Entries from September, 2019

Blacksmiths receives funding for shark detection technology

SPOTTED: Lake Macquarie lifeguard Darren Hooey at Blacksmiths Beach. Picture: Marina Neil.Shark detection and beach safety will be improved at Blacksmiths Beach after Lake Macquarie City Council received a NSW Government grant to fund the purchase of drone technology.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald announced the funding on Wednesday, which was part of $200,000 on offer to community groups from the Shark Observation Grants Program.

“I am pleased to announce thatLake Macquarie City Councilhas been successful in receiving$33,290in funding topurchase drone equipment and train staff to conduct a 14 week drone trial for shark observation and beach safety” Mr MacDonald said.

“For a number of years, the NSW Government has allocated grants up to a project total of $30,000 for local surf clubs and councils to improve shark surveillance at a number of the State’s beaches.

“Improved surveillance on beaches provide a clearer line of vision for surf lifesavers to spot sharks and are also useful for spotting people in distress.”

Lake MacquarieMayor Kay Frasersaid the regionis blessed to have such a beautiful stretch of coastline that many residents and visitors can take advantage of.

“This funding will help Council to continue its work in providing the community with accurate real-time updates on shark sightings, which allows our community to make informed decisions when visiting our beaches,” Cr Fraser said.

Council’s professional lifeguards will alsobe working with pilots fromLake Macquarie Airport and the NSW Department of Primary Industries helicopter during the trial.


Rough surf conditions shut Newcastle BeachesSquabble over Bar Beach coffee cartMerewether beats Bondi as best beach

Sail away on holiday, in style and ambition

You choose: Bavaria’s new C50 cruising yacht has three specifications, known as Holiday, Style or Ambition which give luxury finishes and offers extra features and design elements. FIFTY is the old 60 when you consider the amount of space, both on deck and down below, in Bavaria’s new C50 cruising yacht.

Penned by Italian naval architects Cossutti Yacht Design, the 50-footer’s high topsides, raised deck structure and forecastle make this a true holiday home on the water.

They have shrunk a superyacht, yet its scope is still within the realm of two-handed sailing.

Bavaria offers three specifications, known as Holiday, Style or Ambition. Even in the most basic spec, Holiday, the C50 is well equipped and ready to sail immediately, with the added confidence of Category A construction.

For owners seeking a more luxury finish, the Style line offers extra features and design elements.

Bavaria says that a special selection of woods and upholstery afford a higher level of personalisation.

The Ambition model sports performance additives like a black bowsprit in which the anchor is integrated – this pushes the gennaker forward for easier gybing and a better airflow.

The black mast, boom and dual steering wheels are carbon.

Internal layout options are almost limitless, ranging from the classic three-cabin family version with individual ensuites to the charter-oriented five-cabin arrangement. You can also have a crew cabin in the bow.

The owner’s suite, located forward, has a queen-size bed, separate shower and bath, dressing table and generous-sized lockers. In the four-cabin version this area is split into two cabins.

Further aft, the guest cabin has a full king-size bed, while there are two separate berths on the starboard side. The fifth cabin, with bunk beds, is situated in the saloon if required.

The port-side galley can cater for any size of crew. Numerous work spaces and stowage areas make it a pleasure to use, even at sea.

Refrigeration options alone amount to 250 litres, plus there’s a wine cooler to accommodate 20 bottles.

A navigation station to starboard serves as the control centre for onboard systems and a home office for anyone who can’t stay away from work, even on holiday.

“Bavaria offers three specifications, known as Holiday, Style or Ambition. Eventhe most basic, Holiday, is well equipped and ready to sail”Daylight from the large hull windows bathes the entire saloon.

Relaxation is at the forefront when it comes to the cockpit layout.

Behind the large bathing platform there is a dinghy garage and stowage space for diving or snorkelling gear.

The cockpit, feauting twin tables, is the ideal spot for lunch prepared on a concealed barbecue with its own wetbar.

More sunbathing and lounge areas can be found on the deck and forecastle.

Cossutti is well-known on both the regatta and cruising scenes for their fast and elegant sailing yachts, and the team hasn’t disappointed with the 15.55-metre C50.

The buoyant hull accelerates well in light airs and can be hunkered down in harsh conditions.

Bavaria’s development team has also ensured that the yacht is easy to sail, not just fast.

The deck layout is tuned for easy handling, with twin steering columns and nearby winches for setting, trimming and retrieving sails.

A self-tacking jib guarantees quick and precise tacking, while the gennaker can be set and retrieved by a furler.

If the budget or your marina berth can not stretch to 50 feet, there’s also a new C45 with similar looks, features and specifications.

As a world first on a 45-foot sailing yacht, it provides space for a dinghy in the stern, leaving the foredeck clear.

Both new yachts will make their international debuts tomorrow January 20, at the ‘boot Düsseldorf’ boat show.

See bavariasail苏州美甲学校419论坛 or phone 1300 609 900.

Searching for Jayden: ‘I want him to come back’

Searching for Jayden: ‘I want him to come back’ DON’T GIVE UP: Rachel Penno with Inspector Roger Whyte, of Townsville district police, in Charters Towers.

Jayden Penno-Tompsett, who went missing in Charters Towers, has not been seen since New Year’s Eve.

Jayden Penno-Tompsett, who went missing in Charters Towers, has not been seen since New Year’s Eve.

SPREADING OUT: Police ramped up the search to find Mr Penno-Tompsett on Wednesday, covering a massive area that spans 85 square kilometres of rugged terrain.

Police believe Jayden Penno-Tompsett may have driven this Nissan Pulsar to the mystery property. Picture: Queensland Police

TweetFacebook Where is Jayden Penno-Tompsett?RACHEL Penno’s gut instinct tells her there is something more to the disappearance of her only son.

“I just don’t know what that is at this moment,” she said.

“But my gut is telling me there is something else. Jayden just wouldn’t go bush like that.

“I’ve got to let the police piece this puzzle together.”

Ms Penno did everything to get from Newcastle to Charters Towers, in North Queensland, where Jayden Penno-Tompsett mysteriously vanished on New Year’s Eve on a boy’s trip to Cairns.

She hadn’t slept, battled car troubles after hitting a kangaroo, and, just 20 kilometres out of Charters Towers, ran out of fuel on the lonely Flinders Highway in the dark of the night.

When she finally got there, she met with detectives and went looking for herself, sifting through the dry country and navigating the maze of back roads that weaves through farmland, even getting lost herself.

It isn’t hard to do.

SPREADING OUT: Police ramped up the search to find Mr Penno-Tompsett on Wednesday, covering a massive area that spans 85 square kilometres of rugged terrain.

On Wednesday, she was there again with police as they ramped up the search to find Mr Penno-Tompsett, canvassing a massive area that spans 85 square kilometres of rugged terrain near the Burdekin River, north of Stockroute Drive, an area police were told the 22-year-old left the car.

Emergency services have vowed not to stop despite the “huge effort” they have on their hands.

READ MORE: ‘It’s the not knowing that’s most troubling’

Described by senior police as a “slow, arduous” process, the search area is full of dry creeks and large vegetation that has prevented the use of helicopters.

Recent rain, including a massive dumping on Monday of 86.1mm, the drought-stricken town’s wettest day in five years, has hampered search efforts.

From one extreme to the next, there has also been searing heat.

But Townsville District police Inspector Roger Whyte insisted the search effort was “evidence-based” and he vowed to leave “no stone unturned”.

A missing person notice on the entrance to the Charters Towers roadhouse where Jayden Penno-Tompsett was captured on CCTV. Picture: Brodie Owen

Some authorities still believe Mr Penno-Tompsett could be found alive with various water sources in the area.

Detectives have also not ruled out the possibility the 22-year-old hitchhiked out of Charters Towers.

“We would not be searching here if we did not believe we could find Jayden,” Inspector Whyte said on Wednesday.

For a mother in uncharted territory, hope is everything.

“I still have hope he’s going to come back,” Ms Penno said.

“I just want him to come back … I just want him to come back.”

Police again appealed for anyone in Newcastle or the Hunter Region who may have information about Mr Penno-Tompsett’s disappearance to come forward.

READ MORE: He vanished into the night

THROWBACK THURSDAY: The moment a grommet faced up to a great white shark

THROWBACK THURSDAY: The moment a grommet faced up to a great white shark ENCOUNTER: A close-up of Chris Hasson’s photograph as his 10-year-old son, Eden, surfs over the estimated 2.5-metre great white shark at Samurai Beach on Tuesday. Picture: Chris Hasson.

ENCOUNTER: The original Chris Hasson photograph as his 10-year-old son, Eden, surfs over the estimated 2.5-metre great white shark at Samurai Beach on Tuesday. Picture: Chris Hasson.

ENCOUNTER: Another crop of Chris Hasson’s photograph as his 10-year-old son, Eden, surfs over the estimated 2.5-metre great white shark at Samurai Beach on Tuesday. Picture: Chris Hasson.

SURFING FAMILY: Chris Hasson with son, Eden. Picture: Chris Hasson.

SURFING FAMILY: Eden Hasson (left), 10, with brother Archie, 5, and sister Olivia, 12. Picture: Chris Hasson.

TweetFacebookIt was in January last year that one boy’s terrifying close-encounter with a shark caused a collective gasp across the nation.

Take a look back into the archives.


EDEN Hasson was catching the last of the light and the smooth waves at the northern end of Samurai Beach when he took off on a left-hander.

His dad, lifetime surfer and Nelson Bay real estate agent Chris Hasson, was standing on the rocks on the northern headland taking photographs of his grommet son and a few mates smashing off the lips.

But then the dark shadow caught Chris Hasson’s eye.

He continued snapping away before 10-year-old Eden rode the wave into the beach and started paddling out again.

Then he zooms into the photograph and sees it – the head of a 2.5-metre great white shark in the face of a wave as Eden snaps his board over the top of it.

READ MORE:Central Coast beaches closed after shark attack

“Check it’s mouth,’’ Mr Hasson told his friends via Facebook.

“It’s rolled over having a good look at his yummy yellow new wetsuit.’’

The extraordinary photograph was shot on Tuesday night as Eden and four other surfers were enjoying the last of the waves.

“We are a surfing family. Eden is a talented 10-year-old competitive surfer. I’d been using flippers to push [daughter] Olivia and [son] Archie into waves all day,’’ Mr Hasson told Fairfax Media.

“Eden was surfing with his mate Taj and it was late in the afternoon with a storm approaching.

“Olivia and Taj paddled in leaving Eden and 4 other surfers out. I took the camera onto the rocks and started taking photos when I noticed a dark shape.

“I was just about to call everyone in when Eden took off on the wave in the picture and I took a number of shots.

READ MORE:Shark sighting shuts Merewether Beach

“Eden rode the wave to the beach. I quickly zoomed in on the second photo and was shocked when I saw the image.

“Eden was half way out and I called everyone in. I showed them the photo and everyone was in awe laughing.

“One of the surfers said just before the wave a large school of mullet arrived.’’

SURFING FAMILY: Chris Hasson with his son, Eden. Picture: Chris Hasson.

Eden said he didn’t realise the dark shape he saw was a great white shark.

“When I took off I thought I saw something and when I went to do the first snap off the top I hit something and I thought it was seaweed,’’ he said.

“Then when [Dad] called me in I thought it must be a shark because there was a big school of fish we saw.’’

The experience hasn’t scared the Hassons or other surfers along the Tomaree peninsula – they have alwayssurfed and swam knowing they were sharing the water with sharks.

“I’ve always taught the children about respecting the ocean and that sharks are to be respected not feared,’’ Mr Hasson said.

“To trust their instincts if they fear someoneis not right and always come straight in if they see something or feel uneasy.

“Eden is not deterred and has already paddled out for a surf the next day.He loves surfing and the ocean. It’s only created a greater awareness.

“I’ve surfed the area for 30 years and sharks have always been there, and always will be and there’s largely never a problem.

READ MORE:Helicopter shark patrols on NSW coast

“I’ve seen quite a few in that time and simply paddle in if we see one and regroup for another beach or day. When you put a seat belt on you don’t worry about having an accident.’’

Mr Hasson has refuted claims on social media that the photograph was actually a surfer duck-diving in front of his son.

He said there was no one else close to the waveother than surfer Josh Dickson seen on the left of the original picture.

“If you see the original from further away surfers don’t duck dive that deep on shoulders of waves and there is no splash or wake from him paddling or duck-diving,’’ he said.

Mr Dickson said therewere only five people in the water –himself, a friend who was out of picture in a rip, two malibu riders out the back and Eden Hasson on the wave.

He said he didn’t see the shark, but there was no one else near the wave.

Peter McCabe, whohas been shaping surfboards since 1975, said there was no question the image was of a great white shark.

“You wouldn’t get a surfer under the water with a guy turning over it’s head,” Mr McCabe said.

“I have very similar images I have taken myself.

“You can see the shape, I’ve seen quite a few.

“It’s a shark, no question.

“He is lucky he didn’t fall off because the shark looks like it’s going in for the sniff.”

Marine ecologist and shark expert Dr Danny Bucher said he believed the shark may have been startled by Eden and was rolling away as the photograph was taken, giving it an impression it was swimming upside down.

“They will roll after biting into, say, a whale carcass in order to tear off pieces, but the initial approach is in an upright position where they are more stable,’’ he said.

“Rolling on approach would take the surfer out of the shark’s field of vision, so I don’t interpret this move as particularly aggressive or predatory.

“Quite the opposite, it may have been startled by the rapid approach of the board and has broken the surface in a rapid change of direction away from the surfer.’’

Suncorp, Allianz to refund $62.8m to customers who bought insurance from car dealers

Insurance giants Allianz and Suncorp will refund a combined $62.8 million in premiums to more than 100,000 customers, after selling insurance via car dealers that was of little or no use, the corporate watchdog says.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission on Wednesday said Allianz would refund $45.6 million to 68,000 customers who bought the insurance between 2010 and last November.

ASIC also said Suncorp would refund $17.2 million to 41,228 customers who bought the insurance, which was sold under its MTA Insurance brand, which Suncorp bought in 2014.

The payouts take recent compensation payments from add-on insurance to $122 million, after ASIC also announced last month that Swann Insurance would pay out $37 million.

ASIC has repeatedly raised concerns about “add-on” insurance, claiming that in many cases insurers were paying car yard staff big commissions to selling policies that were near useless to customers.

The Allianz compensation scheme will cover a range of questionable products that ASIC said provided little or no value.

These included cover for customers who were unable to pay their car loan because of sickness, tyre and rim insurances, and guaranteed asset protection insurance (GAP), which covers a customer for losses if their car is written off and their car loan exceeds the insured value of the car.

ASIC outlined a series of concerns, including that GAP insurance customers were unlikely to make claims because of how the cover was designed, and that many customers were over-insured.

“The refunds offered by Allianz, together with those from other insurers, make up one of the largest compensation programs achieved by ASIC, with over $120 million in refunds to consumers as a result of ASIC shining a spotlight on these poor consumer outcomes,” said ASIC’s acting chair, Peter Kell.

Allianz acknowledged the refunds, which it said were part of a package of changes that also included improving guidance to car dealers, as well as cutting premiums for some products and the commissions paid.

“As part of an analysis of our motor vehicle add-on insurance products, we have identified some policyholders that purchased cover which may not have been suited to their circumstances and others that did not notify us to cancel their cover,” Allianz said.

The Suncorp refunds also related to GAP insurance policies, which were sold to customers between 2009 and 2017. ASIC said it was unlikely customers would be able to make claims under the policies, the cover was often unnecessary, and clients were sold more expensive cover than they needed.

A Suncorp spokeswoman said it anticipated it would be contacting customers shortly, and that it had made various improvements to its products to provide “better value” for customers.

“Both Suncorp and MTAI continue to focus on delivering high-quality products that provide good value and protection for our customers,” the spokeswoman said.

Consumer groups have long raised concerns about types of add-on insurance, and a senior policy officer at the Consumer Action Law centre, Susan Quinn, said there would be other people outside those identified by the insurance companies who could be eligible for a refund.

“There are groups of people who bought this insurance and should not have been sold it, but there’s lots of other people who bought this insurance through pressures sales and may still be able to get a refund,” Ms Quinn said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美甲学校.

‘We pay for access’: Minerals Council’s admission on political donations

The Minerals Council of Australia has admitted it makes donations to political parties to gain access to politicians, an unusually candid statement from a donor about the influence of money in politics.

The mining lobby group’s submission to a Senate committee examining the role of donations in Australia’s political system contrasts with the explanations given by other lobby groups and businesses, which said their donations were intended to support democratic processes.

“The MCA makes the political contributions detailed above because they provide additional opportunities for the MCA to meet with members of parliament,”the Minerals Council said.

“The MCA uses these opportunities to update members of Parliament about conditions in the Australian minerals industry and the policy priorities of the MCA.”

Treasurer Scott Morrison with a lump of coal during question time at Parliament House last year. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

In its submission, the organisation said it donated more than $90,000 to political parties over 2015-16 and 2016-17.

The Senate inquiry was established by Labor, the Greens and crossbenchers and is looking at ways to improve the integrity of the political system.

The chair of the committee, Greens leader Richard Di Natale, said the Minerals Council had “admitted what we’ve known all along” by saying it was paying for access.

IN NEWS TODAY:Father hires helicopter in bid to find missing son

Father hires helicopter in frantic bid to find missing son

“Our democracy is broken when a major mining lobby group feels comfortable publicly saying they pay for access to the old parties without fear of any consequences,” Senator Di Natale said.

The Minerals Council, which played a critical role in high-profile campaigns against the former Labor government’s mining and carbon taxes, has recently clashed with its largest member company,BHP, over the lobby group’s advocacy for coal.

Chief executive Brendan Pearson, an advocate for new coal-fired power stations, stepped down in September after BHP said it was reviewing its membership.

Former Minerals Council chief executive Brendan Pearson. Photo: Paul Jeffers

In Crown Resorts’s submission to the committee, the gambling giant said the cost of campaigning meant “political parties in Australia rely heavily on donations in order to communicate their messages and policies” to the public.

“Crown makes donations to registered political parties to support the democratic and electoral process in Australia,” the company said in its the submission.

“Crown does not expect the monetary contributions made to registered political parties to have any outcomes for shareholders.”

ANZ Banking Group said it had a role to play in “supporting democracy” by making donations.

“Our donations are aimed at promoting the development of social and economic policies to benefit Australia,” the bank said.

The Insurance Council of Australia, which represents insurance companies, said it donated to help parties mount campaigns and support a “stable political environment”.

The Age

Primary school program to stop cyber-bullying

HEALTHY HAROLD: Life Education has been teaching students about healthy lifestyle choices in NSW since 1979. School health education provider, Life Education, launched a new program on Wednesday aimed at tackling the rising problem of online bullying.

The program, to be rolled outat the start of 2018 school year, comes following the death of 14-year-old Northern Territory girl Amy Everett.

Ms Everett had been subjected to both online and in-person bullying, and tragically took her own life on January 3.

She had been the face of a marketing campaign for Australian hat company Akubra, at age six.

Read more:Tears for dolly as family and friends gather in Katherine

Her death highlights the renewed concerns about cyber-bullying which prompted Life Education to create the new module – ‘Relate, Respect, Connect’.

The program will be aimed at children aged 10-13 and teach them how to construct safe and respectful relationships.

“We must take a constructive approach to the problem rather than assigning blame,”Life Education spokesperson Kellie Sloane said. “Often, young people don’t see the link between their actions andconsequences.

Statistics from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute showone-in-three boys and one-in-four girls as young as eight and nine years old, are experiencing bullying on a weekly basis.

Further, over 60 per centof primary school students are nowon Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

“Across our community there is a need to promote tolerance and respect,” Ms Sloane said.

“There is more to cyber-bullying than just teaching children how to block the culprits.”

The new program will complement a cyber-safety module for children aged 8-10 ‘bCyberwise’ the organisation commenced in 2016.

That module was their most sought after program in the past 12 months, reaching around 70,000 students across the country.

Life Education has been teaching students about healthy lifestyle choices in NSW since 1979.

In 2017, they delivered their health education program in the Hunter to 26,462 studentsacross48 preschools, 129 primary schools and foursecondary schools.

To contact 24-hour service Lifeline – phone 13 11 14

The rise of boutique travel, a new way to see the world

A new category of travel known as boutique travel is on the rise; a fully-immersive cultural experience while still being comfortable and safe at the end of the day. This article was sponsored byThe Adventure Travel Group

Somewhere between backpackers with their turtle-shell packs sleeping on steel bunk beds,and cashed-up travellers enjoying a $400-a-night resort is a thirdcategory of savvy travellers.

They’re called the boutique travellers. The category is the natural progression of the increasingly hipGen X –those who’d choose a moody hole-in-the-wall wine bar over a fine-dining table in a chef-hattedrestaurant.

They enjoy immersing themselves in left-field art galleries, listening to live music with the localsand buying handmadeat the markets over mass-produced counterparts.

Instead of following tours, they design their own –they rent cars while travelling in small groupsand write their own itineraries.

The rise in boutique travel is reflective of a changing travel industrylargely lead by the rise of the web, says Anthony Hill. Hill has worked and operated adventure travel companies inEurope, Africa, Latin America andAustralasia for over 30 years.

“Over the years I have followed how the travellers experiences and travel style has matured,” he explains.

“Where once the traveller would take the limited travel itineraries in brochures as gospel, now they use the internet to search and want to travel further aboard to more remote areas.

“This desire to experience the ‘real’ destinations that haven’t been overdeveloped for tourismhas created the need for boutique travel andtouring.”

Bhutan, on the Himalayas’ eastern edge is known for its monasteries, fortresses (or dzongs) and dramatic landscapes including steep cliff faces.

Anthony says boutique travel experiences can range from three star to five star accommodation right through to an Indian palace or remote tented camp. The appeal of the accommodation for the boutique traveller lies in the authenticity and personality the accommodation offers, not how fluffy the towels are or how cheap the beds are.

Often this means boutique accommodation is smaller, includingfamily-run bed-and-breakfasts, converted structures,stand-alone villas -accommodation that offers complimentary cultural immersion.

But travellers can encounter issues when bypassing the expertise of the travel agent and curating trips based on the information available online from vendors.

“Unfortunately the quality assurance in the industry has not kept up with this global expansion,” says Anthony

“Thismakes it difficult for travellers to compare and select the best hotel for themselves. Afour star hotel in Pariscan be a completely different standard to a fourstar in Phuket.”

It’s for this reasonAnthony says the savvy boutique traveller will still invest in the quality assurance and safety of travel companies like The Adventure Travel Group.

Recently his team created ijurni (ijurni苏州美甲学校), a curation of tours for travellers who “like their creature comfortsbut also enjoy experiencing real destinations”.

“For this reason all of our ijurni packages feature local culture, local food and wine, history and local attractions,” he says.

Hill says the focus is on creatinga fully-immersive experience that is engaging for travellers from start to finish.

“Boutique touring is not all about the destination;it is about the journey and what happens enroute to that destination.”

This article was sponsored by The Adventure Travel Group

Make it your business to help entrepreneurs

COOKING UP: Entrepreneur Dante Valentinis plans to overcome council hurdles, including food safety regulations, that shut his cart down. Picture: Dave AndersonBRAVO and good on you,Dante Valentinis, for having a go.

Brickbats to council for their lack of encouragement to this young entrepreneur.

The story of Dante opening his very unusual coffee wagon at Bar Beach (‘Squabble over coffee cart’,NewcastleHerald,16/1) deserves praise but also reminded me of my own dealings with council when I attempted to open a hot potato shop in Darby Street in the early 1980s.

I had seen this idea in Victoria while on a short holiday and thought that it would go well in Newcastle. Hot potatoes were being sold all over Victoria, mostly outdoors. I approached Newcastle council for advice but received little, just a brochure regarding regulations from their Food Surveillance Unit.

A council officer atour request came to look at the building so we could find what modifications were needed to the building before we opened. I recall his remarks were that we would probably fail selling food in Darby Street, andwent on to say that we should just modify the building and remove and re-do it if it did not suit the regulations. There was no encouragement or assistance.

The business succeeded in spite of council’s hurdles because of sheer hard work and persistence. We were forbidden to do what they do in Victoria and the rest of the world, to prepare and sell food outdoors.

We were told that eating outdoors was unhealthy. Theyobviously did not know about barbecues.

It should be noted that the businesses in Victoria were assisted by their local councils, even helping to designing a perspex box to hold ice and contain the cold fillings. Dante has gone a step further and has installed a generator.

Very little changes with our council, but I wish Dante the very best. He has shown a lot of initiative but will need a lot more persistence. We all need food standards, no arguments there, but we may need encouragement and assistance to help small business in Newcastle.

Denise Lindus Trummel,MayfieldPraise for top AussiesEVERY day is Australia Day for me but never more than January 15, 2018. I watched the news recently and, as someone with 34 years in the field of emergency services, I feel I’ve never been more proud than I was to watch the succession of stories about the dreadful crash on the M1, the locating and the rescue of the young man in the motor vehicle crash and the bushfire at Tomago.

There were our heroes, professional and unpaid, as they worked together.

They didn’t distinguish between the people they saved on the grounds of religion, colour, racial origin, gender or any other element.

They never distinguish between the idiots and the unfortunate, they just rescue them be it incredibly hot or freezing cold.

And they don’t very often get to make speeches about how good they are and what great work they do, unlike some of our more loathsome public figures.

I dips me lid to you, ladies and gentlemen.

Tim Egan, SconeWhen refugees cameI THINK the 26th of January was not an invasion but more a large wave of refugees arriving from a place where there was starvation, capital punishment, imprisonment, unemployment and discrimination on idealogical grounds such as the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

Similar groups were displaced by the tyranny of ruthless land owners. Georgian England and Ireland were in a time of great suffering of the working class and Australia happened to be their destination.

Tony Richards,Tighes HillTime to buy, not sellGEOFF Black’s letter on privatisation (Letters, 16/1) raises the answer in clear terms as to why Newcastle Buses have implemented such an illogical timetable.

The sooner we all face the facts regarding the huge disadvantage of privatisation of our services and assets, then the sooner we can put the brakes on and even perform a U turn.

In my opinion, very little benefit to the people has come from privatisation at any stage.

While there have been success stories in community housing and employment services, I believe virtually every other privatisation strategy has become obvious as a cash fix for desperate governments who pander to a big end of town institution with a low sale price, dropping everyday people into the deep end with rising usage prices, reduced services and the scourge of job losses.

I am hoping that with the huge wake up call we have had with the Newcastle bus service privatisation, that many more people awake to the need to stop the sell-offs and commence a program of acquisition and rebuilding of our asset and service base.

John Gilbert, councillor, Lake Macquarie City CouncilEXTRA HANDS AREHELPFULI REFER to Karen Nottingham’s excellent letter (Letters, 9/1) entitled ‘Secret to better school results is not in the classroom’. I suggest it happens well before the classroom.

May I illustrate this from personal experience? When I married in 1967, there followed two pregnancies, little girls. Very much against my will I stayed home to look after them.

I had a breakdown as I was ambitious for a career. My love for them won the day despite my suffering. What love I gave them was enough to provide a solid sense of confidence in themselves and in their abilities to conquer the world.

Karen is right, so very right, about the problem of reducing poverty. Politicians haven’t got a clue about the problems ordinary people face.

After my breakdown I never did get a proper paying job, but have worked for many years as a volunteer in a church charity where we see many one parent families. The kids involved are invariably behind the eight ball from the word “go”.

They lack self esteem, have poor educational performance, no ambition, no future and a bleak outlook.

My kids were lucky. I have come to see that the breakdown was the best thing that ever happened to me and I do my bit for Australia by being not only a devout Christian and follower of Jesus, but a dedicated, passionate and committed socialist.

I thank Karen for her insightful, timely and accurate letter.

Margaret McLellan, Cardiff

Rail unions preparing for statewide strike

DERAILED: Passenger rail workers across NSW have voted for a campaign of industrial action including a 24-hour strike on January 29. The Rail, Tram and Bus Union says there will be no trains on that day.NO Hunter trains will run on the Monday after Australia Day unless unions and train management can settle an escalating dispute over pay and conditions and the controversial new timetable for Sydney trains.

Rail, Tram and Bus Union state secretary Alex Claassens told the Newcastle Heraldthat Monday, January 29, had been chosen for the statewide rail strike to minimise disruption.

“There’s never a good day for things like this but it’s a pupil-free day, there’s no kids at school and it’s the Monday after the Australia Day on Friday,” Mr Claassens said.

He said sevenunions and the management of Sydney Trains and NSW Trains were still in negotiations over the enterprise agreement, with about 10 issues, including pay, still to be settled.

The RTBU and the Berejiklian government have been at loggerheads in recent days over big delays for Sydney commuters triggered bythe introduction of new Sydney train timetables. The government initially accused the union of a covert campaign to have drivers take sickies, but the chief executive of Sydney Trains, Howard Collins, subsequently acknowledged that the new timetable needed an extra 150 drivers to run the new timetable and its 1500 extra weekday services.

Mr Claassens said thebreaking up of Sydney Trains into “sectors” was a factor in the driver shortage, because drivers working in one section of the system were generally prohibited from driving in another, even in times of shortage.

He said the unions believed the government had broken the system into sectors as a pre-privatisation move, but it was backfiring now. He said the ability to move drivers between sectors was one of the issues under negotiation.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance had criticised the RTBU for campaigning for a pay rise of 6 per cent a year, saying that if the government wages cap of 2.5 per cent was good enough for teachers, nurses and police, it was good enough for train drivers.

But Mr Claassens said it was an opening, ambit claim, decided on by members who were “annoyed about the big salaries being thrown around for managers”. Hesaid the strike involved all staff working for NSW Trains and Sydney Trains. Services would end at midnight on the Sunday night and resume after midnight on Tuesday morning.

He expected the government may invokethe Essential Services Act to stop the strike. He said rail management had been talking with the State Transit Authority about obtaining buses to replace trains, but the scale of the task made it highly unlikely.

Mr Claassens said the unions were lift with little choice but to start industrial action because months of talks were getting nowhere on the substantial issues.

He said NSW passenger train drivers earned substantially less than their counterparts driving freight trains.

He said they also earned about 20 per cent less than passenger train drivers in Queensland and Victoria.

He said the government had claimed the average Sydney train driver was on $113,000 but he said it would take overtime to achieve that sort of money.

He said the base rate for suburban drivers was $75,000, while for CountryLinkcountry drivers it was $85,000.