Closure invites fear into heart of parents

QUALITY CARE: One mother has praised her son’s care during his more than 20 years at the Stockton Centre and is anxious about what will happen to him in the future.AS a parent of a child with extreme complex issues and high support needs that resides at the Stockton Centre the recent article has been my concern from day one of learning the closure had become a reality (‘Care call’, Herald,28/4). While the sad loss may not be related to the move and subsequent care, I do believe the care will never be the same.
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I believe the door to neglect and unqualified care has been opened by the government and those who advocated on the closure of Stockton. A great deal of the residents who reside at Stockton have lived for many more years than expected, my son included, because of the high quality of care they receive. My son does not walk, he does not talk but he has a mother who has no shame in being loud and vocal in advocating on his behalf and for his peers. However my voice saying “he is happy living at Stockton”, “he is safe there”, was not accepted.

This is what happens when people advocate for change without consulting the residents and families of the Stockton Centre. So much for the centred person approach advocated by the NDIA and the government because my son wasn’t asked would he like to move, neither was I.

As a parent one of the hardest things I have ever had to do was place my child into the care of others. Every level of fear and anticipation was felt and, like a predator, I stalked Stockton waiting for the “neglect and mistreatment” others warned me of.

My son has been at Stockton for over 20 years and I can assure you he should no longer be alive due to his complex medical issues. His care is exceptional. Don’t be fooled into believing these residents are “just”residents to their carers, they have become family, as the carers have become treasured members of my extended family.

I always thought if I died my boy was in safe hands. Now my fears for my child are heightened beyond any levels I have experienced because the promises of the government to ensure quality care hold little to no faith for me.

As the date for closure creeps nearer my heart rate increases not just for my son but for all the residents of Stockton.

Glenda Miller,Redbank Plains, QueenslandMoney better spentPLEASE say it isn’t so. “Any deal would hinge on Wests contributing $10 milliontowards a rugby league centre of excellence – to bematched dollar for dollar by the state government” (‘NRL’s hard sell’,Herald,29/4).

What a disgrace, what a disaster, what a load of bull. When our schools are crying out for funds, our health system is always in need of greater support;when science, maths, engineering and technology are being treatedas some sort of disease; when people are living on the streets because of lack of appropriate accommodation;when our energy generation is at serious risk and apparently without any plan for improvement; the NRL comes up with the idea Newcastle needs a “centre of excellence”. A total of 20 more millions down the drain.

We deserve what we get.

Kevin Doherty,Muswellbrook Tips for the playersA MEMOto the Newcastle Knight from a long suffering patriotic supporter and long term arm-chair coach: Rugby league is a relatively simple game of pass and catch, pass and catch. So here is a few hints that may improve your game.

When you pass, make sure there is someone there to catch the ball. The linesman is not going to catch it for you.

When you catch the ball, hang onto it. Practice.

Yes, when you catch the ball there is going to be someone there to hit you really hard. Hang onto the ball.

When you play the ball, the ball must roll back. Penalty. I’m sure you all know front from back.

When an opposing player has grounded the ball near the sideline, it is illegal to pull or push him over the said line. Penalty.

I am sure coach Brown would be delighted if you could follow these simple rules as listed in the under 10s players manual.

This is what you get paid for.

Allan Ward,Elermore ValeLet down by serviceA COUPLE of weeks ago it was reported that train services suck. Recently I found out just how badly they do.

I went to catch a train to Sydney from Broadmeadow, as did a good number of other people. A few minutes before the train was due to arrive, it was announced that the train would only be four cars. This was due to mechanical issues with the train before it left Sydney. Needless to say the train was soon crowded and people were standing and they were also sitting on the stairs. I wanted to give up my seat to an elderly gentleman, but I couldn’t move; neither could he. Considering what people pay in taxes and fares this in not acceptable.

I realise new trains are on order and the V sets will soon be withdrawn. However, train services still have to be maintained, this is what the paying public expects; and with good reason.

As a former engine-man, I am well aware that failures can occur without warning, but I still find it surprising there were no additional V sets in reserve to cover for such failures, particularly considering the number of new Waratah trains having come on line in recent times.

It’s not enough to say that Sydney Trains or what ever they call themselves this week has to lift its game, They have to have the resources to keep trains running so that services can be maintained to the standard that taxpayers and the travelling public have paid for.

Peter Sansom, KahibahA code that caresIN response to Greg Hunt (Letters, 1/5) I too noticed some time ago that these “hired guns” playing for the local team look to show no remorse or regret at the end of a loss and just look forward to catching up with a few of their highly paid mates after the final whistle.

If you want to see players that are committed to their club and the fans, go no further than the AFL. Whilst they are highly paid professionals, there seems to be a sense of fierce competition and pure disappointment after a loss. They also reflect on their performance rather than look for excuses to distract the fans from their frustrations.

And before anyone asks how I know this – I will confess that I am a die hard Sydney Swans fan and after a 6-zip start to the season, I am well versed on how the club and players react to a loss. Better times to come.

Simon Irwin, Belmont

A black panther bounty and yowie sightings

A black panther bounty and yowie sightings Big Cat: Many people have reported panther sightings in the Hunter Region.
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TweetFacebookHerald’s Facebook pagereportedsightings at places including Mount Sugarloaf, Minmi, Wallsend, Munmorah, Swansea, Morisset, Wyee, Freemans Waterhole, Kurri Kurri, Cessnock, Dungog, Singleton, the Watagan Mountains, Medowie and Stroud.

As for the $5000 bounty, theHerald’s Facebook readers were none too impressed.

Kevin Wyborn: “5k, tell him he’s dreaming! I’d want a few million to do that”.

Amanda Playford: “My life is worth more than $5k”.

West Lindsay: “Geez! How much would he pay for a bunyip or a yowie?”

Wowie it’s aYowie

Maria Speer’s sketch of a yowie she sighted near Eden on the south coast.

Speaking of yowies, we’ve been writing about them a bit lately too.

You know how it is. One mystery leads to another–Tassie tigers, black panthers, bunyips, yowies.

We reportedRex Gilroy’s storyabout his wife Heather seeing a yowie in the Barrington Tops.

Rex then found a suspected yowie footprint. He took a plaster-cast of it, which was 38cm long and 16cm wide across the toes.

Yowie sightings have also been reported on the south coast.A newspaper called theEden Magnetreported on the subjectlast Thursday.

Mark Downton, of Cooma, said he would never forget his encounter with a “strange creature” while travelling down Brown Mountain on his way back to Eden about 25 years ago.

The now 54-year-old said his yowie sightingwas burned into his memory.

“Truthfully I am not scared of much but that was the most scary thing I have come across in my life,” Mr Downton said.

He described a five-and-a-half foot tall creature with broad shoulders standing on two legs. He said it was completely black and covered in hair, “like a gorilla”.

“I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t move. I was frozen on the spot. It was only 15 feet away and it was looking right at us,” he said.

“It wasn’t a human being, I know that much for sure.”

Sightings of these creatures, dubbed the “Gorillas of Eden” had occurred throughout the 20th century.

In the mid‘90s, resident Maria Speer spotted a creature more than two metres tall.

She was about six kilometres south of Eden.

“It was brown, thickset and short-necked with powerful, solid shoulders,” she said.

“It was standing on two legs and, when it saw me, it crashed off into the bush. My impression was that I had seen a powerful man-like creature. America’s Bigfoot would be an identical type.”

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Prolonging life comes with a high price

REALITY: The often argued point that life should be prolonged at any cost has been questioned by one correspondent who says there is a financial reality to face.AS an advocate of the best care “at any cost” it is clear that Ruth Burrell won’t be the one paying the healthcare bill (Letters, 1/5).The sad fact is that we live with finite resources, and those resources need to be used wisely.
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Our current health system financially rewards clinicians for over-treating patients (but one example: knee arthroscopies that offer no benefit), and sees an enormous amount of the lifetime spend on a person consumed in their final few days of life. The culture of prolonging life “at any cost” needs to be smashed out of our hospitals–in favour of one which allows people to die with peace and dignity.

Subjecting frail and elderly people to surgery, chemotherapy and other treatments with negligible chance of a positive outcome is not only wasteful, but cruel.

Ms Burrell would do well to remember that every dollar spent on an elderly “frequent flyer” is one that cannot be spent elsewhere–on a sick child, in a school, or assisting a wounded veteran.

Scott Hillard,New LambtonAward contracts hereNEWS about the parlous state of local rail manufacturing should be a wake-up call for the state and federal Liberal governments, which have seemed intent on driving Australian manufacturing into the ground.It’s shameful the NSW government is busily awarding lucrative contracts to offshore companies while the local industry is on its knees.

However, more than $45 billion is scheduled to be spent by governments in rail and rolling stock in coming years and Newcastle should be well-placed to benefit from this given our world-class expertise in the sector.

But for this to happen, the Turnbull government urgently needs to take a leadership role in working with the states to develop a national rail manufacturing procurement policy that strategically coordinates state rail projects, maximises work for Australian companies and creates Australian jobs.

Sharon Claydon, Federal Member for NewcastleLack of signs is the issueA RECENT article (‘The fast and furious’, Herald,19/4) highlighted problems with speeders on McKeachies Drive, Aberglasslyn. What is not being told is that there are no speed advisory signs on this road.

The only advisory speed sign motorists see is on Aberglasslyn Road as you approach McKeachies Drive and that sign posts a 60km/h speed limit.

Motorists are unaware that when they turn right onto McKeachies Drive that the speed limit changes and the Highway Patrol are making hay while the sun shines, booking these unsuspecting motorists for being over the 50km/h limit.

The residents along McKeachies Drive would be better served lobbying Roads and Maritime for appropriate speed limit signs along their road, which would go a long way to alleviating this problem.

Robert Fletcher, MedowieAdmit error, use corridorMANY thanks and congratulations to the lord mayor for standing her ground regardingthe decision of rezoning the rail corridor. I believe the parliamentary secretary for the Hunter has not shown any respect for the lord mayor or the people of the Hunter. The majority of this Hunter community want the light rail in the rail corridor.

Mr MacDonald does not live in our valley and does not listen to or understand the people’s wishes, who do live in the area. They are the ones who will or will not use this proposed transport.

This light rail line will serve those who travel into the CBDfrom outlying areas, not the majority of the people who live in suburbs.Also, the money saved by putting rails down the corridor could recompense the government for selling (?) the rail land or better still, developers’ buildings could be erected above transport, like at Chatswood.

Wonder if it is too embarrassing for the NSW government to admit that Mr Baird’s blunder was a mistake.

Elaine Street,MerewetherRules for some, not allWITH the Global Financial Crisis occurring not that long ago, I have often commented on the worrying trend in obtaining quick cash over the phone. This is constantly advertised on free to air television and radio.

Having this in mind, I was somewhat amused when I attended my financial institution to increase my credit card limit. I wanted this as a backup in case of an emergency whilst travelling. I wasn’t asking for a direct loan but was informed I would need to fill out an application form and provide, among other things, a letter from my superannuation fund. I have been a customer for decades, having paid out home loans etc. I was told it’s now the “rules”.

Fair enough, but it would appear these rules do not apply to fly by night money lenders. You have to wonder who is watching over these easy money lenders? You can be assured no politicians will be. Happy to be corrected on this. Only a matter of time before the next crisis perhaps?

Garry Scow, Warners BayA gift for TrumpI READ that Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull is to visit President Trump in Washington this week. It is customary on these types of visits that a gift is exchanged. I have the complete seven seasons of West Wing if the Prime Minster would like to give to Trump to show him how to run a country called America properly. Hope this helps for I think he sorely needs something.

Geoff Pettett,WinghamCelebrations for RossI SCRIBE this letter to Nathan Ross.An enormous congratulations on your City Origin selection. In what has been the darkest 24 months for Knights players and fans, you have been a shining light guiding the way along the difficult journey to better days.

Any football fan acknowledges your talent on the field, but it is also due to your class and humility off the field that warrants such vehement celebration of your selection. A loyal family man, charitable community member, ideal role model and talented journalist, you exemplify the perfect modern footballer (and bloke, for that matter).

I write this on behalf of all Knights (and rugby league) supporters, who I’m sure agree unanimously that very few, if any, deserve this accolade as much as you.

You prove that if you want something badly enough and you work your behind off for it, it’s all yours.Good luck Rossdog, we’ll all be cheering you on with pride.

Knights supporter,Kotara

Singer finds her voice

BRAVE: Singer Lyn Bowtell, who calls the Hunter Valley home these days, is ready for a change. You can watch her audition on The Voice on Sunday.
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Golden Guitar winner Lyn Bowtellis spreading her wings and daring to jump into unknown territory.

The popular Hunter Valley-based singer-songwriter has auditioned forThe Voice 2017 and her “blind audition” goes to air this Sunday, May 7, on NBN.

Why?

Well, for Bowtell it’s more a case of why not?

“So many people have asked me why, given that I’ve already got an established career. But for me, the number one reason is exposure,” she told Soundbites.

“About a million people watch The Voice per episode.

“Also, it’s an opportunity to expand on what I’ve already done with my career and to do something new. I was really looking for, I guess, a new part of myself, and I hadn’t quite worked out what that was.

“I wanted to explore a little bit more of my music. I’ve always been very much an alternative country singer and I love country music but I really wanted to expand on that and see what else I was capable of.

“I’m ready for a change, not to turn my back on country, but to broaden what I do musically.”

Rather than think of herself as brave for auditioning, as many people have described it, Bowtell thinks it is a smart move.

And a door-opening one at that.

“I’m really pleased I’m doing this. It’s a great opportunity to meet some wonderful people and learn from some of the absolute best in the business.

“I’m pretty confident about myself as a singer. I’m not saying I’m the best singer by any means but I am confident in what I do and I think it’s exciting to do new things.

“I had been looking to do a new album but I wasn’t sure what it was going to be and this is helping shape that decision for me, too.”

Performing while enduring the excruciating pain of a ruptured ovarian cyst during the Tamworth Country Music Festival in January, though, definitely defines “brave”. This lovely lady is a born performer and, in her eyes, the show must go on. Even if not a single judge turns their chair on Sunday.

“Ihave seen it happen where the judges didn’t turn for someone with experience who I thought was an icon –Abbie Dobson, of Leonardo’s Bride,” Bowtell explained.

“It shocked me a lot and when they turned around and realised who it was, the judges were kicking themselves. I have considered that possibility and how it would feelbut when that happened to Abbie, her song Even When I’m Sleeping went to number one on iTunes.

“She got a lot of press based on that performance and it really helped to boost her career. People had forgotten about her, and there were people who didn’t know her. After The Voice she had a bunch of new fans.

“Auditioning is only a negative if you don’t back yourself and you stuff up [laughs]. For me, the opportunities far outweigh the negatives.”

Ben Leece

New directionNewcastle singer-songwriter Ben Leece is releasing the first in a series of 7-inch singles, Hank Volume 1, on May 19. The series, says Leece,will “provide a home for random songs that don’t fit anywhere else, be it lyrically or musically”. Just 50 hand-numbered 7” records will be released and come with a unique Polaroid photo of Leece’s friend “Hank” as well as a print by Newcastle visual artist Hendrika Stekhoven-Smith.

It is the first solo recording for Leece, who is better known for his work with bands The Delta Lions and Hazards. His is aunique and soulful blend of minimalistic alt-country, Americana, folk and blues. The raw honesty and gruff fragility of his vocals add weight and legitimacy to lyrics written unashamedly from the heart. Catch Leece at Maitland’s Grand Junction Hotel on June 2, and at Newcastle’s Stag and Hunter Hotel on June 23.

Alive and kickingIt has been 40 years since The Bee Gees redefined pop music and culture forever with the phenomenal success of the Saturday Night Fever album. The Australian Bee Gees Show is celebrating the occasion with a multimedia concert event featuring all ofhits. You should be dancing (yeah)atCessnock Performing Arts Centre on Friday, May 19.

Rockers on a rollSpeaking of May 19, Newcastle banddave. are releasing their third EP, YOCH! Bangers Vol. 1,on that date.The first track, Take It All, is enjoying airplay on triple j.Noah Church told Soundbites:“It’s the first proper release that we have recorded in Newcastle. It was really great being close to home and recording in a space that we were comfortable in. The finished product is something that resembles our band better than the previous two EPs did.”The seven-track EPwill be officially launched at The Cambridge on June 2.

Newcastle band dave. are releasing a new EP.

Testing times for Mata’utia

PHOTOS: Knights suffer seventh straight loss
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DEBRIEF: What went wrong according to coach Brown

SPORTING DECLARATION: A tale of two Newcastle halves

Sione Mata’utia was in a rush to get out of Newcastle on Sunday, but it had nothing to do with the pressures of leading an under-siege Knights team.

After being thrust into captaining the last-placedNRL club just a fortnight ago,the 20-year-old has beengiven the chance to fulfila childhood dream.

Mata’utia will represent Samoa, birthplace ofhis parents and grandparents, for the first time on Saturday when they tackle England at Campbelltown Sports Stadium in a World Cup year.

The call-up marks his returnto the Testscene after bursting onto it as the youngest-ever Australian player in November 2014, aged 18 years and 129 days.

“This was one of the goals before I even debuted for Australia, I always wanted to play for Samoa,” Mata’utia said.

“I was very happy for it to go the other way and play for Australia first, but my culture andbackground are something I’m so proud of.

“I’m very privileged, very honoured and it will be a very emotional ride. It’s something I’ve always dreamed of and definitely something I will cherish forever.”

The second-rowerjoined thesquad in Sydney just 24 hours after the Knights suffered their seventh straight loss, the men in red and blue going down 38-8 to the Gold Coast Titansat Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday despite leading at half-time.

Older brother and Knights teammate Peter links back up with Samoa, giving the siblings an opportunity to have their maiden run together at Test level.

“We have heaps of family over there [in Samoa],” Mata’utia said.

“It will be a packed house, just depending on what village has got the TV.”

Affordable housing a win for all

Shortfall: Both political parties must look at solutions to increase the supply of new dwellings.NEW policy settings to ease the housing affordability crisis will be at the heart of Commonwealth and NSW budgets to be handed down in the coming weeks. Beating them both to the punch last month was Federal Labor, with the release of their Housing Affordability Plan.
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Many of the opposition’s proposals have the potential to put serious downward pressure on house prices. Others play the Trump card of populist politics by “blaming the foreigner” for rising prices, rather than the taxes, fees and charges baked into the cost of new housing.

So why the flurry of policy activity? Partly it’s the economic imperative to give people housing choice and affordable options as they move through life. But nothing focuses the political class like clear trends in the polls, and the number of people who rate housing as their most important challenge has been rising steadily. That makes housing affordability a high-stakes policy race, because the major party to best address the public’s growing anxiety is likely to attract vitalswinging voters.

The one thing all sides agree upon is that solutions must be focussed on increasing the supply of new dwellings. In the Hunter, a decade of undersupply has produced a deficit of 16,000 homes and been the principal driver of rising housing prices. The principal cause of that deficit has been a failure to link critical enabling infrastructure – local roads, water, and power – with land on the urban fringes suitable for residential development.

In other words, it’s not the land that is scarce in the Hunter, it’s the local infrastructure that enables that land to be developed into new home sites that is scarce.And that represents a golden opportunity for the NSW Government to turbo-charge housing supply with a series of modest investments in local infrastructure.

Across the Hunter, short-to-medium term funding of shovel-ready, local infrastructure projects can avoid the looming shortfall of 30,000 homes by 2024.

One of those is to complete Stage 1 of the Lake Macquarie Transport Interchange with construction of Pennant Street Bridge. This local infrastructure will alleviate congestion across the Hunter’s second largest employment zone; slashing the daily commute for Cardiff-Glendale’s 11,000 workers, driving productivity improvements for business and improving liveability for residents.This bridge is the “missing link” that unlocks 90 hectares of new land for development in an emerging Strategic Centre, helping to solve the Hunter’s chronic housing shortage and ease the affordability crisis.

Pennant Street Bridge is shovel-ready, with detailed designs and costings completed by Lake Macquarie City Council. A $13 million commitment towards joint funding in June’s state budget could see Pennant Street Bridge completed and fuelling a pipeline of 2,700 new homes and 3,800 local jobs within 18 months.

That’s a quick win for homebuyers and a stunning dividend for the taxpayer.With more than $20 billion spent on Sydney’s mega-infrastructure projects in the past year alone, $13 million represents a modest investment in local infrastructure for enabling housing affordability.

Andrew Fletcher is Hunter director of theProperty Council of Australia

Bit rich to link opportunity to parent wealth

FOR ALL: A 1909 push for a university in Newcastle for working class families argued “the examination should be a test not a competition”, words sadly still relevant today.THROUGHOUT the region’s history Hunter Workers have aided in many community campaigns and was instrumental in the establishment of a university in Newcastle as documented in Rod Noble’sbook Human Right and Human Gain.As early as 1878 Hunter workers were raising the issue for access to higher education, believing working class kids deserved the opportunities offered to the rich.The need for a university in Newcastle was raised at the NSW Public School Teachers Conference in 1909, where it was stated: “The system of education in this state was founded on the great democratic ideal. It’s a people’s system, and the examination should be a test not a competition.”
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Back in those days Sydney University played a significant role in deciding who higher education was for and initially it was of the view that allowing working class kids into university would diminish the quality.

The Newcastle Trades Hall Council (now known as Hunter Workers), had been discussing the issue for better higher education in Newcastle for many years, in 1942 the council decided to focus a campaign to have a university established in the city.Norman ‘Ross’ Mearns was the key instigator of this effort and was a delegate to Newcastle Trades Hall Council and headmaster of Newcastle boy’s high. He believed working class kids should have the same educational privileges as the idle rich.The history tells a story, a story of working people demanding what should be considered a right for all. Not a right based on income or access to deep pockets. The decisions of the federal government are akin to class warfare ensuring the haves continue to get more while the rest struggle along.

Working people find it difficult to swallow Scott Morrison’s and other conservative free marketeers’ arguments about budget repair. He is right though, budgets are about choices. Free education should be the goal of governments, not reducing opportunity through higher education.

Leigh Shears, Hunter Workers activist, Newcastle WestClinicians for careUNFORTUNATELY Scott Hillard (Letters, 3/5) seems to have missed the point of my letter. While I am concerned with the high cost of healthcare, as a nurse for almost 50 years, I am a strong advocate of letting people go when it is their time, and I also firmly believe in people’s right to die with dignity.

My letter (Letters, 1/5), however, dealt with Mark Fitzgibbon’s proposal for health funds to take over healthcare dollars and management for frequent flyers, in other words, people with chronic diseases.If I have heart disease or diabetes and I fall and break my hip or I need a knee replacement, I want my own doctor to decide what treatment is best for me and my condition, not some unknown health fund employee.

While containing health costs is important, people’s health outcomes must not be determined by funds whose motivation may be to deliver only minimum ‘certain mandated requirements around the quality of care’ (‘Why health fund premiums are rising’,Herald,29/4) but must be considered individually on a patient by patient basis by a clinician who has all the necessary information and skills to make such decisions, and who will look at the patient as a whole, not just an isolated condition.

Ruth Burrell,MerewetherFriends of foesI AM starting to have second thoughts about Donald Trump. I’m getting the impression that he thinks that the best way to handle his enemies is just to crawl to them.

If you are to believe him, China was his very, very worst enemy because it was a rogue currency manipulator involved in mercilessly ripping off of the US, but in the space of a few weeks they have apparently completely mended their ways and are now Trump’s very, very best friends.During the election he said that NATO was obsolete. He now says that he strongly supports it.

Putin was his very, very best friend during the election campaign, but in the space of a few weeks the Russians have gone over to the dark side by supporting Syria in the use of chemical weapons. The Russians are no longer his friends (for now anyway).And nowKim Jong-un has, in the space of a few days, completely changed from being a “disgusting dictator” to becoming “a smart cookie” because he slaughters his opponents and Trump would be “honoured to meet him”.If you or I behaved in that way, people would (understandably) question our mental stability.

Margaret Priest,WallsendCheck your policyHOME owners should be alerted to the “rip off” that’s being inflicted on them by way of the NSW government. As from July 1, the Emergency Services Levy (ESL), currently paid to insurance companies, is going to be collected by local government through an additional fee tacked on to the land rates.

I see nothing wrong with this. The problem is those with policies due between now and then attract almost the full ESLand will be slugged another ESL on July 1. When I contacted the Insurers Monitor advice line, they indicated it was for the previous year, which I find hard to believe. In other words if you bought a house now, the ESL is for when you did not own a house. All political parties appear to be very quiet on the issue.

I believe it should be pro-rata. If you insure your property now with two months till the financial year begins, you should only have to pay 2/12 or 1/6 of the normal ESL. Home owners should check their policies to make sure they are not being “ripped off”.

John Alterator, Hawks NestUncomfortable travelADDING to Peter Sansom (Letters, 2/5) I visited Sydney twice during the past two weeks and had the unfortunate experience of travelling on the Oscar carriages. These sets were not designed for intercity travel but suburban use.The seats are configure 2×3 across the carriage, making them narrower than the V sets, they also feel somewhat closer together, both these factors create a cramped environment.

I suggest our Premier invites her Transport Minister to accompany her on a journey from Central to Hamilton, sitting in a quiet carriage with her back against a fixed seat and three passengers in the seat in front of her. Perhaps she may then authorise the refurbishing of the Oscars to the same as standard of the V sets(I’ll excuse her the Hamilton to Newcastle Bus trip, or perhaps not).There is no encouragement to use the inferior service. Are we living in a first world country? I fear not. Overseas visitors must wonder.

Eddie Boards,Kilaben Bay

A connection that makes us miss the past

TURN BACK: One resident recently hooked up to the NBN is far from satisfied with the internet speed provided, saying cost cutting has made the product inferior.Our NBN supplied internet is actually slower, yes slower, than what we had before via ADSL.We were among the first residents in Redhead to get the NBN connected recently and, as very keen early adopters, we are disgusted to report how little the billions of NBN dollars is giving back.
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Our speed was a consistent 24Mbps through ADSL, and despite optimistically signing up for the fastest 100Mbps NBN service, we are now getting speeds that fluctuate wildly between only 15 and 21Mbps. And that’s before the rest of our suburb start connecting, which we all know will dramatically slow the speeds further.

Why so slow when the NBN service runs right past our home on its way down the hill from Dudley?The explanation, I believe, is simple. We have amazingly ended up with almost two kilometers of copper. Yes, two kilometres.

Why so much copper? Because, as I understand it, the NBN Co have installed the relevant NBN node on the corner of Whitecap Close which is nowhere near the area it is servicing, and then, I believe, they have only used the one pre-existing switch pillar, which is located right in the middle of the serviced area on the corner of Bentley and Shortland streets.

So, my understanding is, a huge distance of copper runs from the stupidly-isolated node to the sole switch pillar approximately 960 metres away, then from the pillar more copper runs approximately another 910 metres mostly along the same route back to our house.

We’re assuming this is deliberate cost-cutting taken to such a level that the finished product is simply not worth having.Bring back our ADSL service we say. Or actually build something that truly is nation building. How many billions was it again? What a waste of money.

Paul McLean,RedheadClutching at strawsTHE proposed cuts to university funding and higher fees for students, who are already struggling due to impending penalty rate cuts, is unacceptable and I hope the Senate rejects it (but with Pauline there, who knows?).

Leading up to the federal budget next week, the Coalition has come up with several ideas stolen from Labor policies (2007-13). Don’t they have any fresh ideas? No, they are clutching at straws and hoping the electorate believes their lies.I don’t.

Beverley Page,Adamstown HeightsVision for visitorsGREAT to hear that Newcastle Airport will expand to accept international flights. The visitors could catch a very fast train to Sydney (40 minutes) or the more adventurous could catch a train into Newcastle, walk from the station to the refurbished Great Northern Hotel have a drink before going up to their luxury room, with views to Nelson Bay by moonlight and to shower and rest up.

Then onto the post office casino to see a show, may I suggest The Flight of the Developer,a bit of music with Novocastrian Blues or a comedy starring the Knights and Jets. Then a bit of a flutter, and a late nightcap, or a walk along Newcastle beach, retiring before your day of V8 Supercars action.

The next day’s taken up with touring Newcastle by tram (the light rail one that goes to all suburbs) and going to the vineyards, Maitland, Paterson and Nelson Bay.

On the departure day, the international visitors go by light rail to the cruise ship terminal to board for a laid back trip to Sydney or Melbourne.

Just a thought bubble, burst by reality.

Steven Wisnie,DudleyNo justification for lossesAFTER trains and motor cars were invented many trades and skills became redundant.

However most of those skills could be modified into the new technologies. Horse carriage builders could adapt their skills to rail carriages and motor cars.

Horse stable operators could become garage operators etc.

But in the 1970s, business took a new turn and began the transfer of labour from Australia to other countries where work conditions and wages weremuch less than here.

So the steel, ship building, maritime industries and many other former Australian businesses were handed to foreign workers. If that didn’t make enough chief executive officers wealthy, they then began a program of importing foreigners to work in Australia.

Just in case any Australian workers were not yet replaced, a program of sending our work overseas became fashionable. This is recently demonstrated here by the NSW government awarding of $4 billion of contracts for our rail rolling stock replacement to foreign workers.

None of this redundancy can be justified.

If Newcastle steelworks and our ship-building technology had kept pace with world standards, we would now be enjoying the highest conditions of these industries.

Although some chief executives might need to justify their income a tad more.

George Paris,RathminesConcern over levyLIKE all other ratepayers in Newcastle, I have received the Fire and Emergency Services Levy letter, courtesy of Newcastle council. I have no problems with the levy as stated.But I do have problems with the eventual future of the monies raised. Eventually all monies raised will flow down to Macquarie Street and that’s where I believe the problems will commence.

A new system will, in all probability, mean a new bureaucracy, or more bums on seats, more hidden costs, and then will we relive the dramas of getting money out of the “piggy bank”, like I understand some involved with the Mines Subsidence Board have had? Yes the ideas a great one, but the future I believe won’t be anything like the “rose-tinted flyer” from Newcastle council paints.

David Barrow,MerewetherJust a dream, so farACCORDING to reports, Supercars had a super Saturday with regards to its ticket sales for the November race (‘Turn out unprecedented’, Herald, 1/5). I believe that is without approval to build a track, without approval to conduct a race and without track licensing. I think the fans have shown a great leap in faith that Supercars will come through on their promises.

All that the fans have received so far for their “hard-earned” is a dream. For their sake I hope Supercars can pull it all off.

Les Brennan, Newcastle East

‘Upper Hunter turnaround’

Hunter Valley Research Centre lead economist Dr Anthea Bill.
Nanjing Night Net

A FALLING unemployment rate and a rise in commodity prices has buoyedbusiness and household confidence in the Upper Hunter.

The latest economic indicators from December 2016released by the Hunter Research Foundation Centre on Tuesday shows a turnaround in the region, with the jobless rate falling from 8.6 per cent in December 2016 to 4 per cent in December last year.

HRF Centre lead economist Dr Anthea Bill said though the labour market data was at times volatile, there was evidence reflecting continued steady employment and falling unemployment.

The jobless rate in Muswellbrook dropped from 12.4 per cent in December 2015 to the current 5.6 per cent while the Upper Hunter jobless rate of 4 per cent is below the 5.4 per cent rate in the Hunter and 5.1 per cent rate in NSW.

“The Upper Hunter’s jobless rate has been falling for the past year and with a rise in mine maintenance now and healthiercommodity prices, that feeds through to direct employment and sub-contractors,” Dr Bill said.

The economic indicators show thatUpper Hunter residents’ expectations for the regional economy for the next three months are at their highest since 2005.

The proportion ofbusiness owners reporting that the local economy would improve in the short and long term also jumped in December, as did business confidence.

Dr Bill said that it seemed the “uptick” in commodity prices including thermal coal was driving business confidence, which includes profitability and hiring expectations.

Business confidence remains below the December 2011 high howeverit has been rising since late 2014.

“It looks like business has kicked the2013/2014 malaise that came with the end of the mining boom… however, if the confidence is hanging off movements in commodity prices then there is still the potential for regional volatility associated with price swings,” Dr Bill said.

The Upper Hunter housing market was a weak link in the figures: it remains weak relative to boom-time highs and the median house price has fallen from $345,951 in December 2015 to $328,521 in December last year.

Short Takes

IT’S with dread that I open the Herald on Monday following the Supercars open day. I am expecting the usual whingers, it rains – blame the Supercars, extra traffic – blame the Supercars, local cafe runs out of scones – blame the Supercars (it’s getting ridiculous). But as an East End resident, I’d like to say what a wonderful day. Me, personally, I don’t care for car racing but I’m more excited for November now.
Nanjing Night Net

Bianca Field, Newcastle EastINTERESTING turnout for Supercars race tickets. Interesting to know how many actually participate in motor sport.More interesting would be to ask if they, as drivers, had the choice to drive on a street circuit, rather than a purpose-built racetrack, which way would they go.I feel sorry for the actual drivers in the V8 series when asked the same question, because their support must be with the promoters and sponsors–they don’thave a choice.

Carl Stevenson,Dora CreekREGARDING the comment by East End resident Karen Read (‘Turn out unprecedented’, Herald,1/5) that the line for Supercars tickets only went for 250 metres, I suggest she attends Specsavers. The line was back to Nobbys kiosk.

Helen Allen, Warners BayTHE reserve across from my home is usually frequented but the other day was no exception –agroup of small boys enjoying a rowdy game of soccer. I also observed some children climbing a tree. Their enthusiasm made me want to be young again. Tiny toddlers with their parents were chasing a ball. I thought, how refreshing it was seeing people in this modern age enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, not necessarily indoors, on such a magic April day.

Daphne Hughes,KahibahIT is now three months since I raised my concerns regarding the derilect buildings of the former Williamtown public school adjacent to the entrance to Newcastle Airport being an eyesore and detracting from our visitors’ first view of the Hunter and asked the state government or Port Stephens Council move to have the site cleared. No visible action from Gladys or Macca. Perhaps local MP Kate Washington might like to act on this matter?

Graham Boyd, The Junction IT was unbelievable how many drivers, including those who drive professionally, didn’t have lights on in the fog on Monday morning. But experience shows me Newcastle drivers have little commonsense when it comes to adverse weather conditions.

Sue Fower,WaratahREGARDING Barry Spauling (Short Takes, 29/4) and the non-showing women sport on TV. Barry, netball is on every week and weekends on TV involving state teams.

Colin Atkins, WyongTHE POLLSWILL you fly internationally from Newcastle if possible?

Yes 91.9%,No 1.8%,Depends on destination 6.3%SHOULDour trains be built in Australia?

Yes 90.1%,No 9.9%