Durant nets 41, Thunder drop Knicks in NBA

The match-up between NBA top scorers, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, turned out to be a mismatch.

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Durant put on another MVP-calibre performance with 41 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists on Sunday, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to their ninth straight home victory, 112-100 over the visiting New York Knicks.

“He makes it look easy,” said Anthony, whose 27.4 points per game is second to Durant’s 31. “When you get it going like that, it’s hard to stop it.”

Durant also sparkled on the defensive end, helping to limit Anthony to a season-low 15 points.

“In order for us to be a good team I have to be a two-way player. I realised that these past few years,” Durant explained. “I just try to play as hard as I can by using my length and my quickness to my advantage.”

Reggie Jackson scored 19 points while Serge Ibaka added 16 for West-best Oklahoma City (41-12), who shot 54.8 per cent from the field en route to their 13th win in 15 outings.

Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton netted 16 points apiece to pace the Knicks (20-31) who were victimised by Durant in their eighth loss in 10.

“He’s a tough cover, great scorer, makes good decisions with the ball,” Knicks Iman Shumpert said. “He made tough shots today.”

Durant had 19 points at halftime and the Thunder led 58-53, that extended to 86-78 entering the final frame.

The Knicks drew to within 92-86 on free throws by Tyson Chandler with 8.5 minutes left. Durant, however, drilled a three-pointer and the Thunder never let the lead dip below eight.

Elsewhere, rookie Victor Oladipo scored 13 of his 23 points in the final quarter and deflected Paul George’s potential game-winning jumper in the closing seconds, as the lowly Magic (16-37) stunned the league-best Pacers for a third straight win.

George scored 27 points for visiting Indiana (39-11), who blew a 17-point third-quarter cushion to snap a four-game winning streak.

The LA Clippers downed Philadelphia 123-78 and celebrated the return of All-Star guard Chris Paul by punishing the visiting 76ers for their biggest blowout in franchise history.

Paul finished with seven points, eight assists and four steals in 23 minutes in his first action after missing 18 games with a shoulder separation suffered on January 3.

The Chicago Bulls beat the LA Lakers 92-86, the Brooklyn Nets accounted for the New Orleans Pelicans 93-81, the Washington Wizards defeated the Sacramento Kings 93-84, the Dallas Mavericks were 102-91 winners over the Boston Celtics, and the Cleveland Cavaliers prevailed 91-83 over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Urban Melb needs fire education: premier

Premier Denis Napthine says more bushfire education and refuges are needed for communities on Melbourne’s fringe after homes were lost in Victoria’s fire emergency.

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Seven houses have been confirmed completely destroyed with the main impact on property happening in Melbourne fringe suburbs Gisborne, Mickleham and Warrandyte.

The Mickleham Road blaze in the city’s north remained the most dangerous fire in the state throughout Monday.

Dr Napthine said the government needs to look at more refuges on Melbourne’s fringe.

“We certainly need to look at the opportunity for safer places and refuges in outer urban areas,” he told ABC Radio.

Victoria has four registered community fire refuges, three of which were opened as part of a pilot program following the royal commission into the Black Saturday blazes.

After visiting fires at Gisborne, Warrandyte and Mickleham on Monday, Dr Napthine said the situation in Mickleham remained very active and dangerous.

He also has railed against people who deliberately lit fires on Victoria’s worst bushfire risk day since Black Saturday, saying he couldn’t stomach the thought of it.

At least 14 grass and scrub fires lit during the height of the emergency on Sunday are being probed by arson squad detectives.

So far they have found nine were deliberately lit.

“To think of any lighting of fires on days like yesterday is just absolutely unbelievable in the extreme,” Dr Napthine said.

“I can’t imagine who would do such a thing.

“Putting lives at risk in those circumstances, and putting the lives of our firefighters at risk is something I just cannot stomach.”

Dr Napthine said it was premature to make any conclusions about investigations into the source of blazes.

The community has learnt a lot of lessons since fires destroyed 1886 homes and killed 173 Victorians five years ago, Dr Napthine said, but he stressed continuing education was needed.

“Radiant heat can and does kill,” he said.

“People in some of those outer urban areas need to better understand how you need to dress appropriately with safe clothing on.

“If you’re going to be involved anywhere near the flame, dress appropriately.”

Tokyo stocks close up 1.77%

Tokyo stocks rose 1.

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77 per cent, tracking gains on Wall Street as investors took a positive view of last week’s below-forecast US employment report.

The benchmark Nikkei-225 index added 255.93 points to 14,718.34, while the Topix index of all first-section shares climbed 1.27 per cent, or 15.14 points, to 1,204.28.

The US Labor Department said on Friday that the economy added 113,000 jobs in January, far below the 175,000 forecast.

However, analysts said the report did include some upbeat news, such as a rise in labour force participation and a drop in the overall unemployment rate.

The news boosted Wall Street, with the Dow jumping 1.06 per cent, the S&P 500 up 1.33 per cent and the Nasdaq 1.69 per cent higher.

“The labour data certainly weren’t convincing enough to warrant strong confidence in the US economic recovery, which could have simply meant that US shares were oversold and ready for a rebound,” Daisuke Uno, strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp, told Dow Jones Newswires.

“(New US Fed Chair Janet) Yellen’s testimony before the Senate is going to be under scrutiny for how the data are being officially interpreted.”

Investors will be keeping a close eye on her comments for clues about the Fed’s plans for its stimulus program, which has been credited with buoying global equity markets.

In share trading, Sony rose 0.65 per cent to 1,702 yen and Uniqlo clothing chain operator Fast Retailing jumped 2.96 per cent at 37,335 yen.

Toyota closed up 1.59 per cent at 5,994 yen. After the market closed the firm said it was terminating production in Australia.

Automaker Nissan rose 0.11 per cent to 885 yen ahead of the release of its nine-month earnings.

In forex markets, the dollar was at 102.43 yen, up from 102.30 yen in New York on Friday.

Victorian coalmine fire top priority

A coalmine fire that could threaten Victoria’s electricity supply is the priority for emergency services as they continue to battle blazes across the state.

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The fire at Morwell, 130km east of Melbourne, is in the open-cut pit of the mine supplying the Hazelwood Power Station.

The escalation of the Morwell blaze came as Victoria’s police chief commissioner Ken Lay revealed at least a dozen fires were suspected of being deliberately lit.

Victorian Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the Morwell fire, which has destroyed several homes and is burning through logs and woodchip stockpiles at Australian Paper’s Maryvale mill, is now his major concern.

“It is not threatening lives but it has the potential to impact on critical infrastructure for Victoria,” Mr Lapsley said.

“It is not impacting on power generation in Victoria, but it has the potential to do so.”

Two aircraft, fire trucks and the chief officers of both the Metropolitan Fire Brigade and the Country Fire Authority are at the blaze.

Mr Lapsley said putting out the fire would be complex because normal extraction of the coal was continuing and it was essential that no hot or burning coal found its way onto the conveyors supplying the power station.

“That will be a lengthy operation, and for those living in Morwell, a very uncomfortable operation because there will be black smoke over the town most of the time,” he said.

“It’s more than just a fire. It’s about health issues within the town.”

The Morwell fire took over as the state’s most serious from the blaze that destroyed several homes on Sunday night as it spread from Mickleham, on Melbourne’s northern outskirts, to Kilmore, 40km away.

It had burned more than 16,000 hectares by Monday evening.

The Morwell and Mickleham fires are among 200 fought at the height of the crisis on Sunday, 12 of which are believed to have been started by arsonists.

“There is sufficient evidence to suggest (the fires) are more than likely to have been deliberately lit,” Mr Lay said.

He said some suspects had been identified.

None of the major fires are under suspicion, with Mr Lay reporting the most likely cause of the Mickleham fire is a tree branch falling across powerlines.

Mr Lapsley said more than 20 homes had been lost in the fires since Sunday morning, three of them in a built-up area at Warrandyte in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, as well as those at Morwell and Kilmore.

Fires in Gippsland had burned out some 100,000 hectares, with a fire that burned 78,000 hectares in the Snowy River National Park causing serious concern.

The Morwell fire’s impact on the community is limited and it isn’t among those that were the subject of emergency warnings in place late on Monday.

Heydon is a stickler for the law

John Dyson Heydon is a stickler for the letter of the law.

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And he has little time for judges who see their role as making law, rather than upholding it.

“Stronger judicial personalities tend to push the weaker into submission,” he wrote in an essay subtitled “The enemy within” on his aged-enforced retirement from the High Court in 2013.

Now he’s setting his steely judicial gaze on the trade union movement and the alleged and yet-to-be-uncovered corruption within.

Heydon, on the face of it, is an unsurprising choice as royal commissioner.

A renowned judicial conservative, he was appointed to the High Court in 2003 by the Howard government in a bid to stem what the coalition saw as the court’s over-enthusiasm for judicial activism.

Of his reputation as a black-letter judge, he once said: “I wear it as a badge of honour.”

In other words, legal precedence and established law are paramount when making judgments.

Heydon eschews judicial activism, the philosophy whereby judges allow their personal views about public policy, among other factors, to guide their decisions.

But if the Abbott government thinks it can rely on Heydon to take a particularly helpful political line with his royal commission, it better think again.

Heydon has a reputation for being his own man.

On the High Court bench he enjoyed a dissent rate of nearly 50 per cent, including his decision to support the Gillard government’s right to strike a controversial people-swap deal with Malaysia in 2011.

“With all respect to my colleagues I think it was a field where the government had to be left to run its foreign policies as it saw fit,” he says of the case.

And even when he agreed with his colleagues, Heydon preferred to write separate judgments.

But he did collaborate with another judicial figure – Roderick Meagher – in 1989 to write a report on the duties and fiduciary obligations of officials of industrial unions of employers and employees.

The report recommended that the finances of trade unions be administered in the same way as companies.

Coincidentally, the Abbott government has legislation before the parliament that aims to subject corrupt union officials to the same penalties that apply to company directors found guilty of fraud.

Since his retirement from the High Court at age 70, Heydon has headed an inquiry into allegations of altered staff contracts at NSW’s largest state-owned electricity generator, Macquarie Generation.

Heydon’s plan for a relatively quiet retirement – he now rises at 5.15am each day instead of the 3.30am start of his working days – are on hold for at least a year while he undertakes his new commission.