Business case pledge for east-west tunnel link

Premier Denis Napthine has promised to hand over a business case for the planned tollway connecting the Eastern Freeway to City Link to the federal infrastructure advisory body.
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Dr Napthine said the business case would be provided soon to allow Infrastructure Australia time to assess it independently before the release of its annual major projects priority list in June.

Dr Napthine has also said he remained confident the $1.5 billion promised by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott for the road would begin to flow as construction begins at the end of 2014.

”We are going to start building end of 2014 and we would expect the money to be part of that construction process,” Dr Napthine told the Melbourne Press Club.

Dr Napthine also dismissed as a ”myth” suggestions it was putting road funding ahead of public transport, arguing the proposed metro rail tunnel from Footscray to the St Kilda Road Domain interchange was not ready to proceed, whereas the east-west road was.

The federal government has said it will not make a decision on whether to fund the east-west road until it is independently assessed by Infrastructure Australia, whereas the metro rail project has been assessed by Infrastructure Australia as ”ready to proceed”.

Dr Napthine said he found it galling that the Gillard government had set aside $1.8 billion for Sydney’s similar Connect East road project, despite the lack of a business case.

”I found it interesting, annoying, frustrating, galling, that in the federal budget just handed down, Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan could find $1.8 billion for a very, very similar project in Sydney … and nothing for the east-west link here,” he said.

The planned multibillion-dollar tollway connecting the Eastern Freeway to CityLink will emerge in Parkville sporting fields, but the footprint of a city off-ramp remains unclear.

An animation released by the Linking Melbourne Authority shows the tunnel will run under Alexandra Parade and the Melbourne Cemetery and emerge at Manningham Reserve.

The east-west road would then cross Manningham Street in Parkville, close to the wetlands adjacent to the Commonwealth Games Village residential development.

It is then expected to connect to CityLink with sharp north and south links.

The exact location and extent of the Elliott Avenue city off-ramp remains clear, although the diagram suggests the ramp will be close to where Elliott Avenue crosses the tram line in Royal Park.

A Linking Melbourne Authority spokeswoman said ”a tunnel exit and entry is proposed at Elliott Avenue to provide access to important community facilities like the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne Zoo and State Netball and Hockey Centre”.

”We’ll be working over the next few months to understand how this connection might be designed, with a focus on minimising any impact to parkland by making use of things like the central median,” she said.

At the eastern end, the tollway begins well before Hoddle Street and east of Merri Creek.

The government has said commuters will still be able to exit at Hoddle Street without paying a toll.

Public forums in Flemington, Collingwood, Carlton and Parkville will be held early next month to discuss the project.

State Greens MP Greg Barber said the animation showed the impact of the tollway on the local community ”is going to be a lot worse than anticipated”.

He said Flemington would be in complete gridlock with the new off-ramp channelling commuters towards the city.

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Daft Punk launch to bring down the ‘house’

THE small town was buzzing with anticipation yesterday as the countdown to the big event ticked into hours and minutes.
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“It’s a pretty special event for a small country town,” Narrabri Shire mayor Conrad Bolton said.

Yesterday afternoon a giant disco ball was spotted getting hoisted above the party floor and large numbers of people who were believed to be security appeared to be briefed on the night ahead.

There was also talk yesterday of a spectacular light show that had been tested and seen for kilometres around on Thursday night, but Cr Bolton kept mum on that topic, only saying that he expected everyone would leave the show “very satisfied”.

He said the whole town had become positively involved in putting together the event and getting in on the fun on such short notice – butchers were even selling Daft Pork sausages, Punk Pies and Random Access Rissoles.

It was reported extra meat and beer were ordered in to cope with the influx of visitors.

It had been “quite an enjoyable journey”, Cr Bolton said, congratulating all those who had worked in putting it together.

And after a hectic few weeks, the mayor was looking forward to enjoying the fruit of the hard work.

“I’m just going to hang loose and enjoy the night like everyone else,” Cr Bolton said.

Meanwhile Contiki, the tour company more often associated with sightseeing the big attractions, organised a tour to the country’s cotton capital for the launch.

PUNK’S POWER: The stage lighting is tested before last night’s official launch for Daft Punk’s fourth album. Photo: John Burgess/namoiphoto南京夜网

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Two national Tidy Towns awards for Armidale

ARMIDALE won two national awards in the national Tidy Towns Awards announced in Caloundra in Queensland last night.
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The city won in the community action and partnerships category, and in the resource recovery and waste management category.

“We are number one in the country for the way we work so well together as a community, and the way we manage our waste – these are two fantastic achievements,” mayor Jim Maher said last night after the wins.

Armidale was also highly commended (runner-up) for the water conservation category. Victor Harbour in South Australia won the Overall Australian Tidy Towns/Sustainable Community Award.

Cr Maher said Armidale’s inclusion among the final seven in the nation was an honour.

Armidale had already proven its state win for its environmental efforts. Cr Maher was at the ceremony, accompanied by councillor Colin Gadd, council staffer James Turnell and Carol Davies, Phil Wheaton of Armidale City Bowling Club, and James Halliburton from the Armidale Youth Climate Coalition.

Armidale won two national awards in the national Tidy Towns Awards announced in Caloundra in Queensland last night.

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Bureaucrat pay bonanza

STATE health services chief Matthew Daly shares centre stage with Premier and Cabinet secretary Rhys Edwards as the two most highly paid Tasmanian bureaucrats.
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The two department chiefs are on annual salaries of $411,723 each, according to information obtained by The Examiner .

That puts the men on considerably higher earnings than Premier Lara Giddings, whose annual salary was less than $300,000 12 months ago.

Health and Human Services bureaucrats are among the highest paid of the state’s senior public servants, with Southern Tasmanian Health Organisation chief executive Jane Holden taking home more than $346,000.

Northern Tasmanian Health Organisation chief executive John Kirwan earns more than $267,000 while his North-West counterpart Gavin Austin is close behind on more than $265,000.

Tasmania Police Commissioner Darren Hine, who is also his department’s secretary, is the lowest-paid of the senior bureaucrats on more than $267,00, with controversial Department of Justice secretary Simon Overland slightly ahead on about $285,000.

The list of earnings shows that Treasury chief Martin Wallace, who retires in July, Infrastructure and Roads secretary Norm Mcllfatrick, Economic Development boss Mark Kelleher and Education Department secretary Colin Pettit are all on salaries of more than $320,000.

The total wages bill for the government’s more than 200 senior bureaucrats comes to more than $32 million a year, according to the list of earnings.

A government spokesman said late yesterday that salaries were commensurate with those paid in similar roles in both the public and private sectors elsewhere.

“Heads of department are responsible for the management and delivery of crucial services and the government will always aim to attract the best possible candidate,” the spokesman said.

But Opposition Deputy Leader Jeremy Rockliff said that it was wrong to be spending tens of millions of dollars on highly paid bureaucrats when at the same time the government was cutting essential front-line services.

He said that the Liberals planned to cut the number of departments from nine to eight, amalgamate backroom functions and slash spending on senior bureaucrats by at least $8 million over four years if elected to government.

Rhys Edwards

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Mayors’ alliance to seek freight answers

Northern Tasmania’s eight mayors have joined the campaign to urgently solve the state’s Bass Strait sea freight crisis.
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In a show of strength yesterday, all the mayors from the region announced that they had formed an alliance to lobby both state and federal governments for help with the crisis.

The lack of a direct international shipping service into Bell Bay has crippled state exports and imports for more than two years since the last service made its final run.

George Town Chamber of Commerce president Alan Golley told yesterday’s meeting that SWIRE Shipping was willing to extend its temporary international container shipping service into Bell Bay but needed $33 million in funding over three years to make it a viable option.

”After that they believe it will become self generating, revenue wise,” Mr Golley said.

Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten said an alliance of Northern interests speaking with one voice was critical at a time when the state government’s report from its freight logistics task force was imminent.

”It has been two years since the last international service was lost,” Alderman van Zetten said.

”Businesses are losing their competitive edge because they now have to export via Melbourne.”

Alderman van Zetten said a businessman had contacted the council only about a fortnight ago for help with the high cost of international freight.

”His annual bill is well over $1 million for freight now – he approached us to say ‘you have to do something’,” Alderman van Zetten said.

George Town Mayor Roger Broomhall said the group was looking for a commitment from both the federal and state governments and the two oppositions.

”Some of the big exporters at Bell Baycom at present send containers to Melbourne for export via Burnie which practically doubles the cost of sending containers both nationally and overseas,” he said.

West Tamar Mayor Barry Easther said the federal government’s recent announcement of money for a new freight terminal at Bell Bay indicated it recognised the significance of the port to Northern Tasmania.

Dorset Mayor Barry Jarvis said he had been horrified to be told by a major paper manufacturer at a recent Melbourne local government conference that it was cheaper for his company to get their logs from China than to ship them to Victoria’s Latrobe Valley from Tasmania.

A spokesman for state Infrastructure Minister David O’Byrne said the freight logistics task force consultant’s final report was due about the end of June.

Discussing the Bass Strait freight crisis at York Cove, George Town, yesterday are George Town Chamber of Commerce president Alan Golley, Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten, George Town Mayor Roger Broomhall, West Tamar Mayor Barry Easther and Dorset Mayor Barry Jarvis. Picture: SCOTT GELSTON

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Records recall devastation of Ash Wednesday

Sheree Argento’s only memory of Ash Wednesday is of her father putting blankets in the back of the family ute for people whose homes had burnt down.
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She was five years old then, too young to grasp the magnitude of a blaze that, on February 16, 1983, killed 75 people and destroyed more than one million acres of land.

It was many years before she thought about that day again, as a media officer for the Coroners Court. Ms Argento asked the Office of Public Records to return evidence from the Ash Wednesday coronial inquest in preparation for a television program about the fire’s 30th anniversary and was overwhelmed when almost 50 boxes arrived, filled with hundreds of exhibits that then coroner, Mr Ellis, had considered to determine the start and cause of the fire.

Among them was a photograph of a watch forever stopped at 6.23pm, which helped to prove the time at which one of the eight fires passed through Garvoc, near Warrnambool. There were also witness accounts of farmers wetting hessian sacks to beat down flames and of others who tried to stop the blaze from spreading with their tractors.

Mr Ellis conducted the inquest over seven months at a number of sites without computers or the internet.

Some of the 764 statements from 486 witnesses who attended court were hand-written, others were typed.

Ms Argento picked a sample of the 527 pieces of evidence for an exhibition that will be on display for the first time at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Saturday.

”I wanted to pay tribute to the people who came to court in the wake of incredible loss to tell their stories.”

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Police step up campaign against gun crime

Launceston police are stepping up operations in response to five shootings in Launceston since May 7.
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Acting Northern Commander Colin Riley said the increased gun crime was a major concern.

”Any use of firearms or other sorts of violence to intimidate, retaliate or resolve any sort of disputes in private or public is just not tolerated by us,” he said.

”The primary concern for us is that people don’t get injured in crossfires.”

The stepped-up campaign includes:

– Increased searches and seizures of firearms and shooting suspects.

– More uniform patrols from dusk to dawn in shooting locations.

– Traffic operations in those areas to boost police presence.

– CCTV cameras to be placed in Ravenswood.

Mr Riley said number plate-reading cameras were also being deployed in the Launceston suburb where the past two shootings took place.

Placed in an unmarked car, the cameras read passing number plates, notifying police if any sought-after motorists are seen.

On Wednesday night, two gunmen fired bullets into the wrong house, which was occupied, on Warring Street.

Shots were fired in a home on Tuesday night in the same suburb while on May 10 bullets were fired into a home occupied by two women, in Viewbank Street, Newnham.

On May 7 there were two firearm incidents in Kings Meadows and Prospect Vale.

An alleged offender has been charged for one of the shootings.

However, Mr Riley said police had nabbed people they believe were involved in the various shootings but had only been able to charge them for unrelated offences.

This includes a suspect in the Warring Street shooting and another suspect involved in the Kings Meadows and Prospect incidents.

Illegal firearms were also seized in relation to those investigations, he said.

A person of interest in the Viewbank Street shooting has also been apprehended for an unrelated matter. Those matters include alleged firearm offences.

Police Minister David O’Byrne said the firearm incidents were naturally concerning.

”Tasmania Police has advised it’s taking these matters extremely seriously, and investigations are progressing strongly,” he said.

Liberal police spokeswoman Elise Archer said due to police budget cuts, if resources were diverted to address increasing gun crime, ”public safety would be vulnerable somewhere else”.

The unit in Warring Street where a shooting occurred.

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Two North West homes go up in flames

TWO homes were destroyed by fires in Narrabri and another near Gravesend overnight yesterday.
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Fire and Rescue NSW crews were called to a home on Wee Waa Rd, Narrabri, just after 6pm yesterday.

Three people were evacuated from the home and there were concerns for a fourth person who was missing when the blaze broke out.

The person was later found safe and well at another location.

The single-level fibro home was engulfed with flames and was destroyed.

Two Rural Fire Service (RFS) brigades were called for back-up to fight the blaze, which shut the road and caused traffic chaos for fans headed to the Daft Punk show at Wee Waa.

The road was closed as firefighters battled to contain the blaze, but it was reopened just before 8pm.

Firefighters remained on scene until well into the night to extinguish smouldering hotspots.

Investigations are under way to determine the cause of the fire, and local forensic crews are due to arrive on scene this morning.

Special precautions are in place because the home contains asbestos.

Meanwhile, a home east of Gravesend was also destroyed in a blaze which broke out about 6pm yesterday.

Four RFS brigades were called to fight the fire on Eden Forest Rd, off the Gwydir Highway, but there was little they could do.

It’s believed no one was home at the time of the blaze but investigations are under way to try and work out what sparked the fire.

Two homes were destroyed by fires in Narrabri and another near Gravesend overnight yesterday.

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Following the path of Mulga Fred, wanderer

A long time ago, some dreamy afternoon in the 1930s, my mother – a girl then – received a visitor at her family’s old homestead in far south-western Victoria. His name, the one most associated with him anyway, was Mulga Fred. My mother’s parents were away shopping in town, but even now, at the age of 92, she remembers Mulga Fred and his story.
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He was a famed performer on the buck jumping circuit, walked with a limp from one of the rare times when he was thrown, and had a full white beard.

He was on his way back down the road to the place that had become his sporadic base, the Lake Condah Mission for indigenous people, a settlement on a craggy lava flow whose importance to its inhabitants spilt back thousands of years beyond 1868 when it was deemed a mission.

Mulga Fred, wearied from a long walk and keen for a rest and a bite to eat, knocked on the door and sat with my mother and mourned that his people’s land had been taken by her people.

It was the first time, she recalls, that she was made to grasp the real story of the land in which she lived.

White children on farms thereabouts had been raised to fear and avoid blackfellas, but Mulga Fred revealed himself to be a gentle man with a story. This place, he declared, sweeping his arms to all points, was his home and the home of his people, but they had been denied it. Fences had gone up and they had been shoved into a mission designated by people who apparently knew better.

”We don’t have our proper home any more,” he said. ”But this is it, anyway, all around.”

My mother still remembers the melancholy in his eyes.

It was not long before a neighbour, alerted that Mulga Fred had wandered into the homestead, stomped in, leaned against the doorjamb and informed him: ”You best be on your way now, fella.”

Mulga Fred, known in unsound newspaper reports of his time as ”the last of the Victorian fullbloods”, really didn’t have what we might call a permanent home. He was probably born in Western Australia, drifted east in the early part of the century and travelled around, mostly in Victoria, on the buck jumping circuit. Even his real name remains unknown, though the names Fred Clark or Fred Wilson were attached to him, according to the Australian Dictionary of Biography. He died in 1948 when he fell from the railway platform at Horsham and was hit by a train.

But he left, for my mother, a lasting understanding that home was not defined by fences and gates. It was the place that filled your heart: where you felt you belonged, even if others decided it was not so and you had to become accustomed to the twists that life tossed you.

It was long ago, but perhaps not so much has altered.

As increasing tides of Australians in the past couple of generations have shifted from one place to another in search of education and work and in the thrall of corporations that call no base permanent, the concept of home as a fixed place has become an awkward concept.

It is a new story built on an old one, for this had long been a nation of the shifted and the shiftless, the first Europeans sent as convicts against their will, with those who followed scudding in from across the sea in quest of gold and land and jobs, the indigenous residents displaced. It was only the first half of last century when most Australians sat securely on plots of land in suburbs, towns and farms surrounded by growing families who didn’t move far.

But in the past few decades, as those of us born here move restlessly about in swarms unimagined by many of our grandparents, we have been joined by ever-growing numbers of long-distant wanderers.

The census of 2011 revealed that 5.3 million Australians (27 per cent of the population) were born overseas. Another 4.1 million (20 per cent of us) had at least one parent born overseas.

So many hearts, then, adrift between distant places and continents, forced by circumstance and will to fit themselves into new places. Home is thus the present infected by memory, and the making do with whatever hearth is on offer.

Technology, at least in part, has sought to fill the breach. It is not such a reach to perceive that home, for many, now resides in the ether, captured within smartphones and Wi-Fi tablets.

The communities that once gathered in town halls are now in our pockets, carried everywhere. Memories are directly available in full colour and form. Our friends and family live in Facebook, wherever they might be.

Photographs of the places and faces that mean everything are in the cloud, accessible right now. Moving pictures? YouTube is there.

We don’t write many letters any more, but we email and text-message almost without pause. Our music and our books no longer need to sit on shelves and in drawers but travel with us.

We don’t need to visit banks or file our records in cabinets in the home office.

When our longing to see a face or speak to a voice becomes insistent, we call. Or better, connect through Skype and gaze into distant eyes right there on our screens.

There are no fences any more, no gates. Front doors are virtual; just dial straight through. Clean across continents.

It is tempting to wonder what old Mulga Fred, had he known of such marvels, might have thought.

His idea of home, sure enough, was all around but also out of reach, just like the cloud.

But it was real enough. He placed his feet upon it and walked it and dropped in on strangers for a conversation about what was and what ought to be.

Even though he was told, from time to time, to ”move on, fella”, he made his mark with such modest conviction that his life later seemed worthy enough to be captured within the Australian Dictionary of Biography. It’s on the web. Forever. Finally, for his spirit, no fences.

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Wee Waa is centre of universe for Daft Punk concert

FOUR thousand Daft Punk fans and Wee Waa residents transformed the showground into a dancefloor last night for the official global launch of the French electronic duo’s fourth album, Random Access Memories.
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The news the Wee Waa Show would host the highly-anticipated launch of the album was announced to the public just under seven weeks ago, and the town has since been busy preparing for the onslaught of fans.

When the 4000 tickets went on sale last month they sold out in just 13 minutes and inquiries were fielded from around the world.

While the album became available to listen to in its entirety online earlier this week, it seemed to have done little to dampen the enthusiasm of the town as it geared up for the launch, an event dubbed the biggest thing to ever happen in Wee Waa.

For the region’s own pyro priest, Father Anthony Koppman, last night’s fireworks show was one of the largest productions his Holysmoke company had put on in its history.

Father Koppman – who started doing fireworks as a hobby and is in demand for community events around the region – was already scheduled to do the Wee Waa Show’s fireworks display, which he has done for a number of years.

But a few weeks ago he found out his display would lead into the Daft Punk album launch party, and so he revved things up to get the crowd going for the big event.

He amped up the content of the fireworks and shot them higher in a show that had several hours of preparation yesterday afternoon behind it.

“Tonight we are providing one of the most spectacular fireworks shows Wee Waa has ever seen,” Father Koppman told The Leader yesterday afternoon.

He said the fireworks were to be big enough to be seen across the whole area so everyone could share in the fun of the event.

“I’m delighted to be associated with this release, to help the young people celebrate the occasion,” Father Koppman said.

Despite repeated denials, rumours persisted yesterday that Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, the men behind the masks, would be at the show.

Qantas Dash-8 aircraft were spotted at Narrabri airport delivering some “VIPs” and hope remained the enigmatic Daft Punk duo would make a surprise appearance, some citing the pair’s mysterious nature as an argument for this case.

But a special commemorative edition of the album with a cover depicting Wee Waa’s town sign was released, available exclusively in the shire.

FEATHERED FRIENDS: These young Daft Punk fans didn’t forget the more traditional side to the town’s show.

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