LNP and Qld govt’s buy local policy battle

The upcoming Queensland election is likely to be a battle over jobs, with the opposition launching a buy local procurement policy just weeks after the government rolled out its own.


Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls denied it was a copycat move and said the LNP’s proposal was vastly different to that introduced by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on September 1.

“It’s a real policy that will deliver real benefits,” he said at the announcement on Sunday.

“Labor’s policy puts at risk Queensland jobs.”

But government minister and spokesman Mick de Brenni said Mr Nicholls’ policy was a joke and would force local businesses into a “race to the bottom” for the lowest price.

“It’s the same old, tired approach to procurement that Tim Nicholls and Campbell Newman had when they were last in government,” he said on Sunday.

“Our buy Queensland policy delivers a preference for Queensland businesses.”

If elected at the next state election, the LNP will give local businesses with 200 staff or less, the opportunity to match the price for government projects valued at under $100 million.

The companies will be required to have their headquarters in Queensland in order to be considered.

Mr Nicholls said local businesses would still have to adhere to the “same quality and service standards” but the price match would enable them to get a look-in for jobs they might otherwise not be able to compete for.

The LNP leader said its policy would generate jobs but also wouldn’t start a “phoney trade war with New Zealand” like the government’s had.

Mr Nicholls said he would work with the federal government to ensure local businesses had an opportunity to bid on projects valued at more than $100m, while not damaging free trade agreements with other countries.

Ms Palaszczuk announced the government’s buy Queensland procurement policy in August ahead of its implementation on September 1.

Local businesses located within a 125km radius of a project now receive a weighting of up to 30 per cent.

Ms Palaszczuk said at the time of the announcement the Australian-first initiative was “unashamedly a ‘Buy Queensland’ one”.

“Wherever possible, one regional and one Queensland supplier will be invited to quote or tender for every procurement opportunity offered,” she said.

“Preference must be given to local subbies and manufacturers on significant infrastructure projects of $100 million or more.”

Mr Nicholls also vowed to cut red tape by 20 per cent, but Mr de Brenni said such a move would remove protections for local business owners.

Deadly aftershock, volcanic ash spread alarm in Mexico

A strong new earthquake has shaken Mexico, toppling already damaged homes and a highway bridge and causing new alarm in a country reeling from two even more powerful quakes this month that together have killed nearly 400 people.


The Popocatepetl volcano south of Mexico City sent a column of ash into the sky, capping an intense period of seismic activity including two powerful tremors this month that have killed more than 400 people and caused damage of up to $8 billion.

Mexico’s capital was shattered by Tuesday’s magnitude 7.1 quake that flattened dozens of buildings and killed at least 307 people. The government’s response to the disaster is under close scrutiny ahead of a presidential election next year.

Although the latest quake was not as destructive, fear is running high among the population. Terrified residents ran into the streets, where they crouched and prayed as earthquake sirens went off. Two women died of heart attacks as the ground shook, the city government said.

The US Geological Survey said the new, magnitude 6.1 temblor was centred about in the state of Oaxaca, which was the region most battered by a magnitude 8.1 quake on September 7.

US Geological Survey geophysicist Paul Caruso said the new temblor was an aftershock of the 8.1 quake, and after a jolt of that size even buildings left standing can be more vulnerable.

Buildings swayed in Mexico City, where nerves are still raw from Tuesday’s magnitude 7.1 temblor that has killed at least 305 across the region. Many residents and visitors fled homes, hotels and businesses, some in tears.

At the Xoco General Hospital, which is treating the largest number of quake victims, workers ordered visitors to evacuate when seismic alarms began to blare.


As rescue operations stretched into day five, residents throughout the capital have held out hope that dozens still missing might be found alive.

More than half the dead – 167 – perished in the capital, while another 73 died in the state of Morelos, 45 in Puebla, 13 in Mexico State, six in Guerrero and one in Oaxaca.

0:00 Frida the rescue dog saving lives after the Mexican earthquake Share Frida the rescue dog saving lives after the Mexican earthquake

Banks bow to pressure on ATM fees

Australia’s four biggest banks have bowed to years of consumer pressure and abolished the ATM withdrawal fees for customers of other banks.


The Commonwealth was the first strike, making an announcement early on Sunday that it would axe the $2 fee that applied to any user who was not using a CommBank key card.

Westpac, the ANZ and National Australian Bank followed suit later in the day.

All four banks cited the unpopularity of the fee with consumers, who were forking out $500 million a year for withdrawing their own cash .

“As Australia’s largest bank, with one of the largest branch and ATM networks, we think this change will benefit many Australians and hopefully demonstrate our willingness to listen and act on customer feedback,” CommBank Group Executive, Retail Banking Services, Matt Comyn said.

Westpac Group Executive, Consumer, George Frazis, said in a statement that it understood “the ‘foreign ATM’ fee has been deeply unpopular with consumers.”

NAB Chief Customer Officer of Consumer Banking and Wealth, Andrew Hagger, said the decision was about making banking fairer.

“We know it has been frustrating for them to be charged to withdraw their own money from an ATM, and the change we are announcing today will benefit millions of Australians.”

Reserve Bank of Australia data shows Australians made more than 250 million ATM withdrawals from banks other than their own last year.

Australia’s fifth largest bank, Macquarie, said it did not charge ATM fees and would refund the $2 fee if their customer was slugged by another bank.

The fee abolition will not apply to cards from overseas banks.

The Australian Bankers Association said Sunday’s announcements were another example of how banks were working to improve their services.

“This is the latest in a suite of initiatives by banks to create better products and services for customers and boost customer choice, including reducing interest rates on credit cards and offering fee-free transaction accounts,” CEO Anna Bligh said in a statement.

“A competitive banking system is good for customers and good for the sector.”

But the changes, while welcomed by federal politicians, did not stop calls for a banking royal commission.

“Imagine how we could get better banking for all Australians if we had a banking royal commission,” Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said.

Blight hopes for Crows AFL flag bridge

AFL legend Malcolm Blight would love to build a premiership bridge with Adelaide coach Don Pyke.


It is two decades – more than two generations in the AFL life cycle – since Blight coached the Crows to their only two premierships in 1997-98.

And Blight says it’s high time someone joined him.

Blight compares it to playing in North Melbourne’s first premiership teams – 1975 and ’77 – and then two decades later watching Denis Pagan and Wayne Carey leading the Kangaroos to another double dose of glory.

“Football history to me is important … it’s terrific when you see them around the traps, you build bridges and every club should require that,” he told AAP.

Blight noted that when he first came to Melbourne, it quickly became clear how Carlton’s generations of premiership players kept tight.

“They had this fantastic ‘bridge’ network, where you’d just run across them and they’d all be involved in successful times,” he said.

“The more the merrier, I think.

“It would be great to build that bridge with this group of players, the staff and all that.”

Blight said Neil Craig was stiff that he did not coach the Crows to at least one flat in the middle of last decade.

“I’d like to sit down, look at every finals game, and show you where some luck came into it,” he said.

“We always say you make your own luck and that’s true – I reckon in 95 per cent you do – but there are some strange things that happen in our game.

“And it’s not always the bounce of the ball.

“Neil was a bit stiff with that.

“Some days are diamonds.”

Blight will be at the MCG next Saturday and is looking forward to a rivetting game.

And he predicts a third Adelaide premiership, just.

“I don’t know, I just have this feeling that the Crows might bat down a bit further,” he said.

“Richmond are certainly up and about and they have those great midfielders.

“The stars have to star, the rest have to pick up the slack.

“It’s a pretty exciting game and so it should be.”

Pressure mounts on Green to play Scott

Pressure is mounting on North Queensland coach Paul Green to make one of the toughest calls of his coaching career and bring Matt Scott back for Sunday’s NRL grand final.


Scott won’t have played for 205 days come kick off against Melbourne on Sunday, but Cowboys players have spoken of his desire to return from a season-long knee injury before Saturday’s preliminary final win over the Sydney Roosters.

Scott was a late omission in the No.21 jersey, but fellow injured co-captain Johnathan Thurston declared he thought he’d be “fit to play” the Storm on Sunday night.

Senior Cowboys Jason Taumalolo and Michael Morgan have also voiced their support on the impact he would have on the team if he returned.

“It’d be a huge confidence boost, but at the same time someone gets to miss out,” Taumalolo said.

“Everyone that’s been playing has been great, but I think it’s inspirational to see our co-captain make himself available.

“At the moment it’s a tough decision. I’ll leave that to Greeny.”

Green dodged questions on Scott’s selection on Saturday night, but confirmed on the return to Townsville on Sunday the prop would again be named in his 21-man squad on Tuesday.

Only second-rower Ethan Lowe (black eye) picked up an injury in Saturday night’s win, but Coen Hess (knee), John Asiata (broken hand) and Shaun Fensom (knee) are all playing through pain.

Scott has played 16 finals matches since he debuted for the Cowboys in 2004, and has led their forward pack since he became a Queensland State of Origin regular in 2009.

If he was to come into the side, it would most likely be in place of interchange forward Corey Jensen, who debuted for the Cowboys in round seven this year and has averaged 23 minutes off the bench.

It’s expected Scott would come off the bench and play two stints totalling 30 minutes – as was the plan if he had turned out against the Roosters.

On his departure from Sydney on Sunday morning, five-eighth Morgan told Fox Sports News even that time would be valuable.

“A guy like Matt Scott, to have him in the team in a game like this as well, it would be huge … just his influence across the team,” Morgan said.

“He obviously wouldn’t need to play too many minutes, it would be about his presence and what he could bring for the side – his leadership qualities and just his experience can’t be underrated.

“I certainly trust the guys who are there. They’ve certainly shown that in the last few weeks and through the season that they’re more than capable of doing the job for us and doing the job well.”

Morgan dismisses NRL fairytale talk

North Queensland’s heroic Cowboys have moved to play down talk of a sporting miracle as they close in on a historic NRL premiership.


Hard work and a great coach have underpinned the side’s unlikely surge to the season decider, according to the Cowboys’ new talismanic halfback Michael Morgan.

After scraping into the finals in eighth spot and without injured co-captains Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott, Morgan shed light on the club’s inspired run to Sunday’s grand final against Melbourne at ANZ Stadium.

The injury-riddled Cowboys squeezed into the playoffs after Canterbury upset St George Illawarra in the last round, before ending Cronulla’s title defence and also eliminating Parramatta and the Roosters to set up an improbable showdown with the Storm.

“We’ve worked hard while doing it. It hasn’t just been a big fairytale and things have just gone our way for no reason,” Morgan told Fox Sports before the Cowboys received a heroes’ welcome upon arrival home in Townsville on Sunday.

Morgan can’t praise coach Paul Green enough for what he’s done in the charge to the decider.

“He’s a great coach. I’ve learnt so much off him and I’m still learning,” Morgan said.

“I’ve been coached by him now since 2014 when he got here. Every year I’ve continued to learn and develop my game and he’s been a massive influence on that.

“If ever there’s certain tips for a certain part of my game, whether it’s kicking, passing, running, he’s an extremely smart coach in the way he coaches and the mindset he gets his players in and deserves a lot of credit for what he’s done this year.”

As for Melbourne, Morgan is under no illusions about the task facing his side against the dominant minor premiers who crushed Brisbane 30-0 in their preliminary final on Friday night.

“We can go one more,” Morgan said.

“Just try and limit their opportunities. They are going to get some and they’ll create their opportunities.They do that really well.”

The grand final is the first to pit the No.1 team versus eighth, the very fixture the NRL didn’t want when it scrapped the controversial McIntyre finals system in 2011.

Eerily, the last time the eighth-placed team made the grand final occurred in 2009, when the Storm’s superstar trio Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and skipper Cameron Smith, along with Greg Inglis, combined to end Parramatta’s Jarryd Hayne-inspired charge with a 23-16 victory.

That title, as well as their 2007 premiership, was subsequently stripped from the Storm for the club’s salary-cap rorting.

Eight years on and Slater, Smith and Cronk – in his emotion-charged farewell from the Storm – get the chance to finally become dual premiership winners.

As too will Morgan and up to a dozen of North Queensland’s survivors from the 2015 golden-point grand final win over Brisbane.

Whether Scott lines up, after tearing his ACL in round two more than six months ago, will be the question all week, with Green again saying the former Test prop will be included in an extended 21-man squad.

Apathy threatens marriage equality success

The Yes campaign has warned same-sex marriage supporters not to get complacent about winning the same-sex marriage survey.


With almost all same-sex marriage survey forms now delivered to people on the federal electoral roll, acting Labor leader Tanya Plibersek says the difficulty will be making sure people actually return their forms.

“I think that the biggest threat to the Yes campaign’s success is people assuming that this is in the bag because they know that a majority of Australians support marriage equality and they think, ‘well, my vote won’t matter …. everybody else will post back their Yes vote’,” she told ABC TV on Sunday.

“Apathy is the biggest risk here.”

Cabinet minister Greg Hunt, who supports marriage equality, was optimistic but also sounded a caution, saying on Sky “nobody should ever presume an electoral outcome.”

Both sides of the debate have ramped up their campaigning in recent days.

The Coalition for Marriage launched its Victorian No campaign on Saturday night, with the event crashed by two women who kissed on stage, lips remaining locked as they were dragged off by security.

While the Yes side has started doorknocking tens of thousands of homes across the nation and raised eyebrows with an SMS campaign.

The tactic had many wondering how the campaigners got their phone numbers, but Equality Campaign’s Queensland director Peter Black defended the action.

“We are doing everything we can in our power to reach the Australian public,” he said in Brisbane on Sunday.

“The numbers were computer generated, there’s been no privacy invasion at all,” he said.

Ms Plibersek condemned bad behaviour on both sides – citing the same-sex marriage supporter who headbutted Tony Abbott in Hobart and the person who beat up Kevin Rudd’s godson for standing up for marriage equality.

But people “getting their goat up” about the Yes text messages was “ridiculous”.

“We didn’t want this postal survey to happen. And then, when the Yes campaign actually goes out and campaigns … the No campaign is saying that it is really unfair that people are urging a Yes vote,” she said.

Mr Hunt said while the news focused on “the margins and the extremes” most Australians were forming their own opinions.

“I actually think there is likely to be a moderation of the extremes because they’ve been called out,” he said.

“The message for those who are campaigning for Yes is make this about people’s right to marry and make this about acceptance.”

The Bureau of Statistics advises anyone yet to receive a form by late on Monday to contact them.

Telephone and online responses also open Monday.

The result of the voluntary postal survey on same-sex marriage is due on November 15.

Bangladesh imposes mobile phone ban on Rohingya refugees

Bangladesh’s four mobile phone providers were threatened with fines if they provide any of the nearly 430,000 newly arrived refugees from Myanmar with phone plans while the ban is in force.


“For the time being, they (Rohingya) can’t buy any SIM cards,” Enayet Hossain, a senior officer at the telecoms ministry, told AFP on Sunday.

The decision Saturday to impose a communication blackout on the stateless Muslim minority was justified for security reasons, said junior telecoms minister Tarana Halim.


Bangladesh already prohibits the sale of SIM cards to its own citizens who cannot provide an official identity card, in a bid to frustrate the organisational capacity of homegrown militants.

“We took the step (of welcoming the Rohingya) on humanitarian grounds but at the same time our own security should not be compromised,” Halim said, without elaborating on what specific risk the Rohingya posed.

Bangladesh’s telecoms authority said the ban could be lifted once biometric identity cards are issued to the newly arrived refugees, a process the army says could take six months.

It is just the latest restriction imposed on the Rohingya who have fled in huge numbers from violence in neighbouring Rakhine State into squalid camps in Bangladesh’s southernmost Cox’s Bazar district in the past four weeks.

0:00 Bangladesh announces tough new restrictions on the movement of Muslim Rohingya refugees Share Bangladesh announces tough new restrictions on the movement of Muslim Rohingya refugees

The nearly 430,000 refugees have been herded by the military into a handful of overstretched camps near the border, where tens of thousands live in the open without shelter.

Many have been evicted from squatting in forest and farmlands by police and soldiers, who have been ordered to keep the Rohingya from seeking shelter in major cities and nearby towns.

Roadblocks have been erected along major routes from the camp zones, where a dire shortage of food, water, shelter and toilets is creating what aid groups describe as a humanitarian crisis.

Some 5,100 have already been stopped at these checkpoints and returned to the designated camps, police said.

“We have set up 11 check posts across the Cox’s Bazar highway to stop the Rohingya refugees from spreading further toward the interior,” Cox’s Bazar police chief Iqbal Hossain told reporters.


Same-sex marriage ‘Yes’ campaign ‘can’t leave any stone unturned’ with text and door-knock drive

Thousands of same-sex marriage supporters have door-knocked around the country, encouraging Australians to post their votes.


Teams of volunteers hit the streets of Leichhardt, in Sydney’s inner west, on Sunday in what the Equality Campaign says is the county’s largest door-knocking event.

“This is incredibly important for people, this is about their lives and their dignity and we have a duty as a campaign to do everything in our power to win this on their behalf,” Equality Campaign executive director Tiernan Brady said on Sunday.

In the past 15 years, support for same-sex marriage has more than doubled from 30 per cent to 65 per cent, he said.

0:00 Turnbull throws support behind ‘yes’ campaign Share Turnbull throws support behind ‘yes’ campaign

“That’s because people talk to their family, talk to their work colleagues and talk to their community about their lives,” he said.

When asked about the controversial text message campaign urging people to vote ‘yes’, Mr Brady said “We can’t leave any stone unturned in our quest to deliver equality to people.”

“There are 16 million people out there with a vote and we have a duty to use every mechanism in our power to talk to every one of them about why marriage equality matters, about why it’s so important to post your vote and why marriage will take nothing from anybody but will make Australia a fairer place for all,” he said.

0:00 Cory Bernadi speaks at same sex marriage ‘No’ campaign launch Share Cory Bernadi speaks at same sex marriage ‘No’ campaign launch

Excited first time door-knockers Matt Dempsey, 23, Kate Littrich, 23, and Kurt Hughes, 21, were expecting a positive response from Leichhardt locals.

“We’re all pretty active on social media and we’ve seen some negative stuff thrown around there but I think it’s very different when you’re face to face with someone, they’re less inclined to be so upfront,” Mr Dempsey told AAP.

“When you get to people on a personal level – we’re standing there in front of them – I think we’ll get a different response.”


0:00 Same-sex marriage around the world Share Same-sex marriage around the world

Schulz faces battle to topple Merkel

Martin Schulz likes to see himself as a fighter.


“I’m a footballer,” the centre-left German Social Democrats’ (SPD) leader is fond of saying. If he’s not saying that, he’s usually demonstrating his boxing skills at campaign stops.

But the 61-year-old Schulz will need to put up the fight of his life if he is to have any chance of toppling Germany’s conservative chancellor, Angela Merkel, who enjoys a commanding lead in opinion polls ahead of the September 24 election.

“You never give up and never give up in the fight for the things you believe in,” EU Council President Donald Tusk once told Schulz.

A former footballer, town mayor, reformed alcoholic and bookshop owner, Schulz is something of a newcomer on the national German political stage.

Married with two children, he spent 22 years in the European Parliament, including five years as president of the Strasbourg-based assembly and mastering every major European language.

Surprisingly, in a nation which has the highest number of tertiary students in Europe, Schulz never completed high school.

After a year of unemployment, he became a bookshop owner in the town where he was born, Wuerselen, in North Rhine Westphalia, the nation’s biggest state and a traditional SPD stronghold.

Indeed, politics was always part of life for the man often dubbed as Mister Europe.

Schulz’s father was a police officer and a rock solid SPD supporter. His mother was active in Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats.

By 19, he had become an active SPD member before entering regional politics, eventually rising through the ranks of local government to become Wuerselen’s mayor at age 31 – North Rhine Westphalia’s youngest ever mayor at the time.

A strong public speaker, Schulz’s aim is to inject more emotion into political life.

“Anyone in politics who is not able to arouse emotions is in the wrong place,” Schulz once said.

In January, Schulz rose to his party’s highest office as SPD chief and its chancellor candidate for the September 24 election.

As a new face on a stage of old actors, his nomination initially prompted a surge in SPD support in opinion polls.

It was a measure of the SPD’s hopes that Schulz might end Merkel’s 12-year rule that he was voted party chief in March with 100 per cent backing.

But, by then, the “Schulz train,” as the media dubbed the SPD leader’s bid for chancellor, seemed to be already running out of steam, with support for the party slumping.

At about 24 per cent, SPD support now stands below the 25.5 per cent it achieved in the last election, in 2013.

But Schulz is used to tough fights. At age 24, he was battling alcoholism after an injury brought to an end the dreams of a football career.

“I drank everything I could get,” Schulz said in an interview. The SPD chief has not drunk alcohol for about 37 years.

A staunch European, he has regularly defended the European Union over the years as being the best defence against the ghosts that haunted the region during the 20th century – racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. More recently, he joined the fight against populism in Europe.