Warriors pack must produce more: Kearney

Warriors boss Stephen Kearney has acknowledged his side’s early-season NRL troubles, saying they have stuttered from game to game.


The Auckland-based side have won just one of three matches to kick off their 2017 season and limply fell 24-12 to the Bulldogs in Dunedin last week.

They’ll now look to get back on track for a first finals berth in six years when they take on the Dragons in Sydney on Sunday.

New boss Kearney admitted his side had lacked playmaking craft and punch through the middle in their losses to Melbourne and the Bulldogs, with the absence of concussed skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck a major blow.

But he backed his troops to turn things around quickly against St George Illawarra, who have surprised many by winning two of their first three games.

“The improvement for us is in the back end of the game – last week it was 12-10 at one stage there and we need to be better,” Kearney said.

“(The Dragons) have certainly changed the way they play the game in the sense that they’re offloading the ball a lot more and look really dangerous.”

Tuivasa-Sheck watched on against the Bulldogs and echoed his coach’s thoughts, saying the side’s forwards and propping quartet lacked bite at key moments.

Although props Albert Vete, Jacob Lillyman, Charlie Gubb and Sam Lisone made a combined 420 metres with ball in hand, the Warriors struggled to secure good field position at times or supply ball to the backs.

The 23-year-old Tuivasa-Sheck, who will return on Sunday, said he and his teammates had pored over video tapes this week, looking for what went wrong.

“When it works, our forwards are strong, and when it doesn’t work, we know the forwards aren’t that strong,” the fullback said.

“We’ve got players like Shaun Johnson, Ata Hingano, maybe Kieran Foran, myself, Tui (Lolohea) at the back – for them to play their footy, the boys at the front need to punch up.”

Erdogan: I’ll keep up ‘Nazi’ taunts if I’m called ‘dictator’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday he will keep up his “Nazi” taunts targeting European leaders as long as they keep on calling him a “dictator”.


“How does that work, you have the right to call Erdogan a ‘dictator’ but Erdogan doesn’t have the right to call you ‘fascist’ and ‘Nazi’?” he said during an interview with the CNN-Turk and Kanal D television channels.

Relations between Turkey and Europe have been severely strained since Turkish ministers were thwarted from campaigning on the continent for a ‘yes’ vote in next month’s referendum on expanding Erdogan’s powers.

Ankara has said such behaviour was reminiscent of Nazi Germany and also raised alarm over what it sees as rising racism and Islamophobia.

Germany on Monday branded as “unacceptable” Erdogan’s charge that Chancellor Angela Merkel was using “Nazi measures”, but signalled it wanted to avoid escalating the feud.

Erdogan, who has also taken similar aim at the Netherlands, didn’t sound conciliatory.

“They accuse me then they speak of Erdogan as a ‘dictator,” he continued, still referring to himself in the third person.

“So I’ll continue to address them in these terms,” he added.

‘Good friends’

Erdogan again denounced the cancellation of his ministers’ trips to European countries with a large Turkish diaspora ahead of the referendum.

On Wednesday he warned that Europeans risk being unsafe on the world’s streets, as the crisis between Ankara and the EU showed no signs of abating.


The same day Germany’s new President Frank-Walter Steinmeier again urged the Turkish leader to “stop these appalling comparisons with Nazism, do not cut the ties with those who want a partnership with Turkey.”

Erdogan said he was “good friends” with Steinmeier and “deplored” his comments.

He added that there could be a “period of review” of Turkey relations with the European Union, while stressing the importance of economic ties with the bloc, his country’s biggest trading partner.

Turkey is officially an EU-candidate nation but its accession process has been practically blocked for years.

He said that an EU-Turkey agreement on migrants, aimed at reducing the numbers reaching Europe from Africa and the Middle East, would be part of an “A to Z” review of government policy to begin after the April 16 referendum.


Turning to the issue of Kurdish separatists in Turkey and Syria, the Erdogan said he was “saddened” by links which Russia and the US have with Kurdish militias.

While he is a regular critic of Washington over its support for the  Kurdish YPG militia operating in Syria it was the first time he had expressed his unhappiness with Moscow’s stance 

Turkey summoned the Russian charge d’affaires on Wednesday and sent him another message Thursday to convey “deep unease” over two incidents in Kurdish militia-controlled Syria, Ankara said.

Ankara said one of its soldiers had been shot and killed in southern Turkey on Wednesday by cross-border sniper fire from an area of northwestern Syria controlled by the Kurdish YPG militia.

On Thursday, the foreign ministry sent a new message to the Russian envoy over photos of Russian troops apparently showing them wearing YPG insignia, state-run news agency Anadolu said.

The YPG confirmed on Monday that they had received military training from Russian operatives, something Moscow has not confirmed.


Johnson stays perfect, McIlroy eliminated at Match Play

“Putting is the hardest part,” Johnson told Golf Channel after improving to 2-0-0 overall with his second straight win over a major champion.


“It’s very breezy and then really gusty at times.”

Despite two wins from two matches, Johnson was not guaranteed of advancing out of the group stage. He must win or halve his Friday match against compatriot Jimmy Walker to be certain of advancing to the final 16.

The format divides the 64 players into 16 four-man groups, with the winner of each group entering the knockout stage on Saturday.

After losing to Dane Soren Kjeldsen on Wednesday, McIlroy got a win on Thursday when his scheduled opponent Gary Woodland withdrew, citing personal family reasons.

Even with that walkover, however, McIlroy still needed Kjeldsen to lose his second match to have any chance of advancing out of the round-robin group stage.

But Kjeldsen duly shut the door on the Northern Irishman, beating Argentine Emiliano Grillo 4&3 on Thursday to improve to 2-0-0.

Kjeldsen said he relished the tough conditions.

“I’m brought up in this,” he said. “The way I play golf, I like to shape shots, like to change the trajectory. When I saw it being windy today I was really happy.”

Swede Alexander Noren is also guaranteed of being part of the sweet 16, after beating Austrian Bernd Wiesberger 3&2.

McIlroy was not the only highly-ranked player eliminated from the final 16 with world number four Hideki Matsuyama also making an early exit after losing to Englishman Ross Fisher 2&1.

The wind caused all sorts of problems and a watery grave for many a ball, even a shank by American Charles Howell, who had no problem assigning the blame to the conditions.

“(It was) difficult enough to cause a shank,” he said after escaping with a 1-up win over Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello.

Phil Mickelson, who improved to 2-0-0 thanks to a 5&4 thumping of fellow American Daniel Berger, said it was fortunate that the match play format was being used rather than stroke play, given the conditions.

“Given the severity of the greens and so forth, certainly there are holes we’re going to look ridiculous on,” he said after chipping clean across a green into a water hazard.

“I think it’s fun and it’s great for match play because you don’t worry about the stroke. It’s just relative to your opponent.”

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue)

Time running out for asylum seekers who sheltered Edward Snowden

They’re being screened for deportation this week and according to their lawyers the government is fast-tracking their removal.


Hong Kong was once a safe place for asylum seeker Ajith Pushpakumara.

He fled to the territory after being tortured for deserting the Sri Lankan army. Now he says authorities from his home country are looking for him here, forcing him to change addresses.

“I was scared living in the old place. I quickly moved to a new place and never show anybody where it is,” Mr Pushpakumara said.

The 43-year-old was one of four asylum seekers who sheltered Edward Snowden for two weeks when he was hiding in Hong Kong in 2013.

Snowden, a former intelligence contractor, fled the US after leaking surveillance secrets. The asylum seekers’ identities were revealed after the release of a film about Snowden last year.

Lawyer Robert Tibbo says the Hong Kong government is failing to protect Mr Pushpakumara and the other families who assisted Snowden.

They include Sri Lankan national Supun Thilina Kellapatha, his wife Nadeeka Dilrukshi Nonis and their two children, and Filipino Vanessa Rodel and her daughter.

HK Migration says the refugees who aided me must face irregular, immediate deportation hearings this week. Details: 苏州美甲培训学校,长沙SPA,/3WalvUEb3X

— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) March 22, 2017

Mr Tibbo, who also represents Snowden, believes the Hong Kong government is targeting his clients for their role in Snowden’s escape.

“The Hong Kong government questioned Ms Rodel about Mr Snowden. She refused and upon her refusal they started cutting off humanitarian assistance to her,” Mr Tibbo said.

“We didn’t expect the Hong Kong government to take such an adverse approach to my clients, for actually having done nothing wrong. Simply providing refuge to a man who was in need.”

On March 9 Mr Tibbo and his legal team announced that they were appealing to Canada to accept the families as asylum seekers.

Within hours they each received letters from Hong Kong’s immigration authorities informing them of their Removal Assessment Screenings, scheduled for this week.

“We’re very concerned that the Hong Kong government is just rushing this with a view to remove them from Hong,” Mr Tibbo said, adding that his clients could be deported in a matter of weeks.

From a press conference in Montreal on Wednesday lawyer Marc-Andre Seguin and his colleagues urged the Canadian government to expedite their consideration of the Snowden asylum seekers.

“Our clients have come to illustrate the ill treatment that Hong Kong imposes to asylum seekers to their territory,” Mr Seguin said.

“For Hong Kong they are an embarrassment to be discarded, no matter the fate that awaits them in their country of origin.

“Now more than ever we need to demonstrate to the world that Canadians, and Montrealers, welcome refugees.”

Hong Kong has one of the lowest asylum seeker acceptance rates in the world – less than one per cent since 1992.

Many asylum seekers in the territory often wait years for processing and rely on welfare as they’re not permitted to work.

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Govt won’t step in to save Hazelwood: PM

Malcolm Turnbull insists his government won’t be stepping in to stop the imminent closure of Victoria’s Hazelwood power station.


The prime minister says there is enough unused capacity in the electricity generation system to cover the looming gap.

“We are not going to step in to acquire or subside the Hazelwood power station,” he told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell on Friday.

Mr Turnbull was responding to a call by his predecessor to keep open the nation’s oldest coal-fired generator.

Tony Abbott says the last thing Australia should be doing is closing a utility that supports base load power.

Until cost effective and reliable alternative energy supplies, such as pumped hydro were assured, closing Hazelwood was an avoidable folly, Mr Abbott said.

The prime minister said the decision to close Hazelwood was a commercial one taken by its owner, French-owned company Engie Australia.

“It has been slated for closure for many, many years,” Mr Turnbull earlier told reporters in Canberra.

The cost of making it safe and paying for long-deferred maintenance ran into “many millions of dollars”.

Mr Turnbull said the Australian Energy Market Operator had advised that the closure of Hazelwood would not reduce the security of the system.

“In other words, it won’t make the risk of blackouts greater because there are other power generation resources available in Victoria and the national electricity market.”

Mr Abbott was not reassured: “Because the regulator wasn’t able to keep the lights on in South Australia.”

“The regulator wasn’t able to prevent a blackout which did very serious damage and potentially fatal damage to the Portland aluminium smelter,” he told ABC radio.

The Australian Industry Group agrees governments should remain open to keeping Hazelwood operating in some form.

“We appreciate that this would be a major and costly step,” chief executive Innes Willox said.

“We need urgent action, and all options should be on the table.”

Treasurer Scott Morrison blamed the “mindless ideology” of the Labor Party for the Hazelwood closure.

“They cheered on the closure of coal-fired power stations.”

Engie CEO Alex Keisser says there have been no conversations about a possible Victorian or federal government bailout.

It would be a “very expensive solution” and suggested the focus should instead be on job opportunities for redundant staff.

“They would need, firstly, a lot of money and, secondly, we would need to act very quickly because we need $150 million just to do the work needed by July to keep the plant safe,” Mr Keisser told ABC radio.

Labor described Mr Abbott’s intervention as a five-seconds-to-midnight moment.

“It is clearly and deliberately calculated to damage the prime minister, rather than being a constructive contribution to the literacy policy,” opposition energy spokesman Mark Butler told reporters.

“What we have in the middle of a very serious national energy crisis is a government utterly paralysed by ideology and the ongoing civil war between Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull.”

Race-hate inquiry blocks indigenous group

A committee looking into changes to discrimination law has blocked a leading indigenous group from presenting evidence in person.


Labor and the Greens wanted the Aboriginal Legal Service to give evidence to a five-day inquiry into changes to the Racial Discrimination Act and the way in which the Australian Human Rights Commission handles complaints.

But chairman of the inquiry committee, Liberal senator Ian Macdonald, on Friday refused to allow the service to offer its thoughts on the legislation, which was only introduced to parliament on Wednesday.

“I think it would be extremely unfortunate if we consider far-reaching changes to the Racial Discrimination Act without inviting one indigenous person to give evidence – I think that would be disgraceful, quite frankly,” Labor senator Murray Watt said.

Senator Macdonald said he would not allow it because “once you start having one group of any type, in this case an indigenous group, who have a particular view, do you call other members of that same group that might have a different view?”

“I think it was for that reason we decided to restrict it to the ones we have (on the witness list),” Senator Macdonald said.

Senator Watt said he would be happy for the committee to invite an indigenous person to argue in favour of the law changes, if one could be found.

ALS senior managing solicitor Michael Lalor told AAP he was disappointed he could not present evidence.

“Aboriginal people are, if not the most discriminated people in the country, one of the most discriminated people,” he said.

It is proposed the words “offend, insult and humiliate” in Section 18C of the Act be changed to “harass and intimidate”.

Mr Lalor said his key concern with the new laws was the use of the term “harassment”, which in criminal law required a “continuing course of conduct” rather than a one-off incident.

Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs told the hearing the current language in the Act had worked “extremely well” and should not be changed.

“The Federal Court has interpreted that language in a way which is predictable, fair and considers the seriousness of any discrimination,” she said.

Race discrimination commissioner Tim Soutphommasane said the proposed law change was likely to have a chilling effect on people coming forward with complaints.

“It may signal to the community that conduct which offends, insults or humiliates people on the basis of their race may be acceptable or justified.”

Law Council president Fiona McLeod told the hearing the existing law wording should stand.

“(It) strikes an appropriate balance between freedom of expression and protection from racial vilification and should not be amended,” she said.

The council was not aware of any convincing evidence the current law was impeding freedom of speech and the proposed change could put Australia in breach of its international human rights obligations.

However, the council supported the proposed changes to the AHRC’s complaints handling processes, subject to some technical amendments.

The government is unlikely to have the numbers to pass the Act changes, but there is support among Labor and the Greens for the changes to the AHRC’s processes to head off frivolous or low-level complaints before they get to court.

Business worries about fate of tax cuts

Business is becoming increasingly worried the Turnbull government is planning to dump company tax cuts for the high end of town.


It’s looking less likely the Senate will approve Treasurer Scott Morrison’s $50 billion grand plan that aims to get the corporate rate down to 25 per cent within 10 years.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has warned the country’s economic competitiveness is at risk unless action is taken on the tax rate.

“We need internationally competitive company tax rates across the entire economy,” chamber chief executive James Pearson said.

After six months of on-off discussion the legislation has still to clear parliament’s lower house where the government has a majority.

Debate was adjourned on Thursday and will resume next week at the earliest.

The tax plan was the centrepiece of the 2016 budget, handed down 10 months ago.

Mr Morrison wants his legislation dealt with before the end of next week – the final sitting before the May 9 budget – so companies with an annual turnover of up to $10 million get a tax cut mid-year.

Key crossbench senators believe that is probably as far it will get, with cuts for larger businesses “off the table for now”.

“I’m saying they’ll split the bill to get something through this time and they’ll maybe go back to it,” independent senator Derryn Hinch said.

Fellow crossbencher Jacqui Lambie also wants the cuts limited to small business, as does the Nick Xenophon Team.

If the plan is about to be split, Mr Morrison isn’t saying, telling parliament on Thursday he supported the tax plan with his “heart and soul”.

The $50 billion plan incrementally lowers the tax rate, starting with a reduction to 27.5 per cent for companies with a $10 million turnover this year, then firms with a $25 million next year and so on until all business have a 25 per cent rate in a decade’s time.

Companies presently pay a 30 per cent rate, apart from businesses with a turnover of less than $2 billion, which pay 28.5 per cent.

Labor remains opposed to the cuts, other than for those firms with a turnover of less than $2 million.

“You have to draw the line somewhere,” opposition finance spokesman Jim Chalmers said.

250 feared dead in new Med migrant boat sinkings: NGO

Laura Lanuza of Spanish charity Proactiva Open Arms said its boat Golfo Azzuro had recovered the five dead bodies close to the dinghies, about 15 miles off the Libyan coast.


“We don’t think there can be any other explanation than that these dinghies would have been full of people,” she told AFP. “It seems clear that they sunk.”


She added that they would typically have been carrying 120-140 migrants each.

“In over a year we have never seen any of these dinghies that were anything other than packed.”

Lanuza said the bodies recovered were African men with estimated ages of between 16 and 25.

They had drowned, apparently in the 24 hours prior to them being discovered shortly after dawn on Thursday in waters directly north of the Libyan port of Sabrata.

Migrants and refugees panic as they fall in water during a rescue operation run by Maltese NGO Moas and Italian Red Cross 3/11/2016. ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images

Despite rough winter seas, migrant departures from Libya on boats chartered by people traffickers have accelerated in recent months from already-record levels.

Over 5,000 people have been picked up by rescue boats since Sunday, bringing the number brought to Italy since the start of 2017 to over 21,000, a rise of more than half compared to the same period in previous years.

Aid groups say the accelerating exodus is being driven by worsening living conditions for migrants in Libya and by fears the sea route to Europe could soon be closed to traffickers.

Squalid, dangerous camps

Prior to the latest fatal incident, the UN refugee agency had estimated that some 440 migrants had died trying to make the crossing from Libya to Italy since the start of 2017.

That figure, also sharply up on previous years, is based on a combination of bodies recovered and testimonies from survivors of shipwrecks.

More than half a million migrants reached Italy from Libya between late 2013 and the end of last year.

And if the trend of the opening weeks of 2017 continues, another 250,000 will have to be accommodated this year by Italy’s over-stretched facilities for asylum seekers.


Against that backdrop, Italy has stepped up cooperation with Libya with the aim of deterring boat departures by ensuring the north African country’s own coastguard turns boats back to port before they reach international waters.

The plans involve equipping and training the Libyan coastguard and helping the former Italian colony to upgrade holding camps for migrants in Libya pending their deportation to their countries of origin.

But the moves have caused concern among human rights bodies because of the squalid, dangerous conditions in the detention camps, and the inherently unstable state of the conflict-scarred country.

Migrants sit on the ground next to Spanish police officers after storming a fence to enter the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, Spain.AAP

Italy has also stepped up its efforts to persuade other European countries to accept some of the asylum-seekers and other migrants landed at its southern ports, with limited success so far.

The overwhelming majority of the migrants reaching Italy are from Africa.

The Italian government insists most of them are economic migrants.

But rights bodies point out that some 40 percent of those who apply to stay in Italy are eventually allowed to, either because they qualify as refugees under international law or because they have a case for leave to remain under Italy’s own humanitarian provisions.

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Russian channel refuses remote Eurovision participation

“We find the offer of remote participation odd and refuse it, for it is going absolutely against the very essence of the event,” the official Russian broadcaster said after Eurovision suggested she could participate via satellite.


It said in an emailed statement that “one of the (contest) rules… reads that the song should be performed live on the stage.”


The state channel, which selected Samoilova as Russia’s contestant, claimed the rules also oblige Ukraine to provide all participants with entry visas, and that Kiev’s entry ban had violated those rules.

“We believe that the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) shouldn’t invent new rules for the Russian entrant in 2017 and is capable to hold the contest in accordance with its own order,” the channel said.Eurovision fans ready for another spectacle (file)Rolf Klatt for SBS

Earlier the competition’s Geneva-based organiser EBU said it was taking an “unprecedented move” to offer Samoilova to participate live “via satellite” which has “never been done before.”

Ukraine, which is hosting the hugely popular song contest, imposed on Wednesday a three-year entry ban on Samoilova, 27, over illegally entering Moscow-annexed Crimea to perform at a concert in 2015.

Russia said it hoped Kiev would reconsider its decision.

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White House defends Nunes’ Trump briefing

The White House has defended the House intelligence committee chairman’s decision to brief President Donald Trump on intelligence intercepts even as Devin Nunes privately apologised to his congressional colleagues.


The decision to disclose the information before talking to committee members outraged Democrats and raised questions about the independence of the panel’s probe of Russian interference in the election.

“It was a judgement call on my part,” Nunes told reporters shortly after the closed-door committee meeting.

“Sometimes you make the right decision, sometimes you make the wrong decision.”

Democrats questioned whether Nunes, who served on Trump’s transition team, was working in co-ordination with the White House, a charge the White House disputed.

Still, White House spokesman Sean Spicer claimed, inaccurately, Nunes was “vindicating” the president’s unproven assertion president Barack Obama wiretapped his New York skyscraper during the election.

Nunes specifically stated the new information he received did not support the president’s explosive allegations.

Nunes told reporters he had seen new information showing the communications of Trump transition officials were scooped up through monitoring of other targets and improperly spread through intelligence agencies during the final days of the Obama administration.

On Wednesday, Nunes spoke to reporters and the president without sharing the new information with Adam Schiff, the panel’s top Democrat.

On Thursday morning, Nunes apologised to Schiff and other Democrats during a 20-minute meeting on Capitol Hill.

“It was a sombre discussion,” said Democrat Joaquin Castro, a committee member.

Speaking to reporters after his apology, Nunes ducked questions about whether he was parroting information given to him by the White House, saying only he was “not going to ever reveal sources”.

Nunes’ disclosure came two days after FBI Director James Comey publicly confirmed the bureau’s own investigation into the Trump campaign’s connections with Russia.