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Teresa Gambaro quits: LNP figures blast ‘dummy spit’

Teresa Gambaro has announced she won’t recontest the seat of Brisbane at the next federal election. Photo: Andrew Meares National Retail Association chief executive Trevor Evans is the early favourite to win LNP preselection for Brisbane. Photo: Supplied
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While former premier Campbell Newman was considered an unlikely starter for LNP preselection in Brisbane, former state MP Robert Cavallucci (right) was considering his options. Photo: Harrison Saragossi

Senior Liberal National Party figures have slammed Brisbane MP Teresa Gambaro’s decision to quit politics at the next election, calling it a “dummy spit” that will hand the seat to Labor.

But Ms Gambaro’s office rejected that assertion, referring Fairfax Media to a statement she issued on Wednesday that stated she was leaving politics to spend more time with her family.

A spokesman for Ms Gambaro said that was all she would say on the matter.

Ms Gambaro, who held Brisbane with a margin of just 3.15 per cent, had faced a spirited Labor campaign spearheaded by its army major candidate, Pat O’Neill, prior to her retirement announcement on Wednesday.

One LNP source said Ms Gambaro, who had 15 years of parliamentary experience, was bitterly disappointed to have missed out on a promotion in two successive front bench reshuffles.

“She went into meltdown last year when she didn’t get a promotion and it happened again this year (when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull appointed his new ministry),” the source said.

“The timing of this is appalling.

“Brisbane was not in play before this, but now she’s all but handing it to Labor.

“She’s f—ed the party, crucified the party, because there’s no time for a new candidate to get the name recognition.”

Another LNP source described Ms Gambaro’s decision as a “massive dummy spit”.

“Teresa was telling everyone in the party how she had the name recognition and was the only person who could win Brisbane,” the source said.

“This is just self-interest of the highest order.

“We’ve got nobody palatable with name recognition to win the seat.

“Campbell Newman has the name recognition, but he’s not palatable.”

Comment was sought from Mr Newman, but the former Queensland premier was considered by party sources to be an unlikely candidate, given his stated enjoyment of post-political life.

In her statement, Ms Gambaro said: “The time has come to be available to my family and to pursue other opportunities.”

Mr O’Neill, the Labor candidate, said Ms Gambaro’s decision to bow out of the campaign would not affect his campaign.

“This has never been a fight against Teresa Gambaro, it’s been a fight against what we see as an increasingly out-of-touch LNP government whose values aren’t shared by the people of Brisbane,” he said.

“…I’ve always got along well with Teresa and I wish her well in whatever she does next, her and her family.

“She’s always been nice to me and my mum, when my mum was principal at New Farm State School, but no, this doesn’t change the campaign.”

The attention will now turn to who will replace Ms Gambaro on the ballot paper for the LNP.

National Retail Association chief executive Trevor Evans was understood to be the frontrunner for preselection.

Mr Evans had launched a preselection challenge against Ms Gambaro last year, but was eventually persuaded to abandon his bid.

It was understood then-prime minister Tony Abbott’s office was instrumental in persuading Mr Evans not to challenge.

One of the LNP sources said they felt “sorry” for Mr Evans, because even though he would be a “very good candidate”, time was running out for him to gain name recognition in the electorate.

Mr Evans did not return Fairfax Media’s calls on Wednesday.

Former Brisbane Central MP Robert Cavallucci, who lost his state seat at last year’s state election, was another possible contender.

When asked whether he would seek LNP preselection, Mr Cavallucci said he was “not ruling it out at this stage”, but was yet to discuss the matter with his family.

Mr Cavallucci was the first non-Labor candidate to win Brisbane Central – which was held by former premier Peter Beattie between 1989 and 2006 – since the electorate was established in 1977.

Fairfax Media understands former Young LNP president Luke Barnes, Ms Gambaro’s chief-of-staff, has made several calls to party members to sound them out about running.

“Luke’s a political animal, but I don’t think he’ll get the support,” one of the sources said.

Another source, however, said they expected Ms Gambaro to support Mr Barnes should he run.

Comment has been sought from Mr Barnes.

Mr Barnes was central to one of the most colourful moments of the 2015 state election campaign, when he called the police in the lead-up to Iain Fogerty’s arrest.

Mr Fogerty, whose public nuisance charge was thrown out of court, had been standing next to LNP campaigners wearing an “I’m with stupid” t-shirt.

Former state local government minister David Crisafulli, who has moved to south-east Queensland since he lost his north Queensland seat last year, ruled himself out.

“You will never see my name on a federal ballot paper,” he said.

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Weekend penalty rate protesters take to Eden-Monaro MP’s Queanbeyan office

Union delegates are concerned about any change to Sunday penalty rates. Photo: Rob BanksQueanbeyan shift workers and union members protested plans to change penalty rates outside Eden-Monaro MP Peter Hendy’s office on Wednesday morning.
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The group, led by United Voice ACT secretary Lyndal Ryan, said any cuts to weekend penalty rates would have a negative impact on their weekly budget and inevitably, the local community.

Protests have become a semi-frequent sight outside the Queanbeyan office in recent months with hospitality, cleaning, childcare, hospital and education staff growing concerned.

In December the Productivity Commission’s final report into Australia’s workplace relations system recommended the lowering of Sunday penalty rates for hospitality workers.

The report also called for penalty rates on public holidays to remain untouched along with the minimum wage.

ACT Liberal senator Zed Seselja broke ranks with his colleagues after the report and called on the government to adopt the recommendations.

Ms Ryan said Dr Hendy needed to understand the importance of penalty rates for hospitality workers as Australia’s first assistant finance minister.

“Weekend rates do not fully compensate them for this but they do make a huge difference, particularly for such low paid workers,” she said.

One hospitality worker and Queanbeyan resident, Bryan Kidman, said he could not survive financially without weekend rates.

The union pointed to 2015 research by the McKell Institute that found any reduction in penalty rates would likely to result in a negative impact on the emotional wellbeing and security of workers

“It is estimated that retail and hospitality workers in rural Australia would lose between $370 million and $1.55 billion each year, depending on the extent of the cut to penalty rates and the level of local ownership of the retail stores,” the report said.

Late last year, United Voice delegates protested outside the office after a poll found eight in 10 Canberrans supported penalty rates.

The poll of 1183 people, conducted by ReachTel on behalf of Unions ACT, showed about one in 10 was opposed to penalty rates while the remainder were yet to make up their minds.

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ANU agitates for national database to stop credential fraud and reputation damage

ANU Deputy Vice Chancellor Marnie Hughes-Warrington. Photo: Alex EllinghausenThe Australian National University has called for a national database to stop graduates from committing credential fraud while seeking employment or further study.
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The university’s deputy vice chancellor Marnie Hughes-Warrington said the proposal was supported by the country’s top universities and would be discussed at a national conference in Canberra this week.

“The project will help fight fraud, will allow third parties to search and verify academic documents and allows students to add a secure link to their qualifications from anywhere in the world,” she said.

Ms Hughes-Warrington said the university was “a strong supporter” of the initiative proposed by Universities Australia, which has also garnered support from 18 other institutions.

Belinda Robinson, chief executive of Universities Australia, said it was “vitally important that anyone who says that they have a degree actually holds that degree”.

She said the database would ensure “those individuals who seek to dishonestly represent their past academic performance are prevented from doing so”.

“We must ensure that the integrity of Australia’s higher education qualifications are protected,” she said.

According to Universities Australia, the project is expected to launch by next year and will eventually include academic transcripts from New Zealand, China, the US and the UK.

The proposal has also been welcomed by recruitment agencies that have reported candidates lying about their previous salary, grades and experience.

Jim Roy, regional director of Hays in Canberra, said a national database would assist employers in their search for talent given “instances of people making occasional embellishments in their CV”.

“Employers want to ensure they employ the most suitable candidate, capable of performing the duties and responsibilities of the role,” he said.

“So from this perspective a national database would also help an employer confirm that they employ a person who has attained the necessary qualifications.”

Ms Hughes-Warrington said the ANU had already introduced measures to reduce academic fraud, such as an online service hosted by the university that enables recruiters and employers to verify documents.

“In addition the university also provides back to source authentication checking whereby we will verify upon request that a particular degree, diploma or certificate has been conferred upon an individual by the university,” she said.

“The university also has a publicly available website that can be used to search for graduates of ANU to verify the award conferred, and the date that it was conferred.”

The national database is aligned with the Groningen Declaration, an international group of university representatives hoping to increase the academic and professional mobility of students.

Anthony McClaren, chief executive of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, welcomed the database and the collaboration between universities.

“Integrity in credentials and certification of qualifications is of vital importance to students, providers and employers,” he said.

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World Science Festival Brisbane 2016: Questions abound in learning extravaganza

Street Science! encourages the public to get hands on with science. Photo: World Science Festival New York Brian Greene’s theatrical work ‘Light Falls’ explores the highs and lows of Albert Einstein.World Science Festival (supplied by Queensland Museum) Photo: World Science Festival New York
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A scene from one of the World Science Festival events in New York. Photo: World Science Festival New York

Science is all about questions.

Are humans on the verge of destroying our planet? Is creativity linked to insanity? And just when are we finally going to be whizzing around space like The Jetsons?

These are just a smattering of the riddles some of the world’s greatest scientific minds will be attempting to answer in Brisbane this week.

How is it that two co-existing theories that perfectly describe the way our universe works are completely incompatible with each other? Can we save the Great Barrier Reef from a devastating death?

Are robots inevitably going to kill us all? That’s another conundrum experts will be tackling before the World Science Festival’s inaugural visit to the Queensland capital wraps on Sunday.

Did Matt Damon really “science the shit out of this” in The Martian or was it all Hollywood hocus pocus? The festival has an actual astronaut and a NASA scientist on hand waiting to answer just that query.

A little more than 100 years since Albert Einstein revolutionised our view of the world with his general theory of relativity and just a month after the discovery of gravitational waves finally proved the existence of the final piece of his puzzle, the German physicist’s towering mind dominates proceedings.

But as always in science, the biggest question of them all is still unanswered.

How do we unite our understanding of the very big (general relativity) with the very small (quantum physics), the two widely accepted, individually accurate but completely incompatible explanations of how the universe works?

“Although relativity and quantum physics aren’t compatible, the data we’re seeing is proving that both theories are spot on,” prize-winning astrophysicist Professor Tamara Davis said, in the lead-up to Saturday’s discussion of Einstein’s legacy.

“It’s difficult to work out what we do know, versus what we just assume we know because we haven’t found evidence to the contrary.”

On Wednesday night, the festival opened with Light Falls: Space, Time and an Obsession of Einstein, a theatrical production bringing the science to life.

That spirit, a push to make science interesting again and open the mind of even the most jaded student, envelops the whole festival.

At the weekend, Street Science! will take over South Brisbane as kids learn about cool jobs such as palaeontology, zookeeping and forensic science, create mini explosions in their quest to discover atomic theory and try to solve ocean pollution.

“The ability to make science real for students at a really young age is so important, especially really young kids – they’re sponges,” Professor Miller said.

“We want people thinking about science, talking about science and getting inspired by science.”

Renowned science communicator and festival co-founder Brian Greene brought the festival to Brisbane from its home in New York for the first time this year. In return, we named a spider after him.

Stay in touch with Queensland’s best news via Facebook.

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Accused killer Glen McNamara used counter-surveillance techniques after Jamie Gao murder, court told

Glen McNamara leaves the NSW supreme court in February. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer Jamie Gao was last seen by his girlfriend on May 18, 2014. Photo: Facebook
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Glen McNamara’s daughter gives evidenceMcNamara: ‘He said he would kill you girls’

Three days after former police officer Glen McNamara allegedly murdered a Sydney student he appeared to use counter-surveillance techniques while driving home from the pub, a court has heard.

Detective Sergeant Adam Bird told the NSW Supreme Court that, having been given the task of keeping tabs on Mr McNamara’s movements on May 23, 2014, he followed the 56-year-old home from the Crown Hotel in Revesby.

“His actions in driving were consistent with counter-surveillance techniques,” Detective Bird told the court on Wednesday.

He said the former police officer had driven around the block when there was no apparent reason to do so, including going down a quiet laneway.

“The reason you would do that [when conducting counter-surveillance] is because a laneway is quiet and usually the only people driving down there have a specific reason to be there.”

Detective Bird said when he realised the former officer was using counter-surveillance techniques he stopped following him.

The incident occurred three days after Mr McNamara and fellow former police officer Roger Rogerson, 74, allegedly shot 20-year-old Mr Gao twice in the chest at close range in a south-west Sydney storage shed.

Mr Gao’s body was found wrapped in blue plastic and a silver surfboard cover floating off the coast at Cronulla on May 26.

The Crown alleges Mr McNamara and Mr Rogerson were involved in a joint criminal enterprise to kill or cause serious bodily injury to Mr Gao and rob him of a large quantity of the drug ice, which they had allegedly promised to buy from him.

Both men have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and commercial drug supply.

Later on Tuesday, a crime scene expert, Phillip Austin, told the court there was no conclusive evidence of blood in the storage shed.

An initial luminol test had found possible traces of blood on the floor of the garage near the roller door, and on the back rest of an office chair stored in the shed, he said. However, subsequent testing had been negative for blood in these locations.

Earlier, Detective Bird, who was also involved in a search of Mr Rogerson’s home, rejected suggestions that gun-shot residue found on clothing owned by Mr Rogerson could have been the result of accidental evidence contamination by police.

“I’ve viewed the search warrant video and it does not happen,” he said.

The case continues.

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Luke McGregor’s Luke Warm Sex probes everything you wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask

Luke McGregor, subject and star of the documentary series Luke Warm Sex. Photo: ABCYou present yourself as incredibly naive about sex, having been a virgin until age 25 and having “done it” just twice since then. Is this a character you’ve created for the show or is it really you?
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Unfortunately, that is all me. I thought before we started filming whether I should try to come across as a little cooler, a little more knowledgeable. But we thought, nah, it might be better to not try to educate myself prior, because that meant I might be asking questions that people my age still have but are too embarrassed to ask.

One of the big ones was about the clitoris – I knew it existed, and I knew you should pay attention to it, but I wasn’t sure where, or in what way. It was a conscious decision not to look it up on the net before I started interviewing an expert, because if anyone else is going through the same thing I am, I thought it would be more helpful. But it was a tough balance trying to write a show while not being too informed going in.

Do you think other people are going through what you were? Are there are others out there clamouring for this sort of belated sex education?

Universities say when they do sex surveys they’re not really sure if people are telling the truth or not; anonymous surveys are always very different than surveys where people think they are being logged. I know that right up until the point I did the doco I used to not let on or discuss how much sexual experience I had, or try to let on I’d had a bit more. So I think it’s common that maybe we’re slightly embarrassed as we get older to close those knowledge gaps we have about sex.

If someone learns something they were scared to ask, or there’s a couple who aren’t enjoying their sex life and start talking about it and enjoying it more [after watching this series], they would be the things I hope for.

In the series, you experience a whole range of workshops, many of them rather “hands-on”. Were you surprised to discover such a flourishing trade in sexual knowledge and practice out there?

I was, yeah, and there was a whole bunch of stuff we didn’t even have time to cover, like the future of sex and the role virtual reality will play in it. It was a real eye-opener; I had no idea this whole community of people was out there. There isn’t always a certificate in this stuff, so often we were trying to find people through word of mouth, because the community can be quite closed. But as soon as we started finding some experts, we started finding others.

One of those experts taught you how to pleasure yourself more expertly. How does one train to become a masturbation counsellor?

His background is giving people happy endings at massage parlours. He became well known for it, and was very popular, and then started teaching it as a way of supplementing his artistic income. The stuff he is teaching was great; I hadn’t thought of doing that with my genitals before.

Among the more shocking moments in the show is the revelation that your first instinct upon ejaculating for the first time as a kid was to run in and show your mother. Please explain.

Mum was really good about it. Because it was one of the few times where something had actually happened, she had to address it, and we talked quite openly about it, and she said it was normal. But that was pretty much the only sex-ed I ever had with my parents.

Starting there in the doc was pretty important because it was kind of a cycle of awkwardness that I wanted to break. I thought it would be good to go back to where it all started, when something happens with your body that you don’t understand, and I wondered if, now that we’re all older, that would still be awkward. And the answer was yes.

What was the most embarrassing moment for you in the show?

When I was at the naturist resort, and I was sitting there clothed with a glass of wine and I thought I should get changed now. Having to take my clothes off, then standing in the room naked, thinking, “What if I have to go to the toilet and don’t shake enough times and I drip everywhere?” That was probably the most confronting.

And the most liberating?

Probably the same moment.

Luke Warm Sex is on ABC TV on Wednesdays at 9pm from March 16.

Karl Quinn is on Facebook and on twitter @karlkwin

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Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham warns universities over ATAR entry standards

“I will defend the defensible but if I need to act, I will”: Minister Simon Birmingham. Photo: Daniel MunozGaming the system: The beginning of the end for university admissions
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Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham has warned the nations’ universities that “he will act” if the university sector fails to address falling entry standards after a Fairfax Media investigation revealed the practice of admitting students below minimum entry cut-offs was endemic.

Speaking to the Universities Australia conference on Wednesday night Mr Birmingham criticised universities for defensively claiming there was “nothing to see here” and said that entry requirements are seen by students as “opaque as a double frosted window”.

“I will defend the defensible but if I need to act, I will. I don’t want to micro-manage. I don’t want to be sitting in your Chancellery building negotiating on every place and mission change,” he said.

“Students need to have every confidence that they know what the real requirements for admission are, not some artificial measure that bears no resemblance to reality.”

Mr Birmingham also indicated that the government may pursue some form of fee deregulation – requiring students to pay a greater sharer of their degree costs – and reduce subsidies to universities.

“We do to reconsider the balance between public and private contributions and versus public and private benefits,” he said.

“People who participate in higher education still enjoy a significant wage premium over those who don’t.

“Those with a bachelor degree are likely to earn 75% more over their lifetime than someone without one.”

The government has twice attempted to deregulate university fees and cut course funding by 20 per cent, but its measures were rejected by the Senate.”

Mr Birmingham said: “Our government continues to believe that reform is necessary.

“Reform is necessary to support innovation, both within our universities and beyond.

“Reform is necessary to support the provision of pathways that enhance equitable access.

“Reform is necessary to protect our reputation for high quality – and yes, reform is necessary to support federal budget sustainability.”

Mr Birmingham said he would continue to consult with the sector, but did not say when the government would announce its higher education plans.

“I want to ensure that the next time we seek support of the Senate for a package of reforms they are not only generally supported amongst vice chancellors, but that the reasons for reform are well appreciated, the vision well enunciated and the implications well understood,” he said.

Labor higher education spokesman Kim Carr said the perception the government had abandoned deregulation was wrong.

“The government’s policies are not in abeyance, pending consultation,” he said.

“The consultation process serves a convenient political purpose – the Government can hope to get through the election without saying anything of substance, while maintaining its formal position of deregulation and budget cuts.”

In January, confidential data obtained by Fairfax Media from the top universities in NSW revealed that up to 60 per cent of students were being admitted to courses despite not scoring the required marks, while students were being accepted into courses with ATARs as low as 30.

At Western Sydney University 99 per cent of students offered places in their Bachelor of Construction management course failed to make the ATAR of 85, while at UNSW’s prestigious Bachelor of Laws course, 90 per cent of students failed to score the minimum entry mark.

He said that it was not enough for the sector to be happy with the processes it has in place.

“If the wider community lacks confidence or fears these processes may erode quality, then there is a role for all of us to address it.”

The warning comes as student numbers rise to record highs of 1.2 million under the demand-driven system. Since 2012 universities have been able to enrol as many students as they want, pushing out the total cost of university funding to $16 billion this year and driving down minimum entry standards.

Mr Birmingham has previously stated that there were no plans to reinstitute a limit on student places, despite the threat to the budget bottom line.

He has promised to keep a “watching brief,” as total drop-out rates reach the highest level in a decade.

On Wednesday he reiterated his instruction to the Higher Education Standards panel to examine methods for improving transparency in the sector.

“I will await considered views from the Standards Panel on what could and should be done to improve transparency,” he said. “In the meantime I expect all universities to take responsibility for the students they enrol, to ensure they are appropriately supported to succeed and complete their course”.

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Children to receive umbilical cord blood in world first cerebral palsy trial

Australian children with cerebral palsy will be infused with umbilical cord blood, in a world first medical trial at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.
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The study hopes to find that stem cells from cord blood can repair brain injury that leads to cerebral palsy, the most common physical disability of Australian children.

The trial, led by the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, has started recruiting children with cerebral palsy whose families have chosen to store a sibling’s cord blood at private banks.

Professor Iona Novak of the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Institute said the importance of the study could not be underestimated.

“Unfortunately we hear of many Australian children with (cerebral palsy) and their families travelling overseas to receive unregulated stem cell treatments at great cost,” Ms Novak said. “This study, using cord blood which has been stored under Australian government-regulated conditions, is an important first step towards potentially improving treatment.”

Children aged 1 to 10 with cerebral palsy (a series of disabilities associated with movement and posture) will receive infusions of cord blood rich in stem cells, which have the ability to develop into other cells in the body.

The two-year study will investigate any changes in motor skills in these children.

Melbourne mother, Carly Stewart, said she was glad she chose to store the cord blood of siblings to her eight-year-old Lachlan, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy shortly after birth.

“We are excited about this Australian trial commencing and the promising future of this much-talked about treatment,” Stewart said. “I encourage other families to store their children’s cord blood.”

The foundation and Cell Care, Australia’s largest private cord blood bank, are funding the study.

Researchers will be unable to access cord blood from a public bank, which collects blood to treat blood disorders such as leukaemia, and cannot be used for untested new therapies.

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Bring back the big names

STAR BILLING: Emile Heskey scored nine goals and was instrumental in average crowd numbers at Hunter Stadium increasing by nearly 2000 in his first season at the Jets. Picture: Getty ImagesGREG Inglis, Jonathan Thurston, Sam Burgess, Billy Slater, Cameron Smith. It took just one round of the competition tospell out the advantage that the NRL has over the A-League.
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Compare them to the A-League’s best, Aaron Mooy, Alex Brosque, even imports Bruno Fornaroli, Thomas Broich and Besart Berisha.Unfortunately our players don’t have the same traction, the same star billing. Yes, they are household names in football but how many non-A-League fans would know them if they walked throughthe Hunter St Mall.

Therein lies the battle facing the A-League in its attemptto win the hearts and minds of the Australian public, let alone luremulti-national corporations.

Don’t get me wrong, thequality of football in the A-League has been good. There is just not enough people watching it.One of the answers is marquees. Not just blue-ribbon players, but bignames who will be familiar to theaverage Joe in the street.Only two seasons ago, Alessandro Del Piero, Emile Heskey and Shinji Ono set the league alight. On the field they lived up to their reputation. Off it their presence was immeasurable. In Heskey’sfirst season at the Jets the average home crowdjumpednearly 2000.

This week Football Federation Australia unveiled a four-year strategic plan. Central to the plan is a treasure chest or fighting fund tolurebig names to the A-League. Hallelujah!The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is the next broadcast deal.

Why take four years?Get on the front foot. Act now.Rather than spend money on FFA executives flying first-class and needless camps for national youth teams, make the money count.I’m not suggesting wethrow cash around like they are in China. The US Major League Soccer is an example we could follow. In the MLS clubs work together to bring out a top player to each franchise. They realise a strong league with recognised stars is good for everyone. Good for the bottom line.I’m not talking about 40-year-olds past theirexpiry dateand here for a holiday. The A-league hasmoved beyond that.You need players who have just tipped over from their best.

In recent seasons, clubs havefocused on findinghidden gems – another BroichorBerisha. For every diamond there are10 rocks.Likewise there is an argument that imports shouldn’t take the spot of local kids. I’m all for local talent.If they are good enough, they will finda place in any 23 man roster.

The marquees I’m talking about are proven performers. They come with a name and a profile. Not to mention the experience and professionalism they bring to a dressing room

Imagine a league that featured the likes ofNicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba, Robbie Keane, RioFerdinand and Arjen Robben,

The rights would skyrocket. You couldn’t keep the fans away.

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Ayman Omran, son of Melbourne Muslim leader Sheikh Mohammed Omran, dies in Syria

Sheikh Mohammed Omran, photographed in 2004, is the leader of the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah Association of Australia. Photo: Ken IrwinThe son of a leading Melbourne-based Islamic sheik has died in unexplained circumstances in Syria, while providing “humanitarian aid” in the war zone.
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The death of Ayman Omran was confirmed on Wednesday in a statement by the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah Association of Australia, of which his father Sheikh Mohammed Omran – also known as Abu Ayman – is the leader. The statement did not address an unconfirmed report that he died in a bombing.

“It is with deep sorrow and sincere regret we confirm the sad news of our beloved brother Ayman Omran has passed away,” the association’s vice-president Sheikh Kalid Issa said in the statement.

“Ayman travelled as a volunteer to provide humanitarian aid, an act consistent with his soft heartedness and caring demeanour.”

The association, which preaches a strict form of Sunni religion, asked the media and public to respect the privacy of Mr Omran’s family.

It is believed Sheikh Omran is overseas and was told of his son’s death on Tuesday night.

Sheikh Issa said the association, with centres in Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland, had a policy that travelling to the Syrian war zone was “to be avoided”.

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation director-general Duncan Lewis told a Senate hearing last month that up to 49 Australians may have been killed in Syria and Iraq during the current conflict there.

Mr Lewis said 110 Australians were overseas fighting and almost 200 Australians were actively supporting the terrorist group Islamic State at home.

“The demographic is young. If I was talking to you a couple of years ago typically we would have been talking about people in their late 20s, early 30s,” he said.

“By the start or middle of last year we were … down to the teens.

“Untrained and naive young Australians are being drawn into the conflict and finding themselves in what I would describe as highly expendable, highly dangerous positions of low importance amid the [IS] effort,” he said.

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman said the Australian government could not usually confirm reports of deaths in Syria and Iraq because of the danger in those countries.

It is also unable to provide consular assistance such as help to repatriate remains.

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