Benzema brace as France overrun 10-man Honduras

Benzema bagged a brace himself, while a bizarre own goal by Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares saw goal line technology used for the first time in a World Cup to confirm the ball had crossed the line.

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In a bruising encounter, Honduras were reduced to 10-men after Wilson Palacios charged into French midfielder Paul Pogba seconds before the break in a challenge that had him sent-off for a second booking. Benzema smashed home the resulting penalty to give France a lead they deserved having dominated the first 45 minutes.

Three minutes into the second half, Benzema stole past the defence to shoot across goal with his shot coming back off the far post, rolling along the line and going in off Valladares.

Benzema struck again with 18 minutes left when he shot from a narrow angle on the right past Valladares and into the roof of the net, earning a rendition of “La Marsellaise” from the red, white and blue clad French fans.

The result will go a long way towards helping the 1998 champions banish the ghost of their disastrous campaign in South Africa, when the players mutinied against coach Raymond Domenech and returned home in disgrace.

It also signalled that Benzema could be one of stars of the tournament.

Coach Didier Deschamps will take heart that the French looked composed and did not get flustered when the goals were slow to come, although arguably they could have banged in a few more in the second half against the reduced Honduran side.

On top of Benzema’s performance, defender Mathieu Debuchy looked impressive, notably for his forays up the right.

“I think it is a marvellous start for us. It was a very important match indeed. Honduras played with high quality and defended aggressively and that was very complicated for us even though we hit the bar twice,” Deschamps said.

The penalty and sending off changed the situation, he said.

“We scored three goals, we could have scored even more goals but it was a good start for our team.”

The match, played before more than 43,000 fans in an almost full Beira Rio stadium, was the first between the two teams.

Despite accusations that Honduras were a thuggish side, France dished it out too and the first yellow card was handed to left back Patrice Evra after he body-checked young midfielder Andy Najar in the 7th minute.

France dominated almost from the start and might have opened their account earlier.

A shot by midfielder Blaise Matuidi was tipped on to the crossbar by Valladares in the 15th minute and Les Bleus rattled the bar again in the 23rd with a header by Antoine Griezmann from Evra’s cross.

The tackles were going in fast and hard and matters came to a head in the 28th minute when Palacios and Pogba tangled on the ground, the veteran Honduran appearing to stamp the Frenchman and receiving a kick in return. Both were given a yellow card but the incident was to have its denouement later.

Just before the break, Palacios clattered into Pogba in the penalty area. Given his second yellow card, he made an ignominious walk off the field and Benzema drilled in the penalty hard and high.

After that, the game was up for the Hondurans.

Three minutes into the second half, Benzema’s shot cannoned off the post and back across the face of goal before Valladares inadvertently pushed it towards his own net.

Despite his desperate efforts to scramble the ball clear, the referee awarded the goal with the aid of the technology. Initially, it was credited to Benzema then logged as an own goal.

“I don’t know if it is good to have goal line technology because football is like that, sometimes you don’t know whether the ball was in or not but the essential thing is that it counted and we won,” Benzema said.

“I’m happy, I’m proud the most important thing is the victory.”

The win puts France in a good frame of mind for the tougher challenge against Switzerland next Friday.

Honduras will have done nothing to lessen their reputation as perennial underdogs with a nasty bite. They will try to salvage some pride and clock up their first ever World Cup win when they tackle Ecuador.

Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez made no excuses for his side.

“They played better than we did. We will have to improve but sometimes it is difficult to play with less players for such a long time especially facing a team that is very well organised.” he said.

“The results would have been different if we had our 11 players but these things happen.”

(Addtional reporting by Rex Gowar and Steve Keating, Editing by Nigel Hunt)

Iran warns against Iraq intervention

Iran has warned that “any foreign military intervention in Iraq” would only complicate the crisis, after the United States said it was deploying a warship in the Gulf.

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“Iraq has the capacity and necessary preparations for the fight against terrorism and extremism,” foreign ministry spokesman Marzieh Afkham said, according to the ISNA news agency.

“Any action that complicates the situation in Iraq is not in the interests of the country nor of the region,” he said.

“The people and government of Iraq will be able to neutralise this conspiracy.”

Iraq is battling an offensive by Sunni militants who have advanced to within 80 kilometres of Baghdad’s city limits after seizing a swathe of the country’s north.

Responding to the crisis, the Pentagon said on Saturday the United States had ordered an aircraft carrier, the USS George H.W. Bush, into the Gulf.

Afkham’s comments come a day after President Hassan Rouhani said he believed the Iraqis have the capacity to “repel terrorism” and that Iran had not been asked for help by its neighbour.

But in surprise comments, he added that Iran may consider cooperating with its arch-foe the United States to fight the Sunni extremist militants in Iraq.

“If we see that the United States takes action against terrorist groups in Iraq, then one can think about it,” he said, despite the lack of diplomatic relations between Tehran and Washington for more than three decades.

“We have said that all countries must unite in combating terrorism. But right now regarding Iraq… we have not seen the Americans taking a decision,” Rouhani added.

However, National Supreme Security Council chief Ali Shamkhani dismissed any US-Iran cooperation over Iraq.

“That is part of a psychological war, and is totally unreal,” Shamkhani said, denouncing “information published in the West’s media”.

How has Iraq lost a third of its territory to ISIS in three days?

By Ali Mamouri, Australian Catholic University

ISIL is an amalgam of Sunni paramilitary forces that operate in Iraq and Syria.

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It is the latest and most successful extremist group to emerge in the region and combines former Ba’th era military officers, former Al-Qaeda members and fundamentalists from countries energised by the Arab Spring. Alienated Muslims from the West have also been attracted by the achievements of ISIL in Syria’s civil war.

Recent territorial gains by ISIL mean the group controls practically the entire Sunni majority regions of Iraq along the Syrian frontier. How could a rebel force of fewer than 10,000 fighters defeat Iraq’s security apparatus of over a million personnel? Can Iraq’s elected government overcome this threat to its authority and very existence?

Why has Iraq’s military failed?

A new Iraqi army was re-established from militia members and low-ranking members of the Ba’th army when it was dissolved in 2003. Senior officers in Saddam Hussein’s forces were dismissed, which gave rise to at least two security issues. Firstly, military officers of the previous army were steered towards terrorist groups. Secondly, Iraq’s new military suffered from the loss of expertise and military discipline instilled by their former officers.

As a result, Iraq’s army lacks the essential expertise and discipline to fight a terrorist group. ISIL fighters in most situations have superior combat experience to the government’s better-equipped forces.

The lack of an effective intelligence agency in Iraq has also enabled ISIL to infiltrate the army. Additionally, political leaders who make the final decisions on military operations are typically inefficient, as the government does not have a clear vision, strategy and effective tactics to overcome national problems.

Poor governance has led to widespread corruption in both political and military spheres. Military personnel are routinely reported to be soliciting bribes, especially in Sunni areas of Iraq.

One of the most dramatic and comical examples of corruption was a recent $85 million contract to acquire ADE 651 bomb-detection devices. At $40,000 per unit it was later revealed that the delivered sonar was a hoax, not more than a child’s toy.

The British government intervened by suspending production, closing the manufacturing company and investigating the contractor, Jim McCormick; he was sentenced to 10 years’ jail in 2013. Despite the ineffectiveness of this military hardware, Iraq’s government still uses these devices without trying to find functional alternatives.

The failure of transitional justice

Transitional justice is one of the most important components of the democratisation process in countries such as Iraq, which has suffered from the long-term effects of dictatorship followed by violent sectarianism. This project has been another policy failure by Iraq’s new government.

Iraq’s elected government officials have tried and punished a few prominent criminals associated with the former regime. They have, however, neglected other aspects of the transitional justice process: truth-seeking, national reconciliation and the combatting of sectarianism and discrimination.

Sunni Iraqis now experience the same issues that Shiites used to endure under Saddam Hussein’s regime. Significant numbers of Sunnis are imprisoned without charge. National and international organisations report a variety of human rights violations involving the government. High rates of sectarianism and discrimination are perpetrated against Sunnis by military forces.

Iraq’s government also discriminates in favour of Shiite militias to the detriment of Sunni militias. The government permits Shiite militias to operate freely across Iraq and Syria and does not consider them terrorists. Some, such as Al-Asaeb, even operate as government allies.

At the same time, the government suppresses any kind of Sunni opposition militia groups – including some civilian-dominated ones. This has all led to a widespread discontent among Sunni people. They may not subscribe to ISIL, but welcome any alternative to their current situation.

Iraq as a regional sectarian warfront

Iraq has become a battleground for competing sectarian interests in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have thrown their support behind Sunni militias in Iraq to pressure Iran and distract it from supporting Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Iran, for its part, has stuck to extremist Shiite parties, showing no tolerance towards moderate Sunni or even moderate Shiite parties.

This has led to the opening of a deadly rift within Iraqi society. Sunnis accuse Shiites of following Iranian agendas. Shiites accuse Sunnis of being the fifth column of Saudi Arabia and Qatar because they do not want to live under the rule of the Shiite majority in their own country.

Even though ISIL cannot maintain its recently gained territory, the current situation is far from optimistic and remains very fragile. Serious problems resulting from decades of dictatorship have combined with the issues arising from a failed new regime.

At the same time, the solution of dividing the country along sectarian lines is rejected by vast numbers of Iraqis, who want to live in a united Iraq. The continued existence of common Sunni-Shiite areas makes any carve-up of Iraq along sectarian lines a very painful and bloody process – one that ISIL’s victories may have initiated.

Ali Mamouri 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.

Rodgers salutes disciplined Balotelli

Brendan Rodgers has revealed Mario Balotelli has already shown signs of a new-found maturity as the eccentric Italian made his Liverpool debut in a 3-0 win at Tottenham.

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Balotelli played for 61 minutes of the Reds’ romp at White Hart Lane on Sunday following his STG16 million ($A29.2 million) move from AC Milan on Monday and delivered a wholehearted performance with glimpses of his vast talent.

The 24-year-old striker has a well-earned reputation as one of the sport’s most combustible characters and he has frustrated many managers with his lacklustre attitude throughout a controversy-marred career, but Rodgers took heart from the way he accepted the responsibility of helping out defensively against Tottenham.

Rodgers admitted Balotelli had been shocked earlier in the week when he asked the former Manchester City star to mark opposing players at corners, yet he fulfilled the task with gusto.

“He’s at an age when he has to show responsibility. I’m giving him that,” Rodgers said.

“For the first time in his life he marked at a corner. He’s an international with a Premier League title and three Italian league titles, but when we were doing the defensive corner routines in training I told him he had to mark and he said he didn’t mark at corners.

“I said you do now. And today he went in there and won a header.”

Although Balotelli missed several chances to cap his debut with a goal, the Italian linked up well with team-mates Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling at times.

And Rodgers is confident he will prove a major asset if he can be kept out of trouble.

“He’s a good guy and if you control the background noise, take away some of the situations he has found himself in, you can see he is going to be a real handful for defenders,” Rodgers added.

“You’ve seen his appetite today, his work, pressure, strength and quality. He has a wonderful touch for a big guy. He was excellent.”

Liverpool prove life after Suarez in Spurs masterclass

The Merseysiders’ 3-0 win at White Hart Lane on Sunday was achieved in the same swashbuckling manner as the run of 11 successive victories that took them to within two points of the Premier League title in May.

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After a disappointing defeat by Manchester City, this was Liverpool’s reminder to the Premier League that they remained a potent force, but also a clear sign of life following the departure of last season’s star attraction.

Although Suarez has gone, it seems so has the fear that Rodgers’s side may struggle for goals in his absence, with Sunday’s haul taking their tally to six in three games.

“We have risen to every challenge since we have been here. It was the same last year – will we score enough goals and how can we improve?,” the Liverpool manager told reporters.

“The beauty of this group is that they’re very hungry… We played very well and probably clicked back into where we were last season – which was great to see. Hopefully people enjoyed watching us as well.”

For Rodgers, Sunday’s win was a personal milestone, bringing up his 56th victory in 100 games as Liverpool manager, putting him level with Bill Shankly and only behind Kenny Dalglish (62).

There was perhaps no better place to show that the departure of a top player need not have an overly detrimental effect – coming against a Tottenham team who were in the same situation last year.

Whereas Tottenham never quite recovered from Gareth Bale’s move to Real Madrid, Rodgers can look at his squad and be satisfied with the attacking options at his disposal.

Debutant Mario Balotelli was effective if unspectacular and Daniel Sturridge had an uncharacteristic off day, but Raheem Sterling confirmed his rising stature and importance with a goal and a man-of-the-match display that delighted his manager.

Playing at the tip of Rodgers’s diamond formation before switching to the more accustomed wing role, he showed the kind of tactical flexibility that managers love.

“He was fantastic today again and got another goal,” the Liverpool boss said.

“His pressure and tactical awareness in the game is improving and, for a kid of 19, he has been great.

“He’s flexible – we’ve tried to develop him to be able to not only be a wide player, but to have the freedom and awareness to play on the inside…

“It’s important for me that they have the intelligence to play in a number of positions and I think he is developing that well.”

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

Burgess keeping a lid on his frustrations

Sam Burgess has put his sensational form for South Sydney this year down to not getting involved in personal battles with rival players.

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The Rabbitohs’ superstar is in the running to become the first forward to win the Dally M Medal since Cronulla’s Gavin Miller 1989, and credits this to keeping a lid on his frustrations.

The Englishman, who will return home to play rugby at the end of this season following a hugely successful four-year stint in the NRL, had earned a reputation of the wrong sort following some incidents in 2013.

His infamous ‘squirrel grip’ on Melbourne’s Will Chambers earned him a two-match ban and widespread condemnation.

He was also involved in a running battle with Sydney Roosters five-eighth James Maloney last year where he appeared to deliberately poke his finger in the playmaker’s eye.

There were also signs of his temper boiling over earlier this year when Burgess and his brother George became embroiled in a running battle with Wests Tigers forward Aaron Woods in a round three defeat.

Woods claimed after the game that Souths could be beaten if the Yorkshire siblings were provoked.

Burgess revealed that a heart-to-heart with coach Michael Maguire got him back on track.

“We talked through a few things that make me do some silly things on the field and why some battles might have got the better of me,” Burgess said.

“I’ve just relaxed and just tried to work hard for my teammates.”

Burgess dismissed the perception put forward by NSW prop Woods and said players at every club stand up for their teammates.

“This year I have taken personal battles out of my game and it’s worked for me,” he said.

“I had to be careful this year as my record has a few loading points on there.

“There are perceptions of everything – I never really bought into it. Everybody likes to say it’s about the Burgess boys.

“But it’s about the team really, we’re a tight-knit group and look out for each other.

“I think there was only one occasion where me and George have got involved.”

Teammate Greg Inglis was mildly critical of Burgess last season and the Queensland and Test star said he has noticed a rise in his performances as a result of his keeping his cool.

“You can see that Sam is enjoying his footy,” Inglis said.

“He’s not going into games thinking about personal battles. It’s unfortunate it took him probably after pre-season to notice that.

“Sammy is one of those players who loves those battles, but you can see now that he is really enjoying what he is doing and it’s out of his game now.

“He’s always been a great player but to take it to the next level you have to put all that stuff aside and the last month or so he has really come into his own.”

Port allowed to don the black and white

Port Adelaide captain Travis Boak doesn’t regret sledging Richmond’s Troy Chaplin, but insists there’s no bad blood with his former teammate.

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Boak bristled at Chaplin’s overt celebrations when the Tigers beat Port by 20 points in round 17.

At the time, Richmond were finals long-shots and Boak said of his ex-teammate: “I hope he’s enjoying the year that they’re having.”

But the Tigers snuck into the finals with nine consecutive wins and Boak conceded his remarks will attract attention ahead of Sunday’s elimination final at Adelaide Oval.

“I’m sure he’d be pretty happy with his season, the way they’re going,” Boak told reporters on Monday.

“It was just a bit of banter after the game.”

Boak, however, remains let-down by Chaplin, who when leaving Port in 2012 sent an email to players critical of their culture and work ethic.

“At the time it was pretty disappointing,” Boak said of Chaplin’s email.

“But we have both moved on … that is all in the past.”

Port finished fifth and host the eighth-placed Richmond, yet was ordered by the AFL to wear their away strip in the sudden-death final.

Port’s chief executive Keith Thomas challenged the decision and on Monday night the AFL agreed the Power could play in their ‘prison bar’ guernsey with white shorts.

“Collingwood is the club that has the right to wear black and white stripes within the AFL competition,” AFL football operations boss Mark Evans said in a statement.

“They have agreed for Port Adelaide to wear its heritage … guernsey … as a pragmatic resolution to produce the best outcome for this final.”

Port coach Ken Hinkley and Richmond counterpart Damien Hardwick had baulked at buying into the issue.

Hinkley said there was no reason why Port can’t become the first club to win the premiership from outside the top four.

“I’m going to have a go and these blokes (players) are going to have a go with me,” he said.

“It’s going to be a bit of fun trying.

“At some stage, somebody is going to be able to do it. And we’re going to have first crack.”

Buyout offer from Blavatnik sends Perform shares surging back to flotation price

LONDON (Reuters) – Len Blavatnik’s investment group Access Industries made a bid to take sports rights group Perform <PER.

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L> private on Monday, sending Perform shares soaring back to their flotation price after a bumpy three-year ride.

Perform buys online rights to major sports events and supplies video clips, live action and sports news and data to media groups and bookmakers. The bid values the company, including Access’s existing 42.5 percent stake, at 700 million pounds.

Shares of Perform surged on news of the offer, which at 260p per share matches the price at which the company was floated on the London stock market in 2011. That means those who bought stock three years ago would get their money back after enduring sharp swings in the share price.

Perform shares were up 26 percent to 257.3p by 10:50 AM BST.

“We continue to have confidence in Perform’s management and in the company’s future potential,” said Lincoln Benet, CEO of Access Industries, which was founded by billionaire Blavatnik.

“Consequently, a member of our group is launching an offer at 260 pence per share, a 27.6 percent premium to the current price, to allow those shareholders who seek an exit to do so at a significant premium to the current trading level.”

RISE AND FALL

Perform initially established a reputation as a growth stock as it doubled its market capitalisation, before crashing in December 2013 when it issued a major profit warning and saw its shares plunge more than 50 percent in one session.

Access Industries, a privately held industrial group with investments in natural resources, chemicals, real estate and media, including Warner Music Group, said the offer was final.

The group was founded in 1986 by Blavatnik, an American citizen who grew up in Russia.

In an initial response, Perform advised shareholders to take no action for the moment.

“The board reiterates its confidence in Perform Group’s standalone strategy and growth prospects as detailed in last Friday’s interim results statement,” it said.

Perform said on Friday that it was on track to meet revenue and profit targets for the year.

Core profit was 15.6 million pounds in the first half of 2014. Analysts forecast that figure will double in the next six months as cost cuts take effect.

(Reporting by Kate Holton and Keith Weir; Editing by Michael Urquhart and Susan Fenton)

I cannot see myself losing: Mundine prepares for fight of career

In an exclusive interview with NITV News, Mundine said he is still young in the sport and won’t be hanging up the gloves any time soon.

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Mundine announced his return to the ring last week, with a bout scheduled for November against undefeated knockout master Rabchenko.

“I cannot see myself losing, I seriously can’t,” he said.

“So I’m looking forward to the next stage in my career, this fights going to set up the mega fights that I yearn for so it’s do or die.”

At 39, Mundine is 11 years his opponent’s senior, but he says age is just a number.

“Don’t talk about age, I don’t want to hear that,” he said.

“You tell me I’m too old and I’ll keep doing what I do and that’s how it’s going to be.”

He has left the country, en route to Las Vegas for three weeks of intense training as he dismisses rumours that his health might be at risk.

“I don’t get hit, I’ve never been beaten up,” he said.

“The only scratches I have are from elbows. I mean look at me, I’m looking and feeling 25.”

In his most recent fight against Joshua Clottey, Mundine was knocked down five times. He says this was due to a lack of mental preparation.

“There has been three times where I haven’t turned up mentally prepared in my career and that was one of them,” he said.

“I’ve got to be a lot more attentive and do things over and over to make sure my defence next time is impregnable.”

He says the loss has brought him one step closer to a battle against undefeated American boxer Floyd Mayweather.

“When the Clottey fight knocked me off course I fell into this predicament and now I have an opportunity that better,” he said.

“Floyd won’t fight me but i would like to fight Alvarez and after I beat him I will have earned that right to fight the very best.”

Mundine told NITV News he won’t consider retirement until that opportunity arises.

Malaysia refuses Sydney protester entry

Natalie Lowrey, a New Zealander who calls Bondi home, arrived in Kuala Lumpur from Bali on Sunday night to observe the court hearing scheduled for Tuesday of 15 Malaysians who were arrested along with her in June outside the plant of Australian miner Lynas Corp.

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They have been charged with illegal assembly and rioting and if found guilty could be jailed for up to two years.

Sydney-based Lowrey was refused entry to Malaysia on the grounds that she was blacklisted by police. She was detained at Kuala Lumpur International Airport for almost 15 hours before being put on a flight back to Bali early Monday, activists said.

Rights group Voice of the Malaysian People (Suaram) and anti-Lynas movement Himpunan Hijau in a joint statement condemned Lowrey’s exclusion and criticised immigration authorities for allegedly denying the 40-year-old water for 13 hours.

Lowery was held by police for almost a week in June but escaped criminal charges.

Immigration authorities and police could not be reached for comment.

Activists say the rare earth plant in the eastern state of Pahang produces radioactive waste that threatens the environment and local people.

Environmentalist groups have staged a series of protests against the plant. Lynas insists it is safe, saying any radioactive waste would be low-level and safely disposed of.

Rare earths are vital for many industrial and hi-tech processes such as the production of smartphones, hybrid car batteries, wind turbines, steel and low-energy light bulbs.

The Australian miner hopes the plant can help break the Chinese stranglehold on the market for rare earths.

Lynas started processing rare earths in an industrial park outside the state capital, Kuantan, in late 2012 after a delay of more than a year because of strong local opposition.

ICAC hears of betrayal in Labor’s ranks

An apparent own goal by fallen NSW Labor powerbroker Joe Tripodi in his government’s dying days was the “ultimate act of betrayal”, former premier Kristina Keneally says.

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The long-running Independent Commission Against Corruption’s (ICAC) cash-for-favours probe on Monday diverted its attention from alleged corruption in Liberal ranks as Mr Tripodi, Ms Keneally and ex-NSW Labor Treasurer Eric Roozendaal followed one another into the witness box.

The ICAC has heard claims Nathan Tinkler’s Buildev funded a smear campaign against sitting Newcastle MP Jodi McKay because she opposed a proposed coal-loader that would have been worth a fortune to the company.

Central to the alleged plot was the distribution of a pamphlet, headed ‘Stop Jodi’s Trucks’ which claimed a rival plan favoured by Ms McKay would clog suburban streets with 1000 trucks a day.

Mr Tripodi has admitted contributing to the leaflets but denies he was doing Buildev’s bidding to try to set up a career after politics.

He said any assistance he gave Buildev was because “I’m an obliging type of person.”

Giving evidence on Monday, Ms Keneally said she had a good idea what she might have said had she learned of Mr Tripodi’s manoeuvres.

“I’m not entirely sure the language I would have used should be repeated in this room,” she said.

“It is an ultimate act of betrayal for a member of the Australian Labor Party to campaign against or work against an endorsed member, an endorsed candidate.

“It just is unthinkable.”

She said she confronted another high-powered Labor figure, Mr Roozendaal, about the damaging leak of a treasury document to Ms McKay’s local paper but he “emphatically” denied having a hand in it.

“He was furious that he appeared to be implicated in that,” Ms Keneally said.

Mr Roozendaal himself has finally had his turn in the ICAC witness box after spending weeks in the public gallery.

Under questioning from counsel assisting, Geoffrey Watson SC, he said Mr Tripodi had approached him as early as September 2010 about Buildev’s plans for a coal-loader at Mayfield, on the Newcastle foreshore.

“He was advocating, in a sense, for their proposal,” he said.

“I believe he thought it had some merit and it was worth investigating.”

He believed the Buildev proposal did not preclude the development of a container terminal at the same site, he said.

But Mr Tripodi never floated the possibility of another company being involved.

Mr Watson asked Mr Roozendaal whether it was good government policy to only consider a medium sized local company for a major infrastructure project.

“Well they were the only company that had the lease on that particular site,” Mr Roozendaal replied.

He denied destroying email records of his discussions about the Mayfield site, and is expected to be questioned further on the subject when he returns to the witness box on Tuesday.

Due to give evidence on Tuesday is Chris Hartcher, one of the former Liberal MPs forced onto the NSW Parliament crossbenches over corruption allegations.

Former NT deputy wants backing or will go

The former deputy chief minister of the Northern Territory has characterised his parliamentary colleagues as a back-stabbing “nest of vipers”, and says if he is disendorsed from the deputy role he may leave the party.

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Dave Tollner was forced to resign last Friday when homophobic comments he made to a gay staffer son of his colleague were made public.

“With such a lack of support I had no choice,” he told Mix 104.9 radio on Friday.

“Members of my own team were out there attacking me publicly.”

He said more than one person leaked his comments.

“There are (newcomers) in that team … that I feel extraordinarily sad for; they’ve come into what can be best perceived as a nest of vipers,” he said.

Mr Tollner said he wanted his Country Liberal Party colleagues to vote for his reinstatement at a parliamentary wing meeting on Monday afternoon that will determine the next deputy.

However, he said he is resigned to the fact that won’t happen.

“Because while I’m sitting there working my butt off… I’ve got a bunch of colleagues sitting behind me throwing knives in my back.”

He said that when he asked Attorney-General John Elferink on Friday morning if he could expect the support from a majority of colleagues in the ballot he was told “not a hope in hell”.

But Mr Tollner has shown no contrition over his comments, saying that the staffer was not angry with him and that he shouldn’t be publicly punished for joking comments made in private.

“Contrition for what? What have I done wrong?” he said.

“The reality was, I was doing a damn fine job… why wouldn’t they want that to continue?”

The government currently holds 13 seats in the 25-seat Legislative Assembly, and if Mr Tollner leaves the party it could be forced into a minority position.

“What’s become very clear is that Dave Tollner is the one-man wrecking ball of the CLP government,” said Ken Vowles, Labor’s shadow minister for government accountability.

“(Chief Minister) Adam Giles didn’t have the numbers to keep his deputy chief minister – his best mate – in the job; that means he’s desperately trying to hold on to his own leadership.

“I would not be surprised if come Monday we have a third chief minister in the NT in two years.”

Chief Minister Adam Giles said Mr Tollner’s possible departure was a matter for the former minister to decide.

“Nobody wants to see us govern with a gun to our head, doesn’t matter who that is,” he said.

“People need to grow up and stop looking at themselves and start looking at the rest of the Territory.

“I’ve had a gutful and so has everyone else.”

Batts staffers saw rollout as inflexible

Bureaucrats involved in Labor’s botched home insulation program were under the mistaken impression the scheme’s tight rollout date was non-negotiable, a royal commission has found.

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But the 300-page report contains few direct criticisms of the actions of former prime minister Kevin Rudd.

During his testimony to the inquiry, Mr Rudd blamed public servants for the program’s rushed rollout.

He accepted ultimate responsibility for the “deep tragedy” of the deaths of four young insulation installers.

The inquiry heard public servants were given just five months to devise the program in early 2009.

Public servants were already working at 100 per cent capacity when given the enormous job, witnesses told the commissioner.

The inquiry also heard staff were forced to work until 10pm and on weekends.

But Mr Rudd insisted the July 1 rollout date could have been changed if any bureaucrat raised serious safety concerns.

“I’m confident in saying the reaction of ministers would have been to say, `This has to be dealt with’,” he told the commission.

“And if that involved a delay, then that would have been the response.”

In his report, Commissioner Ian Hanger QC agreed the formulation and implementation of the program was “unduly rushed”.

He said he was satisfied there was a genuinely held belief, within both the environment department and the office of the co-ordinator general, that the rollout date could not be altered.

He speculated that public servants were unaware of the possibility of an extension.

“… there appears to have been either a miscommunication of that flexibility to DEWHA [Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts] and OCG [Office of the Co-ordinator General] officers or an unwillingness by those officers to ask” the report read.

Mr Hanger also stated that exactly how the July 1 date was reached remains unclear.

He pointed out that no public servant put in writing concerns about the government’s ability to meet the date.

The inquiry report says it was conceived “without proper thought being given to the practicality or achievability of that date”.

Four installers died under the scheme, which Mr Hanger said was rushed out, with planning and safety sacrificed for speed under a stimulus plan aimed at easing the economic pain from the global financial crisis.