Monthly Archives: September 2018

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Stephen Larkham says Eddie Jones’ mind games are nothing new and won’t affect Wallabies

London: Wallabies assistant coach Stephen Larkham says Eddie Jones’ verbal barbs were always to be expected but insists Australia don’t care about what England’s boss says in the lead up to their final match of the year on Saturday.

Jones got on the front foot immediately after England’s win over Argentina by questioning Australia’s scrummaging technique and said he wanted to have a meeting with referee Jaco Peyper to discuss some “issues”.

According to Larkham, if Jones thinks he is being original or successful in winding the Australians up, tell him he’s dreaming.

“There was always going to be some mind games played in these weeks,” Larkham said. “It’s just a tactic to distract the opposition. It’s not something new to us. We’ve had coaches throughout this year – last couple of years – who use that sort of tactic going into games. All the players are very conscious of how the media works and some of the tactics of opposition coaches.

“We’re not really focused on external influences, we’re just focused on getting our preparation right and putting a good performance on the paddock this weekend.”

While it appears certain England will have a conversation with Peyper before the match, it is not clear yet whether the Australians will follow suit and join in on the same conversation.

“We met with the referees in June with some of the England staff present and we’ll make a decision later in the week as to whether we do that again or not,” Larkham said.

Michael Cheika said earlier this week it was ironic Jones had demanded a meeting given it was he who stormed out of a similar catch-up when he was last in Australia.

Larkham was at that meeting in June and shed some light on what exactly went on.

“That was an enjoyable meeting,” said Larkham with a smile on his face. “He didn’t storm out, he just left the meeting. We had a good conversation with the referee both before that and after that but I guess Eddie wasn’t happy with the way the meeting was going. You’d have to ask him.”

Larkham, who played under Jones for the Wallabies, says Australia were “embarrassed” after being whitewashed by England in June and indicated it would take a while to get over that series no matter what happens at Twickenham in a few days time.

“It [a win on Saturday] is a small way to rectifying it,” Larkham said. “When you lose in your home country 3-0 in a series … we were pretty embarrassed by it. But we’ve certainly moved on from it. A lot of the players who played in that series aren’t here with us now. The combinations and motivations in this group is far different to back then. You never want to look back too much but it would be nice to start to rectify what happened there, but you are never going to rectify it.

“We obviously had a bit of pressure placed on us in terms of the grand slam. We’ve lost that opportunity now and at the start of the spring tour it was always about the next game and it’s no different this week.”

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AFL rule changes: Is tinkering enough to do the trick?

The reigning premiers: the perfect example of how the game continues to evolve. Photo: Joe ArmaoWhat do we want AFL football to look like? It’s a question pondered almost annually now during the off-season and one being debated again at the moment.

AFL coaches mulled the various possibilities with league football department bosses prior to last Friday’s national draft, with the usual range of opinions on different laws of the game. There will be further consultation, with players also, before next season.

The takeaways to date haven’t necessarily been of enormous consequence, which, depending on your view of how the game is played these days, could either be good or bad.

There’s been talk around tightening further the interpretation of the free kick for a deliberate rushed behind, of which five were paid last season compared to only one the year before.

“One of the things we talked about was if you take clean possession and then have clean disposal over the line, we think you have had an opportunity to do something else and that will just be a clear deliberate,” AFL football operations manager Mark Evans told 3AW.

That will bring the rule more into line with the tighter interpretation of deliberate out-of-bounds, which worked well in 2016 and looks set to be enshrined in the laws of the game again.

Only logical, really. Why should the same intent be treated so differently dependent upon the width of a point post?

The third man up in ruck contests continues to be a topic of some debate, mainly because statistics show that around 13 per cent of stoppages over the last two seasons have been contested by a third de-facto ruckman, a big increase from the previous eight per cent.

Some coaches believe the tactic helps clear congestion, despite no apparent link between hit-outs to advantage and clearances. Others aren’t so fussed by the prospect of a rule outlawing it.

Such ambivalence, if you’re taking the glass half-full approach, suggests that there’s not much about the game that needs fixing. A more pessimistic view might be that the game we have these days is beyond changing with mere rule tweaks.

And does that word congestion remain the elephant in the room in all the talk about rule changes?

There certainly doesn’t seem to have been quite as much hand-wringing about all the clutter around stoppages these last couple of seasons. Why not? Well, football evolutionists would argue that the game has once again adapted, the reigning premier the perfect example.

Quick hands were a tremendous asset to the Western Bulldogs in 2016, Luke Beveridge’s side No.1 in the competition for handball in a season in which the average of more than 170 per team per game was the second highest ever recorded.

The Bulldogs mastered inventive handball, over heads, behind backs, around corners. And their ranking of No. 2 for inside 50 entries suggests it was an effective weapon indeed in getting through the heavy traffic. Expect other teams to follow suit next year.

It’s great to watch in its own way. But if we really want to preserve the “foot” in the football, a kick-to-handball ratio of just 1.21 this season, the second-lowest on record, should be the catalyst for a lot more thinking yet.

That and the fact that the most recent rule tweaks haven’t really done much at all to clear the clutter, nor lift scoring rates.

Interchanges have been reduced via the cap on rotations from an average of 133 per game in 2013 to only 95.5 this year. The tighter calls on deliberate out of bounds and the new 10-metre protected area around the mark have forced more corridor play, with markedly fewer throw-ins in 2016.

Yet last season also saw teams average 142.6 contested possessions per game, the most for five years and the second-most ever. They also laid an average of just on 70 tackles per game, the highest number on record.

And for all the fidgeting with the rules, scoring has barely changed for three seasons now, up by just two points per team on 2015, the last three years the lowest average scores the game has known since 1968, just before introduction of a free kick for out-of-bounds on-the-full.

No-one who watched AFL football this year, particularly the Bulldogs, only the 12th highest scoring team in the competition, can say the game is anything like unwatchable. But it’s just as hard to argue it resembles anything like it did even 20 years ago.

It means that beyond whatever fiddling with interpretations and rules go on this summer, the AFL will have to decide something more fundamental to the longer-term picture. Do we prefer how the game is played today, or how it used be played?

If the answer is the former, no problem. If it’s the latter, we’re going to require more radical solutions than we’re currently discussing.

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Public servant super laws passed overnight

The Queensland government has passed laws that will change how some public servants’ superannuation is calculated.The LNP opposition has accused the government of rushing through laws to get its hands on public servants’ superannuation.

About 2.30am on Thursday, the government passed its Revenue and Other Legislation Amendment Bill.

Shadow Treasurer Scott Emerson said the changes could leave a public servant with more than 30 years’ service $210,000 worse off.

“These changes will leave core public servants like teachers, police and nurses tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket,” Mr Emerson said.

“In some cases this will cost public servants hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

He accused the government of rushing through the laws late at night.

“(Treasurer Curtis Pitt) was caught trying to sneak through a change that could leave some public servants hundreds of thousands of dollars worse off,” Mr Emerson said during the debate.

“We are seeing this Treasurer raiding public servants’ superannuation.”

The largely procedural bill includes a change to the State Public Sector (Superannuation) Act, which gives a government superannuation officer the power to change the multiple that dictates how much money an eligible worker receives from the fund when they go to cash out upon retirement.

The bill previously would have given the treasurer of the day the powers – but Mr Pitt introduced an amendment to that aspect overnight.

Currently, the formula is roughly the final salary of the worker multiplied by the multiple, which increases depending on the number of years of service – an increase in salary has an “immediate” increase in the accrued benefit for scheme members.

Workers eligible for the scheme could negotiate to use allowances to increase their overall salary; for example, a public servant with a base wage of $90,000 could negotiate to include $30,000 in allowances in their take home pay, bumping their salary to $120,000.

Under the changes, workers can no longer have their negotiated allowance payments count towards their overall pay, which lowers the multiple used.

Mr Pitt said the bill formalised the “existing administrative process to manage unfunded windfall benefit gains resulting from artificial salary increases”.

“This amendment applies only to employees with defined benefit accounts,” Mr Pitt said.

“There is no effect on the benefits accrued before the artificial increase in salary and there is no change to the treatment of normal salary growth, promotions or existing allowances.”

Mr Pitt said if an employee believed a decision to adjust their multiple was an inappropriate application of the law, they could appeal under the Judicial Review Act.

He said the bill was no secret and accused the LNP of scaremongering.

“Sometimes an employee’s permanent salary is increased artificially – for instance, because irregularly paid amounts such as loading are included,” Mr Pitt said.

“This creates an immediate increase in the employee’s defined benefits entitlement.

“While there is an immediate increase for those employees with a defined benefit account, those other employees with an accumulation account receive no such increase.

“That is not fair … It is about making sure that co-workers who sit next to each other are treated in the same and equitable way.”

The LNP did not oppose the bill, but opposed clause 68, which addressed the ability to change multiples.

The bill also allows state government and council workers to choose their own superannuation fund.

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Australia-first strategy to tackle sexual health revealed

Queensland’s Australia-first sexual health strategy has been revealed. Photo: Robert BanksQueensland’s sexual health strategy will expand implementation of the Australian curriculum for students from Prep to Year 10 to promote sexual and reproductive health education.

Health Minister Cameron Dick launched the Queensland Sexual Health Strategy 2016-2021 on Thursday, also World AIDS Day.

The strategy, an Australian first, will target syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

One of the strategic directions and priority actions is: “Expand implementation of the Australian curriculum, health and physical education – relationships and sexuality education for students in Years P-10 to promote optimal sexual and reproductive health, minimise harm, reduce stigma and discrimination and highlight the importance of respectful relationships and violence prevention.”

It will also expand current relationships and sexuality education to extend to students in Years 11 and 12 in Queensland schools.

The strategy says school-based education programs for children and young people are a critical starting point for promoting positive sexual health outcomes, minimising harm and reducing stigma and discrimination.

It outlines the Australian curriculum and initiatives such as the Daniel Morcombe Foundation’s Keeping Kids Safe curriculum are available.

“Furthermore, a range of programs are available to Queensland schools that aim to strengthen the sexual and reproductive health knowledge of children and adolescents, incorporating key messages such as promoting positive, healthy relationships, STI prevention, pregnancy and general anatomical functions,” it reads.

The government has committed $5.27 million over four years to support the implementation of key actions within the strategy.

This includes improving community awareness of sexual health, improving education and support for children and young people, better responding to the needs of specific groups and improving the health system’s delivery of sexual health services.

“We are committed to creating a Queensland where good health outcomes are shared equally across population groups,” Mr Dick said.

“While there have never been more ways to reduce the transmission of HIV, there is room for improvement – that’s why this strategy promotes screening, testing and immunisation, as well as improving the links between health care providers, non-government organisations and community groups.”

In September 2015, Mr Dick announced Queensland would become the first state in the nation to develop a sexual health strategy, as it works towards eliminating HIV diagnoses by 2020.

The strategy’s priorities include providing people with information about sexual health, assault, child sexual abuse and enhancing community awareness and understanding of gender identity and intersex variations.

It will also enhance sexual and reproductive health needs of older Queenslanders and develop health promotion messages to address the interaction between alcohol and drug use and risky behaviours relating to the transmission of STIs, HIV and hepatitis.

Another aim is to enhance the knowledge of parents and carers about the benefits of protective behaviours education for young children, enhancing access to information for sex workers and supporting LGBTIQ people.

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Police confident of identifying bones found in yard

Police inspect human remains found at a Brisbane property. Photo: 7 News Brisbane/TwitterPolice are confident they will be able to identify the skeletal remains of a male found in an underground pit at a property in Brisbane’s north on Tuesday.

More than 90 per cent of the skeletal remains have been identified and transferred to the John Tonge Centre for forensic examination after they were discovered at an Autism Queensland site in Brighton on Tuesday.

Acting Superintendent Mick O’Dowd said the discovery was made during plumbing inspections at a detached house, used as an administration centre, at the rear of the property.

“When they lifted the lid to inspect the water pit at the rear of the centre, a body of a deceased person was found inside,” he said.

Police were treating the discovery as a homicide at this stage.

“There were some indications that were a bit unusual from inside the pit when we took the lid off so we just have to work through that and that is our avenue of investigation at the moment,” Acting Superintendent O’Dowd said.

“We are treating it as a homicide at this stage.”

Acting Superintendent O’Dowd said it was likely the bones were of somebody who had been dead for about 30 years, which would make it “difficult and time consuming” to examine the DNA, however he was confident the man’s identity would be uncovered.

“We are confident we can positively identify (the person), as you can understand it will take some time,” he said.

“There will be an examination (of the skeletal remains) tomorrow and then it will possibly take weeks or months after that to acquire DNA and examine it.”

A single running shoe was also found alongside the remains, Acting Superintendent O’Dowd said.

“There was very little clothing inside and it was quite weathered, there was a shoe and not a lot else,” he said.

Acting Superintendent O’Dowd said the North Road property was privately owned before it was bought by Autism Queensland 30 years ago.

“We are trying to locate those people (previous owners) but we think they may have deceased,” he said.

Only a “handful” of missing persons cases have been identified from that time period and Acting Superintendent O’Dowd said it was now the case of finding the family of those who went missing.

“We have got some Crime Stoppers information recently in the last couple of days and that has been of great assistance to us,” Acting Superintendent O’Dowd said.

“It is only a small amount of people that we are looking at at the moment.

“Because the passage of time, some of the members of the family would be quite elderly now, we have to search through births, deaths and marriages to confirm some of those relations, to see if those people are still alive or if they have moved to a different area.”

Anyone with any information ha been urged to contact Crime Stoppers.

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