Monthly Archives: March 2019

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Positive manner proves a boon for O’hAilpin

SETANTA O’hAilpin knew he was in trouble the moment he came to earth and heard a massive crack in his knee.
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The Bankstown-born Irishman, playing his first game for Greater Western Sydney against his old club, had been in a ruck contest with Carlton’s Matthew Kreuzer but a tangle of legs knocked him off balance in mid-air.

Unfortunately for O’hAilpin, his left knee was not braced to cope with the pressure of his 105-kilogram frame and it buckled on landing, badly damaging his anterior cruciate ligament – and sparking fears for his career.

”At 29, doing my ACL and being out of contract, they’re the things that go through your head,” O’hAilpin said as he prepares to make his comeback this weekend against Sydney and Carlton.

Those fears were allayed by a chat with Giants football manager Graeme Allan, who reassured O’hAilpin he had not reached the end of the road.

That O’hAilpin, a fringe player for much of his eight years and 80-game career with the Blues, has been given another one-year deal by the Giants is testament to the big man’s character.

Despite his dire circumstances, O’hAilpin refused to spend the rest of the season wallowing in self-pity. Not only did he throw himself into a rigorous rehabilitation program, but wanted to do everything in his power to support his young teammates, many of whom were in their debut season.

”I couldn’t change what had been done,” O’hAilpin said. ”It would have been selfish for me to put my head down and worry about myself. These kids, it was their first season and getting around them as much as I could was vital.”

So he worked with the Giants’ reserves side, pushed his teammates in the gym and even hit the road with Kevin Sheedy as the master coach spruiked the club around the state.

”It’s easy to do your weights and rehab and stay in the gym all year round, but when you’re out there you get a fresh lease of life,” O’hAilpin said.

He has recently been appointed an AFL multicultural ambassador, which involves visits to schools, community football clubs and government and multicultural organisations.

It has given O’hAilpin another reminder of how privileged he is to be involved in professional sport – a message his mother has constantly drummed into him.

”You get caught up in football but outside there’s a real world and you see how real people live,” O’hAilpin says.

Back in Ireland, which O’hAilpin still calls home, many of his friends have been hit hard by the global financial crisis. He has mates who have lost their jobs and been forced to move back in with their parents.

”You hear stories about jobs being cut and it’s really tough,” O’hAilpin says.

”I really feel for them. If I hadn’t had this opportunity, I’d be in the same boat as them.

”My mum always told me sport is something you dream of doing … but you have to understand it will come to an end.

”I’m a firm believer of respecting and being humble to everyone because no matter what you do in life, we’re all the same.

”No matter if I’m a footballer, you’re a builder or a plumber, we’re all the same.

”One minute you can be a footballer and next minute you can be delisted and not have a job.”

That could have been O’hAilpin’s plight this year had the Giants not recognised his value to their young list.

”Sure there were times he was beating himself up at home but the way he came to the club with the energy and excitement, it showed to our young kids you can have the worst day in the world but you still have to do the job,” says Giants welfare manager Craig Lambert. ”He’s such a caring person, he makes you a better club before he even plays.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Swan scooped up RBA’s $500m to shore up budget

TREASURER Wayne Swan defied objections from the Reserve Bank governor and siphoned half the central bank’s profits into the Budget bottom line to fulfil his political commitment to achieve a surplus.
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The Reserve Bank governor, Glenn Stevens, told a parliamentary inquiry that he wrote to Mr Swan, asking him to direct all of the bank’s $1 billion 2011-12 profit to its critically short reserve fund, needed to absorb changes in the value of the bank’s foreign currency holdings. Normally worth around $6 billion, the fund had dwindled to $2 billion.

”It’s a key part of our capital. It has been depleted considerably by the effects of the rising exchange rate,” Mr Stevens told the inquiry. ”I believe the prudent course is to rebuild it as quickly as we can but I am not subject to the other pressures that the government is.”

Mr Swan denied the request, and insisted on taking half the profit as a dividend to help achieve his promise of a budget surplus this financial year.

That promise has since been dumped, leading to the opposition mounting a sustained attack on the government’s fiscal credibility.

”In the end it was his prerogative,” Mr Stevens said. ”He made a judgment, and I had to accept that judgment.”

The federal government has come under fire for its management of the budget amid revelations the mining tax has so far raised only a fraction of the predicted $2 billion in revenue this year.

As revealed by Fairfax Media, the government was also warned by the Industry Department and the Tax Office that its $1 billion predicted saving from slashing the research and development concession for large corporations was also dubious.

Even so, the governor backed Mr Swan’s decision to walk away from the commitment on the budget surplus, saying if the Treasurer had persisted he could have damaged the economy.

”I think the surplus was always going to be hard to achieve this year,” he said.

”You could imagine a world where the intention to achieve a surplus led to further cuts in spending and increases in taxes in the next few months. That would have hurt the economy. There would have been nothing we could do with interest rates to offset that in the short term.

”We would have ended up with a weaker economy.”

Mr Stevens doubted that the Prime Minister’s decision to call the election early had done any economic damage, saying such claims were rarely backed by evidence. If needed, he would move interest rates during the campaign without regard for the consequences, as in 2007.

Mr Stevens told the inquiry the next move in interest rates was far more likely to be down than up, but said he wasn’t in a hurry. ”There is a good deal of interest rate stimulus in the pipeline. It is having an effect. Housing prices have been rising since last May. Share prices have also risen quite significantly, and if anything by a little more than in comparable markets overseas.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

National school reform in tatters

VICTORIA has torpedoed the Gillard government’s school reforms, announcing plans to introduce its own plan for education funding amid fears the Commonwealth proposal would leave many Victorian schools significantly worse off.
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The federal government has said states would receive no extra funding if they refused to sign up to the federal plan, warning Victoria would miss out on $1.2 billion over five years.

But the Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu, says there was a better way to improve his state’s schools in line with the principles of the Gonski review.

Despite Ms Gillard’s repeated pledge that no school would lose a dollar under the Commonwealth’s proposals, Mr Baillieu said some schools would lose their anticipated funding over the next decade and many schools would receive less generous indexation.

”More concerning, the Commonwealth government has linked increases to funding with greater intervention in the decision making of schools and school systems, stifling schools’ ability to respond to parents, communities and local school system leaders.

”This one-size-fits-all approach to funding and standards poses a significant risk to the achievements of, and ongoing improvements to, the Victorian school system.”

So far the NSW government has maintained in-principle support for the reforms, but has repeatedly expressed frustration that a funding model has not yet been finalised. ”NSW remains committed to the Gonski principles but we are still waiting on details and an offer from the Commonwealth,” a spokesman said.

The Association for Independent Schools of NSW this week said 40 per cent of independent schools in NSW would be worse off under the most recently discussed model, while others would gain significantly. It threatened to start briefing schools on confidential discussions if a model was not made public soon.

The consequences of opting out of the federal model were formally presented to state ministers at a meeting on February 1. They were warned they would receive no additional funding, that National Partnerships’ money was not guaranteed and that they should expect a lower rate of Average Government School Recurrent Costs.

Victoria plans to phase in its own new model from next year, which it says is consistent with the Gonski recommendations that funding should be needs-based.

The model includes extra funding for disadvantaged students – similar to a voucher system – where the money follows the student to whatever school they choose to attend, regardless of whether public or private.

The Victorian government has suggested the other states and territories could adopt a similar approach, with specific funding reforms to target their areas of greatest need.

The Victorian government intends to put its alternative model, which would cost an extra $400 million a year to implement, to Ms Gillard before the Council of Australian Governments meeting in April.

The announcement comes as Ms Gillard told the Australian Education Union’s national conference on Friday that ”the big test” for the biggest reform to schools’ policy in 40 years would come at April’s COAG meeting.

”I hope the premiers will rise to the challenge,” she said. ”I can say we are much closer to the end than the beginning. In fact, we’re at the pointy end.”

Under the Commonwealth ‘s proposed reforms every student would be allocated a base level of funding – known as the Schooling Resource Standard – with additional loadings for indigenous students, students with a disability and those from poor backgrounds or with limited English skills.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Kevin 13?

THE problem with this story is no one knows how it ends. Not the protagonists, who are still writing it. Not the pundits, stenographers to a car crash. Will Kevin Rudd come back to the Labor leadership? Will Julia Gillard – the toughest cookie we’ve possibly ever seen in The Lodge – see the threat off once again?
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In times such as this, where anything could happen, it’s best to stick with some knowns. What can we say of the present? Internal trust and cohesion in the government is badly fractured, if not broken.

Proponents and opponents of change are briefing against one another apparently without restraint. Someone this week thought it reasonable to leak against the $1 billion industry plan that was meant to be a building block of recovery ahead of the election campaign – a potent signifier of the extent of the current dysfunction, if one was necessary.

The media cycle is thundering out of control. Labor must not only manage the complex truths associated with the difficulties in which it finds itself but also manage the perceptions of the current state of play; some wild and blatantly mischievous, some devastatingly accurate.

”Ruddmentum” appeared unstoppable at the start of the week, an inelegant, squalling panic prompted by a bad Nielsen poll, which exploded into the news cycle. Timing was everything. The bad poll was only the sum of recent parts: the scrappy opening to the political year, the underwhelming performance of the mining tax, which served to reinforce perceptions that Labor can’t manage the economy despite strong fundamentals. But it dropped like a portent of looming, irrevocable disaster.

By week’s end, cabinet figures had rallied to balance not only the public messages, but the internal sentiment. Camp Kevin yanked its head in, concerned about the consequences of too much undirected chatter too soon. The Labor ship was drifting in a sea of irresolution, but not listing quite so violently.

Yet the central problem persists. What to do, whether there is anything to do, and if there’s something to do, how and when to do it? There are also deeper questions to be considered, and these are sometimes overlooked in the rush to parse who said what on The Project. Principally the question is: what are the consequences of acting versus not acting? This is a question the party comprehensively failed to ask itself in the June 2010 leadership coup. It has paid the price ever since.

Given his enduring popularity, his strengths as a performer on new and old media, his power and potential potency as a circuit-breaker, the logic of a return to Kevin Rudd seems unassailable, until you imagine what is actually required to execute it, and the ultimate consequences for Labor if peace can’t be declared, finally, once and for all; if leadership change became just another stuff-up.

A GRAND bargain. That’s the scale of ambition in the most considered quarters of Camp Kevin. Not simply cosmetic change – a new figurehead presiding over the old, riven fundamentals – but a game change.

The game-change scenario is a co-ordinated move against Gillard at the cabinet level: a majority of Gillard backers, not just the oft-mentioned Bill Shorten, switching camps and being prepared to make the shift decisive. By that they mean the obvious: Julia Gillard goes and really goes, agreeing not to recontest at the election; and Wayne Swan too.

”The consequences are there. Julia can’t stay. Wayne can’t stay,” insists one Rudd man. Labor would also likely lose its Senate leader: it’s hard to imagine Communications Minister Stephen Conroy serving in a Rudd ministry, given the extent of their mutual antipathy. Possibly there would be other departures, and, of course, elevations. Chris Bowen is said to have been promised Treasury if Rudd returns. Presumably the new-broom philosophy would be applied liberally.

The point of this transaction is drawing the line. Someone wins and someone loses, and agrees they’ve lost. The situation since the last leadership battle has been irresolution and cycles of retribution, some of them petty, some spectacular. The two combatants have remained on their feet, and like that quaint yet powerful Harry Potter scenario, neither truly lives while the other survives.

But the idea of Gillard and Swan departing the field for Rudd is, to put it mildly, hard to get your head around. A third candidate maybe, but Kevin? Colleagues close to both laugh at the prospect. Talk is swirling at the moment of a deal to accommodate the two. Without concrete details, it’s hard to assess how serious or viable that proposition actually is.

Colleagues close to Gillard and Swan insist the current talk of accommodation is deliberate, dastardly misinformation. As one person puts it: ”People don’t ride off into the sunset here while the knight rides on. That’s not how this happens.”

Gillard supporters also insist the current activity is centred on building a credible illusion of momentum both with the media, which plays along in brainless hourly blips in order to feed the insatiable 24/7 beast that prioritises immediacy and ”newness” over the coherence of the story, and to create panic in the caucus. One Gillard loyalist declares proponents of the Rudd comeback are ”constantly on the phone stampeding people, telling lies to create panic”. Left unsaid in the critique is the obvious: the nasty habit of panic becoming self-fulfilling.

People on both sides of the Gillard/Rudd conundrum can agree at least conceptually that a shoulder tap followed by the dignified exit could be a mechanism to make leadership change a genuine circuit-breaker rather than a hypothetical one. But it seems unlikely to occur in the real world. Whether a majority of influential ministers with divergent relationships, loyalties and personal ambitions would switch in concert to Rudd (a person who even fervent supporters are not convinced can change his governing spots). Whether a duo as pathologically tough and uncompromising as Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan could suddenly accept Kevin is the answer to Labor’s problems, given their (and others’) abiding belief that he, in fact, created many of the problems during the chaotic first term.

What of the Kevin factor? His loyal supporters say Rudd could lift Labor’s vote by as much as 15 per cent. His popularity with the public has been extremely resilient, and he’s a nimble communicator capable of playing the game in an era where left-field and off-Broadway delivers you a guarantee of centre-stage. Almost uniquely among our current political class, Kevin Rudd intuits how to speak to voters in an era when the conventional modes of political communication are breaking down.

Research done by Nielsen last September suggested Rudd could boost Labor’s primary vote by 10 per cent (taking votes from the Coalition, Greens and independents) – but pollster John Stirton heavily qualifies the number.

He says the boost applies only in a ”magic scenario” – a bloodless coup where everyone agrees leadership change is necessary, Kevin Rudd is the only viable candidate, and everyone rallies behind the leader. In this case, the leader would have also needed to have learnt a thing or two from past mistakes.

Magic sometimes happens. It happened when Alexander Downer handed over the leadership of the Liberal Party to John Howard in opposition. That was precisely the scenario. Asked whether history is likely to repeat itself in 2013, Stirton sounds dubious. ”And in the absence of the magical transition, it’s hard to imagine leadership change not doing significant damage,” he says.

High risk it is. Fresh in a number of minds is the horror show of the 2010 election campaign, which was characterised by acts of deliberate destabilisation. The fear is history would repeat itself – a new cycle of retribution, another slide backwards.

There are other practical problems. Rudd would no doubt position himself as a leader capable of taking on the various cancers afflicting the party – a desirable development given the radioactive murk leaching out of the corruption inquiry in New South Wales, and the Health Services Union imbroglio. That culture of institutionalised abhorrence needs to be rooted out, and Rudd is sufficiently independent-minded to want to see it done.

Electoral plus, plus for morality, necessary for Labor to sustain itself as a viable movement into the future – but then the obvious conundrum: how to campaign without the comfort of guaranteed institutional support. Would trade unions kick in the cash and resources for a leader intent on a post-election jihad?

The Australian Workers Union made a great show of public support for Julia Gillard this past week. AWU boss Paul Howes pledged 110 per cent support for the current occupant of The Lodge, then escalated, not exactly helpfully, given the internal tinderbox. ”Nothing upsets me more lately than opening newspapers on a daily or weekly basis and reading anonymous quotes from ‘senior Labor sources’ undermining our Prime Minister, undermining the leadership of our movement and this country. What a bunch of gutless pricks they are that they can’t put their names to what they are saying,” Howes declared in a closing address to a union shindig on the Gold Coast.

Prime Minister Gillard this week genuflected to Howes and to powerbroker Bill Ludwig. Not a great look from the vantage point of the general public, to be sure, a deep curtsy to the faceless men, but a gesture reflecting some basic realities of the relationship. (Some Rudd folks, of course, counsel journalists too inclined to take people at their word that union leaders professing undying loyalty to Labor leaders have been known to turn on a dime.)

And then there’s another issue: concern in some quarters that the problem isn’t so much the messenger but the message. Some ministers have looked on with concern as the strategy has contracted to rallying the base. Says one: ”Class warfare isn’t modern Labor. Is it the Scot [Julia Gillard’s communications director John McTernan]? Is it Swannie [Treasurer Wayne Swan]? Narrowing the perception of what we stand for isn’t the way to win. We need the bolder agenda. Why aren’t we talking the language of the modern economy?”

Gillard this week publicly eschewed a ”progressive” agenda, asserting Labor’s historical ties with working people. The tit-for-tat with the Greens prompted by Christine Milne’s decision this week to end the formal agreement will doubtless exacerbate a trend we have seen open in the past few days: both parties narrowcasting to the base. Not everybody is happy with that direction, but the answer to that question may not be Kevin Rudd. Not necessarily – not without gestures of contrition that mean something. Not without a decisive sequence of events rendering the status quo untenable. Not without a decisive shift that could yet happen, but hasn’t yet – not on the balance of the evidence.

One minister says: ”Is the problem the leader or the leadership agenda? I don’t know where it ends – all I know is it can’t go on like this.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

The pool ripple that made waves

IT WOULD have been simpler for everyone if the Stilnox six had been made to write 100 lines – ”I must not be a naughty boy” – and told that they could not go to the pool again until they had handed it in, and that their parents would get a letter. It was that important, and that unimportant.
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In Manchester for a training camp just before the Olympic Games, the relay team decided one night to ”bond”, as per ”tradition”. Repeated as often as they were yesterday – presumably on advice – these two words took on a sinister meaning, doubtlessly fuelling longstanding theories about the repressed homosexuality of sportsmen in teams.

In context, they amounted to no more than code for an episode of schoolboy high jinks. They went to dinner and a movie together. They did not drink alcohol. Five of them took one Stilnox tablet each, naughtily, knowing that it had recently been banned by the Australian Olympic Committee.

Stilnox is not a half-brother to heroin, as implied by one ”j’accuse” after another in the media briefing. It is a prescription

sleeping medication, not on WADA’s outlaw list, but reflexively declared off limits by the AOC weeks before the Games because of Grant Hackett’s revelation he was addicted to it late in his career. One tablet is the prescribed adult dose. This was an Olympic athlete’s equivalent of a smoke behind the shelter shed.

Subsequently, the six made prank calls to teammates, knocked on doors, behaved ”childishly” and ”ridiculously”, each admitted in his turn, in a voice that made it sound as if he was owning up to child molestation. They were all in bed by 10.30pm.

This is to take them at their word, disputed by some teammates. But the six surely knew that however evasive they had been previously, however ”immature”, their every word this day would be tested, and if proved false would mean the end of their careers. As it is, there will be two inquiries, one by Swimming Australia’s integrity panel, one by the AOC. This has become a matter for the entire school board.

In the hazing from the floor on Friday, one question stood out: if the team had been even a little more successful, would this assembly have been called at all? Swimming Australia president Barclay Nettlefold insisted it was one of many measures.

Plainly, as indicated by two reports this week, something went fundamentally awry with the Australian swimming team in England, something ”toxic”, something requiring root and branch surgery, but it would be too convenient to sheet it all home to one mazy night in Manchester more than a week before the Games. James Magnussen maintained the tomfoolery did not affect his performance. Others say they were affected. Who knows?

Friday’s briefing was as much a question as an answer. Perhaps the Stilnox six behaved like schoolboys because Olympic athletes tend to be treated like schoolkids, with privileges and protections, but also a requirement to work within rules, unquestioningly. Unsurprisingly, even among high-profile and highly paid sportspeople, a schoolkid culture develops, with its own code, for better and worse.

On Friday, they were naughty schoolboys, standing up at assembly, apologising in a pro forma way, taking their medicine, squirming. One reporter asked those who had admitted to Swimming Australia that they had taken Stilnox to put up their hands. Two did, sheepishly. The number was not so startling as the fact they so meekly complied.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.