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Monthly Archives: November 2018

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JOANNE McCARTHY: Seeds of revolution

THERE were no fireworks in the NSW Supreme Court on Wednesday as Rio Tinto and the NSW Government argued a judge got things wrong when he rejected the Warkworth coal mine extension near Bulga in April, and found in favour of Bulga residents.

A dour barrister for the mining giant read out slabs of transcript. There were questions and answers about background noise levels. Some points were made. But to quote Bulga-Milbrodale Progress Association president John Lamb at lunch: ‘‘That was boring as batshit.’’

But oh so significant despite that. This is about coal, but it’s also about belief in government and the integrity of processes supposedly in place to protect the public.

Land and Environment Court chief judge Brian Preston’s criticism of the government’s Warkworth approval outraged Rio Tinto and its subsidiary Coal & Allied. Planning Minister Brad Hazzard sought immediate legal advice.

Rio Tinto met with Premier Barry O’Farrell in May, to push the point made in its statement immediately after Preston’s decision – that a judge could ‘‘overrule’’ decisions of the Planning Minister, government departments and the Planning Assessment Commission which constituted a ‘‘rigorous three-year process’’.

That’s one way of looking at it.

I recommend reading just one document, the February 2012 Planning Assessment Commission decision to approve the Warkworth extension, to get a sense of another way of looking at it – the perspective of Bulga residents, and many other Upper Hunter mining communities.

The Planning Assessment Commission accepted the ‘‘very significant’’ negative impact of the extension on the village and the local environment. It accepted that both the mining company and the government had failed to deliver on previous commitments, including the terms of a Ministerial Deed of Agreement, despite Bulga residents relying on those commitments to invest in homes and businesses.

It accepted that ‘‘best management practices’’ at the mine complex could be ‘‘substantially improved’’, which supports residents’ complaints of serious noise and dust problems based on current operations, even before the mine extends closer to the village.

The Planning Assessment Commission recommended approval subject to ‘‘robust and clear’’ environmental standards, ‘‘unambiguous’’ obligations to meet those standards, and ‘‘effective regulatory action in the event of poor performance’’.

They’re fine words, but the reality is Bulga residents repeatedly making late-night phone calls to complain about excessive noise and dust, having those complaints challenged, and almost laughably small fines when matters are actually pursued by government departments.

You could argue – and certainly mining companies and politicians argue – that the economic benefits of mining outweigh the rights of a small place like Bulga with its 300 residents.

The NSW Government’s proposed State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) makes that abundantly clear. We might have dust monitoring. We might have health studies. However, a SEPP that says in black and white that the value of the coal resource is the principal consideration in decision-making, above all others, which puts a question mark beside the point of any health or environmental considerations.

Coal rules.

But not quite yet.

There they sat in the impressive Banco Court on Wednesday – about a dozen Bulga residents including John Lamb, John and Leslie Krey, and Marie and Stewart Mitchell. Outside the court, hundreds of others protested the SEPP and proposed changes to the state’s planning laws.

People like John Lamb, the Kreys and the Mitchells believed the O’Farrell government’s promises of integrity in planning, and transparency in government decision-making. After the ugliness of Labor’s corrupted coal approval processes, it was a relief.

What they got – what we got – was a NSW Government that has damaged public confidence by a different means. We weren’t given the chance to vote about a government that would value the coal resource above other considerations when making decisions about mines.

This government hasn’t explained why it needs to sit in the Banco Court this week beside Rio Tinto, and against the people of Bulga. It didn’t tell us it would consider doing that.

It’s a corrosive thing, when people cannot believe the politicians who lead them.

The people of Bulga are fighting that, as much as they’re fighting a mine where too many commitments have already been made, and broken.

On Wednesday John Lamb fronted Barry O’Farrell while the Premier was standing in a cafe ordering a sandwich. He asked O’Farrell to visit Bulga, to talk to residents.

In NSW, in the Great Age of Coal, it’s almost a revolutionary idea.

Winners of the Hunter Valley Wine Show

PEPPER Tree, Tyrrell’s and Audrey Wilkinson were the stars of the 2013 Hunter Valley Wine Show as trophies and gold medal awards were presented on Friday at the presentation luncheon at Pokolbin.

Pepper Tree, the centrepiece of millionaire geologist and oil exploration company director John Davis’s wine empire, won four trophies, including the Doug Seabrook Trophy for the best dry red of the show.

The Seabrook prize was one of the four trophies claimed by the Pepper Tree 2011 Limited Release Shiraz, which also won the Hector Tulloch Trophy for the best currently available dry red, the James Busby Trophy for the best premium-vintage red and the Elliott Family Trophy for the best two-year-old red.

The Davis family also owns the Hunter’s Briar Ridge and Tallavera Grove operations and vineyards in Wrattonbully, Orange and Coonawarra and notched three gold medals with Pepper Tree wines and one from Briar Ridge.

The Petrie-Drinan Trophy for the best white wine of the show was won by the Audrey Wilkinson 2006 Museum Reserve Semillon, which also collected the Maurice O’Shea Trophy for the best currently available dry white and the McGuigan Family Trophy for the best premium vintage dry white.

Audrey Wilkinson is part of the Agnew wine group, which includes the Poole’s Rock, Cockfighter’s Ghost and Firestick brands, and is headed by Brian Agnew – a past chairman of the big Moray and Agnew specialist insurance law firm.

Audrey Wilkinson’s three trophies were accompanied by two gold medals and Poole’s Rock took gold with a 2009 semillon.

The Tyrrell’s family wine company won the Singleton Council Trophy for the most successful exhibitor in young wine classes and notched three other trophies and seven gold medals.

The Tyrrell’s Old Vines Chardonnay won the Ed Jouault Trophy for the best one-year-old dry white and the Murray Tyrrell Trophy for the best any-vintage chardonnay.

The Tyrrell’s 2007 HVD Vineyard Semillon won the Tyrrell Family Trophy for the best named vineyard dry white.

Ace winemaker Andrew Thomas was again among the major winners with his semillons from the veteran viticulturist Ken Braye’s Braemore vineyard in Hermitage Rd, Pokolbin.

The Thomas 2013 Braemore Semillon won the H.J. Lindeman Trophy for the best current-vintage dry white and the Marshall-Flannery Trophy for the best current-vintage semillon.

The 2007 Braemore Semillon and the 2011 Elanay Shiraz brought the Thomas gold tally to three.

U and I Tinkler won the John Lewis-Newcastle Herald Trophy for the best museum vintage dry red with the Tinkler 2005 U and I Shiraz.

The Tinkler wine operation is headed by Usher William (Bill) and Kathie Tinkler and brother and sister-in-law Ian and Leonie Tinkler.

The wine was made by Bill and Kathie Tinkler’s son Usher, who is the sixth generation of his family to be involved in the Hunter wine industry.

The Tempus Two 2003 Copper Zenith Semillon won the Graham Gregory Trophy for best museum vintage dry white.

Tulloch Wines claimed the Iain Riggs Wines of Provenance Award, which requires entrants to submit three different vintages of the same labelled wine, covering a vintage spread of at least 10 years with one wine being 2009 vintage or younger.

Bill and Vicki Widin’s 1693 Broke Rd, Pokolbin, Leogate winery had dual trophy success with the Leogate Estate 2011 Western Slopes Shiraz.

The wine won the Len Evans Trophy for the best named vineyard wine of the show and the Drayton Family Trophy for the best named vineyard dry red.

The Windins, long-time wine enthusiasts who own the 5870-hectare Middlebrook Park Black Angus cattle stud at South Tamworth, took the plunge into Hunter winemaking in 2007 and 2008 when they bought the two sections of what was the former Rothbury Estate Brokenback vineyard, at Broke Rd, Pokolbin.

Other trophy winners were:

Two Rivers 2013 Hidden Hive Verdelho (Jay Tulloch Trophy)

Mount Eyre 2013 Three Ponds Fiano (best any-vintage alternate white varieties trophy)

Margan 2011 Limited Release Barbera (best any-vintage alternate red varieties trophy)

Margan 2011 Botrytis Semillon (Doug Galbraith Trophy for premium vintage sweet white)

Drayton’s Non-Vintage Heritage Vines Verdelho (Trevor Drayton Trophy for best premium vintage fortified

The show, which was judged this week at Singleton Army Infantry Centre attracted 730 entries from 78 large and small Hunter producers.

Find out the prices and where to buy 2013 Hunter Valley Wine Show trophy and gold medal wines in next Wednesday’s Good Taste Wine column.

Pepper Tree owner John Davis after winning The Hector Tulloch Trophy for best dry red wine. Picture: Peter Stoop

The smallest star shines brightly

When the directorial team of Scott McGehee and David Siegel discuss the star of their new film, What Maisie Knew, they talk about her ease in front of the camera, her ability to convey powerful emotions in close-up, and her gift for instinctively understanding a scene’s emotional core. They had the same fortunate experience, the pair say, with Tilda Swinton on their 2001 thriller The Deep End, but whereas Swinton was a classically trained, Cambridge-educated screen veteran, their new lead, Onata Aprile, was a six-year-old girl.

”It would have been disastrous if we’d got it wrong,” McGehee admits. ”What we found with Onata, and what kept expanding as we worked with her and cut her performance together, was that we were able to rely on her much more than we anticipated. We were able to use her remarkable ability in close-up to help build the emotional story in a way that we couldn’t have imagined at the script stage. All the time she was really honest, giving a genuinely emotional performance.”

A contemporary retelling of Henry James’ 1897 novel about a child’s view of her bitterly divorced parents and their new partners, What Maisie Knew couldn’t work without a gifted child actor as its fulcrum. Every scene is told from the perspective of Maisie, a bright but increasingly abandoned six-year-old fought over but then neglected by her selfish parents – veteran rock star Susanna (Julianne Moore) and art dealer Beale (Steve Coogan).

Without narration or contrived exposition, Maisie’s understanding of her situation, and that of her parents’ new spouses, bartender Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard) and her former nanny Margo (Joanna Vanderham), is told visually. Onata’s face flickers from joyous to solemn as the mood changes, while her realisation that her parents’ love is flawed proves heartbreaking.

Since the earliest motion pictures, filmmakers have been working with children, and audiences have responded. In 1935, seven-year-old Shirley Temple was the biggest box-office draw in the world, receiving more fan mail than Greta Garbo or Clark Gable.

Child actors, as opposed to the older teenagers who came to the fore in the 1950s, could bring an innocence and emotional clarity to the screen, although their naivete has long been exploited.

”We’ve heard some terrible stories about the way people have got performances from kids,” McGehee says. ”We heard from an assistant director once about needing an emotional performance from a kid and telling the kid that her parents had left and were never coming back. She made the kid believe it – she’d built up this bond of trust throughout the shoot for this one decisive moment – and was telling it to us proudly.”

Child acting is a lucrative profession, and some hopefuls come with professional headshots and first-name knowledge of the relevant casting directors. Onata Aprile, a student at Manhattan’s P.S. 3 school, had already enjoyed two small roles, but that flowed on from tagging along with her actor mother, Valentine. She wanted to act, but had no idea of the stakes involved or the responsibility that would be placed on her tiny shoulders on workdays that were legally mandated at nine hours long.

”We were talking about resting an entire movie on her and that was a huge leap of faith,” Siegel says. ”We considered what would happen if we got to day five and she didn’t want to do it any more.”

Onata was supported and prepared by her mother, who McGehee and Siegel stress was the opposite of the sadly common pushy stage mother, while her adult co-stars also worked closely with her. Skarsgard, who uses his considerable height to show vulnerability instead of his usual dominance in the film, bonded with her after one play session on the floor of Siegel’s apartment.

”There was just something about her energy that felt so raw and so real,” the Swedish actor told a news website.

”And it was like she was so strong but yet vulnerable at the same time, which was a quality we were looking for. So I flew out to New York and met with her, and I was just blown away immediately.”

Moore, whose scenes with Onata are some of the emotionally harshest as Susanna draws her daughter in but then coldly puts her aside or guiltily lashes out when her career and art call, would talk through each set-up with the six-year-old, explaining her intentions. But when they shot, Onata would take those parameters and expand them, often providing Moore with something extra for her performance.

”It takes actors a long time to go from the state of acting to the state of being. She does that, and instinctively knows how to be on camera,” Moore told reporters. ”Whenever I held Onata while we were shooting, I always had this necklace on. She’d always take the locket and open and close it and look at it. Everything she did was so textured and interesting; she’d play with someone’s hair and engage physically with them. It was really remarkable.”

Onata hasn’t acted on screen since What Maisie Knew was released, although the film’s lengthy and well-received journey from the festival circuit to commercial release has kept her busy. But given the enthusiasm and ease they witnessed daily on set, McGehee and Siegel have no doubts where her future lies.

”Onata was the last person to be wrapped on the film, with a scene running up and down stairs at midnight, and everyone knew what was coming except Onata,” Siegel says.

”Dylan, our assistant director, gathered everybody and when we called ‘cut’ her mum picked her up because she was tired, and then Dylan came out and said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, that’s a picture wrap on Onata Aprile’, and the place just went bananas.

”Everyone thought this child was special, whether they were close to her or not, and there was just this roar.

”Initially, Onata flinched and for a second I thought, ‘Oh, this is too much for her’, but then this smile spread across her face like a beam of light.

”It wasn’t just that she was happy, it was her feeling that she’d made it, that she’d got through the movie without failing us.”

■ What Maisie Knew opens on Thursday.

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Could Peter Meakin be Ten’s golden goose?

Veteran TV news executive Peter Meakin has joined Network Ten as executive director of news and current affairs.

Meakin, who will be 71 this year, now has cards to all three commercial networks, having held similar posts at Nine and Seven.

Renowned and respected as a straight-talking and hard-nosed rogue with an instinct for commercial news, Meakin is credited as the driving force behind Nine’s decades-long leadership in news and current affairs, as well as Seven’s resurgence after he unexpectedly decamped to the rival network in 2003 following a falling-out with his former boss at Nine, John Alexander.

Meakin has never disputed having called Alexander a “24-carat c—” when changes were made to the news department.

Former Four Corners executive producer and ABC news head Peter Manning once described Meakin as “the best ever news director for both Nine and Seven, getting eyeballs to the channels during their news hours with serious political events or crises”.

“He brought all his commercial and populist expertise to bear to bring a serious perspective to commercial TV. When it would have been easier to ignore difficult, serious events that were happening, Peter committed himself to intervene in the schedule.”

Announcing Meakin’s appointment to Ten, CEO Hamish McLennan says Meakin “has an extraordinary news sense and an ability to bring stories to viewers that no one else in Australia can match”.

“It also marks a new era in the way we will develop, produce and present our news and current affairs programs.”

Meakin left Seven in November 2012 following a restructure of the network’s news and current affairs division.

Meakin says that he will be part of Ten’s initiative to make a bigger name for itself in news.

Ten’s News At Five is often the struggling network’s highest rating show. Apart from the weekdaily Project and Late News, the network doesn’t have a dedicated regular current affairs show in its schedule.

Present news and current affairs head Anthony Flannery will report to Meakin.

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Deals of the week: into Africa

Lion Sands Tinga Lodge. Golf with Peppers.

A QT resort room.


Book a 2014 Africa trip with APT in 2014 and receive a companion return airfare from Australia to Africa free (though pay taxes from $845 a head). One eligible trip is APT’s 16-day South Africa Highlights tour, which leaves from Cape Town and includes Victoria Falls, the Garden Route, Zululand, Swaziland, Kruger National Park and Victoria Falls. From $8695 a head, twin share, it features two private game park experiences, 15 nights’ accommodation including in the five-star Table Bay, in Cape Town and Lion Sands Tinga Lodge, Kruger National Park; 29 meals; all flights and airport taxes in Africa; all tips, game park fees, sightseeing and porterage. The airfare offer is available on all bookings of eligible trips made by December 31.

Phone 1300 278 278. See aptouring苏州美甲学校.au.


Harvey World Travel is offering four nights for the price of three at the new QT Resort, in Port Douglas. The package includes: four nights in a resort room, breakfast daily, a $20 spa voucher and guaranteed late check-out at noon. Prices, twin share, start from $349 a head. The offer is valid for sale until August 30, unless sold out before, and for travel October 6-December 25, then January 5-March 31.

Phone 13 27 57. See harveyworld苏州美甲学校.au.


Travel苏州美甲学校.au has put together an accommodation and airfares package for a Cook Islands break. The deal includes return flights with Air New Zealand to Rarotonga, four nights at the Rarotongan Beach Resort and Spa in a garden room and three nights at Aitutaki Lagoon Resort and Spa in a beachfront bungalow. The package includes breakfast daily, a one-hour spa hydrotherapy package for two at Aitutaki Resort, return domestic airfares to Aitutaki and airport transfers. From $2569 a head (dependent on Australian city of departure), twin share. Airfares include carry-on baggage only. The offer is valid for travel November 1-December 19 and January 11-March 31. It is valid for sale until 3pm September 30 unless sold out before.

Phone 1300 130 483. See travel苏州美甲学校.au.


Peppers has a package for the annual Craigieburn Hickory Cup with the Australian Heritage Golf Society, Bowral, on Sunday September 8. Enjoy 18 holes of vintage golf on the 100-year-old Craigieburn Golf Course, and, after the cup, attend the Living Legends Dinner at historic Peppers Craigieburn. The Heritage Weekend package costs from $299 a couple and includes Sunday night accommodation and breakfast on Monday, one entry to the Hickory Cup and two tickets to the Living Legends Dinner.

Phone 4862 8000. See peppers苏州美甲学校.au/craigieburn.


Yabbaloumba Retreat, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland bordering the Conondale National Park in the Conondale Ranges, is a drive of about 90 minutes north of Brisbane. It is a working property with luxuriously appointed cottages overlooking a dam that is stocked with Australian bass. Wotif has a deal for stays at the property priced from $180 a night, for two people. It includes accommodation in a cottage with an in-room spa, private balcony and gas fire and a daily breakfast hamper, one dinner pack and wine and cheese on arrival. The price represents a 40 per cent saving. The deal is valid for two-night minimum stays from Sunday to Thursday until the end of November, or until sold out. It is available Saturday to Sunday priced from $225.

Phone 1300 887 979 and quote “Wotif deal with meal”. See wotif苏州美甲学校/hotelW134007.

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