Monthly Archives: May 2019

Siddle feels for felled McLaren

Peter Siddle says spooking batsmen is one thing, causing concussion quite another.

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Ryan McLaren was on Tuesday ruled out of the second Test in Port Elizabeth, where Australia can seal their first Test series win on foreign soil since downing the West Indies in April 2012.

McLaren was suffering from post-concussion syndrome, brought about by a brutal Mitchell Johnson bouncer that drew blood in the first Test at Centurion.

Siddle noted McLaren’s ill-health didn’t sit well with any of the Australian pacemen.

“On the field it’s hard and aggressive, but when you see things like that happening it is a little bit disappointing,” Siddle said.

“You don’t want to hurt anyone in a way that they can’t come up (for the next match).

“It’s not as if you’re trying to do it. At the time you’re just obviously trying to build a bit of pressure and get a wicket.”

Left-armer Wayne Parnell is expected to take McLaren’s spot in the hosts’ XI for the second Test that starts on Thursday.

“A couple of the netties (net bowlers) were left handed so it gave the boys a bit to look at there,” Siddle said after training on Tuesday.

However, if South Africa selectors opt to shore up their batting order then left-hander Dean Elgar could come into contention.

Elgar made a pair on Test debut, against Australia in 2012 when Johnson twice dismissed him at the WACA.

Beanpole Morne Morkel suggested the squad had full faith in Elgar, who was 12th man for the first Test and dropped a catch provided by David Warner when the eventual centurion was on 26.

“Dean is like a Staffy. He’s tough as nails. I’m sure if he gets the nod he’ll be more than capable of doing the job,” he said.

“It’s a tricky question (who replaces McLaren).”

The Proteas are expected to retain spinner Robin Peterson, who was largely unthreatening in the first Test.

Morkel described Johnson’s short ball to McLaren as part of part of the reason cricketers love the sport.

“Spectators also love that sort of bodyline action in Test matches,” he said.

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Scott to step up Masters defence

Adam Scott has to return his green jacket to the Augusta National clubhouse in six weeks but the world No.

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2 says he’s on track to snare a second one.

Scott is in the final week of his six-week “off-season” and ramps up his preparations for the Masters with a return to the US PGA tour next week as he aims to peak once more at Augusta National from April 10-13.

Recharging his batteries and playing less tournament golf has been the recipe for success over the last two years when Scott has been the best-performed golfer in relation to par across the last eight majors.

Scott admits it felt strange to sit out when he was coming off the brilliant form that took him within a whisker of completing the Australian Triple Crown late last year.

“You don’t really want to take some time off. You want to keep it rolling,” he said.

“You see a guy like Jimmy Walker out there who is hot and he’s taking advantage of it, and that’s what you want to do.

“But I’m also keeping the big picture in mind and my priorities are the Masters and the other three majors later this year, and I think the break was necessary, even though I was playing well.”

“I haven’t been competitive but I’ve certainly been working on all areas of the game. Hopefully I’m on track.”

The Queenslander ended Australia’s Masters curse with his playoff win over Angel Cabrera at Augusta last year and hopes that breakthrough will benefit all of his countrymen going forward.

Currently only Jason Day, who was third last year and second in 2011, and Marc Leishman (tied fourth last year), are qualified to join Scott in the Masters field.

“Hopefully every Aussie that’s there from now on will appreciate not being asked whether it will be them (to be the first) this year,” said Scott.

“Maybe that’s also crushed a couple of dreams of others that wanted to be the first but I’d like to think it will lift the shackles.

“I’ll just talk about Jason (Day) for the moment who has played in a few of them and he’s done extremely well in the few he’s played in.

“He’s obviously got to be thinking he’s going to be a Masters Champion one day, and that’s probably quite likely if he keeps playing the way he is and on the path he is.

“So hopefully the shackles are off and we’re going to have a host of Aussies up there in the champions’ locker room in the future.”

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Profit growth slows for Trade Me

Trade Me Group has posted a slower pace of earnings growth in the first half of its financial year as New Zealand’s largest online auction site invests in marketing and more staff.

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Net profit rose two per cent to $NZ38 million ($A35.30 million) in the six months ended December 31, slower than the 2.7 per cent growth in earnings in the year earlier period, the Wellington-based company said in a statement on Wednesday.

Profit was below First NZ Capital’s estimate of $NZ40.9m. Revenue increased seven per cent to $NZ85.7m while expenses rose 19 per cent to $NZ25.2m.

Trade Me employed an extra 50 people in the past six months, taking its total headcount to 350, as it strives to improve its website, adding more services and functions, in order to grow future profits.

The company will probably increase full-year profit seven per cent this year, before picking up to an 11.2 per cent pace in 2015, according to analysts polled by Reuters.

“We’ve embarked on a period of re-investment which will impact short-term earnings growth but ensure the company’s long-term growth and success,” said chairman David Kirk.

“We are convinced this is the right approach for Trade Me and we believe investment now will result in stronger market positions and greater growth opportunities in the future.”

Investment in the business had gone well and Trade Me would continue to “invest assertively” in the second half of the company’s financial year, Mr Kirk said.

Trade Me will pay a first half dividend of 7.6 NZ cents a share on March 25.

The shares last traded at $NZ4.05, and have slipped 0.3 per cent this year.

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What issues will a WA Senate re-vote be fought on?

By Ian Cook, Murdoch University

It appears certain that Western Australians will vote in fresh Senate elections later this year.

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Following the initial vote last September and the recount – when 1375 votes were unable to be located – the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, declared yesterday that:

The only relief appropriate is for the election to be declared void.

While reserving its final judgment for Thursday, a new election to elect six senators seems to be an inevitability.

The court’s decision isn’t going to recast the political landscape. And yet it’s back to the polls that Western Australians will likely go. That means new candidates and new campaigns. And more fun – unless you’re feeling election fatigue (Western Australians did have state and local government elections as well as the federal election last year).

So, what will be the key issue areas a re-vote will be fought on?

The major parties

The Coalition will urge Western Australian voters to allow the Abbott government to govern. After all, it won a significant majority in the House of Representatives last September.

Prime minister Tony Abbott will generally play better in Western Australia than opposition leader Bill Shorten. They are both from “over east”, so neither really understands WA, but Abbott can run a pro-development line more believably than Shorten.

The latest Nielsen poll appears to reflect Shorten’s inability to engage voters outside the party while he tries to rebuild inside the party. He is being outmanoeuvred in public, however much they lionise him inside the party.

Late last year, when a re-run was first mooted, some media outlets suggested that the fresh election will be a referendum on the carbon tax. It is unlikely to be that simple. This is especially so if there is enough evidence to show that the carbon tax is working, which the IMF certainly thinks is the case.

But an election re-run is likely to play out better for the conservatives. It is hard to see the Liberals losing or gaining a seat. It is more about the fate of the Palmer United Party (PUP) and the Greens.

Much of the hostility to Labor has been vented in Western Australia, so Coalition strategists shouldn’t assume they can rely on strong anti-Labor sentiments to carry them through. Presenting themselves as the government that has stopped asylum seekers will work well in WA, where arrivals by boat have had a greater impact than elsewhere.

However, the secrecy around asylum seekers coming by boat is making the public’s reaction to this issue hard to predict.

State issues

One problem for the Coalition is that Western Australians know the Abbott government won’t do anything to increase the amount of Goods and Services Tax (GST) the state receives.

 

WA premier Colin Barnett suffered an annus horribilis in 2013. Will state issues play a role in a WA Senate re-vote? AAP/Alan Porritt

 

While it was never directly stated, the view that Labor had something to do with WA’s share of GST revenue was left conveniently – for the Coalition – in the air for much of last September’s federal election. Now it is clear that the Coalition will do nothing for a state government struggling, and failing, to balance its budget.

This is why Labor will want the election to be about the effectiveness of Coalition governments. The ALP campaign will attempt to shift the focus from federal Labor and use WA premier Colin Barnett’s woeful recent performance as evidence that Coalition governments across Australia aren’t up to the challenges of governing.

Abbott will struggle to persuade people to support him because of his record. The federal government has done little so far that will have particularly impressed West Australians. The carbon and mining taxes are not such “hot” topics, so they do not carry the same weight.

The Greens, PUP and microparties

The Greens can regain ground if they can establish themselves as being necessary to moderate the excesses of the Abbott government, and to generally ensure that the government does not lose sight of the environment in pursuing jobs growth.

It would help, in Western Australia, for the Greens to articulate a conservative environmental position. This is not the state to be anything but conservative.

Incumbent senator Scott Ludlam, who was elected for the Greens in the recount, argued to keep the recount instead of publicly welcoming the challenge to respond to those who have turned away from the Greens. That would have sent the right message to voters.

The Greens are likely to join the Coalition and Labor in trying to make a re-run election about microparties manipulating the voters to get candidates elected who gained very few first preference votes. Expect to see Glenn Druery – the so-called “preference whisperer” – copping a lot of criticism.

The Greens ought to be careful with the microparties. Support for them expresses discontent with the system, which is also manifested in votes for the Greens. Dismissing other people’s discontent in favour of your discontent won’t win you friends. Besides, the Greens need to think about possibilities for working with any microparty candidates who are elected.

A re-vote solely in Western Australia provides the PUP with a great opportunity. The new party’s success in September’s election means that the PUP now represents a credible option for those attracted by a conservative approach.

 

Clive Palmer’s Palmer United Party may have its electoral success in the WA Senate repeated in a re-vote. AAP/Paul Miller

 

Palmer’s very deep pockets will help the PUP to generate a significant profile in traditional and social media. So, the PUP can expect to repeat its (albeit voided) success of winning a Senate seat in WA. There’s always the chance that Palmer will say something to offend Western Australians, but he speaks fluent mining magnate, which is a language that people in the state understand well.

The mainstream media is helping the major parties’ attempts to make microparties appear sinister and manipulative, so we are likely to see people not trusting them with their “above the line” preferences.

The Sports Party, which won a seat in the disputed recount despite gaining just 0.23% of the first preference vote, will also struggle.

Ian Cook does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

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Human rights in North Korea: the implications of the Kirby report

By Benjamin Habib, La Trobe University

The United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) report into human rights abuses in North Korea, released on Monday by panel chairman Michael Kirby, highlights the impact of the government’s extreme social controls on ordinary North Koreans.

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Despite the attention that the UNHRC investigation has received, the report does not reveal much new information about the human rights situation in North Korea. It accuses the regime of six main human rights abuses: arbitrary detention and torture, starvation, denial of freedom of thought, denial of freedom of movement, foreign abductions and discrimination.

Nonetheless, the report is valuable as a systematic and comprehensive catalogue of evidence. Chief among its recommendations are that “the international community must accept its responsibility to protect the people” of North Korea from crimes against humanity.

However, the obvious moral force of this proposition belies the intractable difficulties of undertaking any real action.

Lack of enforcement mechanisms

The fraught strategic environment that has complicated international nuclear non-proliferation efforts in North Korea also makes it difficult to enforce any indictment of the North Korean leadership for crimes against humanity.

Military intervention is a non-starter for obvious reasons. If we consider the potential impact of war in North Korea, with estimated casualties of up to 500,000 people at a cost of more than US$1 trillion, the risk is too high to justify the desired gain.

It is disingenuous to argue for protecting the human rights of North Korean citizens by risking the lives of millions of Koreans on both sides of the demilitarised zone through international military intervention.

A united front among regional states is vital if military options are to achieve their desired goals. Such unity seems a remote possibility in a region characterised by an emerging contest between the United States and China.

It is noteworthy that the Chinese government refused the UNHRC investigators access to witnesses in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture adjacent to the North Korean border: an area that is the primary exit route for North Korean defectors. The Chinese government provides support for North Korean border controls by repatriating fleeing North Koreans. China is generally cautious about the international human rights agenda, given its own problems with prominent ethnic minorities.

No other legal mechanisms exist to enforce the indictment of a sitting leader whose country does not recognise the International Criminal Court (ICC). In that context, the report establishes an inventory of Kim regime crimes that could be used as evidence to prosecute high-ranking officials through the ICC, but only in the event that the current government falls.

The Kirby panel’s recommendation that the North Korean leadership be referred to the International Criminal Court should not be seen as an empty threat. But past examples in Iraq and the former Yugoslavia suggest that high-level officials charged with crimes against humanity are generally untouchable until they lose power.

Transformative change in North Korea

The UNHRC report makes clear reference to North Korea as a totalitarian state. During the Kim Il-sung era (1945 to 1994), North Korea was one of the closest approximations of a totalitarian state that the world has seen. Nevertheless, there is a danger in emphasising North Korea’s totalitarian tendencies without proper context.

The North Korean coercive apparatus developed in a fortress-like cocoon, influenced initially by the experience of Japanese colonialism and the brutality of the Korean War. It then matured within the polarising political climate of the Cold War and the North’s intense competition with South Korea and the United States.

 

The Kirby panel’s recommendation that the North Korean leadership be referred to the International Criminal Court should not be seen as an empty threat. EPA/Salvatore Di Nolfi

 

Any attempts to improve human rights in North Korea through engagement should try to avoid aggravating this siege mentality. This is the world view in which human rights violations are justified by the government.

We should also consider the significant economic and social forces that have coalesced in North Korean society since the mid-1990s, which have eroded the country’s totalitarian system.

Food distribution is a good example. The impact of government food rationing has been weakened by broadening access to food from outside the state rationing system, either through local markets, home-grown produce or theft from state farms. Grassroots entrepreneurialism has provided some people at the bottom of the class hierarchy with access to foreign currency and with it an increased ability to buy food. This has decreased the leverage of official social controls.

At the same time as grassroots forces are altering the relationship between the North Korean state and its people, the government has embarked on cautious economic reforms. These are opening the country to foreign capital and expertise. The firewall isolating the people from information about the outside world is also more porous than in the past.

So in the absence of a credible “big stick”, fostering evolutionary social change may present another option to improve the human rights situation.

This is not to downplay the pain of those North Koreans who have suffered horrendous abuses, or excuse the perpetrators of these abuses. But it is important to recognise the impact of the burden of history and the transformative influence of emerging social forces as we consider the implications of the UNHRC report.

Benjamin Habib does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

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