Senators agree to axe truckies’ tribunal

The federal government appears to have the numbers to abolish a road safety watchdog when parliament resumes next week.

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Crossbenchers Jacqui Lambie, Glenn Lazarus, Bob Day, David Leyonhjelm and Nick Xenophon all support axing the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, after it set new minimum pay rates which owner-drivers fear will drive them out of business.

Palmer United Party senator Dio Wang and independent John Madigan have now both indicated they are also willing to vote in favour of its abolition, provided funding is re-directed to road safety programs.

The government initially pledged to axe the tribunal after the election, but will now introduce legislation when parliament is recalled next Monday.

It plans on re-directing the $4 million in funding to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.

“I want to be assured that the $4 million will be spent on road safety,” Senator Wang told Sky News.

Senator Madigan says he wants to see that the government has a road-map in place to deal with road safety issues.

“That’s what I’m working on at the present time, to put forward a plan that takes on board all people’s concerns so that they’re dealt with and not swept under the carpet,” he told ABC radio on Thursday.

The coalition will also move to freeze the new pay rates, set by the tribunal, until 2017.

Acting prime minister Barnaby Joyce welcomed support from crossbenchers.

“That’s precisely what we want,” he told ABC radio.

“We should have absolutely no problem getting this through as quickly as possible.”

* The government has set up a temporary hotline through the Social Services Department to provide financial advice for owner-drivers 1800 007 007.

Victorian government to investigate death of toddler Sanaya Sahib

The actions of welfare agencies in the weeks and months before toddler Sanaya Sahib’s death are to be investigated by the Victorian government.

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The 14-month-old was allegedly murdered by her mother, Sofina Nikat, in Melbourne on Saturday.

Nikat was excused from fronting court on Wednesday after her lawyer, Michael McNamara, raised mental health concerns.

Now state families minister Jenny Mikakos has ordered a probe into how government agencies dealt with the family before the toddler’s death.

“There are strict protocols in place between agencies and services when it comes to sharing information about children,” a government spokeswoman said in a statement.

“The Minister for Families and Children has requested the Commissioner for Children and Young People investigate the death of Sanaya Sahib to determine whether these protocols have been followed by the Department of Health and Human Services and all related agencies.”

Sanaya’s body was found in the Darebin Creek on Sunday less than 24 hours after Nikat told police she had been snatched from her pram in a Heidelberg West park.

Nikat had told police a man of African appearance, smelling of alcohol and wearing no shoes, pushed her to the ground before taking off with the toddler.

She said she gave chase but could not catch him.

Nikat, of Mitcham, was charged with her daughter’s murder on Tuesday.

A public memorial will take place at the Heidelberg park on Friday when balloons will be released to remember Sanaya.

The 14-month-old’s funeral will be held on Saturday with Sanaya’s father – who separated from Nikat a year ago – saying the public is welcome to attend.

 

Eels’ Radradra urged to get off the wing

The Semi-trailer has been parked far too long for his owner’s liking.

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So now Parramatta star Semi Radradra has been told to get off his wing in a bid to get the wheels cranking again.

“If he sits out there and waits for it, it’s not always going to get to him,” coach Brad Arthur said.

“The game’s very fast this year, so there’s some opportunities for the outside backs once the sting gets taken out of the game from the opposition forwards. There’s chances for him to come and get the ball.”

Despite Parramatta soaring high in third spot on the NRL ladder heading into their round seven clash with Manly, their Fijian flyer has been relatively quiet.

His numbers of two tries, four line-breaks, 18 tackle breaks and eight offloads actually make for strong reading, but Eels coach Brad Arthur reckons the two-time Dally M Winger of the Year can do better.

“Every team is pretty smart with their plan against Semi to try and limit the opportunities that he gets,” Arthur said.

“It’s the same when you play against Greg Inglis – you don’t want to kick the ball to him.”

Radradra also has competition for the ball this year.

With new recruits Michael Jennings, Michael Gordon and Kieran Foran arriving over the summer as shiny attacking targets, the 23-year-old Radradra is no longer the sole option in the red zone.

“Maybe we’ve tended to rely on Semi a little bit and we don’t need to as much,” Arthur said.

So if the 23-year-old wants the ball, he’s been told to go get it.

“He’s not a happy man when he doesn’t get the footy, so he’s finding ways to get it,” Arthur said.

“He’s finding ways now to get into the game without the ball being kicked to him all the time. It’d be great if we could get him some open space. Hopefully he can get a few tries.”

Syria using ‘crematorium’ to hide mass killing: US

Warning Moscow it should not turn a blind eye to Bashar al-Assad’s crimes, the State Department released satellite images that it said backed up reports of mass killings at a Syrian jail.

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“The United States is on record, has stated many times, that we are appalled by the atrocities that have been carried out by the Syrian regime,” said Stuart Jones, the top US diplomat for the Middle East.

“And these atrocities have been carried out seemingly with the unconditional support from Russia and Iran.”

And he added a warning to President Vladimir Putin’s government: “Russia must now, with great urgency, exercise its influence over the Syrian regime to guarantee that horrific violations stop now.”

Images of the alleged crematorium 

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One newly released image, a commercial satellite photograph dating back to January 2015, shows snow melting on the roof of a building attached to the Saydnaya military complex north of Damascus.

This, along with an earlier picture allegedly showing heavy-duty ventilation systems on the structure, appear to support earlier claims by rights groups that Saydnaya is an execution center.

Related reading’Cover up’

“Beginning in 2013, the Syrian regime modified a building within the Saydnaya complex to support what we believe is a crematorium,” said Jones, currently an acting assistant secretary of state.

“Although the regime’s many atrocities are well documented, we believe that the building of a crematorium is an effort to cover up the extent of the mass murders taking place in Saydnaya.”

Jones said Washington’s information came from credible humanitarian agencies and from the US “intelligence community” — implying that classified evidence beyond the commercial pictures exists.

“The regime holds as many as 70 prisoners in Saydnaya in cells that have a five-person capacity,” Jones alleged.

“And according to multiple sources, the regime is responsible for killing as many as 50 detainees per day at Saydnaya.”

A satellite image of what the US State Department described as a building in a prison complex in Syria that was modified to support a crematorium. AAP

He did not give an official estimate for the total number killed, but cited an Amnesty International report that between 5,000 and 11,000 had died between 2011 and 2015 in the prison.

Assad’s regime, he alleged, has detained between 65,000 and 117,000 people over the same period — the first five years of a civil war that has left hundreds of thousands dead.

One satellite photograph presented by Jones dated to January 2015, more than two years ago, and it was not immediately clear why the United States waited to present its evidence.

Jones told reporters Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had raised concerns about Assad’s brutality with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during his visit to Washington last week.

“These allegations are totally unfounded, they are nothing but the product of the imagination of this administration and its agents,” state news agency SANA quoted the foreign ministry as saying.

“Successive US administrations have repeatedly fabricated lies and allegations to justify their aggressive and interventionist policies in other sovereign countries,” the ministry said.

“Yesterday the US administration pulled out a new Hollywood screenplay disconnected from reality, accusing the Syrian government of having, according to the administration, built a crematorium at the Saydnaya prison.”

Related readingSarin attack

Moscow, along with Iran, is the Assad regime’s main foreign backer and Washington believes Russian pressure is the only thing that will compel its ally to negotiate a peace deal.

“I would say that this information has been developing,” Jones said on the timing of the crematorium allegation.

Jones said Washington is not specifically accusing Moscow or Tehran of complicity in the alleged Saydnaya killings, but said Russia is aware of and has supported other abuses.  

And he said last week’s visit by Lavrov to the White House was “an opportune time to remind people about the atrocities that are being carried out inside of Syria all the time.”

US President Donald Trump came to office vowing to focus US efforts in Syria on defeating the Islamic State group, a jihadist force that exploited the civil war to seize the east of the country.

And he said he hoped to work with Putin, whose forces are in Syria to protect Assad’s regime, in this goal.

But relations with Moscow, already dire under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, have not improved and Assad has continued to bombard civilian areas in his battle with opposition rebels.

Then last month, when Assad was again accused of using the banned nerve agent sarin in a strike on his own people, Trump ordered a retaliatory US cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base.

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Tigers review another AFL heartbreaker

Richmond forward Jack Riewoldt calls the analysis of yet another close AFL loss a steep learning curve.

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The Tigers had the lead with less than a minute left on Sunday at the MCG, but Fremantle took the ball from the centre bounce.

David Mundy marked and then kicked a goal after the siren to give them a two-point win.

It was the second time in three seasons a late Mundy goal gave the Dockers a tight win over Richmond.

The Tigers have made a bad habit of losing matches decided by less than a goal.

In the last two seasons, their cliffhanger record is 1-5.

“Just one piece of the puzzle went wrong,” Riewoldt told Fox Footy.

“We had a pretty honest discussion about it today and fortunately it’s a very steep learning curve.

“We certainly looked at this and thought ‘we need to be better than this’ – we needed to have someone come off the back of the square.”

But Riewoldt pointed out there was no point spending an hour of Tuesday’s game review on the last 21 seconds, given their first three quarters against Fremantle were poor.

Richmond were five goals down at three-quarter time.

“The ball bounces up in the air and (Shaun) Grigg misses it, just,” Riewoldt said of the last centre clearance.

“Sometimes the ball falls that way.

“But I will continue to harp on, is there’s no point focussing on the last 21 seconds if you are not going to get the first three quarters right.

“We were outplayed.”

Melbourne veteran Jordan Lewis said looking at the match footage, Richmond seemed to set up well for the last centre bounce.

“The funny thing is, when you do go in front with 21 seconds to go, you try and get as many numbers behind the ball as you possibly can,” he said.

“Now what that may do is relax some of the defenders who are already on forwards, because you have to go out there covering space.

“You might think ‘I don’t have to go as tight on my man, because someone else will actually come over and cover me.’

AFL’s Jesse Hogan diagnosed with cancer

Tony Hogan’s death might have saved his son’s life.

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AFL star Jesse Hogan underwent surgery on Tuesday after he went to Melbourne club doctor Zeeshan Arain last week, complaining of discomfort.

The 22-year-old key forward was subsequently diagnosed with testicular cancer.

Hogan is expected to make a full recovery and, remarkably, could be back playing in four to eight weeks, although he is on indefinite leave.

His manager Matt Bain sent a text to Triple M radio, saying Hogan was awake after the operation and it had gone well.

The surgery to remove the growth, most likely a seminoma, is only scheduled as a day procedure.

It is just three weeks since Tony, a former WAFL player, died after a long struggle with a different cancer.

His son is as lucky as he is desperately unlucky – the cancer had been diagnosed early and his prognosis is excellent.

Dr Arain said his father’s illness meant Hogan wasted no time in seeking medical advice.

He added there was no link between the illnesses suffered by father and son, saying Jesse Hogan was simply unlucky.

“He’d been feeling a bit of vague discomfort and – probably going through what he had with his father – people become a little hyper-vigilant as well so, in that setting, it was great that he did come to me,” the doctor said.

“He wasn’t feeling unwell and had no other symptoms or problems other than just feeling a lump.

“As a male, if you’re going to a get a cancer, this is the one to get.”

Hogan told his teammates on Friday and Melbourne general manager of football Josh Mahoney said the key forward was in good spirits, watching their VFL team play on the weekend.

In the AFL, no one felt more for Hogan than Hawthorn captain Jarryd Roughead and Carlton defender Sam Rowe.

It is a year to the day that a routine check-up had revealed Roughead’s recurrence of melanoma.

The star immediately started treatment that sidelined him for the rest of the year.

Roughead, who made a full recovery to play every game this season, offered Hogan his best wishes.

“I was talking to my wife last night and saying it’s 12 months – a lot has happened in that 12 months,” Roughead said.

“When you hear something like this, this morning, it just flattens you because you just don’t wish this upon anyone.

“That’s not what our game is about.”

Rowe has also made a full recovery after having treatment for testicular cancer.

“I have reached out to him and, no doubt, I’ll have a chat to him at some stage,” Rowe said.

In a weird twist to the terrible bond they now shared, Hogan was suspended earlier this season for striking Rowe.

The forward, on contract with the Demons until the end of 2019, has only played four games this season, having missed the club’s round-six clash with Essendon to return to Adelaide for his father’s funeral.

US teen died after drinking caffeine too quickly

Davis Allen Cripe, 16, drank a latte from McDonald’s, a large Mountain Dew soda, and a highly caffeinated energy drink in just under two hours, said Gary Watts, the coroner of Richland County, South Carolina.

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Watts told Reuters by phone that physicians on his staff determined that Cripe died from a “caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia”.

It was likely that caffeine would not have been seen as a factor in his death if it had not been for witnesses who could tell officials what Cripe had to drink before he collapsed during a high school class, Watts said.

He said the primary witness to what Cripe drank could not definitely say what brand of energy drink he had but said it was from a container the size of a large soft drink.

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“The energy drink was basically chugged,” Watts said.

Watts said Cripe was considered a healthy teenager and did not have an undiagnosed heart condition. There was no sign of a heart condition in an autopsy of the 16-year-old.

“This is not a caffeine overdose,” Watts said. “We’re not saying that it was the total amount of caffeine in the system, it was just the way that it was ingested over that short period of time, and the chugging of the energy drink at the end was what the issue was with the cardiac arrhythmia.”

Davis weighed a little more than 90 kg but would not have been considered morbidly obese, Watts said. He died about an hour after collapsing in a high school near Columbia, South Carolina.

Cripe may have had the same amount of caffeine on another day and been all right, Watts said.

“We’re not trying to speak out totally against caffeine,” Watts said.

“We believe people need to pay attention to their caffeine intake and how they do it, just as they do with alcohol or cigarettes.”

The Mayo Clinic said in a March report that up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day “appears to be safe for most healthy adults”.

According to caffeineinformer长沙桑拿按摩论坛,, a McDonald’s latte has 142 milligrams of caffeine, a 20-ounce Mountain Dew has 90 milligrams, and a 16-ounce energy drink can have as much as 240 milligrams.

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Trump defends sharing info with Russians

US President Donald Trump has acknowledged that he shared intelligence information with top Russian envoys at an Oval Office meeting last week.

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“As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining … to terrorism and airline flight safety,” he wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

“Plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism,” he continued.

Trump’s early morning tweet appeared to fly in the face of repeated White House denials of a Washington Post report on Monday.

The newspaper reported that Trump revealed highly classified information about the Islamic State terrorist group during his talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak on May 10, citing current and former administration officials.

Late on Monday, the White House released several statements that blasted the story as “false.” The Russian Foreign Ministry called the story “fake.”

Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for Foreign Ministry, left a dismissive post about the report on her Facebook page: “Guys, have you been reading the American newspapers again?” she wrote. “You shouldn’t read them. You can put them to various uses, but you shouldn’t read them. Lately it’s become not only harmful, but dangerous, too.”

Secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, issued statements on Monday saying no sources, methods or military operations were discussed at the Russian meeting.

McMaster said the story, initially reported by the Washington Post, was false.

The US officials told Reuters that while the president has the authority to disclose even the most highly classified information at will, in this case he did so without consulting the ally that provided it, which threatens to jeopardise a long-standing intelligence-sharing agreement.

Bob Corker, the Republican head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the allegations “very, very troubling.”

“Obviously, they’re in a downward spiral right now,” he said on Monday, “and they’ve got to come to grips with all that’s happening.”

The latest controversy comes as the White House continues to reel from the fallout over Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey last week and amid congressional calls for an independent investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.

IMF cuts global growth forecasts yet again

The International Monetary Fund has once again lowered its global growth forecast.

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In its latest World Economic Outlook, the IMF warns chronic weakness has left markets vulnerable to shocks and sharp devaluations.

Global growth of 3.2 per cent is expected this year, with a rate of 3.5 per cent expected in 2017.

The IMF’s Chief Economist, Maurice Obstfeld, says it’s a gloomy picture that highlights a need for more coordinated global action.

“Global growth continues but at an increasingly disappointing pace that leaves the world economy more exposed to negative risks. Growth has been too slow for too long.”

Geopolitical shocks and political discord are cited as key reasons for the 0.2 per cent downward revision from the Fund’s January forecast.

The IMF is demanding what it’s calling an “immediate and proactive” response from governments and central banks.

That response, it says, could include increased government budget stimulus, structural reforms aimed at boosting the competitiveness of economies, as well as further monetary policy support.

Australia’s economic growth is predicted to remain at 2.5 per cent in 2016 before lifting in 2017 to 3 per cent, thanks to a lower dollar.

Japan has had its forecast cut by half, to 0.5 per cent, while China’s growth is forecast slightly higher, to 6.5 per cent this year.

Mr Obstfeld says the IMF still has concerns about long-term economic growth in China.

“We worry about the quality of growth more than the quantity of growth. And if the quality of growth is lower in the short run, even though the quantity of growth is higher, you might think that the longer term growth will be will be lower and that’s that’s where the concerns that we have would would come into play in the longer term forecast.”

The IMF expects Brazil’s economy to shrink by 3.8 per cent in this year.

It was previously forecast to shrink by only 3.5 per cent.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says the United States is prepared to work with Brazil as it struggles through its worst recession in decades.

“It’s in our interest to see their [Brazil’s] economy strong. It’s in our interest to see the country’s economy develop in a way that they can continue to be an important trading partner with the United States.”

Among the risks the IMF is citing are the Syrian refugee crisis, the prospect of severe flooding and drought from the current El Nino and the rise of nationalism in Europe.

And it says a so-called ‘Brexit’, or British Exit, from the European Union could do severe regional and global damage by disrupting established trading relationships.

British Chancellor George Osborne says the IMF warning is significant because it shows there’s already been a negative impact on the British economy.

“They say if we were actually to leave the EU, there would be a short term impact on stability and a long term cost for the economy. So this is the clearest independent warning of the taste of things to come if we leave the EU. I think we’re much better off if we stay in the EU – that would make Britain stronger, safer and better off.”

Former British Chancellor Lord Lamont says it’s important to reflect on the motivations of the I-M-F when considering its recommendations.

“The IMF is an important organisation but it’s very closely connected to the European Union: its managing director is a former French finance minister, it’s bound to reflect their views. At the end of the day this is just a matter of opinion.”

 

Young people missing out on jobs to older workers and migrants: study

Lisa Denny, University of Tasmania and Brendan Churchill, University of Tasmania

Young people have missed out at the expense older workers and migrants in the job market, according to new research on youth employment.

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Government policy and Australia’s sluggish economy have added to the problem.

While Australia avoided the worst of the global financial crisis, unemployment among its youth has mirrored many countries who went into recession.

Prior to the crisis, youth unemployment in Australia was 8.8%, close to the low rates of the 1970s. By 2015, it was 13.9%. While prime-age workers, those aged between 25 and 54 make up a greater proportion of the labour force, the crisis had a greater impact upon young people.

In response, attempts to address youth unemployment have either attacked young people through a restriction of unemployment benefits or have been completely lacking from government policy agendas. The Coalition government introduced a “youth employment strategy” a part of the 2015 budget, which included the “Youth Work Transition” program for those “at risk of long term welfare dependence”.

Our research published in the latest volume of the Journal of Applied Youth Studies suggests the policy levers aimed at population ageing may have been detrimental to youth engagement in the labour force, in recent history at least. Increasing female and mature labour force participation and increasing immigration, combined with a lack of employment demand post the financial crisis are all influencing factors.

Gen Y stay on learning while boomers and migrants continue earning

Figure 1. Labour force participation rate percentage point difference with overall labour force participation rate, by age group, Australia, 1995 to 2015 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Labour force, Australia, Cat. No. 6291.0.55.001.

Participation in the labour force and subsequent employment is influenced by the demand for employment. Over the past two decades, the rate of employment growth generally exceeded the rate of growth in the size of the labour force (the supply of labour) for most of the period, resulting in increases in the employment to population ratio. In 2009, however, there was a decline in both the employment growth rate and the size of the labour force, which was caused by the economic downturn resulting from the financial crisis as well as some effects resulting from the ageing population.

The greatest change in labour force participation rates over the last 20 years has occurred among the youngest and oldest segments of the Australian working age population. Participation rates have changed markedly for youth (aged 15 to 24) and those aged 55 to 64. The deterioration in participation for young people is reflective of their increased participation in education and training as well as the relative level of confidence the group has in securing work.

The dramatic improvement of participation among 55 to 64 year-olds has completely closed the gap between the age specific rate and the overall participation rate. This is consistent with policy intervention to increase both female and mature age labour force participation rates. The raising of the superannuation preservation age and aged pension age (for women), has also played a role. The impact of the financial crisis on the value of superannuation investments has also prolonged the planned exit from the labour force by older workers.

Figure 2. Unemployment rate percentage point difference with overall unemployment rate, by age group, Australia, 1995 to 2015 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Labour force, Australia, Cat. No. 6291.0.55.001.

The youth unemployment rate, derived from the labour force participation rate, has been consistently greater than the overall unemployment rate while all other age groups have averaged lower. However, since the financial crisis, youth unemployment has not recovered at the same rate as for older age groups.

Also, the 55-64 group of workers has increased considerably in size, while the youth group only marginally over the last two decades. The 45-54 group is also growing. And it’s happening as labour force participation levels increase and the employment market languishes. When combined, these factors mean youth employment may deteriorate further.

This predicament has been exacerbated by the introduction of the demand driven skilled migration program since 2008. The shift highlighted a significant and growing mismatch between the skills and experience on offer and those demanded by the Australian labour market. As Figure 3 illustrates, the impact of this policy focus is clear. Since 2005, overall employment growth has exceeded total net overseas migration (NOM), providing some justification for the introduction of the employer-led immigration policy.

But since its introduction and the subsequent financial crisis, net overseas migration has considerably exceeded employment growth. The labour market is now far larger than employment demand. In the five years to 2015, net overseas migration exceeded employment growth by more than 30,000.

Figure 3. Employment growth, net overseas migration and net overseas migration (working-age population), Australia, June 30 1995 to June 30 2015 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Labour force, Australia, Cat. No. 6291.0.55.001, Migration, Australia, 2013-14, Cat. No. 3412.0.

The importance of youth policy

In short, young people have missed out at the expense older workers and migrants, which reflects the current policy settings in place. As we have stated before, young people have been omitted from the Intergenerational Reports.

Youth policy in Australia has become synonymous with education and training policy, overly focused on young people making a series of linear transitions from schooling to post-school qualifications and finally to the full time labour market. This is in spite of decades of research which has demonstrated that transitions for young people in the contemporary labour market are anything but linear.

Efforts to address youth unemployment have focused on skill deficiencies, work ethic and the education system producing job-ready workers. The reality is that poor economic performance and high levels of skilled migration are standing in the way of young Australians entering the labour market for the first time.

We know that once a person reaches 25 they’re more likely to be in the workforce. This suggests that the initial transition from school to work is failing young people. There’s also a reluctance on the part of employers to engage and invest in young people with training. To address this, governments need to put youth at the forefront of policy making.

Lisa Denny is affiliated with the Australian Population Association, peak body of demographers.

Brendan Churchill does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

Mr Cruel victim ‘wasn’t going willingly’

Melbourne schoolgirl Karmein Chan promised to put up a fight if grabbed by ‘Mr Cruel’.

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The 13-year-old told her mum she wouldn’t go willingly after seeing media reports about Mr Cruel’s abduction of Nicola Lynas.

Karmein’s comment proved to be prophetic: she was kidnapped by the child sex offender whose terrifying crimes culminated in her murder.

It may be that Karmein managed to identify Mr Cruel, who went to extremes to conceal his identity when he abducted 10-year-old Sharon Wills in 1988 and 13-year-old Nicola in 1990.

Mr Cruel told his victims his freedom was more important than their lives, Assistant Commissioner Steve Fontana said on the 25th anniversary of Karmein’s abduction.

“We suspect she was pretty feisty and confronted and put up a fight with this particular offender and may have actually identified him,” he said on Wednesday.

“We know that she was probably not a compliant type of victim in these matters.”

It is speculation, for police still do not know who Mr Cruel is or why he stopped after Karmein.

He went to great lengths to ensure he was never identified by his many suspected victims, even when dropping off Nicola and Sharon.

“They had been thoroughly washed, clothes changed. There’s a whole range of things that he did to make sure that they did not see him and that he did not try to leave any traces behind,” Mr Fontana said.

Mr Fontana, a senior investigator in the original Mr Cruel task force, believes Mr Cruel is still alive and has kept reminders of his victims.

“We believe that he will still have items that were probably stolen from the children,” he said.

Police had 32 `Sierra files’ on people who could not be eliminated as possible suspects, one or two of whom were of “real interest”.

The profile suggests someone well read, very intelligent and cautious, who meticulously planned and executed his crimes.

Mr Cruel may have died, moved or been jailed for other offences after taking Karmein, whose remains were found a year after her abduction.

He may have been one of the thousands of persons of interest interviewed by police.

“We may have actually spoken to the offender, which is why he hasn’t offended again,” Mr Fontana said.

Mr Cruel’s horrific series of crimes terrified Melbourne families in the late 1980s and early 1990s, devastating Karmein’s family and those of the other victims.

Karmein’s family did not appear with Mr Fontana when he announced the reward over her murder has been increased to $1 million, because of the crime’s continued significant impact on them.

“It was an emotional roller coaster for them – and still is,” Mr Fontana said.

It also took a toll on the 40-strong Spectrum task force and second investigative team that reviewed its work and new leads earlier this decade.

“Everyone that’s been involved in this case becomes very passionate about it,” Mr Fontana said.

Vegie oils may not help your heart: study

Replacing butter with vegetable oils may lower your cholesterol but may not curb heart disease risk or help you live longer, a new study suggests.

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US scientists have re-analysed data from two old experiments, including the Sydney Diet Heart Study, and found switching to vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid lowered blood cholesterol.

But this did not translate into improved longevity or a lower risk of heart disease.

In fact, people who had a greater reduction in blood cholesterol had a higher, rather than lower, risk of death.

The scientists say their findings, published by The BMJ, add to doubts about the widely held belief that vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid – an omega-6 polyunsaturated fat – are good for heart health.

In a linked editorial, University of Queensland senior lecturer Lennert Veerman said the benefits of choosing polyunsaturated fat over saturated fat now “seem a little less certain than we thought”.

Omega 6 polyunsaturated fat sources include margarine spreads and corn, sunflower and sesame oils.

The scientists analysed data from the Minnesota Coronary Experiment (MCE), conducted 45 years ago, involving 9423 participants from state mental hospitals and a nursing home.

One group replaced their saturated fat intake with linoleic acid from corn oil and corn oil polyunsaturated margarine, while the control group had diets high in saturated fat, including butter and common margarines.

An analysis of the unpublished data from a similar trial in Sydney found the risk of death from coronary heart disease was higher in those who replaced saturated fat with vegetable oil rich in linoleic acid.

The MCE findings add to growing evidence that incomplete publication of the research has contributed to “overestimation of benefits” of replacing saturated fats with the vegetable oils, the researchers said.

China trade beats hopes as exports rise

China’s trade performance blew past expectations in March, with exports returning to growth for the first time in nine months, providing more evidence of stabilisation in the world’s second-largest economy.

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March exports rose a blistering 11.5 per cent from a year earlier, customs data showed on Wednesday, the first increase since June and the largest rise since February 2015, although economists warned that base effects and seasonal factors played a major role in producing the number.

Recent data and surveys of manufacturing and services activities have hinted of slight improvements in the broader economy, which appears to be trickling down to the country’s exporters.

Imports continued to fall but less than expected, declining by 7.6 per cent in US dollar denominated terms, led by sharp corrections in imports of tax-free foreign goods, rentals and leasing and imported equipment.

However, import volumes of most major commodities rose.

Analysts noted a surprise rise in imports from Hong Kong, which rose 116 per cent from a year ago, could reflect capital flight out of yuan assets masking itself as import transactions.

The imbalance left the country with a trade surplus of $US29.86 billion ($A38.87 billion) for the month, data from the General Administration of Customs showed, versus a forecast of $US30.85 billion.

“I think the base effect was a pretty big factor, as last year’s base was low,” said Ma Xiaoping, analyst at HSBC, adding that because many export figures reported in March actually capture some February orders due to the variable dates of the lunar new year holiday every year.

“I think we should focus on the better than expected imports growth rate, which means domestic demand is also recovering, driven by infrastructure investment and also the real estate sector recovery.”

Economists polled by Reuters had expected March exports to rise 2.5 per cent, after tumbling 25.4 per cent in February – the worst showing since May 2009, and expected imports to fall 10.2 per cent, following February’s 13.8 per cent dip.

Premier Li Keqiang said last week that China’s economic indicators showed signs of improvement in the first quarter but a sluggish world economy and volatile markets deprive the changes of a solid foundation.

Recent factory activity surveys have fanned hopes the economy may be steadying but the government will have to keep up policy support to cope with lingering global uncertainties and the expected pain from its “supply-side” reforms.

China’s producer prices fell less than expected in March while consumer inflation stabilised, a sign that strong deflationary pressures in the country’s industrial sector may be lessening.

Key economic data, including first-quarter economic growth, are expected this week. The government aims for economic growth of 6.5 to 7 per cent this year. The economy grew 6.9 per cent in 2015, the weakest pace in a quarter of a century.

Chinese stock markets appeared to celebrate the data, with benchmark indexes in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Shenzhen rising more than 2 per cent.

The yuan also firmed slightly, with traders seeing the high surplus as providing additional firepower against depreciation pressure.