Newcastle’s council staff hide salaries

NEWCASTLE’S highest paid bureaucrats are refusing to tell the city’s elected councillors how much they earn, and are using a contested argument toconcealhow their salaries stack up against the rest of the state.
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The Newcastle Heraldunderstands Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes and some of her senior staffers have been at loggerheads for months because the council’s top brass are blocking access to a ratepayer-funded report that benchmarks staff salaries against other NSW councils.

The issue came to a head last month when the interim chief executive, Peter Chrystal, blocked a Labor-Greens notice of motion that called for a “confidential councillors workshop” that would “providean overview of the [benchmarking report] with particular focus on the performance of Newcastle City Council against other similar sized councils”.

In a memo sent to councillors and seen by the Herald,Mr Chrystal said he wouldn’t allow the notice to go ahead because even providing “an overview or any type of verbal revelation of what is contained within the report” would constitute a “release of commercial in confidence information”.

The memo came on the back of legal advice sought by the senior staff in September last year that stated providingthe report to councillors would be a“breach of copyright” of the report’s author, the industry group Local Government NSW.

But Local Government NSW –a lobby group for councils – has contradicted that. A spokeswoman toldthe Heraldthat once the benchmarking report was purchased “they are owned by the commissioning council”.

“LGNSW has no objection to the release of the report within the council,” the spokeswoman said.

Theissuehas earned the ire of the Labor-Greens dominated council, who say staff are seeking to block proper transparency.

In an email sent to Mr Chrystal by Labor Councillor Declan Clausen and seen by the Herald, the Labor councillor said he was “concerned that councilhas been provided with advice aimed at limiting councillors’ ability to undertakestatutory duties in relation to the performance of the organisation and senior staff”.

Cr Clausen also obtained advice from the acting chief executive of the Office of Local Government, Tim Hurst.

Mr Hirst told Cr Clausen that while he did “not hold all the relevant information” and hadn’t seen the council’s legal adviceit was “not immediately obvious on what grounds the council’s resolution could, on its face, be considered to be unlawful”.

The council’s latest annual report shows the city’s 19 highest-paid stafferscost ratepayers a combined $3.3 million. However the regulation does not require the individual pay packets of senior staff to be disclosed publicly.

Last year the state government amended the local government Actto remove the requirement forgeneral managers to report annually to council on senior staff contract conditions on the basis thatall such staff are now employed on standard contracts.

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ReviewDo Your Parents Know You’re Straight?

Theatre ReviewDo Your Parents Know You’re Straight?Eclectic ProductionsCivic Playhouse, NewcastleEnded May 6​WRITER-director Riley McLean’s Do Your Parents Know You’re Straight? looks intently and with humour at a significant subject that many playwrights would avoid: the unwillingness of most so-called straight people to recognise that gay and transsexual people have a place in our world.
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This has been done by setting the story in a society where heterosexuals are very much in the minority and a teenage schoolboy, a would-be writer who is attracted to girls at his school, begins putting together stories centred on a lesbian girl whose nervousness reflects his, in the hope that the situations she is in will help him to make up his mind about how he should behave. The problem for the boy, Casey, well-played by Jack Twelvetree, is that the girl, Riley (Alexandra Jensen), becomes increasingly real and determined to be herself.

The play is certainly an interesting and very different work, eliciting much laughter from watchers, and Riley McLean is in her early 20s, so she is certainly a writer and director, as well as actor, to follow in coming years. But I felt at this play’s end that it still needs more work. The relationships between the school students, with some, like Casey, attracted to members of the opposite sex, but generally only momentarily, and Casey’s two dads, having an overly repetitive nature, so that the people and their actions come across as too fictional. The play needs more characters like schoolteacher Miss Jenkins (Taylor Reece), who, for the most part, shows a sympathetic determination to help Casey win a place in a tertiary writing class. She is very much a real person in the way her moods change.

Riley McLean has put many funny references into the story, including one of the students revealing that the school’s annual musical is going to be Guys and Balls, and Jack Twelvetree movingly brings out the problems that Casey faces in an LGBTQ society in his declaration that “Talking to girls is hard”. However, more time needs to be given to some of the other students, with two of them, Tyler and Jamie, being attracted to Casey, but having little interaction with him. And the relationship between Riley and schoolgirl Willow, who come briefly together, would likewise benefit from more involvement being shown.

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Tocal Field Days 2017 | Photos, videos

Tocal Field Days 2017 | Photos, videos INSTA: @_clairej9 New wheels ? #tocal #tractor #homestead #countrybumpkin #fielddays #huntervalley #newwheels #weekends
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INSTA: @21chloelee As if this isn’t the cutest ever! Baby Alpacas ? #tocalfieldday #babyalpaca

INSTA: @katelouisemoore Cruising on Ginger the camel #camelride #tocalfieldday #gingerthelazycamel #sunnydays #bumpyride #funtimes @janetbob_moore @trav484

@minet_masters SPIRIT 2 coming to a cinema near you. ? . . .

INSTA: @kimdafter I’m pretty sure Miss Marley had a blast at the Tocal Show today!!! What a great family day out ??? #tocalsmallfarmfeildday #tocal #mybabe #iloveher @tocalhomestead

@squiggleandsquirm This little lady couldn’t be any happier! She is totally in love with all the animals and having a pet is the highlight of her day ?

@kim1701 Josh midway telling me to sit next to him haha ?? #myboy #lilking

@asnorrie Priscilla is a diamond python working as a volunteer at #Tocal

@asnorrie Priscilla again. She doesn’t eat people. #Tocal

@mixinit Had a lovely day out at Tocal today sharing the Thermie love! ?

@juneo_baz Cute#tassytiger

@youngcreativefarms Need a break from walking – your child is welcome to play!! This boy played quietly for ages!

INSTA: @raw.suds now these are my sort of chookies soooo cute. Enjoying a day off the suds shop with red ned @tocalfieldday and it’s a bloody beautiful day for it too. #rawsuds #freshair #chooks #tocalfielddays #countrylife #feelinglucky #redned #mylove

INSTA: @envirocommconnections Great morning at #tocalfielddays2017 welcoming school buses! Thanks to #hunterlls for having be back to help out with setup & other tasks over last 2 days! Have a great weekend! #envirocommconnections #agshow

INSTA: @viking_lass The less #routine the more #life – Amos Bronson Alcott #365_today #125_routine #nature #trees #branches #colour #treeoflife #staywild #benatural #naturelover #blueskies #beautifulday #friday #feelsgood #nothingisordinary #photoeveryday

INSTA: @slatteryhelicopters Tocal field says are on this weekend. We are doing Scenic flights from $50 per person to showcase this beautiful region. http://梧桐夜网tocalfielddays南京夜网 #australia australia #destinationnsw #huntervalley #slatteryhelicopters #r44 #tocal #tocalfielddays

INSTA: @envirocommconnections #vertebratepestmanagement display for #hunterlls at #tocalfielddays2017 #everyoneisresponsible #feralfacts #wilddog #feralpig #event #display #agriculture #nrm

INSTA: @youngcreativefarms Fun for everyone! Our handmade farms for sale @tocalfielddays

INSTA: @glennydizzle Seriously big tractor. #tocalfielddays

@sophieruleroftheoctopuses she’s next to a bin but she ain’t rubbish #proudsister

@jardines_floral_designer Tocal field Day farmyard #photobooth setup ??? #tocalfielddays

INSTA: @michelle_kennedy 2012-2017 ? #tocal #tocalfielddays #tocalhomestead

INSTA: @grant.dunkley My 4yo baby girl looking very little on this big horse. Funday at Tocal Fair.

INSTA: @loz.norley3 Vintage as. #tocalfielddays2017

INSTA: @ali.coombley This is Harry, Harry gave me a ride on a sled, Harry is georgous

INSTA: @ali.coombley Oink

INSTA: @jodiestewart4 Best seat in the house to watch the piggies race up a storm!!

INSTA: @angelaawozniak Afternoon Helicopter Rides ??? #gettothechopper #tocalfieldday #huntervalley

INSTA: @tasumi2010 Some times you end up doing different jobs with the NSWRFS. #nswrfs #nswrfsinsta #cat6 #rfs #firetruck #tocal #firefighter #firefighters #fire #ruralfire #nsw

INSTA: @susanbell87 Tocal field days #visitnsw #seeaustralia #exploreaustralia #huntervalley #mymaitland #mummyofboys

INSTA: @michelle_kennedy Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, think I’ll go and eat worms ?#tocal #tocalfielddays #fishing #worms

INSTA: @laurde_ I’ve got shares in this #bigrig

INSTA: @alexshailer An American Longhorn #alexselfieswithanimals

INSTA: @kiltyoconnor I think Mark enjoyed the ducks more than Sadie

INSTA: @katelouisemoore Out for a cruise in the sunshine in the jeep !! Lucky still a few more years until Matty is let loose on the road #cruising #tocalfieldday #jeep #crazydriver #maniac #sunnydays @janetbob_moore @trav484

INSTA: @enjobarb Sharing the Love of the Glove #hamishthellama

INSTA: @squiggleandsquirm ?Quack quack quack quack cock-a-doodle do? . #quack #duck #dressedup #dressedupducks #happykid #animallove #animallover #pettingzoo #tocal #tocalfieldday #tocalfielddays2017

INSTA: @auntynic2 Sophie and Jarrod loved the big Tractor #clarkfarmequipment #clarkequipment #tocalfielddays2017 #mccormicktractors

INSTA: @auntynic2 Sophie loved the pony ride #tocalfielddays2017

INSTA: @nadia_gritten #texaslonghorn #tocalfeildday #thisisBob

Picture: Michael Flynn

Picture: Michael Flynn

Picture: Michael Flynn

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Post office in court stoush

The fate of the city’siconic former post office building has become the subject of a Supreme Court legal battle.
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The building is owned by theAwabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council which was placed into administration by the state government last October.

Astoush has now erupted betweentwo private companies that previously had dealings with the land council andthe current administrator, Terry Lawler.

The plaintiffs–Knightsbridge North Lawyers and Advantage Property Experts Syndications– claim they are together owed a sum of more than $326,700 by the council, plus interest and costs.

They have asked the court to appoint a receiver to take control of Awabakal’s land holdings,including the landmark post office building and a property at 57 James Street in Hamilton.

According to the statement of claim, Knightsbridge North Lawyers was enlisted by the land council in2014 toadvise it“on various avenues and strategies for the development of certain land” that the board had unanimously voted to sell.The firm alleges Awabakal has failed to pay it $26,743 owed.

TheHeraldpreviously reported that Advantage was working on massive property deal with Awabakal board members, that would see a Warners Bay subdivision bankroll the restoration of the post office.

Advantage alleges it paid another company, Forlife Development, $300,000 to prepare plans and reports relating to the development of Awabakal land. It claims it is owed the full amount by Awabakal under an agreement between the parties.

Lawyers acting for the administrator haveargued all land dealings have to be approved by voting members of the land council and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council. Any other agreements were“unenforceable” and the parties involved werenot entitled to damages, it was alleged.

It was argued board members who entered into agreements with Knightsbridge and Advantage did not have the authority to do so.

The matter has been adjourned until July 21.

RAAF chemical spreads to unborn child

NIGHTMARE: Karen and Mark Grant with their children Audrey, five months, and Dempsey, four, at Fern Bay. Picture: Jonathan Carroll Williamtown’s message written in blood‘Worrying’ trends from blood testsBloods baffle outside the red zoneToxic Truth: more storiesUNBORN babies are being contaminated with toxic firefighting chemicals while they are in the womb.
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It’s a devastating reality that has forced Mark Grant and his wife Karen to desert theirproperty –they could not sell –on the fringe ofWilliamtown’s ‘red zone’.

They took the drastic action after they blood tested their baby daughter Audrey just minutes after she was bornand found she already had a perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) level of 6.2 ng/ml,above the national average for children up to four years of age.

“We were already fretting over the decision, because you can’t put a price on your kids’ health,” Mr Grant said. “But when the results came in, we were out of there. We didn’t want to wake up in 20 years’ time and say ‘sorry, we should of moved’.”

Audrey is now five months old and the family of four have relocated to Fern Bay. But the financial burden of paying rent on top of their mortgage repayments is taking a heavy toll.

Mr Grant feels the situation is “grossly unfair”, especially given they purchased in Williamtown less than 12 months before the contamination became public.

He admitted he couldn’t afford to maintain their current situation long-term, but said it bought them time while they waited for the outcome of the class action.

“I work hard, I pay taxes, I contribute to society,” he said. “It’s a period of life where I should be enjoying my young family and consolidating my wealth. Instead we’re treading water, we’re not moving ahead. At some stage we’ll go under.”

When the couple fell pregnant, they were confidentbecause they were on town water, lived on the edge of the ‘red zone’ and were clinical about following government precautions.Ms Grant was fanatical about vacuuming to keep dust out of the house and they avoided puddles in the rain.

“In the back of our mind will always be the if and how and when does this manifest in Audrey,” Mr Grant said.“Does she get ill? Does she get profoundly ill or will she just be a sickly child? Or will she not be ill at all?”

“We don’t want compensation, we just wantour kids not to be crook.”

NSW Health acknowledged that PFAS could cross the placenta.

“It is important that pregnant women minimise their exposure to PFASs,” a spokesperson said.

Couple’s staggering readingsWhen going to get their blood taken, Wayne and Mary Sampson had reason to think their exposure to firefighting chemicals from the Williamtown RAAF base might have been limited.

They live on the outskirts of the contamination ‘red zone’,their property is connected to town water and they have been reassured by authorities the risk from dust is low.

So they are still coming to terms with news that Mr Sampson has the highest blood reading of any member of the class action.

His combined level of the PFAS chemicals is 147 ng/ml, or more than eight times the Australian average. Ms Sampson had a level of 88.5.

The couple are aged in their 70s and work an 88-hectare hobby farm. They are still waiting to receive the results of tests on their eggs taken in 2015.

The Herald, Newcastle

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