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Vow to lift school marks

Written By miftah nugraha on Sabtu, 15 Desember 2012 | 19.55

TASMANIA'S Education Minister has vowed to lift high school performance rates in the new year, amid mounting concern over Tasmania's poor rankings in recent national and international testings.

Minister Nick McKim, right, says he will unveil a bold new plan to improve student performance.

He has enlisted the University of Tasmania to work with the Department of Education to improve the literacy and numeracy skills of high school students, targeting the transition from primary to high school.

A year and a half in to the high stakes role, Mr McKim has boldly predicted academic performance will improve under his leadership, refuting claims Tasmania has the worst education system in the country.

Mr McKim provided an exclusive insight into the future of Tasmania's education system to the Mercury.

Despite Tasmanian primary school students performing well in nationwide Naplan tests, results for secondary students are among the lowest in the country.

"We need to understand why Tasmanian students are not performing to the same level or improving after year 5," he said.

"I asked the Department of Education to examine why, over a four-year period, the data shows Tasmania generally holds its own in national literacy and numeracy assessments [Naplan] compared to other states for years 3 and 5, ranking around fourth or fifth.

"[But] by the time these same students reach years 7 and 9 respectively, their comparative ranking falls to a position of 6th or 7th."

The same trend was evident in a massive international report released this week that showed Australia was doing badly on the world stage.

Thousands of Tasmanian students failed to meet proficiency benchmarks in maths and science, in results from the 2011 Trends in International Reading Literacy Study and the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.

Tasmanian children did well in grade 4 maths, science and reading but fell to seventh in year 8 maths and science.

Mr McKim said he had a plan to tackle the issue.

"I'll be making some announcements early in the new year about our response to what is a historic issue for Tasmania in terms of relatively poor year 7 and year 9 performance," he said.

"We are seeing some improvements ... particularly in primary school years and I'm confident we're on the right track and certainly I'm very much looking forward to next year's Naplan results."

Mr McKim said when he became minister he focused lon improving the performance of Tasmanian schools, teachers and school leaders.

"I'm confident the work we've done over the last 18 months will have a positive impact on educational outcomes and I think we'll see that as we flow through the next couple of years of Naplan results," he said.

"So many people say we have the worst education system in the country, it's just not true."

Mr McKim flagged an increase in regional high schools offering years 11 and 12 and said the college system worked best in urban areas.

"There are 18 high schools in Tasmania that already offer enrolments to year 12, mostly regional schools," he said.

"With feedback from our discussion paper we will develop strategies to better support year 11 and 12 in regional Tasmania and I would expect it's likely that that will include more schools accepting enrolments up to year 12.

"There are very different circumstances in regional areas. I think the college system works really well for the students who live in the greater urban areas."

Mr McKim said his emphasis on supporting teachers and principals was paying off, as was the decision to put Launching into Learning a program for babies to five-year-olds with their parents into every government primary school.


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Morning of the king tide

LAPPING: The water was high at the boat sheds at Cornelian Bay yesterday. Picture: KIM EISZELE

YESTERDAY'S high tide might have been a king tide but it wasn't a monster one.

The combined gravitational pull of the moon and the sun guaranteed a higher than normal tide, followed by an extra-low tide.

But for a king tide to transform into the highest possible tide, extra forces must come into play.

They include storms that can push the sea harder against a coastline, low atmospheric pressures that add extra upward pull and large waves.

Oceanographer John Hunter said yesterday's king tide stopped about a metre below Sandy Bay's Long Beach sea wall and a one in 100 year monster tide could reach 70cm higher, with waves splashing easily over the wall.

Cars parked near the regatta grounds would have got an expensive wash and areas of Sandy Bay and Battery Point might have resembled Venice.

Dr Hunter was an author of a report, used by the State Govern- ment for its sea level rise planning response, that found as many as 620 homes could be affected by the next monster tide, and as many as 980 houses could be permanently inundated by 2100.

Sea levels had risen by 17cm in the past 100 years and were fore- cast to rise as much as 50cm by the end of the century.

bruce.mounster@news.com.au


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Clean, green the way to Asia

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has urged Tasmania to use its clean, green image to take advantage of the Asian century.

Talking to the Mercury for the last time before the Prime Minister takes a break for Christmas, Ms Gillard urged Tasmania to play to its strengths.

"The things that you prize about yourself are the things that will drive you forward," Ms Gillard said.

"You live in a beautiful place with a fantastic lifestyle, with a real sense of community."

Ms Gillard said Tasmania was in a prime position to take advantage of the Asian century.

"I think Tasmania can be a region of prosperity in the years to come," she said.

"I have laid out, for the nation, our plan for this Asian century of growth and change where we have talked about what this huge middle class the biggest middle class in the world living in Asia will want.

"When you go through the list much of it is what Tasmania produces and has available for sale.

"People in Asia with middle-class income are going to want clean green food, they are going to want great quality wine, they are going to want great tourism experiences not the package holidays but the unique tourism experiences.

"Tasmania is in a position to provide all of those things."

Ms Gillard said Tasmania's island state did create challenges with issues like freight logistics and health care.

"Being an island has come with disadvantages about distances," Ms Gillard said.

"[But] those disadvantages about distances are being closed all the time by the National Broadband Network and new technology. I think Tasmania can look to the power of the National Broadband Network, which is being rolled out in Tasmania first, to connect to the world and customise products.

"Customers can deal with people in real time right around the world.

"There is no reason why people can't be running a small to medium business enterprise in Tasmania and connecting to the world and selling their products and services."


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No regrets

Written By miftah nugraha on Jumat, 14 Desember 2012 | 19.55

WITH the Australian Test team training in the background, Ricky Ponting is a familiar figure at Bellerive.

But instead of being dressed in Test attire, Ponting is in the purple and black of the Hobart Hurricanes as international cricket moves on without Australia's all-time leading Test and one-day run-scorer.

Ponting, arguably Tasmania's greatest sportsman, says it was only this backdrop that made him realise his international career was officially over.

But while reality has set in, regrets haven't.

"I actually felt yesterday and today it was the days that hit me the most," says Ponting, 38 next week.

"I'm here training with the Hurricanes and the [Test] boys are out the back in the nets ... you sit back and watch the Australian cricket team train at Bellerive and I'm not a part of it. [But] I'm comfortable with it, the decision was made for all the right reasons."

It is a new era for Australian cricket as the Test team enters the post-Ponting epoch on his home ground at Blundstone Arena.

Labelled the country's best batsman since Don Bradman, the former teenage prodigy from the working-class Launceston suburb of Mowbray was grouped for a generation alongside Indian cricketing deity Sachin Tendulkar, West Indian stylist Brian Lara and South African run-machine Jacques Kallis as the world's best batsman.

While cold hard statistics made them hard to separate, a reflective, relaxed Ponting says the "big four" enjoyed varying personal relationships.

A batting purist, he rates Tendulkar as the best technician, but the flamboyant West Indian as the most destructive and the one more often able to win games off his own blade.

"I've never really got that close to Sachin, that's sort of the subcontinental way," he says.

"They don't really socialise much after games. They are out of the changerooms half an hour after the game is over, which is a bit different to what we do down here, especially if we have a win.

"Lara and I always got on well.

"From the first time I toured there in '95 we struck up a bit of a relationship then, even though I wasn't playing, and that's remained right throughout the years.

"We've always exchanged bats at the end of series with hand-written messages on them.

"I would say out of the three guys, Lara is the one I'm closest to."

ePonting's career is decorated with more jewels than a royal crown - World Cup victories, an Ashes whitewash, Allan Border Medals, most Test wins by a captain, to list a few - but there were also dark days.

He knows three Ashes defeats will forever be linked to his captaincy, particularly the 2005 series when an Australian team containing such greats as himself, Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath and Matthew Hayden lost the little urn for the first time since 1989 through a combination of complacency and some misfortune.

"Nothing worked at all. One little mistake generally meant we lost the game even an umpiring decision here or there, if it had gone our way, could have been the difference," Ponting says.

"As a captain, that's as disappointed as I've felt. At the end of the day my record shows I lost three Ashes series as captain, but that is the one I was most disappointed about."

Perhaps the biggest turning point in his career was also its lowest ebb. In 1999, he copped a black eye from a Bourbon and Beefsteak bouncer in Kings Cross - and a harsh lesson that no matter how talented, without dedication and professionalism, nothing was guaranteed.

"I was suspended for three games as a result of that," he says.

"When you have the only thing you've ever wanted to do in your life taken away from you, of course it is a wake-up call.

"Back then I was just doing what everyone expected that you did.

"I certainly wasn't out by myself that night, there were other blokes out with me.

"That's a lesson learnt. You wake up the next day and think 'how did I let that happen and how am I going to make myself better tomorrow?'

"That's a pretty simple thing I've lived my life by since the early days at international level."

He adds with a laugh: "I haven't been back there; I don't think I've ever been in Kings Cross again either, so I've stayed as far away as possible."

Married to Rianna with daughters Emmy (4) and Matisse (1), Ponting says he can now concentrate on being a better husband and father - duties he has struggled with because of the demands of international cricket.

"Knowing I've got such a great life away from cricket made that decision a little bit easier as well."

Another season with the Tigers and the Hurricanes is a possibility, depending on his hunger now the lure of Australian representation has gone, saying he would move home tomorrow from his Sydney base if Rianna would agree.

He will continue to work with his charity, the Ponting Foundation, maybe dabble in the media - "I've already told the boys to look out for that. I think I would enjoy telling people the way I saw the game" - and is awaiting a call from his beloved North Melbourne to talk about a possible board position.

He will endure more than enjoy a lap of honour today. Public adulation is not his cup of tea, but he is keen one last time to thank his local fans who supported him throughout his international career.

"Although I've lived out of the state now for just over 10 years, Tasmania is always my home and I've always said that," Ponting says.

"At the end of the day that's where I learnt the game and I still feel I owe a lot back to the Mowbray Cricket Club and Tasmanian cricket for the opportunities I was given at a young age.

"Do I feel like an ambassador? Yes, I do, and it is important for all people in the spotlight, like I've been, to take on those roles and want to be promoting your state or your club or your junior cricket or whatever in your area. I've always wanted to be a role model for people to look up to in Tasmania."


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Material girls are hot

THE women of Hobart are rushing to cover up on the beach and by the pools this summer, in vintage-style swimsuits.

Bathers with demure, flattering cuts are being favoured by women aged 16 to 60.

Retro rubber swimming caps are also making a big comeback, says the operator of Hobart swimwear outlet Ocelot, Kerry Roth.

"There is huge demand for these vintage looks I can't get enough of them to meet demand," she said.

"The swimming caps are flying out the door this year all ages want them. Mothers are buying them for daughters for Christmas gifts and vice versa.

"The young girls are embracing the 1950s and 60s bathers just as much as more mature ladies.

"Even though there is more fabric and they are showing less skin, they love them. Unlike previous generations they don't sunbake and aren't worried about tan lines."

Many are discarding more revealing style triangle-cut bikinis.


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My year in a tree

TREE-MENDOUS EFFORT: Miranda's mum, Glenys Gibson, visits her daughter, who has spent a year in the tree protesting about logging in the state's high conservation value forests. Picture: Alan Lesheim

WHEN Miranda Gibson started her tree-top protest in Tasmania's Styx Valley she never thought she'd still be there a year later.

But the former teacher says she'd happily do it again and has no idea when she'll come down.

Today marks one year since the start of Ms Gibson's Observer Tree protest, to stop logging in the state's high conservation value forests.

She lives on a small platform 60m up, suspended atop a 400-year-old eucalypt tree.

Her campaign has generated worldwide attention.

She has an online blog, Facebook page and has appeared on national news programs, international current affairs shows and in newspapers around the world.

The Observer Tree has more than 7200 followers on Facebook and thanks to solar-powered technology in the tree, Ms Gibson has been able to broadcast her message into classrooms, boardrooms and loungerooms across the globe.

She's spoken at environmental conferences and with school groups, spreading her message about conservation.

She celebrated her 31st birthday in the tree and has smashed the record for the longest Australian tree-sit, which was previously 212 days.

"To be honest, it was hard to know when I first came up here what was going to happen," Ms Gibson said.

"I don't think I would have expected to be up here for a whole year; I really hoped there would be that protection in place before now.

"But if I had to go back, knowing it was going to be a year, I would definitely do it again."

Ms Gibson said coming to terms with her isolation and solitude have been the biggest challenges, as well as coping with Tasmania's harsh winter weather.

She said one of the hardest things was the uncertainty about how long she would be in the tree.

"But even now [the IGA has been signed] it doesn't provide any certainty of when forest protections will be in place," she said.

"I have to take each day as it comes and try not to think too much about the future because I don't know how long I'll be up here for."

As Ms Gibson prepares to celebrate a second Christmas in the tree, she reflects on missed events and family milestones.

"A friend of mine fell pregnant and has had a baby since I was in the tree and I didn't get to be part of that," she said.

"But I have a lot of support from my friends and family, and the sacrifice is definitely worth it.

"There's a lot of people out there that didn't necessarily know what's going on in Tasmania's forests and didn't necessarily know the forests were still under threat. I get a lot of comments and emails from people thanking me for letting them know what's happening."

Ms Gibson urged the Federal Government to push through World Heritage listing for the Styx Valley, the Florentine and Weld forests.


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Cheap flights Christmas gift

Written By miftah nugraha on Kamis, 13 Desember 2012 | 19.55

TAKING OFF: Devonport Flight Centre consultant Ebony Robinson, left, and manager Lisa Robertson say cheap flights mean there is no better time to fly. Picture: Chris Kidd

HOLIDAY travel for Tasmanians is more affordable than ever, with flights to Melbourne slashed to less than $40 in the week before Christmas.

The discount fares are at least 90 per cent cheaper than flights available at the same time last year. But Tasmanians have been warned by airlines and the state's tourism chief to take up the cheap offers or risk losing them.

Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin said the turnaround was great news for travellers, but a reminder the industry needed to work hard to ensure there was enough demand to fill seats on new flights added by all major airlines.

"If we don't create the demand we'll lose them," Mr Martin said.

Tiger Airways has flights to and from Melbourne from December 14 to 18 on sale for $39.95. Earlier this week the budget airline dropped its flight prices to as low as $29.95 in the lead up to Christmas.

At a time when the cost of flights traditionally skyrocket because of demand, fares in and out of Tasmania have remained the same and, in some cases, even dropped.

In September the cheapest fares for December flights to and from Melbourne were advertised at $59.

Yesterday, flights were available for $39.95.

Mr Martin said this time last year flights were hard to find and came with a price tag of at least $400.

He said it showed the need for the Government's recently announced $1 million boost for tourism marketing to lure more people to Tasmania.

"The concern is about making sure that flights are full," he said.

"The hope was that we could increase the flights in a sustainable way."

Mr Martin echoed warnings from Qantas boss Alan Joyce, Tiger and Jetstar, who have said the extra flights will be pulled if they are not used.

A Jetstar spokesman said the airline still had flights to Melbourne for $59 in the week before Christmas and $79 flights to Sydney.

"Tasmania is an incredibly popular tourism destination and the response to the extra flights we added earlier in the year has been really encouraging," he said.

"[But] like all airlines, we continually assess demand on the routes we fly to."

A Tiger spokeswoman urged Tasmanians to plan ahead and book early if they wanted to secure cheap flights.

Local travel agencies, such as Flight Centre in Devonport, said the cheap flights had been good news for travellers.

hannah.martin@news.com.au


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Deal hits road block

STANDSTILL: The forest industry is waiting on the outcome of peace talks.

TASMANIA'S powerful Upper House is deadlocked on whether to support the state's historic $378 million forestry peace deal.

After a marathon 13 1/2-hour debate yesterday, MLCs were divided 7-7 as they called it a night about 11pm.

As it stood, seven members had expressed their desire to vote for the forest agreement that the State Government has promised will create a more sustainable future for Tasmania's ailing forest industry.

However, members opposed to the deal are today expected to push for a select committee to look into the legislation, delaying the deal for months and almost certainly scuttling the forest peace agreement.

If the push for a select committee is unsuccessful, the Upper House is expected to start tabling amendments this morning to cover concerns about sovereign risk, future protests and the exact location of proposed reserves.

Nelson MLC Jim Wilkinson or Huon MLC Paul Harriss are expected to call for the Bill to be overlooked by a select committee.

A select committee would not be expected to start until February, sparking fears forest protests will ramp up over the summer and timber company Ta Ann could leave the state.

Federal minister Tony Burke who announced an additional $102 million in federal and state funding for the agreement on Tuesday warned the Upper House members were taking a huge gamble if they were to push for a select committee.

"It's an extraordinary gamble to take with Tasmanian jobs," he said.

"Effectively it's daring a number of businesses to continue to lose millions of dollars or make commercial decisions which would ricochet around the entire industry. From everything I have heard, it's hard to see what the difference is between a delay to February and an outright rejection."

During a fiery debate, Upper House members were split between those who were scathing of the legislation, those who wanted to give peace a chance and those resting somewhere in the middle.

Western Tiers MLC Greg Hall accused Mr Burke and Premier Lara Giddings of scaremongering in briefings on Tuesday afternoon.

He said: "We don't respond to blackmail nor a gun to our head."

His call followed comments by Mr Burke, who said the Upper House had previously requested details of additional funds be presented before members started debating the legislation.

Mr Hall was joined by Nelson MLC Jim Wilkinson, Apsley MLC Tania Rattray, Pembroke MLC Vanessa Goodwin, Windermere MLC Ivan Dean, Huon MLC Paul Harriss and Elwick MLC Adriana Taylor.

All indicated they'd vote against the legislation.

However, Hobart MLC Rob Valentine was the first yesterday to pledge support for the Bill arguing there was no alternative.

Others to pledge their initial support were Launceston MLC Rosemary Armitage, Derwent MLC Craig Farrell, Rosevears MLC Kerry Finch, Murchison MLC Ruth Forrest, Mersey MLC Mike Gaffney and Rumney MLC Tony Mulder.

matthew.smith@news.com.au


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Three generations of abuse

AN AGED pensioner has been jailed for abusing three generations of young girls from his own family over a 45-year period.

The 79-year-old southern Tasmanian man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, appeared in the Supreme Court in Hobart today.

He pleaded guilty to four counts of indecent assault, four counts of maintaining a sexual relationship with a young person, one count of attempted rape and two counts of aggravated sexual assault.

Crown Prosecutor Linda Mason told the court the man had abused his sister, daughters, granddaughters and a niece.

At the time of his crimes, they were all aged under 13.

The man abused his sister in the mid-1950. He went on to abuse his daughters on an almost weekly basis in the mid-1960s.

He had sexual intercourse with one of his daughters, aged 11 or 12, on three occasions while he pretended to be tucking her into bed.

The man abused another daughter aged between 10 and 13 in the early 1970s, a niece aged seven or eight, and four granddaughters aged six and seven between 1986 and 1997.

Ms Mason said the man has been confronted about the abuse some years ago and had admitted touching his daughters.

His wife was also aware of his offending around the time but the secret had been kept within the family because he had agreed to get help, she said.

After several of his victims gave statements last year, the man was interviewed by police and admitted the bulk of his offending.

The court heard the man had admitted to investigating officers he still found young girls attractive.

His lawyer Amber Mignot said he accepted he was likely to spend much of the remainder of his life in custody.

"The defendant's conduct has wreaked havoc on his family and caused incredible harm," Justice Peter Evans said.

Justice Evans jailed the man for nine years, with a non-parole period of four-and-a-half years.

The man will be placed on the sex offenders register for 10 years upon his release.


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Jobs go at dogs' home

Written By miftah nugraha on Rabu, 12 Desember 2012 | 19.55

In a bid to show the value of homeless dogs, the NZ RSPCA has trained three to drive a car. "Don't dogs this smart deserve a home?" they say.

TWO staff have been made redundant and more may follow as the Dogs' Homes of Tasmania faces skyrocketing costs.

The organisation said it was struggling to survive and has made an unprecedented plea for help from the public, councils and government.

President John Gray said power bills that had quadrupled in two years, wages and the policy of not terminating rehomeable dogs had all contributed.

Investment income had fallen and new water bills had also compounded the financial issues.

Mr Gray said it threw a cloud over the future of the 5000-plus dogs seen by the three homes in the state every year.

"Expenses are increasing at the same time as the income stream is decreasing," Mr Gray said.

"The stark reality is we have to restructure and reduce expenditure to survive."

Mr Gray said unregistered breeding and pet shops were a major pressure.

"I've got a strong belief that it's the backyard breeding [creating the dumping surge]," he said.

"And go to any shopping centre and you'll see dogs for sale.

"The puppies are lovely but then people find it difficult to pay for a vet and food."

Mr Gray said there was no plan to reverse the policy of sparing rehomeable dogs.

The Tasmanian Canine Defence League runs homes in Hobart, Devonport and Burnie and provides services for nine councils.

Mr Gray and chief executive Robert Broadway are looking at how costs could be cut.

Mr Broadway said income from councils and adoption fees had never covered operating costs.

"As a result of rising costs and the growing number of dogs in our care, we now face our biggest financial challenge ever ... we are being forced to cut costs but at the same time we don't want to reduce the services," Mr Broadway said.

The news comes only months after the RSPCA was thrown into fresh turmoil amid management concerns.

The homes do not receive government funding except occasional grants.

michelle.paine@news.com.au


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Last-ditch $102m for forest deal

TASMANIA'S historic forest peace deal has been thrown an extra $102 million in a last-ditch effort to get the legislation underpinning the deal through the Upper House.

The State Government will go further into deficit by contributing $39.5 million to the deal.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke, right, said the Commonwealth would provide an extra $62.5 million.

The money is in addition to $276 million already set aside for the deal.

 About $140 million of that has been spent, leaving about $240 million of funding in the hands of Tasmania's Upper House after signatories agreed yesterday the extra money was all they needed to honour the forest peace deal.

Further money to compensate timber company Ta Ann for reducing its peeler quota will be determined soon.

Mr Burke joined Deputy Premier Bryan Green for the announcement yesterday.

He flew into Hobart to discuss the funding with members of the Upper House before they began debating the legislation about 7pm.

After about an hour the debate was adjourned until this morning.

At a briefing Mr Burke, Mr Green and Premier Lara Giddings outlined what the additional money would be used for.

Industry restructuring will get $28 million, and a further $25 million will be used in part to encourage innovation in the use of plantation timber.

The remaining money will be used for ongoing management of additional reserves and to support the implementation of the deal.

followed two days of briefings for the MLCs who had heard form all sides of the debate during the day.

Mr Burke said he had been told by MLCs last week they could not start to debate the legislation without knowing what additional money was available to ensure the agreement was viable.

"Today's announcement comes at a critical time when a number of industry players are making significant commercial decisions that will have lasting impacts on the Tasmanian economy," he said, referring to Ta Ann which has vowed to leave the state if the deal does not pass the Upper House.

"The Australian Government stands for Tasmanian jobs and a sustainable industry.

"We are pleased to be able to provide the funds required to manage this period of transition and also deliver significant conservation outcomes."

Mr Green said the agreement was critical to securing the long-term future of the forest industry and future jobs.

"We have worked closely with the Commonwealth and the signatories on the funding package to achieve all of the objectives of the agreement," he said.

The State Government's contribution announcement came one day after it was revealed it had fallen a further $44 million into deficit.

Opposition Leader Will Hodgman said the money was a sign the Government was hopelessly compromised and captive to the Greens.

"Yesterday the Premier announced $25 million to stimulate the economy. Today she has announced $40 million to shut the economy down," Mr Hodgman said last night.

Mr Burke said the Commonwealth funds would need to come, in part, from other environmental projects across the country.

"Times of transition are never easy but governments either step up and help people or let markets take care of themselves with the risk of serious and permanent adverse consequences."

matthew.smith@news.com.au


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Peace deal debate begins

TASMANIA'S Upper House has started debating the legislation underpinning Tasmania's historic forest peace deal.

Western Tiers MLC Greg Hall started debate by referring to the legislation as a "crock".

Mr Hall described additional money offered for the deal by Federal environment minister Tony Burke as bordering on blackmail.

"We don't respond to blackmail nor a gun to our head," he said.

Mr Hall raised concerns about additional reserves and the ability for the legislation to stop market attacks by environmentalists.

Hobart MLC Rob Valentine said he supported the legislation.

"The plan B is not there," he said.

Apsley MLC Tania Rattray said she would not be supporting the legislation.

Ms Rattray described the forest industry as at rock bottom.

"We are talking about keeping it at rock bottom," she said.

"We want to keep the trees but we don't want to keep the people."

Ms Rattray will join Pembroke MLC Vanessa Goodwin and Greg Hall to vote against the legislation.

Debate is expected to continue late into this evening.

For

Rosevears MLC Kerry Finch

Hobart MLC Rob Valentine

Derwent MLC Craig Farrell

Against

Western Tiers MLC Greg Hall

Apsley MLC Tania Rattray

Pembroke MLC Vanessa Goodwin


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Chef Jamie stirs tourism pot

Written By miftah nugraha on Selasa, 11 Desember 2012 | 19.55

TASMANIANS are rolling out the welcome mat for Jamie Oliver in a bid to lure the famous chef to our shores.

The king of chefs has declared his desire to visit and now the push is on to get him here.

Tourism and hospitality groups say a visit from Oliver could boost the state's international reputation as a foodie paradise and help tackle Tasmania's obesity epidemic.

In an interview with national morning TV program Today, the British chef said Tasmania was on top of his list of Australian places to visit.

"I really want to get to Tassie [and] Adelaide," Oliver said.

Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin said there were opportunities to provide the chef with flights, accommodation and assistance setting up food-related activities.

"Industry really got behind [the filming of] MasterChef and if there was potential to get Jamie down here there would be all levels of the [tourism] industry quickly getting behind the initiative to offer up produce and destinations for him to visit," he said.

"It would be great to have him down here and have him become another advocate of Tasmania's famous produce."

Tasmanian Hospitality Association general manager Steve Old said the state could also benefit from Oliver's fresh food and healthy eating initiatives, including the global Ministry of Food campaign.

"I'm sure Jamie would come down here and say how brilliant our produce is and how lucky we are to have it," Mr Old said.

"If Jamie comes down with his Ministry's healthy eating message, it might be enough to encourage the Government to have a look at what we can do to address the obesity issue."

Ministry of Food Australia chief executive Alicia Peardon said Oliver wanted to use the not-for-profit organisation to set up a Ministry in each state, as centres for cooking and nutrition education.

The Ministry of Food has centres in Queensland and Victoria.

"The short answer is we'd love to bring a Ministry of Food to Tasmania," Ms Peardon said.

She said interstate facilities had been set up with funding from state governments and commercial partners.

The Victorian Government chipped in $2.8 million to set up a Ministry of Food and mobile kitchen in Geelong, which will hold more than 10,000 cooking classes and healthy eating demonstrations in the next three years.

A spokesman said the Tasmanian Government had commended Oliver's efforts to promote healthy eating.

"The State Government is always open to new ways of improving the health and wellbeing of the community," he said.


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Cash for jobs -- at a cost

THE State Government will slide further into debt in a bid to create hundreds of jobs and leverage much needed new investment.

Premier Lara Giddings yesterday announced the Tasmanian Jobs Package she hopes will deliver 3300 jobs and create about $375 million in private investment.

The package will cost the State Government $24.5 million over the next four years and $11.7 million this year, as the state slides a further $44 million into deficit.

As revealed in the Mercury yesterday, Ms Giddings has more than doubled grants for Tasmanians building their first home topping up the existing $7000 first-home buyers' grant with a further $8000 for those who opt to build.

The money will be available for Tasmanians constructing new homes beginning on January 1 and continuing for 18 months.

Ms Giddings said the First Home Builders Boost will help to build 1100 first homes and create 1800 new jobs.

The move was supported by the building industry and the State Opposition yesterday.

Opposition Leader Will Hodgman said the grant, that his party has been calling for, was a step in the right direction. "We are quite happy from Opposition to lead the Government when they have run out of ideas," he said.

HIA executive director Stuart Clues said in the past year 3000 jobs and 1000 projects have been lost.

"The State Government's announcement today could be the adrenalin shot in the arm the industry needs to start rebuilding in 2013," he said.

A further 850 jobs are hoped to be created by offering payroll grants for businesses putting on new staff from today up until June 30, 2014 and maintained until June 30, 2015.

The payroll exemption for new jobs would give medium and large businesses the ability to save about $3000 a year on a new worker earning about $50,000 a year.

Acting CEO and the TCCI chief economist Phil Bayley commended the move that has been a proven winner in the past. "The TCCI has also been highlighting the impact of payroll taxes on employment for many years, so today's announcement of relief for new jobs is welcome," he said.

"This is a win for all employers, particularly those that are considering putting on new employees."

Ms Giddings said the relatively modest outlay will make a massive contribution to job creation and private investment. "The package is a key part of my agenda for 2013 which will focus on jobs, people and opportunities," Ms Giddings said yesterday.

"I look forward to seeing more Tasmanians find jobs as a result of the strong action we have taken today."

A further $2.5 million in additional funding for the Tasmanian Government Innovation and Investment Fund will be used to try to leverage $11 million in private investment and create 170 jobs.

The North will get a boost, with $2.8 million investment in projects, including the Seaport boardwalk expansion on the Tamar River in Launceston and the creation of the Hollybank Mountain Bike Park, for the combined creation of 80 new jobs.


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Hampered by high demand

TASMANIAN welfare agencies are having to turn people away as the demand for emergency assistance far outstrips supply.

The Salvation Army yesterday said it feared it would run out of food to distribute to those in need this festive season.

The Salvos said the amount of food donated for its Christmas welfare programs was way down on last year but the number of people asking for a hamper had increased by 20 per cent.

A Hobart woman, who did not want to be named, said she and her adult daughter had sought help from one welfare agency but were told the agency was not taking on any new clients.

Another charity could only give her $20.

"I was gobsmacked. How many people out there are doing it tough if this is the situation?" the woman said.

"Of course I did not want to have to ask for help, but sometimes there is no alternative. $20 does not help much at all."

Salvation Army Captain Craig Wood said the charity was only one third of the way through its hamper listings but had almost run out of food.

"Non-perishable food and groceries are desperately needed to assist over 200 families in southern Tasmania alone. On the North-West Coast, it is a similar story in Burnie," Captain Wood said.

The Salvos have now put out an urgent plea for non-perishable food to make up hampers.

The hampers traditionally contain small boxes of cereal, tinned fruit and vegetables, tea, coffee and sugar, tinned spaghetti, baked beans and soup, biscuits, cordial and long-life juice, pasta and rice and a few Christmas treats like tinned pudding, long-life custards and bon-bons.

Tasmanian Council of Social Service chief executive Tony Reidy said all member organisations were reporting a significant increase in demand.

Mr Reidy said a spike in the number of people who were underemployed was driving the bigger need for charity.

"People who are underemployed can't pay their bills, let along come up with disposable income for treats at this time of the year."

Mr Reidy said a lot of the people asking for help were doing so for the first time.


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Money woes hit dog homes

Written By miftah nugraha on Senin, 10 Desember 2012 | 19.55

The Dogs' Homes of Tasmania, operated by the Tasmanian Canine Defence League, have hit struggle street. They have always relied heavily on public support, holding regular dog-food donation drives.

SOARING power bills and an increasing demand for its services have left the Dogs' Homes of Tasmania struggling to survive.

President John Gray today announced an organisational restructure was needed to secure the body's future in tough economic times.

"Expenses are increasing at the same time as the income stream is decreasing," he said in a statement.

"The stark reality is we have to restructure and reduce expenditure to survive.

"Like the dogs in our care, the organisation itself now needs white knights to come to the rescue and enable our proud history of caring for Tasmania's lost and abandoned dogs to carry on."

Dogs' Homes of Tasmania operates animal shelters in Hobart, Burnie and Devonport, providing stray dog facilities for nine local councils.

The organisation's power bills have almost quadrupled in the past two years, with wage pressure, water charges and reduced interest on investments also taking a toll.

Mr Gray and Dogs' Homes CEO Robert Broadway are in talks with staff today about cost-cutting measures statewide.

The State Government has also been contacted in a bid to secure funding assistance to enable the Dogs' Homes to remain solvent and re-group.

Read more in tomorrow's Mercury.


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Wait to question Burnie dad

A fire engine and a police car at the scene of a tragic car fire at Shorewell Park last week.

IT may be weeks before a Burnie man accused of attempting to murder his two young sons can be questioned by police.

The 49-year-old man from Shorewell Park and his two sons, aged five and eight, received burns to 25 per cent of their bodies last Wednesday in a car fire, which police say was deliberately lit.

Police say the condition of both children has stabilised in the past 24 hours but they remain in intensive care in the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne.

Treating medical staff are hopeful the children will continue to improve.

Their father remains in a critical condition in intensive care at the Royal Hobart Hospital and is also receiving treatment for significant burns.

"It is expected to be some time, perhaps weeks, before his condition improves enough to be able to speak to police," Tasmania Police said today in a statement.


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Grunwaldt search resumes

The Bicheno Waste Management Centre where police are searching for a bicycle used by Nancy Grunwaldt.

POLICE have returned to a tip site in Bicheno as the investigation into one of Tasmania's most infamous missing persons cases continues.

Launceston detectives are using heavy machinery to excavate a section of the Bicheno Waste Management Centre – the same area that was investigated in February – as part of the search for German backpacker Nancy Grunwaldt.

Miss Grunwaldt was last seen south of Beamauris on March 12, 1993, near the scene of the horrific stabbing murder of Italian tourist Victoria Cafasso in 1995.

Police are searching for the bicycle Miss Grunwaldt was using at the time she was last seen.

The new search is in response to information given to police earlier this year by a local man who believed he saw a bicycle dumped at the site which matched the description of Miss Grunwaldt's bike.

It's not known why the person did not come forward with the information earlier.

"He has shown us the area where he saw the bike and we are excavating that section to a depth of about 5m across an overall area of five square metres," Detective Inspector Scott Flude said in February.

The February search proved fruitless but police are now delving deeper.

"In the interests of ensuring the information is fully investigated, police have determined to return to the tip to excavate to an even deeper level," Det-Insp Flude said today.

"The tip will be closed to the public for the duration of the two-day excavation.

"We have spoken to Miss Grunwaldt's mother to inform her of the development."

Miss Grunwaldt was last seen riding the bicycle about 4km south of Scamander.

She has not been seen since.

A coronial inquest has resulted in no clear answer to the reason for her disappearance, although police suspect foul play.

If you have any information, contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.


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Wild and wonderful

Written By miftah nugraha on Minggu, 09 Desember 2012 | 19.55

BOB Brown clearly remembers the moment he heard Tasmania's South-West Wilderness had been named a World Heritage Area.

It was December 14, 1982, the same day he and other activists started their blockade of the Gordon-below-Franklin dam site to stop the Hydro-Electricity Commission from flooding the Franklin River.

The then Liberal state government had sent its attorney-general to Paris to lobby against the UNESCO listing.

"When the news came through from Paris, it was met with a great deal of joy," Dr Brown said. "We knew it would be important."

He said the decision had given Tasmania a place of international renown, brought millions of dollars into the economy and had created thousands of jobs.

It is difficult to quantify the monetary value of the site, although in 2008 the Federal Government commissioned a study by Gillespie Economics and BDA which estimated that visitors supported 3886 direct and indirect jobs and contributed a total $123.4 million in household income.

With the dam dispute long over, the heritage area concept has become widely accepted.

It has attracted a range of tourism ventures, particularly around Cradle Mountain and the West Coast town of Strahan, where the Federal Group has invested heavily in accommodation, cruises up the Gordon River and the West Coast Wilderness Railway.

Federal Group spokesman Daniel Hanna said his company considered Strahan "an iconic location".

"We believe that World Heritage listing has encouraged the growth of a sustainable tourism industry in Strahan and that the World Heritage Area has received greater appreciation because of the growth of the local tourism industry," Mr Hanna said.

Tourism Council of Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin said the 30th anniversary was an opportunity for the industry to take stock.

"Visitor numbers to national parks and to the West Coast have declined in the past few years," he said.

"We can't take it for granted.

"There is a need for some fresh new product."

West Coast Mayor Darryl Gerrity said it was time for a review of the area's economic and social value for Tasmania and of how it could be used better as an attraction.

"It's like having a grand old heritage house," he said. "It needs maintenance and work."

Dr Brown said he hoped the Tasmanian Forest Agreement would lead to more areas being listed, including the Styx Valley of the Giants, "equivalent to anything in the Redwood National Park in the US", Mt Wellington and the Tarkine area in the far North-West.

philip.heyward@news.com.au
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Seeking warmer waters

TROPICAL fish are venturing as far south as Tasmania in response to ocean warming.

Recent tropical sightings include turtles, a yellow-bellied sea snake, a green moray eel, tiger shark and a mahi-mahi dolphinfish.

The unusual sightings have been documented on the website Redmap, based on reports from divers, anglers and scientists.

Warmer waters are also attracting increasing numbers of big gamefish, such as marlin and yellowtail kingfish, which anglers say is a boon for the sport in Tasmania.

The "out-of-range" fish are being documented by Redmap so scientists can use sightings by recreational anglers and divers to help research into marine species' changing geographical range.

Redmap, the Range Extension Database and Mapping project, will extend from its current state focus when it goes national this week.

Redmap principal investigator Dr Gretta Pecl, from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, said all Australians would be able to report their unusual findings to Redmap after the national launch on Thursday.

Dr Pecl said the migrating tropical fish had been detected in increasing numbers over the past few years, and other popular fishing species from NSW and Victoria were becoming frequent visitors too.

"Some species that only appeared on the mainland, or only appeared in the north of Tasmania, are venturing further south," she said.

She said there were also growing numbers of eastern rock lobsters, including a population of about 35 living off the East Coast.

And snapper, not often sighted in the South until recently, is now so common it has a bag limit.

Dr Pecl said the migration of northern marine species could be for a range of reasons. While climate change was a major driver, other potential causes included changes in ocean currents, habitat availability, pollution and changes in mainland fishing activity.

The migration of new species has been welcomed by recreational anglers, who say the new species have created a boom.

Tasmanian Association for Recreational Fishing (TARFish) chief executive Mark Nikolai said anglers had noticed a rise in the number of popular sportsfish, including yellowtail kingfish, King George whiting, marlin and snapper.

He said these four species were extremely popular and would potentially increase fishing tourism to the state.

"It's all good news for Tasmania, as they expect more of these species to call Tasmania home," Mr Nikolai said.

He said the migrating sportsfish species were of little threat to local marine life, because the baitfish they ate moved down with them.

But Dr Pecl warned the warming oceans did attract some damaging species, such as long-spined sea urchins which were destroying habitats essential for rock lobsters and abalone.

Mr Nikolai said warmer waters had been detected by the CSIRO this year, as a result of the extension of the East Australian Current.

Data shows sea temperatures off the East Coast are warming at three times global average.

Redmap invites people to take photos of uncommon marine species and post them on www.redmap.org.au


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Ideas plan to lift Tassie

WHISKY and food trails, attracting more international students and bringing old industrial sites back to life are some of the ideas contained in three regional economic plans for Tasmania.

The regional plans were released last month, following 38 community consultations held around the state in March and April involving almost 700 people.

They followed the release of a statewide economic development plan in August last year and the establishment soon after of three regional reference groups.

The plans include initiatives already announced and suggestions about new projects to boost each region.

Economic Development Minister David O'Byrne said the economic plans were 10-year strategies focussing on diversifying regional economies and identifying potential growth industries.

He said: "In developing each regional plan, we've talked directly to Tasmanians living, working, studying and investing in each region. We know regional communities are under pressure. This plan is an economic strategy run by communities, for communities."

Mr O'Byrne said key drivers of Tasmania's southern economy included aquaculture, viticulture, agriculture and Antarctic and Southern Ocean science.

The North's key industries were advanced manufacturing, food and agriculture including poppies, dairy, fruit, meat, vegetables and wine, forestry and related products, minerals and mining.

In the North-West, key industries were also advanced manufacturing and food production, as well as floriculture, aquaculture, dairy and mining.

Tourism was identified as an area of opportunity in all three regions. Go to: development. tas.gov.au to view the plans in full.


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