Tas line-up not based on allegiance: Abetz

Veteran Liberal Eric Abetz denies it was a case of camp Abbott versus camp Turnbull when the party’s Tasmania executive settled on a Senate line-up demoting minister Richard Colbeck.


A weekend preselection process put the minister for tourism and international education at number five on the party ticket and means he may only have an outside chance of keeping his Senate spot if there’s a double dissolution election in July.

Senator Abetz, a backer of former prime minister Tony Abbott, is in the top spot.

He’s followed by Senate president Stephen Parry, newcomer Jonathon Duniam and chief Senate whip David Bushby, before Senator Colbeck gets the nod with north Tasmanian farmer and local government councillor John Tucker taking the final spot.

Senator Colbeck is the only Tasmanian federal MP who didn’t show public support for Mr Abbott in September when he was challenged by Malcolm Turnbull.

But Senator Abetz insists Senator Colbeck is in an “eminently winnable” position, arguing the ticket line-up represents renewal.

“If we didn’t have renewal in the team, people would be criticising us for having a stale team,” the 22-year parliamentary veteran told ABC radio on Monday.

“Now that we do have renewal in the team, people are commenting on people being pushed down the ticket.”

The senator denied there was an Abbott-Turnbull divide.

“Everybody within the Liberal team supports the Liberal party and its leader, the prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, so let there be no suggestion otherwise,” Senator Abetz said.

After Saturday’s vote by 65 party preselectors, Tasmania state president Geoff Page confirmed the Liberal Senate line-up.

Senator Colbeck, who is in China on government business, issued a brief statement acknowledging the new-look ticket.

“We now need to move to the next step of ensuring the Tasmanian community understands the commitment of the Liberal team to the strong economy, jobs, well-being and prosperity of the state,” he said.

“My objective has always been to ensure the strongest representation for Tasmania in the Australian parliament – this will remain my focus.”

Telstra’s NBN work raises eyebrows

A $1.


6 billion deal between Telstra and the company building the national broadband network has prompted concern within the competition regulator.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has raised several issues with the telecom giant and NBN Co, including that Telstra “may receive a competitive advantage if it has access to better information than other service providers”.

The ACCC is also worried Telstra will be able to use NBN infrastructure before it’s available to competitors, chairman Rod Sims said.

“We are looking at the parties’ proposals carefully to consider to what extent these proposals address our concerns,” Mr Sims said on Monday.

“It is important that Telstra doesn’t get a head-start selling retail services over the NBN just because its technical expertise is being used in the construction and maintenance of the NBN.”

Telstra on Monday announced it had secured a $1.6 billion deal to help build the national broadband network in five state capitals and the Gold Coast.

The so-called Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial deal – which follows a memorandum of understanding in December – covers planning, design, construction and construction management services within the telco giant’s existing network.

“Telstra has a long and proud history in network construction and we believe we will bring great expertise to this important part of the NBN network,” Telstra chief executive Andrew Penn said.

In late 2015, Telstra was awarded two contracts as one of the NBN service and assurance providers. The work has started.

Telstra is also working with NBN Co on a 1,000-node trial, including Fibre To The Node design and construction, as well as further design work under a planning and design services agreement.

The ACCC on Monday said it had had “extensive and productive discussions with NBN and Telstra”, aimed at addressing concerns that could arise because of the agreement.

NBN Co and Telstra recently provided a set of proposals aimed at addressing the ACCC’s concerns.

“We were very mindful of these perceived issues when we structured the deal and have also offered the ACCC additional measures around monitoring and reporting back to the ACCC,” a NBN spokesperson said.

The $1.6 billion HFC agreement – which covers Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and the Gold Coast, – isn’t subject to ACCC approval, according to the NBN spokesperson. The work is expected to continue through 2020.

At 1317 AEST, Telstra shares were down 2.00 cents, or 0.39 per cent, at $5.14 in a lower Australian market.

Clinic accused of alleged steroids scam

Elite Victorian police officers sought treatment at a Melbourne sports medicine and anti-ageing clinic accused of running an alleged testosterone and anabolic steroids trafficking racket.


The Melbourne Magistrates Court heard on Monday two members of the Special Operations Group visited the Melbourne Sports Medicine and Anti-ageing clinic for treatment between 2012 and 2013.

The clinic owner, Robin James Taylor, his partner Georgina Matta, of South Morang, receptionist Amy Lee Gorgievski, of Pascoe Vale, and doctor Hoong Pan Sze-Tho, of Bulla, were in court for a committal mention.

They each face numerous charges including trafficking anabolic steroids and prescribing testosterone for other than medical treatment.

One of the officers, who cannot be named, told the court he was given two different peptides by Mr Taylor after seeing him about blood test results.

One of the drugs was Growth Hormone Releasing Peptide 6 (GHRP6)- commonly used by bodybuilders for weight loss, increased bone density and increased cellular repair.

The officer had gone there for a health check and was told blood tests would identify whether he needed treatment. He does not remember the results.

Dr Sze-Tho was in the consulting room at the time, but did not speak to the officer or provide him with a prescription for the drugs.

Mr Taylor is not a registered medical practitioner.

The court also heard police investigated the clinic after a pharmacist called them in 2013 with concerns over a hand written script.

The pharmacist, who asked not to be named, told Magistrate Johanna Metcalf the script from Dr Sze-Tho was for 30 vials of Sustanon 250, a drug commonly used by people with low levels of testosterone.

The script “rang alarm bells” because the doctor usually used computer-generated scripts, then when the pharmacist called the clinic listed on the document they informed her he had not worked there for 10 years.

Sze-Tho faces 240 charges including trafficking anabolic steroids and prescribing testosterone for other than medical treatment.

Taylor faces 72 charges including trafficking other anabolic steroids, importing prohibited goods and obtaining property by deception by purporting to be a licensed medical practitioner.

Matta is charged with 55 similar offences. Gorgievski also faces numerous charges.

Police allege all offences occurred between January 2012 and October 2013.

The hearing is expected to continue on Tuesday.

McGregor chuffed with Dragons showing

St George Illawarra boss Paul McGregor has lauded his troops for keeping the faith after breaking a three-match NRL losing streak against the Warriors on Friday.


The Dragons romped to a 30-14 victory in Hamilton, wreaking havoc through the middle of the field and forcing 57 missed tackles from their opponents.

They also managed 20 offloads and nine line breaks as they nabbed six tries – four down their left edge – on the way to a pressure-lifting victory.

The Dragons, while never being completely outplayed, had lost three matches on the bounce against the Roosters, Storm and Sharks before heading across the ditch.

McGregor said his fourth-placed side’s display in dour Waikato conditions, against a dangerous opponent, was an outstanding result.

“The boys really deserve what they’ve done tonight, come here with a really good attitude and worked hard throughout the week – made the opposition miss 57 tackles, doesn’t happen often in the NRL,” McGregor said.

“Our forward pack, I thought they dominated tonight, had a really good opening to the game and had a lot of support around the footy, created a lot of opportunities.”

Despite their fruitful efforts down the left flank, McGregor denied his side had specifically targeted rookie Warriors winger Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.

The side’s left edge – centre Tim Lafai and stand-in winger Kalifa Faifai Loa – had simply capitalised upon the forwards’ hard work to nab four-pointers.

They scored half the side’s tries between them.

“The platform was laid by everyone, not just the left edge – the left edge got to finish with quality, and they worked hard,” McGregor said.

“If there’s numbers down the short side we’ll take it, and if they fill up the short side (then) we’ll go to the open side.”

McGregor also backed a number of his troops – including in-form prop Paul Vaughan – for Blues selection in this year’s State of Origin series, saying any experience they pick up in the representative environment would only help at club level.

Vic Labor slams opposition’s CFA ‘lies’

Victorian Labor has attacked the opposition for “scaremongering” over the government’s plan to split the CFA while defending the reform to the party faithful.


Opposition Leader Matthew Guy was peddling “lies and misinformation” on the CFA debate, Deputy Premier and Emergency Services Minister James Merlino told the ALP state conference on Saturday.

“Of course, the leader of the opposition would not miss an opportunity to use this issue as a political football,” he said.

“But yet again he was caught out lying and he’s making a habit of his, scaremongering about the number of CFA volunteers in Victoria compared to NSW.”

Mr Merlino also hit out at his shadow counterpart, Brad Battin, who incorrectly claimed in parliament that career firefighters did not go to the Black Saturday fires until about five hours after they started.

Mr Battin has since admitted he got it wrong and apologised.

The proposed changes would make the CFA a volunteer-only organisation, with career firefighters joining their metropolitan colleagues in a new authority.

The reform package includes $56.2 million to strengthen recruitment, training and retention, while the number of female firefighters would quadruple over the next four years.

“Victorians will get the modern and reliable fire service they deserve,” Premier Daniel Andrews told the conference.

The move has been criticised by the state and federal Liberals and volunteers, and the United Firefighters Union also says it has concerns.

The government says the change is needed to circumvent a deadlock created by the federal government’s changes to the Fair Work Act.

Federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash says the claim is false.

She said the legislation did not prevent the CFA entering a new agreement with paid firefighters.

Fired FBI chief James Comey will testify publicly in Congress

James Comey, the former FBI chief whose firing by President Donald Trump has triggered uproar, has agreed to testify publicly about Russian interference in the 2016 elections, lawmakers said.


“I hope that former Director Comey’s testimony will help answer some of the questions that have arisen since Director Comey was so suddenly dismissed by the president,” the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, said in a statement.

“Director Comey served his country with honour for many years, and he deserves an opportunity to tell his story. Moreover, the American people deserve an opportunity to hear it.”


Both Warner and the committee’s chairman, Richard Burr, indicated they were looking forward to Comey’s testimony about Russian interference in the November 8 presidential elections that saw Trump secure the White House by scoring the electoral college, though Democratic rival Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.

No date has yet been set for the open session hearing, though the statement said it would take place after the Memorial Day holiday on May 29.

Watch: US Democratic representative on Comey firing

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The White House has been thrown into turmoil by a succession of stunning allegations against the president this week, including that he may have obstructed justice by asking Comey to drop an investigation into one of his top advisors.

On Friday, The Washington Post reported that a senior White House official was now under investigation as part of a probe over Russian efforts to tilt the elections in Trump’s favour. 

And The New York Times said the US president had told top Russian officials Comey’s sacking had relieved “great pressure” on him.

Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week that Comey was a “nut job,” according to the Times, citing notes taken at the meeting and read to the paper by a US official.

That flies in the face of the White House’s public insistence that Comey’s dismissal was not linked to his ongoing investigation.

The president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is among those whose contacts with the Russian government have come under scrutiny.

On Thursday, Trump declared himself the victim of the “greatest witch hunt” in American political history and denied allegations of collusion.

“There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself, and the Russians – zero,” Trump told reporters.

The White House on Friday predicted that the investigation would back up Trump’s account.

“As the president has stated before – a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity,” said spokesman Sean Spicer.


Walkinshaw hunts return to Supercars power

Walkinshaw Racing will plough more resources into engineering as the Supercars team aims for a return to power after sacking team manager Adrian Burgess.


Owner Ryan Walkinshaw said the team’s unacceptable performance over a longer period was behind Burgess’s axing, rather than a knee-jerk reaction to an abysmal weekend at the last Supercars round in Perth.

“We’ve had bad race weekends in the past and we’ll have bad race weekends in the future, but I don’t think it is unreasonable for someone in my family’s position to expect an increase in performance year on year,” Walkinshaw said on Saturday.

“For the last couple of years we seem to be going around in circles a little bit and for us that’s not acceptable.”

James Courtney and Scott Pye sit 15th and 18th respectively in the drivers’ standings heading into the series’ fifth round at Winton.

The team’s best placing on the drivers’ standings during Burgess’s stint was sixth by Courtney (2014) and veteran Garth Tander (2015), who was replaced by Pye.

Walkinshaw said he was hopeful the team could return to past glory, which saw them win the drivers’ championship six times and plundered seven Bathurst wins.

“It’s a top priority at the moment that we give some additional resources to the engineering group,” Walkinshaw said.

“There is a feeling that potentially we haven’t given them the full resources that we now think they should have.”

He confirmed acting manager Mathew Nilsson was auditioning to get the job full-time.

“It would make me very happy if we could go down the route of looking at something internally,” Walkinshaw said.

“Through the whole process we’re going to be looking internally, externally, locally and internationally.”

While Nilsson has an opportunity to prove himself, the team will also use a recruitment agency in the hunt to replace Burgess.

“We’ll see which CVs we get through the door. There’s a couple of targets we’re looking at but we’re pretty open-minded,” Walkinshaw said.

Assange’s team calls for Turnbull’s help

One of Julian Assange’s legal advisers wants the Turnbull government to intervene and help the WikiLeaks founder.


Barrister Greg Barns’ call comes after Swedish prosecutors on Friday announced they would discontinue a rape investigation against him.

Assange has been holed up in the embassy since mid-2012 when he sought asylum there to avoid extradition to Sweden to face accusations he raped a woman in 2010 in Stockholm.

But the silver-haired activist says his legal fight was not over and it was “extremely regretful” he was still being threatened with arrest if he leaves the embassy.

Assange faces arrest by British police on charges of skipping bail and also fears extradition to the US over WikiLeaks’ publication of secret US military and diplomatic documents.

Assange said British authorities had refused to confirm or deny if the US had issued a warrant for his extradition from the UK.

Mr Barns, who is part of Assange’s legal team, wants Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to intervene and speak to Washington and London.

“The Australian government which washed its hands of Julian Assange a long time ago now needs to get involved – this is one of its citizens,” he told Sky News from Hobart on Saturday.

Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek, speaking in Sydney earlier, said Assange still had questions to answer, but Mr Barns said there were no outstanding issues and he would welcome a call from her.

“This seems to be that element of the Labor party which is in a cabal with Washington and London and refusing to stand up for an Australian citizen,” he said.

Appearing on a balcony of the Ecuadorean embassy in London on Friday, Assange told supporters and a large media throng he had been detained and slandered as his children grew up without him.

“That’s not something I can forgive, it’s not something I can forget,” he said.

The 45-year-old gave a clenched-fist salute as he welcomed the Swedish decision, hailing it as “an important victory”.

He said he was prepared to talk to UK and US authorities about his position despite “extremely threatening remarks” being made.

Assange said the claim the UK had the right to arrest him for seeking asylum when no charges had been laid against him was “simply untenable”.

Assange looks set to remain in the embassy for a while yet.

For skipping bail in the UK over the Swedish accusations, Assange could face a year in jail.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said in 2016 that Assange was in effect being arbitrarily detained in violation of international law.

Demons face Kangaroos after big AFL win

Now they’ve shown their backbone, Melbourne need consistency.


The Demons will host North Melbourne in Sunday’s AFL match at the MCG following a tumultuous week.

After learning their teammate Jesse Hogan has cancer, they rallied at Adelaide Oval last weekend to shock the Crows and post their best win of the season so far.

On Tuesday, Hogan’s surgery to remove a tumour was successful and he could be back playing in as few as four to eight weeks.

Meanwhile, the season rolls on and the Demons, who have a 4-4 record, will start warm favourites against the Kangaroos (2-6).

But Melbourne remain without a recognised ruckman and North’s Todd Goldstein is one of the best in the game.

The Demons also have a 15-game losing streak against the ‘Roos.

And while the Crows win showcased their finals credentials, the Demons also narrowly lost to Hawthorn the week before.

North, who are better than their record suggests, will rightly fancy their chances of an upset.

Melbourne forwards coach Troy Chaplin said a big part of this week’s preparations was making sure the players thought about why they played so well against Adelaide.

“What were the one or two things individually and as a group that the guys can continue to drive this week?” Chaplin said.

“Whether it’s our leader or our second-tier players, they need to understand that it doesn’t matter who you play – you need to bring that week in, week out to get the result.

“Otherwise, you’re going to have an up-and-down season.”

Setting aside the enormity of what Hogan continues to go through, his extended absence is obviously a challenge for Chaplin and the Melbourne forwards.

As Chaplin notes, Hogan is the sort of forward who demands the ball.

But Hogan has only played four games this season and Melbourne are the fifth-best scoring side.

Small forward Jeff Garlett leads Melbourne’s goalkicking with 20.

Chaplin, the former backman in his first season as an AFL assistant coach, does not care who kicks the goals.

“The more guys we get having an impact, the harder we become as a group to defend (against),” he said.

“We’re no doubt a better team when Jesse is in it, that’s certain, but at the same time it’s a great opportunity for the guys to pick up the slack.

“To the guys’ credit, they’ve done that when those opportunities have arisen this year.

“The guys have really taken on the ‘team first’ approach and looking after each other.”

Times Square driver ‘smoked PCP-laced pot’

A US man who was behind the wheel of the car that barrelled through pedestrians in Times Square told police he had been smoking marijuana laced with PCP, according to a criminal complaint.


Richard Rojas, 26, made his first court appearance on Friday, a day after he was arrested in what New York police call an intentional attack that killed an 18-year-old Michigan woman and injured 22 other people.

“He murdered in cold blood,” Assistant District Attorney Harrison Schweiloch said during the brief proceeding.

Rojas did not enter a plea and was held without bail.

His next court appearance is May 24.

Rojas, who lived with his mother in the Bronx, is accused of driving his car from his home through Times Square on Thursday, then making a U-turn, steering his car onto a footpath and roaring back along it, ploughing through tourists for three blocks before crashing into protective barriers.

Photographers snapped pictures of a wild-eyed Rojas after he climbed from the wrecked car and ran through the street waving his arms.

After he was detained, he said he wanted to “kill them all” and police should have shot him to stop him, a prosecutor told the court.

Officials are awaiting toxicology results, though Rojas “had glassy eyes, slurred speech, and was unsteady”, during his arrest.

The hallucinogenic drug PCP can cause users to become delusional, violent or suicidal, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center.

Three people were still in critical condition with serious head injuries.

Alyssa Elsman, of Portage, Michigan, was killed in the crash and her 13-year-old sister was among the injured.

No Qld camp for reserve Milford: Bennett

Queensland coach Kevin Walters has joked that he will send a box of chocolates in a bid to convince Wayne Bennett to release Anthony Milford for their State of Origin camp.


But Brisbane coach Bennett was deadly serious about stopping Milford, saying he would only make him available for Maroons duty if the Broncos five-eighth was picked in Queensland’s top 17.

Walters is on Monday expected to name Milford as 19th man in Queensland’s squad for May 31’s series opener as cover for pivot Johnathan Thurston (shoulder).

A tug of war over Milford loomed when Bennett mentioned his stance before the Broncos playmaker shone in their 36-0 NRL win over Wests Tigers on Friday night.

Walters would not bite when told of Bennett’s comments on Friday night as he watched the Broncos romp nome as a Fox Sports TV commentator.

“I have got a box of chocolates for Wayne to drop off to his place,” Walters joked.

“But Milford is one of those players in the firing line just if Thurston doesn’t pass his medical.”

Bennett dug his heels in about Milford when asked about the five-eighth’s Origin availability after the Broncos rout.

He reiterated that Milford would travel with Brisbane for their next round clash with the Warriors if named on a Maroons extended bench.

Bennett said back-up playmaker Michael Morgan’s expected presence at the Maroons camp would ensure Queensland “don’t lose anything” if Milford was not present.

“My position is extremely firm on that,” he said.

“They have Morgan there.

“If he (Milford) doesn’t go and train with them they don’t lose anything.

“We’ve got a game in Auckland next week, that’s our priority.”

Bennett did expect to lose up to six players to Queensland duty.

Walters is expected to name Melbourne’s comeback king Billy Slater at fullback, shifting incumbent Maroons No.1 and Brisbane skipper Darius Boyd to the left wing.

Bennett said Boyd should be retained at fullback.

“The way the coach is talking they will stick with him at either wing or fullback,” Bennett said of Boyd.

“They have just got to make a decision. Billy is still great, but they play different games.

“Darius is what you are looking for. You just have to go back to last year’s series, the amount of tries he set up in really tight situations.

“He does it better than anyone else…and he’s safe. Look at the stats and see how many mistakes he has made.”

Six siblings heirs to Prince estate: judge

A Minnesota judge has ruled that Prince’s six siblings are the heirs to his estate.


In a ruling made public Friday, Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide declared that Prince died without a will and that his sister, Tyka Nelson, and five half-siblings are his heirs.

There are people who filed appeals after their claims of heirship were rejected. Eide said that if the appellate courts send those cases back to him, he will still fully consider them.

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Eide also said Prince’s assets won’t be distributed without a formal court order and that nothing will be distributed that might adversely affect the claims of those with pending appeals.

Eide had previously said he wouldn’t declare the siblings as heirs until those appeals had been decided. Attorneys for those who appealed said their interests would be harmed if the district court didn’t wait out the appeals process.

But lawyers for Prince’s siblings didn’t want to wait, saying further delays would have increased costs to the estate and impede its efficient administration.

Prince died April 21 of an accidental drug overdose. Court filings suggest his estate is worth around $200 million. Federal and state estate taxes are expected to consume about half the value.

Meanwhile, Universal Music Group and Comerica Bank, the manager of Prince’s estate, are moving ahead with plans to terminate the $31 million recorded-music deal announced earlier this year.

On Thursday Comerica Bank, the estate’s manager, filed a motion to approve rescission of the the agreement based on “claims of conflicting rights to sound recordings.”

According to an announcement at the time, those recordings comprised most of Prince’s released work after he ended his initial deal with Warner Bros in 1996 as well as unreleased material, but also rights to certain recordings within that initial Warner deal; Warner is disputing those terms. The motion will be presented before Judge Eide on May 31.

Confusion over the February deal began as soon as it was announced.

The announcement said that “beginning [in 2018], UMG will obtain US rights to certain renowned Prince albums released from 1979 to 1995” – his most successful period by far, including the 1999, Purple Rain, Parade, Batman, and Diamonds and Pearls albums.

However, Prince had cut a new deal with Warner in 2014 that sources say garnered him the rights to the majority of his work released on the label.

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Rod Pampling on the move at Byron Nelson

Australia’s Rod Pampling made four birdies in five holes in a mid-round surge during the Byron Nelson Classic in Texas.


After starting his round with six consecutive pars, Pampling went on an impressive run, starting with a 2m birdie putt on the par-5 seventh.

The 47-year-old backed it up with longer birdie putts at the par-4 eighth and ninth holes.

Pampling also made a birdie at the par-4 11th before dropping a shot at the par-4 14th.

The veteran Queenslander is eight shots behind runaway leader, American Jason Kokrak.

Kokrak’s collection of four birdies on his outward nine was matched on the run home at TPC Four Seasons in a bogey-free round of 62.

He holds a five-shot lead over fellow American Billy Horschel who backed up an opening round 68 with a five-under par 65.

Jason Day had a promising round going until the par-five 16th hole when he lost his ball off the tee and took a double-bogey to finish at three-under, nine shots off the pace after carding a one-under 69.

Marc Leishman and Greg Chalmers will also be in action at the weekend after they both had rounds of 71 to be at one-under.

World No.1 Dustin Johnson is within striking distance after shooting a second consecutive three-under-par 67 to be six-under at the halfway mark of the tournament.

One man who will not be around for the weekend, though, is Jordan Spieth after he missed the cut following a bogey-laden 75.

It was on the par-5 16th where the real damage was done as he had to take three tee shots on his way to a nine after sending his first two attempts out of bounds.

Reigning champion and recent Masters winner Sergio Garcia is 10 shots off the lead despite a superb round of 65, recovering from what was a poor first round.