February, 2019

The PM’s woes started earlier than you think

Illustration: Simon Letch Knights and dames don’t topple a Prime Minister; the story goes back much further. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Nanjing Night Net

Liberals weigh leadership optionsAndrew Bolt attacks PM over ‘pathetically stupid’ Prince Philip knighthoodComment: PM in danger of being replaced by Turnbull

Of all the conclusions to draw from the Abbott government’s current predicament, perhaps the most erroneous would be that it is simply a  product of Tony Abbott’s idiosyncrasies. Sure, it’s hard to resist amid the cosmic weirdness of this Prince Philip saga. But there’s a difference between a trigger and a cause. Knights and Dames – even ones as bizarre as Sir Phil – don’t topple Prime Ministers. That sort of thing only matters when your government has torched every last bit of its political capital. That happened around budget time last year, but in truth, the story goes back even further. This process was set in motion before Abbott was even Prime Minister, and was visible from his very first day in office.

You tend not to see such things when you’re guzzling victory champagne, but the 2013 election was an underwhelming one for the Coalition. The nation had just evicted an unelectable mess; a government whose supporters were disillusioned and whose opponents hated it viscerally. Yet, in an election where Labor and the Greens together lost nearly 8 per cent of the vote, the Coalition – the only major alternative – gained a mere 2 per cent.  A win, sure. But more of the Steven Bradbury variety. The country never truly voted for an Abbott government, so much as against the debacle they’d been enduring.

That matters because it makes the governing bit much harder. It means Abbott never had much capital to begin with. His clearest mandate was to be someone other than Rudd or Gillard. Once that was fulfilled, Abbott had nowhere to go: nothing to do with his power.

Consider the rules he laid out as non-negotiable tests of government legitimacy: no broken promises, no leadership changes, no new or increased taxes, no budgetary blowouts, and no policies (like, say, a carbon price) that would increase the punters’ cost of living. Oh, and no cuts to anything somebody likes – health, education, public broadcasting, defence. We’ll cut government spending (which is wasteful), but when asked we’ll quarantine just about everything from those cuts. This is a mass of populist contradictions.

That made Abbott a devastating opposition leader. But as he destroyed Rudd and Gillard, he was also destroying himself. Abbott’s rhetoric in opposition simply turned the budget into a time bomb. When your promises are contradictory, you very quickly find yourself having to break them. Lots of times. And when you pledge to fix the budget but start by abolishing the taxes that will help you get there, you have no choice but to go for cuts you shouldn’t and frequently said you wouldn’t.

Abbott would eventually be forced to commit every sin he had elevated to being cardinal. Now his allies are rounding on him, and look likely to oust him eventually. If so, he’ll have driven his own party to commit the only grave sin left: to change its leader. And they would do this with no guarantee of reward. Whoever takes the job would draw instant comparisons to Gillard, and they would enter the role with nothing like the popularity Gillard had – briefly as it turned out.

Abbott’s problems begin, then, with his impossible template for government. What he offered instead was a template for gut-driven rage. And hereabouts is the bigger concern: what if that’s just the most effective approach? What if Abbott’s opposition style worked, not just because it  played to his personal strengths, but because it was so perfectly suited to the age?

We’re in an era of perpetual opposition, where everything from policies to celebrity sound bites no sooner appear than they are savaged in the most unreflective way. The anger is incoherent and fragmented. It comes from all directions and therefore follows no consistent vision or reason. In each moment there seems to be a majority against everything and for nothing. And that, in miniature, was Abbott’s approach. He gleefully led the savaging, abandoning all consistency in the process. This week he was piercingly correct to describe social media as electronic graffiti.  What’s unsaid is that it very much resembles the verbal graffiti of his opposition.

We’re in some danger here. If things continue as they are, Bill Shorten  has every chance of becoming the most anonymous man ever to be elected prime minister. His opposition is nowhere near as destructive as Abbott’s, but it can be similarly opportunistic. Take the tax cuts Labor introduced as compensation for the carbon tax. It deferred some of these on the basis that they should only become active when the carbon price reaches $25.40 a tonne, which it had failed to do. Now, with the carbon price gone, and this compensation clearly redundant, it is refusing to abolish the tax cuts that, according to its own policy, have no reason for being there. Labor is so into this opposition thing, it’s now opposing itself. And it’s costing the budget over $2 billion.

Meanwhile, Shorten outlines no policy when asked, and funnels every piece of news into an overarching narrative about Abbott’s broken promises and war on Australia’s financial battlers. Conventional wisdom suggests that at some stage Shorten will have to define himself and his policies. But the same was said of Abbott, and it was plainly wrong. Shorten must know that any policy clarity will pull focus, shed some level of support and open the door to his foe. If he decides to reveal a vision it will be a voluntary act, because the shortest path to the Lodge has no such scenery.

If not, we might swing wildly from one government without a mandate for much to another. And if we find ourselves in the same sort of territory as this year – and 2013, and 2012, and 2011, and 2010 – then we will surely have reached a point where even Prince Philip can’t be blamed.

Waleed Aly is a Fairfax columnist and winner of the 2014 Walkley award for best columnist. He co-hosts Network Ten’s The Project and lectures in politics at Monash University.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

How to pick your perfect exercise

When it comes to exercise, there’s something for everyone.
Nanjing Night Net

And although your exercise program should be enjoyable, there are some rules that ought to be followed.

A new article, by Jean Claude-Vacassin published in The Telegraph, London, shares a five-point plan on how to pick your perfect exercise, keeping in mind that any program should focus on safety, effectiveness and progress.

Exercise should benefit a certain goal

If an exercise won’t help you achieve your goals then why do it?

Choosing an exercise because you enjoy it is important but as Claude-Vacassin points out, “If you’re trying to increase single leg stability for example, standing bow-legged on a balance board is probably not what you should be doing, no matter how much fun it might be.”

Think about it.

Consider your body

People come in all shapes and sizes and for this reason some exercises are better to suited to some than others.

Limitations and injuries should also be considered, listen to your body and choose an exercise you can perform safely.

For example, squats are a great strength-building exercise for the lower body, but if you lack the “mobility and stability” needed to execute a squat the chance of injury becomes higher.

Manage your time effectively

When there aren’t enough hours in the day, exercise is usually the first to go.

Limit your excuses and make your program as time efficient as possible. Claude-Vacassin says, “For general fitness and fat loss, you can get a lot done in a relatively small amount of time.”

Effective and time-efficient exercises include: squats, lunges, deadlifts, chins ups and interval style training.

Be wary of extreme fitness

Thankfully, extreme exercising has run its course.

And while developing muscle strength is extremely beneficial, “very few of us should be performing Olympic lifting movements, and fewer of us still should be pairing these with sprints for example,” says Claude-Vacassin.

Sure, calories will be burned but at what cost?

Be clever

Plan a program that will help you achieve your goals. When it comes to the gym, exercises should be “mix and matched sensibly”.

Choose a complementary program that will improve your performance, rather than hinder it.

For example, runners should spend time in the gym focusing on strengthening their cores, hips and back and give their knees a break.

Find a fitness family

Community plays a big part in fitness.

When joining a fitness group, look for attitudes that match your own.

Ignore the latest fads and ultimately focus on finding an exercise that will help you achieve your goals.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

There’s nothing in that Michael Clarke story: I’ve heard that one before

Oh cricket. It’s a funny game.
Nanjing Night Net

In early 2009, this journalist was told of an incident in the dressing rooms at the SCG after a Test match. According to several sources, Australian opener Simon Katich had grabbed Michael Clarke by the throat following a major misunderstanding about the singing of the team song and Clarke’s desire to be with then-fiancee Lara Bingle.

That story was initially denied, and then confirmed, but then played down. Move on, nothing to see here. In the end, it exposed a major division in the Australian side that has only really been healed in the last year or so.

Fairfax Media this week shone a light on the fact that Clarke is on a collision course with Cricket Australia officials over his selection in the World Cup. We also highlighted the fact that the team is more than settled under Steve Smith.

The aftermath? Not one soul from Cricket Australia or the Clarke camp has denied any of it.

There is much more to this episode, with division between some WAGs (wives and girlfriends) of certain players also affecting team relations. We won’t go into those details at this stage, but it smacks of history repeating, does it not?

Some rate Clarke an “even money” chance of passing a fitness test on February 21 to make the World Cup squad, of which he will be captain. Those closer to him aren’t so sure because the benchmarks already set for those tests mean he must be fitter than he was as a 23-year-old. In other words, Cricket Australia has set him up to fail. Extraordinary.

Until then, will we see images of Clarke batting and running every day as we have all summer, as he wages a very public campaign to play in the World Cup? Probably.

There is no disputing Clarke’s courage, nor his standing as arguably the world’s best batsman when he’s fit. In terms of tactical nous, is there a better captain on the international scene?

No, as always, the issue comes down to a clash of personalities. Some of it is justified, some of it is not. I really don’t know the guy well enough.

There are many stakeholders in the game who just want all the relevant parties, from Clarke to high performance manager Pat Howard, chairman of selectors Rod Marsh and coach Darren Lehmann, to sit down and hug it out.

From there, surely the ideal situation would be for Clarke to give up on the World Cup, really concentrate on rehabbing his hamstrings and lower back, and then make an avalanche of runs as Australia retains the Ashes.

He could finish his career in style, with his standing in the lofty place it deserves to be, and we never have to discuss this ugly mess ever again.

Plane speaking

Jarryd who? Hayne Plane what?

Legendary wide receiver Terrell Owens has no idea who former Parramatta fullback Jarryd Hayne is or about his dream of playing in the NFL, but he says he can make it.

“Who?” asked the charismatic Owens, who was the special guest at an intimate lunch at the SCG on Thursday ahead of next week’s Super Bowl. “What position does he play?”

Told that Hayne wants to make it as a running back or fullback, the former San Francisco superstar said: “Number one, I wish him the best of luck. If he’s a guy with a lot of confidence, if he makes it, he’ll be a trendsetter. Playing football is a physical sport. You look at what rugby does, it’s very tough. The position he’s going for, running back and fullback, that’s one of those positions where you have to be tough, you have to be gritty and hit some guys.”

What about the fact that Hayne has never played the game?

“It’s easy to understand, in terms of the fullback and what they do,” Owens said. “If he can grasp that concept of running your plays, blocking the right people, and really protecting the quarterback, he can make it.”

Owens was made an honorary member of the Sydney Roosters, with a special tri-colours jersey presented to him by retired captain Anthony Minichiello.

Secrets in Seattle

Rumours have run strong all summer about a confrontation between Parramatta teammates Darcy Lussick and Corey Norman on the first night of their study trip of Seattle last year. It allegedly occurred during a night out to celebrate Melbourne Cup day.

Eels coach Brad Arthur “categorically” denied anything untoward happened when contacted. But the speculation has buzzed around the club for months – and now on social media – that something went down.

Whatever it was, it was seemingly inconsequential. More like boys just being boys.

Reach for the Sky

The ugly and drawn-out battle for broadcast rights between TAB Corp – which owns Sky Channel – and TVN is expected to be over by March. That is likely to see TVN dissolved, and one of the hottest topics in racing is where that will leave host Richard Callander.

The big fella has been a harsh critic of Sky Channel’s coverage and presenters for many years. There is much hand-wringing behind the scenes about whether Callander should now get a gig there.

It’s difficult to see TAB Corp wanting him given the animosity he’s directed at Sky. The ATC, who is a part owner of TVN, wants him to have a role. Stay tuned, as they say.

(Disclaimer: this reporter is contracted to TAB Corp’s Sky Sports Radio).

No salary caps here

Club bosses are relatively pleased about Shane Richardson’s elevation to mahogany row at the NRL, because they know he has skin in the game and will actually make a decision. What they are angry about is the amount of cash being splashed around by NRL chief executive Dave Smith on executive appointments.

They are wondering how head of football Todd Greenberg keeps his job, on more than $700,000 a year, now that the former South Sydney boss has come in.

Still on Richardson, he flies out this weekend for a self-funded study trip to the Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks in Arizona. He’ll then meet with NFL suits in New York.

The height of summer

Finally, a quick recap of the standout moments in sport during the past five weeks since we last met …

The sound of rugby league’s “Phantom Siren” – a close friend of the late Phillip Hughes – reverberating around the SCG on the fourth day of the Sydney Test showed that all is good in the world.

Stop the fight. This is the quote of the year, from Oregon coach Mark Helfrich about quarterback Marcus Mariota, despite the loss to Ohio State in the US college championship: “Around our neck of the woods, it’s like Madonna or Cher. It’s ‘Marcus’. His name is an adjective.”

It’s safe to assume that Robert Allenby hit his head on something during a night out in Hawaii. After that, choose your own adventure. Robert says he wants the truth to come out. If our PGA Tour sources are right, he might not want it to.

A-League farewell still on the cards, but not yet for Cahill

It seems like yesterday that FFA chief executive David Gallop pulled the trigger and fired Holger Osieck after the Socceroos suffered a 6-0 flogging against France in Paris.

That was October 2013. Now the Socceroos and Osieck’s replacement, Ange Postecolgou, are on the verge of claiming the Asian Cup, the biggest piece of international silverware they’ve ever been so close to securing.

Front and centre of the campaign has been Tim Cahill.

After the World Cup in Brazil, there was some nagging doubt about whether he’d play in the tournament. Then he goes and produces a stunning goal from an overhead scissor kick against China, which was equally as spectacular as his screaming left-foot volley against the Netherlands in Brazil.

He has deflected all the praise directed at his 35-year-old bones in the last few weeks, but there’s no disputing his significance to the growth of the game here as much as the Socceroos brand – even those close to him say they’ve no idea if he’ll ever play in the A-League. “Keeps his cards close to his chest on that stuff,” is the universal line whenever you ask the question.

But we can already envision FFA godfather Frank Lowy – who arrived just after kick-off for the semi-final against UAE in Newcastle via helicopter – opening the purse strings to ensure a final fling from Cahill.

The Socceroos camp believe reports on the day of the semi that Cahill was set to leave the New York Red Bulls and transfer to a United Arab Emirates club were solely designed to disrupt the Australians.

It seems more likely that Cahill will soak up some more mega dollars overseas before a farewell tour in the A-League – a fitting end for our greatest Socceroo.

Q & A: Ken Nagas

The 41-year-old Canberra Raiders legend will turn back the clock when he takes the field in the Auckland Nines this weekend.

When I think about your career back in the day, I think of length-of-the-field tries and nobody laying a finger on you. How many can we expect?

Honestly, you won’t get any.

Come on.

It might be hard. I’m not too nervous. I might be on Saturday morning. I feel like I’ve covered enough training over the last four months to get me through enough minutes each half. The idea was flagged after the Nines last year. I made a decision after the season finished. I’m an assistant with the 20s, but I’ve been doing a lot of training on my own. Surprisingly, the knees are OK.

Have you spoken to Brad Fittler at all after he played last year?

I haven’t, but watching him and Beaver [Steve Menzies] play last year gave me some incentive.

Which forward will you be trying to avoid out there?

I’ll be doing as much as I can not to get tackled, or to make a tackle! Freddy scored last year so I have to at least score a try.

Now, I vividly recall your spectacular try in the 1994 grand final from a Paul Osborne round-the-corner pass.

Ozzie reminds me of that every time I speak to him. He still says he should’ve got the Clive Churchill [Medal] that day. My god: that was 20 years ago.

What about the famous try against St George?

What happened was it was around Origin time and I was filling in for Brett Mullins at fullback. They kicked it down to our tryline, someone came through to make a tackle and they ripped the cord on my pants. I ran 10 metres before they started to fall down. I had to hold them up as I ran down field.

What do you do these days?

I’m in the victim’s liaison team with the Australian Federal Police. I see a lot of domestic violence stuff. Some of the stuff we hear and put up with is not nice. But you always want to help someone in that position.

THE QUOTE

“Get out of the bar.” – So said one elderly female autograph hunter to Robert Allenby as he showed his slightly improved but still bruised face at the TPC Scottsdale tournament. “I wasn’t in a bar,” he shot back.

THUMBS UP

Twenty20 cricket leaves some of us feeling cheap and used, and not in the good way. But this instalment of the Big Bash has been dynamite, all the way up to the Scorchers winning the title on the last ball of the final, with Sixers’ veteran Brett Lee sitting on a hat-trick on the final ball of his career. Fabulous stuff.

THUMBS DOWN

If Australian tennis wasn’t so starved of success in the men’s game, would we be so accepting of the schoolyard antics of Nick Kyrgios at the Australian Open? Bagging linespeople, abusing fans, dropping the F-bomb to worldwide TV audiences? Yes, he’s 19. Yes, he’s a showman. But let’s hope the right people get in his ear soon.

It’s a big weekend for … NRL coaches as they watch their precious playing talent prance about Eden Park in the Auckland Nines, knowing a season-ending injury is just a mistimed sidestep away.

It’s an even bigger weekend for … Rod Laver Arena, the roof of which might just blow right off when Novak Djokovic meets defending champion Stan Wawrinka in the Australian Open semi-final on Friday night. Unless the roof is open, of course. Then it can’t blow off.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Australian Open 2015: Andy Murray kicks down the wall against Tomas Berdych

Australian Open 2015: Full coverage
Nanjing Night Net

Let us get a feel for the thickness of the wall Andy Murray was up against.

There was the back injury that invalided him out of the final third of last year and momentarily out of the top 10, and was ginger still. There was his co-opting of Amelie Mauresmo, a woman no less, as his coach; Murray felt that had attracted unfair criticism. There was the fact that his former coach, Dani Vallverdu, was now in the employ of his opponent this semi-final night, Tomas Berdych. This also had drawn what Murray felt was undue attention. They had been friends from childhood, and mere sport would not drive them apart.

Most of all, there was the fact that for almost the first hour of this encounter, Berdych had all but blown him off the court, and although Murray somehow had forced the epic first set to a tie-break, he had lost it. Berdych then still had not lost a set for the tournament.

Adversity, lovely adversity, the way the Scot seems to like it. There was one more goad to Murray’s general indignation. As he and Berdych took their chairs at the end of that set, Berdych appeared to mutter an imprecation in Murray’s direction. Murray said he did not hear what Berdych said, but knew that he said something. Having sown this breeze, Berdych reaped the whirlwind. Half an hour later, Murray had won the second set to love, yielding merely 10 points to the Czech. An hour-and-a-half later, Murray had won the next two sets, and the match, and a place in his fourth Australian Open final.

Instantly, Murray pointed at Mauresmo, as if to hold up her arm. “She’s been very important to me for the last few months,” he explained. “The end of last year was very difficult for me. I also feel she has taken a lot of unfair criticism as well. She’s a fantastic person. We’re completely on the same page. It was a brave choice by her. Hopefully I can repay her in a few days.”

Then there was Vallverdu. “A lot has been made of Dani working with him,” Murray said. “I felt that was a bit unfair. We’ve been friends since we were 15. This is just sport. There is more to life than sport.”

In a way, this whole match was an exercise in redress. Berdych won the first five points of the match and for an hour ruled it. His courtcraft stretched Murray as surely as if on a medieval rack. The always lugubrious Scot was reduced to mooching around the court between points and glaring occasionally at linesmen. Wordlessly, he looked towards both boxes, and why not: his coach was in one, his former coach in the other. One must have had answers.

At the other end, Berdych was a ball dispenser, but with the marque and trim of a classic car, metronomically distributing winners left and right, barely even bothering to reach for his towel betweeen points. Until he served for the set, he had lost only two points on serve.

But Murray began to scramble like a man clambering up a crumbling riverbank. It would remain a feature of his game all night. He was broken, broke back, lugged the contest into a tie-break, but lost it. It had taken 77 minutes, enough time for Serena Williams to win one match and at least the first set of next.

Then Berdych crossed the line, as plainly as if on Hawkeye. “I don’t know what he said, but he said something,” Murray said. “He was also sometimes staring at me across the net at the change of ends. I wasn’t into it. I was concentrating on my game. I respect him as a tennis player. I hope he feels the same about me. But that did fire me up a bit.”

As turning points go, this was hairpin. Murray now had found his range and Berdych’s measure. A criticism of the Czech is that he is a beautiful ball-striker, but predictable, especially in his serve strategy. His ball toss is extravagantly high, and Murray appeared to have time to study each one over a cup of tea and the paper. Suddenly, he was there, waiting to cut off Berdych at every pass. Everyone blinked, and set flew by.

The match found its equilibrium in the third set, but for Berdych, three dozy minutes undid three-quarters of an hour of equal battle. Forty-love up on his serve, he hit two double faults, and two other loose shots, and suddenly was broken. Now it was Murray who could do no wrong, Berdych who was left flat-footed and flailing. Murray now was as the stockhorse in Banjo Patterson’s Man From Snowy River, “snuffing the battle with delight”.

Berdych’s mute protest at his collapse was to belt a ball clean out of Rod Laver arena, then pull a towel over his head, like a shroud. Two winning Murray sets had taken less time than one for Berdych.

Murray’s defensive mastery was now the controlling dynamic in the match. No matter what angle he tried, Berdych could not find a way past him. Momentarily in the fourth set, Murray’s game came off its improbable high and an opening appeared for the Czech. But he hesitated, and Murray, from nearly his worst position on the night, hit nearly his best shot to wriggle away. The end came quickly after that.

In one way, Murray has had charmed run through this tournament. Others cleared Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal out of his path before they could get to Murray. Now, though, he awaits either the world’s No 1, Novak Djokovic, or the defending champion, Stan Wawrinka, in a final he has played in three times, but never won. It has all the makings of another damned beautiful wall.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Redland City Council looks to put the bite on barking dogs

Current laws allow a Redlands dog to bark for six minutes per hour. But that could be halved. Photo: Mark CliffordA South East Queensland council wants to tighten the leash on noisy pets, with a plan to impose a strict regime for animals that are declared a “nuisance”.
Nanjing Night Net

Under a new proposal, Redland City pet owners could face fines if their dog barks for more than three minutes in a 30-minute window at any time in the day.

If imposed, it is believed the laws will be the strictest in South East Queensland. The proposal has been put out for public consultation before the council votes on the issue later this year.

The city’s current laws permit a dog to bark for six minutes an hour between 7am and 10pm. During other hours, dogs are allowed three minutes of barking per 30 minutes.

There were 3335 complaints for noisy dogs during the last three years, a council spokesman said.

Mayor Karen Williams said the proposed changes were suggested after a local councillor received numerous complaints from shift workers who were disturbed while sleeping during the day.

“Having noise nuisance from a dog then can be as unsettling as it is in night time for others,” she said.

However Cr Williams stressed that she would prefer neighbours to sort things out between themselves.

“I’m not a big believer in legislating absolutely everything. I’m happy for people to give feedback on this issue. I’m one of those councillors who would prefer the community talk to each other than us create laws.”

Brisbane and Ipswich city councils have the same laws for noisy pets as Redlands’ current rules.

On the Gold Coast, a dog can be declared a nuisance by council officers it disrupts neighbours from “an activity ordinarily carried out on residential premises”. This can include watching television, sleeping, or holding a conversation.

Similar rules exist in Logan, Moreton Bay, Sunshine Coast, Somerset, Bundaberg, Noosa and Toowoomba council areas.

While dogs have traditionally been the source of animal noise complaints around the state, birds have also been culprits.

A notable 2011 case in Townsville pitted senior citizen Jack Hutton against the local council, who said his 16 roosters crowed up to 922 times an hour.

The matter went to court and the complaint against Mr Hutton was dismissed.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.