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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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”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.
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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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The Greens have launched a new bid to force the nation’s biggest miners to pay up under the mining tax, raising the pressure on Julia Gillard to admit the deal signed off with the three biggest miners in 2010 was botched.
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The minor party, whose support is crucial to the Labor government’s survival, wants to fix the underperforming Minerals Resource Rent Tax to fund schools, dental health, and disability insurance.

Armed with fresh data from the new Parliamentary Budget Office, it will build on its existing motion to plug the royalties hole with a second amendment limiting the scope of the biggest miners, such as BHP Billiton, Xstrata, and Rio Tinto, to deduct asset values from current earnings.

Along with other cross-benchers and the opposition, the Greens believe Ms Gillard and the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, were outmanoeuvred by the big three when cutting the new MRRT deal following the leadership change from Kevin Rudd.

The Greens say closing the loophole which allows state governments to lift royalty charges which must then be refunded by Canberra, would save more than $2.2 billion.

Its other change would close a further loophole which allows the big miners to write off the market value of existing assets over a number of years rather than deducting the lower book value over just five years.

It says this would secure more than $4 billion in revenue by 2016-17 and an extra $1.8 billion a year.

”Labor is taking more money off single parents than it has collected from the mining tax,” the deputy leader, Adam Bandt, told Fairfax Media.

Its move comes as the failure of the tax, which raised just $126 million in its first six months, emerges as a potential flash-point for the Labor leadership.

MPs loyal to the Prime Minister are fuming at public criticism of the tax this week by Mr Rudd, the chief whip, Joel Fitzgibbon, and others.

Mr Rudd used a Sky News interview on Tuesday to remind colleagues that the original Resource Super Profits Tax had been stronger but had been replaced with the watered down MRRT by Ms Gillard and Mr Swan after the leadership change of mid-2010.

He said it was never right for governments to take a backward step when pursuing the national interest.

Amid the tension, an email from an ALP supporter to Mr Rudd on Wednesday was distributed widely among Labor MPs, reviving memories of the bitter personal campaign against the former prime minister’s character last year.

”Mr Rudd, your disloyalty to your leader and party is shameful,” wrote a retired school teacher, Sue Martin, of Avalon Beach.

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Working together … Prime Minister Julia Gillard met with indigenous leaders Shirley Peisley, left, and Lowitja O’Donoghue. Reaching out … Julia Gillard meets indigenous leaders including Djawa Burarrwanga from Yirrkala at Parliament House on Wednesday.
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AUSTRALIA has moved one step closer to recognising its first people in the country’s founding document after one of the Federal Parliament’s rare moments of unity between Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott.

The two leaders committed themselves to address what the Prime Minister called ”the unhealed wound that even now lies open at the heart of our national story” and the Opposition Leader dubbed it ”this stain on our soul”.

The passage through the lower house of an Act of Recognition was met by applause from the public galleries and from indigenous leaders including Patrick Dodson and Lowitja O’Donoghue who had been invited to witness the moment from the floor of the House.

The legislation recognises the ”unique and special place” of Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples and is designed to give momentum for constitutional recognition after the election.

It passed the House of Representatives on the fifth anniversary of the apology by the former prime minister Kevin Rudd to the stolen generations.

”We must never feel guilt for the things already done in this nation’s history, but we can – and must – feel responsibility for the things that remain undone,” Ms Gillard told Parliament.

”No gesture speaks more deeply to the healing of our nation’s fabric than amending our nation’s founding charter.”

Speaking from handwritten notes, Mr Abbott told Parliament Australia was the envy of the world, except for the fact that ”we have never fully made peace with the first Australians”.

”We have to acknowledge, that pre-1788, this land was as Aboriginal then as it is Australian now, and until we have acknowledged that we will be an incomplete nation and a torn people,” he said.

Ms Gillard described the absence of recognition in the constitution as ”the great Australian silence” and expressed the hope legislation for a referendum could pass next year.

Mr Abbott applauded the former Labor prime minister Paul Keating’s Redfern speech of 21 years ago and paid tribute to those on both sides of politics who played roles in progress towards recognition. ”So often in this place we are protagonists. Today, on this matter, we are partners and collaborators,” he told Ms Gillard.

Despite the support for the Act of Recognition, question time was interrupted on Wednesday afternoon by a small group of protesters in the public gallery. ”You have been served!” the indigenous Australians chanted, while throwing some sheets of paper on to the floor of the House, protesting that they had not been included in the constitution.

Originally, Labor had planned to hold a referendum on constitutional recognition of indigenous people by this year, but it was deferred because of a lack of community awareness.

Both leaders acknowledged that the challenge of agreeing on the wording of the referendum remains. Mr Abbott said: ”It won’t necessarily be straightforward to acknowledge the first Australians without creating new categories of discrimination which we must avoid because no Australians should feel like strangers in their own country.”

The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples welcomed the passage of the Act of Recognition but said the hard yards in achieving substantive constitutional reform were just starting.

with Judith Ireland

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Optimistic … Coalition voters were responding to the election announcement and were feeling more confident because they expected a change of government.COALITION voters are suddenly confident about the economy, moving clearly into positive territory for the first time in two years.
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In the latest Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer confidence survey, optimists among Coalition voters outweigh the number of pessimists by five percentage points, a reverse of the recent pattern in which Coalition voters have been strongly negative.

Labor voters remain extremely positive, with optimists outweighing pessimists by more than 20 points.

The rise among Coalition voters has been enough to hoist the overall consumer confidence index from about 100 points to 108 on a scale where 100 means the number of pessimists balances the number of optimists.

Westpac’s senior economist, Matthew Hassan, said the change is primarily the result of the carbon tax.

Before its introduction in mid last year it pushed the confidence of Coalition voters (but not Labor voters) into a downward spiral.

”There was the point when there was a whole series of overlapping concerns around tax changes – the carbon tax, the mining tax, the global situation was getting worse and in Queensland things looked dire. The incoming government spoke about Queensland being the Spain of Australia.”

”At the same time, low- and middle-income households likely to voter Labor were being showered with carbon tax compensation, exacerbating the wedge.”

”In all the time we’ve been doing this, we’ve never seen as big a deviation. In terms of confidence, we had a divided nation. It was off the charts.”

Mr Hassan said the improved confidence figures represented a return to normality. The carbon tax had not been as bad as expected, the share market had climbed, and interest rates had fallen.

Asked in the first week of this month whether now was a good time to buy a major household item an extraordinary 59 per cent of Australians surveyed said yes. Only 16 per cent said no.

One quarter of those surveyed expected their own personal financial situation to improve in the year ahead. Only one in five expected it to get worse.

When asked about the economy over the year ahead, optimists outweighed pessimists by 9 per cent. But when asked about the economy over the next five years, optimists and pessimists were roughly balanced.

The chief economist of HSBC Australia, Paul Bloxham, hailed the surge in confidence as a sign interest rate cuts were having their desired effect.

”This result is consistent with what we’ve had in mind, which is that the soft patch in the Australian economy may be behind us,” he said.

Mr Hassan said the higher iron ore price meant news bulletins were no longer full of stories about the end of the mining boom. Housing prices had stabilised and started to climb. ”All of these things have come together. It’s hard to pinpoint what’s driving the new, better mood and how it will be sustained but certainly it’s far better than anything we’ve seen over the past 18 months,” he said.

It was possible Coalition voters were responding to the election announcement and were feeling more confident because they expected a change of government but Mr Hassan said elections were usually accompanied by uncertainty, making the surge in confidence unusual.

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