Trump yields to Charlottesville pressure

US President Donald Trump has denounced neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan as criminals and thugs, bowing to mounting political pressure to condemn such groups explicitly after a white-nationalist rally turned deadly in Virginia.

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Trump was broadly set upon for failing to respond more forcefully to Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville. His initially tepid response to the violence also sparked the resignations of the three chief executives from his American Manufacturing Council.

Kenneth Frazier, the head of one of the world’s biggest drug companies Merck & Co, quit the panel saying he was taking a stand against intolerance and extremism, and the chief executive of sportswear company UnderArmour and Intel Corp soon followed.

Critics denounced Trump for waiting too long to address the bloodshed, and for initially faulting hatred and violence “on many sides,” rather than singling out the white supremacists widely seen as instigating the melee.

Democrats said Trump’s reaction belied a reluctance to alienate white nationalists and “alt-right” political activists who occupy a loyal segment of Trump’s political base. Several senators from his own Republican Party had harsh words for him.

Some 48 hours into the biggest domestic challenge of his young presidency, Trump tried to correct course.

“Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” the president said in a statement to reporters at the White House on Monday.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence,” he said.

A 20-year-old man said to have harboured Nazi sympathies was arrested on charges of ploughing his car into protesters opposing the white nationalists, killing 32-year-old paralegal Heather Heyer and injuring 19 people. The accused, James Fields, was denied bail at a court hearing on Monday.

Several others were arrested in connection with street brawls during the day that left another 15 people injured. Two airborne state troopers involved in crowd control were killed when their helicopter crashed.

Saturday’s disturbances erupted after white nationalists converged in Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia’s flagship campus, to protest plans for removing a statue of General Robert E. Lee, commander of the pro-slavery Confederate army of the US Civil War.

Trump’s belated denunciation of white supremacists by name was welcomed by Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, who thanked the president for what she called “those words of comfort and for denouncing those who promote violence and hatred.”

But not everyone was mollified with Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia telling MSNBC: “I wish that he would have said those same words on Saturday.”

Frazier delivered one of the most noteworthy rebukes of the president saying expressions of hatred and bigotry must be rejected.

Trump quickly hit back on Twitter, but made no reference to Frazier’s reasons for quitting the panel, instead revisiting a longstanding gripe about expensive medicines. Frazier would have more time to focus on lowering “ripoff” drug prices, Trump tweeted.

The violence in Charlottesville has sparked heated public debate over racism around the world with a rally held outside the US Embassy in London.

About 500 anti-racism protesters rallied outside the White House, while others gathered outside Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue.

In Durham, North Carolina, demonstrators toppled a Confederate monument outside a court before stomping and kicking the fallen statue.

Saints primed for strong AFL finish: Geary

Newly re-signed St Kilda captain Jarryn Geary says it important the Saints finish the season strongly even they fall short of the AFL finals for the second successive year.

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In 2016 St Kilda finished ninth on percentage and could end up in a similar position this season as they sit in 11th.

With matches against North Melbourne and Richmond remaining, they are a mathematical chance although Geary conceded it was unlikely.

“Over the next couple of weeks we’ve got some improvement we need to have in a number of areas and that will be our focus,” said Geary, who announced Tuesday he had extended his deal until the end of 2019.

“Let’s improve those things and if results go our way, we’ll be happy.”

The Saints’ push for the finals came unstuck against Melbourne last round when they let the Demons get away to a 40-point lead midway through the second quarter.

Geary said his team needed to improve their defence and contest ahead of their clash with the Kangaroos at Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

“They smashed us around the ball and all over the ground,” Geary said of Melbourne.

“They outnumbered us around the ground, which is going to give you not too many opportunities to win the ball back off them. Then defensively, we weren’t able to catch them, particularly early.”

The match is club great Nick Riewoldt’s last home game, with the former skipper set to play after missing the Demons match following a head knock.

Geary said the team wanted to ensure they delivered a fitting performance.

“He’s been a champion of the game, a champion of the football club and he deserves every pat on the back and accolade he gets,” Geary said.

Henry says he and Hayne can make it work

Gold Coast coach Neil Henry has denied feuding with star fullback Jarryd Hayne and claimed the pair can co-exist at the NRL club next season.

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Henry will coach the Titans against Hayne’s former club Parramatta on Thursday night, but the future of both men is in doubt following Monday crisis talks with club officials and a Titans board meeting which reserved a decision until next week.

At the centre of the issue is Henry’s relationship with highly-paid Hayne, although there are also claims some other players are unhappy with his coaching.

Henry on Tuesday denied any rift between him and the playing group, labelling it a “beat up in the media”.

While a report emerged that the board had already decided it will sack Henry, the coach acknowledged he was in the dark about his future, not having spoken to chief executive Graham Annesley since Monday.

“There’s speculation (about my future), and we’ll find out I suppose in due course whether or not that’s true,” Henry said.

Asked if he and Hayne can work together at the club beyond this season, he said: “I think we can.

“It’s about being consistent, it’s about some give and take and putting the club first.

“Our challenge is to finish the season in a positive way and my challenge is to finish the season as a coach.”

While Henry refuted claims of a rift, he was circumspect when asked if he viewed the superstar as a team player.

“That’s a difficult one,” he said.

“He’s part of the team, he works hard and certainly we know he can play some decent football, but he hasn’t had the year he’s expected and everyone’s expected and he’d admit to that as well.

“But there’s not a feud between us – it’s not like we don’t talk to each other – we converse, we talk tactics and there’s banter before the game.”

Asked if Hayne was tough to coach, Henry said: “Players are tough to coach at different times but you’ve got to manage personalities … Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. You can’t expect your whole squad to be happy with everything you do all the time.”

To complicate matters, Hayne is battling an ankle injury and Henry said he was “50-50” to line up against his former team at ANZ Stadium on Thursday night.

The club is expected to make an announcement next week regarding the futures of Henry and Hayne.

“It’s distracting to the players, to me, to everyone in the organisation,” Henry said.

“I’m contracted here and I’d like to stay here a long time. I think we’ve done some good things at a club that’s had a fair bit of turmoil in the last few years.”

NZ Labour rejects Bishop ‘false claims’

The New Zealand opposition leader has accused Australia’s foreign minister of making false claims about her party’s involvement in the revelation about Barnaby Joyce’s dual citizenship.

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Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says it would “very difficult to build trust” with a Labour government should the opposition party win the upcoming New Zealand election.

NZ Labour MP Chris Hipkins last week asked a parliamentary question – yet to receive an answer – about Australian-born people entitled to New Zealand citizenship.

It’s emerged he asked the question after discussion with someone from the Australian Labor Party.

Having criticised the ALP over the incident, Ms Bishop was asked whether she could trust a future NZ Labour government.

“I would find it very difficult to build trust with members of a political party that had been used by the Australian Labor Party to seek to undermine the Australian government,” she told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

NZ Labour leader Jacinda Ahern insisted she had been “utterly transparent” about the situation and knew nothing about the Joyce case until it broke in media reports.

“It is highly regrettable that the Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has chosen to make false claims about the New Zealand Labour Party,” she said in a statement.

“I greatly value New Zealand’s relationship with the Australian government. I will not let false claims stand in the way of that relationship.”

Ms Ahern intends meeting the Australian high commissioner later on Tuesday over the matter.

NZ Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne earlier said it was “utter nonsense” to suggest the question from Mr Hipkins instigated the discovery of the Nationals leader’s citizenship-by-descent, which may render him ineligible to sit in the Australian parliament.

“While Hipkins’ questions were inappropriate, they were not the instigator. Australian media inquiries were,” Mr Dunne tweeted.

When quizzed by reporters, Ms Bishop said she didn’t accept it.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong accused Ms Bishop of risking relations with Australia’s closest friend and ally.

“Minister Bishop launched an extraordinary attack on both sides of politics in New Zealand,” she said.

“Australia’s long and enduring friendship with New Zealand deserves better than a cheap attack by a government under pressure, seeking to divert attention from its domestic political problems.”

Many Australians feeling the pinch

More than half of Australian households believe they have fallen behind the cost of living during the past two years, at a time when wages growth is at its lowest in at least two decades.

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Two in five respondents to the weekly Essential Research poll, released on Tuesday, said while they have enough for basic essentials they can’t save any money.

Only a fraction more of the 1032 people surveyed said they could save a little money after paying for essentials, and just 19 per cent of those earning over $2000 each week said they could save a lot of money.

Well over half said they were paying a lot more for their electricity and gas, followed by insurance (31 per cent), medical and dental (30 per cent) and fresh food (29 per cent).

Little wonder consumers say they are struggling to remain positive.

The weekly ANZ-Roy Morgan confidence index fell by a further 1.8 per cent to its lowest level since late May.

ANZ head of Australian economics David Plank said increased tensions surrounding North Korea may be having an impact on sentiment.

“More broadly, we think it will be difficult for consumer confidence to sustain any material rise until we see a lift in wage growth,” he said.

The wage price index for the June quarter – the Reserve Bank and Treasury’s preferred measure of wages growth – is released on Wednesday, but is unlikely to provide much joy.

Economists expect wages grew by 0.5 per cent in the quarter, which would keep the annual rate at 1.9 per cent and at its lowest level in at least 20 years.

The minutes of the central bank’s August 1 board meeting, also released on Tuesday, say recent strong employment growth would likely contribute to an increase in household disposable income and consumption growth.

“However, ongoing low wage growth and the high level of debt on household balance sheets raised the possibility that consumption growth could be lower than forecast,” they say.

Labour force figures for July are due on Thursday. Economists believe several months of strong employment results could take the jobless rate down to 5.5 per cent from 5.6 per cent, its lowest level in over four years.

The Essential poll also found less than a third of Australians believe the Turnbull government is doing a good job managing the economy.

About two in five respondents gave the government an “average” mark on its economic performance, and only 15 per cent said they liked government policies and the progress it was making.