Labor in crisis: Gillard on back foot after ministers quit

Family time … Nicola Roxon watched over by Julia Gillard as she announces she is stepping down as Attorney-General.THE Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, capped the third day of her election campaign with the resignation of two frontbenchers, leaving her to fend off accusations Labor was spinning out of control.
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Ms Gillard announced a frontbench shake-up on Saturday after two of her most trusted ministers resigned: the Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, and the leader of the government in the Senate, Chris Evans.

The Prime Minister’s latest shock announcement came just three days after she stunned her party and political observers by setting up the longest ever election campaign – to run until September 14 – and just two days before the resumption of a difficult session of Parliament.

Shocked Labor MPs, struggling to regain their balance over the ”crazy-brave” election announcement on Wednesday, were again left reeling by the timing of the personnel changes, which Ms Gillard insisted were entirely hers to control.

The changes saw the elevation of four known Kevin Rudd supporters.

Ms Gillard said both outgoing ministers had indicated their desire to leave politics as far back as 12 months ago but she had required them to hold off until the best time for the government.

”We agreed at the right time they would relinquish their ministerial roles and I would make new appointments,” Ms Gillard said. ”This is precisely the right time as Parliament resumes next week.”

But exasperated colleagues did not share her view. ”If this is the best time, then I know nothing about politics,” said one. ”This is not a cunning plan … it’s ridiculous, it’s got me f—ed,” said another.

The resignations have also raised talk of rats leaving a sinking ship and had internal critics claiming it again showed the Prime Minister’s political judgment remained problematic, with her government seen as lurching from crisis to crisis.

The biggest winner is the former Melbourne barrister Mark Dreyfus. He leap-frogs the outer ministry by going straight from parliamentary secretary to attorney-general.

The senate leadership post is subject to a ballot of the ALP caucus to be held tomorrow in Canberra.

It is expected to be filled by the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, after the Finance Minister, Penny Wong, chose not to run.

Senator Evans and Ms Roxon stepped down at a press conference in Canberra, both offering the same reason for leaving – a desire to spend more time with their families.

An emotional Ms Roxon, who was health minister for nearly four years before becoming Australia’s first female Attorney-General last year, said she was ”torn” by the decision to quit at the election. She will serve out the remainder of the parliamentary year on the backbench.

”When I was elected 15 years ago, I hadn’t even met my husband, Michael, and my daughter, Rebecca, was a long way from being born,” she said. ”If I run for office again, she’ll almost be in high school before I might retire.”

Senator Evans, who has been flying between Canberra and Perth for almost 20 years, said simply, ”the time has come.” He will step down from the Senate when a replacement can be found, to be appointed by the West Australian Premier, Colin Barnett, on advice from the pre-selector of the state’s Labor branch.

Their shock double-departure has added to concerns the government cannot get clear air, nor avoid self-imposed mistakes. In the three days since Ms Gillard set out on a 7½- month election campaign, her government has been rocked by the return of controversy surrounding Craig Thomson.

Mr Thomson’s arrest on Thursday followed closely on the heels of the dumping of the Labor senator Trish Crossin in favour of the party outsider, Nova Peris.

And on Friday, the ALP’s vice president, Tony Sheldon, slammed ”B-grade ministers” in an address to Young Labor and complained of a moral crisis within the party.

The reshuffle prompted despair among pro-Rudd MPs. One said it was ”a total joke, we’re a laughing stock”.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, called on Ms Gillard to regain control of her government.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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Voters back more funding for public education

TWO out of three Australians believe public schools are underfunded and a slim majority would be more likely to vote for a party at the next federal election that would increase funding for public schools, according to a new poll.
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The survey on views about education, commissioned by the Australian Education Union, also revealed strong disapproval of the O’Farrell government’s $1.7 billion cut to education, with more than 70 per cent of NSW voters saying they opposed the move.

Two-thirds of respondents believe funding for public schools is too low, with only 4 per cent stating they believe it is too high, according to the Auspoll survey of 2200 Australians, including 500 people in NSW.

Only 14 per cent said funding for private schools was too low, while almost 45 per cent said it was too high. Just over half (51 per cent) said they would be more likely to vote at the federal election for a party that planned to give more money to public education, compared with 4 per cent who said they would be less likely and 45 per cent who said that factor would have no effect on their vote.

Most respondents supported the main recommendations of the Gonski review, with 78 per cent of voters stating they ”support” or ”strongly support” school funding being allocated on the basis of need and 74 per cent stating they wanted state and federal governments to increase funding by the recommended $6.5 billion a year.

Smaller class sizes and more individual attention for students were identified as the most important changes to the education system, followed by more training for teachers and specialised literacy and numeracy teachers for students falling behind.

Reforms that were considered least important were giving greater autonomy to principals and providing more modern facilities and equipment to schools.

The federal School Education Minister, Peter Garrett, met most of his state counterparts at a ministerial council meeting in Sydney on Friday, where they discussed the progress of the Gonski reforms.

State education ministers have expressed frustration that the proportion of the $6.5 billion annual price tag they will be expected to contribute is still not known.

The poll was commissioned to coincide with the union stepping up its ”I give a Gonski” campaign, with new advertisements from today.

”The poll shows education funding is an area that voters across Australia want action on – whether they support the Coalition, Labor or the Greens,” the union federal president, Angelo Gavrielatos, said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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Not your average festival …

Musical playground … Kings of Convenience frontman Erlend Oye dances in the crowd at St Jerome’s Laneway Festival.TREES draped with fairy lights, Melbourne trams selling food and audience dance-offs are a few signs this is not your ordinary music festival.
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The Sydney College of the Arts in Rozelle was transformed into a musical playground on Saturday for 12,000 fans attending the St Jerome’s Laneway Festival.

“Laneway started out as a street party,” the festival co-founder, Danny Rogers, said. ”We threw a party in a back alley in Melbourne. It was very organic … It just exceeded our expectations.”

The party has evolved into a yearly event with seven shows across Australia and internationally. Rogers believes that smaller festivals are able to give fans a more unique line-up and experience.

”With festivals like the Big Day Out and Future Music, you need really big acts, huge acts, and with that comes obviously huge amounts of money and huge amounts of expectation … our focus is less about the headliners but more about building a solid body of artists.”

Tom Willis, 21, bought a ticket to Laneway because it is a different kind of festival. ”It’s very chilled out, everyone is here to have a good time,” he said.

Not all smaller festivals have experienced the same success.

Peats Ridge, which was held in the Glenworth Valley north of Sydney over the new year, has not covered costs and is yet to pay artists and production crew. The year before, Playground Weekender at Wiseman’s Ferry was cancelled but could not refund customers.

Adam Zammit, the chief executive and founder of Peer Group Media, which runs The Big Day Out festival, said that, just because a few festivals had not survived, did not mean the market was in trouble. Big Day Out sold out in Sydney this year.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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Maitland aims for butt-free streets

STAFF at Maitland City Council are offering an incentive in the form of portable ashtrays to stop people littering the streets.
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Residents are being handed the pocket-size flip-top ashtrays for free with the council taking an educational stance on the issue.

Manager of development and environment David Simm said cigarette butts and packets were major litter items in the Maitland local government area.

‘‘The fines exist and always have done. We are trying to take a more educational stance,’’ Mr Simm said.

‘‘We do issue on-the-spot fines when needed but we’d rather educate people not to break the law.’’

Mr Simm said ashtrays had been handed out in the past and the streets did appear to contain fewer cigarette butts.

Maitland City Council’s stance on cigarette butts has come on the back of a crackdown by Port Stephens Council last month.

Port Stephens Council rangers were instructed to take a zero tolerance approach and enforce fines of between $60 and $750 for careless smokers to maintain the area’s town centres.

Discarding a stubbed-out smoke is a $60 offence while a lit cigarette draws a $200 penalty under the laws.

Any cigarette that landed in a gutter – and possibly waterways – could cost up to $750 as it qualifies as pollution.

Keep Australia Beautiful national executive officer Peter McLean said figures showed cigarettes were the nation’s most common litter item, with about 28 found per square kilometre.

As well as cigarette butts being unsightly, Mr Simm said they contained hazardous chemicals that could harm the environment and were fire hazards in hot weather.

INCENTIVE: Maitland City Council Environmental Health Officer Fiona Rowan with some of the free personal ashtrays being offered. Picture: Simone De Peak

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Knights worked over by first-grade Eels

NEWCASTLE’S opening trial match of the 2013 pre-season proved to be a mismatch when Rick Stone’s makeshift NSW Cup squad were hammered 46-10 by Parramatta in Armidale on Saturday.
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The Knights fielded a composite line-up of contracted reserve-graders and hopefuls from the Newcastle Rugby League competition, as well as one player with NRL experience, utility back Peter Mata’utia.

The Eels, under new coach Ricky Stuart, unleashed a host of first-grade players, headed by former international Renia Maitua.

In the circumstances, Stone felt his troops did not give a bad account of themselves.

‘‘I think Parra might have played 20 or their top 30 players and we probably played one, so there was plenty of difference in the quality of this sides,’’ Stone said yesterday.

‘‘We probably struggled a bit in the first half for power and speed, but the second half wasn’t too bad and we got in the groove a bit.

‘‘We played a bit of good footy and controlled the ball a bit better.’’

Stone said South Newcastle’s Ben Tupou and Maitland’s Brenton Horwood ‘‘stuck their hands up’’ and pushed their claims for further opportunities.

‘‘Those two both showed they’re up to playing at a higher level, that’s for sure,’’ Stone said.

‘‘Realistically, I might need a part-time squad of 20 to complement the guys who come back from the NRL.

‘‘It’s not unusual to go through 40-plus players during a NSW Cup season.’’

Mata’utia, playing for the first time since his 2012 season was written off by a fractured larynx, was also impressive.

‘‘Pete Mata’utia and his brother Chanel did a pretty good job as well,’’ Stone said.

‘‘Pete played half a game and did some good things for us. It was good to see him come back from that injury and play with confidence.’’

South Newcastle centre Lewis Schneider and Central Charlestown prop Bobby Nona scored Newcastle’s tries.

Luke Turner (Cessnock) was left nursing an ankle injury that will require scans.

Knights coach Wayne Bennett will roll out his top squad for trials against Souths in Coffs Harbour on February 16 and Cronulla in Tamworth a week later.

MISMATCH: The Knights take on Parramatta in Armidale on Saturday.

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Adam blows whistle on brother’s penalty role

SYDNEY defender Adam Griffiths cheekily suggested his younger brother and Jets striker Ryan Griffiths needs to ‘‘get on the weights’’ after earning what he believes was a questionable penalty on Saturday night at Hunter Stadium.
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The Jets came from behind twice to draw the match 2-2, with both goals coming from Ryan Griffiths penalties.

The final penalty in the 88th minute followed a clear-cut handball from Terry McFlynn that thwarted a Ryan Griffiths shot, but the first goal in the 15th minute was more contentious.

Referee Jarred Gillett pointed to the spot after Sydney defender Rhyan Grant brought down Griffiths from behind.

‘‘He knows he got one penalty that wasn’t a penalty,’’ Adam Griffiths said. ‘‘I was close. It wasn’t simulation, but maybe he went down pretty easy.

‘‘Maybe he needs to get on the weights or something because he went down and the referee gave a penalty, and that’s the way it goes.’’

The younger brother calmly slotted both penalties low to the right corner to take his season goal tally to eight.

‘‘I was telling my goalkeeper [Vedran Janjetovic] both times, ‘He’s going right, he’s going right,’’’ Adam said.

‘‘He went that way; he just didn’t put his hand out.’’

Adam and his twin brother and Sky Blues teammate Joel were part of the Jets’ 2007-08 grand final-winning team.

Joel’s suspension on Friday for abusing match officials the week before robbed fans of seeing all three Griffiths brothers in the same A-League match for the first time.

Adam was especially disappointed not to have Joel beside him.

‘‘We had some big names out, and they’re key players for us, especially in the front third with the likes of Joel, Jason [Culina] and Emo [Brett Emerton],’’ he said.

‘‘They’re our key players.

‘‘It was disappointing Joel didn’t play.

‘‘It would have been great for him to play against his old team and get a few boos and a few cheers.’’

Meanwhile, former Broadmeadow Magic recruit Andrew Hoole made the most of his second A-League start by producing a pleasing performance from left back in place of the suspended Sam Gallaway.

‘‘Early in the first half I found it hard to get into the game, but that was like what happened in the first game. I was still coming to terms with the whole step up,” the 19-year-old said.

‘‘Once I have a few more games under my belt I should be right. In the second half I thought I got more involved.’’

Adam Griffiths is yellow-carded after approaching brother Ryan as the latter took a penalty on Saturday. Picture: Peter Stoop

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GALLERY: ‘Lucky’ Jets must improve 

JETS coach Gary van Egmond admitted Newcastle were lucky to salvage a draw against Sydney FC on Saturday night and will need to lift their game to challenge in-form Western Sydney Wanderers this week.
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Newcastle were facing the prospect of a 2-1 loss at Hunter Stadium until Sydney skipper Terry McFlynn was penalised and sent off in the 87th minute for blocking a goal-bound Ryan Griffiths shot with his arm.

Griffiths drilled home the penalty, his second of the night, to clinch a point for Newcastle and extend their unbeaten run to five games.

The result left Newcastle (23 points) clinging to fifth on the ladder, two ahead of Brisbane, Melbourne Heart and Sydney.

Van Egmond was pleased with the resilience and character his troops showed in twice fighting back from deficits but was candid when asked if they would need a better performance against the Wanderers at Campbelltown on Saturday night.

‘‘It won’t matter who we play – we have to improve,’’ van Egmond said. ‘‘The character of the team is fantastic, as you can see, but performance wise we have to get better.

‘‘There will be no better opportunity than going down to West Wanderers with their away game at Campbelltown.’’

Asked if he felt his team were lucky against Sydney, van Egmond replied: ‘‘Yeah, I do.

‘‘Lucky in the sense that with the amount of options that we had to play out and create better attacks, I thought we were extremely poor.’’

Sydney coach Frank Farina agreed that fortune favoured Newcastle, especially in the case of their first-half penalty, but had no complaints.

‘‘Looking back on it, it is a hard one to take,’’ he said.

‘‘Before the game, if you asked me, we would have settled for a point.

‘‘But to concede that late, and another penalty, was disappointing.’’

Farina said the McFlynn hand-ball decision was ‘‘fair enough’’.

But he said the Griffiths penalty in the 14th minute, which allowed Newcastle to equalise after Sydney star Alessandro Del Piero opened the scoring two minutes earlier, was debatable.

‘‘The first one was a bit dubious,’’ he said.

‘‘Maybe from the angle the referee was on he thought it was a genuine foul, but I didn’t see a real lot of contact with Ryan. But there’s no point moaning about it … it evens itself out.’’

They say that good teams make their own luck, and over the past month at the very least Newcastle have shown steel that was not apparent early in the season.

‘‘From that perspective, it was fantastic to see that we got something out of the game,’’ van Egmond said.

‘‘In the balance of the game, I think we deserved to get something out of it.

‘‘I was disappointed with the performance, but we showed tremendous character to get something out of it.’’

The Jets coach denied that his players had been over-confident against a Sydney team missing six regulars, including former Newcastle crowd favourite Joel Griffiths and Socceroo Brett Emerton.

‘‘The local media gave us enough not to be complacent about it,’’ van Egmond said.

‘‘We just had to bring a few things up that were mentioned and the boys were very, very fired up to ensure that they wanted to get those three points.’’

Del Piero was once again outstanding for Sydney, scoring their first goal and playing a crucial role in their second.

Scores were locked 1-all at half-time.

Sydney opened the scoring in the 12th minute with a typical piece of magic from Del Piero after a rookie error from Jets defender Connor Chapman.

Trying to play out from his own end, Chapman’s pass was intercepted by McFlynn, who toed the ball to Del Piero.

The veteran made it look easy in placing a powerful left-foot shot past the despairing dive of Jets keeper Mark Birighitti for his 10th goal of the season.

The visitors’ lead lasted just two minutes. Sydney’s Rhyan Grant was penalised in the 14th minute for a clumsy challenge on Griffiths, who equalised from the spot.

Twelve minutes after the half-time interval, Del Piero capitalised on another Newcastle error when playing out.

Ruben Zadkovich was dispossessed on the halfway line and Del Piero cleverly teed up winger Ali Abbas, who blasted a low shot at Birighitti.

Birighitti parried the ball, but Blake Powell was first on the scene to restore the lead.

The visitors endured some nervous moments as the Jets, with a howling southerly and 12,428-strong crowd behind them, battled to restore parity in the second half.

Finally Sydney cracked when McFlynn conceded the decisive penalty, which Griffiths placed perfectly for his eighth goal of the season.

Scenes from the round 19 A League game, Jets v Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday. Picture Peter Stoop

Scenes from the round 19 A League game, Jets v Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday. Picture Peter Stoop

Scenes from the round 19 A League game, Jets v Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday. Picture Peter Stoop

Scenes from the round 19 A League game, Jets v Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday. Picture Peter Stoop

Scenes from the round 19 A League game, Jets v Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday. Picture Peter Stoop

Scenes from the round 19 A League game, Jets v Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday. Picture Peter Stoop

Scenes from the round 19 A League game, Jets v Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday. Picture Peter Stoop

Scenes from the round 19 A League game, Jets v Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday. Picture Peter Stoop

Scenes from the round 19 A League game, Jets v Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday. Picture Peter Stoop

Scenes from the round 19 A League game, Jets v Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday. Picture Peter Stoop

Scenes from the round 19 A League game, Jets v Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday. Picture Peter Stoop

Scenes from the round 19 A League game, Jets v Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday. Picture Peter Stoop

Scenes from the round 19 A League game, Jets v Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday. Picture Peter Stoop

Scenes from the round 19 A League game, Jets v Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday. Picture Peter Stoop

Scenes from the round 19 A League game, Jets v Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday. Picture Peter Stoop

Scenes from the round 19 A League game, Jets v Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday. Picture Peter Stoop

Scenes from the round 19 A League game, Jets v Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday. Picture Peter Stoop

Scenes from the round 19 A League game, Jets v Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday. Picture Peter Stoop

Scenes from the round 19 A League game, Jets v Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday. Picture Peter Stoop

Scenes from the round 19 A League game, Jets v Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday. Picture Peter Stoop

Scenes from the round 19 A League game, Jets v Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday. Picture Peter Stoop

Scenes from the round 19 A League game, Jets v Sydney FC at Hunter Stadium on Saturday. Picture Peter Stoop

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Ausgrid rejects expansion reports

AUSGRID has confirmed there are no plans to expand its substation site in Hamilton South after residents raised concerns it could be responsible for a cancer cluster.
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The Newcastle Herald reported last Monday residents had raised concerns after four people died of cancer in the neighbourhood in the past five years.

Julie Galli has lived next door to the Hamilton South substation with her family for 34 years and said her mother, sister and pet dog all developed cancers.

Following the story there were reports Ausgrid had planned to expand the Glebe Road substation, which a company spokeswoman said was untrue.

‘‘If that changes in the future, we will consult directly with residents,’’ she said.

The company has also moved to allay residents’ concerns about electromagnetic field readings it took last week after they aired their fears.

Residents had suggested the company measured only around the newer of the two substations on site.

A company spokeswoman said it took measurements near the older of two substations on the site – along Douglas Way – when it investigated.

‘‘The readings there were all below one milliGauss. The National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines recommend a public exposure limit of 1000milliGauss,’’ she said.

The Cancer Council Hunter has also clarified its position on EMF.

Cancer Council NSW Hunter manager Shayne Connell said electromagnetic fields completely dissipated 200 metres away from a powerline, and inside that field it was still significantly low.

‘‘It is less than people expect,’’ he said.

A field of one milliGauss is less than most household appliances, like televisions, computers or refrigerators.

‘‘Even residents within that field have levels significantly lower than national standards.’’

Hunter New England Health public health physician David Durrheim said they had spoken with residents and continued to confirm details of reported cancer diagnoses.

‘‘The variety of cancers that have been reported so far are not known to share common risk factors,’’ he said.

‘‘The International Agency for Research on Cancer does not currently classify exposure to low frequency electromagnetic fields as a proven cancer risk.’’

Concerned residents have been encouraged to contact Population Health.

Population Health

49246499

Julie Galli fears the substation is a risk.

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Motion in the ocean is a Classic

THE 30th annual Cole Classic was an event for young and old as nearly 4000 competitors across an age band spanning 75 years competed in Australia’s largest ocean swim on Sunday.
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An 83-year-old woman battled the Pacific Ocean alongside a competitor aged just nine to help raise more than $191,000 for 700 charities. The event is sponsored by Fairfax Media.

Seventeen-year-old Elliot Long was the quickest out of the water in the men’s one-kilometre race and finished with a time of only 13 minutes and 38 seconds to retain his title for a second successive year. Georgia Miller was the fastest female in the short course race, finishing three seconds behind Long.

The event’s nine-kilometre swim was cancelled due to severe weather warnings but the 3872 competing in the shorter courses were still in a celebratory mood despite the testing conditions. ”The conditions weren’t great. Obviously in the water it was nice and warm but there was a bit of swell that came in and made it difficult on the beach,” Long said.

He made his switch from chlorine to saltwater for the first time at last year’s Cole Classic where he competed to raise money for a charity and to complement his pool training.

”I’m actually a pool swimmer and I did it as a bit of fun and my coach suggested it as an aid to training. I just joined a charity raising money for kids cancer. We’re under 25 and then there’s the older ages and they’re all like-minded people. It’s good to mix with older people in a sporting environment.”

Ollie Signorini clinched the men’s two-kilometre race, finishing in 25 minutes and 18 seconds, while Josh Beard finished second four-tenths of a second ahead of Chris Fydler. Alicia Caldwell was the women’s two-kilometre champion with 26 minutes and 18 seconds, ahead of Siobhan O’Leary, with Zoe Whitfield in third.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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Hayes set to ramp up Diamond assault

THE continued reinvention of David Hayes’s stable will be amplified in the next fortnight as the master trainer rolls out a swarm of smart two-year-olds seeking a spot in the $1 million Blue Diamond Stakes as well as the first of a wave of European imports he hopes will be bound for spring glory.
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When the Melbourne Racing Club announced third declarations for the Blue Diamond during the week, the Hayes name was the most prolific to feature on the list of nominations with 10 of the final 49 hopefuls under his care as he chases his fourth win in the race in eight years and his sixth Blue Diamond victory.

One of those contestants, Friday night’s impressive debut winner Gregers, seems likely to secure a place in the race along with Mount Zero, but Hayes still has a few aces to play to increase his stake come Victoria’s best juvenile contest.

”It’s going to come down to prizemoney and it will be a question of whether a few of mine have enough to get in,” he said. ”I’d hoped that I Am Titanium could have run a place [on Saturday] to get him closer but there was a nose by a nose between fourth and second. A couple of others are borderline as well, but we’ve got a few more to come.”

This Saturday’s Blue Diamond Preludes offer trainers the few final opportunities to qualify for a place in the series final on February 23, and Hayes will be represented by at least one runner in each of the fillies’ and colts’ divisions.

Fastnet Rock colt Fast ‘N’ Rocking is likely to run after an eye-catching performance behind Dissident in the Blue Diamond Preview, while Encosta De Lago filly Blue Palace returns from a spell after a Yarra Valley trial win in the fillies’ event. Both runners will need to finish in the placings to have any hope of sneaking into the final field for the Blue Diamond. Just as well known for his success with imported gallopers as he is with juveniles, Hayes is also looking forward to stepping recently acquired European gallopers Why Not and Jet Away out in preparation for a possible tilt at the Australian Cup in March.

Why Not was bought from Germany last year and was seen just once during the spring carnival when running a strong race over 1600 metres in an open handicap at Flemington. Hayes is confident the horse has developed during the summer and is capable of measuring up to a good standard this campaign.

”He will run over 1700m at Flemington in two weeks and we’ll see where he ends up,” Hayes said.

”He’s got a nomination for the Australian Cup but whether he makes it to that level this time we’ll have to wait and see. I’ve got no doubt though that he has the makings of a group-standard horse.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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Coal exploration ‘fair process’ questioned

AN exploration licence over the Wybong area near Denman has effectively been granted to a coal company that paid more than $100 million in fees in advance to the former Labor government.
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Despite previously criticising such huge charges as a risk to ‘‘fair process’’, the state government is yet to introduce a new schedule of fees, more than 18 months after starting an overhaul of the system.

The Department of Trade and Investment recently put out a letter of offer for the Wybong licence to Ridgelands Coal Resources, which is believed to consist of a consortium of China- and Singapore-based companies.

If the company accepts proposed conditions, the licence will be granted.

It first applied for the licence through an expressions-of-interest process the then resources minister Ian Macdonald called in 2009.

Mr Macdonald, who is at the centre of the state corruption watchdog’s inquiries into the granting of other exploration licences in the Bylong Valley, gave approval to Ridgelands in April2010 to apply for an exploration licence within six months.

This triggered an obligation for a $122million payment.

The company did not apply then, but did so last year.

Wybong Action Group member John Shewan said it was ‘‘disappointing’’ the application had been approved. This could destroy one of the last remnants of vegetation in the valley, he said.

In July 2011 Resources Minister Chris Hartcher said a fee schedule based on scale and tonnage would be developed.

“Under the former Labor government, the community rightly felt that fair process was at risk, with hundreds of millions of dollars demanded at the exploration stage,’’ he said.

A spokeswoman for Mr Hartcher said last week a committee of Treasury, Finance and Services, and Trade and Investment representatives was still considering the matter.

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Solo parents get ready to protest

SINGLE parents around the nation will hold protest rallies tomorrow morning against federal government cuts to parenting payments.
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Single Parent Action Group Newcastle spokeswoman Karen Davies said the rally would start at 9.30am at the Centrelink office in King Street, Newcastle, and go to the Hunter Street electoral office of federal Newcastle MP Sharon Grierson before ending with a public meeting at Newcastle Trades Hall.

Parliamentary papers show the government expects to save $728million over four years by moving more than 80,000 single parents from a parenting payment scheme to the Newstart unemployment benefit.

‘‘Even the bureaucrats acknowledge that people are disadvantaged by the changes,’’ Ms Davies said.

‘‘The maximum rate is about $120 a fortnight less, and the harsher Newstart income and assets test could mean people being $500 a fortnight worse off.

‘‘And Newstart has more rigorous participation requirements than the parenting payment, which is designed to help you as a parent, not starve you as a job-seeker.

‘‘It’s a cruel and inhumane policy, begun by the Liberal Party in 2006 and now extended by Labor.

‘‘It’s a backward step that will make it harder for single parents and their children as the adult of the family is increasingly forced to work out of school hours.’’

Ms Grierson said she understood how difficult it was for single parent families to make ends meet and she had raised the issue in caucus.

She said the changes meant all parenting payment recipients were treated equally, regardless of when they first claimed the payment.

Ms Davies said the changes should be rescinded and the parenting payment eligibility restored to its pre-2006 levels.

Protesters Karen Davies with 12-year-old daughter Melody and Ross Benton deliver their message. Picture: Brock Perks

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GALLERY: Surfest Tag Team Challenge

SURFING Newcastle president Dan Frodsham sees a bright future for Surfest’s Tag Team Challenge after leading Frenchmans Boardriders to the inaugural title at Stockton beach yesterday.
Shanghai night field

Frodsham, James McMorland and Duncan McNicol edged out North Shelly’s Johnnie Keith, Russell Molony and Cameron Sharpe 38.61 to 36.51 in the final.

The Swansea club led comfortably after Frodsham (18.67) and their under-20 competitor, McMorland (11.67), did well in the difficult 1.5-metre swell punctuated by 2m-plus bombs. But McNicol opened the door when he fell on the first of his two rides, earning only 1.07 points.

Sharpe hit back with an 11.67 effort on his second, power ride, which was worth double points, to give North Shelly a 5.5 lead with just over two minutes left.

But McNicol responded with a second effort, a 7.2 ride, to seal victory.

‘‘We had a six-point lead, but it all became pretty tight at the end,’’ Frodsham said.

Duncan had a one-point ride and that made it super tight for that last ride.

‘‘But in the end he just had to do the basics, get it to the beach, and he did what he had to do.’’

Frodsham, 37, was delighted to grab the maiden title of a contest he believes will become a key event in the rich Surfest tradition.

‘‘The first one’s always a good one to win,’’ he said.

‘‘It was challenging, but it was a good contest.

‘‘It just makes Surfest bigger and better and I think it should become a major part of it.

‘‘With the quality of surfing we’ve seen, it should get more and more support as the years go on.’’

Frenchmans enjoyed a trouble-free run into the final with wins over Merewether’s second and third teams, Bar Beach and Catherine Hill Bay.

North Shelly edged out the top Merewether side of Jackson Brent, Paul Parkes and Kurtis Herman by 1.14 in an exciting semi-final.

Next on the Surfest schedule is the Indigenous Classic from February 13 at Merewether, which features open and junior divisions for men and women.

The six-star World Qualifying Series men’s and women’s events, headlined by world champions Joel Parkinson and Stephanie Gilmore, start on February 18 at Merewether.

James McMoreland of the Frenchmans Boardriders competes at Stockton yesterday. Picture: Brock Perks

James McMoreland. Picture Brock Perks

James McMoreland. Picture Brock Perks

Paul Parkes. Picture: Brock Perks

Kurtis Herman. Picture: Brock Perks

Kurtis Herman. Picture Brock Perks

Dan Frodsham. Picture: Brock Perks

Dan Frodsham. Picture: Brock Perks

Justin Lee. Picture: Brock Perks

Surfest Tag Team Challenge at Stockton beach. Picture: Grant Sproule

Surfest Tag Team Challenge at Stockton beach. Picture: Grant Sproule

Surfest Tag Team Challenge at Stockton beach. Picture: Grant Sproule

Surfest Tag Team Challenge at Stockton beach. Picture: Grant Sproule

Surfest Tag Team Challenge at Stockton beach. Picture: Grant Sproule

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