Barnaby Joyce leadership facing new threat

Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce.A DEFIANT Barnaby Joyce has downplayed the significance of an alleged ‘crisis meeting’ between state Nationals branches last night, with WA expressing concerns about his leadership of the rural based federal political party, which is facing unprecedented threat and fall-out.

Mr Joyce has taken a week of personal leave after the first fortnight of federal parliament sitting for 2018 exploded with revelations about his controversial affair with former staff member Vikki Campion who worked in his office while he served as Agriculture and Water Resources Minister, after the 2016 federal election.

Mr Joyce has been challenged and urged to explain the use of taxpayer funds in relation to Ms Campion’s time working in his office, and that of other party members – including the rate of payment relating to her change of roles after being shifted from his office – denying any wrongdoing

Some party sources have pointed to the Nationals having not challenged a sitting leader in about 100 years as justification for Mr Joyce’s continued leadership and apparent lack of an alternative, with deputy-leader Bridget McKenzie being in the Senate.

But a persistent stream of phone calls and emails sent to individual members, expressing concerns about the party’s current direction, is maintaining pressure behind the scenes which could sway the views of party members, on the leader’s future.

“He’s damaged goods,” one source said.

It’s understood leaders of the Nationals executive divisions from Queensland, NSW, Victoria and WA held an urgent phone hook last night in conjunction with the party’s federal executive, where recent matters were addressed.

Reports say the meeting provided feedback from grassroots members about the fallout of Mr Joyce’s recent affairs, as question marks hang over his ongoing leadership amid mounting calls for his resignation.

Nationals Federal Director Ben Hindmarsh was contacted for comment on the meeting and any outcomes – but did not respond before deadline.

However, Mr Joyce spoke to Fairfax Media yesterday saying it was the party’s federally elected members who chose the leader and not the executive branches and he was “not going anywhere”.

Mr Joyce said the phone hook-up on Monday night wasn’t an official meeting of the party’s executive committee and “the leader of the Nationals is decided by Nationals MPs”.

“I’ve been in heaps of fights in my political life, this is another one, in any person’s political career you aren’t created by the times in your favour, you’re tempered by the times of adversity,” he said.

“That’s how politics works – you rise to deal with it.

“I am humbled by the support in my electorate and in the community.

“People are starting to see this as a witch hunt.

“I’m not going anywhere, I never would.”

But sources within the WA Nationals have indicated serious discontent with Mr Joyce’s continued leadership, declaring conservative forces are already likely to face a significant hit at next year’s federal election, in that state.

However the effectiveness of any campaigning, to try to win Liberal held seats like O’Connor and Durack, or a Senate position, will “all but evaporate” if the federal leadership remains unchanged; given the party has suffered brand and credibility damage, in the wake of recent events, especially with female voters.

The WA Nationals and Liberals are separate parties in WA with no official agreement in place, allowing them to openly campaign against sitting members at elections.

That’s unlike the structure in Queensland where the two conservative parties are formally merged and the nomination of candidates to contest various seats is pre-determined to avoid any clash or dilution of resources.

NSW and Victoria have formal agreements in place where they negotiate various management terms, like the contests for various state and federal seats.

A similar practice is applied to the federal Coalition which allows the Nationals leader to become the Deputy Prime Minister in government and the number of elected members also determines the ministerial portfolio allocations.

The WA Nationals opened nominations for Durack and O’Connor yesterday with some speculation saying former state leader and one-time king-maker Brendon Grylls could be interested in making a political come-back and taking a tilt at Canberra, via next year’s federal poll.

But the WA Nationals hopes of defeating incumbent Liberals Rick Wilson, O’Connor and Melissa Price, Durack, may be hamstrung with Mr Joyce understood to have told them federal members won’t campaign for the party in WA as it would cause a backlash due to the federal Liberals saying they’ll n turn campaign against the Nationals, in their east coast seats.

Ahead of the federal Nationals meeting again in Canberra next Monday when Mr Joyce returns from leave and parliament reconvenes, media pressure continues to escalate around the leadership crisis.

While reports speculate and vary on whether Mr Joyce has the numbers needed in the party room to retain his leadership position, and subsequent Deputy Prime Minister and Transport and Infrastructure Minister roles, Nationals members were keeping their position and views tightly hidden.

Queensland Nationals MP Keith Pitt told ABC radio yesterday “The leadership of the Nationals party is a matter for the Nationals party room”.

“The leadership is the gift of the party room – and there is a party room meeting a week today in Canberra,” he said.

“The leadership of the Nationals party is a matter for the Nationals party room. The leadership is the gift of the party room. And there is a party room meeting a week today in Canberra.” @keithjpitt remained tight lipped this morning on #BarnabyJoyce. @[email protected]

— Eliza Goetze (@elizagoetze) February 19, 2018

NSW Nationals Riverina MP and Veteran Affairs Minister Michael McCormack has been widely tipped to become the party’s next leader and is understood to have fallen narrowly short of the numbers required to raise a spill motion on a vote to defeat Mr Joyce, when he took over from Warren Truss in 2016.

Speaking to Sky News yesterday, when asked about the latest Newspoll that said 65 per cent of voters think it’s time for Mr Joyce to step aside as Nationals Leader, Mr McCormack said, “we don’t decide our office-bearers by Newspolls”.

“The government doesn’t govern by Newspolls,” he said.

But he declined repeated opportunities to say whether Mr Joyce should step aside.

“I’m sure that members of the National Party are listening to our constituents, as we always are,” he said.

“I’m sure that we’re listening to our National Party branch members, as we always do.

“And certainly I know that the Nationals are focused on delivering.

“Barnaby is having a week off.

“I think it’s time that everybody took a deep breath and talked more about the things that matter and the things that matter to ns are jobs.”

Mr McCormack said Mr Joyce “has the support of the National Party and Barnaby Joyce is our leader”.

NSW Nationals Riverina MP and Veteran Affairs Minister Michael McCormack.

“Barnaby Joyce has done a very good job delivering for rural and regional ns,” he said.

“This has, sure, been unfortunate.

“This has, sure, been a distraction, but Barnaby Joyce is the leader, there is no spill, there is no vacancy at the moment and certainly Barnaby Joyce will continue to be the leader as long as he gets the support of the National Party room.

“Barnaby Joyce at the moment has the support of the National Party – that’s what matters.

“Barnaby Joyce has the support for us because he has delivered very, very well for rural and regional .”

Mr McCormack said there had been reporting about “so-called meetings” in ministerial offices between the member for Hinkler, Mr Pitt, the member for Mallee Andrew Broad and himself but “no such meetings have taken place”.

“In fact, the member for Mallee visited my office last week to talk about a veterans’ affairs matter and a regional development matter,” he said.

“Keith Pitt has not visited my office – repeat, not visited my office – whilst I have been the minister for veterans’ affairs and no such discussion about Barnaby Joyce has taken place in my office.

“That’s important.

“I also read, and it was repeated in many, many newspapers that there is a so-called WhatsApp group between Nationals pushing for change.

“Well, if there is, I am not part of it.”

“Barnaby Joyce is the leader of the party and…there is no challenge at the moment.”

“There are no secret meetings taking place.

“As far as I am aware, there are no clandestine WhatApps chat groups between National Party members.

“Of course I support Barnaby Joyce and if that is the takeaway from the interview, well it is a wrong take to make because of course, I support Barnaby Joyce.

“He is our leader, he has been a very good leader for the National Party – the National Party in government has delivered and has delivered the sorts of things that our people could have only dreamt of under a Labor government.”

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Oxfam charity ‘hid Haiti sex abuse crimes’

Oxfam has vowed to co-operate with any further investigations into sexual misconduct allegations.Oxfam hid information about sexual misconduct from authorities in Haiti, a senior official in the Caribbean nation says, and he vowed to launch a wide-reaching investigation into charities operating there.

Oxfam officials on Monday met Haiti’s planning and external cooperation minister, Aviol Fleurant, in Port-au-Prince to hand over a copy of a 2011 internal report which states that the British charity’s former Haiti country director had admitted to using prostitutes during a relief mission following a devastating earthquake that hit the Caribbean island nation in early 2010.

It was the first meeting between Oxfam, one of the world’s biggest disaster relief charities, and the government in Haiti since a recent Times of London report that said some of Oxfam’s staff paid for sex, triggering a scandal that has seriously damaged the charity’s reputation in the UK and abroad.

“What hurt me at the end of the meeting is that they admitted that Haitian authorities had, at no time, been informed by Oxfam about the commission of such crimes,” Fleurant told Reuters.

“According to the law, someone who is aware of the perpetration of a crime is obliged to alert the nearest authorities,” the minister said.

Prostitution is illegal in Haiti. The minister also said he was looking into reports, denied by Oxfam, that one of the women was under age.

Former Judge Claudy Gassant said that under Haitian law it could be considered illegal to not report a crime to relevant authorities.

After the meeting, Simon Ticehurst, Oxfam International’s director general for Latin America and the Caribbean, said he apologised to Haiti’s government and people for what happened, and said the organisation was willing to collaborate “as much as we can” in further investigations.

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Surfest: Lambton schoolgirl Madison Poole ready for test of nerves against world champion Tyler Wright

LAMBTON schoolgirl Madison Poole believes she surfs better when she’s nervous.

Madison Poole at the Surfest Pro Junior. Picture: Paul Danovaro

And the 17-year-old expects to be exactly that when she comes up against two-time defending world champion Tyler Wright at Surfest’sGrandstand Sports Clinic Women’s Pro this week.

Poole, who is inyear 11 St Francis Xavier’s College, gained a Surfest wildcard into the 6000-point World Surf League qualifying series contest and will meet the top seed and two others in heat one of round three.

The women’s competition got through just one heat of round one on Tuesday before dangerous conditions prompted the event to be put on hold until Wednesday.

Poole, ranked 185 on the QS, will have just her second start in a 6000-point contest when she surfs her home break against the world’s best.

“She’s one of my idols,” Poole said.“It will be exciting but I’ll be nervous, but it’s all experience.”

Watch Surfest live

She had a brief encounter with Wright at the n Boardriders Battle final at Newcastle on the weekend, surfing for Merewether Surfboard Club as their junior competitor against Culburra in round one of the teams section on Saturday.Merewether won the heat and Culburra were eliminated. However, Wright’s team got enough points in other events to make the grand final, which they won narrowly ahead of Merewether.

Madison Poole, front in the white shirt, in Merewether Surfboard Club’s squad after the n Boardriders Battle final at Newcastle on Sunday. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Juniors didn’t surf on Sunday because of rough conditions but Poole took positives away from the experience.

“I saw [Wright] there but I didn’t get to talk to her,” Poole said.“Our teams came up against each other and they beat us, but we still came second and that’s really good for Merewether. They’re such a good team to ride for.

“I surfed pretty well and everyone was happy because I did what they said to do, and that’s get in quickly, and that got them through.

“It was nerve-racking but that actually makes me surf better, when I’m nervous.

“Coming into Surfest, it gave me experience with all the pros around. But I’m very excited to come up against Tyler Wright and if someone in the heat has a shocker, then that helps me, but if I don’t get through, it’s all for experience anyway.”

As for potentially taking onbig swell this week, she said:“It doesn’t really bother me. When it comes to a comp you just have to deal with the conditions and you know water safety are going to be out there. But I’m pretty confident when it comes to that stuff.”


She’s a very powerful surfer and obviously a very, very good surfer as well,

She always the one at comps that blows everyone’sminds with how she surfs so strong, like a man,she’s powerfully built.

they were just saying good luck

just saying for experience and points

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A dam plan: Dungog residents prepare push for controversial Tillegra Dam proposal to be revisited

Rethink: Dungog man Michael Dowling is leading a campaign to have a new Dungog dam put back on the table. Picture: Lachlan LeemingA group of Dungog locals is planning to lobby the State government to revisit the controversial Tillegra Dam proposal, as a worsening drought grips the Hunter region.

Sixth-generation Dungog resident Michael Dowling is a key figure behind the push, saying that a lack of rain and the Lower Hunter’s booming population were his main motivators in dragging the divisive proposal back into the spotlight.

“Ever since that dam was knocked back, the town has been on a downward spiral,” Mr Dowling said.

Comment: Dammed if we do, damned if we don’t

“If we had the Tillegra Dam, you would have had business, development –it would have been a quantum leap forward for the shire.”

The dam was originally pitched in 2006 as a means of shoring up water security in the Lower Hunter and Central Coast.

The NSW Government had already spent $100m purchasing 6000 hectaresfor the sitewhen the plan was dumpedfollowingintense pressure from environmental groups, forcing the Keneally Labor Government to abandon the project in November 2010.

The land was sold off in five lots in 2015, with the State Government copping an expensive black eye in the form of a $50m loss.

However, Mr Dowling is confidentcircumstances have changed enough since then to warrant a rethink.

Abandoned: Mr Dowling with a map of the proposed dam boundary. The project was scrapped in 2010.

“A lot has changed in seven years –would they have envisaged a 5000 house development in Lochinvar?”

“We’ve got the population explosion around Maitland at a rate of knots and everyone needs water.”

Mr Dowling owns a parcel of land bordering on the proposed damwhere he runs a small number of cattle, goats and sheep.

He says he can empathise with those angered by the thought of losing their properties to a dam site, but the current “big dry” showed more water storage was a must.

“I know all to well the heritage values of farmers losing their properties, but if these dry spells continue every summer andwe don’t get rain soon, where are we going to be in three months time?” he said.

“I was speaking to my father this morning and hesaid it’s the driest (around Dungog)it has been since the early 1960s.

“We’ve got farmers spending $100,000 a month to feed livestock…how does someone keep up that sort of money?”

“From a community and shire perspective, this is what we’re crying out for.”

Mr Dowling at his Dungog store.

Mr Dowling has created a Facebook page, ‘We need water, we need Tillegra dam’, to further his cause.

He says feedback has been “overwhelmingly positive”.

“There’s so many people who have been converted saying, ‘jeez we needed that dam,’” he said.

The next step is to organise a committee which he says will formally approach the State government and Hunter Water regarding the dam.

“I see the need for water andI see the need to help the town,” he said.

“It’s all about getting a conversation going around it.The goal is to have people realise that water doesn’t just come out of the tap – we need to know where it comes from and look at where the future supplies are going to comefrom.”

Dam concept “outdated”, says Norman Unchanged: Dungog Mayor Tracy Norman says her personal opinion hasn’t changed a decade after the proposal was first put forward.

Dungog MayorTracy Norman’s personal opinion on the Tillegra Dam remains unchanged more than 10 years after the development was first floated.

Cr Norman was a key member of the No Tillegra Dam Group, which opposed the450 gigalitre dam planon environmental and social grounds throughout the proposal process.

She saidher opinion hadn’t changed in the years since then, callingconstruction of a dam in the region an“outdated concept”.

“My opinion is there are (water) technologies developingconstantly, so to put in something that’s such a stagnant thing doesn’t make sense to me,” Cr Norman said, emphasising that it was her own viewand not representative of the Dungog Council standpoint.

“Technology has moved forward from the idea of locking up a whole lot of pretty good land for a dam…once you do it, there’s no coming back from it,” she said.

Cr Norman snapped up a 1297 hectare (3200 acre) package from the proposed site when the land was sold off by Hunter Water in 2015.

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Travelling into the beating heart of Vietnam

A highlight of a north-west Vietnam visit … the market at Can Cau. Don’t let anybody — not even your most trusted bestie — tell you that the overnight trip from Hanoi through rugged, forested mountain country to the provincial city of Lao Cai, on Vietnam’s north-western border with China, is one of the great railway journeys of the world, even if you are riding in a carriage quite ludicrously named the Orient Express.

Firstly, the narrow bunk in the four-berth cabin really is only just comfortable enough to get some reasonable sleep, especially with the constant banging of the door — or was it the window or a shutter? — against the outside of the train as it lurched nearly 400 kilometres towards the station where a driver would meet us for the hour’s trip further into the mountains to our real destination … the town of Sapa.

Secondly, it is an overnight trip, after all, and it starts and finishes in darkness, so all you see are the burbs of Hanoi and a few ramshackle sidings. And no glasses of champagne or tinkling of the ivories here, though you can grab a cheap bowl of pho from one of the many hawkers plying the platforms before you steam out of Hanoi.

Sriking a deal … our Red Dao guide in some serious bargaining at Can Cau.

Also, a word of advice about Hanoi Station. Make sure that you have a guide who clearly understands which train and which carriage you’re in — and that they take you to that carriage, not just to the station. Finding your allocated cabin may require clambering over tracks and weaving around other trains.

But it’s a journey I’m very glad to have made, because it is the only realistic way for Western travellers to get to this quite remote, fascinating corner of the world, which seems occupied mostly by splendidly garbed tribal groups — Black Hmong, Red Dzao and Flower Hmong among them — driven out of China some 15-20 generations ago, and earnest young European backpackers off to do some serious trekking indeed.

Strangely, Sapa reminds me somewhat of the largish towns in the Yorkshire Dales and the English Lakes District — lots of shops selling walking boots, bars selling beer by the pint, and restaurants trading in all varieties of food.

Breathtaking … the view from the terraces at the Sunny Mountain Hotel.

Yes, it would be easy to dismiss Sapa as a touristic curiosity, but in ways that’s what it’s always been — a hill station established in the early 1920s by French colonials as relief from the stifling summer heat of the Vietnamese lowlands.

Our trip has been organised in Sydney through Selective Tours and the Sapa end certainly seems under control. The driver meets us very early in the morning just outside the station, exactly as arranged, in a large, very comfortable vehicle and the hotel in Sapa, the Sunny Mountain, is modern, clean and comfortable … and extremely well located, just an easy stroll from the town’s bustling restaurant and market district.

The rising sun has provided a glimpse of the mountainous topography and it’s confirmed by walking directly from the street into about the sixth floor of the hotel, with the lower floors cascading down the side of the hill.

The views from the restaurant and terrace, over the valley towards Fansipan Mountain, Vietnam’s highest, provide a spectacular backdrop to breakfast while our room is being prepared.

We spend our first day taking in the town, and taking it a bit easy, knowing that the following day will bring quite a bit more exercise as we head, mostly on foot, into the surrounding countryside.

There’s plenty to see and do. The clothing and handcraft stalls in the markets are run mostly by women from the ethnic hill tribe groups, mainly Hmong and Dzao of various colour persuasions — red, black, white, green/blue, largely dependent on predominant dress colours, but all culturally quite different and all magnificently dressed in intricately woven materials.

Stocking up … our driver for the Sapa adventure.

The walk around the Ho Sa Pa Lake is extremely pleasant and you readily see why the well-to-do — for that read merchants and Communist Party officials — choose to live on its banks.

And the Sapa Culture Museum is well worth an hour or two.

Restaurant-wise, there’s plenty of choice, but my advice is to stick with local fare, which is cheap, nutritious and mostly good. Straying into cuisines such as Italian — what were we thinking? — seems to bring nothing but disappointment and higher costs.

Wine, as everywhere in Vietnam, is problematic, despite the country’s strong French connection. But the beer — such as Hanoi and 333 (‘ba ba ba’) — is plentiful, cheap and eminently drinkable.

The young Red Dao woman who guided us on three wonderful days around Sapa.

Next morning we meet our guide, a young Red Dzao woman who married a few years ago, has a couple of young children and lives nearby with family. We head off with our driver, but soon it’s on foot, never alone, always accompanied by women and children keen to practise their English and, yes, hopeful of selling a few trinkets or getting a tip for their local knowledge.

But it isn’t a hassle, certainly nothing like in Beijing or Shanghai.

The countryside is an eye-opener. We’ve all seen the gorgeous photos of intricately terraced fields of rice ascending otherwise lush, green mountains, but it isn’t until you’re close up that you fully realise the work and skill that goes into growing and harvesting the daily meal.

And that’s essentially what it is in this part of the world. The north-western corner of Vietnam is a poor country. It’s a colder, less fertile spot than, for instance, the Mekong Delta a couple of thousand kilometres to the south, and can generally only yield one crop of rice a year, rather than the latter’s three.

That means there’s much less chance of a surplus to sell and a consequent way out of the subsistence cycle. And the work required is obviously much more strenuous.

We walk past many farms, stop and buy some exceptionally fine and colourful local weaving and have some delicious pho for lunch, with a can of Hanoi beer to wash away the dust.

Hard at work in the fields … north-west Vietnam is still largely based on subsistence agriculture.

Everywhere you go, they make the most of flat space, with rice being dried by the roadside, for instance. And everywhere you go, the emphasis placed on education is so very obvious. These people know that the future lies with the citizens of tomorrow.

A highlight of our stay in Sapa is a visit to the Can Cau Saturday market, a couple of hours by car along some dodgy roads but it’s well worth the excursion to wander around so many stalls selling such an incredible range of foodstuffs, clothing and tapestry-work.

Our guide haggles for some vegetables to take home. We mostly just soak up the atmosphere and are bewildered by such a frenetic scene.

Meanwhile, down the hill a bit, there’s a constant parade of livestock being sold, swapped or just admired.

And then it’s back to Lao Cai, where we have time to look at the bridge that constitutes the entry point to China, have a couple of dishes of noodles with pork and vegetables and have my shoes polished, before heading to the station for the overnight journey back to Hanoi.

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Suburb Profile: Merewether

RELAXED COASTAL LIVING: Merewether beach was recently named No.1 city beach in . The upgrade of Bathers Way pathway has seen increased foot traffic along the Merewether to Bar Beach stretch daily. SUBURB SNAPSHOTIf any suburb characterises the seachange, and the transformation of Newcastle, it is Merewether.

Once a working class, mining village, Merewether is now blue chip real estate and has become arguably the region’s most sought-after residential suburb.

It is located approximately three kilometres from Newcastle’s CBD and is bordered by pristine beaches, Bar Beach, The Junction, Adamstown and Merewether Heights.

According to n Property Monitors, Merewether experienced market growth of around 20 per cent in each of the past two years. The biggest sale for 2017 was $5.05 million.

LIFESTYLELocals have always known how good Merewether beach is and last month the secret well and truly got out after it had the honour of being named“best city beach” in .

Highly regarded schools, proximity to The Junction Shopping Village, cafes, restaurants and bars makes this laid-back suburb popular with a range of people.

FROM THE EXPERT-Presented by Matthew Waddell, general manager Robinson Property

Merewether is one of Newcastle’s most sought-after suburbs with something for everyone.

Renowned for the surf culture, Merewether has embraced this lifestyle with casual cafes, strip shops and a number of quality clubs and hotels to enjoy a meal and drink.

The ease of getting around Merewether, the many parks and proximity to shopping centres makes it great for families.

In 2017 house prices increased 20.5 per centto a median of $1.38 million while units increased 33.6 per cent to a median of $648,000.

Merewether property is always tightly held with a great deal of interest in all listings when they hit the market.

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Hamstrung Simon ruled out of Algarve Cup

Matilda Kyah Simon will miss the Algarve Cup because of a hamstring injury.The Matildas will contest the Algarve Cup without star forward Kyah Simon, who’s been ruled out with a hamstring injury sustained in the W-League grand final.

In a further blow to the Matildas’ attacking might at the invitational tournament in Portugal, scan results determined Simon faces a lay-off of about three weeks after being forced off the field an hour into Melbourne City’s 2-0 grand-final win over Sydney FC on Sunday.

It’s hoped the 26-year-old will be fit to re-join Alen Stajcic’s squad next month when they return to to ramp up preparations for April’s crucial Asian Cup in Jordan, which doubles as the 2019 World Cup qualifiers.

That will start with a training camp and friendly international against Thailand in Perth on March 26.

“That’s the silver lining in the situation, that it’s the Algarve Cup,” Simon said on Sunday.

“Obviously I want to play in it, but at the same time the biggest thing coming up is the Asian Cup and qualifiers.

“I was feeling really good but disappointed about another little injury.”

Simon joins fellow striker Caitlin Foord on the sidelines and neither will travel with the group on Tuesday evening, the latter ruled out for the next few months.

“We would love to have Kyah and Caitlin with us in Portugal, however it is in their best interests to remain in and continue their respective recoveries,” Stajcic said.

“We’ll have four games over just eight days in Portugal, so the tournament will provide a chance for all the players involved to impress as we move towards the AFC Women’s Asian Cup.”

Teenage Adelaide United midfielder Alex Chidiac will replace Simon in the final 22-player squad for the Algarve Cup, at which will face Norway, hosts Portugal and China PR from February 28.

First-choice goalkeeper Lydia Williams will also be on the plane, having escaped a grand-final collision with both Leena Khamis and Lisa De Vanna with a corked leg.

MATILDAS SQUAD: Lydia Williams, Caitlin Cooper, Hannah Brewer, Clare Polkinghorne, Laura Alleway, Chloe Logarzo, Steph Catley, Elise Kellond-Knight, Emily Condon, Emily van Egmond, Lisa De Vanna, Tameka Butt, Alanna Kennedy, Emily Gielnik, Hayley Raso, Alex Chidiac, Mackenzie Arnold, Katrina Gorry, Sam Kerr, Allie Carpenter, Larissa Crummer, Michelle Heyman.

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Hunter Valley Police District Commander Steve Clarke urges motorists to ‘slow down’

HUNTER Valley Police District Commander Steve Clarke has a simple message for motorists: slow down.

His plea comes after three tragic fatalities on our roads in the space of nine days this month.

On February 3, a man in his 40s died when his motorbike collided with two four-wheel-drives near Cressfield Road, Parkville.

Soon after, on February 6, a 36-year-old woman was killed on the Denman Road after crashing into a truck.

Most recently, on February 11, an accident north of Aberdeen claimed the life of another male.

That’s three too many, according to Commander Clarke.

“People need to be mindful of being tired [fatigue] and speeding,” he said.

“Those are big issues in this district – they’re both controllable variables, too.

“The day something happens that involves a loved one is when it really drives home just how significant those things are.

“We don’t want to leave those sorts of memories.”

Commander Clarke admitted the countless police campaigns and operations seemed to have had little impact on drivers – young and old.

“I honestly don’t think it’ssinking in,” he said.

“There are plenty of cops out there, however incidents are still happening.

“We get frustrated that people aren’t listening.

“And, it certainly appears as though the roads were not a contributing factor [in the February fatalities].

“But, we’re also extremely concerned drivers’ concentration is being side-tracked by mobile phones.

“You only have to read about what happened to that officer [Jonathan Wright] who was setting up an RBT in Sydney’s southwest at the weekend.

“That could have easily been avoided if someone followed the road rules.”

Commander Clarke said the newly-formed command would “press ahead” with its local strategies.

“I can’t implore people enough – if you’re speeding in a 100km zone, slow down, even if you know the road well,” he explained.

“It’s not worth it to get to your location five minutes earlier.

“The bottom line is: we simply don’t want to see more people die on our roads.”

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Bernadi’s Batman bid dismissed by Labor

Labor’s Anthony Albanese isn’t fazed by “minor party candidates” in the Batman by-election.Labor has dismissed the former SAS soldier running for the n Conservatives in the federal seat of Batman as a “minor party candidate”.

Kevin Bailey is standing against a political “drift to the left” in the March 17 by-election for the marginal, progressive inner-Melbourne seat which Labor is fighting to retain.

His nomination comes after the Liberal party confirmed it would not run a candidate, leaving the field open to Labor to try to hold the marginal seat against the n Greens.

“With your help, n Conservatives can stand strong in Batman and make sure our nation does not continue its drift to the Left,” Mr Bailey said in a statement released to party members.

Union boss Ged Kearney is Labor’s candidate, while the Greens have chosen Alex Bhathal for the contest sparked by the resignation of Labor’s David Feeney because of his dual citizenship.

Mr Feeney won Batman in 2016 in a tight contest against the Greens, on the back of Liberal preferences.

Ms Bhathal has unsuccessfully contested the seat in five elections.

Senior Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese visited the electorate on Tuesday and appeared unfazed by Mr Bailey’s tilt at the seat.

“There’s always going to be some minor party candidates in the election,” he told reporters.

“There’s no doubt in a by-election votes tend to spray around and minor parties will get votes.”

The n Conservatives are led by former Liberal Cory Bernardi, who remains a senator for South .

The party was set up in response to concerns amongst right-leaning Liberals the federal Liberal party was abandoning its conservative roots.

Party spokesman Lyle Shelton told members the fact that the Liberals aren’t running in Batman was “all the more reason for us to give the people of Batman the chance to send a message to Canberra”.

Mr Bailey was a SAS soldier before taking up a career as a financial planner and is a former Herald-Sun columnist.

Mr Albanese slammed the Liberal party for failing to field a Batman candidate.

“The Liberals in not running are showing their hand – I guess they’ve given up on being a government at the moment so I guess it’s consistent with that,” he said.

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Surfest: Kanoa Igarashi keen to start new era under Japan flag with turnaround at Merewether

KANOA Igarashi wants to put Asian, and not just Japanese, surfing on the map heading into the sport’s Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020.

DETERMINED: Japanese surfer Kanoa Igarashi gets some air time at Surfest in 2015. His best finish at the event was a round-four appearance in 2016. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

And he can’t think of a better wayto start than with a win at Merewether.

The 20-year-old from Huntington Beach, California, has changed allegiances this year from the country of his birth, America, to that of his parents’, Japan.

Surfest’s World Surf League 6000-point qualifying series contest, the Burton Automotive Pro, will be the first event Igarashi has surfed in under the Japanese flag.

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The world No.18 has been coming to Surfest since the age of 15, when he lost to local Jake Sylvester in the pro junior (under-21) decider.

Despite now entering his third season on the championship tour, Igarashi has never gone past round fourat Surfest, where he is the No.4 seed this year after the withdrawal of Owen Wright and Adrian Buchan.

Wright pulled out on Sunday because of a head wound and Buchan withdrew on Tuesday citing illness.

Igarashi was determined to succeed at Surfest, a carnival he said was a turning point in his young career.

“I want to win it more than ever,” Igarashi said.

“Iran second in the juniors the first year I was here.I had an amazing event and such a good time. It was one of my first pro juniors abroad and coming into it, I thought I’m going to be against some of the world’s best juniors because has so many amazing surfers.

“I was able to get to the final and that set me up for the rest of my career. I was able to tell myself, ‘Hey I can put up good scores in different oceans’. It’s been a long time since then and I feel like I really want to win one.

BACK: Kanoa Igarashi at a Surfest press call on Monday. Picture: Paul Danovaro

“I’ve had really bad results here, but that puts more wood in the fire and hopefully this is the year.”

A bigger goal is flying the flag for Japan on the CT and at the Olympic Games. Although born and raised in the US, Igarashi has long been a prominent figure in Japan as their only link to the elite tour. He has his own TV show in Japan, which has followed him around the world since his early teens.

“It’s a really huge step for surfing,” he said of Tokyo 2020.“It’s getting bigger there. It’s nothing like , America, Brazil, but Brazil 10 years ago, it was tiny and now it’s not as big as football but it’s getting there and I think that’s going to happen in Japan too.

“I look at Brazil and the way they grew.They had surfers on tour, people representing them. They hadsomeone to root for. Then they became world champions.

OUT: Avoca star Adrian Buchan pulled out of Surfest on Tuesday. Picture: WSL

“I feel like in Japan, surfing hassuchgreat potential to be developed into a big sport but it’s just missing that Japanese flavour on the world tour, and I just really want to help there.

“And not just in Japan, but Asia in general. There’s a lot of aspiring pro surfers and to have someone they can relate to and look up to, and put Asia on the map, that’s what I want to do.”

Igarashi starts in heat 17 of round two against local hope Ryan Callinan and BraziliansLucas Silveira andRobson Santos.

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