Champion cyclist Anna Meares’ steely gaze earns Archibald Prize call for Bright artist

Bright’s Phillip Barnes is an Archibald Prize finalist with this portrait of cyclist Anna Meares.BRIGHT artist Phillip Barnes has been announced as a finalist in the Archibald Prize with his pop art portrait of Australian cyclist Anna Meares.
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But Border artist Marijana van Zanten’s painting of Indi MP Cathy McGowan missed out.

“I’m disappointed because I had a fabulous subject and a great painting,” van Zanten said.

Van Zanten will keep “knocking on the Archibald door” and said residents had not seen the last of her painting, although her lips were sealed yesterday over its future plans.

Born in Melbourne, Barnes works from a studio in the Victorian Alps.

He has had portraits in exhibitions throughout Australia.

Besides his commissioned works, he has completed more than 500 portraits for charity.

The Archibald entry, one of three completed for the cycling safety charity Amy Gillett Foundation, shows a close-up of Meares in full concentration as she awaits the starter’s gun.

Meares’ determination and drive saw her fight back from a life-threatening crash in 2008 to take the world and Olympic titles.

“The transformation that comes over her when she slips on her race helmet is startling, if not intimidating,” Barnes said in his entry.

“That transformation is the central theme of the portrait.

“Almost assaulted by her stare, the viewer is hopefully transfixed long enough to allow the eye to wander back through the layers into Anna’s past, where some of these references to life’s crossroads are hidden.”

His portrait was selected as one of 40 finalists from a field of almost 900 entries.

It is the second time Barnes has been selected as a finalist.

His portrait of Red Symons was selected in 2008.

The winner will be announced next Friday, with the exhibition to go on display from July 19 to September 28 at the Art Gallery of NSW.

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V/Line group calls for express to Melbourne

ESTABLISHING a limited express V/Line passenger timetable once a day between Albury and Melbourne was a high priority for residents at last night’s rail forum.
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Convenor and Albury’s V/Line customer reference group representative Bill Traill said residents were keen to establish a timetable providing a 2¾-hour journey from Albury to Southern Cross Station.

Mr Traill said it would investigate the number of stops required for a limited express service once a day.

“We are not talking about a complete express but it would cut out three or four smaller stations,” he said.

“There’s definitely strong support for a once a day express service.”

Mr Traill said when he first arrived on the Border in 1985 there was a limited express in the middle of the day.

“It was a heavily booked train because it was a popular service,” he said.

“It got to Melbourne on the discredited old track in three hours and 20 minutes from Albury.”

A motion has been compiled for the V/Line customer reference group including establishing a limited express service, getting a time frame for the track and a signalling upgrade to accommodate speeds up to 160km/h, as well as investigating a modified VLocity train.

About 30 residents attended the meeting at Albury Railway Station, including Albury councillor Ross Jackson, Labor candidate for Benambra Jennifer Podesta and former Albury-Wodonga Devel- opment Corporation chairman Ron Dennis.

One couple travelled from the King Valley.

Albury’s Leonie O’Hai- re had a gripe about the trains’ cleanliness.

“It’s an embarrassment to think tourists ride on our trains and can’t even see out the windows,” she said.

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We’ve got 19-time Albury mayor Alfred Waugh’s crutches

Patricia Young shows the crutches and a portrait of Alfred Waugh. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSONWOODEN crutches used by Alfred Waugh when he met royalty, governors-general and fellow Albury citizens have come home to his city.
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A collection of memorabilia, from the man who served 19 mayoral terms, was presented to Albury Library Museum yesterday.

Alfred and Ellen Waugh were butchers who became famous across the world as leaders of the city that saved the Uiver KLM airliner in 1934.

They carefully kept items, ranging from pictures to the programs for functions they attended, as well as gifts they received in The Netherlands recognising Albury’s role in saving the Uiver.

Solicitor Noel Jackling, who helped secure the Waugh collection for Albury, said the couple was childless and, after Mrs Waugh died in 1956, their possessions passed to relatives at Benalla and Wangaratta.

We’ve got 19-time Albury mayor Alfred Waugh’s crutches Alfred Waugh

The Duke and Duchess of York, later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, at Albury station with Mayor Alf Alfred Waugh and his wife Ellen on their way to open Federal Parliament in Canberrra, 1927. Picture: ALBURY HISTORICAL SOCIETY

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Help offered in foster care

WHEN Jill De-Ath and her husband sought to foster a child in 1964 they had a very different experience than they would now.
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There was no formal care agreement, no training and no police checks.

Mrs De-Ath is now the western regional co-ordinator of Connecting Carers NSW and she shared her story yesterday at the launch of Challenge Children’s Services in Albury.

Challenge Albury is the region’s second private-sector out-of-home care provider and is already working with 35 children and their carers.

General manager Stephen Doley said demand for carers outweighed supply but Challenge would keep caseloads at a manageable level.

Challenge will help to find placements for children in need but, equally important, it will help their carers and ensure the experience is beneficial on both sides.

Challenge has utilised its official launch to appeal to those who may have an interest in becoming foster carers highlighting the need for those who provide children a home and help them to a better future.

For those who have ever thought about taking this step, it’s time to turn that thought into a reality.

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PE4 plastic explosives reported missing at Williamtown

DEFENCE has lost track of almost half a kilogram of plastic explosive.
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Despite an investigation, the department has failed to account for the dangerous material, although it has ruled out theft.

Documents released under Freedom of Information show that two 230gram cartridges of PE4 explosive could not be accounted for following a research project on blast damage in June 2012 at RAAF base Williamtown.

The high explosive can be moulded and is widely used by militaries, in commercial blasting and by terrorists.

In this case, a defence researcher proposed detonating 60 cartridges but used only 40. Only 18 of those could be found.

Defence concluded that as the trial was conducted under tight security, it was unlikely the cartridges were stolen.

Because the trial was fully documented, it was also unlikely the explosives were inadvertently let off.

The report said the likely cause was in the defence supply chain. AAP

Turmoil as Palmer foils repeal

Clive Palmer arrives at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday. Photo: Alex EllinghausenDevil in the detail sees Palmer party rule the dayMark Kenny: PM puts positive spin on Palmer tornadoExclusive: I wil fight on, says Abbott
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The Abbott government’s long-awaited carbon tax victory was snatched from it by Clive Palmer, the billionaire coalminer who actually wants to abolish the tax.

As chaos descended on the Senate, it was Mr Palmer’s insistence on harsh penalties for companies caught withholding price cuts after the carbon tax is abolished that stalled the legislation to repeal the carbon tax, and further fuelled the impression that the government is being dictated to by the crossbenches.

The air of chaos prompted Prime Minister Tony Abbott to reassert his leadership, dismissing what he called ”shouting from the sidelines” by minor parties.

In an exclusive interview with Fairfax Media, Mr Abbott expressed confidence that the carbon tax repeal would proceed on Monday, and appealed to critics not to judge the government by events in the Senate. ”The public will form their own conclusions, they don’t need any help from me,” he said.

Mr Abbott parried the suggestion that the chaos would also compromise his budget plans despite vast tracts of the May 13 formula being held up in the Parliament.

The Palmer United Party abandoned the government at the last minute and after the package of bills to repeal the carbon tax had been ”guillotined”, meaning they proceeded to a vote even though the majority needed to pass them had evaporated.

The bills, with the Palmer amendment, will be re-committed to the Parliament via the House of Representatives on Monday, with the government confident its majority for the package in the Senate will now hold.

It will constitute a fourth attempt to repeal the carbon tax.

Mr Palmer’s PUP pulled the pin on an agreement to pass the repeal bill package at 11.50am on Thursday, claiming it had been double crossed by the government.

PUP senators and Motoring Enthusiast Party senator Ricky Muir sided with Labor and the Greens to defeat the government move, with a final vote just after 12.30pm rejecting the repeal 37 votes to 35.

Explaining his decision to renege on the deal, Mr Palmer claimed his amendment – which itself had been changed since it was first agreed with the government on Monday – had not been properly circulated.

”We asked that it be distributed and we had a violent action from government, a violent reaction I would say,” Mr Palmer said. ”We had ministers calling us and visiting our senators and complaining.”

The problem arose because the Palmer amendment, inserting the penalties, had been expressed as a percentage and as such constituted a money bill. Under the constitution, money bills can only originate in the House of Representatives. However, the wording of the amendment has also raised questions over the application of the fines if enacted.

The opposition’s Senate leader, Penny Wong, said carbon tax repeal had become an exercise in ad hoc lawmaking, raising big questions on the soundness of the legislation and creating damaging uncertainty for business.

”Australians are entitled to know does the price pass-through apply to all businesses or only to electricity and gas companies,” she said.

”Maybe if the government had paid attention to proper process rather than just try to ram these through to get a political win, it may not have been in such a chaotic and shambolic mess.”

The government’s leader in the Senate, Eric Abetz, said the legislation would pass next week.

”The Palmer United Party are committed to the repeal of the carbon tax, as is the government, so I believe that next week we can resolve the issues that were of a technical nature,” he said.

Thursday’s setback coincided with yet another for the government, when the opposition teamed up with the Greens and the crossbenchers to force the tabling of regulations for its watered down financial planning and advice laws.

The early tabling, which had been planned for next week, has paved the way for the new rules to be struck out next week via a disallowance motion.

Greens leader Christine Milne said the chaos in the Senate was ”government by incompetence”.

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Let the booze debate begin

IT’S a drastic proposal from Victoria Police that no doubt will evoke plenty of interest and comment.
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Reducing the blood alcohol limit for drivers to .02 has the backing of North East road safety officer Robert Allen and other police, including Victoria Police Acting Superintendent Martin Boorman.

Mr Allen argues a lower limit would encourage drivers to think twice about having a drink before they get behind the wheel, while Insp Boorman says there is a growing social stigma against drink driving that would support the move.

Mr Allen says the proposal is an initiative with the potential to further reduce the road toll.

And the member for Benambra and former policeman, Bill Tilley, says he will consider the debate if “robust” research into the proposal is undertaken.

Mr Tilley says it must be determined whether .02 would reduce crashes on state roads and that addressing speed, drug use and the state of our roads were also important.

The Victorian Premier, Denis Napthine, says the proposal would hurt the hospitality sector, while his Labor opponent Daniel Andrews says the government would do better to addressing a loophole allowing those who blow .07 to keep their licence.

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BRENDAN FEVOLA: They’ll be sorry if they try to stop us

Albury would have found it more difficult to recruit Chris Hyde if a points system was implemented into the Ovens and Murray.BRINGING in rules to even things up the OandM would do more damage than good in the long run.
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It would wreck the league, if you ask me.

It’s a touchy subject but equalisation seems to be the talk of the town right now with Albury flying and on the top of the ladder.

Good on them, I say.

People talk about how much they spend on their players all the time, but it really wouldn’t be any more than most other clubs.

They are just able to give their players jobs.

What is wrong with that?

There is more to life than footy.

People have very short memories.

The wheel will turn, it always does.

It annoys me that people complain about Yarrawonga winning the past two flags.

Up until then, we had only ever won three in our history.

It’s not like we’ve completely dominated the league.

We should have missed out on the granny in my first year up here and Albury shouldn’t have been there last year. The other teams choked.

How is that our fault?

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Wayne Bennett calls full time on Newcastle, video, poll

MASTER coach Wayne Bennett dropped a bombshell yesterday by announcing he would leave the Newcastle Knights at season’s end after accepting responsibility for performances he said had ‘‘embarrassed’’ him.
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The seven-time premiership winner said he still had the passion to coach and was open to offers from rival clubs but accepted that, after three tumultuous and largely unsuccessful years, the Knights needed a fresh voice.

‘‘If I was in my first year here, or my second year, it might have been different,’’ Bennett said at a press conference after training yesterday.

Please enable Javascript to watch this video‘‘But it’s my third year now and I’m most disappointed in what we’ve done.

‘‘I think it’s time to give someone else an opportunity to come in and show what they can do.

‘‘The end result is we haven’t played like I think we’re capable of playing, and the buck stops with me … you can’t keep passing the buck and blaming other people. It does stop with me. I’ve always accepted that as a coach.’’

Bennett’s star-studded team are 14th on the NRL ladder after four wins from 15 matches and, barring a belated miracle, will miss the finals for the second time in three seasons under his guidance.

In 2012, his first campaign after being lured to Newcastle by former owner Nathan Tinkler, the Knights finished a disappointing 12th.

Last season, they qualified seventh and won two playoffs before being eliminated by eventual premiers the Roosters in the grand final qualifier.

Hopes that would prove a springboard to further success have not been realised and, after an unprecedented series of disasters on and off the field, 2014 is shaping as the worst season of Bennett’s top-grade career, which started at Canberra in 1987.

‘‘Our overall performance this year has been the catalyst,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m extremely disappointed. I’m embarrassed by it. It’s time to move on. I’ve spent 12 months, this season, trying to rectify it.

‘‘And I won’t quit trying to rectify it, but I think it’s up to someone else to take it forward from here.’’

Asked if he felt his players had let him down, Bennett replied: ‘‘That’s not my choice of words, being let down.

‘‘It’s just the performances, what we have done, what we haven’t done. I mean, I don’t throw the passes, I don’t miss the tackles. But I employ the people that do.’’

Bennett said Knights management and the NRL, which is interim owner of the franchise after Tinkler’s departure last month, were ‘‘keen for me to stay’’ but had not started contract negotiations.

NRL chief executive Dave Smith said he would ‘‘have loved to see Wayne stay at the Knights’’. ‘‘Wayne’s a phenomenal coach and he’s been a real asset to that club … this is a bit of a speed bump, but it’s nothing more than that,’’ Smith said.

Knights chief executive Matt Gidley said the club would not need to wait to appoint a new seven-person board before starting the search for a coach.

Gidley, incumbent chairman Paul Harragon, two NRL directors and possibly adviser John Quayle will be involved in signing Bennett’s replacement.

Gidley said 64-year-old Bennett was a ‘‘remarkable man’’ and he had mixed emotions about his decision to move on.

‘‘It’s a relief that the speculation is now over,’’ Gidley said. ‘‘It seems like there has been speculation around Wayne’s role from the moment he arrived … it’s a relief now that we can focus on the final third of the season.’’

Gidley expected ‘‘a number of candidates’’ would express interest in the vacant position.

Home-grown Rick Stone, who coached the Knights in 54 NRL games and two finals series between 2009 and 2011 and has been Bennett’s assistant for the past three years, shapes as an obvious contender.

There is speculation that former Canberra and North Queensland coach Neil Henry is in the running, and Penrith’s NSW Cup coach Garth Brennan, who learnt his trade at the Knights, is rated a dark horse.

As for Bennett, he said he would consider all offers.

‘‘I’m unemployed at the end of October, so I’m interested in any job,’’ he said.

The future of his star protege, Darius Boyd, is also under a cloud after Bennett confirmed the representative fullback ‘‘has a lot of flexibility in that contract’’.

By ROBERT DILLON

WAYNE Bennett’s 2008 autobiography opens with a favourite poem that advocates honest self-appraisal.

‘‘Go to the mirror and take a look at yourself, and see what that man has to say,’’ are the last two lines of the first verse, and there seems little doubt Bennett pondered that advice before announcing yesterday he will leave the Knights at season’s end.

Others, including his employers, may have been happy to judge Bennett on his reputation and unmatched career record, dating back to Ipswich in 1976.

His seven premierships, 23finals series and 699 top-grade games – all of which are records – buy serious cred and respect.

But when Bennett looked in the mirror, he did not see the mystical master coach who has written so many chapters in rugby league’s folklore.

Rather, he saw a mere mortal who had to take responsibility for Newcastle’s on-field performances, which have generally been underwhelming since his much-celebrated arrival in the 2012 pre-season.

After 15 games of this campaign, the team Bennett built are languishing in 14th position, equal-last but boasting superior for-and-against statistics than Canberra and Cronulla.

This is shaping as the worst season of Bennett’s illustrious career.

‘‘For me, it’s about the high standards that I set myself, and I don’t feel the team has come up to those standards,’’ Bennett explained, adding that ‘‘the buck stops with me’’.

If we take the 64-year-old at his word, he has made a noble decision, recognising that a fresh start would be in the club’s best interests.

The cynics might argue that Bennett was lured to Newcastle by Nathan Tinkler’s millions and had little interest in staying once the gravy train ground to a halt.

Whatever the case, nobody can argue with Bennett’s claim that: ‘‘I can’t do any more than my best here and I’ve been challenged in so many ways.’’

From the Tinkler turmoil to the Russell Packer scandal, to the heart-breaking incident involving Alex McKinnon, no coach in history has had to deal with as many setbacks as Bennett this season.

Other opinions he expressed yesterday were, to say the least, debatable.

‘‘Where the club was when I came here and where the club is now, there’s no comparison,’’ he said, describing the Knights when he arrived as ‘‘a mess – a basket case in many ways’’.

Yet, given that Newcastle made the finals in every grade in 2011 – and were national under-18 champions – was the club really in such poor shape? And other than this season’s high-flying under-20s and national champion under-16s, what tangible evidence is there of progress?

As for Bennett’s declaration that ‘‘you can’t just keep buying players in … you just become a transit lounge’’, perhaps if he had been more inclined to sign players under the age of 30, tyros with their best days ahead of them, the window of opportunity might have stayed open longer.

That is easy to say with the benefit of hindsight, which usually offers 20-20 vision.

Taking a long, hard gaze in the mirror is another matter altogether. Bennett’s decision means he can continue to look himself in the eye.

Woolworths’ Masters plan running out of time

The Masters store in Braybrook in Melbourne.Correction: Elizabeth Knight’s column regarding Masters, “No place like homewares” (July 11), should have included the fact that Lowe’s joint venture arrangement with Woolworths had been extended until October 2015. It should also have said that Woolworths had committed to having 90 stores in 2016, not 150.
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Woolworths boss Grant O’Brien is desperate for the market not to declare his home improvement operation, Masters, a man-made disaster but with only three months left before its US joint venture partner, Lowes, gets the opportunity to sell its share to Woolworths it’s clear that time is not O’Brien’s friend.

Woolworths still maintains it can get the home improvement business to break even by 2016 as does the British hardware expert, Matt Tyson, it imported to fix it up. By then it will have notched up five years and should have rolled out 150 stores.

But there remains a credibility gap – not the least of which is because according to figures periodically released by Lowes, Masters’ financial performance appears to be going backwards.

Ratings agency Fitch believes that over the course of the 2014 and 2015 financial years Masters will lose $300 million but is more concerned about the possibility Woolworths may need to pay Lowes up to $800 million to buy its 33 per cent.

Originally this put option was to expire last year but it was extended until October this year and one has to wonder whether Lowes would be willing to further extend it given that the Masters losses continue to mount.

Clearly the creation of Masters has not gone to its original plan – a point made abundantly clear a year ago when management admitted it had made a series of mistakes in its Masters network and Danks hardware wholesaling operations – overestimating sales and gross margins, underestimating labour costs and the impact of seasonality, and getting wrong parts of its product range. Back then Masters director and the mastermind of the strategy, Melinda Smith, told investors Woolworths didn’t know much about the seasonal curves of the home improvement industry and it didn’t have the right stock in some instances.

The investor briefing became legendary due to its embarrassing admissions.

“Labour costs are different in Australia to the US,” she said. “Christmas in the US is in the middle of winter, which is different to Australia.”

It was forced to report that as a result, Masters’ 31 stores lost $157 million in 2013, exceeding Woolworths’ initial forecasts for losses of $119 million, while earnings from Danks fell from a forecast $38 million to $18 million.

Group home improvement losses were $139 million – well ahead of Woolworths’ $80 million guidance – and losses will be similar in 2014.

It appears that the venture lost about $51 million in the April 2014 quarter, up from $33 million in the previous quarter, according to recent analysis by Deutsche which extrapolates from numbers released by Lowes.

The performance to date brings into question the rationale Woolworths employed when it embarked on this venture.

To the extent that it was designed to apply pressure to its arch retail rival Wesfarmers – which owns home improvement chain Bunnings and Coles supermarkets – it appears to have had no impact.

Bunnings’ earnings have improved over the past three years and in its most recently reported quarter sales rose 12.3 per cent.

It hasn’t lost market share and its earnings continue to grow.

Woolworths expected (as per a report it commissioned in 2010) to generate $30 million per store and reduce the revenues of nearby Bunnings and Mitre 10 stores by 16 per cent.

According to Fitch, Masters is instead only generating revenue of $22 million per store and losing $2 million in earnings before interest and tax per store, while Bunnings is generating nearly $40 million per store and earnings of $10 million per store.

Moreover, says Fitch, Bunnings’ like-for-like store sales are growing at about 4 per cent, with Bunnings expected to match Masters’ 20-store rollout in 2014.

As a result the introduction of Masters has not placed any additional pressure on the remainder of Wesfarmers retail operations.

Despite the slower-than-anticipated pick-up in Masters, investors have given O’Brien the benefit of the doubt for a while at least. However if the losses don’t begin to lighten in 2015, their patience may run out.

But like Fitch other analysts have also noted that the placement of Masters’ stores is not as attractive as Bunnings with many rolled out into less densely populated areas rather than more central metro locations. Troubled though it may be – it’s not big enough to make a meaningful dent in Woolworths’ earnings profile.

On key credit drivers Fitch remains relaxed about Woolworths, noting that the combination of being number one in market share in supermarkets and its high proportion of defensive revenues delivers strong investment grade characteristics.

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