Victoria completes ‘accidental’ Shield hat-trick

In 2014, Cricket Victoria reversed its emphasis. From time immemorial, it had set out to win Sheffield Shields, believing the bi-product would be a stream of n players. Three years ago, it decided that its No.1 KPI would be n caps, and the Shield could look after itself. One consequence, says CA cricket manager Shaun Graf, is that coaches and selectors became more adventurous, and also looked more favourably on youth.

Well, what do you know? Three years later, there are four Victorians in the Test squad now returning from India, and by next summer there should be a fifth, quickie James Pattinson, and even a sixth, left-arm spinner Jon Holland. And along the way, the Vics have won the Shield three times in a row for the first time in their storied history, formalising the third on a balmy afternoon in Alice Springs on Thursday.

Incidentally, this hat-trick has been won under three different coaches, which shows that the Shield, though an honest competition in itself, is also a stepping stone. Also incidentally, Victoria were the home team in two of the three finals, but they were played variously in Hobart, Glenelg and Alice Springs, which shows how far the cricket season has been shunted aside by footy.

This year’s final was characteristically anti-climactic. Victoria won the toss and took up occupation for 289 overs over two innings, more than any previous finalist except one. It left no time or at length inclination for South to make a match of it. Finals tend either to be gripping – last year’s was – or studies in inertia. The top team deserves an advantage, but for the draw to be a first resort rather than last is counter-ethical to the way modern cricket is played.

But Victoria could only work within the system as specified. Besides, each of the three wins was about the sum of their season, not one game. Each followed a remarkably similar course: a rampant pre-Christmas period, collapse after the long Big Bash League hiatus, then a gathering up at the end, just in time.

This season’s performance has been especially meritorious. National selection – hallelujah! – took a toll. So did injury. Veterans Peter Siddle and John Hastings were sidelined, also young, smoking guns Will Pucovski and Sam Harper. The BBL break was a hump, distracting players beforehand, dividing them for the duration and leaving minor personal strains to deal with afterwards; such is the lot of a two-team state. This season, there was also the mid-stream change of brand of ball to assimilate.

Successively Victoria lost by an innings to NSW on the MCG, then in two days to WA in Perth. But they had the points on the board, the runs, too. Crucially, rehabbed Pattinson turned down enquiries from the national selectors about replacing the fallen Mitchell Starc in India, preferring to make haste slowly, and with his whistling outswingers bowled Victoria into the final, and it was all over bar the shouting, an unlikely sound at a Shield game anyway.

Graf, a 40-year servant of Victorian cricket in various roles, up to and including 12th man once for , identifies several forces agreeably at work in Victoria’s hegemony. One is a classic blend: at one end the vast experience of Cameron White, Rob Quiney and Dan Christian, at the other the youthful insouciance of Seb Gotch and Travis Dean. Pattinson has been vital, as batsman as well as bowler, allowing Christian to play at No. 6 and Gotch at No. 7 and eliciting runs from all three (not to mention a bolter’s century from tailender Chris Tremain).

The youth system is producing, and players from elsewhere are knocking on what they see as an attractive door. Opener Marcus Harris came to Victoria, not Victoria to him, and his century on day one of the final effectively settled it. But Graf is not holier-than-thou. Where Victoria sees a need and a recruit, it goes for him: hence the much-travelled Christian.

Oddly enough, Alice Springs is a vice turned virtue. Vagrancy in Melbourne has forced the Vics to play out of there, with generous backing from the NT government, but Graf said it has bound the team into one. Living together, and with neither the distractions nor the obligations of home to interfere, they have become tight. Plainly, it suits the Bushrangers to be outlaws.

But if they get to another final next season, it will be at the expansively redeveloped Junction Oval, with its spanking new facilities, widened arena and 44 practice pitches, 12 on the ground and 32 off it. It will be home – but will it?

Three in a row is hard, four near to impossible: ask Hawthorn or the Brisbane Lions. Time does not stand still, no matter what impression you might have formed in Alice Springs. Only Quiney, Christian and Fawad Ahmed have played in all three wins. Next season, Matt Wade moves back to Tasmania, instantly taking Victoria down a peg on their made-for- metric. With any luck, and justice, Pattinson at least will be playing for , at once vindicating Victoria and filleting them. It is ever thus in state cricket.

NSW’s nine-in-a-row record is out of sight and by policy out of mind. Still, when you stop mentioning the war, sometimes it wins itself.

Mariners want government backing to return to capital next season

Central Coast Mariners are willing to move games from Canberra Stadium next season in a bid to make their visits to the capital financially viable.

The Mariners played two home games in Canberra this season at a significant loss after crowds of just 5497 and 5072 turned up.

Government funding is needed if the Mariners are to strike a deal that will keep the club playing in Canberra, however the parties have not met to discuss prospective games next season.

The Mariners are keen to return but the government is hesitant to enter into a long-term agreement after the poor crowds.

Mariners chief executive Shaun Mielekamp met with Capital Football boss Phil Brown in Sydney on Tuesday night to discuss possible solutions of keeping A-League action in the capital.

It is understood the Mariners’ future in Canberra now rests on negotiations between Capital Football and the ACT government.

Mielekamp has opened the door to playing at alternative venues such as Manuka Oval or Viking Park and the Mariners boss emphasised he’s keener to fix than flee.

“We’ve been going there for seven years, we’ve got 120 members and raft of relationships in Canberra which we want to maintain,” Mielekamp said.

“From a Central Coast perspective, one of the biggest challenges is finding the right venue that suits the market that wants to come.

“The logistical challenges with the size of Canberra Stadium poses a confronting task for any A-League club to come to town.”

ACT chief minister Andrew Barr declared Canberra now needs an A-League team if a proposed Civic Stadium is to be built, a project which has the Mariners support.

“We’re of the belief the more venue options available the more events Canberra will attract, so we’re very keen to hear what future options look like in Canberra in terms of other venues,” Mielekamp said.

“From what I’ve heard it sounds like it [Civic Stadium] would be something that is a lot more suited for football, so if it’s good for football will always have the support of the Central Coast.”

Mielekamp confirmed there has been no development in securing government funds and admitted the club was left frustrated with comments made by sport minister Yvette Berry in February.

“We’ve read and heard the comments from the minister which are unfortunate, she must have missed a lot of the community work we did leading into the games,” Mielekamp said.

“But we understand everyone has a role to play so we just have to progress forward and look at all the options.

“We’re hoping of a good discussion between the government and Capital Football around our Remembrance Day game especially, because we think it’s a core fixture for us and we hope they are doing everything they can to continue a long tradition in the city.”

The Mariners boss said there were plenty of positive to come out of Tuesday’s meeting, including discussions surrounding the Capital Draft pathways program.

“The capital draft is an important program which we need to continue to improve and make sure there it works for everyone. We think that’s a core ingredient to untapping the talent,” Mielekamp said.

“It was a positive catch up with Capital Football… we had to do a bit of a review as to what went right and wrong from our games in Canberra which were a financial struggle for us.

“To get things structured moving forward, it will start with conversations around preseason and the Capital Draft and keep peeling back the onions and see what the future looks like.”

Berry did not want to comment until she had spoken with Brown who did not return calls from Fairfax media on Thursday.

Hawks axe four, welcome back Hodge

Hawthorn have reacted savagely to their upset loss against Essendon last week, wielding the axe for round two as they confirmed the return of former captain Luke Hodge.

Taylor Duryea, Billy Hartung, James Sicily and Ryan Schoenmakers have all paid the price for the Hawks’ sluggish showing and have been dropped for what shapes as a big challenge against Adelaide at the MCG on Saturday.

Hodge was left out of the Hawks’ season opener due to a club-imposed one-match suspension for not notifying the club that he wouldn’t be attending a training session.

Joining the four-time premiership star as inclusions for Hawthorn are Ryan Burton, Kade Stewart and debutant Teia Miles who was taken at pick No.49 in the 2014 draft.

Fresh from smashing premiership favourites GWS by 56 points, the Crows will further bolster their team with the addition of captain Taylor Walker after he sat out Sunday’s match due to a hamstring injury.

Troy Menzel makes way for Walker after playing his first game for Adelaide last week.

Adelaide are also confident that star forward Eddie Betts will overcome an illness to face Hawthorn. The All-n goalsneak didn’t take part in the Crows’ main training session on Thursday.

Sydney have named three debutants for their grand final rematch with the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium on Friday night.

Robbie Fox, Nic Newman and Will Hayward will all play their first AFL games after Dane Rampe (arm), Daniel Robinson (collarbone) and the omitted Dean Towers were forced out of the side.

Marcus Adams will play his first game for the Dogs since Round 15 last year and looms as the obvious match-up for Lance Franklin with Dale Morris sidelined due to a broken leg. Ruckman Tom Campbell has also come in for premiership player Toby McLean.

Gold Coast’s former No.1 pick David Swallow is set to play his first premiership game in 631 days after he was included by the Suns to face Greater Western Sydney at Spotless Stadium on Saturday.

Swallow’s promising career has been stalled significantly by knee and hamstring issues. He has not played since Round 15, 2015.

Key Melbourne duo Jesse Hogan and Max Gawn will be available to face Carlton on Sunday after being cleared of serious injury.

The pair pulled up sore after the Demons’ impressive round one win over St Kilda, with Hogan on crutches.

But Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin said Hogan and Gawn will play as the club guns for two wins to open the season for the first time since 2005.

Goodwin said Hogan would have a hit-out before the match.

“He rolled his ankle last week, so it was just a matter of staying off it for a few days,” Goodwin said.

“He won’t do a hell of a lot today but he’ll do a bit on Saturday and he’ll be right to go.”

Ruckman Gawn has had back soreness, and hurt his wrist in a training mishap on Thursday too, but Goodwin also gave him the green light.

“Both are obviously pretty important players for us but they’ll both get the all clear and both be ready to play,” he said.

The Dees have made two forced changes with Bernie Vince (suspension) and Joel Smith (shoulder) making way for Dom Tyson, Dean Kent, Jake Spencer, Ben Kennedy and James Harmes in an extended squad.

The Blues haven’t dropped anyone as yet, but highly-rated youngster Harry McKay has been named in their 25 and could make his debut after kicking four goals in a VFL practice match last week

St Kilda have included veteran Leigh Montagna for their daunting assignment against West Coast at Domain Stadium on Saturday night. Paddy McCartin and Blake Acres’ are the Saints’ other ins.

The trio comes in for Nick Riewoldt (knee), David Armitage (groin) and the omitted Nathan Wright.

West Coast’s Mr Fix It Jonathan Giles has been called on again to alleviate their ruck crisis after Drew Petrie (hand) joined Scott Lycett (shoulder) and Nic Naitanui (knee) on the sidelines.

Impressive young Eagles Tom Barrass and Dom Sheed have also been named to take on St Kilda with Lewis Jetta (glute) and Eric Mackenzie (soreness) also coming out of the side that beat North Melbourne last week.

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NSW Police embarks on new era with appointment of incoming commissioner Mick Fuller

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, and NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione at a press conference where he announced his retirement in April. 2nd February 2017 Photo: Janie Barrett Photo: Janie BarrettAfter years of infighting and protracted speculation, the NSW Police Force has moved into a new era, with promises of a fresh leadership style and no tolerance for past grievances.

Incoming commissioner Mick Fuller said his brief was different to that of his predecessor Andrew Scipione and in it was an aim to change the model of policing that has existed for 20 years.

“While that has served us well in some areas the downside of that is the community has changed over 20 years, the environment has changed over 20 years, crime has changed over 20 years,” he said after his appointment was announced on Thursday.

“So from our perspective it’s about how do we become more dynamic?

“How do we look at the resources we have – we are nearly a $3.5 billion organisation – and how do we better service the community?”

The 49-year-old’s hopes were confirmed in a late night phone call on Wednesday night.

His name would be taken to the following morning’s cabinet meeting as the preferred choice for new police commissioner.

By 10.30am on Thursday, Mr Fuller, a police officer of 29 years, was outlining his vision for the state’s 16,500-odd sworn officers, highlighting a focus on hot-ticket issues such as organised crime and terrorism.

Getting police numbers right across the state and focusing on lone-wolf style terrorist targets who could act in isolation would also be key areas, Mr Fuller flagged.

He jumped the rank of deputy commissioner and his superiors Catherine Burn and David Hudson – both of whom applied for the top job – to win the commissioner’s role.

The prospects of Ms Burn and former deputy commissioner Nick Kaldas making commissioner were always going to be shadowed by deep animosity between the pair, which stemmed from a controversial bugging operation in the early 2000s.

Infighting, which extended to supporters, had served as a distraction for the top brass and frustration for those wanting to get on with the job and advance their careers.

Mr Fuller’s appointment signalled generational change in the force, with Ms Burn and Mr Kaldas having long been touted as Mr Scipione’s most obvious successors.

He confirmed one of the first priorities would be gathering his management team to outline structural reform and gauge whether they were willing to “come on the journey or not”.

“Certainly the first thing is getting that management team in and really moving towards that, rather than being so tactical and worrying about what happened this morning on the street,” he told Fairfax Media on Thursday afternoon.

“Whilst that is important there is a lot of senior police to deal with that and we’ve got really strategic issues we have to focus on.”

Acknowledging the past disharmony between deputies would have been both a distraction and tiring for those involved, Mr Fuller was adamant it would not continue.

“I certainly can’t change the past and I will be clear with all assistant commissioners and superintendents up is that those days are over,” he said.

Ms Burn and Mr Hudson both congratulated Mr Fuller on his success on Thursday. Asked whether he thought the deputies would continue under his leadership, Mr Fuller said he wouldn’t know until he mapped out the vision and his feelings in terms of their strengths and weaknesses.

“We had a good working relationship while I was Assistant Commissioner and they were deputies so I can’t imagine they would be leaving because of Mick Fuller,” he said.

“It will be more that they are leaving because the organisation is going in a different direction.”

Asked whether she would stay on, Ms Burn said: “I accept and respect the decision made by cabinet and I look forward to working with the new commissioner.”

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the decision process for who would be the next commissioner was not an easy one.

“But certainly in terms of outcome… Assistant Commissioner Fuller is a successful applicant,” she said at Parliament House.

“He brings a wealth of experience, a wealth of commitment and great prioritisation and that is in sync with where the government wants to take policing.”

Since 2014, Mr Fuller, who is the force’s corporate spokesman for domestic violence, has served as the Central Metropolitan Region commander. He oversees major events in the CBD, such as New Year’s Eve, and played a leading role in the initial response to the 2014 Lindt Cafe siege.

One of the biggest challenges for Mr Fuller early on will be his handling of the Lindt Cafe siege inquest findings, due to be handed down in coming weeks.

Margaret River Pro surfers on high alert after salmon run triggers shark alert

Surfers at a high-profile surf competition in WA’s South West are on high alert after a shark warning has been issued, triggered by schools of salmon beginning their migration along the coast.

The warning comes after WA’s most prestigious surf event – the Margaret River Pro – kicked off on Wednesday, moving the first heat of the competition to North Point near Gracetown.

Surf breaks in the area off Gracetown have become notorious after three surfers lost their lives in fatal shark attacks along the stretch of coastline.

Surfer Chris Boyd, 35, was killed by a shark at Lefthanders Beach in 2013, the same break where Bradley Smith, 29, lost his life being mauled by a four-metre shark in 2014.

In 2010 father-of-two Nick Edwards was killed by a shark 300 metres from the South Point surf break.

There were three fatal shark attacks in surf breaks off Gracetown. Photo: wannasurf苏州夜网

World-class surfers, spearheaded by legendary 11-times World Surf League Champion Kelly Slater, have travelled to the region to take part in the competition.

Fisheries WA released drone footage of salmon schools along the South West Coast, which also shows a number of large sharks hunting them.

“Reported shark sightings are already on the rise around schooling fish. If you’re swimming or surfing, recognise the danger signs and keep away from large schools of fish,” the video warns.

“The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter patrols the South West on weekends and holidays. If the helicopter hovers and sounds the siren, stay out of the water for at least an hour and check your mobile for updates on shark activity before returning to the water.”

A shark spotted by the Westpac Helicopter. Photo: Fisheries WA

Last weekend, the SharkSmart website recorded six individual shark sightings down south between Bunker Bay and Wilyabrup.

And over the last month, there have been 33 reported sightings by the helicopter between Hamelin Bay and Peppermint Grove Beach.

The Salmon bleeding at Smiths Beach captured by drone. Photo: Ian Wiese

The warning follows an incident at Smiths Beach last Wednesday, when Yallingup locals criticised fishermen for putting swimmers at risk of a shark attack after catching and gutting a salmon catch without warning at the popular swimmers beach.

Electronic shark deterrent devices have been set up around the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro in order to repel sharks.


London attacker was 52-year old British man

1. London

Police have identified the London attacker as a 52-year old British man who was born in Kent – Khalid Masood.

Masood was previously investigated by MI5 and had a criminal conviction but the Prime Minister Theresa May says there was no prior intelligence about his murderous intent. [My report/Fairfax]

Home Secretary Amber Rudd says there was no failure of intelligence but the reality that there can be no “24 hour cover.” [Laura Kuenssberg/BBC]

The three killed by Massood have now all been identified and their stories are heartbreaking.

Tributes were laid at Scotland Yard for the slain police officer Keith Palmer.

The two others were American Kurt Cochran who was in London celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary with his wife, and a woman, Asha Frade. A great American, Kurt Cochran, was killed in the London terror attack. My prayers and condolences are with his family and friends.??? Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 23, 2017 Photo: Andrew Meares

But the PM has rejected the idea. [Sarah Martin/The n]

A separate group is urging the government to stick to its pledge to lower the company tax rate – a policy the Coalition can’t get through the current parliament. [Philip Coorey/The Financial Review]

Malcolm Turnbull’s “energy crisis” talk has only made the situation “as frightening as it gets,” says former Climate Change Authority advisor Danny Price. [Peter Hannam/Fairfax] 5. US politics

Trump’s healthcare replacement plan still looks likely to fail, despite eleventh hour attempts to make concessions that will make the bill more palatable to GOP conservatives. These possible concessions include plans to “sweep aside requirements that health insurance plans cover items like mental health care and maternity care”, which are likely to fail in the Senate anyway. [Politico]

Democrats have indicated they’re going to filibuster Trump’s Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch. [NYT]

And the congressional investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia is turning into a huge mess, with the Republican chair of the investigating committee being forced to apologise today for not sharing information with his fellow committee members before taking it to the media and the White House. [CNN]6. Israeli arrest

A 19-year old US-Israeli citizen has been arrested in Israel with police alleging he is responsible for a making a wave of bomb threats against Jewish centres in the US, n and New Zealand. [Reuters]

Sorry there was no Double Shot on Wednesday but as those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook know I was caught up in the events at Westminster. Have a great weekend and stay safe.

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A budget for voters, not the common good

Budget time often shows at its most sectional and selfish, especially if it is a Coalition budget. This one was no exception. It has been described as a turning-away from the meanness of the Abbott government’s 2014 budget and a turning-away from obsession with deficits.

But I get the sense that virtually every 2017 budget measure was written with an eye to voters. Not to voters or society overall, but to particular “sectors” of voters who might change their vote for or against the government according to how well or badly or unchanged the budget affected their individual financial position.

Let’s take housing. It has three sectors: home owners, investors and potential home buyers, who are also often renters. It is impossible to significantly help home buyers by making dwelling prices fall, without hurting investors and home owners.

You can only make prices fall if you take the heat out of the market by removing tax concessions to investors. If prices fall, however, the 65 per cent of households comprised of home owners would feel hard done by.

In balancing those sectors in the budget, the government pretended to do something for first-home buyers with a tax-concessional deposit-saving plan and a plan to encourage states to increase supply. It only tinkered with investor concessions. In short, it just added more air to the housing bubble.

Now let’s take education, which is deeply sectional. The Coalition has often been on the back foot on education, particularly after the first Gonski report. “Needs-based” funding was a winner. But the Gillard government ran scared and promised that, under needs-based funding, no school would be worse off. The two were contradictory, financially unsustainable and educationally suspect.

Nonetheless, Gonski continued to give Labor the education advantage. The government needed to do something. So it adopted Gonski, stripped of the “no-school-will-be-worse-off promise”. However, the Coalition’s change did not come because of a change of heart. Coalition members, in their hearts, are proponents of private and elite education.

The change did not come because the Coalition thought it was the right thing to so. It came because it had to nullify Labor.

As it happens, needs-based funding is the right thing to do. You get more educational bang for your buck by putting money where it is most needed and less money where educational standards are already good – in wealthy schools drawing students from well-off suburbs.

In doing so, though, the Coalition has hit the selfish, sectional snag. The Catholic sector thinks it is hard done by and wants a special deal. If it gets one, the independent schools will want one, too, and the whole thing will unravel.

If the government holds its nerve, the Greens might support it because they like the fairness behind the funding base, even if they would like more money to be spent in total. But watch Labor opportunistically exploit the Catholic dissatisfaction, even at the cost of a better education-funding model.

The Coalition expropriated David Gonski himself to report on why ‘s educational outcomes fell in the past 15 to 20 years, as a sop to the right of the Liberal Party, which believes it is all down to “lazy” teachers and teacher unions, when we know nearly all of it can be put down to money being allocated to where it’s not needed.

As to financial sustainability, the government will give more to the secondary sector by taking some from the tertiary sector. It is easier pickings. You can take money from tertiary students without too much of a squeal because they repay their fees way out in the future, so their parents are not too concerned and will not change their vote on this issue alone.

Coalition governments can also take money from universities without too much fuss. Academics are seen as mainly Labor voters. Yet the correlation between excellent universities and good economies should be obvious.

In health, again the Coalition needed to neutralise Labor. Its heart is against universal public healthcare with a single health insurer, and for private healthcare with just a safety net, no matter the inequity and inefficiency. But the Coalition neeed to be seen to support Medicare and similarly the national disability insurance scheme (through an increased Medicare levy) even though they are Labor ideas, because too many voters like them too much not to.

Medicare and the NDIS are now vote-changers, as we last election. And they need to be funded, at least just enough to neutralise Labor’s advantage, not because the Coalition believes in them.

Similarly, with ruling out the welfare meanies of the 2014 budget – the “zombie” measures knocked back by the Senate. They were removed not because the Coalition thought they were unfair but because it needed to deal with them lest they affect our triple-A credit rating. But a couple of other sneaky ones were put in their place.

The Coalition kept favour with one of its favourite sectors since the Howard years: retirees. It gave an electricity payment to pensioners to heat and fuel their often high-value principal residences, which are excluded from the pension means test. Too bad for younger renters who cop the same electricity bills.

Another sector that did well was coal mining, whose subsidies topped $1 billion – a pretty good deal for the modest sums it donates into Coalition coffers.

Overall, the budget was crafted for people and sectors who want more money and things for themselves – their “fair share”, which translates as more than they deserve.

It was a petty, just-enough budget: just enough to neutralise some big Labor advantages without doing anything about Howard-era tax injustices that have favoured the wealthy over the common good for two decades.

And, apart from a couple of big-ticket worthwhile infrastructure projects (inland rail and Sydney’s second airport), there was little concern for the long-term common good.

That is why there was virtually nothing about the one thing we all share: the environment, in particular renewal energy. Unless and other countries seriously do their share of the heavy lifting to preserve a now-threatened planet, all the budget cakes and how they are sliced up will be meaningless.


Centrelink debt recovery saga hits people with disabilities

Centrelink has demanded payments of more than $10,000 from people with disabilities using its controversial automated debt recovery methods, causing distress and adding to financial pressure on families, a parliamentary inquiry into the “robo-debt” saga has heard.

The debt program has caught up young people with disabilities and their families relying on income support, causing “marked emotional and financial stress”, advocacy groupChildren and Young People with Disability said.

Unable to find evidence needed to dispute the debt claims, some had paid the amounts while others expended “significant time, energy and at times additional expense to locate the necessary documentation”.

“CYDA has been informed of significant distress experienced by young people and families around how they can correct overpayment notices, or pay off debts, while still meeting essential living costs,” it told the Senate committee.

“This has contributed to significant stress and required young people and families to balance exceedingly tight budgets to fund basic living expenses such as food, rent and school costs.

“The additional debt recovery fee further heightens these financial challenges.”

The Department of Human Services’ data-matching methods cover disability support and carer payments.

DHS spokesman Hank Jongen said people identified as vulnerable were not included in the online compliance system.

“These letters are not sent in error. They are sent when the department has identified a difference between income information provided to the n Taxation Office and the department, and simply request people to confirm their employment and income details,” he said.

“No assumption about debt is made and we invite people to provide additional information.”

Labor’s Human Services spokeswoman Linda Burney said the automated debt recovery program used a “dragnet approach” that had wrongly accused vulnerable people.

“It is deeply concerning that many accused may not have had the support they needed to appeal false debts, they could have been intimidated into paying debts they don’t even owe,” she said.

People with disabilities were vulnerable to incorrect debt claims from the DHS’ data matching system because their income sources varied, CYDA said.

“There appears to have been minimal consideration of these circumstances,” it said.

“Again, this highlights the crucial importance of having human oversight in relation to the identification of overpayments.”

How Jimmy Breslin changed my life, and how I missed it altogether

Jimmy Breslin changed my life.

I never knew it.

The shock of Breslin’s death this week was that he lived to 88, still banging out a weekly newspaper column.

In his earlier days, he gave himself a battering, which was what great journalists – and mediocre ones – were in the habit of doing before jogging and designer water came in.

Breslin went the further step, getting battered by a Mafia thug, too.

He was a New York columnist who wrote a lot of his greatest work, much of it about little people served indignities by the powerful and the crooked, long before the internet tore down the walls of press rooms everywhere and a US president started yabbering about fake news.

Tom Wolfe, who coined the term “The New Journalism” for an anthology in 1973, anointed Breslin as one of its finest stylists.

“He made the discovery,” Wolfe wrote, “that it was feasible for a columnist to leave the building, go outside and do reporting on his own, actual legwork. Breslin would go up to the city editor and ask what stories and assignments were coming up, choose one, go out, leave the building, cover the story as a reporter, and write about it in his column.”

And of Breslin’s approach to his craft: “He would … come back in at 4pm or so and sit down at a desk in the middle of the city room. It was quite a show. He was a good looking Irishman with a lot of black hair and a great wrestler’s gut. When he sat down at his typewriter he hunched himself over into a shape like a bowling ball. He would start drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes until vapor started drifting off his body. He looked like a bowling ball fuelled with liquid oxygen. Thus fired up, he would start typing.”

Problem was, if you lived in country and wanted to get exposed to Jimmy Breslin back when he was a one-man writing revolution, which was 30 years before Google was invented, you’d need somehow to get hold of a New York paper that ran his words.

The 1960s was a confused time when, on those occasions when I wasn’t thinking about girls, I was trying to figure what I might do with my life.

One day a priest who taught at our country boarding school showed me a column from an American publication that he’d found somewhere and squirreled away.

I was at the time writing for the school’s weekly roneoed??? news sheet that a few of us used as an instrument to terrorise other kids. If the Human Rights Commission had been around in those days we’d have been charged every week with offending, insulting, humiliating and harassing everyone who fell under our gaze, including teachers. We were smart arses.

This priest felt we could set our sights higher.

Journalism, he thought, was a worthy calling. And to prove it, he produced a tattered copy of a paper with a column by someone I’d never heard of.

It was a simple story about a man employed to dig graves at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington DC.

He had judgment, that priest. He’d chosen what five decades later I’d discover is still being held out as Jimmy Breslin’s greatest column.

Breslin, I’d learn years later, had earlier written “Death in Emergency Room One”, the single greatest piece of journalism about President John F. Kennedy dying on November 22, 1963. Writing through the eyes of the surgeon who worked on Kennedy, he typed lines that would live forever, like “the tall, dark-haired girl in the plum dress that had her husband’s blood all over the front of the skirt” refusing to leave the emergency room.

Breslin didn’t attend JFK’s funeral. Instead, he sought out Clifton Pollard, who worked at the cemetery. And this is how he started his column.

“Clifton Pollard was pretty sure he was going to be working on Sunday, so when he woke up at 9am, in his three-room apartment on Corcoran Street, he put on khaki overalls before going into the kitchen for breakfast. His wife, Hettie, made bacon and eggs for him. Pollard was in the middle of eating them when he received the phone call …”

It was his boss asking him to dig a grave for the President of the United States. The column that followed immortalised Clifton Pollard thus: “One of the last to serve John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who was the 35th president of this country, was a working man who earns $3.01 an hour and said it was an honor to dig the grave.”

That a journalist could write like this and get it published … well, I decided pretty much right there that I wanted to give that a go.

But here’s the thing.

I never knew the writer’s name was Jimmy Breslin. I was a kid at school reading an old article from the other side of the world and I didn’t take notice of the byline.

A few hours after Jimmy Breslin’s death was announced this week, a friend asked if I’d read Breslin’s famous “Gravedigger Column”. I Googled it.

And there was that article a priest had showed me in the 1960s, which had changed my life.

Some reporter I’d turned out to be. Right from the start until the story was finished, I’d overlooked the key detail.

The name. Jimmy Breslin.

Sky apologises ‘unreservedly’ for Latham’s on-air claims

Sky News has apologised “unreservedly” to broadcaster Wendy Harmer and its own employee Kristina Keneally after Mark Latham made on-air claims about both women.

On March 21, Latham appeared on Sky to accuse Ms Keneally, the former NSW premier, of being a “prot??g??” of disgraced former NSW Labor minister Eddie Obeid.

Five days later, on his Sky program The Outsiders, Latham lashed out at Ms Harmer after she wrote on social media that she was “deeply unimpressed” by some of Sky’s offerings.

Latham instructed the veteran broadcaster to “tune out” and “get a life”.

He then claimed she was a “commercial failure” who got a job at the “sheltered workshop” ABC because she is a woman with a disability.

Ms Harmer sent a legal letter to Sky News over the remarks and wrote on Twitter: “To be clear, a simple apology will do.”

Latham, the former federal Labor leader, has since been sacked over a separate incident where he speculated that a Sydney schoolboy was “gay” after the teenager appeared in a video about feminism.

The apology was delivered on Thursday night, about 13 minutes into the 6pm news bulletin.

“A statement now from Sky News management,” newsreader Ashleigh Gillon began.

“Sky News acknowledges that it broadcast certain statements by Mark Latham about Wendy Harmer. Sky News acknowledges that these statements falsely imputed that Ms Harmer’s media career over the past four decades has been a failure, and that she has only been able to secure her current employment as a broadcaster with the ABC because she is a female with a disability.

“Sky News rejects these comments in their entirety and apologises unreservedly to Ms Harmer.”

The apology also acknowledged the network had broadcast “certain statements” by Latham about Kristina Keneally.

“Sky News acknowledges that these statements falsely imputed that Ms Keneally acted corruptly in her former role as premier of NSW. Sky News rejects these comments in their entirety and apologises unreservedly to Ms Keneally.”

Following the apology, Ms Harmer wrote on Twitter: “Thank you Sky News for my unreserved apology” Thank you @SkyNewsAust for my unreserved apology and also to @KKeneally 1.??? Wendy Harmer (@wendy_harmer) March 30, 2017