GREG Ray’s column of September 6 ‘‘Savage circus of politics’’ kicked the campaign for the byelection of Newcastle into a new phase.
The article did more than draw attention to the pitfalls of entering public life. It also acted as a sobering reminder of the blatant disregard with which the major parties have treated the constituents of the Newcastle electorate.
Of the many valid points made by Mr Ray, two caught my attention. One was almost an aside.
‘‘Ms Howard is pitted against Labor (and the Greens and whoever else throws their hats into the ring) in a contest that the ALP probably thinks it can win hands down,’’ he wrote.
Why on Earth would the ALP think it can win hands down? This notion should be addressed before it gathers momentum.
Newcastle voters were happy to opt for a change at the last state election. Many formerly ‘‘rusted-on’’ ALP supporters probably voted Liberal for the first time in their lives. For their efforts the last state budget was devoted almost entirely to rejuvenating Newcastle.
In my view not enough money was allocated to us. After all, the revenue is generated from our assets, not the least of which is the port. The shortfall is something I intend addressing as a priority. But at least the commitment was there from the Liberal Party.
That should not be forgotten, and that money is still on the table. Exploratory work on the light rail has already begun. It is important the government isn’t given an opportunity to shy away from other budget commitments made to Newcastle. I want to hold it accountable, especially in the lead-up to the March election.
In terms of the ALP thinking it can win hands down, not only did it take the Newcastle electorate for granted for about a century, it actually deliberately acted against its interests before the last election.
The container terminal plans were scuppered, and senior figures in the party actively and ‘‘treacherously’’ campaigned against their own sitting member.
All the ICAC focus is on the Liberal Party at the moment, and it is getting its just deserts. But let’s not forget the efforts of Eddie Obeid, Joe Tripodi and Eric Roozendaal, among others.
The party that nurtured and promoted them to senior political ranks is asking for you to forget.
Well, don’t forget.
The other line in Mr Ray’s column that caught my eye was this.
‘‘Having been, until now, a member of the boards of the Hunter Development Corporation and the NSW Business Chamber, perhaps Ms Howard has enough expert insight to feel confident that all the government decisions are sound and worth pursuing as they are. I would like to share that confidence, but at this point I cannot honestly say that I do. I’m willing to be persuaded but under the circumstances, ‘trust us’ isn’t good enough.’’
I’m not quite sure whether that’s a friendly ‘‘shot’’ at me, or a wider comment on governance. In any case I’ll accept it in the spirit in which it is given.
Newcastle can’t afford to miss the opportunity that is available to us. I’m backing my ability to argue our case. Party powerbroker ‘‘savage circus’’ performers down the M1 won’t be dictating to me.
Maybe one day I’ll get to discuss these issues with Greg Ray. But I hope it is over one of those nice Belgian beers he so eloquently reviews, and not a vintage Grange Hermitage. We all know where that can lead.
Karen Howard will stand as an independent candidate in the state seat of Newcastle byelection
Experienced Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau will be thrust back into the starting line-up for Australia’s clash with Argentina on the Gold Coast this weekend.
The Wallabies were hit with a double whammy on Monday when injury ruled out veteran No.8 Wycliff Palu (concussion) and outside back Adam Ashley-Cooper (neck), who will miss a week.
But the surprise return of 29-year-old Polota-Nau, who ran with the starting side at training on the Gold Coast on Monday afternoon, is a boost before their showdown with the feared Pumas’ pack. The dynamic Waratahs hooker with 49 Test caps has not played any rugby since he injured a medial ligament in a knee in the Super Rugby final on August 2.
Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has a strict policy of not “rehabbing” injured players within the squad but clearly viewed Polota-Nau’s contribution to the side as important enough to relax the rules. He spent last week running drills on the sidelines at training and made it through a contact session unscathed on Saturday morning.
As injuries depleted the hooker stocks, the Wallabies had to call up their ninth-choice in Josh Mann-Rea last week. Polota-Nau’s expected return will relegate Queensland rake James Hanson, who made a solid contribution in the No.2 jersey in Perth, to the bench.
Force back-rower Ben McCalman will replace Palu at No.8, while Scott Higginbotham remains on the bench, and Peter Betham will make just his second Test appearance as Ashley-Cooper’s replacement on the wing after the 97-Test utility was ruled out with a nerve compression injury in his neck.
Fullback Israel Folau was an interested onlooker at training, and Kurtley Beale took his place at No.15, but the dual international is not considered to be in any doubt.
Amid the changes, Wallabies No.12 Matt Toomua delivered a stern reality check to the side after their snatched victory against the Springboks. Toomua said the Wallabies were justifiably proud of pulling off their first victory against a side ranked higher than them in Test rugby but were not getting carried away with its implications.
“If that kick [Bernard Foley’s conversion] doesn’t go over, we’re probably here doing a lot of deep soul searching,” he said.
“There’s not much between it and it’s always a fine line. I think we’ve shown we’ve got the ability to do some great things on the field but I do think we lack consistency, doing that week to week against good teams.
“I thought the weekend was a huge step in the right direction, it was the first time since I’ve been involved that we’ve beaten a team higher than us in the world rankings, and to keep doing that is a massive achievement, whether it be by one point or 10.
“We have another chance this week to beat Argentina and hopefully we can replicate that in South Africa.”
Amid the continued depletion of Australia’s outside-back stocks – Ashley-Cooper and Henry Speight are expected to tour with the side to South Africa and Argentina later this month – McKenzie and attack coach Jim McKay continue to search for the holy grail of the Wallabies back line.
But Toomua warned off impatient fans who might grasp at Saturday’s 24-23 victory as a sign the summit was close.
“I don’t think it’s a thing you’re going to find with one game,” he said. “If we’d won by 30 I still would argue that it doesn’t therefore mean that we’ve found a winning combination. You look at consistency, teams like the All Blacks, the reason they’ve got those combinations is it’s tried and tested over many years.
“If we win this weekend it still doesn’t mean it’s the right combination. We’ve got to show that we can put back to back to back against quality opposition, which we’ve got this weekend.”
Argentina flew into the Gold Coast from New Zealand on Monday night, still searching for their first Rugby Championship win.
Toomua likened the Pumas’ attacking style to the French, with fast-moving interplay between forwards and back.
“Whichever halfback they pick will snipe quite a lot, get his arms free and get that quick offload that creates momentum,” he said. “That’s something we have to be wary of, that’s where they pose a lot of their threat and get a lot of momentum, around that ruck area.”
Possible Wallabies: James Slipper, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu, Sam Carter, Rob Simmons, Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper (c), Ben McCalman, Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley, Rob Horne, Matt Toomua, Tevita Kuridrani, Peter Betham, Israel Folau. Reserves: James Hanson, Pek Cowan, Ben Alexander, James Horwill, Will Skelton, Scott Higginbotham, Nic White, Kurtley Beale.
The plight of Wests Tigers had been an agenda item in Marina Go’s lounge room long before she took over control of its board room. Her husband is a diehard supporter, as is their teenage son.
Yet while the two males can toss around head coaching candidates in front of the telly, and debate the future of Balmain on the hill at Leichhardt, it is Go who will now actually have a major say on the direction of the troubled joint venture.
And the NRL’s second female chair of a club will hit the ground running this week, with out-of-contract coach Mick Potter to front the newly assembled board on Wednesday, presenting his case for a new deal.
Go reaffirmed on Monday that Potter’s position would not be decided by the directors, who will rubber-stamp the recommendation of Tigers chief executive Grant Mayer.
It is a stance the Tigers new chairwoman intends to adopt in general. One of three NRL-appointed directors on the board, she is unlikely to be throwing her weight around at League Central in the same vein as some of the more old-school club powerbrokers.
“I guess the most important thing to make really clear is I don’t think it’s about me,” said Go, whose other new job as general manager of Hearst Bauer Media brands interestingly leaves her also in charge of Rugby League Week.
“The way that I intend to work in terms of my leadership style is it’s very much a team effort. You might find I’m a different style of chair to some of the blokes in Sydney. My role is not to be the person who is the face of the club. I honestly believe that’s the CEO’s role.”
If that will serve to only increase the influence of Mayer, Go does not intend to simply sit back and collect her directors’ honorarium.
She is setting her sights on the bigger picture; ensuring the long-term viability of the Tigers. A marriage of convenience when the club was formed 15 years ago, the financial woes of Balmain have brought the organisation to a crossroads as she takes charge. Balmain’s fighting fund received its first donation on Monday, $5000 from a small-businessman. But with as much as $5 million needed to save the foundation team’s share in Wests Tigers within 18 months, their future remains dire.
It’s an emotion-charged issue sure to keep Go on her toes. “Do I know what I’m in for? Well, as with any position, you never really know what you’re in for,” she said.
“I understand Balmain’s anxiety because I’ve been reading about it. But there is no desire for that shareholding to change. I’m not going to presume that any particular action will happen in the next two years because we just don’t know what will happen in the next two years, particularly on day one of me being a director.
“We understand passions run deep on both sides for the old Balmain and Wests fans. But fans like my son, who is 17, he doesn’t know anything but Wests Tigers.”
Joining the Titans’ Rebecca Frizelle as a female chair of an NRL club, Go wants “to get to the point where being a woman doesn’t matter” but is aware of the significance of her elevation.
Go, when approached by board headhunters about her interest in becoming an independent director, had no idea initially that she would be taking over a team she, her husband and son had supported.
“It’s obviously easier that it’s a club that my family are right behind and I’m much more familiar with and have been to games to barrack for,” Go said. “For me, it’s just serendipity that it happens to be this club.”
ONE of the most common refrains in the Hunter is: “Why are we missing out on government funding?” This is heard from all sides of the political spectrum and applies no matter which side of politics is in government.
But if we had the money what would we spend it on? And why does it matter having a ‘‘shopping list’’ for the region?
Government funds are always subject to political influence, and the exercise of power that varies from time to time. They are also subject to fashion and the varying enthusiasm of the community for spending money on different projects, and are always unpredictable. But if a community does not have a plan of things that it wants funding for, then funding will never arrive. And this matters.
In recent times there have been some salutary examples of why it is important to have a “shopping list”. In response to the global financial crisis, the federal government turned on the budgetary taps to stimulate the economy.
It was ready to fund any number of projects that were “shovel-ready”. In our region, the Hunter Expressway was ready to go and $1.7billion arrived to fund it.
Certainly political lobbying helped, but if the project had not been ready to roll, then the money would not have arrived.
Similarly, the major expansion of the Hunter Medical Research Institute, with the new building at Rankin Park, had been planned in advance, and was ready to go, had community support, and with the benefit of targeted political lobbying it was funded.
But other regions did better.
The Gold Coast had a large proposal for a light rail complex ready to go, and that got funding, while the Hunter continues arguing about public transport options.
In Sydney, the Chris O’Brien Lighthouse Cancer Centre was funded for over $100million at Prince Alfred Hospital, in an area that is already relatively over-funded for health facilities.
As a doctor I cannot criticise the work that has been done there, but from an equity point of view, it could be argued that it should have been built in other parts of Sydney, if not in regional NSW.
In order to address the need for a better “shopping list”, the Newcastle Institute, together with the Newcastle Herald, has recently conducted a competition seeking proposals of ‘‘what should we do with a billion dollars’’.
We argue that the state government, having sold off Newcastle Port for much more money than it was expecting, has a moral obligation to spend a billion dollars in the Hunter Region.
But what should it be spent on? We have had more than 40 proposals for the competition, varying from some full of passion and imagination, down to some more mundane but perhaps realistic proposals.
Five finalists have been selected, who will present their proposals at a public forum at South Leagues Club tomorrow night. Judges included Herald journalist Rosemarie Milsom, ABC 1233’s Paul Bevan, and the University of Newcastle ‘‘future industries’’ academic Dr Gary Ellem.
We hope that these proposals will be further developed, capture the public’s imagination, and stimulate the development of more ideas on what we could do with funds.
One submission was received that was not selected by the judges because it has already been so successful – the Newcastle Cycleways Movement proposal for a cycle network in Newcastle.
It is a blueprint of how proposals should be developed. It passes the “four Rs” test – it is rational, it has a reasonable prospect of success, the resource implications are realistic, and there are not major risks that can be foreseen from implementing the project.
The group has developed a implementation plan for putting the proposal into place incrementally, or as one big initiative.
Importantly, it has engaged multiple stakeholders and support groups to work on the proposal. At this stage it is still only a proposal, but I am sure it will happen.
The proposal really provides a template of what other groups should do when they want to get their idea on to the “shopping list”. Newcastle and the Hunter need to have clear ideas about the future that we want to build, and we need to engage the whole community in our ideas. We invite you along.
Dr Ross Kerridge is a member of the Newcastle Institute committee. The public is invited to the institute’s forum tomorrow night at Souths Leagues Club to hear five proposals on how a billion dollars could be spent in the Hunter. Visit newinstitute上海龙凤论坛.au
He took out Sommelier of the Year at the recent Age Good Food Guide awards and plies his trade at one of Australia’s best restaurants, the three-hatted Attica in Melbourne’s Ripponlea. But Banjo Harris Plane, 30, is yet to pass the notoriously difficult Court of Master Sommeliers exam (he’s already tried twice), something he hopes to remedy when he flies to London in October. Given the pass rate is less than 3 per cent (only two people in Australia hold the title), it’s no wonder the Balaclava apartment he shares with partner Meira Harel is strewn with wine theory swot cards.The staples
My pantry We always have pickles (an Israeli brand that Meira likes), ABC sweet soy, Megachef Premium Fish Sauce (great for stir-fries or for dressings), Yeo’s Pure Sesame Oil and lots of honey for toast or on cereals and yoghurt for breakfast. My mum was a chef and I grew up in Adelaide around wine and south-east Asian cooking so I always have rice-paper rolls and noodles handy – thin rice noodles for cold salads or organic Hakubaku soba noodles for soups. I also have a real thing for sour flavours, so we always have grapefruits handy.
My fridge There’s lots of mustard (Moutarde de Dijon and Maille Whole Grain), Penta brand pickled chillies, which I chop up finely and use in salads or soups, plenty of laksa paste (Por Kwan and Woh Hup Singapore brands – Mum’s trick is to mix crushed candlenuts in to make the sauce creamier), a big chunk of parmesan, some E. Graindorge Petit Pont L’Eveque cheese, and Nudie orange juice. In the bottom drawer we always have coriander (we crush the roots and make a dressing with lime juice, sugar, fish sauce and a bit of chilli), fennel (Meira loves it) and radishes, which we dip into a miso-flavoured butter or salt.Secret vice
I eat a lot of Maggie Beer Burnt Fig, Honeycomb and Caramel ice-cream. And Mars Pods – those little wafer biscuits filled with caramel and topped with chocolate.Recipe stalwart
Noodle stir-fry. I use whatever noodles I’ve got, and throw them in the wok with garlic, chilli, fish sauce, a bit of lime juice and mushrooms. It takes about 10 minutes.Discovery
Cleansing Ale from Two Metre Tall brewery in Tasmania. I like beer with a sense of acidity because it elongates the flavour. This one’s slightly sour, but in a good way.My inspiration
Stephanie Alexander’s cookbook is one of the first cookbooks I ever got. The best thing about it is its versatility. I really like that it’s laid out by ingredients, so if you’re a little bit short on inspiration you can see what’s in the pantry or the fridge and just look it up. That way you get to play around and try a few different things.My toolkit
My Vintec V30SG wine fridge mimics the conditions of a cellar and keeps my wines at 12 degrees with a constant humidity. We use our handmade wine decanter a lot – it’s hand-blown and I got it from a place in Adelaide called the Jam Factory. Likewise our SodaStream. It cost about $100 but the $40 canisters need replacing every four to six months.Last night’s dinner
Shiitake mushrooms cooked in miso butter with some bok choy, coriander, fried onion and rice.Favourite
My Wusthof knife. It was a birthday gift a couple of years ago from some close friends. I keep it in the packet so it stays sharp, and the chefs at Attica sharpen it for me every three or four months.I’m drinking
A friend in Sydney and I have a company called Real Wines and we import Austrian and Italian wines for restaurants and small bars. I drink broadly but more whites than reds. I love the freshness and acidity of riesling, like Arndorfer from Kamptal, which has a grapefruit characteristic and works well with a lot of Asian-influenced food. The other variety I like is chenin blanc, which is great with or without food. In terms of reds, La Violetta Up! shiraz has really lovely savoury, spicy characteristics.Most unforgettable meal
I was 19 and had moved from Adelaide to London and my mum came over for my birthday. We went to Paris together and ate at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. It was the first meal I had in a really high-end restaurant. It was expensive. Neither of us speak French so we bumbled our way through, not really knowing what we were ordering, but everything that came out was, for me, really quite amazing.