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Socceroos heading to Sharjah to meet China



China’s inability to play World Cup qualifiers at home means it will ‘host’ the Socceroos in Sharjah later this month.

The Socceroos will return to the Middle East following their Sydney clash against Saudi Arabia, with confirmation their World Cup qualifier against China will be played in the United Arab Emirates.

The Australians will play on home soil for the first time since October 2019 when they host the Saudis – who top Group B in the third round of AFC World Cup qualifying – at CommBank Stadium on Thursday week.

However, while Covid-19 travel restrictions have been lifted to allow the Socceroos to again play at home, it’s a different case in China.

As a result, the Chinese national team must continue to play its home matches on foreign soil.

China will “host” the Socceroos in the early hours of the morning of Wednesday, November 17 (AEDT) at the 18,000-capacity Sharjah Stadium.

The Socceroos will have no qualms about playing the match in the UAE after winning a host of games in the Middle East in the past two years.

However, the timing of the match against China isn’t good for A-League champions Melbourne City, who start their title defence on Friday, November 19 at AAMI Park against Brisbane Roar.

City’s star attackers, Mat Leckie, Jamie Maclaren and Andrew Nabbout, are all expected to be named in Graham Arnold’s latest Socceroos squad, set to be announced on Friday.

Any City players chosen in the squad face a tight turnaround in their bid to play in the opening match of the A-League season.

City faced a similar situation in last season’s finals series, but managed to defy the absence of Maclaren, Curtis Good and Connor Metcalfe – who were on Socceroos duty in Kuwait – to win the title.

Socceroos coach Arnold arrived back in Australia on Monday after a stint of almost six months overseas.

Sydney FC defender Rhyan Grant and Melbourne Victory attacker Chris Ikonomidis – the only two A-League players in the Socceroos squad for last month’s World Cup qualifiers against Oman and Japan – are both out of quarantine and training with their clubs.

The Socceroos, whose 11-game winning streak was ended by Japan, are in second place in Group B, three points behind Saudi Arabia, who have a perfect record of 12 points from four matches.

China has just three points from four matches, with only Vietnam behind them on the Group B ladder.

The top two teams from Group A and Group B will automatically qualify for next year’s World Cup in Qatar.

Originally published as The Socceroos’ road to next year’s World Cup will take them to Sharjah to meet China




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Wall Street records propel ASX higher, RBA follow-up comments ‘settle nerves’



Record highs on US markets propelled the ASX firmly into the green, while fresh comments on interest rates have settled nerves.

The Australian sharemarket was propelled higher by a positive lead from Wall Street, but managed to outperform it, while follow up comments to yesterday’s rates decision appear to have “settled nerves”.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index rallied 0.93 per cent to 7392.7, while the All Ordinaries Index strengthened 0.87 per cent to 7713.

CommSec analyst Steven Daghlian said the local bourse outperformed US markets, which hit fresh record highs overnight, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing above 36,000 for the first time, up 0.4 per cent.

After the Reserve Bank of Australia held its monthly board meeting on Tuesday, keeping the cash rate at a historic-low 0.1 per cent, governor Philip Lowe said he strongly disagreed with current market pricing for hikes in 2022.

“He basically said hikes next year, while not impossible, are extremely unlikely,” Mr Daghlian said.

“But he did say it’s possible for rates to rise in 2023, so it seems to have settled nerves, to an extent.”

AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver remains convinced both Australian and US central banks will “start raising rates later next year”.

OMG chief executive Ivan Tchourilov noted reactions to the RBA meeting had been mixed, with the central bank “refusing to match the hawkish outlook of other major financial institutions”, and credited the ASX rise to the upbeat US lead.

“There weren’t a lot of losers today – even iron ore miners were in the green, despite iron ore prices crashing overnight,” Mr Tchourilov said.

Mr Daghlian said the iron ore price had fallen for five straight days, back below $US100 per tonne, and had tumbled about 20 per cent in a little over a week.

“This is on some fresh restrictions on steel production in China in a bid to control pollution ahead of next year’s Beijing Olympics,” he said.

Rio Tinto lifted 1.17 per cent to $89.70, BHP added 1.07 per cent to $35.94 and Fortescue advanced 3.08 per cent to $14.38.

A particularly strong performer was lithium miner Orocobre Ltd, which surged 6.7 per cent to $9.70.

The banks gained ground after three straight trading days of losses.

Commonwealth Bank revealed it will become Australia’s first bank to offer customers the ability to buy, sell and hold cryptocurrency assets, including Bitcoin and Ethereum, directly through its CommBank app.

The pilot will start in coming weeks and CBA intends to progressively rollout more features next year.

CBA put on 1.17 per cent to $107, National Australia Bank rose 1.35 per cent to $28.58, Westpac inched two cents higher to $23.15 and ANZ gained 2.26 per cent to $28.47.

Investors applauded AMP announcing it had completed its exit from life insurance after more than 170 years in the business, selling its 19.13 per cent interest in Resolution Life Australasia for $524m.

The group sold the majority of the business last year for $3bn and says the divestment of the remaining stake provides balance sheet flexibility ahead of the planned demerger of its private markets division, which holds real estate and infrastructure investments.

“It’s a welcome capital injection for the wealth manager, if their new fancy building in Sydney CBD is anything to go by,” Mr Tchourilov said.

“AMP’s streamlining plans hit a hitch when the company was rinsed at the 2019 Hayne Royal Commission – it seems they are now starting to find their feet again.

“They’re focusing on banking and wealth management and divesting from the rest, usually maintaining a stake in the divested entity.”

AMP shares leapt 9.3 per cent to $1.17.

Telstra renewed its contract with the Department of Defence, clinching a five-year deal worth more than $1bn, but its shares didn’t budge from $3.90.

Packing giant Amcor firmed 0.75 per cent to $16.11 after delivering a solid first quarter result and reaffirming its full-year outlook, despite sales in some parts of the business being hit by raw material shortages.

Insurance Australia Group continued to backtrack, losing 1.11 per cent to $4.45 a day after downgrading its full-year guidance due to higher estimates for hail and severe storm damage claims, which sent its shares tumbling more than 7 per cent on Tuesday.

“Four brokers have reduced their expectations for its shares over the next 12 months,” Mr Daghlian said.

Domino’s Pizza held its annual general meeting, announcing its commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, flagging its plan to operate more than 6650 stores by 2030 – up from 3169 currently – and also warning it expects to be faced with higher food and energy costs next year.

Domino’s shares eased 0.13 per cent to $142.30.

In economic news, building approvals fell by 4.3 per cent in September, but were up 12.8 per cent on a year ago.

Approvals to build detached houses dropped 16.1 per cent in September – which CommSec senior economist Ryan Felsman said was the biggest monthly decline in 21 years – but higher-density apartment approvals lifted 17.4 per cent.

“Building construction is expected to remain elevated over the next 12 months due to strong homebuyer demand,” Mr Felsman said.

“Builders and their contractors are under pressure to deliver projects on-time and on-budget as they work through a huge pipeline of residential, commercial and infrastructure-related construction work.

“Already construction companies are experiencing skilled trades labour shortages and rising building materials costs due to supply-chain disruptions.”

The Aussie dollar was buying 74.32 US cents, 54.53 British pence and 64.15 Euro cents in afternoon trade.

Originally published as Australian sharemarket surges into the green, notching up gains across the board




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Hsin-Yu Tsai: Why bank worker stole $3.5m from Commonwealth Bank



A former bank worker who stole $3.5m to pay for a lavish lifestyle has been jailed.

A former Commonwealth Bank employee who ripped off customers to the tune of $3.5m to pay for a lavish lifestyle and appease an abusive ex has been jailed.

Hsin-Yu Tsai, 33, had claimed that she was not motivated by greed when she used her position as a customer service officer to move millions of dollars out of the accounts of unsuspecting clients.

However, a NSW District Court judge ruled that she did reap substantial amounts of money from the scheme and said there was no other option than for her to be jailed.

The court was told that Tsai claimed she was pressured into the offending in order to satisfy her then boyfriend’s desire for expensive watches and clothes.

Judge John Pickering said that according to Tsai, shortly after she moved in with the man, he pressured her to lavish him with material gifts.

Tsai pleaded guilty to three counts of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception and one count of using false documents to gain advantage by deception.

Judge Pickering said aspects of the boyfriend’s behaviour were similar to those of a “domestic predator” and Tsai claimed that he had been violent and abusive.

It was in those circumstances that she began stealing from the bank, the court was told.

She moved $2.4m out of the account of a South African national who lived overseas; however, he did not discover the fraud for another three years.

She also siphoned off money from the term deposit account of another customer and in all stole $3.5m.

She claimed that her then boyfriend was a financial burden on her and had pressured her into buying a $600,000 Ferrari.

“She felt she had to please him and keep him happy because she had no other family to rely on in Sydney. Her parents were overseas and she had been isolated from her friends,” Judge Pickering said.

However, she also used the money for her own gain.

When the relationship ended, they negotiated through lawyers for her to be paid a $1m settlement.

She used the money to travel to Taiwan, China and Europe, bought designer handbags and purchased property.

However, Judge Pickering noted, her offending ceased following the break-up and despite her having the opportunity to continue stealing money over the next three years while she continued to work at the bank.

“Sometimes the proof is in how you live your life after this,” Judge Pickering said.

“ … That needs to be balanced by the fact she made a lot of money including the million dollars she got at the end of her settlement.

“But nevertheless it is a remarkable circumstance that she continued to be employed by the Commonwealth Bank, did not take the opportunity to commit any fraud and placed herself in a completely different life.”

The court was told that with the help of her parents, Tsai had paid back the money she had stolen from the Commonwealth Bank.

Judge Pickering noted she was now working in the health industry, had a young family and had rehabilitated herself.

However, he said there was no other option than to send her to prison considering the amount of money she had stolen.

“It would be an extremely rare scenario where someone who defrauded the bank of $3.5m and was an employee … did not go to jail fulltime,” Judge Pickering said.

Tsai also made full admissions to police and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.

She was sentenced to three years and three months in prison, with a 14-month non parole period, meaning she will be eligible for release in December next year.

Originally published as Why Sydney woman stole $3.5m from Commonwealth Bank




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The China Australia trade war could get even worse according to the Australian ambassador to Beijing



Trade tensions between China and Australia could get worse, according to one key figure.

The Australian ambassador to China has warned that ongoing trading disputes between Canberra and Beijing could get even worse.

Graham Fletcher, who has been Australia’s ambassador to China since 2019, spoke frankly about his concerns over the global superpower when he addressed The Daily Telegraph’s Bush Summit panel on Friday.

“To be honest, things are not great in the trading relationship with China on the whole,” Mr Fletcher said.

“There are a lot of people who I would normally expect to see (in China) that I’ve got an instruction that they shouldn’t communicate with us at an ambassadorial Level.

“The kind of informal and more casual access that Ambassadors would normally expect to have across the system is very difficult in China at the moment.”

Tensions have risen dramatically between Australia and China over the last 12 months as Beijing has sought to coerce Canberra’s political decisions by punishing Aussie exporters with trade tariffs.

Mr Fletcher warned that while Australia’s overall trade numbers had held up because iron ore exports were doing so well, this did not mean things could not get even worst.

“For other producers who are dealing with China, I think everyone is on notice that there are potential problems in the relationship which could affect our trading future further than what we’ve already seen,” he said.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott expressed similar concerns when he address the Bush Summit panel, but said it was unlikely that trade disputes would turn into more serious military confrontations.

“The Chinese communist government is, in my judgment, pretty unsavoury,” Mr Abbott said.

“But people can be bad without being mad.”

Mr Abbott said that despite China’s rhetoric suggesting it will pursue war if other countries stand in its way of ruling Taiwan, Xi Jinping is unlikely to follow through on this threat.

“Obviously he doesn’t want to do something which is going to cause massive, massive costs to his country,” Mr Abbott said.

“Xi Jinping has declared time and time again that it is inevitable and necessary that Taiwan be under Beijing‘s rule.

“But the higher the price of taking back Taiwan, the less likely it is to happen. That’s why AUKUS is important.”

Originally published as Ambassador warns Chinese-Australian trade disputes could worsen ‘further than what we’ve already seen’




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James Packer’s Crown admission at Perth royal commission



Reclusive billionaire James Packer has made a bombshell admission at a Perth royal commission into Crown Casino.

James Packer has conceded there were many “things that should have been done differently” at Crown Perth when he was at the helm – and he should have quit rather than missing board meetings for three years as criminal junkets infiltrated.

The probe is the third faced by Crown Resorts over now substantiated allegations of money laundering at the West Australian casino and also at its Melbourne venue.

The reclusive billionaire and major shareholder in the gambling giant fronted the WA probe via videolink on Friday, admitting he did not attend a single board meeting of Crown Perth’s Burswood Ltd between 2013 to 2016 after he moved overseas.

Counsel assisting Patricia Cahill suggested that if he had been “more active and engaged”, Burswood Ltd may have been more aware of the risk of money laundering through its Riverbank Investments account, which was closed by ANZ in 2014 over regulatory compliance issues.

Mr Packer said he “should have attended or resigned”, and an account closure “absolutely would have been a red flag” but claimed he was “not informed” of the risk of criminal infiltration through high roller junket tours until after 19 Crown staff were arrested in China in 2016 for marketing the business on the mainland, where gambling is illegal.

“You weren’t keeping an eye on things, Mr Packer,” Ms Cahill said, which he rejected.

“I should have resigned or attended, I accept that,” he added.

He agreed he left it to management to ensure risks such as money laundering were mitigated and assumed they were doing enough.

“I had full confidence in the CEO Barry Felstead,” Mr Packer said.

Mr Packer said “at some point the culture slipped”, responding “potentially” after Ms Cahill asked whether that was due to his absence.

The royal commission has been seeking to establish to what extent those who ran the Perth venue functioned independently or at the behest of the parent company in a bid to find out who was most responsible for allowing the money laundering scandal to unfold.

Mr Packer paused lengthily and carefully considered Ms Cahill’s questions about the 2004 to 2016 period, when he was chair of Burswood Ltd, before responding.

He often said he did not recall certain details and that he was “not a lawyer”, and asked Ms Cahill to repeat questions.

Earlier, Mr Packer’s barrister Noel Huntley objected twice when Ms Cahill pressed his client on how the corporate structure operated, describing her line of questioning as “argumentative”.

“I may well have known these things in 2006. I can’t remember now,” the businessman had responded.

He admitted he could not recall which specific subsidiary held the Crown Perth gaming licence.

Asked if that mattered to him, he replied: “What mattered to me was that the company was operating and behaving well, and that if that wasn’t happening that information should flow to the board ASAP.”

Mr Packer disagreed with testimony by former Crown Resorts director and his board nominee John Poynton that the overwhelming power rested with the parent company.

He said Burswood Ltd only did not have the authority to sign off on capital expenditure and redevelopment decisions, with Crown Resorts holding the purse strings.

If Crown Perth didn’t want someone appointed, it would not happen, Mr Packer said.

He said that in hindsight, Crown Perth should have had more independent directors and agreed with Ms Cahill’s proposition that it was “overseeing itself”, which was a poor governance structure.

Asked if there was anyone on the board with anti-money laundering expertise, he replied: “I don’t believe there was.”

“Looking back, there were many oversights, things that should have been done differently.

“I did not believe at that point in time that Crown Perth were engaged in money laundering.”

Mr Packer agreed with the general proposition that he would have known all casinos were at risk of being used for the criminal practice.

Asked how he saw his role as Burswood Ltd chair, Mr Packer said it was to ensure Crown Perth “put its best foot forward” and was seen “as a good corporate citizen”.

But he rejected as “completely wrong” Ms Cahill’s assertion he was “disengaged” from all aspects of Crown Perth other than its financial performance.

“I was financially and emotionally committed to Perth.”

It is the second time Mr Packer has testified since the scandal exploded, having fronted last year’s damning NSW inquiry via videolink from his private yacht.

He sat in a modestly furnished room on Friday from an undisclosed location, only revealing he was in a time zone 11 hours behind Perth.

It comes after the damning Victorian royal commission findings recommended slashing CPH’s stake in Crown from 37 per cent to less than 5 per cent.

The NSW inquiry had labelled Mr Packer’s influence “disastrous”, as he was the driving force to secure more junkets.

Victorian Commissioner Raymond Finkelstein agreed.

The NSW inquiry was told that after Mr Packer quit Crown, he received special treatment, with briefings on an almost daily basis under a “controlling shareholder protocol”, which was torn up after the evidence emerged.

Originally published as Crown Resorts’ biggest shareholder and former chair James Packer expresses regret to Perth royal commission




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Crown settles China arrest class action for $125m ahead of trial



Crown Resorts has settled for a huge sum ahead of a class action trial over business dealings in China where staff were arrested.

Crown Resorts reached a $125m deal with shareholders after its share price dropped following revelations employees were arrested in China for promoting illegal gambling.

The arrests prompted the Australian company’s share price to plummet 14 per cent in October 2016 and sparked a class action claim led by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers.

“Crown’s alleged failures in our case were part of what has become one of the most serious and comprehensive breakdowns in corporate governance in Australian history,” senior associate Michael Donelly said on Friday.

The company agreed to the deal on Friday after a trial was postponed twice this week.

The lawsuit was the only way the shareholders were able to take action effective against the gambling giant, he said.

The 19 Crown employees pleaded guilty to gambling offences and were convicted in June 2017.

The lawsuit claimed the company breached the ASIC Act and aimed to establish the company engaged in “misleading or deceptive” conduct.

Lawyers for the shareholders claimed Crown knew the employees were acting illegally in China and the company engaged in counter surveillance, including code words, removing logos and misleading authorities.

Originally published as Crown agrees to settle for $125m over China arrests class action




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Socceroos; Australia will play first home game in more than two years in November.



Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup has suddenly taken on a whole new look for the Socceroos after a big announcement.

The Socceroos are finally coming home after 763 days on the road and will play their next World Cup qualifier in Sydney.

A clash with Saudi Arabia is locked in at Western Sydney Stadium in Parramatta on Thursday, November 11, the first match at home for the Socceroos since taking on Nepal in Canberra in October 2019.

Socceroos coach Graham Arnold had urged NSW government officials to throw open the door to fans after a last-start loss to Japan ended an 11-match winning streak.

The stadium will be at 75 per cent capacity for the game, which means up to 22,500 people will be able to cheer on Arnold’s men.

“I believe that playing in front of home fans at a beautiful stadium and on a great pitch will help us,” Arnold said.

“Fans can provide energy to players and teams, and after having been away from Australia for so long, I expect that our players will harness and use the support that will be in Western Sydney Stadium on November 11.

“Now I urge the players, together with the fans, to enjoy the moment and feed off one another’s energy as together we strive to take another positive step towards qualification for Qatar.”

Football Australia chief executive James Johnson said it was a big moment for the Socceroos to come home.

“The Socceroos are an iconic Australian team and one that has always enjoyed a very close connection with the Australian public,” he said.

“Unfortunately, throughout the team’s pursuit of qualification for a fifth consecutive World Cup, they have had to play 11 of their 12 matches abroad.

“Despite the challenges which this has presented, the Socceroos have performed exceptionally well.

“We’re delighted that the team will have the opportunity to return to Australia to continue their World Cup quest in front of Australian fans.

“It will also be a chance for the Australian public to witness some exciting new national team talent, including players like Ajdin Hrustic, Martin Boyle, and Harry Souttar who have been making great contributions to the squad throughout 2021.”

“We thank the NSW government for working closely with us to bring the Socceroos home in line with their Reopening NSW road map.”

Australia will play its second match of November’s FIFA window against China on Tuesday, November 16. The details of this match are yet to be finalised.

Final home fixtures against Vietnam and Japan next January and March are also set to be played in Australia, with borders open and quarantine restrictions being eased.

COMING HOME

FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ – AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar (Final Round)

Matchday 5: Australia v Saudi Arabia

Date: Thursday, November 11, 2021

Venue: Western Sydney Stadium, Parramatta

Kick-off: 8:05pm AEDT

Originally published as Socceroos will play first game on home soil for more than two years against Saudi Arabia in Sydney




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Labor Senator Kristina Keneally slammed for China-made products that contradict Labor ‘buy Australian’ plan



The Labor Senator has been blasted following an embarrassing revelation about her campaign fundraising side-hustle.

Labor Senator Kristina Keneally has been accused of “hypocrisy” for selling products made in China just weeks after Labor announced its “buy Australian” policy pillar for the forthcoming election.

In a bid to bolster funding for Labor, Senator Keneally has opened an online store dubbed ‘the BS Report’.

The store sells water bottles, tote bags, mugs and iPhone cases decorated with quotes from Scott Morrison, which highlight the Prime Minister’s less flattering moments as leader.

“Where the bloody hell are the vaccines?” reads one.

“I don’t hold a hose, mate,” reads another.

But Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes was quick to pull Senator Keneally up on her new business venture, accusing her of “hypocrisy” for sourcing the products from China.

“What BS. Labor is pretending to back Aussie jobs publicly while secretly sourcing their fundraising merchandise from China,’ Senator Hughes told Daily Mail Australia.

“The hypocrisy would be outrageous if it wasn’t so typical of what Australians have come to expect from Kristina Keneally.”

Under Labor’s “buy Australian” plan, new laws would lock the government into using more Australian-made goods, products and materials through Commonwealth contracts.

“Under the Buy Australian Act, maximising the benefit of government purchases to Australia will be the law of the land,” Labor leader Anthony Albanese said.

But the water bottles and iPhone cases available in Senator Keneally’s online store explicitly state they are sourced from China.

The remaining items such as tote bags and mugs do not identify their geographic origin.

“There’s a pattern here from Kristina – she’s trying to BS about where she lives so she can run for a lower house seat, and now she’s spouting BS about supporting Australian products and jobs,” Senator Hughes said.

But Senator Keneally defended her business, insisting that while the products were originally made in China, the printing service to decorate the products with Mr Morrison’s quotes was a locally-owned business.

“The BS Report uses an on-demand printing service with printing partners in Queensland and Victoria,” Senator Keneally told NCA NewsWire.

“The store wouldn’t even be necessary, except that Mr Morrison is so full of BS.

“There are some great products on the BS Report Store and I’d encourage everyone to have a look, share and buy the merchandise to help get rid of Mr Morrison and his BS.”

Originally published as Kristina Keneally accused of ‘hypocrisy’ for contradicting Labor’s ‘buy Australian’ policy




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Thailand prepares to welcome back tourists after devastating shutdown



Bangkok’s hotels, street food carts and tuk-tuks are preparing to welcome back tourists as Thailand gears up to re-open on November 1 to fully vaccinated visitors.

Hotels, street food carts and tuk-tuks are gearing up for the return of tourists to Bangkok as Thailand prepares to re-open on November 1 to fully vaccinated visitors after 18 months of Covid travel curbs.

From November 1, fully vaccinated visitors travelling from more than 40 “low-risk” countries will be allowed to enter with a negative Covid result, retesting again upon arrival.

Originally published as Thailand prepares to welcome back tourists after devastating shutdown




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Beijing Games organisers say virus ‘biggest challenge’, 100 days from start



Protecting the Beijing Winter Olympics from the coronavirus is the “biggest challenge”, organisers said Wednesday, as millions of people in China were under stay-at-home orders to contain small outbreaks 100 days before the Games.

“The pandemic is the biggest challenge to the organisation of the Winter Olympics,” Zhang Jiandong, executive vice president of the Beijing Organising Committee, told a press conference.

Originally published as Beijing Games organisers say virus ‘biggest challenge’, 100 days from start




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