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.

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.

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Apr 10

Hunter down 34 DOCS caseworkers

THE Hunter and Central Coast is short 34 community services caseworkers, the government has finally acknowledge.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Mar 10

DVD review: The Great Gatsby


Warner Bros, 143 minutes

BAZ Luhrmann should make only musicals.

The Great Gatsby is a quasi-musical. Its jittery camera moves seem as if they’re trying to catch the rhythms of the Charleston and one of Gatsby’s guests is right when he likens a party scene to an amusement park.

The turrets and crenellations of the Gatsby castle on the shores of Long Island Sound bear a strong resemblance to the Disneyland logo.

Every line of dialogue is underlined by music. Not that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s prose is neglected. The voice-over narration is relentless, delivered by Tobey Maguire’s Nick Carraway, whose reedy drawl battles to do justice to the more mellow music of Fitzgerald’s sentences.

Maguire has to anchor the film and he’s not nearly strong or interesting enough for the job. He’s fine during the lighter moments. His mild manner and habitually quizzical expression strike the right comic notes, but the more serious stuff leaves him blank-faced.

Fortunately, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Gatsby is more compelling and now the baby face has matured into classic handsomeness, he can turn on the Gatsby glamour but he, too, has difficulty fighting against the distractions of the surrounding sights and sounds.

In the film’s first half, Luhrmann’s direction is so nervy that he can’t let a sequence run for more than 30 seconds without interruption. There is much inter-cutting and overlaying with swooping transitions between locations and a proliferation of funny angles.

The script does some tinkering with the novel. Nick is telling the story from a sanitarium where he’s gone to recuperate from a breakdown following his experiences with Gatsby, Daisy and Tom, her boor of a husband, played with swaggering conviction by Joel Edgerton.

Nick’s therapist (an avuncular Jack Thompson) suggests his patient would do better to write an account of what has happened instead of trying to talk about it. And it’s not a bad ploy since it puts the following events in context without giving away too much too soon. But you don’t really need to see Nick’s typed words come floating towards you as he utters them.

Amid the overkill, there are assorted delights. One of them is Elizabeth Debicki’s Jordan Baker, the elegant young golfing champion with whom Nick falls half in love. And there’s the film’s greatest success – Carey Mulligan’s Daisy. Not only is she graceful enough to carry off costumes which might have swamped another actress, she has the voice for the part. Her silvery tones help craft a seemingly guileless performance edged with a languid sophistication. It also allows her to crack now and again, to reveal the helplessness that makes Daisy so dangerous.

But you don’t get much chance to dwell on these nuances until the film’s second half, when Luhrmann finally allows his stars some breathing space. And even then, he and his co-writer Craig Pearce are busy underlining everything. One of the joys of Fitzgerald’s style is his delicacy. He leaves room for your imagination to do some work of its own.

Gatsby’s efforts to rewrite the past are translated into the sense of longing and regret he feels as he contemplates the stretch of water which divides him and his excesses from the old moneyed estates like the Buchanans’ on the other side of the bay.

As he stands gazing at this glittering expanse and the green light which shines from Buchanans’ dock, he might be wishing he could walk on water. It’s a message you get from the film, as well. But no imagination is required. It’s hammered into the dialogue with an insistence that strips the story of its ambivalence and its mystery. They really should have gone all the way and made

Gatsby: The Musical.

Rating: ★★★

– Sandra Hall


Universal Sony, 110 minutes

COLIN Farrell and Noomi Rapace make a provocative pair in this New York thriller with an explosive ending.

This dark, brooding story is unpredictable and unsavoury, yet grabbing.

Both actors have difficult roles, coming from two different places to an emotional meeting place in the middle of a dangerous situation. Rapace, who still seems to be on the outer of the American cinematic scene despite her fantastic lead as Lisbeth Salander in the original Dragon Tattoo movies, slowly reels in Farrell, eventually getting him to do her bidding.


– Jim Kellar


Hopscotch Entertainment, 91 minutes

CRIME thrillers are such a saturated genre, it’s hard to find a new seam, a new vein, that captures your attention and draws you in.

Perhaps the secret in this case is the attraction of the two leading actors, Eric Bana and Olivia Wilde, as brother and sister Addison and Liza. They are on the run, a cunning pair with Bana the emotional master of his sister ever since their traumatic childhood days.

Bana is fearless, ruthless and violent, a bedeviling spirit with a just a touch of kindness.

Wilde, forced to find her own way out of trouble, is befriended by a just-out-of-jail Charlie Hunnam, and shows signs of pulling away from the potent force of her big brother.

The showdown comes at Hunnam’s parents’ country house, with Kris Kristofferson and Sissy Spacek teaming up as wholesome parents who only want what is best for their son.

If you can stomach Bana as the bad guy, you will get your thrills out of this flick.


– Jim Kellar


THE winners of last week’s DVD, The Walking Dead Season three were: Kathy Kelly, of Kahibah; Diane Grogan, of Whitebridge; Jann Bessant, of Raymond Terrace; Martin Laws, of Hinton; and Edward Kucharski, of Rutherford.

OVERKILL: Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan are highlights in The Great Gatsby.

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Mar 10

OPINION: We support pet-friendly rental properties

RECENTLY theNewcastle Herald reported on the difficulty some renters have finding properties that will allow them to keep their pets.

We at Mark Dowling Real Estate strive to educate our landlords about the positive aspects of letting their property as a pet-friendly rental.

Part of our story began when we were renting a property ourselves in 1997. We were forced to move as our rented home was put up for sale and at the time we had a blue cattle dog that made inspections difficult.

We found it very hard to find a rental house and we ended up renting a barely livable property in Broadmeadow. It was a completely rundown house but it did have good fences and the dog loved the backyard.

As we started MDRE Property Advantage in Mayfield, we had a lot of space in our windows, so we contacted pet rescue groups and displayed their animals in the window, and we also started to accept donations for the animals such as blankets, beds and food.

We have some great people in the area that drop off items for the dogs all the time.

We have been very successful in convincing our landlords to accept pets and currently 86per cent of our rental properties are pet-friendly.

Many new landlords and investors are not aware of the recent changes to the Residential Tenancy Act.

The act states that only tenants with pets can now be asked to have their carpets cleaned when they vacate a property.

We find that tenants with pets in general make an effort in looking after their rental property as they know how difficult it is to get another pet-friendly house.

We have a number of tenants with pets that we have retained over the years. When the property they were living in sold, we then moved them on to another of our properties.

We also work closely with Dog Rescue Newcastle and display the dogs that they have up for adoption in our window.

We try to educate tenants and other clients about the importance of adopting a pet from a rescue group instead of buying it from a shop or breeder. There are literally hundreds of dogs and cats, every breed and age available, in the Hunter today.

We also make sure that we match the type of pet with the correct property, large breeds and puppies need more room to move, while smaller and older pets are better suited to smaller yards, or units and villas, depending on the strata bylaws.

Some applicants nowadays, when they apply for a property, include a pet resume with a photo of the pet and information about the pet. Some even provide a pet reference from a previous real estate agent or landlord.

I feel that it’s important to work towards a change in attitude about allowing tenants to keep pets.

Investors need to realise that a huge number of people have pets today and we need to change the way we think and not hold on to old-fashioned ways.

Fatima Dowling is a real estate agent and co-owner of Mark Dowling Real Estate, Mayfield.

Mar 10

Knox trial on again but minus accused

Florence, Italy: A court hearing Amanda Knox’s second appeals trial on Monday accepted a request to run additional DNA tests on the presumed weapon in the murder of Meredith Kercher, but rejected most other defence requests for new testimony or evidence.

Presiding Judge Alessandro Nencini said the court agreed to test one DNA trace not previously examined because it had been deemed too small. A court-ordered review in the first appeals trial, which acquitted both Knox and her former Italian boyfriend, discredited DNA evidence on the kitchen knife linked to Kercher.

The court also agreed to the prosecution’s request to again hear testimony from a jailed Mafioso, Luciano Aviello, who has accused his brother in the murder. Aviello, a mobster who has been convicted of several crimes including defamation, is to testify on Friday.

Italy’s highest court in March ordered a new trial for Knox and her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, overturning their acquittals in Kercher’s gruesome 2007 killing. The star defendant and her former boyfriend were both absent at its opening Monday.

During opening statements, lawyers for Knox and Sollecito requested an array of new expert opinions and evidence to reach a definitive verdict, but the court rejected most of them.

Knox defence lawyer Carlo Dalla Vedova said there was a risk of an “infinite trial,” since the charge of murder has no statute of limitations. Sollecito’s lawyer, Giulia Bongiorno, asked the court to accept only “reliable evidence,” saying the intense media attention on the case had affected the three previous trials.

The appellate court in Florence is expected to re-examine forensic evidence to determine whether Knox and her ex-boyfriend helped kill the 21-year-old Kercher while the two women shared an apartment in the Umbrian university town of Perugia. The prosecution advanced the theory that Kercher died during a sex-fuelled game gone bad.

Knox, now a 26-year-old University of Washington student in Seattle, has not returned to Italy for the current trial, nor is she compelled by law to do so. The appellate court noted the absence both of Knox and Sollecito, but did not declare either in contempt.

“We refute the idea that because Amanda is not coming, that Amanda is guilty, that Amanda is using a strategy. Amanda always said she was a friend of Meredith’s. Amanda has always respected the Italian justice system,” one of Knox’s defence lawyers, Luciano Ghirga, told reporters before the trial opened.

Knox and Sollecito, now 29, were convicted and later acquitted in Kercher’s death. Knox served four years of a 26-year sentence, including three years on a slander conviction for falsely accusing a Perugia bar owner in the murder, before leaving Italy a free woman after her 2011 acquittal.

The bar owner, Diya “Patrick” Lumumba, showed up at the trial Monday, saying he did so to underline the damage he suffered from Knox’s false accusations. “I say the same thing I said six years ago. I think she is guilty, and that is why she slandered me,” Lumumba told reporters.

Knox’s conviction for slandering Lumumba has been confirmed by the high court, but it asked the Florence appeals court to examine whether to reinstate an aggravating circumstance that Knox lied to derail the investigation and protect herself from becoming a murder suspect.

In its first move, the Florence court rejected a motion by Knox’s lawyers to exclude Lumumba from the new appeals trial as a civil participant, a status that allows him to seek further damages. His lawyer says Lumumba is owed more than 103,000 euros ($149,235) in legal fees.

Knox’s protracted legal battle in Italy has made her a cause celebre in the United States and has put the Italian justice system under scrutiny. The Italian system does not include US Fifth Amendment protection against a defendant being put in double jeopardy by government prosecution.

At the same time, the trials have left the Kercher family without clear answers in the death of their daughter.

Kercher’s body was found in November 2007 in her bedroom of the house she shared with Knox in Perugia, a central Italian town popular with foreign exchange students. Her throat had been slashed.

A third man, Rudy Guede, was convicted in the slaying and is serving a 16-year term. That court found that Guede had not acted alone.

“We are still convinced of the presence of all three of the defendants at the scene of the crime,” Kercher family lawyer Francesco Maresca told reporters. “I think (Knox) is talking too much, sincerely, and this attitude of continuous playing the victim is inappropriate.”

In its stunning 2011 acquittal that overturned Knox and Sollecito’s convictions, a Perugia appeals court criticised virtually the prosecution’s entire case.

The appellate court noted that the murder weapon was never found, said that DNA tests were faulty, and that prosecutors provided no murder motive.

Yet the Court of Cassation ruling was likewise strident, criticising the appeals court ruling and saying it “openly collides with objective facts of the case”. The high court said the appellate judges had ignored some evidence, considered other evidence insufficiently and undervalued the fact that Knox had initially accused a man of committing the crime who had nothing to do with it.

Amanda Knox’s retrial for her alleged role in the murder of British student Meredith Kercher is the latest chapter in a tortuous legal process that has dragged on for six years.

While the trial will reopen old wounds for the families involved, the two main players will be absent from court.

Ms Knox, 26, has confirmed in recent interviews she will not return to Italy – not because she fears being incriminated again, she insists, but because she is innocent and also cannot afford the air fare.

Her co-accused, Raffaele Sollecito, 29, with whom she was having a relationship in the days before the murder was committed, is also unlikely to attend the start of the trial. Neither he nor Ms Knox is obliged to be in court.

Prosecutors claimed Ms Kercher, 21, from Coulsdon in Surrey, died as a result of a sex game organised by Ms Knox, Mr Sollecito and Rudy Guede, a drug dealer who was born in Ivory Coast.


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Mar 10

Tensions run as high as the stakes in Indonesia

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is greeted by Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa on his arrival in Jakarta for an official visit. Photo: Alex EllinghausenIf there were any feelings of tension between Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and Tony Abbott over boat policy, both were doing their best to hide it as they gripped hands and grinned at the Halim airforce base in Jakarta yesterday afternoon.

Mr Abbott lurched up to Mr Natalegawa for a two-handed shake, his Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also smiling behind him as she descended the steps.

The Prime Minister began his first overseas trip as Prime Minister yesterday afternoon, and the stakes could barely be higher. Mr Natalegawa has been adamant since March 2010, when Mr Abbott first announced his boat tow-back policy, that it was unacceptable, and his opposition is only growing, on the basis that it offends Indonesian sovereignty.

With that in mind, Mr Abbott’s first call on Indonesia could be interpreted as a sop to Indonesian sensitivities.

At the Heroes Cemetery in the Jakarta suburb of Kalibata, 7000 veterans of the Indonesian battle for independence from the Dutch are buried.

It’s a proud and well-kept patch of ground, with helmets placed on every grave. It’s also a well-trodden route for foreign leaders. Then Defence Minister Stephen Smith went there in April; British Prime Minister David Cameron in 2012.

Each came looking to use a symbol to deepen the relationship with Indonesia; but neither confronted the hurdles that Mr Abbott has erected between himself and goal.

As he mounted the marble steps to the Merdeka (Freedom) Palace for his meeting with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Mr Abbott’s fists were clenched.

He knows he’ll need more than a two-handed shake and a grin to get what he wants in Jakarta.

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Mar 10

Better halves: Manly pair thrive on greater role

As they set about trying to finish Manly’s season in the best possible way, the Sea Eagles’ brilliant halves have reflected on the advice they received before the start of it.

In the off-season, coach Geoff Toovey told halfback Daly Cherry-Evans and five-eighth Kieran Foran to become more involved in the team’s attack – even if it meant making more mistakes. The result has been clear: their form has been one of the key reasons they will chase their second premiership as a halves combination against Sydney Roosters on Sunday.

“The coaching staff has been a big part in us getting our hands on the ball more, which has led to us making more mistakes, but also coming up with better options,” Cherry-Evans said. “Our gameplan has been altered – not changed, but altered a little – so me and Kieran are getting our hands on the ball more, and also getting the strike players the ball more, Jamie Lyon and Steve Matai and Brett Stewart.

“I think it’s been a good move. As everyone does in the pre-season, you just try to better yourself, and better your side. That’s what the coaching staff has done this year.”

The pair is already considered the best halves combination in the competition, and according to many the best in some time, yet the scary part about the partnership is how much better 23-year-old Foran and 24-year-old Cherry-Evans could get.

“For us to stand around and think we’ve done it all would be absolutely ridiculous,” Cherry-Evans said. “That’s not the type of person me and Kieran are. We’re competitive, we’re always trying to take our game to the next level, and we’ll continue to do that for seasons ahead for as long as we’re playing next to each other.”

Said Foran: “We’re still very early on in both our careers. The more experience we get, and the more games we play together on the biggest stage, we’ll just grow and grow.

“I don’t think there’s a limit on how good you can get as a player.

“We work really hard on our combination together, we do talk a lot of footy together and discuss what we feel we can do out there each week. We put a lot of effort into it. It’d be great to be together for many years to come.”

Cherry-Evans, contracted until the end of 2015, has been linked with a move to Brisbane in recent months, but Foran is desperate for his partner to hang around for the long haul.

“I don’t want to see him go anywhere,” Foran said. “I think he’s been great for us here, and I think he’s got so much good footy left in him at the club.

“I’d love him to hang around, along with the fact that I love playing with him as well. All the other boys do too. Hopefully he hangs around. I think he knows how I feel about that. I don’t want to see him go.”

For his part, Cherry-Evans said he wouldn’t be, in the short term.

“I don’t know what more I can say for it to go away,” he said. “I’m contracted with Manly for the next two years. I have no intention of breaking that.

“I honestly smile and laugh at it, because there’s nothing I can do for it to go away.”

In many people’s eyes, Cherry-Evans has been the form halfback of the competition this year, while Foran, as tough as they come in his position, complements him. Many feel that together they will rival or even better the most successful halves combinations of recent decades.

A win on Sunday, against the Roosters’ pairing of Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney, will only strengthen their standing among the great partnerships.

“It’s still surreal, to be playing in my second grand final,” Foran said. “I’m just very fortunate to be involved in such a great footy club. You hear about blokes that go through their whole careers and don’t feature in one grand final, and don’t win one comp. I’ve been fortunate enough to win one here, and playing for a second.”

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