Young Jet eager to rediscover best form

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By , 09/10/2019 18:46

Scott Neville KICKING ON: Scott Neville.

KICKING ON: Scott Neville.

NEWCASTLE defender Scott Neville believes he is ready to put his best foot forward next season after conceding he struggled physically and mentally in his first campaign with the Jets.

Neville played in 18 games last season after arriving in Newcastle from Perth Glory, but by his own admission the 24-year-old was disappointed with his contribution.

A lingering groin injury that Neville sustained just before the season-opener did not help his cause, restricting him on the field and gradually eroding his self-belief.

“Obviously it knocks your confidence a bit and you can’t play to your full potential, but I’m big enough to say that I didn’t play how I wanted to play all season,” Neville said yesterday.

“I had a couple of good games but just enough consistency throughout the season.

“It was just a lack of confidence and lack of form. Disappointing overall, I’d say.”

Neville, who played 63 games for Perth in four seasons before joining Newcastle, weighed up off-season surgery to repair his adductor muscle but decided that would be his last resort.

“I was close to having surgery, but me, the physio and the club doctor put a procedure in place where I’ve got to do a lot of extra rehab, a bit of pilates, and it’s just getting stronger and stronger by the week,” he said.

“I’ve been back in full training about a week and a half now and I’m just looking forward to kicking on.”

Neville was hoping to play “half a game” in tonight’s pre-season trial match against third-tier Newcastle University at Ulinga Oval, South Cardiff.

With Newcastle’s Young Socceroos Adam Taggart, Andrew Hoole, Connor Chapman and Josh Brillante and marquee striker Emile Heskey all overseas, Neville said tonight’s hit-out was an early opportunity to impress.

“It gives a chance for all the boys to put their stamp on their position and hopefully nail it down,” he said.

“It’s a test of our match fitness and also what we’ve been working on.

“We have to make sure we’re nice and sharp and get through the game.”

Asked about his plans for the coming season, Neville replied: “Just to be more consistent . . . this year I have to come back and show what I’m worth.”

Council cuts 90 jobs, The Loft, lifeguards

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By , 09/10/2019 18:46

NEWCASTLE City Council has wielded the axe and approved cuts to 90 jobs, The Loft youth venue, city lifeguards and a raft of other services.

One of the most significant and ‘‘blunt’’ budgets in the city’s history was passed seven votes to six by councillors last night.

The debate became heated at times as Labor and Greens councillors attempted unsuccessfully to wind back some of the more controversial recommendations.

Cr Tim Crakanthorp (Labor) said the council had adopted ‘‘a blunt and illogical budget’’.

‘‘We are cutting some of the most productive, efficient and highly recognised units, not only in this council but across the country,’’ he said.

Cr Lisa Tierney (Liberal) said the cuts were an important first step for the council.

‘‘Councils across NSW are facing a very precarious financial situation,’’ Cr Tierney said.

The cuts were initially proposed after financial modelling revealed the city heading for insolvency and underlying annual deficits topping $64million.

The council will now end financial support for The Loft but will attempt to find a service provider or charity to take over its activities by the end of the calendar year.

Professional lifeguards will not patrol Newcastle beaches on weekends, replaced on Saturdays by volunteers from surf clubs. The summer season will also be cut by seven weeks.

Lord mayor Jeff McCloy said the measures addressed a ‘‘major budget problem’’.

Cr McCloy ruled two amendments that attempted to provide discounted entry to city swimming pools out of order because the council had voted against similar motions within the past three months.

Swimming pool entry fees will remain unchanged next financial year but are set to increase in subsequent years.

Cr Nuatali Nelmes (Labor) also had a motion attempting to save The Loft ruled out of order. About a dozen young people who came to the meeting in support of The Loft left disappointed.

‘‘We don’t seem to be able to have a frank and honest discussion about those services,’’ Cr Nelmes said. ‘‘It is absolutely fair as community representatives that we bring up these issues in the forum that we usually bring them up in.’’

Council acting general manager Ken Gouldthorp said councillors could not propose ‘‘general’’ motions in relation to the budget.

‘‘If you want to provide additional money in the budget to retain services, you need to say how much additional money and where that money is to come from so we can change the document,’’ he said.

PNG ‘dirty money’ trail leads to Australia

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By , 09/10/2019 18:46

Sources believe up to $500 million may have been stolen from PNG government legal aid funds over several years. Photo: Glen HuntMillions of dollars allegedly corruptly obtained from the PNG government have been siphoned to Australian banks, confidential banking documents reveal.

Fairfax Media has also confirmed that Australian bank NAB recently increased its due diligence on some money transfers from PNG due to corruption concerns.

The allegedly dirty money stems from a corruption scandal gripping PNG that has led to the suspension of senior government officials and Prime Minister Peter O’Neill last month asking the Australian Federal Police and Interpol to help investigate.

Mr O’Neill also threatened to sack all staff in the country’s Finance Department after allegations in Parliament implicating top officials and prominent lawyers.

Law enforcement sources believe up to $500 million may have been stolen from PNG government legal aid funds over several years.

A NAB spokesman said on Tuesday that the bank late last year ”heightened our due diligence relating to some funds from PNG, as a result of information that became available to us through official channels in PNG”.

”Payments that NAB deems as suspicious will be blocked and reported as required by law,” he said.

Fairfax Media has obtained documents that show the leading lawyer named in the PNG Parliament as one of the architects of the alleged corruption scheme, Paul Paraka, has been regularly transferring large sums of money to several contacts on the Gold Coast and in NSW.

It is understood that one of Mr Paraka’s PNG banks has a business relationship with NAB. The NAB spokesman said the bank could not comment on payments made on behalf of individual customers.

On one day in October last year, a bank account linked to Mr Paraka wired about $80,000 in three transactions to his Australian-based wives and girlfriends, including one who lives in Sydney’s Star City casino complex. Between February 2012 and February this year, almost $3 million was transferred to Australia from bank accounts linked to Mr Paraka. PNG investigators believe most of these funds were corruptly obtained.

The ability of Mr Paraka – who denies any wrongdoing – to transfer suspicious amounts of money raises questions about what Australian banks, the federal police and the anti-money-laundering agency, Austrac, are doing to block or investigate dirty money.

The ease with which allegedly corrupt PNG officials and businessmen can transfer money to Australia is becoming an increasing concern for law enforcement officials in both countries.

Last month, AFP senior liaison officer Superintendent Steve Mullins reportedly told a conference in PNG that tens of millions of corruptly obtained money was being deposited in Australian banks each year. An AFP spokesman said Superintendent Mullins was working with PNG authorities ”on a range of complex issues”.

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Defence hit with another internet sex scandal

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By , 09/10/2019 18:46

The Australian Defence Force is investigating whether serving military personnel are linked to offensive Facebook pages that included grossly sexist and anti-Muslim posts – another blow to the military on the heels of the sex email affair.

Facebook pages emerged in recent days that appear connected to serving and former soldiers based in Townsville and refer to local women as ”sluts”. One of the Facebook groups is titled ”Big Tits Don’t Count If Ya Fat”.

One page includes posters stating ”Death to all illegal immo’s” and ”We have seen enough of Islam. Nuke Mecca”, with a picture of a stealth bomber flying over the annual Muslim Haj pilgrimage.

Another states, ”Thanks for burning this evil Quran”, above a pile of ashes.

A spokeswoman said the ADF recently became aware of two pages that made derogatory references to women. The pages had been removed, she said.

”Preliminary inquiries suggest that a small number of serving Australian Defence Force members have associated themselves with the two Facebook pages,” she said.

”Defence has initiated an investigation to determine if any ADF members are associated with the offensive comments posted to the pages. This investigation is ongoing.”

The emergence of the offensive social media pages comes at a sensitive time for the ADF, which is reeling from last week’s revelations that 17 army members, including senior officers, were involved in a sex email ring.

Members of the ring, which called itself the Jedi Council, filmed themselves having sex with women – sometimes apparently without the women’s knowledge – and then sent footage and images to other members, along with demeaning commentary.

In some cases, they included contact information for the women, so other members could attempt to pick up the women and have sex with them.

The ADF spokeswoman said the Facebook pages were unrelated to the Jedi Council affair.

She said all personnel from Townsville’s 3rd Brigade had been reminded of what constituted unacceptable behaviour on social media.

”Should it be confirmed that any serving member has made comments on either Facebook page which are contrary to defence values and social media policy, disciplinary and/or administrative action will be taken,” she said.

”Defence does not condone offensive and unacceptable behaviour, and such behaviour does not represent the values and ethos of Defence and the majority of its members.”

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Teachers blamed for stress of tests

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By , 09/10/2019 18:46

The agency in charge of national literacy and numeracy tests has blamed principals and teachers for pressuring students to do well on the controversial exams.

It says student anxiety stems from ”poor communications between schools and their communities” leading to false perceptions that NAPLAN is a high-stakes test.

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority has used its submission to a Senate inquiry to warn that principals’ and teachers’ influence on ”their parent community cannot be understated”.

”School leaders play an important role in setting the tone and expectations around NAPLAN tests,” it says.

The authority also takes aim at the media for heightening pressure on students and teachers.

The claims come as the Senate education committee prepares for its first hearing on the topic in Melbourne on Friday. It is investigating how NAPLAN – an annual test of the reading, writing, spelling and numeracy skills of year 3, 5, 7 and 9 students – affects teaching methods and student stress.

The authority acknowledges concern over educators who spend too much time ”drilling students” in the standardised tests, but insists it is ”up to the professional judgment of teachers” to avoid excessive training.

That schools feel the need to devote large amounts of time to test preparation says more about their ”lack of confidence” in their normal literacy and numeracy programs, the authority argues.

Greens school education spokeswoman Penny Wright, who triggered the inquiry, said it was irresponsible to blame individual teachers and schools.

”This is really head-in-the-sand stuff from ACARA. I think ACARA is in denial in the face of overwhelming evidence coming into the inquiry,” Senator Wright said.

The Australian Education Union complains in its submission that a ”high-stakes environment” has sprung up around NAPLAN and pressure on schools, teachers, students and parents continues to rise.

Separately, the Australian Primary Principals Association warns about use of NAPLAN results to prepare league tables comparing schools. It says the student stress, anxiety and illness reported by principals is unacceptable and teachers are also feeling the pressure.

But, the authority says, the positives outweigh the negatives, with the publication of school data on the MySchool website stimulating discussion and showing how schools have improved. It insists the NAPLAN tests should be considered ”low stakes for individual students”, contrasting them with the stressful standardised testing in the United States that can lead to American students being held back a grade.

The education committee will report by Thursday next week – the final sitting day before the September 14 election.

Senator Wright said that, due to the impending election, the committee should make an interim report and continue the inquiry afterwards to do justice to the submissions.

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