Gillard abolishes tariffs for Third World

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has vowed to give developing countries access to the Australian market free of tariffs, and she has ruled out increasing trade protections while the Doha round of free-trade talks is at a standstill.

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At the Commonwealth Business Forum in Perth on Tuesday, Ms Gillard said she wanted Australia to “make a difference for the small and medium countries of the world” and the best way to reduce poverty was trade liberalisation.

Australia was prepared to lead the way in opening doors for developing nations on the trade front, she said.

“Australia will continue the strongest possible commitment to market access for the world’s poorest countries, irrespective of the settlement of other issues in the Doha Round,” Ms Gillard said.

“Tonight I pledge that the world’s least developed countries will have access to Australia’s market free of tariffs and quotas for 100 per cent of the goods they export to our country.”

Ms Gillard urged other countries to follow Australia’s lead ahead of the biennial meeting of trade ministers in Geneva in December.

“These pledges should be unconditional. They shouldn’t be contingent upon the settlement of other issues in the Doha negotiations,” she said.

Australia is also willing to help lead the global fight against protectionism, the prime minister said.

She announced that her government would make a commitment at the World Trade Organisation’s ministerial meeting not to increase protections while the Doha negotiations were at standstill.

“This is an essential policy prescription if an enduring global economic recovery is to be achieved,” she said.

The Doha trade negotiations needed a new direction, Ms Gillard said.

“It’s time to consider breaking the Doha Round into more manageable parts and bringing them to successful conclusion as negotiations are completed,” she said.

“We should also contemplate negotiating new issues, in parallel with Doha but beyond the existing Doha mandate, to ensure the World Trade Organisation keeps pace with the demands of the modern economy.”

Doha was intended to be a development round, Ms Gillard said.

“It must deliver greatly improved market access for the world’s least developed countries, almost a third of them commonwealth nations.”

Alonso leaves hospital, to miss final test

The Spaniard, a double world champion, smiled and waved to reporters and fans as he left the hospital at around 1430 local time.

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McLaren said in a statement that the 33-year-old would return to his family home in northern Spain for further rest and recuperation and would not be back in the car before the Australian season-opener on March 15.

“He will sit out this week’s final winter test, at which he was due to share driving duties with Jenson Button,” the team said.

“Kevin Magnussen, McLaren-Honda’s test and reserve driver, will replace him.”

Button will be first in the car at the Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday. Denmark’s Magnussen raced for the team last season when they had Mercedes engines rather than the current Honda power unit.

Alonso has been in hospital since the crash on Sunday, with speculation running wild about what really happened when he hit the wall at the high speed Turn Three.

McLaren issued a detailed statement on Monday blaming gusting wind and ruling out any mechanical failure but that explanation, and Alonso’s lengthy stay in hospital, has failed to silence all of the doubters.

The car did not appear significantly damaged after the impact and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, Alonso’s replacement at the Italian team, told reporters the Spaniard’s crash had appeared ‘strange’ to him.

McLaren, whose racing director Eric Boullier initially played down the crash as a “just one of those things that happens in testing”, have rejected speculation that Alonso might have been rendered unconscious by an electrical fault.

The team, who have had a difficult pre-season with new partners Honda, said that rumour was “simply not true”.

They have not said how fast he was going at the time of impact or given a precise reading of the G-forces he sustained, however.

(Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ken Ferris and Justin Palmer)

Detention centres breaking people: report

Self-harm, suicide attempts and asylum seekers drugged up on anti-depressants have become the norm in Australian immigration detention centres, detainees say.

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Afghan Hazara refugee Mohammed Baig saw heartbreaking scenes during his immigration detention at the Curtin detention centre in the Kimberley, 2000km north of Perth.

“The hanging, killing, cutting themself (sic), it was normal,” he told ABC television’s Four Corners on Monday night.

Another detainee, Jaffa, said: “The stress of being in prison … is just killing me day by day.”

Abdul Hamidi – who was at Curtin, Woomera, Port Hedland and Baxter – told the program he fell into a similar spiral of despair.

“In Curtin I did cut myself again, my arms, my stomach, my chest. I tried to talk to them, like, `I’m not well, I need help’,” he said.

“Nobody listens.”

His lawyer Ben Phi said Mr Hamidi was a broken man.

“His doctors say that … to the best of their knowledge he’s never going to work again,” he said.

“It’s my sincere hope that with specialist medical attention he will get back to a point where he can start to, I guess, interact at least a bit better with society.”

Australian Greens immigration spokeswoman Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who has visited a number of centres, said a 17-year-old girl in detention had given a telling insight into her mindset.

“I was sitting there, her room is covered in drawings of ropes hanging people, of graves,” the senator said.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen told the program the government was improving the system and making better use of community detention.

“I accept that in some cases it can be better to move people into the community before their claim is processed,” Mr Bowen said.

“And in fact in the last year we’ve released more people out of detention than have gone into it and that’s the first time that’s happened in a long time.”

But psychiatrist Dr Suresh Sundaram, who recently visited Curtin to report for the Human Rights Commission, says mandatory detention is ruining lives.

“Those mental health problems persist for quite a protracted period of time following resettlement in the general community,” she said.

“We saw lots of people with significant post-traumatic stress disorder.”

She said anti-depressants were being used for sleeplessness.

“It is concerning that people are being given medication not for its approved indication,” she said.

Immigration department spokesman Sandi Logan said the department aimed to ensure the “mental health needs” were addressed.

“We need to ensure their mental and physical health is as good as possible so when the time comes either to be released on a visa or to be returned home they are in as best health as possible,” Mr Logan said.

An alliance of 13 Australian health organisations has called on the federal government to immediately launch an independent investigation into the standards of mental health care in Australia’s immigration detention centres.

The organisations, including the Australian Medical Association, Sane Australia and Mental Health Council of Australia, say it is “clear that conditions inside detention centres are unacceptable”.

“The mental health of immigration detainees can’t wait until the political debate over the appropriateness of immigration detention has been resolved,” the alliance said in a statement on Monday.

Hale claims Aust U-18 sprint title double

Teen sprint sensation Jack Hale has rounded out a stellar week at the national junior athletics championships by blazing to victory in the Under-18 100 metres final.

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The 17-year-old Tasmanian blitzed the rest of the field, winning in 10.38 seconds from Queenslander Brandon Herrigan and NSW’s Jordan Shelley.

The time was faster than the national U-18 record of 10.42 which Hale set at a school carnival in Hobart in October, but it was aided by an illegal tailwind of 2.8 m/s and will not count officially.

It capped a stellar championships for Hale who also won the Under-18 200m and ran anchor for the victorious Tasmanian 4×100 metre relay victory.

Injuries had restricted Hale’s preparation and prevented him from competing in his pet event, the long jump.

But Sunday’s victory ensures that Hale will contest the 200m, along with the 100m, at the world junior championships in Colombia in July.

“My real goal is the 200m-100m double at world youths and I just had to come out today and produce,” Hale said.

“I don’t want to say it too much because I don’t want to put any excuses out, but I had about a week’s preparation so to run that time, I’m really happy.”

Hale rued not being able to tackle the long jump as well.

“I love long jump, so it was a hard decision but I’ve got to do what’s best for me and trying to back up with long jump after winning 100 and 200 here is just too much.

“After world youths, I’ll definitely be putting in the pre-season work to hopefully shine in the long jump next season.”

Hale attracted headlines when he clocked a time of 10.13 for the 100m at the Australian All Schools Championships in Adelaide in December, but that time too was deemed unofficial as it was aided by a 3.4m/s tailwind.

He said the spotlight on him these days hadn’t negatively affected him.

“I just run my own race, do my own thing, set my own goals.

“I don’t really let other people push things onto me.

“People are saying I’m going to run a 10.2 or a 10.3 or something, but I know what I can do and I’ve just got to do it on the day.”

Fever dream big after record start

West Coast Fever have won their first three matches in a best-ever start to the trans-Tasman netball competition, and they aren’t afraid of dreaming of finals before their clash against the NSW Swifts.

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Not only have the Fever never won their first three ANZ Championship matches, but they have never won more than five matches in a season.

Already the three wins in 2015 equal what they did in 2011 and 2012, and better the two-win showing in 2008.

Stacey Rosman is in her first year as coach, and in replacing Norma Plummer she hasn’t changed much of the playing group, but the confidence and resilience has been a noticeable difference in the opening three games.

West Coast beat defending champions the Queensland Firebirds in Brisbane and have since defeated the Northern Mystics and Southern Steel in Perth before next Monday’s tantalising match-up with the Swifts in Sydney.

Rosman knows there is a long way to go, but also knows that finals should be the result if Fever keep going the way they are.

“We believe that we can win anywhere, any time. Swifts are in good form and they’ve got some really good players. They are well drilled and they have a really sound game plan. Our ability to be able to present strongly, and keeping our composure will be key next week,” Rosman said.

“We don’t back away, we know that with the way we’ve worked it we have given ourselves that ability to dream big, but we understand that there are all these steps to be able to get that dream.”

While the Fever have a star attack with Caitlin Bassett and Nat Medhurst, strong defenders Erena Mikaere and April Letton, and mid-court led by Shae Brown, Ashleigh Brazill and Khao Watts, what pleases Rosman most is the belief they have as a group.

“They know what they are prepared for so there’s not a lot at this stage that will swing them too far off. They have that belief that they have done the hard work, they know what to expect and they are really professional with the way they have gone about it,” Rosman said.

Izzy’s brother in line for Eels debut

Israel Folau’s younger brother John is in contention to make his NRL debut in a Parramatta’s backline decimated by injury.

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Coach Brad Arthur must choose replacements after centre Beau Champion and winger Semi Radradra both suffered serious injuries in the Eels’ 32-12 loss to the Bulldogs on Friday night.

The Eels confirmed on Sunday that scans showed both Champion (ACL) and Radradra (medial) sustained knee ligament damage.

The club did not give a time frame for their return – saying only they’d been ruled out for this week so far – amid speculation Champion’s season could be over and Radradra could miss a month.

John Folau, the 20-year-old younger brother of code-hopping Wallabies star Israel, will be bidding to make his first grade debut against the Warriors on Saturday while Vai Toutai, Ryan Morgan and Bureta Faraimo are also in the running to plug the backline holes.

A promising centre, Folau came off the bench for the Eels in their final pre-season trial match against Penrith and also played for the club at the Auckland Nines.

The Eels had a horror night against the Bulldogs, with halfback Chris Sandow (ankle) and rising forward Tepai Moeroa (shoulder) also in doubt for Saturday’s clash in Auckland.

The Eels this week hope to finally gain the services of veteran prop Richie Fa’aoso who has been battling for a clearance by the NRL.

Fa’aoso has not played since the 2013 preliminary final when he fractured his neck while playing for Manly but he has been medically cleared to play and signed a one-year deal with Parramatta.

The NRL has so far refused to register his contract over insurance concerns.

Last week the Eels cleared what they believed was the final hurdle when they obtained an insurance policy. However the NRL said the cover was not adequate.

“I think everyone wants (Fa’aoso) to play but we also want to protect Richie and make sure he has the right cover like every other player does,” NRL head of football Todd Greenberg told Triple M on Sunday.

“It’s important people know we’ve met with Richie. I’ve personally met with Richie and spoken to him face-to-face. I’d love to see him play but only under the right conditions.

“He has to have the same insurance tha’s available for every other NRL player in the game. And that’s currently being worked through.

“I understand Parramatta want him to play and I understand Richie wants to play but we have a duty of care to our players to make sure they have the right cover.

“That piece of work is coming to the end point and hopefully we’ll be able to give Richie an answer this week.”

Unis, guns and metadata focus in Canberra

Education Minister Christopher Pyne is only contemplating victory when the Senate votes on his contentious university reforms.

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The success of Mr Pyne’s talks with Senate crossbenchers will be put to the test this week when the upper house debates legislation to deregulate tertiary fees.

His job in convincing six crossbenchers to support the bill has been made more complicated with the resignation of Glenn Lazarus from the Palmer United Party to sit as an independent.

Speaking ahead of the vote, which he expects on Wednesday, the education minister said he was not contemplating defeat.

“We will fight right through to the vote,” Mr Pyne told ABC television on Sunday.

“I’m contemplating victory on Wednesday because it’s too important not to win for students and for universities and for Australia.”

National security will also be a major focus of parliament this week, with metadata laws and a renewed push for mandatory sentences for illegal firearms traffickers.

Tony Abbott on Sunday announced the government would revive legislation for minimum sentences of five years for gun traffickers.

The measure was previously blocked by Labor and the Greens, but the prime minister urged the opposition to this time support the legislation.

“I say to Bill Shorten and the Labor Party, if you’re fair dinkum about protecting our community from gun crime you should support these mandatory minimum sentences for people who traffic in illegal firearms,” he told reporters in Sydney.

On Tuesday the lower house will also debate the government’s bill to force telecommunications companies to keep two years of customer metadata.

Labor wants the bill amended to better protect whistleblowers and journalists as well as ensure privacy and civil liberties issues are addressed.

On Monday the Senate is due to debate a migration bill which will make it easier to return asylum seekers.

The Greens will seek an opportunity during the sitting fortnight to introduce a bill to restore car industry funding.

On Friday the Senate will receive a report on the government’s “asset recycling” program, which provides bonus payments to states that privatise assets and spend the money on infrastructure.

Cherry-Evans gives Manly fresh hope

Suddenly embattled Manly have a glimmer of fresh hope as Daly Cherry-Evans shows he intends to bow out on high note and talk emerges the Sea Eagles could make a play for Sam Burgess.

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Defying claims of ill-feeling by teammates toward him and criticism of the process that has him defecting to Gold Coast next year, Cherry-Evans was the inspiration behind the Sea Eagles’ 24-22 win over Melbourne on Saturday night.

The creative halfback went to work, quietening critics as he laid on tries and Manly raced out to a 24-6 halftime lead.

With the controversy surrounding Cherry-Evans coupled with intense speculation that injured five-eighth Kieran Foran has also committed his future elsewhere, Manly had been expected to do it tough against Melbourne following their first round drubbing by Parramatta.

Instead, Manly fans were further buoyed on Sunday by a report that the club may use the big money set to become available to chase England superstar Sam Burgess for next season.

South Sydney’s 2014 grand final hero Burgess has yet to make any real mark in his code switch to rugby union back in England, with a 2015 Rugby World Cup berth looking unlikely.

And there’s no doubt Manly need more forward firepower following the loss of Glenn Stewart, Anthony Watmough and Jason King.

News Corp reported the Sea Eagles have spoken internally about luring Burgess to Brookvale.

South Sydney have first option on Burgess should he want an NRL return but they could struggle to fit him under the salary cap following their premiership success.

Manly have a handy connection through their CEO Joe Kelly, who knows Burgess from his time as South Sydney chief operating officer.

“If Sam was available and keen to come back to Australia, we would certainly have an interest in him,” Kelly told The Sunday Telegraph, while denying any approach had been made.

“We would like to open dialogue to tell him of the opportunities at Manly.”

Sharapova, Pennetta and Bouchard progress

Russian Sharapova, the second seed, made a fast start to overpower Belgian Yanina Wickmayer early on but then ran into much stiffer resistance before grinding out a 6-1 7-5 win after one hour and 45 minutes of baseline battle.

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Fifteenth-seeded Italian Pennetta overcame an initial bout of nerves to finish strong as she launched her title defence with a commanding 6-4 6-2 win over American Madison Brengle in the first match of the day on the stadium court.

Sharapova, champion at Indian Wells in 2006 and 2013, broke Wickmayer’s serve three times to sweep through the opening set in just over half an hour, a crunching forehand crosscourt winner putting her ahead 6-1.

However, the Belgian was a very different proposition in the second set which went comfortably with serve until a marathon 10th game where Wickmayer saved four match points before holding to level at 5-5.

Sharapova held serve to lead 6-5 and finally converted a sixth match point in the 12th when the Belgian hit a backhand long.

“She’s a tough opponent,” world number two Sharapova said in a courtside interview. “She hits the ball quite hard and has an unbelievable serve. I started the match well but the second set was a different story.”

The Russian will next meet Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who brushed aside Belgian Kirsten Flipkens 6-2 6-4.

DOUBLES PROWESS

Pennetta, best known for her doubles prowess, broke Brengle’s serve once in a tightly contested opening set and twice more in the second to wrap up victory in 75 minutes at a sun-drenched Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

“I was nervous in the beginning,” the 33-year-old from Brindisi, a winner of 10 WTA titles, said after ending the match with a rasping forehand crosscourt winner.

“Last year here, I played so well and I have such good memories. This morning I woke up and I was a little bit shaky. So I was trying to be focused on what I had to do, and not rush.”

Pennetta will next face Australian Samantha Stosur, who beat American wildcard Taylor Townsend 6-4 6-2.

In Saturday’s evening encounter, sixth-seeded Canadian Eugenie Bouchard eased past Czech qualifier Lucie Hradecka 6-2 6-2.

The 21-year-old Bouchard, who reached the last four in Australia and France as well as the Wimbledon final in 2014, broke her opponent’s serve three times in each set to wrap up victory in under an hour.

In other matches, fourth seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark battled past Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur 7-6(3) 6-4 and fifth-seeded Serb Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 champion here, hammered Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva 6-3 6-1.

(Editing by John O’Brien)

Seeds Djokovic, Murray and Nishikori all advance

Playing near-flawless tennis from the baseline, the Serb broke his opponent twice in each set to coast to victory in just under an hour on the showpiece stadium court at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

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Fourth seed Andy Murray erased memories of early losses at the venue with a 6-1 6-3 demolition of Canadian Vasek Pospisil and Japanese trailblazer Kei Nishikori recovered from an erratic start to beat American Ryan Harrison 6-4 6-4.

Djokovic, seeking a fourth title at Indian Wells, breezed through the opening set in just 25 minutes before sealing the win when Baghdatis hit a backhand long on the second match point.

“It went very well for me, a very solid performance from the beginning,” the world number one said courtside after improving his record this season to 15-2.

“I served well and from the baseline I didn’t give Marcos many chances to come back in the match. Great performance against a quality opponent, against somebody that was a former top-10 player and that knows how to play on a big stage.

“Of course, having won the title in Australia, it allows me to have and carry this confidence into every other event that is coming up in the season.”

Murray broke Pospisil’s serve three times in the opening set and twice in the second to ease to victory in 79 minutes on a sweltering afternoon.

Ousted in the opening round in 2011 and 2012, the 27-year-old Scot hit 14 winners and won five of his nine break point chances to dominate the match.

SMART MATCH

“I’ve struggled a bit in the last few years here so I decided to try and play a very solid match and adjust to the conditions,” world number four Murray said. “It was very hot and that made the ball pretty lively.

“Controlling the ball isn’t that easy. I thought I played quite a smart match.”

Nishikori, who became the first Asian male to reach a grand slam singles final at the U.S. Open last year, broke Harrison five times while losing his own serve on three occasions before sealing his win in just under an hour and a half.

“It was a bit up and down but I played well in the second set,” said the 25-year-old Japanese. “I was playing almost a perfect game.”

The fifth seed, who lost to Marin Cilic in last year’s U.S. Open final before ending a landmark season with four ATP World Tour titles, will next play Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, who beat Australia’s James Duckworth 6-2 7-6.

In other matches, 10th-seeded Croatian Cilic, back on the circuit after being troubled by a shoulder injury, was upset 6-4 6-4 by Argentine Juan Monaco while eighth-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer battled past Croatia’s Ivan Dodig 4-6 6-1 7-6.

(Editing by John O’Brien)

Ford ace Frosty over V8 rolling start

Despite completing a rare clean sweep, Ford gun Mark Winterbottom has had to defend his tactics after early carnage at the V8 Supercars exhibition round at the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.

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Winterbottom pointed the finger at the rest of the field after some rivals came off second best from his strategy change in Sunday’s rolling start – a concept he described as “a shambles”.

Winterbottom became the first driver to sweep the non-championship round at Albert Park since Russell Ingall in 1998 when he led a Ford one-two for the fourth straight race.

He finished more than a second ahead of teammate Chaz Mostert and was two seconds faster than third-placed Holden ace Shane van Gisbergen on Sunday.

The man dubbed “Frosty” was all smiles after receiving a major confidence boost at the non-championship round – then the rolling start was mentioned.

As pole sitter Winterbottom could decide when to begin the race and accelerate in the rolling start.

But unlike the previous three races he left it until the last moment on Sunday, clearly catching some drivers off guard.

Two-time V8 champion Marcos Ambrose and Nick Percat were almost immediately taken out in the chaos that ensued, with James Moffat and Will Davison also suffering damage.

Before the field could settle, Fabian Coulthard spun Holden great Craig Lowndes into the path of Jason Bright on turn two.

“It’s not my fault. At pole you have the right to go when you want, but if they predict you are going to go at the same spot it’s their fault,” Winterbottom said of the rolling start.

“You can’t pre-empt things – that caused the carnage.

“But that’s what that start does. It’s a shambles to be honest.”

Winterbottom was glad rolling starts were only used at Albert Park as he looked to use the confidence gained in Melbourne at the next official round at Tasmania’s Symmons Plains from March 27-29.

“They try and have a spectacle here and it works because cars are crashing and that creates one,” he said.

“Coming away from here undamaged is a huge advantage.”

While Winterbottom said his weekend was “as good as it gets”, he admitted he would not read too much into six-time champion Jamie Whincup’s quiet weekend in Melbourne.

Red Bull Holden’s Whincup did not crack the podium in four races.

“They’ve got sponsors here. I am sure they would not like it when Shane (van Gisbergen) beats them in the same car,” he said.

“But you’d have to ask him why he isn’t winning.”

Pyne accused of holding scientists hostage

The Abbott government is being accused of holding the jobs of 1700 scientists hostage in a last ditch effort to get its university funding reforms through parliament.

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Labor leader Bill Shorten and Independent MP Nick Xenophon have criticised Education Minister Christopher Pyne for linking $150 million in annual science funding to fee deregulation, putting at risk the jobs of hundreds of researchers.

And with a vote on the higher education reforms due in the Senate this week, Mr Pyne warned crossbenchers the consequences of defeat would be a loss of funding for the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme.

It is the second time the coalition has tried to get university deregulation through the Senate, with Greens, Labor and the crossbenchers so far blocking the changes.

“There are consequences for not voting for this reform and that’s very important for the crossbenchers to understand,” Mr Pyne told ABC Television.

“The consequences are that potentially 1700 researchers will lose their jobs.”

Mr Shorten said the ultimatum was a new low for the government.

“They are taking hostage 1700 jobs,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

“They are threatening the future of science in Australia.”

Senator Xenophon said the university reforms were reckless and would significantly increase the price of degrees.

“I don’t understand why Christopher Pyne is holding 1700 scientists hostage to this policy,” he told reporters in Adelaide.

Despite still facing stiff opposition in the Senate, Mr Pyne said he was only contemplating victory when the reforms go to a vote on Wednesday.

His job to convince six crossbenchers to support the legislation has potentially been made more complicated with the resignation of Glenn Lazarus from the Palmer United Party.

But Mr Pyne said Senator Lazarus’s decision to quit the PUP might even help the government’s reforms, and presented “opportunities” to convince sole PUP senator Dio Wang to back deregulation.

Senator Wang has previously indicated his support for university deregulation.

“We will fight right through to the vote,” Mr Pyne said.

“I’m contemplating victory on Wednesday, because it’s too important not to win for students and for universities and for Australia.”

Asked if his government would follow through with the threat to scrap the $150 million in science funding, Tony Abbott said he anticipated the university reforms would be passed by the Senate.

“Because it’s good legislation, it’s good for universities, ultimately it’s good for students. It’s good for Australia,” the prime minister told reporters in Sydney.

Waratahs captain demanding improvement

NSW Waratahs captain Dave Dennis is demanding his teammates lift their game as Super Rugby’s reigning champions face a test of character to keep their title defence alive.

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The Waratahs host the table-topping Brumbies next Sunday at Allianz Stadium desperately needing to win to remain in touch with the Australian conference leaders after collapsing to a 26-19 loss to the Highlanders on Saturday.

It was the Waratahs’ first road loss in 10 months and denied the champions six straight away victories for the first time in 20 seasons.

But it was the manner of the defeat that worried Dennis most as the Tahs surrendered a 12-0 advantage and lost the physicality stakes after making a bright start in Dunedin.

Slick set-move tries to Nick Phipps and Matt Carraro had the Waratahs in control before they lost their way following a match-turning sin-binning of prop Sekope Kepu just before the half-hour mark.

Concerned that a worrying pattern of concentration and energy lapses were undermining their campaign, the Waratahs’ straight-shooting skipper said the titleholders mustn’t live in the past if they want to go back to back in 2015.

“Every team we play is going to grow an extra leg,” Dennis said.

“We’ve been expecting that, so we’ve got to be better. We’ve got to respond.

“We play some good footy in patches and then drop off during games and that’s about where we’re at at the moment.

“There are similar signs at training. It’s hard to pinpoint why we’re dropping off in intensity.”

Dennis said nothing less than a full 80-minute performance would be good enough against the Brumbies, who are outright top of the competition after thumping the Queensland Reds 29-0 in a five-try rout at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night night.

The Brumbies will also be eyeing revenge for their heavy finals loss to the Waratahs last season and have the chance to open a 15-point gap on their conference rivals.

“Obviously any time you play the Brumbies it’s a big game,” Dennis said.

“We’ve got to get back to training, have a good week’s preparation and stay positive.”

After three successive away games, the Waratahs are now looking forward to three matches at home against the Brumbies, Blues and Stormers plus an Easter weekend bye.

“It’ll be great to be back in Sydney,” Dennis said.

“Hopefully we can repay our loyal fans with some good rugby and a few wins.”