Apr 10

Australian challenger set to be announced

Up for the challenge: Bob Oatley, pictured in 2007.Australia’s return as challenger for the America’s Cup is expected to be confirmed on Tuesday morning, Sydney time, with current holders Golden Gate Yacht Club due to make the announcement in the US.
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It was reported on Monday that Australian winemaker Bob Oatley and his son Sandy submitted an official challenge with Oracle Team USA, owned by Larry Ellison, as soon as their catamaran crossed the line to defend their title last Thursday against Team New Zealand, winning the series 9-8 after being 8-1 down a week earlier.

It was reported that the challenge papers were lodged with an official from the Golden Gate Yacht Club with which Oracle Team USA is registered and which, under competition law, is the official Cup holder.

Neither Bob nor Sandy Oatley would comment on Monday. But Rob Mundle, media manager for their sailing operations widely known for the success of their maxi-yacht Wild Oats XI in the Sydney to Hobart, said: ”There will be an announcement tomorrow morning [Tuesday, AEST] by the Golden Gate Yacht Club. I know Bob and Sandy would love to see Australia back in the ring, as would people all over the world.”

It is understood the reason why lips were remaining sealed on Monday about any announcement of an Australian challenge was for Golden Gate Yacht Club, as the Cup holders, to announce a challenger. Reuters reported on Monday that immediately after Oracle-Team USA won the final race, Ellison received the challenge, but declined to name the challenger.

Asked by Reuters if it was Oatley, Tom Ehman of the Golden Gate Yacht Club declined to comment. ”I’ll announce early next week, possibly Monday,” he said in a text message.

The name of the challenging club was not confirmed, but if the Oatleys are behind the challenge, it is likely to be the Hamilton Island Yacht Club. Bob Oatley, whose interest in the America’s Cup is understood to have grown in recent years, attended last Thursday’s gala lunch in Sydney for the 30th anniversary of the 1983 America’s Cup triumph by Alan Bond’s Australia II.

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

Apr 10

Hunter down 34 DOCS caseworkers

THE Hunter and Central Coast is short 34 community services caseworkers, the government has finally acknowledge.
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And the number of reports of children at risk of significant harm in the area has risen to more than 17,000.

New figures show that 17,603 reports of children at risk of significant harm were made in the Hunter and Central Coast in 2012-13, out of 104,817 reports across the state.

It was the second largest amount of any region, behind the state’s north, and an increase from 16,134 reports that were made in the Hunter and Central Coast in 2011-12.

The figures, released in the wake of internal leaks about a state-wide shortage of caseworkers, confirm one in four children at risk of significant harm in the region have had a face-to-face assessment by a caseworker.

The Hunter and Central Coast is short 34 full-time caseworkers, according to the latest quarterly figures.

It is supposed to have 301 caseworkers, but was down to 267 from April to June.

Across 2012-13, the area was on average short 26 positions, during which time staff in several Community Services in the Hunter walked off the job in protest.

Labor leader John Robertson said the figures confirmed what the government ‘‘has been trying to hide for months’’ – a significant staff shortage.

“This is about the protection of the most vulnerable children in our community – and the O’Farrell government has left the region 34 caseworkers short and continued to make cuts,’’ Mr Robertson said.

Family and Community Services minister Pru Goward, who has been accused of misleading parliament about the vacancies by saying ‘‘budgeted positions’’ remained the same, said publication of the figures would put an end to the culture of secrecy under Labor.

They also showed caseworkers saw 5,200 more children in 2012-13 than were seen in 2010 under Labor, Ms Goward said.

But Mr Robertson said the minister had refused to reveal caseworker numbers for individual offices.

‘‘Instead the Minister has chosen to publish caseworker numbers at a regional level to hide the real situation on the ground in individual offices,’’ he said.

Ms Goward said further details would be published.

Apr 10

OPINION: Wowser campaign overlooks the truth

BEER FEARS: Alcohol-related incidents in licensed premises have fallen. Picture: Arsineh HouspianTHE anti-alcohol lobby is doing its best to fuel community concerns over alcohol-related harm as the mandated five-year review of the NSW Liquor Act is under way.
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With the state government set to receive the results of the review by the end of the year, organisations such as the NSW ACT Alcohol Policy Alliance, along with various sub-groups, have made submissions calling for a radical overhaul of trading hours across the state based on the so-called “Newcastle solution”.

In March 2008 this strategy saw a number of hotels in Newcastle have a range of measures imposed on them including 3am closing times, 1am lockouts and bans on selling shots after 10pm. No registered clubs in Newcastle were affected.

Since these measures were introduced, organisations such as the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education have called for these same restrictions to be rolled out across the state. Once shutdowns and lockouts have been introduced, they will start calling for earlier closing times.

The lobby claims the Newcastle measures have been a success. In last week’s Newcastle Herald these claims were repeated, as the Newcastle and Hunter Region Multicultural Drug Action Team chairman Tony Brown claimed the measures had led to a drop in violence and should be replicated statewide.

The push for statewide restrictions is based on the argument that there were 32per cent fewer assaults in licensed premises in Newcastle last year than there were in 2007.

But assaults in and around licensed premises fell right across NSW by 31per cent over that same period – a difference of 1per cent compared to Newcastle.

Contrary to claims that Newcastle had outperformed the rest of the state, figures from the independent Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research show that incidents in and around licensed premises in Sydney’s Hills district fell by 57per cent from 2007 to 2012. That’s almost double the drop in Newcastle.

In Wollongong, incidents in and around licensed premises dropped by more than 36per cent, in Penrith they fell by 55per cent and in the Sutherland Shire they fell by 41per cent. Campbelltown, Bankstown and Gosford have also seen falls of more than 50per cent. Incidents in and around licensed premises in Dubbo fell by 39per cent, by 61per cent in Shellharbour and by 44per cent in Wagga Wagga.

What the facts actually show is that there is nothing special about the measures put in place in Newcastle. While Newcastle has become safer, it’s lagging behind comparable areas.

So what’s the real reason for the decline in alcohol-related incidents in and around licensed premises over the past five years?

The fact is the Liquor Act 2007 and the Violent Venues List, which also came into effect in 2008, have succeeded where so many other pieces of regulation have failed.

Through Section 77, the Liquor Act gave clubs and pubs the right to eject troublesome patrons from their venues, as well as the right to refuse to let them in the doors in the first place.

It also established local Liquor Accords which bought clubs, pubs, police, councils, bottleshops and security industry representatives together to address local problems and discuss local solutions.

If Section 77 gave venues a way to prevent problems, and liquor accords gave them the ability to address problems that did occur, then the Violent Venues List was the big, fat stick.

In fact, 60per cent of the pubs and hotels that the Newcastle measures applied to were also placed on the violent venues list and forced to abide by those additional restrictions as well.

Together, these three measures saw alcohol-related incidents in licensed premises fall by more than a third in just five years, and that downward trend is continuing.

In fact, your local club, already the safest place to have a night out with your family, is now even safer, with 30per cent fewer incidents in clubs last year than there were back in 1995 when such records began being kept.

Unfortunately, admitting that politicians got something right doesn’t help the anti-alcohol lobby tick off their wish list of lockouts, shutdowns and price hikes on every schooner of beer.

Disingenuous claims and perfectly crafted sound bites do far more for the anti-alcohol lobby’s wowser crusade than actually admitting the truth.

Anthony Ball is the chief executive officer of ClubsNSW.

Apr 10

Agencies fund abuse hearings

THE Ombudsman and NSW Family and Community Services are among agencies forced to find money within their budgets for work to help the royal commission because the state government has not provided any extra resources.
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They have been told to find their own funds until at least next year, a measure Labor said contradicted the point of the commission.

Documents tabled to NSW Parliament show the Department of Family and Community Services, already under pressure to find millions in savings and meet the government’s labour expense cap while providing vital child protection and other services, has reallocated $5million a year to work related to the national Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The provision is listed under the heading ‘‘Internal budget pressures’’, on a paper that went before the department’s executive committee in late July and discussed difficulties finding savings to meet government targets.

But the state government has told departments and agencies to manage within their budgets the demands from at least the first six months of the royal commission.

An inter-agency committee, headed by the Department of Premier and Cabinet, has been established to oversee the NSW response and associated resource requirements, a government spokesman said.

It was monitoring resource needs and would provide advice to the government early next year on how resourcing should be managed for the rest of the commission’s term, the spokesman said.

The royal commission, announced late last year, is expected to run for several years.

A spokesman for the NSW Ombudsman said the commission had already created a ‘‘substantial amount of work for the staff in our employment related child protection and community services areas, as well as other staff from across the office’’.

It is the only Ombudsman office in the country with an oversight role for employment-related child protection measures, and is also required to review the deaths of certain children on top of broader community and disability services responsibilities.

‘‘This will mean that much of our work will be of relevance and interest to the royal commission,’’ the spokesman said.

‘‘We are a comparatively small office, and as such responding to the commission will involve some resourcing challenges.’’

A spokesman for Family and Community Services minister Pru Goward, criticised for the number of vacant child protection caseworker positions within her department, confirmed $5million had been set aside per year ‘‘over the coming years’’.

The funds had been ‘‘reprioritised’’, although not diverted from frontline services, he said.

But Labor leader John Robertson said making the department help cover state costs undermined the point of the commission.

It was forcing the department responsible for child protection to make budget cuts to cover the costs.

Apr 10

Bequest helps battle diabetes

RISK FACTORS: Researcher Elroy Aguiar and research participant Stewart McGowan; inset: Eric Sansom, who left the bequest, and Ann Lavis.
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A BEQUEST of $350,000 to the University of Newcastle is helping to fund research into preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes in men.

PhD candidate Elroy Aguiar is the first researcher to be awarded the Neville Eric Sansom research higher-degree scholarship.

“In this study I’m hoping to reduce some of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes. We are trying to help these men lose weight, modify their diet and increase their exercise,’’ he said.

Type 2 diabetes is one of the fastest growing chronic diseases in Australia.

“Initially I am following 100 men for six months but I want to expand the project in the future,’’ he said.

Stewart McGowan, 53, from Lambton, is one participant in the study. Both his father and uncle suffered from the disease.

“Through this study I’ve found out simple things that I didn’t know to help me reduce my risk of getting diabetes. I’ve now lost seven kilograms and am spending a lot more time exercising with my family, including taking my son on bike rides, which he loves.’’

The early death of Eric Sansom’s son from diabetes complications was the catalyst for the bequest, to fund new research into the causes, treatment or prevention of the disease.

The University of Newcastle Foundation’s executive officer, Dr Bernie Curran, said that making a bequest to the University of Newcastle and education was not just a gift but an investment in the future.

“Each of us finds different ways to make our mark on the world.

RISK FACTORS: Researcher Elroy Aguiar and research participant Stewart McGowan.

‘‘Eric Sansom left his legacy by making this donation to the university to support something he was passionate about,’’ Dr Curran said.

For information call 4921 7453 or visit newcastle.edu.au/foundation.

GENEROUS: Eric Sansom, who left the bequest for diabetes research.