Young surfers descend on NSW’s north coast

The NSW north coast’s reputation as Australia’s shark attack capital hasn’t stopped hundreds of young surfers from across the globe hitting the waves in the area this week.

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The seaside town of Lennox Head is bursting at the seams in the middle of winter as it hosts the annual Skullcandy Oz Grom Open, the premier youth surfing tournament in the world.

Two-hundred youngsters aged 10-18 will compete in the six-day event, along the same area of coast where eight people – two fatally – have been attacked by sharks since September 2014.

The importance of the Open, organised and managed by locally-based volunteers, cannot be underestimated for the community during winter months when tourism numbers are at their lowest.

“Winter gets quiet,” event organiser Steve Conn told AAP on Friday.

“All the local businesses are happy to contribute to this event.”

The threat of a shark attack has to be mitigated by organisers through regular patrolling of the water, overhead monitoring by drones and helicopters as well as a string of smart drum-lines that run parallel to the beach.

They were installed by NSW Department of Primary Industries following the recent spate of attacks.

Clearly competitors and their parents aren’t put off by the area’s history.

This year’s Open sold out within 15 minutes of entries being made available, with competitors coming from Japan and Europe.

“This is a really important event and one that’s interwoven into the local community,” contest director Cameron Lindsay told AAP.

“There obviously has been a lot of sharks in this area but all the measures have been put in place and at the moment it seems like we’re not in the same predicament as we were a few years ago.”

The 2015 attack that left bodyboarder Matt Hall with severe leg injuries occurred the day before that year’s Oz Grom Open started.

Mr Lindsay said shark attack mitigation was a key element of the competition’s organisation and management.

“It’s a full ambit of different measures that we employ now – in-water assets, aerial assets and also guidelines and operating procedures we’ve had to adopt in case of any shark incident or shark sighting,” he said.

“There’s obviously a real strong desire for people to come and compete. It’s seen as the premier junior comp in the world … but the parents want to know that we’ve got things in place – which we do – to keep their kids safe.”

Heavy protests greet start of G20 summit in Germany

Anti-capitalist protesters have clashed with police as the G20 summit gets under way in Hamburg, Germany.

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Police used tear gas and water cannons against the crowds, which burned cars and held signs saying, “Smash G20!”

Ahead of the meeting, United States president Donald Trump spoke before a large crowd in Warsaw, declaring Western civilisation is under threat from terrorism and bureaucracy.

“The defence of the West ultimately rests not only on means but also on the will of its people to prevail and be successful and get what you have to have. The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost?”

Mr Trump also addressed the issue of North Korea before the crowd, hinting military action might be an option.

“As far as North Korea is concerned, I don’t know, we’ll see what happens. I don’t like to talk about what I have planned, but I have some pretty severe things that we’re thinking about. That doesn’t mean we’re going to do them. I don’t draw red lines.”

Arriving in Hamburg, Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has suggested economic sanctions should be the path forward for controlling North Korea.

“We are a party to and, of course, support the sanctions imposed by the United Nations. And we also have autonomous sanctions of our own against North Korean entities and individuals. But we will work cooperatively, through the United Nations, and taking measured steps autonomously, but focused on bringing the economic pressure to bear on North Korea to bring that regime to its senses without conflict.”

In what is set to be a politically charged G20 summit, the world leaders will discuss their responses to terrorism, the environment and globalisation.

As the host of this year’s G20, German chancellor Angela Merkel admits there are differences between the leaders at the moment, but she says she is committed to cooperation.

“We are convinced that, if we address the big problems — and we know that there are a lot of them in the world at the moment — and if we make every effort to find solutions, that everyone can benefit from this, that it is a so-called win-win situation.”

Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, has also emphasised the importance of the United States working together with other world leaders.

“The strongest power of the world, economically and politically, if the strongest power wants to be even stronger, this power must lead the world. If the strongest power is saying, ‘Only America,’ it doesn’t remain the strongest power. It becomes more … more … less important.”

President Trump is scheduled to meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin tonight.

However, their meeting comes after Mr Trump said yesterday Russia may have interfered in the 2016 US election.

“I think it could very well have been Russia, but I think it could well have been other countries, and I won’t be specific.”

The G20 Summit will run for the next two days.

 

 

France moving to all electric cars by 2040

It is a celebratory moment in Paris as France’s environment minister, Nicolas Hulot, smashes a champagne bottle against a boat.

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He is christening the Energy Observer, the world’s first boat to be powered solely by wind, solar and hydrogen energy.

The vessel is about to embark on a round-the-world journey lasting six years, all to raise awareness about renewable energy.

The Minister says it is important for the government to nurture such technologies, but France’s bold plan for fighting climate change does not stop at the seas.

On the same day, he has announced a plan which could dramatically change the look of French roads — and the country’s air quality.

“We will announce the end of sales of diesel and petrol cars by 2040.”

It is part of a five-year plan to wean France off fossil fuels and help meet its targets under the Paris climate accord.

The goal is to make the country carbon-neutral by 2050 and reduce nuclear energy from its power mix.

At the news conference announcing the plan, the Environment Minister called the ban on petrol and diesel cars a revolution.

“A new theme is to make France the number one in the green economy by making the Paris agreement an opportunity for creativity, innovation and employment. This is very important and it’s one of the objectives, the desires, we have, and I hope I will succeed: reconciling economy and ecology.”

The surprise announcement comes after the Swedish car-maker Volvo has revealed its plan to phase out petrol-only cars by 2019.

From then, all of its new makes will be either electric or hybrids, making Volvo the first major manufacturer to electrify all of its models.

The company’s president, Hakan Samuelsson, has told Radio Sweden it is not just an environment-led decision, but also a business one.

“We are reacting to customer demand, asking for electrified cars, and, of course, it’s also the way for us to come down when it comes to CO2 levels and reducing our carbon footprint.”

Analysts say the move also comes because of regulations around emissions for car-makers.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ Darren Jukes says most manufacturers, like Volvo, have some kind of a strategy around electric vehicles.

“Well, I think we just need to sort of bear this … put this into context, so, what all the manufacturers have announced are a move towards more electric features within vehicles. Largely, this can be around hybrid vehicles. You know, the move towards 100 per cent pure electric vehicles is still some way off. What we’re seeing is a gradual transition through technology, so the combination of various combustion engines with electric motors in order to provide hybrid technology. So I don’t think we’re seeing the end of combustion engines just yet.”

France is not the first country to make a move towards less-polluting cars either.

India has said it wants all cars electric-powered by 2030.

Norway, where sales of electric cars are booming, says it wants to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2025.

And car giant Germany says it wants to put a million electric vehicles on the road by 2020.

 

 

No Ablett, but Swans on Suns forward alert

Sydney are well aware of the boost that Gary Ablett’s absence has given their chances of re-entering the AFL’s top eight.

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But it doesn’t mean the competition’s in-form side aren’t still on high alert for Gold Coast’s danger forwards at the SCG on Saturday.

The Suns’ prospects of a first-ever win over the Swans took a sizeable hit with news Ablett has been ruled out with a hamstring injury.

It helps the cause of John Longmire’s ninth-placed side, who had focused this week on establishing set-ups to curtail the dual Brownlow medallist’s influence both inside and outside.

It leaves less concern for the Swans’ improved backline as they hunt for a fifth-straight win and eight in the past nine games.

Yet, with no margin for error in a tight finals race, defence coach Henry Playfair says there’s still just cause to be wary of Rodney Eade’s frontmen.

“Tom Lynch is back in form and they’re smalls are dangerous as well,” Playfair told AAP.

“(Ben) Ainsworth kicked four last week and Jack Martin is a really promising young talent.

“(Callum) Ah Chee is dangerous, Peter Wright can take a catch and kick a goal.

“They’re actually really well-balanced and dangerous, so we’ve spoken to our guys this week that we’re going to have to be on edge.”

Lynch rediscovered his game last weekend with five goals from 20 possessions and eight marks in the loss to North Melbourne.

The key forward will have tougher work cut out for him up against a Sydney defence featuring talls Heath Grundy, Dane Rampe and now Jarrad McVeigh.

The trio’s leadership will be vital if the Swans are to rectify this season’s poor home record – four games have already been dropped at the SCG, though three of those came in a winless first six rounds.

“We’ve had a close look at Gold Coast, what they’re capable of and how they’ve played,” Playfair said.

“They kicked 18 goals last week and are a really talented team,” Playfair said.

“It’s a broader thing as well. We need to win each week because the nature of the competition is just so unique in that it’s even – games are even, quarters are even, every contest is important.

“We’re going in with a focus to play with four quarters because that’s what you have to do to win these days.”

Vic pokie numbers frozen for 25 years

Pokie machine numbers in Victoria have been frozen at 27,372 for the next 25 years, angering anti-gambling advocates who say it will lock in community harm.

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The maximum number of gaming machines in a single venue will be capped at 105, Gaming Minister Marlene Kairouz announced on Friday.

“Not a single extra gaming machine will be allowed in Victoria for the next 25 years, helping limit gambling-related harm in our community,” Ms Kairouz said.

The minister said the reforms provide certainty to pubs, clubs and hotels and were informed by an extensive review involving more than 200 public submissions.

However Victorian Greens MP and anti-gambling advocate Colleen Hartland said the government had guaranteed “more pokies harm” and the reforms did not go far enough.

“Pokies rip billions of dollars from Victorian communities each year and Labor is now locking in this crisis for another three decades,” Ms Hartland said.

She said gambling addiction lead to crime, family breakdown and job loss with the money going into pokies not going back into the community.

Maurice Blackburn lawyer and former Labor MP Jennifer Kanis said the announcement was “significant”, and the balance had been tipped in favour of the pokie machine industry for “too long”.

“Governments and venues alike have been reluctant to take serious action to ensure a sensible and responsible balance is struck, particularly in vulnerable communities,” she said.

Ms Kanis urged other states and venues to consider similar measures, and said while it could impact on tax revenue it would ensure a more level playing field.