Monthly Archives: August 2019

It’s overture and out as cuts hit home

Posted on 28/08/2019 by

THE guns have fallen silent in Canberra – thanks to the Government's insistence Defence find savings of $20 billion to pay for its new ships, submarines and jets.

As part of its savings, Defence has cancelled the ''beating the retreat'' ceremony at the Royal Military College, Duntroon.

This includes the spectacular rendition of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture complete with cannon blasts that has regularly been part of the display.

In a statement yesterday the ADF said it could not afford to stage both the retreat ceremony and the Queen's Birthday Parade this financial year.

Last night a spokeswoman said the retreat ceremony cost about $83,000 and the Queen's Birthday Parade about $24,500.

The retreat is an adaptation of military tradition going back to the 16th century when guns were fired and drums beaten at dusk to warn patrolling soldiers and workers in fields to retreat to fortifications for the night as the gates were about to be locked.

The Queen's Birthday Parade was also cancelled this year because of an outbreak of swine flu but it will be back on again next year.

A decision on whether the retreat ceremony would be held next year would be made when Defence examined whether it had enough money, an ADF statement said.

The Government has insisted the ADF and the Department of Defence find savings to cover much of the cost of the equipment promised in its recent white paper.

Past retreat ceremonies have involved 200 cadets, bands, field guns and fireworks.

Those who will miss the pageantry can console themselves with Rent as the annual production put on by the Australian Defence Force Academy.

Cubbie may face water grant buy-out

Posted on 28/08/2019 by

THE Federal Government may consider buying the irrigation licences of the world's largest cotton farm to stop it sucking tens of millions of litres out of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Cubbie Station, the 93,000 hectare property in south-west Queensland with the water storage capacity of Sydney Harbour, is up for sale by international tender with a value of around $450 million.

The Government has established a $3.1 billion fund to buy out irrigation licences along the basin to send more water down the river system.

Cubbie has long been considered the chief villain of the Murray-Darling crisis.

The federal Water Minister, Penny Wong, said unlike other instances where the Government had bought water licences, in Cubbie's case the Government would have to buy the property as well.

''We don't have a separation between water and land title like we do elsewhere in the basin,''' she said.

''And the Government obviously is focused on purchasing water entitlements.''

The sharing plan for the catchment from which Cubbie draws water is subject to legal challenge in Queensland. If successful, Cubbie's land and water titles would be separated.

Senator Wong hinted the Government may move if there was a separation.

''The Government is open to talking with willing sellers of water entitlements. We will consider any offer based on value for money and environmental need,'' she said.

The Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, urged the Government to tread carefully while an independent senator, Nick Xenophon, and a Liberal senator, Bill Heffernan, called jointly on the Government yesterday to resist buying Cubbie's water.

They said the property was overvalued and the Government would not control the water that was released. Senator Xenophon said even if the extra water flowed into NSW, it would activate dormant water licences.

The Government would then have to buy the water again from NSW irrigators.

''This would be the worst kind of waste of taxpayers' money,'' he said.

Senator Xenophon, whose home state of South Australia badly needs more water coming down the Murray, said a Commonwealth takeover of the Murray-Darling Basin was necessary.

The price most mentioned for Cubbie is $450 million but Senator Heffernan, a frequent critic of the farm, said its 469,000 megalitre water licence has not yet been issued.

''The valuation of the farm is based on that licence being issued to them and then being sold back,'' he said.

Both men called for a Senate inquiry into all the river systems that flow into the basin.

Don’t be bullied on climate, Turnbull tells business

Posted on 28/08/2019 by

MALCOLM TURNBULL has told business and industry groups to start speaking out on climate change policy and stop allowing themselves to be cowed by the Government.

Addressing the Australian Industry Group national forum, the Opposition Leader said the Coalition was ready to negotiate with the Government on its emissions trading scheme but needed the help of business.

''I … urge you and all other business groups like yourselves to engage actively in the policy debate but engage actively and publicly,'' he said.

''There is a tendency for business organisations to be cowed by this Government and to just engage privately and behind closed doors in the hope that their eloquence will persuade the Government to change its mind.''

It is understood Mr Turnbull's comments were driven by business leaders complaining to the Opposition behind closed doors about the Government's emissions trading scheme but holding their fire in public.

The AI Group and the Business Council of Australia are generally supportive of the Government's proposed scheme but have some reservations.

However, they were highly critical of a dramatically different alternative model that Mr Turnbull unveiled last week just before the Senate voted to defeat the Government's scheme.

The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said yesterday he would reintroduce the scheme in November. If defeated again, the Government would have a trigger for a double-dissolution election.

Mr Turnbull said ''I'm not ruling anything out'' when asked what the Coalition would do when the bill was reintroduced.

''We look forward to having meaningful, substantive engagement with the Government and with all interested parties.''

Opinion is divided in the Coalition and Mr Turnbull said there was nothing wrong with being a climate change sceptic.

It was outrageous that this view was considered modern heresy, he said.

There was ''an overwhelming view'' in the Coalition that action was needed.

''That's neither here nor there,'' he said of the increasingly vocal sceptics in his ranks.

''The real issue is what are we going to do in a policy sense.''

Mr Turnbull's leadership, already under strain, is being tested by the issue.

Yesterday, Brendan Nelson, whom Mr Turnbull replaced 11 months ago, said that until the former treasurer Peter Costello left Parliament: ''You cannot with absolute certainty know that he is walking away.''

The latest Herald/Nielsen poll found that twice as many voters preferred Mr Costello to Mr Turnbull as leader.

Kisel settles in with Sky Blues, with blue sky an added bonus

Posted on 28/08/2019 by

THEY say Prague is one of the world’s most beautiful cities, which must make it a hard place to leave. But then again, when Sydney is the destination, departing becomes that little bit easier.

That has certainly been the case for Karol Kisel, who gave up his home in the historic Czech capital for a slice of life in a country he knew little about, save for a brief but memorable excursion for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Now he’s shaping as an integral part of Sydney FC’s plans for the season, and after making a solid, if unspectacular, debut against North Queensland Fury last Saturday night, he gets the chance to show his wares to the Sydney public in the clash with Adelaide United tomorrow.

Kisel arrived just a few months ago but has already slipped into life in the Harbour City with ease. Like the man who lured him to Australia, new coach Vitezslav Lavicka, Kisel has decided to shack up on the north shore and away from the bright lights, opting for beachside living with his wife and three-year-old daughter.

”The first thing my wife said to me was, ‘It’s such a long way,’ but then she told me that she would follow me anywhere and, if I wanted to play in Sydney, that’s where we would be going,” Kisel said. ”I am lucky to have a wife like that but she is really enjoying it out here now as it is a new experience for her and my daughter.

”We live on the northern beaches, and it is very beautiful, so we are happy, and it has been a great move so far.”

It’s a new footballing experience as well for the 32-year-old, who plied his trade in his native Slovakia with Lokomotiva Kosice and Ozeta Dukla Trencin before joining Bohemians Prague – nicknamed the ”Kangaroos” – and then playing under Lavicka at Slovan Liberec and Sparta Prague.

He believes Sydney is fortunate to have been able to attract a manager of such high regard. ”The difference in style between Australian football and in Europe is very different,” Kisel said. ”For example, last weekend North Queensland played a very Australian style, but what we need here in Sydney is a European style. We have a European coach who wants us to play that style and, I think, in Australia that’s the way to win the championship.”

Kisel said when he first turned up to training, the players were ingrained with an ”Australian style” that wasn’t ideal to Lavicka’s system.

”But since then, in just three months, they have improved so much,” Kisel said. ”You can see now that they are starting to learn to play a more European game.

”When we play in Europe, it is much more tactical, and that is what the coach wants. I hope we will play this way and that there will be a difference.”

The veteran midfielder said he enjoyed playing in last weekend’s 3-2 win over Townsville, even though the conditions were a far cry from the bitter winters of Eastern Europe.

”It was totally different, especially because we played in North Queensland and they have very different conditions to Sydney,” he said. ”But surprisingly we had a nice time over there, and crowd was quite good. I have positive feelings.”

Meanwhile, Adelaide United star Cassio has been withdrawn from the travelling party after he reported feeling ill after Wednesday’s training session.

His replacement is former Sky Blues captain and new signing Mark Rudan, who has been rushed in at late notice to provide defensive cover despite recently declaring he was still some time away from finding match fitness.

Eales gives troops vote of confidence

Posted on 28/08/2019 by

Former World Cup-winning Wallabies captain John Eales believes the current side is close to mastering the control needed to win tight games despite last week’s 29-17 loss to South Africa.

Coach Robbie Deans pinpointed poor discipline and lineout as the two key areas that hampered Australia’s efforts in Cape Town last Saturday.

However, Eales – who lifted the Webb Ellis trophy in 1999 and forged a reputation as a skipper with the ability to lead sides to come-from-behind and narrow wins – said talk of a fatal flaw in the Wallabies side was wide of the mark.

Asked if the ill discipline that led to three Wallabies players being sin-binned last week was something opposing sides could exploit or is instead a sign of self-doubt, Eales said: ”It could be either. But really there is no hard and fast rules on this. I think the better teams are the ones that are better at the real basics of the game. It is part of a growth phase.

”The Springboks … everyone acknowledges they are the best team in the world at the moment. So you expect, if you are not totally on your game – if you don’t get those little disciplines right, if you are not holding on to possession, if you are not getting your throws right, your timing is not right in the scrums and all those things – that you will be exposed. That’s the challenge we have got. We have to be consistent in that area.

”But I think we are not that far off that in many respects. Even when they are playing against the best team in the world – and they are playing well, as I think the Springboks did – it’s no disgrace to lose those games. It just shows you how you can be better, how you can work to be better and better.”

With the Wallabies captaincy for next Saturday’s Test yet to be announced – incumbent Stirling Mortlock is out due to injury and openside flanker George Smith is thought to be in line to take the armband – Eales said that whoever led the side against the All Blacks should tell the players to have faith in their ability.

”It is about having confidence in themselves. That is the biggest thing. Don’t lose faith,” Eales said. ”The games we have lost the last few years, most of them – 90 per cent – have been very narrow losses. The team has been going really well, but is not quite there. We will start to win those close ones.”

Meanwhile, Eales has lauded the International Olympic Committee executive board’s recommendation that rugby, in the Sevens format, be included along with golf in the 2016 Olympic program.

”It is one of the greatest boosts the code has got in decades – to get [rugby] in the Olympic Games. Sevens is the right forum for the Olympics,” Eales said of the recommendation that will now go to a vote by the IOC members at their next assembly in Copenhagen on October 9.

The commitment to Sevens in Australia has long been lacklustre, but its inclusion in the Olympics would help develop the sport here and globally.

”If it can get through, it’s going to be the greatest thing for the growth of the game. It will be as good for the game as the World Cup,” Eales said.