Archive for September, 2019

   Sep 14

No love lost in Parliament on Valentine’s Day

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (centre), Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton hold a press conference in State Parliament House. Photo: Louise Kennerley NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian fielded her first question time as Premier on Tuesday. Photo: Louise Kennerley
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The questions came thick and fast to and from NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, but bouquets weren’t given out. Photo: Louise Kennerley


Gladys Berejiklian’s first question time as Premier fell on Valentine’s Day, and love was in the House.

It was written in the eyes of Opposition Leader Luke Foley as he introduced his new Labor members to the house. It oozed between the backsides of an overflowing new government frontbench (and actually off the side in the case of Multicultural Affairs Minister Ray Williams).

It even softened the Greens into allowing the freshly sworn Shooters, Fishers and Farmers member Philip Donato to share their crossbench, albeit with the tactful placement of red-carded Liberal Glenn Brookes sitting between them.

And then there were the unlucky in love, those who had been relegated to the backbench in the January shuffle, who glowered and yawned behind the ebullient honeymooners.

But if Berejiklian had dared to hope that the spirit of love, peace and harmony would extend to the opposition, she was to be disappointed.

Her own ascension to the job, along with the cabinet shuffle and midday announcement that arranged marriages between councils in rural and regional areas would not go ahead provided her opponents with ample fodder for the opening of the season.

The man who had a PhD in planning had been moved to education, which he confessed was not his area of expertise, Mr Foley needled, while the man who was an expert in education had been shunted to the backbench “because the new leader of the Nationals hates him”.

“And in health they take the person who’s been in the portfolio since 1994 to refresh the cabinet and replace her with the guy who’s been here since 1991.”

Mr Foley taunted that the Premier had been elevated to her position by factional lobbyists and lurking machinists, and he challenged why she had reversed council amalgamations in the bush but was sticking to them in Sydney.

Ms Berejiklian parried.

“I appreciate the question from the Leader of the Opposition but I ask him to actually, by the end of question time, to have his position made clear,” she said.

“The rumblings of that side of the house have become apparent, Madam Speaker. They support mergers, they know they have a leader who has no policy and no principle.

“The Leader of the Opposition has had a lot to say about this but the sad thing is he still doesn’t have a position.” She wagged her finger. “You have until the end of question time.”

Mr Foley: “I would like to move the motion and let’s get it on.”

If Ms Berejiklian considered his comment a little forward on this of all days, she gave nothing away.

“But if I did that you would have a different position by the end of question time.” She smiled triumphant, glanced around the room, resumed her seat. There was no love lost.

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   Sep 14

Plan to help us decipher which vitamins and herbal remedies actually work

The Therapeutic Goods Administration is looking to reform the complementary medicine industry. Photo: Jennifer SooThe vitamins and supplements you buy could soon have a government tick of approval if they are found to be evidence-based.
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The Therapeutic Goods Administration is looking to reform regulation on complementary medicines so consumers have a better understanding of whether the billions we spend on them is giving us any health benefit.

At present, a listing on the n Register of Therapeutic Goods only means the product is safe, not that it delivers its stated claims.

But a review into regulation of the industry has recommended companies apply for approval if research finds its product effective.

Monash University Associate Professor Dr Ken Harvey said the change would make a world leader by building trust in the industry.

“This would greatly advance the future of complementary medicine if it gets implemented,” he said.

“[At the moment], there is no assurance of efficacy. There is no assurance that the product works. They can make whatever claims they like.”

It comes after a Choice investigation found one in three n pharmacists recommend alternative medicines that have little or no scientific evidence of working.

Four Corners also aired its own investigation into the complementary medicine industry on Monday night, which found seven out of every 10 ns take some form of vitamin or supplement.

The TGA released a consultation paper on Tuesday seeking feedback into the review.

The Review of Medicines and Medical Devices Regulation also recommended providing protections for companies that fund evidence-based research so that it can’t be copycatted.

Dr Harvey said this would encourage more clinical trials as companies would be safeguarded against having their researched ripped off to sell similar products.

Another recommendation was to eliminate the ability of companies to make unsubstantiated or extravagant claims by imposing a limited list of claimed health benefits a company could put down when making an application to the n Register of Therapeutic Goods.

Dr Harvey said there was a push back from industry lobbyists that argue it would put n companies at a commercial disadvantage.

However, he said although there could still be room for the system to be gamed, it was a step forward in improving the industry.

Complementary Medicines was contacted for comment.

The consultation closes on March 28.

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   Sep 14

Malcolm Turnbull’s new attack is a scare campaign, and it’s going to work

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has had an epiphany over energy. Photo: Andrew Meares Shadow Environment Minister Mark Butler (centre) during question time on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
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Watching the partisan battle over blackouts, renewable energy, and soaring power prices, there was a sense on Tuesday that it was Malcolm Turnbull who was more effectively honing his lines, and thus isolating his opponents’ weaknesses.

This is despite the fact that the once green-tinged PM has surrendered more of his own reputation in the conduct of this debate than Bill Shorten.

And it is despite Scott Morrison unhelpfully brandishing a lump of coal in the chamber last week – a visual so egregiously contrary to Turnbull’s early presentation, as to suggest that he was making this very point.

Turnbull’s right-ward trajectory has seen him bleeding progressives, with his support falling steadily since assuming the top job.

Voter disillusionment over his indifference to the causes he once championed – forward-leaning positions on climate policy, marriage equality, the republic – is usually cited.

But Turnbull has himself sloughed off some voters recently, having had an epiphany. Faced with the fight of his political life, he has concluded that chasing the shallow affections of browned-off cosmopolitans is a fool’s errand. Many were never Coalition voters anyway.

This realisation has freed the PM to target what he argues is the left’s ideological blindness on renewables and its cold indifference to the practical costs of too rapid a transition, for households and businesses.

Like the best political attacks, Turnbull aims to reduce a complex policy argument to a basic equation: South has the highest level of non-synchronous wind-solar energy, yet it also has the most expensive, least reliable electricity supply in the country.

You do the maths.

He cites examples such as Haigh’s Chocolates and large fisheries stretched by sky-rocketing power bills and slammed by calamitous outages. The goal is to combat Labor’s virtuous, future-focused policy, with tangible real-world consequences being felt now.

This explains why Turnbull so eagerly seized on Mark Butler’s description of the situation in SA as a series of small and large hiccups in the power supply.

Butler, Labor’s energy and climate spokesman, had been complaining about the government’s shameless politicisation of the blackouts.

He had a point. But in South , the debate is beyond politics now. Labor cannot afford to appear cavalier about rising electricity costs and collapsing confidence in the power supply in SA. There, comparatively abstract concerns over climate change have been overwhelmed by the tangible concern over energy security and the pressing reality of ever high prices.

Having read this switch clearly, Turnbull is now shaping to construct this harsh reality in voters’ minds well beyond the central state’s parched borders.

Scare campaign? You bet, and it will work too.

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   Sep 14

Cranbrook headmaster’s ‘misleading’ letters

Nicholas Sampson, headmaster of Cranbrook, leaves the Royal Commission in September 2015. Photo: Jason South Senior Counsel Assisting Gail Furness at the hearing earlier this month. Photo: Supplied
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The Commission is examining factors behind abuse claims in the Catholic church, with data showing seven per cent of priests were alleged offenders between 1950-2010. Photo: Mathew Lynn

The headmaster of one Sydney’s most expensive private schools, Cranbrook, wrote “misleading” letters about a teacher accused of child sexual abuse at his former school and failed to report the allegations to a higher authority, a royal commission has found.

Nicholas Sampson, then the headmaster of Victoria’s Geelong Grammar, paid teacher Jonathan Harvey to retire early in 2004 to avoid any formal complaints of child sex abuse being made against him.

Harvey was later found guilty of sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy known as BLF by repeatedly plying him with alcohol, fondling his genitals and forcing him into a threesome with another man in the 1970s.

Mr Sampson told the commission he was alerted to allegations against Harvey by the victim’s brother, BLW, and conducted a “fairly cursory” investigation before asking Mr Harvey to retire early.

The commissioners found Mr Sampson should have notified the Victorian Institute of Teaching about the allegations and that he “should have made a documentary record of the reason [Harvey left the school]”.

Instead, Mr Sampson wrote letters to Harvey thanking him for his “outstanding service”, praising him as a “wonderful teacher, an outstanding housemaster, a fine and thoughtful colleague and a tremendous and committed schoolmaster”.

A second letter from Mr Sampson to Harvey confirmed an extra year of pay following his retirement “due to the exceptional service [he] offered”.

The commission dismissed Mr Sampson’s defence that the letters were for personal use: “The letters were plainly kept amongst the school’s formal records in relation to Harvey,” it found.

“We also reject the submission that the letters were not misleading. No other records were produced which recorded the real reason for Harvey’s departure from the school, and no explanation was given as to why such documents were not produced.”

Mr Sampson, who became the headmaster of Cranbrook in 2012, an Anglican, $35,000-a-year school in Bellevue Hill, told the commission he was acting in the best interests of the victim, BLF, who did not want his identity revealed.

“We accept that Mr Sampson attempted to act in the best interests of BLF by securing Harvey’s resignation without disclosing his identity,” the Commission found. “It is clear, however, that he should have notified the Victorian Institute of Teaching.” Royal Commission: Vatican has no test for paedophiles

In a separate sitting on Tuesday, the Commission also heard there was no requirement for the Catholic clergy to be screened for sexual attraction to children but that the Vatican does have a detailed assessment procedure for homosexuality.

The Catholic Church’s central authority spent 13 years developing a protocol on homosexual tendencies among potential priests but has stayed “silent” on the issue of paedophiles, the commission heard.

The commission is examining factors behind abuse claims in the Catholic church, with data showing seven per cent of priests were alleged offenders between 1950-2010.

“As I understand it, the Vatican is specific that you must test for homosexual tendencies but the Vatican is silent in that same way on testing for children,” Commissioner Andrew Murray said.

Sister Lydia Allen???, who assesses candidates for the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Homebush, said the Vatican was working on such a document.

“I have asked them if they have any documents on this situation of child abuse and they don’t yet … it’s part of a project they are going to work on,” she said.

“They do not have . . . anything that says, ‘You must assess for that’.

“However, I think it would be an unspoken rule. I don’t think it needs to be stated explicitly because it’s so obvious.”

David Leary, an academic and Franciscan friar, told the inquiry the assessment process was flawed.

“The first test for a candidate for either religious life or the seminary or for the priesthood is not a question about whether or not they’re homosexual,” he said.

“It’s about whether or not they are compassionate and that’s the thing that needs to be tested.”

Dr Leary said the Catholic church was “highly resistant” to understanding how its structures may have led to child sexual abuse.

“I don’t think we understand the psychology that underpins … child sexual abuse,” he said. “It’s really clear in every other jurisdiction except the church.”

Peter Thompson, rector of Vianney College in Wagga Wagga, told the commission it would be impossible to effectively screen every candidate for the priesthood.

“No one can infallibly predict that someone is not going to offend,” he said.

The hearing, before Justice Peter McClellan???, continues.

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   Sep 14

Andrew Walker says ‘the fire still burns’ if ACT Brumbies want 43-year-old to make a comeback

Andrew Walker playing against the Crusaders in 2002. Photo: Nigel MarpleAndrew Walker admits making a comeback at 43 years old seems too crazy to be true, but the cross-code veteran declared “the fire is still blazing” if the ACT Brumbies want him to play again.
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Walker has emerged as a potential recruitment option for the Brumbies as coach Stephen Larkham considers adding another player to his roster after injuries to Lausii Taliauli and Tomas Cubelli.

Walker hasn’t played professional rugby since retiring from the Queensland Reds in 2008 and he would become the oldest player in Super Rugby history if he is lured back on to the field.

Walker concedes he’s no longer the try-scoring freak he was in his prime, the dual international says he can offer wisdom to a Brumbies side that has lost more than 500 games worth of experience this year.

Larkham and Walker are yet to speak formally about contracts or whether Walker would be able to handle professional rugby again a decade after he retired.

But Walker said a taste of action at the Brisbane 10s last weekend reignited his passion.

“I haven’t really stopped playing footy, so my fitness is pretty high,” Walker said.

“I’ve probably lost about 10 per cent of speed, but I make up for that with experience. We can do things with the Brumbies and set it back on the right track again.

“The fire is still blazing, as soon as I threw the jumper on last weekend it turned into a bonfire. I was thinking, ‘how good is this?’.

“I really, really love the Brumbies so if there was anything I could do to help, then I’d do it in a heartbeat.”

The Brumbies are without Stephen Moore, Matt Toomua, David Pocock, Christian Lealiifano, Joe Tomane, Taliauli and Cubelli this year, leaving a gaping hole in squad experience.

Walker spent 16 years playing rugby league and rugby union at the highest level and showed at the Brisbane 10s age hasn’t diminished his magic.

However, the transition back into Super Rugby would be a giant leap given Walker retired from professional duties in 2008.

He still plays rugby league in Brisbane, is a personal trainer and was even working on his fitness on Tuesday night with the “Break the Cycle” charity, which aims to offer life-coaching and mentoring to prevent self abuse, self harm, addictions, and low self-esteem.

“I know it’s a big ask to be coming back at 43 years old, but my body is holding up really well.I was a bit sore after the 10s but I’m already training again,” Walker said.

“If Bernie [Larkham] came with a contract, I’d be firing. I have been thinking about it … it’s a matter of me thinking ‘can I do it?’.

“I think I can. I have looked after myself since I finished playing professionally and the fire in the belly really fired up when I got to play in the 10s.

“There are a lot of new guys at the Brumbies and what I noticed out there was that they weren’t talking that much.

“I think that’s where Bernie would love to have me, to help the kids. If it does happen, it will give a bit extra. It would bring the youth back out in me again.

“It’s a big ask and I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it … I’d put that jumper on again in a heartbeat.

Larkham conceded the Brumbies coaches “half joked” about Walker making a comeback at the Brisbane 10s, but it planted a seed about what he could offer the team.

Walker could be add valuable experience to the Brumbies bench if required at Super Rugby because of his ability to cover a variety of positions.

Walker would become the oldest player in Super Rugby history if he is asked to make a comeback, beating Brad Thorn’s record of being 39 years old.

“I did see that statistic. I’ve always loved a bit of history, I’ll take it,” Walker laughed.


February 25: Canterbury Crusaders v ACT Brumbies at Christchurch.

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