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Yorkshire native Widdop aims to join elite group of Englishmen

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GARETH WIDDOP has been in Australia for seven years, but the flat vowels and deliberate speech rhythms of a native Yorkshireman leave absolutely no doubt as to his antecedents.
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Men from the white-rose county, England’s largest, have a reputation for being taciturn and keeping their own counsel.

Widdop is open and direct, but like most sportsmen he would prefer to do his talking on the field – and he will get few better chances to show his eloquence than tonight, when his Melbourne Storm side entertain South Sydney in a semi-final that promises to be a belter, pitting several high-profile former teammates against each other for the chance to host a preliminary final and enjoy a week’s rest.

If the 23-year-old, who was born and raised in the English league heartland of Halifax, can help the Storm to a title he will be joining a select band of Englishmen who have been good enough to play in a premiership side in this country.

The versatile Widdop – who normally starts at five-eighth but deputised at fullback for the injured Billy Slater on several occasions earlier this season – is not the sort to get too far ahead of himself.

”The Rabbitohs – with Crock [Michael Crocker] and Kingy [Matt King], Greg Inglis – it’s going to be a massive game. It’s going to be rough and they also have big Sammy Burgess getting them going. Everyone strives to get to the grand final and win it and of course we are no different. But we will do it the same as all year, concentrate on the approach we always have and try to treat it as another game,” the England international says.

Widdop has seen the difficult times at the club and the fallout after the salary cap penalty, with players leaving and returning. So winning the title without controversy would be even sweeter.

”We lost a lot of good players but at the same time we have recruited some other good ones, players who are maybe knocking on a little bit and were looking for another opportunity,” he said. ”They have come down here and bought into the system we have and are really enjoying it. They are experienced and are helping the younger guys.”

Storm finished the season in fine fettle, with five successive wins. Even if they have been by narrow margins in unexpected circumstances, those wins say a lot about the team and their self-belief.

”The Cronulla match [when two late tries sealed an improbable victory at AAMI Park] wasn’t the best game we have played but at the same time we never give in. The finals are going to be close games and you have to keep fighting right on to that last minute when the siren sounds. We have a lot of belief. While there is time on the clock, everything is possible and we showed that against the Sharks.”

Widdop, who came to Melbourne as a promising 16-year-old when his parents Gary, a builder, and Joanne, a teacher, emigrated to Australia, has conquered culture shock. ”We had no idea rugby league was big down here until we got here and realised and thought, ‘Jesus’.” He has fought his way through the fiercely competitive talent pool to get to where he is now. A premiership would top it all off nicely.

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Miller ploughs ahead but logic of some clubs starts to look blurred

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DRAGONS forward Josh Miller’s manager says he will take to the field as normal next season despite receiving a series of serious head-knocks this year.
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As the NRL grapples with its new concussion laws and ban on the shoulder charge, Miller’s manager, Steve Stone, expected the 28-year-old to resume play next season.

The hard-hitting Dragons second-rower has endured an alarming rate of concussion in 2012, the latest a round-26 knock from Parramatta’s Reni Maitua – an incident that has alarmed some officials because of the severity of the contact.

The Miller debate comes amid revelations several NRL clubs are refusing to release important test information to officials.

Stone said he was yet to be approached by the NRL or the Dragons about his player’s concussion rate.

”In regards to the concussion, that’s just how Josh plays, he’s a tough cookie,” Stone said.

”The medical staff and those looking after the wellbeing of the individual is paramount. It’s a fantastic club, the Dragons. We just rely on the trust of advisers in their team to make that assessment.”

Pressed on whether Miller’s rate of concussion could affect his career, Stone said: ”I wouldn’t have thought so at this point.

”You’re the first person that’s brought that up. There was some certain conditions in his contract which triggered the second year, so we just need to have further discussions with the club … but it wasn’t related directly to concussion.”

Neither the Dragons nor the Raiders – Miller’s former club – were willing to comment when contacted by Fairfax.

Under laws that were updated this year, players who suffer a concussion must undergo specific cognitive tests in order to return to the field the following week.

But Fairfax has been told the process lacks transparency because some NRL clubs are refusing to disclose test results to league officials.

The NRL chief medical officer, Ron Muratore, said the ”two or three” culprits failed to release the cognitive information because they believed it violated player confidentiality. ”I’m supposed to see all the tests but there are some clubs that won’t allow you because they don’t put the players name in the system – they put in code and they won’t give you the code,” Muratore explained.

”Their argument is that it’s part of the player’s medical record and that it’s privileged information.

”It may well be, but it should be that someone like me should be able to look at it.

”I have access to most clubs and most are OK with it, but there are two or three that are not OK with it.”

There is no set limit at present on the number of concussions a player can suffer in a single season.

Some NRL players, including Miller and Tigers captain Robbie Farah, have been continually given the nod to take the field despite suffering multiple separate concussions.

Audrey McKinlay, a concussion researcher from Monash University’s school of psychology and psychiatry, stressed that improper treatment of concussion needed to be stamped out of the game.

”By allowing players to remain on the field while concussed, or return to the field early the following week, they’re delaying recovery and they’re sending the wrong message to other people,” she said. ”Players will return for as long as they’re allowed to play, and four or five concussions in a single season – the medical profession is saying that’s too much. They’re not going to recover well from that and they could have quite a bad outcome.”

In order to be deemed fit following a concussion, a player must undertake a series of cognitive tests, assessed by their club doctors.

The results of those tests are then compared with a baseline reading taken at the beginning of the season, and if the numbers match – and the player is not showing obvious symptoms of concussion – they’re allowed to return the following match.

What makes matters difficult for officials is that because some clubs refuse to disclose their test results, they are powerless to compare how a player’s baseline reading might have fluctuated over a number of seasons.

”The difficulty with concussion is that there are a number of guidelines around but there is no one agreed-on guideline,” McKinlay said.

”Some people would say that after one or two concussions in a season you shouldn’t return for the rest of that season. And when you get into more concussions than that you should not return to play at all.

”One agreed-on guideline is probably the next step, particularly when you see players taking court action.”

There have been noted instances this year where players have been kept on the field while concussed at a coach’s request, meaning they cannot undergo proper medical analysis before they continue playing.

Those revelations are in light of a recent study led by McKinlay that claimed 60 per cent of players who had been concussed during the 2010 season played on – a marked improvement on previous years.

Boxers are at present subject to a strict 28-day lay-off if they’re subjected to concussion.

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Hawks grasp chance to show winning credentials

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Buddy Franklin and Chris Tarrant get up close and personal.HAWTHORN presented its impeccable premiership credentials at the MCG last night. On a wintry night, and a bleak one for Collingwood, the Hawks weathered the Magpies’ early and ferocious storm to win the first final of 2012 by six goals and change. It earned the Hawks a week off before a preliminary final, but the Magpies must lick their many wounds and play a semi-final next week.
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The match properly reflected Hawthorn’s evenness and mastery this season, and conversely exposed frailties Collingwood has found harder and harder to plaster over in the last month.

The wellspring of Hawthorn’s victory was the educated hands and feet of former captain Sam Mitchell. It was consummated by three bursts of four successive goals, shared by 11 players. That is the sort of collective bounty that marks out smoothly functioning premiership teams. For Collingwood, rejuvenated Travis Cloke kicked six goals and reborn Andrew Krakouer kicked four, but the rest of its pickings were thin.

Until Hawthorn stole its winning march, the contest was bruising in a finals sort of way, and exacted a toll on both teams. Hawthorn’s Brendan Whitecross appeared to suffer a grave knee injury in the first quarter. Unfussed, the Hawks all moved up one and did not miss a beat; this has been their hallmark this season. Collingwood captain Nick Maxwell was reported after bloodying Paul Puopolo’s nose. The next few days will be uncomfortable for both players.

The start of the game was manic, almost vicious. Chris Tarrant versus Franklin typified it; their contest would be counted not in quarters, but rounds. It was as if Collingwood especially was defending an honour that had not yet been offended. Pre-game, Hawthorn had lost Jordan Lewis, and now Whitecross was lost in skirmishes.

It took 17 torrid and gut-wrenching minutes for either side to kick a goal. Collingwood, improvising, briefly led, but a late flurry thrust the Hawks to a 22-point lead early in the second quarter. It established the night’s status quo.

Fatigue became a factor as early as the second quarter; it was as if two beaten-up teams called a truce. Consequently, the football became more orthodox in the modern way, shuffling from clump to clump. The scoring came in bursts at each end. After Hawthorn, biblically, missed three times in a row, Collingwood kicked three in a row to gain an improbable lead. The signature effort was from Heath Shaw, provocateur-in-chief, turned pack-marking forward. But three goals from Hawthorn righted the scoreboard. The last was Franklin’s after the siren; a mobbing ensued.

Six of Hawthorn’s nine first-half goals were kicked in time-on. They proved a wonderful tonic to fatigue. The second half began ominously for Collingwood when Cloke marked in front of goal, only to be stripped because of a free kick paid to Franklin against Tarrant in the middle of the ground, leading to a goal for David Hale. Methodical, unflinching Hawthorn stretched its lead to six goals. Though plainly outmatched, Collingwood clung on through two late goals to the estimable Cloke.

But another run of four goals to now rampant Hawthorn at the start of the last quarter rapidly expanded its lead to eight, reduced the Magpies to rabble and put a summary end to this final.

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Hawks three times better

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HAWTHORN 4.6 9.10 15.13 20.15 (135) COLLINGWOOD 2.3 7.4 12.7 15.7 (97) GOALSHawthorn: Franklin 4, Rioli 2, Hale 2, Gunston 2, Breust 2, Hodge 2, Savage 2, Smith, Roughead, Puopolo, Ellis. Collingwood: Cloke 6, Krakouer 4, Wellingham 2, Sinclair, Dawes, Shaw. BEST Hawthorn: Mitchell, Sewell, Gibson, Hodge, Rioli, Breust. Collingwood: Cloke, Reid, Swan, Pendlebury, Krakouer. INJURIES Hawthorn: Whitecross (knee) UMPIRES Meredith, Nicholls, McInerney. CROWD 85,625 at MCG.
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ON THE ladder, Hawthorn and Collingwood were only one game apart. In reality, the distance was several goals, as the Hawks repeated their two regular-season beatings of the Magpies last night and became the first team to earn a berth in the competition’s final four.

The extent of Hawthorn’s superiority was evident, not only in the difference of 13 scoring shots , but in the premiership topweight’s capacity to boot clear whenever challenged.

This happened twice in the opening half and perhaps once in the third quarter, but the match as a contest – already dying – was killed early in the final quarter when Xavier Ellis and Jarryd Roughead finished the Pies off with easy goals.

The Hawthorn victory was all the more meritorious for the fact that it entered the match without vice-captain Jordan Lewis and were down to 21 within the opening minutes when Brendan Whitecross was subbed off and had to be replaced by Shane Savage, who had been brought in place of Lewis. Yet, the Hawks finished stronger.

The Pies have been noted for their defensive and contested abilities in recent years and one fancied that they would only have a prayer if this became a serious scrap, which, ultimately, it wasn’t.

As the first half scrimmages opened up in the second half, the Hawks increased their advantage. In the final stanza, Collingwood seemed spent, as a four-goal deficit at three-quarter time quickly blew out beyond seven goals.

The most significant difference between the teams was in Hawthorn’s ability – unmatched this season – to score constantly, and at the match’s most crucial moments – basically, whenever they needed a goal. This was most evident in the period before half-time, when a level match was turned into an 18-point advantage.

Lance Franklin finished with four goals but wasn’t a huge factor – two of those majors coming in the match’s final quarter afterlife. He wrestled and scuffled with Chris Tarrant in the opening minutes, disappeared for a while and improved from time-on in the second term.

In confirming their favouritism for the flag, the Hawks also repeated the pattern of the regular season. Sam Mitchell, their premier player this year and last, was the most effective player in the midfield (12 clearances), where he was well supported – as he has been all season – by the relentless Brad Sewell.

Collingwood scored more freely than it had on occasion during the latter half of the season, with Travis Cloke standing up to boot six and Andy Krakouer contributing four in his second game this year. The problem for the Pies was that it was unable to a) get the ball forward often enough, and b) that it couldn’t halt the Hawks’ scoring proficiency.

Hawthorn’s opening-quarter lead of 15 points was based on their trademark ball usage and defensive dominance. Most ominously for the Magpies, Josh Gibson was controlling the game from behind the ball; he had six spoils in that quarter alone, plus six disposals. Notionally, he was matched to Chris Dawes – brought back to support Darren Jolly and provide a foil for Cloke – but in reality he was playing like a spare man.

The Pies asserted themselves after a tentative first 10 minutes, as playmakers Pendlebury and Beams became prominent; Sharrod Wellingham nailed a curling snap, Ben Sinclair – not noted for his finishing – slotted another and the Pies briefly led.

In what would be a pattern of the first half, the Hawks answered quickly, as Rioli, Luke Breust and Shane Savage, who been substituted in for the injured Brendan Whitecross, booted the last three goals of the term. Franklin was quiet, having been earmarked for physical aggression and niggling by his opponent, Collingwood veteran Chris Tarrant, who must have reasoned that his best hope of besting Franklin was to distract him.

Collingwood owned most of the second quarter but lost control in what shaped as the game’s most critical period – time on of the second term, when the Hawks booted the last three goals – all after the 25-minute mark – to open up a decisive lead of three goals at half-time. The crushing blow came on the siren, when Franklin took a diving mark on the second grab and converted from 35 metres, deflating one team and inflating the other.

In the second quarter, Collingwood actually changed game styles. In the opening term, the Pies played into Hawthorn’s defensive hands by excessive long bombing to out-numbered forwards.

But in the second quarter, the Pies adopted a very deliberate short kicking game that was clearly aimed at making the Hawks’ defenders, such as Gibson and Birchall, accountable to a direct opponent. For a time, this worked. Collingwood found scoring easier, as Wellingham, Heath Shaw and Krakouer booted goals to briefly snatch the lead.

It worked only for a time. From that moment, the Hawks had theirs.


Late inclusions Shane Savage for Hawthorn and Ben Sinclair for Collingwood had an early impact. Savage, having come in as substitute for the injured Jordan Lewis, was then on early when Brendan Whitecross was hurt. He had two goals to half-time, the first a classic dribble from the right forward pocket. Sinclair was also prominent in the first term, having replaced Jackson Paine for team-balance. Given the job of silencing Grant Birchall, Sinclair slotted a lovely set shot from the boundary.


Andrew Krakouer’s remarkable comeback from a knee reconstruction continued as he emerged as one of the Magpies’ more damaging forwards. The Magpies were too intent on looking for Travis Cloke in the first term but a change of tactics after the break helped Krakouer work his way into the contest. He clearly had the better of Tom Murphy, booting two goals in the second term and finishing with four.


Travis Cloke reinforced his value with an uncompromising performance. He was left to battle two, sometimes three, opponents in the first quarter and broke even but emerged as a major threat when left one-out on Ryan Schoenmakers, particularly in the third term when he had four marks. Cloke has yet to sign a new contract and the prospect of him joining Carlton next season would surely give Collingwood supporters nightmares.

QUARTER BY QUARTERQuarter 1 Tarrant made his intentions clear by roughing up Franklin before the opening bounce. This was a ferocious start, but the Hawks were dealt a blow when Whitecross was carried off with a leg injury. It took 17 minutes for the first goal after Hodge willed himself through congestion. Wellingham responded with a clever snap for the Pies. Rioli replied and there was controversy when an O’Brien tackle was wrongly not deemed holding the ball and Breust ran into an open goal. Hawthorn by 15

Quarter 2 Gunston ran on to a loose ball behind the pack to give the Hawks the early momentum but the Pies worked themselves back. Cloke was influential, booting one goal and assisting in another. Krakouer’s stunning return from a knee reconstruction continued when his long bomb gave the Magpies the lead – but not for long. Smith and Hale bobbed up to hit back for the Hawks, and when Franklin marked, then kicked straight after the siren, the Hawks again had control. Hawthorn by 18

Quarter 3 Cloke looked certain to open with a goal but a free kick upfield resulted in Hale’s second, giving the Hawks an early edge. Cloke responded and the teams traded goals for 10 minutes. However, when Rioli capitalised on a tap from Roughead, the Hawks had a five-goal lead. Krakouer converted, but the Hawks had all the run. Franklin and Gunston goalled in quick succession, the latter’s coming just as Maxwell clashed with Puopolo, leaving the Hawk with a bloody nose as he angrily pointed at the Collingwood captain. Hawthorn by 24

Quarter 4 Collingwood desperately needed the first goal but Ellis ruined that hope, extending the Hawks’ advantage to five goals and the Hawks then went in for the kill. Franklin outbodied Tarrant and handballed to Roughead for a goal, Hodge capitalised on a 50m penalty against Nick Maxwell and Franklin then hit the scoreboard with a towering goal. It was his 10th score involvement of the match, highlighting his importance. Led by Mitchell and Sewell, the Hawks dominated the clearances and contested ball. Hawthorn by 38 – JON PIERIK

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Wind boosts energy

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A blustery start to spring has blown Victoria’s wind energy industry into overdrive, at times producing more than twice as much of the state’s energy as usual.
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On Wednesday 6.1 per cent of Victoria’s energy demand was met by wind – up from 2.6 per cent last financial year, according to the Australian Energy Market Operator.

Australia’s largest wind farm, at Waubra near Ballarat, last month generated its highest output since it began operating three years ago, sending enough electricity to the national grid to power 140,000 homes, or Ballarat and Geelong combined.

Winds have gusted above 80km/h each day for the past three days in Melbourne.

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City road tolls flagged

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A CONGESTION tax to discourage motorists from driving at peak times could be introduced under a controversial plan flagged by the federal government’s chief infrastructure adviser.
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Infrastructure Australia chairman Sir Rod Eddington said it was time for ”mature and dispassionate” discussion over a new system of road charges to cut congestion and help pay for major transport projects.

”Transport shortfalls across the freight and passenger networks are imposing substantial productivity constraints on our nation,” Sir Rod told the Infrastructure Partnerships Australia conference. ”Here in Melbourne, road congestion will probably shred something like $4 billion from this state’s economy this year.”

He said roads were often treated as free goods because the ”current opaque charging structure” clouded the actual cost of using them. ”The current approach does not and cannot adequately reflect the time and location of road use,” he said.

Only a handful of cities, including London, Singapore and Stockholm, impose so-called congestion taxes. The application varies, but in theory tolls are raised or lowered depending on the time of day, location and congestion.

Sir Rod said governments had historically responded to congestion by building more roads. Although this would remain an ”ongoing requirement,” he said there were limits, with efforts also needed to manage demand. ”Australia’s major cities are facing a situation where they can no longer only seek to build their way out of trouble,” he said.

”Policymakers must begin to face up to the challenges and opportunities that are posed by road network congestion.”

He said introducing the new charging regime would be politically difficult. A new system for trucks that reflected the true cost they impose on roads would be a good first step.

”Now, with congestion hurting … businesses and the amenity of households, it is time to bring a mature, dispassionate debate.”

Transurban chief executive Scott Charlton backed the proposal, saying the introduction of road network pricing was ”inevitable”. Mr Charlton urged governments to ”use every lever possible”, including road user charges, tolled express lanes and time-of-day pricing. He said that although the public was accustomed to peak and off-peak pricing for utilities, road pricing remained a political sensitive issue.

Meanwhile, Premier Ted Baillieu blamed a culture of construction union militancy for pushing up the cost of major infrastructure projects. ”This culture is contributing to escalating construction costs in this state and this country, and it’s pricing us out of infrastructure in the future,” he said. ”We

call again on federal Labor to show some leadership and immediately introduce legislation to address what most people in the business and wider community realise is an unacceptable situation.”

Mr Baillieu also stepped up demands for federal cash, saying he wanted money for six big projects, including an east-west freeway, a rail tunnel between South Kensington and South Yarra, the expansion of the Port of Hastings and an upgrade of the M80.

Mr Baillieu suggested the Commonwealth should go further into debt to fund such projects. ”Unlike the states, the Commonwealth has the borrowing capacity at its disposal that would not compromise a triple-A credit rating,” he said.

Federal Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese said Mr Baillieu wasn’t the only state leader asking the Commonwealth for money, and dismissed suggestions it should borrow to provide the funds. ”Ted Baillieu needs to get the support of his own party for such a proposition before he comes to us as a state leader and puts such a proposition,” Mr Albanese said. ”He’s not the only state leader who says, I want to build a particular project and I want someone else to pay for it.”

State opposition infrastructure spokesman Tim Pallas said the government was spending $100 million planning for projects, with no sign they would be built. ”Planning is important … not confusing pipelines for pipe dreams, is critically important,” he said.

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An uneasy Grocon truce as the sparring continues

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GROCON has vowed to recoup $7 million in losses from union blockades across Melbourne building sites amid an uneasy ceasefire that carries the threat of more protests next week.
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After an early-morning rally yesterday, about 60 employees returned to work at the Myer Emporium for the first time since August 21 after Grocon and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union agreed on Thursday night to suspend industrial action. But even though talks were set down for Fair Work Australia, both sides continued sparring.

Union organisers insisted workers would resume protests if talks broke down, although Bill Oliver, the state secretary of the construction division, said the union would enter Tuesday’s talks keen to end the dispute, over workers’ rights to appoint health and safety representatives, for good.

”It’s not our intention to go there and try not to come to an agreement, but quite obviously there is nothing written in here that says we can’t go back and have a peaceful demonstration in the way we have been having for the past 13 days,” Mr Oliver said.

Grocon chief executive Daniel Grollo said he was unfazed by the threat of more strikes. He said his company would continue legal action against union organisers for defying a court order calling for a lift of the blockade at Lonsdale Street. Blockades were also established at Footscray, Parkville and Collins Street.

Premier Ted Baillieu also indicated the state government would take legal action, as he used a speech at Infrastructure Partnership Australia to accuse the CFMEU of harming the economy, jobs and affordable infrastructure.

”If they’re going to trash the furniture they’re going to pay the bill,” Mr Baillieu said. ”I also suggest that others who seem to regard unlawful and violent union practices as just part of the so-called ‘industrial ball game’ must also start showing proper respect for the law.”

Mr Grollo said the costs of the dispute had been ”extremely significant” and that his company would pursue damages for working days lost.

Mr Oliver said it would be ”two, three, four years” before the matter went before court, while another source said the union would have no concerns over the sum being sought.

But ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said it was ”in no one’s interest to prolong the dispute by having actions continue in the courts long after the workplace issues have been resolved”.

Despite prolonged calls on the union from the federal and state governments to end the strikes, Bill Oliver said the blockades had been peaceful and successful.

He said Grocon could have called a truce a week earlier had it not knocked back Fair Work’s suggested two-week truce.

Both parties yesterday indicated next week’s talks would be protracted by wrangling over the conditions of the agreement. Mr Grollo said the end of the strike was unconditional, but Bill Oliver rejected this.

Federal Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten was glad the blockades had ended but was unimpressed by the length of the dispute. ”Do I think the last 16 days were worth it? Probably not, definitely not,” he told ABC television.

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School chaplains group struggles to stay afloat

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THE main provider of chaplains to Victorian state schools under a controversial federal government program is at risk of collapse, according to its most recent financial accounts.
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Accounts filed by the organisation, Access Ministries, show it last year burned through $2.5 million in cash as it racked up a loss for the third year running.

However, chief executive Evonne Paddison said the organisation had this year staunched the outflow of cash and was now solvent.

Access Ministries received more than $21 million in federal grants under the school chaplaincy program between 2007 and 2011.

The Council for Christian Education, which trades as Access Ministries, also provides religious education and claims on its website to be ”sharing God’s love with over 200,000 young Victorians” every day.

It filed the accounts with the corporate regulator after The Age last week asked it why they were overdue.

Access Ministries’ ability to ”continue to pay its debts as they fall due” depends on ”a return to profitability in the 2012 financial year”, the organisation said in a note to the accounts.

In order to survive the organisation must also ”broaden income streams” and collect cash it is owed in a ”timely” manner, it said.

The accounts show Access Ministries struggled to collect debts, with the amount it was owed by customers ballooning almost tenfold, from $72,500 to $697,000.

They also show it was heavily dependent on the chaplaincy program, with federal grants and contributions from schools making up $8.7 million of the $12.3 million it reaped in revenue.

It made a loss of about $483,000 last year, adding to losses of $17,000 in 2010 and $248,000 in 2009.

In a statement provided through an external corporate public relations consultant, Dr Paddison, who has repeatedly declined requests for an interview, said the document ”does not represent the health of the organisation’s current financial position”.

”The organisation’s cash position has now returned to 2010 levels and all items in the note from the 2011 report including timely receipts of income and implementation of new strategies have occurred,” she said.

”Specifically, Access Ministries has received income from fund-raising, publishing sales and payments for chaplaincy services from the Commonwealth government. The organisation has no borrowings from any financial institution, is trading solvent and in a sound financial position.”

The school chaplaincy program was introduced by the Howard government in October 2006, and expanded by the Rudd and Gillard governments.

It was struck down as unconstitutional by the High Court in June, but rescued by legislation, itself controversial, rushed through Parliament days later.

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Great outdoors a rich opportunity

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DANIEL Short loves his job and the secluded beauty of its location. His commitment to teaching would eclipse many of his peers.
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Short lives at Methodist Ladies College’s country campus, Marshmead, with his wife and baby son.

He shares meals with the year 9 students several nights a week and lives in a cabin nearby the student accommodation.

”If you come in to working at Marshmead wanting all those luxuries you have in a city – restaurants, theatres, coffee shops – we just don’t have that,” he says.

Short relishes the remote spot tucked into a valley just a short boat ride from the coastal town of Mallacoota on the border of New South Wales.

He admits he occasionally craves wider social contact or to join a local sports club.

”I feel like that is replaced by the interaction and relationship you inevitably develop with your students,” he says. ”Here you’re having meals with them. You’re inspecting their houses. If they’re having a really bad day, you’re out there supporting them.”

Short grew up in Wyoming in the United States. Mountain bike riding and skiing competitions were part of the yearly routine.

Working at Marshmead with his wife, who also works at the campus, allows him to continue living in ”beautiful, inspiring” places.

MLC runs a small farm on Marshmead where students care for the livestock and grow much of their own vegetables and herbs. In the classroom, students study agricultural topics such as food miles.

MLC director of remote sites Mark Gray says many teachers would struggle with the professional expectations at Marshmead. Some teachers have been unhappy living and working so close to the students.

”We have had experiences in the past where staff have come down and found it quite isolating. That can be really challenging,” he says. ”This environment for staff is pretty intense. You become totally immersed in what’s going on here.”

The campus was designed according to environmentally sustainable principles. Solar panels feed electricity to the cabins and students can monitor and record their energy use. They also chop wood for potbelly heaters in the cabins.

Gray says the teachers must ”walk the talk” and build environmental awareness into their daily lives if they expect students to do the same.

”If staff aren’t monitoring their power and water like the students are, it wouldn’t work.”

MLC has recently completed an $8 million upgrade at Marshmead. It now has hundreds of solar panels, a new water harvesting system, staffroom and hayshed. The school also operates another remote campus, Banksia, at the Gippsland Lakes near Paynesville.

MLC belongs to a group of elite private schools that own country campuses. Geelong Grammar started the trend in the 1950s with Timbertop. Several other schools, including Lauriston Girls School, Wesley College and Caulfield Grammar School also have regional sites.

State school Princes Hill Secondary College manages a campsite on behalf of the Education Department near Mount Buller. Princes Hill hires out the site to other schools and the public.

But private school country campuses can also be divisive. Monash University senior lecturer David Zyngier says it is unfair for rich independent schools to build regional campuses while state school students are learning in substandard facilities. ”For every Marshmead and Timbertop, there’s another poor high school that doesn’t have heating and decent toilets, and that’s quite criminal really,” he says.

Dr Zyngier believes many struggling parents cannot afford to pay for a day-long excursion for their children, let alone months away at lavish country campuses. Teachers at schools in disadvantaged communities often pay from their own pockets for students’ excursions, he says. ”It’s actually quite common and very sad.”

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Driver jailed over fatal alpine smash

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IT WAS a chaotic scene of death, broken bodies and wreckage littering an isolated section of Victoria’s Great Alpine Road at night in the middle of winter.
Nanjing Night Net

A car had rolled and disgorged most of its seven occupants about 14 kilometres from Omeo.

Judge John Smallwood presided over a recent trial of the man found responsible for the horrors from that terrible crash, and yesterday sent a blunt message to those who drive on our roads. ”As a judge when you see matters such as this,” he said, ”when you’ve got witnesses describing the scene on that cold night in Omeo, with basically broken bodies all over the road and people staggering around in a confused state and a dead man – that’s the sort of thing every member in the community who drives a motor vehicle should have to sit through.

”I’ve got no doubt it would lead them to drive more safely if they did.”

Judge Smallwood jailed the man found guilty of causing the death of Amandeep Singh, 27, and seriously injuring his wife, Aman Grewal, and four other Indian nationals.

As a manager of a company servicing ski resorts at Mount Hotham, Bakhus Semaan, 29, was driving the five cleaners to Omeo.

Witnesses described him speeding, cutting corners and swerving onto the wrong side of the road ”as if he was driving a rally car” as terrified passengers – some crying, others praying – pleaded with him to slow down. ”Don’t worry,” he said. ”I know this road really well.”

A jury convicted Semaan of dangerous driving causing death and five counts of dangerous driving causing serious injury. Semaan was sentenced to five years and three months with a minimum of two years and eight months.

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