Atlantic a sea of rubbish

PARIS: The North Atlantic looks like a rubbish tip, with plastic and polystyrene flotsam spreading far and wide, four French explorers just back from eight months at sea report.Once out of the Breton port of Trinite-sur-Mer in October, they typically spotted at least four to five pieces of rubbish a day – only to sail into a veritable floating dump in April in the Sargasso Sea around Bermuda.”In 15 minutes we saw more garbage than at any time during our journey,” the naval engineer, Yann Geffriaud, 27, said on Saturday a few hours after their return.”It was truly a shock, when in the middle of nowhere we came across 10 to 20 pieces of garbage every five minutes.”The Sargasso Sea, where currents between Florida and Bermuda converge, is named for a brown seaweed – sargassum – that proliferates on its surface, trapping any floating rubbish.”Ninety-five per cent of the stuff is plastics, from toothpaste tubes to aerosol containers and water bottles,” said Mr Geffriaud, the founder of Watch the Waste, a group that asks mariners to monitor rubbish.”Frankly speaking, we did not see a compact area of plastic, but a scattering.”The findings echoed those of the US seafarer and researcher Charles Moore who, two years ago, sailed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – an estimated 100 million tonnes of rubbish sprawled between Hawaii and Japan.Last February, the US-based Sea Education Association revealed the existence of another virtual island of plastic in the North Atlantic, spread over an area as big as France.Outside the Sargasso Sea, Mr Geffriaud said, the French expedition regularly saw garbage, much of which had been swept from dry land into the ocean by streams and rainfall.”But we saw five times more on the way back, between Bermuda and the Azores, than on the way out along a more southerly track from Cape Verde to Tobago.”Given that we can never clean up the sea, the most simple thing to do is to raise public awareness,” Mr Geffriaud and his team said.Agence France-Presse
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Sifting terrorist chips from Israel policy push

AMMAN: Pallet loads of potato chips are hardly an answer to the plight of Palestinians, now in the fourth year of Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. Likewise, a continued ban on shipments of coriander to the impoverished enclave cannot be seen as a serious plank in Israel’s national security blueprint.Since the blockade began in 2007, world opinion has chosen to ignore its impact on daily life in Gaza. But Israel’s gross over-reaction in killing nine protesters as its forces commandeered a Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla two weeks ago has finally focused attention on the cruelty of a blockade justified by Israel as essential to preventing the smuggling of weapons to Hamas.Under a barrage of international criticism, Israel is easing some of the restrictions – but in identifying the products that seemingly no longer constitute a security risk the Netanyahu government has exposed the blockade as an exercise in collective punishment of a civilian population.Along with chips, Israeli authorities have decreed that the likes of jam, halva and razor blades have ceased to be a security risk and will be allowed into Gaza. Coriander and cardamom, and possibly even cookies, might soon be cleared for shipment too.The gesture prompted a withering response from Gisha, an Israeli non-governmental organisation that monitors the detailed management of the blockade. “Gisha is pleased to learn that coriander no longer presents a threat to Israeli security,” its website says.In anticipation of permission for cookies to go to Gaza, however, Gisha lights on the blockade as economic warfare, saying: “It is not enough to permit Gaza residents to purchase Israeli-made cookies. Israel should stop banning raw materials such as industrial margarine and glucose, so that Gaza residents can produce their own cookies and restart the economy that has been paralysed for three years.”The list of prohibited goods still includes building materials – which Israel says will be hijacked by Hamas, a designated terrorist organisation. But it also lists the essentials for two industries by which a people dependent on food donations might work to feed themselves – fishing and market gardening.Gisha says they are still denied fishing rods and nets; nets for greenhouses and tractor spare parts; irrigation pipes and planters for saplings; and heaters for chicken farms.If only in this humanitarian dimension, there is something grotesque about Israel’s insistence on a policy that has demonstrably failed – Hamas survives and is getting stronger in Gaza. And that the world has acquiesced amid so much civilian suffering and privation in Gaza is equally disturbing.The global outcry in the aftermath of the botched Israeli attack on the Free Gaza Flotilla signals a move for change. But just what can be achieved remains to be seen.As with every crisis point in the 62 years of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an international consensus that ”something” has to be done to ease Palestinian suffering can bog down in endless negotiation, winning just minimal change as world attention shifts to other issues.Such an outcome was evident in the reported remarks late last week of unnamed Israeli officials who told the Associated Press that the easing of the blockade was more about defusing pressure for an international investigation into the attack on the flotilla than on relieving Palestinian suffering.There was further muddying of the issues with an Israeli claim that the blockade would not be lifted unless Hamas agreed to Red Cross visits to Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured by Hamas in 2006 – an issue that is already the subject of Egyptian-mediated negotiations between Israel and Hamas.George Mitchell, Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy, told reporters in the aftermath of the attack that Washington was working ”aggressively” to make sure that Gazans received adequate supplies.Writing in the International Herald Tribune on Friday, the foreign ministers of France, Italy and Spain condemned Israel’s “unbending determination to force compliance with the blockade … [and] a logic that must now be abandoned”. They used the word du jour for describing the blockade – “unsustainable”.Just as there is a new argument in the US that Israel’s national security and settling the country’s conflict with the Palestinians are separate issues of American national security, there is a new global embrace of the separateness of Israel’s strategic need to deny Hamas weapons and the economic and humanitarian needs of Gaza’s 1.5 million people.Moves are afoot to have European Union monitors – instead of Israeli troops – examine the freight depots that serve Gaza. The ministerial trio also proposes that the Gaza port be reopened to cargo ships that would come under international inspection – to intercept smuggled weapons.Whatever the fate of the blockade, there is an expectant sense in the region that the emergence of non-Arab Turkey as a new and powerful champion of the Palestinian people has set the scene for dramatic changes in the management of the crisis.Likening Arab governments to lemons squeezed of their juice, because of their lost credibility for failing to extract concessions for the Palestinians, a former adviser to the late King Hussein of Jordan observed to the Herald: “It’s going to be a hot summer.”He was not discussing the weather.
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The forgotten community fighting for pride

It is cold and wet in Wilcannia. Wind is blowing through town as about 20 locals gather around a park bench on the Barrier Highway to sign time sheets proving they have worked the hours to earn a government allowance.The Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) program manager requested a shed from the federal government seven months ago from which to run the scheme.But work-for-the-dole participants are still meeting in 48-degree summer heat or the biting autumn wind that characterise the weather extremes on NSW’s flat, far-western plains.It is National Sorry Day, 2010, and Wilcannia, with a population of about 700 – two-thirds of which is Aboriginal – is a town broken.At its peak in the late 1800s, it was home to 3000 people and a busy inland port.More than a century later – notwithstanding the recent welcome rains and flowing Darling River – shops are barred and boarded up, the only employers to speak of are government departments, and the town centre is bookended by two poverty-stricken Aboriginal communities, the Mission and the Mallee.About five years ago 28 government houses, designed to be energy-efficient, were built. The residents have complained of being cooked in the sauna of their own crumbling homes ever since.The median income across the vast Central Darling Shire is just $310 a week. In Wilcannia, unemployment is estimated at more than 60 per cent.But immense resources are thrown at the town. The council has counted more than 50 government and non-government agencies that service its barely 15 streets and their residents.Access to fresh fruit and vegetables is cited by the Central Darling Shire Council as a big problem, but alcohol and marijuana dependence, as well as an historical paucity of activities and jobs are others.”They’ve really had no purpose the last 30 years,” the Darling Shire community and economic development manager, Kym Fuller, said.In the first week of June, Wilcannia lost four of its residents to drug and alcohol-related disease and organ failure, he said. They were all aged under 45.”There are cars stolen to get to funerals,” Mr Fuller said. ”People are putting their hands out for petrol so they can squeeze 10 people into the car.”But just before Christmas, something close to a miracle happened. Five members of the Wilcannia CDEP committee entered their council building – some for their first time in their lives – and sat down on the”flash, cushion chairs” to reach agreement on constructing a drive-through art gallery at Reconciliation Park opposite the hospital.”Before, they were told what to do. Now they’re asked what to do,” the CDEP manager, Trevor Johnstone, said. ”We’re supposed to be dumb blacks. They think we’re dumb blacks.”Their victory over a few business owners concerned, among other things, that the view to the golf course would be blocked by the open-air gallery, has given locals a sense of pride and community ownership they haven’t known for decades, Mr Johnstone said. ”There’s been a lot more pride up here because they’ve been treated with respect.”Mr Johnstone sees hope for Wilcannia in spite of years of setbacks. ”You’ve got to treat them like people,” he said.Each week, more than 30 CDEP workers meet in town to help fashion the drive-through gallery. Among them are recognised artists, 10 of whom will paint one wall each to contribute to the rest area, where it is hoped tourists will stop to break the drive to or from Broken Hill, which is 200 kilometres west.The project is a far cry from the not-too-distant past when, it is rumoured, business owners would buy paintings from locals with a case of beer and then sell their works to visitors for $200 apiece.Woddy Harris, who lives on the edge of town in a shed, spends his days carving didgeridoos, clapping sticks and bowls out of mallee, river red gum and leopardwood. He is passionate about returning the younger Aboriginal generation to the ways of old. ”There’s a spirit, whether you believe in it or you don’t believe in it. It’s still there,” he said. ”I learned [to carve] by my vision of the old people. You create life for yourself.”The revival of the town’s rugby league team, the Wilcannia Boomerangs, has also raised the chins of locals. ”Last year, they won every grade in the [Outback] Rugby League, from seniors through to juniors,” Mr Fuller said. ”They bloody did too, the bastards,” Mr Johnstone, who lives on Menindee Yabbies turf 150 kilometres away, said with a grin.There are other plans afoot to boost the town. Nobody quite believes it will happen, but a Sydney couple have bought a huge property on the outskirts of town with 15 kilometre of river frontage and plans to develop a luxury eco-resort there.Jim Sammon, who is originally from Ireland but has lived in Wilcannia for 20 years, owns the mining camp-style accommodation at ”The Shannon” next door to the proposed resort. He said life had been worse in his adopted home town in the past: ”It used to be a pretty rough sort of a place, but it’s good now.”
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Hogan still called Australia, and US, home

It seemed an innocuous enough letter, striking a jaunty note amid the dry accounting and legal talk. It is to Paul Hogan from his American manager, Douglas Urbanski, in Los Angeles, and it stands out from the reams of technical detail on the file like a brightly coloured toucan amid a flock of dun-coloured hens.”Dear Paul,” Urbanksi writes on May 3, 2005. ”Further to our conversation last night, I want to reiterate in writing how important this matter is …”The simple fact is that while the world consolidates in many ways, I can not stress strongly enough the need for the physical presence of celebrities to be available where the heart of their business is taking place. The importance of having yourself, as well as our other internationally known celebrity clients, present and available in Los Angeles is more important than ever.”Hogan’s return to Los Angeles is ”an essential tool toward our pursuit of all of the Paul Hogan endeavours worldwide”, Urbanksi adds with a flourish.Just why this letter, revealed for the first time this week, ended up in a file painstakingly assembled by the Australian Crime Commission as part of its Wickenby investigation into suspected tax fraud is a long story.But the short answer lies in a note composed days earlier by the Ernst and Young tax adviser Marcus Davis. Headed ”Paul Hogan Tax Residency” and dated April 19, 2005, it outlines Hogan’s plans to take himself, his wife, Linda Kozlowski, and son, Chance, back to the US to live after three years spent in Australia between July 2002 and June 2005. Davis finds it pertinent to observe that ”Paul has been advised by his manager and other professional advisers that if he wishes to continue his career, he will need to relocate to the US”.Handwritten next to this someone has noted ” letter to come”. Sure enough, Urbanski’s letter arrives, two weeks later. Urbanski flatly denied the letter was solicited by Hogan’s Australian accountant, Tony Stewart, to whom it was copied by fax or email. ”I don’t take instructions from Tony Stewart and I don’t listen to or follow instructions from accountants,” he snapped.But whoever assembled the ACC file must have thought the letter had some place in the mosaic of events affecting Hogan’s shifting tax residency status. With Hogan and his family crossing the Pacific first in one direction, then another between 2002 and 2005, the ACC investigators suspected Stewart of constructing a series of ”false residency windows” – periods in which Hogan was paying tax in neither country.And they suspected the strategy involved retrospectively re-casting Hogan’s move from the US to Australia in July 2002 as only temporary.Thus the ACC schedule of inferences, seen by the media for the first time in court documents released this week, states: ”In 2002-03 the tax advantage lay in telling the US authorities he was coming to Australia permanently; but in 2005 the tax advantage lay in telling the Australian authorities that he came here only temporarily in 2002. Both cannot, however, be the case.”The brief further claims that Stewart (codenamed A3 in ACC documents) ”ultimately intended to facilitate an assertion to Australian taxation authorities that P [the codename for Hogan] was not domiciled in Australia between 2002 and 2005”.Much then turned on what was in Hogan’s mind when he came back to Australia in mid-2002 and whether he genuinely thought he was returning for good. In this respect, the ACC also notes that Hogan and Kozlowski bought a waterfront pile in Vaucluse in July 2002, shortly after their return from the US , where they had been living for some years.Meanwhile, millions of dollars were swirling through a merry-go-round allegedly devised by Hogan’s tax advisers. In one instance, the ACC alleges, an offshore entity called Quatre Saison Trust transferred funds to another Virgin Islands entity called Trelene, which then paid $US5 million to a company called Silverstream Nominees for Hogan’s benefit. The money was allegedly transferred while Hogan was in transit between the US and Australia and was ostensibly for rights to a film never made, Crocodile Dundee IV. But Hogan has reportedly denied receiving the payment.Both Quatre Saison and Trelene were beneficially owned or part-owned by Hogan and were run by the offshore financial advisory outfit Strachans, operated by Philip Egglishaw, a prime target of Operation Wickenby.The ACC alleges that ”A3 [Stewart] and Strachans and Egglishaw through A3 provided financial and taxation advice to P … to evade P’s taxation obligations through tax evasion schemes promoted and facilitated by Strachans”.Other matters attracting the ACC’s interest relate to the tax treatment of a loan from one Hogan company to another.Hogan, his Crocodile Dundee partner John Cornell, and Stewart have denied wrongdoing and have not been charged with any tax offences, despite the length of the investigation.In 2008 Hogan said defiantly from the US: ”Come and get me, you miserable bastards!”Moreover, while the ACC still has Hogan in its sights on other grounds, with more to surface in the courts in August, the ACC has not pursued its claims against him based on the residency dispute. It is understood it notified the Federal Court in mid-2008 that it had dropped that part of its investigation.Nevertheless Hogan maintained furious attempts to keep the documents out of the media. That battle, taken up by Fairfax Media, the publisher of the Herald, and Nationwide News, went all the way to the High Court but ended in defeat for Hogan this week. The court said embarrassment was not sufficient reason to suppress documents that had been admitted into evidence.
Nanjing Night Net

Hornsby raises stakes in north shore apartment battle

KU-RING-GAI residents are fuming over plans for hundreds of apartments in six-storey blocks but further north in Hornsby the council is considering towers three times the size.Thirty kilometres from the CBD and on the edge of the Berowra bushland, Hornsby is classified as an outer-ring suburb, but Sydney’s population growth has convinced the council it has little option but to contemplate developments with densities still rare in most inner-ring suburbs.It has included in its draft housing strategy a proposal for 20-storey towers on five blocks close to the Westfield shopping centre, and within weeks will decide whether to make that draft policy permanent.Many residents are furious and have formed the Stop 20 Group which will hold a public meeting today to protest at a policy they believe would see construction of 20 separate 20-storey buildings dramatically alter the character of the suburb.The mayor, Nick Berman, said he understood the opposition but the council needed a policy on where to put the 10,000 new dwellings it has to take under the government’s policy to deal with population growth.The council had considered adopting a policy like that imposed by the state government on Ku-ring-gai, with four- and six-storey apartment blocks in and around train stations, but there had been heavy resistance from residents who feared apartments in quiet suburban streets. “The first draft had five-storey units in Asquith, Berowra, and Normanhurst and the clear message council received was residents wanted to see unit developments in the existing town centres, but not in low-density areas,” Cr Berman said.While 20-storey towers had angered some locals, most had agreed that if the extra homes had to be built, the best way to do it was to build a smaller number of higher-density buildings, he said.He dismissed as a “gross exaggeration” plans for 20 towers and it was “more like six buildings” containing 599 units, housing 1200 to 1500 people.But a spokesman for the Stop 20 Group, Kim Mullins, said her group “had information” that 20 towers would be allowed if the draft policy was adopted.”We find 20 storeys tremendously disproportionate with even the projected needs and the resulting congestion will have huge impact on the town centre . . . with risks of escalating crime as there’s so little for teenagers to do,’ she said.Cr Berman said one reason for allowing developers to build so high was because it increased the value of the project and gave them a better chance to buy out existing property owners to ensure projects went ahead.
Nanjing Night Net

Wrapped with care, the local option

The state Labor MP Paul Gibson tells a bleak anecdote about the sorely needed nuclear medicine centre he ”opened” some years ago at Blacktown Hospital in the heart of his electorate. Last Christmas he returned to the hospital and asked to inspect the centre, only to find it empty – the promised equipment was never installed.It is one example of the struggle Blacktown Hospital has faced to meet the needs of a rapidly growing and often disadvantaged patient population. Even when the old hospital (which did have a nuclear medicine centre) was rebuilt 10 years ago, a plan for more beds was axed because of budget cuts.Gibson says Blacktown’s safe Labor status means its hospital has a funds drought, while swing electorates such as Penrith have been lavished with a hospital expansion.This is despite the relatively sickly status of his community, whose high levels of cardiovascular disease are combined with the highest rate of smoking- and alcohol-related admissions in NSW.This is where chronic disease, frail aged, mental illness and alienation among young people, and the troubles of young mothers with sickly children, pose problems that often stretch the conventional healthcare that is available.Their plight also highlights the inequities of Australia’s health system, in which so often the carers, whether they are nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, psychologists or podiatrists, are scarce where they are needed most.Out of this challenging landscape has emerged the beginnings of ”wrap-around” community healthcare, which has drawn together local doctors, nurses, other health professionals and school counsellors to apply something more than a temporary solution to deep-seated health and social dilemmas.At Blacktown’s neighbouring HealthOne centre at Mount Druitt, state-funded nurses and other health and community workers have joined with federally funded GPs to take a team approach to care.The blight on the country’s primary healthcare is that it is ”disgracefully fragmented”, says a local wrap-around pioneer, Associate Professor Michael Fasher.Connected care is possible and it is happening in ”one of our country’s most socio-economically deprived communities”, he says. He cites Lisa, 24, single mother of Toby, 3, and Jade, 4 weeks (not their real names).The family, recently relocated from the country, have fled a background of domestic violence and child abuse. Lisa is concerned because a recent check has found a delay in Toby’s development and language skills. Lisa herself is exhausted as Jade is an unsettled baby with feeding problems.At the home visit provided to all newborn babies in NSW, the child and family health nurse identified multiple problems. With Lisa’s consent the nurse discussed the issues with the Mount Druitt HealthOne liaison nurse who plays a pivotal role in bringing together the care required.Toby was referred to the child and family team at the state-financed community health centre, and the family GP attends for the initial visit and receives a Medicare payment for taking part in a case conference. Toby is prescribed occupational therapy and language stimulation from a speech therapist.A GP liaison nurse organised breastfeeding support for Lisa, while the family health nurse also kept in touch.As Lisa was found to be at risk of post-natal depression, the liaison nurse met the GP and they organised counselling with a psychologist under a federally funded psychological services scheme. Lisa was introduced to a play group and to a kindergarten. ”Lisa is now less isolated and feels well-supported by her community,” Fasher says. ”The outcome could have been very different.” It all sounds simple and sensible, even with the organisational challenges that Australia’s traditional healthcare demarcations throw up. It is an approach that its advocates hope will be nourished by the Rudd government’s health reforms, which include ultimately a takeover of all community health funding.The aim is to end the divide between federally funded doctors and state financed community health and social services.Organisation is the key, and the pivotal player is the liaison nurse, says one supporter of HealthOne, Tracey MacFadyen, of Dean Park. One of her sons, Kyle, 5, suffers a challenging combination of conditions – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder – which had left MacFadyen at her wit’s end. ”I didn’t know what to do. He was like a wind-up toy. Once he was wound up it was very hard to get him down again.”The condition had also meant Kyle had speech and gross motor development problems impeding his writing. Four months ago MacFadyen attended a HealthOne case conference with her husband, John, that was organised by the liaison nurse at the Mount Druitt centre. The conference involved not only her GP, and the liaison nurse, but also an occupational therapist, and the principal and counsellor from Kyle’s school.As a result, Kyle now has fortnightly sessions of occupational therapy and speech therapy, with both the doctor and a paediatrician kept in the loop, thanks largely to the liaison nurse. All of this is at no out-of-pocket cost to the MacFadyens – a compelling benefit for a family with three young children.This month the federal Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, met doctors and hospital and community health executives at Blacktown Hospital. She listened to their pleas for more funding and for the locally organised arrangements to be supported under the proposed Medicare Local arrangements.Fasher says he was encouraged by Roxon’s response and her support for collaboration between community health services and GPs. The Mount Druitt scheme has been made possible by the combination of committed GPs and innovative community health executives at Sydney West Area Health Service, he says.The pay-off has been not only increased satisfaction among patients and their carers but also significant decreases in costly hospital re-admissions and longer in-patient stays. But Roxon has been given a hint of the trials ahead in applying reforms that will challenge the predominance of hospitals and Medicare-financed doctors who have little financial incentive to practise wrap-around care.The changes are now unlikely to be legislated before the federal election if it is held later this year, and it now appears unlikely Western Australia will agree, because of its refusal to release 33 per cent of its GST revenue. A Senate inquiry, which this week uncovered the fact that the Commonwealth and states have agreed to dump a national authority proposed to oversee the distribution of health funding, is expected to find more flaws in the reform plan.Some GP and nursing groups have criticised the Medical Local proposals for failing to offer more to encourage integrated care that develops the Medicare model. This would involve not only more routine use of nurses and allied health practitioners but also more involvement with education, housing and other life influences.Even the Australian Medical Association, which has been largely supportive, has raised concerns that the proposed funding structure will not end the blame game, a central point of the government’s promise to revamp health.While the plan would expand the federal government’s role in primary healthcare, it does not make it the sole funder. Details about which level of government will be responsible for many parts of primary healthcare are still to be considered, says the AMA president, Dr Andrew Pesce.HealthOne advocates hope that once the smoke clears, Kevin Rudd’s oft repeated promise for health services to be run locally will finally be met. A veteran crusader in Western Sydney for integrated community healthcare, Dr Di O’Halloran, says its advocates have been hanging out for decades for a system that supports ”wrap-around” care. The World Health Organisation and health reformers all say the same thing, she says: ”’The only way you can do that is at the local level.”’
Nanjing Night Net

Stimulus not delivering value to every school

THE two primary schools are neighbours in Sydney’s west, but that’s where the similarities end. Both were allocated several million dollars through the federal government’s Building the Education Revolution program, but the private school’s ability to manage the projects appears to have paid handsome dividends.The public school spent about $2.8 million constructing four classrooms and refurbishing five other classrooms.At the private school, $3 million was spent on a new hall with stage, a covered outdoor learning area, a toilet block, two special learning areas, a multipurpose library including a soundproof room, a storage area, a staffroom, storage sheds, rainwater tanks, solar panels and an interactive whiteboard.Yesterday the NSW upper house inquiry into the program heard this was not an isolated case. There were other examples where cost blowouts, value for money and discrepancies between what schools wanted and what they got had become an issue.The head of the taskforce investigating the program across the country, Brad Orgill, said that fewer than 1 per cent of schools had complained.”In many cases it has clearly been successful in delivering value for money,” he said.”Has it delivered money in every case? No, I doubt that.”Mr Orgill said that there had been 209 complaints to the BER Taskforce, 129 from NSW.But representatives from the NSW Teachers Federation and the Public Schools Principals Forum said their experience with the program was not always positive.The chairwoman of the forum, Cheryl McBride, said that she had tried to get answers to her school’s budget and why a lift was included in the quote when it had not been built.”[The Education Minister, Verity Firth] has assured that this is the most transparent system in Australia – I can assure her it’s not,” she said. ”I don’t think there is a principal in NSW that has a definitive set of figures that can explain where the money’s gone.”The Education Department’s director-general, Michael Coutts-Trotter, who has responsibility for the NSW upgrades, defended the costs and said about 4 per cent of schools had not had a good experience.But he could not explain the different experiences of public schools compared with Catholic schools.”Some of the concerns that schools have expressed to us have been about the time [required] to make these decisions and also the scope of the choices,” he said.He denied schools and communities had not been engaged in the decision-making process and said that materials used in school buildings were to rigid specifications.The level of detail included ”specifying the type of mortar between bricks so that those bricks can be recycled at the end of the building’s life” and using ”two types of Australian hardwood from plantations that are certified as ecologically sustainable” and special drainage in the concrete slabs in halls, he said.Mr Coutts-Trotter conceded that there had been issues of communication between contractors and school principals.”The quality of communication has been variable,” he said.with AAP
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Petrol costs to rise as unleaded fuel axed

MILLIONS of motorists stand to pay more at the petrol pump thanks to the state government’s decision to phase out regular unleaded fuel.It is mandating the use of E10, a blend of 90 per cent petrol and 10 per cent ethanol, as part of its commitment to promote renewable biofuels.This is despite E10 being proved to be less efficient than regular unleaded. Although ethanol has a higher octane rating, it holds less energy than petrol.That means anyone using E10 could use up to 3 per cent more fuel than normal premium unleaded petrol.Besides, all cars built before 1986 are incompatible with E10; owners of those cars will have to use premium unleaded fuel with a 95 or higher octane rating.That will affect about 100,000 motorists when unleaded petrol disappears.The government has defended the decision, saying it is a necessary response to shrinking oil supplies. “Acting now to develop our local biofuels industry will help to make sure that we have affordable fuel supplies available in the future for all motorists,” a spokesman for the Minister for Lands and Infrastructure, Tony Kelly, said.The NRMA safety expert Jack Haley said the organisation wanted to see the same strategy implemented across Australia.”We support biofuels generally because they reduce our dependency on foreign oil,” Mr Haley said.Octane ratings determine the grade of fuel and how efficiently it burns.But with 91, 95 and 98 octane fuel on the market besides E10, it is confusing for many motorists. Experts say the difference between 91, 95 and 98 octane-rated fuel is about a 1 per cent improvement in power and fuel efficiency per octane rating.E10 now has an unofficial octane rating of about 94 because fuel companies simply add ethanol to 91 unleaded.Mr Haley warned against using the higher-quality fuel if a car is not calibrated for it.”There are very few vehicles around that are designed for 98 octane,” he said.The government said it was considering an awareness campaign before next year’s fuel switch.
Nanjing Night Net

Online advocacy group to refocus marginal seats on climate change

THE online advocacy group GetUp! plans to target the key Sydney marginal seats held by Maxine McKew and Malcolm Turnbull to wrench the attention of both major parties back to climate change before the federal election.It claims to have raised almost $500,000 in Mr Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth alone.In its 2010 election strategy document, released today, the organisation says it aims to have more than 10,000 members on the ground for the election – and more at polling booths than the major parties themselves.GetUp! will also mount a major enrolment drive aimed at getting 30,000 unenrolled young people, indigenous Australians and migrants to sign up to vote.The Herald has obtained the results of a survey GetUp! commissioned to Auspoll on key issues it has targeted for the election: climate change, mental health and asylum seekers.The poll of 1500 Australians, conducted nationally over four days this week, showed 72 per cent of respondents wanted a plan to reverse Australia’s rising ”pollution” in the next three years. Sixty-six per cent said they favoured faster processing of refugees, and 83 per cent said they would favour increasing government spending on mental health by $500 million a year.GetUp! has teamed up with the Australian of the Year and leading psychiatrist Patrick McGorry to drive its mental health agenda.”This campaign with GetUp! is about making sure that all sides of politics get moving now, because lives are at stake,” Professor McGorry said yesterday.The national director of GetUp!, Simon Sheikh, said Wentworth and Bennelong, held by Ms McKew, would not be the only marginal seats targeted by the organisation.Ryan in Queensland has also been selected as another ultra-marginal electorate, and the ACT will be in the spotlight because of its closely contested Senate race.”The stories we keep hearing are that Rudd and Abbott would like to get away this election without speaking about the issue of climate change,” Mr Sheikh said. ”This is our way of making sure they can’t get away with that.”GetUp! has had a major publicity coup this week by securing a surfing lesson from the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, for a former Afghan asylum seeker, Riz Wakil.
Nanjing Night Net

Hopes helps Aussies down plucky Irish

SCORECARDA career-best haul from all-rounder James Hopes propelled Australia to an unconvincing 39-run one-day international victory, but not before the tourists were given a fright by cricketing minnows Ireland on Thursday.A stunning upset loomed when Ireland, who have just six fully contracted players on their books, reached 3-137 in the 25th over in pursuit of Australia’s 9-231, which was built on a composed 81 by Tim Paine.But Hopes spared the four-time world champions the ignominy of losing to a non-Test playing side by returning stellar figures of 5-14, easily eclipsing his previous best of 3-30, while off-spinner Nathan Hauritz collected 2-40.Ireland lost their final seven wickets for 55 runs, 36 of which came in an entertaining last-wicket stand between John Mooney and Boyd Rankin.”With the new ball is the best time to bat on that wicket,’ said a relieved Ricky Ponting.”We were hoping to make the most of the new ball and we didn’t and they got off to a flying start.”Hopes was outstanding and I thought Hauritz was very good as well. Once we took the pace off the ball it was very hard to score.”A sellout crowd of 4500 sniffed an upset after Ireland openers William Porterfield and Paul Stirling thrashed 80 off 68 balls, including 42 from the first four overs.Ryan Harris and Clint McKay bore the brunt of the attack and were smashed around the ground.Nineteen-year-old Stirling, who earlier claimed a tidy 2-34 from his 10 overs, made a run-a-ball 36 to complete a fine double before being bowled by Harris.Porterfield creamed three boundaries in Harris’s first over but failed to capitalise on lives given to him on 35 and 38 and was bowled by Nathan Hauritz for a team-high 39 off 42 balls.Brisbane-born Alex Cusack and Niall O’Brien added 51 for the fourth wicket before Hopes wreaked havoc on the Irish.Bowling a stump-to-stump line on a wicket favouring slower bowlers, medium-pacer Hopes trapped Cusack in front for 30 then combined with Paine to dismiss Andrew White for four.He was on a hattrick after removing Trent Johnston and Peter Connell but was denied by No.11 Rankin.”I was talking on the sideline when the Irish medium-pacers were going. They were bowling quite straight and weren’t giving us much room to cut,” Hopes said.”So I sat down with the coaches and spoke about taking the cross-bat shots out of it and trying to get them to hit the ball back past us.”All our batsmen were saying it was very hard to drive so I was trying to make them drive.”Paine formed the cornerstone of Australia’s innings, sharing twin 66-run partnerships with Ricky Ponting (33 off 54 balls) and Cameron White (42 off 54).But the Australians lost their way in the final overs and only Hauritz, with a whirlwind 19 off 10 deliveries, was able to significantly up the ante.AAP
Nanjing Night Net

Cranky Harry saga continues: reporter fights back

HERE I am Harry, where I was always going to be and where I’ll be for the next few weeks. Covering the World Cup.
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Not covering you, exclusively, I must admit. I like to get around. On Wednesday afternoon, when you seemed to be rather upset that I wasn’t squeezed among the press pack at Ruimsig, tape recorder in hand, I was actually in Pretoria. Months ago I applied, and received, accreditation to report on South Africa’s game against Uruguay. You can check if you like.

Perhaps if I’d known you were going to front the cameras – we’re not generally told who Football Federation Australia are ”putting up” in advance – I would have changed my plans. Come to think of it, no I wouldn’t have.

You see, Harry, I spent a lot of years, a lot of energy and a lot of effort chasing you for quotes around the world. I was there when it all began for you in 1996 – in fact, I was there a long time before that – and I’m still here now.

Ninety per cent of that time, you’ve blanked me. The last time, four years ago in Yokohama, I made a decision there wasn’t much point in the charade any more. Something I conveyed, quite clearly, to your manager, Bernie Mandic. So you got on with your life and I got on with mine. That’s fair enough. There’s plenty of athletes and plenty of journalists who don’t get on. Nature of the beast and all that.

What’s also true in this business is that if you dish it out, you’ve got to take it. I’ve dished it out to you in the past week and I’m happy to take it. But I stand by every word I’ve written. Every single one. You’ve had a dream run in terms of scrutiny, real scrutiny, regarding your performances. You know it, Bernie knows it. In fact, Bernie once told me – remember when you brushed me at Waverley Oval? – that as far as Team Kewell was concerned, the football media was a joke, utterly irrelevant. Give us Ray Martin over you numpties any day was Bernie’s point. A message conveyed, I might add, in much more forceful language than that.

So if what is written by a football journalist means diddly-squat, I’m not quite sure why my words over the past few weeks have got under your skin. And they have because you went to the FFA last week and demanded my accreditation be revoked. The accreditation I need to cover the Socceroos. That’s 23 players, by the way, not just you.

So here’s the thing, Harry. You know and I know that most of the media are in your thrall. One hack even professed his love for you the other day. I happen to believe it’s what you do on the pitch for Australia that counts. Not what your PR machine spins out. Not how good you look in a pair of undies. And I happen to believe, since the last World Cup, you’ve done bugger all. I couldn’t praise you enough after the game in Brisbane against Iraq. You can get the clippings if you like. But the rest of the time, as far as I’m concerned, you’ve been a myth.

Now you’ve got the chance to show you’re not. That there’s still something in the tank. Go out against Ghana, when our World Cup is on the line, when your own international career is on the line, and do something. Actually DO something. Prove something. And if you do, I’ll be the first to praise you. As for the rest of it, I’m still here, still writing about football and hope to be for a long time to come.

Nation gets its parental leave

Australia has became one of the last advanced economies to introduce a paid parental leave scheme after Parliament passed historic legislation giving mums or dads 4 months of financial support to spend time with their newborns.
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Parents will be able to apply for the 18 weeks’ leave, paid at the minimum wage of $570 a week, within months and begin taking the time off from January 1.

Families Minister Jenny Macklin described it as a historic day and a big win for families.

”Parents will get more support to stay home with a new baby, and children will get the best start in life. Businesses will also retain more skilled workers,” she said.

”It is especially important for those casual workers, seasonal workers, part-time workers, those contract and self-employed workers, many, many of whom have never had access to paid parental leave,” she said.

About 148,000 families are expected to qualify for the scheme that also requires employers to top it up with any program they already have in place.

It is available to a child’s primary care giver, either mother or father, and can be taken at any point in the first year after birth or adoption. To be eligible, the parent must have worked at least one day a week for 10 of the 13 months before the birth or adoption, and must earn less than $150,000 a year.

Parents can choose between the leave and the $5185 baby bonus. The Government estimates 85 per cent of families will be better off with the leave, receiving on average $2000 more after tax and family assistance are taken into account.

National Foundation for Australian Women spokeswoman Marie Coleman said it was a great day.

”This is something we have worked for for so long, and it is of such importance to women, particularly but not only all those women who work on low-paid jobs on a casual or part-time basis without any entitlements it is going to make a huge difference to them,” she said.

She said this scheme was a beginning and Australia needed to improve it over time.

”We think over time and as the economy can afford it, we have got to move to 26 weeks. We have to move to income replacement, and we have got to make sure that we have superannuation built in. Those are the three key bits,” she said.

”You do those as you can. I think once the scheme has been running for a year, or two years, small business will discover that the sky won’t fall in.”

Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said it was also a historic day for fathers, noting that the leave could be shared between parents.

”The paid parental leave scheme is about mums and dads,” she said.

She said 18 weeks was a good start, but the scheme should be extended to six months with extra leave for fathers: ”Until you isolate a component just for dads on a use it or lose it basis, most dads won’t take any of the leave.”

Ms Broderick was also concerned that the scheme did not include superannuation.

Ms Macklin encouraged businesses to build on the Government scheme, and effectively top it up.

”When you put together existing paid parental leave schemes, add the Government’s 18 weeks and the leave that many parents save up for when they have their babies, it will be the case that for many, many parents they will have six months’ leave.”

Unions and business groups also welcomed the new laws.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Heather Ridout said it was a hard-won and important reform.

”There will be compliance costs for business, which are always onerous. However the reform is one which we are confident will prove to be beneficial for Australia,” she said.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson was disappointed Opposition amendments that would have meant the Government administered the payments, instead of businesses, were not enforced.

The Opposition won support for this change in the Senate yesterday morning, causing the legislation to bounce back and forth between the two chambers through the day until the upper house said it would accept the unamended laws in the late afternoon.

Liberal senator Mitch Fifield said while the scheme was flawed, the Coalition was not prepared to force the issue and hold its progress up any further.

”The Opposition has been very reasonable. We haven’t sought to obstruct, we haven’t sought to delay, we haven’t sought to imperil this legislation.”

The Opposition is promising a more generous scheme, which will last six months, replace income up to $75,000 over that time and include superannuation. with AAP

Cake gets a rise out of MasterChef’s Matt

Matthew Caldicott … undone by a carrot cake Some of the guest judges and regular judges of Masterchef
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A taste test has claimed yet another young MasterChef hopeful with the shock exit of Sydney number cruncher Matthew Caldicott.

The 21-year-old accountant found himself kicked off the Channel Ten series after wrongly identifying an ingredient in a Calombaris carrot cake.

“I knew eggs were in it as I’m sure nearly every cake has eggs in it,” Caldicott said afterwards.

“I then said apricots as there were little slithers on top of the cake. When the judges asked me to specify I freaked out and said the first thing in my head which was dried apricots, but it was apricot jam.

“I was pretty shattered as I knew a few ingredients that I was keeping up my sleeve.”

After failing the Qantas A380 challenge, Caldicott’s blue team was forced to compete against one another in the elimination round; a taste test to name all 16 ingredients used in the traditional carrot cake recipe passed down judge George Calombaris’ family.

The irony of his elimination was not lost on Caldicott, a third-generation accountant who has now shunned his profession to pursue a career in the kitchen.

“I guess it is a little ironic.

“All those months of hard work came to an end because of one word.”

Caldicott, whose specialty during the series was modern Australian with a French twist, is positive about his chances in the hospitality industry and has not touched a calculator since leaving the show.

“I’ve been doing some work experience at Spice Temple in Sydney, which has been great, and setting up some catering work,” he said.

“My parents have been really supportive and they’re really happy for me. They want to see me do something with this now, whether it’s me trying to become a chef – which they’re all for – or getting into another part of the industry.”