Canberra cafe owner Brendan Baker loses appeal bid to overturn conviction for drug trafficking


A Canberra cafe owner who used social media to show off flashy cars and brag about his apparent wealth has failed to overturn his conviction for multiple drug offences.

Brendan Baker, 29, was last year sentenced to 13 years and eight months jail with a seven year non-parole period for a string of major drug charges, including importing drugs from China.

He claimed he was wrongly convicted and launched an appeal in the ACT Court of Appeal in November on seven grounds, including that the trial judge had “erred” on several points of law.

Today that appeal was dismissed by Justice Wendy Abraham, Justice David Mossop and Justice Chrissa Loukas-Karlsson, who said “there was no unexplained failure in this case”.

Baker appeared in court via video link and nodded when the appeal was thrown out, telling the judge: “Yeah thank you, no worries”.

Brendan Leigh Baker was last year found guilty of 11 charge, including drug importation and trafficking and dealing in the proceeds of crime.(Facebook)

Informer’s credibility challenged in appeal

Baker was convicted of drug trafficking last year largely on the evidence of a police informer.

At the time, Baker’s legal team argued this person was “unreliable” and a drug dealer who had struck a deal with police.

The informer’s reliability was challenged again in Baker’s appeal by his barrister Beth Morrisroe, who argued the jury should have doubt about the informer’s credibility.

Ms Morrisroe also argued that handwritten notes about drug deals found at Baker’s share house were never analysed by an expert.

However, the arguments failed to sway the three-judge panel.

“An assessment of the evidence reflects that it was open to the jury to be satisfied about the guilt of the appellant in relation to the counts on which he was convicted,” the judges found in their decision.

“There was evidence which supported his version of events, in that it rendered it more probable.

A Facebook post featuring an inspirational message and a man in front of a white Mercedes.
Brendan Baker was scrutinised for flaunting his lifestyle on social media, which prosecutors claimed was funded by drug dealing.(Facebook)

Another of Baker’s grounds of appeal was that prejudicial evidence was put to the jury, which the judges dismissed.

“The jury was given appropriate directions as to the use of this evidence and there is no basis to suppose that the jury would have done anything other than follow those directions,” the judges said.

Baker also said that prosecutors did not provide an adequate reason for not calling a witness, which the judges similarly dismissed.

Wads of cash found in Baker’s home

Baker was arrested in 2018 and accused of trying to import drugs from China.

Large large wads of cash were found in his home during police searches.

During his trial, Baker’s lawyers argued he legitimately bankrolled his lavish lifestyle, which was well-documented on social media, with proceeds from a Kingston cafe, a home renovation business and a building supplies shop.

“He’s not on trial for being part of the selfie generation, or his prolific use of hashtags,” Mr Baker’s lawyer Astrid Haban-Beer said.

However, prosecutors convinced the jury Baker’s wealth came not from his business ventures, but from drug dealing.

Baker was set a non-parole period of seven years, which was backdated to his arrest in 2018.

He will be eligible for release in April 2025.



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Coronavirus Australia live news: Daniel Andrews encourages Victorians to stay home despite Queensland border opening on December 1



Audience comment by Julia

Not sure if I read between the lines correctly, but if I did…<br>Happy birthday Natty!!! 🥳

Audience comment by Natty

Looking back on 2020, all we’ve been through, especially our Victorian friends, families separated for such long periods of time, and, in contrast, hearing all the great news about the borders reopening, it’s finally starting to feel like we’re all one Australia again. Sitting here, reading this awesome blog, that’s kept us all informed and sane for the best part of this year, I feel proud of every Aussie for their efforts and sacrifices, and the best birthday present I could ask for, is for families to reunite and have optimistic hopes for a great Christmas 🙂

Audience comment by Sarah

Thankyou ☀️ <br>We’re all Australians so it’s great to know we can now travel where and when we want !!<br>Thankyou Victorians for keeping our Country safe and stopping the spread through all your hard work and sacrifices 🙏🏻<br>Happy Christmas xoxoxo

Audience comment by missing home

I moved to Melbourne from Brisbane in February and went for an overseas trip shortly after. I haven’t seen my family since late Jan. When I heard the *unofficial* news yesterday; I could not stop crying. Time to go home!!

Audience comment by Staying in Vic

I don’t have any relatives interstate. For those who do, please go and reunite with your loved ones. I’ll be holidaying in Victoria.



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BOM warns a heatwave is on the way in lead-up to summer


It is still a few days out from the official start of summer, but the heat is set to ramp up this week and residents are being urged to heed health warnings.

Severe heatwave conditions are set to stretch across the continent — from north-west to the south-east — as heat is drawn down from the centre.

Swathes of the country face severe heatwave conditions and this will not be a one-day affair.

To hit the official criteria for a heatwave, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) requires “three days or more of high maximum and minimum temperatures that are unusual for that location” — the heat is expected to hang around all the way into next week.

Where is it getting hot and when?

The heat has been building over northern and central Australia for weeks now and, according to BOM senior forecaster Jonathan How, a cold front is set to push that heat into the south-east.

As of Wednesday, temperatures will heat up in South Australia and western Victoria and hit the high 30s.

From Thursday, the heat is expected to build and extend further over inland New South Wales.

By Friday, temperatures are expected to be 10 to 20 degrees above average for southern South Australia and western Victoria and reach the high 30s and low 40s.

Saturday is when the heat is expected to peak, bringing the first real blast of prolonged heat to the south-east — temperatures are expected to be up there with November records.

Sea breezes are likely to keep things cooler over Melbourne, but Adelaide is set to be the hottest capital, reaching 40C on Friday and Saturday.

On Sunday, the heat is set to move into coastal New South Wales, including Sydney, where the city’s west is forecast to reach the low 40s.

The heat is expected to dissipate a little by Monday, but heatwave conditions are expected to move up into northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland.

Beware the hot nights

It is not just the daytime temperatures that are cause for concern.

“The warm nights and hot days are really going to create very uncomfortable conditions,” Mr How said.

Telecross REDi is a service activated to check on clients during declared heatwaves.(Supplied: Red Cross)

Nick Banks, state manager of emergency services for the Red Cross, said South Australia’s Telecross REDi program was up and running and ready to contact people registered as being at risk on extreme heat days.

Regardless of which state you live in, during extreme heatwaves we should be checking in on each other — in a COVID-safe way, of course.

“We encourage people to think about the people in your life, in your family, in your neighbourhood, who are likely to be more impacted by extreme heat and to think about what you can do to support them,” Mr Banks said.

The most at risk include the elderly, the very young and those with other medical conditions. People partaking in strenuous outdoor activity are also at risk.

A headshot of a woman screwing up her face as it is splashed with water.
It’s the time of year when this kind of thing starts to look appealing.(Pixabay: Ryan McGuire)

It might be as simple as checking in with others on extreme heat days to ensure they are OK.

“You can have a conversation with them when hot days are coming up to make sure that they’ve got things in place to look after themselves,” Mr Banks said.

He said people should learn the signs of heat stress, heat exhaustion and/or heat stroke so they could intervene early.

Symptoms include:

  • headache
  • muscle cramps
  • general exhaustion
  • weakness
  • dizzy spells

Before extreme-heat days, there are things you can do to prepare.

Around the house you can use shade cloths and fans and it’s wise to check that your air conditioner is working.

Use this period to make sure you have food, water and critical medication ready in advance — throwing a few ice blocks in the freezer is also a good idea.

On extreme-heat days, Mr Banks said the vulnerable, in particular, were advised to stay inside and out of the heat as much as possible.

“Plan outings and appointments early in the day or ask someone to help you with them,” he said.

He said other measures could include taking cold showers, splashing yourself with cold water or using a damp cloth to cool off during the day.

When is it going to end?

Unlike last weekend, this system is not expected to be associated with thunderstorms and high winds, which will lessen the fire danger to some extent, although elevated fire danger is still expected.

But without a proper clear-out of the atmosphere, the hot air will hang around.

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For the heat to dissipate, he said, what we really need would be for the monsoon to start off across northern Australia.

“That’ll bring a lot more cloud and rain into central Australia to help clear that out.”

At the moment, all eyes are on the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO), a band of volatile wet conditions that circles near the equator which is expected to move across northern Australia in the first half of December.

Combined with the still-present La Niña, it is expected to bring about wet conditions early next month.

“That would certainly help to flush away some of that heat,” Mr How said.

While we wait for that cool relief, take it easy while in the sun, keep an eye on the fire warnings, and do a COVID-safe check on your elderly neighbours and relatives.



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Move to strip Afghanistan war veterans of military decorations possible due to changes signed off by Federal Government


A push to strip Afghanistan war veterans of their meritorious service awards has been made possible partly due to changes to the Defence Force’s honours system agreed to by the Queen and the Federal Government earlier this year.

The amendments to the Unit Citation Regulations were gazetted in July, well before the Defence Department had seen the damning findings of the long-awaited Brereton inquiry into alleged war crimes.

Anger is growing within the veterans’ community over the Chief of Defence’s decision to revoke the “meritorious group citation” for those who served with the Special Operation Task Group in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2013.

General Angus Campbell announced the move last week while handing down the explosive report which found Australian special forces murdered at least 39 prisoners and civilians during the Afghanistan war.

Labor MP Luke Gosling says the awards should not be withdrawn.(ABC News: Neda Vanovac)

The ABC has now uncovered amendments to the Unit Citation Regulations which were signed into effect on July 13, 2020, citing “Her Majesty’s Command” and the “Prime Minister”.

Former commando turned Labor MP Luke Gosling has been campaigning for the awards not to be withdrawn “because of the actions of a very small number of those troops”.

“It is clear that the Prime Minister and the Queen made his amendment many months ago, with the Afghanistan inquiry recommendations in mind,” the East Timor veteran told the ABC.

A Federal Government spokesperson told the ABC the Defence Department “undertook a full review of the Defence Honours and Awards Medal Instruments and changes were subsequently agreed by the Government and Her Majesty the Queen”.

That review sought to “strengthen and expand the eligibility for certain awards and ensure that more Australian Defence Force personnel and veterans are appropriately recognised for their service”.

The spokesperson added the review aimed to “reflect the previously agreed recommendations of reviews by the Defence Honours and Awards Appeal Tribunal in 2014 and ensure consistency in terminology and definitions”.

Unnamed former special forces soldiers have established a website to collect names for a petition to “maintain the memory of our meritorious many” by allowing the group military decoration to stand.

The Voice Of A Veteran site states that revoking the awards will “impact over 3,000 special operations personnel including the families of those heroes who have died in combat”.



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Canberra tenants could be in rental debt: Better Renting | The Canberra Times


news, act-politics, better renting, debt, renters, rental, deadline, evictions, moratorium, covid

Up to 16,000 Canberra tenants could be in rental debt due to the coronavirus crisis, researchers have estimated. A report from Better Renting states between 5 to 15 per cent of tenants could be in rental debt. This would be between 5000 to 16,000 Canberra renters, although the ACT could fall at the lower end of that spectrum. Nationwide, the report said close to 1 million renters could be in debt, with an estimated range of 324,000 to 973,000 people. Renters accrued these debts during eviction moratoriums. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, every jurisdiction besides the Northern Territory banned evictions for renters who suffered financially. The ACT set a six-month eviction moratorium from late April to late October. Only tenants who suffered financial hardship as a result of the pandemic were exempt from being evicted. Renters in Canberra were able to negotiate a reduction with their landlord but landlords were not bound to agree to any reduction. The report reviewed previously collected data on the amount of negotiated rental deferrals and the proportion of rent reductions. Better Renting’s report also found many tenants had avoided rental debt by going into other debt, such as credit or payday loans. As well, many renters were at risk of falling into debt due to savings running out and cuts to income support measures. The report has prompted calls for rental debt accrued during the pandemic to be cancelled. “Renters had lower incomes to start with, and they tended to work in the hardest-hit industries,” Better Renting executive director Joel Dignam said. “Governments have a responsibility to ensure that people aren’t losing their home because of the economic impact of COVID-19. Keeping renters secure in their homes over coming months is essential to help our community stay strong and recover from the impact of coronavirus on our society.” READ MORE: In the ACT, tenants with rental debt were given a three-month grace period after the eviction moratorium ended in October. Tenants who suffered financially during the coronavirus crisis have until January 31 to repay any arrears. But the measure only applied to tenants who paid their rent after October 23 when it was due. “Our concern for the ACT is what might happen after January 31. Quite possibly there might be some people at the moment who are just staying on top of their rental repayments but struggling to make a dent in the debt they may have accrued, particularly given the high cost of renting in Canberra,” Mr Dignam said. Mr Dignam questioned whether the ACT government could use some of the funds it had allocated to the land-tax rebate scheme to help renters with their debt. “The opportunity we have in Canberra is the government developed this land-tax incentive scheme for landlords where they give them credit if they gave a rent reduction, and they budgeted money to provide that – but what has happened is that service has been fairly undersubscribed,” he said. As of Tuesday, 932 landlords had applied for the rebate, according to figures supplied by the ACT Revenue Office. Of those, 737 had received land-tax relief. While the ACT has performed better economically than other jurisdictions, Mr Dignam said the research had indicated the 5 to 15 per cent range still applied in the territory. He said while the ACT could fall towards the lower end of that spectrum, it would be risky to assume people weren’t in debt. “Although Canberra has done better in general, there are plenty of people who have experienced the economic impacts,” he said. “Even if it is a lower proportion compared to other places, Canberra’s rental market has remained quite unaffordable, very competitive and it’s probably been harder for people to actually negotiate rent reductions and secure cheaper tenancies at this time.”

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Goulburn wastewater treatment plant smell annoys the neighbours | Goulburn Post


news, local-news, Goulburn, wastewater treatment plant, smell, Marina Hollands, Goulburn Re-use scheme

A rank smell at Goulburn’s wastewater treatment plant is expected to be brought under control very soon. Deputy Mayor Peter Walker raised the matter at the most recent council meeting. He told The Post that business people and residents had contacted him and other councillors about the stench in recent weeks. They’d been experiencing the problem for about a fortnight. ALSO READ: Eastgrove ‘tuned in’ while outages occur throughout Goulburn Utilities director Marina Hollands said the problem arose after sludge dams at the Ross Street, Bradfordville facility had been emptied in preparation for a contractor to de-water them. This process generally keeps the smell at bay. However the contractor did not arrive on the appointed date and wasn’t expected until the week beginning November 30. “(In the meantime) the sludge blanket has been covered in water, mainly through the rain but we are looking at putting more water on it and the contractor can pump it out when they get here,” Mrs Hollands advised the meeting. ALSO READ: Housing strategy endorsement opens way for developers Since the meeting, Goulburn has received about 26mm of rain. Mrs Hollands said on Tuesday that the smell was mostly under control. “Once they start de-watering it mixes the sludge and improves the odour due to the oxygen moving through it,” she said. “I’d expect a dramatic improvement if not this week, early next week.” Both storage dams are currently full. The council will re-model the contract so that de-watering occurs four times rather than twice a year. ALSO READ: Free mental health program available to help manage stress Mrs Hollands said while the recent rain was very welcome, it made processes at the wastewater treatment plant more difficult. Dams became unstable and emitted odour. The council had fielded complaints mainly from adjoining residents and businesses. Cr Margaret O’Neill said she received several phone calls and suggested in future that the council door knock the area to explain the problem and solution. Meantime, the council is progressing with its water re-use scheme. The project will pump highly treated effluent from the new wastewater treatment plant to some of Goulburn’s parks and sporting fields. It will involve 19km of water delivery infrastructure. READ MORE: Funding floods in for water reuse scheme Mrs Hollands said detailed design was expected to be completed by next February but construction would start this December, beginning at May Street. A sod turning ceremony will be held in December but the main work will commence in April. The re-use scheme earlier this year received $4.4 million in federal funding, which will be matched by the council. We care about what you think. Have your say in the form below and if you love local news don’t forget to subscribe.

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Bradyn Dillon inquest told ACT child protection system operating in same conditions as at the time of his death


Four years after the murder of Canberra boy Bradyn Dillon, the ACT’s child protection services are still understaffed, overworked, and behind on paper work, an inquest has heard.

Bradyn was nine years old when his father Graham Dillon beat him to death in 2016 after weeks of violent abuse.

Dillon is now serving more than 40 years in prison for his son’s murder.

An inquest into Bradyn’s death is currently underway in the ACT examining what various agencies knew when, and assessing the adequacy of their response.

Services in similar position as four years ago, worker warns

Today a child protection worker, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was questioned over her decision making while handling Bradyn’s case. She also faced questions about the pressures staff were under.

The worker said staff still faced resourcing shortages, as the situation had not drastically improved since 2016.

“It’s always been a resourcing issue,” the worker said.

“Back then [paperwork] was a year behind.

“Now we don’t have the staff, and we are weeks behind — that’s the current climate.”

The inquest is examining how Bradyn Dillon slipped through cracks in the system.(Supplied)

The worker told the inquest she was “extremely concerned” by a loss of experienced staff within the sector since Bradyn’s murder.

“We are dealing with a lot of graduates and people who don’t have experience,” the worker told the inquest.

“And the experience of those staff entering those reports. I don’t agree with the current system.”

The worker also revealed that staff who handled Bradyn’s case never received a formal debriefing after he died.

“We got nothing formal, nothing even informal,” she said.

Bradyn Dillon
Bradyn’s case file was closed more than a year before his death.(Supplied)

Worker reminded by coroner she was not to blame for Bradyn’s death

The worker was also questioned over her decision to categorise the prospect of Bradyn facing further abuse as “not probable”, despite a separate report of bruising noticed by one of his teachers.

Rebecca Curran, the counsel assisting the coroner, put it to the worker that she had instead accepted Bradyn’s father’s version of events, who claimed the injuries were from a bicycle fall.

Ms Curran: “You rejected the teacher’s report.”

Worker: “It’s not that black and white.”

Ms Curran: “You accepted the bruises were on one side of his face, when the teacher said they were on both cheeks.”

Worker: “Based on that reading I would say I accepted the father’s explanation, I’m assuming I didn’t have enough evidence to proceed further. Honestly I would have had a completely different view on this report given the time to reflect. I wouldn’t have ticked that box.”

A lawyer told the inquest the worker had “broken down” outside the courtroom during a break in her evidence, and felt that she was “being held responsible” for Bradyn’s death.

When the worker returned to the stand ACT Coroner Margaret Hunter told her: “You’re not to blame for Bradyn’s death, his father is.”

The worker told the court more staff were needed to get through a back log of child protection cases.

The inquest is continuing.



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Qantas will ban travellers who don’t have the COVID vaccine — can other businesses follow suit?


Does a government have to pass a law to make something compulsory, or can businesses make it a must-have anyway?

The world is about to find out, after Qantas CEO Alan Joyce declared international travellers must have a COVID-19 vaccine to get on a flight.

It looks like the vaccine won’t be mandatory for Australians at home.

But whether people will have access to their favourite goods and services if they don’t get the vaccine is more complicated.

Will the vaccine be compulsory for Australians?

The short answer is no, but it’s clear the Government wants as many people as possible to have it.

In August, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he expected the vaccine “to be as mandatory as you can possibly make it”.

But just hours later, Mr Morrison said that the Government would not make vaccination mandatory for anybody.

“It’s not going to be compulsory to have the vaccine,” he said.

Will it be mandatory for international travellers?

Although Australians won’t have to be vaccinated, it’s becoming more likely that international travellers will.

The Government’s own vaccination policy already notes it could be mandatory for international travellers.

“While the Australian Government strongly supports immunisation and will run a strong campaign to encourage vaccination, it is not mandatory and individuals may choose not to vaccinate,” it says.

“There may however, be circumstances where the Australian Government and other governments may introduce border entry or re-entry requirements that are conditional on proof of vaccination.”

Travel has ground to a halt during the pandemic.(Flickr: Jo Christian Oterhals)

And travel to some countries already requires a vaccine.

For example, the Smart Traveller website tells Australians to carry their yellow fever vaccination certificate when travelling to Brazil, saying “you may need it to enter”.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said today that “early guidance” would be that international arrivals would be expected to be vaccinated or face quarantine.

Mr Hunt’s comments suggest those who can’t have the vaccine, for example those who are immunocompromised, will still be able to travel.

What is the air travel sector doing?

Qantas has declined to elaborate on the comments made by Mr Joyce yesterday.

But Mr Joyce isn’t the only one thinking about changes to international travel.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), a group of 297 airlines including Qantas, is calling for systematic COVID-19 testing of all international travellers.

Melbourne Airport plane landing.
Airlines are driving the development of a digital passport that will share vaccination information.(ABC News: James Hancock)

To help support this, it announced on Tuesday morning that it was in the final development phase of a new vaccine passport app.

This will record if someone has been vaccinated, and share the information with airlines and immigration authorities.

It’s due to be piloted later this year, ahead of a launch early in 2021.

Simon Westaway, the head of the Australian Tourism Industry Council, said requiring travellers to have a coronavirus vaccination could act as a “circuit breaker” for disruptions across the sector.

He argued Australia should also consider introducing rapid COVID-19 testing at airports, as used in a number of other countries.

“I think rapid testing is really starting to prove its worth, it’s important that authorities give that absolutely full berth,” he said.

“I do think you’re going to need a combination or a suite of really efficient, easy measures to give people confidence in travel, but importantly to have operators and authorities to have that confidence as well.”

What are businesses in Australia planning to do?

A vaccine is unlikely to be available until March, so it’s still too early for many businesses to be considering whether or not they will require customers to have it.

The National Retailers Association hasn’t received any feedback from members or had any discussions yet.

Coach operator Murrays said it was too soon to say if passengers would face vaccination rules.

But the Australian Dental Association said dentists would accept people without vaccinations.

A dentist operates on a child.
The Australian Dental Association has pledged to welcome even those without the COVID vaccine.(ABC RN: Fiona Pepper)

“The fact is, visiting the dentist has always been safe to attend and there is no reason not to visit your dentist,” a spokesperson said.

“But we can understand why Qantas wants to introduce a system of proof, as they will have passengers huddled together for long periods of time on flights.”

The AFL and NRL did not respond to requests for comment when asked if fans would face vaccination requirements.

Can businesses discriminate based on the vaccine?

In May, then-chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said employers and workers should turn away sick employees and visitors, and said the Government would “protect” and “defend” them if they did so.

The Government has sought to increase the rate of vaccinations in the past.

When he was social services minister in 2015, Scott Morrison introduced the ‘no jab, no play’ scheme which withheld welfare payments from families who conscientiously objected to vaccinations.

On the other hand, it has shown respect to those reluctant to download the COVIDSafe app.

When legislating for the COVIDSafe app earlier this year, the Government included provisions that made it a crime to coerce someone to use the app by refusing entry.

But refusing someone a service because they do not have a vaccination due to medical reason could be illegal under the Disability Discrimination Act.

Paula O’Brien, senior lecturer at Melbourne Law School, is part of a group studying the legal implications of a vaccine for businesses.

“Anti-discrimination law and human rights law are two major areas for businesses to consider when working out a policy on mandatory COVID vaccination,” Dr O’Brien said.

She said hospitals, aged care and childcare facilities had already had to deal with employment issues around vaccination of employees, but COVID-19 was pushing these issues into new realms.

“While some businesses have navigated this around staff before, it’s new to be navigating it around customers,” she said.

Whatever has happened in the past, laws today are more fluid than they have been. An emergency period under the Biosecurity Act is still in place.

This has allowed the Government to overwrite other laws to prevent and control COVID-19, including restricting cruise ships and international travel.

The period was extended in September until December 17.

Will I have to pay for the vaccine?

No, the Government has promised the vaccine will be free and available to Australians in 2021.

But this will come at a cost to taxpayers. 

The Government is spending more than $3.2 billion on COVID-19 vaccines.



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Steve Smith finding ways to feel good about batting in hotel quarantine ahead of India ODI series


The way Steve Smith speaks about batting can be as unique as his style of batting.

Playing so far away from his body and using his wrists and arms to sometimes play balls from well outside off to the leg side, Smith is more handsy than most batsmen.

And the message from Australia’s foremost French cricketer should serve as a warning to India, ahead of two months’ worth of ODIs, Twenty20s and Tests between the teams.

“I’ve found my hands,” Smith said on Tuesday, ahead of Friday’s one-day international against India at the SCG.

The 31-year-old said it was all about feeling comfortable with everything from the way the bat comes down behind his toes to his ability to work the angles of deliveries and find different areas of the field.

“It’s taken me three or four months to do it but I’ve found them now, which is pretty exciting,” he said.

“I had a big smile on my face after training and walked past [assistant coach] Andrew McDonald and said ‘I’ve found them again’.”

Smith has just returned from the Indian Premier League (IPL), where he struggled to reach his usually lofty standards, dismissed in single digits six times in 14 games and finishing with his lowest batting average from eight IPL seasons.

His Rajasthan Royals were also knocked out early in the tournament, playing their last game on November 1, meaning Smith will have gone almost a month without playing a competitive match by the time Friday’s match arrives.

He admitted he was getting toey in Sydney hotel quarantine despite a smaller squad meaning he doesn’t have to share time in the nets quite so much.

“I’ve done a bit of shadow batting [in my hotel room],” he said.

“I copped a few messages [from teammates] last night saying stop tapping the bat down.”

It all comes after barely playing cricket during the coronavirus pandemic, with an almost six-month gap between Australia’s last ODI against New Zealand in March and a three-game Twenty20 series in England in September.

But even going back to last summer, before COVID-19 shut things down, Smith’s form dipped after his astronomical away Ashes series in 2019.

Steve Smith struggled against the short-pitched bowling of Neil Wagner in last year’s Test series against New Zealand.(AAP: Scott Barbour)

He barely contributed with the bat in two Tests against Pakistan and toiled against New Zealand, particularly in the face of a Bodyline-style attack from left-arm seamer Neil Wagner.

Coming into a series against an Indian pace attack of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav — who helped the tourists score their first series win in Australia in 2018/19 — Smith said they are welcome to try the same tactics.

“Neil Wagner got the better of me; he’s pretty good at what he does. He possesses a set of skills that not many people do,” he said.

“If others want to take that approach then great, but there’s not many others who can do what he does for a long period of time.

“There’s not too many players who can run in and bowl bouncers all day. He’s incredibly accurate and he’s got an ability to change his pace — he’d bowl one ball at 135kph, then 128kph, then 130kph, then 135. He’s done it to plenty of batsmen around the world. That’s what he does.

“In a way it’s a bit of flattery, if people believe that’s the only way they can get me out because they’ve exhausted all other options.”

Australia’s four-match Test series against India starts on December 17 after three ODIs and three T20s from November 27 to December 8.



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Joe Biden reveals key national security and foreign policy appointments, with climate change job for John Kerry


US president-elect Joe Biden has revealed who will take up key posts in his cabinet.

He will nominate former secretary of state John Kerry to be his climate change envoy, longtime advisor Antony Blinken to be secretary of state, lawyer Alejandro Mayorkas to be homeland security secretary, Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be ambassador to the United Nations, Jake Sullivan to be his national security adviser, and Avril Haines to be Mr Sullivan’s deputy.

The choices suggest Mr Biden intends to make good on campaign promises to have his cabinet reflect the diversity of the American population, with Ms Greenfield, a black woman, at the helm of the US mission to the United Nations and Mr Mayorkas, a Cuban-American lawyer, to be the first Latino to lead Homeland Security.

They “are experienced, crisis-tested leaders who are ready to hit the ground running on day one,” the transition team said in a statement.

“These officials will start working immediately to rebuild our institutions, renew and reimagine American leadership to keep Americans safe at home and abroad, and address the defining challenges of our time — from infectious disease, to terrorism, nuclear proliferation, cyber threats, and climate change.”

National security adviser to be one of the youngest ever

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.
Former US president Barack Obama says he’s excited about Joe Biden’s administration picks.

In making the announcements, Mr Biden moved forward with plans to fill out his government even as President Donald Trump refuses to concede defeat in the November election.

The President is pursuing legal challenges in several key states and has worked to stymie the transition process.

Perhaps the best known of the group is Mr Kerry, who made climate change one of his top priorities while serving as former president Barack Obama’s secretary of state.

“I’m proud to partner with the president-elect, our allies, and the young leaders of the climate movement to take on this crisis as the president’s climate envoy.”

Mr Sullivan, who at 43 will be one of the youngest national security advisers in history, was a top aide to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton before becoming then-vice-president Biden’s national security adviser.

He said the president-elect had “taught me what it takes to safeguard our national security at the highest levels of our Government”.

“Now, he has asked me to serve as his national security adviser,” Mr Sullivan said.

The posts to be held by Mr Kerry, Mr Sullivan and Ms Haines do not require Senate confirmation.

New secretary of state to inherit depleted State Department

A headshot of Anthony Blinken as he testifies on Capitol Hill.
As secretary of state, Anthony Blinken would hold a role similar to foreign ministers in other countries.(AP: Jose Luis Magana)

Mr Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration and has close ties with Mr Biden.

If nominated and confirmed, he would be a leading force in the incoming administration’s bid to reframe the US relationship with the rest of the world after four years in which President Donald Trump has questioned longtime alliances.

Mr Blinken recently participated in a national security briefing with Mr Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris, and has weighed in publicly on notable foreign policy issues in Egypt and Ethiopia.

Although the State Department escaped massive proposed cuts of more than 30 per cent in its budget for three consecutive years, it has seen a significant number of departures from its senior and rising mid-level ranks, from which many diplomats have opted to retire or leave the foreign service.

A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School, and a longtime Democratic foreign policy presence, Mr Blinken has aligned himself with numerous former senior national security officials who have called for a major reinvestment in American diplomacy and renewed emphasis on global engagement.

“Democracy is in retreat around the world, and unfortunately it’s also in retreat at home because of the president taking a two-by-four to its institutions, its values and its people every day,” Mr Blinken told the Associated Press in September.

Mr Blinken served on the National Security Council (NSC) during the Clinton administration before becoming staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Mr Biden was chair of the panel.

In the early years of the Obama administration, Mr Blinken returned to the NSC and was then-vice-president Biden’s national security adviser before he moved to the State Department to serve as deputy to then-secretary of state John Kerry.

AP



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