A new Right to Information reply from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office has revealed that the Indian taxpayer hasn’t paid anything for maintaining the leader’s lifestyle since he first assumed office in 2014. Moreover, the PM hasn’t drawn any of his monthly pay checks of $3,824 since 2014, as per records.
Several social media users have raised doubts over the personal expenses of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after a new Right to Information (RTI) reply revealed that the Indian taxpayer hasn’t been bearing the expense for the last six years.
“The information sought regarding expenditure on PM’s personal hairdresser, hairstylist, make-up team and grooming team is personal in nature and is exempt from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (j) of the Right to Information Act. It may, however, be noted that expenditure on personal hairdresser, hair stylist, make-up team and grooming team for PM is not borne on Government Account, says the RTI reply”, according to information shared by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in its reply.
Another RTI reply from the PMO claimed that no government funds have been spent on maintaining the dietary habits of the prime minister.
Modi, as the PM, draws Rs. 2,80,000/- as his monthly salary.
You expect me to agree that all his expenses on varieties of food (PMO standards), hairstylists, make-up team, clothes, etc. everything is borne out of his personal income?
The RTI reply was shared by journalist Saurav Das on his Twitter account on Wednesday.
When questioned by social media users that the PM could be bearing the expenses for his lifestyle from his monthly pay check of $3,824 (280,000 INR), Das cited records from India’s lower house of parliament that claim he hasn’t drawn a single salary since 2014.
Some bhakt-gann were criticizing me about this, saying, 2.8 lakhs/month is enough for Fakeer to live a lavish lifestyle. Firstly, nope. It’s not enough.
Second- Here. Lok Sabha records show Fakeer ji has not drawn any salary since 2014. Now, who’s paying? Not Fakeer ji for sure! https://t.co/35HGQHCyGg pic.twitter.com/57nhtX2ckR
Various allegations against the popular Indian PM have been thrown around by social media users after the RTI replies were made public, with some wondering how Modi has been getting by financially for all these years.
In a legal affidavit filed with India’s Election Commission (EC) before the 2019 federal election, PM Modi stated that he owned movable and immovable assets to the tune of $341,000. The affidavit revealed that the PM owned fixed bank deposits worth $173,000 in India’s public banker the State Bank of India (SBI).
Details of the election affidavit, as reported by India Today in April 2019, revealed that PM Modi had $530 (38,750 INR) as cash in hand and $56 (4,143 INR) in retrievable bank deposits (different from fixed deposits).
The affidavit stated that PM’s primary source of income was his salary and the interest he earned on his savings. It has further been reported that PM Modi’s movable and immovable assets had risen by 52 percent between 2014 and 2019.
Modi was state chief of Gujarat since 2001 before he assumed office as prime minister in 2014.
While the prime minister has often claimed that he espouses a humble lifestyle, opposition leaders, mainly those from the Congress Party, have time and again picked on several of his photographs to mount political attacks against him.
A picture tweeted from the PM’s personal account last year showed him donning Mayback sunglasses, which some claimed cost $1,912.
Pawan Khera, a Congress spokesperson, has alleged that the PM gets a “diamond facial” regularly. Delhi state chief Arvind Kejriwal also claimed in 2016 that the PM “never repeats his clothes”.
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It can be well argued that on fundamentals Tesla should not be trading at as high as its current $US800 per share level. So buying in now carries significant risk.
Those investors that understood that the future of the automotive industry was electric and that Tesla was the best way to play that trade shouldered the early risk. Even those that bought the stock as recently as the start of 2020 have ridden the share price up from the $US100 level.
They have profited from the index money that has poured in in recent months.
But active fund managers with offshore portfolios who stood on the Tesla sidelines over the past year have seen their relative performance eviscerated.
On a risk adjusted basis and using the usual valuation criteria Tesla shouldn’t be trading anywhere near this price. For the most part analysts agree. On average those from mainstream investment banks have a valuation of roughly half the current price.
In recent weeks a few major analysts have updated their price targets to be closer in line with Tesla’s current share price. But in most cases, they have needed to throw out conventional valuation criteria to do so. In other words they have adjusted their models to justify the current share price.
In part the meteoric rise in Tesla’s share price has caught analysts apparently wrong-footed. It is very difficult for analysts to endure the pressure of placing a valuation on a stock at half (or less) of its trading price.
It is additionally tricky when their institutional clients are buying in at elevated prices.
Based on near term earnings -in other words profits that can reliably be modelled – the price earnings multiple of Tesla is nonsensical.
And it is the six months to two years out revenues and cash flow on which most valuations are based.
Instead those valuing the stock at closer to today’s trading price have estimated manufacturing volumes, and sales on what Tesla might achieve in five, six or seven years.
That itself is a risky methodology because a lot can change and many snafus can take place over such an extended time frame.
(Having said that Musk has delivered on most of his promises, albeit not in the precise time frame.)
If one assumes Tesla can move seamlessly from its current annual production of half a million cars to say 4 or 5 million and produce earnings before interest tax depreciation and amortisation of $US40 billion in 2027 – the multiple based on today’s share price would be around 20 times. (There are very reputable analysts quoting these kinds of numbers – even though Tesla isn’t.)
That is an acceptable multiple on which a company like Tesla should trade.
Whether Tesla can get there is another matter.
Firstly it should be noted that most sensible people now understand that the future of motor vehicles will be electric.
Even the petrol engine car makers appreciate this and many are already manufacturing small numbers of electric cars.
The history of disruption has demonstrated that the ‘disrupted’ are slow and unwilling to ditch the incumbent products and the vast capital invested manufacturing them to re-tool – even if it is in their long term interests.
Thus to the extent there is a moat protecting Tesla from existing petrol engine manufacturers,it is time.
Additionally there are a few new electric-only car makers emerging including China’s answer to Tesla – NIO which is backed by Tencent. Another Chinese entrant in the electric car space is Baidu sponsored Geely. Even Amazon has dipped its toe in the EV pond with the 2020 acquisition of self-driving taxi company Zoox.
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To dramatise an adventure sprung from such angst, Docter and fellow filmmakers, including writer Mike Jones and writer/co-director Kemp Powers, decided to send their lead character to a space beyond Earth, removing all that is familiar.
In Soul, Joe Gardner (voiced by Jamie Foxx) is a 45-year-old band teacher and aspiring professional jazz pianist. After Joe has an accident on a bustling New York street, he finds himself mentoring a soul in training (Tina Fey) in a wispy and trippy space where spirits arrive and depart in high volume, like some otherworldly Heathrow Airport.
Docter says the grand visual challenge became: “How do you make a world that doesn’t exist anywhere?” And then, how do animators even populate a supernatural world with characters that cannot appear to be as solid and corporal as Earthbound creatures?
“We developed new technology to handle the volumetric fog of the souls,” Docter says of the fuzzy and translucent beings floating along in the film’s so-called Great Before and Great Beyond. Pixar also created digital line work to help define the ethereal characters – a first for the studio.
The luscious art works in service to story, and Soul encourages viewers to ponder – partly through the metaphor of jazz – what moments do you appreciate in the improvisational acts of daily life, and what connections do you create that matter?
Soul urges viewers to think about living purposefully, producer Dana Murray says, “whether it’s about a piece of pizza or to put that phone down.”
Through one lens, Joe Gardner’s sudden loss of his daily rituals reflects what people have experienced during the pandemic. How do we treasure time in a surreal 2020, and how do we stay alert to the mindful moments?
“I’m aware daily of how much I miss,” Docter says. “The idea of just stopping and valuing what you have, of feeling the breeze in your face – that’s what life is about.
“I hope that the film kind of allows people to wake up a little bit, and recognise the amazing things and the gifts that they have all around them.”
So did Docter gain any midlife clarity through the making of this movie?
“I want to do something that is meaningful,” the director says, “that makes the world a richer place than it was before this movie.”
It’s one of the trickiest AFL drafts in years, thanks to the pandemic – which makes it very interesting for those watching at home.
All 18 clubs will go into Wednesday night’s national draft with different goals in mind, from nailing early picks, to finding late gems, or simply making sure they can get their Academy and father-son prospects through the door.
We run through every team’s biggest draft question.
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Do they bid on Jamarra Ugle-Hagan with Pick 1 or not?
The point of the Academy bidding system is to force teams to pay full price for their talented youngsters – and a majority of draft observers believe Ugle-Hagan is the most talented player in the crop. It’s more complicated than that with Pick 1, though. Adelaide has been one of the clubs most willing to make bids on players not linked to them in recent years, but doing it at the top of the draft squanders the marketing opportunities of the top selection – not to mention the bonus money Pick 1 gets, which the Crows’ selection at Pick 2 would therefore not receive. In an ideal world, for the integrity of the bidding system (which is thankfully changing soon), the Crows bid on Ugle-Hagan. But you can understand why they might not.
Are they going to be forced into using their first pick to match a bid?
One of the real bolters of this draft process has been Blake Coleman, a Lions Academy product and the brother of current Brisbane player Keidean. In an ideal world for the Lions, they’d get to use their first pick (25) and then match a bid using 53, 58, 69 and 70, but Coleman has been rising up draft boards. He’s reportedly in the mix for a bid in the teens, from either Collingwood (picks 14 and 16) or Melbourne (18 and 19), which would force the Lions to use up 25 when they match. So do they try and move up to get ahead of the bid, or could they instead move backwards and gather points? The latter seems like the most plausible option.
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Will it really be as simple as waiting for their picks to come up?
After giving up Pick 6 in the Adam Saad deal, the Blues will be waiting for a while to make their first move on draft night, holding picks 31, 38 and 78. So they could easily just wait for their turn and take whoever’s available – but those picks are quite juicy for teams who need to match Academy bids, so they could be a live option for some draft night trading. For example Collingwood either needs to move up or down to be sure of nabbing Reef McInnes – they could swap 16 for the Blues’ 31 and 38, which is slightly more points but more importantly out of the range where the McInnes bid should come. Hawthorn is in a similar spot, holding 24 and expecting a bid for Connor Downie to come around then – so they might want to move back slightly to ensure 24 isn’t eaten up in a Downie bid match.
How will they handle the Reef McInnes bid situation?
The Magpies face perhaps the most complicated Next Generation Academy situation – Jamarra Ugle-Hagan is a bigger name, but the Bulldogs will get him no matter what. McInnes is a late first-round prospect and the Pies’ picks are late in the first round (14 and 16). There are two problematic scenarios here. The first is if a bid comes just before those picks, and 14 gets wiped as they match it. The second is if a bid comes just after those picks, because then the Pies don’t have enough points to match it – their next selections are 65, 66 and 68, and they don’t want to go into a draft deficit because of highly-rated 2021 father-son prospect Nick Daicos. An ideal solution could be trading up to get Essendon’s Pick 8, moving ahead of any McInnes bid, while also gaining later picks that they can use to match the eventual bid safely.
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Can they nail the draft that could set them up for a decade-plus?
With three top-ten picks – they’re the first non-expansion club with that hand since Hawthorn in 2004 – this is arguably an even more important draft for the Bombers than 2016 (when they had Pick 1) or 2015 (when they had 5 and 6). Perhaps problematically, there appears to be a strong top six prospects, and the Dons will be picking at 7, 8 and 9 once a bid comes for Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and pushes them down the order. It means their task of finding the best available talent is even trickier. Our own Matt Balmer’s latest Phantom Draft had them taking Sandringham forward/midfielder Archie Perkins, Gippsland key defender Zach Reid and Northern Knights key defender Nik Cox, but they’re reportedly also willing to trade out the latest of their three top-10 picks to Collingwood. That deal could include even more picks – some combination of 14, 16 and the Magpies’ future first. Adding bulk talent at this point makes sense for the Bombers.
Do they continue their trend of ignoring the go-home factor?
For years, you could generally trust the two WA clubs to select the best available local talent when they could, but the Dockers have bucked the trend in recent years. Five of their six first-round picks in the last three years have come from Victoria – Andrew Brayshaw (Pick 2), Adam Cerra (5), Hayden Young (7), Caleb Serong (8) and Sam Sturt (17) – with only Liam Henry (9) from WA, though that was a different situation as he was an Academy prospect who they matched a bid for. You’d have to say their decision is paying off, because that’s an incredibly talented young group, but the risk is always whether they want to head back east at some point – especially if the team isn’t challenging for flags. Our own Matt Balmer’s latest Phantom Draft had them selecting Geelong Falcons forward Oliver Henry, the brother of Geelong’s Jack, while they also like South Australia’s Caleb Poulter.
How much will their sneaky trade with the Suns help them?
The Cats took advantage of the Suns’ situation, where they only really need one draft pick, making a trade which saw them gain Pick 27 in exchange for Melbourne’s 2021 third-round selection. On paper, it’s an incredibly good deal, upgrading a pick likely to fall somewhere in the 40s by 15-20 spots. And you’d rate recruiting boss Stephen Wells to find some talent with the pick – since 2016, they’ve found plenty of value outside of the first round, including Tim Kelly (pick 24), Brandan Parfitt (26), Tom Stewart (40) and Gryan Miers (57). These are the sorts of low-cost, high-potential deals that allow you to contend for years and years.
GOLD COAST SUNS
Is it just a case of taking the best available player with their one pick?
The Suns only have one spot left on their list, once they pre-list Academy guns Alex Davies and Joel Jeffrey, which is why they were happy to trade out Pick 27 to Geelong in exchange for just a future third-round selection. They head into the draft with Pick 5, which will move down a slot after the Ugle-Hagan bid in the top three – the question then is who do they take at 6? And, for the first time in… well, maybe ever, there’s no obvious need for the Suns to fill. They’re stacked with young talent, including six selections in the top 11 of the last two drafts. If the best talls in the draft (Logan McDonald, Riley Thilthorpe and Denver Grainger-Barras) all go before 6, that would leave one of Will Phillips or Elijah Hollands (the top midfield prospects) as their options.
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Surely they can’t just use all FIVE of their picks in the top 26?
With 37 players currently contracted, and Sam Reid coming back via the rookie draft, the Giants do have more list spots to fill than most teams. But it would also make a lot of sense to try and consolidate some of their five early picks – 10, 13, 15, 20 and 26 – into three or four even better selections. If not, they’ve got a lot of options, depending on how the rest of the draft plays out. Our own Matt Balmer’s latest Phantom Draft had them taking WA key defender Heath Chapman first, which makes sense after the departure of Aidan Corr, followed by Oakleigh small forward/mid Bailey Laurie, Geelong Falcons midfielder Tanner Bruhn and Glenelg midfielder Luke Pedlar.
Will they be OK matching the Connor Downie bid AND using Pick 24?
Obviously who they opt for at Pick 4 is a big deal – it’s their highest selection since 2005 – but that’s probably a matter of picking the best available midfielder. The Downie question is more complicated, since the Next Generation Academy prospect is rated in the 20-25 range, and the Hawks’ second-round pick falls at 24. What they don’t want is a bid for Downie right before that pick, because then it’ll get used up when they match it. If a bid comes after 24, then the Hawks can simply use that pick on a separate player and then match the bid with picks 45, 46 and 49. But if that doesn’t happen, they might need to trade out 24 and move either up or down, whichever is available to them.
They’re the rare club that has traded into this draft – what do they know?
Only one future first-round pick was traded this off-season, and that was Melbourne’s. A series of deals has seen the Demons continually claw their way up the 2020 draft order, resulting in them holding picks 18, 19, 28 and 50. It’s usually a good idea to zig when everyone else zags, because it means there’s value to be found, but most teams have opted to prioritise the 2021 draft because it’s viewed as deeper. We’ll also know more about the players in it when they get a less COVID-affected draft year. There’s certainly a chance the Demons feel there are bargains to be found in this draft because it’s been such a weird year, but it’s also risky. It would make sense for them to have some certain prospects in mind.
Do they go for the best-available tall with 2, and does someone slide to 11?
Having decided not to trade down with Pick 2 and gain multiple selections – because the offers they were getting weren’t up to scratch – the Kangaroos need to make sure they nail their highest pick since Daniel Wells in 2002. They may be hoping Adelaide opts for the hometown kid in Riley Thilthorpe, with Logan McDonald viewed by many as the better of the two key forward prospects, but most expect the Roos to take whichever is available at their first selection. From there, they’d love to see Archie Perkins slide down to their second first-round pick, but he’s been linked to Essendon who have three picks before them.
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How early will the bid come for Lachie Jones?
After trading out their first-round pick to Brisbane a year ago, the Power won’t be doing much other than waiting for Next Generation Academy prospect Lachie Jones’ name to be called. The question will be how many picks they’ll be left holding onto, from their current hand of 35, 47, 57, 59 and 73. Our own Matt Balmer’s latest Phantom Draft had a bid coming at Pick 12, which would use up the first three selections and allow them to take another shot at a prospect somewhere in the late 40s/early 50s – which wouldn’t be a bad result. If the bid comes a few picks later, they would only need to use 35 and 47 to match it, which would be even better.
Is this their chance to find Jack Riewoldt’s eventual replacement?
The Tigers didn’t do much in the trade period, but they did use the Jack Higgins trade to upgrade their first-round pick, moving from 21 up to 17. That’s right around the range they nabbed a future triple Coleman medallist back in 2006. It would make sense to try and find a Jack Riewoldt type with their selection, and given they’ve got an incredibly strong and deep list, they can opt for a tall who won’t be ready right away. The 194cm Matt Allison, who has shown flashes and athletic talent but needs more time to develop, makes some sense.
They’ve only got one shot this year – what hole do they try and fill?
The Saints are definitely going for it. Last year they didn’t have a draft pick in the top 50, and all of their moves showed they felt it was time to contend for finals. They were proven right by making the semi-finals in 2020, but they have to keep contending, because they can’t rely on any more top ten picks (such as Max King, Hunter Clark and Nick Coffield). They’ve traded out this year’s and next year’s second-round picks, and they downgraded their 2020 first-round pick in the Jack Higgins deal, so they really just have pick 21 and then late ones that won’t mean much. Ideally they’d find a tall defender, since they’ve had to lure James Frawley out of retirement to fill that hole for 2021. Liam Kolar could be available in that range, along with a midfielder like Nathan O’Driscoll or Jack Carroll.
Will they have to be the bidding police?
The Swans have plenty of picks to match bids for their own two Academy prospects, Braeden Campbell and Errol Gulden, whose names should be called in the back half of the top 10 and the 20s respectively. And they’ve been very strongly linked to the best key defender in the draft, Denver Grainger-Barras, for some time. So the real drama is whether they’ll need to be the ones who actually make the Bulldogs pay up for Jamarra Ugle-Hagan. If Adelaide doesn’t bid for the key forward at the top of the order, it’s understood Sydney is willing to call Ugle-Hagan’s name. In fact, they’re probably happy to, given there’s no love lost between the Swans and Dogs.
WEST COAST EAGLES
What time do they even bother showing up?
Luckily it’s all being run virtually this year, so the Eagles don’t have to fly across the country and sit around while everyone else makes their picks. Adam Simpson’s side doesn’t have a selection until Pick 62, followed by 86 and 91. Those picks will rise up the order thanks to Academy and father-son bids and what not, but they’re still going to be picking from the scraps of the draft pool late on Wednesday night. They could find a talented kid but even if their first pick rises up into the 50s, they only have a one-in-three chance of finding a 100-game player, based on past drafts.
Will they get to make any picks after matching the bid for Jamarra Ugle-Hagan?
The Dogs will get the key forward no matter what, as they hold picks 29, 33, 41, 42, 52 and 54, more than enough to match a bid at Pick 1. But they’ll be hoping Adelaide doesn’t bid on Ugle-Hagan with the first pick, because it will give them extra selections in the middle of the draft. If Ugle-Hagan slips to Sydney’s Pick 3 – which is the furthest he’d fall – they’ll be left with picks 53 and 54. They could trade both to a club that needs to match a different bid to move up the order, or hold them. With other bids, those picks would likely rise into the 40s, where in the past they’ve selected guys like Caleb Daniel, Lachie Hunter and Bailey Williams.
Pre-season is getting back into full swing which means the transfer market for next season is starting slow down as players find and settle in at their new clubs.
But that doesn’t mean there still isn’t time to recruit, release and make major changes to how will look come Round 1.
A number of clubs need some bolstering in certain positions while others are travelling just fine but their coaches face some selection headaches before kick-off in March next year.
Here is each club’s biggest roster question ahead of the 2021 season.
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How will Kevin Walters use Anthony Milford and Brodie Croft?
Kevin Walters faces a tough task in his first season in charge at Red Hill. Not only does he need to turn the Broncos around from wooden spooners to the powerhouse club it’s usually known for, but he also needs to figure out how to get the best out of under pressure duo Anthony Milford and Brodie Croft — and what to do with them. Million-dollar Milford’s form started to slip in 2019 before falling into his lowest slump last season. He was tried in the halves and at fullback but nothing could reignite his once stunning form. There’s no denying Milford’s ability but it’s up to Walters to find a way to rediscover it and figure out what his role is in the side.
Croft joined the club last season as their marquee recruit to play halfback. He was instantly promoted to co-captain before playing a single game for the Broncos. There was a lot of expectation that he simply didn’t live up to. Tom Deardan is the clear long term option in the halves, which means Walters is going to have to make a call on whether it’s Croft or Milford who partners him and whether the man left out has a place in Brisbane’s best 17.
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Havili vs Starling: Who gets the bench hooker spot?
Depending on the outcome of the current charges against Tom Starling, Ricky Stuart could have a selection headache heading into the 2021 season. While the Josh Hodgson injury was a cruel blow for the team, it did allow Tom Starling to come alive. Now obviously Hodgson slots back in at starting hooker once he is fully recovered but on the back of Starling’s 2020 form, Stuart must decide whether he uses the pint-sized Starling as the bench hooker or Siliva Havili — who held the role before Starling’s breakout season. Havili can cover lock as well so you could argue that Stuart can keep them both in the side but with Corey Horsburgh and Emre Guler returning from injury and the addition of Ryan James, Stuart won’t have room for both Starling and Havili.
Who partners Kyle Flanagan in the halves?
Now that Matt Burton has been locked in, the halves pairing has been settled for 2022… but what about 2021? Burton’s deal doesn’t start until 2022, meaning new coach Trent Barrett can either find a stopgap playmaker to partner Kyle Flanagan next season or develop what he’s already got. Benji Marshall is on the hunt for a new club but Barrett revealed earlier in the week that he is keeping a spot in the roster open with the hopes that Burton will be able to get an early release and make the switch to Belmore in time for next season. If Barrett chooses to hold out for Burton and doesn’t get him, he does still have three handy backups in Lachlan Lewis, Brandon Wakeham and Jake Averillo. Then it just comes down to who he gives the opportunity to. Lewis, 24 brings the most experience with 37 games to his name but Wakeham, 21 and Averillo, 20 are the two young guns the club has had big wraps on for quite some time.
Can Matt Moylan revive his career at the Sharks?
There’s a number of questions surrounding the Sharks’ roster at the moment but the one that sticks out the most is the future of Matt Moylan. The 29-year-old is on a monster deal with around $850,000 a season. He joined the club in 2018 and while he played almost every game that year, he’s only managed to play 19 games over the 2019 and 2020 seasons due to a string of injuries. Moylan’s contract expires at the end of next season so 2021 really is a make break year for his career.
But Moylan faces a real challenge heading into next season. Even when he was fit last year he couldn’t keep his spot in the Sharks’ best 17. Will Kennedy hasn’t quite nailed down the No.1 jersey just yet so there’s a spot up for grabs that Moylan could snag if he can impress during pre-season. With five-eighth Shaun Johnson also out for the start of the season through injury there’s also a spot in the halves, but Moylan will have two very hungry youngsters in Connor Tracy and Braydon Trindall to beat out.
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Should the Titans invest in a seasoned utility?
The Titans are building really well under the eye of Justin Holbrook. They’ve made some impressive moves in the player market, luring David Fifita across as well as Herman Ese’ese and premiership-winner Tino Fa’asuamaleaui.
With just one spot left on their roster, the Titans need to recruit wisely. They’re well-balanced in the backs and forwards so a seasoned utility player like Brad Takairangi could be the final piece to their puzzle.
Takairangi has 178 games of NRL experience under his belt and has played centre, wing, five-eighth, second row, lock and hooker. He’s a Mr. Fix It style player that coach Justin Holbrook could rely on to slot in at almost any position. On top of that, at 31-years old, Takairangi is an older head to add to quite a young group.
Gold Coast farewelled Dale Copley, Tyrone Roberts and Nathan Peats — three older and experienced players — and replaced them with youth. Takairangi could provide the depth Copley, Roberts and Peats did as well as their experience all in the one signing.
Can Manly be a premiership contender without a genuine hooker?
Manly haven’t got a lot of wriggle room in their salary cap but they desperately need a hooker with just one spot left on their roster. Manase Fainu is Manly’s only specialist hooker but he is stood down until at least July next year when his trial over an alleged stabbing will commence. The club chose not to re-sign Danny Levi, Fainu’s replacement in 2020, so it seems all faith will be put in back-up halves Cade Cust and Lachlan Croker unless Des Hasler can find another hooker.
If you need any convincing about how important a specialised hooker is to a team’s premiership chances just take a look at the two most dominant teams of 2020 — the Storm and Panthers. They both had two of the form No.9’s of the competition.
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Does Smith play on and if so, how does Bellamy fit his other two star hookers?
It goes without saying the Storm’s biggest question about their roster is who will wear the No.9 jersey — it’s also one of the biggest talking points of the entire competition heading into next season. Melbourne’s hooking role all depends on whether Cameron Smith retires or plays on at another club next year. If Smith moves on from the Storm, coach Crag Bellamy has Harry Grant and Brandon Smith to choose from and it’s quite simple — one will start and the other will play the bench utility role.
But if Smith stays on with the Storm, things get very interesting. All three need to somehow fit into the team — otherwise the club risks losing Brandon Smith or Grant to a rival club who can offer them a starting spot.
How will the new recruits fare?
The Warriors have recruited incredibly well — arguably the best out of all clubs — so there’s no gaping holes in their squad that need urgent filling and who will play where is pretty straight forward. The only real question hovering over their roster is will the solid recruiting work done by the club transpire onto the field? The notable additions to their squad are Addin Fonua-Blake, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Kane Evans and Euan Aitken. On top of that they also recruited plenty of depth in Marcelo Montoya, Sean O’Sullivan and Bayley Sironen.
Fonua-Blake is the big one. Last season he was voted by his peers as the game’s best prop so the Warriors will be expecting big things from their marquee man.
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The new recruits will face a new level of adversity with the Warriors announcing on Friday that they will base themselves on the Central Coast for at least the opening four rounds. Majority of the Warriors’ squad experienced that last season — besides a few who withdrew from the team and went back to New Zealand — but the new recruits will face that obstacle for the first time in 2021.
Is Mitchell Pearce the man to steer the Knights to a premiership?
There’s been a bit of doubt over Mitchell Pearce’s place at the Knights and whether he will see out his career there but coach Adam O’Brien has been adamant that the 31-year-old will remain in the Hunter beyond his current contract which expires at the end of next year. The doubt stems from Pearce’s inconsistent form in 2020. The Knights didn’t have an easy season, they lost Jayden Brailey, Connor Watson, Andrew McCullough and Blake Green among others through injury making it a real struggle to challenge for the premiership.
Next season things will be a lot different. Brailey returns at hooker, Watson has revealed he’s hoping to play lock and while Green will miss the first half of the season, he’ll be there for business end. Throw in the new recruit Tyson Frizell and there’s really no reason why the Knights can’t finish top four. With all the tools around him, this will be Pearce’s season to shine. He just needs to rediscover the form he had when he first joined the Knights, but if he can’t the same questions about his future will probably start being asked again.
What to do with Michael Morgan?
Jake Clifford is on the way out of the Cowboys at the end of 2021, signalling that the club is set to persist with star playmaker Michael Morgan. The 28-year old had an injury-interrupted year and struggled to rediscover the form that had him a strong replacement for the leadership void left behind by Johnathan Thurston and Matthew Scott. His mixed form in an admittedly inconsistent Cowboys side as a whole was perfectly displayed in a shocking performance against the Titans which was followed up by a two-try effort the following week against Souths. There were calls from Brad Fittler to move Morgan to the centres but then interim coach Josh Hannay maintained the playmaker was too creative to be out wide. He needs his hands on the ball. So, it seems pretty clear that Morgan’s future is in the halves but then the real question is what exactly does his role look like?
New coach Todd Payten signalled that it may be one with less responsibility as an organiser, if the rest of the team steps up. He told NRL.comthat Morgan is best-suited as a “running five-eighth” but that he is currently also “our best organising halfback.” There lies the problem for North Queensland moving forward. If they are still not settled on Morgan’s specific role in the halves, how is he supposed to also get back to his best? For the time being Clifford shapes as the best option to relieve pressure given his kicking game. Scott Drinkwater will be another option. Clifford’s imminent departure is an added headache which could further complicate Morgan’s understanding of his responsibilities in the side, although Payten added that it will “absolutely not” impact Clifford’s spot in the 17.
Have the Eels recruited enough strike power in the outside backs?
Parramatta have made some solid signings for 2021 but still look short of some strike out wide. Michael Jennings was enjoying a strong 2020 season before testing positive for a banned substance before Parramatta’s final against South Sydney. His future at the club is now in doubt. Jennings had seven tries, 61 tackle busts and 10 linebreaks to his name from 20 games in 2020. Now the Eels are preparing for the possibility of being without Jennings having already parted ways with brother George and other outside backs Jaeman Salmon, Jai Field and Brad Takairangi. Not all were natural centres but it does have a serious impact on their depth and ability to move players around if injuries strike.
They have signed Tom Opacic and Michael Oldfield as two solid replacement options in the centres. The question though is whether they will offer enough strike in attack. Parramatta struggled to score points in the later stages of the season. Jennings had a habit for getting on the outside of defenders with his pace and while Opacic and Oldfield can do a job, it remains to be seen whether they will have the same impact. The loss of Jennings also means a new-look combination out wide which won’t help Parramatta’s leaky edge defence, meaning it too will have to be a focus in off-season training.
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Who plays right centre?
Brent Naden’s spot in the centres was already in doubt heading into the off-season when he was benched in favour of Tyrone May. Ivan Cleary at the time said that he felt May was the better defensive option for the right edge as a whole, although Melbourne exploited that in the grand final. It was not known at that point whether Cleary would revert back to Naden for the 2021 season given May had proven great value coming off the bench. However, Naden’s recent positive cocaine test has further clouded who exactly will line up in his spot. He is currently facing a potential ban of just one month or all the way up to two years. Penrith do have a handy back-up in Dean Whare, who spent the majority of last season on the sidelines with injury.
Whare has plenty of experience and is a strong defensive option if that is what Cleary is after. Alternatively, May could again line up there with Matt Burton a potential candidate for the utility spot he filled a few times last season. Burton had also been trained in the centres in a bid to convince him to stay at the foot of the mountains past 2021. He too could come into the frame and like May would add a short kicking-game and passing option close to the line. Given the Panthers scored so many points with ease last year Whare may be the safest option depending on Naden’s verdict.
Still awaiting Hayne verdict
Where does Jai Arrow fit in the forward pack?
There are not too many question marks surrounding South Sydney’s squad as they look to go one better after three-straight preliminary finals exits. The one area of contention though surrounds the forward pack. The Bunnies have lost some solid options up front in the form of Jack Johns, Bayley Sironen and Ethan Lowe. Their replacements though are very strong with Jacob Host and Jai Arrow on the way to Redfern. Arrow in particular was a big-name purchase. He had a solid season at the Titans, averaging 104 metres (from 12.2 runs) and 28 tackles from 54 minutes on the field. Arrow was a force for Queensland off the bench too in Origin. Capable of both playing at prop and lock, the Rabbitohs will have to decide where he best fits into their pack.
The loss of Sironen leaves a hole on the edge that Cameron Murray could fill but his quick play-the-balls and leg drive at lock proved pivotal to South Sydney’s success so Wayne Bennett could be hesitant to tinker there. There is plenty of competition for spots in the front row with Tom Burgess, Tevita Tatola, Liam Knight and Keaon Kolomatangi. It will hence come down to whether Bennett believes Arrow is better placed coming off the bench to provide impact or to weather the storm early as a starting prop. Regardless, it is a great headache to have. The rise of Tatola and Kolomatangi in particular has quelled concerns over the strength of South Sydney’s forward pack and mean Arrow should fit in regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench.
Should Ben Hunt permanently switch to hooker?
Ben Hunt’s best position was a hot topic throughout the 2020 season. He was seriously out of form at halfback and then played some of his best ever footy once ex-coach Paul McGregor switched him to hooker. So the straightforward answer would be yes, he needs to play hooker. But there’s so many more factors to it. Hunt playing hooker would have a potentially costly domino effect. It would push skipper Cameron McInnes to lock, but his preferred position is No.9 and with a shortage of quality hookers in the competition there’s every chance a rival club could offer McInnes their No.9 jersey.
Hunt also has the desire to play halfback and he made that known last season. He rose to stardom at the Broncos in the halves where he had a breakout season under Griffin in 2014. The duo reuniting could just be what kicks Hunt back into form as a halfback.
Who partners Luke Keary in the halves?
Since the Roosters axed Kyle Flanagan a spot in the halves alongside champion five-eighth Luke Keary has popped up. There’s four options: Lachlan Lam, Sam Walker, Drew Hutchison and new recruit Adam Keighran. There’s every chance coach Trent Robinson will shift Keary to halfback next season — but really, whether he plays No.6 or No.7 it’s his team to run. So, who lines up alongside him?
Lam seems like the most likely option given he was given an opportunity when Flanagan was dropped mid-season. But then there’s the teen prodigy Sam Walker who is considered the club’s long-term halfback. however, Walker is only 18-years old and still has a lot of developing to do physically to go up against grown men. This is where Keighran could be considered a dark horse in the race. Although the 23-year-old played most of his games at the Warriors in the centres, he’s a five-eighth and is a goal-kicker — something the Roosters were very interested in when signing him given Flanagan was their first choice kicker. Hutchison is another option and he has just a handful more games worth of NRL experience than Lam and Keighran.
Coach Trent Robinson has a big decision on his hands, but he can take comfort in knowing he has four very capable candidates.
Where does Moses Mbye fit?
At the time, the Tigers put plenty of money into the signing of Moses Mbye. The former Bulldogs outside back linked up for four seasons but were already reportedly looking to ship him and his $800,000 salary off earlier this year. He looks set to stay put for the time being but there are question marks over where exactly he will play. The signing of Rabbitohs speedster James Roberts complicates his spot in the team with Joseph Leilua already taking up another spot in the centres. Adam Doueihi could move to the halves to partner Luke Brooks and free up a spot at fullback. He told Channel 9 on Saturday that he was set to make the switch, likely meaning Mbye would return to fullback. However, Billy Walters impressed in some of his showings at five-eighth and has a strong case for commanding that vacancy. Panthers young gun Daine Laurie is also still a chance of potentially heading to Concord one year early and would further clog up the options at fullback. It is still unclear where Mbye’s best position is and that is a serious problem given how much money he is. The Tigers need to get the best out of him otherwise it will be wasted cap space.
LONDON: There is a question mark over the future of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Wales after an official Welsh government review into Britain’s colonial and slave trading history drew up a list of memorials that require a rethink.
‘The Slave Trade and the British Empire: An Audit of Commemoration in Wales’ report released this week also shortlists the commemoration of Britain’s war-time Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Robert Clive, referred to as Clive of India for his role in establishing Britain’s colonial hold in India, as “persons of interest” to move to a second stage of the review process.
Wales has a bronze sculpture of Gandhi at Cardiff Bay, unveiled in 2017 to mark the 148th birth anniversary of the leader of the Indian national movement. In the audit, he has been classified under Category E of persons of interest who “require examination as having been highlighted by campaigners”.
“His comment in a speech in 1896 that whites were degrading Hindus and Muslims ‘to a level of Kaffir’ is taken as suggesting that he believed Indians to be better than Black Africans.
“Historians have taken a range of views of his culpability, saying that it would have been premature to expect equality in turn-of-the-century South Africa or identifying Gandhi as having turned a blind eye to brutality against Africans,” notes the audit document.
“Nevertheless, Gandhi’s later leadership in India inspired leaders in Africa, including Nelson Mandela. A statue of Gandhi in Pietermaritzburg was unveiled in 1993 by Desmond Tutu,” it adds.
The inclusion of Gandhi on the list is mainly linked with some online campaigns against similar sculptures in Leicester and Manchester. However, those campaigns have had widespread counter-campaigns in favour as well.
“It was a matter of great pride that our city with the generous support of the donors was able to celebrate the life of Bapu who was so inspirational in the creation of modern India and such an example to the rest of the world,” said Peter Soulsby, the Mayor of Leicester as he pledged to protect the city’s Gandhi statue earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Churchill also falls under Category E, with the audit taking note that “specifically, he has been accused of failing to take sufficient action to relieve the Bengal famine of 1943 through his antipathy to Indian independence”.
“He expressed a belief in the superiority of the ‘Anglo-Saxon race’ and was opposed to dismantling the British Empire, taking a romanticised view of its achievements. These were not unusual attitudes in his Victorian-born generation,” it adds.
The assessment on Robert Clive, after whom a street is named in Wales, falls under Category A or “people who took part in the African slave trade”.
“The East India Company took part in the slave trade from 1621 to 1843 (its territories were excluded from the abolition act of 1833). Robert Clive began as a junior employee in 1744, commanded military campaigns in India and rose to be the Company’s Governor General until 1767,” it reads.
The Welsh government audit was launched in July this year in the wake of the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests, which included the very public toppling of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol in southern England.
“This audit is concerned with purposeful commemoration in the form of statues, street names and building names. Such commemorations in some cases put people who were responsible for slavery and exploitation literally or metaphorically ‘on a pedestal’, often without any accompanying interpretation,” the report explains.
“The culpability of several of these individuals in slavery or other abuses is open to debate and interpretation. Several shifted their positions considerably as they considered issues in depth or as attitudes changed around them,” it adds.
The Task and Finish Group behind the review states that its audit is intended to capture information and not provide any answers, with its findings now likely to progress to a next stage of analysing any actions required.
“Did you, or have you ever had, an intimate relationship or intimate relations with a staffer?“
IA put it to Mr Porter in an email on 15 November:
‘You did not answer that question as such and questioning switched to the ministerial code of conduct relating to ministers and staffers.
In this regard, you answered: “I’ve never breached that ministerial code of conduct and there’s never been any suggestion that I have.”’
However, the ministerial code had been introduced in February 2018. The alleged incident involving a staff member took place in 2017.
Porter was Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Tony Abbott from December 2014 to September 2015 and Minister for Social Service in the Turnbull Government from then to December 2017.
The IA question echoed the question put to him by Parker:
“Did you, or have you ever had, an intimate relationship or intimate relations with a staffer?”
IA emailed the question to Mr Porter’s office on Sunday 15 November after the 6PR interview had been featured on ABC’s Insiders and checked with the office the following day to ensure the question was being dealt with.
When a reply had not been received by Wednesday, a call was made to a media advisor who said:
“The statement Christian put out last Monday is the statement he stands by.”
This was the statement of 10 November. It makes no mention at all of intimate relationships with staffers.
Mr Porter, a man used to being careful with his choice of words, had told Parker in the interview that he had never breached “that code of conduct” — introduced by Malcolm Turnbull on 15 February 2018.
Now, for the second time, he has failed to answer the question regarding intimate relationships with staffers.
Mr Porter, I note that during the interview with 6PR, excerpts of which were played on Insiders on 15 November, you were asked:
“Did you, or have you ever had, an intimate relationship or intimate relations with a staffer?”
You did not answer that question as such and questioning switched to the ministerial code of conduct relating to ministers and staffers.
In this regard, you answered:
“I’ve never breached that ministerial code of conduct and there’s never been any suggestion that I have.”
I note that the ministerial code was introduced in February 2018.
My pedantic question, as put by Gareth Parker on 6PR:
“Did you, or have you ever had, an intimate relationship or intimate relations with a staffer?”
Australian Greens Peace and Disarmament spokesperson Senator Jordon Steele-John said there was no question now that Australian special forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan that are the result of a toxic warrior culture, facilitated by failures within the chain of command.
“The crimes outlined in the Brereton report – even in the limited detail we’ve been given so far – are horrendous and shameful,” Steele-John said.
“Innocent people, including children, are dead, families have been torn apart and villages have been left in ruin. Compensation must be given to the families and to the communities affected by these disgusting crimes.
“For their role in these crimes, the perpetrators and their direct chain of command – the officers who sanctioned, and often ordered these unlawful killings – must be held to account.
“So too must the higher levels of command within the armed forces who served during the Afghanistan War who either failed to act when they should have, or turned a blind eye and allowed the sanitisation of reporting.
Senator Steele-John said there were significant questions that still remained unanswered after ADF Chief General Angus Campbell’s press conference.
“Both the Office of the Special Investigator and the Oversight Committee must be independent, without any personal or professional ties to the Australian Defence Force. So far, these assurances have not been given.
“General Campbell stated that the commanders who either didn’t know what was happening on the ground, or turned a blind eye to sanitised reporting, would be disciplined internally and not referred to the Special Investigator. When negligence results in an unlawful killing, there are pathways for prosecuting that as a criminal matter and these must be explored.
“Any deliberations between General Campbell, as Chief of the Defence Force, and Lt. General Burr, as the Chief of Army, about consequences for commanders who failed to act must be transparent so that the Australian public can be assured that this toxic warrior culture is being properly addressed.
“And finally, the public have a right to seriously question the involvement of both General Campbell and Lt. General Burr’s in the implementation of the report’s recommendations and in future disciplinary actions related to this investigation, given both played leadership roles in the Afghanistan War.
“General Campbell was the Commander of Joint Task Force 633 responsbile for all Australian forces deployed in the Middle East, including Afghanistan, between January 2011 and January 2012. Lt. General Burr was a Commander of SASR on two separate deployments during the Afghanistan War.”
I and my team will be examining this report and its ramifications in detail, and consulting with experts and stakeholders to provide a more detailed response over the coming days.