Christmas spirit is alive and well

CENTRAL West Care Cafe is proof that the Christmas spirit is alive and well in Bathurst.
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The cafe has been operating out of the girl guides hall on Mondays and Fridays for over a month, providing free lunches to any person in Bathurst in need.

After a month of hard work, Central West Care Cafe director Stephanie Stocks said the cafe is averaging about 40 visitors over each lunch period.

“Things have been going really well and we’re particularly happy to be providing the meals so close to Christmas,” she said.

“We even have a number of people wanting Christmas hampers, and we’re getting a larger variety of people each time we have lunch.”

Ms Stocks said the message is finally getting across that the cafe is for everyone – not just homeless people.

“We have a lot of families, and even people visiting Bathurst to see relatives in gaol come in and have lunch,” she said.

While the cafe is operating so well, Ms Stocks said it would be great if the group of volunteers could eventually provide meals in the evening.

Full story in the Western Advocate.

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Hot rods rev up Bathurst streets

BATHURST became a hub of perfectly polished, meticulously maintained machinery at the weekend as almost 150 hot rods cruised into town.
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The hot rods and their owners were in Bathurst for the 27th annual Rod Run, organised by Street Rodders United, of Orange.

Entrants came from across NSW and the ACT including Nowra, Canberra and the Central Coast.

Proceeds from the event go to CareFlight.

Street Rodders United president Bill May said gate takings were expected to be slightly down on last year, but the club still hoped to raise close to $1000 for CareFlight.

The CareFlight helicopter made a stop at Bathurst Showground on Saturday for the occasion, during which the gates were opened to the public for the Show and Shine.

Mr May said the quality of the vehicles was exceptional, with some beautiful machinery on show.

The “Top Rod” of the run went to Tom Dennerley of Sydney, for his 1934 Ford Coupe.

Full story in the Western Advocate.

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How to deal with a strong China?

AUSTRALIA has three big advantages in dealing with an ever more powerful China. The trick for the next government, and its successors, will be to use the leverage these natural and induced advantages provide, while avoiding a significant pitfall Australia may be creating for itself.The country’s most obvious advantage is the structure of its economic relationship with China. The US trade and financial-flow imbalance with China might not be as one-sidedly disastrous for the US as it initially appears, but making that argument requires some leaps of faith and many complicated comparisons of benefits and losses.How much more comfortable to be in Australia’s structural position. The main sources of China’s present and future economic dynamism – infrastructure, construction, manufacturing – naturally drive demand for Australia’s primary-product exports. And the main sources of Australia’s present and future non-commodity wealth – advanced services, tourism, higher education, entertainment, software – are to varying degrees sheltered from direct Chinese competition.A second advantage might seem associated with Kevin Rudd’s rise but actually long predates him – and should outlast him too. For as long as modern China (and Japan) have been important to the Western world, Australian scholars, journalists, diplomats and businesspeople have been disproportionately influential in interpreting Asian developments. Hundreds of Australians have significantly shaped the outside world’s understanding of China. Presumably Australia’s location, its tradition of exposure to Asian cultures and resulting expertise, and its freedom from the superpower neuroses that complicate US dealings with China (among other countries), should provide an enduring edge in sophistication.The third advantage is one that Rudd deserves direct credit for. It was not his famed emphasis on language study but one of the Chinese words he used in his big speech in Beijing soon after taking office. It would have been natural for this to be purely a feel-good celebratory event welcoming a pengyou, a known “friend of China”. But the news from the visit, inside China, where I was living, and worldwide, was Rudd’s fairly gutsy emphasis on his intention that Australia be China’s zhengyou, a “true friend” who would be loyal enough to raise unpleasant truths. That was a pithier formulation of the policy the US has been trying to express for 30 years: we should work with China wherever possible, and criticise it wherever necessary. It positions Australia well for a relationship of respect but not servility towards China.So the next government will inherit a trade situation with China that is strong and not necessarily fated to weaken and the right attitude of friendly independence towards the mixed goods and bads of China’s modern achievement. What could go wrong?Strange as it may sound, the most worrisome could be signs that the Australian public, and parts of the elite, are losing their minds about China. Or, to put it more politely, they are having trouble keeping China’s strengths and weaknesses in perspective and therefore may misjudge the choices available to Australia.The leading indicator is the Lowy Institute poll of national opinion, which two months ago found 55 per cent of Australians believed China was now the world’s leading economic power, and 46 per cent believed China’s growth posed a threat. The same poll found three-quarters thought China’s rise had been good for Australia’s economy.China is indisputably the world’s fastest-growing major economy, and already the leader in certain fields – most recently, total energy consumption, with a population four times greater than the US but an economy less than half as large. To watch the almost overnight construction of subway lines, airports, and major trunk roads suggests the Chinese system is omni-competent. But that many Australians think China is already dominant suggests a basic unfamiliarity with China’s realities and their effect on the rest of the world.For instance, the environmental situation in China is truly disastrous. China’s central government itself says so, and officials realise that this is the next emergency for them to address. China still has twice as many peasants as Japan has people, and its per capita economic output is barely one tenth of Japan’s. Economic planners across China understand that if it is to rise above the three pillars of its recent growth – construction projects and low-wage manufacturing – it will need to foster the elements of a “knowledge economy”, from strong universities to enforceable contracts, patents and copyrights.One indicator of the challenge: Jiao Tong University, in Shanghai, produces rankings of the top universities in the world, based on research output. Western universities, mainly US and British, dominate the rankings; but Japan usually has a half dozen in the top 100, and Australia consistently has three, Sydney, Melbourne and the ANU. No Chinese university has ever been in the top 200. Another indicator: start counting how many Chinese corporate brand names you can think of, and see how many fingers you have left over when you stop.The US and European economies have serious problems, but together they account for somewhere between three and five times more economic activity than China. Any sensible person has to recognise China’s dynamism and bet on its continued success. But any rational person has to recognise its modest starting point and the obstacles still ahead. And as for the realms of influence beyond the economic, it is striking how far the Chinese system still has to go in developing either its “soft” or “hard” power. What was the last big struggle for world opinion the Chinese government won?The Chinese military is growing but the gap it has to close is immense. Its most recent major combat experience was a bloody defeat by the Vietnamese 30 years ago.What is the danger of Australians confusing China’s dynamism with its achievement of dominance? Having spent much of my journalistic life arguing Westerners should take China far more seriously than they do, and prepare to feel comfortable in a world in which China plays a big (though not yet dominant) part, I believe the next Australian government should deepen rather than reduce the country’s range of interactions with China.But the risk of premature fear of an all-powerful Chinese giant is that Australia may underestimate its own strengths and advantages; feel threatened when, like the US and Europe, it needs instead mainly to feel challenged; and over-react diplomatically, culturally, and militarily in a way that makes it harder to achieve the goals that should be within its reach. It would also jeopardise its potential middleman role, connecting China and other Asian powers with Australia’s Western allies. Rudd may have oversold the power that came with this role, but it represents potential that Australia should not throw away.Usually an election is a welcome opportunity for a new start and a change of course. When it comes to China, I hope the next government adjusts in detail, but mainly Australia should recognise that it is on the right path. Many other countries wish they could say as much.James Fallows is Chair in US Media at the US Studies Centre, national correspondent for The Atlantic, and author of Postcards from Tomorrow Square.
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Rape charges dropped after evidence gleaned from iPhone

A MAN’S business and reputation are tainted, a young woman’s HSC and mental health are in tatters and prosecutors have been ordered to pay more than $30,000 in legal costs for a bungled rape investigation on Sydney’s northern beaches.But it could have been worse still, if not for the trove of secrets stored in one of the world’s most popular mobile phones.In what may be the first time an iPhone’s elephantine memory has saved someone accused of a serious crime, deleted data retrieved by a leading surveillance expert appears to have led to the dropping of five rape charges against a Sydney man.Robert*, in his 60s, was a property manager to the rich and famous and a dog breeder.Jessica* was the 18-year-old daughter of a friend, who never knew her father and dreamed of working with animals.Their friendship blossomed as they spent mornings training his prize German shepherds. He gave her a $20,000 dog. For three months, they had sex repeatedly en route to dog shows and at a Whale Beach mansion where Elle Macpherson has stayed.In August last year she accused him of rape. It was – and remains – a case of his word against hers.Robert lost a job with the Catholic Church, from which he had earned more than $100,000 over the past three years, and was told he could no longer worship there.The investigating officer, Detective Senior Constable Karen Hennessy, seized the $20,000 dog, saying it was relevant to the investigation.The only thing standing between Robert and five sentences of up to 14 years were the messages from her on his iPhone, which he had deleted to conceal the relationship.Robert’s lawyer, John Gooley from Collins & Thompson solicitors, commissioned Gary Coulthart, a former covert operations policeman and ICAC surveillance expert, to plumb the depths of Robert’s iPhone.Mr Coulthart retrieved more than 300 deleted texts and phone calls from the alleged victim, some of which appeared to undermine the allegations.Prosecutors later withdrew the charges and have been ordered to pay $30,056 of Robert’s legal costs.”Without the ability of Coulthart to drag the content out, a man’s life may have been ruined,” Mr Gooley said. ”[iPhone evidence is] a bit like DNA. It can work both ways.”From a cohort of about 20 people in Australia with the equipment and know-how to do this sort of forensic work, Mr Coulthart said it was the first case he had seen in which an iPhone investigation commissioned by a defence lawyer has led to charges being dropped.”Usually [when] you get engaged by the defence and they say, ‘This person says they didn’t do it’, you find evidence that they have done it,” he said.Apple has sold more than 50 million iPhones since 2007 but few users know how much information they collect. The keyboard logging cache means an expert can retrieve anything typed on it for up to 12 months. Its internal mapping and ”geotags” attached to photos indicate where a user has been.An iPhone has up to 32 gigabytes of data that can be ”imaged” or decoded with the right equipment, Mr Coulthart said, even if it has been deleted.Robert wants police to investigate Jessica for causing a false investigation and is considering civil action against the police and the church.”It’s put huge pressure on my home life and on my business,” he said. ”I had to go through the denigration of being charged and I’ve never been in trouble in my life.”Jessica did not want to comment.A spokeswoman for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions said it withdrew the charges because the victim did not want to proceed and that ”the brief of evidence had not been given to the ODPP at the time this matter was withdrawn”. A police spokeswoman said that, for operational reasons, it was inappropriate to comment except to say that the alleged victim had told police she did not wish to pursue the matter.*Not their real names
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Police target crime on the waterfront

ORGANISED crime and corruption on the waterfront will be targeted by an elite police taskforce in the first systematic attempt to root out crime in the maritime sector in the past three decades.The joint federal and state police taskforce – the first attack on waterfront crime since the 1980 Costigan royal commission – will increase pressure on the federal government to close gaps in its maritime security regime.Waterfront security is also a challenge in Australia’s fight against terrorism; police intelligence has linked some local terrorist cells with crime on the waterfront and the importation of drugs and weapons.The taskforce follows long-held concerns by senior police that crime syndicates can easily evade detection when importing drugs or weapons in shipping containers because of help from corrupt maritime insiders.The concerns are backed up in a confidential police document circulated last year among law enforcement officials in Queensland that reveals how a Chinese crime syndicate was able to recruit a well-connected waterfront insider to move contraband through major Australian ports.The Herald has confirmed that despite numerous criminal convictions for weapons possession and theft, this maritime worker still holds a federal government maritime security identification card, giving him access to sensitive maritime areas.Revelations of the launching of the taskforce come just days after the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, announced a $93 million plan to increase the number of air and sea cargo consignments that were screened when coming into Australia.He accused Labor of stripping away tough port security measures, although several senior law enforcement officers have indicated that the lax security at wharves over several decades is a result of bipartisan negligence.The Port Crime Task Force will be led by the Australian Federal Police and will include investigators from the Australian Customs Service, the NSW Police and the NSW Crime Commission, and will focus primarily on NSW.Police intelligence documents obtained by the Herald suggest that organised crime has infiltrated most ports in NSW, Queensland and Victoria.A senior policing official said the taskforce was formed to deal with the failure of government agencies, including customs, to have a meaningful impact on cliques of maritime insiders who work closely with crime groups.The problem is exacerbated by poor co-operation between the private and government security providers and the fact that some maritime workers, including freight forwarders and customs brokers, are not required to obtain maritime security identification cards held by other port workers.Examples of the lax security provided by some private security firms hired by port users is highlighted in leaked documents from the maritime giant Patrick.An email in March last year from a Patrick’s manager shows him warning security subcontractors at the Port of Townsville that a “good source” has tipped him off that a surprise government security inspection was imminent.The national secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia, Paddy Crumlin, said he supported the inquiry as long as it was not a witch-hunt that targeted ”Australian waterfront workers or Australian seafarers”.”[It needs to] reach out broadly to cover foreign seafarers and cover container parks and all areas in the freight-forwarding industry,” said Mr Crumlin.Earlier this year the federal government increased the number of offences that can be used to deny maritime workers an ID card. This happened after the Herald revealed in September that a report of the Office of Transport Safety had found the ID card system was failing.
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Does the tax system make any sense?

FIRST-TERM governments can’t help themselves. Bob Hawke, John Howard and Kevin Rudd all made big tax reform announcements in their first term – or in Rudd’s case, his only term. This cruelled Hawke’s and Rudd’s honeymoon popularity and nearly lost Howard what should have been a ”honeymoon” election.We’re constantly seduced by the idea of approaching the tax system afresh and, thus emboldened and enlightened, sweeping away its maddening perversities. If only. Wresting more than 25¢ from every dollar people earn is no picnic. Volumes of legislation go into preventing people wriggling out of the net. And when taxpayers aren’t wriggling, they’re kicking and screaming to prevent the community getting hold of their money.So what chance is there of giving a comprehensive review a clean sheet of paper? The ”root and branch” review of taxation ended up with progressively more roots ripped and branches lopped. Still, the Henry review provides excellent benchmarks for reform of sufficient ambition, although it contemplates their influence over years. Some ideas the panel liked but thought the government wouldn’t like them. These ideas surface, but often ”between the lines”. And in some places, Henry gets it wrong.The economics of taxation revolve around raising sufficient revenue to fund government’s myriad functions while doing as little economic damage as possible. Taxes harm an economy when people change their behaviour, either to avoid tax or in response to incentives. The panel tried to integrate better our tax and family payments system to minimise incentives for bad behaviour, leading to proposals such as increasing the tax-free threshold from $6000 to $25,000.Business taxes change behaviour too. Capital is more mobile than labour, so taxing it is more costly. Studies show a strong negative correlation between company tax rates and economic growth. Henry wanted our company tax rate cut from 30 to 25 per cent but left a way to be more ambitious between the lines.The review made a big play for expanding taxes where they didn’t change behaviour, or changed it for the better. Taxing resources is in the first category. The resources can’t move so we can tax our heads off, as long as we leave miners with sufficient returns to get that dirt out of the ground and to minimise the cost of doing so. Henry’s proposed resource rent tax met those requirements admirably. So does its replacement, although less so.On land, Henry wants to switch taxation towards annual taxes and away from stamp duty, which discourages people from moving house to suit their changing circumstances.There are also ways to raise revenue while changing behaviour for the better, like changing registration to road user charges. Road charges push people towards more efficient and environmentally friendly public transport and car pooling. Henry wants to tax congestion, by charging more on tolls at peak hour , and similarly, a carbon tax raises revenue while reducing pollution.Then there’s Henry between the lines. Dividend imputation passes company tax to shareholders, who use imputation credits to pay their income tax. It reduces ”double taxation” but is it cost effective? Despite its cost – $25 billion next financial year – it achieves next to nothing.It’s not available to foreigners, but they’re the ones with real money. Only a fraction of global capital comes to Australia. If we dumped imputation, we could get the company tax to about 19 per cent. That would increase the share of global portfolios we received. Foreign investment would surge, reduce the cost of capital and boost investment in factories, mines, tourist resorts, privately run infrastructure, etc.The report contemplates a partial move towards this, presumably as if a job’s worth doing it’s worth half doing. If we half did it, shareholders would be compensated because company tax would be lower and their shares would surge in value as foreigners bid for them.The Henry panel also thought death duties were a good idea. They don’t distort behaviour much and are the acme of fairness. Why should your chances in life depend on your skill in choosing your parents? While death duties strike fear into politicians’ hearts and loathing in the residents of Bellevue Hill, need it worry the rest of us? What if we collected them only from estates worth, say, more than $2 million and used the revenue to lower tax elsewhere?The virtue of Henry’s elegance is keeping fundamental issues clear as the ideas navigate messy compromises. But it can be overdone. Often a good idea can be introduced partially. Tax-free thresholds and caps could begin normalising good taxes in political no-go zones.Family homes are exempt from various taxes, including capital gains. It makes little economic sense but is electorally impossible to overturn. But why extend it to the very wealthy in houses worth more than, say, $4 million?We could also cap landlords claiming negative gearing against other income to, say, 20 per cent of the value of their interest. Such makeshifts could save plenty of revenue and keep the issues in play for continuing deliberation.Nicholas Gruen is the founding chief executive of Lateral Economics and Peach Financial.
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Online Advocate popular

THE Western Advocate’s website, bathurst.yourguide南京夜网.au, attracted almost 35,000 viewings during November., These figures show an average of 1160 page views per day with people visiting the site to get information about news, sport, classifieds, property and motor vehicles for sale., The popularity of the site reflects confidence in the newspaper’s readership in and about Bathurst, affirming the Western Advocate as Bathurst’s best news medium., Visitors to the website have increased at a steady pace since the site was established around two years ago, with 30,000 viewings of the website in June., News was the main reason people visited the site during November, followed by sport and classified advertising pages., Western Advocate editor Sandra Bates said she was pleased more people were accessing both the website and purchasing the newspaper., “It means we are providing information to a wider section of the community,” she said., Full story in the Western Advocate.
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‘Phone scam operating state-wide

POLICE are warning ‘phone owners to be vigilant about letting people they don’t know use their ‘phones after a ‘phone scam was found operating throughout the state., Bathurst detectives issued the warning after people have been caught out by the scam, and now face ‘phone bills of up to $500 per call., Detectives said the operators have set up 1900 telephone accounts, approached unsuspecting people, telling them their car has broken down and requesting to use either their home ‘phone or mobile ‘phone., The scam occurs when the caller dials the 1900 number which is established to charge at $100 per minute., After staying on the line for a couple of minutes the callers have offered the ‘phone owner one dollar for using their phone before leaving. , Detectives said ‘phone owners haven’t realised until receiving their ‘phone bills with a three minute call costing them $300., While the problem has not been reported in Bathurst, police are still warning people to be vigilant.
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A city on the move

CONFIDENCE in Bathurst’s economy is continuing to soar.
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Figures released by Bathurst City Council are testimony to the fact we are a city on the move with a massive $57.7 million worth of developments approved in the last financial year.

This compares to $46 million the previous year.

And the trend shows no sign of abating as 2002 draws to a close with more than $26.5 million in developments processed by council from August through to November.

This includes $8.9 million for August (87 developments); $7.8 million in September (78); $6.3 million for October (83); and $3.5 million for November (83).

The growth, according to council’s director of planning and development David Shaw, shows Bathurst is benefiting from a diverse economy.

“Because Bathurst has such a range of employment opportunities the city is able to avoid the highs and lows many other regional centres suffer,” he said.

“Education, industry, tourism and the rural sectors all play an important role in this regard because it gives our job base an even spread.

“It’s a far cry from a city which, for example, might rely totally on an abattoir for jobs.”

Mr Shaw said council approved 795 development applications in 2001-2002, including 209 new homes worth more than $31 million; 99 home additions worth $3 million; and 49 patios worth $1.4 million.

Full story in the Western Advocate.

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Major upgrade project at waste management centre

A WASTE transfer station comprising a long concrete pit and a bin for recyclable material in a covered shed is to be built inside the entrance to Bathurst tip., Part of a major upgrade of the city’s waste management centre, which to date includes the construction of a weigh bridge and leachate dams in the gully below the tipping site, the transfer station will reduce wind-blown litter and dust., At a cost of $597,996 Eodo Pty Ltd has won a tender to build a steel clad building enclosed on three sides., Up to 10 cars or light vehicles will be able to unload simultaneously in a controlled environment., Waste to be buried will then be transferred to the tip face and buried promptly with fewer movements at the tip site and less waste left uncovered., The transfer station will be part funded from loans and the increased tipping charges council has already introduced., Construction on the transfer station is scheduled to start in late January.
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