2018.12

No conscience

WE CAN’T let this happen.
Nanjing Night Net

First we heard from psychiatrist Dr Peter Young, for three years in charge of mental health of people in detention, that the treatment of asylum seekers is “akin to torture”.

This policy is deliberately intended to force people to return to their country of origin.

Now we hear that 1000 refugees are to be dumped in Cambodia, a country so poor that hundreds of people make their living by scavenging on the garbage dumps for 14 hours a day to scrape together enough to earn the equivalent of $2.

What future can there possibly be for refugees sent to Cambodia?

What a different story it would be were these same refugees white Caucasians instead of people escaping persecution from Afghanistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, Iraq.

To still any conscience we might have, refugees have been given labels like “illegals”, “queue-jumpers”, “economic refugees” and that most scary label: “potential terrorists”.

Where is our nation’s conscience that we spend over $4 million a year keeping people in conditions that, within a very short time, give them permanent health problems?

Can we live with this?

— SARA STRONG, Launceston.

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


$1 million marina query

INDEPENDENT auditors will be called in to decide if Robe District Council gave a “million dollar gift” to the Robe Marina project.
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Independent auditors will be called in to decide if Robe District Council gave a “million dollar gift” to the Robe Marina project.

The council last week voted to accede to a request from former mayor and current council audit committee chair Will Peden to have Galpins Accountants Auditors and Business Consultants investigate its dealings with the marina corporation.

Mr Peden has for some months been agitating for an independent audit on the council’s involvement with the Lake Butler project, particularly focussing on the origin and current status of a $1 million “loan” from the council to the marina corporation some time before June, 2013.

He has alleged that in June, 2013, current council CEO Roger Sweetman cancelled the loan, effectively gifting $1 million of ratepayer money to the marina corporation.

At last week’s meeting, Mr Peden reiterated his allegations – claiming that former CEO Bill Hender had confirmed to him that the loan existed – and demanded an independent audit.

CEO Mr Sweetman responded to the allegations in a written report, explaining that the loan had been cancelled because he couldn’t find any paperwork confirming that it existed, and mayor Peter Riseley also referred to the issue in his mayor’s report.

After Mr Sweetman’s report was read to the meeting – attended by five of the six councillors and a small public gallery – councillors voted in favour of a motion to employ Galpins to do an independent audit on its financial dealings with the marina corporation.

Mr Sweetman said it was likely the auditors would be able to complete the audit in time to table at the council’s September meeting.

THE ALLEGATIONS

Mr Peden alleged that the council loaned $1 million to the marina group “to bill the marina project for ratepayer money that was spent on the marina” during the term of former CEO Mr Hender. Mr Hender confirmed this to Mr Peden.

He said the council had been receiving interest of $50,000 per year from the loan, but “now under the Sweetman administration ratepayers were getting nothing in interest each year and he wants councillors to endorse his action where ratepayers don’t get their million dollars back either”.

Mr Peden said the community was going to be justifiably angry when they found out the $1 million of their loaned money had been written off.

“When the whole community find out that their money has been given to berth holders without any consultation they are likely to be very angry, upset and demand their money back. They don’t care about internal paperwork, they just want their $1 million back.

“They are going to demand to know who is responsible for cancelling their loan.”

Mr Peden further alleged that in June, 2013, the accounts of the marina committee were merged with council’s accounts, “making it easier for marina expenses to be paid for by ratepayers.

“I can’t find a council resolution that authorised this. Marina expenses no longer appear to be added to their loan, interest on the loan is no longer paid.”

Mr Peden suggested the community be surveyed to find its opinion on the question: “$1 million loan to the marina project – keep or gift?”, along with other related questions.

THE CEO’S RESPONSE

Mr Sweetman countered Mr Peden’s claims by explaining he was only following correct accounting procedures in dealing with the “loan”.

“In the outset I can assure elected members that council staff have not written off any loans, nor gifted any annual interest charges relating to council’s finances or the marina’s finances.

“The loan that is being referred to by Mr Peden is not a loan but a liability which has been reported to the marina committee and council in the assets and liabilities statements for the operation of the marina.”

Mr Sweetman said council staff had researched all relevant minute books and financial statements and “can find no instruction from council to establish and report on an internal loan between council and the operation of the marina”.

He explained that shifting the operational accounts for the marina onto the same system as the council was merely for convenience so there weren’t two different recording systems, and “the transfer of the method of recording transactions has had no impact upon the ability to report the marina liability”.

After reading his report at the council meeting, Mr Sweetman added the comment that an independent audit would be “very beneficial” to ensure complete transparency.

THE MAYOR’S COMMENTS

Mayor Mr Riseley said the council had already previously answered a series of questions from Mr Peden with a 12-page reply, and senior administrative staff and elected members had also met with him for detailed questioning, but “it appears Mr Peden still has issue with some of the material”.

“Consequently the elected members feel the most appropriate pathway forward is to have an audit response from external auditors Galpins to the concerns raised.

“While it is unusual for a response to this type of comment by me in a mayor’s report, there is the knowledge that the marina project has in the past been very controversial.

“The current elected members are very aware of the requirements for accountability, due diligence, transparency and good governance; they are committed to serving this community well.

“The independent response by external auditors to the concerns will provide a response unbiased by council.

“The marina project has moved forwards a long way since its inception. Robe as a community has moved forward, it is important to remember the past and difficult times that were faced by our community.

“Robe is once again a focussed coherent society with visionary plans based on community input for its future.

“When there are issues there must be full disclosure and answers. United and together Robe will continue to prosper.”

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


LETTERS: Opal card planning farce

Nanjing Night Net

NEW WAY: The writer says acquiring an Opal card from a Lake Macquarie retailer is hard work. Picture: Dallas Kilponen

TREASURER Joe Hockey thinks poor people don’t drive cars.

State Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian obviously thinks poor people don’t catch trains.

On September 1, many rail tickets will no longer be sold at railway stations.

We are expected to use the new Opal card.

However, unless you have access to the internet, buying or topping up Opal cards is extremely difficult.

Between Gosford and Newcastle there is not one Opal card seller close to any railway station.

They are not available at railway stations and there is not a single retailer, for example, in Morisset.

On telephoning Opal I am advised how accessible these retailers are supposed to be, but as the conversation continues, I am soon met with the same response: You will have to apply online – and wait a week, and give us your bank details!

Surely someone should have thought this through a little better. Opal card is a farce.

– Jonathan Noble, Windermere Park

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


Council nabs Wyee Road dumper

CRACKDOWN: A pile of rubbish including asbestos sheeting found dumped in bushland off Wyee Road.LAKE Macquarie City Council has delivered on its promise to crack down on illegal dumping, fining one offender $1500 after linking him to material found at a dumping site off Wyee Road.
Nanjing Night Net

A council spokesperson said the offender was identified through evidence at the site, and admitted it at interview.

His fine was issued for the transport of waste of more than one cubic metre.

“It is important to note that the offender was only linked to one pile of waste; there are numerous other waste piles at the site for which no offender has yet been identified,” the spokesperson said.

Penalties for the illegal disposal of asbestos range from $1500 to $125,000 for an individual.

For a corporation, the penalties range from $5000 to $1 million.

Lake Macquarie City Council is one of 10 councils in the region to join forces with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to create the Hunter-Central Coast Regional Illegal Dumping (RID) Squad.

The state government-funded squad will be a co-operative body across the councils that, with the help of the EPA, will investigate and clean up illegal dumping, introduce prevention measures at dumping hot spots, and run information campaigns.

The council spokesperson said council rangers involved in the Wyee Road investigation will join the RID squad.

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


Year Santa forgot Thompson Square

The big tree in Thompson Square, Windsor will shine brightly this Christmas despite limited funding from Hawkesbury Council.
Nanjing Night Net

Four organisations applied for assistance totalling $22,640 for Christmas lights and decorations this year, of which the council will provide $8000.

The recommendation – delivered at last week’s meeting – gives Windsor Business Group (WBG), Kurrajong Community Forum and Hawkesbury City Chamber of Commerce $1500 each while Richmond Mainstream Inc will receive $3000.

WBG president Di Sherrington said the group was disappointed not to receive the full $5000 requested, and would use the funding towards supplementing existing lighting stock for the Thompson Square tree.

“We’re looking at getting extra rope lights to put in the tree that match the existing ones that the council already has there, so both sides and all around will be decorated this year,’’ she said.

Secretary Gae Kelly said they would fund the $3500 shortfall.

“We do our own fund-raising to promote tourism in the area and the lights are the perfect tourism attraction,’’ Ms Kelly said.

‘‘We see that tree as one of the major focuses of Windsor because it’s at the gateway – it’s the first thing you see when you’re coming in that side so it’s got to be perfect to light up that end of town.

‘‘So we decided if we don’t get all of it we’ll subsidise.

“Council will provide the cherry-picker to string up the lights and we’re very grateful to them for that. It will save us a lot of money.

“The tree will look great this year.”

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