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Experts question Labor leader contest

Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese promise a clean fight for the Labor federal parliamentary leadership, but the chances of an amicable outcome are slim.

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That’s the view of at least two psychology experts who have spent decades studying workplace scenarios similar to the current contest for the top ALP job.

“The chances of them working together, one as the winner and one as subordinate, is extremely unlikely,” specialist Simon Brown-Greaves told AAP.

With more than 30 years experience working as an organisational psychologist in the field of leadership development, Brown-Greaves said the loser would struggle to recover.

“It is a really tough thing to come back from – this sort of fight – and it’s difficult to come back and report to the person who beat you in this race,” he said.

“You have to fit into the other person’s agenda, when you’ve been on record putting a point of view that’s a different point of view: that you’re the right man for the job and he’s not.”

The Labor movement also stands to suffer from the public contest, says head of the College of Organisational Psychologists, Leanne Faraday-Brash.

“By disenfranchising someone, a lot of their energy after that can go into protesting and back stabbing and undermining,” she said.

Labor’s successful leadership candidate will be determined by a ballot of rank and file members and a vote in caucus, under new guidelines aimed at creating leadership stability and increasing grassroots participation.

Both Albanese and Shorten launched their campaigns promising not to engage in negative tactics or personally attack their opponent, but within days the pressure was showing.

In veiled reference to Mr Shorten’s involvement in the dumping of prime ministers Kevin Rudd in 2010 and Julia Gillard in June this year, Mr Albanese said he had been loyal and never engaged in “internal shenanigans”.

Shorten responded Labor’s return to unity required MPs to move “beyond the sledging”.

“Everyone knows it doesn’t matter if you are a football team, a netball team, or indeed a political party. If you can’t govern yourselves, then Australians will mark you down.”

Three years ago, a very public battle for the UK Labour leadership saw the Miliband brothers pitted against one another in a stoush that resulted in a narrow victory to younger sibling, Ed.

Post-contest, his brother David Miliband – who had been a senior minister in Gordon Brown’s government – retreated to the backbench.

The elder brother said his presence in the shadow cabinet “would be a route to real difficulty” and instead of focusing on winning the next election, Labour would be distracted.

“The team would be subject to permanent scrutiny of body language, everything from sneezes to comments. Ed needs an open field to lead as he sees fit,” David Miliband said.

He has since resigned from parliament.

Brown-Greaves said it was typical in big business scenarios for the unsuccessful candidate of a senior leadership battle to move on once the winner was declared, but in politics “you are stuck with the loser”.

The ongoing presence of the unsuccessful candidate can prove divisive for a party.

“With what has been going on in the Labor party over recent years the level of trust is going to be critical in coming years and therefore the risk of having someone who’s a close second in a leadership struggle would lead to the potential of mistrust,” Brown-Greaves said.

But Faraday-Brash sees some hope for Labor, so long as the loser is given a significant role, acknowledging his skills.

“You’re talking about a scenario which will end in the ultimate success of one candidate versus the professional let down and public embarrassment of the other,” she said.

“But it depends entirely on whether, at the end of the day, they are able to put the good of the party or the organisation before their personal ambition and ego and accept the umpire’s decision.”

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Knights see Storm as ultimate NRL team

Newcastle veteran Danny Buderus say not only do the Knights want to beat Melbourne Storm but they want to be like the NRL premiers as well.

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The Storm and unfancied Knights meet in a knock-out semi-final at AAMI Park on Saturday night with the winners to face the Sydney Roosters for a grand final berth.

Buderus said he admired the Storm for their consistent competitiveness.

“I think they are just the ultimate competitors,” the hooker said.

“They play the game at a level where we want to get to.

“I think every team aspires to be as competitive as Melbourne. That’s us. That’s where we want to be.”

Buderus says his battle-hardened troops have no fear of facing the Storm on some hostile home turf.

They haven’t won in Melbourne since 2004 but Buderus said the big-game experience amongst his teammates meant they were confident of an upset.

“There has to be confidence going into a semi-final; you’ve got to give yourselves a chance,” said Buderus.

“It’s a good scenario (to have the experience) and it’s in the forwards and that’s where the battle is going to be.

“There’s some guys there that will instil a bit of confidence into the younger guys.”

Buderus said the Knights had also been buoyed by record of their master coach Wayne Bennett, who has seven premierships to his name.

“We’re feeding off that – he’s our leader,” he said.

“He’s won a lot of premierships so he knows what he’s talking about.”

Buderus, who played in the Knights’ 2001 NRL title win, will retire at season’s end.

He said he couldn’t help but think each training session and match might be his last.

“Leading into this game and into the semi-final, I’m just very happy to be a part of September,” the former Test star said.

“That’s a bonus and I’m looking forward to the challenge of getting out there with a group of guys that would do anything for each other.

“Hopefully we go deep into September.”

Another player calling it quits is Storm prop Jason Ryles.

Ryles missed the Storm’s grand final victory last season with a hamstring injury and was well aware this was his last chance for glory.

“I won’t lie to you – it’s always in the back of your mind but it is what it is,” Ryles said.

“To play finals footy, it doesn’t happen every year for a lot of players so I’m very grateful for that and I just want to take every opportunity that I’ve been given.”

Ryles wasn’t giving away who would start in the Storm No.6 jersey with Gareth Widdop named but Brett Finch an outside chance to return from injury.

“They’ve both been training in the first team so they’re both as good a chance as each other,” he said.

“Gaz brings the youth and he won a premiership last year and Finchy brings another dimension.”

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Face veils in UK hospitals under review

Ministers have asked doctors’ regulator the General Medical Council to ensure there is “appropriate” face-to-face contact with patients, the BBC reports.

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Currently, there is no national guidance on the issue in the National Health Service. Some hospitals allow women to wear the veil for religious reasons, while others do not permit it to ensure open communication with patients.

Britain was dragged into a debate earlier this week on Muslim women wearing full-face veils in public, with its biggest selling newspaper adding to calls from politicians to join European countries that have banned its use.

   

The topic had stayed below the British political radar until the past week when a judge ruled that a Muslim woman will be allowed to go on wearing a veil but must take it off while giving evidence at her trial.

   

Her case came after Birmingham Metropolitan College, in a central English city which has a large Muslim population, dropped a ban on Muslim face veils after thousands of people signed a petition against the rule.

   

Junior Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne called on Monday for a “national debate” on the issue.

   

It exploded onto the front pages Tuesday after The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s top-selling British tabloid, carried a huge splash with the headline “UNVEILED” over a picture of the woman defendant wearing a niqab.

   

The Sun, which sells 2.25 million copies a day, demanded “vital reforms” that would ban veils in schools, courts, hospitals, airports, banks and secure areas but give women “freedom to wear them in streets and parks.”

   

By way of comparison, it carried a picture of veiled women in Birmingham — one of them flicking a V-sign with her fingers — next to a picture of uncovered women in the Pakistani capital Islamabad.

   

There is no ban on wearing the full-face veil in Britain, and a number of Muslim women do so, particularly in cities with large ethnic communities such as London, Birmingham and Bradford.

   

The debate is one that Britain, which prides itself on a liberal heritage and ethnic tolerance, has largely avoided even as some of its European neighbours with large Muslim populations have acted.

   

France has banned women from wearing full-face veils in public since April 2011 and Belgium followed suit three months later.

   

Other nations are considering similar legislation, including Switzerland, Italy and the Netherlands.

   

The leading Muslim Council of Britain has expressed “concern at the direction of the national conversation currently taking place on the niqab”.

   

“There are few people who wear the niqab, and they should be allowed to wear this veil if they freely decide to do so,” said Talat Ahmed, chairwoman of the council’s committee for social and family affairs.

   

“Every time we discuss the niqab, it usually comes with a diet of bigoted commentary about our faith and the place of Islam in Britain.”

   

Sun managing editor Stig Abell said on Tuesday that the front page was an “attempt to balance pragmatism and religious freedom”.

   

And the Sun’s intervention follows a version of what a growing number of politicians in Britain have been saying.

   

Prime Minister David Cameron, from the centre-right Conservative party, had backed Birmingham Metropolitan University’s stance on wearing the veil.

   

Then Browne, from the centrist Liberal Democrats who are in coalition with the Conservatives, weighed in on Sunday when he said that Muslim girls and young women should be banned from wearing veils in schools and public places.

   

Browne told the Telegraph newspaper he was “instinctively uneasy” about restricting individual choice but added: “I think this is a good topic for national debate.”

   

His views echoed those of some Conservatives in parliament who have been pushing for a ban.

   

But Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said he opposed any legal ban.

   

“My own view, very strongly held, is that we shouldn’t end up like other countries issuing edicts or laws from parliament telling people what they should or should not wear,” Clegg said.

   

But the government may find it needs to address the issue sooner than it thinks.

   

Judge Peter Murphy — who in the veil case on Monday ordered the 22-year-old woman from London to go uncovered to give evidence in her trial on a charge of intimidation — said there needed to be clarity on the legal situation.

   

He expressed the “hope that parliament or a higher court will provide a definite answer” to the issue soon, adding: “The niqab has become the elephant in the courtroom.”

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Worsfold doesn’t blame players for demise

West Coast players loved John Worsfold right until the end, but they simply had nothing left in the tank to fire a shot when it mattered most.

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Worsfold sent a shock through the AFL earlier this month when he stepped down as Eagles coach after 12 years in the role.

Just days earlier, the 44-year-old had indicated he was keen to coach on, but he soon realised he no longer had the passion, drive or hunger to thrive in such a demanding job.

West Coast’s last three weeks of the season took a heavy toll on Worsfold, with the team losing to Collingwood, Geelong and Adelaide by a combined 214 points.

The 86-point loss to Adelaide in the final round was particularly damning, especially considering it was the farewell games of retiring greats Andrew Embley and Adam Selwood.

Worsfold has kept a low profile since stepping down, but he has met a number of players to detail his reasons for stepping down.

A host of Eagles players have expressed disappointment with how they performed in the dying weeks of the season when Worsfold’s future was up in the air.

But he doesn’t blame them for his demise, saying they simply had nothing left to give after a trying season in which the club was ravaged by injuries.

“It wasn’t through a lack of effort or desire … of the players,” Worsfold told the club’s website in a farewell video on Friday.

“But it was certainly a build up of the disappointment of the year, the fact that we had a pretty young squad playing and that, mentally, I think they had nothing left to give.

“The fact they couldn’t even fire a shot for the last games of Andrew Embley and Adam Selwood shows they wanted to (fire), but they just couldn’t give anything.”

Worsfold will be remembered as the club’s greatest figure.

He captained West Coast to two flags during his 209-game playing career, and also coached the club to the 2006 premiership.

But perhaps his greatest achievement was the way he led the club through the illicit drugs crisis of last decade, which culminated in Ben Cousins’ sacking in 2007 and led to an overhaul of the club’s culture.

“I’m proud of the way I leave the playing group and the culture within it,” Worsfold said.

“It’s a very strong, self-governing culture.

“Players hold each other very accountable.

“They’re the ones that know what each other are up to more than the coaches will ever know.

“They do a lot of work behind the scenes to make sure that if a player is tempted outside of the values the players want to uphold, they’ll be brought into line or they’ll get questioned about whether they want to remain at the footy club.”

West Coast hope to appoint Worsfold’s replacement by mid-October.

Worsfold said assistant coach Scott Burns and former West Coast forward Peter Sumich would be ideal candidates for the role.

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Sex selection abortions ‘aren’t illegal despite all the noise’

By Jennie Bristow, University of Kent

The Crown Prosecution Service’s ruling that it would not be in the “public interest” to prosecute two doctors exposed in an undercover Daily Telegraph investigation into “sex selection” abortions has caused a predictable flurry of complaint from that newspaper, as well as from anti-abortion groups.

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More worryingly, the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, argued: “We are clear that gender selection abortion is against the law and completely unacceptable”. Even some pro-choice politicians have stated that abortion over foetal sex is “illegal”. And the Christian Legal Centre now says it is preparing a private prosecution of the two doctors involved.

In all the heat generated by this story, we should remind ourselves what the British abortion law actually says about sex selection – which is, quite simply, nothing. The law is silent on the matter.

Many of those working in the abortion service find the practice ethically objectionable and might refuse to authorise an abortion. But it is not illegal, providing that the legal grounds are still met.

Foetal sex is not a specified ground for abortion within the Abortion Act 1967, but nor is it specifically prohibited. Other reasons for abortion that are widely accepted as “good” reasons – for example, if the woman has been raped – are not specified either.

The only thing that matters from a legal point of view is that an abortion of a foetus is authorised by two doctors, acting in good faith, on one (or more) of the following grounds (with each needing to agree that at least one and the same ground is met):

    That the pregnancy has not exceeded its 24th week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family.

    That the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.

    That the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated.

    That there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.

The CPS understands this point. In a statement issued on September 5, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor Jenny Hopkins said: “When looking at the culpability of the doctors in this case, we must take into account the fact that doctors are required to interpret the law and apply it to range of sensitive and difficult circumstances which are not set out in the legislation.”

“The evidence in this case was finely balanced and the law gives quite a wide discretion to doctors to determine when a risk to the health and well-being of a pregnant woman exists.”

She added: “Taking into account the need for professional judgement which deals firmly with wrongdoing, while not deterring other doctors from carrying out legitimate and medically justified abortions, we have concluded that these specific cases would be better dealt with by the [General Medical Council] rather than by prosecution.”

Doctors’ discretion forms the centrepiece of the 1967 act: there is no list of specific conditions under which women are permitted abortions. When making a decision to prosecute, the CPS is not about creating new legal standards for what is considered by some to be right and wrong; it’s about looking at the law as it is, and whether that law has been broken.

As the outcry following this story has shown, there are a number of people who wish that the law did explicitly ban abortion for reasons of gender. There are a number of others who would like abortion in general to be more heavily restricted.

They can argue these points if they want to, and thereby engage in an honest debate with those of us who consider that Britain’s abortion law works well; that sex selection is not a big problem in this country; and that “sting” operations by newspapers don’t constitute evidence of a problem with abortion, either in law or in practice.

What is objectionable, however, is the propensity for critics of abortion, or of “sex selection”, to pretend that the law says something it does not, and then to hound doctors on that basis. This shows a startling lack of respect for health professionals, the law, and the women who depend on them.

Jennie Bristow is supervised by Professor Frank Furedi and Dr Ellie Lee. She is also a conference and publications manager for British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), and editor of BPAS’ Reproductive Review. She recently edited the pamphlet Britain’s Abortion Law: What it Says, and Why

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