Government no longer pursuing schools policy

PARENTS will still be able to decide where to send their children to school next year after the state government last night announced it would no longer pursue the out-of-home-area policy.
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Education Minister Brian Wightman said the policy, which included guidelines and maps to restrict children bypassing their local school, was causing unnecessary uncertainty for families and it was no longer a priority for the government.

“We should be focusing on giving children the best education possible, not causing undue concerns as to which school they can access,” he said.

“We should be concentrating on getting positive educational outcomes for our kids, not causing uncertainty for families over schools on maps.”

The out-of-home-area policy was announced by former education minister Nick McKim in 2012 as the next step in the ongoing schools viability issue.

The policy included revised out-of-home-area guidelines and maps to restrict children bypassing their local school to attend a school in another area.

It also meant parents wanting to enrol their child at an out-of- area school would first have to seek the permission of their local principal and then the principal of their preferred school.

Tasmanian State School Parents and Friends president Jenny Eddington said she was happy the government decided not to introduce the policy.

She said the majority of parents were against it, with many stating work and childcare would become issues if they had no choice on where they sent their children to school.

“Fine-tuning of boundaries will still need to happen, especially due to school closures and mergers,” she said.

“But this will be good news for the majority of our kids and parents.”

Mrs Eddington said she would still encourage people to look at their local school first, and if a school was full, students in the area would get first preference.

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

Heads and tails: Frank Camorra’s baked fish

Whole snapper baked on potatoes and capsicum, with Catalan wilted spinach. Whole snapper baked on potatoes and capsicum, with Catalan wilted spinach.
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Cooking a whole fish is a fantastic way of feeding a large group and it is a lot easier then it looks. I know many people worry they will not know when the fish is cooked, but by cooking it whole you give yourself a lot more leeway with the timing. By cooking fish on the bone, the flesh retains much more moisture than when it is filleted, and it remains at a beautiful serving temperature for longer. The succulent flakes of fish also draw flavour from the bones during this process.

I like to use small snappers for this dish, but you can use red emperor or any large, white-fleshed fish and just cook it for longer. The bed of potato and vegetables absorbs any cooking juices, which make the potatoes even tastier. In fact, the potatoes are my favourite part of this dish, as they take on the intense flavour of the stock and wine and the richness of the fish.Whole snapper baked on potatoes and capsicum

210ml extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, firmly packed

5 garlic cloves

4 x 500g whole snapper, cleaned and scaled

1 1/2kg brown onions, finely sliced

2 red capsicums, seeded and finely sliced

2 green capsicums, seeded and finely sliced

7 bay leaves

fine sea salt

4 lemons, sliced

200ml fish stock

4 waxy potatoes (such as Nicola), sliced in

5mm rounds

3 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

100ml white wine

sea salt flakes to sprinkle

In a blender, puree 60ml of olive oil, parsley and two large garlic cloves, season to taste and set aside. Remove the fish fins and spines with a pair of kitchen scissors. Rinse fish under cold water and pat dry with paper towel. Heat 80ml of olive oil in a large frying pan over low-medium heat.

Finely chop remaining three garlic cloves and cook with onion, capsicums, three bay leaves and a pinch of salt for 15-20 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Put the fish in a large bowl with several pinches of sea salt and the garlic and parsley paste and rub all over.

Season the cavity of each fish with salt, a few slices of lemon and a bay leaf. Drizzle a little olive oil into a large baking tray, then spread about a quarter of the onion mixture over it. Pour the fish stock over, put potato on top then season.

Lay the remaining onion mix over the potato, sprinkle with tomato pieces and most of the remaining lemon slices and season again. Place fish on top and dress with remaining lemon slices.

Drizzle white wine and the remaining olive oil over the fish. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the fish flakes when tested with a fork. Remove the fish and place on a plate, cover with foil and keep warm.

Cover the baking tray with foil and return to oven for 15 minutes, or until the potato is soft. Make a bed of the baked vegetable mix on four warm plates and place a snapper on each. Sprinkle with sea salt flakes and serve.

Serves 4

Catalan wilted spinach

80g pine nuts

500g baby spinach leaves

120g raisins

200ml Pedro Ximenez sherry

125ml extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

sea salt flakes

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Place the pine nuts on a baking tray lined with baking paper and roast for five minutes or until lightly golden.

Wash and dry the spinach in a large stainless steel bowl. Soak the raisins in the sherry in a small bowl.

Heat the olive oil in a frypan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring regularly, for two to three minutes or until golden. Pour hot oil and garlic over the spinach and mix well with tongs.

Add the raisin mixture and lemon juice and season with salt. Toss to combine. Set aside for 15 minutes, tossing the dressing through the leaves every five minutes. Check the seasoning, add pine nuts and serve.

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

Pressing times on streets of Egypt

Animosity on the street towards journalists is on the rise in Egypt, especially towards photographers.It doesn’t take long for a crowd to turn on you on the streets of Egypt these days.
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A finger pointed, an accusation levelled, and you are literally running for your life.

For months now I have been hesitant to even pull my notebook from my bag when I am reporting from the street, such is the animosity against, and suspicion of, foreign journalists.

But I am lucky – I can usually move through a crowd, observe the mood, chat to a few people and leave quickly before drawing too much attention.

Not so photographers, whose cameras have become a magnet for angry crowds and security services who smash, grab and detain.

Two weeks ago I was a few blocks from Cairo’s Tahrir Square, interviewing stallholders and passers-by about the constitutional referendum due to begin the next day.

I had identified myself as an Australian newspaper journalist. As people began to speak, I took out my notebook.

A middle-aged man suddenly began paying close attention to my questions – little more than simple inquiries about what people thought of the constitution, was it better than the last one they had voted in a little over a year ago?

“You are from TV?” he asked. “No, a newspaper,” I replied, acutely alert to where the conversation was going.

“You are from Jazeera,” he shouted. “No,” I insisted. “A newspaper – look,” I said, gesturing around me: “I have no camera crew.”

“You are a spy,” he yelled, as people crowded around us and began repeating his accusations as if they were facts. And again: “You are from Jazeera.”

The mood darkened. There was no possibility of negotiation, no hope of discussion. It was time to run.

I dashed through the all-but-stationary traffic, turned down a side street to avoid police gathered on one corner in case they grabbed me, and in a few short minutes I came to a roundabout where the cars were moving, flagged a cab and went home.

It was an incident hardly worth mentioning. Unlike so many of my colleagues, I was not beaten by the crowd or detained by security forces.

It was just another day trying to report on the wave of revolution and crackdown, fledgling democracy and repression that Egyptians are riding.

And it was another reporting exercise cut short by an angry crowd, encouraged by an interim government, backed by a powerful security establishment and fuelled by the country’s media which are loudly feeding a tide of xenophobia that threatens to spill over at the slightest provocation. Like taking out a notebook, or interviewing the other side of politics.

The threat of arrest is ever-present. The detention of our journalist colleagues from al-Jazeera – Australian Peter Greste, dual Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, along with Egyptians Baher Mohamed, Abdullah al-Shami and Mohamed Bader – weighs heavily on our minds.

Greste, an award-winning journalist who grew up in Brisbane, was arrested with his colleagues at a Cairo hotel on December 29.

They are accused of broadcasting false news in the service of the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood.

The media have always had a difficult relationship with the powerful in Egypt. Repression was rife during president Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade rule and the Muslim Brotherhood-backed government of Mohamed Mursi sought to quash criticism of his short-lived, dysfunctional administration.

But the targeting of journalists from al-Jazeera English over the network’s alleged pro-Brotherhood stance – a charge denied by al-Jazeera executives – has spilt over to encompass all foreign media.

I will no longer answer “sahafia” – the feminine form of ”journalist” in Arabic – when I am asked what I do. Not since a taxi driver took a journalist straight to a police station after he revealed his profession.

Soon after the incident downtown I travelled with a photographer to Fayoum, two hours from Cairo, to report on the second day of voting in the constitutional referendum.

Soldiers backed by local plain-clothes police armed with shotguns were in control of every polling booth. A judge oversaw the voting inside.

During the day our every move – interviewing voters, taking photos or seeking a judge’s permission to enter the room – was filmed by a soldier on his mobile phone.

Our driver was also filmed, his identity now inextricably linked to the foreign journalists he takes with extreme care from point A to point B.

Despite the lure of great pictures and interviews, we decided against getting out of the car in the local markets. The mood felt wrong, the threat of violence too great.

During an earlier visit to the site of a bomb blast in Cairo’s Nasr City, my colleague and I lasted just over seven minutes observing and photographing the wreckage before security police challenged our presence and it seemed the crowd could turn on us.

Only a month ago I worried that a quick visit to a protest or bomb blast site was not enough to do a decent reporting job. Now I wonder if I should go at all.

At least 12 journalists were detained and several were wounded as they tried to cover the third anniversary of the overthrow of Mubarak.

Almost every journalist and photographer I know has been detained, and those of us who haven’t have regularly run for cover, hiding in residential buildings, ducking into cafes, talking our way into the safety of a big hotel.

The threat of being detained, or a crowd turning on us, versus the need to cover the story, is a constant debate among those covering Egypt.

Every day we hope we have the right answer, because one wrong move can be devastating.

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

Mazda3: Next big thing?

It’s now a matter of history that Australians have fallen out of love with traditional family cars such as the Holden Commodore. The decision by both Ford and Holden to quit local manufacturing by 2017 underscores that sentiment.
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Of course, there was a time, for 15 years in a row, when the Commodore was the firm favourite among families, but somehow, we have since fallen into step with the rest of the world, except for the United States, and the small car is king.

Witness the runaway success of the Mazda3 in this country. For the past decade or so, the Mazda hatchback and its sedan stablemate have been the most popular new-car choice among private buyers.

It’s a global phenomenon. Almost 40 per cent of all Mazda sales are from the 3 catalogue and Mazda hopes that the new model will continue that trend.

”Early indications are that it will be a winner,” says Mazda Australia senior public relations manager Steve Maciver. ”It’s been [to customer clinics] here and we’ve had 70,000 prelaunch hand-raisers [expressions of interest] in Australia.”

In 2011, Mazda’s 3 became the first imported car to top the sales charts, a feat it repeated in 2012. Last year, the Toyota Corolla snuck past to give Toyota its first top seller and reaffirm that small cars are the new black.

Mazda is boldly predicting more than 45,000 of its 3 will sell annually, a total big enough for it to top the sales charts, assuming that the imminent arrival of a Corolla sedan doesn’t cause its sales to rise further.

Now that the new 3 is here, we were keen to see how good the anointed one is in its latest guise. It was also a chance to take a road trip with the old guard in the form of a Holden Calais, to see how our tastes have changed.

The temptation is to imagine that, as a nation, we’ve simply lost our craving for interior space. That doesn’t seem to hold water when you take the Mazda to pieces and apply the tape measure. Just parking the cars side by side reveals that the biggest difference is in overall length, while the Mazda, even in hatchback guise, looks wide.

Compared with the outgoing Mazda3, the new hatchback is the same length overall, but has less front and rear overhang, maximising the space between the axles with 60 millimetres more wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels). The new 3 is also 40 millimetres wider than the old car and lower, at 1455 millimetres.

Comparing those figures with the Calais, it’s obvious that the Holden is bigger, but not by as much as you might imagine. The real difference is in the overall length and, at 4966 millimetres from stem to stern, the Calais is 506 millimetres longer than the Mazda. The wheelbase is also greater, at 2915 millimetres versus 2700 millimetres, and those two figures are what give the Calais its rear-seat stretching space and its long, deep boot.

Obviously, the Mazda cannot match that luggage capacity and, while there is less knee room in the back seat of the 3, it’s hardly what you’d call cramped. Crucially, it will be big enough for many families.

Exploding even further the myth that we don’t like interior space is a comparison with the first Holden Commodore, the VB model of 1978. While the original Commodore did cop flak for being a bit dainty in some directions, it still found plenty of homes with Aussie families and set the tone for all future Holdens to bear the Commodore badge.

And what do you know? Compared with the new Mazda3, the first Commodore was a bit longer at 4705 millimetres (compared with the Mazda hatch’s 4460 millimetres), but it was narrower at 1722 millimetres (1795 millimetres) and had a shorter wheelbase, at 2668 millimetres (2700 millimetres).

Meanwhile, just because you’re losing a bit of space, it doesn’t mean anybody is willing to compromise on safety, comfort or equipment levels.

The new 3 has options that were unimaginable in smaller cars (at this price point anyway) a few years ago, including a head-up display, colour touchscreen, a real-time traffic and weather update service and even radar cruise control.

There’s also a hill-hold function and a reverse camera is standard on all but the most basic Neo model, a car designed primarily as the price teaser to tempt people into dealerships. While the heavily marketed runout-model Mazda3 attracted buyers mainly to the base model, the new Neo is expected to initially account for 40 per cent of sales.

An optional $1500 safety pack includes autonomous braking for low-speed crash avoidance and a blind-spot warning system.

What is almost certainly driving small-car sales more than an imaginary downsizing trend is the move towards greater fuel efficiency.

Squeezing every drop out of each petro-dollar is the name of the game now, and conventional wisdom is that big cars simply don’t cut it.

That’s debunked in the case of the Calais, which managed a very impressive 7.6 litres per 100 kilometres on a long stretch of freeway running.

Given the extra performance offered by the Holden’s 210kW, 3.6-litre V6, that’s a great result, but it pales in comparison with the Mazda’s 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres in the same conditions. In fact, that’s a result many diesel hatchbacks of the same size would struggle to match, yet it’s all done with conventional technology marketed under the Skyactiv banner.

Despite a trend towards smaller engines fitted with turbochargers, the Mazda philosophy is that a well-engineered 2.0-litre engine can do the same job.

There is also a manufacturing cost advantage in remaining non-turbocharged, as well as simpler servicing for the owner and a potential fuel-consumption advantage.

Throw in the use of high-strength steel to increase strength without adding to the car’s weight and excellent aerodynamics (a drag coefficient of just 0.26 for the sedan), and Mazda is claiming a massive 30 per cent cut in fuel consumption over the old car. To be fair, the Mazda3 it replaces was one of the thirstiest small cars on the market, but it has jumped to being one of the best.

Mazda will offer two petrol engines in the new 3: a 2.5-litre unit and the 2.0-litre version we drove. There will also be a 2.0-litre turbo diesel which, for the first time, will be available in the 3 with an automatic transmission. Given the fuel economy of the petrol, we can’t wait to see what sort of figures the diesel will produce.

Our test car was fitted with six-speed conventional automatic transmission, Mazda again ignoring the voguish double-clutch gearboxes that work brilliantly once you’re moving, but can hesitate in traffic.

Part of its Skyactiv technology, however, is a function that keeps the torque converter partially locked up even during gearshifts, so it feels taut and positive in its action.

The engine itself is much quieter and smoother than previous-generation Mazda petrol engines and, although it spins freely, it does get a tiny bit strained as you approach the 6000rpm red line.

It’s not as punchy or playful as a good turbo motor, either, but it certainly does everything it needs to or would be expected of it, and that potential fuel economy just can’t be underestimated.

The big bogey of previous Mazda3s was their interior noise, but here, Mazda has found a fix. There’s very little wind noise, almost no suspension noise and only some tyre roar on coarse surfaces to upset the serenity of the interior.

The move to electrically assisted power steering has also resulted in a change in the preciseness. Although it feels more composed at speed, it has lost a little of its tactility through the wheel and perhaps a small measure of its eagerness to turn in.

The payoff is a much more grown-up ride at the cost of a little body roll, but the suspension settings, in particular, seem beautifully considered.

That cars like the Holden Calais of the last decade are a size bigger than they’ve ever been suggests that the trend had to stop somewhere. With the Mazda’s all-round abilities and the fact that it has a spacious, well-presented interior, there’s little reason to think this latest one won’t continue its broad-ranging appeal.Vital statistics

Price $20,490-$38,190, plus on-road and dealer costs


Mazda3 Neo $20,490 (man) $22,490 (auto)

Mazda3 Maxx $22,990 (man) $24,990 (auto)

Mazda3 Touring $25,490 (man) $27,490 (auto)

Mazda3 SP25 $25,890 (man) $27,890 (auto)

Mazda3 SP25 GT $30,590 (man) $32,590 (auto)

Mazda3 SP25 Astina $36,190 (man) $38,190 (auto)

Engine 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol (SP25, SP25 GT and SP25 Astina models)

Transmission 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic

Power 138kW at 5700rpm

Torque 250Nm at 3250rpm

Claimed average fuel use 6.5L/100km (manual sedan and hatch), 6.0L/100km (auto sedan), 6.1L/100km (auto hatch)

Engine 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol (SP25, SP25 GT and SP25 Astina models)

Transmission 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic

Power 138kW at 5700rpm

Torque 250Nm at 3250rpm

Claimed 6.5L/100km (manual sedan and hatch), 6.0L/100km (auto sedan), 6.1L/100km (auto hatch)Astina returns as Mazda3 flagship

Proof that Mazda has big plans for the Mazda3 Down Under can be seen in the sheer variety of permutations that will be offered, including the return of the Astina nameplate that was once reserved for hatchbacks, but is now being applied to a flagship model that will sell from $38,190, plus on-road and dealer costs.

It’s a big ask for a small car, especially considering the starting price for the entry-level Mazda3 Neo is $20,490.

As well as the two body styles (sedan and hatch), there are three engine choices: a 2.0-litre petrol with 114kW and 200Nm, a 2.5 petrol with 138kW and 250Nm and the turbo diesel to come later.

A six-speed manual or six-speed automatic (for an extra $2000) are the transmission choices.

The 2.0-litre engine range starts with the base-model Neo, which misses out on alloy wheels, and then moves to the Maxx and the Touring as the top-shelf 2.0-litre car.

The 2.5-litre engine will be fitted to the SP25 and the sportier SP25 GT, while the top-rung 2.5-litre version will again wear the Astina badge, first used by Mazda in the 1990s.

All 2.5-litre cars will have smart key entry and the 2.0-litre Touring, SP25 GT and Astina will have leather seats, heated in the latter pair.

Mazda has gone to town specifying the Astina, which will have as standard a sunroof and all the safety gear, such as blind-spot warning, forward obstruction warning (optional on all other models), lane-departure warning and radar cruise control. The head-up display will be available only on the SP25 GT and Astina.

However, all the variants will have airconditioning and cruise control, and only the base-model 2.0-litre will miss out on the seven-inch colour screen, satellite navigation, shift paddles and a reversing camera.

Mazda is tipping a 50-50 split between sedan and hatch and expects the Neo to make up about 55 per cent of sales, which could be as high as 4000 cars a month.

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

Freight scheme

IN RESPONSE to Martin Gilmour (The Examiner, January 27) my position has been consistently clear in supporting a more efficient Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme and for the inclusion of northbound international exports into the scheme.
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The state government’s submission explicitly backs these changes.

But there are elements of this report – commissioned by the federal Liberal government – which pose a massive threat to Tasmanian business.

One of the report’s recommendations could cut $90 million (over two years) in payments to Tasmanian businesses by changing the way freight equalisation is calculated.

Given Tasmanian businesses receive around $200 million in support over the same period, this would effectively be slashing half the support for Tasmanian businesses that rely on the TFES.

The report also proposes removing support to southbound freight movements, which accounts for a quarter of all TFES payments.

This would critically impact iconic Tasmanian companies, such as James Boag & Sons, which currently benefits from assistance to reduce the cost of inputs to their end product.

The report further questions the existence of the Bass Strait Passenger Equalisation scheme.

If this scheme was cut, it would add hundreds of dollars to the cost of visiting Tasmania by sea for every one of the 100,000 people who do so every year.

Before last year’s election the federal and state Liberals said this review was the answer to addressing Tasmania’s freight challenges.

The reality is far from it and instead it poses a major threat to the Tasmanian economy.

The Tasmanian Labor government has worked hard with business through the industry-led Freight Logistics Co- ordination Team.

Its report is a comprehensive document, and as a state we are already taking action.

– DAVID O’BYRNE, Minister for Infrastructure.

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

Why can the dead do such great things book review: Of saints and scholars

Revered: Mary MacKillop, Australia’s saint. Photo: Kate GeraghtyWHY CAN THE DEAD DO SUCH GREAT THINGS?Robert Bartlett Princeton University Press, 824pp, $46.95 
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Few devotional practices were as pervasive in mediaeval Christianity, but as difficult for moderns to understand, as the cult of the saints. When Pope Benedict XVI canonised Mary MacKillop in 2010, following papal approval of a second miracle attributed to her, eyebrows were raised by the quaint requirements imposed by the Catholic Church on any individual being promoted to that honour. The idea of praying to a particular saint for some kind of miracle strikes many people as strange, Christian or not. Yet there was still an element of national pride, even in the secular media, in having an Australian saint. For her admirers, she worked miracles not in subverting the course of nature, but in standing up to authority.

Scepticism about saints, or rather the claims made about them, has a long history. In the early 5th century, Augustine of Hippo was acutely aware that Christianity had changed from the time of St Paul, who considered all members of his community to be saints, whatever their achievement. Pagan critics of the new religion observed that Christian devotion to the saints, who were now being honoured in their own churches, was no different from that given to the old gods. Augustine’s answer to the question, ”Why can the dead do such great things?” was that the saints were simply instruments in the hands of God. This at least was his theory. In practice, Christian bishops recognised that if their movement was to survive, there was great virtue in transforming rather than abolishing pagan practice. The Gospel story was all very well, but people liked having saints who lived out that message in their own region. As Robert Bartlett observes, bishops of dubious moral integrity knew how to assert influence by promoting the cult of some great martyr, who gave up their life resisting the Roman Empire. The cult of the saints presented heroic figures as patrons of particular communities, distracting attention from the failings of those in authority.

Bartlett’s weighty tome (more than 600 pages of text) begins by presenting an overview of the cult of saints in the Middle Ages, making clear the magnitude of the shift in the 4th century away from the early cult of martyrs, when the Christian movement was effectively a secret society. There was no official process of canonisation by Rome until the 12th century. Saints were those identified as such by their communities. The vast number of saints in early mediaeval Ireland was generated by a society in which power depended on personal charisma as much as lineage. Bartlett convincingly explains how the 12th-century papacy sought to control a potentially anarchic process by demanding strict examination of cases, of which only about half were successful.

Saints continued to be identified informally in local communities, alongside the official veneration promoted by ecclesiastical authorities. With great thoroughness, Bartlett examines issues such as types of saint, relics, miracles, hagiography and doubt, more as an observer than as judge.

One gets the sense that those revered as saints often frustrated bishops and could generate charges of heresy. Hagiographic idealisation inevitably clouds our perception of the controversy they often generated in practice.

In a culture that valued storytelling, saints became icons, often invoked by their devotees to make discreet criticism of the behaviour of those ecclesiastics viewed as betraying the message they preached.

The multiplication of their relics (even of the holy foreskin) defies the imagination.

Some of Bartlett’s most valuable insights relate to the diversity of ways in which saints were revered and what they reveal about visions of the social order. The Cistercians, for example, were troubled by the crowds of sick people that would flock to the tomb of a recently deceased abbot. Even Bernard of Clairvaux was told by his superiors to stop working miracles. Francis of Assisi was widely loved, but never generated a reputation for posthumous miracle-working. Avoiding harshly negative judgment on a devotional practice that was wide and deep in mediaeval society, Bartlett observes how the veneration of saints depended on the support of communities and ecclesiastical authority. Whatever the status of the miracles attributed to them, saints help tell the Christian story. Every community finds its way of identifying heroes.

Constant J.Mews is director of the Centre for Studies in Religion and Theology, Monash University

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

Grief for Great Barrier Reef, say environmentalists

Grief for reef: Three million cubic metres of dredge spoil from the Abbot Point coal terminal will be dumped in the Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Darren Jew Abbot Point coal terminal. Photo: Greenpeace/Tom Jefferson
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They are two of Australia’s most celebrated places of natural beauty, sitting at either end of the country. Both are world heritage protected. And in the eyes of conservationists both took significant blows on Friday.

In Australia’s north, a final permit was granted to allow the dumping of millions of tonnes of dredging sludge in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. In the south, the Abbott government confirmed it would seek to remove parts of Tasmania’s forest wilderness from the United Nations’ world heritage list.

In a long-awaited decision, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority allowed the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation to dump three million cubic metres of dredge spoil in reef waters as part of its expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal, north of Bowen.

The plan had already been approved by federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt, with environmental conditions, but the authority had the final say over whether the dredge spoil could be dumped in the marine park that protects the reef.

Authority chairman Dr Russell Reichelt gave the go-ahead on Friday afternoon, subject to a further 47 environmental conditions. Dr Reichelt acknowledged there had been significant community concern, but said the decision was in line with the authority’s view development on the reef should be kept to existing industrial areas.

“It’s important to note the sea floor of the approved disposal area consists of sand, silt and clay and does not contain coral reefs or seagrass beds,” he said.

The proposed dump site is 25 kilometres east-north-east of Abbot Point. As part of his approval, Mr Hunt also required the proponents to investigate an alternative site 20 to 30 kilometres from the area being dredged.

Environmentalists quickly hit out at the decision. WWF campaigner Richard Leck said: “This is a sad day for the reef and anyone who cares about its future.”

Mary Steele, senior manager, corporate relations at the Ports Corporation, said the authority had done a thorough job with the scientific evidence in front of it, and the environmental conditions set down were good.

Mr Hunt said the authority had made its decision independently. He said the government had acted to limit the impact of dredging and subjected it to the strictest environment conditions in Australian history.

”The Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia’s great natural wonders and protecting it for the future generations is vital,” Mr Hunt said.

The mining industry claims up to 25,000 jobs will ultimately be created, if the development of the coal terminal allows several other major developments to go ahead in Queensland’s coalfields.

The decision came as the federal and Queensland governments are due to deliver to the World Heritage Committee a progress report on how it is meeting UN recommendations to protect the reef on Saturday. The committee has threatened to put the reef on a list of world heritage sites considered ”in danger” unless sufficient progress is made.

In Tasmania, the Abbott government launched the first ever large-scale bid by Australia to axe world heritage protection.

The loss of 74,000 hectares from the world heritage area would fulfil an election commitment by Prime Minister Tony Abbott to reverse what he said was a ”rushed and political” decision by the previous government to extend the heritage area.

The government refused to release detailed maps of the target areas on Friday, but Environment Tasmania said the scale of the wind-back meant large swathes of old growth and rainforest had to be included.

No federal government has ever attempted such a large scale wind-back of world heritage protection, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature said.

Greens leader Christine Milne said: ”Winding back world heritage protection will make us a global laughing stock.”

The 74,000 hectares represents more than half the forest previously outside national park protection that was included in the total 170,000 hectare extension to the Tasmanian Wilderness Area unanimously approved by the World Heritage Committee last June.

The federal government’s proposed changes had to be lodged with the World Heritage Committee by Saturday to go before its member nations at their meeting in June, in Doha, Qatar.

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

Thank you

WE ARE truly overwhelmed and humbled by the Tasmanian community getting behind our boy, Zach, and family.
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There are so many people to thank – people donating their money, time, merchandise and products and well wishes.

Big thanks to the organisers of the Super 6s for Zach – Andrew and Rachael, Tania, Tony, their partners and children, all the cricket clubs who participated on the day and the TCL.

Thanks to guys on the day providing face painting, spray-on tattoos, jumping castle, canteen, sausage sizzle, bar, security and T-shirts and other people making personal donations and businesses within the community – the list is endless.

Please take this as our personal thanks and appreciation; your generosity will never be forgotten.

So on behalf of ourselves and our children, Zach, Charli and Bailey, parents, siblings and extended family, we thank you.


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

Ill met by Moonlite, Edward Bowen named a hero

Captain Moonlite was the rock’n’roll bushranger; bad, strikingly handsome and likely gay. He also was a cop killer.
Nanjing Night Net

In 1879, during a siege at Wantabadgery, east of Wagga Wagga, his gang shot dead Senior Constable Edward Bowen, a married officer with a young child. Moonlite was hanged for the killing.

Since their deaths the two men have become entwined in an endless waltz between good and evil, right and wrong, with the bushranger taking the lead in appealing to a modern sensibility.

On Saturday morning the NSW Police will hold a meeting at Wantabadgery Town Hall (free breakfast is being provided) to stage a popular culture intervention. For them, the elevation of Moonlite, Ned Kelly, Chopper Read or some Underbelly wannabes is unnerving.

A new memorial, artworks, bush ballads and even a comic book are among the ideas being discussed to push forward ”Gung-Ho” Bowen as an icon of policing.

”We want Bowen to become a popular symbol of the importance of doing the right thing,” said Inspector Stephen Radford, from the Wagga Wagga local area command.

”We want to take on the bushranger myth head-on.

”While some cynics have criticised this focus on the past hero, rather than current crime issues, developing a police culture based on commitment to duty and serving the community is not always easy. With Generation Y and their differing value systems and technological wizardry taking their right place in policing, it is important we leave them with real role models and engage them in our traditions and values.”

Aggressive and gung-ho, Bowen had gained colonial fame since his arrival in Australia from Wales after killing two dangerous criminals in separate incidents and had expressed a public desire to kill Ned Kelly, said Paul Terry, author of In Search of Captain Moonlite.

Happy to take on the equally notorious Captain Moonlite to stop his crime spree, Bowen charged the siege house at Wantabadgery, where the bushranger and his gang were holed up. He was shot and died a few days later.

Meanwhile, moments after Bowen was hit, Moonlite’s soulmate James Nesbitt was killed.

Bowen was buried with honours and later a large stone monument was erected over his grave in Gundagai. Nesbitt was interred nearby in an unmarked grave.

In jail before his death, Moonlite wrote a letter professing his undying love for Nesbitt. His last request, repeated many times, was to be buried with him.

The colonial government of the day had no intention of acceding to the wish. Instead he was buried at Rookwood cemetery in Sydney. A lock of Nesbitt’s hair was fashioned into a ring for his finger.

After the letters were discovered, two Gundagai women, Samantha Asimus and Christine Ferguson, decided to grant Moonlite’s last wish. In 1995, the bushranger’s body was exhumed and reburied near Nesbitt.

When Moonlite was reburied at Gundagai, a small group of police officers held a silent vigil at the grave of Bowen nearby. They had not forgotten that Bowen’s widow and child were left penniless, a situation which led to the formation of the Police Legacy fund.

”There is new debate as police try to win more recognition for Bowen, with grand hopes of changing community perceptions,” Terry said. ”I think they might elevate Bowen’s status, but I don’t think they will change overall public perception of Moonlite. It’s just a great yarn and touching love story.”

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

Chinese New Year celebrations paint the town red

Busy: The Minh Hai BBQ restaurant in Haymarket. Photo: Wolter PeetersSeeing red? During Chinese New Year, it may bring good luck. From red lanterns to the deep red of roast pork, Chinatown was ablaze on Friday to celebrate the first day of the Year of the Horse.
Nanjing Night Net

Even traditional yellow lotus cakes were stamped in red to bring good fortune.

Red symbolises fire in Chinese culture and red decorations are used to bring good fortune and drive away bad luck.

For the owners of the Shun Fai Modern AV Co store on Sussex Street, Chinese New Year is a demanding time of year.

Under an awning promoting its wares, the shop’s red decorations, toys and posters spilled into the street.

”It’s definitely the busiest time of the year,” said Jenny Yu, the owner’s daughter.

Ms Yu, of Marrickville, grew up working in the shop, helping her mother.

The hottest items on Friday were the red envelopes or packets – usually containing a $5 or $10 note – that are given to children at banquets and dinners on the first night.

”The red packets are the thing that everyone buys,” Ms Yu said. ”It is what married couples give children to wish them luck for the rest of the year.”

Alex Gilroy, 80, of Woy Woy travelled to Sydney on Friday to celebrate Chinese New Year with a Chinese-Malaysian family. It is a reciprocal relationship spanning 30 years of shared celebrations, including Christmas on the central coast and Chinese New Year in Sydney.

On Friday, he was stocking up on Chinese gifts to give the extended family at a banquet dinner on Friday night. ”It’s a good culture they’ve got,” he said.

Mr Gilroy had bought whisky, cards, plus red packets to give $5 to each of the 10 children.

Yohana Family, of Mortdale, was buying red packets to give $10 each to the children she knew.

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