Trump accuses GOP rivals of collusion

United States Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and John Kasich have joined forces to block front runner Donald Trump from getting the party’s nomination.

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The pair say it’s an effort to use resources in a way to also stop Hilary Clinton from winning.

But Mr Trump has lashed out, accusing his rivals of political collusion.

Republican Donald Trump’s rivals, John Kasich and Ted Cruz, have formed a new alliance.

The pair will split upcoming contests to try stop their party’s frontrunner, Mr Trump, from clinching the GOP presidential nomination.

Mr Trump says he’s fine with that.

“Oh, did you see the news today? Did you see where they band together? Where they collude? It’s collusion. You know if you collude in business, if you collude in business or if you collude in the stock market, they put you in jail. But in politics, because it’s a rigged system, because it’s a corrupt enterprise, in politics you’re allowed to collude. So they colluded and actually I was happy, because it shows how weak they are. It shows how pathetic they are.”

Ohio Governor Kasich denies the arrangement is collusion.

“I don’t respond to Donald Trump, I mean what are you kidding me? (Reporter; “Is this collusion?”) Is it collu – collusion – what does that even mean? I dont even know. Does he know what that means? (Reporter: “The two of you are teaming up to compete against Donald Trump”) No the two of us are competing for to win the nomination and to make sure that we can steward our resources so we can stop Hillary Clinton. No I’m not desperate, are you?”

Texas Senator Cruz and Mr Kasich are focusing their resources in three upcoming state primary contests.

But US political analyst Terry Madonna says it’s a flawed strategy.

“It’s obvious that you take Indiana for example, that Cruz is doing better there. Kasich doesn’t have a chance to win it and so you move west to a couple of states where Kasich has a better chance. I understand the tactic behind it but I just think it feeds the Trump narrative that this is just the establishment, the party leaders, the people who can’t possibly be nominated on the first ballot, ‘They’re just trying to stop me (Trump)’. I don’t know how that doesn’t help him, to be honest with you.”

The move isn’t sitting well with all Republican supporters.

“Well, I’m sort of torn because I definitely do not like Trump or Cruz but I also don’t like the idea of people getting together to take away votes from what the people want, so.”

Senator Cruz says it makes sense for both campaigns to step aside in some states and not split party votes.

He says he’ll leave Oregon and New Mexico to Mr Kasich.

“It is big news today, that John Kasich has decided to pull out of Indiana to give us a head-to-head contest with Trump.”

He also says he didn’t expect Mr Trump’s response to be anything less.

“I don’t doubt Donald Trump is going to scream and yell and curse and insult and probably cry and whine some as well. But that has been Donald’s pattern.”

Mr Kasich has defended the deal after announcing he would give Mr Cruz a clear path in Indiana, saying he’s not telling anyone how to vote.

“Look, this is a matter of resources. We’re running a national campaign and we want to apply our resources where we think they can be used most effectively and it’s all designed to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming president.”

Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton says Mr Trump has lost touch with people.

“Don’t just fly that big jet in and land it and go make a big speech and insult everybody you can think of and then go back, get on that big jet and go back to your country club house in Florida or your penthouse in New York. I somehow don’t think that puts you in touch with what’s going on.”

 

Tough seed grower makes soaring ASX debut

Shares in tough seed breeder Abundant Produce have soared on debut, more than doubling their issue price in a performance that indicates continuing strong interest in the Australian food sector.

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Shares in the specialised seed producer, which breeds robust seed varieties for vegetables that can survive extreme conditions, climbed as high as 54 cents in a busy first day of trade on Tuesday, more than doubling their 20 cent issue price.

Abundant chief executive Tony Crimmins said the level of interest in the NSW-based but globally focused group had been surprising even after the IPO was priced to reward shareholders.

“We know that we have got a good company and we did undervalue it… but what’s unexpected is the sheer volume of interest,” Mr Crimmins told AAP.

“What they see is we are creating a business in Australia that is smart, that is innovative.”

Abundant’s $3.5 million IPO was oversubscribed, with Australian investors dominating the share register.

Abundant shares closed at 55 cents, giving the company a market capitalisation of around $9.6 million, with more than two million shares traded.

Mr Crimmins said local investors were hungry for a stake in an Australian product that is geared to a growing global demand for food.

By reinvigorating Australia’s seed industry, which was strong in the 1980s, Mr Crimmins said he was simply taking the sector into the 21st century.

Abundant’s tough cucumber seeds already sell through Bunnings and US-based seed giant Burpee.

They will be followed shortly by tomatoes, chillies and pumpkins and other offerings are in development.

The company has worked with Sydney University’s Plant Breeding Institute to create hybrid seeds through techniques such as cross-breeding.

Breeding vegetables with native species and raising them in the harsh Australian summer gave Abundant’s seeds an edge on international competitors, Mr Crimmins said.

Mr Crimmins said his firm was competing against products from countries including Holland, where seeds are “bred in beautiful, luxurious greenhouses”.

“Ours aren’t done that way, they are treated pretty harshly,” he said.

“We are in a very good spot, because who can replicate Australia’s environment?”

Newcrest keeps FY target as Cadia resumes

Newcrest Mining has reaffirmed its full-year gold production guidance after its biggest mine returned to full production helping to push up output.

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The company has been hit by a series of incidents at its mines, which affected output in the previous two quarters. Even during the March quarter, production at its two Indonesian underground mines was affected following a `geotechnical’ incident in February.

Australia’s largest gold producer, however, bounced back to produce 636,521 ounces of gold in the three months to March 31, 2.55 per cent higher than the December quarter’s 620,691 tonnes.

“It was a quarter with a number of challenges. Although, it is pleasing to have increased our production and lowered our all-in sustaining cost per ounce,” managing director Sandeep Biswas said.

The increase was helped by a 58 per cent jump in production at its Cadia gold and copper mine in NSW, which operated at full capacity during the three-month period.

Cadia, which is also Newcrest’s highest-margin operation, had seen its production hit during the December quarter with a five-week shutdown of a major mill.

Resumption of operations helped the miner cut its all-in sustaining costs for the quarter by 4.5 per cent to $US723 per ounce. Newcrest also has slightly reduced its full-year cost guidance to $US1,875 million-$US1,975 million, from $US1,900 million-$US2,050 million.

Full-year capital expenditure guidance has also been cut to between $US440 million and $US540 million, from $US480 million -$575 million.

Production at its Telfer mine in Western Australia and Lihir mine in Papua New Guinea was slightly lower.

Output at Gosowong in Indonesia will continue to be affected by February’s geotechnical event, with production at the Kencana mine now not expected to resume before the end of June, it said.

Newcrest received a gold price of $US1,181 per ounce on average, up from $US1,100 in the prior quarter.

The company also announced a 30 per cent jump in copper production to 22,294 tonnes, mainly due to higher output at Cadia.

The miner in February posted a 55 per cent slide in first-half profit to $US81 million on the back of the shutdowns and lower gold and copper prices.

Newcrest Mining shares closed down 18 cents, or one per cent, at $17.72 each.

China bans drug wholesalers’ vaccine sales

China has banned drug wholesalers from selling vaccines, state media reports say, after a scandal in which about $US90 million ($A116.

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68 million) worth of improperly stored vaccines was suspected of being sold illegally in dozens of provinces.

China is pushing ambitious healthcare reforms to improve its home-made medicines, but the vaccine scandal underscores the challenge facing the world’s second-largest drug market in regulating its fragmented supply chain.

The new rules, signed by Premier Li Keqiang and adopted on Saturday, toughen requirements for distribution of non-compulsory vaccines, the official Xinhua news agency said.

They require county health officials to get the vaccines directly from manufacturers before sending them to hospitals, instead of going through wholesalers, it added.

Hospitals, clinics and government health authorities must also keep better records of purchases and inventory, with regular monitoring of vaccine temperatures, records of which hospitals must request upon receiving the vaccines.

The rules hike fines for improper handling of vaccines, and prescribe the sacking of government officials guilty of violations, Xinhua said.

The government plans to set up an electronic vaccine tracking system, it added, but gave no details.

Chinese authorities punished hundreds of officials after the vaccine scandal, which involved millions of illegal trades of vaccines through a blackmarket drugs ring, and ignited public anger.

The vaccines, including ones against meningitis, rabies and other illnesses, are suspected of being sold around China since 2011. They were all “category 2” vaccines, meaning they were sold on the private market.

China’s drug regulator said on its website on Monday that it has passed the cases of two firms, Hebei Shanggu Shengwu Technology and Shaanxi Bangxin Shengwu, to the police after suspecting them of illegal behaviour.

It has also revoked the licences of two other companies and plans to cancel the licences of 41 more, the China Food and Drug Administration said, adding that all 45 firms were selling vaccines to non-qualified units and fabricating vaccine sales records.

Entertainment veteran joins MSM board

Online talent competition developer MSM Corporation has appointed entertainment media veteran Sophie McGill to its board as it moves toward the launch of its first product, Megastar Millionaire.

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Ms McGill has been a partner at media strategy and investment firm Media Venture Partners since 2009, providing advice and funding to producers and distributors in the entertainment sector.

Previously, Ms McGill was chief operating officer of digital production and talent studio Marquee Studios, which is responsible for Amplify Live, a touring show that features leading musical performers and some of the world’s biggest YouTubers.

Ms McGill also worked for independent production company Endemol UK, where she was responsible for delivering brand extensions of popular programs – including Big Brother, The Match, and Deal or No Deal – to a variety of digital platforms.

“Sophie has been at the very centre of innovative media for over 18 years and I am certain that she will play a highly valuable role at MSM, contributing to our corporate development and promotional strategy,” MSM managing director Dion Sullivan said on Tuesday.

As an executive director at MSM, Ms McGill will focus on investor relations, promotional strategy and corporate development.

MSM plans to launch Megastar Millionaire in the fourth quarter of 2016 or the first quarter of 2017.

Megastar Millionaire is a software platform for online talent contests.

The Megastar Millionaire platform will enable online site users to load and view individual “videos of artistry” and vote on them, thereby helping successful contestants progress through the contest.

MSM Corporation listed on the Australian share market in January 2016.

Shares in MSM closed one cent higher at 12.5 cents.

Pentagon report reveals US navy challenges to 13 countries

The US military conducted “freedom of navigation” operations against 13 countries last year, including several to challenge China’s claims in the South and East China seas, according to an annual Pentagon report.

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The operations were against China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Libya, Malaysia, the Maldives, Oman, the Philippines and Vietnam, the report on Monday said.

It did not specify how many such operations were conducted against each of those countries. The US military carried out single operations against Taiwan, Nicaragua and Argentina, for a total of 13 countries, the department said in the two-page report.

The freedom of navigation operations involve sending US navy ships and military aircraft into areas where other countries have tried to limit access. The aim is to demonstrate that the international community does not accept such restrictions.

The US military has repeatedly conducted operations disputing China’s maritime claims in recent years and did so again in 2015, a year in which Beijing’s island-building activity in the resource-rich areas of the South China Sea led to rising tensions in the region.

A US guided-missile destroyer conducted a freedom of navigation patrol near one of China’s man-made islands in the Spratly archipelago in October. US military flights near the islands have been warned off.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the navy would continue to operate in the region despite China’s condemnation of the patrols.

China’s Defence Ministry said in a statement on its website late on Monday that it was deeply concerned by such operations.

“The United States carries out militarisation in the South China Sea in the name of freedom of navigation and overflight, threatens coastal nations’ sovereignty and security and destroys regional peace and stability,” the ministry said.

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It made the comment in response to what it said were reports of recent US military flights near Scarborough Shoal – known by Beijing as Huangyan Island – an area China seized control of after a stand-off with the Philippine coast guard in 2012.

Admiral Harry Harris, the head of US Pacific Command, said this year the US navy would step up the freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea because of concerns China is attempting to assert its dominance by building military facilities there.

The number of countries the US challenged last year was down from 2014, when it targeted 19 countries. That was the largest number in more than a decade.

Iran and the Philippines have been the most frequently challenged countries over the years, mainly because they sit astride busy sea lanes whose use they have tried to limit or govern.

Gallen will bring toughness to Roos: Mal

Coach Mal Meninga believes returning forward Paul Gallen will bring a hard edge to the Kangaroos that has been missing in recent matches, and says he had no qualms about picking Semi Radradra in his inaugural Australian Test team.

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Radradra is one of up to four players set to make their green and gold debuts in Mal Meninga’s first game as Kangaroos coach against New Zealand on Friday week.

The Fijian flyer was named in an 19-man squad on Tuesday that also included rookies Blake Ferguson, Michael Morgan and Josh McGuire.

Radradra nominated for Kangaroos selection earlier this month after qualifying under residency requirements. He has previously played four Tests for Fiji.

“He is the best winger in the competition, that is why he is there,” Meninga said on Tuesday’s announcement at Rugby League Central.

“It is my job to coach the Australian side and pick the best players available. He wants to play for Australia … I didn’t coerce him to play for Australia.”

Gallen returns after a two-year absence.

“He deserves it,” Meninga said.

“We need a hard edge that has been missing the last few games. That leadership and that hard edge that he brings to the team are important.

Former Queensland coach Meninga has named 12 Maroons, five players from NSW and Fijian-born Radradra in the squad. He said he didn’t expect criticism of the team along state lines.

“I have picked the best players available,” Meninga said.

“I don’t think anyone can blue about it.

Former Canberra bad boys Josh Dugan and Ferguson will be reunited on the Kangaroos’ right edge.

The match at Newcastle’s Hunter Stadium on May 6 is the 131st between the Kangaroos and the Kiwis.

Australian 19-man squad: Darius Boyd, Semi Radradra, Greg Inglis, Josh Dugan, Blake Ferguson, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Matt Scott, Cameron Smith (capt), Paul Gallen, Josh Papalii, Matt Gillett, Corey Parker. Interchange (from): Josh McGuire, Michael Morgan, James Tamou, Sam Thaiday, Aidan Guerra, Michael Jennings.

Alleged Apex teen denied bail: court

A teenage engineering student allegedly linked to Melbourne’s notorious Apex gang is behind bars over a suspected robbery spree.

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Police say Kual Ashweel, 18, was one of four youths who allegedly drove around in a stolen car at night, demanding phones and cash from people who were sometimes attacked with a baton.

The alleged crimes – five within two hours on April 10 – took place in Southbank and Richmond.

The group allegedly asked one victim for help, before telling him: “Brother, stop. Give me your phone and money otherwise I’ll kill you.”

The man was allegedly chased back to his car, hit with a baton and grabbed by the throat before handing over his phone, wallet and banking passwords, court documents show.

Ashweel applied for bail in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday after being charged with 63 offences, including armed robbery, affray and assault.

The court heard Ashweel denied he was a member of Apex, but Senior Constable Anthony Gaffney said two co-accused were associated with the gang and he was concerned about the link.

Defence lawyer Rob Melasecca said there was no allegation Ashweel was involved in violence during the suspected spree, and he was only accused of driving.

But Magistrate Franz Holzer denied bail, saying the charges were serious and the alleged victims had been subjected to “frightening and significant consequences”.

Apex, which has more than 100 members including some as young as 12, are thought to be behind a spate of home burglaries and car thefts.

The gang is also blamed for riots in Melbourne’s CBD during the Moomba festivities last month.

Ashweel is due back in court in July.

Quickflix calls out Stan on administration

Quickflix looks set to become the first high-profile casualty of the tussle between Australia’s streaming services after entering voluntary administration.

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The company, which claims to be Australia’s first movie and television streaming service, has appointed Ferrier Hodgson as voluntary administrator after failing to raise capital to pay for new content and marketing.

And rather than blame US giant Netflix, Perth-based Quickflix has called out local competitor Stan for blocking its fundraising efforts.

Quickflix said on Tuesday it can’t afford the price set by Stan to restructure the $11.7 million worth of redeemable preference shares held by the Nine Entertainment-Fairfax joint venture – a prerequisite for any interested investors.

Stan, which acquired the shares in Quickflix from HBO in 2014 for an undisclosed sum, wants either $4 million in cash or $1.25 million plus all of Quickflix’s streaming customers.

Founder and chief executive Stephen Langsford said “neither proposal presents a viable option” for his company, which recently announced plans to cut 15 per cent cut of its workforce in a bid to save $1 million annually.

The shares were first granted to HBO in 2012 when the US TV network took a 15.7 per cent stake in Quickflix and licensed its content.

“As these negotiations with Stan have not been successful and the majority of the potential new funders have specified the restructure of the RPS as a condition of providing capital, the company has no other realistic alternative but to appoint voluntary administrators,” Quickflix said.

Watching TV and movies over the internet has become increasingly popular among Australians, with Netflix attracting a big customer base due to its vast and exclusive content.

The local streaming market is also crowded, with local providers including Stan and Presto, a joint venture between pay-TV group Foxtel and Seven West Media.

The redeemable preference shares held by Stan rank ahead of ordinary Quickflix shares when it comes to dividends and capital returns, and is recorded as debt on the company’s balance sheet.

While Stan can only ask for redemption of the RPS in limited circumstances, Quickflix said it can’t fund redemption and the existence of RPS is a “significant disincentive for new investors.”

“Despite Quickflix being first to the streaming market and holding a leadership position in 2014, ongoing growth has required capital for continued investment in content and marketing,” Mr Langsford said.

“Neither Nine Entertainment nor Stan have ever participated in any capital raisings to assist Quickflix’s growth and its ability to raise capital from any source has been constrained by the RPS.”

The administrators plan to operate the company’s Australian business as usual.

Quickflix’s New Zealand unit operates through its local subsidiary, which continues to trade and isn’t in voluntary administration.

Quickflix shares last traded at 0.1 cents on the Australian bourse, valuing the company at $2.22 million.

Kearney confident Warriors will lift

Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney holds no fears that any Warriors players he selects will carry over their indifferent NRL form into next week’s Test against Australia in Newcastle.

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The Warriors have just three wins from eight matches this year, and languish in 13th place on the ladder after Monday’s 42-0 loss to Melbourne.

“They didn’t perform well last night, and I’m sure the Warriors coach isn’t happy with the way they’re playing,” Kearney said on Tuesday.

“But I’m pretty confident that once we get them into the Kiwis environment, we can get them on board with what we’re after.”

Kearney said it had barely been a week since the Warriors played their best game of the season, beating the Bulldogs 24-20 in Wellington.

And he said the given wisdom 12 months ago was that he shouldn’t pick Shaun Johnson for the Anzac Test in Brisbane, won 26-12 by the Kiwis.

“People were saying I shouldn’t be selecting Shaun, and he was one of our best players in that particular Test match.

“Once they get into our environment, we can get them up to speed.”

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga named his squad on Tuesday, including four players set to make their Australian debut.

Among the newcomers in the 19-man squad was Fijian flyer Semi Radradra, alongside Kangaroos rookies Blake Ferguson, Michael Morgan and Josh McGuire.

Radradra nominated for Kangaroos selection earlier this month after qualifying under residency requirements. He has previously played four Tests for Fiji.

Kearney had no problems with Radradra’s selection in an Australian squad which he said contained few surprises.

“The rules say he can play for Australia. That’s for Mal and the selectors, and I’m sure they’re comfortable with it.

“Whoever they pick in the Australian jumper, they’re always going to be a quality team,” he said.

“For me, my focus is on who we’re going to select in our team.”

Kearney will name his Kiwis squad for the May 6 Test on Sunday evening as the New Zealanders hunt their fourth successive win over Australia.