A former government lawyer who resigned after spectacularly falling out with ex-attorney-general George Brandis will do battle for ACT Labor senator Katy Gallagher as her citizenship case goes to the High Court.
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Justin Gleeson SC, who left his role as solicitor-general following a public deterioration in relations with Senator Brandis, will argue the case for Senator Gallagher after she was caught up in the dual citizenship fiasco that has ejected multiple parliamentarians.

Mr Gleeson also acted for Tony Windsor in the High Court, fighting the former New England MP’s nemesis, deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, as the Nationals leader’s citizenship case was heard in October.

The Senate voted to refer Senator Gallagher to the High Court over her dual British citizenship in December, when she also stood aside from her responsibilities on Labor’s frontbench until her case was resolved.

A finding on her eligibility could have implications for other Labor MPs under a cloud over dual citizenship claims, but the ALP says it won’t consider a High Court ruling on Senator Gallagher as a precedent.

Senator Gallagher said she believed she had taken all reasonable steps to renounce British citizenship by descent from her father, but delays in processing her case by the UK Home Office meant she was a dual citizen at the time of nomination for the 2016 election.

Documents provided to the Senate this month showed she was “at the date of her nomination for the 2016 election, a British citizen by descent” and that her moves to renounce in April 2016 took until August 16 to be completed by UK officials.

Labor has enlisted Maurice Blackburn as Senator Gallagher’s solicitors and it is understood the High Court will decide whether the ALP or the government bears the costs for her legal representation upon making a ruling.

Batman Labor MP David Feeney’s case will also go to the High Court after he admitted he could not find documents proving he renounced his British citizenship.

Mr Gleeson argued in Mr Joyce’s High Court case the Nationals leader should be disqualified as an MP, warning the High Court that chaos and uncertainty accompanying Parliament’s dual citizenship crisis will be repeated in future if the court accepted that ignorance was a valid defence.

Section 44 of the constitution required strict “undivided loyalty” from MPs and dual citizenship did not need to be “voluntary, chosen or felt” to create a split allegiance, Mr Gleeson said.

Clearing Mr Joyce and other MPs on the basis that they were ignorant of their status would set a dangerous precedent, he said.

The High Court will hold a directions hearing for Senator Gallagher’s case on January 19 in Brisbane.

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Kuala Lumpur: An Australian grandmother who was the victim of an online romance scam has been acquitted of drugs charges in Malaysia.
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Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, 54, would have faced execution if found guilty in Malaysia’s High Court on Wednesday, despite lawmakers in Kuala Lumpur voting only weeks ago to give judges discretionary powers in individual cases.

The new law passed in Malaysia’s parliament on November 30 would not have saved her because it has not yet been formally gazetted.

Prosecutors told Exposto’s lawyers on Wednesday night they had decided to appeal the acquittal, meaning she will not be allowed to immediately return to Australia.

Earlier prosecutors had asked for her to be deported with days.

Ms Exposto insisted she was duped into flying into Kuala Lumpur’s international airport from Shanghai in December 2014 with 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine in her luggage.

Defence lawyers say Ms Exposto, a mother of four from Cabramatta in Sydney, was the victim of a sophisticated US military romance scam that has entrapped thousands of people.

She told Malaysia’s High Court in September she fell for the scam after building an online relationship with a supposed US soldier and Afghanistan veteran named “Captain Daniel Smith” who asked her to marry him in 2013.

She said her relationship with her husband was “getting a bit sour” at the time.

Ms Exposto said she was lured into carrying a bag from Shanghai to Melbourne – transiting in Kuala Lumpur – which she believed to contain only clothing by a supposed acquaintance of the soldier.

“He (Smith) made me feel loved, he made me feel wanted,” she said.

The scam involved the supposed soldier sending her photographs .

“Smith would sing to me a few times a day and send poems as well,” she said.

Defence lawyer Shafee Abdullah told reporters that Ms Exposto’s testimony revealed what she strongly believed was a close relationship with the fictional Smith.

“There are probably thousands, mostly women, who have (been) conned in similar situations,” he said.

Ms Exposto arrived in court on Wednesday wearing a black blazer, white top and black slacks, having lost weight during more than two years in a Kuala Lumpur jail.

She smiled and chatted with lawyers before the verdict was delivered.

A judge said he found that Ms Exposto had no knowledge of the drugs in the bag, rejecting a prosecution submission that her story about the love scam was an afterthought.

The judge said he believed Ms Exposto’s love for the online scammer was genuine and that they been in contact for two years.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has warned that scammers targeting Australians in love scams will go to “great lengths to gain your interest and trust, such as sharing personal information and even sending you gifts”.

“Scammers may take months to build what seems like the romance of a lifetime and may even pretend to book flights to visit you, but never actually come,” the ACCC said.

The commission warned there are dozens of scams including those involved in dating and romance, identity theft, get-rich investments, money transfers, jobs and employment.

Fraudsters often personalise scams to fit the profile of their victim.

Often scammers use fake webcams, video changing programs and photographs of other people to build a false identity and then prowl the internet for victims.

The US military has described the scams as a “growing epidemic”.

Australian defence personnel have also had their identities stolen by scammers.

Defence lawyers say Ms Exposto, a former social worker in East Timor, has never wavered in her account of the scam.

Mr Shafee said Ms Exposto is a “responsible mother” who told him she is so anti-drugs that if her four children ever got involved in drugs she would kill them herself.

Her family and friends in Sydney, including a son who travelled to Kuala Lumpur for the verdict, were shocked by her arrest after she volunteered to put her bag with the drugs through Customs screening.

The drugs were sewn into a hidden compartment in the bag and she insists she never knew they were there.

Malaysia has hanged more than 440 convicted drug offenders since 1960.

Two Australians, Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers, were the first Westerners to be executed under Malaysia’s then new drug laws in 1989, after being arrested with 141.9 grams of heroin.

Michael McAuliffe, another Australian, was hanged in Kuala Lumpur in 1993 after being found with heroin in his pocket at a Penang airport checkpoint.

Malaysian government officials say despite the law change giving judges discretionary powers on capital punishment, authorities are not going softer on drug trafficking.

“We do not want the judges’ hands tied,” said Azalina Othman Said, a minister in the prime minister’s department.

After the acquittal, Ms Exposto was sent back to jail on Wednesday night.

Lawyers said her passport had expired while she was awaiting trial and they would apply for another from the Australian embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Mr Abdullah told reporters after the verdict the case was “clear cut”. He said there was overwhelming evidence she was tricked into carrying the bag.

Leaving the court, Ms Exposto’s son Hugo said: “I am very happy.”

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Long-viewed as Australia’s next coach, Justin Langer says it is way too early to think about whether he will take over the role when incumbent Darren Lehmann stands down at the end of the 2019 Ashes.
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Lehmann, who was appointed Australian coach after Mickey Arthur was sacked shortly before the 2013 Ashes series in England, this week confirmed in an interview with Fox Sports that he would not seek a new deal when his current contract expires in less than two years.

“That will be it,” Lehmann said. “It will be a case of too much time, too much travel.”

Lehmann’s former Test teammate Langer, who coaches Western Australia and the Perth Scorchers, has seemingly been on the path to replace Lehmann, having already filled in for Lehmann in white ball series.

Langer’s record with the Scorchers is terrific, while he also led WA to the most recent one-day title in October.

However speaking after the Scorchers continued their unbeaten start to the season with a win over the Melbourne Stars at the WACA on Tuesday night, Langer said the job wasn’t on his radar.

“It’s all hypothetical. It’s two years away,” the long-time gritty Test opener said.

“Had we lost [against the Stars], I would be a rubbish coach and not even considered for it.

“So I know how fickle it is. It’s so fickle. It’s all about timing. Life’s about timing. A lot happens in two years.”

Asked specifically about whether his family situation would prevent him from taking the job, he played a straight bat.

“Honestly I don’t even have to think about it at the moment. It’s two years away. Honestly, I love my job here [in Perth].”

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Christmas Day at one family home in western Sydney this year was a flick of the wrist away from going horribly wrong, after a child found a sharp, rusty blade resembling “something from a prison” inside a bon-bon.
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The McNeilage family was sitting down to lunch at Northmead on Monday afternoon when 11-year-old Bobby alerted the adults to what he had discovered after ripping his bon-bon in half with his older brother.

“I pulled it out and I tipped it upside down to get it out onto the table,” Bobby told Fairfax Media. “I noticed that it was a knife thing, so then I showed everybody else.”

The “knife thing” was a large, sharp, rusty blade, wrapped in tape at one end. Did it scare him? “Kinda.”

Bobby’s mother, Melissa McNeilage, said at first the family thought it was a prank. But when they realised the blade had come from inside the bon-bon, they were stunned.

“I was just shocked to think there was that in there, it’s a dangerous weapon,” she said. But the mother-of-four added that her biggest concern was what could have happened if the bon-bon had been pulled by a younger child, or if the blade had flown out and hit someone.

“How many times when you pull the toy open does something come flying out? If it flew out it could have been heaps worse,” she said.

“If it got into the wrong hands of a little kid, something drastic could have happened. It looked like something from a prison.”

Ms McNeilage, from Blacktown, said her sister, who was hosting Christmas this year, had purchased the “Woodland 6-pack” of bon-bons from Woolworths in Winston Hills. The product was manufactured in China.

“I don’t think [my sister] will be buying Woolworths bon-bons again after that. She felt bad that she’d put these bon-bons in front of my kids.”

A Woolworths spokesperson said the company and its suppliers “have a responsibility to provide high-quality products and services to our customers and we take this responsibility very seriously. We are investigating this incident as per our product safety incident protocol.”

“The customer has been contacted and has been provided with a refund in the form of a gift card that has been issued out to her.”

Erin Turner, director of campaigns and communications at CHOICE, said “if you cracked open a bon-bon and got an unwelcome surprise you have the right to a remedy, like a refund or replacement”.

But she also said it was “not good enough” that the law only requires companies to act after something goes wrong.

“There is no general legal requirement for companies to make sure all products are safe before they hit the shelves,” she said.

“We’re calling on the federal government to pass a new law – a general safety provision – to stop dodgy items before they make it to Australian homes.”

“Such a provision would mean a big company like Woolworths would have to do basic checks to make sure that what they are selling won’t harm their customers.

“These laws are already in place in the United Kingdom and Canada – it makes sense for Australian consumers to have the same level of protections.”

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Jarryd Hayne quietly slipped back into Sydney on Thursday morning, a week after travelling to Israel for the second time in a month.
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The 29-year-old had previously been to Jerusalem and to the Jordan River before returning to Sydney for his daughter’s birthday – but jetted out of Sydney again just before Christmas, and landed in Tel Aviv a week ago.

But just as he ignored questions from a reporter in Israel last week, Hayne remained silent as he made his way quickly through Kingsford-Smith Airport and into a waiting car.

Hayne will be grilled by the NRL’s integrity unit over an alleged 2015 rape, when he was a member of the San Francisco 49ers in the National Football League. Police in the US refused to press charges because there was insufficient evidence, but the plaintiff, known only as ‘Ms V’, is pursuing a civil suit against the former running back.

A usually prolific social media user, Hayne has not posted on his Twitter or Instagram accounts since the case came to light on December 20, and has not used his Facebook account since November, when it was announced he was leaving the Gold Coast Titans to return to the Parramatta Eels.

The only statement on the case has come through his legal representative, Ramy Qutami from Madison Marcus Law Firm, who said the two-time Dally M winner “unequivocally and vehemently” denied the claims.

“Mr Hayne and his management are aware of recent media speculation in relation to a civil complaint filed in the United States of America making certain allegations in relation to an event which allegedly occurred in 2015 whilst playing for the San Francisco 49ers,” Mr Qutami said.

“Mr Hayne has not been served with any proceedings or formal complaint relating to the incident.

“Mr Hayne previously addressed a complaint made to the District Attorney’s office in the County of Santa Clara, California in 2016 and the District Attorney did not proceed any further with the matter due to insufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations. Mr Hayne provided all reasonable assistance to the District Attorney with that investigation.

“Mr Hayne unequivocally and vehemently denies the allegations which are the subject of the civil complaint. Mr Hayne will not be making any further comment in relation to this matter.”

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Every year, locals and visitors flock to Sydney’s Harbour to celebrate the new year by watching one of the world’s most iconic fireworks displays.
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This year’s spectacle of colour and sound is dedicated to celebrating marriage equality, in light of Australia’s recent Yes vote outcome and the 40th anniversary of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in 2018.

Pet Shop Boys’ song ‘Go West’ will play as rainbow fireworks tumble from the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

New Year’s Eve in Sydney. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Regardless of where you are in the city, here is where you can send off 2017 with a bang this new year’s eve: The City

Harbourside City Parks: Lay a picnic blanket at Embarkation Park, Potts Point (opens 6am), Pyrmont Bay Park, Pyrmont (opens 1:30pm), or Dawes Point (Tar-Ra) Park, The Rocks (opens 12:30pm) and watch the fireworks light up the sky at 9pm and midnight. While Observatory Hill Park may not boast waterside views, it offers good view of the western side of Sydney Harbour Bridge, and opens early at Noon. But if you were planning on toasting to 2017 with a glass of bubbly you may need to reconsider as alcohol is strictly prohibited at these locations. While BYO isn’t allowed at Pirrama Park, Pyrmont, drinks are available for purchase; plus, for Sydneysiders with accessibility needs, the park offers a designated accessible viewing area.

Inner-City vantage points: For those who can endure standing amongst the NYE crowds for several hours, claiming a spot at a harbourside vantage points provides the chance to witness the night’s most iconic event up close. The Sydney Opera House offers a popular vantage point with an accessible viewing area, but anyone hoping to make it in better get there early – gates open at 7:30am, and the venue reached capacity around lunchtime last year. East Circular Quay, West Circular Quay, Mrs Macquaries Point, The Rocks, and Campbells Cove all boast viewing areas and open at 9am, 12pm, 10am, Noon and 9:30am respectively. Families can enjoy some added festivities at Darling Harbour: from 7pm, patrons will enjoy a light show and party vibes, before watching the official fireworks. Much like at the parks, though, BYO alcohol is not allowed at any of these City of Sydney registered locations. Drinks will be available to purchase on site.

Pirrama Park: Not much for queuing? You can enjoy a guaranteed spot and two course meal from Jimmy Liks Catering – one of the instigators of Sydney’s modern Asian dining revolution – at Pirrama Park with this limited ticketed event. Join long-table dining or flop into a deckchair and enjoy the music and fireworks sound track from KISS 106.FM radio. Tickets are $176 (GST incl) for adults or $154 (GST incl) for kids, and include a glass of sparkling wine or soft drink. A cash bar means the drinks can keep flowing throughout the night.

The Royal Botanic Gardens: Ever wanted to soak up the Harbourside views at Sydney’s idyllic botanic gardens after closing hours? Well, you’ll have to act quickly because a few other thousand Sydneysiders do too apparently. Tickets have already sold out for three of the Royal Botanic Gardens’ NYE parties, but you can still step right up for Harbour Hoopla – an all-ages vintage circus-themed event. Along with partial views of Sydney Harbour, party-goers will enjoy a personal picnic box, live DJ and dance floor, performances and access to a cash bar. Tickets start at $325, making Harbour Hoopla one of the city’s pricier NYE options. The North

Aside from being home to a handful of very much-loved NYE viewing points, including Manns Point, Blues Point Reserve, Mary Booth Reserve (with a designated viewing area), North Head, Bradfield Park, and Cremorne Point, Sydney’s North Shore will also host some of the night’s hottest events, including several local beachfront fireworks displays.

Pittwater, Dee Why, and Manly Cove:Those who don’t feel like travelling to the city can still kick off their year with a bang. Northern Beaches Council, in partnership with local businesses, is hosting its own free fireworks displays at 9pm and midnight at Pittwater, Dee Why Beach, and Manly Cove. Alcohol is prohibited in these areas every night, and NYE is no different. Those planning on attending should be mindful of road closures and clearways surrounding each location.

Bradleys Head provides a great view of the fireworks. Photo: Janie Barrett

Bradleys Head: Starting at $17.43 a ticket, NYE celebrators can secure a spot atop Bradley’s Head in Sydney Harbour National Park – Athol Lawn. While the park’s tree canopy blocks some Harbour views from Athol Lawn, you can avoid the stress of finding and claiming your spot in one of the city’s open venues. Marketed as an “ideal family viewing area for the Sydney New Year’s Eve Fireworks”, alcohol and glass is strictly prohibited at Athol Lawn for the night and bags will be searched upon entry. Interested parties should get in quick – two other ticketed events at Bradley’s Head have already sold out. The East

Darling Point: Locals can head to McKell Park, Yarranabbe Park or Rushcutters Bay Park east of Sydney city to secure a spot overlooking the bay from noon. While the former two boast Harbour Bridge views, visitors to Rushcutters Bay Park will only be able to catch the fireworks once they hit the night sky due to limited city views. Alcohol prohibited.

Double Bay & Point Piper: Free entry starts at noon and 2pm for those hoping to nab a spot at Duff Reserve and Murray Rose Pool & Blackburn Gardens, respectively. The latter only offers glimpses of the harbour, but you can get a clear view of the bridge from Duff Reserve. Alcohol prohibited.

Rose Bay & Watsons Bay: Visitors can catch decent views of the Harbour Bridge from Rose Bay Foreshore, Dumaresq Reserve, and Robertson Park. Tickets are also still available for the Waverley Council’s family-friendly part at Dudley Page Reserve, Dover Heights. With tickets starting at $18.35, kids can take to the jumping castle, have their face painted, run around the playground, and dance as a DJ spins tracks. There will also be a licensed bar for parents and food stalls to suit everyone’s taste buds if you don’t feel like packing your own picnic.

Coogee: For anyone who thinks staying up until midnight is overrated, enjoy the 9pm family-friendly Coogee Sparkles NYE fireworks. Hosted by the Randwick City Council, members of the local community and visitors are invited to grab their picnic baskets, make a day of swimming in the waves, and gather along the beachfront to watch a 20 minute fireworks display. Pets, smoking and alcohol is banned on Coogee Beach, so leave the dog and stubby holder at home. The West

Balmain East:The popular inner-west suburb is going to get a lot more popular come NYE, with Simmons Point, Lookes Avenue Reserve, Thornton Park and Illoura Reserve offering close-up views of the Harbour Bridge. Elkington Park sits to the far left of the inner-west harbour area, but offers views to the western side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Alcohol prohibited.

Birchgrove: Birchgrove has plenty of vantage points from which to enjoy Sydney’s world-famous light display: visitors have a direct view of the western side of the Harbour Bridge from Mort Bay Park, Birchgrove Park and Yurulbin Park. You’ll have to plan ahead if you want to get a spot at one of these locations; each one opens at 8am is is expected to reach capacity before nightfall.

Parramatta: Paramatta’s skyline will sparkle with light and colour on NYE 2017 as the suburb hosts one of Sydney’s largest NYE celebrations within the World Heritage-listed Parramatta Park. Join in as singers Frank Bennett, Grant Galea and Catherine Hunter belt out the classic with a big brass band, before watching fireworks erupt from three firing locations at 9pm.

Liverpool: Liverpool Council is hosting Light up the Lake at Chipping Norton. Free shuttle buses will run from Liverpool and Warwick Farm stations. The event is alcohol free and will include fireworks, live music, $2 rides and food trucks. The South

Brighton Le Sands: Stretch out along the beachfront running from Kyeemagh to Ramsgate, before watching fireworks light up the sky courtesy of the Bayside Council. For the best view, head to Lady Robinsons Beach to watch the 9pm lightshow. Drivers: be aware that there will be significant road closures and clearways in the surrounding area so parking may be difficult.

Miranda: Sydney South-siders who book a table at on the Westfield Miranda’s Kingsway or Rooftop restaurants for NYE will be privy to their own private 9pm fireworks display. Have your face painted, indulge in gelato cones, and enjoy balloon benders, light displays, live music, fire dancer, dancers and glow in the dark fairy floss.

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A popular Port Stephens beach was evacuated on Thursday morning following a shark sighting.
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A shark surveillance helicopter with a NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) aerial team on boardspotted a tiger shark at Birubi Beach about 7.43am.

The aerial team notified authorities and swimmers were pulled from the water.

The shark was reported to be one to 2.3m in length.

Read more: Shark sightings in the Hunter

Port Stephens lifeguard supervisor Phil Rock said the beach has been operating as normal from 9am when lifeguards came on duty.

Swimmers are now able to return to the water at the beach.

A tiger shark was reportedly sighted from the DPI helicopter at Birubi Beach on Thursday morning. Picture: Twitter/@NSWSharkSmart

A helicopter flies along the coastline between Birubi Beach and Crowdy Head once a day each day of theschool holidays as part of the NSW Government’s shark management plan.

Authorities are alerted by the aerial team if ashark is deemed to pose a risk to beach-goers

The aerial team have had a busy morning of sightings in the Great Lakes waters, which joins with Port Stephens.

A whaler shark one to 2.3m in length was sighted in Providence Bay off Yacaaba Head, across from Tomaree Head, about 8am.

Shortly after, a great white shark one to 2.6m in length was spotted off Jimmy’s Beach near Tea Gardens.

Additionally, a tagged great white shark has been pinged swimming around Bennetts Beach since 12.30am on Thursday.

DPI aerial report: 1x 2.3m Tiger Shark at BIRUBI, Port Stephens at 07:43 am on 28 Dec 2017. Authorities Notified.Beach Evacuated. pic.twitter南京夜网/Tphm7RHPnj

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MARINA NEILKurri Kurri Bush Fires – January 24, 2017
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For me it shows the true intensity of what bush fires can do.

The flame height was like nothing I’d seen before.

The tiny RFS guy at the bottom of the frame shows the scale of this bush fire and what they may face when heading out.

League Tag Grand Final- September 16, 2017

The celebration these ladies had after winning the first Ladies League Tag GF was awesome to capture.

The emotion and passion they had when singing the team song would have rivaled any men’s team celebration I had photographed.

NAIDOC week celebrations in Cessnock – July 8, 2017

This was an assignment for the Cessnock Advertiser –NADOC week march and celebrations.

The reason I selected this photograph was because of the colours and tones.

It’s not a posed or contrived image.

Usually we have to deal with messy backgrounds but this time I was lucky, the colours and tones in this image are my favourite.

Dungog Rodeo – April 15, 2017

I never leave the Dungog rodeo disappointed.

It is always a great event to photograph, full of colour and movement.

This photograph I took this year stands out for because it captures in one image what bull riding is all about.

It’s extreme, it’s dangerous.

Here you can see the rider being thrown off, an 800 kilogram animal, with the clown running in from the left to assist the rider.

It all happens in a matter of seconds.

MAXMASON-HUBERS Our photographers’ favourite 2017 photos John Fenwick and his wife of 74 years Muriel share a moment in their home. This was for a Remembrance Day preview.

The lady mayoress and other dignitaries saluting sailors from HMAS Maitland just after they had passed, at the end of their Freedom of the City ceremony and march.

Two guys mud wrestling during Hard Grime dance festival at Maitland Gaol.

Guilherme Noronha celebrating after his appearance in two TV commercials – for Toyota and KFC.

TweetFacebookJONATHAN CARROLLSaturday, February 11, 2017

There was extreme hot weather accross the Hunter that weekend.

This picture shows Dylan Newton swinging off a rope into the Hunter river, Maitland.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Groovin the Moo –I’ve never had so many young, scantily-clad girls throwing themselves at me.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Real NRL action at Kurri Kurri sports ground –Kurri Kurri Bulldogs vs South Newcastle.

It was a pretty warm, sunny afternoon.

One of the players, I don’t recall who, was kicking from the sidelines, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to shoot backlit with my wide angle lens and get a nice silhouette.

It was shot on F22 to get the sun’s star-like rays.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

It was the netball grand final between George Tavern, in green; and Hills Solicitors, in dark blue and pink.

This picture shows George players celebrating the win.

At the end of the game, I made my way onto the court to try to get some of the jubilation.

The champagne popped without warning so, instinctively, I ran into the spray.

SIMONE DE PEAKBird Sale Cessnock, May 7, 2017

I liked the daily life aspect of this image asAmy Baker was absorbed in looking at her iPad while under a table as her dad Dean Baker was selling a bird to customers atHunter Valley Avicultural Society annualbirdsaleatCessnockToyota Stadium.

Marie Anntoinette, February 28, 2017

I was taken with the quirkiness of this scene and project.

Helen Hopcroft dressed as Marie Antoinette doing a cross fit class in Thornton, from May 1, 2017, she began a project called My Year as a Fairy-Tale.

Postie Burnout, September 23, 2017

The light as the end of day nears added a sense of drama and intrigue as Wayne Heaver did a burnout during the burnout section of the postie bike challenge at Maitland.

AmorelleDempster, December 5, 2017

Amorelle Dempster is the leader of Slow Food Hunter Valley.

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Nick White in Buninyong on Wednesday, and the ute that hit him. Photo: Lachlan BenceCyclist Nick White was doing 50km/h andhad no time to move whenaute suddenly cut in front of him on the MidlandHighway.
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“He got halfway across the road and then I started to think, this guy hasn’t seen me, he’s not going to stop,” Nick said.

Seconds later, Nick smashed into the ute with a sickening thud, shattering the vehicle’s windscreen and bouncing overthe bonnet onto hard bitumen along Buninyong’s main drag.

Pictures of the damaged ute that emerged after the collision on the morning of December 7 show the force of the impact when the 20-year-old’sbody struck the glass.

The ute after the collision.

Nick was able to walk away from the smash with only a grazed knee, but his family said it could have been much worse, pointing to the death of another young cyclist, Jason Lowndes, 23, who was killed in a crash while training near Bendigo last Friday.

Jason Lowndes.

Gerard White, Nick’s father, is callingfor tougher penalties to be introduced for drivers who recklessly injurecyclists, saying a minimum passing distance of one-metre needsto be enforced.

Police told Nick that the driver of the ute would be issued with a fine, meaning he would not have to front court, according to Gerard.

“Not all cyclists are angels and it’s everybody’s responsibility on the road to do the right thing,” Gerard said near Nick’s crash site in Buninyong.

“But the penalties for drivers who do not do the right thing are not strong enough.

“As a parent, when you get that phone call after a crash, it’s not a good feeling.”

The White family, who live in Millbrook,knew Mr Lowndes and said his death had sent shock waves through the tight-knit cycling community across the Central Highlands.

Nick’s older brother, Liam, 23, competed against Mr Lowndes only weeks ago.

Liam White (far left).

“He was the same age as me, his deathhits home pretty fiercely, because you’re racing with him week in, week out,” Liam said.

“Only 10 days ago he did his last race at Shimano Super Crit in Melbourne and got third place.

“You don’t think about the things that can happen in such a short period of time.

“He was a wonderful guy, and always smiling.”

A police officer inspects a damaged car that hit cyclist Jason Lowndes, killing the 23-year-old on Sedgwick Road near Bendigo last Friday. Picture: Glenn Daniels

In response to Nick’s crash, his father Gerard contacted Ballarat City Council and asked if more safety signs could be set up around Buninyong ahead of next week’sRoadNational Championships, which manyriders have been training for in the area, including the White brothers.

Councilinstalled two temporary electronic signs this week, warning motorists to look out for riders along the Midland Highway.

Gerard praised council for the move but hoped permanent signs would be erected as cycliststrain in the area year round.

The latest TAC numbers revealed 11 cyclists werekilled on Victoria’s roads this year, representing an increase of 38 per cent on the year before.

Meanwhile, the number of drivers killed in crashes haddropped by 15 per cent, according to the data.

A series of high profile collisions thrust the issue of cycling safety back under the spotlight in Ballarat recently.

In April, Rebekah Stewart, 24,was jailed for six years after she hit a cyclist while driving to buy drugs along Wendouree Parade on Good Friday last year.

Rebekah Stewart.

The victim, father Christian Ashby, was left to die on the road and now has permanent disabilities.

In May, well-known building designer Luke Taylor suffered critical injuries in a collision with a ute at the intersection of Cuthberts and Whites roadson Ballarat’s western outskirts.

A man driving the ute stopped to help Nick following the collision two weeks ago.

“There’sjust too many collisions,” Nick said.

The Courier, Ballarat

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FILE IMAGE.Three teenagers have been charged following an alleged series of robberies in the Lake Macquarie area.
Nanjing Night Net

About 11.30pm on Sunday, December 24, police will allege, three boys broke into a shopping complex in Pearson Street, Charlestown, and stole a charity tin from a fast food restaurant.

Just before 2.30am on Monday, December 25, the boys allegedly entered a service station on the corner of Lake and South streets, Windale, while armed with knives and stole cigarettes, ice-cream and cash.

About 4.30am on Tuesday, December 26, the three youths entered a supermarket in Wilsons Street, Mount Hutton, and allegedly stole soft drink and chocolates.

Police from Lake Macquarie Local Area Command commenced an investigation.

Detectives arrested a 16-year-old boy and a 15-year-old boy in Windale on Wednewsday after officers fromLake Macquarie Local Area Command commenced an investigation.The boys were taken to Belmont Police Station.

The 16-year-old was charged with two counts of aggravated break and enter dwelling in company and steal, and aggravated break and enter and commit serious indictable offence while armed.

The 15-year-old boy was charged with aggravated break and enter dwelling in company and steal.

Both were refused bail and appeared at a children’s court on Wednesday.

About 10.30am on Wednesday, target action group officers arrested a 14-year-old boy in Windale. He was taken to Belmont Police Station.

He was charged with three counts of aggravated break and enter dwelling in company, aggravated break and enter commit serious indictable offence, and aggravated robbery with offensive weapon.

He was refused bail and is due to appear at a children’s court on Thursday.

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The information of stocks that lost in prices are displayed on an electronic board inside the Australian Securities Exchange, operated by ASX Ltd., in Sydney, Australia, on Friday, July 24, 2015. The Australian dollar slumped last week as a gauge of Chinese manufacturing unexpectedly contracted, aggravating the impact of declines in copper and iron ore prices. Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg MARKETS. 7 JUNE 2011. AFR PIC BY PETER BRAIG. STOCK EXCHANGE, SYDNEY, STOCKS. GENERIC PIC. ASX. STOCKMARKET. MARKET.
Nanjing Night Net

Stock information is displayed on an electronic board inside the Australian Securities Exchange, operated by ASX Ltd., in Sydney, Australia, on Friday, July 24, 2015. The Australian dollar slumped last week as a gauge of Chinese manufacturing unexpectedly contracted, aggravating the impact of declines in copper and iron ore prices. Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

In equity land, the story of the night has been the FTSE 100 breaking out to new all-time highs, although the 0.4% gain was hardly spectacular and even less so when one thinks the total value traded was 41% below the 30-day average. The long and short of it

1. Wall Street: US equities have barely moved across the major indices, with volumes non-existent. Even if we drill into the multiple sectors there have been limited ranges, with utilities having the strongest upside move with a 0.2% gain, while energy succumbed to modest profit-taking with a loss of 0.4%. So a 60 basis point variance between the various sectors tells you all you need to know and the S&P 500, Dow and NASDAQ 100 look to be closing out 2017 with gains of 19.7%, 25.3% and 28.9% respectively and one suspects these percentages won’t deviate too greatly in the two remaining trading sessions.

2. ASX: Aussie SPI futures caught a bid just as US equity markets opened, gaining 20-odd points into 6033, but the move has been faded somewhat and at the time of writing the futures index are up just one point. Our ASX 200 opening call sits at 6060, so a modestly weaker open is expected, but this reflects the 11.6 points coming out of the market with 21 stocks going ex-dividend on open, so there is a headwind from this factor. Still, it’s hard to get too carried away with proceedings today, and participation will be extremely poor and an extension of what we saw yesterday with a pathetic, yet not unexpected $2.78 billion of value traded through the market, which is just over half the value we’d usually trade over an average of a 30-day period. So slight tweaks to portfolios, but that’s about it.

3. Stocks to watch: We can turn to the US markets and look at the lead from various Aussie equity ADR’s (American Depository Receipt) and see the flat lead from SPI futures reflected here too, with BHP, CBA and NCM all basically unchanged in their respective ADR’s. Materials and energy provided the support for the ASX 200 yesterday, putting in 9.16 index points, but the catalysts are lacking here today, with copper down very modestly and looking ominously like it won’t make it 15 consecutive days of gains.

4. Copper: Keep an eye on the monthly chart of copper, where we can see a pronounced bullish outside month reversal in play, where we need to see a monthly close above $US3.19 p/lb to complete. One suspects there are risks in January given price is quite extended here and pricing in a lot of good news, notably with China’s biggest copper producer ordered to cut production, so the bulls have to push for a move through $US3.30 p/lb or the risk of a reasonable pullback is elevated here. US crude is lower by 0.5%, while spot iron ore fell 4.5%, although iron ore futures, which are lower by 0.3%, are probably the better lead.

5. Bright days ahead: An unexciting day may be in store, but it has to be said that the monthly chart of the ASX 200 looks outright bullish and highlights a solid platform to progress into 2018. This strong underlying trend paints a compelling picture, although the valuation argument is one to debate. Here we see the market expecting 12-month (blended) earnings-per-share (EPS) of $3.75 (for the ASX 200 on aggregate), which is the strongest earnings estimate seen since 2014, but the question for 2018 remains whether this is as good as it gets and where we get earnings upgrades to boost EPS, which in turn could lower the index forward price-to-earnings ratio from its current level of 16.18x (12-month blended). Recall, in the last decade the consensus forward P/E multiple has rarely been higher and if we use a 16.5x multiple, which is punchy, we get 6187 as a potential target. So in the absence of any earnings re-ratings, if we apply a multi-year high P/E multiple, then we have around 2% upside for the year.

6. Aussie dollar: Another area of interest though has been in FX markets where the USD has been seen modest downside versus all G10 currencies. The notable moves have been seen against the SEK and AUD, but it’s the AUD that interests most here, with AUD/USD hitting a session high of $0.7779. The bulls have been enthused, not just be the near multi-year lows in the JP Morgan FX volatility index, which has helped the hunt for carry, but we can also see yield differentials working in favour of AUD appreciation. Here, the yield premium demanded to hold Aussie 10-year debt over US Treasuries has widened by 4bp on the day to 27bp and recall this yield spread got as low as 8bp in late November, so moves here have helped AUD upside.

Again, we can put AUD/USD on a monthly timeframe (for the bigger picture) and see a bullish reversal potentially in play, with price trading below the November low and needing a close above the high of $0.7730 to complete. The daily chart looks quite constructive here too and there is scope for a move into $0.7810/20 in the short-term.

7. US data: Keep in mind we have seen a fairly uninspiring US December consumer confidence report, with the index coming in below consensus at 122.1. One can also look at the Citigroup US economic index, which effectively measures US data relative to the consensus expectations. This index currently sits up at the highest levels since 2011 and rarely has it been higher, so in essence, it shows that US assets have been partially buoyed by positive data shocks. Again, we ask the question is this as good as it gets? Personally, I don’t see a collapse in US economics and the data flow should continue to be upbeat, but in terms of positive shocks to support asset prices then it seems we may be hitting a turning point.

8. Market watch:

SPI futures up 5 points or 0.1% to 6027

AUD +0.6% to 77.75 US cents

On Wall St: Dow +0.1%, S&P 500 +0.1%, Nasdaq +0.1%

In New York, BHP +0.8% Rio +0.7%

In Europe: Stoxx 50 -0.1%, FTSE +0.4%, CAC +0.1%, DAX flat

Spot gold +0.3% to $US1286.83 an ounce

Brent crude -1% to $US66.33 a barrel

US oil -0.8% to $US59.49 a barrel

Iron ore -4.5% to US72.62 a tonne

Dalian iron ore -0.3% to 516 yuan

LME aluminium +2.7% to $2252 a tonne

LME copper +1.6% to $US7239 a tonne

10-year bond yield: US 2.43%, Germany 0.37%, Australia 2.69%

This column was produced in commercial partnership between Fairfax Media and IG

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Classrooms destroyed in high school inferno BLAZE: A fire tears through a building at Hunter Sports High. Picture: Michael Bell/Merewether fire station
Nanjing Night Net

BLAZE: A fire tears through a building at Hunter Sports High. Picture: Michael Bell/Merewether fire station

BLAZE: A fire tears through a building at Hunter Sports High. Picture: Michael Bell/Merewether fire station

BLAZE: A fire tears through a building at Hunter Sports High. Picture: Michael Bell/Merewether fire station

TweetFacebookPOLICE have not ruled out suspicious circumstances as the cause for a fire that destroyed a block of classrooms at Hunter Sports High School on Wednesday night.

More than 50 firefighters raced to the Gateshead school shortly after 11pm.

But the single-storey building was already well-alight when firefighters arrived, sending a thick plume of smoke overLake Macquarie.

There were existing plans for the building to be demolished as part of the school’s $45 million redevelopment, but the damage bill was still estimated to be half a million dollars.

Firefighters brought the fire under control in about two hours after some initial difficulty in sourcing a water supply.

PrincipalRachel Byrne saidthe fire wiped out five industrial arts classrooms and a storeroom, which were still in use.

She said the building also housed expensive industrial arts equipment.

The school made contact with the Department of Education on Thursday and confirmed industrial arts classes would take place in demountable buildings in the new year, which were being arranged to replace the fire-ravaged building.

The new industrial arts block is expected to open late next year.

Firefighters were still on the scene on Thursday to guard against potential spot fires.

And security guards attached to the construction site remained on site.

Police said the cause for the fire was still undetermined, not yet rulingout suspicious circumstances, if only because the investigation had thus far failed to show otherwise.Authorities appealed for anyone with information to come forward.

“Our investigation is still ongoing and we are chasing any information from the public as to how it occurred,” Lake Macquarie police Inspector SteveGallagher said.

“We would encourage anyone who can assist to come forward.”

The fire comes amid a substantial state government investment to rebuild the school.

At a site tour of the construction site in November, Education Minister Rob Stokes hailed the redevelopment as one of the biggest school upgrades in the state.

Mr Stokes said the reconstructionwas“a case study in complexity” and challenging for planners.

“Trying to keep a school operating in situ at the same time as building around it and all of the work place health and safety issues that need to be managed, it’s a case study in complexity and … an incredible logistical challenge,” he said.

The schoolmoved to reassure parents classes would resume as normal at the end ofholidays.

Anyone with information should phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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My father was always disapproving of people who excused their failure to turn up to his Sunday meeting by saying they’d been “worshipping God in the great outdoors”. But the older I get, and the more I read, the more I think it’s not such a bad idea.
Nanjing Night Net

I’m much attracted by the American biologist Edward O. Wilson’s hypothesis of biophilia, that humans have an innate tendency to seek connection to nature, for its calming effects.

While most people will be heading for the beach in the next few weeks, I usually head for a national park, to lift my quota of trees, bush, grass and anything else that’s green.

Illustration: Andrew Dyson

This time, however, we’re heading for a jungle – otherwise known as Manhattan – to do babysitting duty. Ideally, this means I’d be virtually living in Central Park, but that may be a bit too snowy.

My regular reading of the universities’ blogsite,The Conversation, has garnered a fair bit of evidence for biophilia.

According to a survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2007, each year one in five Australians experiences a mental disorder. Most common are anxiety disorders, such as panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Zoe Myers, an urban design specialist at the University of Western Australia,says researchshows that city dwellers have a 20 per cent higher chance of suffering anxiety and an almost 40 per cent greater likelihood of developing depression.

Research shows that exposure to nature increases calm and rumination, decreases agitation and aggression, and improves concentration, memory and creative thought. Photo: Brook Mitchell

Fortunately, research also shows that people in urban areas who live closest to the greatest green space are significantly less likely to suffer poor mental health.

Myers says more than 40 years of research shows that exposure to nature increases calm and rumination, decreases agitation and aggression, and improves concentration, memory and creative thought.

But it’s not emptiness or quiet that has these good effects, she says. “Nature in its messy, wild, loud, diverse, animal-inhabited glory has most impact on restoring a stressed mind to a calm and alert state.

“This provides a more complete sense of ‘escape’ from the urban world, however brief.”

Many studies have attested to the restorative effects of forests but, though holidays in national parks are nice, we need something closer to home.

Melanie Davern, of RMIT University, with colleagues from Melbourne University,say recentresearch on the benefits ofurbangreening has found, for instance, lower rates of anti-depressant prescriptions in neighbourhoods close to woodlands in Britain, happier people living in areas with more birdlife, and better health in areas with increased neighbourhood tree coverage in the United States.

Planting trees in parks, gardens or streets has many benefits: cooler cities, slower stormwater run-off, filtering of air pollution, habitat for some animals (such as birds, bats and bees), making people happier and providing shade that encourages more walking.

Professor Pierre Horwitz, of Edith Cowan University, is a great advocate forurban bushland– a bush park of native trees, a wetland, or any native vegetation characteristic of the local region.

“With its undisturbed soils and associated wildlife, urban bushland is more diverse than other types of green spaces in our cities, like parks. The more unfragmented the landscape, or unaltered the bushland, the more likely it will be to retain its biodiversity,” Horwitz says.

“Exposure to biodiversity from the air, water, soils, vegetation, wildlife and landscape, and all the microbes associated with them … enhances our immunity. This is thought to be key to the health benefits of nature.”

Horwitz says we know that wealthier people tend to live in greener suburbs, and that wealthier people tend to be healthier. So is it wealth rather than nature that’s doing the good work?

Fortunately, no. Many studies have controlled for wealth but still found direct health benefits from exposure to biodiversity.

The benefits go not just to individuals, but to the wider city. Forests and woodlands clean our urban air by removing particles and absorbing carbon dioxide. This reduces premature death, acute respiratory symptoms and asthma across the city.

As well, urban bushland improves city water. Wetlands and the vegetation around them clean water by filtering, reducing exposure to pollutants carried in groundwater or surface run-off.

And not forgetting that vegetation moderates extremes of temperature, providing shade when it’s hot and less exposure when it’s cold, thus reducing heat- or cold-related illnesses.

Trouble is, urban bushland shrinks as new suburbs are developed on the outskirts of our cities. Worse, bigger houses and more high-rise living is causing backyards to be shrinking, too, even though they contribute to our health and our kids’ development.

Not to worry. There’s a lot of urban roof space, and we’re getting more rooftop gardens. Sara Wilkinson and Fiona Orr, of the University of Technology Sydney,studiedthe use of a rooftop garden at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney as part of two “horticultural therapy” programs for people recovering from mental illness.

Among the many benefits participants identified were regular connection with others, developing friendships, experiencing enjoyment and restoration of health.

And if you don’t have a spare rooftop, you can join the latest trend and install a vertical garden.

Sorry, I’m getting a bit over-excited here. I wonder if “green space” still counts as green when its covered in snow? Hope the apartment we’re renting at least has some indoor plants.

Ross Gittins is theHerald’seconomics editor.

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