Massive whale carcass dug up on NSW beach

An 18-tonne humpback whale carcass that has been decomposing since it was buried at a NSW mid-north coast beach last week has been exhumed.

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The 12-metre whale died after being beached and its carcass was buried at Port Macquarie’s Nobbys Beach because it was too big to be moved.

Port Macquarie-Hastings Council started the removal early Monday morning and by lunchtime had dug up the carcass with only its liquid remains left on the beach.

“We’re pleased with how smooth it has gone,” council’s development and environment director Matt Rogers told reporters on Monday.

“We are now going through the process of removing the liquid whale.”

The liquids are being pumped into big thousand litre containers which are craned up the beach escarpment and then sucked out by a liquid waste truck before they will be put into the sewerage system.

The carcass was removed by an excavator which used its claws to cut the whale into pieces as it was placed in skip bins and then transported to a nearby tip.

The council decided to remove the whale after copping community backlash because of concerns of heightened shark activity.

Within two days of being beached last Sunday, the carcass had attracted 21 great white shark movements, Port Macquarie Marine Rescue senior skipper Geoff Shelton told AAP.

But Mr Rogers says council didn’t make a mistake when it decided to bury the whale and he doesn’t agree the carcass would attract sharks.

“There’s no admission of mistakes been made,” he said.

“(We) responded to concerns raised.”

The state government has coughed up $50,000 for the exhumation process.

Nobbys Beach will remain closed until the whale and any contaminated sand is removed.

International students urged to complain if exploited at work

24 year-old Nepalese student Avishek arrived in Sydney three years ago to study accounting.

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To cover his university fees and living costs, he began working as kitchen hand.

He says he knew he was being underpaid but never spoke up over fears of losing his job.

“I wasn’t getting the appropriate money that I was supposed to get. I wasn’t saying anything to any one because at the end of the day I knew I had to stay here and pay my uni fees in order to survive.”

Avishek’s experience is not uncommon, says the Fair Work Ombudsman, who adds international students represent a significant number of complaints to the organisation.

Last financial year, almost half of cases filed in court by The Fair Work Ombudsman involved a visa-holder.

Over a third of these concerned an international student.

But Natalie James, from the Fair Work Ombudsman, suspects there are many more who don’t complain.

“We also know they can be hesitant to come forward because of concerns about their visa so we are particularly concerned about international students because we’ve heard some very serious examples of exploitation.”

International students are only permitted to work 20 hours per work.

But Bijay Sapkota, President of the Council of International Students Australia, says they often work more to cover their fees and living expenses.

“Some students tend to pay for the fees, the majority of international students pay for their accommodation, living costs – which is really expensive – and this makes them work more than 20 hours a week.”

According to the Ombudsman, employers use this as leverage to threaten workers to stay silent.

That was the case for Avishek.

“If I do more than 20 hours, the first thing in my mind was that I’d be sent out of Australia, like every international student thinks.”

Research commissioned by the Ombudsman found that 60 per cent of international students believe if they report a workplace issue to their employer, the situation will either remain the same or get worse.

That fear has led the Ombudsman to launch a new strategy that urges international students to lodge complaints.

Ms James says it aims to reassure students that in doing so, their visas won’t be compromised.

“I can reassure all international students, that if you haven’t been paid correctly and you come to the Fair Work Ombudsman for help, we will ensure that your visa status is preserved.”

They want workers to know their rights as do other workers in Australia.

The Fairwork Ombudsman says most employees should be paid at least $18.29 an hour.

For casual workers, the minimum hourly rate is $22.86 an hour.

Employees should also be aware of whether they’re entitled to penalty rates.

Resources to help workers understand their rights are available on the Fair Work Ombudsman website in 30 different languages.

 

Japan’s Abe buoyed by support over North Korea crisis poised to call snap election

Voters in the world’s third-largest economy could go to the polls as soon as October 22, more than a year earlier than expected, as Abe seeks to take advantage of a political opposition in disarray.

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According to a weekend poll in business daily Nikkei, 44 percent of voters plan to vote for Abe’s conservative LDP party, while only eight percent said they would side with the main opposition Democratic Party.

Nevertheless, one fifth of those polled said they were still undecided, potentially opening the door for gains by a new party formed by allies of the popular mayor of Tokyo Yuriko Koike, which will field dozens of candidates.

Koike’s Tomin First no Kai (Tokyo Residents First) party humiliated Abe and the LDP in local elections in July, but analysts say the new grouping has not had time to lay national foundations to mount a serious challenge to the prime minister.

“There is no opposition worthy of the name in Japan. The LDP is a giant among dwarves. It would take a major scandal to derail the Abe express,” said Jeff Kingston, Director of Asian Studies at Temple University, Japan.

MORE NEWS:’Political vacuum’

The winner of the expected snap election faces a daunting in-tray of challenges ranging from an unprecedented crisis with North Korea to reviving the once world-beating Japanese economy.

Pyongyang has threatened to “sink” Japan into the sea and fired two missiles over the northern island of Hokkaido in the space of less than a month.

Surveys suggest voters approve of nationalist Abe’s firm line on North Korea and the crisis appears to have given him a welcome boost in the polls following a series of scandals, including allegations he improperly favoured a friend in a business deal.

Despite a recent run of growth, the election winner will also have to contend with a sluggish economy, as the heavily indebted country grapples with low birthrates and a shrinking labour force.

At a news conference planned for 6:00pm (0900 GMT), Abe is reportedly set to announce that proceeds from a planned sales tax hike in 2019 will be ploughed into education spending rather than paying down the country’s enormous debt.

Although Abe is expected to triumph in the vote, there are question marks over whether he will retain a two-thirds parliamentary majority needed to reform the constitution to strengthen Japan’s military, a stated priority of his.

Reviving the world-beating Japanese economy is one of the manay issues, apart from North Korea, that will confront the new government. AAP

“Despite the seemingly favourable backdrop for Abe, there are risks in calling a snap election,” said Yoel Sano, an analyst at BMI research.

At a time of national crisis over North Korea, Japanese voters may see it as a “cynical and opportunistic move” designed to divert attention from a series of scandals that weighed on Abe’s popularity, warned Sano.

Commentator Masao Yora said the election will “create a political vacuum” just when the country needs strong 

leadership in the face of the threat from Pyongyang.

This “may seem normal in Japan but from abroad, it is difficult to understand,” Yora told AFP.

If re-elected, it would be Abe’s fourth term at the helm of the world’s third top economy.

The third-generation of powerful politicians, Abe appeared to be groomed for power from an early age and he was the country’s youngest prime minister when he first won the top job.

He was the first world leader to cultivate close relations with US President Donald Trump, meeting the tycoon in Trump Towers even before he was inaugurated.

North Koreans attend an anti-American rally at Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square.AAP

Gas crisis three times bigger than first thought: Turnbull

Malcolm Turnbull has his finger on the trigger for gas export controls but is giving energy companies one last chance to make up a shortfall in supply before he pulls it.

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The prime minister received twin reports on Monday showing the expected shortfall in gas for 2018 is more than three times larger than projected earlier in the year.

This is despite the mere threat of the domestic gas security mechanism encouraging exporters to put more of their supply on the Australian market instead of sending it overseas.

“We will not let the power bills of Australians rise further and further because of a shortfall of gas on the east coast of Australia,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

“If we are not able to receive the assurances from the industry to our satisfaction and that of (competition watchdog) the ACCC, then we will impose those export controls.”

He spoke with gas companies earlier on Monday and will talk to their bosses again during the week, seeking concrete plans on how they will avoid running out of gas for the domestic market.

Labor has been scathing of this approach, saying the nation needs a formal declaration of a shortfall, not just talk.

“It’s not enough for the prime minister to continue to call in business industry chiefs … and assume that wagging his prime ministerial finger and giving them a stern talking to is going to deliver action,” opposition energy spokesman Mark Butler told reporters in Adelaide.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who has called for weeks for the government to pull the gas trigger, took a break between meetings in South Korea to tweet the prime minister’s response was “hopeless”.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Energy Market Operator both predict a shortfall of nearly 110 petajoules of gas in 2018 and similar in 2019.

This is about one-sixth of the projected amount of demand for gas.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said this could be significantly reduced if expected sales on international LNG spot markets were instead redirected to the domestic market.

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He wasn’t sure why this hadn’t happened already.

AEMO chief executive Audrey Zibelman said projections of gas production and demand varied, indicating a dynamic situation that could change rapidly and needed a close eye kept on it.

She wants to see reforms to improve predictability and stability in energy markets to the benefit of consumers.

Mr Turnbull will also again write to the Victorian and NSW premiers and Northern Territory chief minister, urging them to lift moratoriums on gas exploration and development.

Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said it had been estimated there could be 200,000 petajoules of gas potentially undeveloped in the NT – dwarfing the 110 petajoule shortfall.

“We are now starting to pay the price of the states’ mindless moratoriums and bans on gas development,” he said.

Anti-coal seam gas campaigners the Lock The Gate Alliance say restricting gas exports is a better option than digging up prime agricultural land.

“Australian farmland is being put at risk for gas that is getting exported off overseas,” spokeswoman Naomi Hogan said.

“Pushing more expensive fracked gas will only lock us into more high-priced gas into the future.”

Fed govt watching banks after ATM fees cut

The federal government will keep an eye on the big four banks amid concerns customers will end up paying one way or another for the decision to scrap ATM withdrawal fees.

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Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, ANZ and NAB all announced on Sunday the $2 fee to take money out of a competitor’s ATM would be abolished due to its unpopularity.

It’s set to cost them about $500 million a year.

Treasurer Scott Morrison welcomed the move, accrediting the change to pressure from the government for banks to put their customers first.

“I’m pleased they’ve taken this decision,” he told ABC radio on Monday.

Mr Morrison wasn’t convinced the move will lead to the banks shutting or cutting back their ATM services because people would simply walk away.

But the government will be watching closely.

“We’ll certainly be looking – as we always do – at whether they are acting in an uncompetitive way or passing on some of these costs through some other back door or misrepresenting themselves,” he said.

Australian Bankers’ Association chief executive Anna Bligh insisted the banks would wear the cost of scrapping the ATM fees and not seek to raise other customer charges.

“It’s a hit to the bottom line … They have to be prepared sometimes to take pain in order to keep those customers,” she said.

Labor financial services spokeswoman Katy Gallagher said ATM fees had been unfairly chipping away at people’s savings for years.

She said there was no doubt Labor’s repeated calls for a royal commission had led to the decision.

South Australian Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis, meanwhile, labelled the move hypocritical, given the big four “cried poor” over his state’s proposed bank tax yet were willing to forgo $500 million.

The Turnbull government has focused much attention on the banking sector, including making the big four’s CEOs appear before a regular parliamentary committee hearing.

It has released draft legislation to give the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority the power to cap bank executive salaries, delay bonuses and drive directors out of the industry if they are guilty of wrongdoing.

Top executives will be forced to defer at least 40 per cent of their pay for four years under the measure.

Ms Bligh is critical of the relatively short timeframe the industry has been given to consult on these changes.

“This is not good public policy making,” she told ABC radio.

But Mr Morrison questioned why the government would want to wait.

“Australians want us to do something now,” he said.

Mr Morrison said discussions had been happening since February and he would introduce legislation when parliament returns in October.

“I know it’s a quick turn around but I’m not mucking around,” he said.

APRA recently launched an inquiry into Commonwealth Bank after a series of issues raised concerns about its governance, culture and accountability.

I can’t imagine facing Cronk: Slater

For the last 17 years, the sight of Cooper Cronk with the No.

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7 jumper on his back, calling the shots is all Billy Slater has known.

Cronk will run out for his final game in a Melbourne jersey in Sunday’s grand final against North Queensland with a chance to depart the club a premiership hero.

The Australian and Queensland playmaker is still keeping his cards close to his chest when it comes to whether he will hang up the boots or join a Sydney club in 2018.

The possibility of Cronk lining up against him in a different jersey is one which Slater finds disconcerting and is having problems wrapping his head around.

The pair first came together as teenagers at Queensland Cup club North Brisbane before forming arguably the most formidable club combination of all time along with Cameron Smith.

“It’ll be tough. I’ve never played a game against Cooper,” Slater said when asked about possibly facing his good mate next year.

“I’ve trained against him a lot. It would be really weird playing against Cooper and seeing him in a different coloured jersey.

“But at the same time, that’s Cooper’s decision. He’s earned the right to do whatever he wants and take as much time as he needs to.

“He’s going up to Sydney for family reasons and we all understand and respect that. It’s just about appreciating what he’s done for this club and for us us individually as players.”

Sunday’s game will be an end of an era for the Storm – their “big three” is breaking up and after dominating the competition for the last decade, it’s unknown whether they can continue to be a premiership force.

Slater is likewise considering hanging up the boots and both he and Cronk were adamant the outcome of Sunday’s game would not have an affect on their decisions.

“It’s the last time I’ll be doing this but I’ve really put that out of the back of my mind away from everything,” Cronk said.

“I’m an emotional person and if I get emotional I don’t think I play too well.

“So I will be cold-hearted about it and go about it business-like and see how we end up.”

Trump in huge spat with US pro sports leagues

Across the United States, players in the National Football League are sitting out, kneeling or linking arms during the pre-game national anthems.

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Even at Wembley Stadium in London, NFL teams playing a game there locked arms in unity.

It came hours after US president Donald Trump called on fans to boycott teams that do not discipline players who protest.

The gesture, known as the “Take A Knee” protest, started last year when the San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem instead of standing.

He said at the time it was to protest racial injustice and police brutality against black and minority groups.

But Donald Trump says that is an insult to America and Americans.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a (bleep) off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!'”

Addressing a crowd in the southern state of Alabama, Mr Trump has described the gesture as total disrespect for the country’s heritage and offered a recommendation for fans.

“If you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium. I guarantee things will stop.”

President Trump has since refused to back down, saying all professional athletes who disrespect the flag should be fired.

On his favourite medium, Twitter, he preemptively withdrew a White House invitation to basketball superstar Stephen Curry.

That prompted a social-media firestorm.

Fellow basketball star LeBron James, who has nearly as many Twitter followers as Mr Trump, tweeted, “You bum, going to White House was a great honour until you showed up.”

He later issued a video saying Americans need to come together at this critical time.

“For him to use this platform to divide us even more is not something I can stand for and is not something I can be quiet about. You look at him kind of asking the NFL owners to get rid of players off the field because they’re exercising their rights, and that’s not right. And then, you know, when I wake up, I see that a colleague of mine has been uninvited to something that he said he didn’t even want to go to in the first place, to the White House, that’s just something I can’t stand for, man. We’ve got Jamele Hill, and Colin Kaepernick, and all these people are speaking up, and it’s for the greater cause.”

The NFL players union and many players themselves have defended what they see as free speech.

The owner of the New England Patriots NFL team, Robert Kraft, supported Donald Trump in his presidential election campaign.

But he has issued a statement saying he is deeply disappointed by the President’s comments.

“I am proud to be associated with so many players who make such tremendous contributions in positively impacting our communities. Our players are thoughtful, intelligent and care deeply about our community. I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful.”

Stars from other sports, including baseball, have now joined in, and even soul-music legend Stevie Wonder has lent his support at the start of one of his concerts.

Donald Trump’s treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, says the NFL players can practice free speech “in their own time.”

“The NFL has all different types of rules. You can’t have stickers on your helmet. You have to have your uniforms tucked in. What the President is saying — and I think the owners should meet and — they should vote on a rule. This is about respect for our military. This is about respect for our first responders. This is not about Republicans or Democrats. Players have the right for free speech off the field.”

But US House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says President Trump would be ill-advised to continue the battle.

“Somebody like Colin Kaepernick doing what he did says, ‘This flag enables me to do this. This national anthem enables me to do this.’ This is about freedom of expression. Instead of resorting to what he is doing now … it’s unfortunate. I think he’s ill-advised, if advised at all, to go down this path.”

 

Rohingya shanty towns at risk of cholera outbreak warns WHO

A month after the exodus began, those dispersed in some 68 camps and settlements along the border do not have safe drinking water and hygiene facilities, according to the WHO.

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The camps also face dire shortages of food and medicine in what has quickly become one of the world’s largest refugee settlements.

“Risk of water borne diseases is high, especially there is very high risk of cholera and this is why everyone is concerned,” the WHO said in a statement.

Access to emergency & basic medical care is a critical need for vulnerable #Rohingya people in Cox’s Bazar, #Bangladesh🇧🇩 via @WHOSEARO pic老站出售,/Iz8Mt5Z1TC

— WHO (@WHO) September 24, 2017Water, sanitation needs to improve to prevent #cholera outbreak in #Rohingya camps & settlements in Cox’s Bazar, #Bangladesh🇧🇩 via @WHOSEARO pic老站出售,/nUWHZ5jLCd

— WHO (@WHO) September 24, 2017

“Interventions are being scaled-up, however, the situation remains critical and challenging.”

The latest influx has overwhelmed the camps around Cox’s Bazar, which previously housed at least 300,000 people who had fled earlier violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

The WHO says mobile medical centres have been set up, while Bangladesh health authorities say they have treated some 4,500 Rohingya for diarrhoea in a month and vaccinated some 80,000 children for measles and polio. 

“We are trying our best to face the challenges. But we are concerned,” Enayet Hossain, deputy head of Bangladesh’s health services department, told AFP.

Rohingya Muslims, who crossed from Myanmar into Bangladesh, stretch their arms to catch a bag of rice thrown at them during distribution of aid In September.AAP

The department said that at least 10 Rohingya have died in Bangladesh since the influx, most from bullet and blast wounds suffered in Rakhine. 

Two elderly Rohingya men died of diarrhoea at a charity clinic more than a week ago, said Misbah Uddin Ahmed, a health department official at Ukhia, where most of the camps are located.

“They were also suffering from old age complications and gastroenteritis,” he told AFP.

Two Rohingya women, aged 50 and 60, were shifted to a hospital in the port city of Chittagong after they were diagnosed with HIV, police said.  

Ahmed said specialists from Bangladesh’s International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research (ICDDRB) and government scientists had visited camps to take samples.

“They are going to set up two field stations here,” he told AFP.  

‘Situation under control’ after doctors warn of public health disaster 

The Doctors Without Borders (MSF) group said last week the camps were on the brink of a public health disaster as filthy water and faeces flow through shanties.

It said a “massive scale-up of humanitarian aid” was needed, with adults on the cusp of dying from dehydration.

But Ahmed said the situation was improving as hundreds of latrines and tube-wells were being dug by government services and local charities.

The army, which has taken over aid management, says it has made sanitary facilities the “highest priority” in an effort to stave off a health emergency.

“The situation is still under control,” Ahmed said.

More than 436,000 refugees have crossed the border from Rakhine since August 25 when a military crackdown was launched following attacks by Rohingya militants, according to UN figures on Monday.

The refugees have given shocking accounts of killings and mass rapes by Myanmar soldiers and Buddhist mobs. The Myanmar military says they have only targeted Rohingya militants.

Alishaan, a Rohingya Muslim man, carries his sick mother Aishya Khatoon to a hospital at Taiy Khali refugee camp, Bangladesh. Taken September 21, 2017. AAP

Lew’s Smiggle powerhouse ready for Europe

Colourful children’s stationery chain Smiggle is expanding into Europe, with the star performer of Solomon Lew’s Premier Investments group now set a target of passing $400 million in sales in three years.

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Smiggle had another record year in 2016/17, with sales hitting $238.9 million in the 12 months to July 29 – up 29 per cent on the prior year.

The 300th Smiggle store has just opened and the chain now operates in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

“The Smiggle business continues to outperform all our expectations,” Mr Lew said after unveiling a group profit of $105 million.

“The strength of sales growth reflects not only new markets but continued growth in its more established markets.”

Mr Lew said Smiggle has come a long way since Premier bought it nine years ago when it had only 35 stores in Australia and was making $19 million.

Smiggle is now the jewel in Premier’s crown and, as of 2016/17, is not only the group’s high growth business but also its single biggest by turnover.

Mr Lew said following on from Smiggle’s success in the UK, where it has been operating for four years, and its recent successful launch into Ireland, Premier feels ready to roll it out across Europe, starting with the Netherlands and Belgium in 2018.

The plan is for 40 to 50 stores across the two countries over the next four to five years, which is expected to help drive Smiggle’s global sales past $400 million by 2019/20.

Premier’s chief executive Mark McInnes said UK infrastructure will help keep costs down in expanding into those markets.

And a requirement to use French language products in Belgium will provide insights that will help the group look at potential expansion to France and Canada, he said.

Smiggle and its successful stablemate, sleepwear chain Peter Alexander, have offset weakness from the group’s other apparel brands Portmans, Jacqui E, Dotti, Just Jeans and Jay Jays.

The group’s like-for-like sales rose 1.1 per cent, on a constant currency basis, while online sales jumped 44 per cent to $68.1 million and now makes seven per cent of sales.

Mr McInnes said unrealistic rent expectations have forced the group to close its Just Jeans and Portmans flagship stores in Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall in October.

Those stores generated more than $5 million in sales but it was a sacrifice the group was willing to make, partly because its online and growth brands were so successful, he said.

He said landlords were offering more favourable rents to overseas retailers over locals, which have driven many local retailers out of business.

Premier shares closed down 35 cents, or 2.6 per cent, at $13.40 on Monday.

SMIGGLE LEADS PREMIER’S GROWTH:

* Full-year net profit up 1.2pct to $105.1m

* Sales revenue up 4pct to $1.1b

* Fully-franked final dividend up 2.0 cents to 27 cents

Wallaby Foley rediscovers goalkicking form

He was the villain in Dunedin but Wallabies five-eighth Bernard Foley has been praised for keeping the faith with his goalkicking technique.

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Nicknamed the ‘Ice Man’ for his usual dead-eye accuracy, Foley missed three conversions and a penalty in the second Bledisloe Cup Test last month at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Those nine points proved costly as Australia fell in a heartbreaking 36-29 defeat to New Zealand, who retained the coveted trans-Tasman trophy for the 15th year running.

But Foley, 28, hasn’t missed a single shot on goal since, kicking flawlessly in Australia’s last two Tests against Argentina and South Africa.

“If there was anything major, then you have to really sit down and dissect it,” Wallabies skills coach Mick Byrne said.

“But there was nothing major there.

“As far as I could see, he was just a bit quick on the ball.

“We talked about that, got his rhythm back and he was right.

“It’s like in any sport – golfers are a classic one. We look at (Marc) Leishman, he’s just won a tournament but you go back to a tournament he had before, he wasn’t hitting the ball really well there.

“You just have those moments… up until that game and since that game, he’s been going well.”

Foley’s rediscovered range comes at an ideal time for the Wallabies, who face the Springboks in Bloemfontein on Sunday morning (AEST).

Goalkicking was the difference the last time they played in South Africa, when they were beaten 18-10 at Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld.

Australia scored the only try of that game through Scott Sio, which Foley converted after landing an early penalty.

But superboot Reece Hodge missed three shots on goal – two of which would have put the Wallabies in front.

“Here, especially, if it’s going to be a tight game, you’ve got to get your three points or your two points when they’re on offer,” Byrne said.

Rated by Byrne as one of the best kicks he’s ever seen, Hodge has kicked just two penalties from eight attempts across his 17-Test career and hasn’t slotted one for the Wallabies in over a year.

But he will again be permitted to unleash from distance and use the thin air of South Africa’s Highveld to his advantage if the opportunity arises in Bloemfontein.

“The beauty of that is, if you’re going to go in and try and slow the ball down and you know the guy’s going to kick penalties from there, you might have a second thought about giving away a penalty from 55m out,” Byrne said.