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.

Was Don, was good in NRL upset over Storm

Gold Coast winger Anthony Don may soon enjoy more than cult hero status after another star turn in the Titans’ upset 38-36 NRL win over leaders Melbourne prompted calls for his NSW Origin selection.

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Don added another clip to his growing season highlights reel when he capped a stellar display in Brisbane on Saturday night by sparking Konrad Hurrell’s 78th minute match-winning try in the season’s biggest upset.

Titans halfback Ashley Taylor was quick to suggest Don should be considered as a Blues bolter in a post-match TV interview, prompting a social media push for NSW State of Origin coach Laurie Daley to consider the popular winger.

Daley is no closer to finalising his NSW backline after Manly fullback Tom Trbojevic suffered a potentially season-ending knee and ankle injuries in Saturday night’s 24-14 defeat in Brisbane.

Incumbent Blues winger Josh Mansour is sidelined with a knee injury.

The 29-year-old Don did his best to impress, scoring a try and setting up another two.

Don flew over Melbourne’s Josh Addo-Carr to bat back a Kane Elgey kick for centre Hurrell to crash over for the game sealer.

He finished the game with two try assists, a four pointer of his own and a line break.

Titans coach Neil Henry said Don had returned from last week’s NSW Country duty full of confidence.

Don scored a try, had a line break and ran 198m in Country’s 20-10 loss to NSW City.

“He seems to be cool under a bit of pressure and the boys love playing with him,” Henry said of Don.

The buzz over Don gained momentum in round seven against Brisbane when he freakishly volleyed a ball heading toward the touchline into the arms of Chris Grevsmuhl who scored.

There was more to come against Melbourne when Don scored a sensational leaping try down the sideline in the 37th minute before his late heroics.

The audacious plays don’t come as a shock to Don’s teammates.

“He is a competitor, he competes on every play,” prop Jarrod Wallace said.

Besides Trbojevic, Jarryd Hayne also provided Daley some anxious moments after the Titans star limped off late.

Hayne was later diagnosed with knee nerve damage and is expected to be fit for the next round.

Nadal ends Djokovic hoodoo to reach another Madrid final

The Spaniard will be aiming for a fifth Madrid title when he meets Austrian Dominic Thiem in Sunday’s showpiece.

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World number nine Thiem beat Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas 6-4 6-4 in the other semi-final.

Nadal got off to a dream start in the 50th meeting between the two great rivals, winning every point in the first game to break Djokovic, with the home crowd wildly celebrating his first point – a potent return which the Serbian could only hit into the ground.

Djokovic won the last meeting between the pair in the quarter-finals of the Rome Masters a year ago, and Nadal had not beaten the 12-times grand slam winner since the 2014 French Open final.

“The circumstances nowadays are completely different compared to those seven matches that occurred before. The last two years perhaps haven’t been my best two years. They were really good years for Novak,” Nadal told a news conference.

However, the Spaniard added: “It’s one more match. What’s important to me is to make it to another final.

“As years go by, depending on the type of victories, (they) can fulfil you a little bit more or less. The most important thing is the titles, not the opponents that you have beaten.”

Defending champion Djokovic, who cut ties with long-time coach Marian Vajda and his staff the week before the tournament in a bid to reverse his downward trajectory of results, surrendered his serve again in the third game, and Nadal held to go 4-0 up.

Real Madrid greats Raul and Cristiano Ronaldo were among those watching in the stands in the Caja Majica on a scorching day in the Spanish capital as Nadal continued his rampant start to the year.

The Spaniard finished off the first set in 40 minutes and again broke the struggling Djokovic in the opening game of the second. The world number two broke back in the fourth to tie the set at 2-2 and celebrated by punching the air.

It proved to be just a brief respite for the Serbian, however, as Nadal broke him again in the next game and held to restore his two-game lead.

He missed two match points on his serve and then had to save a break point before taking the contest at the third time of asking to reach the Madrid final for the eighth time.

On Sunday, Nadal will look to add to his recent triumphs in the Monte Carlo Masters and the Barcelona Open.

Djokovic said he was encouraged by his performance.

“It was really good to play in the semi-finals of a big event, and to play against one of the top rivals I have in my life. I haven’t had that feeling in months, so it’s great to feel that,” Djokovic said.

“It was a positive week, a positive experience. I take, as I say, more positives than negatives into the next week in Rome.”

(Reporting by Richard Martin,; Editing by Neville Dalton and Pritha Sarkar)

Mental health on the lips of anaesthetists

A healthy anaesthetist means a healthier patient, which is why the topic of mental health among this “high risk” group of doctors is being brought out in the open.

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A life-sized inflatable elephant has been installed inside the Brisbane convention centre – an initiative of the Australian Private Hospitals Association – to encourage physicians to openly discuss mental health and wellbeing with their colleagues while attending the Australian New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) annual scientific meeting.

”The elephant in the room is something we can all identify with and it’s so important that anaesthetists and other medical professionals discuss their mental wellbeing on a regular basis,” said anesthetist and meeting convenor Dr Bridget Effeney.

Dr Effeney said the emotional welfare of anaesthetists, while a sensitive subject for some, should be discussed openly in forums such as the annual scientific meeting.

“We know that anaesthetists are a high risk group and yes, this is a novel way of approaching the issue but it also an appropriate opportunity to raise awareness in the profession,” she explained.

A beyondblue report released in 2013 showed doctors reported substantially higher rates of psychological distress and attempted suicide compared to both the Australian population and other Australian professionals.

The most common source of work stress reported by doctors related to the need to balance work and personal responsibilities (26.8 per cent).

The high-pressure work of an anaesthetist combined with busy personal lives and individual performance expectations is the likely reason they are at high risk of mental health issues and suicide, Dr Eeffney told AAP

“You do have the life of your patients in your hands and you have to be at all times prepared for the unexpected.

“When things go badly wrong it really is badly wrong,” she said.

ANZCA President Professor David A Scott said the benefits of openly discussing health and welfare issues in the profession should not be overlooked.

”By looking after the health and welfare of practitioners we will ensure we have healthier patients,” he said.

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Scott out to tackle Cats’ defensive woes

Geelong coach Chris Scott has lambasted his Cats for a “disgraceful” tackling performance in their 17-point loss to Essendon at the MCG.

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The Bombers led the tackle count 52-13 at the long break of Saturday night’s match at the MCG and by the final siren the figure was a lopsided 81-39 in Essendon’s favour.

“It was, for the third week in a row, a really, really poor performance,” Scott said after the 17.8 (110) to 13.15 (93) loss.

“We’ve got to stop talking about it being uncharacteristic because it is what we are right at the moment

“A lot of the numbers that are generally important in a game of footy are really not too bad – such as contested possessions, overall scoring shots.

“But the execution with the ball, and goalkicking is the best example of that, is very poor in our game at the moment.

“Our ball handling, our fumbling, inviting the opposition pressure which helped their tackle count tonight, is a big problem in our game.

“And then on the other side, which is even more important, the way the opposition is able to use the ball and they were cleaner with the ball, which makes it harder to tackle.

“But 15 tackles in a half is just a disgraceful performance.”

After being 40 points adrift at three-quarter time, the Cats got the margin back to 10 with six of the first seven goals of the final quarter and could even have snatched an improbable win if not for some inaccuracy in the dying stages.

“We can focus on the positives and the numbers probably flatter us in a way,” said Scott.

“But late in the game we were on top, 10 points down and it looked like we could have stolen it which to an extent wouldn’t have reflected the way the rest of the game was played.”

With the renovation of Simonds Stadium finally complete, the Cats play their next three matches at their first-choice home ground, although all are against fellow top-four aspirants in 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 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.”

Cameron comes on in Giant leaps and bounds

Greater Western Sydney’s gun forward Jeremy Cameron has taken his game to another level this year, according to coach Leon Cameron.

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Cameron booted six goals in the Giants’ three-point win over Collingwood on Saturday. The quality was as impressive as the quantity.

The 24-year-old crashed packs with reckless abandon, outmuscled opponent Henry Schade in a superb show of strength during the second term and converted almost all of his chances in the 15.12 (102) to 15.9 (99) win.

Cameron notably stepped up after quarter-time, when the Giants trailed the visitors by 26 points at Spotless Stadium.

He slotted three goals in 10 minutes to curtail the Magpies’ momentum, showing exactly why he was one of the expansion club’s first recruits.

“Jeremy has had an outstanding season,” GWS coach Leon Cameron said.

“His first eight weeks this year, it has probably been the most consistent he’s been in his short AFL career.

“He’s hard to match up on, because he can play in a few different positions now.

“He’s a determined young man who wants to learn the game even more.”

Cameron shot to the front of the Coleman Medal race as a result of his six-goal haul. He now has 28 goals from the opening eight rounds of the season.

“We know people judge Jeremy on the scoreboard but we judge him on so many other things,” Leon Cameron said.

The former Western Bulldogs and Richmond defender noted that assistant Amon Buchanan has helped the young gun add even more strings to his bow.

“He’s done an enormous amount of work with Amon Buchanan. They’ve got a really good relationship,” the fourth-year coach said.

“There’s no doubt he is learning a lot.

“He’s hard as a cat’s head. He cracks in regardless, that’s never been an issue.

“But he now senses moments in games better. He’ll have his quiet games but the quiet games now are the ones when he tries to look for a different way to stay in the match. That’s pleasing from a key forward.”

The coach was also full of praise for Jon Patton and Steve Johnson, who both slotted clutch goals in the final term against Collingwood.

“He (Patton) has had some really big moments in the last three weeks,” Cameron said.

“He’s kicked some really important goals. He wants the ball in his hands when those moments come around, which is great.”

Markets watch budget impact on consumers

The impact of the federal budget on consumer confidence and key wages and jobs data will be the focus for Australian markets this week.

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Economists will be watching Tuesday’s weekly ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence reading and the monthy Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment index on Wednesday for any boost from last week’s federal budget.

“The sentiment gauge will attract more than the usual attention given it will be the first reaction of Aussie consumers to the federal budget,” CommSec senior economist Savanth Sebastian said of the weekly survey.

Economists expect Wednesday’s March quarter wages data to show growth of 0.5 per cent, leaving annual growth at a record low of 1.9 per cent.

“While the annual growth rate is the lowest on record, it still remains marginally ahead of underlying growth of consumer prices,” Mr Sebastian said in a research note.

“The real wage gains alongside the low interest rate environment on record will serve to support consumer spending for the rest of 2017.”

The market consensus is for Thursday’s April employment data to show a gain of 5000 jobs and the unemployment rate remaining steady at 5.9 per cent.

However, RBC Capital Markets and Commonwealth Bank of Australia economists expect some consolidation after a surge in new jobs in March, forecasting a flat jobs outcome for April and the unemployment rate to tick down to 5.8 per cent.

“A likely small drop in unemployed persons and some retracement in the participation rate after several monthly gains suggest that the unemployment rate may edge a little lower to 5.8 per cent,” a RBC report said.

Also out this week are March housing finance data and the minutes of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s last board meeting, which economists do not believe will offer any new insights.

The Australian share market may open trading on Monday flat or slightly weaker after US stocks edged 0.1 per cent lower on Friday.

McMahon ready for Wallabies: Rebels coach

He has only played 40 minutes of rugby this season but Melbourne Rebels coach Tony McGahan says Sean McMahon will be ready for the Wallabies’ June Tests.

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The 22-year-old made his long-awaited return to AAMI Park after finally overcoming ankle surgery followed by a knee injury.

He came off the bench at blindside flanker for the Rebels’ second half with his leg drive pumping up his team for a late surge.

They ultimately fell short 29-24 when Reds skipper Samu Kerevi scored a last-ditch try, but McMahon played with his usual aggression and tenacity.

“He was great,” McGahan said of his back rower.

“He’s an important player for us with what he brings with effort and attitude, he’s a real fierce competitor.

“He was absolutely busted in the last seven or eight minutes but to get through 40 minutes after being out for seven months was a fair effort.”

The coach added McMahon would be ready for the three June Tests, when Australia take on Fiji, Scotland and Italy.

“He’ll be fine,” McGahan said.

The Rebels have only managed one win this season and while injuries have contributed to their poor run, they have also turned in some shockers.

While he plumped for McMahon, the coach thought the results would count against the Rebels at the selection table, who had a club-record six players winning Test caps last year.

Hooker James Hanson, lock Lopeti Timani, prop Toby Smith and centre Sefa Naivalu could all miss out this season.

“I’ve got absolutely no doubt,” said McGahan, a former Wallabies assistant coach.

“That’s a proven fact, that individuals can still do all their things but sometimes you suffer at the fate of your team and their performances.”

Q & A on global cyber attack

THE GLOBAL CYBER ATTACK: THREE QUESTIONS AND THREE ANSWERS

A massive hack crippled computers across the world on Friday in what was described by experts as a cyber attack unprecedented in scale.

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Q: What happened?

A: Tens of thousands of computers in homes, businesses and government agencies were infiltrated by malicious software that encrypted and blocked access to content until users paid between $US300 ($A406) and $US600 ($A812) in the digital currency bitcoin. Nearly 100 countries were hit in the attack.

Q: What accounts for its scale?

A: Hackers exploited vulnerabilities in the most widely used operating system in the world: Microsoft Windows. The software giant issued a fix in March to correct the security flaw, but computers that did not run the update were susceptible to infection.

The highest-profile organisation to fall victim to the cybercrime was Britain’s National Health Service, which uses the 15-year-old Windows XP operating system on its computers.

Windows XP is so old that Microsoft was no longer offering free software updates for it. The company announced on Saturday that it was reversing that policy.

Q: How does the malware enter the computer?

A: The cyber weapon involved in the attack is malware known as Wanna Decryptor or WannCry. It infiltrates computers by way of links and attachments in spam emails.

Security experts say unknown hackers took advantage of tools stolen from the US National Security Agency. Portions of the spy agency’s sophisticated cyber arsenal have been leaked online in recent months.

Awesome foursome join Fanning, Parkinson

There will be six Australians in the fourth round of the Rio Pro after another successful day at Saquarema.

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Adrian Buchan, Matt Wilkinson, Julian Wilson and Owen Wright all prevailed in their third-round encounters to join former world champions Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson in advancing in Brazil.

Saturday’s day five opened with an upset as Brazilian 20-year-old Yago Dora upset championship leader John John Florence of Hawaii.

South Africa’s Jordy Smith was next up, dispatching of hometown hope Jadson Andre in a close encounter.

Fellow Brazilian Caio Ibelli laid an early marker for Buchan with a 7.07, but he was unable to back it up as the Australian finished with 13.16.

It was an all-Australian affair in heat nine with Wilkinson proving too strong for Josh Kerr before Kanoa Igarashi of the United States defeated Filipe Toledo.

Wilson accounted for Frederico Morais despite the Portuguese recording the highest score of the day with 9.20 before a consistent Wright posted the session’s highest total.

His total of 17 won the final heat of the men’s session over Nat Young, the American named for the former Australian world champion of the same name.

“I feel like that was always going to be a really strong heat,” Wright said.

“I feel like we’ve got similar game plans, we like to stick to what we know. We don’t go to the air too much, when we do it’s more of a risk.

“I felt like we were there trading right-handers and I just thought I’ve got to show the judges something different and go left and that was the difference for me.”

Warner hits out as Mumbai hit the summit

Australian Test vice-captain David Warner’s unbeaten 69 set up an eight-wicket win for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League and with it boosted their hopes of a top-two finish.

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Warner carried the bat in his 52-ball knock, steadying the ship after the early wickets of opening partner Shikhar Dhawan (18) and Australian teammate Moises Henriques (4) in the third over.

The opener shared an unbroken 133-run stand with Vijay Shankar to successfully chase down Gujarat’s total of 154.

Ishan Kishan top-scored for the Lions with 61 after sharing a 111-run opening partnership with Dwayne Smith. Big-hitting Australian Aaron Finch was dismissed for 2 by Rashid Khan in the 14th over as a late collapse saw Gujarat all out for 153 with four balls remaining in their innings.

James Faulkner fared little better than Finch, making eight before falling to Mohammed Siraj.

Henriques’ solitary over was expensive, going for 12 runs while Siraj (4-32) was the best of the Sunrisers’ bowlers.

In Saturday’s second IPL clash Mumbai Indians secured top spot on the ladder with a nine-run win over Kolkata Knight Riders.

Chris Lynn helped Kolkata, chasing 174 for victory, to recover after losing his opening partner without scoring on the fourth ball of Tim Southee’s opening over.

Mitchell Johnson had the next wicket when he had Gautam Gambhir caught on 21.

Lynn made 26 off 14 balls before being caught off Vinay Kumar.

Consistent wickets saw the Knight Riders’ run rate taper off somewhat and they finished on 8-164.

Mumbai had posted 5-173, headlined by Ambati Rayudu’s 61.