Treasurer gives banks rare pat on back

It’s not often these days that Treasurer Scott Morrison has a good word for Australia’s big banks.

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But when they do something good for their customers he is willing to give them at least some credit.

Commonwealth Bank announced on Sunday it was scrapping it $2 fee on customers of other banks when making withdrawals using their ATMs.

ANZ was quick to follow suit, and Westpac is reportedly doing the same.

Mr Morrison said he was pleased to see the ice broken on the issue of ATM fees.

“Australians are sick and tired of all of these fees that mount up,” he told reporters in Sydney.

He said the government is putting pressure on the banks to put their customers first.

“So when banks respond in this way, I am happy to give them a pat back when they do the right thing,” he said.

Labor’s financial services spokeswoman Katy Gallagher said these fees have been unfairly chipping away at people’s savings little by little for years.

“Today’s decision has shown that the game is finally up,” she said in a statement.

“There is no doubting that Labor’s calls for a Royal Commission has led to this decision.”

Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson agreed, saying there is no way CBA would have made this move without the public pressure on them over their multiple scandals.

He said a royal commission or a parliamentary commission of inquiry will put more pressure on the banks to lift their game.

“Australians have had enough of these rip-offs and now it seems some of the banks are realising it,” the senator said in a statement.

Trump tweets threats against Kim Jong Un

US President Donald Trump says North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and leader Kim Jong Un “won’t be around much longer” if Ri echoed the thoughts of “Little Rocket Man” – a reference to Kim.

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Ri told the United Nations General Assembly earlier on Saturday that targeting the US mainland with its rockets was inevitable after “Mr Evil President” Trump called Pyongyang’s leader “rocket man”.

“Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at UN If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!” Trump tweeted.

Trump and Kim have traded increasingly threatening and personal insults as Pyongyang races towards its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the US – something Trump has vowed to prevent.

In an unprecedented direct statement on Friday, Kim described Trump as a “mentally deranged US dotard” whom he would tame with fire. His comments came after Trump threatened in his maiden UN address on Thursday to “totally destroy” the country of 26 million people.

It was not clear from Trump’s latest tweet if he was referring to Ri and Kim, or North Korea more broadly.

North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear bomb test on September 3, prompting another round of UN sanctions. Pyongyang said on Friday it might test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean.

“It is only a forlorn hope to consider any chance that the DPRK (North Korea) would be shaken an inch or change its stance due to the harsher sanctions by the hostile forces,” Ri told the UN General Assembly on Saturday.

US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers escorted by fighters flew in international airspace over waters east of North Korea on Saturday in a show of force the Pentagon said indicated the range of military options available to Trump.

Next NZ government awaits Peters’ decision

The leaders of New Zealand’s two main parties will have to court NZ First’s Winston Peters to help form government after Saturday’s election failed to deliver a clear majority win.

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The incumbent National party has 58 seats after Saturday’s general election but is short of the 61 needed for a majority in parliament. Labour has 45, the Greens seven and NZ First nine.

The numbers may change when special votes are counted, but NZ First is the kingmaker.

National Party leader Bill English expects a call from Mr Peters in the next few days when they’ll talk about the process of negotiating to form a government.

“We want to get on with the job of forming a government but we will work with New Zealand First essentially at the pace that they’re willing to go,” Mr English said on Sunday.

A National/NZ First government would have 67, while a Labour/Greens/NZ First coalition would have 61.

Mr English said senior National ministers met on Sunday morning “to discuss the results and our approach to the negotiations”.

He said a two-party coalition would be more stable.

“Our position is almost one-in-two New Zealanders supported National,” he said.

“The voters have given us the task of forming a government with NZ First and that is what we will proceed to do.”

The option of a National/Greens coalition has always been seen as unlikely, and on Sunday Mr English said National would need to see some indication of interest from the Greens in constructive discussion.

“There hasn’t been any indication so far,” he said.

Mr English confirmed National’s previous coalition partner, ACT, would not be part of a National government with NZ First.

Leader David Seymour understood how the numbers worked, he said.

Labour has not conceded and itself is looking to form a government.

On Sunday leader Jacinda Ardern said a majority of people had voted against the status quo.

“What New Zealanders want us to focus on is forming a credible, stable government.”

She’s including NZ First when she talks about a majority voting against the status quo, although Mr Peters didn’t give any indication before the election which party he would support after it.

He still hasn’t.

After a night to sleep on it, Mr Peters wasn’t giving anything away.

He said he would not be making a decision without consulting the party board and his MP colleagues.

Ms Ardern will be talking to the Greens, Labour’s natural partner, and Mr Peters to try to forge a three-way coalition.

Coalition negotiations with Mr Peters aren’t expected to be determined until at least October 7 when the final results, including special votes, are in.

Mr Peters has set October 12 as his deadline for a decision.

Five days on, hopes fade in Mexico City quake rescue operations

Yet authorities were still listening to anguished families who insisted that painstaking rescue operations continue at a handful of sites.

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Foreign teams from Japan, the US and elsewhere were working with dogs and hi-tech gear to try to detect signs of life under the rubble.

In the first three days, 69 people were pulled out alive. But since Friday only bodies have been recovered.

A series of smaller earthquakes in the south of Mexico on Saturday — including a 6.1-magnitude one that triggered seismic alerts in the capital — stoked panic in a population traumatized by Tuesday’s disaster.

Authorities said two people died in the southern state of Oaxaca, where tectonic upheaval was centered. A bridge buckled and collapsed, as did several other previously damaged structures.

In Mexico City, two women, one aged in her 80s, the other 52, died of heart attacks as they tried to evacuate their homes.

Others prayed the rocking earth wasn’t going to swell into a new catastrophe. 

“Oh God, have mercy,” exclaimed one resident, Teresa Martinez, 74, who stood in the street with other women, all crying.

0:00 Elderly woman pulled free amid Mexico City’s earthquake rubble Share Elderly woman pulled free amid Mexico City’s earthquake rubble

Prey to quakes

The tremors – possibly aftershocks from a massive 8.2-magnitude quake that hit southern Mexico two weeks ago – forced rescue workers in the capital to pause their efforts for a couple of hours.

They also underlined the historic vulnerability of the country to quakes, siting as it does on several tectonic plates.

No citizen has forgotten a 1985 earthquake that killed 10,000 people in Mexico City.

But some of the families hoping against hope to see trapped loved ones again also clung to memories of “miracle” rescues in 1985 that happened a week after that quake.

Experts say that, usually, there is little to no chance of finding quake survivors after three days have passed. 

Yet Mexico City’s mayor, Miguel Angel Mancera, told Televisa television that around “30 people may yet be able to be found in this search and rescue operation.”

Paola Solorio, a 35-year-old who had three relatives trapped at one flattened building, said: “We’ve been told they have detected areas with life. They’ve sent in dogs and the dogs have indicated life.”

Nevertheless, the smell of decaying bodies wafting out from collapsed buildings presaged grief for some relatives. 

Rescue workers wore face masks to shield themselves from the odor.

RELATED’Here to save lives’

But some of the foreign crews sent to Mexico on hasty rescue mission refused to call it quits.

“We’re here to save lives. You have to have faith and believe (the people inside) are in a place with access to air and managed to survive,” said Karin Kvitca, a 29-year-old with an Israeli rescue crew.

So far the foreign specialists have found only bodies. At one point, Japanese rescuers were seen removing their helmets and bowing before a recovered corpse.

The latest death toll stands at 307, of which more than half — 169 fatalities — were in Mexico City.

One of the most poignant scenes in the city was white wreaths laid at what used to be a school in the south of the capital where 19 children and six adults died. An eight-year-old boy recovered alive was in an induced coma in hospital.

The rest of the deaths occurred in the states of Morelos, Puebla, Mexico, Guerrero and Oaxaca.

Families were starting to hold funerals. One of the first was that of Gabriel Morales and Agueda Mendoza, a married couple found locked in embrace under the rubble, along with their dog Quino.

 

Cotchin, Sloane sweat on AFL MRP verdicts

Former AFL match review panel member Brad Sewell predicts Trent Cotchin will be cleared to play in the grand final.

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Much of the focus at the start of grand final week surrounds what will happen on Monday, when the MRP hands down its findings from the preliminary finals.

The Richmond captain is in strife for a heavy collision with GWS opponent Dylan Shiel in the first quarter of Saturday’s MCG clash.

Adelaide vice-captain Rory Sloane will also be under scrutiny for the heavy hit that floored Geelong star Patrick Dangerfield, a key moment on Friday night at Adelaide Oval.

Richmond utility Brandon Ellis is a third player sweating on the MRP deliberations, after his high bump on Lachie Whitfield.

But Cotchin and Sloane are the big incidents.

Sewell, the retired Hawthorn premiership player, served on the panel two seasons ago.

“Whether we like or not, there is an unspoken bias for finals – you want to see the very best players out there, playing every week,” Sewell told Channel Seven’s Game Day.

“But when it’s finals and grand finals … he (Cotchin) has to be fine.”

The other big factor is it cannot be a fine – in other words, Cotchin either is cleared or he faces suspension.

He was fined twice earlier this season for jumper punches and under the tribunal system, a third fine would mean an automatic one-game ban.

GWS player Toby Greene had priors when the MRP ruled against him last month for an incident where his raised foot left Western Bulldogs opponent Luke Dahlhaus with a bloodied mouth.

But that was ruled as misconduct – a separate category to his previous offences.

In Cotchin’s case, the charge would be rough conduct and that would be in the same bracket as his two striking offences.

Matthew expects the MRP will clear Cotchin and Sloane, but said the Adelaide star might have more reason to worry because he appears to lift an arm before the collision with Dangerfield to protect himself.

“I’m for making the game safer. You can’t bump high and that wasn’t a bump, that was more a collision for me,” Matthews told Channel Seven.

“But you have to be able to attack the footy with as much force and ferocity that you can summon.

“I just reckon it would be really bad for the game if there was a problem with that incident, because that was what he was doing.

“I think nothing should happen (with Sloane), but this is a little more debatable.”

Cotchin starred in their six-goal win over GWS, continuing his great finals series.

Sloane returned from having his appendix removed on Friday night, as Adelaide mauled Geelong by 61 points.

The game attracted a record Adelaide Oval crowd and at the final siren, the top of the western grandstand shook with the noise.

It is Richmond’s first grand final in 35 years, while the Crows have waited 19 years since their 1997-98 premiership double.

The Tigers will start underdogs as they try to break their 37-year premiership drought.