Police probe Sydney millionaire fracas

A booze-fuelled fracas between millionaire mates at an exclusive Sydney restaurant has landed colourful businessman John Singleton in strife with police.

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Images of Mr Singleton wielding a broken wineglass and lunging at friend and fellow businessman Jack Cowin graced the front page of a Sydney newspaper on Tuesday.

While Mr Singleton admitted he was mortified by the pictures, he downplayed the incident at Woolloomooloo’s waterfront on Monday night in which was also filmed joking about domestic violence.

“If you were there you would have thought it was funny but if you saw the papers today or on the TV you’d think `good god’,” he told 2GB radio on Tuesday.

“And mate, I think so and thought so.”

Mr Singleton said he did not break the wineglass and was only having a joke.

The racing identity said he shared four or five bottles of wine with four others.

NSW Police are investigating the widely publicised incident and seized the group’s restaurant bill.

“… Remember now police have subpoenaed the bill, so they would be able to tell you it was four or five bottles between five of us over four hours,” Mr Singleton said.

“Not what your dad or me would call a drink.”

A police spokeswoman said police were investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident.

The Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing is working with police.

Fast-food mogul Mr Cowin passed off the incident as “just like bear cubs playing around in a cage”.

Mr Singleton was filmed after the ruckus saying the fight had been over a woman.

“We don’t have one,” he joked.

He then said: “He was trying to find a woman to belt and I was trying to have a sex change so he could bash me.”

When asked what he thought about violence, he ran towards the camera saying: “I f***ing love it.”

BHP boss outlines savings

BHP Billiton will undertake a string of cost cutting measures aimed at improving efficiency and cash returns in the face of weak commodity prices.

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Chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said the potential benefits from the new targets were substantial.

“In recent years we have made great strides towards becoming the most efficient supplier of our chosen commodities and secured productivity gains of nearly $US10 billion,” he said in a statement.

“We believe we can go even further with a simpler portfolio and improve margins by reducing costs more deeply than the competition…

“Our pipeline of development projects has an expected average rate of return in excess of 20 per cent and we will continue to test all investment decisions against challenging criteria that include buying back our own shares,” he said.

The measures outlined by Mr Mackenzie included:

*Cutting unit costs at Western Australia Iron Ore by 21 per cent to $US16 per tonne during the 2016 financial year.

*Cutting unit costs at its Escondida copper mine in Chile by 16 per cent.

*Drilling costs per well in Black Hawk oil fields in the US to average $US2.9 million, a reduction of 20 per cent.

Mr Mackenzie said capital and exploration expenditure would fall to $US9 billion in the 2016 financial year from $US12.6 billion in 2015.

The reduction reflects ongoing improvements in capital productivity along with the deferral of some shale development and the Inner Harbour Debottlenecking project at Port Hedland.

In its onshore US business, BHP Billiton now anticipates capital expenditure to be $US1.5 billion in the 2016 financial year to support a development program with 10 operated rigs.

“We will continue to invest in our high quality projects to create long term value and support dividend growth,” Mr Mackenzie said.

“The iron ore and metallurgical coal markets are currently well supplied and we do not expect to invest significantly more in these businesses at this time.”

He said BHP Billiton believed grade decline in copper and field decline in oil will constrain industry production and support a recovery in prices over the medium term.

Mr Mackenzie announced the strategies ahead of the demerger of its South32 subsidiary, which will be a diverse metals and mining company producing alumina, aluminium, coal, manganese, nickel, silver, lead and zinc.

South32 is expected to begin trading on the Australian share market and the London stock exchange later this month.

The statement was released ahead of the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2015 Global Metals, Mining and Steel Conference in Barcelona, shortly after the Australian market closed on Tuesday.

BHP Billiton shares finished 71 cents higher at $32.53.

Brisbane just scratching surface: Parker

The message Brisbane’s Corey Parker had was simple on Tuesday: you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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“We are still very much a work in progress,” he said of the NRL ladder leaders.

“We have been lucky enough to get away with tight wins but we are a long way away from where we need to be with our standards.

“We have come a long way but we are not getting ahead of ourselves – we have a long way to go.”

That journey continues in Townsville on Friday night when the Broncos take on North Queensland who are riding a six-game winning streak.

Parker claimed the fourth-placed Cowboys were the real team to beat.

“I agree that they are favourites to win the comp – look at their roster and the quality of players that they have got,” he said.

“I think they are the form team of the competition.”

The Broncos aren’t travelling too badly themselves.

One win clear on top of the NRL ladder with an impressive 7-2 record, they’re in an ideal spot as they look to cope with the demands of the Origin season.

Among those wins was a 22-point thumping of the Cowboys back in round three.

The Broncos will be without Queensland Origin hopeful Josh McGuire (suspension) for the derby.

With Maroons coach Mal Meninga set to name his Origin side next week, McGuire took the early plea and will miss one match for a grade one dangerous throw on Penrith back-rower Bryce Cartwright in last round’s 8-5 win.

He will now be available for selection for Queensland in the Origin opener or the Broncos’ next match against the Knights in Newcastle on May 25.

Parker said McGuire would be missed but they have a ready made replacement in Test forward Sam Thaiday who returns from a one-match ban against top four side the Cowboys.

“He is good for us in that he has a high work ethic, and will be sorely missed but we have a fair guy stepping into his shoes,” Parker said of Thaiday.

Cavendish leads Tour of California

Britain’s Mark Cavendish earned his second straight win over Peter Sagan of Slovakia and extended his race lead Monday after the second stage of the Tour of California.

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Cavendish, riding for the Etixx-Quick Step team, earned his 11th win of the season with a late surge in the 194-kilometre road stage from Nevada City in 4 hours, 47 minutes and 2 seconds.

“There were four of us (teammates) at the last corner and I had to come around Peter,” said Cavendish.

“I was a bit nervous and I didn’t know if I had it.”

Sagan again bolted to the front of the mass sprint, but was passed by Cavendish by a quarter-wheel. Wouter Wippert of the Netherlands finished third in the stage.

Cavendish leads Sagan by eight seconds in the eight-day race. American Rob Carpenter is third overall, 11 seconds behind.

“Today, I did better,” said Sagan who moved to the front earlier in the opening stage sprint. “There was a gap and everyone was fighting for position. Cavendish is a pure sprinter and he is faster. Maybe tomorrow I will do better.”

For the second straight day, a breakaway developed early in the stage.

Carpenter, Daniel Oss of Italy, Markel Izizar Aranburu of Spain and Luis Romero Amaran of Cuba established a five-minute lead after 25 miles.

Amaran fell back in the waning miles and the main field began the final two circuits together.

The eight-day race, which began Sunday in Sacramento, will continue Tuesday beginning and ending in San Jose. The 170-kilometre third stage has six climbs, including the first substantial ascent of the event, a 5.8-kilometre effort up Mount Hamilton.

Thorn not in frame for Reds top rugby job

Dual international Brad Thorn has signed a three-year coaching deal with the Queensland Reds but will not be considered as a replacement for embattled head coach Richard Graham.

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Heading a raft of changes to the last-placed Super Rugby outfit’s coaching structure, the former All Blacks lock will join the club next season as a forwards development coach.

Due to his “unique skill set and successful playing history”, the Reds say Thorn’s scope will be much broader and they’ll lean on his advice in other areas.

But the Reds have ruled out Thorn as an option to replace Graham, who faces the sack unless the team shows dramatic improvement across their last five games.

Thorn wants to move into senior coaching and while his incredible achievements and remarkable longevity across two codes suggests he is a viable long-term option, Queensland will not consider him for the top job until he has more experience under his belt.

The 40-year-old is still playing professional rugby with English side Leicester Tigers but will retire at the end of the season to return to Brisbane, where he began his career in the NRL with the Broncos.

“I am very excited about becoming involved with the Reds and am grateful for the chance to continue my involvement in rugby,” said Thorn, who also represented the Kangaroos and Queensland at State of Origin level.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity of working with the boys and sharing what I have learnt over the years.

“My family and I are excited about moving back to Brisbane and starting this next chapter in our lives.”

Thorn’s appointment follows that of former Wallabies coach John Connolly, who will serve as a coaching consultant to Graham for the rest of the season.

In another coup, former Reds conditioning coach Damien Marsh – a key pillar of Queensland’s 2011 Super Rugby championship campaign – will return to the franchise next year.

Marsh has spent the past two seasons with the ACT Brumbies.

Queensland has also re-signed forwards coach Nick Stiles for a further three years as a senior assistant.

“As I have said previously, we have been conducting a review of our high performance area for some time, which is continuing, in order to deliver our short and long-term outcomes,” Queensland Rugby Union chief executive Jim Carmichael said.

“We’ve identified areas that require strengthening to provide the team with the appropriate support and structures moving forward.”

However, the Reds are resigned to losing attack coach Steve Meehan, who has reportedly signed a two-year deal to join the staff of European giants Toulon.