Monthly Archives:July 2019

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.
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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.”

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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.
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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

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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.
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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.
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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.”

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