Trump signals Mueller cooperation fading

US President Donald Trump has attacked the team in the Russian investigation in a series of tweets.US President Donald Trump is signalling a more confrontational legal strategy against Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, dismissing it as an investigation into a “made up, phony crime”.

The cooperative approach in dealing with special counsel Mueller’s investigation, as had been advocated by Trump’s legal team for months, appears to have gone by the wayside judging by a series of almost a dozen tweets from Trump.

The tweets also reveal Trump’s anxiety about how the Russia probe could sway voters as they decide whether to keep congressional Republicans in power or force him to face an aggressive Democratic majority.

Trump’s new lawyer, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, has used a string of media appearances to cast the probe as a “totally garbage investigation”.

Giuliani has also questioned whether Trump would be treated fairly by Mueller’s prosecutors if he were to agree to an interview.

No decision has been made on whether Trump will be interviewed, but a person familiar with the situation said the legal team hopes to resolve that by May 17, which marks one year since Mueller’s appointment.

Mueller’s team is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US election and possible coordination with Trump associates as well as whether the president obstructed justice. So far, the special counsel’s office has charged 19 people – including four Trump campaign advisers – and three Russian companies.

On Monday, Trump seized on Giuliani’s message, focusing on what he sees as the conflicts of interest on Mueller’s team.

“The 13 Angry Democrats in charge of the Russian Witch Hunt are starting to find out that there is a Court System in place that actually protects people from injustice…and just wait ’till the Courts get to see your unrevealed Conflicts of Interest!” he wrote.

Trump appeared to be drawing attention to a federal judge’s questioning last week of Mueller’s authority in a case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. But it was unclear what legal action Trump was referring to that would touch on “unrevealed” conflicts of interest.

Mueller is a longtime Republican, but some members of his team have made political contributions to Democrats, including to Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic opponent in the 2016 election.

Mueller could not have barred them from serving on the team based solely on their political contributions. Federal regulations and Justice Department policy prohibit the consideration of political affiliation in hiring and other personnel actions involving career attorneys.

Mueller’s investigation has operated largely in secrecy with the public only getting glimpses into its operation through witnesses who are questioned or when indictments and guilty pleas are publicly unsealed.

It’s unclear when the investigation will conclude, a fact that Trump seized on as he worried that it could affect Republican chances in the November midterm elections.

“Is this Phony Witch Hunt going to go on even longer so it wrongfully impacts the Mid-Term Elections, which is what the Democrats always intended?” Trump tweeted. “Republicans better get tough and smart before it is too late.”

Origin’s plan to double its hydro power at Shoalhaven

A $250 million plan for pumped hydro energy generation near Illawarra could provide baseload renewable power for up to 80,000 homes.

Origin Energy on Monday revealed more detail on its plans to double its pumped hydro storage power in New South Wales’ Illawarra region to take advantage of rapidly falling renewable energy costs.

t is considering two potential options for expanding its Shoalhaven pumped hydro storage power station, which could power another 80,000 homes, and potentially come online around the same time energy rival AGL plans to shut down the Liddell coal-fired power station.

Origin CEO Frank Calabria wants to double the output of the Shoalhaven hydro power station.

Origin chief executive Frank Calabria said while the government’s electricity reform policy, the National Energy Guarantee, would provide great certainty for renewable projects such as this, Shoalhaven’s expansion would not hinge on it.

“We will test a variety of scenarios for Shoalhaven because we don’t know when the National Energy Guarantee is coming in, we don’t know the timing,” Mr Calabria said.

“We will also test a variety of scenarios including Liddell [leaving the market] and that will be one consideration for what we will look at but the project won’t turn on these.”

The company announced two different potential plans for the expansion of its Shoalhaven facility on Mondayand that it could invest up to $250 million at the cost of around $1 million a megawatt.

235MW of additional pump storage generationUnderground station utilising the entire water head available from the Fitzroy Falls Reservoir

The first, cheaper, expansion option would add around 160 megawatts of additional pump storage capacity by building a new turbine generator and adding another pipe and tunnel to transport more water.

This option would fulfil the original stage two expansion that was planned for the site when the Shoalhaven facility was built in 1977.

During the initial construction, infrastructure was built to accommodate this expansion, however, it was never built and it was not considered economically viable until now, Origin said.

That had changed thanks to the growth of wind and solar power and the need for greater reliable power to support this more intermittent generation.

The second choice would create a new 235-megawatt pumped storage generator by drilling underneath the Bendeela dam, near the Fitzroy Falls, bypassing the existing Kangaroo Valley pumped hydro generator.

Mr Calabria told Fairfax Media the expansion project would have a relatively short construction and approvals time frame because there is already transmission infrastructure to take the power to the grid, avoiding the need for additional paperwork.

The company preferred the second option, building a new underground pumping and power station, which would take Shoalhaven’s total generation capacity up to roughly around 500 megawatts, Origin executive general manager for energy supply and operations Greg Jarvis said.

Origin Energy Frank Calabria, chief executive of Origin Energy (right) and Greg Jarvis, executive general manager, energy supply and operations inspecting the Bendeela power station.

This would make it the second largest pumped hydro storage power station in , roughly equal to CS Energy’s Wivenhoe hydro generation operation in Queensland but still behind Snowy Hydro.

Origin said it had to choose one option or the other as doing both an expansion of the dams and greater capacity which posed environmental and engineering issues.

“We’re trying to work within our existing footprint,” Origin said.

Origin is currently undertaking a $5 million feasibility study and working with the n Renewable Energy Agency on funding for the project.

It is understood that around 100 new construction jobs would be created if the company were to carry out Option B, with a handful of additional fulltime equivalent roles created.


Rebels rake Charles eyes Wallabies recall

Rebels recruit Nathan Charles is in the frame for Wallabies selection given the low hooker stocks.While he’s craving some sunshine after three successive winters, Melbourne Rebels hooker Nathan Charles is ready and waiting should he be required for Wallabies duty in June.

Charles arrived at Melbourne as injury cover only a week ago and found himself on the bench for their Super Rugby clash with the Crusaders last Friday.

The 29-year-old is planning a reunion with his Perth-based professional netballer wife Verity in June somewhere hot but will happily put that on hold.

With first-choice Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau playing in the UK and Rebels rising star Jordan Uelese injured, the race for the No.2 jersey for next month’s three-Test series against Ireland is wide open.

Charles could be a bolter to take on the Six Nations champions given his recent European experience.

Charles played four Tests for the Wallabies in 2014 with his Test career stalling after he ripped his pectoral muscle off the bone.

He would love another chance.

“I’ll always put my hand up if I get the opportunity,” he said.

“I was really upset with the way my last international game finished with injury.

“I still feel like I’ve got the ability to perform at that level.”

Charles said his time spent playing for Clermont in France and UK clubs Bath and Wasps had made him a better player.

“In Europe they use set piece as a weapon every opportunity they can and that takes some adjusting to,” he said.

“My knowledge of the game has improved because I have a different perspective and I’ve come back a happier player too.

“I really enjoyed my time on and off the field so all around I’m in a better place.”

While he still harbours Test ambitions, Charles said his priority was helping the Rebels snap their five-game losing streak when they take on the Brumbies in Canberra on Sunday.

“I think the boys will bounce back; they’ve got the players and depth,” he said.

“We all know how big a challenge it will be against the Brumbies but also how important it is to win these conference games.

“From the result they had against the Brumbies in the first round I think we can really go there and turn it on.”

Asbestos claimant in tears before court

An asbestos exposure victim seeking almost $6 million in compensation from James Hardie has broken down in tears while talking about what will happen to his sick wife once he’s gone.

Queenslander Syd Lacey developed terminal mesothelioma during his work with company products while employed as a carpenter in the 1970s and ’80s.

The 73-year-old is suing James Hardie for $5.9 million, most of which his lawyers say will be used to help care for his wife Marion once he can’t and ultimately dies.

On the opening day of the case on Tuesday, Brisbane Supreme Court heard video evidence from the Laceys recorded at their Noosaville home in April.

Mr Lacey, who is undergoing a new medical trial to help treat his disease, described the 24-hour care he provides to his wife who has epilepsy, anxiety and is profoundly deaf.

While reading out diary entries about her seizures, Mr Lacey said over the years she had broken several bones, suffered third-degree burns and cut her face.

“She won’t have a shower unless I’m sitting on a stool in the bathroom,” he said.

“When she says ‘Syd’, I just don’t get there quick enough. That’s why now I’m just there all the time.”

Under cross-examination he broke down in tears at the prospect of what would happen when he was no longer able or present to take care of Mrs Lacey.

“What happens when I go”, he asked. “When I’m here she knows she’s safe.”

Mrs Lacey said her husband helped her with everything from dressing to housework and shopping.

When asked how she raised two children when her husband worked, she said the frequency of the seizures had increased since they were young.

Mrs Lacey also started crying when she spoke about what triggered her anxiety.

“All that’s happening with Syd,” she said.

“The doctor said ‘you’d be lucky to live six months’…who am I going to go to?”

James Hardie, now known as Amaca Pty Ltd, has conceded it is liable for Mr Lacey’s illness.

But in dispute is how much it should pay the couple in damages and for the ongoing care of Mrs Lacey as a result of his reduced life expectancy.

Mr Lacey’s barrister Michael Grant-Taylor QC said Mrs Lacey’s medical problems were at the heart of the compensation claim.

Justice David Boddice asked if it was therefore a case based largely on “moral obligation”.

“There are elements of morality in the obligation of a spouse to extend care and services as appropriate,” Mr Grant-Taylor said.

Maurice Blackburn lawyers, representing Mr Lacey, say if successful the case could set a precedent.

Principal Jonathan Walsh said the retired carpenter was also seeking exemplary damages that recognise James Hardie’s alleged “reckless indifference” in continuing to sell asbestos products it knew could be deadly.

Tigers hope Leichhardt magic ends slump

Russell Packer is a certainty to return from a knee injury for Wests Tigers’ NRL clash on Thursday.The Wests Tigers are hoping their first home game at Leichhardt Oval will snap them out of a worrying form slump that has them on the cusp of dropping out of the NRL top eight.

After winning five of their opening six matches, the bubble has burst on the early-season surprise packets with three straight losses.

However the return of co-captain Russell Packer, as well as veteran Benji Marshall’s first home game at Leichhardt since leaving the club in 2014, could be just the tonic for Ivan Cleary’s side.

Their losing streak has coincided with a knee injury that forced Packer out of the past four matches.

“When you can’t affect the result, it’s always harder to watch. But coming back this Thursday I’ve got the opportunity to try and help and do my role for the team,” Packer said on Tuesday.

“I’m looking forward to playing again and moreso running out onto Leichhardt Oval for the first time as a Wests Tiger. I can’t wait for that.”

After the Tigers scored shock wins over Melbourne twice, the Sydney Roosters and Parramatta over the opening six weeks, Packer admitted the side may have gotten swept up in their success.

He implored his teammates to switch their focus back to a defence that leaked less than 10 points a game up until round six, and then 24 points over their current losing run.

“Just because you start the season well doesn’t give you the right to keep winning,” he said.

“I think maybe we’ve fallen into that trap a little bit where maybe we’re expecting to win games that we probably should’ve.

“When we started the season, our style of play was built on our defence and working hard for each other. We can look at that and try and use those characteristics as a building block.”

Second-rower Michael Chee Kam said Cleary believed the team had been guilty of ill-discipline and strayed from a defensive game plan that had the team humming early in the year.

“We take it as a wake-up call. No better place to turn it around than Leichhardt this week,” he said.

Tigers co-captain Chris Lawrence is the only injury worry for the Cowboys game due to concussion.