RELATIONS between the federal government and Rob Oakeshott have turned poisonous after a senior cabinet minister initiated legal action against the Independent MP concerning comments he made about the mining tax.
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Mr Oakeshott has been threatened legally by the Minister for Resources and Energy, Victorian Martin Ferguson, following comments made last week after it was revealed the mining tax would make next to no revenue in its first three months. Mr Oakeshott, whose support is vital to keeping Labor in power, has reacted angrily to the legal letter, which he received on Thursday, describing it as ”stupid”.

”I can confirm I have received defamation proceedings from cabinet minister Ferguson,” he said. ”Yes, I’m surprised that the cabinet and the caucus could be so stupid.”

Mr Oakeshott is furious at the legal action, given all he has endured for putting Labor in power and keeping it there. He is battling to keep his seat of Lyne at next year’s election.

Mr Ferguson is demanding from Mr Oakeshott a private written apology and is reserving his right to go further ”to protect his rights and to seek compensation for the damage which he has suffered, including the commencement of defamation proceedings in the Supreme Court of NSW”.

Mr Oakeshott would be personally liable for all expenses and any damages awarded.

Mr Oakeshott queried the deductions available to miners to claim against their MRRT liability and Mr Ferguson’s role during negotiations with mining companies over the tax.

Mr Ferguson’s lawyers contend this to be ”false, defamatory and indefensible under defamation law”.

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IN THE wake of poor polls and internal questioning of his strategy, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has used a major economic speech to strike a more positive note, trying to counter the government’s push on its plans for the future.
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Mr Abbott said the Coalition had consulted widely to develop comprehensive policies to improve the nation and he had outlined plans ”for a stronger economy, stronger communities, a cleaner environment, stronger borders and modern infrastructure.” His economic plan included lower taxes, lower spending, closer engagement with Asia ”and, crucially, higher productivity”.

Mr Abbott has chosen a strong proponent of industrial relations reform, Steve Ciobo – whom he dropped from the frontbench – to chair a Coalition group on productivity.

Victorian Liberals Josh Frydenberg and Dan Tehan will be deputy chairmen.

The opposition has yet to outline its industrial relations policy but Mr Abbott has taken a very cautious line. He has previously rebuffed Mr Ciobo and other Liberals who urged a reintroduction of individual contracts. Mr Ciobo declared in August that it was ”lunacy” that employers and workers could not strike individual agreements.

Julia Gillard seized on Mr Ciobo’s appointment, saying he had ”made it absolutely clear … his answer for productivity is bringing back WorkChoices and individual contracts”.

Coalition sources stressed the group was about arrangements for implementing policy rather than developing policy. In a statement last night, the group mentioned workplace laws as one of the elements in its upcoming thinking and consultations.

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IMMIGRATION Minister Chris Bowen’s decision to deport an Afghan asylum seeker was arbitrary and irrational, a court has heard.
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The man, from Ghazni in Afghanistan, arrived in Australia two years ago, claiming that he was at real risk of being killed if he returned because of his ethnicity, religion and imputed political opinion. If he was deported, he would be the first asylum seeker forcibly sent back by Australia.

Lawyers for the federal government appeared in Federal Court on Friday to appeal a last-minute injunction to the Hazara man’s deportation, which he won in September. The man is being held in a detention centre in Sydney.

Mr Bowen’s lawyer, Stephen Donaghue, SC, submitted that the minister believed that deporting the man to Afghanistan was in line with Australia’s international obligations.

But he said it was made ”whether or not [that] opinion is correct and irrespective of whether the advice [the man’s previous failed protection claims] is correct. Those words cannot be ignored. They clearly show that the minister did not base his decision on either the opinion or the advice.”

The asylum seeker’s protection claims were rejected by an independent merits review and an international treaty obligation assessment last year. His lawyers submitted the assessment was conducted without procedural fairness and should be declared by the court to have been made unlawfully.

Mr Donaghue said that he ”needed to take instructions” from Mr Bowen but suspected that even if the court made such a declaration, it would have ”no bearing” on his decision to deport the man.

Debbie Mortimer, SC, said Mr Bowen’s decision should be quashed as it was ”entirely arbitrary and entirely devoid of any rational consideration”. She said the immigration department had made arrangements to remove him well before Mr Bowen had made his decision.

”For the minister to detain someone for years and then say, ‘You know what, I don’t have to look at it’ [he is saying] I can look at Mickey Mouse, what side of bed I got out of, or just say, ‘I don’t like the look of him.’ It can be totally irrational.”

Ms Mortimer said a briefing note to Mr Bowen, written by members of the department, asked him to consider whether he could use his power under the Migration Act to allow an offshore-entry unlawful citizen to apply for a visa if he thought it was in the public interest to do so, and but Mr Bowen then chose not to.

Ms Mortimer said the asylum seeker still had an arguable complementary protection claim and he should remain in Australia until his status could be decided ”lawfully”.

”The whole point of this at a factual level is that the minister’s decision is full of propositions that it doesn’t matter what we say or how good our arguments are, there is a juggernaut on this man’s removal,” she said. The minister just says, ‘I’m going to remove this man,’ and it’s in those circumstances we ask for an injunction.”

Mr Donaghue submitted that Mr Bowen had no duty to exercise this power under the Migration Act: ”The minister may elect to ‘stop’ considering exercising the power.” He also said an offshore-entry person had ”no right” to compel the minister to use the power.

The hearing was adjourned to December 7.

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PAT CUMMINS asked the physio to delete the slides revealing a slight crack in his lower back. But no amount of wishful thinking can erase the questions it poses about Australia’s injury management systems or if he can deliver on the promise he showed in his only Test.
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The search for answers will begin when Cummins consults biomechanists about his action, and whether it has contributed to his succession of injuries.

He faces a second summer on the sidelines with a bone-stress fracture that could even threaten his involvement in next year’s Ashes.

Cummins, caught in the middle of an escalating debate about the handling of the nation’s fast bowlers, hasn’t played a first-class match since his Test debut last November, and has played only Twenty20 cricket since returning from a side strain in August, at the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka and the Champions League in South Africa.

”We were talking about going down to the AIS, we were already booked in to have a look at my action while we had time. We’d been planning to do it for a while, just to see what it came up with,” Cummins said. ”One thing I noticed was I might’ve been falling away a bit more than, say, a year ago. When I’m bowling with a red ball I try to swing it and when I’m swinging the ball everything’s going well. But when you’re bowling cross-seamers with a white ball you kind of fall into bad habits maybe.”

Cummins felt subtle soreness for the last week of the Champions League but it’s understood Cricket Australia didn’t know about it despite having exhaustive systems in place to track the wellbeing of its fast bowlers.

CA has a wellbeing index designed to keep track of the bowling loads, and the health and sleeping patterns of players wherever they are in the world, but no alarm bells rang about Cummins’ fitness until he got home. It’s unclear whether Cummins entered information about his soreness in the system or shrugged it off as trivial.

Sydney Sixers boss Stuart Clark said the team kept a close eye on Cummins and there was no indication of a problem, so he played in the semi-final and the final. ”We didn’t have any inkling that anything was wrong,” Clark said. ”I think he was checked out fully, we watched him bowl in the nets and in the game … His speeds were good and his training was good. He didn’t take painkillers to play, he said he was fine and that was it.”

Cummins’s age and injury history means there is a constant handle-with-care approach to his management, and he said no serious thought was given to bringing him home from the Champions League, in which CA has a financial stake.

”For someone like me, it’s almost perfect. I was bowling pretty consistently over there and doing everything I could,” he said.

Nor would Cummins, who has managed just four first-class games in his career, change anything else about his management. ”I’ve got to sit down with the people that manage me and give them my thoughts as well,” he said. ”It’s a group effort. I probably wouldn’t have changed anything from the last few months. I thought I was bowling enough and not bowling too much. I got through 20 games in the last few months so it was playing every two or three days.

”The one thing with all young people is they’re more susceptible with injuries, you can’t really be too wrapped up in trying to pick and choose. If you’re ready to go you’ve got to go out there and play, and if you get injured that’s just what happens … so looking forward, if not the end of this summer, hopefully [I’ll return for] the Champions Trophy in England and obviously the Ashes is a major goal.”

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Not for the masses … James Packer’s proposed six-star hotel and casino is set to be an exclusive affair for high rollers.In the loose Australian vernacular, punter is not synonymous with gambler, and certainly not high roller. The punters are the ordinary folk, the mums and dads, the workers, the customers, the faces in the crowd.
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There will be 12 million faces in the Barangaroo crowd each year when the precinct reaches its critical mass, the planners predict. Very few of them will be the kind of punters James Packer wants in his casino – an exclusive affair for high rollers, many of them Asian tycoons, on the upper floors of his towering six-star hotel – if and when it opens in Barangaroo South, perhaps some time late in 2019.

The masses will be drawn instead to Barangaroo Central, the 5.2-hectare civic hub, and on to a six-hectare headland park, beneath which a void of 80,000 cubic metres will accommodate a major cultural facility, yet to be defined.

Nothing is final, but Sydney can bank on some big drawcards. Foremost among them is a ”world-class” national indigenous cultural centre. The Visitor Economy Taskforce, with a keen eye on international tourists, has told the state government that Sydney needs such a centre. Its report laments: ”NSW has Australia’s largest population of Aboriginal people. However, it has, until now, substantially underplayed the depth of the unique Aboriginal heritage and contemporary culture available in NSW.”

In the next days, weeks and months, planners will start adding flesh to the bones of the $6 billion to $7 billion Barangaroo makeover. The Premier, Barry O’Farrell, has received recommendations on these needs from a cultural steering committee chaired by the Future Fund chairman, David Gonski, and including the art philanthropists John Kaldor and Simon Mordant, the chairman of the National Museum of Australia, Danny Gilbert, and the indigenous leader Aden Ridgeway.

It is understood the indigenous centre – museum, gallery, hands-on learning experience – could draw inspiration from the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, its success hingeing on genuine indigenous involvement and curation – not a white memorial to black culture.

But where to put it? Under the headland park or at Barangaroo Central, where it could share water views with low-rise residential apartments and retailers and a purpose-built space for open-air performances and gatherings of up to 5000.

”It would be crazy to put the centre in the bunker,” says Jason Glanville, chief executive of the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence in Redfern. The centre has struck a deal with James Packer, whose Crown hotel has pledged to take on 2000 of its hospitality trainees by 2021.

”It needs to be in a vibrant position – where the people are.”

The master planner for Barangaroo Central will be selected next month from five teams of international and local bidders. Sydney can also expect an ”iconic” piece of public art, possibly with an indigenous theme. A design innovation centre has been suggested.

This central hub will evolve over a decade and its main attractions may not be decided or built for some years. An interim park may open here in 2015, along with the headland park and the first of the commercial towers and apartments in Barangaroo South.

The void under the headland park will be vast, half as big as the Art Gallery of NSW. Along with a car park for 300 vehicles, it will be built as a ”shell” into the headland so work on the park can go ahead. The decision on its eventual use can come later. With a 15-metre ceiling, it could take two or three mezzanine levels, turning its 6500 square metres of floor space into as many as 15,000. It could house a museum, a gallery, a performance space.

But it will not be Sydney’s much-demanded lyric theatre. It has no room for the wings. The advice to the government is that Sydney does need a 2000-seat lyric theatre but that Barangaroo is not the place for it.

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I still remember the morning in 1993 when Sydney was awarded the 2000 Olympics. About the same time the state of Victoria was almost declared bankrupt.
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I, like many others at the time, thought Sydney would catapult ahead and leave Melbourne in its dust. Almost the complete opposite has occurred.

Destination NSW, the government’s own tourism body, in its recent Visitor Economy Taskforce Report outlines this Sydney decline, particularly in the tourism sector.

If you have any doubt about the need for a new world-class hotel in Sydney, I urge you to read its report at www.destinationnsw南京夜网.au.

The most worrying statistic is that Sydney is slipping in tourist growth markets, like China, where we are losing our national share of airline seat capacity and as a consequence our share of outbound China trips to Australia.

With our harbour and climate, Sydney should be one of the world’s best destinations, but we are being let down by an under-investment in quality tourism infrastructure.

Since the Olympics, no large five-star hotel has been built here outside of The Darling at The Star and that is despite a major shortage of hotel beds in the city.

As the recent report by Tourism Accommodation Australia found, Sydney needs 5000 rooms by 2020 to meet the demands of travellers.

Without new hotels we are not going to get there.

I am a believer in the power of Sydney. When Sydney is prosperous, the rest of the country benefits economically.

A world-class landmark resort on Sydney Harbour can be the catalyst to help turn the city around, just as Crown assisted in the turnaround of Melbourne.

Crown’s ambition is to build the world’s best six-star hotel resort at Barangaroo.

We want it to be an iconic building that complements the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

Crown’s record demonstrates we can deliver a centrepiece that will draw millions of visitors to Sydney and allow us to better compete for international conferences, conventions and major events.

To allow us to invest in a quality product and make the project commercially viable, our proposal includes VIP-only gaming and – as I have made clear – there will be no poker machines.

Some commentators have raised the process we are undertaking to progress our proposal. The NSW unsolicited proposal process exists to allow any organisation with unique ideas to make a submission to the government. We have followed that process to the letter and, despite reaching stage two, there is a long way to go.

We are not the only business following this process. The infrastructure company Transurban recently progressed to stage two with its plan to link the M2-F3 freeways and I say good luck to them; Sydney needs this sort of infrastructure.

It’s interesting that the same commentators criticising us for pursuing this process were eerily silent when Transurban progressed to stage two.

We have worked hard to ensure the community has access to the details of our project, making Crown’s full proposal available online. We are proud of what we are proposing and we are the only company that can deliver this unique package.

For a hotel resort in Sydney to be a landmark building that will attract millions of visitors, it must be on Sydney Harbour. Barangaroo is the only waterfront and harbourside location in the Sydney CBD that will accommodate such a development.

We were wrong to have initially designated our proposal on Barangaroo Central and we were rightly admonished by the former prime minister Paul Keating and the state’s political leaders.

We listened, took the community’s concerns on board and worked hard to strike an agreement with Lend Lease to move the hotel resort to Barangaroo South, where it will reside totally on their commercial site and not on public land.

This exclusive agreement with Lend Lease (the developer of Barangaroo South) makes Crown the only organisation that can deliver a hotel on the Barangaroo site.

When it comes to architecture, Crown will leave that to the experts. We’ll be listening to the best architects the world has to offer. An international design competition is the best way to give Sydney a world renowned building.

The project will create 1400 long-term jobs and we have partnered with community organisations such as the United Voice union and the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence to ensure a harmonious workplace and to give indigenous workers a career pathway from school to employment.

There is still a long way to go but Crown is committed to giving Sydney an iconic project that can give our city back the spark it had a decade ago.

I urge all Sydneysiders to judge the merits of the project for themselves by viewing our proposal to the NSW government at crownlimited南京夜网.

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“I’m a lover not a fighter” … NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell.T here’s nothing wrong in principle with James Packer having a glitzy new casino in Sydney. That’s the business he’s in and it’s a free country.
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If planeloads of Chinese billionaires, the so-called whale gamblers, want to fly here to throw their money at him, by all means let them. We are told the joint will be for them alone, invitation only. There’ll be no buses trawling the western suburbs for local suckers to empty their pay packets into the pokies as they do at the hideous Star Casino. So far so good.

It’s how it’s happening that matters. What sticks in the craw is the stampede to get the thing off the ground. Our ground. To point out the bleedin’ obvious – but it seems necessary to do so – Barangaroo is public space, owned by the people of this state, who are entitled to the final say in what happens there. Yet before a sod has been turned, the normal checks and balances have been tossed overboard into the harbour mud.

Barry O’Farrell has flung himself into the Packer embrace with orgasmic whoops of delight, like a nymphomaniac at a Bulldogs’ end-of-season frolic. ”I’m a lover, not a fighter,” he trilled when asked about a new casino licence last week.

The opposition and the unions have been squared away by the helpful Packer fixers Karl Bitar and Mark Arbib, famous in their previous incarnation for building the NSW branch of the Labor Party into the powerhouse of talent, policy and vision we see today. Why, the union that represents hospitality workers, United Voice, will even have an office in the new pleasure dome. How convenient. And a bar and restaurant tab too, I hope.

The love affair is mutual. ”I’m incredibly grateful to the Labor Party for not playing party politics and I’m incredibly grateful to Premier O’Farrell and the Liberal Party for doing what it has done,” young James told a room of admirers at the Museum of Contemporary Art last week.

Well he might be. Clearly, the rules of the game give the Packer plan all the aces.

As the Herald’s state political editor, Sean Nicholls, reported on Thursday, the government’s guidelines for permitting a development like this to avoid going to tender have been secretly watered down. As if by magic, this happened a week after Packer’s private meeting with the Premier and two weeks before he put in his formal ”unsolicited proposal”. What exquisite timing. If only the rest of us could get such swift approval for our unsolicited proposals for humble new carports and backyard granny flats.

So the deal is done. The government will pretend that everything will meet the closest scrutiny, ho hum, but this is the ham-fisted mob that managed to lose $1 billion from the state budget in the space of a month. It seems likely James won’t even have to pay for a new casino licence.

We can only hope that when the Palazzo Packer does go up it has some civic and architectural merit.

BAHASA Indonesia is not a hard language to learn. I taught it to myself when I lived in Jakarta for three years in the late ’60s, working by day as an ABC foreign correspondent and playing by night in the city’s hottest rock band.

Indonesia was emerging then from its years of living dangerously, when Western culture and particularly music were taboo. The band was made up of guys from Sulawesi and Ambon, and we did Stones, Creedence and Bee Gees covers, faithful to the last note of every guitar riff. One of the best gigs we ever played was a Perayaan Sunatan, a lavish party thrown by an army general for his son’s circumcision.

Them was the days. The sex, drugs and rock’n’roll were wonderful, and I picked up a rough Jakarta accent and slang which I can still manage, although it’s a bit rusty. Today when I visit Bali, the elegant locals are politely amused to hear such vulgarity from a foreigner.

The point of this wretched excess of self-basting nostalgia is to argue that foreign languages are best learnt on the ground, not in the classroom. The government’s new Asia white paper is a terrific attempt to shove things in the right direction, but the language teachers have almost all gone. For this we can largely thank Brendan Nelson, who stupidly axed the funding for Asian language studies when he was John Howard’s education minister in 2002. What a wonderful ”saving” that was.

By all means, let the classroom teaching begin again. But better for the government to fund seriously generous scholarships for thousands of our kids to study at Indonesian – and Chinese, Indian and Japanese – schools and universities. That way they get the culture too, although I’d vehemently warn against the drugs. That was then, this is now.

ONE curious omission from the white paper was any discussion of an Australian republic. In all the fine phrases about the brilliant future that awaits us, the idea that we might improve our constitution and our system of government did not get even a sentence. I thought that was gutless, really, particularly for a Labor government.

Asians find it odd, to say the least, that we still acknowledge the English queen as our head of state. This amuses Indians in particular, who shook off the Raj in 1947 and seem to have pottered along OK since with a vibrant democracy and an elected president.

The Indian example is one we could well follow. The process is complex but, basically, the president of India is elected for a five-year term by the vote of all members of the two national houses of Parliament and the state legislatures. It works well, without political conflict and with general public acceptance. The Indian constitution specifies that the president must act in accordance with the advice of the prime minister.

This is apparently beyond us here. The presence of Charles and Camilla Mountbatten-Windsor at Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup will produce another pathetic round of royal grovelling, you watch. I have nothing against them in person, not at all, but the idea of them becoming our king and queen is ridiculous. Yet it will happen the moment the present monarch gasps her last.

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Consumers have been urged to throw out mussels that have been recalled because of potential contamination.
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Food Standards Australia New Zealand ordered a recall of Spring Bay live blue mussels (with use-by dates between? October 22, 2012 and? November 10, 2012) and Coles Cooked Tasmanian mussels (use-by date? November 12, 2012), which may be contaminated with a naturally occurring marine biotoxin.

An algal bloom in Tasmania has forced the closure of Spring Bay Seafood’s shellfish farm, which produced the mussels.

Symptoms of paralytic shellfish poisoning generally appear within 30minutes of consumption, and include nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and tingling or a burning mouth and extremities.

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THE project created in the wake of a 2009 jihadi plot to attack army bases and designed to protect them from further terrorist attacks has been delayed and may be significantly watered down due to this year’s deep cuts to defence spending.
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The reductions to the $200 million Base Infrastructure Works project – a key element of the Base Security Improvement Project – comes amid claims by the government that the budget cuts would not jeopardise troop safety.

Some of Australia’s biggest construction companies, including Lend Lease, were told the project was being delayed for 12 months due to budget cuts. Insiders have told Fairfax it is likely the project will, once resumed, also be significantly watered down.

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CRITICAL rehabilitation services for patients who have suffered a stroke are unavailable or substandard, a national audit has shown.

Fifty per cent of hospitals did not routinely provide a discharge plan for stroke patients, according to a National Stroke Foundation audit of rehabilitation services at 111 hospitals.

It found that one in three patients were not referred for further rehabilitation on discharge from hospital – nor did they receive tailored information about stroke recovery.

Two in three patients did not receive formal counselling, and half did not undergo any mood assessment.

About 350,000 Australians are living with stroke, making it the country’s second-biggest cause of death and a major cause of adult disability.

The audit examined treatment provided to 2821 patients across Australia last year.

National Stroke Foundation chief executive Erin Lalor said the figures showed that people were suffering unnecessarily because stroke rehabilitation services were too often inadequate.

She said stroke was a neglected health crisis, which barely rated a mention on the national health agenda.

More money was needed to ensure patients had specialised treatment to avoid unnecessary disability.

The study found just one in 10 patients received rehabilitation on specialist stroke wards. Most were on mixed rehabilitation wards where Dr Lalor said they reported difficulty accessing therapies.

”The alternative is that they get to an acute stroke unit and have good early rehabilitation, they start to make great progress, then go backwards while waiting for rehabilitation in the community,” she said.

Dr Lalor said 70 stroke survivors who attended a stroke summit in Canberra this week had difficulties with walking, speaking and memory.

”Much of that disability shouldn’t have happened. Because they couldn’t access the right kind of care they are more dependent than they should be and there are thousands of people in this country like that,” she said.

Planning to help stroke

survivors manage their ongoing needs in the community was another problem, leaving many feeling abandoned after leaving hospitals.

Dr Lalor said funding was urgently needed for prevention and support programs and improved access to dedicated stroke units and appropriate rehabilitation.

A spokeswoman for the federal Health Department said the government was aware of the significant health burden associated with stroke, which needed to be addressed across the entire health system.

She said the government was investing an extra $7.4 billion in the health system over the next two years.

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