Coe says hands off to those wanting to dump athletics events from Olympics

The man who wants to take over as the head of world athletics, Lord Sebastian Coe, has launched a spirited defence of his sport against a push to cut some traditional events from the Olympics.
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Coe, the IAAF vice-president who is a candidate to become the new IAAF president, warned the IOC and others sports to take their hands off the five events considered at risk from a push to trim the number of athletics events – the 20-kilometre walk, 10,000 metres, shot put, 4×200 metres relay and triple jump.

“I consider all of those events to be sacrosanct. They have historically played, and they still currently play, an important role in the overall shape of our sport,” said Coe, who is in Queensland attending the Oceania Athletics conference.

“It’s very dangerous to have these ad hoc conversations that focus on shot put or triple jump or race walking and often made by people who have no understanding of the nature of our sport.

“I am not going to take decisions from people in sports who have an nth of the global reach or interest out there and are not in the same sphere as my sport.”

Coe said athletics was the marquee event of the Olympics and it was not going to be bullied into making decisions about events by people in marginal sports.

“It must be remembered we are the No.1 Olympic sport here. This is not a marginal Olympic sport this is the No.1 Olympic sport and we should not be coy or shy in pointing that out at every opportunity,” he said.

“People are getting a little excited a little early about this. The IOC has only just in recent weeks begun their 2020 discussion of the Olympic program and any recommendations that come out of this discussion at IOC level have to be agreed upon after discussion and analysis by the sport.

“And there has to be an overwhelming and underpinning philosophy here that it is the primacy of the sport to make decisions for itself that must underpin all of this discussion.”

Not withstanding that position, Coe accepted that athletics globally faced a challenge to continue to grow to compete with other sports for athletes and audiences, and that to do so it needed to engage young people creatively.

He said the sport had to be mindful that its “product” was also in the entertainment business.

“We are completely alert and alive to how we can best be entertaining and to engage with young people in creative ways, but we will be the ones to make the decisions for our sport,” he said.

Former world and Olympic pole vault champion and fellow IAAF vice-president Sergey Bubka has also nominated as a candidate to replace IAAF president Lamine Diack when he steps down later this year.

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Aaron Finch’s star continues to rise after overcoming technical glitches

Blaze away: Aaron Finch has made subtle changes to his technique which have had a big effect on his game.Aaron Finch knew he had a problem 12 months ago. A big problem. Here was a player who knew he belonged on the world stage but was not considered good enough to be playing for his state. But instead of getting bitter, Finch got better. And after the next seven weeks he may prove to be one of the best in the world.
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Just weeks after peeling off two centuries last summer against England in front of big crowds and a national TV audience of over a million, Finch was dumped from Victoria’s Sheffield Shield team and playing grade cricket at a suburban ground in Geelong.

He could easily have lived in denial, blinded by his success for Australia. Surely a game that was good enough to dominate one-day international cricket should prosper at state level. They say a picture paints a thousand words though in Finch’s case his Shield numbers told the story: 0, 0, 5, 12, 5, 97, 4, 18, 7, 0 – 148 runs at 14.8.

While Finch had the backing of Rod Marsh and Darren Lehmann at national level, Victoria’s selectors had run out of patience, though he was surprised they waited as long as they did to make the call. He is glad for their tough love otherwise his technical woes could have “spiralled out of control”. His head was in the wrong place, literally and metaphorically, which had a profound effect on his game.

“It’s always tough when you get dropped. No one likes it but the reality is I didn’t make any runs. It wasn’t like I missed out once or twice, I missed out for quite a while. The selectors and the coach probably stuck with me for a bit longer than they would have liked to,” Finch says.

“It’s always tough but in a weird way it was a relief I was dropped. At the time I was going through a pretty tough patch mentally, I was almost talking myself out of innings before I played them.

“Everything about my game was negative, there was nothing positive towards the red ball, four-day cricket, making runs in that format.

“Though I was dropped I was making runs in other formats which was also a frustrating thing.”

Finch, though, was not getting carried away by his success against England. Sure it gave him confidence he could succeed at international level, but he chose not to let it mask his deficiencies. One innings of 121 included lives on eight and 26.

Finch describes the time out as a “turning point” in his career as it gave him the rare opportunity to makes changes. They were subtle alterations but their effect was telling.

His head was back, so too his body weight, therefore his “bat face has to be open so you nick balls that you shouldn’t”, Finch explains.

“And keeping my hands in tight.”

Finch, Australia’s leading run-scorer in the ODI arena last year, was given a reminder in the tri-series final old habits can take time to erase. His hands were outside the line of the ball and he was caught at slip for a second-ball duck to James Anderson.

“They’re the two things I’ve worked on, they haven’t been difficult things to change but difficult things to be consistent at,” Finch says.

“Because my technique has changed slightly if I didn’t have the time to work on it I mightn’t have identified the changes or had time to change it before it spiralled out of control and before you know it nobody wants you to play for them in four-day cricket and it affects the rest of your game.

“While it was not a great thing to get dropped, it was a little bit of a turning point and a wake-up call.”

Finch is confident the change in technique will give him a crack at his “No.1 goal”, a baggy green. In his past seven first-class matches, for Yorkshire and Victoria, he has averaged 49 – well above his career mark of 29.

“We’ve touched before about my poor first-class record but if you’re playing international cricket and doing well in any form of the game it holds you in good stead that you can play at that level,” Finch says.

“If I get the opportunity to play more first-class cricket I can force my way into a spot if it becomes available.”

But Finch has more pressing goals at the moment – winning the World Cup.

“That’s what we’re playing for,” Finch says. “The whole squad’s no different. We’re there to win it, we think we’ve got the team to win it and I don’t see why if we play to our best we can’t be world champions again on March 29.”

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How Josh Mann-Rea inspired a High Court judge

Oldest Wallaby in 56years: Josh Mann-Rea. Photo: Jamila Toderas Oldest Wallaby in 56years: Josh Mann-Rea. Photo: Jamila Toderas
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Oldest Wallaby in 56years: Josh Mann-Rea. Photo: Jamila Toderas

Oldest Wallaby in 56years: Josh Mann-Rea. Photo: Jamila Toderas

When Justice Geoffrey Nettle was sworn in this week in Canberra as the 50th High Court Judge of Australia, he offered an explanation why he was the oldest ever to be appointed to the post.

“Josh Mann-Rea,” he said, without further explanation, although he gave a clue: the swearing in ceremony was in Canberra “where these things are better understood” and it was a name that would mean little to his Victorian colleagues.

Josh Mann-Rea is the oldest Wallaby to debut in 56 years. He went from being a coal miner to a Wallaby footballer and was the third-string hooker on the last spring tour. Injuries to other rakes meant he was the ninth in line to become the Wallabies hooker.

A Brumbies player, he debuted for Australia last year against Argentina aged 33 years, less than two years after almost retiring from the game.

Justice Nettle, aged 64, is the oldest High Court Judge appointed, a fact he acknowledged in a speech of thanks following glowing tributes on Tuesday.

He described how he “vaingloriously” took news of his appointment last December as a compliment, until one of his colleagues pointed out to him that he had taken longer to get appointed there than any other Judge in the history of a court. His Honour agreed and offered by way of mitigation: “I draw inspiration from Josh Mann-Rea’s example.”

Many in the audience would have missed the meaning.

Nor did His Honour disclose that as a young man he was an enthusiastic rugby player in Canberra, being a tight-head prop. Attorney-General George Brandis QC did point out that Justice Nettle had qualified as a rugby referee.

His father-in-law was Major General John “Punchy” Stevenson, who played for Victoria, the ACT and coached the ACT.

Like Mann-Rea and his Wallaby aspirations, Justice Nettle admitted he had almost given up hope of being appointed to the High Court.

But he good naturedly acknowledged that his age meant he would only serve a few years on the High Court before the mandatory retirement age of 70.

“The selectors may have picked a wild card but they have also capped the risk,” he said.

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Cricket World Cup 2015: Brett Lee slams flat pitches

Turf battle: Former Australian fast bowler Brett Lee, who has criticised Australia’s flat pitches, with old teammate Michael Bevan at a charity match at North Sydney Oval on Thursday. Photo: Brendan Esposito Turf battle: Former Australian fast bowler Brett Lee, who has criticised Australia’s flat pitches, with old teammate Michael Bevan at a charity match at North Sydney Oval on Thursday. Photo: Brendan Esposito
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Turf battle: Former Australian fast bowler Brett Lee, who has criticised Australia’s flat pitches, with old teammate Michael Bevan at a charity match at North Sydney Oval on Thursday. Photo: Brendan Esposito

Turf battle: Former Australian fast bowler Brett Lee, who has criticised Australia’s flat pitches, with old teammate Michael Bevan at a charity match at North Sydney Oval on Thursday. Photo: Brendan Esposito

Former Australian fast bowler Brett Lee has warned the Cricket World Cup could suffer if curators around the country produced the same flat pitches that characterised the Australian summer.

“That is last thing we want,” he said. “I want the WACA to be flying through, I want the SCG to have a bit of grass, I want the Gabba to seam around. We should have the wickets that everyone expects to play on when they come to Australia.”

Stand-in skipper Steve Smith said the “excessively flat” SCG and MCG pitches made it hard for bowlers during the recent Test series against India. “It has been tough to get 20 wickets in this series,” Smith said.

Lee was speaking at the launch of the International Cricket Council’s Cricket World Cup video game on Friday, where he also opened up about the decision to take on a coaching role with Ireland. “If we have a strong World Cup it is going to better for the crowd,” said Lee. “This is an opportunity for me to pass on the tips and tricks that bowlers like Allan Donald, Courtney Walsh and Dennis Lillee passed on to me.”

It is not the first time that Lee has helped out an opposing minnow nation. The 38-year-old revealed that during Bangladesh’s 2004 Test tour of Australia he went to their training sessions to help the team’s struggling bowlers. “I wanted to teach them how to bowl slower balls and cutters just to make the game stronger. I’ve always been a firm believer in helping people. What goes around comes around.”

Lee ruled out taking on a full-time coaching role but said that he would be happy doing “little bits and pieces.”

Ireland coach Phil Simmons said Lee’s experience might give them a chance at upsetting a Test nation for the third World Cup in a row. “Brett Lee has a wonderful knowledge of fast bowling and his special insight of Australian pitches will help give our bowlers further confidence ahead of their group matches,” said Simmons.

Fellow former Australian Test player Michael Hussey also announced on Thursday that he would be a consultant for South Africa during the World Cup.

Lee rated Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand as the most likely team to stop Australia taking home the ICC World Cup trophy on March 29. “Their quicks have been superb and they’ve got so much batting firepower with the likes of Brendon McCullum, they’ll be hard to beat.”

with AFP 

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The Big Picture competition: Readers’ top travel photos, February 7, 2015

We traveled to the South Island of New Zealand for our one year wedding anniversary. A three hour hike took us to this secluded spot in the mountains above Garston. The accommodation was a sod mud hut, built by the Chinese during the Gold Rush. This outdoor bath heated by gas burners offered the perfect vantage point to soak in the expansive views and reflect on a year of marriage. Photo: Manique Smolenaers We traveled to the South Island of New Zealand for our one year wedding anniversary. A three hour hike took us to this secluded spot in the mountains above Garston. The accommodation was a sod mud hut, built by the Chinese during the Gold Rush. This outdoor bath heated by gas burners offered the perfect vantage point to soak in the expansive views and reflect on a year of marriage. Photo: Manique Smolenaers
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We traveled to the South Island of New Zealand for our one year wedding anniversary. A three hour hike took us to this secluded spot in the mountains above Garston. The accommodation was a sod mud hut, built by the Chinese during the Gold Rush. This outdoor bath heated by gas burners offered the perfect vantage point to soak in the expansive views and reflect on a year of marriage. Photo: Manique Smolenaers

We traveled to the South Island of New Zealand for our one year wedding anniversary. A three hour hike took us to this secluded spot in the mountains above Garston. The accommodation was a sod mud hut, built by the Chinese during the Gold Rush. This outdoor bath heated by gas burners offered the perfect vantage point to soak in the expansive views and reflect on a year of marriage. Photo: Manique Smolenaers

Take a look at some of the best entries in our Big Picture reader travel photo competition above.

The overall winner and a partner or friend will travel to the Maldives, courtesy of Singapore Airlines, staying five nights at the beautiful Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort and Spa, courtesy of Singapore Airlines Holidays. The prize includes speedboat transfers from Male International Airport to the resort and all breakfasts and dinners.

WHAT TO ENTER Send one unpublished image of a special moment from your travels taken in the past two years (at least 1MB and 300dpi in JPEG form). Also, please tell us in 100 words or less where and when the image was taken and what made it so memorable.

HOW TO ENTER Send previously unentered images to [email protected]上海龙凤419m.au with your name, address and daytime telephone number. Put the place where your photo was taken in the subject line. The competition closes on May 22, 2015.

Full terms and conditions

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Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop agree to work together to defeat spill motion

Prime Minister Tony Abbott address the media in Sydney. Photo: Christopher PearceThe Pulse Live: Tony Abbott faces a leadership challengeAnalysis: When it finally came, its direction was tellingHow will the spill motion work?
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Prime Minister Tony Abbott has dropped a bombshell in the leadership saga gripping his government, revealing he and Julie Bishop will work together to defeat moves to throw him out of the top job.

Mr Abbott revealed he and Ms Bishop, the deputy Liberal leader, will “stand together” to stare down a push by backbench MPs to spill their positions.

But Ms Bishop said she would vote against the spill motion out of “cabinet solidarity” and it is understood she is not running on any joint ticket. Earlier in the day she refused to admonish backbenchers agitating for change saying they would do as they saw fit.

West Australians Luke Simpkins and Don Randall emailed colleagues on Friday afternoon to announce they would be moving a spill motion when the party room meets in Canberra next Tuesday.

Mr Simpkins said voters had stopped listening to the Prime Minister and he was no longer capable of leading.

In a statement to the media that lasted 90 seconds, Mr Abbott said Mr Simpkins and Mr Randall were “perfectly entitled” to call for the spill.

“But the next point to make is they are asking the party room to vote out the people that the electorate voted in September 2013,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Sydney.

“I want to make this very simple point: we are not the Labor Party, we are not the Labor Party and we are not going to repeat the chaos and the instability of the Labor years.

“So I have spoken to deputy leader Julie Bishop and we will stand together in urging the party room to defeat this particular motion.”

Mr Abbott said voting against the motion would be a “vote in favour of stability and the team that the people voted for at the election”.

Mr Abbott did not take any questions during his media appearance.

Ms Bishop told Fairfax Media: “I agreed with the Prime Minister that due to cabinet solidarity and my position as deputy there should be support for current leadership in the spill motion.”

This does not rule out the possibility of Ms Bishop running for the leadership or deputy leadership in the event the spill motion was carried.

Mr Abbott’s announcement could derail plans by some Liberal MPs to install Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister.

Another potential rival, Social Services Minister Scott Morrison, immediately ruled out a tilt at the leader or deputy leader positions.

“The matter is now before the party room but my position has not changed,” he said.

Immediately after Mr Abbott’s press statement, a cavalcade of ministers took to the airwaves to defend the Prime Minister.

“The last week hasn’t been a good week, there’s no way we can kid ourselves about that,” Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told Sky News.

“On Tuesday there will be a vote which will clear the air. Those of us who support Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop will vote to defeat the spill motion, that is what I’m urging all of my colleagues to do.”

Defence Minister Kevin Andrews said his vote against the motion would “differentiate” the Liberal Party against the chaos of the Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard years.

“This is a once and only decision…I think this would be a disaster for the party and a disaster for Australia,” he said.

Mr Andrews added there was still no declared leadership candidate.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb said the spill motion would make the government look like “a bit of a circus”.

“I mean, 10 days ago people didn’t realise we had a leadership issue and here we are calling a spill,” Mr Robb said.

“I do feel that the Prime Minister deserves some breathing space to show that he’s listened to the criticisms and the concerns which in many cases are legitimate issues, mistakes that have been made.”

Mr Robb said he had “no idea” if the motion would succeed. Follow us on Twitter

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The last time Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott squared off

Member for Wentworth Malcolm Turnbull and wife Lucy Turnbull hold a press conference after he was defeated by new opposition leader Tony Abbott by one vote in the leadership spill at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday December 1, 2009. Photo: Glen McCurtayne Member for Wentworth Malcolm Turnbull and wife Lucy Turnbull hold a press conference after he was defeated by new opposition leader Tony Abbott by one vote in the leadership spill at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday December 1, 2009. Photo: Glen McCurtayne
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Member for Wentworth Malcolm Turnbull fronts the media after his defeat in 2009. Photo: Glen McCurtayne

Then-deputy opposition leader Julie Bishop and new Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott holds a press conference after defeating Malcolm Turnbull by one vote in the leadership spill at Parliament House in Canberra in 2009. Photo: Glen McCurtayne

Member for Wentworth Malcolm Turnbull and wife Lucy Turnbull hold a press conference after he was defeated by new opposition leader Tony Abbott by one vote in the leadership spill at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday December 1, 2009. Photo: Glen McCurtayne

Member for Wentworth Malcolm Turnbull and wife Lucy Turnbull hold a press conference after he was defeated by new opposition leader Tony Abbott by one vote in the leadership spill at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday December 1, 2009. Photo: Glen McCurtayne

This article was first published in December, 2009.

The Liberal Party shocked itself when it elected Tony Abbott as leader this week.

The man who had masterminded the coup to destroy Malcolm Turnbull was Nick Minchin, the godfather of the Liberals’ conservative wing.

As soon as the results were announced – Hockey was eliminated in the first round of voting, and the final ballot was won by Abbott over Turnbull by a single vote – Minchin walked across to a shocked Joe Hockey.

They had not even left the party room. Astonished members were milling about. A gang of reporters was waiting outside. “If I’d known how it was going to go,” Minchin told him, “I would have slung you another 10 votes.”

Minchin was speakingpartly in jest. He was rebuking Hockey for failing to do his numbers, for bungling his run at the party leadership.

But he was also partly serious. Minchin had not expected Abbott to win. Nobody had expected Abbott to win. Not even Abbott. Contrary to widespread impressions in the media, Minchin did not even want Abbott to win.

Although the pair are both stalwarts of the conservative group in the party, Minchin knew very well what everyone else in the room knew – that of the three leadership candidates, Abbott was the most unpopular.

The parliamentary members of the Liberal Party had just chosen to elect a leader that most of them considered to be unelectable.

Now they had replaced Turnbull, a man nominated as preferred Liberal leader by 32 per cent of voters in the Herald’s Nielsen poll,  with a man preferred by only 20 per cent.

Minchin’s main aim was to dump the Liberal Party’s support for an emissions trading scheme. He had been adamantly opposed to an ETS ever since he took the job of industry minister in the Howard government in 1998.

His voice had been dismissed in the cabinet when Howard decided to support an ETS in 2007. Now he was getting his way.

He would have allowed Malcolm Turnbull to stay in place if he had yielded. He had delivered his ultimatum to Turnbull five days earlier.

Minchin and Abbott had gone to see Turnbull in the Opposition leader’s office in Parliament House.

There was a huge reaction against the ETS from the grassroots of the party, they said. They pleaded with him to oppose the ETS or, at the very least, to defer it.

Turnbull was unmoved. “I’ve got a partyroom decision in favour of the policy and a spill [motion to declare the leader’s position vacant] against me failed just yesterday. Why would I back down on something I believe in?”

The two then said that they had no option but to resign from the frontbench, and they detonated a series of orchestrated explosions along it as well, as one after another, other shadow ministers resigned. By the end of the process, Turnbull had lost 14 of his frontbench. He could not limp on.  Another spill motion was to come.

The right of the party had lost that week’s gambit. On numbers compiled by the Liberal Whip, Alex Somlyay, the shadow cabinet had approved Turnbull’s position to support the ETS by 14  to 6; the Liberal party room had supported it by 47 to 32; and the Coalition party room, including the National Party, was in favour of it by 47  to 46.

But Minchin would not accept defeat. If Turnbull would not submit, he would find a more amenable leader.

Minchin wanted to install the avuncular Joe Hockey instead.

This was logical, but also perverse. Logical because Hockey was the most electable, preferred by 36 per cent of voters as Liberal leader.

And perverse because Hockey had been a solid supporter of the ETS policy. Indeed, he had urged it on the Howard government when he had been the acting industry minister in 2002, five years before Howard adopted the idea.

And Hockey was also a firm friend of Turnbull and an unwavering supporter of his leadership.

To be installed as leader, Hockey would have to dump his commitment to an ETS, and his loyalty to Turnbull. Turnbull and Hockey were the Liberals’ leading moderates, as distinct from the conservatives.

Yet that was the deal that Minchin now offered him. It was the same deal that he had offered Turnbull – defer or defeat the ETS, and I will give you the crown. This was the Faustian bargain.

“My whole political currency is as a straight talker,” Hockey agonised with supporters. “I will be destroyed.”

Hockey was confident he would carry the numbers in a leadership ballot. He didn’t agonise over the votes. He didn’t even agonise so much over disloyalty to Turnbull; he had promised not to challenge his friend, and he would keep his word, at least in a technical sense.

He would only stand for the party leadership if it was first declared vacant in a spill motion.

No, Hockey agonised over the ETS. Parliament resumed on Monday. The ETS bills were still pending in the Senate. A partyroom meeting was due on Tuesday. A leadership spill was a certainty. What would Hockey do?

First, he went to see his mate, the defiant leader. He told him that he didn’t think Turnbull could win. I accept that, replied Turnbull. If the leadership is vacant, said Hockey, I will stand.

Well, righto, came the leader’s response. Hockey had the clear impression that Turnbull had said that, if defeated in the spill, he would not then stand in the next ballot, the vote on the leadership.

This was logical. Because a lost spill, for a leader, is effectively a motion of no confidence. What’s the point in then standing again two minutes later?

Next, Hockey convened a big meeting in his office about 4pm. It was, essentially, everyone in the leadership group except Turnbull.

Minchin and one of his close conservative allies, Eric Abetz were there. So was  Abbott. So was a Hockey lieutenant, Christopher Pyne.

The pro-ETS Greg Hunt was there, and so was the anti-ETS Andrew Robb. Turnbull’s deputy, Julie Bishop, was in the room. So was a conservative mooted as her replacement, Peter Dutton. Even the federal director of the Liberal Party, Brian Loughnane, was present.

Hockey announced that he would stand for the leadership once it was vacant. Then he announced his policy on the ETS. Hockey would not have a policy, he said to an incredulous room.

It was simply too divisive. So he would allow party members a conscience vote in the chambers of the Parliament.

The group broke up to think  about it, and reconvened in Hockey’s office a little after 6pm. Hard positions had now formed. Minchin and Abetz opposed the idea of a conscience vote.

Minchin said it was “crazy” from Hockey’s point of view, that it would look weak. “Your first decision as leader would be no decision.”

One participant, and recollections differ over who it was, observed that under this plan, the ETS would probably pass through the Parliament – “we will have changed the leader and have the same policy!” he expostulated.

“What does the right get out of that?”

Hockey replied: “The right gets Dutton as deputy, me as leader, Abbott as shadow treasurer, and Julie Bishop in foreign affairs.” No one had broached with Bishop the idea that she would lose the deputy’s slot.

“Joe,” said Bishop, “before you start speaking about the deputy’s job, speak to me.” It didn’t come up again.

Minchin argued repeatedly that Hockey’s position was ridiculous – you can’t have a policy of not having a policy, he said.

At this point,  Abbott declared his hand. “This is an impossible situation for the colleagues,” he said.

“Some want to vote for the ETS, some want to vote against it. You can’t leave it unresolved. The party has to be offered a clear choice.” If Hockey would not change his mind, said Abbott, he would stand as the anti-ETS candidate.

About 8pm, Minchin visited Hockey once again. Abbott joined them. Minchin tried once more to find a way to kill the ETS but install Hockey as leader.

He offered a new formula – a secret ballot on the ETS offering three options – in favour of it, against it, or in favour of a conscience vote on it.

Hockey was ready to accept this, but Abbott would not brook anything offering a conscience vote  option.

That night, as the candidates counted their numbers, a Hockey lieutenant contacted Turnbull about 8.30pm to make sure of his undertaking to Hockey that he wouldn’t stand.

He told Hockey that he had received the assurance and had noted the conversation in his diary.

Yet Turnbull publicly vowed, in the strongest of terms, that he would stand and fight.  At the Tuesday meeting, the leadership was declared vacant with a vote of 48 to 34, a clear dismissal of Turnbull.

Then Bishop, as deputy, called for nominations for the leadership. Turnbull was on his feet instantly, followed a second later by Abbott. Hockey rose a moment later. It was to be a three-way contest.

In the first round of voting, Abbott won 35 votes, Turnbull won 26 and Hockey won 23. With the lowest tally, Hockey was eliminated.

The moderate vote had been split between Hockey and Turnbull. Some had abandoned Hockey because of his equivocal position on the threshold issue of the ETS.  Hockey was shocked.

In the run-off, Abbott beat Turnbull by 42 votes to 41. One vote, unbelievably, was informal. After Minchin’s crack about the 10 votes, Hockey replied incredulously: “He’s a piece of work, isn’t he?” indicating Turnbull. “He promised me he wouldn’t run if the spill got up.”

Later, he bumped into Turnbull on the flight back to Sydney.  “I’m too angry to talk to you,” said Hockey.

Turnbull is adamant that he gave Hockey no undertaking. Both men lost. Turnbull lost his leadership, Hockey lost his challenge, and neither got to keep the ETS that he had supported.

And Abbott was, truly, the accidental leader.

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Dire forecast led to Reserve Bank cut

The Reserve Bank released its quarterly statement on Friday. The Reserve Bank released its quarterly statement on Friday.
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The Reserve Bank released its quarterly statement on Friday.

The Reserve Bank released its quarterly statement on Friday.

The Reserve Bank board decided to cut interest rates on Tuesday after being presented with forecasts showing what would happen if it did not.

The revelation, in the latest Reserve Bank quarterly statement, suggests the bank’s original economic forecasts were far worse than those released with Friday’s statement.

The statement predicts “only modest” employment growth and a further rise in the unemployment rate. Its central forecast for economic growth in the year ahead has been marked down from 3 per cent to 2.75 per cent.

The fine print of the statement reveals that not only were the forecasts made less alarming by factoring in the interest rate cut announced on Tuesday, but also by factoring in a second cut in May and the chance of a third one a few months later.

The statement says the forecasts were “conditioned on the assumption that the cash rate moves broadly in line with market pricing as at the time of writing”.

The market pricing assumed another cut in the Reserve Bank’s cash rate from 2.25 per cent to 2 per cent in May and then an even chance of a further cut, to 1.75 per cent, in October.

The forecasting assumption is a change from the one used by the RBA in its previous statement in November which assumed a steady cash rate years into the future.

The current cash rate is the lowest since 1959. The cuts assumed in the RBA’s statement would take it to its lowest since the bank was founded as the Commonwealth Bank in 1911.

Even factoring in those cuts the bank expects Australia’s economic growth rate to slide to just 2 per cent in the March quarter. Taking into account the historical range of forecasting errors the bank concedes it could fall to 1 per cent. Beyond that it expects economic growth to recover climbing to 3.75 per cent by 2017, although it concedes it might still be as low as 2 per cent by then.

It expects the unemployment rate to climb to 6.3 per cent before falling, although it concedes it could climb to 7 per cent.

The RBA says the unemployment rate has been climbing at an gradual pace of 0.1 percentage points every three months for the past two and a half years.  It says despite the an increase in the number of people employed since then there has been no growth in the number of hours worked since late 2011, meaning there is less work for each person available to work than there was three years ago.

The bank says it is not expecting the government to boost the economy, predicting that public demand will grow “at a below-trend pace” over the forecast period.

It says mining investment will fall sharply over the next two years and that non-mining business will remain subdued until at least mid-2015.

Household spending growth should remain weak despite the lower oil price and lower interest rates, held back by low wage growth and a weak labour market.

The higher import prices resulting from the lower dollar had yet to feed through into retail prices because retailers were finding it difficult to pass on costs.

The bank was careful to say that although it was factoring in further interest rate cuts the assumption in its forecasts did “not represent a commitment” to those cuts. It might cut by less, or more, depending on how conditions developed.

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Australia to bake as western heat heads east

A summer blast of heat is headed for the east and south of Australia. Photo: Karleen Minney A summer blast of heat is headed for the east and south of Australia. Photo: Karleen Minney
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Beaches will be popular for many coastal regions across southern Australia. Photo: Wayne Taylor

The water will be the best place to cool off as the heat hits. Photo: [email protected]上海龙凤419m.au

A summer blast of heat is headed for the east and south of Australia. Photo: Karleen Minney

A summer blast of heat is headed for the east and south of Australia. Photo: Karleen Minney

Heatwave outlook from Tuesday to Thursday. Photo: BoM

The increase in temperatures will bring an increased risk of bushfires. Photo: NASA

Summer will return with a vengeance to much of southern Australia in coming days as an intense build-up of heat spreads east.

North-western Western Australia has been simmering for much of the past week as a slow-moving high-pressure system over the Bight locked in heat over the region. That high has drifted towards the Tasman, directing northerly winds to draw heat down into south-eastern Australia.

“It looks like the heat will set in for a while,” Simon Allen, a senior meteorologist with the Bureau of Meteorology, said. “Remote areas may get some record temperatures across the weekend and into early next week.”

Marble Bar, in the WA Pilbara, clocked up its fifth day of 41-plus degrees weather on Friday and is forecast to cop at least another six days of intense heat. Gascoyne Junction has a similar outlook, with 49 degrees predicted for Wednesday, the bureau said.

Among the large cities, Adelaide will endure the highest temperatures from the coming heatwave, with tops ranging from 34-39 degrees over the next week. Melbourne should also have tops above 30 degrees for most days next week, with the exception of Sunday and Monday, when a weak cold front will cool  southern Victoria.

Sydneysiders, though, should enjoy one of the best weeks of summer, with little chance of rain and coastal breezes keeping maximums in the city below 30 degrees for each day except Sunday.

The western suburbs will be a few degrees warmer, with Penrith expecting 36 degrees on Sunday.

“It will be a nice return to summer, especially for the east coast,” Tristan Meyers, a meteorologist with Weatherzone, said, noting that persistent southerlies had produced a couple of cool weeks.

Almost all of NSW had an average or below-average January for maximum temperatures. Heavy rain over inland areas in the middle of the month helped restore soil moisture levels, keeping a lid on temperatures.

Broken Hill, for example, received four times its usual January rain, or almost 100 millimetres. Tops were about 1.7 degrees below average.

However, the mining town can expect sixdays of 38 degrees or warmer from Saturday as the heat arrives.

Fire authorities are also anticipating a lift in fire danger warnings.

“As the heat builds up, you would get more dangerous fire conditions,” Mr Allen said.

For now, the Rural Fire Service was not expecting to declare any total fire ban days, although the Riverina and western regions of NSW were likely to get at least “very high” fire danger ratings, a spokesman said.

How long the heat lasts depends largely on the duration of the break in the northern monsoon season. Darwin, for example, is likely to continue a run of relatively dry days for this time of year.

The relative absence of cloud cover over much of the country has also brought some unusually cool overnight temperatures.

Kununurra, in the eastern Kimberley, posted a record chilly February minimum temperature of 19.5 degrees on Thursday, the bureau said.

Tindal RAAF base in the Northern Territory was another cool spot, with 16.3 degrees recorded on Thursday, more than 2 degrees less than the previous record minimum for February.

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Investor love drives ‘sexy six’ to new heights

Share the love, share the profit: The big banks, Telstra and Wesfarmers offer inticing yields. Photo: Becky RockwoodIt has been a terrific couple of years for shareholders of the six big dividend-paying blue chips stocks – the big four banks, Telstra and Wesfarmers.
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But are these companies being loved too much, given that they are mostly trading at record highs and much more expensive than comparable overseas companies?

The interest rate cut this week has driven their prices even higher as the chase for yield intensifies.

Commonwealth Bank shares traded at about $90 on Monday before pushing beyond $90 since the Reserve Bank cut the cash rate by 0.25 percentage points to a new record low of 2.25 per cent on Tuesday.

Telstra, already at a 14-year high, pushed past $6.60 following the rate cut.

Wesfarmers, which owns, among other businesses – Coles, Bunnings and Officeworks – is also higher, trading above $44.

“All the banks are expensive given that forward earnings analysis leaves little room for disappointment and CBA is certainly priced for perfection,” says Scott Schuberg, chief executive of Rivkin, whose services include tips on Australian shares.

Data provided by Lincoln Indicators shows Commonwealth Bank shares are on a forecast price-to-earnings (PE) ratio of 16 times with the remaining big three on multiples of 13 and 14 times.

Although Australian banks are not strictly comparable overseas banks, US bank Wells Fargo is on a forecast PE of almost 13 times and British bank, HSBC, is on almost 11 times.

Dividends from Australian companies are favourably taxed through dividend imputation and overseas companies pay smaller dividends.

The yield on offer from the Commonwealth Bank and the other five stocks remains very attractive given the miserly interest paid on cash investments, such as term deposits.

Term deposits with maturity dates of less than a year are paying less than 3 per cent.

The danger for the banks and their shareholders would be a problem with the housing market.

Greg Smith, head of research at Fat Prophets sharemarket research, says that with lower interest rates the “housing market is not going to fall over”.

Michael Heffernan, a senior client adviser and economist with sharebroker PhillipCapital, does not see dangers for investors in the dividend-paying blue chips.

“People have been saying this [that they are over-priced] for years,” he says. “It started when Telstra was $3.60, now it is $6.60.”

Telstra’s forward price-to-earnings ratio of about 20 times is getting up there, analysts say.

US telecom AT&T is on a multiple of almost 14 times and China Mobile is on almost 16 times. However, as Greg Smith points out, Telstra has made acquisitions and is finding new ways of exacting value from its business.

Wesfarmers is on a multiple of almost 21 times. Its closest Australian peers, such as Woolworths and Harvey Norman, are on multiples of about 16 times. Wal-Mart in the US is on a multiple of 17 times. 

However, investors should not expect the share prices to continue growing at the rate that they have in recent years, Michael Heffernan says.

Despite the steep increase in the share prices of these stocks, the shares can still be bought on a cash dividend yield of about 5 per cent, or about 7 per cent after franking credits.

Heffernan’s conservative expectation is that share prices of the six could grow about 5 per cent this year which, after franking credits, gives a total return of more 12 per cent. That is a good return in this environment, Heffernan says.

Investors will get a better view of how the companies are performing with the earnings reporting season underway this month.

Commonwealth Bank reports half-year earnings on February 11, Telstra on February 12 and Wesfarmers on February 19.

The other three big banks have September 30 financial-year ends, but NAB gave a trading update on Thursday with no negative surprises and ANZ will provide a trading update on February 17. 

 @jcollett_money

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