May signals Johnson could be sacked

British Prime Minister Theresa May has signalled that she could sack Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a newspaper says, as she tries to reassert her authority after a series of political disasters.


The Sunday Times said it asked May about her plans for Johnson, who has professed loyalty but is accused by some of the prime minister’s allies of undermining her by putting forward his own vision for Britain’s exit from the European Union.

“It has never been my style to hide from a challenge and I’m not going to start now,” it quoted May as replying, in what it called a signal that she was prepared to bring in new ministers to her cabinet and axe those who had caused her problems.

“I’m the PM, and part of my job is to make sure I always have the best people in my cabinet, to make the most of the wealth of talent available to me in the party.”

May has seen her authority over her Conservative Party erode since she called a snap election in June in which she lost her majority in parliament.

Johnson, seen as a potential successor to May, said Conservative MPs pushing to unseat her were “nutters”, adding that a change would lead to demands for another election that could bring a resurgent Labour party back to power.

“Are we really going to be stampeded myopically over the edge of the gorge, with an election that no one wants?” he said in the Sunday Telegraph.

Johnson wrote a newspaper article last month outlining his vision of Brexit just days before May made a major speech on the subject.

While professing loyalty, his interventions have been seen as undermining May and causing unnecessary unrest ahead of the party’s conference last week that culminated in a disastrous speech by the prime minister, marred by a coughing fit and letters falling off the slogan on the set behind her.

Johnson made a plea for loyalty with a typical rhetorical flourish on Sunday.

“‘Quo quo scelesti ruitis?’, as Horace put it at the beginning of a fresh bout of Rome’s ghastly civil wars, and which roughly translates as: “What do you think you are doing you nutters?”

Britain’s Sunday newspapers were brimming with briefings from unnamed Conservative figures suggesting May’s days in Downing Street were numbered.

Thousands protest Catalan independence

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Catalonia’s capital Barcelona to express their opposition to any declaration of independence from Spain, showing how divided the region is on the issue.


The protesters rallied in central Barcelona on Sunday, waving Spanish and Catalan flags and banners saying “Catalonia is Spain” and “Together we are stronger”, as politicians on both sides hardened their positions in the country’s worst political crisis for decades.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Saturday he would not rule out removing Catalonia’s government and calling a fresh local election if it claimed independence, as well as suspending the region’s existing autonomous status.

The stark warning came days before Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is expected to address the region’s parliament, on Tuesday, when he could unilaterally declare independence.

“We feel both Catalan and Spanish,” Araceli Ponze, 72, said as she rallied in Barcelona. “We are facing a tremendous unknown. We will see what happens this week but we have to speak out very loudly so they know what we want.”

The wealthy northeastern region of 7.5 million people, which has its own language and culture, held an independence referendum on October 1 in defiance of a Spanish court ban.

More than 90 per cent of the 2.3 million people who voted backed secession, according to Catalan officials. But that turnout represented only 43 per cent of the region’s 5.3 million eligible voters as many opponents of independence stayed away.

The Spanish government sent thousands of national police into the region to prevent the vote. About 900 people were injured when officers fired rubber bullets and charged crowds with truncheons in scenes that shocked Spain and the world, and dramatically escalated the dispute.

Losing Catalonia is almost unthinkable for the Spanish government.

It would deprive Spain of about 16 per cent of its people, a fifth of its economic output and more than a quarter of its exports.

Sunday’s demonstration in Barcelona was organised by the anti-independence group Catalan Civil Society under the slogan “Let’s recover our senses” to mobilise what it believes is a “silent majority” of citizens in Catalonia who oppose independence.

It was a second day of protests after tens of thousands of people gathered in 50 cities across Spain on Saturday, some defending Spain’s national unity and others dressed in white and calling for talks to defuse the crisis.

Until this weekend, Rajoy has remained vague on whether he would use article 155 of the constitution, the so-called nuclear option which enables him to sack the regional government and call a local election.

Asked if he was ready to trigger article 155, Rajoy told El Pais newspaper: “I don’t rule out anything that is within the law … Ideally, we shouldn’t have to take drastic solutions but for that not to happen there would have to be changes.”

Giant Big Mac to give sick kids a smile

Australian mother Jessica Turner says if it wasn’t for Ronald McDonald House, the financial pressure would have forced her to sell their family home.


Ronald McDonald House has given the family a home while six-year-old daughter Eden was in the children’s hospital located two hours from where they live in rural Western Australia.

Eden was born prematurely with scarring on her airways that has meant lengthy hospital stays, including six months in intensive care when she turned one.

During this time, her parents and three siblings have lived in Perth’s Ronald McDonald House for a total of about nine months.

“It gives us a family environment,” Turner told AAP.

“It’s scary, overwhelming and confusing, and her life has been in the balance so many times so I wanted to make sure we stayed together.”

The Turners are among thousands of families who the Ronald McDonald House has helped since they first opened their doors in 1981.

This year a 2.4 metre foam Big Mac will be auctioned on eBay to help reach McDonald’s fundraising target of $4.1 million by McHappy Day on October 14.

All money raised will go towards giving families like the Turners a place to stay while their seriously ill child seeks treatment in a nearby hospital.

The Big Mac is a replica of the iconic burger, complete with buns, cheese, pickles, tomato sauce and even those Aussie beef patties.

Auctioneers will have until 8pm on McHappy Day to place a bid for Macca’s massive burger.

An overnight stay in one of the 16 RMHC houses in Australia costs about $132, and the $4.1 million would provide at least 31,000 nights of accommodation.

Two dollars from every Big Mac will also go towards the charity’s fundraising target.

Gilmore eliminated by Moore in France

An all-Australian showdown in the final of France’s Roxy Pro remains a possibility despite championship leader Stephanie Gilmore losing an epic quarter-final to Hawaii’s Carissa Moore.


Both Sally Fitzgibbons and Tyler Wright advanced to the last four where they will face off against Moore and American Lakey Peterson respectively.

With nine world titles between the pair, Moore and Gilmore went back and forth with the lead, slowly improving their respective scores before Moore bagged an incredible 9.10 as the clock wound down to take the win.

“Surfing against Carissa you have to get two nines to win basically and I knew that,” Gilmore said.

“I had one semi-decent score but I never really felt comfortable. It’s really disappointing to get that score and feel good about it and to paddle back out and just see Carissa stroke into the dreamiest wave. I knew it was over, she doesn’t falter under pressure like that.”

Gilmore recorded 6.50 and 7.67 for a total of 14.17 while Moore’s decisive wave gave her a total of 16.13.

An opening 7.50 proved pivotal for Fitzgibbons against South Africa’s Bianca Buitendag.

Buitendag had the highest-scoring wave of the tie but her 8.67 wasn’t enough to overhaul the Australian, who had followed up with a 6.27.

Despite a knee injury, Wright was dominant against Hawaii’s Malia Manuel, warming up to a 7.50 before recording 8.17 and 8.30; her total of 16.47 easily beat Manuel’s 13.30.

“I do want to get rid of the brace but I’ve been advised that I can’t just yet,” Wright said.

“I feel good, I’m competing sharp again and putting heats together. I’ve been absolutely loving this week.”

Peterson qualified for the semi-finals with victory over countrywoman Courtney Conlogue in a close match-up.

The semi-finalists will enjoy a belated weekend in France’s southwest after the decision to delay further competition.

Weather forecasts show little swell for Monday or Tuesday with the next call coming at 8am on Wednesday, when the men’s event will also kick off, headlined by a second heat featuring Australians Owen Wright and Bede Durbridge up against Nat Young of the US.

Supercars joker Reynolds a serious threat

At last, cult hero David Reynolds can be taken seriously as a Supercars driver after claiming his maiden Bathurst 1000 title.


Still, it was hard to tell.

Reynolds still very much looked like the joker of the pack with his wild celebrations after claiming his maiden Great Race on Sunday in treacherous conditions.

After crossing the line in the seven hour-plus epic almost four seconds ahead of fellow Holden gun Scott Pye, the 32-year-old lit up the miserable conditions at Mount Panorama off the track.

He pretended to fall asleep on top of his car after triumphantly getting out of his Holden following the 161-lap classic.

Then he emerged on the winner’s podium wildly piggy-backing co-driver Luke Youlden.

He thanked “baby Jesus” while raising the winners’ Peter Brock Trophy.

And of course there was the trademark “shoey” celebration that he helped make a household name.

Still, nothing quite prepared anyone for what was to come in the press conference.

Punters may wish to seek a full transcript considering little was printable without earning Reynolds another $25,000 fine similar to his now infamous 2015 “P***y Wagon” description of an all-female Bathurst team.

At one stage Reynolds started describing how he caught a glimpse of a nude entertainer trackside while waiting for one of the six re-starts in the epic enduro before being cut off by the press conference MC.

Yet in a brief break to the silliness, Reynolds managed to reflect on announcing himself as a serious Supercars contender.

“I think we have been raising the bar,” he said.

“Every race track we rock up to we are a better team – that is how quickly we are evolving.

“But I think I have always been taken seriously as a racer.

“I always do the best job I can and be the most professional I can in the car, but outside …”

Co-driver Youlden – who claimed his first Bathurst title at his 18th attempt – did his best to explain his Jekyll and Hyde teammate.

“Dave can switch on pretty quick,” he said.

“Obviously a lot of guys need to zen out before they get in but Dave is master of joking around and then getting into the car and knocking out fast laps.”

Asked if the landmark win would change his personality, Reynolds responded in what could only be described as classic Reynolds.

“A zebra never changes its spots, brother,” he said.

Hatton holds on as Fisher hits record 61

Tyrrell Hatton has retained his title at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship after a final round at St Andrews in which Ross Fisher shot a course-record 61 at the home of golf.


On a calm day on the storied Old Course, even a bogey-free round by Fisher containing 11 birdies could not reel in overnight leader Hatton, who shot 66 for a three-stroke victory over his fellow Englishman.

Hatton became the first player in the 17-year history of the Dunhill Links to successfully defend the title in a tournament played over three Scottish courses – the Old Course, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie. His aggregate score of 24-under 264 was a tournament record, after rounds of 68-65-65-66.

Both of Hatton’s career titles have come at the Dunhill Links.

Fisher was runner-up for the second straight year. He had a putt for eagle from the Valley of Sin on No. 18, which would have sealed the first round of 59 in the history of the European Tour. It fell two feet short and he missed the birdie putt back, though still broke the course record – held jointly by six players – by a stroke.

Rory McIlroy shot even-par 72 to finish tied for 63rd at four-under-par, meaning he ended a season without a victory for only the second time in his professional career.

“It summed up my whole of 2017: Not much happening,” McIlroy said. “Couldn’t get out of neutral.

“I feel I’m a much better player than I was in 2011 and 2012, when I was able to win a couple of majors.

“I feel I can do better than that in the next 10 years and that’s why these next three months are very important for me to put some really good things in place, step away and just reassess where I’m at and where I need to be.”

Rhein Gibson was the best-placed Australian at 10-under for a share of 25th. Jason Scrivener was one of a group two shots back while Matthew Giles finished 66th after a three-over final round of 75 dropped his tournament total to three-under.

Bassett shines as Diamonds head home

Australia’s eight-goal Constellation Cup netball victory over New Zealand in Christchurch has left skipper Caitlin Bassett wondering whether it’s time to chance her arm in another position.


The Diamonds goal shooter was in outstanding form on Sunday as Australia wrapped up a clinical 60-52 win over the Silver Ferns, their second victory in three days against the Kiwis.

Bassett shot 40 goals from 44 attempts at 91 per cent accuracy as the Diamonds all but wrapped up their trophy defence after edging New Zealand 57-54 in Thursday’s first Test in Auckland.

But it was her fourth-quarter intercept – a relative rarity for a goal shooter – which left coach Lisa Alexander impressed and Bassett contemplating the wisdom of launching a mid-career position switch.

“Watch out, goalkeepers, I’m coming,” she warned.

The 1.93m tall shooter has played for Australia in the defensive circle previously, although Alexander is willing only to admit that she’d done “a reasonable job”.

Bassett’s value to the Diamonds as a shooter has always been obvious, and now she’s making her mark as captain, Alexander said.

“C-Bass leads from the front – it’s something we’ve talked about for a while, exploiting her height, and for her to get an intercept was wonderful.

“It was great to see that desire, and when your leaders are doing those little things that really count, then everyone lifts a little higher because of it.”

Bassett, 29, made her Australian debut in 2008 and on Sunday broke through the 2000-goal mark for the Diamonds, sinking 2038 of 2268 attempts at 90 per cent accuracy.

She said the most pleasing part of Sunday’s win had been seeing the way the team had grown over the last month since New Zealand’s 57-47 Quad Series upset in Invercargill.

It’s an improvement she expects to continue for the final two Constellation Cup matches in Adelaide and Sydney next week.

“For the whole team, from Invercargill till now, I think it’s just that development every time we step back out on court, growing those connections,” she said.

“We saw them tighter again today, and I’m really excited about what it’s going to be like in Adelaide.”

Massive rally against Catalan independence

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Catalonia’s capital Barcelona to express their opposition to declaring independence from Spain, showing how divided the region is on the issue.


A crowd estimated by local police to number 350,000 waved Spanish and Catalan flags and carried banners saying “Catalonia is Spain” and “Together we are stronger”.

They poured into the city centre on Sunday after politicians on both sides hardened their positions in the country’s worst political crisis for decades.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Saturday he would not rule out removing Catalonia’s government and calling a fresh local election if it claimed independence, as well as suspending the wealthy region’s existing autonomous status.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is expected to address the region’s parliament on Tuesday, when he could unilaterally declare independence.

Catalonia, which has its own language and culture and is led by a pro-independence regional government, held a referendum on October 1 over secession, in defiance of Spain’s constitutional court which had declared the vote illegal.

The Catalan authorities say the referendum showed voters overwhelmingly support independence.

More than 90 per cent of those who voted backed secession, but opinion polls on the issue suggest the region is more closely divided.

Turn-out for the referendum was just 43 per cent, with most residents who wish to remain in Spain staying home.

The anti-independence demonstration, which included Catalans and people from other parts of Spain, underlined how the dispute has riven the region itself. A month ago, a million people rallied in the city to support independence.

“We feel both Catalan and Spanish,” Araceli Ponze, 72, said during Sunday’s rally.

“We will see what happens this week but we have to speak out very loudly so they know what we want.”

Puigdemont said that a law passed by the Catalan parliament preparing the way for the October 1 referendum requires a declaration of independence in the event of a “yes” vote.

“We will apply what the law says,” he said, according to advance excerpts of the interview released by TV3 on Sunday.

Puigdemont said he had not been in contact with the Madrid government for some time because Spain refused to discuss independence.

“What is happening in Catalonia is real, whether they like it or not. Millions of people have voted, who want to decide. We have to talk about this,” he said.

Rajoy has said repeatedly he will not talk to the Catalan leaders unless they drop their plans to declare independence.

The Spanish government sent thousands of national police to the region to prevent the vote.

About 900 people were injured when officers fired rubber bullets and charged crowds with truncheons in scenes that shocked Spain and the world, and dramatically escalated the dispute.

The political stand-off has pushed banks and companies to move their headquarters outside Catalonia.

Concern is growing in EU capitals about the impact of the crisis on the Spanish economy, the fourth largest in the euro zone, and on possible spillovers to other economies.

Some European officials are also worried that any softening in Spain’s stance towards Catalan independence could fuel secessionist feelings among other groups in Europe such as Belgium’s Flemings and Italy’s Lombards.

Sunday’s demonstration in Barcelona was organised by the anti-independence group Catalan Civil Society to mobilise what it believes is a “silent majority” that opposes independence.

“The people who have come to demonstrate don’t feel Catalan so much as Spanish,” said 40-year-old engineer Raul Briones.

“We like how things have been up until now and want to go on like this.”

The rally was addressed by Nobel prize-winning novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, who has dual Spanish and Peruvian nationality.

He told reporters it showed many Catalans “don’t want the coup d’etat the Catalan government is fostering”.

Clock ticking on energy problem: minister

The federal energy minister is acutely aware the clock is ticking for finding a solution to rising electricity prices and dropping reliability.


And Josh Frydenberg is determined it will take a lot less time than it took to create the problem – more than a decade – to fix the system so it’s working for Australian households and businesses once again.

However, in a speech he will deliver to an energy summit in Sydney on Monday, he acknowledges that doing so and cutting the nation’s emissions is likely to come at a financial cost.

Mr Frydenberg and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have flagged their intention to develop by year’s end a version of the clean energy target recommended by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel.

The minister will say on Monday their considerations are framed against a backdrop of falling costs for renewables and storage, greater efficiencies that can be found in thermal generation and the need for sufficient dispatchable power in the system.

The government’s approach will continue to be seeking and heeding the best advice from experts and market bodies.

“It is challenging but possible to simultaneously put downward pressure on prices and enhance the reliability of the system, while meeting our international emissions reduction targets,” he will tell the AFR’s national energy summit.

“Should reliability and affordability be compromised, public support for tackling climate change will quickly diminish and previous gains lost. This is in nobody’s interest.”

Competition and consumer watchdog Rod Sims – one of the experts the government is taking advice from – warned last month that energy reliability, affordability and cutting emissions were three separate problems that would likely require three distinct solutions.

Mr Frydenberg will remind the summit of actions the government has already taken, including reaching a deal with gas producers to supply more to Australian businesses and energy generators in coming years, and requiring electricity retailers to help customers find the best priced deals.

He will highlight the need for more demand-side response – electricity consumers, often big industrial plants, agreeing to cut their usage during times of peak demand – and the important role of storage, equating the “hidden” costs of pollution from thermal generators with the burden of renewables without back-up.

Show more understanding about transparency, Fifield tells ABC

The communications minister believes the ABC should show a greater understanding of the challenges faced by its commercial counterparts who aren’t taxpayer funded.


Senator Mitch Fifield on Monday was hitting out at critics of greater transparency changes at the ABC insisting reforms are timely “housekeeping”.

In August the minister struck an agreement with One Nation in exchange for Pauline Hanson’s support for his wider media reforms.

The deal includes requiring the ABC and SBS to disclose the salaries of its highest paid staff, a proposal to include the words “fair” and “balanced” in the ABC’s Act and a competitive neutrality inquiry.

Senator Fifield said reactions to the measures have ranged from the hysterical to the slightly unhinged.

“With so much journalistic and opposition hyperventilating, you could be forgiven for thinking the government had announced the privatisation of B1 and B2,” he writes in The Australian.

The minister said the inspiration for disclosing salaries comes from the actions of “that right-wing haven the BBC”.

Already the salaries of ministers, MPs, judges and senior civil servants are all public.

“It is in keeping with the temper of the times to expect similar transparency from the national broadcasters,” he said.

Senator Fifield believes the competitive neutrality inquiry will examine whether the ABC and SBS are using their status as taxpayer-funded entities to unfairly compete with commercial media.

“It would reflect better on the ABC, secure in its more than $1bn of annual funding, if it showed a greater understanding of the challenges faced by its commercial counterparts who earn their revenue rather than receive it from the Treasury.”

Labor has been critical of the deal, warning the inquiry threatens to reduce the ABC and SBS to market failure broadcasters.