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December 4, 2018

Comments Off on DFAT lodges complaint about treatment of Bali nine pair Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran

DFAT lodges complaint about treatment of Bali nine pair Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran

Myuran Sukumaran is surrounded by masked security personnel upon arriving at Cilacap airport. Senior Commissioner Djoko Hari Utomo with Myuran Sukumaran. Photo: Kompas TV
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Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten attended a dawn vigil for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran yesterday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

AFP denies it has blood on its handsPolice chief’s Bali nine ‘happy snapIndonesia flags death penalty moratorium at UN

The federal government has called the Indonesian ambassador to complain about the “lack of dignity” shown to Bali nine pair Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran during their transfer from Bali to Nusakambangan island, where they will be executed.

Photographs of a smiling police chief alongside the Australians on a plane during their transfer prompted the complaint, but a senior source said the complaint also referred to Indonesia’s excessive use of force, the military presence and “the lack of dignity that was shown” to the prisoners.

The source said Indonesia’s decision to surround Chan and Sukumaran with military-style security for the transfer had been perceived in Australia as a pointed, deliberate display of force.

Hundreds of masked and heavily armed security personnel took a handcuffed and shackled Chan and Sukumaran to Nusakambangan on Wednesday, shadowed by Sukhoi fighter jets equipped with missles.

On the same day, a Nigerian drug smuggler was transported in a small van.

Indonesian ambassador Bapak Nadjib Riphat Kesoema was telephoned by a senior official from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Thursday to deliver the complaint, because he was in Perth.

He will be called in to DFAT to receive the complaint in person upon his return to Canberra.

The embassy in Jakarta is also lodging a complaint with the Indonesian government.

The police chief featured in the photographs, Senior Commissioner Djoko Hari Utomo, told Fairfax Media earlier on Thursday that he was trying to raise the spirits of the Australians and had no idea the photo was being taken.

“It was not a selfie moment,” he said.

He said he was patting the men’s shoulders and urging them to “Be tough, be strong, and keep going”.

Chan looked stunned in the photographs, which were leaked to local media.

Earlier on Thursday, a prisoner swap suggested by Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop in a last ditch bid to spare the lives of the Bali nine ringleaders was deemed “unthinkable” by Indonesia’s Attorney General.

And Defence minister Ryamizard Ryacudu even suggested Australia execute Indonesian drug smugglers.

Ms Bishop raised the prospect of a prisoner swap with her Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi on Tuesday.

The deal could involve three Indonesians in prison in Australia over their role in an infamous 1998 drug bust.

However Attorney-General H.M. Prasetyo said a prisoner swap was irrelevant to Indonesia’s plans to execute Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

“What is certain is that it has never been done and is unthinkable,” he said.

“Other countries must obviously respect the Indonesian law enforcement.”

Mr Ryamizard told news website detik上海龙凤419m: “If the Indonesians are drug smugglers just execute them too so it’s equal. If there was a swap the Indonesians would be executed here but there is no guarantee the Australians would receive the death penalty.”

The 10 condemned prisoners who have been earmarked for the next round of executions will be given 72 hours’ notice of their deaths.

Their families, lawyers and consular staff will be able to visit them until 6pm on the night of the executions, which typically take place just after midnight.

The condemned men will also be granted one last wish, such as the choice of a final meal, provided it is considered possible by the Indonesian prison authorities.

Chan and Sukumaran will be expatriated to Australia after their deaths.

Matius Arif Mirdjaja, a pastor and close friend of Chan’s who has travelled to Cilacap to see the men, was told he could not visit on Thursday.

He said on Tuesday he had visited Chan at Bali’s Kerobokan jail and told him to make sure he made contact with a senior priest on his arrival.

“[Chan replied] I’d be better accompanied by family. You’re family.” Arif said.

He said the prosecutor’s office in Cilacap was still waiting for the embassies and families to provide the names of their preferred religious counsellors.

Arif said Chan and Sukumaran had looked okay when he saw them on Tuesday.

Sukumaran was still preparing for an exhibition of his paintings to be held at the Hard Rock Cafe in Kuta on Saturday.

“Myuran was even joking with me saying, “You have to help with the exhibition.”

At that time they were unaware they would be transferred to Nusakambangan the following day.

Chan’s mother Helen and brother Michael and Raji, Chinthu and Brintha Sukumaran, Myuran’s mother and siblings have all arrived in Cilacap with other family members and supporters.

Arif said hope was not lost. “We will never say goodbye,” he said.

 

December 4, 2018

Comments Off on Corporate giants to front Senate over bribery

Corporate giants to front Senate over bribery

Sam Dastyari in the Senate. Photo: Alex EllinghausenSome of corporate Australia’s top figures, including former executives from BHP Billiton and Leighton Holdings, are set to be called to a Senate inquiry and grilled about allegations the firms bribed foreign officials.
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In a move likely to alarm boardrooms across the nation, Labor Senator Sam Dastyari, along with key crossbenchers and the Greens, will launch a Senate inquiry into the alleged corrupt practices of Australian companies overseas and why some firms appear to be getting away with paying bribes to win contracts.

Senator Dastyari on Thursday night named  former Leighton Holdings boss Wal King, who was the most senior official in the company during some of its allegedly corrupt dealings in Iraq and other  countries.

Senator Dastyari said the  dealings allegedly involved the payment of tens of millions of dollars in bribes to win an oil pipeline contract.

“David Savage was the former senior executive who allegedly approved bribe payments [and] David Stewart was the former CEO who allegedly was told of the bribery but did not act,” he told the Senate. Mr King, Mr Stewart and Mr Savage have previously denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Dastyari also flagged that an inquiry would target the BHP-Billiton managers who oversaw allegedly improper payments and gifts given by the firm in Cambodia and as part of its sponsorship of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. “This will not be an inquiry simply into Leighton Holdings, but Leighton Holdings serves as a powerful case study for foreign corrupt practices and how the powerful can exploit the system,” Senator Dastyari said.

“There will be other examples, including the allegations BHP attempted to bribe Chinese officials.”

The Senate inquiry follows Fairfax Media articles about questionable  overseas behaviour by a range of companies, as well as what Senator

Dastyari has described as Australia’s substandard anti-foreign-bribery regime.

“Australia urgently needs to reform both its legislative framework and its approach to enforcement,” he said, pointing to the far more effective anti-bribery schemes in the United States and the United Kingdom.

In his speech before the Senate, Senator Dastyari also described the allegedly questionable dealings of Leighton subsidiary, mining giant Thiess, in India and Indonesia.

He also said he had obtained documents which “suggest that Leighton’s subsidiary was paying Indonesian commandos and paramilitaries to do their dirty work during an industrial dispute with indigenous workers”.

Senator Dastyari said he would “invite” Mr King, Mr Savage, Mr Stewart and other executives to appear before the committee.

But he also warned that he would “use every power available to me through the Australian Senate to ensure that the allegations of corrupt behaviour by Leighton Holdings are properly aired”. Senate inquiries can summon people to appear before it.

The AFP has recently ramped up its attack on Australian firms engaging in foreign bribery, but key investigations have been delayed due to the difficulty meeting the high evidentiary bar.

In an exclusive interview, former federal court judge Roger Gyles – who was recently appointed by the Abbott government to review the nation’s terrorism laws and who also chairs the local branch of corruption watchdog Transparency International – has also called for changes to Australia’s foreign bribery laws.

The key change needed, said Mr Gyles, was moving the burden of proof from prosecutors to those who have been shown to have made payments to foreign officials. If the company cannot show a payment is legitimate, then a case may be proven.

“Australia’s record of enforcement in this area has been poor and in addition to increasing our law enforcement in this area, the most important thing is to get our legislation in order,” Mr Gyles said.

The AFP has been investigating Leighton for almost four years without a result, while allegations about BHP Billiton were first raised with the AFP in 2009 but not acted upon because US corruption investigators were already probing them.

The BHP-Billiton investigation remains unresolved in the US, with the AFP poised to begin its own inquiry once US authorities take action.

Fairfax Media has previously published company documents which suggest Leighton Holdings paid bribes in Iraq and elsewhere 2009 and 2012.

 

December 4, 2018

Comments Off on Loop the Lake 2015:

Loop the Lake 2015:

Loop the Lake 2015 Scenes from Loop the Lake 2015, organised by the Rotary Club of Warners Bay, on Sunday. Cyclists at the end of the ride at Speers Point Park. Picture Jonathan Carroll
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Scenes from Loop the Lake 2015, organised by the Rotary Club of Warners Bay, on Sunday. Cyclists at the end of the ride at Speers Point Park. From left, Carlos Arredondo, John Innes, Bill Bunting, Donald McStay, Michael Hines. Picture Jonathan Carroll

Scenes from Loop the Lake 2015, organised by the Rotary Club of Warners Bay, on Sunday. Picture Jonathan Carroll

Scenes from Loop the Lake 2015, organised by the Rotary Club of Warners Bay, on Sunday. From left, Kim McLellan and Kerry Dally, starting their bike ride. Picture Jonathan Carroll

Scenes from Loop the Lake 2015, organised by the Rotary Club of Warners Bay, on Sunday. Cyclists starting their bike ride. Picture Jonathan Carroll

Scenes from Loop the Lake 2015, organised by the Rotary Club of Warners Bay, on Sunday. Ten year old Zara Ambler-Davis, at a drink stop at Belmont South. Picture Jonathan Carroll

Scenes from Loop the Lake 2015, organised by the Rotary Club of Warners Bay, on Sunday. Cyclists at the start. Picture Jonathan Carroll

Scenes from Loop the Lake 2015, organised by the Rotary Club of Warners Bay, on Sunday. Cyclists at Teralba. Picture Jonathan Carroll

Scenes from Loop the Lake 2015, organised by the Rotary Club of Warners Bay, on Sunday. Donald McStay, has a drink a the drink stop, Belmont Soutth Picture Jonathan Carroll

Scenes from Loop the Lake 2015, organised by the Rotary Club of Warners Bay, on Sunday. Picture Jonathan Carroll

Scenes from Loop the Lake 2015, organised by the Rotary Club of Warners Bay, on Sunday. Cyclists at Warners Bay. Picture Jonathan Carroll

Scenes from Loop the Lake 2015, organised by the Rotary Club of Warners Bay, on Sunday. Cyclists at Warners Bay. Picture Jonathan Carroll

TweetFacebookCYCLING enthusiasts from across the state have descended on Lake Macquarie for the annual Loop The Lake ride.

The Rotary Club of Warners Bay organised the event, in which about 1700 riders, from children to 80-year-olds, made their way along the lake’s edge to Speers Point Park.

Club president Kerry Hayes said cyclists on Sunday could choose from an 85-kilometre route that kicked off from Speers Point Park at 7am, a 50-kilometre route that began at Morisset or a 16-kilometre route that started from Belmont.

Participants could also choose to start their ride at any time and from any location around the lake.

‘‘It was a fantastic turnout,’’ Ms Hayes said.

‘‘We’ve been running this event for 18 years and we had people come up to us telling us they’ve done every ride and that they’ll be seeing us again next year.’’

The registration fee of $50 online, or $60 on the day, included fruit, muffins and water, a meal at Speers Point Park and entry to Speers Point Swim Centre.

Proceeds are given to the John Hunter Children’s Hospital, the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children and other national and international charities.

The event was not timed, with all participants receiving a badge and a certificate.

Picture by Instagram user brianmaxlow

 

December 4, 2018

Comments Off on American trio make big splash at Hurricanes

American trio make big splash at Hurricanes

HOT IMPORTS: Nikola Vavic, centre, flanked by Justin Parsons and Connor Virjee. Picture: Marina NeillTHE world championship ambitions of the Hunter’s American imports is driving the Hurricanes from wooden-spooners to a first National Water Polo League finals appearance.
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Goalkeeper Justin Parsons, centre-back Connor Virjee and driver Nikola Vavic have starred in the Hurricanes’ dynamite start to 2015, which included a club-record four wins from four games on the difficult Western Australia road trip last weekend.

The run lifted Hunter to six wins from 10 matches and sparked dreams of a maiden play-off position before a double-header against second-placed Drummoyne Devils this weekend at Lambton Pool.

Parsons, 24, and Vavic and Virjee, 22, have proven key players for Hunter in the early rounds, along with former Lake Macquarie junior and Australian squad member Daniel Lawrence, who also joined the club this year.

Lawrence said the form of the American trio had given the squad belief they could make club history.

“They are a very big factor of why I think we will play finals this year,” Lawrence said. “Without them it would be very difficult.”

Parsons is from the University of California, Berkeley, while Vavic and Virjee are from fierce rivals the University of Southern California.

While all three were keen to see Australia and experience a different style of water polo, they also have higher ambitions.

HOT IMPORTS: Nikola Vavic in action. Picture: Marina Neill

Vavic is a member of the extended American squad, Parsons played for his country at junior level and Virjee has been in national training camps.

All have hopes of gaining selection in America’s squad for the world championships in Russia from July 24.

“That’s why we are out here, to keep playing and stay in shape if the opportunity comes back around,” Parsons said.

Vavic has been the most impressive of the trio and was keen to use the stint to push his claims for national selection.

“I definitely need to improve my defence and play a bit smarter down the stretch,” Vavic said. “As a team, we’re not playing four quarters.”

Drummoyne, who have five wins from six games, boast Australian team player Mitch Emery and former Aussie Shark John Hahn.

“They are going to be a quick team and we’ve got to be on our game,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence is also the women’s coach and said they would be at full strength for their matches against Drummoyne, who have one win from six games.

The men play 5pm Saturday and 1pm Sunday. The women play 3.30pm Saturday and 11.30am Sunday.

Meanwhile, Gordon Marshall has joined former Hunter Hurricanes product Nathan Power in a 16-man Australian squad to prepare for the March 30 to April 4 FINA World League Intercontinental tournament in California this month.

Marshall is vying for a position in a 13-man final team for the tournament.

HOT IMPORTS: Nikola Vavic, centre, flanked by Justin Parsons and Connor Virjee. Picture: Marina Neill

 

December 4, 2018

Comments Off on Indigenous community angry at Saddleback Ridge mining decision

Indigenous community angry at Saddleback Ridge mining decision


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LAST STAND: Aboriginal elder Kevin Taggart says Saddleback Ridge is important to him. Picture: Peter Stoop

Bulga to continue fight against mine

A RECOMMENDATION to allow Rio Tinto to mine through the previously protected Saddleback Ridge has broken Kevin Taggart’s heart.

‘‘It was our last stand,’’ the Aboriginal elder said, after the Planning and Assessment Commission recommended the controversial Mount Thorley-Warkworth extensions for approval on Thursday.

‘‘It doesn’t mean a lot to a lot of people, but it means everything to me,’’ Mr Taggart said.

In January, with the assistance of Lock the Gate, Mr Taggart wrote to the commission requesting it meet with the Wonnarua Traditional Custodians group.

Elders wanted to give the commissioners a tour and explain the culturally significant landscape elements that Mr Taggart believed were ignored in the project’s cultural heritage assessment.

The bushland holds spiritual and physical pathways that lead to the Baiamai Caves and Yengo Flat Rock sacred sites.

‘‘It was a lookout, a place of harmony and protection,’’ Mr Taggart said.

‘‘Once a connection goes, everything goes and it just keeps happening. There will be nothing left.’’

A Rio Tinto spokesperson said no issues regarding any particular cultural heritage significance of Saddleback Ridge were raised during the consultation process.

We ‘‘consulted extensively with the Registered Aboriginal Parties [of which there are more than 80 groups and individuals] to the satisfaction of Office of Environment and Heritage,’’ a spokesperson said.

Based on consultation with the registered groups, the company has established the Wollombi Brook Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Conservation area at Warkworth mine.

But Lock the Gate Hunter co-ordinator Steve Phillips has raised concerns that Aboriginal representatives were misled into thinking Saddleback Ridge was already lost.

From the cultural heritage working group meeting minutes, it looked like the representatives were led to believe the only hope they had was to sign off on the mine’s proposed conservation area, Mr Phillips said.

He said the statements made at the meeting were misleading.

‘‘Saddleback Ridge is not a write-off,’’ he said.

‘‘There’s been no approval to mine there.’’

Asked why he did not participate in the cultural heritage process, Mr Taggart said internal fractures within the Wonnarua clan had made it difficult.

‘‘I’ve learnt a lesson over that,’’ he said.

‘‘All I want to see is our culture saved and our people get looked after.’’

 

December 4, 2018

Comments Off on NSW state election: Government pulls out of alcohol forum

NSW state election: Government pulls out of alcohol forum

A police blitz in Sydney targeting alcohol-fueled behaviour. Photo: Steve Lunam The NSW government pulled out of a state election forum on alcohol policy, raising concerns about its continued commitment to the battle against alcohol-fuelled violence.
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The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education said the government’s withdrawal 24 hours before the forum on Thursday night raised questions about its future commitment to alcohol policy.

The ALP, Greens and Christian Democratic Party sent represenatives to speak at the NSW ACT Alcohol Policy Alliance forum in Sydney, which was held to provide the community with the views of political parties on alcohol policy.

NSW Police Association president Scott Weber told the forum that the NSW government’s lockout laws had been successful in reducing alcohol-related violence in Sydney’s central business district. He said data from St Vincent’s Hospital showed a significant reduction in intensive care admissions related to alcohol-fuelled assaults since the laws were introduced in February last year.

But just months before the March 28 NSW election, the Baird government announced in January that it would  rethink lockout laws that have helped drive down assaults at Sydney nightspots, prompting suggestions it has buckled to pressure from the powerful alcohol lobby.

Premier Mike Baird later said he did  not intend to alter lockout laws at Sydney nightspots, following controversy that erupted after his deputy Troy Grant said revisions would be considered.

Pubs and clubs say they have suffered a severe downturn in trade and the stringent laws should be reassessed before more damage is done.

The government last year introduced 1.30am lockouts and 3am last drinks laws across the new Sydney CBD entertainment precinct which covers parts of Surry Hills and Darlinghurst to The Rocks, and from Kings Cross to Cockle Bay. A state-wide ban on takeaway alcohol sales after 10pm was also introduced.

The alcohol-sale restrictions were introduced after the one-punch deaths of Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie triggered a community outcry. The changes were due to be reviewed after two years.

Foundation of Alcohol Research and Education director of policy and research Caterina Giorgi said the government’s failure to attend the forum on Thursday night was “extremely disappointing”.

“The NSW government’s failure to attend tonight’s alcohol policy election forum and it’s unwillingness to find a single one of its 80 members of Parliament to represent the Coalition at tonight’s event suggests alcohol policy is not a priority for the government ahead of this month’s election,” Ms Giorgi said.

“New South Wales voters have a right to know what the major parties intend to do to address alcohol harms – 71 per cent of NSW residents think more should be done to reduce the harm caused by alcohol, and tonight is an opportunity for NSW politicians to stand up and speak up on this issue.”

Christian Democratic Party president Fred Nile said he feared the Liberal government would scrap the lockout laws which he said should be extended across NSW. Mr Nile has also called for restrictions on alcohol advertising and for the legal drinking age to be increased to 21.

Greens MP John Kaye said his party, which has opposed the lockout laws as a knee jerk response, would not ignore data from St Vincent’s Hospital suggesting a reduction in alcohol-fuelled assaults since the introduction of the new legislation, despite previous opposition to lockout laws.

ALP MP Sophie Cotsis told the forum that, if elected, a Foley Labor government would spend $1.2 million to secure the future of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder diagnostic clinic at Westmead.

The Westmead clinic is one of only two centres with a focus on diagnosis of the syndrome, but its future funding is due to expire in June. One in five women continue to consume alcohol after becoming aware of their pregnancy.

Dr Kaye and Reverend Nile said they supported NSW ACT Alcohol Policy Alliance’s call for a community defender’s office to work with local residents in campaigning against liquor licence applications.

 

December 4, 2018

Comments Off on Jessica Silva escapes jail for stabbing ex-partner James Polkinghorne to death

Jessica Silva escapes jail for stabbing ex-partner James Polkinghorne to death

Jessica Silva outside the Supreme Court after being sentenced for the manslaughter of her ex-partner James Polkinghorne. Photo: Peter RaeJessica Silva has joined the ranks of a small proportion of people who avoid jail despite being found guilty of killing another person.
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But she could have been another statistic. On average, one woman is killed every week in Australia by their current or former partner. And Silva’s estranged de-facto husband, James Polkinghorne, was becoming increasingly abusive as his drug-taking escalated.

In May 2012, the unemployed 28-year-old was smoking and dealing methylamphetamine, also known as ice, and it made him paranoid, delusional and aggressive.

He was suspected of the murder of a drug rival, Nikolas Argiropoulos, who was shot in the face and dumped at Ballast Point Park, Birchgrove, two months earlier. He had a gun, which he had shown Silva. And he was distressed that she had finally ended the relationship and moved out of the flat they shared and back in with her parents at Marrickville.

Silva, 22, was terrified of him but did not report the physically abusive or threatening behaviour to the police, telling her brother Miguel she thought there was little they could do.

In an interview with police hours after she stabbed Polkinghorne to death, Silva gave another insight as to why she put up with domestic violence for so long.

“I dealt with it for so long, I thought I could change him,” she told detectives in the early hours of May 14, 2012.

Silva was charged with murder and spent 29 weeks behind bars on remand before she was granted bail, on which she remained throughout her trial in November 2014.

The following month a NSW Supreme Court jury found her not guilty of murder but guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

In sentencing Silva on Friday, Justice Clifton Hoeben found she did not intend to kill Polkinghorne when she stabbed him five times outside the Livingstone Road home.

When he arrived about 9pm in an ice-fuelled rage shouting “I’m going to f…ing kill her”, Silva and her brother tried to calm him down.

That afternoon and evening he had made multiple calls to Silva – fortuitously recorded by police investigating Mr Argiropoulos’s murder – saying “I’m gonna cave your f—ing head in”, “I’m coming to get you” and “I guarantee I’ll bash as many people as I can before they arrest me”.

Justice Hoeben said Silva would have become increasingly fearful as the taxi carrying Polkinghorne got closer to her house. Then when he arrived, he punched her in the face and ripped her pants before getting into a struggle with Miguel and her father Avalino Silva and she became “highly emotional and hysterical”. She went inside the house and retrieved a large kitchen knife before returning to the middle of the road where Polkinghorne was on top of Miguel. She stabbed him five times in the shoulder and neck.

Justice Hoeben concluded Silva intended to cause Polkinghorne grievous bodily harm but she acted partly in self-defence and partly to protect Miguel and Avalino.

“The death was committed under extreme circumstances in the agony of the moment,” Justice Hoeben said.

He said the jury’s verdict indicated that they found her action “was not a reasonable response in the circumstances as she perceived them, thereby rendering her guilty of the crime of manslaughter by way of excessive self-defence”.

He said offenders convicted of manslaughter could only avoid jail “in the most exceptional case” and Silva’s case fell into that category.

“Despite the offence involving the felonious taking of a human life, and the repugnance with which society views such an occurrence, there are in this case exceptional circumstances which significantly ameliorate the seriousness of what occurred.”

He sentenced her to two years’ imprisonment wholly suspended and backdated to 11 August 2014.

Outside the court, Silva’s lawyer Adam Houda said, “There’s no winners in tragedy.”

“My client has had to endure the most extreme forms of physical, verbal and psychological abuse and, in that light, the sentence imposed today was the appropriate one, considering the extraordinary circumstances of this case,” he said.

“It’s now time to heal.”

 

December 4, 2018

Comments Off on Victory coach Kevin Muscat says club and Adrian Leijer had heavy hearts after his departure

Victory coach Kevin Muscat says club and Adrian Leijer had heavy hearts after his departure

Melbourne Victory and their former defender Adrian Leijer parted ways with heavy hearts, according to coach Kevin Muscat.
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Leijer packed his bags in the past week and headed for Chinese League One side Chongqing Lifan on a transfer after 173 matches and nine seasons at the Victory.

While Muscat described Leijer’s departure as an unwanted “disruption”, the Victory boss said the club didn’t want to stand in his way.

“For a number of reasons it’s not good when you get a disruption in the middle of a season,” Muscat told SEN. “We were a couple of days away from the last transfer window closing which was China and unfortunately it hit us.

“Ultimately we’ve got [the] final say, but in weighing everything up and the way that things went, we decided that it was best for all parties [that Leijer departed] and we move on … it’s a great opportunity for him.”

Muscat insisted the club never seriously contemplated replacing Leijer because it would have sent the wrong message to the 28-year-old’s former teammates.

“You can get a player relatively easy, but the way we’ve looked at things, we’ve done all our work in the off-season and come pre-season we were quite comfortable with the squad we had,” Muscat said.

“To bring someone in at this stage, you’re battling against what type of player is available at this time of year. If you’re honest [it would be] someone who is not playing, someone who is not wanted, someone who has been discarded and I just didn’t really feel at this point in time it was the right message to send to the rest of the team.”

In Leijer’s stead, Muscat confirmed Matthieu Delpierre would make his first start since late October after coming on as a substitute last week against Wellington Phoenix.

 

December 4, 2018

Comments Off on Audit office criticises health department’s handling of $15 billion pharmacy deal

Audit office criticises health department’s handling of $15 billion pharmacy deal

The federal health department has been criticised by the Australian National Audit Office for its administration of a $15 billion agreement with pharmacists.
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The report on the Fifth Community Pharmacy Agreement, tabled in parliament on Thursday, comes as the department negotiates a new five-year deal with the powerful Pharmacy Guild of Australia.

The current agreement provides $15.4 billion over five years to pay pharmacies to dispense medicines, pay pharmaceutical wholesalers to deliver medicines to pharmacies, and to fund professional programs. It expires on June 30.

The audit office identified several shortcomings in the department’s administration of the agreement, including miscalculating the amount of savings to be delivered by the agreement, failing to fully realise a number of government negotiating objectives, and poor record keeping.

The agreement states that it will produce $1 billion in savings over the life of the deal, but audit office analysis found the net savings were closer to $400 million.

The audit office found instances when the department had reallocated funds within the agreement without prior ministerial approval, including the reallocation of $5.8 million which was supposed to be spent on professional programs to a communications strategy to be delivered by the Guild.

It also noted there was no documentary evidence that a $127 million increase to the budget for professional programs had been authorised.

And while ministers considered it “non-negotiable” that the agreement would provide the government with access to the full range of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme data, the agreement did not ensure it received cost information.

The report found limited departmental information and deficiencies in the department’s performance reporting and evaluation frameworks meant the department could not assess whether the Commonwealth was receiving value for money.

The audit office found pharmacy remuneration, which accounts for $13.8 billion or 90 per cent of the funding under the agreement, has not been fully reviewed since 1989.

The report documented “persistent shortcomings in departmental record-keeping,” including a failure of the department to keep a formal record of its meetings with the Pharmacy Guild during negotiations and discussions about contracts.

Consumers Health Forum chief executive Adam Stankevicius called for a public inquiry into the agreement.

“We call on the federal Parliament’s powerful Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit to conduct a full and public inquiry into this report and its critical findings,” Mr Stankevicius said.

“It beggars belief that a program of such financial significance and health importance has been beset by such fundamental administrative deficiencies.”

“The federal government has no choice but to extend (the agreement) for one year, while the Parliament enquires into this report and it reviews its handling of the arrangements with the Pharmacy Guild.”

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December 4, 2018

Comments Off on Bulga residents vow to continue fight against Mount Thorley mine

Bulga residents vow to continue fight against Mount Thorley mine

​Ridge mining decision angers Indigenous community
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‘Cloak of secrecy’ claims before mine decision

Mount Thorley expansion ‘a win for workers’

EDITORIAL: Rio Tinto’s inevitable victory

BULGA residents have vowed to use all peaceful means to prevent Rio Tinto’s Mount Thorley-Warkworth extension from going ahead.

The latest twist in the David and Goliath battle came on Thursday when the Planning Assessment Commission’s recommended the controversial project be approved, despite two court decisions rejecting similar applications.

“With every other avenue to protect our homes and peaceful valley from this massive open-cut coal mine exhausted, we are left with no choice but to draw a line in the sand,’’ Bulga resident Stewart Mitchell said.

The extension project will result in $719 million direct and indirect spending in the Hunter region and secure the employment of 1300 workers.

The commission’s panel acknowledged the project would have a significant impact on the surrounding environment and communities.

‘‘…the commission also recognises that the projects will result in adverse social and economic impacts, particularly on the Bulga Village and its residents, who are experiencing increasing mining encroachment from these and other mines,’’ the panel wrote.

Mount Thorley Warkworth general manager Mark Rodgers said the outcome was a vital step towards securing a strong future for Mount Thorley Warkworth mine.

BULGA residents have vowed not walk away from the David and Goliath battle to stop Rio Tinto’s Mt Thorley-Warkworth mine extension from destroying their community.

The Planning Assessment Commission recommended the controversial project proceed on Thursday despite two court decisions rejecting similar applications.

In response the small community and its supporters have issued the ‘‘Bulga Declaration’’ which promises to use all peaceful means to prevent the mine extension going ahead in future.

‘‘We are not going to walk away,’’ Bulga resident Stewart Mitchell, whose house backs onto the mine said.

“With every other avenue to protect our homes and peaceful valley from this massive open cut coal mine exhausted, we are left with no choice but to draw a line in the sand.’’

The commission’s panel acknowledged the project will have a significant impact on the surrounding environment and communities.

‘‘… the commission also recognises that the projects will result in adverse social and economic impacts, particularly on the Bulga village and its residents, who are experiencing increasing mining encroachment from these and other mines,’’ the panel wrote.

‘‘These impacts are likely to include impacts on property values; on the ability of residents to sell their properties in the future and environmental concerns, including notably noise and dust.’’

It recommended consideration should be given to compensating residents for the impacts.

The project will result in $719million direct and indirect spending in the region and secure the employment of 1300 workers.

More than 2000 individuals, groups and businesses made submissions about the project.

Mount Thorley-Warkworth general manager Mark Rodgers said the outcome was a vital step towards securing a strong future for Mount Thorley Warkworth mine.

He said the company would pay particular attention to the commission’s findings regarding the community of Bulga.

We have already been acting on one of its key recommendations, by offering voluntary acquisition to those residents who were granted acquisition rights under the Warkworth Extension 2012 planning approval.

“We are committed to working with community members to ensure there is a strong future for the village.”

NSW Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee said the recommendation was great news for the mine employees and also for the ongoing economic stability of the the Upper Hunter.

‘‘In 2014, Mount Thorley Warkworth spent $188 million with more than 270 suppliers in the Upper Hunter region.”

“Hundreds of Upper Hunter residents employed by the local businesses who supply Mount Thorley Warkworth, will also now breathe a sigh of relief that their jobs are also looking more secure,” he said.

Shadow minister for resources Steve Whan said the decision would provide welcome certainty to the existing workforce.

‘‘Under the Abbott and Baird governments, unemployment has soared to 11.4 per cent in the Hunter Valley – up from 7.1 per cent a year ago.

‘‘The region has lost 14,000 jobs over the past year.

‘‘The Hunter is on a journey of economic diversification and renewal – but there is no question that mining remains vital to the region’s industry base.’’

The Planning Assessment Commission’s report will now be considered by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, ahead of any determination of the development consent.