Merrin deserved Kangaroos jersey: Griffin

Even Mal Meninga’s famous loyalty card did not look like saving out-of-form incumbent Test lock Trent Merrin ahead of next week’s trans-Tasman clash in Canberra.

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But Merrin’s Penrith coach Anthony Griffin insisted the hardworking forward deserved to retain his green and gold jersey for the May 5 clash.

Despite an ordinary NRL season start, Merrin kept his starting spot against New Zealand after Kangaroos coach Meninga kept the faith with his Four Nations incumbents.

Meninga’s loyalty would surely have been tested after Merrin battled to reclaim 2016’s career-best form for the ailing Panthers.

Last season Merrin averaged 156 running metres and almost 35 tackles a match.

This year he is averaging 118m and 30 tackles a game for a third-last Panthers side that have lost four straight games.

Griffin is the first to admit Merrin had not matched the form that helped Australia claim the 2016 Four Nations crown but the Panthers coach believed he deserved the nod after last year’s heroics.

“Trent has his areas that he has to work on, like a lot of players, even though I thought he was a lot better last weekend,” Griffin said.

“But to get to the international level like he did at the end of last year he deserves some loyalty for that and now he has received it.”

Meninga hinted that Merrin was trying too hard at club level but would find his feet alongside his Test teammates.

“Trent’s playing in a team that’s struggling at the moment,” he said.

“I still think he’s trying hard. Their (NRL) form I don’t think really matters.

“They come back in to an environment where they’re comfortable … and that’ll affect them in a positive way.”

Griffin hoped the Test call-up would be a shot in the arm for Merrin’s club form ahead of Thursday night’s NRL clash with Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium.

“It’s a good sign of faith by Mal,” he said. He was their best forward in Europe last year.

“I know Mal is very big on loyalty. I am happy Trent retains his spot and I know he will do a really good job.”

Don’t bow down to the US: Keating offers advice ahead of Trump meeting

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating has offered some advice for Malcolm Turnbull’s first face-to-face meeting with Donald Trump and says he should encourage the US President to build ties with China.

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will be in New York meeting President Trump just as the finishing touches are put on the May budget.

Former Labor Prime Minister Keating said the Australian Government should not keep “bowing down” to Americans.

“What you have to do is work out what to do with him,” Mr Keating said.

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“One thing not to do with the Americans is keep bowing down. That’s bad behaviour – bad, bad, bad behaviour.”

The trip on May 4 will be highly dissected as it’s the pair’s first meeting since their heated January phone call made headlines around the world. 

It’ll take place on USS Intrepid, a decommissioned World War II aircraft carrier, as it hosts commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea.

I’m delighted to travel to the US in May to meet with @POTUS President Donald J Trump & attend 75th Battle of the Coral Sea commemorations

— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) April 25, 2017

In a statement after the White House confirmed the event, Mr Turnbull said he was “delighted” to be meeting Mr Trump.

“My meeting with President Trump will provide an opportunity to reaffirm our alliance and the United States’ engagement with the Asia-Pacific,” he said on Wednesday.

The meeting comes as the Asia-Pacific region faces a serious threat from a “reckless and dangerous” North Korea.

The New York trip follows Mr Turnbull’s pre-Anzac Day visit to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he met US Defence Secretary James Mattis.

Before his trip to the Middle East, Mr Turnbull also hosted US Vice-President Mike Pence and his family in Sydney.

Mr Pence and other officials have tried to smooth relations between Mr Trump and Mr Turnbull following their January phone call, which the president called “the worst call by far” of his conversations with leaders that day.

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The tension was over an Australia-US refugee deal originally struck with Barack Obama and later reluctantly agreed to by Mr Trump on the proviso there was “extreme vetting”.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the president was looking forward to meeting the prime minister and showcasing the enduring bonds, deep friendship and close alliance the US had with Australia.

Former US ambassador to Australia John Berry said it was very important Mr Turnbull was meeting Mr Trump so early in the president’s term.

Using the Coral Sea anniversary was also a wonderful way to show how the alliance between the two nations was forged in blood during World War II.

“Right now Australia is side by side with the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria taking on ISIL and terrorists,” Mr Berry told Sky News.

“The president and vice-president are now keenly aware just how deep and broad this relationship is.”

Mr Berry said tensions on the Korean Peninsula were likely to feature in the talks between the two leaders.

The timing of Mr Turnbull’s latest trip is tricky given it takes him away from final federal budget deliberations before its delivery in Canberra on May 9.

Assistant minister Karen Andrews is not concerned about the timing, insisting budget preparations have been under way for many months.

“The prime minister’s visit to the United States is quite a separate issue and will cause no concerns,” she told Sky News.

Labor’s Ed Husic said it was good the meeting was finally happening and Australia’s voice was being heard.

“Obviously Australians being Australians, we value our friendships but we also value the right to be able to speak our mind from time to time,” he said.

– with AAP

WATCH: Turnbull’s Afghanistan Anzac Day visit

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Trump’s first 100 days: expert analysis

US President Donald Trump’s election campaign promised an America-first trade policy that included new taxes on foreign imports.

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Professor Warwick McKibbin, an expert on macroeconomics at ANU, says a sudden hike in tariffs would likely lead to retaliation and a global recession.

He doesn’t think that will happen, because Trump’s economic advisors will caution him against it. But he does predict a more gradual raising of barriers and protective taxes that could cause a trade war in three or four years.

Watch: Professor Michael Wesley at the Press Club

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“I think although a trade war is unlikely in the near term, I think we’re setting up a set of macro policies which really push in the direction of a potential response,” Mr McKibbin said.

Professor Michael Wesley, an expert on the Asia Pacific at ANU, said he expected Malcolm Turnbull to try to forge closer ties with the Trump administration.

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But he said Australia’s approach to the US alliance should depend on how long Mr Trump – and those who share his protectionist approach to trade – remain in power.

“If he’s a flash in the pan, if he’s only around for four years, my counsel would be keep your head down and just rely on those underlying structures of the alliance to take us through,” Mr Wesley told the Press Club.

“If he’s a longer term trend then we’ve got some much more profound questions to ask ourselves about how close we want to be to the United States in the long-term future.”

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Bernardi looks for more MPs and members

Cory Bernardi is on the hunt for more politicians and party members to join his Australian Conservatives, after the group’s merger with Family First.

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The South Australian senator says the door is open to anyone who identifies as a conservative and is prepared to uphold the party’s four founding principles.

“That is about stronger families, fostering free enterprise, limiting the size and scope and reach of government, and rebuilding a civil society,” he said.

“You don’t have to be of any particular religious persuasion to uphold those values. You don’t have to have any particular faith.”

Senator Bernardi says the union between the Australian Conservatives and Family First will strengthen the conservative movement in Australia and believes the two groups are a “natural fit”.

The move means Family First’s two SA MPs, Dennis Hood and Robert Brokenshire, will represent the merged entity in the SA upper house.

Senator Bernardi says Australian Conservatives has thousands of paid members and tens of thousands of supporters, but needs to broaden its base and will be registering state-based parties.

Whether the Australian Conservatives will be ready to contest the upcoming Queensland state election will be a matter of timing and resources, as with several other state polls and the next federal election.

“There is a very big plate that we have to consider how we’re going to allocate the portions that we have and our limited resources to,” he told the ABC.

Senator Bernardi, who quit the Liberals earlier this year, hit back at his ex-colleagues including former factional rival Christopher Pyne for their unflattering critiques of his fledgling movement.

“People like Christopher Pyne don’t stand for anything,” Senator Bernardi said.

“Australian Conservatives are determined to put some steel in the spine of politicians and show principle in their approach to policy.”

The party’s first real election test will likely come in South Australia, at the next state election in March 2018.

De Jong challenges AOC review independence

Former chief executive Fiona de Jong has questioned the independence of a review into workplace practices at the Australian Olympic Committee.

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Part of the AOC’s response to bullying claims by de Jong, which have led to senior staffer Mike Tancred standing down, will include an “independent” review of the body’s culture by the incoming chief executive, Matt Carroll.

De Jong said Carroll could be put in a difficult position should claims of misconduct be made against members of the executive, headed by president John Coates.

“I would question the ability of any CEO to be truly independent and impartial in circumstances that the CEO was to become aware of an allegation against an individual to whom he or she reports,” de Jong told the ABC.

“That is, any other members of the board or indeed a president.

“Why can’t it just be a fully independent commission as has been the case established to hear my complaint?”

At a Wednesday night crisis meeting the AOC executive resolved to refer de Jong’s complaint, that media director Tancred threatened her, to a committee of three senior counsel or retired judges.

Tancred has denied the allegations but will remain stood down pending an investigation.

De Jong, who quit last December, has claimed the case was among a dozen instances of workplace harassment in the AOC from 2004 to last year.

She also took aim at the AOC’s time frame in dealing with her matter.

“What the AOC hasn’t been able to do for four months, they’ve now miraculously been able to achieve in four days since my complaint became public,” de Jong said.

The response comes amid an increasingly bitter contest for the AOC presidency, with incumbent Coates facing a challenge for the first time since taking the role 27 years ago.

Olympic hockey gold medallist Danni Roche is challenging Coates with a vote to be held on May 6 at the AOC’s annual general meeting.

Trump proposes ‘massive’ tax cuts for US businesses and individuals

As Donald Trump’s presidency nears the symbolic 100-day mark, the Republican is seeking to follow through on a flagship promise to overhaul the tax code to boost the US economy, businesses and families, including middle-class and working-class Americans.

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“Under the Trump plan, we will have a massive tax cut for businesses and massive tax reform and simplification,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced from the White House.

Corporate tax rates would be more than halved, from the current 35 percent to 15 percent, and tax brackets for individuals would be compressed from seven to just three — 10 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent.

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Gary Cohn, the president’s chief economic advisor who unveiled the plan along with Mnuchin, dubbed it “the most significant tax reform legislation since 1986, and one of the biggest tax cuts in American history.”

But the long-anticipated overhaul — whose details remained unclear beyond those headline measures — could face stiff opposition in Congress, including from some Republicans, with lawmakers sharply divided over the prospect of fueling already-rising deficits.

“This isn’t going to be easy. Doing big things never is,” Cohn admitted.

“We will be attacked from the left and we will be attacked from the right. But one thing is certain: I would never ever bet against this president.”

WATCH: Turnbull and Trump to meet face-to-face

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Taxing overseas profits

Slashing taxes on income and business was a key part of Trump’s election platform.

Mnuchin declined to set a deadline for the reform passing Congress, but he said the administration was “determined to move this as fast as we can and get this done this year.”

Mnuchin and Cohn said there was fundamental agreement on the core principles of the plan, although particulars were still being worked out with lawmakers.

A key element is the repatriation of corporate profits from overseas.

“We will have a one-time tax on overseas profits which will bring back trillions of dollars that are offshore to be invested here in the United States,” Mnuchin said. That rate has yet to be finalized.

The tax plan’s impact on the deficit and debt will be key to winning backing on Capitol Hill.

House Speaker Paul Ryan hailed the reform as “progress,” even though Mnuchin signalled it would not include a tax on imports, something Ryan had lobbied for among fellow Republicans.

“It’s basically along exactly the same lines that we want to go,” he told reporters.

‘Explode the deficit’

But Democrats sounded an immediate warning to the White House.

“If the president’s plan is to give a massive tax break to the very wealthy in this country, a plan that will mostly benefit people and businesses like President Trump’s, that won’t pass muster with we Democrats,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

He also warned that a plan that dramatically shrinks tax revenues would “explode the deficit.”

Analysts have said cutting the top marginal corporate tax rate by 20 percentage points could add a whopping $2 trillion or more to the deficit over a decade.

The administration has said its tax cuts will spur growth — its goal is three percent — thus bringing in tax revenues to make up the difference, a calculation known as “dynamic scoring” which the Trump administration supports.

“The difference between 1.6 percent, 1.8 percent GDP and three percent is staggering,” Mnuchin said earlier. “It’s trillions of dollars of revenues. It’s tons of jobs.”

Economists however say this growth effect is not supported by evidence from prior tax cut efforts.

Wishful thinking?

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economist and former head of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office who served in previous Republican administrations, said dynamic scoring is wishful thinking.

“There has never been any single credible analysis of dynamic scoring that suggests that taxes pay for themselves,” Holtz-Eakin told AFP.

The tax cuts could be limited to a 10-year period, but Mnuchin said that would be less than ideal.

“If we have them for 10 years, that is better than nothing,” he said. “But we’d like to have permanency to it.”

Mnuchin said the lower corporate rate is aimed at helping small businesses, not the wealthy.

And he assured that rich Americans and businesses would be prevented from using loopholes to help them avoid paying their fair share.

Hastings wants young stars managed better

Manly’s Jackson Hastings wants NRL clubs to do more to protect teenage prodigies from hype as they discover the pitfalls of professional rugby league.

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Hastings made his debut at the Roosters in 2014 as an 18-year-old star in the making, but fell out of favour last year before shifting to Manly, admitting he spent numerous lonely nights questioning his future over the off-season.

The NRL has worked hard to develop an award-winning education and welfare program for under-20s and first-grade players, which is implemented from the teenage years. Each club also has a welfare manager who monitors the well-being of players.

But Hastings said he would like to see young stars better managed by clubs to shield them from the hype before the seemingly-inevitable rough patch – including following the lead of the Roosters in resting Latrell Mitchell this year.

“I never had that,” he said.

“I think clubs can get better at protecting their young kids, and hopefully as the years go on that can get better – because I don’t want to see kids go through what a few of us have gone through.

“I like the idea of taking them out of the spotlight for a week or two and then bringing them back in.

“Because it’s tough. If you haven’t got thick skin it can do some damage mentally.”

Hastings finished 2016 in reserve grade after starting as a first-choice Roosters playmaker, and has still split his time between the second-tier competition and NRL this year at Manly.

But he said his attitude changed after meeting coach Trent Barrett and advisor Bob Fulton.

“They told me that I have 12 years left in me and I’m not done yet,” he said.

“I’d lay in bed at night and have things run through my head.

“There were a couple of times there where I thought ‘am I going to play first grade again?’ Then I would have to slap myself and say: ‘I’m 20 years old’.

“But I’ve just done a complete 360 with the way I look at life and footy.”

Hastings has come off the bench as a new-look utility four times for Manly this year, playing mostly out of dummy-half.

“A lot of people don’t like being labelled a utility but I think it’s got its benefits,” Hastings said.