No sign of end to Qld Origin dominance

Reports of the Queensland State of Origin team’s demise have been grossly exaggerated.

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Just when their remarkable dynasty looked set to end, the Maroons may yet have kick-started a new era of dominance after stunning NSW 22-6 to seal yet another series win at a sold out Suncorp Stadum on Wednesday night.

Man of the match Cameron Smith, debutant five-eighth Cameron Munster and hat-trick winger Valentine Holmes inspired the game three triumph in front of a ground record 52,540 to seal their 11th series victory in 12 years.

It was the perfect Origin farewell for injured Maroons five-eighth Johnathan Thurston, who received a pre-match tribute before being invited by skipper Smith to raise the shield on the podium.

It seemed the Blues never had a better chance to break Queensland’s vice-like grip on the Origin shield than this year.

The Maroons used eight debutants, three different five-eighths and a record 26 players for the series.

And no Thurston after his 37-game Origin career was ended by a shoulder injury in their come from behind game two win.

Yet they still overcame a record 28-4 opening loss at home to emerge victorious against a NSW 17 that remained the same throughout for the first time in 21 years.

“After what happened after game one here I am really proud of how they have performed under a lot of pressure,” Queensland coach Kevin Walters said.

“On Cameron (Smith), I don’t think I have seen a more dominant performance from anyone.”

The future of Queensland’s Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk may be up in the air, with both yet to decide whether to play on in 2018.

But fellow veteran Smith was already convinced the Maroons would be left in safe hands after their stirring series triumph.

“This would be one of the more pleasing series victories,” 42 Origin veteran Smith said.

“Using 26 players, that’s the most we’ve used, and they were in key positions. To be able to beat a Blues side that remained unchanged for the entire series, that’s a special effort.”

Smith said the future was bright after Munster was superb replacing Thurston at five-eighth.

“I know there will be a few older boys in the team who will be finishing up in the next year or two but I think the team is in a pretty good spot,” Smith said.

Slater and Cronk did not give anything away on their future while savouring the unlikely series win.

Off contract Slater is yet to commit to another season while Cronk is uncertain of his next move after announcing he will leave NRL club Melbourne and relocate to Sydney in 2018 to be with his fiancee.

“It’s hard to give up moments like that,”Cronk admitted, suggesting he may yet continue in Origin.

NSW coach Laurie Daley admitted he thought this would be the Blues’ year.

It remains to be seen if Daley remains at the helm after slumping to a 1-4 series record.

“They’ll eventually get there. Obviously we thought it was going to be this year. It will hurt for 12 months,” Daley said.

Cronk hints at playing on in 2018 Origin

Looking around a jubilant Queensland dressing room, Cooper Cronk admitted it would be hard to say goodbye to State of Origin after the Maroons’ 22-6 series-clinching win in Origin III.

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Halfback Cronk, 33, is yet to decide his future after announcing he will leave NRL club Melbourne and join his fiancee in Sydney in 2018.

But the lure of Origin may yet persuade Cronk to run around again next year, judging by the 22-game Queensland playmaker’s beaming smile in the Maroons sheds on Wednesday night.

The XXXX flowed as family and friends mingled with Queensland greats like Wally Lewis and the Maroons toasted their 11th series win in 12 years.

“I’ve got some thinking to do, there’s no doubt about that,” Cronk said.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do but I’ll tell you, it’s hard to give up moments like that.

“You’re a kid, you watch Wally Lewis, Alfie Langer, Mal Meninga, Arthur Beetson play and you just want to be a part of it.

“And then to have moments like that, it’s pretty special.”

No doubt Cronk contemplated his own future when five-eighth Johnathan Thurston received an emotional pre-game tribute on Wednesday night after his 37-game Origin career was ended by a shoulder injury suffered in Queensland’s game two win in Sydney.

He said it was good to share the unlikely series win with veteran skipper Cameron Smith and another who may have played his last Origin, fullback Billy Slater.

Cronk still wouldn’t give a deadline on his own future despite the inspiring Origin win.

“It’s why you play the game. It’s why you get up and have ice baths late at night when you don’t really want to, to have moments like that for Johnathan Thurston’s last game,” Cronk said.

“It’s good to share it with Cameron and Billy. We’ve probably got less moments in front of us.

“John (Thurston) made his decision based on his personal circumstances and I’ll just do the same.”

If it was Cronk’s last hurrah, he left something to remember him by.

He provided one of Origin III’s highlights with a pin point perfect cross field kick that gifted hat-trick winger Valentine Holmes his second try in the 26th minute.

Coalition to adopt 49 of 50 Finkel energy suggestions but undecided on clean energy target

The Turnbull government is still deciding whether to support a clean energy target, as the federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg prepares to pitch the other 49 recommendations of the Finkel Review to a meeting of state ministers on Friday.

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Australia’s chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel recommended 50 strategies to improve the reliability and affordability of the national energy market.

The head of the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), Audrey Zibelman, has urged the ministers at the upcoming COAG meeting to endorse the report.

The government has already agreed to 49 of the recommendations, Mr Frydenberg told ABC Radio on Wednesday.

Among them are a plan for more battery storage for renewables similar to the Tesla battery in South Australia, the Turnbull government’s so-called Snowy 2.0 and a new requirement that coal-fired power stations provide three years of notice before shutting down.

But the Coalition party-room has not decided on whether to back the report’s most controversial suggestion: a clean energy target that would require power companies to source a percentage of their electricity from renewable energy.

“I’m sure the states would like to discuss it and I’m happy to talk to them about it, but … the government’s position on a clean energy target is that we haven’t finalised our internal discussions,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“This is a very big decision, to move down the path of a new mechanism. It’s one that Dr Finkel himself said should be in place by 2020, so we don’t have to rush it.”

The minister said the government was continuing to question the assumptions behind some of Dr Finkel’s modelling, and to consult with “key stakeholders”. 

Some in the Turnbull Government are resistant to the idea of a clean energy target. Former prime minister Tony Abbot has argued for the existing renewable energy target (RET) to be cut back. 

Not a ‘conservative’ approach 

John Hewson, a former Liberal leader, told the ABC’s Lateline program that if Mr Abbott were a “true conservative” he would support a market-based solution on climate change via some kind of price on carbon emissions, rather than the ‘direct action’ policy left over from his government. 

Ms Zibelman, the head of AEMO, said the energy ministers needed to agree on a policy framework at COAG and move on quickly. 

“There is a path forward and we need to take it, and we need to move and we need to move quickly,” Ms Zibelman told a Committee for the Economic Develop­ment of Australia lunch in Melbourne, according to The Australian.

RelatedFuel efficiency

Meanwhile, the Turnbull Government has hosed down reports it is considering a new carbon pricing system that would penalise drivers who buy petrol-thirsty cars.

Wednesday’s front page of the Daily Telegraph claimed the government was planning to introduce a carbon tax on cars.

That prompted energy minister Josh Frydenberg to dismiss the idea on ABC’s breakfast program.

“There is as much chance of a carbon tax on cars as Elvis making a comeback,” he said.

But the government has not ruled out introducing new standards for the fuel efficiency of cars.

Mr Frydenberg said the government had been undertaking consultations since October 2015, but was only motivated by a desire to “reduce the fuel costs for families on their vehicles”.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said “no decisions” had been made.

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development has canvassed the idea and asked the auto industry for feedback.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries said it was “hugely disappointed” with the proposed standard, according to the Australian Financial Review, because it would add thousands of dollars to the cost of common medium-sized SUVs.

More mass graves found in Congo: UN

Another 38 probable mass graves have been found in central Congo, where deadly violence between troops and militia members has killed thousands of people since August, the United Nations says.

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This means at least 80 mass graves have been identified so far, the UN peacekeeping mission in the vast Central African nation said on Wednesday.

The international community has expressed alarm over the violence in the once-calm Kasai provinces region. Some diplomats have suggested that the tensions are also tied to Congo’s presidential election that has been delayed since last year.

The Catholic church has estimated more than 3300 people have died in the fighting since a traditional chief was killed in a military operation in August. The UN says more than a million people have been displaced.

The latest mass graves were found this month in the Diboko and Sumbula areas of Kamonia territory by an investigative team from the local UN human rights office and Congo’s military justice authorities, the UN said.

On Tuesday, UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix expressed serious concern to the UN Security Council that violence in the Kasai provinces “has reached very disturbing levels”.

Congo’s government now points to the violence as the reason for further election delays. The country’s UN ambassador, Ignace Gata Mavita, has said voter registration has not yet begun in two provinces – Kasai and Kasai Central – as a result of the fighting. Registration is scheduled to begin July 20, he said.

President Joseph Kabila’s mandate ended in December, and after deadly protests the government and opposition reached a December 31 agreement that calls for the vote by the end of this year – without Kabila as a candidate.

The head of the electoral commission, however, now says that won’t be possible.

China dissident Liu’s condition critical

Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo is in critical condition and his breathing is failing, the hospital treating him says.

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Liu, a prominent participant in the Tiananmen pro-democracy protests of 1989, was jailed for 11 years in 2009 for “inciting subversion of state power” after helping to write a petition known as “Charter 08” calling for sweeping political reforms.

He was recently moved from jail to a hospital to be treated for late-stage liver cancer.

Liu’s kidney and liver functions are failing, and he suffers from blood clots, among other ailments, the hospital in the city of Shenyang said on its website on Wednesday.

However, Liu’s family has declined the use of intubation machinery to help him breathe with the aid of a plastic tube in his windpipe, the hospital said.

The announcement suggested a significant deterioration in Liu’s health since early on Wednesday, when the hospital said he was being treated for worsening liver function, septic shock and organ dysfunction.

Rights groups and Western government have urged China to allow Liu and his wife, Liu Xia, to leave the country to be treated abroad, as Liu has said he wants to.

But the government has warned against interference in its internal affairs and said Liu is getting the best care possible and is being treated by renowned Chinese cancer experts.

The state-backed Global Times tabloid said the “confrontational tone” of those in the West voicing their opinions on Liu failed to focus on his illness.

The government allowed two foreign doctors, from the United States and Germany, to visit Liu on Saturday and they later said they considered it was safe for him to be moved overseas, but any move should be done as quickly as possible.

After the doctors’ Sunday statement, China released short videos of their visit, apparently taken without their knowledge, in which the German doctor appeared to praise the care Liu had received.

Liu’s friends voiced suspicion about the hospital’s earlier statement, which suggested a worsening of his health soon after two foreign doctors said he was well enough to travel abroad.

No one answered the telephone at the hospital’s publicity department on Wednesday.