‘He needs a miracle’: Boy on life support after scooter bashing

MERCURY NEWS SCOOTER ASSAULTPic shows the laneway between Beveridge Street and Tongarra Road in Albion Park where a 16 year old boy was hit on the head with a metal scooter on Saturday the 8th of April. 10th of April 2017 Story by Angela Thompson Photo: Adam McLean Photo: Adam McLeanA teenager who was bashed with a metal scooter in an allegedly unprovoked attack near Wollongong has been placed on life support, with his mother telling well-wishers: “He needs a miracle, so please pray”.


Parents of the critically injured 16-year-old remained at his hospital bedside on Monday as another boy faced court, accused of the senseless attack in Albion Park.

Police say the boys, both aged 16, crossed paths in a laneway between Beveridge Street and Tongarra Road about 1.45pm Saturday, each accompanied by a friend.

The aggressor allegedly hit his victim to the head with the scooter before fleeing.

Police arrested him at a Warilla home about 9.15pm on Sunday and refused him bail, citing his “extensive criminal history given his age”, including convictions for past violent offences.

He was charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and the assault of a second victim – the injured teen’s friend.

In their bail determination, police also cited concerns for the victims and their families.

“The young person is charged with a serious assault that was unprovoked,” police alleged. “The victim in this matter is currently in an induced coma and his prognosis is not positive.

“After the offence, the young person made threats towards [one of] the victims.

“Police ??? believe that the young person is a threat to the community if he is to be released on bail.”

The teen did not apply for bail and was this was formally refused at Campbelltown Children’s Court on Monday.

The injured teen’s parents issued a statement on Monday, thanking supporters and requesting privacy.

They described their son as a well-known and liked member of the Albion Park community, with strong links to the Uniting Church and local soccer club.

He remains in a critical but stable condition.

In posts on social media, the boy’s mother said doctors were closely monitoring his injury.

“Things are going by the hour,” she said, later adding that he had been placed in an induced coma and had part of his skull removed as part of efforts to relieve pressure on his brain.

She told supporters her son was supposed to have travelled to Lismore on Monday to assist the flood recovery effort.

“We don’t know if he will survive ??? for any of you [who] know him, he would give the shirt off his back ??? that is the young man he was becoming.”

Police have taken numerous statements in relation to the assault.

They allege the attacker and a 14-year-old boy also allegedly involved in the assault later made admissions to police.

The 14-year-old has not been charged but will be dealt with under the Young Offenders Act.

Under the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act, neither the victims or the accused can be named.

Illawarra Mercury

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Mesoblast shares surge on key research program progress

Shares in long unloved biotech Mesoblast surged on Monday on research results that analysts said represent a key “derisking event” for the company that could lead to the finalisation of partnering negotiations as well as access to the key US market sooner than expected.


By the close of trading on Monday, the shares were ahead 10 per cent at $2.67, hitting 18-month highs and giving investors who recently backed a $US40 million placement which was priced at $2 extra reason for celebrating.

Mesoblast shares are a long way from their all-time peak of $9.99 touched a little over five years ago, with aggressive short selling amid deepseated doubts by some investors about aspects of its stem cell platform pushing the shares down to long-term lows near $1 in mid-2016, with sentiment also hurt by a fumbled placement to US investors in 2015.

The biggest risk factor faced by the company has been its research into chronic heart failure, and the decision by the Israeli-based drug major Teva Pharmaceutical to walk away from a partnership deal with Mesoblast over the program in mid-2016 saw shares in the local biotech company collapse.

“Even though it was a blinded trial, everyone assumed the Teva decision must have meant it was bad news about the trial,” said Bell Potter analyst Tanushree Jain. “Those concerns should now fade.”

On Monday, Mesoblast disclosed that its treatment for chronic heart failure had met its primary efficacy endpoint so the research trial can now be completed.

“Passing this interim futility analysis … is an important milestone for Mesoblast and for our cardiovascular disease program,” Mesoblast chief executive Silviu Itescu said. “This validates our strategy and our prioritisation of this valuable program.”

More importantly, analysts said they now expect the company to move quickly to finalise partnering negotiations covering the treatment.

“This is a big derisking event,” Ms Jain said of Monday’s disclosure about the heart failure program.

Mesoblast recently disclosed it is negotiating with US drug major Mallinckrodt covering its treatment for chronic lower back pain, which has also helped to boost sentiment towards its shares.

Also fuelling the share price gains in recent weeks has been likely short covering, brokers said.

“I would assume short positions will have to be covered,” one broker said of the large short position in Mesoblast shares.

According to ASIC data, short-sellers control around 5 per cent of Mesoblast’s shares on issue, ranking it one of the most heavily shorted issues on the ASX.

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Art Gallery of NSW director ‘left in limbo’ over long-term future

SMH NEWS Michael Brand, Director of the Art Gallery of NSW with designs on deisplay for the Sydney Modern project. 11th August 2015Photograph Dallas Kilponen Photo: Dallas KilponenEXCLUSIVE


A shadow has been cast over the future of Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand after the institution’s board declined to renew his five-year tenure for another full term, citing pressures over its controversial $450 million Sydney Modern expansion project.

Mr Brand’s contract, which expires in June, was extended for a further 12 months only, prompting claims that his days were numbered at the gallery. “It is hardly a vote of confidence in him,” said Fairfax Media art critic John McDonald.

“It is not a good solution for the institution or for him. It ensures we have another year of the gallery being in limbo without effective leadership.”

Board of Trustees president David Gonski said the decision not to renew Mr Brand’s term for a full five years was based on public service rules, introduced in 2014, requiring long-term senior appointments to be first advertised widely. Undergoing that process and making Mr Brand reapply for his job while he was seeking donors for Sydney Modern could destabilise the plan, he said.

“This is not the right time for such a process as the gallery works to secure final public and private funding for our major expansion,” he said.

Mr Brand was a “strong arts administrator” who brought “strategic vigour and creative clarity” to the gallery, he added.

Mr Brand was in Japan on Monday working with architects on Sydney Modern and unavailable for comment. The controversial plan would double the gallery’s size, with spaces for large-scale exhibitions, a restaurant and function centre.

But former prime minister Paul Keating has labelled it a “land grab” entertainment complex “masquerading as an art gallery”.

A lack of public benefactors championing the proposal has left questions hanging over the ambitious $450 million development. It is thought that Mr Brand, who has championed the plan, might consider departing the gallery if the money is not found.

His relatively short tenure – following predecessor Edmund Capon’s 33-year term – has also been marred by increasingly rancorous relations with the Art Gallery Society of NSW.

Annual visitor numbers to the gallery since his appointment in mid-2012 have fallen by 11 per cent, to under 1.3 million.

“You would have to say that his tenure has not been a success by and large,” Mr McDonald said. “It’s a sad thing for him because he has done all the early work on Sydney Modern and they have more or less said to him you’ve got one year. He can hardly be happy with this.”

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Hunter BreakfastTuesday, April 11, 2017

Morning Shot: The Radiance of the Seas in Newcastle on Tuesday morning. Picture: @wojobungo/InstagramTraffic: A truck has broken down on the Pacific Highway at Charlestown, closing one of three northbound lanes near Warners Bay Road. Drivers are urged to exercise caution. A caravan has also broken down on the M1 at Bar Point, affecting northbound traffic.


Weather:Late shower or two, windy in Newcastle (22 degrees), Nelson Bay (23 degrees). Possible late shower in Wallsend (24 degrees), Raymond Terrace andToronto (24 degrees).

Trains: Good service on the Newcastle and Hunter lines.

Beachwatch:With a gale warning in place, once again you’ll need to rug up if you’re heading beachside. The wind will head southwest to south with the swell on the rise from the south and should be around 2 to 3 metres by the afternoon. Most breaks will be chopped up and messy with the southern ends your best chance of a cleaner wave. Around town try Stockton, Nobbys, Flatrock, Merewether and Dudley. Down south try Blacksmiths, Caves and Catho. At Port Stephens try Fingal and One Mile. Strong rips and heavy edges will develop so do be careful if swimming. The water temperature is 20 degrees.

Hunter headlinesA FORMER firefighter who lit two bushfires near Nabiac during 45-degree heat because the children with him “liked fire trucks” has been jailed for a maximum of nearly two years and ordered to pay more than $14,000 in compensation. Read more.

IT’S doubtful Newcastle Entertainment Centre ever housed as much Lego as it isforBrickman Experience, a toy sculpture expo of space shuttles, Ferrarisand ancient wonders with a brick count in the millions. Read more.

A man has been arrested and charged following a crime spree across the Hunter. Read more.

A FRESH police strike force has been set up to investigatetheworryingescalation in the Hunter’sbikie violenceamid growing concernsan innocent bystander could be seriously injured or killed in the crossfire. Read more.

Juliana Bahr-Thomson doesn’t watch TV.So she doesn’t make a habit of watching Bondi Rescue, theshow she stars in. Read more.

While the Knightshave been widely praised for their improved efforts this year, competing for 80 minutes in all but one game, the reality is that at the corresponding stage of last season they had one extra competition point, after a win against Wests Tigers and a draw with Canberra. Read more.

JETS chief executive Lawrie McKinna says club owner Martin Lee has never once raised the subject of sacking embattled coach Mark Jones. Read more.

State of the NationNeedanational newssnapshotfirst thing?Well, we have you covered.

REGIONAL NEWS►WOLLONGONG:A teenager who wasbashed with a metal scooter in an allegedly unprovoked attack at Albion Park has been placed on life support, with his mother telling well-wishers: “he needs a miracle, so please pray”.

Parents of the critically injured teen remained at his hospital bedside on Monday as another boy faced court, accused of the senseless attack. Read more

Police say the teenaged victim (inset) was critically injured near this Albion Park laneway.

►BALLARAT:The Ballarat Football League has sent a reminder to all local football supporters of the boundaries surrounding player-supporter interactionafter one spectator entered the field of play to give Melton South star-attraction Brendan Fevola a chip in the last quarter of its clash with Melton on Saturday. Watch the video here

A still from the video. Watch it here

►PORT PIRIE:A truck driver who had drugs in his system when he collided with three cyclists outside Port Pirie has been sentenced to nearly five years in prison. Read more

►DUBBO:The home left by a man in a bequest to help defeat cancer before he lost his life to the disease will go up for auction on Wednesday. Andrew Freckleton Harley made the generous gift to Cancer Council NSW motivated by his hope for a cancer-free future. Read more

Andrew Harley, pictured, made the bequest of his home to the Cancer Council before his death in 2015. Photo contributed.

►LAUNCESTON:A luxury shipbuilder hopes to increase production in its Launceston facility after selling the first convertible tender for super-yachts. Van Diemen Luxury Craft has built and delivered a luxury11 metre tender to a clientin Sydney. Read more

SAIL: The 11 metre Sports Limousine was designed and built in Launceston. Picture: Supplied

►MANDURAH: When resident Roshelle Taylor speaks about her daughter Yvonne she can’t hold back the tears. Fourteen months after her daughter died, the 19-year-old said shebelievesher life would be completely different had she taken a simple blood test while pregnant. Read more

Roshelle Taylor with her baby Yvonne. Ms Taylor wants to raise awareness about CMV testing to avoid other women going through the same ordeal. Photo: Supplied.

►JIMBOOMBA: Anyone impacted by ex-Cyclone Debbie has been encouraged to apply for financial assistance. Some of the assistance packages are detailed here.

Flood scenes … assistance is out there.

NATIONAL WEATHERWhat does it look like in your neck of the woods today?

NATIONAL NEWS►To be played by John Clarke was a badge of honour for many politicians. While some humourless types might grouch about being lampooned, others took it as a sign that they were, if nothing else, recognisable enough to be the target of Clarke’s coruscating wit.

“His laconic wit was rarely wide of the mark. I should know. With lethal accuracy he made politicians and prime ministers his prey,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said. Read more

John Clarke. Photo: Simon Schluter

►Treasurer Scott Morrison has indicated a tax on empty housing stock could be in the May budget, along with plans to encourage elderly Australians to downsize their homes.

He also left the door open to allowing first home buyers to raid their superannuation to fund a deposit, and said further tightening on regulations for foreign investors had “his very close attention”. Read more

Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen speaks in the Omnibus Bill at Parliament House in Canberra. Photo: Andrew Meares

►He is serving a prison sentence over his secret business dealings at Circular Quay.Now Eddie Obeid’s family has been hauled into court to answer questions about the cash profits from two harbourside cafes at the centre of the trial.

The former NSW Labor minister’s wife of 51 years, Judith Obeid, appeared in the witness box in the Supreme Court in Sydney on Monday to give evidence about how the money was spent.Read on

VIDEO SPECIALImagine rising to 3000 feet in a plane not too dissimilar to something used in World War II when the engine seems to quietly stall, the nose tips towards the ocean above Port Kembla and you start spinning.Ahead of this year’s Wings Over Illawarra air show, organisers decided to put reporter Desiree Savage in one of theSouthern Biplanesto find out exactly what it’s like. Watch the video here

Southern Biplane Adventures pilot Chris Clark puts journalist Desiree Savage through a full aerobatics routine, similar to what you’d see from the ground at the Wings Over Illawarra air show. Picture: Adam McLean

WORLD NEWS ►SAN BERNARDINO: At least two adults were killed and two studentswere struck by gunfire in a classroom shooting on Monday at a Southern California elementary school, police and fire officials said.

San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said the shooting at North Park Elementary School,east of Los Angeles, appeared to a “murder-suicide” and that two wounded students had been taken to the hospital for treatment. Read on

►GAZA STRIP: Everybody in Gaza fears another war. After the 2014 conflict, which killed 2250 Palestinians and 70 Israelis, little has changed on the ground for the territory’s 2 million residents.

A local psychiatrist, Khaled Dahlan, recently told me in Gaza that Palestinians had multi-generational trauma, having been dispossessed and attacked for decades. “We have had so many conflicts” in the last 70 years, he said.

The World Health Organisation estimates that at least 20 per cent of the population has severe mental illness. Read more

Aesha O. Abu Shaqfa, Executive Director of the NGO Future Development Commission, Gaza, March 2017. Photo: Antony Loewenstein

►MOSCOW:Western powers are weighing new sanctions on Russia and Syria for a deadly chemical attack last week, as leaders seek to present a united front ahead of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Moscow.

“The game has now been changed and it’s important that message should be heard from the Americans to the Russians,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told reporters on the first of two days of talks between foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) nations in the ancient Tuscan town of Lucca. Read on

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY2015 U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro meet at the Summit of the Americas in Panama for talks aimed at thawing relations; the historic meeting marks the first interaction in decades between top leaders of the two nations.

2013 Japan’s Honda, Nissan and Mazda automakers announce plas to recall 3.4 million cars due to airbag defects.

2011 In France, a law banning wearing the burqa and hijab goes into effect.

1986 Halley’s Comet makes closest approach to Earth this trip, 63 M km.

1972 U.S.S.R. performs underground nuclear test

1967 Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,” premieres.

1961Bob Dylan’s 1st appearance at Folk City, Greenwich Village.

1951 President Truman fires General Douglas McArthur.

1947 Jackie Robinson becomes 1st black in modern major-league baseball.

1906 Einstein introduces his Theory of Relativity.

FACES OF AUSTRALIA:Johnny KasselInspired by the recent wet weather-inspired fungus photo galleries, Johnny Kassel has shared his passion for the fascinating organism.Johnny Kassel has lived ion the Mid-North Coast of NSW for about 12 years and hasan avid interest in nature, especially the flora and fauna native to the Macleay region. Check out his fine fungi here

Johnny Kassel from Collombatti near Kemsey has been captivated by the diversity of fungi popping up in his garden lately.

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Axe hovers over ‘hopeless’ work-for-the-dole program

The Turnbull government’s powerful expenditure review committee has discussed axing one of Tony Abbott’s first major policy achievements, the work-for-the-dole program.


But a group of backbench MPs have lobbied Treasurer Scott Morrison as part of a rearguard action to save it, with one describing work for the dole as “red meat for the base” and warning that axing it would infuriate the party’s conservative supporters.

Fairfax Media has been told axing work for the dole was discussed when the budget razor gang met last week but a final decision has not been made.

The proposal to axe the policy, introduced by Mr Abbott in 1998 as a junior minister in the Howard government, was floated as the Turnbull government continues to hunt for savings.

Another signature Abbott policy, the Green Army program, was killed off last December in the mid-year budget update.

With the May 9 budget fast approaching, decisions have not yet been taken on a number of other big ticket budget items – including a cut to the capital gains tax discount rate – which some senior ministers are arguing forcefully for, and others vehemently oppose.

Last year’s budget diverted $500 million from work for the dole over four years to the PaTH youth employment program but maintained $648.5 million in funding.

Andrew Laming, one of the MPs who lobbied Mr Morrison on the issue, said it was a “signature Liberal Party policy” that should not be dumped.

The Queensland MP told Fairfax Media he was a “big supporter of work for the dole” as it “provides an absolutely vital foundation…for work-ready job seekers in this country”.

“Without it, it is very hard for other arrangements like the newly conceived PaTH program to fill that gap. The loss of work for the dole would lead to 150,000 young Australians having to front up to futile job interviews to meet their activity requirements, which does little to get them a job,” he said.

“The skills learned on work for the dole are an important bridging process to being ready for a real workplace. It’s actually in the nation’s interest to have a pool of people with experience, a strong resume and supervisor references to give them a shot at a slice of the pie.”

However another Liberal MP, who asked not to be named, said while the policy was popular with the party’s base it was “shit” and “it should be dead; it’s a hopeless program”.

Work for the dole requires people who are unemployed to work in what are often low-supervision, menial tasks such as cleaning and labouring in exchange for access to welfare payments. It was wound back under the former Labor government but revived by Mr Abbott when he became prime minister.

A spokesman for Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said “Work for the dole is a key component of the government’s mutual obligation regime. The government has no plans to abolish the programme.”

On Tuesday morning, the minister issued a further statement: “Work for the dole is fundamental to our efforts to get people off welfare and into work. The government will not be abolishing work for the dole. Any suggestion to the contrary is simply incorrect.”

Ms Cash did not address, nor deny, that the expenditure review committee had discussed axing the program.

A government-commissioned $340,000 review of the program last year found the probability that an unemployed person will find a job improved by just 2 percentage points because of work for the dole.

But the researchers found a positive response from a majority of participants, with two-thirds saying their “soft skills” – or people skills – had increased.

From January to September 2016, 86,309 people began participating in work-for-the-dole activities. Of those people, 36,544 participants were under the age of 30 and the balance, 49,765 were over the age of 30.

Of those who participated in the program, 59,898 had been unemployed for more than 12 months, 25,368 for six to 12 months and just 1043 for less than six months.

The St Vincent de Paul Society labelled work for the dole a “demonstrable failure” in its pre-budget submission to the government and recommended it be scrapped.

The Australian Council of Social Services said the $250 million spent on the scheme last year would be better spent in the Employment Fund, helping the long-term unemployed find work experience and training that would improve their job prospects.

Anglicare Australia also recommended work for the dole “and similar punitive approaches to Newstart” be dropped in favour of investment in partnership programs that “deliver wrap-around support, education and on-the job training”.

– with Amy Remeikis, Heath Aston

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Journalists put their bloopers out in solidarity with Natasha Exelby

Australian journalists have taken to social media to share their most embarrassing blunders to show solidarity with ABC news presenter Natasha Exelby.


The national broadcaster is reportedly moving to bar Exelby from future on-air roles after a hilarious clip of her appearing to daydream while the camera cut back to her went viral. A spokeswoman has, however, denied this.

The 12-second video, which was shared by the ABC’s Media Watch program, shows the journalist fiddling with her pen before a look of horror flashes across her face when she realises she is on-air.

Now, Exelby’s fellow presenters and journalists have protested her potential demotion through the hashtag #PutYourBloopersOut.

Political journalist and veteran television commentator Malcolm Farr said he once broke down in childish giggles on Sky News after Tony Abbott said he was “between two stools”.

Tracey Spicer, meanwhile, said she has fainted twice on television and once said “f—” live on-air. I started eating a Tim Tam live on air during rolling coverage of a leadership spill #putyourbloopersout??? Ashleigh Gillon (@ash_gillon) April 10, 2017

@[email protected] I once broke down in childish giggling on Sky News after Tony Abbot said he was “between two stools”.??? Malcolm Farr (@farrm51) April 10, 2017

@NatashaExelby i’m glad my LITTLE thing wasnt on the ABC they would have had me castrated.#putyourbloopersout

I did this. #PutYourBloopersOuthttps://t.co/PpcNSWjRpg??? Joe Hildebrand (@Joe_Hildebrand) April 10, 2017

@[email protected] Presenting “the Country Hour” I had an awkward stumble on the second word. Unavoidable really ….??? Lauren Waldhuter (@laurenwaldhuter) April 10, 2017

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Naming, shaming, reporting part of new reforms for banks

GENERIC ASIC. AFR Picture by JIM RICE, 22.10.07. AFR FIRST USE. SPECIALX 73136AFR 28-05-2014 Photo: Jim RiceBanks, financial services houses and credit companies will face public naming and shaming over bad behaviour in a suite of major reforms being considered by the Turnbull government.


However, the reforms put forward by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission enforcement review taskforce do not include naming the executives in charge of the division and the division in which the breach occurred, as recommended by the recent parliamentary inquiry into the banking sector.

The proposed public breach reporting regime will be delivered on an annual basis to consumers and will list the licence holder, ie the bank or financial services house, where the breach occurred.

The proposed breach register is part of a wider set of reforms included in a position and consultation paper that will be released by Revenue and Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer on Tuesday.

The reforms come after a slew of scandals in the financial services industry, including gross misconduct such as forgery, fraud and management cover-up in the financial planning arms of major financial institutions and life insurance companies.

Lax work practices and arcane IT systems have also led to millions being paid back to consumers due to breaches in the administration of superannuation funds, credit card fees and other banking products.

The taskforce was set up last October in response to the scandals and as an alternative approach to the ALP and the Greens, which are pushing for a royal commission into the industry.

Ms O’Dwyer told Fairfax Media the proposals would lead to significant reform.

“It’s all about ensuring that we have practical measures in place that ensure that our financial system is strong, that misconduct is exposed and penalties and sanctions apply when that occurs,” Ms O’Dwyer said.

“The proposals outlined in this paper are aimed at improving transparency and accountability in the financial services sector by broadening and strengthening the obligations on licensees to make timely reports to ASIC about misconduct or suspected misconduct that they become aware of,” she said.

Under the proposed reforms, the requirement to report misconduct by rogue financial advisers to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission will also be beefed up by expanding the class of reports that must be made to expressly include misconduct by individual advisers and employees.

The taskforce is also considering tightening up breach reporting rules and expanding them to take in credit licensees.

At the moment, banks and other financial services licensees have to report “significant breaches” of the Corporations Act to ASIC. However, there has been considerable ambiguity and subjectivity in what is a “significant breach”, with some financial service licensees reporting some breaches and others not depending on their view of the significance of the breach.

The taskforce is instead considering adding an additional test to the significant breach requirement, which includes a more detailed “objective standard” such as used in Britain.

Consideration is also being given to whether breaches should be reported within 10 days of the licensee becoming aware of the breach instead of after the licensee confirms the breach.

Ms O’Dwyer said the public and the government shared concerns about rogue advisers being moved on to other institutions without reports being made regarding their misconduct.

“We want to make sure that any adviser or employee who’s guilty of misconduct is appropriately dealt with and obviously not in a position to do harm in the future,” she said.

Financial services licensees will also face penalties if they are caught out not reporting breaches to ASIC under the proposed reforms.

Ms O’Dwyer said the taskforce and government was consulting on the naming of executives in charge of departments where breaches occur but there was not many examples internationally where that had occurred.

“But we certainly do know when you increase the public reporting around particular financial institutions in a timely manner that this can have a significant cultural impact on those institutions,” she said.

The taskforce will provide its recommendations to the government by the end of this September.

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New minister advised to ban greyhound racing within one year of defunding industry

Sport. Canberra Greyhounds. Race 2 runners blast out of the starting boxes.July 10th 2016The Canberra TimesPhotograph by Graham Tidy. Photo: Graham TidyGovernment officials advised new racing minister Gordon Ramsay to ban greyhound racing in the ACT within 12 months of defunding the sport in Canberra.


A cache of ministerial briefings and emails released under freedom of information laws have revealed how the government’s plans to withdraw $1 million a year to the Canberra greyhound racing industry evolved, after NSW moved to ban the sport in July last year.

The ACT’s industry would have been collateral damage, as Greyhound Racing NSW licensed trainers and investigated animal welfare breaches as part of its agreement with the Canberra Greyhound Racing Club.

Briefing notes provided to then racing minister Mick Gentleman in August last year said it was likely the costs of establishing a regulatory framework in the ACT “would outweigh the benefits for the government”.

The industry hit back by saying it could instead regulated by Victoria’s peak body. In a proposal submitted to Mr Gentleman, the Canberra Greyhound Racing Club outlined plans to make the ACT a haven for greyhound racing.

Their plans ranged from a “moderate expansion of racing in the ACT” to setting up a Centre of Excellence in which the ACT would “become the national home of greyhounds” in which a “significant race schedule will transform the local industry to a multi-million dollar industry”.

However the NSW government’s subsequent reversal of the ban in favour of tighter regulation somewhat dampened the proposal.

A ministerial brief to Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay, dated December 1, 2016, said there was still a possibility to grow greyhound racing in Canberra despite the backflip, given that the NSW government had vowed to close down race tracks.

The growth could be as such that it could be possible for the industry to get by without government assistance.

“As the withdrawal of funding is not assured of resulting in in an end to the industry in the ACT to end the operation of the industry it will be necessary to amend relevant legislation to in effect prohibit the activity of greyhound racing,” the brief said.

“Subject to confirmation of the required legislative changes and any associated actions it will be necessary to clarify the timeframe for implementation of the prohibition. Subject to discussions with industry it is suggested that a maximum period of 12 months from the end of the current memorandum of understanding (MoU) be provided to transition to the end of greyhound racing in the ACT.”

The legislative amendments needed to ban the sport were described in another document as “straightforward”.

Before the election, the government appeared to be reluctant to outlaw the sport until two reviews were completed: one on the soon-to-expire $8 million per annum MoU with the racing industry; and a review into the future of greyhound racing in the ACT in light of the NSW ban. The reviews would have cost an estimated $300,000.

Because of the timing of the ACT election and the different policy platforms of the major parties on the port, the reviews stagnated.

Both ACT Labor and the ACT Greens went to the October with plans to defund the greyhound racing industry, which later became a part of their parliamentary agreement.

Their power-sharing deal also included a clause to take practical steps that would lead towards the end of the industry.

A brief to Mr Ramsay, dated November 15 2016, said if the government decided to simply withdraw the $1 million from greyhound racing, a review into the future of the industry might not be warranted.

Mr Ramsay last month appointed former health services commissioner Mary Durkin as an independent consultant to determine how the ACT should phase out greyhound racing.

Mr Ramsay told Fairfax Media at the time: “We have no plans to change the law on July 1 however we will cease funding the industry after July 1 2017. There is no future for the greyhound industry in the ACT.”

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Shorten seeks $620m council stimulus package

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is calling on the Turnbull government to bring forward $620 million in funding for local councils to act as a de-facto stimulus package to drive infrastructure investment and create new jobs.


Small rural and regional councils in particular need an urgent economic boost to fund much-needed maintenance and undertake new projects, Mr Shorten says.

“These communities need jobs and they need them now. This will provide local economies with a shot in the arm, which will mean more local jobs and more investment.”

Mr Shorten’s proposal would involve bringing forward Financial Assistance Grants funding from 2018-19 into next financial year. The money is already in the budget so the move would not worsen the deficit or require cuts in other areas.

Labor says the government has effectively ripped $1 billion from local government by imposing a three-year indexation freeze on the grants funding. Labor promised at the last election to end the indexation freeze this year.

“Local government needs the capacity to plan for the future and make strategic decisions about infrastructure and growing service priorities,” Mr Shorten said.

“The government’s cuts have meant local councils across Australia have been forced to reduce services and increase fees for important things like community care, library opening hours, waste transfer station operations, childcare and community kindergarten.”

Any funding boost should be separate to assistance to communities hit by natural disasters, Mr Shorten said.

Australia has more than 500 local councils, which employ close to 200,000 people. The federal government has paid $48 billion to councils under the grants scheme since the 1970s, including nearly $2.3 billion this year.

The indexation freeze was announced as part of Tony Abbott’s horror 2014 budget. There is speculation the Turnbull government will lift the freeze in next month’s budget although no commitments have been made.

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Animal Justice Party MP admits: ‘I strayed … for that morsel’

He is the first member of the Animal Justice Party to be elected to an Australian parliament, but now Mark Pearson’s credibility is being attacked by angry vegans after he was spotted eating seafood at a Japanese restaurant.


Mr Pearson, a veteran animal rights activist, concedes that he ate fish at the Sydney restaurant but described claims on a vegan community Facebook site he is a regular consumer of seafood there as “absolute rubbish”.

“There was some fish on one of the dishes and I had a bit of it,” he told Fairfax Media.

“I strayed for that moment; for that morsel. It’s all over. I think the people in the party have forgiven me and now we have to get on and do the work for animals.”

The AJP policy on marine animals states: “Eating fish, whether farmed or wild, is incompatible with AJP’s advocacy of a plant-based diet.”

Mr Pearson, who was elected to the NSW Legislative Council in 2015, regularly posts links to news articles about vegan issues.

In an interview for the March/April issue of TheAustralian Vegan Magazine he described himself as “almost vegan”. In February Mr Pearson promoted an article on his Facebook page about the cruelty of eating farmed salmon.

Last week, as part of a story about his being interviewed by police over use of a drone to film a piggery, he told Fairfax Media: “I’m vegetarian”.

“I’ll be looking forward to the day when we don’t rely so much on killing animals for food, obviously, but my main issue is how these animals are being killed,” he said.

However, in March Mr Pearson was spied eating fish at a Japanese restaurant in central Sydney – a sighting quickly reported with great outrage on the Sydney Vegan Club Facebook forum.

“So the lead spokesman for the Animal Justice Party in the Government comes into my work regularly,” a forum member wrote on the closed Facebook group in a post that was obtained by Fairfax Media.

“I work in a Japanese restaurant. Last night they ordered oysters and snapper fish. And they promote a plant based diet on their page, are so passionate about animal rights and the abolishment of everything cruel to do with it in Australia.

“Does anyone else find this a bit f—ed?”

Quizzed on the identity of the diner by fellow forum members, the poster confirmed it was Mr Pearson who, while dining alone, had ordered “oysters and snapper. Last few times he’s ordered sashimi. I asked him about how to join the AJP as well”.

Later, the member added: “I follow his page and support his posts and the AJP completely. It was really upsetting to find out how much of a traitor he is to these poor fish.”

The post elicited a furious response, ranging from condemnation – “Such a f—ing hypocrite” – to defence, with one post reading: “When I think about all the good Mark Pearson has done for animals ??? I think he deserves some respect.”

But Mr Pearson argued that “the main constituents of the party are not vegans or vegetarians”.

“We did not get elected by the vegan community,” he said.

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