Watson wants to hurt India

The Indians may have lost Ishant Sharma, one of their only two pace bowlers, after he complained of a knee problem and was taken to hospital for scans.


Ishant had looked out of sorts in bowling eight no balls, including four in one over.

“Who knows exactly what’s happening with Ishant Sharma, but there’s no doubt that unfortunately when a bowler does go down it means there’s a lot more pressure physically on the other bowlers,” said Watson after scoring his second Test hundred.

“There’s no doubt we have to make the most of that slight advantage you do have and I suppose that is the only downfall of playing two spinners and two quicks, the unfortunate thing that might happen like today puts a lot of pressure on the other bowlers.

“But they do have Virender Sehwag, who did get six wickets in Delhi two years ago.”

Watson (101no) also defended his captain Ricky Ponting (71) after an ugly confrontation with the Indian paceman Zaheer Khan (3-45), following the run out that proved to be the turning point of the day’s play.

“As you did see on the footage, everyone knows exactly how Ricky is, and he’s not going to go really looking for a fight,” said Watson.

“Unless someone steps out of line out of the huddle and has a bit to say, and that’s exactly what everyone was able to see, so Ricky’s a very proud person and he knows how important it is as Australian captain to not get involved in situations.

“Everyone saw the footage so everyone knows exactly what happened.”

Zaheer was spoken to by match referee Chris Broad after play.

Watson will resume alongside wicketkeeper Tim Paine, who was unbeaten on a nervous one not out overnight.

Contador suspended after drugs test

Alberto Contador has spoken about the suspension he has been handed after a failed drugs test, saying food contamination was to blame.


Earlier, ycling’s world governing body confirmed the provisional suspension of three-time Tour de France champion Contador.

The UCI released a statement at the world road championships in Geelong on Thursday afternoon, a couple of hours after Contador’s camp dropped the bombshell about his positive test.

Contador tested positive to the drug clenbuterol on July 21, the second rest day at the Tour de France.

But the UCI also implied the tests were not everything they could be.

“The concentration found by the laboratory and in consultation with WADA was estimataed at 50 picograms which is 400 times less than the antidoping laboratories accredited by WADA must be able to detect.”

He went on to beat Andy Schleck by only 39 seconds for his third Tour title.

Contador had also beaten Australian Cadel Evans to take out the Tour title in 2007.

The result comes at the worst possible time for the world road titles in Geelong.

Local publicity for the championships has already suffered because of a big week of AFL news and Saturday’s grand final replay.

A message sent by Contador’s press officer said the UCI informed him of the positive test on August 24.

“From the time of the first communication from the UCI, August 24, Alberto Contador alleged food contamination as the only possible explanation of what happened and has been turned over to the cyclist authorities since then in the confidence that this very serious problem could be clarified, which now is public,” the statement read.

The UCI said in its statement that the concentration of clenbuterol in Contador’s positive test was 400 times less than what World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)-accredited laboratories must be able to detect.

“The rider … was nevertheless formally and provisionally suspended as is prescribed by the world anti-doping code,” the UCI statement read.

“The case required further scientific investigation before any conclusion could be drawn.

“The UCI continues working with the scientific support of WADA to analyse all the elements that are relevant to the case.

“This further investigation may take some time.”

Last rider standing for Delhi cyclists

A string of top stars have pulled out or failed selection, diminishing the quality of competition but also giving the event a fresh look.


Hosts India are competing for the first time in 32 years but are not seen as serious contenders with Australia and England expected to dominate.

The hosts’ run-up has been marred by controversy, with national champion Dayalaram Jat and veteran rider Rajendra Soni complaining about a lack of transparency in selection after being left out.

England go into the road events with a team well suited to Delhi including young world class stars Lizzie Armitstead and Alex Dowsett.

They line up with experienced riders such as Jeremy Hunt, Russell Downing and Olympic medallist Emma Pooley, who arrives fresh from winning the world time trial title in Australia.

But the International Cycling Union’s decision to use November’s European Championships as a qualifier for the 2012 Olympics has meant some top names, including Olympic champions Victoria Pendleton and Chris Hoy, will be absent.

Olympic team pursuit gold medallist Geraint Thomas was one of four British cyclists to announce his withdrawal, along with Peter Kennaugh of the Isle of Man and England’s Ian Stannard and Ben Swift.

Welsh rider Thomas said he was not prepared to risk his health in New Delhi, with reports of an outbreak of mosquito-borne dengue, as well as issues of sanitation in the village.

Sarah Storey, meanwhile, will be the first Paralympian to compete for England in able-bodied sport at the Commonwealth Games, as part of the women’s track team.

Storey made her name as a swimmer, winning five Paralympic titles before switching to cycling in 2005, and added two further gold medals to her haul at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

“We have selected a young track team for the Commonwealth Games to give England’s rising cycling stars an opportunity to experience a large scale multi-event competition as they’re preparing for their first Olympics,” head coach Shane Sutton said.

Cycling, first included in the 1934 London Games, will feature 14 track events and two road events, with 30 medals up for grabs for the men and 24 for the women.

The velodrome at the Indira Gandhi sports complex is rated by cycling’s world governing body as second only to Beijing.

Mark Cavendish, of the Isle of Man, who brings the curtain down on his season in Delhi, took a gold in the men’s track cycling scratch event in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne 2006.

Seven world champions, led by 2004 Olympic and reigning Commonwealth Games champion Anna Meares, have been named in the Australian team.

They will look to replicate their dominant performance on both road and track at the Melbourne 2006 Games and the recent UCI World Track championships where they finished as the number one ranked country.

However, top rider Richie Porte has been forced to pull out as his Saxo Bank team denied him clearance to compete.

New Zealand road cyclist Greg Henderson has withdrawing over concerns about health and security. The points race gold medallist at the 2002 Manchester Games said that he had long harboured doubts about going to India and seeing photographs of squalid conditions at the athletes’ village made up his mind.

Budget explainer: the forces influencing Australia’s economy

Tim Robinson, University of Melbourne

It’s going to be a great year for Australia, it’s going to be a positive year for the economy.


I am more positive about Australia than I have ever been. We are in a great position at the moment. On the economy, despite the domestic challenges, we are delivering the jobs, and importantly it is going to get better this year.

– Treasurer Joe Hockey, Jan 19, 2015 Neil Mitchell, 3AW

Was Hockey right to be so confident? As we head into the federal budget tonight, all eyes will be on how the Coalition government might tackle some challenging economic data affecting Australia’s economy. Here’s a quick explainer of the major factors affecting revenues and the outlook.

Falling commodity prices

This should be a familiar story to most Australians by now. Over the last 10 years, Australia’s economy has ridden on the wave of a sharp rise in the terms of trade (the ratio of export to import prices). This was mainly driven by higher bulk commodity prices, including iron ore and coking coal, which are key inputs in the production of steel, driven by strong demand growth from China. This resulted in a massive investment boom to increase capacity, much of which recently has coming online.


Figure ABS, Gillitzer and Kearns (2005)

The Department of Industry and Science has forecast growth in global iron ore trade (in tonnages) in 2015 will exceed 4%, with Australia accounting for around 5.5 percentage points. That Australian growth may outstrip global supply reflects an expectation that higher cost producers elsewhere will reduce production.


Figure Department of Industry and Science (2015)


Consequently, supply growth, including from Australia, has been weighing on commodity prices. But it’s not all supply. China last year imported around two-thirds of globally traded iron ore, and growth in the Chinese economy has been slowing. Growth in fixed asset investment, which contributes to demand for crude steel, has declined, with the Chinese housing sector weak. Chinese crude steel production is down from a year ago, and while the Department of Industry and Science forecast that growth will return, it will be much more modest.


Figure WorldSteel Association (worldsteel), Department of Industry and Science (2015) Note: Forecasts are from Department of Industry and Science (2015).


What this means is that the recent falls in the terms of trade reflect both supply and demand-side factors. They considerably impinge upon Federal Government revenues, most directly through company tax receipts.

Looking forward, in the next financial year LNG exports will grow substantially as expansions in capacity become productive, supporting overall output growth.

Rising unemployment

Outside of the resources sector, growth in the Australian economy appears to be soft. While overall output growth grew by a moderately below-trend 2.5% over the year to the December quarter, this partially reflected the strong growth in resource exports. Alternatively, domestic final demand growth, which excludes both net exports and inventories, was weak (1.2%).


Figure ABS


This soft output growth outside of the resources sector, together with resources companies reducing jobs, has resulted in the unemployment rate gradually increasing to 6.2%.

This is higher than estimates of the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment – the level of the unemployment rate consistent with unchanged inflation – although such estimates are inherently uncertain. Nonetheless, this signals that the economy is currently operating beneath its capacity. The under-utilisation rate – which also takes into account people working fewer hours than they desire – paints an even softer picture.


Figure ABS


So, considerable slack exists in the labour market. This is restraining growth in wages, and therefore inflation.

But low wages growth also acts to restrain disposable income and hence consumption growth. Consumer sentiment, as measured by the Westpac-Melbourne Institute survey, is presently is below average. In particular, respondents’ views about their families’ finances currently compared to a year ago and future economic conditions are weak.


Figure ABS


Sectors outside the resources sector

There is evidence that some sectors of the economy are moving out from the shadow of the resources sector. In particular, residential construction has been growing strongly, with rising dwelling approvals suggesting that this will continue.


Australian Bureau of Statistics


But as residential investment is only a small share of the overall economy, its contribution to overall growth is insufficient to offset the falls in mining investment.

Growth in service exports has also improved, mainly reflecting tourism and education. Service exports are the second largest component of Australian exports, but are considerably smaller than resource exports.

A key factor influencing the demand of non-resource exports is Australia’s international competitiveness. Historically the real exchange rate (a measure of competitiveness) and the terms of trade have tended to move together over the medium term. Since the peak in the terms of trade the real exchange rate has fallen by nearly 13%.

A further improvement in competitiveness would promote Australia’s non-resource exports, helping to re-balance the sources of growth, and one way this could occur is through a depreciation in the nominal exchange rate.


Figure Atkin, Caputo, Robinson and Wang (2014), RBA, ABS


Investment and confidence

Ultimately, what is necessary is an upswing in non-mining business investment. Here, there are mixed signals that businesses are ready to invest. Business credit growth, a timely indicator of the state of the business sector, has picked up, but remains subdued. The ABS Capital Expenditure survey (capex) asks businesses about their investment intentions and provides another important signal about the outlook. For the mining sector, the capex survey points to sizeable falls in nominal mining investment both this financial year and next. For the non-mining sector it is a less useful indicator, reflecting coverage issues, but it suggests little growth is likely.


Figure Melbourne Institute, ABS


Investment is volatile and modelling it is difficult, which makes it tough to pick when non-mining investment will improve. While the prevailing exceptionally low interest rates should be supportive – with the Reserve Bank of Australia recently cutting the cash rate to 2% – weak business sentiment has been attributed as one restraining factor. Business conditions, according to the NAB Monthly Business Survey, have improved relative to this time last year, although a further strengthening is necessary for a sustained upswing in non-mining investment.

Overall, the Australian economy is in a situation where falling commodity prices are weighing on income growth and domestic final demand growth is soft and is likely to remain so in the near term, limiting the scope for any improvement in unemployment. This is a difficult environment in which to narrow the deficit.

Read other federal budget explainers here.

Tim Robinson does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

Swans remind Buddy of rare blank

Teammates haven’t let Lance Franklin forget going goalless for the first time in more than a year.


The 2014 Coleman Medallist failed to kick a goal for the first time in 23 AFL games in Sydney’s win over Melbourne at the MCG last Saturday.

“It was quite funny, one of the boys actually put some doughnuts in my locker this week, and had a little bit of a laugh at that,” Franklin said at the SCG on Tuesday.

With 16 goals to his name so far, Franklin has four more than the corresponding stage last season.

The powerful forward wasn’t irked by his failure to register anything more substantial than a couple of behinds against Melbourne.

“Not at all, it’s all about a team game and playing a role for your football club,” Franklin said.

He proved there was more to his game than just kicking goals by picking up a personal season-high 22 touches against Melbourne

However, the 28-year-old spearhead warned there was plenty of personal and team upside left after the Swans’ 4-2 start.

“I think my form has been okay, but there’s still a lot of improvement not only in me, but improvement in all players on our list,” Franklin said.

“We’ve been up and down at times this season, but from this point on we want to play as consistent football as we can and it starts this week.”

Next up for the Swans is a Saturday night assignment at ANZ Stadium, against Geelong, the team Franklin has his worst winning percentage against, with just five victories in 17 games.

He played for Hawthorn during their infamous “Kennett Curse” period against the Cats, but his only game for Sydney against Geelong resulted in a whopping 110-point victory for the Swans at the SCG last year.

“We haven’t thought about that game at all,” Franklin said.

Hospital volunteers abused girl: inquiry

A girl who became suicidal after repeated sexual abuse at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital was told it was illegal to make prank calls when she tried to alert staff to the attacks.


The woman, known as AWI, has told a federal inquiry she was repeatedly sexually abused by hospital volunteer Harry Pueschel and once by another unnamed volunteer in 1981, when she was 11 years old.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is exploring the allegations and whether relevant information was passed between the hospital, AWI and police.

After being admitted to the hospital for a five-month stay for cystic fibrosis and treatment for asthma, AWI was quickly targeted by Pueschel, who molested her several times in the ward’s playroom.

“My friend didn’t like going to the playroom either,” AWI said on Tuesday.

“She would often say to me words to the effect, ‘You need to hide when Harry comes in or get sicker so you don’t have to go to the playroom with him.'”

On another occasion AWI was molested by an unnamed hospital volunteer, who left her crying in a cupboard.

The 11-year-old was then accused of stealing a wallet and coat from the same cupboard, and as punishment she was confined to bed and denied a visit from her parents for three days.

“After this incident I wanted to die,” she said.

“One day I tried to cut my wrists in the bedpan room by using the scissors.”

When AWI phoned the hospital administrator’s office in 1984 to report the abuse and her fears Pueschel was still working there, she was told it was illegal to make prank calls.

“You are wasting time and resources of the hospital by making up stories,” she was told by a woman in the administrator’s office.

Now 46 years old and working as a trade consultant, AWI said she has been in and out of medical clinics for depression and panic attack treatments, and has been haunted by thoughts of suicide.

Pueschel’s employment at RCHM was terminated in 1998 after AWI sent an email to then hospital CEO John de Campo, who subsequently informed police.

However Dr de Campo never put the abuse allegations to Pueschel, who has since died.

“The allegation made was substantial, serious and significant enough in my mind to take those actions without interrogating Harry,” Dr de Campo said.

A year later, Pueschel was discovered sneaking back into a ward after lying to staff.

Dr de Campo told the commission he cannot recall holding an investigation into how Pueschel was employed, or whether there were other victims.

He said the hospital failed AWI.

“We have investigations into patients having the wrong dose of Panadol,” Dr de Campo said.

“Looking back, this is, you know, at the extreme end, and why I didn’t do that I don’t know, and I regret that a lot.”

AWI only found out Pueschel was stood down in 2002 after she approached police.

The hearings continue.

AAP eb/rj

Climate change is hitting African farmers the hardest of all

Lahouari Bounoua, NASA

Mitigation efforts could help alleviate the impacts of climate change on food security and agriculture in Africa.


EPA/Herve Gbekide

Climate change is affecting all regions of the globe. But some places, such as Africa, are more vulnerable to climate change’s devastating effects than others. This is particularly true because of the continent’s very high dependency on agriculture.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessed many studies that indicated that temperatures have risen by about 0.5 degrees Celsius over most of the African continent during the last 50-100 years. Minimum temperatures have also risen faster than maximum temperatures.

What this means for rainfall is less clear due to a lack of reliable data. Where rainfall records are available and sufficient to draw a conclusion, they indicate decreases in annual rainfall during the last 100 years over the western and eastern Sahel and along the coastal Mediterranean of north Africa, along with increases over parts of eastern and southern Africa.

How climate change affects agriculture

African economies are heavily dependent on agriculture. The industry employs 65% of Africa’s labour force and accounts for 32% of the continent’s overall GDP.

Agricultural performance has improved since the beginning of the century but the recorded growth is not enough to satisfy demand. In sub-Saharan Africa, agricultural GDP has increased from 2.3% per year in the 1980s to 3.8% per year for the period 2000-05.

This growth, which was mostly a result of an increase in the area of land under cultivation, has since stagnated. Both agricultural land and productivity must increase in Africa to reduce hunger and maintain a sustainable level of food security.

Increases in temperature and rainfall reduction associated with climate change will further reduce agricultural production and increase the demand for more land and water to compensate for climate stresses.

The degree to which climate change impacts agriculture depends on a number of factors. These include crop types, the scale of the operation, the farm’s commercial or subsistence profile, and the amount of natural resources.

How climate change affects food security

Assuring that all people have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food is a formidable challenge. This is not only the case in Africa, but also in other developed nations. The difference lies in the severity of the problem and the proportion of the population it affects.

The impact of climate change on food security will be greatest in African nations. Africa has the largest number of malnourished people, the fewest resources to adapt and the fastest growing population to deal with.

For example, Egypt expects a 15% loss from its wheat production with a two degrees Celsius temperature increase. Morocco’s wheat production will decrease sharply after 2030.

In North Africa, most countries import wheat and are therefore subject to price shocks, and droughts and production losses elsewhere. In sub-Saharan Africa, 95% of the food is grown under rain-fed agriculture. It is therefore extremely vulnerable to adverse climate conditions, projected to reduce rainfall and increase temperatures.

In developed nations, food security alleviated by providing targeted interventions, including direct food aid in the form of food relief, or indirect subsidies. These efforts have been successful in reducing food insecurity in developed nations but have had less success in Africa, which has an insufficient resource base and shorter periods of intervention.

Addressing climate challenges

Climate instability is already causing social unrest in many African countries. People are crossing deserts in Africa and seas to Europe in search of opportunity. The displacement of African people by climate change is an unjust consequence that is falling on those poor and vulnerable people who have contributed the least to climate change.

There must be big actions to match the effects of climate change given the size of the problem it poses. Several African countries are taking drastic action, including the promotion of renewable energy, energy efficiency, improvement of forest and range lands ability to store greenhouse gases, and adopting low carbon transportation modes.

For example, Morocco issued a National Plan against Global Warming in 2009. The plan is based on two pillars: evaluation of vulnerability and adaptation to climate, and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. In pursuing the latter, the plan sets out many actions to maintain a low-carbon development policy. It focuses on renewable energy projects – notably a 2000-megawatt solar project in its desert.

Some North African countries, including Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, have implemented a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organiation initiative on water scarcity to apply new strategies to water resource management. These include water accounting, ranking options for future food supply in terms of costs and water requirements, and analyses that address water management for agriculture.

These large-scale mitigation options, along with education about climate change, could help alleviate the impacts of climate change on food security and agriculture in Africa – but there is still much work to be done.

Lahouari Bounoua does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

Factbox: Impact of El Nino on key crops in Asia and South America

See below for a list of crops most at risk from an El Nino:


Australia’s high-protein wheat crop is likely to take a hit with El Nino expected to bring dry weather across its eastern grain-belt.


Wheat is planted in April-May and the period that makes or breaks the crop is in September. Some rains in recent weeks in parts of the east coast have encouraged farmers to plant the crop.


Although there are abundant stocks of rice in key producers India and Thailand, El Nino is likely to curb the output of Asia’s staple food. This would provide a floor under rice prices that are trading around 12 percent below last year’s peak. A rally in rice has the potential of stoking inflationary fears and unrest in the region. Rice is planted in May-July and requires rains between July and August.


Soybean production would take a hit in India, Asia’s second largest producer of the oilseed, if El Nino brings dry weather to the western and central regions of the country. This could prompt India to import more palm oil and spur further potential gains in prices of the tropical oil. Soybeans are planted in June-July and the crop needs rains in August-September.


El Nino does not immediately hit palm oil supplies as it takes about nine months to a year for oil palm trees to show stress due to drought. But rising demand from top importers India and China as well as concerns over an eventual tightening in supplies due to any crop stress will boost prices. About 90 percent of palm oil, which accounts for 35 percent of global edible oil supply, is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia.


Corn production in China and India is also at risk. Typically, China escapes the brunt of El Nino but corn yields may be curbed as the crop needs relatively higher volumes of water. India could see its crop exports drop, helping U.S. and South American suppliers sell more.

BOM: We’re calling it, the 2015 El Niño is here

By Andrew B.


Watkins, Australian Bureau of Meteorology

We’re calling it.

The Bureau’s ENSO Tracker status has moved from ALERT to EL NINO, signalling the official declaration by the Bureau of Meteorology of El Niño 2015.



El Niño is often associated with drought in Australia. It may be cold comfort for those toughing out the current dry in parts of eastern Australia, but while El Niño certainly raises the risk of drought, it doesn’t guarantee it. Of the 26 El Niño events since 1900, 17 have resulted in widespread Australian drought.

El Niño has been around for millennia, and is essentially a shift in the climate patterns of the Pacific region driven by changes in the ocean. In the simplest terms, El Niño occurs when some of the warmest ocean waters in the world – northeast of Papua New Guinea, where the ocean can exceed 30C – shift east towards South America.

As the warmth shifts east, so does the cloud and rain, and Australia becomes dominated by big, dry, cloudless and rainless high-pressure systems.


El Niño explained


So what are the criteria to declare El Niño, and why did it shift this time and not last year?

Declaring an El Niño

The criteria for calling El Niño are on our ENSO Tracker page, and in short we need to see at least three of the four following things:

tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures at least 0.8C above normal (currently they are 1.1C above the mean, and April averaged 0.82C above);trade winds weaker than average (generally weak or even reversed since January 2015);the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) below –7 (it has been negative pretty much since July 2014);climate models are confident it will continue ( all models we survey say ocean temperatures will remain at El Niño levels at least into late 2015. 

Sea temperatures met the criteria for El Niño in April.

Why do we care about these four ocean and atmospheric phenomena in particular?

The modern definition of an El Niño centres on when the ocean warming drives changes in the atmosphere above it. Some of those changes in the atmosphere (such as a weakening of the trade winds) actually help the ocean warm even more. This in turn drives more changes in the atmosphere.

And around we go, in what’s called a “positive feedback” loop. Once a positive feedback loop is established between the ocean and the atmosphere, we call them “coupled”. And hence the El Niño is likely to be with us until the natural annual cycle of sea surface temperature ends the event early the following year.


The ocean and the atmosphere getting couply.

Warmer and drier outlook

We talked about an increase of the odds for El Niño last year, but as Jaclyn Brown wrote last week, an El Niño never fully developed, and a declaration was never made.

Last year, ocean temperatures along the equator warmed virtually everywhere, meaning little difference emerged between the east and west – and it’s this difference which drives a lot of the changes in the atmosphere.

The difference this time is that the western tropical Pacific Ocean is staying cooler, and the warmest areas are further east, driving bigger changes in the atmosphere. We also started 2015 with warm water already in the tropical Pacific, whereas last year it started from a cool base.

Apart from increasing the chance of drier conditions for many areas, El Niño can also bring higher daytime temperatures to the south, poorer snow seasons, lower streamflows, more heatwaves, longer frost season (cloudless nights in spring), later onset of the northern rains and higher fire danger.


El Niño often brings drier and hotter conditions in winter and spring.




The shift in atmospheric patterns also means fewer tropical cyclones – good for the coast but not so good inland where they can bring summer rain.

Right now, our outlook is actually for wetter than normal conditions in many areas – driven by warm water in the Indian Ocean. We explain why in our May Climate and Water video.



However winter and spring are the key times for Australia to experience El Niño impacts. Some areas are already in drought, particularly in Queensland and northern New South Wales, due to the failed northern wet season of 2012-13 and little recovery since. Western Victoria is also suffering long term rainfall deficiencies.

Why El Niño?

The name comes from Peru, where every few yeXears around Christmas (the time of the birth of Jesus “the Boy Child”, or “El Niño” in Spanish), the anchovy fishery would fail as warmer water replaced the normally cool, anchovy-rich water along the South American coast.

So that’s it in a nutshell – we have El Niño on our hands.

To keep yourself up to date with the latest Bureau information about El Niño, see our fortnightly ENSO Wrap Ups for the latest news, sign up to our email list to get the latest climate outlooks, and watch our climate and water videos.

Andrew B. Watkins does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

Shipbuilder lays off another 80 workers

Shipbuilder BAE Systems has laid off another 80 workers at its Melbourne yard, with fears it will completely run out of work early next year.


From a peak of 1300 workers installing superstructure on new navy amphibious ships and constructing hull blocks for air warfare destroyers, the workforce has fallen to about 800.

BAE Maritime director Bill Saltzer they were a project-based business and employee numbers had to match the needs of ongoing and upcoming projects.

He said no new naval vessel contracts had been awarded since 2008.

BAE has already delivered the first of the two large landing helicopter dock ships, HMAS Canberra, with the second, to be named HMAS Adelaide, to be handed over later this year.

It’s completed all contracted hull blocks for the first two AWDs. The last eight blocks for the third AWD are now being constructed and will be progressively completed through to early next year.

“At that point, without new orders, all shipbuilding activity in Victoria will be completed,” the company said.

BAE Systems and other shipbuilders are plunging into the so-called “valley of death”.

That’s the period of years between the end of current naval ship projects and the start of construction of new frigates and submarines. Without work, companies will have to lay off much of their workforce.

Mr Saltzer said BAE was pleased at recent statements from Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Defence Minister Kevin Andrews acknowledging the strategic importance of Australia’s naval shipbuilding industry and the need for a continuous production plan.

He said the company had been advocating this position for several years to avoid workforce reductions that were now becoming necessary.

“I am proud of the continuous improvements in productivity and quality that our shipbuilders have achieved since starting production on the LHDs and AWD blocks in 2010,” he said in a statement.

“We are ready to commit to even higher levels of efficiency if the government implements a naval ship procurement plan that supports continuous levels of production.”

NRL’s Knights stumped on Mullen injury

Newcastle coach Rick Stone says the club is still trying to get a diagnosis on a toe injury to halfback Jarrod Mullen who is unlikely to play against the Wests Tigers in the NRL this week.


Mullen was forced to withdraw from the City-Country fixture a fortnight ago and missed last week’s 30-10 defeat to Manly.

The 28-year-old saw specialists in Sydney on Monday but went to seek a second opinion in Newcastle on Tuesday in the hope of finding out the exact nature of the injury.

“We haven’t quite nailed an actual diagnosis for ‘Mullo’ and his big toe,” Stone said.

“There are a lot of bones in the foot there and we are trying to sort out exactly the diagnosis and then the procedure of his recovery.

“We might know a little bit more later this afternoon, but at this stage he’s going to be doubtful for this week, that’s for sure.”

After opening the season with four straight wins, the Knights have now lost five on the trot and will be desperate to get their chief playmaker back on the field.

Skipper Kurt Gidley deputised for Mullen last weekend, paving the way for promising youngster Sione Mata’utia to slot into fullback.

However Stone said he had a few more options to consider when the team host the Tigers on Sunday afternoon.

“Jarrod’s one of our key playmakers and I think most teams are really dented if they lose their key playmakers,” he said.

“First of all we need to go through the process and see the diagnosis and then we will make some adjustments to suit if we need to.

“We have obviously got some options. Young Jake (Mamo) played well in reserve grade as a fullback.

“Carlos Tuimavave played in the Samoan Test a couple of weeks ago as five-eighth and they are some genuine options for us there.”

Vic gun thieves eavesdrop on cops

Criminals listening to Victoria Police conversations on analog radios are tracking firearms safety officers and breaking into homes they visit to steal guns.


Acting chief commissioner Tim Cartwright said an upgrade of the radio system – now on its way – was much needed.

“This was the greatest threat to the operational safety of our members, particularly in rural Victoria,” he told a public accounts and estimates committee on Tuesday.

Firearms safety officers had to stop telling the operations room where they got out of their cars to check on secured guns.

“(Because) soon after that visit, we (would) have the property burgled,” he said.

Police Minister Wade Noonan said the government had provided $11.5 million to upgrade the rural radio system, with Victoria Police finding a further $23.8 million.

Mr Noonan also said police officers were now patrolling in pairs to reduce the threat of a terror attack.

Interim safety arrangements, which have been in place for six weeks, mean single-officer patrols are no longer allowed.

Mr Noonan said custody officers would be recruited to guard prisoners at police stations, freeing up police to get back on the beat.

“The 400 custody officers are very clearly about returning police to the front line,” Mr Noonan said.

A hearing into the Corrections Department revealed nine breaches by registered serious sex offenders since the start of 2015.

Six breaches were for non-compliance, while three were for sexual offences.

Earlier, Education Minister James Merlino said Victoria will chase the federal government for about $1 billion not yet set aside for the final two years of the Gonski education funding agreement.

Mr Merlino said the state was committed to finding funding for the final two years of the funding agreement in 2018 and 2019.

“We are going to pursue the federal government for years five and six,” he said.

NSW considers tough pedophile penalties

Pedophiles who prey on children under the age of 10 would face life in jail and their victims would be sheltered from re-traumatisation in the courtroom under a push from the NSW government.


Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton has introduced laws to parliament that would create a new catch-all offence of sexual intercourse with a child under 10, which would carry a maximum penalty of life behind bars.

“The devastating and lifelong impact of an offence committed under this section should carry the harshest potential penalty available,” Ms Upton told the lower house.

The maximum penalty now for raping a young child is 25 years’ jail, unless there are aggravating factors.

The bill also expands the standard non-parole period scheme to include 13 additional child sex offences.

Ms Upton hopes the changes will bring sentences into line with community expectations.

“The community rightly expects that offenders will pay for what they have done, for what they have taken from their victims – their innocence, their future, their dreams,” Ms Upton said.

“However, the community has seen sentences that have not aligned with our sense of right and wrong and our sense of balance.

“We’ve seen sentences which have left us questioning whether justice has really been done.”

Ms Upton also wants to introduce “children’s champions” to help sex abuse victims through the trial process.

She has promised a sexual offences taskforce to oversee a pilot program for specialist procedures to reduce re-traumatisation of child witnesses in sexual assault proceedings.

These might include allowing victims to pre-record cross examination evidence.

A second taskforce would examine options for chemically castrating child sex offenders, the attorney-general said.