Canberra MP mounts argument for newspaper subsidies

The Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh.A Canberra politician will today make the case for subsidies for quality newspapers to overcome what he calls an inequality in political information.
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Andrew Leigh says technological changes in media have led to a greater gap between engaged and disengaged people than ever before.

The Labor MP for Fraser believes university journalism schools should produce more public interest journalism as another way to overcome the inequality.

He will give his views on the media in a speech at the University of Canberra, where he's expected to criticise the dominance of comment in news media, the use of anonymous contributions and a trend toward shallowness in reporting.

Dr Leigh says such a proposal would have to pass a reasonable cost-benefit test.

''But I am inclined to think that the benefit of a better-informed public would be likely to justify the cost of the subsidy,'' he says.

''In implementing such a proposal, it would be important to think about how to ensure that public money increased the amount of political information among those who are disengaged from politics.'' Dr Leigh says that for engaged citizens, the media is more abundant, diverse and accessible than in the past but, taken as a whole, the media has become more opinionated, nastier and shallower.

''The shift has not taken place because individual journalists have grown horns and forked tongues, but because the technological changes have privileged those kinds of voices,'' he says.

''There are two features of the technological shift in the mass media today that have accentuated the nastiness in political reporting - competition from online outlets and anonymity.'' Dr Leigh is concerned that the new political news websites that have emerged over recent decades are dominated by comment.

Dr Leigh says a major reason for the media shifting towards shallow reporting is the rise of television and the decline of newspapers.

''By international standards, the Australian media, particularly our newspapers, are not especially competitive, so competition from new outlets has come as a particular shock to incumbent players in the Australian media market,'' he says.

While studying at Sydney University, Dr Leigh wrote for the student newspaper for one year.

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Mackay has to settle for double at Maitland

Gold Trump (number 5) won by a head from Hot One’s to take out the Maitland Mercury Maiden for Jason Mackay at the Maitland Showground on Thursday. Richmond Vale trainer Jason Mackay had to be content with a place in the Winter Cup Final at Albion Park on Thursday night although he was able to claim two wins at Maitland including victory in the Rod Higgins Bookmaker Mixed Final.
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While his two charges Zipping Catra and Young Snozz ran third and fourth respectively in Brisbane to Glen Gallon in the final of the Winter Cup, Fancy Tip was far too good for the rest at Maitland as the white and black dog won by almost four lengths.

Despite running slower than its winning heat time of last week, Fancy Tip’s 25.48 second effort was still enough for the $1.60 favourite to score a comfortably victory and the $1500 winners cheque for Mackay.

The win gave Fancy Tip the second victory of its five race career, while heat one winner White Ninja ran second in the final for Sawyers Gully trainer Terry Priest.

Darren Sultana’s Krunch Period finished third.

Mackay’s other win for the evening came in the Mercury Maiden in race two, with Gold Trump getting home by a head from Hot One’s.

The black dog was a $1.40 favourite to claim the first win of its career and duly saluted in a time of 25.70 seconds.

There were also three heats of the Rural Cup run with Christine Proctor’s Perfected blitzing the field in heat three, winning by almost seven lengths from My Girl Lollypop in a time of 25.37 seconds.

Sands A Flyin’ scored a major upset in heat two, paying $44.50 for the win while Son Of Vieri held off Awesome Rogan by a head to win heat one in a time of 25.84 seconds.

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Swan to remind all who’s the boss

Treasurer Wayne Swan draws inspiration from his personal rock idol Bruce SpringsteenTreasurer Wayne Swan has searched deep within himself to draw inspiration from his personal rock idol Bruce Springsteen as he ramps up his criticism of Australia’s richest and most outspoken mining magnates.
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When Mr Swan talks about The Boss he isn’t referring to Prime Minister Julia Gillard but rather the American rocker who the Treasurer sees as some kind of prophetic soothsayer who had long predicted the decline of the American economy.

Delivering the John Button Lecture in Melbourne tonight Mr Swan, who is currently Acting Prime Minister, will reveal his inner cool to expound on the wisdom of Springsteen and urge Australia to heed the warnings of The Boss’s music.

‘‘If I could distil the relevance of Bruce Springsteen’s music to Australia it would be this: don’t let what has happened to the American economy happen here,’’ he will say.

‘‘Don’t let Australia become a down-under version of New Jersey, where the people and the communities whose skills are no longer in demand get thrown on the scrap heap of life.’’

Mr Swan will reveal to his audience just how much he knows about Springsteen by quoting from lyrics and dropping album titles into his speech.

He says Springsteen observed the ‘‘big changes going on in the American working class’’ and used his songs to champion the causes of ordinary people.

‘‘You can hear Springsteen singing about the shifting foundations of the US economy, which the economists took much longer to detect, and which of course everyone is talking about now,’’ Mr Swan says.

The Treasurer says nothing has fuelled his public life more than pursuing a fair go for working Australians – and he says it is the same for Ms Gillard, who also lists Springsteen as her favourite.

Mr Swan uses not only Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and Australia’s own Cold Chisel and Midnight Oil as examples of musicians standing up for the working class.

Which, he says, is exactly what he has been doing by criticising the actions and motives of Australian mining billionaires Clive Palmer, Andrew Forrest and Gina Rinehart.

In March, the Treasurer wrote a controversial essay for iThe Monthly magazine warning against the vested interests of the rich, singling out the three mining tycoons.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott accused Mr Swan of trying to start a class war. But to tonight, the Treasurer will say he does not regret a word of what he wrote and said.

‘‘Not for a second,’’ he says. ‘‘In fact, my only regret is not going in hard enough, because every criticism I made has been played out almost to the letter on our national stage.’’

Mr Swan says Mr Palmer’s political campaign against him personally, Mr Forrest’s legal campaign against the new mining tax, and Ms Rinehart’s campaign to buy Fairfax Media while also refusing to sign its charter of editorial independence, all prove his case.

‘‘Parliament, the Constitution, independent journalism – all three are fundamental pillars of our democracy, being used as their playthings, supported every step of the way by the Leader of the Opposition,’’ he says.

Mr Swan will tell his audience that while some people with vested interests believe they should be immune from criticism and be feared by everyone else, he does not.

‘‘In the face of all this we have to stand up and be heard, because when the massively wealthy buy the loudest megaphones, the voices of the people are drowned out,’’ he says.

But he insists he has never disparaged individual achievement or billionaires, adding that most Australian entrepreneurs are to be ‘‘absolutely commended’’ for the risks they take and the wealth they create for the country.

But Mr Swan said his argument is only that economic opportunities should be created for everyone.

‘‘We can’t just quietly accept a situation where a handful of people can stymie economic reform which aims to spread opportunities to others,’’ he says.

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Ground closure plan passes test

Maitland City Council’s new draft policy on sporting ground closure procedures goes to a vote tomorrow night but it passed its first unofficial test on Saturday with flying colours.
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The Maitland Pickers agreed to be guinea pigs when it appeared the Mercury Shield clash against Kurri Kurri would be postponed because of the state of the Maitland Sportsground.

Pickers president John Thomas took a proactive approach and called off the under-18 and Presidents Cup fixtures scheduled for Saturday, allowing extra time for surface water covering the ground and its surrounds to be removed and for the playing arena and surrounds to meet agreed health and safety guidelines for the

remaining two matches.

Thomas and a team of helpers were at the ground early and used super-sopper equipment to remove the surface water and then proceeded with a check that resulted in the ground meeting an agreed point scale deeming it suitable for play.

Under the new policy, calls on potential ground

closures will still be made by council staff on Friday and clubs will then have the opportunity to undertake

necessary work to ensure their facilities are safe for players and spectators.

This will put a great deal of emphasis back on club committees as potential liability for injuries caused by unsuitable playing surfaces now will rest with the club.

Council’s policy is sensible and responsible, and it is hoped that clubs use it in the same manner.

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Women charged in under-age sex worker sting

Two women have been charged with employing a child at a brothel in Melbourne's south-east.
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The 66-year-old Bentleigh woman and 64-year-old Ormond woman were charged yesterday afternoon following a tip-off that under-age workers were employed at the licensed brothel in the Dandenong area.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said the two women were charged with causing a child to take part in sex work.

They were arrested by members of the sex industry coordination unit, which was established in February to investigate illegal brothels and gather intelligence about the sex industry.

Police said the unit had conducted three investigations into suspected illegal brothels operating in Melbourne, including one in Port Phillip. The investigations are ongoing.

The unit's establishment came after articles in The Age last year revealing that known criminals were operating brothels in Melbourne's suburbs because of lax enforcement by state and local authorities.

The two women charged yesterday afternoon will appear in Dandenong Magistrates Court on November 8.

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League’s in Jock’s genes

Jock Sullivan.There was no escaping rugby league for Jock Sullivan.
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His father Danny Sullivan played for the Maitland Pickers, as did his grandfathers Robbie Sullivan and Wayne Griffiths, while his grandfather’s brother Garry Sullivan represented Australia.

Now the 12-year-old from Telarah is making his own way in the sport.

Jock, a West Maitland junior, has been selected as the starting prop in the NSW Primary Schools Sports Association rugby league team.

The Telarah Public School captain was given the nod on Thursday night following a week-long camp at Narrabeen.

Jock was one of 17 players named in the state squad for the School Sport Australia 12 years and under rugby league championships in Mackay next month.

Despite being pleased with his performances in Sydney last week Jock was surprised when the announcement was made.

“I was shocked,” he said.

“I didn’t expect it all; I just kept going from stage to stage.”

During the last two months Jock has moved through school, Maitland district, Hunter region and state selection trials.

Jock will attend training with the NSW PSSA squad in Wollongong later this month.

He is the fourth player from Telarah Public School, which includes Australia Schoolboys representative Daniel Quinn, to reach this level.

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Ablett pulls intervention order bid over stalk, threat claims

AFL legend Gary Ablett senior has apparently withdrawn an application for an intervention order against a woman he claimed threatened himself and his children.
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The former Geelong champion was due in the Geelong Magistrates Court this morning to apply for an order against the 39-year-old woman he claimed had been stalking him and sending threatening text messages.

A court official said that the application had been withdrawn.

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Bulldogs win Mercury Shield

INSPIRATIONAL: Kurri Kurri’s captain Daniel Abraham was a handful for Maitland defenders, having a hand in four tries and scoring one of his own.“What a game.”
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The words of an exhausted fan exiting the Maitland Sportsground on Saturday afternoon said it all.

It was as tough, tense and exhilarating as expected.

The Kurri Kurri Bulldogs claimed the Mercury Shield with a thrilling 28-26 win over Maitland to further entrench themselves in the top five.

Heading into the round 13 Newcastle Rugby League encounter Kurri had failed to knock off any fellow top five team except Maitland in round two, winning 16-12 at the Kurri Sportsground.

And the Bulldogs claimed the double over their local rivals with a see-sawing win that could have gone either way right up until the last minute.

A poor start from Kurri saw a mistake on the second tackle of the game 20 metres out from their own line punished as Maitland winger Grant Clacherty grabbed the first of his double to give the Pickers a 4-0 lead after two minutes.

Maitland almost returned the favour when they knocked on coming out of their own end, only for Kurri to have a try to Shannon Tanner disallowed for offside from a pinpoint George Ndaira kick.

But Tanner wasn’t to be denied scoring in the corner in the 13th minute when he finished off a sweeping move to the right that involved good hands from Ndaira and captain Daniel Abraham.

Ndaira added the extras from the touchline to give Kurri a 6-4 lead.

Abraham was involved again six minutes later when he broke the line before drawing Pickers fullback Joel Osborn and putting Greg Sharp in under the posts.

With 10 minutes before the break Kurri’s lead had jumped out to 18-4, as Abraham this time grabbed the four pointer himself from a short side raid close to the line.

Whatever Maitland coach Ron Griffiths said at the break clearly did the trick because the match was turned on its head after half-time as the Pickers came out and scored three tries in seven minutes to take a 20-18 lead with 19 minutes to go.

Next it was the Bulldogs turn to strike back.

Another strong run from Abraham saw him push the Maitland defensive line back with Ndaira taking advantage from the next play as he dummied and stepped down a narrow blind side to score.

The match then turned for the final time when the referee pinged Maitland for being offside from the restart.

From the ensuing penalty, Kurri marched down field before putting on a beautiful set play to score and seal the vital two competition points.

Kurri player-coach Ndaira was presented with the Mercury Shield at full-time, while Bulldogs second-row forward Abraham was awarded the Mercury Player of the Match.

Abraham scored one try, had a hand in four others and was tireless and often brutal in defence.

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Fail: Josh’s ‘Benders’ page backfires

'Just curious' ... Josh Turner outside court.The creator of a Facebook page set up to rate the sexual performance of the residents of Bendigo that featured sexually degrading comments about people as young as 13 has been sentenced to a suspended jail term.
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Josh Turner, 25, from the Bendigo suburb of Kangaroo Flat, was also banned from the social networking site for two years after he pleaded guilty in the Bendigo Magistrates Court yesterday to charges of using a carriage service to offend and using an online information service to publish objectionable material.

Prosecutor Senior Constable Mark Herman said Turner set up the “Benders root rate” page on Facebook in June last year. 'Benders' is a local slang term for Bendigo.

“He has invited people to join the group and make comments rating their past sexual partners,” he said.

“He posted them on the wall of the “root rate” feed. The page was not blocked and anyone could view it.”

Senior Constable Herman said a woman complained to police on June 2 about being named and sexually degraded on the site.

He said the woman was one of hundreds of people – some as young as 13 and 14 – who had sexually explicit things written about them on the site.

Senior Constable Herman said Turner was arrested on September 18 and made full admissions to helping create and administer the site.

“He said he had not read any of the messages before posting them on to the wall because there were too many,” he said.

Turner told police he created the page “out of boredom” and because there was “nothing to do”.

Informant Senior Constable Cameron Dean said his investigation into the page had unearthed half a dozen similar sites and a “massive” number of victims.

But Senior Constable Dean said only one girl – herself still under 18 – was prepared to take her complaint to court.

Turner’s lawyer Alex McLennan tried to argue that might have been because none of the others were offended by the site, but Senior Constable Dean dismissed that excuse.

“I’m assuming they were a little embarrassed by it. They didn’t want to go to court, especially with everything that had been in the media,” he said.

Senior Constable Dean said it had been hard to investigate the crime because Facebook was based in the United States.

He said police tracked down the accused through a story published in the Bendigo Advertiser.

Turner confessed to a Bendigo Advertiser journalist that he set up the page and issued an apology through the paper.

Senior Constable Dean said it was this admission that led to Turner’s arrest in September.

Mr McLennan said Turner’s creation of “Benders root rate” was a decision made by a young man using poor judgment.

But he argued that Turner’s culpability was diminished because he didn’t write the offending comments.

“He created the page out of curiosity. He had heard of them in other towns but noticed there wasn’t one in Bendigo,’’ Mr McLennan said.

“Within 24 hours he had 1000 comments in his inbox and 3000 friend requests. He acted recklessly in posting these up without filtering them.”

But Senior Constable Herman said the offending was at the “extreme” end of the scale.

“This victim is not only a victim on the day it occurred but is a victim for life. She will have constant reminders,” he said.

“The community have been absolutely outraged by this. A clear message needs to be sent.

“A term of imprisonment is entirely warranted.”

Magistrate Ian Von Einem said a victim impact statement had brought home to him the serious effects of the Facebook page.

“She is a young girl, still in school... her name has been trashed and she is worried it will affect future job opportunities.”

Mr Von Einem said he wanted to set an example. “But given these circumstances... and due to what I see as some naivety on your behalf, I am prepared to suspended this sentence.”

On top of the six-month suspended sentence, Mr Von Einem placed Turner on a community corrections order for 15 months, including 150 hours of community work and a sex offender assessment.

- The Bendigo Advertiser

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Blacks on track

MOMENTUM: Maitland’s Hughes de Rocquigny carries the ball forward for the Blacks. The Maitland Blacks scored a hard fought 27-21 win over Lake Macquarie at Marcellin Park on Saturday, completing a Black-out across the five grades.
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The win was a welcome return to form after the Blacks went down 45-14 to Hamilton last time out, with all five grades posting victories.

Lakes had led 5-0 early on and extended their lead to 13-5 at halftime with veteran Blacks forward Adam Perkins sin-binned just before the break.

However, a resurgent Maitland came out quickly in the second half, leading 20-16 before going on and sealing the six-point triumph.

Maitland coach Geoff Golledge was delighted with his team’s effort, particularly defensively just before half-time.

“Probably the 10 minutes before half-time, they hammered our line and we held them out, that sort of gave us the impetus because we started like a house on fire in the second half, got ourselves a bit of possession and went from there,” Golledge said.

“We had a man in the bin for that period as well so we had to dig deep.”

Golledge said many aspects of his team’s performance contributed to the result, all of which were an improvement from the previous week.

“Last week we were a bit unfortunate in our preparation but we had a good week at training this week, we sorted a few things out and it showed out on the field,” Golledge said.

“Our enthusiasm and commitment were back against a tough opposition, we stuck to our guns and gutsed it out pretty well.”

Golledge was glowing in his praise of the entire team though left special mention for halfback Jono O’Toole and forward Dan Runchell.

The Blacks have a clean bill of health and will head into another hard game away at Wanderers next weekend looking for back to back wins.

“It will be another hard one, but hopefully that result gives us a bit of momentum and we can go again next week,” Golledge said.

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