Newcastle and Hunter volunteers recognised as part of Volunteering China’s National Volunteers Week

MANY THANKS: Rob and Margaret Wilbow with Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service chief executive Richard Jones, who expressed his gratitude for their volunteering. ForRob and Margaret Wilbowvolunteering has become a way of life.
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After moving to Port Stephens from Sydney five years ago, the retired Salamander Bay couple chose to become involved in volunteering as a way of socialising, keeping busy and giving back.

The pair are amongthousands who are being thanked for their generosityas part of Volunteering ’s National Volunteers Week.

Across the country, organisations are sayingthank you to the some six million ns who volunteer their time each year.

The couplerun theWestpac Rescue Helicopter Service’s Port StephensVolunteer Support Group, who organise a range of fundraisers. Most notably,the Angel Billy Golf Classic,held annually for the past 20 years. The event has raised over $630,000 since it began.

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Rare Moreton Bay jellyfish found lurking in Lake MacquarieWoman, 33, allegedly drives with blood alcohol reading of 0.283Eight staff and a patient catch scabies as Kurri Kurri Hospital ward put into isolation“We run the Port Stephens fundraising effort,” Mr Wilbow, 68,said.

“We’ve got80 tinsinbusinesses right throughout Raymond Terrace and up as far as Karuah.”

Mrs Wilbow, 64, is also a volunteer palliative caredriverand a part of Port Stephens Friendship Group.

“We enjoy it and l like improving things,” Mr Wilbow said of why he volunteers.

Richard Jones, WRHS chief executive,said volunteers are essential to the sustainability of the emergency service.

“At the heart of every organisation are people,” he said.“For the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, it is the people we serve, those who work with us and those who support us.

“Since our early beginnings, volunteers have been integral to our operations and in 2018, they remain an important part of who we are and what we do.”

Newcastle City Council paid tribute to the city’s 350 volunteerson Thursday.

WELL DONE: Council’s Volunteers Week function. At front is Alma Tate, Michael Moffitt, Nuatali Nelmes, Pauline McDougall and Nancy Tapp. Picture: Jonathan Carroll.

“Whether it’s a few hours a week helping an older citizen learn how to use email, or an entire day each week guiding visitors at the museum and gallery, it all adds up to a better community,” lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.

“Volunteers have worked more than 24,000 hours just at Blackbutt Reserve and Landcare sites alone during the past 12 months.

“At $30 an hour, those two projects amount to around three quarters of a million dollars in labour being donated.”

NSW abortion zone laws pass first hurdle

Laws giving women a “safe zone” around NSW abortion clinics, free from protesters and activists, have passed their first legislative hurdle after a day of debate and protest.
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The proposed laws, which will provide a 150-metre exclusion zone around clinics and make it an offence to film staff and patients without their consent, passed the NSW upper house on Thursday.

The bill is now expected to be introduced to the legislative assembly next month.

Government MPs have been given a conscience vote on the legislation, which NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she is likely to support.

The bill provoked emotional debate from both sides of the house, including Early Childhood Education Minister Sarah Mitchell, who fought back tears in describing her own miscarriage and subsequent medical procedures.

Ms Mitchell, who voted in favour of the bill, said she would have been pushed close to the edge had a protester confronted her outside a clinic she needed to visit following the miscarriage.

“If I had had to have the procedure after losing my baby in the clinic, no-one would know the reasons for me being there because it is just not possible for protesters outside the door to know the personal and intimate reasons why every woman is going into the clinic,” she told parliament.

Nationals MP Trevor Khan, a co-sponsor of the bill along with Labor’s Penny Sharpe, said the debate transcended political alliances.

“This is not a matter of left versus right, it is a matter of common decency,” Mr Khan told the upper house.

“It is not our place to judge these women, we do not know their stories.”

Meanwhile, Ms Sharpe took aim at free speech advocates arguing against the laws, saying what was occurring outside abortion clinics did not amount to protest.

“It is harassment, even if it is well-intentioned,” Ms Sharpe sad

The bill was not without its opponents, including Christian Democrat Fred Nile, who claimed a nearby abortion clinic had its sewerage pipes blocked by “baby body parts”.

“They had to get the plumbers in to find out what was blocking the sewerage pipes and you’ll be disgusted to know it was baby body parts, little arms, little legs, parts of bodies of babies that had been aborted,” Rev Nile said.

However, the abortion clinic in question issued a statement in response to Rev Nile’s comments, which it said were “completely false”.

Rev Nile described the bill as draconian, and said it would “stop ns who have strong belief in the sanctity of life from even saying hello, or smiling, or walking into that area”.

Outside parliament, protesters from both sides of the debate lined Macquarie Street.

Fair Agenda spokeswoman Alycia Gawthorne said women should be protected if they seek to terminate their pregnancy.

Carolyn O’Loughlin, who held a large placard with a photo of a 10-week-old foetus and caption ‘I cannot yet speak, please be my voice!’, says the new laws would censor free speech.

Colleen McCullough will dispute continues

A doctor who certified Colleen McCullough was sane and rational was unable to rouse her on his visit to her sickbed, the bestselling author’s primary carer has told a court.
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Nicola Wright also denies fabricating evidence because she wanted Dr McCullough’s widower, Ric Robinson, to lose the NSW Supreme Court battle over the author’s multimillion-dollar estate.

“I have no interest in whether he loses or wins,” Ms Wright testified on Thursday.

The author’s executor and friend, Selwa Anthony, claims the University of Oklahoma Foundation and not Mr Robinson is the rightful sole beneficiary of the estate as per a July 2014 will.

Ms Anthony claims Mr Robinson took advantage of his wife’s ill health to unduly influence her to leave him everything in the lead-up to her death on Norfolk Island on January 29, 2015.

Under cross-examination on Thursday from Mr Robinson’s lawyer, David Murr SC, the author’s solicitor Piria Coleman agreed she believed the university will was the genuine one.

Ms Coleman further agreed she had fabricated a document and given it to Mr Robinson, deceiving him into thinking it was a new will in his favour.

Mr Murr referred to a letter from Dr Robert Challender given to her by Mr Robinson on January 17, 2015, a fortnight before his wife’s death.

The GP said he had seen Dr McCullough several times over the previous six weeks and while she was not in good shape physically, her mental state was sane, rational and she was “completely able to make well considered decisions”.

The GP also wrote that he saw no signs of her being in physical or emotional distress.

Ms Coleman agreed the letter unequivocally said Dr McCullough had “testamentary capacity” and was not subject to undue influence.

Ms Wright referred to Dr Challender’s visit on January 14, 2015.

“Ric wanted a doctor to certify that Col was sane because he wanted her will changed,” she said in her affidavit.

‘”She could hardly speak.”

The GP could not rouse her but said he would write about how he saw her one to three weeks previously, Ms Wright said.

“I want to suggest that Dr Challender did rouse Col that day,” Mr Murr said.

“I disagree,” she replied.

She agreed she thought Dr McCullough had been “very badly done by by her husband” but denied fabricating evidence about conversations.

Earlier, Ms Coleman agreed she believed Dr McCullough was the “goodie” and her husband the “baddie” in the marriage but denied trying to cast Mr Robinson in as bad a light as possible.

The hearing continues before Justice .Nigel Rein.

An open letter to NSW Ambulance by Cidney Jenkins

Questions: Daughter Cidney Jenkins was shattered by her father Tony Jenkins’ death. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.Cidney Jenkins was shattered by her father Tony Jenkins’ death.Jenkins took his own lifeabout two hours after he was dropped off, alone, by a senior NSW Ambulance officer after a meeting about his alleged use of the opioid Fentanyl taken from Hunter ambulance stations. Read the full story here.
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LET’Stalk about our paramedics–the ordinary men and women called to do extraordinary things, often walking blindly into chaos, desperation, violence and mayhem, ready to offer their skills and compassion.

Let’s talk about my father, Tony Jenkins, who entered the service as a passionate, healthy and resilient man.

As I sat at my laptop, fumbling with words for hiseulogy, I wasleft questioning how amanwho talkedabout his good fortune,loving family andremarkably happy life couldbe driven to take his own life, without warning.

The final hours of my father’s lifewere spent with NSW Ambulance.

Many of us assumethe most traumatic part of a paramedic’s job is the trauma they are exposed to on the road. Violence against paramedics has been a recent media focusbutanother pressing issue is the treatment of paramedics behindthe scenes – whether they’re supported, or whether the attitude when they’re stressed is that they should“toughen up”.

Let’s talk about multipleinquiries over 11 years that clearly identify issues of lack of support, post-traumatic stress disorder,self-medication, increased violence, and suicide within the ambulance service.

I believedNSW Ambulance would set the benchmark for looking afteremployees because they take people to hospital. But in our family’s experience that is not the case.

After all, ambulances takepeople to hospital, don’t they? And yet when it comes to their own employees, we believe the support is lacking.

My father helped so many people during his 28 years of service, but where was the help when he needed and deserved it?

Magpies ponder how to stop Dogs’ AFL star

An in-form Jack Macrae will lead the Western Bulldogs side against Collingwood on Friday night.Nathan Buckley’s coaching philosophy is set for an intriguing test when Collingwood take on a Western Bulldogs side led by in-form midfielder Jack Macrae on Friday night.
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The 10th-placed Magpies head into the Etihad Stadium clash well-placed after notching a convincing 28-point win over St Kilda, while the Bulldogs (13th) registered a dire scoreline of 2.14 (26) during their wet-weather loss to Adelaide.

But the Dogs have a trump card in the form of ball magnet Macrae, who is having a breakout season averaging 34 disposals per game.

The likes of North Melbourne’s Ben Jacobs and Carlton’s Ed Curnow have shown that an old-fashioned hard tag still has a place in the modern AFL.

But Buckley has been reluctant to engage such tactics against even the most prolific ball-winners, preferring to back in his midfield as a collective.

“Jackson Macrae’s been a prolific player over the last three or four weeks and we don’t want him getting off the chain,” Buckley said on Wednesday.

“Some of that will be about what we want to do as a team and some of it will be about the individual attention we’re giving.

“The main thing for us if we don’t get our team plans right, it makes it a lot harder to dim the effectiveness of the better players in the opposition.”

The Magpies will be without classy midfielder Daniel Wells (rested) but have one of the competition’s most in-form players in Jordan De Goey, who slotted six goals against St Kilda and five against Brisbane a fortnight earlier.

FILLING THEIR BOOTS: THE AFL BALL MAGNETS CAUSING HEADACHES FOR COLLINGWOOD

* Tom Mitchell: The gun onballer had a record 54 touches as the Hawks opened their season with a 34-point victory over the Pies. Mitchell was largely allowed to roam free despite having had a 50-disposal game against Collingwood last season. North Melbourne’s Ben Jacobs proved a few weeks later that Mitchell can be stopped, keeping him to 19 touches as the Kangaroos beat Hawthorn by 28 points.

* Dayne Zorko: Brisbane’s pint-sized star had been tagged out of losses to Greater Western Sydney and Gold Coast. But he was let off the chain against Collingwood and racked up 34 disposals and four goals. The Magpies still managed to scrape through for a seven-point win but many questioned the decision to give Zorko such freedom.

* Jack Macrae: The Western Bulldogs prime mover has surged into Brownlow Medal contention, gathering more than 30 disposals in all but one game this season. His ability to win the ball in tight makes him difficult to restrict, as does the constant threat posed by superstar teammate Marcus Bontempelli. A tough strategic call awaits the Magpies on Friday night.

Turnbull living in alternate reality

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has had plenty to think about this week.Listening to Malcolm Turnbull, you’d think everything is fine.
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Relationship with China? It’s good.

Live sheep exports? Still going.

Company tax cuts? Working hard to get them through.

But listen to the prime minister’s coalition colleagues and his rosy, calm demeanour looks a bit out of touch with reality.

“We have a good, frank relationship with China. It’s a very strong one,” Turnbull told reporters this week.

Everything is clearly not fine with China.

That’s according to the Chinese foreign ministry, who said “must adopt a correct perspective” on things Beijing doesn’t like.

Proposed foreign interference laws, designed to stop foreign donations from buying influence with political parties, have angered China.

n media reports about Chinese influence have also upset Beijing, which is used to a censored press.

Turnbull insisted relations are strong – even as Liberal MP Andrew Hastie decided to announce under parliamentary privilege Chinese-n billionaire Chau Chak Wing was allegedly involved in bribing a former UN president.

Hastie said Dr Chau had Chinese Community Party links and had donated millions to political parties. Dr Chau’s lawyer says he’s never been charged with anything.

Turnbull was blindsided by the speech.

It wasn’t the only blindside he copped.

Mathias Cormann, the Senate whisperer, had a deal locked up on the corporate tax cuts with Pauline Hanson.

The One Nation senator reportedly shook hands with Senator Cormann – only to publicly break her promise and increase her demands.

“I just feel that they are not addressing the black hole in the budget, and I have got concerns that we are not going to be paying down debt,” Senator Hanson said.

The corporate tax cuts have dogged the government for months now, a policy measure they seemingly can’t sell to the public or the Senate.

Getting Senator Hanson over the line would have been a huge step. Instead she’s hopping between saying no and demanding more.

Her bombshell had some coalition MPs wondering if they should drop the company tax cuts altogether.

It’s not like anyone has managed to come up with a killer line to sell it, while Labor hammers on about an $80 billion “handout” which means less money for schools and hospitals.

But Turnbull and his cabinet are sticking with the corporate tax cuts for now, after spending truckloads of political capital trying to win support.

One idea that does have public support is banning live sheep exports to the Middle East, after shocking footage showed overheated animals dying on ships.

MPs are getting hundreds of emails a day from impassioned farmers and animal lovers, who want the sheep treated humanely.

Turnbull’s response is to lift penalties for exporters who break the rules – but his former health minister Sussan Ley decided to go further.

She brought in her own bill pushing to ban live sheep exports during the northern hemisphere summer, with several other coalition MPs joining her.

Turnbull told a coalition party room meeting backbenchers can bring forward a bill, but there are other ways.

“We have a good system in our parties – issues can be brought up with ministers,” Turnbull told the meeting.

But Ley’s bill makes it tougher for the prime minister to argue his case, when even his own party isn’t fully behind him.

Ley, Hastie and Hanson have given Turnbull headaches he didn’t need – especially before five by-elections – as he insisted everything was under control.

It’s unclear if the sheep export bill will get through, with Labor down a few members thanks to the citizenship by-elections.

The corporate tax cuts are in limbo, and they may have to go to the next election to muster the support to pass them.

And China’s Community Party mouthpiece The Global Times said “arrogant” needs to be taught a lesson, possibly with a trade freeze worth up to $10 billion a year.

Turnbull might insist everything is fine, but the bomb-throwers in parliament beg to differ.

The prime minister may need to find a way to get them to “adopt a correct perspective” before they cause too much more trouble.

Newcastle and Hunter Rugby League disciplinary panel hand down three season-long bans on same night

PASS: Jason Moodie during his playing days for the Parramatta Eels. Picture: Steve ChristoRetired NRL and Origin wingerJason Moodie was one of three people to cop season-long bans from rugby league following a troublesome fortnight for the code acrossthe Hunter.
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The 43-year-old, who represented the Blues three times and played 172 club games between theKnights, Eels and Tigers, has been prohibited from attending all junior matches until the end of 2018.

Thispunishment was handed down on what was a busy night forthe Newcastle and Hunter Rugby League (NHRL) disciplinary panel on Wednesday.

Moodie, aWestern Suburbs junior coach,pleaded guilty to multiple NRL code-of-conduct breaches following his part in a physical altercationat New Lambton’s Kentish Oval on May 12.

The second man, a junior parentat the Dudley-Redhead Magpies, also pleaded guilty to allcharges and received the same sanction.

The incident occurred during an age-group fixture, just two days before the start of Country Rugby League (CRL) endorsed “Shoosh For Kids Week” encouraging positive environments for junior participants at grassroots levels.

In the senior ranks, an 18-month banwas given to a spectator with family links to the Raymond Terrace Magpies following a separate incident at Lenaghan Oval on Saturday.

He is barred from all facets of the sport, outside attending the club’s senior home games at Lakeside Oval, after initiating a physical alteration with an opposition playerpost full-time.

Raymond Terrace won the NHRL A-grade encounter 26-24 over hosts Belmont South.

A third matter,also involving a physical altercation between player and spectator, was originally scheduledfor judiciary this week butwas postponed after being investigated by police.

Both people have already been stood down from all facets of rugby league until the hearing is conducted.

Video of Saturday’s ugly incident, which took place at Coronation Oval duringa D-grade match betweenWoodberryand Maitland United, went viral online.

All parties have the right to appeal, but by Thursday afternoon no correspondence had been received by CRL.

The hearings took place at Newcastle Leagues Club.

EARLIER:Player and spectator stood down after wild rugby league brawl

PREVIOUS:Former Origin star Jason Moodie involved in alleged altercation at junior game

CBA delayed refund until after HoR hearing

‘s largest bank delayed refunds for customers charged double interest on business overdrafts to avoid the issue becoming public during a parliamentary hearing.
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One Commonwealth Bank customer who tearfully queried the interest draining her business account was abruptly told “a bank is a business and that is the price you pay for borrowing money”.

Senior CBA executive Clive van Horen admitted requesting a 10-day delay in sending refund letters to customers so the issue wouldn’t surface at a House of Representatives hearing last year.

“Can we make this all happen (letters and actual refunds) after the House of Reps hearing on 7 March?,” he said in an email revealed at the banking royal commission on Thursday.

“Eliminates the chance of this being brought up in the hearings and a delay of 10 days is immaterial.”

Mr van Horen accepted he made the wrong decision.

“I think it was a poor judgment on my part,” he said on Thursday.

CBA’s executive general manager of retail products said he appreciated it was a “very material” issue for people waiting for refunds, but said it involved 1500 customers out of 10 million.

Mr van Horen said a recent mailout about paper statement fees had caused distress at the time, and was weighing on his mind.

“Personally I was quite bruised by that,” Mr van Horen said.

“These letters would potentially get picked up and reported in a way which, if the previous experience was anything to go by, was factually 100 per cent wrong.”

Counsel assisting the commission Albert Dinelli suggested CBA was more motivated by media and PR than ensuring it did the right thing by its customers.

Mr van Horen ultimately conceded that was the case.

About 2700 customers were affected, with refunds totalling $2.7 million going to more than 1800 people after an average wait of two-and-a-half years.

The error, which meant people with two types of business overdrafts were being charged 33.9 per cent interest instead of 16 per cent, was first identified in 2013.

Commissioner Kenneth Hayne QC suggested the solution was to check whether every overdraft customer was being charged the right interest.

Mr van Horen said CBA’s initial manual correction missed a substantial part of the problem before a system-based fix in 2015 worked in the majority of cases.

There was then an enhanced fix in 2017.

The inquiry heard a customer complained to the Financial Ombudsman Service in late 2015 after getting the “bank is a business” rebuff from CBA.

Proud history underpins firm’s future

BUILDING ON PROUD HISTORY: New Sparke Helmore Lawyers chairman Andrew White believes his firm is uniquely place to serve the needs of clients.ADVERTISING FEATURESparke Helmore Lawyers is a client-first firm with more than 750 people working from eight offices across , serving the needs of the insurance, government, financial services, technology, mining, construction and property sectors.
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Their expertise spans corporate and commercial to construction, workplace to insurance, IP to IPOs, mining to manufacturing, and property to procurement.

Sparke Helmore is one of the largest law firms in , and the longest-serving national commercial law firm in the Hunter, and is committed to putting clients at the centre of everything it does.

Founded in Newcastle in 1882, the firm has had a presence in the city for 136 years and currently employs 112 people in its two Hunter offices, at Newcastle and Muswellbrook.

This advertising feature is sponsored by the following business. Click the link to learn more:

Sparke Helmore LawyersSparke Helmore lawyers and staff are part of the local community, contributing to community activities such as the Sparke Helmore Newcastle City Triathlon (since 1994, the triathlon has raised nearly $500,000 for local charities) and Hunter Live (launched in 2009 by Sparke Helmore to offer local business people, educators and government representatives an opportunity to come together and participate in a series of panel discussions and forum events).

Issues of interest to clients in the corporate and commercial area include:

Regional investmentThe City of Newcastle, guided by the 2036 Strategy,is undergoing a rebirth with substantial investment in the CBD and other locations.

Redevelopment of Newcastle Airport offers enormous opportunityto enhance tourism and business connectivity with the rest of .

The mining industry remains buoyant with the demand for energy from traditional markets continuing to grow and alternate energy projects emerging which promise to bring significant economic activity and jobs.

“Sparke Helmore is deeply embedded in local communities of the Hunter region and has a long history of successfully developing key projects andthe associated financing and structuring activities that go with it,” Sparke Helmore chairman Andrew White said.

“We have significant capacity in our Newcastle office, with six partners – Alan McKelvey, Darren Rankine, Martin Taylor and Paul Tobin (all Corporate and Commercial), Greg Guest (Insurance) and Catherine Wilkinson (Workplace) – and 112 employees – including highly regarded Property Special Counsel Helen Murray, Environment and Planning Special Counsel Naomi Simmons and Senior Associate Natalie Vardanega– who have access to the firm’s national network.”

Property and infrastructure developmentSparke Helmore has been heavily involved with the acquisition of land and the drawing up of contracts relating to developments during the revitalisation of NewcastleCBD.

Their deep knowledge and capability combinedwith an intimate awareness of the broad matrix of interests in the city means they’reable to anticipate what’s coming down the pipeline.

“Anyone looking to establish either a core component of their business, or a branch in theemerging Newcastle business landscapeneeds access to advice that is not just purely legal, but formed by an understanding of the local business, economic and planning environment,” Andrew said.

“In many cases there are complex arrangements involving title, planning and physical constraints, and that’s where Sparke Helmore comes into it’s own. We’ve been here for 136 years.”

Evolving industry focusNewcastle has evolved enormously over the last 30 years and so has Sparke Helmore. In the next 10 or 20 years, that rate of change will grow, asit will with all industries throughout the world.

“The core element of any business must be the agility, preparedness and enthusiasm for change and evolution,” Andrew said.

“Sparke Helmore is deeply embedded in the Hunter Region and deeply committed to its future.

“The firm is making significant investments in the Newcastle office and across the country in engineering new ways of providing solutions to clients.

“We are keen to hear from and engage with clients to understand their needs and devise solutions that increase efficiencies and effectiveness of the service we provide.”

Andrew White, chairmanAndrew White is the Chairman of Sparke Helmore, leads the Hunter Commercial Group and is the head of the firm’s national mining and resources group.

For more information about Sparke Helmore, visit www.sparke苏州夜总会招聘.au.

Labor says Keolis Downer contract encourages shorter bus routes in Newcastle

Charlestown MP Jodie Harrison has accused the state government of encouraging Keolis Downer to “chop up” Newcastle’s bus network by offering it per-passenger incentive payments.
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The company said in March that its passenger numbers were up 4.9 per cent in January, a year-on-year rise from304,330 to 319,360.

But Hunter Labor MPs have argued that thecompanyhas divided some direct routes into two and sometimes three separate services under a new network introduced in January.

“Is this an incentive to make the routes shorter, forcing commuters to changebuses, therefore increasing the patronage statistics and the patronage incentive payment?” Ms Harrison asked minister for transport Andrew Constance in parliament on Thursday.

“It is now becoming clear why the minister has been talking up additional services and increasedpatronage numbers – so he can reward Keolis Downer with a big, fat bonus which he signed off onin the contract.

“There is no question that the number of people using our buses needs to be increased. We allwant that.

“But this patronage incentive payment rewards the bus operator for chopping bus routesup into pieces.”

She said the incentive payment was “hidden” on page 239 of the government’s “heavily redacted”10-year contract with Keolis Downer.

Mr Constance responded by saying the government had given Keolis Downer an incentive to attract more people to public transport.

“We’ve seen, from January to January last year, an increase in patronage on Newcastle transport,” he said.

“So, absolutely, very happy to incentivise the private sector to operate the state’s bus network in the way that they do.”

The government and Keolis Downer have foreshadowed route changes in light of customer complaints and two public rallies since the new network began.

The new timetable will not be released until next month, butKeolis Downer said on Thursday that the changes would have a “minor” knock-on effect on other services.

“Bus network refinements will see minor adjustments to other timetables as we work to optimise resources and better meet customer demand,” a company spokesperson said.

Wallsend MP SoniaHornery feared the changes could lead to cuts in her electorate.

“From what I have been told by people working closely on the review, there are going to be cuts to services from Wallsend to Newcastle,” she said.

“I have also been advised that … all of the small changes that should be made to improve the service will be ignored.

“Residents in parts of Shortland will still not be able to get to their nearest major shopping centre at Jesmond without going to Wallsend and changing buses.

“I don’t want a complete reversion to the old routes and timetables.I am happy to admit there have been some improvements in services.”

Transport for NSW weighed into the debate on Thursday night, saying the number of passengers transferring from one bus to another had changed little since the new network began.

“Newcastle went more than 10 years without any changes to its bus network and passenger numbers sank to a point where only three per cent of the local population used public transport,” a spokesperson told the Herald.

“The transport network was overhauled this year, based on data and the feedback of passengers and drivers.

“The result is more than 1200 additional services, providing more options to get people where they want to go.

“The total number of people changing buses remains low, with an increase of just 2.5 per cent compared to the old network. Still less than one in five passengers changes bus services.

“We will not apologise for implementing a system that encourages the operator to meet the needs of more in the community and to improve its service.”

Newcastle Now asks Gladys Berejiklian, council for ‘meaningful’ light rail help

Newcastle Now wants an audience with premier Gladys Berejiklian on Friday to try to secure more money for its light-rail relief plan.
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The business support group is working on a package to provide immediate financial relief to traders affected by tram-line construction in Hunter and Scott streets.

It has spoken to Newcastle City Council and the state government about backing the plan but hopes to press the point further when Ms Berejiklian visits the city on Friday to help officially open the University of Newcastle’s NewSpace building.

The premier said on a visit to Newcastle in December that the government was “considering” rental assistance for affected business, but nothing has materialised.

Three weeks ago the council proposedits own assistance plan, a 50 per centrebate on a special rate which CBD property owners pay to fund Newcastle Now, but this was dismissed as “tokenistic” by former Newcastle Now general manager Michael Neilson.

Mr Neilson’s replacement, Richard Christian, said the Newcastle Now package would provide “meaningful” relief, unlike the council’s plan.

“I wanted to make clear that what we’re tying to do here is provide a meaningful and targeted package, so we’re concerned with some of the proposals that have been put forward by council and such, that they’re not going to provide meaningful relief,” he said.

“The only thing that’s yet to be determined is how much money will be in the bucket.

“As soon as we have the amount finalisedwe will be able to start referring people to The Business Centre, where they will be assessed.

“They will get immediate help with their financial situations, and they will be assessed on how much money they need and how much will help them through, and that can be accessed straight away.”

The government has not said when Hunter and Scott streets will reopen but says testing on the track will begin late this year.

Mr Christian said he had requested a meeting with Ms Berejiklian via parliamentary secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald.

“We feel that the package we’ve got is going to deliver for businesses, so we want some air time with her to present what we feel is the right approach.”

Newcastle Now announced on Thursday the first stage of its relief plan, including free 12-hour consultations with business advisers and financial advice.

Brumbies warning over declining crowds

Crowds at Brumbies games must improve or the Super Rugby club warns it could fold.The Brumbies have warned members the Super Rugby club could fold if crowds continue to decline.
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It comes on the back of their second-lowest ever crowd when they held an n derby with Melbourne at GIO Stadium this month.

The Brumbies aim to almost triple that figure of 5283 for their next match against the Sunwolves on June 3.

But in an email sent to members, chief executive Michael Thomson and chairman Phil Thomson explained the dire predicament and pleaded for more support.

“We know you want rugby to thrive in this region and, in part, to achieve this, we need a successful side playing in front of big crowds,” the email reads.

“The funds attendance at games enables us to invest back into our programs … and without your support and those funds the Brumbies may no longer exist.”

After the nightmare attendance against the Rebels, the Brumbies have drawn on three Canberra charities to help lift numbers.

If the Brumbies reach their targeted crowd of 15,000, they will donate $5000 to each organisation.

It would easily top their biggest crowd for the year (13,515), which came against arch rivals the NSW Waratahs.

Michael Thomson said on Wednesday the declining figures could be put down to the team’s struggles on the field, troubles within Super Rugby and an ageing stadium in an inconvenient location.

He pointed to the history of sport in Canberra in hope of a quick turnaround.

“Scheduling is a challenge but if we play the right football, we play entertaining and continue to connect with our community we’re confident people will come,” Thomson said.

“If you look at the history of sporting teams in Canberra, sometimes they turn quickly and we’re confident if we continue to do the right things people will come back.”

Lib MP’s Vic parliament ‘pig’ jab to Green

A speech on diversity in politics in Victoria’s upper house has exploded into Liberal MP Inga Peulich calling Greens leader Samantha Ratnam a “pig”.
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Ms Ratnam had given a member’s statement on increasing gender and cultural diversity in parliaments and pointed to comments by federal Liberal Senator Jane Hume about women who miss out on work opportunities needing to “work harder”.

Her speech sparked a fiery debate, which Ms Ratnam interrupted with a point of order.

“Did you say ‘you’re a pig’ to me? I think I just heard her say that,” she said in the chamber, supported by other MPs.

Ms Peulich was not on her feet at the time of the comment and she could not be heard by the microphones, but she told President Bruce Atkinson “if whatever it was that I uttered was offensive to anyone, I apologise.”

Mr Atkinson told Ms Peulich such a comment was “totally unparliamentary, it is unnecessary” and “certainly doesn’t meet the level of respect that I would expect all members adhere to.”

Ms Ratnam told reporters the exchange was “the lowest form of attack.”

“They can’t defend the fact they have some of the lowest representation of women across parliaments in , I’m so proud to lead a team of eight MPs, seven of which are women,” she said outside parliament.

Ms Peulich said Ms Ratnam should have been attacking the Andrews government’s “poor record”, rather than Ms Hume.

“Ms Ratnam, who professes to be an advocate for more women in politics, used this as a cheap opportunity to launch a nasty and personal attack on Senator Jane Hume and all female Liberal MPs,” Ms Peulich said in a statement.

Inga Peulich.

“I was incensed at this blatant display of hypocrisy by Ms Ratnam and the Greens but did withdraw an intemperate remark I made and hope Ms Ratnam will also apologise for her offensive and misogynist comments.”

In her member’s statement, sent to AAP, Ms Ratnam said “it is clear that members of the Liberal Party have little if any understanding of the privilege and advantage that helped install them and their friends into their powerful positions.”

Ms Ratnam’s family fled from war in Sri Lanka in the 1980s.

When asked outside parliament about the matter, Premier Daniel Andrews said: “I have no comment to make about Ms Peulich and if you can’t say something good about someone, you should perhaps say nothing.”