Silent majority keeps quiet on aircraft noise

EVERY day, for about 10 years, Johann Heinrich has sent a fax. It goes to Airservices Australia, as well as the federal ministers Anthony Albanese and Peter Garrett, and documents the aircraft noise over his home that day.Mr Heinrich, 62, has lived in Summer Hill for 25 years with his wife and children.”It has been turned into a hell hole,” he said. He has suffered hearing loss, and says he experiences pain in his ears every time a plane goes overhead, as well as constant headaches.Mr Heinrich, who has a noise meter connected to his computer, is one of a handful of people responsible for most of Sydney’s aircraft noise complaints.In one month alone, six people in Summer Hill made 393 complaints to Airservices Australia. Two residents in Eastlakes made 343 complaints between them.A Senate hearing yesterday heard that nationally more than half the 24,000 noise complaints received last year were made by 20 people.The president of No Aircraft Noise, Allan Rees, said the Airservices Australia complaint line was ”just a sink for complaints”.”Most people give up complaining because nothing happens,” he said. But he said those determined to see change, or who are affected personally, would continue. ”I don’t think there’s anything sinister or outrageous about people continuing to complain,” he said.An Airservices Australia spokesman, Matt Wardell, said a few people regularly made multiple complaints. ”There are some significant aberrations in the stats,” he said.”Summer Hill’s always there because we have one or two individuals there who regularly make complaints.”But in Coogee, 22 people made 176 complaints, ”which arguably is more representative of some broader community concern,” he said.with AAP
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Dubai connection exposed, but Keneally blocks secrets

IAN MACDONALD’S controversial trip to Dubai was organised by a company owned by the country’s ruler, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, shortly after the disgraced former NSW minister made decisions benefiting the sheikh, who breeds racehorses in the Hunter Valley.However, key details of the trip – including emails between Mr Macdonald’s staff and the sheikh’s company – are being kept secret by the NSW government.The Premier, Kristina Keneally, refused to make key documents public and the head of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Brendan O’Reilly, referred the report of his investigation to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.The report, released yesterday, finds Mr Macdonald and his deputy chief of staff, Jamie Gibson, spent almost $20,000 of taxpayer funds on airfares, meals and accommodation at the Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa in Dubai, also owned by the sheikh, against the orders of the then premier, Morris Iemma.It highlights a mysterious expense of $1594.67 charged to the hotel by Mr Gibson, for which he cannot account, and raises questions about an extra room booked by Mr Macdonald ”for no specific purpose”.The report was ordered by Ms Keneally after the Herald revealed Mr Macdonald, his wife and two friends were given upgrades on Emirates Airlines, also owned by the sheikh, shortly after Mr Macdonald made a decision to allow racehorse breeding to continue in NSW during the 2007 equine influenza outbreak. The Herald also revealed that the upgrades were requested by members of the Hunter Valley thoroughbred community.Among emails provided to investigators by Mr Gibson are some ”which appear to indicate” Mr Macdonald’s itinerary was organised through an employee of the Darley organisation, Emma Ridley.”Darley is a global racehorse-breeding operation belonging to [the sheikh],” the report notes. ”It operates horse-stud interests in the Hunter Valley.”Ms Ridley also organised hotel bookings for the visit, using details of Mr Gibson’s personal Visa card. When she was asked to provide the card’s expiry date, Ms Ridley opted to confirm the reservations against Darley’s ”credit facility”. However, the facility was never charged.The report concluded that Mr Macdonald – who quit Parliament this week over the affair – charged the taxpayer $2815.50 for his flight to Dubai without the authorisation of Mr Iemma. He also improperly spent thousands of dollars on meals for his wife, Anita Gylseth, a colleague, Nick Papallo, and his unnamed wife, and Mr Macdonald’s daughter, Sacha.However, Mr Macdonald told investigators he did not know the flight had been booked through the government travel company. This was backed up by his secretary, Selina Rainger, who said he had not asked her to charge the flight to the government.Mr Gibson told investigators he believed he was given permission by Mr Iemma to travel to Dubai at taxpayers’ expense. The report finds Mr Gibson ”had some grounds for his belief” – information provided to him by Adam Badenoch, Mr Macdonald’s then chief of staff who recalled a letter authorising the flight.However, Mr Iemma told investigators he had no recollection of the letter and it could not be found.Tabling the report in Parliament yesterday, Ms Keneally said Mr Macdonald’s resignation had been appropriate. ”Given the findings of the … report it was the proper course of action. Ian Macdonald would have had no option but to resign.”She said the Department of Premier and Cabinet would review Mr Gibson’s actions and would take disciplinary action if required.Ms Keneally said attachments to the report would not be released publicly. ”They are being reviewed by the ICAC and contain personal and private information of both public officials and private citizens.Last night, Mr Macdonald told Channel Nine that he was a victim of ”self-destructive” leaks within the Labor Party.He told the Herald: ”I have a clear conscience.”He said the trip was ”worthwhile” and any expenses outside of ministerial guidelines were taken mistakenly.He has repaid the cost of the flight and a portion of the cost of the meals.
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Power play between China and India puts Sri Lanka on strategic map

NEW DELHI: India and Sri Lanka have signed a series of aid, economic and diplomatic deals, the latest move in an increasingly intense struggle between New Delhi and Beijing for influence over the island nation.The signing took place on the first day of a visit to the Indian capital by the Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa.The deals range from loans for big infrastructure projects, including the building of railways, to agreements to share electricity and boost cultural exchanges.Dubbed ”the new Great Game”, in reference to the strategic rivalry between Russia and Britain in Central Asia during the 19th century, the battle between China and India for primacy in the Indian Ocean is set to be one of the big themes of the coming decades, analysts say.Sri Lanka’s geographic position is its main draw.”China wants to be the pre-eminent power in Asia, and whether Asia ends up multipolar or unipolar will be determined by what happens in the Indian Ocean, ” said Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi.Most Indian assistance is focused on the north of Sri Lanka, dominated by ethnic Tamils and devastated by years of civil war between the government and Tamil separatists.New Delhi also announced the opening of consulates in the Tamil-dominated city of Jaffna and, significantly, in the southern town of Hambantota, where Chinese contractors are building a vast deep-water port in a project largely financed by Beijing’s lending arm, the Export-Import Bank.Indian strategists believe the port is a key link in a chain of such projects from Burma to Pakistan, the so-called string of pearls, which seeks to extend China’s maritime influence.Beijing has already embarked on a road-building program north of the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, and is helping build a power station. A $US190 million ($225 million) loan to build an international airport in the south has also been agreed. In March, Sri Lanka said China was supplying more than half its construction and development loans.India’s plans in Sri Lanka are complicated by its own sizeable Tamil population, many of whom blame Mr Rajapaksa for high levels of Tamil civilian casualties in the final days of the civil war last year.Guardian News & Media
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Nightclub boss on coke charge

THE owner of Canberra’s biggest gay nightclub, Cube, has been charged by NSW Police with conspiring with an alleged Kings Cross-based drug syndicate to sell cocaine in the ACT.Maurizio Rao was charged by Kings Cross drug squad detectives who met him and his lawyer at Queanbeyan police station on Tuesday.After being interviewed, the 34-year-old owner of the popular nightclub in Civic was charged with conspiring to supply an indictable quantity of cocaine.He was released on police bail to answer the charge in Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney on July 5.It is the second time Mr Rao has faced a major police investigation.In 2006 he was charged with murdering David Nato Seula, 23.Mr Seula died on August 4 of that year, three weeks after he was stabbed in a brawl with four of his friends, a Cube nightclub bouncer, Adam Street, and Mr Rao.In 2008, Mr Rao was found not guilty of murder and inflicting grievous bodily harm when Supreme Court Justice Malcolm Gray found he acted in self-defence after being attacked by Mr Seuala and his friends, who had been refused entry to the club because of their heavily intoxicated state.Witnesses said the five men had made threats against other patrons, vowing to “bash poofs” if they were not admitted to the club.Although Justice Gray rejected evidence that Mr Rao did not strike the fatal blow, he did accept that he had acted in self-defence.Last December Cube nightclub was the focus of local police criticism after they alleged an advertisement on its website was “highly inappropriate”.The ad showed a mirrored image of a woman’s open mouth with her teeth holding what appeared to be a tablet with a heart embossed on it.But the club owner rejected the criticism, saying the woman in the image was merely holding candy in her mouth.
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O’Connor recalled to Wallabies starting XV

Queensland prop Ben Daley will face a baptism of fire in his Wallabies debut against England at Subiaco Oval on Saturday night.Daley, 21, will make his Test debut as one of four changes to Australia’s starting 15, which defeated Fiji 49-3 in Canberra last weekend.Hooker Saia Faingaa, fullback James O’Connor and winger Drew Mitchell have also been promoted by coach Robbie Deans.Dropping out of the side are front rowers Pekahou Cowan and Huia Edmonds, fullback Kurtley Beale and injured winger Adam Ashley-Cooper.Halfback Will Genia has overcome a knee injury to be a surprise choice on the bench behind Luke Burgess, while young prop James Slipper was also a bolter in the reserves.Daley and Slipper were not starting Super 14 players before this season, but have risen through the ranks on the back of the Reds Super 14 revival and Deans’s controversial youth policy.England are sure to target Australia’s scrum and heavily outweigh the Wallabies’ frontrow in experience and size.Between them, loose prop Daley, hooker Faingaa and tight head Salesi Ma’afu have just two Tests caps.England have only won twice against the Wallabies in Australia with both of their wins coming in 2003 when they won the Rugby World Cup.Despite scoring two tries against Fiji, Beale was replaced by the in-form O’Connor but remains on the bench where NSW teammate Berrick Barnes will also sit for his first Test of the season.15. James O’Connor (Western Force)14. Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds)13. Rob Horne (NSW Waratahs)12. Matt Giteau (Brumbies)11. Drew Mitchell (NSW Waratahs)10. Quade Cooper (Queensland Reds)9. Luke Burgess (NSW Waratahs)8. Richard Brown (Western Force)7. David Pocock (Western Force)6. Rocky Elsom (Brumbies, captain)5. Nathan Sharpe (Western Force)4. Dean Mumm (NSW Waratahs)3. Salesi Ma’afu (Brumbies)2. Saia Faingaa (Queensland Reds)1. Ben Daley (Queensland Reds)Reserves:16. Huia Edmonds (Brumbies)17. James Slipper (Queensland Reds)18. Mark Chisholm (Brumbies)19. Matt Hodgson (Western Force)20. Will Genia (Queensland Reds)21. Berrick Barnes (NSW Waratahs)22. Kurtley Beale (NSW Waratahs)AAP
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DIY renovators under hammer with new rules

EXCLUSIVEHOME OWNERS wishing to supervise or do their own renovations will be forced to pay hundreds more dollars for a building permit and complete a 700-page course because the NSW government is ”overreacting” to health and safety concerns.From September, owner-builders will have to complete the course to get an owner-builder permit from the Office of Fair Trading for all jobs valued at $12,000 and over.The current threshold is $5000 but the course takes only a few hours and costs between $100 and $200. A permit application is $148.Experienced renovators and course providers argue the size and additional assessment criteria in the new compliance course will significantly increase the cost of a permit.They are also angry the government is introducing more red tape for renovators when it has deregulated other parts of the industry.Dominic Ogburn, of ABE Education, offers an online course that takes renovators about four hours to complete. He expects the new course to cost up to $600 and take at least two days.”It’s quite onerous, particularly for smaller projects which make up the vast majority [of renovations] … It will put many owner-builders off.”He said the state government had ”overreacted” to the number of deaths on owner-builder worksites.”If the problem … was inadequate occupational health and safety training then an easy solution would have been a requirement to undertake an OHS course.”A spokesman for WorkCover NSW said there had been three owner-builder deaths in 2008 and one last year.Brian Seidler, the Master Builders Association NSW’s executive director, welcomed the tougher regulations. ”If you look at the statistics that show collapses of verandahs, nearly 70 per cent of them have been constructed by owner-builders or ‘weekend warriors’,” he said.Fair Trading Minister Virginia Judge said the new course was ”essential to make training more rigorous and ensure the safety of both owner-builders and subcontractors”.”Compliance operations have found that many owner-builders are unaware of their obligations to their subcontractors and for the worksite,” she said.Kevin McAndrew, an owner-builder and former construction teacher from Cronulla, said the courses should be tailored to people’s knowledge and experience.”Are they trying to make it hard for people? I don’t think they are going to cover more that’s going to help people. The course is about occupational health and safety and the pitfalls in contracting,” he said.”They’re training people to be builders, they’re not training people to be tradesmen.”[Previously] you just went to the Office of Fair Trading and showed your plans and they were stamped, but with the rise of occupational health and safety I can see why there’s been a call for some kind of training.”Mr Ogburn said it took his business seven months and more than $8000 to become a registered training organisation, a requirement to teach the new course.
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Red Shirt activists vow to continue their fight by going ‘underground’

CHIANG MAI: On a wall of the Red Coffee Corner cafe in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, a photo of the fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has pride of place next to pictures of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Che Guevara.The proprietor, Jakapan Borirak, 40, a Thaksin-aligned Red Shirt activist, said he and others were going ”underground” following more than 80 deaths during two months of anti-government protests.The famous revolutionaries on display never became rich. However, Thaksin rose from a Thai police lieutenant-colonel to build a multibillion-dollar telecommunications fortune. He went on to become prime minister in 2001, only to be ousted in a 2006 military coup.In power, he helped improve life for the poor, but acquired an appalling record on human rights abuses, not least through thousands of extrajudicial killings.Now in a propaganda battle for hearts and minds, historical analogies are being strategically cited. Mr Jakapan said persecution of Red Shirts was akin to a massacre of leftist students in October 1976. At least 46 unarmed students were killed, some lynched from lamp posts and bodies set ablaze, after militias, police and soldiers clashed with them at Thammasat University in Bangkok. They had been conducting a peaceful protest over attempts to bring army strongman Field Marshall Thanom Kittikachorn back to power.Mr Jakapan said similar ”dark forces” to those behind the Thammasat violence were working against Thaksin. He did not specify which forces he was referring to. However, on the Red Shirt rally stage in Bangkok other speakers used the same term to refer to advisers to the Palace in Thailand, specifically the country’s Privy Council.Thaksin this week also personally raised what happened at Thammasat University in 1976, though critics say it was self-serving cherry-picking from history given the way he cracked down on dissent when in power.”The demonstrators were labelled communists,” Thaksin said on Twitter. ”In May 2010 they are called terrorists.”An arrest warrant for Thaksin on terrorism charges was issued by the Thai Criminal Court this week.Mr Jakapan, in an interview with the Herald at his coffee shop, said in other democracies, royalty did not interfere in politics and this should also be the case in the Thailand. ”That is one of the things that should be included in peace talks,” he said.Mr Jakapan said it was possible an anti-government Red Shirt insurgency would develop and employ tactics like that of Islamic militants in southern Thailand, where thousands have died in recent years.”It could happen because before the north and north-east people did not understand why southern people were killing each other,” he said. ”Now they are saying they understand why.”Chiang Mai’s faded, 1960s-style Grand Warorot Hotel was quiet yesterday, in contrast to nightly Red Shirt gatherings before the government’s May 19 crackdown. The owner, Sairung Wattanapongkhu, who helped finance a Red Shirt radio station accused of inciting violence, and now closed, was not in Chiang Mai, a sole visible staff member said.The rallies outside the hotel never attracted more than a few hundred people, putting the lie to suggestions that Chiang Mai is hotbed of grassroots pro-Thaksin ire. But there has been intermittent strife.Last November, 60-year-old Settha Chiamkitwattana was pulled from a pick-up truck, beaten – and had an arm chopped off with multiple blows from a machete – before he was shot dead. A 200-strong mob had been looking for his son, Therdtsak, who was running a Chiang Mai community radio station openly critical of the Red Shirts.Last month – on April 8 – a court in Chiang Mai convicted five men for the crime and sentenced them to 20 years’ imprisonment. But one, Niyom Lueangcharoen, described as the security chief of a Red Shirt group, ”Love Chiang Mai 2008”, skipped bail.Witnesses report seeing him on stage at the Red Shirt rally in Bangkok where he was treated like a hero.Love Chiang Mai 2008 says it has 60,000 registered members. But one of the group’s leaders recently referred to an ”invisible force” of militants she claimed were under nobody’s direct control. Given the government’s willingness to lay terrorism charges against Red Shirt leaders, that claimed ”invisible force” may be attributed with carrying out militant acts to come.
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Incumbents suffer in US primaries

WASHINGTON: Republicans have chosen two millionaire businesswomen to lead them in key election battles in California, America’s most populous state, which has been pushed near to bankruptcy by the recession.The former chief executive of eBay, Meg Whitman, won her party’s endorsement to run for governor, while Carly Fiorina, who headed the computer firm Hewlett Packard for six years, will battle for a Senate seat in November’s mid-term elections.Other women also emerged victorious in primary contests conducted in 12 states on Tuesday, including Senator Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas, who beat dire predictions by fending off a union-backed campaign to oust her in favour of a more liberal Democrat.Acknowledging the widespread backlash against sitting members of Congress, Senator Lincoln told voters: ”I’ve heard your message. It’s loud and clear: that Washington needs to work for us, for us in Arkansas.”Incumbents in both parties could not take much solace from Senator Lincoln’s victory, however. In South Carolina, Representative Bob Inglis, a veteran Republican, was forced into a run-off election after finishing a distant second in the battle to hold on to his seat. And the Republican Governor of Nevada, Jim Gibbons, lost his party’s endorsement.The primaries coincided with a vote by Californians for landmark constitutional reform, changing the way candidates are selected for local, state and federal office.Tuesday’s primary results were cast amid deep voter distrust of Washington, making for treacherous times for incumbent members of Congress and boding badly for Democrats, whose majority in the House of Representatives could be under serious challenge.”Both parties are having civil wars with their Washington establishments,” said Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist. “You are seeing it on the Republican side; you’re seeing it on the Democratic side. The reality is, regardless of what party you are in, if you’re an incumbent and it looks like the Washington establishment is backing you, you’re in trouble. It’s the wrong place to be this year.”Centrist candidates generally have been under the gun, with the Tea Party movement continuing to influence outcomes, helping the campaigns of conservative Republicans.In Nevada a former state assembly member, Sharron Angle, a Tea Party favourite, won the Republican nomination to challenge the Senate majority leader, the Democrat Harry Reid.Ms Fiorina, a cancer survivor, also found favour from the Tea Party pin-up Sarah Palin, who endorsed her candidacy for the Senate race in California. She will face the three-term senator Barbara Boxer, who has enjoyed the support of the President, Barack Obama, on the campaign trail in recent weeks.Ms Whitman, who as chief executive took the online commerce site eBay from an internet start-up to a company with $US8 billion ($9.7 billion) of annual revenues, will take on the former Democrat governor Jerry Brown for the right to succeed the retiring Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.In South Carolina, Nikki Haley, another Republican beneficiary of Sarah Palin’s endorsement, moved closer to becoming the state’s first female governor.Ms Haley endured a bruising campaign, including accusations of infidelity, to set herself up for a run-off against Gresham Barrett, a four-term Republican congressman.”We had the kitchen sink thrown at us,” Ms Haley said. ”We are a state of great people. We are a state of dirty politics.”with agencies
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Time travel as a daily routine

Karen Bennett is a ”super commuter” – one of those people the international group Sustainable Cities identifies as willing to travel up to four hours a day between work and home.Her daily trip between Wyong on the central coast and North Sydney takes an average of 105 minutes each way, and despite the long haul she faces the journey with good humour. ”I’ve got a lot of train buddies, people I only see on board,” she said. ”You know their families and their holidays. We are a community.”But she also calculates she spends more than 90 working days a year in transit. ”That’s a lot of time on a train. We choose to live here, we accept that, but in the 21st century it shouldn’t take this long.”Ms Bennett represents a growing class of commuters who for financial or lifestyle reasons are living in the regions on the metropolitan fringes.The NSW government’s Household Travel Survey, released in August, shows that in 2007 (the most recent available data) central coast commuters notched up 2.071 million kilometres in rail travel on an average weekday. In outer-western Sydney, including the Blue Mountains, the figure was 1.222 million kilometres, in the Illawarra it was 911,000, and in the south-west it was 1.150 million. Clearly, there is an appetite for train travel to the furthest reaches of Sydney.A recent online poll by the Herald found 59.6 per cent of people ”would … be prepared to live farther from Sydney’s CBD if access to public transport was better”.The Department of Transport and Infrastructure recently began its latest household travel survey, going door to door interviewing residents about their travel patterns and preferences.Experts say they expect the results of this round of surveying to confirm a trend.”Right around the country we saw [from 2004] a decline in per capita car use and an increase in demand for public transport,” said Dr Garry Glazebrook, an urban planner and academic at the University of Technology, Sydney. ”I think we could expect to see a further drop in car use as we get figures from 2008 and 2009.”Commuting to and from work is the fourth most common reason for travel, registering 16 per cent of trips, behind recreational travel on 22 per cent, driving other people on 18 per cent and equal to shopping, also 16 per cent. But commuting accounts for more than 27 per cent of all kilometres travelled in Sydney.A report released earlier this year, Moving People, compiled by the Australasian Railway Association, the Bus Industry Confederation and the International Association of Public Transport as part of a campaign to win more federal investment, confirmed that in every mainland capital, car use had climbed between 1999 and 2004 then, almost uniformly, fallen, although less so in Sydney.But trips for work and pleasure are also getting longer.”The average time a Sydney resident spends travelling per weekday has increased from 79 minutes in 1999 to 81 minutes in 2007,” the survey finds.”The work trip represents a large and growing component of this time, increasing from 31 to 34 minutes over the same period.”In spite of the additional time spent in transit, the survey confirms the plentiful anecdotal evidence about why people are moving to public transport. Almost half of commuters are overcoming parking problems; 28 per cent believe it is quicker; 27 per cent think it is cheaper; 17 per cent report it is ”less stressful”; and 14 per cent say it offers time to read and relax.For Karen Bennett, the journey up the North Shore line, then past the picturesque Hawkesbury River and Brisbane Waters, has its compensation.”It’s my time to wind down,” she said. ”I used to do the drive from Crows Nest to home and by the time I got in, I was so tense and cranky that I had no time to relax because I would have to start getting ready for bed.”Camaraderie the best part of riding the railsThe alarm clock in Karen Bennett’s house is set for 4.10am onweekdays ut, after 12 years of train commuting between Wyong and NorthSydney, she doesn’t really need it – her body clock is well and trulyset.Ms Bennett spends one hour and 45 minutes each morning and eveningriding the rails, one of the ”super commuters” who, for economicnecessity or lifestyle reasons, live far from work.In good weather, she will ride her motor scooter for 10 minutes toWyong station to make the 5.45am train, but she likes to arrive up to30 minutes early to nab a good seat. ”You’d be surprised how many ofus there are on the station at 5am,” she says.Ms Bennett is usually at her desk at an information technology firm by7.35am – serious commuting has taught her to be specific about times -and takes the 4.53pm home each night, arriving at 6.45 pm.She says she loves the camaraderie of the train trip, which for thefirst 30 to 45 minutes involves passengers napping, before people rouseto swap stories and, as they near work, make an early start on emailusing laptops. On the return trip, some work, others watch DVDs; shereads.But she resents the time it takes to cover the distance – pointing outthat early 20th-century steam trains from Newcastle travelled fasterthan today’s services – and the way she has had to ask her employer forflexible work hours to accommodate the train timetable.”The solution to every problem on the railways seems to be to slow thetrains down, either for safety or to fix a timetable problem,” shesays. ”They have built so much leeway into the timetable so they canalways say they’re on time.”’The T-Way gives me the chance to avoid CityRail’Loui Pham is one of those rare people in western Sydney who managesto get around contentedly without a car, despite a long journey eachmorning and evening.The outgoing secretary of The Hive, the student union at the Universityof Western Sydney, commutes daily between her home in Cabramatta andthe university’s campus near Rydalmere using her bicycle and two buses.Most mornings she cycles for 30 minutes to the Bonnyrigg stop on theT-Way, a mostly bus-only corridor between Liverpool and Campbelltown,leaving her bike in the care of a friend who lives near Bonnyrigg Plaza.In peak hour she might wait five to 10 minutes for a bus, and thenspends up to 30 minutes in transit to the Parramatta interchange, atthe rail station, before waiting another five to 10 minutes for a busto the Rydalmere campus.Ms Pham says driving in peak hour would take her more than an hour.The journey has made her a convert to T-Ways. Sydney has threetransitways – Liverpool-Parramatta, Parramatta-Rouse Hill andBlacktown-Parklea – but she would like to see more, right acrosswestern and south-western Sydney.”The T-Way also gives me the chance to avoid CityRail,” Ms Pham says.”Everyone I know has had a bad experience with CityRail. There has notbeen enough investment in the system and in the maintenance of ageing trains.”Cheap as chips and an easy trip – no sweatRALPH VAN DIJK became a scooter commuter three months ago when he lost his licence and needed another way to get from his home in Mosman to his job at a radio advertising company in Pyrmont.He spent $800 on an electric model and lowered the gearing, which cut the top speed but means it can carry his lofty frame up the hill when he gets off the ferry on his way home.His commuting takes about 40 minutes door to door, with only 12-14 minutes spent getting from Circular Quay to Pyrmont, including the run along the crowded footpath in George Street, which he said could ”be a bit sticky”.While he turned to the scooter from necessity, he likes it so much he plans to stick with it.”I am seeing bits of Sydney I have never explored before, riding along the little bays around Mosman, thinking this is what everyone should be on,” Mr van Dijk said.He did think about a bicycle but prefers the scooter because it’s easier to zip around, and he can get to work without needing a shower. ”I ride straight into the office … with this I can just step on and off.”He also likes the fact that he’s not obliged to wear a helmet although he concedes that one might have been handy whenhe came off one night after hitting a gutter.He usually sees about three other electric scooter riders each week and reckons there could soon be more because of the advantages that go beyond the purely practical .”I get envious looks from my kids’ friends.”Matthew Moore
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New safe seat turns into a Wright stuff-up for LNP

SCOTT DRISCOLL, a colourful Queensland business figure and Liberal National Party supporter, is contemplating a crack at federal politics.Since Hajnal Ban, the LNP candidate for the newly created federal seat of Wright, was disendorsed, Mr Driscoll is considering a run for preselection. Also likely to run is Cameron Thompson, a Liberal MP in the Howard government who lost his seat to Labor at the last election.Mr Driscoll, a controversial and opinionated character, established a small business lobby group, the Retailers Association. It was a bitter critic of the Rudd government and angered the more objective industry group, the National Retailers Association.The latter and other similar lobbies accused Mr Driscoll of exaggerating his membership and acting as a front for the Coalition. Legal action was threatened.Mr Driscoll changed the name of his organisation to the United Retail Federation and continued to act as an industry lobbyist.Ms Ban, a local councillor who rose through the ranks of the National Party before it merged with the Queensland Liberals, was disendorsed this week after complaints were raised about the finances of an elderly man for whom she had power of attorney.She may attempt to run again.Her disendorsement and the subsequent bad press upset the LNP which has all but counted Wright as being in the bag for the Coalition.With the federal election set to be a cliffhanger, the Coalition has made mistakes with candidates in marginal seats in NSW and Queensland.It has had to conduct another preselection in the marginal Labor seat of Dobell, on the central coast, after the candidate withdrew. And in Queensland, the LNP chose a 19-year-old to try to wrest the marginal seat of Longman back from Labor.The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, will spend the rest of the week in Queensland.There is an awareness that a small number of marginals could decide the election and that poor candidate choice by the Liberals in key seats in the South Australian election in March proved costly.
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