Workers at closing Hazelwood mine to move to AGL plant

About 150 Victorian coal workers will be made redundant and their jobs given to retrenched staff from the nearby Hazelwood coal mine, under a deal between the state government and power company AGL.

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AGL will take the Hazelwood workers at its Loy Yang A coal mine and power plant, once voluntary redundancies are taken up by its staff.

Victoria will pay up to $20 million to ensure the redundancies go ahead and workers are hired from Hazelwood, which is due to close on March 31.

“This is a fantastic outcome, it is the first of its kind anywhere in our nation,” Premier Daniel Andrews said in Morwell on Friday.

The redundancies will be offered over the next year, and the premier expects AGL workers close to retirement will be most likely to take them up.

“It will take some time to create the vacancies but we’ve come to an agreement to do just that. No one will be forced to leave their current job,” Mr Andrews said.

There are plans to expand the scheme to Energy Australia’s Yallourn plant, and Engie’s Loy Yang B, potentially opening up positions for more workers and contractors.

Mr Andrews said both companies had given in principle support for the move, but details were being worked out.

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AGL executive general manager Doug Jackson said the company was proud to support the Morwell community as Hazelwood closed.

“It’s an opportunity that recognises the skills and experience of a very experienced workforce,” Mr Jackson told reporters.

French energy giant Engie announced in November it would close the Hazelwood coal mine and power station, putting hundreds of people out of work.

The impending closure has helped drive up power prices around the nation, as retailers prepare to lose one of Australia’s largest baseload generators from the National Energy Market.

Watch Insight episode on the closing of the power station:

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Firebirds burn the Swifts in Super Netball

There was no revenge for the NSW Swifts in the grand final rematch as the Queensland Firebirds eased to a 62-53 win in Brisbane.

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A seven-goal surge in the second quarter gave the hosts a 28-21 lead, which the Swifts chased in vain for the rest of the match.

The Firebirds’ Jamaican goal shooter Romelda Aiken led the way shooting 44 from 56 and was well assisted by Gretel Tippet (18 from 23), who also had a game-leading nine turnovers.

The Swifts’ own Caribbean sharp shooter, Sam Wallace of Trinidad, made 48 from 55 shots at the other end.

The Firebirds won their second straight ANZ Championship title last July with a double overtime victory over the Swifts, though only seven players from the 2016 grand final were in action at the sold-out Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre.

Both teams came into the fourth-round fixture with a win and a draw to their name but the Firebirds now move to second on the ladder ahead of the Sunshine Coast, who play unbeaten leaders the Giants on Saturday night.

Firebirds captain Gabi Simpson said her team did what was asked by coach Roselee Jencke when the game was there for the taking early in the final quarter.

“She told us to lift,” Simpson said.

“She said: ‘Let’s take it a step up and make sure we lift the intensity in the first five minutes.'”

The champions did just that scoring the next four goals.

Swifts wing attack Paige Hadley bemoaned the lack of experience her side showed during the most crucial period of the game.

“The nine goals is obviously frustrating because it definitely didn’t reflect the type of game but in the end they converted every turnover they got,” Hadley said.

“We’re young and that lack of experience showed at the end there.”

Swiss police hunt gunmen who killed two in Basel cafe

No details were released on the suspects or victims, and prosecutors said the motive for the attack – in a small cafe in a residential neighourhood – was not known.

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“Two men came into Cafe 56” around 8.15 pm local time (1915 GMT) “and fired several rounds,” said police in the picturesque city on the Rhine river in northwestern Switzerland.

“Two customers were killed. Another is in a critical condition”, they said in a statement. 

The assailants escaped and headed in the direction of a city railway station after the attack.

“The reason behind the attack is not yet known and will be investigated,” the Basel prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

One neighbourhood resident said the cafe “was previously an establishment known for its links to the drug world.”

“But since the owner changed several years ago it became an ordinary cafe,” the resident told local newspaper Basler Zeitung.

The road next to the cafe was cordoned off and traffic redirected.

An AFP photographer at the scene saw police dressed in white forensic garb collecting evidence at the site early Friday.

A bullet hole was visible in one of the windows of the cafe.

Gun crime is infrequent in Switzerland, even though the country has one of the highest rates of firearm ownership in the world. 

Citizens are allowed to keep their army-issue weapons at home outside periods of mandatory military service.

This right has been controversial as sometimes weapons are used at home in domestic incidents.

The number of weapons held at home is believed to be two million for a population of eight million, according to Swiss press.

In January, a man clad in military clothing shot and injured two police officers as they searched his home in northeast Switzerland for a suspected cannabis plantation.

The gunman fled but was eventually cornered and after a standoff lasting several hours, which included negotiations over the telephone, he shot and killed himself.

Police searching his home found gun publications.

Eels’ French set to miss Knights NRL clash

Parramatta are taking no chances with fullback Bevan French as they turn their attention to a first NRL top-four finish in 12 years.

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The Eels are guaranteed to move into the top four with a win over last-placed Newcastle on Friday but look set to do it without their No.1 because of a hamstring injury.

The hype is building in Sydney’s west after Brad Arthur’s side strung together six wins in a row – the first time they have done so since they made the grand final in 2009.

With Cronulla and Brisbane facing off on Friday night, two points will see the Eels jump into fourth.

The Eels haven’t finished in the top four since their minor premiership win under coach Brian Smith in 2005 and Arthur’s side is charging at the right time of year.

“It’s exciting, you can sense the excitement around Parramatta, you can sense the excitement in the playing group,” Arthur said

“You work all year to try and play finals football, we’re no different from any other club and it has been a long time.

“We need to make sure we continue to play to our standards and expectations.”

The Eels look set to rule out French for the clash as they gear up for a finals push.

After French sat on the sidelines during the second half of last week’s win over Canterbury, Arthur said he would be taking no risks.

French is in form – having scored in each of his past six matches – and key to their chances after Clint Gutherson was ruled out for the year with an ACL injury.

“He’ll train today but it’s unlikely, we don’t want to take a risk with him,” Arthur said.

Will Smith and Josh Hoffman have been named on an extended bench and with one to come into the side should French be ruled out.

The Knights have shifted Dane Gagai to fullback to cover the loss of Nathan Ross (back) while veteran Shaun Kenny-Dowall returns.

The game will also be Eels skipper Tim Mannah’s 200th first grade match and Arthur urged his charges to do it for their teammate.

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* The Eels have now won nine of their past eleven games at their adopted home ground ANZ Stadium.

* The Knights’ victory over the Warriors last week represented their first back-to-back home wins since rounds one and four in 2015.

Blewett out, Haddin is new fielding coach

Australia’a new fielding coach Brad Haddin wants his side to reach the lofty standards set by Andrew Symonds and Ricky Ponting.

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Haddin, who has pursued a coaching career since retiring in 2015, will serve as one of coach Darren Lehmann’s assistants until the end of 2019.

The former wicketkeeper, who played 66 Tests and 126 ODI, was appointed Greg Blewett’s replacement on Thursday.

“I grew up in an era of players like Andrew Symonds and Ricky Ponting, who gave Australian cricket a real identity in the standards of world-class fielding,” Haddin said.

“They were the type of players who took it personally if the team wasn’t fielding well and that created a level for the rest of the group to aspire to.

“I want to hold this group accountable to that kind of standard and I believe we have the talent to do that.”

Australia’s sloppy fielding has angered both Lehmann and skipper Steve Smith at various points in recent years.

Haddin will also work closely with Matthew Wade, the gloveman who temporarily claimed his place in the Test XI between 2012 and 2013, and back-up stumper Peter Handscomb.

“Having someone with a pedigree such as Brad’s to bounce ideas off and fine tune their skills will be immensely valuable for our keepers,” Lehmann said.

Haddin has already worked with the national side in a coaching capacity. He mentored Handscomb on an ODI tour of New Zealand earlier this year, when Lehmann was with the Test squad in Dubai.

Blewett, who had been the national fielding coach since August 2014, resigned to spend more time at home and will now take charge of South Australia’s under-19 team.

The 45-year-old will also be an assistant coach with the Redbacks and Big Bash League franchise Adelaide Strikers.

Wilkinson faces big surfing test in Tahiti

Matt Wilkinson’s narrow lead in the surfing world title race faces a major test at the Tahiti Pro, where he’s never progressed past the quarter-finals.

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The Australian has long struggled at Teahupoo in French Polynesia, enduring third-round eliminations in the past four years after reaching the final eight in 2011.

The 28-year-old took the yellow leader’s jersey after winning in Fiji in June before his lead was cut to a mere 250 points when he lost in the quarter-finals last month at J-Bay.

Reigning world champion John John Florence is Wilkinson’s closest title rival this season and looms as a major threat in Tahiti after being second to Kelly Slater in 2016.

Wilkinson was also world series leader last year heading into Teahupoo — the seventh of 11 stops on the elite tour — before being overtaken by Florence.

The Hawaiian held onto the championship lead for the rest of the season, while Wilkinson fell away to fifth.

Wilkinson has vowed not to relinquish the yellow jersey this year and three-time world champion Mick Fanning said his compatriot’s result in Tahiti, with surfing scheduled to begin on August, could be decisive.

“His win in Fiji gave him a lot of confidence,” Fanning, ranked 11th in the title race, told AAP.

“I wouldn’t want to say he should try to ‘hold on’ because he still has to fight.

“But if he can get another big result in Teahupoo, he’ll be looking pretty good.”

Eleven-time world champion Slater won’t return to defend his title after sustaining a foot injury in South Africa.

World No.4 Australian Owen Wright will also contend for his first title after reaching the semi-finals in 2012 and 2015 before missing the 2016 season due to a head injury.

Wright sits 1800 points off the lead, while seventh-ranked Filipe Toledo of Brazil looms large after winning the J-Bay Open.

What more do banks have to do?: Labor

Labor wonders what the banking industry has to do before the federal government calls a royal commission into any misconduct.

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Treasurer Scott Morrison insists the government has left all options on the table to deal with the “epic failure” of the Commonwealth Bank board which is engulfed in another financial scandal.

But he ruled out a royal commission into the banking sector following CBA’s alleged 50,000 breaches of anti-money laundering laws.

Action needed to be taken now, Mr Morrison said, citing the government’s decision to increase the powers of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and making senior bank executives more accountable.

In contrast, a royal commission would be a three-year “lawyers’ picnic”.

The government won’t be rushing its response out of concern it may frustrate financial transactions regulator AUSTRAC bringing the bank to court.

“That is priority one,” Mr Morrison said on Thursday.

“We are not going to give the Commonwealth Bank any leave passes by any actions we might take.”

But shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said the treasurer had taken the “biggest and best” option off the table in ruling out a royal commission.

“How much more evidence does the government need?” he asked.

Questioned about the position of CBA boss Ian Narev, Mr Bowen said neither the treasurer or alternative treasurer choose bank chief executives.

“What you do is move policy levers and the policy lever the treasurer has available is a royal commission,” he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

“Mr Narev’s position is between him and the board.”

Greens lash Forrest’s welfare card push

Billionaire businessman Andrew Forrest has been accused of using shock tactics to scare people into supporting cashless welfare cards.

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Mr Forrest has joined Western Australian indigenous and community leaders calling for the cards to be rapidly expanded, releasing a graphic video depicting welfare-fuelled violence and sexual abuse across the state.

He said opponents of the cards, including the Greens, were covering themselves in shame.

Greens senator Rachel Siewert said the mining magnate was using the same tactics as the Howard government in 2007 over the Northern Territory intervention and so-called “Basics Card”.

“Using violent imagery then offering a one-dimensional, paternalistic and previously failed approach to a complex problem shows that Andrew Forrest is more concerned about furthering his ideologies than looking at what works,” she said.

“We should stop wasting money on income management-style approaches and start looking at real solutions that work.”

The cards quarantine 80 per cent of welfare payments, which cannot be used to buy alcohol or gamble but can be used to pay for housing, food, clothing, household supplies and essentials.

The remaining 20 per cent of a welfare payment is placed in a person’s regular bank account and can be withdrawn as cash.

A recent review of two trials – the East Kimberley in WA and Ceduna in South Australia – found the cards had been effective in reducing alcohol consumption, illegal drug use and gambling.

The federal government will continue the trials and is looking for two more pilot sites.

Labor human services spokeswoman Linda Burney said the video circulated by Mr Forrest and supporters of cashless welfare cards was shocking.

But the opposition will not be making any decisions until the results of the first two trials are clear.

“It should not be the case that people and children are fearful to go home,” Ms Burney said on Thursday.

“Of course it had an impact but Labor’s position, as I said, is that we are waiting to see the evaluation which I’m told is imminent.”

Crows expect Talia, Mackay to face Bombers

Adelaide expect key defender Daniel Talia and winger David Mackay to overcome niggling injuries and play against Essendon in Saturday night’s AFL game.

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Talia (groin) and Mackay (corked thigh) were in some doubt but completed training on Thursday, Crows coach Don Pyke says.

“Both travelled well so we expect they’ll both be available for selection,” Pyke told reporters.

Ladder leaders Adelaide travel to meet the Bombers with a six-point buffer at the top of the table.

However, Pyke ruled out resting players in the run to the finals.

“We are probably not entering that space,” he said.

“I’m probably more a believer of continuing on, if guys are in good form, keeping them playing good footy.

“(Resting players) isn’t something have thought about significantly, to be honest.

“Where we sit on the ladder, we want to maintain that position.

“We have given ourselves an opportunity to go into the finals in a really strong position.

“And that, for us, starts with another four points in Saturday night.

“From there, I think players want to play.

“The reality of the system at the moment is there is a bye between the last game and the first final.

“If we start getting too cute and over-manage it … it’s sometimes hard to get back and going or it takes a bit of time.

“And certainly this is not the time of year where I want to experiment too much.”

Pyke was braced for an attacking onslaught from a Bombers outfit playing for the first time since club stalwart Jobe Watson announced he will retire at season’s end.

“A fantastic career, it’s always sad when you see great players bow out,” Pyke said of Watson.

“But I think Essendon would want to perform well for Essendon and we’re they are at in the season as well as for Jobe.

“But we have got a lot to play for as well.”

Anti-corruption laws: PM attacks Bill Shorten’s union past

The prime minister says the opposition leader would have spent time behind bars if new laws passed by the senate last night had been in effect when Bill Shorten was a union leader.

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He has reignited his attack on Mr Shorten’s trade union past after claiming the legislative win without Labor’s support.

“Bill Shorten has been defending tooth and nail, corruption and secrecy, defending big unions and union officials doing dodgy deals with employers at the expense of the workers,” the prime minister told reporters in Canberra.

“Like the puppet that he is, he has gone in there, sending his senators there to vote against legislation which does no more than require employers and unions to act honestly.”

Labor demands apology for “grubby” attack

Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen has slammed the comments as unbecoming and called for the prime minister to apologise.

“This was a desperate, shrill and grubby attack,” he told reporters in Canberra.

The bill was passed in the upper house with help from the senate crossbench.

It makes it a criminal offence to allow payments between employers and unions that do not benefit employees but rather encourage union officials to act improperly.

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“Employers and unions who are negotiating enterprise agreements must now disclose to the relevant workers, prior to voting on the agreement, any benefits that are being exchanged between the employer and the union,” Employment Minister Michaelia Cash told reporters in Canberra.

“If you’re doing the right thing, you should be able to tell the workers exactly what you are doing.”

Labor believes the legislation is flawed.

“This bill subjects people to serious penalties for conduct that is not corrupt, dishonest or improper,” Labor senator Doug Cameron said.

“Nowhere else in the corporate and professional world does this apply,” he said.

The legislation follows a recommendation from the Heydon Royal Commission into union corruption where Mr Shorten was required to give evidence about his time as national secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union.

There were no adverse findings against him.

Man in pub argument before Vic fatal crash

A young driver involved in a high-speed crash that killed a teenage high school student and her mother had been in a “heated discussion” at a pub before the collision, police say.

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Year 8 student Xinyu Yuan and her mother Ma Li Dai were leaving parent-teacher interviews at Lighthouse Christian College in Cranbourne East when their car was hit by an oncoming Commodore on Wednesday night.

Both died instantly.

Crash investigators are examining whether speed and alcohol were factors in the crash, but have been told the Commodore was seen overtaking a number of vehicles on the highway before the crash.

Acting Assistant Commissioner Tim Hansen said investigators are looking at whether a “heated discussion” at a nearby pub may have impacted the driver’s state of mind.

“We all have relationship issues – that doesn’t then justify us getting into our car and driving like a hoon down the road and endangering the lives of others,” he told reporters on Thursday.

The 26-year-old driver, from Devon Meadows, was taken to hospital suffering serious injuries.

Crash investigators conducted skid tests outside the school gates on Thursday morning, driving a vehicle at high speed before coming to a screeching halt.

Tests were made firstly with anti-lock brakes and then without, the latter sending the car skidding further with smoke coming off the tyres.

The stretch of highway outside the school has cars roaring past at 100km/h and Lighthouse Christian College principal Jacob Mathews says he’s been asking authorities to lower the speed limit near the school for years.

“We have asked for an 80km/h zone here, there are 80km/h zones both south and north of us,” Mr Mathews told 3AW on Thursday.

Roads Minister Luke Donnellan offered his sympathy after the crash and said the section of highway will be further investigated.

VicRoads reviewed the road in 2016 and the 100km/h speed limit was found to be appropriate after the modification of a nearby intersection.

But the road authority on Thursday said it will “will look at what can be done to improve safety for drivers exiting the school’s driveway” once the police investigation is complete.

The school is supporting the victims’ family.

“We are all family here. We are a small community. We are all Christians. We all go to church together,” Mr Mathews said.

“She will be sadly missed by all students as well as the teachers.”

School excursions and NAPLAN testing set for Thursday were cancelled.

Origin Energy to take $1.2bn hit on gas

Origin Energy has flagged a second-half $1.

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2 billion hit to its full-year results, largely relating to an impairment in its Australia Pacific LNG interest.

APLNG – a three-way venture Origin shares with ConocoPhillips and Chinese state-owned energy giant Sinopec – is facing an impairment charge thanks mainly to a fall in future oil price assumptions.

Origin, which is responsible for the operation of the APLNG gas fields and main gas transmission pipeline, expects to swallow an $815 million post-tax writedown to reflect its 37.5 per cent share in the $26 billion Queensland gas project.

Royal Bank of Canada analyst Ben Wilson said the writedown takes into account a range of assumptions – oil price, AUD/USD exchange rates, discount rates and costs – made on the value of APLNG.

“The non-cash impairments are not a surprise, with the book value of the assets running ahead of valuations mainly due to Origin’s higher oil price deck and lower long-term Australian dollar assumptions,” Mr Wilson said.

According to RBC, the main change in the APLNG assumptions behind the impairment was a reduction in forecast oil price from US$71 a barrel to US$67 from 2022.

Origin also expects a A$357 million post-tax impairment of its A$1.5 billion Lattice Energy assets – comprising stakes in Cooper Basin, Otway, BassGas and Kupe gas fields – which are in the process of being spun off.

Mr Wilson said the impairment consists primarily of a further six months of ongoing IPO transaction costs, consultant fees and other spin-out costs including stamp duty.

Following the company’s $1.03 billion APLNG impairment taken in the first-half, the total APLNG impairments recognised by Origin this year are up to A$1.85 billion.

At 1527 AEST, shares in Origin were down 1.6 per cent, or 12 cents, at $7.03.

Blogger jailed for naming women accused of affairs with Seven boss

A unrepentant blogger has been jailed for four months after “enthusiastically” defying orders banning the naming of two women accused of having affairs with Seven West Media boss Tim Worner.

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NSW self-described journalist Shane Dowling “remains ferociously committed to the righteousness of his conduct”, seeing himself as a “fierce proponent of free speech”, said Justice Ian Harrison in the NSW Supreme Court on Thursday.

“Even if on one view Mr Dowling’s enthusiasm for the cause as he perceives it borders on obsession, Mr Dowling is nonetheless to my observation a man of some intelligence who doubtless appreciates the proper legal foundation for his contempt.”

He was found guilty in March of contempt of court after he breached orders that he remove the names of the women from his website and stop republishing the allegations made in legal documents by Amber Harrison.

Ms Harrison, whose court battle over her affair with Mr Worner ended last month, had alleged the two Seven on-screen identities also had sexual relationships with him.

The women, who have been given the pseudonyms Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2, have denied the claims, and their names are suppressed by the court before proposed defamation proceedings.

Dowling’s conduct in repeatedly publishing the names and failing to remove existing posts was “intentional, wilful and deliberate”, the judge said.

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“Mr Dowling was bound to obey the orders of the court.

“He is not entitled to choose not to do so, whether because he asserted a belief that the orders ought not to have been made, or for any other reason.”

Dowling, who previously has been found guilty of contempt in another matter, was not represented at the hearings before Justice Harrison and provided no information about his motivation, background or personal circumstances.

In written submissions, he said “If I was jailed I have no doubt I would be correctly classified by social media users as a political prisoner”.

The proceedings were “a national scandal” and he’d done nothing more than “any journalist does every day around the country” in naming people referred to in tendered legal documents.

“This matter is a huge free speech, political communication and public interest matter,” he wrote.

But the judge said he had done more than journalists do on a daily basis, with his contempt arising not from the fact that he named the women in the first place but from his disobeying orders to take their names down and his continued re-publication of them.