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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

Far-right party shakes up German politics

The first far-right party set to enter Germany’s parliament for more than a half a century says it will press for Chancellor Angela Merkel to be “severely punished” for opening the door to refugees and migrants.

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The Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has also called for Germany’s immigration minister to be “disposed of” in Turkey where her parents come from, could become the third largest party with up to 12 per cent of the vote on September 24, polls show.

That is far less than similar movements in other European countries – in France far-right leader Marine Le Pen won 34 per cent of the vote in May and in the Netherlands far-rightist Geert Wilders scored 13 per cent in a March election.

But the prospect of a party that the foreign minister has compared with the Nazis entering the heart of German democracy is unnerving the other parties. They all refuse to work with the AfD and no one wants to sit next to them in parliament.

Leading AfD candidate Alexander Gauland denies they are Nazis, saying others only use the term because of the party’s popularity. It has won support with calls for Germany to shut its borders immediately, introduce a minimum quota for deportations and stop refugees bringing their families here.

“We’re gradually becoming foreigners in our own country,” Gauland told an election rally in the Polish border city of Frankfurt an der Oder.

A song with the lyrics “we’ll bring happiness back to your homeland” blared out of a blue campaign bus and the 76-year-old lawyer said Germany belonged to the Germans, Islam had no place here and the migrant influx would make everyone worse off.

Gauland provoked outrage for saying at another event that Germans should no longer be reproached with the Nazi past and they should take pride in what their soldiers achieved during the World Wars.

The AfD could end up as the biggest opposition force in the national assembly if there is a re-run of the current coalition of Merkel’s conservatives and Social Democrats (SPD) – one of the most likely scenarios.

That would mean it would chair the powerful budget committee and open the general debate during budget consultations, giving prominence to its alternatives to government policies.

Georg Pazderski, a member of the AfD’s executive board, told Reuters his party would use parliamentary speeches to draw attention to the cost of the migrant crisis, troubles in the euro zone – which the AfD wants Germany to leave – and problems related to the European Union.

Gauland said the AfD would call for a committee to investigate the chancellor after entering parliament: “We want Ms Merkel’s policy of bringing 1 million people into this country to be investigated and we want her to be severely punished for that.”

Unlike previous right-wing movements in Germany the AfD – founded in 2013 by an anti-euro group of academics – has become socially acceptable so radicalised people from the middle class feel able to vote for it alongside classic radical right-wing voters, said Manfred Guellner, head of Forsa polling institute.

“You don’t vote for skinheads but you can vote for professors in suits,” said Guellner, referring to the likes of Gauland, who tends to wear tweed jackets.

Lloyd stars in Tigers VFL grand final loss

Richmond’s Sam Lloyd pushed his claims for an AFL grand final berth with a best-on-ground performance in the Tigers’ heartbreaking VFL grand final loss to Port Melbourne.

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Ben Lennon missed a set shot from just outside the 50m arc after the siren to hand Port a stunning 11.8 (74) to 10.10 (70) win in front of a crowd of 17,159 fans at Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Lloyd was awarded the Norm Goss Medal for his 35-possession performance, with Anthony Miles, Corey Ellis and Shaun Hampson also influential.

“I was surprised when my name got called out … I’d trade it in any day for a premiership medallion,” Lloyd said.

Playing predominantly as a midfielder, the 27-year-old also had 10 clearances, laid nine tackles and kicked a goal in a game the Tigers led by 13 points before a stunning resurgence by the Boroughs in the dying minutes.

Lloyd has made eight AFL appearances this season, with the last coming in round 16 which was also his 50th career match at senior level.

“I’m going to prepare like I’m a chance, you never know what could happen,” he said of the prospect of earning a senior recall.

“I feel like I’ve put my hand up.

“I’ve been pushing to get into the midfield at AFL level for a couple of years now.

“My fitness level has really improved over the last couple of years … and if I get the opportunity I’m sure I could do something.”

Richmond senior coach Damien Hardwick was on hand to watch the match, as was skipper Trent Cotchin, who will find out on Monday if he will face a ban for his high hit on Greater Western Sydney’s Dylan Shiel.

Hampson, Ellis and Shai Bolton were the emergencies for the preliminary final.

Hampson had 40 hitouts and took seven marks and Ellis had 23 possessions and laid seven tackles in the grand final loss.

Bolton started brightly with two first-quarter goals but faded in the second half.

“Shai has got a lot of excitement about him hasn’t he?” said Tigers VFL coach Craig McRae.

“He showed what he’s capable of when he got us off to a great start, but part of his challenge at AFL level is to be consistent with that effort.

“He’s an 18-year-old kid and he’s on the rise.”

Reece Conca (21 disposals), Jayden Short (20), Connor Menadue (20 touches and two goals) and Ben Griffiths (three goals) were also prominent.

Big four banks scrap ATM withdrawal fee

Australia’s biggest banks will stop charging customers of other banks a $2 fee to withdraw cash from their ATMs, attracting both praise and renewed calls for a royal commission into banking.

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The Commonwealth Bank was the first to abolish the fee early on Sunday, citing ongoing consumer unhappiness with it as the reason for the decision. ANZ, Westpac and NAB followed suit on Sunday afternoon.

Treasurer Scott Morrison praised the banks and said the government was putting pressure on them to put their customers first.

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

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

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

Group Executive of Retail Banking Services at the Commonwealth Bank Matt Comyn said the decision was designed to increase convenience and help consumers save.

“We think this change will benefit many Australians and hopefully demonstrate our willingness to listen and act on customer feedback,” he said in a statement.

ANZ Group Executive Fred Ohlsson said the fee would be dropped on its more than 2300 machines from early October.

Westpac Group Executive, Consumer, George Frazis said the decision would apply to its Westpac, St George, Bank of Melbourne and BankSA customers and particularly benefit rural and regional consumers.

“We want all Australians, whether they are Westpac Group customers or not, to benefit from one of Australia’s largest ATM networks,” he said.

NAB Chief Customer Officer of Consumer Banking and Wealth Andrew Hagger said all Australians, regardless of their bank, could use their ATMs and not be charged a cash withdrawal fee.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said the decision was no reason to ease off a royal commission into banking.

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

Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson said the threat of an impending royal commission, coupled with mounting public pressure over multiple scandals, prompted CommBank to act.

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

The Australian Bankers’ Association welcomed the ATM fee scrap, saying it would make banking more affordable and improve services for customers.

The fee will still apply to customers using overseas bank cards.

NZ’s ruling National Party wins most votes as First Party holds balance of power

New Zealand’s ruling National Party won the largest number of votes in the country’s general election on Saturday, securing a comfortable margin over the Labour Party after what had promised to be the most hotly contested race in recent history.

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National and Labour had been almost neck and neck in opinion polls, with charismatic 37-year old Jacinda Ardern almost single-handedly dragging Labour back into the race after taking over the party’s leadership in August.

National took 46 per cent of the vote, the Electoral Commission said, while support for Labour was 35.8 per cent.

A final tally including overseas votes will be released on October 7.

0:00 National Party needs to negotiate with ‘tricky’ Winston Peters Share National Party needs to negotiate with ‘tricky’ Winston Peters

The results set up the nationalist New Zealand First Party to hold the balance of power and form the next government with 7.5 per cent of the ballot.

Veteran New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has been a minister under both major parties and has not said which party he would favour as a coalition partner. Previously he has backed the party with the largest number of votes.

All party leaders said they would have conversations over the next few days, with some of them already trying to woo Peters on election night.

“I want to acknowledge the strong performance of Winston Peters and New Zealand First,” Bill English said in a speech to his supporters.

“They’re just trading votes on the left,” a young National supporter tells me, “the right is as strong as ever.” #nzelection

— Nastasya Tay (@NastasyaTay) September 23, 2017

“The voters of New Zealand have given New Zealand First a role in forming the next government,” he said.

For English, who campaigned heavily on National’s economic credentials after taking the party leadership last year, the strong showing was a vindication after National crashed to its worst ever election result in 2002 under his first stint as leader.

Opinion polls leading up to the vote had been volatile with two recent ones giving National a near 10 point lead over Labour. National has been in power for nearly a decade.

“Bill English and National have taken the largest number of votes. I’ve called Bill and acknowledged that,” Ardern told her supporters, adding she was planning conversations with both the Green and New Zealand First parties.

“It’s not over yet,” she said.

Peters sounded buoyant but kept his cards close to his chest.

“We have been strong enough and honest enough with our supporters to make it home,” he said.

New Zealand First had “not all the cards but we do have the main cards,” he added, saying he would not be rushed into giving any answers immediately.

0:00 Jacinda Ardern speaks after NZ election count Share Jacinda Ardern speaks after NZ election count

‘Special votes’

Ardern and English were expected to maintain fiscal prudence, but to differ on monetary policy, trade and immigration.

That would likely have implications for the New Zealand dollar, the world’s 11th most-traded currency in 2016. 

The New Zealand dollar has tended to rise when National rose in the polls.

“The thin trading conditions typical of early morning in Asia mean a sharp but short-lived move on the NZD is possible on Monday,” said Joseph Carpuso, senior currency strategist at CBA.      

New Zealand uses a German-style proportional representation system in which a party, or combination of parties, needs 61 of Parliament’s 120 members – usually about 48 percent of the vote – to form a government.

The results secured 58 seats for National in parliament, and 45 for Labour. New Zealand First has nine seats and Greens, which won 5.8 per cent of the votes, have seven.

It feels like National relief has evolved into supporter smugness. But @pmbillenglish is careful: “We may be able to form govt” #nzelection

— Nastasya Tay (@NastasyaTay) September 23, 2017

National’s 58 seats were higher than Labour and Greens put together at 52, but neither combination had enough to govern on their own.

“It’s all over, bar the special votes – but even they won’t change the basic maths. They won’t change any crucial seats and National is extremely unlikely to go up. So Winston Peters rules,” said Bryce Edwards, an analyst at Wellington-based Critical Politics.

A record 1.2 million ballots were cast before the day of the election, accounting for about a third of the 3.3 million New Zealanders enrolled to vote.

“Special votes”, which include ballots from New Zealanders overseas and those who vote outside their home constituencies, will be released on October 7.

These are estimated to represent 15 percent of total votes and could have a considerable impact.

“I would expect us to get a bit of a lift out of those special votes,” said Ardern.

0:00 Maori Party ‘changed face’ of New Zealand politics Share Maori Party ‘changed face’ of New Zealand politics

600,000 sign petition to overturn London Uber ban

Friday’s decision to ban the ride-sharing service was “affecting the real lives of a huge number of honest and hard-working drivers” and would “show the world that London is far from being open and is closed to innovative companies,” the petition said.

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Transport for London said the conduct of Uber, which has around 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million customers in the British capital, had raised safety concerns.

“TfL has concluded that Uber London Limited is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence,” it said in a statement.

It said Uber’s “approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications”, citing concerns over background checks of drivers.

The petition, on change南京楼凤,, said that Uber provided a “safe, reliable and affordable ride”, and thar its users would be “astounded” by the ban.

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“By wanting to ban our app from the capital, Transport for London and their chairman the Mayor have given in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice,” it added.

The licence expires on September 30 but Uber has 21 days to appeal the decision, and has said it plans a challenge.

0:00 Angry taxi drivers block London streets protesting Uber Share Angry taxi drivers block London streets protesting Uber

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on Saturday backed his London mayor Sadiq Khan, telling Sky News that authorities had done the “right thing”.

“Obviously people need to be able to travel, obviously they want to be able to access cabs,” he said. “Those cabs must be safe, must be regulated and must be available for all.”