Thursday, March 21, 2013

The New England independents

Back in April 2012 I reported the possibility that Richard Torbay might run for New England as a National Party candidate. Then Richard said in part:

Asked how strongly he was considering a move to federal politics, Mr Torbay said: “Well, I have made no secret of my disappointment about the trashing of the independent brand.

“There’s no doubt it’s been damaged by a hung Parliament, and that’s been very disappointing from my perspective.

“We’ve seen that reflected in a number of State polls, where Victoria now doesn’t have any more independents in their Parliament; there were three lost at the last NSW election; and at the recent Queensland election we saw three independents go.

“So, there’s no doubt there’s been massive brand damage, and that’s what I think has caused these approaches to occur.”

Richard was endorsed as National Party candidate for New England, but was then forced to withdraw, something I reported on in Thank you Richard Torbay.  Richard's decision to run, the reasons he gave, marked the end of the rise of the New England independents movement. As Richard noted, the rise of the independent had come to an end. But it was only in New England that there was anything approaching an independent political movement. 

Given events that had occurred, I thought that I might tell a little of the story of the New England independents. This had begun  with a post on my history blog, Introducing the story of the New England Independents.

My story on Richard's resignation attracted a few tart local comments. In this series, I simply want to place the independents in an historical context.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Nathan Tinkler's contribution


New England mining magnate Nathan Tinkler has been back in court over his debts.

Musing, whatever Mr Tinkler's commercial mistakes may be, I don't think anyone can doubt his contribution to New England soccer and rugby league.

Without him, both the Jets and Knights  might have gone to the big insolvency bin in the sky. That's not a bad achievement.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Hunter economy to grow by $28 billion

Hat tip to Craig Wilson@mediahunter for this one.

A report by Deloitte Access Economics, Prospects and challenges for the Hunter Region – a strategic economic study, prepared for Regional Development Australia Hunter (RDA Hunter), forecasts growth in the Hunter Valley economy of almost 75% by 2036, up $28 billion. The Hunter claims to be Australia's largest regional economy, producing 80% of NSW’s electricity with 40% of the state’s coal resources. The press release summarising the report can be found here.

In parallel news, the Newcastle Herald reports that the Hunter rental market is tightening, with the proportion of properties available to lease contracting from 2.6 per cent to 2.3 per cent in just one month. Coal prices may be down just at present, but along the coal chain that runs from the Lower Hunter up into the Liverpool Plains, the growth of the industry has placed great strain on local rental accommodation.

In somewhat related news, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has released an analysis of RDA plans across Australia. It's not very useful. Australia is such a varied country that this type of summary tends not to tell us much. Still, you may find it useful.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Metgasco suspends Northern Rivers coal seam gas development

The Northern Star (Lismore) carried a report today  of a press conference held in Metgasco's Casino office by managing director Peter Henderson to explain why the company was immediately suspending caol seam gas operations in the Northern Rivers. Fifteen Casino based employees will Metgasco MD Peter Henderson March 2013lose their jobs as a consequence.

According to Metgasco's Henderson, the uncertain regulatory environment aws the key cause.

Mr Henderson said the primary reason for the immediate suspension was the NSW Government's residential 2km CSG-free buffer zone announced three weeks ago, which remained unclear in its definition of a residential area.

He also blamed the previous 18-month statewide moratorium on the industry and what he said were increasingly lengthy delays in approvals for continued exploration.

"We don't think we'll have sensible stable policy in place until the end of the year after the Federal election, and to go through spending shareholders' funds on that basis would be just wasteful," Mr Henderson said.

Coal seam gas exploration and development has generated considerable community opposition in both the Northern Rivers and on the Liverpool Plains on the other side of the Tablelands. You will get a fair feel of some of the opposing views from the Green blog, North Coast Voices.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

New England referee to officiate at the 2013 AFC Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers in Jordan

I didn't intend to run another soccer story so quickly, but after Tanya de Boer refereeits past turmoil NNSW Football is finally getting its act together. 

Originally from Lismore but now living in Newcastle, Northern NSW referee Tanya de Boer has been appointed to officiate at the 2013 AFC Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers in Jordan.

Tanya received her FIFA badge as an Assistant Referee at the end of 2011. This allows her to run lines on International games

Last year, she was appointed to officiate at the 2012 AFF Women’s Championships held in September, her first appointment since gaining the badge.

“It’s good. You put in the hard work for it, but there are also many others who are also working hard, so it’s never taken for granted when you are invited to tournaments.”

“Each tournament gives you another opportunity to learn, improve and demonstrate your ability, in order to secure invitations to future tournaments. You also get to meet some great people from other countries and visit regions you may never have had the chance to see,” said de Boer.

Tanya is among a number of Australian referees to officiate at the AFC Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers which commence on June 5 and conclude on June 9.

“There are 4 groups for the Asian cup qualifiers. I’ve been selected to go to the Group A qualifiers in Jordan in June. Kate Jac (Referee) and Sarah Ho (Assistant Referee) have been selected to go to the Group B qualifiers in Bangladesh at the end of May. With Allyson Flynn (Assistant Referee) at a tournament in Algarve, Portugal, and Peta McCallum attending her first FIFA seminar in Bangkok, all the Australian Women FIFA Referees and Assistants are doing really well. Jacqui Hurford (Referee) is currently returning from injury,”

“With refereeing you go out there as a team and are supportive of the achievements of the others. If an Australian referee or assistant referee does well, it reflects positively on the whole Australian officials team. The idea is that you want Australia to have a high reputation for the quality of officials so that the women coming through are given greater opportunities to represent on the international circuit.”

Tanya comes from Lismore. In 2008, she became the first female to receive the Football Far North Coast Referee of the Year Award. Tanya now lives in Newcastle refereeing NBN State League and Westfield W-League fixtures. 

When it comes to advice, Tanya says “It only takes a short course to get you started. Where you want to take it is up to you. If you’re doing it for pocket money, that’s ok, almost all referees start off that way. However, if you want to take it further there are people, support and avenues to get you to a competitive level if that’s where you want to go, but you have to be prepared to work for it.”

Northern NSW Football (and the rest of us) would like to congratulate Tanya for her ongoing success and wishes her all the best during her second International appointment.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Football - Northern NSW State Cup kicks off

NSW Stat5e cup

I see from the Northern NSW Football Facebook page that the Northern NSW State Cup has kicked off.

Football (soccer) is the only sport in which we are actually recognised as a state in our own right. The State Cup is a state-wide competition open to all men’s NNSWF Premier Competition Clubs and Senior Zone Member Clubs.

Due to travel distances and time restraints the competition is divided into two pools, the Northern Pool and Southern Pool, to determine Final Series participants.

The Northern Pool will comprise of club teams from Mid North Coast Football, North Coast Football, Northern Inland Football and Football Far North Coast. From these club teams, the last remaining four will participate in the Finals Series representing the Northern Pool.

The Southern Pool will be split into two further sub-pools, the first comprising of NBN State League and New FM 1st Division club teams and the second comprising of club teams from Newcastle Football, Macquarie Football and Hunter Valley Football. From each of these two sub-pools, the last remaining two club teams will participate in the Finals Series representing the Southern Pool.

The following key dates have been allocated by NNSWF for State Cup Fixtures:


NBN/New FM Club Teams

Round 1   Saturday 9th / Sunday 10th March 17 teams (drawn from the hat)                               

Round 2   Wednesday 3rd April 8 winners, plus club team with bye from Round 1

Round 3   Wednesday 1st May 4 winners, plus club team with bye from Round 2

Round 4   Wednesday 29th May 2 winners, plus club team with bye from Round 3

Newcastle, Macquarie and Hunter Valley Club Teams

Round 1 Saturday 16th / Sunday 17th March 38 teams (drawn from the hat)

Saturday 23rd / Sunday 24th March

Round 2 Wednesday 3rd April 19 winners, plus club team with bye, from Round 1

Round 3 Wednesday 1st May 10 winners, plus club team with bye, from Round 2

Round 4 Wednesday 29th May 5 winners, plus club team with bye, from Round 3

Round 5 Wednesday 19th June 3 winners, plus club team with bye, from Round 4


Round 1 Saturday 16th / Sunday 17th February 26 teams (drawn from the hat)

Round 2 Saturday 16th March 13 winners, from Round 1

Round 3 Saturday 27th / Sunday 28th April        6 winners, plus club team with bye, from Round 2


Quarter Finals Saturday 13th July 4 winners from both Southern and Northern Pools

Semi Finals     Sunday 14th July Quarter Final winners

Final               Sunday 14th July* Semi Final winners

Friday, March 08, 2013

University of New England student numbers jump

 Booloominbah In today's UNE staff e-newsletter, Vice Chancellor Jim Barber reported on UNE enrolments at the close of UNE Trimester 1 enrolments.

The VV noted that at the close of enrolments, UNE had more than 700 additional students enrolled than at the same time last year. That’s a 4.5 per cent increase in enrolments.

Even better, the number of new applicants wishing to study at UNE rose 13.8 per cent, more than triple the national average growth in university applications of just 4.2 per cent in 2012.

Enrolments were up almost across the board - Arts, Education, Law, Nursing and Science Courses still remained popular with commencing students, with significant growth in other disciplines.

The biggest increases in undergraduate enrolments this year were in  the Bachelor of Ecology, Diploma of The Sciences, Diploma of Town Planning, Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Sciences, Bachelor of Pharmacy, Bachelor or Organisational Leadership, Bachelor of Agriculture and Bachelor of Education (combined).
In postgraduate studies there was significant growth in enrolments in the Graduate Certificate of Agriculture, Graduate Certificate in eLearning, Graduate Diploma in Applied Anatomy by Dissection, Master of Agriculture and Graduate Diploma of Applied Anatomy.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Remembering UNE's photographers - Bill Webster, John Fields

Bill Webster UNE photographer

  Both the University of New England and New England in general have gained from UNE's official photographers. I was reminded of this with the death of John Fields. John died at his home in Guyra on 4 February, 2013.

In this post I want to record a little of two of those men, Bill Webster and John himself. This a shot of Bill.

Bill was appointed to the University of New England as photographer in July 1959. He stayed in Armidale for the rest of his life, dying in September 1989. During his time as UNE photographer, he took shots of all UNE activities, including some archaeological digs that I was on.

We all know slices of people. In Bill's case, I knew him through his work. He was a familiar figure, one I liked, but not one that I knew well. I had no idea, for example, of his fascination with astronomy. 

This fascination was not unusual in Armidale. Several Armidale people had high-powered telescopes, including the mathematician Wes Taylor. Bill had his own observatory. Upon his death, Bill bequeathed this to the University of New England. In March 1990, the Webster Observatory was dismantled and re-installed at the Kirthe websterby Observatory  outside Armidale.

The photo from the UNE and Northern Tablelands Astronomical Society shows the Webster.

John Fields's life is recorded in poet Michael Sharkey's obituary, Photographer used his gift to travel, in the Sydney Morning Herald.

In 1987, John arrived in Armidale to became Photographer-in-Charge at the Media Resources Unit of the University of New England. For five years prior to his retirement in January 1998, he was the Liaison Officer with the University’s Publicity Unit.

I met John and wife Patricia after their arrival in Armidale. At the annual Drummond memorial dinners he was always there, taking photographs. New Zealand friend Peter Ireland wrote of John:  John was a lovely man. Gentle, modest, generous and with a quiet but devastating sense of humour. He was a remarkable human being and great company.

That fits John Fields UNE photographerwith my own impression, quiet, gentle, but very good company.

I said earlier that we only see slices of people. I had no idea of the variety of John's life, nor his achievements. 

John James Fields was born on January 18, 1938, in Rockport, Massachusetts, son of Ludwig Fields and his wife, Sara Mae (nee McDonald). He seems to have been an adventurous boy according to John Turner, excited by guns, hunting and the sea. He joined the US Navy on his seventeenth birthday, serving in the Pacific and the Far East. It was there that he acquired his love of photography.

After leaving the navy, John studied photography and worked as a freelance photographer. In 1965 he became a photographer at Massachusetts General Hospital, working under English cell biologist Dr Stanley Bullivant.  When Bullivant transferred to the University of Auckland in 1966, John followed.

The New Zealand period was a remarkable one. I had no idea of it, although I do understand some of the milieu that John was involved in because I visited New Zealand each year to see family, backpacking and travelling widely. I will only sketch the New Zealand experience. You will get a better feel for it if you go to this page on Photoforum and then follow some of the links through.   

New Zealand was a strange mix at the time John arrived, It was still a very small and in many ways conservative society. It was also localised; each major centre had its own approach, its own elite;  yet it was also a society strongly affected by new trends. I covered one aspect of this in a 2012 post,  "Things were a lot looser then" - the New Zealand hippie movement.

In 1966, John married Australian-born Patricia Hazelton (known professionally as the singer Kerry Bryant).John Field Allen The couple quickly became part of the New Zealand cultural scene, with John's spare photos of the natural scene and the built environment becoming nationally recognised.

looking at the various photos on-line, I chose this one because of its composition and because it captures so well that one aspect of New Zealand that I referred to earlier. I don't know whether the Allen in the photo was a hippy, but the photo really resonates.

John's impact in New Zealand was remarkable.  In 1971, his work set a New Zealand record when his photographs were the first to sell for the then extraordinary sum of $100 each. Today, his works are held in many galleries and still referred to because of their quality, because of the way they captured New Zealand life.

In 1976, frustrated by lack of official support for photography, the Fields moved with his family to Sydney to work at the Australian Museum and then in 1987 to Armidale. There he continued to do as he had done before, photograph and educate.

Michael Sharkey records that part of the New England's appeal for John was its beauty, up close and in its vistas. He photographed the spectacular electrical storms of the region as well as the bird and plant life of its lagoons and open country. Images of lightning strikes, of tranquil waters and of snowbound natural features are among his enduring legacy.

As in New Zealand, he encouraged and actively supported fellow artists and craft workers, teaching photography at Armidale TAFE, attending exhibitions and recording events, mentoring young photographers. He was also active in community activities.

In 2008, a major exhibition of John's work, Forty Years Ago Today: selected vintage photographs was mounted in Wellington. John attended the opening. It seems a fitting tribute.