Bombers rule out injured Carlisle

Essendon have ruled out key forward Jake Carlisle for Saturday night’s AFL elimination final against North Melbourne because of a hamstring injury.

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Carlisle missed last weekend’s final-round clash against Carlton with what had been described as a “one-week hamstring”.

But coach Mark Thompson says he always knew Carlisle would be unable to make a quick return for the cut-throat encounter with the Kangaroos, despite what the club’s medical staff had told him.

“He’s had a scan today and I think they’ve decided he’s going to miss one game, so he’s not playing,” Thompson told reporters on Monday.

“I haven’t seen the scan myself. They’re just saying there’s something there still … there’s damage there.

“So he’s not playing.

“When you have a scan and they say ‘he’s done a hammy’ and then ‘it’s a one-week hammy, we’ll test him Monday again’, I pretty much knew it was going to be two weeks.”

Carlisle’s absence means ruck-forward Tom Bellchambers, who came into the side last round, is set to hold his spot for the MCG clash on Saturday night.

Bellchambers would provide valuable ruck back-up for Paddy Ryder, allowing the latter to push forward and support Joe Daniher.

Ryder and Daniher kicked two goals apiece in Saturday’s draw against Carlton, a result which Thompson acknowledged was not a good dress rehearsal for an elimination final.

“You quickly forget about that and just look forward to the game coming,” he said.

“I know we’ll get the good Essendon. The players are just ready for it.

“They’ll be fine.

“The plan is to start well and play well all day.

“If it doesn’t happen, well the thing is we’ve got pretty good experience at coming back.”

Thompson said David Myers, who missed last week’s game because of illness, would definitely come back into the side this week.

“Apart from that, not too many (changes),” he said.

Mark Baguley was in no doubt despite a cut head last week.

“He’s pretty hard to knock out. He’s got a hard head,” Thompson said.

“He’ll pass the (concussion) test. He probably didn’t get a great score in the first place.”

Batts bureaucrats could face repercussions

Action could be taken against public servants responsible for the deadly pink batts scheme, but the federal ministers who oversaw it, including former prime minister Kevin Rudd, will avoid punishment.

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The royal commission into the scheme found four young men would not have been killed if the Rudd government hadn’t rushed out its $2.8 billion home insulation program in a desperate scramble to boost the economy.

Commission head Ian Hanger, QC, found the deaths of Matthew Fuller, Rueben Barnes, Marcus Wilson, and Mitchell Sweeney, all killed while installing insulation under the program, were avoidable.

Mr Hanger found the ambitious scheme sacrificed planning for speed and unnecessarily exposed workers to an unacceptably high risk of injury or death.

“The Australian government conceived of, devised, designed and implemented a program that enabled very large numbers of inexperienced workers, often engaged by unscrupulous and avaricious employers … to undertake potentially dangerous work,” he found.

“It should have done more to protect them.

“In my view each death would, and should, not have occurred had the HIP (home insulation program) been properly designed and implemented.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott told parliament on Monday the report detailed a “litany of failures” arising from the Rudd government’s “dysfunctional culture”.

But, rather than recommending any action against the government ministers involved, Mr Hanger recommended the public service commissioner consider action against the senior bureaucrats concerned.

Mr Hanger said by law public service employees must act with “care and diligence”, but it was apparent this did not always happen.

“I recommend that relevant agency head/s or the prime minister consider whether the findings in this report justify a request that the public service commissioner inquire and determine any appropriate action,” he wrote in his report.

Mr Hanger did not recommend action against ministers who oversaw the program, including former prime minister Mr Rudd who announced the scheme in 2009 to stimulate the economy.

However, he noted the terms of reference asked him to examine the actions of the Australian government, not particular individuals.

Former Labor senator Mark Arbib, whose evidence to the commission was described as “guarded and defensive”, came under fire for being focused on potential rorting of the scheme ahead of safety risks.

But Mr Hanger found neither he nor former environment minister Peter Garrett were warned of the risks to installers before the first death in October 2009.

Senior environment department bureaucrats Kevin Keeffe and Beth Brunoro were criticised for not investigating risks posed by foil insulation while their colleague David Hoitink was blamed for wrongly concluding the federal government could leave health and safety regulation to the states and territories.

A lawyer representing Rueben Barnes’ family likened public servants rolling out the program to the crew of the Titanic.

“Too frightened, in essence, to call out ‘iceberg ahead.’ The reason for that is that they were told ‘get this done and get it done quickly’,” Bill Potts told reporters.

Aaron Anderson, the lawyer for Matthew Fuller’s parents, said the couple would work closely with the government to ensure the recommendations are addressed.

Other recommendations include a ban on reflective foil laminates in retrofitting ceiling insulation and a new minimum standard of qualification for all workers in roof cavities.

The government is considering the findings and will response by the end of the month.

Book Week is good for kids – and book clubs are great for adults

By Ariella Van Luyn, James Cook University

If my Facebook feed is anything to go by, last month parents scrabbled to make costumes of popular characters from children’s books.

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They were preparing for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s annual reading extravaganza, Book Week, a series of events across Australia designed to get kids reading.

Book Week shows that we are keen to encourage kids to read, and demonstrates the value of talking about books to promote reading. What’s less often acknowledged is that reading socially can be beneficial for adults too, although the politics are in some ways more complicated.

Reading books on your own improves empathy and theory of mind, the ability to understand that others might think or behave differently to you. Fiction shows characters’ thoughts – and how those thoughts drive or are hidden by characters’ words and actions.

With the popularity of Oprah’s Book Club and, more recently, Jennifer Byrne’s The First Tuesday Book Club, it’s clear that many adults enjoy connecting with each other over novels. I helped run a book club in Brisbane for more than two years and there’s a growing body of research on the value of social reading.

Social reading in book clubs is valuable because readers can make sense of big ideas through personal experience. Book clubs invite readers to connect the themes of books – ideas such as racism, gender, nationhood and representations of the past – by linking the characters’ experiences to their own. I noticed how books such as Andrew McGahan’s Underground invited readers to discuss, from their own personal experience, the impact of corporations on government in Australia, and how Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber prompted discussion about the ways fairytales shape readers’ thoughts about their own sexualities.

Novels invite this kind of discussion because they explore wider ideas through characters’ inner lives.

It’s true that book club discussions of what book to read next may be influenced by the tastes and attitudes promoted on TV and do not necessarily promote access to a diverse range of titles, and researchers point out that these celebrity book clubs are not necessarily empowering for readers.

Publishers have picked up on the selling power of book clubs. Random House, for example, runs a Book of the Month Club, suggesting novels for book clubs and offering a set of questions. Many publishers provide free questions with selected books, directing readers not only to what texts are worthy of discussion but also how to make sense of them.

Universities and schools also play a role in identifying “valuable” books by introducing readers to books considered beneficial or worthy of study, as researchers show. Those forces make social reading subject to power struggles by shaping what book clubs choose to read and, by extension, what books are considered valuable. For example, book clubs could easily end up reinforcing dominant ideas about the divide between literature and genre.

But they also allow readers to talk about these very divides and create a more personal sense of what makes a good or valuable book.

Research in the UK suggests that most book clubs meet in people’s home, making them more private than public. While the tastes of celebrities and publishers may influence readers in the home environment, the grassroots nature of these book clubs offers a space to resist these forces. Simply asking each other questions such as “did you like the book?” and “why?” allows readers to challenge accepted ideas of literary value.

Because books are about people’s lives, and because the social setting of the book club creates a space for the discussion of personal experience, social reading fosters thinking about the personal as an example of the big picture. In responding to others’ interpretations and experiences, discussion also becomes an opportunity to reconsider life narratives from a different point of view, to reinforce or challenge beliefs unconsciously or consciously held. In linking the personal with wider issues, readers discussing books actively work to represent themselves to others.

It’s easy to dismiss book clubs as, at worst, frivolous or pretentious or, at best, only having an impact on a personal level. But book clubs’ social and personal qualities are actually their main strengths – they allow readers to link the personal with the political.

Ariella Van Luyn is affiliated with James Cook University and the Townsville Writers and Publishers Centre.

ANZ Stadium surface to get worked on

The AFL has responded to criticism of the ANZ Stadium playing surface by insisting on some repair work to the ground before Saturday’s finals clash between Sydney and Fremantle.

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Players frequently slipped over during the course of last Saturday’s clash between the Swans and Richmond, though stadium officials stressed record August rainfall had affected conditions.

The match was played just two days after an NRL game at the venue between South Sydney and Canterbury.

There are no rugby league games scheduled at the venue this week leading up to the Swans’ qualifying final with Fremantle on Saturday.

Sydney coach John Longmire revealed the AFL had acted on Monday to try to improve conditions for this weekend.

“We’ve been notified by the AFL that they are actually going to make some changes to that surface, two patches which is a good thing,” Longmire told the media on Monday.

“Obviously the people in Melbourne didn’t understand the amount of rain that was around last week and it was really wet.

“Those patches on the sidelines from the rugby league on the Thursday were soft.

“You’d like them better than that and fortunately the AFL have acknowledged that and those changes will be made this week, which is a good thing for both teams.”

In one instance late in Saturday’s game, Sydney key defender Ted Richards lost his footing, allowing Richmond’s Dustin Martin a clear run to score what turned out to be the match-winning goal.

“Teddy is certainly blaming the surface,” Longmire joked.

ANZ Stadium officials pointed to August’s record rainfall in Sydney as a factor in the state of the ground.

A retractable roof is expected to be in place at the venue by 2018, following proposed work on the venue likely to start by 2016.

“Western Sydney has experienced its wettest August in history and this obviously affected playing conditions last Saturday,” an ANZ Stadium spokesperson told AAP.

“The stadium is about to undergo a major redevelopment with plans for a retractable roof.

“It would be nice to have the ability to close the roof in future.”

The Swans are contracted to play three games a year at ANZ Stadium until 2016.

The surface conditions at the ground were also called into question after AFL games there in 2011 and 2013.

In 2011, Swans star Jude Bolton wrote to the AFL Players’ Association, noting some sections of the ground were “substandard”.

Abbott defends new Aust role in Iraq

Prime Minister Tony Abbott understands apprehension about Australia again getting involved in an Iraq conflict but says doing nothing also has its risks.

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Mr Abbott on Monday used a speech to parliament to spell out the government’s reasons for taking part in an air drop of weapons and aid to Kurdish fighters taking on Islamic State extremists in northern Iraq.

“Many Australians are understandably apprehensive about the risk of becoming involved in another long and costly conflict in the Middle East,” Mr Abbott said.

“Doing anything involves serious risks and weighty consequences. But doing nothing involves risks and consequences too.”

He said he would no longer be referring to the extremists as Islamic State.

“It is not a state, it’s a death cult,” Mr Abbott said.

“Australia cannot leave the Iraqi people to face this horror, this pure evil, alone.”

Mr Abbott said if the Obama administration and the Iraqi government requested military support it would be considered against four criteria.

These included a clear and achievable overall objective, a proportionate role for Australian forces, a proper risk assessment and an overall humanitarian objective in accordance with Australia’s national interests.

“Like President Obama, Australia has no intention to commit combat troops on the ground, but we’re not inclined to stand by in the face of preventable genocide either.”

He said there was a risk that Australians involved in the conflict could bring their skills home with deadly consequences.

Labor and the coalition earlier rejected an Australian Greens bid for a parliamentary vote to approve Australian action in Iraq.

Mr Abbott said speeches in response to his statement should suffice for a debate.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor’s support for the government was underpinned by three key principles – effective response to the growing humanitarian crisis, promoting a unity government in Iraq and dealing with Australian foreign fighters.

“We should not confuse empty jingoism and aggressive nationalism with steady decision-making. Neither can we ignore the dreadful consequences of fanaticism and extremism,” he said.

Mr Shorten said Islamic State was an enemy of humanity engaged in crimes against humanity.

“We cannot co-operate with this evil by refusing to support the innocent,” he said.