‘In Australia, surely there should be regulation in place that allows punters an equal chance to win and equal chance to lose. If punters can only lose, why, as a society, do we allow gambling?’ … Richard Irvine.Michael West:Lose or be locked out; you bet!
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Gambling is an equal chance to win and equal chance to lose, says Richard Irvine, a professional punter who lives in Sydney. It is about a fair bet.

This is Richard Irvine’s story:

At this time of year sports gambling is ever present in our lives due to grand finals in both major football codes and the countdown to the gambling event that stops our nation, the Melbourne Cup.

It’s the bookies’ busiest time of year and they remind us of this with their blanket advertising.

If you ask the masses in Australia why gambling is popular in our society, the overwhelming response would be peoples’ desire to make fast, easy money in an entertaining way.

Most would agree that as long as it is regulated properly, to prevent corruption and prevent problem gamblers losing everything, it is an acceptable element of our society.

The Northern Territory government regulates the majority of online bookies. In 2011-2012 corporate bookmakers in the Northern Territory turned over $5.7 billion. They made a profit of $469 million, and they paid $2.35 million to the NT government in tax.

These bookies make a minuscule contribution to the government coffers in return for being able to run their businesses in this manner.

The punters lose twice.

On-course bookmakers have been the vibrant lifeblood of the horse racing gambling industry in Australia for well over a century now. There have been ‘undesirables’ plying their trade over the years, but the majority are hard working women and men working to make a buck.

Like all businesses, there has been a seismic shift to the internet. This has led to the quick demise of the on-course bookie and the rise of the online juggernaut.

On-course bookies are obliged to bet all comers, a rule that has been in place for decades. After the latest regulatory ruling by the Northern Territory Government, online bookies licensed in the NT are not obliged to bet anyone.

This ruling came about after much lobbying of the Territory government by various successful gamblers fed up at the disgraceful way they were treated by these bookmakers.

Over the years I have bet with virtually all online Australian bookies. I have had my account closed or severely restricted by 95 per cent of online bookies in the NT. The vast majority run ruthless, businesses with the sole aim of attracting and exploiting losing gamblers.

They are in business to make money and have every right to be successful. But is it fair that they are allowed to operate on a basis where they only allow losing gamblers to be their customers?

In Australia, surely there should be regulation in place that allows punters an equal chance to win and equal chance to lose. If punters can only lose, why, as a society, do we allow gambling?

The reason the majority of online bookies in Australia are licensed and based out of the Northern Territory is the very generous tax rates; along with very relaxed regulation over the bet types the bookies are allowed to offer.

The NT government allows them to bet on virtually anything from the gender of Kate Middleton’s baby to the winner of Big Brother. Other state regulators are much tighter on what bookies are allowed to bet on.

In the early 1990’s, the NT government lured these firms by offering them a turnover tax rate of 0.33 per cent on horse racing bets as opposed to the 1 per cent that other states were charging. They paid no turnover tax on all sports bets that Australian punters had with them. It was a no-brainer for them to head there. It provided a healthy revenue stream for the government.

The bookies which set up shop in the NT enjoyed growth. They paid very little tax to the NT government and avoided paying tax in other state racing jurisdictions around Australia.

This was in contrast to on-course bookies who were paying 1 per cent to their respective state governments and 1 per cent to their states racing bodies – so 2 per cent in total. The NT online bookies have only just recently started paying a 1.5 per cent turnover tax to Racing NSW after Racing NSW took them to court and won.

The bookies wanted to pay a 10 per cent tax on their gross profits instead. They also pay turnover taxes to other states on varying scales. They have only recently started paying turnover tax to all Australian racing bodies. For many years, they were happy to use racing as product to bet on but not return financially to the industry and its various racing bodies.

The NT became a very attractive place to do business. Due to the reach of the internet, a bookie can be located anywhere. They offered products that were far more competitive for punters than on-course bookies and the TAB could offer. Their costs were dramatically lower.

They could offer better value odds to their customers too due to the relaxed betting rules in the NT.

But all this was still not enough for them. Punters who were winning too much could have their account closed or restricted.

This came at a cost to on-course bookies. It also had a significant impact on the TAB which has been the financial lifeblood of the industry.

Today, a number of these bookies are companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Their profits are huge and they are going from strength to strength.

Often, they are contributing to the different sports they are using as products to bet on – often via sponsorships (which are all about advertising).

However, the other way they maximise their company profits is by only allowing punters who consistently lose to be their customers.

In today’s world of super-fast computers and an abundance of information available to people via the internet, many punters have been able to find winning formulae for betting.

The vast majority of NT online bookies don’t welcome these winning gamblers as clients and simply close their accounts or severely restrict the products they are offered.

There are five major on-line bookmakers in the NT. Luxbet, Sportingbet, Sportsbet, Centrebet and the new kid on the block, Bet365.

I have had my account closed or severely restricted by all five.

What is meant by restrictions is this: they no longer offer you a fixed price service. A bookmaker’s point of difference to the TAB and its totalisator system is they offer fixed price to their clients. The odds are locked in at the time of placing the bet, where as TAB totalisator system is a pool of money that is distributed by weight of money for a particular result.

So by not allowing you to bet fixed price with them, these bookies are effectively closing your account as well.

Bookmaking is a skill based on chance and probability.

Bookies work out what they think is the percentage chance of an events outcome and then turn it into odds for their customers. They shave these odds a little to create a bookie’s profit margin. Once they put these markets up they should have confidence in their market and should bet, you would think, all comers. That’s the business model.

They are direct in their message when closing accounts.

Luxbet sent me an email telling me my account was being restricted and saying it would not offer fixed price betting on horse racing, and that it was a commercial decision.

With Bet365, I received a call from a man based in their UK office telling me my account was to be closed for economic reasons.

Sportingbet emailed me and said, following an account review, there have been some changes made to your product offering, effective immediately”.

After getting blocked, I looked into the regulatory framework for these bookies and found that their obligations were insignificant.

I then began lobbying the NT government for online bookmakers to be obliged to bet all comers to win at least $1000. After six months of lobbying and getting pushed around to all different parts of the government they finally made a ruling. They ruled that NT licensed online bookmakers are not obliged to bet anyone, and can close accounts of anyone they choose. The big money had won. The punter had lost.

The main reason the NT government put forward in defending the changes was that the bookies could not handle the volume of bets that came their way via the internet.

In its findings, the NT government said that the losses bookies could sustain by being hit with large volume of individual bets all at once would be unreasonable.

Again, this is ridiculous. Sportingbet and Centrebet were just acquired by William Hill (a UK gaming giant) for $660 million. The absolute maximum amount of individual bets they could receive all at one time would be five, before they had time to change the odds. To lose maybe $5000 (only if the horse or sporting team wins) in one transaction is hardly unreasonable for a company the size of William Hill.

Surely the government has sanctioned a system which leads to problem gambling when the only customers these bookies accept are losers.

The NT needs to be asked a series of questions regarding its regulation of online bookies and the effect the regulation has on problem gambling.

Foreign interests own the four biggest online bookmakers in Australia; Sportingbet, Sportsbet, Centrebet and Bet365.

These companies, valued in the hundreds of millions, and are only interested in betting losers and all profits are then funnelled off-shore.

The general public is fed up with the intrusion of gambling into their everyday lives and the barrage of advertising. It seems many have no idea how ruthless these bookies are in their business practices and the NT government is happy to let it all happen.

Be warned, the big toothy grin of your bookie on your TV screen will disappear, along with your account, should you do the unthinkable and consistently win.

Richard Irvine is punter who lives in Sydney

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.Read More →

THE Anglican Church had mishandled sexual abuse cases and not acted in the best interest of victims, Bishop of Newcastle Roger Herft said yesterday.
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Bishop Herft told the Newcastle Anglican diocese’s 47th synod that the portrayal of women in the Bible as “conspirers”, coupled with a misunderstanding of forgiveness, had contributed to the problem.

Bishop Herft said the opinion that women were “enticers” had led to the portrayal of man as “the passive recipient of the woman’s guile”.

“We have reaped the consequences of such a warped attitude for it portrays the victim of abuse as the cause, rather than the bearer of pain,” he said.

He said a “misunderstanding of forgiveness” had led to abusive priests or church workers being allowed to resume ministry responsibilities.

“The sad and tragic focus on the former Governor-General, Dr Peter Hollingworth, which resulted in his resignation, revealed these two world views that have governed the culture of most churches,” Bishop Herft said.

Parish priests, chaplains and lay representatives from across the Newcastle diocese, which covers Newcastle, the Central Coast, the Upper Hunter and Manning regions, have come together for the synod. It is the annual meeting of the diocese, at which policy is determined and issues debated.

Bishop Herft said the protection of the victim was critical and covering up “was not an option”.

He said the diocese had adopted more stringent checking procedures for those who wanted a bishop’s licence, including a criminal record check.

Legislation establishing protocols for dealing with all forms of misconduct had been prepared.

The synod, which began on Thursday night, will finish this afternoon with a Eucharist at Christ Church Cathedral, at which the head of the Anglican Church in Australia, Archbishop Peter Carnley, will deliver a sermon.

Dr Carnley led the members of Synod in Bible study yesterday morning.

CONCERN: Bishop Roger Herft addresses the annual Newcastle Anglican diocese’s synod. – Picture by Darren Pateman

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Controversial choice: Clive Churchill medallist Dale Cherry-Evans offloads during the grand final. Photo: Brendan Esposito Sonny Bill Williams came good in the last 10 minutes, says McCarthy. Photo: Jonathan Carroll
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Test selector Bob McCarthy admitted it “didn’t look all that good” that the Clive Churchill medallist from Sunday’s grand final came from the beaten side, but he was also bullish in his belief that Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans deserved the accolade.

Cherry-Evans was awarded man-of-the-match honours by the four Australian selectors – McCarthy, Bob Fulton, Des Morris and Alan Smith – following the Roosters’ 26-18 victory, prompting some sections of the crowd to boo the Sea Eagles player.

While he would not reveal whether the vote was unanimous, McCarthy – who said he cast his with about five minutes remaining – conceded that some selectors were more comfortable with the decision than others.

“We get told to pick the best player on the ground, and the best player on the ground was Cherry-Evans,” McCarthy said. “Whether he came from Easts or Manly … it’s just how it was. It’s happened before. He was the best player on the ground.

“Every time he got the ball he was dangerous. If Manly had won … there’d be none of this. Manly were leading 18-8, and it was Cherry-Evans.

“Then when Easts came over the top, it was still Cherry-Evans. No one really took it off him.

“Cherry-Evans was just the best player. I know it didn’t look all that good, but that’s the way it is. We’re like the referees; we’re not going to please everyone.”

Many believed the award should have been given to Jake Friend, Sam Moa, James Maloney or Sonny Bill Williams from the winning side.

McCarthy said he felt Moa was the Roosters’ best but did not deserve the accolade due to his limited time on the field.

“Would you give it to Maloney?” McCarthy said. “What did he do? Twice he got caught with nothing to do, and he put the ball in the air and they scored a try. He was cornered. That was luck. You can’t give a Churchill Medal for that, or for kicking four goals.

“I think Sam Moa was possibly their best player, but he played 45 minutes. You can’t give a bloke a Churchill Medal for that. But that 45 minutes was quality.”

Of Williams, he said: “Sonny was awful in first half. He came good with 10 minutes to go when Manly had their two front-rowers and Watmough off the field.”

Asked about the sight of Cherry-Evans receiving his award amidst a chorus of boos, McCarthy said: “That’s got nothing to do with us. That’s the Roosters supporters. If they look at the game, and watch it again, they’ll see he was the best player on the field.”

After the match, Cherry-Evans described winning the medal as bitter sweet. His bitter-sweet few days continued on Monday, when he was selected in the Australian World Cup squad. Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens even revealed the Manly playmaker could challenge Cooper Cronk or Johnathan Thurston for a starting halves spot during the tournament.

“Over a six-week tournament, Cherry-Evans will certainly throw down the gauntlet, for sure,” Sheens said. “But knowing Cooper and knowing Johnathan, they’ll be ready for the challenge. Daly’s shown that he can play some utility as well – he did that for Queensland this year – so it’s not a matter that he won’t be considered within a 17-man squad either.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.Read More →

Shaun Kenny-Dowall celebrates after playing 65 minutes with a broken jaw. Photo: Brendan Esposito Shane Webcke won the 2000 decider wearing a cast to protect a broken arm. Photo: Craig Golding
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Andrew Johns played with a punctured lung in Newcastle’s 1997 victory. Photo: Newcastle Herald

After playing in the grand final for more than 65 minutes with a broken jaw, Shaun Kenny-Dowall put his surgery on hold to celebrate his premiership success with his teammates.

Scans confirmed Kenny-Dowall had played the bulk of the grand final against Manly with a broken jaw, ending the Kiwi centre’s hopes of a call-up to the New Zealand World Cup squad.

The bravery has been compared to that shown by John Sattler, who famously played most of the 1970 grand final with a battered jaw as he led South Sydney to premiership glory against Manly.

Kenny-Dowall lost a tooth somewhere on the ANZ Stadium turf, and believed the incident happened five minutes into the epic encounter. Despite the pain, he played on, refusing to tell the club’s medical staff of his injury, including the Roosters’ long-term medico John Orchard.

“He didn’t want to give any of us the chance to keep him from the field,” Orchard said. “The first we knew about it was after the game, and he came up and said he thought he might have broken his jaw.

“In round six, you’d probably get the injury and you’d let the trainer know. But in a grand final you go the other way and think that I need to be out there and the injury doesn’t exist. It was very impressive effort.”

Orchard described the surgery as “precautionary” but the hairline fracture will keep Kenny-Dowall out of action for about six weeks, ruling him out of the World Cup.

Kenny-Dowall, who brushed the pain aside to score a second-half try to snatch back the lead, was in good spirits despite being a late arrival to the team’s annual mad Monday celebrations at the Bellevue Hotel, Woollahra.

“It’s all right, it’s a bit swollen,” Kenny-Dowall said of his jaw. “It’s not too bad but it’s swollen [I haven’t had] much sleep. [Monday is about] having a good time and enjoying the boys company.”

Orchard compared Kenny-Dowall’s courage to that of former Roosters utility Chris Flannery, who played in the 2004 decider six days after having surgery to repair a ruptured testicle.

Kenny-Dowall also received praise from Sattler, who described the Kiwi’s efforts as “brave”. Sattler was part of the ANZ Stadium crowd, but like most people at the venue, didn’t realise the discomfort Kenny-Dowall was in.

“It was brave of him to play on with it,” Sattler said. “He is a good player, a hard, tough player. I don’t remember [breaking my] bloody jaw. I knew it was in a mess and bleeding like a mongrel and it probably wasn’t as painful as people imagined because you were hot and running on adrenaline.

“It was very uncomfortable. When it fell apart on me I would put it back into my mouth guard and just jammed my mouthguard on it and that would go good until you lost concentration and forget about it and then it would wobble and fall out again. Stupidity and being geed up for the game gets you through the pain.”

Roosters prop Luke O’Donnell tore his hamstring again as he completed his desired 30-minute stint on Sunday.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.Read More →

Former Queensland premier Peter Beattie and his wife Heather are selling the big family house and downsizing to an apartment closer to the city. Photo: Supplied The 1920s house sits on an 810-square-metre block with in-ground pool. Photo: Supplied
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Following extensive renovations over the years the couple are now hoping to pocket about $3 million – well above the suburb’s median house price of $1.075 million. Photo: Supplied

After a failed attempt at resurrecting his political career at the recent federal election, former Queensland premier Peter Beattie and his wife Heather are doing what a lot of couples do at their stage in life – selling the big family house and downsizing to an apartment closer to the city.

The Beatties have lived in their two-storey Queenslander in the posh inner-northern Brisbane suburb of Wilston for 20 years.

They paid $310,000 for it back in 1993, when Mr Beattie was a humble backbencher in the Goss Labor government. Following extensive renovations over the years the couple are now hoping to pocket about $3 million – well above the suburb’s median house price of $1.075 million.

The 1920s house, on an 810-square-metre block with in-ground pool, has expansive views of the city from its wide verandahs. It’s about three kilometres from the CBD and close to many of the city’s best schools.

Three of the five bedrooms are on the top level – the main bedroom has an ensuite and walk-in wardrobe – as are a study, bathroom and open-plan living area, which opens to the wrap-around verandahs.

Downstairs is another living room, the remaining bedrooms, a bathroom, two-car garage and storage area.

Selling agent Peter Taudevin said the suburb was one of the most exclusive in Brisbane and the street where the Beatties lived had some “magnificent homes”.

“Since 1993 he’s spent a lot of money and time totally restoring the home.”

There had already been interest in the property, including from interstate, and given Mr Beattie’s public profile there were a lot of people who wanted to look through it, he said.

“Because of who owns it there are a lot of people wanting to go through it to see how a former premier lived,” Mr Taudevin said. “But we’re handling inspection strictly by appointment only.”

Mr Taudevin denied Mr Beattie’s recent election defeat played any part in the timing of the sale. Rather it was because all three of the couple’s children had now left home.

“The timing is a natural progression for Peter and Heather to move on because [children] Matthew and Denis have only just moved, probably in the last six or seven weeks, into their own respective units,” he said. “The home is just far too big for them.” The couple’s other child, Larissa, now lives in Sydney.

The Beatties were looking to downsize to a three-bedroom apartment in the suburbs of Spring Hill, Bulimba or West End, which were closer to the city but still had a suburban flavour. They were looking to spend about $1.3 million, he said.

Mr Beattie is no stranger to apartment living, having bought one in New York during a stint in the United States following his 17-year career in state politics, nine years of which he spent as premier.

Mr Taudevin said the couple planned to keep the New York apartment.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.Read More →

CSL pays $67.9 million to US hospitals
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In Arthur Miller’s classic play about the Salem witch trials in early America, protagonist John Proctor willingly walks to the gallows rather than sign his name to a crime he knew he didn’t commit that would implicate others and ruin his good name forever.

Miller was of course using the famous Massachusetts hysteria over imagined witches as a novel literary device to comment on a more modern event of the McCarthyist trials of the 1950s. Either way the lessons were still the same.

CSL has chosen a different path to that of John Proctor. And although it isn’t facing a similar fate at the end of the hangman’s noose, it has decided to hand over $US64 million to a handful of hospitals who instead of witches saw a grand conspiracy by CSL to defraud customers through price fixing.

After four years of fighting, CSL has given up any chance to clear its name and prove its innocence in the full public gaze of the US court system.

But John Proctor never had shareholders, customers and a multi-billion dollar global plasma business to run, and this looks to have finally won over the CSL management and its board to pay off the plaintiffs and make the case go away – no matter how distasteful it might be.

The distraction was very real. CSL boss Paul Perreault recently spent nearly eight hours being deposed by plaintiff counsel, and that’s a day’s work he could have spent working for CSL shareholders.

Former CSL boss Brian McNamee, who consistently denied any wrong doing and claimed the court case was completely frivolous, also spent time being deposed by lawyers just as he was about to hand over the reins to Perreault. Again wasted time that could have been better spent walking through the key challenges and risks of the business to his replacement.

Then there were the ongoing costs.

Although moderate at first, around $2 million in the first year back in 2009 when the lawsuit began to gather form, it has now averaged $5 million a year and the running bill for CSL is $20 million.

Internally, CSL lawyers believed a trial would have cost another $20 million. This is pretty small against CSL’s annual revenue of more than $5 billion.

CSL has always seen lawsuits as a cost of doing business in the US, where court cases sometimes resemble vaudeville and are great fodder for the evening news or afternoon chat shows.

It seems that CSL didn’t like its chances given the price fixing case would have gone to a jury. Imagine it, simple folk presiding over a case like price fixing and cartel behaviour.

But if juries can sit on cases as complex as Enron and the wash-out of the GFC, why not a case about cartels? We will now never know.

The plaintiffs lined up against CSL never found a ‘smoking gun’ that would have proved their case.

But sometimes a little bit of hysteria can go a long way, just look at the graves in Salem.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.Read More →

Delmae Ryan and her husband Jack, getting treatment in hospital. Delmae Ryan’s foot after the snake bite.
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An Australian travelling in Nepal made a dash back to Brisbane after suffering a rare, life-threatening snake bite, triggering a national search for anti-venom.

Delmae Ryan was with her husband Jack in the Nepalese city of Pokhara on September 27, when she was bitten by a Pit Viper while she was getting into a car.

“It felt like a smack on my leg, a hard hit and pain,” she said. “All I could see was two blood spots.”

They headed to the local hospital as Ms Ryan’s leg began to swell rapidly. Her condition became a topic of conversation for everyone in the hospital – from curious bystanders to patients to doctors – who were unable to find an anti-venom to treat the bite.

“It was a very scary experience. There was no privacy. The whole community that was in hospital at the time was watching and giving their opinions in Nepali,” she said.

There was also the issue of hygiene. Ms Ryan, an enrolled nurse, believed the conditions were unsafe and she and Jack decided to try to rush back to Australia, against the advice of local doctors.

After the doctors reluctantly signed a form permitting her to board an aircraft, and the Ryans arrived back in Brisbane after stopovers in Kathmandu and Hong Kong.

But instead of going to a hospital in Brisbane straight away, Ms Ryan admits she was complacent.

She visited her local GP in Logan south of Brisbane.

And when the swelling hadn’t gone down two days later, she was admitted to Logan Hospital.

Alarmingly, test results revealed that if she suffered a fall or cut herself, she ran the risk of death because her blood was not able to clot.

Ms Ryan was transferred to the Princess Alexandra Hospital, where emergency physician Colin Page began was handed the unenviable task of finding an anti-venom for a snake that doesn’t exist in Australia.

Dr Page said he made more than 80 calls to other zoos, anti-venom suppliers, and universities around the country. After 24 hours, researchers from Monash University in Melbourne were able to send an anti-venom they thought could treat the bite, but there was still uncertainty.

The medication was flown up and given to Ms Ryan on Sunday at 1pm, and she is now expected to make a full recovery.

“This was a very complicated and challenging process. We had very little experience with overseas snakes in Australia,” Dr Page said.

“Her blood tests were completely abnormal, but to look at her from the end of the bed, you may not think she was that unwell. If something was to go wrong, it could go wrong very quickly. There’s no doubt this was a potentially deadly envenomation.”

With summer approaching, Dr Page said the incident served as a reminder that snake bites should be treated in hospital immediately.

Ms Ryan says she hopes to return to work in the next few weeks, but will need to wait until she can put weight on her leg.

“We’re Christians so we had lots of people praying for us. We had many answers to prayer in a short period of time,” she said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.Read More →

Activists Rofinus Yanggam, Markus Jerewon, and Yuvensius Goo climbed the wall of the Australian consulate in Bali and took refuge on Sunday morning.Federal politics: full coveragePM avoids Papua ‘visit’ at consulate
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New claims that three Papuan activists who briefly occupied the Australian consulate in Bali had sought refuge or asylum have been denied by the department of Foreign Affairs.

The three men, Rofinus Yanggam, Markus Jerewon, and Yuvensius Goo, climbed a back wall at the consulate in the early hours of Sunday morning and delivered a letter to Australian Consul-General Brett Farmer asking for world leaders attending the APEC meeting to press Indonesia to treat West Papuans better and allow greater freedoms in the troubled province.

The letter also included the line: “We need your help. We seek refuge and plead for our safety.”

The men left the consulate before 7am, but the government is facing calls in Australia for a full explanation about the circumstances after claims they were threatened with arrest.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said the men left “voluntarily”, but the men themselves claim that Mr Farmer threatened to call in the Indonesian police or military — who would have needed his permission to enter the consulate.

“They told us: ‘We don’t accept you to stay here. If you stay here for five minutes, I will call the Indonesian army to come and take you out’,” Mr Yanggam was reported saying.

“I know that if I am arrested then my life will be over. I will have no control over my life any more. So better to get out now.”

Greens Senator Richard di Natale has pressed for a “clear and detailed” account of events, saying the men had effectively left with “a gun to their heads”.

Fairfax Media has established that several hours after they entered the building, a taxi was called for the men from inside the consulate. Taxi company records show the men were picked up at the consulate at 6.46am and taken to a location in Denpasar, where they were dropped off in the company of two other people.

The taxi driver said their conversation was in a different language and he could not understand it.

Fairfax Media has been unable since to contact the men. Papua activists in Jakarta have told Fairfax the men have switched off their phones because they fear for their safety and the Papuan student organisation in Bali says they do not live locally and it has no knowledge of them or their whereabouts.

In the week leading up to the APEC summit, Papuan students in Bali had complained about a number of visits to their dormitory accommodation by Indonesian intelligence operatives. An article in a student publication, Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua quoted students saying they had been visited by plain-clothes officers asking if they were intending to protest against the APEC meeting.

Melki, the head of the Papuan student dormitory, is quoted saying multiple visits by between two and six intelligence officers at a time had begun on September 15 and that students had found them intimidating.

Indonesia is particularly sensitive about separatist activities and protests in its easternmost provinces. Flying the separatist “Morning Star” flag is banned, about 55 activists are currently imprisoned for political activities. Research has recently emerged suggesting that Indonesia uses torture as a matter of statecraft in West Papua.

However, Australia strongly supports Indonesia’s sovereignty over the province, and Prime Minister Tony Abbott has recently stepped up the rhetoric on this issue, saying he would clamp down hard on any “grandstanding” by protesters against Indonesian control of West Papua. Seven West Papuans recently sought asylum in Australia after arriving by boat to a Torres Strait island but were quickly sent to Papua New Guinea in a move that activists claim may be illegal.

Asked early on Monday about claims that the three men in Bali had sought Australia’s protection or asylum in the consulate, a spokesman for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs said the men “did not ask to be taken to Australia” and reiterated that they had left voluntarily and without threats.

“The Australian government’s position on the Papuan provinces is absolutely clear – we recognise and support Indonesia’s sovereignty,” the statement continued.

“We consistently register with the Indonesia the importance of human rights and the need for access to the Papuan provinces for credible observers, including non-government organisations and the media.

“The human rights situation in the Papuan provinces has improved during President Yudhoyono’s administration but the Indonesian government acknowledges there are still problems that need to be addressed. We don’t intend to allow grandstanding to undermine the relationship.

“In our assessment, the situation in the Papuan Provinces is getting better, not worse.”

With Amilia Rosa

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.Read More →

ADELAIDE’S Anglican archbishop resigned yesterday and apologised for his faults in dealing with child sex abuse within the church.
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But the Most Reverend Ian George denied he had bowed to public pressure in leaving the post he had held for almost 13 years.

His resignation comes a year after the resignation of former governor-general Peter Hollingworth over his handling of child sex abuse while archbishop of Brisbane.

Dr George had resisted calls to resign after the release of an independent report last week into the church’s handling of up to 200 child sex abuse allegations, and claims there was a pedophile network within the Adelaide diocese.

The report was damning in its criticism, saying the church’s first priority when encountering child abuse allegations was to protect itself.

The report also found the church was uncaring towards victims and said “the possibility of the involvement of the police, at the insistence of the church, was seemingly abhorrent”.

Dr George reconsidered his position after the church’s Professional Standards Committee voted on Tuesday to ask him to stand aside.

On Thursday the Adelaide Diocesan Council voted to publicly withdraw support for Archbishop George unless he volunteered to step down.

“Archbishops do not resign from office in response to public outcry, media pressure or internal church deliberations,” Dr George said yesterday.

“Nevertheless, because of my love for the body of Christ and desire for its unity, I have decided to resign my office as Archbishop of Adelaide as from the end of today.”

Dr George, who did not appear in public yesterday, said he he was distressed “at the pain and suffering experienced by those who have been abused within the life of the church”.

“Where I have been at fault in responding to them (victims), and where the church has been faulty in its responses, I deeply apologise,” he said. “I accept my responsibility as archbishop.”

Dr George, who was to have retired this August, will be replaced as archbishop by Archdeacon John Collas. AAP

Anglican Archbishop of Adelaide Ian George.

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Life in a bubble: Sonny Bill Williams is a big fish in the small pond of the NRL. Photo: Anthony Johnson Sonny bill
Wuxi Plastic Surgery

Sonny Bill Williams playing for the All Blacks against England in Twickenham in 2010.

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Rugby league has many qualities, and rugby has been smart enough to quietly steal a few of the best.

It is not just the offloads (see All Blacks No.8 Kieran Read’s expanded skill portfolio over recent years), but the fitness work too.

Repeat efforts in defence is the prerequisite for rugby defences these days, a mirror of the tough work of getting back into the defensive line that league’s hard men have been mastering for years.

More broadly, league remains the game of the working man: egalitarian and championing the qualities of hard work.

At its best, it has echoes of boxing’s best storylines. (We all know what it looks like at its worst, but that discussion is not for this column.)

But there was a game of rugby in Johannesburg at the weekend, between the Springboks and All Blacks at Ellis Park, that showed why Sonny Bill Williams will be feeling rugby tugging so persistently at him even as he celebrates with the Roosters.

Often, rugby’s appeal as a global sport can be a little overplayed. It is not as if league players are forced to hand in their passports. They can still see the world if they choose.

But in sporting terms, the superb Johannesburg Test, won 38-27 by the All Blacks, had significance well beyond the national borders in which it was played.

Northern hemisphere nations, still buoyed by the British and Irish Lions series win, watched a classic Test match unfold, assessing the size of the challenge that’s coming their way in spring. In Argentina, the Wallabies were watching and took it as their cue to get their act together.

There is quite simply a stage open to rugby players that the NRL cannot match in scale and significance.

Another way of looking at it is this: had Williams not been loyal to his handshake deal with Nick Politis, on Saturday he would have been playing on the same turf that Nelson Mandela and Springboks captain Francois Pienaar graced in their act of kinship at the World Cup final in 1995, which helped heal the wounds of a nation. Instead, he was at Homebush.

It was also clear from the All Blacks’ win – and elements of the Wallabies’ performance against Argentina – that the idea that rugby cannot offer athletes an opportunity to express themselves in the same way as league is a myth. In the Springboks v All Blacks game, the ball was in play for 38.31 minutes, at altitude.

Possession often shifted once or twice in the same passage of play, causing wonderful havoc with defensive structures. The game has no need to justify itself to critics from other codes when such a beautiful template is delivered.

Nods, winks and perhaps some wishful thinking have invaded the vacuum created by Williams’ lack of comment on his future.

My own hunch is that Williams will return to rugby in 2014 for the reasons mentioned above, his connection with the Chiefs in New Zealand and perhaps even a cautionary tale associated with the performance of his friend Liam Messam in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Messam scored two tries in a wonderful and physical performance in the All Blacks’ No.6 jersey. Two years ago that garment was owned by Jerome Kaino, much more than Williams has ever had possession of the All Blacks’ No.12.

Now, after a spell in Japan, the 30-year-old Kaino has returned to New Zealand and has a battle on his hands to regain it. The longer Williams delays a return, the more he risks.

And there is a significant chapter that remains blank in Williams’ tale, a central role in the 2015 World Cup in England (for all the talk of the 2016 Olympics, that’s the dessert, not the main course).

In England, in Test midfields, await the giant Welshman Jamie Roberts, England’s monster Manu Tuilagi, the Frenchmen Wesley Fofana and Gael Fickou and, possibly, Israel Folau of the Wallabies.

If Williams wants to write the sort of legacy that the world knows about, he’ll have to pack his heavy heart and, for all its qualities, leave rugby league.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.Read More →