Monthly Archives: July 2019

Peter Handscomb enters Test frame with Sheffield Shield century for Victoria

Victoria’s Peter Handscomb has put himself in the box seat for a baggy green in Adelaide as a Queensland bolter stood tall amid a rolling series of Test auditions across the country.
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With suggestions of a broom being put through the Test side ahead of the pink-ball clash with South Africa, rarely has there been a more pivotal round of modern Sheffield Shield cricket, with as many as six of the Hobart XI on the chopping block.

Selectors fanned out to stations at the SCG (Mark Waugh), the Gabba (Greg Chappell) and Perth (Trevor Hohns with an opening spot, middle-order bats, a spinner, wicketkeeper and a fast bowler all on the potential wish list ahead of what could be a dramatic rebuild.

Victoria batted first against the Blues at the SCG and Handscomb, a former keeper now focusing on his batting, was one of the key contenders. The 25-year-old has long been regarded as a future Test player, but the consistent failures of the current crop have potentially fast-tracked his ride to the top.

The classy right-hander didn’t disappoint, cashing in on a batting-friendly wicket to score the most timely of centuries, although he rode his luck on occasions as he was dropped twice by Trent Copeland on 14 and 77.

Handscomb finished the day on 110 not out (193 balls) after notching his ninth first-class century with a statement innings that should make him a straight middle-order swap for Adam Voges, who was concussed in the shield match against Tasmania at the WACA.

“I have been lucky enough to make a hundred in front of [Mark Waugh] before so hopefully he’s watched a little bit now,” Handscomb said. “It’s a nice day to come out and make a few runs.

“I’m trying not to think about it [the Test] to be perfectly honest. My job in these next four days is to win the game for Victoria and if anything else comes out of that then happy days.”

The Vics threw up another potential debutant as opener Travis Dean rekindled the kind of form that saw him score a century in both innings of his shield debut in October 2015.

The 24-year-old has mixed his form since then but couldn’t have produced at a better time, playing a patient knock that saw him end the day unbeaten on 134 (274 balls), as incumbent Joe Burns fell for just four in Brisbane with another edge down the leg side.

But while one Queensland opener failed to produce against South Australia, another rose to the occasion. Matt Renshaw, just 20, scored his third century in 12 first-class matches to enter the conversation in his first game back from a knee injury.

Renshaw, a hulking figure who presents like the second coming of Matt Hayden, took some 78 balls to get to double figures before taking the long handle to Redbacks spinner Adam Zampa, belting him for four sixes on the way to 108 (202).

It would be a gamble to thrust him into the Test arena but Renshaw has serious admirers in Australian cricket, who regard him as a rare talent with the ability and temperament to bat for long stretches.

And like Handscomb and NSW batsman Kurtis Patterson, another strong middle-order contender, Renshaw has form for Australia A, making 25 and 94 against South Africa A earlier this year in a tour game in Brisbane.

If youth is a concern, selectors need only to look to England’s current rising star Haseeb Hameed, who is just 19 and at the top of the order with captain Alistair Cook.

“It was good to have my first game back,” Renshaw said. “I wasn’t really thinking about it [potential selection], I was just trying to score some runs. But every time you go out, you want to score runs.”

Other shield performances served up a mixed bag for selectors. Usman Khawaja produced a fluent 106 (137 balls) in Brisbane to ensure his spot wasn’t up for discussion, while Chadd Sayers failed to break through with the new ball and only toiled away for the Redbacks.

Incumbent spinner Nathan Lyon failed to claim a scalp for NSW, returning 0-88 off 27 overs as the Victorians ended day one on 2-292. Steve O’Keefe fared slightly better with 1-65, while Ashton Agar didn’t play in Perth due to a calf injury.

At the WACA, opener Cameron Bancroft was dismissed for two, a doubly disappointing innings given two of his rivals soared into three figures. Pace hopeful Jackson Bird struck early to remove danger man Michael Klinger.

The Test squad will be named on Sunday, with selectors still to run the rule over candidates like South Australia’s Travis Head and Victorian spinner Jon Holland in coming days.

with Chris Barrett

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1.1 million workers want more hours

Photo: Jesse Marlow A record 1.1 million workers want more hours but can’t get them.
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Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal a record 8.7 per cent of people with a job are now officially classified as “underemployed”.

When the bureau first started measuring so-called “underemployment” in 1978, the rate was as low as 2.6 per cent. But since then, a changing industrial landscape, the loss of hundreds of thousands manufacturing jobs and a structural shift towards services, has left growing numbers clinging to employment by the barest of margins.

The trend has been particularly pronounced for men, with a record 7.2 per cent classified as underemployed in August this year, up from 5.3 per cent four years earlier in August 2012.

Underemployment for women has also been increasing, although less steeply, rising to 10.5 per cent from 9.5 per cent over the past four years.

The figures, released on Thursday, showed the unemployment rate was steady at 5.6 per cent in October, with 41,500 new full-time jobs offset by the loss of 31,700 part-time roles. But economists warned the headline figures could mask underlying weakness in the jobs market.

Sue Richardson, from the National Institute of Labour Studies at Flinders University, said the problems of underemployment and “non-employment” were increasingly acute among men with low levels of education.

“It is blue collar men in particular who have been suffering,” professor Richardson said. “A lot of it has been structural change in the economy – employment in the manufacturing sector where these men often found decent work has been declining for decades.”

Professor Richardson said employment opportunities for workers with low levels of education had tended to be in the service sector, in areas such as childcare, healthcare, retail, cleaning. “For a bunch of reasons men (with low levels of education) don’t want to do this sort of work,” she said.

Unemployment and underemployment are particularly acute problems in parts of the country reliant on tradition blue collar manufacturing jobs. In parts of Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, which is bracing for the looming closure of the Hazelwood Power Station, unemployment is already as high as 19.5 per cent.

The figures follows a warning from federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten last weekend that “some of the seeds of the disquiet” that helped deliver Donald Trump his shock victory in the United States are growing in Australia, with falling living standards, rising inequality and deteriorating job security.

Other figures release by the bureau this week showed wages crept up by just 1.9 per cent over the year to September, a record low and about half the rate four years earlier.

Shadow Employment Minister Brendan O’Connor said about 90,000 full-time jobs had been lost over the year to October, with about 1.8 million Australians now looking for a job or more work and not being able to find it.

JPMorgan’s Tom Kennedy said the numbers confirmed the view that the unemployment rate was overstating the strength of the labour market.

“Alternative measures of spare capacity, such as the composition of employment, the employment to population ratio and hours worked, [are] all still soft,” Mr Kennedy said.

Annette Beacher from TD Securities agreed saying that was how the Reserve Bank of Australia was likely to view the numbers too.

“The bank is focused on underemployment via a lack of hours worked. Employment growth in recent years has been skewed towards services (health care, the public service and the leisure sector) while heavy industry jobs (mining, manufacturing) are still being lost.”

With Jens Meyer, Mathew Dunckley

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Victoria Police says only rehabilitating young criminals will make state safer

Police at the Parkville youth detention centre on Monday. Photo: Justin McManus There were riots at the Parkville youth detention centre. Photo: Justin McManus
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Amid widespread calls for tougher treatment of violent teenage criminals, Victoria’s deputy police commissioner has warned that only rehabilitating them will make the state safer.

After riots on the weekend and Monday caused widespread damage at the Parkville youth justice centre, the government confirmed on Thursday it would send about 40 young offenders from Parkville and Malmsbury to Barwon Correction Facility within “the next few days”.

The children will be kept in a secure unit within the prison, separate from mainstream prisoners. The prison will operate as a youth remand centre and youth justice custodial centre.

Children’s Minister Jenny Mikakos​ said this would send “a very strong message” to the young people.

“We are sending them to Victoria’s maximum security prison at Barwon prison [and] it is going to be a very strong message to them that the behaviour they engaged in is completely disgraceful,” she said.

However, three separate sources told Fairfax that the move to Barwon was expedient rather than punitive. Sources said the jail was chosen because it had space, and keeping the children there in the short term would allow authorities to conduct repair and fortification works at Parkville.

Earlier, the government had been thwarted by the Youth Parole Board in its attempts to have seven young offenders, identified as “ringleaders”, sent into the adult prison population.

The government would not comment on the Youth Parole Board’s decision on Thursday.

In recent days, Premier Daniel Andrews and his team have talked tough on sending those responsible for the riot to adult jail.

But Deputy Commissioner Andrew Crisp issued a note of caution late on Thursday, saying “it is important we retain perspective”.

“Amidst all this, we need to keep a real eye on the future,” he said.

“Whilst no-nonsense policing and tougher sentencing might provide a greater sense of short-term justice for the community, it does not address the broader, underpinning issues which are driving this increase in offending.

“It is critical we understand that better, so that we can break the cycle of lifetime offending and imprisonment. Every criminal that is rehabilitated is one less person committing robberies, assaults and burglaries on innocent people. This is how we will make our community safe into the future.”

Mr Crisp’s sentiments were echoed by Commissioner for Children and Young People, Liana Buchanan, who visited Parkville on Tuesday, the day after the most recent incident.

She said she understood why the government was sending 40 young people to Barwon prison, so long as it was a temporary measure.

“On balance, I don’t like it [young people being sent to adult prison], but I accept that it’s necessary as a temporary and emergency measure.”

However, she stressed that those involved in the recent unrest were a small group of young people, and said the government’s goal should be rehabilitation.

Ian Lanyon, director of secure services at the Department of Health and Human Services, said a process was under way to identify which young offenders would be sent to Barwon.

“Ringleaders have been identified,” he said. “They may well be [sent to Barwon].”

Shadow corrections minister Edward O’Donohue​ said the crisis should have never got to this point.

“This is a panicked decision from a government that has no idea how to fix the law-and-order crisis confronting Victoria,” he said.

The Community and Public Sector Union, which represents youth justice workers, welcomed the government’s decision. State secretary Karen Batt said the union had concerns for some time about staff safety at Parkville.

“It is a strong response, it is a smart response. It will break the cycle of violence in youth justice,” Ms Batt said.

The government is currently looking at a series of law changes to tackle violent youth offending.

Federal Parliament’s migration committee announced on Thursday it would hold an inquiry into young migrants and youth gang activity.

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Euthanasia advocate Rodney Syme challenges medical board over assisted death

Dr Rodney Syme and Bernard Erica who is dying of tongue and lung cancer. Photo: Penny StephensA Melbourne doctor is fighting for the right to supply terminally ill people with a lethal drug.
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Rodney Syme, a Melbourne surgeon who says he has helped scores of sick people die peacefully, is challenging a Medical Board of Australia order that prohibits him from doing anything that has the “primary purpose of ending a person’s life”.

In January the board took immediate action against Dr Syme after it was told he was planning to give a lethal drug to Bernard Erica, a 71-year-old Brighton man who is dying of tongue and lung cancer.

On Thursday, Mr Erica said he was furious about the board’s intervention because it meant Dr Syme declined to give him a prohibited drug favoured by euthanasia advocates.

Bernard Erica this week. Photo: Penny Stephens

Dr Syme said the medical board alleged he posed a serious risk to Mr Erica and others and that “any action by a medical practitioner that has the primary intent or effect of bringing about the end of a person’s life constitutes a significant departure from accepted professional standards and presents a significant risk to that person”.

The 81-year-old urologist said he had employed John Noonan QC to appeal the order. A three-day hearing is set to begin at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal on Monday.

It comes as the Victorian government prepares to respond to a parliamentary inquiry report recommending physician-assisted death for people dying of terminal illnesses in some circumstances. The government’s response is due by December 9.

Dr Syme said he planned to argue that his provision of a lethal drug to people with intolerable suffering was not done with the primary intention of ending their life, but rather to relieve suffering. This was consistent, he said, with the doctrine of “double effect” in medicine, which permits doctors to administer drugs or other treatments intended to relieve symptoms even if there is a secondary consequence of hastening death.

The doctrine applies to the provision of high doses of painkillers and sedatives at the end of somebody’s life, which is sometimes referred to as “terminal sedation”.

Dr Syme, the Vice President of Dying With Dignity, said a significant proportion of seriously ill people who are given a drug to end their lives do not use it, but live a longer, happier life knowing it is there as an option. He said the board’s “assumption” that this was a significant departure from accepted standards should be challenged.

“There is a significant volume of evidence that doctors do help patients to die,” he said.

Dr Syme and Mr Erica. Photo: Penny Stephens

Mr Erica said after he featured on Australian Story with Dr Syme countless people had contacted him offering support, including somebody who offered him the drug Dr Syme was planning to give him. He took up the offer.

While he plans to give evidence at the hearing next week, Mr Erica said he did not plan to see Christmas. The six-foot-one-inch tall man who now weighs about 60 kilograms said his throat was so painful he lived in a constant daze under high doses of opioids in the form of lolly pops, skin patches and pills.

He said he was constantly nauseous, struggled to taste food, and was now coughing up blood, possibly due to his lung cancer.

“Life should be about being able to imbibe, enjoy food, and have sex and well, that’s all gone,” he said. “My life is as miserable as hell.”

Mr Erica said he had met with a leading palliative care specialist who said he could be made comfortable to die over several days with the help of several drugs. But he said he wanted a faster death at the time of his choosing, and that other people should be given the same option.

On Thursday, a bill to introduce voluntary euthanasia in South Australia was narrowly defeated by one vote. Leader of the Australian Sex Party and Victorian MP Fiona Patten said it showed political will was “at a tipping point” in favour of euthanasia laws.

President of Right to Life Australia Margaret Tighe celebrated the result in South Australia, but said she would have preferred to see more votes against it. Mrs Tighe said overseas experience showed euthanasia laws were dangerous and led to a slippery slope of including children, and people with mental illnesses and disabilities.

“The Netherlands are now considering it for people who are tired of life,” she said.

“I seriously hope they don’t contemplate it here.”

If you are troubled by this report, you can call Lifeline 131 114 or beyondblue 1300 224 636.

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Firefighter union ‘deeply concerned’ CFA pay deal will be ruled out by Fair Work

Union secretary Peter Marshall speaks in June at a firefighters’ rally over the EBA dispute. Photo: Justin McManus The state government says Fair Work is the best place to sort out the dispute. Photo: AFR
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Fresh doubts have been cast on the workplace deal for the CFA’s paid firefighters after their union said it was “deeply concerned” the industrial umpire would rule the proposal invalid.

United Firefighters Union secretary Peter Marshall told his members and Labor MPs on Thursday that if the proposed agreement was passed by members then the federal government would move to have it ruled illegal.

The union’s decision to delay a vote has renewed questions about whether the agreement will affect the role of volunteers.

In response to the latest uncertainty, the Andrews government has said the Fair Work Commission is the best place to sort out the dispute.

After the July 2 election the federal government changed workplace laws to make sure volunteers were not disadvantaged in emergency service agreements.

For more than a year, the volunteers’ association has warned that the CFA workplace agreement for paid staff would undermine their role.

The deal, which has been signed off by the state government and the CFA after months of political pain – including the resignation of minister Jane Garrett and CFA officials – was due to be put to a vote of union members soon.

Mr Marshall said requests to the CFA from union lawyers to add new protections had been dismissed.

“The UFU has acted in good faith with the Andrews Labor government and respectfully requests that the agreements which have been made are honoured in full,” he said.

Federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash has written to the CFA outlining dozens of breaches of workplace law in the proposed EBA, saying the Commonwealth would fight against the deal at the Fair Work Commission.

State Emergency Services Minister James Merlino accused the Turnbull government of treating firefighters as “political footballs” and deliberately dragging out the dispute.

“The Victorian government, CFA and firefighters are united in our desire for this long-running dispute to end,” he said.

Mr Marshall warned that if key clauses were removed it could mean a “significant loss of entitlements for employees”.

Shadow emergency services Minister Brad Battin said the union email on the matter was “effectively an admission that this will affect the volunteers in our state”.

Throughout the debate, the union has maintained that the workplace agreement, backed by the Andrews government, improved firefighter and community safety.

The CFA said it would continue to talk with the union over the impact of the new federal laws on the deal.

“There is no doubt these legislative changes have heightened the uncertainty career firefighters have faced over recent times as well as causing further delays to finalising the EBA,” CFA chairman Greg Smith said.

He said the organisation was working to resolve the matter.

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