Malcolm Turnbull’s feel-good assertions are at odds with Coalition reality. Photo: Rob HomerCoalition tensions flare over same-sex marriageHow about an insurgency to aid and Abetz the flat-Earthers?
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Malcolm Turnbull’s implicit promise to the Australian people, used to justify his raid on Tony Abbott’s power, was to lead a modern government; less narrow, less defensive, and determined to be truly representative.

“This will be a thoroughly liberal government,” he told reporters within minutes of his party-room coup, “… committed to freedom, the individual and the market.”

The sense of national relief was palpable and the bounce in the polls, gargantuan – from looming disaster to leading the race. Lickety-split.

Yet as his first calendar year begins, promise and reality are straining apart. Labor’s refrain that Turnbull was merely Abbott in a better suit, had glanced off in the heady atmosphere of the time, appearing faintly desperate. “All their policies are the same,” Bill Shorten had protested lamely.

But there was something to this. Turnbull may have replaced nope with hope, but he had expressly traded away his wish to accelerate the same-sex marriage timetable, and had surrendered his signature emissions trading ambitions, in the quest for a conservative majority.

Even within these constraints however, Turnbull somehow managed to cloak his new leadership in the rhetorical garb of optimism. It was as if his reputation as a forward leaner on global warming, marriage equality, the republic, and the internet, cut more ice with voters than the pesky details and squalid compromises necessary to secure the leadership.

As things stand, in January, 2016, support for the government remains high, and for Turnbull, stratospheric. Yet danger looms. Conservative Liberals are on the warpath, hitting back at attempts by moderates to remake their party, and reminding voters that Turnbull’s internal authority, especially in the absence of his own mandate, is a matter of perspective.

Former frontbenchers Eric Abetz and Cory Bernardi have defied their leader, vowing to vote against marriage reform even if a future plebiscite supports change. There will be others. This makes a mockery of Turnbull’s reassurance that of course, the costly and disruptive peoples’ vote would be honoured by the government and the Parliament.

On the republic, Turnbull has retreated too – advising he has no stomach for another honourable loss. Here his words, signalling that the time is not right and that the next attempt must be driven from the ground up, are at least technically defensible.

But the atmosphere of resignation they create is pungent, and antithetical to his broader promise. His feel-good assertion that there’s never been a better time to be an Australian, is being tempered with the acrid reality that there has rarely been a better time to be a monarchist – when even the nation’s chief republican concludes that an historic cross-party consensus, means nothing.

Small-target strategies are more usually the refuge of oppositions.

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Queensland finalist Catherine McGregor and Australian of the Year 2016 David Morrison. Photo: Alex EllinghausenComment: David Morrison was prepared to learn, now to teachComment: Straight, white and male – Australia’s latest diversity advocate
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Australian of the Year finalist and transgender military officer Catherine McGregor has swiftly apologised after branding the appointment of her former boss David Morrison to the position as a “weak and conventional choice”.

After the former chief of army was named Australian of the Year, Group Captain McGregor told the prominent gay and lesbian magazine the Star Observer that the National Australia Day Council board did “not have the courage to go with an LGBTI person”.

“I thought it was time … It was a weak and conventional choice,” she said.

“I think I’ll die without seeing a trans Australian of the Year and I think that’s terribly sad.”

Group Captain McGregor revisited the remarks when speaking to Fairfax Media on Wednesday afternoon, saying she felt the decision by the board had been overly “safe” and “predictable”.

“I thought there was an opportunity to do something very strong,” she said.

She also told the Star Observer that Mr Morrison still had a lot to learn about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) issues.

“He’s on a steep learning curve when it comes to LGBTI and trans issues, he needs to learn a lot and rapidly,” she said.

She said that Mr Morrison has used the wrong pronouns when talking about her in media interviews since the award and “dead-named” her, referring to her by her former male name. However she said she did not believe he had done so maliciously.

But Group Captain McGregor, who was Queensland’s Australian of the Year and was up against retired Lieutenant-General Morrison for the national title, later took to Twitter on Wednesday to apologise for her comments.

“I wish to apologise to the National Australia Day Council unconditionally for my remarks in the @star_observer,” she wrote.

“I made a criticism about the choice of [Australian of the Year] based on my personal view that an opportunity had been missed to name an LGBTI Australian. This was poor judgement.”

She also apologised to General Morrison. She has repeatedly congratulated her former boss – who declined her resignation offer in 2012 when she was going through her gender transition – on his victory and said she believes he will do a good job.

Group Captain McGregor previously worked as General Morrison’s speech writer and wrote the famous 2013 video address in which he told sexist soldiers to “get out” of the army after revelations of a sex scandal in the force.

General Morrison was appointed Australian of the Year on Monday night for his work advocating gender equality, both as chief of army and in his community work since he retired last year.

The National Australia Day Council Board said it was “very disappointed by the comments made today by the Queensland Australian of the Year, Catherine McGregor, and her apology is appreciated and accepted”.

“The board stands by its decision to select David Morrison as the 2016 Australian of the Year as a champion of diversity and for marginalised communities in Australia, including the LGBTI community,” the board said in a brief statement.

The board said it looked forward to working with “David, Catherine and all the 2016 Australian of the Year finalists, all remarkable Australians, to make our great nation even better”.

General Morrison declined to comment.

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Police outside the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place during the siege in December 2014. Photo: Daniel MunozLawyers for the family of Lindt Cafe siege victim Katrina Dawson have expressed concern they may be “cut out” of examining sensitive documents about the police response to the siege during the inquest into the tragedy.
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The Commonwealth and the NSW Police Commissioner have sought to block the release of some documents revealing the police response and tactics, including so-called “Emergency Action Order” and “Direct Action Order” plans, the inquest heard on Wednesday.

They have made claims for public interest immunity – which would prevent the material being aired as part of the inquest – over hundreds of documents.

Counsel for the NSW Police, Robin Bhalla, proposed that in some cases the documents could be taken into account by NSW coroner Michael Barnes and counsel assisting the inquest but would not be released publicly.

Junior counsel assisting the inquest, Sophie Callan, said access to the documents would not extend to the legal representatives for the victims, Ms Dawson and Lindt Cafe manager Tori Johnson.

Phillip Boulten, SC, for the Dawson family, asked for time to seek instructions from his clients about whether they would oppose the orders sought by the Commonwealth and the police.

“Cutting our clients out of this information is something about which we need specific instructions,” Mr Boulten said.

He said “the people I represent are very anxious not to expose to public view matters that could risk public safety or national security” but they also had a “particular interest in how the siege developed and how it was managed”.

The inquest heard that in most cases the claims relate only to individual words or sentences in documents.

Ms Callan said the Commonwealth had made public interest immunity claims over 170 documents but only seven were still in dispute.

The NSW Police Commissioner had made claims over 292 statements or documents, with 110 still in dispute.

Mr Barnes is yet to rule on the claims, which relate to evidence to be presented in the next tranche of siege inquest hearings slated to begin on March 21.

The adequacy of the police response is one of the final questions to be addressed by the inquest, which started on January 29 last year.

Ms Dawson, a mother of three young children, was killed by a stray police bullet when gunman Man Haron Monis​, who executed Mr Johnson, became involved in a shoot-out with police in the final stages of the siege.

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A banner protesting the removal of trees along Anzac Parade. Photo: Supplied Workers felling trees on Wednesday as part of light rail construction. Photo: Daniel Munoz
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Workers prepare for the tree cull along Anzac Parade and Alison Road on Wednesday. Photo: Daniel Munoz

The RSL has condemned protesters opposed to the removal of century-old Moreton Bay fig trees along Sydney’s Anzac Parade for using in their campaign a poem to the fallen in World War I.

Despite mounting opposition, the Baird government is standing firm in its decision to allow trees, said to have been planted along the avenue in 1917 in honour of Australian diggers, to be felled for a $2.1 billion light rail line to the city’s eastern suburbs.

Contractors began cutting down eight trees on Anzac Parade near the new Albert (Tibby) Cotter Walkway on Wednesday and a further nine on Wansey Road near Randwick Racecourse.

The tram line will link Circular Quay to the eastern suburbs via Anzac Parade, and includes stops near Moore Park and the racecourse.

While sad to see the removal of trees planted a century ago, RSL state president Rod White said activists opposed to the removal of trees had inappropriately used Laurence Binyon’s poem, For the Fallen, on banners along Anzac Parade.

“It is disrespectful and wrong for protesters to have used it on banners along Anzac Parade,” he said.

Mr White said many memorials and commemorative plaques in NSW had been relocated or replaced due to developments over the past century, and the latest work along Anzac Parade was another example.

The RSL would seek to have the original intent of the memorial trees along Anzac Parade reinstated when new plantings were made in the area.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the tram route had been known publicly since January last year and the government had been working to “minimise disruption to trees”.

“You can’t have it both ways. Unfortunately some vegetation is going to have to be removed to build this $2.1 [billion] construction project,” he said.

“The reality is that you can’t do the big build without disrupting vegetation.”

Mr Constance described as “simply outrageous” comments and actions from Randwick City Council, which has campaigned against the tree cull, and Labor leader Luke Foley.

“We have to be realistic here – we cannot build this project without removing some trees. This is the best outcome we can achieve.”

Mr Foley said the historic trees could be saved if the government considered alternative plans such as those submitted by Randwick City Council.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. The community can have light rail without the carnage,” Mr Foley said.

Jeff Angel from the Total Environment Centre, which has campaigned against the tree cull, said the RSL should recognise that the trees were not only important commemorative plantings but also provided “clean air, shade and wildlife, all of which new plantings cannot compensate”.

He estimated up to 40 trees that had been planted as a memorial to Australian soldiers in 1917 would be felled for the light rail.

The government has guaranteed it will plant eight new trees for every mature tree felled, and four for every mid-sized one.

In a letter to Mr Constance, Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore said the large number of trees removed along the route was “extremely distressing, particularly historic trees”.

“The avoidable loss of trees along the [light rail] route threatens to further jeopardise community support for the project,” wrote Cr Moore, who has been a supporter of the project.

“Given this late stage, I urge you to urgently intervene to protect the further destruction of significant Moreton Bay figs in Moore Park.”

CBD co-ordinator general Marg Prendergast said the road would have to be widened to accommodate traffic if the existing route for the light rail was moved.

“We are not happy about having to remove trees but it is a necessary evil of this major transformation project,” she said.

“One myth that’s out there is that every tree we are cutting down is a 100-year-old fig – that is not true. There is a minority of significant trees and it is heartbreaking. Some of the other trees are noxious weeds.”

Early this month about 35 trees were removed from Alison Road in Randwick, and a further four from Anzac Parade for the project.

The environmental impact statement for the light rail shows up to 760 trees along the entire length of the 12-kilometre light rail line could be felled.

However, transport officials say they are confident fewer will need to be cut down for the project.

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Sydney Thunder spinner Erin Osborne (right) has lost her WBBL medal. Photo: Robert CianfloneLost: one inaugural WBBL premiership medallion, last seen at a trivia night in Sydney. If found, please contact Cricket ACT.
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Sydney Thunder all-rounder Erin Osborne has put the call out for the return of the medal she won in their thrilling win over the Sydney Sixers at the MCG on Sunday.

Thankfully, the ACT Meteors off-spinner still has her woman of the match award – although she’s not expecting her efforts in the WBBL final to lead to a call-up for Australia for the women’s World Twenty20  in India in March.

Osborne said being able to celebrate with the Thunder men after the franchise’s extraordinary victory in both the BBL and WBBL  made it even more special, with the party starting in Melbourne before continuing in Sydney on Monday – even if her winner’s medal has gone walkabout in the process.

“I’m sure one of the girls has it. If they have it, could you please give it back to me,” Osborne said on Wednesday.

“We had some good celebrations on Sunday night and we came back to Sydney and had some more celebrations on Monday.”

Osborne was omitted from the Southern Stars squad that started a three-game T20 series against India on Tuesday, although Aussie vice-captain Alex Blackwell has backed her to get picked for the World Twenty20.

The 26-year-old hasn’t played for Australia since August last year.

Osborne took 3-21 to help limit the Sixers to just 115 from their 20 overs, which the Thunder was able to chase down with three balls to spare.

She felt not getting picked for the India series actually helped her play her best cricket in the finals.

“I’m not too fussed about it to be honest with you. Obviously I’d like to be in it, but it’s out of my control now,” Osborne said.

“I’ve done all I can to put my hand up to get back in there, but I’m actually quite happy to be home and be able to rest and catch up with my family again.

“There’s just a bit more freedom to go out there and play cricket and really enjoy it. When I got the phone call [that I missed out] there was disappointment, but a massive weight off the shoulders as well.”

The inaugural WBBL was a massive success, with television ratings so strong Channel Ten ended up switching games from One to their main channel.

Osborne felt they were “almost professional athletes” during her time in the Thunder camp and she hoped the first season’s success would help make them become full-time cricketers in the future.

She also hoped it would lead to Cricket Australia being able to sell the TV rights for the WBBL in the future.

Osborne said the WBBL “provided a visible pathway for young girls” and hoped it would help grow the women’s game in Canberra.

“Just [from] the overwhelming support from the Australian public I’m hoping Cricket Australia could potentially sell the media rights next year instead of probably paying Channel Ten to put it on,” she said.

The Southern Stars play their second T20 against India on Friday and will travel to New Zealand next month.

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