Archives - April, 2019

29 Apr 19

DAILY GRIND: Laurie Daley takes his first session as NSW coach yesterday. Picture: Getty Images SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MAY 27: Blues coach Laurie Daley speaks to players during a New South Wales Blues State of Origin training session at Coogee Oval on May 27, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
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QUEENSLAND coach Mal Meninga promised to give Newcastle winger Darius Boyd every opportunity to play his 15th State of Origin in Sydney early next month but will rush Melbourne’s Justin O’Neill into camp today as his shadow.

Boyd joined the team announcement at Suncorp Stadium last night with his left foot in a moon boot after scans had earlier cleared him of a fractured ankle.

Meninga also confirmed Manly’s Daly Cherry-Evans would join the camp as back-up for North Queensland star Johnathan Thurston, whose partner Samantha is due to give birth to their first child on June 5 – the night of the first Origin game in Sydney.

“We’ll give Darius every opportunity to play. He got a badly bruised ankle and hopefully with a lot of treatment early in the week he will be right to play,” Meninga said.

The Queenslanders had their fingers crossed Souths trio Greg Inglis, Ben Te’o and rookie Chris McQueen all pull up healthy after last night’s NRL clash with Cronulla.

Te’o could be a concern after being replaced with a leg injury in the first half.

“There may be a possibility we have to bring others in [to camp] but at this stage we’re keeping our fingers crossed our three guys get through tonight’s game against Cronulla,” said Meninga.

“We’ll check everyone out in the morning and make those decisions if we need to.”

Thurston was keeping details of the birth of his baby private but was confident of continuing his streak of playing in every game of Queensland’s record seven straight series wins since 2006.

Meninga confirmed that Cherry-Evans’s presence was mainly to cover for Thurston if he had to break camp or for some reason miss the game on Wednesday week.

“He’s there to cover JT just in case something does happen,” he said.

“I know John wants to be present at the birth and from a team perspective we’ll give him that opportunity. It’s his decision what he wants to do.”

Queensland captain Cameron Smith said NSW would feel the loss of utility Kurt Gidley, who was ruled out last night with ligament damage in his foot.

“Kurt’s a wonderful player and he was picked for his versatility for the mid-year Test [against New Zealand],” said Meninga.

“He’s got the most versatile game in the competition and can fill any position in the backline or play hooker or lock.”

Rookie NSW No.6 James Maloney will be Queensland’s number one target after beating Todd Carney to the job.

Asked if Maloney would feel the heat making his debut in front of an 80,000 home crowd, Meninga said: “Probably, I’m hoping so.

“He’s playing great football, he had been playing great football for the Warriors but he’s come up another level with the Roosters,” he said.

“The club combination with Mitchell Pearce makes sense to pick them as NSW halves, he’s got a good kicking game and he’s a great goal kicker as well.

“He’s a good support player and he adds plenty to their side.”

Emotions flowed at Suncorp Stadium as members of Queensland’s last non-Origin side to beat NSW 54 years ago stood side by side with Meninga’s current stars.

Meninga sprung a surprise on 450 guests at last night’s Origin dinner as members of the victorious 1959 Queensland series were introduced on stage along with his players to contest this year’s interstate series. AAP

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29 Apr 19

THE Port of Newcastle is bound to be on the state government’s hit list of assets to be privatised to help pay for an $8 billion Sydney train line its top infrastructure advisers don’t support, the opposition says.
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And Treasurer Mike Baird yesterday refused to rule it out, saying the government would not engage in speculation ahead of the state budget next month.

It follows announcements in the last two budgets to privatise the state’s other ports – Botany, flagged in the O’Farrell government’s first budget, then Kembla, announced in last year’s budget.

Last month, the government said it had secured about $4billion in net proceeds for the 99-year lease of the two to a consortium of mostly Australian super funds and international investors.

The proceeds have gone into a fund for infrastructure, of which 30 per cent would be spent in regional areas.

In a speech to members of the shipping industry yesterday, Labor leader John Robertson said the government had its priorities wrong and was selling off revenue-generating assets to fund road and rail projects, leaving future governments without assets to borrow against.

It was only a matter of time before it looked for other assets to sell.

‘‘The day of reckoning when the Port of Newcastle is flogged off to fund the North West Rail Link cannot be far away,’’ he said.

The 23-kilometre rail link in Sydney’s north-west is expected to cost at least $8 billion, and does not have the backing of Infrastructure NSW chief executive Paul Broad or chairman Nick Greiner, who called it a ‘‘social equity project’’.

Mr Robertson also attacked the government over Mr Broad and Mr Greiner’s resignations, announced last week, as ‘‘the icing on what has been a very dysfunctional cake’’.

‘‘The Premier promised to take the politics out of transport by establishing Infrastructure NSW,’’ Mr Robertson said.

‘‘But he has put politics before policy.’’

More than halfway through the government’s term, no new projects had started, Mr Robertson said.

Mr Baird has previously said there were ‘‘no plans’’ to privatise Newcastle.

Asked yesterday to rule out its privatisation for the remainder of the government’s term, Mr Baird said; “As is customary at this time of year we are not going to engage in budget speculation’’.

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29 Apr 19

ADMISSION: Cardinal George Pell appearing at the inquiry on Monday. Picture: Joe ArmaoAUSTRALIA’S most senior Catholic did nothing to ease the pain caused by clergy sexual abuse when he gave an ‘‘insincere’’ apology, victims and their supporters say.
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Cardinal George Pell told the Victorian parliamentary inquiry he was ‘‘fully apologetic and absolutely sorry’’ for the abuse at the hands of clergy.

During intense questioning yesterday that lasted more than four hours, Cardinal Pell admitted that abuse had been covered up, documents destroyed and priests had been moved on.

A fear of scandal led to the cover-up and the primary reason would have been to protect the reputation of the Church, he said.

He also admitted a priest’s resignation letter had been backdated and made no mention of his crimes.

But Cardinal Pell denied personally being involved in any cover-up.

Victims and their supporters said Cardinal Pell was insincere, diverted blame to others and should resign.

There were scoffs and howls from the public gallery at some of the claims made by the Sydney archbishop and former Melbourne archbishop.

Stephen Woods, who was abused by a paedophile priest, was dumbfounded by Cardinal Pell’s claim that he acted in the best interests of victims.

‘‘The little care for the victims that he showed, showed that they still don’t get it,’’ Mr Woods said.

‘‘He needs to resign. His era is finished.’’

Leonie Sheedy, whose organisation represents people abused in orphanages, said a national public apology was needed.

‘‘I didn’t think the apology was sincere,’’ she said.

‘‘He kept saying over and over things are much better these days. Well, we are not having this inquiry about today.

‘‘We are having an inquiry into how they have neglected and stonewalled and denied that these crimes were committed against children.’’

Geelong priest Father Kevin Dillon sat with several victims at the inquiry and said they were unimpressed by Cardinal Pell’s statements.

‘‘They have been searching for a degree of compassion, understanding and support, and almost universally to the victims I have spoken to, they have been disappointed,’’ he said.

Anthony Foster, whose two daughters were abused by a priest, said there was no mea culpa from Cardinal Pell and he did not promise to do everything he could for victims.

Several hundred victims and their supporters attended the inquiry packing into the hearing room and a second room.

Cardinal Pell said he did not believe there was a culture of abuse.

‘‘I think the bigger fault was that nobody would talk about it, nobody would mention it,’’ he said.

‘‘I don’t think many, if any, persons in the leadership of the Catholic Church knew what a horrendous widespread mess we were sitting on,’’ he said.

The inquiry is expected to deliver its finding in September. AAP

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29 Apr 19

BLOWN: Dust allegedly from a coal mine shows bright orange in the air to the east of Jerry’s Plains.THE Department of Planning has slapped Hunter mines with thousands of dollars worth of fines for breaches of noise and blasting conditions.
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It has also launched a prosecution against Rio Tinto’s Warkworth mine for failing to minimise dust pollution.

The department’s actions follow sustained community calls for the department to become more proactive in enforcing mines’ conditions of consent.

The Herald has also highlighted concerns about each of the issues in recent months.

Integra Coal was fined $3000 for a 123.3 decibel blast which exceeded the 120 decibel sound pressure limit at its Camberwell mine on March 15, 2013.

The company has recently prepared a blast fume management strategy to improve its blasting practices.

The Mt Thorley Operations was fined $3000 for exceeding noise compliance limits by up to five decibels on March 13.

A Rio Tinto spokesman said the company was disappointed it had recorded a noise breach.

“We will continue to work closely with our neighbours and the NSW government as we improve the way noise is managed at Mount Thorley Warkworth mine,’’ he said.

The department also started prosecution proceedings against Warkworth in the Land and Environment Court for failing to minimise dust.

The department alleges that Warkworth failed to comply with a number of its conditions of consent in relation to minimising dust during high winds on September 5, 2012.

Warkworth is yet to enter a plea.

The Rio Tinto spokesman confirmed the court action.

“Air quality across the Hunter Valley was being affected by dry and windy weather conditions at this time and Mount Thorley Warkworth mine took a range of steps to minimise dust, including shutting down equipment and increased use of water sprays,’’ he said.

The Department of Planning’s Singleton office received 27 complaints during April, including 23 for noise, two for blasting and two for dust.

The noise complaints came primarily from Bulga residents.

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29 Apr 19

TRAIN TO NOWHERE: Falling production has led to more than 1000 mineworkers losing their jobs in the past year. THE coal rout is deepening with production cuts accounting for more than 70 new job losses at the Mount Owen open-cut mine.
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Mount Owen – midway between Singleton and Muswellbrook – is owned by the Swiss-based resources giant GlencoreXstrata and managed by contract mining company Thiess.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union district president Peter Jordan said 55 mineworker positions, six tradespeople and 12 contractors had been earmarked to go.

Figures show more than 1000 Hunter and Gunnedah miners have lost jobs since last year.

These figures do not include the jobs lost in downstream suppliers to the industry.

The Australian Coal Association says 9000 jobs have been lost from the NSW and Queensland industries in the past 15months and recent research indicates that at least half the coal leaving Newcastle is doing so at a loss.

Mount Owen has approval to produce up to 10million tonnes of coal a year and Mr Jordan said Xstrata was cutting production by 5per cent.

‘‘There’ll be a call for voluntary redundancies but I don’t think there’d be enough volunteers to accommodate those sorts of numbers,’’ Mr Jordan said.

On figures supplied by Xstrata the 73 jobs amounts to nearly 20per cent of the workforce.

An Xstrata spokesman said the Mount Owen cuts were a response to ‘‘difficult market conditions’’.

A spokesman for Thiess said Mount Owen was ‘‘decreasing total coal production by scaling back some of its operating areas in response to industry-wide pressures, including a lower coal price’’.

‘‘We appreciate the impact this will have on some of our employees and their families,’’ the Thiess spokesman said.

‘‘We are making every effort to proactively consult with the workforce to ensure they have a full range of support services.’’

Brisbane-based WorkPac, which supplies the 12 contract positions, declined to comment.

By confirming the production cuts, GlencoreXstrata is directly confronting the oversupply of thermal coal that is helping drive down prices to unprofitable levels.

Another Xstrata mine, Ravensworth underground, shed about 35 positions in October last year, although most of those affected were redeployed.

Whitehaven retrenched 40 Gunnedah-area mineworkers in March and Peabody’s Wambo open-cut shed about 40 jobs in July last year, citing ‘‘increased cost efficiencies’’.

Exports from Newcastle had been expected to more than double to nearly 300million tonnes a year by the end of the decade.

But the bursting of the minerals boom has thrown such predictions into disarray, with some major Hunter mining projects now delayed or under a cloud.

Port Waratah Coal Services put its controversial T4 loader on hold at the start of the month, saying revised forecasts mean the new loader is unlikely to be needed for at least five years.

One of the mines that would have fed that loader, Rio Tinto’s Mount Pleasant open-cut, is yet to be formally confirmed.

Figures from the Hunter Valley Coal Chain Co-ordinator, which oversees the movement of export coal, show production is still up on this time last year, with 55.9million tonnes of coal arriving at Newcastle, compared with 50.2million tonnes during the same period last year.

One of the major differences between this downturn and previous coal gluts is the presence of ‘‘take or pay’’ contracts, which mean coal companies must pay transport providers an agreed amount, even if they ship less coal than expected.

This effect, which is believed to be adding as much as $15 a tonne to coal production costs, discourages companies from cutting production in an effort to drive up prices by causing a shortage.

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