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Rink gets its skates on

Written By miftah nugraha on Sabtu, 29 Desember 2012 | 19.55

From left, Charlie Connor, Lily Chadwick, Elsie Anderson and Thomas Cooper, all 15 of Hobart, enjoy the re-opened Mawson's Skate. Picture: NIKKI DAVIS-JONES

PUT your skates on, Hobart, the rink is back in action.

Hobart's newest tourist attraction, Mawson's Skate, reopened yesterday after the delivery of new skates from Italy. The rink, which opened next to Mawson Pavilion last Saturday, shut one day later because temporary skates were not up to scratch.

Mawson's Skate manager Kate Whitehouse opened the rink an hour after the new skates arrived -- to the delight of children and teenagers.

"We're very happy," Ms Whitehouse said.

The owners hope the rink will attract used by 40,000 people each year.


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Energy honeymoon over

THE honeymoon period for Aurora customers is to come to an end, with electricity disconnections set to more than double in Tasmania in the next 12 months.

Aurora had given Tasmanian customers a four-month amnesty on disconnections as they rolled out a new billing system in the last half of this year.

However, the company has warned it will soon be operating like energy companies in other states, which have been disconnecting customers at a growing rate.

In Victoria, 24,000 households had their power cut off in the past year -- a 33 per cent increase from 2011. Disconnections in South Australia have grown by 38 per cent, Queensland 20 per cent, and New South Wales 25 per cent.

Aurora spokesman Richard Wilson said the company expected 2000 disconnections next year -- double the average of 1000 disconnections a year for the past two years.

Only 226 Aurora customers lost their power in 2011-12 because of the four-month amnesty on disconnections to allow a new billing system to be installed, Mr Wilson said.

Disconnections dropped from 998 in 2010-11 to 226 in 2011-12. Of these, 178 were residential customers and 11 were businesses.

Mr Wilson said making regular payments through a payment plan was the best way to avoid a disconnection.

"Disconnections are the worst outcome for everyone but especially for the customer," he said. "It affects their credit rating and they lose their electricity supply."

Mr Wilson said the company had arranged 2490 payment plans in the last quarter.

The increased disconnections will come as a blow to the State Government, which is set to sell Aurora customers at the end of the year into a full retail contestable market.

Energy expert Frontier Economics director Danny Price told the Mercury in late October concerns about the credit ratings of Aurora customers and Aurora's market monopoly were scaring off energy retailers.

He said the sale of energy customers on the mainland had generated about $1000 to $1500 per customer but Aurora would be lucky to get $300 per customer.

jennifer.crawley@news.com.au


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Bikie boss in Tassie buy up

THE boss of one of Australia's most notorious bikie gangs has been buying up property across Tasmania.

The Mercury can reveal Sydney-based Rebels Motorcycle Club national president Alessio Emmanuel "Alex" Vella has bought several properties in the state and owns real estate in Hobart, Launceston and Sorell.

Police say the Tasmanian branch of the Rebels has high-level links to the operation and control of the national motorcycle gang.

Apart from Mr Vella's properties, his son, Alex Jr, is listed as the owner of waterfront land at Triabunna.

That land, which locals say has only ever housed a large shed, was previously owned by the parents of a Tasmanian Rebels president.

The Tasmanian properties owned by Alex Vella house Rebel clubhouses at Letitia St in North Hobart, Merino St in Kings Meadows and in suburban Sorell.

Mr Vella has drug convictions.

"It's of concern that someone with a criminal history such as Mr Vella has close ties with Tasmania and comes to the state quite frequently," said Tasmania Police drug squad boss John Arnold, who is Tasmania's representative on the Australian Federal Police's anti-Rebels taskforce, Attero.

Detective-Inspector Arnold said it was a serious issue for Tasmania.

"The Tasmanian Rebels try to abrogate themselves from the illegal activities of the club interstate, when Mr Vella's property interests make it clear they have strong links with those activities at the highest level," he said.

With eight chapters in Tasmania comprising 50 patched members, police say the Rebels have long tried to paint a positive picture of the club with their participation in charity events such as the Christmas Toy Run and by saying that they are a community-friendly group of Harley-Davidson enthusiasts.

But the PR campaign hit a hurdle when a dozen members and associates were arrested in Launceston last year in an alleged $450,000 methamphetamine trafficking ring bust.

And police say the Rebels continue to play a key role in the distribution of methamphetamine in this state.

"The Launceston experience would tell us some of the members are heavily involved in the manufacture and distribution and they certainly are interstate, so it would be naive to think they're not still involved here," Insp Arnold said.

The AFP and police in all states and territories have a task force Attero, whose purpose is to eradicate the Rebels.

Police in Tasmania are asking Tasmanians to provide information on the Rebels' locations and activities.

"What we're saying is ring Crime Stoppers where your anonymity can be protected, because any information about their presence in the state and their movements is of value to us," Insp Arnold said.

The Mercury sought comment from the Rebels but none was received.


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Gusto takes the treble

Written By miftah nugraha on Jumat, 28 Desember 2012 | 19.55

VICTORIAN yacht Gusto has claimed a historic treble by taking line honours in the Melbourne to Launceston event -- smashing the race record in the process.

The Brian Pattinson-skippered Open 66 took just 18 hours 44 minutes and five seconds to win the race across Bass Strait, bettering the mark of 19:55:43 set by Cadibarra 8 in 2003.

Having won the Melbourne to Hobart Westcoaster and Eastcoaster races in the preceding two years, Gusto became the first yacht to claim the treble.

Goldfinger was leading the Eastcoaster race this morning, with the fleet racing into 20-knot south westerlies to the south of Flinders Island.

Goldfinger was looking well placed to claim the golden double of handicap and line honours.

The Westcoaster race was much closer, with Extasea seven miles clear of Bandit.

Tevake II, Cadibarra 8 and Spirit of Downunder were in a tight cluster behind the leading two yachts, with the race for handicap honours wide open.


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Arrest over road rage attack

A 63-YEAR-OLD man is in police custody and a 37-year-old man is in hospital with stab wounds after a road rage incident at Glenorchy this morning.

Police say an altercation between the two men unfolded after both drivers pulled up side by side at the intersection of Main Rd and Lampton Avenue about 10am.

The 63-year-old allegedly failed to turn left despite apparently being in a turning lane.

Both drivers then pulled up in the car park of nearby Supercheap Auto and the younger man was allegedly stabbed by the older man in the back and head after a verbal stoush.

One of the men pushed the other, according to police.

Police will allege the older man then produced a knife and stabbed the 37-year-old before leaving the scene.

"As a result of investigations conducted, detectives attended an address in Montrose where a 63-year-old male person was taken into custody without incident," Detective Inspector David Plumpton said.

The alleged offender was taken to Hobart Police Station, where he was awaiting interview this afternoon.

"While this matter has still to go before court in general terms, police would like to remind people that no matter what the reasons such behaviour will not be tolerated," Det Insp Plumpton said.

He said this was "an extreme example" of road rage and asked drivers to exercise patience on the roads at this busy time of year.

"Police ... are still appealing for witnesses to come forward who may have witnessed two Ford Falcon vehicles stationary at the intersection of Lampton Avenue and Main Rd prior to them both driving south on Main Rd," he said.

Witnesses can contact Crime Stoppers 1800 333 000 or the Glenorchy CIB 6230 2821.


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Hungry hordes storm Hobart

The crowd at day one of this year's Taste, which will be open until 11 tonight. Pictures: SAM ROSEWARNE

THOUSANDS of Tasmanians, tourists and wave-weary yachties have surged into the Taste Festival, which opened at 11am today on Hobart's waterfront.

Christmas dinners apparently long forgotten, the hordes could not get enough of fish and chips, wine and extravagant berry and ice cream desserts.

More stalls and more space have been provided this year, but there was still not enough seating for some.

Stalls were set up on the lawns of Salamanca Place and activities were held on Parliament lawns as the seven-day event, formerly the Taste of Tasmania, sprawls out from its traditional base at Princes Wharf No 1 shed.

There are 88 sites at the Taste in its 24th year.

Three members of the Yaizu-Hobart Friendship Association and a Yaizu City staff member are preparing traditional Yaizu food and drinks including deep sea water tofu, onigiri and genmai cha for today and tomorrow. They will offer free samples for visitors to taste.

Festival judges have picked their top wines from the 140 entered. Every stallholder put their wines up for judging.

Wine writers and critics Louise Radman and Winsor Dobbin, winemaker and consultant Nav Singh and Taste wine convenor Phil Laing were judges.

"The judging was conducted with immediate enjoyment over the week of the Taste in mind," Mr Laing said.

"The top and runner-up wines in each category are all wonderful wines.

"The sparkling, chardonnay and pinot noir classes are particularly strong, with three, four and six wines respectively of gold-medal quality."

All winning wines will be available for tasting and purchase at the Cascade Taste Festival bars.

Glasses -- supplied by Riedel thanks to its partnership with the festival -- cost $12 and can be reused throughout the festival.

Sparkling

Winner: 2007 Bream Creek

Runners-up: 2009 Spring Vale Salute, 2008 Home Hill Daisy Rosé

Sauvignon Blanc

Winner: 2012 Bream Creek

Runner-up: 2012 Devils Corner

Riesling

Winner: 2012 Milton Riesling

Runners-up: 2011 Laurel Bank Riesling, 2012 Pipers Brook Gewurztraminer

Pinot Grigio

Winner: 2012 Holm Oak Pinot Gris

Runner-up: 2012 Ninth Island Pinot Grigio

Chardonnay

Winner: 2009 Bream Creek

Runner-up: 2011 Spring Vale Reserve

Rosé

Winner: 2012 Milton

Runner-up: 2011 Bream Creek

Pinot Noir 2009 and younger

Winner: 2010 Derwent Estate

Runner-up: 2010 Kelvedon Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir 2009 and older

Winner: Craigow 2009

Runner Up: Spring Vale 2009

Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon

Winner: Holm Oak Merlot 2008

Runner-up: 2010 Stefano Lubiana Merlot

Sweet/dessert

Winner: 2011 Milton Iced Riesling

Runner-up: 2011 Tamar Ridge Botrytis Riesling


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Firies pedal for cancer cure

Written By miftah nugraha on Kamis, 27 Desember 2012 | 19.55

Charity ride organisers Tim McKay and Emma Weitnauer at Hobart Fire Station today. Picture: RICHARD JUPE

TEN Tasmanian firefighters are preparing to cycle from Brisbane to Hobart to raise money for cancer research.

The Headin' South for a Cure group will leave Brisbane on New Year's Day and spend 14 days on the road, averaging 175km per day, before arriving back in Hobart on January 14.

Co-organiser Tim McKay said they had raised $40,000 so far, with all proceeds going to the Australian Cancer Research Foundation.

To donate, click here.


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Oats could smash race record

Wild Oats is potentially still on target for a new Sydney to Hobart race record as she enters Bass Strait this morning. Picture: BRETT COSTELLO

WILD Oats XI is steaming towards Hobart ahead of record pace in the 68th Rolex Sydney-Hobart.

The Sydney supermaxi could cross the finish by as early as midnight to 2am overnight, which would smash the race record of 1 day 18 hours 40 minutes 10 seconds Wild Oats set on debut in 2005.

The Oats already broke the record for the fastest exit through Sydney Heads on Boxing Day, and -- barring mishap -- has line honours in the bag.

Being positioned so far ahead of the race record, and the 76-strong fleet, also has the 100-footer leading the race for the Tattersalls Trophy as overall winner on handicap.

Last year's winner Ragamuffin Loyal is second on the water, followed by Lahana and Black Jack.

However, Ragamuffin could face a time penalty when she arrives in Hobart as punishment for jumping the start on Sydney Harbour.

That will be determined by an International Jury, which gathers annually to judge infringements of the rules and protests during the Sydney-Hobart.

Cruising Yacht Club of Australia Commodore Howard Piggott confirmed Ragamuffin's infringement.

"Ragamuffin broke the start -- her bow was over the line when the gun went," Piggott said.

"Under the sailing instructions [race rules] the recall advice has to be given out five minutes after the start.

"However, the signal to the boat at the five minute mark appears not to have been given to notify the skipper of Ragamuffin that he'd broken the start.

"For the reason the race chairman has decided to record him as over at the start but put an application for redress to the international jury."

That means the race committee's failure to notify the skipper could be Ragamuffin's escape clause from copping a penalty.

Hobart yacht Cougar II is the best-placed of the Tasmanian boats, placed 17th in the fleet, while fellow Tasmanians Helsal 3, Martela and Dump Truck have all spent time in the top three of their divisions on handicap.

Five-times line honours-winning skipper Mark Richards this morning described the opening day to the 68th Rolex Sydney-Hobart as a rough start.

"It was a pretty challenging night for the guys," Richards said.

"We've had a lot of sail changes and a lot of different conditions happening but we got through it pretty nicely.

"We actually got a bit of damage to one of our centreboards.

"We hit a log, I think, in fairly high seas and did a bit of damage there.

"But we've got that under control."


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Woman, 70, missing again

DELORAINE police are searching for a 70-year-old Westbury woman who has been missing since Christmas Eve.

Police said Patricia Marion Manners was last seen at Dunorlan, a tiny township near Deloraine.

She is described as about 158cm tall, with grey shoulder-length hair and a stooped posture.

Ms Manners was also reported missing in September, when police expressed concern she could be in a "confused state of mind".

Anyone who believes they have seen Ms Manners should call 131 44 or contact the Deloraine Police Station on 6362 4004.


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Survivor tells of fiery crash

Written By miftah nugraha on Rabu, 26 Desember 2012 | 19.55

A security guard walks past the remains of an Air Bagan jet that crashed Burma yesterday. Picture: AFP

A TASMANIAN man who survived a fiery Christmas Day plane crash in Burma which claimed three lives says he was surprised to walk away alive.

Long-time Targa Tasmania executive Stuart Benson, 32, was one of 63 people aboard the Air Bagan Fokker 100 jet which crashed on a road after clipping trees near Heho airport in central Burma.

Two people on board were killed, along with a motorcyclist on the ground. Another 11 people were injured.

"I don't think I've ever really had an experience when I've thought 'this is about it'," he said today from a hotel in the capital Yangon.

"We were stuck inside for a bit while the plane was burning, at which point things were not looking great."

Mr Benson, who was on holiday with girlfriend Anna Bartsch, 31, said there was no hint of the impending disaster before the crash.

"It seemed like a pretty standard sort of approach, it was coming down reasonably quickly," he said.

"There were seven or eight very severe impacts.

"My initial thought was, with the impact so severe, that we were crashing into a mountain range.

"The only way to describe the initial impact was like a car rolling over.

"The back injuries I've sustained are very common to what we'd see in the rollover of a Targa car."

Mr Benson said as soon as the plane stopped moving, his first instinct was to get off quickly.

"The plane was very quickly engulfed by flames," he said.

"I looked around all the windows and I could see there were flames.

"My first thought was to get out as quick as I could.

"I think it was a bit of survival instinct kicking in.

"We looked out the window to see what to do and there were flames down the entire length of the plane. It was quite phenomenal."

Mr Benson said despite some panic among passengers, the evacuation was fast and orderly.

He praised the efforts of airline staff, the Burmese government and Australian consular officials in the wake of the crash.

The couple have lost all their luggage -- including their passports, phones, cash and credit cards.

Mr Benson, who has been living and working in Adelaide in recent months, said they would cut short their trip and head home to Australia but hoped to return to Burma one day.

Read more in tomorrow's Mercury.


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Bird strikes early on debut

JACKSON Bird has made an instant impression in his Australia Test debut at the MCG, grabbing two impressive top-order scalps against Sri Lanka.

The 26-year-old struck in the fourth over of the Boxing Day Test when Dimuth Karunaratne lunged forward and was caught behind for five.

He took his second wicket just after lunch when Thilan Samaraweera played a dreadful shot and spooned a catch to David Warner at mid wicket.

Former Australian swing bowler Damien Fleming likened the impressive Bird to Australian bowling legend Glenn McGrath.

With a habit of uprooting top-order batsmen and a wicket-taking stock delivery, Fleming said Bird showed more than enough today to prove he will be a long-term Test bowler.

Fleming coached Bird in his time at the Australian Cricket Academy and said the subsequent improvements to his technique were the building blocks of a promising international career.

Bird, 26, showed few nerves in picking up 2-32 in 13 overs, maintaining his outstanding first-class strike rate at the MCG.

More importantly though, five maidens highlighted control that not only claimed two key early breakthroughs, but that Fleming says will be critical in English conditions in next year's Ashes series.

"I think it's important for all bowlers to know that your best ball can get out the best batsman," Fleming said.

"And from what we've seen, he already knows that if he bowls enough of his good balls, he'll get enough wickets at Test level.

"He doesn't look like one of these guys who goes on an emotional rollercoaster, he's pretty laid back.

"It's very early days for him, but he's not unlike (Glenn) McGrath and Stuart Clark in that they've got a nice, bouncy, accurate stock ball.

"And it's shown over the history of Test cricket that those types of bowlers get wickets ... and he's probably got a more natural outswinger than those two."

Bird hit the spot early, beating opener Dimuth Karunaratne with the first ball of his second over and having a big LBW shout turned down the next ball.

Again using his stock delivery that swings into the left-hander, Bird almost forged a path between bat and pad with the third ball of the over, then showed nous beyond his experience to slant one across with his fourth ball to find the edge and shove Sri Lanka on the path to its meek demise.

The lithe Tasmanian then rushed on to the dangerous Thilan Samaraweera with a shorter ball that he could only spoon to David Warner at mid-wicket.

"What we're seeing here from Birdy is that there are now enough attributes to be a good international bowler," Fleming said.

"Back (at the Academy) he was very inconsistent with his wrist releases, so I reckon a majority of times he pushed the ball in.

"He was working on trying to get that outswinger and that's what you've seen from him not only today, but for the last two years -- consistent outswing.

"What we like is that he's got a nice run-up that goes towards off stump, his action is aligned and he has a high release.

"I don't think any action is bulletproof, but it doesn't look like it puts any strain through him.

"And talking to domestic players, they reckon his big strength is he hits high on the bat and that he makes you play.

"They're qualities you love in an into-the-wind bowler, you can take that anywhere in the world -- particularly England -- and you should have a good success rate."

Fleming said the only knock on Bird in English conditions was that he bowled marginally short during the mid-year Australia A tour.

"You should be about a metre fuller in England anyway, but with his fundamentals, you'll hope he's able to adjust his length just a little bit.

"If your line is good and the action of your run-up is good, you should be able to adjust your length, whether you're looking at the pitch, the stumps, or the keeper's feet, there's got to be something there to focus on and he's been impressive enough that he should be able to do that without a problem."


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Blaze threatens Dolphin Sands

A SCRUB is burning out of control at Dolphin Sands, north of Swansea, on Tasmania's East Coast.

Residents of Dolphin Sands Rd have been urged to activate their bushfire plans, with the Tasmania Fire Service sending 10 units to tackle the blaze.

The TFS has enacted a "watch and act status" for the fire, which means conditions are changing and residents need to start taking action to protect themselves and their families.

Anyone wishing to leave the area has been advised to do so now but only if the path is clear.

The football club at Swansea will be the evacuation point if required.

A Tasmania Police spokesman said officers had been sent from Swansea and Bicheno to help the TFS.

The blaze was reported about 3.30pm today.

Non-residents are advised to stay away from the affected areas.

There may be embers, smoke and ash falling on Dolphin Sands Rd and Cambria Rd is closed.

For up-to-date information, listen to ABC Local Radio and visit the TFS website.


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Ho-ho Hobart turns on a feast

Written By miftah nugraha on Selasa, 25 Desember 2012 | 19.55

ALMOST two tonnes of Tasmanian goodwill has been delivered to North Hobart's Hellenic Hall, just in time for Christmas.

SecondBite, which redistributes surplus fresh food to community food programs, was in full flight yesterday, preparing and delivering food and hampers for Colony 47's Christmas Day lunch.

"We have had a great response," SecondBite food program manager Pat Burton said.

"It is amazing and we are really happy."

He said SecondBite was delivering 1.8 tonnes of food to the hall in Federal St.

"We are expecting an increase in numbers for the Colony 47 Christmas Day lunch," Mr Burton said.

"We will possibly feed about 400 people.

"Not only are we contributing food for the lunch, but also preparing and delivering about 165 food hampers so those who missed hampers can take one home."

Each hamper weighs on average 9kg.

Mr Burton said Tasmanian suppliers -- including Coles, Harvest Moon, Premium Fresh, Southern Fields, Huon Valley orchardist Robert Parkes, Bandicoot Blue, Lion milk, and SRT Transport -- had all made significant donations to get fresh food to the right places.

For many Tasmanians who may not be lucky enough to have all the trimmings of Christmas, Colony 47's lunch offers festive fare and great company to boot.

"We aim to make it a fun day where people can come together and enjoy the day with others," a Colony 47 spokeswoman said.

"Given our work within the community, we know that Christmas can be a difficult time for some due to a large number of reasons."


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Bruny delays likely

Long queues for the Bruny Island ferry at Easter.

COMMUTERS bound for Bruny Island are advised to expect delays during the busy festive period.

Shane Gregory, from the Department of Infrastructure, said motorists traditionally had a longer wait in Kettering from Boxing Day through to December 28 and again on New Year's Eve.

He said a contingency plan had been developed to manage the possibility of queuing on the Channel Highway.

"We're encouraging motorists to consider travelling during non-peak times, for example catching one of the first two sailings of the day, at 6.35am or 7.45am," the general manager of traffic infrastructure services said in a statement.

"If you do decide to travel during peak times, try to allow enough time for your journey and remember there could be delays of at least two hours.

"Make sure you carry enough water, especially if you are travelling with pets or children, and try to be patient and respectful of others.

"Motorists should only stop in Ferry Rd where it's possible for local traffic to pass."

To check out the ferry timetable, click here.


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Santa visits tree sitter

Santa helps environmental activist Miranda Gibson celebrate her second Christmas in a tree in southern Tasmania.

WHILE most Tasmanians will gather around a Christmas tree today, conservationist Miranda Gibson will still be up one – a 400-year-old eucalypt to be precise.

The 31-year-old began her tree sit in the state's Styx Valley on December 14, 2011, as part of a protest against logging in Tasmania's high conservation value forests.

Perched on a platform 60m above the ground, the former school teacher is now spending her second Christmas in the Observer Tree.

"This time last year I had hoped that I would not have to spend another Christmas here, and that this forest would be securely protected by now," Ms Gibson said in a statement yesterday.

"Sadly, after a year, I still need to be here watching over this forest that remains under threat.

"I hope that I will not be here for a third Christmas."

She said the Federal Government would have an opportunity in 2013 to nominate the surrounding forests for World Heritage protection.

"What a wonderful Christmas gift it would be for all of Australians … to have these forests protected for future generations," Ms Gibson said.


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Bonus a slap in face for public

Written By miftah nugraha on Senin, 24 Desember 2012 | 19.55

SENIOR public servants from the Department of Premier and Cabinet will head into Christmas with bonuses worth a total of more than $170,000.

Seventeen directors and managers have received $171,349 in bonuses, equal to 5 to 15 per cent of their annual wage up to early December.

Deputy Opposition Leader Jeremy Rockliff, right, said the bonuses were a slap in the face for Tasmanian workers.

"Premier Giddings talked tough when she imposed a 2 per cent cap on wages growth for some of the lowest-paid public servants, yet she's prepared to secretly hand over hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses through the back door to the top bureaucrats in her own department," Mr Rockliff said.

"It's just further evidence you can't trust Labor to look after Tasmania's finances."

The bonuses were revealed by the Liberals, who discovered the figures through a right-to-information request.

But the State Government said the payments were incentives, not bonuses.

The bonuses for 2012-13 are already up by more than 7 per cent on last year the bonuses bill for last financial year was $160,266.

The biggest bonus went to one of the department's policy directors, who got a 15 per cent payment of $20,630, taking his annual wage to $158,162.

Five staff members from the department's telecommunications unit received bonuses totalling more than $70,000.

Other staff to receive bonuses included the manager of strategic communications and marketing, $11,661, the director of community development, $8301, and the director of the social inclusion unit who has received $6877 worth of bonuses this financial year.

The bonuses come as many of the state's public servants, including teachers and healthcare workers, agreed to a 2 per cent pay increase over two years, after the State Government wage policy was tightened during the 2011 Budget to keep a lid on out-of-control spending.

A Government spokesman said yesterday the executives who received the $170,000 of "incentives" were on contracts instead of an award.

"They don't receive incremental pay rises each year, like other public servants," the spokesman said. "Each year, SES staff are assessed against an annual performance plan, and may receive performance payments.

"Those are not 'bonuses', and not given automatically." The spokesman said the DPAC staff were experienced people who often took on significant extra duties and workload.

The Opposition has vowed to reduce the number of senior executives in government departments.

"We will reduce the number of senior executives and save taxpayers $2 million a year," a spokesman said.

matthew.smith@news.com.au


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Tragic start to holiday period

The vehicle at the crash scene in East Bagdad Rd yesterday. Picture: MATT THOMPSON

A MAN in his 70s is dead, after his ute hit an embankment and turned onto its side at Bagdad yesterday.

The victim, the sole occupant of the grey Ford utility, is understood to have been close to his home on East Bagdad Rd when he lost control of the vehicle.

Accident investigators believe a medical condition may have caused the crash.

"It's too early to say at this stage but that's certainly something we're looking at," Sergeant Rod Carrick said at the scene.

He said speed, inattention and drugs or alcohol had been ruled out as factors.

An examination of the crash site yesterday showed the driver had crossed to the wrong side of the road just before 1.45pm while travelling north and had driven into the roadside table drain. The ute continued for a short distance before rolling onto the passenger side.

Another motorist saw the accident and stopped to provide assistance but the man died at the scene.

With Operation Crossroads now in full swing nationwide, police are urging drivers to do what they can to make themselves and their passengers safe over the Christmas and New Year period.

The official 12-day holiday period got off to a terrible start with six road deaths around the country.

Two women and one man died in three separate road accidents in Victoria, a young woman died after her car crashed into a tree in South Australia and an elderly woman died near Wollongong in NSW.

Tasmania's road toll currently stands at 30 compared with 23 for the same period last year.

The national holiday road toll period ends on January 3.

zara.dawtrey@news.com.au


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Drive to survive this Christmas

Tasmania Police officers have detected 11 drink drivers after conducting almost 2000 random breath tests.

MORE than 60 motorists have been caught speeding and 11 have been picked up for drink-driving offences in the Tasmania Police Christmas blitz.

Inspector Shane Lefevre today released the latest results of Operation Crossroads, which aims to keep the state's roads safe over the busy Christmas and New Year period.

Tasmania has already recorded one fatality for the holiday period, with an elderly man killed in a single-vehicle crash at Bagdad yesterday.

The Operation Crossroads figures show that 11 drink-driving offences have been detected after 1995 random breath tests, with three drivers testing positive for drugs.

A total of 83 traffic infringement notices have been issued and 65 motorists have been caught speeding.

Drivers are reminded to:

  • Slow down and drive to weather and road conditions.
  • Plan their trips and take a break every two hours to avoid fatigue.
  • Make sure everyone in the car is wearing a seatbelt.

The SES also issued a reminder that many volunteers would be mobilised in the coming days to perform a range of duties, including road accident rescue and traffic management.

The would also be manning driver reviver stations across the state in January.

SES assistant director George Cretu said volunteers, when in uniform at traffic incidents, were authorised to participate in roadclosures and give traffic signals and directions.

He said motorists should follow the directions they were given.

'Whilst the overwhelming majority of motorists comply with the directions of volunteers with patience and understanding, now and again some people don't accept the directions or make inappropriate comments to the volunteers," he said in a statement.

"It could be that some don't understand the SES role or it could be that people are in too much of a hurry.

"As with its other partner emergency services, the SES urges all motorists to be patient on the roads this summer."


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War against toy guns

Written By miftah nugraha on Minggu, 23 Desember 2012 | 19.55

A SEMI-AUTOMATIC toy gun rated the most popular toy for boys this Christmas has raised the ire of a global peace movement.

The rapid-fire Nerf gun, which makers promise will "deliver a semi-auto barrage of darts as fast as you can pull the trigger", is the top-rating boys' toy on a list released by the Australian National Retailers Association.

But the gun, along with a field of similarly sophisticated toy weapons, has triggered concern among child safety experts, the anti-gun lobby and the Tasmanian branch of an international peace movement.

The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom has renewed its campaign against toy guns, in response to the growing popularity of the high-powered imitation arsenal for children.

Its Tasmanian branch president, Linley Grant OAM, urged families to resist buying toy guns this Christmas.

"Toys are for fun, not for fighting," she said.

Mrs Grant has written to the Education Department about the league's concerns and has compiled a flyer, about the dangers of war-like toys for schools, to hand out to parents.

"War toys create the impression that 'might is right' rather than helping children to learn kindness and generosity, reconciliation and acceptance of others," the flyer says.

Education Department deputy secretary Liz Banks said the flyers had been distributed to all schools, government and non-government.

Hi-tech Nerf guns, which shoot foam darts or discs and are intended for eight-year-olds and above, have been high on lists of popular Christmas gifts for several years.

They have become so popular that the national Toy and Game expo in Sydney next year is planning a 20m by 10m Nerf Arena, which organisers expect will be one of the top attractions.

Gun Control Australia has raised concerns about the popularity of such realistic toy guns. Spokesman Roland Browne said there had been a resurgence in toy guns in recent years but it was a "trend we shouldn't be accepting".

"We should be trying to move away from an American gun culture," he said.

Kidsafe Tasmania chief executive Jenny Branch said toy guns seemed more powerful each year and posed a potential physical danger.

She said long-range toy guns could cause eye injuries and she urged parents to include safety goggles with any gun gifts.

Mrs Branch said the toys should not be used near children under eight or left around for young children to access.


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Action plea on light rail

SUPPORTERS of Hobart's proposed light-rail system have renewed calls for action following the release of the business case review yesterday.

Aecom's review of ACIL Tasman's 2011 business case found it was an essentially fair and sound appraisal of the project but likely optimistic in terms of capital and operating costs.

The review also forecast low commuter numbers.

Describing the review as "disappointing", Hobart Northern Suburbs Rail Action Group president Ben Johnston said action, including genuine community consultation, was needed.

"We really haven't progressed over the past two and half years," he said. "There needs to be more stakeholder engagement and genuine community consultation to build an effective business case.

"We're keen on action beyond words and flawed reports."

Mr Johnston also raised some concerns about the independence of the review.

"As the major community stakeholder, we are concerned that the mainland-based consultants were selected without going through an open tender process," he said.

Former Greens leader Bob Brown said he would convene a meeting of people and organisations who had shown an interest in the project on February 15 next year at MONA to help push it forward.

"I think the light rail is a fabulous opportunity but it needs co-ordination from the wider community," Mr Brown said.

"The Hobart light rail is a sign of whether our city is going to zing into the future or languish."

And Tasmanian Sustainable Transport Minister Nick McKim said he remained firmly committed to the light-rail project.

"I do think it's in the best interests of public transport in Hobart and, in fact, in the best interests of Hobart and Tasmania," he said.

"We will now conduct a separate business case on Stage One from Hobart to Glenorchy on the basis we believe we can get a significantly improved outcome that will allow me to make application to the Commonwealth Government for funding next year."

Opposition spokesman on sustainable transport Matthew Groom said the public was tired of reviews.

"Nick McKim releasing yet another review is a bit like Groundhog Day," he said. "What we need is a clear strategy and plan of action rather than these endless reviews."

He said the Liberal Party was not prepared to give up on the prospect of a light-rail system.

"We support additional public transport options in the northern suburbs and the light rail needs to be assessed in that context," he said.

To access the full report, go to www.dier.tas.gov.au

elizabeth.lord@news.com.au


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Festive real estate boom

WITH fewer open homes and active agents, Christmas and New Year can be a tricky time to buy or sell a home.

But with a slight market improvement across the state over the past three months, Real Estate Institute of Tasmania president Adrian Kelly says the current climate could translate to a spike in sales.

"The interest rate reductions have put more confidence into the market so I do think it is a good time to be selling," he said.

"Personally, I think we'll have a pretty good run of sales right through to Easter. And then we may see the usual winter slowdown that we've experienced over the last few years."

With Hobart the country's most affordable capital city with a median dwelling price of $305,875, there are many bargains to be had for serious local buyers or those coming from interstate or overseas for a summer holiday.

"It tends to hot up [the market], particularly in Hobart because you've got the Sydney to Hobart, the Wooden Boat Festival and the Taste Festival," Mr Kelly said.

"The agents that do actually work over Christmas and New Year's tend to do OK while we've got lots of mainlanders here.

"It might be a little bit different this year with the market being the way it is. Nevertheless they'll be here and many will look for properties."

Last summer there were 1712 sales across the state and with more than 9000 houses and units for sale, real estate agents and industry professionals are hopeful for even higher sales figures this summer.

Of the properties on the market, around 130 come with a price tag of more than $1 million but Mr Kelly believes prospective visiting buyers may target the cheaper end.

"A lot of them are looking for a little investment property," he said.

jessica.howard@news.com.au


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