Aussie billionaire confident of energy fix

Aussie billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes who helped spark a social media debate about solving South Australia’s energy woes wasn’t expecting his conversation with Tesla to snowball.

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But the co-founder of software firm Atlassian says there is a good chance of getting funding and a political commitment for a 100 day plan for large-scale battery storage, hatched by Tesla boss Elon Musk over Twitter.

“It’s been extremely surprising I have to say to me, the number of people who have reached out,” Mr Cannon-Brookes told ABC radio on Tuesday.

Mr Cannon-Brookes has already been approached by individuals, crowd-funding programs and superannuation funds interested in getting involved in the battery plan.

He is on the hunt for an economic model that will help South Australia and could deliver similar projects nationwide.

The billionaire believes Australian politicians are interested in solving the problem, after talking to more in the past week than in the previous year.

“I’m just trying to change the conversation so we talk about something other than coal and gas as a potential solution going forward for the country,” Mr Cannon-Brookes said.

“It’s a little embarrassing as to how fast and how far it has gone.”

Mr Musk has pledged to have a 100MW solar and battery system up and running within 100 days of signing a contract, or provide it for free.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spent an hour over the weekend talking to Mr Musk about the proposal.

Mr Cannon-Brookes said the Tesla boss had almost halved the price in what he described as a “very bold offer”.

There’s an urgent need for a SA solution with fears of more summer blackouts unless something is done.

“We have about six or seven months to get something solved,” Mr Cannon-Brookes said.

Major energy company AGL has offered Tesla a “one hundred day ready” site in South Australia where it was already considering installing battery storage.

“AGL welcomes ideas from all participants in the energy industry to help deliver solutions for our future energy mix,” chief executive Andy Vesey tweeted.

AGL is also testing a virtual power plant in SA, which uses residential batteries on 1000 homes to effectively create a 5MW power generator.

“While batteries will play a role it’s important to know what’s needed is an integrated national solution, which also considers other renewables and peaking plants in the energy generation mix.”

Trump seeks to host China’s Xi in April

US President Donald Trump is planning to host Chinese President Xi Jinping at a two-day summit next month at his Florida Mar-a-Lago resort, according to media reports.

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The two-day meeting is tentatively scheduled for April 6-7, US online media outlet Axios reported on Monday, citing officials familiar with the plans.

CNN also reported the planned summit, citing an unnamed administration official. It added the plan was tentative and that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was expected to finalise plans during a trip this week to Asia, which includes a stop in China.

A US administration official, who asked not to be named because no official announcement has been made about the meeting, said the summit was possible but was not confirmed.

China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The reported summit would follow a string of other recent US-China meetings and conversations seeking to smooth ties after aggressive criticism of China by Trump during his election campaign.

Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi, who outranks his country’s foreign minister, visited Washington last month to discuss the two countries’ economic ties and security interests, including meetings with Trump and Tillerson.

During his campaign, Trump accused China of unfair trade policies, criticised its island-building in the strategic South China Sea claimed by several countries, and accused it of doing too little to constrain its neighbour, North Korea.

After his election, Trump incensed Beijing in December by taking a phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and later saying the United States did not have to stick to the so-called “one China” policy.

Under that policy, Washington acknowledges the Chinese position that there is only one China, of which Taiwan is a part.

Trump later agreed in a phone call with Xi last month to honour the policy.

He has also written to Xi since taking office, seeking “constructive ties”.

England’s Jones wary of All Blacks praise

Eddie Jones compares the praise England have received from New Zealand coach Steve Hansen to the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood being deceived by the wolf.

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Hansen congratulated the RBS 6 Nations champions for retaining their title by overwhelming Scotland 61-21, despite seeing the All Blacks’ record of 18 successive Test wins equalled at Twickenham on Saturday.

The mastermind of the 2015 World Cup triumph insisted England are finally fulfilling their potential, playing the “sort of rugby people want to see”, and offered Jones the message of “well done, champ. It’s thoroughly deserved, well done”.

In a frustrating quirk of the international fixture list, the game’s top two teams are being kept apart until autumn 2018 when a seismic showdown is to be staged at Twickenham.

Jones is wary of Hansen’s approval, however, as the rival coaches exchange words for the first time since England’s rise as a genuine threat to New Zealand’s global dominance.

“It’s a bit like red riding hood and the wolf when the wolf comes dressed up as the grandmother…..” Jones said.

“You always have to be careful when All Black coaches compliment you, you always have to be careful.”

If Ireland are toppled in Dublin on Saturday, as well eclipsing the All Blacks’ 18-Test milestone Dylan Hartley’s men will become only the sixth team to complete back-to-back Grand Slams.

The seven-try scattering of Scotland – the best attacking display under Jones – has powered England towards the finishing line, but it took a “cleansing” discussion involving the entire squad and coaches a fortnight ago to reignite the champions after an unconvincing first half of the tournament.

“We had a bit of a cleansing meeting when we were in camp in Oxford,” Jones said. “It was about accepting that we’ve been successful. To me the English are quite reserved and they actually struggle quite a bit with success.

“As an Australian I think the English are very polite and reserved. And they struggle to actually carry that success around.

“What we said, and we had a great discussion, is that we have to acknowledge we’ve been successful and it’s how much we want to be great now.”

Big ticket computer projects queried

The federal government is weighing up whether 10-year, multi-million-dollar computer projects are value for taxpayers’ money.

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More than $6 billion a year is spent on government information and communications technology, and recent failures within the Australian Tax Office and Census have brought to light how IT problems can affect businesses and households.

A Senate committee heard on Tuesday the government’s Digital Transformation Agency is working on advice for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, due mid-year, in relation to all ICT projects over $10 million.

The advice would consider costs, timing and risks of projects.

DCT interim chief executive Nerida O’Loughlin told senators her agency was also looking at “significant ICT bids coming through the budget process”.

The agency was assessing how the departments and agencies planned to take projects to market, what technologies are being used and how the proposals are structured.

“The agency is very keen to make sure that the sort of ‘waterfall approach’ that has been taken on ICT projects, where it’s a big 10-year multi-million-dollar project, is that the best way of delivering some of these projects,” Ms O’Loughlin said.

“Are we not better to chunk it down, do smaller parcels out to market, prototype test, very much in line with the agile methodologies we use in the DTA?”

The ICT committee of cabinet, chaired by Mr Turnbull, met last week to look at some of the proposals being brought forward before the May budget.

The hearing was also told a committee comprising the heads of the biggest government departments is working on a “secure cloud” strategy.

Cloud computer involves using a network of remote servers hosted on the internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server.

Parenthood the key to living longer: study

Being a parent to a young child may sometimes feel like it’s sending you to an early grave but your children could be the key to living longer, new research suggests.

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A Swedish study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health found parenthood is associated with a longer life than childlessness, particularly in older age, when health and capacity start to decline.

The difference in life expectancy may be as much as two years.

Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm tracked the life span of more than 1.4 million men and women over 60 living in Sweden and born between 1911-1925.

Not unexpectedly, the risk of death rose with increasing age, irrespective of whether the individuals were parents or not.

But after taking account of influential factors, such as educational attainment, the risk of death was lower among those who had had at least one child compared to childless men and women.

At 60, the difference in life expectancy between those with children and those without was almost two years for men and 1.5 years for women.

Sixty-year-old men with children could expect to live for another 20.2 years, whereas men without children could expect a further 18.4 years – an almost two-year difference.

Meanwhile, women aged 60 with children could expect to live a further 24.6 years, whereas those without could expect another 23.1 years – a difference of 1.5 years.

At the age of 80, men with children could expect to live a further 7.7 years, while those without could live seven years.

For women aged 80 with children, they could expect a further 9.5 years, while those without could live a further 8.9 years.

Both married and non-married couples benefited from having children, though unmarried people – and particularly men- seemed to enjoy a stronger benefit, the research also showed.

This may suggest that unmarried people rely on their children more for support, whereas married couples are supported by their partner.

The researchers, led by Dr Karin Modig, say the findings highlight a need for greater support for older people without children.

“Our finding that the association grew stronger when parents became older is further in agreement with research suggesting that childless people face support deficits only towards the end of life,” the authors said.

Broncos toast comeback man Slater

Instead of putting a target on Billy Slater’s back, Brisbane sound more likely to give it a pat when the Melbourne veteran makes his long-awaited NRL return on Thursday night.

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The Broncos have toasted Slater ahead of his comeback clash from a two-year battle with shoulder dramas, dismissing talk that the Storm fullback will be “fair game”.

“It’s good to see Billy playing footy again if he is back this week,” Brisbane lock Josh McGuire said.

“I’ve always seen Billy as the ultimate professional so I’m sure he’ll be ready.

“He’s not the type of person to come into a match underdone.

“And he won’t have to worry about me targeting him because I can’t catch him – he’s too quick for me.”

Slater will end a year-long wait for his latest return after being limited to just eight games in the past two seasons by shoulder issues.

Brisbane hooker Andrew McCullough baulked when asked if they would target the wily No.1’s troublesome shoulder.

“I wouldn’t say he is fair game,” he said. “Billy is Billy. He’s a professional. He will slot straight into the team. He has had a couple of tough years.

“When he goes out there he will be ready to go – no doubt they won’t be risking him.

Slater received even more praise from Brisbane bench forward Jai Arrow, who was just eight when the Melbourne fullback made his NRL debut in 2003.

“I grew up watching him,” he said.

“He’s been a part of the game for a long time so it will be surreal to take him on down in Melbourne.

“It will be another learning curve playing against someone of that calibre.”

Swans youth to fuel their AFL challenge

The Swans may battle to finish first in Sydney let alone the whole AFL, but coach John Longmire is confident the youth revolution he started last year will continue to deliver.

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Losing five premiership players and almost 1000 games of experience after 2015, the Swans were widely tipped to fall down the ladder last year.

But as they always seem to do, Sydney made the naysayers look foolish, winning the minor premiership and reaching a third grand final in five years.

A second straight loss in a season decider, albeit by nowhere near the margin of their 2014 thrashing, raised doubts in some quarters about Sydney’s ability to take the final step.

But what can’t be doubted is they have an emerging crop of exciting young players to supplement their group of established champions.

Rising Star Callum Mills, key back Aliir Aliir and small forward Tom Papley each made an immediate impact, while Jake Lloyd, Zac Jones and Sam Naismith enjoyed breakout seasons.

Toss in the irrepressible Isaac Heeney, Daniel Robinson and George Hewett and there’s no shortage of young talent.

The Swans boast the third youngest list and only five of their players will be 30 or over by season’s end.

Of their five 2016 All-Australians, Lance Franklin is the only one older than 28.

However, Sydney will start the season without up to seven members of their 2016 grand final team.

Jarrad McVeigh, Gary Rohan and Paley have already been ruled out, with Heeney in considerable doubt, Ben McGlynn retired and Tom Mitchell and Xavier Richards having left.

Sydney love nothing more than a challenge as they showed last year when they almost effortlessly replaced their quintet of departing premiership players.

“We had three debutants in round one and we’re confident in that next generation coming through to provide additions to our team if we need,” Longmire told AAP..

First-round draft pick Oliver Florent, defenders Jack Maibaum, Nic Newman and Lewis Melican and ruckman-forward Darcy Cameron are among that next wave.

The defence combines the athleticism and youthful drive of Allir, Jones, Lloyd and Mills with the veteran smarts of Heath Grundy, Nick Smith, Dane Rampe and McVeigh.

Jones, Mills, Lloyd, Hewett and Heeney are all expected to spend minutes in midfield, compensating for the loss of Mitchell and supporting established ball magnets in new captain Josh Kennedy, Dan Hannebery and Luke Parker.

Lance Franklin will again spearhead the forward line, with Kurt Tippett and Sam Reid as supporting talls.

Papley and Rohan add defensive pressure and goals, with Kieren Jack also spending more time up forward.

But it’s the return at centre half-forward of Reid, who didn’t play a senior game last year, that could make most impact as his marking prowess will give Franklin more licence to move up the ground.

Longmire acknowledges the rise of GWS, but isn’t fretting about whether the Giants could displace the Swans as Sydney’s best team.

“We don’t look at it like that,” he said..

“We know that the Giants have got a really strong team. We just try and be the best team we can be.”

Parliament backs Brexit bill as Scotland bids to break away

The House of Lords rejected a last-ditch attempt to amend a bill empowering May to begin Brexit, paving the way for it to become law as early as Tuesday.

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The prime minister could then trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty at any time, starting two years of talks that will end with Britain becoming the first country to leave the bloc.

May’s spokesman sought to play down speculation that she would send her notification letter to the European Council on Tuesday, when the bill is expected to receive royal assent from Queen Elizabeth II.

“We have been clear that the prime minister will trigger Article 50 by the end of March,” her spokesman said ahead of the vote, heavily emphasising the word “end”.

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But the prospect of an imminent start to Brexit was enough to push the nationalist devolved government in Scotland into calling for a new independence referendum.

May has said Britain will leave Europe’s single market in order to cut immigration, a move that the Scottish National Party (SNP) in power in Edinburgh has warned would be highly damaging to jobs and growth.

SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said since the June referendum vote for Brexit that Scotland, where a majority wanted to stay in the EU, sought a different future.

On Monday she made good on her warning, promising to give Scotland “a choice at the end of this process” by early 2019 – before Britain leaves the EU.

The European Commission, however, quickly responded saying that Scotland would have to reapply to join the EU rather than inheriting Britain’s membership.

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Countdown to Brexit

May has the power to block the vote and said that another referendum, after Scots voted by 55 per cent to reject independence in 2014, would only cause “uncertainty and division”.

But Sturgeon’s call pushes to centre stage one of the prime minister’s biggest concerns about Brexit – that it could lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom – as she prepares to fire the starting gun.

The other 27 European leaders are prepared for Britain to trigger Article 50, which begins a two-year countdown to Brexit, this week.

However, speculation is growing that it may now be delayed until after a March 25 summit in Rome to mark the EU’s 60th birthday – timing that would likely be welcomed in Brussels.

Once May has notified the EU of her decision by letter, the bloc will take just 48 hours to issue its first draft proposal for the negotiations, with a follow-up meeting planned on April 6.

The actual talks are not expected to begin for months.

The bill empowering May to begin Brexit was forced on the government by a Supreme Court ruling and was held up when the House of Lords voted for amendments demanding guarantees for EU nationals’ rights and a parliamentary vote on the final withdrawal deal.

Brexit minister David Davis successfully urged MPs to overturn the changes earlier Monday, saying: “We will not enter the negotiations with our hands tied.”

The House of Lords then conceded, passing the bill unamended late on Monday.

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‘Shame on you’

The Lords amendment demanding protections for more than three million Europeans living in Britain was defeated by 335 votes to 287 by MPs – prompting shouts of “shame on you” from protesters outside.

Around 150 people had gathered to urge MPs to back the change, including Karin Templin, a 39-year-old architect who was born in the US but is now British.

“I’m appalled at the UK government, at this stupid ridiculous game that means they won’t guarantee the rights of everybody who wants to stay in their home and in their jobs. I’m disgusted,” she said.

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May’s government says it wants to guarantee Europeans’ rights to stay in Britain, but cannot until EU leaders offer similar rights to British expatriates.

The other amendment that was overturned would have given parliament the right to decide whether to accept the final Brexit deal.

May has promised lawmakers a vote on the deal but only if she accepts it – insisting her ability to walk away will strengthen her hand in negotiations.

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Record-breaking marathoner Ed Whitlock dies at 86

Whitlock, and accomplished British club runner who grew up in London before moving to Canada after university, died of prostate cancer in a Toronto hospital a week after his 86th birthday, his family said in a statement.

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Whitlock, at 72, became the first septuagenarian to crack the three-hour mark with a world marathon record of two hours 59 minutes 10 seconds at the 2003 Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

He then set world master’s marathon records for ages 75-plus, 80-plus and, most recently, 85-plus with a time of 3:56.38 in Toronto last October.

“This is an enormous loss to Canada and the global running community,” Alan Brookes, race director of the Toronto Waterfront Marathon said in a statement.

“Somehow we thought Ed would just go on setting records forever. We are especially saddened at Canada Running Series.”

After university, Whitlock put the sport on hold while he embarked on an engineering career in Canada and only returned to running in his 40s. He held daily training sessions at a cemetery near his home in Milton, Ontario.

Whitlock was popularly known not only for his endurance but also his modesty. He had said he was often uncomfortable by all the attention he garnered from other runners, many who considered him an inspiration.

“I don’t know how to respond to them. Well how do you respond to that?” he once said. “I suppose it’s nice for people to say I inspire them but I am somewhat embarrassed and I don’t know what the appropriate response is to that.”

(This story refiles to fix typo in second paragraph.)

(Reporting by Frank Pingue. Editing by Steve Keating)

Severe thunderstorms to hit Queensland and NSW

The Bureau of Meteorology warns that very dangerous thunderstorms heading towards Brisbane were detected on the weather radar.

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Severe #QldStorm moving towards northern suburbs of #Brisbane. Destructive winds, heavy rain, hail. #BneStorm 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/8k1uPTZ7Qw pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/QMks2h0mmK

— BOM Queensland (@BOM_Qld) March 14, 2017Very Dangerous #QldStorm near Crows Nest, moving east. Destructive wind, heavy rain, large hail. View latest radar 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/QsApdmRc3l pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/0Gy1kd8Ifi

— BOM Queensland (@BOM_Qld) March 13, 2017

Sydney is set to get a soaking as severe thunderstorms continue to drench much of NSW.

Tuesday’s storms may lead to flash flooding for areas in the state’s northwest and central areas, the Hunter, Central Coast and Sydney metropolitan, including the Blue Mountains, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

Areas around Moree, Gunnedah, Narrabri, Nyngan, Newcastle, Gosford, Penrith and Springwood are in for heavy rainfall and damaging winds, according to BoM’s latest severe thunderstorm warning as storm cells move through the state.

With storms forecast again today, monitor your local radar at 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/joGHpQeD2Z & warnings at 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/Ss766eSCrL #NSWStorms

— BOM New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) March 13, 2017Flood Watch Issued: Upper Macintyre, Brunswick, Wilsons, Orara & Bellinger River Valleys. See warnings at 长沙桑拿,长沙SPA,/Ss766eSCrL #NSWFlood pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/lnJjSHcd3q

— BOM New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) March 13, 2017

Up to 45mm of rain is expected to fall in Sydney’s CBD on Tuesday with Penrith in the city’s west set to receive up to 70mm.

Hailstones the size of golf balls may also continue to pummel the storm-affected northern and central NSW towns.

Easterly and northeasterly winds ranging from 15 to 40km/h will whip up the state across the day.

SES crews responded to about 230 jobs across “a large stretch” of NSW since the rain began on Monday, particularly around Dubbo where more than 69mm fell.

The call-outs were fairly minor including leaking roofs in the Blue Mountains and western parts of Sydney, SES spokeswoman Becky Gollings said.

“An aged care facility down at Albion Park was struck by lightning, although we didn’t have any evacuations or injuries.”

SES crews will keep an eye on roads in Sydney and the Illawarra that are prone to flooding.

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Residents have been advised to prepare by clearing drain pipes and gutters, keeping at least eight metres away from fallen power lines, unplugging computers and appliances during the storm and staying indoors.

By Tuesday morning, NSW public transport system had already taken a hit from the wild weather.

Buses have replaced trains between Mount Victoria and Lithgow on the Blue Mountains Line due to damaged equipment from lightning strikes, according to the Transport Management Centre.

The South Coast Line is also expected to be affected during the afternoon peak due to the partial derailment of an empty train.

Passengers are advised to allow extra travel time and listen for announcements.

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