Indian government survives confidence vote

India's embattled coalition government has survived a chaotic parliamentary confidence vote, clearing the way for it to forge ahead with a civilian nuclear energy deal with the United States.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh won the backing of 275 deputies against 256 who opposed his Congress-led government, mainly left-wingers and Hindu nationalists, speaker Somnath Chatterjee said at the end of a raucous session on Tuesday.

Mr Singh needed just a simple majority to survive and see through the last year of his mandate. Had he failed, the world's largest democracy will be headed into early elections – with his opponents emboldened.

The result came after a tense hand-count of some votes that apparently were not properly recorded by machine, and a furore over opposition allegations that the ruling coalition paid out large sums of cash in bribes to ensure its win.

The deal gives the government the green light to move forward with a pact with Washington designed to bring India into the global loop of nuclear commerce after decades of international isolation.

“It's a great victory for the party and the government, and this victory is dedicated to the future of the country,” said senior Congress party official Ambika Soni.

Nuclear deal

“The nuclear deal has been endorsed,” said government minister Ashwini Kumar.

The deal would allow India, which has nuclear weapons and refuses to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to be treated as a special case on condition it separates its civil and military programs and allows some UN inspections.

Government officials gave an impassioned defence of the deal during two days of special parliamentary debate, arguing that the country's 1.1 billion people badly need alternative sources of energy to avert an impending fuel crunch.

Left-wingers – who triggered the vote by withdrawing their support for Mr Singh earlier this month – and the main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) say the deal ties traditionally neutral India too closely with the United States.

They also argue it would compromise the country's nuclear weapons program.

The communists had tried to widen the terms of the debate – speaking out against rising food and fuel prices, and arguing that hundreds of millions of poor have been left behind in India's economic boom.

Bribery claims

The Revolutionary Socialist Party, one of the four left-wing parties that forced the vote, said the government's win had “blackened” the face of Indian democracy.

“We do not recognise this as a victory. They won because of intense horse-trading,” fumed party leader T J Chandrachoodan.

BJP president Rajnath Singh alleged: “There has been pressure on our MPs to take money to either abstain or vote for the government, and this has been done by the (ruling) Congress and their supporters.”

The stormy session saw three opposition BJP MPs wave bundles of cash worth 30 million rupees ($A732,200) that they said they had been paid for their votes.

“Never in the history of our parliament has such a shameful and revolting scandal unfolded,” Mr Singh said.

Officials in parliament said Mr Chatterjee had called in New Delhi's police chief to investigate the bribery claims. The speaker said it was a “sad day in the history of parliament”.

Mission Accomplished? Iraq five years on

It's five years since US President George W Bush stood before the infamous 'Mission Accomplished' banner, to declare an end to major combat in Iraq.


It's an awkward anniversary for an administration which has taken the country into one of the most unpopular and costly conflicts in US history.

The giant banner on the bridge of an aircraft carrier, provided the perfect backdrop for the President's bold claim.

Just six weeks after ordering the invasion of Iraq, a triumphant George Bush made the declaration that has come to haunt him.

“Major combat operations in Iraq have ended in the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed,” the president said.

'More specific banner needed'

That was then; today the White House had a new take on what that banner really meant.

“The banner should have been much more specific and said, “Mission Accomplished” for these sailors who are on this ship, on their mission',” explained press secretary Dana Perino.

But outside the White House, anti-war protestors weren't buying the administration's attempt to backtrack.

“Four thousand Americans dead, three trillion dollars we will spend on this war when its all said and done according to a Nobel prize winning economist and John McCain says 100 years,” they said.

“We ask you Mr President Mission Accomplished?”

With the mission in Iraq far from over, and the US death toll steadily climbing, the man responsible can now make another claim – to being the most unpopular President in modern US history.

Bush popularity hits new low

A new CNN poll shows George W Bush has a 71 per cent disapproval rating, well ahead of Richard Nixon at 66 per cent and Harry Truman at 67 per cent.

Not surprisingly, Democrats have been making the most of it.

“Five years ago today, President Bush made an outrageous claim, a claim that has become the symbol of his incompetence and failure in Iraq,” said senator Frank Lautenberg.

In Iraq, the killings continue: one American soldier and nine Iraqi civilians, including three women and a child died in this bomb blast in Baghdad.

And there were up to two dozen more deaths in Sadr City, where US and Iraqi forces are still trying to put down the Mehdi Army miltia.

New Orleans – In Katrina's Wake

It is two years now since Hurricane Katrina tore apart historic New Orleans deep in the American South.


How could we possibly forget that harrowing footage? But, what's not well-known is that the bloke currently in charge of rebuilding the shattered city is actually an Australian citizen who lives in Sydney, Dr Ed Blakely. New Orleans is not his first assignment. In the past, he's been called on to reconstruct other cites around the world pulverised by nature. Our reporter David Brill has just been to New Orleans to examine the city's reconstruction and he found a disturbing extra layer to the crisis, the dreaded race card is well and truly out of the deck. Here is David Brill's report.

REPORTER: David Brill

DR ED BLAKELY, HEAD OF RECOVERY NEW ORLEANS: New Orleans is America's city. It's a unique creature of the United States. New Orleans is the crucible of America. We have no unique institutions except jazz, which was invented here. So this is America's soul, if America's soul dies so does America.

The old New Orleans in the state of Louisiana, they called it the Pearl of the South. But everything changed in August 2005, when Hurricane Katrina blasted ashore leaving 1,500 dead and destroying 250,000 homes across the state. When the levee surrounding New Orleans broke, the city quite literally drowned.

DR ED BLAKELY: Maybe you can compare this with Hiroshima or Nagasaki, where you destroy good portions of the city and you are unable to occupy them for a long time.

I've come here to see what has or hasn't changed since then. In many ways the city looks and sounds normal, at least in the centre of town. And by night, the famous Bourbon Street in the French Quarter is pumping out the jazz, just like the old days. But appearances can be deceptive.

JOHN CANNON, ‘FREE AGENTS BRASS BAND’: Most of us are homeowners who can't even get into our own homes because of the condition that they are in. We are forced to pay high rents and we are not making the wages that we need to pay the rent and just keep our head above water. You talk about a flood that passed through here. There's still a flood here, a lot of people are just barely above the flood-line.

REPORTER: So all these blocks here, there were houses on all these blocks?

JOHN CANNON: Every inch of square land that you see back here…

John is the tuba player from the band and he wants to take me to his home in the hardest-hit part of the city, the Lower Ninth Ward.

REPORTER: Where have they all gone?

JOHN CANNON: The ones that did not wash away were torn down by the city. The ones that washed away ended up almost to Shellmet. I mean, all of this was neighbourhoods, everybody lived here. Think of all the people who had homes here.

The poor and black residents suffered most when the hurricane hit and I'm about to learn that they're still suffering.

JOHN CANNON: And this..I don't know how it's been locked, well… This was the kitchen we had in the house, all the copper piping that was in here, people have been stealing that and there used to be a stove on this side, but..

REPORTER: They've been coming in here, stealing your copper piping?

JOHN CANNON: They steal everything. It's a cut-throat place now, like a third-world country, you have to do what you have to do.

REPORTER: Like the Wild West going on here?


With his house flooded up to the rafters, John's family was evacuated interstate and hasn't yet returned. He now lives at a friend's place.

JOHN CANNON: Right here in the kitchen, the refrigerator was here.

One of thousands of home-owners caught in a catch 22 situation, he doesn't have the money to rebuild his home and the state government won't let him return untill it's repaired.

JOHN CANNON: You know, I own a property, I'm still paying taxes on it, I have to pay taxes every year or the City will just take my property from me and the bad thing about it is that there is nothing I can do with it, not at this point.

REPORTER: Nothing?


And as bizarre as it sounds, John is even in debt to the city for not cutting his lawn.

REPORTER: So they want you to pay $100 a day to cut this grass?

JOHN CANNON: Yes, a hundred dollars a day, every day that it is not cut it's $100 that I pay to the city. This is a light that has been there since Katrina and that's still Katrina water, two years later, that's how high the water was here.

As I move around, the Lower Ninth resembles a ghost town.

REPORTER: What number's that?

JOHN GREY: 5006.

REPORTER: 5006, and your house used to be in there?


REPORTER: What happened to it?

JOHN GREY: It floated away.

REPORTER: Have you ever seen it since?

JOHN GREY: No, we have never saw it can't even but find it. Was trying to find it and get some sentimental things out there but we couldn't even find it.

John Grey is another resident who seems to be in shock two years after the flood.

REPORTER: How's it affected your health?

JOHN GREY: Mentally, it is devastating, it is devastating. Devastating. This is sad, really sad. And you got people homeless, hungry and everything else out here, committing suicide and everything else and, you know, it's just bad.

John was a paralegal working for a well-known law firm. Ever since Katrina, he's been jobless and survives on the food provided by this charity centre.

BRIAN QUINN, MANAGER, ‘EMERGENCY COMMUNITIES’: We provide three meals a day, we had child care here during the summer. We're gutting houses for people, rewiring houses for people. If it wasn't for the private sector, and the religious groups, a lot of this work wouldn't be getting done because the government's not doing it.

REPORTER: And have most of these people lost their homes during Katrina?

BRIAN QUINN: Just about all of them.

The charity business is booming. I check another centre that's just opened. The story was depressingly similar, more homeless people.

CURTIS BROUSSARD: Before Katrina I was doing alright, I had my own place, I was staying with one of my daughters. But since then the rent is so sky-high. I get $600 something a month. I can't meet the requirements of paying no regular rent. Before Katrina I could afford it.

DON THOMPSON, MANAGER, ‘HARRY THOMPSON CENTER’: Serving about 110-115 meals a day. Serving folks who have no where else to go, no place in the daytime for these folks to go, many of them are folks who had a place to stay, like the gentleman you were just talking to, and have nothing now, no where to go.

REPORTER: Because of Katrina?

DON THOMPSON: Because of Katrina because the apartment they may have rented is flooded out, the landlord couldn't afford to fix it, the other rents they can't afford, so they have nowhere else to go.

REPORTER: But, Don, this is two years down the track. What's gone wrong here?

DON THOMPSON: Oh, there's such little leadership, political leadership around here at the state, local, federal level. Nobody knows what to do or how to do it, they're all passing the buck.

Much of the buck stops with this man. Dr Ed Blakely lives and works in Sydney. He's the chair of urban and regional planning at Sydney University. He was appointed by the Mayor of New Orleans to oversee the reconstruction of the city.

DR ED BLAKELY: Here is a grand facade and it needs to start looking like a grand facade again.

Today he's leading a tour group of would-be investors, civic leaders and journalists.

DR ED BLAKELY: Everything that we are doing has to be done consistent with the public benefit, we’re not doing anything for private benefits, we’re doing these facades for the public benefit.

Two years after any major event like this you'd just be rebuilding. Now, we've rebuilt most of our private home-owner housing stock in that 2-year period, which is quite remarkable. When I came here we didn't even have street signs up. Many of the streets weren't paved. We didn't have basic services and so on so my first thing I had to do was to get those things right. And then we have to start getting our businesses right, they are coming back, about 85% of businesses are back, so we are getting our jobs back. I think we are doing things in the right priority.

No-one could doubt Ed Blakely has a monumental task on his hands to rebuild the shattered city. But where do the homeless and those in the Lower Ninth Ward stand when it comes to priorities?

DR ED BLAKELY: We are taking our time in the Lower Ninth Ward, because we have to knock down houses in order to build them back and, like any development project, all the developers in Sydney know it takes about four or five years to get your permits, and then you got several years of building.

And if working-class home owners are in for a long wait, it's another story altogether when it comes to public housing. When I turned up at the Lafitte housing project, this was the scene.

TRACIE WASHINGTON, LAWYER: Somebody is just throwing out all of my client's personal belongings.

Tracie Washington is a lawyer here for those who once lived here.

TRACIE WASHINGTON: My clients don't know what's going on here. If they knew, maybe they could come and get their things, maybe they could come and get their air-conditioners or their chairs or their clothes or something. These buildings have been shut up for two years and folks haven't been able to get in and they haven't been told what is going on with their property, they haven't been told anything.

These buildings have been slated for demolition under a federal government program. After Katrina the Feds seized the opportunity to begin clearing the area.

TRACIE WASHINGTON: They have said for years that these buildings need to be torn down.

REPORTER: Do they?

TRACIE WASHINGTON: No, let me show you something. If this is my water line, this is my water line, here is somebody's house. The water stopped here! What's interesting, and I want you to see this, I’m sure this is an apartment.. this is in very good condition.

REPORTER: Tracie just here for instance, look here.. there is a DVD there and a washing machine. These are peoples possessions, are they just going to throw those away, are they?

TRACIE WASHINGTON: They are going to throw everything away.

REPORTER: What happens to those people?

TRACIE WASHINGTON They didn't notify any of the people that are here and that's what's so disturbing for me. They spend thousands upon thousands upon thousand of dollars to hire these people to come and throw stuff out but they can't spend the same amount of money to take the shutters off and put my clients back in their building. You come in with a little bleach and water and wash it down and – ta-da! – it's back.

DONALD POWELL, FEDERAL COORDINATOR OF GULF COAST REBUILDING: We wanted to tear down some public housing that has been in deplorable condition for the last 10 years, the conditions are not good and rebuild those homes, and that resulted in a lawsuit so the lawsuit closed down the process of committing on that. Meanwhile, there's 5,000 units that have been rebuilt.

A world away from the Lower Ninth Ward, amidst the marble and fine furniture of this grand hotel, I find Donald Powell. He's the man in charge of federal funding for New Orleans.

DONALD POWELL: Yeah, I think it's a partnership of a lot of people. I think it's a partnership of the federal government, I think it's a partnership of the state and of the locals and the private sector and obviously individuals have to take some initiative to assist and help themselves and I see that quite frankly with people along the Gulf Coast.

DR ED BLAKELY: The federal government has made a decision and we do not think it is the right decision, to keep those units closed until they either knock them down or rehabilitate them. We don't think that's the right decision. We think the right decision is to open some of them up, let some of our residents come back and have them participate in the remodelling of them or in the destruction of them.

Tracie Washington says the Federal government simply wants the poor residents out in order to build condominiums for the wealthy.

TRACIE WASHINGTON: You don't want public housing because you don't want poor people, news flash, folks! You know how you get rid of poor people? You pay them more. You don't keep paying people $6 an hour and tell them we don't have a goddamn place for you to live. That's what's so insane about the city of New Orleans.

And there's a political conspiracy theory going around here too, that Republican power-brokers wouldn't mind shifting out poor blacks who usually vote Democrat.

REPORTER: Any truth in that?

DONALD POWELL: That is a no. That's unfortunate, for instance the labour system is going to be rebuilt, reconstructed, redesigned to protect all the people of New Orleans.

REPORTER: A lot of poor people have said to me that they think it's deliberate, to get them out of some of these areas.

DR ED BLAKELY: I won't go there, but I think there may be something to that.

In the middle of Tracie's tirade against the authorities, one of the elderly ex-residents arrives, worried about her possessions.

TRACIE WASHINGTON: Can you just give her the assurance that she'll come out any time? Can you just give her the assurance…

MAN: I can her the assurance through tomorrow, but after tomorrow, I can't. Through tomorrow. After tomorrow I can't guarantee anything. You'll have to call and schedule an appointment.

TRACIE WASHINGTON: But you tell them when they set the appointment Tracy Murcadale has said he's guaranteeing your stuff will be here only through tomorrow, so if they give you an appointment on Saturday, your stuff is going to be trashed, so tell them you have to have the appointment tomorrow. Alright? Yeah, go put your teeth in!

REPORTER: What about situations where people couldn't get back into their homes to get their possessions out? Two years go past and the possessions have rotted away.

DR ED BLAKELY: That's right. Now, again, that's public housing, and the public housing people weren't able to do that. In private housing, they had access to their houses within a few weeks. Again, here we have a difference between what the federal government wants to do and what the local government wants to do.

REPORTER: And they won't listen to you? If you say to them, “These people want to get things out of their houses and they can't…?”

DR ED BLAKELY: No, no. The federal government has its position and we cannot override the federal government. If the President of the US empowered me to do that, I could, and I did ask for that.

REPORTER: You asked for that?

DR ED BLAKELY: Oh, yeah.

REPORTER: And he said no?

DR ED BLAKELY: He said no.

REPORTER: The federal government blames local government, the local government blames the feds. In the meantime, people are still suffering two years later.

DONALD POWELL: I don't think, Dave, it's productive to blame the individual. This is a partnership between the federal government, the locals and the state. But, look, we're committed to helping, assisting all of our partners in getting this work done.

DR ED BLAKELY: We have an active conflict here. That conflict can't be resolved quickly or easily.

REPORTER: That must be so frustrating for you.

DR ED BLAKELY: It is. That is frustrating for me because I can't really reach into the federal government like that.

While the money for rebuilding the city is divided between State and Federal programs, many say this shared responsibility is just an excuse for buck-passing. Meanwhile, right outside City Hall is the sad result of another blunder by the authorities. Despite the housing crisis, the mayor of New Orleans asked for people to return to their city, so they did and now many find themselves living in this bandstand.

MAN: No homes…at all.

REPORTER: Why's that?

MAN: Because the rent is very high.

REPORTER: And these people can't afford to…

MAN: Pay rent. But they will work.

MAN 2: You know, this is what we came back to.

REPORTER: And you've got nothing.

MAN 2: I don't have anything. I lost everything. I was renting, but I'm taking depression medicine now and before Katrina, I was in perfect health. I have some friends that have killed themselves because of the way we're living.

REPORTER: Depression?

MAN 2: Yeah.

REPORTER: So are there many people like you that you've seen around?

MAN 2: There's a lot of people, a lot of people.

REPORTER: In the same position?

MAN 2: A lot of people. It's all over the city. Big people riding around in big cars, big people living in big homes, poor people still going in the food lines getting food stamps.

REPORTER: Crime's doubled?


REPORTER: Suicide?


REPORTER: What reason do you give for that?

DR ED BLAKELY: Despondency. People have given up and nothing is more important to the mayor and me than this. He talks constantly about our mental health problem. It's really tough here, tougher than you can imagine.

DONALD POWELL: I think it's very important that we operate in the sunshine, in a transparency type of environment. Our office will be putting up, very quickly, a website where various stakeholders can go to that website and see, for example, where a school may be, as it relates to the construction progress, or lack thereof. So the people can see where the hold-up is. “Is the hold-up at the federal level, is it at the state level, or is it at the local level?”

The locals probably don't care where the hold-up is, they just want some action.

LOCALS: Fired up, we ain't take it no more. Fired up, we ain't take it now more.

MAN 3: We had homes at one time, we'd like to have our homes back, we'd like to have a decent living wage, we want to have fair housing projects. We want to have some housing projects open up again.

But not all the good people of New Orleans are waiting on the government. In the upper ninth, these houses have been built by a cooperative of musicians. With funding from a private group called Habitat for Humanity, 70 houses will eventually be built. The musicians are using what's called sweat equity ? you build my house and I'll help build yours.

ALFRED GROWE: Katrina actually brung reality to New Orleans that you know, it could be here today and gone tomorrow, everything is not certain to you.

Alfred Growe is a trombonist in the Free Agents Brass Band.

ALFRED GROWE: It's happening. It's not like it's not happening. It's not happening as fast, like we had thought it would. It's taken two years and it's probably gonna take more than two years, probably five, six, seven, ten years down the line, but we striving to make it work, you know. We gonna make it work. There's no ifs and or buts about it, we gonna make it work.

For many, though, home for the last two years has been a trailer in a trailer park. These parks are still scattered right across the southern states. The lucky ones, like Mrs Mathews, have a trailer parked outside their homes.

MRS MATHEWS: Life has changed totally. It's a different New Orleans to me. I don't know about anybody else. And I still have my feelings, I have my moments, 'cause I know it can never be the same but we gotta move on, and that's what you keep in mind, you gotta move on and go ahead and make the best of each day and try not to let it get you down. That's all, we try to encourage each other, 'cause we have our days, we still do.

And to make matters worse, many of the people living in these trailers, hastily built for the federal government, had to be evacuated again because of toxic fumes from formaldehyde used in the trailer construction. For some, Katrina is a harsh memory that will never fade. This man lost everything. His family was swept away by the flood. I tried to speak with him, but he was too depressed to answer. His mute testimony to the disaster reminded me again that the scars from Katrina may never heal, and rebuilding will take many more years.

REPORTER: People say to me also they can't see any light at the end of the tunnel. They've had it, just worn out.

DR ED BLAKELY: I understand that. As the mayor and I say, “We now see the tunnel, the light will come later.”

I couldn't help thinking that Ed Blakely's plan for New Orleans works for those who can fend for themselves. But those in need, thousands of them, are a very different story.

Feature Report: New Orleans: In Katrina’s Wake








Moimoi expects Stuart to stay at Eels

Parramatta cult hero Fuifui Moimoi expects Ricky Stuart to stay at the NRL club though the Eels coach has refused to end speculation he will move to Canberra.


Parramatta’s longest serving player, 33 year-old forward Moimoi was a pivotal figure in their come-from-behind 26-22 win over St George Illawarra on Monday night.

He scored two first half tries, the first double of a career that started in 2004 and has spanned 188 games since his Eels debut in 2004.

Stuart, who is in his first year as Parramatta coach, has been linked to the Canberra coaching position since David Furner’s recent sacking.

While the Raiders CEO Don Furner said on Saturday Stuart wasn’t on their shortlist, rumours persist about the three-time Raiders premiership player heading back to the national capital.

Stuart said after Monday’s game he didn’t want any more speculation about his future, but almost inevitably ensured it will continue, after declaring he won’t talk about the issue until the end of the season.

Parramatta have won just five games and will finish with the wooden spoon for a second straight season, but Moimoi insists Stuart is doing a good job and expects him to fulfil his contract.

“He wants to help this club, to build this club,” Moimoi told AAP.

“He’s doing a good job for the club and he still has another two years on his contract with the club, so we are look forward to next season with ‘Sticky’ (Stuart).”

Moimoi is upbeat about his ailing club’s future, basing his optimism on the clutch of emerging youngsters who are showing signs of promise.

“All the young boys coming up like Peni Terepo and Junior Paulo, they are good for the future,” Moimoi said.

“I look forward to them coming up in the next couple of years.”

Against the Dragons, Moimoi scored arguably the best and surely the most memorable try of his career.

Doing his best impersonation of an Israel Folau or Daniel Tupou, Moimioi leapt high to catch a bomb from halfback Luke Kell .and shrugged off his opponents to ground the ball.

“I was really lucky to get there at the right time and the ball was there too,” Moimoi said.

“I think that kick was supposed to be for the wing and the centres.”

NT govt dumps minister Anderson

Aboriginal MP Alison Anderson has been dumped from the Northern Territory ministry just two days after a federal coalition government was elected.


The Member for Namatjira was in charge of four portfolios: Children and Families, Regional Development, Local Government and Women’s Policy.

But now Attorney-General John Elferink is the Minister for Children and Families, Deputy Chief Minister Dave Tollner has taken over the Local Government and Regions portfolio and Bess Price is Minister for Women’s Policy.

In a statement released on Monday night, Chief Minister Adam Giles said he was “keen to re-organise the ministry to reflect the government’s priorities” after a year in power.

Last month he ruled out dumping Ms Anderson, saying it was “all fiction”.

Tension has been bubbling for some time between them, when in March after a failed leadership bid for the Country Liberal government Ms Anderson accused Mr Giles of behaving like a “little boy”.

She threatened to leave the party and take three bush members – Bess Price, Larissa Lee and Francis Xavier – with her if Mr Giles pursued the Chief Ministership, which he successfully did with the bush members’ support a week later.

Ms Anderson was elected as a Labor MLA in 2005, and served as a minister until 2009, when she left the party after a disagreement with then-Chief Minister Paul Henderson.

She was an independent until 2011 when she joined the Country Liberals, and was re-elected in last year’s Territory elections.

Her dispute with Mr Giles came as she supported Terry Mills, the chief minister he rolled in March.

Opposition Leader Delia Lawrie said Mr Giles had never gotten over the slight.

“There’s no doubt (he’s) clinging to power without the full support of his colleagues,” she said in a statement.

More recently, Mr Giles clashed with Ms Anderson over the CEO position for the Department of Children and Families, which now has its fourth leader in less than a year.

Ms Anderson appointed Jenni Collard to the acting role in March, and last week backed her for the full-time role, despite the government leaking that it wanted to appoint former Country Liberals leader Jodeen Carney, which it now has.

Mr Giles did not give a reason why Ms Anderson had been pushed out of cabinet, but said: “I thank Alison Anderson for her work in Cabinet and wish her well. (She) has worked as a minister for several years across different portfolios and governments.”

He flagged a wider shuffle of the ministry, with the creation of three new portfolios – North Australia Development, Community Services and a combined Department of Local Government and Regions.

“Now is the time for northern Australia to be recognised as the key player in the energy, food and economic security of the Asian region,” Mr Giles said.

“In light of this, I will be taking on the important new portfolio of North Australia Development, which will allow the Territory to work more closely with the federal, West Australian and Queensland governments on issues affecting the north.”

Ms Lawrie described the government as the most dysfunctional the NT had ever had, with two chief ministers, five cabinets and multiple departmental changes in one year.

“There is no doubt deep divisions remain in the CLP camp,” she said.

The NT’s new ministry will be sworn in on Tuesday in Darwin.

If in doubt, don’t vote for Abbott: PM

Kevin Rudd is urging voters with niggling doubts about Tony Abbott to listen to their instincts and not support the coalition.


With just days to the federal election, Labor has been dealt more bad news with the latest Newspoll showing the opposition leader overtaking Mr Rudd as preferred prime minister for the first time.

The poll, published in The Australian on Monday, also suggests Labor is facing a wipe-out with the two-party preferred vote showing Labor on 46 per cent compared to the coalition’s 54 per cent.

Mr Rudd said Labor always faced an uphill battle, but there was still much to fight for in the dying days of the election campaign.

“We entered this campaign as the underdog, we remain the underdog, let’s call a spade a spade,” he told the Seven Network on Monday.

Labor was concerned about Mr Abbott’s plans for school and hospital funding, job security and his unfair paid parental leave scheme, Mr Rudd said.

He said voters were more interested in policies than opinion polls, and he said there were a lot of unanswered questions about Mr Abbott’s plans.

“If you’re uncertain about what Mr Abbott’s putting out there, then I think listen to your instincts and don’t vote for him,” he told the Nine Network.

Labor’s plans had been laid bare and costed for voters, and now it was time for Mr Abbott to do the same, he added.

Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese insisted Labor could still win.

“Polls are polls. Polls take opinion at a point in time,” he told ABC radio.

“What they shows is that Tony Abbott is the significant favourite to win this Saturday.”

Mr Albanese said people needed to think through just what a coalition victory would mean for their schools, hospitals, jobs, penalty rates and working conditions.

“If they are unsure of any of those things, they shouldn’t vote for him,” he said.

Employment, Skills and Training Minister Brendan O’Connor said Labor still believed it could win and Mr Abbott would be judged harshly on a number of fronts.

“I think he’ll be marked down by the Australian people thinking he can get to an election without telling them what his plans are, without telling them where his cuts are, (for) assuming he’s won,” Mr O’Connor told AAP on Monday.

“That’s a very contemptuous way to treat the electors of Australia.

“We will say to the Australian people you’re not sure of what he will do – don’t vote for him.

“We made mistakes but on the big issues we’ve got them right.

“We’ve got a plan for Australia’s future which involves looking after everyone and not just a few.”

Vic murder accused a burglary suspect

A man accused of murdering a baby during a break-in was a suspect in a string of nearby burglaries on the night, a Victorian court has heard.


Police found 11-month-old Zayden Veal in cardiac arrest when they arrived at the Bendigo home to answer a call about a robbery on June 15 last year.

He later died in hospital.

Harley Hicks, 20, of North Bendigo, has been charged with the murder of baby Zayden.

Detective Senior Constable Tom Harper said police linked Hicks to the burglary given he was a suspect in petty robberies from nearby homes and cars in the days leading up to and on the night in question.

Police knew Hicks was a user of the drug ice, Det Sen Con Harper also told the Bendigo Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

Hicks allegedly entered the home, in the Bendigo suburb of Long Gully, armed with a baton and stole two wallets and a pair of sunglasses.

Zayden’s mother Casey Veal told Hicks’ committal hearing she believed she and her partner accidentally left the front door to the house unlocked when they went to bed around 2am on June 15.

Ms Veal said the glass screen door at the back of the house could not be locked.

She said the couple awoke the next morning to discover they had been burgled and a baby monitor in Zayden’s room unplugged.

Her then partner Matthew Vissell said he smoked a marijuana pipe before going to bed with Ms Veal.

He told the court he was involved with the discipline of Ms Veal’s children, Zayden and a four-year-old boy, but said he never lost his temper with them.

“Sometimes I might’ve called (the four-year-old) a little s**t, but never lost my temper,” he said.

When asked by Hicks’ defence lawyer David Hallowes if he ever hit them, Vissell replied “hell no”.

Hicks is charged with aggravated burglary, theft and murder.

The committal hearing continues.

Obama puts Syria strike on hold

US President Barack Obama has postponed threatened missile strikes against Syria in a risky gamble that he can win more support for his plan to punish Bashar al-Assad’s regime.


To general surprise, the US leader broke with decades of precedent to announce that he would seek approval from Congress for action against Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

This effectively pushed military action back until at least September 9, when US legislators return from their summer recess.

Obama insisted that he reserves the right to strike regardless of Congress’ decision, and a White House official said the pause would also allow him time to build international support.

The Arab League meets in Cairo on Sunday and is expected to condemn Assad, and Obama travels to Russia next week for a G20 Summit which will now be overshadowed by the crisis.

But the toughest battle, and perhaps the most dangerous for Obama’s credibility, may yet be with his own former colleagues in Congress, where support for strikes is far from assured.

Indeed, observers warned that he faces the same fate as Prime Minister David Cameron, who on Friday lost his own vote on authorising military action in the British parliament.

“The chairman of the joint chiefs has informed me that we are prepared to strike whenever we choose,” Obama warned, in an address given in the White House Rose Garden.

“Moreover, the chairman has indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission is not time sensitive. It will be effective tomorrow or next week or one month from now.”

At least five US warships armed with scores of Tomahawk cruise missiles have converged on the eastern Mediterranean ready to launch precision strikes on Syrian regime targets.

And France says it is ready to deploy its own forces in the operation.

In Damascus, the mood had been heavy with fear, and security forces were making preparations for possible air strikes, pulling soldiers back from potential targets.

Residents were seen stocking up with fuel for generators in case utilities are knocked out by a strike.

The United States, faced with an impasse at the UN Security Council and the British parliament’s shock vote, has been forced to look elsewhere for international partners.

Officials said Obama would lobby world powers on the sidelines of next week’s St Petersburg G20 summit, while at home the White House was reaching out to lawmakers.

Obama’s Democrats control the Senate but the House of Representatives is in the hands of his Republican foes and both sides are divided on the issue, making the outcome uncertain.

Late Saturday the White House formally asked Congress for authorisation to conduct military strikes in Syria in a draft resolution framing a narrow set of operations, in a bid to ease fears of another open-ended war.

The document says support from Congress would “send a clear signal of American resolve”.

“The objective of the United States use of military force in connection with this authorisation should be to deter, disrupt, prevent and degrade the potential for future uses of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction,” the draft resolution reads.

Republican Senator Bob Corker, who supports a limited “surgical” strike against Syria, said that Obama should use “every ounce of political capital that he has to sell this”.

“I think it is problematic and it could be problematic in both bodies,” Corker warned.

In a further complication, hawkish senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, said they could not support Obama’s plan for limited strikes that would not topple Assad.

More than 100,000 people have died since the Syrian conflict erupted in March 2011, and two million have become refugees, half of them children, according to the United Nations.

Voters’ forum delivers lively reboot

A room full of Brisbane voters has delivered a much more lively debate between Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott than the first leaders’ event in Canberra.


Having had an uninspiring election campaign so far, the prime minister is likely to benefit the most from the confidence boost of what was a strong performance.

It could reboot Labor’s campaign if Rudd can maintain the energy.

What can be discerned from Abbott’s performance was he knows what lines of attack and defence work and, having rehearsed for almost four years, he won’t deviate.

And he has Rudd’s measure.

Rudd opened the debate on his home turf at the Broncos Leagues Club with a call for “straight talking” about Australia’s future.

Abbott urged an “engaging, candid talk” before launching into his familiar stump speech about Australia not being able to afford another three years like the past six and Labor’s “trust deficit”.

The prime minister spared little time in getting to his core negative message on the opposition: “Where are you going to cut?”

Abbott took up Rudd’s offer of straight talking and accused him of “telling fibs”.

This exchange set the tone for most of the debate, as they jousted on hospital funding, car industry assistance and Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme

When Rudd interjected one time too many, out came the pre-2013 Abbott – the man who threw sharp jibes at Julia Gillard, before he settled into a more positive alternative prime minister mode last year.

“Will this guy ever shut up,” Abbott asked.

Abbott may find himself hamstrung in the final weeks of the campaign by his spontaneous commitment to retaining Labor’s existing $20 billion hospitals deal with the states.

He’s also promised to reveal before polling day on September whether he will keep Labor’s proposed bank levy – something the coalition so far left open to pursuing.

As a political fight, it’s more or less even points to Rudd and Abbott.

While a Sky News poll of the attending voters gave it to Abbott by two votes at 37, 33 voter remained undecided against 35 in favour of Rudd.

But perhaps a lacklustre campaign has been given a much-needed adrenaline hit.

Rogge huge ally in IOC doping fight: Bach

Thomas Bach on Monday paid a warm tribute to outgoing International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge, the man he is seeking to succeed, saying he had been an unerring ally in the fight against doping for 12 years.


Bach, the frontrunner among the six men vying to be elected president when the IOC members vote in Buenos Aires on Tuesday, said he had known when he took decisions at various commissions in the fight against doping that Rogge would back him 100 per cent.

The German, an IOC vice-president, was speaking to assembled members at their session in his role as judicial commission chairman.

Bach, who if elected would be the first Olympic gold medallist to assume the top office in world sport having won the team foil fencing in 1976 for West Germany, even dared to contravene a directive from Rogge who had said he preferred that no tributes should be paid to him.

“I will be disobedient now as you have reached the end of your mandate,” said 59-year-old Bach, who is one of the loudest voices in calling for bans to be doubled to four years for athletes caught doping.

“I ask for your understanding Mr President because, having served under you for 12 years as judicial commission chairman and as vice-president three times, I think it is only normal I make this gesture.

“I would like to express my gratitude for your support throughout the years on being behind me whenever there were difficult issues.

“It has been a privilege and a real pleasure to be at your side in the fight against doping.

“With all your very clear directives, we knew we could come up with measures against doping and have your support.

“We knew you would never waver; that you would always support the fight against doping.”

Bach said without 71-year-old Rogge’s support, the fight against doping would not have been as effective.

“It has been a great great pleasure to have you involved so deeply in this fight,” he said.

“Thank you for your trust and confidence over the years. I greatly respect you Mr President.”

Rogge, whose reign has restored the IOC’s image, remained impassive but delivered one of his trademark dry self-deprecatory remarks.

“Your disobedience tells me that I have reached the level of irrelevance,” he said.

Broncos upset Bulldogs 16-11

All the hype ahead of the Bulldogs’ NRL clash with Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night surrounded Ben Barba – and at the time he wasn’t even playing.


But even Canterbury’s last-minute injection of the controversial No.1 could not steal the limelight away from a desperate Broncos as they ran out 16-11 winners in front of 26,599 fans.

Barba was the name on everyone’s lips ahead of kick-off after the NRL launched a probe into the Bulldogs’ handling of his early-season suspension.

And tongues were wagging again when Barba received a late clearance for an ankle complaint and came off the bench in their final hit-out ahead of the finals.

Especially with Brisbane also sweating on the NRL investigation’s outcome after recently trumpeting a three-year deal with Barba just last week.

And Brisbane would have been forgiven for hoping Barba’s Broncos arrival was sooner rather than later after explosive fullback Josh Hoffman – the man expected to make way for their star recruit next year – went off with a shoulder complaint in the 25th minute.

But backrower-cum-winger Corey Oates stole the limelight, latching onto a Peter Wallace cross-field kick in the 75th minute to notch a try-scoring double and lock up the gutsy win.

It provided some solace as the Broncos drew the curtain on the worst season in their club’s history.

Brisbane – who trailed 6-4 at halftime – finished with 10 wins for the season.

Their previous worst season was an 11-win effort in 2010 – a tally that resulted in then coach Ivan Henjak being sacked.

But it seems Brisbane are looking at a rosy future with Barba on board who made the most of his limited opportunities on a night both sides threw caution to the wind.

Barba did not emerge from the bench until the 36th minute but showed glimpses of his 2012 Dally M Medal winning form to help set up Krisnan Inu’s 66th minute try that locked up the scores at 10-10.

And the Dogs looked to have become the ultimate party poopers on veteran Brisbane pivot Scott Prince’s 300th and final game when Canterbury halfback Trent Hodkinson potted over a 72nd-minute field goal to give the visitors the edge.

However, Oates crossed in the dying minutes before Prince capped a dream farewell with a sideline conversion to seal a face-saving win for Brisbane.

It wasn’t a massive blow to Canterbury’s finals campaign – they will still host a knockout playoff next week – but Bulldogs coach Des Hasler was far from impressed by their sloppy display.

“If you only complete 18 sets with the ball for two halves then you can’t expect to win too many games – let’s be honest the Broncos had enough ball to win four games,” he said.

“It wasn’t a good performance.

“But it’s sudden death from here – the players know that.”

Asked if the return of Barba ahead of the finals could add something to their title tilt, Hasler interjected: “if we hang onto the ball”.

Meanwhile, Broncos coach Anthony Griffin said the win was a “good sign of character” after enduring a lead-up that included criticism from club greats such as former captain Gorden Tallis who called for a “massive shake-up” at Brisbane.

But he preferred to focus on Prince after he drew the curtain on his 16-season career with style.

Prince said he savoured hammering home the sideline conversion that secured the rare win.

“It was sweet, and it was needed to just put them out of reach,” Prince said.

“I am very fortunate and humbled. There was that milestone but I was more impressed with how we finished the season – it was good to finish with a win.”

Griffin said Hoffman had torn an AC shoulder joint but remained hopeful the fullback could contest the end-of-year World Cup for New Zealand.

Indonesia slams Abbott boat buyback

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s plan to buy boats from Indonesian fishermen to prevent the vessels being used by people smugglers has been slammed by Jakarta as unfriendly and an insult to Indonesia.


The buyback plan has met with heavy resistance in Jakarta, with a senior member of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s ruling coalition saying it showed Mr Abbott lacked understanding of Indonesia, and the broader asylum-seeker problem.

Mahfudz Siddiq, the head of Indonesia’s parliamentary commission for foreign affairs, said on Monday that it was Mr Abbott’s right to suggest the policy but warned that it had broader implications for the relationship between Jakarta and Australia.

“It’s an unfriendly idea coming from a candidate who wants to be Australian leader,” Mr Siddiq told AAP.

“That idea shows how he sees things as (an) Australian politician on Indonesia regarding people smuggling. Don’t look at us, Indonesia, like we want this people smuggling.

“This is really a crazy idea, unfriendly, derogatory and it shows lack of understanding in this matter.”

Mr Abbott, who has previously accused the Labor government of damaging Australia’s relationship with Indonesia, announced the buyback scheme last week as part of a new $420 million package aimed at stemming the flow of refugee boats to Australia.

Under the plan, millions of dollars would be used to buy boats from Indonesian fishermen, many of whom are poor and who in recent years have been easy prey for people-smuggling syndicates that offer much more money for their rickety vessels than can be made by fishing.

But Hikmahanto Juwana, an international affairs expert from the University of Indonesia, has described the plan as “humiliating”, and says it shows the coalition has a poor understanding of its northern neighbour.

Mr Juwana warned the plan would risk a deterioration in relations between Australia and its northern neighbour, adding that it suggested Mr Abbott viewed Indonesian fishermen as “mercenaries who did dirty jobs”.

“I think the (Indonesian) government should voice protests to the coalition’s very insensitive plan which clearly shows their poor knowledge about the situation in Indonesia,” Mr Juwana told The Jakarta Post newspaper.

“The coalition wants to make Indonesia look inferior because they just want to provide money and ask Indonesians to get the job done for the sake of their interests.”

He said buying the boats would just cause the fishermen, many of who are already very poor, to lose their livelihoods and warned it would lead to resentment and even risk conflict between the local population and foreigners.

“The program could trigger vigilantism and (attacks) on foreigners …,” Mr Juwana said.

Mr Abbott did not say how much would be paid for each boat.

“It’s much better and much more sensible to spend a few thousand dollars in Indonesia, than to spend $12 million processing the people who ultimately arrive here,” he told reporters.

The broader plan announced by Mr Abbott in Darwin on Friday includes funding of $67 million to increase the presence of Australian Federal Police in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

Close to another $100 million would be spent to boost the aerial surveillance and search and rescue capacity of Indonesian authorities and $198 million to boost interception and transfer operations.

Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey suggested on Network Ten that the coalition’s proposal may have been misunderstood.

“I think it was misinterpreted,” he told The Project.

Asked if the coalition was not after all going to buy up old, rickety boats, Mr Hockey indicated it would depend on the situation.

“If it disrupts the activity of the smugglers, say if they were about to load people on a boat or something, if you have a situation like that, when you could disrupt the activity, then you would do it,” he said.

“I don’t think we are going to be buying every boat in Indonesia.”

Cities mull 2024 Games bid after Tokyo win

Tokyo might have only been named 2020 Olympic Games hosts on Saturday but, almost immediately, the debate began about what the result means for the 2024 race to stage the world’s biggest sporting event.


An Asian candidate or at least east Asian appears to be out of the question as Tokyo’s win means the region will host two successive Games – the South Korean resort of Pyeongchang hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics.

However, the failure of Madrid and Istanbul to secure the 2020 Games opens up plenty of opportunities for prospective bidders from Europe – Paris and Rome have been mentioned – and the Middle East/Gulf region with Doha again trying.

There is also set to be an American candidacy, having gone away, licked their wounds and recovered from Chicago’s humiliating last place for the 2016 Games.

The US capital Washington is one being thought of as a candidate.

Madrid’s third successive rejection – which left the bid team stunned as they saw votes they thought they had melt away – probably precludes another run.

Madrid’s probable absence leaves the way open for Paris and Rome, though both will face huge hurdles to convince IOC members they are worthy of hosting them.

Paris and French sporting administrators still bear the deep scars of their defeat to London for the 2012 Games, and the humiliation of Annecy’s candidature for the 2018 Winter Games compounded that when they received just seven votes.

IOC members still have deep reservations about a French bid.

“The faultlines are still there. Namely there is an arrogance and the feeling when you talk to them that they have not really taken on board the reasons that saw them lose to London,” one European IOC member told AFP under condition of anonymity.

Rome might suddenly have a golden opportunity opening up.

Their decision to withdraw on the eve of the deadline for candidacies for the 2020 race because of Italy’s dire economic state might have been a wise one in retrospect, but many wonder if it is capable of hosting a Games in the 21st century.

Transport, given Rome’s daily traffic congestion, and its creaking infrastructure, plus a lack of stadia, could result in a very high cost bid.

Some from Istanbul have suggested going straight back into the fray, believing the Syrian civil war will be a thing of the past plus the very good impression the bid made gives them a groundbase of votes and a launching pad.

However, Doha is determined to add hosting the Olympic Games to soccer’s World Cup and no expense will be spared to become the first predominantly Muslim country to host the Games.