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Don’t mention Rudd: envoy’s past job ignored

Australia has a new diplomatic envoy bound for Singapore – but his past job as key adviser to Kevin Rudd has been seemingly airbrushed from his work history.
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Foreign Minister Bob Carr announced today that senior diplomat Philip Green would become the next Australian High Commissioner in Singapore.

Mr Green was chief of staff to Mr Rudd for 15 months before the former prime minister spectacularly resigned as foreign minister in February and challenged Julia Gillard for his old job.

Mr Green had also served as Mr Rudd’s international adviser during his time as prime minister.

But these roles – among the most senior diplomatic jobs in the country – were left unmentioned in Senator Carr’s media statement.

Asked if this was a curious omission, a spokesman for Senator Carr said his departmental experience was most relevant but he was happy to confirm Mr Green’s past job.

“In addition to his experience as a career officer in the Department [of Foreign Affairs and Trade], Mr Green also served briefly as chief of staff to foreign minister Rudd,” he said.

This is not the first time a former chief of staff to the foreign minister has taken up a diplomatic post.

When Frances Adamson was appointed ambassador to China in March last year, Mr Rudd mentioned her past job as former foreign minister Stephen Smith’s chief staff.

Alexander Downer similarly mentioned Innes Willox – now with Australian Industry Group – was his chief of staff when appointing him Australia’s consul in Los Angeles.

The announcement issued by Senator Carr said Mr Green was expected to take up his appointment in November.

Mr Green is a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and was most recently first assistant secretary in the department’s international security division.

He has previously served overseas as high commissioner in South Africa (2004-2008), and in Kenya (1998-2000).

In 2004, Mr Green headed the secretariat for the Review of Australian Intelligence Agencies. He was deputy principal member at the Refugee Review Tribunal from 2001-2002, and has served as director in the international division of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

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Students set tricky test for PM

JULIA Gillard stepped back into the firing line today when Braybrook College students tested her views on Australia’s education system.
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Ms Gillard might have hoped for an easier run after yesterday outlasting Australia’s “journalistic elite”. But she was afforded no such luxury at the western suburbs school.

Plucky year 12 student Ryan Higginson seized the microphone, taking the Prime Minister to task over her position on private school funding.

Earlier in the week Ms Gillard told an independent education forum that she would increase funding for every private school. But Ryan was determined to press the PM on her commitment to social justice.

“I just want to know how you can justify seeing no inequality in the funding of schools when private schools in upper-class suburbs are installing new swimming pools, football fields and underground car parks on the government’s money when us, in schools like this, and schools around these suburbs are learning in old portable classrooms,” he said.

Ms Gillard smiled broadly as the sustained applause finally died and assured the audience she certainly did “see inequality in our education system”.

“It is true in Australia today that you are less likely to emerge from school with a great education if you come from a poorer background,” she said.

But Ms Gillard returned to her afore-stated view that every child should receive government funding for their education.

Another year 12 student, Andrew Moore, took his turn for an incisive question. But his frustration was directed at the state government’s TAFE funding cuts. He wanted to know the Commonwealth’s plan to improve the options for people who “don’t see university as the answer”.

Ms Gillard responded by attacking her state counterparts. “It was one of those ‘I really can’t believe it’ moments when I first saw the reports of TAFE cutbacks here in Victoria,” she said. “I think at every level this is crazy.”

Year 11 student Eltayeb Eltayeb was allowed the final student question. He understood that schools should be accountable for their performance. But he worried the focus on NAPLAN and VCE results “fails to acknowledge” the broader contribution school makes to young people.

Ms Gillard agreed it was impossible to measure everything that’s important in life. But the things that can be measured should be transparent, she said.

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White knight saves Astor cinema

St Michael’s Grammar School has sold the Astor cinema, bringing to an end its much-maligned plan to redevelop the heritage-listed art deco building as a multi-purpose performing arts complex.
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St Kilda businessman Ralph Taranto has bought the building for an undisclosed sum that is believed to be less than the $3.8 million St Michael’s paid when it bought the Astor at auction in 2007.

“You’d have to spend about $20 million to build it today, but the return on it means it’s not worth much more than $2 million,” the 80-year-old Mr Taranto told The Age. “I’m not buying it for the return, I’m buying it for the passion, the love.”

Mr Taranto said he intended to leave the running of the cinema in the hands of current manager George Florence, and to spend a significant amount of money on refurbishments and maintenance. He planned to replace the pressed metal ceiling on the building’s Chapel Street awning, replace the power plant installed when the cinema was built in 1936, and consolidate the small shops at the front of the building, where the possibility of creating a cafe has been raised. “I think there’ll be a big difference by next Easter,” he said.

Asked if his intention was to keep it as a single-screen cinema, his response was simple. “Oh God yes. I wouldn’t buy it otherwise.”

The sale represents a major victory for the community campaign organised by the Friends of the Astor, a group launched by Florence in 2008 and incorporated two years ago (Florence has no executive role). Through social media, the group was vociferous in its condemnation of St Michael’s, claiming its plans to “privatise” a public asset flew in the face of its avowed commitment to community.

A petition on the website change南京夜网 attracted 13,702 signatures and much criticism of the school. High-profile entertainers including including Michael Caton, Tony Martin, Sophie Lee, Stephen Curry, Rove McManus, Tracy Bartram, Adam Hills and At The Movies host David Stratton added their voices to the campaign.

“It’s a stunning place and it has such a great history,” Curry said in June. “It’s not just the cinema, it’s the poster, too — without the Astor, there is going to be a gaping hole of fridges and dunny doors right across the city.

“As everything becomes gentrified and more modern and as all the small businesses get turfed out to make way for the big brands and the big companies, it’s places like this that remind you what the heart and soul of the place is. It would be a tragedy to lose it.”

St Michael’s unveiled its ambition for a major reworking of the building in 2009. Although it had not revealed final details of its plans, it is believed the school had engaged renowned architectural firm ARM — responsible for the Melbourne Recital Hall and the recent refurbishment of Hamer Hall — to oversee major works expected to cost up to $25 million. As community anger built in May ahead of a “save the Astor rally” planned for the following month, the school’s head, Simon Gipson, said the school intended to retain a cinema program at the Astor.

“The one thing [the school] has always committed to, right from purchase, is that it would protect the theatre’s historic use as a cinema,” he said. “No matter what the vision for the future was for the Astor, it would include that right at its heart.”

The school claimed a deliberate campaign of misinformation had made its plans impossible.

In a statement yesterday it said it had become apparent to the Board “that a shared community arts facility was no longer a viable proposition, and that a sale … was the best option for all parties”.

Enter Ralph Taranto who has been painted as something of a white knight.

Mr Taranto has been involved in the cinema industry most of his life. He worked for MGM in the 1940s and for Hoyts in the 1950s. He made his money in property development and bought the Brighton Bay cinema, which he still owns, in 1992. In 1999, he briefly had a deposit on the Walter Burley Griffin-designed Capitol Cinema on Swanston Street before backing out and buying the George Cinema on Fitzroy Street, St Kilda.

Earlier this month, he tried to sell the George, with an asking price roughly the same as he paid for the Astor, but it was passed in at auction. The purchase of the latter was not, he said, contingent on the sale of the former.

Palace leased the George from Mr Taranto until 2010. In 2011, he took over operation of the cinema, and renamed it the Aurora. “It’s always been my dream to run my own cinema,” he said at the time.

Less than two weeks later, he closed the cinema. “I realised when I opened it that I’d have to be there to run it myself,” Mr Taranto explained. “I thought, ‘This is madness.’

“I could do it, no problem — I’ve run businesses since I was 19 — but I’m 81 on New Year’s Eve and it would be foolish of me. So I just pulled the plug. If I was younger I’d not have done that, but I want to be a bit free. While you’re still well every day’s a plus, that’s the way I look at it.”

With Mr Florence at the helm, Mr Taranto feels the Astor is in safe hands. So, too, do the Friends of the Astor.

“We’re delighted that the sale has finally gone through,” said FOTA president Vanda Hamilton. “We believe that Mr Taranto will act in the best interests of the Astor and we look forward to speaking to him very soon in regard to setting up a trust to ensure that the Astor runs far into the future.”

Mr Taranto has not yet committed himself to setting up an independent trust for the running of the Astor in perpetuity. “That’ll come later. First I’ll own it, then I’ll fix it up, and then we’ll see what happens,” he said.

But Mr Florence is confident it’s not much more than a formality. “It’s Ralph’s and my intention to form a not-for-profit trust, and he will bequeath the Astor to that trust and I will roll my business into it,” Mr Florence said.

“I believe he has honourable intentions.”

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

Historic Geelong villa on the market

ONE of Geelong’s most prominent and historically important homes is up for sale for the first time in 67 years.
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The 157-year-old, heritage-listed Corio Villa is one of the oldest-known surviving homes of its type in Australia and is expected to sell for more than $5 million.

The grand prefabricated house sitting above the city’s popular Eastern Beach was ordered by Geelong’s powerful Commissioner of Crown Lands, who died before it arrived on a ship in 1856.

William Gray’s untimely demise left his ornate cast-iron mansion sitting unclaimed on a wharf for six months before it was sold to someone else and erected above Corio Bay.

Once the 12 millimetre-thick metal plates were bolted together they transformed into what Heritage Victoria describes as an “ornately decorated filigree guilloche . . . patterned with unidentified foliage and roses in the shape of Scottish bluebells”.

Or, put simply, a large metal home ornamented with a braid of wee highland flowers.

It is on the market by tender until August 25 and is expected to fetch more than $5 million, said Wilsons selling agent Guyon Wilson.

Greater Geelong’s median house price rose marginally by 0.3 per cent in the June quarter to $386,000 but over the year prices across regional Victoria have declined 4.7 per cent, the latest figures from the Real Estate Institute of Victoria show.

As property prices stay flat across Australia, housing affordability is improving, an index that tracks household income, mortgage costs and the price of housing shows.

The HIA-Commonwealth Bank Housing Affordability Index yesterday revealed an improvement of 1.1 per cent in the June quarter, or 10.6 per cent over the year.

“Excluding the GFC period when interest rates dropped sharply, housing affordability is at its healthiest level since 2003,” Housing Industry Association economist Harley Dale said.

Prefabricated residences were frequently imported from Britain in the 1850s to satisfy housing demand during the gold rush boom, Heritage Victoria said.

Shortly after Corio Villa landed on the pier, the Scottish foundry burnt down, taking the home’s moulds with it.

Owner Rosslyn McAllister said the fully restored property had been passed down through three generations of the family.

About 550 auctions and 500 private sales are expected this weekend, according to the REIV.

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

Three winners this earnings season

You have good days and bad days in investing, and earnings season has been particularly brutal. Yesterday alone, the top 10 movers on the ASX 200 put on more than 5 per cent and the worst 10 lost more than 5 per cent. Earnings season certainly takes no prisoners.
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Pleasingly, we’ve had a reasonably good earnings season, with a few companies we’ve previously highlighted performing well.

1300 Smiles (ASX: ONT)

The dental aggregator is still relatively small and has an enormous market opportunity ahead of it. So far it’s been successful in providing an opportunity for dentists who’d rather focus on their profession than running small businesses. Shareholders have also benefited, enjoying a 58 per cent gain since we highlighted its potential last December.

1300 Smiles manages each dental practice, taking care of the administrative functions and freeing up dentists to care for their patients. The company has 24 multi-dentist offices in Queensland, and delivered a 20 per cent jump in profit last year, off the back of a 28 per cent lift in revenue.

The company’s shares trade on a reasonably pricey 23 times last year’s earnings, but if the company can maintain its recent growth, today’s share price could well look low in hindsight. Investors need to be aware that the company has continued to issue shares to fund growth, and should assume that this dilution (and potentially a capital raising) could continue into the future, but that shouldn’t stop them taking advantage of one of the brighter opportunities on the ASX.

Automotive Holdings Group (ASX: AHE)

We highlighted the automotive sales group back in November, with the share price trading around $1.90. Thanks to revenue of almost $4 billion courtesy of strong growth from the automotive and logistics businesses, AHG delivered a 24 per cent increase in earnings before interest, tax and non-cash charges, and a net profit bump of 62 per cent. Shares were trading at over $2.80 this afternoon.

The company has benefited from acquisitions in both divisions, margins have improved, and investors were rewarded with a dividend increase.

Automotive Holdings remains a business that is inextricably linked with consumer and business confidence levels, and our interest in buying new cars from its 111 dealership franchises. The logistics operation provides a degree of diversification, but with more than two-thirds of profit coming from vehicle sales, it’s an investment for those confident that Australians will continue to buy new cars in the same sorts of numbers in the coming years. Despite the shares gaining almost 50 per cent in the past nine months, AHG doesn’t look expensive.

Woolworths (ASX: WOW)

Woolies disappointed the market this morning, with its first profit decline in more than a decade, but it’s a case of looking through the numbers to the underlying results. Almost 12 months ago, we highlighted the company as a good investment idea.

No one should be surprised that sales growth was moderate, and while the headline numbers were lower (thanks to a write-down in the value of its Dick Smith business), the company turned in a credible result.

For some businesses (like 1300 Smiles, above), it can be worth paying up for growth. For others, where growth is harder to come by, the price takes on greater importance. While shares have fallen a couple of percentage points this morning, they are still 13 per cent higher than a year ago and the company has paid out $1.24 per share in dividends – not a bad result from one of the safer businesses on the ASX.

Today’s price might be a little rich, but Woolies should hold a perennial position on all investors’ watchlists for opportunistic purchases when its shares are cheap.

Are you looking for attractive dividend stock ideas? BusinessDay readers can click here  to request a new free report titled Secure Your Future with 3 Rock-Solid Dividend Stocks.

Scott Phillips is a Motley Fool investment analyst. He owns shares in Woolworths. You can follow Scott on Twitter @TMFGilla. The Motley Fool’s purpose is to educate, amuse and enrich investors. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691).

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

Refugees from celebrity

BEFORE committing to the new series of the life-as-an-asylum-seeker show Go Back to Where You Came From, Peter Reith fell back on the politicians’ crutch – he took advice. He phoned his colleague Philip Ruddock, who told the former deputy leader of the Liberal Party that the show is genuine and that he should go. (The producers had already approached Ruddock, but parliamentary commitments prevented him from taking up the offer).
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Reith’s son’s assessment was more pragmatic. He told his father that he would be bait for co-participant Catherine Deveny, a comedienne and outspoken critic of the Howard government in which Reith held key and contentious posts. He was an architect of the ”Pacific Solution” scheme to process asylum seekers offshore, he made the order for troops to board the Tampa and was at the centre of the ”children overboard” controversy.

Despite some reservations, Reith signed up, which is how he and five other well-known Australians with strong views on immigration – musician and fledgling politician Angry Anderson, shock jock Michael Smith, model Imogen Bailey, former ombudsman Allan Asher and Deveny – found themselves on a dangerous three-week journey to the hell holes of Afghanistan and Somalia, retracing the journeys undertaken by thousands of asylum seekers each year.

The advice he was given turned out to be correct. On the first day of filming, Deveny, who at one point tells Reith he has blood on his hands, goads him into a discussion about Australia’s intake of refugees. ”I said, ‘Let’s say we take 13,000 now, we double that and then double it again to 40,000,” Reith says. ”What will you do when person 40,000-plus-one comes in? That is the question.

”It’s not a choice of being humanitarian or not. The reality is that at some point in time governments have to make decisions.

”I’m in favour of more immigration,” says Reith, who retired from politics in 2001. ”We have plenty of room for people; I think we should take more people. But in a democracy, you have to have public support for such programs.”

Indeed, one of the most salient points Go Back makes for Reith is the fact the show’s six participants could not agree among themselves. ”Where the public goes wrong is they say, ‘Those politicians, why can’t they get together?”’ Reith says. ”We couldn’t get six people together.

”For the public to think this is what politicians are like, don’t kid yourself, they’re reasonably reflective of the public as a whole.”

Stretched out on a couch in his South Yarra apartment, Reith bats off the suggestion his participation is a corrective to his reputation as a political hard man. ”I gave up [thinking] about my image a long time ago,” he laughs.

He says the trip didn’t change his basic outlook but ”certainly fills it in”. His first visit to a refugee camp in Kabul was distressing, and he was moved by the plight of the Hazara people, one of many that have sought refuge in Australia and with whom he lunches in a modest Dandenong share house.

In a poor Indonesian village, he was able to understand the circumstances of the teenagers who crew the boats used by people smugglers, some of whom have ended up in Australian prisons. ”They’re kids without any parental contact, advice or influence, roaming through Kupang, sleeping who knows where and ending up on boats. They’re kids who know nothing about anything. They don’t know where Australia is.

”So why Julia Gillard thought it was a good idea to start upping the pressure on the crew and throwing them in jail beats me.”

Overall, the experience of making the show wasn’t an entirely happy one, Reith admits. The producer, Rick McPhee, says the security situation in Afghanistan was more volatile than they had anticipated, the crew having arrived in the wake of an incident at the Bagram Air Base in which books – including Korans – suspected of containing hidden messages were burned by US military authorities.

Matters came to a head on the second day in Kabul, when McPhee says a robust discussion took place with Reith and the security team. It was agreed that Reith would come back if he was unsatisfied with the security provisions and that the participants’ passports and mobile phones would be returned.

Reith contends that the situation was far more dangerous than the producers made out and was exacerbated by the positions in which they were placed for the purposes of filming. After reading a newspaper report stating that nowhere in Kabul was safe, Reith asked the security team about the safety of the hotel. ”And of course there had been incidents in the past where the Taliban or insurgents have infiltrated hotels,” he says. ”The lives of people are at risk.”

McPhee says he was confident with the security arrangements, while noting that their nervousness is the point of the show – ”going to a place people flee from and to understand why they flee”.

”We wanted to put people in the shoes of refugees; living in fear and having little control over your circumstances is part of the experience,” he says.

Reith also questions the tactic of withholding from the participants information that could have made encounters with the people they met more constructive. One of those people is Rezai, a former refugee who was rescued from the Tampa, held on Nauru and eventually repatriated back to Afghanistan, where, he claims, his life is now in danger. Days later, Reith says, he learnt that the Refugee Council recommended he be returned to Australia.

Reith says he would have been prepared to publicly support the recommendation had he known. ”I had it in the back of my mind there would be a 1 per cent chance we would do something for someone that would be useful,” he says.

”A lot of things we don’t tell them,” McPhee says, ”because that’s part of the experience.

”The refugee experience is about not having any sense of what’s happening in your life. We’re giving them a taste of this. We know they will never be refugees, but that’s why we take away their phones.”

Go Back to Where You Came FromSBS One, Tuesday-Thursday, 8.30pm.

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

Court overturns guard’s jail sentence

The jail sentence given to a NSW prison guard who bashed an inmate has been overturned in the NSW District Court, with a judge finding the guard was “provoked” and “clouded” by a mental disorder.
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Terry Dolling, 43, was caught on CCTV repeatedly striking a prisoner in the holding cells at the Newcastle court house in October last year.

After pleading guilty he was sentenced to seven months’ jail by a magistrate in May.

In the Downing Centre District Court this afternoon, Judge Paul Lakatos upheld Dolling’s appeal against the severity of the sentence, replacing the jail term with a nine-month good behaviour bond.

Judge Lakatos said he did not think it was necessary or appropriate that there be a full-time custodial sentence.

The 44-year-old senior corrective services officer pleaded guilty to common assault in Toronto Local Court, but alleged that the prisoner, who was known to be infected with hepatitis C, had spat in his eyes.

The sentence produced a furious reaction among prison guards, sparking state-wide industrial action.

Judge Lakatos said that he accepted the evidence of Dolling’s psychiatrist, Dr Lucas Murphy, that the guard had been affected by a “depersonalisation disorder” at the time of the offence, which meant he was only partly aware of what he was doing.

He also said that the 43-year-old had been “highly provoked” by being spat in the face, which had caused him “serious concern that he might contract an infectious disease”.

“On a human level, I fully understand that a person would react very significantly against what had occurred, particularly when they may have been affected by a disorder,” Judge Lakatos said.

But the judge did not accept the argument made by Dolling’s lawyers that he should have no conviction recorded, finding that this was not appropriate because the attack fell into the highest category for the charge of common assault.

“This was a sustained and brutal attack,” he said. “The description of this act as ‘getting into a fight’ is wholly inapt and incorrectly employed in these circumstances.

“It is a fact that through one moment of loss of self control you find yourself in this position. That is a regretful situation, but the law requires that you pay a legal price.”

Dolling sat expressionless as the appeal decision was read, but afterwards was embraced by the large group of friends and colleagues who had come to support him in court.

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NAB makes social media gains

National Australia Bank has stepped up competition with the Commonwealth Bank in the realm of social media, with fresh numbers showing a surge in Facebook activity in July.
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NAB’s Facebook fans increased by 29,850 in the month to a total of 46,887, data compiled by the social media consultancy The Online Circle shows.

Through the five-week survey period NAB had an average of 29,569 fans, with an average engagement rate – the percentage of fans actively talking about the brand – of 28.9 per cent, driven by a round of promotions.

“NAB has exploded on the scene this month with the second largest number of total fans and a 175.2 per cent growth in their fanbase [in July] . . . second only to the Commonwealth Bank,” said Alan Long, a senior account director at The Online Circle.

NAB’s average fan count, combined with its third-placed online-only UBank average of 13,821, gave the banking group an average of 43,390 fans, or about one-fifth of the Commonwealth Bank’s industry-leading share of 199,708 fans.

The number of CBA fans rose by 33,074 in July, or 18.4 per cent. But CBA’s engagement rate was only 6.4 per cent.

NAB has a team of seven dedicated social media staff, covering everything from customer service to campaign promotion. The bank said it keeps customer service interactions within the social media channel they begin in.

“We have empowered our social media team to have conversations with customers in the same way they speak to them – over-the-phone or face-to-face,” NAB’s general manager of digital services, Chris Smith, said.

CBA, by contrast, has 14 people working in social media with additional staff on call.

Although CBA has the most social media followers of any Australian bank, they represent less than 2 per cent of the bank’s customer base.

“While we’re happy with [our leading status] we’re also not happy with it,” CBA’s general manager of digital and social marketing, Andrew Murrell, said. “We think we should have at minimum a million users if we have 9-10 million customers and a significant portion using NetBank every day.”

Overall, the number of Facebook fans for banks and the financial sector rose 27 per cent in the month to an average of 280,806, beating the rise in the travel sector of 11.3 per cent to an average of 358,672.

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Residents worried by traffic impacts of Parklea development

WHAT was considered the last barrier to a rezoning of land to allow a five-storey, 100-room motel to be built on Almona Street, Glenwood, was removed last month.
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Blacktown Council reports state the motel would be accessed by the adjacent Miami Street but as it had never been dedicated as a public road, deferred consideration of the planning proposal until the matter was resolved.

Landcom will now buy the road area, owned by Almona Pty Ltd — who also own the rest of the Parklea Markets site being considered for redevelopment — and dedicate the road to council.

The motion was carried on February 8.

Glenwood Community Association president Bob McKay was invited to attend the first community cabinet meeting held on February 27 and requested to speak to State Planning Minister Brad Hazzard at the event about the motel development. The request was denied.

“We had cold water thrown over us,” he said.

“They said that there were too many people needing to speak to Hazzard. From here I intend to write to the minister explaining our concerns about the development of the Parklea situation.”

Traffic impacts are among residents’ concerns, with people already cutting through the service station that is bordered by Almona and Miami streets and Old Windsor Road to access Balmoral Road and others.

“People from Rothwell Circuit and that end go through the petrol station because when they get to the roundabout it’s blocked up,” he said. “That’s a regular occurrence. If they do that [go ahead with the motel development] it’s only going to get worse.”

Glenwood Community Association public officer Chris Winslow said the suggestion that people would similarly access the motel from the service station as well as Miami Street in response to concerns about the volume of traffic on the road didn’t wash.

“Good grief, what are they going to do, check in at pump number six?” he said.

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Beaumont Hills lyrical tenor shines in new show

WHAT is it about Nelson Padilla and Jason Robert Brown’s musical theatre show ‘Songs for a New World’?
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The Beaumont Hills lyrical tenor will perform in the show for a third time from March 16, this time for Rockdale Musical Society.

‘‘It’s a very popular show, especially for a lyrical tenor; the range is sensational and the music is beautiful,” said Padilla, whose solos will include the musical number ‘On the Deck of a Spanish Sailing Ship, 1492’.

“It’s one of those shows, when we first did it at [Parramatta] Riverside Theatres [with the Lyric Ensemble] it was a sold-out production.”

Padilla first entered musical theatre in 1996 and most recently starred in the title role of Jesus in Lyric Ensemble’s sell-out production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. He works in the Castle Towers’ Apple store by day.

“I started singing in the church choir when I was about five,” Padilla said.

“I love to perform and getting that instant reaction from the audience, which you don’t get from any other kind of performance.”

‘Songs for a New World’ transports the audience through song from the deck of a 1492 Spanish sailing ship to a ledge 57 stories above Fifth Avenue to meet a startling array of characters.

It sits on the boundary between musical and song cycle, but is neither.

“There is no specific location, other than the human heart and mind, but the moments in life it captures are very real, very universal: the loss of a job, an unexpected pregnancy, the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage, imprisonment and more,’’ director Osman Kabbara said.

Padilla will play Man One of five cast members. In the original production there were only two singers.

“Each song [in the show] has its own story; that’s why it’s not written as individual characters,” Padilla said.

Man One’s songs are all about discovering and hope, he said.

‘Songs for a New World’ is at Bexley RSL & Community Club (24 Stoney Creek Road) on March 16, 17, 21, 23 and 24 at 8pm. Matinee sessions are on March 18 and 24 at 2pm. Details/bookings: 1300 244 523.

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