NT government dismisses judicial inquiry

The Northern Territory opposition is calling for a judicial inquiry into ministerial travel, but the chief minister has shrugged it off as unnecessary.

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NT Labor accused the government of “hiding from providing detail around ministerial travel” after it was announced that the Department of the Chief Minister would run a review from June 2014 until the end of this financial year into potential overcharging by travel agencies of government departments.

NT Police last week announced it is investigating “a potential anomaly” in a ministerial travel transaction processed by Latitude Travel for that very same department.

The head of that agency, Xana Kamitsis, will face a Supreme Court trial in November for allegedly defrauding a government-subsidised pensioner travel assistance scheme of more than $100,000.

But the government continued using her agency to book travel until about a month ago.

Labor spokeswoman Nicole Manison on Tuesday said the terms of reference for the government’s review didn’t inspire confidence.

“There are simply too many questions that remain unanswered; we need to see some real independence, some real rigour,” she told reporters.

The government’s review should reach back to at least October 2012, she said, when questions were first raised about whether travel agents were rorting the travel scheme.

“I don’t think territorians have much trust in this government, and that’s because of their actions … they’ve ducked, they’ve weaved, they’ve absolutely hidden away from providing answers,” Ms Manison said.

But Chief Minister Adam Giles dismissed the call: “Another day, another call for a public inquiry by Labor.”

He said the timeframe of his department’s inquiry, which only covers about four months before Ms Kamitsis’ arrest last year, was adequate.

The government had inherited a long-standing travel system for booking ministerial trips via a local travel agent, he said.

“We recognise the ills of that process, we’ve changed it, we now have corporate travel agencies; about 90 per cent of government travel is done through that, including about 50 per cent of ministers, we’re slowly transitioning to have that whole process put in place,” Mr Giles said.

“What we are is open and transparent, we’re very prepared to provide any information that might be asked for.”

The government has also dismissed calls for the establishment of an anti-corruption body, as recommended by the NT Ombudsman last week.

It has come under fire for several months over allegations of extravagant travel by ministers.

NSW Blues confident heading into camp

Brett Morris’ telling everyone to lighten up.

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Robbie Farah’s fit and firing up. Nemesis Cooper Cronk’s sidelined. And the skipper’s now back in the fold too.

They might be staring at a one-nil hole in the State of Origin series, but the stars are slowly aligning for NSW to force a decider as the Blues begin their training camp in Coffs Harbour.

Coach Laurie Daley made just two changes to the side that went down by a point in the series-opener in Sydney, re-instating Morris and captain Paul Gallen for Game II in Melbourne next week after the duo came through unscathed from their respective injuries last weekend.

Winger Daniel Tupou and prop Andrew Fifita were left out, while Origin rookie Josh Jackson shifts to the bench for Gallen.

Farah was also named despite not having played since suffering a shoulder injury in Game I, having been cleared to return.

“It’s great, given that they’re three leaders in the team,” Daley said.

“‘Gal’ was great on the weekend and `B-Moz’ was good as well.

“And then Robbie surprised everyone, not so much the way he’s worked on his shoulder, but the recovery. All those three are right to go.”

Daley said the Wests Tigers captain would be monitored over the first half of the week before stepping up his involvement by Saturday.

“We’ll leave him out of the contact until the weekend,” he said.

“Speaking to the doc and physio, if he wasn’t able to do contact on the weekend, there’ll be a lot of concern.

“It’s just precautionary at the moment, but he’ll train Wednesday and Thursday with us.”

Perhaps the biggest boost however came in the form of skipper Gallen, who punched out a standard team-high 225-metre and 40-tackle statline in Cronulla’s upset win over the Roosters on Sunday.

It was his first game back since injuring his hip against Newcastle in Round 6.

While Gallen laughed at the idea of lining up for a field goal, he hoped his experience would make a difference to the side that had its heart broken three weeks ago when it was unable to organise a successful field goal and watched as scheming Maroons half Cronk slotted the winning one-pointer.

“That (organisational leadership) is what I have to bring,” Gallen said.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a big difference because it’s only one point.

“The boys really tried hard, the effort was absolutely outstanding.

“We’ve just got to be a bit smarter at crucial points and if I can bring anything there to make a difference, I will.”

NSW: Josh Dugan, Brett Morris, Josh Morris, Michael Jennings, Will Hopoate, Mitchell Pearce, Trent Hodkinson, James Tamou, Robbie Farah, Aaron Woods, Beau Scott, Ryan Hoffman, Paul Gallen (capt). Interchange: Josh Jackson, Trent Merrin, Boyd Cordner, David Klemmer.

Animal groups want greyhound ban

An animal rights group fears an inquiry into NSW Greyhound racing will only result in piecemeal changes to the industry, which they want banned.

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The public part of the Special Commission of Inquiry into the NSW Greyhound Racing Industry opens on Wednesday, months after it was established to investigate and report on governance, integrity, and animal welfare in the sport.

It comes after TV footage aired on ABC’s Four Corners in February showed trainers tying live piglets, rabbits and possums to mechanical lures to be mauled.

Animal Liberation NSW CEO Lynda Stoner says the industry should be stamped out.

“That’s a possibility in NSW, that the tinkering will be put in place that will make people feel warm and fuzzy for the moment,” she said.

“We don’t see any grey area here or any room to put into place anything, anything at all. We want the industry stopped, ceased.”

Animals Australia Executive Director Glenys Oogjes said the inquiry was welcome.

“The brutal practices revealed to be prevalent in the greyhound racing industry have no place in our community,” Ms Oogjes said.

NSW held a parliamentary Inquiry into the sector in late 2013, which heard about 3000 dogs unwanted by the greyhound racing industry are euthanased in NSW each year.

That inquiry sparked new welfare standards, including tighter controls on breeding and compliance.

The footage in February’s Four Corners program rocked the industry and led to the suspension of a number of trainers and the resignation of Greyhound Racing NSW’s board.

The Queensland government has also sacked all directors of the state’s four racing boards and asked Racing Queensland chief executive Darren Condon to show why he should keep his job.

The special commission of inquiry, led by former High Court judge Michael McHugh, will have the same powers as a royal commission and will report back by September.

Comment is being sought from Greyhound Racing NSW (GRNSW).

Americans bring Women’s World Cup to life

A day after the Ivory Coast were humiliated 10-0 by Germany, Nigeria and Cameroon restored African pride while Japan opened the defence of their title in Vancouver with a 1-0 win over Switzerland courtesy of a 29th minute strike from Aya Miyama.

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Cameroon, who were making their first World Cup appearance, looked right at home on football’s biggest stage as Gaelle Enganamouit score a hat-trick to lead the 53rd ranked Les Lionnes to a 6-0 victory over South American debutant Ecuador.

Nigeria and Sweden, who have appeared in all seven women’s World Cups, experienced some first up jitters in Winnipeg with Francisca Ordega grabbing a late equaliser for the Africans to earn a 3-3 draw in the so called ‘Group of Death’.

No nation will face a tougher road to the final than those in Group D, which features three teams ranked in the top 10, the U.S. (2), Sweden (5), Australia (10) and the 33rd-ranked Nigerians, who are the top African nation.

The first appearance by the U.S. created an electric atmosphere as fans flooded across the border, filling Winnipeg Stadium with a boisterous red, white and blue flag-waving crowd.

The American Outlaws, a U.S. supporters group, turned the north grandstand into a swath of red, white and blue with chants of “USA, USA” echoing through the stadium from the moment the players appeared from the tunnel.

With U.S. based in Winnipeg, American supporters have taken over the downtown area with groups filling restaurants and pubs bringing a lively buzz to the tournament that has been lacking in some of the other five venues.

“A couple of players, I heard them as they were taking the pitch for warm-ups say, ‘it’s like we’re playing at home’,” said U.S. coach Jill Ellis.

“It was tremendous, they were behind us, the Outlaws were there and friends and family but there were fans, just fans of football it was great to have that kind of noise and support.”

The U.S. did their part as they extended their unbeaten run over the Matildas to 25 games as Megan Rapinoe scored twice and keeper Hope Solo produced some dazzling early saves.

The victory set up an intriguing showdown with former coach Pia Sundhage’s Swedish side on Friday.

Sundhage had spent five years with the U.S. team, leading them to two Olympic gold medals and a runner-up finish in the 2011 World Cup, before she returned to coach her native Sweden.

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

No risks with Bartel in AFL: Scott

If Jimmy Bartel is to buck the odds and make it back into the Geelong lineup in time for Corey Enright’s 300th AFL game, he had better not be relying on his coach’s sentimental side.

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Enright is scheduled to become only the third Cat after Ian Nankervis and Sam Newman to reach the celebrated milestone in the home match against Melbourne on June 14.

Bartel has made no secret of the fact that he desperately wants to help his three-time premiership teammate celebrate joining the 300 Club, despite not having played since picking up a knee injury against Gold Coast in mid-April.

But counting against Bartel is the fact that the Cats have a week off after the clash against the Demons.

“Obviously it will be a big game for the club and a big game for Boris (Enright),” coach Chris Scott said on Tuesday.

“But it’s our last game going into the bye and we’d be crazy to make decisions on sentimentality that might hurt us in the game and have a situation where we brought a player back for one game when he was going to have the next week off anyway.

“Our bias tends to be towards conservatism with injury.

“I understand why Jimmy would want to play, we love that about him, but that would be down our list of priorities.”

The Cats’ next challenge is a trip to Adelaide Oval on Friday night to take on a Power lineup who are building momentum with wins in their past two matches against Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs.

Geelong are hopeful of regaining key talls Rhys Stanley and Mitch Clark to bolster a threadbare ruck division as they seek to turn around a poor recent road record which has seen them win just one of their past seven matches played outside Victoria.

Stanley is expected to return after overcoming a corked quad, while Clark has more work to do to convince the Cats’ medical staff he has fully recovered from a calf complaint.

“We think that Stanley is likely and Clark is a possibility,” said Scott.

“We’re not in a position to give guarantees at this stage but we’re more optimistic than we were at this stage last week.”