Monthly Archives: April 2019

Rehabilitation may suffer as coal mining sinks, mayor warns

Mount Arthur’s coal mine – the biggest in NSW – looms over the Muswellbrook countryside. Photo: Wolter Peeters Martin Rush, Muswellbrook’s mayor, says BHP Billiton are not meeting their obligations. Photo: Wolter Peeters
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Coal mining under reviewCoal miners given more leeway

The ailing state of the coal industry means taxpayers may end up being lumped with the bill for the rehabilitation of some mines, while safety and other standards are also at risk, says Martin Rush, mayor of Muswellbrook.

Muswellbrook Shire Council has been battling BHP Billiton to make good on its current obligations and Mr Rush said he is worried the Baird government will not insist the mining giant and others big companies deliver on their obligations.

“There is a growing fear in the community that cost cutting will result in the avoidance of industrial standards together with health, safety, and environmental standards,” Mr Rush said.

According to the council, BHP has failed to revegetate the giant mounds of displaced earth that loom over the town. In addition, the company was obliged to introduce so-called micro-relief so that the mounds appear more natural rather than giant slabs.

“You wouldn’t expect to see big planar slopes that will look unnatural forever,” Mr Rush said.

BHP sacked the firm supposed to redesign the landscape and “has sacked most of their environmental team”, he said. “They just walked away from their conditions of consent.”

In a letter sent to the Department of Planning, the council also complained that the eastern side of the mine “has been rehabilitated with exotic pastures” – African grass that are environmental weeds.

In response, Scott Brooks, a lead compliance officer with Planning, proposed BHP host a joint site inspection early next month.

Mr Rush, though, likened the request to asking the victim of a crime to meet the criminal for consultation, and said the state had failed to audit the mine properly for years.

“We’ll be talking about this in 12 months and [BHP] won’t have done a stitch of it,” he said.

A BHP spokeswoman declined to say how many environmental staff had been let go at the mine but said it “maintains a strong level of environmental expertise”.

She also rejected claims the mine was not compliant with obligations, adding that 37 per cent of its rehabilitation work was affected by drought from 2004-09.

“Mount Arthur met its consent requirement by submitting a draft rehabilitation strategy last year,” a spokeswoman for Planning said.

Mr Rush, though, disputed the claims relate to new works and said the revegetation areas should have been “100 per cent woody” years ago: “You’ve had seven years since [the drought].”

The mayor said other big miners appeared to be wavering on their rehabilitation requirements. He said that Anglo American, for instance, proposed its Drayton South mine because an “extension” project would have meant they could delay rehabilitation works at its existing Drayton mine.

One senior government official shared similar concerns, noting the Drayton mine was coming to the end of its life in 2016 and the proposed Drayton South mine – rejected by the Planning Assessment Commission in November – was located at least three kilometres away.

“If Drayton South had got up, Drayton’s consent conditions would have been expunged,” Mr Rush said. “Part of [Anglo’s] sales pitch was that it would have assisted rehabilitation.”

A spokeswoman for Anglo said the company had been carrying out on-going rehabilitation work at Drayton and the two projects had separate plans.

“Drayton has its own mine closure plan which is accepted by the Department of Planning and Environment and includes rehabilitation costs of approximately $55 million,” she said.

Anglo, meanwhile, is continuing to review the commission’s decision and has not ruled out resubmitting a proposal.

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Luis Garcia can be an A-League hit, say Wanderers’ Spanish duo

Catalonia connection: Western Sydney Wanderers midfielder Andreu came through Barcelona’s youth ranks. Photo: Brendan EspositoWestern Sydney Wanderers stars Andreu and Dimas might be tasked with the job of stopping Central Coast Mariners boom recruit Luis Garcia on Saturday but the pair have backed their countryman to be a hit in the A-League.
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Garcia’s arrival has divided opinion, with the 37-year old forward having not played competitively since 2014 and the Mariners’ season all but over after dreadful first half of the campaign. They presently sit last, four points behind Perth Glory and 11 points behind sixth-placed Perth.

However, the signing has prompted plenty of hype in Gosford and is sure to lead to a major spike in attendance for the Mariners in their match against the Wanderers, who are aiming to claim back top place on the table.

“It’s great for Australia to have a player like this coming to the A-League. He’s still regarded as a very big star in Spain and someone who was an amazing player at big clubs,” Andreu said. “When you play for clubs like Barcelona, Liverpool and Atletico Madrid, it shows what kind of player he was. He was at Barcelona B before my time there but I always knew what a great player he was.”

Dimas, another Barcelona B graduate, said that Garcia was a “special player, someone capable of making a difference to the league” despite his veteran years.

Garcia impressed as he starred for the “Liverpool Legends” team in an exhibition match earlier in the month but that slow-paced friendly was hardly indicative of the serious opposition he’ll face in the A-League.

But Andreu still felt that Garcia wouldn’t make a fool of himself, even if he starts – as expected – on Saturday in Gosford.

“Obviously when you haven’t played for so long it’s going to take you time to find your fitness, even if you are a great player like Luis Garcia,” he said. “That might take some weeks, maybe even some months, so it’s hard to think he will play at his best level straight away. But in time I don’t see why can’t play very well for the Mariners. I just hope that he doesn’t play so well against us.”

The Wanderers go into the match needing a win to keep on the heels of ladder leaders Brisbane Roar – and to keep clear of a chasing pack that has recently regained plenty of ground. Just four points now separates the top five teams.

“We know how important a win would be for us, especially because while we have been playing well, we haven’t been getting the results in the past three games,” Dimas said. “You could see in the derby that we were the better team and, again, there were no points.

“But we are going to keep faith in our team and what we are doing because it’s brought into a position where we are contending for a championship.”

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Marijuana: The life tip Kim Cattrall took from SATC’s Samantha Jones

Kim Cattrall says she has “more than tried marijuana” and that it makes you feel relaxed in “intimate situations”. Photo: Grant Lamos IV Cattrall said she “would love to do” a Sex and the City 3 adding: “It’s so much fun, the clothes…”
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Sex and the City creator says Carrie and Big getting together ‘betrayed’ series

It might have been almost six years since Kim Cattrall got to play Sex and the City favourite Samantha Jones, but the English-Canadian actress is still taking some life tips from the uninhibited public relations executive.

The 59-year-old opened up on Friday to Kyle Sandilands and Jackie ‘O’ Henderson on KIIS 1065 on everything from why Carrie Bradshaw and Mr Big were meant for each other to smoking marijuana like her former open-minded, devilish character.

On air to speak about playing an entirely different role on Netflix’s Sensitive Skin, callers to the show reverted back to the proud, confident and highly sexual woman she has become so well-known for portraying.

One of the first questions she was asked was if she likes marijuana too.

“Let’s just say that I have more than tried marijuana and I took a tip from Samantha – when you’re in an intimate situation it can certainly make you feel more relaxed,” she said.

“But it can also make you feel a little paranoid too. I don’t imbibe that much, to me it’s like having a great glass of wine or some kind of epicurean experience.

“Especially now you can get marijuana in different tastes and flavours, it’s becoming like a wine itself,” Cattrall said.

However, she added there are side effects: “Alcohol can be a depressant, but marijuana you’ll stand at the corner thinking everyone is looking at me.”

She said she “would love to do” a Sex and the City 3 adding: “It’s so much fun, the clothes…

“I think the hardest thing to do would be to write the script, where would we go? It went to so many different places… It would be pretty tough… If we could get it together, it would be a blast.”

She disagreed with SATC producer Darren Star, who recently said in a Kindle Singles interview that he felt like Carrie and Mr Big getting married “betrayed what it was about, which was that women don’t ultimately find happiness from marriage. Not that they can’t. But the show initially was going off script from the romantic comedies that had come before it. That’s what had made women so attached.”

Cattrall put it down to John James Preston, who was played by Chris Noth, and his persistence for Carrie, played by Sarah Jessica Parker.

“I thought that they did actually [belong together]… He would not go away, he kept coming back and he wasn’t just a bad penny, he keeps coming back,” she said about Mr Big.

“I think they were intended for each other, not that relationships are ever easy, but I think that they would ultimately make it.”

But she wished for the same happy ending for Ms Jones.

“I sort of felt the whole Richard Wright [James Remar] thing was really hard going for Samantha because it was so hard for her,” said Cattrall.

“Obviously they didn’t end up together, but I sort of always wanted her to be with a man who was as powerful as she was.

“I liked Smith [Jason Lewis], I thought he had a real heart and he was good for her, but I think ultimately she needed a man as strong as her and she decided she couldn’t wait for that and she wanted to be on her own and good for her.

“I always wanted her to be with someone who was her match and I don’t think she ever really found that.”

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Four arrested following Sydney seizure of 160 kilograms of ice

Police arrest a suspected member of an international drug smuggling syndicate. Photo: Australian Federal PoliceAn international drug smuggling attempt has been thwarted following the discovery of almost 500 kilograms of illegal drugs hidden in bar stools and soup-mix packets from China, police say.
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The drugs, which allegedly included 159 kilograms of ice, were concealed in three shipping containers that arrived at Sydney’s Port Botany on January 1.

Australian Border Force officers inspected the containers after receiving a tip-off from their overseas counterparts.

They allegedly found the ice, which police said had a potential street value of more than $105 million, concealed in the seat backs of the chairs, while 340 kilograms of ephedrine, a “precursor” drug that could be used to make ice, was allegedly uncovered inside soup-mix packets.

Australian Federal Police Commander Chris Sheehan said that this was a “very significant seizure”.

“As a result of this seizure, there are Australians who will not die of drug overdoses, Australians whose homes won’t be burgled, whose businesses won’t be robbed and it will save the health system millions of dollars of treatment,” he said.

As part of the investigation, police led the controlled delivery of the drugs to three addresses in Peakhurst and Kingsgrove, in Sydney’s south.

Four people were arrested on Thursday after search warrants were executed across south-west Sydney.

A 57-year-old Australian woman, a 45-year-old Chinese man and a 50-year-old Chinese man were charged for their alleged role in the importation of the drugs.

A 26-year-old Sydney man was arrested at Narwee and charged with attempting to possess a commercial quantity of ice.

“It is our belief that the people we have arrested here in Sydney were significant, integral members of the syndicate,” Commander Sheehan said.

Police allege the 26-year-old man was a “crucial component” of the ring.

All four were due to face court on Friday.

Another man was arrested and released without charge, pending further inquiries.

Commander Sheehan praised the work of the officers involved and said that investigations would continue, with further arrests possible.


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ICAC Inspector considers audit of political donations, Australian Water probes

The Inspector of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, David Levine, may ratchet up the pressure on the watchdog by auditing its high-profile inquiries into political donations and a company linked to senior Labor and Liberal figures.
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Mr Levine, QC, a former Supreme Court judge, released a damning report last year into the commission’s failed inquiry into Crown Prosecutor Margaret Cunneen, SC.

The report led to a deterioration in the already-frayed relationship between the inspector and the watchdog. It was criticised in some quarters for failing to give the commission a chance to respond to allegations of “oppressive maladministration” and unlawful behaviour.

Mr Levine told Fairfax Media on Friday that he wrote to the commission on January 15 “requiring the provision to me of … material” in Operations Credo and Spicer.

Those inquiries investigated the links between controversial company Australian Water Holdings and political figures, and the alleged flow of banned donations to some Liberal candidates before the 2011 state election.

Mr Levine has also written to some targets of the inquiries about submissions and directions sent to them in late December about how those inquiries may be affected by a High Court ruling in the battle between the commission and Ms Cunneen.

Targets of the inquiry have been disgruntled about the delay between public hearings in 2014 and the release of findings, which have been held up by a series of court challenges.

Asked if he would consider that delay in a potential audit, Mr Levine said: “There has been delay and explanations for it given. Nonetheless delay which can exacerbate reputational damage is a factor I always bear in mind.”

But he added that “no decision to conduct an audit either alone or as a precursor to an investigation has been made” and “anything … is possible”.

ICAC Commissioner Megan Latham is expected to face a parliamentary hearing in February about Mr Levine’s report on the Cunneen inquiry.

Mr Levine was already tasked with preparing a report on the commission’s conduct in past and current inquiries, and any proposed changes to its powers. This will also be considered by Parliament’s committee on the watchdog.

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