Donation reform must be a priority: Greens

Forget the restoration of the construction watchdog, the Greens want a political donation reform package endorsed as a top priority when parliament next sits.

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Greens senator Lee Rhiannon wants both the Coalition and Labor to commit to political donation reform before the federal election.

She doubts that the latest political donation scandal that has engulfed the NSW state and federal Liberal Party, and cabinet secretary Arthur Sinodinos, will be the last.

“The long overdue political donation reform package should be a top priority at the next sitting of parliament,” Senator Rhiannon said in a statement on Sunday.

The NSW Electoral Commission is refusing to pay the Liberals more than $4.4 million until it reveals the identities of secret donors who poured about $700,000 into the party’s coffers ahead of the 2011 state election, when Senator Sinodinos was its treasurer and finance director.

Senator Sinodinos has denied any wrongdoing and has enlisted lawyers in an effort to retract references to himself in the commission’s report, which he says could convey erroneous impressions over the NSW political donations scandal.

Labor MP Terri Butler told reporters in Brisbane that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull cannot continue to have Senator Sinodinos in his inner circle while these clouds are hanging over his head.

Senator Rhiannon said Mr Turnbull has the power to stop these abuses in political donations.

“Does he have the courage to stop illegal activities that are not just damaging his own party but our whole democratic system?” she said.

Mr Turnbull has recalled parliament early from April 18, specifically aimed at trying to get legislation to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission passed by the Senate.

If this fails for a second time, which seems likely at this stage, it will be a trigger for a double dissolution election on July 2.

Mathews exits World T20 as Sri Lanka’s tragic hero

At 15-4, after England had set them a 172-run victory target in the World Twenty20 match, Sri Lanka’s title defence looked all but over inside three overs.

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Their skipper then engineered a stunning recovery in the tournament’s most portentous contest that was key to the semi-final hopes of three teams, including South Africa.

But the lion-hearted effort took its toll on his hamstring and Mathews was clearly struggling when he took guard for the final over from Ben Stokes — 15 runs separating him from Twenty20 greatness and his team from a place in the last four.

As a mild drizzle fell on the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium, Stokes charged in with a ball in hand and ice in veins to thwart Mathews’ audacious bid to pull off a heist.

Mathews bashed the first delivery to cover and declined a single. Stokes replied with a yorker which Mathews dug out for two runs and two more came in the next delivery when Adil Rashid nearly grabbed his scoop shot at short fine leg.

Stokes sealed the contest with three successive dot balls. A dejected Mathews hurled his bat on the turf, his unbeaten 73 doing little more than burnishing his personal reputations.

“We were just short of a batter in the last couple of overs,” the all-rounder rued, confessing they did not deserve to be in the semi-finals.

Outside their ardent fans, not many expected them to reach the last four either.

Sri Lanka suffered a jolt even before kicking off their title defence with Lasith Malinga handing over the captaincy to Mathews following a slow recovery from a knee injury, which would subsequently rule him out of the tournament.

“It was a big blow for us,” Mathews said of the paceman, who has been instrumental in Sri Lanka’s progress to three World Twenty20 finals over the last four editions.

“He has won us so many games but he had to pull out at the last moment. It was a big blow for the whole team.”

TRICKY TRANSITION

A depleted pace attack put the pressure on their spinners and Rangana Herath was not the force that many expected him to be in a spin-dominated tournament.

A misfiring batting order added to the problems for Sri Lanka, who conclude their campaign with Monday’s inconsequential group match against South Africa.

Their early exit, on the back of a poor Asia Cup, suggests Sri Lanka still remain in the throes of a tricky transition since the retirements of stalwarts Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene two years ago.

Mathews knows the reality and urged for patience.

“It has been a disappointing few months for all of us. We let down the fans, we let down the whole country,” he said.

“All we can do is stick to one combination, not try and change the team too much.

“Quick decisions won’t solve this matter, we got to try and be patient.”

(Editing by Patrick Johnston)

North finally open AFL season with a win

Brad Scott would much rather North Melbourne win their last game of the AFL season than the first.

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But as much as he wanted to play down the significance of Saturday night’s 10-point success against Adelaide, he admitted to satisfaction that the monkey is off their back.

It was the first time North have won a season opener since 2009 – a year before Scott took over.

There had been a lot of talk out of Arden St over summer about wanting to start the season on the right foot and their pre-season was overhauled accordingly.

Adelaide nearly broke clear, leading by four goals early in the third term, but North ground out an impressive win.

Initially, Scott was flippant about the mini-milestone.

“I thought at one stage it was worth 12 points and not four, the importance placed on it,” he said.

But Scott then admitted it meant they are not chasing their tails after round one.

“So it’s far better winning it than losing it, but at the end of the finals series we’ve finished in the top four the last two years and haven’t won round one,” he noted.

“This isn’t going to give us any right to finish higher up on the ladder.

“Games at the end of the year are more important than at the start, when it comes to September.

“But there’s no doubt we changed our preparation significantly this year, because we couldn’t keep doing the same thing and getting the same result early on.”

Scott added that North have never been so well prepared going into the start of the season.

One player who certainly looks set for another big year is Todd Goldstein, last year’s All-Australian ruckman.

He was mighty in the last quarter, kicking the goal that put North in front for the first time since the opening term and playing a huge role as they then held off the Crows.

“Goldy dug deep when it really mattered and that’s the mark of a really good player,” Scott said.

“Two years ago, Goldy really set himself to become one of the genuinely-elite ruckmen in the competition and he’s certainly up in the best few going around.”

North won despite Hawthorn recruit Jed Anderson hurting his hamstring in the second term, meaning they only had three on the bench.

But Scott said the scenario showed the benefit of scrapping the sub rule and lowering the interchange cap.

“We were down one in numbers, but it meant we could rotate others more frequently,” Scott said.

“It’s a pretty good example of why I think the players prefer the sub rule going.

“If you have four on the bench and you lose one, the limited rotations mean the opposition can’t exploit that.

“It worked pretty well for both teams tonight.”

Scans will determined how many games that Anderson misses because of his injury.

IS must be ‘crushed’ by military: Blair

Military intervention is needed to ensure Islamic State is “crushed”, Tony Blair has said.

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The former UK prime minister described the attacks in Brussels as “shocking”, but said the attacks would keep on coming unless extremism was tackled.

Writing in the Sunday Times, he said that the roots of Islamism, including the immaturity of political systems and the exploitation over a genuine sense of injustice over the Palestinian issue, needed to be understood in order to counter it.

Mr Blair argued that a new strategy was needed to defeat extremism that included greater co-operation between intelligence agencies.

An effective system of processing refugees was also needed to stop the security risk of uncontrolled flows of people across Europe, he said.

But he also argued that IS, also known as Isis, needed to be eliminated more quickly.

Mr Blair said: “We can use local allies in the fight, but they need equipment and where they need active, on-the-ground, military support from us, we should give it.

“The Americans are doing this now – at least to a degree and with effect.

“But to have allowed Isis to become the largest militia in Libya right on Europe’s doorstep is extraordinary. It has to be crushed.”

Mr Blair founded the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which provides practical support to counter religious conflict and extremism. He previously served as peace envoy to the Middle East and works in eight African countries advising presidents.

He was prime minister during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and is expected to come in for criticism in the official inquiry report into the Iraq war – the Chilcot report – when it is finally published.

In the article he called for Western ground forces to take action wherever a terrorist group emerges, as they are necessary to win the fight against extremism.

He said that in the long term, education promoting religious tolerance and effective aid and development policy needed to be prioritised.

Spieth loses his swing and heads home

Jordan Spieth felt it on the practice range, and he said it on the golf course.

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Behind in a match for the first time all week, Spieth went from a fairway bunker on the right to the gallery on the left at the par-5 sixth hole.

He hit wedge 12-feet left of the hole and then turned to caddie Michael Greller and said, “I just have no control right now.”

And he had no chance against Louis Oosthuizen on Saturday at the Dell Match Play.

Spieth managed to keep it close until he hit 8-iron into the water on the par-3 11th and slammed his club into the bag.

Oosthuizen followed him into the water, but his next shot from the drop area stopped a foot from the cup to win the hole with a bogey. The South African won the next two holes and was on his way to a 3-and-2 victory.

“I got to the range this morning and I was hitting slices with my irons, which is bizarre,” Spieth said.

“I tried to fix it on the range, didn’t know what was up. … I just tried to compensate some on the golf course, got away with it the first couple of holes and then it got the best of me.

“I’m not really sure what happened. Just really an off day. I’d like my off days to be a little more consistent.”

Spieth gets credit for a tie for ninth, his first top 10 since he was runner-up in the Singapore Open two months ago.

Along with losing a chance to advance before a gallery that remembers when he led Texas to a national title in 2012, Spieth lost his No. 1 ranking when Jason Day reached the semifinals.

That didn’t seem to bother him as much as his play.

“I figured he probably already was going to No. 1, finishing ahead of me,” Spieth said.

“To be honest, it could be a good thing for me going into the Masters.”

Spieth still has the Shell Houston Open next week before defending his title at Augusta National.

He started the year with an eight-shot victory at Kapalua and raised his own expectations too high, believing golf would always feel that easy. That hasn’t been the case lately, though even in defeat Spieth felt his game was rounding into form for the Masters.

He was making putts again, many for birdies.

Equally disappointing in his departure was the place he was leaving.

Spieth had the largest crowds of the week, many of them in the burnt orange of Texas.

Austin Country Club is where Longhorn golfers would qualify for tournaments. Spieth smiled when asked if it was his first loss in Austin.

“I’ve played a lot here in junior golf and certainly didn’t win each time,” he said. “No, it’s not the first time I’ve lost here. But I did not deserve to win today.”

Abbott at the heart of govt chaos: Shorten

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says Tony Abbott is at the heart of the chaos and division in the Turnbull government and he’s not going away.

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Reports suggest that the former prime minister will be electioneering in marginal seats on his own tour after being snubbed of a proper campaign role in what is likely to be a July 2 double dissolution election.

“The only way you don’t get Tony Abbott is by voting Labor because Mr Turnbull can’t stop Tony Abbott,” Mr Shorten told reporters after serving lunch with his wife Chloe at Sacred Heart Mission in St Kilda on Sunday.

Mr Turnbull kept a relatively low profile on Sunday, other than attending Easter mass in his Sydney electorate of Wentworth with his wife Lucy.

Junior minister Angus Taylor has no problem with Mr Abbott making a contribution to the policy debate, as he has done for many years.

“He will carve out his own role as a backbencher which all backbenchers do in an election campaign,” Mr Taylor told Sky News.

But former Liberal leader John Hewson believes the prime minister should give him a job.

“He won’t go away, so I think you give him a role. Define the role very carefully and encourage him to be judged by his performance,” Dr Hewson told Sky News.

Dr Hewson also expressed surprise at the plaudits that Mr Turnbull is getting for his strategy to force a July 2 poll.

Rather than being a stroke of genius, he believes it is “quite high risk”.

Mr Turnbull is bringing parliament back on April 18 to have another crack at getting legislation to restore the construction watchdog through the Senate, and if this fails for a second time, as seems likely, it will be a trigger for a July 2 poll.

But Dr Hewson says if the Senate unexpectedly supports the re-introduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, it would delay an election to September or October.

“In the interim he has got to deal with issues like (Arthur) Sinodinos, Abbott, backbench issues and a budget that has been neutered as a pre-election budget rather than a reform budget,” Dr Hewson told Sky News on Sunday.

The government needs six of the eight cross bench senators to back the Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation, with Labor and the Greens opposing the bill.

Four have said they will support it, while the other four won’t say.

Former Labor minister Craig Emerson said it is strange that the prime minister has left the timing of the next election in the hands of four senators “who hate his guts”.

“That’s a master stroke, apparently,” Dr Emerson said.

Belgium charges suspect, arrest in Italy

Belgian prosecutors have charged three men with terrorist offences over the Brussels bombings and Italian police have arrested an Algerian suspected of having produced false documents for militants connected to the attacks.

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With the investigation now spanning several countries, and increasing signs of links to the Paris attacks in November, Belgian authorities have called off a planned “march against fear” in the jittery capital on Sunday to relieve pressure on the police.

The suicide bomb attacks targeting Brussels airport and a rush-hour metro train on Tuesday killed 31 people, including three of the attackers, and injured hundreds more. Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

After a series of raids and arrests in Belgium and Germany since the attacks, Algerian Djamal Eddine Ouali, 40, was arrested by Italy’s DIGOS anti-terrorism police in southern Italy, Italian media said on Saturday.

The Sky TG 24 television and other media reports said he was the subject of an arrest warrant issued by Belgium for producing and procuring false documents to be used in illegal immigration.

His name was found in documents in a raid in an apartment near Brussels last October, including some documents with photos of some of the militants involved in the attacks in Paris and in Brussels and the aliases they used, the reports said.

Of the three men charged on Saturday, Belgian prosecutors named one as Faycal C. Belgian media identified him as Faycal Cheffou and said he was “the man in the hat”, as he has become known, in last Tuesday’s airport CCTV footage that showed three men pushing baggage trolleys bearing luggage.

The two others in the picture are believed to have blown themselves up.

Cheffou was charged with taking part in the activities of a terrorist group, and actual and attempted terrorist murder.

The other two charged on Saturday, Aboubakar A. and Rabah N., were accused of terrorist activities and membership of a terrorist group.

Rabah N. was wanted in connection with a related raid in France this week that authorities say foiled an attack plot.

Brussels mayor Yvan Mayeur told Le Soir newspaper that Cheffou, who said he was a freelance journalist, was “dangerous” and that he had been detained a number of times at a park where he sought to encourage asylum seekers camped there to turn to militancy.

The authorities also said that a man arrested on Friday after being shot in the leg at a tram stop in the Brussels district of Schaerbeek was being held for a further 24 hours.

He was identified as Abderamane A. and was one of three people arrested on Friday.

That operation was linked to the arrest in Paris on Thursday of an Islamist convicted in Belgium last year and suspected of plotting a new attack, Belgian prosecutors said.

German politicians said Europe urgently needed to improve the way its security agencies share information amid increasing signs the same network was behind the attacks in Brussels and those in Paris in November that killed 130 people.

Organisers called off Sunday’s Belgian solidarity march after officials including the city’s mayor urged people to stay away in order to spare the over-taxed police force.

“The security of our citizens is an absolute priority,” said march organiser Emmanuel Foulon.

Officials said 24 victims from nine different nationalities had been identified so far from the attacks in Brussels, which is the headquarters of the European Union and NATO. Four people remain unidentified.

Lima to have surgery on fractured hand

Prop Jeff Lima is facing a stint on the sideline after fracturing his hand in Canberra’s last-minute 24-20 NRL loss to Gold Coast.

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Scans on Saturday night revealed Lima suffered damage to the second metarcarpal in his left hand and will have surgery this week.

A timeline on his return will be clearer after the operation.

It wasn’t all bad news for the club, with winger Edrick Lee cleared post-match of any serious thumb injury.

He is likely to be available for next Monday’s clash with Canterbury at Belmore.

Lima joins Blake Austin (knee), Aidan Sezer (eye socket) and Adam Clydesdale (shoulder) in the Raiders’ casualty ward after just four rounds.

“It doesn’t look real flash for us,” coach Ricky Stuart said.

Austin and Sezer are unlikely to be rushed in for the match against the Bulldogs, but could be available for their battle with Parramatta at Pirtek Stadium the following Saturday. Joey Leilua returns from suspension this week.

Even without their star halves the Raiders had looked set to continue their unbeaten start to the season against the Titans and move to the top of the ladder.

They led 20-6 with 15 minutes left at GIO Stadium, but lost it all with a string of errors, a costly penalty to Frank-Paul Nuuausala for his hit on Titan Ryan James, and a pair of “soft” tries.

“If you’re going to do something in this comp you can’t afford those types of tries,” Stuart said.

The Titans, who allegedly briefly fielded an extra man in the second half, sealed the win via a controversial try in the 79th minute to John Olive.

Sanders wins Alaska, Washington, Hawaii

Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders has easily won nominating contests in Alaska, Washington and Hawaii, chipping away at front-runner Hillary Clinton’s commanding lead in the race.

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Sanders still faces a steep climb to overtake Clinton but the big victories in the West on Saturday generated more momentum for his upstart campaign and could stave off calls from Democratic leaders that he should wrap up his bid in the name of party unity.

Sanders appeared headed to victory margins of more than 50 percentage points in both Alaska and Washington, and led by about 40 points in Hawaii with some 90 per cent of the results tallied there.

“We are making significant inroads in Secretary Clinton’s lead and … we have a path to victory,” Sanders told cheering, chanting supporters in Madison, Wisconsin.

“It is hard for anybody to deny that our campaign has the momentum.”

Clinton, the former secretary of state, has increasingly turned her attention toward a potential November 8 general election showdown against Republican front-runner Donald Trump, claiming she is on the path to wrapping up the nomination.

Heading into Saturday, she led Sanders by about 300 pledged delegates in the race for the 2382 delegates needed to be nominated at the party’s July convention in Philadelphia. Adding in the support of super-delegates – party leaders who are free to back any candidate – she has 1690 delegates to 946 for Sanders.

Sanders, a US senator from Vermont, needs to win up to two-thirds of the remaining delegates to catch Clinton, who will keep piling up delegates even when she loses under a Democratic Party system that awards them proportionally in all states.

“These wins will help him raise more funds for the next few weeks but I don’t think it changes the overall equation,” said Democratic strategist Jim Manley, a Clinton supporter. “Hillary Clinton has too big a lead.”

But Sanders has repeatedly said he is staying in the race until the convention, pointing to big crowds at his rallies and high turnout among young and first-time voters as proof of his viability. After raising $140 million, he has the money to fight on as long as he wants.

He has energised the party’s liberal base and young voters with his calls to rein in Wall Street and fight income inequality, a message that resonated in liberal Washington and other Western states. Sanders won in Utah and Idaho this week.

“Don’t let anybody tell you we can’t win the nomination or the general election,” Sanders told supporters in Wisconsin, which holds the next contest on April 5.

“We are going to do both.”

After Wisconsin, the Democratic race moves to contests in New York on April 19 and a bloc of five states in the Northeast, led by Pennsylvania, on April 26.

There were no contests on Saturday in the Republican race featuring Trump and rivals US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Governor John Kasich.