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Shares drop as earnings jitters take hold

Australian shares got swept up in a global share sell-off on Wednesday, taking their biggest daily tumble in more than seven weeks.
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The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 1.1 per cent, on Wednesday to 5452.5 points, while the broader All Ordinaries Index shed 1 per cent to 5442.2 points, as Chinese inflation and local consumer confidence data disappointed.

Local shares took a negative lead from Wall St after the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average each lost 0.7 per cent on Tuesday night. Nerves are building that equity markets in the United States are set for a dip if company earnings disappoint heading into the US reporting season in the weeks ahead.

“The only time US equities have traded on a higher average price to sales ratio in the past 25 years was in the lead up to the dot com bust,” Wingate Asset Management chief investment officer Chad Padowitz said.

Falls in major markets around Asia continued to weigh on sentiment in the afternoon session. When the local market closed Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was tracking 1.5 per cent lower following the release of data that showed weaker than expected inflation in China. Chinese inflation, as measured by the official consumer price index, lifted 2.3 per cent in the year to June. The market had been tipping an annual inflation reading of 2.5 per cent.

Despite consensus expectations that the local equity market will post a third consecutive year of gains in fiscal 2015,a growing number of fund managers are tipping a market correction on the horizon in the coming months.

“The volatility index is currently at lows not seen since the height of the global financial crisis in 2008 and if that does not ring alarm bells for people I don’t know what will,” Altius Asset Management portfolio manager Chris Dickman said.

On Wednesday, renewed negative sentiment about the outlook for China weighed on the biggest commodity exporters. Resources giant BHP Billiton lost 0.9 per cent to $37.25, while mining rival Rio Tinto shed 0.4 per cent to $62.14.

The spot price of iron ore lifted 0.6 per cent before the market opened to $US96.50 per tonne, delivered in China. But when the ASX closed iron ore futures trading in China was tipping a dip in the spot price overnight.

In domestic economic news, a closely watched monthly survey of consumer confidence lifted off the recent lows recorded following the federal budget announcement in May. The Westpac – Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment index rose 1.9 per cent to 94.9 points in July. Market economists were generally disappointed that there has not been a stronger rebound in consumer confidence.

In company news, adult education and training provider Navitas was a heavy weight on the bourse, plummeting 31 per cent to a 15-month low of $4.86 after revealing key customer Macquarie University will end the 18 year relationship to launch its own in-house pathway program.

Educational software developer 3P Learning disappointed on debut sinking 14 per cent to $2.15.

Mark Bouris’s mortgage lending franchise Yellow Brick Road added 0.7 per cent to 73.5¢ after emerging from a trading halt to announce the purchase of rival RESI Mortgages.

The big four lenders were all lower. Commonwealth Bank of Australia lost 0.7 per cent to $80.79, while Westpac Banking Corp shed 1.1 per cent to $33.85. ANZ Banking Group fell 1.2 per cent to $33.18, and National Australia Bank declined 1 per cent to $33.27.

Among other major stocks Telstra Corp fell 0.6 per cent to $5.29, Woolworths dipped 1.2 per cent to $35.89, and Wesfarmers lost 0.9 per cent to $42.63.

Shares in Scentre Group, the entity spun out of the Westfield empire focused on its local shopping mall assets rose 0.3 per cent to $3.21 after the company launched a €2 billion ($2.9 billion) bond issue on Tuesday.

Junior goldminer Northern Star Resources was the top stock in the ASX 200, climbing 14 per cent to $1.51 after beating quarterly production guidance.

Guardian losses point to Graeme Wood loan

Graeme Wood, the founder of wotif杭州后花园m. Photo: Peter Rae Photo: Peter RaeWotif co-founder Graeme Wood’s investment in The Guardian Australia will not be repaid until 2018 – provided certain hurdles are met.
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Mr Wood, who stands to make $140 million if the sale of Wotif proceeds, invested an undisclosed amount in The Guardian’s local operations, which launched in May last year.

But the accounts for Guardian Media Group, the parent company of guardian杭州后花园m publisher Guardian News & Media, give some guide to the size of the investment.

They state that GMG ”received investment to finance the expansion of the group’s activities in Australia. Subject to certain performance conditions being met, these unsecured borrowings are expected to mature no earlier than 2018”.

That investment is included in GMG’s non-current external borrowings and interest of £8.2 million ($14.94 million), up from £2.5 million ($4.55 million) last year.

The local subsidiary, GNM Australia, is yet to file its 2014 accounts. Its 2013 accounts show it had borrowings of $8.58 million and cash of $4.5 million.

Of Mr Wood’s investment, Guardian Media Group chief executive Andrew Miller has said: ”It’s a loan, so he will get his money back first. But if we decide not to continue in Australia, then there’s no obligation to repay the loan.”

GMG this week reported a loss before taxation from continuing operations of £26.1 million ($47.5 million) for the 2014 financial year. This was an improvement on the previous year’s loss of £43.9 million ($80 million).

Director Darren Singer said: ”The group is on track with its transformation to reduce operating losses while growing digital revenue and its international presence.

”The future will focus on ongoing improvement in underlying performance and reductions in cash used in operations, while continuing to grow audience reach and engagement, and prioritise innovation in award-winning journalism and editorial products.”

Mr Wood pulled his investment in The Global Mail, Australia’s first philanthropically-funded, not-for-profit news and features website, at the start of the year. He was the start-up’s non-executive chairman and had committed between $15 and $20 million to it.

The Guardian Australia’s readership is not audited by the Audited Media Association of Australia. According to Nielsen, The Guardian Australia was the country’s 9th best-read publication in May, with a unique audience of 1.86 million.

Mitch Brown relishing role at the back

Canterbury’s fill-in fullback Mitch Brown says he feels more important to the team as he enjoys his time in the No.1 jersey.
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In the past two games, Brown has taken over from Sam Perrett, who will be sidelined for at least another two weeks as he recovers from an ankle injury.

The 26-year-old has spent most of his time in the NRL on the wing but spent his junior football at fullback. Brown said he was enjoying the switch.

“I’m getting more comfortable,” he said. “It’s becoming more second nature. I’m not thinking about it as much. I’m doing a fair bit of training there now. It’s a lot more involvement and pressure. It gets me into the game a lot more. I get my hands on the ball and be more part of the team and more important. It’s good.”

Brown will come up against Billy Slater when the Bulldogs travel to play Melbourne on Saturday night. Brown said it would be a good test.

“Slater is arguably the best fullback in the game and has been for 10 years now,” Brown said. “It’s always good to play him.”

Canterbury hammered the Storm 40-12 when they met in round four. Brown said they would face a tougher Melbourne outfit on Saturday, despite Origin midweek.

“They might have had an off-day with the terrible rain in Perth, they are such a quality team you have to respect them,” Brown said. “You can never go out there thinking we can do this or do that easily. They are tough everywhere. It’s going to be cold and could be wet we just have to role the sleeves up.”

The Bulldogs will be sweating on the return of halves Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds coming through Origin unscathed, while Melbourne have not named Cooper Cronk.

Brown said he expected Cronk to return for the Storm.

“They are handy players,” he said. “It’ll be tough. You expect everything and we will train as if everyone is playing. [We] always train for the worst. I think he’ll play but it’ll depend how he pulls up from Origin.”

The Bulldogs rose to join Penrith and Manly at the top of the ladder with their surprise 23-16 win against the Sea Eagles on Friday.

“It was our first win over the Origin period [and it was good to get it] especially against Manly [because] we have had that rivalry,” Brown said. “It was a good, hard win. We’ve got good depth in our team. Tony Williams and Josh Jackson played out of their skin in positions they haven’t really played before. Everyone worked as a team and trained hard.”

Brumbies captain Ben Mowen wants to lift Super Rugby trophy before leaving Australia

Brumbies captain Ben Mowen with his daughter Eleanor. The Mowens are almost packed before their move to France. Photo: Jay CronanACT Brumbies captain Ben Mowen has declared “near enough is it not good enough” as his team chases title glory, adding he wants to lift the Super Rugby trophy before he quits Australian rugby.
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Mowen will equal Brumbies and Wallabies great George Gregan’s record as the club’s most capped skipper when he plays his 49th game for the ACT on Friday night.

But even as the Brumbies prepare to farewell 17 players and staff, Mowen said there was no room for sentiment if the team wanted to break a decade-long championship drought.

“Being near enough doesn’t get you a piece of silverware,” Mowen said.

“This group deserves something substantial for the work we have put in. I honestly believe there is a real opportunity in the next couple of weeks to give ourselves a crack of opening that up.

“Greegs won two championships … it doesn’t matter if you’ve captained the Brumbies 150 times, if you haven’t won a championship then you probably haven’t done your role properly.

“I think this group deserves a big piece of silverware to say this is why we made sacrifices. If we don’t give ourselves that chance, we’ll be disappointed. Making the final isn’t a result, we want to win it.”

Former Wallabies captain Mowen shocked Australian rugby when he announced in January he was quitting the Brumbies to sign with French club Montpellier.

The 29-year-old has been one of the major driving forces in transforming the Brumbies from a rabble at the end of 2011 to grand finalists in 2013.

The Brumbies need to beat the Western Force at Canberra Stadium to secure their place in the play-offs in back-to-back years for the first time since 2003-04.

A loss will almost certainly end the Brumbies’ season, but if they secure a losing bonus point and the Auckland Blues beat the Waikato Chiefs, the ACT could still make the finals.

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham is banking on his team’s “big game” experience to give it an edge in the battle against the Force.

The Brumbies will be bolstered by the return of flyhalf Matt Toomua, hooker Josh Mann-Rea and lock Sam Carter.

Pat McCabe and Joseph Tomane will add valuable depth to the Brumbies’ bench as they aim to win a last-round match for the first time since 2007.

“Having those guys coming off the bench can create maybe a little bit of fear in the opposition,” Larkham said.

“We’re certainly not talking about this being the final game of the season. We are talking about this being the start of our finals campaign.

“We feel as though we’re a big game team and this is certainly a big game for us. Every game is like a final in Super Rugby; our preparation is consistent and getting to the finals last year … that’s where we get the benefit from playing big games.”

Mowen has spent the past month packing up his Canberra home to prepare for his move to France.

He made his Test debut against the British and Irish Lions last year and was tipped to be part of Australia’s World Cup campaign.

Moving to France means he misses out on the chance to play at a World Cup, but Mowen said he was comfortable with his decision to leave Australia.

“Each day I show up at training [at Brumbies] I know it’s potentially the last time, but you don’t allow yourself too much time to reflect on that because you want to make sure there’s more to come. I’m excited,” Mowen said.

“I thought I’d play in Australia until the World Cup and have five or six years at the Brumbies.

“There were stages when I missed being in the Wallabies camp … but I know my priorities are elsewhere and you always return to the point where you’re comfortable with your decision.”

Pendlebury now Brownlow favourite

Trading places: Gary Ablett and Scott Pendlebury Photo: Sebastian CostanzoThe news that Gary Ablett would miss the rest of the season as a result of surgery caused a flurry among bookmakers to reframe their Brownlow Medal markets. And even though the Gold Coast captain could theoretically still win the award despite being absent for the final seven home and away games, the medal has a new favourite.
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Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury firmed from $7 before Ablett’s injury to $3.25 on Wednesday afternoon with Sportingbet.

Ablett had been a $1.60 favourite heading into last Saturday’s game against Collingwood, but has eased to $6 second favourite, with Sydney’s Josh Kennedy on the next line of betting having come in from $10 to $6.50.

Sportingbet analysts have Ablett six votes clear of Pendlebury at present, who is half a vote clear of ineligible Fremantle star Nathan Fyfe. Fyfe was suspended for two matches for a rough conduct charge in round two.

Ablett won last year’s Brownlow with 28 votes, the lowest winning total since the Bulldogs’ Adam Cooney won with 24 in 2008. Sportingbet estimates the Suns captain is sitting on 24 votes.

Brownlow night now looms as a one-day cricket-style chase, as the challengers to Ablett’s crown will know his final tally two-thirds of the way through the evening. From that point on, the contenders will face off ispon a bid to topple the master midfielder in the remaining seven weeks.

Ablett leads The Age Footballer of the Year award with 91 votes, while Fyfe sits atop the AFL Coaches’ Association Most Valuable Player ladder with 75 votes. Both awards allow a player to poll up to 10 votes per game, compared with a maximum of three per game in the Brownlow.

Ablett will have to defy history if he is to claim a record-equalling third medal. No player has missed more than six games and still triumphed. That feat was achieved 84 years ago by Richmond’s Stan Judkins, who polled seven votes to win the Brownlow in a three-way tie with Footscray’s Allan Hopkins and Collingwood’s Harry Collier. The low-winning total was the result of a system in which umpires gave just one vote every game to the best player on the ground. Stranger still was the reason Judkins played so few games in 1930: He was dropped five weeks out from the finals.

Ablett won his first Brownlow in 2009, and has finished no lower than 7th in any count since 2007. He is likely to this year move into third position on the all-time Brownlow votes tally, behind only Gary Dempsey and Robert Harvey.

In Gold Coast’s three completed seasons, he has 75 votes to his name. The next best Suns player is Harley Bennell with 13.

Who wins, who loses when the carbon tax goes?

‘Back to ground zero’ after repealCarbon price was working: ANU studyRenewable energy investments hit the wall
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Now that the Abbott government has succeeded in repealing the carbon price, who stands to win and who stands to lose?

On the face of it, the winners from the repeal of Australia’s carbon price will be the 371 liable entities paying the tax and consumers who forked out more for goods and services as the emissions charge was passed on.

Losers will include firms that have profited from their relatively low carbon output compared with rivals, such as Snowy Hydro and Hydro Tasmania. Accounting and corporate advisory firms are also likely to cut jobs as demand for their expertise dims.

The effects of the Senate’s repeal of the carbon price – $25.40 a tonne as of July 1 – will take some time to play out.

Since the carbon price fell most directly on the power sector, its removal should produce winners in that industry, save for the hydro plants and wind farms which operate at near-zero emissions.

However, as former Citi analyst and clean energy campaigner Tim Buckley notes, the coal-fired power producers have been stoked with billions of dollars in compensation to ensure they absorbed the carbon hit.

“The government gave almost 100 per cent free permits to the generators, who were allowed to bank the cash,” Mr Buckley said. “Then they’ve charged consumers for the cost of the carbon and taken the difference as a profit.”

AGL on Thursday (July 17) said the repeal of the carbon price would reduce earnings before interest and tax by about $186 million. The sum includes the loss of $100 million in “transitional assistance arrangements” for its Loy Yang A power plant in Victoria and about $86 million from anticipated falls in its wholesale power prices paid to its renewable energy and gas generation units.

Perverse result

Likewise, the big trade-exposed energy users, such as the aluminium and cement industries, were given 94.5 per cent of their permits.

Perversely, since allocations were made on industry averages, some aluminium producers actually profited from the carbon price. That benefit will presumably evaporate along with the tax’s demise.

“Australia’s aluminium smelters were heavily protected from the carbon price and in some cases were over-compensated,” said Hugh Bromley, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, noting the industry’s effective carbon price for the 2013-14 financial year ranged from minus-$34 per tonne of carbon-dioxide equivalent, to $6 a tonne.

“A plant such as [Rio Tinto’s] Bell Bay effectively made an additional $220 for every tonne of aluminium produced, while some plants on the mainland faced a cost of around $115 per tonne of aluminium,” Mr Bromley said.

Industrial beneficiaries of the end of a carbon price include the chemicals industry, particularly sectors such as refrigeration that use chemicals with a high greenhouse gas potency. Land-fill operators are other winners since many would have collected large upfront costs for waste they may not now need to manage.

“You’re talking 50 years of emissions that they are passing through,” Mr Bromley said.

Other producers of greenhouse gases, such as coal miners and gas producers, will also benefit from the absence of a carbon cost.

These sectors, particularly the new LNG exporters, happen to be among the fastest growing sources of carbon-equivalent emissions, with their expansion likely to make it harder for Australia to meet its goal of reducing 2000-level emissions 5 per cent by 2020.

Firms able to tap the Abbott government’s alternative to a carbon price to achieve that target – the direct action plan to pay polluters to curb emissions – will also be beneficiaries, assuming workable legislation supporting the policy can get through the Senate.

Details of the policy – including how baselines will be enforced – remain unclear, as is the precise amount of money available. Environment Minister Greg Hunt insists he will have access to the full $2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund for the plan, although the May budget allocated only $1.14 billion over the four-year forward estimates.

Consumer view

Consumers are also potentially winners from the repeal of the tax, but by how much remains less clear than the precise $550 per household this year routinely pledged by the Abbott government.

As Fairfax Media has reported, the annual savings may come in closer to $250, with electricity the main item to change. The fabled roast leg of lamb that was to have cost more than $100, is selling at about a fifth of that price in the supermarkets. After the repeal it may be all of 20 cents cheaper.

While some power companies say they will fully repay any carbon tax collected on electricity bills since July 1, how carbon-linked prices for other parts of the economy will be reset remains uncertain.

Tony Wood, an energy expert at the Grattan Institute, cites the case of a dairy producer sourcing milk derived from several states – each with a different carbon profile in their power sectors. How much should milk prices fall once the tax goes?

“I wouldn’t be Rod Sims for quids,” Mr Wood said, referring to the head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

As Fairfax Media reported, Qantas, a major fuel user, has ended its “carbon surcharge” but said competition meant it had not been able to recover the carbon costs as intended. Post-tax fares may hardly budge.

Shadow price

Meanwhile, any cheering in corporate boards might not reach the accounting departments. Companies will have no choice but to maintain a “shadow carbon price” no matter the current Australian policy, analysts say.

“Regardless of what happens today, we will have a lot of uncertainty in the market, and that creates a shadow carbon price in power futures,” said Mr Bromley.

Peter Castellas, chief executive of the Carbon Market Institute, said a survey of 82 companies liable to pay the carbon price last year found almost three quarters assumed a future carbon price on their investments.

The estimated carbon price ranged from the low price for Certified Emissions Reductions, worth around 20 cents a tonne, to more than $50 a tonne, surveyed companies said.

“Any company looking at any long-term investment will be thinking of factoring in a carbon price,” Mr Castellas said, noting this is particularly true for firms with international operations.

Globally, the assumed carbon price is $20-$60 a tonne, Mr Buckley, a director of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said.

One place where losses have been mounting for some time is in the area of carbon-related jobs.

The big banks scaled back or halted their carbon trading desks “a long time ago,” said Michael Green, director of Bradman’s carbon and energy recruitment unit. Business is “as dead as doornail”.

The uncertainty has spread to the renewable energy industry, the next area likely to be hit by an Abbott government roll-back.

Bradman has recently sent offshore one of Australia’s most experienced wind farm construction managers.

“He’s just bitter about the situation in Australia and he won’t be back some time soon,” Mr Green said.

Little wonder, with Bloomberg New Energy Finance noting that Australia’s investments in large-scale renewable energy plunged to just $40 million in the first half of 2014 from about $2.7 billion for all of 2013.

The carbon industry is about to enter a period of pause which will see firms like Bradman devote their efforts to expanding in Asia or elsewhere.

“It is hibernation but at the same time [we’re] going to suffer a brain drain,” Mr Green said. “We’re just tired of the ups and downs.”

Disability advocates speak out against any slowdown of NDIS rollout

Disability advocates have warned against any delay to the full rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, following a speech by the scheme’s architect which has been widely interpreted as foreshadowing a slowdown.
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The chairman of the board of the National Disability Insurance Agency, Bruce Bonyhady, told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday the ultimate success of the scheme should not be jeopardised ”just for the sake of meeting deadlines set before the scheme started”.

Mr Bonyhady said building the scheme up too quickly carried a risk that prices would be inflated if demand for services outstripped supply.

Under the current timetable, the scheme’s first full year of operation will be 2019-20. In that year, the scheme is expected to provide support to 460,000 people at a cost of $22 billion.

Mr Bonyhady and the agency board are finalising advice to Commonwealth, state and territory disability ministers on whether this timeframe should be changed.

Mr Bonyhady, whose submission to Kevin Rudd’s 2008 ideas summit kickstarted debate about a National Disability Insurance Scheme, said he expected the board to provide that advice in about a month’s time.

The Gillard government decided to launch the scheme in July 2013, a year ahead of the timetable proposed by the Productivity Commission, and a review released in March found the ambitious timeframe had compromised planning.

In May, the Abbott government’s Commission of Audit recommended the rollout be slowed, warning the financial sustainability of the scheme was at risk on the current timetable.

Mr Bonyhady said the board would recommend ”taking as long as it takes to build an NDIS that will last”.

”In this current phase of the scheme’s development, in the trial phase, about 30,000 people are going to access the scheme, so at a rate of about 10,000 per annum. In the next three years, according to the current timeframe, 400,000 people are scheduled to access the scheme.”

”What we’re looking at is what is the best way to get those 400,000 people into the scheme. I’ve already said today we’re going to do that as quickly as possible. There are aspects of the scheme that we think we can bring forward, such as investment in housing, because we know there is a long lead time before that housing is available. But the other aspects of the scheme are really going to depend upon how quickly the market develops – how quickly that supply grows in response to the growth in demand.”

Disability advocates responded to Mr Bonyhady’s speech by urging against any change to the rollout timetable.

The president of People with Disability Australia, Craig Wallace, tweeted:

Our disabilities can’t be delayed or put on hold, neither should the NDIS— Craig Wallace (@CraigWtweets) July 9, 2014

If there is a compelling case to delay NDIS I have not heard it.— Craig Wallace (@CraigWtweets) July 9, 2014

Every Australian Counts campaign director John Della Bosca said any delay to the rollout would leave Australians with disabilities and their families struggling without the support they needed.

”The starting point for any conversation about the NDIS has to be focused on the real crisis,” Mr Della Bosca said.

”People with disability are currently denied access to participate in our community and economy. They are treated as second class citizens. Rolling out the NDIS is a big job, but it’s hardly sending someone to the moon and it should not take a decade to deliver,” he said.

Ken Baker, the chief executive of National Disability Services, said it would be ”premature” to extend the rollout timeline for the scheme at this stage.

”Having been a student, if I was given six weeks to do an assignment, and after week one I was given an extension, I would probably slow down my pace of work,” he said.

”We don’t want to slow down the effort because we’ve put in huge effort to get this far.”

Labor’s spokeswoman on disability reform, Jenny Macklin, who oversaw the launch of the scheme as the minister for disability reform in the former Labor government, said the rollout was proceeding as planned, with 5000 people with disability receiving support packages, costs coming in under budget, and client satisfaction at around 90 per cent.

”For the first time in our nation’s history, people with disability are getting the care and support they deserve,” Ms Macklin said.

”There is no excuse for delay. People with disability have waited long enough.”

The minister responsible for the NDIS, Mitch Fifield, said the timing of the rollout could not be altered without the agreement of state and territory governments.

”The Commonwealth will be guided by the advice of the independent Board of the NDIA in relation to the optimal rollout schedule,” he said.”

The scheme was launched a year ago with trials in the Hunter region of NSW and the Barwon region of Victoria as well as South Australia and Tasmania, while trials started in the ACT, Perth and in the Barkly region of the Northern Territory in July this year.

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Nikki Campbell rings the changes in preparation for British Open

Nikki Campbell is taking a fresh approach into the British Open. Photo: SMP ImagesNikki Campbell has tweaked her ball, her clubs and her training regime, and is in some of her best form in recent years for the start of the British Open on Thursday.
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Campbell finished second at the Ladies European Masters in England last Sunday, the result putting her in second place on the European Tour money list and rocketing her back into the top-100 in the world, up 21 places to 95.

It’s a way off her best ranking of 35, but the Royal Canberra golfer is hoping for a personal best at Royal Birkdale this week.

“I’ve never made the cut in a British Open, so that’d obviously be great,” she said.

“The US Open [last month] was the first major cut I’ve made … it’s different golf, majors, so I just want to keep getting better each time.”

After a practice round on Monday, Campbell said the coastal course just north of Liverpool could present some headaches for the field.

“It’s very tough, if you are off-line it’s really brutal, it’s chip out sideways, so it’s going to be very hard. If it blows, I think anything under par is going to be pretty good.”

Campbell joined the European Tour last year after a decade playing in Japan, but admits she “didn’t play very well last year.”

She subsequently switched her ball from a Titleist Pro V1x to a Pro V1, upgraded her Ping clubs to the i25s, and is “going to the gym more”.

“It’s nice to be in contention again in tournaments,” she said. “I don’t really want to play golf if I’m not able to compete, if I’m just making up numbers it doesn’t really interest me that much.”

While she said the European Tour is “a lot of fun,” there are downsides to the move from Japan.

“Financially it’s not as good; I don’t have any sponsorship at the moment, so it’s tough to pay costs and things, but last week helped a bit.”

Campbell will be one of nine Australians chasing the British Open’s prize purse of $US3 million ($3.2 million). Karrie Webb will lead the charge, with Sarah-Jane Smith, Sarah Kemp, Stacey Keating, Stephanie Na, Bree Arthur and amateurs Minjee Lee and Su-Hyun Oh also in the field.

Dank could have answered the one burning question

If there was one question Stephen Dank could have answered during his radio interview with friend and former Adelaide Crows coach Graham Cornes on Tuesday night, it was this.
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Dank was asked whether he could detail what peptides had been given to the Essendon players during the club’s 2011-12 supplements program. He was asked specifically about Thymosin beta 4, the banned drug the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority alleges was given to the 34 former and current players.

Dank’s response: “Obviously, I can’t because of the impending court action.”

Well, that’s not right. According to lawyers consulted by Fairfax Media on Wednesday, if Dank knew categorically what had been administered, and those drugs were not prohibited, then there was nothing which could “prevent or inhibit” him clearing up the question those interested in this saga want to know.

Instead, Dank provided a general response, declaring all drugs had been WADA approved, leaving listeners to wonder yet again where things really sat in this football (and political) mess.

This appears to be the lie of the land. Dank has told the Australian Crime Commission he had not administered anything illegal, declaring last year “they said they didn’t think that I’d done anything wrong”. The players are of the belief they were given nothing illegal but, if they had, it was only because they had been duped.

The Bombers share that view. Last year’s AFL charge sheet listed 16 supplements (one redacted) given to the players. But there is still some confusion over whether players were given Thymosin beta 4 or the legal Thymomodulin (a spreadsheet detailing the use of Thymomodulin was found on Dank’s computer at Essendon).

Dank, himself, told Fairfax Media’s Nick McKenzie that he had given the players Thymosin beta 4 but was then shocked to be told by McKenzie it was on the banned list. ASADA has sought this transcript, sparking questions about just how strong is its case against the players – and Dank.

This is sure to be scrutinised in a book on the Essendon mess that one closer observer is seeking funds to write under the working title of: Black Optics – The Darkest Days of Australian Sport And Administration.

Dank also took aim at the club’s damning internal report conducted by former Telstra chief Ziggy Switkowski last season. Dank was not interviewed or asked to contribute to the report.

Switkowski described the program as a “pharmacologically experimental environment”. While this doesn’t necessarily mean there were illegal concoctions, it surely doesn’t sound good. Going on that report, and where the Bombers now stand in that they believe nothing illegal was administered, it could appear the club is having a bob each way.

Switkowski did not wish to comment when contacted on Wednesday.

Dank wants his day in court because he claims it’s unfair he is subjected to ASADA’s burden of proof laws, he having been issued with a show-cause notice. In court, it will be up to ASADA to prove he is guilty of any alleged breach. That is Dank’s right but if the Bombers and Hird lose their cases against ASADA in the Federal Court, players almost certainly will then have to prove why they should not be placed on the Register of Findings, the first step towards an infraction notice.

If that does happen, Dank challenging ASADA through the courts will be of little comfort to the players.

Dank says there has been a “clear breach of what ASADA is supposed to do” as the names of the club, players and drugs had been made public. In that regard, he has a point.

Clearly, there have been governance failures by all parties.

Dank, for his part, says he has no regrets, and “to be perfectly honest, I have got better things to do with my life than have to submerge myself amongst all of this” .

Wonder how the players, their families, the AFL, the Bombers and even James Hird feel about that? This is an issue that AFL chief Gillon McLachlan, who could yet be caught up in the court action alleging an unlawful joint probe, and chief medical officer Peter Harcourt stress involves the health and welfare of the players. This is an issue that has hijacked another AFL season. It has cost the Bombers millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, and Hird a one-year suspension and a personal need to challenge the process in the courts.

McLachlan, rightly, wants his focus, and that of the 18 clubs, including Essendon, to return purely to football matters. Unfortunately, that won’t happen for some time yet.

Big Money makes it a Ramornie double for Robert Thompson

Lucky 4000-and-something: legendary bush hoop Robert Thompson added another Ramornie Handicap to his resume on Wednesday with Big Money. Photo: Dean OslandBig Money, only a four-day old foal when his mother died of a snake bite protecting her progeny, did what Lyn’s Money couldn’t after creating history for champion jockey Robert Thompson in Grafton’s Ramornie Handicap.
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The Scone-based Big Money gifted 56-year-old Thompson back-to-back Ramornie wins on Wednesday, etching his name alongside the late Cecil Kelly as the only other hoop to win the time-honoured feature in consecutive years twice.

But it is amazing the remarkably consistent Big Money, which hasn’t finished outside the top two in 11 career starts, is even around to carry on his mother’s legacy considering the trauma he endured as a foal.

“She died of a snake bite four days after he was born,” winning trainer Rod Northam recalled of Lyn’s Money, who he also trained while she raced on the track. “She won nine races and actually ran in the Ramornie, but struck a wet track and finished mid-field.”

Big Money was actually raised by a foster mother at owner-breeder Phil Gunter’s property.

“I won a couple in Sydney on her and she’s actually smaller than him,” Thompson said referring to the pint-sized Big Money.

But what he lacks in size he certainly makes up for in ticker after Thompson angled off the fence turning for home and quickly rushed past his rivals to surge away with the time-honoured listed race.

Tegan Harrison, who had a Grafton homecoming to remember on Royal Scribe in the Guineas, gave Big Money something to catch aboard Rocky King. But the $2.40 favourite eased past the leader to score by three-quarters of a length.

Northam, who combined with Thompson to win the South Grafton Cup with Myamira earlier in the carnival, even hinted at Perth’s group 1 Winterbottom Stakes as a long-term plan for Big Money.

“He’ll have to come back in the late spring and race really well,” Northam said. “If he’s up to it we’d take him across. He’d be the best horse I’ve had, for sure, and he’s untapped.

“[Robert’s] helped my career so much and he’s just a genuine bloke. And you know the horse is going to come back in one piece. If something goes wrong during the race you know he’s not going to kill the horse. He’s done some really amazing things for these horses over the years.”

Harrison thought she might have had enough petrol in the tank to thwart the challenge of Big Money, was left to lament the early work Rocky King ($14.70) was forced to do to find the lead.

“They were actually not going to come here after last start and I begged [trainer] Tom [Bourke] to come,” she said. “His run first-up was terrific and I was confident he could beat Big Money if he got it easy enough early and that’s pretty much how it panned out, but we had to work that little bit more early.”

Sydney visitor Territory ($7.70) charged home from the tail to finish third.

Meanwhile, Con Karakatsanis’ Klisstra will be free to start on Thursday after he was temporarily dragged into a fresh tubing drama at Grafton.

Karakatsanis, who has only recently returned from a nine-month ban after being found guilty of conspiring to tube his star sprinter Howmuchdoyouloveme before the Salinger Stakes on Victoria Derby Day in 2012, again fronted stewards at Grafton on Wednesday.

Stipes caught Karakatsanis with tubing equipment at the Grafton stables of Mark Lynch on Wednesday morning, but later testing confirmed Klisstra hadn’t been treated.

“Shortly after 8am our Northern Rivers-based stewards found Con Karakatsanis with tubing equipment in his stables,” Racing NSW’s deputy chief steward Greg Rudolph said.

“He stated the process of post-race gallop tubing was within his normal stable practices. [Results have] come back at normal levels and consistent with the evidence Klisstra wasn’t treated. She’s clear to race as usual and business as usual.”