NSW premier praises outgoing Alhadeff

NSW Premier Mike Baird has paid tribute to outgoing Community Relations Commission chief Vic Alhadeff, who has resigned over comments he made supporting Israel.

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Mr Alhadeff resigned on Sunday after there were calls for him to be sacked for comments in which he defended Israel’s military offensive in Gaza.

The head of the NSW Community Relations Commission had sent an email, in his capacity as CEO of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, saying Israel was operating with “care to avoid civilian casualties”.

So far, the latest exchanges in the long-running conflict have killed more than 1000 Palestinians.

The premier has refused to criticise Mr Alhadeff.

“I just acknowledge that he had responded to the calls that you’ve seen across the Muslim community, the concerns, and ultimately he has spent a long part of his life working on harmony,” Mr Baird said as he left the Lakemba Mosque on Monday following prayers to mark the end of Ramadan.

“It’s an honourable thing that he’s done in pursuit of harmony.”

But Samir Dandan, president of the Lebanese Muslim Association, said it was clear that Mr Alhadeff had reached the conclusion that his position was untenable.

“We welcome the decision for him to resign,” Mr Dandan said.

“Ultimately he reached an opinion that his position there was untenable and he had to step down to ensure the community relations ethos within ethnic and religious groups in the state of NSW continues.”

The email sent by Mr Alhadeff defended Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, and said Israel would “do whatever is needed to defend its citizens”.

A Ramadan event hosted by Mr Baird last week was boycotted by some community groups, including the Lebanese Muslim Association and the Australian Arabic Council.

Later on Monday, Mr Baird said his focus now was on finding a new CRC chief who would be “passionate about working across every community across this state and passionate about bringing harmony”.

Speaking to reporters in Campbelltown in Sydney’s southwest, the premier wouldn’t comment directly on criticism he has faced in not acting earlier to ease tensions with the Muslim community.

“My role is to bring harmony across every community – I’ll continue to do that,” he said.

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Approval for WA uranium mine recommended

A new uranium mine in Western Australia’s Little Sandy Desert has been given conditional approval by the Environmental Protection Authority and is now open for public appeal.

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EPA chairman Paul Vogel said the Kintyre Uranium Project had been thoroughly scrutinised during an environmental impact assessment.

“Following assurance from key regulatory agencies that the mine could be managed to protect human health, the EPA concluded that approval could be recommended subject to several conditions,” Dr Vogel said.

The Cameco Australia project would be located 270 kilometres north-east of Newman, in the East Pilbara, with an expected mine life of about 13.5 years.

The proposal includes the construction of infrastructure such as mineral processing facilities, offices, accommodation and the discharge of waste.

It also includes the upgrade and construction of 90km of access road for the transportation of uranium oxide concentrate to the West Australian/South Australian border on route to the Port of Adelaide.

Dr Vogel said the Radiological Council and the Department of Mines and Petroleum were responsible for ensuring radiation risks were managed during the mining, handling, packaging, storage and transportation of uranium oxide concentrate.

The Commonwealth is also responsible for the transportation, Dr Vogel said.

But the EPA has recommended conditions to ensure the project does not affect fauna including the bilby, mulgara and rock wallaby.

“The proponent will also need to assess and manage any potential radiological impacts to plants and animals through a risk assessment approach using Australia species information in accordance with best practice requirements,” Dr Vogel said.

The EPA has also provided advice about the rehabilitation and closure of the site.

The report to the Environment Minister is now open for a public appeal period, closing on August 11.

State and federal environment ministers will make decisions on the proposal under each of their legislations.

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Lack of game time doesn’t hurt Cane

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen says the selectors wouldn’t let Sam Cane’s lack of playing time count against him when picking the Rugby Championship squad.

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The selection of Cane, who hasn’t played for the Chiefs in recent weeks through injury, ahead of in-form Crusaders flanker Matt Todd, was among the main talking points in the All Blacks squad named on Monday.

But Hansen says Cane’s selection is in line with the current ethos.

“We’ve got a philosophy that you can’t lose any ground when you’re injured,” Hansen said.

“You lose the ground on the playing field.”

The return of Cane and outside back Charles Piutau after injuries, along with Dan Carter’s return following his sabbatical, are the only changes to the squad that swept England in the June internationals.

They took the spots of Crusaders Matt Todd, Colin Slade and Ryan Crotty.

“It was a really tough team to select because we’ve got a number of people that are playing well and unfortunately we’ve got to make some tough decisions,” Hansen said.

“Hopefully those guys go on and have a great week with the Crusaders.”

Loose forward Victor Vito and lock Luke Romano were not considered for selection due to injury.

Hansen said Romano was on track to return for the end of year tour to Europe and the United States.

Crusaders prop Joe Moody will join the named squad as a replacement for Tony Woodcock, who has a shoulder problem.

The All Blacks’ first game is against Australia in Sydney on August 16.

The All Blacks who aren’t Crusaders will go into a two-day camp on Wednesday on Auckland’s North Shore, where they will be joined by seven additional players.

Chiefs hooker Nathan Harris is one, and he will also be with the squad during the domestic portion of their season, as part of his ongoing apprenticeship with the national side.

The others to join this week’s camp are his teammates Pauliasi Manu and Liam Squire, Hurricanes Motu Matu’u and Jeremy Thrush, and Highlanders Kane Hames and Shane Christie.

All Blacks squad: Dane Coles, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Owen Franks, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Dominic Bird, Patrick Tuipulotu, Liam Messam, Steven Luatua, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Kieran Read, Sam Cane, Aaron Smith, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, TJ Perenara, Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett, Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Charles Piutau, Julian Savea, Cory Jane, Ben Smith, Israel Dagg.

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Sabbatical pays off as Carter returns to New Zealand squad

Carter returned to Super Rugby in late June following a six-month break to have surgery and work on his conditioning after a series of niggling injuries that had placed his participation at next year’s rugby World Cup in England in doubt.

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Carter, 32, has been playing at inside centre, where he started his international career before shifting to flyhalf in 2004, for the Canterbury Crusaders but has looked composed and sharp in his appearances to date.

“I’ve got no problem with him playing 12 (inside centre) for the Crusaders because that’s the best place for him to be playing in that team,” Hansen told reporters in Christchurch.

“The pleasing thing is he looks really sharp, his body’s allowing him to do the things we expect him to be able to do and he wants to be able to do.

“When you look back to what was happening to him prior to that it was frustration after frustration after frustration.

“He couldn’t string three games together. He’s now done that, he looks good, he looks sharp.

“The next step is the test arena and we’ll see how he goes there.”

INJURED PLAYERS BACK

Outside back Charles Piutau and openside flanker Sam Cane, who both missed the June series against England due to injury, were also recalled to the side.

Cane’s return, after he was ruled out of the series against England the week of the first test with a fractured kneecap, had also been expected even though Matt Todd had been playing well for the Crusaders in Super Rugby.

Todd’s form forced All Blacks captain Richie McCaw to switch to blindside flanker for the Crusaders’ Super Rugby semi-final victory over the Sharks last Saturday.

Hansen, however, said that Cane had been recalled because of his previous performances as McCaw’s understudy in the All Blacks’ number seven jersey.

“In the past when people are injured and have played as well as Sammy has played (for the All Blacks), we’ve always supported them,” Hansen said. “We’ve got a philosophy that you can’t lose any ground when you’re injured, you lose the ground when you’re on the playing field.”

Auckland Blues loose forward Steven Luatua has also earned a recall to the squad after he had dropped out of national contention altogether ahead of the June tests before coming into the side as late injury cover.

Canterbury Crusaders prop Joe Moody will come into the squad as cover for Tony Woodcock, who has a shoulder injury and is expected to miss the start of the Championship.

Hansen has also gambled with his options at hooker by naming just two in the 31-man squad. Dane Coles is likely to cement the starting position with 35-year-old veteran Keven Mealamu playing a role off the bench.

Hansen has been hunting for a third hooker since Andrew Hore retired last year. Liam Coltman and Nathan Harris were given wider training squad roles this year but neither have been elevated to the official squad.

Harris will continue to train with the squad as part of an “apprenticeship” scheme during the All Blacks’ domestic tests during the Championship, while Wellington Hurricanes hooker Motu Matu’u will join the squad for a two-day camp later this week.

Hansen is expected to give a third hooker an opportunity on an end of season tour where the All Blacks play the United States in Chicago en route to Britain where they face England, Scotland and Wales.

Lock Luke Romano, who broke his leg earlier this year, was not considered for the southern hemisphere competition, which also includes South Africa, Australia and Argentina.

The All Blacks open the defence of their title against Australia on Aug. 16 in Sydney, where they will be looking to achieve a record 18th successive test victory.

(Writing by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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Russia accuses US of ‘hindering’ OSCE

Russia accused the US of hindering the OSCE’s work in Ukraine, as fighting raged around the crash site of flight MH17 and the Netherlands scrapped plans for an armed international mission to secure the area.

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Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in a phone conversation, asked US Secretary of State John Kerry “to order his subordinates to stop hindering the OSCE from doing its current work”, the foreign ministry in Moscow said in a statement on Sunday.

Kerry, during the conversation, urged Russia to “begin to contribute to de escalating the conflict”, a senior US State Department official said.

Observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have been unable to access the site where the Malaysia Airlines plane crashed less than two weeks ago, killing 298 people, because of heavy shelling in the area.

Moscow has accused the US of supporting Kiev against the separatist rebels in the east of the former Soviet Republic, and of “sharing the responsibility of spilt blood” in the conflict.

The US and Europe, meanwhile, accuse Moscow of supporting the insurgents, and claim a Russian-made missile was used to shoot down flight MH17.

“Secretary Kerry urged Foreign Minister Lavrov to stop the flow of heavy weapons and rocket and artillery fire from Russia into Ukraine,” said the State Department official.

“He did not accept Foreign Minister Lavrov’s denial that heavy weapons from Russia were contributing to the conflict.”

The two ministers agreed that a ceasefire in east Ukraine was needed, and that negotiations should start under the terms of an agreement signed in April, the Russian ministry said.

The Netherlands, meanwhile, has scrapped plans to send an international armed mission to secure the crash site amid fears of being dragged into the conflict.

Dutch authorities leading the probe into the downing of the jetliner had along with Australia planned to send armed officers, but Prime Minister Mark Rutte said this was no longer viable.

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