Month: April 2019

Malaysia minister to visit Australia

Malaysia’s Transport Minister will visit Australia on Monday to pledge his government’s commitment to find flight MH370, still missing after more than five months.

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The visit will come four days after Malaysia stopped to mourn the passengers and crew who died in the other Malaysia Airlines tragedy in Ukraine.

Forty-three Malaysian citizens were killed when flight MH17 was blasted from the sky over Ukraine on July 17.

The remains of 20 people arrived home in Malaysia on Friday.

Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai moved to reassure the families of the other Malaysia Airlines tragedy – MH370 – that the search for the vanished flight would go on.

“To reiterate, the search for MH370 remains a top priority for the government of Malaysia and we will continue to commit the appropriate resources required for that effort,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

Mr Lai indicated he would be in Australia on Monday for a series of meetings, including with Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss and the Chinese Transport Minister.

The Malaysian government will sign a memorandum of understanding with it’s Australian counterpart to “solidify the collaboration for the search for MH370”, he added.

Six Australians were on the flight from Kuala Lumpur when it disappeared in March.

This week Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed an underwater search for MH370 would resume off Western Australia in about a month.

Australia has signed a contract worth more than $50 million with Dutch company Fugro, which will use two vessels towing submerged vehicles to scan the search area, which is about the size of Tasmania.

Cormann threatens tax hikes over budget row

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has raised the spectre of higher taxes if the government can’t get its budget through the Senate.

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Senator Cormann says it is a “statement of fact” that tax hikes will be necessary without cuts to government spending, if Australia is ever to pay off its billions in debt.

“We have laid out our plan to reduce the unsustainable spending growth trajectory Labor left behind,” he told ABC Television on Sunday.

“The only alternative to balance the books is to increase taxes.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned of having to make “tougher decisions” if controversial measures such as the $7 GP co-payment, welfare reform and university deregulation are blocked by the Senate.

A weak budget meant higher taxes and interest rates, he told the South Australian Liberal Party annual meeting on the weekend.

Parliament resumes on Tuesday after the five-week winter break, with the coalition still struggling to sell its unpopular budget to key crossbenchers.

The government will on Thursday introduce plans to deregulate university fees – which are being opposed by Labor, the Greens and crossbenchers in the Senate.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne described as “highly speculative” reports that the government would cut university research funding if parliament blocked the reforms.

However, he refused to completely rule out taking such action, which he said would be the “worst-case scenario”.

“I have absolutely no desire at all to see research funding (cut),” Mr Pyne told the Ten Network.

“I want to work with the crossbenchers to make sure that we all understand the high stakes that we are playing for.”

Meanwhile, Labor released health department figures which showed patients would pay hundreds of dollars more each year because of the co-payment and increased fees for subsidised medicines.

Those in the worst-hit electorate of Blaxland, in western Sydney, faced increases of up to $300.

The opposition also seized on a News Corporation Australia report of a compromise plan to exempt childhood vaccinations from the co-payment.

There was no fixing the “GP tax” and it should be scrapped, its health spokeswoman Catherine King said.

“It is bad for patients, it is bad for doctors and it is bad in the longer term for our health system as a whole,” she told reporters in Ballarat.

Greens leader Christine Milne said her party would not support a co-payment “in any shape or form”.

Some within government were also calling for a rethink on the controversial budget measure.

“This co-payment, I think is dangerous,” Liberal backbencher Ian MacDonald told ABC Television.

“Why don’t we bite the bullet, have another look at it, make sure it is fair.”

Ricciardo wins at Spa after title rivals collide

Hamilton retired with a damaged car but Rosberg, blamed by his bosses and booed by the crowd on the podium, finished second to extend his lead to 29 points with seven of the 19 races remaining.

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The victory, on a surprisingly dry afternoon at a circuit famed for rapid changes in conditions, was Ricciardo’s second in succession and third of his first season with the reigning Formula One champions.

It was also his team’s second in succession in Belgium after four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel triumphed last year and set off a run of nine wins in a row.

Finland’s Valtteri Bottas was third for Williams.

“It’s been a really good day for us on a track we didn’t expect to get maximum points from, so yeah, it’ll keep us smiling for a while,” said Ricciardo, who led for much of the race unlike his previous wins.

His endeavours were still almost a sideshow to the major talking point, a further stirring up of already troubled waters at Mercedes.

The two team mates had been expected to dominate the race after qualifying on the front row but the intense rivalry between them blew up in their face.

“We just had a meeting about it and he basically said he did it on purpose. He said he did it on purpose,” Hamilton told reporters after a post-race meeting with Rosberg and bosses.

“He said he could have avoided it. He said ‘I did it to prove a point’”

Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolf slammed the incident as ‘absolutely unacceptable’.

“Lap number two of a long race and a crash between two team-mates, we have often discussed the situation and it happened today,” he told the BBC.

“You don’t try to overtake with the knife between your teeth in lap number two and damage both cars.”

The team’s non-executive chairman Niki Lauda was also fuming.

“It is unacceptable. If these things happen at the end of the race, when they are fighting for the win then you discuss it but in the second lap to hand the victory to Red Bull,” said the former champion.

“I thought they were clever enough to know that but obviously they aren’t.”

DECISIVE MOMENT

Hamilton had passed pole-sitter Rosberg at the start but his race was effectively over moments later when Rosberg tried to retake the lead in a misjudged move that could prove extremely costly for Hamilton.

The German’s front wing made contact with Hamilton’s rear tyre and punctured it, leaving the Briton having to nurse his car back to the pits in a trail of tyre debris.

“Nico hit me. Nico hit me,” Hamilton exclaimed over the car radio.

He rejoined a minute adrift of Rosberg. After complaining that he had no downforce and repeatedly asking the team to save the engine, the Briton was recalled to the pits five laps from the end and retired.

Some of the debris from the tyre’s carcass later snagged on Rosberg’s radio mast, flapping in his face as he tried to clear it away at 300kph.

Mercedes have been struggling to keep the peace between the evenly-matched team mates since the start of the year and arrived at Spa after a controversy in Hungary in July, where a ‘team orders’ controversy left Rosberg aggrieved.

Hamilton had started last in that race and finished third, with Rosberg going from pole to fourth and complaining that his team mate had not let him through.

Then, as on Sunday, the team made clear their support for Hamilton and they will have their work cut out again in the days ahead.

“This is a decisive moment in the battle between the two of them and for the team. Lewis is very upset, we kept him out there for a long time with a damaged car. He will recover quickly. It is going to be handled,” said Wolff.

Rosberg has 220 points to Hamilton’s 191 with Ricciardo moving closer on 156. Mercedes remain comfortably in front in the constructors’ standings with 411 points to Red Bull’s 254.

Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth for Ferrari, the first time he has beaten Spanish team mate Fernando Alonso this season, with Vettel fifth.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Martyn Herman and Pritha Sarkar)

Rosberg could face consequences for collision

“Unfortunately, yes,” Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff told reporters when asked whether the dominant team might change their tactics.

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“It would be too early to elaborate in detail because the devil lies in the detail. We are all fans and we owe it to ourselves and everybody out there to let them race,” he continued.

“Today that philosophy has ended in Mercedes losing many valuable points and we don’t want to end up in Abu Dhabi, with a season where we lost the championship, be it constructors’ or drivers’, because we were too much race fans.”

Hitherto the team have been clear in allowing their drivers to race each other, accepting that it is in the interests of the sport to provide exciting races and to avoid the sort of processions seen in the past when one team is dominant.

However, they have been shaken by Red Bull winning the last two races and looking more competitive than expected at a long and fast track that should have favoured the Mercedes hybrid power unit.

Sunday’s collision, with Hamilton retiring with a damaged car and Rosberg finishing second to take his overall lead to 29 points with seven races remaining, left Mercedes fighting fires on two fronts.

There have been spats and sparks between the drivers ever since it became apparent that they had the best car on the grid and were prepared to go wheel-to-wheel for the biggest prize in motorsport.

Hamilton rejected on Sunday a suggestion that they were always an accident waiting to happen, emphasising that it was an avoidable collision and they had plenty of experience, but Mercedes have certainly been bracing for it.

At Spa, with Rosberg’s front wing slicing Hamilton’s rear tyre as they battled for the lead on lap two, the moment arrived.

“Now we are at the point which we always discussed, no?,” said Wolff, looking around at the scrum of reporters.

“Is it going to happen or not? An accident waiting to happen – it’s unacceptable. Racing accidents can happen, racing accidents among team mates shouldn’t happen. Racing accidents among team mates on lap number two of a 44-lap race with a dominant car should be a no-no-no.

“It’s exactly that point which we hoped we would never reach.”

INCENDIARY

Mercedes have had so many clear-the-air meetings already this season they could almost add them to their regular weekend programme and there will be a few more to come after Hamilton accused Rosberg of hitting him deliberately.

The incendiary comments dropped into the paddock like a match in a hay barn.

“We just had a meeting about it and he basically said he did it on purpose. He said he did it on purpose,” the Briton told reporters.

“He said he could have avoided it. He said ‘I did it to prove a point’”

Wolff suggested that point was to show Hamilton he was prepared to hold his line, rather than any payback for previous incidents.

But with many in the paddock wondering whether the governing International Automobile Federation should investigate, Mercedes now have to restore order with a weight of media and public pressure on them.

Hamilton, in comments immediately after the race, doubted that Rosberg would receive any real sanction but that could also force their hand.

“It reminds me of when I was at school, the teachers will say something but they won’t do anything. The stewards didn’t do anything…so I am just going to have to push like hell,” said the 2008 champion.

Wolff indicated in response that Rosberg could not expect to get off lightly.

“If Lewis has said that it’s going to be a slap on the wrist, and that there’s going to be no consequence, then he’s not aware of what consequences we can implement,” he said.

“Today we’ve seen the limits of the slap on the wrist. Maybe the slap on the wrist is not enough.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Messi double hands Enrique winning start

Luis Enrique got off to a winning start as Barcelona manager as they shrugged off Javier Mascherano’s first-half red card to beat Elche 3-0 thanks to two goals from Lionel Messi.

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Messi put the disappointment of losing the World Cup final in his last competitive outing behind him to open the scoring on Sunday, but Barca were momentarily rocked by Mascherano’s dismissal for denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity moments later.

However, 18-year-old Munir El Haddadi made the game safe with a classy lofted finish on his debut a minute into the second-half before Messi rounded off the scoring.

Two goals in Barca’s final pre-season friendly romp over Mexican side Club Leon on Monday had been enough to earn Munir his senior debut in the absence of the injured Neymar and suspended Luis Suarez.

And it was the 18-year-old who had the first meaningful effort of the game as he smashed a shot off the angle of post and bar on 22 minutes.

Barca’s captain for the evening Andres Iniesta then also hit the bar from range as the hosts dominated possession without clearing too many clear-cut chances.

However, Elche were punished for giving away possession cheaply near their own area three minutes before half-time as Sergio Busquets played in Messi and he sidestepped two defenders before slotting home on his trusted left foot.

Minutes later, though, the complexion of the game appeared to have changed as Mascherano was shown a straight red card for clipping Garry Rodrigues as he galloped clear on goal.

Instead, Barca were barely bothered by Elche’s numerical advantage as Munir flicked home Ivan Rakitic’s pass into the far corner a minute after the restart.

Messi then put a seal on a comfortable three points for Barca as he again left three Elche defenders trailing before side-footing past the helpless Vicente Guaita.

Earlier, Eibar made a dream start to their first ever La Liga campaign with a 1-0 win over Basque rivals Real Sociedad in front of a 5,200 capacity crowd.

Javi Lara scored the only goal of the game with a wonderful curling free-kick just before half-time.

And Enrique’s old side Celta Vigo also made a winning start as they beat Getafe 3-1 at Balaidos.