Catalan government angers Spain after voting for independence referendum

Catalans are set to vote on whether or not they want to be independent from Spain in a referendum.

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The decree was signed by Catalonia’s president Carles Puigdemont and the rest of his cabinet in a bid to show a united front in the face of threats of legal action by Madrid.

Catalonia’s regional government approved on Wednesday a law to hold an independence referendum, setting up a clash with the Spanish government that has vowed to stop what it says would be an illegal vote.

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After 12 hours of often chaotic debate in the Barcelona parliament, a majority voted for the referendum and the legal framework to set up a new state, under which the assembly would declare independence within 48 hours of a ‘yes’ vote on October 1.

Politicians who opposed independence abandoned the chamber before the vote, with some leaving Catalan flags in their empty seats.

The winners, led by Mr Puigdemont, sang the Catalan national anthem once the votes were counted.

“We call on the citizens of our country to decide how they feel it is necessary to orient the future of Catalonia, whether by the current path of autonomy and trimmed statute or by a new road as an independent state in the form of a republic,” Mr Puigdemont said after signing the measure into law.

Spain’s government has asked the country’s constitutional court to declare the referendum law void.

The government has labelled the move as a “constitutional and democratic atrocity” with deputy prime minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría saying it was a “shameful and embarrassing” betrayal, according to The Guardian.

Seventy-two MPs voted through the legislation while 52 opposed the move.

“The government will defend freedom, democracy and coexistence,” Ms Sáenz de Santamaría said. 

“We won’t allow the law to go unheeded in Spain. Let no one doubt that we know what we have to do and that we will do it.”

The Spanish constitution states the country is indivisible.

Relieved Aussies escape Test series defeat

Relieved after Australia dodged a humbling Test series defeat to Bangladesh, skipper Steve Smith says his side must address their constant batting collapses or risk losing the Ashes.

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Australia escaped from their first visit to Bangladesh in 11 years with a 1-1 series draw after winning the second Test in Chittagong by seven wickets with a day to spare.

Set a target of 86 runs to win after bowling out Bangladesh for 157 in their second innings on day four, Australia needed just 16 overs to claim victory on Thursday.

Nathan Lyon was named man of the match after becoming the first Australian to take 13 wickets in a Test in Asia.

He shared man of the series honours with David Warner, who backed up his drought-breaking triumph in Dhaka with a gutsy century in stifling heat during Australia’s first innings.

Warner’s heroics helped to minimise the impact of batting collapses in both Tests but Smith admitted it was an issue the Australians desperately needed to address.

“We would have much preferred 2-0 but it’s nice to get over the line here and have a 1-1 draw,” Smith said.

“I still think we have a lot of improvement in us. We probably let ourselves down at times throughout this Test match.

“I thought our first-innings bowling was very good to restrict them. Our first-innings batting, obviously the partnership between (Peter Handscomb) and Davey was fantastic.

“And then we got ourselves into one of our collapses that we’ve had.

“I think we’ve had 15 collapses in our last 14 games … that’s not good enough for an Australian cricket team.

“That’s something we really need to work on. We need to rectify that come the next series and the Ashes.”

Offspinner Lyon proved the hero for Australia in Chittagong, backing up his seven-wicket haul in Bangladesh’s first dig to record career-best match figures of 13-154.

Australia were forced to endure some nervous moments with Warner and Smith departing cheaply before Glenn Maxwell scored the winning runs with a six over midwicket.

A 2-0 series loss would have sent Australia tumbling to No.6 on the world Test rankings, their lowest point in almost 30 years.

Lyon’s 6-60 in the second innings took his wicket tally for the tour to 22, just one shy of Sri Lankan tweaker Rangana Herath’s record for the most dismissals in a two-match Test series.

An innings victory for Australia had looked like a genuine possibility when Bangladesh collapsed to 5-43 before lunch.

But Mushfiqur and Mominul Haque (29) led a spirited rearguard action to keep the hosts in with a chance.

Pat Cummins (2-27) was forced to battle through stifling heat but still managed to rattle the Bangladeshi batsmen with sheer pace and an array of short-pitched deliveries.

Matthew Wade made an important contribution with the gloves, stumping danger man Tamim Iqbal (12) and Shabbir Rahman (24) both off the bowling of Lyon.

‘David and Goliath’ marriage survey begins

Both sides of the same-sex marriage campaign are claiming underdog status in a “David and Goliath” battle to win over 16 million Australian voters.

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Forms for the voluntary postal survey will go out from Tuesday after gay rights advocates lost a High Court bid to stop the $122 million process.

Human Rights Law Centre director of legal advocacy Anna Brown says the survey is unnecessary but the advocates will now focus all their efforts on securing a resounding “yes” vote.

“We lost the court case but we need to win the plebiscite,” she said.

Australian Marriage Equality co-chair and plaintiff Alex Greenwich said supporters of marriage equality now had no choice but to campaign hard for a strong yes vote.

“This is going to be a tough campaign but we are in it to win it,” he said.

“But certainly the task ahead is daunting and clearly, having had this process imposed upon us in these circumstances, we are clearly the underdog.”

Those pushing for a “no” vote have also claimed underdog status.

Coalition for Marriage spokesman Lyle Shelton urged prospective no-voters to donate to their campaign to ensure it can be competitive.

“It’s a David and Goliath battle,” the Australian Christian Lobby managing director said.

“We don’t have the resources that the other side do.”

Marriage Alliance CEO Damian Wyld said it was extraordinary that those pushing to redefine marriage went as far as taking the government to court to stop the Australian people having a say.

Both legal challenges – one led by independent MP Andrew Wilkie and the other by Australian Marriage Equality – failed.

They had wanted the full bench of the High Court to stop the postal survey, arguing the government should not have bypassed parliament in funding it.

The government found the $122 million by using laws to make an advance payment to the finance minister in circumstances where there is an urgent need for spending and the situation was unforeseen.

Public Interest Advocacy Centre CEO Jonathon Hunyor said the case was an important test of the limits of government power.

“This was a very important case to run because it raised fundamental issues about how governments exercise power in this country and about the role of parliament in our democracy, particularly when it comes to deciding important issues of rights,” Mr Hunyor said.

“We are obviously disappointed with the outcome but we now need to focus on ending discrimination against same-sex couples and making marriage equality a reality.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull encouraged every Australian to have their say in the survey.

Storm’s McLean happy to dodge spotlight

There has been little talk about Jordan McLean’s Melbourne NRL career fast coming to a close.

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And that’s just the way the giant prop likes it.

Ahead of the Storm’s qualifying final against Parramatta at AAMI Park on Saturday afternoon, all of the spotlight has been on the departing Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith’s record 356th NRL match.

McLean will join North Queensland next season after signing a three-year deal that ends his Storm journey, which started with their youth team in 2009 alongside the Bromwich brothers Jesse and Kenny.

The 25-year-old said he was happy to have escaped the bulk of the attention heading into the finals.

“There hasn’t been too much of a fuss and that’s the way I like it,” McLean said.

“I’m happy with all the focus to be on Coops and Cam. They deserve all of the spotlight.”

With two young children, the move to Townsville is about being closer to his wife’s family and while McLean is excited about a new opportunity he says it is bittersweet.

“I love this place and everyone here but it’s the best thing for my family,” he said.

“When the time comes it’s going to be tough to go, I came to Melbourne when I was 17 and have a lot of good mates here.”

That bond grew even tighter back in 2014 McLean was suspended for his part in the tackle that left Newcastle’s Alex McKinnon in a wheelchair.

McLean said the support from the club and his teammates helped him through.

“The club has supported me through the good and bad and the bonds with certain people have helped me through the tough times,” he said.

Second-rower Tohu Harris, who joined the NYC team in 2010, is also leaving for the Warriors, ending an era for the forwards who have grown into one of the game’s best packs.

“I haven’t really thought about it being end of an era but I do want to finish on a good note with those fellas,” McLean said.

Hardwick expects big AFL game from Rance

Swingman Harry Taylor became one of the very few players to get the better of Alex Rance when Geelong extended their winning streak against Richmond to 13 games last month.

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Ahead of Friday night’s massive qualifying final, Tigers’ coach Damien Hardwick is confident that lightning won’t strike twice.

With regular spearhead Tom Hawkins missing through suspension, Taylor went forward at Simonds Stadium back in round 21 and booted a match-winning four-goal haul opposing the four-time All-Australian defender.

“Champion players often respond,” Hardwick said on Thursday.

“I think I’ve seen (Rance) lose four one-on-one contests in his career and I I think three of them were on that day.

“Harry is a really good player as well, so we expect that similar match-up to occur.

“We learnt some lessons from that, Alex will certainly learn some lessons.

“He’s a very proud man.

“We know he’s got a role to play that’s important for us and if he plays that role it certainly increases our chances of winning.”

With Hawkins back in the Cats’ line-up, it is unclear where Geelong coach Chris Scott will choose to deploy Taylor at the MCG on Friday night.

Tom Lonergan is likely to get first crack at Richmond’s only genuine key forward Jack Riewoldt, so there is scope to again switch Taylor into attack.

The Tigers’ most recent finals victory was way back in 2001 against Carlton.

But Hardwick is confident the 2017 Richmond team, one he labelled “by far the best side I’ve coached”, is playing the type of hard-nosed, contested football which is tailor-made for September success.

“Defensively we are an incredible side,” he said.

“You look at our pressure numbers and our pressure rating and we haven’t performed like this before.

“Offensively we’ve allowed some things to happen and the players to play to their strengths which is great, but our one-wood is our defence and we know that.

“If we come to play with that sort of pressure and that sort of intensity we’re really hard to beat.”