Monthly Archives: January 2019

Refugee issue – Councils keen to help Syrian resettlement

ARMIDALE Dumaresq Council has formally signalled its willingness to resettle some of the 12,000 Syrian refugees on their way to Australia and Glen Innes will host a meeting later this month to see if there’s public support for resettlement there.
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Armidale mayor Herman Beyersdorf set the wheelsin motion there last week

in a mayoral minute, out-lining the region’s offer, on the basis Armidale was “very multi-cultural and tolerant” and he believed the community had expressed its support for the refugees.

After it was endorsed by the council, Cr Beyersdorf said the next step would be gaining the support of state MP Adam Marshall and his federal counterpart, Barnaby Joyce, in bringing a “sustainable number” of refugee families to the city as an initial commitment, with the possibility of further groups in the next few years.

“Armidale is well positioned to provide refugees not only with a great lifestyle and peaceful atmosphere, but has the community support networks in place that include the Sanctuary Group, Harmony Group, Northern Settlement Services and many other government agencies,” he said.

The council has also been asked by the Sanctuary Group to support andparticipate in the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa scheme, a new temporary visa for asylum seekers who have been assessed as meeting the requirements for refugee status, but are not eligible for a permanent protection visa.

“The Armidale and New England region can support many thousands of people from all nationalities and ethnic backgrounds,” Cr Beyersdorf said.

“We have land, we can create jobs and we can support the people that need a hand up from their tragic past.”

Meanwhile, Glen Innes became the latest northern centre to raise the issue of Syrian resettlement in regional areas with a public meeting on October 21.

The meeting, at the town hall at 6pm, will allow the community to show their support and voice their oncerns.

Local resident Nicci Parry Jones, who made a submission to council last Thursday, is committed to setting up a working group and to gain local communitysupport.

“Over the coming months I will research this issue; contact other support groups in the region; talk to people and start a list of issues that will need to be addressed in order to make this happen,” she said.

Council general manager Hein Basson said council now needed to develop a better understanding of what would be required and expected of it to become involved with this issue.

“Obviously, it is a fantastic and positive idea for our community to get involved with the resettlement of these unfortunate refugees,” Mr Basson said.

“However, I would not like Council to get caught up in a situation where expectations are raised, both with local people and potentially with refugees, about Council’s involvement – only to find out down the track that we do not have access to the necessary resources, finances and infrastructure to deliver on anything tangible.”

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Family photo album returns to Japan

GOING HOME: Sandra Lambkin and Jayne McCarthy will return a World War II Japanese photo album to the family of the original owner in Japan next month. Photo: Geoff O’Neill 300915GOA02
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TWO members of the Tamworth RSL Sub-branch will return a family photo album to Japan next month after its owner left it behind 70 years ago, following World War II.

Sub-branch vice-president Sandra Lambkin and secretary Jayne McCarthy will travel to Japan in November, at their own expense, to meet with the family of Yamada Yosoo whose photo album was found by a

US serviceman in Dutch New Guinea in the 1940s.

The widow of a Mr Houghton gave the album to the sub-branch in May 2011 and the search has been on since then to find the family of the original owner, Mr Yamada.

During the search, Mrs Lambkin contacted a number of government agencies and removed the photographs from the album to find inscriptions on the back, allowing some people to be identified.

The photos include family and military scenes in Japan and China and, in one case,Taiwan.

The search continued in mid-2014 through author Paul Ham and Dr Steven Bullard at the Australian War Memorial, and they made contact in Japan with Harumi Sakaguchi.

Mr Sakaguchi was formerly with the United Nations, his last duty station being Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (2000-2004) and just last month he found the Yamada family in remote northern Japan.

Mrs Lambkin and Mrs McCarthy will now fly to Tokyo and get the bullet train to meet with Mr Sakaguchi and the Yamada family before returning to Tokyo where they will spend five days in all.

“It’s the right thing to do, to take it back to the family,” Mrs Lambkin said.

“The family were delighted to hear about it and are looking forward to welcoming us to their town.”

Mrs Lambkin said this was the first time Tamworth sub-branch had done anything like this.

She said she felt satisfied with the outcome and returning the album to Mr Yamada’s family after working on this on-and-off for three years.

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Four Canberra United players in Matildas squad as pay standoff cools

Four Canberra United players have been chosen for Matildas training camp at the Australian Institute of Sport this week after the bitter standoff between the players and Football Federation Australia cooled when an interim deal was reached.
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The Matildas withdrew from its US Tour in protest at the lack of progress in seeking a significant upgrade in wages and conditions. However the tour to China later this month will go ahead, with a whole-of-game collective bargaining agreement deal still to be reached.

Canberra’s Lydia Williams, Ashleigh Sykes and Michelle Heyman, will all take part in the camp from October 5 to 8, along with Ellie Brush after her stint in the US league. Sixteen players from Australia’s World Cup campaign, where it made the quarter-finals, will participate in the camp.

Matildas training camp squad: Mackenzie Arnold (gk), Laura Alleway, Tara Andrews, Nicola Bolger, Ellie Brush, Tameka Butt, Stephanie Catley, Caitlin Cooper, Lisa De Vanna, Caitlin Foord, Katrina Gorry, Amy Harrison, Princess Ibini-Isei, Michelle Heyman, Alanna Kennedy,Samantha Kerr, Clare Polkinghorne, Hayley Raso, Kyah Simon, Ashleigh Sykes, Lydia Williams (gk), Georgia Yeoman-Dale

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Consumer groups call for overhaul of power market controls

“We consider that current governance arrangements cannot meet the ‘long-term interests of consumers’.”: Victoria’s Consumer Action Law Centre. Photo: Jessica ShapiroConsumer groups have slammed a review of energy market regulation for not going far enough to protect the interests of consumers after steep rises in prices for gas and electricity which have resulted in rising numbers of disconnections.
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“There is an urgent need to deregulate, consolidate and reduce complexity in order to enhance competition, especially given the transformation under way in Australian energy markets,”  Oliver Derum, policy officer with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, said.

“These changes must be accompanied by enhanced consumer representation, as well as generally making the governance arrangements more democratic, transparent and accountable.”

Separately, another consumer lobby group, Victoria’s Consumer Action Law Centre, said the pace of change in national energy markets was running ahead of consumer protections.

“The energy market is advancing at a rate that exceeds the scope of the current energy consumer protection framework,” it told a government review of energy markets.

“Clients are presenting with energy problems that no longer fit neatly into, nor can be resolved by, the protections provided by the Energy Retail Code in Victoria or the National Energy Customer Framework.

“Instead, we are assisting consumers with a range of complex energy problems that extend into other aspects of the economy and a broader framework of protections, i.e. the Australian Consumer Law or the ASIC Act.”

It argued this was a result of the transition of the energy market from being comprised of energy groups supplying consumers “as passive recipients, into a more dynamic market, where the energy flows both ways” especially now that many households and businesses had solar panels.

“Trade is less focused on electrons and more focused on energy services, which are reflected in the way consumers’ relationship with technology evolves, and, subsequently, the changing value of energy. The energy market is extending beyond the National Energy Market, into something broader.

“With this in mind, we consider that current governance arrangements cannot meet the ‘long-term interests of consumers’.”

Changes to energy market regulations had forced power companies to consult consumer groups more widely about planned price hikes, although the fundamental shift unfolding in the electricity market, in particular, where more households and businesses were generating their own power via rooftop solar systems, meant the approach to the regulation of the sector needed to be rethought, the consumer groups said.

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Anyone for tennis? Australia’s greatest local government stoush rolls on

Willoughby Council leases Talus to the Northern Suburbs Tennis Association. In the winter of 2009, then shadow treasurer Joe Hockey climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with Seven Network celebrity David Koch, tennis entrepreneur Paul Francis and others. The trip was to raise money for Paul Francis’s charity, the Humpty Dumpty Foundation.
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Hockey was sponsored by adman John Singleton to the tune of $50,000 and the expedition was accompanied with the customary gushing media. The Kilimanjaro trip was also scrutinised in other quarters, though with not quite the same enthusiasm. Humpty Dumpty is at the epicentre of what may be Australia’s greatest local government stoush, a stoush which has waxed and waned for two decades, wreaking sporadic feuds among Willoughby councillors and fuelling angst in the local community.

At its essence it is a stoush about private operators making big profits from Crown land and related party transactions.

Across the nation, restaurateurs and recreation operators turn a profit from running their businesses on public land. If they deliver the public a benefit and bring themselves a profit, all good. The question is, when is a deal with a government or council too favourable a deal for business?

Such issues are epitomised in the battle for Talus Reserve, 15,000 square metres of land on Talus Street on Sydney’s inner North Shore.

Since 1992, Humpty Dumpty’s founder Paul Francis has operated one of Australia’s most successful tennis businesses, Love ‘N Deuce, out of Talus. It has never had to pay rent to Council.

Things hotted up however around 1999/2000 when it came to renegotiating the original lease of 1978 and some in the community felt Francis was getting too good a deal.

Willoughby Council actually leases Talus to the Northern Suburbs Tennis Association (NSTA).  The lease renewal signed in 2000 set a peppercorn rent of $20,000 a year – bear in mind this is $70 million worth of prime land in one of Sydney’s leafier suburbs. A further discount of $6,000 a year was granted to NSTA when it agreed with Council to allow Humpty to stay at Talus rent free.

Around 2013, however, local resident activist John Owens, Willoughby councillors Stuart Coppock​ and John Hooper and others scrutinising Talus discovered Humpty was actually paying rent to Love ‘N Deuce.

Love ‘N Deuce manages the courts for NSTA and charges rent of around $28,000 to Humpty for around 15 square metres of space, more than Willoughby Council receives from NSTA for the entire park.

Love ‘N Deuce, which runs tennis and other sporting clinics for kids, has received around $400,000 in rent from Humpty since 1998. In contrast, Council has received only $230,000 from NSTA for the entire park since 1978, about $6,500 a year.

John Owens, formerly a partner at a major law firm, reckons Love ‘N Deuce may turnover more than $1 million a year from Talus and that it is not appropriate for it to be charging anything to Humpty.

“If Humpty has a right to stay at Talus – we say it doesn’t for technical reasons – but if you assume it has a right to be at Talus, it comes from the deal struck in 1999/2000 between it, Council and NSTA: it can stay there for free.” He cannot understand why the government, controlling all charities in NSW, would allow Humpty in such a case to pay rent to the chairman’s private company.

Paul Francis said he had “no input in relation to the amount to be paid by Humpty to Love ‘N Deuce”.

“All establishment costs for Humpty were paid by Love ‘N Deuce. Consistent with the intention of operating Humpty on a professional basis, the Humpty board, not including Mr Francis, considered it appropriate that Humpty pay a licence fee to Love ‘N Deuce for the use of part of its premises”.

Paul Francis has powerful allies. Besides Liberal party royalty in Joe Hockey and local tennis player and former NSW Liberal leader Kerry Chikarovski, celebrity Ray Martin is Humpty’s patron. Another associate President of Tennis Australia, Steve Healy, sees no issue in Humpty paying rent to Love ‘N Deuce, or of the use of the Talus Reserve. He points to Northbridge Golf Club “set up in identical fashion” and a number of other recreation facilities on public land in the same council area.

John Owens says Talus is unique, the lease covers the entire park and the private profits are totally out of whack with the rent paid to the public.

In 2013, a group of residents represented by Owens was repeatedly denied access to Talus (signposted “PRIVATE PROPERTY”).  They then challenged Council in court and the Council has since gone to the NSW Supreme Court, as trustee for Talus, seeking approval for new arrangements including a sub-lease from NSTA to Love ‘N Deuce and a licence from Love ‘N Deuce to Humpty.

“They are trying to rewrite history and make it legal,” says Owens. Concerned residents have been effectively locked out of the proceedings because the trustee application is ex parte.

As with most such things, there has been a failure of transparency and disclosure by government, in this case the local council, and if these sorts of deals were better disclosed, government might avert years of community angst and opposition.

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