a second round tie against local hope Sam Stosur, who had earlier progressed with a rain-disrupted 7-6(3) 5-7 6-3 victory over another Czech in Lucie Safarova.

Former U.S. Open champion Stosur had already had her first-round contest put back a day after wet weather in Sydney on Sunday.

She held her nerve throughout a three-hour contest peppered with rain interruptions and polished off the victory over the world number 16 with a thumping ace down the middle.

It was a welcome return to winning ways for Stosur, who blew a 5-1 lead in the third set last week to lose to American Varvara Lepchenko in Brisbane.

“I was pleased with the way I served for the match,” she said. “After what happened last week, to step up and serve the way I did, I’m obviously very happy.”

Third seeded Pole Agnieszka Radwanska enjoyed the more clement later conditions to beat France’s Alize Cornet 6-3 6-2 and reach the second round of a tournament she won in 2013.

The world number five made it clear, however, that her focus over the next few weeks under new coach Martina Navratilova was on improving on a single semi-final appearance at Melbourne Park.

“Martina’s going to be here tomorrow,” Radwanska said. “She’s really helping me on and off court. The goal is the grand slams so we’ll see how it goes.”

In the men’s draw, fifth-seeded Argentine Leonardo Mayer downed Benjamin Becker 7-6(3) 6-2 to set up a meeting with young Australian Nick Kyrgios or Pole Jerzy Janowicz in the second round.

Local top seed Casey Dellacqua overcame a second-set glitch to beat American Lauren Davis 6-4 1-6 6-4 and reach the second round of the Hobart International.

(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

Dellacqua wins in round one win in Hobart

Casey Dellacqua has secured her first win for 2015 with a shaky performance at the Hobart International, battling with her mental approach to the game.

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The world No. 29 made a confident start on Monday against American contender Lauren Davis, but produced a second set riddled with unforced errors before eventually prevailing 6-4 1-6 6-4.

Top-seeded Dellacqua said she needs to focus more and not worry so much about technical elements of her tennis.

“Concentration has definitely got to get better for my part,” she told reporters after the match.

“I don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with the way I’m hitting the ball, sometimes it just becomes a mind set.”

The left-hander said she found herself thinking about specifics like the ball toss and the success of her first serve, instead of the point being played.

“(I’m) the first to admit that I’m probably not playing my best tennis but at the end of the day it’s not about the wins or losses, it’s about my performance,” Dellacqua said.

Nevertheless, she admitted it’s nice to have a victory under her belt for 2015 after three singles losses at the Hopman Cup in Perth.

Dellacqua faces Italy’s Karin Knapp in round two on Wednesday.

World No. 51 Knapp on Monday beat Croatia’s Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5 6-2.

Dellacqua is expecting a good fight against the Italian.

“She’s a big hitter of the ball and the court is playing pretty fast,” she said.

“I’m going to have to be ready to go from the get-go.”

Dellacqua is the only Australian remaining in the Hobart singles draw after wildcard compatriots Storm Sanders and Olivia Rogowska both lost in three sets to seeded players.

During a day that included three retirements through injury, Britain’s Heather Watson found success, along with second-seed Zarina Diyas from Kazakhstan.

Watson meets American Sloane Stephens on Tuesday.

Conflicting reports on NSW Taser victim who died in custody

A NSW man who died in custody after being tasered was reportedly battling an addiction to ice and had been on a bender.

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Police officers used capsicum spray and then a Taser to subdue 38-year-old Kevin Norris at a McDonald’s restaurant in Mittagong in the Southern Highlands on Sunday night.

The roof tiler was then taken to Bowral police station where he later slumped to the ground and died.

His brother says he had just started turning his life around.

But Mr Norris’s girlfriend said he was addicted to ice, and had been on a bender in the days running up to his sudden death.

“Off that drug he was so beautiful it wasn’t funny,” she told the Seven Network.

“He looked after me so well.”

She told the Nine Network he had been on a three day ice binge and threatened to kill her before he left their house, ending up at the nearby McDonald’s.

Mr Norris’s younger brother, David, criticised the police tactics used.

“I don’t think the sort of punishment he got was appropriate,” David told AAP.

“I’ve lost all respect for police officers.”

Mr Norris had just moved to Mittagong from Gunning, about 130km away, to be with his girlfriend who lived near the restaurant.

“He had problems his whole life, mixing with the wrong crowd,” David said.

“But a couple of years ago he started getting his life back on track and doing well for himself.

“He was working every day, got a licence, got his first car.”

Police firstly received a call about a nearby domestic incident on Sunday and were then called to the McDonald’s after reports of a man being troublesome and disruptive.

Up to five police officers went to the restaurant with two sustaining minor injuries from a physical altercation.

“Police … used capsicum spray and eventually had to Taser the man to get control of him,” Assistant Commissioner Gary Worboys said.

Mr Norris was handcuffed at the restaurant and was conscious when he arrived at the police station, Mr Worboys said.

Police and ambulance officers tried to resuscitate him after he collapsed but were unsuccessful.

Mr Worboys said CCTV would form an important part of the investigation as there weren’t many witnesses.

“There’s no doubt there will be footage from the fast food restaurant, indeed the police station,” he said.

An autopsy is expected to be carried out in the next couple of days.

“It is a tragic set of circumstances and our thoughts go out to his family and friends,” Mr Worboys said.

“And also to the two police officers who are recuperating.”

After initially stating Mr Norris had not been known to police, a spokesperson informed the media on Monday afternoon they had actually had previous contact with him.

A critical incident investigation has been launched.

Australia adopts ‘Daesh’ terminology

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has decided to follow the lead of other Western leaders and rebrand the self-proclaimed Islamic State with an acronym they despise.

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After talks with the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Mr Abbott has started using the name Daesh.

Daesh is an acronym for the Arabic spelling of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant.

Greg Dyett reports.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

Tony Abbott’s decision to use the acronym comes a few months after the French Foreign Minister Lauren Fabius called on the media to use Daesh because he says the name Islamic State blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims and Islamists.

The United States government started using the term late last year.

The US Secretary of State John Kerry used the terminology at a summit in Brussel of the US-led coalition of nations fighting the Islamic State militants.

“We have made already significant progess in two and a half months but we also acknowledge there is a lot more work to be done. Daesh is still perpetrating terrible crimes.”

At a news conference at the Pentagon last month, Lieutenant General James Terry explained why he had started using Daesh.

“Daesh is a- it’s a term that our partners in the Gulf use. It speaks to a name that’s very close to ISIL in Arabic and it also speaks to another name that means ‘to crush underneath your foot’.” And so it’s a regional acronym for Daesh and I would just say that our partners, at least the ones that I work with, ask us to use that because they feel that if you use ISIL you legitimise a self-declared caliphate.”

The Islamic State hates the use of the acronym not least because of those negative connotations and has promised to remove the tongues of anyone who dares to speak it.

The Forum on Australia’s Islamic Relations welcomes the Prime Minister’s adoption of the acronym.

Director Kuranda Seyit says a change in terminology will have positive results.

“There is a perception that Islam is a problem and I think that it’s very important that we try and avoid associating Islam as a religion in general with these criminal acts or these terrorist acts so it’s really important that the terminology we use coming from particularly the title of the organisation and the names used all the way down to the connotations that we represent through the media. So it’s really important that we do change the way we refer to these organisations because it will help in alleviating some of the strains that the Muslim community are going through at the moment.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Draw opens up for Stosur after shock exits

Sam Stosur’s hopes of reaching the latter stages of the Sydney International have been given a huge boost after the shock exits of Caroline Wozniacki and Flavia Pennetta opened up her side of the draw.

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Wozniacki, who would have met Stosur in the second round with a win over veteran Czech Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova, forfeited Monday’s match midway through the second set due to a wrist injury.

World No.12 Pannetta, who has been a nemesis for Stosur throughout her career, holds a 5-0 record over the Queenslander and the pair could have met at the quarter-final stage.

However, the Italian lost 6-3 7-6 to unseeded Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova.

Stosur recorded her first win in Sydney since 2011 with a 7-6 (7-3) 5-7 6-3 victory against world No.16 Lucie Safarova and she believes it is the tonic she needs ahead of next week’s Australian Open in Melbourne.

It was the first time in seven encounters she’s beaten the 2014 Wimbledon semi-finalist.

Rain twice took Stosur and Safarova off court in the opening set and windy conditions made it difficult for both players ,but the Australian held on to win in just over three hours on Ken Rosewall Arena.

“The stop-start kind of spinning rain and the wind was really tricky out there,” Stosur said.

“It wasn’t like a constant breeze. It was going all different directions.

“You mix that with a quality opponent down the other end, and it was certainly a really tough match. I am very happy to get through that one.”

Stosur crashed out in the first round in Brisbane last week and the 30-year-old said coach Simon Rea had given her some ideas about ending her wretched run against the Czech left-hander.

“Simon brought a couple different things to the table and we spoke about that,” she said.

“I think it was the last six or seven times I have lost to her, even though a lot of those have been very close.

“He obviously thought I should try something different and kind of change what I was trying to do on return a little bit.”

Stosur is in a great position to progress to the quarter-finals after Wozniacki’s withdrawal, but the former French Open champion said world No.29 Zahlavova-Strycova, who she has never faced before, is a dangerous opponent.

“I don’t think I’ve played her but she had one of her best seasons ever last year,” she said.

“I guess I can enjoy this for a little bit and be back at it tomorrow.”

Australian world No.68 Jarmila Gajdosova, who was given a wild card for the tournament, shocked the 13th-ranked Anna Petkovic of Germany 6-1 7-6 to reach the second round.

Buoyant Lyon keep feet on ground after climbing to top

Lyon, who gradually dropped out of sight after clinching seven consecutive top-flight titles from 2002, were 17th in August after losing their first three games.

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But Alexandre Lacazette’s rise as a top-notch striker helped them climb up the ladder as everything fell into place for a team essentially made of home-grown players.

Eight starters in Sunday’s 3-0 home win against Toulouse come from Lyon’s youth academy, including France striker Lacazette.

Lacazette has scored 19 goals from 20 games, a tally last reached after 20 round of matches in the French top flight by PSG’s Vahid Halilhodzic in the 1984-85 season.

Lyon have been producing some free-flowing football to leapfrog their rivals and reach a tally of 42 points from 20 games.

The road to an eighth Ligue 1 title is still a long one, however.

“I do remember where we come from. If we are less rigorous, we can expect another month of August,” defender Christophe Jallet warned in French sports daily L’Equipe on Monday.

Coach Hubert Fournier said: “We can pronounce the word ‘title’ but we have to remain realistic.”

Fournier, however, would not say the hardest part of the season was yet to come.

“We’ve already been through tough periods this season and the best times are coming. But we’ll now have to live up to expectations,” he added. “PSG has an incredible team and Olympique de Marseille have had a superb start to the season.”

Marseille and PSG both lost at the weekend and dropped to second and fourth respectively, one and four points off the pace.

St Etienne are third, three points behind their arch rivals.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

Truss says Newman doesn’t need Abbott

Acting prime minister Warren Truss has dismissed claims Tony Abbott isn’t supporting Campbell Newman, saying the Queensland premier doesn’t need federal help to win this month’s election.

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While federal Labor leader Bill Shorten has been a notable presence alongside Queensland opposition leader Annastacia Palaszczuk in the early days of this month’s election campaign, it’s unclear whether Mr Abbott will join Mr Newman on the hustings.

National Party leader Mr Truss has taken on the prime minister’s office for the week with Mr Abbott on leave.

A Queenslander himself, Mr Truss was on the election trail on Monday, joining treasurer Tim Nicholls to announce a $74 million road project on the Gold Coast.

Mr Truss said criticising the prime minister for not yet appearing alongside Mr Newman was off the mark given the other events, nationally and internationally, with which Mr Abbott has been dealing.

He added that, in his opinion, Mr Abbott’s presence wasn’t really necessary during a state campaign anyway.

“I’ve got no doubt that when there are important things for the prime minister to do, that he’ll be in Queensland,” Mr Truss said.

“Premier Newman doesn’t need someone else to hold his hand. He’s an experienced premier. It’s his election.

“It’s an election for Queensland and he doesn’t need someone from the southern states to come up and hold his hand to win this election. He’ll win it on his own merits.”

Mr Truss said Queensland would decide this election on which party they felt was best equipped to lead the state.

He claimed Mr Newman’s government had proven its credentials during its first term of office.

“He inherited a state economy that was in utter disarray. The most debt of any in the country which is hugely embarrassing for a wealthy state like Queensland,” he said.

“It’s taken strong leadership and this election is about who can provide strong leadership for the state of Queensland.”