After Molly, Hoges and Bondy, let’s forget about the rich and famous for a while

Let’s think for a minute about all the strong films based on real lives that Australia has produced over the years. It’s a list that goes from Breaker Morant and Shine right up to Rabbit Proof Fence, Mao’s Last Dancer, Tracks, Lion and Hacksaw Ridge.
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At their best, they’re compelling emotional stories about people who weren’t well-known when these films were being made.

Then let’s consider the commercial television equivalents. Samuel Johnson’s lively performance as music guru Ian Meldrum was the best thing about the mini-series Molly. And, after the patchy Hoges on Paul Hogan, House of Bond, about Alan Bond, was another disappointment.

Despite plenty of talent both behind and in front of the camera, the popular genre of dramatising famous lives has rarely risen to any great heights. It includes shows about Bob Hawke (Hawke), Graham Kennedy (The King), Ita Buttrose (Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo), Kerry Packer (Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War and Power Games: The Packer-Murdoch Story ), INXS (Never Tear Us Apart), Peter Allen (Not The Boy Next Door), Gina Rinehart (House of Hancock) and Mary Donaldson (Mary: The Making Of A Princess).

It’s hard to be optimistic about coming shows on Olivia Newton-John, Shane Warne and the Easybeats.

Dramatising lives should be incredibly rich material for both the big and small screen.

Every year bio-pics and stories based on real people compete for best picture at the Oscars. This year the semi-autobiographical Moonlight and Hidden Figures were nominated alongside those two Australian films, Lion and Hacksaw Ridge.

Recent years have included such solid films as American Sniper (Chris Kyle), The Imitation Game (Alan Turing), Selma (Martin Luther King), The Theory of Everything (Stephen Hawking), Bridge of Spies (James B. Donovan), The Revenant (Hugh Glass), 12 Years A Slave (Solomon Northup),Philomena (Philomena Lee), The Wolf of Wall Street (Jordan Belfort), Lincoln (Abraham Lincoln) and Moneyball (Billy Beane).

When film-makers deliver a good bio-pic, there is vast difference from what screens on Australian commercial TV. Even if they fictionalise elements of the story, they aim to say something truthful about their subject – the flaws that fame reveals, their internal conflicts, their struggles, their courage against the odds or the gap between the public image and the private person.

But the likes of Molly, Hoges, Never Tear Us Apart and House of Bond largely dramatise the myths about famous personalities.

They trade on nostalgia and curiosity rather than going deep into the light and shade of real lives.

The so-called golden age of television came about because American cable channels challenged what the traditional networks were doing.

Instead of seeking a mass audience who watched free, they chased smaller audiences who were prepared to pay for quality. Rather than familiar ways of making shows, they let stories breathe – hiring great writers, giving directors a decent budget and focusing on cracking stories.

Instead of homogenising these stories so families could watch them together, they pushed them into adult territory. The result has been shows that viewers around the world talk about.

With the federal government scrapping the commercial networks’ licence fees, it’s time for them to step up. Time to aim for world-class dramas that work for audiences here then sell internationally on the strength of the storytelling.

What about more TV dramas about ordinary Australians who’ve had extraordinary lives? Lion shows how stories like that can really strike a chord around the country.

Unless there’s a cracking yarn – the dark side of an icon or a genuinely inspiring tale – let’s just forget about the rich and famous for a while.

Twitter @gmaddox

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Customers unlikely to escape the bank tax

Whenever businesses are hit with a nasty new tax, there is a predictable response: we’ll pass it on to customers.
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Sure enough, the early signs are that banks expect at least some of the budget’s $6.2 billion tax on our five biggest lenders will also be worn by the millions of people who bank with them.

But just how easily can banks really offload a cost like this?

No doubt anticipating such a reaction, the government designed the tax so it would not apply to most household deposits. It’s also asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to launch an inquiry into home loan pricing over the next year.

Will these steps be enough to stop lenders sharing this cost with anyone with a bank account?

Essentially, the bank tax is a 0.06-percentage-point levy on all the money the big banks have borrowed to fund their lending (liabilities, in the jargon), excluding deposits of less than $250,000. It only applies to the five biggest banks: Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, National Australia Bank, ANZ Bank, and Macquarie Group.

Treasurer Scott Morrison has been keen to point out that it excludes the vast majority of household deposits, and it is not a tax on mortgages.

But managing partner at Arnhem Asset Management Mark Nathan says that is not relevant, because banks don’t put their different types of funds in such pigeon holes.

“Banks are going to look at their aggregate funding costs and say, our costs have gone up because of this tax,” Nathan says.

There are three potential responses to an increase in costs, he says: to pay customers less for deposits, to charge more for loans, or for the business to make a lower return.

“I suspect it’s going to be a combination of all three, but the first two are going to wear the brunt of it,” Nathan predicts.

Martin North, of consultancy Digital Finance Analytics, also believes banks will ultimately pass on the levy to customers. He thinks the mortgage market is where they are most likely to do this, because that is where the big four have the most power to set prices.

Morrison probably saw this coming, and as well as setting the ACCC onto the banks, he has pointed out customers can take their business to smaller banks if they think they are being gouged.

Separately, the government will overhaul the body for sorting out disputes between customers and their banks. It is creating a “one-stop shop” that will deal with disputes spanning financial advice, superannuation, insurance and banking.

Such intense political scrutiny is likely to stop the banks from instantly raising prices and saying it is a direct response to the government.

But that doesn’t mean the lenders they won’t pass on the cost indirectly, such as by increasing rates and blaming other policies, such as a crackdown on their lending to customers with interest-only loans.

Banks’ mortgage decisions have been debated for years in this country, and it will be difficult for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to determine if such hikes are legitimate or otherwise.

What about Morrison’s point that customers vote with their feet? The tax will not apply to institutions such as Bank of Queensland, Bank of Bendigo, foreign-owned banks or credit unions.

Shopping around makes sense, but some small lenders often find it tempting to match their larger rivals.

When big banks faced tougher capital rules in 2015, which they responded to by raising home loan rates, some smaller banks were happy to also raise their mortgage rates, even though the new capital rules did not apply to them. North also argues that even with the tax, the big banks can still under-cut the smaller lenders, who have to pay more for money.

None of this is to say shareholders will get off the hook completely.

Bank shares plunged on news of the tax, which is equal to about 5 per cent of the industry’s profits.

Even though banks have shown themselves to be adept at passing on higher costs to customers, it is also a fact that their return on equity – a key measure of profitability – has been sliding.

Bank shareholders will no doubt have to wear part of the tax as well, which is of course why the industry is protesting so loudly. iFrameResize({checkOrigin:false},’#pez_iframe’); var frame = document.getElementById(“pez_iframe”);

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Maizen made to order in Central’s backline

FORM: Central Newcastle fullback Jake Maizen has scored six tries in the opening three matches of the Newcastle Rugby League season. They were his first games in the top grade. Picture: Jonathan CarrollBarista by morning, Butcher Boy by night.
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Jake Maizen takes orders of flat whites with two sugarsin his day job at a Hamilton cafe, but the calls aren’t quite as sweet on the field when chiming into the Central Newcastle backline.

“That’s a bit more serious than a cappuccino,” Maizen said.

The Cardiff 20-year-old has started his Newcastle Rugby League career on a try-scoring note, with the fullback crossing six times in his first three games in the top grade.

A member of Central’s under-19 grand final side last season, new club coach Craig Miller decided to give the youngster a shot in the No.1 jersey and sofar it has paid dividends.

Maizen opened 2017 with a four-pointer away at Kurri last month, followed up with a double at home against Lakes and nabbed a hat-trick playing Maitland at CoronationOval on Saturday.

“They [my teammates]make everything super easy for me,” Maizen said.

“I really just have to run my lines and it’s pretty much on a platter for me. My role is simplified and they just make me look good.”

And although having the likes of experienced campaigners Brad Murray,Steve Gordon and Shaun Metcalf around him, not all of Maizen’s tries have simply been walk overs.

It includes at least one from a line-break on halfway, slicing and dicing through the defence before sprinting away to claim the points.

But coach Miller hasn’t been all that surprised, he was impressed from the start.

“When I took over at the club I had a few weeks to watch the 19s and I thought they had a couple of really good young players that would hopefully push through into first grade,” Miller said.

“Jake was one of them so I was keen to get to training and see what he was like, but the more time we spent together and the more we got into team specifics he really took my notice.

“It’s his speed, his evasion and his football sense, and he’s a good kid to go with it.”

And to boot the Butcher Boys have a share of the competition lead, undefeated approaching the fourth round against Cessnock at St John Oval on Sunday.

“It’s been a good start, but I’mjust trying to be there week in and week out,” Maizen said.

“I’m not focusing on the tries too much, just happy with the wins.”

It hasn’t always been that successful during his time at the club, with firstsmaking the semis just twice since he kicked off in under 13s.

Prior to that he playedjuniors at Western Suburbs after starting at South Newcastle.

“It’s been unreal at Central and I wouldn’t go anywhere else,” he said.

“I’m happy there. That’s my footy home.”

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Cogger closes on comeback from surgery

Jack CoggerTeenage Knights half Jack Cogger is in line for an earlier than expected return frompelvis-stabilising surgery and a hernia repair.
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Cogger, who played six NRL games last season,has been training with Newcastle’s top squad this week, just two months after having the operation.

The 19-year-old was expected tobe sidelined for about 14 weeks but coach Nathan Brown said he could make his return in the lower grades as early as round 11.

“He’s starting to get close, Jack,” Brown said. “I don’t think he will be right this week, but they are planning on, if everything goes smooth, that he will play the following week.”

** Nathan Ross may reconsider travel arrangements next time he finds himself on a road trip.

The Knights winger made the four-hour trek back from Mudgee on Monday after his representative debut for City, but he did so sitting next to towering forward Pauli Pauli in the back seat.

“I was like a sardine in a can,” Ross joked at training. “It was a little bit tight there.”

Ross wasn’t the only one cracking jokes this week.Asked if the returning representative players might be rested at training this week, Knights prop Josh Starling said: “I’m not sure they did too much during the week. The boys had a few too many buffets so they might need to get in to do some extra training,” he smiled.“I think they will be right. They’re out there for a reason so they are pretty professional and they’ll be right to go.”

AAP reports: Canberra halfback Aidan Sezer expects prop Shannon Boyd and captain Jarrod Croker to overcome injury and face Newcastle.

Boyd (leg injury) didn’t play for Australia against New Zealand on Friday night, while Croker (arm)was unavailable for the NSW City-Country game along with the rest of the Raiders.

“I have no doubt those boys will run out ready to play on Sunday,” Sezer said on Tuesday.

“It’s round 10 and everyone’s getting knocks and bruises and I guess that’s accumulating over the weeks now so hopefully we can stay in good nick and keep a healthy squad.”

Jordan Rapana, Joey Leilua and Junior Paulo were the only Canberra players involved in representative round, giving the majority of the squad a well-timed break after defeats to the Bulldogs and Manly.

“We came off the back of two tight losses and we were thoroughly disappointed with it, but it was good to get off the legs and freshen up mentally and physically and ready to fight back this week,” Sezer said.

“We’ve been assessing out last two games and where we’ve gone wrong.

“It hasn’t been up to the Raiders standard we pride ourselves on.”

Josh Papalii will complete his suspension over a drink-driving conviction against the Knights, with Sezer admitting the star forward’s absence will hurt the side.

“In my opinion Papa is the best back-rower in the competition,” Sezer said.

“It’s big shoes to fill. We probably won’t have someone that can do the job Papa does each week but that’s paying respect to the player he is.”

Struggling Newcastle have won three games in two NRL seasons, but a draw and a four-point win to the Raiders last year will give them hope of an upset.

“Last year they finished wooden spooners and both times we played them they sent us to golden point,” Canberra forward Luke Bateman said.

“We’re definitely not expecting it to be an easy game. They’re always tough especially at home.”

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Federal budget 2017: Five housing changes to know about

Sorry, first-home buyers – this isn’t the budget you were hoping forThe winners and losers of Budget 2017Developers’ attempts to lure first-home buyers ahead of Budget decision on housing affordability
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Housing was a hot button topic for the 2017/2018 federal budget, so it’s no surprise there were a raft of changes for real estate.

The new measures have impacted on a variety of housing rules fromfirst-home buyers’ savings strategies to what investors can claim at tax-time.

Here are the five big announcements to know about. 1) Foreigners can only buy up to 50 per cent of a development

Under the new budget rules, developers will no longer be able to sell every property in their new development to overseas buyers.

Instead, a maximum of half the development can be sold to foreign buyers with the rest to be sold locally. The budget documents note this is to provide a “clear message” that new housing stock is expected to increase supply for Australian buyers.

Before this change developers required pre-approval to sell properties to foreign buyers but there was no limit on the proportion of sales.

Effect on revenue: No impact

In place from: May 9, 20172) First Home Super Saver Scheme

First-home buyers weren’t ignored by the budget with a new First Home Super Saver Scheme announced. The new super saver scheme will allow first-time buyers to put up to $15,000 a year, to a maximum of $30,000 under the scheme, into their superannuation.

These funds can later be withdrawn for a home deposit, including any earnings the deposits made.

This means they will have a tax incentive to save more, and it can be taken advantage of as a couple with each claiming $30,000.

Effect on revenue: Cost of $250 million ($9.4 million funding given to ATO)

In place from: July 1, 2017 (contributions), July 1, 2018 (withdrawals)3) An ’empty home’ tax on foreign investors

Foreign investors who keep properties vacant for more than six months will be faced with a vacancy tax. This is described as a charge on “underutilised residential property”.

The cost of this tax will be the equivalent of their foreign investment application fee – some several thousand dollars – and will be charged annually.

This change is intended to get more vacant homes onto the rental market.

Effect on revenue: Gain of $16.3 million ($3.7 million funding given to ATO)

In place from: May 9, 20174) Stopping investors from claiming travel deductions

Investors who previously had tax deductions for travel expenses related to their investment property will no longer be able to make these claims.

The government has ruled them out, even for those travelling to collect rent, maintain or inspect a premises, saying many have been incorrectly obtaining this deduction. This has included situations for “private travel purposes”.

Effect on revenue: Gain of $540 million

In place from: July 1, 20175) Retirees given incentives to downsize

Australians aged over 65 who sell their home of a decade or more will soon be able to put up to $300,000 in sale proceeds into their superannuation.

This incentive to downsize is expected to help free up larger homes for families to move into.

Effect on revenue: Cost of $30 million

In place from: July 1, 2018

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Why Waratahs fans booed players on the weekend

On Saturday evening, I took the rare opportunity to watch a Waratahs game with die-hard fans in the stands at Allianz Stadium.
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A Fairfax strike meant I was not required to file a match report outlining just how bad the Waratahs were against the Blues.

The press box at Allianz Stadium can be quiet – a cocoon from the crowd noise.

Compared to outdoor media facilities in Europe – think Cardiff, Murrayfield and Twickenham – journalists don’t get the same atmosphere in Sydney and even less of an understanding of how fans are feeling.

As for the seats, a friend and I positioned ourselves on the try line at the southern end of the field, among hundreds of school kids who had just been involved in a junior club march.

Some of these youngsters might remember the glorious season of 2014 when the Waratahs were Super Rugby champions but most have probably come to accept the losses in the intervening years.

There were, however, dozens of these kids’ fathers wearing their old-school Waratahs apparel, clearly nostalgic about the good old days and optimistic Daryl Gibson’s men could become the first Australian team to knock off a Kiwi franchise this season.

Their dedication to turn up must be commended, keeping in mind the last outing in Sydney saw NSW humiliated by the hapless Southern Kings.

Being in the stands with the punters gives you a terrific insight into how the fans – the ones who help pay the players’ salaries – are really feeling.

The most alarming thing that struck me was that these supporters began booing individual players.

After the Kings defeat, those in the press box could hear sections of the crowd booing their heroes but this was something different.

When inside-centre Dave Horwitz shanked a kicked off his right boot that went out on the full, the low monotone of booing echoed down our end of the field.

It gives an insight into just how little faith some have in the Tahs and how deep their dissatisfaction is.

They have had enough, to the point they will voice their displeasure in the form of booing mistakes rather than a lack of effort – something Horwitz cannot be questioned on.

Fans are upset with the quality of rugby and lack of basic skills they have come to see too often.

And when Reece Robinson kicked a ball back down field, after a period when the Waratahs had been starved of possession, dozens of people near us shook their heads in disbelief.

???The phrase “come on” was also heard far too often.

These are long-suffering supporters and the general groans when Rieko Ioane crossed the line after 22 minutes summed up the apathy Waratahs fans have for their team this year.

Fans have forwarded on emails this year outlining why they won’t ever go to another Waratahs match.

But things got worse. A 26-0 deficit at half-time literally had fathers holding heads in their hands.

By that stage, the hundreds of kids had lost interest – they may not have had it in the first place – as they tried to poke and prod Tah Man down at the fence.

Rugby types vent their frustration in a different way to disgruntled rugby league fans.

There were no beers thrown that I saw and few profanities, but instead there was an all too familiar silence and look of hopelessness as they had to sit through another Australian team being put to the sword.

Even though the Waratahs salvaged some pride to come within seven points of the Blues at full-time, fans want better performances in the first halves of matches.

Ironically, the Waratahs attracted their biggest crowd of the season with 18,381.

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Dance Moms star Abby Lee Miller jailed after pleading guilty to fraud

The star of hit reality TV series Dance Moms has been sentenced to one year and one day in prison after failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars earned in Australia.
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Abby Lee Miller was sentenced by a federal judge in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, local time, after pleading guilty to bankruptcy fraud and concealing money earned abroad.

Chief district judge Joy Flowers Conti slapped the reality TV star with a $54,000 fine and ordered her to undergo two years of probation after serving time behind bars.

Miller was also ordered to give up the hundreds of thousands of dollars she was accused of transporting into the United States from England and Australia.

The feisty dance instructor was facing up to two-and-a-half years in jail, but agreed to enter into a plea deal.

Back in 2014, Miller toured Australia to hold meet-and-greets in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and the Gold Coast. Tickets were on sale for up to $179 each.

When Miller returned to the US, she was accused of smuggling a large chunk of Australian currency in her employees’ luggage. As frequent flyers are aware, those entering the US with $10,000 or more in cash must fill out the appropriate paperwork or risk prosecution.

Miller also earned unwanted attention for the way she restructured her business several years ago. Authorities accused her of concealing approximately $1 million in earnings in 2012 and 2013 after filing for bankruptcy.

Her business, Abby Lee Dance Company, exited bankruptcy in 2013.

Miller recently announced she was leaving Dance Moms – which debuted in 2011 – after seven seasons. In a rant published on Instagram, the business owner claimed she was not given enough “creative credit” for the show’s dance routines, themes and costumes.

Miller’s representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

– with Reuters

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Perth Stadium will not host Ashes Test in December

The state government has confirmed the new Perth Stadium will not host the third Test of The Ashes cricket series in December.
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Minister for sport and recreation Mick Murray told reporters outside parliament that there was “no chance of a Test” at the new stadium.

This means the Test will be played at the WACA, which hosted its first Ashes match in 1970, ending in a draw.

“The scheduled opening has always been the start of the 2018 AFL season and that is what we’re working towards,” Mr Murray said.

“Hosting the Ashes Test at the new stadium would have been a spectacle, but unfortunately it’s just not possible and the state government is now working to correct the problems we have inherited.

“Confirmation of the Ed Sheeran concert in March 2018, just ahead of the first AFL match is a fantastic outcome for Western Australians, and we will continue to investigate the possibility of earlier events.”

In December, WAtodayflagged the $1.4 billion stadium at Burswood – which is now 82 per cent complete – wouldn’t be opened in time for the Perth Ashes Test, after former sports minister Mia Davies said it simply wouldn’t be ready.

“Construction remains on track to allow the venue to open, as scheduled, in time for the start of the 2018 AFL season,” she said at the time.

“At the moment the December date for the 2017 Ashes Test is before the expected date the Stadium will be ready.

“If there is an opportunity to get an event such as the Ashes to open the stadium we would welcome it but not at the expense of design and construction quality or operational planning and efficiency.”

One of the reasons for the delay was the steel cable-stay bridge – which will give sport punters a seamless walk to the Perth Stadium from the city and the new Perth Stadium train station – falling behind schedule.

But a former spokesman for transport Minister Bill Marmion at the time denied the chances of hosting an Ashes Test were on shaky ground because of delays to the bridge and train station.

A spokesman for Cricket Australia said in December it had a strong “desire” to be the first sport to open the stadium.

Cricket Australia denied it had given the Barnett government a December “deadline” for when the stadium would be complete or the Ashes Test would be moved to the WACA.

“There’s no firm deadline in place, we are in constant dialogue about progress of the construction,” he said.

“Tickets to the series don’t go on sale until May next year.

“If we get to a situation where it won’t be completed in time we will host the series at the WACA.

“Our CEO is on record about our desire to be the first sport to host in the new stadium.”

???Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland said the new stadium’s unavailability means that some men’s and women’s Big Bash League games will also be played at the WACA for the upcoming season.

“Whilst Cricket Australia and the WACA understand there will be a level of disappointment with this news for fans, we know that a Perth Test match at the WACA Ground will still be an enormously anticipated event that will be played in front of capacity crowds,” Mr Sutherland said.

“Details regarding ticket sales timelines and pricing for the Perth fixtures will be announced in due course.

“Both Cricket Australia and the WACA remain hopeful that the One-Day International against England, scheduled for 28 January 2018, will be played at the new stadium. Cricket will continue to work with the WA government and stadium management to achieve this outcome.”

The announcement comes as rumours continue to swirl that musician Ed Sheeran could open Perth Stadium.

The British singer-songwriter announced the dates for his upcoming Australian tour – with the star pencilled in to perform at the yet to be completed venue in March.

The 60,000-seat stadium is scheduled to open in early 2018, and Sheeran’s tour – announced by Frontier Touring on Tuesday night – kicks off in Perth at the stadium on Saturday March 3.

Sheeran’s Perth show is the earliest confirmed event there, with the AFL season expected to start at the tail end of March, EPL side Chelsea expected in late July and rugby’s State of Origin clash confirmed for 2019.

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‘Like poking a giant stick in a beehive’: Why historic legislation is doomed

Right-to-life demonstrators block the doorway of the Preterm Clinic in Cooper Street, Surry Hills on 28 May 1985. SMH NEWS Picture by BRUCE MILLER Abortion clinic protest rally pre term east Sydney protesters 1980s hhollins family planning clinic centre medical anti abortion Photo: Bruce MillerPremier Gladys Berejiklian will allow Liberal members of the upper house a conscience vote on a historic bill to legalise abortion in NSW, but even those in favour of law reform are unlikely to support the controversial laws as drafted.
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The Greens bill to decriminalise abortion will bring about the first parliamentary debate on the issue in more than 100 years, since it was introduced as an offence under the NSW Crimes Act 1900.

It also provides for safe access zones to be enacted outside reproductive health clinics, to prevent women and staff being harassed by anti-abortion protesters.

Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi said the NSW Parliament had been ignoring the conversation on abortion for a century.

“It is a change that is not only due, but well overdue,” Dr Faruqi said.

The Liberal party room agreement to give members a free vote means MPs on both sides of the upper house will be unshackled by party policy, as Labor’s longstanding position is to allow a conscience vote.

But Liberal MPs who support the decriminalisation of abortion say they will not support it in its current form, which places no limit on the gestation at which an abortion could be performed and does not mandate for it to be performed by a clinician.

Liberal MP Catherine Cusack said the bill was constructed in a way that she could not support and let women down on the opportunity for law reform.

“Anyone can perform an abortion, you don’t have to be a qualified clinician and you can have an abortion right up to the birth – the day the baby is born in fact,” Ms Cusack said.

“I just think it’s extraordinary. I see it as an effort to test our female premier on women’s issues and not as a genuine effort for reform which is what women are entitled to expect.”

A spokesman for Ms Berejiklian said she supported conscience votes on issues such as abortion, as she had stated previously.

In January, Ms Berejiklian was forced to reassert her government’s position on abortion after the new minister for women Tanya Davies said she was “personally ??? pro-life”.

Ms Berejiklian stepped into state that “there’s obviously no change in policy on those issues”.

Labor health spokesman Walt Secord said he would vote for the bill because he supported a woman’s right to choose in principle, but did not support the way Dr Faruqi had conducted the matter.

Abortion was allowed under common law and no prosecutions had taken place in NSW, while Dr Faruqi’s legislation did not provide a legal framework for medically approved abortions to occur, Mr Secord said.

Overseas efforts to codify common law had allowed groups to attempt to wind back a woman’s choice.

“I liken Dr Faruqi actions to taking a giant stick and poking it into a beehive, shaking it like hell and then walking away,” Mr Secord said.

“She is willing to jeopardise the current situation for her own base political advantage.”

The approach adopted by the Greens in bringing about the bill recalled to another MP’s mind the voluntary euthanasia bill introduced by Greens MP Cate Faehrmann in 2013.

Her attempt to legalise the practice was out-voted 23-13 after she failed to gain consensus within the house on the nuts and bolts, despite general support for the intention of the bill.

“The same rules don’t apply when you’re working with a conscience vote,” the MP said.

“You need to win people one by one and there needs to be people who will step up, put some political capital into it, work together and sometimes make compromises.”

Dr Faruqi said she gave notice of the bill two years ago, introduced it last year under the Baird government, and had engaged with many MPs throughout the process.

“This is not my bill, or a Greens bill,” she said.

“This is a bill we have brought to this parliament on behalf of the women of NSW, on behalf of medical practitioners, lawyers, and most importantly the community that overwhelmingly supports the decriminalisation of abortion and enactment of safe access zones outside clinics.”

Labor MP Penny Sharpe, who has proposed a separate bill on instituting safety zones around abortion clinics, said she expected seven or eight members on her side of the upper house to vote for the Greens bill and she would be among them. Showdown

The Catholic Church and Christian Rights Lobby have been campaigning against the bill among congregations, focusing on the ability to terminate pregnancies up until nine months and the outlawing of prayer vigils outside clinics.

They are facing a showdown with 300 medical practitioners and 100 law and criminology academics who have written to the legislative council in support of the law reform.

Medical director of Marie Stopes Australia Dr Philip Goldstone said current legislation meant doctors were reticent to provide abortion.

Just 355 NSW doctors are accredited to prescribe a medical abortion in NSW, according to 2017 data from the sole pharmaceutical supplier of the medications in Australia, MS Health.

“Abortion is still a taboo subject in the medical community. As long as it remains a crime it’s certainly not encouraging GPs to offer abortion care,” said Dr Godlstone who supports the Greens bill.

He rejected the suggestion that decriminalising abortion was a semantic move, arguing its illegality was a significant barrier to women unable to pay out-of-pocket at a private clinic.

“The public health system will provide everything a woman needs should she choose to continue her pregnancy, but if she chooses not to she is left seeking help in the private system.

“Public hospitals have really abdicated responsibility,” he said.

More than 120 law academics at NSW universities have signed an open letter asking MPs to support the Bill.

“Abortion is a health and welfare matter, not a criminal issue. People who have an abortion, and their doctors, should not face the risk of criminal prosecution,” the letter read.

Ms Faruqi said the church campaign was derived from the playbook of far-right anti-abortion groups in the United States.

“The suggestion that women will carry their pregnancies to term and then terminate without strong medical reasons is deeply offensive and implies that women can’t be trusted to make decisions about their own bodies,” she said.

Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists president Steve Robson said he had never in 26 years encountered a woman seeking a late term abortion for non-medical reasons.

One circumstance in which a woman might terminate a child close to the due date is if one twin had a severe disease incompatible with life but terminating earlier would compromise the normal twin.

“It would be an impossible decision,” Dr Robson said.

“These decisions are so hard for women, they put so much pressure on families, it’s so awful for doctors and nurses caring for these patients.

“We don’t believe there’s any place at all for decisions about pregnancy between a woman and her doctor to be in the criminal code.”

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Parent fury over last-minute NAPLAN change

Students with disabilities were given hours to apply for laptop access during NAPLAN, after the Victorian curriculum authority reversed a decision to deny more than 100 students laptop access the night before the test.
Nanjing Night Net

The Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority (VCAA) decided on Monday to reverse their decision to reject 108 applications for ‘assistive technology’, including computers, laptops and ipads. Over 300 applications were initially approved.

Schools were contacted by phone or email the day before NAPLAN’s first test. Students with dyslexia, dysgraphia, cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder and motor issues were affected, said the authority.

“The VCAA has now approved all applications for assistive technology that meet the guidelines and all schools have been able to successfully provide the accommodations,” a spokesman said.

Children and Young People with Disability Australia’s executive officer, Stephanie Gotlib, said the case was “hauntingly familiar”, after the authority made a last-minute decision on her own child’s access to adjustments for their VCE exams last year.

She said it was great that more students with disabilities were given access to the laptop, but “why do they find out so late?”

“It’s totally unacceptable that we can have an education department that talks about wanting to support inclusive education and promote access and equality for students with a disability, yet this achieves the opposite. This just causes anxiety.”

Parent Heidi Gregory, found out at 5pm on Monday about the VCAA’s decision. NAPLAN started on Tuesday.

She hurriedly contacted her daughter’s principal at Yarra Primary School, who secured laptop access for 10-year-old Phoebe, who has dyslexia.

Ms Gregory said the incident was shambolic and many students who were entitled to the technology have missed out.

“I am surprised that this has happened in the very last minute; lots of schools will be ill-prepared to provide support for children ??? it’s extremely unfair,” she said.

“The mental health of some of these kids will be affected, especially those who are doing NAPLAN for the first time. My daughter for example has developed some anxiety related to this.”

Ms Gregory said Phoebe was allowed to sit the test in a quiet room and was given extra time, but she did not originally apply for a laptop thinking it was not available to students with dyslexia.

She said many other families were in the same boat.

“We are getting calls from parents who say they are not able to use a laptop and didn’t even know one was available, and are feeling very upset and anxious their children may have been provided with ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) support and are not.

“The only way a parent can find out what accommodations students can get is if they go to the VCAA website, and unless someone sits down and explains it to you, I don’t think parents know what they can get for their child with a disability.”

Charli Mihalek, a 13-year-old student with dyslexia at Beaconhills College will miss out on a laptop this year.

Her mother, Gil, said parents and schools were simply not being informed about the disability support that is available to them.

“It would have been nice to be given the option,” she said.

“There is a lack of information to the schools and the parents about what we can apply for and even how to apply, I have no idea who I would even go to to apply for accommodations other than the co-ordinators at school.”

The adjustments for NAPLAN are permitted in line with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, which state that reasonable adaptations must be made to help ensure students with disability are not disadvantaged.

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

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