Phoenix foil Toronto’s plans for payback

TORONTO had waited all summer to make amends for their shock 4-2 preliminary final loss to Phoenix Charlestown last season.

But there was to be no vengeance for the Tigers at Waterboard Oval on Sunday after they went down 7-3 in their first game of the season.

After sitting out the opening weekend of the Newcastle Major League with the bye, Toronto came out fired up to take a 2-1 lead after two innings.

They extended their advantage to 3-2 after six with Josh Judge keeping the Phoenix batters in check, allowing six hits and one walk.

But Phoenix found relief pitchers Michael Campbell and Kurt Eden more to their liking, scoring five runs from eight hits and two walks in the final three digs.

Phoenix also made a pitching change in the seventh as Scott Telfer replaced Adam Berwick, who had given up five hits and three walks.

Telfer managed to shut down the strong Toronto batting line-up for the rest of the game, conceding only one walk and no hits in three innings.

PITCHER: Adam Berwick

All nine members of the Phoenix team registered a hit. Martin Bell (three singles) and Telfer (two singles and a double) ledthe charge with two RBIs each.

Kenny Judge (single and double) and Eden (single and double) accounted for 80 per cent of Toronto’s five hits with a brace each.

Belmont cruised to a 13-2 mercy-rule victory at Stevenson Park in Sunday’s other round two match.

Belmont’s racked up 11 runs before Boomers had brought home one.

The home side got two back in the bottom of the fourth but a further two runs in the top of the seventh gave the Seagulls an early finish.

Jake Amos drove in four runs from two doubles and a home run.

Prisoner injured in Islamic State attack may not have been a veteran: David Elliott

NSW Corrective Services Minister David Elliott. Photo: Tim Hunter The Mid North Coast Correctional Centre in Kempsey. Photo: Supplied

NSW Corrections Minister David Elliott says he has been unable find any evidence that a prisoner who was allegedly attacked by an Islamic State supporter at a jail on the NSW Mid North Coast was an Australian Army veteran.

The 40-year-old man’s radicalised cell mate, Bourhan Hraichie, 18, allegedly used a sharp object to carve “e4e” into his head inside the Mid North Coast Correctional Centre in Kempsey last week. The slogan was an apparent reference to the terrorist group’s “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” mantra.

The radicalised teenager also allegedly placed a towel over the victim’s face and poured boiling water over him, and allegedly broke the older man’s sternum.

It was reported that the injured man was a former Toowoomba-based army officer who had served in East Timor, and who was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

But Mr Elliott told Alan Jones on 2GB on Monday that he had not been able to confirm that the injured man was a former Australian soldier.

“I’ve got no evidence at the moment that he served in the Australian Army,” said Mr Elliott, who is also the Minister for Veterans Affairs and himself a former army officer.

“I don’t want to cast aspersions, but [after] my preliminary inquiries, I can’t find how anybody believes that this victim is a veteran. I don’t know who told the media that this guy is a veteran because I’ve got no evidence that he was.”

Regardless of whether the man was a veteran, Mr Elliott said the alleged attack was “disgusting” and “this is not the way that a civilised society treats its prisoners”.

Earlier, Jones said he had been inundated with messages from army veterans who were “white hot with rage” that the former soldier had been targeted.

“Is this the best we can do for a bloke who served his country?” Jones had asked.

“Who places a disturbed army veteran in jail to start with, and then in a cell with an Islamic State sympathiser, when our soldiers are overseas fighting this mob, and now for his trouble he gets tortured, and almost killed? Now if this is not an administrative disgrace, what is?”

Mr Elliott admitted that placing the injured man, who was a minimum-security prisoner, in a cell with the radicalised teenager, who was a maximum-security prisoner, was a mistake.

“That was a stuff-up,” Mr Elliott said, adding that the general manager of the prison had been stood down.

Mr Elliott said Muslims were over-represented in the Australian prison system, representing about 9 per cent of the prison population.

“In the last three months, we have implemented a new program called Prism which is deliberately designed to address radicalisation but … as you well know, this is something new.”

The victim was reported to be fighting for his life initially after the attack, but was now “close to being released back to a correctional centre”, the Department of Corrective Services said on Sunday.

Hraichie has been charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent and intentionally choking a person.

He has been moved out of the prison’s maximum security section, and is due to face Kempsey Local Court on May 23.

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Telstra inks $1.6b NBN deal, ACCC raises concerns

Telstra will help with the rollout of the HFC network. Photo: Rob HomerThe competition watchdog is concerned Telstra may have advantages over its rivals in the national broadband network rollout after the telco inked a $1.6 billion  deal to upgrade the cable television and internet assets it sold to the government’s NBN in 2014.

Telstra will provide planning, design, construction and construction management services for the hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network it sold two years ago to NBN with the aim of completing the upgrade by 2020.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said the watchdog was concerned about the implications of Telstra’s involvement in the NBN rollout. Competitive advantage

“We have raised several concerns with Telstra and NBN Co, including that Telstra may receive a competitive advantage if it has access to better information than other service providers or if it is able to use infrastructure built for the NBN network before that infrastructure becomes available to other retail service providers,” Mr Sims said.

The ACCC acknowledged that Telstra’s technical expertise would help with a faster rollout of the NBN, but is worried that construction and maintenance deals, including Monday’s announcement, could give rise to competition issues.

The watchdog said the two parties have recently provided proposals to try to address these concerns.

“We are looking at the parties’ proposals carefully to consider to what extent these proposals address our concerns. It is important that Telstra doesn’t get a head start selling retail services over the NBN just because its technical expertise is being used in the construction and maintenance of the NBN,” Mr Sims said.

An NBN spokesperson said the deal was not subject to approval from the ACCC.

“We have already provided a significant amount of information to the ACCC.  We continue to work closely with the commission and we are pleased that the ACCC recognises that the transaction will contribute to a quicker rollout of the NBN,” the spokesperson said.

“We were very mindful of these perceived issues when we structured the deal and have also offered the ACCC additional measures around monitoring and reporting back to the ACCC.”

The spokesperson said NBN has every incentive to make sure all retail service providers have the same chance to access the network.

Telstra’s HFC footprint includes areas of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Perth and Adelaide. Optus deal to come

NBN is still in negotiations with Optus over the upgrading of its formerly-owned HFC network.

NBN paid Optus $800 million for the network as part of a deal struck in 2014 during the renegotiation of contracts done under the Coalition government, which Optus, at the time, said was equivalent to its 2011 signed under the Labor government.

Fairfax Media revealed last year that NBN was considering replacing Optus’s HFC network.

The networks are an important pillar in the Coalition government’s multi-technology mix national broadband network plan, after it abandoned the previous Labor government’s plan for fibre-to-the-premise.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten confirmed on Monday that, if elected, it would move towards a “hybrid” rollout of the NBN, involving more fibre cables, rather than revert to its previous policy.

The new deal with Telstra should come as no surprise with NBN chief executive Bill Morrow flagging at the time the two signed an $11 billion renegotiated contract in 2014 that Telstra  progressively sell its copper and HFC networks to NBN and that Telstra would be an important partner in the construction of the NBN.

The previous contracts, signed in 2011, would have seen Telstra progressively shut off its copper and HFC networks under an all-fibre rollout.

“We’re going to give them some of that business only if it’s at ­market competitive rates and I hope they respond in that way because they do have a lot of knowledge we can use,” Mr Morrow said at the time.

After signing a memorandum of understanding in December, Telstra has begun to support the build of the HFC network.

“We have a very strong relationship with NBN and I am pleased that we have reached an agreement and can support NBN in building out the NBN network in the existing Telstra HFC footprint,” Telstra chief executive Andy Penn said.

“Telstra has a long and proud history in network construction and we believe we will bring great expertise to this important part of the NBN network. We are already mobilising our workforce to ensure we support NBN in their rollout schedule.”

Mr Morrow said the new deal with Telstra would help roll out the NBN to millions more homes.

“Telstra has enormous experience in HFC design and construction, and the rollout will be greatly assisted by having them as a key partner in the delivery of this part of the network,” Mr Morrow said.

“This is a significant milestone in NBN’s goal of finishing the rollout by 2020 and connecting 8 million homes and businesses.”

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Sacked reporter Scott McIntyre and SBS resolve dispute over Anzac Day tweets

Scott McIntyre has settled his dispute with SBS management.Sacked SBS sports reporter Scott McIntyre has settled his unfair dismissal case with broadcaster SBS over a series of controversial tweets he made on Anzac Day last year.

In joint statement released on Monday morning, an hour before McIntyre and SBS were due to begin a three day hearing in the NSW Federal Court, the parties confirmed the dispute over his termination had been resolved.

McIntyre, who had worked at SBS since 2003 and was employed as a sports reporter since 2008, had been suing SBS for unlawful termination under the Fair Work Act and sought a court order requiring SBS to pay compensation and damages.

McIntyre found himself at the epicentre of controversy after he referred to the commemoration of Anzac Day as “remembering the summary execution, widespread rape and theft committed by these ‘brave’ Anzacs in Egypt, Palestine and Japan”.

In another tweet he wrote: “Wonder if the poorly-read, largely white, nationalist drinkers and gamblers pause today to consider the horror that all mankind suffered.”

In the statement, McIntyre acknowledged the views expressed in his tweets were “contentious” and regretted “any attribution of his views to SBS and acknowledges that SBS was drawn into controversy following the expression of his views”.

The broadcaster said in the statement that “Mr McIntyre was a well respected sports reporter with SBS for a period spanning over a decade, and SBS is disappointed that it was unable to continue with his services following his tweets”.

Amid the controversy, which spiralled into a debate around free-speech and the limits around using employer-linked twitter accounts to express personal views, then-communications minister Malcolm Turnbull publicly condemned Mr McIntyre’s comments describing then as “despicable remarks which deserved to be condemned”.

The Minister then discussed the issue directly with the broadcaster’s managing director Michael Ebeid in a late-night phone call on April 25, 2015.

McIntyre was sacked the next morning.

However, both SBS and Mr Turnbull denied the Minister had directed SBS to take any action in relation to McIntyre’s employment.

In a hearing in the Federal Court in December last year, lawyers for SBS maintained Mr McIntyre was not sacked because of the political views he held, but because the tweets were in breach of the broadcaster’s social media policy and code of conduct.

The court heard SBS director of sport, Ken Shipp​, had repeatedly told Mr McIntyre to delete the tweets and apologise, but he had refused.

Mr McIntyre’s lawyers refuted this, claiming that at no stage prior to his sacking did SBS direct him to delete the tweets, apologise, or inform him that he had breached the code of conduct or social media guidelines.

He said he was denied procedural fairness and that he was sacked, in part, because of “his expression of political opinion”.

The terms of the McIntyre’s settlement with the broadcaster remain undisclosed. The tweetsThe cultification of an imperialist invasion of a foreign nation that Australia had no quarrel with is against all ideals of modern society.— Scott McIntyre (@mcintinhos) April 25, 2015Wonder if the poorly-read, largely white, nationalist drinkers and gamblers pause today to consider the horror that all mankind suffered.— Scott McIntyre (@mcintinhos) April 25, 2015Remembering the summary execution, widespread rape and theft committed by these ‘brave’ Anzacs in Egypt, Palestine and Japan.— Scott McIntyre (@mcintinhos) April 25, 2015Not forgetting that the largest single-day terrorist attacks in history were committed by this nation & their allies in Hiroshima & Nagasaki— Scott McIntyre (@mcintinhos) April 25, 2015Innocent children, on the way to school, murdered. Their shadows seared into the concrete of Hiroshima. pic.twitter老域名/DQOGXiKxEb— Scott McIntyre (@mcintinhos) April 25, 2015

– with Louise Hall

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‘Springfield monorail of Australian politics’: how a Very Fast Train is a very pre-election promise

Former prime minister John Howard takes a close look at a model of a ‘Speedrail’, the winning tender for a proposed Sydney to Canberra service. Photo: Andrew Meares Former infrastructure and transport minister Anthony Albanese releases a report examining high-speed rail in 2013. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The Simpsons watch on as Springfield’s monorail is built.

New Melbourne to Sydney rail pitch destined for Malcolm Turnbull’s desk

If Australia’s high speed train is as reliable as the rate at which it is promised by politicians, it will be a truly remarkable service.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is expected to soon flag plans to once again pursue a high speed rail link down the country’s east coast – a veritable favourite for Australian pollies under pressure.

It’s a bit like our version of the Springfield monorail from The Simpsons – a transport project sold with great fanfare to an adoring public that turns out to be a bit of a pup.

Over the years, politicians have promised high speed rail with such alarming regularity that SBS Comedy’s The Feed predicted this very occurrence only weeks ago, jibing that it was “like a tired old lover teasing their partner with a sex toy they’re too scared to open”.

Indeed, the elusive fast train has now cropped up for three elections on the trot – great fun for headline writers and satirists, but doing very little to inspire public confidence in politics.

Just 12 days out from the last election, a flailing Kevin Rudd announced plans to buy a rail corridor between Sydney and Canberra, and to reserve land for a line south to Melbourne. The then deputy prime minister Anthony Albanese predicted trains could be operational by 2030.

It followed a 2010 election undertaking, when Labor committed $20 million to study the feasibility of high speed rail. That report concluded the line could be profitable, but would require a substantially taxpayer-funded investment of $114 billion in construction costs.

Rewind just a little further to 1998, and it was John Howard himself who ventured down those time-honoured tracks, commissioning the Speedrail Consortium to submit a detailed proposal for a $3.5 billion link between Sydney and Canberra. It was wiped away when the government could not be satisfied the project could be financed without subsidies.

As the Greens’ Adam Bandt observed on Monday: “High Speed Rail seems to be the train that only ever runs in election years.”

Of course, the saga goes back much further. It was the dawn of the optimistic 1980s when the Institution of Engineers first lobbed the grenade of high speed rail into Australian politics. Three years later, the CSIRO proposed the Very Fast Train – a 350km/h bullet train based on the French TGV. It would have linked Sydney to Melbourne in about three hours and cost $2.5 billion in 1984 money.

For a while, it looked as though the VFT might actually leave the station. There were joint ventures, reports, conferences and protests. There were also thought bubbles, with alternative technologies including magnetic levitation and a tilt train coming under consideration. Bob Hawke’s government eventually rejected a proposal to allow tax concessions for investors in the project, and the consortium of infrastructure-builders folds in 1991.

This time around, the government has a different and more innovative approach. Mr Turnbull has previously spoken at length about the virtues of value capture infrastructure – an investment instrument in you use the increased land values that arise from a piece of infrastructure to finance its construction.

The Australian, which reported the government’s high speed rail plans on Monday, described value capture as a “radical new” funding approach. But it is neither, having been used regularly in the US and other countries for decades.

Indeed, in an ABC radio interview last month, Mr Turnbull explained that 19th century railroad projects were “in effect property deals” because they boosted the value of surrounding land.

“This is increasingly what is being done again in the United States,” he said. “In a sense it’s back to the future because people are really remembering that what good transport infrastructure does is transform the amenity and hence the value of real estate.”

Professor of Urban Policy at the University of Sydney, Ed Blakely, said while value capture would not fund the entire cost of a high speed rail line, it could be used to finance land acquisition for stations, the stations themselves and the construction of apartments and other amenities at major junctions.

He rated the chance of the project actually coming to fruition as “better than 50 per cent” because of the added incentive provided by the proposed Badgerys Creek airport.

“I think you have to do it,” Professor Blakely said. “I think if we press on this thing when we have the second airport it’ll get done, because it actually reinforces what we’re doing there.”

But even in those circumstances, Labor – a keen proponent of high speed rail in the not-so-distant past – was unwilling to applaud.

“This is a desperate Malcolm Turnbull clutching at straws,” said Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. “Talk is cheap, but it’s actions that really matter.”

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