Sydney import Josh Childress capable of leading Kings towards NBL crown

An NBL import needs to have two things – the ability to drastically improve his team and box office appeal. Sydney Kings forward Josh Childress has both.

Judging by his NBL debut, Childress has the attributes to improve Sydney’s chances of making the finals, perhaps even challenge for the crown, while also dragging casual fans back to the Kingdome.

He was a class above everyone else on the court in the 86-83 home win over Wollongong last Saturday night.

Childress filled up the box score, finishing the game with 26 points, eight rebounds, three steals, three assists and two blocks. More importantly, he made his teammates better, something last season’s NBA recruit, Sam Young, didn’t always do even though his own stats were usually impressive.

The former Atlanta and Phoenix veteran unselfishly did not appear to be trying to dominate but he controlled proceedings often simply with his presence. The Hawks defenders always knew where he was and their focus on Childress led to a few easy buckets for his fellow forward, Tom Garlepp, who was Sydney’s next highest scorer with 20 on 8/11 shooting.

Due in no small part to the interest created by Childress’ debut, a crowd of 6928 created a rousing atmosphere at the Entertainment Centre. They’ll all be back this season and if the wins keep coming, they’ll be joined by many more from Sydney’s unfailingly fickle sports fan base.

Encouragingly for Kings fans, it was the kind of match they would have lost last year. Repeatedly. In fact they lost all four clashes with their NSW rivals in 2013-14, usually out-hustled and out-muscled by Hawks players proudly wearing a chip on their shoulders against their higher-profile counterparts up the freeway.

Was this just a flash in the pan, yet another false dawn for frustrated Kings fans? Or was this the opening step in the storied franchise’s return to the playoffs after last season’s pathetic fade-out to a disappointing 12-16 record and sixth place.

Granted, it’s only a small sample size but these Kings look to be made of sterner stuff.

Garlepp has continued his rapid improvement from last season, new centre Angus Brandt overcame a shaky start to show he will be a presence in the paint and shooting guard Ben Madgen played his role effectively – now that he doesn’t have to handle the ball as much, he can start hitting his outside shot more regularly like he did two seasons ago when he made the All-NBL first team..

Sydney’s only sour note on opening night was the performance of their other import, point guard Kendrick Perry.

The word from the Kings camp was that Perry was extremely nervous in his NBL debut going up against the more-experience former league MVP in Gary Ervin. Perry got into early foul trouble and never found his groove with only four points on 2/9 shooting in less than 20 minutes on court. However, he did feed some nice passes into Childress, who found the bottom of the net with seven of his 11 field goal attempts.

If Perry can strike up a good combination with his fellow American so Childress doesn’t have to continually create his own shot, he will probably average more than the 26 points he dished up for his opening match in the Australian ranks.

In another good sign for the NBL’s bid to regrow the game, there was an air of unpredictability over the first round of the NBL season. Last year there was an inevitability about Perth winning the title from early in the season. It was just one loss but the Wildcats’ heavy defeat in their fortress-like home gym at the hands of the New Zealand Breakers was a good sign for the competition overall even if the 12,000 plus fans in red shirts went home with faces to match.

And nobody predicted a coach would head for the exit after the first weekend with Chris Anstey sensationally parting ways with Melbourne United after their drubbing at the hands of surprise competition leaders Cairns.

It’s never easy to predict how the Kings will fare week to week, let alone for an entire season, but the early signs were promising that Childress can be the catalyst for this team to become a legitimate title contender.

Taking it to the poll … 

The first Double Dribble poll of the new season asked who will win the NBL title  and it resulted in Perth as the clear favourite from the 1500-plus votes with Sydney, the Breakers and Melbourne the best of the rest.

Court told Daniel Fing used baseball bat in attack on female acquaintance

A 2006 file photo of Daniel Fing.A DRUG-fuelled sleepover ended badly for a female acquaintance of Daniel Fing who says she was beaten about the head with a baseball bat by Mr Fing when she tried to leave.

The 28-year-old, Tugba Zuban, has told police she was involved in a fractured, intimate relationship with Mr Fing which revolved around the purchase and use of heroin.

She had a boyfriend at the time but she nonetheless sometimes slept with Mr Fing who was living in Belmont North at the time, in October of 2012.

According to her statement to police, tendered in Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday as part of the brief of evidence, Ms Zuban, 28, said she woke up and felt sick on October 22 and announced to Mr Fing she was leaving.

As she got up to leave she allegedly felt a blow to the back of her head and she turned to see Mr Fing holding a steel baseball bat with two hands. Ms Zuban said she screamed, then he swung and hit her in the forehead.

He then swung the bat a third time, hitting her in her right arm.

Mr Fing’s mother came to her aid but she did not go to hospital straight away, she said.

When she did attend Belmont Hospital a couple of days later, requiring stitches, she said she had fallen down some stairs. It was not until five days later when she decided that Mr Fing did not show any remorse that she reported the incident to police, she said.

Mr Fing, 30, was committed to face trial in the Newcastle District Court and has not entered a plea to the charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

He remains in custody until his next appearance via video link in the local court on a separate charge.

Medibank Private boss George Savvides says people paying too much for a range of surgeries

Medibank Private chief executive George Savvides says ”Australia cannot afford to let healthcare costs get out of control”. Photo: Mal Fairclough Medibank Private chief executive George Savvides says ”Australia cannot afford to let healthcare costs get out of control”. Photo: Mal Fairclough

Medibank Private chief executive George Savvides says ”Australia cannot afford to let healthcare costs get out of control”. Photo: Mal Fairclough

Medibank Private chief executive George Savvides says ”Australia cannot afford to let healthcare costs get out of control”. Photo: Mal Fairclough

Medibank Private managing director George Savvides has said Australians overpay for common surgeries such as hip replacements and caesarean sections, as the health insurer ramps up its campaign to put a lid on private hospital costs before its $4 billion-plus float.

Across the $19 billion health insurance industry the cost of medical claims is rising faster than revenue from membership premiums. As the government-owned insurer approaches its December initial public offering, Mr Savvides has made no secret of his goal to rein in the amount it pays to private hospitals for care.

Medibank’s ability to put the squeeze on hospitals as a way to boost future earnings is expected to be a key selling point in the insurer’s prospectus, which is due to be lodged with the corporate regulator early next week.

Mr Savvides will meet potential investors next week before travelling overseas in the coming weeks to promote the float, which banks have said could reap between $4.1 billion and $5.7 billion

He also gave a presentation about the sale to staff in Sydney on Wednesday, but declined to provide further comment about the process. The float’s pre-registration closed on Wednesday.

Mr Savvides told a conference that “Australia cannot afford to let healthcare costs get out of control”.

“We’re seeing [customers] who are saying to us … ‘I’m finding it hard either to afford the constancy of health insurance premium increases, year on year, and also I’m tempted to downgrade my cover’,” he said.

Medical claims account for about 87 per cent of Medibank’s $5.6 billion in annual premium revenue.

The insurer, which has a market share of about 30 per cent, has recently begun promoting new “quality and affordability criteria” in contract negotiations with hospitals. Mr Savvides has previously said Medibank does not need to contract with all of the country’s private hospitals.

He told the Australian Healthcare Summit that the insurer’s move from just “paying bills” to having a greater say in where and how its members are treated has riled some in the medical industry. “That’s raised a few eyebrows,” he said.

Mr Savvides pointed to 2013 data from the International Federation of Health Plans, which show the average costs for a range of surgeries. He said he was “worried” that on some measures Australia is in line with the US, which spends 18 per cent of gross domestic product on healthcare, compared to Australia’s 10 per cent.

“There are some things we don’t really want to do well against in terms of US comparatives,” he said.

A hip replacement in Australia was $US26,297 ($30,116), compared to $US26,489 in the US, but just $US19,011 in New Zealand and $US19,722 in the Netherlands, according to the data.

Caesarean sections, which account for about a third of births locally, cost $US10,263. In the US the same procedure cost $US15,240, compared to $US5492 in the Netherlands.

Mr Savvides said Australia performed much better on the cost of a day in hospital, which was $US1308 last year, compared to $US2491 in New Zealand and $US4293 in the US.

But the rising claims costs faced by insurers is not just a function of hospitals charging more, which the providers argue is underpinned by the rising cost of labour and medical supplies.

The jump is also due to an increase in the utilisation of healthcare. Mr Savvides said some of that care could be avoided by having a better functioning healthcare system. Medibank is running a trial in Victoria to better manage the care of chronically ill patients.

Across the industry, patients often described as “frequent flyers” are responsible for a large proportion of an insurer’s outgoing costs. About 2.2 per cent of its 3.8 million members account for 35 per cent of hospital and medical expenditure and 70 per cent of this group have a chronic disease.

Correction: This article has been corrected to remove a reference to Mr Savvides meeting potential investors this week.

Abbott government seeking deal with allies to evacuate Australian Ebola workers

Health Minister Peter Dutton: “I am not going to put Australian health workers into harm’s way without an assurance that we can provide them with the medical assistance if they contract the virus.” Photo: Rohan Thomson Health Minister Peter Dutton: “I am not going to put Australian health workers into harm’s way without an assurance that we can provide them with the medical assistance if they contract the virus.” Photo: Rohan Thomson
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Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek says Australia can be doing more to help the global fight against Ebola. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Health Minister Peter Dutton: “I am not going to put Australian health workers into harm’s way without an assurance that we can provide them with the medical assistance if they contract the virus.” Photo: Rohan Thomson

Health Minister Peter Dutton: “I am not going to put Australian health workers into harm’s way without an assurance that we can provide them with the medical assistance if they contract the virus.” Photo: Rohan Thomson

Health Minister Peter Dutton says there are “no guarantees” any Australian personnel deployed to combat the Ebola crisis in West Africa would receive treatment in Europe or the United States if they became infected with the virus, effectively stalling moves to send health workers.

And Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said it would be “irresponsible” to send Australian personnel to an Ebola hot spot “when we don’t have any means of effectively evacuating such personnel back to Australia and we have no commitments from other countries to treat them there either”.

“I think it would be a little irresponsible of an Australian government to order Australian personnel into this very dangerous situation if we didn’t have effective risk mitigation strategies in place, and at the moment there is no way of doing that,” Mr Abbott told reporters on Thursday.

Addressing criticism that Australia isn’t contributing enough to the international fight against Ebola, Mr Dutton said that without such agreements in place any Australian health worker who became infected would face a minimum 30-hour flight back home and would be unlikely to survive.

He said while the Abbott government is negotiating with the US, Britain and European allies to secure a guarantee of medical treatment for any Australian personnel who contracted the lethal virus in West Africa, it was not prepared to “send Australian health workers into harm’s way without having 100 per cent assurance that we could provide those people with the support they deserve”.

The Health Minister also lashed Labor’s foreign affairs and health spokeswomen, Tanya Plibersek and Catherine King, for breaking from the bipartisan position on Australia’s approach to providing assistance to the virus-hit region.

Ms Plibersek and Ms King have stepped up pressure on the government to do more to help fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

That call came despite the opposition having been briefed by government officials two weeks ago on enormous logistical and medical challenges involved in sending an Australian team to West Africa.

Ms Plibersek said on Thursday that she “simply could not believe” it was beyond Australia’s capacity to strike a deal with a European partner or the US to provide treatment if an Australian health official were to become sick.

“The question here is what’s the scenario if we do nothing? We’ve already heard from the Centre of Disease Control that the current 10,000 cases of Ebola could grow to 1.4 million by the beginning of next year. We’ve been told by the World Health Organization that we’ve got a 60-day window of opportunity to close down the spread of this virus,” she said.

The government is also under pressure from health groups including the Australian Medical Association and the Public Health Association of Australia and aid organisations such as Medecins Sans Frontieres and Save the Children to deploy specialist Australian personnel to support the international effort.

Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman said the advice from those health organisations was that Australia should be involved.

Thus far, Australia has donated $18 million but it has not deployed Australian Medical Assistance Teams.

It is estimated about 30 Australian personnel are already working in West Africa for organisations such as the Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Mr Dutton said the 30-hour flight back meant it would be impractical, if an Australian citizens became infected, to fly them home for treatment.

“I am not going to put Australian health workers into harm’s way without an assurance that we can provide them with the medical assistance if they contract the virus,” Mr Dutton said.

“There are countries in Europe, only a few hours by aeroplane away from West Africa that have decided at this point in time not to send their health workers into harm’s way in West Africa.

“Ms Plibersek needs to explain today what the evacuation plans would be, how it is that if a health worker contracted the Ebola virus, they would receive medical treatment? Because if the advice is not available to government, I don’t know how it is available to the opposition.”

“It is important for us to understand that bringing health workers back to Australia for a 30-hour flight, it is unlikely that they would survive that flight and Labor seem to think we can dispatch plane loads worth of health workers across to West Africa without the proper arrangements in place.”

Foreign Affairs and Defence department officials say the trip home for an infected Australian could take up to a week when all the necessary logistical and medical arrangements that would be needed were taken into account.

Mr Dutton noted the UN had publicly welcomed Australia’s financial contribution to its efforts.

Foreign Affairs officials said that while negotiations had been underway for weeks with ally nations, a “politically bankable” agreement would need to be in place to ensure Australians could get proper treatment if infected.

Those nations are within a few hours flight of the affected West African nations but officials said no nation had been willing to supply such a guarantee. It is accepted by other nations that any Australian infected by Ebola could not be flown home from West Africa because of the long travel time involved.

Some nations are sensitive about the treatment of Ebola-infected non-nationals in their hospitals following the infection of health workers in Spain and the US who treated Ebola-infected patients. Others, such as the United Kingdom do not wish to bring back even their own Ebola-infected nationals for treatment, for fear of the virus spreading to others. The UK Navy is sending a floating hospital ship.

Officials say it is clinically unrealistic to evacuate personnel from West Africa to Australia. They added that Japan and South Korea are also yet to deploy their nationals to West Africa, partly because of the difficulty of evacuating any of their citizens over long distances.

The UK, US and France are setting up treatment centres in West Africa to treat any of their personnel who become infected, but these facilities are not yet in operation.

Australian officials are said to be closely monitoring the establishment of these centres.

Ebola has an incubation period of up to 21 days. Once an infected person moves from having a fever to the so-called “secretory” phase, it can be very difficult to move them safely. Government officials said that to the best of their knowledge, no one had yet been moved once they had entered that phase.

The Australian military does not have aero-medical evacuation capacity – such as a portable isolation unit – necessary to evacuate a patient infected with a virus like Ebola.

A defence official said that it was not possible to compare an agreement that had allowed Australian soldiers wounded in Afghanistan to be treated in Germany as Ebola was an infectious disease.

To date, the fatality rate for people who have contracted Ebola stands at 48 per cent documented for West Africans, 56 per cent for health care workers, but the rate could be as high as 70 per cent because of under-reporting.

Greens health spokesman Richard di Natale, a doctor who has worked with HIV patients in India, urged the government to commit health professionals who were willing to travel to the affected area.

He accused the government of hiding behind a cloak of advice that said “we can’t get people out” from the affected areas and the advice of the chief health officer.

Senator Di Natale said the government’s response was pathetic and that it was only a matter of time before an Australian was infected and that the response had been slow because there were “no votes in poor black Africans dying”.

“If this was another issue, we would be bending over backwards to ensure that we were negotiating with those countries so we had a co-operative agreement.”

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Church’s child protection policy blamed Satan for accusations, royal commission told

A child protection policy at a Pentecostal church implied that abusers should try to avoid detection and said Satan was to blame for accusations, a royal commission has heard.
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The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was told the document was written by two church volunteers with no background in child protection.

The policy was included in a training manual for workers at the Queensland church where a teenage boy was sexually molested between 2004 and 2006.

Chris Peterson, the senior pastor at the church between 2006 and 2012, told the royal commission the policy was drawn up by a trainee teacher and a mother of four or five children.

“[They] had the competencies but perhaps not the professional background,” he said.

The document made references to the Bible which suggested that abusers should avoid being caught and compared those who make allegations with the devil.

Counsel assisting the commission, Simeon Beckett, read extracts from the policy which stated: “The Bible says to avoid the appearance of evil … It shuts down opportunity for anybody to accuse you … Satan is the accuser of the brethren.”

Mr Peterson agreed that the reference to the “appearance of evil” suggested perpetrators try to avoid detection.

“In other words, don’t get caught,” he said.

He said the intent of the policy document was genuine but added: “It could have been written much better.”

The commission heard the policy made no reference to reporting child abuse to police or child protection authorities, as is legally required.

Mr Peterson joined the church after a youth pastor, Jonathan Baldwin, had repeatedly molested a teenage boy over a two-year period from 2004 to 2006.

Baldwin was convicted over the offences in 2009 and sentenced to eight years jail but has since been released.

Following the conviction, the victim’s father, given the pseudonym ALD, wrote to Mr Peterson to ask for help from the church’s umbrella organisation, Australian Christian Churches, formerly known as the Assemblies of God.

“One component of the process you may be able to assist with is the deafening silence from the Assemblies of God,” he wrote. “Do they just duck for cover and hope it will go away?”

The public hearing is examining the response of Australian Christian Churches and affiliated Pentecostal churches to allegations of child sexual abuse.

The hearing before Justice Jennifer Coate continues.

ACCC takes action against Coles for unconscionable conduct

The ACCC alleges Coles demanded improper payments from suppliers. Photo: Luis Enrique AscuiMalcolm Maiden: ACCC’s latest action against Coles may set precedent
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A Federal Court judge will decide whether grocery retailer Coles acted unconscionably by forcing suppliers to plug gaps in its profits and pay for wastage in its stores or whether such actions are a “normal” part of doing business.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has launched further legal action against Coles, alleging Australia’s second largest retailer breached the law by engaging in unconscionable conduct against five suppliers, including cleaning products company Oates, Benny’s Confectionery and Bayview Seafoods.

The ACCC says Coles forced suppliers to pay “gaps” in the profit it made and the profits it wanted to make on products such as frozen food, potato chips and shower cleaner, even when it had no legitimate basis to do so.

The retailer sets aside at least one day a year called “Perfect Profit Day” when it set targets to recoup money from suppliers when profits failed to meet budgets, according to a statement of claim lodged in the Federal Court on Thursday

Coles is also alleged to have forced suppliers to pay the cost of wastage and markdowns in stores, even when suppliers had no control over these issues, and fined suppliers for late and missing deliveries without justifying the cost.

For example, when Coles’s profit from selling Oates cleaning products fell short of budget by $326,590 in 2011, Coles demanded that Oates pay the retailer the same amount, without explaining how it came to the figure or how the profit gap had occurred.

When Oates refused to pay the full amount immediately, Coles deducted $246,400 from a payment that was due to Oates without its permission, the ACCC alleges. Coates, which is owned by GUD Holdings, eventually agreed to pay $365,200 after Coles flagged a “range review”.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims has described this behaviour as the “most egregious” of “hundreds” of complaints made by suppliers against the major grocery chains over the last few years.

Coles rejected the allegations, describing its communications with suppliers as “normal topics for business discussions” between grocery suppliers and retailers around the world.

A Coles spokesman said the allegations concerned a limited number of dealings three years ago with just five suppliers who continued to do business with Coles,

The retailer, which has launched a Supplier Charter, also defended charging suppliers for wastage and late deliveries, saying stock-outs and high rates of spoilage frustrated consumers and pushed up prices.

But the ACCC believes Coles’s behaviour went beyond normal business practice or “robust” negotiations.

“We believe that this behaviour is contrary to prevailing business values and standards,” Mr Sims told Fairfax Media.

The ACCC says Coles took advantage of its superior bargaining position by demanding money when it knew it had no legitimate basis for doing so, failed to provide adequate information to suppliers to allow them to understand the basis upon which demands were made, and applied undue pressure by, in some cases, withholding money due to suppliers.

The new allegations come five months after the ACCC accused Coles of unconscionable conduct by using unfair tactics and misleading information to force about 200 suppliers to pay extra rebates to fund the cost of a supply chain improvement program, Active Retail Collaboration.

The new proceedings arise out of the same investigation but reflect the ACCC’s concerns with Coles’s day-to-day treatment of suppliers.

“If the court agrees these allegations are proven, then both these actions [the ARC case and latest case] give the court the ability to define the appropriate business boundaries around dealings between large businesses and their suppliers,” Mr Sims said.

The ACCC is seeking pecuniary penalties, declarations, injunctions and costs.

Competition lawyers said the legal action was very fact-specific and the court’s decision was unlikely to lead to widespread changes in retailer/supplier negotiations.

“The court will be conscious of not getting in the way of normal business argy bargy,” one lawyer said.

The latest move is the sixth action taken by the ACCC against the big grocery chains in less than a year.

In August, the commission took action against Coles, Woolworths and three other retailers, claiming they had fixed petrol prices by using a subscription-only website to co-ordinate prices.

In June, Coles was forced to apologise for misleading customers by marketing pre-baked frozen bread as “fresh baked in stores.”

And in April, Coles was forced to admit that it misled consumers by claiming that farm-gate milk prices had risen after it introduced $1 a litre milk when in fact they had decreased.

Last December, the ACCC took action against Woolworths and Coles over excessive fuel discounts, forcing the chains to cap discounts funded by supermarkets at 4¢ a litre.

Mr Sims said a draft grocery code of conduct agreed between the major retailers and suppliers late last year would help to eradicate some of the behaviour that the ACCC considers illegal.

“If it’s drafted the right way, it will be very helpful,” he said.

At an industry conference earlier this month Mr Sims aired concerns about loopholes in the code of conduct will could leave suppliers exposed.

The code of conduct is currently undergoing a regulatory impact review and is unlikely to be introduced until next year.

Suppliers have also complained to the ACCC about Woolworths’ behaviour and investigations are ongoing.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council, which negotiated the draft grocery code with Woolworths and Coles, welcomed the ACCC’s latest action.

“In recent years there have been widespread reports of the practices described in the ACCC action being applied by the major supermarkets to boost their bottom line at the expense of suppliers. It is important that these allegations be tested in court,” said AFGC chief executive Gary Dawson.

Peter Hunt, a spokesman for the Victorian Farmers Federation, said the allegations raised “serious concerns” about Coles’ conduct.

“This sort of behaviour, if proven, completely undermines the supermarket’s efforts to gain farmer and suppliers trust,” he said.

“Once supermarkets have taken control of goods, farmers and other suppliers shouldn’t be held liable for waste.”

Former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett, who was appointed ‘independent arbiter’ of suppliers by Coles in August, said he was unaware of the details but believed Coles would have changed its behaviour since then.

“These are things that happened three years ago,” he said.

“I would imagine that would have been under a different administration at Coles.”

“If the same thing prevailed, practices would have changed, hopefully they did.”

The small business minister Bruce Billson said it was important to have a strong watchdog prepared to test the law.

“We want an economy where competition is based on merit, not on muscle,” he said.

with Georgia Wilkins

Ryde’s corrupt former mayor Ivan Petch seeks public support for ICAC war chest

Building the warchest: Suspended Ryde councillor Ivan Petch. Photo: Anthony Johnson Building the warchest: Suspended Ryde councillor Ivan Petch. Photo: Anthony Johnson
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Building the warchest: Suspended Ryde councillor Ivan Petch. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Building the warchest: Suspended Ryde councillor Ivan Petch. Photo: Anthony Johnson

It is billed as a chance for the Ryde community to rally behind its corrupt former mayor as Ivan Petch readies to take on the might of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

“A lot of people have indicated they want to support me, and I do appreciate that,” said Cr Petch ahead of a fundraiser to help cover the cost of his legal bills to challenge the ICAC’s findings.

“But I don’t handle it, as you’d understand. It’s got to be at arm’s length.”

When it comes to promoting such an event, it seems that arm belongs to him. The independent councillor and former state Liberal MP admitted  he had placed a print advertisement for a fundraiser at the Gladesville RSL only after being outed by the newspaper’s owner – a man who was himself embroiled in the same corruption inquiry.

Cr Petch has been suspended from Ryde City Council since June when the ICAC delivered a series of corrupt conduct findings against him.

Among them, Cr Petch was found to have “deliberately” failed to disclose that he had loaned $250,000 to the owner of the Weekly Times, John Booth, when considering a motion to award the paper council advertising.

Cr Petch is now taking the ICAC to the Supreme Court – a fact promoted in the Weekly Times classified ad for the hour-long fundraiser on Friday night.

Entitled “Community Suport [sic] for Petch”, it invites the people of Ryde “to assist Ivan Petch for his legal expenses for his ICAC Appeal”. The appeal  is set down for a two-day hearing from October 22.

“Somebody’s going to organise a fundraiser for me, they’ve been transparent, they put the ad in the paper so it’s not a covert operation,” said Cr Petch, who added he expected vindication and a bill of more than $100,000 from the legal challenge.

However, Cr Petch was later forced to admit that he himself was behind the advertisement after Mr Booth told Fairfax Media that “as far as I’m aware” Cr Petch was the person who had placed the notice.

“I haven’t paid for it yet,” Cr Petch said before hanging up.

Cr Petch was one of five Ryde councillors that ICAC found had accepted indirect campaign contributions in the form of advertisements in the paper in the lead-up to the 2012 local government elections.

The watchdog recommended each be considered for prosecution for doing so, along with Mr Booth who gave “false and misleading evidence” by claiming that election advertising published in his paper was paid for by Barry O’Grady, a retired nurse who died before last year’s public hearing.

Mr Booth, who is still paying back the loan from Cr Petch, said he supported his legal challenge but would not be attending the fundraiser.

“I did see the date but it wasn’t convenient for me,” he said.

Labor’s local government spokeswoman, Sophie Cotsis said it was “outrageous” the government had still not acted on ICAC’s recommendation that Cr Petch be dismissed.

“The Liberals’ standards for intervening in councils appear totally arbitrary,” Ms Cotsis said.

Local Government Minister Paul Toole said Cr Petch had commenced a judicial review of ICAC’s findings and “due process must be followed”.

Public servant’s boss asked her to send him topless photos

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Sexual interaction between consenting adults in public service workplaces will be punished if they fail to observe the APS code of conduct while they are doing it, the bureaucracy’s workplace umpire has warned.

The Merit Protection Commissioner has upheld the demotion of an Australian Public Service team leader who asked a subordinate to send him topless photographs of herself.

Despite the interaction taking place between “consenting adults”, the junior worker finding it funny and “willingly” complying with the requests for topless photographs, the boss was demoted after he lied to his manager about the matter.

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After an appeal by the culprit against his punishment by the unnamed department, Merit Protection Commissioner Annwyn Godwin backed the demotion decision, finding the manager had breached the Code of Conduct requirement to act with “courtesy and respect”.

“The employee apologised for lying to his manager, arguing that it was done before he was aware that he was under investigation and that he lied to protect the reputation of his junior colleague,” the commissioner wrote in her annual report.

“Even though the junior team member was not offended by the requests, the Merit Protection Commissioner was of the opinion that a reasonable observer would conclude that such behaviour was lacking in respect and courtesy.

“This is because the behaviour failed to demonstrate professional esteem and regard for the junior colleague and was behaviour that in many contexts, including a professional workplace, would be considered impolite.”

The failed appeal against the demotion was one of six case reviews undertaken in the 2013-14 financial year chosen for publication by Ms Godwin in her annual report.

The commissioner backed departmental decisions in each of the published reviews, reflecting a broad trend that most appeals by public servants against disciplinary decisions are doomed to failure.

“In 2013-14, 80 per cent of the finalised reviews resulted in a recommendation to the agency head to uphold the original agency decision, compared to 70 per cent in 2012-13,” Ms Godwin wrote.

There was also a case of an executive level 2 employee who appealed his demotion to EL1 for sending an email using “rugged language” to a subordinate.

“It was the opinion of the Merit Protection Commissioner that a reasonable person would conclude that the email to the colleague would humiliate and offend and also cause unnecessary hurt and distress,” the commissioner wrote.

“That the employee would send such an email, having previously been warned about sending inappropriate emails, demonstrated that they were dismissive of, or uncaring about, any offence the email may have caused and that the behaviour was characteristic.”

Team Australia is ‘counter-productive’, says terrorism expert

A counter-terrorism expert at the Australian National University has described Tony Abbott’s “Team Australia” campaign as counter-productive and called on the government to prioritise community based programs to deradicalise supporters of Islamic State.
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Dr Clarke Jones, a visiting fellow who worked on national security programs with the federal government for 15 years, said greater efforts must be made to understand why some Australians support IS and to develop new role models for those who do.

According to Attorney-General George Brandis, there are around 60 Australians directly involved in the current conflict in Syria and Iraq with dozens more supportive of their cause.

“IS may have been able to lure them to wanting to join but the factors that have got them to that point are often underlying social issues here in Australia that can be addressed,” Dr Jones said.

“If you are talking to these people you’ve got to address some of the reasons why they feel disenfranchised in the first place.”

He said the term Team Australia had proved “counter-productive” as a decradicalistion tool as it was confusing and reinforced the sense of marginalisation felt by those likely to support IS.

“The government is going to have to more transparent in explaining to the public why they have been introducing new national security legislation,” he said.

Dr Jones, who is detailing his research at a public lecture in the ANU on Thursday, said authorities need to develop more sophisticated engagement programs with families and community groups to address grievances.

“The government has to knuckle down and dedicate funds to interventionist programs and be more willing to embrace and understand the motivations some may have for supporting IS, which are not always religious,” he said.

Dr Jones said the most immediate task of any community based program would be to develop new role models and social identities for those who feel marginalised.

“Sporting programs and coming into contact with coaches and senior players who can become role models is important if they are still in a relationship stage,” he said.

“New employment and educational opportunities can also give those at risk new role models and social groupings.”

Dr Jones said community based programs were less effective when individuals had been radicalised over a long period of time or from a young age, such as the child of Sydney based jihadi Khaled Sharrouf who reportedly posed with a decapitated head in August.

“In Australia, those who have become more hardened radicals need to be removed from social media influences and that’s a critical thing as it removes all contact to the social group who often led to their radicalisation in the first place,” he said.

Dr Jones said the 60 Australians fighting with IS in Iraq and Syria could play a critical role in deradicalisation programs in Australia provided they had become disillusioned while fighting overseas.

“Those who have joined terrorist groups like IS could be some of the greatest assets in preventing terrorism,” he said.

“They might not like what they see when fighting overseas, and disengage from supporting organisations like IS. In carefully constructed programs, these returnees could prove useful if encouraged to dissuade others from supporting IS.”

Racecaller Terry McAuliffe reveals shock at jockey Caitlin Forrest’s death

Shock death: jockey Caitlin Forrest. Photo: FacebookSouth Australian racing broadcaster Terry McAuliffe left Murray Bridge races late on Wednesday night hoping for the best but fearing the worst, following a horrific fall that afternoon.
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However, in the early hours of Thursday, news came in that Caitlin Forrest had died from injuries she incurred in the four-horse fall.

McAuliffe said the racing industry in South Australia was in disbelief that one of it’s most popular young riders had suffered such a “shock” fall.

After 30 years in racing, McAuliffe admitted it was the toughest day he had faced.

He feared Forrest was in real danger moments after a helicopter arrived to take her to an Adelaide hospital.

“The moment it happened was the most confronting thing in my broadcasting life,” he said. “This beautiful girl with so much ability freakishly had her mount, Colla Voce, break a leg at the top of the straight, crashing to the ground with three other horses coming over the top of her.

“I knew, like so many of us on course, that Caitlin was in trouble and I had the terrible job of conveying messages to not only on-course spectators but also nationally, through my broadcasting commitments.

“They were mixed messages, some positive and some negative, but when I got the call very late on Wednesday night it seemed the horrific injuries had taken their toll.”

Another jockey, Libby Hopwood, was also in an Adelaide hospital suffering concussion and a broken collarbone.

The other two jockeys involved, Adrian Patterson and Justin Potter, were able to ride in the final two races.

Last year Forrest was named the finest first-year apprentice rider in South Australia and secured the country premiership for winners.

Her mother Yvonne, a former jockey and now a trainer, was at Murray Bridge on Wednesday, while her father Darren is a leading harness racing driver.

“The whole racing world has come to a standstill,” McAuliffe said. “Other people have told me when this happens at race meetings it will affect you for a long time.

“Underneath, I didn’t want the last two races to go on. I sensed like so many that something was awfully wrong and our instincts were right. It’s been 60 years, we think, since the last fatality in South Australia.”

Leading Adelaide jockey Clare Lindop said the South Australian racing community was gathering around the Forrest family and that Victorian Jockeys Association chief executive Des O’Keeffe was flying into Adelaide on Thursday to offer support.

Former South Australian trainer David Hayes said the death had affected everyone. He said the trainers’ hut at Flemington was a very quiet place on Thursday morning.

“You could sense that everyone was feeling this tragedy,” he said. “I haven’t seen the tape and I don’t want to see the tape. It’s one of the terrible aspects of a jockey’s life and they deserve all the money that they are paid.”

Caltex faces $2m fine for petrol leak

Caltex’s Kurnell refinery, linked by pipeline to the Banksmeadow site. Photo: Jane Dyson Caltex’s Kurnell refinery, linked by pipeline to the Banksmeadow site. Photo: Jane Dyson
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Caltex’s Kurnell refinery, linked by pipeline to the Banksmeadow site. Photo: Jane Dyson

Caltex’s Kurnell refinery, linked by pipeline to the Banksmeadow site. Photo: Jane Dyson

Caltex Australia faces a fine of as much as $2 million for an uncontrolled discharge of about 170,000 litres of petrol at its Banksmeadow Terminal at Port Botany in July last year.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority has sought to pursue Caltex for a Tier 1 offence, which carries its highest penalties. The EPA has had six such prosecutions over the past decade.

“Tier 1 offences under the Protection of Environment Operations Act 1997 are the most serious offences under legislation administered by the EPA and it requires approval from the EPA Board before commencement,” EPA Chair and CEO Barry Buffier said in a statement.

“The EPA Board believed this incident was significant enough to warrant prosecution in order to seek the highest penalty possible for an environmental offence,” a spokeswoman for the agency said.

The EPA will allege that a break in a hose during a fuel transfer led to the creation of a “pool of petrol”.

“It is alleged that the discharge continued for around 80 minutes before a NSW Fire and Rescue officer waded through a pool of petrol to turn off the valve,” the EPA said.

That officer, Ron Morasso, had to walk through knee-deep petrol to close a storage valve. Mr Morasso, now retired, received the force’s highest honour – the Conspicuous Medal – for his bravery in May this year.

“There was a real possibility of an explosion if the leaking valve was not shut off,” FRNSW Commissioner Greg Mullins said at the time of the award ceremony.

“The rate at which the fuel was escaping from the tank, about 2000 litres per minute, meant there was only a small window of opportunity in which to act,” he said. The storage tank could hold 2 million litres of fuel.

Fire risk

The EPA will tell the court that the discharge “could have resulted in ignition of the petrol vapour and a consequential major fire”.

“We take safety very seriously,” said Sam Collyer, a Caltex spokesman, adding the company had cooperated fully with the EPA investigation.

It’s understood that Caltex is surprised by the size of the potential fine, particularly as the fuel was contained within storage bunds.

“Although there was no harm to the environment, Caltex is disappointed that the incident occurred given our longstanding commitment to maintaining the highest standards in environmental, personal and process safety,” the company said in a statement. “Caltex does not believe its systems and processes were inadequate.”

Earlier this year, oily water from Caltex’s nearby Kurnell Refinery overflowed into Botany Bay, affecting the nearby national park and local fishing sites.

The pollution was triggered by a deluge that led to an overflow from containment areas, prompting an EPA probe.

“The EPA has concluded its investigation and is currently determining the appropriate regulatory response which will be made public in due course,” the spokeswoman said.  

Injured Diamonds captain Laura Geitz out of Tests against England

A tearful Laura Geitz will miss the remaining two Tests in the Diamonds’ international season, with the Australian captain succumbing to a left knee injury that will require surgery.
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Coach Lisa Alexander and her medical staff have taken a safety-first approach to Geitz’s welfare before a demanding 2015 season that culminates with the Netball World Cup in Sydney in August.

The brilliant defender has been managing the cartilage issue for 12 months, but aggravated the problem during Wednesday’s four-goal win over New Zealand.

Geitz will be replaced by Bec Bulley for the two-match series against England, starting in Bendigo on Sunday.

“She is going to require a little bit of cleanout surgery,” Alexander said from Auckland. “It’s an ongoing issue. She’s had a little bit of a niggle in her knee for a while, and it’s got to the point where we had to make a call, and it’s affecting her performance out on court now.

“It’s a piece of floating cartilage behind her kneecap, so it just needs a cleanout. Very standard. But the earlier it gets done, the better. That’s why we’re keen just to get that moving, and then she can get into her rehab phase and get started on her pre-season.

“But she’s terribly disappointed, as you can imagine. She really is enjoying her time with the team and what we’re doing together as a group, so there’s a few tears, but she’ll be fine. And the girls will respond in the way that they’ve been asked to, which is that everyone steps up.”

Geitz, who would have been the first-choice opponent for English star Jo Harten, returned home to Brisbane on Thursday, while the rest of the Diamonds squad travelled via Melbourne to Bendigo to prepare for Sunday’s sold-out rematch with the team that fell just one goal short of a major upset at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

“Missing the England series means that I can be back ready for the ANZ Championship, so it’s nothing too serious, rather just an opportunity to make sure I get it in tip-top shape for the big year ahead,” Geitz said.

“I obviously would have loved to stay on for the remaining two Tests but I’ve got no doubt that the players are capable of getting the job done against England before a well-deserved break.”

Alexander said her team needed to bring far more intensity to the contest than it managed in what was easily its most competitive match en route to the Commonwealth Games gold medal. But, having swept the Constellation Cup series 4-0 for the first time, the Diamonds have built a 17-game international winning streak.

“In Glasgow, we just didn’t get out of the blocks quick enough against England,” Alexander said. “Our performance definitely was below par and the girls know that, so they want that opportunity to show what they can do, particularly on our home soil in Bendigo.”

Alexander expects England to be motivated by its surprise loss to Jamaica in the bronze medal playoff in Glasgow, where the improved netball nation also got to within one goal of the second-ranked Silver Ferns.

“They’ve got players playing in ANZ; we’re providing them with a high-performance environment that they are benefiting from,” said Alexander, referring to the likes of Harten, Geva Mentor and Sonia Mkoloma.”There’s no doubt about that – that’s the cold hard facts of the situation.

“They’re getting to know us better as opposition because of that, but we also know them very well too, so we know their weaknesses and strengths, and we’ll use that to our best advantage.

“They’re getting stronger and fitter and they’re playing perhaps more our style of game, which is quite interesting, so it’s basically like Oz playing on Oz – that real powerful speed, fast-moving play. But we obviously think we’re pretty good at it, and we’ll just have to keep doing what we’re doing.”

One need not be George Clooney or Amal Alamuddin to fall in love with Venice

When prominent human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin married US actor and coffee salesman George Clooney in Venice, the world swooned, and not just at the genetically blessed couple. Sun-soaked and frocked-up herself, the city put on a stunning display seen by billions.
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You don’t have to lead a wedding flotilla on the iconic waterways, share a Bellini with Matt Damon or swap vows at the Aman Canal Grand Hotel to feel the romance of Venice. Yes, of course George, Amal and their guests are more fabulous than the rest of us, but we all put our coffee in the espresso machine one pod at a time and we can all savour the Venetian passion.

Venice is like an exciting new lover. Arousing and uniquely beautiful, she draws you out of yourself and inspires you to push your boundaries – across one more ponte, around the next corner, down another alleyway. She entices you to be bolder, more adventurous, more alive.

She dresses to please and you smile, ecstatic to be in her company, thrilled that she is on your arm. You wish that other cities – where you were ripped off or that disappointed you – could see you now, with your hot new love.

This is Casanova’s home town and romance is everywhere. Pretty young things hold hands and make love with their eyes. Gondolas glide by, dressed to kill in gleaming black lacquer with a posy of flowers on the bow, guided by the firm and experienced hand of sexy gondoliers with perpetual three-day growths. Even the piano accordionist with the soggy stogey hanging from his lips is appealing as he serenades passers-by with his lilting version of O Solo Mio.

Venice tempts you with her wiles. Her mystique makes you doe-eyed and giddy. Everything about her is intriguing. Shall we try that trattoria? How about a cocktail at Harry’s Bar or a $20 cappuccino in Piazza San Marco? What young romantic scrawled that graffito and what does it mean?

Layers of exotic accents thrill your ears. Her rococo, baroque and Romanesque splendours mingle and delight the eye. Gen Instagram pout and smile as they snap selfies on the Ponte di Rialto. Tour groups follow raised umbrellas and pause here and there to learn another of her sensual secrets. Shop keepers yell to each other from the doorways of their elegant boutiques, their hands saying as much as their words.

Sure there’s the gauche souvenir shops knocking out trinketry like miniscule Murano glass curios, I ‘heart’ Venezia T-shirts and cheap Carnevale masks, but you never notice a fresh lover’s flaws, do you? You buy it all.

Bella Venezia, you had me at “Bongiorno”.