Tourism increase

22/07/2018 // by admin

COULD Singleton become the main gateway to the Hunter Valley vineyards?
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Broke Fordwich could be one of the big benefactors from an increase in visitors to the region.

That’s the thoughts and hopes of Singleton Council and local tourism operators after the Visitor Information and Enterprise Centre recorded a five per cent increase in visitors compared to this time last year.

The past two months were compared with last year and it showed a correlation between the opening of the Hunter Expressway and an increase in visitors.

With Singleton being the final stop on the highway and the vineyards only a short drive away, instead of just passing through the town, people are making a day out of seeing all there is to offer in the area.

“We’ve experienced an uptake of visitors to our region and we think it has a lot to do with the opening of the new Hunter Expressway,” Broke Fordwich Tourism Association president Eden Anthony said.

“Hopefully this leads to more employment and an increase in midweek traffic to the vineyards.”

Council is working to create more interest in Singleton and it’s surrounds through the revamp of its visitsingleton南京夜网 website.

“We have a unique opportunity to capitalise on the growing domestic market. With award-winning wineries, restaurants, events and accommodation just minutes from our town centre, the future for Singleton’s visitor economy looks bright,” Singleton Council general manager Lindy Hyam said.

Studies by Roy Morgan show that Australians are increasingly planning on holidaying with almost 58 per cent of intended holidays expected to be in Australia in the next 12 months.

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OPINION: Amateur hunting hopelessly ineffective

22/07/2018 // by admin

By David Shoebridge, Greens Member of the Legislative Council
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In reply to Gary Mallard’s opinion piece regarding”Greens deception over anti-killing stance”

In his defence of the blood-sport of amateur hunting Mr Mallard claims campaigns against amateur hunting fail to address effective control measures for introduced species.

Unfortunately for the pro-hunting lobby, the evidence is clear that amateur hunting is in fact hopelessly ineffective at controlling introduced species.

The government-funded “Game Council” received more than $15million of government funding to lobby for amateur hunting and license more than 20,000 amateur hunters to hunt in the twomillion hectares of state forests the government approved for hunting.

The data produced by the Game Council to show its “success” was an annual tally of animals that its licensed amateur hunters had killed.

The figures from 2009 to 2013 are as follows:

These figures show that, on average, a licensed amateur hunter in NSW killed just one introduced animal a year, and most often that was a rabbit.

None of the hunting carried out by amateur hunters in NSW is coordinated or incorporated into a pest management plan, but is instead determined by the ad hoc preferences of amateur hunters.

Amateur hunters kill hundreds, or in some cases a few thousand, introduced animals from populations that are in the millions.

The evidence is that Australia has about sevenmillion foxes, 18 million cats, threemillion goats, millions of rabbits and between fourand 24 million introduced pigs.

Introduced animals have such large populations primarily because they have extremely high reproduction rates with a large “doomed surplus” each year.

This means most young do not survive to adulthood, but those that dobreed at such high rates they fully replace last season’s population.

Killing small numbers of a given population will therefore have no effect, as other animals, whichwould otherwise have died from the range of natural causes, then fill this niche.

The proportion of a population that needs to be removed to achieve an overall reduction in population from one year to the next is as follows:

When you look at just one species, such as cats, the inevitable failure of amateur hunting is easily demonstrated.

To effectively control the population, 57 per cent would need to be removed to have fewer cats in an area the next year.

The Game Council’s own figures show that the combined effort of amateur hunters in 2013 removed a total of 290 wild cats from millions of hectares of public forest, from a population estimated in the millions.

Amateur hunting took only a tiny fraction of feral cats from the already “doomed surplus”.

Their removal has made not one jot of difference to the wild cat population anywhere in NSW.

The same analysis can be applied to every species of animal killed by Game Council-licensed hunters.

Apart from small areas of land thatare subject to intensive, scientific and professional animal control programs, over the rest of the country introduced animals are controlled by their environment.

Competition for food, for habitat and natural predation keeps their numbers in check, not hunters.

Putting to one side the almost inevitable cruelty of amateur hunting practices such as pig-dogging and bow hunting, the evidence backs up our call for an immediate end to state-sanctioned and taxpayer-subsidised amateur hunting in our public forests.

* Tables fromInvasive Species Fact Sheet, “Recreational Hunting NSW: claims vs facts”

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Signs of ringworm in animals

22/07/2018 // by admin

RINGWORM: An example of the fungal infection STORY: Ringworm cases on rise in cats, dogs
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RINGWORM is a fungal disease which creates scaly skin with a red outer rim.

The infection spreads through contact, and can be transferred from cats and dogs to humans.

Typical areas of infection in animals are the face, paws, ears and tail, and the infection often results in hair loss.

Scabs and crusts are often formed.

Common treatments include tablets and antibiotic antifungal creams.

Bendigo vet Max Tori said it was important pet owners sought treatment for their pets.

Some cases of ringworm will naturally cease, while others require multiple treatments. Environmental management is also important.

Vets recommend pets are well-groomed and regular brushing will help remove fungal spores.

Vacuuming also helps to remove contagious hair from flooring, and it’s recommended the bedding of infected animals is thrown away.

Pets should also be kept isolated from other animals.

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Thailand military coup: Australians face travel insurance issues

15/08/2019 // by admin

Australians in Thailand have been told to check their travel insurance now that political unrest has turned into an army coup, with at least one leading insurer refusing to cover those planning to visit the country.
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Rob Whelan, chief executive of the Insurance Council of Australia, said policies would not be voided due to the coup but exclusions would apply.

“Though travel insurance will usually not cover you for claims arising from military insurrection, including any restrictions on your activities, travellers remain covered for normal travel-related claims,” he said.

Customers of InsureandGo trying to travel to Thailand are “currently unable to purchase a policy with the company”, according to Julius Paramour, operations manager.

He said that InsureandGo is advising its customers already in Thailand to monitor the advice and warnings of the Federal Government’s SmartTraveller website, “to exercise a high degree of caution and be aware of exclusion zones”.

Thailand is Australia’s fourth most popular overseas holiday destination with well over half-a-million Australians visiting there in 2011-12. But visitor numbers to the once popular but now strife-torn capital, Bangkok, have declined sharply following ongoing violent protests over recent months.

Mr Paramour said that “as per standard practice”, InsureandGo will assess each claim from customers in Thailand on an individual basis. “InsureandGo will take all reasonable measures to assist its customers in Thailand.”

Most, if not all, travel insurance policies exclude claims involving martial law and coups in the fine print of their product disclosure statements.

Earlier this week martial law was unexpectedly declared in Thailand with a war of semantics developing over whether the act constituted an actual coup d’etat.  But that debate has now been settled by the Thai military.

The army has imposed a nationwide curfew from 10pm until 5am, which Australians and other visitors in the country will have to obey.

Leading travel insurers CoverMore and Medibank Private list as exclusions “claims arising as a result of war, invasion, act of foreign enemy, hostilities (whether war be declared or not), civil war, rebellion, revolution, insurrection or military or usurped power”.

However, a spokeswoman for Medibank said that if a policy was purchased prior to the imposition of military or usurped power the customer will still be covered for their trip. She said: “Claims that are not born as a direct consequence of the situation will also still be covered (for example, if an airline loses luggage).”

The spokeswoman said that Medibank’s agents check travel warnings daily and advise customers travelling to affected destinations. They also advise on “associated conditions and exclusions on the travel policy”, as a result of travelling to the affected country.

“There is also information on Medibank’s website regarding travel advice and warnings, and we urge travellers to read this to prior to making travel arrangements, to ensure they are briefed on their intended destination.”

A spokesman for the Insurance Council of Australia said that individual insurers will decide their own “terms and conditions” in regards to travel to Thailand with many having policy exclusions for civil war and civil unrest.

He said that travel insurers may elect to introduce a “new policy embargo”, meaning that they will refuse to “write a policy” covering travel to Thailand.

Earlier this week Singapore Airlines issued a statement alerting passengers to the potential for traffic jams in Bangkok due to road closures as a result of the imposition of martial law and to leave for the airport at four hours prior to departure and where possible to use the airport rail link.

The airline also informed passengers that it will waive administrative fees and penalties for refunds, rebooking or re-routing for customers holding confirmed tickets issue on or before May 19, 2014, for travel to and from Bangkok, on or before May 31, 2014.

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Brisbane West Wellcamp airlines almost lined up: Wagner

15/08/2019 // by admin

The runway starts to take shape at the Wellcamp airport at Toowoomba. Photo: Supplied Bosses of Wellcamp airport at Toowoomba expect to be open for business this year. Photo: Supplied
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The operators of Australia’s first privately-built major public airport say passenger airlines will be flying in and out of Toowoomba as soon as construction is finished in October.

And the Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport, under construction about 17 kilometres west of Toowoomba, could also operate as a landing strip for diverted international flights, according to project chairman John Wagner.

That would potentially see Boeing 747s and Airbus A380s landing at the Darling Downs airport.

“Typically, when Brisbane goes out so does the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast – the Gold Coast is very marginal with weather, they’ve got a short runway so they can’t take a jumbo or an A380, but we can,” Mr Wagner told a Rural Press Club lunch in Brisbane on Tuesday.

“… If we’re going to take international flights in, we’re going to need to have people like AQIS, Customs and Immigration ready to move to be able to accommodate that, rather than sending everyone to Sydney and putting those people a good day out of their way.”

Discussions had been held with Toowoomba-based bus company Stonestreets about transporting passengers from Wellcamp to Brisbane.

“If we do take a diversion from Brisbane, we’ll be able to get them off, process them and get them to Brisbane in a reasonable timeframe,” Mr Wagner said.

Mr Wagner said his family was spending “north of $100 million” on the airport, which will be the first privately funded major public airport in Australia.

Mr Wagner told the lunch he expected up to 500,000 passengers to go through the airport in its first year of operation, which could grow to 1½ million passengers within five years.

“We’re in final discussions with two of the major airlines and one of the secondary airlines and I believe we’ll have at least two – maybe three – airlines running out of Wellcamp in October this year,” he said.

An announcement is understood to be imminent.

But Mr Wagner conceded the 2.87-kilometre runway – which would allow it to accommodate the larger passenger jets – was not necessarily required in the region.

“The reason we took on that decision making process and agreed to do it was that we had one opportunity from a town planning perspective, and particularly a federal government perspective, to get this through the system,” he said.

“Our view is that Toowoomba really only needed an 1800-metre- long runway, which is similar to the Sunshine Coast, however what (the longer runway) gave us was a piece of infrastructure that will see my children and my grandchildren out without having to go through any more approval processes.

“At the end of the day, it’s really only more gravel, more concrete and a few more lights and what it allows us to do is take a 747, fully loaded, direct to Asia.”

The Wagners have identified Sydney, Melbourne, Cairns, Canberra, Adelaide, Roma, Mackay and Emerald as potential regular destinations from Brisbane West Wellcamp.

Mr Wagner said the runway was on track to be completed next month, while the passenger terminal was expected to be finished in September.

Work on the airport started in April last year.

The Wagner family, with its background in cement, has owned the airport site since 1994, when it bought it for use as a quarry.

Along with the airport, the company is building a large business park.

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Thailand army chief announces coup

15/08/2019 // by admin

CoupTop Thailand’s military has launched a coup three days after insisting its troops would not stage a full takeover. Photo: Apichart Weerawong
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How the military seized control in ThailandTravel insurance may be declared voidDo you know more? Email us, or message us on Twitter @smh or @theage

The pro-government Red Shirt centre has warned the country to “stand-by for retaliation” after Thailand’s military launched a coup, three days after it initiated martial law.

A nationwide curfew has been imposed from 10pm until 5am, which Australians and other visitors in the country will have to obey.

General Prayuth will head a military council that is now in-charge of the country, an army spokesman said.

In his official announcement that the coup had taken place, army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said: “In order for the situation to return to normal quickly and for society to love and be at peace again … and to reform the structure of the political, economic and social structure, the military needs to take control of power.”

After this announcement, the army suspended the constitution and banned gatherings of more than five people. Although the 2007 constitution has been suspended, the Senate upper house will continue to function.

The army named 17 people on television who should report to the army. First on the list was deposed Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan.

An army spokesman said people should remain calm and continue to go about their normal activities.

“We will provide security for foreigners,” he said.

The curfew will affect tens of thousands of tourists in resort areas like Phuket, Chiang Mai and Pattaya. It is also expected to create chaos for travellers arriving into and leaving the country and will affect dozens of flights, because passengers are prohibited from travelling after 10pm.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade urged all Australians travelling to Thailand, or already in Thailand, to continue to exercise a high degree of caution and to pay close attention to their personal security.

“Suvarnabhumi International Airport and Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok are operating normally,” the spokesperson said.

“Authorities have advised that the curfew will not apply if travelling to or from an airport. Travellers should have passports and tickets with them when travelling to and from the airport.

“Australians should follow the instructions of local authorities and avoid all demonstrations, protest sites, political events and large-scale public gatherings. Australians travelling to Thailand should visit www.smartraveller.gov.au, familiarise themselves with the travel advice, subscribe to receive regular updates and register their travel plans.”

Embassies around the world advised their citizens in Thailand to exercise extreme caution.

Many Thais will not know about the curfew because Thai television and radio stations have been taken off the air, although the internet and social media sites like Twitter are still operating.

International television stations like the ABC’s Australia Network, CCN and BBC were taken off at least one cable channel provider. The Cartoon channel was even taken off air.

Troops have been deployed in large numbers across Bangkok, where major shopping centres have closed early and restaurants, bars and other businesses are shuttered.

They entered television stations that were not already closed and the stations that remain open began playing soothing music. Troops were also in newspaper offices.

Workers rushed to public transport to get home before the 10pm curfew. Roads were also choked with people going home. Troops manned dozens of check points at major intersections.

As commanders appeared on television about 5pm Bangkok time (8pm AEST) to declare they had taken over, the leaders of both rival political parties in Thailand were taken away in a vans amid dramatic scenes at the Army Club in central Bangkok, where talks were being held to try to find a resolution to six months of sometimes violent unrest.

A military source said the leaders were told “we will keep you together until you understand and love each other”.

Formally announcing the coup on television, General Prayuth said martial law had moved to a full-blown coup, to quell political violence and “ensure fairness for every side”.

”To restore peace back to the country in a short time and to reform the country’s politics, economy and society, the Thai military, army, navy, air force and police have seized power from May 22 onward,” General Prayuth said.

“I ask the people to remain calm and carry on with their business as usual.”

Not long after the announcement of the coup, a burst of gunfire was heard on Uttayan Road, where the pro-government Red Shirt protesters have been camped.

Earlier, soldiers who arrived in trucks at a Red Shirt campsite on the western outskirts of Bangkok said they would take people home. They arrested key Red Shirt leaders who were on stage at their rally site.

Reports said soldiers had asked Red Shirt protesters to stay put and lie face down on the ground. A photo shared via Twitter showed Red Shirt guards and protesters ducking down as soldiers moved in on the protest.

The Red Shirt group posted on Twitter: “Now it is a coup – stand-by for retaliation.”

At least five top Democrat opposition party officials were in detention, including leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. The Democrat party boycotted elections in February that were later annulled by the Constitution Court.

Soldiers surrounded the house of veteran politician and former Labor minister Chalerm Yumbumrung and detained him and two of his sons.

The Red Shirt centre posted another message on Twitter saying “many of our co-leaders have been detained without whereabouts (known) – they are most likely detained at an army base.”

Interim Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan learnt of the coup while at the Commerce Ministry. He had stayed away from the Army Club talks.

Mr Niwattumrong said he then went to offices of the former ruling Pheu Thai party and then to an unknown location.

Staff in the prime minister’s office said they did not know where Mr Niwattamrong was, and the US embassy denied he had taken shelter there.

Unconfirmed reports said he had been arrested.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Niwattumrong insisted he would not resign and said his caretaker cabinet would remain in office until a new elected government was formed.

The army declared that the coup commanders were operating through a body called the National Peacekeeping Committee.

The coup is the 19th staged by the country’s powerful armed forces since 1932.

The takeover will enrage Red Shirt supporters of the caretaker government that wanted to push ahead with fresh elections.

Red Shirt leaders had vowed to rise up if the government that was elected in a landslide victory in 2011 was unconstitutionally deposed.

The military’s move is expected to be condemned by countries around the world, including Australia.

The US will consider imposing sanctions on the military, a close ally.

General Prayuth is expected to move swiftly to appoint a new government.

A front-runner for the prime ministership is Kittipong Kittayarak, a former Permanent Secretary of the Justice Ministry. Dr Kitttipong has been involved in judicial reform in Thailand for more than a decade.

A graduate of Cornell Law School in the United States, he is on the board of Transparency International Thailand and has lectured at major Thai universities.

Political analyst Thittinan Pongsudshirak said it was likely a new military-backed government would be installed within days.

“I am afraid over in the coming days and weeks there will be turmoil,” he said.

“Pro-government Red Shirts are likely to come out in large numbers.”

10:18pm – RT @chrissychrzan: Here’s Khao San Road right now #Bangkok#Thailand#ThaiCouppic.twitter南京夜网/4t3KVADV1H— Richard Barrow (@RichardBarrow) May 22, 2014

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Three-year-old Abbass Farhat fights for life after being hit by car

15/08/2019 // by admin

Abbass Farhat’s neighbour had tears in his eyes as he described the adventurous three-year-old boy who is fighting for his life after being struck by a car in western Sydney.
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Abbass remains in a critical condition after he was hit by a silver car outside of his Blacktown house on Wednesday afternoon.

Several witnesses said the boy darted out onto the road, which has a 60km/h speed limit.

“He is an adventurous, beautiful, little kid,” the neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said.

“It really upset me to see him like that. He would always see me out the front or over the fence and jump up and wave.”

A local shopkeeper said he heard the screams of Abbass’ mother as she tried to cradle her son on busy Reservoir Road.

“She was just totally hysterical, screaming out for everybody.”

She was soon told to leave her son in the hands of an off-duty nurse who witnessed the accident. Within seconds he had ripped off the boy’s shirt and tried to resuscitate him.

“If it wasn’t for the nurse then he certainly would not have made it to hospital,” the shopkeeper said.

He said the family of the little boy mistakenly thought the nurse had been the driver who had run into him.

“They started bashing the nurse’s car,” he said.

One witness said the nurse who tried to save the the boy deserved a medal.

“That guy- what he did – boy, heap praise on him because he deserves it.”

The accident occurred 15 minutes after a two-year-old was hospitalised following a hit and run at Haberfield.

There were four children hit by cars in NSW this week, and the carnage on the road got worse on Thursday.

Jesse Kelly, the man behind a deadly police chase which sparked the Macquarie Fields riots, was involved in a serious crash outside a western Sydney school.

Police say he was one of three men in a Ford Falcon which crashed into two cars outside of Leumeah high school.

Mr Kelly suffered cuts to his legs in the crash and his brother and cousin, who were also in the car, remained in hospital on Thursday night in a stable condition.

Asked as he left hospital what happened, Mr Kelly would only say that  ‘‘there was a car accident ’’ and claimed that his cousin was driving. Police are still investigating who was behind the wheel.

Mr Kelly’s license is suspended.‘‘I’m just a piece of shit,’’ he told waiting media.

The 2005 Macquarie Fields riots were sparked after Mr Kelly crashed a stolen car into a tree and killed two passengers during a  police pursuit.

He served jail time after pleading guilty to dangerous driving  causing the deaths of of 17-year-old Dylan Raywood and 19-year-old Matthew Robertson.

Mr Kelly was released in 2011 but in the three years since his release he has been before the courts again for a series of driving offences.

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Social workers being squeezed out

15/08/2019 // by admin

Blue Gum Community School student welfare officer Ruth Pickard. Photo: Graham Tidy0As a school-based student welfare worker, Ruth Pickard is one of the earliest intervention tools to keep children mentally well and engaged in education, a key part of avoiding future unemployment.
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But at the end of the year, Ms Pickard will be out of a job, as she is a secular worker funded by the School Chaplaincy Program, which the federal government announced last week will return to its religious beginnings.

The change has been labelled “a step backwards” by social workers and schools.

It will leave at least 14 ACT schools without a social welfare officer, and the ACT based Australian Student Welfare Association’s ten employees who service them, unemployed; about half of whom are also under 30 and subject to tougher new dole restrictions.

“The biggest factor from our perspective isn’t so much our staff – obviously we’re disappointed about that – but … that ACT schools that just do not have the community support for chaplaincy now don’t have an option [for welfare support in their school],” the association’s director, Ross Sutherland, said.

Ms Pickard, who supports children with issues ranging from making friends in the playground to major family issues at home, said the loss of support to those students will be seen in the future.

“You don’t notice what we’re doing because the problems are minimised; you don’t really see the results of what we’re doing except in the fact people are happy and coming to school … without it, who knows what’s going to happen.”

The national president of the Australian Association of Social Workers, Karen Healy, said the change, in conjunction with other welfare cuts, had the capacity to escalate youth homelessness to crisis point.

“Many people who are long-term unemployed or who find it hard to stay in employment – their problems start way back in school,” Professor Healy said.

“We’ve now got a situation where young people are back in this highly vulnerable circumstance because they lack access to decent benefits, and if there’s a cut back in support services in school, more young people get disconnected from school [and] that increases their chance of unemployment and other things like homelessness.”

While the chaplaincy program will still offer a religious alternative, many ACT schools are unlikely to apply, with surveys finding 70 per cent of government school communities in favour of a secular worker over a chaplain.

“Many schools are going to lose their staff member and not be able to apply for the chaplaincy program due to lack of community support,” Mr Sutherland said.

Blue Gum Community School, where Ms Pickard works, is one such school.

It has a number of Jewish, Christian and atheist families, and executive director Maureen Hartung said to opt for a chaplain “would send a message that we value one faith over another”.

“We think it’s a form of religious discrimination, fundamentally – we’re being denied it because we’re not prepared to choose one religion over another,” Ms Hartung said.

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Wallabies look beyond French series

15/07/2019 // by admin

The French may be heading for Australian shores but the Wallabies have old foes – the All Blacks and Springboks – very much at the forefront of their thinking. Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie pinpointed an ambitious five wins in a row as Australia’s immediate short-term goal on Thursday and named a 32-man squad built around achieving that this year. But he also has one eye focused on preventing another morale-sapping loss to New Zealand or South Africa.  The Wallabies ended McKenzie’s first season in charge with a four-game winning streak in Europe but three painful losses to the All Blacks and Springboks preceding that still sting. Describing the five losses as a “completely thorough investigation” of their game plan, McKenzie said Australia would be treating next month’s series against France as a time to bed down the side’s identity. “We’ll concentrate a lot on how we want to go about things in this series and that’s not being disrespectful to the French, that’s just what we need to do,” he said. “We do have some tactical opportunities [against the French], we have a game plan already that we’ve developed, but the best thing we can do as a team is be consistent and hopefully consistently winning. “That’s going to be the best platform for playing the Springboks or the All Blacks, going in there with confidence.” Evidence of that are the four uncapped players – all in the tight five – named on Wednesday, down from 12 Test rookies in McKenzie’s first season. The Waratahs’ towering second-rower Will Skelton, a raw but exciting prospect, joins Rebels bolter Luke Jones and the Brumbies’ Sam Carter, with Nathan Charles from the Force named as the third hooker behind experienced candidates Tatafu Polota-Nau and Stephen Moore. After injury robbed McKenzie of his go-to five-eighth Quade Cooper, the former Waratahs coach turned to the player he blooded at provincial level back in 2007, Kurtley Beale. Beale was specifically named as a No.10 alongside NSW teammate Bernard Foley, who scored a try on debut against Argentina last year. Brumbies five-eighth Matt Toomua was pointedly listed as a centre option along with Christian Leali’ifano and incumbent No.13 Tevita Kuridrani. A rejuvenated Rob Horne and Pat McCabe also made the list, among 11 Waratahs and 10 Brumbies named in the squad. But the number of Reds players more than halved, down from nine in McKenzie’s first squad last year, to four on Wednesday. Prop James Slipper, halfback Will Genia and second-rowers James Horwill and Rob Simmons were the only players included, a reflection of the shocking season performance of the 2011 Super Rugby title winners. Liam Gill, Mike Harris and Saia Fainga’a were glaring omissions, while winger Chris Feauai-Sautia was ruled out of contention through injury. “Belief and confidence is a very important part in the psychology of the game and you can see that now with the Reds,” McKenzie said. “You don’t become a bad player overnight but confidence can be a killer. “Having said that, when I was at the Waratahs we were in a semi-final, then second last, then made the final, so it can be a yo-yo as well. That’s sport and that’s what makes it interesting.”McKenzie said defence would be a big focus for the squad this season. “Our primary focus [last year] was to re-energise in attack so we didn’t do too much in defence,” he said. “We’ll look back and there were things we didn’t get right but it was such a quick start and you get a completely thorough investigation from the Springboks and All Blacks. “We put all the effort in and we didn’t quite get it right but by the end [of the Test season] we did, and that was as much about all being on the same page.” Wallabies squad: Ben Alexander, Pek Cowan, Sekope Kepu, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Nathan Charles, Stephen Moore, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sam Carter, James Horwill, Luke Jones, Rob Simmons, Will Skelton, Scott Fardy, Scott Higginbotham, Matt Hodgson, Michael Hooper, Ben McCalman, Wycliff Palu, Will Genia, Nick Phipps, Nic White, Kurtley Beale, Bernard Foley, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Leali’ifano, Matt Toomua, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Nick Cummins, Israel Folau, Rob Horne, Pat McCabe
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The print version of this story stated Ewen McKenzie was targeting six wins in a row this season. It has been corrected to reflect his short term goal of five in a row on the back of four wins last year.

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Richmond a team in turmoil

15/07/2019 // by admin

Jack Riewoldt’s decision to break ranks on Wednesday has angered his club and placed even more pressure on his beleaguered coach Damien Hardwick – a man whose mixed public messages during the Tigers’ horror season have only served to further confuse the situation.
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Hardwick has been so bereft of answers he has resorted to seeking mediocre positives and making promises his players have repeatedly failed to keep.

Repeated assurances that the club is moving in the right direction, any talk of improvement or mention of injuries is just embarrassing and an insult to the club’s much-lauded record number of members and game-day spectators who were so cruelled at the MCG last September.

Hardwick’s team in 2013 and often even in 2012 was one of the most exciting to watch in the competition. Now Richmond is generally unwatchable; scared of playing and frightened of losing and no one can – or has been prepared to – explain why.

The ongoing commentary about poor recruiting decisions and the mediocrity of the list does not wash. Richmond might not boast a top four list but nor does its list rank in the bottom four. More than one-third of the way through the season it is time for the coaching group to accept as it surely has that it has failed dismally this year.

The club has warned against over-analysing the reasons behind Riewoldt’s comments. As horrified as the Tigers’ were by his apparently thoughtless disloyalty, they believe he is without guile and had no hidden agenda.

On Thursday morning he received a blast from the coach who did not rule out dropping him for the GWS game – he eventually didn’t – and was also lectured by executives Brendon Gale, Daniel Richardson and Simon Matthews.

He is believed to have been embarrassed and contrite and underlined his apology with repeated utterances relating to his strong affection for and admiration of the senior coach. He did not face the leadership group of which he was a part last year. None of which gets away from the fact that Riewoldt was clearly telling the truth when he said: ‘‘We probably tried to copy Hawthorn a little bit too much with our kicking style … we went one way with our game and the game went the other way.’’ Or at least his version of the truth.

The genuine hope now is that the Tigers abandon damage control for five minutes and focus on the disconnect between the coaches and players. Clearly the message is not getting through for so many players to have been down against Melbourne given the stakes last Saturday. Half of the leadership group is failing on the field and collectively that quartet must be struggling off it.

If Riewoldt’s misgivings about the team’s direction are exclusive to him then that too needs to be thrashed out. Perhaps, and it is a belated hope despite empty comments by Brendon Gale and others that finals remain an ambition, the explosive Jack’s gaffe could prove the circuit breaker in tandem with the limp loss to the Demons.

Because the signs that something is not right at the club came long before the Tigers’ listless round-one opening against the Gold Coast. In fact Richmond has not truly looked convincing as a team since – ironically – it defeated Hawthorn in round-19 last year.

What followed apart from some truly mediocre football was the Jake King, Toby Mitchell incident which dragged into summer, a series of Dustin Martin indiscretions culminating in him briefly walking out on the club and some perplexing off-field issues.

President Gary March, having achieved so much, left the club in a huff and almost did not attend the Jack Dyer Medal function. March was angry his man and a board split briefly shadowed the club. Peggy O’Neal was installed in a suprise decision.

Questions also remained regarding the quality of the coaching minds surrounding Hardwick after some departures in 2013 and then early this year came Riewoldt’s omission from the leadership group and subsequent dummy spit.

Perhaps his ill-timed comments on Wednesday suggested that the rudderless onfield rabble we have seen on the playing arena in 2014 is being mirrored behind the scenes.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

TONY BUTTERFIELD:War on drugs went too far

15/07/2019 // by admin

CAUGHT: Former Raiders star Sandor Earl received a four-year ban from ASADA. Picture: Jay CronanWADA’s focus had always been about the Olympics. It had an ethos of catching cheats and promoting health.
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But just six years after its inception WADA had gone too far.

THE story of Sandor Earl, the only NRL player to be caught up in the ASADA drugs drama so far, was revealed last weekend.

His legal team are threatening legal action for what appears by all reports to be shabby treatment indeed.

I will always be dead against cheats in any pursuit where rules are in place to provide a fair go. But when ASADA announced at the beginning of last season that the spectre of the darkest day in Australian sport was upon us – I was cynical.

But first some background. In 2002 a Canadian snowboarder was stripped of his medal for testing positive to marijuana. This was something of a coup for the International Olympic Committee’s World Anti-Doping Agency which had only been operating since 1999. Unfortunately, it could only boast a very small number of positives for all its expense and efforts.

WADA’s prestige took a further hit when the Court of Arbitration for Sport reinstated the medal because marijuana was not on the WADA list of ban substances.

The powers that be in WADA were ropable. So they set about changing the rules and insisting everyone else did too.

WADA’s list was pretty quickly updated to more than 300 named substances and up to 10,000 molecularly similar substances.

The IOC was no longer just about banning performance-enhancing drugs it was now about banning all drugs.

The mantra was that the Olympics was not just about performance it was also about healthy lifestyles. The war on drugs had a new front and a catchy theme.

And WADA didn’t just want its rules to apply to the Olympics. It wanted all organised sports on the planet to take up the new rules.

As head of the Rugby League Players’ Union in 2005, I argued, along with players’ associations from other sports, that the proposed WADA rules were way over the top and heavy handed.

WADA’s focus had always been about the Olympics. It had an ethos of catching cheats and promoting health.

But just six years after its inception WADA had gone too far.

Supported by independent chemists from around the world, we argued that the science simply did not support having many of the substances on the banned list.

A very sound case was put against the over-officious approach of WADA and its Australian counterpart ASADA. Put simply most of the substances on the list were not performance enhancing.

Many of them could be ingested inadvertently. Some of them are performance limiting and there was little concession for drugs used for legitimate medication or recovery.

Coupled with early morning home door stops and a ‘‘whereabouts’’ regime that would be simpler if athletes were electronically tagged, a reasonable person could start to see this issue from another perspective.

For what is largely a younger and singularly skilled cohort, the bar was (is) set far too high and the punishments far too severe.

At the time the NRL, like most organised professional sports, had an effective regime of its own. At first the NRL was reluctant to get caught up in the WADA maelstrom. It agreed and stated publicly that effective mechanisms were in place without the need to adopt the Olympic scheme.

But the NRL folded. Not because it was wrong but because political pressure was brought to bear. WADA was putting the screws on governments to make all sports toe the line.

The Howard government was one of the first to jump aboard globally.

From there, all it took was an announcement that the government would not provide funding to sports that didn’t adopt the code. No new stadia if no new drug code!

The soccer hierarchy disagreed but soccer was in the Olympics so they had no bargaining power.

Rugby union was ever hopeful they too could be an Olympic sport so they folded. And the AFL fell over at the 11th hour having negotiated extra funding and changes to the unchangeable rules.

The nadir for the NRL was reached when the government trumped the players’ reasoned opposition by advising recalcitrant codes that not only would new stadium funding be withheld but that any sport that does not comply with the code – exactly as it was written – would lose all federal funding to their junior sport.

Fast forward to 2012 and our elected representatives were at it again. Scare mongering about drugs in sport. Smearing players with innuendo and rumour. Implying that every athlete was under suspicion.

So here we are 18months and a new government later and we’re still waiting.

Importantly, ASADA achieved a load of publicity from their announcement – not to mention funding increases, significant new powers and job security for themselves.

They now have the power to intercept calls and text messages, raid homes, demand attendance, stop people at the airport to confiscate phones and the like.

They apply strict liability where athletes must prove that they are not guilty – rather than the other way around.

Kids aspiring to be sports stars should dream of competing in an environment where mind, ability and fortitude alone determine outcomes; where rules level the playing field and ensure a fair go.

Likewise, should ours kids not expect those making the rules adhere to similar standards when applying them.

The Sandor Earl case and possibly others will test the integrity of that expectation in the months ahead.

■ I was down in Newcastle East on Tuesday afternoon where I bumped into my old mates Clive and the General elegantly attired sipping double decaf macchiatos.

The General jumped straight onto me.

‘‘Buttsy’’, he said. ‘‘Mate, after the Penrith game I was so shattered I didn’t even go for a beer.

‘‘But after the game last night, mate, pass on my congrats to the boys would ya? ‘‘They were great.’’

For his part, Clive, the silver fox/smooth operator looks across the table, eyebrow raised nodding with experience.

‘‘Buttsy, they can turn the corner on this season – mark my words”.

And we will Clive.

Students voice concerns over uni fees at careers day

15/07/2019 // by admin

Students at the Careers Expo at Newcastle Jockey Club on Thursday. Picture Ryan OslandSTUDENTS at this year’s Newcastle and Lake Macquarie career expo were concerned about implications that the budget would have for university fees and welfare support.
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Five thousand students registered for a career expo on Thursday to learn more about their future careers.

In the wake of the recently proposed 2014 Liberal budget students and teachers are unsure about what lies ahead.

Under the proposed budget, fees will no longer be capped, and universities will be allowed to charge what they like from 2016.

Welfare payments for the unemployed under 30 years of age will not be available for six months after lodging an application, and recipients will be required to work for the dole.

Levina Abbo, a teacher and career advisor at Merewether High School said the deregulation was a great cause for concern.

LEVINA ABBO

‘‘[Students] are looking much more at scholarships and cadetships which are increasingly harder to get,’’ she said.

‘‘Students in year ten are already commenting on the budget and how it’s going to affect them.’’

She also said those choosing to study away from home would be impacted significantly.

‘‘They may not be able to choose courses that really cater to their needs and may not be able to follow their true passions,’’ she said.

Linsay Burns, a 24-year-old final-year construction management student at the University of Newcastle, said he was reconsidering doing a masters degree in light of the proposed budget.

LINDSAY BURNS

‘‘I’m concerned about being in a position of having to pay back my debt at a higher rate and lower income,’’ he said.

‘‘I work overseas volunteering and so coming back into the country knowing I can’t get benefits for six months makes me concerned about my international career.

‘‘It’s not a fair budget. It’s extremely unfair.’’

The Newcastle Lake Macquarie Career and Training Expo, presented by Career Links had a record number of exhibitors and students, with every high school in the region involved for the first year ever.

Anne Molloy, Career Links spokeswoman said the expo was a fantastic opportunity to support young people making decisions about their future careers.

Ms Molloy said that while federal government funding for university programs would be cut in the proposed budget, Career Links believed there is a need for programs supporting young people as they move from school to work.

‘‘We remain positive and we’re exploring opportunities that will allow us to continue helping young people in the future,’’ she said.

‘‘That’s why we do it. We’re the intermediary between training providers, schools and employers.’’

Is the federal budget making you reconsider your study and career prospects?

HAYLEY KEEN, 17, St Phillips, Year 12

HAYLEY KEEN

‘‘It’s scary, now that I’m in year 12 and having to look into these things, considering the future and study and career options. There are financial limitations already, and they’re getting worse. Now that I’m more politically aware, I can see that these budget decisions will impact us and will probably affect what I want to do. I want to study medicine.’’

BLAKE MARCHANT, 18, Lakes Grammar, Year 12

BLAKE MARCHANT

‘‘I think if Tony Abbott’s daughter gets a $60,000 degree for nothing and other kids all have to pay for their education, it’s very unfair. My family isn’t all that well off to start with and we don’t need all these extra things to have to pay for just so I can get an education. It’s a very unfair budget. It makes it harder for those who already have it hard.’’

CHRIS PANTSOS, 17, Lakes Grammar, Year 12

CHRIS PANTOS

‘‘The budget will definitely make it harder for students to get into what they really want to do. It will limit their options. I’m not sure what I want to study, but I’m tending towards business. This will really limit the universities I can go to, because the massive increase in cost will mean living out of home will be harder. The budget is not really fair, as it disadvantages those who are already disadvantaged.’’

ERIN HEALEY, 17,Merewether High, Year 12

ERIN HEALEY

‘‘I’m having to rethink my gap year because if I wait to start my degree until 2016, deregulation of fees will kick in and the unis will be able to charge me whatever they like. I want to study nursing and midwifery and that’s four years long – three if I do it faster. I’m angry about the budget and I think making the dole harder to get is going to cause problems for a lot of people studying.’’

JOANNE McCARTHY: From Rio back to reality

15/07/2019 // by admin

SO, a few things happened while I was in South America for five weeks.
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1. I lost a bet. When push comes to shove, there’s something about the sight of a little roasted guinea pig’s front teeth and teeny roasted feet curled up on a bed of mashed root vegetable that defeats even a quick $20.

2. I went to Rio, where Jesus is big, the World Cup is bigger, and a short trip to the beach showed why Brazilians invented the Brazilian – the wax job that launched 10,000 G-strings. Neither age, nor body shape, nor fitness level, nor concern for the sensitivities of a few Aussie tourists prevent the good people of Rio from bending over in their thousands on Copacabana and Ipanema beaches wearing nothing but very small strips of buried fabric and even deeper suntans.

‘‘I think I just saw a woman’s tonsils from underneath,’’ said one of my travelling companions, Bruce, who’d made the mistake of looking up from his book as we lounged on Copacabana beach and a woman bent to retrieve her sunglasses.

‘‘What on earth are you talking about?’’ said his wife, Flo, who’d been playing ‘‘Spotto the implants’’ until boredom set in when she reached a triple-digit figure.

‘‘I mean I saw a woman’s tonsils when she bent over and I haven’t even seen her face, if you get my drift,’’ said Bruce, as the amply built middle-aged Brazilian and her even more amply built middle-aged hubby fluffed around for a bit longer until they both bent over to pick up their towels and walked off together, hand in hand.

‘‘I think I’ve just seen her husband’s adenoids from the same perspective,’’ said Flo, before noting Peter Allen singing ‘‘When my baby smiles at me I go to Rio’’ had been ruined for her from that day forward.

3. I survived a mountain-bike ride on Death Road in Bolivia. Every year, the Darwin Awards are presented to dead people who’ve increased our global IQ by dying while doing really stupid things. Tourists doing really stupid things – like taking the first mountain-bike ride of their lives on a notoriously dangerous 63-kilometre cliff road where a single mistake can leave you plunging to a horrible, but extremely quick, death at the bottom of a ravine – tend to feature heavily on the award list. But ignorance is bliss, hope springs eternal, the photos looked fabulous, and my group of oxygen-deprived but smiling Aussies managed to get to the bottom without too much incident.

4. I did a runner from a woman who thought all tourists liked to have giant anacondas draped around their heads. In my formative years in the 1970s, I saw Marlin Perkins wrestle a giant anaconda in a river on Wild Kingdom. Like Skippy and Flipper, that seminal television show left me with fairly settled views about critters that have remained, despite the decades. And those views are: a) kangaroos are the only Australian native animals that can tell north from south and drive a ute; b) dolphins aren’t as smart as kangaroos, but they’re the only sea creatures that can summon an ambulance in an emergency; and c) giant 10-metre snakes with heads as wide as dinner plates and a tendency to crush their meals to death before taking hours to consume them are never, ever our friends, even if they’re called Larry or George. I might have been in an idyllic Amazon jungle setting with a full moon overhead, the anaconda might have been the woman’s family pet from the moment it hatched from an egg and ate its siblings, and I might have been a tourist doing stupid things while on holiday, but there was no way I was wearing a snake. In the Amazon, everyone can hear you scream.

5. Barry O’Farrell resigned because of a bottle of Grange. Now it’s fair to say that when you’re in South America there’s not much about Australia on the local news. In fact, during the five weeks I was in five different South American countries there was virtually nothing about Australia on the local news, apart from pithy comments about our chances of making it past the first round in the World Cup, ‘‘Not a hope in hell’’ being the least pithy of those comments. So it was an email from home to one of our group, received as we lazed in hammocks beside the Amazon River in Peru, that told us Bazza ‘‘I promise we won’t let you down’’ O’Farrell, had let us down. And, somewhere on a continent far, far from home, a group of peeved NSW residents tossed around the names of their favourite fallen pollies of the past two years – Labor and Coalition – while the piranha snapped in the mighty Amazon.

6. Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey broke election promises, targeted the most disadvantaged in the community, barely touched high-income earners, denied that’s what they’d done, lectured critics about how the Abbott government had to wean Australians off the teat of entitlement, did a little dance, smoked a cigar or two, and then celebrated their unfair and ugly budget with a host of party fund-raising dinners.

Public trust trashed again. I must be home.