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   May 13

Jakarta candidate Anies Baswedan surging in polls, but some claim there’s a cost

Anies Baswedan listens to Julie Bishop in the Jakarta suburb of Menteng in March 2016, when he was a minister in the Indonesian government. Photo: Irwin Fedriansyah Jakarta: In 2010 the Japanese magazine Foresightnamed Indonesian university rector Anies Baswedan among 20 global figures – including Vladimir Putin and David Miliband – to watch over the next 20 years.
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The cover story predicted that Mr Baswedan – a former student activist opposed to authoritarian leader Suharto, a prominent political analyst and one of Indonesia’s youngest university presidents – would be a future leader.

It seems Foresight showed considerable, well, foresight. Seven years later, Mr Baswedan is contesting gubernatorial elections in Jakarta, considered by many a dress rehearsal – or at least a proxy war within the political elite – for Indonesia’s 2019 presidential race.

Mr Baswedan’s ticket is supported by the Greater Indonesia Movement (Gerindra), the party chaired by Prabowo Subianto, President Joko Widodo’s rival in the 2014 elections.

“Anies … is widely seen as using this election to get his political career back on track, while at the same time testing the water for Prabowo Subianto’s next attempt for the presidency in 2019,” writes political analyst Yohanes Sulaiman in New Mandala.

And the latest survey from Indikator Politik Indonesia – one of the most trusted polling firms in the country – shows Anies is neck-and-neck with the polarising incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as Ahok.

As support wanes for the third candidate, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, after several lacklustre debate performances and embarrassing Twitter outbursts by his father, former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Mr Baswedan’s popularity is in the ascendant.

Neither Mr Purnama nor Mr Baswedan are expected to win the majority required for victory in the February 15 election, which would mean they would have to face off in a second election in April.

Indikator executive director Burhanuddin Muhtadi believes Mr Yudhoyono’s votes would flow to Mr Baswedan in a runoff, as supporters of the two Muslim candidates come from similar backgrounds: “We still have two months to go and everything can happen, but based on the current situation the momentum is with Anies.”

But at what cost? The Foresight profile said Mr Baswedan’s neutral, fair and consistently balanced views had earned him the trust of all communities, including many political elites. “He is a moderate Muslim who consistently stands in the middle, not affiliated with any political party or group,” it said.

But Mr Baswedan’s moderate reputation has been eroded during the election campaign by his aggressive courting of the Islamist vote.

In January he sparked controversy by giving a speech to the hardline Islam Defenders Front (FPI), which has spearheaded mass rallies in the capital, with protesters calling for Ahok to be jailed and in some instances even killed for allegedly insulting Islam. Anies Baswedan, once known as a global voice of moderate Islam, campaigned at FPI HQ. Will this pic be remembered as the day moderates die? pic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/AlvgGmmByz— Evan A. Laksmana (@EvanLaksmana) January 1, 2017

At the time one of Mr Baswedan’s campaign spokesmen, Anggawira, told Fairfax Media that Mr Baswedan attended meetings with different groups every few days.

“People know where he stands on Islam, it’s not something created in one day or visit. His position is well known by everybody, it’s clear in the media, he was an activist as a student … he’s an educator.”

When pressed by Metro TV anchor Najwa Shihab on whether he shared the FPI’s belief that Jakarta’s governor must be a Muslim, Mr Baswedan replied: “When we talk about verse from the Koran, it’s clear, it is stated there. As a Muslim, I abide by al-Ma’ida 51.”

It is verse 51 from the fifth sura or chapter of the Koran that has landed Mr Purnama in so much hot water. It is interpreted by some as prohibiting Muslims from living under the leadership of non-Muslims.

Others say the scripture should be understood in its context – a time of war – and not interpreted literally.

Islamist hardliners have consistently used the verse to urge Jakartans not to vote for Ahok, who is Christian.

Mr Baswedan and Mr Yudhoyono both attended a “mass prayer” at Istiqlal Mosque, an event some dubbed the “112 [February 11] march”, which police eventually allowed on the condition people stay within the mosque and that it not feature any political speech.

This was ignored: religious leaders told the crowd of about 100,000 people to vote for Muslim leaders and participants brandished placards that said things like “It is forbidden to pick an infidel leader”.

Mr Baswedan told the BBC he had simply conducted morning prayers and stressed that he had not exploited religious sentiment during the election campaign.

“I never talked about religion, never talked about any sura, not even once. Other people used it and made all of this happen,” Mr Baswedan said.

But Indikator pollster Mr Burhanuddin is among those who believe Mr Baswedan has damaged his moderate reputation.

“The only way of beating Ahok is to use religious sentiment because 75 per cent of Jakartans perceive Ahok has done a good job,” Mr Burhanuddin said, adding that the strategy had worked for Mr Baswedan up until now.

“For Anies this is really a big game. If he fails to win the election, it is all just finished for him – his reputation as a pluralistic, inclusive Muslim figure is just finished. He is just like other politicians – using everything to win the election even at the cost of his reputation.”

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   May 13

A-League: Liaoning Whowin express interest in Newcastle Jets midfielder Ma Leilei

SHOP WINDOW: Jets midfielder Ma Leilei has attracted interest from Chinese Super League club Liaoning Whowin after a series of eye-catching performances in the A-League. Picture: Getty ImagesMA Leilei joined the Newcastle Jets on a modest contract in a bid to kick start a career he hopes leads back to China and the riches on offer in the Super League.
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The 27-year-old is not there yet, but his 12 A-League appearances, the past five in the starting side, has attracted the attention ofLiaoning Whowin.

Liaoning Whowin, who are in the Hunter on a three-week pre-season camp, have recently added Socceroos Robbie Kruse and James Holland to a roster that includes former Bundesliga star Anthony Ujah and Zambia captain Chamanga.

Chinese Super League (CSL) clubs are permitted five overseas players but only three can be used in a game.The new regulation has increased the demand –and salary –of quality Chinese players.

Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna confirmed that Liaoning Whowin had “shown a bit of interest” in Ma but said any deal was a long way off.

The CSLwindow closes at the end of the month, with the competition starting on March 3.

“Clubs will have a list and it will depend if they get the first choice, second choice…there will be a lot on maneuveringbefore the window closes,” McKinna said.

Ma is contracted to the Jets until the end season and it would take a lucrative transfer fee for the club to release him early.

“He has done very well,” McKinna said. “You see the reception he gets when he comes off the park, the fans appreciate him.”

Liaoning Whowin, who finished 10th in CSL last season, will get a first-hand look at Ma in a friendly against the Jets next Wednesday.

“Leilei will probably have half a game, “ McKinna said. “The idea of him coming here was to get back into China.He is not on a big salary. He came here to prove himself. His biggest problemwas that he wasn’t fit.Because they have changed regulations in the Super League, Chinese players are more valuable.When I was coaching therefive years ago, Chinese players were on $30,000 to $40,000 a year, unless they were a national-team player. During the last five years the salaries have gone through the roof. A couple of the boys I had atChongqing are picking up $500,000 US net.”

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   May 13

Shocking Close the Gap report shows need for new relationship between black and white Chinans

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull delivers the Closing the Gap report at Parliament House in Canberra. Photo: Andrew Meares The latest Closing the Gap report makes for grim reading. Photo: Ben Plant
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The big question went unasked and unanswered when Malcolm Turnbull presented the ninth – and perhaps the most disappointing – annual Closing the Gap report on endemic and profound Indigenous disadvantage.

Why, half a century after ns overwhelmingly decided the Commonwealth had a duty to make laws to benefit the First ns, is the gap still so wide?

Why, nine years after all tiers of government agreed on a comprehensive strategy to close it, is just one of seven targets – and arguably the softest one – on track to be met?

Why, 20 years after the landmark report on the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families, are Indigenous children nearly 10 times more likely to be removed by child protection authorities than non-Indigenous children?

Why, after all of the revelations of institutionalised cruelty in the Northern Territory’s juvenile justice system, was a 12-year-old boy tasered as he attempted to run from police last week?

And why, after all the inquiries and all the dollars spent, is the gap actually widening in some critical target areas, like deaths caused by cancer and infant mortality?

The Prime Minister is a glass-half-full politician and he chose to focus on the positives when he presented the report to Parliament on Tuesday, like the fact that there is no employment gap for those with a university degree.

So did the report, which began with the words: “This ninth Closing the Gap report showcases real successes being achieved at a local level across the country – by individuals, communities, organisations and governments.”

This reflects the idea that you make progress by celebrating success, but the self-congratulatory tone was out of order and it won’t work if the deeper question of the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous ns is not addressed.

Turnbull also referred to three positive developments of his own making: the recasting of his Indigenous advisory council; the secondment of one of the country’s foremost experts on Indigenous health, Ian Anderson, to his department; and the appointment of an Indigenous member of the Productivity Commission to evaluate programs with a budget to do the work.

Each is important, but these are incremental steps when a paradigm shift is required. For all the talk about doing things with Aboriginal people, not to them, the bottom line is that far too many Aboriginal people feel excluded, disrespected, disempowered and discriminated against – every day of their lives.

Bill Shorten acknowledged as much when he called for a new approach, based on listening to those on the other side of the gap. “We must forget the insulting fiction that the First ns are a problem to be solved,” was how he put it.

What is needed is a new relationship, and the best path toward one is being charted by Indigenous ns in a series of dialogues on what constitutional recognition should look like and mean.

Momentum is building toward having an Indigenous body recognised in the Constitution to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people a voice in the Parliament and a say in decisions that affect them and their rights.

If such a proposal is endorsed at an Indigenous constitutional convention at Uluru in May, it might just represent the best chance for a fresh start. The question then is whether the politicians will grasp it?

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   May 13

Michael Flynn’s resignation leaves China one less friend in Trump’s White House

‘s ambassador to Washington Joe Hockey will praise the “value of mateship” at a speech in Chicago this week. Photo: Wolter PeetersThe roller-coaster that is dealing with a Trump presidency just took another stomach-clenching dip.
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Trying to get to know a White House deliberately staffed by outsiders, n officials had placed a lot of store in Michael Flynn as someone well-disposed to occupying the crucial job of National Security Adviser.

n ambassador to Washington Joe Hockey is set to praise the “value of mateship” at a speech in Chicago this week on the US- relationship, and it’s a safe bet he hoped to count Flynn as a mate.

Flynn, after all, was the battlefield commander in Afghanistan who in 2010 broke with the chain of command to share sensitive US intelligence with n soldiers.

He was lauded by former n army chief Peter Leahy in January as among a modern breed of “fighting generals” with little time for bureaucracies or the politics of Washington.

Flynn was also in the room for Donald Trump’s now infamous phone call with Malcolm Turnbull and was hoped to be a voice to reinforce the long-standing alliance ties between the two nations.

But Flynn’s slipshod attitude towards proper process has brought him undone – no small event at a time when railing against “fake news” is employed as an excuse to cover up all manner of mistakes.

Flynn had special notoriety on this score. “Flynn Facts” was the nickname given to his penchant for conspiracy theories and unwavering confidence in his own righteousness long before “post-truth” became a phrase of the mainstream.

But despite what some saw as his dangerous and confrontational ideas, there was still hope, in the manner of sensible official advice to make sense of what are unsettling times, that Flynn was a man could deal with.

No more. His resignation in disgrace over what he did or didn’t tell Russia’s ambassador only underscores the difficulty of searching out the comforting and familiar at a moment of radical change.

The lesson for is simple. While it’s nice to go to the carnival with friends, we will have to get accustomed to hanging on alone for a wild ride.

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   May 13

Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council unaffected by NSW merger policy change

Tim Overall: The administrator believes people support the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council. Photo: Jay CronanThe New South Wales government’s change in policy on regional council mergers will not affect those that have already amalgamated – including Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council.
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Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on Tuesday the government would push on with mergers in Sydney but those pending in regional areas would no longer go ahead.

Queanbeyan and Palerang councils were among 44 merged last May in a controversial move that led to legal action from a number of local government organisations.

Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council administrator Tim Overall said it was business as usual for the organisation after a video meeting with staff from Ms Berejiklian’s office Tuesday afternoon.

“My focus has always been Queanbeyan, but my position has been that if the government was going to merge councils it was very important that we get behind the government’s initiatives in that regard and make them highly successful, those mergers, and being appointed administrator, that’s what I’m about,” he said.

“My view is anecdotally, based on the feedback I’m receiving right across our local government area, whether it’s in Queanbeyan, Braidwood, Bungendore or even further afield, is that there’s general support for the merger.”

Federal Eden-Monaro Labor MP Mike Kelly attended a protest against forced amalgamations last week in support of the seven councils merged to three within his electorate.

“The result of these council mergers is the stripping away of democracy from our community – people were not given a vote on the mergers or the people who run these new councils,” Dr Kelly said on Tuesday.

“Today’s announcement did not even discuss bringing forward council election, so the extended reign of unelected administrators continues.”

Deputy Premier and Nationals leader John Barilaro – who represents Queanbeyan as part of the Monaro electorate – vowed last month to put a stop to mergers in bush areas.

“Local councils in the bush have done their fair share to contribute to stronger local government in NSW, and today we draw a line under local government amalgamations in the regions,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

“This decision has been made to ensure that we put an end to the confusion and uncertainty for those councils locked in drawn-out legal battles.

“I am looking forward to the local government elections in September to restore local decision-making to our regions.”

Snowy Monaro Council will also stay merged. Yass Valley Council, Bega Valley and Eurobodalla remain unaffected.

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   Apr 13

Premier Gladys Berejiklian prepares for North Shore byelection backlash over mergers

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, flanked by local government minister Gabrielle Upton and deputy premier John Barilaro. Photo: Louise KennerleyPremier Gladys Berejiklian has acknowledged the government risks losing the North Shore byelection as a result of its decision on council mergers, but remains adamant it has prioritised the community’s best interests.
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After weeks of mounting uncertainty, Ms Berejiklian confirmed on Tuesday that all 20 merged councils would remain in place and the government would forge ahead with the five merger proposals for Sydney councils currently pursuing court action.

However, in what amounts to a partial backdown, the six merger proposals for regional councils will be abandoned, including the merger of Wollongong and Shellharbour councils, and Newcastle and Port Stephens councils.

Ms Berejiklian based her justification to proceed with the Sydney mergers as necessary to address the city’s housing affordability crisis and improve development approval times.

“It is really important for us if we care about housing affordability, if we care about planning and infrastructure, to go and proceed with these reforms.”

Describing the decision as “not in my personal best interest”, Ms Berejiklian accepted the decision to differentiate between city and regional councils had set the stage for the North Shore byelection to become a referendum on the policy.

“As a new premier I face a byelection on the North Shore, which is opposing the proposed mergers, but I accept this decision is not about me, personally,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Ms Berejiklian, whose seat of Willoughby is in the neighbouring electorate, said her own council would be affected the merger of Mosman, North Sydney and Willoughby councils, which is being challenged in court.

No date has yet been set for the North Shore byelection, which was triggered by the resignation of former health minister Jillian Skinner last month, but anti-merger advocates have already vowed vengeance at the ballot box.

Responding to the government’s decision on Tuesday, Save Our Councils Coalition announced a campaign to “put Liberals last” at the byelection.

“They will be massacred in the North Shore byelection,” spokesman Phill Jenkyn said.

As anti-merger advocates rounded on the government, Ms Berejiklian justified the partial backdown as an acknowledgement the government’s “one size fits all model” was the wrong approach.

She said evidence had shown the benefits in Sydney were “about six times greater than they are outside of Sydney”.

“There is no doubt that the circumstances we have in Sydney, in relation to reforming local government, are very different to the issues outside of Sydney.

“Had we had our time over, we would have naturally dealt with councils in Sydney very differently to councils outside of Sydney.”

The announcement is also set to ease internal tensions within the Coalition, with Tuesday’s decision reflecting the commitment made by Nationals leader John Barilaro last month to end all proposed mergers in the bush.

On Tuesday Mr Barilaro said the decision would “end the confusion and uncertainty” for regional councils currently fighting the proposed mergers in the courts.

Thirteen of the 20 mergers executed last year occurred in regional NSW, but Mr Barilaro rejected the suggestions that those councils which had pursued legal action were being rewarded at the expense of those who had accepted the policy.

Instead, he said any moves to “unscramble those council mergers would bring greater uncertainty”.

Ms Berejiklian said that “overwhelming feedback” from communities which had already been merged was that they wanted to “continue the process”.

But the government’s critics rejected the justifications, accusing it of imposing one rule for the city and one for the bush.

Opposition leader Luke Foley accused the premier of “stubborn inflexibility” by forging ahead with the Sydney mergers, and restated Labor’s position to allow residents to decide if they want to demerge.

“She has done nothing. It is a shambolic policy which is the result of deals and factional fixes to save her own hide.”

Greens MP and local government spokesman David Shoebridge slammed the approach as a “half-baked response” and an “unprincipled compromise”.

“If the Coalition is admitting that it is wrong on forced council amalgamations in places like Oberon and Cabonne, then it can’t pretend it is the right thing for millions of residents in the city”.

Woollahra mayor Toni Zeltzer, whose council is pursuing a High Court challenge to oppose the merger with Randwick and Waverley councils, said she was shell-shocked by the decision.

“This is a disastrous day for local democracy,” Cr Zeltzer said.

“These double standards show the only thing that matters to them is vote grabbing in marginal seats.”

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   Apr 13

Werner Herzog hilariously probes ‘glories of the internet, also the dangers’

Werner Herzog’s documentary Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World looks at the history, the present, the future and the ubiquity of the internet. Photo: Madman Werner Herzog at the Sundance Film Festival last year. Photo: Matt Sayles
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Buddhist monks with their smart phones, in a scene from Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World. Photo: Madman

The subject is everyone’s – the internet – but it takes less than a minute for Werner Herzog to make it entirely his own.

The LA-based German filmmaker’s fascinating documentary Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World opens in the grounds of the University of California, Los Angeles – all gothic towers and leafy avenues beneath a cloudless blue sky – before heading inside to the room where the internet was born one day in 1969 when a message was sent between two computers 640 kilometres apart.

“The corridors here look repulsive,” he says in voice over, “and this one leads to a sort of a shrine.” It’s classic Herzog, deadly earnest and utterly comical at the same time.

Who else would describe a corridor as “repulsive”? Who else would say, as he does later in the film of a woman recovering from addiction to computer games, “I wanted very much to discuss fictional characters with Chloe, like the malevolent druid dwarf, but I had to desist”?

It’s impossible in these moments not to think of the Herzog of Burden of Dreams, Les Blank’s majestic documentary about the making of Fitzcarraldo (both 1982). Talking about the South American jungle with which he was doing battle, the director says in Blank’s film “nature here is vile and base”. Seeing only “fornication and asphyxiation and choking” where others saw abundant life, he says “the birds are in misery. I don’t think they sing, they just screech in pain”.

Like I said, deadly earnest and utterly comical.

Little wonder Herzog has become a cult figure, spawning internet parodies in which imitators read children’s books such as Winnie the Pooh and Madeline in approximations of his wonderfully accented voice. There are faux Herzog cooking shows, too, even a Werner Herzblog.

“There are at least three dozen doppelgangers, impostors,” he says, pronouncing it im-posters, “out there. You’ll find me on Facebook but it’s not me, it’s fake. You’ll find me on Twitter but it’s a fraud, it’s fake.

“It’s OK, let them be out there, let them do battles. I consider them my unpaid bodyguards.”

In his study of the digital age – which is not so much a history of the internet as a series of ruminations on its past, present and future – Herzog roams across what he calls “this huge event”, a technological shift that may also signal an evolutionary one. He finds people who are allergic to the low-level radiation emitted by the connected world and so have dropped out entirely; he asks whether the internet has begun to “dream of itself” – in other words, develop consciousness (quite possibly, says one of his experts, but we can’t know); he revisits a dreadful case of internet harassment, in which photos of a girl who had been decapitated in an automobile accident were sent to her family, who did not know she had suffered that indignity.

It all amounts, he says with no hint of false modesty, to “the only competent film about the internet so far”.

He explores the way the world has changed for the better as a result of the internet, but also the way we have exposed ourselves to catastrophe by placing so much trust in it, by connecting everything – our utilities, our security systems, our memories, our finances – to it.

“I explore the glories of the internet, and also the dangers,” he says.

All of which prompts people to ask him if the internet is good or bad. “And that’s the wrong question. I would ask you, ‘Is electricity good or bad?’

“When you think it’s good, you’d better reconsider when you’re on death row and you are sitting on an electric chair,” he says. “That’s the time to recalibrate your opinion on electricity.”

The parodists couldn’t have said it better.

Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World is at ACMI February 15-23. Details: acmi苏州夜场招聘.au

Karl Quinn is on facebook at karlquinnjournalist and on twitter @karlkwin

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   Apr 13

Former Hamilton Marist principal Brother Christopher Wade charged with offences linked to two Brothers

Charged: Former Hamilton Marist Brothers school principal, Brother Christopher Wade, at the school in 1977. He was charged with two counts of making false statements to police and two counts of perverting the course of justice.
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FORMER Hamilton Marist Brothers school principal, Brother Christopher Wade, has been charged with making false statements to police and perverting the course of justice.

Strike Force Georgiana detectives Sergeant Kristi Faber, and Senior Constable Simon Grob, charged Brother Wade with four offences on Tuesday relating to statements he made to police in 2014 during Georgiana investigations into Marist Brothers Francis Cable (Brother Romuald) and Darcy O’Sullivan (Brother Dominic).

He was charged in Sydney.

Brother Christopher, 78, whose real name is William Henry Wade, was charged after investigations following his statementto Strike Force Georgiana in 2014 that he did “not remember ever having to consult the Provincial regarding any complaint or grievances of the Brothers of Hamilton during my time”.

In a separate statement to Georgiana detectives that was tendered at a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse public hearing in Newcastle in September, Brother Christopher recalled a complaint by “a student or a parent or something” about Brother Romuald.

In his statement Brother Christopher said “there had been a complaintabouthim (Romuald)interfering with a boy. That’s what we called it back then. It was interfering.”

Brother Christopher told Detective Faber, “I dldn’t even know what a paedophile or paedophilia were back then.”

He said he had a conversation with Romuald and “what I remember about that conversation is that he said to me, ‘I thought I had been good in that area recently’.”

In his statement and in evidence to the royal commission Brother Christopher said he thought Romuald had made “an admission that he had done stuff in thepast”. In his statement Brother Christopher said when he asked Romuald about the complaint of interfering with a boy, Romuald denied the allegation.

Brothers Romuald and Dominic were both convicted of child sex offences at the Hamilton school.

Inhis statement to the royal commission hearing about child sex allegations against Catholic Church representatives in the Hunter region, Brother Christopher said the transcript of his statements to police in 2014 were accurate.

Brother Christopher started training to be a Brother in 1953 when he was 18. He was transferred to Marist Brothers Hamilton in 1969.He was appointed principal in 1971 and remained at the school until 1976. He was later appointed principal at Marist schools in Brisbane and Canberra.

The matter is listed for mention at Newcastle Local Court in March.

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   Apr 13

21-storey development proposed for Nelson Bay

NEW LOOK: An artist’s impression of how the Nelson Bay skyline could be impacted if a 21-storey development were to go ahead.A TWENTY-one storey tower is one of two proposals Port Stephens Council has considered for sites it owns on Donald Street, Nelson Bay –even if the mayor Bruce MacKenzie “isn’t set” on the height.The proposal – four times the accepted five-storey limit – was received as part of an expression of interest advertisedto redevelop the public car parks.
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The council discussed the 21-storey proposal for the eastern site and a 17-level plan for the western siteat a closed meeting onJune 28, 2016.A confidential report presented to councillors at that meeting outlines the proposals and the intent to form a contract with the developers under a public-private partnership. The council resolved to enter into negotiations with the developers Veritas and Anglican Care.

But for a deal to proceed the council noted itwould need to “secure a suitable variation” to the Development Control Plan to “enable the development proposals”. The council this week launched its Nelson Bay Discussion Paper – a review of the Nelson Bay Foreshore and Town Centre Strategy, a strategy the council has said must precede any review of development controls.

“I’m not set on the 21 storeys but it’s gotta go up to be viable,” Cr MacKenzie said.

“We’ve got to go up more than eight or 10 storeys –it will be the making of the CBD. A handful of people have held us back too long.”

The artist impression above is an estimate only of how the skyline may be impacted. The sale of the sites, after redevelopment, is to be on the condition they maintain if not increase the 295 existing public car spaces.

The EOI was advertised inMay 2015 and a panel of five council group managers and coordinators appointed to consider the proposals.An external advisory panel was also formed, including a legal representative of NSW Local Government.

Veritas was selected as the preferred developer for the Donald Street east site. The proposal includes ground floor retail, 174 apartments and 54 public car parks as well as 174 private off-street parks, measuring 21 levels.Veritas also submitted a proposal for the western site in partnership with Anglican Care. The plans includeground floor retail, an 84-bed nursing home, 87 seniors apartments and parking provisions for 241 public spaces and 73 private car parks. In total, 17 levels.

The report to councillors noted there were “reputational”risk implicationsarising from the Development Control Plan variation.

“This will require initiation by strategic planning of a ‘whole of precinct’ review of the current development controls without a guarantee of an outcome that will support the preferred proponents’ proposals,” it said.

GOING UP: Sydney-based Veritas has proposed to build a 21-storey mix of retail and residential living on the Donald Street-east site. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

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   Apr 13

Riding that Surfest wave

MUM, I WON: An 18-year-old Mick Fanning gets on the blower to his mother after taking out the first of his three Surfest titles, in 2000. He went on to salute again in 2002 and 2005.Thirty-two years and going strong, the history of Surfestreads like a who’s who of world surfing, but it’s the grassroots focus that has ensuredlongevity.
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The event has been a magnet for the stars over the years with genuine prestige attached.

Consider, for example, a young Mick Fanning (pictured) ringing his mum shortly after takingout the 2000 Surfest title. It was a homespun moment for the 18-year-old, his best result to date in the event thus far, and a springboard for future world titles.

Read through the list of champions over the years –from Tom Curren,Mark Occhilupo, Tom Carroll,Damien Hardman, Barton Lynch, Joel Parkinson and the incomparable Kelly Slater.

It speaks volumes to the calibre of world class surfers who have graced Newcastle shores over the years and what it means to them to win.

But it isn’t just about the world champions, and the international glamour.

Surfest has long featured a range of secondary competitions supporting the main event that reinforce the fabric of competitive grassroots surfing which have ensured the longevity of this iconic community event.

That tradition continues in 2017, with Surfest literally the longest running surfing event in the world, kicking off on January 21 with theMaitland and Port Stephens Toyota Wildcard Trials at Birubi Point, and due toconclude February 26 with the Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota Pro andAnditi Women’s Pro at Merewether.

Between those dates the Hunter will have feasted on a smorgasbord of surfing including the Lake Mac Festival of Surfing held at Redhead Beach (January 28-29),the ORICA Surfboard Club Team Challenge at Stockton Beach (February 4-5), the nib Pro Junior at Merewether Beach, theSanbah Cadet Cup boys and Dalton Lawyers girls presented by arcbuild at South Bar Beach (Feb 11-12), and the Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota High School Teams Challenge at Merewether Beach (Feb 14-15).

The Wandiyali ATSI Indigenous Classic is scheduled to run February 16-17 at Merewether Beach and the Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota international trials from February 18-19, with the SurfAid Cup to be held at Dixon Park on February 24.

Approximately 370 surfers from 28 countries have entered the men’s and women’s contests, which is the largest ever field seeking a start at Surfest’s main events.

There arefew contests in the world that have enjoyed the longevity thatSurfest has, and it’s clear the event enjoys a special place in the social and sporting fabric of the community.

“Every year we are blown away when terrific surfers show an interest in the event, but 2017 is shaping up as something special,” Surfest organiser Warren Smith said.

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