Controversial: Kent Johns welcomes the ICAC’s findings in 2013. Picture: Chris LaneSutherland Shire councillor and former mayor Kent Johns is considering quitting local government after being elected to the state executive of the Liberal Party.
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Cr Johns was elected urban vice-president by state council delegates, replacing Trent Zimmerman, who became president after Chris Downy resigned from the position.

‘‘It’s an honour and a new challenge,’’ Cr Johns said.

‘‘There is a change in focus from being a public official to a more operational role in the Liberal Party.’’

Cr Johns said he was undecided about running in the Sutherland Shire Council election in September next year.

‘‘I am considering all options,’’ he said.

‘‘The reason I stepped down as mayor was to focus on running for [the state executive] role.

‘‘I didn’t think I could be mayor, run three companies and be vice- president of the Liberal Party.

‘‘If you do any job, you have to commit 100 per cent and that’s what I expect to do.’’

Cr John said he hadn’t considered whether to seek Liberal Party pre-selection for next year’s federal election.

There has been increased speculation he may challenge Hughes MP Craig Kelly, or he could run again in the neighbouring seat of Werriwa.

Cr Johns said his election as vice-president ensured Sutherland Shire continued to be represented on the Liberal Party’s state executive following the departure of Mr Downy, a former MP for Sutherland.

CONTROVERSIAL CAREER

Kent Johns has had a controversial career in local government.

He started as a Labor Party member of Rockdale Council, and served as mayor, before quitting the party ‘‘in disgust’’ when corruption by ALP colleagues was exposed.

He moved his home across the Georges River and was first elected to Sutherland Shire Council in 2004, where he made an immediate impact.

In 2005, Miranda MP Barry Collier described him in Parliament as ‘‘the doyen of development’’.

Cr Johns was mayor in 2012-13, but did not recontest the position, and withdrew from the pre-selection race for the Miranda by-election, following allegations of councillors doing favours for developers and Liberal Party donors in preparing the new local environmental plan (LEP).

He returned as mayor in 2014 after anindependent inquiry supported the thrust of the draft LEP and the Independent Commission Against Corruption found media reports‘‘were speculative in nature and there was no indication that any of the council officials had engaged in corrupt conduct or acted with corrupt motive’’.

In July this year, Cr Johns called for an amalgamation of Sutherland Shire and St George councils.

This month, Fairfax Media reported aconvicted drug supplier, Tony ‘‘The Falcon’’ Atanasovski, attended a Liberal Party fund-raiser organised by Cr Johns before the last State election for Holsworthy candidate Melanie Gibbons.Cr Johns told the Leader the function was not organised by him, but by the campaign team.

Do you think Kent Johns should stay or go?

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Hammering out a solution: Claire Welsh’s idea of a start-up Women’s Shed has had a huge response.
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Ladies- take up your tools, the first Port Macquarie women’s shed is official.

What started out as a small post on the Facebook page ‘Hastings buy, sell and swap’ has turned into an avalanche of interest in a start-up Port Macquarie Women’s Shed, and taken midwife Claire Welsh completely by surprise.

Already more than 570 women have expressed an interest and the first meeting saw about 20 women get down to planning the next move.

“The breadth of experience amongst all the women who have contacted us is nothing short of phenomenal,” Mrs Welsh said.

“There is such a variety of skills on offer to share with other members of the group, and the generosity and enthusiasm to keep the momentum of the group going forward is awe inspiring.

“There are some very committed people raring to go.”

A steering committee is now in the process of establishing a website 梧桐夜网portmacquariewomens shed.org419论坛 which will soon be operational.

Skills to be shared include woodworking, graphic design, metalwork, plastering, surface finishing, and even some of the craftier endeavours.

Once a skills database has been established, workshops will be put into place where women can learn to make something to take home with them for a small fee.

The call for a suitable premises has gone out with many members checking out potential sites all over the Hastings.

If anyone knows of a shed space that might be available contact Claire Welsh on 0478 775 904 or email [email protected] oo.co.uk or go to the shed’s Facebook page.

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The legislative changes that passed last week would mean farming families no longer have farm assets counted towards the means test for their dependent children claiming Youth Allowance.FARM assets will be cut from the Youth Allowance asset test from January 1 next year, delivering great news for farming families while boosting regional education, says Victorian Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie.
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Starting next year, the Family Assets Test and the Family Actual Means Test will be removed from the Youth Allowance parental means test arrangements.

The welfare support changes were announced in this year’s federal budget and associated legislation passed through federal parliament last week with bipartisan support.

The Family Assets Test is based on how much money a family would receive from selling their primary assets, minus any debts or mortgages they owe.

Currently, the family home is excluded from that Test while a 75 per cent discount is applied to business and farm assets.

Applicants are ineligible for the $426.80 maximum fortnightly Youth Allowance payment if their family’s assets exceed a $661,250 threshold.

But NT Senator and Nationals Senate leader Nigel Scullion said the legislative changes that passed last week would mean farming families no longer have farm assets counted towards the means test for their dependent children claiming Youth Allowance.

“With a financial commitment from the government of $262.7 million over the forward estimates, this Bill will bring extra support to families as their children move into young adulthood, particularly rural and regional families whose children continue to study beyond Year 12,” he said.

Senator Scullion said removing the Family Assets Test for Youth Allowance would allow around 4100 additional dependent Youth Allowance claimants to qualify for the first time, accessing average annual payments of more than $7000 a year.

He said removing the Family Actual Means Test would see around 1200 more people receiving Youth Allowance for the first time while increasing payments for around 4860 existing students by approximately $2000 a year.

Senator Scullion said the new measures were adopted following an Inter-departmental Committee’s examination of issues regarding access to higher education for regional and remote students at the urging of Senator McKenzie and other backbenchers.

Senator McKenzie said for decades, farming families had experienced the unfairness of having their farm counted as an asset in Youth Allowance assessment.

But she said the changes prompted by the new legislative changes would allow farming families to better support their children, to further study.

“This is great news for rural and regional Australians who are faced with higher costs when their children are studying or training because they have to move away from home,” she said.

“These changes are particularly timely; given many young people are sitting exams and deciding preferences over coming weeks.

“It is envisioned that this will be a positive outcome for 1200 families in assisting them to overcome the financial barriers in attending university.”

Social Services Minister Christian Porter said over 33,000 Australian families would be better off after the legislation passed federal parliament last week to provide more generous youth payment means testing measures.

“Regional and rural families often face higher costs when their children are studying or training because they have to move away from home,” he said.

“These changes mean those families will no longer have their farm assets counted toward the means test.”

WA Liberal Senator Dean Smith also welcomed the changes saying many regional families often had two or three children away at boarding school.

But he said they also had to endure high costs of educating children living away from home which was a “huge burden”, especially for those living on remote stations located hundreds of kilometres from the nearest university.

“The costs associated with this tyranny of distance often means that a lot of deserving regional students are not able to pursue their dream of attending university,” he said.

“Many regional families have been disadvantaged when they apply for Youth Allowance because their assets and income mix are very different to many other Australians.

“But making Youth Allowance more accessible will not only level the playing field it will also provide better access to higher education for thousands of WA children.”

The new legislative measures were supported by the Australian Greens and the Federal Opposition.

WA Greens Senator Rachel Siewert also proposed a review of the new measures be conducted in two years, believing the Allowance payment must be increased.

Queensland Labor Senator Claire Moore said Labor supported the Bill because there had been a long-standing demand from families living in remote and regional areas that the circumstances around their access to payments were more difficult, “particularly in cases where people are, simplistically, asset rich but income poor”.

“That has made it more difficult for young people to actually receive payments when they go into university studies,” she said.

Senator Moore said the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association gave evidence to a recent Senate Committee inquiry into the issue, saying the aspirations of rural and remote young people were currently being “driven and dictated” to, by their ability to access financial support to assist with relocation and living costs while they study.

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Police have arrested six people and seized hundreds of cannabis plants and cash following eight search warrants this morning.
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About 7am today (Wednesday), police attached to Strike Force Barku executed eight simultaneous search warrants at homes in Carlingford, Castle Hill, North Parramatta,Lidcombe, Eastwood, Chipping Norton,Bankstown and Wiley Park.

Six people have been arrested; three men – aged 29, 31 and 40–and three womenaged 30, 31 and 41.

While the warrants remain ongoing, so far police have seized 350 plants and a large sum of cash.

Since August 2014, officers from the North West Region Enforcement Squad have been investigating the cultivation and distribution of cannabis across a number of Sydney suburbs under Strike Force Barku.

On August 19, a search warrant was executed at a home in Leura, where 230 plants were seized.

Investigations continue.

KNOW MORE?: Police are urging anyone with information in relation to the cultivation and supply of cannabis to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page.

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STANDING FIRM: Leeton Shire Council general manager Jackie Kruger (front) and mayor Paul Maytom during Monday night’s extraordinary meeting.
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LEETON Shire Council won’t be bullied or blackmailed into a merger and has opted to fight for a case to remain as a standalone entity.

That decision was made at an extraordinary meeting on Monday night at the Roxy Theatrethat was attended by about 80 community members.

Council was found to be “fit for the future” by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) last month, but was then told by the state government it had 30 days to nominate whether or not it would merge with neighbouring councils.

This was something all 152 councils across the state were required to decide.

To help “persuade” councils into an amalgamation, the government under the Fit for the Future program is offering $5 million to any two council’s that merge, with a further $5 million also on the table.

Those that decide to opt for a three-way merger would receive $15 million.The 30-day deadline to put forward a position on amalgamations wasWednesday, but as council vowed to fight to standalone it didnot have to submit a proposal.

Council weighed up the options of whether or not it would be viable to merge with Narrandera or Murrumbidgee, as well as the possibility of having the three amalgamate into the one organisation.

A strong position was put forward by council to residentsat the meeting for a standalone case, but the pros and cons of both situations were addressed.

Various community members voiced their opposition to mergers, including Dr Laurie Lewin.

“The point I would like to make is that since 1969 I have watched the state government withdraw services from this town, mainly professional people, and now they are trying to force this situation,” he said.

“The state government has put a gun to our heads.Forced amalgamations in my view would be a backwards step and take away our identity.”

Council alsobelieves there could be a mounting legal challenge should the government decide to force councils into an amalgamation.

“It does seem the government can’t legally force councils to merge if they are financially stable,” general manager Jackie Kruger said.Council was also worried it would lose representation should mergers be implemented.

Both Narrandera and Murrumbidgee shires have also votedto standalone.All councils will learn their fate by the end of the year.Leeton shire has nowjoined the “Our Council, Our Voice, Our Choice” campaign.

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Lachie Watts, pictured during the 2014-15 season, is on 94 not out for Blackheath-Dimboola as he heads into day-two against Homers. Picture: SAMANTHA CAMARRITHE Bullants have a big day at the crease on Saturday after Jung set them a 375-run target on day-one of their round five clash.
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Such a big total means it is unlikely the match will enter a second inning.

Noradjuha-Toolondo will be focused on reaching the target in 75 overs, which won’t be a simple proposition.

The Tigers were able to compile the runs through a good team effort.

No single player dominated with the bat, instead three half centuries were recorded, along with three more scores in the 30’s or 40’s.

This allowed them to keep the run rate up and score quickly, despite the loss of eight wickets.

The game is Jung’s to lose and if they can force some early wickets with the new ball it will be tough for the Bullants.

In the only other B Grade game on Saturday, Blackheath-Dimboola are pitted against Homers.

Homers were bowled out for 144 in 51 overs meaning a some quick runs could provide Blackheath-Dimboola with a shot at a two innings win.

Lachie Watts is on 94 and Elliot Braithwaite 33 after they saw their side to 2-142 in the final 20 overs on day-one.

There is no doubt Blackheath-Dimboola are in a winning position.

Homers would have to take 18 wickets on day-two to have any shot at gaining some points.

A forfeit by Rup-Minyip means the points in the third game were handed to Colts.

Horsham Saints have the week off with a bye.

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Equal representation: Devout Muslim and Parramatta-based businessman Diaa Mohamed has founded his own political party, the Australian Muslim Party. Picture: Wolter PeetersAustralia’s first political party centred around Islamic faith will be based out of Parramatta.
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The Australian Muslim Party, founded by Parramatta-based businessman Diaa Mohamed, will aim to field at least one candidate for the Senate in every state and territory in next year’s federal election.

Speaking to the Sun, Mr Mohamed said the party aimed to give a political voice to Australia’s Islamic population.

‘‘We’re just looking for equal representation,’’ he said.

‘‘[Islamic people] don’t have a voice in Parliament and even if we do, it’s that of another party.’’

Mr Mohamed has defended the timing of the party’s launch; just days after the terrorist attacks in Paris which has reportedly killed 129 people.

He said the political party had been several years in the making.

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Seth Chequer kneeboards on the Wimmera River at the weekend as part of a ski trial, which will continue this week. Picture: PAUL CARRACHERCouncil plans ski processHORSHAM Rural City Council has started its water skiing trial on the Wimmera River in Horsham.
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It comes afterWimmera Catchment Management Authority ran a trial last year to assess the suitability, effects and sustainability of controlled skiing on the river in Horsham.

Council discussed plans for the trial and the consultation process at a meeting in October.

Council has permitted skiing on the river only as part of Horsham’sKannamaroo festival, since 2012.

The trial –which started on Saturday and Sunday –gives residents a chance to provide feedback about the timing of skiing during the year, boat noise, wake, community benefits and other effects.

The trial will continue at the weekend, with demonstrations between Adventure Island and the Western Highway bridge in Horsham between 11am and 5pm on Saturday and Sunday.

More demonstrations will follow on November 28 and 29.

Organisers said people could submit feedback toHRCC Waterski Comments, PO Box 511, Horsham Vic 3402 or email [email protected]论坛.

After the trial, council will consider feedback and decide whether to pursue a permanent skiing plan for the river.

Council will then prepare a framework and invite resident comment.

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AUSTRALIA DAY AWARDS: Windsor Downs resident Gerda Deryk was named Hawkesbury Citizen of the Year for 2015.If you know a worthy individual who deserves an award, nominate them nowfor an Australia Day Award.
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Nominations for the 2016 Hawkesbury council awards close on Friday at 5pm and residentsare encouragedto get their votes in before then.

This year, council has launched a range of new award categories to better acknowledge the outstanding citizens of the Hawkesbury.

Community members can nominate in one or more of the nine categories:

More information about the award categories and nomination forms are available online at hawkesbury.nsw.gov419论坛.

Council’s Civic and Citizenship Committee is responsible for assessing all nominations received.

Judging will take place in early December andawards will be presented at a ceremony on Australia Day next year.

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THE people may want them to remain single but Goulburn Mulwaree Council is opting for a marriage.
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At their meeting last night councillors voted for a merger with Upper Lachlan and Yass Valley Shire Councils as their first preference under Fit for the Future reforms.

Their second choice was to amalgamate with these three, plus Palerang Shire.

The near hour-long discussion came ahead of today’s State Government deadline for council responses.

The decision also slightly changed a recommendation in an earlier report to the meeting to amalgamate with Upper Lachlan, Yass Valley and Palerang Councils as a first option.

Cr Robin Saville argued vehemently that Goulburn Mulwaree should stand alone, despite advocating a super council of five last month.

“That’s what the community wants and they want us to send a strong message to the State Government that they are doing the wrong thing,” he said.

“Every other council around us has taken a stand and I think we should too.”

But councillors were swayed by Mayor Geoff Kettle’s argument that Goulburn Mulwaree needed to take a lead in the debate. He cited a November 12 letter jointly signed by Premier Mike Baird and Local Government Minister Paul Toole.

“Those councillors that demonstatrate an ability to work together will have the opportunity to shape the future of the new council and serve their community until the end of the term,” it stated.

“This will include input into decisions on service levels, branding, jobs, location of key administrative centres and/or local representation.”

Cr Kettle and several councillors said it was better to be pragmatic and have a say in the future than none at all.

“We need to show leadership and sometimes that means not proffering public opinion,” Cr Kettle said.

Cr Saville was the only dissenting vote in the decision.

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