Bird-Smith impresses in 20km Beijing walk

Bird-Smith impresses in 20km Beijing walk

Australian Dane Bird-Smith has overcome a mid-race bingle and an upset stomach to finish eighth in the 20km race at the world athletics championships, confirming his status as the next big thing in Australian walking.

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Bird-Smith, 23, was among a group of several walkers who crashed over a flower bed in the middle of the course at the 12km mark.

But he was able to regroup, passing a host of competitors in the final few kilometres to claim eighth spot in a time of one hour, 21 minutes and 37 seconds, three places better than on his world titles debut two years ago in Moscow.

Multiple world and Olympic medallist Jared Tallent was back in 27th spot, with his best shot of a podium finish to come in Saturday’s 50km race.

With the dominant Russian walkers all absent following a string of positive drug tests, Spaniard Miguel Angel Lopez took gold in 1:19:14 ahead of China’s Zhen Wang and Benjamin Thorne from Canada.

But Bird-Smith served notice that he will be among the walkers to watch in this event at the 2016 Olympics.

“This is where now I can fight it out on the crap days and I can bring a top eight,” he said.

“With another year of training under the belt, maybe get some altitude work done and I can pull into that top five and maybe medal, that is what I want.

“It is Rio, it is going to be the big one, these boys had better earn it, otherwise I am there.”

The key moment of Sunday’s race for Bird-Smith came at the 12km mark when a Japanese competitor cut in front of him, causing several walkers to fall over and costing them at least 15 seconds.

“It was all A over T, that was a bit of a bungle but we got through it,” said Bird-Smith.

“The knee is a little bit sore.

“But stuff can go wrong and you have to fight through it.

“It’s always going to happen and you have to show some character.”

Bird-Smith also suffered an upset stomach early in the race on a hot, steamy morning in Beijing.

“It was just one of those days for me,” he said.

“Murphy’s Law strikes again, everything that could go wrong did.

“The gut was gone at about 10 kilometres, and the legs and I took the massive tumble.”

Despite finishing back in 27th spot – six places ahead of the third Australian – Chris Erickson – Tallent felt he could still be a contender in his favoured longer event.

“The pace is totally different for the 50K,” he said.

“Today I felt like I could go forever, I just couldn’t go any faster.

“I probably didn’t finish off as well as I thought I could, mentally I was struggling a bit.

“But I am looking forward to next week.”

Tsipras’ second chance: Greece to hold elections

Tsipras’ second chance: Greece to hold elections

My prediction is that this number is not going to change anytime soon.

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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has resigned and called for new elections in a bid to consolidate his power and push through the country’s bailout deal.

Odds are Tsipras will emerge a winner in the elections, expected to take place on September 20. This is not a testament to his leadership skills, but rather due to the vacuum of leadership in Greek politics. Opposition parties, such as New Democracy and PASOK, have been completely discredited because of their disastrous management of the country over the last 40 years.

Only the centrist To Potami party could emerge as a competitor to Syriza. As they say – keep your enemies close. So, if Tsipras does not emerge as a clear winner to form a government on his own, I expect him to form a coalition government with To Potami.

Either way, the new elections give Tsipras another chance to get Greece’s financial house in order.

How we got here

Seven months ago, I suggested that the Greek government’s actions – or inactions – would destroy an enormous amount of value. Unfortunately, I was right.

My conservative estimate is that the average Greek employee would need to work an additional year and a half to make up for the value in the economy destroyed in the last year.

One can arrive at this conclusion by analyzing data from the Athens Stock Exchange, IMF, Bank of Greece, Eurostat, OECD and European Commission. €30 billion was lost in government bank holdings held in the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund. Another €13 billion was lost in non-bank equity holdings. From the €26 billion recorded by the IMF in non-financial assets held for privatization, about €10 billion of value has been destroyed. The sum is €53 billion in losses.

 

Greek voters are going to be headed back to the polls. Marko Djurica/REUTERS

 

One also needs to account for opportunity costs due to sources such as lost tax revenue and increases in unemployment benefits. This is difficult to estimate, but one simple calculation for the former would be to assume that a 5% GDP contraction would proportionately contract tax revenues by the ratio of tax revenues to GDP, which in 2013 was close to 33%. Given a GDP of €180 billion this would translate into another €3 billion of losses.

Of course actual tax losses could be much higher if GDP losses persist for multiple years. Even ignoring this loss as well as increases in unemployment benefits and any potential losses from the new bank recapitalization, €56 billion of losses have been incurred.

This amounts to €16,000 per each of Greece’s approximately 3.5m workers.

With an average net wage close to €900 this amounts to a full 18 months of hard work.

How to undo the damage

This value destruction can be reversed if Greece changes its focus.

Greece needs a turnaround and with any turnaround strategy focus is key. Where milk or bread is sold or whether stores will open on Sundays is not going to put Greece in a trajectory of growth. The IMF and the European partners are dead wrong, in my view, to focus on these issues instead of the elephant in the room.

The elephant in the room is the public sector which has a budget of close to €80 billion and 650,000 employees.

Increasing accountability and improving governance in the public sector could have massive economic consequences because it could restore confidence and trust in the country.

A 100-day plan

Here is one 100-day plan on how to achieve this:

    The Greek government can increase the transparency and management of its assets and liabilities by reporting an up-to-date balance sheet of its accounts (which is currently does not). Thus, it should adopt accrual accounting and International Public Sector Accounting Standards. Within 30 days the government should then report its net debt position under international standards. This is much lower than the frequently reported gross debt number that uses nominal value. The former is lower than 50% of GDP while the latter is close to 180%.

    The government should then relentlessly educate credit rating agencies that its net debt does not justify such a low credit rating. Having secured European Stability Mechanism financing and having such a low net debt number justifies a better credit rating. A BB credit rating would be perfectly possible within 100 days.

    The government should do whatever is necessary for Greek government bonds to be included in the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing program. This will improve liquidity and set the foundation for economic growth.

    With a commitment to transparency, a better credit rating, and being part of ECB’s quantitative easing, my estimate is that 10-year Greek government bonds could trade close to 3% yield within 100 days. Now they trade close to 10%. This would open the doors for Greece to tap the market and issue a bond.

    Within this sequence of events it would not be unrealistic to expect a 50% increase in the Athens Stock Exchange index leading to a gain of approximately €15 billion.

Greece used to have GDP-per-capita levels almost double that of the poorest countries in the European Union. Now it has just 20% higher than them.

New elections will give Tsipras a second opportunity to reverse that trend. Let’s hope he does not waste it again.

George Serafeim does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

Union inquiry cleaning up economy: Cormann

Union inquiry cleaning up economy: Cormann

Government frontbencher Mathias Cormann has declined to offer advice to royal commissioner Dyson Heydon on whether he should step down.

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Mr Heydon, who is presiding over the royal commission into union corruption, is considering his position after the unions accused him of perceived bias.

Their allegations follow his initial agreement to address a Liberal function – an invitation he later declined.

Asked on Ten Network on Sunday whether Mr Heydon should quit, Senator Cormann said: “I’m not going to give him advice.

“He’s considering these matters. He’s obviously a highly distinguished Australian. He has a great reputation for integrity.”

Mr Heydon is expected to hand down his decision on whether he will stay in the role or resign on Tuesday.

Senator Cormann said the commission had been discovering “very concerning stuff” and this was all part of cleaning up sections of the economy so Australia could continue to grow and create more jobs.

“Obviously union corruption hurts our economy. It costs jobs, it imposes massive additional costs across the economy,” the finance minister said.

Labor is continuing its attacks on the commission and on Mr Heydon’s apparent conflict of interest.

Labor workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor believes the soft approach given to disgraced former union boss Kathy Jackson by the commission highlights its bias.

The Federal Court ordered last week that union whistleblower Jackson pay back $1.4 million to the Health Services Union after it found she misused funds.

“The way in which (the commission) treated Kathy Jackson as a witness with kid gloves compared to other witnesses illustrates the bias I think the council assisting the commissioner has shown towards witnesses,” Mr O’Connor told Sky News.

Catalan win despite Ben Pomeroy send-off

Catalan win despite Ben Pomeroy send-off

Ben Pomeroy’s sending off threw the game wide open for Castleford Tigers but coach Daryl Powell admits his side lacked a spark against Catalan Dragons – even with a man advantage.

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Pomeroy had a moment of madness in the first half as the former Cronulla centre grabbed Ashley Gibson around the waist and threw him over his head.

Gibson was stretchered off in a neck brace and Pomeroy received his second successive red card, but former NRL men Todd Carney, Zeb Taia, and Jeff Lima had all crossed for the Dragons in a frenetic start.

Ultimately Castleford could not turn the ship around and secure their third Super 8s win in a row, a 44-26 defeat leaving them one spot behind the semi-final places in fifth.

“We had such a poor start and had too many people off their game,” said Powell.

“Catalans were excellent and fully deserved to be 20-0 in front before we even looked like scoring. Performance-wise we were really off.

“I still thought we could win at half-time. It was obviously tough for both sides with them having a man sent off and us losing players through injuries.”

Chris Sandow proclaimed he was ready to ‘smash some pies’ in a video stunt before his Warrington Wolves home debut – but it only proved extra incentive for Shaun Wane’s Wigan Warriors as they secured a 28-0 victory.

Sandow, who made the switch from Parramatta Eels last month, didn’t live up to expectations – Matt Bowen instead orchestrating a fine Wigan performance.

It gives the Warriors a three-point buffer in second, with four Super 8s games left before the top four progress to the semi-finals, and Wane admits it was a near-flawless performance.

“The players were motivated,” Wane said of Sandow’s remarks, which made reference to Wigan’s nickname as pie-eaters.

“I thank the Warrington marketing department for doing my job for me. A few of the players thought it was a bit disrespectful.

“We played well and put a lot of things together. Our defence was very impressive and that was the main focus for me.”

Leeds Rhinos however remain top of the Super League thanks to a 36-22 victory against Hull FC and coach Brian McDermott tipped his hat to Rob Burrow after the veteran scored the 200th try of his career.

Fences in Calais protect ministers – not refugees

Fences in Calais protect ministers – not refugees

The deal focuses almost exclusively on increasing security at the UK-French border, rather than helping the people living in makeshift tents in Calais.

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There are already two miles of high-security fencing to keep them from boarding lorries travelling through the Channel Tunnel but that does not seem to be enough.

Now the UK plans to buy more fencing, CCTV, flood lighting and infrared detection technology to secure the area. There will be a new “control and command centre” run jointly by British and French police that will “relentlessly pursue” people-smuggling gangs. An extra 500 police will be deployed including additional sniffer dogs to hunt down those described by the British prime minister David Cameron as a “swarm” trying to “break in to” the UK illegally.

According to a six-page joint declaration, UK Border Force officers will visit migrant camps to “correct any misapprehensions” about life in the UK and to provide a “more dissuasive and realistic sense of life for illegal migrants” entering the country. And there will be a push to “maximise the number of illegal migrants who return home” although it is not clear exactly how these people will be identified or where “home” might be.

The ‘crisis’ in Calais

It all reminds me of the Sangatte refugee crisis which dominated the media during the summer of 2002. At that time I was working at the Home Office and saw politicians scurrying around desperately in search of a solution in the face of endless newspaper stories about people trying to break into the tunnel from a base in Sangatte – where the tunnel’s cooling station is located. Then, as now, media and public anxiety seemed to drive the policy response.

Eventually, David Blunkett, the home secretary at the time, agreed to give work permits to 1,000 Iraqi Kurds and indefinite leave to 200 Afghans with close family connections in the UK. In return, his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy would ensure the Sangatte camp was closed.

 

Theresa May and French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve at the Calais tunnel. EPA/IanLangsdon

 

But times have changed. Over the past decade, public hostility towards refugees has grown. A recent poll found that nearly half of Britons do not think that those seeking safety from conflict or persecution should be welcomed in the UK, including those fleeing the current conflict in Syria.

According to the UN more than 4m people have fled to Syria’s immediate neighbours Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq and a further 6.5 million are internally displaced within Syria. Last year just 138,000 Syrians made it to Europe. European countries have pledged to resettle a further 33,000 Syrian refugees. The UK has offered shelter to just 187 of them.

British politicians seem happy to ignore this context. The view seems to be that everyone displaced by conflict and poverty is heading for the UK. In reality only a few thousand migrants have reached Calais. That’s about 1% of the more than 200,000 people who have landed in Italy and Greece so far this year.

Germany is expected to receive 800,000 asylum seekers this year – about four times the number it took last year and more than the total number received by all the other EU member states in 2014. Yet its politicians remain pragmatic. Commenting on the 800,000 projection Germany’s interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere said: “I don’t think this will overwhelm Germany. We can handle this.”

Self-absorbed

Propelled by a centre-right political agenda and a sense of its own self-importance, the UK appears to be working on the assumption that migrants are hell-bent on reaching the UK to exploit its benefits, jobs and a “soft-touch” asylum system.

Announcing plans to withdraw even basic levels of support for asylum seekers with children whose claims are refused, immigration minister James Brokenshire said this was to convey the message that the streets of the UK are not paved with gold, that this is not a “land of milk and honey”.

These assumptions go against all the evidence about why refugees risk everything to make the journey to Europe and why, when they arrive, a small proportion seeks protection in the UK rather than another EU member state.

 

Migrants at a camp near Calais. EPA/ZoltanBalogh

 

In nearly 25 years of research on international migration I have yet to meet an asylum seeker – or even an economic migrant – who wanted to come to the UK to claim benefits. The decision to leave a country is almost always more compelling than the choice about where to go. For most people fleeing persecution, the primary objective is to reach a place of safety. Many have little or no choice about where that place might be.

But having lost everything (job, home, family, friends) those who have sufficient financial and social resources hope ultimately to move to the place in which they can most easily rebuild their lives. And because existing social networks and connections have been disrupted by increasingly restrictive immigration regimes, they are forced to turn to agents and people smugglers who can help them to reach countries in which they speak the same language or have close family members who can help them to resettle, albeit at a cost.

All of this means that the deal signed in Calais yesterday is unlikely to be effective. Indeed May herself acknowledged that increased controls will probably only shift the migrants from Calais to other ports.

Remembering humanity

Just as importantly, focusing on controlling those who are forced to move rather than protecting them dehumanises people who are seeking safety and a better life for themselves and their families. It takes us one step closer to what we saw in Europe in the run-up to World War II.

Across Europe, metaphorical and concrete walls are being built to keep out those who have nowhere else to go. In Hungary a fence built by prison inmates will stretch across the length of country’s border with Serbia to prevent migrants entering from the Balkans. In Slovenia, the government has announced that it will resettle 200 Syrian refugees but those refugees have to be Christian.

During May’s visit to Calais, Cazeneuve said asylum seekers should be welcomed “with dignity” but that illegal immigrants would not be tolerated. Given that there are no legal entry routes for anyone who arrives in Calais it remains unclear how this distinction will be made.

Meanwhile dignity also appears to be in short supply. When people gathered at the New Jungle to protest against the measures they were dispersed by police using tear gas and batons. “We are humans, not animals” they cried. British and French politicians would do well to remember that.

Heaven Crawley has previously received funding from the Refugee Council for research on refugee journeys to the UK but this article does not necessarily represent their view. She is affiliated with Migrant Voice (trustee)

Spaniard Lopez beats Wang for walk gold

Spaniard Lopez beats Wang for walk gold

The 27-year-old European champion hung tough as a group of five Chinese walkers, led by Wang, tried to stretch the pace from the start but the group splintered under the strain and Lopez had enough stamina to hit the front in the closing stages.

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He passed Wang at the 18-km mark and pumped his fist in delight as he crossed the line in a personal best time of one hour 19 minutes 14 seconds, 15 seconds ahead of the Chinese, to become the first Spanish winner since Valenti Massana in 1993.

“This is the best moment of my life,” Lopez told reporters. “The course was complicated plus the heat. It was a tactical race but I kept my calm. My last 200 (metres) was an incredible sensation.

“I hoped the people of Spain watched me at three in the morning. They should see this unique moment of my life.”

Wang, 23, bronze medallist at the London Olympics three years ago, refused to be disappointed at his near miss.

He and a quartet of team mates had controlled the early fast pace but he opted to make a solo break at the 13-km mark, opening up a sizeable lead that looked to be enough for gold.

But a steely Lopez closed the gap at the 17km mark before overtaking an exhausted and grimacing Wang shortly after, powering home to the Bird’s Nest with the Chinese athlete unable to match the pace.

“It became tough toward the end as the race started to get rushed,” Wang said.

“I was not nervous but I felt some pressure as this competition takes place in China.”

Canada’s Ben Thorne took bronze, 43 seconds behind Lopez, while Ukraine’s Igor Glavan was fourth in a season’s best time of 1.20:29.

Cai Zelin, who had been part of the early Chinese front running group, was fifth despite stopping at the three quarter mark clutching his stomach and looking close to vomiting.

Olympic champion Ding Chen, another of the Chinese pace-setters, had to settle for ninth.

World record holder Yusuke Suzuki of Japan quit just after halfway through in ever-increasing heat in the Chinese capital.

(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by Ian Ransom)

Pat Howard opens up on Haddin axing

Pat Howard opens up on Haddin axing

Cricket Australia high performance boss Pat Howard says Brad Haddin was put on notice prior to the Ashes and players understood that form was behind the 37-year-old’s dumping as Test keeper.

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Haddin missed the second Test to spend time with his daughter in a London hospital.

National selectors opted to retain Peter Nevill for the next three Tests, effectively ending Haddin’s international career.

Coach Darren Lehmann noted it was based on Haddin’s poor form with the bat since the 2013-14 Ashes, describing it as the hardest cricket decision he’s made.

Ricky Ponting and Shane Warne were among a handful of vocal former players critical of the contentious call.

“You don’t have to agree or disagree,” Howard said, when asked if current players were unhappy with the way it was handled.

“That’s fine. But understand, that’s all you can ask.

“I understand the emotional connection with Hadds.

“He’s a really good bloke, a really good cornerstone of the side.

“You also understand … why they dropped him.”

Shane Watson and Haddin both played the opening Test but none of the next four.

Some have questioned the merits of changing tack after one match – not earlier or later.

Howard insisted both veterans had been forewarned.

“They were given a chance,” the former Wallabies centre said.

“I know all the conversations they’ve had with selectors, all the contract meetings in the lead up to this.

“Those conversations were had … ‘here’s the expectation, you need to deliver, here are your chances’.

“I fully support exactly what the selectors did in giving them opportunities, but we also have depth in those positions.”

Debate over selections in the showpiece series has been particularly feverish over the past four weeks.

Lehmann admitted it was a mistake to leave allrounder Mitch Marsh out of the XI for the fourth Test.

Peter Siddle’s performance in the dead rubber suggests he should have been given a chance earlier in the five-Test series.

“You never know in cricket because you don’t get to compare,” Howard said.

“Any other player could have been dropped in and could have done better or could have done worse.

“Every selection decision that has been made I completely understand why the decision’s been made.”

Cats will keep Motlop: Blicavs

Cats will keep Motlop: Blicavs

Geelong utility Mark Blicavs says he’s confident Steven Motlop will sign a new AFL deal to stay at the Cats.

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Geelong face an off-season of renovation with several flag winners coming off contract at season’s end.

The Cats have been persistently linked to wantaway Blues forward Lachie Henderson and Adelaide’s Patrick Dangerfield.

The key in any potential dealing could be the sublimely talented Steven Motlop, who joins veterans Jimmy Bartel, Corey Enright, Steve Johnson, James Kelly and Andrew Mackie without a contract to play in 2016.

But on Saturday, Blicavs told Channel Seven’s AFL Game Day that he believes Motlop is on the brink of re-signing to stay at the Cattery.

“We’d like to sign him in the next week or two and I think he will,” he said.

“He gives us that run and bit of flair that we need, and he’s really good in the contest too.

“He’s got a lot of good mates at the club and he’s established himself as a Geelong player. I can’t see why he wouldn’t be there next year.”

Legendary AFL figure Leigh Matthews gave a compelling reason against Motlop re-signing.

“Two hundred thousand dollars a year might be the why,” he told the same program.

“He probably likes Geelong but, if he leaves Geelong, it’s not that he doesn’t like Geelong. It’s that he gets a Godfather offer from another club.”

As speculation surrounding the future of the Cats’ senior players reaches fever pitch, Blicavs suggested it wouldn’t be completely a decision of the club’s management.

“A few probably have a decision to make whether they want to continue to play,” he said.

“I’d say that players would have some sort of say (whether they will play on).

“Players like Jimmy Bartel and Corey Enright have earned the right to have some sort of say, that’s for sure.”

No need for wholesale review: Pat Howard

No need for wholesale review: Pat Howard

Pat Howard is confident Cricket Australia can remedy the woes exposed in a shocking collapse at Trent Bridge without an independent review.

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The most recent time Australia lost an Ashes series they were widely expected to win it prompted the Argus review and widespread changes.

The creation of Howard’s position, manager of team performance, was one of many recommendations made by Don Argus in 2011.

Howard reviews every series the side plays.

He promised to analyse every detail of Australia’s failed campaign to retain the urn in England.

However, the former Wallabies centre felt defeats in Cardiff, Birmingham and Nottingham were not comparable to the crisis created by a 3-1 home defeat to England in 2010-11.

“Ultimately if the board decides to go for a big review that’s fine but the first bit is we review internally,” Howard said in London.

“We have got some external guys we use to add to that and then we make decisions.

“I don’t think (we need) a wholesale review, we do need to critically analyse because we need to have done some things better.

“We didn’t adapt well enough.”

Howard highlighted Australia’s inability to adjust to local conditions – be it in England, India or the United Arab Emirates – as his biggest concern.

England are hosting both the World Cup and Ashes in four years.

The 41-year-old noted he would canvas a range of issues – scheduling, pitches, player preparation and Australia A series – when planning for 2019.

Howard added Australia’s away struggles will be tested no matter where they play.

Australia have a two-Test tour of Bangladesh in October then visit New Zealand in February.

“We’ve obviously got to be able to turn up and adapt to playing in Chittagong and Dhaka,” he said.

“The teams that adapt best away are highest in the rankings.

“You’ve got to be able to fight in all conditions.”

Howard expected New Zealand Cricket would attempt to replicate the seaming pitches that rattled Australia in the Ashes.

“Let’s not be geniuses in hindsight. We know we’re going to get these same wickets in New Zealand,” he said.

“They’re going to come again … we have to be able to adapt.”

When asked if jobs were on the line based on the shambolic nature of defeats at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, Howard suggested it started with him.

“We obviously didn’t adapt to the conditions well enough and we cop the consequences and the criticism,” he said.

“That’s fair because we should have had enough to come here and win.”

A remarkably improved performance in the dead rubber at The Oval was a bitter pill for Howard to swallow.

“It just emphasises I think that we had the capability,” he said.

“But we performed poorly. Some people fought very, very well … there are some things that are good.

“But there are others that we didn’t get right.”

IOM to assist in Nauru-Cambodia refugee resettlement

IOM to assist in Nauru-Cambodia refugee resettlement

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has announced it will develop a program to assist with the relocation and integration of refugees from Nauru to Cambodia.

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The IOM made the announcement in a statement released today, which said the decision came at the request of Cambodia, Nauru and Australia.

The IOM said in the statement it believed the move was an “opportunity to improve conditions for all refugees in Cambodia.”

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton welcomed the announcement. “IOM has extensive experience in resettling people around the globe and its decision to facilitate the relocation and integration of refugees from Nauru who chose resettlement in Cambodia will smooth their resettlement path,” he said.  

“Australia, Cambodia and Nauru continue to work closely to ensure the successful implementation of the MoU signed in September last year,” he added. 

Under the government’s agreement, reached last year, Australia will pay Cambodia $40 million over four years, plus carry the costs of resettlement.

The agreement is conditional upon refugees volunteering to go to Cambodia and most have reportedly rejected the offer.

Minister Dutton confirmed in January that he would travel to Cambodia to continue talks on refugee resettlement.

But Greens leader Christine Milne said the resettlement in Cambodia, one of the least developed countries in the world, should not go ahead.

“We know that the money the Australian government spends in Cambodia will go straight into the back pockets of various people in the government, it’s a highly corrupt country,” she said in January.

Comment has been sought from the Immigration Minister.

– With AAP