‘Yes’ campaign door knocking for support

Australia’s largest door knocking campaign will kick off this weekend as supporters of same-sex marriage hit the streets to drum up support as the as the deadline for the national survey approaches.

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Tens of thousands of same sex marriage supporters will be out encouraging people to vote ‘yes’ and ensure responses are mailed on time, Equality Campaign boss Tiernan Brady says.

“This is about people that we know,” he told reporters on Saturday.

“Marriage equality is about members of our families and our friends, our work colleagues and neighbours who just happen to be lesbian and gay and who wish to be treated fairly.”

Mr Brady made the remarks in Brisbane on Saturday as thousands of rainbow-clothed marchers prepare for the annual pride festival which will travel through through Fortitude Valley to New Farm Park, where entertainment and stalls have been set up.

He is confident Australians support changing the definition of marriage and has accused the ‘no’ campaign of using red herrings to distract from the fact that they are no longer talking about the central issue.

0:00 Same sex marriage postal vote to cost taxpayers $122m Share Same sex marriage postal vote to cost taxpayers $122m

“The ‘no’ side … have given up talking about marriage equality for a very good reason – they know the Australian people are for marriage equality ,” Mr Brady said.

“Every day is a new red herring but the Australian people aren’t being fooled by it.”

The pride rally comes a day after the ‘no’ campaign held their Queensland launch and a Tasmanian man was charged for head butting former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

He was wearing a ‘yes’ badge when he assaulted Mr Abbott but Mr Brady said people unrelated to both sides of the debate had done “stupid things”.

“This has to be a respectful campaign because it is a campaign about respect,” he said.

“We all have to wake up and share the same country the day after this is over so how we make the journey is incredibly important.”

The results of the voluntary postal survey on same-sex marriage are due on November 15.

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US seeks urgent action on Myanmar violence

The US wants Myanmar to take urgent action to end violence in Rakhine state, where a military offensive has created a crisis that could jeopardise its economic and political transition, a US official says.

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Bangladesh and aid organisations are struggling to help 422,000 Rohingya Muslims who have arrived since August 25, when attacks by Rohingya militants triggered a Myanmar crackdown that the United Nations has branded ethnic cleansing.

A senior UN official said an estimated $US200 million ($A251 million) would be needed to help the refugees in Bangladesh for six months.

“We think, urgently, actions need to be taken to stop this violence and facilitate humanitarian assistance, lower the rhetoric, lower the tension and … start doing the hard work to solve the longer-standing problems,” US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Murphy told reporters on Friday.

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has faced international criticism over the plight of the Rohingya, for not speaking out more forcefully against the violence or doing more to rein in security forces over which she has little power.

Tension between majority Buddhists and Rohingya has simmered for decades in Rakhine but it has exploded several times in the past few years as old enmities, and Buddhist nationalism, surfaced with the end of decades of military rule.

Murphy, who spent three days in Myanmar this week, said there were “many points of responsibility” and he wanted to see everyone follow through on commitments Suu Kyi made to uphold rights and the law in an address to the nation on Tuesday.

Myanmar dismisses accusations of ethnic cleansing, saying it has to tackle the insurgents, whom it accuses of setting fires and attacking civilians as well as the security forces.

PM’s hard word as warship enters service

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has struck a warlike stance as he welcomed the Royal Australian Navy’s newest and most advanced ship into commission.

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The commander and crew of the HMAS Hobart missile destroyer assumed control of the ship amid military fanfare in Sydney on Saturday.

The ships 180-strong crew and guard marched in with commanding officer Captain John Stavridis as the naval band played.

Crew member and Leading Seaman David Braendler, who shares his birthday with the new ship, was pulled in front of the parade while the crowd sang happy birthday.

The official party, including Fleet Commander Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer, Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, Defence Minister Marise Payne and the Governor of NSW David Hurley all paid tribute to the navy’s latest ship.

But the Prime Minister remained focused on Hobart’s combative and serious future.

He said Australia was a trading nation that had benefited from the global rules-based order – but that was increasingly under threat.

“The strategic environment in our region is more uncertain than it has been for many years,” Mr Turnbull said.

“Returning ISIL fighters have taken a foothold in the Southern Philippines, overrunning the city of Marawi.”

“We must not allow Marawi to become the Raqqa of South East Asia.”

Further north, he continued, North Korea’s rogue leader Kim Jong Un was threatening to up-end global stability.

“The ratcheting up of economic sanctions by the global community, including China, is our best prospect for curbing North Korea’s reckless conduct.”

He said the Hobart, and the new ships that would follow it into commission, would be required to maintain peace and advance Australia’s interests in the face of South East Asia’s challenges.

The Hobart class will provide air defence for the naval fleet and land forces in coastal areas.

It is equipped with missiles that can travel more than 150 kilometres and torpedoes, as well as long range naval guns and defence systems.

The ship is the third in the navy to bear the Hobart name. The first was commissioned in 1938 and served in World War II.

It was hit by a Japanese torpedo and 13 crew died but the ship limped home.

It was decommissioned in 1947 and sold for scrap to a Japanese firm in 1962.

Hobart II was commissioned in 1965 and served in the Vietnam War, where it was hit by three missiles – friendly fire from a United States jet.

Though two crew lost their lives, the ship survived and was decommissioned in 2000, and sunk as a dive wreck in South Australia.

Mackie says Cats will bounce back in AFL

Andrew Mackie ended his outstanding AFL playing career musing on the fine line between exhilaration and desolation.

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Mackie and fellow Geelong defender Tom Lonergan were cheered off Adelaide Oval after their preliminary-final loss to the Crows.

They are revered at Geelong – as people, even more so than as footballers.

A small group of Cats officials and supporters clapped Mackie as he hugged his parents Mark and Joanne in the rooms afterwards.

But this was not how Mackie thought it would end.

He was asked where thought Geelong needed to improve after successive preliminary final losses.

“It’s a good question – it’s all pretty raw right now,” he said.

“A couple of hours ago, you’re believing you have a premiership group here.

“And it can happen pretty quick.”

But after the 61-point loss, Mackie has faith the Cats will find a way.

“We have the right people at the footy club to send us on our next journey – great leaders around the place,” he said.

“It’s a great place to work.

“Clearly, in the last couple of years, we’ve come short – there’s work to do.”

The All Australian played 280 games and was a key member of the Cats’ backline in their three premierships between 2007 and 2011.

Asked to reflect on his career, again Mackie struggled to go past what had just happened.

“It’s a hard one right now,” he said.

“All you can do is try your best … and I have, every time.

“Sometimes, it might not look like it from the outside, but I’m sure I’ve heard that before.

“You try and prepare yourself as best you can, you try and learn every day, you try and listen to people, you try and make people coming to work – that’s what I’ve tried to do.

“It hasn’t always worked out, but that’s part of the game.”

Mackie said the part he had loved most about his AFL career was the people he had met.

But he kept coming back to the most-challenging part – that fine line.

“They (premierships) are not easy to win … unfortunately not for us this year – we had our dream ripped apart,” he said.

Elton hits out at terrorism in Mackay gig

Elton John proclaimed to a 15,000-strong audience in Mackay that this bitch was back, and could take on terrorists in a bedazzled blue suit and patent red shoes.

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The British superstar kicked off his regional tour of Australia in the north Queensland city on Friday night, and launched straight into the music, ignoring the hot-button issues many expected him to address.

He opened with his 1974 hit, The Bitch Is Back, marking his 187th concert in Australia.

From there, it was a virtuosic two-hour display. Bennie and the Jets, his 1974-ode to glam rock, followed in quick succession by another ’70s classic, Daniel.

Clearly enjoying every second, Elton sat at his grand piano, flanked by a full band of regulars including his longtime drummer Nigel Olsson and a guitarist he’s worked with since 1971, Davey Johnstone.

Elton generously played all his hits from Tiny Dancer, Your Song, I’m Still Standing to Crocodile Rock, performing the kind of piano solos that would make a Conservatorium student squirm with delight.

Each song was delivered unwaveringly, the strength in his voice belying his 71 years, and Elton enjoyed a warm reception from an adoring crowd.

There was meaning behind his music, often without any explanation.

But he also explicitly paid tribute to his duet- partner and friend George Michael, projecting his face to his onstage screen while he sang Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.

His one social comment came in relation to recent global terrorist attacks in Manchester, London, Nice and even Sydney.

“We live in strange times, people being mown down by cars, people being blown up,” John said.

“It seems to be part and parcel of our daily life and I hate it so much and I want to sing this song in remembrance of everyone who’s had to suffer at the hands of brainless idiots over the last few years at the hands of brainless nightmare idiots.

The veteran then launched into a poignant version of his 2001 song I Want Love.

Elton avoided the looming same-sex marriage vote, having already called for a yes result on his Facebook page.

He also reclaimed his 1972-hit Rocket Man, performing it with no mention of recent barbs exchanged between the US President Donald Trump and his own newly-christened rocket man, North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un.

His parting gift was a performance of the original version of his 1973 song Candle In The Wind, a fitting encore after more than two hours of hits.

“This won’t be my last time in Australia,” he said.

* Elton John’s tour continues in Wollongong, the Yarra Valley, Hobart and finishes in Cairns.

Grand final is bigger than me: Cronk

We’re not going to blow this because of me.

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That was the message from Cooper Cronk as Melbourne brace for a whirlwind of emotion and hype in the lead-up to next Sunday’s NRL grand final.

After disposing of Brisbane 30-0 on Friday night, the minor premiers are 80 minutes away from sending out departing star Cronk with a fairytale title win.

The Storm have dropped just four of 26 matches this year and will head into the season decider as the overwhelming favourites.

Cronk will run out for his seventh grand final at ANZ Stadium, the first to achieve the feat since Brisbane great and Queensland coach Kevin Walters.

So much of the build-up will centre around the Storm, Queensland and Australian halfback, and whether he will retire after the match or play on with a Sydney-based club next year.

“I don’t know the answer to that question,” Cronk said when asked if he will retire after the grand final.

“The whole point is I’m going to try and do everything for this footy team to have a memorable 2017.

“Once it’s all done and dusted, I’ll be a bit emotional about it all. But at some stage between then and, hopefully, a World Cup, there’ll be a decision made.”

After 323 first-grade games for the Storm, Cronk will be remembered as one of their all-time greats.

With champion fullback Billy Slater also contemplating retirement, the Storm will have no shortage of motivation.

Wary of his teammates getting caught up in the emotion of his last game in a purple jumper, Cronk implored them not to make it about him.

The Storm were pushed all the way by Parramatta in their week-one finals victory and afterwards coach Craig Bellamy said they suffered nerves as skipper Cameron Smith broke Darren Lockyer’s all-time most games record.

Asked if he was worried his final game could affect him and his teammates, Cronk said: “Not at all.

“There’s been a few distractions this year. The one thing that no matter the distraction, no matter the storyline, no matter the subplot to this week, it all comes down to the performance on Sunday night.

“That won’t change no matter the headlines written about me or anyone else. It’s not about the individual, it’s about this team, it’s about this footy club, it’s about how you can be at your best on Sunday night.”

DJ accused of headbutting Abbott says alleged act wasn’t about same-sex marriage

A Hobart DJ accused of headbutting Tony Abbott says the alleged act has nothing to do with marriage equality.

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Astro Labe, 38, was on Friday charged with assaulting the former prime minister as he walked along the Hobart waterside to his hotel on Thursday afternoon.

Labe said he spotted Mr Abbott on the street and went over to shake his hand before leaning in for a headbutt.

0:00 DJ headbutted Abbott, not over SSM Share DJ headbutted Abbott, not over SSM

“I picked up pace and went ‘Tony, Tony, can I shake your hand?’,” he said.

“Apparently he got a fat lip but he didn’t have one this morning.”

0:00 Tony Abbott speaks about the moment he was ‘headbutted’ by man wearing a same-sex marriage badge Share Tony Abbott speaks about the moment he was ‘headbutted’ by man wearing a same-sex marriage badge

Labe said he hated Mr Abbott, telling 7 News: “I saw him across the street and never thought I’d get a chance to headbutt that c*** again.”

Mr Abbott told reporters he suffered minor injuries and was left shocked by the encounter.

Labe said he was wearing a ‘yes’ sticker supporting the same-sex marriage campaign but the attempted headbutt was inspired by a general dislike for Mr Abbott and not one issue in particular.

“Coincidentally, some friend had put a sticker on me,” he said.

Labe is expected to face court in October.

Altitude worries all in our heads: Cheika

Michael Cheika has challenged the Wallabies to produce the mental strength required to smash their hoodoo on South Africa’s Highveld.

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Australia has won just three Test matches in the high-altitude cities of Johannesburg, Pretoria and Bloemfontein – and only one in the last 54 years.

But Cheika reckons their poor record isn’t down to the physical challenges of playing 1500m above sea level.

“I don’t know, I just think it might be in our head,” Cheika said at Sydney Airport on Saturday as the team departed for next weekend’s clash with the Springboks in Bloemfontein.

“You’ve just got to go there and do your best.

“For us, it’s just about this group of players getting a bit smarter, playing a bit more consistently. Then we’ll see where we land.

“This one in particular … It’s been a while since we’ve won there and, to be honest, we haven’t accumulated a whole lot of wins over there, full stop.

“And if we want to take stepping stones to be a better team, we’ve got to be able to be mentally strong enough.”

The Wallabies sit third in the Rugby Championship and are unbeaten in their last two games, following a 23-23 draw with South Africa in Perth and a 45-20 triumph over Argentina in Canberra.

But they are bracing for a stinging response from the Springboks, who are coming off a 57-0 belting against the All Blacks – the team’s worst defeat in history.

Cheika doesn’t think his counterpart Alister Coetzee will swing the selection axe in response.

“I think they’ll stay solid. I can’t see them making a lot of changes,” he said.

“They’ve had a good run until last weekend so I can’t believe they’d be making changes too swiftly.”

Adam Coleman (rib) is the only fitness worry in the 32-man Wallabies squad, with Cheika saying the second-row enforcer will be monitored closely.

The team will set up camp in Johannesburg before moving operations to Bloemfontein on Thursday afternoon. The Wallabies complete their two-week tour with a clash with the Pumas in Mendoza in a fortnight.

‘Personal hatred’ inspired Abbott headbutt

A Hobart DJ who headbutted Tony Abbott says he did it because of a “personal hatred” for the former leader, but Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz insists the assault is linked to the ‘yes’ campaign.

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Astro Labe, 38, has been charged with assaulting Mr Abbott as he walked along the Hobart waterside to his hotel on Thursday afternoon.

Labe, a DJ and self-confessed anarchist, was wearing a ‘yes’ sticker when he spotted Mr Abbott on the street and went over to shake his hand before leaning in for a headbutt.

He said he simply wanted to hit Mr Abbott because of a “personal hatred” towards him rather than about the marriage equality debate.

“All it was is I saw Tony Abbott and I’d had half a skinful and I wanted to nut the c*** … That’s just my personal hatred,” he told News Corp Australia.

“Coincidentally, some friend had put a (yes) sticker on me. It had absolutely nothing to do with that.”

However, Mr Abbott, who was left shocked but unscathed after the encounter, claimed it was “ugliness” as part of the same-sex marriage debate.

Gay rights activists and politicians from both major parties condemned the violence.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull rang Mr Abbott on Thursday night and later described the attack as disgraceful.

Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne said the violence was un-Australian, while Opposition Leader Bill Shorten tweeted it was unacceptable.

Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group spokesman Rodney Croome said the man was not connected with the state’s pro-gay marriage campaign.

“There’s no link between his attacker and the marriage equality campaign over and above a lapel badge,” he told AAP.

But Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz on Saturday said some ‘yes’ campaigners appear to support Labe’s actions on social media.

He said the National Union of Students LGBTI group’s meme of the postal vote survey with the photoshopped question “Should Tony Abbott be headbutted” appear to endorse Labe’s actions.

Labe is expected to face the Hobart Magistrates Court on one count of common assault on October 23.

US city of St Louis sued over police response to protests

Rights activists in St Louis sued the Midwestern US city Friday over the police response to unrest sparked by the acquittal of a white officer in the death of a black suspect.

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The lawsuit, brought on behalf of two protesters by the American Civil Liberties Union, accused police of misconduct during three days of public mayhem last weekend, as protesters broke windows, clashed with officers in riot gear, and vandalized the mayor’s home.

The civil rights group accused police of illegal arrests, improper use of chemical-based weapons such as pepper spray, and of interfering with people video recording officers’ activities.

“While long shifts and being the subject of the protest is understandably challenging for police, that is no excuse for violating the Constitution,” the ACLU’s Tony Rothert said in a statement.

The demonstrations were prompted by the acquittal last Friday of a former police officer, Jason Stockley, who shot and killed Anthony Lamar Smith following a 2011 car chase. Smith was suspected of drug dealing. 

Prosecutors alleged Stockley had planned to kill Smith and planted a gun in his vehicle to justify his actions. But a judge sided with Stockley, who maintains his innocence, saying there was not enough evidence to convict. 

Police responded with force to the ensuing protests, and demonstrators complained that police at times arrested innocent bystanders and used pepper spray at will, even when not threatened.  

Amid heightening criticism this week, Mayor Lyda Krewson canceled scheduled public meetings and promised abuse claims would be investigated. 

“Intimidation is not conduct that lives up to the standard of behavior expected by City police officers or any City employee,” Krewson said in a statement Tuesday.