Monthly Archives: March 2019

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Sydney’s public transport use soars, even as its buses run late

Patronage on Sydney’s train network grew by about 10 per cent last year Photo: Dominic LorrimerPublic transport use is soaring across Sydney, putting more pressure on crowded trains and buses.

An annual snapshot by the NSW Audit Office shows patronage across the public transport network increased by 12 per cent last financial year.

But the Audit Office also highlighted the failure of buses, in particular, to run on time. The report said buses operated by private companies “almost never” met punctuality targets for the middle or the end of their trips, while the government-owned State Transit bus operator “did not meet any punctuality targets during the year”.

The Audit Office attributed the huge growth in passenger trips across Sydney – there were 72 million more public transport trips in 2015-16 compared to the year before – partly to the increased take-up of the Opal card.

Trips on the rail network increased 10.7 per cent last year, from 328 million to 363 million.

Trips on Sydney’s buses increased 12.8 per cent, from 257 million to 290 million. Trips on the light rail line increased by 66 per cent, from six million to 10 million, while ferry trips remained stable.

“The continuing rise in patronage increases pressure on public transport crowding, punctuality and capacity,” the report said.

In some areas, however, management systems used by transport authorities are failing to capture the strains on the system.

The Auditor-General, Margaret Crawford, who on Thursday released a scathing report into the management of Sydney’s central business district light rail project, drew attention to the failure to hold bus operators to punctuality targets.

Her report noted that private bus operators can only be fined if their buses do not start their trips on time; they cannot be fined if their buses run late after starting their trip. Most private and publicly run buses failed to run on time after they had started their trip.

“Because public transport services are crucial in getting customers to their destinations on time, TfNSW should consider including financial penalties for not meeting punctuality targets in future contracts with bus operators,” Ms Crawford said.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said everyone wanted to see better on-time performance for government-operated buses.

“I expect [the State Transit Authority] to better the performance of the private sector, if they can,” he said. “We have invested, in the state budget, for around an additional 3800 weekly services when it comes to the bus network.”

But Mr Constance said one of the major challenges for STA-operated buses was that they operated in parts of Sydney where there was significant traffic congestion.

“There are no plans to franchise Sydney Buses at this stage,” he said.

The Auditor-General’s snapshot also highlights the crowding pressures on trains and buses. The number of train services above the benchmark for overcrowding increased from four per cent in September 2014 to 6 per cent in September 2015.

“The average load during the morning peak increased on 11 of 12 lines surveyed,” the report said.

“The Western Line had the largest increase in average load from 113 per cent to 134 per cent,” it said.

Also on Thursday, Mr Constance announced an extra four express services between Parramatta and central Sydney in both the morning and afternoon peak, as well as the purchase of another 24 Waratah-style trains.

Ms Crawford’s report showed that 94 per cent of peak period Sydney Trains services ran on-time, a slight improvement on the previous year.

And it highlighted problems with a $196 million internal computer system to be introduced across transport agencies. The majority of the budget for the Enterprise Resources Program system has been spent, and it has not yet been delivered to NSW Trains or Sydney Trains.

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How to stay out of the emergency department this Christmas

A broken leg tangled in Christmas lights, a side serving of salmonella, an excreting toy battery and a partridge in a pear tree.

These are the festive traditions we need to break.

Health authorities have released a list of the most common Christmas health risks in an effort to keep people with avoidable illnesses and injuries out of hospital over the holiday break.

As the smell of fruit mince pies and turkey roast rouses us from our working lives and we slip into holiday mode, a momentary lapse in concentration can land us in the emergency department, NSW Health has warned.

“During the festive season, people do more than they normally would, consume more than they normally would, and take more risks than they normally would,” NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said.

“A trip to the hospital emergency ward is not how anyone should spend Christmas.” Falls, pools and broken bones

A fall form a ladder while hanging decorations could lead to a devastating injury. Photo: Maarten Holl

Toppling off chairs and ladders while hanging Christmas decorations is one of the most common reasons many people wind up in hospital over Christmas.

A simple slip form a ladder while hanging Christmas lights could cause a devastating injury – even death – when families should be celebrating, Dr Chant said.

As the glorious summer weather coaxes revellers into the sun, falling off a dirt bike and accidents in swimming pools become more frequent.

Adults should also steer clear of riding children’s Christmas toys.

“If you don’t know how to ride a skateboard, it’s going to hurt when you hit the ground,” Dr Chant said.  Children choking on tiny toys

A children’s toy ring that falls apart very easily exposing the 3 batteries inside, a potential choking hazard. Photo: Stuart Ryan

Parents should keep an eye out for Christmas toys with small or easily broken parts that could be swallowed or stuffed up a child’s nasal passage by tiny fingers. Strings or cords attached to new toys can also pose a strangulation risk.

Loud toys blaring too close the delicate eardrums, and high-pressure water guns squirted at close range into children’s eyes were were also Christmas tidings to be avoided.

Liquid leaking from glow sticks could also damage little eyes.

“If you already have one the risk is best managed by putting it in the bin,” an ACCC spokesperson said. Poisonings

Salmonella, an unwanted dinner guest. Photo: Rocky Mountain Laboratories,NIAID,NIH

Unwanted Christmas dinner guests Salmonella and Campylobacter can be an issue if food isn’t frozen or refrigerated properly. Keep raw and cooked foods separate and make sure you wash your hands before and after handling food.

Parents should also watch out for small batteries and liquids leaking in toys. Animal bites

Spider bites were a common reason for a trip to the emergency department over the Christmas holidays. Photo: Rick Stevens

Be aware of children playing with pets, as even usually well-behaved pets may bite in situations they find overwhelming.

Insect, spider and snake bites were also common triggers for a holiday trip to the emergency department.  Alcohol mishaps

“Definitely don’t do anything that requires your full attention while you are under the influence of alcohol,” Dr Chant warned.

A few cold beers might be the difference between staying upright on that ladder or breaking a leg.

Watch you intake and drink plenty of water, NSW Health warned.  Burns

Stay focused around hot stove tops and ovens when cooking a Christmas feast. Photo: Supplied.

Pay attention while you are cooking and be aware when children are around. Don’t leave children unattended near hot stoves, grills, barbecues and cooking appliances.

Wear sunscreen, a hat and protective clothing, and stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day, and

Elderly relatives may also not cope well in the heat.  If you’re away over the break make sure someone can check in on them every now and again. Mental health check-in

Yes it’s a wonderful time of year but it can also be incredibly stressful. The pressures and worries of the holidays can trigger depression and an increased risk of self harm. Be kind to yourselves, and look after your loved ones.

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Man who withdrew $2.1 million after bank error wins fraud appeal

Luke Brett Moore bought paintings, cars and a boat with the money he kept withdrawing from a St George bank account. Photo: Facebook Luke Brett Moore was sentenced to two years and three months jail but granted bail last September before his appeal. Photo: Facebook


A bank account called “Complete Freedom” gave Luke Brett Moore a latitude he never expected.

Over the course of 50 transactions, the Goulburn man exploited a system error to withdraw $2.1 million, spending it on exotic cars, a power boat, paintings, jewellery and a framed Michael Jordan shirt.

Then Mr Moore’s freedom was taken away. He was jailed last year, convicted of fraud for having obtained financial benefit by deceiving his bank.

On Thursday morning, the NSW Criminal Court of Appeal found his conviction was a mistake and quashed it, finding no deception had taken place.

“Not guilty,” Mr Moore wrote in capitals on Facebook, following it up with a smiley face.

He had been 22 years old in 2010 when he signed up for a new bank account in a Goulburn branch of St George bank.

The first deposit was $441 from Centrelink but the account kept allowing withdrawals even when there was no money and by December Mr Moore owed $9000.

From there he accelerated.

The account headed further and further into negative territory and by August 2012 he owed more than $2 million.

When police raided Mr Moore’s home in December 2012, they found signed photographs of Bob Dylan, Usher, Guns N’ Roses and Led Zeppelin, as well as the keys to an Aston Martin DB7 Vantage coupe.

He had also bought a 2001 Maserati sedan and a Stessl aluminium 560 Sea Hawk power boat. Police recovered more than $1.1 million sitting in two bank accounts. A jury of 12 convicted him last February of both fraud and dealing with the proceeds of crime.

Mr Moore was obliged at all times to pay the money back.

“To be quite clear about it, the notion sourced in board games of a windfall ‘bank error in your favour’ is a very poor guide to the position at law,” Justice Mark Leeming noted in an appeal judgement supported by Justices Natalie Adams and Desmond Fagan.

Justice Leeming found Mr Moore acted “extremely foolishly” and dishonestly. He had known of the error and continued to borrow knowing he could not pay the money back.

But how had Mr Moore deceived the bank?

The Crown could point to nothing in the man’s behaviour that led the bank to continue to lend to him, the court found.

“The unusual aspect of Mr Moore’s conduct was that there was nothing covert about it,” Justice Leeming found. St George’s bank statements chronicled “with complete accuracy Mr Moore’s growing indebtedness.”

The overturning of the verdict came after he was sentenced to a minimum jail term of two years and three months by Judge Stephen Norrish last April.

“I must confess to some puzzlement at the apparent dismay of the prisoner and people who support him that he was found guilty,” Judge Norrish had said, describing the Crown case as “irresistible”.

Mr Moore spent five months in jail before he was granted bail last September, pending the appeal of what the Supreme Court described as an “almost unique” case.

Now his freedom is complete.

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AACTA Awards shape as a big occasion for Mel Gibson and a little-known teenager

Miranda Otto .. impressive in The Daughter. Photo: Brendan Esposito Mel Gibson directs actor Vince Vaughn (right) on the set of Hacksaw Ridge. Photo: Summit Pictures/AP

Hot contender for best actress: Odessa Young in .

Benedict Samuel and Sarah Snook in The Beautiful Lie, which is nominated for nine AACTA Awards.

Don’t be alarmed if you fail to recognise many of the films in contention for the country’s main film and television awards this year.

In a far cry from the box office hits in the running at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards last year – Mad Max: Fury Road, The Dressmaker, Last Cab To Darwin, Paper Planes and Oddball – this has been a quieter year for Australian films. The exception has been Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson’s intense drama about a conscientious objector who becomes a hero during World War II.

You might not have seen – or even heard of – the other nominees for best film: the timber town drama The Daughter, the coming-of-age fantasy Girl Asleep, the Vanuatu tribal romance Tanna and the outback western Goldstone. But there are some strong films in there, even if they had only limited cinema seasons.

At least, as the sixth AACTA Awards take place, there are two likely hits heading for cinemas soon in the prequel Red Dog: True Blue and the emotional drama Lion. And on top of Mad Max: Fury Road winning six Oscars this year, there is a good chance Australia will have both Hacksaw Ridge and Lion in the running early next year.

The big question at the awards is whether Gibson’s return to directing will be the big winner 20 years after he collected best picture and director at the Oscars for Braveheart and 10 years after a drink-driving arrest sent his Hollywood career into a spiral. Hacksaw Ridge leads the film nominations with 13 followed by The Daughter with 10.

In the television categories, The Beautiful Lie leads the nominations with nine, followed by The Kettering Incident with eight. They are both up for best mini-series or telemovie against Barracuda and Molly, while The Code, Jack Irish, Rake and Wentworth are up for best television drama. Here’s a rundown of the main film awards …

Best original screenplay While Ivan Sen is a chance for Goldstone and Abe Forsythe for the Cronulla riots comedy Down Under – less so Damian Hill for the comic drama Pawno – the likely and deserving winners are Robert Schenkkan​ and Andrew Knight for Hacksaw Ridge.

Best adapted screenplay Of only two nominees Matthew Whittet​ is expected to win for adapting his own play for Girl Asleep from Simon Stone’s Ibsen adaptation The Daughter.

Best supporting actress With only a limited range of supporting roles for women this year, two nominees for The Daughter, Miranda Otto and Anna Torv​, are up against Kerry Armstrong (Pawno) and Rachel Griffiths (Hacksaw Ridge). Otto had the most complex and demanding role as a conflicted school teacher and nailed it. She should win ahead of Griffiths.

Best supporting actor With Alex Russell (Goldstone) and Luke Bracey​ (Hacksaw Ridge) both missing a deserved nomination, perennial awards favourite Hugo Weaving (Hacksaw Ridge) is up against Sam Neill (The Daughter), Damon Herriman (Down Under) and Mark Coles Smith (Pawno). Weaving won this award for The Dressmaker last year and for Oranges and Sunshine in 2012, in addition to his three best actor wins for Proof, The Interview and Little Fish. He deserves to win again for playing the traumatised father of a war hero.

Best actress In a year of too few strong leading roles for women in Australian film, little-known Maggie Naouri​ (murder drama Joe Cinque’s Consolation) and teenager Odessa Young (The Daughter) are up against established names Teresa Palmer (Hacksaw Ridge) and Maeve Dermody​ (Pawno). The award is likely to go to Young, who played a teenager struggling with a family crisis and is still young enough to be going to schoolies, just ahead of Palmer for Hacksaw Ridge, though both would be deserving winners.

Best actor With two strong performances surprisingly overlooked – Aaron Pedersen in Goldstone and Steve Le Marquand in the gambling addiction drama Broke – two nominees from Pawno, John Brumpton​ and Damian Hill, are up against the more favoured Ewen Leslie (The Daughter) and Spider-Man’s Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge). Leslie would be just as deserving but Garfield is the likely winner.

Best director Bentley Dean and Martin Butler collaborated impressively with a Vanuatu tribe for Tanna, Ivan Sen again proved his quality as a filmmaker exploring Indigenous themes with Goldstone and Rosemary Myers made a promising debut with the inventive Girl Asleep. But with his first film since Apocalypto a decade ago, Mel Gibson proved he is a world-class director with Hacksaw Ridge. He is both a likely and deserving winner.

Best film While Down Under deserved to be nominated, there are cases for Goldstone and Tanna to win – less so Girl Asleep and The Daughter – but the top award in Australian film should go to Hacksaw Ridge – an intense, violent and moving drama that looks much more impressive on screen than it should for its budget. After a Mad Max film dominated the awards last year, this should be the year of the actor who was the original Mad Max.

The film’s success should not stop there with Hacksaw Ridge also likely to win best cinematography, editing, sound, production design and possibly costume design.

With the craft awards on next Monday, the AACTA Awards are on Wednesday, broadcast on the Seven Network at 8.30pm.

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Human headline explains rotten backpacker tax politics

Key crossbench Senator Derryn Hinch.VICTORIAN Senator Derryn Hinch faced media today, to answer questions about his shock support for a 13 per cent rate, shared with other crossbench Senators Jaqui Lambie and One Nation’s Rod Culleton.

Senator Hinch startled the federal government yesterday when he voted with Labor and the Greens and other crossbenchers to block an anticipated 15pc tax rate compromise from passing parliament, sending shockwaves throughout the farming sector.

He voted with Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie and WA One Nation Senator Rod Culleton to support a 10.5pc rate sparking anger from farmers that had asked the matter to be resolved, following a year of intense lobbying to avoid a 32.5pc rate.

Today, Senator Hinch said he wanted to “dispel one myth that’s being on around here about why I reneged on the government”.

“I got into the chamber yesterday morning and realised that the 15pc could not pass, even with my vote because the 10.5ers, as I call them, they had Lambie, Culleton and to my surprise they had (NSW Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm),” he said.

“So suddenly my vote for the government wouldn’t happen.

“All I want to do is to get a deal done, at some figure.

“I didn’t care if it was 10 or if it was 15.

“I originally voted for the 19, and at The Lodge on the Sunday night I said to the Treasurer, ‘Hey, I think you may have to come down to 15 and I can go with that’ and he said, ‘No, it’s not possible – we can’t do that’.

“And while I’m giving a press conference on Monday saying I could go down to 15, he is giving a press conference saying that they had, so the 15 figure doesn’t fuss me.

“With Senator Culleton and now Senator Lambie – she he has come up heaps – we’ve come up 2.5 points – why can’t the government come down 2 points?”

Senator Hinch said the PM had asked, during talks after yesterday’s shock vote, if there was any negotiation on 15pc and told him, ‘No .13pc is it’.

He said he’d also put a proposition to the Treasurer last night to postpone the tax increase until August and then “come in with your gun’s blazing and try it again”.

“That way this season’s crop all gets picked and we all go home and have a good Christmas,” he said.

“Last night the Treasurer told me that was not on so we’ll just keep putting things on the table if that’s not on.”

Senator Hinch said with the “concurrence” of farmers, the government had happily postponed the tax increase for some months, at the federal election, and there was “no reason why they could not postpone it again”.

“We shook hands at the end of it and I wished him a merry Christmas,” he said.

Asked if all members of parliament would have rotten fruit on their hands, if the backpacker tax didn’t pass this week, forcing the rate to hit 32.5pc on January 1, he said, “Well, if that’s the thing, so be it”.

Senator Hinch the 13pc would not pass through parliament as the government and PM were, “very firm this morning; that’s the way it is”.

The government reached a deal late today, with the Greens, to pass the backpacker tax at 15pc with an added $100m for Landcare funding and changes to superannuation payments, which they say equates to an effective 13pc rate.

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