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.

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.