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Archive for February, 2019

   Feb 13

Ron Medich trial: Witness Lucky Gattellari denies he was the murder mastermind

Ron Medich has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Michael McGurk. Photo: Peter Rae Lucky Gattellari is the key Crown witness against Ron Medich. Photo: Daniel Munoz
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Crown witness Fortunato “Lucky” Gattellari has denied he alone ordered a murder after stealing millions from Ron Medich, the property developer now on trial as an alleged mastermind of the shooting.

Mr Medich, 68, has pleaded not guilty to ordering the contract killing of Michael McGurk, 45, a former business partner gunned down in the driveway of his Sydney home in 2009.

Gattellari, 66, a former boxer turned business partner of Mr Medich, has pleaded guilty to arranging the murder and became the Crown’s principal witness in exchange for a much shorter prison sentence.

After seven days of cross-exmamination, Mr Medich’s barrister, Winston Terracini, SC, put it to Gattellari that he paid for the murder on his own.

“You were the one who organised the murder and nobody else,” he said.

“No, that’s not correct,” Gattellari replied.

The murder victim had embroiled Mr Medich in a series of costly lawsuits in 2008 and 2009 before he was shot in the back of the head outside his Cremorne home on September 3, 2009.

But the defence case suggested Mr Medich had been robbed by Gattellari, who denied he “milked him for years”.

Mr Terracini spent several days asking about large sums of money described by Gattellari as undocumented, interest-free loans from Mr Medich that had no repayment term.

On Tuesday morning, the court heard Mr McGurk had made comments at a lunch about Gattellari’s management of companies that relied on millions of dollars of Mr Medich’s financial backing.

“You were very, very concerned that monies you had stolen from Mr Medich would be uncovered weren’t you?” Mr Terracini said.

Gattellari denied it. He rejected suggestions he and his physically imposing driver Senad Kaminic turned up to Mr McGurk’s office to intimidate him into silence.

“I’ve never threatened anybody,” he said. “Mr Kaminic has never threatened anybody on my behalf.”

Gattellari said he had simply told Mr McGurk that he should mind his own business.

In other evidence, Gattellari was asked about the $600,000 Mr Medich allegedly gave him to arrange the murder of Mr McGurk and the subsequent intimidation of his widow, Kimberley McGurk.

Gattellari said he had transferred around $450,000 of that money to Mr Kaminic while the remaining $150,000 was fed back into company holdings to be used for other jobs Mr Medich wanted done.

He has told the jury he was handed Cryovac bags of cash by Mr Medich at the Medich home on two separate occasions while in the presence of Mr Kaminic.

Asked how certain he was that Mr Kaminic was in fact present, he said: “I think I’m pretty definite he was there.”

After 11 days of evidence from Gattellari, the trial was set to hear from Mr Kaminic, a former Bosnian solider, on Wednesday.

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   Feb 13

Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman defiant in the face of Islamic State threats

Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman is featured in the Islamic State video giving a sermon in which he dismantles the idea that violent extremism will get a person to heaven. Photo: Supplied The Grand Mufti, Dr Abu Ibrahim Mohamed, is pictured in the Islamic State video shaking hands with inter-faith advocate and Anglican minister Father Rod Bowers. Photo: Supplied
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Police chaplain, Sheikh Ahmed Abdo (centre), features in the Islamic State video alongside Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione and the Grand Mufti, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed. Photo: Supplied

A western Sydney sheikh placed in the crosshairs of Islamic State has defiantly vowed to continue his work and says he is “unconcerned” by threats on his life.

Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman, who works with young people to steer them away from crime, was one of three n Muslim leaders named in an Islamic State propaganda video released on Sunday night.

The terrorist group called on its followers to kill the trio and other Muslim leaders worldwide because they had discouraged violence in the name of Islam and encouraged people to follow the laws of the land.

The Grand Mufti, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, and the NSW Police Force chaplain Sheikh Ahmed Abdo were criticised in the video for working with government and police.

Sheikh Shady responded on Tuesday, saying he was not surprised that Islamic State labelled him “an apostate” and called on followers to “murder me”.

“[It] confirms in no uncertain terms, that the beliefs, teachings, and ideology of this group, ISIS, are not in harmony with the religion of Islam,” he said.

“Many n imams, including myself, have publicly denounced and preached against the hateful and murderous teachings of ISIS – stating publicly on countless occasions that the ISIS way is not the Islamic way.

“I am heartened to hear that ISIS themselves agree – confirming that mainstream Islam, which the vast majority of the world’s Muslims adhere to, is not what they preach and the recent video is a big proof of that.”

He said he was undeterred in his mission to teach and practice “true Islamic teachings” and the principles of humanitarianism, including sharia’s teaching to respect and abide by the laws of the land you live in.

“As for the threats on my life – I am unconcerned,” he said.

“I have complete faith and trust in almighty Allah (God), who will choose a suitable time, place, and method of my departure from this world. This is a matter for Allah (God), over which, no one else has authority.”

**RESPONSE TO THE RECENT ISIS VIDEO CALLING FOR MY KILLING** In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful …Posted by Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman on  Monday, 13 February 2017

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   Feb 13

RSL NSW council will stand aside over financial scandal – but only on its own terms

Former NSW RSL president Don Rowe at Sydney’s Hyde Park war memorial. Photo: Ben Rushton The RSL NSW council says it is prepared to stand aside en masse and have a caretaker put in place while claims it mishandled financial misconduct allegations are investigated – but only if it gets to choose the caretaker.
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The condition set by the beleaguered NSW leadership has sparked an angry response from some RSL members and deepened a stoush with the league’s national board.

A message sent out to RSL members says the state council agreed at a meeting on Monday that it “will voluntarily stand aside on an interim basis pending the results of a board of inquiry into allegations of financial misconduct”.

The move follows months of reporting by Fairfax Media on financial concerns plaguing the league.

But the council will only stand aside if the national board withdraws disciplinary charges that the NSW state council failed to deal properly with questions surrounding former state president Don Rowe’s corporate credit card spending.

Those charges would instead be dealt with by a NSW board of inquiry.

NSW is also demanding that the caretaker appointed is retired Major-General David McLachlan, who retired from the role of Victoria RSL president two weeks ago. Under the NSW demands, Mr McLachlan would set the terms of reference for the inquiry, which would have to report within the tight timeframe of one month.

NSW president John Haines said the council wanted a “neutral” person to ensure that “we get a fair go”.

Acting national president Robert Dick said the national board had proposed a month ago to drop the disciplinary charges and turn them over to board of inquiry if the NSW council would stand aside.

He said the national board had only on Tuesday seen the NSW counter offer and had to consider it, but stressed “the national board will not allow the RSL NSW state council to set their own conditions”.

As things stood, the charges were not dropped and a disciplinary hearing against NSW would go ahead next week, he said.

Mr Rowe spent $475,000 in six years, including $213,000 in cash withdrawals, and paid the mobile phone bills for five family members. Among the cash withdrawals were $2300 in 17 days over the 2013 Christmas and New Year’s period in his home town of Armidale.

Mr Rowe was allowed to resign for health reasons in November 2014 but audit firm Grant Thornton was hired to investigate a year of Mr Rowe’s spending and concluded there was “potentially a prima facie case of fraud”.

The council was briefed on the audit in January 2015 but no further action was taken and RSL members were not told that Mr Rowe resigned for reasons other than ill health until two months ago following a forensic audit by another firm, KordaMentha.

However, the conditions set by the NSW council have provoked fury among some members. James Brown, vice president of North Bondi sub-branch and a candidate for state president in the next election, branded the move “the dying gasp of a dysfunctional council facing multiple allegations of wrongdoing, including a criminal investigation into fraud and misuse of charity funds”.

“Half the council have resigned in protest. The remainder now emerge from weeks of secret meetings and propose handing control of our organisation to someone who is not a member of RSL NSW and has not been elected to any leadership position,” he said.

He welcomed the council’s offer to stand aside but said the chief executive and his staff, rather than a caretaker, should run the organisation until the election at the end of May.

Support meanwhile is being drummed up for a motion to call an extraordinary congress which would dismiss the NSW council and appoint a trustee company RSL Custodian to oversee the organisation.

One RSL member with knowledge of the inner workings of the league said that about 70 of the state’s roughly 360 sub-branches had already pledged support to the motion.

The member said that the NSW demand was “unacceptable and does not alleviate the concerns of members”.

Mr McLachlan said he would be happy to take on the role and would conduct himself independently.

“Anybody that knows me on the national board and anywhere else knows that I’m a very impartial person when it comes to matters of this kind and my integrity is the most important quality I own,” he said.

A board of inquiry has already been flagged to look at a range of broader financial concerns within NSW, including the payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars to councillors in consulting fees by the league’s aged care arm in the state. Mr Rowe was one of those councillors, as was former national president Rod White who recently stood aside.

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   Feb 13

‘Doesn’t make sense’: New guidelines threaten booming home storage market

Companies such as Tesla have been increasing sales in as consumers look to reduce reliance on the grid. Photo: David MariuzThe booming market for home solar storage could be thrown into disarray if proposed safety guidelines force owners to move their battery units outside.
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Draft guidelines to be released by Standards within weeks are expected to place restrictions on where battery packs supplied by companies such as Tesla and Alpha-ESS can be installed, with industry fears that placement within homes and garages will be banned.

“If reinforced, more than half the current players will be made bankrupt or they will pull out of ,” Dong Lin, managing director of Alpha-ESS. “It doesn’t make sense… will be way behind the rest of the world.”

Mr Lin, who sits on a sub-committee that represents storage companies, said confidentiality rules limit what can be discussed publicly before the guidelines’ release. Still, indications are that Standards will require battery units to be housed in a costly “bunker” outside even though the materials used are safer than those in mobile phones and lap tops, he said.

“The risk is very minimal that [the units] will catch fire or explode,” he said. If such safety rules were taken to their logical conclusion, “all lithium batteries would have to put outside, and in a bunker”.

Standards , the nation’s peak standards body, said in a statement that the new rules “will enable the safe installation of battery energy storage systems”.

Provisions would cover all battery types and the mitigation of hazards, and would be open for comment over nine weeks from April, although the feedback period may be delayed further. Before a standard is applied, feedback would be considered, a ballot taken among stakeholders, and then it would be up to governments to choose to reference it.

Standards members declined to rule in or out any provisions, and said the aim was to “get some level of harmony” before the guidelines were put to the public for comment. ‘Bunker worries’

Industry insiders, though, remain concerned that rules setting standards for “on-site” installation may preclude placement of batteries inside homes or garages, and will require them to be stored within a costly external “bunker”.

Any disruption of the nascent storage industry would hamper the take-up of batteries at a time when consumers are increasingly anxious to curb reliance on grid-supplied electricity amid soaring energy prices and reduced reliability in parts of the country, such as South .

The new standards, if imposed as feared, could deter people adding storage to their solar systems, and may deter others from taking up both. For those batteries, they may have to undertake expensive modifications to meet the new requirements.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has installed batteries and solar panels at his house on Sydney Harbour, on Monday criticised Labor for advocating higher renewable energy goals without promoting storage too.

According to Alpha-ESS’s Mr Lin, installed about 6500 storage units in homes last year, with his company providing about 800 of them. There have been no reported incidents.

The market was expected to grow to 20,000-30,000 this year, with demand rising at the 300 per cent so far in 2017.

“A lot of customers are calling to ask about the potential changes,” Mr Lin said.  50 per cent jump

The draft guidelines appear likely to be much more restrictive than other nations. Germany, for instance, has installed 50,000 such units inside homes, he said.

A typical household system with 5-kilowatt of solar panels and 5 KW-hour storage capacity costs about $12,000-$13,000.

Early estimates of the cost of building outdoor cages to house the storage are about $5000, potentially lifting the system’s costs by 50 per cent, he said.

Placing lithium-ion batteries outside home may also reduce their performance.

“Ideally, they should be installed where you have control over the environment,” and shielded from extremes of cold, heat and humidity, Mr Lin said.

Glen Morris, vice president of the n Energy Storage Council, said there was no evidence of battery faults triggering fires in homes.

Mr Morris said the “whole process has been rushed” and the industry had not been allowed enough time so far to give adequate feedback to the proposed standards.

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   Feb 13

Jess Fishlock could be back in hunt for threepeat with Melbourne City

Melbourne City’s history making captain-coach Jess Fishlock could yet return to try to lead the team to a third consecutive W-League title next season, although no new deal has yet been confirmed.
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“It’s not a done deal right now, but probably,” she says when asked if she will be returning. “Coming back here next season is an option, for sure.

“We will sit down and see what it looks like. I have to weigh up right now what’s best for me, the whys and whats of coming back here. There’s an element of me that likes a new challenge in a different way and different environment.

“However, I still believe that from my coaching and developing future this club is absolutely where I want to be.

“The City Football Group, Melbourne, Manchester, New York, but right now, out of the whole CFG, Melbourne is absolutely where I want to be, it’s the right fit for me in terms of my coaching experience,” the 30-year-old says.

On Sunday night Fishlock was holding aloft the W-League trophy after leading her team to an historis back-to-back championship in a 2-0 win over Perth Glory

On Wednesday she will be flying out to Europe to link up with her international team, Wales, to be a key part of the squad for the Cyprus Cup, an international tournament that kicks off on March 1.

“After that I go to Seattle for our pre-season before the season proper starts in the NWSL (National Womens Soccer League) in America.

“My main season is in Seattle, after that I have to figure out what is best for me. It’s not solely about football. It’s about the game, life and the future.

“I am now 30 … it’s not young in the footballing world. I think I could stay playing until I was 35 if I really wanted but I want to transition to coaching, but in the right way. I don’t want to cut corners. It’s not how I believe it should be done.

“I have to learn and develop and be mentored and just really put the work in to be the coach that I want to be, because that’s what I did to be the player I wanted to be. There are no short cuts.”

Fishlock has been a big advocate for women’s sport throughout her career, and the Cardiff-born soccer star believes that the huge start made by the AFL Women’s competition is good for all women’s sport, not just footy.

Nor, she says, does it represent a big threat to soccer, as some are claiming, because football has something n Rules doesn’t have – the chance to play for your country and follow your dream around the world.

“The pull of that, of being able to play what you love worldwide for me is a huge thing. But AFL Women’s is really good for women’s sport and if you are a girl growing up here and you have all these options to be a successful sportsperson then I think it’s brilliant what they have done.

“From a soccer perspective if you want to play soccer you want to play it. If you love it you will play it … If you are an athlete you are an athlete, but it’s the love of the game – it’s the whole reason why the W-League even exists.

“In season one there wasn’t much money, exposure, media or anything, but the girls did it anyway. That’s what it is, the love of the game.

“I do think in a good way the AFL might push the W-league and the FFA to make a few changes to ensure that the growth of the league is the No.1 priority and we don’t rest on what we have managed to achieve to this point.”

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