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Scope 2017 economic survey: No budget bonanza, weak year ahead

Economic survey Photo: Karl HilzingerOne a one-trick pony or unicorn? Full resultsThree way tie for forecaster of the yearCommodity run is probably done’General glumness’ to keep shares flatHouse price will rise, don’t expect a crash
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Few of ‘s leading economists expect the government to deliver the cut in the budget deficit promised.

The annual BusinessDay Scope survey of 27 of ‘s most successful forecasters from financial markets, academia, consultancy and industry – reported exclusively in the Fairfax business pages on Saturday – finds that just seven expect the government to cut this year’s deficit to the $29 billion promised. Most expect a much higher deficit, some as high as $50 billion.

Approaching its 40th year, the BusinessDay survey includes the forecasters for each of ‘s big four banks and is regarded as the most authoritative. Over time its average predictions have proved to be more accurate than those of its individual members.

The predicted blowout in the deficit comes despite a doubling in the price of coal and a record trade surplus.

The panel expects the coal price to fall back from about $US80 to $US70 a tonne and the current account deficit to halve. But it believes the boost to corporate incomes won’t flow through to tax revenues for some time and will first be written off against tax losses built up expanding mines.

Wages rises, which boost tax revenue through bracket creep, are expected to be low. The panel is forecasting wage growth of just 2.1 per cent in 2017, only slightly higher than the record low increase of 1.9 per cent recorded in 2016.

“Those jobs that are being created are overwhelmingly part-time,” said Newcastle University labor market specialist Bill Mitchell, responding to the survey. “Their occupants are un-unionised, with little bargaining power.”

The panel expects economic growth to be just high enough in 2017 to enable the Reserve Bank to hold interest rates steady. The end-of-year forecast of 2.4 per cent is a big improvement on the post-crisis low of 1.8 per cent recorded in the year to September, but a long way short of the 3 per cent calendar year forecast implied in the Treasury’s mid-year budget update.

Mining investment will continue to slide for another year, slipping 13 per cent after 40 per cent in 201, offset by only a 3.5 per cent rise in non-mining investment.

Forecaster Stephen Anthony said the best thing the government could do to boost investment would be to borrow at low interest rates to build infrastructure and farm the work out. “Even with low interest rates, businesses aren’t finding it worthwhile to borrow on their own account,” he said.

Home prices should continue to rise, but more slowly. Sydney prices should climb 4.9 per cent and Melbourne prices 4.3 per cent after climbing 15.5 per cent and 13.7 per cent in 2016.

The sharemarket should grow by only 2 per cent after climbing 6 per cent in 2016.

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Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse case study 50day one

Catholic priest Dr Michael Whelan, who is the director of Aquinas Academy and parish priest ina Sydney diocese, has just given evidence about how he “nearly destroyed my life through idealising myself as a priest, trying to be the good priest”.
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4.06pm The Royal Commission has adjourned for today and will resume at 10am on Tuesday.1.38pm The Royal Commission has resumed.Dr Whelan has told the royal commission that “the good priest” was a “template”, and trying to be a good, but idealised priest, produced “enormous conflict between what I was discovering in myself and what I was supposed to be”.

Shine the Light: The Newcastle Herald’s complete coverage of the Royal Commission

Dr Whelan underwent therapy as part of his doctorate. He has given evidence about the tyranny of trying to live up to being an idealised person, rather than an actual human being.

“We develop conflicts and we seek consolation and we seek compensation, and generally are not able to be graceful free human beings,” Dr Whelan said.

He attended a Toongabbie seminary. He was very young and naive, but his experience was mostly a happy one.

“Mostly I was intent on becoming a priest and a Marist priest at that. It was only when I look back, there were quite intense conflicts,” he said.

He said he didn’t know why he wanted to be a Marist priest. He didn’t want to become a Jesuit because it would take too long, and “I didn’t want to become a diocesan priest because I felt they are lonely men”.

“You are presented with all these ideals, and then you are invited to use your will power to go and do it, and I think that is a very destructive way to live. I didn’t realise it at the time, I jut thought this was the way you became a priest,” Dr Whelan said.

He was sent to a Tasmanian school to teach, but hadn’t had any teaching training.

“Before I turned up in Tasmania the then principal had a meeting with me in Sydney and the only thing I remember about that meeting, apart from him saying I would be in charge of the junior school, was ‘Buy yourself an instrument of discipline’. So I went and bought myself an instrument of discipline,” Dr Whelan said.

Gail Furness: “What was it?”

Whelan: “A cane.”

Whelan said there was no mentoring.

“I just turned up with my cane and a lot of goodwill and naivety and set about probably being quite a bad disciplinarian and teacher,” Dr Whelan said.

“I say thank God I didn’t have a proclivity to misbehave.”

Furness has asked him why he said that.

Whelan: “Because the tensions that I was under and the opportunities that I had could have led me to that.”

Giving evidence on a panel with Dr Whelan is Broken Bay diocese priest Dr David Ranson.

Dr Ranson is explaining changes within the church over the past two centuries, and how they have affected both clerics and lay people.

He said the church’s view of where holiness can be found has changed over that time, with priests now understanding, and the church accepting, that holiness can be found in the outside world, and not just in cloistered communities or other structures within the church.

Dr Ranson’s evidence is about life in a monastery, where he ran the dairy farm.

He left the monastic community in 1998, then came to Sydney.

Furness has just asked Ranson why he’s come to have a particular interest in child sexual abuse in the church.

Ranson: “I received an invitation from the Jesuits to lead them in what I thought would be a once-off reflection on celibate sexuality. From 1992 to the end of the 1990s I was involved in every seminary in and many of the religious houses of formation.

“I think I had the sense at the time that seminary faculties or seminary staff were turning to me because I was the only one who was offering such workshops or such seminars.”

Ranson said his seminars sought to help people reflect on their actual experience rather than on their idealised experience.

He said he taught people a way of a more positive way of imagining celibacy, rather than celibacy being the source of people living “lives of quiet despair and isolation”.

He taught them “to try to develop emotional, and what I was calling at that time, sexual literacy”.

“That is to try to assist people to listen to what they were experiencing and to try to interpret that.”

Ranson said he would present different sexual fantasies and different scenarios that represented sexual misconduct.

“What I was trying to do there was simply create all these different scenarios that were possibilities, and to try to get people to understand what were the forces, what were the factors, what were the driving features underneath this,” Ranson said.

Priest Dr Michael RansonI think the church’s law of compulsory celibacy is misguided and it should not be in place.

Dr Michael WhelanGet rid of seminaries. Seminaries are like boarding schools and I don’t think they are healthy environments for maturation to take place.

Dr Michael Whelan.The church must have the humility to say ‘Teach us what we need to learn’.

Dr David Ranson, parish priest and theologian.Attempts to control sexual desire and sexual activity, in my view, led to sex-obsessed lives of terror in which the body was disavowed, sexual desire was a problem to be overcome and the moral superiority of vowed virginity was presumed.

Dr Marie Keenan on Catholic clerical child sex offenders.As Catholics, we hang our heads in shame.

Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council spokesman Francis Sullivan.Children were ignored, or worse, punished. Allegations were not investigated. Priests and religious were moved. The parishes or communities to which they were moved knew nothing of their past. Documents were not kept, or they were destroyed. Secrecy prevailed, as did cover-ups.

Counsel assisting the royal commission, Gail Furness

Furness is now referring to the similarity between the findings of the n Royal Commission and those of the Irish report of the commission of investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin, published in 2009. It found that the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal and the protection of the reputation of the church and its assets took priority over the rights of children to be protected.

The Royal Commission looked at the Catholic Church Insurance and its operations.

In 2015 the commission required CCI to produce all documents where it had determined prior knowledge on the part of a Catholic Church authority of its abusers.

“The term prior knowledge was based on the definition used by Catholic Church Insurance in its investigations, which referred to knowledge held by a senior official of the relevant church authority,” Furness said.

“The Royal Commission received over 128,000 documents from Catholic Church Insurance.”

Furness said the Royal Commission had made 309 referrals to police in all states and the ACT in relation to allegations of child sexual abuse involving Catholic Church institutions. As a result there have been 27 prosecutions, and another 75 still being investigated. The victim or accused has died in 37 cases and 66 matters are pending.

The Royal Commission received more than 80 submissions in response to an issues paper before the final hearing.

“The Catholic Church’s structure and governance, including the role of the Vatican and issues related to the individual leadership of Catholic institutions featured heavily in the submissions as a factor that may have contributed to the occurrence of the abuse and certainly to the institutional response to it,” Furness said.

“The issues of a rigid hierarchy based on obedience to bishops and to the Pope, and lack of accountability to the faithful emerged as themes. The lack of women in positions of leadership was identified by many as a relevant factor.”

Furness has told the Royal Commission of a number of prominent Catholics, from overseas, who were asked to give evidence, or originally indicated they would give evidence at this hearing, but declined.

Justice McClellan invited two senior members of Pope Francis’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Cardinal O’Malley and Professor Sheila Baroness Hollins, to give evidence by video link at the hearing. Each declined to give oral evidence, and preferred to rely on a submission prepared by Baroness Hollins on the work of the Pope’s commission, and her opinion on factors that may have contributed to the occurrence of, or affected the response to, child sexual abuse in Catholic institutions.

In October the commission spoke with the United States’ executive director secretariat of child and youth protection, Deacon Bernard Nojadera. He was later invited to give evidence and accepted that invitation.

Deacon Nojadera informed the commission on January 25 that he was no longer able to participate in the hearing. He declined the commission’s offer to have him give evidence by video link and declined to provide a signed statement.

On July 27 Dr Marie Keenan was invited to give evidence at the hearing. She has conducted and reported on her research into issues related to child sexual abuse within the church. She accepted the invitation and confirmed her willingness to appear and give evidence by video link, Furness said.

On January 31 she provided a precis of the evidence she would give to the commission hearing.

“On 2 February Dr Keenan advised that she did not believe that the forum of the Royal Commission is the correct one to do justice adequately to the research she has done and to all parties involved,” Furness said.

Furness said she would read sections of Dr Keenan’s precis to the hearing today.

A member of the Jesuit order, Dr Gerry O’Hanlon, will give evidence by video link from Dublin on Wednesday night.


Good morning. It’s Joanne McCarthy back at the Royal Commission in Sydney, and the first day of the commission’s 50thpublic hearing, which is also the final hearing into the Catholic Church. The commission has conducted 15 public hearings into the Catholic Church so far, ranging from inquiries into individual dioceses like Maitland-Newcastle, and orders including the Marist and Christian Brothers. This hearing is almost a who’s who of the Catholic Church in , with some notable exceptions, including the former head of Sydney Archdiocese, Cardinal George Pell. This hearing has more than 60 witnesses, and will look at issues within the church that may have contributed to a disproportionate number of its clergy becoming offenders. It will look at canon law, celibacy, clericalism, governance within the church and its current practises relating to how it responds to child sex allegations.

To read more about thehearings into the Newcastle Anglican diocese, check the videoand links below.


Sir Henry Bolte and the hanging of Ronald Ryan

50 years: Melbourne prison escapee Ronald Ryan is taken to police headquarters in Sydney after his recapture, 5 January 1966. Photo: W. CroserAt 8am on Friday, February 3, 1967, a man wearing the eerie hangman’s uniform of white sandshoes, grey coveralls, a green cloth butcher’s cap and welding glassessent the convicted murderer Ronald Joseph Ryan crashing through the trapdoor at HM Prison Pentridgeto his death.
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Ryan was the last manhanged in , and the furore over his execution was widespread and vociferous.

Henry Bolte, the pugnacious and long-serving premier of Victoria, was determined to see Ryan go to the gallows after Robert Tait, a murderer sentenced to death previously, escaped the penalty through being found insane.

Bolte, the son of a German publican, was born in Ballarat and lived most of his youth in Skipton, attending Ballarat Grammar.

He had been premier for 12 years when his cabinet determined that Ryan would die, in the face of extensive and articulate opposition.

Although he lacked a university education, Bolte was a shrewd and canny politician, attuned to the popular sentiment of the general public, who for the most part supported the concept of capital punishment.

The cartoonist Les Tanner portrayed him savagely in an edition of The Bulletin,which its publisher Sir Frank Packer tried to pulp all copies of.

Watch National Film and Sound Archive footage of the Ronald Ryan story

He drew the premier as hangman, with Bolte saying,“I do not bow to mob protests – only mob support.”

Opposition to the execution came from all parts of n society. Churches, trade unions and even members of Bolte’s own Liberal Party expressed their revulsion for the insistence on the state-sanctioned hanging, after the government had commuted 15 previous death penalties.

Footage about Bolte and Ryan’s hanging.Journalist EvanWhitton was present at the execution. His recollection, The Necking Of Ronald Ryan, is stark, precise and matter-of-fact about the swift brutality of the execution, as were his colleague’s, journalists Ron Saw and Brain Morley, reports.

“They say if you blink at a hanging, you’re likely to miss the action. The hangman’s last four movements were so incredibly swift they stunned the eye, and I believe my glance must have been drawn by the hangman’s backward leap,” wrote Mr Whitton.

“At any rate, when my eyes came back, the hooded figure had his legs severed just below the knee, and that is the image that is fixed on the negative of my brain. Maybe I blinked then: Ihave no picture of him going the rest of the way down.”

Ryan died instantly. The Catholic prison chaplain Father John Brosnan attempted to give him the Last Rites as Ryan’sface turned black from constriction.

At the 1967 Victorian state elections the Liberals gained six seats.


Jayden Johnston is one cool cat

Animal advocate: Jayden Johnston plays with some of his current rescues. Picture: John VeageJayden Johnston is not like most teenagers.
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Animal advocate: Jayden Johnston plays with some of his current rescues. Picture: John Veage

The 17-year-old Sans Souci resident doesn’t spendhis money on going out or fast food; instead using his pay cheque to rehome rescue cats.

Growing up his home was always filled with animals; many were rescues that his vet nurse mum couldn’t bareto put down.

‘’I always had a connection with animals,’’ he said.‘’Growing up we always had dogs and cats around and now I’m old enough I’m starting to take it on.’’

Over the years the family hashelped rehome hundreds of catsfrom kill shelters; many of which would have no other chance to survive.

They take the catshome to rehabilitate them, get them treated, desexed, vaccinated and microchipped before they are ready to be sold.

Jayden pays for nearly everything out of his own pocket using money he earns from working at Petbarn and his own entertainment business.

The cats he brings in are often very sick with each costing around $310 to desex and vaccinate as well as getting a full vet check.

That doesn’t include the cost of housing the cats before they are adopted or fostered.

He shrugs off suggestions that it’s a special way of using his money.

‘’I always say that nothing makes you feel richer than looking into a cat’s face knowing you saved a life,’’ he said.

He said pounds and shelters are particularly busy in the warmer months between September and March.

He saidsome council pounds kill a large portion of cats brought in.

At the moment he has five cats in his home but it has reached as high as 14 before.

He said almost anyone can help.

‘’Adopting really is the best, so if you’re in the position now is the time,’’ he said.

‘’If you can’t adopt then foster. We always need more foster carers.

‘’For some people it might not be possible so you can always sponsor a cat or donate to food costs.’’

Anyone interested in helping can contact Jayden here.


AFLW: Collingwood v Carltonyour photos

HERstory in the making: Lockout crowd at Game 1 of Women’s AFL @lola_clare: Let’s go ladies! 🏉👱🏻‍♀️ #aflw #womensfooty #herstory
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@sarahonga: Foot is back 🏉🏉 not a bad way to spend a Friday #AFLW

@usconsulatemelb: We found a @richmond_fc supporter at the #aflwbluespies

@danaebosler Heading into history #aflw #collingwood


@the3winesmen: The people have spoken. Woman’s AFL is here to stay, and it’s about time.

@em_sibs: Withnessing history tonight with old rivals #aflw #bluesvspies

@sammyadams85: Witnessin’ history #AFLW #daisypearce

@joseph苏州夜场招聘nnellan: So it begins #afl #wafl

@hlancman: First game in HERSTORY #afl #wafl

@aliston12: First women’s AFL Game!!! 🤗

@silkwoodau: What an awesome turn up! #wafl @afl @carlton_fc

@jayne.darcy: 30 mins till kick off and it’s packed in the stands at Princes Park!

@joseph苏州夜场招聘nnellan: Waiting for history. Womens AFL Ikon Park Stadium in Princess Park, Carlton

@celestepotter: I have never had the slightest desire to attend an AFL match, but here we are- excited to be on our way to witness an historic moment.

@the_sam_e: #wafl

@blueovaljoe C’mon da woods! #cfc #aflw #wafl #magpies #collingwood Go pies!

@veritycampbellcomms: Women’s AFL starts tonight. What an historic moment.

@hannahgraces: Its happening! WAFL first game, history made 3/2/17!

@rbchikan: Cheer squad!! 💙💙🏉 #wafl #gonat #32 #carlton

@elana_monteleone: It’s good to be home. Let’s go Blues! #wafl

@madbart66: Blues V Pies. Wouldn’t matter if it was tiddlywinks #bluesvpies

@elana_monteleone: Waiting for history to be made. #gamechangers

@marksmithbriggs: History beckons #aflw #gopies

@__rounders__: Super excited for #aflw #gopies #aflwbluespies

@latchky: Go blues #carltonfc #aflw

@seanjokane: Here for the inaugural game! Get up Blues! @aflwomens #AFLW

@jane_izzy_design:s Go blues! So excited to watch history in the making!

@francesob: Go blues #footytime #AFLW #carltonfc

@phoeboob: “You play like girls. Really well.” #AFLW #gothepies

@kimberleyandco: AFL WOMENS #afl #aflw


@dazzheadspace: At Princess Park with 3 generations of Pies Diehards @collingwood_fc

@sarsyj: #numberonefans #gohutchy #gopies

@madirobinson_: What an incredible moment in sports history to be apart of. Come on @collingwood_fc #AFLW

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Newcastle council begins detailed investigations and deep soil testing at homes above the old gasworks site in Waratah

UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: Crews drilled at properties in Waratah on Friday. Picture: Marina Neil
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A “detailed” investigationhas begun that will see around 200 samples taken from land believed to have been tainted with toxic chemicals from a former gasworks at Waratah.

An earlyround of testing saw shallow soil sampled from backyards but the second round will see deeper soil examined, along with vapour and groundwater.

The investigations are targeting an area bounded by High Street, Turton Road and Georgetown Road and a council spokesperson said they would provide “a better understanding of the nature and extent of gasworks-related substances, and what mitigation measures, if any, may be needed.”

“The samples will be tested for a wide range of substances associated with gasworks,” he said. “Additional shallow soil sampling will also be undertaken on public land within 500 metresof the gasworks’ footprint.”

People within the investigation area are being told not to eat vegetables or eggs from their properties, avoid having areas of uncovered soil, to minimise exposure to soil during gardening and to raise any sand pits or garden beds above the ground level.

A resident who did not wish to be named said she felt the jury was out until she received the results from the second round of testing.

Initial tests had already shown high levels of at least four toxic chemicals at her property, including lead.

“It’s good that they’ve got the ball rolling because this is all about our children’sfuture at the end of the day. I’ve got a son who was born here and some familieshave been on this street for generations.

“I’m just hoping and praying that it all works out.”


Politicians, diplomats scramble to repair US-Chinan alliance after Trump tweets

US President Donald Trump says people should not be worried about his ‘tough phone calls’.n and American officials spent Friday scrambling to shore up the US refugee swap deal – and repair the damage to the alliance – amid signs that President Donald Trump could follow through on the agreement with Malcolm Turnbull.
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Two of ‘s most respected foreign policy thinkers have warned the US- relationship faced a difficult future.

On Friday, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said both n and US officials were on Nauru looking at individual cases but that there was a “long way to go” before any refugees left.

The comments followed a Reuters news agency report that US officials had postponed interviews with asylum seekers on Nauru.

Despite lingering uncertainty over whether America will honour the refugee resettlement deal, Mr Dutton said US officials had returned to Nauru as planned.

He said getting refugees out of detention in Nauru was “a difficult juggling act”.

“We are keen to get people off there as quickly as possible … we’ve got unfinished business,” he told 2GB radio. “There’s a long way to go before we can get people off.”

However he said he remained confident the US would honour the deal, which would see America take refugees from Manus Island and Nauru in return for accepting refugees from Central America.

“I take the president at his word. He has given a commitment to our prime minister,” Mr Dutton said.

The developments underscore the uncertainty and magnitude of the task confronting the Turnbull government as it seeks to hold the deal together.

‘s ambassador to the United States, Joe Hockey, met with Mr Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus and key advisor Steve Bannon in the White House to discuss the fall-out from the leaked details of the fiery weekend conversation between the two leaders.

Senior members of the Republican Party, including Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, Speaker Paul Ryan and a host of Democrats rushed to emphasise the importance of the -US relationship.

Senator McCain, who spoke to Mr Hockey, said the President’s treatment of was “an unnecessary and frankly harmful open dispute over an issue which is not nearly as important as United States-n co-operation and working together.”

Mr Ryan said: “I don’t think should be worried about its relationship with our new President or with our country for that matter”.

At a National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Mr Trump said people should not be worried about the “tough phone calls” he had had with world leaders like Mr Turnbull and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Taking to Twitter on Friday night, he then switched to calling the conversation “very civil”.

“Thank you to Prime Minister of for telling the truth about our very civil conversation that FAKE NEWS media lied about,” Mr Trump said. “Very nice!”

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer – who repeatedly mispronounced the Prime Minister’s name as “Trunbull” – said the President was “unbelievably disappointed” in the refugee deal.

“He has tremendous respect for the Prime Minister and the n people, and has agreed to continue to review that deal and to ensure that, as part of the deal, which was always part of it, we would go through a very, very extreme vetting process.”

Mr Turnbull said his concern had been to see the deal honoured and that “it’s obviously a deal he [Mr Trump] wouldn’t have done. He’s expressed his views about it. But he has committed to doing it”.

“If people in America want to leak or make claims about what was in a conversation, that’s disappointing. But I’m not going to do that.”

Former Department of Foreign Affairs chief Peter Varghese told Fairfax Media that key pillars of shared interest between the US and  “now look quite different under Trump”.

“I think we have to manage it and ride it out to some extent … We might find ourselves in a bit like a loveless marriage in which we have to make it work for the sake of the kids but our expectations of each other are going to be quite low.”

Andrew Shearer, a former foreign policy adviser to Tony Abbott, who works in Washington at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said the leaked conversation between Mr Trump and Mr Turnbull had been a “very difficult episode in the relationship” but suggested the deal would probably go ahead.

“This deal is consistent with a pattern of informal arrangements among major recipients of refugees like the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Britain,” he said.

“We shouldn’t go looking for something on terrorism or the South China Sea to package up and deliver in return for the US agreeing to this deal. We should make decisions on military commitments and the deployment of warships based on our own assessments. Those have to be rock-solid.”

n officials pointed out the up-to 1250 people on Manus Island and Nauru would be part of the United States’ overall intake of 50,000 people, which has been cut from 110,000.

Mr Trump’s first weeks in office – even before the phone call fracas erupted – have sent shockwaves through the Canberra bureaucracy, with diplomats scrambling to deal with the challenge.

Comprehensive assessments are afoot – including in the departments of Foreign Affairs and Defence, and intelligence agencies – to examine the long-term strategic consequences of Mr Trump’s policies for the alliance.

Fairfax Media has been told by multiple senior sources that there was no quid pro quo for the refugee swap in the national security sphere, despite suggestions to the contrary.

The government has agreed to take an unspecified number of refugees from Costa Rica who have fled violence in other parts of Central America, but always maintained this is not a people swap with Nauru and Manus Island.

Also late on Friday, a junior adviser to Mr Turnbull was suspended over an “inappropriate” three-month-old Facebook post about Donald Trump.

with Tom McIlroy, Jo Tovey, Michael Koziol

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Robert Dillon: Sporting Declaration

DOWN AND OUT: Newcastle midfielder Ben Kantarovski receives treatment after injuring his knee against Sydney in December. Picture: Marina NeilHE has played more games for the Newcastle Jets than any other player, but injury-plagued Ben Kantarovski faces an uncertain future as he battles to regain a spot in the team.
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Kantarovski has not played since the round-nine loss to Sydney on December 4, which was his 135thappearance for Newcastle, overtaking former teammate Tarek Elrich’s club record.

He underwent arthroscopic surgery days later to repair torn cartilage in his problematic right knee, which has now required four operations, including a full reconstruction in 2010 when he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament.

Kantarovski has since resumed training, although the club’s website says he will not be available for another week.

But at a frank press conference on Thursday, Jets coach Mark Jones indicatedthe 25-year-old midfielder was no longer a selection priority.

“I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know why Kanta keeps getting brought up,’’ Jones said.

“Kanta is just another one of the squad members.

“He’s played limited game time this year and he’s not a vital link in us playing well or not playing well …that’s the trouble, if you sit out for a long period of time through injuries, you start to drop down the pecking order.’’

Olyroos representative Steven Ugarkovic and experienced Mateo Poljak are seemingly established as Newcastle’s holding midfielders, having each featured in 16 of Newcastle’s 17 games this season.

With Ugarkovic out suspended for Saturday’s clash with Perth, rookie Johnny Koutroumbis gets a chance in his preferred position.

“Johnny Koutrombis has done a magnificent job and I think he’s earned the right to be the next cab off the rank,’’ Jonessaid.

“I’m very keen to see what Johnny does.’’

Koutroumbis and Ugarkovic have both signed two-seasoncontract extensions, while Kantarovski is one of several Newcastle players who are effectively free agents and open to offers.

The dilemma facing Kantarovski is how to state a case for reinstatement, given that he mighthave limited opportunity to gain match fitness in the 10 remaining regular-seasonfixtures before the play-offs.

Players returning from injury often get to stretch their legs in Newcastle’s youth team, but the youth league season is over. Adding to his quandary, each week on the sidelines is unlikely to enhance his bargaining position for a new deal.

A former Young Socceroos skipper who debuted in the A-League at 16, Kantarovski would appear to have reached something of a career crossroads.

His future may well hinge on how successfully the surgeons have been able to patch up his knee, a recurring issue that has sadlyprevented him from reaching the heights many were predicting during his formative years.

His latest setback leaves both the Jets and Kantarovski pondering a tough decision.

Can he become a long-term asset for his home-town club, and possibly a future captain?

Or is it time for a fresh start, in the hope that new surroundsallowhim to realise his potential?

Either way, Sporting Declaration hopes Ben Kantarovski’s best football is still ahead of him.

He’s had a wretched run. That, unfortunately, is part of the game, but nobody would appear more entitled to a change ofluck.

RISKY BUSINESSTHEY are great for fans and the broadcasters, but the annual Auckland Nines and All Stars exhibitions are a recipe for disaster.

Over the next two weekends, the NRL’s most highly paidsuperstars will go hammer and tong in two events that count for nothing on grand final day.

And if anyone gets injured, their clubs are handicapped before a ball has been kicked in the season proper. It’s madness.

Injuries, of course, can happen at any time.

But players, coaches and supporters can probably accept such setbacks as par for the course if two competition points are at stake.

FOOD FOR THOUGHTIT couldn’t happen, could it?

No matter how badly the Knights are travelling, no matter how many wooden spoons they collect or how long they remain without an owner, the NRL needs a team in Newcastle and would never abandon this rugby league stronghold.

Or would they?

News from America might make you think twice. After 56 years in San Diego, the Chargers’ NFL franchise is moving to Los Angeles, basically because the owner has found a bigger stadium. Food for thought as “Our Knights One Chance” organisers rally support for a community-ownership model.


Newcastle Supercar race could see trees removedpoll

NEWCASTLE council may remove trees from the inner city to make way for November’s Supercar race, but insist they will be replaced.
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The Newcastle Heraldunderstands the council is looking at the removal of trees along Wharf Road opposite Foreshore Park to make way for the race, and on Friday aspokesman confirmed it was investigating “the effects of the final track alignment on local flora and fauna” on the city.

However, if trees are removed, the council wouldreplacethem to“ensure no overall loss to the canopy coverage”.

“We do recognise that there will be disruptions to our local residents especially those in close proximity to the track, however as we have said since the event was announced [council] will work closely with the event organisers to minimise disruption throughout the event,” he said.

The spokesman also insisted no decision had been made on which roads would be closed during the event.

“The beaches will be accessible as usual before, during and after the event period for members of the public, carers and other essential service providers such as emergency services,” the spokesman said.

TheHeraldalso asked the council on Friday whether it was considering filling in the frog pond in Foreshore Park, but a spokesman did not respond to the question.

However if the pond does go, it may not be because of the race. The council’s Foreshore plan of management from 2015 states the council would look at whether to“retain, reduce or remove” the pond.

The race –first announced in September last year –has proven increasingly divisive because of its location in Newcastle’s historic East End, with some residents fearing a loss of amenity.


SANZAAR boss Andy Marinos responds to Ben Ryan’s Fiji Super Rugby team bid

Former Fiji Sevens coach Ben Ryan wants to develop a Super Rugby team in Fiji. Photo: Louie DouvisSuper Rugby administrators have poured cold water on a proposal to give embattled Pacific Island nation Fiji a team in the southern hemisphere competition.
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Former Fiji sevens coach Ben Ryan is spearheading a private bid to build a 20,000-seat stadium in the Fijian resort precinct of Denarau, and has also backed a proposal to move the struggling Wellington Sevens to Fiji should the New Zealand Rugby Union decide to relinquish their hosting rights.

Ryan has chosen to side step the Fiji Rugby Union on both issues, questioning their governance and financial credentials and capacity to make either proposal a success.

But it appears he has also side stepped the Super Rugby gatekeepers, who are close to finalising a strategic review and responded to his comments to Fairfax Media with a terse statement.

“SANZAAR has noted with interest the ‘campaign’ led by former Fiji Sevens coach Ben Ryan to develop a Super Rugby team in Fiji. However, SANZAAR would like to state categorically that there has been no direct approach whatsoever from Ben Ryan, or anyone else, on his proposal,” a statement, released on Friday, said.

SANZAAR boss Andy Marinos called the proposal “strange” and invited Ryan to approach him about the idea.

“It seems strange that there is a campaign being led by Ben Ryan, mainly in the press, that could impact directly on Super Rugby and yet SANZAAR the tournament owner is completely in the dark about the proposal,” Marinos said.

“SANZAAR would welcome a conversation and is very open to talking with Ben or any of his associates on his proposed plan should he choose to engage with us.”

Ryan conceded the proposal, first floated back in November, had run into delays over a stadium site. But he insisted there was still momentum – and money – in their favour.

“It would be incredibly successful if done right and a great marketing strategy for Super Rugby. This could be a team with a lot of flair, within three or four hours’ flight of about 10 of the Super Rugby teams, so it’s a good fit for everyone,” he said.

Ryan was less bullish about talk of moving the ailing Wellington Sevens to the island nation. Average crowds of 10,000 across each day have prompted the New Zealand Rugby Union to declare the future of the once-iconic tournament in the capital well and truly up in the air.

The NZRU still have two years left in their contract to host the tournament and moving it to Auckland or Dunedin, a thriving university town, are still options. Fiji host the successful Coral Coast Sevens but would still be an out-of-the-box choice, no more so than because global world series sponsor HSBC has traditionally targeted key commercial markets.

Ryan said it would be “tough but not impossible” to get the idea across the line.

“Everyone is in agreement that Wellington is dead, it’s gone,” he said. “If Fiji fans hadn’t been there [last] weekend I don’t think anyone would have been there. It’s the worst tournament now in the series and it was the best when I started.

“It needs to move and I think the bold thing would not be repackaging it in New Zealand but allowing it to go to the islands. That would be completely down to the NZRU. They’ll decide whether it’s worth keeping or not.”


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