CFMEU Canberra offices were raided Tuesday afternoon by the Australian Federal Police.The Australian Federal Police has launched raids on the Canberra head office of the CFMEU in search of evidence of bribery and blackmail.
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The raid, which took place on Tuesday, was prompted by evidence given to the trade unions royal commission, and come as commissioner Dyson Heydon considers whether to withdraw himself on the grounds of apprehended bias. That decision has now been pushed back to Friday.

It is understood about 20 police – including forensic and IT specialists – attached to the Royal Commission raided the Dickson headquarters at 10.30am Tuesday. They stayed for about 13 hours, until almost midnight.

The CFMEU gave officers access to the branch computer system and about 10,000 electronic and hard copy files, and mobile phones were seized.

An email, circulated among senior CFMEU staff on Wednesday morning advising of the raid, said police frisk searched all officers and staff present, removed posters from wall, and went through the office safe and ceiling cavity.

The email, from a union legal officer, said the CFMEU had a lawyer present during most of the raid and the warrant had been issued by the ACT Supreme Court.

“The terms of the warrant required that the executing officers have reasonable grounds for suspecting that there would be evidence at the premises relating to the commission of offences that have been and continue to be the subject of investigation by the Royal Commission,” the email said.

“These include the allegations of blackmail against former CFMEU official Halafihi Kivalu and organiser Johnny Lomax.

“We understand the officers are part of the group of police officers attached to the royal commission although we do not have confirmation of that.”

The ACT police confirmed on Wednesday that a “significant amount of computer files and hardware was seized” during the raid on the construction union’s office.

They said the search warrant “related to people already before the courts,” and they would not comment further.

The CFMEU said the raid was “obviously under the direction of the royal commission”.

“It smacks of overkill and a waste of police resources at a time when police are stretched dealing with more pressing issues in our community including terror-related activities,” the union said in a statement.

“This is nothing other than a political stunt by the royal commission which is desperately trying to defend its credibility and purpose.”

The raids come after Fairfax Media reported this week that criminal investigations are taking place in three states into allegations against the most senior levels of the union’s leadership on allegations ranging from receiving secret commissions to blackmail.

In Queensland, the CFMEU’s former national president and Labor factional boss, Dave Hanna, quit the union as a major criminal investigation examined allegations that he took secret commissions and kickbacks.

In Victoria, police taskforce Heracles has recently taken witness statements from construction industry figures as part of an inquiry into Victorian CFMEU secretary John Setka and his deputy, Shaun Reardon, with a focus on allegations of blackmail over the union’s campaign against concrete company Boral.

In NSW, the state union secretary, Brian Parker, is being investigated by police after phone taps were aired at the union royal commission which revealed his close relationship with organised crime figure and allegedly crooked labour hire firm boss, George Alex.

Lomax, a former Canberra Raiders rugby league player and union organiser, was arrested in July and charged with blackmail. He has entered pleas of not guilty.

Former CFMEU organiser Kivalu will also fight allegations of blackmail after he told a royal commission he accepted payments of $60,000 from a Canberra formwork contractor.

Kivalu was taken into custody after admitting under questioning he had accepted $60,000 in payments from formwork contractor Elias Taleb to help him with contacts in the industry.


Warragamba Dam during an earlier spill. Torrential rain caused havoc in the Illawarra over the past 24 hours with numerous roads, including the Mount Brandon Road in Jerrara, closed because of flooding. Photo: Sylvia Liber
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Jamberoo Road was among the roads flooded in the past 24 hours. Photo: Sylvia Liber

Warragamba Dam, Sydney’s main reservoir, will begin spilling on Wednesday night for the first time in two years, leading to minor flooding downstream in the Nepean Hawkesbury Valley, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

The level of Lake Burragorang was about 1.2 metres below the spill level as of early Wednesday afternoon, with the height likely to rise further as flows resulting from the east coast low reached the dam, said Hugh Bruist, a senior bureau hydrologist.

About 160 millimetres of rain fell into the Wollondilly River catchment upstream of Warragamba in the 48 hours to 9am on Wednesday, the bureau said. \n”,colour:”water”, title:””, maxWidth:200, open:0}] );}if (!window.googleMaps_Icons) window.googleMaps_Icons = {};window.googleMaps_Icons[“water”] = {“marker”:{“image”:”http://maps.gstatic上海夜网m/mapfiles/ms2/micons/water.png”},”shadow”:{“image”:”http://maps.gstatic上海夜网m/mapfiles/ms2/micons/water.shadow.png”}};if (!window.gmapsLoaders) window.gmapsLoaders = [];window.gmapsLoaders.push(CreateGMapgmap2015726144453);window.gmapsAutoload=true;/*]]>*/]]>

Meanwhile a minor flood warning was issued for the Nepean-Hawkesbury Valley after 170mm of rainfall in the valley resulted in spills from the Nepean and Avon Dams.

“Landowners should begin preparation for minor flooding. Pumps and other portable assets in low lying areas should be relocated. Livestock should be moved to higher ground,” the SES said.

Rising waters are expected to trigger minor flooding at Menangle from midnight Wednesday.

Warragamba Dam is expected to start spilling early on Thursday morning for the first time since June 2013.

“At this stage minor flood peaks downstream of Warragamba Dam are expected to be similar to the March 2012 event,” the bureau said in an updated alert.

Penrith is now expected to see a peak of 5 metres by about noon on Thursday with minor flooding, with the peak at North Richmond likely to reach 8 metres by about 6 pm on Thursday, the update said. Windsor should also receive minor flooding, with a peak at about 6 metres three hours later.

Flooding in NSW’s south-east

An intense low pressure system sat off the coast south of Sydney most of Tuesday, directing heavy falls over the region.

The St Georges Basin had moderate to major flooding as of Wednesday afternoon, the bureau said in a separate statement.

A flood peak is expected at Sussex during the late afternoon coinciding with the high tide.

Moderate flooding is also taking place along the Lower Shoalhaven River at Nowra and Terara, the bureau stated.

Tomerong, about 180 kilometres south of Sydney, received 439 millimetres of rain in two days, while Nowra copped 390 millimetres and Kiama 336 millimetres, the bureau said.

Reassessment

The bureau was reassessing its estimates for Warragamba after flood levels on the Jooriland River upstream of Lake Burragorang peaked higher than expected, Mr Bruist said.

“It’s quite difficult to assess how much is coming into the system and how it will behave,” Mr Bruist said.

Rain over the Lake Burragorang catchment eased from early on Wednesday morning, Mr Bruist said.

Forecast models suggest the rain belt “should die off”, he said, adding that no further rain was expected to aggravate conditions.


Former Treasury head Martin Parkinson: “Unless we actually grab this challenge by the horns and really get concrete about what are the priority issues, we are actually going to find ourselves sleepwalking into a real mess.” Photo: Louie Douvis RBA Governor Glenn Stevens and for Mr Parkinson at the National Reform Summit in Sydney on Wednesday. Photo: Louie Douvis
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Forget reform, go for growth, RBA governor tells summitShorten calls on business, community workers to work together on emissions

Australia is facing the equivalent of a recession in the next decade as incomes grow at only a fraction of the officially forecast pace, the National Reform Summit has been told.

The past head of the Treasury, Martin Parkinson, told the Sydney summit that unless Australia acted quickly, it would sacrifice as much as 5 per cent of the economy in the next ten years, the equivalent of a recession.

“Unless we actually grab this challenge by the horns and really get concrete about what are the priority issues, we are actually going to find ourselves sleepwalking into a real mess,” he said.

Economic modeller Janine Dixon from Victoria University had told the summit the Treasury’s Intergenerational Report had painted a “rosy” picture of the future, projecting average growth in real income per person of 1.4 per cent, meaning that by 2055 Australians would enjoy real incomes 75 per cent higher.

Her own modelling had real incomes growing by less than 1 per cent per year, meaning that by 2055 incomes would be only 44 per cent higher.

“Put another way, it would take an extra 20 years to reach the income forecast in the Intergenerational Report for 2055,” she said.

Her modelling has productivity growing at only half the pace assumed by the Treasury, whose assumption was based on the unusually high decade of productivity growth that followed the economic reforms of the early 1990s.

Melbourne University economist Ross Garnaut said if her estimates turned out to be correct, the budget would “never get back to surplus”.

Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens said Australia’s economic growth rate had mostly started with a “two” instead of a “three”, “despite the lowest interest rates in our lifetimes”.

Dr Parkinson said if economic growth remained nearer to 2.5 per cent than 3 per cent, as much as 5 percentage points of gross domestic product would be lost over the next decade.

“If this is not happening because our population growth is slow, it means willingly accepting the impact of a recession,” he said.

“The loss of GDP from a recession is about 5 or 6 percentage points.”

Without acting we would be “sleepwalking into a real mess”.

The summit has brought together 100 business and community leaders to try and discuss issues the organisers believe the government is afraid to touch. It is sponsored by KPMG, and both the Australian Financial Review and The Australian newspapers.

Asked to be specific about tax or spending measures that could help boost growth, Dr Parkinson said the most obvious way in which the tax system held growth back was the way in which it skewed tax concessions to the top end of the income distribution.

“It’s not a retirement incomes policy, it’s a wealth accumulation policy,” he said. “That doesn’t make sense to me. It’s an obvious area we should be looking at.”

The draft communique to be refined at the summit notes “widespread concern” that super tax concessions are used for purposes “inconsistent with the purpose of the retirement income system”.

Australian National University tax professor Miranda Stewart cautioned the summit against cutting income tax rates in order to emulate either New Zealand or Singapore. She said New Zealand was more heavily taxed than Australia and Singapore housed most of its citizens in public housing.

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CSIRO and Jobs for NSW chairman, David Thodey, says Asia is going through a correction and not a downturn. Photo: Louie DouvisFormer Telstra boss David Thodey says Asia’s economy is suffering “a correction it had to have” and the region will bounce back to growth.
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Mr Thodey spoke to Fairfax Media after launching Jobs for NSW, which is a $190 million government fund designed to finance propositions that can generate employment in the state.

He will help run the body as its first chairman alongside his other duties as the chair for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

But despite global markets being pummelled by repeated falls in Asia’s stock markets after China’s ‘Black Monday’ this week, Mr Thodey was confident that the region would continue to offer strong growth.

“I personally don’t think it’s a long term thing,” he said. “It was a correction they needed to have because there was too much heat in the market.

“But the fundamentals of China … the advancement of that population moving from a degree of low income into middle income, and when you look at the aspirations of people in education and to have a better quality of life – when you see those fundamentals you know that the economy has got to grow.”

Telstra under Mr Thodey launched several ventures into the Asian region including a joint-venture partnership with Telkom Indonesia and the purchase of telecommunications provider Pacnet for $US697 million.

Mr Thodey’s comments echo those of several Australia chief executives who moved quickly to tell investors that Asia was merely going through a correction rather than a long-term downturn.

ANZ Banking Group chief executive Mike Smith said there was still “huge potential” for growth in China and some experts pointed to stability in 10-year bond rates as evidence that the equities market rout was a short-term phenomenon.


There is no doubt the loss of a baby is one of the toughest things a couple can ever face.
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But while a mother’s grief for her baby is expected and supported, a father’s pain following his baby’s death is often overlooked.

Sands Australia is hoping to change that with the launch of a Male Parent Support line dedicated to helping dads dealing with the loss of a baby to miscarriage, stillbirth or a newborn death.

“A father’s grief following the death of a baby tends to be overlooked by society,” Sands Chief Executive Officer Andre Carvalho said.

“There is no doubt that carrying a child results in an intense emotional bond for the mother, however research and anecdotal evidence from our work shows that fatherhood for so many dads begins as their child is in the womb.

“Dads also experience acute grief following miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn death.”

An estimated 103,000 pregnancies (one in four conceptions) ends in miscarriage in Australia each year, and approximately 3000 babies are either stillborn or die in the first 28 days after birth.

One father who suffered the loss of his third child to stillbirth said he ignored his own grief due the pressure to support his wife and family.

“The pain was so intense. I wanted to grieve, but I felt like I had to support my family – my responsibilities as a husband and father came first,” the dad, known only as Luke, said.

“It was so tough on my wife and suddenly she wasn’t able to take care of our children and I had to shoulder all of the work and parenting alone.

“I didn’t know where to go where to go or who to speak to.”

Research shows that men are less likely to seek help for any type of emotional problems, including stressful and heart-wrenching life events such as the loss of a baby.

“We recognise that bereaved dads also need a safe space to grieve and that is why we have developed our dedicated Male Support Line,” Mr Carvalho said.

“Calls to the support line are answered by a team of trained male volunteers who truly understand what a grieving father goes through as they too have experienced the heartache of pregnancy loss or newborn death.”

Sands is a not-for-profit organisation that provides support and information to parents and families who experience the death of a baby, as well as offering resources and education to healthcare professionals.

The Male Parent Support Line will complement Sands’ existing services including the National Helpline (1300 072 637), local support groups, live web chat and email support.

Appointments for Sands’ Male Parent Support Line can be made on their website.


Jim Parsons’ made $US29 million, while his male co-stars took home $US20 million.Two and a Half Men actors John Cryer and Ashton Kutcher took home a combined $US35 million.
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Modern Family actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson was paid $US500,000 more than his on-screen husband Eric Stonestreet.

Jennifer Lawrence ranked highest-paid actressRobert Downey Jr. is highest-paid actor

Movie actors are notoriously well-paid for their work, but a new Forbes list shows television actors can also make a killing on the small screen.

On Wednesday, Forbes revealed 2015’s highest paid television actors, and the top 15 is a mix of anything from hunky doctors to geeky mathematicians.

Some of the highest-paid male television stars belong to sitcom The Big Bang Theory, with Jim Parsons – famous for his Sheldon Cooper alterego – coming in first place.

Parsons’ salary this year was a whopping $US29 million, putting him on par with movie actors like Leonardo Dicaprio ($29 million) and Johnny Depp ($30 miliion).

Television salaries appears to be on the rise. In 2013, Ashton Kutcher was the highest paid thanks to a salary of $US24 million.

This year, fellow Big Bang Theory actor Johnny Galecki came second with a salary of $27 million, while Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar made $20 million.

NCIS star Mark Harmon also made $20 million this year, tying in third place with Helberg and Nayyar.

Two and a Half Men – which finished in February – also boasted some of the highest-paid stars.

Ashton Kutcher and John Cryer made $20 million and $15 million respectively.

Everybody Loves Raymond star Ray Romano and Grey’s Anatomy dreamboat Patrick Dempsey both made a handsome $15 million each, while Aussie Simon Baker was paid $12 million for The Mentalist.

Rounding off the list was Modern Family actors Ty Burrell ($11.5 million), Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Ed O’Neill ($11 million each) and Eric Stonestreet ($10.5 million).

In last place was Netflix stablemate and House of Cards star Kevin Spacey on $9.5 million, a generous amount which indicates streaming networks are becoming major players in television.

The list included no women in the top fifteen this year.

World’s highest-paid television actors in 2015

1. Jim Parsons – $US29 million

2. Johnny Galecki – $US27 million

3. Mark Harmon – $US20 million

4. Simon Helberg – $US20 million

5. Kunal Nayyar – $US20 million

6. Ashton Kutcher – $US20 million

7. Jon Cryer – $US15 million

8. Ray Romano – $US15 million

9. Patrick Dempsey – $US12 million

10. Simon Baker – $US12 million

11. Ty Burrell – $US11.5 million

12. Jesse Tyler Ferguson – $US11 million

13. Ed O’Neill – $US10.5 million

14. Eric Stonestreet – $US10.5 million

15. Kevin Spacey – $US9.5 million


The Blue Mountains National Park. Photo: iStock The spectacular Jenolan Caves, near Oberon. Photo: Peter Rae
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The Blue Mountains National Park. Photo: iStock

The Blue Mountains National Park. Photo: iStock

The Blue Mountains National Park. Photo: iStock

The spectacular Jenolan Caves, near Oberon. Photo: Peter Rae

The spectacular Jenolan Caves, near Oberon. Photo: Peter Rae

The spectacular Jenolan Caves, near Oberon. Photo: Peter Rae

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It may be a friendly B&B or secluded cottage accommodation, top-end restaurant or funky cafe, scenic lookout or picnic spot. It may an adventure activity, gorgeous garden or antiques hub, like the incomparable Victory Theatre in Blackheath.

Whatever you’re looking for in the vast heritage-listed Blue Mountains region, the new Volvo XC90 will take you there in effortlessness style. From the remote key tag in a leather fob to the six-way power-adjustable seats with memory – and beyond – the more I drive the seven-seat prestige SUV around this picturesque part of the world, the more I like it. I am up here looking for “hidden gems” but nothing is hidden in the XC90.

For a start, there are no blind spots. It’s part of what they call IntelliSafe​ – a range of intuitive car safety technologies designed to protect passengers from more contingencies than you would even consider. Think Road Sign Information, Lane Departure Warning and Electronic Stability Control, just for starters. All of these – and a lot more – make this sojourn around the Blue Mountains a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

I ask the locals to share their hidden gems and many name a favourite scenic outlook or attraction off the beaten track. Some of the roads up here are pretty narrow and visibility can be poor but I find the XC90 offers peace-of-mind and I can relax and hunt down the recommendations without concern.

There are dozens of spectacular walks and bush hiking tracks of varying length and difficulty in the Blue Mountains and any trip up here should include at least one. The Valley of the Waters trails near Wentworth Falls offer a range of walks and memory card-sapping scenery and you could do a lot worse than spend the night at the eponymous B&B. The mountains also have plenty of rock climbing and abseiling adventures available.

But if you are driving the XC90 and can’t wait to get back in the driver’s seat – and I wouldn’t blame you – just set the on-board GPS to somewhere that interests you and sit back and enjoy the ride. You should definitely check out Leura Mall for its funky restaurants, cafes, galleries and specialty shops. Josophan’s​ Fine Chocolates is here, as are Cat’s Meow Interiors and Inner Space Furniture. Megalong Books, Serai Living and the tres​ chic French Shoppe​ are also all worth a look. And don’t miss the Toy and Railway Museum, just a short stroll from the Mall.

Another hidden gem lies within the most recognisable building in the mountains: the Hydro Majestic at Medlow Bath. This magnificent edifice on the edge of a sheer cliff overlooking the Megalong Valley runs guided History Tours every day so you can really explore it and enjoy the whole heritage story. Stay on for High Tea or dinner in the Wintergarden restaurant, which are more events than meals.

From an enticing list of possibilities, the XC90 and I choose to make our way to Mount Piddington​ Lookout, overlooking Kanimbla Valley and the reward is total serenity. For half an hour I am alone with the stillness and the dazzling view. One Tree Hill, the highest point in the Blue Mountains Plateau is nearby. When others arrive I climb back into the luxury SUV and head down the road through Hartley and turn off toward Oberon. As I luxuriate in the leathery comfort and interactive simplicity, it becomes clear why Volvo is the market leader in motoring safety and comfort.

Oberon is best known as the nearest town to the Jenolan Caves, a “hidden” gem in the way underground caves tend to be. But I have come to see Mayfield Garden, a self-proclaimed “folly” set on a working farm. It’s an amazing endeavour, highlighted by the stunning Water Garden and backed up by an 80 metre cascade, walled kitchen garden, aviary, chapel, rose garden, Islamic-style pond and the Kitchen Cafe. Bravo Hawkins family.

My trip nearing its end, I decide to put the XC90 through its paces by taking the winding Bells Line of Road back to Sydney. As rain – and indeed snow – set in, I find the communication between driver and car is the key to its success. All the instinctive excellence Volvo is renowned for is at my fingertips, the visibility and air-con are superb and I don’t have to take my eyes off the road. I try out the four distinct drive modes – Dynamic, Comfort, Eco and Off-Road – that adjust the gearbox, steering and braking. The control is outstanding and the pick-up more than adequate to pass less confident vehicles with total safety. This Volvo SUV handles like a much smaller road car: sharp, efficient and totally at ease in these tricky conditions.

Along the way I drop into The Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens. This is not strictly a “hidden gem”, showcasing, as it does, 28 hectares of cool climate plants from around the world. But I can tell you the Tomah Gardens Restaurant is wonderful should certainly be better known than it is.

This article brought to you by Volvo Cars Australia. Explore the All-New Volvo XC90.


Supermarket private label products out-shone their branded counterparts in a study of salt content. Photo: Louie Douvis Excess salt in foods contributes to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
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Supermarket home brand foods, long derided as cheap and inferior, contain “consistently and substantially” less salt than pricier, branded rivals, new research shows.

A study of 15,680 products from the shelves of Woolworths, Coles, Aldi and IGA found home brand foods have 17 per cent less salt than their branded counterparts.

The researchers from George Institute for Global Health were surprised to find salt content was an average 27 per cent lower in desserts, 24 per cent in biscuits, 22 per cent in processed meats, and 7 per cent in breads.

But the breakfast cereal category bucked the trend. Salt content in private label cereals was 37 per cent higher.

Professor Bruce Neal, co-author of the study and head of food policy at the institute, said the study showed supermarkets could help lead the way in getting Australians to cut their salt intake.

“Excess salt in food leads to high blood pressure and greatly increased risks of stroke and heart attack,” he said.

“Reducing salt in line with WHO recommendations could save thousands of lives every year and hundreds of millions of dollars in healthcare costs.”

The global health body has set a voluntary target of cutting salt consumption by 30 per cent by 2025.

The average Australian adult consumes nine grams of salt a day – more than twice the recommended amount.

Professor Neal warned that the study, conducted between 2011 and 2013 and published in the journal Nutrients this month, focused on salt and did not assess overall nutritional value.

Lead author Helen Trevena, also from the institute which is affiliated with the University of Sydney, said she hoped the study would shift consumer perception that private labels were inferior.

“This research shows that is not always the case in regard to salt,” she said.

“This is good news, especially for families shopping on tight budgets who are more likely to buy private label products, but are also most likely to suffer from health problems caused by high blood pressure.”

Coles, Woolworths and Aldi have each made voluntary commitments to reduce sodium content across nine food categories as part of the Australian Food and Health Dialogue initiative, launched in 2009.

The study is good news for the supermarket giants seeking to expand their private label offerings despite some customer disillusionment.

In May, Roy Morgan data revealed nearly half of Australia’s 14 million regular grocery shoppers were trying to reduce their grocery bills. But nearly three-quarters said they preferred sticking with their favourite brands.


Grace Harris’ full-time job is in admin, yet she is not one for the minutiae of life. That was why she screwed up her face and replied in the negative during off-season training for Queensland’s women’s team when her coach, Andy Richards, asked her if she had checked her email.
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“Truthfully, I’m pretty slack with my emails,” she said.

The reason for her coach’s insistence was the urgent notification from the Southern Stars’ chief selector, Shawn Flegler, that her state teammate – and fellow Twenty20 thrasher – Delissa Kimmince had suffered a back injury that was set to rule her out of the Southern Stars’ women’s Ashes squad, and that she would be the beneficiary.

“It was kind of a bad situation, a bit bittersweet for me, because I’m really good friends with ‘DK’,” said Harris, 21.

In the past two seasons of the Women’s Twenty20 competition, which will transform this summer to the Women’s Big Bash League, the right-hander has hit 16 sixes, more than even the world’s top Twenty20 batter and her new captain, Meg Lanning.

“We both probably prefer to play a bit more exciting brand of cricket. We both have short attention spans, so if we’re out there too long then we can nod off. That’s kind of when we get out,” Harris said.

“If we’re in the game, it’s like ‘Look out people on the boundary, because you’re gonna get some action’,” Harris said.

“I’m still yet to hit the 36 off six balls. That’s the goal. That’d be awesome!” she said with a smile.

Harris made her international debut in last week’s three-match series against Ireland that served as a way for the Southern Stars to transition from the longest format of the game, the Test, to the shortest, the Twenty20 component of the women’s Ashes series.

In her first match she “burned” Ellyse Perry in a run-out mix-up and then fell for a duck herself – hardly an auspicious start – but by the last match she crunched 39 not out from 21 balls, including two sixes, to win player of the series.

Even more impressive for her teammates, however, was the way she has coped with her hazing. This involved wearing a bum bag, stocking it with lollies and being available on a whim to supply them to her teammates. Her preference of Percy Pig lollies has been almost universally popular.

“Everyone is a fan, except ‘Ossie’ [Erin Osborne]. She likes licorice, but who the hell likes licorice? My nan likes licorice, 80-year-olds like licorice – but no one else I know,” she said.

Harris said she had no expectations of being guaranteed to play in any of the three Twenty20s against England, let alone all three, and was stoked just to be part of the Australian squad.

“I got the easy part. I got here at the end of the tour and we’ve almost won the Ashes. We just need to win one more Twenty20 match and we’re there,” she said. “They’ve done most of the hard work. I just get to show up and have the fun!”

Jesse Hogan is covering the Women’s Ashes with the support of Cricket Australia


Chin music: Will Skelton and Kane Douglas during the testy encounter at training. Photo: Brendan Esposito Hair and a facial: Skelton and Douglas were locked in combat before being ‘yellow carded’ by coach Michael Cheika. Photo: Brendan Esposito
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D-day for Sam Burgess

Wallabies second rowers Will Skelton and Kane Douglas were sent to the sidelines during training on Wednesday by coach Michael Cheika after a heated and physical exchange as opponents in a driving maul after a lineout.

The unofficial yellow carding of the pair would be costly and earn Cheika’s ire in the locker room afterwards were it a game, but the Wallabies coach was brimming with delight behind the duelling duo as they walked off.

The physicality of the Wallabies forwards at Kippax Oval at Moore Park in the morning session was just what Cheika was wanting of his two packs in the squad of 31 that leaves on their World Cup campaign on Saturday.

Just as happy as Cheika was his set-piece coach, Argentinian Mario Ledesma, the former Pumas hooker who played in four World Cups.

Was the aggression showed on the training paddock asked of the players, or did it come naturally?

“No,” Ledesma said. “That’s something Cheika really likes, not only in the scrum sessions or the driving mauls, but every training is really intense.

“[There] is this change in mindset of the whole team and getting the forwards to work even harder. I think it is really a good thing.

“We won’t be training like this the whole World Cup. We don’t have any games on the weekend. This is the time to do it.”

The Wallabies depart from Sydney on Saturday for the US. They will play the US Eagles in a one-off Test match at Soldier Field in Chicago on September 5, before heading to England for the World Cup.

Ledesma said that Wallabies squad had ramped up its training across-the-board and not just in the forwards over the last days since the selection was announced last Friday.

“The boys are working really hard this last week, harder than what we have been doing the last couple of weeks, so they are struggling a little bit. But that’s the way it should go,” Ledesma said.

However, Ledesma said that even before the squad announcement and during the Rugby Championship the intensity at training had increased incrementally.

“They have been really training really hard, from the beginning – [over] the last six weeks,” Ledesma.

“Some weren’t used to train[ing] like that, especially [in] the contact area; but everybody got used to it really quick. And the attitude and the intent was really good fro the start.”