Families of Gallipoli soldiers invited to Anzac Day ceremony in London

Major Patrick Jackson in London at the announcement of the special Anzac commemorative event. Photo: Nick Miller Major Patrick Jackson in London at the announcement of the special Anzac commemorative event. Photo: Nick Miller
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Major Patrick Jackson in London at the announcement of the special Anzac commemorative event. Photo: Nick Miller

Major Patrick Jackson in London at the announcement of the special Anzac commemorative event. Photo: Nick Miller

London: Descendants of the soldiers who fought in the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915 have been invited to a special commemorative Anzac Day ceremony at the Cenotaph in London.

New Zealand prime minister John Key said it could be a good alternative for people who had failed to get tickets to the main event at Anzac Cove.

And prime minister Tony Abbott encouraged Australians in the UK to “take this opportunity to commemorate and honour the sacrifice of  our Anzacs.”

Though the ceremony will be open to all, descendants of the Anzacs would be able to apply for free tickets to watch from a reserved area or join a march past the Cenotaph.

“There has been quite a voracious ballot process (at Anzac Cove),” Mr Key said. “We certainly would have liked to have had much more numbers being able to attend and many many descendants are very disappointed that they can’t, so this gives us an opportunity to make sure that they can take part in the commemorations.”

UK culture secretary Sajid Javid said he did not want to estimate how many would take up the invitation.

“I hope as many descendants as possible, of whatever nationality, are able to attend to remember their loved ones,” he said.

British Major Patrick Jackson, 48, was at the announcement of the ceremony, at the Imperial War Museum in London on Monday.

He said his family had often talked about his grandfather’s experience at Gallipoli – and it was a source of great pride.

Midshipman Arthur Mallet was only 16 when the HMS Vengeance parked off the Dardanelles and shelled Turkish positions as the first waves of the Gallipoli assault began on April 25, 1915.

“I don’t know what he would have made about our talking about him 100 years later,” Major Jackson said. “But we are definitely enormously proud of the part he played.”

After recovering from his injury, Mallet went on to a different ship and took part in the Great War’s biggest naval encounter, the battle of Jutland – in which 25 ships were sunk with great loss of life. He survived, and lived until the 1970s.

Major Jackson said he thought the Cenotaph gathering on Anzac Day was an “amazing” idea, that might revive, or at least remember, the camaraderie of the Great War.

Descendants of those who fought in the Gallipoli campaign, and other members of the public who wish to take part, must apply for (free) tickets at this web address.

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ICAC hears ‘ransom’ payments secured work contracts

EVIDENCE: A grab from ICAC-released footage of a filmed meeting outside a hotel in Sydney.A WORKER at a state-owned electricity company pocketed more than $300,000 in allegedly corrupt kickbacks from contractors, including $25,000 to modify his car and thousands more for luxury home renovations, the corruption watchdog has heard.
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The Independent Commission Against Corruption will make recommendations to stamp out graft in the electricity network industry after an anonymous tip-off triggered an investigation into former Ausgrid engineer Phillip Cresnar.

Mr Cresnar, who started working at the company as a graduate in 2006, allegedly solicited cash and gifts ranging from airfares and event tickets to a $60,000 custom kitchen and an imported marble bath and toilets costing $7800 for helping contractors win lucrative contracts.

Counsel assisting the commission, Sydney barrister Tim Gartelmann, said in his opening address on Monday that the contracts awarded to some of the companies were worth tens of millions of dollars.

The inquiry was shown footage of Mr Cresnar meeting contractors Fergal McGann and John Madden on January 20 last year outside the Greengate Hotel in Killara, where he was allegedly given an envelope containing $2500 in cash after Mr Madden was filmed making a withdrawal.

Mr McGann said in a secretly taped phone call organising the meeting that they wanted to “sort [Mr Cresnar] out”. But the contractors, whose company MDM Formworks received Ausgrid contracts worth $362,000, denied handing over money.

The commission heard that one company, Bastow Civil Constructions, secured contracts worth $20 million between 2007 and 2012 and paid for big-ticket items for Mr Cresnar in return. The owner of the company, Jason Bastow, told the inquiry “it was like I was held at ransom”. He said that around 2008 Mr Cresnar told him that “he wanted me to buy him certain items for his house”.

Mr Bastow said he “hesitated” but eventually paid up. He gave evidence the Ausgrid engineer came with him as he paid for a range of other items totalling $31,000. When asked why Mr Cresnar provided him with a phone, he replied: “Corrupt activities.” He told the inquiry he believed his company would get only “crap work” if he stopped making payments, and that he also handed over $5000 in cash.

The inquiry is expected to run for five days. Mr Cresnar’s employment was terminated last year.

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Optometrists attack ‘short-sighted’ Medicare cuts

Short-sighted: Optometrists say eye health could decline as a result of Medicare cuts. Photo: Dean Osland Short-sighted: Optometrists say eye health could decline as a result of Medicare cuts. Photo: Dean Osland
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Short-sighted: Optometrists say eye health could decline as a result of Medicare cuts. Photo: Dean Osland

Short-sighted: Optometrists say eye health could decline as a result of Medicare cuts. Photo: Dean Osland

More patients will pay to see an optometrist as a result of a cut to Medicare rebates that took effect at the start of the year, optometrists say.

The 5 per cent cut to the optometry rebates announced in the May budget means that an optometrist who bulk-bills their patient will receive $3.55 less from Medicare for a standard visit.

However optometrists, who previously were not allowed to charge more than the Medicare scheduled fee, are now free to charge patients as much as they like.

Kate Gifford, the national president of Optometry Australia, said while allowing optometrists to set their own fees was welcome, the cuts to rebates, which are estimated to save about $90 million over four years, were “extremely short-sighted”.

“If patients stay away, it will lower eye health outcomes for the community,” Mrs Gifford said.

“This could have quite significant outcomes in the future if people delay eye care because they’re concerned about affordability.”

Almost 97 per cent of optometry services are delivered at no charge to the patient. But Mrs Gifford said many patients would face out-of-pocket costs as optometrists charged fees to recover the income they would lose from Medicare.

“I think you will see optometrists charging,” she said.

Mrs Gifford said Optometry Australia was seeking meetings with the government about the effect the change would have on disadvantaged groups.

“Everybody needs eye health care, but there are some people who genuinely can’t afford a co-payment,” she said.

She said some optometrists who served low-income groups would not be able to charge their patients fees, and would come under financial pressure.

The fees the Department of Veterans’ Affairs pay optometrists for services to veterans have not changed, and optometrists are not allowed to charge a co-payment for these services.

In a separate change that also came into force on January 1, people under 65 years of age without new symptoms will only be able to claim a Medicare rebate for a comprehensive eye examination every three years, rather than every two years.

Mrs Gifford said this change, which is estimated to save almost $10 million over five years, was “not positive and not evidence-based”.

But she welcomed a related change which would give people aged 65 and over Medicare-funded comprehensive examinations every year, rather than every two years.

A spokeswoman for the federal health department said optometrists would determine whether to continue to bulk-bill or to charge their patients out-of-pocket costs.

The spokeswoman said the Medicare Benefits Schedule provided for a patient under 65 years of age to have a second or subsequent consultation with an optometrist within three years if necessary.

Medicare funded optometric services would continue to be available for patients who had symptoms, the spokeswoman said.

She said the the revenue generated from the changes would be invested in the Medical Research Future Fund, which “has the potential to deliver treatments, or even cures, for some of the world’s most debilitating diseases.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that no exemptions had been made to the cuts to optometry fees. In fact, the fees the Department of Veterans’ Affairs pay optometrists for services to veterans have not changed, and optometrists are not allowed to charge a co-payment for these services.

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COMMENT: Sydney whining over venue for Asian Cup clash no surprise

PREDICTABLY it didn’t take long for the whining to emanate out of Sydney about Newcastle hosting a potential Asian Cup semi-final featuring the Socceroos.
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Social media was abuzz on Saturday night following Australia’s 1-0 loss South Korea in Brisbane.

‘‘An Asian Cup semi-final in Newcastle? Really?’’ was one typically Sydney-centric Twitter message.

Another tweet answered with ‘‘Tasmania didn’t have a suitable venue’’.

Then on Monday both the Sydney Morning Herald and Daily Telegraph ran articles suggesting it would be embarrassing to see an Asian Cup semi-final, potentially between Australia and Japan, at Hunter Stadium.

Admittedly it is less than ideal that Hunter Stadium’s capacity will be diminished to 22,000 due to Asian Football Confederation’s rules preventing tickets being sold for the southern and northern grassed hills.

Even if temporary seating can be installed, the capacity will fall well short of the ground’s usual 33,000.

Meanwhile the other semi-final venue, Homebush’s Stadium Australia, has a capacity of 83,000.

Correctly, the AFC has already ruled out transferring the match from Newcastle. This is the game Newcastle and the Hunter deserves.

The region gave birth to one of the country’s oldest clubs, West Wallsend, formed by English miners in 1884.

The Northern NSW region has also produced 97 Socceroos and one of our country’s greatest ever footballers, Liverpool legend Craig Johnston, grew up at Lake Macquarie.

The Newcastle Jets are on track to miss the A-League finals for a fifth straight season and are beset by ownership turmoil, but still boast 10,000 members.

Would Sydney FC supporters front up to Allianz Stadium if they were served up five seasons of mediocrity?

No one was complaining when everyone expected the Socceroos to beat South Korea and top their group, meaning Sydney would host an Australian semi-final.

Or when Newcastle was handed a one-sided match between Japan and Palestine or a dead rubber played between Middle Eastern minnows Kuwait and Oman in the same timeslot as the Socceroos blockbuster against South Korea.

Instead, Novocastrians turned out in droves to support the world game.

The Socceroos have played in Newcastle just three times in the past 40 years. The last time being an Oceania Nations Cup semi-final against New Zealand in 1995.

We’re certainly overdue.

Here’s an idea for the Sydneysiders who are moaning about the Asian Cup semi-final – get in early and book a ticket and take a drive or train ride two hours north.

I suspect you’ll enjoy what a Novocastrian football crowd can deliver.

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Health star rating system for packaged food should be compulsory: poll

Big support: Call for a tax on sugary drinks and junk food. Photo: Thinkstock
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Big support: Call for a tax on sugary drinks and junk food. Photo: Thinkstock

Big support: Call for a tax on sugary drinks and junk food. Photo: Thinkstock

Making a health star rating compulsory for all packaged foods has attracted the overwhelming support of respondents in a national poll.

Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash launched a voluntary health star rating system last month which gives products a score of up to five stars based on their energy, fat, sugar and salt content.

More than three-quarters of respondents said the system should be made compulsory, in a poll of more than 1000 people commissioned by the Heart Foundation, Consumers Health Forum, Public Health Association and Obesity Policy Coalition.

Almost two-thirds of those polled agreed that “the food industry seems to have more say than the government over the regulation of food”.

The results follow controversy over the introduction of health star ratings, with Senator Nash’s former chief of staff Alastair Furnival at the centre of conflict-of-interest claims after revelations that he co-owned a lobbying firm representing junk food clients.

In other results, 85 per cent of those polled said unhealthy eating habits were a major problem for Australian children and half supported regulations on television advertising of junk food to children.

Half of people polled supported a tax on junk food and sugary drinks. This follows recent calls by some government ministers to extend the GST to fresh food, which has been widely opposed by health groups.

Health groups behind the poll said the results showed widespread support for action to tackle obesity amid concern over unhealthy diets.

Heart Foundation chief executive Mary Barry said Australia was facing a crisis, with about 60 per cent of Australian adults and a quarter of children now classified as overweight.

Of this group, about 25 per cent of adults and six per cent of children are obese.

Ms Barry said the government needed to immediately launch a national obesity prevention strategy which should include mandatory food labelling, restrictions on marketing of junk food to children and a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

“It’s going to have to be a long-term commitment, like we’ve had to reduce the number of people smoking,” she said.

Public Health Association of Australia president Heather Yeatman said significant increases in cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes would occur without urgent action to address dietary-related illness.

A spokeswoman for the federal health department said the government was encouraged to see food companies moving to implement health star ratings, making healthier choices easier for consumers. She said the voluntary system was due to be reviewed within two years.

The spokeswoman said the government funded a variety of other measures to address obesity, including guidelines and activities to encourage healthy eating and physical activity.

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Boom in Asian tourism to help Australian business

Companies in several industries, including aviation, construction, casinos, shopping malls and wine, stand to benefit from a boom in Asian tourists that will help offset the economic drag from declining resources investment, says CLSA.
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The broker’s head of Australia research, Scott Ryall, has issued a lengthy report identifying $40 billion of major tourism projects in progress or planning that will help create critical mass for new developments as Australia looks to upgrade its tourism stock to meet demand from growing markets such as China.

“We believe government and industry are co-ordinating to attract foreign investors,” he said, adding he was impressed by the bipartisan nature of the focus.

The Tourism 2020 plan targeting $115 billion to $140 billion of overnight spending by the end of the decade was released under the Gillard government in 2011, but it has also been embraced by the Abbott government.

Mr Ryall said companies such as steel producer Arrium, building materials group Boral, construction company Lend Lease and residential developer Mirvac would be among those to benefit from additional development in the tourism industry. Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb has been actively seeking more foreign investment in tourism-related developments.

Projects under way include a new convention centre and the Barangaroo precinct in Sydney, the Queen’s Wharf precinct in Brisbane, the Aquis resort and casino in Cairns, a new resort and cruise terminal on the Gold Coast and the Elizabeth Quay precinct in Perth.

The investment comes as the number of tourists from Asia – and in particular China – continues to rise. Mr Ryall said Sydney Airport would be among the key beneficiaries from a rise in visitors, but companies including shopping centre operators Scentre Group and Novion Property, casino owners Crown Resorts, Echo Entertainment Group and SkyCity Entertainment Group, and wine producer Treasury Wine Estates would also benefit from tourist spending.

The weaker Australian dollar could assist in further boosting demand for visits to Australia and onshore spending.

“Cost is a big issue for all tourists, particularly from an emerging market,” Mr Ryall said.

The high Australian dollar had also led to a fall in the number of Chinese students enrolling in local universities. Education can be a major driver of tourism because friends and relatives of students have more of an incentive to visit.

But Mr Ryall said a huge step-up in travel demand was expected in the medium term given Australia is high on the wish-list of destinations for Chinese tourists. China is now the second-largest inbound market behind New Zealand and the most lucrative in terms of the number of dollars spent.

However, Australia has been losing market share among Chinese tourists to rival destinations in North America and Europe. Among out-of-Asia travel by Chinese tourists, Australia’s share has fallen to 3.4 per cent, from 3.8 per cent in 2001.

Industry lobby groups such as Tourism & Transport Forum have called on the government to make it easier for Chinese tourists to gain visas,  to help combat falling market share.

The government has launched an electronic processing trial, but Chinese tourists still need to provide extensive documentation such as evidence of access to funds, a letter from an employer confirming leave, and other information showing an incentive to return to China.

Mr Ryall said there was evidence from Korea that reducing visa restrictions could have a significant effect on boosting Chinese tourism. Korea once received a similar number of Chinese tourists to Japan. But since reducing visa restrictions significantly in August 2010, Korea receives treble the number of Chinese tourists as Japan.

“They are making changes,” Mr Ryall said of the Australian move toward electronic processing and three-year multiple entry business visas. “But I think this will always be an area where we are slightly harder than other countries.”

Chinese tourism growth has been driven in part by increased aviation capacity. That has come from Chinese carriers, as Qantas Airways services China only through a daily flight between Sydney and Shanghai.

There is a cap on aviation capacity as a result of a bilateral agreement between Australia and China, but the countries are in negotiations that could result in more flights being allowed.

The cap has already been reached in peak periods, such as Chinese New Year, and limits additional second-tier Chinese carriers from entering the market.

Mr Ryall said Qantas, which is now pursuing a joint venture with China Eastern, could benefit from increased volumes from China on its domestic network. But he said it was less likely that Qantas would add more flights to China on its own aircraft.

“I don’t think they see the Chinese market as high yielding enough to focus a lot of their own planes into that market,” he said.

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Hezbollah buries fighters killed in Syria by Israeli strike, UN peacekeepers brace for retaliation

Beirut: Thousands turned out on the streets of southern Beirut to mourn the death of a young Hezbollah fighter – one of at least six killed in a suspected Israeli air strike on a convoy in the Syrian border area of Quneitra.
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As Jihad Mugniyeh, the son of former Hezbollah military leader Imad Mughniyeh – whose assassination in Damascus in 2008 was also attributed to Israel – was being farewelled, Iran confirmed a senior commander of its Revolutionary Guard, General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi, was killed in the air strike.

Bracing for retaliation, United Nations peacekeepers increased their patrols along the mountainous border between Lebanon and Israel following the attack, local media reported, while the Lebanese Army fortified its positions.

But Hezbollah is desperately overstretched, analysts say, with thousands of its members fighting in Syria to back up the army of President Bashar al-Assad as well as trying to fend off Sunni Islamist militant attacks in Lebanon’s north.

It cannot, they warn, afford to open up a third front against Israel in response to the air strike.

The attack came just days after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened to retaliate against Israel for its repeated strikes on targets in Syria.

He boasted the movement had strengthened its military arsenal, including Iranian Fateh-110 missiles that, with a range of 200 kilometres, are able to reach inside Israel.

A key question, says Sami Nader, a professor in international relations at St Joseph’s University in Beirut, is what Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard were doing in the Quneitra area on Sunday.

The region, which borders the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, is a stronghold of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front and a long way from Hezbollah’s operations to support the Syrian regime’s army in Homs, Damascus and Qusayr.

Both Hezbollah and Iran described the group as carrying out an “inspection and intelligence operation” in Syria.

“They may have been trying to engage Israel from there,” Professor Nader says, or they may have been examining the vulnerability of Lebanon’s southern borders.

“I will not be surprised at all if Nusra or the Islamic State attack Lebanon via Quneitra or Shebaa Farms,” he warned. “Everyone is expecting Nusra and IS to attack Hezbollah from the north in the Bekaa, but the south is also vulnerable.”

Professor Nader pointed to last week’s devastating twin suicide bombings in a cafe in the Alawite area of the Lebanese city of Tripoli in which nine people died – an attack claimed by the Nusra Front – as a grim marker of worse violence to come. “This really puts Lebanon in the eye of the storm and shows that Lebanese are being radicalised.”

Hezbollah has good reason to be worried about attacks from the south, he says. “I don’t think Hezbollah is suicidal enough to engage Israel today and open a third front – they have two fronts already open, two fronts that are exhausting all their resources and energy.”

Israel has struck Syria several times since the start of its four-year war, mostly targeting weapons convoys it says were destined for Hezbollah – just last month Syria says Israeli jets bombed targets near Damascus airport and the town of Dimas, near the Lebanon-Syria border.

A source told the Hezbollah-affiliated as-Safir newspaper that Sunday’s attack would be answered with a “painful and unexpected response” but not one that will drag Lebanon into all out war.

“While there is little doubt that there is likely to be [a response], Hezbollah is in no rush – even under these tense circumstances – to trigger a large-scale confrontation with Israel,” says Aram Nerguizian, Senior Fellow at the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

He notes any potential response from Hezbollah would be “subject to pressure from Iran”.

Israel’s military declined to comment on the attack, but the Ynet website quoted a military source saying the attack had targeted “terrorists who intended to attack Israel”.

Although he did not mention the Syria attack or Hezbollah specifically, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday: “Israel is adamant that it will have the right to defend itself against all those who wish to propagate terror and other attacks against its citizens, against its territory.”

One retired Israeli military commander, Major-General Yoav Galant, suggested the timing of Israel’s air strike was linked to its upcoming March elections. He told Israel’s Channel 2 television: “Judging by past events, you can learn that sometimes there’s a timing that is not unrelated to the elections campaign.”

Hezbollah and Israel last fought a war in 2006, in which 1200 Lebanese – most of them civilians – died and around 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, were killed in a 34-day conflict. The two countries are still technically at war, as are Israel and Syria.

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Australian Open: Nick Kyrgios overcomes Federico Delbonis in eventful clash

Australian Open 2015: full coverageKokkinakis beats 11th seed in five setsLive tennis scores
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Flag-bearer Nick Kyrgios has shaken off his back problem and a relentless opponent to close out a dream opening day for Australian players at Melbourne Park.

Rising to the expectation heaped on him in the build-up, the teenager held his body and game together long enough to keep the hype going into the second round, outlasting Argentina’s Federico Delbonis in a gruelling five-set test 7-6 (7-2), 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3 that lasted three hours and eight minutes.

Kyrgios, the highest ranked Australian in the men’s draw at No.53, needed to take a medical timeout early in the first set, raising fears that the back injury that had provided such a talking point this week might bring an anti-climactic end to his challenge.

However he rallied to take the first set, and then had enough athleticism in reserve to break Delbonis early in the fifth and serve out the match on Margaret Court Arena.

Kyrgios’ win came just minutes after the man he beat in an Australian Open junior final, fellow Australian “Special K” young gun Thanasi Kokkinakis, pulled off a stunning upset over Lativa’s 11th seed Ernests Gulbis.

It means 2015 will be the first Australian Open since 2003 when the host nation has more than five male players advance to the second round.

Kyrgios admitted he “wasn’t in a great head space” coming into the match because of the back injury, but rated his ability to go the distance as a “massive” confidence booster heading into his next match against Croatian 23rd seed Ivo Karlovic, who won his opening match in straight sets on Monday.

“I haven’t played a lot of competitive tennis in the last couple of months due to injury,” Kyrgios said. “That’s my first win of 2015 and it’s come at the Australian Open. So I’m really pleased that I got through, and I’m really happy with how I pulled up physically from the fifth set.

“I felt that I could go longer. It was a massive difference to the first five-setter I played last year. I was struggling towards the end of the third and start of the fourth back then.

“So tonight is a massive improvement, especially when I haven’t had the ideal preparation.

“I didn’t feel rusty, but maybe I was nervous.

“Obviously there was a lot of expectation. But I had belief in myself that things were going to swing.”

Speaking after the match, Kyrgios said that he benefitted from a rise in energy when news of Kokkinakis’ victory was revealed on his court early in the fifth set of his match.

“I could hear some noise whenever he won a point or won a set. When I saw him win on the scoreboard, it sort of gave me some motivation,” Kyrgios said.

“I guess that’s what having a good relationship with him has done.”

“It’s an exciting time. I don’t think Australian tennis has been in this position for a long time, so hopefully we can keep pushing each other.”

Frustration got the better of Kyrgios at one stage in the second set, with the youngster slamming his racquet into the ground, which lead to him being penalised a point.

“I don’t really like losing. I guess that’s how the emotions come out,” he explained.

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Asian Cup: Newcastle to keep semi-final

Matt McKay of the Socceroos is congratulated by team mates after scoring a goal during the 2015 Asian Cup match between Oman and Australia at ANZ Stadium on January 13, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)ASIAN Cup officials have guaranteed Newcastle will keep its semi-final, despite pressure to switch the potential blockbuster between Australia and Japan to ANZ Stadium.
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Organisers have looked at adding extra seats at Hunter Stadium ahead of the match, given the venue is the smallest of five being used for the tournament and can only accommodate about 23,000 people in its stands.

The Asian Football Confederation policy has prevented the sale of tickets to the two non-seated, grassed areas behind the goals at Hunter Stadium, reducing the venue’s capacity by about 10,000.

If the Socceroos beat China in Thursday’s quarter-final at Suncorp Stadium, they will most likely play tournament favourites Japan at the ground on January 27.

Despite the likely high demand for tickets, local organising committee chief executive Michael Brown all but ruled out a switch to Sydney’s ANZ Stadium – which is hosting the other semi-final on Australia Day and final on January 31.

The former Olympic venue can hold 83,500 fans but moving there would be a logistical nightmare, Brown believes.

‘‘We haven’t even looked at it,’’ he said on Monday.

‘‘I think it would be disrespectful to either team [Australia or China] to be contemplating it.’’

Asian Cup communications general manager Alison Hill later told the Newcastle Herald there was no chance of the game moving to Sydney.

‘‘I can unequivocally tell you, regardless of who is in the semi-final, the game will not be moved to Sydney,’’ Ms Hill said.

‘‘Newcastle has a semi-final and Newcastle is keeping a semi-final.

‘‘The Asian Cup has strongly been behind Newcastle and we chose to come to Newcastle and that’s not going to change.’’

A Hunter Stadium spokesperson confirmed organisers had sought to add temporary seating on the ground’s hills.

‘‘We have received a formal request from the Australian Local Organising Committee to increase the capacity at the grassed ends,’’ a spokesperson said.

‘‘The matter will be deliberated and a decision will be made on it soon.’’

The Herald, though, believes temporary seating will not be an option because of the cost and time involved.

With temporary seating out of the picture, the AFC will be under pressure to change their policy on ticketing if the Socceroos beat China on Thursday.

Australia had been tipped to top their group, meaning they would have played their quarter-final in Melbourne and, if victorious, their semi-final in Sydney. But Saturday’s 1-0 loss to South Korea meant they finished second and on a much tougher route to the Cup final. with AAP

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Personality disorders: hospital staff to be trained in how to care for misunderstood condition

Hospitals across the state will be trained to care for people suffering from personality disorders – common but poorly understood conditions that often lead to self-harm and suicide.
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On Tuesday Mental Health Minister Jai Rowell will announce a new program to help improve care for the conditions. It affects between 5 and 10 per cent of the population, who have been stigmatised in the general and medical communities.

Personality disorders make a person feel emotions with excruciating intensity, often making relationships difficult and leading them to engage in destructive behaviours. It is thought between 50 and 80 per cent of sufferers self-harm.

But an innovative program called “Project Air”, developed by researchers at Wollongong University, has found that giving hospitals tools to deal with the condition can lead to big drops in the need for emergency care, shorter hospitals stays and improved well-being for carers.

On Tuesday Mr Rowell will commit $600,000 to roll out the program across the state this year.

“This is a real area of need,” Mr Rowell said. “The expansion of ‘Project Air’ will significantly improve the capacity of health services to diagnose, manage and provide effective treatment for people with personality disorders.”

About one in six of the 33,000 admissions to NSW mental-health units each year involve personality disorders. And about 90 per cent of the people who had the most frequent admissions were affected by the conditions.

Brin Grenyer, the director of Project Air and director of the University of Wollongong and Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, said people with personality disorders were still feared and discriminated against in the same way conditions such as cancer or schizophrenia were feared years ago.

“There is still a lot of fear around personality disorders because people don’t know what to do with them,” he said. “Health staff say … it’s not a real disorder, they are just being annoying or manipulative, and trying to get access to services when there are people with more serious needs.”

In fact, people with personality disorders often felt plagued by self-doubt, had a deep need for emotional connections with people that could be overwhelming to others, and had difficulty understanding the emotional turmoil they experienced, he said.

“They feel everything much more intensely, so it’s like the dial on their emotional life has been pushed up to 11,” he said. “A lot of the self-harm is almost an attempt at distracting themselves from the emotional pain they experience, or a way of communicating it to others.”

The $600,000 will be spent this financial year, and will go towards training programs for staff and restructuring hospitals to provide suitable care. Professor Grenyer said this would include setting up dedicated rapid-response psychological clinics that people could turn to in moments of crisis, which would hopefully prevent them from self-harming.

The program will then be expanded over the next five years.

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