Scott McLaughlin shows no mercy for his Commodore rivals in Top End

Scott McLaughlin has dominated Darwin to all but crush Holden’s dream of leaving the sport they made with a final win over Ford.

On a day of domination that went a long way to killing a fairytale finish for the famous brand, the DJR Team Penske star flew in his Ford to win both races and deliver a crushing blow to the Commodore.

Showing no sympathy for the soon to be extinct Aussie icon, McLaughlin extended his championship lead by claiming a Top End triple.

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“I love this place,” McLaughlin said. “And I love it when my car is this good. This is probably the best car I have driven. It is so solid and I am so proud of everyone that works so hard behind the scenes.”

After roaring his way to a Saturday win, McLaughlin clean swept the Hidden Valley round by beating Shane van Gisbgeren and then Nick Percat.

With COVID threatening to end the season after the Bathurst 1000, Holden’s best hope Jamie Whincup is now 177 points behind McLaughlin.

Time is running out.


DJR Team Penske and Red Bull Holden Racing traded blows in qualifying with McLaughlin and van Gisbergen landing a pole a piece.

Striking first, McLaughlin continued his remarkable year of one-lap speed to claim top spot for the first Sunday race.

Van Gisbergen returned serve by putting his Holden on pole for Race Two.

“It’s awesome,” said van Gisbergen of his pole.

“I really just have to thank the guys, they put in a big effort changing the motor last night and then Shippy (engineer Grant McPherson) going through the set-up.

“We just had to go back to basics and the car was awesome right from when I left pitlane.”




McLaughlin blitzed the field by almost seconds in race one after seeing off van Gisbgergen at the start.

A day after surpassing Peter Brock’s championship record, McLaughlin clocked up race win No. 50 by dominating the field.

“I am very proud for the team,” McLaughlin said. “The car is sensational and I got a good start. It was hard racing with Shane and I really enjoyed it. The car was really hooked up and we took off.

“I knew Scott Pye was going to come with fresh tyres so I tried to pull a gap and got away. The big gap we had at the end was a testament to the guys and all the work they have done.”

Van Gisbergen had no answers for McLaughlin’s showing of speed.

“My car was great but Scotty was a little bit faster,” van Gisbergen said.

“They are going really well, so well done. We just didn’t have enough to get close to him.”

Scott Pye punched above his weight to score a well earned podium.


A week after being taken out by Shane van Gisbergen, Nick Percat’s bad luck continued when he was turned by Chaz Mostert in another race ruining collision.

In a bruising Darwin double header, Percat copped back-to-back bangs with Mostert wrecking his run with a mistimed undercut.

Mostert was unrepentant for causing the collision.

“Rubbing is racing,” Mostert said. “And there was plenty of rubbing leading up to it. It didn’t end up how we wanted it to but it is what it is.”

Gary Jacobson also copped a penalty for taking out Jones.


McLaughlin crushed the field to win by almost 15 seconds in his most dominant drive of the year.

Gifted the lead when van Gisbergen missed the start, no one got near the reigning champion as he firmed for a V8 three-peat.

Percat finally had some luck when he rebounded to claim second while Scott Pye finished third to claim a podium double.


Scott McLaughlin has edged out Jamie Whincup to claim another Hidden Valley win as the battle between the championship heavyweights continued in Darwin.

In another Ford v Holden fight, McLaughlin again went toe-to-toe with his Red Bull rival after Whincup struck to end his qualifying streak.

Hitting back by roaring off the line to claim the race lead, the DJR Team Penske driver led from start to finish in a clean run to the line to extend his championship lead.


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Whincup’s strong season continued with the V8 immortal backing up last weekend’s win with a strong second.

Cameron Waters fended off a challenge from stable mate James Courtney to finish third.


Scott McLaughlin’s incredible run of qualifying wins came to an end when he was trumped by Jamie Whincup in the shootout.

In another indication of the gains made by the Commodore, Whincup backed up last week’s race win by beating McLaughlin in a one-lap blast.

McLaughlin has been the undisputed one-lap king but fell short off Whincup by 0.0633s to suffer a rare qualifying defeat

“We were genuinely in P13 earlier but we tuned the car up for the shootout,” Whincup said.

“She was much better and I’m very happy to get pole. The car was very good and I got the most out of it, and maybe we got gifted a tenth or so with the cloud cover.

“But I’ve been on the other end of that plenty of times, so you take it when it comes.”


Whincup’s pole position celebration was short lived with McLaughlin blasting his way out of the blocks to claim the race lead.

Making Whincup pay for a slight bobble off the line, the Ford flyer safely made his way around the first corner before establishing a small but comfortable margin.

With Jack Le Broq suffering the first fail when he suffered race ending contact, McLaughlin reclaimed his margin over Whincup following his one and only stop.

In the fight for a podium, Anton de Pasquale opted to run long after the leaders made early stops.

On fresh rubber for a late race charge, the Erebus driver picked up places but was unable to force his way onto the podium.


Almost lost to the sport after quitting his deal with Team Sydney, James Courtney is making the most of his second chance.

Stitching up a post-COVID deal to re-enter the series in a Tickford built Ford, the former champion almost made it back-to-back podiums when he followed Waters home to finish fourth.

Courtney has gone a long way to prove he is no spent force following a tough final year with his other former team Walkinshaw Racing.

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Australian cyclist Caleb Ewan puts his Tour de France rivals on notice with stage one win at the Tour de Wallonie


The Tour de Wallonie is Ewan’s first stage race since Paris-Nice in March and third race back since the season resumed on August 1 following a 20-week suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Australian was second to Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) at Milano-Torino and 113th at Milan-San Remo earlier this month.

Ewan, in comparison, marked seven victories in the lead-up to the Tour last year, competing in six stage races, including 11 days at the Giro d’Italia, and three one-day races.

“I only had two race days since the confinement and I feel that this race is the ideal preparation heading to Tour de France,” he continued. “I was disappointed in my performance in Milan-San Remo last week. It is such a hard race and the heat and the new course made it even harder for me. But I will try again in the future.

“I want to defend the leader’s jersey tomorrow and maybe even the day after tomorrow if I have good climbing legs. But the fourth stage will be too hard for me. With [Belgian teammate] Philippe Gilbert we have someone in great form and he knows the local roads. He will target the GC.”

Caleb Ewan took the first race leader's jersey with his stage win.

Caleb Ewan took the first race leader’s jersey with his stage win. Credit:Getty Images

Ewan was unable to train for a stint at his home in Monaco due to lockdown regulations. His Lotto Soudal team introduced pay cuts of an estimated 30 per cent while the WorldTour season was suspended.

Yet the seven-time Grand Tour stage winner doesn’t seem to be have been perturbed by the interruptions, rather focused on his next major objective after Milan-San Remo. The Tour.

“A lot of people, not just in cycling but around the world had pay cuts. I think the AFL guys had to take a much bigger pay cut than what we had to. It is what it is and obviously it’d be great not to take a pay cut but if we have to, we have to. I’m not struggling financially with a 30 per cent pay cut so to be honest it doesn’t really matter,” Ewan told The Age this month.

“The team would only do it if they had to. If that meant the team’s survival … I’ve got another two years after this with the team. It was definitely in my interest the team stays healthy in the financial situation because I’m going to get paid by them for the next two years, so a few months of a bit of a pay reduction is not the end of the world.”


It took Ewan time to adjust to the nature of the Tour last year, which he did from the midway point, winning an unparalleled three stages and finishing his first full three-week Grand Tour amid pressure, expectation and stress he afterwards described to The Age as unhealthy.

Ewan will this year enter with evident, improved confidence and standing, from his 2019 campaign and early season results, but will again have to navigate unknown territory, this time pertaining to the pandemic.

Jumpy riders are set to start the Tour on very little racing, the media won’t be able to operate like a moving rugby maul, and teams, especially those financially impacted by the pandemic, in addition to off-contract riders, are perhaps more desperate and have fewer opportunities to make an impression.

The 185.8km first stage of the Tour of Wallonie commenced thankfully without incident but several Tour title contenders and marquee sprinters have been seriously injured since the condensed season resumed.

Caleb Ewan is confident he'll be ready for a career second Tour de France.

Caleb Ewan is confident he’ll be ready for a career second Tour de France.Credit:Getty Images

Three of the top four finishers from the 2019 Tour abandoned the Criterium du Dauphine, a traditional litmus test for the Tour, last week. The race was shortened to five days of just mountain stages and finished on Sunday with a load of prisoners, some who are now in a race against time to recover for the Tour. Reigning Tour champion Egan Bernal abandoned the Dauphine with a reported back complaint while Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) and Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) crashed out.

Vuelta a Espana winner Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), who was leading the race and shaping as a Tour threat, was also forced to withdraw from crash-related injuries.

It followed the Tour of Poland where Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) was transported to hospital in a critical condition following a crash in a bunch sprint, which involved one of Ewan’s key rivals, Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma).

The Tour de Wallonie will be Ewan’s last race before he takes to the Grand Depart on August 29.

“I’ll try my best to finish the Tour because I want to try and win in Paris again,” Ewan said, referring to the Tour’s final stage that is hallowed turf for sprinters.

“Tour is the priority and then we’ll see after the Tour how I’m feeling.”

Ewan plans to compete at the Giro d’Italia, after the Tour, to close out his season having competed against the best sprinters in the sport’s top tier.

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Savatiano upstages Group 1 rivals in P.B. Lawrence Stakes

Joining a star cast of P.B. Lawrence Stakes winners, Savatiano is poised to chase Group 1 honours after reproducing lethal fresh form against a host of seasoned elite performers at Caulfield.

Resuming after a 12-week break, Savatiano notched her fifth first-up win as the Godolphin mare ($5) downed Sircconi ($11) and Kings Will Dream ($9), leaving a string of spring heavyweights in her wake.

Group 1 winners Arcadia Queen (fifth), Streets Of Avalon (seventh), Mystic Journey (eight), Regal Power (ninth), Aristia (10th) and Cape Of Good Hope (11th) formed the beaten brigade behind James Cummings’ emerging talent.

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Stable representative Sean Keogh said Cummings preparation strategy was devastatingly accurate.

“She wasn’t campaigned through the winter, James and the team found a nice spell then for her coming in. We saw that pattern play out really well when she won the Millie Fox and showed herself to be a top flight race mare and the same recipe worked for us today,” he said.

“That (future races) will be up to James to assess. She’s put away a serious field there off just the one public trial so she is definitely going to derive some natural benefit from the race.”

Cummings won the Lawrence in 2017 with Hartnell.

Winning jockey Mark Zahra revealed he didn’t have a Lawrence ride until midweek.

“I’m very thankful for the opportunity,” he said.

“I think it was Wednesday morning and I had a pretty light book and nothing that really jumped off the page.

“I got the late call up and very thankful for it with two horses (he also won on Viridine for Godolphin) that were fit and ready to go in nice races.”

Zahra studied Savatiano’s luckless run in the TAB Classic at Morphettville in May and a recent trial as preparation for perfect ride at Caulfield.

“Watching the trial with J-Mac (James McDonald) on, she coasted to the line. When I drew well it was just going to be a matter of getting luck at the right time and it panned out perfect,” he said.

“I was very confident at the 300 (metre mark). I was nearly going to put the whip away and just cruise past Sircconi.

“Daniel Stackhouse was roaring and I just had to give her a bit of a shake-up. I always thought I was going to get there but it harder than I thought.”

Zahra and Godolphin also combined to win the Regal Roller Stakes with Viridine.


Touted as a likely Group 1 Caulfield Guineas contender after breathtaking Group 3 Vain Stakes (1100m) success, Our Playboy is likely to be kept to sprint trips after joining a honour roll crammed with class gallopers.

Our Playboy ($12) overwhelmed Ranting ($6) and $2.60 favourite Rulership to confirm trainer Mick Price’s theory the colt is a quality speedster who should be given the chance to play to his strengths.

“I think we just need to keep him to sprinting. I don’t think he’ll get out over much of a journey,” Price said of the quirky three-year-old he co-trains with Michael Kent junior.

“We bought him to be a sprinting Sebring and that’s what he’ll do.

“He came back off the speed, too, which was good. I notice that he didn’t get cover and he did have his mouth open a little bit. Just going to keep his brain right and keep him sprinting.

“I thought he showed a bit of stamina towards the end and it was a good effort.”

Previous winners of the Vain Stakes include Haradasun, Starspangledbanner and Sepoy.

Ridden by Ben Melham, who completed a double after early success on Think We Are Due, Our Playboy has required plenty of patience.

“I’ve got to give a bit of credit to a kid called Ben Wade who rides it every morning,” Price said.

“He’s been a horse that used to want to truck up and overdo it.

“This kid has got him going really well and you just notice that he wanted to pull halfway through the race.

“It’s only 1100 metres but the kid has done a good job, the horse has done a good job and Ben Melham has done a good job.”


Shedding her maiden status in a spectacular fell swoop, Bella Nipotina has emerged as a serious spring contender after a dazzling Group 3 Quezette Stakes (1200m) victory.

Trained by Tom Dabernig and Ben Hayes, Bella Nipotina ($21) delivered on long-held potential by downing River Night ($10) and Aquagirl ($51) to deliver Lindsay Park’s first stakes success of the season.

“She has been a very unlucky horse in her races to date, she has been knocked off by some really nice horses,” Hayes said, referring to a pre-race record of three second and four fourths – often in good company.

“Off her trials it looked like she had really improved but we weren’t sure.

“We were going to go to a maiden but she trialled so well so we changed plans and we went here to go to a stakes race so it was a very good decision. It was a huge result.”

Dabernig and Hayes opted to use Melbourne Cup-winning jockey on the Pride Of Dubai filly, who is raced by owner-breeder and former Collingwood defender Michael Christian.

“Michael (Rodd) is a very good rider, we love him. He rode her very well so I think it will be very hard to get him off her going forward,” Hayes said.

“Of course we would like to use him if he keeps riding winners.

“She is a filly that does feel her runs but if she pulls up well, there are options like the Atlantic Jewel and the Cap D’antibes now which are races we’ll look at.”

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ABC stands out over richer commercial rivals

It was Nine’s night, but the ABC was the true winner.

(Image: ABC)

Whilst Nine gained narrowly from Seven, with the ABC yet again third and Ten a weak fourth, it was the ABC’s general performance in the heart of primary time final night that stood out.

From 7pm to 9.30pm the national broadcaster very easily beat the far better-resourced business networks. The 7pm ABC news with 1.23 million topped A Existing Affair and Dwelling and Absent. 7.30 with 1.02 million won its slot very easily, Hard Quiz with 1.06 million similarly at 8pm (and was the most viewed non-news program of the evening).

At 8.30pm Shaun Micallef’s Mad As Hell returned with a stable 964,000 and Rosehaven at 9pm won its slot with 702,000.

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Raiders want ‘SBW rule’ in place for rivals as Chooks splash cash

Canberra chief executive Don Furner who, along with Roosters chairman Nick Politis is one of the game’s longest-serving administrators, hoped the ‘SBW rule’ would also be in place for the other 15 clubs moving forward.

The Green Machine have plenty of experience footing similar relocation bills for their large English contingent, as well as Queenslanders and New Zealanders. They were once denied flying two of their English stars business class.

“The reasonableness test was always tough, but it sounds like it is being loosened,” Furner told the Herald on Tuesday night.

“If that’s the way they want to go, that’s fine, but as long as it applies to every other club.

“That actually opens the floodgates because the figure for clubs has always been capped at $10,000. If a player comes from England, you could spend up to $10,000, and it was up to the club if you spend that money on flights, accommodation or even removalists.

“It was never a written rule, it was the unspoken rule, and that figure was always what was considered reasonable.

“But happy days – if that’s the new reasonableness test, that’s great. At least we know now.”

Furner did not have an issue with the Roosters, instead the governing body creating another policy on the run.

Once the Toronto Wolfpack withdrew from the Super League because of financial difficulties and whispers about Williams returning to the Roosters began, so too did the scepticism from clubland about how on earth the defending premiers could afford him.

The Roosters tried to register Williams’ latest deal at $120,000 for the remainder of the season. The NRL rejected that value, and a contract worth $150,000 was agreed to by all parties.

ARL Commission chairman Peter V’Landys came under fire for wanting to bend the rules that prohibited players from holding two contracts at once. V’Landys later admitted: “You’ve got to judge everything on its merits and on the circumstances and it can’t be just a catch-all sort of thing.”


When Williams’ Toronto teammate Ricky Leutele was banned from also returning to the NRL over the weekend there were cries of double standards, only for the NRL to back down and allow Melbourne to sign the outside back at a cut price.

A photo of Williams sitting in his apartment and playing Uno with his children – cards and toys that were provided by Politis over the weekend – appeared on the front page of News Limited newspapers on Monday. For the record, a couple of hundred dollars worth of gifts do not have to be included in the cap.

Canterbury had Luke Thompson isolate in Melbourne for a fortnight in June when the Federal Government was still paying for overseas travellers’ mandatory quarantine. The Dogs, however, paid for meals and gym equipment shipped into Thompson’s hotel.

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Melbourne AFL clubs should be cautious speculating on future of struggling rivals

Not long ago, the noted AFL historian Russell Holmesby introduced an oral heritage titled The Demise of Fitzroy Football Club.

The identify is considerably controversial simply because, in accordance to the officially authorised AFL variation, Fitzroy did not die but, in 1996, merged harmoniously with the Brisbane Bears and lived happily ever soon after as the triple-premiership winning Brisbane Lions.

But even 24 many years afterwards the phrases of the Fitzroy gamers, coaches, administrators and, most noticeably, lovers who confronted the choice of embracing the new club or going for walks away betray blended feelings about the “merger”, if not the Brisbane Lions on their own.

Former Fitzroy player and coach Billy Stephen transferred his allegiance to the new entity, but continue to considers the loss of the Roys as, “like a dying in the household”.

The patron of the Fitzroy-Brisbane Historical Society Mel Corben made a decision to retain adhering to the Lions from afar. But he suggests his son, “could not occur on board. He is still mourning Fitzroy”.

Such lingering thoughts will resonate with those people who supported South Melbourne when it turned the Sydney Swans, even following the excellent 2005 premiership devoted to the outdated Bloods, and of followers of merged or banished clubs in other competitions this sort of as the NRL’s Newtown and North Sydney.

You would assume such heartfelt terms would also evoke sympathy from the administrators of golf equipment these types of as the Bulldogs, Hawthorn and Melbourne who arrived near to merging, though it seems a in the vicinity of-death experience is more simply neglected in the club’s entrance business office than in the grandstand.


The sentiments betrayed in The Demise of Fitzroy Soccer Club appear to be well timed mainly because its launch coincides with an outbreak of pandemic stress — a interval in which the monetary squeeze on the AFL has put a aim on the quite existence of some supposedly having difficulties clubs.

Even so, counterintuitively, it is not the AFL Fee or govt that is shining the highlight on the purple ink-stained books of financial debt-ridden golf equipment at least not publicly.

AFL main govt Gillon McLachlan has established a survival mantra to reassure supporters of golf equipment such as St Kilda and North Melbourne, who have been solid as candidates for relocation or elimination: “The AFL went into this [season shutdown] with 18 AFL teams and 14 AFLW groups, and we will arrive out of it with 18 AFL groups and 14 AFLW teams.”

Relatively, reflecting a mid-pandemic tilt from “we are all in this alongside one another” to a type of Footy Hunger Video games, it is the leaders of some rival Melbourne clubs that are questioning the existence of their suburban counterparts.

Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett instructed in a letter to his customers that battling clubs should really confront a advertising/relegation technique, whilst he did not give aspects of how relegated golf equipment would endure in the semi-amateur VFL if they went down.

Nor did it feel to cross Kennett’s thoughts that, in the exact same year Fitzroy’s continues to be have been carted north, Hawthorn legend Don Scott stood on a phase just before 1000’s of enthusiasts and theatrically ripped a Velcro Hawk from a Melbourne jumper, symbolising what would be still left of his very pleased club if a proposed merger with the Demons proceeded.

Jeff Kennett has instructed battling AFL clubs could be relegated to the VFL.(AAP: Julian Smith)

Much a lot more surprising was the insistence of Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon that struggling golf equipment show “better accountability” and his publicly mentioned fears that the 18 golf equipment could not survive.

Sure, the exact Peter Gordon who occupies a important put in club heritage immediately after tugging heartstrings and rattling cans in 1989 when the Bulldogs ended up set to be the junior husband or wife in a merger with Fitzroy.

In the situation of the at the time-struggling Hawthorn and Western Bulldogs, this sort of forgetfulness demonstrates the mere opportunity that can make your mind up a club’s destiny. When the songs stopped the Hawks and Bulldogs scrambled desperately and managed to get a seat. Fitzroy was left standing.

In the meantime, Offsiders panellist Caroline Wilson has documented even more rumblings about the viability of North Melbourne and its suitability as a candidate to fill the emptiness in Tasmania tales sourced from within just the AFL and rival golf equipment.

Record must not be a distant memory

Because South Melbourne’s relocation in 1982, truisms have been designed to justify generating conclusions about anyone else’s club or, much more not too long ago, to defend the reduction-building ventures the AFL has produced: “Victoria are unable to guidance 10 groups”.

On the other hand: “The AFL won’t be able to find the money for NOT to have teams on the Gold Coast and in Western Sydney.”

In these assessments, golf equipment created of flesh and blood are usually forged as mere franchises. Heritage is suddenly just distant memories not component of a team’s DNA. The feelings of supporters are disregarded as misty-eyed sentimentality in the confront of gloomy economical projections. Dehumanising a club will make justifying its extermination a great deal easier.

Appropriately, when Kennett, Gordon and the connections of other (now) wealthy golf equipment fret about their reduced slice of a now lesser pie, you surprise how much self-reflection requires put. Do they recall it is only a quirk of historical timing that meant they experienced a relatively robust base line when a once-in-one particular hundred yr pestilence descended?


A footnote to the Dying of Fitzroy Soccer Club is that the Brunswick Street Oval is now household to a vibrant community club in a now gentrified suburb that has taken the Fitzroy Soccer Club running licence, title and colors.

The supporters of Outdated Fitzroy obtain on Saturday afternoons to cheer for the area staff, some wearing ancient hand-knitted scarves and beanies and badges honouring outdated Roys favourites.

It’s a terrific put to view neighborhood footy and, for Fitzroy loyalists, there is a particular aid figuring out the vultures of the AFL are no extended circling, but looking for other prey.

Offsiders will have highlights of the weekend’s AFL and NRL matches, and a in-depth discussion on all the major sporting activities difficulties from the week on ABC Tv set this Sunday at 10:00am.

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ACCC to probe whether Qantas scuttled rival’s takeover talks

Alliance had preliminary meetings with American buyout firm Apollo Global Management and Australian investors BGH Capital – which recently made a bid for Virgin – in the months after Qantas entered its share register, according to sources familiar with the discussions. However, no deal went ahead.

Whether Qantas’ stake – which at greater than 10 per cent could block a compulsory acquisition – derailed the Apollo and BGH takeover talks or deterred any future approaches is in the sights of the ACCC, which sources said had contacted both private equity firms to ask why their talks fell through.

The ACCC declined to comment on the specifics of its investigation but this week confirmed it was continuing to scrutinise the effects of Qantas’ shareholding in Alliance, including whether it hampered Alliance’s ability to raise funds, consider takeover offers or participate in commercial ventures.

“The Australian aviation industry remains highly concentrated and it is crucial that competition provided by smaller airlines is maintained long-term,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said in a statement. “Acquiring a strategic stake in a close competitor in such a concentrated market raises clear competition concerns.”

Alliance operates a number of regional routes for Virgin. Credit:Glenn Hunt

A Qantas spokesman said the company was an “entirely passive” investor in Alliance and was not aware of any takeover approaches having been made. “Qantas has not sought board representation and has had no influence on the management of Alliance Aviation,” he said.

“The shareholding has given Qantas more exposure to earnings from the resources sector, which is one of the few bright spots in the current domestic market and is primed for further growth.”

When it first bought its shares last year, Qantas signalled it was interested in taking on a majority shareholding but put that on hold after the ACCC raised objections.

Qantas did not seek the ACCC’s clearance before it bought its Alliance stake. If a court finds the acquisition has had the effect or likely effect of substantially lessening competition in the aviation industry it could fine Qantas or order it to sell its Alliance shares.

Alliance, which has a market value of $354 million, has largely avoided the carnage that has been inflicted on other airlines during the COVID-19 crisis. Its shares are trading 10 per cent higher than they were at the start of 2020 compared with a 40 per cent drop in Qantas’ shares.

Alliance said last month there had been a “substantial increase” in revenue from charter flying as it enforced social distancing on board its jets – meaning it had to operate more flights to move the same number of passengers – and due to a shortage of scheduled flights by other operators.

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Rivals put differences aside to form unity government in Israel

After three inconclusive elections held within the span of a year, Israeli political rivals Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz broke a persistent political deadlock and announced Monday they had reached an agreement to form a unity government that will keep Netanyahu in office until October 2021.

“At this time, an agreement was signed for the establishment of a national emergency government between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Chairman, Maj. Gen. (res.) MK Benny Gantz,” Netanyahu’s Likud party said in a tweet.

Netanyahu will serve first as prime minister, with Gantz taking over the reins in October 2021, Likud and the Blue and White party announced in a joint statement on Monday. In the meantime, Gantz will serve as deputy prime minister.

The agreement will cement Netanyahu’s reputation as a political magician who once again has managed to cling to power in spite of adverse circumstances. In November, Netanyahu was indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He denies any wrongdoing.

“I promised the State of Israel a national emergency government that would work to save the lives and livelihoods of Israeli citizens,” he tweeted after the announcement of the agreement on Monday. “I will continue to do everything for you citizens of Israel.”

Image: Benny Gantz (Ahmad Gharabli / AFP – Getty Images)

Once formed, the government will be defined as a national emergency government for a period of six months and no legislation unrelated to the battle against the coronavirus will be brought in parliament, “without consent,” according to the joint statement.

From July the prime minister would be able to bring parts of President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace plan regarding the annexation of parts of the West Bank, to parliament, the statement added.

In January, Trump released a long-promised Middle East peace plan that, if implemented, would create a conditional path to statehood for Palestinians while recognizing Israeli sovereignty over a significant portion of the occupied West Bank. Trump said the longshot plan, which lacks Palestinian support, would require both sides to make concessions.

Extending sovereignty to parts of the West Bank became a key priority of Netanyahu as he struggled to maintain his grip on power.

The finance, health and interior ministries will be among those held by Likud and their partners, while Blue and White and their partners will control the defense, foreign affairs and justice ministries, the statement added.

Yousef Jabareen, a lawmaker and member of the Joint List coalition of Arab parties in Israel’s parliament, said it was clear Netanyahu remains in control of the unity government and guides its vision.

“It will deepen Israel’s military rule over Palestinians in the occupied territories and likely begin the process of annexing Israel’s illegal settlements built on stolen Palestinian land,” he said.

The announcement comes after Gantz was voted in as the speaker of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, on March 26.

“These are unusual times and they call for unusual decisions,” Gantz, who nominated himself for the role as speaker, said after the vote last month which paved the way for an agreement between the two camps to be reached.

However, the move has also cost him the unity of his centrist Blue and White alliance, an umbrella group compromised of three smaller parties, that has battled to take power from Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party in the last three elections.

The latest nation-wide vote held on March 2 saw neither Likud nor Blue and White capturing enough seats to form a majority government even with the backing of smaller parties.

Blue and White’s co-leaders Yair Lapid and Moshe Ya’alon filed a request to split from the rest of the alliance in the Knesset moments before the vote on Gantz’s nomination as speaker last month.

“Benny Gantz decided today to break apart Blue and White in order to crawl into Netanyahu’s government. It’s a disappointing decision,” Lapid said.

Blue and White had intended to nominate another lawmaker as speaker, who was part of a different faction of the alliance, and to use the position to push for legislation that would prevent an indicted lawmaker from becoming prime minister.

But Likud hit back saying if Blue and White pursued this approach it would put an end to any discussions to form a unity government between the two camps — a move that could have seen Israel dragged into an unpopular fourth election. It was announced Monday that under the agreement the role of speaker would go to Likud.

The political crisis in Israel has persisted even as the country tackles the outbreak of the contagious coronavirus that is afflicting much of the world. As of Monday, Israel had recorded more than 13,600 cases of the virus as well as 174 deaths.

The stakes are particularly high for Netanyahu who was meant to go on trial for his corruption charges last month but managed to postpone his court date due to the outbreak.

Netanyahu, who is Israel’s longest serving prime minister, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of bribery and a maximum 3-year term for fraud and breach of trust, according to legal experts.

He has denied any wrongdoing and said he is the victim of a “witch hunt.”

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