Traveller numbers mixed

Mixed reports on visitors in Gunnedah for the 2017 Tamworth Country Music Festival but numbers are generally steady.Gunnedah is claiming ashare of the tourism dollars created byincreased foot traffic at the 2017 TamworthCountry Music Festival.
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Festival organisers saidon Sundaynumbers could be up as much as 10 per cent on last year’s first day attendance.

A Gunnedah Visitor Information Centre spokesperson said enquiries spiked around mid-last week andremained steady heading into day five of the festival on Tuesday.

“We haven’t seen as many recently but hotels report their bookings are steady for the next few days,” the spokesperson said.

The centre recorded 810 visitors forthe whole of January last year.As of Monday afternoon, with eight days remainingin January, visitor numbers were 667.

Some Gunnedah camp sites appeared less frequentedthis weekand the usually popular RV caravan camping area on South St was virtually deserted.The lonely few campers leftsaid some visitorsstayed inthe days leading up to the festival but none had arrived since.

But it was a different story across town at the Gunnedah Tourist Park on Henry St.

Manager Cheryl Piefke said numbers were definitely up on this time last year.

“It has been a very busy month,” Cheryl said.

“A lot of them, at least half, are here for the festival.”

Others who base themselves in the Gunnedah district for the festival, choose Lake Keepit as a convenient half-way option. But while some travellers head east to Tamworth for their daily country music fix, others are heading west, way west, all the way to Lightening Ridge.

Gunnedah’s information centre reported anumber of travellers heading in that directionrecently. It follows a29% increase in residential land valuein the opal mining town.

Later this year Gunnedah will host theannual Country Music Musterat the showgrounds.

The five-day musterheld from March 29 will feature artistsBob Easter, Rex Baldwin, Val Williamson Trevor Coombs, Jed and Trudi Hintz and Rob Breese among others.

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Sparks fly over state energy policy clash

POWER: The past, present and future of South Australia’s energy plan have been a hotly-contested issue recently. State Shadow Energy Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan says state Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis’ claims about State Liberal energy policies are ‘complete rubbish and a complete misrepresentation’.
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In a mediarelease issued on Sunday January 22, Mr Koutsantonis said it is ‘incredible’ that state Opposition Leader Steven Marshall thinks he can say he’ll increase reliability and lower prices withoutexplaining how.

“I can only assume Mr Marshall is proposal to buy back elements of the electricity grid that his Liberalparty sold … ” Mr Koutsantonis said.“…Because that’s theonly way he could bring the loss-making, privately-owned Northern Power Station back online, as hehas said he would do.”

Mr Koutsantonis’ claim follow his calls for state Liberal Leader Steven Marshall to announce ‘serious energy policy’ after being the Liberal Leader for 1448 days.Port Augusta based van Holst Pellekaan strongly denied these claims and when asked about the alleged state Liberal plans to buy back elements of the electricity grid, said he has ‘never heard of these ideas’.

“Don’t believe everything he (Mr Koutsantonis)says, we’ve never said we were going to buy back the power station, that’s complete rubbish and a complete misrepresentation,” he said.“His suggestion that the state Liberals ever suggested buying back the power station is complete rubbish, in fact, Alinta offered the state government to have the power station back for free.

He said his earlier claims to reopen the Port Augusta Power Station,would have involved, “When Alinta said we’re in strife, the state government should have said we will give you that help and we’ll help you stay open for 2 years, 4 years, or 6 years or whatever the appropriate time would be so we could have an orderly transition from fossil fuels to renewables,”

He denied that plan would involve keeping the power station open indefinitely and said the money Alinta was asking for was ‘absolutely minute’ compared to the cost that the state has borne since the power station closed.

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New tool in Eurobodalla to identify weeds

Batemans Bay landholder Isabel Darling tries out the new Weed Finder to help identify a noxious asparagus fern, assisted by Eurobodalla Shire Council’s invasive species supervisor Paul Martin. Identifying weeds is now much easier thanks to Eurobodalla Shire Council’s new online Weed Finder.
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Launched by Council’s environment team, the tool enables users to enter keycharacteristics of aweed – such as branch structure, leaf shape, flower and fruit colour – and search results on an extensive database.

It matches possible weeds and provides information on each, including plant description, habitat, dispersal and control methods.

Council’s invasive species supervisor Paul Martin said the initiative helps people to identify weeds on their property and make decisions about how to control them.

“The database features more than 100 species of the most commonly-found weeds in Eurobodalla backyards.

“The finder itself was created with the help of university students, trainees and work experience students, who were involved in the mammoth task of entering data and categorising the various plants.”

The Weed Finder is already proving popular on the new Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Gardens website since it went live in October last year.

Mr Martin said it would continue to grow with the addition of new weeds as needed.

Batemans Bay landholder Isabel Darling said the finder was useful to learn what was growing in her garden.

“It’s good to have a resource to identify local weeds in the area,” she said.

“There’s plants I didn’t realise were weeds. It’s fun to explore.

“The format is great too because it’s mobile-friendly so you can take your device out into the garden and compare the plant to the wide range of photos in the finder.”

Use the finder on the new Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Gardens website at 梧桐夜网erbg.org419论坛/weeds.php or search “Eurobodalla Weed Finder”.

Ifyou still can’t find what you’re looking for, email a photoof the plant to [email protected]论坛

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Massage therapist on trial for allegedly sexually assaulting client

A Sydney massage therapist who allegedly sexually assaulted a female client during a session will claim he thought he had her consent, a court has heard.
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Anthony Theodosiou​, 31, is on trial in the Downing Centre District Court charged with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent and five counts of indecent assault.

In her opening address to the jury, Crown prosecutor Linda McSpedden said the woman had won a voucher at a charity event to receive a free massage at the Shire PTC personal training studio in Kirrawee in Sydney’s south.

The woman frequently suffered from head and neck strain from her work as a veterinarian, the court heard.

Ms McSpedden said the woman was expected to give evidence that it was on her third visit to the studio in August 2015 that she was repeatedly assaulted as she received a massage.

Mr Theodosiou allegedly digitally penetrated the woman three times and also rubbed and licked her breasts during the course of the massage. During the alleged assaults, the woman was lying on her back and front, and wearing her underpants.

The accused, the court heard, asked whether the woman was okay more than once and she either made a gesture or mumbled.

“She was frozen and scared and didn’t make any objection,” Ms McSpedden said.

The woman is expected to give evidence that when Mr Theodosiou asked her if she wanted him to stop she replied “you better stop” and “yes stop”.

The court heard the woman got dressed, booked another appointment, paid for the massage and left.

The woman then went to Sutherland Police Station and told officers what had allegedly occurred.

Ms McSpedden said a swab sample taken at hospital detected Mr Theodosiou’s DNA on the woman’s right nipple.

Mr Theodosiou’s defence barrister Les Nicholls told the jury that the question for them to consider was whether his client had honestly believed at the time that the woman was consenting. The fact that touching occurred, he said, would not be contested.

“On each and every time that this touching was done the accused said ‘are you ok with this?’…At the time she says ‘stop’ he does exactly that,” his barrister said.

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Junk food industry shaping health policies at public’s expense: study

The food industry’s lobbying may be swaying policies in favour of shareholder profits against public health outcomes, new research claims. Photo: Cathryn TemainLobbyists for ‘big food’ are potentially swaying health policies in favour of their corporate bottom line in Australia, new research has claimed.
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A Deakin University study published Monday has reported finding “direct evidence” of food industry political tactics that had the potential to shape public health-related policies, at the expense of public health.

The research, led by Melissa Mialon, conducted interviews with 15 former politicians, current and former public servants and senior executive officers with non-government organisations over a four month period who had exposure to the industry’s “corporate political activity”.

Researcher Dr Gary Sacks said unhealthy diet was the biggest contributor to the burden of disease and the food industry had a major influence on the products people choose to eat and drink.

“The powerful junk food industry is highly political and uses carefully designed strategies to influence policy and public opinion in its favour,” he said.

“These tactics, often intentionally, undermine efforts to prevent and control obesity and diet-related disease.”

While the industry is far from alone in its direct and indirect lobbying of politicians and government officials, the new study found participants were all concerned about the potential for such activities to result in “weakened policy responses to addressing diet-related disease”.

But the study did not identify those interview or their political leanings, and worked with only a small sample of those involved in food policy nationally.

Interviewees identified five key types of political activity: information and messaging. financial incentives, constituency building, policy substitution and opposition fragmentation and destabilisation.

The most common tactics interviewees mentioned included stressing the industry’s economic importance, ‘framing the debate and shaping the evidence’ and establishing relationships with politicians, patient advocacy groups and health representative bodies.

One former senior policy-maker said that when an industry provided funds to political parties to help politicians get elected, it gave those donors “better access”.

“I have actually been on a Cabinet …where two of the politicians said ‘Well, we can’t do that because this is actually one of the major donors to our party’, so I actually witnessed that statement,” she said.

Dr Sacks said interviewees also highlighted “cherry-picking” of data that suited the industry’s position and the use of journals that were not peer-reviewed to publish industry-backed research.

Dr Sacks urged better disclosure of industry funding sources to “researchers, professional bodies, community groups and political parties”, and more detailed disclosures on the federal register of lobbyists.

He said the government could also introduce “stronger conflict of interest processes to prevent commercial vested interests dominating public policy development.”

The paper was published in the Australia-New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

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A-League leaders Sydney head bid for historic treble

Graham Arnold’s Sydney side comes to Melbourne on Thursday trying to keep its unbeaten A-League run – which stretches now to 16 matches this season – intact when it faces Melbourne Victory in the big Australia Day clash at Etihad Stadium.
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But the runaway league leaders – they are eight points clear of second-placed Victory, with a much superior goal difference – are not the only Sky Blue team ruling the roost in their respective competition this season.

Sydney’s W-League side is firing on all cylinders despite an unexpected slip-up against Newcastle in the penultimate round.

Sydney’s women sit atop the W-League ladder and know that if they win their final match of the home and away season – away to Adelaide next Sunday – Sydney will win the Premiers Plate, and with it a guaranteed home final and the chance to host the Grand Final.

And its National Youth League team has won its conference and will face Melbourne City’s NYL side in the grand final of that competition on Saturday afternoon in Gosford.

Such is the scale of Sydney’s A-League points haul that it could even slip up a few times in its final 11 games and still be clear at the top, but its women’s team has no such luxury.

A draw against Adelaide may not suffice for them, as second-placed Canberra could, with a win, leapfrog Sydney at the top of the table on goal difference, depending on the outcome of their match against Melbourne Victory women on Saturday afternoon.

Even Perth could get into the argument if Sydney and Canberra fail to win, but Perth would need to beat Western Sydney Wanderers by six or seven goals in the final match of the regular season later on Sunday afternoon to take an unlikely first place.

The pleasant prospect for the Sky Blues is that all three of their teams – men’s, women’s and youth – could end the season as national champions in their competitions if things go their way.

It’s a remarkable achievement, one which chief executive Tony Pignata says is the result of a concerted approach from all teams and coaches at the club – from technical director Han Berger and head A-League coach Arnold down. “To have three teams battling for their titles is a tremendous accomplishment and it says a lot for the coaches – Han Berger and Graham Arnold, but also his assistants, Steve Corica and Terry McFlynn as well as Robbie Stanton (youth coach), Daniel Barrett (women’s) and Kelly Cross (academy director),” Pignata said.

“We have tried to have a holistic approach and bring all elements in the club together, so they can learn and develop with each other. We have introduced an academy, from the under 13s up, and I think it’s helped in that everyone sees it as one club, working together.”

There is a commercial spin-off too, as Pignata says there is crossover between A-League and W-League sponsors, while fans feel they have some buy-in across all areas the club competes in.

Still, as well as the A-League leaders are going, they still don’t regularly pull gates that Melbourne Victory, one of their biggest historical rivals, does. Pignata is confident that gates will build as the games get bigger, with clashes against both Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City to come at home ahead of the finals after Sydney derbies have drawn more than 60,000 at ANZ Stadium.

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Hot Shots from the Australian Open: Serena Williams reveals how she met her fiance

The engagement of Serena Williams to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian was big news over Christmas. But we seem to know so few details about how the pair met.
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After Williams advanced to the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park on Monday, she was happy to admit it was a completely random event in a restaurant.

“I hope it was a couple years ago,” Serena said in response to questioning. “No, it was a couple years ago. So, no, it wasn’t like six months ago.”

Was it just like happenstance or was it at the same party?

“Literally by chance,” she said “It was just – I was sitting down, and he sat next to me. It was just …”

Q: Nobody introduced you? You were just at a restaurant?

“No. Yeah, that doesn’t happen anymore, right?

“I live in a movie and in a fairy tale in my mind, so I guess eventually it was bound to happen.”

Alexis Ohanian, Serena Williams’ fiance. Photo: Getty Images

MENDING FENCES

It seems Dan Evans and countryman Kevin Pietersen have patched up their differences. Not that they actually came across each other face to face.

The man who took out No.7 seed Marin Cilic and local hope Bernard Tomic in back-to-back rounds had revealed he was snubbed by the cricketing great when he asked for a photo with the rising tennis star at Crown.

“He didn’t want me to have my picture with him. That was it. I think he was worse for wear. That was his excuse when he replied,” Evans said last week.

Fast-forward a few days and the landscape had changed for the Brit after he was beaten by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.  When quizzed on his tournament highlight, Evans said: “I don’t know actually. Probably KP inboxing me. Wondering what is going to happen to his image. That’s probably the only reason he did it,” Evans said, smiling.

“It’s all cool. It’s fine.”

Dan Evans, who has now spoken with Kevin Pietersen.  Photo: Getty Images

Evans was thrust into the spotlight after he was dumped by Nike at Christmas and was forced to buy his own T-shirts. But after charging through a few rounds, potential sponsors and supporters were clambering to get on board.

“Yeah, The Times were kind enough to sponsor me. Obviously Virgin Active. Thanks to them. I actually had only three shirts with the embroidery on it. I didn’t think it was going to be that hot today. They only gave me three at that point, yeah,” Evans said.

After a busy summer in Australia, it’s time to put his feet up.

“To be honest, I just want to go home now. Yeah, just sort of hide away for a bit. Be good. Sit in the house, chill out. See everyone back home.”

DOING IT ROUGH

They can be an odd bunch; the international journalists who descend on Melbourne Park for two weeks of grand slam tennis.

That point is highlighted by a couple of recent examples at this year’s tournament.

One European journo was moved on by security when he was found as a “rough sleeper” underneath the newly-built Tanderrum Bridge.

But perhaps the most surprising story came from inside the precinct, when a Chinese journalist brought his five-year-old child to work.

The child, Hot Shots is told, was dropped off at 9am at the playground at Melbourne Park and left to its own devices before dad went to work.

When he returned at 7pm – 10 hours later – to pick up his child, he was greeted by police who sternly reminded the gentleman that the playground was not a day-care centre.

SWISS MISS

Margaret Court Arena was in raptures on Sunday night when a fan screamed “Go Roger” during the clash between fellow Swiss gun Stan Wawrinka and Andreas Seppi.

Wawrinka – one of Federer’s close friends – replied with “not here, he’s on Rod Laver,” which went down very well with the crowd.

Our own Daria Gavrilova liked it, too, tweeting “I was thinking the same haha!!”

Not Roger Federer. Photo: Getty Images

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Malcolm Turnbull’s year is not cactus … yet

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull must seize his chance when addressing the National Press Club to unveil a bold plan. Photo: Alex EllinghausenThe Wire’s arch drug lord, Avon Barksdale, was admirably philosophical about a long custodial sentence: “You only serve two days, the day you go in, and the day you get out”.
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It’s a mentality that might readily be grasped by vanquished opposition parties facing another fruitless term in the wilderness. But no. These days, it’s the winners who seem to feel most hemmed in, constrained at every turn by the crushing pressures of a febrile polity, internal divisions, anaemic growth, and the prospect of more-or-less inevitable failure.

For Malcolm Turnbull, and indeed many governments recently, Barksdale’s gallows optimism strangely resonates. Mike Baird’s early departure is probably a case in point. For him, the Rubik’s Cube of policy and politics became more diabolical with time.

In Turnbull’s case, even the day he won in 2016 was lousy, judging by his demeanour.

Nonetheless, these are the early days of 2017, and despite another rough start (already one cabinet minister overboard), it is too early to say the middle year is cactus. More things could yet go right for the government than its critics concede.

Not least, is the prospect of trouble across the chamber. Bill Shorten’s impressive party trick (pun intended) of lasting a full term between the loss in 2013 and the loss in 2016 should not be assumed to be the new normal for Labor. He could well hit turbulence. But right now, as the government flails, it doesn’t feel like it.

Baird’s exit, like that of Tony Abbott in 2015, offers the Liberals the rare luxury of a major mid-term reset. Yet these opportunities can be squandered, as the federal party well knows.

If there is a lesson for the incoming Gladys Berejiklian, it is to govern outwardly, rather than for cackling mob of insatiable media reactionaries and internal malcontents. Do that, and the opposition will be hemmed in – not the other way around.

For Turnbull, who took the alternative, futile, path of appeasement, there has been compound failure: vastly lower standing with voters but with even more dissent from within – witness the outpourings of Abbott, George Christensen, and now the emergent threat of a breakaway party led by Cory Bernardi.

A February 1 appearance at the National Press Club will be crucial for the PM and offers the chance to forget such fringe-dwellers and reassert his brand, his authority.

He must use it to unveil a bold plan, which reaffirms his commitment to climate policy, free markets, social cohesion and which speaks to the same fears that both elevated Donald Trump, and yet threaten to worsen as a direct consequence of his election.

If Turnbull has not done that a month from now, the tone of 2017 will have been written by his opponents – on both flanks.

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short story: Bunch of Doves by Ewa Ramsey

WORTH 1000 WORDS: Each day we will publish a finalist in the Herald short story competition. The winner will be announced on January 29. Picture: Simone De Peak
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Read more finalists’ stories hereI TOLDMum about the birds at dinner.

“And then we were walking out of the shop and Mr Harrison’s truck made a big bang and a huge bunch of doves went flying out of that tree on the corner.

“They were so noisy! Eak eak eak! Pippa nearly cried!”

I thought she would laugh but she didn’t laugh.

I put the chicken nugget I was holding in my mouth. It was still cold in the middle.

“Did not.” Pippa banged her fork on the table.

“Did too! I saw you!”

“Not.”

“Too!”

“Samson!” Mum’s voice cracked from the kitchen. “Stop teasing your sister.”

I stopped chewing. “But …”

“And stop talking with your mouth full. And …”She snapped her head around.

“Where’s your fork? Why are you eating with your fingers again?

“You wouldn’t do that if your dad was here. Jesus!”

She slapped the edge of the sink and I saw Pippa jump. Her eyes were big like they were before she cried.

“And they’re corellas. Not doves,” she snorted. “In a flock. Not a bunch.”

I swallowed. “Sorry.” A flock of corellas, I tried to remember.

Mum was smart.

Nanna said that when Mum was my age she won an award for writing some story and it got in the paper.

Nanna said Mum was supposed to do something with her life. Not – she looked at me and Pippa with that face she made sometimes -that you’re not something.

But she was supposed to do more.

“So a flock of corellas went past and Hannah said …”

“Did Hannah get milk?”

“Yes. And bread and teabags. Like on your list.”

“Good.”

And a killer python for me and some freckles for Pippa. But we weren’t supposed to tell that part.

Once the lady at the shop said Mum wasn’t right in the head. It was the first time Hannah took us home and they thought I wasn’t listening but I was. The lady said she felt sorry for us. Because of Dad, and because Mum wasn’t right in the head.

I picked up another nugget and looked at Mum as I chewed it.

She held a mug of tea up to her face like she was smelling it. Her head looked fine. Her nose was a bit pointy and her eyebrows were very dark but she was pretty. One of the prettiest mums at school, even if she didn’t wear make-up or always brush her hair.

“Samson, are you eating with your fingers again?”

I shook my head but when I looked down I was still holding half a nugget. I didn’t know whether to shove it into my mouth or drop it on my plate so I went to do both and it fell into my lap instead, and then splud on to the floor, sauce-side down.

Mum sighed, looked up at the ceiling.

“Now you’ve done it, Samson. Honestly …” She did a funny breath. “If you just used your bloody fork … Just wait until your dad comes home.”

“But …”

“Samson.”

Another funny breath.

“No, but, when I use my fork I …”

She turned away. “Save it for your dad, Samson.”

“But …”

She always said things like that. Wait until your dad comes home. Save it for your dad. You’d be better if your dad was here.

“Just eat your dinner. With your fork.”

Her eyes were really big. And kind of pointy. I know you can’t have pointy eyes but Mum sort of had pointy eyes. When she looked at me sometimes it was like they were poking me. Maybe that was the wrong thing. Or maybe it was the freckle on her cheek.

She breathed out funny again and turned her whole body away so I couldn’t see any more.

From the back, her head just looked normal.

Nanna said I should be more patient with Mum. That this was very hard for her. Then she told Mum should be more patient with me. He’s just a kid, she said. And Mum would say she knew, and she was sorry.

I picked up another nugget. They were cold all over now.

“Muuum!” Pippa banged her fork on the table. “Samson’s using fingers!”

I tried to shush her but she didn’t stop, so I threw the nugget at her.

“Samson! Christ!” Pointy eyes again. Pointy eyes. Pointy nose. Funny big scary eyebrows. Freckle on her cheek. And a scar across her chin from when she fell over before Pippa was born. Not right in the head.

“I didn’t mean …”

She looked at the ceiling again, and I wanted to say I didn’t mean to throw the nugget but I did mean to throw the nugget.

Pippa didn’t even care. She was eating it, with her fingers. Pippa ate anything. She’d probably been waiting for me to throw the nugget for ages.

“I’m …”I wanted to say sorry but I wasn’t sorry.

“You know what?” Mum put down her mug. Thunk. Too hard. “Forget it. Forget all of it. Your dad can sort it out.” She looked at me with her pointy eyes again, then she walked out of the room.

“But …”

“Forget it, Samson.” I heard the door slam.

Pippa looked at me, still chewing her nugget. “My nugget”, grumbled my belly. I shouldn’t have thrown it. Her eyes were big like Mum’s, but round, like they were supposed to be.

“It’s OK, Pippy.” I said. “That flock of corollas was pretty exciting, wasn’t it? Eak eak eak!”

Pippa laughed.

“You ready for your bath?”

Mum got confused sometimes. About Dad.

Nanna said I should be patient with her, but it was hard when she got confused. It was hard when she talked like he was going to come and run our bath and put us to bed, like other dads.

His eyes weren’t pointy. They were blue.

I think.

I couldn’t really remember.

Some days I couldn’t remember him at all.


The day Gladys Berejiklian became the 45th Premier of NSW

Gladys Berejiklian and Dominic Perrottet at Monday’s press conference. Photo: Wolter Peeters Ms Berejiklian is sworn in by Governor David Hurley at Government House. Photo: Wolter Peeters
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Ms Berejiklian embaces her parents and sisters at Government House. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Gladys Berejiklian’s day started in the most ordinary of ways – catching a bus to work. But by mid-afternoon she had been sworn in as the 45th Premier of NSW.

The Willoughby MP’s bus ride was to the state Parliament where, at a party room meeting, she was formally elected as the NSW Liberal Party’s leader and therefore the next premier.

In the late morning, she strode into the Jubilee Room, known for its book-lined walls and ornate stained-glass ceiling, to hold her first press conference as Premier-elect.

She said building local infrastructure, from bitumen roads to hospital wards, tackling housing affordability problems and strengthening the economy were three policy areas that would be hallmarks of her government.

Amid hard questions about council amalgamations, party instability and controversial privatisations, there was a topic area where she displayed a bring-it-on attitude.

Asked whether – like former prime minister Julia Gillard – she was prepared for questions about being a woman who was single and did not have children, she responded with: “Ask me one.”

One reporter asked: “Do you think this is a disadvantage?”

To which she replied, with a laugh: “Take me as you see me. Dom Perrottet [her deputy, who was standing beside her] has made up for me – you’ve got four kids.

“I’m someone who’s always been myself, and not all of us can plan how our life turns out,” she said.

“If you asked me 20 years ago would my life look like this, it would probably not be how it looks like.”

She described her Armenian immigrant parents – her father, Krikor, and mother, Arsha – as “outstanding human beings” who raised her and her sisters, Rita and Mary, to believe “we could be anything we aspired to be”.

They came to Australia from Jerusalem and Syria in the 1960s. Her father was a boilermaker and welder and one of his first jobs was working on the Sydney Opera House. Her mother was a nurse.

“In our household, there was no room for making complaints and excuses, you got on with the job,” she said.

One highlight of her day was no doubt the moment she and her family paused just at the entrance of Government House and tightened their arms around each other. Their arms were already criss-crossed behind each others’ backs.

Moments earlier, Ms Berejiklian, holding a black Bible, had been sworn in as the new Premier of NSW.

Ms Berejiklian paid tribute to her schoolteachers in the public education system, saying their hard work and encouragement led her to become the “strongest supporter” of the Gonski school funding reforms.

She confessed with a laugh that she has one thing in common with 45th US President Donald Trump, who was inaugurated on Friday: “That’s the number 45 and it pretty much stops after that.”

And how did she end her day? She said she usually enjoys spending her spare time playing golf, watching movies and reading books.

Monday night was probably very different.

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Sundance Film Festival 2017: Melbourne filmmaker Kitty Green on her new film Casting JonBenet

Melbourne filmmaker Kitty Green. Photo: Simon O’Dwyer A scene from Casting JonBenet. Photo: Michael Latham, Courtesy of Sundance Institute
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The experimental documentary film Casting JonBenet was warmly received at its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival on Sunday, though Melbourne filmmaker Kitty Green’s unusual approach to the sensitive subject matter may yet drum up some controversy.

Already acquired by Netflix, the US-Australian co-production is vying for the prestigious festival’s US Documentary prize.

Early reviews have been broadly positive; entertainment site The Wrap called it “a work of grace and beauty”, but added “it may also have you questioning whether it’s right to turn the murder of a child into an art project”.

Green, 32, has taken an unconventional approach to her title subject JonBenet Ramsey, the six-year-old American beauty queen who was found brutally murdered in the basement of her family’s home on December 25, 1996, and whose murder has never been solved.

Instead of talking to those who knew Ramsey personally, Green cast people from her home town of Boulder, Colorado, as characters – including her mum Patsy, dad John and brother Burke.

Each of the roles is “played” by multiple actors, who perform on casting tapes and speculate about what might have happened to JonBenet, in between re-enactments of some of the evidence from the case.

In one scene, some of the child “Burkes” bash a melon with a torch until it smashes, in an attempt to prove whether JonBenet’s brother could have been strong enough to crack her skull.

Some viewers may think it poor taste when one of the boys is shown chomping into a piece of melon, but The Hollywood Reporter – which branded the film “powerful, provocative and dazzlingly original” – praised the “many moments of serendipitous, seemingly unplanned comedy” for lifting the mood of the subject matter.

Rather than trying to offer easy answers about who killed the little girl, Green’s film invites the viewer to consider the way that speculation surrounds such events and how people relate the tragedy to their own lives.

Introducing Green at the screening in Park City, Utah, one of the festival programmers described her as “an absolute visionary with a unique voice”.

The director was tested at a question and answer session following the film, as she was battling a heavy cold.

“A little ill is an understatement,” she said. “I can barely speak.”

Green explained that she drew on her award-winning documentary short The Face of Ukraine: Casting Oksana Baiul in making this latest feature, with the casting tape device “a beautiful way to explore all the suffering, pain and grief – the kind of things I’m interested in because I’m twisted”.

“Then I thought how do you go about casting it, if you don’t know if they’re guilty, if you don’t know if they’re innocent?” she said. “[The format] lends itself incredibly well to this. The cast knew what they were in for and they jumped down the rabbit hole with us. It was a big experiment for everyone.”

More than a dozen of the cast attended the premiere, and some revealed the emotional impact of being in the film.

Dixon White, who plays one of the incarnations of John Mark Karr – a teacher who falsely confessed to JonBenet’s murder – said: “This was my dream project; I love playing creepy dudes. At the time I was taking care of my mum and I got the call the day before she died and I filmed three days after. It was my dream come true and my mum’s dream, so I want to say thank you very much.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net….


short story: Leonardo’s Flight by Otto Fischer

WORTH 1000 WORDS: Each day we will publish a finalist in the Herald short story competition. The winner will be announced on January 28. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
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Read more finalists’ stories hereLEONARDOwas getting twitchy.

Eternity was a long time, and one of the few mathematical problems he had not yet got his head around. He’d only been here a mere 497 years and 17 days and he didn’t know if he could last the distance.

It showed. His beard was getting exceedingly ragged and he could barely see through his shamefully shaggy eyebrows. His mane of white hair was tied back in a ponytail –even manna didn’t taste good with hair in it. Angels shooktheir heads discreetly as they passed.

He’d filled notebook after notebook with drawings, calculations and musings, but even he was running out of ideas. His growing restlessness was causing the Higher Powers increasing concern, particularly his recent coded message to The Other Place.

Leonardo sidled up to St Peter for the third time that week. (He’d refused to abandon Earth Time, even though the Eternal Light made this difficult.) The Keeper of the Keys found Leonardo’s grovelling manner distasteful, although he knew it stemmed from a long career of currying favour from patrons. Princes of the Church could be difficult.

“For the life of me, don’t you ever give up?” St Peter exclaimed.

“But, but … just for a day! Just to see how folk are running with my ideas, given a few centuries,”Leonardo pleaded, to which St Peter replied:“Look, you got here by the skin of your teeth, let me remind you! They’ve run with your ideas all right – machine-guns, tanks, submarines, weapons of death. Are you proud? And dissection of dead bodies … that wasn’t strictly kosher at the time, was it? You were lucky to get away with that!”

“Hey, I did some very nice religious paintings! Very time-consuming they were too!”

The saint sighed. This Italian certainly was persistent. (He couldn’t help an unsaintly resentment about his final indignity in Rome: why upside down for goodness sake?) Peter was capable of some very succinct language – he was a fisherman after all – but it was like water off a duck’s back with this one!

“Leonardo, I can sympathise to some extent. Settling in can take some time. But I won’t be badgered into giving in! I pride myself on my firmness. After all, I am The Rock!

“Heaven isn’t like The Other Place. They’re slack there. They allow visits all the time, and look at the results: wars, pestilence and plagues, and weird American election results! Here we allow only the odd judicious miracle and occasional apparition.

“But I’m not unreasonable. And I know, despite your impatience, that you haven’t done a Faust on us. I’ll give in a little – only a little! I’ll let you go for a short time – only an hour, mind you! And I’ll put you down at random – not a place of your own choosing. Understand?”

Leonardo sulked. He gnawed at a wisp of unruly beard. Despite the hair, the after-taste of ambrosia cheered him up: Greek habits were seductive even here.

“All right,” he conceded. “It’s a deal!”

Leonardo found himself sitting on a promontory overlooking an ocean. The grass was cool and the darkening blue of the sky heralded approaching dusk. The ocean, ruffled blue and vast, whispered below. Lines of surf foamed white along a curving yellow strand. A sea breeze fanned his whiskers. He breathed in the air. He had been a sensuous man and now he thrilled at foreign scents. He knew this was an eastern coast, for the sun was sinking through gold-fringed clouds beyond low violet-blue hills. Yet this was not a Venetian sea.

He heard the plaintive call of gulls. They were different to the ones he knew. There was activity out at sea. Birds were spearing into a patch of ocean darker than the rest. His painter’s eye froze them in tableaus of flight –white black-fringed wings outstretched, tips curved slightly upward, orange-red legs tucked in, head cocked, observing the surface below. Wings folding in, elongated body gracefully tilting in a downward arc. The plunge, swift as an arrow, the entry cleanly efficient. He could imagine the frenzied fish below, darting this way and that. Scales shimmering loose in the water. Beauty in death.

Leonardo drank in the scene, the scent of the air, the balm of the breeze, the sound of the sea. His fingers itched for pencil and paper. Did he only have an hour?

Suddenly an apparition swooped between him and the sun, outlined by the brilliance of the background light. As he watched, spellbound, a running figure leapt and took to the air. Leonardo was right there with him, arms outstretched, feeling the lift. For he knew what this was. How often had he dreamed of it, longed for it! Pined for it!

The triangular wings were different, but unmistakably similar. It flew! He’d never doubted it would! Always practical, he wondered how the wings were stiffened, how strong the silk was.

He watched breathless as the man scythed soundlessly through the air, weightless as a bird, freed from the bonds of the Earth and the constraints of evolution. Godlike, he guided his craft in graceful flight, master of the air, joyous and free!

Leonardo smiled. He closed his eyes and a tear rolled down his cheek. In his mind he soared. His dream was vindicated!

“Thank you Peter!” he sighed. “I can face Heaven again …for a while.”


Australian Open 2017: Serena’s title to lose? First she must beat a player she has never played

The players at the top of the tree in the women’s game have been falling around her – at a rapid rate. Simona Halep was first to drop off, even before most spectators were comfortable in their seats on the opening day.
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Most significantly, the player who shocked her in last year’s final, women’s world No.1 Angelique Kerber, exited at the hands of American Coco Vandeweghe late on Sunday night.

With seeds one, three and four gone, many at Melbourne Park were pondering: Would world No.2 and six-time winner Serena Williams simply march her way to another title?

If not, then, which player would jump from the pack and become the newest winner of the Australian Open women’s title?

Of those who could potentially stand in her way, the next person across the net from Williams’ – the vastly-improved Johanna Konta of Great Britain – is an opponent player she has remarkably never played.

Fresh off her 7-5, 6-4 fourth round win over Czech Barbora Strycova, Williams sought confirmation that Konta was unbeaten in 2017, before adding: “Well, she’s been playing really well. She has a very attacking game. I know her game pretty well. I look forward to it.

“I have absolutely nothing to lose in this tournament. Everything here is a bonus for me. Obviously I’m here to win. Hopefully I can play better, I can only go better.”

Konta is one of the form players on tour and made her way to the quarters with a clinical 6-1, 6-4 over Russian Ekaterina Makarova.

There is a 10-year difference between Konta and Williams and the Brit admitted she had wondered when she would get her chance to take on one of the all-time greats.

“Interestingly, I was thinking that I would love the opportunity to be on court with her before she retired, but I doubt she’s talking retirement!

“She doesn’t seem like someone who will be talking like that. I think she will be playing until the very last ball she can possibly physically hit, I think.

“Yeah, I’m happy that I’m getting the chance to play her, and hopefully it won’t be the last time before she retires.” The younger of the Williams siblings and arguably the greatest female to play the sport, Williams has now reached the quarter-finals or beyond in Melbourne for an 11th time.

Only Williams is still in contention to add a seventh trophy to the mantelpiece, and not of course men’s world No.1 Andy Murray. It’s been that sort of tournament, replete with jaw-dropping results.

“Yeah, Murray was very shocking. I went to bed by the time the other match came on, because it was getting to be so late. Believe it or not, I’m still slightly jet lagged. I go to bed really early now,” the American said.

“But it’s been a couple interesting weeks for Angie [Angelique Kerber]. You know, she’s been dealing with a lot. I think she was able to handle it the best she could.

“I think Coco played really well. I think she really just came up with a wonderful game plan, and it was an easy match so it wasn’t too surprising.”

There’s also remains the tantalising prospect of a showdown in the women’s final against older sister Venus Williams who plays Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in her quarter-final on Tuesday.

Quizzed on why two players in their mid-30s still having such an enormous impact on the women’s game, Serena said: “I think it’s impressive. I think in general people our age aren’t really playing at a top level, so indeed, it’s definitely impressive.

“Venus and I are mentally eight and nine, so that’s why we’re probably able to play a little better [smiling].”

For those who are wondering when her retirement is due, Serena had a salient word for when asked whether she felt older than 12 years ago. “Sadly, no. I wish I did, but sadly, I don’t.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net….