Horne not fretting over Beale challenge

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

NZ shares slip on earnings worries

New Zealand stocks have fallen amid speculation the impending earnings season may show the impact of a high kiwi dollar.


The NZX 50 Index fell 7.730 points, or about 0.2 per cent to 4833.058 on Monday. Within the index, 25 stocks fell, 12 rose and 13 were unchanged. Turnover was $91.7 million.

Earnings season begins in earnest this week.

SkyCity, which is due to report on Wednesday, fell 1.6 per cent to $5.74. In December the company, which has casinos in Adelaide and Darwin, said first-half profit will fall due to the strong kiwi against the Australian dollar.

“What concerns investors really is the effect of the strong kiwi against the Aussie, which will start to impact on earnings,” said James Smalley, a director at Hamilton Hindin Greene.

“But it will also be in the company’s guidance going forward. The onus will be on companies that have significant Australian exposure to work with the strong kiwi.”

Fletcher Building, which counts Australia as its No.2 market, slipped 0.2 per cent to $8.98, while Brisbane-based jeweller Michael Hill International lost 1.4 per cent to $1.38.

Clothing chain Hallenstein Glasson fell 4.9 per cent to $2.90, its lowest price in more than four years.

As the election draws closer investors also consider the potential for some companies to come under increased regulation, a particular concern for the energy market, Mr Smalley said.

Auckland lines company Vector fell four per cent to $2.38 and Mighty River Power declined 0.8 per cent to $1.975.

Auckland International Airport gained 0.8 per cent to $3.69 and Air New Zealand rose 1.5 per cent to $1.705.

Telecom rose 2.2 per cent to $2.375.

OceanaGold was the index’s best performer on the day, gaining 3.8 per cent to $2.45.

Woodchips to replace welfare for Tiwi

Through the smoke, the silhouettes of a dozen painted Tiwi Islander men dance forward in deliberate, traditional steps to present a message stick to two Japanese businessmen.


The message is clear: the remote Northern Territory community is ready to do business.

It’s a slogan the NT government has been trumpeting for 18 months, and on Monday in Wurrumiyanga on Bathurst Island, about 80km north of Darwin, several hundred community members witnessed the pay-off, as a memorandum of understanding was signed with Mitsui & Co that will see up to $200 million flow to the Tiwi over the next five years.

The multinational company is Australia’s third largest woodchip exporter, and the deal will enable NT woodchip to be sold to customers in Japan, India and China, and 100 local jobs created.

“This is a day that belongs to Tiwi and others who have believed in our strength to manage our land and to create our own resource upon these islands, and to give us jobs and opportunities that (are) truly our own,” chairman of the Tiwi Land Council, Gibson Farmer Illortaminni, told the community.

“We’re able now to contribute to the security and wellbeing of our people.”

NT Chief Minister Adam Giles said the Tiwi people had spent more than $9 million of their own money on the management of the plantation, which they took on in 2009, and said the partnership will give them some return on that investment.

The Tiwi-owned Tiwi Plantations Corporation manages 30,000 hectares of acacia mangium on neighbouring Melville Island, and will export 3000 hectares a year from a new port there from April.

The Tiwi have a vision to create a private economy, general manager Roger Smith said.

“It’s a commitment to create jobs for their children and grandchildren and income for their communities,” he said.

The MOU is the first step to bolster Tiwi economic confidence, Mr Giles said, and the government is looking into opportunities for further expansion of the fishing, mining and tourism industries in the area.

“Tiwi people are taking control of their own lives … (you) should be proud of the way things are moving forward,” he told the community.

“I want to see others follow in Tiwi footsteps right around the Territory.”

The NT government has been pursuing stronger trade ties with Japan, culminating in two visits by the chief minister last year.

“This is the first investment by Mitsui in the Northern Territory and it happens to be on Aboriginal country with the Tiwi people; that’s a great, outstanding success,” he told reporters.

“A stimulation in economic development, a growth in jobs, and starts that transition from welfare to work – that’s what we all want to see.”

Mr Farmer, who began working in forestry at the age of 17 about 40 years ago, said it was crucial for young Tiwi Islanders to recognise they had a viable future at home and stressed the importance of a move away from welfare dependency.

“We’ve got to get our young people off Centrelink, because there’s jobs out there for our people,” he said.

SBW can get even better: Robinson

Sonny Bill Williams can have an even bigger impact on the NRL this season than his premiership-winning feats of 2013, according to Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson.


In his return to rugby league after a four-year absence, Williams was a key figure in the Roosters’ premiership win last season and was rewarded with selection in the world team of the year.

This season could be his last in rugby league and, with his reintegration into the game complete, no pre-season boxing bout and no injury concerns – a shoulder injury interrupted his 2013 preparation – the Roosters are quietly confident Williams will become an even better player this year as they defend their NRL crown.

“Sonny will be hoping for that; we will be hoping for that,” Robinson told AAP.

“You don’t underestimate Sonny no matter what circumstances lead him into a competition or a code. He has enough grit and determination to make anything work.

“We are really focused on getting better as a team and I’m sure he is as an individual.

“We are not done – we want to keep improving.

“Sonny can build on what he did last year.”

This time last year, opinion was divided on how Williams would fare after defecting to rugby union but the Kiwi dual international more than answered his critics with some memorable performances.

Williams has committed to New Zealand rugby for two years at the end of this season, which means the constant speculation that swirled around his future last year won’t be a distraction for the Roosters in 2014.

“He has been really clear and honest about what he is doing this year and what he wants to do next year so that speculation won’t be there this year,” Robinson said.

“Whatever he decides to do, he will do. Whatever challenges him, he will decide to do.

“It’s perfectly honest – he doesn’t short-cut any team he signs on for. He gives it 100 per cent.

“People have different views about the way of signing those one-year contracts but he challenges himself and he challenges the team he goes to, so I think it is an admirable thing that he does.

“Sonny will create enough headlines this year, but that is what we want in our code. We are grateful to have him here at the Roosters for another year and I think the code should be as well.”

RoboCop knocks Wolf from No 1

Australians were feeling nostalgic over the weekend, with the new RoboCop reboot pushing The Wolf Of Wall Street from its top spot on the Australian box office.


Last Vegas came in third.

RoboCop, a remake of the 1987 film of the same name, stars Aussie Abbie Cornish as the wife of Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) – the man who becomes RoboCop in 2028.

According to the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia, the action flick earned $2.281 million at the Australian box office, narrowly edging out Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street, which took $2.241 million.

In third place was new comedy entry Last Vegas, starring Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline as four mates who head to Vegas to party when the last bachelor of their group finally decides to tie the knot.

Other newcomers didn’t fare quite as well. The biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom came in fifth, while drama/romance Labor Day, starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, took ninth spot.

However, their arrival pushed films such The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit out of the top ten.

The Steve McQueen film 12 Years A Slave and The Book Thief, starring Geoffrey Rush, dropped two places to fourth and fifth respectively. Frozen and Philomena, both in their seventh week at the box office, came seventh and eighth.

Rounding out the ladder was Saving Mr Banks, which fell five places, but clung onto 10th place.


1. RoboCop – $2.281 million (Sony Pictures)

2. The Wolf Of Wall Street – $2.241 million (Roadshow)

3. Last Vegas – $1.640 million (Universal)

4. 12 Years A Slave – $721,272 (Icon)

5. The Book Thief – $649,499 (Fox)

6. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom – $569,119 (Roadshow)

7. Frozen – $495,308 (Walt Disney)

8. Philomena – $432,221 (Eone/Hopscotch)

9. Labor Day – $331,560 (Paramount)

10. Saving Mr. Banks – $291,430 (Walt Disney)

Trial begins over WA road rage death

A 36-year-old man was allegedly in a “drug-fuelled road rage” when he crashed his utility into a vehicle, killing a Perth fireman and father-of-four.


Rodney Allen Beard is on trial in the West Australian Supreme Court charged with manslaughter and doing an act likely to endanger the safety of another person over the death of 51-year-old Mark Noormets in December 2012.

Beard had allegedly been involved in a road rage incident with Doug Wormall, ramming his car several times, but losing control of his ute and veering onto the wrong side of the road, striking the victim’s car.

In her opening address, prosecutor Laura Christian said two men were minding their own business when they encountered Beard on the road.

“Both would become victims of his speed-fuelled road rage,” she told the jury.

Ms Christian said Mr Wormall was terrified and had tried to call triple-zero during the chase, while Mr Noormets died at the scene and Beard’s leg was injured in the crash.

A blood test showed Beard had methylamphetamine and amphetamine in his system, she said.

Alan Feast, 46, testified that he had been a methylamphetamine user for 20 years and bought his drugs from the same woman as Beard.

He said Beard picked him up from a tavern the night before the crash and seemed “off his face”.

“He was agitated and angry,” Mr Feast said.

Asked how he knew Beard had been affected by drugs, Mr Feast replied: “You just know after so long (using).”

Mr Feast said Beard was honking his horn at road users and driving erratically at 140km/h on a highway that night.

The trial continues.