Touch of politics in terrorism mega-agency

Malcolm Turnbull has delivered a solution to a problem that did not exist.

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That may be selling his national security overhaul announcement a little bit short.

There was one problem which required solving – Peter Dutton and the conservative “resistance movement” within the Liberal Party.

Now Dutton has a new job which will keep him preoccupied until well into 2018 – when the next election is expected.

The prime minister insists the decision to put Dutton in charge of a new Home Affairs super-portfolio has nothing to do with his leadership.

“It is not about politics. It is about safety, Australians’ public safety,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

“The arrangements that I have announced are … logical, they are rational, they make operational sense.”

They would also give Dutton responsibility for the agencies “defending, preserving, protecting our national security at home”.

However, Turnbull admitted the changes did not come out of a review into Australia’s intelligence community, because it was not within the inquirers’ remit.

They were also rejected by a 2015 review into counter-terrorism, which stated a super agency would “likely be less, not more, responsive as large agencies tend to be less agile, less adaptable and more inward looking than smaller departments”.

And they introduce a new level of difficulty for the key intelligence agency ASIO, having to deal with two senior ministers to do its day-to-day work – Dutton and Attorney-General George Brandis who has an expanded oversight role.

Brandis says oversight and scrutiny by two ministers is not unusual, as it is the existing process for overseas spy agency ASIS and the Australian Signals Directorate requesting the okay to collect intelligence on Australian citizens.

In May, former ASIO boss Dennis Richardson told reporters if two ministers were required to sign warrants then “please, we don’t need more bureaucracy”.

Richardson told a Lowy Institute forum on Tuesday the change was difficult to criticise but also “difficult to proclaim as some great advance forward”.

“I think there is a reasonable argument in respect of immigration and bringing immigration closely together but beyond that it is primarily presentational.”

Media reports have suggested ASIO and the Australian Federal Police advised the government against a mega-agency when they were consulted on possible changes.

However, Turnbull is adamant he has the right personnel, in Dutton and Brandis, as well as the right structure to get the balance right between protecting Australians and ensuring the rule of law and oversight prevails in dealing with terrorism.

If he also solves a political problem at the same time, it’s a bonus.

Blame players not coach, says Suns’ Lynch

Gold Coast Suns standout Tom Lynch has backed under-fire coach Rodney Eade as the man for the job beyond this season.

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The Suns dropped to 15th after another frustrating loss on Saturday at home and now sit three wins outside the top eight.

Despite calls for Eade to go, Suns co-captain Lynch nominated the playing group as the party responsible for another lacklustre campaign.

“All the playing group fully supports him,” the key forward said.

“The players have let themselves down. He’s coaching really well and the players are fully supporting him.”

A tight loss to Collingwood on Saturday, made more frustrating by the fact they fought back to lead mid-way through the contest, has compounded disappointment on the Gold Coast.

Slipping further away from a maiden finals appearance, Eade’s future on the Gold Coast is a topic of contention.

But Lynch is more frustrated in his own form and wants his teammates to win back some respect by performing consistently.

“We have spoken about it for far too long now, but we know we have to keep on trying and getting rid of those inconsistencies,” he said.

“We are heading in the right direction.”

That direction is north this Saturday, when the Suns meet the Western Bulldogs at Cazalys in Cairns.

The heat will be on the defending premiers too, given they are also tenuously placed outside the top eight with an 8-8 season record.

Early memories of Cairns are good for the Suns, with Karmichael Hunt booting a goal after the siren to beat Richmond in 2012.

But things haven’t gone as sweetly in recent years.

“We haven’t won there for a few years, but we have some good memories from early days,” Lynch said.

“It’s going to be warmer so I think that’s going to help us, with the Bulldogs coming from cold Melbourne. We’re pumped to get up there and play them.”

Dragons not giving 100 per cent: de Belin

St George Illawarra’s Jack de Belin has taken aim at his NRL team for playing selfish and not giving their all.

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And he admits his form has stagnated as the Dragons battle a slump threatening their spot in the top eight.

The Dragons sit eighth on the ladder and play third-placed Manly at WIN Stadium on Sunday, with a loss possibly relegating them to ninth if Penrith score a big win over Gold Coast.

“We’ve got away from our team-first actions and are probably playing a little bit individualised at the moment,” de Belin told reporters on Tuesday.

“Like your little effort things … for example, kick-chase, kick-pressure, working hard on your insides, supporting your mate.

“When we’re playing well, (we’re) doing those little things and not just worry about our carries.

“We probably haven’t been doing it to 100 per cent of our effort. If you’re only doing them at 50 per cent, you’re not doing them well.”

The star lock was close to making his State of Origin debut last week as NSW 18th man, with injury clouds hovering over Blues forwards Tyson Frizell and Boyd Cordner.

De Belin’s numbers have been solid for the Dragons in 2017, improving his offensive output from last season but averaging seven fewer tackles per game.

The 26-year-old is unsatisfied with his recent performances as the Dragons reel from losing four games from five starts, including Friday’s golden-point loss to Canberra.

“It’s (form) been pretty steady. If anything, I’m probably a little bit disappointed I haven’t really continually built on it,” de Belin said.

“I’ve just kind of plateaued.”

De Belin has also spoken about the frustration around being part of a NSW squad with his sights set on playing in last week’s decider against Queensland but he wasn’t required.

Teammate Frizell and Blues captain Cordner both got up for the game – unexpectedly for de Belin.

“I didn’t want to get my hopes up but seeing Boyd earlier in the week, I didn’t think he was going to be very good,” he said.

“Even Tyson, he’s been battling injuries for a while now. I thought my opportunity would come there but it didn’t and it is pretty disappointing.”

Anger grows after police shoot Aust woman

Justine Damond and Mohamed Noor were two strangers from distant lands who arrived in America to fulfill their dreams, but in a tragic meeting in a Minneapolis alley one was killed and the other could face serious criminal charges.

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Ms Damond, a peace-loving spiritual healer from Sydney’s northern beaches, was shot in the stomach by Noor, who fled war-torn Somalia as a child and became a police officer proud to serve the people of Minneapolis.

The US medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Ms Damond on Monday determined the 40-year-old’s death was a homicide.

“This individual died of a gunshot wound of the abdomen,” the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office announced.

“Manner of death is homicide.”

The tragic incident began at about 11.30pm on Saturday when Ms Damond attempted to help a person in need.

She heard the screams of a woman in the alley behind the home she shared in the middle-class neighbourhood of Fulton with her American fiance Don Damond.

Ms Damond feared the woman was being sexually assaulted and called the 911 emergency number.

Mr Damond was away on business.

Officer Noor, who had two years’ experience as a police officer, and his partner, Matthew Harrity, with just a year on the job, received the call and pulled into the alley.

Officer Noor was in the passenger’s seat of their police car, Officer Harrity was driving and from the darkness Ms Damond, dressed in pyjamas and believed to be carrying a mobile phone that may have been mistaken for a gun, approached Officer Harrity’s window.

Officer Noor fired his gun over his partner through the car door and the bullet struck Ms Damond in the stomach.

A frustrated Mr Damond says he has been been given few details from authorities about why his fiancee was fatally shot.

“Sadly, her family and I have been provided with almost no additional information from law enforcement regarding what happened after police arrived,” Mr Damond told reporters outside their home.

He said Ms Damond’s death was devastating for everyone who knew her.

“It is difficult to fathom how to go forward without her in my life,” Mr Damond said. “Our hearts are broken.”

Family, friends, locals and politicians are also frustrated that the officers’ body cameras were not turned on.

Video from the police car’s dash cam also did not capture the shooting, but community activists have requested copies of the audio from the camera that should have been running when the fatal bullet was fired.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, described as a fact finder independent of Minneapolis police, is investigating the shooting.

Audio of the police radio conversations between the officers and the dispatcher begins with the description of a “female screaming behind the building”, believed to be what Ms Damond told the dispatcher in her initial 911 call.

“Shots fired … we have one down,” one of the officers says.

The officers also call for back-up and attempt to perform CPR on Ms Damond.

Officer Noor was reportedly the first Somali-American officer at Minneapolis’ 5th Precinct.

His lawyer Tom Plunkett released a statement saying Noor offered his condolences to the family “and keeps them in his daily thoughts and prayers.”

The statement added: “He joined the police force to serve the community and to protect the people he serves. Officer Noor is a caring person with a family he loves, and he empathises with the loss others are experiencing.”

RBA more upbeat than first thought

The Reserve Bank is more optimistic about the outlook than it thought just a few weeks ago, suggesting it might not be such a global laggard in raising interest rates.

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The minutes of the central bank’s June board meeting, released on Tuesday, says data for the June quarter has so far been generally been positive after slower growth in the March quarter.

The recent improvement in the labour market conditions has also been a positive development.

“The strength of recent labour market data had removed some of the downside risk in the bank’s forecast of wage growth,” the minutes say.

A broad-based recovery in the global economy has also continued with increased investment lifting labour markets in many advanced economies.

This has led to an upgrade to the expected path of monetary policy in these economies.

Economists say the tone of the minutes is more upbeat than the statement immediately after the board meeting.

“We don’t think rate rises are back on the cards yet and we would need to see an upgrade to inflation and wages forecasts to change our view of policy on hold until well into next year,” Commonwealth Bank economist Kristina Clifton said.

Financial markets are now suggesting there could be an increase in the cash rate from a record low 1.5 per cent by the middle of 2018 rather than towards the end of 2018, as was the view at the time of the board meeting.

The weekly ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index eased 0.4 per cent but held around its long term average for a third week in a row.

ANZ head of Australian economics David Plank said the recovery in confidence seen over June was likely due to the improvement in labour market conditions.

“If jobs growth continues at the pace seen in recent months, it has the potential not only to boost confidence but perhaps also challenge our view on the stable course for monetary policy in 2018,” Mr Plank said.

June jobs figures are released on Thursday.

After three months of strong gains in the number of people employed – ranging from 53,000 to 42,000 – economists expect an increase of about 15,000.

This would be enough to keep the jobless rate at a four-year low of 5.5 per cent after the steady drop from 5.9 per cent in March.