Month: April 2018

LETTER: Democracy will bring back Jones

CHRIS Osborne (“A democracy, Mr Jones” Letters 10/10) is quite right when he makes the point that product boycotts are legitimate forms of protest.
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But what is not legitimate protest is the abuse and harassment of sponsors, particularly smaller businesses, that advertise on the Alan Jones program.

This starts to bring the protesters down to Jones’s level and does nothing for sensible protest.

The problem is that nothing will stop Alan Jones, other than his listeners turning him off.

Unfortunately, I suspect most people protesting at Mr Jones’s behaviour do not, and never have, listened to him.

Unless and until listeners turn off in sufficient numbers, the sponsors will return and he will continue the same awful behaviour and nothing very much will have changed.

Ratings will determine his fate and I fear his ratings will not suffer much and may, perversely, improve.

Whilst there might be a silent majority against Mr Jones, I think his rusted-on listeners will stick by him and sponsors will soon realise there are just too many of them to ignore.

Another example of democracy at work.

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LETTER: My failure list for the government

FRED McInerney (“Not a bad record for just a woman” Letters 10/10) might want to look at not only the so-called achievements of our female leader and her team but the cost of such achievements.
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In 2007 the world was brought to its financial knees by out-of-control spending and lending of borrowed monies by governments, companies and individuals, all living beyond their means.

Now we have the government scrambling to cut spending so it can show itself as a prudent financial manager to achieve the promised surplus.

The Treasurer keeps referring to our financial position as the envy of the world, but fails to inform us of the mounting debt that the government has incurred.

With debt at more than $200 billion, the resources boom slowing due to lack of demand and the cost of doing business in Australia, lack of consumer confidence and jobs hanging by a thread, the best the government can do is agree to selling off the farm to the Chinese.

The list is longer and would, I believe, be much less impressive if the Gillard government lived up to its promises to the Greens and other minority groups.

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LETTER: Too many misses in political talk

IF Julia Gillard insists on calling Tony Abbott a misogynist (a hater of women), then Tony Abbott has every right to call Ms Gillard a misogamist (a person who hates marriage) – words from the World Book Dictionary.
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And to most politicians I say: stop being misologists (haters of reason or discussion, a hatred of learning).

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OPINION: Out of jail and imprisoned by freedom

BENEATH the truly horrible statistics for rates of reoffending [in Britain] there lies a discourse in which society refuses to engage – and it pays the price for its intransigence.
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We all, broadly, detest those who hurt us or the things that are important to us. Prisoners are accepting of the fact that as a group they are never going to be popular.

That they can rouse quite such strong feelings is occasionally surprising to me, given that most people only know prisoners through the medium of media stereotypes.

But that seems to be no deterrent to those with a surplus of hate and rage in our society.

This would not matter one whit were it not for the difference it makes in the way prisoners are treated on their return to society.

It is a journey I have travelled for a mere few weeks now, after 32 years of incarceration, and there have yet to be major surprises.

I fully expected society to be an indifferent entity, one that accepts prisoners onto the streets, but not into any meaningful position.

Ex-prisoners are often left with the merest toehold in society, and this has serious consequences for society and the individuals who will become the future victims of crime.

The first hurdle that has to be navigated are the frozen wastelands that comprise the state bureaucracy. Leaving prison [in the UK] with £46 ($72) and a piece of paper are humble building blocks on which to build a new life.

The job centre was clearly going to be an important pinnacle to ascend, but a pointless one. All terribly polite, even sympathetic and efficient, but utterly useless.

Without a national insurance [social security] number little could be done except begin the paperwork to start claiming social benefits.

Six weeks and one emergency loan later, and I am still no nearer to enlarging my employment skills or fattening my wallet. With solid support around me, I am never in danger of homelessness or starvation, but I am more fortunate than many ex-prisoners.

To appreciate the scale of this problem, divest yourself of all worldly goods, grab $150 – the maximum release payment – and stand on the street. Look around.

How can you possibly begin to fit into a society where that money (meant to last until benefits kick in) won’t even get you a dustbin to rent?

I am in the strange position of having no money and no National Insurance number – without that there is no bank account, no place on the myriad databases that comprise a modern existence.

I do not exist – except on the police national computer, yet I have to weave myself back into a personal life, a social existence and find economic meaning.

And it is so for tens of thousands who leave prison each year.

Therefore we need to ask the question: if we had treated that transgressor differently, if we had not turned our back on him, could we have made a difference?


John ‘‘Ben’’ Gunn was imprisoned at the age of 14 for killing a friend. He was released on August 22 and is now in his late 40s.

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EDITORIAL: Health office leaves town

BY itself, the transfer of 420 state public servants from King Street to Charlestown could be interpreted as a minor matter in the overall state of the Newcastle central business district.
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But the lack of any apparently suitable replacement buildings within the CBD is a stark reminder of the shortage of usable office space, despite an embarrassingly obvious surplus of empty buildings.

While things appear to be going swimmingly enough on the Honeysuckle side of the railway line, the pending shift of the Health Support Services office from King Street in Newcastle West to the Sky Central complex at Charlestown is the latest in a long line of commercial and retail departures from the city.

While some might tire of the endless debate about the inner city’s future, one only has to look at the billions of dollars the O’Farrell government intends to spend on transport in Sydney – and the lack of progress on transport improvements in this region – to see that the longer the stasis continues, the further we fall behind.

More than two years have passed since the previous state government bought the Empire Hotel site in Hunter Street, which remains a vacant block despite early hopes of a major multi-storey office block for public servants. The historic former post office building remains empty and boarded up – a sadly appropriate symbol for a city centre that is stuck, somehow, between a fading past and a still uncertain future. Until the inertia that has gripped the inner city is somehow overcome, further businesses are likely to look for new premises further afield.

Thankfully, this time, the health department jobs are staying in the Hunter, and are only moving to Charlestown. Another 420 workers will certainly be welcomed by their Pacific Highway neighbours, and it is certainly good news that the Sky Central complex – built by the departed and unlamented Hightrade construction group – has secured an anchor tenant.

In this light, Newcastle’s loss has been Charlestown’s gain.

Honoured heroes

ALF Carpenter, of Georgetown, and William Reeves, of Summerland Point, are among the last of a generation of Australian war veterans whose often-heroic service during World War II helped guarantee the freedoms that millions of people around the globe take for granted every day.

Next week, Mr Carpenter and Mr Reeves will be among a contingent of returned soldiers who will join Veterans’ Affairs Minister Warren Snowden in Egypt to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the war-turning Battle of El Alamein.

For much of 1942 the Axis forces led by German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel – the ‘‘Desert Fox’’ – had the better of the Allies. But a series of fierce battles in October and November under British General Bernard ‘‘Monty’’ Montgomery put paid to the German and Italian advance.

The cost, in Allied lives, was immense.

For our ageing veterans, next week’s ceremonies in Egypt will be a poignant and possibly final opportunity to say goodbye to fallen comrades.

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Perth rents smash major capital cities

The average asking price for house rentals in Perth has increased 15.4 per cent since September last year, while most other capital cities recorded increases of less than 4 per cent – or none at all.Perth’s ever-rising rents have smashed other major capital cities, soaring at least four times as fast in the past year.
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The average asking price for house rentals has increased 15.4 per cent to $450 per week since September last year, according to Australian Property Monitors.

Unit owners are seeking $390 per week, up 11.4 per cent in a year.

The growth is extraordinary compared to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and Hobart.

Those cities recorded increases of less than 4 per cent, while several experienced no rise.

Weekly rents remains cheaper in Perth than Sydney ($520 for a house and $470 for a unit) and Canberra ($485 for a house and $430 for a unit).

However, renters in Darwin are faring the worst in the country, with advertised house rents increasing 27 per cent in the year to September to $700 per week and units up 15 per cent to $530 per week.

APM senior economist Andrew Wilson said housing shortages were biting in Perth as immigration levels surged and insufficient new homes were constructed.

The rate of population increase in WA continues to climb, with the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics researching showing it reached 3.1 per cent annually in March.

The rental vacancy rate in Perth is less than 2 per cent.

Dr Wilson anticipated rental pressure to continue as first home buyers found it more difficult to enter the tight market.

“There won’t be any relief in the short-term, it may be typical going forward for the next few quarters,” he said. Follow WAtoday on Twitter

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

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Bali survivor’s telltale heart

There is a telltale heart inside Peter Hughes’ otherwise typical Perth roofing office.
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The 52-year-old is almost unrecognisable as the swollen and charred face broadcast around the world in the first hours after the Bali Bombings, but it’s clear for better or worse, they have defined the past decade of his life.

Beating away next to his corner office now sits the epicenter of the Peter Hughes BURN Foundation, a thriving not for profit adapted to provide ongoing support for burns survivors.

In the years since Bali, Hughes has also become a popular motivational speaker, released a book and continues to lobby the Australian Government to compensate citizens affected by terrorism overseas.

“I did an interview that made me look like I was a bit of a hero, I wasn’t, I was desperate, I was trying to send a message to my son and no one else,” he said.

“I was scared in Bali – I was going to die – I was told I was going to die.”

Shortly after those first interviews Hughes went into an induced coma, dying momentarily several times from injuries inflicted by two suicide bomb attacks on Kuta’s popular nightclub strip in October 2002.

Hughes was one of 240 injured that day, while 202 lost their lives.

“I felt guilty everyday because I was alive,” he said when asked why he had decided to start giving talks about Bali.

“I just wanted to make sure that these people didn’t die for nothing.”

Like many others Hughes life was interrupted when he followed a well-beaten path from the suburbs of Perth to tropical Bali for a few days of Bintang beer and sunshine.

Hughes and his friends had ended up at Paddy’s Pub that night because the Sari Nightclub across the road had a long line out the front. Heading to the bar to get the first round Hughes skirted what he would later remember was an Indonesian-looking man with a backpack at his feet.

“As I stretched out to grab what I thought was my cold bottle of Bintang there was a click, there was a bang,” he said. “I was gasping for air pretty quickly.”

A girl “cannoned” into Hughes, knocking him to the ground. “Knowing what I know now that was a suicide bomber,” he said.

“I had this girl at my feet that I could hardly see because the place was so dusty.”

Hughes grabbed the girl and the pair started heading out through the entrance he’d come in from – it was the only way in or out of Paddy’s.

As he stumbled onto the footpath seconds after the first blast a car parked outside the Sari Club erupted throwing him back inside the collapsing Paddy’s Pub.

“I can remember feeling the pressure of wind and also trying to suck through air – it felt like you were gasping and you were grabbing – it was just everything at one time,” he said.

“When I actually stood up I saw legs, I saw arms, I saw people crying and screaming – they were struggling – if you never got up you died – it was as simple as that.”

Those who could stand started groping through the dust and smoke trying to pull others around them up, he said.

“My eyes were pretty much shot, I couldn’t hear a bloody thing, I was cut from head to toe,” he said.

“I had no idea about bombs – If I had known that it was a bomb I would have run like hell – and a lot of people did – a lot of people knew.”

The rage would come later for Hughes and while he admits to dark months struggling to live with pschological trauma, there were other powerful memories to come out of the chaos, which have fortified him in the years since.

“To see people that were badly injured trying to help other people is inspirational and I think even when people thought they had no hope they were helping,” he said. “We’re a weird bunch I think the Aussies.”

As the 10-year anniversary nears Hughes has testified in the trials of two of the bombers, but ultimately he blames the Indonesian authorities for the enabling the attacks to happen.

“There has got to be a responsibility given somewhere and I think it drops with the Indonesian Government in terms of the people that are there that are radical that do these strange things,” he said.

Mr Hughes has also lobbied the Australian to compensate the Bali survivors and families of victims, as they would victims of crime on Australian soil.

“The Government needs to pay – they need to pay the hundreds of people who were affected,” he said.

Hughes has attracted the support of opposition leader Tony Abbot who recently called for about 300 Australian victims of terrorism overseas or their families to each retrospectively receive up to $75,000 in compensation.

The total cost would be about $30 million, assuming overseas terror victims got the maximum compensation amount of $75,000 currently paid to Australian victims of crime at home.

Despite their history Hughes has been back to Bali 30 times in the decade since the attacks and still feels affectionately towards the country and its people.

However, he doesn’t believe the issues behind the bombings have been addressed. “I’m against the system of how sometimes it can be too free and easy for people to do certain things in their own country, Bali, Jakarta, Indonesia…very corrupt,” he said.

“I don’t think they’ve learnt nothing.

“I think the radical groups are still doing what they want to do – I think they have a lot of control whether dead or alive.”

After a decade of reliving the trauma over and over again Hughes said he was looking forward to a quieter life out of the spotlight having done his time in the media.

However, he plans to keep giving motivational talks and to continue building up his not-for-profit.

“Bali made me a better person,” he said, when asked how he was changed 10 years ago.

“If I could take away the scars and the injuries and the post traumatic stress and all the crap that goes with it I would say that’s the underlying message in terms of what I think about myself as a person.

“I’m better.”

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott meets with Clair Marsh (left) and Peter Hughes (right) at the Bali Memorial Garden in Canberra. Photo: ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

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

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Kicking off your holiday in hell

Far Cry 3’s tense opening sees you and your brother trying to escape from a gang of kidnappers.It starts off so well, a montage of attractive young people dancing, drinking, riding jet skis in a tropical paradise, and skydiving. The only ominous note is M.I.A.’s breakthrough hit Paper Planes playing as the soundtrack, with its distinctive mix of child-like singing and rhythmic gunshots.
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And then, there’s Vaas. The wild-eyed antagonist of Far Cry 3 was introduced in jaw-dropping style during Ubisoft’s 2011 E3 press conference (warning: linked video contains violence and strong language) and he immediately made an impression. And now, here he is in real time, and his aura of homicidal menace has not faded at all.

In stark contrast to the party scenes of moments before, you are revealed to be tied up in a rough wooden cage, with Vaas’s intimidating face staring in at you. There are hints as to how you got into this predicament, suggesting you and your brother, who shares this cage with you, landed their parachutes on the island that Vaas calls home, and now this modern day pirate king has decided to trade you for ransom money.

One look in Vaas’s staring eyes, and you are sure that you will not live long enough for him to collect.

When he is called away, you and your brother manage to knock out a guard and get free, which then leads to a nerve-wracking trip, tiptoeing through the chaotic jumble of corrugated iron huts and weatherboard sheds that these pirates call home. You catch glimpses of horror – less valuable captives being shot, bodies being piled into mass graves, and even your own brother being forced to kill a man to enable your escape.

Suddenly, you are discovered. There are gunshots, sudden death, and then you are running alone through the dark, moonlit jungle, the lights of your pursuers sweeping past you, and bullets pinging off the ground only centimetres from your feet. You trip and fall, tumble down an embankment, and into a raging river.

Soft music plays as you tumble in the dark water, and the opening credits play.

Far Cry 3 has one of the most stressful opening sequences I have ever played. As I watched the credits roll, I put down the controller and realised my fingers had cramped up from the stress. My hands were shaking.

You are pulled from the water by the people of a peaceful village, populated by those lucky few who have avoided Vaas and his crew. You are assured that you need to learn the brutal ways of this strange island; you must become a warrior, a hunter, and a survivalist.

After a few introductory tutorial-style missions, the world opens up, and it is breathtaking. The archipelago that makes up the world of Far Cry 3 is huge, and full of things to discover, places to explore, and things that want to kill you. What I love most about it is how alive it seems; here and there are signs of a long history – rusted old anti-air cannons from World War 2, tumbled-down wharfs – and animals roam the jungle, both peaceful herbivores and deadly predators. All of this helps to create the illusion of a world that existed before you arrived and will still be there after you stop playing.

The game includes a simple crafting system, which allows you to hunt animals for their skin and make useful items from the leather. I decided I wanted a bigger backpack to carry all of my equipment in. A backpack requires tapir skin, for some reason, so I consulted the map to discover where I might find tapirs. When I got there, I was given a strong reminder of one of the truths of the natural world: when you find herbivores, you will also find the predators that eat them.

Creeping up on the herd of odd-looking grazers, I heard a low growl, and there to my left was a tiger. That’s right, a tiger. I froze, unsure if my rifle would even kill it, but it ran right past me and started attacking the tapirs. I crept away and let it finish its bloody work, and was surprised to hear human screams. Oh well, I thought, the tiger just took out a pirate camp for me. After it had slunk away, I went to collect tapir skins and found a small shrine, with an altar covered in candles and food offerings. Beside it was a dead villager, mauled to death by the tiger.

My Far Cry 3 hands-on experiences have been packed with these unexpected, unscripted events. I have waited in the bushes while a pack of feral dogs took down a patrolling squad of pirates, leaving me with a free jeep. Driving that jeep, I’ve had to slam on the brakes when an enormous wild boar ran across the narrow, muddy road, pursued by another pack of wild dogs. Another video game journalist told me how he fled from a tiger and ran straight into a pirate camp, and then hid while the tiger cleared it out for him. The tiger then ate him, but it was cool while it lasted.

The game also has some excellent hand-made story missions, but it’s hard to concentrate on completing them when there’s just so much else to do. I was picking wild plants to make medicines and performance-boosters for myself. I accepted a job from a villager who wanted one of the pirate captains taken out. I also scaled several rickety radio masts to rip out the jamming devices installed in them to block my GPS device.

When the full game is released on 29 November, I am sure I will carry on with this style of gameplay, ignoring story missions and finding all kinds of trouble for myself in this huge, dynamic world. It’s a brutal, dangerous place, and I can’t wait to get lost in it.

– James “DexX” Dominguez

DexX is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez

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

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Conditions protected under new legislation

The federal government will today introduce legislation to protect the wages and conditions of Queensland public servants facing outsourcing threats from the state government.
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Federal Workplace Minister Bill Shorten will introduce amendments to the Fair Work Act that will cover contracts where work now completed by Queensland public servants is transferred to the private sector.

Queensland Council of Unions president John Battams said it was clear the amendments to the federal legislation were necessary, otherwise workers wages and conditions would be lost.

“Instead of having to get your entitlements paid out, you can transfer them across and you can transfer your conditions across,” he said.

Mr Battams gave an example of health workers working in a hospital laundry, where the work might go to a private contractor.

“So, if a business unit in the government – say a laundry in a hospital – let’s say they contracted out those services to another firm and those workers stayed in the work, they know the job, they know the hospital, so the company contracting those services wanted to keep those workers,” he said.

“Then those workers would retain their current entitlements, rather than transferring to some other entitlements.”

The Fair Work Amendment (Transfer of Business) Bill 2012 provides amendments to the “transfer of business” area of the 2009 Fair Work Act to give coverage to public servants in Queensland and New South Wales, Mr Shorten has said.

Mr Battams said he believed the amendments were necessary to stop conditions being reduced as contracts were bought out.

“Before this legislation was introduced federally (2009), that was what used to happen,” he said.

“Particularly from government, but even from private company to private company; if the private company taking over wanted to reduce costs, all they would do was put those workers on inferior conditions.”

Mr Battams said, in the past, the legislation has not applied to state government business entities.

“The effect of this amendment is that this will now cover the transfer of business from the state government to a private business,” he said.

The legislation only covers the situation where the former public servants “go across” to the new private sector firm.

It does not apply if the public servants take a redundancy and then take up a new position with the business that takes over the “outsourced work”, as new employees.

The Queensland government has begun to outsource some of the former public service business units, including information technology, QBuild’s building approval areas, health and chemical testing areas.

Other areas for potential outsourcing have been identified in the interim report of the Queensland Government’s Commission of Audit that was released in June 2012.

They include Q-Fleet, Goprint, corrective services and areas of Queensland’s shared services.

The Queensland government is progressively reducing the size of the Queensland public service by 14,000 positions.

Specifically it will protect the conditions of former state public sectors employees by transferring the terms and conditions in State awards and State agreements to a national system employer.

A national system employer is essentially a corporation under the Fair Work legislation.

That covers proprietary company (often indicated by “Pty Ltd” at the end of the organisation’s name); not-for-profit associations, but not partnerships between two people.

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

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Scrutiny over $90k tourism forum contract

One of “many” tourism operators who helped develop Liberal National Party policy was paid more than $90,000 to organise a Newman government industry forum, a budget hearing has been told.
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Tourism Minister Jann Stuckey played down the appointment of Tony Charters and Associates to deliver the DestinationQ forum in Cairns, saying the professional conference organiser was selected “through a fairly rigorous process”.

Mr Charters is a prominent figure in the tourism industry and his website says he has convened 21 national and international conferences since 1994.

At a hearing at Queensland Parliament this evening, Ms Stuckey said she had travelled the length of the state while developing the LNP tourism policy before the election and confirmed Mr Charters had helped.

“Mr Charters along with many other industry people assisted in our policy development,” she said.

The LNP’s tourism strategy, unveiled late last year, outlined steps to boost the tourism industry including a strategy to focus whole-of-government support for tourism.

This would include an annual DestinationQ forum bringing together key ministers, departments, local governments, Tourism Queensland, industry operators and associations to drive actions. More than 300 people attended the first such forum in June.

At the budget estimates hearing, the state opposition questioned the appointment of Mr Charters to oversee the DestinationQ forum, given his role in helping to develop LNP tourism policy. The opposition argued Tourism Queensland could have run the event.

In written response to questions on notice, Ms Stuckey said the total cost of the 2012 forum was $220,063 excluding GST, including professional conference organiser fees and departmental office and staff expenses.

“A professional conference organiser contract for the forum was awarded to Tony Charters and Associates,” she said.

“The process for awarding this contract was by Request for Offer (conditions of which are available on the Queensland Government Chief Procurement Office website), sent to five professional event management organisations.”

At the hearing this evening, Ms Stuckey said the event was a “working forum” involving workshops rather than a series of speeches and a professional organiser was needed, noting Tourism Queensland did not even run the annual tourism awards.

“Tony Charters was selected through a fairly rigorous process,” she said.

Department director-general Richard Eden said Mr Charters received $93,197 to organise the event, while the rest of the DestinationQ costs were for items such as the venue, catering and staff travel and accommodation.

Mr Eden said four of the five professional event organisers approached to bid submitted offers and they were assessed against criteria.

Pressed by Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk on whether Mr Charters put forward the cheapest offer, Mr Eden said: “No, there was one that was ridiculously low and we didn’t think could actually perform the task.”

Ms Stuckey, appearing at a budget estimates hearing of the State Development, Infrastructure and Industry Committee, stressed the Newman government’s commitment to tourism as one of the four “economic pillars”.

Ms Stuckey, whose portfolio also includes the Commonwealth Games, also defended the dumping of former Property Council president Mark Stockwell from the 2018 Gold Coast organising committee in May.

She said “it was determined that we were moving to a new phase which was of course the planning and delivery of the Games”.

Ms Stuckey said she thanked Mr Stockwell for the work he had done but the appointment of Nigel Chamier as new chairman was the right decision.

Mr Chamier, an executive chairman of NAC Investments Pty Ltd with experience in the financial, property and development sectors, was previously appointed by former lord mayor Campbell Newman to a Brisbane City Council committee overseeing the rescue of the concrete-cancer-afflicted City Hall.

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

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