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13 Jul 19

Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes has spoken out against Trump’s immigration policy. Photo: Trevor CollensThe impact of US President Donald Trump’s travel ban is already being felt by n entrepreneurs and small business owners.
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Trump took to Twitter today to proclaim his support for small business, tweeting “The American dream is back. We’re going to create an environment for small business like we haven’t had in many, many decades!” The American dream is back. We’re going to create an environment for small business like we haven’t had in many, many decades! pic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/ZuJNaN6z8b— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 30, 2017

However the travel ban raises difficult questions for n small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a deal with the White House on Tuesday enabling n dual-citizens to continue to travel to the United States but Council of Small Business chief Peter Strong says small businesses with employees who need to travel to the United States will still be hit by the ban.

“If I’m hiring someone today and I need them to go to America tomorrow what do you do?,” Strong says.

He says small businesses are not allowed to enquire about race and religion when hiring employees however under the Trump ban this may impact the ability of employees to work in the United States.

“I’d like the Human Rights Commissioner to provide some guidance about that,” Strong says. “The government needs to brief industry. Big business will be ok but what do small businesses do?”

Entrepreneur group TechSydney says a number of members have been impacted by the Trump ruling.

HotelsCombined chief executive Hichame Assi has been in since 2008 and is a British-Syrian dual national but is concerned about the impact of the ban.

Prior to the Prime Minister’s deal with the White House Assi was told he was not allowed to go to the US for the next 90 days, even though he has a valid visa in his British passport.

“These developments in the US are not only disruptive to our business and our people, they’re very troubling and are creating more tensions at a time when empathy is required,” Assi says

Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder of Atlassian, is also concerned at the ban.

“At Atlassian, our core values are built on openness and inclusion,” he says. “We believe in creating equal opportunity and access for everyone and I stand against any action that does not support these. I am shocked and saddened by the impact these restrictions could have on, not only Atlassian employees and their families, but all citizens whose dignity is being trampled.”

Follow MySmallBusiness on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. 


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13 Jul 19

What is this all about? An Iranian missile, similar to the type used in the test. Photo: Fars NewsThe Trump immigration ban saga continues today with the British public flocking to sign a petition against the controversial president’s visit.
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In less than 24 hours almost a million and a half people have signed an official petition to the government saying Mr Trump “should not be invited to make an official State Visit because it would cause embarrassment to Her Majesty the Queen”, writes Europecorrespondent Nick Miller.

Miller also reports on Myron Ebell, the man who led the Trump team’s environmental action plan, who said the environmental movement is “the greatest threat to freedom and prosperity in the modern world”.

Ebell said the United States was about to change course on climate policy, including withdrawal from the Paris agreement.

Such a dramatic break from previous policy is sure to raise eyebrows in the US, where resistance to Trump’s legal moves on refugees from Muslim countries could be seen on a few fronts.

Alluding to the widespread demonstrations taking place in major airports and cities in response to the new immigration policy, Mr Obama’s spokesman said Mr Obama was “heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country.”

Crucially, the acting US attorney general Sally Yates has said the US Justice Department would not defend the ban.

The situation has created uncertainly in Indonesia, as well, for Hazara refugees who are waiting to be resettled in the US, writes Indonesia correspondent Jewel Topsfield.

“Friday I could not sleep,” said one. “I did not even tell my family these things were happening because I wanted to see them happy. Only me knew this news.”

In yet another sign that what we thought was settled last year may in fact not be: the US has accused Iran has tested a ballistic missile.

The act raises the question about whether Iran is in violation of the nuclear deal hammered out in 2015.

“It was not immediately clear whether the test launch violates a United Nations Security Council resolution,” the story says.

Which is all to say the world is in a moment of dramatic flux.

But the confusion evident these days isn’t limited to Trump assuming the presidency or Iran’s missile tests.

Russia’s skilful use of propaganda on social media has helped sow disorder through Western democracies, as Foreign Editor Chris Zappone reported.

“This propaganda skews toward extremes, seeking to corrode the broad middle area of agreement needed for the functioning of liberal democracies, wherever they are found.”

On a day like today, it looks like such spin has been effective.

Keep reading Fairfax Foreign for all the latest stories and insights into what they mean.


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13 Jul 19

Two NSW patients have contracted M Chimaera from a contaminated heater-cooler unit during open heart surgery. Photo: suppliedA second patient has contracted a rare infection after being exposed to contaminated equipment during open heart surgery at a major Sydney hospital
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The patients both contracted Mycobacterium chimaera (M. Chimaera) from a surgical heater-cooler units at Prince of Wales Hospital.

The particular brand of units, manufactured overseas by Sorin, have linked to over 70 cases of the infection internationally.

NSW Health issued several alerts – the first in August – advising open heart surgery patients to see their doctor if they had undergone the procedure in the past five years.

The second NSW case is a man in his 40s. A woman in her 80s also contracted the infection, NSW Health said. The woman is now recovering. There is no risk of affected patients passing on the infection to their families, friends or the general public.

Prince of Wales Hospital is one of four public hospitals that use the heater-cooler units.

The contaminated equipment was removed from Prince of Wales and St George Hospitals, as well as Sydney Children’s Hospital at Randwick and the Children’s Hospital at Westmead as a precaution in August when NSW Health learnt of the risk from international authorities.

The units were also used in a number of private NSW hospitals and hospitals in other states and territories, including Queensland where the first M. Chimaera case in was detected.

The units, which control the temperature of the blood during the procedure, transmit the infection to the formerly sterile surgical area and the heart’s new implanted valve and graft. Investigators suspect the units were contaminated during their manufacture.

Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said NSW Health was watching for further cases at the Prince of Wales Hospital, after international clusters of M. Chimaera infection suggested that there was an increased risk to other heart surgery patients at facilities where an M. Chimaera case had been detected.

A total of 70 confirmed cases worldwide have been identified in patients who had  undergone open heart surgery in which the contaminated equipment was used. The infections were identified between three months and five years after surgery.

The first case was in detected in Switzerland in 2012.The first n case was detected in Queensland in 2016.

Several independent studies reported open heart surgery patients had developed post-operative prosthetic-valve endocarditis caused by the mycobacteria.

Symptoms of the infection could include fever lasting more than a week, pain, redness, heat, pus around a surgical incision, night sweats, joint and muscle pain, loss of energy and failure to gain weight, or failure to grow in children.

Dr Chant said NSW Health sent letters to patients who underwent open heart surgery between January 2012 and August 2016 informing them of the risk, symptoms and what to do if concerned.

“We also contacted private hospitals in NSW and have been advised that private hospitals in NSW that used affected equipment have also sent letters to their patients, informing them of the risk,” Dr CHant said.

“Patients have been asked to watch for M. chimaera symptoms – persistent fevers, increasing or unusual shortness of breath, and unexplained weight loss,” she said.

NSW Health has set up helplines for patients seeking further information.

Dr Chant also urged GPs and relevant specialists to go to the NSW Health website for the latest information.

In August NSW Health assured the public that the infection was rare and risk to patients was very low and there was no ongoing risk in NSW public hospitals.

Infectious disease specialist at the NSW Clinical Excellence Commission, Dr Kate Clezy said “the risk of infections to an individual patient is very small, but it’s important that we’ve alerted clinicians to the risk and put systems in place to reduce the risk further.”

NSW Health formed an expert panel of clinicians and representatives from the Clinical Excellence Commission, chief executives of Local Health Districts and Health Protection NSW once it was alerted to the potential infection risk.

The contaminated units were either cleaned and verified as clear of contamination or have been replaced with new units, NSW Health said.

A safety notice was issued to public and private health facilities on July 8, and updated on August 4, to notify clinicians of the very low risk of infection, the department said.

NSW Health and other jurisdictions are working with the n Commission for Safety and Quality in Health Care to develop a national infection control guideline on minimising the risk of infection relating to the use of heater-cooler units.


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13 Jul 19

Michael McGurk, who was allegedly murdered by property developer Ron Medich. Photo: Supplied Ron Medich arrives for day two of his murder trial. Photo: Peter Rae
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The Crown’s principal witness against accused murder mastermind Ron Medich was recently charged with attempting to extort “many, many millions of dollars” from the property developer.

Mr Medich’s barrister Winston Terracini, SC, told a Supreme Court jury that this was the second time Fortunato “Lucky” Gattellari had tried to get money from Mr Medich, the first occasion being shortly after Gattellari’s arrest in October 2010.

Gattellari is serving a jail term for his role in the murder of Michael McGurk.

The 45-year-old wheeler-dealer was shot outside his Cremorne home in September 2009.

Mr Terracini said the defence case would be that Mr Medich, a 68-year-old property developer, had no involvement in the murder of his former business partner, Michael McGurk.

“The accused’s case will centre around criticism of the reliability and the honesty and, in some cases, the deliberate attempt to mislead you by the witnesses Gattellari and (Senad) Kaminic,” he said.

Mr Medich’s position, said Mr Terracini, was that he had never attempted to influence anyone to give wrong evidence and that he had never wanted Mr McGurk dead or his widow harmed.

The Crown alleges Mr Medich paid $500,000 to his then close associate Gattellari to organise the murder of McGurk, with whom Mr Medich had fallen out, and to later intimidate his wife Kimberley.

Haissam Safetli, an associate of Gattellari’s, pleaded guilty to both murder and intimidation.

When Mrs McGurk failed to settle the legal cases in which her husband and Mr Medich had been embroiled, Mr Medich is alleged to have instructed Gattellari to find someone to intimidate her.

The jury heard Mr Medich said of Mrs McGurk: “The bitch must’ve been part of this from the start. She is as tough as he was.”

Safetli was paid $100,000 to intimidate Mrs McGurk. He subcontracted the matter to an associate who happened to be a police informant.

On 8 August, 2010, with police watching, the subcontractor went to Mrs McGurk’s house to threaten her.

The first police officer to arrive at the murder scene told the court that McGurk was lying on his back, surrounded by hot chips.

Senior Constable Rebecca Pope said blood had pooled around his head due to a gunshot wound on the right sight of his head.

The jury heard that Mrs McGurk and several others had been trying, unsuccessfully to resuscitate McGurk.

According to the subsequent autopsy report, McGurk suffered lethal brain damage caused by a .22 calibre bullet.

The trial continues.


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13 Jul 19

Nicole Kidman at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles this week. Photo: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP Nicole Kidman with Sunny Pawar, who plays the young Saroo, in Lion.
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Nicole Kidman with Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge. Photo: 20th Century Fox

Nicole Kidman as author Virginia Wolf in The Hours Photo: Clive Coote, Paramount Pictures

It’s a strange conversation but I must have had it 10 times in the past month. Work colleagues, friends and just people you meet saying “yeah, I’d like to see Lion but I don’t like Nicole Kidman”.

The grievances are many. She’s too cold, she can’t act, she isn’t real. She’s over-rated. She’s only ever done a couple of good things. Maybe Dead Calm all those years ago. And To Die For.

And don’t get me started on The Hours, with all that glumness and the nose. And Moulin Rouge. And .

She’s only famous because of Tom Cruise. All that Scientology stuff is freaky. She must be getting so much work done. She’s too rich. She’s always in the magazines.

And I don’t even understand how she gets so many movies. What do all these famous directors see in her? She wasn’t even good in BMX Bandits. What was with that Eyes Wide Shut?

I’ve told the sceptics – every single one – to see Lion. Not just because it’s a really good film but it shows they are wrong: Kidman really can act.

Yes, it’s time for the haters – and there seem to be many as Lion has emerged as a Hollywood awards contender – to reassess.

Sometimes you get lucky with an Oscar nomination. You nail one powerful performance in a role that’s close to your heart and never get another opportunity like that again.

But Kidman now has a fourth Oscar nomination – best supporting actress for Lion – following best actress nominations for Moulin Rouge, a win for The Hours then Rabbit Hole. The same record as universally beloved Helen Mirren. Exactly the same as universally admired Geoffrey Rush.

People without talent – who weren’t even good in BMX Bandits – don’t jag all those Oscar nominations.

What we see on Lion is an intense, wrenching performance by Kidman as an adoptive mother dealing with one son torn being apart by an obsession about tracking down his lost birth mother and another one struggling with alcohol and drugs.

It’s definitely a supporting role in a film full of strong performances – including tiny Sunny Pawar and Dev Patel as Saroo Brierley at different ages – but who else could have played Sue Brierley as well? Only a top-tier actress.

No doubt all Kidman’s personal connections to the story contributed to the depth of the performance: both are n women who knew early on they wanted to adopt, did so then years later faced a test of the bond between mother and child – in Kidman’s case, thanks to the niceties of Scientolology’s break-up counselling.

The scenes between Kidman and Patel elevate Lion to the point where the second half of the story is as affecting as the first half when young Saroo gets lost in India. There’s a touching humanity – a realness – in both performances.

Cate Blanchett deserves her standing as the country’s greatest contemporary actress; her work in films, stage and television shows she is a blazing, brilliant artist. With seven Oscar nominations for two wins, she’s up in the pantheon among the all-time greats.

But, gee, Kidman now has to be recognised as not just a star but a great actress in her own right. If you want to measure these things, second only to Blanchett in a country that has produced so many terrific actresses over the years.

Many Hollywood stars keep playing familiar roles, breaking out every now and then into an extreme transformation that will attract awards attention. They might follow the old “one for the money, one for artistic credibility” formula.

But the best ones push in different directions all the time, choosing challenging roles. Blanchett does that. Kidman does too.

Since 2010’s Rabbit Hole, she has had hits with the family charmer Paddington and, in this country, the drama The Railway Man. She has also acted in more adventurous films for notable directors in different parts of the world, including Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy, Werner Herzog’s Queen of the Desert, Olivier Dahan’s​ Grace Of Monaco and Chan-wook Park’s Stoker. And it’s fair to say they didn’t all work.

Just lately, as well as acting in the television series Big Little Lies and Top of the Lake, she has worked with such leading art-house directors as Sofia Coppola​ on the western The Beguiled and Yorgos Lanthimos on the drama The Killing of a Sacred Deer. They might not be hits either but they show Kidman is willing to roll the dice. Try something bold. Explore new territory.

So as she approaches 50 this year, let’s recognise Kidman’s talent and stop the hate.


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13 Jun 19

Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in The Empire Strikes BackThe Force Awakens. Photo: Lucasfilm
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The original stars: Billy Dee Williams and Harrison Ford as Lando Clarissian and Han Solo.

Director Chris Miller has announced the start of filming on Disney’s Han Solo movie with a joke.

The director, who is making the Star Wars spin-off with fellow 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie director Phil Lord, has posted a pic of the clapperboard with the caption “Han First Shot”. Han First Shot pic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/KReR6rgKFT— Chris Miller (@chrizmillr) January 30, 2017

It’s a reference to the old Star Wars debate about whether Solo shot first in the original movie – director George Lucas upset some purists when he changed a scene in a special edition to show the captain of the Millennium Falcon shooting Greedo after being fired at.

The tweet suggests Miller and Lord are bringing their sense of humour to a movie, which the clapperboard suggests is called Red Cup. A witty take on a brand of plastic cup in the United States called Solo, it’s clearly a temporary title that allowed the movie to attract less attention during scripting, planning and pre-production. No doubt there’ll be splashy announcement of the real title down the track.

It has previously been known just as Untitled Star Wars Han Solo Anthology Film.

Shooting in England, the movie centres on Solo’s “early scoundrel days” before he emerged as the charismatic smuggler with a price on his head who joins forces with Luke and Leia to battle the Empire in Episode IV.

Miller’s comic cheekiness gives heart for fans that Solo will be the irascible, wise-cracking rogue that everyone loved in the original Star Wars trilogy.

Alden Ehrenreich will play the younger Solo with Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, Woody Harrelson as Solo’s mentor and Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones in an undisclosed role.

Chewbacca, Solo’s loyal buddy and co-pilot, will also appear, with speculation that Finnish basketballer Joonas Suotamo will take over from 72-year-old Star Wars veteran Peter Mayhew for at least the most physically-demanding scenes inside the furry suit. Han. First Shot. @chrizmillr love it. @starwarspic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/O0uBP0O3Py— Peter Mayhew (@TheWookieeRoars) January 30, 2017


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13 Jun 19

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: why isn’t he setting a better example? Photo: Rick Rycroft/AP Illustration: Andrew Dyson
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Illustration: Dionne Gain

How moving it was to watch Malcolm Turnbull presenting the n of the Year awards last week. What impressive people they were. Made me proud to be an Aussie.

I can’t help liking Turnbull. At a show like that he’s all we could hope for in a Prime Minister. He looked the part and spoke it well. He was completely at ease, someone we can be proud to have represent us to the world.

In his introduction he said all the right things. The “extraordinary finalists” for the various awards – Young n, Senior n, Local Hero and n of the Year – “light the way for us – shining examples of our best selves”.

“Generous and compassionate, selfless, never daunted by seemingly impossible odds, brilliant, curious, entrepreneurial, innovative, building bridges to reinforce the mutual respect which secures our harmony and diversity.

“They include First ns and those who have dedicated their lives to working with them” – such as the wonderful Sister Anne Gardiner, who’s spent her life serving the Tiwi people on Bathurst Island.

“They include migrants and refugees who have fled horrors barely imaginable …

“Yet, however much we celebrate the remarkable, peaceful and diverse nation that we have built together, we always strive to be better. Our ns of the Year have always shown us how …

“Respect for women, respect for each other, in all our magnificent diversity, is the foundation on which our harmonious society depends, is the platform which enables every n to realise their full potential.”

And yet I confess that in the days since that proud night I’ve suffered a bad hangover. It seems our One Day of the Year has moved from April 25 to January 26.

We celebrate these “shining examples of our best selves” for one night and day before we revert to being far from our best selves for the rest of the year. We hunt up a handful of people who remain “selfless” so we don’t feel so bad about the self-seeking lives the rest of us lead?

Far from retaining a strong sense of community, of helping each other and working for the greater good, we live in an era of every person for themselves, where the material almost always gets priority over the social, where our ambitions centre on personal advancement rather than making the world a better place.

If our politicians – of both stripes – are so keen for us to be “generous and compassionate” as well as “respectful” and part of a “harmonious society” why aren’t they setting a better example?

What’s generous and compassionate about sending social security recipients bills for “debts” owed to Centrelink that you haven’t checked properly, then making them prove they don’t owe that much with payslips and other documents from past years that you hadn’t warned them to retain?

What’s “respectful” about treating invalids, the aged, and young workers down on their luck in such a way? What’s n about denying point blank there’s any problem with what you’re doing?

Why when you’ve gone out of your way to honour the place of First ns do you, the very next day, curtly brush aside their request that the white majority run to the huge inconvenience and expense of changing the date of Day? Respect, eh?

Do we honour the work of the Sister Annes because they salve our consciences? Thank God they’re willing to put themselves out, because the rest of us ain’t.

Some of us – including many in Turnbull’s own electorate – are the children or grandchildren of “refugees who have fled horrors barely imaginable”.

Much worse, apparently, than the way we’ve been treating refugees on Nauru and Manus Island.

Turnbull is right to say we’ve built a highly successful multicultural society.

Lately it’s been fraying at the edges, however, with intolerance of people with unfamiliar religious practices – women’s head coverings; halal – fears that all Muslims are terrorists, fears we’re being overrun by Asians, and downward envy of government help for disadvantaged Indigenous people.

But it’s not just that our political leaders fail to set an example, it’s that too often they seek partisan advantage from our moral weaknesses. Rather than seeking to calm our fear of foreigners they compete to pander to them. Let’s protect ourselves from the resurgent One Nation by aping their rhetoric, even their policies.

As for respect being “the platform which enables every n to realise their full potential” it’s sentimental claptrap – especially coming from a government that seems to have set its face against funding the nation’s schools on the basis of student need rather than established privilege.

It’s schools and pre-schools that should be “the platform which enables every n to realise their full potential”.

The most worrying message we got from the latest bad news on NAPLAN and PISA testing of students is the wide gap between our best and worst students and the large minority of kids the system is failing.

As Peter Goss, of the Grattan Institute, has demonstrated, we can go most of the way to needs-based funding quickly and without extra spending, provided we’re prepared to shift funding from the less-needy to the more-needy.

But that would require Turnbull to exhibit the undaunted, entrepreneurial and bridge-building character traits he so admires in others.

Ross Gittins is the Herald’s economics editor.


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13 Jun 19

Kris Smith, the newest I’m a Celebrity arrival. Photo: Channel Ten The full cast of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here 2017, minus intruders Kris Smith and Tziporah Malkah Photo: Ten
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Ambassador-ing for Myer. Photo: Myer

Had Channel Ten formed Kris Smith out of clay, they couldn’t have found a more perfect contestant for I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!

He’s familiar to the readers of gossip mags, largely because he was married to Dannii Minogue. (By my estimate, Woman’s Day and New Idea have announced a combined 486 pregnancies between Dannii and Kylie. In fact, Kris and Dannii have one son, Ethan.)

He’s been in the crosshairs of the Daily Mail, after he missed a couple of gym sessions in 2015. (This resulted in paparazzi photos of him “showing off” his “fuller figure” while trying to sunbathe with his girlfriend.)

He played rugby league in England until injury forced his retirement, then became a model.

Now he’s a department store “ambassador” and his TV resume includes The Daily Edition, Celebrity Come Dine With Me, Football Superstar, a co-hosting stint on ‘s Next Top Model and a spot on Can of Worms.

Wait, Kris who?

If you’ve never heard of Smith, you’re among a legion of Tweeps who posting about “so-called celebrities” in the “wilds” of South Africa.

As I wrote last year, this is exactly what Ten wants. They bait us with a few “I can’t quite place them” faces, driving smart-arse Facebook posts, allowing them to flaunt their “social media metrics” to advertisers.

This can only be to Smith’s advantage.

Shock jock Steve Price is more famous/notorious. But this could leave him more vulnerable in the viewer voting stages.

Collingwood fans could help Dane Swan through to the final rounds – if Collingwood haters don’t knock him out first.

Having a lower profile in itself does not guarantee success on a reality show. If such a contestant swans in with airs and graces, Aussie viewers will swiftly evict them.

But Smith is a thoroughly decent chap; affable and lovely. Of his ex-wife, he says: “She is an incredible woman, always has been. I’ve always thought that from day one and I still think that now.”

Naturally, Channel Ten will think up creative and often ludicrous ways to make him take off his shirt. This will not harm his chances at all.

And just look at the list of previous winners from the UK version of the show. Apart from the year that Margaret Thatcher’s daughter won (seriously), all leap-frogged bigger names to claim victory.

Kris Smith?

He could be on our screens for a while yet.


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13 Jun 19

New local government minister Gabrielle Upton will have her work cut out for her managing the government’s council merger policy. With mounting legal bills and court dates imminent, councils are calling on the new premier to soon decide whether her government will proceed with pending amalgamations.
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At least six Sydney councils are due in court within the next month as they continue legal challenges to the mergers, with the bill footed by ratepayers surpassing $200,000 at most councils.

Woollahra Council, which has so far spent $850,000 on legal appeals, is expected to have a special leave application to the High Court heard in mid February.

But Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s promise to “listen to the community” has been viewed by some councils as a sliver of hope that the policy will be abandoned.

So too has the appointment of Vaucluse MP Gabrielle Upton to the local government ministry. Ms Upton once lent her voice to Woollahra Council’s anti-merger campaign.

On Tuesday, Ms Upton confirmed she, too, would consult with communities on the issue.

“It is early days but Premier Berejiklian has indicated that she wants to look closely at the issue. And on my part there is some learning and listening to do. Councils should be about local communities and serving their best interests. They deserve the best possible services and infrastructure.”

Within days of Ms Berejiklian’s swearing-in as the 45th premier of NSW, Woollahra mayor Toni Zeltzer​ wrote to the new premier requesting a meeting for a “fair and open hearing”.

Alluding to the declaration by Nationals leader John Barilaro that local government mergers in the bush would not be pursued, Cr Zeltzer called on the premier for equity of treatment.

“I wholeheartedly agree that any policy decision you make on the future of the proposed council amalgamations should be applied unilaterally,” Cr Zeltzer said in her letter last week.

The retirement of North Shore MP Jillian Skinner has raised the prospect of another by-election backlash akin to the coalition’ shock defeat in last year’s Orange by-election, where council mergers were regarded as a major factor.

The North Shore electorate incorporates parts of three council districts which are fighting the mergers – Mosman, North Sydney and Lane Cove.

Mosman mayor Peter Abelson​ said the government could expect the anti-merger voice to be heard “loud and clear” at the by-election, which may be held before the council’s Supreme Court appeal in April.

“There’s no doubt that if there were a by-election without this being sorted out there would be a very strong protest vote against the Liberals.”

North Sydney’s high-profile former independent mayor, Genia McAffrey, said she had been encouraged to run in the by-election by anti-merger campaigners, but would not contest the seat.

In Hunters Hill, where barristers for the council are preparing to return to court on February 22, mayor Richard Quinn called on government to end the uncertainty.

“It’s one of the fundamental issues Minister Upton is going to have to deal with. And I would hope she does deal with it first,” he said.

“The longer the government takes to resolve this, money is being spent by both the council and the government. It’s in all of our interests that it gets resolved asap.”

In October 2015, Ms Upton told an anti-merger rally in Double Bay she did not support the merging of Woollahra Council, but later reversed this stance in favour of the government’s position.


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13 Jun 19

Outdoor events on the Opera House forecourt such as last year’s Crowded House concert have angered nearby residents. Photo: Mark Metcalfe Opera House chief executive Louise Herron Photo: Rob Homer
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A marquee erected outside the Opera House for Day festivities. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Opera House management have been criticised for violating the vision of the building’s architect Jorn Utzon. Photo: Jessica Hromas

The City of Sydney has joined the growing chorus of disapproval about plans to create a new function centre at the Sydney Opera House and convert a ballet rehearsal room into a kitchen.

Graham Jahn​, the council’s head of planning, development and transport, said the Opera House’s building plans would have an “unacceptable heritage impact”.

“It is in direct contradiction with Jorn Utzon’svision for the Opera House,” he said in the council’s submission objecting to the proposal.

The plans are part of the Opera House’s renewal program and include removing a marquee and building a larger function space on the northern broadwalk of the Opera House that will require the partial removal of curved walls and the permanent loss of the original restaurant.

“This is a loss to the community and to the significance of the place,” Jahn said.

He also said the function centre was a “clear violation” of Utzon’s design principles, which caution against introducing additional functions into the building beyond its original purpose.

The Opera House also wants to convert the ballet rehearsal room located beneath the Joan Sutherland Theatre into a kitchen for the function centre.

A temporary rehearsal room would be provided 150 metres away.

Jahn warns this proposal would also have an “adverse heritage impact”.

“Worse, it prioritises the function centre use over … the performing arts,” he said.

The new rehearsal room would be “remote” from performers’ dressing room and other facilities, Jahn added.

He described the relocation of the ballet rehearsal room as “unacceptable” given the Opera House’s world heritage listing and incompatible with its status as a world class performing arts centre.

Jahn also said the Opera House had “understated” the heritage impacts of moving the rehearsal room.

The City of Sydney’s concerns add to mounting criticism of Opera House management.

A proposal for sleepovers was described as “crass commercial exploitation” that would affect the reputation of the Opera House.

The staging of outdoor events such as last week’s Day concert has drawn the anger of residents of the nearby Toaster building.

Jorn Utzon’s architect son Jan has also expressed concern about outdoor events and “intrusive structures” erected on the forecourt of the Opera House.

Jahn’s submission to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, which is assessing the Opera House’s building plans, argues that Utzon’s intention that people could move freely around the building has been eroded over the years.

He also warns of a risk the Opera House’s “significance will be diminished by an accumulation of adverse impacts” caused by its various building plans under the renewal program, which received $202 million from the NSW government.

The Heritage Council of NSW’s Katrina Stankowski​ also criticised the relocation of the ballet rehearsal room, and noted the Opera House’s heritage consultant had not endorsed some of the proposed building works.

She said the removal of two walls that are significant structural elements of the Opera House’s podium would have an “unacceptable impact”.

The harshest criticism of the proposal came from a Kirribilli resident who said they could not use their lounge room or bedroom because of the noise of functions and events at the Opera House.

“This is already an extremely uncomfortable situation for me, and the Opera House’s request to assault my senses from a greater number of venues and with what will probably be greater frequency seems to me to be highly unfair,” the resident, whose name was redacted, said.

The resident also expressed concern about the building plans affecting Utzon’s architecture.

“To have that magnificent building’s lines ruined by vulgar commerciality would surely have Utzon turning in his grave,” the resident said. “While this is not the primary basis of my objection, I do believe that the City would be a lot better served by not further bastardizing such an iconic symbol.”

The Opera House will be given an opportunity to respond to submissions, with final approval of the project in the hands of the Planning Minister.

Opera House spokeswoman Jessica Gooch said there had been limited objections to the building plans given the number of people affected.

She said the Opera House’s eminent architects panel and conservation council supported the new function centre.

“The Opera House considers that it has addressed several of the City’s key concerns,” she said.


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