Veteran hungry for call-up

Whether this season proves to be his last hoorah in the NRL or not, Chris Heighington is adamant about one thing –at 36, he is not at the Knightsjust to make up the numbers.
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One of just three current players [Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk are the others]to have played more than 300 NRL games, Newcastle isjust his third NRL club since debuting at the Wests Tigers in 2003.

He was part of their premiership-winning side in 2005 and enjoyed a second premiership win with Cronulla in 2016.

He says the move up the freeway from his Central Coast home has given him another new lease of life.

“Putting a new colour on and being around new people at a new club, it does feel like a new start,” he said.

“Training’s been great and I’ve got to know the boys pretty good and I’m enjoying their company.

“It actually feels a bit similar to when I first started at the Tigers with all the young blokes here and we won the title in 2005. I’m not saying we willdo that here but we are definitely building for success.

“Browny’s a really cluey coach and he’s got some good assistants so the place isin real good hands.”

Heighington, who says he is taking it a season at a time, is not so sure about thefather figure label.

“I’m still pretty immature so I don’t know about being a father figure,” he said.

“I’m 36 but I still feel young, laughing and joking around with the boys. There are some great young kids coming throughso it’s a joy to be able to train alongside them.

“I’ll just try and lead by example on and off the field. Mentoring will be part of it.But obviously, I want to play.

“There is a bit of depth in the middle and hopefully I can trial well and find a position there.”

Looking back: Veteran Knights forward Chris Heighington is one of only three current NRL players to have played more than 300 NRL games. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Concerns of Adani boss ‘a bit rich’: Labor

Tanya Plibersek says Labor has the right to question the Adani coal mine project.Labor has rejected claims it is destabilising Australia’s investment attractiveness through its scepticism of the controversial Adani Queensland coal mine.
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Adani Australia chief executive Jayakumar Janakaraj told The Weekend Australian Labor’s attacks on the project had cast doubt on Australia’s ability to remain an attractive destination for capital.

Deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek says none of Labor’s criticism should harm Australia as an investment destination.

“It is a bit rich for a company who originally said that they didn’t need taxpayer support for this project to go ahead and then five minutes later stuck their hand out for a $1 billion loan to be talking about whether we’re an attractive investment destination,” she told ABC TV on Sunday.

“We have every right as a nation to say we’ll make decisions in our own best interests, in the best interests of our economy and our environment.”

The $1 billion loan Adani had hoped to get to build a railway from the mine to its Abbott Point port won’t be forthcoming after the Queensland government vowed to veto it.

And the project was dealt another blow on Friday when rail operator Aurizon withdrew its plans to build a freight line.

Ms Plibersek backed leader Bill Shorten’s strident questioning of whether the jobs promised by Adani would eventuate, saying the company had “overinflated” their numbers.

‘We do need to answer questions about jobs in central and northern Queensland but we also need to make sensible decisions about this project and really answer whether it stacks up environmentally and economically.”

She denied Labor’s increased vocalness about the massive mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin was prompted by its battle against the Greens in the by-election in inner-Melbourne seat of Batman.

Australian Associated Press

Jets question crucial call

STAND AND APPLAUD: Jets fans show their appreciation on Saturday. Picture: Sproule Sports FocusNEWCASTLE were still waiting for an explanation on Sunday as to why they were forced to play 75 minutes a woman down in their epic 3-2 extra-time W-Leaguesemi-final loss to Sydney.
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The Jets were behind 2-0 at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday when defender Hannah Brewer was given a straight red card in the second minute of first-half injury-time for a foul on Lisa De Vanna outside the penalty area. Brewer was seemingly deemed to be the last defender despite centre-back Natasha Prior running alongside the pair at the time of the challenge.

Against all odds, Newcastle rallied with goals to Arin Gilliland (53rdminute) and Tara Andrews (92nd) to send the game to extra-time, but De Vanna finished a counterattack eight minutes in to end the fairytale comeback.

Jets question crucial call FIGHTBACK: The Jets celebrate a goal from Tara Andrews, centre, in stoppage time. Picture: AAP

STAND AND APPLAUD: Jets fans show their appreciation on Saturday. Picture: Sproule Sports Focus

BATTLE: Jets keeper Britt Eckerstrom, left, and defender Natasha Prior, right, deny Lisa De Vanna. Picture: AAP

TweetFacebook Newcastle v SydneyAAPNewcastle coach Craig Deans said Brewer’s challenge on DeVanna was “definitely a free kick and probably a yellow card, but I can’t see where there’s a red card, and it did change the game”.

“I’d like someone to explain it to me because from where I was sitting, two players were running with Lisa De Vanna, one made a tackle and the other was still running with her,” he said.“My understanding is that if it’s not the last player or a reckless or dangerous tackle, which it wasn’t …so it would be nice to get an explanation, but it’s not going to change the game.

“ButI don’t want to talk about referees.The game is not about referees. The only thing that annoys me is that it took an opportunity away from a player to play in a game that they’ve worked really hard to get to.”

Deans was “super proud” of his side’s fightback against the class of Sydney, who led through individual brilliance from Caitlin Foord (ninth minute) and a long-range shot from Kylie Ledbrook (35th).

“The first half was disappointing,” he said. “We made a good start but then had a couple of lapses in concentration and we got punished for them.Then maybe with a little bit of the nerves and inexperience in finals, we lost our way a bit for the last 15 minutes of the half, then thered card changed the game.

“That last 75 minutes is exactly what we want from our players, our team and our club. That’s the benchmark now and we’ve got to make sure wekeep reproducing efforts like that for the next however many years.”

Sydney will play Melbourne City, who beat Brisbane 2-0, in the decider.

Deans said Sydney were full of praise and respect for Newcastle after Saturday’s game and he hoped they would go on to win the championship.

Midfielder Tori Husterand centre-back Natasha Prior played through injury for the Jets and were among the heroes for Newcastle.

“Tori did no training all week, played 120 minutes and finished the game the way she started, but I think every player was in the same boat,” Deans said.“I can’t fault their application.

“Katie [Stengel] and Jenna [Kingsley] did the work of three people up front. Katie did it for 75 minutes and Jenna for 60. Neither scored a goal but the amount of work they did was impressive.”

Gilliland’s goal came froma back-post header off an Emily Van Egmond corner kick.

With Foord off at half-timewith a foot injury, Sydney still looked likely to extend their lead and progress to the grand final but the Jets held firm before substitute Andrews’ heroics in the second minute of stoppage time.

Andrews’ passput Gilliland on goal and her shot was blocked but not controlled by the Sydney keeper Aubrey Bledsloe. Gilliland regained possession andpassed to Stengel who found an unmarked Andrewsfor the equalising strike.

A stunned home side responded through De Vanna in the eighth minute of 30 minutes of extra time when she finished a one-on-one chance following a counterattacking run from defender Emily Sonnett from a Jets corner.

It came after Stengel had a shot knocked wide. Atired Newcastle continued to press for an equaliserwhile goalkeeper Britt Eckerstrom made great saves to keep them in the hunt.

Captain Van Egmond said the red card call “was just football, and that happens, but I’m just really proud of the girls today, to fight back right until the end”.

“It’s been a really enjoyable season for us here at Newcastle,” she added.

Onthe second-half revival, she said: “Obviously we had some work to do and credit to the girls, they came out with the right mindset and we got two back, but unfortunately we copped a third in extra-time.

“But I’m just super proud of the team and the club in general.”

In regular time, Newcastle had the better of the opening minutes and had chances when Brewer’s shot off a turnover was tippedwide and Van Egmond’s strike went over the crossbar.

However, it was Sydney, through brilliance from Matildas star Foord, who scored first.

Off a ball from the top from De Vanna, Foord eluded two defenders with skill before a well-placed strikebeat Eckerstrom.

Sydney pushed hard for a second against a sluggish Jets and Ledbrook’s powerful strikewas denied by Eckerstrom’s reflex blockin the 31stminute.

Ledbrook, though, could not be denied in the 35thwhen she hit a skewed shot on the run from distance to score.

AAP reports:Sydney FC has stretched their unbeaten run to 10 matches to reach the grand final, but the victory came at a high cost.

Foord limped off at halftime with a foot injury, and faces an extended spell on the sidelines in what would also be a blow to the Matildas’ upcoming Asian Cup campaign.

The injury partly overshadowed Sydney FC’s win as they chase a first title for five years.

“It doesn’t look good,” said Sydney FC coach Ante Juric about Foord’s injury.

“She has had that kind of foot injury in the past and she was out for a long time.”

Ledbrook also limped off during extra time after also suffering a foot injury, but Juric expects the veteran to be fully fit for next week’s decider against the winner ofSunday’ssecond semi-final between Brisbane Roar and Melbourne City.

“At 2-0 we were sort of cruising and I wasn’t happy that we copped two silly goals,” said Juric.

“I always felt we would get through, but we always do it the hard way and have done throughout the whole season.”

NKorea praises visit to the South

Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong has departed for Pyongyang after a historic visit to South Korea.The official media of North Korea has praised the importance of the historic trip to the South of a delegation that included the sister of the regime’s supreme leader, and says the visit paves the way for peace.
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“The latest trip by the high-level delegation served as an important occasion in improving relations between North and South Korea, and setting up an environment for peace on the Korean Peninsula,” North Korea’s main newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported on Monday.

The official newspaper of the Workers’ Party was referring to the North Korean delegation’s three-day visit to the South to attend the opening of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games and meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Kim Yo-jong, the sister of leader Kim Jong-un, became the first member of the Kim dynasty to travel to South Korea, where she conveyed during a meeting an invitation for president Moon to meet in Pyongyang with the North Korean leader.

Kim Yo-jong and the North’s honorary president, Kim Yong-nam, who officially led the delegation, were seen sitting next to the South Korean president on Sunday during the North Korean Samjiyon Orchestra’s second concert at the National Theatre of Korea in Seoul.

The North Korean delegation’s visit to the South came after agreements between the two Koreas were reached in January, which enabled the North to participate in the Winter Olympic Games on February 9 in the South Korean county of PyeongChang.

If the inter-Korean meeting at the highest level is to be convened in Pyongyang, it would be the first in a decade following the ones in 2000 and 2007, held in the North’s capital during the years of the so-called “Sunshine Policy,” which marked the closest relations to date between the two countries.

Among those who participated in such meetings were the late leader and father of Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il, and the late former presidents of the South, Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, respectively.

Australian Associated Press

AFL to trial new runner rules this year

The AFL has told clubs runners may only permitted to enter the playing arena after goals and at quarter breaks during the home and away season, with the league set to implement a rule trial during the upcoming pre-season series.
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A memo sent recently to clubs, part of which has been seen byThe Age, mandates a trial for runners during this year’s JLT Community Series, and leaves the door ajar for the rule change to be implemented for good during the premiership season.

The memo dictates that each club will be allowed one runner, and that “runners will only be permitted to enter the playing arena after a goal has been signalled and at the breaks”.

It adds that “runners must be off the playing arena (or clearly making their way off) at the centre bounce after a goal”.

“This will be trialled during the JLT Community Series and may be implemented for the premiership season.”

On Sunday, the AFL confirmed the trial.

AFL football operations chief Steve Hocking recently flagged that he would be keeping an eye on runners following questions about their purpose in the modern game. This directive is a clear indication of just how serious he is about testing the need for runners, who have been part of the game for more than six decades.

Runners became a particularly hot topic midway through last season when Greater Western Sydney runner Nick Maxwell became the subject of an AFL investigation amid claims he was spending too much time on the ground, with an aim to fill space. The Giants hit back over the claims.

Fremantle runner Shaun Tinsley twice conceded free kicks for being too close to the play in the Dockers’ match against Geelong in 2014.Photo: Channel Seven

Speaking on the eve of the AFLW season early this month, Hocking said the issue of runners needed to be looked at in depth.

“I really like a pure game, so my thinking is that the game just continues to evolve and all these layers continue to be added,” Hocking said.

“I like to intervene and just ask the question: ‘What is the purpose of the runners?'”

“My view is it is an extension of coaching: is it being used that way?

“The really good clubs do most of their work during the week throughout the season and make sure all their ‘what if’ scenarios have been workshoppedright down to a finite level and that then empowers the team because effectively they are in charge come game day.”

With the place of runners debated in the aftermath of the Maxwell controversy, Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge made an impassioned plea for them to be kept in the game.

“When we think about our game, on a very, very big arena, and the game doesn’t stop, you need to get messages to your players,” Beveridge said.

“How do you get it if you haven’t got a runner?

“I can’t wait until the end of the quarter.”

Clubs are limited to just one runner, down from two, with changes made ahead of the 2014 season.

Current rules also prevent runners from entering the 50-metre arc when a defensive players preparing to kick or kicking the ball back into play after a behind.

The recent memo also included guidelines surrounding times for teams to enter the arena for pre-match warm-ups.

McLean to make Cowboys debut against Storm

Cowboys recruit Jordan McLean had a season to remember for both club and country in 2017.The news Cameron Smith had been dreading has been confirmed by Johnathan Thurston – giant Kangaroos prop Jordan McLean will make his North Queensland debut against his former NRL club Melbourne next week.
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Storm skipper Smith believes his former teammate McLean will go to a “whole new level” at Thurston’s Cowboys after a dream year for Melbourne in 2017.

And he winced when Thurston revealed the towering 26-year-old would be unleashed in North Queensland colours for the first time against the Storm in their February 23 trial.

“We have been very impressed with Jordan since he has arrived – he will definitely be playing here at Suncorp Stadium,” Thurston said alongside Smith in Brisbane on Sunday.

The clash will double as a testimonial match for Smith and Thurston, celebrating their glittering careers.

But Smith could only see pain coming his way.

After first joking that McLean should have that week off, Smith admitted he wasn’t looking forward to an on-field reunion with the Test battering ram.

“Not really because he will be running straight at me,” he laughed.

But Smith was deadly serious when he claimed McLean would only get better under the likes of Thurston at North Queensland.

McLean moved north to begin a three-year deal with the Cowboys after a phenomenal 2017 in which he savoured NRL premiership success with Melbourne and featured in Australia’s Rugby League World Cup triumph.

Smith believed the best was yet to come from McLean.

“He is a former Melbourne teammate I was sad to see leave,” he said.

“Not only is he a wonderful footballer and is not only going to improve … he is a wonderful person as well.

“I think he is going to take his game to a new level now playing at such a great club and around some wonderful players.”

Australian Associated Press

Rugby, soccer alliance could fix Ballymore

Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle wants to work with other sports to fix Ballymore Stadium.Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle is willing to join forces with football to drive a redevelopment of the ageing Ballymore Stadium.
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The push is on for a new boutique rectangular venue in Brisbane as part of Football Federation Australia’s bid to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

It could tie in nicely with a much-needed facelift for Ballymore, the traditional home of Queensland rugby, which has fallen into disrepair.

Old, decaying and a financial drain on the Queensland Rugby Union, the 18,000-seat Ballymore is no longer fit to host professional sport – and aside from Suncorp Stadium, there is no other rectangular venue in Brisbane that is.

A packed Perry Park crowd at Brisbane Roar’s W-League semi-final on Sunday further underlined the city’s glaring need for a mid-range option.

An upgraded Ballymore – where the Roar train – could host future W-League fixtures as well as an A-League expansion franchise, Super Rugby, NRC, Super W and other events.

Some of the Roar’s lower-drawing men’s matches could also be moved there from Suncorp.

Castle said she was open to the idea of an alliance with football, which would present a much stronger case for funding to the Queensland government than one sport going it alone.

She said leaving Ballymore, one of the most prized assets in Australian rugby, in its present condition was “not an option”.

“It’s incredibly important to rugby. It needs some love and attention,” Castle told AAP.

“We’ll certainly be talking about that to the government.

“There’s some really successful models that I’ve seen where codes come together and share a facility.

“That means we end up with a much better outcome for everyone involved – the government feel more comfortable, both (sports) end up with a world-class facility.

“Those are definitely the conversations we should be having.”

Suncorp, at 52,500 seats, is probably oversized for most Women’s World Cup games aside from those involving the Matildas.

But if it were included in the bid, nowhere else in Brisbane is suitable to house the NRL, State of Origin or Super Rugby during the June-July tournament.

A smaller alternative would also be perfect for the Women’s Rugby World Cup, which Rugby Australia is pitching to host in 2021.

Australian Associated Press

Injury ends star Bulldog’s AFLW season

The Western Bulldogs await scans to learn the extent of Isabel Huntington’s knee injury (file).The Western Bulldogs have confirmed young star Isabel Huntington is the latest AFLW player to require a knee reconstruction.
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The No.1 draft pick was taken from the field on a stretcher during Sunday’s clash against Brisbane after her right knee buckled under her.

Huntington missed the 2017 junior season as she recovered from a knee reconstruction. She also broke her right leg in 2015.

“Everyone at the club is really hurting for Izzy,” coach Paul Groves said.

“We saw on Sunday just how talented a player she is, kicking two goals in as many minutes, and we were all shattered to see her go down injured.

“We will fully support Izzy during this difficult time and look forward to seeing her back out there as soon as possible.”

The news came after Carlton star Brianna Davey suffered a season-ending ACL tear on Friday night.

The Bulldogs also lost young forward Daria Bannister to a season-ending knee injury in round one.

The injuries continued an alarming trend for the women’s competition.

Eight players suffered anterior cruciate ligament injuries in the lead-up to or during the inaugural AFLW season.

Leading sports physician Dr Peter Brukner says research shows women are more susceptible to the injury.

“The figures are something like (females are) five times more likely to tear their (anterior) cruciate than their male counterparts with equivalent activity,” Brukner told RSN 927 radio.

“There are number of reasons for it. The main reason is just mechanics, in that females have a wider pelvis and therefore are more bow-legged.

“There’s more of an inclination for their knees to fall in when they twist so that makes them more susceptible to doing an anterior cruciate.

“That’s pretty well recognised the world over.

“There’s a lot of research that’s come out of female handball players in Scandinavian countries and female soccer players in the US.”

Australian Associated Press

New-look Rebels can fill AAMI Park: coach

Melbourne coach David Wessels (left) is looking forward to the Rebels hitting their full potential.The Melbourne Rebels can realise their massive Super Rugby potential and fill the empty stands at AAMI Park if they’re prepared to work hard enough, coach David Wessels says.
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Since their inception in 2011, the Rebels have struggled to find a foothold in what Wessels rates is probably the sporting capital of the world.

Many felt during last year’s Super Rugby debate that they should have been the Australian team axed – rather than the Western Force – for that precise reason.

The Rebels have never qualified for the finals and averaged crowds of around 8,000 when they finished rock bottom of the overall ladder with just one win last season.

“That was one of the things that attracted me to the club. There’s just a huge amount of potential there,” Wessels told AAP.

“They love sport (in Melbourne) and I think they particularly love winning.

“Part of our responsibility as a team is to turn around some of those results and give them something to be excited about.

“It’s really just going to come down to how hard we’re prepared to work over the next couple of months.

“We don’t move from last to first, which is the ultimate goal, without a bit of blood, sweat and tears.”

The perfect blueprint for how to succeed in AFL-mad Melbourne is right under their noses, too.

The Rebels share a training field with the NRL’s Melbourne Storm, who have carved out their own niche by forging a winning culture under Craig Bellamy that has helped them build a modest but loyal fanbase.

“The intensity with which they train and prepare with is world class,” Wessels said.

“They’re not winning by accident.

“It’s a great model for our boys, to be able to see that day in, day out, for something we’re trying to emulate.”

Wessels said he was enjoying the challenge of managing a star-studded squad and melding together the existing Rebels with those, like him, who joined from the axed Western Force.

“It feels like a start-up. In many ways it is,” he said.

“We’ve been through a few iterations and made some mistakes but I think now we’ve got the right people on board to start to mature ourselves.”

Australian Associated Press

No talk on Joyce partner’s jobs: Turnbull

Barnaby Joyce is likely to face more questioning over his handling of an affair with a staffer. The government is likely to face more questions this week about Barnaby Joyce’s affair.
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Barnaby Joyce’s partner received no favours and no rules were breached when she was appointed to two political jobs, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says.

The deputy prime minister is facing questions over how his girlfriend and former staff member Vikki Campion left his office last year to take a job with Nationals Senator Matthew Canavan and then with the party’s whip Damian Drum.

Senior Nationals senator Nigel Scullion said the party tried to keep skilled staff employed when something happened to an MP.

“We make sure we look after our staff,” Senator Scullion told Sky News on Monday.

“My understanding is that Barnaby or Vikki Campion have absolutely nothing to answer for, although they appear to be paying the penalty pretty heavily no matter whether they’ve done anything or not.”

Ms Campion left Mr Canavan’s office when he was caught up the citizenship saga to become a senior adviser for Mr Drum, reportedly on $190,000-a-year.

Mr Turnbull said the Nationals were given a specific number of personal staff positions as a share of the government’s overall staffing pool.

“The distribution of those staff members between Nationals offices is a matter for the National Party,” Mr Turnbull told parliament.

“At no time did the Nationals fill all vacant staffing positions.”

Ms Campion is now pregnant with Mr Joyce’s child – his fifth – after he split last year from his wife Natalie, the mother of his four children.

Mr Turnbull said Mr Joyce made it clear Ms Campion’s employment was not discussed with him or the prime minister’s office.

However, the prime minister’s office “has an administrative role in informing the Department of Finance of changes”, Mr Turnbull said.

A spokesman for the prime minister told AAP Mr Joyce had not breached ministerial standards in regard to the employment of family and partners because Ms Campion was not the deputy prime minister’s “partner” at the time of her appointments.

The statement of ministerial standards says family and partners cannot be employed by any members of government “without the prime minister’s express approval.”

Mr Turnbull confirmed Mr Joyce would be acting prime minister while he was in Washington next week for talks with US President Donald Trump.

When asked if he had confidence in Mr Joyce, Mr Turnbull answered: “Yes”.

Asked if Mr Joyce was an appropriate acting prime minister choice, Treasurer Scott Morrison said: “Of course he is”.

“While events regarding Barnaby’s private life, I’m sure are disappointing … most importantly to his family and others, that doesn’t change the fact that Barnaby, over a long period of time in his public life, has dedicated himself to public service and the people he represents,” he told ABC TV.

Senator Scullion said the Nationals “absolutely” backed Mr Joyce.

Nationals senator John Williams said he couldn’t judge if Mr Joyce had done anything against the rules.

“Let’s see how all of the travel things come out and so on. I just don’t know,” he told ABC TV.

Mr Joyce appeared to stumble on some infrastructure answers in Monday’s Question Time, as he included investment in a Sydney airport and inland rail as part of an answer about Tasmanian investment.

“Isn’t the infrastructure minister simply not up to the job that he has been given?” opposition infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese said.

Australian Associated Press

Labor to legislate for an indigenous voice

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten (c) will deliver Labor’s Closing the Gap statement on Monday.Bill Shorten has pledged to legislate for an indigenous voice to parliament if there isn’t a bipartisan commitment to hold a referendum.
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The opposition leader recognised the 10th anniversary of the Closing the Gap strategy by announcing the next Labor government will consider legislating a voice to parliament.

“I say to the prime minister and the government – we will work with you, but we will not wait for you,” he told parliament on Monday.

Federal cabinet last year rejected the Referendum Council’s proposal for a constitutionally enshrined indigenous voice in parliament.

Mr Shorten also promised to compensate survivors of the Stolen Generation in the nation’s two territories, who have slipped through the cracks in the decade since the National Apology.

He says the apology given by former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd was more than a set of well-chosen words.

“It was more than just an expression of sorrow or regret, but a declaration of intent, a promise for action,” Mr Shorten said.

In the past 10-years, state Labor and Liberal governments – apart from Victoria – have established different forms of compensation for members of the Stolen Generations, he said.

While these schemes are not perfect, first Australians in the Northern Territory and the Koori people of the ACT and Jervis Bay – who are the responsibility of the Commonwealth – have not received any financial compensation whatsoever.

Under the new plan, around 150 survivors of the Stolen Generation will receive an ex-gratia payment of $75,000 as well as a one-off payment of $7000 to ensure the costs of a funeral are covered.

The National Healing Fund will be administered by the Healing Foundation, an indigenous-run organisation which supports the ongoing needs of the Stolen Generations with services such as counselling, family reunion, return to country and support for elderly survivors.

A Shorten government will also convene a National Summit on First Nations Children in its first 100 days, bringing together governments and experts to determine the different factors that lead to child removal and work on solutions to reduce the rates of out-of-home care.

In 2017, more than 17,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were living in out-of-home care compared with about 9000 a decade ago.

Australian Associated Press

Global share sell-off cuts petrol prices

Job figures for January, to be released this week, are expected to show modest growth.The recent extreme volatility in financial markets may have shaken the mood of investors and Australian households, but motorists could prove beneficiaries.
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The steep sell-off in global shares last week, which sliced tens of billions of dollars off the value of the Australian market, also triggered a drop in the oil price.

Commonwealth Securities chief economist Craig James said the Singapore gasoline price fell by 5.2 per cent last week in Australian dollar terms, potentially slicing around five cents off the Australian pump price.

“Petrol prices have eased to three-month lows and have potential to fall further,” Mr James said.

“If petrol prices do continue to decline, it will boost spending power, in addition to keeping inflation and interest rates low.”

In the interim, the sharemarket slide may have put a dent in the buoyant confidence levels seen since the start of the year.

Weekly and monthly consumer sentiment gauges, which were surveyed over the weekend, will be released on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.

Commonwealth Bank chief economist Michael Blythe said there were some similarities with the beginning of the global financial crisis in 2008.

“The backdrop has fostered complacency and risk appetite again,” he said.

A degree of “irrational exuberance” was present, he added, but fears of a new crisis look overdone.

Global debt, for example, was on a different trajectory, declining over three per cent of GDP in the past year while having increased by 7.7 per cent in the two years preceding the GFC.

Confidence had been lifted to a five-year high by a strong employment market despite wages growth having been flatlining at a 20-year low.

January labour figures will be released on Thursday.

Economists were expecting a more modest rise in employment in the month of 15,000 after the upbeat pace that saw a record 403,000 people get a job in 2017.

However, they expected this still could be enough to see the jobless rate tick back down to 5.4 per cent from 5.5 per cent in December and to a five-year low seen in October and November last year.

In its quarterly monetary policy statement on Friday, the Reserve Bank said it expected the unemployment rate to have eased to 5.25 per cent by the middle of this year as the economy strengthens.

Australian Associated Press

School fund strings risk hurting students

The Grattan Institute says the government’s Quality Schools policy is a step in the wrong direction.The federal government is being urged to resist the temptation to intervene excessively in school education if it wants students to do better.
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The Grattan Institute’s school education specialists Peter Goss and Julie Sonnemann say the Turnbull government’s 2016 Quality Schools policy – which outlines 15 potential new requirements for states to receive extra funding – was “a big step in the wrong direction”.

“The extra commonwealth money for schools under Gonski 2.0 is welcome,” they write in a new report.

“But for Australian students to get the most benefit, the commonwealth must resist the temptation to over-reach by intervening heavily in school education policy.”

They point out the extra $23 billion the federal government has promised over the next decade is a relatively small proportion of all school funding and the overall reform agenda is mostly the responsibility of states.

They want to see a serious shift to focus on student growth rather than achievement.

If the commonwealth must attach strings to the money it gives to the states and territories, it should choose only a small number of reforms.

“If federal policymakers pull the wrong levers, the consequences can be very damaging,” Mr Goss and Ms Sonnemann warn.

Instead, the pair wants the commonwealth to set up a new independent body to research teaching methods and widely disseminate information about what works best.

The Grattan report also recommends the government develop new diagnostic and digital tools for teachers to use in the classroom to quickly see how students are progressing, and invest in research into how best to measure non-cognitive and critical thinking skills.

It says that overall there needs to be a more “adaptive” school system that supports teachers to know what works best in their own classrooms.

The federal government has commissioned businessman David Gonski to lead a review of how to get the best bang for buck from its extra funding for schools.

His panel will report in March, but the government is already pushing for states to sign up to a number of measures including new phonics tests for Year 1 students.

Australian Associated Press