State’s health services in financial stress

HALF of Melbourne’s health services have reported losses for the last financial year, and one rural hospital is in serious financial stress as it struggles to meet growing demand for its services.
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The losses come as Victoria’s health system continues to buckle under increasing pressure, with figures showing scores of Victorians are waiting too long for ambulances and hospital care.

A swag of annual reports tabled in Parliament yesterday revealed half of Melbourne’s 14 health services reported deficits for the 2011-12 financial year.

Northern Health, which runs the Northern Hospital in Epping, reported the largest loss of $5.24 million. It was followed by Eastern Health and Southern Health, which both lost nearly $2.9 million, and Western Health, which came in $1.68 million short.

Eastern Health runs Box Hill and Maroondah hospitals; Southern Health runs Monash Medical Centre and Dandenong Hospital; and Western Health runs the Sunshine and Western hospitals.

The West Gippsland Healthcare Group, which runs a hospital serving about 40,000 people in Warragul, also reported a deficit of $1.3 million, along with solvency stress.

In a frank annual report statement, president Brian Davey and chief executive Dan Weeks said demand for its services had significantly exceeded the group’s funding allocation last year, resulting in a loss.

They flagged more pain this year and said the group was unlikely to reduce their elective surgery waiting list in the foreseeable future.

”The year ahead is likely to be very challenging for West Gippsland Healthcare Group, as we struggle to balance our funding allocation with the ever increasing demand for services,” they wrote.

In response to questions about Northern Health’s deficit, chief executive Greg Pullen said the network was in a ”rapidly growing, complex and diverse community” and was budgeting to break even this financial year.

Ambulance Victoria’s 2011-12 annual report posted a $3.35 million loss and said its response times continued to decline, with paramedics taking longer than 15 minutes to respond to one in four cases.

They responded within time in 75 per cent of cases, down from 77 per cent the previous year, and below the target of 85 per cent.

The Department of Health’s annual report showed that while Victorian emergency departments treated all urgent patients immediately last year, nearly a third of category three patients (people with moderate to severe blood loss or persistent vomiting) were not treated within the government’s target of 30 minutes.

Thousands of Victorians waiting for semi-urgent elective surgery also waited too long, with just 72 per cent of category two patients getting their surgery within the government’s target of 90 days.

Victorian Health Minister David Davis said his government had increased health spending to a record $13.68 billion this year and was working with the West Gippsland Healthcare Group to improve its position.

But Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said the coalition’s health funding was ”hopelessly inadequate” and meant hospitals were going backwards. ”You see the decline in the bottom line for the health services and in clinical outcomes,” he said.

The president of the Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association, Dr Stephen Parnis, said there was an ”increasing level of duress” in the health system, which was trying to cope with rising demand from a growing and ageing population.

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Getting physical with Geoffrey Edelsten

Dr Geoffrey Edelsten (left) waits for his wife Brynne (right) on the red carpet at Crown on Brownlow night.Geoffrey Edelsten has, of course, been in the news recently.
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His autobiography, Enigma, is a rollicking read. During his single days, one of his notable flings was with busty blonde Number 96 siren Abigail, who was desired by many.

Edelsten wrote: ”She was an animal in bed, a ferocious lover who left me gasping.”

Before dessert, they had dinner and Edelsten was baffled when Abigail ordered a carrot.

The wearer of bedazzling diamantes also recounts losing his virginity under the stars in the back garden of the home of the lucky girl — after she put a sheet on the wet grass.

”With the ground sheet squeaking beneath us, I became a true man.” It’s best I stop right here.Lazenby chased by two Bonds

His name is Lazenby, George Lazenby. The actor who played debonair James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service will be at the Astor tomorrow to introduce a remastered version of the 1969 film. The Australian-born man who played the famous secret agent will take part in a Q&A to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Bond franchise but fans should contain their excitement because Lazenby won’t be sharing all of himself. A note to ticket-holders says: ”Mr Lazenby will not be posing for fan photographs or signing autographs.” That is because he’s in Oz for the Armageddon Expo fan-fest and will be posing for happy snaps and signing autographs for a fee. Two fans extremely interested in Lazenby’s visit are Michael Ward and Stephen Hall, performers in the show Bond-A-Rama! who re-create scenes from 22 Bond films in 75 minutes. The stunt marathon occurs at Chapel off Chapel from October 17, a highlight being a video message from Lazenby. The duo tracked him down in LA and what could have been a mission impossible became possible after months of emailing and, finally, a ”yes”. Then Ward and Hall jumped on a plane and filmed the clip.

Lazenby may not be as forthcoming as he was in a documentary about Bond’s 50th anniversary when recalling the role’s tremendous fringe benefits. ”I don’t want to brag, but I had at least one girl a day,” he said. ”There was a tent on set where the stuntmen used to keep the mattresses they fell on in fight scenes. It was a good place to take a chick if you were in a hurry.” Lazenby is invited to Bond-A-Rama! to reminisce about his martini-sipping, pistol-pointing days and his special bond with the ladies.Goldblum still alive

Despite being declared dead in a premature tweet by Channel Nine’s Richard Wilkins, US actor Jeff Goldblum is still very much alive. We know this because 3AW’s celebrity magnet Donna Demaio is holidaying in LA, saw him and being someone who always obtains photographic evidence of her A-list encounters, she posed with Goldblum.

Her holiday scrapbook also has snaps with singer Keith Urban in LA and actor Matthew Broderick in NY. Wait, there’s more. Someone else she saw in LA was Aussie menswear designer Dom Bagnato, but this time he posed with her hubby, Michael Wooldridge.Frodo’s tennis lesson

There’s tennis elbow and an elbow for tennis. Captain Frodo, the pliable performer who squeezes his body through unstrung tennis racquets, is reaching for the sweatbands for the Melbourne Festival premiere of La Soiree tomorrow.

The ensemble comprises stars from La Clique, the triple-A avantgardists who’ll turn the Forum into a eye-popping den of cabaret, burlesque and vaudeville. Norwegian-born Frodo, the son of a magician who calls Melbourne home, headlines the show with Ursula Martinez and her vanishing hanky, David O’Mer, the ”Bath Boy”, and bewitching others.

A ticket to the premiere is so in demand that people who have not been invited have brazenly emailed the publicist to RSVP, even offering to audition for a ticket by contorting through a tennis racquet.

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Titans give Kelly last chance at big-time 

LIFELINE: Albert Kelly playing for Central Newcastle in July. Picture: Brock PerksAFTER blowing opportunities to establish himself as an NRL player with Cronulla and Newcastle, talented utility Albert Kelly has been thrown a lifeline by the Gold Coast Titans.
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Kelly hails from Macksville, the same NSW country town as his cousin Greg Inglis.

There were some who felt he was just as talented as Inglis when he headed to Parramatta straight out of high school.

But he has had a turbulent career, sacked mid-season by the Sharks in 2011 and then dumped by Newcastle after a nightclub incident this year.

Kelly has a four-month trial period to show the Titans he is serious about fulfilling his potential and that he wants to get his young life back on track.

Titans football manager Scott Clark said yesterday that the club became aware of Kelly’s plight through their many indigenous community programs.

“His manager came into contact with our guys working in the field and told us about Albert,” Clark said.

“We told him about the opportunities to work with indigenous people off the field and it all stemmed from there. Before you knew it, we were in negotiations about a playing contract as well.”

Kelly, who can play halfback or fullback, will have to tick some boxes before being offered a contract, but he has been given a chance many thought would not come his way again.

“Albert has an opportunity to train with the full-time squad over the off-season and play some trial matches during the pre-season,” Clark said.

“I spoke to him on Wednesday night and I think deep down he knows this could be his last crack, although you’d never say that. We know he can play footy, he’s a great player.

“I’ll never compare anyone to Preston Campbell but Albert’s got that freakish ability to do things that Preston would do on the field.

“He’s also had a child recently, which can sometimes put some perspective into his life.

“We’ve been able to provide a positive environment for other players who’ve had off-field issues in the past, so hopefully Albert can make the most of his opportunity here with the Titans.”

Kelly is the third off-season recruit for the Titans after 19-year-old English fullback Matt Russell signed a two-year deal and former Canberra lower-grade prop Mark Ioane a one-year deal. They will join Queensland representative David Taylor as new faces at the club when the Titans’ pre-season begins on November 5.

● Former Dragon Rangi Chase is weighing up a return to the NRL next season with St George Illawarra.

The 26-year-old Super League playmaker’s move from Castleford to Hull fell through last week due to visa problems.

Chase was the 2011 Super League player of the year.


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V’landys wants fair crack of whip with NJC members

ANSWERS: Racing NSW boss Peter V’landys. Picture: Kitty HillRACING NSW chief Peter V’landys could be in for a fiery reception when he fronts Newcastle Jockey Club’s annual general meeting on November 27.
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V’landys confirmed yesterday that he would be at the meeting.

He said he wanted to address “scaremongering and misinformation” over the $12 million Racing NSW grant to the Broadmeadow club.

The annual general meeting will start at 6pm.

“I want to put things straight . . . this is not a takeover of the NJC by Racing NSW,” V’landys said.

“I want to let members know that and answer their questions.”

The Racing NSW grant of $12 million for renovating and building on the course proper and B grass has a proviso attached – that Racing NSW has three appointees on a new-look seven-person Newcastle board.

For that to happen, the NJC constitution will have to be changed, and that needs a 75 per cent vote.

“This is not only happening in Newcastle,” V’landys said.

“We have done this all over the state.

“There has been so much scaremongering and misinformation about the money that I have to speak out about it, and the AGM is the perfect place for that.

“The appointment of three representatives on the NJC board is no reflection on the present administrators.

“We feel that this new board set-up would be skill-based.

“We will be looking for the best people in Newcastle from the business world that can help the building program and continued success for the next 20 years at Broadmeadow.

“These might be people who would not be prepared to stand for a public election but are interested in helping the NJC.

“This is a huge project rebuilding two tracks, and we need people that can get it done.

“The point is that the casting vote will be with the NJC, who will have four elected representatives on the board.”

V’landys’s comments came after a meeting this week of NJC members who are against the proposed change to the constitution.

They will present a petition to the NJC today calling for a general meeting to discuss the matter.

More than 50 people attended Tuesday’s meeting.

“The meeting was strong that the changes proposed are against what the club needs right now,” said Richard Davis, who chaired the meeting.

“Given the short time frame to communicate the meeting to the membership of just five days, the co-ordinators were gobsmacked by an attendance in excess of 50.

“Attendees included members, trainers, the press and six members of the NJC board.

“The attendance of 60 per cent of the board could be used as a yardstick to judge the meeting’s credibility.

“The main items on the advertised agenda were pertaining to future change of club governance and the involuntary redundancy of our racing manager, John Curtis,” Davis said.

“These were hot topics taking up all but 15 minutes of the two-hour meeting.”

Davis said the dislike of the “big stick approach” from Racing NSW was “most evident”.

“Is this a takeover in disguise of the NJC by Racing NSW was a question which was asked at the meeting,” Davis said.

Stable Talk, Page 87

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Let’s (not) talk about sex

BREAK out the vanilla sarsaparilla! The word misogyny was barely mentioned in Australia’s House of Pain today.
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Christopher Pyne, for whom too much is never enough, managed to spit the word once, but whatever he was trying to say was promptly swallowed by Labor’s Anthony Albanese moving that he no longer be heard.

Australia’s parliamentarians had scared themselves witless with a word that has had half the country scrambling for a dictionary.

Worse, just when the shouting had settled to a dull moan, an alleged comedian had managed to push the language alarm to code red with an alleged joke that fell flatter than a stale beer at a union smoko.

After a week of Labor accusing Tony Abbott of rampant sexism and the Abbott troops dishing it back over the government’s unfortunate choice of a texting Speaker, the Prime Minister and several senior colleagues dragged themselves to a dinner organised by the CFMEU in Parliament House on Wednesday evening.

The star turn was a wisecracker rejoicing in the stage name Fair Go For Billionaires. Ms Gillard and several colleagues, happily for them, had left before Fair Go let fly with a “joke” that would make a Peter Slipper text message blush.

It concerned Abbott and his chief of staff, Peta Credlin, and was so odious — and defamatory — no sensible newspaper would repeat it.

Treasurer Wayne Swan, Trade Minister Craig Emerson and Housing Minister Brendan O’Connor were unfortunate enough to have remained in the audience. They recognised they were in a pickle only slightly less appalling than if they had blundered in to an Alan Jones prawn night.

As word of the horror slowly seeped out, Ms Gillard and her team went on to the highest alert to distance themselves from Fair Go’s loathsome view of humour. Ms Gillard called the CFMEU’s national secretary declaring the comments so offensive and so wrong they should never have been made.

CFMEU officials said that if they’d known such a jape was to be made, they’d have torn Fair Go off the stage before he got to it.

The agency representing Fair Go, Manic Studios (of course) issued a grovelling apology to Abbott and Ms Credlin, pleading “poor judgment” and offering that “the joke was a last-minute inclusion and crossed the line”.

Liberal Senator Eric Abetz suggested Ms Gillard arrange a boycott of CFMEU publications — the sort of thing that had happened to Jones and his radio show after his bout of septic mouth.

By question time, no one was joking about anything and most of the hollering was confined to safe old standards like the carbon tax and employment figures. The Coalition tried to revive the Slipper text affair, but it never got off the ground.

Fair Go had finally killed any appetite for jibes about misogyny in the House of Pain. For which, perhaps, he ought to receive some credit. Or not.

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Chinese writer wins Nobel Prize for literature

Chinese author Mo Yan has won the Nobel Literature Prize for writing that mixes folk tales, history and the contemporary, the Swedish academy has announced.
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”Through a mixture of fantasy and reality, historical and social perspectives, Mo Yan has created a world reminiscent in its complexity of those in the writings of William Faulkner and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, at the same time finding a departure point in old Chinese literature and in oral tradition,” the Swedish academy said on Thursday.

Yan, whose real name is Guan Moye and was born in 1955, ”with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary”, the jury said.

Mo Yan has published novels, short stories and essays on various topics, and despite his social criticism is seen in his homeland as one of the foremost contemporary authors, the Nobel committee noted.

In his writing Mo Yan draws on his youthful experiences and on settings in the province of his birth.

Last year, the literature prize went to Swedish poet Tomas Transtroemer.

The literature prize is the fourth and one of the most watched announcements this Nobel season, following the prizes for medicine, physics and chemistry earlier this week.

The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced on Friday, with the field of possible winners wide open, followed by the Economics Prize on Monday, wrapping up the Nobel season.

As tradition dictates, the laureates will receive their prizes at formal ceremonies in Stockholm and Oslo on December 10, the anniversary of the death of prize creator Alfred Nobel in 1896.

Because of the economic crisis, the Nobel Foundation has slashed the prize sum to eight million Swedish kronor ($A1.18 million) per award, down from the 10 million kronor awarded since 2001.


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Djokovic powers into Shanghai quarters

Player-of-the-year honours are still to be decided between the quartet that split the season’s four major singles titles, but the consistency award is Novak Djokovic’s to lose. In just one tournament has the world No.2 failed to reach at least the semi-final stage, and he is now one match away from extending that record in Shanghai.
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Djokovic hit 12 aces, won 93 per cent of points on his first serve and did not face a break point in last night’s 6-3, 6-3 third-round domination of Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez at the Shanghai Rolex Masters, in a worthy sequel to Wednesday’s fine serving display against Grigor Dmitrov.

“I’m trying to enjoy the efficiency of my serve,” said Djokovic, who won the China Open on Sunday in his first event since losing the US Open final to Andy Murray. “I’m not very well known around the tour for big serving.  But so far in this tournament, and also in Beijing, it has been working very well for me. It has been giving me a lot of free points, a lot of confidence into the matches.”

Having relinquished the No.1 ranking to Roger Federer after Wimbledon, Djokovic is still capable of regaining it before the end of the season, although a Federer victory against Swiss compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka last night would have been enough to guarantee an unprecedented 300 weeks at No.1 for the 17-time grand slam champion.

“I think it’s fair to say it has been quite an evenly balanced year between the four, if you want to call it,” said Djokovic. “But it hasn’t been over. There’s still a few more big events to come. Still there are things up for grabs, like No.1 place in the world. It’s something that gives me a lot of motivation with Roger also.

“On the other hand, we haven’t had four (different) grand slam winners in how many years? So this is a great opportunity for the people to see a new grand slam winner, to get more attention to our sport. From that perspective it’s really good.”

Murray, who had a first round bye and a second round walkover, made a belated but brisk start to his title defence, dropping just four games against  Alexandr Dolgopolov, and will now meet tricky Czech veteran Radek Stepanek, who eliminated eighth seed John Isner 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3.

Fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was the first to reach the last eight, a 6-2, 7-6 (7-2) winner over Marcos Baghdatis. The ATP World Tour finals aspirant will next play Tomas Berdych, the fourth seed in the ongoing absence of Rafael Nadal, who reached his fourth Masters 1000 quarter-final of the season with a 6-2, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4 defeat of American Sam Querrey.

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How Lance cheated us all

TO START what was deemed a new and better doping strategy, Lance Armstrong and two of his teammates on the United States Postal Service cycling squad flew on a private jet to Valencia, Spain, in June 2000, to have blood extracted. In a hotel room there, two doctors and the team’s manager stood by to see their plan unfold, watching the blood of their best riders drip into plastic bags.
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The next month, during the Tour de France, the cyclists lay on beds with those blood bags affixed to the wall. They shivered as the cool blood re-entered their bodies. The reinfused blood would boost the riders’ oxygen-carrying capacity and improve stamina during the second of Armstrong’s seven Tour wins.

The following day, Armstrong extended his overall lead with a swift ascent of the unforgiving and seemingly unending route up Mont Ventoux.

At a race in Spain that same year, Armstrong told a teammate that he had taken testosterone, a banned substance he called ”oil”. The teammate warned Armstrong that drug-testing officials were at the team hotel, prompting Armstrong to drop out of the race to avoid being caught.

In 2002, Armstrong summoned a teammate to his apartment in Girona, Spain. He told his teammate that if he wanted to continue riding for the team he would have to follow the doping program outlined by Armstrong’s doctor, a known proponent of doping.

The rider said that the conversation confirmed that ”Lance called the shots on the team” and that ”what Lance said went”.

Those accounts were revealed yesterday in hundreds of pages of eyewitness testimony from teammates, email correspondence, financial records and laboratory analyses released by the United States Anti-Doping Agency – the quasi-governmental group charged with policing the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Olympic sports.

During all that time, Armstrong was a hero on two wheels, a cancer survivor who was making his mark as perhaps the most dominant cyclist in history.

But the evidence put forth by the anti-doping agency drew a picture of Armstrong as an infamous cheat, a defiant liar and a bully who pushed others to cheat with him so he could succeed, or be vanquished.

”The USPS Team doping conspiracy was professionally designed to groom and pressure athletes to use dangerous drugs, to evade detection, to ensure its secrecy and ultimately gain an unfair competitive advantage through superior doping practices,” the agency said.

Armstrong, who retired from cycling last year, has repeatedly denied doping. Yesterday, his spokesman said Armstrong had no comment.

When Armstrong decided in August not to contest the agency’s charges that he doped, administered doping products and encouraged doping on his Tour-winning teams, he agreed to forgo an arbitration hearing at which the evidence against him would have been aired, possibly publicly.

But that evidence, which the anti-doping agency called overwhelming and proof of the most sophisticated sports doping program in history, came out anyway.

Under the World Anti-Doping Code, the anti-doping agency was required to submit its evidence against Armstrong to the International Cycling Union.

The teammates who submitted sworn affidavits – admitting their own doping and detailing Armstrong’s involvement in it – included some of the best cyclists of Armstrong’s generation: Levi Leipheimer, Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton and George Hincapie, who claims he was clean by the time he cycled with Cadel Evans in 2011.

Their accounts painted an eerie and complete picture of the doping on Armstrong’s teams, squads that dominated the sport for nearly a decade.

”His goal led him to depend on EPO, testosterone and blood transfusions but also, more ruthlessly, to expect and to require that his teammates would likewise use drugs to support his goals if not their own,” the agency said in its 202-page report.

Drug use was casual among the top riders, and some shared EPO – the banned blood booster erythropoietin – as if borrowing cups of sugar from a neighbour. In 2005, Hincapie on two occasions asked Armstrong, ”Any EPO I could borrow?” and Armstrong obliged without question. In 2003, Armstrong showed up at Hincapie’s apartment in Spain and had his blood drawn for a future banned blood transfusion, Hincapie said, adding that he was aware that Armstrong used blood transfusions from 2001 to 2005.

Kristin Armstrong, Armstrong’s former wife, handed out cortisone tablets wrapped tightly in foil to the team at the 1998 world championships.

Riders were given water bottles containing EPO as if they were boxed lunches. Jonathan Vaughters said the bottles were carefully labelled for them: ”Jonathan – 5×2” meant five vials of 2000 international units each of EPO were tucked inside.

Once when Vaughters was in Armstrong’s room borrowing his laptop, Armstrong injected himself with EPO and said, now ”that you are doing EPO too, you can’t go write a book about it”.

Landis was asked to babysit the blood inside the refrigerator of Armstrong’s apartment, just to make sure the electricity did not go out and the blood did not spoil.

David Zabriskie, a five-time national time-trial champion, recalled serenading Johan Bruyneel, the long-time team manager, with a song about EPO, to the tune of Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze.

At the same time the drug use was nonchalant, it was also carefully orchestrated by Armstrong, team management and team staff, the anti-doping agency said. ”Mr Armstrong did not act alone,” the agency said in its report. ”He acted with the help of a small army of enablers, including doping doctors, drug smugglers, and others within and outside the sport and on his team.”

Armstrong relied on the Italian doctor Michele Ferrari for training and doping plans, several riders said. Armstrong continued to use Ferrari even after he publicly claimed in 2004 – and testified under oath in an insurance claims case – that he had severed all business ties with Ferrari.

The anti-doping agency noted that Armstrong had sent payments of more than $US1 million to Ferrari from 1996 through 2006, based on financial documents discovered in an Italian doping investigation.

As an example of the extreme care the team would take to avoid positive tests, the doctor suggested that the riders inject EPO directly into their veins instead of under their skin, which would lessen the possibility that the drug would be picked up by tests. He pushed the use of hypoxic chambers, which he said also reduced the effectiveness of the EPO test.

The team’s doctors came up with fake maladies so that riders could receive an exemption to use drugs like cortisone, several riders said. When Armstrong tested positive for cortisone during the 1999 Tour, Armstrong produced a backdated prescription for it, for saddle sores. Hamilton said he knew that was a lie.

Riders said they felt that they needed to dope to stay at the top of the sport and stay on the team. Armstrong was instrumental in the hiring and firing of team personnel and pressured riders to stay on a doping program, the anti-doping agency said.

The evidence made it clear, the agency said, that Armstrong’s drug use was extensive, and that he also was the lynchpin holding the team’s doping program together. It said that is why it barred him from Olympic sports for life and stripped him of his record seven Tour victories.

”It was not enough that his teammates give maximum effort on the bike, he also required that they adhere to the doping program outlined for them or be replaced,” the anti-doping agency said. ”He was not just a part of the doping culture on his team, he enforced and reinforced it.”


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Battle heats up for W-League team spots

NEWCASTLE Jets W-League coach Wayne O’Sullivan has challenged his players to demand selection in round one with a strong performance tonight against the Herald Women’s Premier League Select side.
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The match at Wanderers Oval from 6pm will be the Jets’ final trial before their W-League season opener against Sydney FC on October 21 at Leichhardt Oval.

The WPL side will be coached by championship-winning Adamstown mentor Shelley Youman and comprises players from Rosebud, Merewether United, Charlestown City Blues and Football Mid North Coast.

Competition for spots is healthy in the Jets camp after two modified trials against the Sky Blues, a 4-3 loss and 2-all draw, and intraclub matches.

“We had an internal game last night among ourselves which was very competitive and it gave us another look at the final pieces and who is going to play where and who wants to be the first in line,” O’Sullivan said yesterday.

“So tomorrow night is very much about doing the right things and people showing they’re ready.

“The final pieces will go into place next week, so I really want people to put their hand up and say, ‘I wanna start first round’.”

All bar two of the 19-woman squad will be available tonight.

Madeline Searl (strained knee) and Mikaela Howell (thigh strain) will be rested to overcome injuries, but the remainder of the squad is expected to see game time.

Tonight’s trial will also give local fans their first glimpse at US imports Tori Huster, Tiffany Boshers and Angela Salem.

Salem and Huster will play in the midfield and Boshers is expected to push further forward on the left wing.

“They’ve been great for the group from a cultural point of view,” O’Sullivan said.

The imports were all leaders on the field and brought experience which had showed in training, he said.

Wayne O’Sullivan.

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EDITORIAL: Ideology and the jobless

MONTHLY unemployment figures should be treated with caution.
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The sample size used by the bureau of statistics in its regular survey is small and the figures are consequently best viewed as a series over time.

But that hasn’t stopped the government and the opposition from sparring over the latest set of numbers.

The September figures showed a jobless rate of 5.4 per cent, up from 5.1 per cent in August. This is the highest unemployment rate since April 2010.

The government says more people are in work than ever before, and a small swing upward in the jobless rate is all due to the Coalition in Queensland sacking swathes of public servants. Feeding this assertion is a high Queensland jobless rate of 6.3 per cent.

Extrapolating from this assertion, the government has warned voters that “this is what Liberals do”, adding that opposition leader Tony Abbott would – if elected prime minister – soon be drafting thousands of redundancy notices for commonwealth government employees.

Liberal shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, has come back at the government with the counter-argument that Labor is to blame for the higher unemployment because it has fostered a climate of low business confidence.

After that, the argument splits along the usual ideological lines, with Mr Hockey defending the Queensland job cuts and insisting that getting that state’s budget back into surplus is a better strategy than using public expenditure to bolster employment.

Mr Abbott, predictably, has declared that jobs are being lost because of the economic effects of the carbon tax.

Hollowed economy

Politics aside, a rise in unemployment has been predicted for some time.

The mining boom – untempered by any effective resource tax – drove up labour costs and the dollar, hollowing out the non-mining sectors of the economy.

Warnings went largely ignored, perhaps because some policymakers believed the process would reverse when the boom eased. It hasn’t, at least partly because massive programs of money-printing by foreign governments have created a “race to the bottom” in currency values, leaving Australia isolated as an attractive high-yield haven for overseas investors trying to preserve the value of their money.

Tragically, neither side of politics has managed to espouse any vision to combat this problem, leaving it up to the reserve bank to do what little it can by gradually cutting interest rates.

Even more tragically, it’s likely that neither side will be bold enough to act usefully in the near future, with Labor having badly mishandled parts of its stimulus package in the wake of the first round of the global financial crisis, and the Coalition philosophically wedded to notions of austerity.

Most tragically of all, that means unemployment figures may get worse before they get better. Instead of arguing ideology, the nation’s leaders ought to consider the human cost that possibility implies.

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