Abbott’s boulevard of broken promises

A post-election advertisement from the Coalition.Australian politics: full coverageMark Kenny: Pyne’s broken promise set to haunt AbbottBackdown means $2b less for NSW educationPyne pledges $230 as government goes into damage controlBetrayal angers school principals
Shanghai night field

They promised before the election to be a “no-surprises” government.

But since winning power the Abbott government has lengthened its list of broken promises and policy surprises by more than one a week.

Just two days ago, the Federal Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, performed a brazen policy back-flip on school funding, saying he would no longer accept Labor’s funding and overall model despite Tony Abbott making this pre-election promise: ”We will honour the agreements that Labor has entered into. We will match the offers that Labor has made. We will make sure that no school is worse off.”

A few weeks ago, the Coalition’s pre-election commitment to ”turn back the boats” was broken after Immigration Minister Scott Morrison ended a tense standoff with Jakarta – which was refusing to accept a boatload of asylum seekers – by ordering the boat to be taken to Christmas Island.

Last month, Treasurer Joe Hockey said he wanted to increase the debt ceiling from $300 billion to $500 billion. That was after the Coalition attacked the then Labor government’s decision in May last year to raise Australia’s debt ceiling from $250 billion to $300 billion, which Tony Abbott described at the time as ”really extraordinary”.

”What Joe Hockey is now doing on both the commission of cuts and on the issue of the debt ceiling is a million miles away from the expectations he gave the Australian people before the election,” Labor finance spokesman Tony Burke said about the Coalition’s recent decision to raise the debt limit.

Mr Abbott also promised before the election to have a government ”which is transparent and open”, saying ”the last thing we want to do is to hide anything from the Australian people”.

Since then, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has implemented a highly restrictive regime regarding information on border protection.

The Coalition has also surprised voters by abolishing the portfolio of minister for science, sending no minister to climate talks in Poland, and deciding to only have one female cabinet minister.

These things appear to fly in the face of Mr Abbott’s campaign launch pledge:

”We will be a no-surprises, no-excuses government, because you are sick of nasty surprises and lame excuses from people that you have trusted with your future.”

More chin music in Adelaide: Johnson

Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson addresses the media at the WACA. Photo: Paul KaneIf England’s batsmen struggled with the short-pitched bowling in the First Ashes Test at the Gabba, then they’re going to hate batting in Adelaide.
Shanghai night field

Resurrected fast bowler Mitchell Johnson warns that there is more of the same to come in the Second Test and believes that the “bouncer” is more difficult to play there.

And he also expects the verbal jousting that has become such a talking point since the end of the First Test to continue between the two sides throughout the series, despite captain Michael Clarke copping a fine for comments made to England tail-ender Jimmy Anderson during play on the fourth and final day in Brisbane.

Johnson said that while he had not heard that the English camp had voiced concerns that Australia’s bowling may have been dangerous during the home side’s dominant 381-run victory, he found the idea of it amusing.

“I didn’t hear that, it’s quite funny though,” he said on Wednesday in Perth.

“I was just playing the game and by the rules – you get two short balls an over – over the head, or shoulders and I definitely used them – used the wicket to its potential.

“The fast bouncy Gabba wicket is a perfect time to use it – I don’t think it was dangerous at all.

“We went really hard at their tail. That was a plan to use the wicket at the Gabba to go really hard at them.

“Look, I don’t like facing bouncers. No one does. When the ball’s coming past your nose on a fast wicket, it’s never nice. I’m not sure if it’s fear; it’s just part of the game.

“And I still come in [to Adelaide] with the short ball because it is up and down there – it makes it even harder I think – where at the Gabba it’s true bounce.

“I think that makes it a lot more difficult to play the short ball. But I’ll definitely continue to use it, because it definitely worked.”

Johnson starred in the Aussie win and was declared the Man of the Match with combined figures of 9-103 as the tourists were dismissed for 136 in their first innings and 179 in the second.

Several of his wickets came from deliveries that had bounced in his own half of the pitch.

Those who love numbers will be titillated by the fact that Johnson scored the same amount of runs with the bat that he gave away with the ball – 103 – while being dismissed only once.

His 64 in the first innings and 114-run partnership with Brad Haddin came at a particularly good time, as the Aussies were, seemingly, struggling at 6-132 when they came together.

And while centuries were scored and hauls of wickets taken, it’s the sledging controversy that has created headlines since Australia claimed victory to go 1-0 up in the series.

Not that it bothers Johnson, nor the Australian team; the fast bowler declaring that the players are ‘stoked’ with the victory and are concentrating on being able to go 2-0 up in Adelaide.

The verbal battle that occurred on the pitch that has been so widely covered seems to be continuing long after the bails and wickets have been removed from the middle of the Gabba though.

Johnson is the latest Australian player to suggest that England would be rattled after such a big first up loss.

“They’ll definitely be thinking about it. To be beaten in four days, and they would have probably been expecting to probably win at the Gabba after the last time they were there,” he said.

“They were obviously pretty confident. They’re going to fight hard, but we’ve definitely made an impact on them.

“Obviously with [England number-three] Jonathan Trott going home [because of a stress-related illness] as well is a huge impact.

“They’ll be thinking of a lot of things now.

“We’ve just got to keep focusing on our game, keep sticking to our plans and hopefully win in Adelaide and come here [to the WACA] and win here as well.”

He said that the bowling team of himself, Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and spinner Nathan Lyon were focussed on the team goal of being number-one in the world again.

And that it was easy to do with the knowledge that he had the full support of his captain, Clarke.

He made a point of recognising Clarke for standing up for his players and copping a fine of 20 per cent of his match fee from the First Test.

And while he didn’t believe the Channel 9 microphone picked up the worst of the sledging from the play, he didn’t think the verbal exchanges were anything out of the ordinary for an Ashes Test.

The West Australian, as he now classes himself, added that he would hate for the governing bodies to clamp down too hard on sledging to a point where it was taken out of the game.

“Definitely [want to see it remain in the game],” he said. “And I think it’s worked for us. I definitely think they’re rattled by it. They don’t like it at all.

“Obviously their coach has come out and wanted a truce from what I’ve heard. That’s not going to change from our end.

“We all know as professional players where that line is and you stick by it; always tread it, but like I said, it’s an Ashes series and it’s a back to back series as well, so there is definitely tension flying. But as long as it stays below that line.

“We know there is definitely tension there – there always has been.

“I thought it was really good what Michael did, as a captain. That’s what you want your captain to do – stand up for the players and that’s what he did.

“It was really exciting to see.

“It just happened to be that the stump mic was up at that time. There were obviously other things that were said and not heard. So it’s nothing unusual, but I was really happy with how he stood up for the team.”

The Second Test starts in Adelaide on December 5.

Mitchell Johnson’s fundraising ‘mo’ to stay for Second Ashes Test

Mitchell Johnson warns England to expect more pain in Adelaide
Shanghai night field

Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson will keep his handlebar moustache for the Second Ashes Test.

But it’s nothing to do with any superstition he may have after he demolished England in the Gabba Test, taking nine wickets and making 103 runs, to earn Man of the Match honours.

He’s hoping to raise $50,000 for men’s health through the Movember initiative.

Men’s mental health became a talking point after the First Test, with England number-three batsman Jonathan Trott heading home because of stress-related issues.

Johnson got a good look at Trott in the First Test, taking his wicket in both innings (for a combined total of 19 runs) and said he had no idea that the Englishman was struggling with internal demons.

But he did empathise with him, admitting that the life of a Test cricketer does have its challenges.

The speedster has had to deal with form slumps, injury and a tough schedule and still keep a clear mind when he gets to the top of his bowling mark with the ball in his hand.

When he injured his toe and had to sit out of the game recently, he said the timing was perfect; and perhaps he wouldn’t have been in Brisbane last week if he had not had the chance to freshen up.

“It has been a huge booster for me; it was a great time for me to step away from the game – and freshen up, physically and moreso mentally as well,” he said.

“At the time I was playing three forms of the game and it’s flat out, the scheduling that we have; it was perfect timing as much as you don’t want to get injured.

“I had two and half months at homes through the last Ashes series, which was really good for me as well.

“I feel strong and I feel fit and bowling well at the moment.”

And he is aware now of how quickly it can turn if he doesn’t keep on top of it.

“The media conferences; if you read the papers and are copping it; the crowds when you play away from home and sometimes at home you cop a fair bit. It all comes into it. As a professional, you have to find a way to deal with all that,” he said.

“Each and every individual who plays the game has their way of managing how they deal with it. It can be tough at times when it’s not going so well; you start to think about everything. You think about every little thing that’s going on in your life when you should be focusing on one thing.

“It seems maybe a bit the way he’s [Trott] thinking at the moment, and needs to just get away from the game.”

Although Movember officially finishes a week before the first ball of the Adelaide Test is bowled, Mitchell has decided to keep the whiskers for a while longer in a bid to raise $50,000 for men’s health.

“I spoke to my wife [Jessica] about it actually and she made a suggestion that we try and raise some more money for charity and we’ll try to keep it for the whole series,” he said.

“So that’s what I’m going to try to do. I’m going to try to raise $50,000 before December 3. That’s the plan. I’ll keep the mo throughout the whole Ashes series if I get to the 50.

To donate, visit http://mobro爱上海同城论坛/mitchjohnson25

 Follow WAtoday on Twitter

Miley Cyrus leads ‘Time’ Person of the Year poll, but is it rigged?

Miley Cyrus performs during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.This article originally appeared on Mashable.
Shanghai night field

Headline magnet Miley Cyrus is leading Time magazine’s Person of the Year online poll, with nearly 28% of the votes as of Thursday night. The pop star is ahead of former NSA defense contractor Edward Snowden, as well as notable figures in politics, religion and entertainment.

The poll winner, which will be revealed on December 6 isn’t necessarily the person who becomes Time’s Person of the Year, as the editors will pick and then announce that honour on December 11.

Cyrus, 21, has no doubt had a commercially successful 2013, drumming up massive amounts of social buzz, YouTube views and music sales due to a combination of talent and controversial antics. The singer’s twerk-filled MTV VMAs performance dominated social conversations for months, her nude “Wrecking Ball” video earned the record for most views in 24 hours, and she helped “twerk” get added to Oxford Dictionaries Online.

Whether those ingredients warrant the title of Person of the Year is solely up to Time’s editors.

But if history is any indication, Cyrus won’t win.

The prestigious honour has routinely gone to world leaders (US President Barack Obama in 2012 and 2008; Vladimir Putin in 2007; George W. Bush in 2004 and 2000) or groups of people (protestor in 2011; “you” in 2006; good samaritans in 2005; the American soldier in 2003). Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg earned the title in 2010, while Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke received it in 2009.

Time uses its reader poll to keep its finger on the pulse of public sentiment. The magazine even added a Twitter component this year to encourage more participation.

However, a pair of programmers are trying to make a mockery of the Poptip poll by claiming that they’ve rigged it to cast multiple votes for Cyrus, according to The Daily Dot.

“Time and Poptip are aware of the efforts to affect the results of the Person of the Year poll, and have measures in place so that only legitimate votes are being incorporated in the final tally,” a Time spokesperson told Mashable. “We’re delighted that so many people are having fun with this informal poll and contributing to the conversation [about who should win]. “

It’s unclear how many votes from the 28% currently have come from the programmers’ hijacking efforts and how many have actually come from Cyrus supporters, but as Time said, it will only include legitimate votes in the “final tally.”

Over the years, Time’s poll efforts have encountered setbacks. Last year, programmers built software that resulted in North Korean President Kim Jong-un taking home the title, while in 2009, 4chan rallied to move its founder Christopher Poole to the top of the rankings.

Cyrus’ voting page describes her as follows: “The artist formerly known as Hannah Montana got tongues wagging — beyond her own —with a scantily clad, twerk-filled performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards and meme-able hit videos.”

On Twitter, Cyrus has retweeted fans who are encouraging their followers to vote for her.

Time has chosen a Person of the Year honoree since 1927 when American aviator Charles Lindbergh won.

Mashable is the largest independent news source covering digital culture, social media and technology.

LIVE: Beards in a hairy situation

‘‘WE take our beards quite seriously.’’
Shanghai night field

Frankly, you’d expect nothing less from four bearded musicians who write songs about beards in a band called The Beards.

The band – Johann Beardraven, John Beardman Junior, Nathaniel Beard and Facey McStubblington – formed in 2005 and have three albums, The Beards (2007), Beards, Beards, Beards (2010) and Having a Beard is the New Not Having a Beard (2012).

Think songs such as If Your Dad Doesn’t Have a Beard, You’ve Got Two Mums, You Should Consider Having Sex With a Bearded Man, Got Me A Beard and I’m in the Mood … For Beards.

Frontman Johann Beardraven told LIVE the inspiration was endless, with the band already working on album No.4.

‘‘We’ve decided we have more to say about beards, so we’ve booked some studio time in December to go in and start the album,’’ he said.

‘‘We’re pretty seriously into the writing. It’s good but it’s hard to tell until it’s out there – but we’re feeling quietly confident.

‘‘We often have people suggest to us that we’re going to run out of material about beards, but people who say this to us are mostly people without beards so they don’t understand how inspirational having a beard is.

‘‘I don’t think we could ever stop writing about beards, we’re just so inspired by our own beards and by the increasing number of beards around us that we can’t help but write songs about beards.’’

Writing for the album has to fit in around general beard maintenance and care, which the frontman was busy doing when LIVE caught up with him before their trip to Port Macquarie’s Festival Of The Sun next month.

‘‘I’m just concentrating on my beard; I find that it grows better if I really concentrate on the growth process.’’

Just how long can he spend a day on the beard?

‘‘It’s probably a good two or three hours. A good hour and a half of that would just be stroking my beard and thinking good things about beards. And then there is a decent amount of time spent on grooming and combing.’’

Beardraven’s own journey with beards started early, following in his dad’s footsteps.

‘‘I was fortunate to have strong beard role models, my father had quite a good beard. While maybe I didn’t think about it directly, I kind of always knew I was going to have a good beard as soon as I could. ’’

He’s dabbled in the competitive side of beards, entering a goatee in the World Beard And Moustache Championships, but said he preferred a full beard (with a goatee, he could feel the cold Alaskan air on his face) and he would like to live in a world where bearded men didn’t compete with each other.

For those who haven’t yet grown a beard, Beardraven’s advice is simple.

‘‘You definitely should [grow a beard], but you should already have a beard, really. If you’re in any doubt, just listen to us and we are very convincing with our songs. We will make sure you grow a beard if you listen to our music.’’

But, thankfully, he does spare a thought for those of us who are unable to grow a beard.

‘‘We’d much rather look at a fake beard than a beardless face … we’ve had to soften our stance a little bit. We’re trying our best to accept everybody, but it’s not easy.’’

The Beards play at Festival Of The Sun alongside The Rubens, You Am I, Ash Grunwald (featuring Scott and Andy from The Living End), Kingswood, Stonefield, Spit Syndicate, The Basics, Glass Towers and Tigertown. Tickets are sold out.


Double Dribble: New York Knicks soap opera needs to keep main player, Carmelo Anthony

It’s a common misconception that the biggest drama in New York can be found on Broadway. The perennially under-achieving NBA team known as the Knickerbockers is far and away the most compelling story in the Big Apple.
Shanghai night field

Whether they’re enjoying one of their rare winning seasons (like last season) or losing in a haze of theatrics (their current campaign), the Knicks are kind of a big deal.

For long-suffering Knicks fans, last season’s trip to the second round of the post-season (after a harder-than-it-should-have-been series win over Boston) was their first playoff series triumph since the Patrick Ewing era.

Not good enough in New York. Nowhere near good enough.

This season’s campaign hinges on Carmelo Anthony. Last season’s scoring champion is the be-all and end-all of this team.

After starting the season with a 3-10 record, pressure is mounting on coach Mike Woodson (who took them to 54 victories last season) to turn the team’s fortunes around. The only saving grace has been cross-town rivals Brooklyn – despite splashing out unprecedented levels of cash on their roster in the off-season – also lost 10 of their first 13 before edging ahead of the Knicks after a 102-100 win against Toronto on Tuesday.

With defensive specialist Tyson Chandler sidelined with a leg injury, there’s not much else on this New York roster aside from Anthony that inspires confidence among the Knicks’ long-suffering fans.

They traded for much-maligned Toronto big man Andreas Bargnani in the off-season, giving up not much in return (streaky three-point marksman Steve Novak) and veteran centre Marcus Camby, who should have fitted in at the Raptors given he is officially prehistoric but ended up fossilising on the bench in Houston.

Bargnani is a former No.1 draft pick who is renowned for producing the occasional outstanding display among a steady stream of under-performance. The emotional Italian became the focal point of the Toronto fan base’s heavily built-up frustrations … and it affected his game.

So perhaps it wasn’t the best career move to come to New York, home of the most fickle and frustrated fans in the NBA, possibly world sport.

After being jeered early on, Bargnani has surprisingly not sulked and produced some good performances, but he is not Allen Iverson and he is definitely not The Answer.

Anthony is the only player on this roster with the wherewithal to carry such a heavy load.

Amare Stoudemire’s knees mean he is borderline useless, Metta World Peace is nothing more than a handy back-up these days, point guard Raymond Felton is rarely fit even when he’s not on the injured list and young swingman Iman Shumpert cannot feel comfortable when – as the only valuable asset in the Knicks’ locker room – he is constantly mentioned as trade bait, most recently in a deal that never materialised involving Denver forward Kenneth Faried.

Anthony had a reliable ally last season in sixth man of the year, J. R. Smith.

Never the most dependable of teammates, Smith has been in freefall since he was banned for a game midway through New York’s first-round playoff series against Boston for elbowing Jason Terry. He bombed in the second round against Indiana, was slapped with another suspension for drug use while he was injured in the off-season, which delayed his entry into the league this season and has been embroiled in Twitter dramas after lashing out at suggestions from Detroit guard Brandon Jennings that Smith’s brother, Chris, is only on the Knicks’ 15-man roster because of his older sibling. (Footnote: Smith’s brother, Chris, is only on the Knicks’ 15-man roster because of his older sibling.)

Off contract at season’s end, Anthony has already indicated he will wait to make a decision, testing his value on the open market in free agency before inking his next deal.

He faces a big decision. The Knicks will offer him megabucks, more than anyone else, but it may not be enough to keep him. If Anthony wants to be the alpha dog on a championship team, his next contract is his last chance to elevate his career above the likes of Iverson, Tracy McGrady, Dominique Wilkins and, at this stage, Kevin Durant to become a player who was not just a champion at scoring.

The good news for New York fans is Anthony is not another Allan Houston, Steve Francis, Latrell Sprewell, Stoudemire, or any of the other many high-priced players who have stunk up their roster on big dollars long past their use-by date. He’s still putting in and has a few valuable years left in him.

If he goes, then with the club having little salary cap space, little in the way of draft picks and probably a new coach coming in to start from scratch, Knicks fans could be looking at even more drama, another decade of mediocrity and no happy ending.

Taking it to the poll

Last week’s question about which import would dominate the NBL was led early on by Sam Young but after the Wildcats crushed the Kings, Perth’s James Ennis surged home to get 50% of the 486 votes, with Young second on 33%.

On the NBA side of things, there’s not much hope for the Knicks with 23% of the 571 votes for them finishing in the also-rans and 32% saying they’ll just miss the playoffs. A total of 35% said they’d make the playoffs and go no further with 3% saying they’d go deep and 7% believing they’ll go all the way. Unlikely.

TOPICS: Larger-than-life tale of Tinkler hits stores

IN a week Newcastle was called ‘‘bogan-like’’, the city’s airport helped launch Boganaire. Which isn’t a low-cost airline*.
Shanghai night field

Paddy Manning was signing copies of his biography of Nathan Tinkler, charting his trajectory from ‘‘pit leco’’ to mining oligarch to conspicuous absence.

‘‘Who’s the author?’’ a middle-aged couple whispered to each other, eyeing the airport display.

‘‘Me!’’ said Manning, brightly.

The former Fairfax journalist has never spoken to Tinkler, but told Topics he has cultivated a fondness for his subject.

‘‘I don’t feel like I know him, but I feel like I can see all the sides of him,’’ Manning said.

‘‘I laugh at his jokes, I’m amazed by what he’s achieved, appalled by his bullying.’’

As an observer, Manning is curious about Newcastle’s relationship with its former favourite son.

‘‘It’s still touchy, it’s still sensitive,’’ he said, of a common reluctance to speak about Tinkler on the record.

‘‘I don’t know how much is loyalty to him, or how much is fear of him.’’

Boganaire: The Rise and Fall of Nathan Tinkler retails for $30.

* Paddy Manning’s line, not ours.

Post goes the distance

MARGARET White, of Elermore Vale, is writing her Christmas cards, and Australia Post won’t be getting one.

They’ve jacked up the cost of mailing a card to the UK – by nearly 50per cent.

‘‘It’s now $2.55 to send a Christmas card to England,’’ reports Mrs White, a pensioner who writes to her son in London, her daughter in Kent and friends and family across the kingdom.

‘‘That’s gone up 85 cents from last year. Not the Christmas spirit, is it?’’

An Australia Post spokeswoman says it’s not all bad news on the pricing front. For instance, they used to charge a flat rate for all international greeting cards, no matter where they were sent.

‘‘The new pricing structure appropriately reflects the cost of delivery to overseas destinations – for example it is cheaper to send a greeting card to New Zealand than the United Kingdom,’’ said the spokeswoman.

So if you want to wish your Kiwi friends ‘‘meri kirihimete’’ this Christmas, great. You’ll save a few cents. As for the in-laws in Leeds, it might be time to Skype.

Toying with our hearts

THE Wrong Newcastle syndrome has struck again in the cruellest possible way – a false promise of Lego.

Topics lit up this week as a press release landed in our inbox, entitled ‘‘Lego store on the lookout for Newcastle’s biggest Lego fan’’

The store, said the email, would open in Gateshead on Friday. Strange place to put it, we thought, but OK. It continued: the child judged the biggest Lego fan in the North East would get to cut the ribbon and receive a Lego set valued at £79.99 …

Oh. We see what’s happened. The email was meant for media in Newcastle, England.

(Sometimes we wonder if the Newcastle Upon Tyne Journal gets emails from Fix Our City and Save Our Rail).

So we’re not getting a Lego store, but why should England’s industrial north have all the fun? Topics is sure the Hunter has its share of plastic brick fans.

What’s the best thing you’ve made from Lego (ours was a red Lego Technic racer, with spinning wheels, in 1991)? Email [email protected]爱上海同城论坛

MULTIFACETED: Paddy Manning says he can see all the sides of Nathan after writing Boganaire, a biography of the former tycoon.

Julie Bishop stands firm on remarks despite Chinese fury

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop says Australia is opposed to any ”coercive or unilateral actions to change the status quo in the East China Sea”.Federal politics: full coverageBishop summons China ambassador
Shanghai night field

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has refused to back down over comments to China regarding its newly declared air defence zone in the East China Sea, despite an angry response from the Chinese government.

And Treasurer Joe Hockey has supported his Coalition colleague saying she as doing ”exactly the right thing”.

The Chinese delivered an angry rebuke over “irresponsible remarks” made by Ms Bishop regarding its the East China Sea defence zone, in the latest diplomatic headache for the Abbott government in Asia.

The fall-out threatens to sour the mood for Ms Bishop’s imminent visit to China – her first as Foreign Minister – and comes as the Abbott government pushes aggressively to seal a much-vaunted free trade deal with its largest trading partner within a year.

On Thursday morning, Ms Bishop stood by her public criticism of China, denying she overstepped the mark.

”This is a matter of long-standing Australian policy, we’ve raised it before and the response from China was to be expected,” she told Sky News.

”Australia has a key stake in the region and we would oppose action by any side that we believe could add to the tensions or add to the risk of a miscalculation in disputed territorial zones in the region.”

Ms Bishop said she did not believe the comments would affect Australia’s hopes of securing a free trade agreement with China next year.

When asked by reporters in Sydney on Thursday, Mr Hockey said he was not concerned that China’s anger over the East China Sea issue could impede Australia-China free trade negotiations.

”From my perspective, Julie Bishop is doing exactly the right thing,” Mr Hockey said.

The Treasurer added that government was about making hard decisions and being ”honest and frank with each other”.

”The best friend you can have is an honest friend,” he said.

Ms Bishop had summoned Chinese ambassador Ma Zhaoxu on Monday to express the government’s concern over the new zone, which covers airspace over a string of uninhabited islands – known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan – at the centre of a longstanding territorial dispute between the two regional powers.

Echoing the sentiments of the Japanese and the United States, Ms Bishop said the timing and manner of China’s announcement was “unhelpful in light of current regional tensions, and will not contribute to regional stability”.

“Australia has made clear its opposition to any coercive or unilateral actions to change the status quo in the East China Sea,” she said on Tuesday.

But in a sternly worded statement on Wednesday, the Chinese foreign ministry warned Ms Bishop to ”correct” her characterisation of its new air defence zone or risk damaging bilateral ties.

“It is completely a mistake for Australia to make irresponsible remarks on China’s establishment of an air defence identification zone in the East China Sea, and the Chinese side will not accept it,” foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said. “China urges Australia to correct its mistake immediately to prevent damaging Sino-Australia relations.”

Mr Abbott’s public declaration last month that Japan was Australia’s “best friend” in Asia had already raised eyebrows in Beijing.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the government would not retreat from its stance despite the pressure from Beijing and said it was expected to be ”a topic of discussion in Ms Bishop’s upcoming visit”.

“The Australian government remains concerned that China’s sudden announcement of an air-defence identification zone over the East China Sea at this time could have potentially destabilising consequences for the region,” the spokesman said on Wednesday.

“Australia has critical interests at stake in ensuring the continued peace and stability of our region. It was natural that the Australian government should signal its concerns about the timing and manner of China’s announcement and to seek clarification.”

China established its new “air defence identification zone” on Saturday, requiring aircraft entering the zone to notify authorities in advance and maintain radio contact – or risk military intervention.

The move has been met with strong protests by Japan and the US. Both have ignored China’s claims to the airspace with Washington flying two unarmed warplanes through the zone in a planned training mission on Tuesday, and the Japanese government instructing its two largest airlines to ignore Beijing’s requests for flight plans and other information.

Wang Xiangsui, a retired colonel of the People’s Liberation Army, said Australia had offended China by taking sides with Japan.

“Australia says it is trying to become China’s strategic partner, but it doesn’t even consider respecting China’s security interests.”

Mr Abbott dismissed the suggestion that Australia’s recent comments would damage trade with China.

‘‘I expect China to be a strong and valuable economic partner of ours, because it is in China’s interest,’’ he said.

The Prime Minister also said that China would understand that Australia would ‘‘take a different position’’ on some issues.

On Thursday in Canberra, Prime Minister Tony Abbott backed Ms Bishop’s actions.

‘‘Where we think Australia’s values and interests have been compromised, I think it is important to speak our mind,’’ he said.

Mr Abbott said that Australia believed in freedom of navigation.

‘‘And I think there is a significant issue here. That’s why it was important to call in the Chinese ambassador.’’

Labor leader Bill Shorten would not provide a specific position on the East China Sea issue, when he was quizzed by reporters on Thursday.

“I’m not going to start throwing rocks from the sidelines,” he said, adding that it was a “complex” issue and was not a new dispute.

But Mr Shorten did tell reporters in Canberra that a number of “spot fires” had emerged on foreign policy under the Coalition government’s watch, which included the disputed islands as well as Indonesian relations.

“We just want the federal government to get it right.”

China’s announcement that it would establish a new air defence zone came just days after Ms Bishop signed a joint communique with the US in the annual Australia-US Ministerial Consultations in Washington opposing “unilateral or coercive change in the status quo” in the East China Sea.

It also follows a trilateral agreement signed with the US and Japan in Bali last month.

“It’s certainly a slap in the face for the diplomatic position that Australia, the US and Japan have been taking on this issue,” said Rory Medcalf, the director of the international security program at the Lowy Institute.

Kerry Brown, executive director of the University of Sydney’s China Studies Centre, said Ms Bishop was forced into siding with the US because of the long-standing alliance.

But he said the free trade talks were entrenched enough to remain unaffected by the diplomatic stoush.

‘‘This is a bit like a slanging match in a playground, where you have to stick with your friends even though you might not be too involved because of the need to demonstrate loyalty to them, rather than any direct interest,’’ Professor Brown said.

‘‘If Australia wavered on this one, they would irritate the US, but not really get very far with the Chinese, so I don’t think they have much choice.’’

With ambassador Frances Adamson out of the country, China on Wednesday hauled in Justin Hayhurst, the deputy head of mission at Australia’s Beijing embassy, to remonstrate.

OPINION: Coal seam gas water is helping farmers

WATER is a vital, precious resource across our dry continent. That’s why AGL Energy looks for ways to make productive use of water drawn from coal seams. This water, which is nothing more than old, salty water, needs to be released from deep coal seams to allow the gas to flow and is showing great promise in contributing to agriculture at Gloucester.
Shanghai night field

Seven months ago we embarked on an irrigation trial to blend this water with fresh water and use it to irrigate crops.

The results have exceeded our expectations, with more than six hectares of triticale – a winter wheat/rye crop – being harvested, and from that 65 tonnes sold to local farmers who needed livestock feed after a recent dry spell.

All farmers who bought the triticale were made fully aware this crop was irrigated with a blend of produced and fresh water (at a ratio of fresh to produced 3:1) yet it did not deter them in buying much-needed feed for their cattle.

In short, the crops are thriving. This clearly refutes recent reports of elevated salt loads causing irreparable damage. In fact, the salt readings are well within the regulatory requirements for the irrigation of these crops.

Further claims the trial could have a negative impact on the environment are not supported by the evidence, which shows no change in natural surface water or groundwater quality or water levels as a result of the current irrigation trial activities.

Soil testing also reveals no measurable salt accumulations to date in the shallow soil within the irrigation area.

At the main irrigation trial area, AGL is monitoring its produced water and blended water dams, has 16 soil sampling locations, 10 soil moisture meter locations, eight paired soil water locations, two catch dam locations, six shallow groundwater locations and four stream sites.

On a regional basis, AGL has installed more than 39 groundwater and nine surface water monitoring sites, is monitoring the network on a quarterly basis and has released more than 10 technical reports on the behaviour of the Gloucester Basin’s surface and groundwater systems.

In addition, AGL has an in-house team of water and environmental scientists who apply expert knowledge to all activities, and is funding a full-time water scientist at Gloucester Council.

We regularly update our website to ensure water and soil reports are available and hold community information sessions, as we did in Gloucester last week. We have a dedicated website and social media portal, Your Say AGL, where people who have questions or comments can let us know.

We have heard and understand the community’s concerns. Regular and thorough testing and studies are being done to ensure we know as much as possible about the areas we operate in. The irrigation trial is an example of the careful approach AGL is taking to protect water resources and the environment.

Working with the community, business and industry to ensure our operations are done without harm to human health or the environment is of utmost importance to us.

Mike Moraza is AGL’s group general manager for upstream gas.

Pope Francis lays down his blueprint for reformed church

Pope Francis has called for the Vatican to give up some of its power and control, and has attacked free-market capitalism as “a new tyranny”.
Shanghai night field

In his first major message since his election in March, Francis lays out his blueprint for the Catholic Church, which he wants to give a different impetus – less concerned with its own status, more compassionate and people-centred, merciful and braver in taking risks and making changes.

He pleads with politicians to fight poverty, urges rich people to share their wealth, and recognises that the Pope too must be open to change.

“Since I am called to put into practice what I ask of others, I too must think about a conversion of the papacy,” he says.

“It is my duty, as the Bishop of Rome, to be open to suggestions which can help make the exercise of my ministry more faithful.”

Most popes have been judged, in part, by how strongly they centralised power around themselves and exercised it. Francis’ vision statement, calling for radical renewal, reverses a trend of centuries. But it will take time to filter down to the faithful in the pews.

The US National Catholic Reporter called the document – Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel – his “I have a dream speech”, a reference to the groundbreaking speech by Martin Luther King 50 years ago.

Pope Francis too outlined a dream. “I dream of a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelisation of today’s world, rather than for her self-preservation.”

He has already advocated many of the changes proposed, including moving the Vatican from an attitude of power and control to one of a servant of the church, but this 48,000-word document lays out his plan.

It reflects his own practices, which gathered worldwide attention when he was elected Pope in March, when he rejected the papal palace for a small apartment, payed his own hotel bill and carried his own luggage.

As former Archbishop of Buenos Aries, Jorge Bergoglio also took public transport and did his own cooking.

Catholic reaction has been enthusiastic. New Canberra Archbishop Christopher Prowse said the document offered wisdom for believers other than Catholics.

“This is good for an Australian audience. We may tend to think we love God, but helping my neighbour? ‘I’ll find some time for that in the future’.”

Leading Catholic commentator Paul Collins said the document marked a profound shift in the church and would take time to filter down.

“There won’t be any change in church next Sunday,” he said. In the document, Francis was taking seriously the idea of collegiality, rather than the Pope answering every question.

Melbourne Jesuit Andy Hamilton said Catholics would find his message liberating, it would take them “out of the the straitjacket”.

The emphasis had moved to compassion from orthodoxy, he said, though the doctrines remained. “Now the challenge is still to move from rhetoric to enabling people.”.

In the document, Pope Francis says: “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”

Using the direct and personal language familiar from his sermons, Pope Francis seeks a “revolution of tenderness” through Christians opening their hearts to God’s unfailing love and forgiveness.

Materialism brings “desolation and anguish” from a “covetous heart, he says, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.”

Previous Posts