Abbott’s boulevard of broken promises

A post-election advertisement from the Coalition.Australian politics: full coverageMark Kenny: Pyne’s broken promise set to haunt AbbottBackdown means $2b less for NSW educationPyne pledges $230 as government goes into damage controlBetrayal angers school principals
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They promised before the election to be a “no-surprises” government.

But since winning power the Abbott government has lengthened its list of broken promises and policy surprises by more than one a week.

Just two days ago, the Federal Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, performed a brazen policy back-flip on school funding, saying he would no longer accept Labor’s funding and overall model despite Tony Abbott making this pre-election promise: ”We will honour the agreements that Labor has entered into. We will match the offers that Labor has made. We will make sure that no school is worse off.”

A few weeks ago, the Coalition’s pre-election commitment to ”turn back the boats” was broken after Immigration Minister Scott Morrison ended a tense standoff with Jakarta – which was refusing to accept a boatload of asylum seekers – by ordering the boat to be taken to Christmas Island.

Last month, Treasurer Joe Hockey said he wanted to increase the debt ceiling from $300 billion to $500 billion. That was after the Coalition attacked the then Labor government’s decision in May last year to raise Australia’s debt ceiling from $250 billion to $300 billion, which Tony Abbott described at the time as ”really extraordinary”.

”What Joe Hockey is now doing on both the commission of cuts and on the issue of the debt ceiling is a million miles away from the expectations he gave the Australian people before the election,” Labor finance spokesman Tony Burke said about the Coalition’s recent decision to raise the debt limit.

Mr Abbott also promised before the election to have a government ”which is transparent and open”, saying ”the last thing we want to do is to hide anything from the Australian people”.

Since then, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has implemented a highly restrictive regime regarding information on border protection.

The Coalition has also surprised voters by abolishing the portfolio of minister for science, sending no minister to climate talks in Poland, and deciding to only have one female cabinet minister.

These things appear to fly in the face of Mr Abbott’s campaign launch pledge:

”We will be a no-surprises, no-excuses government, because you are sick of nasty surprises and lame excuses from people that you have trusted with your future.”

More chin music in Adelaide: Johnson

Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson addresses the media at the WACA. Photo: Paul KaneIf England’s batsmen struggled with the short-pitched bowling in the First Ashes Test at the Gabba, then they’re going to hate batting in Adelaide.
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Resurrected fast bowler Mitchell Johnson warns that there is more of the same to come in the Second Test and believes that the “bouncer” is more difficult to play there.

And he also expects the verbal jousting that has become such a talking point since the end of the First Test to continue between the two sides throughout the series, despite captain Michael Clarke copping a fine for comments made to England tail-ender Jimmy Anderson during play on the fourth and final day in Brisbane.

Johnson said that while he had not heard that the English camp had voiced concerns that Australia’s bowling may have been dangerous during the home side’s dominant 381-run victory, he found the idea of it amusing.

“I didn’t hear that, it’s quite funny though,” he said on Wednesday in Perth.

“I was just playing the game and by the rules – you get two short balls an over – over the head, or shoulders and I definitely used them – used the wicket to its potential.

“The fast bouncy Gabba wicket is a perfect time to use it – I don’t think it was dangerous at all.

“We went really hard at their tail. That was a plan to use the wicket at the Gabba to go really hard at them.

“Look, I don’t like facing bouncers. No one does. When the ball’s coming past your nose on a fast wicket, it’s never nice. I’m not sure if it’s fear; it’s just part of the game.

“And I still come in [to Adelaide] with the short ball because it is up and down there – it makes it even harder I think – where at the Gabba it’s true bounce.

“I think that makes it a lot more difficult to play the short ball. But I’ll definitely continue to use it, because it definitely worked.”

Johnson starred in the Aussie win and was declared the Man of the Match with combined figures of 9-103 as the tourists were dismissed for 136 in their first innings and 179 in the second.

Several of his wickets came from deliveries that had bounced in his own half of the pitch.

Those who love numbers will be titillated by the fact that Johnson scored the same amount of runs with the bat that he gave away with the ball – 103 – while being dismissed only once.

His 64 in the first innings and 114-run partnership with Brad Haddin came at a particularly good time, as the Aussies were, seemingly, struggling at 6-132 when they came together.

And while centuries were scored and hauls of wickets taken, it’s the sledging controversy that has created headlines since Australia claimed victory to go 1-0 up in the series.

Not that it bothers Johnson, nor the Australian team; the fast bowler declaring that the players are ‘stoked’ with the victory and are concentrating on being able to go 2-0 up in Adelaide.

The verbal battle that occurred on the pitch that has been so widely covered seems to be continuing long after the bails and wickets have been removed from the middle of the Gabba though.

Johnson is the latest Australian player to suggest that England would be rattled after such a big first up loss.

“They’ll definitely be thinking about it. To be beaten in four days, and they would have probably been expecting to probably win at the Gabba after the last time they were there,” he said.

“They were obviously pretty confident. They’re going to fight hard, but we’ve definitely made an impact on them.

“Obviously with [England number-three] Jonathan Trott going home [because of a stress-related illness] as well is a huge impact.

“They’ll be thinking of a lot of things now.

“We’ve just got to keep focusing on our game, keep sticking to our plans and hopefully win in Adelaide and come here [to the WACA] and win here as well.”

He said that the bowling team of himself, Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and spinner Nathan Lyon were focussed on the team goal of being number-one in the world again.

And that it was easy to do with the knowledge that he had the full support of his captain, Clarke.

He made a point of recognising Clarke for standing up for his players and copping a fine of 20 per cent of his match fee from the First Test.

And while he didn’t believe the Channel 9 microphone picked up the worst of the sledging from the play, he didn’t think the verbal exchanges were anything out of the ordinary for an Ashes Test.

The West Australian, as he now classes himself, added that he would hate for the governing bodies to clamp down too hard on sledging to a point where it was taken out of the game.

“Definitely [want to see it remain in the game],” he said. “And I think it’s worked for us. I definitely think they’re rattled by it. They don’t like it at all.

“Obviously their coach has come out and wanted a truce from what I’ve heard. That’s not going to change from our end.

“We all know as professional players where that line is and you stick by it; always tread it, but like I said, it’s an Ashes series and it’s a back to back series as well, so there is definitely tension flying. But as long as it stays below that line.

“We know there is definitely tension there – there always has been.

“I thought it was really good what Michael did, as a captain. That’s what you want your captain to do – stand up for the players and that’s what he did.

“It was really exciting to see.

“It just happened to be that the stump mic was up at that time. There were obviously other things that were said and not heard. So it’s nothing unusual, but I was really happy with how he stood up for the team.”

The Second Test starts in Adelaide on December 5.

Mitchell Johnson’s fundraising ‘mo’ to stay for Second Ashes Test

Mitchell Johnson warns England to expect more pain in Adelaide
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Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson will keep his handlebar moustache for the Second Ashes Test.

But it’s nothing to do with any superstition he may have after he demolished England in the Gabba Test, taking nine wickets and making 103 runs, to earn Man of the Match honours.

He’s hoping to raise $50,000 for men’s health through the Movember initiative.

Men’s mental health became a talking point after the First Test, with England number-three batsman Jonathan Trott heading home because of stress-related issues.

Johnson got a good look at Trott in the First Test, taking his wicket in both innings (for a combined total of 19 runs) and said he had no idea that the Englishman was struggling with internal demons.

But he did empathise with him, admitting that the life of a Test cricketer does have its challenges.

The speedster has had to deal with form slumps, injury and a tough schedule and still keep a clear mind when he gets to the top of his bowling mark with the ball in his hand.

When he injured his toe and had to sit out of the game recently, he said the timing was perfect; and perhaps he wouldn’t have been in Brisbane last week if he had not had the chance to freshen up.

“It has been a huge booster for me; it was a great time for me to step away from the game – and freshen up, physically and moreso mentally as well,” he said.

“At the time I was playing three forms of the game and it’s flat out, the scheduling that we have; it was perfect timing as much as you don’t want to get injured.

“I had two and half months at homes through the last Ashes series, which was really good for me as well.

“I feel strong and I feel fit and bowling well at the moment.”

And he is aware now of how quickly it can turn if he doesn’t keep on top of it.

“The media conferences; if you read the papers and are copping it; the crowds when you play away from home and sometimes at home you cop a fair bit. It all comes into it. As a professional, you have to find a way to deal with all that,” he said.

“Each and every individual who plays the game has their way of managing how they deal with it. It can be tough at times when it’s not going so well; you start to think about everything. You think about every little thing that’s going on in your life when you should be focusing on one thing.

“It seems maybe a bit the way he’s [Trott] thinking at the moment, and needs to just get away from the game.”

Although Movember officially finishes a week before the first ball of the Adelaide Test is bowled, Mitchell has decided to keep the whiskers for a while longer in a bid to raise $50,000 for men’s health.

“I spoke to my wife [Jessica] about it actually and she made a suggestion that we try and raise some more money for charity and we’ll try to keep it for the whole series,” he said.

“So that’s what I’m going to try to do. I’m going to try to raise $50,000 before December 3. That’s the plan. I’ll keep the mo throughout the whole Ashes series if I get to the 50.

To donate, visit http://mobro爱上海同城论坛/mitchjohnson25

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Beware the wounded animal, says Greg Chappell of England’s Ashes team

Greg Chappell has warned Australia to ”beware the wounded animal” against an England side that Stuart Broad said would be stronger after its customary first-up shocker.
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The English are drawing confidence from their ability to lift after making less than impressive starts to series. In the past four years the first Test of each series has generally been when England has proved to be most vulnerable.

It was evident in this year’s Ashes series, where they squeaked home by 14 runs at Nottingham, in India 12 months ago when they dropped the first Test only to secure the series by winning the next two matches, and also in 2009 when they escaped with a draw against Ricky Ponting’s team in Cardiff before regaining the urn.

”If we judged the English cricket side on the first match of the series, we’d be the worst side in the world because we don’t have a good record in that,” Broad said. ”I can’t put my finger on why, but it’s something we need to improve.

”Adelaide will be a huge Test match to get back into the series, but we have confidence and experience that we can do that.”

While the drop-in pitch in Adelaide is expected to nullify Australia’s pace advantage, Broad said England was not regarding the second Test as a must-win – even with the paceman’s paradise of Perth to follow soon after.

But Broad said England’s batsmen would be working hard in Alice Springs to find a remedy to their flaws against the short ball.

”We gave some soft wickets away at bad times in that Test match which really gave the Australians confidence,” he said.

”We need to exclude that from our game. We need to get back to scoring big runs, make ourselves difficult to get out.

”I think I saw 14 wickets get out on the leg side, which is really rare for an international batting line-up. It’s something we’re aware of and there’ll be some hard yards in the nets this week.

”We’ve got to improve with both bat and ball and we’ve got the characters in the changing room who will do that.”

As confidence rises across the country that Australia can snap a run of three consecutive Ashes defeats, Chappell said England remained a worthy opponent.

”I don’t think Australia will get carried away with their victory and I don’t think England will be too despondent about their loss, but beware the wounded animal.

”They’re likely to go away and think through what happened and come back with a slightly different plan, and who knows what happens next?” Chappell said.

TAFE shows off New Generation, photos

SUITS YOU: Designer Meg Wilcher backstage with Kira Dalmazzone, who is modelling a Wilcher creation called Legs On Tap. Picture: Max Mason-HubersMEG Wilcher doesn’t think of glamorous frocks when she sets out to design evening wear for the red carpet.
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The 20-year-old from Cooks Hill is more of a jumpsuit and skatewear kinda gal.

Wilcher was among 50 Hunter TAFE fashion students who showed their designs in the New Generation end-of-year runway show at Newcastle City Hall last night.

‘‘We had to design something for red carpet and I wanted to design something I would wear,’’ Wilcher said. ‘‘I’m not a girly person so I designed the jumpsuit.’’

Over the past 12 months, she has also designed an eight-piece ready-to-wear collection and a tailored jacket for the show, taking inspiration from the ’60s and ’70s surf and skate culture.

‘‘Everything I like to do is edgy and I like to be original and innovative,’’ Wilcher said.

In its fifth year, the Hunter TAFE New Generation show featured more than 200 student designs across the categories of swimwear, after five, studio design and race wear.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

Scenes from the TAFE’s New Generation fashion show at Newcastle City Hall on Wednesday night. Pictures by Max Mason-Hubers.

EDITORIAL: Cancer service shortfall

IN February last year a definitive study forced the NSW government to admit that Newcastle’s main cancer hospital was hopelessly underfunded. Incontrovertible evidence of unacceptable treatment delays led to promises that things would get better.
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Now, in late 2013, the National Health Performance Authority has rated Newcastle Calvary Mater Hospital at the bottom of the scale – once again – for providing timely surgical treatment to people with some forms of cancer.

As usual, Hunter New England Health has done its best to explain how the figures are already out of date, that incremental improvements in practice over the past year have brought the hospital’s vital statistics into a respectable range.

This may very well be true, but similar explanations have been heard often enough in the past to excuse anybody who might want to reserve judgment on the alleged improvements until the next survey results become available.

Until then, the figures that matter are those just released, and these state that Hunter cancer patients are, in many instances, less likely to have access to timely surgery than people living almost anywhere else in Australia.

Few will be surprised, and many will be very angry.

The government has been warned many times that the Calvary Mater, redeveloped as a public-private partnership, is too small and too poorly resourced to meet demand.

It has also been warned that the Hunter’s flagship acute hospital, the John Hunter, is understaffed and underfunded, a situation that must affect health outcomes for at least some patients.

The latest survey tracks surgery waiting times for malignant bowel, breast and lung cancer in 2011-12.

Newcastle’s Calvary Mater Hospital had the lowest percentage of breast cancer patients undergoing surgery within 30 days in Australia, at 78per cent.

The Mater also had the second-lowest percentage of patients receiving bowel cancer surgery within 30 days – just 47per cent – with a median waiting time of 32 days. That’s more than twice as long as the 13-day average for similar hospitals across the nation.

The John Hunter Hospital had a median waiting time for bowel cancer surgery 25per cent longer than the peer average – the sixth longest waiting time of 49 similarly sized hospitals across the nation.

The government appears to have an aversion to providing appropriate facilities and funding to treat cancer in the Hunter. Presumably it has more important spending priorities in other parts of the state.

GREG RAY: Six o’clock may be rolling round again

TALK about bleeding obvious. A bottleshop chain launched a nationwide survey to find out what time most people thought was ‘‘beer o’clock’’.
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They didn’t even get 10,000 votes, 56per cent were Victorians and 62per cent were men.

The result? Amazingly (not very), most people thought beer o’clock was between 4pm and 6pm.

Derrr. Roughly knock-off time for most people who have day jobs.

I wonder, despite the obviousness of it all, whether there might be a hangover in that choice of time from the days of the ‘‘six o’clock swill’’.

Back around the World War I era, when drunken misbehaviour had been so widespread for so long that a big temperance movement had grown in Australia, the wartime emergency provided an excuse to start clamping down on hotel trading hours.

People figured then, as many of us do today, that the easier it is to get alcohol the more people will overindulge and go stupid.

The ‘‘solution’’ was early closing, which obviously seemed like a good idea at the time.

It was assumed that paid workers (mostly blokes back then) would finish work, have a quiet snort in the pub with a few mates and then trot off home for a pleasant evening with the family.

If this was the utopian vision, the reality was a disappointment, creating problems that, arguably, we’ve been paying for ever since.

What really happened was that hordes of thirsty blokes raced from the factories and offices to the nearest pubs where, packed in the smoke-filled bar, they guzzled down as much grog as they possibly could before the bell rang at six o’clock and they rolled home bleary and full of fight.

What did the pubs and breweries think of it?

They loved it.

They made so much money during the swill that the rest of the day didn’t matter. The aim of the game was to make enough room in your pub to jam as many guzzlers as possible between the bar and the front door and to pour grog into their guts as quickly as could be done.

Out went tables and chairs. In came new beer-pouring apparatus that could fill a glass with watery lager in no time flat.

I was talking to former Tighes Hill resident Ken Long the other day, and he told me how, outside the old Cross Keys Hotel just before six o’clock on a working day, you would see the pushbikes of the industry workers propped up six or seven deep on the footpath.

Inside the standing-room-only bar, the blokes were throwing back schooners like there was no tomorrow, with one eye on the clock and another on the shortest route through the mass of backs to the bar for another round or two.

‘‘The barmaids told me they used to start filling the bar with schooners at about five to four,’’ Ken said.

Bar staff didn’t waste precious guzzling time asking for money. That part of the transaction waited until time was called and no more beer could be sold.

‘‘As the blokes left, each one would say how many he’d drunk and pay on the way out.

‘‘And the barmaids told me that, over all the years, they never ever balanced short.’’

The Maxwell Royal Commission into the allegedly corrupt business of fast beer found that most publicans and brewers were very happy with the set-up. They made more profit in a short time, and didn’t have to pay for late-hours staff.

Breweries focused on making huge quantities of beer – the blander the better, so it could get thrown down fast. Flavour was just a nuisance, so they got rid of it. And it’s taken until recent years for it to start coming back.

Also coming back is the widespread concern about alcohol-fuelled stupidity, similar to that which led years ago to the growth of the temperance movement, the clampdown on trading hours and the six o’clock swill.

Funny thing, history: like a grand cycle, or a big clock …

Shooters force change on mine policy

ROBERT BORSAKTHE Shooters and Fishers Party has taken aim at the state government’s recent controversial mining policy changes that require authorities to focus on economic benefits when deciding whether to approve a mine.
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The party’s two MPs, who share the balance of power in the NSW upper house, used debate on the government’s planning reforms to make amendments that would repeal the mining policy changes.

They were backed by Labor, the Greens and the Christian Democrats, in a move swiftly criticised by the NSW Minerals Council as risking thousands of jobs in the sector.

The billpassed the upper house last night and is expected to return to the lower house.

The Shooters’ surprise initiative followed months of hostility between them and the government, and the implementation earlier this month of changes to the separate mining state environmental planning policy.

The changes require consent authorities to give ‘‘principal consideration’’ to the ‘‘significance of the resource’’ – that is, the economic benefits – of a mine proposal.

The measures were the government’s response to the Land and Environment Court overturning approval for the extension of Rio Tinto’s Mount Thorley Warkworth mine, after the Bulga-Milbrodale Progress Association argued Bulga would be destroyed.

A Supreme Court decision on Rio Tinto’s appeal is still pending, but the government got in first with the changes to effectively back the extension after lobbying by the company.

Shooters MP Robert Borsak said communities faced ‘‘complete annihilation’’ from expanding mines. His colleague Robert Brown said the government had been unwilling to negotiate on the bill.

Labor MP Luke Foley said the Opposition had also worked hard to change the bill.

‘‘Many of the worst excesses in the government’s bill have been addressed by way of the amendments,’’ he told the upper house last night.

He said although the bill was ‘‘far from perfect,’’ Labor would not oppose it in Parliament.

The NSW Minerals Council accused the Shooters MPs of threatening thousands of jobs and Labor of selling out workers by backing the amendment.

Rio Tinto Coal Australia managing director Chris Salisbury said the amendments, if passed, would ‘‘significantly increase the risk to the jobs of more than 1300 employees and contractors’’ at the mine.

“These amendments amount to irresponsible economic management and would put a question mark over the future of the mining industry in NSW,” Mr Salisbury said.

Wallabies fullback Israel Folau still haunted by British & Irish Lions series loss

Cardiff: He saw the “Israel Folau backpack” advertisements and can see the funny side of the moment George North scooped him up like a teething toddler and kept trucking.
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But the Wallabies fullback, who made his Test debut in arguably the toughest series Australia had played in years, wishes he could have one more crack at North and the British and Irish Lions.

“I’ve been thinking about that and sort of wish [another Lions tour] would come around a lot quicker, but next time I probably won’t be around,” Folau said.

“I’m glad I was a part of it this year. Even though it wasn’t the result we wanted, it was good to be part of such a big event.”

He is now 14 Tests and nine tries into what is shaping as a brilliant spell in rugby. Two more tries and the dual international surpasses Lote Tuqiri’s record for the most tries scored by a Wallaby in one season. This weekend’s clash with Wales in Cardiff will be the first time since the Lions series that Folau and North meet.

A winger on a steep learning curve during that series, Folau is a more nuanced fullback now.

“He’s a great player and one of the danger players that we have to watch out for, so hopefully we can contain him,” he said. “He’s a big, strong lad, so he had the power to keep driving through when I was on his back.

“I was in an awkward position and I was trying to bring him down as quick as I could and I ended up in a position where he came down head first, which was probably not good in terms of safety, but one of the funny moments in the Lions series.”

The rendezvous inspired a clever spoof advertisement promoting the Folau backpack as “easy to pick up, lightweight, just throw it over your shoulder”.

“I didn’t mind it, it was quite funny,” Folau said of the image. “That’s part of the way the fans enjoy the game, it doesn’t harm me.”

There are a few hurdles the Wallabies must clear if Folau is to snatch the try-scoring record from fellow code-hopper Tuqiri. North is arguably Folau’s toughest rival under the high ball, certainly in the northern hemisphere, and the Welsh back row of Sam Warburton, Toby Faletau and Dan Lydiate will make every breakdown the ultimate contest for possession.

But Folau said he wasn’t thinking about records going into Saturday’s Test, just helping Australia gain the upper hand leading into the 2015 World Cup. Australia play Wales and England in the pool stages and lost to England four weeks ago.

“Psychologically it can help a lot if we can get one over [Wales] now,” Folau said. “Even though the World Cup is in two years, going into the games if you know that you’ve done a job on them in the past it can certainly help you going in. It’s important for us to get the win and not only that, but to get four in a row, to string those wins together and make a consistent team.”

FitzSimons: All Blacks dish out Cruden unusual punishment

In sporting parlance, ”the one that got away,” is not just a fishing concept, but also the event in your sporting life most likely to haunt you ever after. It is the one where you woulda-coulda-shoulda … but in the end … bloody well didn’t …
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BUGGER!

Conjure, for example, the greatest Test try never scored. In the Second Bledisloe Test of 1990, at Eden Park, Wallabies winger John Flett got the ball just 30 metres out from the Wallabies’ line at the end of a sweeping movement.

At least the way I remember it, Flett jinks right, he jinks left, he shakes, he goes like a jumping-jack cracker through the All Blacks’ defence, exploding off player after player, and bursting into open space as the crowd roars. The defence doesn’t know where he is going, and neither does he! Sprinting like a mad thing, John accelerates and shimmies again, and then slows just an instant … so that the flying All Black fullback who is roaring across in cover defence, goes over the sideline … grasping at thin air.

And then the denouement. Right at the death, after Flett zig-zags his way through at least 10 pairs of grasping hands, the line looms before him, just inside the right corner post, and he dives towards it, the ball in both outstretched hands. At that instant, the last despairing All Black hand gets to him, and … the ball comes loose. No try!

Flett was dropped a couple of Tests later and, strangely, when I talked to Tim Horan about it this week, he couldn’t remember it, as he was on the field and in the hurly-burly of it. But I’ll never forget it, and as for John Flett, it would not surprise me if it is his waking thought every morning!

That missed try, however, pales into significance in comparison to what happened in Dublin last Saturday. No less than 108 years of history – of Irish teams cruelly beaten and bashed at Kiwi hands – stares down upon the men in green as they faced up to the haka of the world champion All Blacks, themselves right on the edge of being the first Test side of the professional era to go through an entire year undefeated.

But are the Irish intimidated by that fact? Hell, no! From the opening whistle they tear into the All Blacks like dingoes getting into sick rabbits behind Uluru, and then pour it on some more!

As the 55,000-strong crowd scream themselves hoarse, the mighty Irish go to a 19-0 lead, after as many minutes. Ah, people my people, after 108 years of solid defeats, this Irish side is on the edge of freaking HISTORY, and everyone at the ground knows it. This, Paul Keating, this will be the sweetest victory of all, the one for the true believers.

And then the fightback. After the great Irish centre, Brian O’Driscoll, goes off with concussion, the All Blacks claw their way back into the match. And yet, still the Irish have them covered!

With five minutes to go, the men of the Emerald Isle are leading 22-17 and get a penalty just right of the posts, about 35 metres out. If five-eighth Jonathan Sexton can kick this, it is an eight-point buffer. Game over. History will be theirs. Sexton runs in. He strikes it beautifully. The ball flies like an arrow towards the middle of the posts, before … right at the death … fading, shading the wrong side of the nearest upright.

No matter. The Irish soon get the ball back, and with just 90 seconds on the clock, all they have to do is hold onto that ball – take it into a maul and bury it. But no. For some reason, the Irish half-back Connor Murray, from his 22, kicks the ball back into All Black hands, 70 metres out from the Promised Land.

Who else but Richie McCaw leads the charge, as the ball goes through phase after phase. But wait! All Black centre Ma’a Nonu is isolated! Is it going to be game over? No, the cavalry, in the form of reserve breakaway Liam Messam, arrives just in time for a crucial cleanout and the ball is free once more, just as the final hooter blows. The All Blacks are still alive!

Phase after phase after phase is put together until, 90 seconds after the hooter, the ball comes to five-eighth Aaron Cruden, who hurls a speculator to reserve hooker Dane Coles, who, just as he is tackled magnificently by the last Irish defender, pops a pass – in the 24th phase of the movement! – to reserve centre Ryan Crotty, who goes over in the left corner for a TRY!

Or is it? Referee Nigel Owens thinks it might have been a forward pass, and so has it reviewed.

After no less than five minutes of endless spooling back and forth, the video ref makes the call …

TRY! 22-22.

But can Cruden convert from the sideline, into the wind? He strikes it, and the ball … shades away!

A draw! 22-22! Still a magnificent achievement. But wait! The ref says the Irishmen charging Cruden as he moved in to kick, ran too early, so Cruden gets another shot.

He … NAILS it! 24-22 to the All Blacks. The one that got away …

BUGGER!

Ain’t sport just the cruellest thing, sometimes?

Twitter – @Peter_Fitz

Long wait for cancer treatment

CANCER patients at a Hunter hospital were less likely to access ‘‘timely surgery’’ than almost anywhere else in the country, putting at risk their chance of a cure, new data revealed.
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The Calvary Mater Newcastle Hospital was identified as the worst and second worst in two out of three categories, while the John Hunter Hospital also lagged way behind its peers.

The latest National Health Performance Authority report, released today, tracks surgery waiting times for three of the most common cancers for which surgery is a key component of treatment – malignant bowel, breast and lung cancer.

‘‘Waiting times for surgery for malignant cancers are a measure of access to potentially life-saving treatment,’’ the report says.

‘‘Without timely surgery, these cancers may progress and those with early-stage disease may face reduced opportunity for cure.’’

The report – using figures for the 2011-2012 year – lists the number of days between a patient’s placement on a waiting list and the day they are admitted for surgery, excluding any delay between the decision to operate and placement on the list, or days that the patient may not be ready for surgery.

Urgent cases are expected to be completed within 30 days, while semi-urgent cases are meant to be completed within 45 days.

The Calvary Mater Newcastle Hospital had the lowest percentage of breast cancer patients undergoing surgery within 30 days in Australia, at 78per cent. The Mater also laid claim to the second lowest percentage of patients who had bowel cancer surgery within 30 days, at 47per cent. The patients waited a median time of 32 days, more than twice as long as the peer average of 13 days.

The John Hunter Hospital had a median waiting time for bowel cancer surgery 25per cent longer than the peer average – the sixth longest waiting time of 49 similarly sized hospitals nationwide.

Hunter New England Health said there have been many small changes leading to ‘‘significant improvements’’ at both hospitals in 2013.

Calvary Mater Newcastle chief executive officer Greg Flint said at the Mater all urgent bowel cancer patients were now operated on within the clinically suggested time frame of 30 days.

‘‘The current average waiting time for semi-urgent surgery is 34 days – well within the 90-day clinically recommended time frame,’’ he said.

‘‘Since 2011-12 significant improvements have been made to theatre staffing and processes to ensure patients, including cancer patients, receive timely care.’’

Recruitment initiatives to improve surgical waiting times were ‘‘well under way’’, and a new seven-day rotating roster system for recovery staff had been introduced.

‘‘These small changes have made a significant improvement in elective surgery performance,’’ he said.

In relation to John Hunter Hospital, Hunter New England Health’s director of acute networks, Todd McEwan, said all bowel cancer surgeries were done within recommended time frames in 2013.

There were too few lung cancer surgeries at the Mater, and too few breast and lung cancer surgeries at the John Hunter, in 2011-12 to be compared by the National Health Performance Authority.

Other Hunter hospitals in the report were Belmont Hospital, where most bowel cancer surgery was done within 30 days, and Maitland Hospital, whose median waiting time was seven days.

BY THE NUMBERS

■ 1090 patients across the nation waited longer than 30 days for their surgeries; 382 of these patients waited longer than 45 days

■Breast cancer patients were least prone to extended waits for surgery

■Bowel cancer patients were more prone at some hospitals to lengthier waits for surgery

■At John Hunter Hospital, 22 people waited longer than 30 days for bowel cancer surgery; more than 90% received surgery within 45 days

■At the Mater, it was 60 days before at least 90% of patients received bowel cancer surgery

MPs told to can recycling plan

ALCOHOL and soft-drink companies have been aggressively lobbying state MPs against a cash-for-cans scheme as NSW and Victoria consider joining forces to introduce their own joint recycling project.
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NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell and other MPs confirmed the beverage industry – including Lion, Carlton & United Breweries and Coca-Cola Amatil – had ‘‘ramped up’’ their lobbying in recent months.

Carlton & United Breweries said it had been rattled by rumours NSW and Victoria would start a cash-for-cans recycling scheme.

‘‘There is a legitimate concern by all the supply side on a stand-alone NSW and Victorian deposit scheme,’’ CUB’s Jeremy Griffith said.

‘‘You’re going to fundamentally disrupt the market.’’

If such a scheme is implemented, consumers will be refunded 10¢ when they return a bottle or can to a depot.

Breweries estimate this will increase the price of a case of beer by $3, although environment groups contest this figure.

Lake Macquarie City Council is the latest group to add its call for some form of container deposit scheme.

At its meeting on Monday night, the council was unanimous in its support and resolved to write to the federal and state environment ministers and Premier O’Farrell.

In her mayoral minute, Jodie Harrison pointed to the success of the deposit scheme in South Australia.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council, with board members including representatives of several drink companies, has run advertisements in the past two months criticising what it calls a ‘‘container tax’’.

But Total Environment Centre executive director Jeff Angel said the beverage industry was engaging in ‘‘pure unconvincing spin’’.

People knew that a deposit was refundable ‘‘and you can’t call a deposit a tax’’, he said.

Environment group Keep Australia Beautiful has also been actively lobbying against the scheme in partnership with its major donor, Coca-Cola.

Fairfax Media understands the industry has also ‘‘ramped up’’ its lobbying of Environment Minister Robyn Parker.

Ms Parker said she had not ruled out the option of NSW and Victoria creating their own legislation.

The beverage industry has been trying to spin an aluminium recycling deposit scheme as being a “container tax”.

Anger at Show holiday decision

A WAR of words has erupted over Newcastle City Council’s move to jettison the Newcastle Show public holiday next year, with critics claiming the ‘‘half-baked’’ idea may sound the death knell for the event.
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The council’s decision to endorse Friday, February 28, as a local event day was applauded by the Hunter Business Chamber, which argues that businesses are unfairly slugged with penalty rates on public holidays.

But the move – which places Newcastle at odds with Lake Macquarie Council, which has voted to embrace the public holiday – has been attacked by the Newcastle Show Society, the Greens and Labor.

Greens councillor Michael Osborne defended the holiday – enjoyed for years until it was replaced by the local event day under new legislation introduced in 2011 – and downplayed the business impost.

‘‘It cuts both ways – when people have a public holiday, families spend more time at cafes and restaurants, so there is increased business,’’ he said. Labor councillor Nuatali Nelmes said the end of the public holiday could spell the end of the Newcastle Show, which she said had suffered significant losses since the introduction of the local event day.

She said the argument of a public holiday hindering business ‘‘did not ring true’’ because there were many workers excluded from penalty and loading rates.

Liberal councillor Brad Luke said the holiday had caused the city to halt, forcing many SMEs to cancel events due to the extra cost of wages. He said Maitland Show had run for years without a public holiday, and encouraged the Newcastle Show Society to ‘‘go and talk to them to find out why they are successful’’.

But Newcastle Show Society president Roger Geary accused Cr Luke of ‘‘talking through his hat’’, saying that the Newcastle society, unlike its Maitland counterpart, did not own its showground, so its only revenue source was the annual event.

Despite financial losses at recent shows, Mr Geary was confident of boosting the society’s financial position via future shows.

Alex O’Hara, co-owner of Hunter Street restaurant Cazador, said a public Show holiday would be tough on his fledgling business.

‘‘I’m not prepared to volunteer another day when I’m having to pay exorbitant penalty rates when the weekends are bad enough,’’ he said.

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