06/29/18

Dragons serve Golden Googars with their first taste of defeat

DEFENDING Barwon-Darling Water Cup premiers Walgett toppled the previously undefeated Brewarrina 28-26 in the senior match-of-the-round last weekend while Enngonia surged up the table with two weekend wins in a critical round of rugby league.
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The Dragons prevailed in a two-point thriller against the Golden Googars at Geoff New Ovals, Brewarrina on Sunday.

Perennial leading pointscorer Willie Wright was at his best again, the five-eighth scoring a try and booting four decisive goals in the Dragons’ victory.

He was well supported by hard-working lock Richard Dennis in a solid team performance.

Brewarrina had a host of good performers including play makers Charlie McHughes, Duane Gordon, Jack Simpson and Edward Simpson in what is a versatile all-round side.

The Googars boast five players that have scored five tries or more during 2014, and the points were shared around again in a match that boasted 10 individual try-scorers.

Sunday’s result means the minor premiership comes down to this weekend’s final round.

Walgett hosts Collarenebri on Saturday while Brewarrina travels to Bourke to play the Warriors on Sunday.

However top spot and a home major semi-final may not be the best omen for either Brewarrina or Walgett when the two sides clash again in the major semi-final in a fortnight’s time as both have scored away wins against each other during the regular season.

The power plays of the weekend came from the Enngonia who moved rapidly up the ladder with a pair of victories against Goodooga (30-0 on forfeit) and Collarenebri (46-38).

With confirmation the Outlaws and Bourke both received one point for an abandoned round six game, it meant Enngonia picked up five competition points in the last week.

Now on 10 points, Enngonia will collect two points for the round 10 bye.

Victory against Goodooga on Sunday in a deferred match from round two could hand the Outlaws third place on the ladder and a home minor semi-final.

Enngonia made the massive trek to Collarenebri on Sunday (July 20) and did enough to hold out a tired Bulldogs outfit in a high-scoring match.

The Bulldogs were backing up from a 30-4 loss to Bourke on Saturday at Collarenebri.

The Outlaws were also meant to double up but had fresh legs after Goodooga forfeited Saturday’s clash scheduled for Enngonia Sportsground.

On Sunday, Enngonia’s Reuben Barker (three tries and two goals) and Jeremy Edwards (two tries and two goals) had big says in the outcome against the Bulldogs while another youngster in Lochlan Peters (two tries) shone for Collarenebri.

The Outlaws also benefitted from second-rower Samual Shillingsworth’s bustling surges forward.

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06/29/18

Asbestos report sparks action in Donnybrook

A report highlighting 120 WA schools containing asbestos has sparked action to ensure the safety of schools and students at Donnybrook District High School.A REPORT highlighting 120 WA schools containing asbestos has sparked action to ensure the safety of schools and students at Donnybrook District High School.
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The 2013 Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM) Audit highlighted 35 of those schools as having asbestos back in 2010. The report was released recently under freedom of information.

“The Barnett Government has failed to keep up with maintenance at our schools and some of these health risks have been known since 2010,” Labor spokesman for the South West Mick Murray said.

Donnybrook District High School was listed in the report as being at the highest risk level. However, this referred to one particular site and not the whole school.

Donnybrook District High School Principal Peter Fitzgerald said as he understood the issue, and he had not been advised to the contrary, the asbestos was in a situation where it was stable and not a risk. It was also in one area of the school and not throughout.

“Where there is risk, we act to the extent that we are enabled to act. I am not enabled to act to remove asbestos. That is managed through other agencies who act on behalf of the department,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

“The professionals who do the assessment have deemed it to be safe. The requirement is for us to do nothing; at some future time they may remove it, that’s not a school decision, that’s a decision of the department’s agents.

“My understanding is that it is not a risk in its current state to the health or to the integrity and safety of everyone here.”

Mr Fitzgerald met on Thursday July 24 with a representative of the BMW, an arm of the Department of Treasury and Finance, who are responsible for managing all government buildings.

“He inspected a section of screening at Bentley Street which has attracted a high risk rating and is recommending that action be taken to remove the asbestos product in the screens and that these be replaced with a colourbond type product,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

“Once this is approved, and I expect this will happen quickly, then he will put in place a plan to remove the asbestos product.

“This process is done in accordance with industry protocols which involve appropriate notifications, the employment of licensed specialists and adherence to laws relating to disposal. The work itself will happen at a time outside school hours, probably over a weekend.”

Education Minister Peter Collier assured parents statewide following the release of the report that the state government was taking every precaution with children’s health in managing asbestos in schools.

Mr Collier said the Western Australian Advisory Committee on Hazardous Substances had advised that exposure to asbestos cement material in WA public schools represented very little risk to health.

“Environmental health experts advise that undisturbed asbestos poses an extremely low risk to health, and where it is located in areas that are unlikely to be disturbed, there is no urgent need to remove it,” Mr Collier said.

“That said, the state government has an ongoing program of asbestos removal in schools where it presents a possible risk, and last financial year we spent approximately $2million on associated repairs and maintenance.”

Further, he said all asbestos roofing on Western Australian schools had long since been removed and replaced.

Mr Collier said the thorough Building Condition Assessment reports carried out at every school provided a clear picture of where asbestos was located, and identified those spots where there could be a greater chance of the material being disturbed.

“Out of nearly 800 schools, there were only 14 schools where inspectors found one or two spots in the school where the risk rating was 1, meaning the asbestos is probably weathered and has a higher chance of being disturbed and exposed,” he said.

“Let me stress, this does not mean the whole school is at high risk.

“In those cases, the Department of Education acts quickly and assesses the best way to minimise any hazard.

“That may involve removing the asbestos altogether, which is done under controlled conditions and when no students or staff are present, or it may involve other work such as cutting off a tree branch that is brushing up against an asbestos panel, or sealing and enclosing the asbestos.

“Schools are in regular contact with the department if they have any health and safety concerns about their facilities, and experts can be dispatched quickly to assess the issue and fix it if necessary.”

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06/29/18

NSW Governor Dame Marie Bashir opens new school gym

Bashir house students Mikayla Lilli, Katelin Koprivec and Alexia Mihalopoulos meet Dame Marie Bashir at the opening. Picture: GREG TOTMANNSW Governor Dame Marie Bashir was humbled to be invited to open the new buildings at St Mary Star of the Sea College in her role as patron of house Bashir at the school.
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At an opening ceremony on Thursday morning, Dame Marie told the crowd of students and special guests how touched she was to take part in the celebrations.

She later told the Mercury she felt “humble” that many of the young women, including Bashir house captain Alexia Mihalopoulos, considered her a role model.

“I feel very humble about that,” she said.

“It’s an absolutely indescribable honour because it’s about young people, which are the joy of my life, and it’s about education, which as Nelson Mandela said is the most powerful weapon of all.

“Of course educated young women in Australia, for centuries virtually, have helped build the nation.

“They’ve gone into every field and we see them now going into things like aeronautical engineering, extraordinary things because of their courage and the encouragement of a good society.”

Dame Marie said she was pleased to see the continued work of The Sisters of the Good Samaritan, who founded the college.

Bishop Peter Ingham was on hand to bless the $11 million facilities, which include a new gymnasium, sports science area, cafeteria and learning spaces.

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04/16/19

Federal budget 2014: Victorian doctors slam GP co-payment

Victorian doctors have slammed the new $7 co-payment for GP visits and medical tests and say they will fight hard to prevent Victorian hospitals from introducing similar fees for emergency department care.
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On Tuesday night, the Commonwealth opened the door for the state and territory governments to start charging people for emergency department services after announcing that as of July next year, Australians will be charged a $7 co-payment for GP visits, including imaging such as X-rays and pathology such as blood tests.

A spokesman for the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Dr Simon Judkins, said the new fees could prompt more patients to go to emergency departments instead of their GPs because hospital treatment is free.

He said the potential for this to occur, combined with a Commonwealth Government announcement that it will cut hospital funding to the states, could prompt the Victorian Government to introduce fees for emergency department care to raise more funding for the health system.

But Dr Judkins said doctors would strongly oppose such a move because it could deter people from seeking help with devastating consequences.

He said doctors were particularly worried about poor people and those with mental illnesses who could walk out of hospitals when they realise they might have to pay.

‘‘We already have patients in emergency departments whose conditions deteriorate because they have to wait for a long period of time so if you throw in an additional disincentive of having to pay money before you see the doctor… then there’s potential for patients who are acutely unwell to walk out and deteriorate,’’ he said.

Dr Judkins said any new fee for emergency care would hit the poorest people the hardest, undermining the principle of universal care.

”People who work in public hospitals pride themselves on delivering equitable care to whoever turns up at our front door. We would hate to go down the path of the American system where people are charged for emergency care,” he said.

Dr Judkins said designing an emergency department fee would be difficult, too, because many patients who could be considered ‘‘GP type’’ patients present with problems that can escalate into serious illnesses such as meningitis or stroke.

‘‘The logistics of determining what is a GP-type visit or what is an emergency visit can only be done retrospectively and the bureaucracy and infrastructure that you would have to put into place to monitor that would far outweigh the cost or revenue made from such a co-payment,’’ he said.

‘‘We think any disincentive for anybody to come to an emergency department when they think they have a genuine health emergency needs to be strongly opposed.’’

Victorian Health Minister David Davis was unavailable for comment on Tuesday night, but Victorian Treasurer Michael O’Brien told 3AW radio that the Napthine government would closely monitor the $7 fee increase to see a doctor.

“We don’t want to see people deciding they are not going to see their GP because of this co-payment and they wind up clogging up our emergency departments in our hospitals with things which are really more appropriately seen by a GP,’’ Mr O’Brien said.

He said the Victorian Government was also concerned about the longer term reduction in federal funding for state hospitals.

“The state budget has put extra money into our hospitals, and extra money into our schools, and we will be very concerned if the federal government is, sort of, stepping back over the next decade,’’ he said.

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04/16/19

Record injection for WA infrastructure

Perth Airport to attract more than $600 million from Tuesday’s federal budget. Photo: Erin JonassonThe Abbott government says the 2014-15 federal budget will invest record funds for infrastructure for Western Australia.
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Tuesday’s budget includes $611 million to improve access to Perth Airport and $590 million for the Swan Valley Bypass.

The government will also spend $307 million to upgrade the Great Northern Highway, $174 million to widen the North West Coastal Highway and $140.6 million for new interchanges on the Tonkin Highway.

Infrastructure and Regional Development Minister Warren Truss said the government was committed to the $1.6 billion Perth Freight Link and would work with the WA government “to involve the private sector” in co-contributing to the project with the two governments.

The federal government has unveiled an $11.6 billion transport infrastructure package for Australia that will take total federal spending to $50 billion by 2019-20.

It says the investment will in turn spur state and private sector investment in roads and rail across the continent and could spur up to $125 billion total investment by 2019-20.

Fairfax Media revealed last week the Abbott government’s plans for an asset recycling fund in the budget, which will be handed $5 billion to encourage states and territories to privatise assets by offering a 15 per cent bonus payment from Canberra.

The money for that fund will be funded by the sale of Medibank Private and by rolling in money from existing Building Australia funds and an Education Investment Fund.

Another $3.7 billion will be used to fast track already announced Coalition projects such as $1.5 billion for stage two of the East West link road in Melbourne and $866million for the Perth Freight link.

Treasurer Joe Hockey has described the infrastructure program as the biggest in Australia’s history.

WA will share also in continued funding for roads maintenance, including $2.5 billion over six years for roads to recovery and $565 million over six years for black spots projects.

Mr Truss said the infrastructure package would deliver better roads which “means less congestion, faster travel times and lower fuel costs”.

“The Abbott Government’s investment in Western Australia will also improve freight transport linkages to key domestic and export markets,” he said.  Follow WAtoday on Twitter

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04/16/19

Joe Hockey ‘daring’ states to ask for a rise in the GST, says Labor

Prime Minister Tony Abbott in Canberra. Labor has accused the government of daring the states to ask for a rise in the GST. Photo: Andrew Meares Treasurer Joe Hockey does breakfast television interviews on the front lawns of Parliament House after budget day. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
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Federal Budget 2014: Full coverage

The Abbott government is ”daring” the states to push for an increase in the GST, Labor says, after Treasurer Joe Hockey revealed in the budget that the states would be stripped of billions of dollars of funding for health and education.

Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said on Wednesday the funding cuts would force the Premiers to begin the potentially politically toxic argument to raise the goods and services tax to make up the shortfall, but Mr Hockey refused to be drawn on the issue in morning interviews, saying the GST was a ”matter for the states”.

Mr Hockey faces a fight on the issue, with the treasurers from conservative-led states Queensland, NSW and Victoria indicating on Wednesday that they would oppose the cuts.

Mr Bowen told ABC Radio that “as sure as night follows day, Premiers will say ‘to make up from this cut, we will need to increase the GST”.

“Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey have set it for this express purpose,” he said, adding that Labor’s position was clear in opposing a rise in the GST or broadening its base.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the GST was firmly in the government’s sights and that the Coalition had deliberately shifted greater burdens onto the state in health and education spending to force their hand.

But Mr Hockey told ABC radio on Wednesday that he made “no apologies” for his decision to push funding for schools and hospitals back on to the states and the Commonwealth would ;;sit down with the states to work through the details”.

He signalled that he would be difficult to move on the cuts, saying the ‘‘same taxpayer’’ funded hospitals and schools.

When asked if it could lead to an increase in the GST rate, Mr Hockey said the government wouldn’t move on the 10 per cent rate without taking it to an election.

But if the states wanted more money from the GST, ‘‘it’s up to them to argue the case to change the GST.”

Mr Hockey said the commonwealth had always funded those services at base levels, but the Rudd and Gillard governments went on a ‘‘spending spree’’ with no plan to pay for the increases in funding for schools and health.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott echoed his Treasurer’s sentiments on Wednesday saying the GST was “a matter for the states.”

“The states do well out of this budget, we are expecting them to run public hospitals and run the schools,” he said.

In a later interview with ABC Radio, Mr Abbott further explained his position.

“Changes to the GST is not something the government is planning, the states are perfectly entitled to argue for change, each level of government should be sovereign in its own sphere,” he said.

Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls said it would be tougher to deliver services because of cuts to future spending on health and education

‘‘We will use the time between now and the implementation of those decisions over the next couple of years to take the fight up with Canberra,’’ Mr Nicholls told ABC radio on Wednesday. ‘‘The revised funding models are going to make it tougher to deliver the services.’’

NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance, who will announce NSW’s budget on June 17, said the federal budget was really just ‘‘cost-shifting’’, estimating his state would have to find an additional $1.2 billion over four years to make up the shortfall.

‘‘We have committed expenditure to these areas. What we’ve seen from the commonwealth in this year’s budget is a cost-shift in terms of their growth monies,’’ he told ABC radio. ‘‘We want to see the agreements honoured. These are vital areas of service delivery at a state level.’’

NSW Premier Mike Baird said on Wednesday: “What we saw last night was a kick in the guts to the people of NSW.”

“I have a question to the Prime Minister and to the federal Treasurer . . . what services would he like us to cut here in NSW on the back of the funding cuts that we have seen overnight?”

Mr Baird described Mr Hockey’s actions as a “flick pass”.

“Our message to Canberra is, ‘no, we are in this together. You cannot outsource your problems to the states.”

Victorian Treasurer Michael O’Brien said on Wednesday: “We don’t want to see people deciding they are not going to see their GP because of this co-payment and they wind up clogging up our emergency departments in our hospitals with things which are really more appropriately seen by a GP.”

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04/16/19

Budget update for SMEs

MYOB CEO Tim Reed Photo: Jessica Shapiro
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To help Australia’s small and medium business operators get the most out of the 2014 budget changes, MYOB strongly encourages them to take advantage of current tax deductions, to innovate and to make the most of online technologies to help boost their productivity, business performance and their confidence in the economy.

Following the handing down of the budget, it can be tempting for business owners to bunker down, play it safe and postpone their plans for growth. There are still opportunities to be had for SMEs.

I’m pleased the government has set a target of reducing regulatory compliance costs on businesses, individuals and the community by $1 billion every year. Business owners and managers will continue to call for tax reform, deregulation and reduction of red tape – our latest SME research shows GST and BAS simplification continue to top the list of initiatives they hope to see. We call on the government to keep tax reform on the agenda and to consider broadening the GST to not only address the needs of health and education spending but to also ease the burden of completing a BAS on Australia’s two million businesses.

With the retirement age set to increase to 70 by 2035, small business stands to gain the most from taking up a new $10,000 incentive payment encouraging employers to hire over 50s. We encourage small and medium businesses to keep this in mind as they hire and install a new step in their hiring process to ensure they capture this benefit whenever they meet the necessary criteria.

I hope the rise in the fuel excise rate does lead to increased investment in roads including highways and rail in our cities and regions, to help ease the pressure of rising fuel prices. Fuel prices was once again the top pressure point for SMEs this year, and has been since 2011. This change is likely to be the least popular part of the budget with SMEs, particularly so with certain sectors that will feel more pain – our latest research shows agribusiness and Western Australian-based businesses felt the most pressure from rising fuel prices. 61 per cent of SMEs would welcome investment in transport infrastructure in our major states and cities. Adopting online and teleworking technologies can also help ease the pressure by enabling business operators to operate from home or any location outside of the office.

Plans to facilitate innovation and self‑reliance via a new Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme will be well-received by SMEs. Our research shows more than half of SMEs would support increased government funding for innovation, R&D and training on how to use the internet to grow their business. The benefits of online technologies include the ability to compete on a more level playing field with local and global rivals, increased productivity and less time spent on business administration. This means more time for growing the business, which has the potential to make a difference to our economy.

Further support for small business include creating a specialised unit to help small businesses gain better access to government contracts, which is supported by half of the SMEs we surveyed. We strongly encourage assisting SMEs to gain access to government contracts and also encourage SMEs to take up these opportunities.

Small business will feel reassured that the budget has been put on a sound footing for the medium term. While no-one likes tax increases, and a number of consumers will likely feel the pinch, and this may constrain spending, past behaviour indicates there is a chance that Australian’s will believe the worst  is behind them and that economic growth will continue unabated – fulfilling the rising business confidence that recent surveys have shown.

Tim Reed is MYOB’s CEO

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03/16/19

Police search sand hills for Ronald Penn

SPECIALIST police and cadaver dogs will continue searching sand dunes for the remains of a Central Coast man believed to have been murdered nearly 20 years ago.
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Ronald Penn, 61, was last seen at a Bateau Bay house on October 12, 1995 – the same day he was stopped by police at Charlestown regarding an apprehended violence order.

Two weeks later, Mr Penn’s white Mazda van was found burnt-out in bushland on Berkeley Road, Berkeley Vale.

Strike Force Rankmore detectives recently received information suggesting three men may have been in the near vicinity of Mr Penn’s car shortly after it was set alight around 10pm.

Two of the men are described as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander appearance, while the third man is described as being of Caucasian appearance.

A police statement released on Wednesday said all three were seen leaving the scene of the burning Mazda van in a red Ford Laser hatchback.

Ronald Penn. Pic: NSW Police

Detectives have also been provided with information suggesting Mr Penn’s body may be buried on a sand-hill within the Tuggerah Lakes area.

Detectives, along with the assistance of specialist police and a cadaver dog, commenced a search of local sand-hills on Tuesday.

The dig will continue on Wednesday.

“We are absolutely committed to solving this case and putting those responsible for Mr Penn’s death behind bars,” Tuggerah Lakes crime manager Detective Inspector Dave Waddell said.

“Mr Penn’s family and friends have suffered for far too long; they need to know what happened to Ron.

“The information and support we have received from members of the community has been invaluable, and we are very grateful for the help they have provided.

“If there is anyone else out there who can assist detectives, please do get in touch.

“We don’t need to know who you are; all we need is the information you have to hand. You can contact Crime Stoppers anonymously and your call will be treated in the strictest of confidence.”

Investigations have revealed Mr Penn had his clothes and personal belongings with him when he vanished.

None of his bank accounts have been accessed and his driver’s licence has not been renewed since he went missing.

03/16/19

Closing the gap 150 indigenous programs consolidated to cut waste

The government plans to save $500 million over five years by consolidating more than 150 indigenous programs into a five-pronged strategy to be run out of the Prime Minister’s Department.
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Despite repeatedly promising to maintain funding levels before the election, it now insists it can achieve the savings by eliminating the waste and duplication highlighted in the National Commission of Audit report.

Treasurer Joe Hockey maintains the savings can be achieved without compromising the goal of closing the gap, citing the Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s “heartfelt” commitment to tackling disadvantage. Finance Minister Mathias Cormann claims the scope to tackle waste and duplication exists across all service-delivery departments.

But the savings will be attacked as another broken promise by Labor after Mr Abbott repeatedly insisted funding levels would be maintained and the Coalition’s election policy document said: “The Coalition will continue the current level of funding expended on Closing the Gap activities.”

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said $4.8 billion would be spent on the streamlined programs of jobs, land and the economy, children and schooling, safety and wellbeing, culture and capability and remote Australia strategies.

“The five new indigenous programs will make it easier for organisations delivering services on the ground,” Senator Scullion said.

He said the Stronger Futures policy developed by the former government would be revised “with the Northern Territory Government to place greater emphasis on results, rather than process”.

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03/16/19

Indonesia’s oldest political rivals to propel Joko Widodo to presidency

Jakarta: Indonesia’soldest political enemies are edging towards joining forces to propel popular Jakarta governor Joko Widodo to the presidency.
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Golkar, the party of strongman Suharto is talking with the party which grew out of the Suharto-era opposition, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), with a view to supporting Mr Joko as president and his agenda in parliament.

Though nothing is yet signed, the candidates for the two parties, Mr Joko (known as Jokowi) for PDI-P and businessman Aburizal Bakrie for Golkar, appeared together late on Tuesday at a traditional market in Jakarta to announce their “cooperation”.

“This a further step towards forming a coalition. If we think we match, I’ll talk to PDI-P chairwoman Megawati [Sukarnoputri] and Jokowi,” Mr Bakrie said.

Mr Joko said the two nationalist, secularist parties had much in common, but added a strong rider to maintain his image as a cleanskin in a country rank with money politics and dealmaking.

“We want to keep the co-operation pure, so we won’t talk about [giving out posts such as] vice-president or ministers,” he said.

Mr Joko has not announced a running mate despite fevered speculation leading up to the nomination deadline on Monday.

A coalition would align the two parties which won most votes in the parliamentary election, and form the backbone of a potential majority in the lower house, or DPR.

If it comes to be, particularly on Mr Joko’s terms, the coalition would signal that Golkar has given up entirely on getting the desperately unpopular Mr Bakrie elected as president against him.

It would also be another sign that Golkar is the ultimate pragmatist that will do almost anything to stay on the government benches.

The announcement made it clear that Golkar’s earlier coalition talks with Mr Joko’s presidential rival, former general Prabowo Subianto, have come to nothing.

The potential deal is extraordinary even in Indonesia’s byzantine political scene.

Golkar was formed under Suharto’s New Order in 1971 to contest sham elections that gave a patina of electoral legitimacy to his rule. Real opposition was eliminated and Suharto’s party won crushing parliamentary majorities at each of the six elections it contested.

PDI-P grew out of the tame, state-sanctioned opposition, the Indonesian Democratic Party, or PDI, which was so dysfunctional that in 1977 Suharto was forced to appoint his home affairs minister to run its party congresses.

The party was reinvigorated and added the word “Struggle” to its name in 1998 under the leadership of Ms Megawati,  the daughter of Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno. Stronger opposition was part of the impetus for the collapse of the New Order regime in 1998 and Ms Megawati led her party to near victory in the post-New Order election in 1999.

Golkar’s deputy secretary general, Tantowi Yahya, said if a deal was signed it would be the first time in government that the two parties had formed a coalition.

Mr Joko is the runaway favourite to win the election. But, like his opponent, Mr Prabowo, he is busy talking to the other parties in Indonesia’s 10-party parliament to try to form a workable majority for the five-year term that starts in October.

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03/16/19

Responsibility was mine, says Garrett

Peter Garrett arrives for his grilling in Brisbane at the royal commission into deaths from the home insulation program. Photo: Glenn HuntFormer environment minister Peter Garrett has taken responsibility for the Labor government’s failed insulation scheme, but revealed prime minister Kevin Rudd refused to approve a change to the installation system just weeks before the first installer died.
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Mr Garrett told of Mr Rudd’s involvement via a statement given to the Royal Commission into Home Insulation Program (HIP), which is sitting in Brisbane.

On Tuesday Mr Garrett, the former front man for the band Midnight Oil, became the highest profile minister to appear before the inquiry, which is due to hear evidence from Mr Rudd on Wednesday.

In his statement, Mr Garrett said: ”I was responsible for the rollout for the HIP and bore ultimate responsibility for its implementation.”

He also revealed that he had tried to introduce a requirement for two quotes for insulation jobs because he ”felt there was a need for a rigorous process that ensured value for money”.

But he said his requirement for two quotes was removed from the initial roll-out in phase two after advice from the department.

Then on August 27, 2009, he said he sought the prime minister’s approval to make the change, but Mr Rudd did not approve the request.

Four installers died during the program – the first, Matthew Fuller, was electrocuted on October 14, 2009, less than four months after the main program started. The following month 16-year-old Rueben Barnes was electrocuted.

Mr Garrett confirmed he received a ministerial briefing three weeks before Mr Fuller’s death, warning that ”concern about new entrants to the market were not meeting skills competencies and overcharging”.

He also blamed public servants and ministerial advisers for not providing information to him about safety issues.

Giving evidence as to why he had not seen a key risk assessment raising installer safety concerns, Mr Garrett said it would be a matter for his department and advisers to ”highlight” for him if they determined it necessary.

”In the ordinary course of the role of a minister I would have to seek to see it if I’m advised about it … but in the normal practice or necessity I wouldn’t ask to see it,” he said.

He reiterated this in his statement to the inquiry, saying at no time were the risks of death or serious injury communicated to him via briefings from the department.

Mr Garrett confirmed that as a consequence of Mr Fuller’s death he became distrustful of the department’s advice, including its recommendation not to ban foil insulation.

Mr Garrett said, in hindsight, he would have recommended the scrapping of the program after the death of the scheme’s first victim in October, 2009.

He said he suggested mandatory training for all installers in the wake of Mr Fuller’s death.

However, a briefing from his department, titled ”Mandatory Training for all Installers”, advised Mr Garrett against the move.

The department advised Mr Garrett that a workforce of 19,000 installers could not be trained in such a short period of time.

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03/16/19

The Voice recap: Joel Madden ramps up the rivalry with Kylie Minogue

Growing rivalry … coaches Joel Madden and Kylie Minogue (from left) fought hard to add singers to their teams as Ricky Martin and will.i.am danced along this week. Photo: The Voice Powerful and soulful … Thando Sikwila during her blind audition. She chose Kylie Minogue. Photo: The Voice
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Like its rival reality show, the Federal Budget, The Voice is a terrifying glimpse of our nation’s future. Unlike the Federal Budget, tonight’s episode sees the rivalry between Joel Madden and Kylie Minogue come to a head. Although I wasn’t watching the Budget, so it’s possible that happened there too.

But first we have to meet two women from Perth who call themselves Divalicious and say things that don’t instill confidence like: “We have the same warped sense of humour.”

Divalicious sing The Flower Duet, which confuses the judges, who think they are listening to a car commercial. None of them turn their chairs around but everyone has a lot of fun and that’s the main thing. “You guys did a great job,” says Joel in defiance of all the evidence. Back they go to Perth, to have warped senses of humour and laugh like hyenas over wine.

Up steps John, son of Gordon, who hopes to one day be a full-time musician, but is appearing on The Voice anyway. He is playing a ukulele, which is just adorable. Will.i.am plays his air ukulele. I think. (Unless he’s actually … no, I think it’s supposed to be a ukulele.)

Anyway John sings that song Riptide that you’ve heard somewhere and he sounds radio friendly and plays well. Eventually Will and Joel and Kylie spin around. Will informs John that his voice he has that “special thing”, which I am pretty sure is sexual harassment.

Speaking of which, Kylie is next to speak to John, asking him about his ukulele in a way that makes you wonder if she is talking about the instrument or something else. Will and Joel and Kylie begin fighting over John, but John’s dad told him to go with his gut, and his gut says Kylie. Although again, when he says “gut” I wonder whether he means “ukulele”.

Next is Tasha, pronounced “Tarsha”, who is willing to set aside the excitement and wonder of working in a clothes shop to pursue her dream of becoming rapidly anonymous after this season of The Voice ends.

She sings Ho Hey confidently. Kylie starts dancing, but she still hasn’t hit her button so she can’t be enjoying it that much.

Then Will hits his button, and then EVERYONE hits their buttons because this is apparently just a weird game of chicken to these people.

Joel says he waits for a moment in each song to “knock him over”, and claims that Tasha achieved this, but suspiciously fails to specify which moment it was. Ricky says he wants to know more about Tasha, because someone just told him this episode is running a little bit short.

Joel says he’s going to take very good care of Tasha, which coming from Joel … well we can all tell what he means. She picks Will, because he’s been licking his lips the least this whole time.

Next is Peter, who is from Adelaide, where the hairbrush has yet to be invented. Only apparently he’s not next, it’s a girl called Thando. Did I fall asleep for a bit there? We just met Peter and then he was gone.

Thando starts singing and the judges are all bopping away in their chairs to prove that, in fact, they understand the concept of music and are aware that it is what they are currently listening to.

Joel stands up and claps but doesn’t turn. Kylie turns, though, which Ricky finds hilarious.

Finally Joel does turn and the crowd goes moderately wild. Joel and Kylie are locked in a fierce battle for Thando’s charms, but she chooses Kylie, opting for strength in sisterhood.

There is now a brief interlude for Joel and Kylie to gallantly pretend that their rivalry is real and that they care about any of this. “I’m going to crush her,” says Joel, in the voice of a man selecting a new brand of muesli. They then do a sort of improvised comedy skit where Kylie puts on a weird voice and everyone watching just shrugs. I don’t think Kylie even knows what this show is about.

On with the auditions, and Annabelle has an emotional backstory so she’ll probably win the whole thing. But is her voice conventional enough to drive the judges wild? It sure is! Or maybe not. Ricky is either lost in the beauty of the music or has a muscle spasm in his neck.

Kylie keeps thumping her knee, believing it’s the button and wondering why her chair won’t turn around. Eventually it comes down to Kylie and Joel, who have to fake a bit more rivalry, which is hard because they are very close to falling asleep. “You would fit perfectly on my team,” says Joel. It’s a tense moment, but eventually Annabelle chooses Joel.

Time for another interlude where the judges sit in a bit white space and talk some MORE about the Joel-Kylie rivalry. It still doesn’t sound like very much of a thing.

Here is Andrew, who sings Coldplay’s Yellow, wanting to give a fresh, limp spin on Chris Martin’s greatest hit. “Girl or a guy?” Kylie asks Will. The judges nod along with the song, in an extremely sarcastic manner given none of them turn around. “Stuffed it,” Andrew accurately says. “No no, far from stuffed it,” Kylie says soothingly but it is clear he fell short.

Next up is someone we can’t see, because The Voice is doing the thing where we get to know how the judges feel, by only hearing the singer and not seeing her.

Of course, we don’t know exactly how the judges feel, because we don’t have production staff constantly refilling our vodka flasks, but anyway we hear her sing and her voice is quite nice and then we see her and she looks fairly normal really. I feel a bit cheated – I was hoping she’d turn out to be just a head in a jar or something shocking.

The next contestant is Luna Envy, who describes her look as “a bit of everything thrown together” even though her look is actually a bit of Goth thrown together with Goth, and then some Goth put on top.

Also her name is Luna Envy, so you know. Strap yourselves in. “I don’t think my mum has ever been as proud of me as for me being in The Voice,” says Luna, proving either that her mother has terrible priorities, or that Luna has literally never done anything worthwhile. Luna sings My Immortal but doesn’t win over hearts or minds or judges.

At the end of the song the judges learn that Luna Envy’s name is Luna Envy, and congratulate themselves on an excellent decision in not pressing their buttons. “You’re a star,” Ricky says with cruel irony.

Joel and Kylie engage in a bit more awkward banter and then – oh it’s Peter! The guy with the hair who we saw before and then he didn’t sing.

For some reason we’re subjected to another introductory sequence in addition to the introductory sequence they played earlier in the show, but finally, they’re going to let him sing. Peter’s dad hasn’t come to see him sing, because he doesn’t like to fly. But since they live in Adelaide and would not have had to fly, he probably just doesn’t like listening to his son sing.

Peter begins to sing and Kylie pulls a face. It’s that face people sometimes pull when they hear a guy sing really badly. He’s singing Sweet Disposition, which is a bit funny when you think about it. After a shaky start in falsetto, Peter opens up with his chest voice and starts nailing the notes. Kylie stands up and waves her hands and then thinks better of it and sits down again, ashamed of her exhibitionist streak.

Then Ricky hits his button and Joel hits his button and Kylie hits her button and everything is just going crazy out there, it’s an Escape To Victory-style comeback story as he chooses Ricky as his coach and gives hope to everyone out there who dreams of singing songs that are a bit out of their range.

We then have to sit through the other three judges doing their Ricky impressions in a fairly vicious example of workplace bullying. And then it’s over, but next week promises to have episodes that go even further over their scheduled running time!

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

02/16/19

Treasurer Joe Hockey grilled by ABC’s Sarah Ferguson on budget night

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Nanjing Night Net

Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey has begun the hard sell of his tough first budget, sweating his way through the first of many post-budget interviews.

An unusually subdued Mr Hockey faced the ABC’s Sarah Ferguson on 7.30 just moments after his budget speech.

Ms Ferguson gave him no reprieve, firing the first shot with her opening question: ‘‘Is it liberating for a politician to decide election promises don’t matter?’’

As he sat still in the opposite chair, hands clasped between his legs, Mr Hockey said he would not ‘‘accept the question’’.

“I don’t accept that question. The biggest, most significant promise we made was to fix the budget and strengthen the Australian economy, and we will.”

But the Treasurer soon freed his hands as he set about defending his government’s first budget. A budget that included some controversial measures like the new Medicare co-payment.

‘‘What we’re doing is good policy,’’ he said.

But Ms Ferguson was relentless, orchestrating this abrasive exchange:

Hockey: ‘‘There are only two tax adjustments.’’

Ferguson: ‘‘Is that what we’re going to call them now?”

Hockey: ‘‘Of any substance, any tax changes, if you like, or whatever you’d like to call it.’’

Ferguson: ‘‘New taxes.’’

Hockey: ‘‘There’s two. There’s actually fewer than any of the previous budgets from the previous government.’’

Ferguson: ‘‘They’re still taxes. I don’t need to teach you, Treasurer, what a tax is.’’

Ms Ferguson grilled him on the government’s decison to cut $80 billion from schools and hospitals over ten years.

“Are you starving the states so they beg you, effectively, to raise the GST?” she asked.

“That’s up to them, they are responsible for schools and hospitals.”

It might just have been an off night for the Treasurer. His speech in Parliament was also with a tired voice in a performance that fell short of his typically confident appearances in question time.

On Wednesday, Mr Hockey hit the airwaves, appearing on ABC’s Radio National and AM, Sky News and commercial radio.

At 12.30pm he will speak in Parliament House’s Great Hall in the traditional treasurer’s post-budget address to the National Press Club.

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