Jul 10

EDITORIAL: Plight of ‘at risk’ children 

IN Newcastle Coroners Court on Monday, Deputy State Coroner Elaine Truscott began an inquest into the tragic death of a morbidly obese 10-year-old boy.
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The child, who cannot be named for legal reasons, died three years ago this week.

Counsel assisting the inquest, Ian Bourke, told the inquiry that on four occasions between 2008 and 2010 the Department of Family and Community Services closed the ‘‘risk of harm’’ reviews it had opened about the boy in order to pursue the needs of other children deemed at greater risk.

The reviews were prompted by concerns over the boy’s weight and other issues, including his parents’ drug use. Despite the threat of criminal action over poor school attendances, he had missed about 100days of education a year for the final three years of his life.

Ms Truscott may well find that the department did its job properly, and that no blame attaches to the state government in the circumstances, or anyone else.

But it might turn out this case evokes memories of earlier tragedies, including tiny ‘‘Ebony’’ at Hawks Nest and Wyong toddler Tanilla Warrick-Deaves.

As well, months of parliamentary controversy over the department and its minister, Pru Goward, have done little to instil public confidence.

After the leaking of an Ernst & Young audit into the staffing of caseworkers, the government was forced to admit that staffing levels were well below those claimed by Ms Goward, and the opposition led calls for her scalp. Several weeks later, the minister remains in her job but the latest figures acknowledged by the government seem to confirm the concerns of her critics.

Just one in four children from the Hunter and Central Coast regions deemed at risk of significant harm are assessed face-to-face by caseworkers. In turn, the Hunter and Central Coast have the equivalent of 267 full-time caseworkers, 34 down on the full complement of 301.

With the numbers of notifications running at more than 17,000 a year, an 11per cent shortfall in caseworkers can only make a bad situation worse.

Full face-to-face assessments of all of these notifications may well be impossible, or even unwarranted, but the children involved are among our society’s most vulnerable members and they surely deserve better attention than they are apparently receiving.

The government may well say it doesn’t have the budget to do more but this is one situation where prevention will be much more cost-effective than any cure.

Jul 10

Julia Gillard Anne Summers interview 

Gillard on why she wrote to Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy here
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JULIA Gillard has thrown a thinly veiled barb at Kevin Rudd for disloyalty and for destabilising her prime ministership, declaring the difference between her behaviour and his was that she always worked for the re-election of the Labor Government.

She said while it was difficult to accept the outcome of the ballot which returned Mr Rudd to the prime ministership, she had quickly concluded the best course was to give her party ‘‘the gift of silence’’ and not making public comments before the election.

Speaking to Anne Summers last night, the only public comments she has made on the explosive events of June and Mr Rudd’s role in eventually replacing her, Ms Gillard justified her original move on Mr Rudd in June 2010 as ‘‘legitimate’’.

‘‘To ask your leader to have a leadership ballot, that’s legitimate, to do things continuously that undermine the Labor Party and the Labor government, then of course that shouldn’t be done by anyone,’’ she said.

‘‘The key difference is every day I was Deputy Prime Minister, I spent all of my time doing everything I could to have the Labor government prosper.’’

She also used the opportunity to hit out at media reports that she had split with her long-time partner Tim Mathieson, declaring the rumours completely untrue and claiming the original report in the Woman’s Day magazine had been written without contacting her.

In her first serious interview since her removal from office on June 26, Ms Gillard told a sell-out audience at the Sydney Opera House that she was all too aware of the sexist treatment of her on the internet and elsewhere but chose not to engage despite a feeling of ‘‘murderous outrage’’.

However, she expressed the view that it would hopefully be easier for a woman to follow in the future, all but endorsing Tanya Plibersek as a future female prime minister describing her one of the nation’s most gifted communicators.

She said there was ‘‘an underside of sexism, really ugly, violent sexism’’ in Australia but it was not clear that it was a merely a function of the new media age.

‘‘I would have thought we were beyond that and it’s kind of depressing that it’s not,’’ she said.

Ms Gillard also spoke of the difficulties of managing the minority parliament revealing she had needed to have the Prime Minister’s office ‘‘re-wired’’ in order to have the division bells ring when a vote was on in the House of Representatives because the numbers were so finley balanced the government could have been defeated at any time.

Ms Gillard said she regarded her April trip to China culminating in a new special relationship between Beijing and Canberra to establish annual meetings at prime minister level as her biggest foreign policy achievement.

The good natured exchange also brought out an admission that her first meeting with US President Barack Obama almost went awry when she asked him if he was ‘‘mad’’ for expressing jealousy about the parliamentary tradition of Question Time.

While the questions were almost universally friendly, it was a boy not even tall enough to reach the microphone, that stumped her.

Why, he asked, did she oppose gay marriage.

Julia Gillard and Anne Summers

As she had done during her prime ministership, Ms Gillard fumbled her way through an answer that ultimately went nowhere, and singled itself out as the only question for the night that received a qualified applause.

Head held high, Gillard gets the respect

TO the sound of Aretha Franklin’s Respect, Julia Gillard strode onto the Sydney Opera House stage and back into public life yesterday, to be greeted with a standing ovation.

In her first appearance since being dumped as Labor leader in June, Ms Gillard reflected on the sexist abuse she endured as the nation’s first female prime minister.

‘‘There was this underside of really ugly violent sexism that came forward,’’ she said.

‘‘I think it finds expression because of the social media but it would have been there anyway.

‘‘Whoever the next woman [prime minister] is… we don’t want it to be like that for her again.’’

Ms Gillard said she was now in favour of a conscience vote on same-sex marriage, refused to back Bill Shorten or Anthony Albanese for Labor leader and said Hillary Clinton would be an ideal first American woman president after the first African American one.

Mr Shorten and Mr Albanese both attended a Labor party members’ forum sausage sizzle in Perth yesterday, where they agreed to work with whoever won the leadership battle. They were reunited again on the ABC’s Q&Aon Mondaynight.

Ms Gillard also announced in her interview with Anne Summers that in addition to her University of Adelaide appointment, she had secured an education gig with Washington think tank the Brookings Institution.

In a wide-ranging discussion, one of the few words Ms Gillard did not utter was Rudd.

However, she obliquely acknowledged the man who did her down when asked how she remained motivated.

‘‘I certainly had moments of some stress and pressure. In my final speech as prime minister, I did say to myself I wouldn’t give to those people the satisfaction of seeing me shed a tear,’’ she said. About 80 percent of the audience were women. Most of the men were aged under 35.

Among the politicians were Wayne Swan, Tanya Plibersek, Stephen Loosley and David Cox.Ms Gillard appears at a similar event in Melbourne today.

Jul 10

Italian star to join Hurricanes

THE depth of female talent at the Hunter Hurricanes has attracted Italian Olympic gold medallist Elena Gigli and the interest of US college championship-winning coach Laszlo Hruza for the 2014 National Water Polo League season.
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In a major coup for Hunter, Gigli, 28, has announced on Italian media that she has accepted an offer from the Hurricanes to join them next season.

The 190-centimetre-tall goalkeeper will replace the departing Ellie Singleton on their roster.

Gigli, at 19 years and 48 days, became the youngest Olympic gold medallist for her country when the Italian women’s team won at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

She has since been a mainstay of the Italian team, competing at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

Meanwhile, Hruza could also give the side an international edge next season.

Head coach at Arizona and Michigan state universities, Hruza will be in Australia in two weeks for a holiday until Christmas.

While in the Hunter, the Hungarian will meet with Hurricanes officials and players after approaching the club about the possibility of coaching the women’s team next year.

Hruza took Michigan State’s men’s side to the National Collegiate Club Championship in 2008 and was the Big Ten NCCA coach of the year in 2009. Last year he was head coach of men’s water polo at the Shanghai Swimming Association in China.

Previously he coached the Hurricanes’ South African imports Sarah Harris and Kelsey White at Arizona State.

Hilary Barton, director of the women’s program at the Hurricanes, said Hruza’s interest in the vacant women’s coaching position was a boost for the club.

‘‘He approached us and the reason he is interested is because of the girls in the team who have so much potential,’’ Barton said.

Hunter are on the search for a women’s coach after men’s boss Daniel Marsden stepped aside from the dual role at the end of last season.

The Hurricanes’ women’s side have struggled in the NWPL but had Julia Barton, Georgia McConville, Emily Grellman, Sarah McGowan, Laura Robinson and Montana Perkins in touring Australian under-age teams this year.

Star imports Harris and White provided experience and guidance to the young NWPL squad this year but they are not returning next season.

HUNTER BOUND: Italian Olympic gold medallist Elena Gigli in action. Picture: Joe Arma

Jul 10

X Factor recap: Nat’s horror showing

Natalie Basingthwaite had a bad week on The X Factor JTR sent home from The X Factor despite giving their best performance in the finals.
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Monday proved a bad night for Nat, as not only were both of her two remaining groups chosen in the bottom two, but they rather showed her up in terms of song selection, mentoring and all round capacity to get the best out of them.

Prior to the bottom two’s “save me” songs (as Dannii has dubbed them) Luke emphasises that “without any help from their mentor, the groups have chosen their songs for themselves.”

Based on tonight’s evidence, Nat’s groups could have done without any help from their mentor for weeks now.

The clear articulation that Nat had nothing to do with the song choices for the groups serves to provide a lot of ammunition to those who say Nat makes terrible song choices.

Both groups absolutely nailed their numbers and sang significantly better than they have all finals.

On the plus side, now Nat only has one group left she can never be faced with such stark reality again.

MONDAY NIGHT RECAP

After all the remaining contestants sing Counting Stars by One Republic, which actually sounds pretty good, we are reminded of the events of last night.

People sang, judges judged and Dannii cried at the end of Dami’s number.

At the end of the video highlights package we get a scene where Dannii joins Dami in her dressing room for a moment that is entirely unstaged, to reflect on the emotion she was feeling.

Back in the live show, Luke once again extends our feelings to Dannii who explains that for her music, “either has memories or it takes you somewhere.”

Tonight that somewhere will be home.

Luke tells us that Dami’s song from last night has hit #3 on iTunes, and she sits above Foo who’s Let Get Ridiculous is at #4.

Ronan admits he is expecting to have one of his boys in the bottom two tonight, more based on maths than anything else as he has almost 50 per cent of the remaining contestants.

Jessica Maouboy then sings Pop a Bottle and it’s so good that Foo’s ‘fro starts wearing ‘fetti.

Time for the results. Luke saves Dami (derr), Jai, Taylor, Omar (Ronan is a happy mentor) and Jiordan (who looked completely convinced she was gone) to leave both of Nat’s groups in the bottom two.

Jason Derulo then performs Talk Dirty using a routine where he almost falls off a human set of stairs created by his dancers, jumps the judges’ desk, drops the microphone and flashes his abs, before stumbling a bit on his final dismount as well. Then he threatens to move here. All in all it’s terrifying and a bit off the rails but still a fun song.

JTR – Lego House, Ed Sheeran

Once again the boys start standing in a row at the back of the stage, slowly walking forward as they each sing a section of the first verse before joining for some nice harmonies on the chorus.

This is probably the least twee that the group has seemed.

They are singing really nicely and a big fat key change sees them serenading the audience with Robin taking the lead towards the end.

Rating: 8/10 – Their best song to date without a doubt.

THIRD D3GREE – Dedication to my Ex, Lloyd

This trio also starts standing at the back, or rather gyrating at the back, with synchronised hip bumps going on.

Jordan kicks off the singing after Kelebek gives us a spoken word intro, then they charge into some fiercely impressive harmonies of their own.

They have good moves, they have parts that each of them is nailing, they finally have a song that is letting them shine.

If anything that was even more impressive an improvement than JTR’s.

Rating: 9/10 – A huge harmonic homerun.

Ronan: Feels there is some sort of tension between THIRD D3GREE. Jacinta nods at these words which would indicate he’s on to something. That said “that was a pretty cool tune you picked and what you gave it.” He admits he went back and watched last night’s performance which wasn’t good enough. He praises JTR’s harmonies and finds it funny that people “at the last moment” surprise you. Suggesting they’ve never reached or bettered the quality of their audition, he votes to send home JTR.

Dannii: Noting that JTR flew in from Stockholm, Dannii also gives a shout out to her friends who are on the phone to her telling her to save them. She thought MMMBop was great but tonight wasn’t as good. She feels their “save me” song was pedestrian. She then recalls that the group were thrown together and that there have been ups and downs. She thinks their “save me” song was one of their best performances so she votes for JTR.

Foo: Recalling how blown away he was by JTR’s first performance he tells us of their happy vibe back stage, and also how tough he has been on them, which has paid off as he feels they’ve been on a rise and tonight’s song was one of his favourites. As for THIRD D3GREE he says he loves Kelebek, because she’s a rapper, as he is, and she’s hot, as he is. He notes Jordan came out tonight with energy that he hasn’t seen until now. Equally he feels the last fortnight has been poor. Luke presses him for an answer and on his gut, after a long silence, he votes to send home JTR.

Nat says she knows JTR are going to be stars and that she can’t wait for people to hear their album, but first they will be tortured in the ritual known as breakfast television.

Finally Luke rubs it in by saying Dami has now gone to number one on iTunes.

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

Jul 10

George Brandis’ flimsy expenses excuse a sad reflection on a wedding

Attorney-General George Brandis has repaid travel claims for attending the wedding of a radio announcer friend. Photo: Sasha WoolleyFederal politics: full coverageJoyce repays expenses as Labor cries foul
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Two things occur from the revelations that the imperious George Brandis has been using public dollars to fund his private political and social interests.

One serious, one simply sad.

The serious part is that as a self-appointed guardian of the public good, a role he assumed with a pomposity even his party colleagues snigger about, the new Attorney-General had an obligation to be above reproach himself.

His pursuit of the erstwhile speaker Peter Slipper for among other things using parliamentary travel entitlements to visit Canberra region wineries had a near evangelical tinge as he sought justice for the long-suffering taxpayer.

Yet it now turns out that he hadn’t hesitated to put on the public tab his own attendance at the lavish private wedding of a friend and former right-wing radio opinionado, Michael Smith.

It’s not enough that mug taxpayers weather the pious verities and libellous ravings of shock-jocks and their parliamentary clients, but now it turns out they have been unwittingly funding such fetid collaborations as well.

We know this because Brandis promptly agreed to repay the sum of $1683.06 on the strength of one thing and one thing only: that it was revealed by Fairfax Media.

Indeed, so flimsy was the original claim that, on the claimant’s own reflection, it was not worth defending against even the prima facie scrutiny attaching to its public discovery.

Brandis’ argument that taxpayers should fork out because his attendance was “primarily a professional rather than a social engagement” is so ludicrously broad as to justify public financing of every party political function he has ever attended.

Smith, of course, is known for his feverish pursuit of Julia Gillard over the AWU slush fund allegations from the mid 1990s when she was a Melbourne lawyer.

Quite why taxpayers should subsidise the building of closer relations between two devotees of the same cause remains unclear.

But it does bring us to the sad aspect of this.

Brandis is reported to have spoken at the wedding – surely a joyous occasion when love is in the air and worldly grievances are left for another day.

Not for the angry right it seems.

“Senator the Honourable George Brandis, QC, gave an impassioned speech about freedom of the press and the pusillanimity and flagrant mendacity of some media proprietors,” the groom says on his website.

Pass the tissues. A loving union sealed with a flourish of fresh bile.

Brandis is said to have “carved up the dance floor” at the wedding.

Perhaps it wasn’t the only thing left in tatters.

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