Month: April 2020


Lebanon caught in Saudis’ bitter struggle with Iran

Cairo: A jittery prime minister resigning live on air, a rocket hurtling towards Riyadh airport, a helicopter crash killing a prominent Saudi prince and a gilded five-star hotel turned into a prison for 11 other royals; even by the Middle East’s standards, it has been quite a week.
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The backdrop to all these political bombshells was the oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the heightening of its bitter struggle for regional primacy with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The mercurial 32-year-old Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has upended the kingdom’s long tradition of putting stability first, setting off a series of geopolitical tremors that have ensnared the kingdom’s Gulf neighbour Qatar, a battered Yemen and now – it would seem – an already fragile Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia formally became a nation-state after Abdulaziz al-Saud united disparate kingdoms and emirates in 1932. The discovery of oil in 1938 gave King Abdulaziz, also known as Ibn Saud, unrivalled political leverage in the region as multinational companies poured in.

After the death of King Abdullah – one of Ibn Saud’s 45 sons – in 2015, his half-brother King Salman came to power signalling a more muscular foreign policy to deal with the aftermath of the “Arab Spring”. He launched a major invasion of Yemen, the poorest Arab country, with US support in March 2015 and has led a Gulf boycott of Qatar for its funding of militant groups and its backing of the controversial TV station al-Jazeera.

More importantly, he installed his son Mohammed as heir to the throne in June this year to enact a bold domestic agenda that has included allowing women the right to drive. Domestic troubles

In May this year the supremely confident MBS, as he is known, gave an interview trumpeting his anti-corruption credentials. Part of his ever-expanding portfolio is heading Nazaha, Saudi Arabia’s fledgling anti-corruption commission.

The Crown Prince had been confidently talking about cleaning up house and turning the conservative kingdom into an attractive investment destination, but there was little indication that his campaign would become a royal purge of epic proportions.

“No one will be spared if they are involved in corruption, whoever they are, no one will be spared whether they a minister or an emir [prince] or anyone ??? they will be tried,” he said, in a recent clip that is being shared widely among Saudi social media users. Prince Mohammed bin Salman says: “We will not tolerate corruption; whether he is a Prince or a Minister, it’s unacceptable”. pic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/BxoyhCaYLY??? ???????? ???? ?????????? ???????? (@999saudsalman) November 5, 2017 Photo: New York Times

Iran’s sphere of influence has also widened in recent years. Its longstanding funding for the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah and concomitant support for the Assad regime in Syria has been added to as it reinforces the Iraqi army and Shiite militias in their fight against Islamic State and provides logistical support to the insurgent Houthis in Yemen.

MBS and his father have responded to the challenge of Iran by promoting nationalism.

“There’s a strong new nationalism that is emerging ??? it’s a way to mobilise that is attached to the direct leadership,” Diwan explained.

This was on display when Saudi officials directly accused Iran of orchestrating a ballistic missile launched from Yemen by the Houthis which targeted the King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri at a military funeral in September. On November 4 he announced his resignation, slamming Lebanon’s Hezbollah group and warning that “Iran’s arms in the region will be cut off”. Photo: AP

Similarly bellicose rhetoric was deployed towards Lebanon, and specifically Hezbollah, after Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri declared his resignation while visiting Riyadh, in what seemed a carefully choreographed statement on television.

Hariri, who is a dual Lebanese-Saudi citizen and son of assassinated former prime minister Rafiq Hariri, acquiesced to forming a barely functioning unity government with Hezbollah late last year.

There have been concerns that Lebanon could become the latest venue for the proxy war between Riyadh and Tehran, with the Houthis in Yemen managing to hold steady against a Saudi-led coalition and Sunni rebels in Syria being pushed back after Iran, Russia and Hezbollah came to the defence of the Assad regime.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, right, shakes hands with Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Tehran on November 1. Photo: AP

“Iran’s leadership is in a tight spot domestically so it wants to enter into a war in order to unify the masses, but the [Saudi] kingdom will prevent it from doing this” said Anwar Eshki, a former general in the Saudi armed forces who also served as an adviser to the royal family.

“We are dealing with them as if we are in war, meaning political and diplomatic relations only but not a full-fledged military conflict,” Eshki said, referring to Hezbollah and Iran by extension.

The whereabouts of Hariri continue to dominate Lebanese political talk shows and conversations on the street. Beirut believes that Riyadh is holding Hariri against his will, in a de facto imprisonment. There have been calls for him, including by Hezbollah and Hariri’s own party, to return and officially resign in order not to plunge Lebanon further into a political quagmire.

As speculation reached fever pitch last week on Arab social media, a photo showing a fatigued Hariri next to King Salman appeared on the Saudi-controlled al-Arabiya channel, apparently aimed at calming tensions. BREAKING: #Saudi King Salman receives resigned Lebanese PM #Haririhttps://t苏州夜场招聘/rQRzO81UP3pic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/wxFAbxFiIo??? Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) November 6, 2017 Photo: New York Times

Daniel Shapiro, a US ambassador to Israel under president Barack Obama, went so far as to suggest that the resignation of Hariri and the escalation of rhetoric against Hezbollah were a sign that Saudi Arabia was keen to see renewed conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, in the hope that the powerful Shiite militia, one of Iran’s most feared allies, would finally be cut down to size.

It is an open secret in the Middle East that Saudi Arabia and its allies – particularly Jordan and Egypt – as well as Israel itself were bitterly disappointed by the outcome of the last such confrontation in the northern summer of 2006. Princely problems

Even as the spectre of regional conflict loomed, unverified videos of beds with colourful blankets laid next to each other in a glittering ballroom at the Ritz-Carlton animated discussions on Arab social media of how the imprisoned princes were being treated. Some of Saudi Arabia’s most elite people are being detained in the Ritz Carlton after being arrested for corruption https://t苏州夜场招聘/pYo0XycAx3pic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/145i5qC1Xy??? CBS News (@CBSNews) November 8, 2017 Photo: Twitter @cpyne

She believes that his overthrow was a combination of political elimination and consolidation of various security agencies that were on his watch under the umbrella of the National Guard.

“Prince Mutaib from the beginning was going to have a target on his back from the current [royal] generation,” she said.

Even more sinister was a helicopter crash near the Yemeni border that killed eight government officials, including Prince Mansour bin Muqrin. The strange timing and lack of transparency from the authorities have raised fears that the royal purge might have taken a lethal turn. Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, the father of the deceased prince, was himself ousted from the succession when King Salman took power in 2015.

Also among those arrested is Prince al-Waleed bin Talal. One of the world’s richest men, with a fortune estimated to be around $US16 billion, he has invested billions in global companies such as Apple and Twitter. His arrest came as a shock to many investors and observers as he has traditionally been a regime loyalist.

“I actually met with al-Waleed in April and found him very supportive of the regime so it’s mystifying but ??? his financial tentacles reach far and wide and there is talk that he opposed the appointment of the Crown Prince ??? and that they needed to take pre-emptive action against al-Waleed because of a feeling of distrust,” Robert Jordan said. “This is like going after Bill Gates or Warren Buffett.”

Prince al-Waleed is only one of a slew of prominent tycoons with media holdings in Lebanon who are imprisoned, a sign that the kingdom is also looking to control how these events are covered.

“I call this the Saudi-Lebanese connection in forming media operations since the ’50s,” said Kraidy. “But now you have the three biggest media moguls in Saudi Arabia ??? sitting in the Ritz-Carlton.”

As Lebanon and Saudi Arabia continue to trade rhetorical barbs, there are real fears that a new conflict might erupt in a region wracked with instability, adding to a violent geography marred by tens of thousands of people dead and millions displaced.

“Saudi Arabia feels it’s not in a good shape in Yemen, it’s not in a good shape with Qatar, it’s not in a good shape in Syria ??? so Lebanon goes back to its traditional role as a proxy battle ground ??? This is a worst-case scenario,” Kraidy told me.

25/04/2020 0

The Socceroos’ strange triumph

Ron Corry, was a goalkeeper during a soccer tournament (which won) held in the middle of the Vietnam war. Carss Bush Park 10th November 2017 Photo by Louise Kennerley smhThe Quoc Khanh Cup was one ‘s least celebrated engagements with Asia – an international soccer tournament played in the midst of an active war zone.
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Fifty years ago this week, with the Vietnam war in full swing, ‘s national soccer team, led by the late, legendary Johnny Warren, was dispatched to the capital of South Vietnam to play in the name of a propaganda victory.

“It looked insane when we were coming in to land,” recalls Ron Corry, one of the n team’s goalkeepers. “When we arrived you would see [military] aircraft and bomb craters.

“We were told that it was safe and that the war hadn’t really hit Saigon, but it wasn’t very far away. At night we used to be able to sit up on the roof and watch the tracer bullet flares go up and fly across the sky and you would hear the big guns.”

was one of eight teams in the National Day tournament, along with South Korea, New Zealand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand – all countries that supported hosts South Vietnam during the war.

The idea was cooked up by South Vietnamese football authorities, effectively an extension of the government.

The n army realised soccer was a powerful tool in engaging with the Vietnamese, and a visit to by South Vietnam prime minister Air Vice-Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky in early 1967 sealed ‘s participation.

As a sporting event, the tournament was a major success for . Coached by “Uncle” Joe Vlasits, was undefeated, beating South Korea in the final in front of a full stadium to win its first trophy in Asia.

However, mystery still surrounds who was responsible for agreeing to send the ns to a war zone in the first place.

had failed to qualify for the 1966 World Cup in England after losing a play-off against North Korea in Cambodia in 1965. The n Soccer Federation was keen for the next generation – captained by Warren – to gain more experience in Asia ahead of qualifiers for the 1970 World Cup.

Saigon was perfect, but the n government’s official role in arranging the wartime exercise is unclear.

“The matter was discussed up to Cabinet level but the file on the deliberations was never transferred to the National Archives and is now lost,” says Deakin University historian Roy Hay, whose book Football and War: and Vietnam 1967-1972 details the tournament.

“I had the late Malcolm Fraser, who was minister for the army at the time, on his hands and knees trying to find if there was anything in his files relating to the matter.

“Fraser was dead against civilian activities in Vietnam and wanted everything done by military people in the chain of command.”

Saigon in 1967 was not the city it is today. The presidential palace was shelled as the n team arrived, and it was later revealed that Vietcong fighters were arrested for apparently attempting to blow up the South Korean team, who stayed at the same hotel as the ns.

Johnny Warren would often speak about the Vietnam trip – publicly and privately – before his 2004 death and described players being warned about retrieving stray balls during training sessions because the adjoining fields were full of landmines.

Blasts and mortars could be heard during the night as the players tried to sleep. Mine detectors lined the pitch of the Cong Hoa (Republic) Stadium – today known as Thong Nhat (Reunification) Stadium – where the tournament was held.

During games, spectators were wary of young children approaching the stands in case they were carrying bombs. Two years earlier, an attack at the stadium had killed 11 Vietnamese, including four children, and injured 42.

Goalkeeper Corry, now 76, recalled that a friend from met the team at the airport and helped arrange access to n military facilities in the city.

“My mate had been conscripted and was stationed at Saigon,” says Corry.

“He organised for us to get into the army mess and have a decent meal and a beer and watch a movie. The n soldiers would tell us if we heard one shot, don’t worry about it. If we heard two shots, get a little worried. If we heard three, hit the floor. The Vietcong would try to come in on bikes and leave bombs.”

‘It looked insane’: Ron Corry at Carss Bush Park. He was a goalkeeper for the Socceroos during the Quoc Khanh Cup in 1967. Photo: Louise Kennerley

The ns were warned by team doctor Brian Corrigan – the n Olympic team’s top medic from 1968 to 1988 – not to drink Saigon’s water and were told to instead to drink beer to hydrate.

“We didn’t need much convincing,” jokes Corry.

A Qantas representative travelling with the team secured access to US military facilities and the team ate with American and n soldiers in their mess halls. They would often have incongruous partings: the footballers would head in one direction to play soccer and the soldiers would go the other way, to war.

During the tournament the team flew to Vung Tau, an n logistics base south of Saigon, to meet n troops and play a match against them. The team flew in an RAAF Caribou and, according to a Sydney Morning Herald report at the time, players were told to ignore bullet holes in the aircraft.

“The Caribous had open doors at the back and we flew across the sea about 10 feet above the water,” Corry says.

Warren wrote in his autobiography Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters that the trip occasionally resembled something out of a Hollywood war movie.

“Good Morning, Vietnam reminds me of the scenes we were thrown into,” he recalled.

Far from the five-star luxury now afforded ‘s sporting teams, the ns were billeted four to a room, sharing bunk beds. Two players received shocks from the hotel’s rudimentary wiring.

“We built great camaraderie on that tour,” says Corry, who later coached National Soccer League club Wollongong Wolves and was an assistant coach with A-League side Western Sydney Wanderers.

“That is lost with a lot of the Aussie teams. Everyone is more of a mercenary now. If they get beaten playing for they’re on the plane the next day home going off to get $10,000 a week [with their clubs].

“The players in our squad played with a passion for their country that you don’t see now. Today, some of them don’t play with passion – they are just playing another game.”

According to Hay, there was not much pay at all. The Vietnam Football Federation paid the n team’s airfares and accommodation during the tour. The n Soccer Federation requested a $10,000 subsidy from ‘s Department of External Affairs to cover some costs but it’s not known if that money was ever received.

The players, most of whom had jobs at home, received $50 a week wages plus a weekly allowance of $10 during the trip. They were told they could keep their team tracksuits as a reward for winning the tournament.

Warren long maintained the trip’s purpose was propaganda amid growing opposition at home to ‘s involvement in the war.

Gary Wilkins laces his boots before a training session in Saigon in 1967.

Hay recalls Noel St Clair Deschamps, n ambassador to Cambodia in 1965 when the Socceroos played North Korea, claiming the n team’s presence was “worth at least ??100 million in foreign aid”. He recommended the team tour South-East Asia annually.

“He had never been aware had possessed such a powerful propaganda and goodwill weapon as its soccer team,” said Hay.

While entertainers received public recognition as well as the Vietnam Logistic and Support Medal for performing in Vietnam, the n football team received nothing. In 2005, the government claimed only individuals who were under government or military jurisdiction during their time in Vietnam were eligible for official recognition. The tracksuits were all the soccer team would receive.

“I think we were probably in more danger than any of them,” said Corry of the recognition celebrities and musicians received for visiting troops.

“We were right in it while the entertainers would be out at the army bases, which were pretty well protected. Someone has said that we should get a medal but I don’t know. It could have been dangerous but we considered it more of an adventure.”

‘s first ever international soccer trophy, moments after it was presented to the Socceroos by South Vietnamese president Thieu.

Within a few months of the tournament, much had changed. n prime minister Harold Holt was dead, the Tet offensive was underway and anti-war activism was on the rise.

For the players, though, the Vietnam National Day tournament would live on.

Every year until his death, Warren would receive a Christmas card from teammate Atti Abonyi: “Remember the tunnel in Vietnam.”

The quip referred to the n team’s entrance to the playing field in front of a huge crowd before the 1967 final.

“I still remember the hairs standing up on the back of my neck,” Warren recalled.

25/04/2020 0

As Rake gets political reboot, Roxburgh fires up

In a grand old sandstone mansion in Sydney’s northern suburbs, Richard Roxburgh is back filming a much-loved role.
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The actor-producer is returning as Cleaver Greene for a new season of the hit ABC series Rake. Only instead of being a charmingly roguish criminal barrister, he has become a charmingly roguish independent senator.

“It’s always a pleasure,” Roxburgh says about getting back to what he calls Rakeland. “We’re all so used to the lie of the land that it’s always just great to crack all those characters out again.”

He thinks politics was the logical next step for the narcissistic Greene as the series moved into a fifth season.

“There was a great playground in law because it’s full of eccentric people who are highly self-opinionated and it has an air of pomposity,” Roxburgh says.

“Well, what’s the next step up from that? Politics has certainly opened up a great new frontier for us.”

As well as Curzon Hall in Marsfield, the series has been filming at what Roxburgh describes as “various strip joints and strange locations” that double for Canberra, including apartments around Sydney Olympic Park. The production will head to the real Canberra for exterior filming before shooting wraps in 10 weeks.

Continuing the tradition of casting stars – among them Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Jack Thompson and Rachel Griffiths – the new season has Anthony LaPaglia as the US Secretary of Defence, Jane Turner as a conservative politician and William McInnes as the minister for homeland security.

Fellow producer Peter Duncan calls the new season a reboot – Rake 2.0.

“There is a lot to parody because of the ridiculous state of our politics but the story is still about Cleaver,” he says. “He unwittingly creates chaos, gets involved in cross party factional nightmares and there are assassination attempts.”

The new series has Helen Thomson (Top Of The Lake: China Girl) as the prime minister, though Duncan says there will be no less than five PMs over the season.

After a day of filming, it’s clear that Roxburgh remains upset about an issue that has followed the series for years – criminal barrister Charles Waterstreet’s claim to be the inspiration for the character.

“It gets up our nose when he’s suddenly in the papers for things and hashtagging Rake this andRake that, especially since none of us have seen hide nor hair of him for years,” he says.

Two weeks ago, when allegations emerged that Waterstreet had sexually harassed a young paralegal and personal assistant, Roxburgh declared that Greene was an entirely fictional creation.

Having discussed making a series about “a brilliant, mercurial but deeply flawed character” for years, Roxburgh and Duncan approached Waterstreet, a friend of a friend, and agreed to credit him as co-creator when he contributed a story that they adapted for one episode. But that proved to be his only contribution to the series.

Responding that Roxburgh was “a brilliant actor but poor historian”, Waterstreet pointed to a 2008 episode of n Story that had the actor saying he would be playing “a younger, much more dashing and handsome version of Charles” in a series loosely based on Waterstreet’s life.

Roxburgh now describes that episode as a tongue-in-cheek attempt by friends and acquaintances to “big up” the barrister more than two years before Rake actually reached the screen, accusing Waterstreet of clinging to the comment ever since “with the zeal of a desert apostle”.

“If Rake is supposed to be a biographical work of Charles Waterstreet then we should hang our heads in shame because we’ve done an incredibly shoddy job: not a single character in Rake is drawn from his life, not a single event, there is only one half of a court case described that he was involved in (and it didn’t go to trial, as opposed to our show),” he says.

“Rake could equally be claimed as a biographical work of Phyllis Diller, Andre Rieu or His Serene Highness Prince Victor of Hohenlohe-Langenburg.”

Roxburgh says Waterstreet gets a payment for each season plus another one when they sold the rights for a US remake in 2013.

“Every series he gets paid precisely what Peter Duncan and I get paid as co-creators, only we haven’t even crossed paths for a great many years,” he says. “He has done exceptionally well for somebody who told us a good story.”

Roxburgh says he has learnt a lesson from the experience.

“When we first started Rake, we made some decisions that we wouldn’t make now,” he says. “We were novices and we did and said stupid things that we wouldn’t say now.”

Waterstreet responded that it was not a time for temper tantrums, chest thumping or further comment.

“It’s time to lay down swords that slay and let the past go,” he says. “All I can say is that every episode carries Peter, Richard and my credits as co-creators … I do, however, wish all in Rake 5 every good outcome.”

25/04/2020 0

Favourites and ‘villains’ to clash on Bachelor in Paradise

It will come as no surprise that everyone’s favourite former The Bachelor “villain” Keira Maguire has been named as a star on Ten’s upcoming The Bachelor spin-off, The Bachelor in Paradise, since she has been getting herself television-ready for weeks with regular trips to Salim Mehajer’s estranged wife, beauty therapist Aysha Learmonth, for a non-surgical “Brazilian butt lift”.
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The daughter of the late cult leader and convicted paedophile Alistah Laishkochav (who fathered 64 children in total) is a Ten reality star favourite, having also appeared on the Network’s I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! earlier this year.

Ten also announced Laurina Fleure (who uttered those three unforgettable words to Blake Garvey – “dirty street pie”), Apollo Jackson (the lovable magician on Sophie Monk’s season), Davey Lloyd (the guy with “Your Name???” tattooed on the left side of his buttocks who appeared alongside Sam Frost), Tara Pavlovic (daughter of former Perfect Match co-host Debbie Newsome who appeared on Matty J’s season), and Michael Turnbull (the fake Socceroo with an even faker Rolex who also competed for Frost), as cast members.

They were tight-lipped on the 14 remaining names.

Those who have been speculated to also jet to the Mango Bay Retreat in Fiji in a bid at a second chance at love include Jarrod Woodgate, Elora Murger, Florence Alexandra, Luke McLeod and Simone Ormesher.

Others say Leah Costa too, although she did prove to be handful for Ten when they tried to stop her from talking to media after she was booted off the show by Johnson when he confronted her about her stripper past. She did the interviews anyway.

If Costa does make the cut, the Network and Warner Bros. will have a job on their hands to keep the peace between her and Maguire, with the two previously entering into a public war of words, and Costa telling Fairfax Media that she would like to “kick her a**”.

Murger and Costa also battled each other on the show.

Jackson, who appeared at Ten’s Upfronts 2018 this week, said he will be looking for a match who is “kind” and “down-to-earth”.

When it comes to who he would prefer between Maguire and Pavlovic, he said he would “wait and see”.

Do you know more? Email [email protected]苏州夜总会招聘.au

25/04/2020 0

How to know when you can afford to retire

Personal finance expert George Cochrane answers your questions.
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Can I afford to retire? I am 61, a healthy single lady with no dependants. My gross salary is $107,000, working full-time in government service, increasing every year at 2.5 per cent. I have five home units in NSW, Victoria and SA, collectively valued at $2.2 million with mortgages of $1.1 million. I currently have $657,000 in my super with an industry fund and about $124,000 in an offset account. I am salary sacrificing the maximum amount of $24,000 to my super, inclusive of employer’s contribution. All my loans are with the ANZ bank, which charges me interest at 4.6 per cent. They are all negatively geared, although the tax deductions are reducing over the years. I plan to do the following: sell one property before the end of June 2018 at a loss, so hopefully that should reduce my taxable income, and work four days a week from now to mid-July 2018, then retire and sell two more properties. I am concerned that I may not have enough for my retirement and for paying the huge accommodation bond to enter a nursing home. I am currently healthy and can continue working to 65, if required, though I would prefer to retire as soon as possible. A.O.

Don’t forget the maximum concessional contribution in 2017-18 is $25,000, including employer contributions.

If all five units are investments, and if they bring in a 3.5 per cent rental yield after outgoings, then total rent of $77,000 is well above interest charged of about $45,000 a year. You obviously won’t be able to pay off principal and interest over the next one to four years. I would really need to know what CGT liability you face and how much you need to live on in retirement to judge whether you can retire now.

But if you walk away with about $1 million after eventually selling your investment properties, and also have close to $700,000 in super, you will have considerably more than most people.

You are quite right to fear large entry costs into aged care residences. Such costs have risen sharply in recent years and nothing indicates they will cease doing so over the next 20 years when you are likely to need one.

Work until 65, you can’t go wrong!

I am 57 and imagine that I’ll be working until I’m 70. I am single, have no dependants and have $181,000 in super. I started a new part-time lecturing contract with a university this year and am contracted until December 2018, earning $53,000 plus 14 per cent super. I have been lecturing at the university on a casual basis for the last three years. This contract should be converted into a permanent position in December 2018. My other part-time job, for 15 years, is as an English as a second language teacher at a college – about $50,000 plus 9.5 per cent super. I own an investment property, a one-bedroom unit in Dulwich Hill, in inner-west Sydney, value $600,000 – mortgage $120,000 interest only. Currently rented at $460 per week, I lived in this apartment between purchase in 2003 until 2005 and then again between 2009 and 2011, which means if I sold it this year I would be exempt from capital gains tax, as it falls within the six-year limitation period. I live in a one-bedroom unit in the beachside suburb of Maroubra, value $700,000 with a mortgage of $440,000. I have personal savings of $35,000. Would it make more sense to sell the investment unit now, avoid capital gains tax, pay off the Maroubra unit and put what’s left over (if any) into my super? If I do the above it will leave me mortgage-free and I could pour all my future savings into my super. Given that the Sydney property market is still rising (despite talk of bubbles) and interest rates are at record lows, does it make more sense to keep the investment unit as it will continue to appreciate and provide me with a steady flow of income? If I keep the investment unit should I convert to principal and interest (while rates are low) and pay it off ASAP, or should I concentrate on paying off the residential property? M.D.

The six-year CGT-free limit is only available if you claim no other main residence. I presume your Maroubra unit is your preferred CGT-free home, given that a beachside unit may have accumulated more capital gain over the last few years, although the building of the inner west light rail has given Dulwich Hill a boost. You need not decide until you sell one.

I hate to sell a property unless it needs expensive repairs, or you really need the money, which you don’t, or you have a short time horizon, which you do. If you keep both properties, your obvious focus should be on paying off your non-deductible home mortgage, and this will cost more than $49,000 a year for 13 years if rates average 7 per cent. This would take over half of your after-tax income, which I guesstimate at about $83,000 a year. It seems a very high price to pay and one can conclude you are unlikely to keep both properties and be able to retire debt-free with a healthy amount in super, which should be your end goal.

I expect a burst of inflation at some time in the near future as a result of all the debt built up around the world, so the textbooks would say asset prices should rise over that timeframe. However, property is already highly priced in relation to incomes and we learned in the 1970s that central banks are prepared to push rates up well into double digits in such a scenario. The lesson was that, despite high inflation, property and share prices can fall dramatically.

Given your age, and the knowledge that old age and ill health often go hand in hand, I agree you should consider selling one property. Mathematically, you would be better off selling your beachside unit but I assume this is where you plan to retire.

I have an investment property, acquired in 2010, and a BT Portfolio Wrap account, acquired in 2005. I am planning to retire at the end of next year and to move onto a defined benefits indexed pension. I do not intend to work, so I would rely on this. I was wondering what happens if I sell both assets after I retire: 1. Does capital gains tax liability become part of my (then) normal tax bill, i.e. if I am not earning a wage then I have a tax free threshold and so does that reduce my CGT liability? 2. Does capital gains tax apply to the BT Wrap account – on which I’ve had tax liabilities each year calculated through my tax return or are those taxes just a cost for having the account regardless of not realising any income from it in that time? J.J.

Whichever asset you sell, you will (or more likely, your accountant will), add half of the profit to your assessable income that tax year, so it may be worthwhile not selling them both in the same year. The tax you have paid over the years would be on the annual income earned by both investments even if, in the case of your wrap account, it may have been reinvested.

If your superannuation pension is a federal government pension, and the employer’s portion is paid out of consolidated revenue, then this component of the pension is said to be “unfunded” and is taxable, although your tax is offset, i.e. reduced, by an amount equal to 10 per cent of this component. If it is a large taxable pension, then by adding any capital gain (from selling an asset), the latter will be pushed into a high tax bracket. In such a case, you may be able to save on tax by not starting your pension, although as a rule of thumb, the sooner you start a lifetime pension, the better.

If instead you are in a state government defined benefit pension, then the pension is probably untaxed.

In either case, you shouldn’t sell assets just because you are retiring. Hopefully, you will live some decades in retirement, in which case you will benefit from investments that grow over time.

If you have a question for George Cochrane, send it to Personal Investment, PO Box 3001, Tamarama, NSW, 2026. Helplines: Financial Ombudsman, 1800 367 287; pensions, 13 23 00.

25/04/2020 0

Police visit homes on secret watchlist without cause

Queanbeyan police will go to the homes of people on a secret NSW police watchlist without cause and will actively seek these people on the street.
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NSW Police sources said the border town police would routinely doorknock persons on the Suspect Targeting Management Plan (STMP).

A specialist “proactive” unit – the Target Action Group – consisting of a handful of police will also drive around Queanbeyan for hours trying to find people on the plan.

NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller told state parliament on Thursday of the 1800 people on the STMP statewide, 1017 – or about 56 per cent – are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

“I believe in STMP and I believe in proactivity, but I am not proud of the incarceration rates of Aboriginal people in New South Wales and I am taking steps to improve that,” Mr Fuller said. He said the youngest on the plan was nine years old.

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The plan has come under fire by the Youth Justice Coalition NSW in a report which showed it unfairly targeted young people and Indigenous people in ten NSW local area commands, excluding the one overseeing Queanbeyan.

Violent and non-violent offenders are placed on the plan which then uses an algorithm to predict their likelihood of reoffending in the future.

The behaviour reported of Queanbeyan police corroborates sections of the report.

The state’s police watchdog have meet with the reports authors and were consulting with other community groups before considering their next steps.

One of the authors, Vicki Sentas from the Redfern Legal Centre Police Powers Clinic, said police already had all the powers they needed.

“The STMP doesn’t give police any extra legal powers,” Ms Sentas said.

“The public ought to expect police adhere to the law and act within the guidelines and parameters of the law. The public should not expect anything less than that because they’ve been categorised through a secret algorithm.”

Ms Sentas is concerned by actively targeting young and Indigenous people they are being set up for cyclical encounters with NSW’s criminal justice system.

There is no publicly available data about the plan in the Monaro Local Area Command, which oversees Queanbeyan.

At daily briefings, uniformed police are given a list of people on the plan, which is updated when new people are added to it.

The sources understood people had to be informed when they are placed on the list but the Youth Justice Coalition report suggested people cannot know if or why they are on it.

Queanbeyan police would stop and talk to anyone they see on the street who is on the list but the sources said they would not unlawfully search them.

NSW Police have said the plan undergoes “a quality assurance process” by senior officers.

“While deliberately engaged by police, STMP nominees are treated with respect and tolerance, but they are reminded that the community will not tolerate criminal behaviour,” a NSW Police spokesperson said.

The state police watchdog, the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission, said they had meet with the Youth Justice Coalition to discuss the issues raised in their report.

“The report of the Youth Justice Coalition raises questions that may well justify the LECC’s attention in the area of pre-emptive policing of at risk young people,” an LECC spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman said anyone with further information about the practices raised by the police sources should submit it to the LECC so it could be dealt with appropriately.

25/04/2020 0

Death of a hobbyist: treasure thrown out in post-death clean-up

Jenny Rosalky took up embroidering and quilting 40 years ago when she gave up smoking and needed something to do with her hands. Since then she’s made more than 100 quilts for family, friends and charities and filled two rooms of her Sydney home with boxes of fabric.
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“I can’t say what the fabric is worth – it might end in divorce,” she jokes. But with the average cost of fabric around $25 a metre, and a minimum of $250 worth in every quilt, deciding what to do with her substantial hoard when she’s gone is no laughing matter.

“People who know nothing about quilting have no idea about the effort that goes into them and the cost,” says the former journalist and public speaking consultant. While her children and grandchildren value their quilts, none is interested in taking up the hobby or understand what her fabric stash is worth.

It’s a common refrain among hobbyists and collectors, who often fear their “treasure” could end up in landfill or sent to Vinnies when they die.

So Rosalky did something about it. She gave away a lot of finished quilts to charity Keep Safe Quilts which distributes them to domestic violence victims. She’s entrusted her fabric collection to two friends in Melbourne who are fellow stitchers. “When I die someone in the family will send them air tickets. They can keep what they want and give the rest to a good home,” she says.

Retired air force transport pilot Bill Baggett is also going a little loco wondering what to do with his magnificent obsession. Inside a purpose-built $40,000 shed on his farm near Dorrigo in northern NSW is a handmade model railway. His locomotives and rolling stock are insured for $35,000 but that doesn’t begin to cover the two tonnes of plaster and 12 years it took to build the scenery and layout.

“It takes one and quarter hours for a train to go around my layout”, he says. “It was designed to be an adventure – as you turn each corner a new vista opens up.” The problem is, it’s built in and can’t be dismantled, making this miniature railway a major headache. If he wants to sell the farm, he will have to waive his railway goodbye.

Apart from telling his kids not to throw it away when he’s gone because it has value, he’s not made any formal arrangements. “At 76, the disposal of this monster is something starting to peck at the back of my brain,” he says. Remains of a bygone era

His fears are well-founded, according to Phillip McGowan, a director of de Groots wills and estate lawyers. He says the issue is especially acute for collectors of things like model trains, stamps and coins that younger generations are not interested in any more.

In a digital age, stamps and coins have lost their currency. Children would rather click and swipe than make things and Generation Y are collectors of experiences, not “stuff” that clutters their minimalist decor. At least, not until they find out what their parent’s or grandparent’s collection is worth.

“The biggest disaster I’ve seen was a stamp collection worth $150,000 that was tossed out as part of a clean-up,” says McGowan. After the owner died, a well-meaning relative cleaned out his home, not realising the piles of stuff in his bookcase had any value.

In this case, the son had known about his father’s stamp collection. But by the time he returned from overseas to help sort out his father’s estate, the rubbish skip had gone to the tip along with a large part of his inheritance. Things might have been different if the collection was mentioned in his father’s will. Where there’s a will

It goes without saying that having an up-to-date will is crucial. McGowan also recommends including a separate, private document with your will for your executors setting out what and where your collection is, what items are worth and what the best method of sale might be. This is known as a memorandum of wishes or a letter of direction.

“If you can, recommend that your executors appoint Person X to dispose of your collection by sale or whatever method is appropriate to maximise its value,” says McGowan. This might be a member of a quilting group or a model train association.

Baggett is a member of a local model train group founded by 90-year-old Norm Mitchell 25 years ago. The group has around 30 members, all aged over 50. “A lot of the boys are no longer with us and their layouts have been chopped up and put on the rubbish heap,” says Mitchell.

So the “boys” decided they would get together when a club member dies and auction their collection so the widow gets as much as she can. They can bid for items themselves or help sell the collection via online auction sites.

Mitchell has been more proactive with his own collection which is worth about $50,000. He used to build full-size trains for theme parks but after a car accident that ended his career he started building meticulously detailed model trains out of brass for collectors. One model alone is worth $20,000. His will states that articles listed will go to a local historical museum and family members have nominated items they would like. The boys will take care of the rest. Know your market

You wouldn’t take a vintage car to the local antique store. Similarly, you wouldn’t put a rare English model train on Gumtree. Maximising the value of items depends on knowing your market.

Some collectibles such as antiques, artwork or even model trains may have a bigger market overseas. Online auction sites have made it easier to tap into cashed-up collectors in far-flung locations, but you need to let your beneficiaries know where and how to find them. McGowan had a client who collected antique musical instruments that were shipped off for sale in Europe after his death.

Even a fellow enthusiast may have trouble finding their way around your collection without instructions, or navigating family disputes without back-up.

While the biggest fear for most hobbyists is that their treasures will end up in the trash, it’s not unknown for family members to go into the house and help themselves to your most prized items before the executor is on the scene.

“If you think people might fight over items, as far as you can, put them where they are secure and forewarn your executors”, says Brian Hor, special counsel estate planning at Townsends Business and Corporate Lawyers.

“It’s a good idea to take photos and give copies to your nominated executors,” says Hor. He says it’s also important to clearly identify items included in your will. An antique watch might have a serial number whereas a quilt might need to be identified by colour, pattern or other features.

Hobbies can give you years of pleasure, but if the thought of someone trashing your treasure is taking years off your life, it’s time to act. Make your wishes known and enlist the help of people you trust to carry them out.

25/04/2020 0

‘Losing grip on reality’: Why the new perinatal mental health guidelines needed to go far beyond depression and anxiety

New guidelines recommend screening all pregnant women for perinatal depression. Photo: Christopher Pearce”I guess I ticked all the boxes,” Emily* said. The kind of boxes no pregnant woman wants to tick.
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A screening program at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Randwick flagged Emily as being at high risk of developing perinatal depression and anxiety when she was in the early stages of her second pregnancy.

The Sydney professional had a history of mental health conditions, her pregnancy was unplanned and her mother had experienced severe postnatal depression and psychosis.

Emily also carried a foreboding memory of her husband coming home one afternoon when their daughter was six months old. He said he wanted to kill himself, that he had not been going to work and instead had gambled away their baby bonus.

“I took that trauma into my second pregnancy.”

Emily’s experience is not uncommon. One in five women during perinatal period (the weeks before and after the birth of their baby) will experience mental health problems.

Now, new national perinatal guidelines recommend every woman be screened for mental health issues during pregnancy and after their baby is born as part of routine maternity and postnatal care.

A growing body of research has exposed the critical effects of maternal depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses on both the mother and baby.

Most cases cases of perinatal mental health conditions go undetected, with fewer than 20 per cent coming to the attention of health care practitioners. Even fewer will get treatment, according to research that underpinned the guidelines.

The perinatal mental health service at the Royal Women’s Hospital rallied around Emily.

She had regular sessions with a psychologist who visited her at home once her son was born. The service continually monitored her emotional as well as physical maternity care, and helped manage her anxiety medication.

“For me it was a huge relief,” Emily said. “Because things did deteriorate.”

Emily’s husband had started gambling again. He lost his job and her close friend died suddenly when she was about 36 weeks.

She was sleep deprived and struggling to pierce through intrusive thoughts that fixated on her husband’s gambling, her first traumatic birth and anxieties about leaving work and financial instability.

“Once things got really bad I felt like I was just holding onto reality,” Emily said.

“The fact that I had so much support probably saved my life. I’d never before had that continuity of care.”

“That I was picked up early made all the difference … that level of care should be available to all pregnant women, wherever they go,” she said.

The perinatal guidelines commissioned by the federal government include a standard questionnaire to help doctors, nurses and midwives better gauge a woman’s symptoms and risk in the early stages of her pregnancy to identify those likely to develop mental health problems and intervene early.

The guidelines also stress the importance of assessing a woman’s psychosocial risk factors.

“It’s about screening for symptoms but also considering the context of a woman,” the chairwoman of the guideline’s expert working group and St John of God chairwoman of Perinatal and Women’s Mental Health Research Unit at UNSW Professor Marie-Paule Austin said

“If there are aspects of her life that make her more likely to develop these problems,” said the psychiatrist, who developed the risk factor questionnaire at the Royal Hospital for Women.

By embedding mental health screening as a routine part of maternity care, the authors hoped to cut through the entrenched stigma that often prevents pregnant women from seeking help.

“We are validating their right to talk about these things … our surveys found a huge proportion of women are really glad they are asked these questions,” Professor Austin said.

The guidelines went beyond the prevailing focus on depression and anxiety, the most common disorders among women during and after pregnancy.

But a smaller group will develop more severe psychiatric conditions, including postpartum psychosis, and an estimated 5 per cent of women of child bearing age have borderline personality disorder.

“These women can experience intense and severe fluctuations in mood, self-loathing, even self-harm and feel a great sense of alienation,” Professor Austin said.

“It’s hugely challenging to take on the parenting role.”

The guidelines were also designed to debunk ill-informed clinical advice, notably the pervading belief that women should come off medications for psychiatric conditions when they become pregnant.

“Often clinicians will tell women to stop taking their medications, predominantly antidepressants … and it’s not uncommon for them to relapse,” Professor Austin said.

But antidepressants are not associated with birth defects and there was a lack of robust research linking them to child’s emotional and behavioural outcomes.

The desire to stop taking medications must be weighed against the negative effects of mental ill-health in pregnancy, Professor Austin said.

The guidelines also consider role of a woman’s partner as support person, potential antagonist, as well as the effects of the pregnancy on their mental health.

Initially screening a woman without her partner present gives her the privacy to talk freely, before the partner is invited to join the consultation, with her consent.

From November, all women have access to free depression screening and psychosocial assessment through Medicare.

The move, in step with the guidelines was the “final piece of the jigsaw,” Professor Austin said.

* Not her real name.

25/04/2020 0

Diary of a disillusioned jihadist

Adelaide doctor Tareq Kamleh, AKA Abu Youssef al-Australi, from an IS propaganda video.When Perth doctor Tareq Kamleh became the Islamic State’s latest propaganda video star, spruiking the “caliphate” from a well-equipped neonatal ward in Syria, he had a message for other Muslim medicos.
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“It was a decision I was very, very happy I made,” he said in the slick 2015 video. “It’s a good system that they’re running here. Everything lived up to my expectations completely.”

But the chance discovery of what is believed to be Dr Kamleh’s diary in the group’s former de facto capital of al-Raqqa has revealed a very different story. The handsome n paediatrician wrote that he was in “despair” about the so-called caliphate, according to a British man who has read the document.

Whatever he said for the cameras, in his private moments Dr Kamleh bemoaned that other IS fighters refused to donate to an orphanage he was involved with and even lamented the way they treated animals.

The bedroom of Macer Gifford (a pseudonym), a British man who fought with the Kurds against Islamic State. Photo: Facebook

The diary and other possessions were discovered by a British former currency trader who was fighting with the Kurds against IS and goes by the pseudonym Macer Gifford.

Mr Gifford found them in a large, well-equipped house where he spent a night during the battle for al-Raqqa last month. The house was abandoned but IS documents found there indicate it had belonged to Dr Kamleh.

As the caliphate effectively came to an end last week with the fall of its last stronghold towns, Mr Gifford related what he had learnt of Dr Kamleh’s story to Fairfax Media as he waited on the Syria-Iraq border for passage home to Britain.

The jihadist group sold itself to aspirants such as Dr Kamleh on the glorification of violence and the promise of an ultra-strict but well-managed Islamic society. Dr Kamleh found that the caliphate kept faith with the former but not the latter.

Measurements believed to be for a uniform, found at the house believed to have been owned by n IS doctor Tareq Kamleh. Photo: Supplied

“I don’t think he was a particularly happy character … He didn’t seem to be getting on with people there very much,” Mr Gifford said.

Dr Kamleh had become involved with an IS orphanage and was trying to raise money for the project. But nobody would donate, nor would the IS hierarchy help.

“Sometimes [a page] would start off saying, ‘Today I went into town and I spoke to Ahmed about raising some money for the kids.’

“Then he would go on about how, ‘We have no chance unless all the fundamentals change.’ He didn’t like the way he was getting no support, he didn’t like the way people weren’t giving any money. His exact words were, ‘I despair for the future of the caliphate.'”

Macer Gifford (a pseudonym), a British man who has fought with the Kurds against Islamic State, pictured in Syria. Photo: Facebook

At the same time, Dr Kamleh remained devoted to the cause, Mr Gifford said.

“He was almost completely directionless as a person, wanting to cling to the Islamic State yet writing very openly and clearly how much he despaired at it.”

Mr Gifford didn’t keep the hardcover notebook but handed it over to the Kurdish military, which was collecting material on foreign fighters to give to US forces.

Dr Kamleh arrived in Syria from Perth in March 2015. Documents Mr Gifford found at the house indicate it had been commandeered for Dr Kamleh by the “caliphate army”.

A document from the “Islamic State Bureau of Soldiers, Military Medical Services” and dated December 2015 states: “Please register the occupied estate for [transfer ownership to] brother Youssef al-Australi.”

Another IS document from the house, dated April 2016, states: “Please give brother Youssef al-Australi holsters (quantity: 2) for him and Abu Abdur-Rahman al-Maghri. [Brother] Youssef works at the Military Medical Services.”

Dr Kamleh used the very similar jihad name of Abu Youssef al-Australi. He is the only known n doctor working with IS in Syria. He told The n in a 2015 interview that there had been one other, though this may have been a recruitment tactic aimed at making the trip attractive to more ns.

Mr Gifford said he firmly believed the house and its possessions were Dr Kamleh’s. He said another notebook in the house showed the doctor had received military training and “seemed to be pretty much obsessed with it judging by the way he wrote about it”.

IS military medical services document requesting that the armoury provide Abu Youssef al-Australi and another man, Abu Abdur-Rahman al-Maghri, with holsters.

He also had an “obsession with vitamin pills” and had many bottles for various purposes.

Mr Gifford concluded the doctor was “an American Psycho-type man”, referring to the preening, charismatic but psychopathic book and film character.

Former colleagues and acquaintances of Dr Kamleh’s have previously described him as charming but manipulative and sexually predatory.

“Of all the things that ISIS has done, brutally murdered people and blown up homes, here was a guy who, it seemed, had had half his brain removed. Half of it was dedicated … but his sense of empathy, right and wrong, was way off.

“He even complained about other jihadis … being cruel to animals around him and said it didn’t give him much hope for the future of the caliphate because the level of cruelty towards animals – hitting dogs and so on – that he saw in the society made him upset.

“There was a meticulousness, an obsession with his health … He had a workout schedule of how many press-ups he was going to do. Just a neat, intelligent but slightly psychopathic character is what came across in his possessions.”

Dr Tareq Kamleh in a photo taken from his Facebook page. Photo: Facebook

After a few weeks, the diary became mostly jottings that included information on medical cases and doodles of Kalashnikov rifles.

Two further questions have been raised by what was in the house. Taped to the wall next to the main bed was was a picture drawn by a young girl that shows a house and stick figures with the names “Mummy” and “Daddy”.

Dr Kamleh is not known to have had a daughter. The picture may have belonged to someone else. But Dr Kamleh told The n in 2015 he had married a physiotherapist who worked at the same hospital in al-Raqqa, raising the possibility he had acquired a step-daughter through the marriage.

Mr Gifford said some women’s clothes were in the house. He also found a list of names of other foreign fighters with their current points of contact and whether they also had wives and children with them, suggesting that Dr Kamleh may have been involved in helping bring other fighters into Syria.

Dr Kamleh’s current situation is not certain but Fairfax Media believes he is still alive and it is likely he remains at large, though this may have changed in recent days as the final islands of IS territory were swept away.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said the government was “not aware of any ns who have recently surrendered or have been captured in Iraq or Syria”. She said it was very hard for the n government to confirm deaths of foreign fighters.

Local witnesses who spoke to Fairfax Media in recent days via email and social media said that foreign fighters mostly left al-Raqqa before it fell and headed south-east down the Euphrates valley to other safe havens.

An n Federal Police spokeswoman said there was an arrest warrant for Dr Kamleh for being a member of, and recruiting for, a terrorist organisation and also for being in a “declared area” – one of the terrorist “no go” zones named by the federal government.

25/04/2020 0

The Sydney schools making a fortune from their playgrounds

More than 700 projects that public schools will pay for with their own fundraising money are stuck in a backlog in the NSW Department of Education, with some schools waiting more than a year for approval to spend their money on much-needed upgrades.
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A new NSW Auditor-General’s report on sharing school and community facilities says there are “significant delays” in approving $56 million worth of projects that schools will pay for themselves with money raised through leasing their playgrounds and classrooms to community groups.

Many NSW schools make significant money through allowing yoga classes, farmers’ markets, church meetings and before or after-school care to use their buildings and playgrounds. Education Minister Rob Stokes is keen for more sharing of community assets.

The latest figures show Lane Cove West Public made $412,634 in 2016, followed by Bondi Beach Public ($360,351), Randwick Public ($269,094) and Glebe ($246,634).

Other bigger earners include Orange Grove ($225,450), Narraweena ($204,603) and Kellyville Ridge ($203,409) public schools.

Most of the highest-earning schools make their money through weekend markets but the audit report says others, such as Sydney Boys High at Moore Park, rely on special event car parking as a major source of funds. In 2016, Sydney Boys’ made almost $78,000 from the use of its grounds.

Schools use the money from leasing their facilities in a range of ways, from extra teaching resources to refurbishing school infrastructure, including new playgrounds or outdoor covered learning areas. Projects over $30,000 need to go to tender, a process managed and approved by the Education Department.

But the report says there are a substantial number of school-funded projects in each school district awaiting approval. Comparatively few have been approved.

In the North Sydney district, there were 134 projects worth $14 million waiting for approval at the beginning of the year. But between January and August, just 16 projects were approved, leaving 118 applications outstanding, with a value of $13 million.

“This represents funds raised by schools through sharing facilities or other fundraising activities, but which cannot be used to provide improved facilities until the approval process is completed,” the report says.

“Some proposals have been waiting for approval for more than 12 months.”

The report said the department does not know when the applications were submitted “as this information has not been retained”, but staff confirmed the delay and backlog.

A spokesman for the department said it had accepted all the auditor-general’s recommendations in the report, including to improve support to principals to reduce the backlog of school-initiated infrastructure proposals awaiting approval.

Earlier this year Mr Stokes said he wanted more sharing of facilities between public schools and the community, including schools using community assets like parks and playing fields.

He said “innovative shared-use agreements” could help the government provide the new schools required for the predicted 164,000 new students expected in public schools by 2031, especially in inner-city areas.

“Shared use of school, council and community resources can help meet this demand,” Mr Stokes said.

Potential future shared-use agreements being negotiated include one between Chatswood High and Willoughby Council for a synthetic sports field and another between Ku-ring-gai Council and St Ives High for an indoor sports and community centre.

“Managed carefully, shared-use agreements are a win-win for the community and the school,” Mr Stokes said.

25/04/2020 0