Ipswich sacking unlikely to be repeated

Stirling Hinchliffe says he’d sack another Queensland council if he needed to.The move to sack Ipswich City Council was “extraordinary” but Queensland’s Local Government Minister says he would do it again with another council if he needed to.

The government passed special laws to sack the council after 15 councillors and staff, including former mayors Paul Pisasale and Andrew Antoniolli, were charged with a total of 86 corruption-related offences.

Mr Hinchliffe repeated his claim on Wednesday that the decision to sack the council was the last resort.

However with the Crime and Corruption Commission actively investigating other councils, he conceded if there was another circumstance as bad as Ipswich he could be forced to act.

“If you saw exactly the same circumstances (as Ipswich) it would only be logical that the response would be very similar,” Mr Hinchliffe said on Wednesday.

“I don’t forsee that happening- I want to make sure we work with local government to improve the reforms going on in local government now.”

From Thursday, Ipswich will be run by a sole administrator with all the powers and responsibilities of the mayor and 10 councillors.

Greg Chemello, formerly the general manager of state government planning body Economic Development Queensland, will almost single-handedly administer the council for the next 19 months, until the next local government elections in 2020.

He’ll be advised by a five-member panel of fellow business and planning experts but will be the only decision maker.

Mr Chemello said on Wednesday his first priority would be to meet personally with all of council’s 1200-odd staff.

“I think they have had a very tough time … so my job over the next few days is getting out and speaking with staff, reassuring them there is a way forward,” he said.

Mr Chemello does not live in Ipswich and says he’ll commute to work from Brisbane for the 19 months he’s responsible for the city.

Cook to reignite running game

Have NRL teams finally figured out how to quell the running brilliance of Damien Cook?

The South Sydney dummy-half has been kept quiet over the last fortnight with the Sydney Roosters and Brisbane shutting down the NSW Origin No.9 on their way to important wins.

On the eve of the finals, the explosive Rabbitohs No.9 has had his metres halved over the last two weeks – though the man himself says there’s more to his game than just running.

Cook has been arguably the most improved footballer of this year’s NRL, playing a leading hand in the Blues’ series win and is third favourite for the Dally M.

According to Fox Sports Stats, he has averaged 93 metres a game this year.

That’s well above any other hooker – with the Warriors’ Issac Luke (65m) and St George Illawarra’s Cameron McInnes (59m) trailing in his wake.

However against the Roosters and Broncos, he averaged just 58m and 53m respectively – by far his lowest run totals of the year.

“I guess they have been limited (the running metres in the last two weeks) but they’re still up,” Cook said.

“I guess they’re just not as good as what they have been at times.

“A lot of my work comes off the good forward pack I have, so I’ve got to make sure I get them around the park and I’m doing my job to bring myself into the game.

“One thing I don’t do is running for the sake of running, make sure it’s the right option for the team at the right time.”

Cook is now looking to put the icing on a career year with a grand final win with the Rabbitohs.

The 27-year-old has played in just two finals games – at Canterbury in 2015 when he was thrown into the side after a season-ending knee injury to Michael Lichaa in round 23.

“It did spur me on,” Cook said of his first taste of finals footy.

“We had some key injuries in good players going into the finals and we really believed we could have gone into the finals and won the comp that year.

“Playing those finals games, I’ll know what to expect.”

I feared Penrith would sign JT: NQ boss

Rugby union may have tempted Johnathan Thurston but Peter Parr only ever feared North Queensland would lose their prized playmaker when NRL rivals Penrith came “hard” in 2013.

Ahead of his final home game for North Queensland on Friday, retirement-bound Thurston dropped the bombshell that back in 2010 he was tempted by lucrative rugby offers from clubs in France and Japan.

Cowboys football director Parr says he never believed believe Thurston would change codes because he felt rugby wouldn’t satisfy him.

However, Parr – the man who lured Thurston from Canterbury to North Queensland back in 2005 – was genuinely concerned his champion signing would walk when the Panthers came knocking five years ago.

“When push came to shove I didn’t think he would go to rugby union,” Parr told AAP.

“I didn’t think that would satisfy his competitive streak.

“The closest I thought he might have gone was when Penrith went after him hard.

“I was concerned then that the pulling power of the Panthers and Gus Gould and his friends might have got him over the line.

“We ended up winning that battle thankfully.”

Parr said 35-year-old Thurston may have extended his career if he had switched to rugby.

“He could have gone for a lot more money and played a lot less games in a competition that was a lot less physical and potentially could have played longer,” Parr said.

“But he has been very loyal.”

Parr hoped the Cowboys would reward Thurston with a home farewell to remember on Friday night.

Dead-last North Queensland are desperate to send out Thurston a winner and avoid the wooden spoon, giving an extra edge to making Friday’s clash with second-last Parramatta at 1300 Smiles Stadium.

But Parr said Thurston’s 17-season career would not be defined by their disappointing season finish.

“It’s been an incredible journey and career. What will be will be, but it won’t take away what he has achieved,” he said.

“For everything that he has done for the club and region there is no way whatever happens … it won’t define his career.

“We will ensure we give him the best send off, the way he deserves.”

Hawaii prepares for approaching hurricane

Hurricane Lane is churning slowly towards Hawaii as schools, government offices and business close and residents stock up on supplies and boarded up homes.

A direct hit could bring the US Pacific island state’s worst storm in a quarter century, forecasters said.

Lane packed sustained winds of up to 230km/h and could dump as much as 50cm of rain that could trigger flash floods and landslides, the National Weather Service said.

Lane – classified as a powerful Category 4 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength – was expected to hit the Big Island overnight and slam the island of Maui on Thursday, according to the service.

To the north, Oahu was under a hurricane warning while Kauai remained on hurricane watch meaning it could face similar conditions starting Friday morning.

Governor David Ige urged residents to prepare for the worst by setting aside a 14-day supply of water, food and medicines.

He also announced that all public schools, University of Hawaii campuses and non-essential government offices on the islands of Oahu and Kauai would be closed for at least two days starting on Thursday.

The shelves of a downtown Honolulu Walmart were stripped of items ranging from canned tuna to dog food. Shoppers jostled with one another to get the last boxes of ramen noodles.

City residents used carts to push cases of bottled water and coolers full of ice, after warnings of possible power outages and evacuations.

Cars waited in long lines at gasoline stations in Honolulu and people could be seen pulling small boats from the water ahead of Lane’s expected storm surge.

US President Donald Trump directed FEMA and administration officials to remain in close coordination with the state.

US Navy ships and submarines based in Hawaii were instructed to leave port, a common practice as a hurricane approaches to avoid damage.

As of 7pm (AEST) the storm was centred 380 km south-southwest of Kailua-Kona, the weather service said.

The outer bands of the storm were already dumping 2 to 7cm an hour of rain on parts of the Big Island as the eastern side of the island was under a flash flood warning.

The most powerful storm on record to hit Hawaii was Hurricane Iniki, a Category 4 storm that made landfall on Kauai island on September 11, 1992, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

It killed six people and damaged or destroyed more than 14,000 homes.

Trump fires back after Cohen accusation

US President Donald Trump is accusing his former lawyer Michael Cohen of lying under pressure of prosecution as the White House grapples with allegations that Trump orchestrated a campaign plan to buy the silence of two women who claim to have had affairs with him.

Amid mounting legal and political threats, Trump took to Twitter to accuse Cohen – who pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges, including campaign finance violations on Tuesday – of making up “stories in order to get a ‘deal”‘ from federal prosecutors.

Cohen told prosecutors the violations were coordinated by both himself and Trump.

Behind closed doors Trump has expressed concern that Cohen, who has intimate knowledge of his political, personal and business dealings, had turned on him.

No clear strategy has yet come out of the White House for managing the fallout with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisting Trump had done nothing wrong and was not the subject of criminal charges.

Trump publicly denied any wrongdoing in an interview on “Fox & Friends” set to air on Thursday, in which he argues, incorrectly, that the hush-money payouts weren’t “even a campaign violation” because he subsequently reimbursed Cohen for the payments personally instead of with campaign funds.

Federal law restricts how much individuals can donate to a campaign, bars corporations from making direct contributions and requires the disclosure of transactions.

On Tuesday Cohen said he secretly used shell companies to make payments used to silence former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film actress Stormy Daniels for the purpose of influencing the 2016 election.

Trump has insisted that he only found out about the payments after they were made, despite the release of a September 2016 taped conversation in which Trump and Cohen can be heard discussing a deal to pay McDougal for her story of a 2006 affair she says she had with Trump.

The White House denied the president had lied, with Sanders calling the assertion “ridiculous” but offered no explanation for Trump’s shifting accounts.

As Trump vented his frustration, White House aides sought to project calm as they absorbed almost simultaneous announcements on Tuesday of the Cohen plea deal and the conviction of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on financial charges.

Manafort faces trial on separate charges in September in the District of Columbia that include acting as a foreign agent.

That Cohen was in trouble was no surprise – federal prosecutors raided his offices months ago – but Trump and his allies were caught off-guard when he also pleaded guilty to campaign finance crimes, which, for the first time, took the swirling criminal probes directly to the president.

Both cases resulted, at least in part, from the work of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s attempts to sway voters in the 2016 election.

“The only thing that I have done wrong,” Trump tweeted late Wednesday, “is to win an election that was expected to be won by Crooked Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. The problem is, they forgot to campaign in numerous states!”

Meanwhile, Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, said on Wednesday Cohen has information “that would be of interest” to the special counsel.

“There are subjects that Michael Cohen could address that would be of interest to the special counsel,” Davis said in a series of television interviews. Davis also said Cohen is not looking for a presidential pardon.

Trump, in turn, praised Manafort as “a brave man!” raising speculation the former campaign operative could become the recipient of a pardon.

Manafort, Trump wrote, had “tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break.”‘