Beale has spring in his step with burden of charge off his shoulders

WALLABIES fullback Kurtley Beale has thanked coaches and teammates for their unwavering support as he coped with the pressure of an assault charge, for which he was found not guilty yesterday.With the pathway for his fledgling Test career now re-opened after yesterday’s verdict, Beale was in good humour last night as he arrived at Sydney airport for his flight to Perth, where he will rejoin the Wallabies in camp. He had left Mt Druitt Local Court six hours earlier after being found not guilty of assault.Beale, 21, was charged with assaulting his 17-year-old female cousin at a family party at Tregear on July 18 last year. It was alleged he put her in a headlock and punched her four times in the head. Beale pleaded not guilty to one count of common assault.Yesterday he was found not guilty by magistrate Glenn Bartley, who said he relied on the credible evidence of Beale’s stepfather Bob Smith. Smith said he did not see Beale approach his cousin. She had not been injured and had drunk beer and half a bottle of bourbon that night, the court heard.A smiling Beale last night told the Herald of the past few days. He played his second Test for the Wallabies, against Fiji on Saturday night in Canberra, and faced court yesterday before flying to Perth.”It’s all very quick,” he said. ”Everything has been happening so fast. It’s been busy with the court. Now I’m just focusing [on the Wallabies]. I’m very excited. I just have to get through this flight. I’m very excited to get back to camp.”Asked how he made it through the season with the case hanging over his head, Beale replied: “Throughout the campaign – the Super 14 and leading into the first game of the Test season – my focus has been on footy. While I have been around with the boys, they have helped me a lot. The coaching staff have helped me as well, by sticking by my side and encouraging me to do well leading up to every game.”Beale paid tribute to Waratahs teammate Drew Mitchell, who was his roommate during the Super 14 and with whom he and winger Lachie Turner formed a formidable back three for NSW in the second half of the season. “There was Drew Mitchell and the senior players,” he said. ”And with my family, we stuck as a tight unit … we knew the result would be in my favour.”Earlier, outside the court after his hearing, Beale said he was “very relieved that it’s all over now. I’ve always said that I was not guilty from the start.”Beale is relishing the prospect of playing England. He will get his first chance in Perth tonight as a bench player for the Australian Barbarians, who will play England in their first tour match in Australia, and possibly in the first Test there on Saturday.”England are a great side. They are a big force in rugby union,” Beale said. ”With selection for the Test [on the line] … fingers crossed. I just hope I play well [tonight] and then train hard and like everyone, put my hand up and if selected [for the Test] be ready.”Wallabies coach Robbie Deans and Waratahs coach Chris Hickey believe that with the court case behind Beale, the best would now come from the fullback who earned his first Test cap after coming off the bench against Wales during last year’s Wallabies spring tour.”He’s been pretty good, he’s a very positive sort of bloke,” Deans said. ”But it’s also a bit of a cloud over you. He’s a young man. It’s not the sort of thing you want hanging over you … I’ve got no doubt he’ll be a lot more buoyant now and a lot wiser for the experience.”

A time to forget politics, and remember a fallen hero

HER voice breaking, the young fiancee of the fallen soldier Jacob ”Snowy” Moerland tearfully read a love letter he had written to her from Afghanistan.At a time she should have been preparing for their November wedding, Kezia Mulcahy joined 2500 mourners to farewell her 21-year-old fiance at a moving ceremony in Gayndah, Sapper Moerland’s tight-knit home town in rural Queensland.”To my angel … a voice I hope to wake up to every morning till the end of time. You are everything to me, my one and only,” Ms Mulcahy read.”Nothing could make me happier but to call you my wife.”My heart and soul is yours.”Sapper Moerland was killed by a bomb blast on his first tour of Afghanistan on June 7.Family, friends and locals filled the Gayndah town hall to capacity, with 500 inside and about 2000 outside.His father, Rob, described a larrikin with big blue eyes whom he taught to fish and chop wood. ”I’m struck by everyone who’s here, showing respect to our son,” he said.”Bringing Jacob up … Sandy and I did good … I will miss you, mate. I couldn’t be prouder.”Eight members of the young soldier’s unit carried his coffin out of the town hall.Local war veterans formed a guard of honour before his mother Sandra was handed mementoes of her son’s short life – his slouch hat, a maroon cushion with his four war medals and the Australian flag that had been draped over his coffin. In a statement released before the funeral, she said: ”Jacob is now home and he can rest in peace. We will never forget his sacrifice.”The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston and the Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, attended the funeral. Another Brisbane-based combat engineer, Darren Smith, also died in the blast. His funeral will be held in Brisbane tomorrow.AAP

New asbestos fear at schools

A LEADING asbestos auditor has identified further problems with the schools asbestos register, claiming it can be misinterpreted because of its complexity.About 70 per cent of NSW public schools contain asbestos, which is recorded on the Department of Education’s asbestos register.The register’s accuracy was challenged last week after the potentially toxic substance was discovered at a Wollongong school in an area where it had previously been undetected.Andrew Mantle, of Asbestos Audits, Reports and Management Services, said that school staff often struggled to understand the register.”They often require multiple referencing to different tables within the report. This is extremely complicated and therefore is often missed or wrongly interpreted,” he said. ”The report system needs to change, so everyone has a thorough … understanding of where the asbestos is.”And private schools have no central asbestos register, posing a potential risk to staff and students. ”This is not simply a state school issue,” Mr Mantle said. ”We have completed audits for some of the most prestigious schools … They, too, had serious and urgent issues. Most alarmingly, they had no register in place.”An Association of Independent Schools of NSW spokesman confirmed there was no central register but said that individual schools would have asbestos management plans.”Independent schools are left to their own devices as long as they are meeting all the standards and requirements set by the Government and the Board of Studies,” he said.”Under those requirements they are obliged to provide a safe and secure environment for students and staff, and minimising the risk of asbestos would be part of that.”Materials containing asbestos are harmless if undisturbed but become dangerous once broken up.The NSW Department of Education maintains children and staff are not at risk of asbestos exposure in schools. ”The safety of its students and staff is the Department of Education and Training’s top priority,” a spokesman said.However, the P&C committee at Baulkham Hills North Public School said the department had been slow to act to deal with asbestos in a staff car park.P&C president Craig Turner said the school had warned the department about the problem a year ago. ”We are very concerned …,” Mr Turner said. ”Little bits of asbestos come up all the time. The department has looked at it but it hasn’t been rectified. The school community doesn’t have a lot of faith in the way the department is handling this.”The department’s spokesman said the asbestos in the car park did not pose a threat because it was firmly bound in fibrous cement, commonly known as fibro.”Fibro fragments have been removed from the car park … on three occasions,” he said. ”A hygienist report is being prepared and will recommend remediation works be … completed by the end of the year. The site will continue to be monitored to ensure it is safe until the remediation works are carried out.”

Jones leaves Cup after health scare

Heading home … Socceroos goalkeeper Brad Jones.JOHANNESBURG: FIFA has granted the Australian team dispensation on humanitarian grounds to replace reserve keeper Brad Jones. Jones has left the team’s training camp in South Africa for London due to a health issue involving a family member.

While Australian officials declined to elaborate on the exact details of his situation, it is understood Jones’s young son is seriously ill.

Under normal circumstances no player can be replaced in the 23-man World Cup squad other than for medical reasons but FIFA has relented on this occasion.

Jones is Australia’s third-choice keeper and, while he was unlikely to figure in the tournament, coach Pim Verbeek did not want to leave himself shorthanded.

At this stage, Jones has not officially withdrawn from the World Cup but FIFA has given him the option to make that decision after discussions with his family.

Verbeek said the 28-year-old West Australian would be given time to make up his mind whether to compete or officially withdraw before any final decision was made to ask for a replacement.

“We expect him not to come back – that says enough about the seriousness of the matter,” Verbeek said.

“The FFA is in contact with FIFA … at this stage we cannot 100 per cent say Brad is not coming back.

“We have decided he needs to be with (his family), as long as he needs to be there.

“It is a very serious matter and we wish him strength and luck and everything that is necessary for him to be with his family and support his family.”

Socceroos skipper Lucas Neill said the close-knit squad had been deeply affected by Jones’s news – relayed to the players before their 3-1 friendly defeat by the United States on Saturday.

“We consider ourselves a family, and the news we heard … it was devastating. It hit all the boys for six,” Neill said.

“We wish Brad and his family all the strength and the luck they’re going to need.

“I’m sure the character that he is, he’ll be big and strong for his family. He has our support.”

If Jones withdraws, he will be replaced by Adelaide United keeper Eugene Galekovic, who is in South Africa as back-up.

Galekovic was regarded by many as unfortunate not to have been in the official squad after starring for the Reds in the Asian Champions League, and is a worthy replacement.

Feelings within the Socceroos squad about Jones’s personal drama were evident when they scored the goal against the US in Saturday night’s warm-up match at Roodepoort. Tim Cahill and Luke Wilkshire both paid tribute to Jones after Cahill’s first half goal.

Meanwhile, team officials have sought to alleviate any concerns over Cahill, who was forced to leave the field at half-time in Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the USA after injuring his neck.

”Scans have cleared him of any serious injuries,” an FFA spokesman said yesterday. Staff will continue to monitor him.

– with AAP

Biggest swing in history

LABOR will be clobbered by voters at the Penrith byelection, with secret ALP polling obtained by The Sun-Herald indicating Premier Kristina Keneally will preside over the greatest-ever swing against a NSW government.In an ominous sign for the scandal-plagued state government before an election in March, internal party polling predicts a massive two-party preferred swing of 27 percentage points against the government in Penrith on June 19.The slaughter is set to be worse than the previous greatest swing in NSW, when John Watkins’s former seat of Ryde returned to the Liberals last year with a 23-point two-party-preferred swing.On a two-party preferred basis, Labor is on track to claim just 32 per cent of the vote, with 68 per cent for the Liberals representing a stunning turnaround from the 2007 election when disgraced former MP Karyn Paluzzano won for Labor with 59 per cent of the vote.The results of the polling have left ALP strategists reeling and senior government figures clutching for reasons why things cannot get any worse for the ageing Labor administration 10 months out from an election.The polling, conducted by UMR Research early last week, came just days after Transport and Roads Minister David Campbell quit after he was caught leaving a sex club in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.It also coincided with revelations that motorists, particularly in car-reliant areas such as Penrith and the lower Blue Mountains, will endure decades of gridlock because state government bungling has made building roads such as the M4 East financially unviable.But the bulk of the damage to brand Labor in Penrith appears to have been done by Ms Paluzzano, who quit this month after she was exposed by the Independent Commission Against Corruption as a liar and a parliamentary expenses fiddler.According to the ALP polling, 73 per cent of voters who intend to switch their vote from Labor to another party or candidate cited her behaviour as a factor.Fifty-two per cent of voters who planned to abandon Labor said the Paluzzano saga was ”very important” to their decision.A further 21 per cent said it was ”somewhat important”.Of the 350 voters interviewed by UMR, 55 per cent intend to vote for Liberal candidate Stuart Ayres, a big turnaround from the 2007 election, when 33 per cent of the primary vote went to the Liberals.The Labor primary vote is predicted to wilt from 49 per cent to just 27 per cent.ALP head office in Sussex Street is shaken by the size of the predicted swing because, despite a three-year hiatus, Labor has held the seat of Penrith since 1973.Senior Liberal sources said the results of their party’s polling would not be known until next week.The Liberal Party, under leader Barry O’Farrell, is likely to keep its figures close to its chest. The party is desperate not to let Labor grab the mantle of underdog and allow Ms Keneally to claim a better-than-feared defeat as a victory.Mr O’Farrell was on the campaign trail in Penrith with Mr Ayres again yesterday but Ms Keneally has been largely absent, leaving Labor candidate John Thain to do his best on his own.Labor strategists do not want Ms Keneally, its last genuine electoral asset, to be associated with defeat in Penrith.Ms Keneally would not comment on the polling yesterday but has previously warned her supporters to expect a swing in the order of 20 per cent.A senior ALP source said: ”The Labor Party is under no illusion about the difficulty of winning the seat of Penrith.”

SOS for team of new spin doctors

THE Keneally government has broken its own moratorium on hiring staff, with plans to recruit a team of spin doctors to join the overworked office of the Premier and her strife-torn cabinet.The government had pledged to only replace frontline public servants but yesterday placed ads for vacancies in ”a number of state ministers’ offices”.The ads call for policy and media advisers to assist ministers and their chief of staff. Salaries are negotiable.A June 2009 memo by former premier Nathan Rees said a jobs freeze applied to ”filling of all non-frontline jobs”.A spokesman for the Premier said the jobs offered yesterday were considered temporary positions and were therefore outside the scope of the jobs freeze.He denied the roles were considered temporary because the state government faced an election walloping, according to the latest opinion polls.There has been an ongoing shake-up of media advisers, with Phil McCall and Lee Davelaar punted recently from the Premier’s office to other ministers.Andrew Stoner, deputy leader of the opposition, said the hiring plans were another example of the Keneally government’s dedication to spin over substance.”This shows Kristina Keneally’s spin focus – three ministers gone in three weeks and she still wants to hire more spin doctors. Surely the people of NSW have stopped listening,” he said.”The state budget is in disarray because the government can’t control expenditure.”Recent data shows that the government has failed to contain wage growth across the public sector. Its total wage bill jumped 4.3 per cent last year.It’s not the first time the government has been accused of handing out jobs against policy. In November it advertised for jobs worth $2 million a year for the Sydney Metro Authority. The metro was abandoned at an estimated cost of $400 million.The Public Service Association last week estimated that NSW would need more than 100,000 public servants by 2030 as a result of job freezes imposed over the past decade.

Ad rules give false idea of integrity, says auditor

THE federal Auditor-General has challenged the reasons given for his removal as the scrutineer of taxpayer-funded advertising as it emerged he was never given the chance to argue his case.Ian McPhee also slammed the guidelines governing taxpayer-funded advertising as a softening of standards.”[It] gives additional latitude to a government in mounting a campaign,” he said. He would not be happy administering the guidelines, he said. ”I do not want my role associated with guidelines that give the impression of integrity and strength but in reality don’t have it.”Mr McPhee levelled his charges yesterday as Allan Hawke, who recommended his removal and then took over the advertising vetting role, admitted he had erred by not consulting Mr McPhee.”In retrospect I might have got that wrong,” he said.Mr McPhee and Dr Hawke appeared separately yesterday before Parliament’s joint public accounts and audit committee.The inquiry was convened after the government bypassed its own guidelines to rush out a $38 million taxpayer-funded advertising campaign to support its resources super profits tax.Until March the Auditor-General vetted government advertising to ensure it was non-political. After a review by Dr Hawke, the Auditor-General’s vetting role was given to a three-member panel led by Dr Hawke.Dr Hawke, a former senior public servant who is paid $175,000 a year for the part-time role of scrutinising ads, said that when preparing his report for the government, he had ”no inclination I would end up chairing the committee”.His report recommended the Auditor-General be replaced because his involvement undermined the accountability of departmental secretaries in managing their departments. He found ”the Auditor-General is placed in an invidious position whereby he can countermand cabinet’s decision”.At the time of the report, the opposition agreed with the findings and supported the government’s decision to replace the Auditor-General.But Liberal members of the parliamentary committee were critical yesterday as they grilled Mr McPhee and Dr Hawke.Mr McPhee said while there were ”risks” for his office in vetting the commercials, he disputed the reasons Dr Hawke gave. He said Dr Hawke had never consulted him with these concerns during the preparation of the report.Challenged by the Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop, Dr Hawke admitted he had erred. ”I didn’t do it. I didn’t feel the need to. I had come to my conclusions.”However, Dr Hawke said he told the Special Minister of State, Joe Ludwig, what his findings would be before the report was finished. Senator Ludwig administers the guidelines and exempted the mining commercials.It was revealed last night Senator Ludwig kept the exemption secret from his own department until the conclusion of Senate estimates hearings last month.

Sir Lunchalot smiles again

IN THE fortnight that followed Ross Turnbull’s dismissal as NRMA president, he made a point of dressing in his best suit and walking through Martin Place to show his friends – and foes – he wasn’t beaten.The man dubbed Sir Lunchalot, who dined in European castles and mixed with the aristocracy, now distributes food to Sydney’s homeless, who once counted him among their number.The downfall of the former Wallaby was one of the most humiliating in corporate history. He was sacked as NRMA president, dismissed from the board, accused of rorting his corporate credit card, declared bankrupt after amassing debts of more than $1 million, and forced to live in a charity hostel for the homeless.The final indignity came when it was revealed a washbag containing Viagra was impounded when he ran up debts at a Sydney hotel. And yet Mr Turnbull is still smiling, adamant he has become a stronger man.”I never thought ‘woe is me’. Never,” he said. ”I tell anyone who thinks they’re a victim to get out of it. Keep moving. Don’t lie down. People who are negative and act like victims I remove from my sphere. My advice is hang in.”His fall came in 2005 when the NRMA sacked him over ”his failure to follow agreed procedures over several months”. His huge credit card debts were a major factor.Today he is adamant he paid for backing the NRMA patrol staff in their enterprise bargaining dispute.”Fundamentally I did the wrong thing and I have no one to blame but myself,” he said. ”The NRMA took on the patrolmen and I was bound by corporate governance to follow the board. It was what the majority wanted. But the patrolmen? I couldn’t do it. They get our wives home, get our kids home safely when their cars breaks down.”To my knowledge there’d never been a complaint made against a patrolman for improper behaviour in its 85-year history.”I created enemies and I paid the consequences but I’d do it again. It would’ve been better for me personally if I didn’t but I had to be able to live with myself.”Mr Turnbull said he soon learnt who his friends were. ”The rugby people looked me in the eye, the politicians did but some businessmen couldn’t,” he said.”I don’t say this to be boastful but it gave me strength because I realised it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about me – it’s what I think about me that counts.”When he realised the end of his NRMA reign was near, Mr Turnbull went to a Circular Quay pub for a drink to work out his next step.”I realised drinking was not going to solve anything so I decided to go to Paris and think,” he said. ”I had millions of [frequent flyer] points but not much money. I flew to Paris for a week and walked for hours every day, just thinking.”Today the front-rower who went on to play a Test for Australia recalls his attitude to being dropped from his club’s rugby team in Newcastle in the 1960s put him in the right frame to keep moving.”After I was dropped I told the captain, ‘Don’t worry I’ll be dropped from better teams than this’ – and I was,” he laughed.He remembers the kindness of strangers and friends. Jeff Gambin from Just Enough Faith stood by him. A police sergeant saved him from further embarrassment during a fare evasion blitz.”I bought the ticket but lost it,” he said. ”I was told by the ticket collector to go to this big sergeant and he looked at me and said I looked like I had a ‘famous’ face. I could picture the headlines but he said, ‘Go, mate.’ All I could say to him was he was a good man.”Details of his financial affairs made daily fodder in the media as, among others, hotel managers, cafe owners, a wine storage company and limousine company lined up to say he owed them money.”I want to pay back the money I [still] owe [people],” he said.”The [NRMA] credit card business was a lot of fluff. I paid it [back], no one lost any money. That was an issue the media blew up because if I’d done anything wrong I would’ve been thrown out of there [immediately].”As for driving chauffeured limousines? ”How do businessmen get around? Froth and bubble.”

Angels to the rescue when fishers’ lives on the rocks

RECREATIONAL fishers have welcomed government measures to improve safety for rock fishermen at the same time as a partial ban on fishing on harbour wharves has been declared.After 15 rock fishing deaths in NSW in the past year, $90,000 will be spent installing 40 ”angel rings” or life buoys and multilingual safety signs at popular fishing spots.Several will be installed at black spots in the Royal National Park and Sutherland Shire, which ranks as the state’s third highest local government area for rock fishing fatalities, a spokesman for the Minister for Primary Industries, Steve Whan, said.Each device costs almost $2000 to install, and about half will be GPS-enabled at a cost of an extra $500 each. The rings issue an electronic warning if the device is tampered with, stolen or used in a rescue. The signs will be in English, Korean, Cantonese, Mandarin and Vietnamese. A safety education program will also run in ethnic media.The spokesman said the installation of more life buoys was not tacit encouragement of rock fishing, but a practical measure to improve safety in tandem with education campaigns. There are 108 angel rings along the coast.Meanwhile, the Minister for Ports and Waterways, Paul McLeay, and Drummoyne MP Angela D’Amore announced yesterday a partial ban on fishing from four harbour wharves where there has been conflict between fishers and commuters.Fishing is now banned at Abbotsford, Cabarita, Chiswick and Kissing Point wharves at peak commuter times between 5am and 10am, and to enable access for cleaning.The chairman of the NSW Recreational Fishing Alliance, Malcolm Poole, said the ban was a workable compromise between the interests of fishers, commuters and others.”It could have been all 49 harbour wharves where that ban was applied, but … we negotiated back to that position,” he said. ”This is a trial to see how we can get co-operation going and to try to encourage fishers to do the right thing, or there’s every chance they could lose [the right to fish from the wharves].”The ban is backed by a $250 fine, enforceable by police and NSW Maritime officials.The mayor of Canada Bay, Angelo Tsirekas, said he had hoped for a total fishing ban on the ferry wharves.”I’ve certainly got some doubts whether it’s going to totally solve the problem but this initial step is, I suppose, a start,” Cr Tsirekas said.”My concern is that the impact of these restrictions won’t totally rid the wharves of the problems of the antisocial behaviour, and the problems that fishermen are leaving for commuters.”

Parental rebuke – Jesus Christ struck by the lightning hand of God

IT APPEARS God has sacrificed his only son. Again.A bolt struck a 19-metre high statue of Jesus Christ this week outside a church in Monroe, Ohio, and the statue erupted in flames. All that remains is a charred steel skeleton, its arms stretched towards heaven, a gesture that once earned it the nickname ”Touchdown Jesus”.Darlene Bishop, a co-pastor of Solid Rock Church, said she was relieved the lightning hit Jesus on Monday and not the home for at-risk women next door. ”I told them, ‘It looks like Jesus took a hit for you last night.’ ”Act of God? Act of nature?In 2008, lightning singed the fingers and eyebrows of Christ the Redeemer, the 40-metre Jesus statue that stands over Rio de Janeiro. In 2007, a bolt blasted the 10-metre Jesus statue at Mother Cabrini Shrine in Golden, Colorado and one of Jesus’ arms fell off.The saints and angels are not safe either. The Virgin Mary on the dome of Notre Dame de Chicago burst into flames in 1978. A bolt that struck St Joan of Arc’s statue in New Orleans sliced her staff in half. Statues of the Angel Moroni, common atop Mormon churches, are hit by lightning with such frequency – Moroni’s horn is particularly susceptible – that The Salt Lake Tribune once fretted over their safety in a front-page story.(Side note: the actor James Caviezel was struck by lightning in 2003 while filming Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. He was playing Jesus.)Ancient Romans equated lightning strikes on statues with other bad omens such as chickens beginning to talk and blood raining from the sky.To find some modern-day meaning in Touchdown Jesus, we turned to the evangelist Pat Robertson, who has divined meaning from Hurricane Katrina (abortionists) and the Haitian earthquake ( pact with devil). He declined to interpret the significance of the strike.So we turned to science. John Jensenius, a lightning safety specialist for the US National Weather Service, said religious structures, especially steeples, were often zapped because they were the highest point in an area.The same goes for towering secular symbols. A spokesman for the Statue of Liberty, Darren Boch, said: ”Oh, she’s hit by lightning on a continual basis.” Asked if such strikes might represent a malevolent act of God towards America, Mr Boch said: ”I can clearly state that no one here deems it an act of God.”As for the incineration of Touchdown Jesus, Pastor Bishop isn’t reading any significance into it. ”Honey,” she said, ”it’s just some fibreglass.”The Washington Post