Germany get World Cup advantage

England’s Jamie Carragher believes Germany gained a huge World Cup advantage by ensuring their players had four months to get used to the ball they banged into the net four times against Australia.

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The controversial Jabulani balls were introduced by Bundesliga clubs sponsored by their German-based manufacturer adidas in February and Carragher believes that has given England’s biggest rivals an edge that was apparent in their impressive 4-0 win over the Socceroos in their opening match on Sunday.

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“That is exactly what we were saying as we were watching,” Carragher said.

“It gives them an advantage anyway. Certainly, that is true. It is obvious. The ball is very different. Every training session we do we always start with a ball between two, passing 30 or 40 yards to each other just for that reason alone. I am sure it has helped them.”

FIFA and adidas insist that any difficulty players have encountered with the balls here is down to the effect of altitude, not anything to do with the design.

That stance has been disputed by numerous players and Carragher believes designers will always try to tweak the specifications of balls to generate more goals.

“When you are making a ball for the World Cup the idea is to create more goals I think and get it to do strange things to make it a more exciting tournament.

“But every cross I have seen has been overhit. It goes over the back post. I haven’t seen anyone get a free-kick over the wall yet.

“It just seems to sail straight over the bar. Looking at the start, maybe it is not doing what people expected. People thought there would be more goals but apart from Germany I don’t think there have been too many goals in the tournament.”

Despite his criticism of the ball, Carragher said nothing should be taken away from an impressive performance that underlined that Germany will once again be a force to be reckoned with at the World Cup.

“They played so well. I am not looking for an excuse. You are trying not to hype them up too much because of how well they played. It is something to cling to, that they might have been playing with the ball (for longer). I have had two or three texts about it.”

Carragher added: “If you watch Germany and the teams come up, you wouldn’t say the names roll off the tongue. But then when you see them in action and how they played against Australia it was very impressive.

“The manager, Joachim Loew has done a great job. He was number two to (Juergen) Klinsmann and had a bit of an impact at the last World Cup.”

England’s players, who could face Germany as early as the second round, were impressed by the creative quality of 21-year-old Mesut Ozil, the chief engineer of the demolition job on Australia.

“Right from the first two touches you could tell he had a bit of class with his left foot,” Carragher said. “You could tell straightaway he is a talented player.”

Germany’s positive start with what was supposed to be a squad of modestly talented, inexperienced players is in sharp contrast to the stumbling entrance to the tournament of England’s star-studded squad, who were held to a 1-1 draw by the United States on Saturday.

Carragher admits that the German mindset may be more geared to delivering success in football’s biggest tournaments.

“What they may have is a belief of always being there at the end. Maybe that continues,” he said.

“It is similar to what we have at Liverpool where you are known for getting late goals no matter who is on the pitch. You believe you are going to do it.

“Because we have not done very well in tournaments maybe that is something. But if you look at the players we have got I am still pretty confident we can do well in this tournament.”

House price growth to slow

House prices will not fall though, and rents are tipped to continue to rise because of a lack of supply, BIS Shrapnel says in its Residential Property Prospects, 2010 to 2013 report.

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BIS senior project manager Angie Zigomanis said first home buyer activity has dropped after the expiry of the first home owner’s grant boost at the end of 2009.

Affordability has also suffered as interest rates rise off their low levels, he says.

“With interest rates quickly lifting from these emergency levels, and the current variable rate of 7.4 per cent now being close to long term trends, the recent levels of price growth cannot be maintained,” Mr Zigomanis said.

Investors will replace some of the demand lost as a result of those factors, meaning house prices will continue to grow, BIS says.

More moderate interest rate movements than recent months will also aid purchaser confidence, it says.

BIS forecasts the cash rate to rise by 50 basis points in the 2010/11 financial year and by another 50 basis points in 2011/12.

“The more stable interest rate environment is expected to underpin purchaser confidence as economic conditions continue to strengthen, and shouldcontinue to push through moderate house prices rises,” Mr Zigomanis said.

House price growth is likely to remain at an average in the mid-single digit percentage range over the next three years, he says.

On a capital city basis, Sydney and Perth are expected to post the strongest growth in house prices in the coming years.

Weaker demand and local economic conditions are expected to lead to more moderate price growth in Brisbane, Hobart and Canberra.

Melbourne and Darwin have already experienced very strong price rises and low affordability will limit further rises, BIS says.

For renters, the shortage of dwellings will keep pressure on rents.

“Even though overseas migration inflows are steadily easing, a deficiency of stock is still in place with dwelling construction below underlying demand,” Mr Zigomanis said.

Interest rates could stay on hold

Australia’s central bank has indicated it has room to keep interest rates on hold as it assesses the impact of the European debt crisis on Asian growth, documents showed on Tuesday.

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The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) said market confidence had been severely eroded by growing concerns about the fiscal situation in Greece, Spain and Portugal, with “sizeable deficits expected to persist over a number of years.”

Despite bailouts from the European Union and International Monetary Fund as well as austerity pushes in several eurozone nations, the RBA said uncertainty prevailed and would “inevitably weigh somewhat on prospects for global growth.”

“In areas such as Asia where growth had recently been strong, it had become more likely that the withdrawal of policy stimulus would be delayed as a result of the developments in Europe,” it said in the minutes of its June 1 meeting.

At that meeting, the central bank opted to leave rates on hold at 4.5 percent – pausing an aggressive series of six 0.25 percentage point hikes since October – after sharp falls in Australia’s stock market and currency.

The RBA said monetary policy had moved from “very expansionary settings” at the height of the global financial crisis to now having rates at their “average levels of the past decade or so”, giving it room to hold fire for now.

“Members judged that these previous actions (of raising rates) afforded policy the flexibility to await information on how the recent market uncertainty might affect the global economy, as well as news about the outlook for inflation,” the RBA said.

Resource-rich Australia dodged the financial crisis due to strong exports to Asia, which helped it become the only advanced economy not to enter recession and the first to raise interest rates, from 49-year lows of 3.0 percent.

New sanctions announced against Iran

Australia will take out its own sanctions against Iran as it seeks to help curb the regime’s nuclear program.

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Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has announced Australia will impose sanctions on a bank, a shipping line, and an individual involved in a construction company.

The move comes on top of a fresh round of UN sanctions imposed last week.

“These new measures put Australia at the forefront of efforts to persuade Iran to reverse its current path of confrontation with the international community,” Mr Smith said in a statement.

Iran says its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful civilian purposes, while countries such as the US argue it is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

Sanction targets

Australia’s sanctions will apply to Bank Mellat, which the UN says has facilitated transactions involving Iranian nuclear and missile entities.

They will also apply to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line, which Mr Smith said had transported goods for Iran’s nuclear programs.

General Rostam Qasemi, the commander of Khatem ol-Anbiya Construction Organisation, also will face Australian sanctions.

While noting deep concern about Iran’s nuclear aspirations, Mr Smith said there was still an opportunity for dialogue.

“Australia urges Iran to uphold its international obligations and seek an early negotiated solution to international community concerns about its nuclear program,” he said.

‘Most difficult issue’

Earlier, Mr Smith said Iran may well be the single most difficult issue the international community had to grapple with during the next year or so.

The United Nations last week decided to impose new sanctions on Iran, expanding an arms embargo and adding more names to the list of people who face personal sanctions.

Australia already has autonomous sanctions in place against Iran, adding the new ones on Tuesday.

The European Union recently proposed its own sanctions, to cover the oil and gas industries, plus more curbs on transport, banking and insurance.

At-a-glance: Sydney light plane incidents

2010 June – Light plane crashes and explodes at Canley Vale in Sydney’s southwest after taking off from Bankstown Airport.

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Two believed to have died.

2009: October – Light plane crash lands at Bankstown Airport. Pilot uninjured. August – Passenger takes control of light plane after pilot passes out. Plane lands safely at Bankstown Airport.

2008 December – Two light planes collide mid-air, sending one smashing into a house in Casula in Sydney’s southwest. Two women, an instructor and trainee pilot killed. Two men in the second plane make successful emergency landing at Bankstown airport.

September – Three die after light plane crashes in rugged terrain in NSW Hunter Valley after leaving Bankstown Airport.

August – Light plane crash lands at Bankstown Airport. Pilot on training flight uninjured.

February – Light plane makes emergency landing at Bankstown Airport after nose wheel collapses. Two on board uninjured.

January – Landing gear on light plane malfunctions on approach to Bankstown Airport. Two on board uninjured.

2007 December – Light plane on training flight from Bankstown Airport crashes in paddock. Trainee pilot and instructor on board uninjured.

August – Light plane crashes at Bankstown Airport after reported undercarriage problems. Pilot uninjured, passenger suffers minor injuries.

February – Light plane crashes in paddock near Hoxton Park Airport en route from Bathurst to Bankstown Airport after mechanical problems. Pilot, passenger escape injury.

January – Light plane bound for Toowoomba crash lands at Bankstown Airport when landing gear collapses at takeoff. All four on board uninjured.

2006 April – Light plane crashes at Bankstown Airport after hitting the ground upside down at high speed. Pilot killed.

Scientists develop synthetic skin

Australian scientists are developing a “living skin equivalent” that would revolutionise a burns victim’s rehabilitation and dramatically improve their quality of life.

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It would be up to 1.5 cm thick, says burns specialist Professor Peter Maitz, and a major advance on conventional methods, which can replace only the body’s thinnest, outer layer of skin.

“Most skin grafting, including skin grown in the lab, is just the one mm surface,” said Prof Maitz from the burns unit at Sydney’s Concord Hospital.

“That’s where this new research comes in, it’s a layer that’s up to 1.5cm thick not one mm.”

Prof Maitz and his research colleagues are working to create a synthetic “dermis”, the skin’s underpinning layer which carries nerves, blood vessels, sweat glands and hair follicles.

Researchers led by Dr Zhe Li have cultivated small amounts of the dermis-like synthetic skin, though not yet at the desired thickness, and trial grafts have been performed on animals.

The experimental skin is built from a synthetic material that mimics the structure of the dermis which is seeded with stem cells harvested from the patient’s healthy skin.

If perfected, it would be a major advance on conventional synthetic grafts which, though usually life-saving, cannot restore many of the vital functions performed by the skin such as temperature control, perspiration and sensation of touch where the dermis is destroyed.

“In Australia, someone with a full-thickness burn to up to 80 per cent of their body surface area has every prospect of surviving the injury,” Prof Maitz said.

“However, their quality of life remains questionable as we’re unable, at present, to replace the burnt skin with normal skin.

“We’re committed to ensuring the pain of survival is worth it, by developing a living skin equivalent.”

Prof Maitz is deputy chair of the Sydney Burns Foundation, a new collaboration between the University of Sydney and Concord Hospital Burns Unit that will be officially launched today.

The foundation’s aim is to support the ongoing research into the new synthetic skin, plus research and education in burns medicine and reconstructive surgery.

Alone on football’s biggest stage

The Bordeaux playmaker has long been considered his country’s natural heir to Zinedine Zidane, but his ineffective performance in Friday’s 0-0 draw with Uruguay has added weight to calls from him to be dropped.

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At 23 and with only 21 caps to his name, Gourcuff is experiencing for the first time the unique claustrophobia of a major tournament.

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In France’s opening match against the Uruguayans, the former AC Milan player looked hesitant and uncomfortable, frequently giving the ball away despite his deserved reputation as a midfielder of supreme technical quality.

What has happened to Gourcuff?

The question on everyone’s lips since the start of last season has been: Where is the Gourcuff of 2008-09, who swept all before him with Bordeaux and became an integral component of France’s first-choice XI?

Gourcuff had been looking to the World Cup to help banish the memories of a dreadful season with Bordeaux, who meekly failed to defend their French title and finished sixth.

But his poor form has persisted and his problems have been compounded by the suspicion that he has become a peripheral member of the France squad, ignored by the team’s leaders and senior stars.

In French sport daily L’Equipe on Friday, France captain Patrice Evra confirmed in just a few words that Gourcuff is something of an outcast.

“Yo (Gourcuff), I never hear him,” Evra said.

“To speak to Gourcuff, you have to talk to (Jeremy) Toulalan. It’s with him that I see him having a laugh.”

There is even speculation in the French media that Gourcuff is being ignored by his teammates on the pitch, with Nicolas Anelka and Franck Ribery allegedly guilty of deliberately failing to pass to him against Uruguay.

In training and particularly during warm-ups at France’s plush World Cup base, the malaise is noticeable.

Gourcuff often trains alone or goes through his warm-up routine with either his Bordeaux team-mates – Alou Diarra, Cedric Carrasso and Marc Planus – or Toulalan, his only allies in the French set-up.

Victim of jealousy?

Is Gourcuff a victim of jealousy provoked by his golden boy status or is he simply too fragile psychologically?

Writing in L’Equipe on Sunday, former France left-back Bixente Lizarazu said Gourcuff was “too self-effacing, too nice and probably too well-brought up”.

“Today he needs to start baring his teeth and sharpening his elbows.”

Gourcuff’s current struggles come as a surprise to Patrick Rampillon, his coach at Rennes during his formative years.

“I’m surprised,” Rampillon told AFP. “With the young players, everyone was in agreement about him. There were no flaws in his character and no warning signs.

“Looking at the match against Uruguay and saying there was a problem with Gourcuff is a bit strong.”

It cannot be denied, however, that Gourcuff seems a shadow of the player he was in 2009.

France coach Raymond Domenech has long supported his rising star but must now decide whether or not to take decisive action by dropping Gourcuff for the potentially pivotal second Group A game against Mexico on Thursday.

Ambo volunteer ‘may shun asylum seekers’

A St John Ambulance volunteer in the West Australian town of Leonora has resigned after saying she ‘probably couldn’t’ respond to calls for help from asylum seekers.

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The ambulance service said it had reprimanded Jo Ruprecht’s not for her opinions on asylum seekers – which she expressed on national television – but for her failure to confirm she would go to their aid if she was called on to do so.

Ms Ruprecht was at Leonora airport last week when 86 asylum seekers flew in to be housed at a disused mining camp, to take pressure off the overcrowded detention centre on Christmas Island.

Wearing a St John Ambulance shirt, Ms Ruprecht told the Seven Network she thought asylum seekers received too much from the government when others had to work for what they had.

That prompted St John to counsel her and she apologised for wearing the shirt when she made her comments on camera.

But when Ms Ruprecht understood she might have to stand down over the incident, she resigned from the service where she has been a volunteer for more than 13 years.

Her resignation prompted a fellow volunteer to also resign from the service.

“I’m a bit upset by how it was handled, I understand I didn’t do the right thing by wearing my shirt,” Ms Ruprecht told ABC Radio on Tuesday.

She said she felt attacked during the counselling session.

“I’m so heartbroken that people, the organisation, can treat you like that.”

But St John’s Goldfields manager Alan Churchill told ABC Radio the comments Ms Ruprecht made to the Seven Network were not the issue.

He said he had asked her if as a St John volunteer she would respond to a call-out at the detainee centre and she had said “she probably couldn’t”.

“As an ambulance service, we cannot pick and choose who we go to,” Mr Churchill said.

“We’re there for the service of humanity, that’s our logo and that’s where the impasse is.”

St John volunteers had a wide range of opinions they were entitled to express and Ms Ruprecht’s opinion on asylum seekers was not the issue, he said.

Parental leave debate reaches Senate

The Senate’s started debating the government’s plan to introduce Australia’s first paid parental leave scheme, but non-government senators have refused to bow to Kevin Rudd’s edict to not get in the road.

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The government, opposition and crossbench have agreed to the scheme in principle, but the opposition and Greens would prefer a 26 week scheme instead of the 18 weeks at the minimum wage, which the government’s proposed.

The Greens also promised to introduce amendments to provide more job security, especially for those who’ve been in a new job for less than a year, potentially delaying the legislation’s passage through the Senate.

That wasn’t good enough for Mr Rudd, who told senators any delay was not acceptable.

“It’s now down to crunch time,” he told reporters in Canberra. “We have a very simple message for the Senate: Get out of the road guys, just get on with it.”

“We can’t delay any longer. We must see this legislation through. It is so key to making life easier for working families.”

Reaction

Mr Rudd’s edict has left senators less than impressed, with Greens’ spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young saying the Senate’s not going to roll over just because that’s what the prime minister wants.

The Greens want the government to agree to six months paid leave, but are happy to compromise by making that at the minimum wage level.

Liberal senator Mitch Fifield says the coalition supports paid parental leave and the introduction of a scheme to deliver it, but he’s accused Labor of rushing the scheme which falls short of a coalition plan to provide six months leave for mothers, paid for by a levy on big business.

However he concedes the plan for 18 weeks leave is a step in the right direction.

Meanwhile, Family First senator Steve Fielding attacked the government’s plan for not doing enough for stay-at-home mothers.

It wasn’t good enough for the government to be handing out money for “prisoners and prostitutes”, but none for mums who stayed at home to look after their children, he said.

Earlier, Mr Rudd joined Families Minister Jenny Macklin, ACTU secretary Sharan Burrow and a dozen mums and their kids to accept a petition pushing for the government’s scheme to be in place by January 1 2011.

‘Too early to legislate on mining tax’

With even Labor MPs saying the party is in “no position to legislate” on a mining tax, opposition leader Tony Abbott has called the government “amateurs”.

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Anthony Albanese, infrastructure minister and leader of the government in the House of Representatives, said constructive negotiations are continuing on the controversial mining profits tax, but priority for the next two week parliament sitting was passage of the parental leave scheme plus welfare and aviation safety reforms.

He said he was not going to pre-empt ongoing discussions on the resources tax.

“But obviously we are not in a position at the moment to legislate on this. we have made that very clear. It’s not about to come in in the next financial year so there is no need to do that,” he told ABC Television.

“My concern is that the Senate is being so obstructionist because of Tony Abbott’s position of opposition for opposition’s sake.”

Mr Albanese said the Senate had dealt with government business for less than 40 per cent of available time so far this year, a one third reduction.

Senate time was being taken up with private members and discussion but not legislation, he said

He said that the government priority was to get through the parental leave scheme, welfare reforms and aviation safety reforms in the next two weeks.

Mr Albanese said the opposition opposed the resources super tax and much else.

“Reforms is always controversial,” he said.

“But the shift from a production based tax to a profit based tax, that principle is agreed to by everyone including the Minerals Councils. Everyone except for Tony Abbott.”

Abbott says the disarray over the proposed resources super profits tax shows the federal government up as an amateur operation.

He said Kevin Rudd wants to have a great big fight followed by a great big backflip and that any policy that hurts Australian mining’s international competitiveness has to be bad for the industry, workers and retirees.

Greens leader Bob Brown has urged Labor to hold firm.