Melbourne must stop Cronk NRL candidates

Cameron Munster can see value in either of the Warriors’ dynamic NRL halves Kieran Foran or Shaun Johnson playing alongside him next year in the No.

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7 jersey for Melbourne.

But, he is concerned about finding a way to stop one of the most-successful halves pairings in the game on Anzac Day at AAMI Park.

Foran and Johnson have played just three games together at club level – having won two of them – but their five-year-old combination for New Zealand shows the past month has been no fluke.

The two Kiwis have a 12-3 record when paired together, including Test matches.

And that form has continued into club football, with the duo threatening to turn the Warriors’ struggling season around on the back of Foran’s club debut in round five.

It’s part of the reason why Munster believes either of the off-contract stars would fit into the Storm’s system next year as a replacement for Sydney-bound Cooper Cronk.

“Foran is a really good player and similar to Coops, structure-wise,” Munster said.

“Everyone will welcome him if he does come next year.

“Johnson’s a little bit different – a little bit off the cuff. Anything can happen with him. He can do freakish things.”

Johnson has previously denied any links to the Storm, and it appears unlikely he will end up in Melbourne colours.

But Foran is reportedly keen to tour the club’s facilities in the coming week.

The former Manly and Parramatta star is desperate to move closer to his children in Sydney after a turbulent year off the field.

Munster, though, is prepared to dismiss any suggestions of either player joining him as merely “talk”, and is more concerned with how to counteract the pair in defence.

The 22-year-old also has to tie up the No.6 jersey himself.

After training there in the pre-season, he filled in for the injured Billy Slater at the back to start the year before breaking his jaw in the regular fullback’s return match.

Returning last week in the halves and centres off the bench, he has again been listed as interchange behind five-eighth Ryley Jacks.

“He’s played really well in that No.6 position and keeping me on my toes,” Munster said.

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy said Munster could hold his head high last week after the Storm conceded 26 points in their win over Manly – their equal-worst defensive effort since 2015.

The performance came after Bellamy criticised their attacking completions against Cronulla, but Munster said the focus this week was back on defence.

“He loves his defence and prides himself on it,” Munster said of Bellamy.

“It wasn’t up to scratch for us.”

Photographer puts down his camera to help children hurt in Syria blast

As a photographer and activist, Abd Alkader Habak bears witness to the horrors of the conflict in Syria.

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But when a bomb hit a convoy of buses evacuating civilians from besieged areas at a checkpoint near Aleppo last week, killing 112 people, including 68 children, he could not stand by and continue taking photos.

Mr Habak was there when it happened and was briefly knocked out by the blast. When he came to he could couldn’t believe what he saw all around him. 

“The scene was horrible, especially seeing children wailing and dying in front of you,” Mr Habak told CNN. 

“So I decided along with my colleagues that we’d put our cameras aside and start rescuing injured people.”

Abd Alkader Habak carries a child away from the bomb blast.Twitter

Among the many children killed by the explosion he noticed an injured young boy, bleeding but still alive and in need of help. 

“I looked at his face and could see he was breathing,” Mr Habak told Channel 4 News.

“So I picked him up and started to run towards the ambulance. I don’t know what happened to the child, but I put him in an ambulance and they took him to one of the hospitals inside the rebel-held area.”

What I and my colleagues have done today is what inspires our humanity to those who were partners in killing the children of #Khan_Sheikhan

— Abd Alkader Habak (@AbdHabak) April 15, 2017

Mr Habak kept his camera on and took some photos as he helped the injured so he could record the scenes of devastation. Another photographer, Muhammad Alrageb, captured Mr Habak’s heroic efforts. 

“I wanted to film everything to make sure there was accountability,” Mr Habak told CNN. 

At one point, the sight of so many people killed in the attack became too much for Habak, who fell to his knees and sobbed beside the body of a children.

“I was overcome with emotion,” Mr Habak told CNN. “What I and my colleagues witnessed is indescribable.”

#Syrian #photographer puts down #camera, saves injured boy.This should be the priority off all human beings, regardless of your profession.

— Kal Parekh (@i_Kal) April 18, 2017If u need your faith in humanity restored—here’s a Syrian photographer taking action instead of photos. #trumprussia长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/SWBrMXPP0z

— Scott Dworkin (@funder) April 18, 2017Syrian photographer Abd Alkader Habak @AbdHabak, in the attack bombing near Aleppo ..  RESPECT! #SyriaHoax #Idlib #ISIS #AlNusra #Terrorism pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/BXJYQpt2fY

— The Godfather  (@Al_Pacino_) April 17, [email protected] has some great heroes but none of them have achieved this level. #syrianchildren #AbdAlkaderHabak #travelban pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/ckhXfORtTI

— Marcus Darpino (@MarcusDarpino) April 18, 2017Free Syrian journalist Abd Alkader Habak rescuing a child from Fua. No words.#Syria #syrianchildren #journalist pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/EgZJU83dpM

— Aisyah Gozali (@Aisyah_Gozali) April 16, 2017Every human should see this!长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/GlqKA7dFaj

— Regi Brittain (@RegiBrittain) April 18, 2017

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Six years of war in Syria

Jakarta election: Radical Islam tested ‘if Ahok wins’

If Ahok wins Jakarta’s election for Governor, pluralism in Indonesia is here to stay, according to Dina Afrianty from the Australian Catholic University’s Institute for Religion Politics and Society.

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“If Ahok wins today, it is like sending a very positive signal to Indonesians, as well as people outside Indonesia, that we are still holding our pluralism and tolerance and moderateness of Islam,” Dr Dina told SBS News.

“It is also giving a signal to the radicals that they actually are not going to win.”

Not long after polls closed, private pollsters had Anies Baswedan leading with 56-57 per cent of the vote and Ahok at 41-43 per cent.

Official results are not released until May, however the pollsters are known to be accurate.

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On Wednesday, conservative Islamic group Tamasya al Maidah invited people in and outside of Jakarta to intimidate Muslims to vote for Muslim candidate and former education and culture minister Anies Baswedan.

“They want to be physically there… to especially remind Muslims that you are not supposed to give your vote to non-Muslims,” Dr Dina said.

But despite this pressure, Dr Dina said support for incumbent Christian-Chinese Ahok, who’s facing blasphemy charges, remained strong.

“Ahok is supported by all the major political parties in Jakarta, and he also gets support from the biggest Muslim-based organisation, the Nahdlatul Ulama,” she said.

She said her contacts at the Jakarta Governor’s Office were also “very happy with the way things are being done by Ahok”.

During his two-year tenure as Governor, Ahok has been credited for improving basic services such as access to health and supporting students with books and free transport.  

But Dr Dina said his running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat was the favourite.

“People believe he is a good guy, and the fact he is a Muslim too gives them a lot of credit,” she said.

Indonesia prepares for divisive polls

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Question mark over Anies

If Anies wins, Dr Dina said, “it’s going to be really bad for Indonesian pluralism and for Indonesian tolerance because it means that the hardliners and the radicals are taking over the power”.

“For the moderate progressive Muslim, we don’t want to see this happen because that is going to give credit to the fringe groups like the Islamic Defenders Front [FPI],” she said.

“It’s going to be very bad.”

Dr Dina added some moderate progressives did not trust Anies.

Anies backed Indonesian President Joko Widodo during the 2014 presidential campaign. But he has since aligned with Opposition Leader Prabowo Subianto.

“[Anies] didn’t get political support from any political party. The only one that offered him [support] was [Prabowo’s] Gerindra [Party],” Dr Dina said.

“Moderate progressives can see clearly… now he’s saying different things.”

She said Anies’ policies were unclear.

“How confident are they with the policies that Anies is going to take when he becomes the governor?”

She pointed to Anies lack of clarity around the issue of land reclamation during the final debate ahead of the election.

“What they do then is to use religion because that’s the only way they can bring the support from the people who don’t like Ahok, who’s a Chinese and Christian,” she said.

Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama (R), the current governor of Jakarta, accompanied by his son Nicholas Sean (L) and his wife Veronica Tan (C), casts his vote.EPA

Are major Islamic groups upholding pluralism?

Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, also has the motto “bhinneka tunggal ika”, or ‘unity in diversity’.  

However, Dr Dina said in the past 5-10 years she had noticed Jakartans were becoming more homogeneous, using more religious and Arabic phrases in conversation, and sending their children to Islamic schools.

“We have seen these dramatic changes in the society,” she said. “Radicalism will continue to develop, to increase.”

But she believes Indonesia’s largest Muslim organisations will keep radical groups in check.

“You cannot let the groups like the FPI, who don’t have strong roots in Indonesian history, to take over the mainstream Islam,” Dr Dina said.

“The fact that we have the Nahdlatul Ulama [NU] and Muhammadiyah is a guarantee that Indonesia will continue being a moderate, tolerant Muslim nation.

“NU, for example, said they were going to protect Ahok voters if something bad happened to them. According to them, this is our pluralism so [they] are going to defend that.”

With AFP

DATELINE: Indonesia’s transgender minority fights discrimination by Islamic groups

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Mehajer ordered to pay cleaner $25,500

Former Auburn deputy mayor Salim Mehajer has been ordered to pay a cleaner more than $25,500 after being found to have given “implausible” evidence.

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The Sydney property developer and construction manager was sued by Anping Yan over payment for cleaning work at a Lidcombe apartment block between September 2013 and July 2014.

In the Downing Centre Local Court, Magistrate Jennifer Atkinson ordered Mr Mehajer to pay the $25,500 cleaning bill, plus interest, along with Mr Yan’s legal costs.

Mr Mehajer had argued he did not owe the money, contending his company SM Project Developments subcontracted out the cleaning work to Downtown Project Developments, run by his sister Fatima Mehajer.

The magistrate described various parts of Mr Mehajer’s evidence as “implausible”, including his assertion he terminated the cleaning contract due to Mr Yan’s lack of performance, yet did not say anything to his staff about it.

She also noted he was cross-examined about an affidavit in which he stated his occupation was “director” and that he was “sole director” of Downtown Project.

This was despite being banned at the time from acting as a director and not being a director of Downtown, she said.

“He explained that it was a typographical error,” she said.

“However, this necessarily raises concerns about his attention to detail as in that affidavit he was swearing that the allegations of fact contained in the further amended defence were true.”

She also found Ms Mehajer had “a poor recollection of a great deal of what occurred around the relevant time which was some years ago” and neither sibling produced any documents to support their version of events.

Mr Mehajer was charged earlier this month with assaulting a television journalist after he allegedly slammed a car door on her outside a police station.

The 30-year-old had already been charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and larceny over an early-morning argument with a taxi driver outside The Star casino.

Raiders’ Sezer to boost NRL running game

Canberra halfback Aidan Sezer is looking to add a stronger running game to his arsenal as he solidifies his NRL halves pairing with Blake Austin.

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Only Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson has run the ball less times this season than Sezer, who has made 38 runs in the first seven games.

And while Sezer admits it’s an area of the game he wants to improve on, coach Ricky Stuart said earlier in the season that his attack on the line was underrated.

“It’s probably something I’ve got to do a bit more of and I’m making a conscious effort to do that,” Sezer said.

“Hopefully I can have plenty more opportunities.”

After injury stymied how much game time he could play alongside Austin last year, a full pre-season has enabled him to play every minute of the Raiders’ campaign so far.

“I’m a bit more comfortable with my role within the team now,” Sezer said.

“The boys always encourage me to run so I guess if they’re saying they can see opportunities there I’m happy to take them.

“I do enjoy running the footy and hopefully I can do a bit more.”

Sezer will get the chance to attack Manly’s line when the two sides meet at GIO Stadium on Friday night.

While the Sea Eagles are coming off a four-point loss to Melbourne, Canberra are shooting for their fourth win on the trot.

Manly have been impressive if not inconsistent in the opening seven rounds, but Sezer is dismissing any characterisation of the clash as a ‘danger game’ for the Raiders.

“Every game is tough in this competition,” Sezer said.

“If you’re looking at games like danger games you’re underestimating the team initially.

“We’ll be preparing accordingly, focusing on our job and trying to perform well for our club and our fans.”

Centrelink boss denies higher staff stress

A senior bureaucrat insists Centrelink’s widely criticised automated debt recovery program has not led to an increase in mental health issues for staff, nor increased customer aggression, despite evidence to the contrary.

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A Senate inquiry into the so-called robo-debt recovery saga has been told more than 200,000 people were affected and at least one in five debt notices issued were incorrect.

Marc Mowbray-D’Arbela, a Department of Human Services national manager, fronted the inquiry in Sydney on Wednesday and played down the impact of the saga on Centrelink staff.

“There’s been no increase in incidents or injuries reported by staff related to mental stress,” Mr Mowbray-D’Arbela said.

“I guess the proposition we’re hearing … is that there’s a significant increase in stress and I don’t think that’s necessarily borne out by the facts.”

DHS Sydney zone service leader Scott Chant called the impact on service centre staff “negligible”.

The Community and Public Sector Union’s submission, however, lamented the “shambolic” process, and suggested staff had endured increased stress levels and customer aggression, including threats.

It quoted one concerned employee as saying: “I was left wondering if they could follow through with the threats made, including slitting my mother’s throat.”

Such was the rage generated by the data-matching program, according to the union, that the department sought private contractors to provide “advanced customer aggression training services”.

In an anonymous submission to the inquiry, one DHS employee said staff were “suffering greatly” at the hands of systems that weren’t fit for purpose.

“The staff are barely getting by, and the system is structurally broken and has been designed such that no officer can end-to-end help a member of the public,” they wrote.

“Piles of policy and piles of legislation all added together to make an unworkable mess. Please help.”

Mr Mowbray-D’Arbela said the agency closely monitored all instances of stress and potential aggression, which was “properly reported and addressed on a daily basis”.

“Perhaps contrary to perceptions, there hasn’t been a significantly marked increase…. The experience of the department has been the matters have settled to some extent,” he told the inquiry.

CPSU national secretary Nadine Flood said her members were under pressure from DHS bosses not to report incidents.

“It’s the same game plan that has management finessing call wait times so they look first class, when in reality 36 million calls weren’t answered at all last year,” she said in a statement.

The inquiry will continue in Perth on Friday.

Hayne NRL return sparks Gold Coast belief

The return of Jarryd Hayne has inspired belief that Gold Coast can finally spark their NRL season by ending another Cronulla winning streak.

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Hayne edged closer to a long-awaited comeback from a five-week ankle injury by taking part in Wednesday training ahead of Saturday’s clash with the in-form Sharks.

Coach Neil Henry said the sight of Hayne back in full flight had lifted morale for the second-last Titans after slipping to a 1-6 record.

He said they fancied their chances of again being a bogey side for the defending premiers and ending their four-game winning run.

Gold Coast have won two of their past three games at Shark Park.

And the Titans snapped Cronulla’s 15-game streak last year when they held them to an epic 18-18 draw.

Henry said they must use Hayne’s expected return on Saturday as a launching pad for their season.

“Traditionally, we have gone well down there,” he said.

“We ended it (their streak) last year with a draw.

“The season is running away from us and we need to turn it around.

“It’s a big scalp going down there and trying to beat the Sharks who are in great form.”

Hayne, Konrad Hurrell (knee) and co-captain Kevin Proctor (hamstring) will be given until Friday to prove their fitness.

Fullback Tyrone Roberts looked forward to Hayne’s return even if it meant his demotion to the bench.

“It’ll be good to see him back. At this stage, we need a bit of confidence and he can bring that to the team,” Roberts said.

Gold Coast hooker Nathan Peats has backed Hayne to help crack the Sharks’ defensive wall that has not conceded a try in two games.

“We need to start getting a couple of wins in a row,” he said.

“A player of his (Hayne) calibre can easily bring some points to the team. Hopefully, he can do that this weekend.”

Make Vic MP pay, perks public: audit

Victoria’s politicians should be forced to refund wrongly paid perks, and their salaries made public and overseen by an independent watchdog after the government’s entitlements scandal, a report recommends.

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PricewaterhouseCoopers demanded documents from 34 MPs claiming the second residence allowance after former Speaker Telmo Languiller and his deputy Don Nardella were caught claiming cash to live in the country despite being metropolitan MPs.

However, Liberal MP and Member for Benambra Bill Tilley “was unwilling to provide relevant documentation citing privacy reasons”, according to the report.

Mr Tilley told AAP on Wednesday night he had provided travel documents, bank statements and electricity bills to the auditors.

But he did not hand over insurance papers because he does not have a claim on his rented Melbourne apartment and his partner pays for insurance on his West Wodonga home of 17 years.

“She’s entitled to some privacy, do they need to know what my house and what’s in it is worth?” he said.

Mr Tilley said he also could not hand over his car registration “because I don’t know where the papers are”.

“There’s no smoke, there’s no fire, and has Don Nardella paid back what he claimed?” Mr Tilley added.

Since 2010, Mr Nardella has claimed $174,836 for having a secondary residence, first living in Ballarat with a partner.

But when that relationship fell apart in 2014, he claimed the allowance but lived in an Ocean Grove caravan park cabin that he rented for $200 a fortnight from a family member because his St Kilda flat wasn’t “spacious enough”.

He has refused to pay back any of the money and was booted from the parliamentary Labor Party over it.

Mr Languiller has repaid the $37,800 he claimed and remains on leave for health reasons.

The audit makes 12 recommendations to overhaul the governance and transparency of salaries and allowances.

It calls for a review of all existing allowances; legislation to compel MPs to refund overpayments; tying specific allowances to electorates, not primary residences; and creating capped budgets for each entitlement.

The report also recommends an independent tribunal to determine salaries, allowances and extra pay for office holders.

Salaries and allowances should also be published on the Victorian parliament website and in its annual report, it recommends.

“We will closely consider these recommendations as we take steps to reform the entitlement system and will make announcements soon,” Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings said in a statement.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said the report “confirms that (Premier) Daniel Andrews can and should get the $174,000 of rorted taxpayers money back from Don Nardella”.

Cooks, coders and carpenters: Can you get the new 457 visa?

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Visa entitlements have been slashed and pathways to permanent visas have been blocked for the occupations that currently make up more than half of the 457 workforce. 

According to analysis by SBS News, the occupations of more than 45,000 of the 81,000 457 visa holders in Australia at the end of 2016 will from now on only be eligible for the two-year visa, which – unlike the four-year visa – does not include access to permanent residency.

That’s on top of occupations for which approximately 7,000 visas are currently held in Australia being jettisoned from the scheme entirely. 

Cooks and restaurant managers will now only have access to the two-year visa – a group that currently represents more than 11,000 workers in Australia.

Also on the list for two-year visas are Marketing Specialists, Sales and Marketing Managers, Resident Medical Officers, Resident Medical Officers, Recruitment Consultants, Management Consultants.

The move to block permanent residency for these occupations is significant given those occupations on the shorter visa list will also be excluded from employer nominated permanent residency visas from March 2018, according to a Department of Immigration fact sheet released overnight.

Search for your occupation in the interactive below or scroll/swipe down to explore.

*Note: Visa holder data is for 31 December 2016 from the Department of Immigration. 

Watch: The PM speaks about the 457 visa changes

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Bells surf trophy takes toll as Smith wins

After trying for a decade, Jordy Smith’s first title at Bells Beach will come with a trip to the dentist.

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As the South African surfer finally rang world sport’s loudest trophy late on Wednesday, the bell hit him in the mouth and chipped a tooth.

“Hells Bells, huh? Geez, it comes with injuries,” he said.

Smith acknowledged that might have been Bells Beach telling him off after he mimicked ringing the bell halfway through his final against Brazilian Caio Ibelli.

“I think that maybe was a little curse … it just hit me right on the tooth,” he said.

The South African dominated the final, beating Ibelli 18.90 to 17.46.

Smith’s first Rip Curl Pro title comes after being runner-up last year to Australian Matt Wilkinson.

It is the sixth championship tour event win for the South African star, the runner-up on the tour last year and in 2010.

Smith is ranked second again behind reigning world champion John John Florence after the three-event Australian leg of the tour.

“I’m over the moon – I’ve been coming here for my 10th year now,” Smith said.

“I’ve had some of the greatest performances of my career out here, so to come away with the win today was truly a dream come true.”

Florence looked unstoppable through the event and was the red-hot favourite to ring the bell for the first time.

He unleashed spectacular aerials to beat Australian star Mick Fanning twice on Wednesday – in round four at the start of the day and then to eliminate the four-time Bells Beach champion in the quarter-finals.

But on the last wave of their semi-final, Florence made a small mistake and Ibelli took full toll, beating him in a huge upset.

Smith also needed the last wave of his semi-final to dispatch Hawaiian Ezekiel Lau.

While Ibelli was unable to repeat his giant-killing form against Smith, he was rapt to make his first championship tour final.

“This is the best Easter I’ve ever had,” Ibelli said.

While Florence is in scintillating form, his shock semi-final loss shows nothing is guaranteed in the world title race.

“He’s in a league of his own. He’s an amazing surfer, a really good friend,” Smith said.

“If I learned anything from last year, he (Florence) only started his run from Brazil – it’s a long year.

“When people falter, you just have to capitalise.”

Fanning’s fifth place was his best result in the three Australian events that open the world tour.

He has returned to the tour full-time after last year’s sabbatical.

Fanning was among three Australians in contention at the start of Wednesday’s action, staged in solid two-metre surf at the Bells Bowl.

He beat Owen Wright in the fifth round, where Joel Parkinson also bowed out.