Council cooking up school holiday fun

Lachlan Harris, 12, of Beaconsfield, participates in the Masterchef school holiday program. Picture: supplied.THE West Tamar Council’s school holiday program is open for registrations.
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The program is open to West Tamar residents aged 10 to 16 and offers four activities throughout the two-week break: Laser tag at Zone 3 Laser, a skateboarding workshop, a trip to Village Cinema in Launceston and a Masterchef-style challenge at the Tailrace Centre.

West Tamar Council youth development officer Stewart Bell said the program attracted interest from a diverse range of young people throughout the municipality.

“We are always planning new and exciting things and often ask young people what they want to do and then try and facilitate this,” Mr Bell said.

“Activities are fully supervised and subsidised by council. The program takes pressure off parents and allows young people to hang out with their friends and have fun in a safe environment.

“The activities are always a lot of fun and provide an opportunity to do something you haven’t tried before or make some new friends.”

Mr Bell encouraged those interested to book early as spaces are limited.

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US reacting typically to Snowden’s leaks

THE story has everything except the shaken martini.
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A massive security breach, an international escape and chase, a betrayed girlfriend and plenty of political intrigue.

You can even throw in a bit of Moscow-Washington Cold War tension for the good old days.

No – it’s not the next Bond film, this is the incredible true story of American whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Mr Snowden collaborated with top global newspapers to leak classified American intelligence showing unprecedented surveillance of American and foreign citizens.

While denied by American authorities, a leaked presentation suggests the National Security Agency has accessed the servers of Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, AOL, Skype and YouTube to “datamine” information.

That would mean your data – what you say, who you’ve said it to, what you’ve seen online – is sitting on a US government computer, ready to be accessed if they should ever need to.

How comfortable are you with that prospect?

The revelations keep coming as Mr Snowden, believed to be hiding out in a Moscow airport en route to legal sanctuary, drip feeds the media with new leaks.

Mr Snowden’s justification is simple, telling The Guardian, “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things”.

The NSA counters with the security line; it stops crime and terrorism in its tracks.

NSA director Keith Alexander said the surveillance programs had helped prevent more than 50 “potential terrorist incidents” including plots on the New York stock exchange and subway.

In the US, the issue has dominated domestic politics, as representatives grapple with an age-old question; to what extent should our civil liberties be wound back in the name of national security?

Mr Snowden is a traitor to some, a whistleblower to others.

The US government has been unequivocal, laying three charges of theft and unauthorised communication of classified intelligence, each carrying a penalty of a decade’s jail, and calling for Mr Snowden’s immediate return to US soil.

A decade ago, Australian law enforcement was kinder on intelligence whistleblower and now Denison MHR Andrew Wilkie, who exposed trumped up claims on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, calling the war “not ethical, not necessary and not legal”.

Mr Wilkie resigned his job and was cut off by fellow spooks, despite two decades’ service to the infantry and intelligence community.

He believes Mr Snowden’s actions are for the best, but he should have known what to expect.

“I think Edward Snowden acted in the public interest,” Mr Wilkie said.

“But in the absence of any effective whistle-blower protection in the US Mr Snowden should have understood that he’d need to deal with the legal ramifications of his actions.”

Mr Wilkie said the US’s actions to conduct surveillance on foreigners, including Australians, should not shock, and were justified as long as “appropriate privacy protection regimes are in place”.

A proposal to retain every Australian’s telephone and internet data for up to two years, described as the most significant expansion of the Australian intelligence community’s powers since the September 11 attacks, was last week recommended against by a Parliamentary committee.

Australians might argue we get the balance between privacy and security right, but how are we able to make that choice if intelligence programs are hidden, denied and obscured?

To quote Timothy Garton Ash, “In a democracy it is for us to judge where to place the balance between security and privacy, safety and liberty”.

Traitorous or not, Mr Snowden’s actions have given Americans a better place to gauge whether they have that balance right.

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June slowly cools off as winter sets in

Jon Parsons and son Josiah, 3, of Launceston, enjoying a mild winter evening in the Brickfields. Picture: GEOFF ROBSONTHE harsh reality of winter in Tasmania may have taken longer than usual to make its presence felt this year, but once winter set in, it did so with a vengeance.
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June temperatures started off on the mild side, with Bicheno recording its warmest June day for 11 years, with 19.7 degrees on June 3.

The second half of June was notable for its run of cold days and even colder nights, with the mercury plummeting to a teeth- chattering minus 11.2 degrees overnight on June 23 at Liawenee.

Mount Wellington’s maximum of just 0.1 degrees on June 18 was the coldest maximum of the month.

Despite the run of cold days, maximum temperatures were generally up to 1 degree above average, but Smithton had a run of 10 days from June 15-24 where the minimum temperature dropped below 2 degrees, something that had never happened before.

Marrawah recorded its driest June on record.

Smithton again saw people reaching for the record books as it had 13 consecutive days, from June 13-25, when 0.2 millimetres or less was recorded each day, something that has only occurred once before in June, in 1950, when no rain fell in 13 days.

Tasmania and Antarctica Climate Services Centre climatologist Lorien Martin said that temperatures had been warmer than usual for the first six months of 2013, by between 1 and 2 degrees for maximum temperatures, and up to 1 degree for minimums.

Rainfall totals had been below average in all areas except for pockets of the central north and east coast, she said.

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World Vision’s youth ambassador shares passion to help

World Vision Youth Ambassador for Victoria and Tasmania Soreti Kadir with Riverside Primary grade 6 pupils. Picture: PAUL SCAMBLERCREATING connections was the aim for the state’s World Vision Youth Ambassador when she spoke at Riverside Primary School yesterday.
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Eighteen-year-old Soreti Kadir rallied grade 6 pupils to participate in the 40 Hour Famine by speaking of her experience travelling to Malawi last year.

The Melbourne woman focused on the stories of Malawian children Dorothy and James.

She said six-year-old James had shown her the ground he slept on and told her he wanted to sleep “where you sleep”.

“The poverty was overt,” she said.

Miss Kadir became World Vision’s youth ambassador after raising more than $300 during the 40 Hour Famine last year.

She said her passion for assisting people in developing countries came from visits to her birthplace, Ethiopia, where she witnessed the different course her life could have taken.

One Riverside Primary pupil spoke to Miss Kadir for half an hour after her speech yesterday.

“He said it was so unfair and we’re here taking our lives for granted,” she said.

“It’s not often that what you said is taken so seriously.”

Miss Kadir will speak at schools throughout the state this week.

For more information on the 40 Hour Famine visit 40hourfamine南京夜网.au.

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Wolveschildren Art Space: the revamped mechanical garage

Luke Matheson, Erin Bond MathesonWHEN Erin Bond Matheson saw an old mechanical garage in Humffray Street North, she knew it had the potential to be something great.
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With an artistic background, the Ballarat illustrator decided to take the building and turn it into a space for artists in Ballarat and beyond.

Mrs Bond Matheson and her husband started Wolveschildren Art Space, allowing artists around the community to showcase and sell their work.

The art space features rooms which can be hired out as studios, a shop which showcases and sells the work of local, national and international artists, as well as a common area to be used for miscellaneous purposes.

“My aim is to listen to what the Ballarat arts community needs and provide them with that,” Mrs Bond Matheson said.

“Some people need a studio and some need a couple of nights where they can meet with artists and inspire and motivate each other.”

Having worked as a teacher for several years, the 32-year-old said she was excited to immerse herself in her art again.

She said she hoped other artists in Ballarat would similarly feel encouraged to pursue their talents.

“I want to do this because I want art to be accessible as a career and to be a realistic choice,” she said.

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Extra rail gate delays off agenda

ADDED delays at Adamstown and Islington level crossings are off the agenda for now after the state government’s decision to abandon the planned Cobbora coalmine near Mudgee.
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The former Labor government had planned to rail-haul coal from Cobbora about 350 kilometres to the Central Coast – by going through Newcastle.

The Adamstown gates are already closed to motorists for an average of 7.2 hours a day, while the Clyde Street, Islington, gates are down for 7.7 hours.

Cobbora trains to Vales Point and Eraring power stations would have added almost an hour a day to the closures.

John Hayes, whose Correct Planning and Consultation for Mayfield Group has campaigned on the impacts of coal trains, welcomed the decision as far as it eased the impact on suburban Newcastle.

Argenton resident Milton Newall, whose house backs on to an area of track where coal trains are parked on their way to the power stations, said fewer coal trains was a good thing.

“If they’re still going to source the coal from the Hunter Valley, we’re still going to have the trains,” Mr Newall said.

The O’Farrell government has terminated coal-supply contracts for the proposed mine but still considers it a valuable coal asset and has not ruled out a future sale or lease.

Eraring sells for bargain price

SNAPPED UP: Eraring Power Station has gone for a bargain price to Origin Energy.ERARING power station has sold to Origin Energy for just $50 million in a controversial deal aimed at cleaning up the state’s tangled electricity industry.
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In the other half of yesterday’s announcement, the state government has put the planned Cobbora coalmine on hold, meaning an end, for the time being, to extra coal trains running through Newcastle to and from the Central Coast.

Eraring’s $50 million price tag has been slammed by unions as a bargain basement price for the state’s biggest baseload power station.

Electrical Trades Union state secretary Steve Butler said the government negotiated with a single buyer instead of going to tender.

But Greens MP John Kaye said the government had little choice because the former Labor administration’s “gen-trader” contracts had “ripped all of the value out of the station itself”.

Origin paid a reported $609 million for the rights to Eraring’s electricity back in 2010, meaning it has effectively paid $659 million for the 2880-megawatt station.

Treasurer Mike Baird said the O’Farrell government had “unwound the dud deal of the century . . . executed in Labor’s dying days in office”.

Mr Baird said the government would pay Origin $300 million to terminate its coal supply contract from the Cobbora mine. He said building Cobbora would have cost the state $1.5 billion.

“Overall, at a net cost of around $75 million, taxpayers will avoid liabilities of over $1.75 billion, which were part of Labor’s disastrous legacy,” Mr Baird said.

He said Cobbora contracts with two government-owned agencies, Macquarie Generation and Delta Electricity, would also be terminated, although there was no mention of termination payments. But Cobbora was “nevertheless a large coal resource” and the government would still sell or lease it.

Lake Macquarie independent MP Greg Piper said the $50 million fire sale was “the latest inevitable chapter in a sorry story of bungled privatisation”.

Even if the gen-trader contracts had taken much of the value out of baseload power stations, Eraring still made $137 million profit in the 2011-12 financial year.

“They won’t even recoup the cost of the $200 million upgrade to the station only recently completed,” Mr Piper said.

He said consumers were already reeling from big power bill increases and private interests should not have a monopoly over the power network from the point of generation to the point of sale.

Mr Baird said Eraring workers moving to Origin would do so on terms consistent with other privatisations.

He said negotiations on Delta West’s Mt Piper and Wallerawang power stations were continuing.

POLL: New police commander Jeff Loy

POPULAR CHOICE: New Northern Region commander Jeff Loy has a good reputation with frontline police. Picture: Dean OslandINCOMING commander Jeff Loy has vowed to review the region’s policing and investigate whether sharing resources between commands could improve crime-fighting.
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But Assistant Commissioner Loy promises there will be structural change only if there is a clear benefit to frontline policing, the force’s investigative and intelligence ranks and the community.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.A week after taking over as Northern Region commander, Mr Loy also told the Newcastle Herald his officers couldn’t “take their eye off the ball” following several successful years in reducing alcohol-related crime.

Well respected with a strong operational background, the 52-year-old has a good reputation with frontline police and was a popular choice to take over from Carlene York, now the head of the force’s human resources department after a successful stint in Newcastle.

Mr Loy is the son of a locomotive driver who started his primary schooling at Jesmond in 1965 when his father was based at Broadmeadow, returned for a stint in the force at Hamilton in 1983 and later at Belmont, and was a homicide detective in Newcastle for three years from 1987.

He described the appointment as the highlight of his career and said he would be careful about tinkering with what he described as a well-working region from the Hawkesbury River to the Queensland border.

“I haven’t come with a full-change agenda. What I have come with is an agenda to look at the business and do an operational review to see where we can do better for the community.

“That is, to how we conduct our first response, how we actually give a proportionate response to our active measures, what is our investigative and our intelligence capability and capacity, how can we actually make an improvement in that and how do we share resources between commands.”

Mr Loy said crime reduction would remain the “main game” and he was keen to discover the real problems within areas.

He said alcohol-related crime remained a major issue throughout the region, especially in large population areas such as Newcastle and tourism spots along the coast.

“We want people to be in party mode, we want people to work hard and then go to a place and enjoy themselves, but again, it doesn’t give an excuse to be a hooligan.”

GREG RAY: King Coal up to old tricks

There is no Newcastle without coal and any attack on the coal industry is an attack on the people of Newcastle. -NSW Resources and Energy Minister Chris Hartcher, June 29, 2013
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WHAT can anybody possibly say to such a simplistic piece of fallacious fluff?

It’s depressing. It’s silly. It’s wrong.

But it’s come from a government minister, so you know it signifies something. And when you put it in its context, it isn’t hard to suggest what might be coming next.

King Coal’s coin-operated government is rallying to its master’s voice, preparing, I propose, to quash the Land and Environment Court decision that put an obstacle in the way of a coalmine expansion at Bulga.

The King is on a roll, with the government in his pocket, and he doesn’t believe he should have to observe any limits.

King Coal’s problem is that we had a massive resources boom.

That shouldn’t be a problem but it always is, whenever it happens. Because the King gets so excited about the high price of coal that he wants to dig out as much as he can as fast as he can to get the high price while it lasts.

While he’s in his feeding frenzy, he will pay anybody anything to work in his mines. He will throw money at contractors and suppliers. He will pinch workers from every other industry to get that coal out and on a ship.

His costs go up, of course.

Then, when the boom slows down, he’s stuck on a limb, with the high costs he made for himself and an oversupplied market. He’s borrowed money to open new mines and he has to pay his debts.

That has happened in every boom since Adam was a boy and it’s happening now.

And the King always does the same thing. He blames everybody in the world for the problems he helped make for himself and he demands that everybody else pay, one way or another, to get him out of his mess.

Suddenly, his workers are pesky nuisances for demanding the pay that he was throwing at them until a few months ago.

And any coal resource that offers low-cost extraction becomes a gem in his sight because if his price per tonne has fallen, he needs to get his costs per tonne down too.

He will want to mine precious alluvial flats because they are the easiest thing in the world to dig up and the fact that the valuable rivers and soils might be ruined forever is not his problem. That problem belongs to other people in the future, when King Coal has shot his bolt, done his dash and left the district.

If we had a decent government, it would sit down with King Coal and work out some ways to help him through his crisis.

I don’t have a problem with the mining industry asking for help from governments, just as any other industry or lobby group can ask.

But just lying back and telling the King to take what he wants is the wrong way to help.

Because some things are more important than coal. Coal is not rare. It can found in zillions of places.

Clean water and good soil are much rarer, and that’s going to become more noticeable as time passes.

The King says the only things that matter are profits and jobs. But that isn’t strictly true.

I could make profits and generate jobs if I could talk the government into giving me a state licence to bulldoze people’s houses, sell the contents and recycle the building materials. And if I paid a fat percentage of my take to the government as a “royalty”, it would probably bend every law in the book to keep me in business.

When I ran out of houses to bulldoze in one town, I could point to my idle dozer drivers and demand permission to flatten another town and claim that any opponents were threatening jobs. Far-fetched, but still . . .

Let’s support King Coal in his laudable efforts to keep Hunter people employed.

But we are idiots if we don’t draw some lines that he can’t cross.

EDITORIAL: A string of bad deals

SELLING Eraring Energy and dumping plans to develop a new state-owned coalmine near Dunedoo makes good economic sense for the NSW Coalition government.
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The government is facing reduced revenue, but has plenty of spending commitments and is as keen as ever to hold onto its treasured AAA credit rating.

In an interlocked deal, the government has paid a net $75 million in contract penalties to avoid $1.75 billion in other liabilities.

That’s fair enough, but it’s worth keeping in mind that this costly debacle stemmed from a string of short-term decisions, made on the basis of immediate economic concerns, by previous governments.

The saga started in 2002 when the Labor government sold the state-owned coalmining arm, PowerCoal, to Centennial Coal for about $330 million. That probably seemed economically sensible at the time, but when the price of coal skyrocketed a few years later, the deal looked like a dud.

Those coalmines used to feed the state’s publicly owned power stations, and the fact that they didn’t have to make a profit, helped keep power prices low.

Once the mines were sold, the public power stations soon started to find themselves at the mercy of the market. After all, why should a private mine owner sell coal cheaply to an Australian power station when foreign buyers will pay a much higher price?

The government probably thought that, once it privatised the power stations, the prices of coal and electricity would no longer be its problem. But hitches in the privatisation program complicated the picture and the government decided to get back into the coalmining business by developing a new open-cut at Cobbora, near Dunedoo.

Cobbora was to supply at-cost coal to the power stations, and contracts were signed accordingly.

Since then, the price of coal has fallen again, which may be a factor in the Coalition’s decision to dump the mine. Dumping the mine means it has to pay contract penalties to Origin Energy, and that may help explain the apparently bargain-basement price Origin is paying to buy Eraring Energy.

Perhaps the most sobering aspect of the entire sequence of events, beginning with the sale of PowerCoal and ending with the sale of Eraring, is that assets of tremendous value have passed from public hands into private.

And not only has the public seemingly gained little from these transactions, it has actually had to pay – at best – $75 million to avoid a much bigger loss.

It seems like a terrible waste.