Trump worried about ‘big monster’ Irma

President Donald Trump has called Hurricane Irma “some big monster” as it batters the Florida coast, saying he wants to go to the state very soon and praising emergency officials for their efforts to protect people.

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“The bad news is that this is some big monster,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Sunday, saying damage from the storm would be very costly.

“Right now, we are worried about lives, not cost,” Trump said after returning from Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland where he monitored the storm and met with his Cabinet.

The path of the storm, tracking the west coast of Florida, meant it might be less destructive than it would otherwise have been, Trump said, noting the next five or six hours would be critical.

“I hope there aren’t too many people in the path,” he said. “You don’t want to be in that path.”

Trump said the US Coast Guard had been heroic and that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was doing a good job to help coordinate the response with states. He added, however: “I think the hard part is now beginning.”

Trump has offered the full resources of the federal government to Florida and the affected states, Vice President Mike Pence told reporters during a visit to FEMA’s Washington headquarters on Sunday.

“Wherever Hurricane Irma goes, we’ll be there first,” Pence said. “We’ll be there with resources and support, both to save lives and to help to recover and rebuild these states and these communities.”

On Sunday, Trump also issued a disaster declaration for Puerto Rico, and expanded federal funds available to the US Virgin Islands in the aftermath of Irma, the White House said.

Trump owns a resort in Palm Beach, Florida, where he has often travelled during his presidency, as well as three golf courses in the state.

“We’re going to Florida very soon,” Trump said.

Taumalolo says he made Gal "eat his words"

Jason Taumalolo says North Queensland made Cronulla captain Paul Gallen “eat his words” in Sunday’s pulsating 15-14 elimination NRL final victory.

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Gallen accused the Cowboys of “crying poor” in the lead up to the match over their hefty injury toll – which included co-captains and Test stars Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott.

But the Cowboys had the last laugh when halfback Michael Morgan slotted over a 15-metre field goal in extra time, to end the Sharks’ premiership defence.

And Taumalolo, who looks up to Gallen and his longevity in the game, didn’t hesitate to hit back with some tongue in cheek when reminded of the barbs after the match.

“That’s Gal trying to get under our skin but it obviously didn’t really get to the boys’ heads,” Taumalolo said.

“It was a great battle and I think we were fortunate enough to get that win and make Gal eat his words a bit.”

Taumalolo and Gallen were both pillars of strengths for their respective teams at Allianz Stadium.

In performances that befitted the recent battles between the pair, Gallen posted a team-high 191 metres and 48 tackles in the middle for the Sharks while Taumalolo chalked up 242 running metres and scored a second-half try.

“As a player, you want to play against the best and tonight was no different,” Taumalolo said.

“Running into them both (Gallen and Andrew Fifita) a few times in the game was pretty good. The adrenaline rush was pumping a bit when you’re caught up in a battle in the middle.

“I have nothing but respect for both players”

Taumalolo’s effort was his 11th 200-plus-metre game of the season, while two quick play-the-balls in the lead up to Morgan’s field goal helped ice the match and book the Cowboys a semi-final date with Parramatta next Saturday in Sydney.

But he admitted he still admired the performances Gallen was churning out at age 36 – the oldest of any player in the NRL.

Gallen re-signed with Cronulla until the end of next season earlier this year, but has shown no signs of letting up his workload any time soon.

And 24-year-old Taumalolo – who signed a record 10-year deal with North Queensland in March – said he could only hope he’d still be at a similar level come the end of his career.

“He’s still making us young boys look a bit stupid at times with the crazy stats,” he said.

“With his age he’s still making 200-odd metres and 40 something tackles.

“That’s just typical of Gal, the way he’s playing. He could play another five or six years, he’s just one of those ageless players and hopefully we’ll see him play for another few seasons.”

AGL boss in Canberra for power chat

The federal government will try again to convince AGL boss Andy Vesey to keep one of the energy company’s coal-fired power stations operating.

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Mr Vesey will be in Canberra on Monday for the meeting with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg.

The government wants AGL to keep its Liddell power station in NSW online beyond 2022 – or sell it – after the energy market operator said it needed to stay open for the stability of the electricity system.

“The reality is AGL relies heavily on coal … AGL get about 85 per cent of their power generation from coal,” Mr Frydenberg told Sky News on Sunday.

Mr Vesey has previously said AGL is getting out of coal and Liddell would close in five years time when its operating life ends.

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The company said they had advised its closure in April 2015 to avoid the volatility created by the sudden exit from the National Electricity Market of other coal-fired power stations.

“Keeping old coal plants open won’t deliver the reliable, affordable energy our customers need,” he tweeted last week.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten accused Mr Turnbull of trying to shift the blame for the country’s energy problem.

“We are in the midst of an energy crisis and it’s inconceivable Malcolm Turnbull is refusing to pull the gas export control trigger,” he said in a statement.

Mr Shorten said Mr Turnbull’s government has had four years to come up with a solution and the buck stopped with him.

“If he doesn’t fix this crisis as he’s promised, Australians will have every right to blame Malcolm Turnbull for each and every blackout this summer.”

Same-sex marriage: Ad restrictions deal close as ABS prepares to post first ballot papers

With the High Court challenge to the survey now settled, the government and Labor are trying to agree on a series of rules for the campaign.

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The Australian Bureau of Statistics will begin posting ballot papers from tomorrow.

The ‘YES’ and ‘NO’ campaigns will run another two months before the deadline for responses on November 7.

Labor’s shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the negotiations would continue on Monday, as parliament resumes for another sitting week.

“Labor has asked the government to include a provision that would ban vilification, hate speech,” Mr Dreyfus told ABC Radio on Monday morning.

“It looks at this stage like the government’s prepared to agree to that.”

“We haven’t yet hit on the final form of words.”

0:00 Thousands have rallied across Australia for marriage equality Share Thousands have rallied across Australia for marriage equality

The special bill for advertising restrictions is needed because the postal survey is not a formal election and falls outside the normal rules contained in the Electoral Act.

Besides anti-vilification rules, there will likely be authorisation provisions that will force advertisers to sign their name to ad material.

Anti-bribery and anti-fraud provisions are also expected, Mr Dreyfus said. 

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