Horne not fretting over Beale challenge

Rob Horne isn’t fretting over a possible challenge from Kurtley Beale for the NSW Waratahs No.

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12 jersey as coach Michael Cheika keeps his players guessing.

Horne spent most of last season at inside centre after previously playing primarily at outside centre for the Waratahs and Wallabies.

He started in the No.12 jersey in last week’s trial against the Blues, but prize recruit Beale got a run there in the second half, while also contending for the five-eighth and fullback spots.

“Everyone brings their different personality into their position and it depends on what type ‘Cheik’ wants to go with and the chemistry that he feels best suits the team we’re about to play,” said Horne.

Horne feels comfortable in both centre positions and such flexibility is a valuable commodity for players with so much depth and competition among the Waratahs backline stocks.

With one trial remaining against the Highlanders this week, Horne says he has no idea whether will be a starter for the Waratahs opening Super Rugby clash with the Force on February 23.

“No one really knows and it’s good, because everyone is on there toes and everyone is pushing each other,” Horne said.

Injury-prone Horne, who played just one Test last year off the bench, said he was fit after training since October.

He said he was also feeling confident and determined to extract every bit of potential from himself in a career that has so far gleaned 15 Test caps.

‘I’m not old – 24 – by any means, but I certainly feel like for whatever reason, I do have a clear purpose and there’s not really any grey area for me,” Horne said.

“I know what I have to do and I know what’s expected of me.”

In 2013, he only signed a new one-year deal with NSW and Australian rugby.

“I re-signed to NSW for one year to feel like I could get absolutely everything out of myself and really continue to grow as a player and as a person,” Horne said.

Builders welcome royal commission

A royal commission into trade union corruption will provide protection for witnesses wanting to expose wrongdoing, building and construction firms say.

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But the trade union movement warns the Abbott government-initiated inquiry is designed to damage the reputation of unions in the eyes of the community.

Master Builders Australia says a culture of intimidation and fear exists in their industry.

A royal commission would allow people to give evidence without being bullied by unions, unlike police investigations.

“It is the fear of the payback,” CEO Wilhelm Harnisch told Sky News, adding many building firms risked paying liquidated damages if there were delays to projects.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, one of the nominated targets of the commission, believes it can get through any investigation.

“The overwhelming majority of trade unionists, both members and officers of the union, are honest and hard working people,” national secretary David Noonan told ABC Television.

The Australian Mines and Metals Association, which represents the majority of resource industry employers, believes a restored Australian Building and Construction Commission would have a more immediate impact in stamping out bribery, coercion and criminality from the construction sector.

But it still welcomes a royal commission, saying it offers an opportunity to lift the veil on lawless and criminal conduct going back decades.

“Not only can it compel unions, employers and individuals to appear and give evidence, but it can get past the shield of legal professional privilege,” chief executive Steve Knott said.

The Australian Greens accused Mr Abbott of wanting to use a one-sided inquiry as a key weapon in his plan for re-election.

“Australia needs an even-handed corruption fighter, not the ideological witch-hunt Tony Abbott has just delivered,” deputy leader Adam Bandt said in a statement.

"Reckless" farming caused GM contamination

A West Australian farmer being sued for allowing his genetically modified canola to allegedly contaminate his neighbour’s organic land was “reckless” in how he planted and harvested his crop, a court has been told.

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In a landmark case being globally monitored, farmer Steve Marsh is suing his former friend Michael Baxter over the 2010 contamination, which cost Mr Marsh his organic certification and an estimated $85,000 in earnings.

Mr Marsh is seeking compensation, but more importantly for farmers across Australia and beyond, is asking WA’s Supreme Court to issue a permanent injunction on Mr Baxter to prevent him planting more GM crops.

At the opening of the three-week trial, Justice Kenneth Martin was told Mr Marsh lost organic certification for more than half his farm after GM canola found its way onto his land from Baxter’s adjacent property at Kojonup, 250km south-east of Perth.

This was despite Mr Marsh twice warning his neighbour he feared contamination – and telling him he would sue if it did happen.

In 2010 Mr Marsh’s property Eagle Rest, which was used to farm oats, rye and sheep, was certified organic by the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA). The organisation has a zero tolerance for GM material.

But after thousands of seeds of the modified “Roundup Ready” canola blew onto his pastures, NASAA withdrew the certification, which prevented Mr Marsh exporting his crop as organic.

Mr Marsh’s barrister Richard Niall told the court this had a devastating effect on Mr Marsh’s livelihood – and it was Mr Baxter’s fault.

“He was completely indifferent and reckless by planting genetically modified canola in adjoining paddocks,” Mr Niall said.

“(Mr Baxter) failed to contain the genetically modified seeds, and they escaped on the wind onto the Marsh property. Thousands of seeds were deposited on Eagle Rest.

“At the time he planted the canola, he knew … that GM seed would escape. It was plainly foreseeable.”

Mr Baxter says that when he planted the GM canola, just months after it had been approved by the WA government, he observed all regulations regarding buffer zones and notifying his neighbours.

He is defending the case with the backing of biotechnology company Monsanto.

Mr Marsh was recertified as organic last November, after Mr Baxter agreed to modify his harvesting method to lessen the chance of seeds being blown next door.

The legal battle has divided the small farming community, and set the former childhood friends against each other.

And it has also divided experts, who say the case would not arise in other parts of the world because of higher tolerance levels for GM levels in non-GM crops.

Supporters of Mr Marsh rallied outside the court before the hearing.

Scott Kinnear, director of the Safe Food Foundation, said Mr Marsh was making a stand for all Australians.

“Steve Marsh’s right to grow what he chooses is the same as our right to choose what we eat,” Mr Kinnear said.

The hearing continues.

Fires close hundreds of Vic roads

Hundreds of roads have been closed in Victoria, choking tourism as travel restrictions remain in place due to bushfires.

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Emergency services placed restrictions on road travel in bushfire areas while some regional train services east and north of Melbourne have been disrupted.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay said hundreds of roads had been closed, mainly smaller roads but also some highways.

Major roads including the Strzelecki Highway, the Goulburn Valley Highway, the Northern Highway, the Princes Freeway and the Hyland Freeway have been affected.

“We are closing these roads on the advice of local fire services to protect people’s lives,” Mr Lay said on Monday.

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley acknowledged the consequences of the travel restrictions on Victoria’s trade and tourism.

“Economics in Victoria is really important and tourism is part of that economic overlay.

“The Princes Highway in Gippsland is the only route that travels between Victoria and NSW.

“The diversion of traffic in Gippsland is a long road.

“To keep the Princes Highway open in East Gippsland is a very important factor and we’ll work closely with all the agencies to ensure that that’s minimised as much as it can be.”

VicRoads says lanes are now open on the Princes Freeway East between Newborough and Morwell in the Latrobe Valley.

V/Line trains have been running between Melbourne and Moe.

Replacement coach services had been diverting but V/Line spokesman Colin Tyrus said the coach services were now able to run along the Princes Freeway.

Mr Tyrus said V/Line track inspection crews were in the process of assessing damage to railway tracks and infrastructure.

Farina next on coach’s chopping block

Who would have thought just over halfway into their second season, the A-League’s newest club, Western Sydney, would have the longest-standing coach currently serving in the competition?

Tony Popovic, who was appointed the Wanderers’ inaugural coach less than two years ago in May 2012, is already enjoying a longer stint in the role than any of his present colleagues.

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It’s a surprising statistic that serves to highlight the intense pressure on mentors and the perhaps overly reactive decisions of clubs as Sydney FC’s under-fire boss Frank Farina stands to be the next casualty.

Already reports have emerged that Farina’s sacking is imminent with his assistant Rado Vidosic tipped to be his successor.

So far, three coaches have been sacked this season with Perth’s Alistair Edwards and Melbourne Heart’s John Aloisi dumped in December while Newcastle gave Gary van Egmond the boot last month.

And with the clubs occupying the bottom three places on the ladder, new coaches Kenny Lowe, John van ‘t Schip and Clayton Zane face tough tasks not only securing finals berths but their jobs for next season.

Then there are the resignations with Adelaide’s John Kosmina standing down early last year and Wellington’s Ricki Herbert – the league’s longest-serving coach – closely following.

Their replacements Spaniard Josep Gombau and Ernie Merrick, however, have led the struggling sides into a mid-season resurgence and look the in-form teams heading into the business end of the campaign.

Ian Crook crumbled under the pressure that comes with being the Sydney FC head coach only weeks into his tenure last season, to be replaced by the club’s seventh mentor in eight campaigns in Farina – someone the club saw as a long-term solution to the revolving door that is the Sky Blues’ coaching role.

But sitting in seventh place after stumbling to their seventh loss in the past 10 matches – a 3-0 shellacking by Adelaide on Saturday – Farina has his head firmly on the chopping block.

The frustrated fans made it clear they’ve had enough, demonstrating their displeasure on Saturday by staging a revolt, calling for not only Farina’s head but that of chairman Scott Barlow and chief executive Tony Pignata.

It was one of the darkest nights in the club’s history with the atmosphere at Allianz Stadium described as toxic.

And many of the club’s loyal fans have threatened to give back their memberships.

But while Pignata and Barlow apologised to fans over how various issues were handled on Saturday, the one glaring omission from their extensive statement was the backing of Farina.

So while Farina will reportedly be relieved of his job if Sydney do not make the top four this season, it seems the club might not even wait until then to give him the axe.