Monthly Archives: December 2018

You are browsing the site archives by month.

No tall order for Fremantle Dockers coach Ross Lyon

First year Fremantle player Michael Apeness has found himself fit and in the right place at the right time of the year.

The 199cm key forward made his AFL debut last weekend in the Dockers 63-point win over Melbourne in Darwin and it seems the Dockers may opt for him to assist captain Matthew Pavlich in attack.

Apeness appears to have jumped to the front of the queue by default – and will be given a chance to stay there.

Coach Ross Lyon was happy with his first-up efforts.

“I thought he was really good, really good. It was tough conditions,” he said of the 21-year-old.

“I thought he competed really strongly. It’s a bit of what we’re after. He’s an exciting young talent.

“Last week he was outnumbered a bit and brought it to ground and he brings (Hayden) Ballantyne and those guys into the game.

We’re not a super tall front half. Matthew (Pavlich) is 191-192cm, (Chris) Mayne is 188cm, (Zac) Carke is our tallest when he’s there at 200cm.

“So we could do with some more height.

“He’s a bit of a beast. He competes. So we’re looking for that in our front half.”

Lyon said he thought Apeness did enough against the Demons to earn his place in the side that will play GWS at Patersons Stadium on Sunday.

However, he warned that even some of the best tall forwards found it tough at the start of their careers.

“It’s not going to be a smooth ride for him the whole time. He’s got a lot to learn. It’s hard for young talls,” Lyon said.

“If you go back, I think Drew Petrie for his first few years averaged four touches or something, so it’s a tough business being a young tall forward.

“It’s never been tougher in the AFL being a power forward, particularly a young one.”

Matt Taberner, at 197cm, is one of the unlucky players. He was given an opportunity after kicking 16 goals in eight games in the WAFL this season – however with key defenders sidelined through injury he was forced to play in the backline for the round 15 victory over West Coast.

Unfortunately, he suffered a hamstring injury, which allowed Apeness into the side the following week.

“He’s a bit unlucky because he would’ve played if he hadn’t been injury really. He would’ve stayed in and just gone forward. He’s a bit unlucky,” Lyon said of Taberner.

At 197cm and with 35 AFL games under his belt, Scott Gumbleton was potentially the player to add that much-needed height into their forward line this season.

However, a hamstring injury in the pre-season saw the former Essendon forward sidelined for the first 11 rounds of the season.

He has played the past five games with Peel Thunder in the WAFL, but has yet to hit his straps and has returned 4.6 in that time.

Time may be running out for him to push for a place in Fremantle’s finals line-up.

Kepler Bradley is another option for Lyon if Apeness doesn’t rise to the occasion. Bradley, at 198cm, has played in the WAFL since round six, having recovered from a knee reconstruction.

He has kicked 87 goals in 117 AFL games after 10 seasons at the elite level, although he has been playing mainly as a key defender in the twos.

Opportunity may be the problem for those Dockers not currently in the side though.

With a second bye added to this season’s schedule (after round 18 for Fremantle), Lyon may not have to find games in the run home where he can rest players.

When the Dockers return from a week off after meeting St Kilda in Melbourne, they will have five home and away fixtures to finalise their preparation for the finals.

Lyon said that is one reason why he did not rest Pavlich for last week’s game against Melbourne.

The Dockers skipper flew to Darwin with the side but returned home to Perth before the game started after waking up feeling sick.

“Last year there was one bye and I think that is getting forgotten a little bit,” Lyon said.

“We’ve had a bye early in the year and a bye four weeks out… is ideal really for everyone.

“I suppose in the seat I sit in I don’t have the luxuries (of resting players); I would love to have seen the headlines had I rested Pav. That would be a nice headline for me, wouldn’t it?

“I tend to pick the best team available, you know.”

That team to meet GWS on Sunday is likely to include All-Australian defender Michael Johnson, who will return after four weeks on the sidelines.

Fremantle was without Johnson and Luke McPharlin for three of their past four games, McPharlin having returned last weekend.

Lyon said it was important to get him back on the ground as soon as he was available.

“He hasn’t played for I think this will be his fifth week,” Lyon said. “You don’t want to miss too much of league footy – it’s a brutal competition.

“He’s obviously a valued leader around the place and a real general down there and a pretty good player, so we’re keen to get him up and going.”

The Facebook filter protecting students from bullies (and themselves)

Posting to Facebook at 3am is rarely well-considered or necessary. But what if there was a sober voice of reason tapping you on the shoulder and urging you to reconsider?

A moment of reflection could have saved countless relationships and reputations – perhaps even Todd Carney’s career.

That is the thinking behind a new technology some Sydney schools hope will forestall students making poor choices on social media, while protecting others from bullies.

It is real-time social media monitoring and moderation.

Here is how it works: A student publishes something rude or insulting on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. It contains a blacklisted word or phrase, or it is posted at a time of day – 1am to 5am, for example – deemed risky. The post is then stalled while the student is sent a prompt, alerting them to its offensive nature and urging them to reconsider.

At this point, the student can delete the post, modify it or ignore the warning completely and proceed as intended.

”People think this is intrusive because we’re monitoring everything. But, while we are monitoring everything, we’re really only picking up the inappropriate stuff that’s going through,” Carlton Taya, the director of Kudos Knowledge, which developed the technology, said. ”We hope that implementing something like this in schools will lead to a behavioural shift.”

The designers are also working on an image function. Skin-coloured pixels, for example, could indicate nudity. Or the shapes of guns and other weapons could be identified.

Nerida Walker, the principal of Matraville Sports High School, where the application will be trialled next term, hopes it will encourage her students to pause and think.

”In terms of brain development, teenagers literally don’t have a filter until their late teens, so this really is like an electronic filter,” she said.

Students do not need to hand over their passwords and the content of their messages will not be passed on.

Ms Walker insists she has no interest in playing ”big brother”.

While the application can be set to alert a third party such as a parent or principal when the user is acting inappropriately, Mr Taya says students rebel against such intrusion.

”They find ways around it and open up new accounts,” he said. ”Ours is more of a self-management program that allows them to think more carefully about what they’re putting out there.”

In addition to Matraville and one of Sydney’s most elite boys private schools, the tech company has been in conversation with rugby league, rugby union and AFL clubs.

A club administrator might be alerted, for example, when an unpredictable player posts to Twitter late in the evening, or if a sponsor is mentioned.

”It protects the player, the club sponsors and the integrity of the club,” former rugby league player Gary Ella, who is working with Kudos Knowledge, said. ”You can see by what’s happening in the sporting arena on virtually a weekly basis that there are some issues with social media.”

George Clooney slams the Daily Mail for ‘criminal’ report

George Clooney is used to rumours being spread about him in the media, but a recent report by British tabloid the Daily Mail has made him angry enough to speak out.

”I seldom respond to tabloids, unless it involves someone else and their safety or well-being,” Clooney writes in an open letter published in USA Today.

”The Daily Mail has printed a completely fabricated story about my fiancee’s mother opposing our marriage for religious reasons.”

The story in question reports that his fiance Amal Almuddin’s mother Baria ”has been ‘telling half of Beirut’ that she wanted her daughter to marry within the Druze sect”.

It continues, reporting that a ”family friend” in London says Baria thinks her daughter can do better.

The Daily Mail then goes into great detail about the problems being Druze will have on their nuptials, as well as some of the more controversial aspects of the culture.

The reporters write: ”There can be harsh penalties for those Druze who marry outsiders. Several women have been murdered for disobeying the rules.”

The 53-year-old actor says, to begin with, nothing in the story is true. For a start, ”Amal’s mother is not Druze,” Clooney points out.

”She has not been to Beirut since Amal and I have been dating, and she is in no way against the marriage.”

In fact, she has been holidaying with her son-in-law-to-be and his family at his holiday home at Lake Como, Italy.

Over the weekend Baria was spotted looking happy while she bonding with Clooney’s mother, Nina Bruce Clooney, during a shopping trip in an Italian village.

While the Daily Mail mentioned this, it is probably something Baria would not have done if she disapproved of the match.

Clooney says he is used to and even expects tabloids to make up silly stories like this about him, but this particular story creates a bigger problem.

”If they fabricate stories of Amal being pregnant, or that the marriage will take place on the set of Downton Abbey, or that I’m running for office, or any number of idiotic stories that they sit at their computers and invent, I don’t care,” Clooney writes.

”The irresponsibility, in this day and age, to exploit religious differences where none exist, is at the very least negligent and more appropriately dangerous.”

He continues: ”We have family members all over the world, and the idea that someone would inflame any part of that world for the sole reason of selling papers should be criminal.”

The actor says another big problem with the fact the tabloid is selling blatant lies as news is that hundreds of other news outlets and organisations then quote the Daily Mail in their own stories on the same topic.

New York’s Daily News, Yahoo! Celebrity UK, Emirates 24/7 and India Today are just a handful of the news outlets that reported on the Daily Mail’s article about Clooney’s relationship.

The Monuments Men star says he understands his privacy is occasionally inconvenienced by freedom of speech, but the Daily Mail takes things too far.

”The Daily Mail, more than any other organisation that calls itself news, has proved time and time again that facts make no difference in the articles they make up,” Clooney writes. ”And when they put my family and my friends in harm’s way, they cross far beyond just a laughable tabloid and into the arena of inciting violence.”

Read Clooney’s full letter about the Daily Mailhere, and the offending report here.

Fortune 500: News Corp bumped off list as Shell loses top spot

The split of News Corp has bumped its print business off the Fortune 500 list of the world’s biggest companies.

But its sister company, 21st Century Fox, has effectively taken the newspaper empire’s place in its debut on the list.

Fox – ranked at 318 – was spun off from News Corp’s publishing arm in July last year in an effort to free the entertainment business from News Corp’s low growth media assets, which include The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun.

Shareholders have warmed to the demerger, with Fox’s shares rising 19.62 per cent to about $US34.10. But News has also traded in positive territory, rising 5.75 per cent to $18.63, despite the UK phone hacking scandal and subsequent jailing of former editor Andy Coulson for 18 months.

Fox, which was delisted from the Australian Stock Exchange in January, joins eight Australian companies on the Fortune 500 list.

BHP Billiton – the biggest Australian company to make the cut – slid 27 places to be ranked 142 overall. Supermarket-to-coal conglomerate Wesfarmers was next at 158, down from 153 last year. Rival Woolworths was three spots lower at 161.

The big four banks – NAB (216), the Commonwealth (226), Westpac (288), ANZ (352) – and Telstra (453), retained berths on the revenue-ranked list.

Oil producers continued their domination with five companies in the top 10. But Royal Dutch Shell, which has spent the past two years at No.1, slipped to second place after being toppled by retailer Wal-Mart.

“The retailer has ramped up its international focus,” Fortune said. “With Doug McMillon’s start as CEO in 2014, the company has underscored its desire to expand further overseas.

“In fact, the company said that net sales overseas, which accounts for more than 6000 stores, climbed 4.6 per cent to $US140.9 billion ($150 billion) from 2013.”

Fortune said a 4.6 per cent plunge sales helped knock Royal Dutch Shell off the top spot. “Profits, too, dropped nearly 40 per cent for the year after low production, high costs and issues with refining.”

Shell also sold its Geelong refinery, west of Melbourne, and 870 retail sites to Swiss group Vitol for $2.9 billion in February.

Shell chief executive officer Ben van Beurden said at the time the sale was a tough choice, taken to improve the company’s overall competitiveness.

China dominated the list of newcomers to the Fortune 500, with six out of the 23 that made their debut. Businesses ranged from banking to energy and construction. The Asian powerhouse has 95 companies on the list, with combined revenues of $US5.8 trillion.

This compares with the world’s biggest economy, the US, having 128 companies – four fewer than last year – on the list, with combined revenues of $US8.6 trillion.

British defence contractor Rolls-Royce, not to be confused with the luxury car maker owned by BMW, entered the list for the first time, being ranked 489 after its revenue jumped 26 per cent to $US24.2 billion. Fortune highlighted the company’s priority of attracting and retaining more female employees.

The top 500 companies combined revenues totalled $US31.1 trillion, up 2.5 per cent from 2012, while profits soared 27 per cent to nearly $US2 trillion.

Property investors cheered by housing boom

Investor confidence has hit its stride with a range of data indicating that the only way is up.

The boost for property investors has come from a residential market with higher house prices, while the stable employment sector has given office market developers a more positive outlook.

But there are some grey clouds gathering on the horizon, including concerns about the new federal Senate and how it will affect the implementation of government policies, the long-term impact of the warm weather on retailers and the loss of jobs, particularly in the public service.

The latest Property Council/ANZ property industry confidence index to September 2014 shows property industry confidence remains steady at 131 points, compared with 132 for the previous quarter.

This comes at the same time as the Westpac/Melbourne Institute index of consumer confidence rose by 1.9 per cent to 94.9 points in July, despite being down 7.1 per cent over the past year.

The decline was attributed to concerns arising from the federal budget released in May.

Property Council of Australia acting chief executive Glenn Byres says in the report that the September quarter expectations reveal an industry confident about its future, despite low expectations for national economic growth.

”After reaching a record high of 140 points at the start of 2014, property industry confidence has moderated amid concerns around the trajectory of economic growth and the fate of the federal government’s budget in the Senate,” Mr Byres says.

In NSW, the Property Council/ANZ property industry confidence survey index sits at 143 for the September quarter (where 100 is considered neutral), thanks to the booming housing market.

Retail, office and industrial market capital growth expectations were all positive in NSW and Victoria, but flat across the other states and territories.

In Victoria, the survey index was steady at 132, up from 131 the previous three months. Fears of public service job losses meant the ACT recorded some of the lowest levels across all the survey categories.

The PCA/ANZ survey is the largest national business confidence survey. It polled about 2300 professionals from the property and construction sector in all states and territories, including more than 650 from NSW, for the forward-looking view.

Craig James, the chief economist at CommSec, said the Reserve Bank would carefully watch consumer confidence to ensure that it continues to recover and the decline in confidence driven by the federal budget does not have a lasting effect on consumer spending and home purchase/construction. Interest rates are solidly on hold.

”The global economy is in a much better position than it was 12 months ago,” Mr James said. ”Downside risks are diminishing and now the Chinese economy is showing signs of lifting after a period of malaise.”

According to Colliers International research, Australia’s strong economic growth at a time when other developed countries are experiencing recession makes the local property sector particularly attractive to many offshore and local investors.

John Marasco, Colliers International managing director of capital markets and investment services, said in the past year there has been a significant rebound in the rest of the developed world, which had led to speculation that capital may start to leave Australia and look elsewhere for opportunity.

”At present, groups leaving the Australian market are still in the minority, outweighed by the new capital entering the market,” Mr Marasco said.

”Local groups remain in acquisition mode with high levels of available funds and low costs of borrowing. An interesting trend to watch will be local and offshore groups moving up the risk curve and into either secondary CBD assets or metro office markets. Sydney and Brisbane, in particular, offer scale in metro office markets, and are already attracting interest from offshore groups.”

‘I know how to win’: Mark Renshaw to make most of Mark Cavendish’s absence and go for broke

Interactive: Pull of the pelotonTour indexLive coverage

LILLE: Mark Renshaw never ceases to be amazed by the vagaries of cycling, especially when he looks at his position in the Tour de France where he is now his team’s lead sprinter.

Now the NSW rider’s opportunity has come, with British teammate and star sprinter Mark Cavendish sidelined by his injuries, including a dislocated collar bone, sustained in a crash at the finish of stage one at Harrogate, Britain.

Renshaw smiles when asked how his career has changed – from being Cavendish’s lead-out rider, to trying his hand at being another team’s main sprinter, to returning to Cavendish’s side in his old role, and now facing the chance to win again.

Since his elevation, Renshaw has placed third in Monday’s third stage from Cambridge to London and seventh in Tuesday’s 163km fourth stage from Le Touquet-Paris Plage to Lille – both won by German Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano).

The win by Kittel on Tuesday, in which he beat Norway’s Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and French champion Arnaud Demare into second and third places respectively, took his career tally of Tour stage wins to seven from two Tours.

“It’s really crazy, a cyclist’s career. Things can turn on their head pretty quick,” said Renshaw (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).

“I’ve seen both sides of the coin – the good and the bad of last year [as protected sprinter on the Belkin team], two years ago having a big crash in the Tour of Turkey.

“Now ‘Cav’ is on the other side of the coin and is looking to come back. But that gives me an opportunity. I’ll take it with both hands and see what I come up with.”

Renshaw, whose opportunity to race for himself in bunch sprints should last beyond the Tour and into the second half of the year as Cavendish rehabilitates, said he had been in regular contact with the Briton since he left the Tour.

“We have spoken a lot since he stopped,” Renshaw said. “[The Tour was] the season goal for him, so obviously he is finding it quite hard watching the [race on] TV, but we have all been there.”

Renshaw also realises that beating Kittel, who now has three stage wins, will be a “big ask”, especially as he is not gifted with the German’s speed.

However, the Australian believes a stage win is still possible should the stars align – and there is no shortage of opportunity, with Thursday’s sixth stage followed by stages 7, 15, 19 and 21 into Paris suited for the sprinters on paper.

“The tactics are simple. We need to catch him offguard and we need some luck,” Renshaw said, adding that believes more time in the role as his team’s sprinter can only help.

“I didn’t have the preparation to beat Kittel in the sprint [on stage there], but I have the experience for the positioning,” Renshaw said.

“I know how to win, but this year has been dedicated to Cavendish – and more about me leading him out with a progressive long sprint rather than a short and sharp effort.

“I think I can beat Kittel but luck needs to swing my way and he needs to be unlucky.

“So a lot of things need to happen for me to win a stage, but I’ll keep trying. I know where I am in relation to these guys, but it’s a big ask to win a stage.”

Renshaw is candid about saying that for him or anyone to beat Kittel, they will need the German to make an error – or his teammates in their lead-out for him in the sprint.

“We need Giant-Shimano to make a couple of mistakes to have him out of position,” Renshaw said.

THEATRE: Trench angels saluted

TOUGH TIMES: Kate Skinner as Sister Florence Whiting in Through These Lines.WHEN writer and producer Cheryl Ward toured NSW last year looking for venues to stage her World War I play Through These Lines, her immediate Newcastle choice was Fort Scratchley.

She walked into a casemate, a vaulted concrete chamber beneath the late 19th century fort’s gun emplacements that was intended for use in sheltering troops and stores.

It was a perfect setting for the play’s story, which shows an Australian nurse moving from one battlefront to another to care for wounded soldiers between 1914 and 1918.

The nurse, Sister Florence Whiting, is stationed at various times in concrete bunkers and on hospital ships, interacting with her nursing colleagues and the military men she meets and treats. Florence and a soldier who was wounded at Gallipoli fall in love while he is hospitalised.

Through These Lines is being staged at Fort Scratchley from July 24 to August 5 as part of the Civic Theatre’s subscription series.

While the Civic’s subscription works are generally staged in its 1500-seat theatre or the adjacent and smaller Playhouse, Cheryl Ward submitted her Through These Lines script to the management and received the go-ahead to use Fort Scratchley.

Many of the NSW seasons will be in RSL clubs, but other historic buildings with a military connection will also house the play.

The Trial Bay Jail at South-West Rocks, near Kempsey, where German nationals were interned during World War I, is a venue. The Lithgow Small Arms Factory, like the jail now a museum, is another. Brought into operation in 1912, the Lithgow facility manufactured rifles and bayonets for Australian forces during World War I.

Cheryl Ward was inspired to write Through These Lines after former concrete munitions tunnels at Sydney Harbour’s Middle Head were opened to the public in 2008.

Ward grew up near the locked tunnels and, with other teenagers, managed to climb into them on occasions.

When they became available for public arts works, she looked for a theatre subject, with photos of nurses in a concrete-walled room in France during World War I leading her to research their lives and work and to develop the first version of Through These Lines.

The play had a sold-out three-week season in one of the munitions rooms in 2010, with audience members often in tears as they heard the nurses talking about their experiences in words taken verbatim from letters World War I nurses had written.

Ward has reworked the script since that initial staging and, in her words, ‘‘it has become a much more personal journey for Sister Florence Whiting’’.

‘‘It is a more human story,’’ she said.

‘‘The nurses behind the battlefronts were almost anonymous people. They treated thousands of patients, but half the time they didn’t know their names.’’

The cast is led by Kate Skinner as Florence Whiting, with the other actors playing three or more roles.

Cheryl Ward is one of the actors, with her characters including the matron in charge of the story’s nursing team. The other players are Rebecca Barbera, Gareth Rickards, Gary Clementson, and Christian Charisiou. Mary-Anne Gifford directs.

The Fort Scratchley casemate will hold 60 audience members.

Ward said the 80-minute work, which is played without an interval, makes extensive use of stretchers and has props including tents, wooden huts and ship features as the story moves between a troop ship taking soldiers and nurses to Europe, Cairo, a hospital ship, Lemnos and the Western Front.

The audience will be greeted at the casemate door by the actors at the starting time and brought into the venue. Latecomers won’t be admitted.

Through These Lines, a co-production by Turnaround Productions and No Rest for the Wicked, has a preview at 7.30pm on Thursday, July 24. There will be performances from Friday, July 25, to Tuesday, August 5, with shows each Friday at 7.30pm, Saturday and Sunday at 3pm and 7.30pm, Monday at 7.30pm, Tuesday at 3pm and 7.30pm, and Thursday at 7.30pm. Tickets: $38, concession $32, subscriber $28, with a preview price of $25. Bookings: Civic Ticketek, 49291977.

The Lorica gladiator suit takes the pain out of armed combat

“Creating an entirely new sport:” The Lorica suit. Photo: Unified Weapons MasterMany would say the allure of Game of Thrones lies in the blood and gore, the swords and staffs and the battles in armour.

These days weapons-based combat in television, film and gaming leaves fans mouth-watering and blood thirsty for the next hyper-violent battle scene.

So it was only a matter of time before someone developed the technology to physically step inside the armour, brandish a weapon and feel those blows.

Australian start-up, Unified Weapons Master, has created the Lorica; a gladiator-style combat suit built to withstand and record the full force of martial arts weapons.

“Our vision is to reignite interest in weapons-based martial arts that have been practised and developed over thousands of years,” said Unified Weapons Master CEO, David Pysden.

He said the Lorica suit is the first opportunity to see some of the most ancient weapons-based martial arts showcased in the modern era.

“These arts are slowly dying because they can’t be practised for real because of the dangers. We wanted to create a forum for martial artists to be able to showcase their skills,” he said.

The carbon-fibre suit has in-built sensors which track and store data on the impact of martial arts weapons to an unprotected body.

In recent battle testing the most forceful strike recorded was a blow to the head from a tomahawk with almost 600kg of force.

The data is recorded in the 40 sensors placed near the head and torso which measure the force and location of strikes to the armour in real time.

Whilst Pysden said their core application for the suit is in weapons-based martial arts, there are always long term goals, such as in military and law enforcement training.

“It is going to be possible for us to look to training armour, and we’ve already received an overwhelming response online, from people into gaming, average people, and professionals. People just love the idea of putting on a suit of armour and fighting with weapons.

“In the longer term we could see this even going into gyms,” he said.

Research and development of the Lorica suit have been funded by private investors. At what cost, Pysden would not say, though he said the price tag to date was not insignificant.

With a plan to launch the first competition battle events using the suits by next year, Pysden said the most exciting part will be seeing different weapons from different cultural histories in competition.

“There are 96 weapons-based martial arts and we are putting together a forum where they can all compete.

“What we’re excited about seeing is who comes out on top; for example a Japanese Samurai sword champion, versus a Chinese Shaolin staff master,” he said.

‘Piracy on the high seas’: Malcolm Fraser

Malcolm Fraser addresses the Lowy Institute on Wednesday. Former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser has characterised Australia’s interdiction and detention of  more than 150 Sri Lankan asylum-seekers at sea as ‘‘piracy on the high seas.’’

He said the apprehension of the vessel on which they were travelling in international waters and their transfer to an Australian customs vessel was ‘‘in breach of international law’’, and he was unsure how else to describe it, other than as an act of piracy.

Speaking at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, he cited wire reports that a Sri Lankan police chief had said  another 41 passengers recently picked up by Australia and returned to Sri Lanka would be proscecuted for leaving the country illegally.

‘‘The other thing [the police chief] said was that they would all be subject to enhanced imprisonment,’’ Mr Fraser said. ‘‘What is enhanced imprisonment? Is that a new name for torture? Sounded very like it.’’

On Monday, a Sri Lankan police spokesman was quoted by Reuters as saying that those found guilty of leaving the country illegally would be subject to ‘‘two years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine.’’

The Abbott government has not disclosed the whereabouts of the group of 153 Sri Lankans picked up at sea and is awaiting the results of a High Court challenge as to their fate.

Elsewhere in his address, Mr Fraser criticised the speech made  in Canberra on Tuesday by visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with its implicit warnings to China and subtext of a strengthening Australian-Japanese defence relationship.

Mr Fraser said Mr Abe was the ‘‘ second head of government who’s  made a speech that should only have been made on his own soil. The first was President Obama, when he made a speech  that should only have been made from American soil..’’

Mr Fraser was referring to Mr Obama’s November 2011 speech in Australia emphasising a United States ‘‘pivot’’ towards  greater involvement in the Asia-Pacific region, and the subsequent rotation of US troops through Darwin.

Mr Fraser said ‘‘there is a view in America that Australia is the best of allies because … we do what America  wants when America wants it, we won’t even ask any questions .. And that’s pretty accurate. And Obama’s speech in the parliament about the pivot was misguided and wrong.’’

He said ‘‘China has never, I think, been … through its very ancient history an imperial power in the way those Eruoepan states, Japan and America have been…’’

He also said that he did not think that the recent assertiveness of China posed any risks to Australia, though there might be some ‘‘risk’’ to some of those on China’s periphery.

Mr Fraser was speaking at the Lowy Institute in support of his recent book Dangerous Allies critiquing the US alliance. He queried the ability of Washington to prevail over Beijing in the event of armed conflict, which Australia risked getting sucked into.

Even with  America’s ‘‘massive’’ technical superiority  over the North Vietnamese, it had not been able to win the Vietnam war, he argued. So ‘‘ if America couldn’t beat Vietnam, do you think they can beat China? Not one hope in a thousand’’.

‘‘Australia [would be] left as the defeated ally of a defeated superpower and I think that’s rather an uncomfortable position to be in and will put Australia in greater danger than we have ever been in our history except for [when] Japan attacked Pearl Harbour.’’

Follow us on Twitter

Joko Widodo claims early victory in Indonesia’s knife-edge presidential election

Indonesian presidential candidate Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and his wife Iriana after casting their vote in Jakarta on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters/Darren Whiteside Former general Prabowo Subianto shows his ballot paper before voting in the presidential election at a Bojong Koneng polling station in Bogor, Indonesia, on Wednesday. Photo: AP/Achmad Ibrahim

I’ve voted: a woman in Brambang Darussalam, Bondowoso, East Java, after voting on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters/Sigit Pamungkas

Jakarta: Joko Widodo and his political patron Megawati Sukarnoputri have claimed victory in the Indonesian presidential election, based on “quick counts” of ballot papers, less than two hours after polling booths closed.

But Tantowi Yahya, the spokesman for his rival, Prabowo Subianto, said it was far too early to make the call.

Mr Joko thanked his volunteers and urged them to watch the integrity of the official count against possible corruption.

“We are all grateful that based on the counting of quick counts, Jokowi-JK has won,” he said to a packed room of supporters.

“I think now it’s time for us to guard the counting, from the lowest level to the highest, so that it’s clean and honest and there’s no intervention. We ask for the people of Indonesia to guard the purity of the people’s aspiration, and so that nobody can try to stain what people have voted for.”

A number of polling companies are authorised to make quick counts, which include counting actual ballot papers, and which in the past have proved very accurate.

However, the claim of victory comes earlier than expected because many of the votes counted come from sparsely populated eastern Indonesia, where polling booths closed earlier, and not from the population centres of Java and Sumatra.

Earlier in the day on the streets of Jakarta, people lined up to vote for either Prabowo Subianto’s toughness or Joko Widodo as the man of the people.

“Jokowi is for the people, a leader who is born from the people and he’s for the people,” said Hery Wijaya, sitting with friends in inner-city Glodok.

Tanah Abang market stallholder Eti said: “I voted for Prabowo because I know Prabowo follows Suharto. He’s firm, he’s military. I want Indonesia to revive, be spirited, not just lame, so I want a firm leader, not a lame one.”

However, in Chinatown, which was razed during the turmoil of Suharto’s 1998 downfall, with hundreds dead and dozens of women raped, it is Jokowi all the way.

“We experienced it ourselves,” says Wini, with her husband Derry, who are part of Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese minority.

“My parents lost their shops … We are still traumatised, and Mr Prabowo is more identified with [Suharto’s dictatorial] New Order, so we want some change; and we don’t want to go back to the old times.”

Turnout was expected to top 80 per cent of 190 million eligible voters in the world’s third-largest democracy, which some are saying faces a battle between its autocratic past and its democratic future.

Former general Mr Prabowo, accompanied by his son – Suharto’s grandson, Didit Prasetya – voted near his home in Hambalang, Bogor. He showed up to the polling booth at the local police station in a white Lexus, accompanied by two police on horseback.

Jakarta Governor Mr Joko and his wife Iriana voted in Menteng, near the governor’s mansion, which he will return to if he should lose the vote for president.

Neither man spoke to waiting media.

The final result will not be known officially for weeks, but “quick count” and exit polling companies are producing results even before the ballot closes, so unofficial results should be known by mid-evening Australian time on Wednesday.