Home prices could sink if China falters

If the Chinese economy hits the wall, Australia’s housing market could be dragged down with it, the Reserve Bank warns.

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The Asian giant is Australia’s biggest source of foreign investment in real estate – and its share is growing, the central bank says.

That means any economic shock in China that causes appetites to wane could lead to falling home prices in Australia’s two largest cities.

“A substantial reduction in Chinese demand would likely weigh most heavily on the apartment markets of inner-city Melbourne and parts of Sydney,” the RBA said in its bi-annual Financial Stability Review on Friday.

Chinese buyer activity is concentrated in off-the-plan high rises in these cities, where a recent surge in supply could intensify any price falls, the central bank noted.

And although the big banks have little direct exposure to Chinese investors, the RBA said a collapse in demand could indirectly affect lenders’ mortgage books.

The central bank said an appetite pullback could be driven by a hard landing for the world’s second-largest economy, which would lower Chinese households’ income and wealth.

“Any accompanying depreciation of the (yuan) against the Australian dollar could further reduce their capacity to invest in Australian housing,” the bank added.

A downturn in China would likely have flow-on effects for other countries in the region, which could also affect broader desires for Australian property.

A further clampdown on capital controls by Chinese authorities could restrict residents from investing abroad, which may also dent Australian house prices.

Chinese demand would also be sensitive to any Australian migration or education policy changes that make it less attractive for foreigners to live or study here, the RBA said.

There are risks too for the commercial property market, where Chinese developers have become increasingly active, the bank noted.

“In the past two years, they accounted for nine per cent of purchases (greater than $5 million) compared with one per cent on average during the prior decade,” the RBA said.

But AMP Capital Investors chief economist Shane Oliver doubts demand will dry up any time soon, because the Chinese economy appears to be stabilising, if not improving.

“Figures for March out today are up across the board; retail sales, industrial production, lending activity, fixed asset investment, and of course earlier in the week exports and imports and consumption,” he said.

China’s economy grew 6.7 per cent in the first quarter from a year earlier, providing more evidence that a slowdown may be bottoming out.

Dr Oliver said there’s always the chance that Australia could fall out of favour if our currency goes through the roof, causing Chinese students to switch focus to north American universities.

“And say there’s a backlash against Chinese investors in Australia, suppose a new government was elected that decided to put a ban on Chinese nationals buying property in Australia,” he said.

“There are risks around all those things, but the chances are fairly low.”

Tennessee governor vetoes bill to make the Bible official state book

The governor of Tennessee has vetoed legislation that would have made the Bible the state’s official book, saying it would violate the US Constitution, but lawmakers vowed to hold a vote to overrule his decision.

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In a letter notifying top state legislators of his intent to veto the legislation, Governor Bill Haslam, himself a Christian, said the proposal violated religious freedoms enshrined in both the US Constitution and the Tennessee Constitution.

“My personal feeling is that this bill trivialises the Bible, which I believe is sacred text,” Haslam, a Republican, wrote.

The veto comes a week after the state senate voted to make the Bible the state’s official book. That vote followed the state house’s approval last year.

Haslam, who won re-election in 2014, faced mounting pressure from civil libertarian and non-theistic groups to stop the measure from becoming law.

Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, praised the decision, saying elected officials should not “use their official positions to favour one religious belief over another”.

Had Haslam signed the bill, Tennessee would have become the first US state to designate the Bible as its official state book.

The lawmakers who sponsored the measure vowed to hold a vote that would overrule Haslam’s veto. A simple majority in each legislative chamber would overrule his decision.

“According to polling, 62 per cent of all Tennesseans favour making the Holy Bible the state book in order to recognise its significance from a historical, economic and cultural standpoint,” the house sponsor, Representative Jerry Sexton, said.

Desperate Lions out to silence noisy Suns

Forget the noisy neighbours, Brisbane are just desperate to get their AFL season off the ground against Gold Coast on Saturday.

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The Lions host their Queensland rivals after an 0-3 start to the season and coach Justin Leppitsch says getting that first win of the year is all that he is focused on.

Leppitsch says the unbeaten Suns have been providing “a bit of chirp” in the build-up to the 11th meeting between the clubs.

After winning three of the past four Queensland derbies, and with a 3-0 record, the Suns head north with plenty of confidence – but Leppitsch says it’s all about the result for his team, not the opposition.

“You can have honourable losses and go `geez, if we were just accurate today who knows what happens?’ but it doesn’t change that people like fans, players, coaches like to see that W next to you,” Leppitsch said.

“However you scrap and fight it out. We’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss.

“We just have to find that win and hopefully it kickstarts this week.”

The Lions have promised plenty of aggression in a bid to intimidate the Suns, highlighting Mitch Robinson’s display against Geelong last weekend as a benchmark for the squad to follow.

Suns coach Rodney Eade, who has been forced into a defensive reshuffle due to injuries to Trent McKenzie and Rory Thompson, says the tough talk from up north is nothing more than noise.

“I don’t think our team is going to be intimidated, to be honest,” Eade said.

“We’ve built our game on hard work and at the contest so I don’t think that’s going to ruffle our feathers.

“The main thing is the scoreboard and then, an extension of that, being able to win the ball and control the ball. Anything outside that is really superfluous. It’s all hot air.”

The Lions will welcome back key midfielder Daniel Rich after he missed the loss to the Cats with hamstring tightness with youngster Billy Evans making way.

The Suns have made three changes from the team that beat Carlton with Callum Ah Chee and Touk Miller coming back from injury and Keegan Brooksby set to make his first appearance of the season.

Along with McKenzie and Thompson, the Suns have omitted Brandon Matera.

US fails to reassure G7 on ‘Trumponomics’

The United States believes the world’s other rich economies are getting used to the policy plans of President Donald Trump, but Europe and Japan show they remain worried about Washington’s shift.

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Officials from the Group of Seven nations met in southern Italy on Saturday hoping to hear more about Trump’s plans which they fear will revive protectionism and set back the global approach to issues such as banking reform and climate change.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the United States reserved the right to be protectionist if it thought trade was not free or fair.

“We do not want to be protectionist but we reserve our right to be protectionist to the extent that we believe trade is not free and fair… Our approach is for more balanced trade, and people have heard that,” Mnuchin told reporters at the end of the two-day meeting.

“And as I say, people are more comfortable today, now that they’ve had the opportunity to spend time with me and listen to the president and hear our economic message.”

Other ministers from the G7 countries made it clear they did not share his view.

“All the six others … said explicitly, and sometimes very directly, to the representatives of the US administration that it is absolutely necessary to continue with the same spirit of international cooperation,” French Finance Minister Michel Sapin told reporters.

Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau said there was a “light breeze” of optimism within the G7 about the recovering global economy after years of sluggish growth.

But he said the continued uncertainty about the direction of US policy represented a risk, echoing comments made on Friday by Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso.

“We must not back pedal on free trade as it has contributed to economic prosperity,” Aso said.

European G7 officials complain that no-one knows what the US understands by “fair trade” and that the only way to establish fairness was by sticking to the rules of the World Trade Organisation – a multilateral framework.

They also say the US demand to balance trade bilaterally was not economically sound, because trade deficits and surpluses could only be analysed in a global context.

Australia avoiding investigating Malaysian corruption scandal, says former PM Mahathir

In an exclusive interview with SBS World News the former leader of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad – who ruled the country with an iron-grip for 22 years – said Australia was turning a blind eye to corruption over the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state investment fund.

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“Australia has been involved to a certain extent but it looks as if the government of Australia wants to avoid any involvement in this crime committed,” Dr Mahathir said.

Malaysia’s current prime minister, Najib Razak, has been embroiled in the scandal since reports first emerged in 2015, alleging $900 million siphoned from the fund was deposited into his personal bank accounts.

RELATEDWatch: SBS Exclusive: Former Malaysia PM speaks with SBS

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Mr Najib denied all allegations of corruption and said they were part of a conspiracy to topple his government.

His hand-picked Attorney-General, Mohamad Apani Ali, cleared the prime minister of any wrongdoing and said the bulk of the money in his accounts was a gift from the Saudi Arabian royal family.

But the allegation of international money laundering connected to the fund have prompted investigations in Switzerland, Singapore, the UK and the United States.

Last year the US Department of Justice seized $1.3 billion in assets held by close associates and relatives of Mr Najib allegedly siphoned from 1MDB.  Singapore also jailed three bankers last year for money laundering connected to the fund.  

(File photo) Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak.AAP/AP

In total, it has been alleged that between January 2011 and April 2013 more than $1.4 billion (AUD) was deposited into Mr Najib’s personal bank accounts at the Malaysian bank AmBank.

In late 2015 AmBank was fined more than $16 million by the Malaysian banking regulator for non-compliance regarding money laundering allegations.

But Dr Mahathir said Australian law enforcement authorities were turning a blind eye.  

ANZ has been the single largest shareholder in AmBank for more than a decade, with a 24 per cent stake.

ANZ has been the single largest share-holder in AmBank for more than a decade, with a 24% stake. AAP

That share, acquired in 2006, gave the ANZ the right to four seats on the 12 seat AmBank board and the right to appoint key management positions at the bank such as Chief Risk Officer and Chief Financial Officer.

But at a parliamentary hearing in March, ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott said the shares did not necessarily give them leverage at the bank.

“We have no ability to directly direct or influence AmBank in terms of its policies or procedures,” Mr Elliott said.

An ANZ spokesman declined to respond to question sent by SBS World News about whether ANZ staff working at AmBank were aware of transactions.

“We do not control AmBank and any questions about its operations need to be directed to them,” the spokesman said.

ANZ has denied any involvement in the Malaysian scandal.

Watch: Former Malaysian PM on Anwar Ibrahim sacking

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“No employees of ANZ have had any involvement in that company (1MDB) or what has alleged to have happened at AmBank,” Mr Elliott said in October last year.  

AmBank did not respond to questions regarding ANZ’s level of involvement in the Malaysian bank.

Louis de Koker, a professor of law at Latrobe University who has advised overseas banks on money laundering regulations for more than a decade, told SBS World News the transactions should have set off “red flags” within AmBank.

“All the transactions that featured in this case, which were multi-million dollar transactions, would be viewed as large transactions by all banks, even the largest banks in the world,” Mr Koker said.

But Mr Koker said risk analysts at the bank might not have made management aware of the red flags.

“It is quite possible that you may be in a very senior position in a bank and you may not be aware of contraventions of the law or of inadequacies or vulnerabilities in the system if the controls aren’t properly designed,” he said.Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks to SBS News (Photo: King Chai Woon) SBS News – King Chai Woon

AFP ‘continue to evaluate allegations’

At a parliamentary hearing in March, Mr Elliott said the Australian Federal Police had not asked ANZ to hand over any documents and no staff had been questioned in relation to the matter.

But Dr Mahatir believes Australian authorities should look into Australian connections to Ambank.

“They (ANZ) hold a big share in that bank and that bank (AmBank) is involved in practically money laundering, so I think Australia should show some interest,” he told SBS World News.

Two years on from the scandal first emerging, the Australian Federal Police said they “continue to evaluate these allegations”.

When the 1MDB scandal broke in 2015 hundreds of thousands of Malaysian took to the streets demanding Najib’s resign. EPA

“The AFP is assisting foreign law enforcement partners in their investigations. Given this matter is the subject of evaluation, it is not appropriate to comment further,” an AFP spokeswoman told SBS World News.

But James Chin, Director of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania, told SBS World News he thought Australia’s diplomatic relations was taking priority over law enforcement.

“The Australian Government has always been very careful about its relationships with key allies in Asia, especially countries where they have a longstanding relationship like Malaysia,” Professor Chin told SBS World News.

He added there are several other Australian links to the scandal, not relating to ANZ, which he believed also warranted investigation by the Australian authorities.

“Many people believe that some of the money from 1MDB has gone through the Australian financial system, also there are some people who believe some of the money may have ended up in Australia, especially in real estate holdings,” Professor Chin said.

Watch: Australia avoiding probe into Malaysia corruption

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Mahathir’s last stand

Dr Mahathir’s criticism of Australia comes in the context of an ongoing campaign to remove Prime Minister Najib, his second hand-picked successor. Mr Najib became the prime minister in 2009 after Dr Mahathir fell out with his first successor, Abdullah Badawi.

When Dr Mahathir stepped down as Prime Minister in 2003 he promised to stay out of politics, something he has struggled to do. 

“I thought I would be having my retirement resting and enjoying life, but it seems that it is not going to be like that,” Dr Mahathir said.

When the scandal broke in 2015, Dr Mahathir and some others within the ruling party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), called for Mr Najib to step aside.

Dr Mahathir quit UMNO in February last year and formed a breakaway party along with other disaffected UMNO members.

Dr Faisal Hazis, a senior fellow of Malaysian politics at the National University of Malaysia, told SBS World News Dr Mahathir’s failure to remove Mr Najib from within UMNO reflected his diminished influence within the party he led for more than two decades.

“He failed basically to institute change through the party, so he is taking this quite drastic option of working with the Opposition,” Dr Faisal said.

Najib Razak was Mahathir Mohamad’s second hand-picked successor before the two fell out over a corruption scandal (File photo 2009) AAP/AP‘I don’t care if they forget me’

Dr Mahathir sat down with SBS World News at a political study centre on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, devoted to researching former Malaysian leaders.

In one part of the building an entire wall was covered with colorful portraits of the former leader riding bicycles and smiling.

However Dr Mahathir said he isn’t concerned about his legacy.

“Well, I don’t mind if they forget me completely,” he said.

Dr Mahathir has formed some unlikely alliances with old enemies and is preparing to campaign against the government at general elections expected later this year.

He is even working with his former arch enemy, Anwar Ibrahim, who was his deputy until he fell out with Dr Mahathir in 1998 and led protests calling for political reform in the country which has been ruled by one party for 60 years.

Mr Anwar was imprisoned on charges of corruption and sodomy shortly after falling out with Dr Mahathir. He has always maintained his innocence and said the charges were politically motivated.

Mr Anwar was released from prison in 2004 and went on to lead the Opposition Coalition to electoral milestones in 2008 and 2013. He was jailed again in 2015 on separate sodomy charges and is currently behind bars serving a five-year sentence.

Sodomy is illegal in Malaysia, though it is extremely rare for the laws to be enforced.

In September last year, the two men whose conflict has shaped Malaysian politics for decades met face-to-face for the first time in 18 years.

Mahathir Mohamad fell out with his one-time protoge and deputy Anwar Ibrahim in 1998. AAP/AP

“We have decided that we have to focus on this very important issue, the overthrowal of a present kleptocratic government. So for that we are prepared to forget the past,” Dr Mahathir told SBS.

When asked if has apologised for jailing Mr Anwar, Dr Mahathir said he didn’t apologise for anything.

“We have all said nasty things about each other. I don’t ask people to apologise for calling me all kinds of names and accusing me of all kinds of wrong doings,” Dr Mahathir said.

A Malaysian government spokesperson at the time said the meeting between Dr Mahathir and Mr Anwar “demonstrated the depth of their political opportunism and desperation”.

Chinese ‘colonisation’

Following the US Department of Justice raids against Mr Najib’s relatives and associates last year, he has moved Malaysia, a long-time US ally, closer to China, increasing foreign investment and military ties with Beijing.

Dr Mahathir’s been especially critical of the $100 billion development of a new city in the Malaysian state of Johor, near the Singapore border.

The Forest City project by Chinese company Country Garden Holdings Co has set an ambitious goal to house up to 700,000 people in the new city, built on four artificial islands. Many of the units are being sold to Chinese buyers.

“They have the money, they have the means to invest, buy property, buy land, and build cities for themselves. That amounts to a conquest, a colonisation of sorts,” Dr Mahathir told SBS World News. 

Prime Minister Najib has accused Dr Mahathir of making false accusations against the Malaysian government over the development.

“He (Mahathir) made many false statements… they won’t get any citizenships. They only can have the rights to stay in Malaysia,” Mr Najib said in a speech in January.

Marriage of convenience

Malaysia has never had a change of government in the 60 years since independence, but general elections will be the first major electoral test for Mr Najib since the 1MDB scandal.

Many political analysts and observers predicted Mr Najib’s downfall following the scandal, but the man who has ruled Malaysia since 2009 has proven himself the political survivor.

He has been instrumental in supporting a conservative Islamist opposition party to break away from the broader Opposition Coalition who worked together at the 2013 elections.

The elections are expected later this year and must be held before August 2018 at the latest.

While Dr Mahathir is working with Mr Anwar’s party in a new smaller opposition coalition, party infighting has prevented the new alliance from uniting behind a leader while Mr Anwar is in jail.

“It is divisive, the moment you name a (candidate for) Prime Minister there is going to be a lot of unsatisfied people who may sabotage the new Opposition Coalition,” Dr Mahathir told SBS World News.

After ruling Malaysia for 22 years Mahathir has struggled to keep his promise to stay out of politics. AAP/AP

“So it is better for us to name a Prime Minister if we win. It becomes irrelevant to name a Prime Minister now and then we lose.”

Dr Mahathir, whose long political career has made him famous for always removing his political opponents, said if the upcoming elections are “relatively fair” he is confident Mr Najib won’t win.

The man, once a famous firebrand against Western interference in the developing world during his time in office, also added he hoped Australia and other countries would send observers and closely monitor the upcoming election.

“We would like to see the whole world watch this election. That is one time I want involvement from the rest of the world,” Dr Mahathir said. 

SBS requested an interview with multiple senior UMNO ministers and Mr Najib’s office. They declined. 

China calls for closer ties across Asia and Europe to boost trade

President Xi Jinping has called for closer co-operation across Asia and Europe in areas from anti-terrorism to finance.

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It comes as leaders from 29 countries gathered in Beijing on Sunday to promote a Chinese trade initiative that could increase China’s global influence.

The Belt and Road Initiative calls for building ports, railways and other facilities in a vast arc of 65 countries.

Other countries welcome the investment but governments including the United States, Russia and India have expressed unease Beijing also might be using the effort to increase its political stature.

Speaking before an audience that included Russian President Vladimir Putin, Xi said his government has “no desire to impose our will on others.”

But he called for “economic integration” and co-operation on financial regulation, anti-terrorism and security – fields in which China’s heft as the world’s No. 2 economy would make it a dominant player.

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“We should foster a vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security,” said Xi. He called for stepped-up action against terrorism and what he called its root causes of poverty and social injustice.

In a reminder of potential security threats, North Korea test-fired on Sunday what could be a new type of missile in a direct challenge to the new South Korean president.

The “Belt and Road” is Xi’s signature foreign policy initiative.

The two-day meeting gives him a platform to promote his image as a global leader and free trade advocate in contrast to US President Donald Trump, who has called for import restrictions.

China is hardly the first government to promote regional trade links.

Japan has given billions of dollars in grants and low-cost loans to Southeast Asian nations, and governments including South Korea have launched trade initiatives.

But Beijing’s effort is the most ambitious and is backed by China’s financial muscle and status as the biggest global trader.

Chinese officials have said previously “Belt and Road” is purely commercial, though Xi’s comments indicated Beijing sees that as including a broad array of regulatory and other co-ordination with potentially far-reaching consequences.

Some diplomats and political analysts say Beijing is trying to create a political and economic network centred on China, push the United States out of the region and rewrite rules on trade and security.

The United States and Japan, which Beijing sees as rivals for influence in Asia, are not part of “Belt and Road.”

China and Russia already are partners, along with Central Asian governments, in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a security group widely seen as an effort to counter US influence in the region.

Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan echoed Xi’s theme that economic development would help to nurture political stability and neutralise support for radical groups.

The Russian leader complained about “illegal sanctions” – a possible reference to US trade penalties imposed on Moscow over Ukraine – and warned trade protectionism is creating a “breeding ground” for terrorism.

Closer economic integration “should change the very political and economic landscape of the continent, bringing Eurasia stability, prosperity,” said Putin.

Referring to Bejing’s plan, Erdogan said, “This is going to be the kind of initiative that puts an end to terrorism.”

Xi called for regional cooperation in finance – a field where China’s huge state-owned banking industry and $US3 trillion ($A4.1 trillion) of foreign currency reserves would make it the dominant player.

Other leaders included Premier Paolo Gentiloni of Italy and President Michelle Bachelet of Chile. No major Western leaders attended, though Britain, France, Australia and Germany were represented by top finance officials.

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Manly prop chooses Origin over love

Manly prop Brenton Lawrence covets a Queensland Origin jersey so much it must just land him in the dog house.

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The 32-year-old has been mentioned in dispatches as a possible bench option for Kevin Walters’ side for their series opener at Suncorp Stadium on May 31.

With Matt Scott missing due to injury, Lawrence is seen as in the running along with the likes of Jacob Lillyman and Jarrod Wallace.

He has received an endorsement from former Queensland Origin great Billy Moore to receive his State of Origin debut after finding career-best form for the Sea Eagles in 2017.

Asked what a Maroons jumper would mean to him, he says it would be the best day of his life and that includes his wedding last year.

While that sort of passion might endear him to Walters, his wife Casey might be asking him to sleep on the couch for the next few weeks.

“I feel like I’m doing an alright job,” Lawrence said after Manly’s 24-14 loss to Brisbane.

“If I get picked in Origin, that’d be the best thing that ever happened to me I reckon.

“I think the cliche is to say ‘I’ll keep playing footy and see what happens’. If they pick me, I got married last year and it’d be better than that. It’d be unreal.”

Asked how his wife might feel about that statement, he said: “She knows.”

Lawrence has been one of the driving forces behind the Manly engine room this season and has started every game after a horror couple of years which saw his progress stunted by injury.

In 2014 he was named in the Queensland emerging squad however managed just 10 games in 2015-16 after a series of serious back problems.

However with his problems behind him, he has been able to build momentum and confidence in his body.

“It’s just consistency and a good off season,” Lawrence said.

“When you have a bad patch of injuries you can’t train. And you need to train – training keeps you fit, keeps you strong, keeps you on the paddock.

“And one bad injury after another just wasn’t helping my body and wasn’t helping me physically and athletically. When all those things are in line, you play better footy.”

Gagai to get more time at back for Knights

Dane Gagai will spend more time at fullback for Newcastle after shifting to the role for the Knights’ 34-20 NRL win over Canberra.

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Gagai’s future at the Knights remains uncertain as he is yet to activate an extension, but he brushed it all aside on Sunday afternoon.

In his first game at fullback this season, Gagai ran for 124 metres and broke through five tackles to play a key role in the victory.

Crucially, according to Fox Sports Stats he got his hands on the ball 22 times, well up on the 10 he had in his last start in the centres against the Gold Coast.

“He’s a very gifted attacking player and when he is at fullback he can get himself involved in the game a lot more,” Knights coach Nathan Brown said.

“For the balance of our team, and at this stage it seems like it might be a better fit for Gags to get a lot more opportunity.”

Gagai has scored just one try and created one try assist this season, with the Queensland centre strugglingd for opportunities on the right edge.

When asked whether Gagai will continue to play at fullback ahead of former No.1 Brendan Elliot, Brown suggested he would stay there for next Saturday’s clash with Penrith.

“I would have thought it won’t be a one off at this stage,” Brown said.

Brown was also happy with the combination of halves Brock Lamb and Jaelen Feeney, just 20 and 22 years of age respectively, in their third game together.

The Knights scored six tries in the win, and equalled their highest point-scoring haul for a match since the end of 2014.

“They did really well,” Brown said.

“Lamby has copped a little bit of criticism but people don’t take in to account his age and experience.

“Today he got an 80 minute performance where he got a good all-round performance in attack and defence against some big quality players.

“I thought Jaelen played a good controlled game … he adds a bit of pace to us in and around the ruck area, which is important.”

Logjam atop the AFL ladder

Clutch goals from ice-cool duo Steve Johnson and David Mundy have helped ensure an ever-increasing logjam on the AFL ladder.

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GWS have replaced slumping Adelaide as premiership favourites, although the Giants needed a last-minute goal at home from Johnson on Saturday to see off a spirited challenge from a Collingwood side who have won only two games and sit in second-last spot.

The Crows suffered a second straight loss – this time by 41 points at home to rank outsiders Melbourne – but stay in top spot on the table with a 6-2 win-loss record, ahead of the Giants and West Coast on percentage.

The next six teams are all at 5-3, including ninth-placed Fremantle, who won for the fifth time in six matches on Sunday.

Mundy kicked a winner after the siren against Richmond on Sunday for the second time in three years.

It enabled the Dockers to sneak home 10.12 (72) to 10.10 (70) after they had held what seemed like an unassailable 30-point lead at the final change.

“The competition is very even – I think we’re seeing that on a weekly basis and within games, quarter to quarter,” said Dockers coach Ross Lyon.

“If you’re not near your best or you drop off, you can get exposed pretty quickly.

“It’s a fortunate position for all clubs because if you prepare well and you’re committed, you can be competitive.”

That synopsis could just as easily have applied to Saturday night’s game at the MCG, when Essendon belied a recent poor run of just one win in their previous five matches by downing tackle-shy Geelong 17.8 (110) to 13.15 (93).

Like Richmond, the Cats have now dropped three games on the bounce after starting the year with five straight wins.

Geelong now face a season-defining run of three straight matches at the redeveloped Simonds Stadium against fellow top-four aspirants the Western Bulldogs, Port Adelaide and Adelaide.

“I hope we don’t try to pretend that playing at home we fix all of our problems,” said coach Chris Scott.

“We’d like to play 11 games there, we haven’t played there at all until round nine and I’m confident we play it pretty well.

“But once again I probably shouldn’t even say that because we need to concentrate on what we are now, not reflect on what we were four weeks ago and certainly not what we were years ago.”

Port Adelaide belted Gold Coast 16.14 (110) to 4.14 (38) in Shanghai on Sunday to move up to fourth.

The free-scoring Power boast the best percentage in the competition (150.8).

Sydney ended the round with a comprehensive 18.12 (120) to 11.12 (78) win over North Melbourne.

Businesses brace as cyber threat lingers

Technical staff are scrambling to patch computers and restore infected ones, amid fears that the ransomware worm that stopped car factories, hospitals, shops and schools could wreak fresh havoc when employees log back on after the weekend.

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The spread of the virus dubbed WannaCry – “ransomware” which locked up more than 100,000 computers – had slowed, cybersecurity experts said on Sunday, but they warned that the respite may be brief.

New versions of the worm were expected, and the extent of the damage from Friday’s attack was still unclear.

Marin Ivezic, cybersecurity partner at PwC, said that some clients had been “working around the clock since the story broke” to restore systems and install software updates, or patches, or restore systems from backups.

Microsoft released patches last month and on Friday to fix a vulnerability that allowed the worm to spread across networks, a rare and powerful feature that caused infections to surge on Friday.

Code for exploiting that bug, which is known as “Eternal Blue,” was released on the internet in March by a hacking group known as the Shadow Brokers.

The group claimed it was stolen from a repository of National Security Agency hacking tools. The agency has not responded to requests for comment.

Hong Kong-based Ivezic said that the ransomware was forcing some more “mature” clients affected by the worm to abandon their usual cautious testing of patches “to do unscheduled downtime and urgent patching which is causing some inconvenience.”

He declined to identify which clients had been affected.

Monday was expected to be a busy day, especially in Asia which may not have seen the worst of the impact yet, as companies and organisations turned on their computers.

“Expect to hear a lot more about this tomorrow morning when users are back in their offices and might fall for phishing emails” or other as yet unconfirmed ways the worm may propagate, said Christian Karam, a Singapore-based security researcher.

Targets both large and small have been hit.

Renault on Saturday said it had halted manufacturing at plants in Sandouville, France, and Romania to prevent the spread of ransomware in its systems.

Among the other victims is a Nissan manufacturing plant in Sunderland, northeast England.

Hundreds of hospitals and clinics in the British National Health Service were infected on Friday, forcing them to send patients to other facilities.

German rail operator Deutsche Bahn said some electronic signs at stations announcing arrivals and departures were infected.

In Asia, some hospitals, schools, universities and other institutions were affected. International shipper FedEx Corp said some of its Windows computers were also breached.

Telecommunications company Telefonica was among the targets in Spain. Portugal Telecom and Telefonica Argentina both said they were also targeted.

A Jakarta hospital said on Sunday that the cyber virus had infected 400 computers, disrupting the registration of patients and finding records. The hospital said it expected big queues on Monday when about 500 people were due to register.

In Singapore, a company that supplies digital signage, MediaOnline, was rushing to fix its systems after a technician’s error had led to 12 kiosks being infected in two of the island’s malls.

Symantec, a cybersecurity company, predicted infections so far would cost tens of millions of dollars, mostly from cleaning corporate networks.

Ransoms paid amount to tens of thousands of dollars, one analyst said, but he predicted they would rise.

Governments and private security firms on Saturday said that they expected hackers to tweak the malicious code used in Friday’s attack, restoring the ability to self-replicate.

Aust business hit by ransomware attack

An Australian business has fallen victim to a global malware attack and there are investigations into two other reports, the federal government says.

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The so-called ransomware has wormed its way into thousands of computer systems in an apparent extortion plot, shutting users out unless they coughed up a payment.

Cyber Security Minister Dan Tehan says the government has received reports of the private sector being impacted, but not commonwealth organisations.

“There has been one incident of the ransomware hitting a business here in Australia and there could be two other incidents where it has occurred, although we are trying to confirm that,” Mr Tehan told Sky on Sunday evening.

“We’re not talking about a government organisation or a hospital or anything like that.

“We’re obviously working with that business, the Australian Cyber Security Centre is engaging with them.”

Earlier on Sunday, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said authorities were working to confirm if the reports were linked to the global attack.

“The difficulty is, of course, there are literally hundreds of instances of ransomware in Australia each week, so we’re currently seeking to confirm whether these are examples of the particular ransomware that has caused so much havoc for example in the United Kingdom,” she told reporters in Cairns.

Mr Tehan said Australian business boardrooms needed to be conscious of the impacts of ransomware.

“And we’ve got to make sure at a departmental level, government level, departmental heads … that they’re taking the necessary steps,” he told Sky.

“They’re aware of this. They became aware of it when we had the incident with the Census, so there are no excuses. They get well resourced for their information technology.”

In Perth, Senator Scott Ludlam warned Australians to keep their computers up to date against such threats and hit out against cyberweapon creation by the US.

“We’ve seen what happens when the US NSA (National Security Agency) … develops hacking tools, effectively weapons for breaking in to ordinary people’s computers then loses control of one of those exploits that has then been effectively weaponised by a criminal organisation that is now seeking to ransom people,” he told reporters.

“I think we need to keep a much closer eye on what government agencies are doing with these cyber weapons .. because they could’ve tipped off the government, they could have tipped off users of these operating systems but they didn’t, they kept those exploits to themeslves.”

The ransomware attack struck British National Health Service organisations, along with computer networks of companies and municipalities in dozens of other countries.

A number of hospitals in England and Scotland were forced to cancel procedures after dozens of NHS systems were brought down in Friday’s attack.

Spanish telco giant Telefonica and US delivery service FedEx were among the businesses affected.

Port tear Suns apart as AFL lands in China

Gold Coast coach Rodney Eade has lamented their 72-point AFL capitulation in Shanghai as one of the most disappointing moments of his career.

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Port Adelaide could not have made a better China debut and coach Ken Hinkley praised their ruthlessness in the 16.14 (110) to 4.14 (38) domination.

The Suns had said repeatedly pre-match that they were determined to overcome the inconsistency that has plagued their form.

But a week after a great win over Geelong, they were woeful on Sunday in the historic match at Jiangwan Stadium.

Eade said the loss left him feeling “pretty flat”.

“That’s as disappointed as I’ve been – I didn’t see that coming,” he said.

“The preparation was good, the attitude seemed good.

“We were just smashed in tight, (in) contested ball.

“We just didn’t seem to have enough get up and go to fight early.”

As the Suns mull over whether they want to play in the Shanghai match again, Eade has no doubts.

“We’d certainly like another chance, to redeem ourselves … because that’s not us,” he said.

There was drama 10 minutes before the first bounce when Suns defender Rory Thompson pulled out of the side, with Keegan Brooksby taking his place.

However, Eade said that was no explanation for why they played so badly.

The Suns’ nightmare was a dream result for Port, who have driven the push in to China.

Hinkley said it was crucial that the team played well, to back the club’s efforts.

“I’m really proud – obviously from a club point of view, there’s been a lot go in to this,” he said.

“So to come here and then back that up for them, with all the work they’ve done, it was really important we put on a strong team performance.”

It left Port well-placed at 5-3 going in to their bye, while the Suns are 3-5.

Hinkley also noted that by ruthlessly restricting Gold Coast and keeping them to just four goals, it was an important boost for Port’s percentage.

Midfielder Brad Ebert was best afield, despite only flying to Shanghai two days ago after the birth of his son Leo.

“It’s been a big week or two,” Ebert said.

After plenty of pre-match speculation about his fitness, Port star Robbie Gray kicked two goals despite not looking 100 per cent.

“Rob’s fine, I’m probably sick of talking about him … he hobbles around at the best of times,” Hinkley said.

And Hinkley stressed Sunday is no one-off China match for Port.

“We can’t wait to defend the title – we’re undefeated here in Shanghai,” he said.

“It is not just … excuse the expression, a Mickey Mouse game, once-off – this is what we want to do as a football club.”

Koch enjoys an AFL highlight in Shanghai

David Koch stood on the Jiangwan Stadium boundary line at halftime on Sunday, watching his granddaughter Matilda playing Auskick.

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The scoreboard showed Port Adelaide leading Gold Coast by seven goals and the fans were showing Koch lots of love.

Everyone wanted a photo with him, everyone wanted to congratulate him.

It was put to the Port president that the only way he could feel happier at a football match is if his team wins the AFL flag.

“That’s perfectly fair,” he said.

It will take several years and a lot more hard work before Koch knows whether Port’s China experiment works.

But this was the start they needed.

The 72-point win over Gold Coast was the cherry on top of the cake – the main thing is the game went off without any noticeable dramas.

After all the pre-match concerns about air quality, travel and who could wear which guernsey, Port emphatically answered the critics.

And the fans lapped it up.

“Set aside everything else for a second – something like this brings all these people together,” Koch said.

“That’s what I love – there’s my granddaughter, playing Auskick against some Chinese kid.”

Alistair “Sandy” Payne was one of the fans keen to pat Koch on the back.

He and his wife Dr Michelle Stone are Port fans from Adelaide and they made the Shanghai match the centrepiece of a 10-day China holiday.

“We’ve been the Great Wall, Michelle’s sat next to a panda – this has been fantastic,” Payne said.

Mining magnate Gina Rinehart was also spotted in the crowd, wearing a Port scarf.

No alcohol was on sale for the general public, but no-one seemed to mind.

Cynics will point to a couple of notable sections of empty seats on the outer wing, but AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan noted all the public areas were full.

The game attracted 10,118 fans and, if anything, the AFL wants a bigger crowd capacity next year.

The AFL said about 2000 to 3000 local fans attended – it looked more like around a thousand – but they were enthusiastic and lapped up the game.

“Someone was yelling ‘go Richie, go Richie’ and then someone turned around and said ‘no, it’s Ah Chee’,” McLachlan said, referring to the Port player.

And in the end, the number of locals in the crowd is not the big test for the AFL – it’s what their government thinks of the concept.