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Picture Glenda Moore. A 39-year-old mother, she instinctively set out to protect her two small boys as the lights went out when hurricane Sandy struck – and the floods seeped into their Staten Island home.
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Or maybe the 50-something George Dresch, who figured he could sit out the storm with his wife and daughter, at home on the same exposed flank of the island – in New York Harbour and facing the open Atlantic.

Or perhaps their fellow islander, Leonard Montalto, 53, who shooed his daughter to safety as the flood level rose, insisting he must stay back to be sure the basement pump continued to work.

In opting to flee or remain, each wrote a little-people drama which, collectively, are more within human comprehension than is the big-picture destruction of the hurricane’s assault on the north-east corner of the US this week.

Moore’s SUV stalled on a flooded seaside road. Opting to make a run for it, she clutched two-year-old Brandon in one arm; and with the other, she dragged Connor, 4. But she stumbled, losing her grip and both boys disappeared in what, by then, had become a “raging tide”.

The flood dumped her in a flooded marsh, from which she emerged to spend two hours going door to door, pleading with neighbours to help her find the boys – but none would, she told local police.

Dresch and his 13-year-old daughter, Angela, disappeared when a catastrophic wave ripped apart their home in Oakwood. Several kilometres away in Tottenville, but still on the island, Montalto sounded confident as he watched the pump and uttered what would be his last word to his 24-year-old daughter. In a mobile phone conversation, he told her: “The water’s rushing in – it’s a good thing you got out.”

The bodies of the Moore boys were found on Thursday in a swamp. The body of the Dresch girl was found a block away from the splintered wreckage of their home on Tuesday; that of her father was recovered several streets away on Wednesday. A search of Montalto’s flooded basement by police divers failed to turn up his body, but it was recovered after neighbours punched a hole in the wall, which allowed the water to drain away.

These painful stories about the dead are swamped in accounts of the struggle by the living in the days after the hurricane.

New York certainly came to a shrieking halt – its subway system was flooded; all buses were off the roads; the bridges and tunnels that moor Manhattan to the rest of America were closed; power and communications were lost for millions; hospitals were evacuated when back-up power failed; and supermarket shelves were stripped bare. But for all the attention lavished on New York City this week, the real recovery crisis was across the Hudson River where, as late as Thursday, 20,000 people still were stranded in flooded homes and 6000 evacuees hunkered in emergency shelters in major centres such as Hoboken and Jersey City – amid rising fears of a public health crisis.

After making landfall on the New Jersey coast late on Monday, hurricane Sandy ran amok, bringing this prosperous north-east corner of the US to its knees – more than 90 people died, 38 of them in New York, as eight-plus million lost electricity and public transport was strangled in a frenzy of meteorological violence priced at almost $50 billion.

That estimate is huge, but comparatively it represents less than half the cost of the terrorist attacks of September 21, 2001; or Katrina, the hurricane that killed almost 2000 people as it barrelled into New Orleans and the south-east in 2005.

Moody’s Analytics economists attributed about $20 billion of the price tag to business lost by restaurants, casinos and airlines.

The other $30-odd billion would go to repairs on homes and property. Think of it as nature’s economic stimulus, the immediate impact of which was to push up the price of shares in hardware and materials suppliers Home Depot and Lowe’s in Wednesday’s resumption of trading on Wall Street.

Millions of homes in up to a dozen states are still without power and might have to survive another week or more without lifts, lights, heating, mobile phone service, Wi-Fi, refrigeration and hot showers.

In New York, water is in short supply – and being hauled on foot to the old and infirm in city high-rises. Ditto petrol, with long queues forming at service stations, especially in New Jersey. Emergency kitchens were being set up in New York to feed those unable to fend for themselves and sentinel columns of portable toilets adorn the forecourt of some apartment complexes.

By Wednesday, airports had partially reopened. Local public transport in New York in particular, remained affected – prompting authorities to insist on at least three people in cars entering Manhattan.

In a display of the pragmatism for which New Yorkers are renowned, the clientele of Manhattan’s downtown restaurants, still without power and struggling to get supplies, simply moved to unaffected uptown eateries – where ma?tre-d’s report a boom in business.

But if local and federal authorities wanted affirmation that they were seen to be doing the best they could to restore services, then it came late on Thursday when the only bone of contention on the news radar was the wisdom of a decision by organisers of Sunday’s New York City Marathon to go ahead with the event which is expected to draw a field of more than 40,000 and traditionally pulls as many as a million spectators.

Of all the states, New Jersey seemed to suffer most, with its waterside cities and hamlets taking a special hammering.

After losing electricity as Sandy blew through, authorities decided on Thursday that they also must cut the gas supply lines to the barrier islands along the Jersey Shore, because of the risk of fire and explosions in thousands of damaged and destroyed seaside homes.

Atlantic City’s dozen casinos remain closed, pending the restoration of power and potable water supplies. Thousands of utility workers from 12 other states were pouring in to help in the recovery.

Politics is never far from a crisis even when, as happened in the US this week, President Barack Obama and his republican challenger Mitt Romney declared that campaigning for Tuesday’s election had to be put aside. But there were “oohs” among the political chattering classes when the New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, a staunch Republican who might have been Romney’s vice-presidential running mate, effectively endorsed the Democrat Obama with his effusive praise for the President’s handling of the emergency response to Sandy.

And on Thursday, there were “ahs”, and even gasps when the New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, a self-described independent and a vocal critic of both Obama and Romney, declared that he must stand with Obama because in the aftermath of the hurricane, the poll needed to be perceived as who was the better candidate to tackle global climate change.

In the wall-to-wall media discourse on what Americans are learning about themselves and their society this week, a standout voice was that of an émigré Russian driver in New York’s Coney Island. On emerging after the storm, he was horrified to find his livelihood – his limousine – in waist-deep water and facing the opposite direction to that in which he had parked it the previous evening. Scoffing at how coddled Americans were, he chortled that growing up in Russia made him ready for anything. Then he marvelled at something very German, which indicated that his horror had been misplaced – turns out his Mercedes-Benz was floating because its door seals were so perfect, not a drop of water had seeped in. Boris was still in business.

But as New York struggles to get back to business, there is less to marvel at. Behind the high-tech dazzle and glitz of Times Square, the city’s infrastructure – physical and ethereal – was revealed as a carelessly fragile construct.

Some elements indeed may be as clever as the Mercedes-Benz door seals, but as the self-styled capital of the world, the Big Apple failed under pressure.

Radley Horton, a climate scientist and an adviser to New York City, discerns a teachable moment. Amid rising sea levels and temperatures and accelerated melting of the Arctic ice, he argues that Sandy’s ferocity has thrust the city’s ability to cope into unprecedented territory.

Ironically, he argued that New York had been preparing for such a storm – “but the impacts were on an extreme scale, and that’s very challenging to prepare for.”

Predicting a time-consuming recovery before there might be any detailed attention to preventive measures, Horton itemises a massive to-do list – pump out subway tunnels before electrical transit equipment can be tested and replaced; fix electrical distribution stations which were inundated; deal with the buildings in which electrical equipment is located in basements; and address the surprising vulnerability of coastal communities to fire.

Did someone say Haiti?

Haiti is not exactly a suburb of New York. But almost twice as many Haitians as New Yorkers died and more than 200,000 of their homes were destroyed or damaged as hurricane Sandy spun her wheels in the Caribbean last week before heading north. The tiny island with a population of just a few more than New York was still reeling from a 2010 earthquake that killed 316,000, injured 300,000 and left one-million-plus homeless.

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Chinese president-in-waiting Xi Jinping meets Sarah Lande’s granddaughter in Iowa.

LATE one afternoon in mid-February, China’s president-in-waiting, Xi Jinping, stood on the front verandah of Sarah Lande’s home on a bluff that rises over the little town of Muscatine, Iowa, and looked out over the broad slow flow of the Mississippi River into Indiana.

Over tea, in the rather grand front room of the Landes’ polished Victorian home, Xi told Sarah Lande he had dreamt of the Mississippi since reading Mark Twain as a child.

Being one of the most powerful men on earth, Xi was not the only guest. Lande remembers Muscatine’s mayor, China’s ambassador to the United States and assorted Chinese ministers. There were also 14 men and women to whom Lande refers as the ”group of friends” who Xi had met when he went to the region in 1985 as part of an agricultural exchange.

When we ?visited earlier this month, Lande showed off the group photo taken on her stairs, and standing by the fireplace where Xi had stood, she explained how he had said: ”For me, you are America.”

It is easy to imagine how the pretty rural prosperity of Muscatine might have impressed a Chinese provincial official less than a decade after the end of the Cultural Revolution. ”We treated him what we like to call ‘Iowa nice’,” Lande explains, referring to a form of hospitality that tends to include warm, plain talk, corn and pork.

Xi might not feel so welcome now, at the end of a long and bitterly fought election campaign in which China has sometimes been used as a cipher for American fears of economic, social and political decline.

In ads and speeches, the Republican candidate Mitt Romney has accused President Barack Obama of being too soft on China, and has vowed to label the Chinese as currency manipulators ”on day one”. The Obama campaign has portrayed Romney as a vulture capitalist who has enriched himself by exporting manufacturing jobs to China.

In one anti-Romney ad, a worker explains how the new owners of his company instructed staff to remove the American flag.

Allegedly non-partisan independent groups have been on the attack too. Ten days ago, a group called Citizens Against Government Waste revived a highly controversial ad set in Beijing in the year 2030, in which a professor is lecturing a class on why great nations fail.?”America tried to spend and tax itself out of a great recession,” the professor explains in subtitled Mandarin. ”Of course, we owned most of their debt. So now they work for us.” The professor titters, the class laughs.

In these dying days of the deadlocked election, both parties have focused on Ohio, where Obama led by just 1.9 points in the Real Clear Politics poll average on Tuesday.

All indications are that yet again this state could decide which party wins the election. There is also evidence that Obama is still enjoying some advantage among the white male demographic as a result of his bailout of the auto industry.

This week Romney’s campaign attacked, releasing an ad claiming that the bailout had led to Chrysler, which had been bought out by Fiat, transferring jobs to China.

The ad is not entirely true, as the plant in China is expanding to increase output to feed demand from the burgeoning Chinese middle class. Jobs are not being transferred from the US to China, they are being created in China. But electoral politics is a killing ground for such nuance, and though the ad has been torn apart by the fact-checkers that have been so much a part of this campaign, the response of Romney’s team has been to ramp up their broadcasting in Ohio. Clearly, strategists believe it is working.

TWO days after the November 6 US election, the Chinese Communist Party will begin its own leadership transition at the Great Hall of the People. The 18th Party Congress, on November 8-14, will be immediately followed by the unveiling of the new general secretary, Xi Jinping, the expected new premier, Li Keqiang and their team, on November 15.?The personalities and positions that are set in Washington and Beijing will shape the world.

The coincidence of a US and China leadership transition is a once-in-40-year event. And it is happening at a historic moment, when China is challenging the US position as the world’s sole superpower.

If Xi can keep the ship on course, the Chinese economy may well overtake the US as the world’s largest economy during his decade-long term. Every country in the region is scrambling to exploit, hedge and otherwise adjust its bearings.

”The weight of the world’s economy is genuinely moving in our direction,” said Prime Minister Julia Gillard this week, unveiling her new white paper on the Asia century. ”When we map the centre of gravity of global consumption, we see it is shifting east by more than 100 miles a year.”

Inevitably, where economic power goes, strategic and military power follows. The global centre of military firepower is shifting towards this region almost as fast as GDP.?Canberra has been at the vanguard of building and reinvigorating a latticework of regional security relationships, anchored in the might of the US. A year ago, Obama chose the Australian Parliament as the venue to announce his foreign policy ”pivot” to Asia.

”The possibility that we could devolve into a much more confrontational relationship is at one of the highest points than at any time since the opening of relations,” says Bates Gill, the newly arrived chief executive of the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, who is also an expert on China security issues.

The Obama administration and the Gillard government have been at pains to avoid naming China as the reason. But others are not so reticent.

”Australians view themselves as facing a strategic threat — this time from a China that is growing in every way and very fast, and that shows every sign of wanting to expand territorially as well,” writes Pentagon consultant Ed Luttwak in a new book, The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy.

Dennis Richardson, the outgoing secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told his new cadets earlier this year that the rivalry between the two powers would last longer than the Cold War, and it would not simply ”evolve so you can tie a ribbon on top”, according to a source in the room.?”The dynamics of the US-China relationship will shape your entire careers,” said Richardson, who has recently moved to run the Department of Defence.

The realignment of diplomatic and military power will be more complex and fluid than the Cold War with the Soviets. Growing US-China rivalry is accompanied by growing interdependency.

It is no coincidence that Richardson sent two of his top China hands to key American posts. Graeme Fletcher, the former deputy head of mission at the Australian embassy in Beijing, is now the deputy in Washington.?The international adviser to the former prime minister Kevin Rudd, Scott Dewar, is consul-general in Honolulu, where his job is to work with the US Pacific Command as it sends its six aircraft carrier groups, 180 ships and 1500 aircraft across half of the globe.

In June, in Singapore, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta flagged a ”rebalancing” that would see 60 per cent of US naval assets positioned in the Pacific. And in a fortnight from now, Panetta and the outgoing US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, are scheduled to fly to Perth for the ”Ausmin” strategic dialogue. They are pencilled in to dine with Gillard on November 14, after discussions with Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Defence Minister Stephen Smith.?Gill says both countries will likely be ”quietly exploring” ways to increase intelligence co-operation, upgrade co-operation in operating space-related assets from Australian soil, and also enhance the capacity to maintain and resupply American naval vessels.?It is unlikely that they will use the occasion to act on a suggestion in a recent report to the Pentagon that the local deep-water port, HMAS Stirling, will be expanded to accommodate US aircraft carriers.

The Australian ambassador to Beijing, Frances Adamson, said this week that Smith would not be making any surprise announcements about deepening military ties. His press releases, she said, ”are not necessarily the sorts of things that make you swing into print and write front-page stories”.?Not, at least, on the eve of Xi Jinping’s rise to power.

Until the start of this year, the consensus among political analysts was that China would have a smooth leadership change with any differences safely locked away behind closed doors. This transition, however, is the first in the history of the People’s Republic that has not been orchestrated by the founding fathers of the 1949 revolution.

It is shaping up as an epic contest at a moment of growing social, economic and political tension and uncertainty. And whereas America’s presidential candidates slog it out in public, with clear and independently enforced rules, China’s political adversaries face off inside the same tent and without enforceable ground rules.

The scale of the Chinese political scandals that have leaked out from the black box this year make Romney’s tax problems look trivial.?They include the highest level attempted defection in 40 years; a murder of an English businessman (by the wife of a Politburo member); a top party official covering up his son’s death in an exploding Ferrari (reportedly with two semi-clad women) and foreign media exposes that separately found that the families of two of the top leaders controlled billion-dollar fortunes. And then Xi Jinping failed to emerge in public for a fortnight.

”The poor guy — it’s like Obama four years ago — facing a completely impossible array of challenges,” says Professor Geremie Barme, director of the Australian National University’s Centre for China in the World. ”That’s probably why he took a sickie a few weeks ago,” he said, referring to Xi’s two-week disappearance from the public stage, which remains entirely unexplained.

”It is a state of extreme chaos,” said one Beijing political watcher, LiWeidong. ”There is nobody in absolute control.”

While the American contestants are sometimes reacting crudely to China’s rapidly accumulating power, those in China seem more preoccupied with their own fragility.?Chinese leaders have responded by bolstering their personal and collective defences with the strongest, crudest and most dangerous display of nationalism in decades.

Japan has been the target of shrill propaganda and state-sponsored protests, over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, but the spectre of America has been hovering in the background.?Chinese politicians and regional security analysts see regional affairs almost entirely through the prism of what they see as the US defending its hegemony against the rising power of China.

That is why many observers see the dispute ”as a time bomb planted by the US” between China and Japan, a retired senior Chinese official told foreign reporters in Hong Kong this week. ”That time bomb is now exploding, or about to explode.”

If China has emerged as a feature in American politics, then the US is China’s obsession, the measure of the country’s achievement and also the imagined ”enemy” by which it?defines itself. ”It has been a constant and strong belief that the US has sinister designs to sabotage the Communist leadership and turn China into its vassal state,” as Wang Jisi, foreign policy adviser to a former Chinese president, explained in a candid report for the Brookings Institution earlier this year.

And while the children of the party elite travel in droves to study in the US, the party itself sees the very existence of the US as a challenge to its monopoly on power. Party leaders seem to have even made a pact with each other – like a gang, or a cult – that they would not succumb to American ideas.

”We have made a solemn declaration,” said China’s low-profile second-ranked leader, Wu Bangguo, last year, ”that we will not employ a system of multiple parties holding office in rotation; diversify our guiding thought; separate executive, legislative and judicial powers; use a bicameral or federal system; or carry out privatisation.”

Later in 2011, Obama responded with his ”pivot” speech in Canberra, which outlined all the things that China’s leaders insist they will resist. ”Certain rights are universal; among them, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and the freedom of citizens to choose their own leaders,” Obama said. Within months, the first US marines arrived in Darwin.

If the 2008 US election was about hope and change, this year’s ambitions are far more modest. Obama is fighting a rearguard action to protect what change he managed to grind through the recalcitrant Congress he was left with after 2010.

Romney, ignoring his own bold record on health reform as governor of Massachusetts, argues that his business experience qualifies him to cut unemployment, deficit and debt. His broad approach to China seems unlikely to diverge much from Obama’s, despite some occasional rhetorical excursions.

In his book No Apology – effectively a job application published two years ago – he describes how in 2006 the former ambassador to China, Clark Randt jnr, told him that many Chinese believed their nation contained an energy, much as an individual does, and that when that energy is blocked, the nation becomes ill.

”When foreigners cut off Tibet, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the theory holds this weakened China and prevented it from regaining its past greatness,” Romney writes. Mostly, however, Romney is rephrasing the Obama policy.

”It is in our best interests to draw China into the circle of responsible nations and, at the same time, to strengthen our capacity to intervene in Asia, if necessary, to prevent China from imposing its will on independent nations,” he writes.

One of Romney’s advisers is Aaron Friedberg, who served as a national security adviser to then vice-president Dick Cheney between 2003 and 2005.

In September, Friedberg, now a Princeton professor of public and international affairs, wrote in the journal Foreign Affairs that the ”responsible stakeholder” policy of integrating China was not working.

He said China’s at once ”arrogant and insecure” leadership was prompting increased tension in the Pacific and had failed to help America solve its key diplomatic problems, particularly North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear programs.

Friedberg says China’s leadership is determined to overtake America as the dominant regional power – a situation he says America could not and should not abide.

He suggests America should adopt a policy of standing its ground, continuing its engagement with China while increasing its force in the region, specifically by increasing its military investment and deepening its alliances in the region, and by supporting arms purchases by those allies.

This sounds like Obama’s ”pivot” in the Australian Parliament, which Friedberg dismisses as a largely symbolic transfer of existing forces. It is perhaps a pivot, but with more teeth.

The heavily contested American election may not change the world. By contrast, in the ”selection” in China, where there is only one party, the possibilities seem wide open. Xi’s treatment of the US will, to a large extent, define the China that he rules for the coming decade. The relationship will shape the world.

On the banks of the Mississippi they reckon that Xi is not a man who pits himself against America.

After his recent visit to Muscatine, The New York Times noted dryly that it constituted something of a propaganda coup, a ”tightly choreographed moment” intended to deepen his connection with the American heartland.

Well, perhaps. But Sarah Lande does not doubt Xi’s sincerity. ”When he walked in the door, the smile, the greeting, the handshake, it was so warm,” she said.

”We could see he was so happy to see us. It jumped out of him.”

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Bumboras Bay.Louise Southerden joins the flying visitors writing a new chapter in Norfolk Island’s colourful history.
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Flying in over green hills, listening to Air New Zealand’s Kiwi flight attendants, I can’t help but feel I’m arriving on a small piece of the North Island that has broken off and drifted 1000 kilometres north.

Norfolk Island isn’t part of New Zealand, of course. It’s a self-governing territory of Australia. Officially, that is. In reality, it’s a world unto itself, with its own language (Norf’k, a blend of 18th-century English and Tahitian) and way of life.

People wave at each other, and at tourists. There are no traffic lights, and cows have right of way on the roads. Remember when shops, cafes and museums in Sydney would close on Saturday afternoons? On Norfolk they still do.

“I’m a bit crazy,” says Les Quintal, who looks and sounds like Geoffrey Rush, as he takes us for an introductory drive around the island. “It’s from the inbreeding,” he cackles. Like 40 per cent of Norfolk’s 1800 residents, Quintal is descended from a Bounty mutineer. You can’t go far on Norfolk without bumping into its history.

It’s on the road signs (Pitcairn Place, Fletcher Christian Road, Baunti Centre) and at landmarks (such as Captain Cook lookout, where a stone cairn commemorates Cook naming the island after the Duchess of Norfolk in 1774). It’s all over Kingston, a former penal settlement, where graves of convicts and soldiers, children and murderers lie side by side. Then there’s Cyclorama – a 360-degree mural conceived by Marie Bailey, a descendant of Fletcher Christian – where you can walk right into Norfolk’s past.

Closing the door behind me, I’m suddenly standing on the dock at Portsmouth, listening to gulls and the rain as the Bounty departs for the tropics, then following it to Tahiti where it’s commandeered by Christian and sails on to Pitcairn Island. It’s affecting and helps make sense of the island’s convoluted history.

A country-town vibe, a colourful history – no surprises there. But the winds of change have been blowing across this volcanic isle, particularly since Air New Zealand won an Australian government tender in March to provide five flights a week to the island – two from Sydney, two from Brisbane and one from Auckland.

After decades of seven-night packages, Norfolk is fast becoming a short-break destination for time-poor urbanites. There’s plenty of accommodation – about 1400 visitor beds, most in self-contained cottages or apartments. It helps that the flying time from the east coast of Australia is about two hours and flights to and from Sydney run on Fridays and Mondays.

“It’s a big advantage having a high-profile airline such as Air New Zealand, and its schedule has even allowed us to offer weekend trips to Norfolk Island, which wasn’t possible before,” says the general manager of the Norfolk Island Tourism Bureau, Glen Buffett.

Plans to integrate the island with Australia could allow local tour operators to join the Tourism Australia family, too. In the meantime, Norfolk is updating itself.

There’s still plenty of island charm, from knitwear shops to quilting retreats, but there are now wearable-arts shows, holistic-living festivals, three music festivals (opera in February, country music in May, jazz in December) and an annual golf pro-am.

There are self-guided iPod tours of the island’s national park, secret spots and historical sites, and iPod commentary on a new photography exhibition, The World of Norfolk. Norfolk Island Museum recently launched its new website (norfolkislandmuseum南京夜网.au); and Parks Australia’s new interpretative centre has live feeds from Phillip Island, a seabird sanctuary six kilometres off the south coast.

Norfolk is becoming more active, too – from snorkelling and reef-walking tours, to walking tracks and beach yoga classes. Want to go surfing, kayak around the island, try rock fishing? Ask a local or drop by the tourist information office (which amounts to the same thing); anything’s possible on a small island.

Who knew Norfolk had its own winery? The Two Chimneys boutique vineyard opened its doors in 2006 and offers tastings of its New England wines and is expecting its first harvest next year. It’s just one of the foodie attractions on an island that lives and breathes sustainability and self-sufficiency, by necessity. “By law we can’t import a lot of produce, so most of what you eat here is grown or made here,” Buffett says.

Coffee is grown among the Norfolk pines in Anson Bay; Anson Coffee opened a cafe in July, has a mobile coffee van and runs plantation tours. Next month, local surfer Emily Ryves will open her new venture, Hilli Goat Farm, also at Anson Bay; she plans to sell goat’s cheese at a small cafe on the property.

Norfolk Blue beef cattle homestead and restaurant offers a true “paddock to plate” experience, while Hilli’s (another restaurant) has a new Mastering Tastes tour where guests gather and prepare local produce with its head chef. Then there’s Dino’s, which grows its own herbs and vegetables; its 19th-century Norfolk-pine bungalow wouldn’t look out of place in Newtown, with its eclectic artworks, old photographs and crystal chandeliers.

But the island isn’t too fashionable, not yet, thank goodness. It might want to shake off its quaintness, but it’s the oddities that make it special. Where else can you play golf on a World Heritage site for just $70 a week? The phone book famously lists locals by their nicknames, such as Binky, Crowbar, Lettuce Leaf and Gumboots. God Save the Queen is the island’s anthem and Thanksgiving Day is a public holiday (a legacy of American whalers). On Norfolk Island, it all makes perfect sense.

As the world gets faster and busier, who doesn’t long for a simpler, slower way of life? On this little island you can have it, if only for a long weekend.

FAST FACTS

Getting there Air New Zealand flies to Norfolk Island from Sydney (2hr 30min) on Mondays and Fridays from $572, and from Brisbane (2hr 10min) on Tuesdays and Saturdays from $535 return, including taxes. Fares from Melbourne, including a domestic connection, start at $960. See airnewzealand南京夜网.au.

Staying there Jacaranda Park Cottages has five self-contained, one-bedroom cabins from $255 a night, including car hire, mobile phone use, airport transfers and half-day island tour. See www.jacarandapark.nlk.nf. Islander Lodge’s self-contained apartments have the best views on the island from $225 a night, phone +6723 22114 or email [email protected]

More information See theworldofnorfolk南京夜网.au.

Louise Southerden travelled courtesy of Air New Zealand and Norfolk Island Tourism Bureau.

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VICTORIA’S liquor licensing authority is investigating a nightclub promoter who told several schoolgirls via social media to ”kill yourself” after they asked to have provocative images removed from the venue’s Facebook page.
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The young women had attended the Pens Down party at CBD nightclub Roxanne Parlour, where students celebrated the end of year 12 before VCE exams began last week.

Pens Down promoter Christian Serrao posted 262 photographs on the event’s Facebook page, which included about 30 images of schoolgirls posing provocatively and kissing each other.

Some of the girls were embarrassed by the photographs, while others were under 18 and not legally permitted to enter licensed premises.

Other images taken on a river cruise promoted by Mr Serrao showed a young man in school uniform vomiting from the side of a boat.

When several students asked Mr Serrao to delete the images, he posted the following response: ”I just love how these year 12s are happy to get their tits out for photos, then send threatening messages if they’re not deleted off our Facebook page. Kill Yourself.”

Yesterday, Mr Serrao defended the post and said the expression ”kill yourself” was an internet meme that was not meant to be taken literally.

”It’s a comedic thing that’s all over the internet,” Mr Serrao said. ”Some people won’t understand it but you can Google it and see for yourself.”

He said all requests to delete the images had been complied with, after some of the young women expressed concerns that their parents would find them or they were unhappy with their appearance.

The practice of using provocative images of young women to promote functions was widespread across Melbourne’s nightclub industry, Mr Serrao said.

”There’s always girls kissing and doing sexy little things,” he said. ”You get 1 per cent who wake up the next day and aren’t happy and ask us to take them down.”

He said Roxanne Parlour required proof of age and scanned identification before entry but conceded that some under-aged patrons ”fall through the cracks”.

A spokesman for the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation confirmed it was investigating the Pens Down event held on October 24.

Liberty Victoria chairman Spencer Zifcak said the abuse of Facebook sites reinforced the need for privacy legislation.

”This would seem to be a situation where everyone is behaving badly,” Mr Zifcak said. ”These young women have been foolish, while the promoter’s response is a disgrace. But these students are vulnerable and if they, or their parents, ask for the images to be removed, they should be taken down immediately.”

Last year, The Sunday Age revealed that parents from several prominent private schools had considered suing St Kilda’s Prince of Wales hotel, after images of their daughters, some just 16, had been used to promote the venue. Promoter and music industry figure Frank Cotela was sacked by the owners of Prince of Wales two weeks after the legal threats were made. At the time, St Michael’s Grammar principal Simon Gipson said he was deeply concerned by the exploitation of the students on social media sites.

”We deplore the manner in which young women are commodified and sexualised in this way,” he said.

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A BACKLOG of cases prompted Victoria’s ambulance service to activate an emergency response plan normally reserved for mass-casualty accidents on Monday night, for the second time in three months.
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A spokesman for Ambulance Victoria confirmed the service called a ”code-orange” alert for about an hour from 11.30pm to help manage a high caseload.

The code is the second-highest level of alert in the state’s Health Emergency Response Plan and puts doctors on notice that they can be called in to help. It was designed to manage healthcare for disasters such as bushfires and mass-casualty accidents.

A source said the code-orange call came as about 40 patients were waiting for an ambulance, including a code-one emergency case that had been waiting for 45 minutes.

Code-one cases are critical, life-threatening situations that the ambulance service aims to treat within 15 minutes.

Ambulance Employees Association state secretary Steve McGhie said the code-orange call showed the service could not cope with normal demand.

”This is just day-to-day business, it shows they can’t cope because they haven’t got enough resources,” he said.

”You’ve got up to 42 cases waiting at 11.30 at night, they resort to code orange to stop ambulance crews having meal breaks and force them to work after the end of their shifts when they’ve already done 12 or 14 hours. It’s a misuse of code orange.”

The ambulance service also called a code-orange alert on July 18, between midnight and 8.30pm, due to high levels of winter illness.

Ambulance Victoria spokesman Danny McGennisken said the calls were ”part of normal business processes and the emergency response plan was developed to help us manage these circumstances.

”It allows us to manage caseload as required and call in additional resources if they are needed.”

Opposition parliamentary secretary for health Wade Noonan said the ambulance service was in crisis.

”Response times are getting longer, ambulances are being parked up for hours outside emergency departments and now the service is having to implement emergency response plans to cope with normal business operations,” he said.

”There is nothing routine about this. The emergency response plan is reserved for incidents involving mass casualties, such as natural disasters.”

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With much of Melbourne’s attention focused on Derby day yesterday, auction activity was somewhat subdued. But among the 160 properties up for grabs, some good sales were still made – particularly for period property.
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In Carlton North, a three-bedroom Edwardian at 928 Drummond Street sold under the hammer for $1,064,000. Put on the market by Nelson Alexander at $990,000, it had attracted interest from three bidders.

Four parties competed for an entry-level two-bedroom Victorian property at 1 Richardson Street in Albert Park, quoted by Maher & Co at $700,000-plus, which eventually sold for $775,000.

The lower number of auctions proved to be a trump card for some vendors. Woodards attracted a crowd of about 55 to its auction at 110 Mackie Road in Bentleigh East of a two-bedroom 1950s property. Quoted at $480,000-$520,000, it sold for $570,000 – well above the reserve of $510,000.

In Mitcham, a three-bedroom unit at 2/51 Deep Creek Road, quoted by First National Real Estate Lindellas at above $500,000, sold under the hammer for $580,000 after competition among three bidders.

There were also some post-auction sales. In Northcote, an Edwardian family home at 6 Membrey Street, quoted by Jellis Craig at $1,250,000-$1,350,000, was passed in on a vendor bid of $1.25 million before selling for an undisclosed price after interest from three parties.

A three-bedroom property at 19 Empress Avenue in Kingsville – pitched at first home buyers – sold for $485,000 after it was passed in on a genuine bid of $460,000. Barry Plant had quoted $460,000-$490,000.

Another property that did not see an immediate result was 80 Clarinda Road in Moonee Ponds. While the auction of the renovated four-bedroom home drew a sizeable crowd, the property, quoted by Nelson Alexander at $1.37 million$1.47 million, was passed in on a vendor bid of $1.38 million.

CALL AUCTION ACTION with your auction results, tips and comments on 8667 2647 between 1pm and 5pm on Saturday.

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THE state government will revive Victoria’s only remaining sign language diploma course as it moves to stem the damage of Ted Baillieu’s TAFE cuts.
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From the middle of next year, anyone who wants to learn Australian Sign Language will be subsidised by the government in a newly revamped Auslan training program.

The decision to reinstate the course comes after Kangan Institute — which now runs the state’s only sign language diploma — told students in May that it could no longer offer Auslan beyond 2013 as a result of the government’s budget cuts. GippsTAFE also withdrew its Auslan program last year.

Kangan’s decision sparked a backlash against the government, which subsequently commissioned a review into how Auslan is delivered in Victoria. The review’s findings, to be released today, suggest previous courses were not commercially viable, hard to access, and failed to keep pace with the needs of the deaf community.

“There is a general agreement from participants that current Auslan course delivery has, on the whole, not kept pace with the needs and requirements of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community or the learning needs of current and future student cohorts,” says the report.

Skills Minister Peter Hall said that, given the economic and social importance of Auslan, the government would undertake a competitive tender process to ensure a capped number of places could be delivered from mid-2013.

Students would be able to enrol in a certificate or diploma program, and training is expected to cost less than it has in the past (Kangan’s diploma, for instance, cost students up to $2000 in fees under the current funding system).

Labor spokesman Steve Herbert described the tender process as a wasteful “bureaucratic exercise.”

“Clearly there’s a need for this training, and the government should simply fund a TAFE to provide it from the start of next year,” he said.

Other problems identified in the government’s report include:

■ The lack of access to Auslan programs for people living outside of Melbourne.■ The need to improve career pathways for students of Auslan, including for secondary school students.■ The shortage of Auslan teachers, trainers and interpreters, particularly in rural and regional Victoria.■ The need for a new funding model to ensure courses were commercially viable in future.

The decision to reinstate Auslan comes as the government continues to take a hit over its $300 million cuts to TAFE, particularly in regional Victoria.

Australian Education Union TAFE vice president Greg Barclay said he supported the decision to reinstate the course, but questioned how the new program would be funded.

Kangan spokeswoman Yvette Bockisch also welcomed the government’s decision.

“The Auslan course provides a very important course to the deaf community. The majority of our students are hearing students and are learning the language to become interpreters at RMIT,” she said.

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Brothers Mark (left) and Scott Eaton are set to run in the City2Sea next Sunday on Remembrance Day, which has a special meaning.NEXT Sunday’s City2Sea fun run falls on Remembrance Day – and for two runners it’s a day that’s especially meaningful.
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Scott Eaton has served in East Timor with the Army Reserve and his brother Mark is the recipient of an RSL scholarship, but it’s their grandfather who will be in their thoughts when there’s a moment’s silence before the start of the race.

Frank Eaton was a Rat of Tobruk, part of the Australian and British forces that successfully defended the Libyan port against the German Afrika Korps in 1941. If that wasn’t enough, he then saw service in Papua New Guinea against the Japanese. He died in 1995.

”It’s a chance to remember the sacrifice that others have made before you,” said Scott, 33. ”For us it’s our grandfather who’s the first one who tends to come to mind. It’s a chance to remember what these guys have actually sacrificed for the freedoms that we have – we have our family and our mates to enjoy because of what they’ve done.”

Running is an appropriate way to honour Remembrance Day because it’s an essential part of army life, said Scott. In his recent nine-month deployment to East Timor, where he drove trucks for the Combat Service Support Troop, he ran frequently to keep in shape and did the Dili Half Marathon.

East Timor was his first overseas deployment in 15 years of Army Reserve service. ”You train for so long. It’s good to go over and actually do the job for real,” said Scott, whose tasks included helping to run an orphanage.

”It was really good. It was a chance to do something that makes you feel like you’re making a difference.”

Running has been the link that has eased his transition back into civilian life.

A communications technician, he runs his owns business but also manages to squeeze in a five-kilometre run every day near his home in Vermont.

Mark’s training routine, thanks to the demands of his job as a partner in a St Kilda Road law firm, is somewhat lighter – 10 to 15 kilometres a week – but it was his idea to do the 14-kilometre City2Sea. ”I did Run for the Kids, and that’s 15 kilometres, so I should be able to do this,” he said.

Mark, 35, has a connection with the armed services as well – he was the recipient of the Norman A. Smith Memorial Scholarship at Glen Waverley RSL, which helped fund his law studies. ”The Anzac spirit really resonates with both of us,” said Mark. ”The concept of friendship and sacrifice and recognising that people have made significant sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy certainly means something to us. I certainly took it far more seriously having a brother who was serving.”

At 7.45am, 15 minutes before the race starts, there will be the RSL’s usual commemoration ritual, featuring The Ode, the Last Post, the silence and reveille.

The full minute’s silence will come at 11am in St Kilda’s Catani Gardens, where the run finishes.

”I just hope I’ve finished the run by 11 o’clock for the minute of silence,” said Mark.

■ For details on The Sunday Age City2Sea presented by Westpac, on November 11, visit thecity2sea南京夜网.au

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FOR Felice Wainer, her father’s legacy is vivid and his absence a void, even 25 years after his death. She is proud of him and his work, even as she reflects on a Melbourne childhood in which his presence was sometimes sporadic and often too intense for a young child to make sense of him.
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Her father was Bert Wainer, the controversial campaigner who fought a war against backyard abortion in the 1960s and 1970s and became a household name. As he fearlessly took on corrupt police and the conservative establishment in pursuit of the cause that consumed his life, his daughter grew up fearful that she would be harmed, or that her father would be killed.

As a Wainer, she was vilified. She was the daughter of the man they called the ”baby killer”. As she recalls today: ”I was aware of the fact that we were Wainer children … and when I was in high school I knew that he may be killed. I thought he would be assassinated one day.”

Hers was no ordinary childhood. But Bertram Wainer was a man who lived no ordinary life, and a life of no ordinary consequence for those whose destinies were defined by his cause. They are women, in the main: his daughter and two wives among them – as well as countless other women for whom safe and legal abortion is now a right.

The Wainer name will resonate with older Victorians who recall who he was and what he did, even as younger women draw a blank, unaware that his life had consequences for them.

When they learn about him, as they can tonight by watching the ABC movie about Wainer’s war against illegal abortion, Dangerous Remedy, many will surely thank him.

Some may consider him a sinner. In common, though, they are likely to be shocked by the Victoria depicted through his story: the cops are corrupt, the politicians contemptuous. But it is ordinary women who are the criminals as well as the victims – humiliated, harassed, frightened and ever in danger of an even worse fate: death at the hands of an illegal abortionist.

Through this brutal landscape strides Bertram Wainer, a Scottish doctor who had had enough of a system that corrupted the medical profession as readily as it did the police force. He rallied support among sympathetic colleagues; he forced the issue into the media; he launched his own war against the corrupt police.

In the process, he became a folk hero to some and the Devil incarnate to others. But as the movie depicts it, and his daughter confirms, Wainer didn’t care what forces opposed him or how hopeless his cause or what dangers he faced.

”He was a very powerful man,” she says of her father, who was a doctor in the Australian Army before starting his private practice, ”a very strong man. When he walked into a room you knew he’d walked in. A huge presence.”

When Felice, a Fitzroy fashion designer, first saw the actor Jeremy Sims in character, she was stunned. ”I went to the movie set and I met him and I just couldn’t really look at him. My father had enormous charisma … this huge persona and big charisma and Jeremy had it.”

Felice herself features in several key scenes in the film, and she admits finding it difficult to watch her family’s life portrayed on screen. ”I had to watch it three or four times actually … we always get surprised that it’s our life,” she says. ”It seems strange when you watch it in a movie because when you’re actually living in it at the time, it’s quite normal. It’s surreal.”

And then there’s the time frame depicted on screen. In reality, the years covered by the film reflect a period of about 12 years, but as compressed for dramatic purposes it seems much shorter. ”Anyone who sees that movie is going to think, ‘She had a pretty full-on year’, but that was all spread over time.”

It would be a harrowing and confronting period to live through, whatever the time span. When Felice Wainer is asked to describe it in her own way, she starts by noting that she, her parents and her three brothers came to Melbourne from Queensland in 1961. Her father and her mother, Barbara, separated soon afterwards. Felice was only three.

”Dad had his clinic in St Kilda,” she says. ”And the rampage started from that point forward, and to be honest we didn’t really see him a lot. We couldn’t. It was too dangerous.”

”The rampage”, as she describes Wainer’s campaign, gathered pace, and his children had to adjust to an extraordinary life in which contact with their father was dictated not only by his hectic schedule, but by the growing danger to his safety.

”We used to have to ring three times and then hang up and then ring back so he’d know it was us and he could pick up the phone. He did make efforts to see us but it was always so clandestine or random, just turning up so that nobody would ever know. I think Barbara, my mother, was terrified. She didn’t let on to us.”

As Felice grew older, the danger intensified rather than eased. As she entered her teens and began spending more time with her dad at his home in Ivanhoe, Felice grew to understand that she and her brothers were also at risk.

”He was acutely aware of security. We had an incredibly secure house. I had an emergency alarm button beside my bed that would go off to a private security company. I’m sure the government thought they were taking on this little GP from Scotland. But he was a highly trained military man, my father. He was not a little suburban doctor, he was a highly trained man and he trained all of us quite well. He taught me never to walk on the side near the gutters. I learnt a lot about security for myself, about watching who’s around.

”When I lived with him it was scary. Lots of things happened. The house was built for security, we had really big dogs. I was a very scared child. I was aware of danger from when I was very young.”

She had also become slowly aware that her father was a figure of public notoriety, and over time he educated her as to the reasons.

”He was always on television. At six or seven I started to realise people knew who my father was, then I started seeing him on TV. I didn’t really get what he was doing, I just knew he was well-known in some way.”

When she went to high school, it became clearer. ”I went to Ivanhoe Girls Grammar … and the parents didn’t like me. I had a boyfriend who was Catholic and I wasn’t allowed to go into their house. I think I took it in my stride. It was just our life.”

In two key scenes in Dangerous Remedy, the young Felice brings the perspective of innocence to the abortion wars raging around her, asking her father if the women have done something wrong. Her father explains that sometimes ”there’s a reason they can’t have the baby and the pregnancy is terminated”. She replies: ”And the police don’t like that?”

And in one of the most confronting scenes, Wainer shows his daughter an aborted foetus in a jar – a moment meant to demonstrate that for all Wainer’s advocacy for legal abortion, he took no pleasure in his work. ”Take a look,” he demands of his daughter. ”Look at it. You tell me how good it is.”

His daughter asks: ”Why did you do that?”

Wainer: ”It’s the lesser of two evils, Felice, but that’s all it is.”

It might sound like a scene invented for a screenwriter’s convenience – a way of letting a lead character make a complex point in the most simple way possible. But this, or something very close to it, did indeed happen.

”He did do the foetus thing,” she says. ”I would have been 14. I’d gone to visit him at the clinic and out the front there were all the Right-to-Lifers and somebody grabbed my belt on my jeans and said, ‘That designer belt was bought with the death of a thousand babies’ or something, and I thought, ‘I worked in a milk bar to buy this belt’. So I went inside and I said to him, ‘What is all this about?’ He said, ‘Come with me’.”

Her father then showed her an aborted foetus – not in a jar, but through a microscope. ”There was all this blood and lumps of tissue … I said to him something like, ‘So they’re right, you are a baby killer?’ And he said, ‘Yes, and you need to think about that’. I was annoyed at him for a short amount of time but I started to reconcile what he’d said to me – that abortion’s a terrible thing, but it’s a necessary thing. I started to understand that.

”He never asked any of us to go along with what he was doing. And that is probably the best legacy he gave me. I don’t follow anyone’s rules but my own. I didn’t have to agree with him. If I’d become a born-again Christian he would have been cool with that.”

And it was in the decade that followed – as Wainer stepped back from the abortion wars, having largely achieved his goals – that Felice was to learn the most important lesson about her father: that as a doctor, he dispensed courage as effectively as he did any medicine.

She’d married young, at just 20, to an Italian model. They’d only been married a year when her husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness. It was a devastating blow, but her father made this his new and, as it turned out, final campaign.

”He was this tower of strength,” his daughter, now 51, recalls. ”He spoke to me every day. Every morning he’d ring me and every night and he’d visit me. He was extraordinary to my husband. I got really close to him. I loved his sense of humour, he was extremely funny, and had a totally mad sense of humour. All the things I knew about him that I guess people who didn’t like him couldn’t imagine. He was very funny. He was very compassionate.”

And then, as Felice faced the loss of her husband, suddenly her other rock was gone. ”He died in the midst of all of that. When he died it was horrific because I just needed him so much. It was not only losing a father, it was this person who was my rock. I was wrecked. A total mess.”

That was in January 1987. Wainer, one-time scourge of politicians and policemen and priests, was gone, farewelled at a funeral in the Melbourne CBD and no longer the enemy of the state of recent memory.

His daughter had last seen him a fortnight before, at a family dinner on New Year’s Eve. Exactly 25 years later, on New Year’s Eve 2011, she had her final words with her mother, Barbara, who died of leukaemia that day.

Her mother’s passing is still fresh; her father’s passing she can summon to mind as if it were yesterday. These, not the abortion debates, are the matters of life and death that Felice Wainer feels most keenly. ”My mother was my best friend. And I was great friends with my father. I was very lucky.”

But she knows why the state and the nation will remember him – and having seen his battles freshly depicted on film, she is happy to embrace that legacy. ”Impressed and proud, really,” she says. ”I’ve always been really proud about what he did.”

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A large pile of timber sleepers lies next to the railway tracks near Toorak Road, Toorak.HUNDREDS of timber sleepers have been stolen from Melbourne’s rail network and used as firewood, despite government health warnings and concerns they contain traces of asbestos.
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Metro Trains is replacing old red gum sleepers along the Glen Waverley line, but has been unable to stop the theft of wood stacked beside tracks and left unattended.

A Metro Trains spokesman confirmed the timber had low-levels of hydrofluorocarbons from oil and grease, but denied the presence of any asbestos.

”Our own staff and contractors patrol the railway line and work with police to try and prevent any theft of the wooden sleepers, but unfortunately some are stolen. There is no evidence to suggest any health risk associated with sleepers,” the spokesman said.

But the Victorian Department of Health has issued explicit warnings about burning railway sleepers, which can release harmful toxic fumes.

The Sunday Age spoke with a contractor employed by Metro Trains, who said he had been instructed not to sell the sleepers because they could contain a range of dangerous materials, including asbestos. He said much of the timber had been given to builders, who had used it to build retaining walls.

”We were told that it’s completely safe as long as they’re not cut or burnt. And that’s what I’ve been telling people we give it to, but who knows what’s happening with the stuff that’s been pinched,” the man said.

Firewood Association Australia secretary Alan McGeevy said he had received several complaints from people who had burnt the wood in open fires, barbecues and pizza ovens.

”What alerted us, was people calling saying ,’I’m burning this wood and I’ve got a bleeding nose and stinging eyes and feel like I’ve got asthma’,” he said.

Mr McGeevy said some older sleepers had been exposed to asbestos that was used to line brakes in trains until the mid-’80s. ”If you’re burning sleepers, the asbestos won’t burn,” Mr McGeevy said.

”It will congregate in the ash bed, so you have a perfect environment for that asbestos to get airborne. You don’t need much to do a lot of damage.”

A spokesman for the Australian Rail Track Corporation would not confirm if it was aware of an asbestos risk with old sleepers, or who was liable for any injury that occurred from burning the timber.

”ARTC requires these contractors to meet all necessary state environmental legislation and to identify and mitigate potential environmental issues associated with the recovery and disposal of timber sleepers,” the spokesman said.

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It is believed that the state government has not raised the issue of performance pay since negotiations resumed.A CONTENTIOUS push to introduce performance pay in schools has been thrown into doubt, with the state government refusing to say whether the plan will go ahead as part of a new wage deal with teachers.
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After months of industrial unrest, teachers and the government have returned to the bargaining table to nut out a deal for better wages and work conditions.

But while the union has revised its claim for a 30 per cent pay rise over three years, it is believed that the government has not raised the issue of performance pay since negotiations resumed in September.

Australian Education Union branch president Mary Bluett declined to comment on discussions, other than to say teachers had made it clear they would not sign up to any deal that involved paying staff through merit bonuses.

”Performance pay is not up for negotiation,” Ms Bluett said. ”You get the best outcome when you’ve got teachers working together and sharing best practice. Performance pay would undermine that and students would be the losers.”

Under the government’s original offer, all teachers would get a wage rise of 2.5 per cent, with anything above that to be matched by productivity offsets.

But seven out of 10 teachers would also receive performance pay, ranging from 1.4 per cent to 10 per cent of their annual wage, if they could meet targets that lifted classroom standards.

Asked repeatedly if the Coalition planned to push ahead with the idea, the government refused to answer. It also refused to say how much the plan was likely to cost taxpayers, or how it would pay for the proposal given some of the federal money it had initially earmarked for bonuses was no longer available following Commonwealth budget cuts earlier this year.

Teaching Profession Minister Peter Hall said he would not discuss details while negotiations were under way, but said the government was ”committed to ensuring we deliver an outcome that rewards good teaching and drives improvements in our schools”.

The decision by both parties to return to the negotiating table comes after months of industrial unrest, culminating in tens of thousands of teachers walking off the job twice this year as part of the largest school strikes in the state’s history.

But Mr Hall hit out at the union for continuing industrial action while negotiations were taking place. So far the union has conducted 17 rolling stoppages targeting Coalition electorates around the state, together with several additional work bans, such as not providing comments for students reports.

”We believe discussions have been productive and we will continue those negotiations in good faith for as long as it takes to reach a settlement. It is regrettable that the education union continues to engage in industrial action … whilst negotiations are ongoing,” Mr Hall said.

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IN LATE 1854, the goldfields of Ballarat are in open revolt against a Victorian government that has been heavily taxing the miners while treating them as mere vassals. Worse, the government has been sending out troops on armed ”licence hunts”, manacling those diggers not in possession of expensive mining licences.
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Matters come to a head on the morning of November 30, when shots are exchanged during yet another licence hunt.

That afternoon 10,000 miners attend a ”monster meeting” on Bakery Hill. It is here that the diggers elect Peter Lalor to lead them. The Irishman quickly calls for an armed insurrection.

”I want you, Signore,” Lalor says, gripping the hand of Raffaello Carboni warmly before pointing to a group of French and Italians who are without weaponry. ”Tell these gentlemen, that, if they cannot provide themselves with firearms, let each of them procure a piece of steel, five or six inches long, attached to a pole, and that will pierce the tyrants’ hearts.”

Hundreds of men step forward to affirm their willingness to fight, as Alfred Black – who Lalor names as his ”Secretary of War” – notes down the names of each of the companies, together with those they have elected to be their ”captains”.

The men in their six companies, with their captains in front, form up before the podium. Lalor raises his right hand towards the Southern Cross, palm facing outwards, and indicates that he wishes them to do the same.

”It is my duty now to swear you in,” he begins, his words rolling over this international sea of hard men, ”and to take with you the oath to be faithful to the Southern Cross. Hear me with attention. The man who, after this solemn oath, does not stand by our standard, is a coward in heart. I order all persons who do not intend to take the oath to leave the meeting at once.”

Not one man leaves.

Lalor removes his hat, kneels and raises his right palm outwards to the flag, their flag, and says in a forceful tone with measured pace, ”We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other, and fight to defend our rights and liberties.”

The sea of men, their heads bowed, their hands raised, repeat the words with a throaty rumble, ”WE SWEAR BY THE SOUTHERN CROSS …” and follow the pledge with a unanimous ”AMEN”.

Carboni would record the wondrous look of the men at this moment: ”The earnestness of so many faces of all kinds of shape and colour; the motley heads of all sorts of size and hair; the shagginess of so many beards of all lengths and thicknesses; the vividness of double the number of eyes electrified by the magnetism of the Southern Cross; was one of those grand sights, such as are recorded only in the history of ‘the Crusaders in Palestine’.”

It is done. For the first time since the colonisation of this land began seven decades earlier, the fealty of a large body of colonists has been sworn to an entity other than the British crown. Instead, these men have sworn loyalty to each other, to their rights and liberties, and to this land beneath the Southern Cross.

Realising they need more men to help, emissaries are sent to nearby goldfields, such as Creswick, to ask for men with guns to rush to Ballarat.

Late evening, November 30, 1854

There is just something about the Scottish digger Tom Kennedy, a man who knows how to move the masses.

On this occasion, in Creswick, he has been so strong once again that he really has got them moving, marching, on the way to Ballarat. And, of course, he is at their head, wildly waving a sword as he leads the way.

As the armed diggers march out of Creswick, the German band accompanying them strikes up the tune of the wonderful French national anthem and battle hymn, La Marseillaise, the most famous revolutionary song of them all. And so they go, some humming, the French among them singing: ”Allons enfants de la Patrie, le jour de gloire est arrive.”

Perhaps the day of glory really has arrived – but the binding force upon these antipodean marching men is a little further along in the song: ”Contre nous, de la tyrannie, l’etendard sanglant est leve, l’etendard sanglant est leve!” Against us tyranny’s bloody flag is raised, the bloody flag is raised.

In Ballarat, Lalor has instructed his men to build a ”Stockade” – a higgledy-piggledy rectangular barricade composed of slabs of wood placed broadly upright but ”at a great slope facing outwards”, and anything else that comes to hand. The roughly four-foot high barricade surrounds a rough four acres of land. After all, if the government can have their enclosed ”Camp”, which lies on the other side of the large gully from Eureka, then the diggers can also have their own defensive enclosure.

Friday morning, December 1

Lalor gives the order for the military drills to recommence in earnest, and the 1000 men now inside the fortifications set to with a will, engaging in exercises that lift in intensity when word arrives that heavily armed redcoats are heading this way.

No matter that this proves to be a false alarm. Even if the troopers are not attacking now, it is obvious to all present that it is only a matter of time. Fortunately, more and more diggers keep pouring into their Stockade. In some ways they are like an army, but in one key way they are different. This nascent army has men from all over the world – men of entirely different cultures and levels of education. As later described by Carboni, ”We were of all nations and colours.”

Their points of unity, however, far outweigh their points of difference. Together, they are diggers; they are mates. They have worked together, suffered together, rejoiced together, and now they are united in their common disgust with an iniquitous government and a corrupt police force that have attempted to crush them.

They want democracy. They want the right to buy land.

The men in the Stockade finally take a breather in the heat of the day for lunch. One man who has no time to stop, however, is swarthy German blacksmith, John Hafele. He keeps working feverishly before his roaring furnace, making vicious-looking pikes – sharpened metal spikes secured to eight-foot poles – which he promises will most definitely ”fix red-toads and blue pissants especially”.

Nearby, Henry Nicholls has been summoned by Alfred Black, who has something to show him. It is nothing less than a Declaration of Independence, a document he hopes might be like the American Declaration of Independence by which America had severed its links with Great Britain. As Black regards Nicholls as a ”literary character”, he asks if Nicholls would mind having a look at it?

With a great deal of pride, Black begins reading it, and, as Nicholls would recall, ”rounded out his words with unction, rolling them over his tongue as if he enjoyed their flavour”.

Nicholls, however, does not. ”It was long, very long, very flowery and decidedly verbose,” Nicholls would later recall. ”It was spicy, high-flavoured, and I fancy that in it tyrants in general had a bad time of it.”

He declines to criticise as he sees that Black really only wants an opinion if it is a positive one. It would be unwise to say what he truly thinks. Whatever he says is just noncommittal enough that Black is more convinced than ever that he has a masterpiece on his hands. Before long, just as the sun is falling, Black stands on a stump and reads it out to the assembled armed diggers. Sure enough, he is cheered loudly at the whole idea of separating from Great Britain, if not necessarily at the words that he has chosen to express this view.

Friday night, December 1, Government Camp

It is time for the government authorities in Ballarat to have their own council of war, and on this evening Commissioner Robert Rede is again in conference with his two top military officers, discussing what must be done.

He has little doubt: they must move against the Stockade. Precisely how they should move against it is not a matter for him – it is a matter for these officers – but he has no doubt that it is the right course of action.

Rumours are still sweeping the goldfields that the diggers will attack the Camp first, and Rede is convinced that the ramifications of the success of such an offensive would be devastating. He is in no doubt that if the authorities lose this battle, they risk losing the entire colony – the stakes are that high.

But the same fear is felt by those within the Stockade. If the rebels lose control of the Stockade, they lose the diggings and the fight – and the rule of Her Majesty’s law will be re-established across the entire Colony of Victoria.

It is a matter of who can, and will, move first. And when.

Rede feels strongly that it should be sooner rather than later.

Pre-dawn, Sunday, December 3

Startled grunts fill the night. It is just after 2.30am and the 182 men of the 12th and 40th Regiments and 94 police, with their officers, are being woken inside the Government Camp. Stay quiet. It’s on. Leaving from the back of the camp to shield their move from possible observers outside the main gates, they are told to form up in the gully just to the east of ”Soldiers Hill”, a little under one mile north of the camp.

Usually such an exercise would be accompanied by shouted orders or bugle calls. But not on this occasion. The men know what to do. All their training, all their drills, have led them to this moment, to be able to form up quickly and move with stealth.

Once his men are gathered on the eastern flank of Soldiers Hill in the chill damp air, Captain John Thomas steps forward while an aide de camp holds the bridle of his horse. Now each man leans in close as the officer whispers instructions, even as they are served a tot of rum to warm their bellies.

Thomas’ words are crisp and precise: they are about to launch an attack on the rebels’ Stockade and they will go in just before dawn.

Those insurgents who ”cease to resist” are to be spared. And a last point: the soldiers are to do everything possible to remain silent – it is extremely important to get as close as possible to the Stockade without being detected.

All good? All understood? All content?

No, not entirely. Two soldiers, knowing they will be expected to fire on men they regard as innocent, promptly fall out of the ranks and resolutely announce that they will not march – only to be immediately arrested for their trouble. No matter. Better off without cowards in our ranks.

”We marched off in the dark,” Captain Charles Pasley would later tell his father, ”in such perfect silence that you could almost have heard a pin drop.”

No fewer than 100 men are on horseback, while 176 are on foot.

Just under two hours later, they are in position …

With the Stockade effectively surrounded, the word is quietly passed from rank to rank, soldier to soldier: ”Advance.”

And now the main body of soldiers under Thomas, with Pasley leading the forward elements, marches over the small rise they have been sheltering behind, while the mounted soldiers and police on the fringes go around it.

As one they strain their eyes to the east, looking for some sign of the rebels. They can see the barest silhouette of the enemy flag against the lightening sky way up to their east, fluttering just above the treeline. But if the soldiers can see the Stockade, that must mean that those in the Stockade can …

Suddenly the blare of a bugle coming from the Stockade shatters the silence.

One of the men with the Independent California Rangers Revolver Brigade, John Lynch, would record ”a terrible effervescence of hurry-skurry” around him as his fellow rebels rush from their bunks and tents and take up their posts, their guns and pikes in hand. But he would also report that he ”could hardly discern the military force at first”.

Soon enough, though, there they are. Up in the Stockade, the diggers really can now just make out the long line of redcoats some 150 yards down the slope, moving into the open and advancing.

The first of the sentries runs back, shouting a warning to the others: ”To Arms! To Arms!” With the bugle, and now the shouting, it is enough to wake even the most profoundly asleep, including Peter Lalor. He is instantly up and moving, realising that the redcoats have clearly come and, while more of a moral leader than a military one, at the very least he must quickly be seen to be present, doing whatever he can to get the defences of the Stockade organised.

At this point, the forces at Lalor’s rough command are just 70 men holding shotguns and rifles, 30 or so with pistols and 20 men with pikes.

By the time the bulk of the diggers have taken up their positions at the barricades, the situation is becoming just a little clearer. By now the redcoats and some of the foot police who are accompanying them are close enough that the diggers can clearly distinguish features.

It is time.

The diggers’ own Robert Burnette, a tiny but game-as-all-get-out fighting force from the California Rangers, steps forward, smoothly raises his rifle to his shoulder, takes aim in the rough direction of the advancing redcoats and pulls the trigger. Down in the advancing line, a lead ball sears from the shadows and hits Private Michael Roney of the 40th Regiment directly in the head.

RIP. Michael Roney. Born in Belfast 1833, died on the Eureka on December 3, 1854. The battle of the Eureka Stockade has begun …

■ This is an edited extract from Eureka: The Unfinished Revolution, by Peter FitzSimons, William Heinemann Australia, rrp $49.95.

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xThere was no Alessandro Del Piero for Sydney FC but not even his genius could have accounted for the colossal gulf in class that existed at Bluetongue Stadium last night.
Nanjing Night Net

Quite simply, Central Coast might have half of the financial turnover of their city cousins, but they have double the talent and probably triple the organisation. After scoring first, Sydney were smacked around like never before. They’d never conceded seven goals.

Sydney weren’t just punished. They were utterly humiliated.

What a glorious moment of vindication for Graham Arnold, who turned down the chance to manage Sydney in the off-season. Whatever his reasons for staying put, perhaps for the first time he’ll wake up knowing he made the right decision.

Heroes for the Mariners? Take your pick. Start with Daniel McBreen, scorer of his first A-League hat-trick. His 35-year-old legs must have felt 10 years younger at full-time.

While some of the 15,686 crowd may have arrived feeling Del Piero’s absence meant there was no class No.10, they would have left feeling very different. Tom Rogic was tantalising; how will Holger Osieck – present in the stands – resist calling him up for the Socceroos?

He has not yet played 20 A-League matches but on talent alone the 19-year-old must be a real candidate to feature either in the friendly against Korea or December’s East Asian Cup qualifiers. Perhaps Osieck took a closer look at Josh Rose, too.

Rose might be 30 but he’s the forgotten left-back in international discussions. At this rate, Osieck might have to apologise to Arnold for stealing half his squad.

So that was the hosts. The visitors? They were just lucky this game wasn’t at home. They’d have been booed into the car park.

Sydney bluffed their way through against Perth Glory last Sunday, snatching three points they did not earn, but at least promised to be better. Those lessons were heeded for, oh, say 10 minutes. They even led one-nil at that point as Yairo Yau, Del Piero’s replacement, finished with a classy chip over Matt Ryan.

To borrow from the seasonal parlance, Sydney jumped well from the barriers but were spent by the first turn. When it came time to sprint, the Mariners went for the whip. On 16 minutes, Rose took the ball deep into Sydney’s defence and after repeat efforts, Rogic’s turn and shot had enough power to beat Ivan Necevski.

The Mariners then had the lead when Rogic put in a tame effort from distance that Necevski erroneously fumbled, allowing McBreen to race in and prise it from the keeper’s grasp. With Necevski beaten, McBreen threw his large frame in the way and while he couldn’t put a final boot on the ball, Sebastian Ryall could, putting the ball into his own net.

But the Mariners weren’t done with yet. Eight minutes before half-time Michael McGlinchey – cause of a torrid 45 minutes for young Sydney defender Daniel Petkovski on the right-hand side – won a penalty after getting the better of Trent McClenahan. McBreen rifled the spot kick into the right corner.

Having fallen behind early in the piece, the Mariners were now firmly in control. By now, Sydney FC coach Ian Crook’s demeanour had shifted dramatically.

He yanked off Petkovski and Kruno Lovrek. Petkovski, in just his second start, could be forgiven. Lovrek, a seasoned Croatian, set up Yau’s opener but did barely anything else. He has not started well in the harbour city. Yau, however, was showing something, and his wonderful scoop over the defence allowed Ali Abbas to race in. The Iraqi matched the incoming pass for skill, volleying over Matt Ryan to cap an outstanding move.

Fleetingly, Sydney had hope, but that was extinguished when McGlinchey’s excellent effort curled home after a jinking run.

The Sky Blues had a hand-ball claim turned down but that was as close as they would come as the Mariners piled on more misery.

In an unstoppable blitz, another goal to Rogic and a further two to McBreen followed. All goals mixed scything lead-up play with heinously poor defending.

The Mariners fans couldn’t wait until full-time to give the standing ovation, so they began in injury time. It was the very least their team deserved.

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