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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.