City Tatts in $200m deal with ICD and Sinclair Brook to create mixed-use tower

The Rocks gets $30m facelift
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City Tattersalls Club, one of the largest and oldest clubs in Sydney, has revived plans for a $200 million mixed-use tower at its 194 Pitt Street site in conjunction with developers ICD and Sinclair Brook.

It is the second launch of the proposal, after talks ended last year with Mirvac and the club.

Under the scheme, the club will be retained from the ground to ninth floor, in addition to a 100-room hotel and about 250 apartments.

However, under the original plan there were 100 car bays, but that might be reduced to about 50 in keeping with the City of Sydney’s car-reduction policy in the central business district.

The site will have an angular feature to ensure it does not overshadow Hyde Park. The club confirmed it had held preliminary talks with the owners of David Jones, for any development of the air space above the Market Street store, but they did not progress.

The new partner, ICD, is backed by the Chinese giant Sino Ocean Ltd, which is one of the biggest property companies in China. ICD is an Australian company and, with Sino Ocean, is currently developing the Eq Tower in Melbourne, comprising 633 apartments.

Sinclair Brook has around 3000 apartments under construction and 2000 in planning and sales. These projects include mixed use (hotel and apartments) and residential apartment projects.

Architects, Elenberg Fraser have been appointed along with Colliers International.

City Tatts’s chairman, Patrick Campion, said the joint venture with ICD and Sinclair Brook, was considered in the best interests of the club’s members. On Tuesday evening about 100 members turned up for a briefing and seemed “positive”.

Mr Campion said the club retained a good relationship with its bankers and that the joint venture partners were providing financing.

“The plan, once all approvals have been received, is to start in early 2017 and be completed by 2020,” Mr Campion said.

Michael Mai, managing director of ICD Property, said City Tattersalls Club’s prime CBD location provided ICD Property and Sinclair Brook with an opportunity to deliver quality residential apartments as part of a large mixed-use development in an under-supplied market.

He said the project would be a good “springboard” into the Sydney property market and the group had plans for further expansion across the country.

“We currently have five projects worth over $600 million under development and plan to expand our projects portfolio to over $2 billion by 2017. We are experienced in joint venture arrangements,” Mr Mai said.

Tony Guilfoyle, chief executive of City Tattersalls Club, said the club was pleased with the outcome of the expressions of interest campaign, and “we look forward to working closely with the ICD Property, Sinclair Brook and Elenberg Fraser team and benefiting from their experience of developing slimline towers”.

“The Club has made significant progress with our Stage 1 Development Application (DA) that has already been submitted to the City of Sydney Council,” Mr Guilfoyle said.

“This will now be withdrawn and we will submit a new DA, based on council’s comments on the original DA and on ICD Property’s and Sinclair Brook’s plans.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of ChangZhou Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Abbott boat policy will not solve long-term crisis of asylum: Lowy Institute

Australian customs officials and navy personnel escort asylum-seekers onto Christmas Island.The Abbott government’s success in stopping the boats has “sullied Australia’s global standing” and, whilst proving a short-term success, the hard line policy will not solve the long-term asylum seeker crisis, a leading foreign policy and migration expert says.
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Figures directly involved in Operation Sovereign Borders are not even confident it represents a sustainable solution to the refugee problem, according to Khalid Koser a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at Washington DC’s Brookings Institution.

In a paper written for the Lowy Institute for international policy, released Thursday, Mr Koser says that Australia’s “gung-ho” politicians have “reneged on international commitments” but the country is nonetheless well placed to lead international action on a new framework to replace the outdated 1951 Refugee Convention.

“The Australian government’s current approach may be working in the short term, but it is unlikely to diminish Australia’s asylum crisis in the long term, and it is damaging Australia’s international reputation,” Mr Kosher writes.

“Measured exclusively by the recent decline in boat arrivals, Australia’s current approach has been a success. But even those closely involved in the policy are not confident that this outcome is sustainable. Fewer — but still some — boats continue to launch for Australia. At the moment, they are being intercepted.

“However, as in the Mediterranean, there has traditionally been a seasonal pattern to boat arrivals in Australia, and the ‘boat season’ is nearing. How long will the government’s tactics manage to outwit those of the people smugglers? A fast boat that cannot be easily intercepted, a deliberate capsizing, or a mass launching that would stretch the current naval safety net, are genuine possibilities.

“By most other measures the current approach can hardly be considered a success. It consumes significant resources and will continue to do so. It has strained relations between the executive and judiciary. It has similarly poisoned bilateral and regional alliances. And it has sullied Australia’s standing in the global community.

But Mr Koser believes Australia is also a “champion of refugee resettlement”. A poll released on Wednesday found nine in ten Australians support orderly immigration but half of all people want stronger action to “exclude illegal immigrants”.

He writes that Australia can use its reputation for action to lead a reform debate to replace the 1951 Convention, which he said was drafted with the exodus from Europe during and after the Second World War in mind.

As an example of how dated the pact is, he raises the prospect of climate refugees in coming decades. The 1951 convention does not refer to environmental factors as a cause for flight.

Mr Koser’s analysis is that Australia could reduce its “asylum hinterland” through a new deal that would attract more countries in Asia to sign up to. Currently, none of the main transit countries for asylum seekers heading to Australia are signatories to the 1951 convention.

A better international protection system would focus on protecting people at home so they do not need to flee and promote protection close to home so that they do not need to pay people smugglers to reach safety, he writes

A new deal would include “burden sharing” so that origin countries would for the first time bear some of the financial burden for the return of asylum seekers.

Follow us on Twitter  Australian Politics – FairfaxThe original release of this article first appeared on the website of ChangZhou Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Big variations in efficiency and procedure costs between hospitals: report

The cost of some hospital procedures varies significantly, depending on which state you are in. Photo: Glenn HuntSome public hospitals spend between two and three times as much as others to perform procedures such as appendix removals, knee replacements and births, according to a new report which suggests wide variation in efficiency between hospitals across the nation.
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The report from the National Health Performance Authority shows that the average cost of removing a patient’s appendix ranged from $4600 to $10,100 among major metropolitan hospitals, while the average cost of a baby delivery, not a caesarean birth, ranged from $2200 to $6500, and the average cost of a knee replacement ranged from $10,600 to $29,300 among the same group of hospitals.

The authority said its report, to be released on Thursday, broke new ground by developing a method of comparing hospitals costs which fairly accounted for the fact that some hospitals performed more complicated operations or saw patients with more severe illnesses. The authority has excluded from its analysis costs that are not comparable across states and territories and those that relate to property, plant and equipment.

“For the first time comparable information about the cost of patient care is available for more than 80 of Australia’s largest public hospitals. It is up to each hospital to see how they compare with those that are similar and use this new information as a starting point to learn more about their efficiencies,” authority chief executive Diane Watson said.

The report shows that the most efficient hospitals are in Victoria, which is home to the five hospitals with the lowest costs in Australia: Maroondah (East Ringwood) Hospital, Sunshine Hospital, The Northern Hospital (Epping), Dandenong Hospital and Royal Melbourne Hospital.

The most expensive hospitals were Canberra Hospital and Calvary Public Hospital in the ACT, Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital in Western Australia, and Logan Hospital in Queensland.

Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association chief executive Alison Verhoeven noted the report was based on data from 2011-12, which was prior to the introduction of “activity-based funding” arrangements which had led to a reduction in cost growth, and a reduction in cost variation between hospitals.

Ms Verhoeven said given the positive impact of “activity-based funding,” the Abbott government should reconsider its decision to scrap that funding model from 2017-18.

1. EXAMPLE OF COST FROM EACH STATE

Cost of an average hospital treatment

The Canberra Hospital (ACT):  $6500

Prince of Wales Hospital (NSW):  $5400

Royal Darwin Hospital (NT):  $5500

The Prince Charles Hospital (QLD):  $5700

Royal Adelaide Hospital (SA):  $5000

Launceston General Hospital (TAS):  $4600

The Alfred (VIC):  $4500

Fremantle Hospital (WA):  $5400

2. HIGHEST AND LOWEST COSTS

Average cost in large metropolitan hospitals

Highest: $6400 at Rockingham General Hospital, WA

Lowest: $3200 at Sandringham Hospital, Victoria

Overall average: $4300

Average cost in major regional hospitals

Highest: $5300 at Hervey Bay Hospital, Queensland

Lowest: $3600 at Latrobe Regional Hospital, Victoria

Overall average: $4400

3. COST OF WELL-KNOWN PROCEDURES

Cost of appendix removal without complications

Ranging from $4600 to $10,100

Average: $6300

Treatment of heart failure with complications

Ranging from $7500 to $24,800

Average: $11,800

Caesarean birth without complications

Ranging from $5500 to $15,300

Average: $8800

Follow us on Twitter  Australian Politics – FairfaxThe original release of this article first appeared on the website of ChangZhou Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Football manager Nicholas Deluca quits Jets

THE Newcastle Jets are searching for a new football operations manager after the recent resignation of Nicholas Deluca for family reasons.
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Deluca, who joined the Jets two years ago after roles with North Queensland Fury and Melbourne Heart, is the latest official to move on after the mid-season departures of chief executive Robbie Middleby, chairman Ray Baartz and Hunter Sports Group chief executive Troy Palmer.

According to Deluca’s LinkedIn profile, his job description involves team and stadium operations and logistics, contract negotiations, and ensuring the Jets comply with Football Federation Australia regulations, in particular in relation to the salary cap.

Jets chief executive Mitchell Murphy said Deluca, whom he described as a ‘‘dedicated and important employee’’, would continue working for the club until a replacement was in place.

Deluca said his decision to leave was purely about putting his family first.

Since he joined the Jets, his wife and baby daughter have remained living in Melbourne and he has rarely seen them more than fortnightly.

‘‘I need to reset my priorities, which is to focus on being a good husband and a good dad,’’ Deluca told the Newcastle Herald on Wednesday night.

‘‘We have one child and I’ve missed her first birthday, her first words and all the little things we as parents take for granted.

‘‘I get the industry demands you to make sacrifices, and I’ve made those, but at the same time I desperately miss my daughter.

‘‘Three weeks ago during our nightly Skype conversation she chose to watch the Wiggles instead of speaking to her dad.

‘‘That was the last straw.

‘‘It’s time to go home.’’

He said it was a ‘‘tough call’’ to leave the Jets.

‘‘I’ve really grown to love the club and the city,’’ he said. ‘‘Newcastle offers so much more than I originallyanticipated before I took the role.

‘‘It’s going to be hard to say goodbye.

‘‘I will miss the people within the club, the volunteers and the fans whom I’ve grown quite fond of.’’

Murphy said Deluca would continue working for the Jets until a ‘‘suitable replacement’’ had been appointed.

‘‘That process is well advanced,” Murphy said.

‘‘We certainly value Nicholas’ contribution during his tenure with the Jets, and he knows that he will always be welcome at Hunter Stadium and in our offices.’’

Murphy said he would now assume responsibility for negotiating player contracts as the Jets set about filling a host of vacancies on the club’s roster for next season.

The Herald understands that two members of Newcastle’s office staff have also handed in their resignations and that Murphy would be looking to fill those positions, possibly after an internal restructure.

Sydney rent crisis for low-income earners: Anglicare report

Sydney’s skyrocketing rents are squeezing low-income earners, with a new report showing a dearth of affordable homes for people on the minimum wage and welfare recipients.
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The Anglicare Sydney report shows less than 1 per cent of rental properties are suitable for households on government benefits and only 16 per cent were affordable for families with two adults earning the minimum wage.

Anglicare Sydney’s Rental Affordability Snapshot calls for a review of housing taxes and concessions, including negative gearing, and an increase in social housing to ease the pressure on low-income households.

Sue King, Anglicare Sydney director of advocacy and research, said the private rental market was beyond the reach of thousands of households without plunging them into rental stress, defined as paying more than 30 per cent of income on accommodation.

“Coupled with a chronic lack of social housing supply and a waiting list for public housing that can be more than 10 years, there are many families and individuals who are experiencing housing insecurity or are ultimately at risk of homelessness,” she said.

“Sydney has a desperate lack of social housing supply, with more than 59,000 NSW households currently on the waiting list. This is hardly surprising as there is an estimated overall shortfall of 100,000 affordable and available dwellings across NSW for individuals and families on very low to moderate incomes.”

The Rental Affordability Snapshot analysed 14,036 properties in greater Sydney listed for rent on April 11-12.

It found that only 58 were affordable and appropriate for households on government benefits without putting them into rental stress. No properties were considered to be affordable and appropriate for single people on Newstart, the disability support pension or the youth allowance.

Only 2248 of the properties were affordable for families with both adults earning the minium wage, and only 61 properties were affordable for singles earning the minimum wage of $640.90 a week.

Sydney’s tightest rental markets were in the inner west, Ryde, northern beaches and Sutherland, according to the report, forcing low-income earners to the city fringes.

When Chad Porter, 52, found a rental property at Blackett, near Mount Druitt, he considered himself lucky to have a roof over his head even thought it meant spending more than half his income on accommodation.

The single father of a 15-year-old daughter was working as a machine operator until an assault left him with a vision impairment. He spends $590 a fortnight in rent, a large chunk of his $1034 fortnightly Newstart payment.

“After I pay my rent I have hardly any money left, even for food,” he said.

“I have to buy my daughter medicine, the things she needs for school. It’s very rare that I buy meat and usually it might be sausages or maybe a bit of ham. I get food vouchers just so we can eat.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of ChangZhou Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Saifiti twins win Fiji call-up

Daniel, left, and Jacob Saifiti.KNIGHTS twin towers Daniel and Jacob Saifiti were playing for The Entrance Tigers less than a year ago.
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On Saturday, a day after celebrating their 19th birthday, the Saifiti brothers will represent Fiji against Papua New Guinea at Robina in the first leg of the Pacific Test double-header.

They have played National Youth Cup this year, will still be NYC-eligible in 2016, and the Knights are closing in on securing their services for another two years.

Newcastle coach Rick Stone has monitored their progress since they joined the club at the end of last year and had no hesitation including them in the Fijian pack to tackle the Kumuls.

Their Bati teammates will include Knights clubmate Korbin Sims and experienced NRL players Kevin Naiqama, Marika Koroibete, Apisai Koroisau and Jayson Bukuya.

Knights director of football Michael Hagan said the twins, who are studying to become primary school teachers, had worked hard on and off the field.

Hagan said the boys had struck up a close relationship with former Knights, Dragons and New Zealand Test prop Craig Smith, Newcastle’s NYC assistant coach.

‘‘They’re very athletic, they’ve got good motors, and they’re good characters,’’ Hagan said.

Their mother, Bev, is Fijian, but they were born in Newcastle and raised on the Central Coast.

Rather than rooming together in camp this week, Jacob is sharing with Wyong prop Eloni Vunakece and Daniel has been paired with Wentworthville centre Fabian Goodall.

‘‘At the start of the week, seeing all the NRL players was pretty surreal, but by the next day I got over it and once we started training I was right,’’ Daniel said.

‘‘I’m used to playing club footy against people my age in under-20s, so coming up against full-grown adults that have been in the NRL system for a while, it’s going to be tough, but I’m just going to have to handle it.’’

Daniel, a prop, tips the scales at 117 kilograms, and Jacob, who plays in the back row or front row, weighs 111kg.

They are both 193cm tall, and Jacob came off the bench in the Tigers’ 22-18 victory over Mounties in the Ron Massey Cup grand final last year.

‘‘I definitely wasn’t expecting it. We got told we might be in the squad, but when they said we’d be starting, it was a bit of a shock,’’ Jacob said.

‘‘The week’s been pretty chill. All the boys have been really friendly and heaps welcoming, especially the first-graders, because they’ve taken us young guys under their wings and shown us the way.

‘‘It’s still a bit surreal.

‘‘Making this team hasn’t really sunk in yet, but I’m sure it will by kick-off.’’

■ The Knights are close to finalising terms on a new deal with Kade Snowden.

The 28-year-old former NSW and Australian prop has been their retention priority since they acknowledged they would lose Beau Scott to Parramatta at the end of the season.

Snowden, in the final year of the four-year deal he signed when he returned from Cronulla in 2012, has no plans on leaving and starting again at a new club.

Knights coach Rick Stone is keen to keep the Belmont North Sharks junior as his pack leader.

The Knights are also making steady progress in negotiations with 20-year-old former Junior Kangaroos outside back Jake Mamo, who has been linked to the Dragons and Sea Eagles.

■ Knights prop David Fa’alogo declared himself unavailable to captain Samoa against Tonga in the second Pacific Test at Robina on Saturday so he could treat an ongoing knee injury.

In Fa’alogo’s absence, Joey Leilua, Pat Mata’utia and Carlos Tuimavave will fly the Knights flag in the Samoan squad.

■ There is a Knights connection in most of the rep teams running around this weekend.

The withdrawal of Jarrod Mullen has left four Knights, Aku Uate, James McManus, Kade Snowden and Tariq Sims, in the Country Origin team to play City at Wagga Wagga on Sunday, and Danny Buderus is on the Country coaching staff.

Former Knights prop Tony Butterfield is one of City coach Brad Fittler’s assistants.

Knights outside backs Chanel Mata’utia and Nathan Ross are members of the NSW Cup representative team to play Queensland Residents in Brisbane on Sunday.

That team will be coached by former Knights assistant and lower-grade coach Garth Brennan, who has won back-to-back premierships with Penrith’s NSW Cup and NYC teams in the past two seasons.

Justin Holbrook, a former halfback understudy to Knights Hall of Famer Andrew Johns, will coach the Junior Kangaroos against the Junior Kiwis at Robina on Saturday.

■ The selection of rookie Sharks utility back Jack Bird at halfback for Country Origin shows just how far Knights playmaker Tyrone Roberts has slipped off the radar.

Roberts, who partnered Knights teammate Jarrod Mullen in the Country halves last season, has been below his best, and Barrett preferred to give the chance to Bird, who has played just five NRL games and none at halfback.

Overseas workers: Australia risks becoming ‘two-tier’ workforce, ACTU warns

“There is no benefit to the current trend”: ACTU President Ged Kearney. Photo: Steven SiewertAustralia is creating a “two-tier system”, with many international workers having fewer rights than others in the workforce, an ACTU submission to the senate inquiry into temporary visas warns.
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Australian unions are pushing for a cut in the swelling number of overseas workers on temporary visas and a return to predominantly permanent migration to curb exploitation and unemployment.

The submission by the Australian Council of Trade Unions calls for a re-evaluation of the “largely uncapped temporary visa system”, which, if allowed to continue, would see the number of overseas workers on temporary visas grow from 1.2 million to 2 million by 2020.

It argues that working holiday visas should be capped to allow more young Australians to enter the workforce.

The union said that last year, an extra 40,000 people became unemployed when the number of temporary visa holders increased by 45,000.

More than 160,000 young international workers are currently on working holiday 417 visas at the same time that 290,000 people aged 15 to 24 are unemployed.

ACTU president Ged Kearney said Australia has a “proud history of permanent migration which has contributed significantly to the great multicultural nation we are today”.

“There is no benefit to the current trend, where we rely on international workers to fill alleged gaps in skills. We must create opportunities through investment and training to combat unemployment,” she said.

“We need to focus on creating job opportunities for Australians, we must ensure our permanent migration system is robust and we must limit the use of temporary visas to reflect genuine skills shortages.”

The assistant minister for immigration and border protection, Senator Michaelia​ Cash, has criticised the senate inquiry as being “politically motivated by those who are fundamentally opposed to the 457 skilled migration program”.

The federal government released its response to an independent inquiry into the integrity of the 457 program, chaired by John Azarias​, a week before the Senate inquiry was launched last month.

Ms Cash has said the earlier inquiry had been comprehensive and the government has announced it will follow recommendations to strengthen the integrity of the 457 visa program.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of ChangZhou Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Long track to recovery as debris pile mounts on Fernleigh Track

Long track to recovery at Fernleigh It’s taken two days for crews to clear the popular Fernleigh track. Pictures: Darren Pateman
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It’s taken two days for crews to clear the popular Fernleigh track. Pictures: Darren Pateman

It’s taken two days for crews to clear the popular Fernleigh track. Pictures: Darren Pateman

It’s taken two days for crews to clear the popular Fernleigh track. Pictures: Darren Pateman

It’s taken two days for crews to clear the popular Fernleigh track. Pictures: Darren Pateman

It’s taken two days for crews to clear the popular Fernleigh track. Pictures: Darren Pateman

It’s taken two days for crews to clear the popular Fernleigh track. Pictures: Darren Pateman

It’s taken two days for crews to clear the popular Fernleigh track. Pictures: Darren Pateman

It’s taken two days for crews to clear the popular Fernleigh track. Pictures: Darren Pateman

Storm damage to a jetty.

Storm damage to a jetty.

Storm damage to a jetty.

TweetFacebookSTORM debris has been cleared from the hard-hit Fernleigh Track over the past two days, but more work is needed to restore its former glory.

And four badly damaged public jetties in Lake Macquarie will need major repairs.

A council statement said workers started clearing the Fernleigh Track from the Belmont end and were working their way north.

‘‘Due to the large amount of trees creating blockages at various locations, council has been unable to do a full assessment of the track’s condition,’’ the statement said.

‘‘Crews will continue to remove debris in the coming days to allow us to re-open this highly utilised track as soon as possible.’’

The council urged people to avoid the area until debris was cleared.

Initial assessments found six of Lake Macquarie’s 32 public jetties were damaged, ranging from ‘‘minor decking issues’’ to major structural problems. Jetties at Belmont, Wangi, Brightwaters and Green Point remain closed and require major repairs.

People should take care at other jetties and boat ramps ‘‘because of water heights and debris’’, the council said.

Lake Macquarie mayor Jodie Harrison said there were many parks, reserves, cycleways, roads and footpaths where trees had fallen.

‘‘Council crews will continue to tidy and address issues as they get reported from the community or our asset inspectors,’’ Cr Harrison said.

Councillor Daniel Wallace asked at Monday’s council meeting whether the storm clean-up would hit the council’s budget. Council strategy director Tony Farrell said natural-disaster declarations were not designed to restore damaged cities to their original state.

‘‘We’ll have to fund some of the clean-up by deferring [other] projects,’’ Mr Farrell said.

Cr Harrison said the council had received a ‘‘tremendous response’’ from the council’s free green waste pick-up. The council said on Facebook it would probably ‘‘take a few weeks for our crews to get around the city’’ to complete the pick-up.

‘‘We will be going to every street in every suburb across the city,’’ it said.

Reduced tip fees would be charged for general waste from the storm at Awaba tip until May 19.

Resident Dave Dillon said on Facebook that this ‘‘bulk-waste collection should also be free’’, but the council said ‘‘storm-related waste disposal charges may be claimable’’.

‘‘Keep your receipt and contact your insurer,’’ it said. The council is offering residents ‘‘free pasteurised mulch’’, from the tip until May 19.

IAN KIRKWOOD: Two sides to war on drugs

IT was a Tuesday afternoon in Wallsend, and patrons of the Racecourse Hotel were struggling to absorb the news that one of their number, Renae Lawrence, was under arrest in Bali after police had allegedly found more than two kilograms of heroin strapped to her body.
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She’d been caught three days earlier, on Sunday, April 17, 2005.

The Bali Nine story was big news then, and it’s even bigger news now with confirmation on Wednesday morning that two of the nine, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, have been executed on the Indonesian island of Nusa Kambangan.

Sympathy for Lawrence and her fellow smugglers was pretty thin on the ground in Wallsend and surrounds those first few days after their arrests, especially as Schapelle Corby had been arrested flying into Bali just six months before with 4.2 kilograms of cannabis stuffed into her boogie board bag.

But as more details of the case trickled out, it became increasingly apparent that most of the people arrested were simply mules for a larger and more sophisticated smuggling operation.

And within days, it was revealed that the Australian Federal Police had been tipped off about the gang and its activities, and that they had allowed the Indonesians to make the arrest, knowing the death penalty was the potential – and we now know, eventual – punishment for at least some of those involved.

More than one commentator has described the AFP as having blood on its hands over the executions of Chan and Sukumaran, and the absence of the death penalty in Australia means the Bali Nine would never have faced such sanction on these shores.

Now, with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop having recalled the Australian ambassador from Jakarta, Indonesia’s determination to keep on executing narcotics smugglers could well trigger a cooling in diplomatic relations, at least for the short term.

Over time, the deaths of these two Australian drug traffickers are likely to fade into history to become footnotes to the long and largely unsuccessful war against drugs that governments of all persuasions have kept in their campaign kitbags.

But to what ends?

Heroin comes from the opium poppy – Papaver somniferum – which has been cultivated since Neolithic times, some 7000 or more years ago. Cannabis use can be traced back at least 5000 years.

Despite the lightning pace of human progress across the 20th and 21st centuries, drug use of all descriptions appears as endemic and entrenched as it’s always been, and the most that law enforcement agencies can do as they prosecute their battle is to put a finger in the dyke, here and there, or to dry up the supply of one drug, only to see ballooning production of a replacement.

In that regard, there’s a case to be made that the late 1990s crackdowns on the marijuana trade in Australia opened a new doorway for heroin, which became suddenly cheaper in the absence of pot, while heroin, in turn, all but disappeared from suburban streets to be replaced by an arguably more insidious and product in the form of the long-acting amphetamine, ice.

Now I am not arguing in favour of drugs.

For most people, the long-term costs will eventually outweigh whatever short-term benefits the user receives from the drug experience. But by treating drug use, primarily, as a criminal matter, we are surely destined to repeat the same problems over and over, generation after generation.

Governments around the world could end the drug crime problem overnight, by taking control of the means of drug production, and supplying those who wish to take drugs with a regular, affordable supply of their poison of choice.

Even a conservative estimate of the global illegal drug trade puts its value at more than $300 billion a year. Imagine that much money – and probably a lot more – staying in the licit economy. Imagine the reductions in violence, in robbery, in accidental overdoses.

But imagine, also, a whole lot more people taking a whole lot more drugs, at least in the short term. And it’s this bit of the equation that stops me from saying “legalise the lot”.

EDITORIAL: Reducing Wallsend’s flood risk

Wallsend during the 2007 Pasha storm.FLASH-FLOODING can kill, as recent events in the Hunter have demonstrated.
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Put enough water into a stream, then prevent it flowing away by introducing some form of blockage, and the water backs up and spreads out, putting lives and property in danger.

In some areas, long intervals between such events mean communities and planning authorities forget, leaving new generations to rediscover the peril next time adverse circumstances conspire.

In other areas, flash-flooding events are frequent enough for the danger to persist in memory, creating deep apprehension when severe storms strike.

Wallsend is the Newcastle suburb most prone to flash-floods, and repeated studies have warned that serious measures need to be taken to reduce the risk as far as possible. Chances are the risk can’t ever be eliminated, given that the Nelson Street shopping strip was built on low-lying ground at a choke-point in the course of Ironbark Creek.

Heavy enough rain in the creek’s catchment can fill Wallsend with water in a surprisingly short time, turning Nelson Street into a raging torrent and sending surges of dirty water through nearby shops and homes.

The 2007 Pasha Bulker storm is the most recent instance of such severe flooding at Wallsend, but it wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last, as Newcastle City Council has acknowledged.

Indeed, given its detailed knowledge of what can go wrong at Wallsend, the council can probably count itself lucky that the most recent storm spent the worst of its fury in other areas.

The council has invested some money to reduce the known risks at Wallsend, buying some properties to convert for floodwater detention and setting up a flood warning system.

But it has been obvious for a long time that some larger works were needed and the council has been repeatedly criticised for not moving quickly enough.

At long last the council is putting some options on display, a move that might mean some real action isn’t far off.

The council’s favoured option is to remove two of the three low road bridges over the creek – those at Tyrrell and Boscawen Streets – to eliminate the risk of debris catching against the bridges and causing sudden damming of floodwater. The plan includes upgrading the Nelson Street bridge to handle more traffic and, presumably, to help ensure the free flow of excess water.

It’s now about eight years since the Pasha Bulker storm, and major floods in Wallsend are considered to be a 10- to 15-year risk. The council needs to finalise an option and make a serious start on the work as soon as possible.

The work will be costly, so efforts to get help from other levels of government should continue. But the urgency of the task means it should begin, even if the council has to go it alone.