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PORT KEMBLA, Australia - An horrific smash in the early hours of Monday morning has left a teenage girl dead, and two males fighting for their lives. Lake Illawarra Local Area Command police officers were called to the scene about 1:00am Monday on Flinders Road, Port Kembla, about 8 kilometres south of Wollongong where a Holden Commodore sedan carrying three occupants crashed into a tree. The girl who was a passenger in the front seat died at the scene shortly after the crash. The driver was in critical condition, and the a back seat passenger was described as being in serious condition. They were both airlifted to St. George Hospital. Police say they believe speed was a factor in the crash.
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SYDNEY, Australia - Westpac's No. 1 economist Bill Evans has just presided over the 20th Federal Budget he has surveyed from the Federal Government.

On Tuesday night he was giving his appraisal of the 2015-16 budget to his bank's customers at a dinner in Sydney.

This year's Budget needed to be "a circuit breaker", he said, given the low state of consumer confidence, job security fears, and a lack of investment.

After opening with a rundown on Budget history - including the fact that conservative governments had recorded 11 surpluses out of 21 (10 under Howard and Costello), while Labor had recorded three, all under Paul Keating - he launched into his appraisal of this Budget by saying "the numbers were pretty impressive".

"We were expecting that the deficit would be much more than it turned out to be," he said.

With a deficit of $35.1 billion for 2015/16 compared with an expectation of more than $40 billion, and a forecast of $12 billion instead of $30 billion in four years time "they really did outperform in terms of market expectations".

But he said one of the reasons was that the Government had picked a much higher iron ore price than expected - US$48 a tonne, where the market price is about US$55. They were taking a position that the iron price could fall again, he said.

In terms of Budget initiatives, he said it was a real contrast to last year.

Pensions would be indexed again, and the young would no longer have to wait to get the dole, the auto industry would get a boost, the profits taken overseas by some 30 big multi-nationals would be targeted, and drug companies would not get so much under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

New policies were costing $8.8 billion but that was being offset by the winding back of parental pay of $10.4 billion.

Over all, he said there were some great things for small business in the Budget, with the 1.5% tax cut and the $20,000 up-front depreciation allowance, compared to the previous $1000 limit,  particularly as lack of investment was holding back the economy.

Infrastructure was "way, way under-serviced" but at least there was a little bit more for Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and Victoria.

The child care system was an improvement, he said, but there was huge question mark about whether it would be implemented in the current political environment, given that the $3.2 billion cost of the new scheme depended on winding back $4 billion from the old scheme.

Of $36 billion in savings measures over four years, $20 billion was "still hanging around the Senate" and they were unlikely to get through, even though the Budget numbers assumed they would.

While there was some good news in the Budget, he said the issue was whether it would trigger a surge in confidence. Consumer spending was all right in Victoria and New South Wales but dropping away in Queensland and Western Australia.

People felt more sustained concern about job security than they had during the Global Financial Crisis. And that meant when interest rates were cut, they were not spending that extra money and stimulating the economy. They were saving it for a rainy day.

"Wealth has been increasing at 50% of household disposable income for the last three or four years yet they haven't been taking it and spending it because of concern for their jobs," he said.

Confidence was a particular concern for small business - which provides 46% of private employment and makes up 96% of business. Although they had benefited from the Budget, would they invest in more jobs if people were not spending and demand did not pick up?

In fact, he said, many companies were cutting wages.

"That's the problem. Businesses are saying, 'why should we invest and employ when our sales are so weak?

"You're caught in this bind where consumers are cautious and they're not spending and businesses are responding."

He said there was a good story, and it's about building approvals.

"It's on fire. What's driving it is apartments. Normally you build about twice as many houses as apartments and units. Now they're shaking hands.

"We know what's driving a lot of that. High rise. We've never seen a boom in high rise the way we're seeing it today."

New South Wales and Victoria were at the forefront, and part of the boom was being driven by foreign demand, especially Chinese, because their housing market was so weak. With interest rates showing no signs of moving upward for some time, the boom  would continue.

He said there was "huge pent up demand in Australia" for new homes to meet population growth, though the problem in NSW was lack of available land.

In other comments, he said the big story has been the collapse in the terms of trade, and there is a direct relationship between income and the terms of trade.

Our export prices have averaged 2% growth in the last 20 years and that's meant that national income has averaged about 6% growth. This year terms of trade have fallen 10% which means national income is going to be a nominal 1.7%, which will not lift consumption.

To compound the problem, whereas the mining boom had been adding 1% of GDP every year for 10 years, it was now taking 1% off a year.

But he said he did not believe the nation's AAA rating was in jeopardy as the rate of deterioration in the deficit was slowing down and our ability to fund our foreign debt was improving dramatically.

The big story for this year, he believed, was America, where wages were rising, unemployment was now in the full employment range of 5 to 5.5%, and inflation was a prospect.

The market was "way, way too complacent" and in denial about interest rates being hiked by the Federal Reserve. But he felt it would not affect our interest rates.
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Australia will send an additional 300 troops to Iraq to train specialist Iraqi soldiers in the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced on Tuesday. As part of a joint training mission with New Zealand, who revealed their intentions to send 143 soldiers overseas last week, the 300 new arrivals will join a 200-strong Australian contingent already present in Iraq, Xinhua reported. Speaking to reporters in Canberra on Tuesday, Abbott said Australian forces had already enjoyed success in their fight against IS militants, but that more aid was needed to continue training Iraqi troops. "We have slowed Daesh's (IS) advance, but Iraq's regular forces now require support to build their capacity to reclaim and to hold territory," he said. The troops, who will be based in northern Baghdad, are expected to be overseas for two years as per the government's timeline of their involvement in Iraq. Abbott also revealed that the decision to send more troops abroad had come with the support of Iraq Prime Minister Haider Al- Abadi, but that Iraq "do not want foreign combat troops on the ground". Therefore, just like the 200 Australians already in Iraq, the new group will occupy strictly advisory roles. The prime minister also suggested that security can only be guaranteed domestically by providing international support. "What the Australian people want is security at home, but you can't have that security at home without doing your bit for security abroad," he said.
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We have had five polls released since last Friday night, and Labor leads by at least 55-45 in all of them except Essential, which has a well earned reputation for being slow to change. The previous Newspoll was taken in mid-December, while the other polls were previously taken in the last two weeks. Here is this week's poll table.

Abbott's 61-39 win at Monday's spill motion was a weak win for him, and it makes it more likely that he will be replaced long before the next election. His low ratings, combined with the clear divisions within the Liberal Party, make a Coalition recovery under his leadership very difficult to see.

Kevin Bonham's poll aggregate is now at 55.8% Two Party Preferred (2PP) to Labor, up 0.8% on last week, and up 3.2% in the last three weeks. The Poll Bludger's BludgerTrack gives Labor a 56.1-43.9 lead, a 1% gain for Labor on last week. Primary votes are 41.7% for Labor, 36.5% for the Coalition and 11.3% for the Greens. Since last week, the Coalition primary vote has lost 1%, with almost all going straight to Labor. Graphs show that, while the Coalition primary vote was this low in the post-budget period, Labor's primary is now higher than during that period. Abbott's net approval ratings have plummetted to -41.6%.

Notes on These Polls

Newspoll gave Shorten a net approval of 2, up from -6 in mid-December; this is Shorten's first positive net approval since mid-May. Shorten's current 48-30 better PM lead over Abbott is the second highest margin for an opposition leader, but the only opposition leader to better Shorten's current 18-point lead was Alexander Downer, who led Paul Keating by 20 points in July 1994. Abbott's -44 net approval rating is the worst for a PM since Gillard's -45 in September 2011, though Keating performed worse after the "horror" budget of August 1993.

Morgan's respondent allocated preferences were 57.5-42.5 to Labor, a 1% gain for Labor on this measure, and 0.5% better for Labor than the previous election preferences.

Essential had Abbott's approval down 8 points to 29%, and his disapproval up 9 points to 62% for a net approval of -33, down 17 points from January. Strangely, Shorten's net approval fell to -5 from 6; other polls have not shown this. By 59-25, voters approved of Abbott's decision to drop the paid parental leave plan. 59% thought same sex couples should be allowed to marry, with 28% disagreeing; support is up from a 55-32 margin in December. 44% agreed with a negative viewpoint on governments retaining personal information, while 38% agreed with a positive viewpoint. Questions on asset privatisation find negative attitudes that perhaps explain the Queensland election result.

(The writer Adrian Beaumont is a PhD student at the University of Melbourne's Department of Mathematics and Statistics).
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Australian PM Tony Abbott will need a hardhat on Monday, after telling colleagues on Sunday he was bringing forward the meeting to discuss his leadership.

"On reflection and talking to my colleagues, I've come to the view that the best thing we can do is deal with the spill motion as quickly as possible and put it behind us," he told reporters on Sunday morning. "The only question is do we want to reduce ourselves to the level of the Labor Party in dragging down a first time Prime Minister," he added.

The main contender for the leadership if the spill motion is successful is Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull. In a touch of irony Turnbull only an hour earlier had praised Abbott for deciding on Tuesday for the vote.

He also said he would not support the spill motion. "I'm in the cabinet, of course I support the Prime Minister, everyone supports the Prime Minister. You don't have to keep on saying that all the time," he told a gathering of journalists outside his home. "Abbott's also, I think, shown great respect for the party room by saying that the meeting should be on Tuesday, which is the normal party room meeting. Now that's very significant because again you've had people in the press saying it's going to be brought forward to Monday in a rush. The virtue of having it Tuesday, and I know Tony Abbott very well you know he's a good friend of mine. And this is why he has said in Townsville it will be on Tuesday because he knows that members coming to Canberra, who will have been getting lots of phone calls and talking to constituents and many of which will be uncertain, will want to have the opportunity to sit down and talk to each other in the nation's capital, in the course of that Monday leading up to the Tuesday."

The move by the prime minister to bring the vote on 24 hours earlier has brought a mixed reaction from party members.

"We've got to get on with the job of governing. This has been incredibly distracting. You couldn't imagine the PM going into Question Time with the spill motion hanging over his head," Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told a media throng Sunday.

Chief Whip Phillip Ruddock said, "The view in the Prime Minister's mind is it is better to have the issue resolved quickly." He said he believed members would have had sufficient time to weigh up the issues. "I don't think they need more time to reflect on them," he said.

NSW Senator Arthur Sinodinos disagreed. He told News Corp Australia shortly after details of the earlier meeting were announced the meeting should be held on Tuesday. "I think we should stick with Tuesday and give the party room the respect it deserves," he said.

News Corporation, which backed Abbott in the 2013 federal election, reported a number of negative comments from the prime minister's colleagues, but failed to name them. "This shows he's desperate and can't win," News Corp reported one MP as saying. "People are quite rattled by this," another was quoted as saying. "I mean does he have the numbers or not?"

Parliament, reported News Corp, was due to move a motion of condolence for the victims of the Sydney siege at 11am Monday and some MPs were saying moving the party room meeting to before that is not a good look.

"So we're going to be focused on all this leadership stuff instead. That's not a good look," an unnamed MP was reported by News Corp as saying.
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Novak Djokovic has won his fifth Australian Open tennis Championship.
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MELBOURNE, Australia - An early Sunday morning car crash near Melbourne has claimed the life of  Hawthorn Hawks assistant coach Brett Ratten's 16-year old son.

Cooper Ratten who played Under 18s with the  Yarra Glen Football Netball Club was a passenger in a car which overturned on Sunday morning at around 3 o'clock, at Yarra Glen, about 40 kilometres north-east of Melbourne.

Young Cooper was seriously injured in the crash and was being rushed to hospital by ambulance when he passed away.

On Saturday he turned out for his footy club. On Sunday teammates and friends, and the Under 18s coach Adam Easton, got together at Yarra Glen football oval where Cooper played his last game just a day earlier.

"This world is so cruel," the young footballer's girlfriend posted on Facebook. "I love you forever."

Police believe speed, and possibly drugs and alcohol, may have played a part in the crash. The car may also have been stolen. The other occupants in the car, Cooper Ratten's teammates, both 17, were hospitalised with minor injuries. Police are anxious to interview them.

"It was an absolute miracle that two people got out of that car alive," Victoria Police Detective Sergeant David Yeoman said at the crash scene.

"Driving is not a game. You don't go for a joyride under these circumstances. It has tragic consequences with very severe custodial sentences attached to them."

The trio had been driving in dense fog and were believed to have been speeding at the time of the crash.

"All at Hawthorn Football Club extend their deepest condolences to Assistant Coach Brett Ratten and his family at this tragic time," a statement from the Hawthorn Football Club released on Sunday said.

"We are shocked and saddened by the passing of his beloved son Cooper, whose life has been cut short in tragic circumstances."

"The club's primary focus will be supporting Brett and his family during this devastating time," the statement said..

"We ask that you continue to keep Brett and his family in your thoughts and prayers."

Yarra Glen Football Club president Vincent Erickson said Cooper and two teammates were in the car when it veered off the road and flipped over. All three had played together in the Under 18s side on Saturday and attended a player's function on Saturday night.

"It's a tough day for the club," he told Fairfax Media.

"We've just got to get behind each other. Our thoughts are with the families who have been directly impacted by this tragedy."

"The Yarra Glenn community is very tight knit and this will have a profound impact," he said.
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SYDNEY - The Australian Federal Police has defended its cooperation ...
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A new express service created by MSC Shipping will link Australian trade directly with markets in the Middle East, Europe and India without the need for inefficient transhipment through Singapore.
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Prime Minister Tony Abbott has made two key pledges in recent weeks  to begin "good government" and to no longer give "the benefit of doubt" to people suspected of planning terrorist activities in Australia.

If Abbott is serious about these promises, and the return to national security is not a politically motivated diversionary tactic, his government's 2014 record provides two important lessons for his 2015 legislative agenda in this field.

In 2014, federal parliament passed three pieces of legislation that significantly reformed and expanded Australia's counter-terrorism laws. The government's expedited passage of these new laws demonstrated an underlying disrespect for the legislative process.

The short timeframes imposed by the government undermined the ability of parliamentary committees to conduct proper scrutiny and meaningful public consultation, particularly in the area of human rights protection. The Abbott government was able to truncate legislative scrutiny throughout 2014 because, as is common in the national security sphere, Labor offered its bipartisan support for the measures.

The first 2014 bill expanded the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation's (ASIO) powers to access computer networks, provided it with immunities for "special intelligence operations" and introduced a new offence of disclosing information about such an operation, accompanied by a 10-year prison term.

The government did not follow the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security's (JCIS) recommendation that it release an exposure draft of the reforms for extensive public consultation and targeted liaison with the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor (INSLM) and Inspector-General for Intelligence and Security (IGIS). The INSLM post  the independent statutory officeholder tasked with reviewing national security laws  was left vacant for most of 2014.

The government's attitude to parliamentary scrutiny was similarly poor. The bill was passed within two-and-a-half months of being introduced. The JCIS conducted the only public inquiry on the bill. It initially gave eight business days for public submissions, although it eventually extended that by five days.

This would be the longest time the public was given to provide submissions on any of the bills. Operating under tight government deadlines, the JCIS allowed only six and then eight days for public submissions on the next two bills.

The second bill, the so-called "foreign fighters bill", was in many respects the most significant. Its measures included the creation of offences for travelling to or remaining in a "declared area" and advocating terrorism, broadening the definition of a terrorism offence, and changing the control order and preventative detention order regimes.

In response to the short timeframes allowed to consider the bill, religious, community, legal and human rights organisations and academics issued a public statement requesting that parliament not pass the bill until there had been an opportunity for further consultation and scrutiny of its measures.

The Senate's Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs performed no role in scrutinising the 2014 bills. An attempt by the Greens to refer the first bill to this committee was defeated. The foreign fighters bill was successfully referred to the committee, but it chose to (in effect) ignore the reference and not issue a report. It did so on the basis that the JCIS was conducting a parallel inquiry.

The parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), one of Australia's flagship human rights scrutiny mechanisms, did not report on the compliance of the first bill with Australia's human rights obligations until after it had passed both houses. When this committee asked for more information from the government, Attorney-General George Brandis claimed it was failing to perform its duty. In the absence of further information, the committee found a number of the measures incompatible with Australia's human rights obligations.

A similar pattern emerged with the other bills. The committee reported on the foreign fighters bill a day before it was passed in the Senate. A request for further information from the government went unanswered. Again, the committee found a number of the measures incompatible with Australia's human rights obligations.

Legislative review in the Senate was also curtailed. Debate on the first bill was brought only a week after the JCIS final report was released. When this debate began, senators had not been provided with a number of the government's proposed amendments.

Highlighting the rushed nature of legislative review, almost immediately after the enactment of the first bill, Abbott agreed to refer the bill for review by the INSLM.

Legislative responses to terror threats raise particular dangers that individual liberties will be sacrificed in the name of national security. As Australia has no Bill of Rights, its courts have a limited role in scrutinising government and legislative activity for human rights compliance.

This reinforces the importance of parliament's role in making sure legislation achieves the appropriate balance between defending national security and protecting individual rights. Parliament must be given time to perform this function.

The 2014 reforms further reveal an underlying governmental distrust of the courts' role in interpreting national security laws. Coupled with the laws' rushed passage, this increases the likelihood that legitimate activity, even in the public interest, will be caught within the scope of serious criminal offences.

The first bill introduced the controversial offence of revealing information relating to special intelligence operations. The government rejected suggestions for the inclusion of a public interest defence. This was despite concerns expressed by parliamentary committees, the media and the public that it might penalise  or at the least chill  legitimate reporting.

Brandis explained that such a defence would inappropriately shift power to the judges and juries to determine whether a particular disclosure would harm the public interest. The government overlooked that courts are already asked to make this type of judgement. For example, legislation already requires courts to assess whether the disclosure of certain material in court is likely to be a risk of prejudice to national security.

Brandis did agree to amend the Explanatory Memorandum to confirm that the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) must take into account the public interest before initiating a prosecution under the provision. However, such an amendment is glaringly inadequate.

The Explanatory Memorandum is unenforceable. The Commonwealth DPP is already required to consider the public interest when bringing prosecutions. Finally, prosecutorial discretion is not subject to judicial oversight.

The government knows that relying on prosecutorial discretion alone is problematic. The same bill introduced a statutory immunity for ASIO employees or affiliates during special intelligence operations. In insisting on a statutory immunity, the government claimed this was "preferable" to relying on prosecutorial and investigative discretion alone.

If Abbott is honest about a return to good government, we can hope to see more time provided for legislative scrutiny of proposed counter-terrorism laws and constructive responses to parliamentary committee requests for information.

We might also hope to see greater understanding and respect for the courts' role in ensuring the flexible application of legislation to unforeseen circumstances to avoid the potential prosecution of legitimate activity.

However, recent reports indicate that Abbott is continuing to pressure the opposition to pass the remaining counter-terrorism bill before parliament. This would require telecommunications companies to retain customers' metadata. The JCIS is yet to report on the bill, but already serious concerns have been raised about the need for, cost and scope of the bill, particularly given its incursions on personal privacy.

It would appear, then, that Abbott has learnt little about good government in the pursuit of national security.

(The writer Gabrielle Appleby is Associate Professor, UNSW Law School at UNSW Australia). This article was first published on The Conversation.
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Prime Minister Tony Abbott has survived a spill motion by 61 votes to 39.

The ballot for the leadership that would have followed did not eventuate as the majority of Liberal Party members and senators decided to give the prime minister another go.

The decision did not come easy as News Corp published results of a Newspoll on the morning of the vote indicating the government led by Abbott would be soundly defeated at the next election. It revealed the personal rating of the prime minister himself was at a record low.

Nonetheless the prime minister survived, although not convincingly.

Government whip Phillip Ruddock however said after the brief meeting, "That seems to me to resolve the matter. These matters are dealt with without debate. The result is clear."

The prime minister arrived at the party room meeting surrounded by supporters including Deputy Prime Minister Julie Bishop, Minister for Education Christopher Pyne, Deputy Finance Minister Matthias Cormann and Treasurer Joe Hockey.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the main contender for the leadership if the spill motion had been successful, arrived at the meeting alone. Turnbull said prior to the spill motion he would support Abbott, who he described as a close friend, and would vote against the spill motion. He did not indicate either way whether he would have stood for the leadership if the spill motion had been successful, however he hinted he would on Sunday he had this to say: "If, for whatever reason, the leadership of a political party is vacant then any member of the party can stand, whether they be a minister or a backbencher, without any disloyalty to the person who's leadership has been declared vacant."

The vote on the spill motion was by way of a secret ballot.

The only one seemingly enjoying the day's proceedings was Opposition Leader Bill Shorten who said earlier on Monday, "What we're seeing today with the Liberal party ripping itself apart can't happen anymore. It's not the identity of the salesman that matters here, it's what they're selling."
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No spill, No.....Spilll,   Spilll No.... Stop the boats, Stop the boats, Stop the boats, Its all Labor's fault, fault, fault..
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Australian Herald is a national online news service covering Australia and its major cities.
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Australian Herald has been serving Australia since 2002. Providing late breaking news from across the country, with individual coverage of major cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, and the capital, Canberra,