PE4 plastic explosives reported missing at Williamtown

DEFENCE has lost track of almost half a kilogram of plastic explosive.

Despite an investigation, the department has failed to account for the dangerous material, although it has ruled out theft.

Documents released under Freedom of Information show that two 230gram cartridges of PE4 explosive could not be accounted for following a research project on blast damage in June 2012 at RAAF base Williamtown.

The high explosive can be moulded and is widely used by militaries, in commercial blasting and by terrorists.

In this case, a defence researcher proposed detonating 60 cartridges but used only 40. Only 18 of those could be found.

Defence concluded that as the trial was conducted under tight security, it was unlikely the cartridges were stolen.

Because the trial was fully documented, it was also unlikely the explosives were inadvertently let off.

The report said the likely cause was in the defence supply chain. AAP

Turmoil as Palmer foils repeal

Clive Palmer arrives at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday. Photo: Alex EllinghausenDevil in the detail sees Palmer party rule the dayMark Kenny: PM puts positive spin on Palmer tornadoExclusive: I wil fight on, says Abbott

The Abbott government’s long-awaited carbon tax victory was snatched from it by Clive Palmer, the billionaire coalminer who actually wants to abolish the tax.

As chaos descended on the Senate, it was Mr Palmer’s insistence on harsh penalties for companies caught withholding price cuts after the carbon tax is abolished that stalled the legislation to repeal the carbon tax, and further fuelled the impression that the government is being dictated to by the crossbenches.

The air of chaos prompted Prime Minister Tony Abbott to reassert his leadership, dismissing what he called ”shouting from the sidelines” by minor parties.

In an exclusive interview with Fairfax Media, Mr Abbott expressed confidence that the carbon tax repeal would proceed on Monday, and appealed to critics not to judge the government by events in the Senate. ”The public will form their own conclusions, they don’t need any help from me,” he said.

Mr Abbott parried the suggestion that the chaos would also compromise his budget plans despite vast tracts of the May 13 formula being held up in the Parliament.

The Palmer United Party abandoned the government at the last minute and after the package of bills to repeal the carbon tax had been ”guillotined”, meaning they proceeded to a vote even though the majority needed to pass them had evaporated.

The bills, with the Palmer amendment, will be re-committed to the Parliament via the House of Representatives on Monday, with the government confident its majority for the package in the Senate will now hold.

It will constitute a fourth attempt to repeal the carbon tax.

Mr Palmer’s PUP pulled the pin on an agreement to pass the repeal bill package at 11.50am on Thursday, claiming it had been double crossed by the government.

PUP senators and Motoring Enthusiast Party senator Ricky Muir sided with Labor and the Greens to defeat the government move, with a final vote just after 12.30pm rejecting the repeal 37 votes to 35.

Explaining his decision to renege on the deal, Mr Palmer claimed his amendment – which itself had been changed since it was first agreed with the government on Monday – had not been properly circulated.

”We asked that it be distributed and we had a violent action from government, a violent reaction I would say,” Mr Palmer said. ”We had ministers calling us and visiting our senators and complaining.”

The problem arose because the Palmer amendment, inserting the penalties, had been expressed as a percentage and as such constituted a money bill. Under the constitution, money bills can only originate in the House of Representatives. However, the wording of the amendment has also raised questions over the application of the fines if enacted.

The opposition’s Senate leader, Penny Wong, said carbon tax repeal had become an exercise in ad hoc lawmaking, raising big questions on the soundness of the legislation and creating damaging uncertainty for business.

”Australians are entitled to know does the price pass-through apply to all businesses or only to electricity and gas companies,” she said.

”Maybe if the government had paid attention to proper process rather than just try to ram these through to get a political win, it may not have been in such a chaotic and shambolic mess.”

The government’s leader in the Senate, Eric Abetz, said the legislation would pass next week.

”The Palmer United Party are committed to the repeal of the carbon tax, as is the government, so I believe that next week we can resolve the issues that were of a technical nature,” he said.

Thursday’s setback coincided with yet another for the government, when the opposition teamed up with the Greens and the crossbenchers to force the tabling of regulations for its watered down financial planning and advice laws.

The early tabling, which had been planned for next week, has paved the way for the new rules to be struck out next week via a disallowance motion.

Greens leader Christine Milne said the chaos in the Senate was ”government by incompetence”.

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Let the booze debate begin

IT’S a drastic proposal from Victoria Police that no doubt will evoke plenty of interest and comment.

Reducing the blood alcohol limit for drivers to .02 has the backing of North East road safety officer Robert Allen and other police, including Victoria Police Acting Superintendent Martin Boorman.

Mr Allen argues a lower limit would encourage drivers to think twice about having a drink before they get behind the wheel, while Insp Boorman says there is a growing social stigma against drink driving that would support the move.

Mr Allen says the proposal is an initiative with the potential to further reduce the road toll.

And the member for Benambra and former policeman, Bill Tilley, says he will consider the debate if “robust” research into the proposal is undertaken.

Mr Tilley says it must be determined whether .02 would reduce crashes on state roads and that addressing speed, drug use and the state of our roads were also important.

The Victorian Premier, Denis Napthine, says the proposal would hurt the hospitality sector, while his Labor opponent Daniel Andrews says the government would do better to addressing a loophole allowing those who blow .07 to keep their licence.

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BRENDAN FEVOLA: They’ll be sorry if they try to stop us

Albury would have found it more difficult to recruit Chris Hyde if a points system was implemented into the Ovens and Murray.BRINGING in rules to even things up the OandM would do more damage than good in the long run.

It would wreck the league, if you ask me.

It’s a touchy subject but equalisation seems to be the talk of the town right now with Albury flying and on the top of the ladder.

Good on them, I say.

People talk about how much they spend on their players all the time, but it really wouldn’t be any more than most other clubs.

They are just able to give their players jobs.

What is wrong with that?

There is more to life than footy.

People have very short memories.

The wheel will turn, it always does.

It annoys me that people complain about Yarrawonga winning the past two flags.

Up until then, we had only ever won three in our history.

It’s not like we’ve completely dominated the league.

We should have missed out on the granny in my first year up here and Albury shouldn’t have been there last year. The other teams choked.

How is that our fault?

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Wayne Bennett calls full time on Newcastle, video, poll

MASTER coach Wayne Bennett dropped a bombshell yesterday by announcing he would leave the Newcastle Knights at season’s end after accepting responsibility for performances he said had ‘‘embarrassed’’ him.

The seven-time premiership winner said he still had the passion to coach and was open to offers from rival clubs but accepted that, after three tumultuous and largely unsuccessful years, the Knights needed a fresh voice.

‘‘If I was in my first year here, or my second year, it might have been different,’’ Bennett said at a press conference after training yesterday.

Please enable Javascript to watch this video‘‘But it’s my third year now and I’m most disappointed in what we’ve done.

‘‘I think it’s time to give someone else an opportunity to come in and show what they can do.

‘‘The end result is we haven’t played like I think we’re capable of playing, and the buck stops with me … you can’t keep passing the buck and blaming other people. It does stop with me. I’ve always accepted that as a coach.’’

Bennett’s star-studded team are 14th on the NRL ladder after four wins from 15 matches and, barring a belated miracle, will miss the finals for the second time in three seasons under his guidance.

In 2012, his first campaign after being lured to Newcastle by former owner Nathan Tinkler, the Knights finished a disappointing 12th.

Last season, they qualified seventh and won two playoffs before being eliminated by eventual premiers the Roosters in the grand final qualifier.

Hopes that would prove a springboard to further success have not been realised and, after an unprecedented series of disasters on and off the field, 2014 is shaping as the worst season of Bennett’s top-grade career, which started at Canberra in 1987.

‘‘Our overall performance this year has been the catalyst,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m extremely disappointed. I’m embarrassed by it. It’s time to move on. I’ve spent 12 months, this season, trying to rectify it.

‘‘And I won’t quit trying to rectify it, but I think it’s up to someone else to take it forward from here.’’

Asked if he felt his players had let him down, Bennett replied: ‘‘That’s not my choice of words, being let down.

‘‘It’s just the performances, what we have done, what we haven’t done. I mean, I don’t throw the passes, I don’t miss the tackles. But I employ the people that do.’’

Bennett said Knights management and the NRL, which is interim owner of the franchise after Tinkler’s departure last month, were ‘‘keen for me to stay’’ but had not started contract negotiations.

NRL chief executive Dave Smith said he would ‘‘have loved to see Wayne stay at the Knights’’. ‘‘Wayne’s a phenomenal coach and he’s been a real asset to that club … this is a bit of a speed bump, but it’s nothing more than that,’’ Smith said.

Knights chief executive Matt Gidley said the club would not need to wait to appoint a new seven-person board before starting the search for a coach.

Gidley, incumbent chairman Paul Harragon, two NRL directors and possibly adviser John Quayle will be involved in signing Bennett’s replacement.

Gidley said 64-year-old Bennett was a ‘‘remarkable man’’ and he had mixed emotions about his decision to move on.

‘‘It’s a relief that the speculation is now over,’’ Gidley said. ‘‘It seems like there has been speculation around Wayne’s role from the moment he arrived … it’s a relief now that we can focus on the final third of the season.’’

Gidley expected ‘‘a number of candidates’’ would express interest in the vacant position.

Home-grown Rick Stone, who coached the Knights in 54 NRL games and two finals series between 2009 and 2011 and has been Bennett’s assistant for the past three years, shapes as an obvious contender.

There is speculation that former Canberra and North Queensland coach Neil Henry is in the running, and Penrith’s NSW Cup coach Garth Brennan, who learnt his trade at the Knights, is rated a dark horse.

As for Bennett, he said he would consider all offers.

‘‘I’m unemployed at the end of October, so I’m interested in any job,’’ he said.

The future of his star protege, Darius Boyd, is also under a cloud after Bennett confirmed the representative fullback ‘‘has a lot of flexibility in that contract’’.


WAYNE Bennett’s 2008 autobiography opens with a favourite poem that advocates honest self-appraisal.

‘‘Go to the mirror and take a look at yourself, and see what that man has to say,’’ are the last two lines of the first verse, and there seems little doubt Bennett pondered that advice before announcing yesterday he will leave the Knights at season’s end.

Others, including his employers, may have been happy to judge Bennett on his reputation and unmatched career record, dating back to Ipswich in 1976.

His seven premierships, 23finals series and 699 top-grade games – all of which are records – buy serious cred and respect.

But when Bennett looked in the mirror, he did not see the mystical master coach who has written so many chapters in rugby league’s folklore.

Rather, he saw a mere mortal who had to take responsibility for Newcastle’s on-field performances, which have generally been underwhelming since his much-celebrated arrival in the 2012 pre-season.

After 15 games of this campaign, the team Bennett built are languishing in 14th position, equal-last but boasting superior for-and-against statistics than Canberra and Cronulla.

This is shaping as the worst season of Bennett’s illustrious career.

‘‘For me, it’s about the high standards that I set myself, and I don’t feel the team has come up to those standards,’’ Bennett explained, adding that ‘‘the buck stops with me’’.

If we take the 64-year-old at his word, he has made a noble decision, recognising that a fresh start would be in the club’s best interests.

The cynics might argue that Bennett was lured to Newcastle by Nathan Tinkler’s millions and had little interest in staying once the gravy train ground to a halt.

Whatever the case, nobody can argue with Bennett’s claim that: ‘‘I can’t do any more than my best here and I’ve been challenged in so many ways.’’

From the Tinkler turmoil to the Russell Packer scandal, to the heart-breaking incident involving Alex McKinnon, no coach in history has had to deal with as many setbacks as Bennett this season.

Other opinions he expressed yesterday were, to say the least, debatable.

‘‘Where the club was when I came here and where the club is now, there’s no comparison,’’ he said, describing the Knights when he arrived as ‘‘a mess – a basket case in many ways’’.

Yet, given that Newcastle made the finals in every grade in 2011 – and were national under-18 champions – was the club really in such poor shape? And other than this season’s high-flying under-20s and national champion under-16s, what tangible evidence is there of progress?

As for Bennett’s declaration that ‘‘you can’t just keep buying players in … you just become a transit lounge’’, perhaps if he had been more inclined to sign players under the age of 30, tyros with their best days ahead of them, the window of opportunity might have stayed open longer.

That is easy to say with the benefit of hindsight, which usually offers 20-20 vision.

Taking a long, hard gaze in the mirror is another matter altogether. Bennett’s decision means he can continue to look himself in the eye.