NRL confident of resolving clubs dispute

ARL Commission chairman John Grant is adamant the governing body will resolve a bitter dispute with clubs after revelations a cashflow issue will impact NRL handouts at the end of the year.

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Grant on Thursday admitted the NRL would have problems committing to increased club payments beyond November, as the game awaited the new broadcast revenue to kick in.

It was initially believed an extra 30 per cent of next year’s salary cap – believed to be around the $9 million mark – would be given to the 16 franchises as part of their club grants.

However, club chief executives and chairpeople were told on Wednesday at a scheduled meeting at league headquarters that the governing body would struggle to meet the timeline.

Grant, who was absent from the meeting, denied it was a funding shortfall.

“We’ve got an acknowledged issue with the NRL’s cashflow and that primarily exists because the advances we’ve had from broadcasters have been paid to clubs,” he said on Thursday.

“We and the clubs need to manage our way through this. I’ve got no doubt we’ll get a resolution. It’s clear the first attempt at doing that wasn’t successful, but we’ll get a resolution.”

The developments overshadowed news the NRL and clubs had agreed on a cap to be presented to the players’ union, as negotiations continued on a collective bargaining agreement.

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said he made it clear to club executives on Wednesday that their financial resources were thinning but the league were working to solving their dilemma.

Some reports suggested payments would be delayed until the 2023 season, and the NRL would need a bank loan to help payments.

“First thing I’d say is we had a very productive day yesterday with the club chairs and CEOs. It was a really good meeting, talked about a range of issues,” Greenberg said.

“It’s very clear that there’s going to be a cashflow issue for us to deal with. The solution rests with us on trying to push forward some proposals.

“It’s exactly what I said yesterday and it’s exactly what I’m doing today.”

At UN, US warns Venezuela could turn into another Syria

At least 43 people have died during weeks of clashes between government forces and opposition demonstrators angry at President Nicolas Maduro’s handling of an economic and political crisis.

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“This isn’t getting better, it’s getting worse, and what we are trying to say is the international community needs to say ‘respect the human rights of your people’ or this is going to go in the direction we’ve seen so many others go,” US Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters following Security Council talks.

The United States requested the closed-door consultations on Venezuela despite objections from some council members who insisted the crisis was not a threat to international security.

Haley said the US decision to raise Venezuela at the Security Council was aimed at conflict prevention and to ensure that the top UN body was paying attention to the crisis.

A woman looks on at the aftermath of a looted supermarket in Capacho, Venezuela following a wave of anti-government protests.AFP

“We’ve been down this road — with Syria, with North Korea, with South Sudan, with Burundi, with Burma. We’ve been down this road,” Haley said.

“Why not get in front of this? Why not try to stop a problem before it starts?”

Opposition demonstrators have held daily protests since April 1, angry at what they see as moves to strengthen Maduro’s hold on power.

Related readingVenezuela rejects US ‘meddling’

Rejecting the US action at United Nations, Venezuela accused the United States of meddling in its domestic affairs.

“Venezuela will resolve its own internal problems. We will do it ourselves,” Ambassador Rafael Ramirez told reporters after the meeting. “We will not accept interference.”

Earlier, Haley said in a statement that Venezuela was “on the verge of a humanitarian crisis” and urged the international community to work together “to ensure Maduro ends this violence and oppression and restores democracy to the people.”

Opposition activists holding candles protest against the deaths of 43 people in clashes with the police during weeks of demonstrations.AFP

Uruguay’s Ambassador Elbio Rosselli, who holds the council presidency this month, said the Organization of American States (OAS) and other regional bodies were best-placed to help address the crisis.

The Caracas government however has decided to pull out of the OAS, which is due to hold a ministerial meeting on Venezuela on May 31.

Speaking at a news conference in Strasbourg, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed “great concern” over the “extremely difficult situation” in Venezuela and said he was in contact with regional leaders.

Making his first public remarks on the crisis, Guterres said mediation was “indispensable” to resolve the crisis.

Related reading

Could President Trump be impeached?

A string of scandals hit the White House this week: first it was the FBI director being fired, then allegations of Trump requesting a declaration of loyalty from James Comey, as well as requesting the FBI halt investigations into Michael Flynn’s links to Russia.

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Most recently Trump was accused of disclosing classified information to Russian officials, and now a prosecutor has been appointed to investigate Trump’s 2016 election campaign links to Russia.

This string of controversial events has got people wondering whether it’s all enough to have the president impeached.

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Dougal Robinson, from the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, told SBS World News that despite the latest round of gaffes from the President, impeachment is unlikely.

“Only a handful of Democrats have spoken about impeachment, the vast majority of Democrats have refrained at this point from mentioning the word impeachment,” Mr Robinson said.

“Impeachment requires a two-thirds majority in the US Senate, so that means that every Democrat and about 20 of the 52 Republican senators would have to vote against their own president.”

“We’re a long long way from that point right now.”

Historically, there has never been a US president removed from his position through impeachment proceedings.

But there were close calls when Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 were impeached by the House of Representatives, although both were acquitted in the Senate.

There was also Richard Nixon who resigned in 1974 to avoid impending impeachment after the Watergate scandal.

But there is another way Trump could be removed from the top job.

At the time there was no legal framework to remove the president and promote the vice president in a case of mental incapacity.

As a result, congress created the 25th Amendment which laid out a framework to replace the President if they were ever deemed mentally unfit for the job.

Lecturer in politics at the University of Melbourne, Raymond Orr, told SBS World News this latest intelligence leak to Russia by Trump could lead to the 25th Amendment being considered.

“This, with a number of other very serious gaffes make it possible that congress could enact something called the 25th Amendment to the Constitution,” Dr Orr said.

“Which allows Congress to declare Mike Pence to become president because Donald Trump is considered disabled, because he doesn’t know what to say, or when to say it and has a loose relationship with the facts and the world around him.

“That’s very unlikely but it’s possible.”

Dr Orr said this latest incident would not be enough to justify the 25th Amendment, but rather it may result from an accumulation of controversial actions by President Trump.

He sited events like Trump warning North Korea that an “armada” of navy ships were advancing towards them, when in fact the navy fleet was heading in the opposite direction.

“That is an incredibly potentially dangerous thing to say,” Dr Orr said. “He doesn’t know what’s going on and actually says it.”

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Clinics to catch abdominal cancers needed

Australia needs government funded speciality diagnostic clinics to ensure the earlier detection of pancreatic and other “forgotten cancers”, says Cancer Council Australia.

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Pancreatic cancer is 1 of the 10 most common cancers in both men and women in Australia.

Like lung cancer – Australia’s biggest cancer killer – it’s five year survival rate is poor.

Cancer Council Australia CEO, Professor Sanchia Aranda, says we still don’t have a systematic way of knowing why some people survive cancer and others don’t because the research hasn’t been funded.

“At present five-year survival for lung cancer is just 16 per cent, compared with 68 per cent for all cancers combined. Some of those survivors will be individuals who may have been lucky enough to get an early diagnosis and optimal treatment.

“The same random outcomes are likely to apply to other poor-survival cancers, particularly those in the abdominal area such as pancreatic, adrenal and kidney cancers.”

One of the reasons five-year breast cancer survival in Australia is at 90 per cent, she says, is that screening and treatment are well defined.

In a submission to a Senate Select Committee holding public hearings on Thursday, the Cancer Council and Clinical Oncology Society of Australia called on the government not to “loose sight” of existing technologies within the health system that can give today’s sufferers of hard-to-detect-and-treat cancers a better chance of survival.

“A starting point to learn from successes in breast cancer care could be to set up a pilot study, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), with people reporting intra-abdominal symptoms, which often get dismissed, being referred to a diagnostic clinic for monitoring,” Prof Aranda said.

The clinics would be staffed by general physicians and specialist nurses who would be able to diagnose quickly.

At the moment some patients can wait for up to six months for a cancer diagnosis and then it’s often too late, says Prof Aranda.

“One of the challenges with some of the poor survival cancers, that is those that are in the abdomen, is that there are many different types of specialists a patient could be referred to,” Prof Aranda told AAP.

“They also go into public clinics without a clear sense of urgency, so not knowing where to send patients is a difficulty for GPs if they don’t exactly know the organ, and then there are patients that end up waiting for diagnosis in cues and public clinics.

“The idea here would be that the GP would identify the need to exclude cancer as a diagnosis. Where at the moment our system sort of treats cancer as a diagnosis of last resort,” she said.

James Hardie’s annual profit rises 13%

Building materials supplier James Hardie has posted a 13 per cent rise in full-year profit largely due to strong housing construction in its core market, the US.

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The company also benefited from a decrease in asbestos claims in 2016/17.

James Hardie made a net profit of $US276.5 million ($A371.8 million) in the year to March 31, as sales rose 11 per cent to $US1.92 billion.

Sales of fibre cement – the group’s flagship product that’s used in walls, ceilings, floors and fences – were up 12 per cent in the US.

Housing market activity in Australia and New Zealand underpinned a 22 per cent rise in earnings from its fibre cement business outside of the US, including Asia and the Middle East.

“Asia Pacific had a good year – the only bump in the road was the Philippines,” chief executive Louis Gries said, in reference a drop in sales in the Philippines due to imports from competitors.

Its Australian operations were strong, with improvements in volume, price, costs and the efficiency of its new cement plant in Queensland, he said.

The performance of the Australian business is expected to be steady in the 2017/18 year, Mr Gries said.

Modest growth in the US housing market is also expected to continue into the current financial year.

A $US38.6 million decrease in the value of James Hardie’s estimated asbestos liabilities also boosted the company’s bottom line.

Claims for mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure, were down six per cent to 373 in 2016/17.

There were two large mesothelioma settlements worth more than $US1 million in the year.

“This is significantly lower than our expectations,” the company said.

Total claims for all asbestos-related compensation fell three per cent from the prior year to 557, and the average settlement dropped 10 per cent in value.

Large claim settlements amounted to $US3.3 million ($A4.4 million).

This is down from $US9.9 million ($A13.3 million) in the prior year and significantly lower than the company’s forecast of $US18 million ($A24 million) in claims.

CitiGroup analysts said there was a risk James Hardie’s earnings in the near-term could be dented by a moderation in the recovery of the US housing market, and with “Australian housing rolling over.”

James Hardie shares dropped $1.68, or 7.8 per cent, to $19.90.

HOUSING ACTIVITY A BOOST FOR JAMES HARDIE:

* Net profit up 13pct to $US276.5m

* Sales up 11pct to $US1.92b

* Final dividend down 1 US cent to 28 US cents