Same-sex marriage supporters call Kevin Andrews but he won’t answer

Defence Minister Kevin Andrews’ has opted out of receiving the calls from same-sex marriage supporters as part of the “Equality Calling” campaign. Photo: Andrew Meares Defence Minister Kevin Andrews’ has opted out of receiving the calls from same-sex marriage supporters as part of the “Equality Calling” campaign. Photo: Andrew Meares
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Defence Minister Kevin Andrews’ has opted out of receiving the calls from same-sex marriage supporters as part of the “Equality Calling” campaign. Photo: Andrew Meares

Defence Minister Kevin Andrews’ has opted out of receiving the calls from same-sex marriage supporters as part of the “Equality Calling” campaign. Photo: Andrew Meares

Defence Minister Kevin Andrews has barricaded himself against a new same-sex marriage campaign, by refusing to receive messages from his constituents who support the reform.

The “Equality Calling” campaign began delivering messages to federal politicians on Monday.

Organised by Australian Marriage Equality (AME), it allows supporters of same-sex marriage to record a voice message on a 1300 number that is then delivered straight to their locals MPs and senators.

But on Monday, after receiving the first batch of recordings, one of Mr Andrews’ electorate office staff members contacted the group to ask that the messages stop.

Fairfax Media understands the staff member reasoned that the Defence Minister  – who is known for his conservative views – believed marriage should be between a man and woman – and would not change his position.

He also said the calls were clogging up the phone lines. According to AME, only two messages have come in for Mr Andrews so far. Together they last for about five minutes.

One is from a woman, who says she is approaching 30, and tearfully explains how she wants to be able to marry her female partner, before thanking Mr Andrews for listening.

The other, which the office has not listened to, is from a primary school teacher who wants to marry his partner of 29 years.

“We just want the right to be able to publicly celebrate our relationship in front of our family and friends,” he said.

“Quite frankly, we’re getting a bit tired of going to all these other weddings and watching everybody else celebrate their love for each other.

“And we’re not allowed to do that … We’re not getting any younger and we want to do this before it is too late.”

According to a spokeswoman for the Defence Minister, his electorate office received a “number of automated calls”.

“His office contacted the organisation concerned and expressed that further contact be made in writing to best facilitate a personal response.”

AME national director Rodney Croome said it was “very disappointing” that Mr Andrews was refusing to listen to his constituents.

“Politicians should welcome engagement with their voters, not actively deny those voters a voice.

“It would be entirely inappropriate to hang up on a constituent calling in real time. And it’s just as inappropriate to hang up on a constituents’s heart-felt recorded message.”

Mr Croome said that at the end of the voice messages, it was also possible for MPs to opt out from receiving further messages, but said they would still be posted on social media “for all the world to see what they refuse to acknowledge”.

National Party senator Matt Canavan’s office has also opted out of the calls.

A spokesman for Senator Canavan said that it was “well versed with the issue”.

He explained that the initial calls were helpful, but the small office found the ongoing calls “distracting” and time consuming.

The spokesman said that people were still able to ring the office directly on a range of issues, including same-sex marriage.

AME said that Labor’s defence spokesman Stephen Conroy – who did not vote for same-sex marriage in September 2012 – had also opted out of the messages, however a spokesman for Senator Conroy said this had been an inadvertent mistake.

“Senator Conroy is happy to receive all communications from the public on any issue,” he said.

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Family of accused Sydney terror plotter Sulayman Khalid demand his release from maximum security prison

Khalid’s father AbuSalem and his mother DomenicaBiscotto outside court on Wednesday. Photo: Paul Bibby Sulayman Khalid in 2013. Photo: James Alcock
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Khalid’s father AbuSalem and his mother DomenicaBiscotto outside court on Wednesday. Photo: Paul Bibby

The family of a young Sydney man accused of planning a terrorist attack have demanded his immediate release from Goulburn’s maximum security prison, claiming the charges against him are “political” and that they have been forbidden from visiting him.

Approximately a dozen relatives of Sulayman Khalid, 20, gathered at Central Local Court on Wednesday to protest against his continued detention on a charge of possessing documents “designed to facilitate an attack”.

The 20-year-old was allegedly found in possession of several pages of notes which referred to an AFP building as a target and a plan to carry out guerilla warfare in the Blue Mountains.

Mr Khalid, who once appeared on the SBS show Insight, was one of the people arrested in a December counter-terrorism raid in Sydney.

During a brief mention of the matter in court, during which Mr Khalid appeared via audio visual link from the maximum security prison at Goulburn, his solicitor Zali Burrows said she intended to apply for the prosecution of her client to be permanently stayed.

After the hearing Mr Khalid’s mother, Domenica Biscotto, made an impassioned defence of her son while flanked by members of his extended family, some of whom were carrying banners declaring “Justice for Sulayman”.”We are asking for the remainder of the prosecution brief of evidence to be served so that we can proceed with the application,” Ms Burrows said.

“The Commonwealth have the resources to get these items together.”

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“My son Sulayman is innocent and he is innocent until proven guilty,” Ms Biscotto said.

“There are murderers, much worse people, who are out on bail but my son isn’t out on bail. He’s sitting in Supermax prison – high security –  being treated in an inhumane way and we have not [been allowed to see him].”

Ms Biscotto said the notes that allegedly belonged to her son belonged to someone else.

“Those notes are not in his writing, they’re just scribblings,” she said.

“This is purely political.”

“Stop blaming people based on their faith. I was born in this country – I’m an Australian citizen. My son is innocent and he should be released today.”

Ms Biscotto said that, after her son’s arrest, NSW Police deputy commissioner Catherine Burn had asked her for a closed door meeting and that she had refused.

The mother of six said the deputy commissioner had requested the meeting through a member of a local Muslim community organisation. Ms Biscotto had been too upset to attend and now wonders why such a meeting was requested.

But a police spokesman said Deputy Commissioner Burn had never requested a meeting with Ms Biscotto.

“Conversely, a meeting was requested by the Muslim Women’s Association, who were providing assistance to a distressed community member,” the spokesman said, in an apparent reference to Ms Biscotto.

“That meeting did not transpire due to the unavailability of the community member. “

Mr  Khalid’s  father, Abu Salem, broke down as he described seeing his son for the first time when he appeared via audio visual link from jail.

“I couldn’t control my emotions actually – I had tears in my eyes.”

Mr Khalid is due to return to court in April.

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Bendigo vigil held for Bali nine: Photos

Bendigo vigil held for Bali nine: Photos Bendigo Law Association president Jennifer Digby.
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Bendigo Law Association president Jennifer Digby.

Bendigo Law Association holds a minute of silence.

Bendigo Law Association president Jennifer Digby.

Bendigo Law Association holds a minute of silence.

TweetFacebookMEMBERS of the Bendigo Law Association took part in a vigil on Wednesdaymorning in protest of the death penalty and to urge the Indonesian government to grant two of the Bali nineclemency.

The event was organisedin conjunction with a vigil held on the steps of the County Court in Melbourne.

Australians’Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were convicted of drug charges in Indonesia in 2005 and sentenced to death.

The pair have served 10 years in custody.

BLA president Jennifer Rigby said the death penalty was “barbaric”.

“We haven’t had the death penalty in this country for a very long time,” she said.

“The important thing about it is these men are rehabilitated now. They’ve spent 10 years in prison.

“They have workedvery hard to make amends.

“An important cornerstone of the law is that people are able to demonstrate that they show redemption.”

Ms Digby said there would be afeeling of devastation among the law community if the executions were to go ahead.However, she said the most recent delay in the men’s executions had sparked a small ray of hope.

“We seem to be at acrossroad, whereby thereprieve to not send themen to the island for execution has been stayed, but we don’t really know what thatmeans,” she said.

“There are people working very hardwith the legal proceedings which are still on foot, and I note that Peter Morrissey SC, who is part of that legal team, has said that while that is still happening these men can not be executed. So I think there is a little bit of hope there.”

Major sponsor pulls support for greyhound racing in wake of live baiting scandal

Greyhound racing in NSW has no independent regulator with power to root out criminal and unethical practices.● Hunter greyhound property: Rabbits found in raid
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●Trainers unite to deter live-baiting


One of greyhound racing’s biggest sponsors has pulled its support in light of the live baiting scandal.

National meat provider Macro Meats Gourmet Game has pulled its sponsorship from all greyhound racing in Australia, including Brisbane’s Albion Park, in the wake of theFour Cornersinvestigationaired on Monday.

The company signed on as the largest sponsor of South Australian racing last year and has had long associations with greyhound racing in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

Managing director Ray Borda also dabbles in greyhound and horse ownership. He said he was sickened by the activities exposed in the program.

“It’s not just a business decision, it’s a personal decision,” he said.

“I’m as appalled as everybody else. A clear message has to be put through that change has to occur.

“It sickens me, my staff and a lot of people in the public.

“I’m an animal lover and it’s knocked me around personally a fair bit.”

Macro Meats sponsors regional events such as gymkhanas, and some horse racing, but Borda said it was a simple decision to pull their sponsorship.

A screenshot of the Four Corners program on greyhound racing industry, allegedly filmed at trainer Tom Noble’s property in Queensland. Picture: ABC

“We’re one of the biggest sponsors of greyhound racing in Australia,” he said.

“We were associated with the greyhounds as a good family sport and once it changed from that, even though it was just a few individuals, we stopped immediately.

“It doesn’t matter what business you’re in, you cannot disregard animal welfare.”

Borda said he wouldn’t rule out a return to greyhound sponsorship, but would need to see a great deal of change.

“You never say never,” he said.

“They’d have to address animal welfare issues, that’s the number one problem, and change the image of what it is.

“How they do that is up to the people that run the greyhound industry.

“It’s a complete re-education process from the ground up.”

Other sponsors are yet to make a call on their associations with Greyhound Racing Queensland.

Garrard’s Horse and Hound, which supplies supplements and health products for horses and greyhounds, is one of those sponsors.

General manager Daren Garrard said they were still honouring their contract with Albion Park and had not made any decision either way.

Animal welfare groups have called for the complete cessation of greyhound racing.

The Barristers Animal Welfare Panel chair, Joanna Fuller, said the industry could not be relied on to regulate itself any longer.

“Whatever is done now or is attempted to be done it simply cannot be guaranteed that this can be stamped out,”he said.

“These aren’t just rogue elements and the only way to prevent animal abuse is to stop the industry.”

Thirteen Queensland trainers have been in the spotlight of the live baiting scandal.

Racing Queensland issued Reg Kay, Debra Arnold, Tom Noble, Tony McCabe, James Harding, Michael Chapman and Greg Stella with show cause notices on Tuesday. They have seven days to respond.

Kay has also been removed from the Racing Queensland Hall of Fame.

A further six trainers (Stephen Sherwell, Gerri Crisci, Anthony Hess, Steven Arnold, Mick Emery and Samantha Roberts) have been suspended for the duration of the investigation.

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The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D review – a new sheen for the darkest Zelda

Long the black sheep of the Zelda series, the bona fide genius at the core of Majora’s Mask is exposed in this remake. Though shrunk down for the small screen, Majora’s Mask 3D’s visuals are leagues ahead of the Nintendo 64 original.
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The quests and characters are just as dark and weird as ever, but the frustration of managing them all is gone.

There are thousands of things to do in Termina once you get your head around how the time cycle works.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D on 3DS $59.95 Classification: PG Reviewer’s rating: 10/10

In 2000, Nintendo released its follow-up to the incredibly successful The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and although the sequel was running on the same hardware as its predecessor, it proved to be the black horse to Ocarina’s mainstream darling.

Much darker than any other Zelda adventure, but also much more human, Majora’s Mask has now been remade for Nintendo 3DS in a form that keeps and improves upon its incredible highs, while removing some of the technical niggles and confusion that chased some gamers away 15 years ago.

This is unequivocally Zelda – quirky characters, amazing music, plenty of interesting items and great puzzling dungeon designs – but it carries a legitimately dark edge in both tone and visual design, and the game is defined by its unexpected and wholly unique time-looping hook.

While players will recognise the standard explore-dungeon-item-boss structure common to Zelda games in completing Majora’s Mask’s main quest – which involves saving the land of Termina from being crushed by a menacing and ever-falling moon in just three days’ time – the rhythm of the action is fundamentally different as it takes place over the course of just three days.

Thanks to Link’s ability to manipulate time, you’ll play these three days over and over again. Whenever you run out of time – assuming you’re not yet ready to take on the final boss and prevent apocalypse – you have to start over again on day one. Every change you’ve made to the world returns to the way it was before, although you can take with you any magical form-shifting masks and important quest items you managed to acquire.

This Groundhog Day mechanic adds an extra dimension to traditional puzzle and adventure designs, as Link uses his ever-growing skillset and knowledge of the Termina residents (who of course never remember who he is) to provide assistance to a town increasingly disturbed by the lunar body threatening to end all of their lives.

Indeed, as Link jumps between helping doomed characters deal with their life’s regrets in the face of obliteration, staving off the ever-lingering Damocles-esque moon and taking the form of recently-deceased warriors to tap into their power and abilities, Majora’s Mask can occasionally feel obsessed with death. The theme is executed brilliantly, adds a beautiful candour not often seen in mainstream gaming and is part of why this is such a must-play game, but it could hit on sensitive subjects for some.

Though the game makes sure you’re constantly in mind of your race against time, you’re unlikely to feel too rushed or pressured once you understand the game world and plan your objectives accordingly. Some actions are only available to you at certain days or times, and the central area of Clock Town seems to get more frantic and menacing as the moon makes the final leg of the approach (this is helped along in no small part by the increasingly frantic distortion of the music). The growing feeling of impending doom, not just for the player but for all the other characters too, is one of the game’s greatest strengths.

Improved in this version of the game, a handy notebook keeps track of mysteries, rumours and characters’ schedules over the three-day period, making it easy to plan out your actions for each three day cycle and make sure you don’t run out of time. Some side-quests – like the aging punk who regrets that he will never get to see his pet chickens grow up into proud roosters – are touching and a joy to work out a happy ending to, while others – like person who lives in a toilet and just wants to find some good paper before the end of time – are just plain weird.

Several changes have been made to this version of the game to minimise the chance that you’ll get stuck or frustrated, which was a considerable issue in the Nintendo 64 original. The locations of some masks have changed, the boss battles and dungeons have been tuned up and one vitally important ocarina song – which makes time pass a little less quickly – has been made a bit easier to come by.

That combined with more save locations, the added ability to skip forward to any specific hour in the timeline, and the aforementioned notebook that keeps track of the actions you need to take to attempt a specific challenge or subplot, means this new version is leaps and bounds ahead of the original in making Majora’s Mask the epic, emotive masterpiece it was always designed to be.

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In The Homesman Tommy Lee Jones shows the wild west from a woman’s perspective

Hilary Swank in The Homesman Photo: Philippa Hawker Tommy Lee Jones in The Homesman Photo: Philippa Hawker
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Hilary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones Photo: Philippa Hawker

Hilary Swank in The Homesman Photo: Philippa Hawker

Tommy Lee Jones in The Homesman Photo: Philippa Hawker

Hilary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones Photo: Philippa Hawker

Hilary Swank in The Homesman Photo: Philippa Hawker

Tommy Lee Jones in The Homesman Photo: Philippa Hawker

Hilary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones Photo: Philippa Hawker

Hilary Swank in The Homesman Photo: Philippa Hawker

Tommy Lee Jones in The Homesman Photo: Philippa Hawker

Hilary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones Photo: Philippa Hawker

Tommy Lee Jones stars in and directs The Homesman.

More on The HomesmanMovie session timesFull movies coverage

At 68, Tommy Lee Jones is famously uninclined to suffer fools gladly. Actually, he doesn’t suffer anybody. At best, he is monosyllabic and dismissive with interviewers; at his worst, which will surface with the force of a geyser if he thinks his private space is being violated, he throws the furniture around.

Given that almost everything is private for him – not just his three marriages, but all opinions – it isn’t easy to navigate a discussion. Meanwhile, that weathered Texan face, pierced by eyes once compared to tiny oil wells, remains impassive. Like a mountain, he is just waiting out the aeons until you go.

The occasion for our meeting at the Cannes Film Festival is his new western The Homesman – his fourth film as a director, if we count two TV movies – in which capable bluestocking Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) volunteers to take three women who have succumbed to frontier madness to the nearest town with a hospital. On the way she enlists the aid of a feckless roustabout called George Briggs, played by Jones himself; initially at odds, the odd couple reaches some kind of mutual understanding.

The Homesman has been described enthusiastically by some critics as “a feminist western” but, predictably, Jones rejects the label.

“There was some originality to this story,” he says. “That’s what I was looking for. That’s what one always looks for. I haven’t seen a lot of movies about the difficulties of life in the mid-19th century in the western territories for women.”

Hard as that life was, of course, it was part of the dispossession of the people who were already there. Jones gave public support to his old college room-mate Al Gore in his bid for the presidency, but he generally keeps a lid on his political opinions. How does that history underpin this film? “Just look at it,” he says stolidly. “It’s obvious, isn’t it?”

When feminism arises, I suggest that Briggs is as lonely as Miss Cuddy in his own way. “I’m not a psychoanalyst and have no interest in it,” says Jones. “He doesn’t look to me like a character who concerns himself with loneliness.”

How did he work with Swank on her character? “Well, she can read. The screenplay’s pretty good. She got the rhythm, did the thinking and came to an understanding of how one speech led to the next. That’s about all.”

Jones has trodden this pioneer territory before; his critically lauded film The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada  also took a critical look at the western myth, on that occasion through the prism of border control and illegal immigration. As an actor, he won an Oscar in 1993 for pursuing Harrison Ford in The Fugitive. He also played the sheriff in No Country for Old Men, adapted from the book by his friend and fellow Texan Cormac McCarthy. He was nominated for an Oscar for his rich portrayal of abolitionist congressman Thaddeus Stevens in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, which is hardly a western but covers some of the same territory, quite literally.

So, what is it that he likes about westerns? “I don’t know. It’s an empty term, almost to the point of being meaningless. The only definition I can imagine from reading how people use that term is that it’s meant to define a movie that takes place west of the Mississippi in the 19th century and has big hats and horses.”

It’s true that the film eludes the romance of that idea, given that it centres on madness. “Oh, we didn’t set out to defy any particular cinematic romance. We just simply ignored it.”

He did research treatments for psychiatric patients, he reveals, which were startlingly primitive. “For example, the treatment for schizophrenia was to soak the patient in ice water for five hours and then put them in a bed that was made with sheets soaked in ice water, then get them up and walk them round barefoot in the snow. The theory was that the best cure for schizophrenia was acute hypothermia. Extraordinary as we see it, but common in the day.”

The moment comes to leave. Aeons have definitely passed; the craggy face of Tommy Lee Jones, I swear, has been marginally eroded by the passage of our time. He unbends to the point of promising me I will enjoy this movie more next time; he is frankly and engagingly proud of what he does.

When the publicist appears, she looks pale. Clearly, she has been listening at the door. “I owe you a drink,” she says, sounding as if she’s in her own feminist western. Unfortunately, Cannes is hellish short of sawdust saloons.

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Mike Baird promises $300 million to untangle Sydney’s roads

Premier Mike Baird Photo: Janie Barrett ‘Congestion will cripple us’: Mike Baird. Photo: Brendan Esposito
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Baird labelled a ‘coward’ over electricity privatisation

Roads would be widened and routes leading to busy intersections would take half as long to travel through under a $300 million election promise by the Baird government to untangle Sydney’s worst traffic snarls.

The improvements would take place over the next decade and would be funded by the proceeds of the government’s proposed partial lease of the electricity distribution network, or the “poles and wires”.

The investment was mooted last November when the government released more detail on how the electricity proceeds would be spent.

Labor has accused the government of “blackmail” by making the road improvements contingent on privatisation. The party is expected to reveal on Thursday how it would fund infrastructure, if elected.

Premier Mike Baird made the announcement on Wednesday near Homebush Bay Drive at Homebush, the seat where Strathfield Liberal MP Charles Casuscelli is facing an aggressive challenge by Labor candidate and former frontbencher MP Jodi McKay.

Mr Baird said if the government was re-elected, it would target so-called “pinch points” on 32 notoriously congested roads. They include Pennant Hills Road, Cumberland Highway, Parramatta Road, Old Windsor Road, The Kingsway, Campbelltown Road, and the Pacific Highway from North Sydney to Pymble.

“Sydney’s busiest roads can be gridlocked at any time of the day, any day of the week, costing our economy billions every year,” he said.

“If we don’t continue to act congestion will cripple our city.”

Mr Baird said the previous Labor government promised to deliver infrastructure but “never had funding to go alongside it. Well, we have that. We’ve got a bold vision to make a difference to this great city and state.”

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A spokesman for Mr Baird said no homes would be acquired for the planned work.

Mr Baird said communities and councils would be consulted and where the changes were “supported and make sense, and we can do it, we will”.

Mr Baird flagged the relocation of on-street parking in some cases, if businesses agreed to the move.

Labor’s deputy leader Linda Burney said the move was part of Mr Baird’s “privatisation circus”.

“People do not like to be blackmailed. People do not like an axe hanging over their head where the only way they can get a new service or new infrastructure is to allow Mike Baird to privatise electricity,” she said.

Asked how Labor planned to pay for critical infrastructure, Ms Burney said a policy would be announced before the election. It later emerged that Labor leader Luke Foley is due to reveal this policy on Thursday morning.

“What we will be proposing will not depend on selling electricity assets. It will not depend on people having to give up what is theirs,” Ms Burney said.

Last week, former Labor premier Morris Iemma said governments should not shy away from unpopular decisions to privatise public assets, in a message that implied support for the government’s main re-election pitch.

Infrastructure NSW and Transport for NSW identified the road corridors to be improved.

The upgrades would be funded from the Rebuilding NSW fund, which the government says would pay for $20 billion worth of infrastructure projects once the electricity lease is complete.

The work would begin next financial year, and would include intersection improvements, road widening and lengthening or widening turn bays.

The government said it would lead to increases in average travel speeds by up to 15km/h on links approaching upgraded intersections.

This would achieve up to 50 per cent travel time savings on these approaches during peak periods and benefit adjacent intersections, it said.

Speaking about the Strathfield contest, Mr Baird predicted that Mr Casuscelli would hold the seat, saying he was “making a huge difference to his local community. He lives and breathes it”.

Mr Casuscelli said the road program was “great news for the people of Strathfield”.

“Behind us is one of the worst pinch points, not only in my electorate, but this part of Sydney,” he said.

“People go through that intersection … for all sorts of reasons, whether they are shoppers at the DFO [shopping centre] or they are taking their kids to recreational facilities.

“The pinch point program … will treat intersections like this one and allow people to get where they need to go sooner, and in a lot better frame of mind.”

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Former IT manager tells ICAC he is ‘ashamed’ of defrauding NSW universities

Fraud allegations: Brett Roberts leaves the ICAC after giving evidence. Photo: Daniel Munoz
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Fraud allegations: Brett Roberts leaves the ICAC after giving evidence. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Fraud allegations: Brett Roberts leaves the ICAC after giving evidence. Photo: Daniel Munoz

“This was a rob and a con of Sydney University, wasn’t it?” counsel assisting a corruption inquiry asked.

“Yes,” came the blunt reply from the 47-year-old former IT manager in the witness box.

Brett Roberts told the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on Wednesday he had a “lot of debt” when he decided to defraud his employer of tens of thousands of dollars in late 2009.

The commission heard that Mr Roberts issued fake invoices to the University of Sydney, which directed that payment be made to a bank account for his $2 company, Robcon Australia Pty Limited.

“You understand what a con is? You understand what a rob is?” said counsel assisting the inquiry Anthony McGrath, SC.

“Yes,” Mr Roberts replied.

Asked if the company name was chosen “because that’s what you had in mind for that company”, Mr Roberts said: “Absolutely not.”

The Newcastle man admitted he had been “shitting blue lights” at the prospect of being caught but it was not the first time he had used the scam.

He had previously defrauded the University of Newcastle using a similar scheme, and after his stint at the University of Sydney he went on to do the same at Macquarie University. The universities were defrauded of almost $114,000 between 2005 and 2013.

In front of barristers for the universities, Mr Roberts apologised and said he was “ashamed” of himself.

“I know it probably doesn’t mean much, coming from me here, but I want to do what I can to fix this up,” he said.

The inquiry heard that Mr Roberts had hatched a plan in 2006 to use a friend’s company to issue fake invoices to the University of Newcastle.

He claimed he had come up with the idea to help his friend who was “out of work”, and they agreed to split the proceeds. His friend denied the claim.

Mr Roberts admitted he used the same system when he moved on to the University of Sydney but said his friend was not involved. The invoices directed the money be paid to the Robcon bank account.

He made $43,065 from the University of Sydney, on top of the “good money” he admitted the university was already paying him.

Mr Roberts denied he had a gambling problem and claimed he was spending the money on living expenses, including water and electricity bills.

“You seem to be going through an extraordinary amount of water and electricity,” Mr McGrath said.

Mr Roberts said his electricity bill could be as much as $4000 a quarter.

The inquiry has heard allegations that Mr Roberts used the same scam at Macquarie University, where he started working in July 2012 and was earning $180,000 a year.

Commissioner Megan Latham asked incredulously if all the money he received was spent on household expenses.

“As I recall, yes,” Mr Roberts replied.

Mr Roberts was sacked in December 2013 following a misconduct investigation, and went on to work briefly for the NSW Department of Trade and Investment.

He is now working part-time at the former NSW government-owned electricity company Macquarie Generation, which was privatised last year.

The ICAC will release its findings later in the year.

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Finding a Greece solution

Greece’s sovereign and multilateral creditors should cut the interest rate they are charging as part of any reworked bailout plan, according to one of the lead negotiators of the 2011 and 2012 debt restructuring with private sector creditors.
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Charles Dallara, who as managing director of the Institute of International Finance represented banks, hedge funds, insurers and asset managers holding about €200 billion in Greek bonds, said both the International Monetary Fund and European Union governments could offer concessional rates of around 2 per cent to give the country more breathing space.

This compares to around 3.5 or 4 per cent currently being charged.

“The IMF has this rather anachronistic policy that says that if you’re a low-income country, they’ll give you concessional levels,” he said.

“But if you’re a high income country, regardless of the depth of your problems, they will charge you near-market rates.

“I think the IMF needs to revisit its interest rates policy and create some eligibility for countries like Greece for the concessional lending pools,” Mr Dallara said.

Speaking in Sydney during an investment seminar this week, Mr Dallara said he was confident Greece and the EU would reach a compromise deal on the terms and conditions of the some €170 billion extended to the country in recent years to shore up its banking system and allow the government to function.

In return, Greece has agreed to a range of austerity measures aimed at keeping the ratio of public debt to gross domestic product at 120 per cent.

However, popular unrest over the repercussions of fiscal tightening led to the election in January this year of the anti-austerity Syriza party, and the appointment of academic Yanis Varoufakis, a former Sydney University lecturer, as finance minister.

Mr Varoufakis is leading current negotiations with creditors over a restructured deal, including an extension on some of the repayments due this year and lighter austerity conditions.

Despite current posturing and disagreement between the two sides, observers expect them to strike a deal.

“The Greeks don’t have to make such a huge issue out of extending the current program, because they can say to the people that a technical extension is not affirmation of the content of the program, it’s actually quite the reverse; it’s an opportunity to revisit the content of the program,” said Mr Dallara.

“The Europeans, when they get off their high horse saying ‘a deal is a deal and an agreement is an agreement’, will also recognise that the program needs some reworking.

“Once you get past this issue of extending the current program or not, then the actual adjustments to the program should not be insurmountable,” he said.

“I think that the Europeans recognise that the Greeks want a little bit more flexibility on the fiscal front.”

He said concessional interest rates on the current debt load would also go a long way to helping Greece through the crisis.

“If the IMF is smart enough to roll over its loans it should cut its interest rates as well,” he said.

“And if the Europeans are smart enough and they too extend the maturities and cut the interest rates further this can save the Greeks some serious cashflow, a few billion a year.

“The consolidation of Greece’s fiscal position has come at a high price to the Greek economy – but it has allowed Greece now to speak with more credibility about their fiscal policies, and I think that they do deserve some breathing room here,” he said.

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

Rail document found in Owen office: Labor

ROLES: Tim Crakanthorp, left, found the document, and Jeff McCloy, right, says he did not have ‘‘much influence’’. ●Read the cabinet papers here
Nanjing Night Net

A CABINET document that shows the government rejected advice from Transport for NSW about the best light rail route in Newcastle was found in former Liberal MP Tim Owen’s office, it has been revealed.

It raises questions about how the city’s former backbencher came into possession of the confidential information – and why Labor did not tell the public sooner of the discovery made after it won the city’s byelection.

Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp, who inherited Mr Owen’s Hunter Street office, said on Tuesday that he had found the copy of the cabinet minute ‘‘late last year in the back of a filing cabinet’’ after he had given evidence to a November hearing for a parliamentary inquiry into the government’s planning decisions.

He referred it to the office of the opposition leader.

During a visit to the region on Tuesday, Premier Mike Baird was forced to defend the selected light rail route as one chosen with the city’s revitalisation needs in mind, and labelled as ‘‘conspiracies’’ claims the route was selected to favour the interests of developers.

Fairfax Media reported on Tuesday that Transport for NSW advised the cabinet infrastructure committee in December 2013 that its preferred light rail route was along the corridor for the heavy rail line that was to be ripped up as part of a Newcastle revitalisation plan.

But in May 2014, following consultation with government property developer UrbanGrowth NSW, the state announced the new line would use only part of the corridor in the West End before diverting along Hunter Street.

This is despite Transport for NSW’s advice to cabinet that running light rail down Hunter Street, as advocated by local developers, would mean a slower service, disruption of traffic and higher construction and heavy rail corridor remediation costs.

The cost of the Hunter Street route may also be as much as $94 million more than Transport for NSW’s preferred option, the documents suggest.

It emerged on Tuesday that the confidential cabinet documents were found in Mr Owen’s electorate office by Labor after it won the October 25 byelection sparked by Mr Owen’s resignation from Parliament.

He quit in August after lying to the Independent Commission Against Corruption about taking $10,000 cash before the 2011 election from developer and former lord mayor Jeff McCloy.

Mr McCloy is overseas but told the Newcastle Herald the light rail option chosen by the statewas not his preference.

‘‘I have always been of the opinion that the light rail should have gone all the way down Hunter Street [from Wickham],’’ Mr McCloy said.

‘‘It seemed commonsense to me to put it where the shops are and where people actually want to go.

‘‘Obviously, I didn’t have much influence because the government went ahead with a different solution. They’re the facts of it.’’

Labor’s transport spokeswoman, Penny Sharpe, said there were ‘‘serious questions why a backbencher, Tim Owen, had access to these cabinet documents’’.

‘‘Who else had access to these documents and was there collusion with developers to ensure that the transport advice was ignored?’’ she asked.

The document has now been referred to the parliamentary inquiry.

Inquiry deputy chairman David Shoebridge said how Mr Owen came to have the material and whether he had any influence in the final decision about the light rail route ‘‘are questions that immediately arise’’.

But he also said it was ‘‘hard to understand’’ why Labor had not handed over the ‘‘critical’’ document earlier, labelling the apparent delay a ‘‘failure of government and a failure of opposition’’.

‘‘This demolishes the argument for terminating the rail line on Boxing Day,’’ Mr Shoebridge said.

‘‘Why on earth would anyone sit on it for months?’’

Mr Crakanthorp said he had campaigned on the issue before becoming an MP and then in Parliament.

‘‘Ultimately, the only way to stop the ripping up of the rail line is to vote the Liberals out in March, which is why we have made this information public,’’ he said.

Christian Democratic Party MP the Reverend Fred Nile, chair of the upper house inquiry into the Newcastle planning process, said he was ‘‘pretty angry’’ and questioned the government’s plans for the corridor.

‘‘There could be high-rise towers put on it as it’s the only land not affected by mining subsidence,’’ he said.

John Robertson quit as Labor leader days before Christmas.

Mr Robertson’s replacement, Luke Foley, was elected in January.