Park owner Jenny braces to take on Debbie

Jenny Townsend has ordered guests to leave her beachside caravan park in Bowen – she doesn’t want to be responsible for any deaths Cyclone Debbie might cause.

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But Ms Townsend isn’t going anywhere despite the Red Zone evacuation order over her Harbour Lights van park that sits just 50 metres back from the sand – a marina on one side, a stretch of beach on the other.

When Debbie makes landfall – somewhere between Bowen and Ayr, 100km to the north – she will be taking shelter in the two-storey brick home that also serves as the van park’s office.

The windows have been taped up. The perimeter sand-bagged. Wheelie bins have been filled with water. And a generator is ready to fire up if the power goes out.

“All the guests are gone. We evacuated them. We don’t want the responsibility of lives,” Ms Townsend told AAP on Monday morning.

But when asked about her own, she said: “I’ve been here for 20 years and quite a few cyclones have come through, and we’ve never had any damage at all, apart from trees down.”

With Cyclone Debbie expected to make landfall as a severe category four storm on Tuesday morning, some residents are doing as they’re told, and evacuating vulnerable areas.

But others, like Ms Townsend, remember all too well what happened six years ago, when the destructive Cyclone Yasi hit north Queensland.

She doesn’t want to find herself in the position of a Cardwell caravan park owner, who lost so much back then.

“The roofs blew off his cabins. He could have saved a lot of stuff, but because it wasn’t someone’s house, the SES wouldn’t tarp them, and they wouldn’t let him back in to do it,” she recalled.

“He lost a lot, not during the cyclone, but after it hit. Stuff he could have saved. And that’s part of the reason why we’ll stay.”

Ms Townsend says she’s done everything she can to prepare for Debbie, and the 260km/h winds and potentially devastating storm surge the cyclone could bring.

“We’ve prepared as best we can. We’ve done as much as we know. We’ll be fine,” she said.

Five charged over $100 million meth operation

Three men face life imprisonment for allegedly attempting to smuggle $101 million worth of crystal methamphetamine into Australia.

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Chinese authorities tipped off their Australian counterparts before seizing 100kg of the drug hidden inside the floor of a shipping container.

The container, which was also being used to send two tonnes of steel, was then shipped to Australian law enforcement agencies before being forwarded to an address in Revesby, in Sydney’s southwest.

AFP Detective Acting Superintendent Luke Needham said a 22-year-old Fijian man who accepted the delivery was arrested on February 24.

“Safe to say he was very surprised,” Det Needham told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

Two other men – a 38-year-old Australian and a 42-year-old from Hong Kong – were also arrested that day.

Two other men were arrested in China’s Guangdong Province “in mid-March”, Det Needham said.

He would not say when the investigation began, but referred to it as “long and ongoing”.

Those arrested in Australia have already faced court and will reappear in Sydney’s Central Local Court on April 26.

All three men have been charged with attempting to import and possess a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug.

Asked about the delay between the arrests and the release of the information, Det Needham cited “ongoing inquiries” and said the two men had “only just” been arrested in China.

Det Needham denied the announcement was delayed until after the departure of the Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang, who had been visiting Australia until Sunday.

He emphasised the high level of co-operation between Chinese and Australian law enforcement bodies.

“It can’t be underestimated, the intelligence-sharing,” Detective Needham said.

Police have not ruled out conducting further search warrants in Australia.

Woods embraces Tigers’ tough times in NRL

Aaron Woods has had enough of talking about the next coach of the Wests Tigers, but admits he is embracing the challenge of leading his teammates through a turbulent period.

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In the strongest sign yet that the off-contract prop could be committing to re-signing with the club, Woods revealed the satisfaction he gets from taking bullets for the black and gold.

Whether it’s the Tim Simona betting scandals, allegations of a drug culture at the club, or the axing of Jason Taylor, Woods made the eye-catching admission that he revels in the drama.

“It’s the part I enjoy about being captain. Things get thrown at you, you get a few curveballs here and there but that’s life in general,” he said after the Tigers’ 22-14 loss to Melbourne.

“Not everything’s going to go your way. It’s how you react and come out of those situations.

“At the moment we’ve got a few curveballs come our way, but it’s how we’re going to get the boys out of this situation and the way I can lead them.”

Nonetheless, when asked whether he hoped the club’s search for a new coach would be resolved quickly, Woods said: “I don’t even want to talk about it. I just want to play some footy.”

His comments came after the Tigers began the post-Taylor era by throwing away a 14-0 lead against the Storm in an emotional loss at Leichhardt Oval.

Woods believes the marked improvement from the 82 points they had conceded in back-to-back losses showed a resilience in the playing group in light of the off-field dramas.

He urged his teammates to back up their effort against St George-Illawarra next week.

“It was a big week, but the boys have been really good. Everything else outside of football stuff is out of our control. All we can control is what we do on the field,” Woods said.

“We just wanted to play 80 minutes of just good footy. A couple of things we’d love to change now but we have to learn from that and move onto next week.

“It’s easy to get up for these sort of games, but it’s how we’re going to react for next week when it dies down a bit and we’ve just got to work hard for each other.”

Dockers coach Lyon defends ex-Cat Kersten

Fremantle coach Ross Lyon has defended the form of recruit Shane Kersten, saying the former Cat deserves his spot in the side and isn’t far away from making a significant impact.

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Kersten was selected to play in round one despite producing only modest results during the AFL pre-season.

The 24-year-old struggled in Sunday’s 42-point loss to Geelong at Domain Stadium, failing to register a single score from just seven disposals.

He even received a Bronx cheer from the crowd when he took a mark in the second half.

But Lyon dismissed suggestions Kersten had a poor pre-season, saying the fourth-year player was in the round-one side on merit.

“I think he’s done enough to get selected,” Lyon said after the 18.7 (115) to 10.13 (73) loss to Geelong.

“Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but clearly I disagree and our match committee disagree (with people who say he didn’t deserve his spot), because we thought he had done enough to pick him.”

Fremantle’s forward line struggled against the Cats, and Lyon said Kersten wasn’t far off from having an impact.

“I thought he had plenty of half-opportunities that he turned into halves. If he could turn them into full, we are preaching different,” Lyon said.

“At the end of the day, that’s AFL footy. It’s like me, if we had done things a bit better maybe it would be a different press conference.

“He knows he needs to be cleaner with the ball and take those opportunities, and I think he could’ve been a good player tonight.”

Fellow forward recruit Cameron McCarthy finished with 1.5 in a topsy-turvy display.

Although high scoring was the theme of the opening round, not one single Dockers player kicked multiple goals.

“The forwards were a part of the problem, but our mids and backs probably didn’t help them,” Lyon said.

“So that probably accentuated the problem. McCarthy had a number of shots on goal and that sort of thing. I think it’s a work in progress.”

Matt Taberner booted five goals in the WAFL to put himself in the selection frame for Sunday’s clash with the Power at Adelaide Oval.

But with Lyon set stick firm with Kersten for now, Taberner will probably have to wait in the wings a while longer.

Dockers ruckman Aaron Sandilands was a dominant figure against Geelong, tallying 48 hit-outs to give Fremantle a 48-34 edge at the clearances.

But Fremantle’s sloppy skills – and some shocking turnovers – cost them dearly against a potent Cats outfit.

Lyon also took some of the blame, saying that he didn’t prepare his side to deal with some of Geelong’s “mechanisms” as well as he should have.

Thousands on the move ahead of cyclone

At least 5500 people are being evacuated as Cyclone Debbie bears down on the north Queensland coast.

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the window for people to move to safety is closing, and people must comply with evacuation orders stretching from Home Hill to Proserpine, including Bowen.

She said 3500 people had already been evacuated between Home Hill, just south of Townsville, and Proserpine, adding: “In relation to Bowen, we have extended that further. A further 2000 residents will be asked to leave.”

Police Commissioner Ian Stewart warned everyone in the cyclone’s path to think carefully about their safety and said one person had already died in a traffic crash in Proserpine.

“Sadly, we have just learned that there has been a fatal traffic accident near Proserpine and we believe it is associated with this weather event and it looks like a tourist has lost their life in that traffic accident,” he said.

“The message is very, very clear at this stage. It is time to think very logically about your safety and the safety of your family.”

Cyclone Debbie is expected to cross the coast as a severe category four storm on Tuesday morning, .

At this stage, landfall is expected between 7am and 8am, but exactly where remains unclear.

Bureau of Meteorology regional director Bruce Gunn said modelling suggested a landfall site “south of the Ayr area”.

“But it is possible the crossing area could be anywhere between Townsville and Proserpine. That is the uncertainty of cyclones,” he said.

The very destructive wind core of the cyclone could be about 100km wide, Mr Gunn said.

Winds in the Townsville region are expected to be worse than those recorded when category five Yasi hit north Queensland six years ago.

The storm surge Debbie will generate is also expected to cause significant inundation if it coincides with the high tide, due to peak at 9.42am.

Alongside very damaging winds and the storm surge, very heavy rain is also expected.

“Rain is going to be a significant factor as the cyclone crosses the coast. Daily totals up to 200mm will be widespread and isolated falls of up to 400mm are possible near the coast,” Mr Gunn said.

“We have a flood watch for all catchments from Cardwell to Gladstone and further flood warnings as necessary, and that includes Eastern Gulf rivers.”

The premier said vulnerable Queenslanders must listen to authorities, and move if they’re told to do so.

“This window of opportunity to leave is drastically closing,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“I am just pleading to everyone, please, listen to authorities. I do, you must as well. This is about your safety, it is about the safety of your family and the safety of your children.”

Trump to roll back Obama clean power plan

Speaking on ABC’s Sunday talk show “This Week,” Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said rolling back Obama’s 2015 Clean Power Plan would bring back coal jobs.

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“The past administration had a very anti-fossil fuel strategy,” he said. “So this is a promise (Trump) is keeping to the American people to say that we can put people back to work.”

Told by ABC host George Stephanopolous that most coal-job losses took place a decade ago under Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush — as natural gas increasingly replaced coal — Pruitt dismissed concerns that Trump had made a promise he can’t keep.

“It will bring back manufacturing jobs across the country, coal jobs across the country,” he said of the president’s forthcoming order.

“For too long over the last several years, we have accepted a narrative that if you’re pro-growth, pro-jobs, you’re anti-environment,” he added, accusing the Obama administration of making “efforts to kill jobs across this country through the clean power plan.”

He said Trump’s order would also lower electricity rates for Americans.

Supporters of the Clean Power Plan say it would help create thousands of clean-energy jobs.

A known fossil-fuel ally, Pruitt’s appointment to head the EPA — an agency he repeatedly sued as a state attorney general — has been deeply contentious. 

Earlier this month, the climate change skeptic said he believes carbon dioxide is not a primary contributor to global warming, as scientists have said for decades.

Trump’s action comes as the Clean Power Plan rule has been on hold since last year while a federal appeals court considers a challenge by coal-friendly Republican-governed states and more than 100 companies.

Trump’s proposed federal budget unveiled earlier this month already envisioned ending funding for the plan along with a number of other programs aimed at combating climate change.

Trump’s order — along with his promise to reverse rules about vehicle emissions — would make it impossible for the United States to reach its commitments under the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

But Pruitt criticized the accord as a “bad deal.”

“This is an effort to undo the unlawful approach the previous administration engaged in,” he said of Trump’s executive order, “and to do it right going forward with the mindset of being pro-growth and pro-environment.”

He called Obama’s emissions rules “counter-helpful to the environment.”

As attorney general for Oklahoma, the 48-year-old Republican filed or joined in more than a dozen law suits to block key EPA rules, siding with industry executives and activists seeking to roll back various regulations on pollution, clean air and clean water.

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Scotland’s hopes still alive after late Martin winner

The Scots’ hero turned out to be centre forward Martin, who received some boos when he was brought on as a last-ditch hope for the home team but, within minutes, was being cheered to the rafters.

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The victory breathed new life into the Scots’ dismal campaign, putting them on to seven points in fourth place, now just one behind Slovenia, who slipped back to third in the table behind Slovakia, nine, and runaway leaders England on 13.

It also gave them fresh hope as they look forward to their next group match, a clash with their oldest rivals England at Hampden Park in June.

“The players can be proud of themselves. We have got ourselves back in contention and we look forward to the next game now,” Strachan, whose own future as Scotland manager has been the subject of much speculation, told Sky Sports.

A half-empty Hampden had looked resigned to seeing Scotland fail to prevail against Slovenia in what Strachan had described as a “must-win” match.

The Scots were left cursing their bad luck after a first half during which Leigh Griffiths struck the woodwork twice in the space of a minute and Russell Martin had a headed goal ruled out for pushing.

Their chance of the crucial win looked lost when substitute Ikechi Anya missed a great chance but Chris Martin, brought on in the 81st minute, latched on to debutant Stuart Armstrong’s threaded through ball to strike home a left-foot shot.

It was a remarkable finale, especially as Derby County striker Martin, who is on loan at Fulham, is not too popular with a section of the Scottish fans.

“Chris Martin gets a good reception from the players and the staff. That is why we pick him,” Strachan said.

“He is in great company. Kenny Dalglish was booed, so was Gary McAllister, so was Alan Hansen. He must be some player.”

Strachan also had extravagant praise for the Celtic midfield newcomer Armstrong. “I think his could be the best Scottish debut I have ever seen,” said the manager.

(Reporting by Ian Chadband; Editing by Clare Fallon)

Stosur reaches fourth round at Miami Open

Samantha Stosur has claimed her maiden fourth-round WTA berth of the year thanks to a tough three-set victory over Shuai Peng at the Miami Open.

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The 14th-seed Stosur set up a clash with world No.5 Simona Halep after fighting back from a set down to claim a 4-6 6-3 7-5 third-round victory over the world No.43 from China on Sunday (Monday AEDT).

Stosur, who beat in-form fellow Australian Ashleigh Barty in the second round, broke Peng in the match’s penultimate game to claim victory in two-and-a-half hours at Key Biscayne in Florida.

The 32-year-old Stosur started poorly, broken in the opening game of the match on the way to losing the first set before regrouping to take the second.

The deciding set was a see-sawing affair, with Peng losing serve in the first game before breaking back two games later.

The Australian veteran finished strongly to break Peng to love with the set poised a 5-5 before using three match points to see off her opponent’s challenge in the following game.

The result improves on Stosur’s previous best tournament showings of 2017 when she reached the third rounds in Doha and Taipei.

She will play third seed Halep after the Romanian dominated on serve to dispatch qualifier Anett Kontaveit 6-3 6-0 on centre court.

“(It) definitely will be a tough match,” Halep said of the encounter with Stosur.

“I know Sam pretty well and I know it’s going to be very difficult. But I know how I have to play against her.

“It’s going to be a big challenge for me. I’m coming after a break so I have nothing to lose. I just want to enjoy and give everything, like today.”

Top seed Angelique Kerber rallied after going down 2-4 in the second set to overcome American Shelby Rogers 6-4 7-5.

“It’s always good to have close sets, especially when you win them at the end,” German world No.1 Kerber said.

“They give you confidence that you can go out in your next match knowing you can win close matches because you’ve just done it a day ago.”

Three-time champion Venus Williams made the most of her home-court advantage to steamroll qualifier Patricia Maria Tig 6-3 6-0.

The American will next play No. 7 Svetlana Kuznetsova, who won in Miami in 2006 and was the runner-up last year.

Kuznetsova beat American qualifier Taylor Townsend 6-4 6-2.

Briton Johanna Konta set up a clash with Spain’s Lara Arruabarrena after the pair were victors over Pauline Parmentier of France and American Madison Keys respectively.

Daley to keep NSW Origin captain waiting

NSW State of Origin coach Laurie Daley has declared he won’t reveal his new Blues captain until he names his team for the series opener.

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Prop Aaron Woods is considered the frontrunner among a host of candidates to take over from long-serving skipper Paul Gallen, including Boyd Cordner, Josh Jackson and Wade Graham.

Veteran rake Robbie Farah is the only player apart from Gallen to have led the Blues under Daley’s watch.

“You’ll find out the night of May 21 I think, when we announce the team. We won’t announce who it’ll be until right up until that date,” said Daley at the Origin series launch in Sydney on Monday.

“We don’t know who’s going to be available. Until then, we’ll keep it pretty close to the chest but we haven’t even discussed who the captain will be at this stage.

“We’ve got an idea of a group we’re looking at and seeing how they’re developing.”

Woods, who hasn’t missed an Origin game since debuting in 2013, was on hand with Daley to officially kickoff the countdown to game one, which will be played at Suncorp Stadium on May 31.

“Woodsy’s a great leader and he’d certainly be someone that we’d consider,” Daley said.

He’s been a part of the team now for the last couple of years and he’s grown as a leader for the Tigers.

“He’s certainly learnt on the run with what he’s been through over the two years. But he’s certainly figured in a lot of the discussions.”

Wests Tigers captain Woods played down his chances of leading the Blues but admitted Gallen’s representative retirement has left a gaping hole in the Blues’ squad.

Gallen signed off last year holding the record for most games as captain of the state.

“It’ll be difficult without big Galza,” said Woods.

“Obviously when you normally refer to NSW the last 5-6 years, it’s always big Gal, big G-train. It’s going to be different without the big fella here.

“Some young guy’s going to have to step up now. It opens up a spot for Dave Klemmer, big Pig (Shannon Boyd) from Canberra, he’s been playing some really good footy, and Jake Trbojevic.

“We’ve got some really good forwards, but everyone’s going to have to pick up their game because Gal does 20 hit ups and 40 tackles. We’re going to have to share the workload around.”

Le Pen plan to jettison euro spooks French business

Le Pen calls the single European currency a “a knife that you stick in a country’s ribs to force it to do what its people don’t want to do”.

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The leader of the National Front (FN) blames the euro for driving up prices, hurting exports and adding to France’s already colossal trade deficit.

She has pledged that, if elected, she will throw off the shackles of the common currency and restore France’s monetary sovereignty by resurrecting the franc.

With all opinion polls showing her getting past the first round of the election on April 23, making the once-unthinkable prospect of a far-right presidency no longer completely implausible, economists and business leaders are worried.

Although Le Pen, 48, currently looks set to lose the May 7 runoff, probably to independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, no one is being complacent.

“No one knows what will happen,” said Jean-Lou Blachier of France’s Confederation of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses, referring to Britain’s surprise vote to leave the EU and Donald Trump’s shock election as US president. 

Le Pen argues that bringing back the franc would help retool France’s ailing industrial sector.

She believes a devalued national currency would make exports cheaper, boosting job creation.

Emboldened by Britain’s taboo-breaking Brexit vote, Le Pen also promises to hold a “Frexit” referendum, saying the EU “shuts us in, constrains us, bullies us”.

“The European Union is going to die because people do not want it anymore,” she said on Sunday in Lille.

“We are going to change Europe because the European idea has been undermined by these federalist gravediggers.”

If elected, she would hold six months of talks with the EU on “retaking sovereignty” in terms of budget, territory, legislature and monetary policy after which she would call a referendum on leaving the EU — and would step down if the people chose to stay. 

‘Whole eurozone could disappear’

Most experts however say that scrapping the euro would be disastrous, and not just for France.

Ratings agencies have warned that the eurozone’s second-biggest economy could be headed for a default if the country converts its towering 2.2 trillion-euro debt into francs. 

“If France leaves the single currency, the whole eurozone could disappear,” said Mathieu Plane of a French economic think tank, the OFCE, warning of an “unprecedented crisis”.

Benoit Coeure, who sits on the board of the European Central Bank, warned that France’s borrowing costs would rise and that prices would rise, rather than fall.

“Inflation, which would be out of the hands of the ECB, would eat into savings, fixed incomes and pensions,” he said.

“Leaving the euro would be choosing impoverishment.”

‘Project Fear’

Le Pen has dismissed the criticism as scaremongering.

“That’s called Project Fear. It was used before Brexit,” she told her conservative rival Francois Fillon during a TV debate this month when he warned her programme would trigger “economic and social chaos”.

Le Pen has said she can organise an orderly exit from the eurozone and suggested bringing back the European Currency Unit (ECU), a pre-euro basket of currencies, that businesses could use alongside the franc.

But polls show voters are still unconvinced.

Paris University economics professor Dominique Meurs said that despite the resistance, he expected Le Pen to stick to her guns.

“Leaving the euro and the EU is completely consistent with the FN’s obsession with the national identity (and) its total rejection of multilateral decisions,” she said.

Such a move would be a “dramatic break” with European convention, Meurs said. 

“What she is proposing is not some small change, it’s really a big deal because she could potentially be elected.”

It is not just in France that big business is worried about Le Pen’s election pledges.

Giant Swiss bank Credit Suisse said this month a Le Pen victory in May was the biggest risk to European stability.

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