POLL: Lake council deficit tipped to top $27m

LAKE Macquarie City Council has projected an operating deficit of $27million for this financial year, a blowout of $13million in three months.
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Council documents show it projected an operating deficit of $14million at the start of the financial year.

But the council’s September budget review, to be considered at a council meeting on Monday, has revised that forecast to an operating deficit of $27million.

The council said there was a simple reason for the huge deviation.

A council statement mainly attributed ‘‘the appearance of a $13million discrepancy’’ to government grants received last year for work to be done this year.

Liberal Cr Ken Paxinos said questions needed to be asked about the ‘‘mismatch’’ in the council’s budget.

‘‘One of the basic accounting procedures is the need to match income and expenditure,’’ Cr Paxinos said.

‘‘We need to know where we are financially and our accounting practices need to be rock solid.’’

Labor Cr Daniel Wallace said a lot of councils had problems with their balance sheets, partly because of the timing of government grants.

‘‘It’s not just an accounting issue faced by Lake Macquarie,’’ he said.

News of the deficit projection comes a day after Newcastle City Council said it was considering cutting $19million from its annual budget to get back in the black.

Lake Macquarie council has taken a different route of higher taxes and bigger government. Lake residents will pay an average rate rise of 55per cent over seven years, with business rates to rise by 71per cent.

As reported last month, Lake Macquarie council plans to run budget deficits until 2016-17.

Cr Paxinos said he was concerned it would take so long ‘‘to get back in the black’’.

Cr Wallace said deficits were not a bad thing if the money was spent on infrastructure, but ‘‘they’re not good if they are spent on maintaining current levels of services’’.

Council general manager Brian Bell declined to be interviewed.

TAFE changes hitting staff and students

VISUAL ARTS TAFE FEES COST MORE THAN UNI
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A DIPLOMA in visual arts will set Hunter TAFE students back $12,500 a year from next year, more than double the annual cost of studying art at university.

Hunter TAFE has finalised the commercial fees for its fine arts and ceramics courses in 2013, after the state government scrapped subsidies because of, it said, poor completion rates and low job prospects.

The cost of one-year visual arts and advanced visual arts diplomas will go from $1300 to $12,500, but students are now able to apply for government HECS-style loans.

For a three-year University of Newcastle fine arts degree, the Australian student contribution for a subsidised place in 2013 is $5868 a year.

It would cost a domestic university student $17,600 by the end of their degree.

The Hunter Street diploma will be the most expensive in NSW, with other TAFEs charging between $7700 and $11,000.

There are deep concerns the hefty fees could put a nail in the coffin of Newcastle’s 120-year-old Hunter Street Art School.

NSW Teachers Federation Hunter Street representative Matthew Tome, who is head art teacher, said the prices were cost-based and good value, given the school’s quality. He said they should be compared to unsubsidised fees. At the University of Newcastle an international student paying unsubsidised fees would pay $70,500 for a degree.

Mr Tome said students did not pay back loans until they reached an income threshold.

Nine of the art school’s staff are expected to face redundancy.

‘‘We’re not thrilled,’’ Mr Tome said. ‘‘But we’ve been determined to keep the art school running.’’

Annelies Koch, 23, of Mayfield, has work in the final exhibition at the Hunter Street Front Room Gallery, which is being closed under the cuts.

‘‘Suddenly cutting the budget like this is disgusting,’’ she said.

A Hunter TAFE spokeswoman said fine arts programs had been finalised and were progressively being advertised on the website.

Students could apply for government-funded student loans, she said.

AXE HOVERS OVER TAFE STAFF

MORE than 40 Hunter TAFE staff are facing redundancy in the lead-up to Christmas.

The Newcastle Herald has obtained documents that show plans to consolidate and axe courses under the state government’s $1.7billion education cuts.

Staff have been sent ‘‘change initiative information sheets’’ that had a deadline to provide feedback by November 9.

The proposed job cuts include 18 jobs from tourism and hospitality, three in boatbuilding, three in business and computing, nine in fine arts and nine in information technology.

TAFE said it was still conducting consultation, no voluntary redundancies had been offered at this stage and any surplus staff would be managed in line with ‘‘excess employees’’ policies. Some could be redeployed.

NSW Teachers Federation Hunter TAFE organiser Rob Long said staff feared the job cuts were the start of things to come.

Up to 800 positions at TAFE statewide are expected to go.

Part-time and casual staff had also lost some or all of their shifts, he said.

Mr Long said they didn’t blame the institution but rather state government education cuts.

‘‘Living through it is personally traumatic,’’ he said.

‘‘Inevitably students will either have high costs, or heavy debt, and receive a poorer quality standard of education.’’

A Hunter TAFE spokeswoman said TAFE NSW had to make significant changes to its budget during the next four years to meet the state government’s efficiency targets.

‘‘We must adapt to our changing environment to remain competitive,’’ she said.

‘‘Every effort will be made, during this review, to minimise the impact on front-line services.’’

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said in September the cuts were necessary to help the government tackle billions of dollars in lost revenue.

The NSW Opposition said yesterday the TAFE cuts would contribute to a skills shortage in local government positions such as childcare and gardeners.

COURSESGONE IN 2013:

■ Tourism and hospitality (Glendale and Wyong campuses)

■Metal fabrication and welding (Glendale campus)*

■Information technology (Newcastle and Tomaree campuses)

■Boat building (Newcastle campus)

■Metallurgy (Newcastle campus)

■Subsidised fine arts (Hunter Street campus)

■Subsidised sculpture (Hunter Street campus)

■Subsidised ceramics (Hunter Street campus)

NEW IN 2013

■Bachelor of Early Childhood (Glendale campus)

■Diploma of Visual Arts (Hunter Street) $12,500

■Advanced Diploma of Visual Arts (Hunter Street) $12,500

■Certificate III Visual Arts (Hunter Street) $6000

* TAFE says no final decision

TO GO: Student Annelies Koch has work in the final exhibition at the Front Room Gallery. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Confused mayor votes against himself

FIRST he wanted to wire his own office for video and sound, now the Auburn mayor, Ned Attie, has surprised his colleagues by voting against his own motion.
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Cr Attie wanted to vet the credit card activity of the general manager, John Burgess, on a monthly basis with quarterly reports to council, but then a fellow councillor added an amendment that the mayor should make the same disclosure.

In an about face, the mayor voted against the successful motion at the meeting, which was later stopped after a five-councillor walkout over pecuniary interests stripped it of its quorum.

On Thursday, Cr Attie said he was confused by the proceedings of Wednesday night’s meeting. The mayor, who has previously asked staff to investigate the possible installation of cameras and listening devices in the mayoral suite, said in hindsight he had cast his vote in error.

”Quite honestly it got so confusing with people firing things left, right and centre it just confused me,” Cr Attie said.

”It was really an error; I really should just have voted with everyone. I don’t have an issue, I’ve got nothing to hide.”

The deputy mayor, Salim Mehajer, and Liberal councillor Ronney Ouiek were also hiding nothing in the debate that sparked the councillor walkout.

Both declared pecuniary interests in another proposal to increase the floor space ratios and building heights in zonings covering the Auburn and Lidcombe town centres.

But neither left the chamber, citing council’s legal advice on new state government legislation that allows councillors to vote on planning changes where they personally stand to benefit, as long as they declare their direct interest up front.

The law changes were introduced in August to stop councils losing quorum when voting on proposals covering all or a ”significant” part of the council’s area, where councillors could be reasonably expected to hold an interest.

But councillors were split on how ”significant” matter before council actually was.

Cr Ouiek said their refusal to leave the room was ”all kosher” and criticised his fellow councillors who left in protest.

”We did nothing wrong according to the act, so what’s the problem?”

”If every time the shit hits the fan they’re going to walk out, they’re not fit to represent the community.”

But Cr Campbell said alternative legal advice supported his claim the proposed changes related to ”very limited areas” and the two councillors should have left the chambers.

”I said that if [council’s] legal advice is correct, then the state government has legalised corruption,” he said.

Cr Campbell led the walkout of councillors Hicham Zraika, Tony Oldfield, Semra Batik and Irene Simms after his move to force the two councillors to leave on ethical grounds also failed.

”I was unable to remain in the chamber to facilitate councillors voting to determine the extent of their own financial windfalls,” he said.

The planning proposal in question is due to return to an Auburn council meeting on Monday night. Cr Simms said the state government needed to meet a council delegation to discuss the legislation.

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Police shooting in Redfern: man dead

Redfern shooting … police at the scene. Man shot … his truck crashed into the outside of a hotel.
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A man has died after being shot while driving in Redfern.

Do you know more? Email us, message us on Twitter @smh.

Police have a shot a man outside a pub in Redfern, after he allegedly drove at them and hit a pedestrian in a truck stolen from the City of Sydney council, a senior police source says.

The man, who is believed to be in his 40s, was driving a small work truck down a “shared zone” road near Redfern station just before midday on Friday when police opened fire.

The truck crashed into the outside of the Railz Hotel.

A NSW Ambulance spokesman said: “One patient is unfortunately deceased”.

Paramedics were treating two other people for minor injuries, he said.

The source told Fairfax Media the council had reported one of their trucks as stolen.

When police called on the driver to stop, he allegedly accelerated, hit a pole and a pedestrian, the source said.

Police believed he was using the vehicle as a weapon and also drove at officers, who escaped before the truck crashed.

Shots were fired, but the cause of the man’s death is yet to be determined.

A witness, who did not wish to be named, said he heard two gunshots. He then saw the truck with a smashed windscreen and crumpled roof.

The male police officer who allegedly fired the shots was being consoled by other officers.

“He was walking back from the scene and other officers had their hands on his shoulder,” he said.

A few minutes later, the officers reached inside the smashed car to pull the man out.

The witness said the man slumped out of the car and onto the road. “His body was slumped between the door and it fell down,” he said. “It looked like he was gone.”

Several ambulances have been requested and are attending the scene.

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‘Bunch of $2 companies’: committee did not assess tender firms, corruption inquiry told

Ian Macdonald.A corruption inquiry has heard that an evaluation committee who decided on which mining companies would be awarded exploration licences paid no heed to whether the companies actually had the financial capacity to carry out the work.
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William Hughes, a senior public servant who was the head of a three-person evaluation committee, admitted that the committee did not assess the expertise, skills or “know-how” of any mining companies who were tendering for multi-million dollar coal exploration licences.

The Independent Commission Against Commission is inquirying into the granting of coal exploration licences in 2009 by the department of then resources minister Ian Macdonald. The commission has heard that the family of Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid used inside information to gain profits of $100 million.

Another member of the evaluation committee Ado Zanella admitted that the committee ignored one of the selection criteria which was “the demonstrated financial ability to fund work programs and subsequent mine and infrastructure development.”

Mr Zanella agreed with Commissioner David Ipp’s proposition that “a bunch of $2 companies…who could promise the world” could get the licences without having the means to carry out the work.

The commissioner was critical of the committee’s failure to properly examine the prospective bids saying that it was representing the people of NSW to ensure “we were going to get value for money.”

“We are talking here about gatekeepers..to let the right people get the the exploration licences,” said Commissioner Ipp.

Only days before the winning bidders were announced the preferred tenderer Monaro Mining, which had never mined any coal, announced it was pulling out. It wrote a letter to the evaluation committee saying it was transferring its interests to Royal Coal, then in further correspondence it corrected that name to Loyal Coal, then to Voope.

Mr Hughes said he was not “curious to know” who was behind these entities. He also agreed that he made “no inquiry whatsover as to what was going on” with this last-minute change of corporate entities.

Loyal Coal and Voope have been revealed as companies associated with Eddie Obeid, himself a former mining minister.

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Gatto hands over money to brain surgeon

Cancer fight … Dr Charlie Teo and Mick Gatto.It was an unlikely combination, but controversial brain surgeon Dr Charlie Teo is happy Melbourne underworld figure Mick Gatto came through with the goods – a $673,263 cheque to fund research in the fight against brain cancer.
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Mr Gatto, who is no stranger to controversy himself, presented Dr Teo the money on Thursday night at the Four Seasons hotel in Sydney, after a gala dinner attended by 1200 people in Melbourne earlier this month.

But Mr Gatto, who earlier this week was seated at the Danny Green world boxing title fight in Melbourne with a litany of underworld figures and bikies, denies he is attempting to buy respectability by over the years making significant contributions to numerous charities, including raising $1 million for firefighters in April 2009.

“I did what I had to do for a great man, Dr Teo,” Mr Gatto said.

This tale of two cities started earlier this year when Dr Teo saved the mother of one of Mr Gatto’s friends.

Dr Teo, the director of Sydney’s Centre for Minimally Invasive Neurosurgery, is held in high esteem, but has been knocked for carrying out radical surgery on tumours that other doctors consider inoperable.

A delighted Dr Teo said the odd coupling, when first reported in the Sun-Herald in July, brought a great deal of criticism. But he is used to the critics.

“My career has been full of malicious rumours, hyperbole and falsified stories over the years. It’s hurtful and at times makes me wonder about how humans can be so cruel,” he said.

“I was subject to criticism from friends and colleagues for teaming up with Mick. But associating with him, he’s been nothing but a gentlemen.

“They said morally how can you take money from Mick, but morally how can I not fight cancer.”

Mr Gatto and business partner John Khoury, along with Angelo “Fat Ange” Venditti, are currently being followed by a film crew doing a documentary on Melbourne suburb Carlton that inspired an Underbelly season.

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NZ intervenes in whaling case

New Zealand has formally intervened in Australia’s legal case against Japan over whaling.
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The NZ government told the International Court of Justice it was necessary to put its side of the dispute over scientific whaling, a statement released by the court said on Friday.

Australia began the case in 2010, arguing that Antarctic whaling by Japan was commercial, and not scientific as defined in the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW).

Japan rejected accusations it was breaching both the convention, and a ban on whaling in the Antarctic, claiming instead it was exercising its right to award scientific permits.

In the court’s statement, the NZ government outlines strict rules for scientific permits, and said any whaling that did not meet these rules was prohibited.

NZ’s decision to join the proceedings was probably co-ordinated with Australia in preparation for the oral phase of the case, according to Don Rothwell, professor of international law at the Australian National University.

“What may be interesting to see is whether other state parties to the ICRW take a similar course of action,” Professor Rothwell said.

Other countries potentially interested in joining the case could include the Netherlands on the anti-whaling side, and Iceland or South Korea on Japan’s side.

The case’s written proceedings were abbreviated earlier this year when Australia decided it was not necessary to reply to the Japanese written case, or counter memorial.

Professor Rothwell said oral hearings at the International Court of Justice in The Hague could now be expected in the northern spring of 2013.

The ANU’s Hilary Charlesworth, director of the Centre for International Governance and Justice, has been appointed as an ICJ judge ad hoc in the case which will be heard by a panel of judges.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society said it was fantastic news that the NZ government had stepped up to put more pressure on the whalers ahead of the coming Antarctic season.

“The Japanese government’s whaling program has much more to do with sushi than science,” the society’s director Darren Kindleysides said.

The Japanese whaling factory ship Nisshin Maru was earlier this week still in dry dock undergoing a refit, according to conservation group Sea Shepherd.

In previous years the whaling fleet has usually departed for the Antarctic by mid-November.

Sea Shepherd vessels are steaming north from Australia this year in an attempt to meet the whalers off Japan.

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‘We have a lot of very traumatised kids’: death casts a pall on schoolies

A crowd gathers at the scene of the fatal accident. Schoolies console each other outside the Chevron Renaissance.
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Schoolies console each other outside the Chevron Renaissance.

Isabelle Colman fell from a Gold Coast highrise this morning.

Schoolies leave the Chevron Renaissance at Surfers Paradise after a teenage girl plunged to her death from a balcony at the hotel.

Traumatised schoolies are cutting short their end-of-year celebrations after a 17-year-old girl fell to her death from a Gold Coast balcony.

Police today identified the dead girl as 17-year-old Isabelle Colman from The Gap in Brisbane’s west. She was a student at Mt St Michaels College at Ashgrove.

Isabelle fell to her death from a balcony on the 26th floor of the Chevron Renaissance’s third tower onto the fifth floor pool deck about 9.30pm.

Police say the teenager was alone in the unit when the incident happened and that there was no inappropriate behaviour on the balcony before the fall. They have confirmed the death was ”non-suspicious”.

Her school mates who have been on the Gold Coast have gathered at Circle on Cavill apartments, which neighbours the tower where Isabelle fell.

The girls, many of whom are wearing their year 12 jerseys, were consoled by Red Frogs volunteers

A sombre mood has washed over the Gold Coast as young teenagers, who were just last night celebrating the end of their high school years, now struggle to come to terms with the death of their peer.

”Everyone’s devastated. Everyone wants to go home,” schoolie Zara Simon told Fairfax Radio 4BC.

”I’m going home now. I’m trying to get my bag and we’re going.

”We’re supposed to be going home tomorrow, but no, most people are leaving today.

”Schoolies is supposed to be holiday; it’s supposed to be fun, but someone died.

“It’s terrible.”

Ms Simon said her friend, who saw Isabelle fall to her death, was ”pretty shaken up”.

”He’s not very good at all,” she said.

Another schoolie, known only as Kelly, said her friend also witnessed the incident.

”One of my friends was actually on our balcony when it happened … it was just horrific,” she said.

”They just wanted to get out. They didn’t know what to do. She’s in shock.”

Kelly said hundreds of schoolies gathered outside the Chevron towers last night, with many sitting on the ground shaking in shock, as news of the death spread rapidly through Facebook and Twitter.

”And everyone was just sitting here shaking. No one knew what was happening. It was really scary,” she said.

”Our parents are texting us asking if it’s us … everyone just didn’t know who it was or what was happening down there.

”We’re just shaken up.

”I want to go home today. It’s the worst.”

Assistant police commissioner Graham Rynders said he could not comment on whether the incident was an accident, other than to say the teenager’s death, which was witnessed by six people, was not suspicious.

He said the family of the girl was deeply traumatised and were asking for privacy.

‘‘[This has] put a very dark cloud over this schoolies,’’ he said.

Gold Coast Schoolies Advisory Group chairman Mark Reaburn said teenagers were wandering the streets of Surfers Paradise this morning looking shocked and dazed.

”Its very solemn here. You can see it with kids walking around now, it’s very solemn,” he said.

”Schoolies for the kids has turned from a celebration to a very traumatic time. It’s going to be a very difficult day and night.

”We’ve had a lot of very traumatised kids. It’s an absolute tragedy for family and friends – and it’s impact across all of the kids – it’s been devastating.”

Mr Reaburn said the Red Frogs chaplaincy service was counselling teenagers last night and would continue to do so throughout the day.

”Our welfare network swung into action last night,” he said.

”We’d certainly say to parents if they’re concerned for their kids by all means come and collect them, but use the welfare network that we can offer.”

Queensland police inspector Pat Swindells told reporters last night it was a horrible end to an otherwise good start to schoolies.

“Young people who’ve come to Surfers Paradise have been exemplary in their behaviour and this is a very tragic incident that has occurred during what has been a very good week.”

The building was locked down after the fall and hundreds of schoolies were evacuated onto the street.

Police are preparing a report for the coroner.

In the wake of the incident, police are appealing for those schoolies who are staying on the Gold Coast to enjoy their last night at the event safely.Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by calling Lifeline 131 114, Mensline 1300 789 978, Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.

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BIFF doco reveals Mongolia’s hip-hop underground

Mongolian Genghis Kahn to ghetto beats: Mongolian Bling hits BIFF.
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It’s hard to imagine the land of Genghis Khan as a hip-hop mecca.

But that’s exactly what tour guide turned filmmaker Benj Binks discovered while working in the region.

“I guess I rocked up expecting herders and nomads and this ancient lifestyle, but stumbled into Ulaanbaatar, which is modern … I heard the hip-hop and thought it was cool,” says the 33-year-old Victorian.

Friends back home couldn’t believe there was an underground hip-hop scene in the Mongolian capital, so after completing a filmmaking course, Binks decided it would make a great subject for a documentary.

“For some reason I thought going back to Mongolia and shooting a documentary in winter, in a foreign language, would be easy,” he laughs.

Mongolian Bling took five years to make, with shoots in 2006, 2008 and 2010. It’s now doing the festival circuit, and screens at BIFF on Friday night.

The film follows several key players in the country’s burgeoning hip-hop industry, but also poses the hypothesis that due to its rich heritage of epic song cycles, throat singing and spoken word, hip-hop has its roots in Mongolia.

It’s an interesting premise that makes for a charming 90 minutes in the cinema, with a cast of passionate and talented characters.

“We just started interviewing people, and every single time we would interview someone, they would say “you need to speak to this person, and this person, and this person’,” Binks says.

There are three main protagonists in the film – Gee, a popular rapper influenced by Western styles, Quiza, who mixes hip-hop with more traditional music, and Gennie, Mongolia’s first female rapper, whose frenetic vocals are a revelation.

“They’re three great stories from a cross section of the industry,” says Binks.

Binks is proud of making what he feels is the first documentary about modern Mongolia, rather than its nomadic origins.

“Realistically only about a quarter of the population live like that,” he says.

Indeed, Mongolia is urbanising at a rapid rate, with about half its 3 million citizens living in or near Ulaanbaatar. But about 70 per cent of those people live in the “Ger Districts”, the traditional tent shelters of the nomads, where there is crime and poverty.

Mongolian Bling examines the way hip-hop is being used by the country’s young people to criticise the government for corruption and failing to do more for its people – particularly as it sits on the cusp of a resources boom.

“Gennie sings about mining in particular, quite explicitly, about foreign companies coming in and tearing up the land,” says Binks.

“They’re genuinely concerned about what that’s doing to their country, their nation, their homeland.”

Mongolian Bling screens at the Brisbane International Film Festival at 6pm, Friday November 23, at the Tribal Theatre 2.

It will also screen on ABC2 this Sunday 25 November at 11pm. See the Mongolian Bling website for more information. (www.mongolianbling南京夜网)

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Forget Cooper, I’ve got a Test to run, says Deans

FLORENCE: Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has declined to comment on uncertainty surrounding Quade Cooper’s future in Australian rugby.
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Deans said he had “no idea” what the state of play was with Cooper’s contract and was knee-deep in preparations for the Wallabies third Test of their spring tour, against Italy on Sunday.

“[I am] not interested in talking about it, we’re preparing for a Test,” he said. “No idea what [is happening].”

Cooper is reportedly poised to announce his intentions at a media conference on Monday after the ARU tabled an offer understood to be smaller than the contract offered before he publicly criticised the Wallabies, coach Robbie Deans and the ARU and was fined $40,000.

Neither Cooper nor his manager have made any public comments about the offer, while ARU high performance manager David Nucifora on Tuesday rejected claims it was a “rookie” level contract and denied there was bad blood between the union and the estranged Reds playmaker. Wallabies captain Nathan Sharpe said on Monday Cooper’s departure would be a loss for Australian rugby.

The Wallabies have spent the week preparing to face what fullback Berrick Barnes called an “enlivened” Italian outfit.

“I think they’re a fair bit more expansive than in the past … [coach] Jacques Brunel has enlivened them a bit and they were particularly good last week, you’ve only got to go with Conrad Smith’s quote saying it was one of the toughest games they’d played all year to know they mean business,” Barnes said.

“It’s just shown this year that in the top 10 teams this year there’s not a hell of a lot of difference between each one and we’ve walked away with our tails between our legs many times this year by not aiming up. This is an important game.”

Brunel made two changes to the starting side that played the All Blacks last weekend, replacing lock Antonio Pavanello with Quintin Geldenhuys and openside flanker Simone Favaro with Robert Barbieri.

Queenslander Luke McLean, who moved to Italy to play five years ago, will start from the bench.

Deans said the four personnel changes Australia made for this Test were all about giving the Wallabies “fresh legs” against a tough competitor.

Halfback Brett Sheehan, who will earn his seventh Test cap but maiden start tomorrow, is one of the changes, along with hooker Stephen Moore, winger Drew Mitchell and back rower Scott Higginbotham.

Sheehan, who came into the Test side as injury cover after Will Genia injured his knee, said he was hoping to bring a “bit of noise” to the Wallabies, as well as his trade mark physicality.

“I’m extremely excited to get the call up and starting,” he said.

“[I was] given the opportunity to join the squad three months ago and I’ve absolutely loved it and been able to take my chances when I’ve been given a go.

“I’ve hung in there and it’s good to be able to back myself and give it a go and hopefully give the team a bit of a boost as well.”

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Is skipping the ads stealing the content?

Would you pay to filter out every online ad in your home?
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Ad-blocking is a sensitive subject, especially when your income comes from editors whose budgets are funded by advertising. At the risk of biting the hand that feeds, I think it’s worth looking at AdTrap — a crowd-funded Kickstarter project designed to filter out every ad from your home internet connection.

Ad-blocking is nothing new and we’ve had browser-based ad-blocking for years. AdBlock Plus is probably the best known browser plugin. I started experimenting with AdBlock Plus back when mobile broadband was insanely expensive and I didn’t feel like paying for the privilege of watching multimedia ads.

These days I use AdBlock Plus on all my computers and only turn it off for specific sites. It’s not that I have some kind of moral objection to advertising. Like I said, without advertising I’d be out of a job. I don’t mind online advertising until it becomes so intrusive that it jumps in front of what I’m trying to read, or makes my browser grind to a halt. You might even consider blocking all Flash and social media content by default for these reasons. Every time I turn off AdBlock Plus the intrusive advertising is even worse than I remember it, just like the odd occasion when I listen to commercial radio or watch live commercial television.

If the advertising isn’t too over the top then I’m usually prepared to disable AdBlock Plus on specific sites to support them. I guess that leads into the big question here — if you block the ads, are you “stealing” the content? You could ask the same about skipping ads in television shows. It’s a grey area and everyone tends to draw their own moral line in the sand.

And so we come to AdTrap, a $120 box designed to sit between your broadband modem and your home network. This way it can filter out ads not only on computers but also smartphones, tablets and any other internet-enabled device. It even targets the pre-roll ads in online videos. I can see how this would appeal to some people but personally I think it’s overkill. The ads on smartphones and tablets don’t tend to be as intrusive as desktop ads so they don’t bother me too much.

If you’re blocking absolutely every ad coming into your home, do you support the provider in some other way such as subscribing or donating? When you’re supporting the provider you’re also helping people put food on the table. It’s amazing how many people expect all their content to be free yet presumably still expect to be paid for their own job.

Does the AdTrap grab your interest? Where do you draw the line in terms of advertising, online or otherwise?

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Motorcyclist killed in collision north of Narooma

A 29-YEAR-OLD motorcyclist from Moruya was killed in acollision with a car just north of Narooma last night.
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Detective Inspector Justin Marks said the man was riding hisbike northbound when at 9.15pm for unknown reasons he crossed the centreline of the Princes Highway,just north of the Mort Avenue, Dalmeny turn-off.

He collided with a southbound Holden Commodore, was ejectedfrom the motorcycle and was thrown some distance coming to rest on the side ofthe highway. Both the 1000cc Kawasaki road bike and the car sustainedsignificant damage.

Witnesses performed CPR on the motorcyclist before Ambulanceparamedics arrived on scene taking over, but the man died on the way to Moruyahospital from significant injuries.

A crime scene was established with both local officers andforensic investigators with the northbound lane closed most of the night.

Roads and Maritime Services workers and volunteers from theDalmeny Kianga Rural Fire Service brigade directed traffic during the investigation.

The 26-year-old driver of the Commodore was also taken toMoruya Hospital for mandatory blood and urine tests, while the Narooma policewill prepare a report for the Coroner.

Inspector Marks said police could not rule out speed or anyother factor at this time.

The stretch of highway just north of the Dalmeny turn-off hasseen a number of fatal accidents in the last few years.

The motorcyclist came to rest mere metres away from theroadside memorial to local woman Chantell Eldridge killed on the same corner ofthe Princes Highway.

METRES AWAY: The motorcyclist came to rest mere metres away from the roadside memorial to local woman Chantell Eldridge killed on the same corner of the Princes Highway.

FATAL CORNER: The fatal corner is the first bend in the highway for vehicles heading south past the Dalmeny turn off.

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

Wanted to ‘silence’ witness: man jailed for murder

The man who killed 14-year-old Edward Lee and murdered the wife of a man he believed was going to give evidence against him has been sentenced to at least 30 years jail.
Nanjing Night Net

Mustapha Dib, now 29, was found guilty of the murder of Anita Vrzina, 20, and the shooting with intent to murder of her de facto husband, Ahmed Banat, then 22, at Punchbowl on November 23, 2000.

Dib was aged 17 years and 10 months at the time of the murder, however, in the NSW Supreme Court on Friday, Acting Justice Graham Barr made an order allowing his name to be published. Previously he had been known as “Z”.

Dib was 15 when he stabbed Korean schoolboy Edward Lee in a street brawl between two gangs of Asian and Lebanese youths in Telopea Street, Punchbowl, in 1998. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2001.

The Crown Prosecutor, Craig Patrick, said Dib’s motivation was to “silence” Banat “because he could become a witness against him in the Lee case”.

Banat and his wife were in their car with their two-year-old son in the back when a stolen Nissan Pulsar drove up beside them and a gunman fired four to six shots through a door window.

Ms Vrzina was fatally shot in the chest. Banat was shot in the neck but survived following emergency surgery in St George Hospital.

The Crown case was that, while he was in intensive care, Banat wrote notes to police identifying Dib as the gunman.

However, once he was discharged from hospital, Banat recanted and claimed he did not know who the killer was.

During the trial, Banat told the jury that police “took advantage” of him being under heavy medication and pressured him to wrongly identify his wife’s killer.

In sentencing Dib, Justice Barr said the jury rejected Banat’s version. In a twist, Banat was found guilty of four counts of perverting the course of justice in the Sydney District Court on Tuesday.

Justice Barr said Dib planned the public execution of Banat, either to prevent him giving evidence regarding his part in the killing of Edward Lee, or because he found out that Banat was a police informant.

Dib believed informants should be killed, as should their “next of kin” and any witnesses, Justice Barr said.

Although the murder and the shoot with intent to murder were in the worst category of crime, Justice Barr declined to impose a life sentence because Dib was a minor at the time.

He said Dib had some prospects of rehabilitation.

Dib was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years and maximum 35 years for the murder of Ms Vrzina. He was also sentenced to a minimum 15 years and maximum 20 years for shooting with intent to murder Banat.

With time served and some accumulation of the sentences he will be eligible for parole in July 2041. His total sentence expires in July 2051.

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