Plibersek says helping women is key to aid


Labor will fight any Abbott government move to cut foreign aid to organisations involved in family planning.


Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek told an aid conference in Canberra on Thursday there was no better tool for development than the education of girls and women.

“No other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, lower infant and maternal mortality, improve nutrition, promote health and increase the chances of education for the next generation,” Ms Plibersek told the Australian Council for International Development conference.

But she said former Howard government legislation, which banned Australian aid money going to organisations which delivered family planning services, had been a backward step.

She fears new Prime Minister Tony Abbott could revisit the issue given that Labor had scrapped the laws.

“Let me say this very clearly. I will fight any effort by Tony Abbott to strip aid from family planning services in developing countries,” Ms Plibersek said.

“It is good for mothers and their babies for women to have the ability to have their first child later, and for mothers to have the ability to space their family.

“It is vital for mothers and babies to increase attended births and offer proper post-natal care.”

The Abbott government has merged AusAID into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Ms Plibersek, Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, said the government now faced the prospect of losing dedicated staff with specialist skills and contacts in developing countries.

“This merger has been sudden, traumatic, and leaves unanswered questions,” she said.

Ms Plibersek said Labor believed the fundamental goal of Australia’s aid policy should be to overcome poverty and to save and improve lives.

Indonesia demands answers on spy claims


According to an intelligence document leaked by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, the United States has been covertly tapping Jakarta’s political elite.


The intelligence data – first published in a report by German Magazine Der Spiegel – reveals that clandestine NSA programs are also being operated from within Australian embassies in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and East Timor, and at high commission in Kuala Lumpur and Port Moresby.

Codenamed ‘Stateroom’ the monitoring program reportedly intercepts telecommunications and internet traffic. The documents describe the surveillance facilities as carefully hidden, such as in the roofs of maintenance sheds, and notes that the majority of diplomatic staff are unaware they exist.

LISTEN: Monash University Indonesia expert Greg Barton speaking to World News Australia’s Kristina Kukolja

Foreign Minister Natalegawa described the alleged surveillance as ‘unacceptable’ and if proven would qualify not only as security breaches, but also as a ‘serious violation of diplomatic norms and ethics.’

The US embassy’s charge d’affaires in Jakarta Kristen Bauer was summoned by the Indonesian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday to explain the allegations but is yet to comment.  The US State Department has also declined to respond to the specific reports, saying only that reviews of its intelligence gathering will be completed by the end of the year.

In a statement released late Thursday the Indonesian Foreign Ministry said it had summoned Australian Ambassador Greg Moriarty on Friday to explain Australia’s involvement in the purported espionage.

University of Indonesia law professor Hikmahanto Juwana says the allegations could undermine relations between Indonesia and the US, but revelations that Australia is also involved could be more damaging.

The claims come at a time when Australia is working closely with its neighbor to deepen co-operation to combat people smuggling, and newly elected Prime Minister Tony Abbott attempts to ingratiate himself with Jakarta.

“I think it is going to be very difficult for the Indonesian government to go against the US very harshly,” says Juwana, “However this is different with Australia because Indonesia sees Australia as less powerful and I think the Indonesian government can make a big fuss about this issue.”

Juwana says Indonesia has more bargaining room with Australia than the US and if the reports are verified Indonesia could refuse to co-operate on key issues, such people smuggling and granting parole to Australians in Indonesian jails.

Parole for convicted drug smuggler Schapelle Corby is currently in the hands of Indonesian bureaucrats, but Juawana says it is unlikely the government will approve the request at a time when Australia’s actions could rouse public anger.

Political analyst Aleksius Jemadu from Pelita Harapan University in Jakarta says the allegations undermine Indonesia’s strategic partnerships with Australia and the US at a time of growing interdependence.

“I think it will harm the relationships because now they know that there is a big deficit of trust on the part of the US and Australian governments,” said Jemdau.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he would not make public comment on intelligence matters but stressed Australian agencies and officials have always acted in accordance with the law.

Complacent a Victoria Derby standout: Boss


Glen Boss has all but conceded the Victoria Derby to Sydney colt Complacent.


Boss rides maiden galloper Bring Something in Saturday’s Group One staying test for three-year-olds and rates his mount a top five chance.

But he is sure the Peter Snowden-trained Complacent, winner of the Spring Champion Stakes at Randwick, is the horse to beat.

“If I was riding Complacent tomorrow, I’d be very confident I just win the race,” Boss said.

“I’d be sleeping pretty comfortably if I was Kerrin McEvoy tonight, thinking that I could win the Derby.”

Complacent lost favouritism for the Derby (2500m) at Flemington when he drew barrier 16 on Wednesday but retains the faith of his stable and the respect of his rivals.

Spring Champion placegetter and last week’s Group Two Vase winner Savvy Nature heads TAB’s market at $4.80 while Polanski has been the big firmer from $8.50 to $5.50 equal second favourite with Complacent since drawing barrier one on Wednesday.

Boss took plenty of notice of Complacent’s Spring Champion Stakes win and was suitably impressed.

“The trip looks like it will be the least of his worries and I reckon he’ll love Flemington,” Boss said.

“He’s well found in the market but he should be because he just looks like the winner to me.”

Boss, a Victoria Derby winner on Hit The Roof in 2000, has a good opinion of Bring Something but says the Derby might be coming too soon for the Ken Keys-trained gelding who the jockey described as “a work in progress”.

Bring Something was fourth in the Bill Stutt Stakes and fifth in the Norman Robinson.

“I’m expecting my horse to run well and I think in the autumn when he furnishes you’ll see a better horse,” Boss said.

“I can’t see him winning tomorrow. I hope he does, but I can’t see it.

“I’ve got him in the top five, but outside the top three.”

Complacent is the leading chance of Darley’s three runners but Norman Robinson Stakes runner-up San Diego and Geelong Classic runner-up Tupac Amaru are also in contention.

“Complacent is a high-quality colt, a striking individual and we’ve had him pegged as the horse with the most ability of the three,” Darley’s Jason Walsh said.

“But they are all there deserving of their chance.

“We’ve got plenty of darts there with different racing styles and that gives us a good chance hopefully tomorrow.”

Hugh Bowman is hoping for his third Victoria Derby win in four years when he rides Polanski, who he partnered to win the Norman Robinson Stakes last start.

“I was lucky to get on him but I might have just got on him at the right time,” Bowman said.

Macquarie profit rises as markets recover


Shares in Macquarie Group climbed to their highest level in four years after the investment bank’s half year profit rose by 39 per cent to $501 million.


Macquarie has also pointed to a stronger full year result, lifted its dividend payment and decided to transfer its holding in Sydney Airport directly to its shareholders.

The shares hit a high of $53.44 on Friday, their highest value since October 2009, before closing at $53.10, up $2.06, or four per cent.

Macquarie’s net profit in the six months to September 30 was up from $361 million last year.

Chief executive Nicholas Moore said its annuity business recorded a 24 per cent increase in profit, while earnings from the capital markets business also rose significantly.

The improved performance was likely to continue into the second half of the bank’s financial year, assuming market conditions do not deteriorate significantly, he said.

“We think for the full year the group will be up on where we were last year,” Mr Moore said.

Improving share markets and corporate activity have boosted Macquarie’s performance, and it is well positioned to take advantage of the pick up in markets over the medium term, he said.

The company will pay interim dividend of $1 per share, up from 75 cents for the same time last year.

It will also distribute its holding in Sydney Airport directly to shareholders, who will receive one Sydney Airport share for every Macquarie share they own.

Morningstar analyst David Ellis said the result suggested Macquarie was rebounding after underperforming in recent years due to weakness in stock markets.

“The strong operating performance and the Sydney Airport distribution confirms our positive view and suggests Macquarie is on the way back to doing what it does best – taking full advantage of the recovery in equity and investment markets,” he said.

Mr Ellis expects Macquarie’s full year profit to grow by more than 25 per cent to almost $1.1 billion, which would be its largest annual profit since the global financial crisis.

Larkham completes Brumbies transformation


From lanky fullback, to playmaking great, to head coach.


Stephen Larkham’s remarkable 17-year Brumbies career has evolved once more.

Australia’s most distinguished modern day five-eighth was on Friday given the reins of the Brumbies alongside Laurie Fisher, who was made the Super Rugby club’s director of rugby in a dual coaching structure.

The appointments follow the shock resignation of South African-born World Cup-winning coach Jake White in September, who left a month after taking the side to the Super Rugby final.

Larkham started his career with the Brumbies in their inaugural season in 1996, going on to make his Test debut from the bench later that year as an outside back.

Just one year earlier he had been plucked out of reserve grade rugby in Canberra.

“I was lucky enough to get a contract,” the 39-year-old said on Friday.

“The Brumbies are a big part of my history. They’re my family, I’ve grown up in this culture.”

After flourishing into the No.10 jersey following a Rod Macqueen selection masterstroke, Larkham went on to claim more than 100 caps for both the Brumbies and the Wallabies, winning two Super Rugby titles and a World Cup along the way.

And having been the Brumbies’ backs coach for the past two seasons, it comes as no surprise he’ll have more authority over the team’s overall attacking philosophies.

“Nothing is going to change in terms of how we run the team,” Larkham said.

“Off the field, it’s going to be the same. Laurie spoke to the forwards, I spoke to the backs.”

As head coach, Larkham will now have greater input and involvement with the overall organisation of the team and play a bigger part in recruitment and weekly selections.

The style he’s expected to bring to the side was applauded by rival Super Rugby coach Michael Cheika on Friday.

“I rate Larkham very highly and I was surprised he didn’t get the job outright himself,” the NSW Waratahs coach said.

“He has great credibility, he understands the attacking game and I think we’ll see the Brumbies in his image and a little bit more expansive.”

However Larkham stressed he won’t be a one-man-band, indicating there would be plenty of input from Fisher, as well as an assistant coach yet to be appointed.

“There’s robust discussions, and you put in your arguments to one another. It’s whoever argues the best point really,” he said.

“We’re fairly logical sort of men.”

Fisher, who was Brumbies head coach from 2005-08, is a club stalwart himself, having been involved in the club for the past 15 years.

He’ll control day-to-day rugby operations with elements such as staffing, program development, talent pathways and training structures, as well as continuing to focus on the forwards, the breakdown and the tackle contest.

Fisher said the key to making the partnership work would be communication.

“Whether it’s a marriage, or whether it’s a rugby program, if you’re not talking about it, you’re going to struggle,” he said.

To which Larkham quipped: “We’ve been in the engagement, and now we’re married.”