Tax ideas coming thick and fast

Road-user charges, the end of stamp duties and lower taxes for all business are among a flurry of demands Joe Hockey has to sift through in response to his tax discussion paper.

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The Australian Industry Group, in its submission, warned the treasurer the tax system is under strain and needs a shake-up.

“We need a commitment from across the national parliament and the federation to a bold remodelling of our approach to taxation,” the group’s chief executive Innes Willox says.

It wants the company tax rate reduced to more competitive levels and the thresholds for the two higher personal income tax rates increased.

It also says “harmful” state and territory payroll and insurance taxes should be removed while the GST is increased and its base broadened.

The Property Council of Australia urges an end to mortgage stamp duties, calculating their cost has rocketed by a staggering 800 per cent in the past two decades.

Chief executive Ken Morrison says stamp duty is out of control and a runaway cash grab that throws up a major barrier to home ownership.

“These astounding increases … are nothing short of scandalous,” he says.

Getting rid of stamp duty needs to be a top priority of national tax reform and for every government in the country.

An increased and broadened GST was the “most logical option” replacement.

The Australian Automobile Association estimates that an equally eye-watering $32 billion is raised each year from various motoring and transport-related taxes and charges.

These include registration and licence fees, stamp duty, road tolls, GST on fuel and vehicle sales among others.

But the biggest impost is fuel excise at $15 billion a year.

The association’s chief Michael Bradley says only 47 per cent of fuel excise revenue is returned to road building.

He believes fuel excise should be phased out and replaced with a road-user charge which would provide a clear link to the revenue raised and investment in infrastructure.

Smith named world’s best Test batsman

If Steve Smith’s sublime year at the crease wasn’t already enough to confirm his status as the world’s best Test batsman, the International Cricket Council’s latest player rankings certainly is.

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Smith has jumped to No.1 in the ICC’s rankings, after his brilliant first-innings 199 earned him man-of-the-match honours in Australia’s second-Test drubbing of West Indies in Jamaica overnight.

The captain-in-waiting, who also made 54 not out in just his second match batting at No.3, leapfrogged Sri Lankan star Kumar Sangakkara and South Africans AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla to become the first Australian to top the Test rankings since captain Michael Clarke did so in 2012.

Smith’s 199 was the latest in a tremendous and rarely-seen run in which he has averaged 131.5 over his last 12 Test innings.

The right-hander has also logged five centuries in his last six Tests and nine from his past 17 following his incredible dominance over India in Australia’s home summer.

The extraordinary streak has brought Smith’s overall Test average up to 56.23 – just two weeks after he turned 26.

David Warner has retained 10th place in the rankings, while Clarke is in 14th spot after he missed three Tests over summer due to injuries.

In the Test bowling stakes, Australia boast three quicks in the top 14 but interestingly only one of that contingent played in the tour of the West Indies.

Mitchell Johnson slipped to sixth after the rampant left-armer’s comparatively quiet two Tests in the Caribbean.

Fellow fast bowler Ryan Harris dropped from third to fourth place in his absence from the West Indies tour, while Peter Siddle is still ranked 14th despite having not played a Test since December.

Both face an uphill battle to unseat in-form pacemen Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc from the team facing England in The Ashes next month.

Hazlewood, who was named player of the series thanks to his 12 wickets at an amazing 8.83 per scalp, was rewarded with a rankings boost to 27th.

Starc’s position lifted to No.21 following his impressive 10 wickets at an average of 16.

Operation Sovereign Borders officers acted ‘lawfully’: Morrison

Six asylum seeker boat crew members have told Indonesian authorities they were each given $US5000 by Australian officials to return to Indonesia.

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The federal Labor opposition has asked the auditor-general to investigate the claims, while Indonesian authorities have launched their own investigation and sought an explanation from the Australian ambassador Paul Grigson.

International law experts have suggested the payments are tantamount to the Australian government funding people-smuggling.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has refused to confirm or deny the payments were made, saying only that stopping the boats was good for Australia and Indonesia.

Scott Morrison, who initiated Operation Sovereign Borders after the 2013 federal election, said the operation was being conducted lawfully.

“I have every confidence that officers working as part of Operation Sovereign Borders, based on my own experience of them, … have always and will always operate lawfully,” he told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

The government’s policy was “if a boat leaves Indonesia, it’s going back”.

Parliamentary secretary Alan Tudge said the allegation was “unfounded”.

Labor immigration spokesman Richard Marles has written to the auditor-general seeking an inquiry.

“If this happened, there are serious questions about the legal basis upon which it has happened,” he said.

Independent senator Glenn Lazarus wants the government to resign if the allegations are found to be true.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop appeared to rebuke Indonesia over its request to Mr Grigson to provide information about the alleged payments.

The best way for Indonesia to resolve its concerns about Australia’s operations to stop asylum-seeker boats was to enforce sovereignty over its borders, she told The Australian.

International law expert Don Rothwell says any payment was tantamount to people smuggling, but he doubted Indonesia would take any action against Australia.

The Greens will ask the Australian Federal Police to investigate the claims and establish whether any laws have been broken.

They will also seek the tabling in the Senate of any documents relating to the payment.

“(Mr Abbott) doesn’t have a mandate to break the law and he doesn’t have a mandate for handing out big wads of cash out on the ocean,” Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young told reporters.

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Rooney and Wilshere seal England win in Slovenia

Jack Wilshere earlier twice smashed the ball into the top corner from outside the area, his first international goals, as England moved within touching distance of the finals in France with 18 points from six Group E games, nine above second-placed Slovenia.

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Milivoje Novakovic had coolly given the hosts a 37th-minute lead after a series of England errors and Nejc Pecnik made it 2-2 late on before a defensive howler set up Rooney for his 48th England goal, one behind record holder Bobby Charlton.

“It was a long time ago when England last went a season unbeaten and we’re proud of that achievement,” Rooney told ITV after the Three Lions managed the feat for the first time since 1990-91.

“We need to keep improving now over the next season and make sure we qualify for the Euros. We’re certainly a team that is progressing.”

Raheem Sterling missed a golden chance early on for England and also shot narrowly wide after 14 minutes with his mixed performance under particular scrutiny.

He was kept in the starting line-up despite being booed in the recent 0-0 friendly with Ireland because of an average display and his behaviour in requesting to leave Liverpool.

Novakovic then grabbed the opener against the run of play.

Right back Phil Jones bungled a throw-in and Slovenia quickly broke up field where England played too high a line and enabled the 36-year-old to amble on to a through ball and calmly slot beyond Joe Hart.

Jones was substituted for midfielder Adam Lallana at halftime, with media reports blaming an ankle injury, and midfielder Jordan Henderson was employed at right back.

England made three starting changes from the bore draw in Dublin with Kieran Gibbs replacing Ryan Bertrand at left back and Fabian Delph and Andros Townsend coming into midfield.

The trio had their moments but Lallana’s introduction made the difference with the tricky player having a hand in both Wilshere’s wonderful strikes, in what was the best game in an England shirt for the Arsenal man.

Club team mate Gibbs was as fault for Slovenia’s equaliser with former Sheffield Wednesday player Nejc Pecnik climbing above him to head home after 84 minutes.

But just a minute later, Rooney latched on to misplaced intervention from Bojan Jokic and, having missed two easier chances earlier, fired home as England almost booked their passage to France with the top two qualifying automatically.

(Writing by Mark Meadows; editing by Martyn Herman)

Froome sends Tour warning with Dauphine win

The 2013 Tour champion, who will feature among the top favourites for the July 4-26 race, made his move 2.

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5 kilometres from the finish in the final climb to Valfrejus and never looked back.

He quickly swallowed fellow Briton Stephen Cummings (MTN Qhubeka), who had spent the day in the breakaway, and distanced yellow jersey holder Tejay van Garderen.

Team Sky rider Froome, who also prevailed in Saturday’s uphill finish in St Gervais, beat another Briton, Simon Yates (Orica GreenEDGE), to take the day’s laurels with an 18-second advantage.

At the end of Sunday’s 156.5-km trek from St Gervais, Van Garderen was fourth, behind Rui Costa, both 18 seconds behind Froome.

Overall, Froome beat Van Garderen (BMC) by 10 seconds with Portugal’s Costa (Lampre) in third place, one minute 16 seconds off the pace.

“The Tour de France is the big objective,” said Froome, who achieved the Dauphine-Tour double in 2013. “I think the team is ready and I think I’m almost ready. I’m really excited.

“If you take the race by its horns like that, stick to the plan, sometimes it pays off. I could not be happier right now.”

Van Garderen, fifth in the 2012 and 2014 Tours, told reporters: “Every race you go to you want to shoot for the top. I am certainly happy with second place and I am really happy with how I am stacking up to all of my Tour rivals. I think it is a good sign for July.”

Among Froome’s main Tour de France rivals, defending Tour champion Vincenzo Nibali looked far from his best.

The Italian took 12th place, 4:32 behind Froome after being unable to follow the best in the climbs on Saturday and Sunday as well as in Thursday’s fifth stage to Pra Loup.

Nibali, however, also looked under-par last year in the Dauphine before going on to smash his rivals on the Tour.

Spain’s Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) finished ninth, 3:12 adrift. Exciting prospects Romain Bardet of France (AG2R La Mondiale) and Yates were sixth and fifth respectively.

Other Tour contenders were not racing the Dauphine, the most prestigious warm-up event for the three-week extravaganza.

Leading favourite Nairo Quintana (Movistar) of Colombia and double Tour winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) of Spain, who won last month’s Giro d’Italia, will take part in La Route du Sud in France next week.

Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), third in last year’s Tour, is riding the Tour de Suisse where he is among the leaders after two stages on Sunday.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Alan Baldwin)

Qld halves know what is coming: Maroons

Queensland forward Jacob Lillyman admits targeted halves Johnathan Thurston and Daly Cherry-Evans “know what is coming” in State of Origin II in Melbourne on Wednesday night.

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And while the likes of Maroons “bodyguard” Sam Thaiday have vowed to stand up for the playmaking pair, Lillyman believes they’re tough enough to take care of themselves.

NSW have stoked the fire ahead of the MCG showpiece, promising retribution for Queensland’s alleged grubby tactics in Origin I.

Beau Scott is expected to place Thurston in his sights yet again while Blues teammate Ryan Hoffman has a history of targeting Cherry-Evans when the Manly playmaker has filled in for injured Maroons halfback Cooper Cronk in the past.

Asked about the extra attention his 6 and 7 are likely to face, Lillyman said: “They know what is coming.

“(But) JT has got a few tricks of his own up his sleeve – he will probably pull a few of them out.”

Thaiday, meanwhile, has put his hand up to defend Cherry-Evans.

“It’s been something I have done my whole career pretty much,” Thaiday said.

“I have had Locky (ex-skipper Darren Lockyer) outside of me, Cooper outside of me and now DCE outside of me.

“These guys can handle their own otherwise they wouldn’t be in that position but I will be out there giving them a hand whenever I can – that’s all I can do.”

Lillyman says he doesn’t really expect any angst as Queensland look to seal their ninth Origin series win in 10 years with a victory.

“The game is so quick I don’t think you have time for the niggly stuff or dirty tactics,” he said.

“Speaking personally, you are that fatigued … those thoughts don’t enter your head.

“If you are thinking about that it could divert your attention away from what can help your team.

“I haven’t noticed anything untoward out there.”

Williamson, Taylor guide New Zealand to victory

The exemplary Williamson struck 12 fours in his 118 before he was caught at mid-off by Mark Wood off David Willey the ball after lofting a sweetly-timed straight six.

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Grant Elliott fell for five but by the time Taylor played a ball from Willey on to his stumps for 110 his side needed only 13 off the last 4.1 overs.

Luke Ronchi tried to finish the job in spectacular style by smearing Ben Stokes over the boundary rope but was caught by Jason Roy. It only delayed the inevitable, though, and Tim Southee hit the winning runs with an over to spare.

New Zealand lead the series 2-1 with two matches left.

“300 was certainly well within the game but I think what cost us was Kane and Ross’s partnership,” England skipper Eoin Morgan said at the presentation ceremony.

“They played really well today and all credit to them.”

After the fireworks of the first two matches which produced a combined 1,369 runs, Sunday’s clash at the Rose Bowl was a slightly more sedate affair, but gripping nonetheless.

England ultimately paid for failing to bat out their allotted 50 overs and several dropped catches.

Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler allowed Taylor to escape on 67 and the same batsman was dropped by Stokes at short mid-wicket — both off Wood who himself contrived to fumble a simple chance shortly after Williamson reached his century.

England won the toss and made a steady start before opener Alex Hales nicked one to Southee at second slip to give Ben Wheeler his first international wicket and Roy was bowled by Southee.

Captain Eoin Morgan (71) added 105 for the third wicket with Joe Root (54) but New Zealand’s attack never lost control.

Stokes scored 68 from 47 balls and with Sam Billings smashing 34 off 16 balls England looked set for a charge before the wickets started tumbling.

Wheeler ended with three for 63 while Southee was the pick of the bowlers, taking three for 44.

New Zealand lost openers Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum with less than 40 on the board, but Williamson and Taylor gave a masterclass in calm, measured batting to propel their side towards victory.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ed Osmond)

Blues invite Maroons to target Farah

NSW captain Paul Gallen says he welcomes any Queensland attempts to target Robbie Farah’s troublesome shoulder in State of Origin II.

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Farah made it through both of the Blues’ contact sessions at their Coffs Harbour base over the weekend, before they flew to Melbourne on Sunday afternoon.

The Wests Tigers skipper is certain to take his place in the Blues side for Origin II at the MCG on Wednesday, even if aided by a painkilling injection.

Gallen said he has no concerns about Farah lining up in the Blues defence.

“He’s a hooker, they all get targeted,” Gallen said.

“The hooker and the halves get targeted every game, that’s probably the reason he made 60 tackles (in an Origin in 2012) and makes 50 every week at club level.

“They’re always targeted because they are generally smaller. Not only that but they try to take some of their attacking ability away. Robbie will be fine. I’m not worried about it. They (Queensland) can do what they want.”

Farah has worked overtime on rehabilitating his injured left shoulder after suffering the problem in a first half tackle from Justin Hodges in Origin I.

Gallen said Farah’s determination to play Game II was an inspiration to his teammates.

“He certainly deserves to be here, he has looked great at training,” Gallen said.

“It shows how important it is to everyone but particularly him and particularly where he’s come from in the past couple of years.

“It was only a few years ago he wasn’t picked, he probably never cemented his spot until 2012 it might have been where he had the 60-odd tackles so he’s cemented his spot in the team now, he wants to keep it.

“Sometimes when you get an injury your attitude can be down because you’re concerned about your injury but there’s no sign of that at all, he’s chirpy around training, he’s calling plays, everything has gone really smoothly.”

Analysis – Unbeaten England have reasons to be cheerful

Defeats by Italy and Uruguay and a draw with Costa Rica in Brazil last June were viewed by many England fans as the lowest point in the team’s chequered history but six wins from six in Euro 2016 qualifying are beginning to change perceptions.

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It is an easy Group E — second-placed Slovenia trail England by nine points — and two teams automatically qualify for the expanded 24-team tournament in France, but even coach Roy Hodgson cannot have expected 18 points at this stage.

His joy at fulltime could have been very different if Wayne Rooney had not made it 3-2 in the dying minutes to move one goal behind Bobby Charlton’s England record tally of 49.

“We dominated the game totally for long, long periods,” Hodgson told ITV.

Hodgson also put a positive spin on his decision to start centre half Phil Jones at right back and then substitute him after a error-strewn first period for midfielder Adam Lallana, with right back Nathaniel Clyne on the bench.

Lallana helped set up Jack Wilshere’s two pile-drivers and midfielder Jordan Henderson filled in well at the back, a tactic Hodgson said was intentional to keep England on the attack.

“Jordan did very well at right back, we were thinking that we would be limiting our options if we replaced Phil Jones with another defender,” Hodgson said.

“It was harsh on Nathaniel, he doesn’t deserve that…but it was the best way to get Lallana on. Luckily both moves worked out well.”

Another indication of England having more bite in the final third, in contrast to a dour recent goalless friendly in Ireland, was midfielder Wilshere finally netting for his country on his 28th appearance.

His two carbon copy crackers from outside the box were worth the wait and the 23-year-old acknowledged he should shoot more having become accustomed to sometimes over intricate passing at Arsenal.

“It has been a long time coming. When the first one came I just hit it so I had a little bit of confidence for the second one,” he said.

Tougher tests await and there remain major question marks defensively but England fans are rightly feeling a lot more cheerful.

(Writing by Mark Meadows, editing by Ed Osmond)

Titans can’t rule out Taylor move

Amid rumours linking Dave Taylor to a Japan rugby move, Gold Coast coach Neil Henry admits he can’t guarantee the inconsistent big man’s NRL future at the Titans.

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Not taking a backward step after controversially demoting Taylor to 18th man ahead of Sunday’s NRL win over Canterbury, Henry admitted the club may have to explore their options with the ex-Queensland State of Origin X-factor.

In the Maroons’ team barely a year ago, Taylor has suffered a dramatic fall from grace at the Gold Coast with a year still left on his $400,000-plus annual contract.

There are reports he has been shopped around to English Super League clubs as well as the speculation Taylor will take the big bucks offered in Japanese rugby next year.

Henry wasn’t ruling anything out after leaving him out of their impressive 28-14 NRL victory over the Bulldogs despite the absence of forward Nate Myles (Origin duty).

“He’s contracted and by rights he will be here next year,” Henry told Triple M NRL radio.

“But we need to explore other options – he does have a healthy contract out of the salary cap.

“We need to say ‘mate you need to be making a statement that you are going to be here long term’.

“And I haven’t seen that so far this year. That’s the honest truth about it.”

The Gold Coast are looking at cutting underperforming players after Daly Cherry-Evans’ backflip on his lucrative Titans deal and Myles’ 2016 Manly move opened up salary cap space.

The Titans reportedly first sounded out English Super League clubs before speculation emerged Taylor may be headed for a code switch.

“He’s got a year to go and I think we all know Dave can be brilliant one week and doesn’t quite get there the week after – consistency has been his problem,” Henry said.

“He’s such a talented footballer for a big man, so skilled.

“It’s not a hard job for him but he just needs to do that job every week.”

Windies must stick at it: Clarke

A small but vocal minority of the Sabina Park crowd in Kingston made their feelings plain to West Indies coach Phil Simmons on Sunday.

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After watching their once-proud cricket team cop a thrashing by Australia for the second time in a Test in two weeks, they’d clearly had enough.

“Shame,” they shouted at Simmons and his coaching staff after the humiliating 277-run loss, the Windies’ sixth-heaviest defeat by runs in their Test history.

Despite the ease of Australia’s victories, captain Michael Clarke has backed Simmons and the Windies young talents.

He says both coach and players must be given time to prove themselves.

“They’ve certainly got some fight in them, they’ve certainly got talent,” Clarke said.

“I just think they need to be patient.

“Phil Simmons is a lovely guy and fantastic coach, so I’ve got a lot of confidence West Indies will continue to get better.”

Windies skipper Denesh Ramdin, who himself came under scrutiny for some poor tactical decisions during the second Test, says it’s clear there’s a long way to go for his team.

But Ramdin hopes lessons can be learnt from their Australian hiding that will make his young side a better team next time around.

“The effort can’t be faulted, sometimes we fought but we didn’t fight for as long as we wanted to,” he said.

“I’d like to build a team and move forward in that vein.

“They’re one of the best all-round teams in the world and we didn’t be as consistent as we wanted to so we’d like to take this moving forward into the next series.”

WEST INDIES’ HEAVIEST TEST LOSSES BY RUNS

382 v Australia, SCG 1969

379 v Australia, Gabba 2005

352 v Australia, MCG 2000

351 v South Africa, Centurion 1991

312 v Australia, Port of Spain 1999

277 v Australia, Kingston 2015

266 v Pakistan, Port of Spain 1977

256 v England, Birmingham 2004

256 v England, Port of Spain 1960

255 v India, Chennai 1988

Australia crush West Indies to win series 2-0

Australia, who won the first test in Dominica by nine wickets last week, outplayed their hosts not just with bat and ball, but also in the field.

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West Indies were already in a hopeless position at the start of the day’s play and Australia ruthlessly wrapped up the win, taking eight wickets in 34 overs.

Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon completed the rout when he clean bowled Jerome Taylor for a golden duck.

Steve Smith was named man of the match after making 199 in the first innings, while right-arm fast bowler Josh Hazlewood was voted man of the series.

He took 12 wickets at an average of 8.83.

“The new ball is key on these types of wickets,” Hazlewood said at the victory presentation. “There was always something there if you put the ball in the right areas.”

Captain Michael Clarke had declared his side’s second innings late on Saturday to set West Indies a 392-run victory target with more than two days left.

But his boldness paid off and he was full of praise for his bowlers.

“What they’ve done really well is executed their skill over long periods of time, the whole attack,” Clarke said.

“Our goal is to be more consistent away from home, so a really good start in these two test matches. We’ll enjoy tonight and then look forward to what’s ahead.”

The way Australia brushed past a West Indies side that drew a recent series with England will serve as a confidence booster ahead of the Ashes which starts in three weeks in Cardiff.

West Indies resumed at 16 for two and lost five wickets in another feeble session for the addition of 56 runs before lunch.

Shane Dowrich (4), Darren Bravo (11), Jermaine Blackwood (0), Shai Hope (16) and Jason Holder (1) all fell.

Denesh Ramdin (29) offered some resistance after lunch but Kemar Roach and Taylor were out in quick succession.

The Australian attack shared the spoils, with Mitchell Starc claiming three wickets, while fellow quicks Hazlewood and Mitchell Johnson, and Lyon, collected two each.

Medium-pacer Shane Watson chipped in with the other wicket.

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris)

Windies win a pre-Ashes boost for Clarke

The Ashes.

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The two words Michael Clarke didn’t want his team to speak about during their two-Test tour of the Caribbean.

Worried his team might lose their focus and worry more about England than the West Indies, Clarke says he made it crystal clear he didn’t want any talk about the Poms over the past month.

Now, having wrapped up a 2-0 series victory over the hapless hosts with a 277-run thrashing inside four days at Jamaica’s Sabina Park, Clarke is officially letting the Ashes build-up begin.

“I’d be lying to say it hasn’t been in the back of everyone’s mind but the fact we’ve been really disciplined on playing really good cricket in these conditions against this West Indies team is a really good achievement from the boys,” Clarke said.

“We’re all excited about what lies ahead. I’ve spoken a lot about consistency away from home, I just hope this is the start of it.”

Australia couldn’t have asked for a better Ashes warm-up than their two matches against a young and outclassed Windies side.

After winning the first Test inside three days by 10 wickets, the victory at Kingston was just as comprehensive.

Needing seven wickets to wrap up the win, the tourists claimed 5-56 in the morning session on day four before securing the series midway through the afternoon session.

Steve Smith’s first innings 199 earned him man of the match honours while Josh Hazlewood, who took 2-18 in the second innings to finish with seven wickets in the match, was named as player of the series.

Hazlewood ended the series with 12 wickets at an amazing 8.83 per scalp but Mitchell Starc (10 at 16), Mitchell Johnson (8 at 18.62) and Nathan Lyon (8 at 19.25) also ended the series with averages under 20.

Clarke says there’s no doubt the performance in the Caribbean will be a boost heading into the English summer.

“Confidence is a vital part of any team and any squad,” he said.

“You have to earn that though. It takes a lot of hard work to feel you can walk out onto a ground in an international game and have success and once you get it you want it to stay forever so you’ve got to ride that wave for as long as you can.

“At the moment if guys aren’t bowling as well as they’d like or making as many runs as they’d like somebody else is stepping up and I think that’s where we’re having success at the moment.”

Australia will depart Jamaica on Tuesday (Wednesday AM AEST) with the first tour match of the Ashes campaign against Kent to start on June 25.