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Hodgman’s `detailed’ policy push

Will HodgmanLIBERAL Leader Will Hodgman will announce a suite of fully-costed, detailed policies this year, starting this week, in a bid to prove his party is a credible alternative.
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Mr Hodgman used his first day back at work to launch the “future directions” strategy, which he said would provide details about how the opposition would implement its economy-focused agenda to ensure Tasmania was “open for business”.

“In 2012 we will be focusing a lot on how we would be different and what a Hodgman Liberal government would look like,” Mr Hodgman said.

He declined to reveal the topic of his first policy announcement to be made later this week.

“Our future directions statements will be be bold, they’ll be major policy announcements and they’ll go to the heart of where Tasmania should be heading – and that’s a place that is self-reliant and open for business.”

The state government, which has continually criticised the opposition as being too negative, seized on Mr Hodgman’s announcement.

“I welcome the fact that it has finally dawned on him that it is not enough to simply oppose everything,” acting Premier Bryan Green said.

Mr Green reminded Mr Hodgman of some of his past “plain dumb” policies including paying former Tasmanians $5000 to return home.

“And his plan to continue all high schools to year 12 will send shudders through all our secondary colleges,” Mr Green said.

Mr Hodgman said more details on his party’s education policy would be revealed and it would not include closing any colleges.

He acknowledged it was not enough to only criticise the government.

“When a government is shutting schools, shutting down hospitals of course we are going to be critical but I recognise also that Tasmanians want to see an alternative,” Mr Hodgman said.

Voter opinion polls indicate the Liberal Party would form a majority government if an election were held now, but they also show a significant amount of undecided voters.

“This is about explaining to Tasmanians better exactly what we would do in government.”

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

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Councils call for rate rises

RATE pegging was introduced in the late 1970s by then premier Neville Wran as a way of keeping apparently expansive local government spending plans in check.
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But a lot has changed since then and the dominant view, nowadays, is that councils need to spend more, not less, to properly discharge their functions.

Rate pegging is widely accepted as a major contributor to the parlous state of council coffers because rate increases have failed to keep pace with cost-of-living increases.

The other big problem is “cost-shifting”, whereby state and federal governments pass the responsibility for certain actions – but not the funding to do them – down to local government.

State Labor was effectively deaf to the councils although it did pass the responsibility for setting the annual rate cap to the Independent Regulatory and Pricing Tribunal.

In contrast, the incoming Coalition government announced several key changes, including a review of the Local Government Act, soon after taking office in March.

Working with the Local Government and Shires Association and others, the government has also announced what Local Government Minister Don Page has described as a “new direction” for the sector over the coming 25 years, titled Destination 2036.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Hunter mayors interviewed by the Newcastle Herald want an end to rate pegging.

While Mr Page says “everything is on the table” in the review process, he appears to be playing down the likelihood of the councils getting open slather on rates, saying recently it was wrong to think “everything would be fine” if only councils had more “financial resources”.

Mr Page says councils should co-operate more and share their resources. More controversially, the Destination 2036 documents also discuss voluntary amalgamation.

In recent years the Herald has acknowledged the difficulties that councils have faced under rate pegging.

Infrastructure backlogs in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, especially, require many tens of millions of dollars that the organisations do not have.

But Newcastle, in particular, has hardly covered itself in glory recently, as the Laman Street fig debate makes all too clear. In such a climate, the councils must prove to the public they can be trusted with the power they are seeking.

Ring the registers

FOR most of us, Christmas came on Sunday.

But for the Hunter’s struggling retailers, the celebratory spirit begins this morning with the delayed start of the annual Boxing Day sales.

It has been a tough year for retailers with global financial uncertainty and the online onslaught.

Pre-Christmas sales volumes were reportedly flat but more and more of us are delaying our purchases, nowadays, until Santa goes and the prices come down.

The sleigh bells might have stopped.

But the cash registers are just starting.

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Pressure to gain return of Australian activists

The Japanese security vessel Shonan Maru No 2, on which three Australian anti-whaling activists are being held.CANBERRA – The federal government is under pressure to take swift action to secure the release of three Australian activists detained aboard a Japanese whaling security ship.
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But the government has moved to lower expectations of what it can do and has conceded that the men could be taken to Japan to face legal action.

The West Australian men from the Forest Rescue environmental group boarded the Japanese security vessel Shonan Maru No 2 in waters off the coast of Bunbury overnight.

The daring mission was aimed at forcing the vessel to stop tailing the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s anti-whaling flagship, the Steve Irwin.

The men climbed past razorwire and spikes to board the ship and deliver a message: “Return us to shore in Australia and then remove yourself from our waters.”

But the Shonan Maru No 2 yesterday afternoon was instead persisting with its pursuit of the Steve Irwin, with the Australians still on board.

The three activists have been named as Geoffrey Owen Tuxworth, 47, of Perth, Simon Peterffy, 44, of Bunbury, and Glen Pendlebury, 27, of Fremantle.

A spokesman for the Japanese whaling program at the Institute of Cetacean Research, Glenn Inwood, confirmed that the men were still aboard the vessel.

“They are unhurt, they are being questioned and there has been no decision on anything beyond that at this stage,” New Zealand-based Mr Inwood said.

He said the men had boarded the vessel well outside Australian territorial waters – about 40 kilometres from the coast – and any suggestion otherwise was false.

The Sea Shepherd and Forest Rescue say the incident happened 16.2 miles off the coast – outside territorial waters but inside Australia’s 24-mile contiguous zone.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said Australia’s embassy in Tokyo had contacted the Japanese government seeking more information, most pressingly the vessel’s location.

“If this vessel is close to Australian waters, you’d think there was a possibility that (they) would promptly have discussions with us about a safe and immediate return,” Ms Roxon said.

“There are a range of different options that could occur for the transfer of these people back into Australian control.”

But Ms Roxon expressed no confidence that this would happen, saying the government’s options were restricted because the incident happened outside territorial waters.

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

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Modest crowd for Boxing Day races

IN THE MOOD: Mhairi Morrison and Liz Larkin in the grandstand at Broadmeadow as horses cross the finish line in race five yesterday. – Pictures by Peter StoopTHE impact of Newcastle Jockey Club’s track closure was felt yesterday when a modest crowd of about 5000 turned out to the once-popular Boxing Day races at Broadmeadow Racecourse.
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Club chairman Geoff Barnett was hoping for a crowd of between 8000 and 10,000 for the event that attracted about 16,000 at its peak in the early 2000s and netted the club about $750,000.

Racing NSW officials closed the track on October 20 when the Australian Jockeys Association expressed concern about track safety.

The NJC spent ‘‘hundreds of thousands of dollars’’ on repairs.

Club chief executive Cameron Williams said it had cost the club a similar amount in lost revenue while it was shut.

‘‘Financially it will be hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the majority of that leakage has come through lost food and beverage revenue,’’ Mr Williams said.

‘‘Where we would have had the racing marquees and restaurants all pre-booked, we obviously had a lot of cancellations and we certainly suffered as a result.’’

The NJC recorded an operating loss of $1.6million three years ago that was reduced to a loss of $140,000 last financial year but that was expected to blow out again next year as a result of the closure.

It has also forced the NJC to offer reduced membership renewals for 2012-2013. It is also offering an interim membership.

‘‘We’re rolling out a discounted membership renewal platform for next year, Mr Williams said.

‘‘We’re also rolling out a six-month membership program from now until June 30 at a reduced rate as well, which we don’t usually do.’’

On the bright side, track repairs got a tick from jockeys who inspected the track after the running of the first race on the eight-race program.

‘‘The track is as good as it’s ever been,’’ Mr Williams said.

‘‘The jockeys went and had a look at the track after the first race today and came back and said it was perfect.

‘‘We’ve seen a number of class records set today and we wouldn’t see those records being set if they couldn’t hook around the turn and get a bit of pace up.’’

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Rodionova steady as gale hits court

Anastasia Rodionova handled the deteriorating conditions better than Hungary’s Greta Arn at Hobart’s Domain.SHE admits she’s emotional on court but Australian Anastasia Rodionova was refusing to get angry at the gale that blew up for her Hobart International first-round match.
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Rodionova despatched Hungary’s Greta Arn 6-4, 7-5 in a match that the Russian-born 29-year-old said was more about patience in the conditions than any sort of game-plan.

“I can’t really get mad at the wind – it’s not going to go away,” Rodionova said.

“I just tried to focus on what I can control, and I couldn’t control the wind, but I could control the way I was moving and it was working for me.

“It was tough to play the game I wanted to play.

“The way I finished the match I was patient and it paid off.”

Wildcard Rodionova handled the deteriorating conditions better than world No. 63 Arn at Hobart’s Domain Tennis Centre, perched high above the city and susceptible to high winds.

She converted her second match-point in a tough encounter that lasted one hour and 40 minutes.

The world No. 108 moves into a second-round clash with either compatriot Jarmila Gajdosova or Japan’s Ayumi Morita, who meet tonight.

Earlier, former world No. 5 Anna Chakvetadze, playing her first match since June last year, cruised past third seed Monica Niculescu in straight sets.

The 2007 champion won 6-0, 6-4 as she embarks on her latest comeback after a series of setbacks since making the US Open semi-finals and reaching her career-high ranking in the same year.

Chakvetadze was broken just once but ground it out to take the second set and beat the Romanian in one hour, 15 minutes.

“I’m happy with the way I played,” she said.

“I had some problems with the close of the match but I didn’t play for such a long time, so it’s not a big deal.”

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

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