Labor stands by emissions trading scheme

17May

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s plan to abolish the carbon tax may have to wait at least nine months after the Labor shadow cabinet agreed to block the bills unless the government moves to an emissions trading scheme in 2014.

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Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says Labor will seek to amend the government’s repeal laws after they are introduced in the first week of parliament starting on November 12.

“The opposition will move amendments consistent with our pre-election commitments to terminate the carbon tax on the basis of moving to an effective emissions trading scheme,” Mr Shorten said.

“However, if our amendments are not successful we will oppose the government’s repeal legislation, in line with our long-held principle position to act on climate change.”

Mr Abbott argues his election win gives him a clear mandate to abolish Labor’s carbon tax and associated climate change agencies and replace them with his Direct Action plan.

But Mr Shorten said Labor is not a “rubber stamp” for Mr Abbott.

“We won’t be bullied, and I won’t be bullied by Tony Abbott merely because he doesn’t accept the science of climate change,” Mr Shorten said on Friday.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt says the trading scheme is “exactly the same” as a carbon tax and the government would not support it.

Mr Hunt said repealing the carbon tax would save households $550 a year.

Business Council of Australia chief Jennifer Westacott wants the opposition to support the coalition’s legislation.

“The last thing business and the economy needs is for actions by the parliament to lead to one of the world’s highest carbon prices remaining in place for an extended and uncertain period,” Ms Westacott said.

Under Labor’s carbon pricing regime, big polluters paid a fixed price per tonne of emissions ahead of a planned shift to a market-based pricing mechanism in 2014.

The new government has the numbers in the House of Representatives to pass its legislation but Labor and the Greens will amend the bills in the Senate.

The detail of Labor’s amendments, which are yet to receive full caucus endorsement, will be released before parliament starts and the party will support a Senate inquiry into the bills.

Labor’s decision lays the groundwork for a possible double-dissolution election, which Mr Abbott has said is an option if he can’t pass his bills.

This could occur if the lower house fails to accept the Senate-amended bills, or the Senate rejects the bills outright, and the same thing occurs when they are reintroduced after a period of three months.

“We will not stop until the carbon tax is repealed,” Mr Hunt said.

“We will take each step methodically and with complete intention until the carbon tax is repealed.”

The government is likely to get its way in the Senate after July 1 when conservative crossbench senators who oppose the carbon tax take up their seats.

Nazi Gestapo chief ‘buried in Jewish cemetery’

17May

The revelation that a prominent Nazi war criminal is buried in a Jewish cemetery in Berlin has made headlines across Germany.

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Heinrich Mueller was the head of the Gestapo, the secret state police in Nazi Germany, from 1936 to 1945.

According to Professor Johannes Tuchel, head of the German Resistance Memorial Centre, his remains are interred in the Grosse Hamburger Strasse, a Jewish cemetery in Berlin.

The new revelations are based on recently released statements from gravediggers who testified they buried an SS general in what was a mass grave. The statements had been long buried in the archives of communist East Germany.

But what in hindsight seems like a tremendous mix up, was, at the time, all too easily done.

“They had to do a job. They had to collect all the bodies and Heinrich Mueller at that moment was not a prominent person, it was only a body in a general’s uniform,” Professor Tuchel said.

Mueller was rumoured to have survived the fall of Berlin, but nobody knew exactly where he ended up after the war.

A German intelligence file stated that Mueller was in the former Czechslovakia in summer 1949, but Professor Tuchel has said the file is incorrect. 

A grave for Mueller has previously emerged but, despite his name etched on the tombstone, subsequent testing revealed it was not his body which lay inside.

Unlike other prominent Nazis during the Holocaust, Mueller was camera shy.

He was in the upper echelons of the Nazi party, even inhabiting Hitler’s infamous bunker in the days before the German leader’s death, but little is known about the man himself.

However Professor Tuchel said his atrocities were well known.

“He was deeply involved in the Holocaust, he was a member of the Wannsee Conference in 1942 and he was also responsible for the mass killings of Soviet prisoners of war.”

Despite potential pressure from the descendants of Holocaust victims, the German government has no plans to open the graves to locate Mueller. 

Johnson matches course record to surge clear in Sheshan

17May

On a day when first round leader Rory McIlroy’s season-long struggles returned to haunt him on the back nine and pushed the Northern Irishman back into a tie for second with Americans Bubba Watson and Boo Weekley, Johnson was in a class of his own.

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He plundered six birdies in the first seven holes en route to a nine-under-par 63 on another pleasant day at Sheshan to rocket up the leaderboard after ending the first day in a tie for eighth.

“I played really well the last two days,” said Johnson, who posted a 12-under-par 132 halfway total.

“Yesterday, I was one-over through nine holes and then played good on the front side, which was my back side, and then I started right back up today and played really good on the front.”

Johnson is an aggressive player and he vowed to try to increase his lead, rather than protect it, over the final two rounds.

He has won seven times on the PGA Tour but is perhaps best known for blowing a chance to win the 2010 U.S. PGA Championship when he received a two-stroke penalty for grounding a club in a sandy lie on the 72nd hole that cost him a place in a playoff.

McIlroy, meanwhile, had threatened to run away with the tournament when he recorded three successive birdies to charge to 10-under after eight holes.

CONFIDENCE KNOCKED

However, his swing deserted him on the back nine. A poor drive at the difficult par-four 11th led to a bogey and it was a struggle from that point on as he battled to an even-par 72.

McIlroy identified his drive at the par-four 13th as the turning point of his round.

“I hit a bad drive up the left and that sort of knocked my confidence a little bit and I started to struggle from there,” he admitted.

“I just hit a couple of bad shots and then I guess I just let it affect me a little bit and then I started to doubt myself sometimes.

“I didn’t hit a lot of quality shots on the back nine. I missed the last six greens in a row, so a bit of work is needed on the range this afternoon.”

Weekley (67) made a sluggish start, hitting the ball poorly by his own admission, but a wayward shot into the water at his fifth hole seemed to light a fire inside him.

He sank a 25-footer to save par and promptly reeled off three straight birdies from his seventh hole.

Weekley, a self-confessed redneck from the Florida Panhandle region, was asked whether he enjoyed the Chinese culture.

“It’s fun. Just can’t understand them,” he said in his thick southern drawl, before adding he had no plans for sightseeing trips in China, because “I don’t need to see nothing”.

Watson, who hails from the same area as Weekley, shot a 69 that included a double bogey from the middle of the fairway at the 10th.

“I left a lot of putts out there,” the 2012 Masters champion said.

Japanese prospect Hideki Matsuyama pulled out before the round due to a back injury.

(Editing by John O’Brien)

England cash in on lifeless WACA deck

17May

Joe Root was the odd man out as England’s batsmen cashed in on a lifeless wicket in their three-day tour match against a WACA Chairman’s XI in Perth.

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Ian Bell (77no) and Jonathan Trott (64no) combined for au unbeaten 133-run stand to guide England to 2-270 at stumps on day two in reply to the WACA’s 5-451 declared.

All of WA’s top-six batsmen made it past 50.

So, too, did England’s Michael Carberry (78), Trott and Bell.

But Test opener Root could only managed 36 before being trapped in front by seamer James Allenby.

Root averaged 37.7 with the bat during England’s 3-0 Ashes triumph earlier this year.

But that figure was inflated by his 180 at Lord’s, and the 22-year-old could find himself under the pump if he fails to fire in the first few Tests of this summer’s return Ashes series.

Bell was Australia’s nemesis in England with an average of 62.4, and he again looms as a major headache.

The 31-year-old cracked 11 fours and two sixes on Friday, and looked at ease against a WACA attack that was weakened by an early knee injury to paceman Burt Cockley.

Cockley was sent off for scans after breaking down midway through his third over.

And Tom Triffitt was also in the wars, with the wicketkeeper requiring six stitches underneath his right eye after being struck in the face by a sharp-turning Michael Beer delivery.

Although England’s batsmen looked in good touch, the same can’t be said for their pace battery.

James Anderson, Chris Tremlett, Steven Finn and Boyd Rankin were meant to feast on the inexperienced WA side.

Instead, it turned out to be a famine, with the quartet picking up just three wickets between them before being put out of their misery by the home side’s declaration shortly before lunch.

Queensland’s Chris Lynn (104), Mitch Marsh (58), Luke Towers (77), Marcus Harris (69), Ashton Turner (62no) and James Allenby (53) all made England’s attack look second rate.

England are set to be bolstered by the return of skipper Alastair Cook, paceman Stuart Broad, batsman Kevin Pietersen and spinner Graeme Swann for next week’s four-day tour match against Australia A in Hobart.