Vodafone to pull the plug on 3 at midnight

Vodafone will pull the plug on its “3” network at midnight on Friday after a decade-long stint in Australia.

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From 12.01 (AEST), customers who remain on 3 will be disconnected, losing their ability to send or receive calls, texts, and data.

Under telco rules, they may also lose their number if they fail to move to another provider within six months.

In a note on its website, Vodafone advised customers to “make a move ASAP”.

A Vodafone representative said 97 per cent of 3 customers had already changed providers but would not disclose an exact number.

The closure is set to put more pressure on porting services already under strain after cut-price wholesaler Kogan Mobile went under last week.

The company’s more than 100,000 customers were forced to change providers after ispONE, the company through which Kogan bought access to Telstra’s network, entered administration, severing its contracts.

The current “strain” on porting services “may result in consumers experiencing some delays”, the Australian Communications and Media Authority says on its website.

Vodafone is putting on extra staff “to manage last-minute movers” and will extend porting hours over the weekend, its representative said.

“We are still able to port customers’ mobile numbers for a short period after 3 closes tonight.”

The Communications Alliance, the industry body responsible for porting once telcos receive a request from new customers, will also extend weekend hours.

Customers have known since early June that 3 would close at the end of August.

It is part of a long-term strategy to create a single brand and network under the Vodafone banner following the company’s merger with 3’s owner, Hutchison Australia, in 2009.

Hutchison launched 3 in 2003 and it became the first provider to launch a 3G mobile network in Australia.

New boy Saili has plenty of help at hand

Francis Saili will be the new boy on the block, but he’ll have plenty of experience beside him when he makes his Test debut against Argentina.

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The 22-year-old Blues second five-eighth is the one uncapped player in the All Blacks team for the Rugby Championship clash in Hamilton on Saturday night.

On either side of him in the backline will be 95-Test first five Dan Carter and 71-cap centre Conrad Smith.

Coach Steve Hansen says having Carter and Smith there will be a big help for Saili.

“For someone like Francis, it’s the perfect scenario – you’ve got a couple of old heads just keeping him calm,” he said.

“You can tell he’s pretty excited, so you just have to keep him calm until Saturday and then let him rip.”

Saili replaces Ma’a Nonu in one of three changes from the side that started the 27-16 win over Australia in Wellington two weeks ago.

Carter is back from a calf problem to reclaim the No.10 jersey from Tom Taylor, an injury call-up who himself finished his Test debut in the casualty ward with damaged ribs.

Carter will go into the match one point short of being the first player to score 1400 Test points.

In the pack, tight-head prop Charlie Faumuina will get his 10th cap and third start in place of Owen Franks, who picked up a groin injury against the Wallabies.

Saili has had to bide his time to get his Test debut, after making the 32-man squad for the France series in June.

He didn’t get game time against the French and then an ankle injury meant he missed a probable spot on the bench in the Bledisloe Cup opener against the Wallabies in Sydney.

Hansen said Saili had a wide skill set that included his pace, defence, passing and ability to kick with his left foot.

“It’s just a matter of him working through the risk and rewards of using all those skills at the right time,” he said.

“That’s why we’ve taken a bit of time to work on that and we’re comfortable he understands now what he has to do at Test rugby as opposed to Super rugby.”

Hansen said Nonu, who has been playing on a painful ankle, could have been picked against the Pumas.

However, the selectors decided to follow medical advice that it would be better to give him another week off to get the injury right.

Meanwhile, skipper Richie McCaw will play his 119th Test, and his 48th in the Rugby Championship/Tri-Nations, equalling the competition record of former Wallabies captain George Gregan.

All Blacks: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Francis Saili, Julian Savea, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Steven Luatua, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Charlie Faumuina, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Jeremy Thrush, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Charles Piutau.

Perth man re-arrested in Kuala Lumpur

A Perth man acquitted by a court in Malaysia last week on charges that carry the death penalty has been re-arrested while preparing to board a plane to Australia.

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Dominic Bird, 33, who was acquitted last Wednesday on drug trafficking charges, was taken into custody at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Monday morning.

An application will be heard by the Court of Appeal in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday to decide whether or not to grant prosecutors an appeal against last week’s decision.

Mr Bird’s lawyers say they will vigorously fight the move by prosecutors.

“To re-arrest him, and now for the court to say he should be held pending an appeal … the concept of rule of law is breached,” Mr Bird’s lawyer, Muhammed Shafee Abdullah, told AAP on Monday.

Mr Bird was set free by the Kuala Lumpur High Court last Wednesday, but was unable to return home immediately because his visa for Malaysia had expired, and was then detained at an immigration office.

However, prosecutors had suggested on Wednesday that organising a new visa for Mr Bird was a formality.

“This is total trickery on their part,” Mr Abdullah said.

It’s understood Mr Bird was escorted to the airport on Monday morning by Australian consular officials, having finally obtained the visa.

But he was then taken back into custody before he could board his flight.

His Australian-born lawyer, Tania Scivetti told AAP the application hearing, and any subsequent appeal, would be “fiercely” challenged on the grounds it’s “contrary to our fundamental rights to liberty and rule of law”.

“They informed us he was going back today, and on that basis, the embassy escorted him to the airport,” Ms Scivetti told AAP.

“He was just about to board a flight to go back to Australia and 10 minutes before he was to board they arrested him.”

Mr Bird was initially arrested at a cafe near his apartment in Kuala Lumpur on March 1 last year and accused of supplying an undercover police officer with 167 grams of methamphetamine.

However, the prosecution’s case collapsed following allegations of corruption against Inspector Luther Nurjib – the undercover officer who arrested Mr Bird – who was later accused of “setting up” the Australian.

Insp Nurjib was found guilty of contempt of court and fined RM2000 ($A665), after it emerged he had threatened and attempted to bribe a witness in the Bird case.

In delivering the ruling, Kuala Lumpur High Court’s Justice Kamardin Hashim found the prosecution failed to prove its case and the defence raised reasonable doubt.

Detectives probe politician death threats

Federal detectives are assessing serious threats against senior Australian politicians after a web page advocated the assassination of prime minister elect, Tony Abbott.

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The page “Tony Abbott should be assassinated” appeared on Facebook this week after the coalition won Saturday’s federal election.

Mr Abbott is expected to be sworn in next week.

That page and others including those called “Tony Abbott should just die” and “20,000 likes and I will assassinate Tony Abbott” have gathered a series of threatening comments and have been removed.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) would not confirm if those particular pages have formed part of an ongoing assessment of threats against senior politicians.

“The AFP treats reports of threats against Members of Parliament and high office holders seriously and investigates complaints where appropriate,” a spokesman said.

“Commentary of this nature can occur in a range of media forums, often anonymously, and where these comments are brought to the attention of the AFP an assessment is made.

“The AFP is currently assessing a number of Facebook pages and comments.

“While these processes are underway it is not appropriate for the AFP to comment further.”

Facebook was not able to confirm if it removed the pages.

Content is removed from its site for a variety of reasons, including pages relating to “actionable threats of violence”, it said.

“Our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities forbids content that includes pornography, bullying, and actionable threats of violence and we will remove any content reported to us that violates these policies,” a Facebook spokesperson told AAP.

The threats against Mr Abbott have sparked anger on other social network sites.

“This needs to be looked into. It should be regarded as serious,” one person wrote on Twitter.

“This is in poor taste, even for the unhinged,” another added.

Adelaide-based lawyer Alex Ward says it is illegal to use telecommunications networks or carriage services to make threats or hoax threats.

But he said Australian law has struggled to keep pace with advances in technology.

“It’s illegal to do it but people just don’t seem to know that’s the law,” Mr Ward told Adelaide radio station Five AA.

“It’s very hard to find the law on this and this is one part where society has gone just a million miles ahead of the laws very ponderously keeping up.”

Mr Abbott’s office has been asked for comment.

A Victorian branch of the leftist Socialist Alliance acknowledged that the creator of one of the Facebook pages had claimed membership of its group.

But the alliance’s Geelong branch denied it was responsible.

“The person who created this page has claimed membership with Socialist Alliance and have (sic) managed to access the internet from the same building our office is located in, which can be done using a phone out on the street,” the Socialist Alliance Geelong said in a Facebook post.

“Since then, one of our members has received death threats via our office phone.

“After speaking to our members, we can assure you that our branch is not responsible for this page and we do not advocate violence or assassination of politicians.”

Mr Abbott’s office declined to comment on the threats.

Would-be IOC boss pleased by gay pledge

Would-be Olympics chief Ng Ser Miang said on Monday he was heartened by Russia’s promise not to discriminate against homosexuals at next year’s Winter Games, adding the event would be “wonderful”.

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The Singaporean supermarket chief, one of six men vying to replace International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge, also played down other problems including Sochi’s huge cost and a ban on protests during the event.

“Sochi has put in quite heavy investment because of the need for them to develop a lot of infrastructure,” Ng told AFP in an interview at his office in Singapore.

“This anti-gay law, we now have a written assurance from the highest authority that there will be no discrimination of any kind, respect to the provisions of the Olympic Charter as well as the fundamental principle against discrimination of any kind.

“So the rights of those who are attending the Games, from spectators, to officials, to media, especially the athletes, will be respected.

“I believe that Sochi will be a wonderful Games.”

The new Russian law banning “gay propaganda” has attracted widespread criticism and it was one of the main talking points at this month’s world athletics championships in Moscow.

Russian pole-vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva caused uproar when she appeared to criticise homosexuals, although she later said she had been misunderstood.

Ng, a diplomat and former politician who is also a vice-president of the IOC, said the Olympics body stood firm against discrimination but also that he preferred a softly-softly approach.

“In some of these issues I believe in quiet diplomacy to deal with these issues,” he said. “It’s a common goal that we want to have a successful Games and the IOC is very clear and very strong — the IOC is against discrimination of any kind.”

One estimate has put the cost of Sochi’s Games at $US50 billion ($A55.64 billion), which would make it the most expensive Olympics in history.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has courted more controversy by banning protests and demonstrations and restricting access to the Black Sea resort during the Games early next year.

Ng also backed Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro, host of the next Summer Olympics in 2016 as well as next year’s World Cup, to have the infrastructure in place to host a successful Games.

“Rio has put in a lot of resources. Definitely they have a lot of challenges because they’re hosting the World Cup before the Games themselves,” he said.

“But they are fully aware of the issues and they are fully aware of the challenges and they’re also aware of the very tight timeframe they are in.

“I’m sure they’ll put in all the necessary resources to make sure that we have a wonderful Games. The IOC is fully behind Rio and we will give our fullest support to them and do everything in our power to make sure they will organise a wonderful Games.”

Ng, considered a strong candidate behind front-runner Thomas Bach, will soon travel to Buenos Aires, where the IOC will elect its new leader on September 10.

No further punishment for swimmers

A group of Olympic swimmers who took sleeping drugs and “pranked” their female colleagues in a bonding ritual ahead of the London games have avoided further punishment from the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC).

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The AOC said the fines handed to the six members of the men’s relay team, including newly-crowned world champion James Magnussen, by Swimming Australia were “proportionate and sufficient.”

But AOC boss John Coates warned any further conduct which brings swimming into disrepute will result in them being banned from the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“This is the yellow card,” Coates told reporters in Sydney.

The exact amount of the fines handed out to Magnussen, Eamon Sullivan, Matt Targett, James Roberts, Tommaso D’Orsogna and Cameron McEvoy is confidential but Coates says they were docked a percentage of their athlete support payments.

McEvoy and Magnussen were hit with a fine of 50 per cent, while the others had to hand over 25 per cent of their payments.

“The AOC considers that the financial sanction imposed by Swimming Australia is proportionate and sufficient in respect of each of those swimmers,” Coates said.

Coates said the swimmers had been under the “misapprehension” they could take Stillnox at a bonding camp in Manchester nine days before they were to compete.

But the AOC considered the “boorish, selfish, obnoxious and disrespectful” behaviour of the swimmers towards female team members a serious matter, he said.

“It upset the female swimmers… and it certainly affected moral at the time,” the AOC report said.

The report also found the men liable for the cost of the investigation and report, estimated to be about $150,000.

But they will not have to repay the money unless they’re caught breaking the rules again and banned from the Rio Games.

Abbott’s team to be sworn in next week

Tony Abbott says his government is likely to be sworn in early next week and he plans to bring parliament back next month.

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The prime minister-elect says in the interests of calm and methodical government he doesn’t want to recall parliament until new legislation, particularly to repeal the carbon tax, is ready.

“The last thing I want to do is to rush the parliament back for a photo opportunity before the substance of the work is there for it to do,” he told Fairfax Radio on Monday.

“It will be back toward the end of October, early November.”

Mr Abbott and his ministers will probably be sworn in early next week.

He says time was needed to formalise the coalition agreement between the Liberals and The Nationals and for the party rooms to meet and choose the final make up of cabinet.

Mr Abbott is in no rush to leave the family home in the northern Sydney suburb of Forestville.

The Lodge in Canberra will undergo major renovations so it’s likely the Abbotts will live instead in Kirribilli House on Sydney Harbour.

But Mr Abbott says he’ll take advice on that.

He touched down in Canberra on Monday morning for more meetings with officials and his senior leadership team, including Nationals leader Warren Truss and Liberal deputy Julie Bishop.

Outgoing prime minister Kevin Rudd is expected to welcome Mr Abbott to The Lodge at some stage later in the week.

Mr Abbott said his predecessor had made a very gracious phone call to concede the election on Saturday night.

“He rang me and he spoke with warmth,” Mr Abbott said.

“I think both of us were conscious of the fact that a baton was being exchanged. That’s a weighty moment.”

Stuart quits Eels to link with Raiders

Ricky Stuart has walked out on Parramatta to take up a three-year contract to coach Canberra.

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The 46-year-old told the Eels board of his decision on Wednesday evening having led the club to a second successive NRL wooden spoon with just just five wins all season.

The Eels have been plagued with boardroom dramas all season and the former NSW coach insisted on a get-out clause in his contract when he accepted the role at the start of this season.

“The period I have been at the Parramatta Eels has been extremely challenging,” Stuart said in a statement released through his manager John Fordham.

“Not only for me but for people like (chairman) Steve Sharp who clearly have the club’s best interest at heart.

“I sincerely hope the stability the club is entitled to will return and reward those people who have a genuine commitment and passion for the Eels.”

Eels co-captain Jarryd Hayne said he was surprised by the decision but had yet to be informed by the club.

The NSW star said the news rounded off a difficult season for him and the club.

“We always knew there were rumours but I haven’t got confirmation yet and I haven’t been told by club officials,” Hayne said.

“It’s obviously a huge shock but as I said I haven’t had anything official, until then I will just have to wait and hear it from the horse’s mouth.

“But it’s definitely been the toughest year of my career. It’s been tough. This news comes out it just makes it worse. We all knew there were rumours going around.

“We heard bits and pieces about it. We had a meeting with Sticky (Stuart) a couple of the senior players and for us we had an idea what was going on.

“Stick sat us down and gave us his side of things. It was one of those things.”

NSW coach and close friend Laurie Daley said he was delighted to see Stuart return to their old club and said he was the man to sort out the off-field issues that have blighted the playing squad this year.

“It’s good. He is going back home,” Daley said.

“I am really happy for him. The club has had some dramas this year and they need fixing and they will certainly add some discipline.

“It doesn’t surprise me. He was always the man they wanted, whether he could have moved on was the issue. It’s a match that everyone wanted to see, being a local boy.”

Rudd kitchen saga distracts from Syria

Kevin Rudd wanted to focus on the unfolding Syrian crisis but found himself being questioned about a filming engagement, the carbon tax and his record.

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An irritated prime minister on Sunday was forced to reject reports he had pushed back a briefing on Syria to pre-record an episode of the ABC Television hit Kitchen Cabinet in Brisbane on Saturday.

Later on Saturday night Mr Rudd met with Foreign Minister Bob Carr, junior defence minister Mike Kelly and senior officials in his Parliament House office.

He dismissed suggestions he should have returned to Canberra sooner, saying his department head had advised him the earliest a briefing could be held was Saturday night or Sunday morning.

“I said the best thing to do was do it as soon as possible,” Mr Rudd told ABC’s Insiders program.

“The bottom line is if I hadn’t taken the opportunity to alert the Australian people as to what was going on I would have been criticised for that.”

News Corp Australia had reported Mr Rudd used a taxpayer-funded VIP jet to fly from Sydney to Brisbane on Saturday to appear on the program, rather than to Canberra for the briefing.

The prime minister said The Sunday Telegraph’s claim he delayed the briefing was wrong.

“Had the newspaper bothered to contact my office, they would have known it was 100 per cent false,” he said.

“I don’t think it could be any clearer in terms of what has happened here.”

Mr Rudd also on Sunday agreed Labor did not have a mandate to introduce a carbon tax after the 2010 election, effectively putting him in agreement with the coalition which plans to scrap the impost if it wins government on September 7.

“I don’t think our actions on the carbon tax were right, that’s why I changed it to move towards a floating price,” he said.

“The core element here is that we believe climate change is real.”

Mr Rudd was also asked if he was pleased his predecessor Julia Gillard had chosen to stay out of the political limelight, rather than take part in the election campaign.

“I said from the point at which I returned to the prime ministership, I would not be engaging in any negative commentary in relation to Julia’s prime ministership,” he said.

Was he grateful her supporters had not sabotaged his campaign, as his supporters did to her in 2010?

“I am not going to go to internal debates … within the Labor party either at that time or on this occasion,” he said.

“I respect Julia Gillard’s contribution.

“She has made great contributions, they should be respected.”

Mr Rudd flew to Sydney on Sunday, where he is expected to spend a few days campaigning.

BHP pushes ahead in tough coal market

It came as a surprise to many this week that BHP Billiton proudly opened a new coal mine when the business has bled money in the last two years.

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Coal has become as much of an ugly word for investors as it has for activist opponents that have hated the dirty energy source for years.

The Queensland Resources Council says conditions are the worst in more than a decade.

BHP and partner Mitsubishi are viewed as being stuck with the unwanted new mines, but coal president Dean Dalla Valle told workers at its new $US1.4 billion Daunia project this week he saw good long-term demand for metallurgical coal.

That would be a relief to the hordes of fly-in fly-out workers and residents of Moranbah – recently named Queensland’s most expensive town – which is completely dependent for its existence on coal mining.

BHP is the world’s largest seaborne coal exporter, employing 10,000 people in the region and 30,000 globally, but coal contributed only 3.5 per cent of $US21 billion in earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) last year.

BHP shut two mines in the same region as Daunia, contributing to the 7000 Australian coal jobs that have gone plus $5 billion in cancelled projects.

So have things changed for the better for coal in less than a year, which remains Australia’s second-largest export earner?

In terms of prices: no. Coking coal was down to four-year lows of $US145 a tonne this week, well down on the record $US330 of 2011 and prices that were still above $US200 last year.

BHP has cut coal costs significantly by $US800 million to $US3 billion with unit costs believed to be now under $US100 a tonne.

Demand is down from buyers such as China, India and Japan who use the coking coal to make steel, while supply is strong from China, the US and new kid on the block Mozambique

“I still see a good long-term demand trend for metallurgical coal albeit with the near term challenges,” Mr Dalla Valle told reporters at Daunia’s opening.

BHP invited along Queensland Premier Campbell Newman to open the mine, who it battled with last year when he hiked coal royalties as the price fell but who vowed not to raise them again this week.

He took a swipe at Australians opposed to mining, mentioning Greens voters in Melbourne and Sydney in particular.

“If you shut down the coal industry it would hurt your standard of living and means we wouldn’t be able to pay for schools and hospitals, your roads and other infrastructure that people expect of government,” he told reporters.

UBS mining analyst Glynn Lawcock said BHP had spent too much on the new mines – about $US5 billion – to cancel them now.

He predicted two new BHP coal mines would be written down in value.

“They misread the market a little bit in terms of price and built them probably at a time when capital intensity was very high,” he told AAP.