Singapore’s ruling clique loses its reputation for predictability


ALL SINGAPOREANS know the deal. They surrender a great deal of personal liberty and most rights to political expression. In return the party that has run Singapore since its founding, the People’s Action Party (PAP), delivers progress and predictability. Sometimes, the social contract is made explicit, such as when a delinquent like Jolovan Wham mounts an unconscionable challenge to it. Mr Wham awaits sentencing for holding up a piece of cardboard with a smiley face on it—“illegal assembly”, in the prosecutors’ eyes. For the most part, however, the contract is implicit, because the gentlefolk of Singapore know to mind their own business, while the authorities settle an intoxicating bliss on the clean, green city-state.

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Yet if the people have kept up their end of the bargain, then it is all the more spectacular that the PAP this month broke its side. Singapore has had just three prime ministers since its independence in 1965. The incumbent, Lee Hsien Loong, eldest son of the late independence leader, Lee Kuan Yew, has governed since 2004. In late 2018 years of speculation ended when Mr Lee’s fourth-generation, or “4G”, successor, the finance minister, Heng Swee Keat, was picked out. Mr Lee also made it clear that he would step down before his 70th birthday in early 2022.

Planning years ahead is what the PAP does. But on the eve of a general election last July, Mr Lee said he would stay on longer (ostensibly to guide Singapore out of the covid-19 pandemic). And on April 8th Mr Heng made the shock announcement that he was giving up his role as Mr Lee’s heir apparent. The PAP’s reputation for predictability, says Donald Low of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, has now “taken a beating”.

Putting a gloss on things, Mr Heng, who is 60, said he was stepping aside to give the next prime minister a “sufficiently long runway” to master the demands of the job. Lee Kuan Yew was 35 when he took over, Mr Lee 52. In truth, Mr Heng’s problems—and his party’s—began months ago. The government’s effective handling of the pandemic early last year boded well for the forthcoming election. Yet by mid-April infections were racing through the packed dormitories of Singapore’s migrant workers, a blind spot in the PAP’s containment programme. Apparatchiks suddenly looked unprepared and out of touch. In the election, when it came, the PAP won just 61.2% of the vote. That would be a landslide anywhere else. But in Singapore, where the PAP gerrymanders constituencies, hounds opposition figures and cows the media, the result was a humiliation.

Worse, the PAP team in the multi-member constituency into which Mr Heng was dropped mustered only 53.4% of the vote. Cherian George of Hong Kong Baptist University notes that no prime minister, current or prospective, has underperformed the party like that before.

Mr Heng’s fate appeared sealed then. His retreat this month lays bare two of the PAP’s problems. The first is that Mr Heng, a soft-spoken technocrat with plenty of experience and an ability to listen, was probably the best candidate among the pool of 4G candidates. The second, the lack of a succession mechanism, magnifies the first. Opaque and elitist, the PAP carries out its internal functions with near-Leninist discipline. Its obsession with rules is one of Singapore’s defining traits. Yet when it comes to succession, it seems embarrassingly bereft of procedures. That puts it in a bind. It appears unable even to slot Mr Heng’s anointed number two, Chan Chun Sing, into the top spot. The scrappy, rough-edged Mr Chan, who last year seemed to think that cotton came from sheep, does not look like great leadership material. That only underscores the shallowness of the available pool.

A top-down regime prevents renewal from below. Mr Lee and his 3G cohorts obsess about preserving the technocratic successes of the past. All the main 4G candidates—the others are Lawrence Wong, minister for education; Desmond Lee, minister for national development; and Ong Ye Kung, minister for transport—arefunctionaries. The only way to rise through the PAP’s ranks, Mr George argues, is to have served as apprentice to party grandees—Mr Heng was private secretary to Lee Kuan Yew himself. No wonder many talented Singaporeans shun the PAP route to politics and leadership. Meanwhile, the gulf widens between an increasingly plural electorate and an ossified ruling party. This month’s ructions are indicative of problems within the PAP. When does it become a problem for Singapore?

This article appeared in the Asia section of the print edition under the headline “Dropped connection”

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The Corner Hotel in Richmond, Melbourne loses trademark battle in the Federal Court


The Corner Hotel in Melbourne’s Richmond has lost a Federal Court trademark battle over another venue’s use of the word ‘corner’.

The award-winning pub, which has hosted some of the world’s biggest music names, registered trademarks for The Corner, Corner Hotel, Corner and Corner Presents.

Operators Swancom took the CBD-based Jazz Corner Hotel, its associated Corner Cafe and Bird’s Basement music venue to court over their trademarks that include the word ‘corner’.

The three businesses are in the same building, owned by the same group and are close, but not actually on a street corner.

Federal Court Justice Michael O’Bryan on Friday dismissed Swancom’s claim against the venues, and the Jazz Corner Hotel’s counter-claim against the Richmond pub.

He said the Swancom and Jazz Corner trademarks were obviously similar in so far as their respective uses of the words hotel and corner.

But in his judgment delving into the definitions of the words ‘corner’, ‘pub’, ‘hotel’ and ‘jazz’, Justice O’Byran said the risk a member of the public might be confused about live music offered by the two venues was remote.

“I take judicial notice of the fact that, in Australia, hotels or, more colloquially, ‘pubs’ (a business licensed to serve alcoholic drinks on the premises) are often located on street corners,” Justice O’Bryan said.

The Richmond pub claimed the CBD venues’ use of terms including The Jazz Corner Hotel and The Jazz Corner Cafe, was deceptively similar to that used by Swancom.

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Melbourne loses Steven May to fractured eye socket, Collingwood to be without Taylor Adams for 10 weeks



Melbourne defender Steven May could be out of action for a month because of a fractured eye socket, while Collingwood vice-captain Taylor Adams will spend 10 weeks on the sidelines.

May was rushed from the MCG to hospital on Sunday after copping an accidental elbow to the face from Geelong spearhead Tom Hawkins during the Demons’ 25-point win over the Cats.

The Demons have confirmed May suffered both a concussion and fractured eye socket.

May is out of hospital, with the club indicating he will miss between two and four weeks.

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The Demons, undefeated amid their best start to a season since 1994, face Hawthorn, Richmond, North Melbourne and Sydney in the coming month.

Meanwhile, Adams may need to undergo knee surgery after scans revealed he suffered a medial collateral ligament (MCL) strain in the Magpies’ loss to Greater Western Sydney on Saturday night.

Collingwood expects the midfielder to be out of action for 10 weeks.

The news is better for Jordan De Goey (shoulder) and Steele Sidebottom (thumb), who should both be fit for the Magpies’ crunch match with West Coast in Perth on Friday night.

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Canadian Olympic wrestler turned pro fighter loses finger during MMA match


Canadian MMA fighter Khetag Pliev had his finger surgically re-attached after it was severed during his co-main event bout with Devin Goodale at the Cage Fury Fighting Championship in Philadelphia on Thursday night.

Pliev, the former Olympic freestyle wrestler turned professional MMA fighter, told event promoter Rob Haydak that his finger was dislocated in the first round of the middleweight fight before it completely came off in the second.

ESPN reported that there was an announcement made at the venue to search the stray digit before Haydak said it had been lodged in Pliev’s glove.

Goodale was ruled the winner by a second-round technical knockout.

“In the second round, he [Goodale] caught my glove with one hand and held it,” Pliev was quoted as saying by ESPN. “I felt my finger snapped.

“He kept pulling my glove and my finger snapped. We kept fighting. When the second round was finished, I see my [bone] was out in the open.

“I wanted to keep fighting because I felt like I had this guy. But the doctor saw that and stopped the fight.”

Goodale said he did not remember what happened.

“I got hit by something big, I don’t remember what happened. I’m just being honest,” Goodale was quoted as saying by the Guardian. “I’ll have to watch the tape myself.” 

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Essendon loses skipper in big late change


Essendon captain Dyson Heppell is out of this afternoon’s clash against Port Adelaide.

He was spotted heading in for scans earlier this week, with the club confirming on Saturday afternoon that back spasms will keep him out of the clash.

Martin Gleeson replaces him in the selected side, with Tom Cutler named the Bombers’ medical sub for a second consecutive week.

Port Adelaide has also made a late change, with Todd Marshall to miss with a back injury.

Fellow forward Mitch Georgiades is his replacement, while Tom Cutler has been named Port Adelaide’s medical sub.





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WA Election: Sean L’Estrange loses Churchlands, leaving Liberals with just two Lower House seats


The WA Liberals have been left with just two Lower House members after Labor won the seat of Churchlands.

With 86 per cent of the vote counted, ABC election analyst Antony Green has called the seat for Labor’s Christine Tonkin.

The seat was previously held by Liberal Sean L’Estrange with a margin of 11.7 per cent and has never been held by Labor. 

Ms Tonkin leads by more than 200 votes with only a small number of pre-poll and absent votes to be counted.

It was the final seat to be called in the WA election and meant Labor would hold an unprecedented 53 seats in the Lower House, while the WA Nationals would be left with four and the Liberals would hold just two.

The loss of Churchlands is a further blow to the Liberals after Labor officially claimed the once ultra-safe seat of Nedlands on Thursday, a traditional Liberal stronghold in Perth’s affluent western suburbs.

Liberal Bill Marmion was defeated by Labor’s Katrina Stratton, following a 10.2 per cent swing in that electorate.

Nedlands had previously never been won by Labor and was represented by two former Liberal premiers, Sir Charles Court and his son Richard Court. 

Liberals lose party status

With the Liberals reduced to just two seats, they have lost their official opposition party status to the WA Nationals, which managed to hang on to four seats.

Under WA’s Public Sector Management Act, the Liberals would not qualify for important Parliamentary resources once they lost opposition status. 

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A look back at the historic 2021 WA state election campaign

Mr McGowan said the Liberal party would need to negotiate resourcing with the Nationals.

“Last term I think what happened was the Liberal party got the [opposition party] resources and they divided it with the National party,” Mr McGowan said.

“This term It looks like we would give the resources to the National party and they would divide it with the Liberal party.”

A spokesman for Nationals leader Mia Davies said no decisions relating to Opposition arrangements would be made until all seats in Parliament had been declared. 

“The WAEC has advised this is likely towards the end of next week,” the spokesman said.

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Sydney businessman Ron Medich loses Michael McGurk murder appeal


Millionaire businessman and convicted killer Ron Medich is unlikely to ever see the outside of a jail cell again after losing his appeal.

Medich has served three years of a maximum 39-year sentence for ordering the murder of his business rival Michael McGurk outside his Cremorne home in 2009.

The property developer paid $500,000 for the hit after their business relationship became toxic, with the pair fighting over millions of dollars in and out of court.

“It had led the offender to form a deep-seated hatred of Mr McGurk and provide a motive for him to want to have Mr McGurk killed,” Justice Geoffrey Bellew said at sentence.

He was not on screen today as his appeal was dismissed two to one.

Justice Peter Hamill said he would have allowed the appeal against conviction and ordered a re-trial.

That decision was based in part on the evidence given by Senad Kaminic, an accessory to the murder.

Kaminic told the trial he heard a conversation between two other players, Haissam Safetli and Lucky Gatellari.

He said Safetli pointed to a pictured of Mr McGurk as he said “this man is causing you a lot of problems” and that he understood the “you” was a reference to Medich.

Kaminic agreed it was the first time he had given that evidence in seven and a half years.

“It follows that the admission of the inadmissible evidence of what Kaminic understood Safetli to mean when he told Gattellari that “[McGurk] is causing you a lot of problems” constituted a miscarriage of justice” Justice Hamill said.

Justice Hamill also found merit in two other grounds of appeal but was ultimately outnumbered.

Medich can still ask the High Court to consider his case, but at this stage he will be almost 100 years old when he’s first eligible for parole.

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Man loses finger after grabbing gun during Dural home invasion


A man has lost his finger after grabbing a rifle pointed at his head during a home invasion.

Kobi Drew-Smith was inside a home in Dural, in Sydney’s north-west early this morning, when a group of men smashed through the back door and into the bedroom.

The 21-year-old grabbed the gun as it fired and lost his right pinky finger in the process.

“A number of male persons entered his residence, forcibly through his back door, entered his bedroom and some sort of altercation took place,” Acting Superintendent Gemini Bakos from NSW Police said today.
Kobi Drew-Smith lost his finger after grabbing a rifle pointed at his head during a home invasion.
Kobi Drew-Smith lost his finger after grabbing a rifle pointed at his head during a home invasion. (9News)
Drew-Smith then injured his hip climbing through a window to escape with his brother Cameron.
Drew-Smith then injured his hip climbing through a window to escape with his brother Cameron. (9News)

Drew-Smith then injured his hip climbing through a window to escape with his brother Cameron.

The pair ran onto busy Kenthurst Road for help and into the path of a young tradie on his way to work.

“He didn’t have a pinky,” the witness told 9News.

“There was a fair bit of blood and they were bleeding and all that, it wasn’t the best to look at,” he added.

The pair ran onto busy Kenthurst Road for help and into the path of a young tradie on his way to work.
The pair ran onto busy Kenthurst Road for help and into the path of a young tradie on his way to work. (9News)
The two brothers only moved into the house two weeks ago.
The two brothers only moved into the house two weeks ago. (9News)

Drew-Smith is known to police and detectives and Acting Superintendent Bakos said: “at this stage we believe it may be a drug-related incident” and it was likely a targeted attack.

The two brothers only moved into the house two weeks ago.

The owner told 9News she had advertised the property on Gumtree became suspicious of the pair and asked them to move out.

“A number of men” are wanted by police over the attack.

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Flinders Street driver who killed grandfather loses appeal to leave jail early



A man who drove into pedestrians on Flinders Street in Melbourne, killing an elderly grandfather, has lost an appeal for an early release from jail.

Saeed Noori, 37, is serving a minimum 30 years prison for the murder of Antonios “Anton” Crocaris just days before Christmas in 2017.

Saeed Noori has lost an appeal to be released from prison early.

He appealed for an early release from prison which was today denied by a judge.


Noori drove down the busy street on December 21 of that year and injured 15 people, including a four-year-old boy, during the rampage.
Antonios “Anton” Crocaris, 83, died from head injuries sustained during the attack.
During his initial sentencing Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth said it was fortunate the father-of-three did not hurt or kill more people during the incident.

Noori pleaded guilty to one count of murder, 11 counts of recklessly causing serious injury and five counts of conduct endangering life in 2019.

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Tasmanian maritime college loses key Pacific training contract to Queensland TAFE


Launceston’s Australian Maritime College has lost a multi-million dollar defence contract for a patrol boat training program it has run for almost 30 years — despite Tasmania’s Minister for Defence Industries last year boasting the northern rivals could not match “28 years of action, experience, and expertise in Tasmania”.

The Pacific Maritime Security Program training — delivered by the Australian Maritime College (AMC) since 1992 — has trained 2,300 navy and police personnel in patrol boat operations.

Students travelled from 12 Pacific Island nations and Timor-Leste to take part.

In a statement, the acting Defence Minister Marise Payne said the $36 million-dollar contract had now been awarded to TAFE Queensland.

The five-year contract will generate 24 new jobs in the Cairns region.

Ms Payne said the Queensland program’s modern and innovative training approach would have significant strategic benefits in the Pacific.

“This, coupled with their established infrastructure in Australia and experience in delivering services in the Pacific, will enable TAFE Queensland to help achieve the outcomes of the Pacific Step-Up Program and the Pacific Maritime Security Program.

“This contract builds upon the success of the previous Pacific Patrol Boat training services contract, by providing new contemporary training for the Guardian-class Patrol Boat crew.”

In June last year, Tasmania’s Minister for Advanced Manufacturing and Defence Industries, Jeremy Rockliff, said the training school “rightfully belongs in Tasmania and that is where it should stay”.

“Frankly, Queensland has missed the boat and cannot match 28 years of action, experience, and expertise in Tasmania, coupled with our natural marine advantages,” he said at the time.

Today, Navy Rear Admiral Wendy Malcolm said the training contract would create 24 new jobs in Cairns.

“This is just the beginning of a number of plans that we have here in Cairns,” she said.

“Cairns is very important to us as a Navy home port, but also as a specific area in the Pacific that we really need to make sure that we have for our maritime capability.”

Queensland began a campaign to win the contract two years ago, and the Member for Cairns, Michael Healy, announced $10,000 for TAFE Queensland to bid for the contract.

The AMC tendered for the program but was unsuccessful.

In a statement, AMC principal Michael van Balen said it was disappointing to lose the bid, but he understood why the decision was made.

“We wish the new training providers well and would look forward to investigating opportunities to collaborate in the future.”

Labor Member for Bass Michelle O’Byrne said she was meeting with the AMC on Wednesday to discuss potential job losses at the AMC.

Ms O’Byrne said there were about a dozen employees involved with the training element of the program.

“It will have a significant staff impact.”

The AMC’s statement said it would use the time strategically to redeploy some stretched assets into other areas of commercial growth.

Mr van Balen said the college was investing heavily in digital training for online international maritime training markets.

“We are experiencing rapid growth in other areas including seafarer revalidation training, commercial simulations and vessel chartering,” he said.

“Increasingly, we are specialising in fields including autonomous vehicles and their application in hostile environments, such as the Antarctic, along with defence.”

Under the Pacific Maritime Security Program, Australia is replacing the existing Pacific Patrol Boats with 21 new Guardian-class Patrol Boats to enhance regional maritime capability and capacity.

The AMC will consider re-bidding for the Patrol Boat training in the future.

Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie said the impact was “frightening” and the State Government needed to fund equipment upgrades at the AMC to make it more competitive.

“Unfortunately there are now private businesses and enterprises out there, and other states, that are coming over the top of us because we haven’t kept up.”

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