Dajarra health focus

ALTERNATIVE transport solutions could be in store as part of improved health services for the North West community of Dajarra.
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The Dajarra community will meet key health stakeholders twice a year, after a health forum was hosted by the North West Hospital and Health Service earlier this month.

North West Hospital and Health Service chief executive Sue Belsham praised the Dajarra community and key stakeholders after their meeting at Jimberella Hall in Dajarra.

“The Dajarra health forum was a fantastic example of constructive and open discussion with our communities,” Mrs Belsham said.

“We had a roundtable discussion and received insightful feedback from all attendees.

“For example, we circulated a breakdown of local patient travel use and expenditure.

‘‘During our discussions, a possible alternative transport solution was put forward that we will definitely explore.

“The topics discussed were broad, but clearly community driven. We covered electronic records, Primary Health Networks, Royal Flying Doctor Service schedules, telehealth services, patient travel support and how to inform the North West HHS Strategic Plan.

“We also provided data on baseline health statistics and trends specific to Dajarra and alerted the community to upcoming changes to our services.

“Whilst the North West HHS is geographically large, diverse and sometimes challenging to get out and about, our board and executive are committed to personally staying in touch with our communities, patients and staff.’’ Mrs Belsham said.

Representatives from the Cloncurry Shire Council, Phosphate Hill, Queensland Police Service, Royal Flying Doctor Service and Central and North West Queensland Medicare Local had also travelled to Dajarra to take part in the health forum with local residents.

Cloncurry Shire Council brought valuable local governance expertise to the health forum discussions.

Council chief executive David Neeves said: “Council is committed to advocating for the development of health services in our shire.

‘‘As custodians of our communities, we understand the importance of good health services for the ongoing wellbeing of our community.”

The Dajarra community met with key North West Hospital and Health staff earlier this month.

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CCTV solution: MP calls for urgent funding following spate of crime in The LeveePOLL

CCTV THE ANSWER: Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon.A spate of break-ins and thefts in central Maitland has prompted renewed calls for CCTV cameras to be installed in the CBD.
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Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon says the federal government should give Maitland City Council funding to install security cameras in the Levee precinct.

Thieves stole $25,000 worth of tools from construction workers between 3.30pm on March 21 and 5.30am, March 23.

The tools had been secured in a High Street office.

The Mercury reported last week that six Maitland CBD businesses had been broken into and robbed in the past two months.

These included five beauty outlets and an op shop.

“With the spate of break-ins and theft that has taken place in and around The Levee and CBD within the past two months, it’s now time for Mr [Tony] Abbott to restore the funding based on a need, not onpolitical partisanship,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“I won’t rest until Maitland and Singleton councils’ funding is restored.”

The previous Labor government earmarked $186,340 for Maitland City Council in 2013 as part of the National Crime Prevention Program.

The money was to be used to buy and install CCTV cameras in Central Maitland’s shopping strip and Rutherford’s retail precinct.

But Labor did not ­deliver the funding before it lost government to the Coalition.

The Abbott government replaced Labor’s initiative with the $50 million Safer Streets Program.

Maitland missed out on its application for the first round of funding last September.

Port Stephens council installed six CCTV cameras in Raymond Terrace CBD, in the vicinity of William Street, in 2011.

Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research figures show that the number of assaults and robberies on roads, streets and footpaths in Raymond Terrace dropped for two consecutive years after the cameras were installed.

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Regatta really oarsome

IT has been many years since Spinifex State College could hold its annual Canoe Regatta because of drought conditions in Mount Isa.
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But with Lake Moondarra flourishing after rainfall this year, it was all systems go for the students and teachers on Sunday.

Teams of six raced around buoys with three laps in total covered by the paddlers in a fun-filled relay-style event to build camaraderie and mateship within the students and staff from the junior and senior campus.

The North West Canoe Club members helped out by patrolling the water for safety as more than 60 paddlers got among the action.

TeacherKristen Curd, who organised the day, said she was impressed to see the students from both campuses interacting and rivalling staff teams on the water.

It is one of a few opportunities for the students to come together as one from both campuses.

There was only one capsize on the day, by a team of teachers – a moment which was enjoyed by the students.

Race placings were:

1: Brian Silayo, Oliver Desvaux, Khrystal Santos, Jessie Pitkin, Kody Donnelly and Danica Crebbin

2: Anthony Bulgarelli, Korey Trott, Quiana Busch, Warren King, Callum Barr and Caleb Pigliafiori

3: Kira Macleod, Rosie Yalinatoba, Hingaia Hahipene, Jessica Griffin and Nivedita Chetty

Picture: BRENT CLARK

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Slower property lending may ease way for further rate cut by Reserve Bank

A slower pace of lending to property investors in February has given the Reserve Bank of Australia more scope to cut interest rates without adding further fuel to overheated housing markets in Sydney and Melbourne.
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The central bank said on Tuesday that the value of credit provided to buy-to-let and buy-to-sell investors expanded by 0.7 per cent month-on-month in February, compared with growth of 0.8 to 0.9 per cent for the previous 10 months.

For the 12 months to the end of February 2015, however, accumulated growth was 10.1 per cent, unchanged from January and compared with 10 per cent at the end of 2014.

Total mortgage lending in February expanded 0.5 per cent, compared with 0.6 per cent in the preceding six months.

However, for the 12 months to the end of February, growth was 7.2 per cent, against 7.1 per cent at the end of both January 2015 and December 2014.

Total credit growth for the month came in at 0.5 per cent, in line with market expectations. Year-on-year expansion was 6.2 per cent, slightly below expectations but above the revised 6.1 per cent seen at the end of January.

The central bank is almost certain to cut the cash rate another 25 basis points, to 2 per cent, either next week or in May in a further attempt to stimulate non-mining investment.

The RBA eased monetary policy for the first time in 18 months in February, and indicated further cuts would be necessary to help the flagging economy rebalance away from resource infrastructure investment.

Bets are also rising that a third cut for the year may also be warranted, as the sharp drop in commodity prices undermines residual investment plans in the sector and hits Australia’s fiscal accounts.

Sluggish business investment and consumer spending is also holding back growth, and could help push the unemployment rate towards 7 per cent.

According to Tuesday’s aggregate credit data, the value of personal loans shrank 0.3 per cent in February, while business lending growth also slowed, from 0.8 per cent in January to 0.6 per cent.

“Regardless of whether the RBA cuts interest rates from the current rate of 2.25 per cent to 2.00 per cent at the April or May policy meeting (we slightly favour a move at the meeting on  April 7), the main point is that this is unlikely to mark the end of the loosening cycle,” economists with Capital Economics told clients.

“Our forecast that the RBA will reduce rates to 1.5 per cent by the end of this year incorporates more cuts than the markets currently expect.”

The Australia dollar was largely unchanged, around US76.60¢ after the data’s release.

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The Walking Dead season 5 finale recap: Bloody Rick takes a lurch to the right

Bloody Rick: He didn’t let the walkers in to Alexandria but Rick (Andrew Lincoln) sure knew what to do once they arrived. Photo: AMC A place to call home? The survivors contemplate the welcoming but somehow unsettling environs of Alexandria. Photo: AMC
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This won’t end well: Rick and Pete (Corey Brill) fast became enemies, and rivals for the affections of Pete’s wife Jessie (Alexandra Breckenridge). Photo: AMC

THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS

They were the words we knew had been coming all along. “Rick, do it.”

That was all the urging Rick needed to pull out the pistol Deanna had tried to ban and, at her command, execute Pete, the wife-basher who had just slit the throat of Deanna’s peace-and-light architect husband Reg.

And with that, the Second Amendment triumphed over wishy-washy liberalism and The Walking Dead lurched unmistakably to the right.

Not that it hasn’t done so before, and not to say that it will stay there, for above all else The Walking Dead is an arena in which competing political philosophies do gladiatorial combat – not to the death so much as “until next time”.

And with the finale drawing a record audience of 15.8 million viewers in the United States, and with catch-up viewers topping the 20 million mark, there are likely to be a lot of next times.

Since Rick’s band stumbled upon the walled haven of Alexandria, its resident ruler Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh) has been the voice of political reason, a measured if somewhat autocratic leader of the demos. The people will speak, the people will decide, the people will kick Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his cohort out if they collectively agree that their vigilante ways are a threat to the harmony of their solar-powered, grey-water-recycling oasis of calm.

Until they need them, that is.

It was always going to come to this. The good folk of Alexandria had stayed safe, sheltered, secluded behind their wall – erected under the direction of Reg (Steve Coulter) – and that allowed them to cling to the belief that they really were good. Never mind their practice of abandoning their fellows to the walkers in moments of crisis, or taking those who don’t fit in out into the wilderness and leaving them to fend for themselves, without weapons. They were good. The fact they had bake-offs and parties and nice houses made it so.

The true test of their virtue only came at the end of this episode, when that wall was breached and when Pete (Corey Brill) turned on one of his own.

Is this the al Qaeda phase of The Walking Dead, in which the smug balloon of US liberal’s self-congratulation is violently punctured by an outside threat that may also have its echo within? Maybe.

Just before Pete’s murderous moment, Rick had walked into the town meeting, his face splattered with the blood and gore of a walker whose head he had just exploded (no, it wasn’t pretty).

“It got inside on its own,” he told the town meeting, which until that moment had been a model of polite civil discourse. “They always will – the dead and the living. Because we’re in here. And the ones out there, they’ll hunt us, they’ll find us, they’ll try to use us. They’ll try to kill us. But we’ll kill them. We’ll survive. I’ll show you how.”

Rick had them now, but he almost lost them again when he admitted he’d considered killing one of them, maybe more, to make his point. “But I’m not going to do that,” he added, a little too late to calm the frazzled nerves. “You’re going to change. You’re not ready, but you have to be. Right now, you have to be. Luck runs out.”

Which is where Pete staggered in, blade in hand (Michonne’s katana, presumably), to tell them that Rick was “not one of us”. But after that throat-slitting he was. Never mind that any jury would likely have judged it involuntary manslaughter rather than murder, desperate times demand desperate measures.

But just how desperate do they need to be? That’s the question that continually gnaws at the heart of this show.

It’s the question gnawing at the heart of Morgan Jones (Lennie James) too. He’s been quietly stalking Rick all season, and finally he’s found him. You could tell he’s been clinging to the idea that Rick is some kind of saviour; it’s there in the words on the map he’s carrying, even though it was Abraham who wrote them, back at the church. “The new world’s gonna need Rick Grimes.”

Is it, though? And if it does, is that any kind of world to live in?

They’re the questions that flickered over Morgan’s face as he stood looking at Rick, gore on head, gun in hand, Pete dead at his feet.

There’s got to be a better way than this, surely.

On twitter: @karlkwin

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Minimum work test will block childcare for 100,000 mothers, Scott Morrison warned

Early Childhood Australia says many mothers work less than 24 hours a fortnight to ease their return. Photo: The Kuzmins
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Social Services Minister Scott Morrison says there is a need for stronger eligibility tests on childcare subsidies. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Early Childhood Australia says many mothers work less than 24 hours a fortnight to ease their return. Photo: The Kuzmins

Early Childhood Australia says many mothers work less than 24 hours a fortnight to ease their return. Photo: The Kuzmins

There are fears more than 100,000 mothers will be forced to give up work if the Abbott government cracks down on the number of hours parents have to work in order to receive childcare subsidies.

The country’s peak children’s body, Early Childhood Australia, is calling on the government to make sure parents can access up to two days of subsidised childcare per child per week, without having to work or study.

This comes ahead of a key consultation meeting with childcare sector providers and experts on Wednesday, as Social Services Minister Scott Morrison prepares his new childcare package.

Parents are currently able to access 24 hours of the means tested Child Care Benefit per child per week without having to meet a work or study test. To access the non-means tested Child Care Rebate, both partners need to work or train “at some time” during the week – but there is no minimum number of hours required.

But a recommendation by the Productivity Commission, being considered by the government, would see parents needing to work for 24 hours a fortnight to access childcare funding.

Early Childhood Australia is concerned that the commission’s recommendation would make it more difficult for some mothers trying to return to work after having a baby, as they may only pick up a small amount of paid work initially as they ease back into the workforce.

Mr Morrison has previously talked of the need for a “stronger” activity test than currently exists and said it is “one of the changes” the government is working on.

At least 16.4 per cent of mothers – or more than 100,000 women – work less than 24 hours a fortnight.

There is also concern about what the change will mean for those who do shift or casual work – as their hours are less predictable – and that it would unfairly hit low to middle income families.

“Childcare is not an incentive to work, it’s actually an enabler of work,” chief executive Samantha Page said.

“The activity test [measuring eligibility for subsidies] needs to be flexible for families, particularly those who aren’t working but that are looking to enter the workforce.

“Many families are working less than 24 hours per fortnight so we need to be encouraging them to maintain workforce attachment, rather than putting up further barriers.”

Ms Page is recommending all parents should be able to get up to two days a week of subsidised childcare per child, without having to meet a so-called “activity test”.

To access 50 hours of subsidy a week, she says both parents should need to work, train or study for 24 hours a fortnight.

Early Childhood Australia is particularly concerned that children would be shut out of early learning education if the government adopts the Productivity Commission’s model.

“Access to quality early learning amplifies children’s development, their cognitive, social and emotional skills, boosting our nation’s future prosperity,” Ms Page said.

Early Childhood Australia’s concerns about the activity test have also echoed by a group of the country’s biggest childcare providers and by parent’s group, The Parenthood.

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Housing investor loans growth eases slightly

The central bank is almost certain to cut the cash rate another 25 basis points, to 2 per cent, either next week or in May in a further attempt to stimulate non-mining investment.The pace of lending to property investors eased slightly in February, giving the Reserve Bank of Australia more scope to cut interest rates without adding fuel to overheated housing markets in Sydney and Melbourne.
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The RBA said on Tuesday the value of credit to buy-to-let and buy-to-sell investors expanded by 0.7 per cent month-on-month in February, compared with either 0.8 or 0.9 per cent for the 10 previous months.

For the 12 months to the end of February, however, accumulated growth was 10.1 per cent, unchanged from January and compared with 10 per cent at the end of last year.

Total mortgage lending in February expanded 0.5 per cent, compared with 0.6 per cent in the six preceding months.

However, for the 12 months to end-February, growth was 7.2 per cent, against 7.1 per cent at the end of both January and last December.

Total credit growth for the month came in at 0.5 per cent, in line with market expectations. Year-on-year expansion was 6.2 per cent, slightly below expectations but above the revised 6.1 per cent seen at the end of January.

The central bank is almost certain to cut the cash rate another 25 basis points, to 2 per cent, either next week or in May in a further attempt to stimulate non-mining investment.

The RBA eased monetary policy for the first time in 18 months in February, and indicated further cuts would be necessary to help the flagging economy rebalance away from resource infrastructure investment.

Bets are also rising that a third cut for the year may also be warranted, as the sharp drop in commodity prices undermines residual investment plans in the sector and hits Australia’s fiscal accounts.

Sluggish business investment and consumer spending is also holding back growth, and could help push the unemployment rate towards 7 per cent.

According to Tuesday’s aggregate credit data, the value of personal loans shrunk 0.3 per cent in February, while business lending growth also slowed, from 0.8 per in January cent to 0.6 per cent.

The Australia dollar was largely unchanged around US76.60¢ after the data’s release.

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Russian analyst urges nuclear attack on Yellowstone National Park and San Andreas fault line

Bear shows claws: A Russian geopolitics analyst says Yellowstone National Park would be a good target for nuclear attack. Photo: AP/National Park ServiceA Russian geopolitical analyst says the best way to attack the United States is to detonate nuclear weapons to trigger a supervolcano at Yellowstone National Park or along the San Andreas fault line on California’s coast.
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The president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems based in Moscow, Konstantin Sivkov said in an article for a Russian trade newspaper on Wednesday, VPK News, that Russia needed to increase its military weapons and strategies against the “West” which was “moving to the borders or Russia”.

He has a conspiracy theory that NATO – a political and military alliance which counts the US, UK, Canada and many countries in western Europe as members – was amassing strength against Russia and the only way to combat that problem was to attack America’s vulnerabilities to ensure a “complete destruction of the enemy”.

“Geologists believe that the Yellowstone supervolcano could explode at any moment. There are signs of growing activity there. Therefore it suffices to push the relatively small, for example the impact of the munition megaton class to initiate an eruption. The consequences will be catastrophic for the United States – a country just disappears,” he said.

“Another vulnerable area of ​​the United States from the geophysical point of view, is the San Andreas fault – 1300 kilometers between the Pacific and North American plates … a detonation of a nuclear weapon there can trigger catastrophic events like a coast-scale tsunami which can completely destroy the infrastructure of the United States.”

He said the Russian geography on the other hand would protect it from a tsunami or a volcano attack. Few people live on the coast in Russia and Siberia which rests on basalt would withstand similar attacks.

Mr Sivkov, who spoke at the 2013 Moscow Economic Forum, said by 2020 to 2025 Russia would have amassed “asymmetric weapons” in its arsenal for the attack.

“The situation for us today is comparably worse than half a century ago,” he said.

“The weakened economic potential in Russia, the loss of the ‘spiritual core of what was the communist idea’, and the lack of large-scale community allies in Europe such as the Warsaw Pact, Russia simply cannot compete against the NATO and its allies.”

In December last year, the vocal military strategist told Russian newspaper, Pravda.ru that there is a “developing standoff between Russia and the West” and the US’s ultimate goal was to “destroy Russia”.

Mr Sivkov accused American politicians of committing several crimes including causing the deaths of 1,200,000 people in Iraq. He believed the only way for the “American elite” to be held accountable was for its military forces to be destroyed.

“American politicians have committed a variety of crimes. Will anyone be held accountable for those crimes? What about the international law, the UN and other organisations? Are they doing anything?” he asked.

Mr Sivkov told Pravda that the idea of the US preparing for a serious war against Russia using cruise missiles was plausible given that it had already launched a thousand missiles in Yugoslavia and Iraq.

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Thai flights banned in three countries as PM invokes powers to address safety record

Bangkok: Thailand’s junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha has invoked the powers of a dictator to address a poor airline safety rating that has seen Japan, China and South Korea ban Thai carriers from adding new flights from his country.
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More than 150,000 passengers will be affected by the bans during the April to May tourist high season as airlines including Thai AirAsia X – a joint venture with Malaysia’s low-cost carrier AirAsia, Nokscoot and Asia Atlantic Airline cancel extra planned flights.

Mr Prayuth told reporters he needed to use special powers to bypass time-consuming legislative approvals for improving safety procedures on Thai carriers.

The junta that toppled Thailand’s democratically-elected government last year has been trying to limit damage to the country’s airline industry after an audit by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the aviation watch-dog, raised safety concerns, primarily related to air operator certification procedures.

Mr Prayuth said he will use powers written into law after he seized power to set-up a panel that will speed up a restructuring of the industry and change laws and budget allocations.

He said the aviation watchdog had expressed concerns about Thailand’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) for a long time as the country’s air traffic increased to 600,000 flights a year.

“What happened? There are only 12 DCA officers responsible for the flights,” he said.

Mr Prayuth said Thai aviation officials had persistently raised problems but politicians had not solved them.

“This is our mistake and we have to concede that we violated the rules and we must find ways to address the problems,” he said.

Thailand’s transport minister Prajin Juntong, a former air force chief, said he was concerned the bans may spread to other countries, further hitting the country’s tourist industry that accounts for more than 10 percent of Thailand’s economy.

“Unless this is solved quickly, the problems can create a domino affect,” he said.

Mr Prajin said the Department of Civil Aviation proposed an action plan to deal with the safety concerns on March 2 but it was rejected by the International Civil Aviation Organisation which insisted a two year proposed time frame was too long.

He said a new plan will be submitted to the organisation that will see changes implemented within eight months.

The ICAO first flagged issues in Thailand’s airline industry in 2005 which according to a report by Watson, Farley and Williams, an international law firm with a commercial transport practice, included personnel licensing and training, airworthiness assessment and certification and airline operations oversight.

Japan’s ban will prevent established carriers like Thai Airways International from adding flights to Japan.

But Thai Airways said in a statement that all its current flights remain operational although two charter flights may be affected.

Mr Prayuth’s decision to invoke powers under Section 44 of an interim constitution has prompted concerns by some human rights groups, politicians, academics and legal experts.

They give the former army general “powers to make any order to disrupt or suppress regardless of the legislative executive or judicial force of that order.”

Martial law that gives sweeping powers to the military remains in place across the country.

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Alleged police impersonator found with crossbow and tomahawk in car at Richmond

A Richmond man who tried to pull another driver over using a police-style red and blue strobe light has been arrested and charged with possession of dangerous weapons, police say.
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Officers were called to a section of Windsor Road at McGraths Hill about 8.30pm on Monday by a motorist who reportedly said he was being targeted by a police impersonator.

Police intercepted a Ford Territory that allegedly had a strobe light mounted to its dashboard. Police say a search of the car uncovered a tomahawk, crossbow, arrows with barbed tips, restraints and knives.

The 61-year-old driver of the car was arrested and taken to Windsor police station. Police say a subsequent search of a residential property uncovered firearms.

Police charged the man with two counts of having a knife in a public place, two counts of possession of an unregistered firearm, failure to keep firearms safe, and four counts of possession or use of a prohibited weapon without a permit.

The man was denied bail and will appear in Penrith Local Court on Tuesday.

There have been a number of incidents involving alleged police impersonators reported to police in the Hawkesbury area in the past month.

On March 6, police reported that a man was pulled over by an unmarked white sedan with red and blue flashing lights on Mulgoa Road in Penrith. The man was then allegedly forced to hand over his driver’s licence before being assaulted and robbed of cash by two men of Caucasian appearance.

A 20-year-old woman was reportedly pulled over on March 13 by a man driving a dark blue sedan with a flashing light on the dashboard on Bells Line of Road in North Richmond. The man apparently told the woman to open the car door but she became suspicious and drove away.

Police say the incidents are unlikely to be connected and are continuing their investigation.

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Weatherzone: Month of March among Sydney’s warmest as city dries off

Stormy times at Lurline Bay, Sydney, on March 30. Photo: Nick Moir Stormy times at Lurline Bay, Sydney, on March 30. Photo: Nick Moir
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Cloudy but not so wet in March. Photo: Nick Moir

Stormy times at Lurline Bay, Sydney, on March 30. Photo: Nick Moir

Stormy times at Lurline Bay, Sydney, on March 30. Photo: Nick Moir

It may not have felt it but Sydney has just had one of its warmest March months on record with the city also clearly on the dry side.

The final readings aren’t quite done, but Sydney’s average maximums are likely to come in at about 26.8 degrees, placing it fourth warmest on record, according to Brett Dutschke, senior meteorologist with Weatherzone. That’s two degrees above normal for March.

“It’s likely to continue to warmer than average,” said Mr Dutschke, noting the on-going influence of El Nino-like conditions in the Pacific Ocean, which tend to mean reduced rainfall across eastern Australia and clearer skies.

Temperatures in the coming week will mostly be above average for the Easter break, with showers expected most days, forecasts show.

Sydney’s rainfall for March came in 65.2mm, according to the Bureau of Meteorology’s tally, which runs to 9am on the last day of each month. That was about half the city’s average for the month, and extends a relatively dry period for Sydney.

The months of February and March were the driest for the period in the past nine years, Mr Dutschke said.

Conditions were much drier in the west of the state. Broken Hill recorded just 5.2 mm for February and March – the driest such period in 24 years for the town – with just 0.4 mm falling for March alone.

Towns such as Balranald and Ivanhoe recorded no rain in their gauges this month.

The only regions of NSW to record more than average rain for the month were in the north-east, such as the Northern Rivers region, Mr Dutschke said.

The bureau is predicting some rainfall relief in coming months, at least for the state’s south-western areas.

Warmer-than-usual ocean temperatures in the eastern Indian Ocean favour good rains for central and southern areas of Australia for the coming three months, particularly for April, the bureau said last week.

Conditions also point to above-average temperatures for most coastal areas – including Sydney –  especially for overnight temperatures.

El Nino watch

The Bureau of Meteorology, meanwhile, has updated its fortnightly El Nino-Southern Oscillation report, stating that recent warming in the tropics “has primed the Pacific for El Nino”.

“International climate models monitored by the Bureau indicate the central tropical Pacific Ocean is likely to continue to warm, with all models predicting El Nino thresholds will be reached or exceeded by mid-year,” the agency said, cautioning that models are lower prediction skills at this time of the year.

Still, many of the indicators that signal an emerging El Nino event continue to be observed.

For instance, sea-surface temperature anomalies in the eastern tropical Pacific “have increased by the largest amount for any two-week period since at least July 2001”, the bureau said.

Sub-surface waters in the central equatorial Pacific are also continuing to warm, with anomalies exceeding 4 degrees at depths below 100 metres in places. Trade winds, which normally blow east to west, have reversed to become westerlies in parts of the western equatorial Pacific for the past seven weeks.

Apart from raising the odds of a drier and hotter than usual year for most of eastern and southern Australia, an El Nino would also likely boost global temperatures as the Pacific absorbs less heat.

With climate change already lifting the background warmth, an El Nino would increase the chances that 2015 will top 2014 as the hottest year globally on record, climate specialists say.

Weatherzone is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of this website.

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Former director of National Gallery of Australia Betty Churcher brought art to the masses

Betty Churcher on her property in Wamboin in 2014. Photo: Melissa Adams Betty Churcher, at her home in Wamboin in 2012 Photo: Graham Tidy
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Betty Churcher’s final testimonial to her enduring love of artObituary: Betty Churcher, 1931-2015Betty Churcher: Tributes flow’Queen of the arts’: John McDonald pays tribute to Betty Churcher

She was the public face of art in Australia, famous for bringing culture to the masses through blockbuster exhibitions and television shows.

But Betty Churcher, who died on Tuesday aged 84, was just as committed in her private life to thinking, writing and above all talking about the subject she loved most.

The former director of the National Gallery of Australia is remembered as a seminal figure in the arts sector, a superior curator and administrator as well as a gifted communicator who introduced Australians to the world of art outside the national collections.

As director of the NGA from 1990 to 1997, she was an indomitable character who set out, right from the start, to put the gallery on the map.

She changed its name from the Australian National Gallery to its current title, the National Gallery of Australia – a symbolic shift in direction, bringing it in line with other international institutions.

It was also in keeping with her strategy to bring the outside art world into Australia.

Famously dubbed “Blockbuster Betty”, she presided over 12 international shows in seven years, bringing queues to the gallery the likes of which had never been seen before.

It’s a reputation she always professed to be perfectly proud of, even if she once had her detractors. And the gallery has been staging successful international shows ever since, not least 2010’s Masterpieces from Paris, which broke all Australian records for crowds and revenue.

“Why I think it’s so wonderful is we can never, in this country, own a lot of those great masterpieces, because we started too late, for one thing. So by the time the Australian gallery started the European galleries had stuffed their cellars full of all the great masterpieces,” she said in 2011.

Not only did the crowds love the shows, they were also motivated to look at the rest of the gallery and the permanent collection, as well as bringing tourist dollars into the capital.

After leaving the gallery in 1997 and settling in Wamboin, a village just outside Canberra, she remained committed to bringing art to the masses and ensuring that as many people as possible could enjoy the world’s great artworks.

An unmistakeable figure with her trademark silver bob and high cheekbones, she hosted a television program on ABC, Hidden Treasures, for some years and later wrote several books about her travels around the world’s great art galleries.

Notebooks, published in 2011, was a journey through some of Europe’s greatest galleries, undertaken as her sight was deteriorating.

A melanoma had robbed her right eye of its vision and she later developed macular degeneration in the left. In 2006, she decided to take a last trip to Europe and commit to memory some of her favourite paintings while she still could.

In Notebooks, she published her own sketches alongside images of the works themselves – a lifelong habit that had always ensured she could keep paintings in her mind.

A trained artist who once showed great promise, she gave up painting to focus on raising her four children with the artist Roy Churcher.

It’s a decision she maintained she never regretted – for her, raising a family was not compatible with painting.

Despite failing health – she suffered from emphysema and last month announced that she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer – she published a follow-up last year, Australian Notebooks, focusing on six major state galleries in Australia.

Roy Churcher died last year, and Betty Churcher is survived by their four sons.

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

Betting unshaken despite favourites drawing wide in Doncaster Mile at Randwick

Set for the extreme outside: Hallowed Crown. Photo: Anthony Johnson Set for the extreme outside: Hallowed Crown. Photo: Anthony Johnson
Nanjing Night Net

Set for the extreme outside: Hallowed Crown. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Set for the extreme outside: Hallowed Crown. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Doncaster Mile markets remained stable despite two of the favourites, Hallowed Crown and Real Impact, drawing wide gates for the 150th running of the $3 million Randwick feature on Saturday.

Japan’s George Ryder Stakes winner Real Impact drew awkwardly in gate 21, two alleys to the inside of dual group 1 winner Hallowed Crown which is set to launch from the extreme outside gate.

Fourth emergency Malavio drew barrier 24 and is considered extremely unlikely to get a run.

But it hasn’t shaken punters’ confidence as Hallowed Crown remained rock solid as the $4.60 favourite to land James and Bart Cummings a third major with the Gooree progeny.

“I’ve never known a race where there’s only four price changes,” a stunned TAB’s Glenn Munsie said of the stable market.

Second emergency Kermadec remains a $6 second favourite despite not being guaranteed a run with Real Impact slightly easy at $7.

The news was not much better for Japan’s other Doncaster Mile representative World Ace, which will jump from 16 after finishing down the track in the George Ryder Stakes.

The barrier draw capped a morning of high drama on Tuesday after crack three-year-olds Sweynesse and Kermadec were left stranded as the first and second emergencies.

Chris Waller’s bid for a historic third straight Doncaster with topweight Sacred Falls will feature a supporting cast of Royal Descent and surprise acceptor Moriarty.

Jockeys Dwayne Dunn (Ninth Legion), Craig Williams (It’s Somewhat) and Corey Brown (Suavito) were all permitted to ride half-a-kilogram over their mounts’ allotted weights.

Meanwhile, Victoria Derby hero Preferment’s bid of completing the double suffered a minor blow when he drew the outside gate of 10 for the Australian Derby.

Preferment ($3.50) shares favouritism with last weekend’s Tulloch Stakes winner Hauraki.

Rosehill Guineas winner Volkstok’n’barrell will start from the middle of the line in barrier 5.

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

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