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Gagai sheds light on his toughest decision

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MOVING ON: Dane Gagai agonised over his decision to leave Newcastle and join South Sydney next season. Picture: Getty ImagesKNIGHTS flyer Dane Gagai admits he agonised over his decision to part company with the club at season’s end to join South Sydney.
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The Queensland Origin winger, a two-try hero of last week’s series-saving win against NSW, accepted a four-year deal with the Rabbitohs earlier this month.

“It was a tough decision, but I guess at the end of the day, I had plenty of time to think about it,’’ Gagai told the Newcastle Herald.

“It wasn’t just something that happened overnight.

“I talked a lot withmy family about it and wedecided it’s the best thing for me and my family.’’

DANE GAGAI

Gagai joined Newcastle in 2012, when he was sacked mid-season by the Broncos.

He has since played 119 NRL games for the Knights and six consecutive games for Queensland.

His goal for the rest of the season is help Newcastle win games and climb the ladder.

“I love this club and I love the boys, so I’m going to put up my hand and do whatever I can to help us get over the line,” he said.

The 26-year-old was bitterly disappointed with Newcastle’s 32-28 loss to St George Illawarra last week, after the Knights surrendered an 18-point half-time lead.

“Not the result we wanted,’’ he said. “We led the half well but obviously that second half wasn’t up to first-grade standard.’’

Meanwhile, there was speculation that Brisbane’s decision to omit propHerman Ese’ese from their squad that played Melbourne on Friday night was a reaction to him signing for Newcastle.

The Knights have been circling bothHerman Ese’ese and teammate Tautau Moga for several weeks and it appears both will be in the red and blue from 2018 onwards.

Ese’ese, 22, made his NRL debut for Canterbury in 2015 before linking with Brisbane, for whom he has played23 first-grade games, including 14 this season.

Moga, 23, started as an 18-year-old at the Roosters in 2012 and then spent three seasons with North Queensland before joining the Broncos this year. He has 47 games under his belt, including 14 tries.

Newcastle have already confirmed the signings of Kalyn Ponga (North Queensland) and Aidan Guerra (Roosters) for next season, and this week added former Rooster Shaun Kenny-Dowall to their roster before the June 30 mid-season transfer deadline.Kenny-Dowall is recovering from a hamstring strain but is hoping tobe availablefor Newcastle’s clash with Canterbury at Belmore on Sunday week.

The Knights’ signing spree is far from finished. They will be expectingto add at least one more high-profile import. They will also start sifting through a host of off-contract incumbents, including Jaelen Feeney, Sam Stone, Luke Yates, Peter Mata’utia, Brendan Elliot and Josh Starling.

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The price of talkback

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SUCCESSFUL: Popular and award-winning Hunter broadcaster Aaron Kearney took legal action against 2HD Newcastle after a talkback caller falsely claimed that he had been caught drink-driving three times in two years. ITstarted with a defamation battle between prominent Huntermedia personality Aaron Kearney and radio station 2HD Newcastle over an early-morning talkback call.
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Now a law firmhas been grantedpermission by the Supreme Court to chase the caller for $46,796 in damages.

The long-running defamation stoush was initially settled out of court in December 2010 with an agreement awardingMr Kearney almost $70,000 in damages and costs from 2HD.

Kearney, who was hosting ABC 1233’s breakfast program at the time, launched a defamation case after 2HD aired false allegations from acaller that he’d been convicted of drink-driving three times in two years.

Several months later, a cross-claim was brought by 2HD against the caller, Craig Stephens, of Thornton, claiming he was jointly responsible for defaming Mr Kearney. The broadcaster said the case had cost it more than $106,000 and wanted Mr Stephens to paypart of the bill.

A Supreme Court hearing in April 2012 heard Mr Stephen’s called 2HD at 3.21am on February 23, 2010, and was put live to air telling presenter Gary Stewartthe false allegations aboutMr Kearney. He claimed they were detailed on the front page of the Newcastle Herald. That was also false.

“Front page of the paper there … local ABC presenter Mr Kearney done for drink driving for the third time in two years,” he said. “I, um think it’s a might hypocritical how these people get on and they are all high and mighty about moral and standards and stuff yet they can’t follow the law themselves. I think it’s pretty bad and I think the ABC should do something about it … I don’t even know how you keep a licence with that sort of record.”

Mr Kearney had never been convicted of drink driving and there was no story in the Newcastle Herald.

Mr Stephens, a regular talkback caller, later admittedhe accepted the wordof a “complete stranger” he met at a truck stop and then called the radio station. He told the presenter it was on the front page ofthe paper because when he’d called radio stations before “they don’t take third-hand information”.

“I believed it was true,” he told the court. “I had no reason to doubt it was true.The bloke who told me was convinced, I believed him.”

After being contacted by Mr Kearney, 2HD general manager Guy Ashford agreed to air an apology on the program 10 times between 2am and 4am over three days.”I want to completely retract any adverse claim that was made and on behalf of myself and this station I want to apologise to Mr Kearney for the embarrassment that the broadcast may have cost him,” the apology read in part.

SEARCH: Former 2HD Newcastle station manager Guy Ashford employed a private investigator to track down the early morning caller.

The radio station employed a private investigator to find the caller, and several months later Mr Kearney followed up with legal action against 2HD, for whom he had worked previously.

NSW Supreme Court judgeDavid Davies said Mr Ashford formed an “early view” that his“radio station was being set up by the call made by Mr Stephens”.

His suspicions, which Justice Davies described as “not surprising”,were sparkedby the fact that the day beforethe call, 2HD broadcast a “blooper” of Mr Kearney accidentally leaving his microphone on while reporting on a football match.

ON AIR: 2HD presenter Gary Stewart was told by the caller that the false allegations were detailed on the front page of the Newcastle Herald. There was no story.

“He had a suspicion that the planitiff, Mr Kearney, or someone on his behalf may have been involved …,” Justice Daviessaid.

“When he [Ashford] found out about the blooper tape he thought there was too much of a coincidence in the fact that 2HD had played such a tape the day before, which had upset the plaintiff, and then this extraordinary call has been made by Mr Stephens resulting in 2HD defaming Mr Kearney.”

A link was neverfound and Justice Davies ruled Mr Ashford’s“conspiracy theory”was not relevant to 2HD’s claim against Mr Stephens.In another bizarre twist in the case, the court heard that Mr Ashford took to Twitter providing updates of the matter. “75 down to 35 hmmm civil action pending,” he tweeted.

Mr Stephens’ lawyer argued that Mr Ashford’s suspicions and the use of a private investigator resulted in increased legal costs that 2HD was trying to recoup.

2HD successfully argued its cross-claim and Mr Stephens was ordered to pay the radio station $46,796.

With the money not paid, 2HD assigned the debt to its lawyer Stacks Gouldkamp last year and the Supreme Court lastmonth paved the way for the firm to pursue Mr Stephensfor the debt.

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Census data answering the coal, hard questions

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Planners across the Hunter would have looked eagerly last week at the first release of census data for their patch. Their eyes would have been on population growth statistics. Since the 2011 census, total population in NSWhas grown by 8.1 per cent. In the Hunter population growth has varied a lot. The standout local government area is Maitland, which has grown by a massive 14.6 per cent. Then follow Cessnock at 9.3 per cent, the Upper Hunter and Dungog shires both at 7.9 per cent, and Port Stephens at 7.3 per cent. Intriguingly, Newcastle and Lake Macquarie LGAs lag the state average growing by only 4.6 per centand 4.4 per centrespectively. More retirees and fewer kids in the city?
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The big population slow down, however, has been in Muswellbrook and Singleton shires with growth of only 1.9 per centand 1.3 per centrespectively. The census also tells us that us there are now significant numbers of unoccupied dwellings in both shires. One in six dwellings in Muswellbrook was found to be empty. For Singleton it is one in nine. Is this evidence that the mining boom is over for the mid-Hunter and it hasn’t left the area in good shape?

What’s going on?

The evidence points to economic stagnation. In Muswellbrook unemployment peaked at 12.4 per centin late 2015 following job shedding and a fall-off in new mines construction. By early 2017, however, Muswellbrook’s unemployment rate fell to 5.9 per cent, which looked like good news. But census data, capturing the state of the shire in August 2016, suggest that displaced workers and their families have left.

FIGURING IT OUT: What has the mining industry given to its Hunter hosts?

Housing data paints the same picture. House sales have been on the rise in both Muswellbrook and Singleton but not with good results. House prices in Singleton are flat while those in Muswellbrook are falling.

Muswellbrook and Singleton are test cases of the long-term impacts of coal mining. I have read dozens of impact statements over the past three decades with thick chapters arguing the economic benefits for districts in the Hunter when this or that mine is built and operating.The mines are now built and operating. Those who work in them are doing well as a consequence. The Australian Taxation Office tells us there were 5408 pay packets in postcode 2333, Muswellbrook, in 2014-15. They contained on average $81,237. The median Australian salary at the time was only $47,502. Local miners in work do well.

But where are the benefits for the rest of Muswellbrook? Where are the local supply chains that the reports said would be established? Where are flow-on effects for main street retailers? Where is the town’s fair share of the coal royalties that flow to the NSW government, estimated to be $1.67 billion over the coming year?

I’d prefer to be wrong on this. I’d like someone to tell me I’m misreading the numbers. I’d love to drive through Singleton and Muswellbrook – the great mid-Hunter towns – and see enduring investments that will take them to prosperous futures, where local kids get first class education and training, where local businesses thrive, where the spread effects from mining to the wider economy are bleedin’ obvious. I’d love it for the mining industry to stand before these towns proud for what it has given its hosts.

Instead are we seeing long-term decline? More census data will be released soon. We need to watch the Muswellbrook and Singleton stories very closely. A big question is being answered. Does the Hunter really benefit from coal mining? Watch this space.

Phillip O’Neill is professor of economic geography at Western Sydney University

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Fatale attraction

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HEADLINER: Demi Mitchell unveiled many songs from her forthcoming second album at Ramblin’ Nights – the Femme Fatale special on Thursday. Picture: Josh LeesonTHREE deadly female songwriters. Three different voices. Each doing their own unique brand of dark alt-country.
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On paper the concept for Ramblin’ Nights –The Femme Fatalespecial appearedseductive.And in the flesh Femme Fataledelivered.

In the first all-female show of the Sydney Americana and alt-country series, it featuredNewcastle-raised SydneysiderKatie Brianna, Melbourne’s “new queen of dark country” Jemma Nicole and Novocastrian Demi Mitchell, previously known as De’May.

After taking the headline spot with her band at the first Femme Fatale the night before in Newtown’s LeadBelly, Brianna opened proceedings in the Cambridge’s smaller warehouse bar.

Unfortunately only a handful of mostly other musiciansturned out onthe chilly evening.Avoice as amazing as Brianna’s deserved better. One positive was the small attendance created an imitate jazz bar-style ambience, as punters sat around at tables on stools, nursing their drinks.

Brianna’s second albumVictim or The Heroine was nominated for best alt-country album at the Golden Guitars in January and her set focused on that record.

Alone with an acoustic guitar, which was troublesome to tune,the Elermore Vale girl exhibited wonderful control ofher melancholic voice. Her songs Birmingham and Victim or The Heroine were particularly poignant.

Nicole was the highlight of the evening. She certainly inhabits the bleakestspectrum of country. There were repeated apologiesfor playing sad songs or attacking men in the track,Only aMan.

This male reviewer didn’t mind. Nicole carries were haunting tales of heartbreakwith a combination of intensity and good old-fashioned songwriting. It didn’t hurt that her guitarist Mitch Power constantly produced impeccable improvisations.

Power was even given lead vocal duties on their Americana-flavoured rendition of the Bee Gees’ To Love Somebody.

Mitchell was given the closing honours in her home town. It was just the second performance of Mitchell’s new band, that also featuresBrennan Fell (bass), Jason Lowe (slide guitar) andAlex Quayle (drums).

Only Lowe joined her initially as Mitchell unveiled her new song Overflow. Once Fell and Quayle jumped on stage proceedings picked up.

Mitchell is attempting to steer away from her folk and alt-country roots towards a more rock sound, but she’s still in a state of transition. New songs like Out Of Here and Get It Togetheroccupy Americanaterritory.

However, Mitchell embracedgreater rock attitude in her performance. Her smokey vocal was almost delivered with a pout during Coming Down, based on “the good ole drug culture in Newcastle.”

“I had my first rock’n’roll moment last night,” Mitchell joked. “Someone vomited on my amp. I haven’t cleaned it yet.”

It might have been a rock’n’roll moment, but Femme Fatale was certainly an alt-country evening. A bloody intriguing one at that.

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Papas up for one last shot

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Papas up for one last shot TweetFacebook Reece PapasReece Papas has come so desperately close to his dream of professional football, he is not about to let it go without a fight.
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The 21-year-old midfielder anddefender returned to his junior club, Hamilton Olympic, this week after two years in the Central Coast Mariners youth system.He spent much of that time training with the first team and warmed up as 17th man before several A-League games.

The former Jets youth player has trained at the Nike Academy in England, played in Australian and Greek junior national teams and was the Mariners’ 2015-16 National Youth League player of the year.

Buthe never quite did enough to convince coach Paul Okon to offer him a senior contract, and it was clear his opportunities would be limited as the club started recruiting for next season.

“I was disappointed that I didn’t get anything there. All the signs were good. I was with the first-team squad pretty much from day one I joined the club,” Papas said.

“I was always told I was in the running for a contract, but I was pretty much told my chances would be slim with the players they were bringing in, which was fine by me.I understand that’s football and they’ve got to look after themselves. It was a great opportunity down there.

“I left on good terms. I wish them good luck for the A-League season.”

Papas will make his Olympic comeback off the bench against the Jets youth team at Darling Street Oval on Saturday.He said he was focused on staying fit for the next three months and “enjoying football again”with a view to a possible overseas trial or another shot at an A-League club.

“I’m just trying to keep these next eight weeks really dedicated to football.

“I’m going to give it one last crack at football and have a red-hot go with no regrets.

“Being so close, where I was at the Mariners, to getting something,I’d probably be silly to throw it all in because of one person’s opinion. There’s other opportunities out there, I guess.”

Also on Saturday, Rosebud entertain second-placed Valentine at Adamstown and leaders Lambton host Lake Macquarie at Edden Oval.

On Sunday, Broadmeadow play Charlestown in the first of three consecutive home games for Magic as they try to resurrect their season.

Ruben Zadkovich’s side won just once in April and May then won three straight on the road in June to sit just a point behind fourth-placed Olympic.

“It was always going to turn for us. There were a lot of games early where we played well and got nothing,” Zadkovich said.“You go home and watch it and we dominated all the chances and somehow lost one-nil. I think we had 10 penalties in the first round we gave away three other set pieces.

“It was a little bit of Murphy’s law where everything was going wrong, injuries started to stack up, results went against us and before you knew it we were right down the ladder.

“But in the last few weeks the boys have really worked hard and have thoroughly deserved the games and won them comfortably.”

Magic’s past two wins, 3-1 at Valentine and 3-0 at Lake Macquarie, have coincided with the arrival of classy former Jets and Perth midfielder Mitch Oxborrow.

But Zadkovich is wary of his side’spoor home record.Theybeat Weston and Valentine at Magic Park early in the season then lost to Lake Macquarie (4-1), Maitland (7-0), Hamilton (2-1)andEdgeworth (3-0).

“The worrying thing is ourhome form’s not been very good at all,” he said.“But, again, it’s got to turn eventually, and hopefully we can start it this weekend.”

At Cooks Square Park, in-form Maitland host Edgeworth on Sunday.

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Pass mark for pilots in Diamond Storm after dawn raidvideo, photos

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Pass mark for pilots in Diamond Storm after dawn raid | video, photos HEADS UP: The Air Force’s newest air warfare combat instructors return home from Exercise Diamond Storm in the Northern Territory in the early hours of Friday morning. Picture shows a F/A-18A Hornet flying over media at RAAF Base Williamtown. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
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HEADS UP: The Air Force’s newest air warfare combat instructors return home from Exercise Diamond Storm in the Northern Territory in the early hours of Friday morning. Picture shows a F/A-18A Hornet flying over media at RAAF Base Williamtown. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

HEADS UP: The Air Force’s newest air warfare combat instructors return home from Exercise Diamond Storm in the Northern Territory in the early hours of Friday morning. Picture shows a F/A-18A Hornet flying over media at RAAF Base Williamtown. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

HEADS UP: A F/A-18A Hornet flies over RAAF Base Williamtown in the early hours of Friday morning, part of an exercise in the inaugural air warfare instructor course. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

HEADS UP: A F/A-18A Hornet flies over RAAF Base Williamtown in the early hours of Friday morning, part of an exercise in the inaugural air warfare instructor course. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

HEADS UP: A F/A-18A Hornet flies over RAAF Base Williamtown in the early hours of Friday morning, part of an exercise in the inaugural air warfare instructor course. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

HEADS UP: A F/A-18A Hornet flies over RAAF Base Williamtown in the early hours of Friday morning, part of an exercise in the inaugural air warfare instructor course. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

HEADS UP: A F/A-18A Hornet flies over RAAF Base Williamtown in the early hours of Friday morning, part of an exercise in the inaugural air warfare instructor course. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

HEADS UP: A F/A-18A Hornet flies over RAAF Base Williamtown in the early hours of Friday morning, part of an exercise in the inaugural air warfare instructor course. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

HEADS UP: A F/A-18A Hornet flies over RAAF Base Williamtown in the early hours of Friday morning, part of an exercise in the inaugural air warfare instructor course. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

HEADS UP: A F/A-18A Hornet flies over RAAF Base Williamtown in the early hours of Friday morning, part of an exercise in the inaugural air warfare instructor course. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

HEADS UP: A F/A-18A Hornet flies over RAAF Base Williamtown in the early hours of Friday morning, part of an exercise in the inaugural air warfare instructor course. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

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

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Relive the ’80s at retro music fest

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FLASHBACK: Taylor Dayne joins Paul Young, Go West, The Cutting Crew, Wang Chung, John Paul Young, Pseudo Echo and The Chantoozies at Hope Estate on November 4.
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Taylor Dayne has the voice but is no diva. This straight-talker from New York wouldn’t have survived 30 years in the music business –and counting – if she was.

The mother-of-two found fame in the 1980s with hits like Tell It To My Heart and Love Will Lead You Back,and a decade later with I’ll Be Your Shelter. Todate she has sold more than 75 million albums and released 17 top 20 singles.

Dayne has television, Broadway and film credits to her name and is about to embark on the 80s Fest tour with Go West, Paul Young, The Cutting Crew, Wang Chung, The Chantoozies and John Paul Young.

She ismatter-of-fact about her career success and refuses to subscribe to the clichethat she was somehow born to perform. It has been, she says, a lot of hard work.

“I was good at something, yes,and that was mimicking people off the radio,” she tells Weekender from the US.

“Getting on stage is a whole other issue.As a performer and an entertainer you watch and you learn and you practice, practice, practice. You put the hours in.

“I don’t think Beyonce got up there and was suddenly Beyonce. She spent hours singing in front of the mirror or in front of her parents or at talent shows, doing what she had to do.It’sby spending all those hours practising that your muscles are being designed and ultimately you might get good.

“I had a natural abilityand that’s a good ear, a really good ear, and I could pick up nuances, but I was inspired to do that. I wanted to get good at it.”​

Even after 30 years of touringshe admits to getting “kind of nervous sometimes” however is grateful for the opportunity.

“I’m very fortunate to have released music at a time when touring made money. I have songs that connected with an audience and became a soundtrack to people’s livesso Ican still tour.

“Music is very sensory. You remember exactly where you were and who you were with, what you were feeling, when you heard a song. It’s one of the most valuable art forms because it allows you to feel in different capacities.

“With these combined tours people get a lot of hits for their money.”

Dayne spent a few years in the music wilderness raising a familybut it turned out to be a well-timed break.

“I lost my record deal in 2003 or 2004 when the music industry completely started imploding on itself because of Napster and the internet. Labels were shutting down one after the next or merging.The record industry doesn’t exist like it used to. Nowhere near.

“It’s actually come full circle, though, in a way. When I started out I was an artist that actually recorded my own music, I made my own music, we funded it and I got a record deal based on the single. We’re now back in the singles game again. People rarely download entire albums.”

Her next project is writing a book about her experiences.

“I have always done things on my own terms and in my own way but I think that stems from a fear of being controlled or losing my identity. That comes from some long-ago childhood stuff, maybe. Who knows?It’s been challenging, digging deep and going back into places I haven’t searched for a long time. It’s not all roses, either.”

80s Fest comes to Hope Estate in the Hunter Valley on November 4. Tickets are on sale now through Ticketmaster.

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Shotgun, sex objects, drugs in child’s toy and a suspected dungeon: inside an alleged drug lab

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Shotgun, sex objects, drugs in child’s toy and a suspected dungeon: inside an alleged drug lab TweetFacebook Exclusive photographs of the drug lab being dismantled.AN ALLEGED Wagga drug lab capable of facilitating an interstate criminal enterprise also contained an ice-loaded water pistol, a shotgun and a suspected sex dungeon, investigators claim.
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The discoveries came as the NSW Drug Squad dismantled theOura Roadclandestine set-up on Thursday afternoon.

Police have so far seized six guns –including a high-calibre shotgun – about an ounce of methamphetamine, cannabisand a haul of ammunition.

Forensic examiners were forced to sidestep around sex toys, which were scattered through the property’s gardens.

As paraphernalia was removed from thegarage, the sheer size of the operation became apparent.

Detective Inspector Darren Cloake said it was the most sophisticated laboratory he has seen in Wagga.

“This is the firstchemical-based laboratory I’ve seen here,” he said.

“Our chemical operations unit conducted a preliminary investigation of the lab and there is a strong inference that lab has been used for the manufacture of amphetamine-based drugs.

“There was also a number of personal items scattered around the property and a suspect area inside the garage.”

The 44-year-old Oura Road occupant wascharged on Thursday with firearm-related offences and for possessing a prohibited drug, with further charges expected once a forensic analysis is complete.

He was granted conditional bail in the meantime.

Inspector Cloake said a five-year-old child found in the property was still living at the home.

“The child is still in the care of the family,” he said.

“Police have made a mandatory notification to Family and Community Services (FACS) to care for the wellbeing of that child in the future.”

The bust came during a trifecta of police search warrants, initiated at a property inCondon Avenue, Mount Austin on Tuesday.

Detectives believe all three men were connected.

Condon Avenue’s Michael Wood, 30, appeared before Wagga Local Court on Wednesday, charged with supplying 14.82 grams of methamphetamine, holding a .177 calibre rifle and supplying 345 grams of cannabis.

He was refused bail by police and issued with a show cause notice to reappear at court in August.

Border Mail

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‘Reckless’ judge shortage puts domestic violence victims at risk

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DANGEROUS: Retired Newcastle Federal Circuit Court judge Giles Coakes, with Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon and Chris White, president of the Hunter Valley Family Lawyers Practitioners Association. PICTURE: Max Mason-Hubers HUNTER women seeking to escape domestic violence and children subject to abuse are being placed at even greater risk of harm because of the Turnbull government’s failure to fill a Newcastle Federal Circuit Court judge position vacant since February.
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New statistics obtained exclusively by theNewcastle Heraldreveal the two judges currently serving the city’sunder-staffed Federal Circuit Court, which deals only with family law matters, have been forced to shoulder a“reckless” work-load more than double the national average.

Chris White, the presidentof the Hunter Valley Family LawPractitioners, says delays in the courts are helping to “compounda history of people believing that the system isn’t responsive to their very serious examples of domestic violence”.

“Peopleare hearing in the media that [domestic violence] is a big worry for the community, and the government says it’sdoing everythingit can,yet when peopleseek to address these issues, the court system is just not there [for them],” he said.

Figures from the Attorney General George Brandis’soffice released to Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon revealFederal Circuit Court judges in Newcastle have each dealt with a projected case-load of some 770 matters this financial yearcompared to the national average of 376.

That has helped push the time it takes for a case to reach a trial in Newcastle to almost 19 months, a situationlegal experts say is failingthe region’s most vulnerablepeopleand pushing the justice system to the brink.

“We’re talking aboutpeople who aregoing through marital breakdowns, child custody disputes, families withdrug and alcohol abuse issues,” Ms Claydon said.

“They’realready at the end of their tether by the time theyget to court, and now we’re forcing them to waityears for a resolution.

“It’s a dangerous holding pattern for some of these families to be in.”

Mr White agreed, saying that on the“coal face” it was a huge concern for the city’s legal representatives.

RECKLESS: Attorney General George Brandis has been criticised for taking too long to appoint judges to the Newcastle Federal Circuit Court. PICTURE: Andrew Meares

He said he had been involved in one case earlier this yearwhere a father withdrug abuse and mental health issues had, despite having little previous contact with his daughter,“run off” with the child to Queensland.

He sought an urgent hearing to deal with the matter, but wasn’t able to get it before a judge for almost two months.

“In the meantime alittle girl who does’t know her father has effectively been kidnapped, for want of a better word, and the court is unable to deal with that because of a lack of resources,” he said.

“It might seem like ashort period in the context of a child’s life, but the consequenceis an indelible mark left on the child that willstay with them for their rest of their lives.”

The problem dates back to when former Newcastle Federal Circuit Court judge GilesCoakes retired in June 2015 after 11 years on the bench.

Mr Brandis waited four months before appointing his replacement, JusticeSteven Middleton, allowing the case load of the two remaining judges to blow out.

Then in February this year Justice Matthew Myers left the court after beingappointed to lead theAustralian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry intoincarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Five months laterhis position has still not been filled, and Mr Coakes has accusedMr Brandisof being “reckless” and “negligent” by taking so long to make the appointment.

“It simply doesn’t need to take this long,” the retired judgesaid.

“Mr Brandis is failing in his responsibility as the primary law officer in the country, and he offers no excuses.”

Mr Coakes said the massiveworkload being handled by the two judgeshad“dangerous implications”.

“It means there is theincreased risk of anoversight, a mistake in calculations, or risk of not giving enough weight to a specific piece of evidence,” he said.

“All of those things stem from hurrying, which comes from the pressure to produce a result.

“It’s awful, quite frankly, and I’m surprised there hasn’t been mental breakdowns.”

However aspokeswoman for Mr Brandis saida permanent appointment was“under active consideration”.

“The appointment of a judge to a court is an important decision to which the Attorney General gives careful consideration, giving regard to a broad range of issues, including the expertise and background of potential candidates as well as consultation with relevant persons,” she said.

Newcastle Herald

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‘This must not distract us’

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STOIC: A group of survivors, including Andrew Collins and Peter Blenkiron, travelled to Rome to watch Cardinal Pell give evidence to the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse in 2016. Picture: Adam Trafford Ballarat clergy sexual abuse survivors hope Cardinal George Pell’s trial will not distract from implementing the royal commission’s recommendations.
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Peter Blenkiron, who was abused by disgraced Christian Brother Edward Dowlan, said whether Cardinal Pell was guilty or not was a red herring.

“If we focus on one person, on one issue, then that can distract the whole community and eclipse what really needs to change,” he said.

“We must not take our eyes off the ball and we must make sure all recommendations are implemented.”

The $500 million inquiry is Australia’s longest royal commission, starting in 2013 and due to finish with a final report to the federal government in December.

Chairman Justice Peter McClellan said governments and institutions needed to focus on redress and regulatory changes, “designed to ensure that so far as possible no child is abused in an institutional context in the future”.

Sex abuse survivor Peter Blenkiron

Mr Blenkiron echoed this sentiment following revelations Cardinal Pell had been charged with historical sexual assault offences on Thursday, arguing Ballarat residents must not lose sight of protecting children and preventing more premature deaths.

Fellow survivor Andrew Collins, who travelled with Mr Blenkiron to meet Cardinal Pell during his royal commission testimony in Rome in 2016, said the Catholic Church leader had done little to address Ballarat’s mental health crisis in the two years since.

“The cardinal told us in Rome that he would assist victims, but as yet, nothing has happened,” Mr Collins said.”We are now a little concerned about who will take the mantle.”

Philip Nagle, who was abused by disgraced Christian Brother Stephen Farrell, said Cardinal Pell’s trial would not hinder the recovery of Ballarat survivors. “George hasn’t done anything anyhow,” he said.”It’s very important for the survivors who have made claims against George that this is followed through.”

The Ballarat Courier

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