Taxpayers are forking out $3000 a week in rent for a luxury Canberra house that Prime Minister Tony Abbott has chosen not to use.
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) leased the property as a temporary replacement for The Lodge, which is undergoing a major refurbishment.
Senior DPMC official Elizabeth Kelly said the department signed a 12-month lease on August 31, a week before the September 7 federal election.
It signed even though neither Mr Abbott nor then Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd had been able to inspect the property due to their election campaign commitments.
Ms Kelly said the department had wanted to find accommodation “comparable” to The Lodge.
But after the election, Mr Abbott opted instead to stay in a modest flat at the Australian Federal Police training college in Barton.
Liberal senator Cory Bernardi asked about the property during a Senate estimates hearing on Monday.
“So $3000 a week for a property that how many people are living in now?” he asked.
“The property is vacant, senator,” Ms Kelly said.
Ms Kelly said the department was notified shortly after the election that Mr Abbott was not going to use it.
Since then, the department has been negotiating with the property’s owner to get out of the lease, but has not yet succeeded.
“We’re still in those negotiations,” Ms Kelly said.
It’s understood the property has already cost taxpayers more than $30,000.
The full 12-month lease would cost taxpayers about $156,000.
Senator Bernardi said the department could have found a cheaper property, or shouldn’t have signed the lease before the outcome of the election was known.
“I’m not sure the taxpayers will enjoy the fact that they’ve got $156,000 worth of lease payments to pay for an empty building,” he said.
Officials wouldn’t say where the leased property was.
Fast bowling leader Peter Siddle pulled no punches when nominating England captain Alastair Cook as Australia’s chief target in Thursday’s first Test at the Gabba.
One-Test rookie Michael Carberry will be standing down the other end, but it’s opener Cook who Australia will be going after.
Cook made a highest score of just 61 in an unconvincing home Ashes series in the winter, and if not for Ian Bell, Australia largely had the measure of England’s top order.
It seems Cook is well aware he’s a marked man in Brisbane, opting for an added training session at the Gabba on Monday.
Siddle said cutting off the beast at its head was the way to end England’s Ashes dynasty.
“I think we’ve always targeted Cook,” said Siddle.
“He’s the man that opens up the batting, he’s the captain and he’s the one we want to put the pressure on.”
Australia’s fast bowling arsenal will fancy themselves against left-hander Carberry, who played his solitary Test way back in 2010.
Carberry has been in outstanding form of late, but experts have predicted he is vulnerable through gully.
Siddle seems comfortable Australia’s bowling plans will take care of Carberry and that stopping run machine Cook is the real key.
“It doesn’t matter who opens up with him, they’re all targets at the end of the day,” he said.
Along with Cook, Matt Prior, Jonny Bairstow and Graeme Swann were other Englishmen to train in a non-compulsory session on Monday.
Wicketkeeper Prior is fighting to recover from a calf strain in time to play and Bairstow is preparing to take the gloves if required.
Meanwhile, fast bowler James Anderson says England beat Australia 3-0 without even playing well during the winter.
Anderson predicted another summer of Ashes dominance for England down under.
Australia have been bullish in their recollections of the last series, adamant that 3-0 wasn’t as bad as what it looked.
But Anderson says England cantered to victory without getting out of first gear, and Australia can expect the heat to be turned up on Thursday.
“One thing we’re excited by is the fact we didn’t play our best in England against Australia, but still ended up winning 3-0,” he said.
“We’re very optimistic we are going to play better cricket than we did in England. We know we’re going to have to.”
Blake Ferguson has credited the rigours of boxing training for keeping him out of the trouble he believes cost him a place in Australia’s Rugby League World Cup squad.
Without an NRL contract for 2014 after being sacked by Canberra, the classy back will make his heavyweight boxing debut on the undercard of the Anthony Mundine-Shane Mosley fight in Sydney on November 27.
Ferguson was dumped by the Raiders in September after failing to front the board following breaches of the club’s code of conduct.
He has also had to deal with two court cases regarding charges of indecent assault and driving indiscretions.
Ferguson was thrown out of the NSW State of Origin squad following a drinking session with another former Raiders star, Josh Dugan.
His off-field indiscretions wrecked any chance he had of playing in the World Cup now being contested in Europe.
“If I wouldn’t have played up, I reckon I would have been over there as an emu (a fringe squad member) … supporting the boys,” Ferguson said.
He would like to play in the NRL in 2014 but his league career is in limbo.
“I think it’s all up to the (NRL) integrity unit, they are the guys that are running the show there,” Ferguson said.
“I’m waiting to hear back from them and we’ll go from there.
“The last time I spoke to (the integrity unit) was about a month ago. I think it’s just up to the court case next month.”
Ferguson said he had found boxing harder than rugby league because it was an individual calling rather than a team sport.
“Waking up early in the morning has been pretty tough,” Ferguson said.
“It’s been awesome, though. It got me out of trouble, so it’s a good thing.
“It’s been pretty good staying out of trouble, staying out of nightclubs and that, just chilling.”
He expects to enter the ring about his NRL playing weight of just more than 100 kilograms.
Ferguson wasn’t sure whether he would fight Luke Turner, the man he was meant to face before the Mundine-Mosley promotion scheduled for October 23 was cancelled.
He dismissed rumours he would have pulled out of the fight had it gone ahead on that date and confirmed his participation in next week’s promotion.
“Whoever the matchmaker picks, I’ll fight. I’ll try and knock them out,” Ferguson said.
Amnesty International has urged Qatar to end abuse of migrants working on football World Cup infrastructure, as it issued a report citing cases in which they were referred to as “animals”.
The 169-page report on Monday called on world football governing body FIFA to press the Gulf state to improve the conditions of foreign labourers, alleging “alarming” levels of exploitation against the workers mostly from south or southeast Asia.
Doha, which rejects claims of slavery-style conditions on its construction sites in the world’s wealthiest nation per capita, said it would investigate the report’s findings.
Amnesty said its researchers had heard one construction firm manager use the term “animals” to describe migrant workers.
And a worker told the watchdog that “Nepalis are treated like cattle”.
Amnesty secretary general Salil Shetty said the findings indicated “an alarming level of exploitation” in Qatar, and called the abuses “widespread” and “not isolated”.
“FIFA has a duty to send a strong public message that it will not tolerate human rights abuses on construction projects related to the World Cup.”
After meeting Qatar’s emir and prime minister on November 9 in Doha, FIFA chief Sepp Blatter said the issue of working conditions was being addressed.
Shetty said Amnesty had met officials who were “very willing to recognise that there is a problem and… strongly oriented to find solutions”.
After embarking on a multi-billion-dollar plan to host the 2022 World Cup, Qatar has come under the spotlight as migrant workers pour into the tiny gas-rich nation.
The plight of migrant workers remains an issue across the oil-rich Gulf.
Amnesty’s report documented several abuses, including “non-payment of wages, harsh and dangerous working conditions, and shocking standards of accommodation”.
Its team “found migrant workers living in squalid, overcrowded accommodation with no air conditioning, exposed to overflowing sewage or uncovered septic tanks.”
The London-based watchdog said “dozens” of them have been trapped inside Qatar, which demands foreigners obtain an exit permit to leave.
In response, Qatar said it would ensure the report was included in an inquiry it has already launched into the alleged abuses.
Greenpeace activists have hoisted banners protesting against coal use on top of Poland’s economy ministry in Warsaw, as a global coal conference got underway and UN climate talks entered their final week.
About 40 activists unfurled a large blue and white banner on Monday asking: “Who rules the world? Fossil industry or the people?” Others held one printed in red-and-white saying: “Who rules Poland? Coal industry or the people?”
Police used a giant fire engine crane to remove the protesters, several of whom used climbing gear to dangle from the facade of the economy ministry.
Other anti-coal protesters outside the venue touted a massive set of pumped up plastic lungs.
One of Poland’s most notorious coal problems is smog, especially in the southern tourist city of Krakow, which plans to outlaw coal-burning household stoves this month.
The two-day coal conference is being organised by an industry group, the World Coal Association, at the economy ministry. It is just kilometres from the Warsaw stadium hosting a second week of UN talks on curbing Earth-warming fossil fuels.
Environmentalists dressed in colourful traditional Polish costumes also unfurled a huge banner outside the stadium saying: “Stop dirty energy, empower the people”.
Poland’s dependence on the cheap and plentiful black stuff means it ranks fifth for carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution in the European Union, behind Germany, Britain, Italy and France, whose economies are far larger.
Coal accounts for about 90 per cent of the electricity used by Poland’s 38 million people – and, say experts, there is enough of it to last another century and a half.
“Those standards were compromised in the lead-up to Saturday’s victory over Ireland with a group of players making the decision to stay out late and consume inappropriate levels of alcohol during the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Wingers Adam Ashley Cooper and Nick Cummins, front-rowers Tatafu Polota-Nau and Benn Robinson, and backrower Liam Gill have been stood down for Saturday’s test with Scotland at Murrayfield.
Front-rower Paddy Ryan has also been given a one-game ban, but will serve his suspension in the Wallabies’ final tour match, against Wales in Cardiff on November 30, because international regulations state all squads must contain at least four props. Australia have only five in their touring party of 32.
McKenzie gave written disciplinary warnings to Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Saia Fainga’a, Bernard Foley and Nick Phipps, while Scott Fardy, Mike Harris, Ben McCalman and Nic White received verbal warnings.
“Let’s be clear – these are internal sanctions and aren’t a result of any complaints or reports of inappropriate or sinister behaviour while our players were out,” said McKenzie, whose team beat Ireland 32-15. “Instead, we have chosen to address an issue that has come up internally and we are now being up-front about it.
“We’ve done this because we need to continually reinforce the need for our players to make smart decisions to benefit the team.
“The worst thing you could do for the Wallabies in the long-term is do nothing, because that would mean we would be ignoring poor culture and a significant performance issue.
“We will always take action in relation to examples of poor culture when it’s warranted – doing nothing to address poor behaviour will never be an option. We’ve taken on the challenge of re-defining our team culture.”
In September James O’Connor was dropped from the Australia squad after he was thrown out of Perth airport after an alcohol-related row with staff while Kurtley Beale spent time in rehab earlier in the year following a drinking suspension from his club.
McKenzie, who succeeded Robbie Deans as Wallabies coach in July, said he would not use the absent players as an excuse for a poor performance against Scotland.
“For us, this is a great opportunity to circle the wagons and re-calibrate our behaviours to get back on track off the field,” he said.
(Editing by Justin Palmer)
Almost all of us have done it.
A click here, a like there. Maybe hitting follow to a cause that’s been mentioned by a celebrity.
The warm, fuzzy feeling that your Facebook friends can see you stand for something, that you’re drawing attention to big issues.
But no – it doesn’t really work like that.
Not according to a new study that says that so-called “slacktivists” are precisely the sort of people who don’t help change anything.
The debate about the value of online activism came in the wake of the Arab spring.
Some attributing sweeping social change in countries such as Eqypt, to the powers of social media.
But others have used campaigns like Kony 2012 to argue that it spawned meaningless actions of change over social media
“The way we define slacktivism is when the consumer is willing to make small tokens of support,” says Kate White from the University of British Columbia. “When the small act of token support is very public in nature and people can kind of signal to others that they have already helped the cause they actually arent more likey to help later.”
What the research says is that public displays of support like pins and stickers and Facebook ‘likes’ make us feel like job done we can take it easy.
When in actual fact it’s always time and money that gets anything done – not raising awareness.
Take two huge awareness campaigns: Pink ribbons for breast cancer and Movember for prostate cancer.
Despite the efforts to increase public awareness, even though 95 per cent of women agree that a breast screen could save their life just one-in-two women aged between 50-74 don’t follow the recommended mammogram checks
Similarly only 41 per cent of men aged 40-74 have been tested for prostate cancer in the last 12 months, despite those same men saying that it’s the important health issue facing them.
This is despite all the moustaches and all the pink ribbons you see, in the street and across social media
The ineffectiveness of online awareness campaigns are causing some charities to get tough about the way they get their message across.
The world’s largest petition platform, change.org, agrees that clicktisim stops further engagement.
A Yale study showed that door-to-door political campaigning and phone calls with the candidate are the best ways to win votes.
It dismisses social messages that are not personalized and lack that level deeper of engagement.
There’s a lot of causes vying for your support and it’s hard to feel like you can make a difference.
The key is to choose one or two you care about rather than liking 20 on Facebook.
And supporting those charities with your time and money offline as much as you do online.
The Feed airs weeknights at 19:30 on SBS 2. You can also follow The Feed on Twitter at @TheFeedSBS2, or ‘LIKE’ SBS 2 on Facebook to stay in the loop.
A terse Ewen McKenzie has made no apologies for suspending six Wallabies in a hard-line move designed to set the standards required to win the 2015 World Cup.
Highly-respected 90-Test back Adam Ashley-Cooper is among five players axed from this weekend’s Scotland Test after staying out late and drinking in the build-up to last weekend’s win over Ireland.
The one-match bans compromise team selections for Sunday morning’s (AEDT) Test at Murrayfield but McKenzie is determined to improve team culture and behavioural standards at the start of his coaching tenure.
“We’re a high-performance team and we’re trying to climb the hill, climb the mountain, and get back to the top of world rugby,” he said in Edinburgh on Monday night (AEDT).
“It’s a significant enough challenge as it is with what our opponents present without making it difficult for ourselves.”
Ashley-Cooper, fellow starting winger Nick Cummins, as well as reserve forwards Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson and Liam Gill have been stood down from Sunday morning’s Test at Murrayfield, the fourth match on Australia’s end-of-season tour.
Second-string prop Paddy Ryan also received a one-match ban but will serve the suspension in the final match on tour, against Wales, so the Wallabies can supply a proper bench against the Scots.
Nine more players received disciplinary warnings as almost half the 32-man squad went out in the early hours of Wednesday morning after having dinner in Dublin on Tuesday night.
While the Wallabies don’t apply a curfew and allow a couple of glasses of wine at their Tuesday team dinner, McKenzie said it was a clear break of internal protocols.
Punishments varied depending on how late they stayed, how much alcohol players consumed and whether they were in the match-day 23.
Team management took two full days to uncover what had occurred and McKenzie handed down his punishments to players on Sunday morning.
He stressed there wasn’t enough time between finding out the full story and the Ireland clash, won 32-15 in the world No.4-ranked team’s best display of a forgettable year, to mete out bans earlier.
“There’s nothing sinister (involved),” he said. “This is about us making decisions about ourselves and judging ourselves
“We’re setting up the right behaviours and setting the right standards to be competitive at the World Cup (and) obviously we need to be … presenting the right image.
“The easiest thing to do in these situations is to do nothing. But to do nothing will give you mediocrity. We need to set high standards.”
It comes after the Australian Rugby Union cut wayward star James O’Connor loose eight weeks ago.
Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Saia Fainga’a, Bernard Foley and Nick Phipps all received written warnings while starting flanker Scott Fardy, Mike Harris, Ben McCalman and reserve halfback Nic White were given verbal warnings.
Ashley-Cooper, loose-head prop Robinson and hooker Polota-Nau have been regular starting Test players for the past seven seasons.
McKenzie said he was “massively disappointed” and admitted there were some varying reactions to the bans from suspended players.
“On the whole they sucked it up and accepted they did wrong,” he said. “There’s a lot of disappointment in themselves
“It’s a significant embarrassment for themselves that they will miss the game.”
The loss of Cummins and Ashley-Cooper, added to Tuesday’s judicial hearing against red-carded centre Tevita Kuridrani, means McKenzie will have to be “creative” in his backline selections against the Scots.
It is likely to be the 32-year-old Ibrahimovic’s last chance of making it to the finals and with Hamren’s contract running out at the end of the year, the coach knows defeat will spell the end of his tenure.
“It’s happened to me a few times before as a club coach, when you know that if we lose a game there’s not much left of the job,” Hamren told reporters on Monday.
“But I’m not thinking about that one bit. My focus is on succeeding and if we do succeed we don’t need to discuss it.”
Asked if it was possible to heap too much pressure on Paris St Germain striker Ibrahimovic trumping Portugal ace Cristiano Ronaldo, Hamren said his player could handle it.
“He’s been at this level for many, many years and for us it’s not Ronaldo v Zlatan it’s Portugal v Sweden,” the coach explained.
Hamren said Sweden would have to attack more than they did in the first leg on Friday, a match decided by a brave diving header from Ronaldo, but also show a measure of caution.
“We need to score, that’s for sure,” the coach added. “They can play more for the result, they have an advantage in that.
“We meet a really good team with really good international players so we can’t start the match and just go forward and have the ambition to score easy and early because then they’re going to punish us quickly.”
The Sweden squad have practised penalties in case the teams finish level on aggregate.
“Those who are used to taking penalties, they don’t need to have some training because they do it a lot,” said Hamren. “But the players who aren’t used to taking penalties, they took some today.
“It’s a mental thing of course and if it’s been a long time then they need to have done it before the game.”
Midfielder Pontus Wernbloom told Reuters that practising adequately for penalties was impossible.
“It’s easy to do in training but when you’re out there in front of 60,000 people and everything can be won or lost, it’s difficult,” he said.
Asked if he would be prepared to take the fifth and final penalty that might send Sweden through to the World Cup in Brazil in June, Wernbloom laughed.
“If you ask me now I would say ‘no’ but when you’re out there you never know. We’ll see.” he said.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)
Disgraced cyclist Armstrong, stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping, alleged in an interview with the Daily Mail on Monday that Verbruggen had helped him to backdate a prescription.
Verbruggen, an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), has denied wrongdoing.
In 1999, as Armstrong was on his way to winning his first Tour, the American failed a drugs test for corticosteroids but later provided a prescription, which he admitted was backdated.
Current UCI president Brian Cookson pledged to restore credibility in cycling and the governing body when he took over from Pat McQuaid, Verbruggen’s successor, last September.
“The UCI’s Independent Commission of Inquiry is in the process of being set up and we are in advanced discussions with stakeholders on its terms of reference to allow full investigation of any allegations relating to doping and wrongdoing at the UCI,” said a UCI statement on Monday.
“The commission will invite individuals to provide evidence and we would urge all those involved to come forward and help the commission in its work in the best interests of the sport of cycling.
“This investigation is essential to the well-being of cycling in fully understanding the doping culture of the past, the role of the UCI at that time and helping us all to move forward to a clean and healthy future.”
Earlier this month, Verbruggen denied that he had ever been involved in a doping cover-up.
“I have been frequently accused that, in my UCI presidency, my federation would not have been too serious in its anti-doping policy and that – in particular the Lance Armstrong case – the UCI and myself have been involved in covering up positive tests,” the Dutchman wrote in a letter to Olympic officials.
“Cover-ups never took place.”
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Clare Fallon)