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Man, 29, stabbed in 14-hour crime spree across ACT and Queanbeyan

In a lethal rampage spanning 14 hours two teens have allegedly killed a man, stabbed another and brutally attacked a third with a tyre iron.
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Police are investigating whether two boys, aged 15 and 16, stabbed Caltex service station attendant Zeeshan Akbar, 29, to death at Queanbeyan in an act of terrorism.

The pair were arrested in the ACT on Friday morning and it is expected they will be extradited to NSW on Saturday.

NSW Police Force Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burns said there was some evidence the spree could be terror-related or linked to drugs.

“We have two teenagers in custody and sufficient information to believe the actions of one of those teenagers may be related to terrorism,” she said.

“That information comes from physical evidence at the scene and other sources.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the circumstances of the stabbing warranted the involvement of the Joint Counter-Terrorism Team.

Friends paid tribute to Mr Akbar, a Muslim man who was hoping to get his Australian citizenship.

His friends had posted photos online of him celebrating New Year’s Eve at Sydney Harbour and sightseeing at the Blue Mountains and Collins Beach in Manly.

“This is really an unbearable loss for his family,” one friend posted.

It is believed the ordeal began about 8.10pm on Thursday with the alleged attempted robbery of the Vintage Cellars liquor store in Oaks Estate.

After fleeing the store empty handed the two teens allegedly embarked on a trail of destruction that included: Smashing a long neck beer bottle over the head of a man in Queanbeyan’s Apex Park between 8.30pm and 11.30pmBreaking into a home on Stornaway Road and bashing a man with a tyre iron between 8.30pm and 11.30pmStabbing an attendant to death at the Caltex Service station on Bungendore Road about 11.45pm???Stabbing another man in the stomach at the intersection of Southwell Place and Barracks Flat Drive about 6.20am on Friday

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the first victim allegedly approached by the two teenagers described the chilling signs of carnage to come.

The man had just finished a shift at the Oaks Estate liquor store on Thursday night when they approached him out of the darkness.

“One of them was holding something behind his back like they wanted me to think he had a gun,” he said.

“He said three times, ‘Give me the cash’.”

CCTV footage seen by Fairfax Media shows a brief scuffle, before the assailants flee empty handed.

“To think that a man was killed later that night. It’s too scary to even think about man.

“I could have been killed.”

Mr Akbar would not be so lucky when the pair allegedly entered a Caltex store on Bungendore Road just three hours later.

Police alleged the teenagers were let into the store by Mr Akbar, before they set upon him in a “horrific” stabbing.

He was found by a workmate about 11.55pm and died a short time later, Monaro police commander Superintendent Rod Smith said.

It is alleged the teens took the cash register before fleeing.

In the hours leading up to the fatal stabbing, police alleged the boys violently attacked a man in Queanbeyan’s Apex Park.

“They approached a man in the park and it is alleged they made some demands of him before hitting him over the head with a beer bottle.

“They caused him significant facial injuries.”

After that, they allegedly forced their way into a property on Stornaway Road and bludgeoned a man with a tyre iron.

Their final act came about 6.20am on Friday, when they allegedly stabbed a man in the stomach and stole his silver Ford Falcon.

A witness told The Canberra Times she peered out her window to see a man lying in the middle of the street surrounded by police cars on Southwell Place near Barracks Flat Drive.

It is understood the two boys fled the scene in the stolen car, evading police attempts to stop them as they travelled through Queanbeyan.

They were arrested a short while later by ACT police about 6.35am, on the Monaro Highway south of Isabella Plains.

NSW Police have begun extradition proceedings to bring the teenagers back across the border, with the pair expected to face court in the ACT on Saturday morning.

Prime Minister Turnbull said his thoughts were with all those affected by the violence.

“Our condolences go to the family of the victim,” he said.

“We send our prayers and best wishes to the two other victims of that evening.”

ACT Police and Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman said police believed the incident was an isolated matter, and there was no ongoing threat to the community.

With Rachel Olding, Megan Levy

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Bill Nighy goes from “laughably low expectations” to his Finest hour

There is one line people have been quoting at Bill Nighy??? for the past 14 years. He even heard it from a tough-guy customs officer as he entered the US.
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“Hiya kids,” it goes. “Don’t buy drugs. Become a pop star and they give you them for free.”

That’s Billy Mack talking, the ageing rocker from Love Actually. It’s the role that changed Nighy’s life; the first step to becoming a beloved British actor.

You can still see the impact as Nighy, a dapper 67-year-old in a sharp blue suit, arrives at a Sydney cinema for a screening of his latest film, the British drama Their Finest, which has him playing an actor making a World War II propaganda film.

Outside, a small posse of fans is queuing for photos and autographs. These particular admirers – young, male and dressed mostly in black – know him from playing the squid-like Davy Jones in The Pirates of the Caribbean movies and the Minister for Magic Rufus Scrimgeour??? in the Harry Potter series. “I loved him in The Boat that Rocked too,” confides one.

When a woman gushes that her mother loves him, Nighy feigns a grimace. “It’s always the mothers,” he says. “Sometimes the grandmothers.”

As he enters the cinema for a Q&A session, women considerably younger than grandmothers call out “Bill, Bill” and wave hello as though he’s a real-life Billy Mack.

Taking to the stage, Nighy gives a rock-star shimmy then turns on the comic charm. “They were looking for someone to play a chronically self-absorbed, pompous actor in his declining years,” he says. “And they came to me.”

Since Love Actually became a worldwide hit in 2003, Nighy has never had to audition again. “No more sitting in outer offices at 9am and then having to pretend to be on horseback and fighting with an imaginary sword in the heat of battle in front of three or four not very interested people,” he says later.

His other films include three Underworld instalments, two Best Exotic Marigold Hotels, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Shaun of the Dead, Notes on a Scandal,Hot Fuzz, Valkyrie and Total Recall.

BLA – Before Love Actually – Nighy had a respectable life as an actor. “I was doing OK, I’m always desperate to tell people,” he says. “I had a familiar English career; I was on the TV and I was in the theatre. That had already exceeded my expectations. I suppose I had what you might call laughably low expectations.”

When it came to playing romantic roles, which he was often offered because he was tall, Nighy was chronically uncomfortable. “If I was ever required to suggest I was attractive to women, I used to go to pieces,” he says.

But Love Actually showed his talent for getting laughs.

Recently, Nighy enjoyed reuniting with writer-director Richard Curtis and the cast for a short Love Actually sequel that was released for a Red Nose Day fundraiser for British charity Comic Relief. “Richard has done a great job of what might have happened to those characters in the last 14 years,” he says. “And I still fit into the trousers.”

Nighy started acting at an all-boys Catholic school in London. “I was tall, which meant I didn’t have to play girls, which was a result!,” he says.

With his father a works manager for a motor-vehicle garage and his mother a psychiatric nurse, the young Nighy wanted to be a writer. But when he fell for a girl at 17, love actually made him try acting.

“She said, ‘You could be an actor’ and I completely over-reacted,” he says. “She could have said ‘astronaut’ and I would probably have given it a shot.

“Because she kissed me, I thought we were going to spend the rest of our lives together. I had names for our children.”

He studied at the Guildford School for Dance and Drama, which he knew as the School for Prance and Murmur. While that early romance didn’t last, the acting did. He found work in plays then, in 1976, was “third bankrobber on the left” in the police series Softly Softy. Impressed with that television appearance, his father encouraged him to stick with it.

“I was always retiring,” he says. “I was thinking, ‘In a minute, I’ll find out what I’m really going to do with my life’.”

Now Nighy is acting opposite Gemma Arterton??? in Their Finest. She plays a scriptwriter brought in to supply the “women’s dialogue” for a government film to keep spirits up during the Blitz. Nighy is both pompous actor Ambrose Hilliard and, in the propaganda film within the film, boozy Uncle Frank.

“Very fortunately I still get offered quite a lot of roles,” he says. “Since Exotic Marigold Hotel, the revelation for producers was that you could make a film about people of my age and make a lot of money.

“They discovered there were apparently all these people that were over 40 or 50 or even 60 who might want to go and see a film. So I get a lot of films about groups of people of a certain age who are still having fun or haven’t given up – ‘you’re not dead yet’ movies.”

For all his joviality, Nighy is thoughtful about his work. “I try and involve myself in films that generally speaking, not to be too grand about it, will be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” he says. “All my life I’ve been, broadly speaking, in opposition to whatever’s been going on.

“Now it’s an emergency. As evidenced in America, most of the people are in opposition to what’s going on.”

Nighy has never gone back to writing – not even to attempt a screenplay. “I’ve been cowardly,” he says. “I can procrastinate at an Olympic level. It’s a fetish not to write.

“It was the thing that I chose out of all the things one could do with life but I failed because I didn’t have the courage to sit there long enough, which means I’m not a writer. Since then I get a kind of an anti-kick out of not doing things. It’s a very bad habit.”

Then Nigh remembers that’s not entirely true.

“In the old days, when you were on TV and the dialogue was absolutely terrible, you’d be in the make-up chair and you’d think ‘I can’t say that on national television’,” he says. “Then you’d rewrite the line and you’d take it to the director and they’d say ‘yeah, alright, say that.’ But apart from that, no.”

So is he, as he seems, an introvert away from acting? Almost the polar opposite of loose cannon Billy Mack?

“I don’t get out much or anything,” Nighy says, thinking the question over. “I’m not a loner or anything but I do spend a great deal of time on my own.

“But then I always did and actors often do because you’re away from home, usually in hotels or on a train or a plane or a bus. You end up spending long periods away from people you know.

“But my tendency is to withdraw. If left to my own devices with no outside attractions or influences, I seem to end up in a room on my own with a book, with John Lee Hooker playing with Van Morrison on my Bluetooth speaker. That’s my reward for doing scary things.”

Nighy’s favourite writers include fellow Brits A.S. Byatt and Martin Amis, whose new novels he buys on the day they’re released, just like he once did with Beatles records???.

“If I’m in a hotel, I’ll get up early in order to be able to read,” he says. “And those times become the most precious and the most pleasurable part of your day.

“Well … I’ve had days when other things happen. But there’s that bit where you’re alone, particularly early morning and you’ve got a cup of tea and the music playing and there’s nothing else happening.

“You try and arrange it so that you’ve got maybe 25 minutes till the man comes to the door. Those 25 minutes become completely delicious.”

There are also pleasures in acting. “On occasion, and it’s not that frequently, you feel like you know what you’re doing,” Nighy says. “There’s a particular part and for some reason you can tune into it and you think you’re presenting something which is entirely yours.

“If you get laughs, particularly on stage because they’re happening while you’re there, that is addictive. Trying to get laughs, placing them in the air so that you get them louder, better, deeper each time, that’s an endlessly fascinating and pleasurable activity. To have a thousand people all laugh at the same time … that’s gorgeous.”

The actor’s life also has rewards, sometimes experienced in solitude.

“The best bit is afterwards when you think it’s come off and you think you’ve got away with it and you’re back in your hotel room and you just thank your lucky stars. I’m not very good at straight happiness but I’m really good at relief.”

But there was one transcendent moment when Nighy remembers being truly happy – just after opening his first play in New York. “For months, with the rehearsals then previews then you open, I remember just being in a general state of alarm for a very long time,” he says. “Then, the night after we opened, the producer came over and said, ‘It’s fine, we’re going to be OK.'”

Nighy and his driver Andrew had the habit of calling into the M&M store on the way back from the theatre – “I had an M&M problem at the time” – to buy two bags of all five colours for the actor to consume at home.

“I remember coming out of the M&M store and I opened the door of the car and Andrew had Barry White on, playing Never Never Gonna Give You Up,” he says. “Suddenly, somewhere between the M&M store and the car, I came out of this general state of alarm and I realised that we’d opened and it was OK.

“I got in the car and I said to Andrew, ‘Turn that f—er up … Let’s go to Brooklyn for dessert’.

“He put the wheel between his knees and he and I were waving our arms like [we were] in a football crowd. And I was absolutely, uncomplicatedly happy. There was absolutely nothing wrong.

“I knew that the minute I put my arms down, it was over but we just kept it going with Barry singing.”

So kids, don’t buy drugs. The secret to happiness, at least for one transcendent moment, is M&Ms and Barry White.

Their Finest opens on April 20.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Tech girls move up

Students across regional Australia are urged to sign up forthe 2017Tech Girls Movement.
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TECH GIRLS: The 2016 Tech Girls are Superheroes winners Claire Lau, Sophia Gianotti, and Angelicia Talevi. Photo: Steven Siewert

The non-profit initiative promotescareer opportunities in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

As part of the campaign, national competition Search for the Next Tech Girl Superhero, challenges Australian female students to build an app prototype that will make their community a better place.

The winning team has the chance to fly to San Francisco to attend Silicon Valley’s global Technovation app pitch challenge.

Tech Girls Movement founder Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen said about 60 schools had signed up to the programand is expecting 2,500 girls to enter this year.

She said they were seeking more students fromregional Australia, to allow them to learn more about careers in STEM and gain the same skills as those programs offeredin metropolitan areas.

The teams are mentored for an hour a week over the 12-week competition by a woman who works in technology.

“They act as a role model and help create a professional network. They stay in touch after the competition is over,” Dr Beekhuyzen said.

The teams come up with a problem to solve and Tech Girls Movement helps them build a business plan, teaches them how to build their app, and how to finance the project.

“They look a pricing models, competitors, how to position it in the marketplace, and then pitch it in a YouTubevideo. It’s veryentrepreneurial.”

Fairfax Media is a key supporter of the initiative. Chief information offer Robyn Elliott, who grew up in the regional town of Kyogle in NSW, said from learning to program as a hobby at school, her interest in solving problems with technology led her to study and work all over the world.

“I want the initiative to reach girls in regional Australia, to provide them with a pathway forward to careers in technology,” she said.

Registrations for the program close on April 14.

To sign up, visit梧桐夜网techgirlsmovement.org

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Trump orders US military strike on Syria

US President Donald Trump. Photo: Pete MarovichUS President Donald Trump has made a statement after the US military launched a missile strike in Syria.
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Below is a full transcript of his speech:

“My fellow Americans, on Tuesday Syrian dictatorBashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians.

Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children.

It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God shouldever suffer such horror.

Tonight Iordered a targeted military strike on theairfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched.

It is in this vital national security interest of the United Statesto prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.

There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the chemicalweapons convention, and ignored the urging of the UN SecurityCouncil

Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behaviour have all failed and failed very dramatically.

As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilise, threatening the United Statesand its allies.

Tonight I call on all civilised nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.

We ask for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world.

Wepray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed, and we hope that as long as America stands for justice, then peace and harmony will in the end prevail

Good night and God bless America and the entire world.Thank you.”

How to avoid retiring with insufficient super

Last year, after reading more advice on how individual women could overcome the gap in retirement savings, the Australia Institute’s chief economist Dr Richard Denniss decided to write some advice of his own.
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To avoid the pitfall of retiring with insufficient superannuation, he recommends women follow these four rules:

1. Don’t go into caring professions. Do not be a nurse, or work in childcare, or do a job where you help other people, because we will pay you low wages.

2. Don’t take time out of work while you are young. Do you not understand the way compound interest works? If you do take time out of work while you are young, it will have a catastrophic effect on your retirement income.

3. Don’t take time out of work to care for your parents, or your partner’s parents, in your 50s. These are your peak earning years, so you need to work as long as you can and put as much into super as possible.

4. Do not be a woman. Because we will pay you roughly 17 per cent less than a man for similar work.

It is starkly divergent from the proliferous advice women receive about their financial security: that if they were more financially literate or made better decisions or picked a better super account, they could minimise the retirement gap.

“If you read some of the advice aimed at women, you could be forgiven for thinking retirement income is like a nice pair of shoes and it’s your job to hunt down a bargain,” Denniss says.

The reality, he says, is that no information campaign, decision-making tool or new website can assist women overcome the structural flaws in our superannuation system.

The gap between what men and women retire with in Australia is incontrovertible.

A report by the Senate’s economic committee last year found that one in three Australian women retire with nothing at all, and that on average men end their working lives with superannuation balances twice as large as women’s.

According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the average Australian man retires with $197,054 while the average woman retires with just $104,734. This represents a 46.6 per cent gap.

It is exacerbated by the superannuation tax concessions, which the Senate report concludes are poorly targeted. Men, in aggregate, receive double the superannuation tax concessions as women.

“The existence of super tax concessions is heavily stacked against women,” Denniss says. “It’s inequitable, and because women are more likely to be poor it’s particularly inequitable for women.”

As it stands, low-income earners pay more tax on their retirement savings than they do on their ordinary income. By contrast, high-income earners pay far less tax on their superannuation contributions than on their salaries.

Poorer people effectively pay a penalty tax on their super while the wealthiest 5 per cent of the population reaps more than $10 billion a year in tax concessions.

Women, who comprise the majority of the 3.6 million Australians who earn less than $37,000 a year, bear the brunt of this double whammy.

It makes the emphasis on women’s financial skills a little galling to Felicity Reynolds, the chief executive of the Mercy Foundation.

“It is a generalisation, but I would suggest that there are many women who are very, very good at managing a very small amount of money, and I think that gets lost,” Reynolds says.

Increasingly, she sees women being offered educational programs rather than solutions for affordable housing and structural inequities.

“These women could teach courses on saving money,” Reynolds says. “It’s less about a lack of financial literacy and more about a lack of finances due to structural inequity.”

Denniss agrees. “The focus on education is the perfect political strategy if you want to maintain the status quo,” he says. “Not only do the campaigns further confuse people, they are effective in making individuals blame themselves for the situation rather than question the whole system. We need to fundamentally change super and retirement income in Australia.”

Tax concessions cost $29.6 billion a year and the vast majority of those flow to high-income earners. Treasury estimates suggest that tax concessions given to the wealthiest 1 per cent of income earners is far more expensive than simply paying them the age pension.

As a case in point, Denniss cites the Tax Office’s revelation that there is a self-managed super fund with a balance of $100 million.

“If the account holder is over 65, they would be able to draw down $10 million a year and pay zero tax on it. Zero,” Denniss says.

How providing a tax break to a person who would never have been eligible for the age pension is supposed to “save money” is unclear. Regardless, a woman who spends her life earning the minimum wage is unable to access a similar tax break.

So if you are a woman looking to prepare for retirement, it’s wise to examine the fees your super manager charges and look to making additional contributions. But don’t be fooled into believing that through smart choices you can overcome the retirement gap between men and women.

For that, you’ll either need to follow Denniss’ advice or lobby for reform.

Georgina Dent is a journalist, editor and TV commentator with a keen focus on women’s empowerment and gender equality.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

‘Urgent meeting’: Chappypie China Time plans in doubt

Sydney residents wanting to experience the majesty of imperial China may have to continue to travel further than Wyong, following the seeming disintegration of plans for a Chinese theme-park on the Central Coast.
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The company behind the mooted “Chappypie China Time” theme park at Warnervale has apparently failed to make contractual payments for the purchase of land for the theme park.

And the Central Coast Council, which had contracted to sell the land to Australia China Theme Park, issued a mysterious statement this week saying it was seeking an “urgent meeting” with the company.

Should plans for the project irretrievably break down, it would be an ignominious and wasteful end to a scheme that at one stage promised a $500 million development for the region.

The project had been enthusiastically backed by the former mayor of Wyong Doug Eaton.

But it would be an entirely predictable outcome for the theme park’s many critics.

“We said this from the outset,” said the Labor Member for Wyong, David Harris.

Mr Harris said there was no evidence the company behind the project had experience delivering something of the size it was promising. Nor was the land zoned for the sort of use they envisaged.

Indeed, the director of Australia China Theme Park, Bruce Zhong, has previously made a virtue of his lack of experience. “This is a world’s first-ever project,” he told Fairfax Media in 2014.

But Mr Zhong has not responded to an emailed request for comment.

Nor has Mr Eaton, whose wife was previously revealed to have shares in a company part-owned by Australia China Theme Park. Mr Eaton has said his wife had no knowledge of how she came to acquire those shares.

Another curious aspect has been the advertisement in China, on social networking app WeChat, of the potential to invest in the project and receive permanent residency visas.

The latest development comes after the former Wyong Council last February contracted with Australia China Theme Park to sell it two parcels of land totalling 15.7 hectares near the Pacific Highway at Warnervale.

The company paid $300,000 deposits for each parcel, and was to settle the first parcel for $3 million plus GST this February.

The Central Coast Council then gave the company an extension until the end of March. But the Council’s statement this week suggests the Australia China Theme Park has missed that deadline.

The council said that the contracts contained confidentiality clauses and as such it could not comment, but that it had “sought an urgent meeting with representatives of ACTP to discuss these contracts”.

Bob Graham, a former independent councillor on Wyong Council, which has since been merged into the Central Coast Council and placed under the control of an administrator, said the project never made any sense.

Mr Graham said the council-owned land at Warnervale should instead have been used for a business park, which could already be employing people.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

An elegant affair in the Blue Mountains

Live music … part of the deal at the Hydro Majestic High TeaI guess that I used to think of the Blue Mountains as an obstacle — one that I rarely stopped at and even more rarely enjoyed, but one which I had to confront on each of many trips over the years between Sydney and the Central West of New South Wales.
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But certainly no longer. What used to be an impediment has become a much favoured haunt — an avenue lined with sumptuous food, fine accommodation and unforgettable scenery, both in dappled sunlight and swirling, sometimes quite eerie, mist.

View from the Hydro Majestic’s dining room … the mist rolls in … or is out?

That appeal was driven home a couple of weeks ago when myself and the Woman with Altitude were hosted by Ralf Bruegger, the general manager of the Escarpment Group, which has in its portfolio the Hydro Majestic, Lilianfels, Echoes and Parklands in the Blue Mountains, and has recently expanded to take on The Convent in the Hunter Valley.

It all started with a rather decadent High Tea in the Hydro’s Wintergarden restaurant watching the mist swirling around the Megalong Valley.

Ralf and his team are to be congratulated on their attention to detail in so tastefully and authentically restoring what is certainly a more-than-century-old Blue Mountains icon. They have done the region and, indeed, Australia a great service.

We opted to share servings of the traditional Wintergarden offering and the more radical Eastern High Tea, accompanied by flutes of French bubbly.

Both dishes were served on three-tiered stands laden with tempting savoury and sweet treats.

Gorgeous food … the Hydro Majestic’s Eastern High Tea (left) and Wintergarden High Tea

It was there that we abandoned the Woman with Altitude’s car, not realising that she had left on the lights and was rapidly flattening the battery, and shared my car to Katoomba, where, because accommodation at Echoes was booked out, we had to stay at luxurious Lilianfels. Damn!

Lilianfels was established by Sir Frederick Darley, sixth Chief Justice of NSW, as a family retreat after he purchased land at Katoomba’s Echo Point in 1888.

It epitomises accommodation in the grandest of manner. It is elegant and its silver-service restaurant, appropriately named Darley’s, delivers food totally worthy of the surrounds.

There’s absolutely nothing ‘mini’ about our Mini Mini Saddle Suite, with its elegant décor, absolute king-size comfort and separate lounge and bedroom.

A comfortable resting place … the Mini Mini Saddle Suite at Lilianfels

The quality of the food at Echoes — and it really is next door, well within walking distance — certainly matched the luxury of our suite at Lilianfels.

We tried entrées of crispy soft-shell crab served with pan-seared scallops and som-tom salad; and pan-fried quail with kale, shimeji mushrooms, and tamarind-and-honey glaze … an absolutely delicious pair of starters eagerly washed down with glasses of crisp riesling from Bests in Victoria’s Great Western district.

One of the delicious entrées at Echoes … soft-shell crab with pan-seared scallops

These were followed by two of the best main courses we have recently tried: free-range chicken wrapped in jamon, and served with sweet potato and quinoa rosti, braised fennel, wild mushroom and truffle veloute; and char-grilled angus tenderloin, served with onion jam and baby vegetables grown in the garden of the Escarpment Group’s nearby Parklands property.

Both dishes were simply sensational, with the velvety veloute sauce an absolute stand-out.

I’m a great fan of reds from France’s Rhone Valley, which I reckon offers better value than the more esteemed Bordeaux and Burgundy regions, and the Perrin & Fils blend of grenache, syrah and mourvedre certainly did more than justice to the exceptional tenderloin.

And similarly a glass of De Iulius chardonnay from the Hunter Valley to the chicken.

It was a very fine meal in a beautiful room, tended by the most efficient, friendly staff … and full marks to the Hydro’s handyman, who had no trouble jump-starting the Woman with Altitude’s car the following morning.

John Rozentalsis a freelance writer whose passions aretravel, food and wine. He lives at Molong in the Central West of NSW, from where he hostsOz Baby Boomers, a lifestyle-resource for mature Australians, and Molong Online.

Fresh Fogarty boosts Greens for 2017 opener

NEW PLAYER: Sam Fogarty returns to Merewether at outside centre after a beneficial off-season with the NSW sevens program. Picture: Jonathan CarrollMerewether Carlton coach Mick Gill reckons Sam Fogarty has come back a different playerahead of the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Unionseason opener against old rivals Wanderers at No.1 Sportsground on Saturday.
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Outside centre Fogartyspent the summer months with the NSW sevens program andwas the sole country-based player in the state side, which included the national championships in Adelaide in November, and Gill barely recognised him at Townson Oval in the lead up to their 2017 campaign.

“It was like we received a brand new player after that off-season with The Waratahs,” Gill said.

“Fogo had gained a yard of pace, he came backstronger, and his skillset was unbelievable. Just 100 per cent a better player.”

Fogarty will partnerskipper Jay Strachan in the centres, which Gillidentified as a key area for Merewether.

“That’s where our strength is,” Gill said.

“Both players have a licence to throw it around and I don’t want to lock them in anywhere. Rather than having to standsomewhere on the field they can go andfind their own opportunities.”

The rest of the backline has been shuffled around with Thomas Smith slotting into fly half after University recruit Will Frost injured his shoulder in a recent trial while versatile Blake Creighton could miss the year following a knee reconstruction.

The Greens forward pack is also a mixed bag –weakened without Alex Hills (Randwick) and prop WendallWilhelmus (shoulder surgery) but bolstered by flanker Billy Freeman (University) and back-rower Kent Hatchwell (return).

Butstability has been provided in drawing the Two Blues straight up according to Gill, allowing the group to gel in sight of last year’s grand finalists.

“It actually helped with our pre-season, giving us that extra motivation,” Gill said.

“Not that you need much motivation to play Wanderers …but it made those fitness sessions a bit easier.”

Wanderershave named five-eighth Luke Simmons as captain whilesecond-rower Doug McKillop (Scone),halfback Gus Locke (UK) and No.15 Josh McCormack (Maitland) all debutfor the hosts. Tom Emayel returns after two years abroad.

Elsewhere, two-time defending premiers Hamilton are at home to The Waratahs, Beaches travel to meet Maitland, Lake Macquarie tackleSingleton and University take on Nelson Bay.

*Go totheherald南京夜网419论坛for the BarTV Sportslivestream of Wanderers v Carlton at3pmon Saturday.SEASON PREVIEW: Who will take out the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union premiership?

PHOTOS: Hamilton claim back-to-back titles with grand final win over Wanderers

BLUE CARD: Concussion trial in Newcastle for 2017

Meanwhile, the NHRU season was officially launched at Wests City on Friday with former Wallabies coach Alan Jones the guest speaker at the annual Hawthorne Club luncheon.

And the women’s competition doesn’t start until April 22 but 10 Hunter players will represent NSW Country at the Southern States Championships in Wagga Wagga on Saturday.

Magpies aim for fast turnaround

KEY MAN: Marquee Matt Thompson also helps coach Maitland.
Nanjing Night Net

MATT Thompson believes Maitland are better this year, but they will need to be if they are going to challenge Edgeworth at Jack McLaughlan Oval on Saturday night.

The Magpies beat Newcastle Jets Youth 4-2 on Wednesday night at Speers Pointto belatedly open their NNSW NPL season after four washouts. Thompson scored the go-ahead goal early in the second half and Matt Comerford struck in injury time after it was 2-2 at half-time.

“It was just a good result, to get a game in and get through it unscathed,” Thompson said.“It’s not easy playing on that surface against a team that runs around a bit, after not playing for three weeks.”

They meet an Eagles sideon Saturday (7.30pm) in round five coming off the bye and smarting from a 2-1 loss to Lambton Jaffas. Maitland lost 4-3 to Edgeworth in the semi-finals last year and Thompson said they would need to improve.

“We talk about how we nearly beat them, but at the end of the day, they won and they probably never felt like they weregoing to lose it,” he said. “No doubt, we need to be better. We haven’t really lost in terms of personnel fromlast year. Obviously we lost [Dean] Heffernan, but we gained Shane [Cansdell-Sherriff], Andrew Pawiak and Josh Dutton-Black.I think we’re in better position than last year in that we have a strong 16, 17 players.”

Also Saturday, Valentine host Adamstown (2.30pm) and Hamilton welcome the Jets Youth (6pm). On Sunday, Charlestown host Broadmeadow and the Jaffas are away to Lake Macquarie.

* Go totheherald南京夜网419论坛for the BarTV Sports livestream of Lake Macquarie v Lambton JaffasEdgeworth coach Damian Zane, meanwhile, said attacking UK recruit Kieran Sanders would play under 20s on Saturday after serving a three-match ban carried over from his time with Far North Queensland Heat.

Zane said the Eagles had responded on the training paddock to the midweek loss to Jaffas.

“We trained on Saturday and it was quite a heavy and intense session,” Zane said.

”You can just seenow, all the cattle are back andplayers are looking around and seeing there’s a battle on now for spots.

“They are proud of what they have done the last couple of years and that loss stung them. It was a tad harsh to lose, but losing away to Lambton, there’s noshame in that. It was good for us, it’s got us going and I’ve seen it at training.

“I think the game showed up a couple of players who were a yard off as well. We’vegot a fair bit of work into them over the last week and a bit, so I expect a big performance from them.”

Thompson said “Edgy, for me, are the team to beat again”.

“Even though they had a loss to Lambton the other week, they have proven themselves over the last few years and they are a quality side,” he said.

Thompson said Ryan Clarke, who missed the win over Jets Youth with a hamstring problem, would likely return against Edgeworth.

Thompson, Maitland keeper Matt Trott, Adamstown’s Stuart Musialikand Edgeworth striker Daniel McBreen will back up on Sunday in the F3 Derby Legends Game at Central Coast Stadium before the A-League clash between Newcastle and the Mariners.

McBreen and Trott will play for the Mariners, whileThompson and Musialik will be in Newcastle’s line up for the seven-a-side exhibition.

“I’m not sure which one’s more important to be honest,” Thompson laughed about the two clashes this weekend with McBreen, who has been talking up the Legends Games rivalry.

“Hopefully we can get the win in both, that’s the plan.”

Fears over drinking water

ON THE ATTACK: Catherine and Tony Witcomb at their property in Eagleton, which would border a proposed rock quarry. They fear their rural way of life will be destroyed if the proposal receives the green light. Picture: Simone De Peak HUNTER WATER and the Roads and Maritime Service havecome out in opposition to plans for a hard rock quarry in the catchment for Newcastle’s main drinking water source.
Nanjing Night Net

Boral Resources –which operates the nearby Seaham Quarry – has also launched an attack onthe proposal, warningit contains“deficiencies, incorrect conclusions and inadequate mitigation measures”.

TheHeraldreported in February that plans for the quarry at Eagleton, north of Raymond Terrace, hadbeen resurrected after four years.

The EagletonRock Syndicate plans to extract around 10 milliontonnes of rock inside the boundaries of the catchment for Grahamstown Dam, which supplies about 20 per cent of Newcastle’s drinking water.

In a letter to the planning department, senior Hunter Water engineerMalcolm Withers said the organisation “does not support approval of the proposed development in its current form.”

Hunter Water found the syndicate had failed to show water discharged from the quarry would be of equal or better quality than what is currently leaving the site.

Its management plan had been designed for a “typical catchment” rather than a sensitive drinking water source, it argued.

It came as residents mobilised against the proposal, lodging nearly 50 objections with the Department of Planning and forming the Eagleton Residents Action Group.

“It’s a majorissue not just for us but for the people of Newcastle,” spokesperson Tony Witcomb said.

“Because of the Williamtown fiasco,Hunter Water have closed off use of some of the Tomago Sandbeds,soit’s more important than everthat the Grahamstown catchment doesn’t have any contamination issues.”

The quarry wouldcome within 150 metres of Mr Witcomb’s back fence and would see the removal of a hill that acts as a buffer between his home and the Boral quarry.

His home is also near a motorbike racing track and the site of the proposed $12 million Circuit Italia and Mr Witcomb said the company’sacoustic assessmenthad not taken into account all the noise sources in the area.

“The noise is going to be atrocious,” he said, adding most residents relied on tank water and feared it would be contaminated with dust.

The group has also pointed out a number of existing quarries in the area haveapplications before the state government for expansions.

“Why build a greenfield quarry whenthe infrastructure is not there and the quarry’s not required?” Mr Witcomb said. “It’s not like people are screaming out for gravel.”

In its objection, the Road and Maritime Service warned extra truck movements would put pressure on the intersection of the Pacific Highway and Italia Road, “exacerbating the potential safety risk”.

It found the intersection was likely to need upgrading if the quarrygoes ahead.

Boral Resources complainedit had not been consulted on the proposed development, despite the syndicate’s claims to the contrary.

The company said trafficassessments for the new quarry were based on the “incorrect” assumption it would cease operations by 2026 and the proposal had “ignored” noise and air quality impacts on the proposed Kings Hill subdivision.

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