Steve Carell as you’ve never seen him before – angry, activist and very gay

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Stacie Andree (Ellen Page) and Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore) in a scene from Freeheld Photo: eOne Steven Goldstein (Steve Carell) in a scene from Freeheld. Photo: eOne
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This is Steve Carell as you’ve never seen him before – angry, activist and very gay.

In this clip from the drama Freeheld, based on a true story, Carell plays Steven Goldstein, a lawyer and gay rights activist in New Jersey who acted in a landmark case for police lieutenant Laurel Hester (played here by Julianne Moore) and her partner Stacie Andree (Ellen Page).

Hester had been diagnosed with cancer, and wanted to leave her estate, including her police pension, to Andree, but the elected officials of Ocean County – known as freeholders – refused to allow her pension to pass to a same-sex partner.

“What these freeholders are doing is unconscionable,” he tells Andree, Hester and fellow cop Dane Wells (Michael Shannon).

Goldstein floats the idea of a gay pride parade, to “show them we’re a force to be reckoned with”.

When Wells tells him he doesn’t understand the conservative nature of this community, calling him “Steve”, Goldstein responds: “It’s Steven, with a V – as in very gay – and when people disrespect my gay brothers and sisters, I rain terror on them. Shock and awe. Shock and awe.”

Zach Galifianakis – like Carell, an alumnus of Saturday Night Live (though Galifianakis joined as a writer and lasted only two weeks) – was originally slated for the role of Goldstein but dropped out last August due to a scheduling conflict.

The real Goldstein told New Jersey’s The Auditor he was delighted with the casting decision.

“I’m so glad Steve Carell is playing me in Freeheld, rather than The 40 Year-Old Virgin,” he said.

Though this is the most out-and-proud role Carell – who is married (to a woman) and the father of two children – has played, technically speaking it isn’t his first gay role.

In 1996, he and Stephen Colbert provided the voices of Gary and Ace in an animated superhero comedy series called The Ambiguously Gay Duo.

In 2006 he played a gay Proust scholar recovering from a suicide attempt who is forced to go on a family road trip to a juvenile beauty pageant in the downbeat comedy Little Miss Sunshine.

And in 2014, he starred in Foxcatcher as John E. du Pont, the mega-wealthy wrestling enthusiast who shot and killed Dave Schultz in 1996, and whose relationship with his protégé Mark Schultz (played by Channing Tatum) in the film is tinged with a repressed homosexuality.

Freeheld, which is based on an Oscar-winning short documentary of the same name from 2007, opens in Thursday November 5.

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The two Chinan girls and their mother living in ‘jail’ at Villawood detention centre

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Villawood detention centre in Sydney. Photo: Jessica Hromas’Dad, why are we here?’ No life and a baby on the way on Nauru
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Salwa Abas stands out in the busy school drop off: she is the only child escorted by a guard. Classmates tease the five-year-old for living in a “jail” and when she returns home, each pocket of her bag is searched.

Salwa and her sister Yasmin, 3, are n citizens. But they have been living with their mother behind locked gates at Sydney’s Villawood detention centre for almost a year, after the federal government cancelled their mother’s visa.

In doing so, the government acknowledged the decision was not in the children’s best interests. Their mother Zahra, who is pregnant with her third child, has begged Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to intervene.

“They were happy n kids, why [did the government] do this to them, they don’t deserve to be here,” she told Fairfax Media from inside the detention centre.

“[My children] are really upset inside and they are asking me ‘What are we doing for Christmas, are we getting out? Why are we here?'”.

Ms Abas, originally from Iraq, arrived on a boat from Indonesia in 2009 with other family members. They were taken to Christmas Island then granted protection in .

Her father, known as Captain Emad, arrived in in 2010. He fled two years later, after ABC’s Four Corners program alleged he was running a people-smuggling racket from Canberra.

The case cast a spotlight on his family, and the Department of Immigration determined Ms Abas, who was 19 when arriving in , had falsified information on her visa application, including the reason why she needed protection.

Ms Abas said this week her father was “abusive, controlling and angry” and told the family to lie to immigration officials about their names and background.

“In Indonesia he wanted to break my legs because I wanted to run away from him, and he took a hammer and hit my leg and I got stitches from it,” she said.

“He told us to tell un-genuine information and I did, but my intention wasn’t anything bad, I just wanted to live [in] freedom without him abusing me any more.”

Under the former Labor government, the department said while Ms Abas had breached her obligations under migration law, her visa would not be cancelled.

But in December last year when the Coalition was in office, then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison personally intervened to cancel Ms Abas’ visa. She was informed on Christmas Eve.

In a letter to Ms Abas, the veracity of which the department did not dispute, Mr Morrison wrote that she had been living in Malaysia for many years, rather than in Iraq where she claimed to have suffered persecution, and should not have been granted a protection visa.

He said there was no evidence she was under duress from her father when applying for a visa.

“Notwithstanding that the best interests of the dependent children would be served by a decision not to cancel the mother’s visa, this is outweighed by the seriousness of the non-compliance,” Mr Morrison wrote.

Ms Abas was taken into detention in January, and lives in residential-style housing. Her n citizen husband suffers medical problems and depression after an accident and cannot care for the children, forcing them to live with their mother at Villawood indefinitely.

Ms Abas’ husband visits the family in detention and she is 21 weeks pregnant. She is also severely depressed and fears for the future of her unborn baby and young daughters.

Salwa, once a bubbly child with many friends who loved the film Frozen, is now lonely and suffers nightmares. Yasmin has become unhappy and clingy.

“Every day [Salwa] says ‘I had a really bad day, I hate this school, I hate you, I hate this place’, and then she goes in her room and cries. She doesn’t want to go out, she doesn’t want to eat,” Ms Abas said.

“It’s like a jail – you have no freedom, no control over your life or your children’s life.”

Mr Dutton and the Department of Immigration refused to answer questions regarding Ms Abas, or explain why she was the only family member being detained. A spokeswoman for Mr Dutton said his department was “managing” the case.

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Mafia history of Gino and Mark Stocco’s alleged victim Rosario Cimone revealed

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Mark and Gino Stocco, who were captured on a property where Rosario Cimone’s body was also located. Photo: NSW Police Gino Stocco is led to a prison vehicle after appearing in Dubbo Local Court via video link. Photo: Wolter Peeters
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Mark Stocco is led to a prison vehicle after appearing in Dubbo Local Court via video link. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Mark Stocco at Dubbo police station on Wednesday. Photo: Nine News

Body of Rosario Cimone found on remote property​How the Stoccos evaded police​The tip-off that led to the final hide-outWill o’ the wisps in Kelly Gang country

The long-awaited capture of father and son fugitives Gino and Mark Stocco has taken another bizarre twist as links have emerged between their alleged victim and the Italian Mafia, long-term cannabis cultivation and a fatal electrocution last year.

The pair, who had been on the run for eight years, were charged on Thursday morning with the murder of Italian-born farm caretaker Rosario Cimone, 68, on October 7.

They did not appear in Dubbo Local Court on Thursday and magistrate Andrew Eckhold ordered they remain behind bars until their case returns on January 20.

Mr Cimone’s decomposed body was discovered in a shallow grave at Pinevale, a remote property near Dunedoo, in central western NSW, just hours after police captured the Stoccos in a dramatic, covert operation on Wednesday morning.

The elusive pair had worked on the extremely isolated property with Mr Cimone, who was reported missing to Green Valley police by his daughters, Maria and Vicenza, on October 8.

When a white ute, similar to the one allegedly stolen by the Stoccos, was spotted in bushland behind the property on Tuesday, police had their “final pieces of the jigsaw” and descended on the 385-hectare spot.

Fairfax Media can reveal Mr Cimone, from Green Valley, was a cannabis cultivator with a string of past convictions and a long history with the Calabrian Mafia in .

His son, Phillip, 35, was also convicted in 2013 of cultivating more than 1000 cannabis plants on a remote property near Bundarra, in the northern tablelands,

Rosario, known as Ross to his friends, was charged with cultivating substantial cannabis crops in the early 1980s, charged with the sale of cannabis in the mid-1980s and convicted in 2003 of a $30-million cannabis operation at a property in Nimmitabel, in far southern NSW.

He was sentenced to four years in prison for growing 14,000 cannabis plants and possessing unauthorised firearms.

He was one of a group of prisoners to be given early release, in exchange for bribes, under the corrupt 1980s prison boss, Rex Jackson.

One of his seven co-accused in the Nimmitabel drug gang, Mario Cataldo, 58, was killed in October last year when he was electrocuted by an illegal hydroponic set-up in Bringelly, on the western outskirts of Sydney.

He lay dead in a shed for two days, and his body was eventually found when his family called an ambulance because they had not heard from him.

Former friend, Giuseppe Mammone, said Mr Cimone was “a nice man” who used to own a butcher’s shop in Edensor Park in the 80s and loved going to the Marconi Club when he was in Green Valley. 

Former assistant police commissioner Clive Small, who is writing a book on the Calabrian Mafia in , said Mr Cimone played a “mid-level” role.

He had been working in the Dunedoo area in recent months but it is not known whether drugs were being grown on the rugged, isolated property, described by locals as a “perfect hideout”.

A neighbour, who asked not to be named, told Fairfax Media that she had made calls to CrimeStoppers in recent years to report suspicious people working on the property, that had no farms.

It’s not known whether the Stoccos had direct involvement but Mr Small said they would most likely have been considered too unreliable by the Mafia.

They were erratic, conspiratorial characters who were known to move frequently, barely staying on farms for more than a few weeks.

“When [the Mafia] are recruiting people to be pickers or cultivators … or crop sitters, that is, people who might go there to plant the crops under supervision with others and just sit there and make sure no one steals it, they tend, generally, to deal with people they have had experience with in the past or whose families they know.”

He said the Mafia was well and truly alive in and had a violent but little-known history.

“There are probably a number of reasons why they’ve been able to get away with it,” he said. “If you deny it’s existence, then you don’t have to do anything about it.”

In addition to murder, Gino, 57, and Mark, 36, are each charged with 17 NSW offences, including shooting with intent to murder, dishonestly obtaining property by deception, police pursuit and discharging a firearm with intent to resist arrest.

Wanted for a string of property and violent offences in Queensland, NSW and Victoria, the men became the focus of a large-scale manhunt after police were shot at during a high speed pursuit near Wagga Wagga on October 16.

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People-smuggler cash scandal: Indonesian MP calls for China to abandon push-back policy

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Police officers displaying six stacks of $US100 bills during a press conference by Nusa Tenggara Timur police chief Endang Sunjaya at Rote police station in June. Photo: Supplied Jasmine, one of two boats which asylum seekers claim they were transferred onto by n Border Force after being intercepted. Photo: Amnesty International
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Cash Indonesia police said was paid to people smugglers.

Push for royal commission into people smuggler cash scandalPeople smuggler cash: boat captain speaksHow events unfolded

Jakarta: A member of President Joko Widodo’s ruling party has called on the Indonesian government to “send a strong protest” after a report found n officials paid people smugglers to return to Indonesia.

Charles Honoris​, a member of the Indonesian House of Representatives, also renewed calls for to abandon its controversial boat push-back policy and said he hoped the n government would be more transparent under the new Prime Minister.

“Foreign Minister Retno [Marsudi] has demanded an explanation on the June incident but got no response,” said Mr Honoris, a member of Mr Joko’s Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP).

“The Foreign Minister must demand it again, especially after the release of the Amnesty International report. The Indonesian government must send a strong protest to the n government so that it will not recur in the future.”

The Amnesty International report said n officials who paid people smugglers to return a boat of asylum seekers to Indonesia had committed a transnational crime, put dozens of lives at risk and called for a royal commission into the scandal.

Mr Honoris also proposed a joint investigation into the people smuggling payments between Indonesia and .

“Now there is a new prime minister in we hope the government will be transparent in this particular case. They have to explain what happened and I think it is time for them to abandon the boat push-back policy. I am sure the payment to boat crews – if the Amnesty International report is accurate – is something that is even against n law, let alone international law.”

The n government maintained its defence of Operation Sovereign Borders on Thursday. Asked whether n officials had committed international crimes by paying people smugglers, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that “all of our agencies operate within the law and they operate within the law keeping our borders secure”.

He would not be drawn on whether to establish a new inquiry into the matter, saying the government was satisfied its agencies were operating legally. “We have got a very important role to ensure that we stop people smuggling. People smuggling is a very, very serious crime.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop rejected the report outright. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said that people intercepted by the n Border Force and Defence Force were “held lawfully in secure, safe, humane, and appropriate conditions … to suggest otherwise, as Amnesty has done, is to cast a slur on the men and women of the ABF and ADF.”

He told n radio station 2GB the government would not “water down” its policy of turning back asylum seeker boats.

Shadow Immigration Minister Richard Marles urged the government to immediately say whether the allegations were true: “The n community deserves to be told whether this government has used taxpayer money to pay people smugglers to turn boats around at sea.”

General Endang Sunjaya, the police chief of Nusa Tenggara Timur province who oversaw the investigation into the people smuggler payments, said n officials put the lives of asylum seekers in danger.

He also told Fairfax Media that put Indonesia in a disadvantaged position because it now had to assist and process “abundant numbers of illegal immigrants”.

General Endang said n officials had paid the captain and crew and then returned the asylum seekers in boats that lacked adequate navigational systems and fuel.

“They were turned back with less than minimal safety,” he said.

“It endangered the people and as they approached Landu Island they were stranded and ran out of fuel and food supplies. This is [something that ] needs to be fully aware of – it put the illegal immigrants in danger. and Indonesia need to sit down and thoroughly discuss these issues to ensure no country is put at a disadvantage.”

General Endang said Indonesian police had proved the existence of bribes to people smugglers in June. But he said that while the Amnesty International report had mentioned possible payments to people smugglers on a second boat in July, Nusa Tenggara Timur police had found no evidence of this.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Arrmanatha Nasir, said the government would study the Amnesty International report.

“The Indonesian position is clear that successfully handling irregular migrants takes co-operation and commitment between countries of origin, transit and destination.”

He said Indonesia remained opposed to ‘s boat push-back policy.

The head of n National University’s College of Law, Professor Don Rothwell, said that Indonesia was unlikely to pursue the range of legal options it had on ‘s alleged breaches of international law: “[Indonesia has] been in possession of these facts for a very long period of time now, yet it’s chosen to deal with the matter by diplomatic means.”

Amnesty International said in its report that n officials had breached the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land Sea and Air. Under the protocol, Indonesia could engage in a range of dispute resolutions, but all rely on ‘s co-operation to go ahead, including the option of suing at the International Court of Justice.

International law experts said that more than the current Senate inquiry was needed to deal with the allegations domestically. Sydney University international law Professor Ben Saul backed the report’s recommendation for a royal commission, saying the inquiry did not have the power to deal with classified evidence without prejudicing security operations.

“At least you’d get an independent quasi-judicial scrutiny of what’s going on,” he said. “It could say this is legitimate or make recommendations against the practice but at the moment that can’t happen because a parliamentary inquiry is limited to scrutinising technical matters of the regime without fundamentally questioning the policy premises.”

Professor Rothwell said a royal commission was “premature”, but, given the government had consistently refused to discuss a range of issues raised on asylum seekers and Operation Sovereign Borders, “it is fair to say that even parliamentary inquiries are unable to fully determine the truth of some of these matters”.

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Unique International College: Students allegedly paid cash to go into $25,000 debt

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The house bought by Unique International College and its owner Amarjhit Khela. Unique International College in Granville.
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The Kenthurst property formerly owned by Unique International College. Photo: Domain

Follow SMH Student on FacebookCrackdown on Sydney private college recruiting ‘illiterate and disabled students’Living the high life: Unique College International’s Amarjit Khela

A private Sydney college allegedly paid students up to $2000 to sign documents they could not read in order to take out Commonwealth loans of up to $25,000, according to students targeted by the school.

The Unique International College came under scrutiny this week for its allegedly “unconscionable conduct” in poor rural areas targeting disabled and illiterate students in remote Aboriginal communities.

Fairfax Media can reveal that large groups of students in Sydney’s west were also allegedly brought into the one-room campus en masse to sign up to courses they did not understand they were taking and clock up debts of up to $25,000.

Despite being pursued by the n Competition and Consumer Commission for $57 million in taxpayer funding, the college above Silly Willy’s $2 shop in Granville continues to operate.

When Fairfax Media contacted the college on Thursday an employee said it was business as usual for its diplomas in marketing and hairdressing.

Its founder and CEO, Amarjit Khela, a multi-millionaire with a penchant for one-tonne chandeliers, sherry scotch and 12-car garages, has gone into hiding.

“I am quiet because of legal advice but I am not dead,” the man known as “bhaji” wrote to friends on Thursday.

“I shall speak with solid evidence when the time is ripe. I do not blame my brothers who have hurt me.  For them I say that the insult of a kaffir is better than the false praise of a believer. May God spread happiness and kheer [an Indian sweet milk drink] in the homes of all.”

The college’s registration was cancelled in October after it received $42 million in Commonwealth funding despite only 2.4 per cent of its more than 800 students completing courses.

Jeff Tan told the Herald his aunt was allegedly offered $2000 in four $500 payments by Unique to sign a form she could not read that would force her into a course she had no hope of completing.

Her signature would have accrued her a taxpayer-funded debt of $25,000 that was paid to the college for 20 weeks of a Diploma of Salon management course.

“My aunt does not even understand English,” said Mr Tan. “Big groups of people would come into the centre in Granville, they would say they do not speak English and the sales agents would tell them ‘don’t worry about it,’ just sign these forms and you get $2000.”

Students who signed up for the course were then offered a $500 bonus if they referred a friend to take up one of the colleges courses, said Mr Tan.

In May last year fights broke out at a promotional day for the college to sign up students for management, hairdressing or marketing courses as demand outstripped the number of free laptops being used as inducements.

A submission to a Senate committee inquiry into the private college sector from the Canterbury Bankstown Migrant Interagency detailed cash inducements being offered to elderly residents to take out VET-FEE loans in 2014.

“They were each offered a free computer/iPad or $1000 cash by taking out the loan. They were told there was no need to come to class, but if they wish, they could come and free lunch will be offered,” the submission said.

Mr Tan said that during 2013 the college would send out recruiters throughout Asian communities in Auburn, Campsie and Hurstville and news of the bonuses and payments would spread by word of mouth.

The day after his aunt signed up for the course, Mr Tan realised she had unwittingly committed herself to tens of thousand of dollars worth of debt.

The University of NSW student raced down to the Granville office where another group of would-be Unique students were waiting to be signed up and withdrew her paperwork just before it was submitted.

“I think they never intended people to study, it is just a profit-making machine,” the 20-year-old said.

Unique generated a profit of $11 million before tax last year out of taxpayer funded VET-FEE Help loans, but Mr Tan said that learning resources were scarce.

“It was very basic. There was only one main room that was fairly small. The centre could never accommodate that many students who were enrolling to join, my aunt was told you don’t really have to study.”

Statistics posted online by the college claim that business was booming at the time, growing from 500 students in 2012 to more than 800 by 2013.

“In our history so far, despite the others trying to harm us, we always focused on spending our energy, time and resources on continually improving ourselves, rather than wasting time and energy on trying to harm the others” the college wrote in May 2013.

Mr Khela has promised to strenuously defend the actions of the college for operating within Commonwealth legislative frameworks.

The school has until November 23 to appeal ASQA’s decision to cancel its registration. ASQA cancelled the Unique’s registration after it found the college to be non-compliant with training standards and engaged in inappropriate marketing practices.

Mike Baird apologies to Fairbridge Farm School victims in NSW Parliament

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NSW Premier Mike Baird. Photo: Peter RaePremier Mike Baird struggled to speak as he apologised to former child migrants who were physically and sexually assaulted at the notorious Fairbridge Farm School in the state’s central west.
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The school was home to more than 1200 underprivileged children, some as young as four, who had been sent from their homes in England.

Mr Baird’s delivered his touching apology at state parliament on Thursday afternoon, causing the entire lower house to stand and applause.

“I am deeply, deeply sorry,” he said.

“On behalf of the State of NSW, I want to recognise all former child migrants who attended Fairbridge Farm in Molong, NSW.

“They arrived here as vulnerable and trusting children whose parents wanted nothing more than a better life than the one they could offer.”

In June this year, more than 60 adults who were abused as children, were awarded $24 million in what was the largest compensation payment for survivors of institutional child abuse in n legal history.

Former ABC managing director David Hill was a former resident and wrote about the experience in his book The Forgotten Children.

“They were not given the future they were promised, or the childhood they deserved,” Mr Baird said.

“They were betrayed by the people whose job it was to protect them, and were betrayed by this State which did not ensure their safety.

“I recognise these wrongs, knowing that it will not bring back the childhood they were robbed of.

“I acknowledge the burden many of them carry each and every day as a result of their experiences.”

An estimated 130,000 children were taken from the UK and sent to , New Zealand, Canada and Zimbabwe as part of the British child migration scheme.

More than 1200 were sent to the Fairbridge Farm School, which operated from 1938 to 1974.

The former residents were kept in primitive barracks, often starved, exploited for their labour, cruelly punished and sexually assaulted.

ASX falls over 1pc as Woolies disappoints

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The Woolworths result quickly reversed market sentiment on Thursday. Photo: Patrick ScalaConsumer stocks led n shares sharply lower on Thursday following a dreadful quarterly sales report from Woolworths, while ANZ reported full-year profit numbers and Blackmores shares briefly hit $200 each.
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The market started the day in positive territory following strong gains on Wall Street, which reached two-month highs. The Dow Jones lifted 1 per cent after the US Federal Reserve implied it was more open to a December rate hike.

However, the Woolworths result quickly reversed market sentiment, especially as Wesfarmers shares were also sold off as a result.

Consumer staples was by the far the worst sector on the day, losing 5.3 per cent. All sectors bar utilities stocks were in the red as the benchmark ASX200 index fell 1.3 per cent to 5266.9 and the broader All Ordinaries declined 1.2 per cent to 5310.2.

The banks were also down, with ANZ falling 2 per cent to $28.17 after reporting record full-year profits of $7.2 billion, but also slowing earnings growth, flat dividends, and shareholder returns squeezed by the dilutive effect of its recent capital raising.

Commonwealth Bank shed 0.6 per cent to $77.17 and National Bank declined 4 per cent to $30.46 but Westpac performed relatively well, finishing flat at $31.92.



Woolworths crashed 9.8 per cent to $24.70 after warning that net profits will fall as much as 35 per cent in the December half to between $900 million and $1 billion.

Same-store n food and liquor sales fell for the second consecutive quarter –  down 1 per cent in the three months to October 4 – as Woolworths struggled to reverse customer perceptions that its prices are higher than Coles.

The decline in first-quarter same-store food and liquor sales followed a 0.9 per cent drop in the June quarter, indicating that Woolworths supermarkets are continue to lose momentum. ​Analysts had been forecasting same-store sales to fall between 0.5 per cent and 1.1 per cent.

Fears of continuing price wars in the grocery sector resulted in competitor Wesfarmers dropping 4.3 per cent to $40.18, while Metcash was walloped even worse than Woolworths, losing 10.4 per cent to $1.20.

“There’s a big question now over some of these consumer stocks,” said Invast chief market analyst Peter Esho. “Woolworths can only fight its way out of this through pricing – and if they discount the rest of the market has to discount and it’s going to drive down margins.

“Woolworths is not just a short-term earnings thing. There’s big questions now over where strategy is at, where management’s at, where the board is at. The whole thing is falling apart.”

Overnight, iron ore slumped 3 per cent to $US49.95 per tonne – under $US50 – although oil recovered somewhat, with Brent crude up $US2.10 or 4.5 per cent, to $US48.91 per barrel.

BHP weakened 1.3 per cent to $23.47 and Rio Tinto slipped 1.8 per cent to $51.14. Pure-play iron ore miner Fortescue gave up 2.2 per cent to $2.20 and Woodside Petroleum fell 1 per cent to $29.34 despite the improving oil price.

Telstra retreated 1.4 per cent to $5.50.

Blackmores surged 12.9 per cent to $175.51 after news it was expanding beyond its core business to enter the infant formula market through a partnership deal with dairy group Bega Cheese, as profits continue to surge from vitamins sales to China.

Blackmores has experienced an incredible near 500 per cent rise in its share price over the past 14 months because of heavy demand for its vitamins and health supplements in China.

Newcrest’s chances of meeting its full year gold production guidance have taken a blow with the company confirming a major piece of kit at its most important mine will be out for longer.

An important part of the production process at the Cadia mine in NSW failed about 12 days ago, and Newcrest said today it would be “at least five weeks” before it was fixed. The gold miner crumbled 7.6 per cent to $12.72.

Southern Cross Austereo upgrades earnings, implores government to move on reform

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Southern Cross Austereo CEO Grant Blackley presented an earnings upgrade to shareholders. Photo: Louise KennerleyAll-day live streaming of metropolitan television channels could have a “pretty damaging effect” on the regional marketplace and Southern Cross Austereo will consider it when negotiating a new affiliate agreement, the regional television and radio broadcaster’s chief executive Grant Blackley says.
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The media company upgraded its earnings expectations for the first half on the back of improved revenue across the business, particularly from radio, which includes The Hit Network and Triple M.

Southern Cross’s current affiliation deal is with Ten Network Holdings, where Mr Blackley was chief executive for six years until 2011, and expires in July 2016.

“We’re keen to see what [Ten are] doing next year, we’re keen to see the content they’ll have … I think television more broadly has to market itself better, so what’s Ten’s views and plans on that because I think radio as an industry does it better than television,” Mr Blackley said following Southern Cross’s annual general meeting on Thursday.

Ten chief executive Paul Anderson told Fairfax Media that there was a lot of hype around live streaming and, for now, Ten will not broadcasting all its channels over the internet 24/7 like its rivals Seven and Nine plan to.

Mr Blackley said he had no preference for a short- or long-term agreement as long as it resulted in a better economic outcome for Southern Cross.

He said streaming would be a consideration in negotiations because “it’s a growing concern”.

“We look at the media reform proposition; I think what you’re seeing is that one of the debates and discussion in market is about streaming services into markets which effectively is coming into our market unencumbered, particularly with national ads, [and] there’s not as much localisation into the regional communities,” Mr Blackley said.

“We see it as something that we have to be highly cognisant of as an affiliate, but again it can have a pretty damaging effect on our marketplace, particularly if it is not a geo-filtered ad insertion model into the marketplace which we participate in.” Media reform ‘an urgent issue’

Mr Blackley said media reform was an urgent issue and implored the government to scrap the reach rule preventing TV networks from broadcasting to more than 75 per cent of the population, the two out of three rule preventing media companies from owning a TV station, radio network and newspaper in the same market, as well as a reduction in broadcast licence fees.

At Southern Cross’s AGM on Thursday Mr Blackley announced to shareholders that the company is now expecting earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation between $87 million and $89 million in the first half, up 2 per cent to 4 per cent on the same period last year. In August it had forecast flat growth.

Southern Cross shares jumped on the news, trading up 3.1 per cent in afternoon trade at 97.75¢.

The upgrade came as a result of better revenue forecasts, especially in its radio assets. Southern Cross is expecting metro radio revenue to be up between 7 per cent to 8 per cent in the half, while regional radio is forecast to improve between 3 per cent  to 4 per cent and TV revenue to rise around 1 per cent.

“[We’re] very pleased. The radio side did well, and it’s obviously improving. We’re seeing improvements in both metro and regional. It’s probably the second best performance in market only to out of home media,” Mr Blackley said.

Luck turns for Canberra Capitals with WNBA guard Renee Montgomery to debut

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The Canberra Capitals’ wretched run of luck has finally taken a positive turn with Minnesota Lynx point guard Renee Montgomery cleared to make her WNBL debut after resolving her visa issues. 
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Montgomery will suit up for the Capitals in Saturday’s home game against Melbourne in a major boost to a roster crippled by injuries.

The 28-year-old’s arrival will help appease the loss to perimeter player Hanna Zavecz, who retired from basketball this week after aggravating a rib injury. 

Canberra’s season is already in danger of slipping away after losing their first five matches and the Boomers match is virtually must-win.

Capitals coach Carrie Graf confirmed on Thursday that Montgomery will debut at AIS Arena, but doesn’t expect her to play a huge role given her travel after helping Lynx win the WNBA title.

“She’s on a plane as we speak. She’ll have medicals tomorrow [Friday] and we’ll suit her up and give her some game time,” Graf said.

“Straight off the plane you’re not ready to play 35 to 40 minutes; jet lag takes a couple of days to get over.

“It’s a confidence boost for our team. Our roster is undermanned due to circumstances out of our control and adding a player of her ilk is a plus for us.

“She’s a quality player, can hit the three-point shot and get deep in the lane to score.

“She’s going to create opportunities for the rest of the group, but she’s not going to be the magic formula in a day,” she said.

Montgomery’s inclusion will allow the Capitals to cover for Zavecz by playing regular point guards Alice Coddington and Abbey Wehrung with Montgomery at the same time.

Graf insisted they’re focussed on playing “with what we have” after eight players suited up in the last-start loss in Bendigo, but will keep their ear to the ground for possible replacements.

The Capitals showed plenty of grit before Bendigo’s clear size advantage ground them down in the 77-66 defeat.

“Two days isn’t enough time to get a starting perimeter player into your group,” she said.

“Right now we’ll sit tight and we’ll look at potential options out there in coming weeks.

“We’ve been without players for a while and been on numerous searches, but there’s not a lot out there.”

The injury dramas mean young n Opal Stephanie Talbot has taken on a much bigger role offensively for Canberra, averaging 20 points per game.

She said she was relishing the extra responsibility but said a greater focus on intensity led to a more competitive showing against Bendigo.

“Throughout the game our grit and team defence took it up a lot, we were so much better at that, and that put the pressure on them,” she said.

“Down the stretch their size and our point guard [Wehrung] getting fouled out [hurt], they overtook us, which was disappointing, but the effort we put in was much better.”

SATURDAY

WNBL round four: Canberra Capitals v Melbourne Boomers at AIS Arena, 7pm

Tickets available from Ticketek

NBN one street, web drop-outs the next

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Watson resident Petra Bright has experienced poor internet connectivity at her home. Photo: Graham TidyNBN Co buys 1800 kilometres of copperNBN’s first satellite launches successfully
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Watson resident Petra Bright knows too well the frustrations of unreliable internet.

Yet less than two kilometres away residents in the central suburb’s most northern streets enjoy the reliably fast speeds of the National Broadband Network.

“I’m probably about one or two kilometres from where the NBN is but I’m about five kilometres away from the exchange for ADSL and ADSL2 so, I’m a fair distance from the actual exchange which has caused a few issues with my internet – it tends to drop out,” Ms Bright said.

“It went down for about two weeks a few weeks ago and there was next to no answer for it.

“My ISP tends to blame the distance from the exchange for everything. Five kilometres is a fair distance but at the same time I can’t fix my location.”

Ms Bright’s ordeal, like that of many Canberrans, reflects a digital divide not only across the capital’s regions but within old and new suburbs.

A pocket of streets in Casey were among the only ones in the entire Gungahlin region to miss out on the capital region’s initial NBN rollout, aside from the next stage underway in Nicholls.

Although about 81,000 Canberra and Queanbeyan homes are a step closer to having NBN access, with a raft of suburbs announced earlier this month to have construction on the broadband network begin by next September, many others remain in limbo.

Tuggeranong has emerged the biggest loser with only Wanniassa and Kambah earmarked for the NBN in the next three years.

While Ms Bright does not categorise herself among the unluckiest internet surfers in Canberra, she has had to accept limited connectivity throughout her house, including rooms where she can’t jump online at all.

“Basically, I’m on the furthest limit of what [my internet provider] can provide for ADSL2,” she said.

“I can get Netflix and all those types of things [but] I can’t get Wi-Fi in my bedroom, for example, because it’s already become so slow [after] hitting the router. By the time it gets to my bedroom or other parts of the house, it’s dropped out by then.”

Dr David Tuffley from Griffith University’s School of Information and Communication Technology said the country’s digital divide stemmed from a “hybrid set-up” of ADSL copper wire and glass fibre.

It’s the result of a switch from the former Labor government’s fibre-to-the-premises NBN plan to the Liberal government’s fibre and copper mix, he said.

“They’ve run as much speed out of these copper wires as they absolutely, possibly can – they really can’t manage anymore,” Dr Tuffley said.

“Some areas are fairly well connected with fibre and they’re enjoying fast speeds. The ones that are really slow are ones that are largely copper and there’s a lot of people connected to the one node. The more people that connect, the slower it all becomes.

“So as more people subscribe to Netflix and Stan and other streaming services and of course, those naughty people who torrent stuff, there’s more and more load.”

Dr Tuffley said ‘s internet, ranked 44th in the world earlier this year, was “deplorable” and “embarrassing”.

He said there seemed to be a mentality of leaving problem streets alone in lieu of the NBN’s eventual rollout.

“It is false economy to skimp on providing the right infrastructure for now and the future,” he said.

“What the government is providing is barely adequate for now and it doesn’t really provide terribly well for the future.”

Dr Tuffley said there weren’t many options for people stuck without ADSL2.

Consistent 4G or 5G coverage could be one way around physical shortcomings in urban areas in the future, however this would be a long way off.

Ms Bright said she looked forward to eventually accessing the NBN but was a little jealous of her friends up the road already delighting in speedy internet access.

“You sort of feel like you’re living on dial-up speed sometimes,” she said.

“It’s more just a jealousy thing at the end of the day, that they have much faster internet than you do.”

Residents removed from Tomaree Lodge to group homes under NDIS

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THE removal of 38 residents from Tomaree Lodge, the Port’s lone state-run disability care hospital for the past 28 years, has started.
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The residents, predominantly aged from 65 and suffering from intellectual and physical disabilities, will be rehoused into group homes accommodating up to six people as houses become available.

A Family and Community Services (FACS) spokesperson has confirmed that the NSW government was committed to the redevelopment of Tomaree Lodge by June 30, 2018.

“These large centres will be replaced with contemporary accommodation in the community designed to provide a home-like environment, with more privacy, flexibility in daily living and opportunities for increased participation in the community,” the spokesperson said.

“FACS is committed to consulting with staff, their industrial representatives through an industrial relations working party, and local consultative meetings.”

Minister for Disability Services John Ajaka last week announced that the government was seeking expressions of interest from non-government organisations to build and operate disability housing to replace Hunter lodges including Tomaree at a cost of $58 million.

Mr Ajaka said closing the institutions would help ensure people with disabilities have the opportunity to choose their place of residence, choose the people they live with, be closer to their families and integrate more with the community.

However, according to the sole surviving relative of one Tomaree Lodge resident, many of those living at the Shoal Bay facility are unable to communicate their wishes and do not have anyone speaking for them.

“It’s a sad reality that many of these residents do not have a voice,” said Judy Bourke, the sister-in-law of Angelman syndrome sufferer Marea Bourke.

“While the National Disability Insurance Scheme has many health benefits, there are a minority who will fall between the cracks, including my sister-in-law who has resided at Tomaree since 1988.

“She needs 24-hour specialist nursing care, and would not cope in a smaller property.”

State MP Kate Washington has labelled the government’s decision to release the plan to the business sector before being shared or discussed with residents’ families or advocates as “disgraceful”.

“The residents of these services are the most vulnerable people in our community, and we must ensure that what’s being proposed is consistent with the NDIS principles of choice and control, not a ‘one size fits all’ accommodation with no safeguards,” Ms Washington said.

“And there are still no answers as to how the health needs of these residents will be managed once they are rehoused.”

The FACS spokesperson said there were 54 staff at Tomaree Lodge and FACS was finalising its approach for the workforce.

“Future plans for the site following relocation of residents are yet to be developed and FACS is unable to provide an estimated value of this property.”

In 2012, Port Stephens mayor Bruce MacKenzie caused a huge outcry when he suggested the land be turned into a tourist development complete with casino.

Rodney Lawrence in court charged with cold case murder of Elizabeth Dixon

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Elizabeth Dixon was found slumped across the front seat of her own car in the bush. Photo: Police Media Police at the scene where Elizabeth Dixon was murdered in 1982. Photo: Allan Jolly
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Detective Sergeant Frank Tracey investigated the death of Elizabeth Dixon in 1982. Photo: Chris Cole

A man charged with the murder of Elizabeth “Betty” Dixon in Newcastle 33 years ago has appeared in Maitland Local Court.

Ms Dixon’s body was found slumped across the front seat of her car in bush near Ashtonfield in Newcastle’s north-west in 1982. An autopsy found she had suffered 27 stab wounds.

Rodney Lawrence, 64, from Stockton, made no application for bail as he was led into court in handcuffs on Thursday.

Duty solicitor Peter Cleaves told magistrate John Chicken: “I cannot be in a position today to make a substantial bail application.

“This warrants a bail application and my suggestion is that next week in Newcastle I can be in a position to make that application.”

The magistrate formally refused bail and Lawrence was remanded in custody, to appear by way of audio visual link in Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday next week.

Bearded, with a moustache, Lawrence was dressed in jeans and a dark jacket.

According to police papers tendered to the court, Lawrence murdered Ms Dixon at Ashtonfield between April 3 and 4, 1982.

Ms Dixon flew from Northern Ireland in 1979 for a year in and decided to stay.

The Saturday before Easter in 1982, Ms Dixon, 31, left the Greenhills Hit-N-Dip Sports Centre, where she was a regular squash player, and vanished.

She was known to have made a quick visit to some nearby shops and possibly went back to her flat in Metford.

The following Monday, a jogger found her body.

A murder investigation continued sporadically until Lawrence was arrested on Wednesday.

The suspect, who was a well-known Maitland sportsman in 1982, was arrested at his home at Stockton and taken to Maitland police station for questioning.

The Maitland Mercury, Newcastle Herald

End of an era with Rozelle Markets takeover by Blue Sky Markets Pty Ltd

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Jeanne Albrecht (right) with her daughter Ilana Albrecht at Rozelle Public School. Photo: Kate GeraghtyAfter 25 years, Jeannie Albrecht’s project is over. The P&C mum who started the Rozelle Markets out of her own car is being edged out by the pros.
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It was announced earlier this week that the department of education will turf out Mrs Albrecht in favour of Blue Sky Markets, a company which has about 10 market businesses in Queensland and NSW.

“It’s very important not to squash someone who’s worked very, very hard, and not just for themselves, and discard them” said Mrs Albrecht. “Take away a piece of community here and a piece there and soon you have something soulless”.

Mrs Albrecht began the weekend market in 1991, after the success of a P&C car-boot sale. She shook hands with the principal on a deal to use school land on weekends in exchange for rent.

She threw in her life savings, took out a loan and hung tough through lean days with her daughter Larna who sold grassy heads made out of old stockings.

The site has since grown into Sydney’s major second-hand market and Mrs Albrecht says one-third of her stalls are set aside for casual community stalls.

But last year a Department of Education decree stated that all schools’ commercial arrangements be reviewed and opened to tender.

“It’s a hobby and my passion,” said Blue Sky owner Ross Alexander.

Rozelle will make for Blue Sky’s 10th market property, including in Bondi, Manly and (after similar tender takeovers) in Chinatown and Brisbane.

His critics argue Mr Alexander’s approach gives markets a samey feel and they fear stallholders will be squeezed.

Mr Alexander says he has not raised stallholder fees in the past and is ruling out any at Rozelle. He wants to maintain the market’s bric-a-brac feel and says he profits only by making markets better in the long-term and offering landowners a better deal.

“We got a very well known designer to come up with a brand for what Chinatown is,” he said.

Mr Alexander says that his operation will give the school a fairer share of revenue. “If it’s a commercial operation in a school then I think that’s important”.

But some stallholders are not happy.

Lesley Fairbairn, who has sold second-hand books, bric-a-brac and miscellany at Rozelle since its beginning says she will not work for new management.

A signal example of the difference in management styles, stallholders say, is Mrs Albrecht collects her rent on the morning of the markets. That means they don’t pay for rainy days, which can be the bane of a stallholder’s life.

Blue Sky collects in advance.

“The idea that someone comes round collecting cash these days…,” Mr Alexander said. “There’s a major security issue, I don’t think it’s appropriate to put staff in that position”.

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