Exploited international students the target of Fair Work advertising blitz

The open letter advertisement, published in three major metropolitan newspapers and three regional newspapers across Australia, are designed to encourage young workers to seek help if they feel exploited.

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By Friday the ads will be published in ten foreign language newspapers including Chinese, Indian and Vietnamese. 

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said the ads were focused on international students who were possibly fearful of coming forward due to misunderstanding the law. 

Currently, international students make up a large proportion of temporary entrants into Australia – more than 560,000 as at July 2017.

In the last financial year 49 per cent of litigations filed by the FWO in court involved a visa holder. One third of these cases involved an international student.

Ms James urged students to get informed about their rights at work and speak up if they have concerns about their conditions of employment.

She stressed that international workers had the same rights as any other worker in Australia.

The full page advertisement which featured in metropolitan and community newspapers on Monday. Twitter @NatJamesFWO

“The number of international students reporting issues to the Fair Work Ombudsman is disproportionately low compared to other categories of visa holders, despite the fact that international students represent a significant proportion of overseas visitors with work rights,” Ms James said on Monday.

“We know that international students can be reluctant to speak out when something is wrong, making them particularly vulnerable to exploitation. This is especially the case when students think that seeking assistance will damage future job prospects or lead to the cancellation of their visa.”

Ms James said the body was aware of cases where employers had threatened students with deportation in order to persuade them to work longer hours outside their visa requirements.  

“In some cases these same employers have altered payslips and underpaid hourly rates in order to disguise the number of hours the student has worked,” Ms James said.  

“I would like to reassure international students that in line with an agreement between my agency and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, you can seek our assistance without fear of your visa being cancelled, even if you’ve worked more hours than you should have under your visa.” 

The FWO found that many international students were unaware of their rights at work and unsure of where to seek help.

International students are entitled to the same minimum wages as all workers in Oz. We can help retrieve unpaid wages and protect your visa. 南京桑拿,南京SPA,/K5dqT1aMur

— Natalie James (@NatJamesFWO) September 25, 2017

Some students told researchers they had been subject to intimidation by their employers, who threatened to deport or “blacklist” them for future work if they complained. 

It was found 60 per cent of international students who participated in FWO research believed the situation would either remain the same or get worse if they reported the issue.

“We know that it can be difficult to understand what is right or wrong at work, or to speak up if you are concerned. This is why we are committed to making it as easy as possible for international students to access the help they need,” Ms James said.  

Fair Work action: Recent cases involving visa holders

In August 2017 Melbourne’s Meatball and Wine Bar faced court for allegedly underpaying 26 workers in restaurants across the CBD, Richmond and Collingwood.

In August 2017 a Newcastle Pizza Hut franchise was found to have underpaid 24 employees a total of almost $20,000.

In July 2017 a 24-hour café operator in Melbourne’s Crown Casino faced court for allegedly underpaying 54 workers over $70,000. 25 of the workers were visa holders.

In November 2016 a Sydney cleaning operator was penalised for refusing to back-pay two international students

In November 2016 a Brisbane 7-Eleven outlet faced court for allegedly short-changing overseas workers thousands of dollars and creating false records. The East Brisbane outlet allegedly underpaid two employees, both international students from India. 

International students seeking assistance can visit 出售老域名,南京桑拿,fairwork.gov出售老域名,/ or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 or our Translating and Interpreting Service on 13 14 50.

 

Myanmar searches for more Hindu corpses as mass grave unearthed

Violence has periodically cut through the western state, where communal rivalries have been sharpened by British colonial meddling, chicanery by Myanmar’s army and fierce dispute over who does — and does not — belong in Rakhine.

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But the events of August 25, when raids by Rohingya militants unleashed a swirl of violence across the north, have sunk Rakhine to new depths of hate.

“All of our family died at the village… we will not go back,” said Chaw Shaw Chaw Thee, one of hundreds of displaced Hindus seeking shelter in the state capital Sittwe.

The 20-year-old said she lost 23 family members as Rohingya militants swarmed the clutch of Hindu villages in Kha Maung Seik, near the Bangladesh border. 

On Sunday the army said 28 badly-decomposed bodies of Hindu men, women and children had been pulled from two mass graves in the same area.

It was not immediately clear if they belonged to Chaw Shaw Chaw Thee’s family.

Heavily pregnant when she fled, she gave birth at a disused football stadium in Sittwe, where hundreds of traumatised Hindus now sleep on grubby mats in the overcrowded concourse.

An army lockdown has made it impossible to independently verify what happened in the villages of northern Rakhine, an area dominated by Rohingya Muslims who are a minority elsewhere in the mainly Buddhist country.

But allegations, carved along ethnic lines, are spinning out as conspiracy and competing identity claims override empathy between former neighbours.

Hindus, who make up less than one percent of Rakhine’s population, accuse Rohingya of massacring them, burning their homes and kidnapping women for marriage.

Meanwhile the Rohingya, some 430,000 of whom have fled to Bangladesh, trade accusations with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists of grisly mob attacks and army “clearance operations” that have emptied their villages.

Small ethnic groups such as the Mro, Thet and Diagnet have also been caught up in the killings and chaos of the last month.

“We were barbers for Muslims, our women sold things in Muslim villages, I had Muslim friends, we had no problems,” said Kyaw Kyaw Naing, a 34-year-old Hindu who can dance across linguistic divides in Hindi, Rakhine, Burmese and Rohingya. 

Community ties in what is also Myanmar’s poorest state have now unravelled.

“We want to go back, but we will not if the Muslims are there.”

Bitter history 

Last week Myanmar’s leader Aung san Suu Kyi told the international community that Rohingya refugees were welcome back if they were properly “verified”.

But delivering on that promise will be almost impossible in a country where the status of the Rohingya is incendiary.

The Rohingya say they are a distinct ethnic group whose roots stretch back centuries.

Myanmar’s powerful military insists they are “Bengalis” who were first brought to the country by British colonisers and have continued to pour in illegally ever since.

“It can’t be solved in the short-term… to be stable and harmonious could take decades,” Oo Hla Saw, a lawmaker for the Arakan National Party, which represents Rakhine Buddhists, told AFP.

Rakhine’s history is bitterly contested and flecked by rivalries.

Once a proud a Buddhist kingdom with a deep Muslim influence from trade and settlement, Rakhine’s demographics were overhauled by British colonial administrators.

They shunted in large numbers of Hindu Indians and Bengali Muslims as farm hands to an area already populated by a soup of ethnicities including the Rohingya and Rakhine. 

The Japanese invasion during World War II saw Rakhine clash with Rohingya, who were perceived to have been favoured by the retreating British.

Since 1962 the military has kindled anti-Rohingya sentiment, painting itself as the protector of the Buddhist faith from conquest by Islam.

Three major campaigns — in 1978, the early 90s and now — have driven Rohingya from Myanmar in huge numbers.

The army, which ran the country for 50 years and still has its hands on key levers of power, has also gradually rubbed out the group’s legal status.

A 1982 law stripped Rohingya of citizenship, subjecting them to suffocating controls on everything from where they can travel to how many children they can have.

“The army wants to clear the Muslim community from Rakhine state,” says Kyaw Min, a Rohingya and former MP, who has had his citizenship revoked.

“The intention is to drive down the Rohingya population. They have achieved that in the south of Rakhine, now they are targeting the north.”

Repression has fed Rohingya militancy, according to analysts.

0:00 Number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh surges Share Number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh surges  

‘Next time no escape’ 

Last month a government-backed commission on Rakhine’s troubles, led by former UN chief Kofi Annan, urged “all communities to move beyond entrenched historical narratives”.

But a few hours after its report was published, the militants attacked, sparking a ferocious military response that the UN believes amounts to “ethnic cleansing”.

The report also urged the government to boost the economy to uplift a poor population and build community bonds.

Business ties and personal relations once defied communal lines, with Rohingya who could not legally own property relying on Rakhine neighbours to secure deeds for them on the sly.

Now the fearful displaced inside Rakhine say there is no way they can ever again live alongside Rohingya neighbours.

Khin Saw Nyo, 48, an ethnic Rakhine, said nearby Muslim villagers suddenly turned on her community near the Bangladesh border, forcing them to flee to the mountains.

“We will die if we go back,” she told AFP from inside a monastery sheltering refugees in Sittwe, adding Rohingya militants are still preparing to strike.

“They warned us to eat well… they said the next time we will not escape.”

Put down booze, it’s killing you, new research shows

If Australians put down the booze, national cancer deaths will drop, according to new research.

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A one-litre decrease in annual alcohol consumption per capita had significant reductions in head, neck and liver cancer mortality, a study across a 20-year period has found.

For head and neck cancer deaths it was associated with an 11.6 per cent drop in males and 7.3 per cent reduction in females, and a 15 per cent reduction in male liver cancer mortality.

Restaurant Manager Maxime Pellegrin says more than half of his daily customers would order an alcoholic beverage with their meal.

“I think Australia got this British culture and at the end its European culture, same as me, that we love enjoying few glasses of wine with a nice meal.” 

Michael Livingston from the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research (CAPR), says for many Australians the recommendations will not be a drastic change from current drinking habits.

“For heavy drinkers that will need quite a big reduction for light drinkers not so much,” Mr Livingston said.

“If you can change population drinking you can change cancer mortality rates in Australia.” 

RELATED READING

The study is published by the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research (CAPR) and Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE).

Titled Alcohol consumption and liver, pancreatic, head and neck cancers in Australia: time-series analyses, the research is the first suggestive evidence that a decrease in population drinking could reduce the prevalence of deaths from the three cancers.

The study also found a higher death rate for men and women aged 50 and over from head and neck cancers, reflecting the long-term effects of alcohol consumption on the development of the disease.

“This study has extended our understanding of the role that alcohol plays with respect to liver, pancreatic, head and neck cancers in Australia, and the importance of addressing the nation’s alcohol consumption levels” lead author, CAPR’s Dr Jason Jiang said.

National guidelines suggest an adult should drink no more than two standard drinks on any day to reduce the lifetime risk of harm attributed to alcohol.

“There is no doubt that alcohol-related cancers would be significantly reduced if more of the population reduced their alcohol consumption and followed the national drinking guidelines,” FARE chief executive Michael Thorn said.

“The study exposes the need for improved public health education campaigns, better public health policies on alcohol, and more promotion of the guidelines – to reduce the toll of cancer-related diseases and deaths in Australia.”

Iran tests new missile defying US warnings

State television carried footage of the launch of the Khoramshahr missile, which was first displayed at a high-profile military parade in Tehran on Friday.

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It also carried in-flight video from the nose cone.

The broadcaster gave no date for the test although officials had said on Friday that it would be tested “soon”.

Previous Iranian missile launches have triggered US sanctions and accusations that they violate the spirit of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and major powers.

0:00 Trump threatens to walk away from Iran nuclear deal Share Trump threatens to walk away from Iran nuclear deal

President Donald Trump has threatened to bin the agreement over the issue, saying that Iran’s missile programme could give it the technical knowhow for a delivery system for a nuclear warhead when a sunset clause in the deal expires in 2025.

He is due to report to Congress on October 15 on whether or not he believes Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal.

If he decides that it is not, it could open the way for renewed US sanctions and perhaps the collapse of the agreement.

Trump said on Wednesday he had made his decision but was not yet ready to reveal it.

0:00 President Rouhani declares Iran will not be first to break deal Share President Rouhani declares Iran will not be first to break deal

Australian researchers combine cultural practices with pain management

Sydney researchers have pioneered a chronic pain treatment program, specifically designed for people from non-English speaking backgrounds.

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Liverpool and Fairfield Hospitals, along with Western Sydney University, teamed up for the nine-month trial, creating a culturally responsive approach to treatment.

How does it work?

Senior Physiotherapist Bernadette Brady said researchers focused on Assyrian, Mandaean and Vietnamese communities in south-west Sydney. She explained many people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds failed to understand and engage with traditional physiotherapy.

“We really wanted to understand how people perceive pain and what their pain experience is, and then use that to help guide how we could tailor our approaches to better suit their needs and better suit what their beliefs are,” Ms Brady explained.

“For the Assyrian community we saw that pain’s very much about physical pathology, or a biomedical problem, and so we really had to make sure that whatever we were doing in treatment aligned with that understanding.”

Different treatment plans were adopted, and catered specifically for each cultural group.

“(For the Vietnamese community) we really saw that pain was an imbalance in their body’s energy systems, or their body’s Âm Dương – which is the Vietnamese concept of Yin and Yang,” Ms Brady said.

“For the Mandaean community, pain is very much about the physical and also the social and emotional consequences of being a refugee in Australia.”

Positive results

One of the Mandaean patients taking part in the trial is 63-year-old Natiq Roman.

The Iraqi refugee has suffered shoulder, neck and lower back problems for almost a decade. Since migrating to Australia in 2013, his condition struggled to improve under regular physiotherapy.

“It was getting worse and then improving. They advised me that it could need injections or even surgery was an option,” Mr Roman told SBS World News in his native Arabic.

But Mr Roman said participating in the new trial saw a significant easing of his pain.

“Everything got better after doing the right exercises, intensive exercises to reduce the pain in the injured parts.  The program is both theoretical and practical,” he said.

“In general the program was very good and helpful, especially when it comes to certain exercises that help reducing back pain, neck pain, arms and shoulder pain.”

Western Sydney is one of Australia’s most multicultural areas. Two out of five people speak a language other than English at home, while New South Wales is home to more than 260 language groups.

Ms Brady told SBS World News catering to the needs of the region’s numerous ethnic groups is therefore a priority for practitioners.

“If you’re not engaging them, and if you’re not respecting their life and their circumstances, then people aren’t going to adopt those approaches that are going to be best for their health,” Ms Brady said.

The controlled trial has just wrapped up, with 48 patients taking part. In that time, 96 per cent of patients completed treatment, a near-forty per cent increase compared to those undergoing usual care in Sydney’s South-West health district.

“They changed. Their spirits changed, and their mentality changed,” explained Samia Sayad, a Community Liaison volunteer.

“They change in every (positive) way.”

Ms Brady believes the culturally-adaptive approach can be adopted by other health professionals.

“We can use that, we can teach other therapists and other health professions, including medicine and psychology, about cultural adaptation and how they can go about tailoring their practices.”

Fearing eruption, thousands in Bali flee

Thousands of villagers on the Indonesian resort island of Bali are huddled in temporary shelters, sports centres and with relatives, fearing Mount Agung will erupt for the first time in more than half a century.

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Authorities raised the volcano’s alert status to the highest level Friday following a “tremendous increase” in seismic activity. Its last eruption in 1963 killed 1100 people.

Villager Made Suda said he left overnight with 25 family members and as much food, clothes, cooking equipment and bedding they could carry to stay in the Klungkung sports centre.

“I feel grief and fear, feel sad about leaving the village and leaving four cows because it’s empty. Everyone has evacuated,” he said Saturday.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said no one should be within nine kilometres of the crater and within 12 kilometres to the north, northeast, southeast and south-southwest where lava flows, lahars or rapidly moving white-hot ash clouds from an eruption could reach .

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said more than 15,000 villagers have been officially evacuated.

Officials have said there is no current danger to people in other parts of Bali, a popular tourist island famous for its surfing, beaches and elegant Hindu culture.

In 1963, the 3031-metre Agung hurled ash as high as 20 kilometres, according to volcanologists, and remained active for about a year.

Lava travelled 7.5 kilometres and ash reached the capital, Jakarta, about 1000 kilometres away.

“I hope the eruption is not too big and hopefully not many houses are destroyed,” said Wayan Yuniartini, who left his village on Friday night with family members.

“I was very worried last night,” he said. “At 11.30pm we said ‘we have to leave’ and many other people in our area were also leaving.”

The mountain, 72 kilometres to the northeast of the tourist hotspot of Kuta, is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia.

The country of thousands of islands is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.

PM’S XIII overpower weakened PNG side

Tom Trobjevic and James Tedesco have boosted their World Cup selection chances by scoring hat-tricks in the Australian PM’s XIII’s 48-8 hammering of the Papua New Guinea PM’s XIII on Saturday.

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It was a clinical performance by the Mal Meninga-coached side in hot and humid conditions in front of 13,468 screaming fans at the National Football Stadium in Port Moresby.

Featuring 11 players with Kangaroos experience, the Australians were made to work hard early by a PNG side missing most of their stars who were preparing to play for the PNG Hunters in the Intrust Super Cup grand final in Brisbane on Sunday.

The visitors were behind 8-6 in the first half before running away with victory in a match that leaves Meninga with plenty of questions ahead of naming his squad for the World Cup later this year.

The hosts dominated the opening minutes until Manly fullback Trobjevic, playing in the centres, crossed for a try in his first game in the green and gold.

The crowd went wild soon after when PNG centre Stanford Talita’s try was converted by Jason Misian to lock the scores up.

Five-eighth Misian added a penalty goal to put his side ahead and leave the visitors stunned halfway through the first half.

St George-Illawarra back-rower Tyson Frizell soon after raced away to put the Australians back in front and from there it was one-way traffic.

Trobjevic was gifted a second try after nice lead-up work from his brother Jake, while fullback James Tedesco scored from a Corey Norman cross-field kick just before halftime.

The young Sea Eagles star completed his hat-trick early in the second half.

Tedesco and five-eighth Norman combined again for the NSW No.1 to add his second try before he completed his own hat-trick in the dying minutes, a four-pointer that was converted by prop Andrew Fifita.

Halfback James Maloney finished with a haul of 18 points after scoring a late try and nailing all seven of his conversions.

Reserve back Dylan Walker had to be stretchered from the field with what appeared to be a dislocated right ankle and is unlikely to play again this year.

Meninga conceded his side had been taken by surprise early in the game and didn’t get on top until close to halftime.

“That’s the type of preparation we need leading into the World Cup,” he said.

PNG co-coach Steven Nightingale was upbeat despite the heavy loss.

“It’s moving forward as a sport and the boys did very well,” he said.

Rampant Tigers roar into AFL grand final

Richmond have roared into their first AFL grand final since 1982 after storming to a 36-point preliminary-final win over Greater Western Sydney.

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With a raucous crowd of 94,258 overwhelmingly pro-Richmond fans cheering them home at the MCG, the Tigers set up Saturday’s 15.13 (103) to 9.13 (67) win with a pulsating six-goals-to-one third quarter.

“I was just rapt for the players … they’ve put in a power of work,” coach Damien Hardwick said.

“To see them lift the intensity in the third quarter then continue with the assault in the last was really pleasing.

“I thought Trent (Cotchin) and his leaders stood up and took charge of the game … it was a very good result for our footy club.”

Cotchin, outstanding with 26 possessions, faces a nervous wait for the match review panel’s (MRP) assessment of his first-quarter hit on Dylan Shiel.

Cotchin’s shoulder made contact with Shiel’s jaw as he tried to take possession. The GWS youngster played on for a few minutes after the blow, but then went to the bench where he failed a concussion test.

Complicating the matter is the fact the Tigers’ skipper already has two fines this season and will miss the grand final against Adelaide if he receives a third.

Hardwick hadn’t seen the incident when he spoke after the game and wouldn’t be drawn on Cotchin’s prospects with the MRP.

Daniel Rioli played the best game of his short career, kicking four goals, including two in the pivotal third term.

Red-hot Brownlow Medal favourite Dustin Martin sprang to life after a quiet first half by his standards with three goals in a row to help the Tigers to a 31-point three-quarter time lead.

GWS took the game up to the Tigers in the first half but, ultimately, Richmond’s vaunted pressure won the day.

Hardwick’s men achieved just the start they were after, when Kane Lambert and Josh Caddy goaled in the first two minutes of the game.

But with the Tiger Army in full voice, the Giants did well to steady the ship with Harrison Himmelberg – who finished with four goals – booting his side’s first two majors.

Richmond led by a goal at the first break, but had to soak up sustained pressure in the second term.

Josh Kelly was important for the visitors with a goal and 17 possessions to halftime, but a brilliant goal to Rioli put the Tigers up by a point at the main break.

Then the Giants’ resistance crumbled as Rioli and Martin had the yellow-and-black faithful in raptures as the Tigers broke the game open.

GWS desperately needed to kick the first goal of the last quarter, but Martin booted his third in front of his adoring fans at the Punt Road End.

But, the Giants wouldn’t lie down.

The margin narrowed to 23 points when they struck back with successive goals, but Jack Riewoldt – who endured a dirty day – stepped in with his only goal to send his side into the grand final.

GWS coach Leon Cameron was proud of his players, but bemoaned their inability to match the Tigers’ increased intensity after halftime.

“Probably the first quarter-and-a-half, we had it on our terms but we just needed to capitalise a bit more,” Cameron said.

“I think we probably should have come in in front at halftime … you’ve just got to take your opportunities and we didn’t.

“In the end, they deserved to win because their second half was clearly better than ours.”

Key Tiger faces nervous grand final wait

Richmond skipper Trent Cotchin faces the nightmare prospect of being suspended for the AFL grand final after a high bump on Greater Western Sydney’s Dylan Shiel.

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Cotchin was among the Tigers’ best as they stormed their way to their first grand final since 1982 with a 36-point win over the Giants in Saturday’s preliminary final at the MCG.

But the 27-year-old faces a nervous wait to learn whether he will become the first player since Collingwood’s Anthony Rocca in 2003 to miss the premiership decider through suspension.

Shiel failed a concussion test after Cotchin barrelled into his shoulder midway through the first quarter and made contact with his jaw.

The gun midfielder initially stayed on the ground but was ruled out for the game during the second term.

Cotchin has already been fined twice this season for low-level offences, and a third would result in an automatic suspension.

A despondent Shiel emerged from the Giants’ rooms midway through the second quarter and sat on the bench with his jacket on.

Leading sports doctor Peter Larkins told 3AW Radio that Shiel had suffered blurred vision.

The AFL’s crackdown on head-high contact means Cotchin is certain to face a nervous wait for the match review panel to hand down their findings on Monday afternoon.

“It’s out of my control,” he said after the game.

“I was going for the footy.

“It will be what it will be. I can’t do anything about it.”

Tigers coach Damien Hardwick claimed not to have seen the incident but said Cotchin was a fair player – an assessment backed up by Giants counterpart Leon Cameron.

“At the end of the day, he’s a ball player,” Hardwick said.

“Other people will make their assessments and we’ll go from there.”

Potentially in Cotchin’s favour is the fact that Shiel had also copped a separate high bump from Tigers defender David Astbury later in the first term.

Hawthorn premiership player Campbell Brown said Cotchin should not be penalised for the challenge.

“Cotchin in NO trouble for contact. Went low, hard, eyes on ball and won it. Everything players are taught to do,” Brown posted on Twitter.

Giants loss ends Stevie J’s AFL career

Steve Johnson’s illustrious AFL career has ended on a sour note with a listless and losing preliminary final performance.

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There’s no doubt Johnson will be remembered for his premiership-winning heroics at Geelong, and not for his two-season cameo with Greater Western Sydney.

And for that, Johnson should be thankful given his role in the Giants’ 36-point loss to Richmond on Saturday night.

Johnson kicked six goals in their semi-final win over West Coast last weekend but failed to trouble the goal umpire at the MCG.

He did give the field umpires plenty to consider.

The 34-year-old tumble-turned with Alex Rance, throwing the defender to the ground to give away a free kick in the first term.

As the Giants struggled to stem the Tigers’ tide in the third quarter, Johnson looked lost in front of goal.

Marking around 40 metres out with little angle, he handed off to Nathan Wilson who kicked out on the full.

Shortly after, the 2007 Norm Smith Medallist had the ball on the boundary line 60 metres from goal and stabbed inwards – turning the ball over and starting a Richmond attack.

Thankfully, the 293-gamer won’t have to review his part in the match given his pre-announced retirement.

“I was pretty quiet,” Johnson conceded after his 15-disposal game.

“You always want to have a bit more influence.

“On reflection I’m disappointed as a team we couldn’t get the job done. I’m not too worried about my own performance.”

Johnson shared tears with his family in the Giants locker room at the MCG after the match.

“I just love playing footy and today’s the end,” he said.

“They give you great support over the year.

“I’ve been extremely fortunate that my family’s been to just about every game in 16 years.

“I need to go and help console them and help them console me.”

China experts say 3.4-quake hits North Korea in ‘suspected explosion’

The epicentre is roughly the same as that of a previous shallow earthquake on September 3, which turned out to be caused by a North Korean nuclear test, the official Xinhua news agency said.

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The earthquake comes after days of increasingly bellicose rhetoric between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s regime over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions that has raised international alarm.

The nuclear proliferation watchdog CTBTO said unusual seismic activity detected in North Korea on Saturday took place around 50 km (31 miles) from previous tests.

“Korean Peninsula unusual #seismic activity: LAT=41.36 LON=129.76 mb=3.5 About 50 km from prior tests. #CTBT Analysts investigating,” CTBTO Executive Secretary Lassina Zerbo said in a Twitter post.

There seemed to be some initial difference of opinion, however, with Seoul’s Korea Meteorological Agency (KMA) saying that it had registered a tremor of a similar size, but judged it a “natural quake”.

0:00 China bans North Koreans from setting up new businesses Share China bans North Koreans from setting up new businesses

The quake comes amid soaring tensions over Pyongyang’s weapons programme, with the firing of two missiles over Japan in recent weeks and its sixth and largest nuclear test earlier this month.

The September 3rd test was North Korea’s most powerful detonation, triggering a much stronger 6.3-magnitude quake that was felt across the border in China.

This week marked a new level of acromony in a blistering war of words between Kim and Trump, with the North Korean leader calling the American president “mentally deranged” and a “dotard”.

Trump has dubbed Kim a “madman” and sought to ratchet up sanctions against the isolted regime, which says it needs nuclear weapons to protect itself against the threat of invasion. 

Pyongyang later said it had tested a hydrogen bomb that could be fitted onto a missile — an assertion that no foreign government has so far confirmed.

The move prompted global condemnation, leading the UN Security Council to unanimously adopt new sanctions that include restrictions on oil shipments.

Hydrogen bombs, or H-bombs, are thermonuclear weapons far more powerful than ordinary fission-based atomic bombs, and use a nuclear blast to generate the intense temperatures required for fusion to take place.

Kim on Friday threatened the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history” in a tirade against Trump’s warning that Washington would “totally destroy” the North if the US or its allies were threatened.

Monitoring groups estimate that the nuclear test conducted in North Korea earlier this month had a yield of 250 kilotons, which is 16 times the size of the US bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.

0:00 US may have to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea: Trump Share US may have to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea: Trump

Washington announced tougher restrictions Friday aimed at curbing North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme, building on new tough United Nations sanctions aimed to choke Pyongyang of cash.

Russia and China have both appealed for an end to the escalating rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang. 

But on the fringes of the UN meeting this week, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho upped the tensions further, telling reporters Pyongyang might now consider detonating a hydrogen bomb outside its territory.

National wins the most votes in New Zealand’s election but Ardern says race isn’t over

Incumbent New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English predicted his Labour opponent Jacinda Ardern’s “stardust” would fade and if early election results are an indicator of the final result, he could be right.

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The National Party had 46.1 percent of the votes with over 97 percent of results counted, while Labour had 35.7 percent of the votes, according to the Electoral Commission.

New Zealand First had 7.5 percent of the votes, putting it position to hold the balance of power in the German-style proportional representation system.

Ardern said the expectation was to speak to New Zealand First as quickly as they could.

“Let’s keep doing this,” the relentlessly optimistic @jacindaardern says. #nzelection pic老站出售,/O2sgxSiLIV

— Nastasya Tay (@NastasyaTay) September 23, 2017″Obviously we hoped for better,” says @jacindaardern as she emerges from her barbecue and heads speechwards. #nzelection

— Nastasya Tay (@NastasyaTay) September 23, 2017

NZ First is on 7.1 per cent and the Greens on 6.1 per cent.

With those levels of support in the party vote, National would have 57 seats in a 120-member parliament and Labour 45.

#NZelection night is about possibility: holding onto the possibilities of coalitions you can form. Right now both leaders could still be PM

— Nastasya Tay (@NastasyaTay) September 23, 2017With 42% #nzelection votes counted, National stretching their 10 pt lead. No champagne popping in the exceptionally long Labour bar queue.

— Nastasya Tay (@NastasyaTay) September 23, 2017

National would be just short of a majority, and even with ACT’s one seat would still need NZ First to get over the line.

In 2014 there was some slight difference between the advance vote results and the final figures, but they were a good indicator of where each party finished.

National that year dropped slightly from 47.85 per cent to 47.04 per cent between the advanced and final votes while Labour went up a touch from 24.49 per cent to 25.13 per cent.

But that’s not an indicator that the same will happen this year, when there’s been a huge surge in advanced votes.

NZ Green leader says wants to form Coalition with Labour and NZ First

New Zealand Green Party leader James Shaw said on Saturday he would be willing to work with Labour Party to form a government with the populist New Zealand First Party as counting showed the ruling National Party on track to secure the most votes but fall short of an outright majority.

Shaw said his message for New Zealand First Party leader Winston Peters was that now was the time to put differences aside and work with Labour to overthrow the incumbent Nationals.

His comments came after 93.7 percent of the results counted showed Labour on 35.7 percent of the vote and centre-right National on 46.2 percent.

Those results suggested either major party would need New Zealand First to form the next government. The Greens have a working agreement with Labour.

The final tally of all votes would not be released until Oct. 7.

0:00 Jacinda vs Bill: The race for New Zealand Share Jacinda vs Bill: The race for New Zealand

The campaign has been the most volatile in recent memory, with momentum swinging from English to Ardern and then back again. 

“This election is going to be really close… it’s a drag race between the two big parties,” English said on the hustings Friday, conceding a large undecided vote could prove key. 

Under New Zealand’s strict election laws, exit polls are not allowed during election-day voting which opened at 9am (2100 GMT Friday) and closed at 7pm (0700 GMT). 

However, a firm indication of the outcome is expected within three-and-a-half hours of the close. 

There were 3.2 million registered voters of which 1.24 million cast an early vote. 

We won’t get the special/int’l #nzelection vote count AT ALL tonight. Last elex it was 13.5% of ballots. It could make all the difference.

— Nastasya Tay (@NastasyaTay) September 23, 2017With 10% of #nzelection votes counted: National on 46.1%, Labour on 36.6%, Greens 6%. Neck and neck between right and left.

— Nastasya Tay (@NastasyaTay) September 23, 2017

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No party has claimed a majority government in New Zealand’s 120-seat parliament since proportional voting was adopted in 1996 and this election is unlikely to change that. 

Pre-election opinion polls showed either English’s conservative National Party or Ardern’s centre-left Labour could be in a position to form a government late Saturday. 

Another possibility was that there will be no immediate winner with both major parties seeking coalition partners to get them over the line. 

If that happens, populist anti-immigration campaigner Winston Peters’ New Zealand First party looms as a potential kingmaker.

Ardern was hoping for a high youth vote to counter her dip in the polls in the final week of campaigning and visited universities across the country encouraging students to cast their ballots.

“This is going to come down to whether or not people turn out and vote,” she said Friday.

Want to watch the official #nzelection numbers come in? Follow them here: 南京桑拿,南京SPA,/tSaCLr5V5T

— Nastasya Tay (@NastasyaTay) September 23, 2017’Jacindamania’

English’s National Party was in the driving seat to win a fourth term until Ardern took over the Labour Party last month. 

The 37-year-old galvanised support for the ailing centre-left party, giving it a 20-point popularity boost to bring it level with National.

Arden accused the government of inertia, saying that after three terms it has run out of ideas on issues such as housing affordability and protecting the environment. 

Her policy platform includes free tertiary education and slashing immigration to reduce pressure on housing and infrastructure.

Ardern is bidding to become New Zealand’s youngest leader since 1856 and only the third woman to lead the South Pacific nation of 4.6 million people. 

But the “Jacinda-mania” phenomenon waned as English attacked her financial credibility while pointing to his economic record over the past nine years.

0:00 Young New Zealand voters on the issues that matter Share Young New Zealand voters on the issues that matter

The 55-year-old ex-farmer and father-of-six, who took over as prime minister when John Key stepped down last December, argued only National can maintain strong economic growth. 

English also wants to make amends for his last leadership foray in 2002, when National slumped to a record defeat and won barely 20 percent of the vote. 

While tipping a close race, he is confident National can win a fourth term, a feat no New Zealand government has achieved in more than 50 years. 

The wildcard for both English and Ardern is Peters, whose party could decide the outcome of the election if it is as tight as polls predict. 

The 72-year-old political veteran has shown in the past that he will back either side if the right offer is made. 

In 1996, he helped install a National-led government in return for being made deputy prime minister, then in 2005 he joined a Labour coalition after being given the job of foreign minister.

Merkel takes on hard right in final German vote push

German Chancellor Angela Merkel faced down jeering protesters Friday as she embarked on a final push for votes ahead of Sunday’s election, seeking to beat back a challenge from the emboldened hard-right.

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Rowdy dissenters blowing whistles and vuvuzelas and shouting “Get lost” sought to drown out her rally in the southern city of Munich.

But the 63-year-old chancellor would not be derailed from her stability-and-prosperity stump speech, telling the crowd that “the future of Germany will definitely not be built up through whistles and hollers.”

Even though Merkel is expected to secure a fourth term with a double-digit margin of victory, she has been repeatedly confronted by organised protesters at her rallies.

Many turn up bearing posters of the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), with some even trying to hit Europe’s most powerful woman with tomatoes.

In a swipe at the AfD, Merkel had told Germans to “go vote and vote for the parties that are 100 percent loyal to our constitution.”

“We have to take a clear stance when it’s about our basic values.”

0:00 Martin Schulz’s SPD campaigning on ‘a future plan for modern Germany’ Share Martin Schulz’s SPD campaigning on ‘a future plan for modern Germany’

‘Shame for our nation’

Mainstream parties are increasingly alarmed by the level of support for the AfD, which looks set to easily clear the five-percent hurdle to representation in parliament in what would be a post-war first.

The prospect of an estimated 60 MPs from a nativist outfit branded “real Nazis” by Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel taking seats in the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, has added urgency and angst to what had long been dismissed as a suspense-free campaign.

At a rally in central Berlin, Martin Schulz, 61, a former European Parliament president and leader of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), vowed that his party would act as a bulwark against the AfD, which he described as an “organisation of rabble-rousers”.

Briefly giving the floor to a Holocaust survivor, Inge Deutschkron, Schulz said that: “This Alternative for Germany is no alternative. They are a shame for our nation.”

The AfD is currently polling at around 11 percent, and a strong showing could eat away at Merkel’s lead. Her CDU and its Bavarian sister party the CSU were polling at 36 percent according to a new survey late Thursday, close to their worst-ever score of 35.1 percent in 1998.

Schulz this week took some succour from Merkel’s slipping poll numbers, hoping for a “last-minute turnaround” linked to “growing unease” in the population.

But his SPD looks set to fare even worse, garnering an estimated 22 percent, which would be an unmitigated disaster for Germany’s oldest party.

With the economy humming, business confidence robust and unemployment at post-reunification lows, analysts say there is little appetite for change at the top.

0:00 Angela Merkel’s CDU campaigning to the ‘prosperity and security for all’ manifesto Share Angela Merkel’s CDU campaigning to the ‘prosperity and security for all’ manifesto

‘Arrogance of power’

In trying to appeal to voters disillusioned by Merkel’s 12-year tenure, the AfD has railed against her 2015 decision to let more than one million asylum seekers, mainly from Muslim countries, into Germany.

Even the mainstream media point to a degree of Merkel fatigue, arguing that the soporific campaign and a sense of complacency could ultimately drive many German voters into the arms of extremists.

“For months, Merkel was the phlegmatic queen of the campaign but now, near the finish line, it’s not Martin Schulz that is posing a danger but her own ponderousness,” Rene Pfister of Der Spiegel wrote.

“That antagonises AfD supporters, who in the CDU’s confidence of victory see further evidence of the arrogance of power in the late Merkel years.”

0:00 AfD campaigning for ‘Germany first’ Share AfD campaigning for ‘Germany first’

‘Political bankruptcy’

Merkel’s chief of staff Peter Altmaier caused a stir this week by suggesting it would be better for Germans not to vote at all than to cast their ballot for the AfD.

One of the party’s two main candidates, Alice Weidel, denounced the comments as anti-democratic.

“Altmaier’s declaration is tantamount to admitting political bankruptcy and reveals his disturbed relationship to democracy,” she said.

AfD supporter Guenther Poppe, a 69-year-old pensioner attending a campaign event in the eastern Berlin district of Marzahn late Thursday, said he refused to be stigmatised for his vote.

“The right in Germany has a negative connotation but the AfD could serve as constructive opposition for the good of the German people,” he told AFP.

But Gerd Appenzeller of Berlin’s daily Tagesspiegel warned that any success for the AfD on Sunday night would hit like a bombshell. 

“Although the AfD is highly unlikely to fare as well as the extreme right in France or the Netherlands, any relative success for the AfD will reflect badly to international onlookers, given German history,” he said.

“No amount of rage against Merkel, fury at the SPD, or resignation at modern politics can justify voting for a party that would – given the chance – shake this country’s foundations to the core.”

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