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NT put onalert over crocodiles

The hazardous chemical copper concentrate has spilled from a derailed freight train into the Edith River.DARWIN – Top End residents are being warned of crocodiles in their waterways after bursting rivers wreaked “significant damage” to the Northern Territory’s transport network.
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In an emergency message from the NT government, residents were being warned yesterday not to swim or wade in case they came across the monster reptiles.

“Flooded waterways you don’t swim in . . . flooded waterways should be avoided at all costs,” Northern Territory Chief Minister Paul Henderson said.

“Crocodiles are very active at this time of year.”

Heavy rains from ex-tropical Cyclone Grant have swollen the Cullen and Edith rivers to dangerous levels, flooding the Stuart Highway and damaging its bridges north of Katherine.

Mr Henderson flew over the flood-ravaged site yesterday and said floods had caused “significant structural damage” to the road and rail network.

However, he hoped the major thoroughfare, which links Darwin to Katherine, would be reopened within 24 to 48 hours.

“The Edith River low-level bridge and also the Cullen Bridge have stood up very well to the flooding,” he said.

“Traffic is already open one way and we are hoping to have both lanes open later this afternoon.”

Meanwhile he confirmed that the hazardous chemical copper concentrate had spilled from a derailed freight train into the Edith River.

Investigations are under way into the derailment, which happened 40 kilometres north of Katherine early on Tuesday morning.

“There has been significant damage to the railway at the Edith River Bridge,” he said.

“We can see that the (rail) bridge has actually lost one of its structures.”

Rail line operator Genesee and Wyoming Australia said it planned to move the rear portion of the train back to Katherine.

“It is still too early to determine the full extent of the incident or how long it will take before the track is reopened,” managing director Bert Easthope said yesterday.

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Clint Gosling dumped by Jets

GUTTED: Clint GoslingRESPECTED goalkeeping coach Clint Gosling will look overseas for a new job after he was sacked by the Newcastle Jets, ending a 17-year association with the region’s flagship team.
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Gosling was told on Wednesday that coach Gary van Egmond wanted to take a new direction.

Former Newcastle Breakers goalkeeper Bob Catlin has been appointed in an interim role and accompanied the team to Adelaide for the clash against the Reds last night.

The dismissal came as a shock to Gosling, who has been in charge of the Jets senior, youth team and W-League programs.

‘‘I am gutted,’’ Gosling told the Newcastle Herald last night.

Gosling, 51, played for KB United in the club’s formative years in the national league and returned to the Newcastle Breakers for a swansong season in 1993-94 before moving into coaching.

Apart from one season when Steve Dorman worked under Lee Sterrey at the Breakers, Gosling has been a mainstay.

Gosling is also the goalkeeping coach of the New Zealand national team, which is a part-time role, but intends to search for another full-time gig.

‘‘I will put my name out there even if I have to go overseas,’’ he said.

‘‘As coach of the New Zealand national team keepers, I have been to a World Cup, two Confederation Cups. I coached Ante Covic to the grand final win 2008. I suggest my achievements speak for themselves.’’

Gosling holds no animosity towards the club and said they had been nothing but professional.

‘‘Am I disappointed that my time at the club is at an end? Absolutely. But that is football,’’ he said.

‘‘My association with Newcastle football is a long one, in total 17 years as a player and a coach. I have repeatedly turned down offers due to my loyalties to Newcastle football.

‘‘Do I believe my removal to be justified? No. That said, Gary’s decision must be respected. I wish the franchise, my keepers and the team every success.’’

Van Egmond said it was a hard but necessary decision to let Gosling go.

‘‘We wanted to freshen the area up and give the keepers a different voice,’’ he said.

‘‘Ben Kennedy, for example, has been hearing the same voice for a long time now.

‘‘I have known Goose [Gosling] for a lot of years, and that is where it becomes difficult with staff members. I want to see people who bring a lot of enthusiasm and energy to that position. I don’t think that has been the case with Clint for some time.’’

Catlin’s appointment, albeit caretaker, follows that of Melbourne-born youth team coach Arthur Papas.

Both go against the grain of the Jets’ ‘‘local policy’’, but chief executive Robbie Middleby said getting the right person was the priority.

‘‘The first port of call is for a Newcastle person,’’ he said.

‘‘That is the priority in any role, but it has to be the best person for the job.’’

Meanwhile, Professional Footballer Australia chief executive Brendan Schwab said yesterday that progress had been made towards an amicable resolution between the Jets and unwanted marquee player Jason Culina.

‘‘We are working towards a favourable outcome,’’ Schwab said. ‘‘The club has been been very good. They understand it is an involved matter and have been supportive.’’

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New trend finds its way into cricket

Australian fans signal four runs for Aussie debutant Ed Cowan at the MCG yesterday.MELBOURNE _ An Australian opening batsman stayed out in the middle for most of the day, Ricky Pointing earned a round of applause and the MCG crowd was exposed to frostbite and sunburn in the same afternoon.
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For a while it seemed that traditions had returned to cricket on the opening day of the first Test against India.

But little stays the same in Australian cricket and at the famous old ground.

Australia has lost two of its past three Boxing Day Tests, having won the previous 10.

And after day one against India yesterday the odds are against renewed success, despite some glimmers of hope.

The first was the emergence of mature-age rookie Ed Cowan.

The 29-year-old made his Test debut against India and produced the day’s high score of 68.

More importantly, Cowan showed the patience, technique and class missing from recent Australian opening pairs.

When he was joined by the beleaguered Ponting he lifted his run rate to match the former skipper’s and the pair put on a vital century partnership.

Facing what may well have been his last week as a Test player when he came to Melbourne, Ponting’s capable 62 most likely assured himself a place in the team for the rest of this series.

But there are some new and curious trends to have infiltrated the most traditional of Australian cricketing days and grounds.

From the record crowd of 70,086 for an Australia-India MCG Test match, the in-house cameras focussed on selected couples in the stands, beaming their images framed in a heart, onto the ground’s big screens.

The captured couples are then required to embrace passionately or be heckled by the other 70,084.

The procedure borrowed from the US is known as “Kiss Cam”.

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McKechnie solid as Hunter trio lay claims to PGA title

ROCK SOLID: Leigh McKechnieA COOL, calm and collected Leigh McKechnie showed the way for a three-pronged Hunter assault on the Australian PGA Championship at Coolum yesterday.
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Newcastle and Waratah member McKechnie, Muswellbrook’s Kurt Barnes and Charlestown’s Aaron Townsend were six under in a nine-way tie for eighth.

They are five shots off the lead heading into round three today.

Townsend and Barnes endured roller-coaster rounds, but McKechnie had just one bogey in a two-under 70 to go with his first-round 68.

Townsend (67-71) had a double bogey on the last hole yesterday after three bogeys and six birdies. Barnes (69-69) had two bogeys and five birdies yesterday after carding six birdies and three bogeys on the opening day.

A relaxed McKechnie, who finished five over at the Australian Open and missed the cut at the NSW Open last week at Fern Bay, said he had found his putting range at Coolum.

‘‘I’ve been playing OK recently, I just haven’t been putting all that well, so I’ve been doing some work on that for the last few days,’’ McKechnie said.

‘‘I’m just playing solid, so I’m happy with the way things are going. It is a very good field this week, so hopefully I draw one of the top players tomorrow and just enjoy the experience, I guess.

‘‘I’m not thinking too much about down the track.

‘‘I’m just looking forward to tomorrow, just taking it easy, having a bit of a swim in the morning and getting out there and just hitting the same sort of stuff.’’

Townsend bogeyed the 13th after finding the water but recovered with birdies on the 14th and 16th before his six on the par-four last spoiled his charge.

McKechnie said the pristine Coolum greens offered birdie chances but the layout punished wayward shots from tee to green.

‘‘There’s a lot of water on the back nine, there’s almost water on every hole, so obviously hitting the fairways is the most important part and if you do hit a loose one, the water will be there to grab you,’’ he said.

‘‘Bogeys will happen if you are a bit untidy.’’

Belmont’s Graeme Stockley recovered from a first-day 79 to card a three-under 69 and finish his tournament on four over. He missed the cut by two strokes.

Clubmate Brendan Smith was a shot further back after shooting 76 to follow his first-round of 73.

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Duggan welcomed home with winning double

YOUNG reinsman Joshua Duggan made the most of a trip home for Christmas with a winning double at the Devonport Paceway last night.
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Duggan scored a running double on Enchanted Heart ($5.60) and then the feature race on favourite George Grant ($4).

The 19-year-old took the opportunity to come home from Victoria to visit family and friends over the Christmas period and he will be here till next Monday.

The son of top reinsman Ricky Duggan, Joshua has been in Victoria for the past three years attached to the stable of Chris Alford.

Alford is recognised as one of Victoria’s top flight reinsmen and trains horses at Bolinda, near Romsey.

Duggan is hopeful of driving at the St Marys meeting on New Year’s Eve before heading back to Victoria.

Last night Duggan achieved his double with a vastly different display of his skills.

In the feature Gwen Williams Marathon (2645 metres) Duggan had George Grant safely away from the standing start and was in front after 100 metres.

From there he was able to dictate terms and on the line had three metres to spare over stablemate Murillo Bromac ($5.90) and In Cruise Mode ($8.90) who battled on well after racing in the death.

Mrs Williams, the patron of the Devonport Harness Racing Club, has sponsored the marathon for the past 10 years and last night presented the winning trophies.

George Grant and Murillo Bromac are both trained at Bridport by Grant Hodges who also trained Duggan’s first winner Enchanted Heart.

Appreciating a drop in class Enchanted Heart ($5.60) was well back in the early stages of the race but Duggan worked his way into a winning position shortly after the field straightened and he ran home to score a metre win over favourite Matesforever ($2.70) and Brown Paige ($14.90).

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Experience of poverty prompts sharing call

Birgit Albers listens to a performance by the Choir of High Hopes yesterday.Launceston’s Birgit Albers has seen poverty first hand.
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She knows the struggle people go through and she knows how hard it is for them to keep their families alive.

So why when then, when we live in a rich country are we still not sharing?

That was the message Ms Albers wanted to get across at yesterday’s Choir of High Hopes Christmas benefit at St Aidan’s Church.

The concert raised funds for Ms Albers’s Malawi Back to School Foundation, which she established in 2002 after travelling to the world’s third poorest country.

“I meet a young guy and he was sort of my personal tour guide,” Ms Albers said referring to her first trip to the African country.

“He helped me with whatever I wanted to see like a village tour or going swimming.

“After my tour time was over, I said, you were so great and so loyal, I’d like to do something for you.

“He could have said, I want some new sneakers or a backpack, but he said he wanted to finish school.”

Ms Albers, who moved to Tasmania from Germany in 1986, said she found out it cost $100 a year to send the orphan boy to secondary school.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

“I said to myself what can I do to help.”

It was then that Ms Albers established her foundation to help others like the man she’d met get an education.

“Education is the step to getting them out of poverty,” she said.

Yesterday’s concert saw about 50 people listen to the harmonious sounds of the Hobart-based choir.

Funds raised from the event will be used to send Malawi orphans to secondary school and build an orphanage.

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2012 could be a year to keep students studying

THE Tasmanian education system is likely to undergo an interesting time to say the least in 2012. The start of this school year will also be the last with three terms as the state moves in line with the rest of the country and adopts a four-term model in 2013.
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And by the end of this month Education Minister Nick McKim is expected to receive the much-anticipated report from the School Viability Reference Group.

Which schools, if any, will close will be of interest to many communities and particularly to those 20 named on the government’s initial proposed hit-list in the June budget last year.

The state’s economy and the slashing of the department’s budget in 2011 will come more into play from the start of this year as programs, teacher aides and activities will be cut.

This is hurting both public and private schools and as revealed late last year it will result in about a $100 annual increase in Catholic school fees.

The focus for the government is getting the state back on track.

But at this time of upheaval it would be interesting to know what principals and teachers want to see happen in the education sector.

And what parents would like to see.

As other commentators have said there is no doubt that Tasmania has suffered economically due to the previous practice of allowing students to leave at the end of year 10 or age of 16 _ which ended in 2007.

The state’s split public high school (year 7 to 10) and college (year 11 and 12) system only exacerbated the problem as kids thought ”woo-hoo, I’m finished” and left after year 10, cutting themselves short.

Many more than not have suffered for it.

Year 10 formals and ”leavers’ dinners” to celebrate the occasion only cemented the feeling.

Thankfully students must now continue on with some form of education until they turn 17.

The reasoning behind holding a formal for year 10s beggars belief to someone who had to wait for that right until the end of year 12 interstate.

A trend taking off in Victoria at the end of last year was year 6 formals where 11 and 12-year-olds (or more correctly their parents) were spending $150-plus on dresses, then more money on hair and make-up, before partying the afternoon away in the back of a stretch Hummer.

There’s evidence of Tasmanian grade 6 students following the trend.In the department’s annual report it acknowledges Tasmania’s retention rates in post-compulsory education and training are lower than most other states and many OECD countries.

Despite a more than 10 per cent increase on the retention rate to 73 per cent in 2010 (the latest figures), Mr McKim is aiming for the state to meet a national target of 90 per cent of students to attain a year 12 education or its equivalent by 2015.

Overall public student attendance figures also increased slightly from 2009 to 2010.

One step in the right direction is the department’s implementation of the Retention and Attainment Strategy, which tracks year 10 students through to year 12 or its equivalent.

Students completing their education to a year 12 level today will better set up the state and economy of the future – something Tasmania desperately needs.

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Regaining confidence a big mission for Orica

ACCIDENT-plagued chemical company Orica has been told it must do much more to restore the public’s confidence in its operations.
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Premier Barry O’Farrell issued the warning yesterday and threatened to shut Orica’s Port Kembla plant if it failed to comply with environmental laws after an acid leak on Friday.

Orica has only partially restarted operations on Kooragang Island after a series of spills forced the closure of both its ammonium nitrate and ammonia plants.

On Friday, Orica disclosed its Port Kembla plant leaked up to 4000 litres of concentrated sulphuric acid.

Mr O’Farrell said the company would have to work hard to restore confidence.

‘‘They will only get their licence, they’ll only continue to keep their licence, if they are able to abide by the state’s environmental laws,’’ Mr O’Farrell said.

‘‘Orica will have to do an enormous amount in order to restore public confidence in NSW.’’

A spokesman confirmed later that Mr O’Farrell was referring to the licence for Orica’s Port Kembla operation.

An Orica spokeswoman said last night that all of the Kooragang Island ammonium nitrate and nitric plants were now back on line, allowing it to produce explosive using ammonia feedstock brought onto the site.

The ammonia plant, which makes ammonia from natural gas – and which was the site of the August hexavalent chromium emission – remained offline.

‘‘Orica’s emphasis is on restarting the ammonia plant safely and while conducting some prestart checks, we determined there was a part of the plant that required repair work before the restart process could continue,’’ the spokeswoman said.

‘‘Once repairs are complete, the restart process will continue.’’

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Promise turns to pain as Newcastle teeter on brink of disaster

WORRYING TIMES: The Jets bench surveys the action against Sydney. – Picture by Simone De PeakELEVEN games into the A-League campaign, and the Jason Culina affair lingers over the Newcastle Jets like a black cloud.
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Back in February, when the Jets announced they had recruited Culina to a three-year deal, it was widely accepted as a coup – a foundation stone in the empire Newcastle’s billionaire owner Nathan Tinkler was intent on building.

But with the benefit of hindsight, how wrong we were.

At the time, the Jets were expected to further supplement their roster with a proven goal scorer, and names such as Shane Smeltz and Michael Owen featured in dispatches.

For whatever reason those plans were subsequently aborted, but the club maintained a brave face.

Culina’s presence, it was explained, would create opportunities that brought out the best in Newcastle’s existing strike force.

That tenuous theory disintegrated soon afterwards when Culina broke down at training and required season-ending surgery on his knee.

The same knee that had been under the scalpel seven months earlier, before he joined Newcastle.

So suddenly the Jets were not only down a marquee midfielder, but also the man who was supposed to convert his handiwork into goals.

If only they could have their time over.

Culina’s unavailability left Newcastle with a squad that, on paper at least, was arguably not even as strong as it had been 12 months earlier, when the Jets were not good enough to reach the play-offs and finished seventh.

Out went Ljubo Milicevic, Sasho Petrovski and Adam D’Apuzzo.

In came Tiago, Chris Payne and Byun Sung-hwan.

Jeremy Brockie and Ryan Griffiths, admittedly, were like new signings, having scarcely featured in 2010-11.

If the season ahead shaped as a tall order for Jets coach Branko Culina, it was soon no longer his problem as he was unceremoniously punted – along with his injured son – and replaced by Gary van Egmond.

Van Egmond was no stranger to such circumstances.

In season two of the A-League, the man they call ‘‘Dutchy’’ was parachuted into the top job after Newcastle started disastrously under Nick Theodorakopoulos.

Van Egmond famously steered the Jets from the competition cellar to within one win of the grand final, then a year later they captured the ultimate prize.

But even Jesus managed only one resurrection.

Newcastle’s 2-1 loss to Sydney at Ausgrid Stadium on Saturday, after leading 1-0 at half-time, highlighted the challenge van Egmond is facing.

The squad he inherited from Culina has shown few signs of emulating the one Theodorakopoulos left behind.

A host of Newcastle’s players are off contract, and if results do not improve then tough decisions will have to be made.

Having lost eight of the past nine games on the road, the Jets can scarcely afford to slip up at home, as they did against Sydney.

After consecutive losses to Central Coast and Sydney, combined with Melbourne Victory’s win against Wellington yesterday, Newcastle have dropped out of the top six.

If van Egmond’s troops hope to avoid finishing with the also-rans for the second year in a row, they could do worse than heed Sydney captain Terry McFlynn’s comments after his team’s gutsy victory on Saturday.

‘‘There were a few home truths said at half-time,’’ McFlynn said. ‘‘Everyone took it on the chin and we played for each other.’’

If only it was that simple.

This week the Jets head to Wellington, where they have suffered seven successive defeats.

‘‘But what an opportunity,’’ van Egmond said.

‘‘If there’s a place where you want to make a statement and show that we’re back, that’s the place.’’

One thing is certain. Jason Culina won’t be able to help them.

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Disabled woman’s wheelchair funds taken

BURGLARS who stole the savings of a disabled South Launceston woman may have destroyed her chance of returning to work.
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Cerebral palsy sufferer Natasha Street had saved $6000 to buy a specially-designed electric wheelchair needed to allow her to cope with full-time employment.

When she returned home to discover the cash and some medication stolen on December 8, four years of study, surgery and saving were washed away. The 37-year-old, a regular sight around Launceston with her dog Freda at her side, said she felt violated.

Ms Street had put all her spare change for the past four years in a large tin belonging to her grandfather. It was because of a promise to him that Ms Street endured five leg operations, including two surgical breaks, and then returned to university.

He had been “like her best friend” and passed away the day before her first leg correction surgery in 2007.

She had planned to start work as a social worker this year but cannot do it without the new chair.

“I have a good brain, I just can’t walk long distances,” Ms Street said.

“I was saving up for a mobile office.”

Government programs offer grants of up to $20,000 towards the cost of a wheelchair, but the electric chair Ms Street needs is $25,000.

And she is “quite rightly” not a high priority for a grant, adding “there are people a lot worse off than me”.

Ms Street can walk short distances using walking sticks but has outgrown her current electric wheelchair.

“My body shape has completely changed (because of the operations), so I’m a lot taller, a lot straighter, and my wheelchair no longer fits me,” she said.

She describes her walk, using walls for support, as “a bit like a toddler _ I can walk unaided but only for short distances and I pay for it in pain.”

Detective Constable Mandy Ladson, of Launceston CIB, said police had gathered forensic evidence from Ms Street’s home and the investigation was ongoing.

Anyone with information is asked to call Launceston CIB on 6336 3915 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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