December 4, 2018

Comments Off on OPINION: Got a tone to pick with you

OPINION: Got a tone to pick with you

LITERALLY JAB: Muhammad Ali surprised his opponents. NOW listen. But I already was listening. Did you have to say that? Make you feel important did it?

Now that you have commanded me to listen with your best uppity school principal tone, I am going to sit here and look interested but won’t be thinking about anything that spills into the vapour from your pompous gob. I’ll be dreaming about cat videos while nodding away and surreptitiously looking for the nearest exit and planning how quickly I can use it.

The only time I want to ever hear “now listen” is just before Ross Wilson cranks out “Oh we’re stepping out”, providing timeless and sage advice regarding a dance move generations of awkward, sober (awkwardly sober?) and unco-ordinated Australian men – whether they be metro, hetero, or retro – can manage without embarrassing partners, children, innocent bystanders or those who actually can trip the light fantastic. “I’m gonna turn around. Gonna turn around once and do the Eagle Rock.” Yes brother, we can all manage the Eagle Rock. The turn itself can be tricky if done at anything resembling quarter-Michael Jackson speed whilst nursing a dodgy hip or footy knees, but if you take it slowly enough there is a reasonable likelihood there will be little need to seek medical treatment for acute self-inflicted humiliation the following day.

But “now listen” is just one of the everyday sayings that has permeated the language and gets up my goat, which should never be confused with getting on my goat.

What about “I’ve got a bone to pick with you”? Oh spare me days, Nanna. This one buries the passive and privileges the aggressive. Why not say “I cannot legally physically punch you in the head with my clenched fist so I am going to punch you in the brain with a pointless and ordurous idiom as preferred by the most tiresome dolts in the English speaking world.”

“I’ve got a bone to pick with you” is the particularly annoying person’s way of sending a signal that you have annoyed them, winning them an annoyance boxed quinella comprised of being simultaneously both annoying and annoyed in any order.

I never want to hear this tedious phrase again, unless of course you are going to literally pick a bone with me, in which case a courteous invitation to a carnivorous feast may be acceptable, depending upon prior commitments and the nutritious parameters of the fad diet I am failing to comply with at any particular time. You would be welcome to pick my brain at such an occasion.

What about “with all due respect”? Like Muhammad Ali jiving his head quickly to the right before unloading a lethal left jab, this pearler signals something untoward is coming. This is the go-to passive aggressive insult par excellence spurted by attack weasels before they scarper back to their burrows.

Literally is the new “like”. I literally don’t, like, like you using literally. It’s 2015’s “absolutely” and is most often used to sabotage and poison an otherwise tolerable auditory ambience in a situation where an agreeable silence would be just dandy. Please shut up.

Now it’s election season and the Baird government is regularly wheeling out Laura Norder and her get tough promises in the usual cavalier fashion of those attempting to win the hearts of talkback shock-jocks and the Murdoch table thumpers, how about mandatory life sentences for misuse of the word literally? Like, literal life sentences.

“Can I ask you a question?” What? Besides that question you just asked, asking me whether you could ask me a question? I am not sure if I can answer that question without taking it into full consideration that you didn’t ask me a question whether you could ask me a question regarding the asking of a question. Just ask the question.

“I know this sounds like a dumb question, but…” Why are you asking me a question that you are apparently pleased to qualify with a disparaging announcement? Why not rethink the question and make it sharp and focused? Why not pass on asking it at all? Otherwise I’ll take it as a comment and refer the matter to Tony Jones where the Twitterati will joyfully pass comment on the validity of the question’s merits. On the other hand, maybe you could just ask the question without an introductory clause outlining unnecessary anxiety. Verbal oxazepam.

“It is what it is.” Oh Jebus. Just shoot me. Not literally.

“Thanks in advance.” That one means I have flicked you a task by email so intolerable that I would rather chew wasps than do it myself.

“Just sayin.” Arrrrgggh.

Paul Scott is a lecturer in the School of Design, Communication and Information Technology at the University of Newcastle


December 4, 2018

Comments Off on IAN KIRKWOOD: Revel inShow and tell

IAN KIRKWOOD: Revel inShow and tell

IAN KIRKWOOD: Revel in Show and tell All the colour abd fun from the Newcastle Show. Pictures: Marina Neil/Peter Stoop/Phil Hearne/Simone De Peak

TweetFacebookNewcastle Herald sports writer James Gardiner observed, for ‘‘a fifth straight game the Jets were fiercely competitive’’.

On Saturday, a swell that brought sizeable and picture-perfect waves to every beach on our part of the coast continued to pour in from the ocean depths, as it had on Friday.

And it was still there on Sunday, a great run of surf, even if it was a fortnight too late for Surfest.

Also on Saturday, the Newcastle Knights ran out for the first game of the season, scoring a spine-tingling 24-14 victory over the Warriors, fighting their way back from a 14-6 deficit and doing it with a man in the sin bin for 10 minutes in the second half.

There were 16,000 people cheering the home team on at Hunter Stadium, but I listened to the game through one earphone while negotiating my way with a mate and three children through the Newcastle Show.

Ah, the show!

Beloved by children, and looked at by many of us with a weary and wary eye.

Picture: Simone De Peak

A day out, yes, but once you get sucked into the sideshow alley, you can kiss goodbye to $100 or $150 a child without even blinking.

For those on limited budgets, it’s best to hand over the folding stuff and console yourself that it’s only once a year, and that the smiles on those little, and not-so-little faces are worth the wallet-full of redbacks that it’s cost to put them up on top of whatever ride is now scaring the daylights out of them.

As the word itself suggests, the ‘‘sideshow’’ started out on the ‘‘side’’ of the ‘‘show’’. An addition to the main attraction, in other words.

But the way the Newcastle Show is nowadays – and I am pretty certain it’s the same with a lot of regional shows – the ‘‘sideshow’’ appears to be the main game, especially if the weight of numbers is any indication.

All up, show organisers expect the three days of good weather this year will have brought more than 50,000 people through the gates, an increase of about 30per cent on the 35,000 of last year and 2013.

I was there from mid-afternoon until 9.30pm on Saturday and through all of that time, the crowds were much thicker over on the amusements side of the showground than they were over on the traditional side, where the goats and the chickens and the horses were doing their thing.

The main animal sheds were shut on Saturday afternoon – the cattle exhibitor had to cancel, as I later learnt – and I left with the feeling that the agricultural and industrial part of the Newcastle Show was on a noticeable decline.

So I went back on Sunday to talk to Newcastle Show Association president Roger Geary and his dedicated – and mostly volunteer – band of helpers, who told me that, yes, it was a battle, but a battle they were determined to win. It’s definitely a show of two worlds, financially.

While $20 and $50 notes disappear hand over fist on rides and amusements, those showing their goats and ponies are doing so for a love of the game, and for precious competition points to gain entry to the Royal Easter Show.

To make the most of the show, I would definitely recommend picking up a program. I was too distracted by the pull of three nine-year-olds dragging us relentlessly towards the rides and the sugar, and when I did finally drag the group over to the show ring, it was a bit hard for an untutored novice to know what was going on.

But I know one thing. I’m glad we stayed for the fireworks. In January I had a whinge about Newcastle’s New Year’s Eve fireworks, which, for most of the crowd, were like distant paintings on a near-silent sky.

Not so at the show. Let loose on Friday and Saturday nights from the centre of the show ring, it was an explosive rain of explosion and colour, the air thick and grey with the sulphurous reek of gunpowder.

As the kids said on the way home: Best fireworks ever!


December 4, 2018

Comments Off on EDITORIAL: The year of living equally

EDITORIAL: The year of living equally

AS long as gender inequality exists in society, there will always be a need for International Women’s Day.

It’s true, women are highly visible in positions of power; in politics, on television, in the workplace. But the reality is that men still rule the world, or think they do, and still make up most of the rules that govern the world.

Yes, Julia Gillard was Australia’s first female prime minister, and deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop is one of those named as a likely successor to prime minister Tony Abbott.

But they are the exceptions that prove the rule. Their high profile makes it seem as though women are equal players on the political field.

But the reality is that most of the positions that matter in Australian governments are still held by men.

Indeed, the latest global measures of gender inequality – a ‘‘gender gap index’’ compiled by the World Economic Forum – shows that Australia is slipping in relation to other countries. We ranked 24th last year from 142 nations, a steady decline from 2006, when we were 15th from 115 countries.

In everyday fields, most women still live lives that depend, to some extent, on the goodwill and largesse of men. Parenting is now much more of a shared experience than it was a generation or two ago, but women are still often cast in the role of the primary caregiver, while the man’s image remains that of the bread-winner. Some men – and perhaps some women – will say that is how it should be, and that gender roles are bequeathed to us by nature, not society. They may even say this division is not one of inequality, but of intrinsic, natural difference.

But modern experience tells us this is not the case. A crucial aspect of child care is that it provides women with choices if they want to contribute to the workforce, who wish to build careers for themselves.

Whether we realise it or not, the truth of the matter is that many of society’s conceptions of male and female roles are preconceptions, shaped by an often subtly acting group of biases and prejudices that we are often not even aware of until they are deconstructed.

And if there is one area of society that proves the amount of ground that men are yet to give, it’s in domestic violence.

Men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators, and the act itself – of male violence towards women – is always wrong. There are no excuses, ever, and we should not need an International Women’s Day to remind us of this.

Nor is the right to a life without violence something we should think of only once a year.

Australian society, indeed all society, benefits from gender equality. In 2015, the idea that a woman should enjoy exactly the same rights and privileges as men is not feminist dogma, it is simple common sense.


June 7, 2019

Comments Off on Three key players, including a judge, failed to disclose Anglican church associations in 2001 trial

Three key players, including a judge, failed to disclose Anglican church associations in 2001 trial

The ‘ambush’ and the apology: abuse survivor takes on the state Unfinished business: Hunter Anglican child sexual abuse survivor Steve Smith has sought an apology from the State of NSW over a 2001 trial in which three key players, including the judge, failed to disclose their associations with the Anglican church. Picture: Jonathan Carroll.


‘Intemperate’: The late Newcastle District Court Judge Ralph Coolahan whose harsh criticism of Mr Smith in court in 2001 was described as ‘intemperate and ill-conceived’ by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Picture: Darren Pateman.

Criticism: Former Newcastle Anglican deputy chancellor Paul Rosser, QC, who was criticised by the royal commission for providing advice to former Bishop Roger Herft that allowed the bishop to remain “wilfully blind” to the sexual misconduct of clergy.

Criticised: Solicitor Keith Allen who held positions with the diocese while representing accused child sex offender Anglican priest George Parker in court in 2001.

Charged: Accused Anglican child sex offender priest George Parker outside Newcastle Courthouse in 2001 during his trial for offences against Steve Smith.

Referred: Former Newcastle Anglican Bishop Roger Herft who was criticised by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse for “weak and ineffectual” leadership on child sexual abuse.

Warned: Former Newcastle Anglican Assistant Bishop Richard Appleby. The royal commission heard evidence he was told George Parker and other priests committed crimes against children.

Outsider: Steve Smith outside Newcastle’s Christ Church Anglican Cathedral. He has written to NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman about the conduct of a 2001 Newcastle trial.

Request: NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman. Hunter abuse survivor Steve Smith has written to Mr Speakman seeking an apology for the conduct of a 2001 Newcastle trial.

Grateful: Steve Smith said he is grateful to Newcastle Anglican Diocese professional standards director Michael Elliott who disclosed the associations between the diocese and key players in a 2001 trial.

Thanks: Steve Smith praised Newcastle Detective Sergeant Jeff Little who re-investigated allegations against Anglican priest George Parker from 2013 and charged him with 24 child sex offences two weeks before Parker died in January, 2017. Picture: Simone De Peak.

TweetFacebook Abuse survivor says state needs to apologise for conduct of 2001 trial STEVE Smith calls it an ambush –the day he walked into a Newcastle courtroom to give evidence against an Anglican priest only to be blindsided by a judge’s attack against him, in a trial where three key players had undisclosed associations with the church.

Seventeen years after the case against the priest collapsed, Mr Smith has written to Attorney General Mark Speakman seeking an apology from the State of NSW.

“I expected to get beaten up by the defencebutI had a judge attacking my credibility in court. He was basically calling me a liar in court, that I was fabricating it. I remember thinking, someone say something,” Mr Smith said.

“I spent years in the wilderness, despairing about what happened.I spent years thinking,I should have just shut my mouth. So the state should apologise. I just want some acknowledgement it was wrong.I want the state to take responsibility for that because it was devastating. It was soul-destroying. It’s unfinished business for me.”

The late Judge Ralph Coolahan exploded in court in September, 2001 and described the prosecution of priest George Parker for child sex offences in the early 1970s as a “disgrace” and a “real farce”. Judge Coolahan slammedMr Smith as“truly ridiculous” for not reporting the abuse for two decades, despite evidence Mr Smith had repeatedly reported the abuse to the church from 1975.

‘Intemperate’: The late Newcastle District Court Judge Ralph Coolahan. The judge’s harsh criticism of Steve Smith during a 2001 trial was described by the royal commission as ‘intemperate and ill-conceived’.

“So, (he has)waited 20 years… well, that is just ridiculous. It is truly ridiculous. The fact that someone is brought to trial, 26 years after an alleged offence, is in itself a disgrace,” said Judge Coolahan, despite NSW judges from 1981 being required to direct juries that delayed complaint in sexual assault cases did not necessarily mean an allegation was false.

Judge Coolahan did not disclose he had worked for the diocese as a lawyer in a matter several years before the trial, and Parker’s lawyers Keith Allen and Paul Rosser did not disclose they held significant positions in Newcastle Anglican diocese –in Mr Rosser’s case, deputy chancellor.

It was nearly 10years before Mr Smith knew.

The trial collapsed in 2001 after a parish registerwas produced by the defence during the trial despite the prosecution subpoenaing all records from the diocese months earlier. The register, whichcontained “a number of irregularities”, was “pivotal” in having the case withdrawn, the royal commission noted. Parker’s close friend, the dioceseregistrar and later convicted fraudster Peter Mitchell, issued a public statement incorrectly sayingParker had been acquitted.

Mr Smith’s life fell apart.

Criticised: Former Newcastle Anglican Diocese solicitor Keith Allen outside Newcastle Courthouse after giving evidence at the royal commission. He was criticised by the commission in the Newcastle Anglican Diocese final report.

“I was powerless in that courtroom and it was as if I was that powerless kid being abused all over again,” hesaid.

“The judge was using thepower of the bench to slap me down. If I’d known the way I was going to be treated I’d never have walked into the courtroom. People need to be encouraged to do it, not intimidated out of it.”

In Newcastle Courthouse in late 2016 the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse revealed how systemic issues, ineffectual bishops andpowerful lay people allowed a group of child sex offenders to operate almost unchallenged in the diocese for more than 30 years.

The commission strongly criticised Newcastle bishops Alfred Holland, Roger Herft and Richard Appleby. Newcastle Anglican Diocese hasreferred the three men forchurch disciplinary proceedings.

The commission found Judge Coolahan’s comments about Mr Smith were “intemperate and ill-conceived”. It noted that “reasonable minds may differ about whether it was appropriate for Judge Coolahan to recuse himself (from presiding at the Parker trial) on the basis of an appearance of bias” after he actedas advocate for the diocese in a 1998 matter.

During evidence Mr Allen confirmed he did not raise the judge’s work for the diocese with the judge during the trial. Mr Rosser did not apply to Judge Coolahan to recuse himself. The judge didnot raise the issue.

Advice: Paul Rosser, QC, leaves Newcastle Courthouse in 2011. He was criticised by the royal commission for advice to former Newcastle Anglican Bishop Roger Herft that allowed the bishop to be “wilfully blind” to sexual misconduct by clergy.

The commission found Mr Allen showed a “callous disregard” for another Anglican child victim raped by a Newcastle diocese priest, and a “complete lack of insight into the gravity of child sexual assault”.

The commission found Mr Rosserprovided advice in 1998 to then Newcastle Anglican Bishop Roger Herft that allowed the bishop to remain “wilfully blind to the criminal misconduct of his clergy”. It found Mr Rosser had a “clear conflict of interest”representing Parker in the 2001 trial while, as deputy chancellor, advising Mr Smith the diocese was prepared to offer “as much help as the circumstances require”.

Mr Smith said he was grateful toprofessional standards director Michael Elliott who disclosedJudge Coolahan, Mr Rosser and Mr Allen’s associations with the diocese to him in 2009, although it “crushed the life out of me”.

“When you go into a court you expect the legal system to be impartial, but anyone who saw what happened to me that day would have run a mile from ever taking something up in court,” Mr Smith said.

“It’s something I’ve been angry about ever since. I knew nothing during the trial about Rosser having a position at the diocese. I knew nothing about Allen having a position with the diocese. I knew nothing about the judge having worked for the diocese. Why would I even think that would be the case? That’s why people have to disclose conflicts of interest.”

Charged: Anglican priest George Parker outside Newcastle Courthouse in 2001 during his trial for child sex offences against Steve Smith.

In December, 2016 NewcastleDetective Acting Inspector Jeff Little reinstated the no-billed 2001 offences against Parker and charged the priest with 20 fresh offences, including five counts of buggery, against Mr Smith and another boy. Parker, 79, died two weeks later.

Mr Smith praised Mr Elliott and Detective Little for extraordinary work both investigating his allegations and providing care and support over an extensive period.

“Michael has really paid the price for standing up for survivors despite what we now know was going on within the diocese. Jeff Little took the time to look at what I was saying and really went above and beyond to try and get justice,” he said.

“The police were great, both back then and now, but it all came a cropper in the court. It was part of the apparatus that failed us, the justice system itself.I want an apology from the state for that, and I’m not letting this go.”

Mr Smith, who was the last person to give evidence at the royal commission, received a settlement from Newcastle Anglican Diocese after taking legal action.

Mr Speakman’s office has been contacted for a response.


June 7, 2019

Comments Off on Williams chasing World Cup sevens success

Williams chasing World Cup sevens success

Australia hung tough to win a World Series title without their unsung hero but co-captain Sharni Williams plans to show just what they missed at this weekend’s rugby sevens World Cup in California.


Williams, one of just four in the squad to play at Russia’s 2013 World Cup, missed most of the side’s Commonwealth Games campaign in April thanks to an ankle injury on day one.

But the Canberran is back for the ruthless knock-out tournament to be played at the picturesque AT&T Park, which normally houses Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants.

The qualified mechanic is the quiet achiever of a women’s sevens side that holds both Olympic and World Series crowns.

But she’s happy to leave the spotlight to high-profile backs like Charlotte Caslick, who recently recommitted to the code despite poaching efforts ahead of the inaugural women’s NRL competition later this year.

“I can bring that physicality and mongrel and leave it to the girls with the ponytails to finish it off,” a cheeky Williams told AAP.

“Being in rehab makes you realise how good your job is; myself and Ellia Green (knee) are just firing, have that fire in the belly and can’t wait to get out there.

“I want to show the girls what they’ve been missing.”

Williams’ roll-up-your-sleeves attitude sits well with new coach John Manenti, who has emphasised the importance of dominating the breakdown since taking over from new men’s coach Tim Walsh.

Manenti coached Williams and fellow co-captain Shannon Parry when he took the Wallaroos to bronze at the 2010 15-a-side world cup.

The Black Ferns beat Australia in extra time to win gold at April’s Commonwealth Games and then claimed the last three legs of the world series to finish just two points shy of the consistent Australia.

Williams missed all three tournaments, with Manenti blooding a host of young talent that found a way to a second world series title.

“I barely saw them for three, four months after the Commonwealth Games but I was so proud of how they hung in there,” she said.

“We really want this but we know if we lose we’re out, so we have to be very prepared from the outset.”

Australia plays Papua New Guinea on Saturday morning (AEST), with the final on Sunday afternoon.


June 7, 2019

Comments Off on Newcastle City Council workers in Hazmat suits patrol Stockton beach daily for asbestos as new tip site uncovered

Newcastle City Council workers in Hazmat suits patrol Stockton beach daily for asbestos as new tip site uncovered

Workers in Hazmat suits, asbestos washing ashore and a new tip uncovered by Stockton erosion BLEAK: Council workers wearing Hazmat suits walk Stockton beach looking for asbestos on Thursday morning. Picture: Shannon Hancock


Asbestos collected by residents from Stockton beach.

Stockton resident Shane Hancock at the site of another tip site uncovered by erosion. This smaller, illegal dump site is just north of the Stockton day-care centre, off Griffith Ave. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Stockton resident Shane Hancock at the site of another tip site uncovered by erosion. This smaller, illegal dump site is just north of the Stockton day-care centre, off Griffith Ave. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Old household rubbish uncovered by erosion on Stockton beach.

Pieces of asbestos collected from Stockton beach by resident Shannon Hancock over five days.

Erosion on Stockton beach near the child-care centre.

TweetFacebookNewcastle Herald revealed a large landfill had been uncovered bythe suburb’s worseningerosion problem, another smaller, unrelated tip – about 500 metres away – has been exposednear Mission Australia Early Learning Centre.

Old glass bottles, rusted metaland crockery are among the items discovered being washed into the sea.

Most of the rubbish iscompressed within theembankment – several metres deep –with what appearsto be asbestos jutting out.

The rubbishislittered along a few metres of the shoreline off Griffith Ave, with items scattered and half-buried in the sand. One ofthe bottles recovered was an old Peck’s Paste bottle believed to be dated between 1930 and 1950.

Mr Hancock said ifthe beach erosion had been addressed, the tip would never have been uncovered.

He is among a group of residents who walk the beach daily collecting historicrubbish and asbestos pieces that range from 40 centimetresin length to the size of a 50 cent coin.

Related reading: The garbage tip washing into the sea(January 20, 2018)

It’s believed the newly uncoveredtip, near the site oftheformer Stockton Colliery No. 3 shaft,was used as anillegal dumping ground decades ago.

In 1955, the North Stockton Surf Life Saving clubhouse was built on the site, that is now used as the child-care centre that is under threat from erosion. It’s understood the land was previously owned by Housing Commission of NSW.

Long-term Stockton resident Jimmy Newton said the area around the old north Stockton surf clubused to be part of the dune system leading to the beach.

He said people used to dump household rubbish in the salt bush where there were depressions.

DEADLY: A bucket full of asbestos pieces collected by resident Shannon Hancock from Stockton beach in the past five days. Some are up to 40-centimetres long.

“Decades and decades ago peopleused to getrid of their rubbish wherever they could, it’s probably a really old illegal dump,” he said. “There were old fibro houses in throughthat area that just got bulldozed into the ground, it’s impossible to know what would be in there or how big it is.”

A Newcastle City Council spokeswoman said staff wearing protective suits and masks would patrol thebeachdaily from Thursday to remove the asbestos.She said ten pieces of debriswere collected on the first day and would be tested.

“The potential asbestos containing pieces pose a very low public health risk and council is removing them on a daily basis to reduce the risk even further, allowing Stockton beach to remain open to the community,” she said.

“We do ask members of the public not to remove any of these pieces themselves as appropriate removal and disposal of any material will be undertaken by council staff.”

Related reading: Crown lands ordered to take action to prevent pollution from Stockton tip(June 7, 2018)

Stockton Community Action Group member Keith Craig said as the beach erosion gets worse, there was potential for more illegal tip sites to be exposed along the shoreline.

He said residents were “frustrated” at the what many perceived as a lack of action from the state government.

“People are suggesting we should take all the asbestos collected off the beach and dump it on [NSW Environment] Minister [Gabrielle] Upton’s doorstep,” he said.

“The situation is going to get worse every time we get a big swell. This separate tip site appears to haveasbestos in it and it’s very disturbing this stuff is now washing up at the main beach area.”

A spokesman for Minister Upton said the government had “consistently supported Newcastle City Council”in its work to manage the erosion problem. “TheGovernment has supported the management and rehabilitation of Stockton beach for many years and is committed to helping the local community,” he said.

Save Stockton Beach spokesmanSimon Jones, who has been campaigning to get Ms Upton to visit Stockton, said thegovernment could not deny its stake in the environmental disaster.

DISGUSTED: Stockton resident Shannon Hancock at the site of another old tip site uncovered on Stockton beach. This smaller illegal tip site is located near Stockton child-care centre that is under threat from erosion. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

“It appearsthey are doing everything they can to avoid the erosion issue,” he said. “We don’t know the extent of this new dump but its fairly close to the surface and it’s really concerning.

“If someone was to come along with a truckload of asbestos and dump it on the beach the authorities would be all over it, but when its heritage waste and still ending up on the beach it doesn’t seem to matter.”

While they welcomed the council’s decision to patrol the beach, residents said it was not the solution to the problem.

“We need to look at the cause of this and it’s painfully obvious what that is,” Mr Hancocksaid. “I don’t understand how the authorities can watch this erosion happen.”

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said he was “concerned” to hear that residents had been collecting asbestos off the beach forweeks. He said funding to address the beach erosion “had the potential to flow” to Stockton once the Newcastle Coastal Zone Management Plan had been completed by council and signed off by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).

The draft plan,identifying short and medium-term solutions to address the erosion,is due to go before council next week for possible adoption and submission to the State government.

In December, the council removed Stockton from its coastal management plan, which proposes measures to address erosion along the coastline and is used tosecure money from an $82 million state government funding pool.

It came after OEHrefused to sign off on anearlier version of the plan, which did address the Stockton erosion problems.

After the new plan is approved, council willhave another two yearsto lodgea coastal management program to addresslong-term solutions for the beach. Both plans will be used in an effort toattract funding.

Newcastle MPTimCrakanthorp said it was an “absolute outrage” that the state government continued to “bury its head in the sand” on the issue. He said if residents were combing Bondi beach on a daily basis to collect asbestos there would be a “state emergency”.

An EPA spokeswoman said council was in charge of local waste, including asbestos on Stockton beach.


June 7, 2019

Comments Off on Sometimes you need a wake-up call when theball’s not in your court.

Sometimes you need a wake-up call when theball’s not in your court.

TELL HIM HE’S DREAMING: Sometimes you need a wake-up call when the ball’s not in your court.I’ve always been fascinated bydreams.


Not necessarily whether they come true, like the Thailand cave rescue, or are shattered (think Federer’s exit from Wimbledon), but how you can be laying in bed awake, yearning for sleep but unable to achieve it.

Then without warning the sleep juice kicks in and you go level-fourInception.

Chances are, you don’t even know you’redreaming.

The brain is an amazing mechanism for distracting you from reality, or confusing you about reality, or just being reality.

For evidence of that look no further than the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki this week. I thought I was dreaming watching that, even though experts reckon dreams only last two or three seconds.

Mr Putin’s dream run seems to be lastinga good while longer. Just ask the CIA.

You believe what you want to believe, I guess, or what they want you to believe, or what your brain allows you to believe.

Depends on who’s hacking the system.

The other night I went to bed aware that I had to get up early next morning. I set the alarm on my phone and duely went to sleep.

About two hours out from the assigned wake-up time I found myself wide-eyed watching the clock wondering if the alarm was any closer to going to go off.

No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get back to sleep. A couple of times I toyed with getting out of bed and doing something useful, like watch the World Cup or Wimbledon or wake everyone up.

Then without warning I fell into a deep sleep that I didn’t even realise I was having.

The detail was notable, in retrospect, because I remembered it.

I drove a Tuk-Tuk-type vehicle,which had a door on the right hand side but none on the left,up to the East End of Newcastle where I ate soup from a bowl using a spoon which had a bit of rust on it. I believe it was minestrone soup.

Draw from that what you will.

As I made to leave the place where I was eating, my progress was impeded by a courier van. The van may have represented Shannon Noll, or Australia’s stance on coal-fired power stations. I’m not sure. I justknow itproceeded down a one-way lane, before reversing back past me. Beeping a lot.

Once the lane was clear, I made my way down that laneand noticed laying on the footpath, my mobile phone.

Thiswas a relief, because I thought I’d lost it. When I picked it up, the phone alarm went off in my hand.

With that I realised it wasn’t just the phone alarm in my dream.

The phone alarm on the dresser next to the bed was going off too, telling me it was time to get out of bed.

For a moment there, I wasn’t sure which world was reailty. A bit like watching the Trump-Putin summit.

Trying to interpret all these considerations leaves me thinking it’s a fine line between a dream run and a nightmare finish.

Let’s hope that soccer ball thing isn’t a wake-up call.

SIMON WALKER: That’s Life archive


June 7, 2019

Comments Off on Funding fight highlights importance of school choice

Funding fight highlights importance of school choice

CRUCIAL: Non-government schools have been estimated to save taxpayers between $2 billion and $9 billion every year.To paraphrase Paul Keating: never get between a school system and a bucket of money.


Just look at the ongoing stoush between the Turnbull government and the Catholic school system. It notched up another level of tension recently when news broke that Catholic Education Melbourne is being investigated by the Australian Charities and Not-For Profits Commission, because of its advocacy for Labor’s school funding policy during the by-election in the Melbourne electorate of Batman.

It escalated quickly, with Bill Shorten describing the investigation as “un-Australian” and Tony Abbott saying it was “picking on the Catholic Church.” But what exactly is all the fuss about?

Essentially, federal government funding per student is going up significantly for all school sectors (government, Catholic and independent), but this increase isn’t as much as teacher unions and Catholic schools would like. The school funding formula is skewed by historical and statistical anomalies. A recent report by the National School Resourcing Board found that it tends to disadvantage Catholic schools compared to independent schools.

This debate over details will continue, but the passion it has ignited shows the importance of federal funding for Catholic and independent schools. Which raises the broader question: why does the government fund non-government schools at all?

Ultimately, because it saves taxpayer money and gives parents more choice over the education of their children.

The government funding received by most non-government schools allows them to keep fees low enough so that middle-income and low-income parents can generally afford them. Without any government funding, Catholic and independent schools could only be for the very rich.

Parents directly contributing to the cost of their children’s schooling means that the government doesn’t have to foot the entire bill. The existence of non-government schools has been estimated to save taxpayers between $2 billion and $9 billion per year. More importantly, non-government schools receiving financial assistance means parents are empowered with more school choice.

Australia has a relatively high proportion of students in non-government schools at 34 per cent – more than twice as much as the international OECD average of 16 per cent. School choice is firmly embedded in our education system.

While the majority of parents end up choosing the local government school, at the end of the day, parents generally know what’s best for their own children.

Parents want to send their children to a school that reflects their values, or at the very least does not undermine them.

Government schools are not values-neutral or the default optionany more than religious schools.

For example, controversial government programs like Safe Schools are strongly opposed by many parents. Sometimes, parents opt for a non-government school for academic reasons (although there are many high-achieving government schools) or for the extra-curricular opportunities.

Of course, for many parents – such as in some rural and remote areas – there is, unfortunately, limited or non-existent school choice. That’s why it’s important to ensure there is a high-quality government school system across the entire country. But this is not incompatible with also supporting a strong and diverse non-government school sector that takes financial pressure off the government system.

Parents need to be provided with the information necessary to make an informed school choice.

The MySchool website –an initiative of Julia Gillard when she was education minister –provides easy access to clear information about schools, including their academic performance on NAPLAN tests.

MySchool has been under attack recently, with claims that publishing school NAPLAN results puts too much pressure on teachers and students. But there have been no rigorous studies of how parents use MySchool data, and no substantial evidence to suggest MySchool has any negative effect on schools or students.

It is far better for parents to have access to objective NAPLAN data in their decision making, rather than having to rely solely on other factors like school reputation, school uniformsand school websites.

Academic achievement is just one of the many factors parents use in choosing a school, and it’s patronising to suggest parents aren’t capable of understanding the limitations of NAPLAN data. Transparency about school NAPLAN results helps keep the education system accountable to parents and taxpayers.

Parents are primarily responsible for the education of their children, not the government. They should be supported regardless of which school they choose.

Blaise Joseph is an education policy analyst at The Centre for Independent Studies.


May 7, 2019

Comments Off on Activist in High Court ‘free speech’ bid

Activist in High Court ‘free speech’ bid

Far-right activist Blair Cottrell, who made a video beheading a dummy in protest of a Bendigo mosque, has flagged he aims to fight for free speech in the High Court.


The United Patriots Front leader briefly appeared in the County Court of Victoria on Thursday for an appeal mention after he was convicted in September of inciting contempt and ridicule of Muslims alongside supporters Neil Erikson and Christopher Neil Shortis.

Magistrate John Hardy previously said the trio had “crossed the line” with the October 2015 stunt.

During the video, the men beheaded a mannequin, with red liquid flowing from its head and body, outside the Bendigo City Council offices while chanting “Allahu Akbar”.

Mr Hardy said the video was made to induce “as many like-minded people” as possible to their anti-mosque rally planned for six days later.

He convicted the men and fined them $2000 each plus $79.50 in statutory costs – the first convictions under Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001.

The trio initially indicated they would each appeal their conviction but only Cottrell will continue with his bid.

On Thursday his lawyer John Bolton asked for the appeal to be adjourned after lodging an 18-page notice of a constitutional matter.

He said Cottrell had been charged with an “invalid law” under the Australian Constitution.

“I say the law’s invalid so why should my client have to defend anything?” Mr Bolton said.

The appeal hearing, which had been set down for August 27 and 28, has now been vacated while Cottrell attempts to take the matter to the higher court.

Mr Bolton told AAP “free speech” was protected under the constitution, “which protects political discourse”.

He also described the charge on which Cottrell was convicted as an “Islamic blasphemy law”.

“My position is my client shouldn’t have to go to trial on a law that is invalid,” he said.

Cottrell previously said his conviction had set a dangerous precedent, claiming “blasphemy charges” destroyed his freedom of speech.

Cottrell is due back at court on November 27 for a further directions hearing.

During that hearing, the court will be updated on the success of Cottrell’s High Court constitutional bid.


May 7, 2019

Comments Off on Raiders ‘no clue’ on NRL kicking duties

Raiders ‘no clue’ on NRL kicking duties

Canberra’s Josh Hodgson says they still don’t know who will assume kicking duties against Cronulla.Canberra are still guessing who will assume the kicking duties against Cronulla with injuries to star Raiders Jarrod Croker and Aidan Sezer.


Back-rower Jack Murchie, 21, will make his NRL debut by coming off the bench in place of Sezer after the halfback injured his hamstring at training on Tuesday.

Sezer was locked in to do Canberra’s goal-kicking after slotting in seamlessly to the job when Croker was injured early in the Raiders’ victory over North Queensland.

But with Croker out for the remainder of the season because of a dislocated knee cap and Sezer on the sidelines indefinitely, the Raiders are forced to finding fresh kicking options.

Hooker Josh Hodgson, who will captain the Raiders in Croker’s absence, has ruled himself out of performing the duty but did throw surprise candidates into the mix.

Hodgson says he would love to see forwards Josh Papalii and Junior Paulo take some kicks, revealing their kicking game was more than capable.

“We’ve got absolutely no clue at the minute,” Hodgson said.

“I’m tipping big Papa (Papalii) or Juns (Paulo)… honestly no-one believes me but they can kick goals.

“I was going throw my name in the hat but I’ll stick to football.”

Blake Austin comes into the starting line-up for Friday night’s game following Sezer’s injury after the team had been named.

Canberra will be missing five key players for the trip to Southern Cross Group Stadium, with Shannon Boyd, Joseph Tapine and Jack Wighton already on the sidelines.

The Raiders sit two games outside of the top-eight, while Cronulla are three games ahead in sixth on the ladder.

“We know it’s going to be tough going there for the result with a few people out,” Hodgson said.

“The Sharks are obviously going to be favourites but we’ve just got to go out there and put our best foot forward.”


May 7, 2019

Comments Off on Public ownership models that introduce competition into the energy market

Public ownership models that introduce competition into the energy market

BRIGHT LIGHT: NSW politicians should note the great success of publicly owned energy retailer Robin Hood Energy in the UK, the author says. History moves in cycles, like fashion.


In the early 1800s energy was normally provided to towns and cities by private Joint Stock Companies; they brought gas-light into towns and cities throughout Britain, Europe, America and Australia.

By the second half of the 19th Century, however, the provision of essential services by private companies had fallen out of fashion; for good reason.

Australia and Britain had both experienced price gouging by monopolies; the same market failures recently reported by the ACCC in the Australian energy sector.

By 1891, the Sydney Morning Herald was editorialising that electricity supply should be in public hands. The NSW Parliament agreed and gave the rights to generate and distribute electricity to the Sydney Municipal Council. This type of “municipal socialism” emerged in Britain during the 1870s when Joseph Chamberlain became Mayor of Birmingham. Elected on a Liberal platform, Chamberlain forcibly purchased two companies supplying gas to the city and set up the publicly owned Birmingham Corporation Gas Committee, providing inexpensive energy while still turning a profit.

Australian public ownership of energy generation evolved, as technological change allowed, from individual municipalities to the state-wide NSW Electricity Commission.

Although widely derided by proponents of privatisation as a cumbersome and inefficient government dinosaur, the NSW Electricity Commission more than trebled the state’s power capacity in its first decade.

The dinosaur also produced the cheapest and most reliable power supply in the world.

Then fashion changed again.

From 1992, successive stupid and/or corrupt state governments, espousing the dogma of privatisation providing customer choice, competition and cheaper electricity, embarked on a process to dismantle a successful utility and offer its components to corporate raiders.

A measure of the foolishness displayed in this privatisation can be seen in the disposal of the stateowned coal mines which supplied NSW power stations. In 1992 these mines were split off into a separate entity; Powercoal. In 2002 the Carr Government sold Powercoal to a private company, Centennial Coal, for AU$306 million. In 2010, Centennial Coal was sold to a Thai company, Banpu, for US$2 billion.

At today’s exchange rate, that’s a transfer of more than $2.4 billion Australian dollars in value from the taxpayers of NSW to the shareholders of Centennial Coal; nice work if you can get it.

The transfer of coal supply to foreign ownership is just one of the factors that have contributed to the failure of privatisation to deliver any of the promised benefits and the market failures listed by the ACCC.

Similar conditions have prevailed in the British energy market which was also privatised in the 1990s. Control of their power supply fell into the hands of an oligarchy known as “The Big Six;” companies who now control over 80% of their market.

As in Australia, this concentration of ownership and consequent market failure has resulted in unaffordable price gouging and “energy poverty”. In response to the failure of British privatisation, in 2015 the Nottingham City Council set up a publicly owned energy retailer called Robin Hood Energy.

Although criticised by opponents as a “naive” adventure sure to cost the Council money, Robin Hood has been able to offer energy at over $420 p.a. less than the Big Six and still repay their startup costs within three years.

In fact, Robin Hood’s success has spawned a number of similar municipal enterprises across Britain, including London, Bristol, Liverpool and Islington.

With a state election due next year, Luke Foley and the Labor Party could do worse than look at these examples of public ownership introducing actual competition into the energy market.

The pendulum of history has swung in that direction.

Chris Craig is a Lake Macquarie author and commentator


May 7, 2019

Comments Off on Refugee advocates target political leaders

Refugee advocates target political leaders

Vigils are being held outside the offices of politicians including the prime minister and opposition leader to mark the fifth anniversary of offshore processing.


“We remind politicians from both old parties that these five years has condemned 12 people to early death through violence, medical neglect and despair,” refugee support advocate Pamela Curr said in a statement.

The Refugee Council says more than 3000 children and adults have endured “enormous mental and physical harm”, yet the government continues to hail the policy as a success.

Other countries are seeking to mirror the policy as refugee numbers rise around the world.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters earlier this week the government restored control over Australia’s borders, after Labor allowed 50,000 unauthorised arrivals and at least 1200 people died on dangerous sea voyages.

“The bottom line is we have got our immigration system working exclusively for Australia – the Australian government controls our borders, once again, and so it’s going very well,” he said.

Labor’s Mark Butler said the coalition had made the processing centres into “centres of indefinite detention”, rather than temporary residences while resettlement places were sought.

Greens immigration spokesman Nick McKim said there were children born in offshore detention who had “spent their whole lives in exile” and it was time to let those remaining in the system come to Australia.

“Labor locked them up, and the Liberals threw away the key.”

When Kevin Rudd seized back the prime ministership in mid-2013 he toughened the Labor party’s stance on “stopping the boats”, to counter then-opposition leader Tony Abbott’s mantra.

On July 19 of that year the prime minister announced Australia had entered into an arrangement with Papua New Guinea to have all boat arrivals to be transferred there for processing and subsequent settlement in PNG or a participating regional country.

He later struck another deal with the remote Pacific island nation of Nauru.


May 7, 2019

Comments Off on Man charged over Canberra Hospital shots

Man charged over Canberra Hospital shots

A man who allegedly wrestled a gun from a police officer and opened fire while under guard at a hospital in Canberra has been charged with attempted murder.


The man is accused of assaulting police about 4pm on Wednesday, taking one of their weapons and firing it as he tried to escape.

He was soon restrained by police, and no-one was injured during the incident.

ACT Policing say the man has now been charged with two counts of attempted murder, assault and attempting to escape custody.

The 26-year-old was being held at Canberra Hospital after being arrested over a serious traffic incident on Wednesday morning.

Witnesses told the Nine Network they heard shouts of “Code Black!” as the hospital was put into lockdown.

“My wife couldn’t get in to see her little boy for about an hour and a half. It was a little bit (scary),” said Dane O’Connell, who was in the emergency department with his young son.

“I couldn’t do anything really … police were everywhere.

“My phone was flat, so I couldn’t even call my wife to know what was going on.”

Police have launched a critical incident investigation, but say a preliminary assessment has found no misconduct by the officers involved.

“We will obviously look into all our procedures, but it’s too early to speculate,” Acting Superintendent Marcus Boorman told reporters outside the hospital on Wednesday night.

The 26-year-old is expected to appear before ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday.

Canberra Hospital said the emergency department is still operational, with minor damage to just one area.

“This has been cordoned off while further assessment of the damage is undertaken and repair work commences later today,” it said in a statement.

The hospital encouraged anyone with non-life threatening injuries or illnesses to consider alternative treatment options such as GPs and Walk-in health centres.