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Call for new approach to Asia relations

AUSTRALIA’S political leaders have been criticised by some of the most senior foreign policy advisers for clumsy handling of relations with Asia and slavish devotion to the US alliance.
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A conference held in the NSW Parliament yesterday by the Australian Institute of International Affairs, a federal government chartered and assisted body, heard calls from eminent diplomats for a more balanced approach to the rise of Asia.

The institute’s national president, John McCarthy, who has been Australia’s envoy to Washington, Jakarta, Tokyo and New Delhi, said Australians should not let themselves be led to think they have to choose between new ties with China and the military alliance with the US.

Most thinking Australians supported the ANZUS treaty alliance with the US, making it difficult to change ”even if we personally disagreed with aspects of it”, he said.

”But there is a lot to be said for paying our alliance dues only where it is strictly necessary in terms of the alliance – we don’t necessarily have to please the Americans, as it is often put,” he said. ”We have to honour the terms of the alliance, as a responsible ally will do [but] not say things or offer things that really aren’t necessary.”

He said the the announcement last November that the US would station 2500 marines in Darwin for six months every year was an example of what could have handled better. ”The Chinese and the Indonesians could have been forewarned, very seriously, two or three days before, and explained very very carefully at a very senior level what it all meant. None of that was done.”

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

Still in the dark, with governor on the defensive

Defensive … the Reserve Bank governor, Glenn Stevens, before the House of Representatives economics committee in Canberra yesterday.THE testimony given yesterday by the RBA governor, Glenn Stevens, about the Reserve’s handling of the bank-note bribery scandal was faltering, defensive and, at times, evasive.
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It was in keeping with Mr Stevens’s past appearance at the committee and highlighted again the need for a proper inquiry into the affair.

Mr Stevens was asked about briefings given to senior officers of the RBA in 2007 about bribery and corruption in its subsidiaries.

The facts are clear. A briefing was given to the RBA deputy governor Ric Battellino by Brian Hood, the company secretary of RBA firm Note Printing Australia. The briefings raised serious allegations of bribery and corruption, including the claim that a Malaysian agent was paying off politicians.

Earlier this month, the federal police told Parliament it expected serious bribery allegations received by a Commonwealth agency to be reported to police.

But the RBA didn’t call in the cops in 2007. The AFP were only called after it was reported by the Herald and The Age in 2009. Even then, the RBA didn’t immediately hand over a damning 2007 memo written by Mr Hood.

And, for the past five years, the RBA has chosen not to tell the public or Parliament about the 2007 briefings, even when the opportunity begged.

Instead, Mr Stevens has stuck to the line that the RBA was in the dark about the alleged bribery in its subsidiaries until the 2009 media expose´.

This week, the Herald and the ABC demolished that claim by publishing the contents of the 2007 briefings. The revelations expose a major corporate governance failure at the top of the RBA, as well as an inability to be open about this failure.

At the economics committee yesterday, the Liberal MP Tony Smith asked Mr Stevens when he’d read a 2007 corruption memo addressed to his then deputy, Mr Battellino.

Mr Stevens said that, according to his memory, he didn’t read it in 2007 but may have later.

He thought Mr Battellino “may have been shown a copy at some point”, despite the fact that the memo was addressed directly to him. But Mr Stevens said he couldn’t be “certain of that.” Despite the intense media pressure surrounding the issue earlier this week, Mr Stevens said he hadn’t spoken to Mr Battellino in the last few days.

Mr Stevens couldn’t recall if he was told about Mr Hood’s 2007 meeting with Mr Battelino prior to it occurring. Asked if he had read the memo in the lead-up to his February committee appearance, Mr Stevens couldn’t recall.

When asked by Mr Smith if it would have been in the “interests of openness” for Mr Battelino (who retired in February) to have told the committee during previous hearings about the explosive 2007 briefings, Mr Stevens answered: “I didn’t myself feel that that particular event was of the importance that you seem to feel it is.”

This was a remarkable answer: the “particular event” Mr Stevens felt was unimportant involved a senior company executive exposing details of the most serious scandal to hit corporate Australia in decades.

After just several minutes of questioning by Smith, Mr Stevens was thrown a Dorothy Dixer that would make any backbencher proud. Committee chair and Labor MP Julie Owens clumsily tried to give Mr Stevens an out by stating that his past claim that the RBA knew nothing about corruption prior to 2009 had been misrepresented.

Ms Owens claimed that because the RBA corruption briefings in 2007 dealt with Note Printing Australia and not Securency – and because Mr Stevens was responding to questions about Securency when claiming the RBA knew nothing – he was in the clear.

But Mr Hood’s 2007 briefings to the RBA dealt with NPA and Securency. His memo clearly stated that both firms were using a potentially corrupt Malaysian middleman.

Mr Hood’s briefings also stated that Graeme Thompson, the chairman of NPA, had authorised a payment to this middleman despite probity concerns. Mr Thompson was also the chairman of Securency. The 2007 briefings also accuse Chris Ogilvy, who was the chief executive of NPA and a director of Securency, of malfeasance.

But, instead of ensuring Mr Stevens faced appropriate oversight in her role as committee chair, Ms Owens went in to bat for him. In doing so, she appears to have followed the lead of the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, whose three-years-and-counting response to this growing scandal has been to say nothing and do nothing. By not confronting the unpleasant questions about the RBA and other government agencies that flow from this scandal, the Gillard government is rapidly becoming part of the cover-up.

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

PM tries to tame beast risen from the grave

“Indeed, every union has what it refers to as a re-election fund, slush fund, whatever, which is the fund that the leadership team … puts money so that they can finance their next election campaign” … Prime Minister Julia Gillard.What’s in a name, Shakespeare’s Juliet doth often ask. For shaken Julia, it seems, the answer is quite a lot. Indeed, just what is in the public understanding of ”re-election slush fund” may well determine whether the Prime Minister can extricate herself from swirling allegations that she acted improperly while a solicitor two decades ago.
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If she cannot, her critics will claim vindication in their portrayal of Gillard as a person of questionable trustworthiness and poor judgment. Her electoral stocks will further suffer. If she can knock the allegations into a cocked hat, Gillard will get her head above the parapet probably for the first time since the equivocal election, although she and Labor won’t be out of the woods.

Until a week ago, with mixed success, Gillard employed stonewalling, indignation, intimidation and haranguing to keep her accusers mostly quarantined to internet blogging in the matter we will attempt to outline here. Last year, she scored a humiliating triumph over mainstream journalists who attempted to report suspicions against her. But she didn’t count on her sacked attorney-general Robert McClelland opening old wounds about the extent of union corruption and recent corroboration from people well placed to challenge Gillard’s clean-sheet approach.

As a Slater and Gordon solicitor in Melbourne, Gillard advised her then boyfriend – an Australian Workers Union rising star, Bruce Wilson – on constructing a union facade, the Australian Workers Union Workplace Reform Association, from which Wilson and his AWU sidekick Ralph Blewitt allegedly misdirected hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The association’s stated purpose – at least according to a 1992 public notice – was to promote and encourage ”workplace reform” in construction and maintenance. But it wasn’t used for workplace safety and training. Gillard acknowledged this week she thought it was intended as a union leadership re-election fund where levies on union officials, and the proceeds of fund-raising dinners and so on, could be safely deposited.

In 1995, she confided to senior colleagues that the association was a ”re-election slush fund”. ”It’s a common practice,” she told them. ”Indeed, every union has what it refers to as a re-election fund, slush fund, whatever, which is the fund that the leadership team … puts money so that they can finance their next election campaign.”

On Thursday, Gillard conceded her slush fund reference, uttered in the context of a casual and jovial conversation, ”wasn’t the best form of words”. ”But I’d ask people to assess the form of words in the context in which it was being used in a sentence where the description of the purpose of the association, as I understood it, is exactly the same as the description I’ve given you here today,” she told journalists.

Gillard said her description was not inconsistent with workplace safety aspirations because they were key goals of the union leadership ticket.

Instead, Wilson and Blewitt extracted big deposits from construction and resource companies employing AWU members. Initially, the national AWU knew none of their activity but subsequently notified police of its suspicions and went so far as demanding a royal commission, a call that fell on deaf ears in the Keating government.

Wilson and Blewitt allegedly used the money as a sort of private bank account, buying a house in Melbourne’s Fitzroy, after Wilson moved from Perth, and spending on other activities unrelated to the association’s given purpose.

Wilson, who works as a part-time club cook on the mid-north coast of NSW, and Blewitt, who fled Australia for Indonesia (where he is accused of a land swindle) and Malaysia, have been investigated by police in Perth and Melbourne. Documents reveal Perth detectives wanted them charged but could not convince the builder Thiess to co-operate. Wilson and Blewitt have not been charged but the latter has told The Australian newspaper that ”sham” transactions took place and that he will tell all in return for indemnity from prosecution. An AWU civil action against Wilson went nowhere.

Gillard claimed on Thursday her role was limited to advice and not to execution, that she did not know what improper use Wilson and Blewitt would make of the entity she helped establish, and that she severed the relationship with Wilson in 1995 when ”I became aware that I had been deceived about a series of matters”.

Much of the more salacious, zany and explicitly offensive commentary (and invention) has been restricted to internet ranting – to what Gillard called misogynists and nut jobs. That is not a description neatly befitting Peter Gordon and Nick Styant-Browne, two former senior partners at Slater and Gordon, however.

Together, they are the source – intentionally or otherwise – of much of the fresh revelation. Gillard’s handling of the AWU matter angered some of her senior colleagues and she was interviewed on September 11, 1995, by Gordon and another as part of an internal investigation.

According to a transcript of the interview, Gillard conceded the renovations to her inner Melbourne home might unintentionally have benefited from the rorted union funds, although she doubted this. She provided receipts to show the renovation work was paid by her.

In a Peter Gordon-leaked draft statement, the former Slater and Gordon principal said last week the firm considered terminating Gillard’s salaried partner position but accorded her the benefit of the doubt and accepted her explanations. ”Nevertheless, the partnership was extremely unhappy with Ms Gillard, considering that proper vigilance had not been observed and that [her] duties of utmost good faith to [her] partners, especially as to timely disclosure, had not been met. Ms Gillard elected to resign and we accepted her resignation without discussion.”

But a statement by Slater and Gordon’s managing director Andrew Grech said Gillard took leave of absence at the time to contest unsuccessfully a Senate election and, in May 1996, resigned to become chief of staff to the then Victorian opposition leader John Brumby. Said Gillard on Thursday: ”It had long been an aspiration of mine to move to a political career so I made the determination to resign from Slater and Gordon.”

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

Revealed: the third man in the dismissal

The ‘third man’ … former chief justice, Sir Anthony Mason.JOHN KERR identified the former chief justice, Anthony Mason, as the ”third man” who secretly advised and ”fortified” him in the lead-up to the most divisive event in Australian political history – his decision to sack the Whitlam government in 1975.
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The former governor-general’s private records say Sir Anthony ”played the most significant part in my thinking” and reassured him he had made the right call two days before he dismissed the government on November 11. They also assert that Sir Anthony, at the time a High Court judge, was the author of a statement that Kerr incorporated in his public statement justifying his actions.

The record was uncovered by the Whitlam biographer Jenny Hocking, whose book Gough Whitlam: His Time will be published next month. Hocking says Kerr’s records suggest ”Mason was not merely the third man: he was, in many ways, the man”.

Kerr’s records make it clear that he wanted the extent of Sir Anthony’s role to surface after his own death but while Sir Anthony was still alive, to deflect his responsibility for the deception and dismissal of Mr Whitlam.

”In the light of the enormous and vicious criticism of myself, I should have dearly liked to have had the public evidence during my lifetime of what Mason had said and done during October-November 1975 … [but] he would be happier … if history never came to know of his role,” he wrote.

”I shall keep the whole matter alive in my mind till the end, and if this document is found among my archives it will mean that my final decision is that truth must prevail, and, as he played a most significant part in my thinking at that critical time, and as he will be in the shades of history when this is read, his role should be known.”

The account adds weight to the perception of Kerr as a weak man who wanted and needed to feel his actions had the approval of others. Aside from being portrayed as a constant confidant, the record depicts Sir Anthony ”as providing a necessary bridge between Kerr and chief justice Sir Garfield Barwick”, the book asserts.

It also describes how Kerr took ”the extreme step” of raising the possible dismissal of the Whitlam government with Prince Charles in September 1975, when they met in Port Moresby for an event to mark the transition to an

independent Papua New Guinea. ”Neither Kerr nor the palace ever revealed that, weeks before any action in the Senate had been taken [to block supply], the governor-general had already conferred with the palace on the possibility of the future dismissal of the prime minister, securing in advance the response of the palace to it,” Hocking writes.

Sir Anthony’s role in the dismissal has been the subject of speculation for decades, after Kerr noted in his memoir that one person other than Barwick ”sustained me in my own thinking as to the imperative within which I had to act”.

While the Herald columnist Gerard Henderson has reported that Kerr told him he directly consulted Sir Anthony before the dismissal, the detail laid out in Kerr’s private papers on their ”running conversation” staggered Hocking, who researched the biography for seven years.

”This was the discovery that I was most excited and, to an extent, shocked by,” she told the Herald. ”I was just astonished by what I read.”

Sir Anthony has consistently refused to be drawn on his role and, when again pressed by Hocking, refused to be drawn, telling her: ”I owe history nothing.”

However, Sir Anthony has written his account of what took place and has agreed for it to be published exclusively in the Herald on Monday.

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

SBW says goodbye to all that, again

Sonny Bill Williams has spent the week stamping out his emotions. He’s become pretty good at farewells over the years as his career has ducked and dived its way through Sydney, France, Christchurch and Hamilton.
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It will be thed same when the All Blacks run on to Eden Park tonight, sing the anthem, do the haka and get on with the business of defending the Bledisloe Cup. But don’t be fooled by Williams’s game face. Inside, he will be a bundle of emotions – just as he was during the Chiefs’ Super Rugby final win over the Sharks, when his true feelings came spilling out after the full-time whistle.

“It’s the same as the Chiefs – I’ve got to put all that stuff to one side, prepare as best I can, do all the homework, get all the plays down pat, do all the homework on Australia and see where we can attack them,” Williams said. “I’ll concentrate on that instead of getting all emotional because that could take away from what I’m doing.”

Read between the lines and you get the feeling the 27-year-old has come to the realisation he’s giving up something he has come to cherish.

“Skip [Richie McCaw] says every time we get in the huddle that there’s a lot of other boys who want to be in it. Sometimes you listen but you don’t really take it in. But that’s kind of hit me in the last couple of weeks that I’m going to be involved. It will really hit when the boys go away overseas to play but who knows what the future holds. Maybe I’ll be putting my hand up to be back in the mix.”

Williams’s All Blacks career will go into hibernation at 19 Tests. He will head to Japan, then back to the league scene in Sydney. Perhaps the greatest advance has been the way he has grasped where his individual talents fit within a team collective.

“It was a little rusty, but in saying that we were able to help set up a couple of tries just through our decoy lines,” he observed of his combination with Ma’a Nonu in Sydney. “He’s a dangerous player, it’s just about finding the space between us, and hopefully we do that this week.”

One person sad to see Williams leave just as he’s settling in is five-eighth Dan Carter. “He’s been huge for us and a strong ball carrier,” he said. ”He’ll be sorely missed. I would have loved him to stay and build a stronger partnership with him.”

Toby Robson

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

Tigers romp, Dons out of luck

Trent Cotchin leads jake Melksham to the footy.RICHMOND 5.5 8.11 12.16 13.24 (102) ESSENDON 3.2 4.6 7.9 8.9 (57)GOALS Richmond: Riewoldt 3, McGuane 2, Edwards 2, Deledio, O’Hanlon, Astbury, Martin, Nahas, Grigg. Essendon: Monfries 3, Browne, Jetta, Hurley, O’Brien, Gumbleton. BEST Richmond: Tuck, Deledio, Houli, Cotchin, Martin, Maric, Batchelor. Essendon: Heppell, Crameri, Watson. INJURIES Richmond: White (hamstring). Essendon: Davey (hamstring). UMPIRES Mollison, Nicholls, McInerney. CROWD 47,590 at MCG.
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HERE’S a little story about how luck has been treating Essendon lately. Stewart Crameri grabbed the ball about 60 metres from goal last night, turned, looked, took a few quick, bold steps and swung. About 18 minutes into the game against Richmond the Bombers were trying: running, chasing, winning the ball, holding Trent Cotchin to just two possessions. But as Crameri kicked, Steve Morris lunged, smothering the ball. Within seconds the Tigers had whisked it to the other end, straight into the arms of Jack Riewoldt, 30 metres out. No goal to Essendon, a third  to Richmond, and with it a 16-point lead.

The margin was still two goals at quarter-time and the Bombers were still hanging in there, still winning enough of the ball, still pushing into space, and starting to turn a few half-chances into three-quarter chances, against a team that was blowing a few. But as it turned out that’s all they were doing, holding on.

By half-time, Richmond was leading by 29 points. The Tigers had won 30 more possessions — all of them uncontested — and laid a lot more tackles. They had pumped the ball towards goal over and over, 42 times to the Bombers’ 23 by the time the siren  sounded, on track for the record.

Cotchin, slipping forward, was up to 11 possessions. Jobe Watson, after an 11-possession opening term, had just two. Richmond players were still searching harder for space, taking the ball forward and when they didn’t win the ball  the Bombers gave it back to them more often than not. Their defenders were under enormous pressure given the yellow-and-black avalanche, but on at least seven occasions turned the ball over and watched it get kicked over their heads for goals, caught bewildered and doing things they didn’t need to do.

Courtenay Dempsey’s very good season has become derailed in the past few weeks by his own frustration, an unnecessary behind-the-play headlock on Cotchin, after Cotchin had cleared the ball, giving up another inside-50.

The Tigers were not by any means playing brilliant football. Riewoldt was taking marks and getting shots on goal, but missing more than he was nailing. Their midfielders had worked their way well on top, with Shane Tuck and Brett Deledio prolific, without absolutely driving home their advantage. They forced many mistakes, and benefited from other Essendon errors, but were still able to turn a patchy start into a substantial lead, setting all the initiative. They were playing better, more organised football by the end of the half, making far fewer mistakes. They were running. The only thing they weren’t doing was putting the Bombers away.

A goal to Leroy Jetta at the start of the third quarter provided a little red-and-black flicker. Others, to Angus Monfries and the energetic Alex Browne, got them back to within 20 points, but Richmond didn’t want to let them get closer and was able, each time, to find a goal of  its own and keep the Bombers far enough away.

First came Dustin Martin’s long, emphatic goal. Then it was Riewoldt — having forced Michael Hurley’s move to defence — starting to get his timing right. His third goal — and another on the siren to Robin Nahas, after Riewoldt’s pass — meant things were basically as they were by the end of the third term: the Tigers in control, six goals up, doing what they needed to do.

By the end, the Essendon players were what they have been in the past couple of months. A few tried their hearts out; Watson, as always, was one of them, and Hurley another. A few in horrible form, but trying. A bunch that looks dazed and confused. A bunch that looks frustrated. A larger bunch that looks utterly unable to run or find a teammate by foot.At least one on the bench, injured.

Richmond’s ideal finish would have seen it pile on some more goals, extend the lead and inflict more misery than it already had. That didn’t quite happen, the lead extended through more points than goals in the last term as things petered out until Brett O’Hanlon snapped his first for the night.

But this is a team still learning how much is “enough”, and that’s exactly what  it got.

FIRST BLOOD

Nothing lifts the mood like a debutant booting a goal with his first kick. Nick O’Brien joined that club last night and he had Leroy Jetta to thank for it. A few minutes into the game, Michael Hurley kicked to a dangerous spot and Jetta took a fresh-air swish from the goal square. O’Brien made no such mistake, keeping his cool as Richmond defenders closed in and banging the ball through. He had four kicks in the first term, hit Hurley on the chest with one of them and appeared unfazed by the occasion.

SHORT FUSE

Courtenay Dempsey has displayed a short fuse in recent weeks. Last night, against the Tigers, he was punished again, this time for a crude tackle off the ball on Trent Cotchin during the second term. Dempsey has been something of a barometer for the Bombers – he made an impressive comeback from a knee reconstruction and was flying when the Bombers were hot, but mistakes have crept into his game as the team’s form faded.

COLEMAN RISING

Jack Riewoldt can still win the Coleman Medal and his hopes will rise if Matthew Pavlich’s injuries force him out. Riewoldt kept his hopes of a second Coleman (he won in 2010) alive with three goals to move to 59, one behind Pavlich. – CHLOE SALTAU

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

From Broncos to the ballet, Kalin’s in a league of his own

Leap of fate … Kalin Eade, 16, of Gunnedah, is aiming for the Australian Ballet but has been talent spotted by the Brisbane Broncos.KALIN EADE was not particularly popular with the girls when he moved to country NSW as a young boy and swept the floor in the year 3 dancing competitions.
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”I came from the Gold Coast and went in my first eisteddfod when I first got here and I didn’t really know anyone,” Kalin, 16, said. ”Winning most of the sections, the girls got a bit cranky about it. And in year 3 it’s like the world has ended if something bad goes wrong, so I didn’t have many friends after that.”

Nine years later, Kalin is captain of the local under-16s rugby league team, the Gunnedah Bulldogs, a rare NSW veteran of the Broncos training camp and showing enough potential to play one day professionally.

But, not long ago, the year 11 student came to a decision: he wanted to be a ballerino.

”They’re so different – football to dancing. Your body shape’s different and I think it’s to the point where I’ve got to choose either one. It could be life-changing,” he said.

As the only boy in his advanced dancing class in the NSW north-west and twice a choreographer in the New England Dance Festival competition, Kalin still has to contend with the bullies on the football field.

Recently, a group of boys on the other team ripped his head gear off during a game.

”I scored and they’re like … ‘He’s a dancer, he’s a dancer. Smash him,”’ Kalin said.

But the boy from the bush, who hopes to be accepted by the Australian Ballet, is not easily rattled. ”From an early age, he never liked to lose,” his mother, Linda Gallagher, said. ”He was very competitive, but always did his very best, so whatever he competed in, he just did it to the best of his ability. [He’s] always liked music and art and things like that as well as your footy,” she said.

While football runs in Kalin’s blood – his uncle played for Penrith and his father played rugby union – there is no family precedent for dancing or much creativity at all, his mother said.

Said she would prefer he chose a career with a steady income, but he must do what he loves.

”He played his football for mateship, really, and then just became very good at that and represented your school, your region, your state,” she said. ”But his heart’s not in it and he wants to pursue dance.”

Kalin, whose room is filled with football and swimming trophies on a small property outside Gunnedah, where a lamb bleats outside his window, said ballet appeals to his inner perfectionist.

”Ballet’s black and white. You do it right or you do it wrong,” he said. ”With all the other styles, you can interpret it in your own way, but ballet’s like, you’ve just got to be perfect.”

TV deal means the Super League era is finally over – Weekend Sport, Page 6-7

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

Outdoor treks no cakewalk for screen-agers

Tiptoe through the treetops … Olivier Kasteven and Angus Simpson do the high ropes course at the Baden-Powell Scout Centre, Pennant Hills.AUSTRALIA risks producing ”a generation of outdoor-illiterate adults” unless children engage with nature as part of their schooling, an outdoor education expert says.
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Associate Professor Tonia Gray, from the school of education at the University of Western Sydney, said that for ”screen-agers tethered to their computers or TV screens”, school-based outdoor education programs might offer their only opportunities for outdoor exploration.

”School-age children today are using social media, computer games and television for their entertainment,” she said. ”What this will create is a generation of outdoor-illiterate adults.

”Outdoor educators are already noticing that Australian children cannot walk confidently and skilfully in outdoor environs. They are unfamiliar with uneven ground, crossing rivers or negotiating steep hilly terrain. They’ve got absolutely no motor co-ordination or skills to deal with it.”

Outdoor education was needed now more than ever, said Scott Polley, a University of South Australia lecturer and representative of Outdoor Education Australia.

”We’ve had a major shift from general outdoor play to indoor activities and this has potential psychological and physical health consequences,” he said.

”Once we would have assumed that all kids would get dirty and play in the creek and enjoy just being outside in the fresh air. In parts of society, we’re now seeing a lot of kids who struggle to walk on a track or see a bug and are quite scared of it. The outdoors is becoming a scarier place for kids … we’re building up these ideas we have to protect ourselves from the outdoors, instead of immersing ourselves.”

Antony Butcher is a co-director of Land’s Edge, which provides outdoor education programs in Sydney, the Illawarra, Kosciuszko National Park and on the south coast for students from years 2 to 12.

”Generally, the opportunity for kids to experience the outdoor environment – and certainly off the sporting field – is diminishing,” he said.

Outdoor education allowed children to explore personal identity, community and the environment, helping them build resilience and encouraging communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills, he said.

Activities such as rafting, camping and bushwalking were ”a big contrast to the structured learning environment of the four walls of the classroom. The key thing is the … interaction with others and the environment that the activities foster”.

The draft ”shape paper” for the national health and physical education curriculum proposes that outdoor education continue as an elective in years 11 and 12.

With the final shape paper for that curriculum released this month, Associate Professor Gray wants the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority to stipulate that students should engage with nature.

But Associate Professor Andrew Brookes, of the school of outdoor and environmental education at La Trobe University, said the curriculum ”has quite reasonable provisions for outdoor education and environmental awareness. Schools run outdoor programs in quite different and diverse ways at the moment and as far as I can see there’s still plenty of room for that in the national curriculum.”

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

Fallen star quits the ride of his life

HE quit. Lance Armstrong, who never gives up, gave up.
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The man who refused to give in to testicular cancer, refused to be defeated by his own frailty or any drug-boosted rival in the Tour de France – and so won it seven times in a row – and refused to cow before persistent drug-taking claims against him by opponents, teammates, media and the US Anti-Doping Agency, yielded.

A last option, to go to arbitration, remained, but Armstrong declined. Most likely, he will be stripped of his Tour titles, but he said he would always know he won them, and so would the cyclists he beat. So he put a stop to what he said was a long and insidious vendetta. He had a life to lead, and causes greater than himself to champion, such as his cancer charity. ”Enough is enough,” he said.

Tacitly, his surrender could be read as self-incrimination, though his lawyer vehemently threatened action against anyone who took this view, including the USADA.

Armstrong laboured his innocence, again. But World Anti-Doping Agency president, Australia’s John Fahey, said Armstrong now had lent substance to the charges against him.

The trouble for Armstrong – and for cycling generally – is that the fight he has just walked away from was against a ghost.

He could feel the cancer and see his rivals, and be pretty certain of the moment when they were beaten, and so did not relax until they were. But drugs? Invisible, odourless drugs, almost untraceable if administered expertly, which meant he could no more prove he had not taken them than authorities could prove that he did. In sport, the presumption of innocence was forfeited long ago.

Slowly, a body of damning circumstantial evidence built up against Armstrong. Threading it was a certain disbelief that in a sport more and more exposed as dirty in the Armstrong era, one squeaky clean rider kept beating the cheats anyway, over and over.

Bitterly, he protested each new claim, saying it was insupportable, or sketchy, or sinisterly motivated – jealousy, vindictiveness, money, grubby plea bargaining. A US judge sided with him to the extent that he sensed the USADA was acting from less-than-noble motives, but said he did not have the power to intervene.

Armstrong’s bottom-line defence always was that he had been tested hundreds of times in dozens of ways and never failed. But everyone knows that might mean only that the tests failed. They had often enough before.

As long as Armstrong stood his ground, at last half the world was prepared to stand with him. He was and is a charismatic figure, an apostle of cycling and, for cancer sufferers, a celebrity. He was above suspicion because we wanted and needed him to be.

Now, all will review their positions. Armstrong said the system was loaded against him and he could never hope for a fair outcome. That was why he was calling off the fight.

But it accords with no other pursuit in Armstrong’s driven and fanatical life that he would give up just because it seemed he couldn’t win.

About Lance Armstrong, one incontestable fact will remain: he quit.

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

Scaled back: dying skill a note of concern for pianists

AUSTRALIA has a million pianos, but sounding the right note is an increasing problem because of a drastic shortage of qualified piano tuners.
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At least 65 per cent of Australia’s 250 piano tuners are older than 50, about 95 per cent are male and the industry has not trained a new generation of tuners for 18 years.

Many pianos last for a century or more with tuning and care. Nobody throws them out because not much has changed in piano technology since a century ago.

”You don’t have to be a Rhodes scholar to work out that we have far more pianos than piano tuners,” said Brent Ottley, the director of the only place in Australia to offer formal training in tuning. Mr Ottley’s Australasian School of Piano Technology in Melbourne trains about six to eight tuners a year, and gets applications for more than it can handle. ”Sadly, not many people wake up one morning and think, gee, I’d like to be a piano tuner,” he says.

Even if they did, they would find it hard to find a course, even harder to get into one, and impossible to find an apprenticeship. In their heyday, all the big retailers offered apprenticeships and serviced pianos in their workshops. While imports of upright, grand and second pianos jumped 11 per cent this year to 8642, not one retailer offers an apprenticeship.

Ara Vartoukian, a piano tuner and director of Theme and Variations in Willoughby, says Australia desperately needs new training facilities, and there is nothing except Mr Ottley’s private training. He taught piano tuning at the Conservatorium of Music in Sydney from 1974 until 1988 when the course ended. The only other course in Australia, at Preston TAFE in Victoria, closed a few years later. That created an 18-year vacuum when no training was available in Australia until four years ago, when Sydney’s conservatorium started a course, only to axe it after a year because of funding cuts.

Mr Vartoukian says Australia needs at least 10 new technicians a year if it is to develop a broad base of technicians, with a percentage who want to train and ”excel into” servicing major concerts and visiting artists.

”For every concert performance you have three tunings. And there’s about 100 parts for every note, and 25 adjustments you can make to every note to get it to work at its best efficiency, he says.

While some untrained tuners rely entirely on electronic tuning devices, he says the craft is part art and part science.

”Plenty of instruments can help with the science bit but they can’t help with the art part,” Mr Vartoukian says.

When it comes to major concerts, he says the ”ear is the most accurate instrument for preparing a piano for a concert”. That’s how he tuned pianos for artists such as Harry Connick jnr and the pianist Stephen Hough.

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