Pedophiles not welcome in Hillsong Church

Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston has a blunt message for people like his father who sexually abuse children: you’re not welcome.

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The senior pastor, who confronted and stopped his father preaching but failed to report him to police, says his global Pentecostal church has zero tolerance for pedophiles.

“For a long, long time I’ve been extremely vocal that no convicted pedophile, nobody who’s made any kind of confession of inappropriate behaviour towards children, is welcome at Hillsong Church at all,” Mr Houston told the child abuse royal commission.

“On numerous occasions we’ve told people they can’t come to church.

“We’ve got a no tolerance policy on pedophiles because we have a massive children’s ministry, obviously, and young persons ministry, so we just don’t believe that it’s the right place for them to be.”

When confronted by his son in 1999, Frank Houston admitted sexually abusing a seven-year-old boy three decades earlier and never preached again. He died in 2004.

The royal commission found Mr Houston and the national executive of the Assemblies of God in Australia – as the Australian Christian Churches was known until 2007 – did not tell police about the allegations.

Frank Houston was allowed to quietly resign but after the Australian organisation learned in 2000 of further abuse allegations involving six boys in New Zealand three decades earlier, Assemblies of God ministers were told his son had suspended his credentials.

Hillsong has now introduced a conflict of interest procedure after the commission found Brian Houston had a conflict in assuming responsibility for dealing with the 1999 allegation because he was both Assemblies of God in Australia national president and the son of the alleged perpetrator.

Mr Houston said new child protection policies and procedures have been rolled out across the whole church, including setting up a safe church office.

“We have been very, very supportive of the goal to make sure our church is as safe a church as it could possibly be.”

Australian Christian Churches national president Wayne Alcorn said the lessons of the royal commission have had a domino effect across Australia’s largest Pentecostal movement.

It now requires its more than 1000 autonomous affiliated churches adopt and adhere to child protection policies, as well as its pastors.

“It is no longer optional. There are minimum standards and we require them,” Mr Alcorn said.

A person is now required to have a certain level of credentials and training before they can call themselves a pastor of the Australian Christian Churches.

“We quickly moved to change the culture and practice of our movement,” Mr Alcorn said.

“I don’t know of churches where people who don’t have at least a probationary minister’s certificate are now called pastor.”

Mr Alcorn said the organisation’s preference is that child abusers do not worship in areas where children and young people are.

“In fact we’ve identified some places where in cities and key regional areas there are places where perpetrators of such crime can actually find a place for worship, personal ministry, etcetera.”

Both Hillsong and the Australian Christian Churches require mandatory reporting of child abuse, the inquiry heard on Friday.

Petrie ready to confront Kangaroos

West Coast coach Adam Simpson is confident Drew Petrie will overcome a bout of nerves to produce a strong effort in the ruck against his former side North Melbourne on Sunday.

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Petrie was axed by North Melbourne at the end of last season but his AFL career was revived via a lifeline on West Coast’s rookie list.

And the fixturing gods have given Petrie an early crack against the side that let him go, albeit in a vastly different role.

Petrie has spent the majority of his 316-game career in the forward line, booting 428 goals in the process.

But with Eagles duo Nic Naitanui (knee) and Scott Lycett (shoulder) sidelined, Petrie will be asked to play a key role in the ruck alongside Nathan Vardy.

Simpson is confident he’ll handle the occasion – and the new role – well.

“I’m sure he’ll have nerves,” Simpson said ahead of the Etihad Stadium clash.

“You have nerves right up until you’re last game, no matter who you play, especially round one.

“This will be a little bit different but he’ll be ok.”

Vardy and Petrie are more comfortable in the forward line, meaning the Eagles are almost certain to lose the hit-out battle against North Melbourne’s All-Australian ruckman Todd Goldstein.

But West Coast’s powerful midfield have the capability to overcome any deficiencies in the ruck.

The addition of former Hawthorn skipper Sam Mitchell adds further class to the engine room, with fellow Brownlow medallist Matt Priddis, Luke Shuey and Andrew Gaff also key cogs.

Simpson played alongside Petrie for nine years at North Melbourne and he knows first-hand the veteran won’t be able to produce miracles in the ruck.

It’s a situation Simpson is more than comfortable with.

“He’s pretty basic. He has a go and he follows up. As long as he brings that, we’ll be okay,” Simpson said.

Simpson said Naitanui’s leg injury last season meant the midfield group had figured out ways to cope at the stoppages without a dominant ruckman.

North Melbourne are tipped to slide out of finals calculations this season following last year’s brutal list cleanout.

Petrie, Daniel Wells, Nick Dal Santo, Michael Firrito and Brent Harvey are no longer at the club, with the Kangaroos taking a punt on youth in a bid to develop into a premiership outfit.

Treasurer flags progress on housing

Low-income families looking for housing could benefit from a deal reached at a meeting of the nation’s treasurers.

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Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison said the meeting with his state counterparts in Canberra had agreed to progress the idea of a “bond aggregator” similar to those used in the UK to harness investment.

The independent body would issue bonds and on-lend these funds to community housing providers, allowing them to access cheaper and longer term finance.

“We are taking the bond aggregator to the next level,” Mr Morrison told reporters after the meeting on Friday.

Mr Morrison said there was no common position on the broader issue of housing affordability, but there was an important discussion about how regulators are dealing with a sharp rise in the level of investor credit.

“This is a matter not just about housing affordability, frankly, but also an issue about household debt,” he said.

Victoria has scrapped stamp duty for home purchases under $600,000, taxed vacant housing stock and brought in a shared ownership plan with the government so buyers don’t need as big a deposit.

However, Mr Morrison has made it clear the federal government won’t be bankrolling any state tax changes, such as stamp duty.

He believes a key factor to the housing affordability problem is supply, and the states have the biggest levers to affect planning and zoning regulation.

The issue of freeing up state land and the use of Defence land for housing was raised during the meeting.

“I think there is a genuine commitment, particularly from those states most impacted, to deal with this issue and to use the levers that we have available,” Mr Morrison said.

A nationally consistent plan for taxing online gambling will be examined.

Mr Morrison said such taxes were not about raising revenue for revenue’s sake, but harm minimisation and ensuring the national sporting codes are not adversely impacted.

Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt said he was disappointed there was no commitment from Mr Morrison to improve the way federal money is given the states via national partnership agreements, which provide funding for such things as homelessness, early childhood education and health.

“We will continue to push hard to ensure we get these critical areas funded so the states and territories can get on with the job of delivering for our constituents.”

The states were unable to agree on any changes to the GST distribution.

The states were told they would share in $62.74 billion in GST revenue in 2017/18, including NSW ($17.68 billion), VIC ($14.829 billion), QLD ($14.963 billion), WA ($2.354 billion), SA ($6.36 billion), TAS ($2.403 billion), ACT ($1.23 billion) and NT ($2.921 billion).

Sharks’ Segeyaro guessing game for Eels

Cronulla are keeping Parramatta guessing about whether they’ll face new signing James Segeyaro in Saturday’s NRL clash.

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Coach Shane Flanagan was giving little way about the former Cowboys and Panthers hooker’s possible involvement at ANZ Stadium after retaining him when he trimmed his match squad to 19 on Friday.

Segeyaro has not played in six months due to the drawn out dispute when he walked out mid-contract on English club Leeds and has only had two training sessions with the Sharks.

Flanagan said he was still considering holding Segeyaro back a week and he has until an hour before kick-off to cut the squad to the final 17.

“It’s not really match-fitness because he won’t play big minutes, but his timing, team calls, coordination and understanding of our systems is going to be hard for him,” Flanagan said.

“It’s a tough one.”

If Segeyaro does make his club debut, he is likely to serve as a back-up to emerging rake Jayden Brailey.

Brailey has impressed since inheriting the No.9 jersey from Michael Ennis and played his first full 80 minutes in Sunday’s loss to St George Illawarra.

Flanagan said Brailey, 20, was still on a learning curve and needed support around him – a role Segeyaro is set to play this season.

“He’ll give Jayden a spell there,” Flanagan said.

“We saw last week Jayden did a really good job. But because of all the errors we made and the way we played, Jayden made 50 tackles and came up with an error at the end.

“He’s not the biggest bloke, he’s 84kg. He’s going to be a very good player but it’s tough, the pressure on a young bloke to play 80 minutes in a game like that.”

US VP Mike Pence under fire for female-free meeting on maternity care

US Vice President Mike Pence has ignited controversy by tweeting a picture of himself surrounded by male lawmakers holding discussions in an effort to reach agreement on a Republican health care bill.

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Appreciated joining @POTUS for meeting with the Freedom Caucus again today. This is it. #PassTheBill pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/XG6lQIy5a6

— Vice President Pence (@VP) 23 March 2017

The photo shows Mr Pence sitting with members of the all-male House Freedom Caucus, meeting to negotiate with the president over changes to the bill.

This includes adjustments such as no longer requiring insurance companies to offer maternity care in all health plans.

Many conservatives also want to repeal benefits that all insurance policies must cover under the Affordable Care Act, including emergency room visits, substance abuse treatment, and preventive care such as screenings and vaccines.

Another picture posted by President Donald Trump’s social media director, Don Scavino, shows two women standing in the room as well.

Many commentators seized on the image, including several politicians.

Happening now at the White House: a room full of men are plotting to take away maternity care #TrumpCare pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/SVzmqIyjQc

— Energy Commerce Dems (@EnergyCommerce) 23 March 2017This is outrageous: Not a single woman in the room as @Mike_Pence and @HouseGOP propose removing maternity coverage in #Trumpcare. pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/wwY6WsN206

— Jim McGovern (@RepMcGovern) 23 March 2017

Former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, included 10 health essential health benefits that all insurance plans had to cover, including pregnancy, newborn and maternity care.

President Trump has called for a so-called “make-or-break” vote on repealing the legislation, saying he will leave Obamacare in place if the vote fails in order to move onto other issues.

Mr Trump was previously criticised for signing an executive order on funding for abortion and women’s reproductive rights soon after becoming president, flanked by men.

– with wires

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High-speed Supercars crash at Aust GP

With his rainbow-coloured Commodore, Nick Percat was always going to make a splash at the Australian Grand Prix.

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But his 255km/hour crash in the first Supercars race of the weekend wasn’t the way he wanted to draw attention to the equality-branded Holden.

Percat hit the brakes with 150 metres of Albert Park’s main straight remaining, leaving himself no choice but to duck into the grass in the hope of slowing.

“My thoughts were just about survival,” he told AAP.

“Survival and to figure out some way to miraculously disappear from the situation.”

His evasive action directed him into an unsuspecting Lee Holdsworth and sent both cars flying.

Percat ended up in the gravel and eventually in the wall while Holdsworth spun around several times before resting on the tarmac. Both men walked away.

“I didn’t know (I had no brakes) until I put my foot on the brake at the 150m board,” he said.

“Unfortunately I hit Lee … and then it was just hold on and hope the impact into the fence wouldn’t be too abrupt.”

Percat, 28, said the crash was the biggest of his career and shook him up but the worst of it was breathlessness shortly after impact.

The South Australian said he would have been ready to take to the track in Friday’s second race if his car was available.

“I would imagine that car’s done. If there’s anyone that’s going to fix it it’ll be my crew because they’re ridiculously good at it but from here it doesn’t look amazing,” he said.

The No.8 Commodore wore the rainbow colours of the LGBTIQ community as part of an equality campaign by the manufacturer.

Motorsport and sexual diversity haven’t been natural bedfellows in the past but Percat said the feedback since the car’s unveiling had been “unbelievably” supportive.

“The wide (coverage) that livery has had around the world – not just Australia – has been incredible,” he said.

“It’s good to see everyone’s got on board, got behind it, and understand what Holden is doing.

“It was cool to have it on my car and hopefully again later down the year we’ll do something else and give them a better show than this.”

Trump an opportunity for defence industry

There’s a “new broom sweeping Washington DC” and Christopher Pyne is confident Australian businesses can clean up from the Trump administration’s plan to increase military spending.

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The defence industry minister is off to the US in early April and hopes to meet Secretary of Defense James Mattis to discuss the F35 Joint Strike Fighter jet program and spruik Australian defence industry wares.

President Donald Trump has proposed a $US54 billion ($A71 billion) hike in defence spending, which equates to a 10 per cent boost.

“This presents an opportunity for us,” Mr Pyne told the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra.

“We have a very high standing in the United States in terms of our quality and capability in terms of what we can provide.”

He singled out the Nulka anti-ship missile decoy, a billion-dollar Australian export, and how it had helped protect the American naval ship USS Mason off the coast of Yemen last October when it was attacked by missile strikes.

Mr Pyne will also travel to Canada in April and will use the trip to promote the Australian CEA phased array radar which he said was the best in the world.

“The United States use it, we use it and the Canadians should be using it in their frigates,” he said, adding that Canada was looking to buy 12 anti-submarine warfare frigates with the option for a further three.

Mr Pyne also reflected on the acceleration of strategic changes around the world – a more assertive Russia and China, a British exit from the European Union, North Korea’s highly dangerous nuclear and missile brinkmanship, and “a new broom sweeping through in Washington DC”.

“These developments put a premium on the need for Australia to be able to act for itself, and make national security decisions that maximise our strengths at a time of unprecedented global strategic change,” he said.

Australia was rethinking how its relationship with the US would work.

“President Trump is not business as usual,” Mr Pyne said.

Goalscorer Leckie looks forward to Australia’s home run

It was Ange Postecoglou side’s fourth successive draw and left the Socceroos third in Group B on 10 points after wins for Saudi Arabia and Japan put them three points clear in the top two automatic qualifying places.

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“We’ve had a tough road up until now,” Leckie said. “We have four games now with three at home, so this is a time for us to step up.

“We dominate most of our games at home. We need a lot of character amongst the team and a lot of players to step up and if we can do that I’m very confident we’ll get all our results at home.”

Australia host the fourth-placed United Arab Emirates in Sydney on Tuesday. Their only remaining game away from home is against Japan on Aug. 31.

Leckie’s header in Tehran was a welcome score from open play after Australia’s previous three goals in the 1-1 draw with Japan and 2-2 draw with Thailand had come from Mile Jedinak penalties.

The target man said Aaron Mooy’s corner had been executed perfectly.

“There were a couple of boys in that area that dragged some boys away and I was able to get pretty free,” Leckie added.

“It came off the head perfect and ended up in the top left so I’m very happy with that on a personal level but ultimately taking the three points would have been the best reward.”

Both Leckie and debutant midfielder Jackson Irvine felt that if the team had scored a second goal, the game would have been killed off before Ahmed Yasin grabbed Iraq’s equaliser from close range with 14 minutes remaining.

“If we’d carried on and got the second before half-time or straight after half-time, it might have killed the game a little bit more,” Jackson said.

“We offered them a chance to come back into the game and a team with nothing to lose can throw everything at you and that’s what they did and that led to them getting the equaliser.

“We’re disappointed overall, but there are a few good signs to take from the game.”

(Writing by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

Crocked de Kock asked to play through pain

If South Africa wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock had broken three fingers, then skipper Faf du Plessis would’ve perhaps understood him sitting out Saturday’s Test decider against New Zealand in Hamilton.

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But he hasn’t – so du Plessis expects his gloveman to soldier on.

The 24-year-old de Kock is in doubt for the Seddon Park clash with a right index finger injury, after damaging tendons during the second Test in Wellington.

He must prove he’s capable of batting without pain to take to the field against the Black Caps, over whom South Africa hold a 1-0 series lead.

But du Plessis didn’t pull his punches on Friday, saying he expected de Kock to play through the pain barrier despite needing at least four weeks to resolve the niggle.

A further aggravation of the problem could also put de Kock’s Champions Trophy participation in doubt, with his presence at the top of the Proteas ODI order crucial.

A final decision will be made late on Friday, with second-string keeper Heinrich Klaasen waiting in the wings for his Test debut.

“If it’s a 50-50, and I think it is, then he’ll be able to play, definitely,” du Plessis told reporters.

“It’s a big Test match for us – to rest him for someone else is not an option.”

Despite a cruisy eight-wicket win in Wellington, the 33-year-old du Plessis berated his upper-order batsmen for sub-par performances to date on Kiwi soil.

Opener Stephen Cook has scored fewer than 15 runs in all four of his innings, while Hashim Amla and JP Duminy have both struggled for consistency.

Yet the Proteas’ batting stocks can breathe a sigh of relief in the knowledge Kiwi speed merchants Trent Boult and Tim Southee will both miss the Test with injury.

“I always take reference to our own team and if we lose guys like them on our side, it’d be a huge loss,” du Plessis said.

“Seamers that have the experience and numbers behind them, you don’t just replace that.”

Having chosen just a single touring tweaker, du Plessis admitted his surprise at the turning Kiwi surfaces he’s encountered in Tests so far.

Left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj and part-timer Duminy have snared 17 wickets between them on tour, with more of the same in store at Seddon Park.

The typically turning Hamilton wicket has green shoots poking through its surface, suggesting seam-friendly conditions, but du Plessis wasn’t so certain.

“We brought a truckload of seamers – I think we had six in our squad,” du Plessis said.

“(Yet) the spinners have been the key players in this series.

“I definitely expect it to turn.”

Trump ultimatum: Pass health bill Friday or he’ll move on

Donald Trump warned Republicans that he is done negotiating and wants a vote Friday on dismantling Obamacare, setting up a high-stakes showdown with members of the president’s own party over his embattled health care plan.

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House leaders were forced to postpone a Thursday vote on the measure amid a revolt by mainly conservative Republicans, who were complicating the first major legislative test for the new president by signaling it would not pass without key changes

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Trump himself set the stage, dispatching an aide to a closed-door meeting of Republican lawmakers to demand a Friday vote.

“The message is tomorrow it’s up, it’s down, we expect it to be up, but it’s done tomorrow,” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told the lawmakers, according to congressman Chris Collins.

Mulvaney then delivered Trump’s extraordinary ultimatum.

“If it doesn’t pass, we’re moving beyond health care,” Mulvaney said, paraphrased by Collins.

“We would be moving on to other parts of his agenda.”

The idea that TrumP, who campaigned relentlessly on a pledge to bury Barack Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment, would wash his hands of the fight and let Obamacare stand is a startling departure from the party playbook.

But Mulvaney’s blunt take-it-or-leave-it approach could be part of Trump’s hardball strategy to get Republican rebels to fall in line.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, a champion of the legislation dubbed the American Health Care Act, put on a brave face despite the bill’s hanging by a thread.

“We have been promising the American people we will repeal and replace this broken law because it’s collapsing and failing families, and tomorrow we’re proceeding,” he told reporters after the conference meeting.

A procedural vote on the bill is set for approximately 10:00 am (1400 GMT) Friday, followed by a full floor vote in the afternoon.

The president and his lieutenants had repeatedly voiced optimism about the bill’s prospects, saying they had made progress convincing doubters to join Trump’s camp.

But the votes weren’t there.

“I am still a no at this time. I am desperately trying to get to yes,” said Mark Meadows, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, whose members have demanded changes to the plan before giving their blessing.

Although Meadows sought to portray optimism about the process, he revealed the width of the gap between Trump and the plan’s opponents.

“At this point, we are trying to get another 30 to 40 votes that are currently in the ‘no’ category to ‘yes,'” Meadows said after meeting with his caucus.

That did not happen, and Ryan pulled the bill off the floor.

Watch: Trump somewhat vindicated over government surveillance reports

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Time to vote’

Republicans have spent years railing against the Affordable Care Act, branding it a result of a Democratic push for socialized medicine.

With Democrats opposed to Trump’s plan and his own party’s right flank in revolt over legislation they say falls short, the White House and Republican leaders looked to make the bill palatable to enough conservatives without angering moderates.

Trump spent much of the day lobbying both conservative lawmakers and moderates in a delicate arm-twisting effort.

“Tomorrow it’s time to vote,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told Fox News.

“At the end of the day, this is the only train leaving the station that’s going to be repealing Obamacare and giving us an alternative to replace it,” he said.

Many conservatives say their party’s plan is still too costly for the government. 

They want to repeal “essential health benefits” that all insurance policies must cover under Obamacare – including maternity care, emergency room visits and preventive care like screenings and vaccines – arguing they have driven up costs.

Republican leaders conceded to that demand, introducing an amendment to the bill that repeals those benefit requirements.

Limiting defections

The House Freedom Caucus, some 30 lawmakers who are heirs-apparent to the ultra-conservative Tea Party movement, have dubbed the new bill “Obamacare Lite,” saying it will only reduce, not eliminate, health coverage subsidies by replacing them with refundable tax credits.

At the spectrum’s other end some Republican moderates are worried their constituents would no longer be able to afford health insurance under the new plan.

The amendment also provides a sweetener for moderates: it keeps an Obamacare tax on high-income earners for an additional six years to generate some $15 billion to finance patient benefits.

A nonpartisan congressional budget estimate says the Republican plan would force 14 million Americans to lose their coverage from next year.

An update of that estimate Thursday, accounting for recent changes aimed at lowering premium costs for the elderly, said the plan would reduce the deficit by less than the previous version, while not improving coverage numbers.

The Democratic minority is prepared to vote against the bill as a bloc, so Republican leaders need to limit defections to fewer than 22 of their party’s 237 representatives among the House’s 430 current members.

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