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QC fights Neill-Fraser verdict

Written By miftah nugraha on Sabtu, 17 Agustus 2013 | 19.55

HIGH-PROFILE Melbourne lawyer Robert Richter has called for a commission of inquiry into the conviction of Sue Neill-Fraser for the murder of her partner, Bob Chappell.

The Victorian Queen's Counsel said yesterday he believed an inquiry would recommend Neill-Fraser's 2009 conviction be overturned.

The Hobart woman is serving 23 years for the killing of the former Royal Hobart Hospital radiation physicist, who disappeared from his yacht on the River Derwent on Australia Day 2009.

Mr Chappell's body has not been found, and Neill-Fraser's conviction has caused supporters to compare it to that of Lindy Chamberlain.

The case has ignited interest around the country as Neill-Fraser's family protests her innocence.

Appeals to the Court of Criminal Appeal and the High Court have been rejected and a coronial inquiry has been requested by Neill-Fraser's family.

Mr Richter said an inquiry chaired by an experienced criminal lawyer was needed to get to the truth.

"Having surveyed the material which is now available, we are quietly confident that a commissioner would report to the Government that the problems are so significant that it will be then appropriate (for the Attorney-General) to apply to the Court of Criminal Appeal, using the findings and evidence from the inquiry, for the conviction to be quashed," he wrote.

Former Integrity Commission chief Barbara Etter is leading the push for the reopening of the case.

"I feel confident in saying, after my 30 years in policing, that an inadequate police investigation failed to properly inform the court and the jury about the full circumstances surrounding the events of Australia Day 2009," Mrs Etter said.

"It is now time to review the matter and put community unease and concern to rest. It is essential that as Tasmanians we have the utmost confidence in our criminal justice system."

Attorney-General Brian Wightman said the Tasmanian Criminal Code provided mechanisms for criminal convictions to be referred back to the courts.

"The exercise of this power is generally only considered where there is new or fresh evidence which is compelling," he said.

"Ms Neill-Fraser has not sought to invoke any of those mechanisms," he said.

"There would need to be exceptional circumstances to warrant a commission of inquiry ... especially when options to seek to have the matter re-examined by the courts have not been pursued.

"However, it is important to note that the case has gone through a Supreme Court trial and an appeal in the Court of Criminal Appeal, in which there was no challenge to the jury verdict, nor was the sufficiency of evidence appealed."

david.killick@news.com.au


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Corporal given 21-gun salute

HARRY'S MATE: James Dunsby became mates with Prince Harry when they served in Afghanistan.

TASMANIAN soldier James Dunsby has been laid to rest with hundreds of people paying respects in a service at Trowbridge in England.

The reservist, who grew up in Tasmania but had been living in the UK, died during SAS selection training in Brecon Beacons.

Corporal Dunsby, 31, was born in Solihull in England but moved to Tasmania, attending St Virgil's College and the University of Tasmania.

He later moved back to Britain and had been living in Trowbridge with his wife, Bryher.

His coffin was covered by a Union Jack flag during the military service on Thursday which was attended by family, friends and fellow servicemen.

His wife spoke at the service.

"I shall miss you more than words could ever convey. What a truly wonderful adventure we had together. You have enriched my life more than I could ever imagine," Mrs Dunsby said.

Brother Joseph Dunsby also paid his respects.

"There was not one person who was influenced more by James than me, I absolutely idolised him," Mr Dunsby said.

"I feel like a huge part of me is gone in the wind. Pull up a pew next to grandad, Churchill and the rest of them and enjoy."

At the end of the service, as Cpl Dunsby's coffin left the churchyard, there was a 21-gun salute.

Cpl Dunsby became friends with Prince Harry while the pair were serving together in Helmand Province, in Afghanistan, in 2008.

He collapsed on July 13 during a hike in extreme heat.

Lance Corporal Craig Roberts and Edward Maher also died on the exercise.

An investigation into their deaths is under way.

emma.hope@news.com.au


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Bring it home, Danny boy

PREPARATIONS: Daniel Geale in training for the IBF middleweight title fight.

THERE are 13 restaurants inside the plush Revel resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey, but Tasmania's Daniel Geale is still hungry.

He defends his IBF middleweight title against Englishman Darren Barker there tomorrow afternoon (Tasmanian time) and says his huge appetite for success will make all the difference against his toughest opponent yet a slick, clever and well-schooled challenger.

"I still have so many more goals," Geale said.

"There are many more big fights out there for me and more world titles that I want to win. I've only just started the journey and Darren Barker is going to face a very hungry fighter this weekend."

The Launceston boxer (29-1, 15 KOs) and Londoner Barker (25-1, 16 KOs) have been on a collision course since both won gold in different divisions at the Manchester Commonwealth Games.

Yesterday Geale, 32, could hardly contain his enthusiasm.

"To all my fans, please tune in because I'm going to bring that title home." 

-- GRANTLEE KIEZA


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Wilkie in poll position

Written By miftah nugraha on Jumat, 16 Agustus 2013 | 19.55

INDEPENDENT MP Andrew Wilkie has received a boost in his bid to retain the marginal Tasmanian seat of Denison at the federal election.

Already considered the favourite, Mr Wilkie has been drawn ahead of major rivals Labor and the Greens at number two on the ballot paper.

His name will appear below the Liberal Party, although their candidate Tanya Denison is only considered an outside chance in a seat held by the ALP for 23 years before 2010.

Greens candidate Anna Reynolds is third on the 10-candidate list.

The independent's greatest threat, Labor's Jane Austin, will be listed ninth.

Mr Wilkie was elected from third place on preferences in 2010 and holds the seat with a margin of just 1.2 per cent over the ALP.


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Corporal given 21-gun salute

HARRY'S MATE: James Dunsby became mates with Prince Harry when they served in Afghanistan.

TASMANIAN soldier James Dunsby has been laid to rest with hundreds of people paying respects in a service at Trowbridge in England.

The reservist, who grew up in Tasmania but had been living in the UK, died during SAS selection training in Brecon Beacons.

Corporal Dunsby, 31, was born in Solihull in England but moved to Tasmania, attending St Virgil's College and the University of Tasmania.

He later moved back to Britain and had been living in Trowbridge with his wife, Bryher.

His coffin was covered by a Union Jack flag during the military service on Thursday which was attended by family, friends and fellow servicemen.

His wife spoke at the service.

"I shall miss you more than words could ever convey. What a truly wonderful adventure we had together. You have enriched my life more than I could ever imagine," Mrs Dunsby said.

Brother Joseph Dunsby also paid his respects.

"There was not one person who was influenced more by James than me, I absolutely idolised him," Mr Dunsby said.

"I feel like a huge part of me is gone in the wind. Pull up a pew next to grandad, Churchill and the rest of them and enjoy."

At the end of the service, as Cpl Dunsby's coffin left the churchyard, there was a 21-gun salute.

Cpl Dunsby became friends with Prince Harry while the pair were serving together in Helmand Province, in Afghanistan, in 2008.

He collapsed on July 13 during a hike in extreme heat.

Lance Corporal Craig Roberts and Edward Maher also died on the exercise.

An investigation into their deaths is under way.

emma.hope@news.com.au


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Bring it home, Danny boy

PREPARATIONS: Daniel Geale in training for the IBF middleweight title fight.

THERE are 13 restaurants inside the plush Revel resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey, but Tasmania's Daniel Geale is still hungry.

He defends his IBF middleweight title against Englishman Darren Barker there tomorrow afternoon (Tasmanian time) and says his huge appetite for success will make all the difference against his toughest opponent yet a slick, clever and well-schooled challenger.

"I still have so many more goals," Geale said.

"There are many more big fights out there for me and more world titles that I want to win. I've only just started the journey and Darren Barker is going to face a very hungry fighter this weekend."

The Launceston boxer (29-1, 15 KOs) and Londoner Barker (25-1, 16 KOs) have been on a collision course since both won gold in different divisions at the Manchester Commonwealth Games.

Yesterday Geale, 32, could hardly contain his enthusiasm.

"To all my fans, please tune in because I'm going to bring that title home." 

-- GRANTLEE KIEZA


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Power prices to drop

Written By miftah nugraha on Kamis, 15 Agustus 2013 | 19.55

POWER prices in Tasmania are set to drop by 5.23 per cent next year in line with retail contestability.

The drop could see the average Tasmanian household save about $140 a year.

The independent Tasmanian Economic Regulator has this morning approved a State Government proposal to see a drop in power prices for Tasmanian households and small businesses from January 1.

"The approved standing offer prices represent a 5.23 per cent price decrease compared to the prices applying for the period 1 July 2013 to 31 December 2013," Tasmanian Economic Regulator chairman Glenn Appleyard said this morning.


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Tassie weather plays havoc

Carmen Shaw, 21, of Launceston braves the elements. Picture: ROSS MARSDEN

TORRENTIAL rain, hail and high winds have caused havoc across the North with businesses and homes flooded, roads closed and the state's rail network shut down.

The severe weather hit across the North, North-West and West of the state on Tuesday night and early yesterday.

About 18 businesses in the Launceston suburb of Kings Meadows were affected by flash flooding.

Kings Meadows Seafoods owner Dimitrios Amerikanos said staff took about three hours to mop brown mud from the shop's floors.

Mr Amerikanos and signwriter Alan Dinsmore said past floods had taught them to leave anything of value well above floor level.

Mr Dinsmore said the high water mark yesterday reached about 15cm above his workshop floor.

The low pressure system that brought overnight rainfall of between 50mm and 80mm across northern areas triggered moderate flood warnings for the North Esk, South Esk and Meander rivers.

Conditions were milder in the south, with 8mm of rain at Hobart to 9am yesterday and a further 10.2mm to 8pm.

Mostly showery days are forecast for the rest of this week.

The State Emergency Service received 12 call-outs in the North-West on Tuesday night.

Most involved roof and water damage and blocked and overflowing drains.

In the South, the SES received two call-outs for leaking roofs.

TasRail closed its rail network just after midnight Tuesday after the conditions hampered service crews from establishing the extent of any damage to the lines. A landslip at Kimberley Bank cut the Western Line.

"To make the rare decision to close the entire track is an indication of the significant safety risk we believed was present on the main line," TasRail CEO Damien White said.

Several roads were closed including the northbound lanes of the West Tamar Highway, Youl Rd, Winkleigh Rd at Winkleigh and Nile Rd.

In Launceston, 52mm of rain fell between 9am Tuesday and 9am yesterday.


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Farmer seeks case review

A FORMER Redpa dairy farmer, who was last month found guilty of animal cruelty, has applied for his case to be reviewed in the Supreme Court, the Launceston Magistrates Court heard today.

In his sentencing submission defence barrister Greg Barns did not dispute the prosecution's arguments regarding the cruelty and severity of offences committed by Roderic Neil Mitchell, involving as many as 188 cows.

Mr Barns also did not dispute evidence regarding Mr Mitchell's repeated refusals to comply with advice and directions given to him by animal welfare officers, police, dairy advisers and other farmers.

He said Mr Mitchell, 33, had arrived in Tasmania aged in his 20s, over-confident after earning quick profits from a sale of irrigation water rights in Victoria.

Mr Barns said Mr Mitchell had been out of his depth.

"This is a young man who has not stuck to his knitting. A snowball effect, of a young person who thinks they have the answers, and who are not prepared to listen to those with knowledge," he said.

Mr Barns said it had been suggested, in evidence, that Mr Mitchell's behaviours and lack of insight had been consistent with a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

"That doesn't say that this means he wasn't able to understand directions, it's simply context," he said.

Mr Barnes said Mr Mitchell's offences were not among the worst forms of animal abuse, because they did not involve the sadistic torture or killing of animals.

Prosecutor Harry Virs said a custodial sentence was appropriate, given Mr Mitchell's actions in prolonging the court action against him which had begun in 2007, his lack of remorse and repeated refusal to follow directions and advice.

Mr Virs said Mr Mitchell had admitted, while under cross examination, that he had been actively engaged in efforts to have animal welfare officers removed from investigations because "they were sabotaging my farm".

He said when police and animal welfare officers arrived at the Redpa farm to seize cows on July 21, 2007, their path was blocked by Mr Mitchell's tractor.

Mr Virs said when asked to move the tractor, Mr Mitchell told them it was inoperable.

"When they went to another part of the property ... he started up the tractor and parked it in front of a livestock truck, to transfer stock to Cressy station," he said.

Mr Virs said Mr Mitchell had been asked in cross examination, "Is it justifiable in your view to starve a cow".

He said Mr Mitchell had paused for as long as 10 seconds before answering, "It depends on what your definition of starve is".

Mr Barns said Mr Mitchell now operated a profitable fencing business in Victoria, but still had debts of about $1 million in relation to the Redpa property.

Magistrate Reg Marron yesterday extended Mr Mitchell's bail until sentencing on September 18.


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Fire destroys historic tavern

Written By miftah nugraha on Rabu, 14 Agustus 2013 | 19.55

The historic Campania Tavern was destroyed by fire early this morning. Picture: CAROLYN MEREDITH

AN early morning fire has destroyed the historic Campania Tavern in the state's south.

Fire crews were called to the Coal River Valley tavern just after at 4.30am to find the building in the centre of town ablaze.

Campania fire brigade chief Robin Howlett said crews used two fire hydrants and six hoses to try to contain the blaze in the 1877 weatherboard building.

Residents from two houses across the road from the hotel were evacuated as strong winds fanned thick black smoke through the tiny rural town.

Despite the best efforts of four brigades the building was gutted.

Hobart CIB detectives and fire investigators are on the scene.

The tavern was the scene of an armed robbery on Saturday night.

Police are refusing to draw a link between the two events.

"We are not closing our mind to any possibilities," Acting Inspector Craig Joel said.

The tavern was originally a railway hotel, built by P.J. Nichols and opened in June 1877 with Thomas Workman as the first licensee.

Local resident Alex Green said the building had been one of the last timber railway hotels, which were sadly disappearing from the landscape around Tasmania.

"It was an important part of the local development following on from of the main line railway which opened in 1876," Mr Green said.

"There was no town at Campania before the railway, just a farm. They built the railway station and the people followed.

"The hotel is an important part of Tasmanian history which has sadly gone up in smoke."


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Gay back in court

THE Crown has told a Supreme Court Judge today it is not pushing for a full-time jail sentence for former Gunns chairman John Gay.

John Eugene Gay, 70, of Clarence St, Launceston, pleaded guilty on August 5 to one count of insider trading.

Gay sold more than 3.4 million Gunns shares between December 2 and December 10, 2009, while in possession of inside knowledge from the company's October management report.

Justice David Porter heard sentencing submissions from prosecution and defence this morning.

Commonwealth prosecutor David Staehli, SC, said the unusual circumstances of the case meant the Crown accepted that a sentence not involving full-time custody may be justified.

Defence counsel Neil Clelland, SC, also submitted that punishment did not require a sentence of imprisonment.

He outlined Gay's history of prostate cancer and his "uncertain" prognosis to Justice Porter.

He said that after his cancer diagnosis Gay had resolved to sell shares to address his $14 million debt to the ANZ Bank.

The decision to sell was made before he saw the October management report which detailed the company's plummeting fortunes.

Mr Clelland said the defence was aware that Gunns divided public opinion.

He said the Gay family's pet dog had been poisoned and the family was threatened and vilified, especially during the pulp mill debate.

The court heard last week that Gay sold shares at 90 cents each, yielding $3.09 million, before they fell by 19 cents a share after the half-year result was released in February 2010.

The hearing continues this afternoon.


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State's north awash

RESIDENTS of the Launceston suburb of Newstead are being warned that their properties are at risk of flooding by rising river waters in coming hours.

Launceston City Council and State Emergency Service officers have begun doorknocking residences in Hart St and Birch Avenue, which have been threatened by the swollen North Esk River.

SES spokeswoman Mhairi Revie said at least 24 homes had been affected by flash flooding in Newnham, Newstead, Prospect, Evandale and Perth.

At least 18 businesses in the Kings Meadows shopping strip have been inundated -- the first time in eight years that flooding has been reported in that area.

Ms Revie said sandbagging and water pumping operations were being carried out in affected areas of Northern Tasmania.

She said Launceston's flood levy system, which is still under construction, was unlikely to be breached, but SES was watching closely for any escalation of rainfall or flooding.

A cold front brought overnight rainfalls of between 50mm and 80mm over Northern Catchments including the North Esk, South Esk and Meander.

The Bureau of Meteorology has issued moderate flood alerts for those catchments.

In Tasmania's south, the Styx and Tyena Rivers are running high after rainfalls as high as 38mm over the Derwent River catchment areas, but flooding is not expected in the lower Derwent River.

Tasmania Police reports that most affected roads are passable at this stage. Some including the West Tamar Highway, Youl Rd and Winkleigh Rd, have flood-warning signs.


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FFT plans $9m soccer hub

Written By miftah nugraha on Selasa, 13 Agustus 2013 | 19.55

The proposed layout of the soccer hub at Cambridge.

A $9 MILLION hub for senior, youth and junior soccer is being proposed for Cambridge Memorial Oval.

Football Federation Tasmania today announced the plan to add one full-sized natural turf pitch, two junior and five small-sided artificial turf pitches to existing small-sided pitches.

FFT said it will be seeking money from federal and state governments for the development.

"Our available infrastructure for junior and youth football is stretched, and the situation is especially poor in the South of the state," FFT president Sean Collins said.

-- by SIMEON THOMAS-WILSON


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Wind whistles across state

Carmen Shaw, 21, of Launceston, braving today's wild and windy conditions. Picture: ROSS MARSDEN

TASMANIA is being buffeted by strong wind, with gusts forecast to hit 100km/h later in the day.

The Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe weather warning earlier today.

It said a low-pressure system would pass just to the south of Tasmania this afternoon, with an associated cold front to cross the state from the west this evening and overnight.

Damaging winds about 50 km/h, with peak gusts of 100 km/h, were forecast for the entire state

Speaking just before 2pm today, State Emergency Service regional duty officer Mark Dance said no calls had been received yet but conditions were expected to intensify.

He said householders should secure any loose items around their homes and keep well clear of any fallen trees or downed power lines.

Drivers are advised that wind gusts will make driving conditions dangerous this afternoon and evening on many roads around Tasmania.

For emergency help in floods and storms, ring the SES on 132 500.


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Call to reveal same-sex stance

FAMILY First Senate candidate Peter Madden has urged Liberal Party candidates, Andrew Nikolic (Bass) and Eric Hutchinson (Lyons) to reveal their feelings on same-sex marriage or his party's preferences will be going to their political opponents.

"The people of Tasmania deserve to know where candidates from both major parties stand concerning family values issues," Mr Madden said today.

"Though Family First is very focused on Tasmania's economic restoration, family values are essential to who we support.

"Our support will go to family values candidates, not to any specific party."

The calls came as Labor MPs Geoff Lyons (Bass) and Dick Adams (Lyons) told the Mercury they had not changed their position to vote against same-sex marriage legislation.

Mr Madden said Mr Adams and Mr Lyons had proven their support for family values.

"The overwhelming majority of Liberal candidates uphold family values and will be supported by Family First," Mr Madden said.

"However Brigadier Nikolic and Eric Hutchinson have not made it clear where they stand on this important issue and this is not acceptable.

"Consequently we are calling them out, to make their position clear in the next 24 hours, otherwise preference deals may be finalised."

The Liberal Party have been contacted for comment.


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Volcano land, week 2

Written By miftah nugraha on Senin, 12 Agustus 2013 | 19.55

Andrew was greeted by dancing villagers dressed in palm fronds when he arrived at Karapi in Papua New Guinea.

LIFE abounds five degrees below the equator. As week two of Volcano Land draws to an itching conclusion, I can report that the grid dimensions of the mesh inner of my tent are greater than the girth of the average-sized sand fly and the occasional flying ant.

Casual observers would think I've contracted adult measles, but that's the trade-off for the flying fish, saucepan sized butterfly and edible nuts that just fall willy nilly out of trees.

The folding sea kayak has transported me nearly 200km along the coast from Walindi to the foot of Mt Ulawun, a 2334m giant volcano.

Along the way, at Karapi village, I pulled in at the black sand beach to be mobbed by about 100 people. It was a local holiday to mark the death of a former provincial governor.

Dorothy Herman, a widowed teacher, put her hand up to house me for the night. As fast as the dry bags were pulled from beneath the skin of the kayak they were whisked away by eager hands. I was left with nothing to carry but the paddle.

Manuel Mauda led me away to the men's washing area of the creek and then on an extended tour of the village. It sprawls along the rough highway that continues to the Bialla oil palm plantations and beyond.

Manuel's great uncle came down from his pole frame house and explained that he'd been to Brisbane on joint training with the Australian Defence Force. As a PNG Defence Force member he'd been a soldier during the transition to independence in 1975. He receives about 60 Kina ($28) a month as a pension.

Young men dressed in palm fronds like the storybook Grug, come charging out of nowhere with whippy sticks to chase the young children from the galip trees, which are now bearing the tasty galip nut. It's a traditional game that part-delights and part-terrifies the children.

The next morning I depart with a ripening paw paw in the front hold and two drinking coconuts tied to the back. Just in time - the afternoon storm is rumbling in from the mountains to cool the itches.

Expedition Class is a program of the Bookend Trust. This project is supported by the Tasmanian Department of Education, Pennicott Foundation, UTAS SET, Mercury NIE, IMAS, Sea to Summit and friends. Follow Andrew's daily reports at www.expeditionclass.com


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Welcome U-Turn on funding

THE State Government has done a U-turn on its decision to scrap a highly successful youth justice program.

Designed to divert at-risk young people from crime, Mission Australia's U-Turn program is today back on track after receiving a $600,000 funding injection from the State Government.

Tasmania Police announced earlier this year it could no longer afford to fund the U-Turn program because of savage cuts to the police budget.

But Mission Australia state director Noel Mundy says the $600,000 funding will save the program, which has involved about 450 young people restoring and giving away 49 cars in the past decade.

"First and foremost we are celebrating about Mission Australia being able to help 40 young people every year into the future, keeping them out of the youth justice system," Mr Mundy said in a statement.

"We are celebrating being able to give these young people life skills, being able to make them job-ready in the car and other mechanical industries.

"It's not the $860,000 that was first cut from the Tasmania Police budget, but we are confident that continued corporate support from around Tasmania will assist us.

"We may have to cut our cloth a bit but we aim to provide the best program we can."

Mr Mundy said the next full U-Turn program would start in September.

Read more in tomorrow's Mercury


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Candidate a rural voice

WELL-KNOWN Central Highlands agribusinessman Geoff Herbert says by running for election he will give voice to the rural sector.

From Bothwell, Mr Herbert's interests reach into the heartland of the highlands community and beyond. His business includes food, fuel, fishing and hunting supplies.

"Like the rural community I am fed up with the unnecessary bureaucratic red tape which goes government to government -- it's nonsense and is getting worse. This has inspired me to run," Mr Herbert said.

About six weeks ago he decided to stand for Katter's Australian Party in the Senate.

The Central Highlands lost $12 million of retail value when the forest industry closed.

"The state has 200,000 hectares of plantation timber with farmers left out to dry, they are not getting any answers.

"The whole industry has disappeared, and then you look at what the district got out of the $100 million peace deal money, absolutely nothing."

High on the agenda is freight equalisation, funding to complete the Southern Highlands Irrigation Scheme and why the NBN roll out has come to grinding stop.

He said the community had gone to government seeking answers about the key issues plus sealing the Highland Lakes Highway, which has tourism potential.

"We have been fobbed off. People in the country are not treated fairly, and governments just want us to go away," Mr Herbert said.

Katter's Australian Party hopes to run two candidates in the Senate, with party leader Bob Katter in Tasmania next week.


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Community's heart beats on

Written By miftah nugraha on Minggu, 11 Agustus 2013 | 19.55

TUCKED away in suburbs across the state, Tasmania's network of 34 neighbourhood houses are on the front line of the state's financial crisis.

Most of the houses are under increasing pressure to meet demand and staff say promised extra funding can't come soon enough.

Risdon Vale's Neighbourhood Centre is a typical example of the many ageing, cash-strapped houses that are still managing to make a positive impact in their community.

Centre co-ordinator Ann Harrison is the only full-time paid staff member at the centre.

The centre's annual budget from the Department of Health and Human Services is about $112,000 a year.

More funding is sourced from a patchwork of grants and the houses rely heavily on a pool of volunteers.

The humble brown brick house next to the Risdon Vale shopping area was opened in 1985.

"Because of the increased demand now on neighbourhood houses and the cost of living pressures we're doing much more and there's just not enough space," Mrs Harrison said.

Young mum Danielle Clifford, of West Moonah, grew up in Risdon Vale. Her parents still live there and she attended playgroup at the community centre when she was a child.

Now she brings her own son Riley, 1, to playgroup and is learning new skills by volunteering at the centre.

"It gets us all together, and we're getting things organised and getting things done," Ms Clifford said.

Mrs Harrison said the centre was an empowering place for young mothers.

"Sometimes the young ones have babies and they become isolated at home and they get lost. When they are young they want to have a baby and then they realise it's not the be-all and end-all ... with everything that they do here, they are learning skills and it gives them confidence and self esteem," she said.

With charities buckling under rising demand, neighbourhood houses are now providing food aid daily. Staff also connect locals with financial counsellors and drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

Cooking classes are offered to local mums who struggle to afford healthy food and who lack a sound knowledge of cooking and nutrition.

Mrs Harrison said the Federal Government's decision to transfer some single mums from the single parenting payment to Newstart was having a big impact at Risdon Vale.

"Some [single mums] have lost $100 per fortnight and that's their food money. I don't think things are going to get any easier. Kids have poor diets in these high-needs communities," Mrs Harrison said.

As one of the few winners from this year's State Budget, neighbourhood houses will be making the most of every cent.

A total of $4 million will be allocated over the next two years to pay for infrastructure upgrades across Tasmania's 34 neighbourhood houses.

In addition, $580,000 has been provided for preventative health programs to be run through the houses.

Mrs Harrison said the Tasmanian Association of Community Houses had been lobbying the Government and MPs for extra money for some time.

"They know it's money well spent, we save the government a lot of money through the work we do, it's the community doing work to help the community."

For more information, go to www.tach.asn.au

blair.richards@news.com.au


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Forestry funding in balance

AS the fate of the final $100 million of the $420 million Tasmanian Forestry Agreement hangs in the balance, Deputy Premier Bryan Green has launched a blistering attack on his Liberal Party opponents, describing their plans to thwart the deal as the "biggest act of political bastardry in Tasmania's history".

The Liberals, for their part, say they will do nothing to stop the cash from flowing, saying it is only Labor that has made the funding conditional.

Where the money goes

Money promised by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd last month is contingent on the state's Upper House giving its final blessing to the forest peace deal.

The ongoing crisis in forestry has caused the state's biggest company -- Gunns -- to go belly-up and Forestry Tasmania to teeter on the brink of insolvency.

Mr Green said the federal money was vital to building a post-forestry economic future for timber communities.

"Funding from the Tasmanian Forest Agreement is extremely important for Tasmania's economy and the people who have been impacted by the downturn in the forest industry," he said.

"The TFA is about helping the industry to restructure, for businesses to transition and to support forestry workers and communities through these difficult times."

Mr Green has hotly denied repeated accusations from the State Opposition that the money is payment to shut the forest industry down.

"The Liberals have the one-liners and policy slogans but no answers. It is the Liberals who pose the biggest threat to the forest industry and money flowing from the TFA," Mr Green said.

"If the Liberals succeed, it would be the biggest act of political bastardry in Tasmania's history."

The state Liberal Party has long vowed to tear up the forest peace deal should it win office at the next state election, expected in March next year.

That pledge would mean that forests placed in reserves would again be open for logging.

Liberal MP Peter Gutwein condemned the conditional nature of the forestry funding.

"Tasmania deserves its fair share of regional development money to grow industries across the state," he said.

"This money should not be linked to shutting down forestry.

"We don't support paying to shut down the forestry industry, close businesses and buy out jobs."

Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott told ABC radio the forestry funds would still flow if the Liberals won the federal election.

"What I said was that I was not going to begrudge hard-pressed businesses the federal grant that they were recently given by Mr Rudd," he said.

"I also said that as far as I am concerned, Commonwealth money spent in Tasmania should be to keep industries going and to boost industries, not to close them down.

"But those grants that were announced by the Commonwealth a few weeks ago, they will be honoured."

david.killick@news.com.au


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