Tories ‘winced’ over Tony Abbott’s ‘fascistic’ refugees speech

Posted on by

Tony Abbott gave The Margaret Thatcher lecture in London. Photo: Julian Andrews Tony Abbott also spoke with Ukip migration spokesman Steven Woolfe while in London. Photo: Stephen Woolfe Twitter

Abbott urges Europe to turn back the boatsAbbott offers advice to UKIP politicianTranscript of Tony Abbott’s speechEditorial: Abbott’s battle: Machiavelli vs Jesus

London: Tony Abbott’s controversy-sparking speech in honour of Margaret Thatcher made Conservative cabinet ministers “wince”, a well-connected Tory blogger says.

Guido Fawkes, the online persona of blogger and journalist Paul Staines, wrote that a top Tory described the speech afterwards as “fascistic”.

In the speech on Tuesday night, the former n prime minister recommended a hardline approach to turning migrants away from Europe’s borders, and an increase in military action on the ground in Syria.

Fawkes said the speech was “punchy”.

“Nigel Farage has praised him as ‘heroic’. One top Tory alternatively described it as ‘fascistic’,” Fawkes wrote.

“Tory cabinet ministers winced as [Mr Abbott] warned Europe must use force to turn boats around and establish camps for migrants”, he said.

The audience at the black-tie event included Iain Duncan Smith (Secretary of State for Work and Pensions), John Whittingdale (Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport), Sajid Javid (Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills), Priti Patel (Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions), Liz Truss (Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and Chris Grayling (leader of the House of Commons).

Elsewhere the reception to Mr Abbott’s speech was warmer.

The Spectator said Mr Abbott explained “what so few European policymakers seem able to grasp”.

“Yes, the rich world has a moral duty to help people fleeing for their lives,” the publication wrote. “But that duty requires tough action – as well as targeted help – to prevent a genuine flow of refugees developing into an uncontrolled flood of migrants.”

The migration trend was not just driven by the Syrian War but long-term economic changes between the developing and developed world, The Spectator wrote.

News Corp-owned Sun Nation described Mr Abbott as delivering a “chilling speech” that was a “bombshell”.

Follow FairfaxForeign on Twitter

Follow FairfaxForeign on Facebook

Eddie Obeid faces coal mine next door to Bylong farm

Posted on by

In the pristine Bylong Valley NSW , which boasts some of NSW’s best agricultural land, Korean power company KEPCO plans to build a new coal mine. Photo: Brendan Esposito Eddie Obeid’s family owns Cherrydale Farm in the Bylong Valley. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Eddie Obeid’s family owns Cherrydale Farm in the Bylong Valley. Photo: Daniel Munoz

In the pristine Bylong Valley NSW , which boasts some of NSW’s best agricultural land, Korean power company KEPCO plans to build a new coal mine. Photo: Brendan Esposito

Farm gate sign of Cherrydale Park, the Obeid family property, with Mt Penny in background. Photo: Brockwell Perks BDP

In the pristine Bylong Valley NSW , which boasts some of NSW’s best agricultural land, Korean power company KEPCO plans to build a new coal mine. Photo: Brendan Esposito

Eddie Obeid’s family owns Cherrydale Farm in the Bylong Valley. Photo: Daniel Munoz

In the pristine Bylong Valley NSW , which boasts some of NSW’s best agricultural land, Korean power company KEPCO plans to build a new coal mine. Photo: Brendan Esposito

Eddie Obeid’s family owns Cherrydale Farm in the Bylong Valley. Photo: Daniel Munoz

After plans for a coal mine at Mt Penny in which the Obeid family had a secret stake worth at least $30 million were scuttled by the Independent Commission Against Corruption and the NSW Government, the Obeids are now facing a nightmare scenario.

They face the prospect of a major open cut mine right next to the family property Cherrydale Park, in the Bylong Valley.

The Korean power company Kepco is seeking approval for a major new mine at Bylong as part of its global strategy to secure a source of energy for its power stations into the future.

An Environmental Impact Statement is on exhibition and submissions are due by November 6.

There are signs that the Obeids are not happy.

The secretary of the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance, Craig Shaw, said a local farmer was approached by a stock and station agent, John Rodd, asking whether there would be any issues if the Obeids attended a meeting hosted two weeks ago by the Department of Planning at the Bylong Community Hall.

The message went back: all landholders are welcome.

No Obeid family members were spotted at the meeting attended by about 35 local people and councillors but a young man who identified himself as a lawyer called Bradley, asked several questions about water rights on behalf of an unidentified landowner.

Coal mines require substantial quantities of water and Kepco has already acquired 2353 megalitres in water rights.

The biggest water rights holder is the Obeid family, which holds an allocation for 860 Megalitres a year — by far the largest entitlement in the valley.

The water allocation for Cherrydale Park has itself been the subject of an ICAC investigation, Operation Cabot.

In 2007 the Department of Water began work on a water sharing plan for the Bylong Valley, which was suffering from an over-allocation of water rights. Some farms had unrestricted water entitlements, dating back nearly a century, and the department decided it was going to convert them to fixed amounts based on historical use. Cherrydale Park was given 860 Megalitres in total, much more than had been used by previous owners.

ICAC heard evidence that Eddie Obeid snr, then still a member of the Upper House, had phoned senior bureaucrats asking them to intervene.

While ICAC did not find the intervention had caused the Obeids to be given additional water rights, it found “that Edward Obeid snr’s use of his position as an MP to request favours from Mr [Steve] Dunn [a former head of the Department of Water] may properly be categorised as corrupt conduct.”

Mr Rodd, whose son works at the Obeid property, said that like other landholders the Obeids were pondering whether to stay or go. “The decision usually depends on what the mining companies offer,” he said.

In 2013 Eddie Obeid snr told ICAC that the reason his family members had talked to the then mining minister Ian Macdonald, was they feared what would happen with the exploration licence to their east, held by Anglo-American and sold to Kepco in 2010. Instead Mr Macdonald created another exploration licence — Mt Penny — directly over Mr Obeid’s land and other farms owned by associates. It has since been cancelled by the NSW Government.

Mr Obeid refused to comment.

Stocco hideout property caretaker Rosario Cimone had links to drugs, organised crime

Posted on by

Mark and Gino Stocco, who were captured on a property where Rosario Cimone’s body was also located. Photo: NSW Police The remote Pinevale property near Dunedoo where Gino and Mark Stocco were arrested. Photo: Wolter Peeters WLP

Body of Rosario Cimone found on remote propertyStocco pair surrender after eight years on the runGino and Mark Stocco arrestedTony Wright: Will o’ the wisps in Kelly Gang country

The caretaker found dead on the remote property where father and son fugitives Gino and Mark Stocco were arrested was believed to have past links to organised crime and cannabis cultivation.

Rosario Cimone, 68, was charged 12 years ago with eight others for his alleged role over a $30 million cannabis crop near Nimmitabel, in the Monaro region. Along with a relative, Angelo Cimone, he faced charges of cultivating nearly 15,000 plants.

In recent months, the Italian-born man had been seen around the tiny town of Elong Elong, between Dubbo and Dunedoo, where he worked on various properties.

He was working most recently on a remote 385-hectare property, Pinevale, that had no livestock or crops and backed onto the dense Goonoo State Forest.

A neighbour, who asked not to be named, had previously made reports to Crime Stoppers, believing that drugs were being cultivated on the scrubby blocks of land that backed onto Goonoo State Forest.

She had observed suspicious cars driving in and out of the isolated area and different people coming and going.

“It’s not a farming block and it’s not a place you would just stumble upon,” she said.

Heavily-armed police descended on the rugged property on Tuesday afternoon, where they covertly monitored the Stoccos for 16 hours before arresting them on Wednesday morning.

Mr Cimone’s decomposed body was found hours later and police are treating it as a homicide investigation.

The Stoccos had worked on the property with Mr Cimone in the past and were last seen there around the October long weekend.

It’s not known whether they had any involvement in drug cultivation.

Mr Cimone’s daughter reported him missing to Green Valley police, in Sydney’s west, on October 8 after trying to call him for days.

The 68-year-old used to live in Green Valley, where he had registered engineering businesses to the same Biloolo Road address as Angelo Cimone.

It’s understood the Sydney-based owner only of the Elong Elong property, who visited for a few days each year, also raised concerns after being unable to get in contact with Mr Cimone in recent weeks.

A man at the Elong Elong Post Office said it wasn’t unusual to not see Mr Cimone for a few weeks.

“Because it’s a small community, residents may only go to town once a week or so to get milk or bread or supplies,” he said. “But we might not see them for three or four weeks.”

Mr Cimone’s family declined to speak to Fairfax Media, saying “we just want to be left alone”.

A rollercoaster in your living room? Meet the MM One Project

Posted on by

The MM One Project. Photo: Ben Grubb The MM One Project Photo: Ben Grubb

Paris: Fancy a rollercoaster-like experience in your living room? Well one day you might be able to have just that – though it’ll cost you an arm and a leg, and you’re going to need plenty of space.

Meet the MM One Project, a three-axis virtual reality gaming chair and crane that you strap yourself into that physically moves you around in midair and claims to be the world’s first fully interactive VR attraction.

Designed primarily with shopping centres and amusement arcades in mind as places for it to be used, the company behind it says it costs about the same as an expensive car to make and can function as a simulator for riding rollercoasters, driving racing cars, piloting aeroplanes, and experiencing space.

Built incorporating an Oculus Rift headset for the virtual reality component, the chair is the work of MM-Company, a Ukranian start-up. It allows gamers up to 117 kilograms to use it and has a 5-point seatbelt that secures them in place. It also uses a gamepad, and a joystick can be added if necessary.

Before trying it out, I was required to sign a liability waiver form saying I was responsible for my own death if the machine caused fatal injury to me (or any type of injury for that matter).

I tried it out using game publisher Ubisoft’s racing car game Trackmania and found it made me feel a little nauseous. I hadn’t eaten much, but the waiver did say it was likely going to make users feel not that crash hot, especially since the game was still in beta for use with the MM One Project, so its movements weren’t 100 per cent calibrated with the direction I was moving in the game.

Overall it’s a fun machine, but the software side of things needs a bit of work.

It’s unlikely the MM One Project will take off as a consumer product, but you might soon be using one at the local arcade.

The writer travelled to Paris Games Week as a guest of Sony

Sydney more hostile to Muslims, but China embraces multiculturalism: survey

Posted on by

“Constantly evolving”: Santini Subramaniana, who came from Singapore 10 years ago, says has embraced different cultures. Photo: Jason SouthMelbourne is by far the most tolerant major n city towards Muslims, with Sydney most likely to be hostile.

Yet across the nation ns show barely any support for calls from far-right groups to officially discriminate and reject would-be migrants on the basis of religion or ethnicity.

However, while national security concerns spiked after the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, feelings of prejudice and racism have actually dropped.

The public also firmed in support of government assistance to ethnic minorities to maintain their culture and traditions, a proposition rejected in 2007 by almost two-thirds of ns.

ns also worried about a growing gap between rich and poor in the Abbott years.

The Monash survey Mapping Social Cohesion – conducted in most years since 2007 to identify long term social trends – contains some warning signs.

People from non-English speaking backgrounds remained twice as likely to report experience of discrimination, and Muslims more than twice as likely as Roman Catholics to feel discriminated against.

Monash University social researcher Andrew Markus said the findings showed ns broadly supported the policy to turn back asylum seeker boats and this appeared to have strengthened public faith the immigration system.

“The fact that the Abbott government re-established control of the border, looks to have created more confidence in the integrity of population management,” Professor Markus told Fairfax Media.

He said ‘s broad support for multiculturalism was highlighted by the relative lack of controversy over the plan to settle 12,000 Syrian refugees, compared with European angst over migration.

Young adults are less concerned than their parents and grandparents about questions of national identity, with about two-thirds of older and middle-aged ns in their 40s strongly agreeing with the “importance of maintaining the n way of life” – but only 39 per cent of young adults.

Santini Subramaniam, 22, said ‘s identity was “constantly evolving” and that, in her experience, it had embraced different cultures.

“The first thing that comes to mind is a form of mateship, unity we have with one another,” she said when asked about ‘s way of life.

Miss Subramaniam migrated from Singapore a decade ago, and while initially feeling she didn’t belong, she now attended Anzac day dawn services as well as volunteering at a multicultural youth centre.  

Fugitives Gino and Mark Stocco charged with murder after capture near Dunedoo

Posted on by

Gino Stocco is taken into Dubbo police station. Photo: David MoirHow social media saw itFormer Wagga police chief warns against ‘glorification’ of StoccosGhastly new mystery as Gino and Mark Stoccos’ long run from the law endsUPDATE:Gino and Mark Stocco’s case has been heard in a NSW court after a three-week manhunt that brought an end to the eight years they’ve spent on the run from authorities.

The Queensland men, aged 57 and 36, did not appear at Dubbo Local Court on Thursday over 17 offences each, including the murder of a man whose body was found on a NSW property where they were arrested on Wednesday.

Magistrate Andrew Eckhold excused the father and son from appearing in court and remanded the pair to appear in the same court on January 20.

EARLIER: Fugitive father and son Gino and Mark Stocco have been charged with a string of offences including murder following their captureand the discovery of a man’s body on a remote rural property.

The pair was tracked to theproperty in NSW’s Central Weston Wednesday, and arrested by heavily armed police officers who then discovered the decomposed body of a man believed to have been missing for more than three weeks.

The body is yet to be formally identified but is believed to be that of the Rosario Cimone, a68-year-old Italian-born caretaker of the Elong Elong property, north-east of Dubbo, where the pair were hiding out.

Mark Stocco is taken into Dubbo police station. Photo: David Moir

As revealed by Fairfax Media, Cimone isbelieved to have past links to organised crimeand cannabis cultivation, and was charged 12 years ago with eight others for his alleged role over a $30 million cannabis crop near Nimmitabel, in the Monaro region.

He was working most recently on theremote 385-hectare property, Pinevale, that had no livestock or crops and backed onto the dense Goonoo State Forest.

The two Stocco men were caughtafter a wild chase across two states that began on October 16 after they allegedly shot at police officers.

As they were surrounded by tactical officers and dragged from the ground on Wednesday, the Stoccos allegedly raised the issue of “self defence” when confronted about Mr Cimone’s death, Fairfax Media has been told by a police source.

Mr Cimone’s daughter had made a missing persons report at Green Valley police station, in western Sydney, on October 8.

NSW police on Thursday said Gino, 58, and his son Mark, 36, have been charged with an array of offences including murder, dishonestly obtain property by deception, police pursuit and discharge firearm with intent to resist arrest.

They had previously revealed intentions to charge them with 13 offences, including attempted murder in relation to allegations they fired shots at police in Wagga Wagga on October 16.

The pair was also wanted on warrants for property damage in Queensland dating back to 2008.

They’ve been refused bail to appear in Dubbo Local Court on Thursday.

Fugitives Gino and Mark Stocco case adjourned until Januaryhttps://nnimgt-a.akamaihd杭州龙凤论坛/transform/v1/crop/frm/storypad-GJZ5TVpAk84wrTzsQfLQRB/c7624df3-8e39-4a28-947b-e1e127e384f9.jpg/r2_1_616_348_w1200_h678_fmax.jpgNSW: Fugitive father and son Gino and Mark Stocco have been charged with a string of offences including murder2015-10-29T06:48:58.931546+11:00https://players.brightcove杭州龙凤论坛/3879528182001/default_default/index.html?videoId=4583315061001https://players.brightcove杭州龙凤论坛/3879528182001/default_default/index.html?videoId=4583315061001Acting Assistant Commissioner for the western region Clint Pheeney speaks to Media in Dubbo on Wednesday afternoon.

Z Nation and the art of keeping zombies fresh

Posted on by

Z Nation unashamedly plays up the schlock factor.Although the gritty television drama Z Nation plays boldly into its genre – zombie apocalypse, in case you did not know – for the keen-eyed fan, there are copious genre references, from Dr Phibes​, a series of cult masterpiece Vincent Prince films from the 1970s, to the DeLorean​ car from the Back to the Future films.

“There’s tons of stuff,” declares the show’s producer, Karl Schaefer. “We reference other shows a lot. We like doing that kind of stuff.” Those elements, he says, form part of a secondary conversation that has become standard for television in the modern era. Audiences, Schaefer, expect it.

“People, the way they use TV and stuff nowadays is much more interactive,” he says. “We spend a lot of time talking to our fans and watching our fans talk to each other. Keeping the conversation going between episodes [as well as] the whole zombie phenomenon is so interesting.”

Z Nation launched last year. The series was created by Schaefer and Craig Engler​ and is produced by The Asylum, a US production company that specialises in low-budget genre projects. The Asylum’s most famous production is the horror-comedy film series, Sharknado​.

Its story, somewhat familiarly to those who know the zombie genre, began several years into a “zombie apocalypse” – typically, a virus outbreak that transforms part of the population into flesh-eating monsters – and focused on Murphy (Keith Allan), a so-called “patient zero”, who, because of an experiment being carried out at the time, was unaffected by the virus.

The second season picks up where the first left off, with the launch of nuclear weapons. “All the nukes are coming down,” Schaefer says. “We’ll see what happens, and who survives, and who doesn’t make it. And what happens to the world out there.”

The series, perhaps like many in the genre now, has never shied away from killing apparently major characters. Schaefer says that’s simply what is expected in modern storytelling. The years where main characters were insulated from risk because of their perceived star power is largely gone.

“Just to keep the audience on edge and to have some credibility with them,” he says. “If we never kill any of our main characters, then that sort of takes the drama out of those intense scenes. It’s when we sort of go beyond those boundaries … in episode two of this season it’s a fight from minute one through the whole thing.

“It doesn’t turn out well,” he adds. “But, at the same time, that’s what makes the show exciting, and different, and how you’ll tune in, and not know what’s going to happen this week. We want the audience having to pay attention because they never know what’s coming next.”

The series is also noted for its cracking pace, a stark contrast from its genre stablemate The Walking Dead, which has a much slower, more considered narrative.

“In terms of plot movement, it’s a very different show that way,” Schaefer says.

“We get all over the country this season; we’re on the Mississippi, we’re in the woods, we’re in the desert. We go to the Grand Canyon. We have a great sequence that takes us down into Mexico for the season and a really interesting explanation of the only government that’s left operating any more. We’ve got some really cool stuff and a lot of different locations. There’s a lot of travelling this season.”

Z Nation also, to some extent, plays up the schlock factor. “We have some stripper zombies, we have some Z weed this season, we have alien zombies,” Schaefer says, laughing. “If you want them, we’ve got them.”

“We’re the show that says, yeah, we do that, and our idea is that zombies are mutating constantly, so it’s a different threat every week and different things come up. It’s all about trying to keep it all unexpected and to keep the audience guessing what we’re going to do next.”


Z Nation


SyFy, Saturday, 8.30pm

Dodgy financial firms refusing to pay $17 million owed to their victims

Posted on by

For the past week, Rowena Lagana has struggled with the pain from her back injury because she couldn’t afford to buy painkillers.

She was relying on payments from a debt management firm, which last year the Financial Ombudsman Service found had drawn up an “unconscionable” contract. The firm, Clickthru, was ordered to pay Ms Lagana $12,880 plus interest.

But payments stopped three weeks ago. Clickthru went to ground.

“They still owe me nearly $2000. I rely a great deal on those payments. I’ve lost jobs because of my back injury and I’ve been living a bit off my super,” the 59-year-old from Middleton Grange said.

She is among 188 people who are waiting to receive a total of $16.6 million from 33 dodgy financial service providers, after the Ombudsman ruled in their favour.

Some of the victims of poor financial products and advice have waited for more than five years to see even a dollar.

Shane Tregillis, chief ombudsman of the FOS, said about a third of the 33 businesses had gone into administration or liquidation. The rest were ignoring correspondence or claiming the ombudsman had gone beyond its jurisdiction.

He said the solution to the “structural problem” was a compensation scheme of last resort that would be funded by FOS members – the finance industry – through a levy.

“What is frustrating is there’s a general acceptance there is a gap in the consumer protection framework,” Mr Tregillis said.

“In the scale of the finance sector, it’s a relatively small problem that affects a small number of financial service providers. It’s a problem that obviously has a large impact on each of the individual consumers.”

The compensation scheme was first proposed in 2009 and again raised in the Financial Systems Inquiry and, more recently, the Scrutiny of Financial Advice Inquiry.

The big banks – tipped to chalk up combined earnings of $30 billion this financial year – expressed sympathy to victims at the latest inquiry, but downplayed the situation as a non-urgent issue. They said they didn’t want to “write a blank cheque”.

About a quarter of all compensation awarded by FOS to consumers in relation to investments, life insurance and superannuation is unpaid.

Ms Lagana won her dispute against Clickthru in October last year. In its effort to avoid paying compensation, Clickthru claimed she should have sold her car to pay her debts that it had failed to manage, despite the fact it was aware she was living in the car.

Her solicitor, Alexandra Kelly from the Financial Rights Legal Centre, said although FOS was an effective dispute mechanism, its “weakness and powerlessness” were exposed where financial businesses avoided the liability.

“The FOS Compensation scheme is a measured approach to plug existing gaps, and I am hopeful it garners the support by industry and government as there is a distinct need that needs to be addressed,” she said.

Sophie Gerber, director of financial consultancy firm Sophie Grace, said there was a definite trend in businesses cancelling their licence simply to avoid paying compensation to victims.

“[The issue of avoidance] is most concerning for small n financial services licence holders who do not have much to lose by cancelling their licence and moving on to operate under a different structure, or simply exiting the industry,” she said.

But she does not fully support the proposed compensation scheme.

“Setting up such a scheme is just penalising [licence] holders who do the right thing and have funds available to meet their liabilities for the actions of disreputable [licence] holders. It will just encourage this problem to get worse,” she said.

Gerard Brody, chief executive of the Consumer Action Law Centre, said a last-resort compensation scheme would help restore the trust between ns and the finance industry.

“It’s appropriate that a scheme be industry funded through a levy imposed by government,” he said.

Rio chief launches Hunter fundraiser with bold prediction

Posted on by

Kitty Chiller on Wednesday.FIFTEEN gold medals and a top-five finish. That’s the lofty ideal for at next year’s Rio Olympics, according to chef de mission Kitty Chiller.

Speaking at the launch of the Hunter’s Olympic fundraising dinner, to be held at Wests Leagues on March 5, Chiller predicted a vastly improved team performance after a disappointing London campaign.

“Finishing top five in the medal tally is absolutely one of our goals,” the Sydney 2000 pentathlete said. “That’s going to be tough, considering we were seventh and 10th in gold and overall in London.

“We’ll need to win 14 or 15 gold medals, and around 45 overall medals, to finish in that top five.

“On paper today, I could name 15 gold medallists. But Olympic Games don’t go according to paper, unfortunately. These are tough goals, aspirational goals, but ones we’re not backing away from.”

won seven gold and 35 overall medals at London three years ago.

Chiller said her other main objectives were that all 460 members of ‘s team enjoyed a “positive life experience” in Rio and there was a “unity of purpose” among all athletes wearing the green and gold.

Wednesday’s launch was attended by several generations of Hunter Olympians, including hockey ace Michelle Mitchell, nee Andrews (Atlanta 1996), softballer Natalie Ward (Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008) swimmer Donna McGovern, nee Proctor (Seoul 1988), shooter Daniel Repacholi (Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012) and marathon veteran Scott Westcott, who has run a qualifying time for Rio.

Next year’s dinner at Wests is expected to attract a crowd of 500, including some high-profile special guests who will be announced closer to the event.

‘‘As you know, the n Olympic team doesn’t receive any government funding,’’ Chiller said. ‘‘We totally rely on the generosity of corporate and the people of .

‘‘Without the support of communities such as this, we would not have a team to send to the Olympic Games … these committees, these events, these people in the communities are the lifeblood. It’s what we go to Olympic Games for, to represent you well.’’

There were 11 athletes from the Hunter at London, and that number could be even higher in Rio.

Triathlete Aaron Royle has already qualified, and he could be joined by Simon Orchard, Matt Dawson and Mariah Williams (hockey), sailors Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen, basketballers Suzy Batkovic and Katie Ebzery, swimmer Thomas Fraser-Holmes, Richie Campbell and Nathan Power (water polo), Mollie Gray, Sarah Halvorsen and Tanisha Stanton (rugby sevens), archer Matt Gray, Westcott and shooters Daniel Repacholi and Michael Diamond.

The Walking Dead have miles to go, says producer Greg Nicotero

Posted on by

Filming the series every week is like doing a movie, says its producer. Photo: SuppliedThough both The Walking Dead (and its cable stablemates, such as Game of Thrones) have enjoyed astonishing success, 2015 will be remembered as a red-letter year for genre television.

To some extent neither show gets the respect it deserves, though changes to the voting structure of the television industry’s Emmy academy meant that Game of Thrones won best drama this year. And in ratings terms, The Walking Dead has built what looks like an unassailable margin on its competitors.

“We still have a larger audience than them and we’re very proud of that,” says the show’s executive producer Greg Nicotero​, wryly.

“[They are] set in a similar world, almost an apocalyptic world … [but audiences] can identify with our characters easier. All these characters that I think people can really identify with. And there’s something for everybody, the cast is so large now. [The audience can ask] if this were to happen, who would I be?”

Since its premiere in 2010, The Walking Dead has evolved significantly. Stylistically, says Nicotero, the series has aspired to lift the bar every year.

“Every day you’re on set, every time you collaborate with an actor, every time you collaborate with a writer, you become a better filmmaker,” he says.

“I wanted to really aim high visually and I wanted the episode to feel bigger than it had ever felt before, so in the design of some of the sequences, I designed them as if we were shooting a $100 million movie,” he says.

It doesn’t just end with the first episode … it’s not like the first episode is huge and then we take a breather. You’ll never catch your breath. This entire season is going to be spent gasping for the next moment.  It’s exhausting and it’s exhilarating and it’s rewarding.”

Sustaining the series is a big challenge, though Nicotero is quick to point out that while Game of Thrones has caught up to its source material, The Walking Dead still has a large library of comic book material to tap. Maintaining a momentum is, he says, not difficult, the bar has been set high.

“Thank God we have a show runner [Scott M. Gimple​, who replaced Glen Mazzara​] who respects the genre, understands the genre and respects the source material,” Nicotero says.

“It’s challenging, because we keep doing more and more and more, and it’s the mistake that I made up as a makeup effects guy years ago, which is, they go, we want more, but we have less time and less money,” he says. “Then you pull it off, and they go … now you can do this, here’s less time.”

The Walking Dead’s challenge, he adds, is that the scripts have become more ambitious over time.

“Bigger and bigger, and it’s challenging, but Scott has such an astute eye for the direction of the show,” Nicotero says. “He’s been at the helm for three seasons and the show has skyrocketed in terms of the material that we’ve been able to provide for viewers.”

The sixth season of The Walking Dead will comprise 16 one-hour episodes, broken into two eight-episode blocks. The first block launched in October; the second in February, 2016.

The season premiere delivers an episode which picks up where the series off, but shifts its time frame a little. “We didn’t want this premiere to feel similar to other premieres; we wanted to do something bigger and something a little different,” Nicotero explains.

“Scott Gimple and Matt Negrete​ wrote an episode that had a very interesting timeline, where we jump back and forth between our present day and flashbacks. Technically this episode happens about four days after the season finale, but we kind of shift in time a bit.”

And despite the success of the series and its lengthening shelf life – around 70 episodes and growing, and a spin-off prequel in Fear The Walking Dead – the comic book itself still has a clearly defined fandom and, Nicotero says, a very distinct identity.

“The source material pays a great tribute to George Romero​ and Night of the Living Dead, I mean that’s where the genesis of the show is,” he says.

“When we shot the pilot, I remember having dinner with Frank Darabont​ years before we ever shot the pilot, and he was fascinated with the world and he’s like, listen, I would love to do a zombie movie.”

By the time the show’s sixth season wraps, Nicotero adds, it will have reached 83 hours.

“People go, are you going to do a Walking Dead movie? We do a movie every f—ing week. There’s no reason to try to truncate the story that we’re telling into two hours. We’ve had 83 hours to tell this fascinating story. It’s a world rich with options.”


The Walking Dead


FX, Monday, 1.30pm and 8.30pm

1 2 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12