A bomb blast that killed at least nine people at New Delhi’s High Court was a “terrorist attack,” according to Home Minister P Chidambaram.

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“The government unequivocally condemns the terrorist attack that took place today,” he said in a statement to the lower house of parliament on Wednesday.

An explosion outside India’s High Court in New Delhi killed at least ten people, the BBC reported.

Indian investigators say they have received an email, purportedly from an Islamist militant group active in South Asia, claiming responsibility for the blast.

The director general of the National Investigation Agency, said the email claimed to be from the Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HUJI) which has been linked to previous attacks on Indian soil.

Police spokesman Mohamed Akhalaque said the blast took place soon after 10am on Wednesday.

The explosion shook the courthouse, sending lawyers and judges fleeing outside, said Sanjiv Narula, a lawyer who was in the building.

The court buildings were evacuated as police blocked off the entire area and emergency services rushed the injured, some of them in a serious condition, to hospital.

“It appears that the bomb was in a suitcase because we have the remains of that suitcase,” Home Secretary RK Singh told CNN-IBN television

Indian television showed images of ambulances taking the wounded from the scene. At least 45 people are believed to have been injured.

The blast happened mid-morning near a large crowd of people lined up in front of a reception counter near the entrance to the court building.

Rahul Gupta, a petitioner whose case was listed for a hearing Wednesday, told Agence France-Presse more than 100 people were in a queue at the reception when the blast happened.

“Then there was a huge explosion. I saw a lot of people lying around in a pool of blood,” he said.

People ran to the blast site to assist the injured, piling them into auto-rickshaws to take them to the hospital.

Ambulances and forensic teams rushed to the scene, along with sniffer dogs and a bomb disposal unit, apparently checking for any further explosives.

“There was smoke everywhere. People were running. People were shouting. There was blood everywhere. It was very, very scary,” said Sangeeta Sondhi, a lawyer who was parking her car near the gate when the bomb exploded.

It’s the second blast to hit the Indian High Court this year.

Home Ministry official UK Bansal said the blast appeared to have been caused by a medium intensity bomb possibly hidden in a briefcase.

Cyber-transparency activist Julian Assange says he’s launching a career in television, hosting what he’s billing as a new brand of talk show built around the theme of “the world tomorrow.

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The show’s guests haven’t been disclosed, but Assange has promised to give viewers more of what he’s been supplying for years: controversy.

The WikiLeaks secret-spilling site said in a statement released late on Monday that “iconoclasts, visionaries and power insiders” would be brought in so that Assange could challenge them on their vision of world affairs and “their ideas on how to secure a brighter future.”

The world of television talk shows is a new one for the 40-year-old Australian, whose group has orchestrated the biggest mass-disclosures of secret documents in US history.

But the statement argued that Assange was uniquely qualified for the role given his past as “a pioneer for a more just world and a victim of political repression.”

Ellis Cashmore, an expert on celebrity culture at England’s Staffordshire University, wasn’t so sure. “Assange has got a good, deep voice and agreeable Aussie accent, but he’s a slow, deliberate talker and not especially televisual,” Cashmore said in an email.

“To be true to his image, he would have to make his proposed show subversive; and that might not appeal to many would-be guests.” WikiLeaks said that the show would begin airing in mid-March, although how the show will be produced and who will carry it are open questions.

It’s not even clear Assange will be free to host the show. He’s currently fighting extradition to Sweden, where he’s wanted over sex crimes allegations, and US officials are still weighing possible charges linked to his attention-grabbing leaks.

In its statement WikiLeaks referred queries about the series to the hitherto obscure Quick Roll Productions, whose website carried no indication of where the group was based or who was managing it.

An online records search indicated that Quick Roll’s site was created about two weeks ago.

Neither Quick Roll nor WikiLeaks returned emails seeking further details on their project.

The Prime Minister has denied that her security detail overreacted when dragging her from a heated protest in Canberra yesterday.

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Photographs showed the Prime Minister almost falling to the ground as she and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott fled a Canberra restaurant which had become surrounded by protesters from the nearby Aboriginal tent embassy.

“The police did an amazing job”, Ms Gillard said.

Ms Gillard said she was ‘very angry’ at the disruption to an Australia Day event, however.

“Ive got absolutely no troubles at all with peaceful protest…what I utterly condemn is when the protests turn violent…as they did yesterday.”

Protesters have denied the use of violence, saying the police overreacted both in their treatment of activists, and in their heavy-handed treatment of the PM herself.

Spokesman Mark McMurtie told the ABC the police were to blame for the violence.

“The only violence you can see came from the police, don’t say it was a violent protest, it was a violent reaction to the protest.”

The PM also said she was unaware of claims on a Sydney radio claiming that a member of her staff tipped off protesters to the fact that Mr Abbott was in the nearby restaurant

ABBOTT STANDS FIRM

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, meanwhile, is standing by the comments that whipped protesters into a frenzy on Australia Day.

He’s also been backed by some senior indigenous leaders who’ve slammed protesters for reacting violently to “pretty timid” remarks.

Activists continue to blame Mr Abbott for inciting their protest after he suggested they “move on” from issues that gave birth to the Aboriginal tent embassy outside Old Parliament House this day 40 years ago.

Interpreted as a sign he wanted to tear down the makeshift settlement, an angry crowd of 200 people trapped the prime minister and Mr Abbott in a restaurant, prompting a chaotic escape in which Ms Gillard stumbled and lost a shoe.

Mr Abbott on Friday said some in the protest group had “verballed” him.

“As a result, it stirred people up,” he told Macquarie Radio.

‘THINGS HAVE MOVED ON’

He stood by his original comments, saying it wasn’t true that indigenous policy had been neglected or the government was indifferent to the plight of Aboriginal people.

“That might have been true 40 years ago. It certainly isn’t true today.”

Former ALP national president and indigenous leader Warren Mundine said the activists had over-reacted.

“The words were pretty timid,” he told ABC Radio, noting Mr Abbott hadn’t said anything about shutting down the embassy.

“He echoed words I would have echoed.”

Mr Mundine said the tent embassy was an appropriate symbol for the indigenous fight when it was set up in 1972 in an appeal for land rights.

“But quite frankly it is irrelevant to the mainstream of Aboriginal people today and it has been for the last 20 years,” he said.

Indigenous social justice commissioner Mick Gooda agreed.

“Back in 1970s we needed this sort of stuff to raise the issue, but the issue is fairly and squarely on the agenda.”

“Vent your frustrations and your anger, but do it in a peaceful way,” he said in a message to protesters.

“Do it in a way that befits Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

But Mr McMurtrie insists Mr Abbott’s words incited the afternoon’s events.

“He made the comments in an inciteful and smug manner in Sydney and then flies several hundred kilometres to come down and sit 100 metres from us,” he said.

“It’s akin to us going to the cenotaph on Anzac Day and asking you to pull that down.”

Meanwhile, protesters have offered to return Ms Gillard’s right blue wedge heeled shoe as a gesture of friendship.

The Aboriginal Tent Embassy’s Facebook page originally posted the stolen shoe would be returned in exchange for stolen land.

“Julia will be eligible to make a shoe title claim which will take approximately 20 years,” it said.

“This will be dependant on Julia being able to show continuous connection with the shoe.”

Ms Gillard is in Melbourne on Friday to present some more national emergency medals.

The NBA playoffs are set and Andrew Bogut’s Golden State Warriors are the favourites to continue their domination all the way to claim the championship.

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The Warriors will play the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round, seven-game series beginning on Saturday in Oakland.

“It’s our best year in franchise history, but with that comes an added pressure of getting knocked out in the first round, not getting knocked out in the second round and going on to the conference finals and the finals,” Bogut said on Wednesday.

Likely standing in the Warriors’ way are the reigning champion San Antonio Spurs featuring two of Bogut’s Boomer teammates, Patty Mills and Aron Baynes.

The Spurs play the Los Angeles Clippers and if victorious could end up facing the Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

The other Western Conference match-ups are the Portland Trailblazers against the Memphis Grizzlies and the Houston Rockets against the Dallas Mavericks.

In the Eastern Conference two other Australians could find themselves in an epic second round clash.

Matthew Dellavedova’s Cleveland Cavaliers will play the Boston Celtics in the first round and Cameron Bairstow’s Chicago Bulls take on the Milwaukee Bucks.

If the Cavs and Bulls are successful they will face each other in the second round, with the winner expected to take on the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference finals.

The other first round Eastern Conference match-ups are the Hawks against the Brooklyn Nets and the Toronto Raptors versus the Washington Wizards.

With the Warriors, Spurs, Cavs and Bulls all in hot form and laden with stars, there’s a great chance the NBA Finals could involve two teams involving Australians.

Coach John Longmire insists Adam Goodes will still play a part in Sydney’s premiership push despite being dropped to reserves for the first time in his illustrious 17-season AFL career.

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Longmire says the dual Brownlow medallist volunteered to be relegated rather than sit on the bench for Saturday’s derby against Greater Western Sydney at the SCG.

Goodes only got 15 minutes in Sydney’s big win over Port Adelaide last weekend and told Longmire he’d prefer to play a full 100 minutes on Saturday.

“We were more than happy to play him sub again but he suggested to play reserves, get some quality game time, get some form and fitness back and be able to push for senior selection after that,” Longmire said.

“He thought that was probably the way to go.”

Goodes’ self-styled axing means he will line up in the Swans’ curtain-raiser against the University of Western Sydney Giants in the NEAFL, marking the first time the four-time All-Australian will play reserves since he was a teenage rookie in 1998.

Goodes made his senior debut the following year and won the 1999 Rising Star award.

Despite critics – and even two-time premiership-winning teammate Jude Bolton – saying the 35-year-old may have played one season too many, Longmire says he hasn’t discussed retirement with the 353-game superstar.

“We want him to keep going and he’s keen to keep going,” Longmire said.

“And as we sit here at the moment, we still think he’s got a valuable role to play for us this year because he finished last season off for us quite strongly.

“We’re only round three, there’s a lot of football to go and things can change quickly as far as injury and form (is concerned).

“We’re certainly mindful of that and so is Adam. Things can change in a heartbeat.”

The 2012 premiership coach said Goodes’ shock gesture was a mark of the man – the 2014 Australian of the Year no less – and his willingness to put his team first.

“Adam is very much team orientated and wants to do whatever role the team wants him to play,” Longmire said.

“We still think he can play as a sub this year and play in our best 21 this year.”

Goodes’ relegation, which will almost certainly mean a return for Ben McGlynn on Saturday, overshadowed all other Swans news in the build-up to a Sydney derby featuring two undefeated teams after two rounds.

After stunning Sydney in the opening round last year, the fast-improving Giants genuinely believe they can pull off another huge boilover.

“I expect them to say that,” Longmire said.

“They are a hard team, not just a talented team now. They have some great senior players in that team that lead the way.”

Joe Hockey will have a spring in his step when he hears about the latest employment figures showing an unexpected drop in the jobless rate to 6.

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1 per cent.

The treasurer is in Washington attending a G20 meeting, which will provide international insights for his May 12 budget.

The March labour force figures also showed a huge 37,700 jump in the number of people in employment, mostly in full-time work, a figure double that economists were expecting.

They had forecast an unemployment rate of 6.3 per cent.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz was encouraged by the result but says the rate is still too high and the government needs to do more to drive it lower.

“Not only do we want to turn tax takers into taxpayers from an economic point of view but the social good of getting people into employment should never be overlooked,” he said.

However, Labor doesn’t believe the government has a plan for jobs.

Opposition employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor said the 2014 budget effectively softened the labour market by failing to provide confidence for employers to hire and consumers to purchase.

“The government has less than four weeks before the budget to restore confidence among the business community,” he said.

Mr Hockey was forecasting a 6.5 per cent unemployment rate by June in his mid-year budget review.

A more up-to-date prediction by the International Monetary Fund this week put the jobless rate at 6.4 per cent in 2015, easing to 6.2 per cent in 2016.

The employment outcome will make the Reserve Bank think twice before cutting the cash rate again.

Many economists had expected a reduction in the cash rate to a new all-time low of 2 per cent when the central bank board meets on May 5 and in anticipation of benign official inflation figures next Wednesday.

The cash rate has been 2.25 per cent since February.

David Lane, from business consultants Pitcher Partners, expects the RBA will leave the cash rate unchanged for another month.

“These trends in employment are encouraging and indicate that the previous rate cut is having a positive impact on business,” he told AAP.

Sydney’s stellar run of double-digit home price growth looks set to run out of steam next year.

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HSBC Australia chief economist Paul Bloxham says he expects the Reserve Bank to hike interest rates in 2016, a move that will cool Sydney’s booming property market.

“Sydney house prices are running at an unsustainable pace,” he said.

“Purchasers need to be very careful, because at some point there has to be some correction.”

HSBC is forecasting Sydney house prices to be broadly flat in 2016 rather than suffer a big fall.

“The more Sydney house prices go up, the more likely it is that they will have to correct, and that’s not necessarily a bubble,” Mr Bloxham said.

Sydney property prices surged a whopping 12.4 per cent in 2014, according to the CoreLogic RP Data home value index.

The market has continued its strong run into 2015, with prices up three per cent in March alone.

With the Reserve Bank tipped to cut interest rates later in 2015, prices could rise even further.

Mr Bloxham said a cut to the RBA’s cash rate from its record low of 2.25 per cent would help boost the sluggish economy, but there was a risk it could overheat the Sydney and Melbourne housing markets.

One alternative to boosting growth, he said, was for the federal government to postpone its attempt to balance the budget until 2016/17 when the economy will likely be stronger.

“The government tried to tighten up fiscal policy last year when the mining boom was over,” he said.

“When growth in the economy is sluggish, that is not the time to tighten fiscal policy.”

Mr Bloxham is confident the government has learnt its lesson from last year when a harsh round of budget measures were a blow to consumer confidence and retail spending.

“I do think we’re likely to see that this year’s budget will likely to be less damaging to confidence than we saw last year,” he said.

“I think we will see a bit more support for the economy from the fiscal situation, we certainly should see a bit more support.”

HSBC is forecasting economic growth to increase to three per cent next year, from the 2.5 per cent pace of 2014, and says commodity prices are not likely to fall much further in 2015.

Already without an experienced key forward, Brisbane’s plans to accelerate the development of Michael Close have taken a considerable hit, coach Justin Leppitsch says.

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Close, 20, will miss the rest of the season after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Sunday’s loss to North Melbourne.

The Lions have struggled to find a focal point in attack since the retirement of Jonathan Brown.

Victorian product Close was being groomed as the club’s long-term solution to that problem.

Brisbane are seeking possible compensation from Etihad Stadium over Close’s injury, as investigations continue into whether the venue’s artificial turf near the boundary line was responsible.

But Leppitsch admits the real cost is the collapse of his plan to pump as much gametime as possible this year into the youngster.

“Our plan was to roll him out through the rest of the year, get another 20 games under his belt and he’s been robbed of that,” Leppitsch said.

“Whether he’s been robbed by bad luck or bad surface, that’s for other people to fight it out.

“But what he will get is a good understanding of his body, himself. He’ll learn good lessons mentally about what he’s about to go through and how much the game means to him.

“There’s a few of us who have been through this – he’s not the only one.”

Close’s misfortune has opened the door for the long-awaited return of Brent Staker, who has endured his own wretched run with injury in Brisbane.

Staker has not made an AFL appearance for the Lions since 2013, having missed all of last year with calf and foot issues on the back of two knee reconstructions in 2011.

But Leppitsch indicated he was likely to recall the luckless veteran for Saturday night’s clash with Richmond at the Gabba.

“He’s a big chance to play this week, which is good,” Leppitsch said.

“He’s had a few games back now (in the NEAFL) and he’s got his confidence up.”

Leppitsch also backed vice-captain Dayne Zorko, who earlier this week was scathing in his assessment of Brisbane’s first two performances this season.

Zorko said he was sick of losing and fingered the blame squarely at the players for their failure to follow instructions, apply pressure and win the contested ball.

Most fans would agree with Zorko’s assessment, Leppitsch said – but as far as he’s concerned, the time for talk is over.

“We’ll wait and see, I guess, if we want to respond to last week,” he said.

“You can say whatever you like midweek but it’s your actions on the weekend that are the only thing that matter.”

“I am not prepared to criticise the team,” Bayern CEO Rummenigge said in post-midnight banquet.

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“There are 13 or 14 players who are at the moment healthy and have been playing three times a week.”

Bayern have been cruising towards the Bundesliga title with a 10-point advantage as the injuries seem to hardly affect them domestically.

“But there comes a day when you are a little bit tired, when your legs feel heavy and when you lack some of your concentration,” Rummenigge said.

A lack of concentration certainly contributed to the three goals they conceded, each coming from an individual defensive mistake.

What had been for much of the season their strongest asset — Bayern conceded just four goals in their first 17 Bundesliga games — was on Wednesday their Achilles heel.

Jerome Boateng, Xabi Alonso and Dante, all lost possession or control near the box, allowing the Portuguese to score.

“We imagined it differently,” said keeper Manuel Neuer, who was lucky not to be sent off after bringing down Jackson Martinez for a third-minute penalty.

“We were not confident and did not create scoring chances. The other problem was the mistakes we made. You are punished in the Champions League for those. We know we messed up together but we have to keep going.”

While Bayern are not used to losing, they have every chance to overturn the first leg deficit, with Ribery and possibly Schweinsteiger fit for the return leg in Munich on Tuesday.

“I am not fully dissatisfied with the team,” coach Pep Guardiola said. “We tried everything but it is not easy against such a physical team.

“It is a complicated result but we will take a shot at it in the return leg and we will not give up that easily.”

(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

Melbourne man and former model Sharky Jama has been killed in Syria, reportedly shot after joining Islamic State militants last year.

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The news came as a report released today said large numbers of Australians fighting in Syria and Iraq posed a “serious national security threat”.

Jama’s father Dida Jama confirmed his death to SBS Radio Somali broadcaster Ibrahim Mohamed, who spoke with the family on Wednesday.

Mr Mohamed said Dida Jama had received a phone call on Monday, saying that his son had been shot.

“He was told by his friends,” Mr Mohamed said.

“He got a text message and he received a phone call from Syria, someone has told him his son has passed away. Then he said ‘I tried his number,’ because he has contact with his son. Automatically, it goes to voicemail, that’s what he said, and then he knew that his son is gone,” Mr Mohamed said.

Earlier reports cited social media posts stating that Sharky Jama was living in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, held by IS militants. He was reportedly shot in Syria.

“He got a text message and he received a phone call from Syria, someone has told him his son has passed away.”

Mr Mohamed said Dida Jama would be speaking to the Somali community in the wake of his son’s death, urging them to take care of their children and ensure they don’t fall prey to militants.

“His message is to the Somali community, to look after their kids,” Mr Mohamed said.

A second source has today confirmed Jama’s death, The Herald Sun reports.

Condolences have been posted on Facebook, where Jama’s friends have been mourning his death.

A cousin, Habiba Warsame, posted a photo of Jama on Facebook, stating “may Allah bless your soul”.

The post has attracted dozens of comments, one which stated that he “died a shaheed” or martyr.

Another cousin, Saed Van Riel, posted a photo with the caption “to Allah we belong and to Him we shall return”.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade could not confirm the death, citing limited capabilities in the “extremely dangerous security situation”.

“Australians who become involved in overseas conflicts are putting their own lives in mortal danger,” a spokesman said.

“Any Australians fighting with non-state militia in Syria or Iraq should end their involvement in the conflict now and leave the conflict zone.”

Fear of attack in Australia ‘well-founded’

A Lowy Institute report has cited the government’s “troubled relations” with Australia’s Muslim community as hampering efforts at countering extremism.

The report, released on Thursday, said the large number of Australians fighting in Syria and Iraq represents a “serious national security threat” but that the risk of an attack on home soil could be mitigated by the right policy response.

“Returned foreign fighters have been involved in many of the most serious jihadist plots in the West, including in Australia,” the report said.

“Returnees from Syria have already engaged in terrorist plots in Europe, and the large number of Australians involved with groups such as IS (Islamic State) and Jabhat al-Nusra raises well-founded fears of an increased threat at home.”

“Returned foreign fighters have been involved in many of the most serious jihadist plots in the West, including in Australia.”

While much of the responsibility in dealing with the threat will lie with the police and intelligence services, the report said, it added that programs aimed at countering violent extremism (CVE) need to be a core element of the response.

The report said “questions remain” as to how any new CVE approach will be implemented by the government, and that “troubled relations with Australia’s Muslim communities mean that its efforts to counter violent extremism are not off to the strongest of starts”.

A successful CVE approach should draw on the talent that already exists within relevant communities, the report said, but that “community co-operation has been undermined” by a lack of information about changes to the government’s approach, including funding of grant schemes.

– With AAP

Embattled Canterbury pivot Josh Reynolds will be given the chance to push his case for NSW selection when he starts at five-eighth in the Bulldogs’ crucial NRL clash with Manly on Friday.

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Coach Des Hasler confirmed on Thursday Reynolds would start the round-seven clash for the first time since he broke his arm in the opening-round loss to Penrith.

That injury sidelined the incumbent Blues State of Origin five-eighth for three games.

For the past two matches, he has come off the bench for the Dogs, with Moses Mbye starting, in disappointing losses to South Sydney and St George Illawarra.

Reynolds and his Dogs halves partner and NSW halfback Trent Hodkinson have come under heavy criticism for their form just six weeks out from Origin I from Blues great Andrew Johns.

Hasler will start Reynolds in a bid to help his ignite his Origin selection hopes and to help kickstart the injury and suspension-hit Dogs.

“He will start; he is 100 per cent starting,” a laconic Hasler said.

Hasler conceded the form of his halves needed to lift.

“Trent, by his own admission, probably didn’t have one of his best games. We all have those – we all have our off days,” he said.

“But it is early days.”

However prop Tim Browne, who was knocked out by Dragons back-rower Tyson Frizell on Sunday, is unlikely to take to ANZ Stadium to play the Sea Eagles.

“He is getting there,” Hasler said.

“Obviously, it was an experience where he lost consciousness and we are all fully aware of our responsibilities around that so he will be battling to play this week.”

CANTERBURY V MANLY KEY STATS:

* The Bulldogs have won six of the nine matches between these two teams since Des Hasler left Manly

* Manly’s form on the road is terrible – losing eight straight away from Brookvale Oval, the Sea Eagles’ worst streak away from the Fortress since nine straight defeats in 1998-99

* Manly have busted less tackles than any other team this season and run for the least metres

* Curtis Rona has been prolific so far in his short NRL career, with 12 tries in 13 games including six in six games this season. He has five tries in his four matches at ANZ Stadium

Paul McGregor dismisses the notion he has a point to prove to rival coach Wayne Bennett in the high-powered NRL clash between his St George Illawarra and Brisbane on Friday.

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Dragons great McGregor was axed from his role as strength and conditioning coach at St George Illawarra when Bennett took over as coach in 2009.

After a spell coaching in the local competition, McGregor returned as an assistant after Bennett left for Newcastle and he took the head coaching reins when Steve Price’s tenure ended midway through last season.

While decorated coach Bennett has reinvigorated the Broncos since his return this season and has them alone in top spot with a 5-1 record, McGregor’s Dragons have overcome a slow start to be third at 4-2 going into their Kogarah Oval clash.

The Dragons are coming off four successive victories – the first time this has happened since the 2011 season – Bennett’s last in charge.

But McGregor insists he doesn’t feel any urge to show Bennett he was wrong six years ago.

“No, not at all, no way in the world, how can I prove myself to him?” McGregor said.

“We’re in round seven so I am not going to buy too much into anything just now.

“It’s not about me and Wayne. It’s about the players out on the field.”

McGregor said Bennett’s achievement in steering the Dragons to their first joint venture premiership in 2010 deserved to be remembered but the club was moving forward after three lean seasons since his departure.

“He was very successful when he was here and the players had a lot of belief in what Wayne was doing,” he said.

“He got the result that not many could and that was the grand final. But once someone walks out the door someone else comes in.

“But it’s been a long time ago. Wayne has been at two clubs since then and he is doing a good job there and we are doing what we are doing.”

Bennett said on Thursday he would always have a soft spot for the Dragons but curiously only singled out McGregor’s assistant coaches Dean Young and Ben Hornby for praise and not the man who will be in the opposite coaching box on Friday.

“I wasn’t reading that in the first two weeks,” said Bennett when asked about the Dragons’ recent upturn in form under McGregor.

“I’ve got great respect for Dean Young and Hornby, I think they’re outstanding men and were great players for me in my time at the Dragons.

“They brought a hell of a lot to the club and I’m pleased to see them still involved.

“They’ll be long-term there, those two people. They really are the heart and soul of the organisation in terms of players and staff. You’re not going to get two better people.”

ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA v BRISBANE KEY STATS:

* The Broncos have won the past eight encounters against the Dragons

* The Dragons have not won five consecutive matches since winning nine straight in early 2011

* Josh Dugan has a great try-scoring record against the Broncos with six tries in seven games

NSW crime statistics released today show the number of non domestic-violence related assaults in central Sydney has dropped since pub lockout laws were introduced in February 2014.

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But the state’s top crime statistician says the fall could be due to a drop in the number of people coming to the city.

Since the laws came into effect, following the violent death of Daniel Christie on New Year’s Eve in 2013, the trend of violent assaults is down 32 per cent in Kings Cross and down 40 per cent in the Sydney CBD.

In February 2014 the O’Farrell government introduced 1.30am lockout and 3am last drinks laws in the Sydney Entertainment and Kings Cross Precincts and a ban on takeaway alcohol sales after 10pm across NSW.

The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) released its review of the effects of the lockout laws today saying the areas near Kings Cross and the Sydney CBD, such as Newtown and Bondi, did not receive a significant increase in violent assaults.

BOCSAR director, Dr Don Weatherburn, said although the new liquor laws appeared to have reduced the incidence of assault, some important questions remained unanswered.

“It’s possible, of course, that the new laws curbed alcohol consumption in Sydney and Kings Cross,” Dr Weatherburn told reporters at NSW Parliament.

“But it’s also possible that the new laws simply discourage people from going to these places.”

The Sydney and Kings Cross Entertainment precincts were now more safer than before the laws were introduced, Dr Weatherburn said.

“Kings Cross and the CBD are now much safer than they were,” Dr Weatherburn said.

“It’s certainly one of the most dramatic effects I’ve seen in my time on policy interventions to reduce crime.”

However, Dr Weatherburn said numbers of assaults had been dropping before the laws were created.

NSW Police and St Vincent’s Hospital have previously said the effect of lockout laws had reduced the numbers of violent assaults and injuries in the Kings Cross area.

St Vincent’s Hospital Director of Trauma Services Anthony Grabssaid his doctors had seen “less heartache, less injuries” since the laws came in.

BOCSAR also released its annual crime report for 2014.

The report says the rate of non-domestic violence related assault was down 5.7 per cent across NSW between 2010 and 2014, and stable between January 2013 and December 2014.

Dr Weatherburn said only one of the top 17 major offences had increased over the last two years.

“However the continued growth in arrests for amphetamine-related offences is a matter of concern,” he said.

“The rise in arrests for amphetamine use and dealing is consistent with drug survey data in suggesting a rise in methamphetamine consumption.”

-With AAP