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Coal seam threat brings Greg Petty back

Greg PettyA lackof action on coal seam gas has ignited Wollongong City Councillor Greg Petty’s state election fire.
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Cr Petty, from Helensburgh, announced on Tuesday he will again stand as an independent candidate for Heathcote at the March 28 vote.

Last time around the 60-year-old businessman garnered 7.9 per cent of the primary vote at the 2011 election.

Liberal Lee Evans won the seat with 46.9 per cent of first-preference votes and 63 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.

“I don’t think the issues have gone away,” Cr Petty told the Mercury.

“The party political people are just going to vote the way they are told to vote, and the most important part about the electorate of Heathcote is the issue of coal seam gas.”

Cr Petty said voters were calling for their voice to be represented, not that of the party line, and the electorate needed a candidate who “has shown integrity and will fight to protect the local water supply”.

“We don’t want a member that’s going to say one thing and vote a different way, which is why I’m challenging the member to come out and publicly state he will cross the floor on coal seam gas,” he said.

Cr Petty has also outlined an ambitious capital works program for the electorate, listing the Bald Hill upgrade, F6 extension and tourism potential of the Stanwell Park-Otford rail tunnel as “must-complete items”.

Minimising tax increases by retaining the “income-earning poles and wires of electricity supply” is also on the priority list.

The accountant and company secretary, who has lived in Helensburgh with his family for more than 14 years, said he will self-fund his campaign and not accept any donations.

The Heathcote electorate covers parts of the Sutherland and Wollongong Local Government Areas.

New boundaries apply for this year’s election, with Heathcote to encompass parts of the former electoral districts of Cronulla, Menai, Miranda and Wollondilly.

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Endeavour Energy workers lower pay rise claim

Hundreds of Illawarra workers embroiled in an ongoing industrial dispute with Endeavour Energy have made a last-ditch attempt to avoid strike action, offering to take lower pay rises as long as they can keep their existing work conditions.
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On Tuesday afternoon, the Electrical Trade Union (ETU) told Fairfax thousands of power workers employed across Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy had offered to accept a 2.5 per cent annual pay rise over the next two years.

The workers at the two state-owned companies, which provide power to the Illawarra, South Coast, Sydney, Newcastle and parts of the Central West, originally asked for an annual pay rise of 4 per cent over two years.

In return for the lower wage rise, the union has asked that current job protections, such as a provision for no forced redundancies, are retained for the next two years.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said these conditions were the main concern for workers, who worried their jobs were at risk under the Liberal government’s plans to privatise the state’s poles and wires.

“The union’s revised claim of 2.5 per cent per year means power workers would be treated the same as workers elsewhere in the public government’s privatisation plans,” he said.

“Many power workers fear that without strong job protections, [NSW Premier] Mike Baird will look to slash a large part of the workforce to fatten up profits and increase the amount of money the government can get from their privatisation plan.”

In mid-2014, Endeavour employed about 500 people to operate the Illawarra network as far south as Ulladulla.

According to the union, there were 373 workers in Wollongong, 65 in Shellharbour and 88 on the South Coast.

Mr Butler said this meant any potential job losses would hit the struggling region hard.

“Job security in areas like the Illawarra is fundamental because there has been a major downturn in a lot of different jobs in the last little while,” he said. “The unemployment figures continue to rise, so if the company moves to privatise the electricity assets, there could be a couple of hundred people who would lose their jobs – and that would affect the region in a really negative way.”

Last week, in a ballot conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission, 86 per cent of Endeavour workers voted to support work stoppages if the negotiations over their enterprise agreements continued to fail. More than three-quarters of the company’s workers said they would support strikes, 90 per cent supported work bans and 91 per cent agreed to changed work practices.

Mr Butler said the power workers were “of the view that protected industrial action should only be exercised as an absolute last resort” and would be “considering their options” if their offer was rejected by Endeavour and Ausgrid management.

It is understood industrial action for workers across the electricity network could begin as soon as next week if an agreement is not reached.

The union has asked for a formal company response to its offer by Wednesday afternoon.

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City Memorial battle for grand final spot comes up Gold

City Memorial battle for grand final spot comes up Gold One down, one up: the contrasting fortunes of City Memorial’s division one preliminary final rivals are reflected in the respective messages delivered from the head by Green team member Barbara Hart and Gold rival Chris McMahon. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE
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WDBD Ladies Pennant Preliminary Final City Memorial Gold v City Memorial Green at Dennington. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

WDBD Ladies Pennant Preliminary Final City Memorial Gold v City Memorial Green at Dennington. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

WDBD Ladies Pennant Preliminary Final City Memorial Gold v City Memorial Green at Dennington. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

WDBD Ladies Pennant Preliminary Final City Memorial Gold v City Memorial Green at Dennington. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

WDBD Ladies Pennant Preliminary Final City Memorial Gold v City Memorial Green at Dennington. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

WDBD Ladies Pennant Preliminary Final City Memorial Gold v City Memorial Green at Dennington. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

WDBD Ladies Pennant Preliminary Final City Memorial Gold v City Memorial Green at Dennington. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

WDBD Ladies Pennant Preliminary Final City Memorial Gold v City Memorial Green at Dennington. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

WDBD Ladies Pennant Preliminary Final City Memorial Gold v City Memorial Green at Dennington. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

WDBD Ladies Pennant Preliminary Final City Memorial Gold v City Memorial Green at Dennington. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

WDBD Ladies Pennant Preliminary Final City Memorial Gold v City Memorial Green at Dennington. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

WDBD Ladies Pennant Preliminary Final City Memorial Gold v City Memorial Green at Dennington. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

WDBD Ladies Pennant Preliminary Final City Memorial Gold v City Memorial Green at Dennington. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

WDBD Ladies Pennant Preliminary Final City Memorial Gold v City Memorial Green at Dennington. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

WDBD Ladies Pennant Preliminary Final City Memorial Gold v City Memorial Green at Dennington. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

WDBD Ladies Pennant Preliminary Final City Memorial Gold v City Memorial Green at Dennington. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

WDBD Ladies Pennant Preliminary Final City Memorial Gold v City Memorial Green at Dennington. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

WDBD Ladies Pennant Preliminary Final City Memorial Gold v City Memorial Green at Dennington. Picture: ROB GUNSTONE

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Flapjack attack: Pupils gorge for a cause on Pancake day

LET THEM EAT CAKES: Eyeing off some tasty morsels at Tamworth Public School’s Pancake Day yesterday are Alex Anderson, Bonnie McIntyre, Iris Cornwell, Ella Smith and Jakob Wilkinson. 170215BSB05THE Tamworth Public School quadrangle was alive with the sound of hungry hordes munching through pancakes yesterday.
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But behind the jam and maple syrup-smeared treats was an important life and spiritual lesson for kids.

The school’s annual Pancake Day, which falls on Shrove Tuesday, raises valuable funds for drought-hit communities near Walgett and local children in need.

It also encourages children to think outside their own experience.

“It’s a wonderful life lesson,” Tamworth Public School principal LeePreston said.

“They get to eat lovely pancakes and know that they’re donating money to help others. It reminds them there are people around doing it tough, who need help.” Pupils devoured more than 1200 pancakes on the day, which marks the final feast before today’s lent period begins.

Jim Furze from Tamworth City Uniting Church and his band of scripture teachers again helped organise the day.

“It raises awareness that Easter is coming and what it’s about,” Mr Furze said.

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Police chase turns into backyard marathon

Highway patrol police have won the day after a Hot Fuzz-style chase through the backyards of Berkeley.
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Police were on the M1 Motorway at Yallah about 3.10pm Monday when they recognised a car that had been reported stolen from Coledale four weeks earlier.

The officers allege they attempted to stop the car, but gave chase when the driver kept going.

A foot chase began when the car stopped near the intersection of Northumberland Street and Northcliff Drive, and the driver and his passenger allegedly took off in different directions.

The passenger, a 26-year-old Corrimal man, allegedly passed through several backyards on Cumberland Street and Westmoreland Street.

Residents say he paused to ask for a glass of water and a taxi. He was refused.

Police followed the man onto a roof of a house on Westmoreland Street, then jumped off after him.

He was eventually handcuffed.

The driver of the vehicle, 28, from Bulli, was also arrested a short time later.

The men have been charged with multiple offences including break and enter, resist arrest, take and drive conveyance and cause police pursuit.

They were refused bail to appear before the Port Kembla Local Court on Tuesday.

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C&S hands Varnum indefinite ban over alleged assault

SIDELINED: Michael Varnum.
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VETERAN all-rounder Michael Varnum has played his last game of competition cricket until he fronts the Newcastle City and Suburban judiciary to answer allegations he struck an opponent on the head with his bat.

The Merewether B5s skipper was cited after an incident two weeks ago that left Jewells Tavern Beavers captain Peter Lalor in hospital for two nights with a head wound and concussion.

Under the competition’s disciplinary code, Varnum was charged with assault, using abusive language or gestures, and behaviour prejudicial to cricket.

But his solicitor formally advised C&S officials last weekend that his client would not attend a judiciary hearing until a police investigation into the incident had been completed.

In his absence, the judiciary suspended Varnum indefinitely on Tuesday. Unless he agrees to appear at a hearing, he will not be able to resume playing.

Under clause 26.4 of the C&S constitution: ‘‘Any person who does not appear before the relevant committee when ordered may be suspended by the relevant committee until such time as the person appears before it.’’

The constitution does not provide a minimum or maximum time frame for such a suspension.

C&S honorary solicitor Martin Trisley said the judiciary could not consider Varnum’s case in his absence.

‘‘At this point, we can’t take the matter any further,’’ Trisley said. ‘‘Without Michael Varnum appearing, the only course of action is to suspend him until he makes himself available to face the judiciary.

‘‘No matter how serious the allegations, you can’t hold the hearing in his absence. That would be contrary to the principles of natural justice.’’

A former policeman, 47-year-old Varnum was a first-grade regular for Merewether for two decades, winning the Jimmy Dickinson Memorial Trophy in 2006-07 for the best batting average in the district competition.

The incident for which he was charged occurred 10 days ago, after a collision between Varnum and Lalor when the former was running between the wickets.

It is alleged Varnum’s bat came into contact with Lalor’s head while the bowler was on the ground.

The match, which had no official umpires, was abandoned and both teams given two points.

Merewether B5s forfeited their next match, against Premier Hotel Slashers at Adamstown Oval, last weekend.

Salmonella in care facilities: now 26 infected

Health authorities are working to control a deadly outbreak of a rare strain of salmonella across Illawarra aged care facilities after a fresh case took the number of infected patients to 26 on Tuesday.
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Two people have died after contracting the salmonella bovismorbificans and the fresh case dashed hopes the rate of infections was on the decline.

Health Minister Jillian Skinner said yesterday: “It’s always a concern to me when there are deaths that are attributed to salmonella or any other cause like this.

“I believe investigations are under way right across the system and I’m very pleased to know that because we take it as very serious.”

Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District public health director Curtis Gregory said there were 26 confirmed cases across 10 aged care facilities. The most recent case had an onset date of February 3.

Until Tuesday there had been six days’ reprieve since the last notification and while authorities remained cautious they had hoped for no new infections.

Staff from the public health unit have been visiting the facilities and interviewing patients, carers and staff and analysing the information collected such as cases and food histories.

“We have been providing advice and information around the incident, the pathogen involved and any likely risks,” Mr Gregory said.

“The analysis has not identified a likely source as yet.”

Cases have been confirmed in the Illawarra, Shoalhaven, ACT and south-eastern Sydney regions.

Mr Gregory said the investigation was made difficult because it was spread over a longer period of time than usual for a food-borne outbreak, involved numerous facilities spread over some distance and the menu was large – “all of which makes it harder to collect as accurate data around the cases”.

IRT have confirmed 23 cases at seven of their aged care facilities and there is one case each reported at three other facilities.

“From a health perspective one key element is to define the symptoms associated with the illness so we can determine whether patients are part of an outbreak or not,” Mr Gregory said.

“This is based off the illness and risk factors that may affect transmission.

“With salmonella it’s mainly a food-borne transmission so the person-to-person transmission isn’t really a factor and people who have had contact with confirmed cases aren’t at increased risk.”

Mr Gregory said that once the public health unit staff developed a list of people who may be ill, they confirm date of onset and what they had eaten in the days prior to becoming ill.

“We can then map or analyse the information and find out more useful data like the incidence of the disease, the scope of its spread and whether the cases may be linked.

“Confirmed cases for this incident are ill patients that have a positive result for salmonella at a laboratory.

“Once we have a confirmed case we then have it serotyped and if the infected cases return results of the same serotype it can be used as evidence that the source of the infection is from the one type of pathogen and links the cases.”

IRT said on Tuesday it was continuing to work with the NSW Food Authority, NSW Health and ACT Health to determine the source of the infection.

“The NSW Food Authority has conducted rigorous scientific testing at the affected care centre and at IRT Catering over the past two weeks,” a spokesman said.

“The authority has confirmed to us in writing that there was no evidence of salmonella at any of our sites and that adequate controls are in place to ensure the safety of our residents.”

IRT has temporarily withdrawn potentially at-risk foods from service.

Families or residents with any concerns should contact their area manager or call 1800132202.

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Luke Thompson’s fresh start with Woodville-West Torrens

PORT Campbell-raised footballer Luke Thompson says a burning desire to return to the AFL isn’t his major source of motivation for this season.
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Former Port Campbell footballer Luke Thompson (left) is co-captain of Woodville-West Torrens in 2015. Picture: Woodville-West Torrens FC.

Thompson, 24, will co-captain SANFL outfit Woodville-West Torrens, having signed with the club in December following his delisting by Adelaide.

The apprentice electrician played 20 matches in four seasons with the Crows before being one of seven players cut last year.

He had hopes of being picked up in the draft — most likely as a rookie — but had little hesitation signing with Woodville-West Torrens after missing out.

Thompson said the decision to head to Woodville Oval was easy. The Eagles were his SANFL-aligned club in his first four AFL seasons.

“The Eagles were the club I got drafted to in the mini-draft when I came to Adelaide. I’ve got a fair few good relationships there,” he said.

“I feel like I know them quite a bit. The last five years they’ve been good to me. It was an easy transition going from Adelaide to Woodville-West Torrens.”

Thompson, selected with pick 17 in the 2009 rookie draft, said getting delisted by Adelaide was “a bit disappointing”.

But he has come to terms with the decision and harbours no ill feelings. An ankle injury plagued much of his early years at the club.

He managed 11 matches in 2011 but featured just three times — including twice in finals — in 2012.

“Waking up in the morning and getting out of bed, the ankle was that stiff. I could hardly walk down the stairs without hobbling until it warmed up,” he said.

Surgery followed but, with only a limited pre-season under his belt, he failed to play a match in 2013. Last season yielded six further appearances.

“I rang up the Eagles while I was still a chance to get drafted and said ‘can I train out there. I want to train at a high level’,” he said.

“They let me train and I was doing my own running. I trained harder than I’ve ever trained in the off-season.”

The drafts went by without his name being called out. But Thompson was OK with that. He committed to the Eagles and has relished the summer.

“I think when a few people do come out of the AFL system, it’s a massive shock, they don’t have a lot to come out to,” he said.

“They don’t want to play footy anywhere else and have a bad year. As long as I’m playing my role for the Eagles, showing good leadership and helping them out, that’s going to be the best thing for my future.”

He has ambitions to play AFL again, but is not letting them dictate how he goes about his football.

“At the moment, the thing I want to do is do well at the Eagles.”

Thompson will co-captain Woodville-West Torrens with Patrick Giuffreda, having taken over from retired veteran Luke Powell.

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Crack down on protesters: CEO

Stephen GalileeTHE mining industry’s peak lobby group in NSW has demanded the government crack down on “extreme” activists caught breaking the law.
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The NSW Minerals Council has made the imposition of tougher penalties on protesters a priority in a wish list released in the lead-up to the state election.

More than 300 protesters have been arrested in the past 18 months after taking part in “direct action” protests against coal and gas mining in the North West.

NSW Minerals Council chief executive officer Stephen Galilee said whichever party formed government must act to protect the industry from anti-miningprotesters.

“Without action from the NSW government to deter this reckless behaviour, it’s only a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt – despite the best efforts of police and emergency services personnel and site workers to ensure safety,” he said.

“Thankfully, the NSW government has promised to get tougher on these extreme activists, but until we see some changes, lives remain at risk.

“We need laws that hold activists responsible for their actions and tougher penalties applied as a deterrent to others.”

During a visit to Whitehaven Coal’s controversial Maules Creek mine earlier this month, NSW Premier Mike Baird said the government would “have to look at” tougher penalties. “People have a right to protest, but they have a right to do it legally,” he said.

But Lock the Gate spokeswoman Georgina Woods said otherwise law-abiding people should not be treated harshly for trying to protect the environment.

“Rather than punishing the people of the bush for standing up for their livelihoods, the Premier should ask himself why these protests are happening,” she said.

“It’s because his government has failed to protect the people and landscapes of NSW from the mining industry.”

The NSW Minerals Council is also calling on the next government to streamline the planning system, to shorten assessment times and “restore confidence in NSW as a place to invest”.

“The message is clear – if you hurt mining, you hurt NSW,” Mr Galilee said.

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Trent Merrin to leave Dragons

RUGBY LEAGUE
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Trent Merrin

RUGBY LEAGUE

St GeorgeIllawarra have been dealt a huge blow ahead of the start of the season with forward Trent Merrin deciding to depart the club at the end of the year.

Merrin’s manager Wayne Beavis confirmed the NSW Origin forward will not be at the Dragons next year and is set to make a decision on his new club when he returns from the World Club Series next week.

“One hundred per cent, it’s over,” Beavis told Fairfax Media on Tuesday.

“He won’t be at the Dragons next year.”

The decision caught the Dragons by surprise when contacted by Fairfax Media, unaware Merrin had decided to part ways with the club after this season.

Beavis admitted the 25-year-old was still weighing up three options for 2016 and beyond, with all offers now on the table for Merrin to make a decision on where he wants to play.

It is believed the Penrith Panthers are the front runners to lure Merrin to the foot of the mountains, while Cronulla and the New Zealand Warriors are believed to be in the hunt.

While Beavis wouldn’t speculate on the clubs chasing Merrin’s signature, he closed the door on any chance of his client remaining at the Dragons beyond his contract expiration at the end of this year.

Merrin is the second Dragons junior to announce he is leaving the club in the past six months after fellow 2010-premiership winner and representative winger Brett Morris was released to join his brother Josh at Canterbury this season.

Merrin, who is in England with his Dragons teammates preparing for Saturday morning’s World Club Series match against the Warrington Wolves, is yet to inform St George Illawarra officials of his decision to leave the club.

However, it is understood Merrin is frustrated the club hasn’t budged on its original offer made before Christmas and is ready to make a decision on his new club when he returns home next week.

“He’s in England now, so when he gets back he will look at his options,” Beavis said.

“We’re probably down to two, or maybe three clubs. All offers are on the table, so we’ll know when he gets back what he wants to do.”

The Dragons were loath to see the departure of Merrin, who made his debut for the club under Wayne Bennett in 2009, going on to represent NSW on 10 occasions.

The Dragons were comfortable with the offer they made to Merrin, describing it as the most lucrative deal the club has offered a forward.

It is understood Merrin is frustrated the club wasn’t in a position to offer him a better deal given the money they threw at enticing Josh Dugan, Gareth Widdop and Benji Marshall to the club.

Merrin’s departure at the end of the season means Jason Nightingale and Ben Creagh, who are both off contract at the end of this year, will be the last two remaining survivors from the 2010 grand final-winning team.

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