Abbott says plan is working, despite polls

Tony Abbott insists his government’s plan is working, as a new poll shows Labor retaining an election-winning lead.

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The prime minister marked two years in office on Monday delivering a speech at a small business forum in Canberra setting out his achievements.

“The plan is working and we are sticking to it,” he said.

“I am very confident that people will be choosing between a government which has delivered on its commitments and an opposition which hasn’t learned and can’t change.”

However the latest Newspoll continued a trend set 19 months ago, with Labor leading 54-46 per cent on a two-party basis.

Mr Abbott’s net personal popularity has dropped from minus 6 at the September 2013 election to minus 33.

While Bill Shorten is preferred prime minister among 41 per cent of voters to Mr Abbott’s 37 per cent, the Labor leader’s net satisfaction rating sits at minus 28.

The coalition is banking on the prospect of business and income tax cuts to reward “hard-working middle Australians” to win back support ahead of an election due within 12 months.

“This is a government which wants our people to be as prosperous as possible,” Mr Abbott told reporters.

The coalition has released a 28-page document outlining its work in building a “strong, prosperous economy and a safe, secure Australia”.

“Much has been achieved in the past two years, but it’s just the start,” the booklet says.

Labor says the government has been all talk and no action, with the unemployment rate at a 13-year high and more than 800,000 people out of work for the first time in 20 years.

Pensions and pensioner concessions were also under attack, while university students were being asked to pay more for their degrees.

“No glossy brochure full of lies can convince pensioners that Tony Abbott can be trusted,” opposition families spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said.

Facing media reports that cabinet colleagues want to wrest his hands off the economic levers, Treasurer Joe Hockey said it was “just gossip”.

“I’m focused on doing the job that a treasurer should do, which is laying down the foundations for more growth in the Australian economy and greater opportunities for Australians to get ahead and get a job,” Mr Hockey told ABC radio.

Anthony Cummings farewells his father

Anthony Cummings is fond of saying his father taught him everything he knows, but not everything the legendary trainer knew.

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He wasn’t alone.

Among the crowd which packed Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral on Monday to farewell a man known to millions of Australians as the `Cups King’, were many trainers who honed their craft under Bart Cummings.

Racing is an insular and time consuming business but Bart’s success infected the public and added to the excitement around the Melbourne Cup.

His feat to win the trophy 12 times has been likened to Don Bradman’s Test average of 99.94 – something that won’t be repeated.

That set him apart from other trainers and sometimes his own family.

Anthony is the only one of his five children to follow him into racing and struggled with his emotions as he paid homage to his father and mentor.

“I was always in awe of my father,” Cummings said.

“He could talk on any subject and had a view on everything.

“People came to him for advice. They didn’t always like what they were told but they got what they asked for, his view unequivocal, unabashed, uncensored.

“The place I really got to know him was in New Zealand where we would go each year to look at yearlings.

“He would talk about his own father and his relationship with him.”

It was in New Zealand Bart spotted the small, gangly filly that would become his first Melbourne Cup winner, Light Fingers in 1965.

That eye for the future champion is something his son and every other racehorse trainer tries to emulate – not always with great success.

When Anthony struck out on his own, he and his father became competitors, adding another dynamic to their relationship.

But in the last few years, Bart mellowed as he spent more and more time at his beloved Princes Farm on the banks of the Nepean River.

“It was his life’s dream to have his own property,” Anthony said.

“Horses were his lifelong passion and he bred horses on the farm.

“Three of my Group One winners came from there.

“He reached a level of contentment and I didn’t have a blue with him over the last few years.

“At one stage he told me I’d come good. Rare praise indeed.”

Families lash out at Roger Dean’s appeal

Each time the murder of her mother at Quaker’s Hill nursing home resurfaces in a court room, so do Elly Valkay’s nightmares, stress and tension.

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Ms Valkay’s mother Neeltje Valkay was one of 11 nursing home patients who died after their carer Roger Dean lit two fires on November 18, 2011 at the facility in Sydney’s west.

Dean, a registered nurse of 15 years, set the place alight after he discovered police were investigating his theft of 200 prescription pills from the home.

The 39-year-old is now appealing the 11 life sentences meted out to him in 2013 over the murders.

Ms Valkay labelled the appeal as “ridiculous” and said it was yet another hurdle for her to cross.

“We were hoping that after the inquest, that we would get back to a bit of a stable routine but I heard about the appeal about a month ago and out comes the sedatives, out comes the sleeping pills.

“The tension, the stress is so great just because he wants what he wants, and there is no consideration for the victims and the families and that is what hurts,” she told reporters outside court on Monday.

Dean, the Court of Criminal Appeal heard, is appealing his sentences on a number of grounds.

They include that they were manifestly excessive and that Justice Megan Latham – now the ICAC commissioner – erred in concluding it was not possible to reflect Dean’s culpability with any penalty less than life imprisonment.

His barrister Tim Game SC argued Dean had pleaded guilty and that the “whole structure” of the sentence was incorrect.

“You can’t say, `X is for this, X is for this and it has got so large it now has to be a life sentence’,” he submitted.

But crown prosecutor Maria Cinque said 11 vulnerable people were murdered “with the person responsible for their care, responsible for their deaths”.

Comparisons to other crimes where offenders were given life sentences “don’t exist”, she added.

Dean, she reminded the court, had lit a fire in a room where he knew two immobile and helpless residents – Dorothy Sterling and Dorothy Wu – were sleeping.

When another resident saw the fire and begged him “Please help them get out”, Dean replied: “Don’t worry darling you come with me, someone else will come and get them.”

But Dean failed to tell firefighters battling his first blaze about this second one, and by the time it was discovered, the “catastrophic” blaze in Ms Sterling and Ms Wu’s room was 10 metres high.

Paul Cachia, whose mother Emmanuela Cachia was seriously injured in the blaze and died two and a half months later, said “what gives him the right to appeal after what he did to our loved ones?”

“He should be lit up 11 times for what he done to those people,” he told reporters.

The decision on the appeal will be handed down at a later date.

Dogs unfazed by AFL finals ground switch

The Western Bulldogs say they are unfazed by the AFL’s decision to fixture their home elimination final against Adelaide at the MCG and not Etihad Stadium.

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The Dogs easily accounted for the Crows in round four on the fast deck at Etihad Stadium – their home ground where they recorded 11 of their 14 wins this season.

Despite the league’s decision to move the game to the larger MCG, the Dogs are backing their lightning-quick style to stand up in a hotly-contested final.

“If you want to go deep into finals you have to play well at the MCG – it’s the home of footy so we’re happy to play there,” Bulldogs onballer Jack Macrae said.

“It doesn’t really concern us.”

AFL chief Gillon McLachlan defended the move when he launched the finals series in Melbourne on Monday.

“We scheduled that game there because we didn’t want to be in a position where we were seeing (fans miss) out on a final when we had a venue which could carry more than the expected capacity,” McLachlan said.

“That’s why the decision was made.

“We haven’t played a final at Etihad since ’07 and we contemplate access first.”

Luke Beveridge’s side played at the MCG just twice this season – for one win and a loss – while Adelaide recorded a hard-fought win over Carlton in their only visit back in round 10.

The Bulldogs’ meteoric rise from 14th last year to sixth on the ladder at the end of the home-and-away season has been one of the stories of the year given their off-season of turmoil.

Just making the finals after losing veterans Ryan Griffen and Adam Cooney to other clubs, not to mention star onballer Tom Liberatore to injury, in Beveridge’s first year in charge is a huge achievement but the Dogs say they’re not content simply to make up the numbers.

“If we play our best footy I believe really strongly that we can beat anyone in the competition and Adelaide’s no different,” midfielder Mitch Wallis said.

“They’re a good strong opposition but I think we can get the job done.”

The Dogs aren’t without injury concerns leading up to their first final since 2010, chief amongst them Stewart Crameri who was subbed out of the weekend’s shock loss to Brisbane with a knee injury.

Bob Murphy, Dale Morris and Matthew Boyd were rested for that game, with some doubt lingering over Murphy who experienced groin soreness late in the season.

Crows fly along Walsh’s path: Walker

The Adelaide Crows have pledged to continue along the path deceased coach Phil Walsh set for them, says captain Taylor Walker.

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Walker says the Crows, who meet the Western Bulldogs in an MCG elimination final on Saturday night, remain driven by the messages of former head coach Walsh, who was allegedly murdered by his son Cy on July 3.

“We have been able to continue what we spoke about day one when Phil came on and that was buying into team-first and continuing elite standards,” Walker told reporters on Monday.

“We have been able to do that throughout the season and we have got to stick to that throughout the finals.”

Walker said Adelaide’s interim coach Scott Camporeale, who remains coy on whether he wants to pitch for the full-time job next season, had stuck with Walsh’s philosophy.

“When you lose your head coach, everyone else around you has to step up whether it is coaches or players, and Campo has been able to do that,” Walker said.

“Walshy put in philosophies and a game plan that Campo has had to just come in and continue that on, and he has brought a bit of energy along the way.”

Camporeale, who has led the Crows to six wins and three losses since taking over, said he is excited by the prospect of finals.

“Why wouldn’t you (be),” Camporeale told reporters on Monday.

“It has been an unbelievable year, really, on and off the field.

“After what has happened, to be able to get to the point where we are at … I’m really proud of them, that they have been able to galvanise themselves.”

Camporeale said All Australian defender Brodie Smith was expected to overcome an ankle injury and play against the Bulldogs.

Smith, Thurston no-show Captain’s Call

Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston were notable no-shows at the NRL finals series launch on Monday.

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The skippers of all eight finals sides were expected at the launch at the SCG, however Smith and Thurston were late withdrawals.

Melbourne skipper Smith has a virus and North Queensland captain Thurston is battling a leg strain ahead of their respective qualifying final clashes against Sydney Roosters and Brisbane.

Both Smith and Thurston are expected to be fit for those games. But they are not without concern. Both the Storm and the Cowboys provided the NRL with doctor’s certificates noting their players injuries ahead of the media opportunity at the SCG.

Smith’s teammates are said to have noticed he was struggling late in the Storm’s 15-8 win over Brisbane on Thursday, as Melbourne played their third game in 12 days.

Meanwhile Cowboys medical staff were concerned as to how the travel from Townsville may affect Thurston’s injury, given North Queensland have to fly to Brisbane on Friday for their match at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.

The Roosters host Melbourne at Allianz Stadium on Friday.

Ryan Hinchliffe, who the Storm pointed out is the only player to captain the club apart from Smith over the last two seasons, stepped in.

Gavin Cooper stepped in for Thurston.

Despite the absence of two of the game’s superstars NRL boss Dave Smith was in a buoyant mood in launching the finals series.

“It is great to have all these captains here,” Smith said.

“This will be one of the most exciting finals series in history.”

Sydney Roosters’ Jake Friend, Brisbane’s Justin Hodges, South Sydney superstar Greg Inglis, Canterbury prop James Graham, St George Illawarra veteran Ben Creagh and Cronulla captain Paul Gallen were all in attendance.

Hard work, but Djokovic reaches U.S. Open quarters

After Djokovic won an opening-set groundstroke battle with steady accuracy and well chosen forays to the net, Bautista Agut used his big forehand to come back from 4-2 down in the second and win the next four games to level the match.

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The world number one smashed his racquet after losing the second set but made better use of its replacement, winning the third following a service break in the fifth game, before raising his performances in the fourth set to claim victory.

“I was upset with myself,” said Djokovic. “But I managed to regroup. The important thing is that I managed to find a way to win.”

The Spaniard unleashed 34 winners, including 22 from the forehand, but came up short in a quest to reach his first grand slam quarter-final.

“I wanted to play a fifth (set),” the 23rd-ranked Bautista Agut said. “I think I played great tennis and I enjoyed it on the court.

“I think sometimes I felt he was not comfortable on the court. I was moving him a lot and that’s what I wanted before the match.”

Djokovic commended him on his play.

“Credit to him for fighting, for making me work,” said the Serb, winner of this year’s Australian Open and Wimbledon titles. “It was a very physical match.

“He made me work for every point.”

Djokovic will meet Spain’s Feliciano Lopez, who beat Italian Fabio Fognini 6-3 7-6(5) 6-1, in the quarter-finals.

Only Jimmy Connors (27) and Roger Federer (36) have registered more consecutive grand slam quarter-final appearances in the Open era than Djokovic.

“I’m proud of the fact that I’ve been able to achieve so much in my career so far and to be able to play my best in the grand slams, which I was always aiming for,” the nine-times grand slam winner said.

“I’m always trying to set up my form, shape, for these events. This is where I want to peak.”

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

US county clerk jailed for refusing to issue gay marriage licences appeals

A US county clerk has appealed a judge’s decision to put her in jail for refusing to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples.

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Lawyers for Kim Davis officially appealed the ruling on Sunday.

The three page motion does not include arguments as to why Davis should be released, but amends Davis’ earlier appeal of the judge’s order.

Davis objects to same-sex marriage for religious reasons and stopped issuing all marriage licences in June after the US Supreme Court legalised gay marriage nationwide.

Two gay couples and two straight couples sued her and US District Judge David Bunning ordered Davis to issue the licences, while the Supreme Court upheld his ruling.

But Davis still refused to do it, saying she could not betray her conscience.

On Thursday, Bunning ruled Davis was in contempt of court for disobeying his order and sent her to jail.

Her deputy clerks then issued marriage licences to gay couples on Friday with Davis behind bars.

“Civil rights are civil rights and they are not subject to belief,” said James Yates, who got a marriage licence on Friday after having been denied five times previously.

Mat Staver, one of Davis’ lawyers, says the marriage licences issued on Friday are “not worth the paper they are written on” because Davis refused to authorise them, but Rowan County Attorney Cecil Watkins says the licences are valid.

Bunning said he did not know if the licences were valid but ordered them issued anyway.

Bunning has indicated Davis will be in jail at least a week, but she could stay longer if she continues to not obey the judge’s order.

Bunning has offered to release Davis from jail if she promises not to interfere with her deputy clerks as they issued the licences, but she refused.

Davis’ plight has reignited the gay marriage debate and the limits of religious freedom and her imprisonment has inspired spirited protests from both sides.

Another rally is scheduled for Tuesday with Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

Taumaunu calls time on Silver Ferns job

Silver Ferns coach Waimarama Taumaunu will follow Vicki Wilson through the coaching door, saying the time is right to move on.

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Taumaunu confirmed she will quit her post after the Constellation Cup netball series against Australia in October.

“After taking some time over the past few weeks, I have decided not to apply for the role going forward,” she said.

“I am and will always remain passionate about the Silver Ferns, but I believe it is the right time for me to finish up.”

New Zealand suffered an agonising defeat to the Diamonds in the recent World Cup final in Sydney after beating the hosts earlier in the competition.

But Taumaunu, who took over the role four years ago, says she is looking forward to the four Tests against the Diamonds for the Cup.

“I have enjoyed every moment as head coach and would like to acknowledge the massive support and incredible team who I have worked with over the last four years,” she said.

Applications for the Silver Ferns coaching position after the Constellation Cup close at 5pm on Monday and Netball NZ expects to make an appointment by mid-November.

After winning the world championship with New Zealand as a player in Glasgow in 1987, Taumaunu was assistant to Ruth Aitken for four years before taking over.

Netball NZ chief executive Hilary Poole said Taumaunu guided the Silver Ferns through a period of great change and growth.

“Waimarama has left an indelible mark on our sport,” she said.

“She has instilled in the Silver Ferns a renewed sense of belief and fearlessness following their performances at the Netball World Cup.”

Poole said Netball NZ was confident Taumaunu would remain involved in the game.

Taumaunu’s announcement comes a day after assistant Wilson said she was leaving her position before the Constellation Cup.

The former Australian skipper cited travel as the reason.

AFL to kick goals with 3D printed merch

Imagine your own engraved AFL premiership cup.

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A laser cut membership card. Or a goal-kicking Buddy Franklin figurine.

Those are all options now that the country’s biggest football code has signed up for a 3D printer merchandise deal.

The AFL will make its mark next season with 3D-printer created merchandise and branding after securing a partnership with printer company 333D.

The Victorian-based technology company, which was acquired by Oz Brewing Limited in January, won the licence agreement for the football code after approaching the league.

“It shows great foresight and progressiveness from the people at the AFL in embracing this new technology and the possibilities that it does lead us into,” 333D managing director Frank Pertile told AAP.

“We see it as a genuine opportunity to develop some really unique and exclusive 3D printable content.”

The company will work with the AFL’s marketing team in the off-season to develop a line of products, which could range from player action figures to medallions and coins.

333D has licence to design and create content for every aspect of the game including players, coaches, clubs and marquee games.

“There are 18 football clubs all with unique logos and colours, mascots and all sorts of things so we can develop content around those assets,” Mr Pertile told AAP.

“We haven’t nailed anything down at the moment but it’s just a question of sitting down with the AFL and marketing to develop a roll-out program for the next 12 months and see what we can come up with.”

He told AAP that the speed, detail and cost efficiency afforded by 3D printers blew open the possibilities for the sport’s merchandising.

Ideas in the works include customised memorabilia around occasions like players’ anniversaries, finals season or marquee games which could have a limited run.

“With the technology, there’s no enormous lead time, you can develop things on short notice and you don’t have to manufacture things to mass volume to justify spend.

“We can print in polymer plastic, print in nylon, we can print things in titanium and we are in the process of doing all of that now.”

The company manufactures its own printers in Melbourne and offers printing services in a number of fields including medical, defence, automotive and aerospace industries.

It’s believed this is the first agreement of its type in the Australian sporting arena.