PwC chief calls for bipartisan approach

PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ Luke Sayers. Photo: James DaviesThe chief executive of one of Australia’s biggest accounting firms has called on the major political parties to strike a ”grand bargain” on national tax reform, warning the country may otherwise fail to record a federal surplus for ”at least a generation”.
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PwC Australia head Luke Sayers said Australia needed to develop a bipartisan tax reform agenda – one that could survive the political cycle if it wanted to confront serious budgetary problems.

And both sides of politics needed to stop ruling things out – such as the GST – when considering tax reforms.

”Without spending constraint, and tax reform, we can abandon the hope of seeing another federal surplus for at least a generation,” Mr Sayers said. ”A dialogue that begins with people ruling things out of scope is a dialogue doomed to failure, and we’ve seen it quite simply too many times before.”

Part of the reason the Henry tax review did not succeed was that the GST was excluded.

Mr Sayers suggested two changes could be made to the tax system immediately that would put Australia in a stronger position.

”[We] should rely more heavily on consumption and land taxes, and less on corporate and personal taxes, stamp duty, taxation of insurance, and payroll taxes in their current form,” Mr Sayers said.

”[And] taxes need to be more uniformly applied with fewer exemptions and concessions. These two changes alone would help address some of the major economic and fiscal challenges facing us today.”

Former Treasury deputy secretary Mike Callaghan said politicians and some sections of the media needed to stop talking about taxation in negative terms.

”As we’ve seen, an extremely effective way to attack a policy proposal is not to debate it on its merits but just say ‘it’s nothing more than a big new tax’,” he said.

”An extremely effective way to attack any suggestion of a tax review is just to say it’s nothing but a hidden agenda to lift taxes.”

He said a critical precondition for a proper debate about tax was public ”trust” in a government’s ability to make spending decisions.

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Brian Cookson delighted with Australian support for UCI presidency

Brian Cookson, the English challenger to Irishman Pat McQuaid for the presidency of the Union Cycliste Internationale, has pledged to not take for granted Australia’s support for him in next month’s election.
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Cycling Australia announced on Monday that it will vote for Cookson, rather than the incumbent, McQuaid in the election that will be held during the world road championships in Florence, Italy late next month.

CA’s position was decided on Sunday after the CA board heard an address from Cookson in person in Sydney on Saturday morning, then held a teleconference with McQuaid in the afternoon.

The vote in favour of Cookson was unanimous, CA president Klaus Mueller told Fairfax Media on Monday. Ten out of 11 board members had attended the meeting, which extended into Sunday.

Mueller, who announced on Saturday that he would stand down as CA president at the end of September, said it was also likely that Oceania’s collective position would be the same.

The UCI presidency will be voted on by the UCI Congress. Of 42 votes, Oceania’s three go to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.

“We are supporting Cookson. It was unanimous with all [CA] board members present,” Mueller said.

Cookson, who arrived in Sydney on Friday, is on a world tour to garner support for his candidacy, in an election fight that has seen McQuaid remain defiant in his efforts to be re-elected despite growing calls for him to step aside following the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.

In a tight vote, the support of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji could be critical for Cookson, British Cycling president, or McQuaid, who no longer has the nomination of Ireland or Switzerland, but is still seeking nomination of the Moroccan and Thai federations through his membership with them.

“I’m really pleased about it, very happy. And I’m hopeful I’ll get the three votes,” Cookson told Fairfax Media on Monday after learning of CA’s position and the likely backing from New Zealand and Fiji.

“It’s been a worthwhile visit and I’m very happy to have been here and looking forward to being able to deliver the things we have been talking about [in his campaign manifesto].

“Oceania has three votes out of the 42 – all those 42 are important. I wouldn’t dream of taking any of them for granted. That’s why I have come here.

“I think it’s important to get around the world and speak to as many people as you can. I am grateful the Oceania delegates and Cycling Australia wanted me to come and were happy to meet with me.

“I made a similar offer to the Asian confederation, for instance, and their president said they didn’t want me to attend, [that] they had already made their mind up and were going to vote for Pat McQuaid.

“I said, ‘Fine, that’s your choice and I respect that, but I really would still like to keep that open and let me know if and when you change your mind. Maybe we will talk in Florence.’ I think that will happen.”

Mueller said there were two key points in Cookson’s address on Saturday that convinced the CA board he was better suited to be UCI president than McQuaid, who has held the post since 2006.

“We felt [Cookson] was in a better position to restore the reputation and integrity of the UCI and the sport internationally,” Mueller said.

“Also he agreed he would do everything in his power to improve the governance structures, to make those more accountable and efficient and reflect what a modern sporting body should look like.”

Twitter: @rupertguinness

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It could’ve been handled better: Boof

England has a wee party
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Australian coach Darren Lehmann says the umpires could have handled better the tense finale to the fifth Test that led to play being abandoned for bad light and Michael Clarke in a physical confrontation with Pakistani official Aleem Dar.

Dar was seen to push the visiting captain away from him and fellow umpire Kumar Dharmasena as they checked the reading on a light meter that would lead them seconds later, at 7.36pm, to call off the day’s play with the Test ending in a draw and England taking the series 3-0.

England at the time were only 21 runs short of victory, with four overs remaining following a sporting declaration at tea from Clarke that left the hosts a target of 227 from 44 overs.

Clarke was frustrated at the time it took for the light meter to be brought onto the ground by fourth official Richard Kettleborough, believing conditions were significantly darker than when a day’s play was stopped on the fourth afternoon of the third Test at Old Trafford, when he was batting.

The International Cricket Council is likely to review the altercation between Dar and Clarke, who asked the umpire not to touch him.

”It could have been handled better by the umpires,” Lehmann said. ”But at the end of the day we’ve had light issues throughout the series. If you’ve got a reading you’ve got to take it.”

Clarke and the umpires were booed at the presentation afterwards by the home fans but Lehmann was quick to remind them that it was his captain’s ploy that allowed the last session of the series to be so engaging rather than simply fizzle out to a draw.

”We were quite happy to lose a game to set up the game,” Lehmann said. ”English fans have been great all summer but to come out and see that on the last day I think it is outstanding from Michael and the set-up that we tried to do. That’s the brand of cricket we want to play. We want to push the boundaries.”

Explaining the contact with Dar, Clarke said: ”I can’t remember what I said. I remember Aleem touching me and I asked him politely to not touch me because if I touched him I’d be suspended for three matches.”

The light meter reading at The Oval on Sunday was 5.7 while at Manchester it was 8.1 – the lower the figure, the darker the conditions. Despite the anti-climax the umpires followed the regulations on light to the letter of cricket’s laws when they stopped play at 7.36pm. They were left with no option but to abandon the match when the light meter reading dropped to a level matching or below the figure that led to play being called off on day two last Thursday at 7.26pm. This was despite the floodlights being on.

However, the chairman of the English and Wales Cricket Board, Giles Clarke, said after the match that the laws regarding bad light must change.

”It is totally unsatisfactory the way the game ended – the rules are unacceptable and I expect [ICC general manager] Dave Richardson to change it at the next ICC chief executives meeting,” he said.

Australia have gone nine matches without a win, a streak that stretches back to January, and dropped to fifth in the world Test rankings behind Pakistan, but Lehmann hopes they can turn it around in the return Ashes series this summer.

”I think it’s that learning-to-win attitude,” said Lehmann, who only took over as coach and selector a fortnight before the series. ”That’s what we tried to do [on Sunday]. We want to keep challenging our players in those situations to get better, learn from the mistakes we make. We’re going to make mistakes, we understand that. But we’ve got to improve from there.”

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England has a wee party

The Ashes has ended in a double spray – one from The Oval crowd towards Michael Clarke, and one in the early hours from the England players on the pitch.
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Clarke was loudly booed by the capacity crowd after the fifth day of the fifth Test was abandoned as a draw due to bad light with England needing 21 runs in four overs to complete an historic 4-0 series win.

It was the visiting captain who had risked defeat by setting up the exciting finish with a bold declaration at tea, but after remonstrating with umpires about the fading light it was he who was the target of spectators’ frustration when he came to the stage at the presentation ceremony on Sunday evening.

The distasteful scenes did not stop there. Four hours later, England celebrated their retention of the Ashes trophy and replica urn for a third straight series by urinating on The Oval pitch.

After relocating their post-match party from the dressing room to the field, several players including Stuart Broad and Kevin Pietersen took turns to get up from where they were sitting and wander over to relieve themselves on the pitch. Cleaning staff and other venue employees were still present at the ground at the time.

The controversial finale to England’s 3-0 series victory came as tension escalated between the two teams, who will resume their rivalry in the Australian summer.

Clarke and Pietersen had engaged in a shouting match earlier in the Test and on the last day there were more insults traded between the Australian captain and England bowler James Anderson.

Several Australians had taken pot shots at England for their slow batting on day three, and coach Darren Lehmann had accused Broad of ”blatant cheating” on the eve of the match, drawing a fine from the International Cricket Council.

Clarke denied there was ill-feeling, although counterpart Alastair Cook said: ”It’s been an interesting series in that way.”

Asked about being booed, Clarke said: ”It doesn’t surprise me.”

He received support from Lehmann, who noted it was the captaincy of Clarke that turned a fizzled-out draw into an edge-of-the-seat thriller. ”Look, I can’t control the crowd,” the coach said. ”What I do know is that game was set up totally by the Australian cricket team and I think the crowd probably enjoyed that more than the other days so far.”

Lehmann said he had spoken to Broad. ”We just move on,” he said.

Hugh Robertson, the UK sport minister, told BBC radio on Monday that urinating on the pitch was “not great behaviour”, indicating that the England and Wales Cricket Board would look into the matter

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CHARLTON: Meet the candidates

FEDERAL ELECTION: The seat of Charlton
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CHARLTON: Seat profile & history

PAT CONROY, ALP

MY family and I love living here, and Labor’s plan will make our area an even better place to live.

Supporting jobs and a strong local economy is a priority. I will fight for investment in our region that delivers jobs.

I will work to secure further funds for the Glendale Transport Interchange and other vital infrastructure.

High-speed broadband is critical, only Labor will deliver it to every home and business for free. I will fight to see Labor’s NBN rollout continue in Charlton.

Our Better Schools plan will deliver more funding and extra resources for every school, which is vitally important for our area. We will also invest more in the childcare system to help ease the pressure on local families.

Our support for the health and hospital system, including Medicare Locals, means high quality health care that meets local needs.

This is Labor’s positive vision for Charlton.

See Pat’s video here

KEVIN BAKER, Liberal

Kevin Baker has quit the campaign for Charlton last week after it was revealed that a website he had established contained lewd and sexist jokes.

His name will still appear on the ballot paper and voters must number all the boxes.

STEVE CAMILLERI, Christian Democrat Party (Fred Nile Group)

I AM a father of two from Lake Macquarie standing for the seat of Charlton representing the Christian Democratic Party.

Voting for us will strengthen the good Christian laws we still have and restore what we have lost.

Most are aware that the values and standards of Australia past are rapidly deteriorating. Nations, as history shows, fall from within, spiritually, morally and ethically. Vote for what’s good for our nation not our wallet.

We will protect the traditional marriage, the family, senior citizens, support industries that provide employment, wealth and prosperity and a future for our children. We will stand against homosexual marriage, selling the nation’s assets, the expanding casino and liquor outlets, abortion, rising electricity costs, the expanding pornographic industry in media and shop outlets.

You have the say and we have the will, stand for what is right.

See Steve’s video here

DESSIE KOCHER, The Greens

AS a retired high school teacher, I am passionate about education. The Greens would boost public funding for schools, and reverse cuts to universities and TAFE and make them more financially accessible.

Other key issues are the need for better health services including medical and hospital facilities, dental health, aged care and mental health services, as Charlton has a growing and ageing population.

I am very concerned about climate change and its effect on Lake Macquarie.

The Greens do not support Labor’s watered down Emissions Trading Scheme, which would give a $4billion windfall to make it cheaper for the polluters to pollute, and slash programs including environmental and clean energy schemes.

We can’t afford to wind back real climate change action. I will also campaign for investment in renewable energy to bring thousands of desperately needed new sustainable jobs to Charlton, and job initiatives for our unemployed youth.

See Dessie’s video here

BRIAN BURSTON, One Nation

I AM a lifelong resident of the Hunter Region. I was born in Cessnock and have resided in Coal Point for the past 15 years.

I was elected as councillor on Cessnock City Council and held that position for 12 years also serving as deputy mayor.

I am a self-employed building design consultant and a part-time casual teacher in engineering drafting at the TAFE Hunter Institute.

I am Pauline Hanson’s campaign manager for this election.

By voting 1 for One Nation in the House of Representatives and 1 above the line in group AG in the Senate you will be voting for a party that will:

a. reduce the cost of living by abolishing the carbon and mining tax; and

b. allow access to superannuation for persons up to 38 years therefore stimulating the housing industry, a key economic driver.

BRONWYN REID, Palmer United Party

THE Palmer United Party believes that Australians deserve a better deal from their government.

I’m a local resident of our electorate for over 30 years who is passionate about Australia’s future. I will work hard to make a real difference in our region

I am not a career politician or a party hack. I am a working mother, a small business owner, a professional consultant and a community advocate.

I am standing as a candidate for the seat of Charlton to fight for our region’s fair share of federal funding.

If elected as the Member for Charlton, I will fight for funding to fix Labor’s decades of neglect of our infrastructure problems such as flooding, pot-holed roads, traffic black spots and dangerous pedestrian crossings.

I will fight for funds for increased health and aged care services and affordable housing for low income families, pensioners and students.

See Bronwyn’s video here

TREVOR ANTHONEY, Bullet Train for Australia

I AM standing as a candidate because the current rail transport network isn’t good enough, and 32 years of talk and neglect by all sides of politics has left our nation unable to make a commitment to this essential infrastructure.

I want to help create public transport that my children and millions of Australians along the east coast can easily access, and move this country into the 21st century now – not in 50 years.

If voters want to see a high-speed rail network, then now is the time to take a chance to make Australia’s greatest infrastructure project a reality.

If you want to boost our local economies, support our goal that will create 100,000 jobs for Australia. If you would like to have cutting edge transport that is green, efficient, good for our families, community, and planet, vote 1 Bullet Train for Australia, then as you normally would.

See Trevor’s video here

Julian Assange dons mullet, covers John Farnham in musical pitch to voters

Federal Election 2013 coverageHave your say on YourViewFact Check the politicians
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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has made a bizarre bid for electoral support, starring in an offensive YouTube spoof that describes Julia Gillard in obscene terms and in which Mr Assange dons a blond mullet wig and reprises a John Farnham song.

The music video, which ends with Mr Assange singing a WikiLeaks-inspired tribute to Farnham’s hit You’re the Voice, features caricatures of Tony Abbott, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

The worst is reserved for the cartoon Mr Abbott, who is depicted crouched in speedos on a beach towel, drooling from the mouth and promising to ban abortion and gays, “even my sister”. The spoof Mr Abbott describes the Australian public as a “bunch of c—s”, Ms Gillard as a “ranga witch” and “freckle tits” who should do some ironing.

The video cuts to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where Mr Assange has been living for a year. The WikiLeaks founder dons a blond wig and denim jacket and begins miming his Farnham tribute.

“We have the chance to turn the pages over,” he sings. “We can write what we want to write. We gotta make things leak so we can get much bolder …

“We’re all wiretapped now. We’re all being fed lies …”

A WikiLeaks spokesman said the video was “a lot of fun and there’s not a fib in it”.

Asked whether the descriptions of Ms Gillard were offensive, he said he did not “know anything about that”. The spokesman said Ms Gillard had hung Mr Assange out to dry when he was in legal trouble.

The video was produced by Juice Rap News, which describes itself as “the internet nation’s off-beat musical, current-affairs program, responsible for turning bollocks-news into socio-poetic/comedic analyses which everyone can relate to and understand”.

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Live commentary: Sharks v Sydney

ROOSTERS-V-CRONULLA live match icons
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Remondis Stadium, Woolooware, Monday 7pm (AEST)Last meeting: Round 19 2013 – Roosters 40 bt Sharks 0 at Allianz StadiumHead-to-head: Sharks 27 Roosters 55 drawn 2Referees: Ashley Klein, Henry PerenaraTV: Live FoxSports 1TAB: Sharks $3.00 Roosters $1.40 Draw $23FootyTab: Sharks +6.5

Phil Mitchell writes: The tables have turned somewhat as Cronulla seek to avenge an embarrassing loss to the Roosters a month ago. In round 19, the Roosters blew the decimated Sharks off the park (40-0), in the midst of an unbroken eight-match winning streak. But this time it’s Cronulla who will be at full strength – and on home soil – while the Roosters will be missing some key players. None more so than back-rower Boyd Cordner, who had a blinder against the Sharks last month before his break-out season was halted by injury. Also missing are  Anthony Minichiello and Luke O’Donnell. Still, the Sharks will have to improve markedly on last week’s mistake-riddled win against St George Illawarra.

Phil’s tip: Sharks by two.

AAP writes: Odds on to beat the Titans at home in the second last round next week, the Roosters can all but clinch their first minor premiership since 2004 with victory over the beleaguered Sharks. The Sharks will be bolstered by Paul Gallen’s inclusion after he missed the 40-point shellacking at the hands of the Roosters a month ago – but the table-toppers will have Sonny Bill Williams on deck this time around. The Roosters are shooting for their ninth straight victory, while the Sharks must somehow conjure a win to have any hope of sneaking into the top four.

Key: Surely the ASADA saga is catching up with the Sharks and they face the ultimate test of resilience against the title favourites.

SHARKS: Michael Gordon, Sosaia Feki, Ben Pomeroy, Jonathan Wright, Beau Ryan, Todd Carney, Jeff Robson, Andrew Fifita, John Morris, Paul Gallen (capt), Luke Lewis, Jayson Bukuya, Wade Graham. Interchange: Isaac De Gois, Chris Heighington, Sam Tagataese, Anthony Tupou.

ROOSTERS: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Daniel Tupou, Michael Jennings, Mitchell Aubusson, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jake Friend, Sam Moa, Aidan Guerra, Sonny Bill Williams, Frank-Paul Nuuausala. Interchange: Daniel Mortimer, Luke O’Donnell, Isaac Liu, Dylan Napa.

Good evening all, welcome to our coverage of tonight’s cracking match in the Shire. Both sides have made late changes:

SHARKS

OUT: Bryce Gibbs

IN: Sam Tagataese

Paul Gallen switches to prop, while Jayson Bukuya comes off the bench to start in the back row.

ROOSTERS

With Luke O’Donnell suspended, centre Samisoni Langi plays his second NRL game after making his debut against the Tigers last week. Mitchell Aubusson switches from the centres to the back row, relegating Aidan Guerra to the bench.

1 min: And we’re away, Roosters kick off.

1 min: Brilliant start by the Sharks – 40-20 by Todd Carney.

3 min: TRY! Gallen opens the scoring for Cronulla, grounding a ball that had bounced off Wade Graham’s chest after a grubber kick from Todd Carney. Carney converts. SHARKS 6-0.

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CHARLTON:  Seat profile & history 

FEDERAL ELECTION: The seat of Charlton
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CHARLTON: Meet the candidates

Former minister Greg Combet, ALP,

Margin:12.7 per cent

CANDIDATES

1. Pat Conroy, ALP

2. Kevin Baker, Liberal (quit but still on ballot)

3. Steve Camilleri, Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group)

4. Dessie Kocher, The Greens

5. Brian Burston, One Nation

6. Bronwyn Reid, Palmer United Party

7. Trevor Anthoney, Bullet Train for Australia

PROFILE: The electorate covers about 688 square-kilometres from Rankin Park, Cardiff Heights, Cardiff South and Garden Suburb in the east, encompassing all of Lake Macquarie, then extending south to Wyee, including Mandalong and Martinsville to the west and Seahampton, West Wallsend and Maryland in the north.

Main suburbs include, Elermore Vale, Fletcher, Minmi and most of Wallsend in the Newcastle area, Boolaroo, Cardiff, Cooranbong, Edgeworth, Morisset, Speers Point, Toronto, part of Warners Bay, and Wangi Wangi in the Lake Macquarie area.

Economic activity includes coal mining, electricity generation at Eraring power station, some tourism, retail, light engineering.

HISTORY: The seat is named after Matthew Charlton (1866–1948), a member of the NSW Legislative Assembly from 1903 to 1910, a member of the House of Representatives 1910 to 1928 and leader of the ALP from 1922 to 1928.

It was created in 1984 and has been held by the ALP, first by Bob Brown. His daughter Kelly Hoare replaced him in 1998.

Ms Hoare was re-elected in 2001 and 2004 but was challenged for preselection in 2007 by ACTU secretary Greg Combet, who was installed by the ALP’s national executive.

VOX POP:

1. Peter Fawcett, Cardiff North

‘‘The economy. I’m voting Labor because I’m quite happy with how it’s going. I want them to look after pensioners.’’

2. Tracie Lavelle, Macquarie Hills

‘‘The selling off of public assets. I would like to think we’ll have something left to hand on to our grandchildren. I’m still deciding how I’ll vote.’’

3. Larrie Chapman, Cardiff South

‘‘The economy is pretty important. I don’t like [Coalition leader Tony] Abbott.’’

4. Ron Keevers, Cardiff

‘‘I’m a self-funded retiree so I’m concerned about interest rates. I think the government has done a reasonable job with what they’ve had to put up with. They got us through the global financial crisis.’’

5. Helen Waugh, Cardiff South.

‘‘Health – general investment in the system. The waiting times are too long for our hospitals.’’

6. Victor Chumak, Cardiff

‘‘The economy is the main issue. They waste so much money on things, you take small business, they’re struggling like hell, but they give money to people who want to come here illegally’’.

Bo Xilai tells court he was victim of love triangle

Bo Xilai looking on as he stands on trial at the Intermediate People’s Court in Jinan, east China’s Shandong province. Photo: AFP/CCTVJinan: Bo Xilai, the fallen star of Chinese politics, saved his finest performance for the fifth and final episode of China’s gripping courtroom drama.
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In a last stand that flitted frequently between the sublimely eloquent and the ridiculously lurid, he said the real reason his trusted police chief Wang Lijun betrayed him was for love – Wang had developed secret feelings for  Mr Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai.

“He had hidden feelings for her, his emotions were in a knot, he couldn’t control himself,” he said in his closing arguments, according to court transcripts.

The trial concluded on Monday afternoon. The judge said a verdict will be delivered at a “later date”, expected to be within the next month.

Mr Bo said Wang had come clean about his feelings for Gu when he tried to give her a letter, where he slapped himself across the face eight times in a show of contrition for his forbidden love.

But then Mr Bo appeared suddenly, prompting Wang to flee in a panic to the US consulate in Chengdu in February 2012, setting off China’s most sensational political scandal in a generation.  “He knows my personality,” Mr Bo said. “He’s harmed my family and my most primal feelings. This is the real reason he defected.”

He said he regretted damaging the party’s image, and was ”sorry to the party and the people”, but insisted that allegations of  corruption against him were wrong.

Acknowledging that he might face the rest of his life in prison, he said he felt ”very conflicted”.

”I know I’m not perfect. I can be self-centred, bad-tempered, I have made serious errors and mistakes,” he said. ”I had no intention of driving Wang Lijun away. Who knew one slap could create a traitor?”

Mr Bo was stood down as Chongqing party secretary in March 2012. A subsequent investigation saw him expelled from the Communist Party and charged with receiving bribes, corruption and abuse of power.

Prosecutors have produced Mr Bo’s confession as the smoking gun, in which he admitted that billionaire businessman Xu Ming provided a “huge amount” of financial assistance to his wife and in particular his son, Bo Guagua, when he was studying abroad.

“In essence it was a special deal: I help him develop [his business interests] quickly, he in turn takes care of my child,” Mr Bo was said to have written.

But he said the confession, made during the investigation phase, was made in the hope of cutting a deal with authorities “because I still had a burning hope in my heart to remain in the party and extend my political life”.

He has since recanted the confession and fought every charge.

In court on Monday, Mr Bo denied he had a close relationship with Mr Xu: “He knows what level of person he is in my eyes … we’re not in the same league. Who am I? The commerce minister [at the time]. Who is he?”

He also poured scorn on suggestions that Gu  would have kept him appraised of “trivial matters” like receiving financial assistance from Mr Xu.

“In my heart, she is a multi-talented woman, do you think she would want to leave me with the impression of her as a housewife? Does she still want me to have feelings for her, to love her?”

Despite his feisty theatrics, Mr Bo is considered unlikely to escape a guilty verdict.

“Let me remind the court …  the defendant committed extremely serious crimes, and refused to plead guilty, there is no room for leniency,” one prosecutor said on Monday.

Prosecutors said the case showed China’s resolution to fight corruption in accordance with the law: “No matter how high his ranking is, how powerful he is, as long as he violates the law, he will be punished without exception.”

Wang told Mr Bo about Gu’s murder of British businessman Neil Heywood on January 28, 2012, which led to an altercation where Mr Bo struck Wang just below his left ear.

Fearing for his life, the police chief fled to the US consulate in Chengdu on February 6, 2012, armed with information of Gu’s role in the murder.

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FEDERAL ELECTION: The seat of Charlton

CHARLTON: Meet the candidates
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CHARLTON: Seat profile & history

FED UP: Ronnie Oehme, of Ronnie’s Flowers at Cardiff, says red tape for small business and aged care are two of the big issues for voters in Cardiff. Picture: Phil Hearne

IN the growing town of Morisset, talk of the federal election quickly leads to one point.

‘‘Can we just get it over with?’’ Southlakes Business Chamber and Community Alliance president Robert Kemmis said yesterday.

‘‘People are dead-set fed up.’’

Not only has the election loomed for the best part of the year, but the shock withdrawal of Liberal candidate Kevin Baker last week has left voters in the electorate of Charlton in a distinct malaise, he said.

‘‘We were going to organise a candidates’ forum, but now we’ve lost the Liberal bloke I don’t think we’ll go ahead with it,’’ Mr Kemmis said.

‘‘It’s frustrating. It’s bad news for voters. Now there’s no real choice.’’

Mr Baker was forced to quit after reports of racist and sexist jokes posted on an online car enthusiasts’ forum that he set up.

His withdrawal effectively returns the safe Labor seat to its traditional owner, although the face is new.

As Labor candidate, Pat Conroy is almost certain to inherit the seat from his former boss, ex-climate change minister Greg Combet, who quit politics to spend more time with his family following the axing of Julia Gillard as prime minister.

The electorate takes in most of Lake Macquarie, the growing suburbs of Minmi and Fletcher and the blue-collar area around Cardiff.

Palmer United Party candidate Bronwyn Reid said Mr Conroy was another outsider the Labor Party had served up to voters because of factional alliances and a lack of local talent.

‘‘If you’re serious about being our representative you should live here,’’ she said.

But Mr Conroy, former deputy chief of staff to Mr Combet, resisted criticisms that he was another outsider parachuted in.

‘‘I’ve lived in the area for the past six years, and grew up on the Central Coast,’’ he said, before clarifying he moved within the electorate’s boundaries earlier this year.

Mr Combet, who moved from Melbourne to contest Charlton in 2007, didn’t live in his seat – a fact residents who expressed disappointment to the Newcastle Herald at his departure didn’t seem to mind.

‘‘When we were flooded [in 2007], Greg walked up and down around here checking on us all,’’ Ronnie Oehme said.

‘‘No politician had ever done that before. We don’t want him to go.’’

The owner of Ronnie’s Flowers, a store at Cardiff that is just a few blocks away from where Mr Combet set up his first campaign office, said a lot of locals were ‘‘sick of the election’’.

‘‘Most people want it over with so we can get on with things,’’ she said.

Mr Kemmis named cutting red tape for small businesses and aged care as two of the big issues for voters in Morisset.

Mr Conroy said more schools funding, ‘‘general wariness about what an Abbott government would cut’’ and the construction of the Glendale interchange were the main concerns he had heard from voters.

Unlike his boss, who was initially imposed as the candidate by the ALP’s national executive, Mr Conroy was pre-selected by rank and file members, albeit it after plenty of political manoeuvrings. And he’s not tripped up when asked the name of the main street of Toronto – a question that famously stumped his boss when new to the area.

But exactly how the vote plays out could yet prove interesting, with Mr Baker’s name remaining on the ballot paper because all candidates had already been officially declared prior to his resignation.

Voters must still number all boxes on their lower house ballot paper for their vote to count.

Even the remaining Charlton candidates aren’t sure how it will unfold.

‘‘Don’t ask me, I’m confused about it too,’’ Christian Democratic Party candidate Steven Camilleri said.

Ms Reid said she believed the Liberal Party was now backing her.

However, the Liberal Party’s how-to-vote card directed preferences to Mr Camilleri, then Ms Reid, and its website yesterday was still advocating people vote 1 for Mr Baker and 2 for Mr Camilleri.

A NSW Liberal Party spokeswoman said: ‘‘It is up to each voter in Charlton how they choose to cast their vote for the House of Representatives.

‘‘However, we would encourage voters to choose the Liberal Party when they cast their vote for the Senate.’’