Closed

J is for jihad

July 5th, 2018 / / categories: 江苏夜网 /

IN MARCH this year, a group of Islamic radicals were scoping out new targets in Bali, hoping to enact their own murderous 10th anniversary of the 2002 attacks.
Nanjing Night Net

They had surveyed the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Kuta and the Australian-run La Vida Loca bar in Seminyak. They had chosen a suicide bomber and planned to fund the operation by robbing a money changer and a gold store.

What is not widely known is that three of the five plotters for ”Bali III” – including their leader Hilman, aka Surya – were low-level drug pushers who were radicalised in Kerobokan prison when they were locked up with the original Bali bombers in the early 2000s.

According to research by the International Crisis Group, Hilman, who was serving a seven-year sentence for marijuana possession, was the prisoners’ mosque functionary who came under the influence of Bali bomber Imam Samudra. On leaving prison he became a full-time jihadist. Another plotter shared a cell with another Bali bomber, Amrozi.

The radicalisation of their cellmates was the Bali bombers’ slow-burn revenge. If an attack had overshadowed this week’s 10th anniversary commemoration, they would have their last, posthumous, laugh over their jailers. (Samudra and Amrozi were executed in 2008.)

Indonesia’s prisons are a breeding ground for terrorists, and so are some of the Islamic boarding schools. But despite the ever-present threat of terrorism, the Indonesian state shows little interest in tackling this issue.

After the authoritarian and secular regime of Suharto fell in 1998, many groups that were previously repressed thrived under ”Reformasi” – Indonesia’s flowering of freedom. Among them were those groups with a radical religious agenda who wanted to replace the state of Indonesia entirely with an Islamic caliphate under Islamic law.

Until the Bali bombings, whose death toll of 202 woke it from its torpor, the newly democratic Indonesia knew little or nothing of the growing number of deadly men in its midst.

Ten years on, Indonesian law enforcement, spearheaded by Detachment 88, the anti-terror police, has had great success in cracking down on religiously inspired radicalism. On his recent visit to Indonesia, Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith lavished praise, saying: ”There is no country in the world that is more successful in arresting and prosecuting terrorists.”

Since the first Bali attack, Indonesia has arrested 700 people for terrorism offences and prosecuted 500. For every 10 prosecuted, another one suspected terrorist – including some of Asia’s most dangerous men – has been killed by police on the streets.

That success story, though, contains the frightening truth that, in 10 years, Indonesia has produced 500 people with a proven link to terror, and many more who have gone unnoticed so far.

Every few months a new plot, with a new set of plotters, is uncovered. Some, such as a recent group calling itself ”al-Qaeda Indonesia”, have progressed far enough to start making bombs – albeit ones which blew up by accident in the kitchen.

Many now believe that law enforcement alone is not enough. They say the country’s jihad factories, which still pump out recruits, must be shut down and the radicals de-radicalised. The effort so far, though, has been piecemeal and anaemic, marred by poor funding and follow-through and an apparent lack of political will.

In Indonesian prisons, extremist preachers, terrorists and would-be jihadists are locked up with common criminals. Low-level terrorists – youngsters or those who have dabbled around the edges of a radical group – are housed with hardened jihadis, persuasive men with a seductive story to tell.

The most infamous of these men, Abu Bakar Bashir, is serving a 15-year sentence for helping set up a paramilitary training camp in Aceh in 2010. But inside he is still surrounded by acolytes and young prisoners, and boasts in a written interview with The Sunday Age that he is ”busy spreading the word of Allah to the people”.

His words remain unrepentantly full of violent jihad – ideas of noble martyrdom and the overthrow of the state of Indonesia so ”that people’s life may be managed by Allah’s law”. Bashir refers repeatedly to ”evil Indonesia” and offers up a contradictory mish-mash of arguments to explain and justify the Bali bombs.

First, he asserts that the massive bombs were set by three individuals, ”Mukhlas and his two friends”. He calls them ”mujahideen [holy warriors] who actively defended Islam” and were ”slaughtered by the Jews, the United States and their allies”.

In the very next paragraph he claims the bombs were part of a conspiracy, a ”micro-nuclear device” planted by the US to discredit Islam. ”So it was the US who essentially killed tens of Australians not the three mujahideens,” he writes. ”God willing, Islam will win due to Allah’s help of jihad,” he writes, before exhorting Australian journalists to ”convert to Islam so you will be saved”.

Ask most ordinary Indonesians about Bashir and his ilk and they shake their heads and pronounce him ”gila” – ”crazy”. But his carefully cultivated look of a gentle and wise old scholar has made his loony rhetoric surprisingly resilient, despite the patent failure of the populace of Indonesia to rise up in support of holy war after the Bali bombings.

Jemaah Islamiah, Bashir’s former terror vehicle, is now mistrusted in the radical community because a few of its high-profile members – notably Bali bomber Ali Imron, and former senior member Nasir Abbas – ”turned” and offered information to police. But a whole slew of new followers have emerged. Bashir’s new radical group, Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid, or JAT, has been involved in many of the latter-day plots that police have uncovered.

As disturbing is the fact that the Ngruki boarding school Bashir co-founded, and where his son (and leader of JAT) Abdul Rohim is a teacher, is still pumping out fresh-faced ”martyrs”. Bali bomber Idris, an old boy of Ngruki, said of his alma mater recently: ”That is where jihad was taught.” But suggest that the school in Ngruki, a suburb of Solo, might be closed down, and Indonesians simply laugh.

All schools look something alike, and, apart from the enormous mosque being built and the separate sections for boys and girls, the Al-Mukmin school in suburban Ngruki is no exception. The classrooms have whiteboards and teachers at the front, and rowdy students in rows. In science the boys are learning about microbes. Graffiti and motivational posters adorn the walls.

But in the girls’ section, along with exhortations to pious (veiled) womanhood, is a noticeboard. Pinned to it is a graphic photograph of a dead man, blood fanning out from the back of his head. The man is Farhan, a young jihadist shot dead by anti-terror police on a Solo street two weeks before our visit.

Farhan was an alumnus of the Ngruki school and the pictures and two separate stories describing his death were downloaded from radical Islamist websites, printed out and pinned up, presumably for their educational value. Depending on how it was spoken about, the story might have been placed there in mourning, or as an exhortation to righteous fury.

Asked about it, young English and Arabic teacher Abu Amar airily says the school teaches current events, just like any other. But this is not just any event. And there were no other posters on that board.

Abu Bakar Bashir’s son Aburahman Rohim is a senior teacher at the Ngruki school his father founded. He defends the teaching of jihad, saying: ”More than 60 verses of the teaching of jihad are in the Koran. Should we delete those verses?”

Not all the verses are about violence or war. Some are about the struggle to be a good Muslim; others about the desirability of an Islamic state. But alumni such as Idris recall a focus, particularly in extracurricular activities, on the warlike verses. Rohim bristles at any suggestion that this school is unusual, or its curriculum dangerous.

”Yes, some alumni of Ngruki are involved [in holy war], but you cannot put the blame on the school,” he says angrily. ”It’s so unfair. It’s so irresponsible. It’s a ridiculous way of thinking. For example, in your own country, if there’s a thief or a rapist, would you put the blame on their school?”

The fact is that not just one, but many terrorists have been to Ngruki, including some of the linchpins of the Bali bombings – Mukhlas, Idris, Mubarok. In a recent series of terror raids in Indonesia, a number of the jihadis arrested or killed were also Ngruki alumni. Rohim says when such cases come to light, the current students are taught that ”it’s such a wrong action”.

But his words are ambivalent at best. He refuses to call the Bali bombers terrorists, saying they were, at worst, misguided ”mujahid” (holy warriors). ”Mujahid can make mistakes. What they did will not reduce their status as mujahideen. They must be judged by what is their intention,” he says. ”I don’t want to even subtly claim that they were terrorists. It’s a word used by non-Muslims to corner Islam.”

Asked about the recent crop of alumni involved in terrorist activities, Rohim, like his father, claims a conspiracy. They were turned to terrorism by the police to discredit Islam, he says, even though a police officer was killed in one of their attacks. ”Well, it’s a conspiracy. Sometimes they are willing to sacrifice their own friends for the conspiracy … It’s a pretty normal thing for an intelligence officer to kill his own friends to cover up their own activities.”

Rohim boasts that the school has been continuously accredited by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Education for more than a decade. He says demand for places grew fast in the wake of the Bali bombing, and the school is still expanding. Posters around the campus show plans for new dormitories in new locations.

Once radicals graduate from school or prison, the next stage is to be invited to join a training camp, or a plot. After the recent spate of arrests, there was a push for the government to establish a de-radicalisation program. Vice-President Boediono himself ordered an anti-terror plan to be in place by next year, and said that the fight against radical ideas had been too sporadic. ”This de-radicalisation blueprint will be comprehensive and will really serve the purpose,” Boediono said.

But Irfan Idris, the head of the de-radicalisation program at the National Agency for Counter-Terrorism, says the entire agency has a budget of only $9.5 million, of which only a part is set aside for the ”soft approach” of de-radicalisation (as distinct from hard law enforcement).

An existing program running in Indonesian prisons since 2010 applies three strategies, he says: culture (using traditional Wayang puppet shows); business (trying to establish an economic base for prisoners); and ideology (countering the radical brainwashing). But in the past two years, only 32 prisoners nationwide have completed the program and there has been no attempt to measure its success.

Professor Sarlito Wirawan, a psychologist working on this program and others, says it can take up to three years to convince someone not to act on their radical theology. At this rate it would take decades to even talk to one year’s supply of recruits from the radical boarding schools and the prisons. Asked about the radical boarding school in Ngruki, Irfan refers me to the Religious Affairs Ministry, which keeps accrediting the school.

There are also several private-sector de-radicalisation programs. Noor Ismail Huda, a journalist and former student at Ngruki, says Indonesian authorities ”have been doing extremely well after the milk has been spilled”.

He runs a program of ”disengagement”, which involves having former radicals run cafes. Here they are forced to serve customers of all cultures and religions, and they can also make money, making his program self-sustaining. ”We fight terrorism with doughnuts and coffee,” he says.

So far, though, he has only three cafes, and has helped perhaps a handful of radicals.

Another private program is the Afghan Alumni Forum, where former radicals, the hard core who trained in Afghanistan, try to use their kudos in the jihadi community to put people on the right path.

It is led by Abu Wildan, a former senior teacher at Ngruki who was asked to join the Bali plot but refused. Abdurahman Ayub, Jemaah Islamiah’s former deputy in Australia, is also a key member, as is one-time Bali plotter Maskur Abdul Kadir. It holds forums in suburban function rooms under a banner that reads: ”Indonesia, peace without violence, terrorism and radicalism in the name of religion”.

Psychologist Sarlito works with the forum and claims an 80 per cent success rate. He says attacking the ideology head-on simply did not work because the radical imams still hold such sway. ”I’m not replacing anything. I leave their beliefs, but I say don’t do this and this … don’t start hurting people,” he said.

”Then we bring in the wives, families, and say, ‘How about helping each other?’ … It’s step by step and it takes three years. It’s not an easy job.”

As these well-meaning efforts continue, though, schools and prisons keep churning out radicals. Australia has proscribed organisations and passed laws against hate speech. People have been jailed for preaching terror. Indonesia has nothing similar.

And, according to Nasir Abbas, the highest-profile reformed member of Jemaah Islamiah, it will not develop them. ”In Indonesia it’s different. They let you build whatever ideology you want, set up a school, as long as you don’t do the crime … this is what people here call Reformasi,” he says.

”We’ve got freedom of speech and expression. You can’t just shut down a school.”

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

Islamist teaching … cleric Abdul Rahim, a son of Abdul Bashir, is a teacher at al-Mukmin school. Students laugh during a break in classes at al-Mukmin school.
Nanjing Night Net

Students in an English class at al-Mukmin school.

In March, a group of Islamist radicals were scoping out new targets in Bali, hoping to enact their own murderous 10th anniversary of the 2002 attacks.

They had surveyed the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Kuta and the Australian-run La Vida Loca bar in Seminyak. They had chosen a suicide bomber and planned to fund the operation by robbing a money changer and a gold store.

What is not widely known is that three of the five plotters for ”Bali III” – including their leader, Hilman, aka Surya – were low-level drug pushers who were radicalised in Kerobokan prison when they were locked up with the original Bali bombers in the early 2000s.

According to research by the International Crisis Group, Hilman – who was serving a seven-year sentence for marijuana possession – was the mosque functionary who came under the influence of the Bali bomber Imam Samudra. On leaving prison, he became a full-time jihadist. Another plotter shared a cell with Amrozi.

The radicalisation of their cellmates was the Bali bombers’ slow-burn revenge. If an attack had overshadowed this week’s 10th anniversary commemoration, they would have their last, posthumous, laugh over their jailers. (Samudra and Amrozi were executed in 2008.)

Indonesia’s prisons are a breeding ground for terrorists and so are some of the Islamic boarding schools. But, despite the ever-present threat of terrorism, the Indonesian state shows little interest in tackling the issue.

After the authoritarian and secular regime of Suharto fell in 1998, many groups that were previously repressed thrived under ”Reformasi”, Indonesia’s flowering of freedom. Among them were those groups with a radical religious agenda who wanted to replace the state of Indonesia with a caliphate under Islamist law.

Until the Bali bombing, whose death toll of 202 woke it from its torpor, the newly democratic Indonesia knew little or nothing of the growing number of deadly men in its midst.

Ten years on, Indonesian law enforcement, spearheaded by Detachment 88, the anti-terrorism police, has had great success cracking down on religiously inspired radicalism. On his recent visit to Indonesia, the Australian Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, lavished praise, saying: ”There is no country in the world that is more successful in arresting and prosecuting terrorists [than Indonesia is].”

Since the first Bali attack, Indonesia has arrested 700 people for terrorism offences and prosecuted 500.

For every 10 prosecuted, one suspected terrorist – including some of Asia’s most dangerous men – has been killed by police on the streets.

That success story, though, contains the frightening truth that, in 10 years, Indonesia has produced 500 people with a proven link to terrorism and many more who have so far gone unnoticed.

Every few months a new plot, with a new set of plotters, is uncovered. Some, such as a recent group calling itself ”al-Qaeda Indonesia”, have progressed far enough to start making bombs – albeit ones that blew up by accident in the kitchen. Many now believe that law enforcement alone is not enough. They say the country’s jihad factories, which still pump out recruits, must be shut down and the radicals de-radicalised.

The effort so far, though, has been piecemeal and anaemic, marred by poor funding, little follow-through and an apparent lack of political will.

In Indonesian prisons, extremist preachers, terrorists and would-be jihadists are locked up with common criminals. Low-level terrorists – youngsters or those who have dabbled around the edges of a radical group – are housed with hardened jihadis, persuasive men with a seductive story to tell.

The most infamous of these men, Abu Bakar Bashir, is serving a 15-year sentence for helping set up a paramilitary training camp in Aceh in 2010. But inside, he is still surrounded by acolytes and young prisoners, and boasts in a written interview with The Sun-Herald that he is ”busy spreading the word of Allah to the people”.

His words remain unrepentantly full of violent jihad – ideas of noble martyrdom and the overthrow of the state of Indonesia so ”that people’s life may be managed by Allah’s law”. Bashir refers repeatedly to ”evil Indonesia” and offers up a contradictory mish-mash of arguments to explain and justify the Bali bombs.

First, he asserts that the massive bombs were set by three individuals, ”Mukhlas and his two friends”. He calls them ”mujahideen [holy warriors] who actively defended Islam” and were ”slaughtered by the Jews, the US and their allies”.

In the very next paragraph, he claims the bombs were part of a conspiracy, a ”micro-nuclear device” planted by the US to discredit Islam. ”So it was the US who essentially killed tens of Australians, not the three mujahideen,” he writes.

”God willing, Islam will win due to Allah’s help of jihad,” he writes, before exhorting Australian journalists to ”convert to Islam so you will be saved”.

Ask most ordinary Indonesians about Bashir and his ilk and they shake their heads and pronounce him ”gila”(crazy). But his carefully cultivated look of a gentle old scholar has made his loony rhetoric surprisingly resilient, despite the patent failure of the populace of Indonesia to rise up in support of holy war after the Bali bombings.

Jemaah Islamiyah, Bashir’s former terrorism vehicle, is now mistrusted in the radical community because a few of its high-profile members – notably Bali bomber Ali Imron and former senior member Nasir Abbas – ”turned” and offered information to police. But a whole slew of new followers have since emerged. Bashir’s new radical group, Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid, or JAT, has been involved in many of the more recent plots which police have uncovered.

As disturbing is the fact that the boarding school Bashir co-founded, and where his son (and leader of JAT) Abdul Rahim is a teacher, is still pumping out fresh-faced ”martyrs”. Bali bomber Idris, an old boy of Ngruki, said of his alma mater recently: ”That is where jihad was taught.” But suggest that al-Mukmin school in Ngruki, a suburb of Solo, might be closed down and Indonesians simply laugh.

All schools look something alike, and, apart from the enormous mosque now under construction and the separate sections for boys and girls, al-Mukmin is no exception. The classrooms have whiteboards and teachers at the front, and rowdy students in rows. In science the boys are learning about ”mikroba” – microbes. Graffiti and motivational posters adorn the walls.

But in the girls’ section, along with exhortations to pious (veiled) womanhood, is a noticeboard. Pinned to it is a graphic photograph of a dead man, blood fanning out from the back of his head. The man is Farhan, a young jihadist shot dead by anti-terrorist police on a Solo street two weeks before our visit.

Farhan was an alumnus of the Ngruki school and the pictures and two separate stories describing his death were downloaded from radical Islamist websites, printed out and pinned up, presumably for their educational value. Depending on how it was spoken about, the story might have been placed there in mourning or as an exhortation to righteous fury.

Asked about it, a young English and Arabic teacher, Abu Amar, airily says that the school teaches current events, just like any other. But this is not just any event. And there were no other posters on that board.

Rohim is a senior teacher at the Ngruki school his father founded. He defends the teaching of jihad saying: ”More than 60 verses of the teaching of jihad are in the Koran. Should we delete those verses?”

Not all the verses are about violence or war. Some are about the struggle to be a good Muslim; others about the desirability of an Islamist state. But alumni such as Idris recall a focus, particularly in extracurricular activities, on the warlike verses. Rohim bristles at any suggestion that this school is unusual or that its curriculum is dangerous.

”Yes, some alumni of Ngruki are involved [in holy war], but you cannot put the blame on the school. It’s so unfair. It’s so irresponsible. It’s a ridiculous way of thinking,” Rohim says angrily. ”For example, in your own country, if there’s a thief or a rapist, would you put the blame on their school?”

However, not just one, but many terrorists have been to Ngruki, including some of the linchpins of the Bali bombings – Mukhlas, Idris, Mubarok. In a recent series of terrorism raids in Indonesia, a number of the jihadis arrested or killed were also Ngruki alumni. Rohim says when such cases come to light, the current students are taught that ”it’s such a wrong action”.

But his words are ambivalent at best. He refuses to call the Bali bombers terrorists, saying they were, at worst, misguided ”mujahid” (holy warriors). ”Mujahideen can make mistakes. What they did will not reduce their status as mujahideen. They must be judged by what is their intention,” he says. ”I don’t want to even subtly claim that they were terrorists. It’s a word used by non-Muslims to corner Islam.”

Asked about the recent crop of alumni involved in terrorist activities, Rohim, like his father, claims a conspiracy – they were turned to terrorism by the police to discredit Islam, he says, even though a police officer was killed in one of their attacks. ”Well, it’s a conspiracy. Sometimes they are willing to sacrifice their own friends for the conspiracy … It’s a pretty normal thing for an intelligence officer to kill his own friends to cover up their own activities.” Rohim boasts that the school has been continuously accredited, both by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Education for more than a decade.

Depressingly, he says demand for places grew fast in the wake of the Bali bombing and the school is still expanding. Posters around the campus show plans for new dormitories in new locations.

Once radicals graduate from school or prison, the next stage is to be invited to join a training camp or a plot. After the recent spate of arrests, there was a push for the government to establish a deradicalisation program. The Vice President, Boediono, has ordered an anti-terrorist plan to be in place by next year, and says that the fight against radical ideas had been too sporadic. ”This de-radicalisation blueprint will be comprehensive and will really serve the purpose,” Boediono says.

However, the director of the de-radicalisation program at the National Agency for Counter Terrorism, Irfan Idris, says the entire agency only has a budget of $9.5 million, of which only a part is set aside for the ”soft approach” of deradicalisation (as distinct from hard law enforcement).

An existing program running in Indonesian prisons since 2010 applies three strategies, he says: culture (using traditional Wayang puppet shows); business (trying to establish an economic base for prisoners); and ideology (countering the radical brainwashing). But in the past two years, only 32 prisoners nationwide have completed the program and there has been no attempt to measure its success.

A psychologist working on this program and others, Professor Sarlito Wirawan, says it can take up to three years to convince someone not to act on their radical theology. At this rate, it would take decades to even talk to one year’s supply of recruits from the radical boarding schools and the prisons. Asked about the radical pesantren at Ngruki, and Irfan refers me to the Religious Affairs Ministry, which keeps accrediting the school.

There are also several private-sector deradicalisation programs. A journalist and former student at Ngruki, Noor Ismail Huda, says Indonesian authorities ”have been doing extremely well after the milk has been spilled”.

He runs a program of ”disengagement”, which involves having former radicals run cafes. Here they are forced to serve customers of all cultures and religions, and they can also make money, making his program self-sustaining. ”We fight terrorism with doughnuts and coffee,” he says.

So far, though, he has only three cafes and has helped perhaps a handful of radicals.

Another private program is the Afghan Alumni Forum, where former radicals, the hard-core who trained in Afghanistan, try to use their kudos in the jihadi community to put people on the right path.

It is led by Abu Wildan, a former senior teacher at Ngruki who was asked to join the Bali plot but refused. Abdul Rahman Ayub, Jemaah Islamiyah’s former deputy in Australia, is also a key member, as is one-time Bali plotter Maskur Abdul Kadir. It holds forums in suburban function rooms under a banner that reads: ”Indonesia, peace without violence, terrorism and radicalism in the name of religion”.

Psychologist Sarlito works with the forum and claims an 80 per cent success rate.

He says attacking the ideology head on simply did not work because the radical imams still hold such sway. ”I’m not replacing anything. I leave their beliefs, but I say don’t do this and this … don’t start hurting people,” he said. ”Then, we bring in the wives, families, and say, ‘How about helping each other?’ … It’s step by step and it takes three years. It’s not an easy job.”

As these well-meaning efforts continue, though, schools and prisons keep churning out radicals. Australia has proscribed organisations and passed laws against hate speech. People have been jailed for preaching terrorism. Indonesia has nothing similar.

And, according to Nasir Abbas, the highest-profile reformed member of Jemaah Islamiyah, it will not develop them. ”In Indonesia, it’s different. They let you build whatever ideology you want, set up a school, as long as you don’t do the crime … This is what people here call reformasi,” he says. ”We’ve got freedom of speech and expression. You can’t just shut down a school.”

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

Closed

Running with scissors

July 5th, 2018 / / categories: 江苏夜网 /

Nicy try … Peter Morrissey, Megan Gale, Alex Perry and Claudia Navone.Looking back, model, actor, swimwear designer and host of Project Runway Australia, Megan Gale, has a clear memory about the moment when for her, clothes became ”fashion”.
Nanjing Night Net

Several waiters at the Southbank restaurant where we meet gaze at her from a discreet distance while an oblivious Gale stirs her coffee. ”It was the night of the school disco and mum wouldn’t let me go, but I just hassled her until she said, ‘All right, you can go, but you’ve got to go now.’ I was so happy I just went in the clothes I was in, which was a pair of jeans and tracksuit top.

”It was the ’80s so all my friends were wearing ra-ra skirts and their hair was crimped. That was the first time where I felt like I didn’t fit in because of what I was wearing.”

While you probably won’t see a ra-ra skirt on the fourth season of Project Runway Australia, Gale says some of its designers have produced remarkably original garments. ”Some of them interpret fashion in interesting ways,” she says. ”That’s what makes this show feel different each season. Everyone remembers Matcho from season three … he made you wonder where his head was creatively. This year we have Christina – she’s got this amazing vision and she really thinks outside the square. That’s exciting.”

Based on the long-running US version hosted by Heidi Klum, Project Runway Australia is a reality show about 12 fashion designers who must create a garment within the short time frame. Each week there’s an elimination – the last contestant standing wins.

The first challenge in episode one begins at midnight; pressure, exhaustion and creative temperaments are a compelling combination. Then there are the challenges. Gale says there are plenty of fresh tasks that force designers to use materials out of their comfort zones.

This year’s judges include Australian fashion designer Peter Morrissey and professional stylist and former fashion director of Harper’s Bazaar Australia, Claudia Navone. ”Peter’s very playful,” Gale says. ”He takes it all seriously, but sometimes he’s like a six-year-old on red cordial. But I’m the wrangler when it comes to the judges, designers and guest judges [including Miranda Kerr and Dannii Minogue], so that’s a lot of fun, too.”

As a judge herself, Gale doesn’t hold back and has developed an uncanny knack when it comes to spotting the designers’ attempts to hide wayward pins. ”It’s true. I have an evil eye when it comes to pins but constructive criticism is important – but not all the designers like to hear it. Some of them stand there and just give you excuses and that just brings out my ‘mum’ tone.”

Designer Alex Perry (if he had a more substantial moustache, he’d twirl it) returns as mentor, dishing out his signature advice, which ranges from supportive and astute to delightfully acerbic. ”A lot of people may not believe this,” Gale says, ”but Alex has one of the biggest hearts. He has this persona that works on the show but he’s very down to earth. He rarely goes out to functions – he’d prefer to be at home, in his jammies, having a cup of tea with his wife and his dog.”

At the suggestion that maybe the decision-making process featured on the show is the result of scripting, Gale stresses that every result is hard-won.

”We all have a different perspective. We don’t always agree – Claudia might focus on how the garment photographs, Peter’s looking at how it’s crafted, and I’m thinking, ‘Would I wear that on the red carpet and do I want my underwear hanging out the back?’ We nut it out until we have a result.”

Gale is reluctant to reveal any specifics about the new season, but says there was one challenge that almost ended in disaster.

”All I’ll say is that the designers were asked to make an entire outfit and someone decided they’d knock out a pair of jeans, but they ended up looking like something circa 1980 and not in a good way.”

It could be said, though, that the mishaps – say, the model teetering down the catwalk praying her ill-fitting garment doesn’t cause a wardrobe malfunction – are a large part of the show’s appeal.

”Coming up with new challenges that are good for both the designers and viewers at home is a challenge in itself,” Gale says with a laugh, ”but this year we’ve definitely managed to come up with some great ones.”

Project Runway Australia premieres on Monday, October 8, at 8.30pm on Arena.

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

Closed

A bran nue dae … hundreds of tourists and locals gathered at the Mutitjulu community concert to be entertained. Sweet celebration … Children at Mutitjulu near Uluru run to gather lollies dropped by a helicopter.
Nanjing Night Net

THE last time so many vehicles converged on Mutitjulu, they carried an army of police, soldiers and bureaucrats, the advance party for the Howard government’s emergency takeover of indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. More than five years later, the Aboriginal community of 250 at the base of Uluru welcomed a happier convoy. Trucks brought sound and lighting gear, radio-broadcast equipment and portable toilets, while buses delivered hundreds of tourists from the hotels on the other side of the monolith.

In the days after the intervention was announced in 2007, families fled Mutitjulu, fearing their children would be taken from them. But this weekend, the community, which is normally closed, threw open its gates for a concert to mark the 30th anniversary of the Goanna land rights anthem Solid Rock.

Goanna frontman Shane Howard wrote the song after witnessing an inma (traditional dance) at Uluru on a camping trip in 1981.

The concert, part of an annual carnival, took two years to plan. Other artists participating included Archie Roach, Bart Willoughby, William Barton, Dan Sultan, Neil Murray, John Butler and Natalie Pa’apa’a.

Howard said Mutitjulu had been ”brutalised” by the intervention but wanted to share its culture and traditions with non-indigenous people.

”We’re making a good spirit here together,” he told the crowd. ”Blackfellas and whitefellas, all together. We’re showing Australia a new story. A way of being in this country, a proper way – giving a good example.”

That Mutitjulu faces steep challenges was denied by no one. ”We’re still losing far too many people,” the Mutitjulu Community Aboriginal Corporation chairman, Sammy Wilson, told the crowd. He said community members sometimes felt they had been portrayed as ”animals” and it was important for them to tell a positive story.

The Herald travelled to Uluru as a guest of Tourism NT.

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

Closed

“Going back to 2001 and 2002, terrorism wasn’t even an offence in most jurisdictions” … Tim Morris.Interactive: the first Bali bomb, 10 years on From the archives: how smh南京夜网.au covered the Bali bomb 10 years agoInteractive: Leave your tribute to those lost in Bali.
Nanjing Night Net

TEN years ago, when bombs ripped through two nightclubs in Bali, Australia knew frighteningly little about the group behind the attack, the now-infamous Jemaah Islamiah, or JI.

”The knowledge and understanding of the intelligence community about JI prior to the 12th of October, 2002, was such that it would have fitted on an A4 piece of paper,” says former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty.

Not only was there a dearth of information regarding JI before the al-Qaeda attacks in 2001, the entire system of national security in Australia was underfunded and, many believed, undervalued.

In 2001, the country’s foremost security agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, attracted $69 million in government funding.

A decade later, not only had its funding had a precipitous rise to $438 million – an increase of 535 per cent – today its new, expansive and soon-to-be-occupied headquarters is one of the most instantly recognisable buildings in Canberra.

Sparked at first by the horrors of September 11, 2001, and then brought devastatingly home when JI detonated a combination of truck and suicide bombs, today Australia has one of the Western world’s most expansive national security regimes.

”Going back to 2001 and 2002, terrorism wasn’t even an offence in most jurisdictions,” said Tim Morris, the officer who led the investigation into the Bali bombings and who today runs the federal police’s intelligence network.

”If you don’t have an offence, you don’t have investigators investigating, you don’t have intelligence specialists developing knowledge. When you think we came from pretty much a standing start in 2001, 2002, to where we are today, it’s quite an achievement.”

Since 2001, 111 Australians – including 88 in Bali – have been killed in terrorist acts. In the same period, 36 people have been charged with terrorism offences and, according to ASIO, four potential terrorist attacks have been foiled.

Accompanying the successes, however, have been some well-publicised mistakes, such as the case of the Queensland doctor Mohamed Haneef. Dr Haneef was mistakenly charged with a terrorism-related offence and kept in solitary confinement for almost a month in 2007.

Ben Saul, an expert in anti-terrorism law at Sydney University, said that while most Australians accepted the need for increased powers and laws in the early 2000s, some laws enacted in the rush after Bali could no longer be justified.

He said the laws included compulsory questioning and detention powers by ASIO, preventive police detention, control orders and some elements of the ever-expanding surveillance and interception powers.

Professor Saul bases his judgment on the relative risk faced in Australia. ”If you look around the world, most other countries haven’t gone as far as Australia, despite facing more significant risks,” he said.

Most of those laws were introduced as part of the John Howard-era Anti-Terrorism Act, which passed Parliament in December 2005.

Despite some objections during opposition, this year the Labor government of Julia Gillard displayed its willingness to legislate in the area when it revealed a suite of more than 40 proposed legislative changes – the most significant expansion of national security powers since the 2005 laws were introduced.

The new proposals would further break down some of the most fundamental divisions between Australia’s six intelligence agencies.

For six decades, ASIO has been the only agency authorised to routinely collect intelligence on Australians. However, under the proposed changes, officers from the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and the Defence Signals Directorate would be allowed to monitor Australian citizens overseas if an ASIO officer was not available.

Follow the National Times on Twitter

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

Closed

Network cancels all ads on Jones show

August 29th, 2019 / / categories: 江苏夜网 /

No advertisers … Alan Jones.ALAN JONES’S radio show will be entirely free of advertising in response to the outcry over his comments about Julia Gillard’s father.
Nanjing Night Net

His employer, the Macquarie Radio Network, has taken the unprecedented step of indefinitely suspending all advertising on Jones’s breakfast show on 2GB after a week of sustained pressure that has led to it losing more than 70 sponsors and advertisers.

The move is likely to cost the network more than $80,000 a day in forgone revenue, but its executive chairman, Russell Tate, said money would not determine how long Jones’s show was quarantined from advertising.

“The decision obviously comes at a very significant short-term cost to MRN,” Mr Tate said. “At this stage we don’t know [how long it will be]. The breaking point will not be determined by financial costs.”

The move is a response to a sustained campaign via social media and email targeting businesses that support the program. The campaign was prompted by outrage over Jones’s comment to a Young Liberals function last month that Ms Gillard’s father had “died of shame” over her “lies”. The outrage was only exacerbated by the apology Jones offered last Sunday in which he spent most of more than 40 minutes berating the Prime Minister and her government.

Last Monday, a trickle of businesses withdrew their advertising from either Jones’s program or 2GB. By the middle of the week big advertisers were flooding out, leaving Jones with only small local advertisers.

The total suspension of advertising on Jones’s program will probably have the effect of quarantining the rest of 2GB’s line-up from the effects of the campaign. Many advertisements are booked across the network as a whole, so the only way to guarantee they will not appear on his show is to withdraw from the network entirely.

Mr Tate said clients had been inundated with correspondence from protesters. “One client received 6000 emails in a day,” he said. ”It’s causing a significant interruption in our clients’ businesses, so we’ve called time out.”

He said the company had not discussed removing Jones, who is a part owner of the station via a complicated options structure.

One-third of Jones’s options – 1.333 million both issued and redeemable at no cost to him – are redeemable at the end of this month, dependent on his show having increased revenue by 5 per cent year on year.

The final tranche is due next year on the same proviso – a target that may now be beyond him.

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

Closed

Carbon tax not all it was cooked up to be

August 29th, 2019 / / categories: 江苏夜网 /

ONE hundred days after the government introduced a carbon price, power bill increases are the one visible impact.
Nanjing Night Net

The other dire predictions, from Senator Barnaby Joyce’s $100 roasts to the assertion by the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, that the South Australian steel town of Whyalla would be ”wiped off the map”, are stubbornly refusing to come true.

The prices of beef and lamb have fallen since June, according to Meat and Livestock Australia. Last week a 1.7-kilogram leg of lamb from Woolworths online was going for just over $18.

Meanwhile, Whyalla’s main employer, Arrium – previously OneSteel – has been the target of an Asian takeover bid, a vote of confidence in the steel industry. The independent mayor, Jim Pollock, says the town is ”kicking goals”.

Across the country, the economic data is solid. The Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment index rose from 95.6 in June to 98.2 in September. Unemployment has fallen from 5.3 per cent in June to 5.1 per cent in August – 2900 more Australians are employed now than before the carbon tax.

Finance firm TD Securities and the Melbourne Institute said last week they had ”still not noticed any broad-based impact of the July 1 introduction of carbon pricing spilling over into prices”.

But power bills are up. John Watson, the owner of the Copper Lantern Motel in Melbourne, expected his bills to rise about 10 per cent under the carbon price – the amount the government forecast for households.

Last month, he discovered it was considerably more. His provider has put a 2¢ carbon charge per kilowatt hour on top of the electricity cost. Because he is on a bargain tariff and his guests consume a lot of cheap, off-peak electricity, the carbon charge has added about 24 per cent to Mr Watson’s latest bill.

But power price rises are not always a bleak story. Another small business owner in the electorate of Flinders, Michael Carroll, who runs an injection moulding firm on the Mornington Peninsula, had a better result.

Initially told he faced a 47 per cent rise, he shopped around using a price comparison website. A different retailer offered him a favourable deal – his present rate locked in for three years. Though he is still wary about the carbon price, describing it as ”another nail in the coffin” for the manufacturing sector, he says he is ”a bit more confident” about his power costs.

Bill Lang, head of Small Business Australia, and Innes Willox, head of the Australian Industry Group, both say it will take a few power bill cycles for companies to figure out what to pass on to their customers.

Follow the National Times on Twitter

Photo: LOUIE DOUVIS

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

Closed

U-turn on $1b methanol expansion plan

August 29th, 2019 / / categories: 江苏夜网 /

A CHEMICALS firm which announced last year it was shelving a $1 billion expansion because of the carbon price, bolstering Coalition claims the scheme would kill investment, now says it is pushing ahead with the plans.
Nanjing Night Net

Coogee Chemicals, which has a methanol plant in the Lalor electorate of the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, maintains the carbon price is still a drag on its business but that changes to the scheme, such as scrapping the $15 ”floor” price, makes an expansion viable after all.

The revelation comes 100 days after the carbon price began on July 1, forcing about 300 large companies and councils to pay $23 for each tonne of carbon they emit. The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has vowed to scrap the scheme.

Grant Lukey, the manager at Coogee’s existing Laverton methanol plant, told the Herald: “We are continuing to progress a project related to a world-scale methanol project. The project is ongoing, but the carbon tax hasn’t made it any easier in getting it up.”

In November last year, with the Senate poised to pass the controversial carbon price legislation, the Coogee Chemicals chairman, Gordon Martin, said a planned $1 billion expansion to its methanol operation had become “uncompetitive and unviable” because of the Gillard government’s scheme.

Mr Martin is also a member of the Coalition’s business advisory council on climate change.

Dr Lukey said the company stood by the previous remarks. The scrapping of the floor price and greater certainty around industry compensation had lifted the prospects for going ahead with the expansion, which could create 150 jobs and $14 billion in exports.

”The project that was envisaged back then was killed off … but that doesn’t mean you can’t revisit the project under the new economic scenario … and that’s what’s happened,” he said.

”The legislation has changed. That’s a big part. There have been some fundamental shifts in the legislation.”

The carbon floor price would have set a minimum price of $15 a tonne from 2015, when the scheme shifts from an effective tax to an emissions trading scheme with a price set by the market. Removing it is likely to make the scheme cheaper for the 300 businesses and councils paying the carbon price, at least in the early years of the scheme.

Dr Lukey said that the previous investors had walked away from the methanol expansion and invested instead in Chinese projects, though he declined on commercial confidentiality grounds to say which ones. These coal-based plants in China were more greenhouse-intensive than the natural gas method used by Coogee, he said.

The company was now looking at “a similar project … but it will be different individuals involved”.

There were several potential sites being considered for the expansion, he said, while stressing the carbon price still made the project more difficult than it would have otherwise been.

Methanol, a clear liquid, is used in the manufacture of particle board for building, paint, plastic bottles, rubber and a range of other basic products.

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

Defended her husband against claims of misogyny … Margie Abbott, right, pictured here with Tony Abbott and their daughters.THE climate of personal attack is set to intensify with the government unperturbed by Margie Abbott’s defence of her husband against claims of misogyny.
Nanjing Night Net

Equally, the opposition is trying to turn the tables on the government, accusing it of rank hypocrisy for supporting the ”vile misogynist” Peter Slipper.

With Parliament set to resume tomorrow, the federal Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, said yesterday the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, was ”fair game” and she repeated her claim he had ”an issue with capable women”.

On Friday, Mrs Abbott mounted a media blitz and gave a speech defending her husband against claims, pushed hard by Labor, that he had a problem with women.

Public and private polling shows Mr Abbott is more unpopular with women than men and Friday’s exercise underscored in the minds of many that the problem was worse than thought.

”It must be really bad,” said one shadow minister surprised at Friday’s appearances by Mrs Abbott.

Mr Abbott said yesterday he was the victim of a ”nasty, personal campaign” because Labor could not attack him on substance. Mr Abbott has long had a perceived problem with women. Labor, which also detects this in its internal polling, seeks to reinforce the negative perception at every opportunity.

It used the recent unearthing of allegations that Mr Abbott physically intimidated a female political rival at university 35 years ago to label him a misogynist bully.

Ms Roxon said Mrs Abbott obviously loved her husband but he was ”not running in some election to be husband of the year or father of the year”.

”He wants to be prime minister and what I think is fair game for me, or any other senior minister, to do is to hold him to account for his public behaviour and his public comments,” she said.

”I don’t think because I am a woman minister I should be prevented from being able to do that, which seems to be what the opposition are suggesting. There’s a bit of reverse sexism in this.”

The government may learn today whether the sexual harassment claims against the Speaker, Mr Slipper, will proceed to trial or be thrown out of court.

If it is the latter, then Mr Slipper must still await clearance from the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions over allegations that he used CabCharges before he can return to the Speaker’s chair.

But the opposition is seizing on a fresh round of text messages between him and his accuser, James Ashby, to not only fight Mr Slipper’s return to the chair, but to blunt the attacks on Mr Abbott. A batch of private texts released last week included Mr Slipper using a vulgar euphemism for female genitalia.

The shadow attorney-general, George Brandis, said the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was to blame.

”Julia Gillard is the principal protector of Mr Peter Slipper, who has been revealed, in evidence read in the court last week, to be the most vile, misogynistic person it is possible to imagine,” he said. ”The fact that Julia Gillard, Nicola Roxon, and all the leading women in this government continue to protect his position now that he is exposed for what he is just goes to show how hypocritical their criticisms of Mr Abbott are.”

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

JULIAN ASSANGE has hired lawyers to investigate suing the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, for defamation over a claim that WikiLeaks acted ”illegally” in leaking about 250,000 US diplomatic cables.
Nanjing Night Net

In an interview from the Ecuadorean embassy in London, Mr Assange said Ms Gillard’s comment, made in late 2010, was used by Mastercard Australia, which joined an online financial blockade of the organisation.

The White House and the Gillard government have condemned the release since November 2010 of more than 250,000 classified US diplomatic cables.

”I absolutely condemn the placement of this information on the WikiLeaks website. It’s a grossly irresponsible thing to do, and an illegal thing to do,” Ms Gillard said several days after WikiLeaks began releasing the cables.

The Australian activist group GetUp! recently interviewed Mr Assange in his makeshift home inside the embassy, where he is staying as part of a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over sexual assault allegations.

He said he would be vulnerable to arrest in Sweden by the US Justice Department, which is examining the possibility of charging people associated with WikiLeaks with espionage.

Mr Assange said the group’s work was stymied by Ms Gillard’s comments.

”Mastercard Australia, in justifying why it has made a blockade preventing any Australian Mastercard holder from donating to Wikileaks, used that statement by Julia Gillard as justification,” Mr Assange said.

”So the effects of the statement are ongoing and they directly affect the financial viability of WikiLeaks,” Mr Assange said. ”We are considering suing for defamation. So I have hired lawyers in Sydney and they are investigating the different ways in which we can sue Gillard over that statement.”

Mr Assange said the comments were particularly damaging because they ”licensed” other forms of attack on him and Wikileaks.

During the interview, Mr Assange also revealed the effects of the past two years on his family, saying his young children have had to move homes and change their names.

GetUp!’s national director, Sam McLean, said the interview was the first step in a campaign calling on the Australian government to seek a commitment from the US that it will not try to extradite Mr Assange over his publishing work with WikiLeaks.

”For too long the Prime Minister and the foreign ministers have put the interests of the US government ahead of Australian citizens. That is not good enough,” Mr McLean said.

”Our government must demand a binding agreement from the US that they will not seek the extradition of this Australian citizen for his work as a journalist and publisher.”

”GetUp! members expect the government to stand up for all Australians, even when it is not politically convenient.”

Photo: REUTERS

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

There is no need for Sydney FC fans to worry. Not yet, anyway. But the weekend’s trip to Wellington provided a taste of what’s to come. At home, and especially away, the Sky Blues will be marked men.
Nanjing Night Net

The target on Sydney’s back has been there since season one but the red dot has swollen dramatically since the arrival of Alessandro Del Piero. To take them down with him in the ranks is a scalp the opposition crave.

That’s the inescapable reality of every Sydney match this season. Without fail, the opposition will emerge from the tunnel with a supreme motivation.

Some argue that professional footballers do not, or should not, require emotional urges, that they must perform to a high level regardless. That wrongly assumes players are robotic. Make no mistake: Sydney’s rivals will attack like hungry dogs.

The challenge for coach Ian Crook is not to gear his team to match the drive of the opposition but to give them a superior battle plan. They need a better strategy, one that overrides the red-blooded energy of the opposition.

Wellington had them covered for both strategy and desire on Saturday night. Ricki Herbert plays a simple game but it remains highly effective. Last season they finished fourth largely by retaining the best shape in the A-League.

Organisation was their forte then and on the evidence of this latest performance, little has changed. Throw in the yearning to humble Del Piero and company and the three points were hardly in doubt.

They got on top early, stripping Sydney not only of possession but belief. Doubt visibly crept in.

Then came the cold, the wet and, of course, the bone-chilling wind, conditions the Phoenix revel in, as do their fans. The Yellow Fever might be the only supporters anywhere who prefer rain to sunshine. Their loud, pointed jeering and mocking of every missed pass was unsettling. At full-time, Sydney couldn’t get off the field quick enough.

The Sky Blues’ sloppy passing will be most annoying for Crook. The cornerstone of his new philosophy is all about possession. Evidence of that was here but only in patches and attempts to play out from the back were rarely successful.

The transition through the midfield was, at times, woeful. What must have been going through Del Piero’s head when such simple passes couldn’t find their target? A few months back he was receiving balls from the great Andrea Pirlo.

But Sydney, even in the days of Dwight Yorke and Juninho, have never been an exceptional passing team. It’s going to take a cultural shift and it won’t be painless.

Crook has the right long-term approach for the club and that’s a positive. But for those expecting the addition of a new coach and a new marquee to equal an instant championship, think again.

It’s the rest of Sydney’s squad that will dictate their level of success. How quickly they can adapt will determine whether they are a contender this season. Adapting to Del Piero, too, is going to take some time. To the naked eye, he fulfils a similar position to Nicky Carle: behind the strikers or ”in the hole”. However, they are markedly different.

Carle was a runner, sometimes to his own detriment, especially in his first season, when his determination to be involved sometimes sucked him into central midfield. Del Piero is the opposite. He doesn’t run when he doesn’t need to. He walks, or has a light shuffle, when the ball isn’t close.

That’s not a criticism. At 37, he’s hardly going to be a sprinter. Instead of him collecting the ball, as Carle tried to do, his teammates will have to find him.

If they can, his true value will emerge. If opponents try to close him down, his canny feet and low centre of gravity will find a way past. Standing off him, however, is fraught with its own danger, for that gives him time to execute a defence-splitting pass.

Getting used to Crook’s plan and Del Piero’s poise will take time. As far as initiations go, this was a tough one.

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

It all began 30 years ago. Australia v Scotland. Sydney Cricket Ground. After babbling my first Test match report for The Sun-Herald country edition to a similarly confused copytaker back in the old Fairfax office in Broadway, I headed to the Australian dressing rooms to get quotes for the then chief rugby writer Jim Webster.
Nanjing Night Net

One of the first people I saw in the room was Mark Ella, who had been overlooked for the Test but had come to congratulate his teammates on a 24-point win. I introduced myself and said I was covering my first Wallabies Test. Ella replied: ”Stick around … something’s brewing.”

He saved me. I did stick around. It was the night when there was a mass walkout of players for the coming 1982 Wallabies tour of New Zealand. There was chaos in the room when the word got out that nine of the victorious Wallabies had made themselves unavailable. So uproar on day one of covering this team. A tough initiation.

What followed was three decades of ”something brewing”, which meant trying to keep afloat in the ever-swirling cesspool of Australian rugby politics. That often got you down. What didn’t was the vibrancy and excitement of being almost always on tour with the Wallabies, and being ringside for such special moments as the 1986 Bledisloe Cup triumph and the World Cup victories in 1991 and 1999.

The standouts from 20-odd Wallabies tours and hundreds of Test matches? Easy. Best player: John Eales. Best match: 1991 World Cup quarter-final against Ireland in Dublin. Best individual performance: Tim Horan 1999 World Cup semi-final against South Africa at Twickenham.

Great friendships have been made, and have endured the test of time. But, most importantly, being with the Wallabies gave me, an innocent bushie, the chance to see the world at someone else’s expense.

And what a perfect venue to finish off – Rosario in wild and crazy Argentina, where this week there have been constant reminders of the reasons so many people are enchanted with this game. This was not the usual SANZAR ”in and out and get this Test over and done with” truck stop. This Test had flavour, meaning, international camaraderie.

Those few Australians who travelled halfway around the world for Saturday’s international were embraced by the locals, who celebrated the fact that Wallabies followers had made the effort to get here. The Wallabies players were also made to feel welcome – a great relief after a week of solitary confinement in South Africa.

The media in Rosario could not have done more for the three Australian scribes at the Test. Match day began with the ”third half” – a sumptuous feast on the banks of the Rosario river, with every meat cut known to man sizzling away on a coal barbecue. There were endless photographs and speeches before the Australian media pack was handed its present – a five-kilogram meat hamper. That will take some explaining at Sydney customs.

Onto the game. More hugs and kisses from the locals. And more chaos. We had walked into an ”old school” ground. No clock. No electronic scoreboard. And gargantuan spiders had invaded the press box, with the match program’s best use being to squish anything that came near our laptops. Then we witnessed a gutsy, courageous Wallabies victory under the most trying of conditions.

To top it all off, hours after full-time, the members of the Australian media pack, knowing about six words of Spanish between them, flagged down a dilapidated bus that went past the ground, hoping it was heading to the centre of town, not Buenos Aires or the Amazon. To our shock, it dropped us off in front of our hotel. What a city. What a country. A memorable day and night. The ideal finale.

But is that the sun rising? The tango must eventually end. It’s time to turn the page. Chapter two beckons. Taxi.

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

Closed

Step up … Jolie Bay.Glencadam Gold, Saturday’s dynamic winner of The Metropolitan at Randwick, has been easy to underestimate, beating second-raters at best. Even the merit in his latest triumph is suspect. ”Gai [Waterhouse] is outstanding but how rivals keep letting her horses dictate with soft early sectionals is beyond me,” aax emailed to Racenet, an excellent source of learned turf knowledge. ”Gai will keep winning while rival jockeys and trainers just hand it to her like that.” PJ wrote: ”He is a serious horse but I couldn’t help but get flashes of Herculian Prince [the Waterhouse winner two years ago]. He isn’t going to get a lead like that in either of the cups and that’s when we’ll see just how good he really is … pressure in running is a funny thing.” J.W. asked: ”How can they persist with that [The Metropolitan] as a group 1? The winner looks OK but the rest are just G3 at best.” Under normal circumstances, the Turnbull at Flemington, taken by Green Moon on Saturday, would be a better cups guide than the Randwick staying test but it, too, was run at a farcical tempo that enabled the winner to race wide throughout. Glencadam Gold keeps improving. He beat Kelinni, a Chris Waller stayer hardly proven against the elite but in great form and made to look ordinary by the winner. Husband Robbie said the key to success with Glencadam Gold was reducing the weight carried between his legs.
Nanjing Night Net

Whipping fallout

”My bugger needs a good whack with the whip,” Gwenda Markwell said of the performance of Rolling Pin, the minor placegetter in Saturday’s Epsom at Randwick. ”He always finds when he gets that. Chad [Schofield] rode him perfectly but just lacked that strength at the end.” Schofield was a late replacement when Christian Reith was ”indisposed” – steward-speak for sapped from weight reduction. Schofield was fined $200 for using the whip in a forehand manner more than five times before the 100 metres. Schofield did better than another Markwell jockey. ”He came out yawning and rode like he was asleep,” she said. At Flemington, Ben Melham also struck whip trouble, slugged $1200 for four breaches.

Old adage proved

Those who waffle about the ”bank interest” benefits of taking short prices, particularly under even money, again had a setback at Randwick on Saturday. The Gai Waterhouse pair Sugar Rush ($1.55) and Proisir ($1.28) emphasised the folly of an anticipated gilt-edged result while Ichihara ($1.80) also went down. ”Odds-on, look on” is better advice.

Jolie Bay’s class act

Jolie Bay, in the Roman Consul at Randwick on Saturday highlighted the change in class racing. Jolie Bay is promising but came off a Hawkesbury maiden success to take the group 2 sprint. She follows Buffering and Foxwedge, while Exceed And Excel and Fastnet Rock, sire of Jolie Bay, also feature in the past decade’s Consul honour roll. Every race will have a substandard year but a provincial maiden winner?

Coming up roses

The scent of handout golden roses replaced the beautiful waft of dollar notes in Saturday’s Randwick members’ betting ring. It was alien territory, with hardcore racegoers like Jim Mason and Bill Henneberry replaced by a demographic from an upmarket Paddo pub. The secondary betting ring in the public sector obviously attracted most diehards. Sure, Royal Randwick was a construction site and, under the circumstances, the Australian Turf Club did well on a dirty day for the more than 10,000. The course proper, the most important factor for top-class racing, played well. But the experience was a savage difference from the Melbourne grand final (nearly 100,000) a week earlier at the MCG, one of the great sporting arenas, matched in racecourse facilities if not the course proper, by Flemington. Which makes it difficult to understand why naysayers wanted a patched up, antiquated headquarters when Sydney will have a world-class racecourse.

Horse to follow

Rockford, the Gai Waterhouse two-year-old, went down by a long head in Saturday’s Superracing Stakes at Flemington after being ”slow to begin” and subsequently hampered, according to Racing Victoria stewards.

Disappointing

Bel Sprinter, the $2.80, favourite, finished only fifth in the Gilgai Stakes at Flemington on Saturday but trainer Jason Warren pointed out: ”I was concerned by gate one, which didn’t help his chances. Also he didn’t get any cover, which he needs when he races over 1200m. He’s better suited at Moonee Valley and Caulfield.”

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