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Enduring and unwavering

IT is a sign of the times that the reigning monarch of what was, 100 years ago, the most powerful country on Earth, came and went to and from Australia this year with relatively little fuss.
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In the 21st century the president of the United States of America is the more important visitor.

The visit of President Barack Obama has come at a crucial time, when the familiar economic order appears shaky and new powers are staking their claims.

For a variety of reasons, Australia matters more to America now than it has for decades.

An immense source of minerals and energy on the doorsteps of the rising new Asia-Pacific nations of India and China, Australia’s strategic importance is impossible to overlook.

Since World War II Australia has made no secret of its strong desire to shelter under America’s defence umbrella and it has repeatedly shown its willingness to be a dependable ally to the United States in matters both military and mercantile.

It is significant that, at a time when China is visibly increasing its military capacity, Australia has chosen to invite America to boost its own already marked military presence on Australian soil. Australia will host greater numbers of US troops and will permit them greater autonomy in training here than at any time since the war.

More US aircraft, ships and submarines will be permitted to use Australia as a staging point for patrols and operations in the Pacific and Indian oceans.

This military expression of solidarity is mirrored in proposed new trade arrangements across the Pacific region.

The China message

And while the rhetoric is carefully designed to skirt the suggestion that this is all about containing and influencing China, there is no doubt that most observers – China especially – will get that message.

Mr Obama made it clear at the recent meeting in Hawaii of the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum that the United States is increasingly impatient with China’s insistence on keeping its currency pegged below the US dollar.

Chinese President Hu Jintao made it equally clear that China expected the US to recognise his country’s legitimate interests in the Asia Pacific region – a wish that Mr Obama readily conceded.

Meanwhile, the global game of strategy continues. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard surprised many this week when she announced her support for dropping the ban on selling uranium to India.

India is not only hungry for energy, it is also seen by the United States as a natural counterweight to China, and America has for some years been carefully cultivating its Indian alliance. Australian uranium sales to India would please the US almost as much as they would please India itself.

In the speech he made on arriving in Australia, President Obama spoke of America’s “enduring and unwavering commitment” to its Pacific ally.

By its actions Australia has demonstrated that its commitment in return is every bit as durable and steady.

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New Zealand race could boost numbers

SYDNEY _ Sydney to Hobart officials are hoping a major ocean race planned for New Zealand will help entice more top quality boats to their own event.
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The fleet for this year’s race starting on Boxing Day stands at 88, one more than headed south in 2010.

The costs of building a new supermaxi and bringing any size of boat to Australia has limited the contingent of overseas entrants this year to seven.

Cruising Yacht club of Australia commodore Garry Linacre believes the race for New Zealand, scheduled to start in 2013, could help attract more overseas entrants, by giving them two major events to shoot for.

“We are working with the Kiwis at the moment, who are looking at bringing in an iconic race that is timely to involve yachts coming from the northern hemisphere to our race,” Linacre said.

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

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Contractors to spend holidays in uncertainty

ALMOST 100 forest contractors will have to live with uncertainty over their future until the new year.
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Contractors had been expecting to find out this week if their application for a share of a $45 million voluntary exit grants package, a key part of the forest peace deal, had been successful.

The federal government, which is administering the voluntary exit grants, confirmed yesterday it had been aiming to give contractors an answer before Christmas but was now aiming to finalise assessments early in January.

The Tasmanian Forest Contractors Association had stressed the importance of contractors finding out this week.

“It’s really unfair for contractors to go into Christmas not knowing their future, good or bad,” chief executive officer Ed Vincent said. “People can make plans to deal with bad news but they can’t deal with uncertainty.”

Applications closed November 24.

Mr Vincent said he had been told the delay was because three quarters of the 97 applications were incomplete.

A spokeswoman for Forestry Minister Joe Ludwig said the assessment panel met to assess applications on Monday and Tuesday this week.

“In order to complete its assessment of applications and make recommendations on the offer of grants under the program, the panel has requested further information and verification of information,” she said. “The panel is working to finalise assessment early in the new year.”

The Commonwealth department of forestry was expected to update its website with details of the revised timeline last night.

Eligible businesses could apply for up to $3 million with the grants designed to help them adjust to the industry downturn.

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

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Music in the city’s heart

A BIG thank-you to the teachers, students and staff of the Newcastle Conservatorium for its open day on Sunday. This is the third year my husband and I have attended. The enthusiasm of the teachers and students is infectious and we left the Conservatorium wanting to learn all of the instruments available.
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There were master classes, workshops, rehearsals and introductions to various instruments. It was easy to fill the day drifting from one activity to another. All this culminated at the end of the day with a student concert. This year, as well as the two string orchestras, it was pleasing to hear the pipe organ being played by a group of students, and we were captivated by a nine-year-old violinist who calmly and confidently played a lengthy musical composition, accompanied by a student orchestra.

Some may not be aware that the Conservatorium holds monthly free lunchtime concerts, where you can hear some of the amazing musical talents of the students. A large banner is displayed outside the building on the day of the concert. Well worth attending.

Carol Davis, Wallsend

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Island searches for boat survivors

BLITAR, East Java – Authorities in Indonesia are closer to finding the individuals behind a people-smuggling operation that ended in the deaths of scores of asylum seekers and netted the syndicate responsible more than $1 million.
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Up to 200 people are still missing, feared drowned, after their boat suddenly capsized off East Java, 60 kilometres into its voyage to Christmas Island.

As the search for survivors entered its fourth day, there were fresh reports that another group of asylum seekers from the doomed vessel, which sank in rough seas on Saturday, may have made their way to an island off the East Java coast.

The development came after a group of 13 people, comprising 12 men and a woman, were found on Monday on the island of Nusa Barung, about 200 kilometres from the site where the vessel went down.

The discovery of the group of 13, as well as two crew who abandoned the sinking ship in a dinghy and who were found on Monday afternoon on the East Java mainland at Sindang Biru, puts the total number of survivors at 49.

Authorities have not been able to locate the group on the second island, news of which came to light after a family in Pakistan said they had received a call from one of the asylum seekers, who reported he was safe but injured.

The chief of the search and rescue effort, Sutrisno, said the number the man gave to his family was no longer active.

He said search teams would again scour islands in the vicinity of the site where the asylum seeker boat sank in the hope of locating the man, who reported he was with a large group of people.

“At the moment there is not other confirmation,” Sutrisno said, adding that the overall search area had been expanded and that the mission would continue until at least Saturday.

Indonesian anti-people smuggling taskforce officers, assisted by Australian Federal Police, have continued interviewing survivors as they look to gather evidence and establish who was responsible for the deadly people-smuggling venture.

With survivors having said they paid between $4000 and $6500 to board the vessel, it’s believed those responsible would have netted well in excess of $1 million.

Brigadier-General Ari Dono Sukmanto, who has overall responsibility for the anti-people smuggling taskforce, said that while no chief suspect had been established, authorities did have some leads.

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

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Knights take gambling firm to court over promised funds

LEGAL ACTION: The Knights have initiated legal action in the Federal Court against sponsor Betezy.THE Newcastle Knights have initiated legal action in the Federal Court against sponsor Betezy, alleging the online gambling agency breached their contract by not paying promised income.
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The Knights announced a three-year sponsorship with the racing and sports bookmaking company in February 2009, according to which the NRL club was to have received at least $100,000 a season and potentially as much as $1million annually.

The Newcastle Herald has been told Betezy has not paid any money for at least the past two years of the sponsorship agreement, prompting the Knights to pursue what they believe they are owed.

Knights chief executive Matt Gidley said yesterday that it was club policy not to comment about pending legal action.

Former Knights chief executive Steve Burraston, who was in charge of the club when the sponsorship deal was done, declined to comment when contacted by the Herald.

The Herald tried to contact Betezy management last night but a Northern Territory-based race betting operator who took the call directed inquiries to the company’s customer service number during business hours today.

On the Betezy internet website, the company’s postal address is listed as Surry Hills in Sydney.

When the Knights announced the partnership in 2009, it was reported that Betezy had similar arrangements with Cronulla, Gold Coast and South Sydney.

According to the deal with the Knights, the club stood to collect an up-front sponsorship worth at least $100,000 a year for 2009, 2010 and 2011, plus a percentage of every bet posted on their affiliated Betezy website, www.knightsbet南京夜网.au.

‘‘The Betezy people think it could be worth $1million a year to us, so I suppose we have to wait and see,’’ Burraston said in the Herald on February 20, 2009.

‘‘For me, it’s hard to imagine people gamble that much, but maybe they do.

‘‘It’s their game, not mine, so I’m not going to criticise that figure or argue the point.

‘‘We’d be delighted if it’s true.

‘‘The people from Betezy are talking some big numbers … hopefully it’s as big as they think it is.

‘‘We’re just happy with the up-front payment and to give it a go.’’

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Dungog girl sneaks hug from US President

Dungog Public School “prime minister” Chelsea Gallagher with US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday.IT was that unforgettable moment when a prime minister meets the US President in Parliament House, Canberra.
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But it was not the nation’s leader, Julia Gillard, who embraced Barack Obama.

To read the Herald’s opinion on the presidential visit, click here.

She had to settle for a kiss and back pat.

Instead it was Chelsea Gallagher, the 12-year-old ‘‘prime minister’’ of Dungog Public School, who wrapped her arms around the world’s most powerful man yesterday.

To see pictures of Barack Obama’s visit to Australia, click below.

‘‘I said ‘hello’ and then I asked him if I could have a hug and he gave me one,’’ said Chelsea, whose school voted her ‘‘prime minister’’ (rather than captain) this year.

‘‘We were just there at the right time.’’

Chelsea described the experience as ‘‘amazing’’.

‘‘He was really cool, and had the biggest smile on his face when he walked into the foyer and saw us all,’’ she told the Newcastle Herald.

US President Barack Obama tries his hand at Australian slang during a speech at a state dinner in Canberra. Click below.

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Mr Obama spotted the children and said ‘‘Whoa. Hello everyone,’’ then exclaimed ‘‘G’day’’. He mingled with the children for a couple of minutes before telling them: ‘‘Fantastic. Well, wonderful to meet you guys. Thank you so much.’’

Chelsea said Mr Obama spotted the badges worn by herself and classmate Laura Inwood, and asked them questions about her PM role.

‘‘I wasn’t really sure what to say so I just told him I’m trying to help the school,’’ Chelsea said.

Chelsea revealed she had been corresponding by email with Ms Gillard for the past few months after learning year six would be visiting Parliament House.

‘‘I was looking on the internet and found a website where you could contact her by email so I did and she wrote back,’’ she said.

Chelsea shared a few emails with Ms Gillard, who sent a letter and signed photograph to Chelsea’s Dungog home.

When she realised her trip to the nation’s capital would coincide with Mr Obama’s visit she emailed Ms Gillard and asked if her school might meet him.

Chelsea and Laura led a group of 140 schoolchildren from Dungog and Darley Primary in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, who greeted the President. Although the school group had plenty more stops before returning home tomorrow, Chelsea said yesterday’s meeting would be hard to top.

But despite her lofty status at school and her interest in politics, Chelsea said she wanted to pursue a career as a singer.

‘‘It seems pretty hard, ruling the states or the country,’’ she laughed.

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Send us your high school formal pictures

FRIENDS FOREVER: Hunter Valley Grammar year 10 students from left, Grace Broadfield, Larissa Moore, Llewellyn Thomas, Oliver Peck, Issy Phillips, Laura Gilligan and Erin McFadyen, all 16, enjoy a laugh at the University of Newcastle for their school formal last night. Picture by Simone De PeakBRIGHT dresses, sharp suits and dazzling smiles were on show last night to celebrate the end of another school year.
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Share your high school formal pictures. Email them to [email protected]南京夜网.au Include your name, contact number and detailed caption.

Year 10 students from Hunter Valley Grammar arrived at the University of Newcastle in limousines for the traditional end of year dinner dance.

Issy Phillips, 16, was excited to finish year 10.

‘‘ [Year 11 is] going to be a lot more work, but tonight is just a celebration for exams being over,’’ she said.

This year will be the last time the School Certificate will run, and there has been suggestions that the traditional year 10 formal could also follow it out the door.

But Greg Robinson, head of senior school at Hunter Valley Grammar, expected the celebrations to stay: ‘‘We might be different to other schools but we haven’t discussed canning the idea.’’

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