Hazard doubles up with Footballer of Year honour

Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane was second in the voting by members of the English Football Writers Association with Hazard’s Chelsea club mate and captain John Terry third.

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The 24-year-old Belgian international midfielder adds the award to the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) honour he collected last month and becomes the first player from his country to claim the accolade since it was launched in 1948.

Only two other Chelsea players have won England’s most prestigious and soccer’s oldest individual honour — Gianfranco Zola in 1997 and Frank Lampard in 2005.

Kane, who has scored 30 goals in his first full season for Spurs and was awarded his first England cap, was named the PFA’s Young Player of the Year last month, while defensive rock Terry has played every minute of every Premier League game to date.

FWA chairman Andy Dunn told Reuters: “The list of truly world class players on the Football Writers’ Association roll of honour is a long one and Eden Hazard is a worthy addition.

“A creator, a goalscorer and the hardest of workers, he has been a constant source of threat for the champions.

“He has started all 36 Premier League matches Chelsea have played so far and, considering the particularly close attention he receives from opponents, that is a feat in itself.

“His electrifying, attacking talent has made him the first Belgian to win the Footballer of the Year award.

“He is a brilliant successor to Luis Suarez and we just hope he stays in the Premier League for a lot longer than Luis did after collecting the trophy.”

Uruguay striker Suarez, who won the award after scoring 31 goals for Liverpool last season, joined Spanish giants Barcelona before the start of this campaign.

Hazard collected 53 percent of the vote making him a comfortable winner, while he and Terry’s Chelsea team mates Cesc Fabregas, Branislav Ivanovic and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois also featured in the top 10.

Four other players received votes: Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal, David De Gea of Manchester United, Sergio Aguero of Manchester City and Esteban Cambiasso of Leicester City.

(Editing by John O’Brien)

F1 drivers to launch fan initiative in Monaco

Alex Wurz, the chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA), told Reuters that more details would be presented on the Friday rest day before the race in the Mediterranean principality.

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The Austrian said the drivers had unanimously agreed the move at a meeting at last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.

“To make sure this sport remains at the pinnacle and gets ever more popular, we would like to engage more with the fans,” said the former Formula One driver who now competes in the world endurance championship and is a two times Le Mans winner.

“How we are doing this I don’t want to go into because this will be announced in Monaco in great detail.

“I hope it’s cool. The fans will tell us if they like it or not and that’s what we want…we want to give a little bit back and communicate with the people who love the sport equally to us,” said Wurz.

Social media is expected to feature largely in the plans, with many drivers already attracting a large number of followers.

“Great GPDA meeting today! At the Monaco GP we will announce big plans on how to properly connect with you, the fans,” Lotus driver Romain Grosjean told his 438,000 followers on Twitter after last Friday’s meeting.

Mercedes double Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has 2.74 million followers on Twitter, more than 3.0 million likes on Facebook and 1.2 million followers on Instagram.

However the sport still has a reputation for being exclusive and inaccessible compared to series like the world endurance championship, where fans have much more access to the paddock and drivers during race weekends.

Formula One’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone has been critical of social media, although Formula One has revamped its official website this season and now employs a number of staff to develop this area.

“I’m not interested in tweeting, Facebook or whatever this nonsense is. I tried to find out but in any case I’m too old fashioned,” the 84-year-old Ecclestone said last year. “I couldn’t see any value in it.

“You’re right that we should use social media to promote Formula One. I just don’t know how,” he added.

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Hockey, Abbott take lessons on board

Their second budget is top-heavy on sweeteners for small business and families, without the sour taste of a Medicare co-payment or easing back on age pensions.

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Savings measures are carefully targeted at multinational tax-dodgers, foreign investors, rich retirees, welfare cheats and foreign workers.

They will help overcome opinion poll findings that show voters believe the coalition favours the rich, corporates and the wealthy who don’t pay their share.

With seven million Australians living in rural and regional areas, a $5 billion fund for new ports and railways as well as targeted economic stimulus in poorer performing states will be an easy sell.

The budget’s trajectory – for a surplus in 2019/20 – at least on paper remains in place.

But it’s a courageous projection, given the still-troubled global economy and a lack of clear direction about from where future jobs are coming.

And as millions of Australians have a crack at being their own boss, small business has been thrown a wealth of tax breaks and incentives to kickstart their cafes, accounting practices and internet start-ups.

There is no overt mention, like last year, of university deregulation or billions of dollars to be cut from state schools and public hospitals.

Having survived a Liberal partyroom spill in February, Abbott and Hockey have removed enough policy “barnacles” and rewritten the economic script to give them some political breathing space.

There are, however, still a number of challenges for the government.

Labor and the unions have baulked at the idea of ending paid parental leave “double-dipping” and will keep up pressure on the government over health and education – two areas which receive very little attention in the budget papers.

Savings measures, such as family tax benefits changes, from 2014 also remain in doubt.

Details of new arrangements for child care and the unemployed will be raked over for examples of “unfairness”.

Hockey’s statement to parliament that “things are getting better” could be talking about his political future as much as the nation’s.

$1.2b boost to combat terrorism

The growing threat from terrorism, home-grown extremism and war in the Middle East has prompted to the federal government to outlay $1.

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2 billion in new funding for national security.

The new money comes on top of $1 billion outlined in the mid-year fiscal review, and is part of a total of $35 billion in the 2015-16 budget for defence, national security and law enforcement.

The $1.2 billion is over four years and includes $750 million in 2015-16 for Australian Defence Force operations in the Middle East.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott in February warned the direct threat to Australia from terrorism was “rising” and “worsening”.

The budget, as expected, includes $450 million for the Australian Federal Police and spy agencies to strengthen intelligence gathering and combat extremism, building on $630 million announced in 2014 and already included in the budget.

The new measures include $296 million to help the AFP update its IT systems, while $22 million will go towards combating terrorist propaganda and programs for countering violent extremism.

Treasurer Joe Hockey said the government could not afford to take shortcuts when it comes to the safety of the nation.

“As we know from events as recent as last weekend, the more work we do, the more likely we can prevent tragic incidents from happening in our community,” he told parliament on Tuesday night.

“The threat of terrorism is rising and ever evolving and our response must be swift and uncompromising. We must have the best counter-terrorism capabilities possible.”

There is also $131 million to help the telecommunications industry to upgrade their systems to meet demands of the government’s data retention regime.

The new metadata laws require telcos and internet service providers to store details about phone calls, text messages and internet use.

The increased funding to counter terrorism comes following a spate of raids in Australia during the past 12 months and more than 100 Australians travelling to Syria illegally to join extremist groups such as Islamic State.

Between September 2014 and April 2015, there have been 22 people arrested in Australia in counter-terrorism raids, making up almost one third of counter-terrorism arrests since 2001.

WHAT’S IN THE BUDGET FOR NATIONAL SECURITY:

* Total of $1.2 billion in new funding for national security

* $450 million to strengthen intelligence capabilities and counter extremist messaging

* $131 million to assist telecommunications industry in collection of metadata.

Government to save cash on immigration

 

Tuesday’s federal budget indicates $389.

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6 million will be spent in 2014-15 and 2015-16 on resettlement assistance for refugees and removal costs for those found not to be owed protection.

The cash includes $141.9 million on building accommodation and facilities in Papua New Guinea, Nauru and Cambodia for resettled refugees.

No cash has been allocated for 2016-17 and beyond.

Officially, only one asylum seeker boat arrived in Australia last year while an unknown number were turned back to Indonesia under Operation Sovereign Borders.

Just to be sure the trend continues, a $40 million advertising campaign will be rolled out domestically and overseas to discourage people smuggling ventures.

The Customs ship Ocean Shield will also have its patrol time at sea ramped up from 180 days to 300 days at a cost of $74.3 million over five years.

There’s also a $554.5 million saving over five years from scaling down the detention centre network and reduced need for charter flights to take asylum seekers to Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

Detention facilities at Phosphate Hill and Construction Camp on Christmas Island and Blaydin in Darwin will shut their doors, on top of the 11 centre closures since the coalition came to power in 2013.

The establishment of Border Force Australia, which merges Customs with the immigration department this July, will save $270 million over four years.

There also will be efficiencies made in visa, refugee, humanitarian processing and by simplifying skilled migration and temporary visa programs to the tune of $168.1 million over four years.

The humanitarian refugee intake will remain at 13,750 places next financial year before rising to 18,750 in 2018-19.

The permanent migration program stays at 190,000 places including 128,550 for skilled workers and 57,400 for family reunion.