Raiders deny Ferguson wants out

Don Furner has had enough of his players being linked with rival NRL clubs, with the Canberra chief executive adamant NSW Origin star Blake Ferguson is going nowhere.


A frustrated Furner said he was at a loss to explain a report in Wednesday’s Daily Telegraph that suggested Ferguson wanted out on the final two years of his contract – claiming he was desperate to be closer to cousin Anthony Mundine in Sydney.

Mundine played a crucial role in getting Ferguson’s career back on track, taking the Raiders star under his wing during a NRL-imposed suspension to address alcohol-related issues.

But both Mundine and Furner admitted they had no knowledge of Ferguson having a desire to quit the Raiders, Furner clearly irked at the suggestion having spent the past couple of months refuting suggestions rookie of the year candidate Anthony Milford and Test prop David Shillington were also on the way out of the club.

“I’ve spent all day denying something … I don’t know how it can happen,” Furner told AAP.

“Anthony Milford, he’s under contract. A couple of weeks ago it was David Shillington’s signed with the Broncos … how can he sign? He’s under contract.”

Asked if he had felt the need to speak to Ferguson about his future, Furner said: “No. Not unless he’s got a problem.”

Mundine, who spoke with Ferguson two days ago, said he had no knowledge of Ferguson seeking a release from the Raiders.

“I don’t even know the situation – it’s news to me,” Mundine told Fairfax Media.

“The time he spent with me really gave him a sense of direction and made him mature mentally. He learned a lot about himself.

“He really enjoyed that – that’s probably why people are hearing these things.”

Don Furner said coach David Furner enjoyed a good relationship with Mundine, adding that Ferguson’s desire to extend his representative career could also be aided by him staying in the nation’s capital.

“If he’s going to be in the frame for the Australian side at the end of the year, well Dave’s the assistant (Australian) coach,” Don Furner said.

“Dave more than anyone will be the one pushing him to Tim Sheens.”

While the Raiders boss was refusing to give the idea much credit, former Canberra skipper Alan Tongue conceded losing the likes of Ferguson and Milford would not go down well with fans.

The lime green faithful already have to contend with sacked duo Todd Carney and Josh Dugan reviving their careers with other clubs to the point where they were representing NSW.

“It’s definitely unsettling for the Raiders – I think it’s something that they would be frustrated with,” Tongue said.

“Especially with Anthony Milford who they’ve had for a number of years through their system.

“They finally get him there and he’s shown he’s the exciting talent that everyone thought he would be and the Raiders have persisted with him, only to lose him to another club is devastating.

“… it happens everywhere, but I suppose we just see it at the Raiders more often than not.”

Despite being stood down for a week after the opening round of the season due to an alcohol-related offence, the Raiders showed faith in Ferguson by handing him a new two-year deal in May, a month before he earned his first State of Origin jumper.

He was due to earn a second Blues appearance before the boozy night out which led to his suspension and an assault charge which is still before the courts.

Anti-whaling activists claim Antarctic success

Anti-whaling activists claim Japan’s whaling season in the Antarctic is over, and it’s the result of their disruptions in the Southern Ocean.



The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has accused Japanese whaling ship the Nisshin Maru of ramming its vessels as the protesters tried to prevent the whaler from refuelling.


The Japanese government-backed Institute of Cetacean Research has since announced that it’s stopped work for the time being because it’s too difficult to refuel.


Kerri Worthington reports.


The stand-off in the Southern Ocean may be over for now after a dramatic day between the Sea Shepherd fleet and the Japanese whalers they’ve been stalking.


“Keep away from Nisshin Maru. This is Japanese coast guard official onboard Nisshin Maru. I warn you, stop all your disruptive actions immediately. Keep away from Nisshin Maru.”


The environmental campaigners say the Nisshin Maru rammed its vessels in their worst confrontation in the Southern Ocean in three years.


Sea Shepherd claims the Japanese factory boat had deliberately collided with the Steve Irwin and the Bob Barker — allegations denied by Japan.


But captain of the Bob Barker , Peter Hammarstedt, says the Japanese whaler’s actions were the most dangerous and reckless he’s ever seen.


“Had the Nisshin Maru pushed us any further, there was a risk of the vessel rolling over. What that would have meant is that we would have quite literally sunk. So we were in a position where we could have had to potentially abandon ship in what is the most remote and frigid waters down here in the Southern Ocean.”


However Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research has suggested it was the activists’ boats that rammed the Japanese ship.


The Institute has called the Sea Shepherd campaign unforgivable and akin to terrorism that threatens human life at sea.


Sea Shepherd is calling on Australia’s government to dispatch the navy to the Southern Ocean to intervene.


Former Australian Greens leader, now Sea Shepherd director, Bob Brown says he believes the captain of the Japanese whaling ship has breached international law.


Mr Brown has told Sky News whales are protected under the Antarctic Treaty, and a policing force is needed to enforce that protection.


“And Australia needs to be moving to establish an international policing force if it won’t do it itself to protect those laws and to protect those values which have been agreed to by the community of nations over decades. As it is we’ve got a buccaneer country, the Japanese government, trespassing all over those laws, treading them into the ground as we saw yesterday for some commercial advantage, even though they’re running this whaling operation at a massive loss and there’s five tonnes of whale meat in storehouse in Tokyo that they can’t sell.”


But the Federal Government has ruled out sending a navy ship to keep watch in Antarctic waters


Defence Minister Stephen Smith says the government has in the past sent a ship to collect video and photographic evidence of whaling hunts to build a case before the International Court of Justice.

And Environment minister Tony Burke told the ABC governments should settle conflicts through the courts.


“When people say that we should have the navy and we should be asserting territorial waters in that Antarctic region, can I just urge people to pause for thought at the implications of that. Part of the Antarctic Treaty system is that countries will not assert their territorial claims against each other. That treaty system is the underpinning of making sure we don’t have mining in the Antarctic. And regardless of how offensive Japan’s behaviour is in the Southern Ocean at the moment, it would be an extraordinary action for Australia to start the process of blowing up the Antarctic Treaty system.”


But Mr Burke says the Maritime Safety Authority is investigating the latest incident.


And he’s warned that claims Japan’s 2013 whaling season is over are premature.


“Japan is going from one side of our planet to the other to chase species that are meant to be protected, magnificent species that the rest of the world has put a moratorium on the commercial slaughter of. If they’ve stopped for a few months and are still intending to come back, then I really don’t think there’s a lot to celebrate yet.”


However, Bob Barker captain Peter Hammarstedt says this could be the Sea Shepherd’s most successful campaign in Antarctic, having prevented the Japanese from taking 95 per cent of their quota.


“It’ll be the third year in a row that we’ve bankrupted the Japanese whaling fleet. We would have prevented hundreds and hundreds of whales from being slaughtered. Certainly these poachers, or thugs, are motivated by profit only and what we’re able to do is take away that profit motive by putting our ships in the way and risking our lives to protect these animals. So I think we could be very well on our way to stopping whaling here once and for all.”



Meteor show to light up British skies

The skies above Britain are expected to shimmer with a “natural firework display” as a meteor shower crosses into the earth’s atmosphere, astronomy experts have predicted.


Although the Perseids meteor shower is an annual event, the Royal Astronomical Society believes prospects for this year’s showing are particularly good and could mean up to 60 shooting stars an hour in the UK.

Stargazers will need only their own eyes to enjoy the natural occurrence, which is a result of material falling from the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle, which last passed near the Earth in 1992.

“Comet Swift-Tuttle won’t be visiting our neck of the woods again until the year 2125, but every year we get this beautiful reminder as the Earth ploughs through the debris it leaves in its orbit,” said Professor Alan Fitzsimmons of Queen’s University Belfast.

“Every meteor is a speck of comet dust vaporising as it enters our atmosphere at 36 miles per second. What a glorious way to go.”

The best display will last from late Monday night (Tuesday AEST) through to early Tuesday morning local time, with weather conditions expected to be favourable.

“It’s looking pretty good for people to have a chance to see the meteor shower across large parts of the country, including the London area, with a lot of clear skies expected on Monday night,” said Matt Dobson, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association.

“The best thing for stargazers to do is obviously to get away from any sources of light in big cities.”

Meteors, commonly known as shooting stars, are the result of small particles entering the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed.

These heat the air around them, causing the characteristic streak of light seen from the ground.

The Perseids meteor shower is active each year from around mid-July to late-August, but for most of that period only a few meteors an hour will be visible.

People looking out for the meteors may also get a glimpse of larger “fireballs”, according to Brendan Owens, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.

He said the Earth would pass through the comet’s trail like a snowplough, with material of different sizes being trapped by the planet’s gravity. The larger material may fall to earth as meteorites.

“If people are extremely lucky, we can see some fireballs, which are large chunks that burn up but don’t completely burn up,” he said.

“Sometimes it ends up with meteorites. There is a possibility of meteorite impact but it is very small.”

Multicultural ‘player ambassadors’ for AFL

The Australian Football League is stepping up its efforts to connect more with people of migrant backgrounds through a team of ‘multicultural player ambassadors’.



The 11 players will complement the work of the AFL’s 10 multicultural officers around Australia.


They will work with the League’s Multicultural Unit, which aims to boost the number of players in the AFL from non-English speaking backgrounds through school programs.


The AFL says about 14 percent of its players are from non-English speaking backgrounds, and about 11 percent are Indigenous.


Bachar Houli, who plays for Richmond, says he’s honoured to be one of the new multicultual player ambassadors.


“We’ve got a great team here from different backgrounds and the main thing is we want to really focus on participation in sport in general. So it’s a great role that we’re involved and it’s a massive opportunity to get all these kids off the street to be involved in some sort of sport.”


Houli is from a Muslim background and as a player ambassador, will work to create sport programs in Islamic schools throughout Australia.


He says he is focused on being a good role model for children of all ethnic backgrounds.


“I’m also just teaching them about life. About embracing how lucky we are to live in this country and the other side of it is obviously teaching them respect and what respect means.”


Joel Wilkinson, whose father is from Nigeria, plays for the Gold Coast Suns in the A-F-L.


Wilkinson will lead a program in Queensland, which he says will promote equality among children.


“We’re all having fun. So no matter what team they’re on, they’re enjoying the game. We’re not about secluding and putting a group there or a cultural group there, it’s about embracing everyone as one and using this game to promote equality, diversity and have fun.”


Majak Daw is a refugee from Sudan and in 2009 he became the first Sudanese to be drafted by an A-F-L team.


Daw, who plays for North Melbourne, says he hopes his success on the field can be an inspiration to young players.


“I think I hopefully set a good example for my brothers and sisters. I’m one of nine children and I think the biggest passion of mine is giving back to the community and my mum and dad are really big advocates of helping other people out.”


Ruling party holds on in Cambodia

The ruling party of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has claimed victory in the country’s national elections but appears to have lost more than 20 seats.



And that comes despite the opposition leader being barred from running.


It’s the fifth election since a United Nations intervention in 1993 that effectively ended the country’s civil war and imposed democracy.


But the latest poll, like those that have gone before it, has been marred by allegations of widespread irregularities.


Kerri Worthington has the story.


Although official results are yet to be announced, the Prime Minister’s Cambodian People’s Party says it expects to take 68 out of the 123 seats in the country’s lower house.

The Hun Sen-led CPP had 90 seats in the previous parliament, so, if confirmed, the result would mark the loss of more than 20 seats.

The opposition’s resurgence has taken Cambodia analysts by surprise because the leader of the main opposition party returned from exile little more than a week before the polls.


The return of the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s Sam Rainsy is thought to have boosted his party’s vote, even though he was not allowed to be a candidate.


South-east Asia expert Milton Osborne, a non-resident fellow at the Lowy Institute, says he expected some loss of CPP seats but losing 20 to the main opposition is significant.


“I don’t think that Hun Sen is suddenly going to change his policies or that he will do as some people have been suggesting in Cambodia, to try and form a coalition with the opposition parties. My take, certainly, on things as they stand at the moment is that the CPP will be determined to continue holding power. On the votes as they stand at the moment, he certainly is entitled to hold power.”


Hun Sen has ruled since 1985, when he defected from the communist Khmer Rouge and was installed in power by the Vietnamese.


He oversaw Cambodia’s transformation from a nation devastated by its so-called Killing Fields genocidal era in the late 1970s to become a growing economy.


But Youhorn Chea, of the Cambodian Association of Victoria, says, despite the appearance of a vibrant economy, Cambodia has a massive disparity in wealth.


“Because I still have a distant relative who lives in Cambodia as well, (I know) some (people) just work to get less than one dollar per day and they still live in very, very poor conditions. So the government should do something.”


Youhorn Chea says the youth of Cambodia want change and the election results have shown they are beginning to get their way.


Milton Osborne backs that view.


He says young, urban Cambodians voted overwhelmingly for the opposition and that has considerable implications for the next elections.


But Dr Osborne cautions it is too soon to dismiss Hun Sen’s future as a force in Cambodian politics.


“I think he has a very determined intention of staying in power. And while there are many things that can be levelled against Hun Sen and his government by way of criticism, the fact that this is so should not blind us to the fact that he is a very clever politician and has some very considerably able people working with him.”


The buoyant Cambodia National Rescue Party says it rejects the poll results, decrying what it describes as the kingdom’s worst-ever poll irregularities.


It has called for setting up an investigation committee with representatives from the political parties, the United Nations, the election authority and non-governmental organisations.


Sam Rainsy, the party’s leader, says he wants the election result to truly reflect the will of the people.


“What we are interested in is to render justice to the Cambodian people, to ensure that the will of the Cambodian people will not be distorted or reversed as before.”


The United States has voiced concern about possible irregularities in the weekend elections and has called for a credible investigation.


But State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki says the US government urges all parties and their supporters to continue acting in an orderly and peaceful manner.

“We are concerned by numerous reported irregularities in the electoral process. We have consistently called on the Royal Government of Cambodia to address systemic flaws, such as problems in the voter registry and unequal access to the media. We call for a transparent and full investigation of all credible reports of irregularities.”


There have been reports of violence at polling stations, supposedly indelible ink coming off people’s fingers and electoral-roll irregularities.


But the Lowy Institute’s Milton Osborne says Asian election monitors on the ground have reported the elections were free and fair.


“They’re part of an Asian democratic group from (South) Korea, from Malaysia, from Laos — I think there were others as well — and they have reported that the election was free and fair. Now, given Cambodia’s tortured history, it’s entirely possible that there have been irregularities, and there have also been claims that various people were excluded from the voting lists. I think these are complaints which will go on for some time. At least at the moment, I don’t think they’re going to alter the result or lead to any change in the pattern that has emerged.”


Youhorn Chea, of the Cambodian Association of Victoria, suggests Cambodia’s democracy needs to reflect the wishes of a wider range of its citizens but also the diaspora.

He says many in the local Cambodian community would have liked to vote in the elections because they maintain a key interest in the country.


He says he would like to see changes in the future.


“Perhaps in the constitution, we need to have that the prime minister should be just two terms. Two terms is 10 years already. Like, in the USA, it’s much, much better. Otherwise, just the one person sits in the government for over 20 years. It’s too much.” (laughs)