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Call for new approach to Asia relations

AUSTRALIA’S political leaders have been criticised by some of the most senior foreign policy advisers for clumsy handling of relations with Asia and slavish devotion to the US alliance.
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A conference held in the NSW Parliament yesterday by the Australian Institute of International Affairs, a federal government chartered and assisted body, heard calls from eminent diplomats for a more balanced approach to the rise of Asia.

The institute’s national president, John McCarthy, who has been Australia’s envoy to Washington, Jakarta, Tokyo and New Delhi, said Australians should not let themselves be led to think they have to choose between new ties with China and the military alliance with the US.

Most thinking Australians supported the ANZUS treaty alliance with the US, making it difficult to change ”even if we personally disagreed with aspects of it”, he said.

”But there is a lot to be said for paying our alliance dues only where it is strictly necessary in terms of the alliance – we don’t necessarily have to please the Americans, as it is often put,” he said. ”We have to honour the terms of the alliance, as a responsible ally will do [but] not say things or offer things that really aren’t necessary.”

He said the the announcement last November that the US would station 2500 marines in Darwin for six months every year was an example of what could have handled better. ”The Chinese and the Indonesians could have been forewarned, very seriously, two or three days before, and explained very very carefully at a very senior level what it all meant. None of that was done.”

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

Still in the dark, with governor on the defensive

Defensive … the Reserve Bank governor, Glenn Stevens, before the House of Representatives economics committee in Canberra yesterday.THE testimony given yesterday by the RBA governor, Glenn Stevens, about the Reserve’s handling of the bank-note bribery scandal was faltering, defensive and, at times, evasive.
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It was in keeping with Mr Stevens’s past appearance at the committee and highlighted again the need for a proper inquiry into the affair.

Mr Stevens was asked about briefings given to senior officers of the RBA in 2007 about bribery and corruption in its subsidiaries.

The facts are clear. A briefing was given to the RBA deputy governor Ric Battellino by Brian Hood, the company secretary of RBA firm Note Printing Australia. The briefings raised serious allegations of bribery and corruption, including the claim that a Malaysian agent was paying off politicians.

Earlier this month, the federal police told Parliament it expected serious bribery allegations received by a Commonwealth agency to be reported to police.

But the RBA didn’t call in the cops in 2007. The AFP were only called after it was reported by the Herald and The Age in 2009. Even then, the RBA didn’t immediately hand over a damning 2007 memo written by Mr Hood.

And, for the past five years, the RBA has chosen not to tell the public or Parliament about the 2007 briefings, even when the opportunity begged.

Instead, Mr Stevens has stuck to the line that the RBA was in the dark about the alleged bribery in its subsidiaries until the 2009 media expose´.

This week, the Herald and the ABC demolished that claim by publishing the contents of the 2007 briefings. The revelations expose a major corporate governance failure at the top of the RBA, as well as an inability to be open about this failure.

At the economics committee yesterday, the Liberal MP Tony Smith asked Mr Stevens when he’d read a 2007 corruption memo addressed to his then deputy, Mr Battellino.

Mr Stevens said that, according to his memory, he didn’t read it in 2007 but may have later.

He thought Mr Battellino “may have been shown a copy at some point”, despite the fact that the memo was addressed directly to him. But Mr Stevens said he couldn’t be “certain of that.” Despite the intense media pressure surrounding the issue earlier this week, Mr Stevens said he hadn’t spoken to Mr Battellino in the last few days.

Mr Stevens couldn’t recall if he was told about Mr Hood’s 2007 meeting with Mr Battelino prior to it occurring. Asked if he had read the memo in the lead-up to his February committee appearance, Mr Stevens couldn’t recall.

When asked by Mr Smith if it would have been in the “interests of openness” for Mr Battelino (who retired in February) to have told the committee during previous hearings about the explosive 2007 briefings, Mr Stevens answered: “I didn’t myself feel that that particular event was of the importance that you seem to feel it is.”

This was a remarkable answer: the “particular event” Mr Stevens felt was unimportant involved a senior company executive exposing details of the most serious scandal to hit corporate Australia in decades.

After just several minutes of questioning by Smith, Mr Stevens was thrown a Dorothy Dixer that would make any backbencher proud. Committee chair and Labor MP Julie Owens clumsily tried to give Mr Stevens an out by stating that his past claim that the RBA knew nothing about corruption prior to 2009 had been misrepresented.

Ms Owens claimed that because the RBA corruption briefings in 2007 dealt with Note Printing Australia and not Securency – and because Mr Stevens was responding to questions about Securency when claiming the RBA knew nothing – he was in the clear.

But Mr Hood’s 2007 briefings to the RBA dealt with NPA and Securency. His memo clearly stated that both firms were using a potentially corrupt Malaysian middleman.

Mr Hood’s briefings also stated that Graeme Thompson, the chairman of NPA, had authorised a payment to this middleman despite probity concerns. Mr Thompson was also the chairman of Securency. The 2007 briefings also accuse Chris Ogilvy, who was the chief executive of NPA and a director of Securency, of malfeasance.

But, instead of ensuring Mr Stevens faced appropriate oversight in her role as committee chair, Ms Owens went in to bat for him. In doing so, she appears to have followed the lead of the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, whose three-years-and-counting response to this growing scandal has been to say nothing and do nothing. By not confronting the unpleasant questions about the RBA and other government agencies that flow from this scandal, the Gillard government is rapidly becoming part of the cover-up.

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

PM tries to tame beast risen from the grave

“Indeed, every union has what it refers to as a re-election fund, slush fund, whatever, which is the fund that the leadership team … puts money so that they can finance their next election campaign” … Prime Minister Julia Gillard.What’s in a name, Shakespeare’s Juliet doth often ask. For shaken Julia, it seems, the answer is quite a lot. Indeed, just what is in the public understanding of ”re-election slush fund” may well determine whether the Prime Minister can extricate herself from swirling allegations that she acted improperly while a solicitor two decades ago.
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If she cannot, her critics will claim vindication in their portrayal of Gillard as a person of questionable trustworthiness and poor judgment. Her electoral stocks will further suffer. If she can knock the allegations into a cocked hat, Gillard will get her head above the parapet probably for the first time since the equivocal election, although she and Labor won’t be out of the woods.

Until a week ago, with mixed success, Gillard employed stonewalling, indignation, intimidation and haranguing to keep her accusers mostly quarantined to internet blogging in the matter we will attempt to outline here. Last year, she scored a humiliating triumph over mainstream journalists who attempted to report suspicions against her. But she didn’t count on her sacked attorney-general Robert McClelland opening old wounds about the extent of union corruption and recent corroboration from people well placed to challenge Gillard’s clean-sheet approach.

As a Slater and Gordon solicitor in Melbourne, Gillard advised her then boyfriend – an Australian Workers Union rising star, Bruce Wilson – on constructing a union facade, the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association, from which Wilson and his AWU sidekick Ralph Blewitt allegedly misdirected hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The association’s stated purpose – at least according to a 1992 public notice – was to promote and encourage ”workplace reform” in construction and maintenance. But it wasn’t used for workplace safety and training. Gillard acknowledged this week she thought it was intended as a union leadership re-election fund where levies on union officials, and the proceeds of fund-raising dinners and so on, could be safely deposited.

In 1995, she confided to senior colleagues that the association was a ”re-election slush fund”. ”It’s a common practice,” she told them. ”Indeed, every union has what it refers to as a re-election fund, slush fund, whatever, which is the fund that the leadership team … puts money so that they can finance their next election campaign.”

On Thursday, Gillard conceded her slush fund reference, uttered in the context of a casual and jovial conversation, ”wasn’t the best form of words”. ”But I’d ask people to assess the form of words in the context in which it was being used in a sentence where the description of the purpose of the association, as I understood it, is exactly the same as the description I’ve given you here today,” she told journalists.

Gillard said her description was not inconsistent with workplace safety aspirations because they were key goals of the union leadership ticket.

Instead, Wilson and Blewitt extracted big deposits from construction and resource companies employing AWU members. Initially, the national AWU knew none of their activity but subsequently notified police of its suspicions and went so far as demanding a royal commission, a call that fell on deaf ears in the Keating government.

Wilson and Blewitt allegedly used the money as a sort of private bank account, buying a house in Melbourne’s Fitzroy, after Wilson moved from Perth, and spending on other activities unrelated to the association’s given purpose.

Wilson, who works as a part-time club cook on the mid-north coast of NSW, and Blewitt, who fled Australia for Indonesia (where he is accused of a land swindle) and Malaysia, have been investigated by police in Perth and Melbourne. Documents reveal Perth detectives wanted them charged but could not convince the builder Thiess to co-operate. Wilson and Blewitt have not been charged but the latter has told The Australian newspaper that ”sham” transactions took place and that he will tell all in return for indemnity from prosecution. An AWU civil action against Wilson went nowhere.

Gillard claimed on Thursday her role was limited to advice and not to execution, that she did not know what improper use Wilson and Blewitt would make of the entity she helped establish, and that she severed the relationship with Wilson in 1995 when ”I became aware that I had been deceived about a series of matters”.

Much of the more salacious, zany and explicitly offensive commentary (and invention) has been restricted to internet ranting – to what Gillard called misogynists and nut jobs. That is not a description neatly befitting Peter Gordon and Nick Styant-Browne, two former senior partners at Slater and Gordon, however.

Together, they are the source – intentionally or otherwise – of much of the fresh revelation. Gillard’s handling of the AWU matter angered some of her senior colleagues and she was interviewed on September 11, 1995, by Gordon and another as part of an internal investigation.

According to a transcript of the interview, Gillard conceded the renovations to her inner Melbourne home might unintentionally have benefited from the rorted union funds, although she doubted this. She provided receipts to show the renovation work was paid by her.

In a Peter Gordon-leaked draft statement, the former Slater and Gordon principal said last week the firm considered terminating Gillard’s salaried partner position but accorded her the benefit of the doubt and accepted her explanations. ”Nevertheless, the partnership was extremely unhappy with Ms Gillard, considering that proper vigilance had not been observed and that [her] duties of utmost good faith to [her] partners, especially as to timely disclosure, had not been met. Ms Gillard elected to resign and we accepted her resignation without discussion.”

But a statement by Slater and Gordon’s managing director Andrew Grech said Gillard took leave of absence at the time to contest unsuccessfully a Senate election and, in May 1996, resigned to become chief of staff to the then Victorian opposition leader John Brumby. Said Gillard on Thursday: ”It had long been an aspiration of mine to move to a political career so I made the determination to resign from Slater and Gordon.”

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

Smith’s winning attitude

WHEN Greg Smith first turned to wheelchair rugby after an outstanding wheelchair racing career, he could tell that he had a big task in front of him. The difficulty had nothing to do with whether he believed that he could make the Australian team; with the little experience that he had in the sport, he believed that he could and that was the problem.
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The national wheelchair rugby team of the mid-2000s was in trouble, according to Smith and Australia’s chef de mission for the London Paralympics team, Jason Hellwig.

Hellwig earlier this week told how there had been a bad attitude among some of the players and the Australian Paralympic Committee had demanded the team to right itself or the sport’s funding could be in danger.

Smith said he could see the flaws in the team. ”My competitive nature kicked in and I saw the team that was going to Athens and I thought, ‘I reckon I could get on the team with some of the boys who are going,’ so I trained hard and set that as a goal and four years later I was there in Beijing,” Smith said.

Hellwig credits the 45-year-old Smith, who has quadriplegia following a car accident when he was 19, for changing the attitudes within team, which has allowed it to transform into a world power.

Hellwig was so impressed by Smith that when it came time to appoint the flag bearer to lead the Australian team in the opening ceremony in London, he knew there was a top candidate. ”He transitioned his skills from one sport into another, but the leadership that he’s conveyed with that had just simply been remarkable and unique and stands him out from an outstanding group of people,” Hellwig said. Smith, who had been a physical trainer in the Australian army before the accident, competed at three Paralympic Games in wheelchair racing and cemented his standing as the world’s best in Sydney in 2000 by winning the 800, 1500 and 5000 metres with two world records.

He retired in 2001. But it was not long before he was invited to a social game of wheelchair rugby and, while sold on the game, was frustrated at questionable attitudes to training by some players.

”Sydney was the first Games where it was recognised as a Paralympic event,” Smith said. ”It probably didn’t have a professional attitude about it and particularly in Australia because it was so young. The athletes who were playing the game probably didn’t quite realise what it was to compete at the top level and the things you had to do … there was probably a little bit of disbelief at the things I was doing and professionals do to try and be the best. The guys started to take that on board [and realise] that if they wanted to compete at the top and try and take my position away from me that’s what they had to do and I think I helped breed a culture within the team that where we are is because of that.”

Superstar Ryley Batt has admitted that despite being part of the silver medal-winning team in Beijing, he had been disappointed with his fitness. ”Back in the day when they finished a game, guys would probably head off and have a cigarette or a pie or something like that,” Smith said. ”Those things don’t happen any more.”

Australia is one of the gold favourites in London after its silver performances in Beijing and the 2010 world championships, losing both times to the US.

As for leading the team at the opening ceremony, Smith said he was thrilled by the opportunity.

”I can’t wait to be out there with the flag flapping and 80,000 people cheering and clapping and hopefully the Queen will give me a nod and I’ll give her one back.”

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

Pistorius the blade runner puts spotlight on Paralympics

EARLIER this month Oscar Pistorius was in unfamiliar surrounds – albeit for the fulfilment of a dream. The South African double leg amputee won a long battle to run at the Olympic Games and pit himself against the world’s best able-bodied athletes.
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This month he will again compete in that stadium, but it will be for the Paralympic Games where he is a proven champion and role model.

Pistorius, who required a double amputation below the knee before he was one, made history at the London Olympics when he ran in the 400 metres, where he finished last in the semi-finals, and was a member of South Africa’s 4 x 400-metre relay team that ran in the final.

It was an inspiring achievement made more difficult by the battle he had to get there. At one stage he was banned by world athletics body, the IAAF, and debate about whether the carbon fibre blades that he uses for running provided him with an advantage over able-bodied athletes.

At the Paralympic Games, Pistorius is to defend his titles in the 100, 200 and 400 metres. He had been concentrating on the 400 for the Olympics so his Paralympic preparation for the shorter events has been affected, which has him at a disadvantage for the 100 and 200.

But section manager for the Australian team Andrew Faichney said Pistorius’ reputation meant his influence on Paralympic sport was greater than just his results on the track.

”It’s an advertisement or promotion of Paralympic sport and the more we can have those role models who are out in the public eye, the greater it increases the focus and the public awareness of Paralympic sport and certainly Paralympic athletics,” Faichney said.

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

Wallabies turn to 1978 for inspiration

THE Wallabies brains trust could not have chosen a better former Test player to present the jerseys to the team in Auckland yesterday than Tony Shaw, who is uniquely qualified to remind them that all is not lost.
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The Wallabies are considered no chance of keeping the Bledisloe Cup series alive tonight by winning at Eden Park – where they last won in 1986.

It is a dire situation, but much like 1978 when the inspirational Shaw was the Wallabies captain, and the team somehow overcame everything to win in Auckland with the highest score tallied against the All Blacks.

After losing the first two Tests, coach Daryl Haberecht had a heart attack and the players had to take control for the third and final Test, with a depleted squad.

”We just took over,” Shaw told the Wallabies at Eden Park yesterday. ”Bob Templeton was here and we could have brought him in to coach us. But we thought: ‘No, f— it, we know what’s wrong, and we know how to fix it.’ Everyone in New Zealand thought we had no hope. It’s pretty similar to now. We were copping heaps from the Kiwis, and the press. There was some of the ‘Awful Aussie, Woeful Wallabies’ carry on that was still around from the 1972 Wallabies tour. But after that second Test, we picked the same team and kept it like that for the last five games of the tour.”

Before that Test the players also visited someone who knew New Zealand rugby backwards – former All Blacks coach J.J. Stewart. ”He just said to us: ‘I’ll beat any one of you over 10 metres.’ We were scratching our heads, thinking, ‘Who is this silly old fart?’ He added: ‘When I say go, you have to take a step backwards.’ The analogy was very clear to us. That was what we were doing to our backs. We weren’t winning ball going forward. We were on the back foot and were back pedalling before we started. It was like a light bulb had just gone on in our scones.

”So on the day, we knew we had to take it to them – demolish the lineout, [Wallabies prop] [Chris] ‘Buddha’ Handy was commissioned with the job of belting [All Blacks second rower] Andy Haden, which he reckoned he needed a step ladder to do, but he did it. Greg Cornelsen scores four tries and the rest is history. A 30-16 win.”

Shaw said there were so many comparisons between 1978 and tonight. ”This team has also been written off. They’re two skippers down and there’s lots of injuries. They know what they have to do – they just have to do it on the paddock.”

Quade Cooper is the key, he said. ”This is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful opportunity for Quade to shine, and get rid of the demons. And he will. I reckon he will be the difference … he’s matured enormously from last year.”

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

The unruly making of rules

With a reduction from intentional to reckless, and a good record dropping the charge to below 100 points, this incident should resultin a reprimand rather than a suspension…FINAL WORD
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IN FOOTBALL’S year dot, Jerry Bryant, mine host of the Parade Hotel, arranged a scratch match on Richmond Paddock.

In the Sporting Globe years later, one player recalled that it was many games in a chaotic one. ”Englishmen, of course, played rugby, Scotchmen a nondescript game – the Association game [soccer] not having yet seen the light – while Irishmen for the most part contented themselves with punting the ball as straight as a die heavenwards.

”Each man played a lone hand, or rather foot, according to his lights, some guided by their own particular code of rules, other by no rules at all.

”Disputes, wrangling and utter confusion were the inevitable outcome … but we have to thank the football Babel for some of the best points in the game as now.”

This is a scratch on the surface of a history of Australian rules before the establishment of the VFL in 1897, written by art historian Mark Pennings, published by Connor Court and soon to be released.

It is, to say the least, comprehensive and compendious. It runs to four volumes! The last will contain the names of 6000-7000 players who appeared before football’s supposed nascence.

Few cities in the world can have mushroomed as Melbourne did following the discovery of gold. In little more than a decade from 1851, these sprung up: Parliament and its buildings, the town hall, the GPO, the state library, national gallery, museum, zoo, Melbourne university, Queen Victoria market, The Age, Australia’s first railway and the first Melbourne Cup.

Nearly half of Australia’s population lived in Victoria, and were considered to be the richest people in the world. The colony was feeling its oats.

Cricket was the sport, but variations of football began to manifest in parklands and schools. Counterintuitively, school football was more rugged. Hacking – the kicking of shins – was permitted for schoolboys, but not for men, for whom a broken bone might mean financial ruin.

Some, including historian Geoffrey Serle, have puzzled over why Victoria did not simply adopt Britain’s football games, as it did most other institutions. Pennings explains that soccer and rugby themselves still were evolving then, and had not been codified. One motive of the founders of ”Melbourne rules”, including Tom Wills, was to create a simpler game.

Rugby was the seminal influence. But rugby’s school code listed 33 rules, the new game just 10 (those were the days).

Pennings says one unique aspect of Australian rules is that its laws evolved on the field.

He also makes clear that the new game never saw itself merely as a derivative.

”There was considerable pride in the game, and a desire to spread it throughout the world,” he writes. In some quarters, there still is.

In July, 1858, Wills famously proposed the new code, to keep cricketers fit, but also cricket grounds, which would benefit from being ”trampled upon”.

In September, 27 ”gentlemen” of South Yarra -based at Fawkner Park and probably including some Melbourne Grammar schoolboys – challenged the Melbourne players north of the river – essentially Melbourne Cricket Club – to a match on Richmond paddock.

The South Yarra team brought its own set of rules, but, The Herald reported: ”They were more interested in the breach than the observance.” Melbourne scored the only goal, embellished by Punch as ”one triumphant joyous kick”, whereupon ”every motley-coloured kicker betook him to a special liquor”.

In the same month, Melbourne Grammar and Scotch College played a celebrated three-week match.

Eighty players roamed all over what is now Yarra Park, but one, an enterprising type, scuttled away with the ball inside the MCG fence, whereupon umpire Wills adjudged it out of bounds.

The idea was to become the first team to score two goals, but after three weeks, neither had, so a draw was declared.

The next year, Melbourne Football Club was formed and the new game’s laws set down. The signatories were Wills (then secretary of the MCC), Thomas Smith (a classics teacher at Scotch) and two journalists, and the venue was Bryant’s pub, the closest to the MCG. The MCG, schools, pubs and the press as forces in the game: has anything much changed?

Australian rules was at square one, though it was probably not yet recognisably today’s game. The stipulation to bounce the ball when running, for instance, was added later. It remained a game of the rough and ready.

Pennings writes of Alex Bruce, who had an artificial arm with an iron hook, and ”when he pushed from behind, always of course with the iron hook, it meant weeping and wailing to his unfortunate victim”.

Other clubs appeared, representing fast-growing suburbs, and from 1870 a premier recognised. In 1877, the VFA was formed.

In his introduction, Pennings writes that the game was revolutionised in the 1870s and ’80s by Geelong. ”Its scientific approach to the game put an emphasis on speed and accurate passing to players running into open spaces,” he writes. ”This marked a radical departure from a game previously reliant on big packs and nimble players who could run with the ball.”

Who says history does not repeat?

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Sprints open for Atomic

NEW South Wales trainers sometimes delight in the misery of their Victorian counterparts over a long and bleak winter, but not Newcastle trainer Darren Smith, who has headed south with his grand sprinter Atomic Force in the search of firmer tracks.
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Smith said yesterday that he sent the dual group 1-winning sprinter to Caulfield a few weeks ago to prepare for today’s listed Carlyon Stakes at Moonee Valley after a frustrating run at his Broadmeadow Racecourse base in Newcastle.

”The weather up here has been disgraceful and the tracks are waterlogged, so we put him on a float to get him ready down there,” Smith said. ”The facilities at Broadmeadow are being upgraded but we’ve had no Pro-Ride track and no grass tracks to work on, so we thought we’d make use of the facilities at Caulfield to get him up and going.”

In the absence of super sprinters Black Caviar and Hay List, a number of the big sprints in Melbourne this spring are up for grabs and few older or younger sprinters can rival the seven-year-old’s record, highlighted by group-1 wins in last year’s Galaxy, and last summer in New Zealand’s premier sprint, the Railway Stakes. ”He’s not yet at his top but he’s given me every indication that he’s exactly the same as he was last season,” Smith said. ”He’s a seven-year-old but he’s still fresh and keen as ever.”

Atomic Force worked at Moonee Valley on Tuesday morning under today’s rider, Craig Williams, and while Smith said the gelding was on track for a winning return, he would benefit from today’s outing. ”But he’s a good fresh horse and handles all ground, so you’d expect him to be right there,” he said.

Atomic Force has never missed a place first-up in five previous campaigns and at his only run over the 1000-metre course at Moonee Valley finished third, beaten by a nose behind group-1 winners Buffering and the ill-fated Crystal Lily.

A five-times wet track winner, he will be suited by today’s surface, which was last night rated a slow (6).

Smith figures he has only had about five runners in Melbourne since his first venture south in his early 20s. That day, in 1996, he saddled Pimpala Prince in the Ascot Vale Stakes. ”We had him ready to run the race of his life and he ran into a horse called Encosta de Lago,” he said.

Also making a raid on the early Melbourne sprints is Canberra trainer Matthew Dale, who saddles Unanimously in the $120,000 race. A Melbourne maiden in four previous attempts, Dale said the five-year-old was well placed to turn in his best run after experiencing the Moonee Valley track for the first time earlier this month when a game second to the in-form Freereturn.

”Saturday’s race is tougher than last start but he is better placed with the experience around Moonee Valley,” Dale said. ”He drew the outside nine [barrier] last time, so from barrier five and being third-up he should go well.”

It was at the same Moonee Valley meeting last year that two prominent spring horses emerged through the 1500-metre race, this year called the SAJ Catercare Group.

Finishing second in the race was subsequent Turnbull Stakes winner December Draw, while unplaced was eventual Caulfield Cup runner-up Green Moon. There are a number of stayers coming through today’s race. Last year’s Ebor winner Moyenne Corniche and last season’s group 2 Herbert Power Handicap winner Shewan run first-up, while owner Lloyd Williams will start two cups hopefuls second-up in Tanby and Excluded.

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

Shark Bites

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A few of the main runners in the last race on the program at Moonee Valley today are improving gallopers potentially destined for bigger and better races. Livigno is one, and while Tokugawa and Bombalatomba may have been more flashy, this fellow has plenty of scope in a race like this. He returned some impressive figures first-up at Flemington and should really improve as he tackles stronger opposition. A strong winning chance in an open race.

SUGGESTED BET Livigno each-way.




David Hayes is enduring a lean streak in city grade races but Valedictorian may be capable of breaking the run of outs early in the spring, especially at this venue. The horse simply loves racing at Moonee Valley, and if his strong first-up run here behind Tokugawa is anything to go by, he is not far away from another win. The step up to 1500 metres suits, as does an inside barrier, and a claim for gifted apprentice Chad Schofield allows him to take a position near the speed with a weight advantage on his rivals. A legitimate each-way option at double-figure odds.

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No. 4, Albrecht

Peter Snowden’s improving colt Albrecht certainly has the talent to win this group 3 contest, but it will come down to his mental state. The colt was most impressive on debut at Canterbury when he sat off the speed on a wet track and ploughed home to victory, but he was very green and wayward next time out at that track when running into third place. Albrecht’s immaturity may hold him back, but winkers will help his focus and could spark a winning run.

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OTI group hopes to drink from spring cups

Manighar has been transformed from a seemingly one-paced stayer into a dazzling weight-for-age performer at middle distances.SIMON O’Donnell, Terry Henderson and the OTI horse-racing syndicate know exactly how Tantalus felt.
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The mythical Greek figure – said to have stolen ambrosia and nectar from the gods – was condemned to thirst for eternity in the underworld, standing in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree whose fruit was always just out of grasp and with the water always receding before he could take a drink.

The OTI group members know just how heartbreaking it is to have had the vessel they cherish most snatched away at the last second: their grey gelding, Bauer, trained by Luca Cumani, was beaten by a whisker by Viewed in the 2008 Melbourne Cup.

Tantalus was never able to seek redemption. O’Donnell and Henderson can – and the pair are hoping it will come this spring. They have one of the strongest hands of any ownership group as they look to harvest the riches on offer in Melbourne over the next 10 weeks.

Already preparing for his next campaign is their import, Manighar, the revelation of the autumn, a galloper Peter Moody transformed from a seemingly one-paced stayer into a dazzling weight-for-age performer at middle distances.

Manighar, when prepared by Luca Cumani at Newmarket, finished close up in the cups, although his autumn performances over distances between 1600 metres and 2000 metres would suggest he is now capable of a Cox Plate.

While Australian punters will look to Moonee Valley and Warwick Farm for clues this weekend, the OTI members will have their eyes firmly fixed on Europe, where several other candidates who could bring them cups glory will be having their final preparatory races in the north and south of England and in France. The quartet concerned are Quest For Peace and Ibicenco, both trained by Cumani, Gatewood, from the John Gosden yard, and the John Hammond-prepared Prairie Star.

Ibicenco has been off the track since the end of May, when he ran second to Ascot Gold Cup runner-up Opinion Poll in a group 3 contest at Sandown. While Cumani is doubtful whether he is forward enough or perhaps sharp enough to match it with likely favourite Saddler’s Rock, O’Donnell is looking forward to a decent showing from the former German-trained galloper in the group 2 Lonsdale Cup over 3300 metres.

”We are looking for a nice run to top him off there before he comes here for the cups. He’s been off the track for a while and has had a nice freshen up,” the broadcaster and former Australian cricketer said.

While the son of Shirocco is a genuine stayer, Quest For Peace looks to be a better cups chance at the moment. The latter holds a Goodwood entry in the 2800-metre listed March Stakes late tonight and this four-year-old son of Galileo could be a big player in the Melbourne spring. He and Ibicenco will likely end up with Moody after their spring campaigns.

The group’s attention will switch to France 24 hours later, to the Grand Prix de Deauville, where Gatewood, a Royal Ascot winner of a 2000-metre handicap earlier this year, is expected to step out in company with Prairie Star.

Gatewood made the step up to group company when he ran third to Quest For Peace in that Goodwood race. Gatewood will be sent to Sydney to be trained by Chris Waller when his spring campaign ends, while Prairie Star will be transferred into the care of Danny O’Brien at Flemington.

Punters should also keep a close eye on the Ebor Handicap over 2800 metres at York. It has been a good guide to the foreign raiders for the cups, with Cumani’s Purple Moon winning it in 2007 before running second to Efficient at Flemington. John Gosden’s Camborne could also be a contender if he can win in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

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Carey sets yardstick for contender

LAST season’s AJC Derby winner Ethiopia is still three weeks away from returning to the track, but his trainer Pat Carey is hopeful of unearthing another group 1 contender by that time.
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Carey today saddles the Starcraft colt Right To Roam to run in the listed $120,000 McKenzie Stakes (1200 metres) at Moonee Valley, where he will not be judged solely on whether he wins or loses.

”He gives me the impression that he might want it a bit further, so if he can be finishing off his race nicely and be on the heels of the placegetters that will give us some confidence to keep on the path to a good race,” Carey said yesterday.

”You have to have a high road and at the same time be realistic, so we’ve got him nominated for the Caulfield Guineas and it’s up to him whether he gets there or whether he falls short. This race will be a good step for him in better class and we’ll see how he goes.”

Right To Roam raced just four times at his opening campaign in the autumn, which ended with a luckless second at Sandown over 1400 metres in April.

His dam My Only Hope won a Blue Diamond Stakes Prelude but Carey said Right To Roam threw more to his stallion – the dual hemisphere group 1 winner Starcraft – in that he is a chestnut who is looking for ground. Despite showing some promise, Right To Roam was marked a $41 chance last night to win the stakes race.

As for Ethiopia, who caused a sensation at Randwick in April when he won the AJC Derby as a maiden in his fourth start, Carey said he was taking a ”careful approach” to the horse’s spring program as he believed he would be at his peak as a stayer in another 12 months.

”We aren’t overloading ourselves with expectation this spring. He wasn’t nominated for the Caulfield Cup but we will put in a nomination for the Melbourne Cup simply to keep options open, but we haven’t got a heavy program outlined for him this preparation,” Carey said.

”At this stage we’ve pencilled in a first-up run in the Dato Tan [Chin Nam Stakes at Moonee Valley on September 15] and we’ll take it from there, but we won’t be rushing into races for the sake of it as we’ve got one eye on the autumn and one eye on next spring.”

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Svelte figures but fit for a fall?

Try some new angles: Take Shape Health and Fitness owner Tracey Wright with gym manager Tori Daile.WITHIN 500 metres of Craig Harper’s bayside house there are, he says, six gyms or personal training studios. Mr Harper, a trainer, who has owned a studio in Brighton for 22 years, says the personal training industry has ”gone through the roof. It’s out of control.”
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Melbourne is in the throes of a fitness craze. Personal trainers are a growth industry and new fitness outlets are opening in empty warehouses and shops all over town.

A Fitness Australia analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics labour figures shows that the number of registered exercise professionals nationally has leapt by 13,000 in the six years to 2011, to 30,000.

And an industry analysis by market research company IBISWorld found there were 7281 fitness-related businesses in Australia in 2011-12, compared with 5617 in 2002-03. The category includes gyms but also clothing and equipment outlets and for-profit sporting clubs.

The IBISWorld report predicts that increased disposable income, leisure time and health awareness will boost the figure to more than 8600 in 2016-17.

Mr Harper said the industry had been ”on an upward spiral for a long time”, fuelled by consumer demand, but the growth was not sustainable.

It was getting to the point of there being ”too many to survive and thrive”. He thought the big chains with ”less intimacy and less customer service, less connection and less personalised attention” would struggle.

Indeed, in June there was an industry health scare when the giant Fitness First chain was revealed to be heavily in debt and 333 Capital, the advisory arm of insolvency firm KordaMentha, was appointed to sell 24 of its 97 Australian gyms.

Heidelberg trainer Darren McGinty said fitness schools – more than 130, according to Fitness Australia – were ”pumping out” personal trainers from short courses and promoting gyms as a lucrative career. But while the graduates were willing to ”have a crack”, many knew little about running a business.

His own ”f.i.t. (fit in time)” studio has been in Heidelberg’s main street, Burgundy Street, for six years, but two rivals from big chains have opened in the street in the past six months.

Both offer 24-hour opening, fewer staff, lower fees and a shiny image.

”They’re 150 metres apart with exactly the same offering. How can that be sustainable in that area?” asked Mr McGinty, who says he offers a more long-term service of training, nutrition and lifestyle advice. ”It’s like a few years ago, every 40 feet in a shopping strip there was a juice bar … it’s the fad du jour.”

But Tracey Wright, owner of the independent Take Shape Health and Fitness, said there was room for new players.

Her business opened in Alphington on June 1 and already has attracted 150 clients.

It is four doors down from another new gym, the 24-hour Anytime Fitness, and across the road from a Pilates studio.

Ms Wright said while Anytime was more conventional with weights and cardio, hers emphasised group fitness and personal training.

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Kerr’s papers reveal man behind Whitlam sacking

SIR John Kerr identified the former chief justice, Sir Anthony Mason, as the ”third man” who secretly advised and ”fortified” him in the lead-up to the most divisive event in Australian political history, his decision to sack the Whitlam government in 1975.
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The former governor-general’s private records insist Sir Anthony ”played the most significant part in my thinking” and even reassured him that he had made the right call two days before he dismissed the Whitlam government on November 11.

They also assert that Sir Anthony, at the time a High Court judge, was the author of a statement that Kerr ”incorporated in my public statement” justifying his actions.

The record was uncovered by Whitlam biographer Jenny Hocking, whose book Gough Whitlam: His Time will be published next month. Hocking says Kerr’s records suggest that ”Mason was not merely the third man: he was, in many ways, the man”.

Kerr’s records make it clear that he wanted the extent of Sir Anthony’s role to surface after his own death but while Sir Anthony was still alive, with the aim of deflecting his responsibility for the deception and dismissal of Mr Whitlam.

”In the light of the enormous and vicious criticism of myself, I should have dearly liked to have had the public evidence during my lifetime of what Mason had said and done during October-November 1975 … [but] he would be happier … if history never came to know of his role,” he wrote.

”I shall keep the whole matter alive in my mind till the end, and if this document is found among my archives, it will mean that my final decision is that truth must prevail, and, as he played a most significant part in my thinking at that critical time, and as he will be in the shades of history when this is read, his role should be known.”

The account adds weight to the perception of Kerr as a weak man who wanted and needed to feel his actions had the approval of others. Aside from being portrayed as a constant confidant, the record depicts Sir Anthony ”as providing a necessary bridge between Kerr and chief justice Sir Garfield Barwick”, the book asserts.

Sir Anthony’s role in the dismissal has been the subject of speculation for decades, after Kerr noted in his memoir that one person other than Barwick, ”sustained me in my own thinking as to the imperative within which I had to act”.

While columnist Gerard Henderson has reported that Kerr told him he consulted directly with Sir Anthony prior to the dismissal, the detail laid out in Kerr’s private papers on their ”running conversation” staggered Hocking, who researched the biography for the last seven years. ”This was the discovery that I was most excited and, to an extent, shocked by,” she told The Saturday Age. ”I was just astonished by what I read.”

Sir Anthony has consistently refused to be drawn on his role. However, he has written his own detailed account of what took place and has agreed for it to be published exclusively in The Age on Monday.

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