Man gets bond for SA scissors attack

A teenager has been spared jail time for attacking his former girlfriend who lost consciousness before waking up to find a pair of scissors sticking into her back.

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Louis Nicholai McGee also used the scissors to attack his brother, probably because of “a perceived relationship” between his sibling and his ex-girlfriend.

“What you did was vicious and unprovoked,” said Judge Geraldine Davison while sentencing the 19-year-old in the South Australian District Court on Friday.

McGee, of Dover Gardens, pleaded guilty to two aggravated counts of causing harm with intent in February last year.

The judge handed down a jail term of three years six months but suspended the sentence and placed him on a three-year good behaviour bond.

She said it was not entirely clear why McGee launched the violent attacks, noting he and a number of people at the home had been drinking heavily.

McGee’s lawyer told an earlier hearing that his client acknowledged that he became “angry and emotional and irrational” before assaulting the pair “likely because of a perceived relationship” between them.

McGee had pushed the girl, then 16, before punching and kicking her, and stabbing her in the back with the scissors.

She lost consciousness and awoke with a pain and discovered the scissors sticking in her back.

McGee was holding the scissors when he punched his brother, causing serious injury to his eye and face, leading to his being hospitalised for weeks.

“Your actions have clearly had a serious and long term impact on both of your victims,” the judge said.

“They have ongoing physical and mental damage as a result of your behaviour.”

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Roberts can be X-Factor for Titans

Gold Coast’s sputtering NRL attack may finally have its spark in young recruit James Roberts.

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The highly-rated outside back, already cut loose by South Sydney and Penrith for off-field issues, will make his debut for the Titans in Monday night’s clash with Melbourne at Cbus Super Stadium as both teams look to turn around recent poor form.

Titans coach John Cartwright believes Roberts’ ability to break the line could be the key to his team finally finding some cohesion and punch with the ball in hand.

Only one team, 15th-placed Cronulla (155), have scored less points than the Titans (197) so far this season.

Cartwright’s men have only scored 20 or more points on three occasions this season, and he’s hoping 21-year-old Roberts can change their fortunes as they try to end a four-game losing streak.

“Some of his touches, not many players can do,” Cartwright said.

“His tackle breaks are very high and that’s something we’ve been lacking, someone with genuine tackle breakers and genuine speed.”

Roberts is one of several inclusions to the Titans who are missing State of Origin trio Greg Bird, Nate Myles and Dave Taylor, while Paul Carter has been suspended by the club following his midweek drink-driving charge and Albert Kelly (calf) is injured.

Ashley Harrison has been rushed back into the team following his recovery from a neck fracture, while Beau Henry comes in for Kelly at halfback.

There will also be an NRL debut for Caleb Binge following Carter’s suspension which left the Titans short on backrowers.

The Storm are also patching together a team with Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Ryan Hoffman all on Origin duty while halfback Cooper Cronk is sidelined with a broken arm.

Centre Will Chambers could play if he is released from Queensland duties early and Cartwright says he’s still wary of his opponent regardless of their absentees.

“You look at their pack and it looks like Will Chambers will play, they’ve still got four Kiwi internationals in their pack,” he said.

“We’re certainly not underestimating them. We’ve got the best possible side out there because we realise how difficult it’s going to be.

“It’s a crunch game for both clubs.”

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Australia see in foe Chile the team they want to be

Postecoglou said the Australians can handle the minimal expectations the football world has for his team, the lowest ranked at the World Cup in Brazil.

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But the Socceroos can also get a glimpse on Friday of what the future may hold.

“I don’t want to keep coming to World Cups and have people saying ‘you’ve got no chance’,” Postecoglou said at a news conference on Thursday at the match venue Pantanal arena in the western city of Cuiaba.

“I’d rather they talk about us like they are talking about Chile now. I think they are a good example of a country that has worked for the last four or five years to become a force, and that’s our goal.”

Postecoglou, 48, took over in October with a five-year contract and got stuck in the December draw with the impossibly difficult Group B, along with defending champions Spain, 2010 runners up Netherlands and the South American team that some rate a surprise contender for the 2014 Cup.

“I feel like they can have a real impact in this tournament,” Postecoglou said of Chile. “They are an exceptionally strong unit.”

Australia captain Mile Jedinak chimed in, saying: “I think the boss summed it up. It’s going to be a very tough opposition. They are in great form.”

Earlier in the day, Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli had lavished praise on Postecoglou for wanting to “play in another way, which means a great evolution for Australian football.”

Postecoglou has a reputation for rebuilding teams and getting them to play in an adventurous, attacking style. He likes to play a 4-3-3 formation.

In his transition away from Australia’s “Golden Generation,” the core of players that swept the nation into the two previous World Cups, Greece-born Postecoglou has brought up younger players from his days coaching domestic teams.

Yet, he was asked about the team’s continuing reliance on veteran striker Tim Cahill, who many consider the only player in the Socceroos camp that might be termed ‘world class’.

“I’m not worried,” said Postecoglou. “At least we’ve got someone there is who is very threatening. I don’t think that’s our only avenue. We certainly believe we can be a threat in other areas.”

(Editing by Rex Gowar and Ian Ransom)

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IMF analysis of Australian housing bubble is wrong

By Ross Guest, Griffith University

Australia’s house prices are grossly overinflated – if you believe the International Monetary Fund’s recent analysis.

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It says radical policies are required to deflate this emerging housing bubble, such as a stamp duty on house purchases by foreign residents and government imposed controls on bank lending for housing.

The IMF’s analysis of global house prices – especially with respect to countries like Australia – is misleading. It has focused on two measures of housing affordability: the ratio of house prices to household incomes and the ratio of house prices to rents. On both measures Australia’s house prices are one of the highest in the developed world – higher than the US and almost all of Europe.

In Australia the house price to income ratio is 30% above its historical average, behind only Canada and Belgium among the 22 advanced countries chosen by the IMF. Similarly, the current growth in house prices of 7% in Australia is the 7th highest among the 22 chosen countries.

But the IMF has ignored the preferred measure of housing affordability, at least in Australia, which is the proportion of income spent on housing costs. For home buyers (not renters) this is best measured by repayments on hew housing loans as a percentage of household disposable income. This measure is now around the average of the last 30 years for Australia at a little over 20%, and falling due to low and stable interest rates.

The typical standard variable housing rate has been at 5.95% since August 2013, which is the lowest rate on record except for a brief period at the depths of the global financial crisis (GFC) in 2009.

Also households are not piling up debt to buy houses like they were before the GFC. Household debt has been flat as a proportion of income since 2007. And household saving is at the highest level for 25 years.

What’s wrong with this picture?

This is not a picture of unsustainable house price growth in Australia. The same generally applies globally given that interest rates are typically even lower than they are in Australia.

It is true that house prices are going up globally, having slumped after the GFC. But even on the IMF’s figures global house prices are still 5% to 10% below their peak in 2007 – and even lower relative to other prices which have gone up over that time.

The IMF is wasting its time asking central banks to worry about house price growth. Central banks in the US, Europe and now Japan are deliberately pumping new money into the economy, and have cut their official interest rates to virtually zero in the hope of stimulating spending and jobs growth in the face of anaemic economic growth. Australia’s Reserve Bank has not had to resort to this, but for others, cheap money and plenty of it is the only policy they have left, given that government debt has reached unsafe levels in most countries preventing them from spending their way to stronger growth. Average government debt in OECD countries is now 110% of national economic output of goods and services.

However, as the famous analogy goes, cheap money is like pushing on a string. It won’t make households spend or businesses invest if they don’t have confidence in their economic prospects. Instead the money goes into assets like housing and the stock market, pumping up those asset prices. Central banks are relaxed about this. Indeed it is deliberate in the hope that rising wealth (on paper at least) will encourage consumption and investment spending. The risk of a housing or stock market bubble is seen as the lesser of two evils – the price that must be paid to try to stimulate spending on goods and services and to create jobs.

Foreign investors are not to blame

One of the IMF’s suggestions – a stamp duty on foreign purchases of investment properties – may have populist appeal to Australians who are worried about Chinese buyers inflating house prices here. It may appeal to the Australian government for this reason as well as being a revenue raising measure – and it is something they could do independently of any Reserve Bank action. But such a policy has dubious merit on balance.

Foreign investment, whether it is in domestic real estate or manufacturing or mining, tends to increase national wealth. If a foreign resident is willing to pay an Australian owner more for their asset than any Australian resident, why shouldn’t the owner sell? The owner’s, and Australia’s, wealth rises. The Australian dollar also rises which transfers income to all Australians since they can now buy goods and travel overseas more cheaply.

Of course not everybody wins. Potential buyers of Australian assets – in this case houses – find that they are more expensive than they otherwise would be. In simple dollar terms, the gains to the winners outweigh the losses to the losers – so in principle the losers can be compensated through the tax and subsidy system.

In short, Australia doesn’t have a house price bubble. Nor probably does the rest of the world at the present time. However even if it did, central banks would not likely do anything about it until their economies start to grow more strongly.

Ross Guest does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

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Malaysia vows no let-up in MH370 search

 

Extended coverage: MH370 search

Malaysia says there will be no let-up in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in a statement to mark 100 days since the plane disappeared.

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“We cannot and will not rest until MH370 is found,” Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said on Sunday.

The Beijing-bound aircraft, with 239 people on board, including six Australians and two New Zealanders, disappeared about an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport on March 8.

“We cannot and will not abandon the families of the crew and passengers of MH370,” he said, following criticism of how the search operation was handled, particularly from relatives of the passengers.

Hishammuddin expressed gratitude to Australia, China and all the countries that have joined the so far fruitless search.

“Indeed, as the search transitions to a more challenging phase, we reaffirm our commitment with renewed vigour to locate the missing MH370,” he added.

Hishammuddin said he was confident, despite the criticisms aimed at the Malaysian authorities, that “Malaysia will be credited for doing the best to our abilities under near-impossible circumstances and history will judge us favourably for that”.

On Thursday, seven relatives of people aboard the missing plane received $US50,000 ($A55,000) as an initial payout from Malaysia Airlines’ insurers.

The insurers are processing the papers of the other relatives in preparation for receiving the initial compensation, said Hamzah Zainuddin, chief of the government committee dealing with the families.

He said a final payment would be determined only after the search operation is concluded.

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