Nathan Buckley swats aside AFL doubters

Coach Nathan Buckley has described scrutiny on Collingwood’s losing start to the AFL season as premature and disproportionate.


The Magpies headed to Sydney on Thursday for Friday’s pressure-filled clash with last year’s grand finalists Sydney, also at 0-2.

Buckley is likely to benefit from the inclusion of Levi Greenwood, who has returned from a hip injury ahead of schedule and travelled in a 23-man player group.

It’s hard to deny anxiety around Buckley’s tenure after three seasons without finals and the prospect of a 0-3 start.

But the 2003 Brownlow Medallist said pressure wasn’t affecting him.

“The focus on us at the moment is both premature and disproportionate. There are eight other sides that are 0-2,” Buckley said.

“It’s really early. We feel like we’ll get better as we go on.

“There’s probably four or five players that if fit and healthy would have been in our side in the first couple of rounds.

“We just haven’t taken advantage or been able to finish off our largely positive work to get the results in the last couple of weeks.

“We’re not looking any further than Friday and we’re going to get that right.”

Captain Scott Pendlebury felt the need to defend his coach this week, saying Magpie players should feel responsible for their winless start and Buckley was coaching as well as ever in his six seasons at the helm.

Buckley said that didn’t tell the full picture,

“I think both Pendles and (Adam Treloar) have thrown themselves on the grenade a little bit,” he said.

“It’s a partnership. The coaches have a role to play. The players have a role to play.

“Those two boys will be at the front line (against Sydney) and I’m pretty sure they’re looking forward to the opportunity.”

Greenwood was a surprise face at Melbourne Airport, given he was expected to miss at least a month of football after hip surgery just over a fortnight ago.

Buckley hailed his “first class” recovery.

“He’s just like a fresh player that can come in. He’s been exceptional,” he said.

“We think he can add a bit of grunt to us through the midfield.”

Classy pair Jamie Elliott and Daniel Wells are also edging closer to senior football.

Buckley said Wells was eyeing a VFL run next week, while Elliott will play for the reserves on Saturday .

“He’s played 31 per cent of a JLT game in the last 18 months,” Buckley said of Elliott, “we were tempted to bring him in but he’s still working his way into footy and the demands.”

“We’re looking forward to getting those potential match-winners into the mix.

“They add a bit of speed and class to our squad and we’re looking forward to injecting that.”

Pies looking to crash Buddy’s AFL party

Lance Franklin will make his 250th-AFL appearance but don’t expect under-fire Collingwood to give him a grand party at the SCG on Friday.


The respect for the Sydney Swans star is immense, with Pies coach Nathan Buckley anointing Franklin as one of the most talented players ever.

But with both teams hungry for a win after a 0-2 start, Franklin’s milestone has become a sub-plot rather than main event.

“It’s a really important game for us, pretty simple,” Swans midfielder Jake Lloyd told AAP.

“We’ve just got to win this week and hopefully we can do that for his (Franklin’s) 250th.”

While Buckley has been under intense scrutiny this week, injury-hit Sydney will feel the blowtorch if they lose on Friday.

A win is essential with just a six-day turnaround before facing the Eagles in Perth, followed by a derby against another flag heavyweight, GWS Giants.

Collingwood’s problem this season has been goal-kicking accuracy, converting a league low 41.1 per cent of their opportunities.

One area Collingwood has excelled in has been contested possessions, where they rank second in the competition, five places above Sydney.

“They are a very good contested footy side, the likes of (Scott) Pendlebury, (Adam) Treloar are standout players in the competition,” Lloyd said.

“It’s important that our guys like (captain Josh) Kennedy and (Luke) Parker can have a big impact inside the footy.

“If we can win that area of the game I’m sure it will go a long way to us winning the game.”

Kennedy, Parker and fellow All-Australian Dan Hannebery have all been below their best through the first two rounds.

“Everyone does have an off game or two and they are quality players, so they are going to be able to bounce back and hopefully they can do that this weekend,” Lloyd said.

Much of the spotlight will inevitably be on Franklin, who has started the season with two four-goal hauls.

Five more on Friday will take him to 800 and a sixth will push him past Matthew Richardson into 11th on the all-time leading goal-kickers’ list.

“In the history of the game he’s very clearly one of the most talented players to ever play,” Buckley said.

“He’s been able to bring a consistency that very talented players don’t often bring.

“We expect a suitable response from his teammates.”

Franklin has won three of his four milestone games, kicking 9.4 and pulling down a career-best 13 marks in his 200th against St Kilda at the SCG.

Friday’s potential match-ups could include Collingwood’s Ben Reid going up against his younger brother Sam, who has kicked nine goals in the first two rounds.


*50th 2007 – Hawthorn v Essendon, MCG – 4.3, 12 disposals, five marks. Hawthorn won by 63 points.

*100th – 2009- Hawthorn v St Kilda, York Park – 0.0 , 19 disposals, three marks, St Kilda won by 25 points..

*150th – 2012 – Hawthorn v Fremantle, York Park 1.2, 21 disposals, six marks. Hawthorn won by 56 points

*200th – 2014 – Sydney v St Kilda – SCG – 9.4, 19 disposals, 13 marks, Sydney won by 71 points.

Widespread condemnation of alleged chemical attack in Idlib, Syria

In the aftermath of a suspected chemical attack in rebel-held Khan Sheikhoun, in Idlib in north-west Syria, people were choking, struggling to breathe, and convulsing in the street.


Experts say they’re all symptoms of nerve agent poisoning.

An ambulance driver gave this account: “Around 6.45 this morning we got news of air strikes in Khan Sheikhoun. We sent three ambulances and it took around 45 minutes to get there. There were still many people suffering from suffocation, mainly children, but also men and women too. Mostly hospitals around the area are full of people suffering from suffocation. It’s hard to find the words to describe it, most of those suffering from suffocation are children. More than 50 per cent are children.”

The government of President Bashar al-Assad has been accused of being behind the attack.

They deny involvement but the attack came from the air, and the rebels don’t have an air force.

Syrian government MP Fares Shehabi jumped to his government’s defence.

“Nonsense. As usual, because we are used to these fabrications and fake news, it’s been six years now. We don’t need to use chemical attacks. Actually we gave up our chemical arsenal two years or three years ago. We have enough destruction power to fire any place we attack, we don’t need to use chemical weapons.”

This is the deadliest chemical attack since a sarin gas attack killed hundreds of people in August 2013 in Ghouta, near Damascus.

In the aftermath of that attack, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) brokered negotiations led by the United States and Russia, which ostensibly saw Syria’s stash of chemical weapons destroyed.

One of the first agencies on the ground in Khan Sheikhoun was the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations.

Three of their members are in intensive care in an Idlib hospital.

A spokesman, who didn’t want to be named, said as many as 500 people may be injured.

He described the attack to Al Jazeera.

“This attack happened in two waves, one wave happened at 6 o’clock in the morning and the other at 2pm, where Rahma Hospital and Sheikhoun Hospital was attacked with chemical agents.”

There were doubts whether, after the 2013 attack, Syria had turned over its entire arsenal of chemical weapons; it’s suspected they kept up to 200 tons of sarin gas.

In May 2015 the OPCW announced that inspectors had found traces of sarin at a military research site that hadn’t been declared by the Assad government.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer, while condemning the attack on US President Donald Trump’s behalf, also blamed former President Barack Obama’s administration.

“Today’s chemical attack in Syria against innocent people including women and children is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilised world. These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the Obama administration’s weakness and irresolution. President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons, and then did nothing.”

The UN Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting.

The attack came on the eve of a major international donors’ conference in Brussels on the future of Syria and the region.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says it’s vital whoever is found responsible is held to account.

“Chemical weapons is the worst of the war crimes. Whoever is responsible for that must be held accountable. We have talked about that with representatives of Syria society, and not one single of them avoids to mention the need to work on accountability and responsibility. If I can pass a message that we share with them, it’s that impunity is not an option, especially in front of these terrible scenes we’re seeing today.”



Public ‘clearly’ want policy changes, says Peter Dutton

A senior government minister has delivered a warning to Malcolm Turnbull that the public “clearly” wants a change in direction if he is to hold onto being Prime Minister.


Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said even Mr Turnbull would acknowledge the impact Newspoll is having on his leadership and the Coalition must “listen” to the shift taking place.

“What we need to do is to turn polls around, if that’s the measure, we have to make tough decisions,” Mr Dutton told 2GB radio.

Mr Turnbull blamed Tony Abbott’s opinion polls numbers as one of the reasons for challenging him for the top job back in September 2015.  

“We have lost 30 Newspolls in a row. It is clear that the people have made up their mind about Mr Abbott’s leadership,” he said at the time.


But after winning the election with only a one seat buffer, Mr Turnbull’s track record is now 10 consecutive Newspoll losses.

“What happens after five more, he gets to 15 does he say then enough is enough? Because he raised the spectre on that day of Newspoll being a measure of the fact that he was challenging for the Prime Ministership,” 2GB radio’s Ray Hadley asked of the Immigration Minister.

Peter Dutton responded that the radio host had made “a fair point”.

The Immigration Minister said while the public is pleased and supportive of the Coalition’s approach to national security and border security – policy he’s in charge of – it must “listen” to the shift taking place among the community to change direction.  

On a two-party preferred basis, the Coalition is trailing Labor by 47 to 53 per cent, despite passing half of its company tax cuts package in the Senate last Friday.

“Labor and Greens vote together to block legislation, it’s not an easy time to deal with the Senate or the debt that we’ve got, much easier if you’re spending money and making people happy,” Mr Dutton said.


McLaughlin up for speedy Tasmanian test

Scott McLaughlin has predicted the end to one of Supercars longest-standing track records this weekend.


The arrival of the SuperSoft tyres at Symmons Plains is likely to put an end to Rick Kelly’s eight-year benchmark lap of 51.47 seconds at the short Tasmanian circuit.

But whether it will be McLaughlin or another driver pushing the new record towards mark is anyone’s guess.

The first championship round since the season-opening Clipsal 500 is one of the most anticipated meets of recent times.

It’s because for the first time in a long time, the ultra-dominant Red Bull Holdens have some competition.

Roland Dane’s team have won the last seven teams championships but the talk of the paddock is DJR Team Penske.

McLaughlin and Penske teammate Fabian Coulthard each scored a podium in Adelaide and took home a 1-2 result at the non-point scoring round at the Australian Grand Prix.

So are they the real deal or just the latest pretender?

McLaughlin said the hype behind their team was just that until they proved it on the racetrack.

“Everybody wants to see a challenger,” he said.

“They’ve been at the top of the game for 10-plus years and we’re only new.

“They’re a bloody good team and we’ve got a long mountain to climb to get where they are.

“But they know we’re coming. They know we’re there. And that’s a special feeling. We’ll do our talking on the track and see how we go.”

The Kiwi must confront one of his worst circuits this weekend.

McLaughlin has a clutch of top-10 finishes but no podiums at Symmons Plains in 11 races.

He’s hoping improved speed with the new SuperSoft tyres and the gains at Albert Park can help him break that duck.

“Whether or not times will be out of control, I’m not sure. I’d be surprised if we don’t beat the record,” he said.

“We know this track is a bit of a bogey for us so we need to work our way into it.

“To be as fast as we were at Albert Park on that tyre and make gains was a good confidence booster.”

Reindeer police help stop Far North from going Wild West

Mathis Andreas, an Indigenous Sami reindeer herder, sees a snowmobile with glowing fluorescent strips approach his remote cabin in the frozen tundra and worries what the neighbouring herder may think.



It’s the “reindeer police” in Norwegian Lapland, the only force of its kind in the world. Their job is to prevent conflicts between herders and ensure the Far North doesn’t turn into the Wild West. 

Here, far above the Arctic Circle, the reindeers’ grazing grounds can be a source of conflict. Some argue there are just too many reindeer, while harsh weather conditions can make it difficult for the animals to access their main diet, lichen, under the ice-covered snow. 

The Sami – formerly known as Lapps, a term now considered pejorative – have been herding since ancient times, selling the reindeer meat, pelts and antlers which are used in handicrafts.

The “reindeer police” in Norwegian Lapland is the only force of its kind in the world.AFP

On the Finnmark plateau in northeastern Norway, where the herds spend the winter grazing after returning from their summer pastures on the coasts, the number of reindeer has been capped at 148,800.

Herders don’t always agree on the division of their grazing grounds, with no fences separating them.

Insults, threats, stealing or killing animals, and, more rarely, fisticuffs or gunshots: although it’s nearly deserted, the Far North is no stranger to violence.

Enter the “reindeer police”

“If there’s a disagreement between one herder and another, we play the go-between and we try to find a solution. We are a kind of peace mediator,” Jan Tore Nikolaisen, a former soldier, who has served in the unit for more than a year, tells AFP. 

‘Gaza’ on ice

In 2013, two herders from Kautokeino, the main village in Finnmark, were jailed for beating up a rival who had ventured onto their pasture. They tied him up with a lasso, then left him alone in freezing temperatures and took his snowmobile key.

Another area is so confrontational locals have nicknamed it “the Gaza Strip”.

Reindeer pcitured in Kautokeino, a town in Norway’s Finnmark county.AFP / Getty Images

“It has happened that a conflict worsened and became physically violent, although I’ve never experienced it. But the atmosphere can be tense and people shout insults,” says Jim Hugo Hansen, Nikolaisen’s colleague. 

“Everyone is not always totally pleased, but we usually find a solution so that each herder can go about his business,” he adds.

A punishing expedition

The reindeer police patrol that Mathis Andreas saw approaching his cabin is just paying a courtesy call, it turns out. 

Grazing conditions have been good in the area in recent years, making for peaceful coexistence. 

But there have been conflicts in the past, admits Andreas, 47, whose family have been herders since the 18th century. 

With a smoker’s husky laugh, Andreas recalls a harsh expedition he conducted with another man around 30 years ago against three other herders. 

The trio had brought their herds to his uncle’s pasture and assaulted him with a sharp tool. 

“We gave them what they deserved,” he recounts, a bit cryptically at first, aware of the presence of his police guest at his side.

The men later moved their animals to a neighbour’s pasture further north, where they, he says with a pause, “received a clear message to move promptly”. 

“They moved even further north, to a third pasture, and there, too, they were roughed up,” he says. “They never came back.”

“We weren’t used to calling the police at the time.” 

As he speaks, Andreas keeps a close eye on his meal bubbling away on a wood stove. It’s reindeer cheek, tongue and rectum. “It’s fat, it’s very good.”

The reindeer grazing grounds can be a source of conflict above the Arctic Circle.AFP / Getty Images

A debated name

The “reindeer police” was created in 1949 to put an end to the widespread poaching that erupted after the Nazis’ scorched earth policy left the region devastated.

Today, the 15-member force patrols an area of 56,000 square kilometres (21,621 square miles) more often by snowmobile and quad bike than by car, usually at a distance so as not to frighten the herds.

“Entire weeks can go by without us seeing a reindeer,” admits Hansen.

The force’s very name is debated, as its members deem it too narrow and misrepresentative.

“We don’t just work on reindeer herding,” says its chief Inger Anita Ovregard at their headquarters in Alta. 

“We also watch over nature and ensure that the public respect the rules, whether it be hunting, fishing or motorised travel,” she adds. 

And herders find the name stigmatising, claiming it insinuates that crime is more common among them than the rest of society.

“It gives the impression that this police force is here only to deal with these damned herders, but it has many other roles,” says Anders Oskal, director of the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry.

“There are challenges everywhere but, overall, reindeer herders are decent people trying to have a decent life.” 


Defence admits ‘bad’ $1.1m rations payment

Defence copped an $18,000 interest payment after an army major used a credit card to pay more than $1.


1 million on rations for a military exercise.

Officials admitted to a Senate committee on Thursday it should have been paid through an invoice rather than an electronic funds transfer.

They insisted the purchase of the rations for Operation Talisman Sabre in Queensland was approved and known months ahead, but the issue was how it was paid.

“The person in this case took the decision that paying those suppliers’ bills for that exercise, it would be a more efficient way to pay them by credit card,” first assistant secretary David Spouse told senators.

“That clearly was a very bad decision.”

Mr Spouse said he had been in the department for a long time and had not seen anything like it at that level.

His colleague Angela Diamond insisted officers were not spending money unnecessarily, but conceded the $18,000 charge would not have existed if the payment was made properly.

Labor senator Alex Gallacher said the committee was not questioning whether the money was spent keeping soldiers in the field in the right state.

“We’re just questioning the absolute absurdity of the decision,” he said.

Meryl Clarke, of the department’s fraud arm, said an investigations concluded no fraud was involved, but admitted the payment would not have been picked up by their systems.

“Because there is no fraud involved,” she said under questioning.

Liberal senator Chris Back asked how she knew that if she had not yet investigated it.

Ms Clarke said it was not a total payment, but rather the $1.147 million was split up in a limited time frame.

The major has undertaken extra training since the incident.

The rations payment was one of several concerns raised in an Australian National Audit Office report last year on Defence’s management of credit cards.

The review also found at least $75,138 was paid on purchasing cards for 119 staff traffic fines from July 2012 to November 2015.

Major General David Mulhall said all the incidents had been investigated.

“In some cases we have been unable to find who was liable for the bill and therefore the department has paid that liability,” he said.

As of Thursday, there are 15 outstanding traffic notices, with the oldest from February 27.

Following the audit recommendations, Defence has increased its analytic testing of credit cards, with an internal audit of the use of fuel cards being conducted.

Rare siamang gibbon born at Canberra zoo

An instant attraction between two loved-up apes has seen an endangered baby primate burst onto the scene at Canberra zoo.


The newborn siamang gibbon clung tight to mum Tunku with dad Cian in tow as the young family made their public debut on Thursday morning at the National Zoo and Aquarium.

The black-furred five-week old, whose sex is not yet known, clasped onto Tunku’s belly as the mother rolled down the grassy slopes of their enclosure and sought shade while snacking on fruit and vegetables.

The baby ape came into the world quietly on February 28, with a zookeeper discovering the surprise bundle the following morning.

Its birth followed a seven-month gestation period, meaning it was love at first sight for the parents, which met for the first time in May last year.

“It really didn’t take very long before they hit it off. They were really, really keen on each other from the very beginning,” zookeeper Georgia Clark said.

“We did see matings and a lot of interest in each other from the very beginning. It just took a few months and the little one was conceived.”

The ape’s arrival is welcome news for an international breeding effort to save the species from extinction, with only a handful of successful mating pairs in Australasia.

Siamang gibbons, whose wild populations have halved in the past 40 years, hail from Sumatra in Indonesia, and smaller islands in Thailand and Malaysia.

The biggest threats to preserving the species are habitat destruction, deforestation and illegal capture for the pet trade.

The newborn gibbon could one day contribute to the breeding program, and zookeepers hope its parents produce more children.

But for now all eyes are on the fledgling family, with both mum and dad taking to their new roles, grooming and nurturing the baby.

The youngster, who is not expected to loosen its grip on Tunku’s belly for about six months, will not reach sexual maturity for about five years, giving zoo visitors plenty of time for a closer look.

RBA boss tells it straight on housing

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe dropped the ‘central bank-speak’ this week to deliver a blunt warning on the state of Australia’s red-hot housing market.


Former US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan once boasted how he had learnt to “mumble with great incoherence” after becoming a central banker.

But Lowe was far from vague on Tuesday, as figures showed Sydney house prices have rocketed nearly 20 per cent in the past year and in Melbourne by over 15 per cent.

Housing supply has not kept up with demand, there has been a lack of well-located land released and an under-investment in good transport, Lowe said in a dinner address.

He also turned on the banks for lax lending practices, which has fuelled ballooning debt at a time of slow household income growth.

He said too many loans were being made which leave the borrower with the “skinniest” of income buffers, assuming people can live more frugally than they can in practice.

He is also concerned banks have allowed interest-only home loans to grow to 40 per cent of loans granted, unusual by international standards.

Such loans are drawing investors from other countries which don’t enjoy similar flexibility, which are made even more attractive by the taxation arrangements that apply to investment in residential property.

He expects a new suite of measures from regulators will help cool demand, including limited interest rate-only loans to 30 per cent.

Lowe’s address overshadowed his views on the broader economy following the central bank’s monthly board meeting hours earlier.

They were hardly inspiring.

Recent figures point to ongoing “moderate” growth, unemployment has moved higher while employment growth is modest.

Wage growth remains slow while inflation remains quite low.

As one economist said, Lowe is stuck between a “rock and a hard place” with a raging housing market on one hand but an economy that couldn’t handle an interest rate rise to counter it.

Data this week showed annual retail spending has slowed to a pace not seen in almost four years.

That ties in with consumer confidence, which has been trending downwards since the beginning of the year and now stands at its lowest level since October 2015.

This gloomy backdrop means Treasurer Scott Morrison can’t be gung-ho in trying to balance the nation’s finances when he hands down his second budget on May 9.

However, he will have the benefit of increased revenue from higher iron ore and coal prices, although that has come off the stunning levels seen earlier this year.

Tackling housing affordability will be the centre of the budget, which will include the introduction of a “bond aggregator” as an intermediary to attract greater private sector investment into affordable community housing, similar to a process used in the UK.

However, just as Lowe was forthright for a central banker in his views on housing, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been vague on what measures potential homebuyers can expect to help them onto the property ladder.

Whereas Turnbull and other ministers were adamant during last year’s election that the government wouldn’t be pursuing changes to housing tax concessions, like negative gearing or the capital gain tax discount Labor was advocating, he refuses to rule out such changes now.

Similarly, when asked about whether the government will be allowing young people to tap their superannuation to help build a deposit for a mortgage, all the prime minister says is “wait for the budget”.

In the past, Turnbull thought this was a “thoroughly bad idea”.

Such are the vagaries of the pre-budget season.

Likely senator confirms Aust citizenship

The Kenyan-born lawyer who could fill former Family First senator Bob Day’s spot signed a candidate nomination form stating she became an Australian citizen in 2001.


The nomination form was attached to a submission by the attorney-general in the High Court case that resulted in Mr Day being declared ineligible to sit as a senator due to a leasing arrangement he had with the government for his Adelaide electorate office.

On the form, signed by Lucy Gichuhi on May 30 last year, she states she was born in Kenya but became a naturalised Australian citizen on July 17, 2001.

She also confirms in writing she is “not incapable” of being chosen to run for parliament under Section 44 of the constitution.

Under the constitution, a person cannot sit as an MP if they are “a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power”.

The Australian Electoral Commission is awaiting advice from a High Court judge on how the special count to replace Mr Day should be conducted.

It is widely expected the special count will confirm Ms Gichuhi, who was second on the SA Senate ticket for Family First at the 2016 election, as the replacement and she will be sworn in on May 9.

Ms Gichuhi told the ABC she “absolutely” wanted to be a senator and due diligence had been undertaken before she was nominated as a Family First candidate.

“We sought all the legal advice and information that was necessary to truthfully complete the nomination form,” she said on Thursday.

However, she has repeatedly declined to answer journalists’ questions about whether she retained Kenyan citizenship in some form, which could raise constitutional issues.

Asked whether the government planned to take any further action to clarify Ms Gichuhi’s status, a spokeswoman for Special Minister of State Scott Ryan said: “The government will await the conclusion of the High Court proceedings and the recount by the Australian Electoral Commission.”

Meanwhile, SA Premier Jay Weatherill was expecting to meet with Ms Gichuhi on Thursday to discuss some of the issues the state was advancing with the federal government.

He told reporters he hoped she would be a strong supporter of South Australia.

“Bob (Day) was an enemy of South Australia, so it can only go up from there,” Mr Weatherill said.

“He was the one that was trying to give away our funds while he was attacking horizontal fiscal equalisation (federal funding distribution).

“Bob was just basically a vote for the coalition.”

However, Mr Weatherill still hoped the special count would deliver the seat to Labor’s Anne McEwen, who was a party to the High Court case.