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Comments Off on WorleyParsons shares surge as Dubai-based Dar Group snags stake

WorleyParsons shares surge as Dubai-based Dar Group snags stake

WorleyParsons shares surge as Dubai-based Dar Group snags stake

Worleyparsons said it had received a “confidential, highly conditional” proposal for all its shares in November. Photo: James AlcockShares in WorleyParsons surged to a two-year high after a Dubai-based consulting group emerged with a 13.35 per cent holding and confirmed it had made an indicative bid for the engineering contractor last year but was knocked back.
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WorleyParsons confirmed on Tuesday it had received a “confidential, highly conditional indicative proposal” on November 14 from Dar Al-Handasah Consultants Shair and Partners (Dar Group) to buy all its shares for $11.80 each.

But after reviewing the proposed scheme of arrangement with its advisors, the board came to the view that it materially undervalued the company and wasn’t in the best interests of shareholders.

“The proposal was highly conditional in relation to financing, due diligence, process, regulatory and other conditions, which created significant execution risk and uncertainty for the company,” WorleyParsons said in a statement.

“The board’s view on value took into account the quality and global platform of the WorleyParsons business, the current low point in oil industry activity, the historical trajectory of previous cyclical recoveries, the cost reduction program that had not yet been fully reflected in earnings and the low operating risk profile of thr WorleyParsons business.”

Dar Group, a privately owned global network of architecture and engineering firms, said its exposure to WorleyParsons comprised of physical shares of 8.61 per cent and a cash-settled equity swap exposure of 4.74 per cent.

WorleyParsons’ shares closed 31.97 per cent higher at $10.65 on Tuesday.

It had bought the stake with a “long-term strategic perspective” and looked forward to being a “supportive shareholder”.

There had been no further discussions between Dar Group and WorleyParsons since the latter rebuffed its proposal in November and Dar Group had “no present intention of initiating discussions with WorleyParsons [over] a change of control transaction”. ​

The company last week posted a $2.4 million interim net loss – its first ever – due to declining sales, restructuring charges and late-paying government clients, sending its shares on their biggest decline in nine months.

Revenue fell to $2.7 billion from $4.2 billion, a result chief executive Andrew Wood said was “in line with market conditions and comparable with our peers in our market sectors”. It said the full impact of cost reductions and improving market conditions were not reflected in current earnings.

‘s mining contractors have been hit by a downturn in the prices of iron ore and other major commodities which has seen major resources firms curb spending.

with Reuters

Comments Off on State starts consultation on Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan

State starts consultation on Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan

State starts consultation on Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan

A VISITING British planning expert and the state’s chief planner have both described Newcastle as a place on the verge of great things at a planning workshop at Fort Scratchley on Tuesday.
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London-based Professor Greg Clark and NSW chief planner Gary White spoke at length about the opportunities and challenges facing Newcastle and the broader Hunter Region at the workshop, hosted by Department of Planning and Environment deputy secretary Brendan Nelson and attended by about 80 people.

On his first visitto Newcastle, Professor Clark said he was surprised by what he’d seen, compared withwhat he’d heard beforehand.

“I thought I was coming to see a city in decline, full of challenges, but when you look at all of the things that are happening right now, it’s already full of opportunities,” Professor Clark said.

Brendan Nelson, NSW Planning and Environment

Mr White, who took the top planning job in NSW after a long career in local government in Queensland, said Newcastle was in effect the opposite of Canberra. Whereas Canberra had been “planned to death, Newcastle had no metropolitan plan”.

Both men talked about a need to develop long-term plans that could be broken down into phases, and which took notice of change as it happened.

Mr White said planners had done quite well until about 10 years ago in managing cycles of change, but the big “structural disruptions” caused by digital technology were creating “change on a scale we have never seen before”.

IMPRESSED: British planning expert Greg Clark and NSW chief planner Gary White extolling Newcastle’s virtues at a workshop on the Greater Newcastle Metropolitan Plan at Fort Scratchley on Tuesday.

Both men said the old method of planning, where industry, residential, health, education and retail were each concentrated in their own zones was no longer working.

There were limits to what planning could achieve but a Greater Newcastle Metropolitan plan –together with a single regional voice to backit – was a necessary first step in promoting the region to governments and employers, as well as potential residents and visitors.

The workshop heardProfessor Clark would return to Newcastle later in the year as work on the metropolitan plan continued.

Asked about better rail links to Sydney, he said there was a risk they might initially suck jobs out of Newcastlebut the benefits would eventually work in both directions.

Light rail and theCBD university campus meantNewcastle was already on the path to renewal.

Comments Off on Commonwealth bout big chance for Rocky

Commonwealth bout big chance for Rocky

Commonwealth bout big chance for Rocky

WAIT OVER: Rocky Jerkic at Steel City Boxing in Hamilton North. Picture: Michael Parris n champion Rocky Jerkic will end a long and frustrating wait when he fights for the vacant Commonwealth super-welterweight title in Melbourne on Friday night.
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The Newcastle-trained boxer from Brisbane will have the chance to “open doors” to bigger fights if he overcomes unbeaten Victorian Anthony Buttigieg at The Melbourne Pavilion.

The 28-year-old mandatory challenger won a purse bid last year to host a Commonwealth title bout againstLiam Williams, but the Welshman relinquished his belt instead of travelling to .

Jerkic has a 15-0 record, including 12 knockouts, and scored a celebrated comeback win over Shannon King to win the national title in late 2015.

He has struggled to find willing opponents in since then, but trainer Rob Fogarty said a win on Friday would help establish him in the international arena.

“I don’t think Williams wanted to take the risk on an undefeated kid,” the Steel City Boxing trainer said on Tuesday before flying to Melbourne with his charge.

“No one else in wants to fight him.

“We’ve put the challenge out to Mundine, everyone, and they’ve all knocked it back.

“At least Buttigieg, you’ve got to give him props for stepping up.

“I know for a fact he’s primed, ready to go.

“This is the first guy in well over 12 months who has even put his hand up to fight Rocky.”

Fogarty said he had watched Jarrett Hurd score a ninth-round technical knockout of fellow American Tony Harrison to win the IBF super-welterweight world title last weekend at the Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Alabama, and said Jerkic was “definitely on a par” with both fighters.

He said Jerkic would challenge Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation champion Yutaka Oishi if he beat Buttigieg.

“Without a doubt this is the biggest fight of Rocky’s career. This will open some doors for him,” he said.

“Within 30 days we’ll know if we fight the guy in Japan or we can bring it back here.

“After that, that should put him in the top 15 in the world in the WBC.”

Buttigieg, at 171cm, is giving away 12cm in height to Jerkicbut has won all 12 of his fights, three by knockout.

He has won four of those fights by split decision, but Fogarty said Buttigieg had taken two months off work to prepare for the 12-round fight.

“He’s short, nuggety, got a walk-up style. Good defensively,” Fogarty said. “I’ve watched plenty of tape on this kid. He is strong.”

Comments Off on Eric Abetz objects to rainbow flag being displayed in government buildings

Eric Abetz objects to rainbow flag being displayed in government buildings

Eric Abetz objects to rainbow flag being displayed in government buildings

Enemy combatants: Liberal Eric Abetz Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Labor MPs show off a rainbow flag. Photo: Andrew Meares
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The rainbow flag has become a symbol for the marriage equality movement.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore with a rainbow flag outside Sydney Town Hall. Photo: Anna Kucera

A rainbow flag atop Victorian Parliament House last year. Photo: Penny Stephens

The Brandenburg Gate in Germany is seen with a rainbow flag projected onto it during a vigil for victims of the Orlando, Florida nightclub shooting. Photo: Adam Berry

For some it’s the symbol of gay and lesbian progress and the fight for equality, but for Liberal culture warrior Eric Abetz it’s the flag of a hostile nation that has declared war on .

Bureaucrats from the Department of Finance were baffled when the former minister used Senate estimates hearings on Tuesday to ask what protocols exist for the flying of flags inside government buildings.

He said a staff member of the department had reported that a rainbow flag, associated with the LGBTIQ community and the fight for same-sex marriage, had been displayed in the Finance foyer.

Senator Abetz told department officials and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann the flag’s presence and political nature might upset some staff members. He proposed a group opposed to same-sex marriage should have similar rights.

“To cut to the chase, there was the rainbow flag on display in the lobby which, believe it or not, some people see as an activist flag for a particular cause in relation to an issue of whether or not we should change the legislation on marriage and some people of course support that cause, others don’t.

“If that is allowed, then one imagines that the Marriage Alliance banner should be flown equally,” he said.

“If you allow one side of the debate, then you need to allow the other side and that is why I sought to determine upfront who is responsible for making these determinations.”

A prominent opponent of same-sex marriage, Senator Abetz said the flag represented a hostile nation that had declared war on .

“This particular flag, you will realise, is the flag of the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands, that declared war on and you Senator Cormann would understand they did the same as Prince Leonard of Hutt River Province and now this is their official flag,” Senator Abetz said.

“Of course, it is the flag of a hostile nation if we are to believe them, having declared war on . I dare say that wasn’t the reason it was flown…”

In 2004, activists said n policies for gay and lesbian citizens had caused them to plant a flag in the Coral Sea Islands of the Great Barrier Reef, naming their own nation and declaring war on .

To date, the conflict has been limited to YouTube videos from n citizen Dale Parker Anderson, who has declared himself Emperor of the tiny nation.

Senator Abetz later asked why the Israeli flag hadn’t been flown during last week’s visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Officials said the issue would be raised at a future meeting of the department’s executive board.

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Comments Off on ‘I’m too outspoken’: George Christensen resigns as Nationals whip

‘I’m too outspoken’: George Christensen resigns as Nationals whip

‘I’m too outspoken’: George Christensen resigns as Nationals whip

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Nationals MP George Christensen. Photo: Alex EllinghausenNationals firebrand George Christensen will resign from the job of parliamentary whip, saying his “constant outspokenness” meant the position was untenable.
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But the frequent and vocal critic of the Turnbull government, said the move was not a sign he could quit the Coalition. It will also mean his pay is cut from $225,000 a year to $199,000 a year, a $26,000 salary cut.

His resignation as whip comes as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull warned his colleagues that “disunity is death”, telling them it was their duty to stick together after last week’s outburst by predecessor Tony Abbott sparked a wave of discontent and introspection.

“We have a duty to  and to our constituents to stick together, to be united,” he told a meeting of Liberal and National MPs.

“We can be proud of what we’ve done. We’ve done a lot in this Parliament and we need to keep building on that.”

The whip is meant to help enforce parliamentary discipline during votes in the House of Representatives, record votes and help determine who speaks and when during debates.

However, Mr Christensen has spoken out on a range of policy issues, including repeatedly threatening to cross the floor and back Labor’s proposal for a royal commission into the banking sector.

He has also threatened to resign from the LNP because of his unhappiness with the government’s policy agenda, in particular its failure to resolve a dispute with sugar growers in his north Queensland electorate of Dawson.

The increasingly prominent MP said he had “resigned as chief whip of the Nationals effective 5pm Thursday”.

“I realised my constant outspokenness was incompatible with the position in the long term. It was my decision alone and I wasn’t pushed. [Deputy Prime Minister] Barnaby [Joyce] was going to back me in either way,” he said.

“It doesn’t signal anything else.”

Mr Christensen’s claim that he is not poised to quit government ranks is unlikely to do much to calm the government’s nerves.

As recently as Monday evening, he told Sky News it was “possible” he could one day join One Nation.

“That’s a hypothetical, that, you know, possible, possible but, you know, I’m in the National Party and . . . I’m in the National Party today and I will be in the National Party tomorrow. I mean, you know, anything is possible.”

On other occasions, however, he has dismissed suggestions he could defect from the Liberal National Party and join Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, citing personal loyalty to Mr Joyce.

A Nationals source confirmed Mr Christensen had sat down with Mr Joyce and the pair had jointly agreed he could not continue as whip while regularly criticising his own side of politics.

“I was not pushed by anyone,” Mr Christensen said.

“However I did feel some of my colleagues may have been aggrieved that the enforcer of discipline was being somewhat ill-disciplined himself.”

Mr Joyce subsequently told Sky News that “if he was going to jump [to One Nation], he would come and say [it] to me” and the resignation was not the first step towards Mr Christensen quitting the LNP.

“I’ll ask myself the question you should ask me. Has George said to you you he might go to One nation? Have you asked if he is loyal to the Nationals party and wants to stick around with his mates in the National Party? Yes he has and yes he does want to stick around. That is really all, that’s where it resides.”

Nationals MP Damian Drum, a former minister in the Victorian state government, is tipped to be Mr Christensen’s replacement.

Earlier this month, the Liberal Party was rocked by the resignation of Senator Cory Bernardi, who moved to the crossbench and announced he planned to establish a new “n Conservatives” party.

A ReachTEL poll commissioned by the progressive Institute and released earlier this week found that the One Nation primary vote had risen to 30 per cent – equal to that of the LNP – in Dawson.

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Comments Off on Cambodia cancels Chinan exercise in growing rejection of Western help

Cambodia cancels Chinan exercise in growing rejection of Western help

Cambodia cancels Chinan exercise in growing rejection of Western help

Bangkok: Cambodia has cancelled an important counter-terrorism exercise with  as the country’s strongman Hun Sen warns he may use military force during upcoming elections.
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Mr Hun Sen has also ramped up criticism of Western nations after in January cancelling annual military exercises with the United States.

“All foreigners should understand that the Khmer [Cambodian] story should be sorted by Khmer,” he said, adding what while Cambodia needs foreign aid and business investment “I have never interfered in your international affairs.”

The Prime Minister’s comments were aimed at Western countries, particularly the US, which he accused of being hypocritical for its bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War.

“When you bombed on my country and you killed people, did you ever think about human rights?”

Mr Hun Sen said some have claimed he would not recognise the outcome of elections in which opposition parties are expected to poll strongly because of concerns about corruption, land grabs and lack of employment opportunities for the young.

“They predicted that in 2018 they could win, and if we don’t hand over power to them they will crush us,” he said.

“How can this happen if the troops are in my hands?”

Over three decades in power Mr Hun Sen, a former commander of the murderous Khmer Rouge, has often used force to crush his political opponents. He staged a coup in 1997 to oust his co-prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh in which dozens of people were killed.

Last weekend a senior government official declared that US President Donald Trump’s attacks on the media were an inspiration to his country to observe limits on freedom of expression. He signalled a move against two radio outlets funded by the US government.

Mr Hun Sen has been presiding over a crackdown aimed at key opposition figures and parties in what critics say is a blow to hopes the country can move towards democratic rule.

The government passed legislation effectively banning anyone convicted of an offence from running for office, a move aimed at the main opposition party whose leaders have been systematically targeted in criminal prosecutions, mostly in defamation cases for comments on Facebook.

Sun Samnang, an official in Cambodia’s Ministry of Defence, told the ABC commune elections in June, national elections scheduled for 2018 and budget restraints caused the Dawn Kouprey exercises with to be cancelled.

Only two months ago Cambodia held if first major military exercise with China, which has become one of the country’s biggest aid donors.

will send $90 a million in aid to Cambodia this year, in addition to the $55 million it paid for the country to accept a handful of refugees from Nauru. That agreement has been widely criticised by the UN refugee agency, human rights and refugee groups.

Cambodian soldiers are expected to take part in a separate counter-terrorism event in  in 2018.

Comments Off on Giuseppe Serafino didn’t know drugs were ‘such a big crime’ in Bali, court hears

Giuseppe Serafino didn’t know drugs were ‘such a big crime’ in Bali, court hears

Giuseppe Serafino didn’t know drugs were ‘such a big crime’ in Bali, court hears

Guiseppe “Joe” Serafino in Denpasar District Court. Photo: Amilia Rosa David Fox in Denpasar District Court. Photo: Amilia Rosa
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Police with n Giuseppe Serafino (in orange prison clothes, right) and Briton David Fox, who have been arrested for allegedly possessing hashish in Bali. Photo: Amilia Rosa

Guiseppe “Joe” Serafino?in Denpasar District Court. Photo: Amilia Rosa

Briton David Fox (left) and n Giuseppe Serafino were arrested in Bali for allegedly possessing hashish. Photo: Supplied

Guiseppe “Joe” Serafino with his lawyer Desi Widyantari at Denpasar District Court on Thursday. Photo: Amilia Rosa

An n man arrested in Bali for allegedly possessing hashish said he didn’t know it was a “such a big crime” to use the drug in Indonesia.

Giuseppe “Joe” Serafino, 48, and former Reuters correspondent David Fox were arrested in Sanur last October for allegedly possessing 7.32 grams and 9.83 grams of hashish respectively.

Mr Serafino, who had been living in Bali for the last five years, said he felt pain, was agitated and couldn’t sleep if he didn’t use hashish, which he mixed with tobacco and smoked like a cigarette.

“I understand now that it is illegal,” Mr Serafino told the Denpasar District Court. “But in it was ok. I didn’t seek a recommendation from a doctor because I don’t speak Indonesian and didn’t know the system. I promise not to use it again.”

He said he bought the hashish for three million rupiah ($AUD300) from a man at McDonalds at Sanur. “He was wearing a helmet, so I didn’t see his face.”

Mr Serafino faces a charge of possessing category one narcotics, which carries a maximum penalty of 12 years’ jail, or the lesser charge of possessing narcotics for personal use, which carries a maximum sentence of four years’ jail.

He testified that he bought hashish every three to six weeks.

He told the court he only used it himself and never gave it to anyone else. “I bought quite a lot for stock. Each time I bought it was enough for two to three weeks use. I used depending on the pain I suffered. If I used I felt relaxed, I could sleep.”

Kerobokan prison doctor Agung Hartawan said in a medical statement that Mr Serafino first started using hashish in 2007 when he was diagnosed with mouth cancer.

“He was searching for ways to lessen the pain, increase his appetite and improve his sleep from the internet,” Dr Agung said.

“Because the medication he took caused him stress, he was not able to sleep, was in a bad mood and lost his appetite.”

Dr Agung said Mr Serafino sourced “ganja” (marijuana) and hashish from his friends.

“His doctor (in ) was aware of the ganja use, his doctor said to use a small amount as necessary.”

He said Mr Serafino also had back surgery in 2009 which caused him further pain.

Mr Serafino continued to use marijuana after he moved to Bali in 2011.

A friend recommended by seek rehabilitation with Indonesia’s National Narcotics Agency BNN.

“But because he was busy, before he was able to consult BNN in Bali he was arrested by police,” Dr Agung said.

Police arrested Mr Serafino in his Sanur home on October 8 last year. The asked him if he had shabu shabu, the Indonesian slang term for methamphetamine, but he told them he only had hashish.

He said Mr Serafino had continued to use marijuana when he was first incarcerated in Kerobokan jail but after counselling had stopped and now used the medication Tramadol for his back pain.

“His girlfriend, friends and lawyer often visit him in prison,” Dr Agung said.

He recommended Mr Serafino have psychotherapy and rehabilitation.

“It would be best if he received comprehensive treatment – something we don’t have in prison,” Dr Agung told the court. “It would be best if he could get treatment elsewhere, like in a rehab centre.”

The court was adjourned until next week, when prosecutors will make a sentencing request.

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Comments Off on MWC 2017: Hands on with LG’s bright, slim G6

MWC 2017: Hands on with LG’s bright, slim G6

MWC 2017: Hands on with LG’s bright, slim G6

What a difference a year makes. Last year, LG stole Sunday — the day of glitzy launches — at Mobile World Congress showing off their new, modular G5. But by Monday afternoon, sentiment had shifted. Once the press had a chance to play with the devices, snapping the modules on and off, reality set in. Who would really do this? Why was the camera module basically just an expensive grip? What were they thinking?
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While launching the G6 this week, Juno Cho, President of LG Mobile Entertainment had one simple sentence on the disappointing modular LG G5; “we’re still proud of that effort”. Heartbreaking. Still, we’re always told to “fail fast” in tech, so good on LG for realising its mistakes and moving on so quickly.

The G6 is a gorgeous unit, and one hell of a course correction. It’s sporting the new, tougher Gorilla Glass 5, front and back, with the back panel curved to feel a little more snug in the hand. And the front panel is nearly all screen, so despite it being a 5.7-inch display, it’s comfortable in my Trump-esque hands.

LG call the front panel a FullVision display. It has a unique 18:9 screen aspect ratio, which keeps the phone quite narrow, again helping with reach. In many respects this little mobile screen is better than my TV, supporting 2K images in Dolby Vision and HDR 10.

LG’s skin of Android is a colourful mix of pastels, showing off the new display in subtle ways. It’s a definite improvement over its previous interpretations of Android.

There’s a chamfered edge around the front panel, which gives the phone a high end look and feel, with just a tiny bit of sharpness to the grip. It’s an odd contrast to the rounded edges of the rest of the unit. Everything else is curved, right down to the rounded edges of the display.

The new flagship comes with IP68 water and dust resistance, matching the features of other flagships on the market. Having never dropped my phone in the toilet, I never thought I’d care about water resistance. But it’s allowed me to take snaps of my kid’s first trip to the beach, so now I consider it a “must have”.

The G6 sports a dual lens camera, but unlike Huawei’s P10 or the iPhone 7 Plus, the lens are independent, giving you the option of standard or wide screen shots. You won’t get any of the “fauxkeh”, or fake bokeh of those devices here.

And the G6 is the first phone after Google’s own Pixel to have the new Google assistant built in. I look forward to more handsets being blessed with Google’s assistant in the future.

There’s no word on local pricing, but history tells us to expect the LG G6 to be priced somewhere in between the mid range phones from Motorola et al, while undercutting the flagships from Apple and Samsung. If that’s the case, the LG G6 will be a fantastic deal, as it’s easily one of the best phones on display here in Barcelona.

With Blackberry and Nokia grabbing the headlines, Mobile World Congress in 2017 is fast becoming the year of the comeback. But while those brands have a more dramatic comeback story to tell, LG has the most compelling product. When the hype dies down and we all go home, the G6 is the phone I’m most interested in spending more time with.

The author travelled to MWC in Barcelona as a guest of Huawei.

Comments Off on Extent of Sydney’s Bankstown Line closure revealed in government report

Extent of Sydney’s Bankstown Line closure revealed in government report

Extent of Sydney’s Bankstown Line closure revealed in government report

The Bankstown Line will be converted to carry single-deck, driverless metro trains. Photo: Simon AleknaCommuters face the closure of Sydney’s Bankstown Line for up to two months each year for five years from 2019 and more than the usual number of shut downs at weekends to allow for construction of a new multibillion-dollar metro train line.
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Those closures are in addition to the shut down of the rail line for three to six months towards the end of the construction phase of the project in late 2023.

The extent of the disruptions to tens of thousands of commuters who travel on the 13.5-kilometre stretch of track is detailed in an infrastructure report on the Sydenham-to-Bankstown component of the $20 billion Sydney metro rail line.

The report said track possessions – when trains would not be running – would occur during each of the December-January school holidays between 2019 and 2024, as well as the two-week holidays in July of each year during the period.

As well as more weekend possessions than the typical four a year, multiple tracks through Sydenham Station – a major junction on the rail network – would be impacted during night times and “in some instances continuously for some days at a time”.

The report said the track possessions at Sydenham Station would affect trains on the East Hills, Bankstown and Illawarra lines.

Buses are the most likely option for transporting commuters when the line is closed for construction.

The report said track possessions would need to extend beyond Sydenham and Bankstown stations to “facilitate alternative train and bus operational requirements”.

The Sydenham to Bankstown Corridor Alliance, which is opposed to the conversion of the line, said the lives of commuters would be severely disrupted.

“We have a perfectly good rail line already,” spokesman Peter Olive said.

“All the potential benefits of the metro can be delivered by retaining and improving the existing service and Sydney Trains’ network.”

But Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the government had chosen track possessions during the school holidays to limit disruption to commuters.

“At the end of the day there is going to be pain associated with putting that metro train in. We have been honest and upfront with that,” he said on Monday.

He urged people concerned about the line’s conversion to “look at the bigger picture in terms of the delivery of a metro train”.

“They’re in a corridor of Sydney where there’s going to be 30,000 new apartment dwellings. People won’t be able to get onto trains unless we invest like we are with a new metro service,” he said.

Mr Constance said he had a “clear-cut expectation” that the management team overseeing the project reduce the final possession period from six months to three.

More information on the timing and duration of rail track possessions will be outlined in an environmental impact statement to be released in the middle of this year.

A Transport for NSW spokesman said major works on stations and bridges, as well as earthworks, would be undertaken during the track possession periods.

“We are looking to use quieter travel times, such as nights, weekends and school holidays to impact the least amount of customers,” he said.

The first single-deck trains are due to begin running on the converted Bankstown line in 2024, which will form part of stage two of the metro railway that continues on from Sydenham to the central business district and Chatswood.

An existing 13km line between Epping and Chatswood in Sydney’s north will also be closed for seven months from late next year to allow for completion of the first stage of the metro rail project.

The first section of the new line from Rouse Hill in the northwest to Chatswood is scheduled to be opened in 2019, the same year as the next state election.

Comments Off on Former Brothers for Life figures found guilty of Joe Antoun’s murder

Former Brothers for Life figures found guilty of Joe Antoun’s murder

Former Brothers for Life figures found guilty of Joe Antoun’s murder

A CCTV camera captured Joe Antoun’s shooter outside his home. Photo: NSW Police CCTV footage shows Brothers For Life leader Farhad Qaumi (left) and Pasquale Barbaro at Star City casino in 2014. Photo: Supplied
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Widow of murdered man Joseph Antoun, Tegan Mullins, leaves the Downing Centre on Tuesday. Photo: Ben Rushton

Nemer Antoun outside court after his brother’s killers were found guilty on Tuesday. Photo: Ben Rushton

Two former Brothers for Life figures have been found guilty of murdering standover man Joe Antoun at his Sydney home.

Mr Antoun was shot four times through the screen door of his Strathfield home on December 16, 2013, in front of his wife, Tegan, and with his children inside.

A CCTV camera outside his home captured a man in a hooded jumper running up his driveway, waiting at the door and fleeing after firing a succession of shots.

It was alleged former Brothers for Life gang Blacktown chapter leader Farhad Qaumi and his brother Mumtaz Qaumi had accepted a contract to kill Mr Antoun in exchange for money related to the purchase of a kebab shop.

Construction boss Elias “Les” Elias was behind the purchase of that business for $190,000, which was well-above an advertised asking price of $25,000 on Gumtree.

There had been long-standing animosity between Elias, who is now in the Philippines, and Mr Antoun over a soured business deal.

The Crown’s star witness was a person referred to as “witness L”, who fired the fatal shots at Mr Antoun.

He claimed in his evidence he was engaged by BFL chapter boss Farhad, a man who put “fear in the members’ hearts”, to carry out the shooting.

Under instructions to say he was “Adam from TNT”, witness L knocked on Mr Antoun’s door, claimed to have had a “package for Joe” before shooting him four times.

Witness L has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced for murder.

After pleading not guilty, Mumtaz and Farhad faced a judge-alone trial in the NSW Supreme Court last year.

In delivering a lengthy judgment on Tuesday morning, Justice Peter Hamill found both men guilty of murder.

In a bizarre move, both men refused to come up from the cells to sit in court for the judgment, claiming through their legal teams they would “physically resist” attempts to bring them into court.

Justice Hamill said he did not intend to put the physical safety of the accused or corrective services in jeopardy but conceded it was an “unusual situation”.

Justice Hamill carefully detailed the numerous conflicts Mr Antoun had with some notorious figures in Sydney’s underworld and construction industry, including Jim Byrnes and Pasquale Barbaro.

The court heard that Mr Barbaro, who was shot dead last November, hated Mr Antoun and the pair had been in a dispute.

Justice Hamill accepted that Mr Barbaro, who grew close to the Qaumis towards the end of 2013, had a motive to kill Mr Antoun.

“The evidence does not allow a clear finding as to whether Pasquale Barbaro or others may have stood behind Elias in this enterprise but I suspect that he did,” Mr Hamill said.

It was not necessary for the Crown to say who stood behind the killing, he added.

However he rejected the submission that Mr Barbaro, through a rollover associate of the Brothers for Life gang – identified as witness M – organised the killing.

Witness M had a friendship with Mr Barbaro that pre-dated a relationship with the Qaumis. Witness M had also been linked to the Hamzy family, of whom Mohammed – also known as “LC” – was the leader of the BFL’s Bankstown chapter.

Witness M gave evidence over seven days during the trial, claiming that Farhad said that Elias offered money to kill Mr Antoun.

Colourful business figure “Big Jim” Byrnes also had a toxic relationship with Mr Antoun, the court heard, but called up Burwood police after learning of his murder to deny any involvement.

Mr Antoun was also a close friend and business associate of construction industry figure George Alex.

The Qaumis will face a sentence hearing in April.

Comments Off on ‘You can’t use corn syrup and call it honey’: The war over ‘fake milk’

‘You can’t use corn syrup and call it honey’: The war over ‘fake milk’

‘You can’t use corn syrup and call it honey’: The war over ‘fake milk’

Dairy Connect says the use of the word ‘milk’ on non-dairy products could confuse consumers. Photo: Nicolas Walker Which milk? A nuts question. Photo: Roxiller
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‘s dairy farmers are calling for a “truth in labelling crackdown” on the way the word “milk” is used by makers of plant-based milk products.

Dairy Connect, a lobby group for NSW dairy farmers, says “milk” is defined by Food Standards as the mammary secretion of milking animals, and the use of the term on products such as soy and almond milks was confusing consumers.

“We’re not trying to constrict a product, it’s about appropriate labelling so that whether it’s milked from a mammal or a product from a plant, people can make an informed decision,” says its chief executive Shaughn Morgan.

“There are other titles they can use, and in some instances, they can call it water, juice, or another name.”

In the US, a bipartisan group of 32 congressmen has sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration, urging it to investigate and take action against makers of “fake milk” that doesn’t come from cows.

They believe the use of the word “milk” on soy, almond, and other types of plant-based products is misleading, deceptive and harmful to the dairy industry.

In , dairy farmers recently raised the issue at a Senate inquiry hearing into the dairy industry.

Dairy milk sales have grown by 13 per cent in volume over the past five years. To compare, plant-based milk sales have increased by about 30 per cent in the same time.

Non-dairy milks now occupy 9.4 per cent of the market by value and 6.1 per cent by volume – reflecting the high price points.

Dairy says plant-based milks had some impact on dairy milk sales, but these alternatives also competed with each other.

“In recent years almond and coconut products have made gains at the expense of soy and rice-based beverages,” says its senior analyst John Droppert.

“Furthermore, it’s probably fair to say many consumers of plant-based beverages are unlikely to consume dairy products for philosophical or other reasons.”

Pureharvest, which makes non-dairy milks, says the dictionary definition of “milk” referred to the juice of nuts and coconuts.

“[Using ‘water’ and ‘juice’] would be misleading. The term milk with the appropriate descriptor is the correct and proper way to inform consumers what the product is,” it says.

“Why this fear from the dairy industry about words and terms that have been in use and understood by consumers for a long time?” it says.

Mitch Humphries, president of the n Buffalo Industry Council, says it was considering how it will support Dairy Connect because it was also frustrated by the misuse of the word.

“You can’t use corn syrup and call it honey and you don’t expect margarine to be branded as butter – there would be an uproar if that started happening,” he says.

“Concerns about milk substitutes hijacking milk’s respected name seem to be gaining increasing discussion.”

Lauren Brisbane, a camel breeder and milk supplier, says the use of the term on non-dairy products was “pretty offensive and very misleading” and she supported Dairy Connect’s move.

Mr Morgan says another issue was that non-dairy milks lacked the nutritional and health benefits provided by fresh dairy milk.

Nutritionist Susie Burrell says the biggest issues with drinks such as almond and rice milks was they were naturally low in protein and calcium, so shoppers should choose ones with added calcium and steer clear of added sugars.

“Oat milk also contains the added benefit of dietary fibre, which may help to lower blood cholesterol levels,” she says.

“Soy has one of the highest sources of plant protein … is also lower in saturated fat than dairy milk, and in general there is regular, reduced fat and low fat soy milk available to suit your preference.”

The Food Standards Code says: “The context within which foods such as soy milk or soy ice cream are sold is indicated by use of the name soy; indicating that the product is not a dairy product to which a dairy standard applies.”

John McQueen, n Dairy Farmers’ interim chief executive, says the status quo was appropriate, and calling for a specific ban was a “waste of breath”.

Industry group Soy did not respond to Fairfax Media’s request for comment before deadline. Latest consumer affairs newsSavvy Consumer – Interact with us on Facebook

Comments Off on ‘You could do Year 12 English without reading a book’

‘You could do Year 12 English without reading a book’

‘You could do Year 12 English without reading a book’

Students will now study fewer texts for HSC English Photo: Marina NeilA former chief HSC English examiner has described the overhaul of the HSC as an “unprecedented watering down” of the English syllabuses and warned students could finish Year 12 “without reading a book”.
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Jackie Manuel, a Sydney University academic who has also been involved in reforms to the state’s English syllabuses for kindergarten to Year 10, said she was dismayed that it would no longer be mandatory for year 12 students to read a novel or study a poem.

Dr Manuel, who was chief HSC English examiner from 2007 to 2011, described the sweeping changes to the syllabus as “vandalism of the subject”.

“This is sending a strong message to students and the community that fiction and poetry, two of the most sophisticated forms of human expression in language, do not matter,” Dr Manuel said.

“We will have a situation where if a student is not reading a book at home, then they could go through their final year without reading a book.”

Students doing advanced English will still have Shakespeare as a mandatory text, but the number of texts they will be required to study has been reduced from five to four, while in standard English, students will now only have to do three texts.

“Did the architects of the new syllabus stop to consider the implications of deciding that reading novels and poetry in Year 12 was of so little educational value that it should now, after more than 100 years in NSW English, be an optional extra in the final year of schooling,” Dr Manuel said.

The NSW Education Standards Authority, formerly the Board of Studies, has overhauled 22 HSC courses, releasing new syllabuses for English, maths, science and history. The authority says the changes are designed to bring more depth and rigour to the HSC.

A spokesman for the authority said studying fewer texts allowed “more time for deeper examination of quality literature and for refining writing skills”.

Dr Manuel said a new module for standard and advanced English courses, the Craft of Writing, was a “fantastic” addition to the syllabus. The module will focus on honing students’ writing skills with an emphasis on improving their grammar, spelling and punctuation.

But she warned that capable students would be drawn to studying the lowest level English Studies course, which will for the first time count towards a student’s ATAR.

“I am sure we will see a flight from the more rigorous course to the easier course to maximise their ATAR and if are a year 12 kid, you would be mad not to consider this,” Dr Manuel said.

The spokesman for the standards authority said: “The English Studies course is highly valued for its flexibility and capacity to address the diverse needs of a specific cohort of students.”

He said the the authority was consulting on “exam specifications” for the English courses and how it would apply to English Studies.

“NESA is aware of the diverse views on this matter and is working on implementation measures to ensure there is no incentive for high achieving students to enrol in this course to fulfil the requirements of 2 units of English for their HSC,” the spokesman said.

Comments Off on Lily Allen quits Twitter after hateful trolling about her stillborn son

Lily Allen quits Twitter after hateful trolling about her stillborn son

Lily Allen quits Twitter after hateful trolling about her stillborn son

Lily Allen is taking a break from Twitter. Photo: InstagramSinger Lily Allen has announced that she is taking a break from Twitter after she was subjected to hateful trolling over the weekend about her stillborn son.
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The 31-year-old became the target of abuse after attempting to highlight prejudice shown towards immigrants and Muslims, by replacing the words “immigrants” and “muslims” with “pensioners” in a series of tweets.

Allen’s tweets were met with vitriol from other twitter users, who read her messages literally. Trolls turned on the singer, unleashing a cruel personal attack – including taunts about her mental health.

The hateful abuse prompted Allen to disclose that she experiences PTSD after she lost her son when six months pregnant, as well as postnatal depression and bipolar disorder.  [email protected] I don’t hate all pensioners just the extremists.Can’t you see this country is being taken over by hate extremist pensioners.— Lily (@lilyallen) February 25, [email protected]_2345 I DO have mental health issues.Bi-polar,post natal depression, and PTSD, does that make my opinion void.— Lily (@lilyallen) February 25, 2017

As Allen, who is mum to Marnie, 4, and Ethel, 5, disclosed more details about the loss of her son William, in 2010, the abuse escalated. @[email protected]_2345 when I lay in a hospital bed with my deceased son stuck between my legs halfway out of my body for 10 hours.— Lily (@lilyallen) February 25, 2017My timeline is full of the most disgusting, sexist, misogynistic, racist shit. Really, new levels. I’m no masochist so I’ll be back x— Lily (@lilyallen) February 25, 2017

Her account has since been taken over by a friend “Dennis” who advised Lily’s followers that he would only be communicating via gifs. Hi , I’m Dennis,I’ll be looking after lily’s twitter for a while.I can only communicate in gif form,and I’m going on a hate blocking spree.— Lily (@lilyallen) February 25, [email protected]@TrumpDraws (by Dennis) pic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/OG1HLXL2DS— Lily (@lilyallen) February 25, [email protected] re-read sweetie, where you read pensioner, replace word with migrant/Muslim.Lily trolled you all (Dennis) pic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/MKIxRUhYQ8— Lily (@lilyallen) February 26, 2017

Lily briefly popped back online to share that despite reporting the abuse to Twitter, no action had been taken. “Please sort this out, please,” she wrote. [email protected]@twitter every time,please sort this out,please. (Lily) pic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/6O5FL18utz— Lily (@lilyallen) February 26, 2017

Along with the torrent of abuse, however, Allen has also received an outpouring of support from her followers.

“Please, PLEASE ignore the vile trolls and haters spreading heartache with their toxic words,” reads one comment posted to Allen’s Instragram account. “You know your intentions and what’s in your heart. Whether people are a “Lily Allen” fan or not, it’s clear to us that you are passionate about something and want to give a voice to others who cannot be heard. So please ignore the BS and remember why you’re doing what you do.”

“I have also been thru the horror of a still birth at 6 months,” another mum shared. ” People are always gonna hate babe, I know you ignore them but it also hurts, I may be a stranger but I know how you feel, always here for you.”