Monthly Archives: September 2019



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Aust rugby needs Mowen: Alexander

Veteran Test prop Ben Alexander says the Wallabies and Brumbies need to keep a player of teammate Ben Mowen’s calibre in their ranks.


Having only made his Test debut this season – and already captained the Wallabies – loose forward Mowen is reportedly considering his playing future with a move offshore an option because of a pay dispute with the Australian Rugby Union.

Mowen, who has started all eight Tests this year, didn’t want to speak to the media about his contract situation at the Wallabies camp in Argentina, with a Wallabies spokesman only saying that “negotiations are continuing”.

Australia can ill-afford to lose a player with such obvious leadership qualities that he was made captain in only his sixth Test in the absence of injured regular skipper James Horwill – leading them to the gutsy win over Argentina.

He also led the Brumbies to the Super Rugby final earlier this year.

Mowen isn’t receiving a top-up contract from the ARU despite being a regular starter in the team since making his debut against the British and Irish Lions in June and now a vice-captain.

The cash-strapped ARU is limiting top-ups and has introduced a policy where players only get the extra payment if they have played for more than two years with the Test team.

With the Wallabies struggling under new coach Ewen McKenzie and the shock departure last week of Brumbies mentor Jake White, Mowen’s value to both teams has sky-rocketed.

“You just need all the players you can get,” Alexander said of his national and Super Rugby teammate.

“Benny has done a great job on field speaking with referees, organising our line-out with Brumbies and Wallabies.

“He’s done a great job in tandem with the coaches in turning the Brumbies around and led us to within a whisker of winning the whole comp.

“It is is up to Benny to sort out what is the best decision for himself and his family and whatever that is, we will support him.”

Following White’s surprise departure, Wallabies legend Stephen Larkham and Laurie Fisher have both been promoted from assistant coaches to custodians, with one to be given the Brumbies top job permanently.

Alexander, who has 80 caps with the side, said he hadn’t been contacted by Brumbies chief executive Andrew Fagan for his opinion and wasn’t waiting to be.

“I shouldn’t expect we would be,” the prop said.

“We are the players, not the bosses.

“We will leave it up to the board … that’s their decision and we will back whoever they pick.”



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Why do terror groups use social media?

Kenya’s police force had been on Twitter just four days when gunmen entered the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi armed with grenades and automatic weapons.


Officials wasted no time putting the platform to use, relaying updates about the attack, asking witnesses to come forward and encouraging citizens to donate blood.

At almost exactly the same time — most likely in Somalia — al-Shabab militants were also using the social media site to claim responsibility for the attack and release details about it.

The account was quickly shut down as Twitter executives enforced their guidelines blocking “unlawful or illegal” activities. It was at least the third time in less than a year an account run by al-Shabab operatives had been set up and forcibly shut down.

Collecting information: A tweet sent by Kenya’s police chief David Kimaiyo during the Westgate siege

Good morning, we are still held up at Westgate. Kindly share information of the families who have been shopping and have not been traced.

— David Kimaiyo (@IGkimaiyo) September 22, 2013



David Malet, international security specialist at the University of Melbourne, says experts have known about al-Shabab’s social media presence for at least two years.

“[al-Shabab] consider it a cornerstone of their strategy to try to reach out to youth in western countries,” he says.

Dr Malet believes the main motivation for their online presence is recruitment, and their target is young westerners.

“They’re trying to reach millennials, they’re trying to reach teenagers who they think might be active on social media sites who might not be familiar with the politics behind al-Shabab,” he says.  

“If they can reach them [and] convince them of some noble cause out there that they’re fighting for… then they can persuade people to come join the cause.”

LISTEN: Click the orange play button below to hear an extended interview with Jake Wallis


Whether the approach actually boosts numbers for the group is “difficult to say,” he adds.

“There’s been some evidence of a few westerners who have joined al-Shabab, who have joined al-Qaeda because they’ve been in internet chatrooms or somebody has groomed them or recruited them, but for the most part recruitment among westerners has taken place face-to-face at community centres or mosques,” he says.

Information specialist Jake Wallis from Charles Sturt University says in the Westgate example, control over how the group is portrayed is also a key factor.

“The Kenyan authorities were using social media platforms such as Twitter to assert their control over the situation, and almost in real time, al-Shabab was able to generate a counter-narrative that asserted its position within the conflict,” he says.

“This is really important in terms of reaching out to that potential audience, in terms of recruitment and financial support.”


Most social media sites, including Twitter, allow anonymous users to set up accounts and run them however they like – until they break the rules.

Al-Shabab was able to continue running new Twitter accounts despite being continually shut down; a point that highlights the difficulty a company that hosts 200 million users worldwide has in policing its entire user base.

It also poses the question: can extremists ever be completely shut down?  

Jake Wallis says probably not.

“It’s a significant problem for the platforms that are becoming the de-facto media environment in a digital age,” he says.

“What’s happening is platforms like Twitter, like Facebook, like YouTube, are having to make decisions about what constitutes acceptable engagement with a global audience, and in many ways engagement with a democratic political process.”

On the other hand, a social media presence can help authorities and experts understand and collect information about extremists and their movements, a fact that came to light through the PRISM project made famous by the leaks of Edward Snowden.

“Many of the digital gateways that we use on a regular basis, like Facebook, like Twitter, are supplying whole data sets to agencies who can then sift through that information and put together a picture of the kinds of relational networks that individuals considered security risks are engaged in,” says Mr Wallis.



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SBW opened my eyes to potential: Jennings

Michael Jennings admits it took Sonny Bill Williams to make him fully understand he’d been wasting his talent in a comfort zone.


NSW centre Jennings has scored a career-best 19 tries in his first season with the Sydney Roosters – surpassing his previous biggest haul of 17 in 2009 – and stands on the verge of winning a premiership in Sunday’s NRL grand final against Manly.

The 25-year-year-old left Penrith to join the Roosters this season after Panthers coach Ivan Cleary and general manager Phil Gould decided he wasn’t doing enough to earn his hefty $600,000 a season salary.

Jennings’ relationship with Gould had also disintegrated after he was sanctioned on two occasions for alcohol-related incidents.

Gould threatened his star player with the sack if he crossed the line again and Jennings concedes some of his actions were unprofessional.

“I think maybe I was in the comfort zone at Penrith,” Jennings told AAP.

“I’d been involved with the club since I was eight, and I always thought I would be there for the rest of my career.

“Looking back now, I realise my attitude probably wasn’t the best and I could have done some things differently but I always gave my best for Penrith.”

Jennings’ arrival at the Roosters was overshadowed by superstar dual international Williams’ high-profile return to the NRL and the addition of James Maloney from the Warriors.

And he said seeing how Williams trained and prepared for games was a huge eye opener.

“It was a bit like starting school when I first came here,” he said.

“I knew some of the boys like Mitchell Pearce, but I very much had to start again and prove myself to my teammates.

“Sonny came in after me but straight away you could see he did everything so professionally. The way he trained and how he prepared for games.

“When you see a guy as good as he is having to work hard it does rub off on you and make you think ‘am I doing enough?’

“I was hurt when Penrith said they were happy to let me leave as it’s my club and the club my family support.

“But coming to the Roosters has been the best move of my career and I am so happy with how this season has gone for me.”

A place in the Kangaroos squad for the Rugby League World Cup is also on the horizon with long-serving centre Justin Hodges ruled out after rupturing his Achilles.

Selection in Tim Sheens’ Australian squad would cap a remarkable turnaround for a player who was picked to play on the wing in the 2010 NSW City Origin team – a year after scoring a hat-trick in his single Test appearance on the 2009 Four Nations tour against France.

“It would be nice to go to World Cup, but I haven’t really thought about, I am just focused on winning the grand final and if it (selection) happens, it happens,” he said.



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America’s Cup ‘vultures’ already circling Team NZ – Dalton

Team New Zealand (TNZ) were beaten by defenders Oracle Team USA, backed by software billionaire Larry Ellison, in a winner-takes-all final race on San Francisco Bay last week and the future of the syndicate has come under scrutiny.


TNZ’s campaign, put in excess of NZ$120 million ($99.08 million), was partially funded by a central government injection of NZ$36 million, and politicians have wavered about committing more funding from the public purse.

“Really the priority is the guys and securing the guys because, it’s just a cycle of the America’s Cup and the poachers are out hard,” Dalton told reporters upon his return to New Zealand from San Francisco on Wednesday.

“There’s plenty of billionaires out there that would like to strip us bare quickly.

“We’ve really got to hold onto the guys, then all of us can plan our own futures, but you’ve got to hold the guys if there’s any chance of keeping the team together.

“So that’s a priority. Once that’s done we then think about the next step.”

Australia’s Hamilton Island Yacht Club, owned by wine tycoon and sailing enthusiast Bob Oatley, have already been confirmed as the Challenger of Record and will work with the defenders to determine the format of the next regatta, likely to be in 2016.

After New Zealand’s previous challenge in 2007, the government pledged the money early to lock up talent for the next America’s Cup cycle before sponsors were found for more funding.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key told local media that he and Economic Development Minister Steve Joyce, who was in San Francisco for the final stages of the Cup, were open to meeting skipper Dean Barker to discuss another challenge.

“We understand the pressures that they’re under,” Key told Television New Zealand. “We’ve also said, ‘look, the government’s view is we’re more than happy to talk to Team NZ’.

“When they’re in a position to talk and they felt it makes sense to come and speak to us, pick up the phone and give me a ring or call Steven Joyce.”

Both Key and Joyce have said any public money offered would be only a part of the team’s overall funding, which would again be expected to be secured mainly through commercial sponsorship.

Barker said the window for securing a sailing and design team was shrinking and that Swedish challenger Artemis, who suffered a fatal accident in the lead-up and were knocked out in the Louis Vuitton Cup, had already approached members of TNZ.

“It is tough, it is really tough, when you are still trying to regather yourself, or compose yourself after what we have been through, and the vultures are already circling,” he told local broadcaster TV3.

“We have a very small window of opportunity. Without the money to be able to get going again very quickly we lose the people, and if we lose the people there is no Team New Zealand.”

($1 = 1.2111 New Zealand dollars)

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Ian Ransom)



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Gillard jokes about wedding at The Lodge

Julia Gillard’s thoughts on a wedding at The Lodge was just one of the lighter moments of the second part of an interview that marked the end of her silence since being ousted by Kevin Rudd as prime minister.


Ms Gillard promptly answered “no” when asked by a woman in the audience if she ever considered marrying her partner Tim Mathieson to get the media off her back.

“It doesn’t matter to us, we’ve chosen what we want and if it doesn’t matter to us than I don’t think it should matter to anyone else,” she said.

Ms Gillard was speaking to Anne Summers at the Melbourne Town Hall in the second part of an interview forum that had been in Sydney the previous night.

She also joked about the media circus a wedding at the lodge would have created.

“Could you imagine the carry on there would be about what she was going to wear, is she going to trip up when she walks down the aisle,” she said.

On feminist Germaine Greer’s infamous comments that Ms Gillard wore unflattering jackets and had a “big arse”, the former prime minister said: “more than anything else I was disappointed for her”.

“I grew up thinking Germaine Greer was amazing,” she said.

“For everything she’s done and everything she is and the great worth she’s brought to our understanding of gender I just thought, it just let her down as much as it let me down. So I was sad for that.”

But, she said she was not personally hurt by the comments.

“To the extent that I ever got upset about people commenting on my appearance, boy I’m through the pain barrier,” she said.

In a warmer moment, Ms Gillard made special mention of Victoria’s first female premier Joan Kirner, who was sitting in the front row of the audience on Tuesday night.

Ms Kirner revealed in August that she was receiving treatment for oesophageal cancer.

Ms Gillard said she had known Ms Kirner for 30 years and recalled working with her to introduce affirmative action rules in the ALP.

“I was the junior burger in that conversation, I was the one who took the notes and had to follow things up as the leading women thought through the strategy, but that was a fantastic way to learn,” she said.