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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Gillard told boss she was in the dark on loan

THE Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, told her law firm partners she knew nothing about the mortgage on a Fitzroy property, bought partly with union money stolen by her former boyfriend, despite having been involved in the mortgage arrangements for the property two years earlier.
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A 1993 bank letter confirms Ms Gillard – then a salaried partner with law firm Slater & Gordon – received an insurance certificate of currency, which was required for approval of a $150,000 mortgage provided by the firm’s loan department.

But Ms Gillard denied knowledge of the mortgage when challenged by the firm’s managing partners in late 1995, after they first discovered her involvement in the work.

”I don’t, I don’t think I knew that at the time,” she told senior partner Peter Gordon, according to new details of the interview obtained by Fairfax Media.

A West Australian fraud squad investigation in 1996 found the rest of the purchase money – more than $100,000 – had been siphoned from a union association by Bruce Wilson, Ms Gillard’s then boyfriend and a senior Australian Workers Union official.

The unit in Kerr Street, Fitzroy, was bought in the name of Ralph Blewitt, a union crony of Mr Wilson who this week returned to Melbourne from his home in Malaysia to brief Victorian police, who are considering whether to reopen their investigation into the scandal.

In the newly-released details of her September 1995 meeting with Mr Gordon, Ms Gillard – after being questioned in detail about her work for Mr Wilson and Mr Blewitt – denies any knowledge of the Fitzroy mortgage.

Mr Gordon: ”Were you aware at any time that the balance of the funds to make up the capital was to be provided by contributory mortgage of which Jonathan Rothfield [a Slater & Gordon partner] was trustee?”

Julia Gillard: ”I don’t, I don’t think I knew that at the time, where the source of funds was. It’s subsequently been raised with me that that was done through the Slater & Gordon mortgage register but I didn’t have any recollection of that.”

The additional transcript material has been released by Nick Styant-Browne, another former equity partner in the firm, after he was contacted by Fairfax with questions about the mortgage.

He said he was able to release it as it clearly did not involve any issues of lawyer-client confidentiality.

A spokesman for Ms Gillard said she stood by her statements in the interview with Mr Gordon and had no recollection of seeing the bank correspondence.

A Commonwealth Bank letter sent to Ms Gillard on March 22, 1993, shows she was involved in the property’s insurance, a prerequisite for the mortgage.

Addressed ”Attention: Julia Gillard” and headed ”certificate of currency”, the letter from the bank’s insurance department confirms the Kerr Street unit had been insured in the name of Ralph E. Blewitt.

”In accordance with your request, we advise the building/s are insured for $200,000 with the Commonwealth Bank Insurance Scheme and the policy is renewed until 18th March, 1994,” it says.

On the same day, the letter was sent, a handwritten note in the file headed ”Bruce Wilson” refers to the certificate of currency from the Commonwealth Bank and adds: ”Ralph spoke to Julia Gillard”.

The 400-page conveyancing file also shows Ms Gillard waived professional fees on the conveyancing and loan work, sought and received a detailed briefing on penalty interest provisions for the mortgage and forwarded a cheque from Mr Blewitt for costs associated with the purchase.

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Church groups were asked how to make life harder for asylum seekers

CHURCH groups were canvassed about the government’s tough new asylum seeker policies, including whether banning asylum seekers living in the community from working would be sufficiently punitive to prevent others from making the journey to Australia, sources say.
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The discussions reportedly took place in recent weeks, creating an ethical dilemma for groups working to improve the lives of asylum seekers.

The groups were believed to be highly uncomfortable with being asked to advise the department on measures that would make the lives of asylum seekers more difficult.

The government on Wednesday revealed how its ”no advantage” policy would work for asylum seekers who came to Australia by boat after August 13 and who were not sent to Nauru or Manus Island.

With more than 7500 people arriving since August 13 and the detention network under great strain, the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, said thousands of people would be released into the community while their asylum claims were processed. But anyone who arrived after August 13 would be unable to work for as long as five years and would be eligible only for 89 per cent of the lowest level of the dole.

Pamela Curr from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said the discussions had presented an ethical dilemma to church organisations.

”What’s been happening over the past few weeks is that when the Immigration Department realised that the offshore horror show wasn’t stopping the boats, they’ve been casting around for ways in which to make life in Australia more uncomfortable, frightening and verging on persecution,” Ms Curr said.

”They went to the agencies and said: ‘How could the community detention model, with the no advantage principle, how could we apply no advantage to community detention?’

”Because they realised that the detention centres are filling up and that eventually we’ll have to release people.

”It’s a real ethical dilemma.”

The discussions were confirmed by two other sources but a spokesman for the Immigration Department said: ”It’s not our practice to comment on discussions that may or may not have taken place between DIAC [the Department of Immigration and Citizenship] and other organisations.”

He confirmed, however, that people sent to Nauru and Manus Island will be processed in a separate scheme to those on Australian soil.

”The ones that are already on Nauru and Manus, and the ones that will be transferred there in the future, their claims for protection will be processed within those countries,” he said.

Asked if that meant they would be processed by Nauruan and Papua New Guinean officials, the spokesman said: ”Correct.”

Mr Bowen said on Wednesday that Manus Island was a more appropriate place to send families than Nauru.

Save the Children, which will work with families and children on the island, said it was deeply opposed to mandatory detention, particularly of children, but said it was important children were cared for while they were in detention.

Meanwhile, department figures show that more than one in eight Sri Lankans who have landed in Australia since August 13 have been sent home, the majority against their will.

Another 40 Sri Lankan men were flown home against their will on Thursday, taking to 466 the number of Sri Lankans returned involuntarily since August 13. Since August 13, more than 570 Sri Lankans have returned home – voluntarily and involuntarily.

with Daniel Flitton

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‘Nobody has ever asked me if I’m Aboriginal. This is the only time.’

The actor Jack Charles … ”I don’t want a temporary visa from the Australia Council proclaiming I’m an Aboriginal.”JACK CHARLES’S indigenous background is hardly a secret, but the federal government has a problem believing him.
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His mother was a Bunnerong woman, his father a Wiradjuri man. Charles was born in Melbourne in 1943 and is one of Australia’s most renowned Aboriginal actors.

He was involved in setting up Australia’s first indigenous theatre group, Nindethana, at the Pram Factory in Melbourne in 1971, and most recently performed in the 2012 Sydney Festival production I am Eora, about Sydney’s Aboriginal community. And then there is the colour of his skin.

”Yes, I obviously look like an Aboriginal,” he said.

Yet that is not enough for the federal government’s arts funding body, the Australia Council, which has demanded Charles prove his Aboriginality before it considers his application for a grant to write a book about his life.

But Charles said he should not have to prove what is blindingly obvious.

”I don’t want a temporary visa from the Australia Council proclaiming I’m an Aboriginal,” he said. ”I expect to be treated honourably and with respect … I have received money in the past but nobody has ever asked me if I’m Aboriginal. This is the only time.”

The Australia Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Arts Board has required indigenous applicants to prove their identity since 1997 by providing a letter confirming their indigenous identity from a senior member of the community or registered organisation.

”The policy is not intended to cause offence,” said the board’s executive director, Lydia Miller. ”Rather, it is in place to ensure that this dedicated funding supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.”

Ms Miller said there were no exceptions to the rule.

Charles is in Sydney rehearsing for the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of The Secret River, part of next year’s Sydney Festival. But he said he could not continue with the show, or Belvoir St Theatre’s Coranderrk, scheduled to open in December next year, if the Australia Council continued to insist he prove his Aboriginal identity.

”I’m not going to perform for them if I have to prove I’m a bloody Aboriginal,” he said.

Charles said the policy was flawed, pointing out that many indigenous people, especially members of the Stolen Generation, found it difficult to find information about their background.

He said many other Aboriginal artists and performers had been ”rudely abused by this policy”.

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Diagnosis was ‘smokescreen’ to hide known paedophiles

THE Catholic Church’s little-known treatment clinic for clergy with psychosexual problems harboured known paedophiles and shielded them from police scrutiny.
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Whistleblowers closely involved with the now defunct Encompass Australasia program allege paedophile clergy were diagnosed with a ”mood disorder” in order for them to be treated at Sydney’s Wesley Private Hospital and meet private health insurance criteria.

A well-placed source aware of the status of some clergy treated by Encompass Australasia between 1997 and 2008 said he believed several did not have a mood disorder but were ”cold and calculating criminals” who bragged about their exploits with children to others while at the hospital.

”Some of these people were not mentally ill, in my opinion. They were criminals who knew exactly what they had done and were proud of their achievements,” the source, who asked not to be named for fear of being sacked, said. ”People who should have been in Long Bay Jail were still living in the community.”

Another source with intimate knowledge of the Encompass Australasia program said one senior priest who received treatment was nicknamed “Hannibal the cannibal” because of the exuberant way he described his treatment of young boys.

Fairfax Media can reveal new details about a paedophile Marist brother treated by Encompass Australasia in 2002-03 before being sent to Rome to work for the church instead of being reported to police.

Documents lodged in the ACT Supreme Court in 2010 allege senior Catholic leaders, including the former headmaster of a Queensland school, knew Marist brother Ross Murrin was sexually abusing his students in the late 1970s and early 1980s but failed to act.

A statement of claim lodged by an alleged victim of Murrin’s states that the former headmaster of St Augustine’s boarding school in Cairns, Brother Gerald Burns, gave circus tickets to two boys who complained about Murrin’s abuse, allegedly telling them it was in recognition of ”all the bother”.

Brother Burns was appointed as a member of the Order of Australia in 2003 for ”service to youth welfare, particularly through the development of the innovative services and programs of Marist Youth Care”.

Several sources have said that although the clinicians at Encompass Australasia ran a world-class treatment centre, the facility was used by some church leaders as a “smokescreen” to hide known paedophile clergy.

Fairfax Media on Saturday revealed the church’s possession of thousands of pages of documents detailing the psychosexual profiles of dozens of clergy accused of sexually abusing children and vulnerable adults. It is understood that none of the clergy treated was referred to police for investigation, despite senior church leaders being aware of serious allegations – or in some cases, admissions – that led to clergy being admitted to the clinic.

Neither the former chief executive of Encompass Australasia nor the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference-which established the clinic- returned calls to Fairfax Media or answered written questions. A Marist Brothers spokesman failed to return calls.

The NSW upper house MP Gordon Moyes, who as superintendent of the Wesley Mission in the late 1990s was closely involved with the Encompass Australasia program being set up at the Wesley Private Hospital, said this week that neither he nor hospital administrators knew the identity of clergy sent for treatment, or the nature of their offences. “In general we knew that they were largely priests of the Catholic Church who had engaged in various forms of serious sexual sins, particularly against children,” the Reverend Moyes said. “But Encompass was extremely secretive about all their business relationships.”

Mr Moyes said although the rehabilitation of paedophile clergy was important, church leaders had a duty to report alleged criminal offences involving children to police.

Encompass Australasia treated about 1100 clergy for sexual abuse problems as well as depression and substance addictions.

High-ranking Catholic Church figures such as the Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, and Father Brian Lucas, the general secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, were directors of Encompass Australasia, which was deregistered in 2010. The Catholic Church’s insurance company was also closely linked to Encompass Australasia.

In the case of Encompass Australasia patient Murrin, court documents allege the Catholic diocese of Cairns, the trustees of the Marist Brothers, and several senior individual Marist brothers failed to protect young male students at a Queensland boarding school from Murrin.

A statement of claim lodged by a former student at St Augustine’s college in Cairns alleges several teachers saw a young male boarder in Murrin’s private bedroom on at least six occasions but did nothing other than instruct the student to leave.

It further alleges the school’s then principal, Brother Burns, was told in 1981 by the plaintiff, whose name is suppressed, and the plaintiff’s father of Murrin’s repeated sexual abuse of him and other boarders.

The Cairns school was the third Murrin taught at. He had been shifted there after he was accused of sexually abusing students at schools in NSW and Canberra in the 1970s.

Despite Murrin writing letters of apology to the Marist Brothers order and the family of one of the Cairns students, his actions were not reported to police. Instead he was transferred to other schools. At his sixth school, St Gregory’s in Campbelltown, NSW, Murrin sexually assaulted another student in the mid-1980s.

He was convicted of this crime in 2010, when he was already serving an 18-month sentence for sexual abuse offences against students in the 1970s.

Murrin was shifted to a total of 11 schools by the Marist Brothers and continued teaching until 2002, when he was placed in the Encompass Australasia program and then sent to Rome.

Murrin was never referred to police by Encompass Australasia, the Marist Brothers or other church leaders. Police sought his arrest in 2007 after being contacted by his victims. One of Murrin’s victims killed himself in 1987.

The Catholic diocese of Cairns, the trustees of the Marist Brothers, Brother Burns and several other Marist brothers have indicated to the ACT Supreme Court their intention to challenge the former student’s claim on jurisdictional grounds.

Murrin, through his lawyer Greg Walsh, has also indicated his intention to respond to the claim.

Another paedophile Marist brother treated by Encompass Australasia, Brother Kostka Chute, was also the subject of complaints to senior church figures at least 15 years before he was charged by police in 2008.

Like Murrin, Chute was treated at Encompass Australasia in 2002 for a “psychosexual disorder”. He was not referred to police after his treatment.

Porters Lawyers solicitor Jason Parkinson, who has represented victims of Murrin and Chute, said the royal commission into child abuse must examine those who aided and abetted known paedophiles.

with Philip Dorling and Nick McKenzie

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Sixty years on, ‘exotic’ Colombo Plan alumni to revisit Alma Mater

WHEN Tennyson Rodrigo came to Australia from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to study chemical engineering in 1952, he was so ”exotic” that the Herald ran a front page picture of him attending a ball, and he was invited on to ABC Radio to introduce Australian audiences to the sitar.
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Mr Rodrigo was one of the University of NSW’s first international students and an early recruit of the Colombo Plan, a government ”soft power” scholarship program that sought to develop the Asian region by educating its best students in Commonwealth countries. Back then White Australia was still in place and the University of NSW was a collection of makeshift classrooms and dormitories.

Now Mr Rodrigo is 82, the campus is a multibillion-dollar hi-tech mini-city, and international education is the state’s second biggest export industry after mining, injecting $6 billion a year into the NSW economy. In a survey this year of 12 leading global cities, Sydney had by far the most international students, with about 180,000, nearly twice as many as the runner-up London with 99,000.

Many of the 20,000 students educated under the Colombo Plan between 1952 and 1985 went on to hold senior positions in the public and private sectors of their home countries, including the Indonesian Vice-President, Boediono.

Mr Rodrigo established Sri Lanka’s first oil refinery and first nitrogenous plant, before taking up senior positions in banking, consulting and industry. He is among Colombo Plan alumni returning to the Kensington campus this week for a gala dinner celebrating the plan’s 60th anniversary that will be addressed by the Premier, Barry O’Farrell.

Ngiam Tong Yuen, 73, (chemical engineering, 1962) worked to establish electricity, gas and water supplies for Singapore before moving on to leadership roles at Exxon. Hiep Tien Luu, 69, also a chemical engineering graduate, co-founded the respected Lotus University in Ho Chi Minh City.

Jennie Lang, the vice-president, advancement, at the University of NSW, said the success of Colombo graduates ”really spearheaded trade, economic, scientific, industry and education-based collaboration with Australia”.

The chief executive of the Committee for Sydney, Tim Williams, said international students helped create a virtuous circle in the economy, because cities with higher densities of graduates ”are the ones that the world’s talented people are flocking to”.

The Colombo Plan was so successful in developing long-standing relationships in the region that the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, proposes to revive it, though his version would have a more ”mutual” flavour, with Australian students studying in Asian countries as well.

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Brumby ‘beast’ ready to rumble

Tom Cox during training at Brumbies HQ, Griffith.Tom Cox finally has the size to match his speed and after a transformation into a ”totally different beast”, the ACT Brumbies believe he’s ready to burst into Super Rugby.
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A year after starting his Brumbies career as the lightning-quick skinny kid, Cox has added six kilograms to his frame in a bid to prove he can match it with the biggest and most powerful wingers in Super Rugby.

The Brumbies challenged a slight Cox to bulk up in the off-season.

Speed has never been a problem for the former Australian football player. But running into players who were, at times, 30 kilograms heavier was the biggest hurdle for the 24-year-old.

To combat that, Cox has been eating up to six meals a day and training harder than ever.

He arrived at the Brumbies weighing just 85 kilograms and was capable of running 10 metres a second.

A year later Cox can still run at that rate but now tips the scales at 91 kilograms and is aiming to add two kilograms in the coming months.

It might seem like an extreme transformation.

But Cox admits he needed to change his body to ensure he wouldn’t be used as a speed bump when he gets his Super Rugby opportunity.

”When I came down last year my rugby knowledge wasn’t up to scratch and in terms of physicality I’ve put on six kilos and kept my speed,” Cox said.

”My goal is to get a start for the Brumbies; I just want a crack. I felt underweight last year … with physicality and aggression it’s hard when you’re up against a 100-kilo winger, so things are easier now.

”I’ve got the confidence to get out there and put my body on the line.

”You’ve got to do a lot of eating and a lot of hard work. We get skinfolds measured so you can’t just put on bad fat … I struggle to hold weight so you’re looking at five to six meals a day and I’m not a big eater.”

His hard work off the field is reaping the rewards at training.

With Henry Speight, Joseph Tomane, Andrew Smith and Clyde Rathbone being eased back after injuries, Cox has taken his opportunity to stand tall.

He got limited opportunities to impress in his first year at the Brumbies.

After playing in the pre-season trial matches, he couldn’t force his way into the regular Super Rugby rotation.

But his blistering pace was on display in a midweek tour match against Wales when he tore through some broken defence and left international players grasping for air.

His goal now is to show coach Jake White he can do that every week.

”Coxy is a totally different beast,” Brumbies backs coach Stephen Larkham said.

”His communication and understanding of rugby has gone through the roof; he’s one of our best trainers.

”He’s got a bit more aggression to his game now. There’s going to be a lot of competition in the wing position and Coxy has the jump on a lot of guys who are coming back from injuries. ”

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Abbott: put arrivals to work

TONY ABBOTT is set to up the ante on asylum seeker policy by promising to make the thousands of people soon to be released into the community work for their limited welfare payments.
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If not, they could lose the payments, have them suspended, or possibly be put back in detention.

Based on the current rate at which people are arriving by boat, the policy has the potential to generate a low-paid labour force of about 20,000 people.

The Opposition Leader is developing plans for a mutual obligation scheme, similar to work-for-the-dole, after attacking Labor’s latest policy change which was prompted by an overwhelming number of arrivals. Unable to send to Nauru or Manus Island the thousands who continue to arrive by boat, the government will release them into the community but under the same no-advantage conditions as if they were on one of the Pacific islands. These conditions are designed to discourage people from getting on boats by making them wait as long for permanent residency as if they had stayed in the camp from which they disembarked. The Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, said this could be up to five years.

In the interim, they will be given bridging visas which forbid them to work and forbid family reunions, but to help them get by, they will receive about $435 a fortnight in welfare payments.

Mr Abbott said on Thursday that consigning people to welfare for five years was a poor way to prepare them to become citizens.

He is set to announce that if elected, a Coalition government would subject working-age holders of bridging visas to mutual obligation requirements similar to the work-for-the-dole program.

”The difficulty with [the government’s] announcement – that people coming to Australia illegally by boat will be put on temporary bridging visas with access to welfare before more or less automatically getting permanent residency – is that it means that these people will get Australian citizenship with the worst possible preparation,” Mr Abbott said. ”Five years on welfare, for life in Australia.”

Coalition sources said the details of the policy were still being set but, under options being considered, if an asylum seeker refused to abide by the obligations placed on them, they would lose the welfare payment and face other penalties, including being placed in detention.

Since the government announced the Pacific solution on August 13, about 7600 people have arrived by boat and all arrivals from that date are subject to the no-advantage clause.

Mr Abbott will promise that if elected, he will reintroduce temporary protection visas which will be given to every person who arrives by boat after the election.

But the thousands on Labor’s bridging visas, which a Coalition government would ”inherit”, would be subject to the mutual obligation conditions until those visas expired.

Those put on temporary protection visas would face similar restrictions but may be able to work, as they were able to do so under the Howard government.

Labor’s latest policy change has caused consternation in the Left faction. One of its conveners, the NSW senator Doug Cameron, complained that the policy would create an underclass.

”If you have a situation where people are thrown into the community having to rely on charity then you are creating an underclass in this society,” he said.

”I don’t want people to come here and starve.”

Fairfax Media understands the Left faction convenors will hold a phone hook-up before Parliament resumes on Monday to discuss their displeasure both with the latest policy and the fact that it was not run past the caucus.

One Left source said that despite the unhappiness, the Labor Party had now lurched so far to the right in asylum seeker policy there would be no going back and there was little the faction could do other than complain among itself.

”The horse has bolted,” he said.

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