Monthly Archives:December 2018

Unemployable … Professor Kim Walker.WHEN the University of Sydney plucked Kim Walker from one of America’s most prestigious music schools to revive the fortunes of its Conservatorium of Music, her career was in full flight. But the bassoon soloist claims that after 7½ years as dean of the conservatorium, the university’s disloyalty has rendered her unemployable.

Professor Walker is suing the university for millions of dollars in damages for the loss of reputation and future earnings.

The Supreme Court has heard at the first airing of the matter that the relationship between the university and its star recruit soured dramatically after February 2007, when the then chancellor Kim Santow begged her not to accept another job offer and to stay at the conservatorium until its centenary in 2015.

Five months later, the university stood her down on plagiarism allegations, heralding a sharp deterioration in the relationship between the musician and her employer.

The university investigated the allegations and returned Professor Walker to work, with the vice-chancellor, Gavin Brown, expressing his support in her as dean. But Professor Walker says the university did not act in good faith after that point, behaving in a way inconsistent with any intention to renew her contract and failing to rehabilitate her reputation.

Her barrister John Garnsey, QC, said the plagiarism allegations had already damaged her good name, but from that time onwards the university ”effectively destroyed her reputation both in Australia and overseas”.

After Professor Walker returned to work, the university commissioned the former Federal Court judge Roger Gyles to review the conservatorium. He released a report stating that the atmosphere between staff was ”toxic”. He recommended the university terminate Professor Walker’s appointment. But he said if the university chose not to take that option it should take urgent steps to bolster and support her as dean. Mr Garnsey said the university neither terminated her appointment nor bolstered her support, to the point that she was now unemployable.

The university says Professor Walker cannot make any legal claims for events that followed its decision to return her to work after the suspension, because the parties signed a deed of release that prevented her from taking legal action.

Professor Walker says the university breached the contract in its failure of goodwill.

The Supreme Court will decide what parts of Professor Walker’s claim are admissible before the full hearing takes place later this year.

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”There’s just something about it” … Scott Anderson with his first-time crop of corn. The eastern Australian crop is estimated to be up by about 150,000 tonnes on the previous season.THE evening light brings out the best in Scott Anderson’s corn crop. The softer sunshine gives it a golden tinge, the abundant leaves look healthy and green, and when the breeze picks up they create a rustling chorus across 50 hectares.

Like a home gardener pleased with a much-loved plant he has grown, Mr Anderson is proud of his towering corn plants – all 3.8 million of them. This summer marks the first time the farmer has grown corn, but it will not be the last.

Tony Cogswell, from the grain merchant business Lachlan Commodities in Forbes, said a there was a wide variety of uses for the corn grown this season. Some will be used as stock feed, while some will be exported to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

There it will be processed and converted to modified starches and used to make confectionery, snack foods and drinks.

The eastern Australian crop is estimated to be about 630,000 tonnes, up about 150,000 tonnes on last season.

Much of the increase is being driven by production in the NSW Riverina, Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys and northern Victoria, he said.

Although Mr Anderson, from northern Victoria, had long wanted to grow corn, he is virtually growing it this season by default, after he struggled to get the seeds for another grain he wanted to grow. So he selected corn, which was planted in October.

Five months later, many of the plants are about three metres tall.

Leaning back on his dusty four-wheel-drive to assess the densely planted crop, he is pleased with the outcome. ”It’s just such a great crop to grow. It’s such a satisfying crop. You can actually physically watch it grow day by day. And look at it – it looks mean, doesn’t it? There’s just something about it,” he said.

But to grow so well the corn – which is maize but not of the sweetcorn variety – needs to be well watered. During the 10 lengthy watering sessions the crop receives in the growing season the irrigation equipment needs to be adjusted every 2½ hours.

This means Mr Anderson has visited the crop many times in the middle of the night. ”It’s great at night-time when you come and water, with the moon shining. I sit up here sometimes, it’s a bit of an eerie feeling. You get a lot of wildlife coming out of it, a lot of foxes and wild cats, hares and snakes,” he said.

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Party split … plans to pump water from Macquarie River has triggered an outcry.PLANS to pump almost 650 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water a year from the sensitive Macquarie River to shore up water supply to Orange has split the Nationals and triggered an outcry from neighbouring towns.

The state and federal governments have committed $38 million to fund the pipeline, despite environment authorities having many concerns, including an estimate that 70 per cent of the water pumped from the river will spill or evaporate.

The founder of Clean Up Australia, Ian Kiernan, described the plan as “monstrous” and an act of “lunacy”.

Orange City Council wants to build a 39-kilometre pipeline from the Macquarie River, which is part of the Murray-Darling Basin, to channel 1600 million litres of water a year to the city’s Suma Park Dam. It says the $47 million project would guarantee Orange’s water supply for the next 50 years and have “minimal” impacts on the river.

Orange suffered badly during the decade-long drought that ended in 2010 and the city still faces water shortages.

But the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage has criticised the plan in a submission, saying “the sustainability and efficiency of the project is of serious concern”.

It said “the potential for impact on vulnerable and endangered aquatic species is likely” and the assessment of the effects on aquatic life near the extraction point was “inadequate”.

The department said the council used an improper method to measure the impact on environmental flows. Its assessment of downstream impacts, including the internationally significant Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve, was also inadequate, it said.

About 70 per cent of water pumped to an open reservoir would be lost to “spillage and evaporation” each year, and it called for water to be stored in a closed reservoir or pumped directly to treatment.

The Bathurst MP, Paul Toole, says the pipeline could restrict growth in his city and that other options, such as dam expansion, should be considered, a claim echoed by the Dubbo MP, Troy Grant.

But the Orange MP, Andrew Gee, said the project should be determined on its merits “and not on the perceived economic or political interests” of other towns.

The state government has committed $18.2 million to the proposal, but will review its funding if the project is not approved, the council decides not to proceed or the federal government withdraws its $20 million contribution. The council will contribute $8.8 million.

A council spokesman, Nicholas Redmond, said it had moved the pipeline’s extraction point 4.5 kilometres upstream to avoid adverse impacts on flora and fauna.

The pipeline was part of a broader water strategy that included groundwater, aquifer recharge, harvested stormwater, a dam upgrade and demand management.

He said the average extraction was 0.5 per cent of annual river flows and the water would not be used by farms or mines.

He said much of the water that spilled from the dam would return to the river, and “evaporation is a reality of water bodies all over Australia”.

“The pipeline is designed to top the dam up … during higher river flows, which will mean the pipeline will not be needed when river flows are low,” he said.

The debate comes as other towns build pipelines to secure water supplies. Projects were recently completed in Gosford-Wyong, Bega, Goulburn and Eurobodalla. A pipeline near Tamworth was under construction.

A University of NSW water researcher, Stuart Khan, said pipelines were energy-intensive and should be considered alongside other options, such as water recycling.

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Olive ice-cream? Ginger ice cream. Pine nut gelato? Has someone been swapping your senses without your permission? No. Has El Bulli’s gastro wizard Ferran Adria been let loose in the refrigerator? No – not that either. But we’re getting closer (sort of). It’s the Sydney Royal food competition, underway at Olympic Park.

And though the bulk of the ice cream entries are vanilla or chocolate, the number of wackier entries – plum port anybody? – growing year by year. But combining flavours, especially more than two, carries a risk.

“I just tasted a fig, honey and pistachio ice cream, but they didn’t get it quite right,” the chief judge, Russell Smith, said. “The pistachio flavour was overwhelmed by the other two elements.”

Oh well – plenty more where that came from. Judges are eating their way through 65 gelatos and 65 ice creams from supermarket brands to boutique parlours, Sara Lee, Coles and the “super premium ice cream” brand Serendipity among them.

“Some of the biggest names can fare as well as smaller brands,” said Gary Reid, chief steward at the competition. “They have the ability to churn out consistent products, keep their processes the same. Smaller manufacturers tend to go up and down.”

Russell Smith said the quality of flavour and texture had gradually improved over the years.

“Gumminess used to be a problem because they put [in] too much stabiliser,” he said. “That’s almost disappeared now.”

He stressed the importance of texture in an ice cream or dessert, saying the criterion may take greater precedence over flavour and presentation in the future.

“It you don’t freeze it properly, don’t time and churn it right, you get little ice crystals that change the texture of the ice cream,” he said. “Bad texture can ruin a product, despite great flavour.”

For the health-conscious, an ice-cream or gelato with reduced fat promises a better, guilt-free experience. But the judges disagree. Fat is where the flavour is.

“It’s all about the lusciousness and creaminess in a luxury product,” Mr Smith said. “It needs that fat to give you the right mouth feel.”

Most products had 10 per cent fat content. But the “creamy chocolate ice cream coated in milk chocolate with biscuit pieces” entry had the highest fat content at 22.5 per cent.

Judging continues today. Winners will be announced on Friday, 15 February.

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ONLINE dating is no longer just the refuge of older divorcees. Steph Wyllie, a veterinary science student, is one of the fresh-faced twentysomethings searching for love in their natural habitat – the virtual world.

Ms Wyllie is part of what experts are describing as a ”fundamental shift” in the way young people interact and date, with an increasing volume of casual relationships and opportunities for sex.

This month the Facebook application ”Bang With Friends” hit the online market. The US-designed app, which reportedly gained more than 260,000 users in the first eight days, encourages one-night stands between online ”friends” who anonymously choose each other to ”bang”.

Since joining an Australian online dating site a month ago, Ms Wyllie, 22, has received 150 virtual ”kisses” from potential beaus, answered six emails and gone out on four dates.

But Ms Wyllie, from the northern beaches, said young people were not necessarily going on the site for casual sex. ”I was worried about that,” she said. ”It has a reputation, but it’s not the case.”

Ms Wyllie had thought ”only losers” went on dating sites.

”I wasn’t going on there going, ‘I want a boyfriend’. I’m on uni holidays at the moment and just looking for some fun.”

Dr Amanda Third, from the Institute for Culture and Society at the University of Western Sydney, said a ”migration” of young people to internet dating, once reserved for older, often divorced, singles, has taken place in the past two years.

”Social media has really transformed the way that dating takes place,” she said. ”You can know more about someone before you make the first move.”

Peter Jonason, a lecturer of psychology at the University of Western Sydney, said people feel anonymous online, and therefore safer.

”There is the fear of rejection and not wanting to get shot down in flames,” he said.

”Online dating is a fundamental shift of the way in which we find mates and find love.” Dr Jonason said a male suitor can contact up to 500 single women online in one month.

”There is a large degree of [hooking up] behind it,” he said.

Dating sites RSVP, Oasis Active and eHarmony have all reported an increase in the people aged 18 to 25 and 26 to 30 joining their websites.

Over five years, RSVP has seen the amount of people aged 18 to 25 joining the site grow by 201 per cent, a spokeswoman said.

RSVP, owned by Fairfax Media, would not provide raw numbers, but said it has 450,000 new members join every month.

Two years ago Oasis Active had almost 11,000 people aged 18 to 25. Last month, this increased to almost 16,000.

The dating site currently has 50,000 new members joining each month.

Dr Jonason said online dating, however, can also offer people ”too much choice” and is likely to lead to destructive relationships. ”When we have too many options, it lowers relationship satisfaction.”

Sharing too much information online can also lead to ”scaring away” any potential partners, he said.

”Facebook is like a poison for our relationships.”

Dr Third said the negative connotations attached to online dating had fallen away.

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”BIG JIM” Byrnes sat in the Supreme Court witness box wearing jeans and a suede jacket, with a medical drain discreetly tucked in his pocket.

”I apologise to the court for my lack of formality,” he said.

Mr Byrnes had been in hospital after emergency surgery for a perforated bowel two days ago.

”I’m allowed out of hospital, against medical advice, but I had a moral obligation to be here.”

The look, with Mr Byrnes wincing in pain and holding his stomach when he stood for the judge, appeared at odds with a description of him being a ”standover thug”, heard by the court on Wednesday.

Mr Byrnes, Australian Litigation Funders and Australian Corporate Restructuring Services, companies of which his wife Catherine was sole director, are being sued by Sydney woman Virginia Diroy Nemeth.

Ms Nemeth claims she was exploited when she signed a contract in 2010 to get funding for court proceedings. The companies have filed a cross-claim.

The court has heard Ms Nemeth had a tea party at her Darling Point home, where she hosted Mr Byrnes, Hells Angels boss Felix Lyle and former NSW police officer Roger Rogerson, to discuss the funding arrangement.

Mr Byrnes said he knew Mr Lyle because he had advised him when a failed deal to buy the Hampton Court Hotel in Kings Cross, part owned by Ms Nemeth, left the bikie bankrupt.

He said he had known Mr Rogerson, who had been acting as an investigator for Ms Nemeth during her previous court proceedings, for 20 years.

Mr Byrnes told Ms Nemeth’s barrister, Robert Newlinds, SC, that ”in your world” Mr Rogerson would be described as a disgraced detective.

”What about in your world?” Mr Newlinds asked.

”In my world he would be described pretty much the same, other than he’s a person with a very good contacts and can find out information.”

Mr Newlinds asked Mr Byrnes about several past incidents.

”Do you accept you have had a reputation as a standover thug?” Mr Newlinds asked.

”I know that in many people’s minds I would,” Mr Byrnes said.

Mr Byrnes denied that he or the companies had exploited Ms Nemeth, even though he knew she had spoken to an accountant, but not a lawyer, about the funding agreement.

”You knew properly advised she would come to the conclusion it wasn’t in her interests?” Mr Newlinds asked.

”I disagree with that,” Mr Byrnes said.

The hearing is continuing before Justice John Sackar.

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THE Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, is one of three senior church figures who have been called to appear at the Special Commission of Inquiry into the alleged cover-up of child sex abuse by the Catholic Church in the Maitland-Newcastle region.

The summonsing of the archbishop, along with the secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference, Brian Lucas, and the former Maitland-Newcastle bishop, Michael Malone, was revealed during the opening of the inquiry by Commissioner Margaret Cunneen, SC, on Wednesday.

The inquiry will examine allegations that members of the Maitland-Newcastle diocese covered up the abuse of young children by two now-dead priests, Denis McAlinden and James Fletcher.

This includes allegations that the hierarchy relocated the priests in an attempt to protect the good name of the church, and hindered the police investigations.

The commission will also examine allegations that a child abuse investigator, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox, pictured, was ordered by senior police to stop investigating such matters and was directed to hand over his files in the Fletcher and McAlinden matters.

The allegations were aired by Inspector Fox on Lateline last November, leading to the creation of the Special Commission of Inquiry, and the federal government’s announcement of a royal commission into child abuse.

In 2010, Archbiship Wilson, Bishop Malone and Father Lucas became the subject of a police investigation over allegations they failed to report McAlinden to police despite being aware he had abused children.

Archbishop Wilson denies involvement in a cover-up.

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