‘No distance’ between Hastie and PM

The Liberal candidate for Canning Andrew Hastie has responded sharply to suggestions a by-election loss could spell the end of Tony Abbott’s leadership, saying he doesn’t have time for the “east coast Twitterati”.

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The pair were full of mutual admiration as they stood side-by-side during a visit to the West Australian electorate on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek accused Mr Hastie of trying to distance himself from the prime minister.

She claimed the former SAS captain was “trying to make out that he’s running to be the president of the Republic of Canning, that he’s going to have nothing to do with Tony Abbott and his team in Canberra”.

But Mr Hastie showed loyalty to his Liberal leader while fighting off challenges to his suitability to represent Canning, previously held by the late Liberal MP Don Randall.

“I will be a thorn in the flesh to federal ministers and the state government when I represent the people of Canning,” he said.

“Mission failure is not an option.”

Mr Abbott said he looked forward to Mr Hastie, 32, offering “a lifetime of duty and service” in the federal parliament.

He believes the by-election campaign was going well, although he’s not taking anything for granted.

Mr Abbott described the dad, who recently moved from defence housing to a home in Canning, as “a bit of a mould-breaker” who “wasn’t a political staffer, wasn’t a union official … wasn’t someone who spent years and years beavering away in a party branch”.

“Just a fine Australian citizen.

“I’m very proud to be standing shoulder to shoulder with Andrew Hastie.”

When Mr Abbott was asked about the implications of the by-election result on his future as prime minister, he replied: “I’m not going to get into the entrails of gossip in Canberra”.

He was swiftly defended by the first-time candidate.

“I’m very busy on the ground – I don’t have time to take counsel from the east coast Twitterati,” Mr Hastie interjected.

“There’s a significant disconnect between what people are saying over east and what’s happening here in Canning.”

Mr Abbott said he was “very happy” to have Mr Hastie “chime in” and on what he described as “Canberra games”.

When Mr Hastie recounted a meeting with WA Transport Minister Dean Nalder to discuss road projects related to Canning, such as including extending the Tonkin Highway south and congestion on Armadale Road, he was interrupted.

A journalist who suggested Mr Hastie wasn’t “local” enough was sharply told: “Just let me finish”.

“I was a member of defence for 13 years and no one in defence is a local anywhere,” Mr Hastie said.

“I’ve gotten to know the electorate well over the past few weeks and I’m confident I’m across the issues that people of Canning are concerned about.”

The prime minister said he expected “an absolute blitz” from the Labor party and its candidate Matt Keogh as the campaign progressed.

The race for Canning looks tight, 16 days out from polling day on September 19.

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Aust rape suspects could return to Manus

The family of an alleged rape victim claims the operator of the Manus Island immigration detention centre has promised three former guards will be flown back from Australia to face questioning by Papua New Guinea police.

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The father of the woman and community supporters, armed with machetes, hijacked a 25-seater bus and a three tonne truck belonging to the centre on Monday, out of anger that the three men had not faced justice.

The detention centre guards, who were stood down and sent back to Australia after the alleged incident in mid-July, faced a possible death sentence if convicted in PNG.

Manus MP Ron Knight, who’s in touch with the woman’s family, said the father and community leaders met on Tuesday with the management of Transfield Services, which operates the centre.

He said the company had promised to fly the guards back to Manus by next week and that the woman’s supporters had released the vehicles.

“They released the vehicles on the understanding that the three would be brought back on a charter flight to face the music,” he told AAP on Wednesday.

But Mr Knight said the woman’s family did not have this in writing and he was doubtful it would happen.

“It could just be a delaying tactic,” he said.

Australia’s Immigration Department said vehicle incident was a local matter.

“This incident is a matter for the Manus provincial police,” a spokesman said in a statement.

Port Moresby officially took over the investigation into the alleged rape after Manus Island police threatened to storm the detention centre and arrest managers for perverting the course of justice unless the trio was returned.

Further comment is being sought from Transfield, Wilson Security and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s office.

A spokesperson for the immigration department said the Australian government was co-operating fully with local authorities on the matter and would continue to do so.

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Bernard Tomic mans up for poor behaviour

Bernard Tomic has manned up and admitted he and Nick Kyrgios are giving Australian tennis an image problem.

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In a frank and candid interview after he set up a second-round US Open showdown with Lleyton Hewitt, Tomic has taken accountability for his actions ahead of his looming court date in Miami for a wild house party.

The Monte Carlo-based Australian No.1, who shares a passion for fast cars and the night life, says earning millions of dollars at such a young age hasn’t helped.

But Tomic is promising to try to lift his act and says it’s important for the country’s young stars to heed the sage advice of the Aussie tennis legends like Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, John Newcombe and Tony Roche.

“For sure, we’re not perfect,” Tomic said.

“I experienced a little bit more when I was younger – 18, 19 – but Nick’s obviously in the rollercoaster that I am so he has to handle it as best as he can. Only he can handle it the right way.

“Obviously I had what I had, but I think on court I’ve improved a lot the last few years and mentally I’m pretty good on court whereas I think Nick on court struggles a little bit.

“But he’s getting better – he just needs time, he’s a good bloke and I really wish the best for him.”

Tomic accepted he and Kyrgios weren’t giving Australian tennis a good look and hoped he could restore his reputation, but he said tennis fans were undoubtedly in for a rollercoaster ride over the next decade.

“We’re our own individuals and we’re always going to have this. The next 10 years, it’s going to be like that for sure,” he said.

“It’s not going to be all good, that’s for sure.

“We have to work on it as best we can – everyone is different. Nick has a different personality to me. I have a different one to him.

“Can we be very good the next 10, 12 years? I cannot guarantee this.

“On court, I think I’m very good but off court there’s some problems and he’s the opposite way around. He creates problems on court.

“But it’s our personality, our character. Obviously it’s not the best thing but we have to work on this for sure. We have to improve.

“It can be tough to control but our personalities, the pressure around us, but we always can sometimes explode on the side.”

Tomic, 22, hopes he and 20-year-old Kyrgios will mature as they grow older.

“Maturity is the biggest key, also having a lot to do with money coming in; it is different,” he said.

“At our age, having that stuff around, it is tough to control and I found myself very good last year.

“I am working as hard as I can. I am putting the main thing in front of me and that is tennis, to be the best that I can.

“I started the year at 70, 75, but I am getting closer. I am coming 16, 17 in the race. It is my best year.

“I have the opportunity to finish the year strong, but it is up to us, we have to change it, to turn it around.”

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Tomic books US Open showdown with Hewitt

Lleyton Hewitt can’t get excited, but Bernard Tomic will cherish his once-in-a-lifetime US Open clash with the retiring Australian tennis “legend” on Thursday.

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Generations will collide at Flushing Meadows after Hewitt and Tomic set up an enthralling first-time meeting with contrasting first-round victories on a sweltering day in New York.

Hewitt, the 2001 Open champion, advanced to the second round for the 13th time when Kazakh Aleksandr Nedovyesov quit with a right shoulder injury while trailing 6-0 7-6 (7-2) 1-0.

Tomic confirmed his appointment with his Davis Cup teammate and mentor with a fighting 5-7 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 6-3 victory over Bosnian Damir Dzumhur.

“It’s not going to be easy for me. I look up to him a lot,” Tomic said.

“He is a legend to me, to a lot of people around the world and it is a shame that maybe, in the next month or so, he might stop.

“But it is an opportunity. I have never played him and it could be fun.

“We have played so many times in practice and it is fun always to play Lleyton. It is an opportunity for me to make my first third round in the US Open.”

Tomic and Hewitt have come full circle after Team Tomic famously snubbed the former world No.1 and dual grand slam champion when sounded out for a practise session at Wimbledon in 2009.

Six years on and Tomic said he feared he’d never get the chance to play Hewitt before he officially retires after a record 20th straight Australian Open tilt in January.

“It was almost a sign for us to never play, that is how I saw it, with the draws and stuff,” Tomic said.

“But we have to play once. Win or lose, we have to have fun, go for it.

“He has nothing to lose. He is going to be going for it so, for me, it is going to be more tough.”

Hewitt doesn’t share the same enthusiasm for the all-Australian showdown.

“It’s just awkward. That’s the only thing to summarise that,” the 34-year-old said.

“I get along great with Bernie. Helped him out a lot. Hit with him this week. Yeah, just awkward. I don’t like playing any of the Aussies.

“I had to play (Thanasi) Kokkinakis last year in Brisbane. I played `Grothy’ (Sam Groth) in Brisbane this year. I had to play J.P. Smith only a couple of weeks ago.

“For me, in the position that I’m in now, trying to help these guys especially with Davis Cup and the rest of it, it’s tough.”

If he topples Tomic, Hewitt at least won’t have to play Kokkinakis again, or Nick Kyrgios, after the Special Ks were both eliminated on Tuesday.

Kokkinakis was on track to pull off a major upset until cramping after he took a two-sets-to-one lead over Wimbledon semi-finalist Richard Gasquet and was reduced to under-arm serving at one point as he struggled to move.

The score was locked at two sets apiece – 4-6 6-1 4-6 6-3 – when the 19-year-old was forced to call it a day after dropping serve to trail 2-0 in the deciding set.

In the night session Kyrgios took his first set in four meetings with Andy Murray, but was unable to spring another grand slam boilover, falling 7-5 6-3 4-6 6-1 loss to Scottish third seed in the feature night match at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Smith was gallant in a 6-1 3-6 7-5 7-6 (7-4) loss to experienced Russian Mikhail Youzhny, while Korean teenage sensation Hyeon Chung routed James Duckworth 6-3 6-1 6-2.

Former champion Samantha Stosur made a bright start to her campaign with a 6-3 6-4 win over Hungarian Timea Babos, but Ajla Tomljanovic and Jarmila Gajdosova both suffered tough three-set defeats.

Tomljanovic went down 6-7 (1-7) 6-2 6-4 to Karin Knapp while another Italian, 26th seed Flavia Pennetta, ousted Gajdosova 6-1 3-6 6-1.

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Journalist follows Syrian refugee’s journey through Europe

Twenty-year old Nour told the BBC she was forced to leave her home town after it was bombed, paying smugglers for a dangerous voyage across the sea to Greece.

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She then continued on foot, by car and by train, with the goal of eventually reaching Sweden, where she planned to apply for asylum.

During her 3,000 kilometre journey through nine countries, Nour said she had to constantly avoid being caught by authorities, and was forced to leave her elderley mother behind in Turkey.

Nour began her journey in Greece, where she fought with thousands of other asylum seekers to get a coveted seat on a bus to Macedonia.

A week into the journey, she said she was exhausted.

“Actually, we sleep on the streets you know,” she said.

“We slept on the streets for like three or four days with no bathroom. It’s very bad.”

Finally, after days of waiting, Nour finally managed to secure a seat on the bus, making the journey north, arriving at a town bordering with Serbia.

“We slept on the streets for like three or four days with no bathroom. It’s very bad.”

“We are very tired, very sick because yesterday it was very cold,” she said after getting off the bus.

Nour avoided the queues for travel papers, saying she did not want to be found before arriving in Sweden.

Under current European Union regulations, asylum seekers must remain in the first European country they enter while their protection applications are being assessed.

Germany is pushing for all EU countries to accept Syrian refugees.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said quotas must be established to ensure a fair distribution of asylum seekers across Europe.

“This should apply in every country of the European Union. We are, of course, following the rules, but we are seeing every day how these rules are not put into practice in the same way everywhere.”

But Nour only wanted to be registered in Sweden.

After avoiding the queue for registration, she boarded the bus bound for Belgrade, Serbia.

In Serbia, she found a secret place to stay for the night.

Her next destination is Hungary, the main entry point to the European Union.

“Tomorrow we go to Hungary. If we’re passing safe, that’s fantastic.”

Nour then receives a car lift 10 kilometres from the Hungarian border, crossing into Hungary after several hours of walking.

She stayed in a home, but was found by police, who she paid a bribe of $80AUD not to be taken in.

She eventually arrived in Vienna, and made a final train journey into Gothenburg, Sweden.

“It’s just like a dream you know, all the way when I look into the window on the train I say where am I? Is it true that I’m going to Sweden?”

Finally after two weeks, Nour reached her final destination, to begin a new life.

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Australia coach backtracks in pay dispute row

The Asian Cup-winning coach had initially refused to take sides in the battle and fumed at both parties after the row disrupted his preparations for Thursday’s World Cup qualifier against Bangladesh and next Tuesday’s fixture in Tajikistan.

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But in a FFA statement issued on Wednesday, Postecoglou retracted his views.

“As a senior employee of Football Federation Australia I understand that my comments were inappropriate,” the 50-year-old Greek-born coach said.

“I appreciate that I need to take sides on this issue. The commercial performance of the Socceroos brand directly affects the amount of investment in the match schedule, technical developments and sports science staff.

“In this case, the commercial boycotts imposed by Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) will directly affect commercial partners and will inevitably hurt the Socceroos programme.

“I made comments yesterday out of frustration. I acknowledge that the PFA initiated the regrettable situation that has distracted us in Perth. I understand that FFA was compelled to respond in order to explain its position to the game’s stakeholders.

“I call on the PFA to undertake that no future Socceroo camp will be targeted in this way.”

The tone was in stark contrast with Postecoglou’s initial view of the impasse.

The strong-willed Australian said he was “not happy” the row had been played out in camp, and added he wanted to be talking instead “about selection, team tactics.

“If we think it’s OK during the World Cup qualifiers to play out this scenario then I’m out of whack with everyone else because I think while the camp is on… lay down your guns and pick them up as soon as it’s over, and go as hard as you want,” he said.

“It’s not good enough.”

(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by John O’Brien)

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Geitz coy on Diamonds future

Diamonds captain Laura Geitz is remaining coy about her international future, but coach Lisa Alexander says she can see the 27-year-old combining motherhood and netball to contest a third World Cup in 2019.

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Retirement speculation has surrounded Geitz since she led the Australian team to world titles glory in Sydney last month with a final win over New Zealand.

On Tuesday the Queensland Firebirds goalkeeper announced she has committed to next year’s trans-Tasman competition, when the franchise will attempt to win back-to-back ANZ Championship titles.

But speaking after the Diamonds’ victory ceremony in Sydney on Wednesday she was still non-committal about how long she intends to represent her country.

“It’s so hard to say,” said Geitz, who was also part of Australia’s 2011 World Cup-winning outfit in Singapore.

“I always say to myself that I’ll play while I’m performing and still enjoying it, and still feel like I’ve got something to offer both on and off the court.

“I think it’s impossible to know how long that will potentially be, and I’m really lucky to have achieved the things that I’ve been able to achieve.

“Anything now is a bonus so probably just taking it as it comes and not having too many plans set in my head.”

Geitz will almost certainly be named in Alexander’s Constellation Cup squad on Thursday, and the coach said she’d had a promising discussion with her star skipper about playing on even if she decides to start a family.

“I think she sees that it is possible for her to move through the next cycle,” Alexander said.

“She is only young, and I think out of anyone she could see that she may be able to combine motherhood and playing for her country.

“I’m definitely a coach that supports that – I had an elite career as a mother as well so I know you can combine both.

“It’s up to her whether she’s ready for that.”

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Young AFL ‘Dogs are ready: Murphy

Fear nobody, change nothing, you are ready.

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That will be the message from Western Bulldogs captain Bob Murphy to his young teammates ahead of their breakout AFL finals series.

After finishing 14th last season, the Bulldogs are sixth and will tune up for the finals with Saturday’s away match against bottom side Brisbane.

The Bulldogs should host an elimination final and the team will most likely feature only six survivors from their last match at the business end of the season, the 2010 preliminary final loss to St Kilda.

“The thing I will be telling the guys is they’re ready,” said Murphy, who played in the 2010 preliminary final.

“The training they’ve done, the way we’ve played has prepared them for the finals – not that it’s got them to the doorstop of the finals and now we have to invent something.

“They’re ready, they’re good enough and give it your best, it will be as basic as that.”

Murphy said far from being overawed, the Bulldogs pups are driving the team’s stunning success this season.

“They’re ambitious. We’re ambitious. But I say ‘they’ because the energy source does feel like it comes from this younger group and the older guys … are trying to be a guiding influence,” he said.

“Really, they’re the guys who are firing up the engines.

“Like young kids, they just love to play and that’s infectious.

“But what I will add to that is the coin toss won’t do itself and they need to know which way they’re kicking.”

Asked if this season’s success had been a surprise, Murphy said: “Not as much as outside people would suspect.

“Even over summer, I felt like it was going to be a pretty special year.

“I can’t put my finger on why that (was) – having said that, I have had a couple of other times in my career and we’ve finished last.

“But I had a sneaking suspicion.”

While some players are being rested before the finals, Murphy said he would play against the Lions and doubts the Bulldogs will make many changes.

He also has no problem if their elimination final is played at the MCG, rather than Etihad Stadium, where the Bulldogs have a strong record.

“Honestly … I’d be happy to play out at Western Park at Warragul, having missed out on the finals for four years,” he said.

“The spring weather, it is a time of optimism.

“When you’re a footballer and you’re not in and you’re finished, it’s a really horrible time in some ways.”

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Heat takes its toll at the US Open

The men’s top seeds breezed through sweltering conditions at the US Open on Tuesday but the crushing heat and humidity took the number of first-round retirements to a record ten.

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Second-seeded Federer had little trouble in seeing off Argentina’s world No.34 Leonardo Mayer 6-1 6-2 6-2 in just 77 minutes on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Where others have crumbled in the searing 31C heat, Federer gave no opportunity for the climate to get the better of him, firing down 12 aces and 29 winners as he went onto break serve six times.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion will now face Belgium’s Steve Darcis who was handed a place in the next stage when Cypriot veteran Marcos Baghdatis retired to become another addition to casualty ward with a groin strain.

Federer’s Davis Cup teammate and reigning French Open champion Stan Wawrinka was another to claim victory before the heat could have any impact on him, shooting down 10 aces and landing 70 per cent of his first serves to win through in straight sets against Spanish world No.58 Albert Ramos-Vinolas without facing a break point.

By the time night fell temperatures had eased, allowing 2012 winner Andy Murray to discard high-profile Australian Nick Kyrgios in four sets.

Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis wasn’t so lucky, spending almost three hours on court in the hottest part of the day before succumbing to severe cramps in the fifth set against French 12th seed Richard Gasquet.

Meanwhile, fellow Aussie Lleyton Hewitt was the beneficiary of another injury when Kazakhstan’s Aleksandr Nedovyesov was forced to retire with a right shoulder injury.

Hewitt led two sets to love at the time.

Earlier, Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis also quit, handing Great Britain’s Aljaz Bedene a 3-6 6-4 3-0 win.

In total, 10 of the 64 men’s first round matches ended prematurely due to injuries.

Comparatively, Vitalia Diatchenko and Marina Erakovic remain the only players to retire mid-match in the women’s draw.

In other men’s action, Japan’s Yoshihiro Nishioka and South Korea’s Chung Hyeon became the only two teenagers remaining in the men’s draw.

Nishioka outlasted France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu in five sets to claim his first grand slam victory, while Hyeon put the cleaners through James Duckworth, conceding just six games in his straight sets.

American No.1 John Isner breezed past Malek Jaziri of Tunisia 6-2 6-3 6-4 on the back of 24 aces and 54 winners.

Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych, who made the semi-finals in 2012, was also a comfortable winner, seeing off American wildcard Bjorn Fratangelo 6-3 6-2 6-4.

South African 15th seed Kevin Anderson also progressed through to the second round, defeating Russian qualifier Andrey Rublev 7-6 (7-1) 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 6-3.

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Hundreds of asylum seekers stranded at Hungary station

That came after police sealed off the terminal to prevent them from travelling through the European Union.

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Thousands of people use Hungary as a gateway to northern Europe to claim asylum.

 

Meanwhile, Greece has begun transporting ferries carrying thousands of asylum seekers from its islands to the mainland.

 

There have been angry scenes at Keleti station in Budapest as asylum seekers are barred from boarding trains out of Hungary.

 

Authorities have prevented at least a thousand people from catching trains to Austria and Germany.

 

After nearly four thousand asylum seekers arrived in Vienna from Hungary on Tuesday, authorities stopped all trains to check tickets.

 

Now, only non-asylum seekers are being allowed to leave by train.

 

German politician Annette Groth, visiting Hungary on a fact-finding mission, has told Al Jazeera she is appalled by the situation.

 

“This is a complete failure of human rights in Europe, this is what I have to say here. Massive human-rights violations here. People sleeping on the streets for days and days and days. There’s hardly any water, hardly any food.”

 

But Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs says his government is only applying European Union laws.

 

“It is impossible to come to Hungary without going through another European Union state, namely Bulgaria … or, rather, Greece and Bulgaria. And it’s completely unacceptable that the Greeks basically let these people come towards Hungary and towards the heart of Europe without any kind of registration.”

 

Europe is in the midst of the largest movement of people since the Second World War.

 

More than 300,000 people have arrived in Europe this year, fleeing from the Middle East and northern Africa.

 

But the European Union remains divided on how to address the issue.

 

Under current EU regulations, asylum seekers must remain in the first European country they enter while their protection applications are being assessed.

 

Germany is pushing for all EU countries to accept Syrian refugees.

 

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel says quotas must be established to ensure a fair distribution of asylum seekers across Europe.

 

“This should apply in every country of the European Union. We are, of course, following the rules, but we are seeing every day how these rules are not put into practice in the same way everywhere.”

 

But Hungary’s Foreign Minister, Peter Szijjarto, says the quota system only encourages further exploitation of asylum seekers.

 

“It has been proven that some European leaders act contrary to European values and interests, as far as the handling of the challenges of migration is concerned. It became clear that policy based on mandatory quotas has failed, because it just encourages the human traffickers and immigrants to come to Europe. Meanwhile, those who are trying to make significant steps to stop the influx of migrants to Europe are facing a smear campaign based on false allegations or criticism.”

 

In Greece, more than 400,000 asylum seekers have been moved from the country’s small islands to the mainland.

 

Arriving at Athens’ main port, Piraeus, these were the reactions of the asylum seekers, most of them from Syria and Iraq.

 

“I want to say to Hungary, ‘Why? Why you want to stop the Syrians and the others? Why?’ We search about good life. We search about peace. We are human. We are human.”

“I wish the UN and other independent international organisations provide the help to these countries to support us.”

“Things got bad there (Syria) since four years ago maybe, the fanatic Islamic fighters and terrorism. So, I just came here seeking a chance to a better life.”

 

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