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   Dec 12

Education consultant Get Qualified China has registration cancelled

Proceedings have been brought against Get Qualified’s sole director Adam Wadi, amid allegations he was knowingly concerned in Get Qualified’s contraventions. Photo: GQA Get Qualified offers a range of qualifications for the Skills Recognition and Recognition of Prior Learning scheme. Photo: Get Qualified website
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An education organisation, which could owe hundreds of n consumers full or partial refunds in excess of $1 million, has been stripped of its registration as a vocational education provider.

Get Qualified is a consultancy that matches jobseekers with registered training organisations that can issue qualifications for a range of industries, such as construction, business or beauty.

It was one of three vocational education and training (VET) services providers to have its registration cancelled by the n Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), a decision which is to take effect from March 6.

The company’s website and telephone hotline are continuing to operate and take enquiries from new consumers.

Get Qualified itself is not a registered training organisation (RTO) and, as such, is not directly regulated by ASQA.

However it partners with organisations which are regulated by ASQA to provide assessment services, including Get Qualified Adelaide, Get Qualified Canberra and Get Qualified Brisbane, all of which have had their registration cancelled.

ASQA  stated that the company had “not operated consistently with the applicable requirements of the VET Quality Framework”.

The government body has previously told Fairfax Media that it had received a total of 11 complaints against the three training providers.

“These complaints relate to issues such as marketing undertaken by the training providers, fees and refunds, certification of study completed, the quality of training and assessment provided and the provision of information to students,” an ASQA spokesman told Fairfax Media last year.

“These complaints informed the regulatory activity undertaken by ASQA which led to the decision to issue each with a notice to cancel their registration.”

Last year Get Qualified , which describes itself as “‘s leading Skills Recognition & Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Specialist,” was the subject of a successful freezing order brought against it by the n Competition and Consumer Commission.

The ACCC action was a response to the finding that, since January 1, 2015, more than half of Get Qualified’s customers that had been signed up and charged fees ranging from $700 to $8500 had not obtained the qualification they were seeking.

One such customer was 39-year-old painter David Barclay, who paid $1300 for a Certificate III in Painting and Decorating, before he found out he was not in fact eligible for it.

“They never should have issued it to me,” Mr Barclay told Fairfax Media in 2016.

The regulator also alleged that the company had failed to honour its “100 per cent money back guarantee” for consumers who did not obtain a qualification, used unfair sales tactics, insisted on up-front payments and failed to provide promised services following payments.

It prompted the ACCC to institute legal proceedings in the Federal Court against the group and its sole director Adam Wadi for alleged misleading and unconscionable conduct.

The matter is listed for trial on March 28, where the ACCC will be seeking consumer redress orders, pecuniary penalties, declarations, injunctions, orders for the implementation of a trade practices compliance program and costs.

Get Qualified’s sole director Adam Wadi told Fairfax Media he would be appealing against ASQA’s decision to cancel the company’s registration.

“We do not agree with these decisions and will be seeking a full review via the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which we are confident will set aside these unwarranted outcomes,” he said.

“We have helped thousands of ns successfully obtain formal and deserved qualifications based on their industry skills and experience. We look forward to setting the record straight, but for now it is inappropriate to comment further while proceedings are ongoing.”

He has previously labelled the ACCC’s court action as “flimsy” and based on “unsubstantiated evidence”.

“We will defend the allegations, as we are of the view that they are without merit and not justified,” Mr Wadi said in September last year.

Clover Educations, trading as Cool Body Institute of Massage and AITE Pty Ltd, trading as n Institute of Technical Education also had their registration cancelled by ASQA last week.  Interact with us on Facebook – Savvy ConsumerLatest consumer news


   Dec 12

The countdown is on for Maitland’s Taste Festival in March

Tickle those tastebuds Maitland Taste Festival is back | PHOTOS Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.
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Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

Take a look back at Maitland Taste Festival in 2015.

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   Dec 12

China Post staff accused of manipulating injury rates for bonuses: report

Managers reportedly manipulated injury rate data to secure bonuses. Photo: Christopher PearceSome senior managers within  Post have reportedly been accused of manipulating data on workplace injuries so they can be rewarded with bonuses.
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Comcare, the federal workplace safety and compensation agency, is investigating allegations made by current and former Post managers that some senior staff delayed injury claims, recorded workers as away sick when they were injured, and paid for workers’ medical expenses on corporate credit cards instead of letting them lodge compensation claims, The n Financial Review reports.

Managerial and executive bonuses of up to $60,000 can depend on the key performance indicator of time lost due to injury (LTI) rates across the company, the AFR reports.

The AFR says a former manager has told Comcare that other managers explained to him the “normal practice” of delaying workers’ compensation claims until the next annual reporting period to reduce the LTI rate for the current period.

Managers also allegedly delayed processing claims, requested compensation staff knock back claims and sent injured staff for additional medical examinations, the AFR reports.

Between 10 and 20 per cent of all claims are said to have been manipulated, the AFR reports.

An Post spokeswoman said the company “strongly refuted any suggestion safety performance measures have been manipulated at Post to influence bonus payments”.

Post’s workers compensation scheme was regulated and audited annually by Comcare, and the company had passed all audits, the spokeswoman said.

She said LTI rates were one of 27 performance indicators used to determine bonuses last year, but were not taking into account this year.

“We are fully cooperating with the regulator on recent allegations raised by a complainant,” the spokeswoman said.

Executive pay has been thrown back into the spotlight this month with the unrelated revelation Post chief executive Ahmed Fahour pocketed $5.6 million in 2015-16.

BusinessDay 


   Dec 12

Swell model gains support

INSIDE SECTION: Surfest crowd-funding pioneer Colin Law has tapped into the Newcastle community spirit to provide a viable financing model moving forward.
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Innovation is the key to business survival, and the story of Surfest is testament to that.

Conceived and funded by Newcastle City Council to the tune of $30,000 back in 1985, it was the richest surfing contest in the world at the time.

But times change as do funding models.

For the last decade or more, Surfest has been made financially possible by the commitment, sacrifice and generosity of such men as organiser Warren Smith, and the family of Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota owner Kim Burton.

Smith famously mortgaged his own house for many years to ensure Surfest went ahead.

Burton, a lifelong surfing enthusiast and Surfest supporter, has backed the event from his own pocket to the tune of over $1.7 million dollarsover the last decade and more.

In 2015, Commonwealth Bank Executive Manager Business Banking Colin Law decided to was time to share the load.

“The financial future of the women’s event was under a cloud and when I witnessed Warren in tears of gratitude with Kim, who’d come to the party yet again, I realised something sustainable was required in terms of funding,” Mr Law said.

“Surfest had a great story to tell but a loose connection to local business.

“Most appreciated thesporting spotlight and global presence from digital coverage that it brings to the region, but lessunderstood the effort and value, other than just surfing.”

Law settled on a crowd-funding model that put the event within reach of local businesses.

“It takes $75,000 to maintain a women’s event at the QS 6000 level–coin that few individual businesses have to throw around,” Law said.

“But if the pie could be shared …”

In the first year, Law got 73 businesses to back 72 surfers to the tune of $1500 each.

On offer was not only the chance to do the right thing, but also claim naming rights for the year, drawn out of a barrel at a corporatebusiness function in the lead-up to the competition.

“In essence, it wasa shot at a $75,000 payday for a $1500 outlay, plus the networking opportunities that come with bringing businesses together with a common interest,” Law said.

“On top of that, based on results, businesses could get some of their money back if their surfer performed well, so itconcentrated interest during the eventandextended that connection well beyond.”

Involvement was reinforced at the surfer-draw function where business representatives got to meet the top women’s surfers in person.

“The real magic happens when the competitors hit town and local business gets to see up close what it means to them to be supported like this,” Law said.

“Nowhere in the world does this happen to this extent and the women are truly humbled and excited.”

Newcastle has bought into the concept andthe number of crowd funders has increased to85 businesses in 2017.

“Of the 63 unique businesses we got in 2016, we have51 back in 2017. Clearly it hasgot momentum.

“We all want to see it happen for the right reasons and now we know we can sustain funding in a viable manner.

‘’Surfest has this unique heritage and deserves to be at the elite level, providing those pathways, from cadets through corporate and right up to the main events.

“Guys like Warren Smith and Kim Burton have recognised this for years and given uptime and money to make it happen.

“By creating that link with business, hopefully we can continue to keep ithappening into the future.”


   Dec 12

Why this resources boom will be less fun than the last

recently notched up a record trade surplus, driven by surging mining exports. Photo: Ryan StuartHeard about the resources boom coming back from the dead?
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recently posted its biggest ever monthly trade surplus of $3.5 billion, helped by a surge in commodity exports to China.

The price of coal used to make steel more than doubled last year, as iron ore also surged, and mining shares have been taking off once again.

You could be forgiven for assuming the resources bonanza is back, and with it the windfall gains that were delivered to government coffers, and many households.

But alas, it is a different story this time around. The economy should still benefit from this part of the boom, but the gains for households from this mining boom will probably be less visible than in the past.

The reality is there have been several phases to what we call the “resources boom” over the last decade or so, and we are now in the final one.

The first part was the surge in prices in the early noughties, and the second was a wave of construction activity as miners scrambled to cash in by building more mines. Commodity prices peaked in 2011 and fell for the next five years, while mining investment has also been falling since 2012.

In the third and current phase, more and more of the mines are being completed, and it’s boosting the quantity of mining exports that leave every month. The recent price rises are icing on the cake, though the prices are still well below the peaks of 2012.

In short, it is a very different story to when the world was prepared to pay much higher prices for our exports, or when miners were falling over themselves to spend money here.

And unfortunately, this phase probably won’t result in such obvious benefits for households as in the past, for a few reasons.

For one, the budget can’t afford it. When our export prices went through the roof in the early 2000s, it was a gift to the budget.

It’s been estimated by the Institute that Coalition and then Labor governments handed out $169 billion in income tax cuts between 2005 and 2012. The main reason they could afford to do this was the China boom. But with the budget facing a $37.1 billion deficit, don’t count on tax cuts any time soon.

A second benefit to households from past booms has been to inflate wages, as mining companies paid up to hire staff, and this spilled over into other industries. But that’s not happening now either.

Indeed, as more of the mining and energy projects are finished, they are shedding workers. Commonwealth Bank economists estimate that from peak to trough, this will mean 90,000 job losses in mining construction, and we’re only about 42 per cent of the way through this trend.

Finally, the Aussie dollar isn’t giving households much love either. When the dollar went through “parity” with the US dollar in 2010, this was one way in which many of us benefited, whether it was by getting cheaper imports, online shopping, or overseas trips.

The dollar hasn’t surged with commodity prices this time. If anything, many think the currency may weaken this year because the United States is finally raising its interest rates, which attracts capital to the US.

So the latest boom probably won’t pave the way for tax cuts, or trigger a wages spike, or a surge in the dollar.

Mining will play a bigger part in our economy, and help fund imports, but don’t expect the windfall gains of the past to be repeated.


   Dec 12

The Grain Store offers a friendly ear, McLeish Estate is celebrating and Crafts on the Coast returnsNIBBLES

The good folk at The Grain Store are doing their best to turn a negative into a positive –and you can help.
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Last month theirhead chef Noel sadly took his own life, leaving behind a young son, Noah, who is about to celebrate his third birthday.

Owner Corey Crooks said it had been an “extremely tough couple of weeks for our Grain Store family” but they had made the decision to deal with the tragedy by looking at ways to make a difference.

Staff want to “get the message out loud and clear that it is OK to speak to someone when you are feeling low, that there is always someone who cares more than you would know and is always ready to listen. If we can hopefully help even one person who is in the dark place Noel found himself in then nothing is done in vain, there is just way too much of this happening, particularly with young males”.

Crooks had considered cancelling the Black Hops Brewing event on February 23 however has decided to soldier on and run the“beergustation” in Noel’s honour, using it to raise funds and “kick off a trust fund for little Noah”.

“Wehope this gives some comfort to him when he becomes of the age to realise what has happened to his daddy. Also, some reflection of where his dad was working and how many people loved and cared for his dad but were also thinking about him and his life ahead,” Crooks said.

Grain Store staff will be donating wages and tip jar proceeds to the trust account, and a raffle will be run. If you have anything to donate, [email protected]苏州夜网.au. Tickets to the six-course event are $85 and can be purchased online through ticketbooth苏州夜网.au.

On February 28 –Noah’s birthday –the inaugural Cheers 4 Noah will take place at The Grain Store and the plan is, Crooks said, “to run a few karma kegs on our taps with those funds going into the trust”. All are welcome and brewers are invited to get involved.

If you need help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Pantry dinnerBolton St Pantry is hosting a monthly dinner this Friday and Saturday (February 17 and 18). There will be three entrees and five mains to choose from, as well as dessert and a selection of wines. The cost of an entree and main is $45 and bookings can be made by phoning 4048 1344. With choices like Peking duck tacos, miso and ginger-poached salmon and chocolate chia pudding, it’s worth a look.

Otago winesIf you’re lucky you might still be able to grab a ticket to Friday’s Charteris Wines Dinner at Bushrangers Bar & Brasseriein Largs. Five courses will be matched to selected wines from the Otago winery’s collection.The night kicks off with scallops in a caper buerre noisettefollowed bychicken roulade with apricot and almond three ways,tea-smoked duck, dukkah-crusted lamb cutlet and a cheese and dried fruit platter. Phone4930 1201 for details.

Beer festivalCrafts on the Coast is returning to the Seabreeze Beach Hotel in South West Rocks after a successful inaugural event in 2016 which Food & Wine was fortunate enough to attend.

From March 3 to 5 the hotel transforms into a beer lover’s playground, with live entertainment and a selection of local and regional boutique breweries including Bucket Brewery (Kempsey) and Black Duck Brewery (Port Macquarie).

Entry is free and tasting tickets are available to purchase. Visitors can meet the brewers and taste their way through a selection of local craft beers and ciders. The drinks selection is complemented by beer-friendly food sourced locally from Macleay Valley producers. In addition to the popularBrewers Dinnerthere will be aspitroast cooked on the hotel’s terrace on the Sunday.

For more information go to seabreezebeachhotel苏州夜网.au, email [email protected] or phone6566 6205. Accommodation packages are available.

Waste notBimbadgen teamed up with OzHarvest to make sure leftoverfood from last weekend’s A Day On The Green concert did not go to waste. Food collected by OzHarvest is distributed to charities to help people in need.

Wagon WheelCoal and Cedar are hosting a special whisky and cocktail evening on March 2 from 6pm. Wagon Wheel will have a Wild West theme and punters are encouraged to dress accordingly.

Tales & AlesFormer Aussie test cricketer David Boon will be sharing a story or two at The Squires Maiden from noon on April 7. For a cost of $95 per person, a Tales & Ales ticket includes canapes on arrival, a main course (pistachio crusted rack of lamb or chargrilled marinated spatchcock) and a three-hour beverage package.

A fond farewellIn case you weren’t aware, Little House on King ceased trading late last month.Paul Hampton and Michele Bailey ran the modern European restaurant for three years and had this to say to customers: “We appreciated your patronage and love of our food and may see you again in the future. All the best and thank you for spending time at Little House on King”.

Vintage festivalMcLeish Estate is hosting the Vintage Festival on Sunday, March 18, featuringthe McLeish Grape Stomp, barrel rolling, a gourmet picnic lunch by chef Brian Duncan of Hunters Quarter, live music by Karen O’Shea and Talk & Taste sessions where guests learn the art of oyster shucking. Tickets are available online atmcleishestatewines苏州夜网.au and cost $10 for adults. Children under the age of 13 years are admitted free.


   Dec 12

GPT declares healthy profit despite slowdown in speciality retail sales

The group said that after two years of strong growth, speciality sales in its shopping centre portfolio were slowing. Photo: Paul JeffersA big lift in property values and improving income from office markets in Melbourne and Sydney have delivered one of the country’s largest diversified real estate investment trusts a substantial boost in profit.
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GPT Group, which lists shopping centres, high-rise city offices and industrial estates in its property portfolio, said it earned $1.153 billion in net profit after tax for 2016.

The result delivered security holders a 5.6 per cent increase per unit to 29.88¢.

Chief executive Bob Johnston said a combination of rising rents and a $612 million revaluation contributed like-for-like income growth of 4.5 per cent across the property portfolio.

But the group said that, after two years of strong growth, speciality sales in its shopping centre portfolio were slowing – they increased by just 2.6 per cent.

Mr Johnston said the remixing of the retail portfolio has led to changes in focus, with 32 per cent of new tenants being food operators and about the same in new retail services, such as nail bars.

There has also been a change in the definitions with specialty stores such as Cotton On moving into the “mini major’s category.

“There has been a lot of upheaval in retail tenants, but while it is said landlords charge high rents, our occupancy costs have declined over the past year, indicating that sales are rising to cover the rents,” Mr Johnston said.

“We are focussed on remixing our malls to offer a wide range of services to cater for all visitors.”

GPT’s head of retail, asset management, Vanessa Orth, said specialty sales growth, as anticipated, has moderated  while underlying specialty sales productivity continued to improve and was now above $11,000 per square metre.

“Branded jewellery retailers such as Pandora have recorded strong sales, whilst in general retail the cosmetics growth story continues, with retailers like Mecca and Mac outperforming,” Ms Orth said.

“In regard to apparel, there are two major factors influencing the low moving annual turnover (MAT) growth. Firstly the move by apparel into large format stores, and secondly our active remixing away from lower productive apparel retailers.”

The retail portfolio as a whole delivered like-for-like income growth of 3.8 per cent over the year.

The slowdown in speciality sales echoes a broader industry trend where top brands are struggling to survive cutthroat competition from fast-fashion international retailers setting up shop in .

This year well-known brands Marcs, David Lawrence, Rhodes & Beckett and Herringbone have been placed in administration, with the latter two brands closing seven stores on Monday.

GPT said the value of its retail portfolio increased by $230.8 million last year.

Capitalisation rates firmed to 5.36 per cent across its centres, with standout performers being Melbourne Central (up 11.4 per cent), Highpoint (up 10.3 per cent) and GPT’s ownership interest in its wholesale shopping centre fund (up 6.8 per cent).

The group boosted its holding in the wholesale shopping centre fund last year.

Across the property portfolio, occupancy was a high 97.1 per cent, Mr Johnston said.

The rosy outlook for office landlords would continue this year.

“Our key office markets of Sydney and Melbourne have experienced further improvements in property fundamentals and we expect both will deliver solid rental growth over the next few years, supported by positive tenant demand and a limited supply of new space over that time,” Mr Johnson said.

“Market conditions are expected to remain positive for valuations of high-quality assets in prime locations through 2017.”

GPT announced on Monday it would expand its presence in the booming Sydney western suburbs after buying a site on the corner of Smith and Phillip Streets in the heart of Parramatta’s CBD for $31.2 million.

Across its office portfolio, the group signed 170,000 square metres of leases, including heads of agreement, over the year.

Logistics income grew 1.4 per cent over the year with occupancy up to 95.3 per cent, GPT said.

Several key assets in the development pipeline were also expected to come online.

The Eastern Creek and Seven Hills logistics facilities in Sydney, along with the recently-acquired Huntingwood site, will deliver 64,400 square metres of new facilities when completed.


   Dec 12

Ice-fuelled teen avoids jail after wild rampage

File photoA 14-year-old boy who racked up a half a million dollar crime spree across Ballarat has been released from custody after receiving a stern talking to from a magistrate.
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The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was told his ice-fuelled crime spree“exhibited truly shocking offending”.

“I counted in excess of half a million dollars (ofthefts and other offending) which you destroyed for your own personal exhilaration,” the magistrate told the boy during his sentencing hearing on Monday.

“It’s difficult for me to describe how serious this offending is.”

A children’s court previously heard the boy was involved in numerous car thefts, burglaries and a car chasearound the Ballarat region, some of which occurred while he was on Supreme Court bail.

On one occasion while on bail the boy was filmed driving at high speeds while trying to take a selfie as his passenger smoked ice.

The magistrate told the boy he would be facing a long time behind bars if he was an adult, but because he was still a childhe would instead be receiving the most significant time on a youth supervision order.

“If it doesn’t stop now you’re looking down the barrel of becoming a useless and wastefulperson who will spend your life in and out of jail.”

The boy, who has spent 123 days on remand,was sentenced to a 12-month youth supervision order and was warned he would face more time in custody if he reoffended.

The boy originally pleaded guilty to 21 charges in October which ranged in seriousness from theft of number plates, to theft of motor vehicles and criminal damage by fire over an 18-day period.

On one occasion the boy was caught flipping the bird to a service station attendant as he drove off without paying for petrol in a stolencar.

It was one of three cars totaling $80,000 stolen from a MountClear house on August 31 while the victims slept.

He later watched a co-accused torch the car in Nerrina.

On another occasion the accused attempted to steala car at Pizza Hut in Golden Point during the middle of the day, but was grabbed at the last minute by the car’s owner.

Earlier that morning he caused $21,000 in damagesat a Gillies Street car dealership, after smashing the windows of numerous vehicles while looking for keys.

The boy told police he smoked ice that morning and had not slept for two weeks.

But the boy then faced a series of fresh charges which were racked up after he was released on Supreme Court bail in November.

Some of the new offending included numerous car thefts and a police chasewhere the boy intentionally drove at police and was clocked driving at 100km/h in a built-up area in Golden Point.

On another occasion the boy and a co-accused used a cat flap to break into a house and stole a car.

The court also heard a number of videos and photos found on the boy’s phone implicated him driving, something he is too young to do.

The boy’s lawyer said the 14-year-old was negatively influenced by his peers, but when supported he responded well.

“There are windows of opportunity away from the bad influences,” the lawyer said.

The lawyer added the time in custody was a significant periodfor such a young person.

The boy will be supervised as part of the order which will work through the things that have caused him to get into trouble.

Ballarat Courier


   Dec 12

Berejiklian abandons regional council mergers

Premier Gladys Berejiklian.THE Berejiklian government has abandoned proposed council mergers in the Hunter.
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The Premier, Gladys Berejiklian,announced on Tuesday that while her government would proceed with mergers in Sydney, it would walk away from proposed mergers in regional areas including Newcastle and Port Stephens, and Maitland and Dungog.

Ms Berejiklian said Hunter councils would “retain their own status” after more than a year in limbo, and would go to an election on September 9.

While the government will push ahead with five outstanding mergers in Sydney, mergers in regional areas will be abandoned.

Ms Berejiklian told reporters that regional councils should have been treated differently to those in Sydney, and that she had “listened” to community concerns about the mergers.

In a decision that Ms Berejiklian said was not in her “personal best interest” because of an upcoming byelection in the seat of North Shore, she said

The issue was discussed at a joint party room meeting after a special Cabinet meeting this morning.

A decision on the merger has been expected since Ms Berejiklian took over as Premier last month, as the new government looks to shed some of the unpopular policies that dragged down Mike Baird’s popularity in 2016.

Following Mr Baird’s resignation new Nationals leader John Barilaro sought to kill off mergers in regional areas vowing ““to bring an end to local government mergers in the bush”.

That vowincluded the proposal to merge Maitland and Dungog councils, but not Newcastle and Port Stephens, which the Nationals said was “a question for the Liberal Party”.

The merger proposal between Port Stephens and Newcastle has proven extremely unpopular in among ratepayers north of Kooragang, with a number of protests and demonstrations opposing the idea.

Ms Berejiklian denied her government was being held hostage by the Nationals, saying she appreciated the “frank” conversations she has hadwith Mr Barilaro since taking over the top job.

The decision not to merge any of the Hunter councils will leave questions marks over the status of Dungog, which has said it needs state government assistance to tackle its infrastructure backlog.

However Mr Barilaro said on Tuesday that all councils would have to stick to the “plans for the future” they put forward during the government’s initial “Fit for the Future” process.

“Every council had a flight path,” he said.

“They will go back to their plan as they saw at the time about remaining viable.”

Port Stephens Labor MP and shadow minister for the Hunter Kate Washington said she was “relieved” that the government had backed down on the issue.

“It has been a ridiculous amount of time that this threat has been held over all four communities,” she said.

“I’m relieved that they’ve finally seen sense but it’s been a dog’s breakfast from the beginning to the very end.

“None of it was founded on any sustainable economic position, and we’re all meant to pretend it never happened.

Ms Washington said it was “outrageous” that residents would have to wait until September until the next election.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Catherine Cusack said the decision was “great news for the Hunter”.

“Everycouncil effectively put a submission to the government that they wanted to stand alone, including Dungog, and this decision respects their wishes and gives certainty so that everyonecan get on with providing good local government,” she said.

She said the decision would give Dungog Council the “space” and “certainty” to consider what it wanted to do in the future.

Ms Cusack also defended the Fit for the Future process, saying councils had told her that they’d benefited from the process.

“For all of them it has re-calibrated their finances, the Fit for the Future policies have benefited all the Hunter councils without any question,” she said.

Port Stephens general manager Wayne Walliswelcomed the decision, noting the “massive groundswell of community opposition” to the merger.

“Council’s focus is now, as it always has been, on moving forward on our comprehensive program of work,” he said.

“The efforts of staff to both keep delivering Council services to our normal high standards, whilst putting in a considerable amount of work on transition planning deserves commendation.”

More to come.


   Dec 12

Maddie Tippett inspires Hunter Hearts fundraiserphotos, video

Searching for hearts of gold Pictures from the Tippett family album. Mick, Maddie and Kerryn Tippett in Central Park, New York.
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Picture: Simone De Peak

Pictures from the Tippett family album.

Kerryn and Mick Tippett with son Clark. Picture Marina Neil

Kerryn and Mick Tippett are expecting their third child. Picture: Marina Neil

Pictures from the Tippett family album. Maddie with her baby brother Clark.

Pictures from the Tippett family album.

Pictures from the Tippett family album.

Pictures from the Tippett family album.

Pictures from the Tippett family album.

Pictures from the Tippett family album.

Pictures from the Tippett family album.

Pictures from the Tippett family album.

Pictures from the Tippett family album.

TweetFacebookMaddie’s original video Ms Tippett said while their experience at John Hunter Children’s Hospital was a tragic one, they would beeternally grateful to the staff.

“What happened was going to happen,” Ms Tippett said. “As much as it ended in a bad way, it could’ve been so much worse. Thestaff were truly amazing.

“My experience was that they absolutely care, and they are doing absolutely everything they can to help.

“We don’t mind waiting in a hospital for four hours or six hours or however long, because we know we’re waiting because someone else needs more attention.”

Every cent raised would go towards the hospital in the hope the support might prevent another family from losing a loved one.

“This won’t be the end of it. I’m just going to keep going,” Ms Tippett said.

The fundraiser was inspired by people fixing padlocks tobridges all over the world –in Paris in particular – as a symbol of their love.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place people could do that?’

“Unfortunately this won’t be a permanent fixture, but people can do the gesture, get it out of their system –do a nice thing for their partner on Valentine’s Day, and it’s all for a great cause.

“If someone wants to propose in front of it, go for it,” Ms Tippett said.

Pat Marks, the acting executive director of Children, Young People & Families for theHunter New England Local Health District, said the Tippetts’ support had been “extraordinary”.

“To hear and see the Tippetts so passionately advocating and raising funds for our services means a lot to our staff, who with the loss of any child are deeply impacted by rare outcomes such as Maddie’s,”Ms Marks said.

“It brings us great joy to see the Tippetts using the power of love to improve the great services we have here at the children’s hospital.”

Buy a “lovelock” for $25 viahunterhearts苏州夜网.au, or pop in to48 Watt Street between 7am and 11am.

Go straight to the Hunter Hearts campaign by hitting the image above.