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England deems practice too hard

Its batting has been streets behind Australia’s and it has been terrorised by Mitchell Johnson this summer, but England has snubbed an opportunity to iron out its problems ahead of Friday’s fifth Test.
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While Australian captain Michael Clarke and most of his top six had a hit-out in the SCG nets on Wednesday, their opponents’ pre-match practice was restricted to a fielding session on the ground.

Down 4-0 in the Ashes series, and having been blown away by Australia again in Melbourne due to another poor batting performance, England has not picked up a bat since. ”I don’t think they’re in a great place to be perfectly honest,” said Australian vice-captain Brad Haddin.

”I think you can probably tell a bit of that in their fielding the other day. I think that’s the first thing to go when you’re struggling a bit. All the team stuff, all the one-percenters, they’re the first things to go.

”The batting and bowling is an individual thing, but I think the team stuff looked like it was breaking a bit the other day.”

England’s fielding reached a new low with captain Alastair Cook as guilty as anyone. He dropped a at first slip on the fourth and final day of the Boxing Day Test on the weekend. It followed another chance that Cook dropped after wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow failed to move.

Yet it is England’s failures with the bat that have been most damaging, clearing the way for Australia to dramatically turn around a

10-month period in which it had not won a Test. Only twice in eight innings has England managed to pass 300 in total and Australia boasts the top five run-scorers in the series, with Kevin Pietersen scraping into sixth place with 285 runs at an average of 35.62.

Australia’s eight hundreds for this Ashes campaign are matched by only one from England – an admirable maiden century by all-rounder Ben Stokes in Perth.

And the tourists’ shortcomings have not only been in the ranks of their specialist batsmen. While Australia’s lower order has produced important partnerships and got it out of trouble on several occasions, there has been little or no resistance to the onslaught led by Johnson on the England tail.

It lost 5-6 to be rolled for 179 in its second innings at the MCG, squandering its best chance of a win in this series.

But Haddin was reluctant to criticise Cook and the England leadership on Wednesday. ”It’s not my place to judge how Alastair runs his team. We have to make sure our own backyard is in order,” he said. ”I’m not concerned about moves he makes … it’s hard enough making sure we’re up for every game.”

Asked why England did not bat, its emerging leg-spinner Scott Borthwick said: ”No reason whatsoever. We just had a nice run around, a bit of catching and worked on our skills.”

The 23-year-from Durham was a mid-tour addition to the squad after the shock retirement of Graeme Swann before the fourth Test and is tipped to make his debut in Sydney. He disputed the perception that England is in disarray.

”The lads are sticking together,” Borthwick said. ”Like I say, we had a great fielding session and our energy was fantastic. We were running around taking great catches and everyone was patting each other on the back. The spirit is brilliant. We’re trying our best to get a good win in Sydney.”

As for Australia, Ryan Harris (knee) and Shane Watson (groin) did not train on Wednesday – Harris and fellow fast bowlers Johnson and Peter Siddle had a pool session instead – but there was optimism that they would be fit for Friday. If they are cleared, the other possible change to the XI is a recall for all-rounder James Faulkner in place of George Bailey.

”We would love to have the same group go out that we did at the start of the tour and if they are right to go, they deserve to come out in this fifth Test,” Haddin said.

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Federer a coup for Brisbane

Before Roger Federer hit his first match ball on Pat Rafter Arena this week, he had cuddled koalas, posed at scenic Kangaroo Point, joined Rod Laver as the special guest at an intimate $1000-a-plate dinner, met a starstruck Sally Pearson and her fellow Olympic gold medallists Libby Trickett and Natalie Cook, and pretty much charmed everyone in sight.
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The Federer Show. Brisbane’s debut episode.

”The hurdler in particular, I think she was very excited meeting me,” said the 17-time grand slam champion in that way that can sound so arrogant but is usually just, well, actually how it is.

And Pearson, certainly, has been in good company. However much it cost to help lure Federer to Brisbane for the first time since he was a 14-year-old on a family holiday, it was money well spent.

”Roger transcends tennis. He’s a global brand and he’s the most popular player of all time,” says Brisbane tournament director Cameron Pearson.

”The anecdotal evidence that we’ve seen, and the feedback that we’ve been given, is that so many people that haven’t been interested in the sport are now interested in the sport and are coming to the event and want to pick up racquets. It’s quite incredible really.”

After a first-round bye, the top-seeded world No.6 played his opening singles match against Finn Jarkko Nieminen on Wednesday night, but the value-adding doubles idea was his own, and Wimbledon marathon man Nicolas Mahut the lucky invitee after a quick ringaround on arrival.

The fact that the pair beat top seeds Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau in Tuesday’s opening round was a bonus, and not just for a veteran thirsty for early-season matchplay. ”He [Federer] said, ‘Do you mind if I play doubles’? I was, ‘You can do anything you want’. Do I mind?” laughs Pearson (not the hurdler).

”He just wants to play a lot of matches here in Australia and the weather has been very kind to us, so he’s getting out and getting acclimatised.

”The reality is he needs to play matches, he needs to play somewhere, and he wanted to play somewhere new and maybe somewhere that’s a little bit warmer [than the Middle East in January], and I guess Brisbane provides that for him.”

All of which represents the culmination of a determined recruiting drive that began in March 2011, and ended when the man who has spent more weeks at No.1 than any other landed safely – and, apparently, looking and acting as if he had disembarked from a five-minute limo ride rather than a long-haul flight from Dubai – on Saturday with pregnant wife Mirka and twins Charlene and Myla among a relatively modest entourage.

Federer, 32, had played in every Australian tournament besides this one during his career, and Pearson’s persistent negotiations with Federer’s long-time agent, Tony Godsick, finally paid off in June. It is a complex, expensive deal that is speculated to be worth close to the million dollars that the Swiss has reportedly been paid to play in Doha in past seasons.

No one is talking numbers, though, preferring to make this all about the legend who came to town, showed all the grace, warmth and class expected of the sport’s greatest ambassador, stroked a few co-operative marsupials, sold a lot of tickets, and is now into the business of hitting as many balls as he can manage before the year’s first grand slam starts on Monday week in Melbourne.

”Roger hasn’t played much in Australia outside of Melbourne in the last 10 years, so this is very rare,” says Pearson, quietly hoping that the first visit is not the last.

”So many people have said to me, ‘we want to see Roger Federer play before we see the back of him’, I guess. Hopefully that’s not for a few years and this is one of those opportunities.”

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Panesar calf strain opens door for Borthwick

England spinner Monty Panesar has strained his calf at training, strengthening the claim of Scott Borthwick to make his Test debut at the SCG.
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Panesar will be assessed on Thursday, but it is believed England is set to call up 23-year-old Durham leg-spinner Borthwick as it looks to avoid a 5-0 whitewash.

It is not the first time England has looked to blood a young slow bowler in a dead-rubber Ashes Test, after Simon Kerrigan made his debut in the fifth Test at the Oval in August. The match ended in a draw but Kerrigan was slaughtered by the Australian batsmen – going for 53 runs from his only 48 balls in Test cricket.

Kerrigan hasn’t been seen since, with Borthwick instead called into the England squad following the retirement of Graeme Swann before the Melbourne Test.

Borthwick had a stint with Sydney first-grade side Northern Districts and was about to fly home when the call came.

Australian vice-captain Brad Haddin played alongside him for Northern Districts earlier in the summer and said Borthwick could expect a stern test.

”No doubt [we’ll get after him],” he said. ”It’d be an exciting time for him, but interesting to see how we approach him.”

Australia belted Swann in the first three Tests and Panesar was largely ignored in the Melbourne match – with captain Alastair Cook opting to bowl part-timer Joe Root ahead of him during Australia’s second innings.

But Borthwick said he welcomed the challenge.

”I’ll try and spin the ball and give it my best shot,” said Borthwick, who regards Shane Warne as his inspiration.

Borthwick is a born-and-bred Englishman, but that hasn’t stopped one Sydney family from claiming the budding leg-spinner as an ”honorary Australian”.

It might be a stretch for Australia to lay any dibs on the 23-year-old with the thick Geordie accent, but the local system can at least claim some credit for his rise.

As recently as the weekend before Christmas, Borthwick was plying his trade with Northern Districts in Sydney’s grade competition, before Swann’s shock retirement left the spinner on the verge of making his Test debut.

Borthwick is no stranger to Australia, having played a season in Adelaide’s grade scene and also spent time at the city’s Darren Lehmann Cricket Academy, where he received tutelage from Warne and Stuart MacGill.

Add that to the six first-grade games he has played with Northern Districts and that is enough for the club president to label him one of ours. ”I’d call him an honorary Australian and a decent Pom too,” Mike Langford said.

No matter how thorough Australia’s dossier is on Borthwick, few here would know him better than Langford, whose family has played host to him during his Sydney stint.

Borthwick was at the club’s Christmas party and due to fly home to prepare for the England Lions tour of Sri Lanka when he received a phone call from coach Andy Flower telling him to scrap those plans – he was needed with the senior squad rather than England’s development team.

Borthwick’s numbers with Northern Districts – 11 wickets at an average of 35 with the ball and 219 runs, including a century, at 31 with the bat – are respectable, but the Test arena is a massive leap.

”The standard in Sydney is very good, it’s very competitive,” Borthwick said. ”You come across some good players, especially when the state players are playing. I got what I needed to get out of it.”

Borthwick considers himself more a spinner than a batsman but with a first-class average of 31 in both disciplines he is clearly no slouch in either.

As a leggie on debut, he expects the Australian batsmen to attack him but is backing himself to spin the ball past them.

”When batters do come at you it gives you the chance to get some wickets,” he said.

”Being around the squad and on an Ashes tour really excites me and I’m thrilled to be here.”

With aap

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Queensland paceman Ben Cutting hopes to overcome bowling woes

Ben Cutting is vowing to spend his new year punishing himself in the nets in a desperate bid to recover from a horror bowling stint.
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The 26-year-old’s fast-bowling prowess, especially in limited-overs matches, earned him a one-day debut for Australia last summer. But his start to the Big Bash League has been poor.

Of the 26 matches Cutting has played in the BBL, initially for Queensland and now for Brisbane Heat, his two most expensive spells have come in recent days.

On Saturday night against Hobart Hurricanes at the Gabba, the tall right-armer finished with 1-39, after Ben Hilfenhaus hit him for 10 runs off the first two balls of his last over to give the Hurricanes a dramatic win, having overhauled the Heat’s 3-209.

On Monday night, against the Melbourne Renegades at Etihad Stadium, the Heat again conceded 210 runs, with Cutting blasted for 0-51 from 3.3 overs.

While Cutting gave Brisbane’s chase some respectability by blasting five sixes in his innings of 40 from 19 balls, he was more disconsolate about his bowling than proud of his batting.

”We’ve given away 420 runs in 40 overs,” he said after the Heat’s 57-run loss. ”We haven’t bowled well. Our plans have been good, it’s just our execution [that has not been].”

Cutting said he felt for fellow seamer Alister McDermott, whose excellent night was ruined when he bowled two high full-tosses in the 19th over that were both whacked for six – and was subsequently taken out of the attack.

”That’s the nature of the beast in Twenty20,” he said. ”Sometimes it’s a bit of a runaway train with the ball … like it was a couple of nights ago at the Gabba as well.”

Since the start of last season, Cutting’s batting has improved dramatically, to the point where he scored a maiden Sheffield Shield century.

Across all three formats during that time he has struck 53 sixes, including 15 in Twenty20. In Brisbane’s three BBL matches this season he has already broken four bats.

The right-hander’s most impressive record is in the Ryobi Cup, in which he is averaging 49.6 and has a strike-rate of 158. In October, he blasted an unbeaten 98 from 48 balls against Victoria at North Sydney.

”I try to think of my batting from a bowling perspective,” Cutting said. ”I think, ‘What would I be bowling to me at this point of the game?’ and relate that to the field they’ve set and hedge my bets on where they’re going to bowl from there.

”I certainly enjoy batting more than bowling at the moment.”

While Cutting and his fellow one-day international debutant from last summer, Kane Richardson, are specialist seamers who bat well enough to go in at No.8, the Queenslander is not ”holding his breath” about earning another call-up to the national side.

”I’d like to think so, but the pecking order’s quite long at the moment,” he said.

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Ashes: Mitchell Johnson doesn’t plan to change a thing in 2014

Mitchell Johnson doesn’t deal in New Year’s resolutions. And when you’ve been travelling as well as the reborn Australian fast bowler over the past few months, why bother changing a thing?
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Even as a new year has arrived, Johnson is still coming to terms with what he accomplished at the tail end of the last.

”I haven’t stepped back and had a look at it yet,” said Johnson, who has 31 wickets for the Ashes series with Friday’s fifth Test in Sydney to come. ”That’s something that when I’ve retired or finished this series, I can have a look at and be really proud of.

”I’m proud of it at the moment, but I don’t think it’s really sunk in. Even winning the Test in Perth I don’t think it’d really sunk in yet that we’d won the Ashes. That’s why I think we want to win 5-0 – we’ve got that hunger there. We want to go on with it so that desire is still there and it’s something we’ll look back in years to come and be really proud of and hopefully be one of the greatest teams to have played in the modern era.”

That final statement sums up what an astonishing turnaround Johnson and Australia have engineered this summer. He was in India nine months ago when the Australians were dubbed the worst team to tour there, and wasn’t even part of the squad that was then beaten 3-0 in England.

Number one in the world, a place in the history books – Michael Clarke’s Australians had kept their lofty ambitions in check for much of the series. But now that England is thoroughly buried and they have their own mojo back, they want to make sure it doesn’t go the way of Johnson’s ‘mo’, which will finally get the razor treatment after Sydney.

Just how realistic their goals are will be determined next month when they meet the world’s best side, South Africa, on the Proteas’ turf. It was in Johannesburg more than two years ago that Australia last won a Test away from home against one of the major powers of world cricket – South Africa, England or India – and their record on the road in 2013 showcased just how challenging they have found it to excel in foreign territory.

With a new lease of life, Johnson, 32, can hardly be blamed for feeling as if he can conquer the world.

”It’s just staying as fresh as possible mentally and physically. We’ve got a little bit more time off this year,” he said. ”So it’s just having those times when I’m able to get back home and do the right things back home.

”One of the big things for me has been to be able to keep my gym work up, keep that strength going, just keep being around positive people and keep enjoying my cricket. Which is what I have been doing over this past year. It’s pretty simple really.”

That is exactly what Clarke has endeavoured to do in his management of Johnson against England, with spectacular results.

Reaching speeds of 155.8km/h in the Boxing Day Test and having used the short ball for devastating effect since the series began Johnson’s hold over the opposition can be traced back to a basic tactical instruction from Clarke: bowl fast.

”My role has been very clear,” Johnson said.

”In the past I’ve felt I’ve had to play different roles and sometimes that still happens where you have to back off a little bit and maybe tighten it up a little bit. In general my role has been to go out there, bowl fast, be aggressive, bowl in short spells. I’m very comfortable with that.” An SCG wicket with a healthy tinge of green awaits him on Friday and against a hungry quick with an eye on a whitewash that could be more bad news for England. ”There was a lot of talk about 5-0 the other way,” Johnson said. ”I’ve been involved in a lot of losses against England [so] we really want to make it 5-0.”

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EDITORIAL: The city’s new year fireworks

THE number of Hunter Region destinations offering New Year’s Eve fireworks has dwindled in recent years.
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With no Warners Bay, Swansea or Caves Beach displays on Tuesday night, Wangi Wangi was the only Lake Macquarie town with fireworks.

The lack of attractions on the eastern side of the lake probably helped draw more people into Newcastle, where the council has traditionally hosted two sets of pyrotechnics – one at 9pm, the other at midnight.

But this year, Newcastle City Council dispensed with the midnight display, promising instead to spend as much on the one show as it previously did on both.

Initial impressions of the Nobbys display were positive enough, but early praise was soon dampened by a rising tone of disappointment from some watchers, and not only with the quality of the fireworks show itself.

A number of people also complained about a lack of traffic control once the fireworks had finished, when an immediate exodus of vehicles led to substantial traffic jams on both sides of the harbour.

No organisation hosting a New Year’s Eve fireworks display is going to deliberately disappoint its public. Some said this year’s display was not as high in the sky as previous years. But with Sydney pouring $6.8million into its harbour spectacular, a Newcastle show costing $120,000 – and just $20,000 of that on fireworks – was probably destined to suffer by comparison.

While Nobbys is an obvious landmark for a fireworks backdrop, there may be merit in moving to a more central point on the harbour, such as Dyke Point, which has been used at least once in the past. Another alternative might be to shoot for a shorter display, but to send the fireworks skyward from a variety of vantage points along the waterfront.

Such a change would not only put more people closer to the action, it may well add grandeur to a spectacle that, for adults at least, can become repetitive after the first few minutes.

Newcastle council had its share of critics last year and some might dismiss complaints about fireworks as nit-picking or carping. Lord mayor Jeff McCloy’s suggestion was for people who complain to ‘‘contribute some money in some way’’.

That’s a fair point, but some might say they do already – through their rates. Debates over council spending priorities are nothing new, but civic leaders must be wondering if there are ways to make the 2014 fireworks more of a night to remember. For the right reasons.

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Bus passengers abused by intoxicated teenagers

VIOLENCE, abuse, threats and heavily intoxicated teenagers – it was the New Year’s Eve ‘‘bus ride from hell’’ for a Swansea woman and her daughter.
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Mary, 64, spoke to the Newcastle Herald about her ordeal aboard the 350 bus to Swansea Heads on Tuesday night, which she said left her traumatised and her daughter ‘‘physically shaking’’.

After watching the Newcastle foreshore 9pm fireworks, the pair boarded the bus outside the Newcastle railway station about 10pm.

It was at Charlestown that the trouble began.

‘‘The driver let on three people and then waited for seven more, they were all drunk and underage,’’ she said.

‘‘They were swearing, crying and fighting among each other and then one girl abused an elderly lady who told her not to use foul language.

‘‘I pushed and pushed the stop button until the bus stopped and a passenger told the troublemakers to leave.’’

Mary said that as the group left one of them punched the perspex screen at the front of the bus ‘‘so hard he left a blood trail’’. It was right in front of where she and her daughter were sitting.

And a girl member of the group threatened the passenger who told them to leave.

‘‘They were pointing their fingers like a gun at the passenger and said, ‘We know your face around town and we’re going to get you’.’’

Once the teenage passengers were removed, Mary and her daughter thought the trouble had passed.

But another drunken passenger, who looked to be about 20, got on the bus and tried to comfort the obviously distressed passengers, including a girl at the back of the bus.

‘‘The girl’s father took offence and the pair began arguing and physically fighting after the father grabbed the younger man’s hair,’’ she said.

The fight prompted the bus driver to pull the vehicle to the side of the road and he marched up the aisle to get involved, Mary said.

He escorted the drunk passenger off the bus and a scuffle ensued on the side of the road in front of several residents who had stepped outside to see what all the noise was.

Mary said her daughter called the police and the pair, as well as an elderly woman, got off before their stop and walked to Belmont police station to report the incidents.

A spokesman for State Transit said the matter was being investigated by police.

‘‘Newcastle Buses are providing CCTV footage of the incident to assist the police in their investigation,’’ he said.

He said State Transit and the Police Transport Command worked together to deliver safe bus services, including regular police operations in Newcastle.

‘‘All buses in the Newcastle fleet are fitted with digital CCTV to discourage crime and help identify offenders,’’ he said.

‘‘The CCTV system includes four inward-facing cameras to assist with the investigation of incidents on buses, and one forward-facing camera.

‘‘Newcastle bus drivers are in radio contact with the Newcastle radio room to report incidents and to seek police assistance for serious incidents.’’

Mary said the evening had made her rethink catching public buses in the future.

‘‘All we wanted to do was return home to see the midnight fireworks,’’ Mary said.

‘‘We did what we were supposed to do and caught public transport into the city and we had to go through an ordeal like this.’’

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FRIGHTENING: Mary had a traumatic New Year’s Eve bus ride on the 350 service after drunks boarded. Picture: Peter Stoop

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Bradken trains in asbestos breaches

NEWCASTLE-based engineering giant Bradken is under fire for importing heavy-rail locomotives containing deadly asbestos from China.
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The locos are quarantined at Rutherford, as Australian Customs and Border Protection officials investigate the breach of a 10-year ban on the import of products containing asbestos.

It is the first time Bradken has purchased locomotives from China and a company spokesman said the breach would not deter it from dealing with Chinese manufacturers in future.

Unions described the Chinese imports as a “disgrace” and said Bradken should be held accountable for not ensuring the safety of its supply chain.

The two locos were certified in China as asbestos-free and arrived in Australia in November 2012.

Bradken learnt about the asbestos in October.

ACTU assistant secretary Michael Borowick said asbestos-free certificates issued by Chinese manufacturers were “not worth the paper they were printed on”.

“The ban was put in place almost 10 years ago for good public policy reasons because one fibre can kill,” he said.

“There have only been two prosecutions since the ban was implemented and the message that sends is you can import with impunity.”

A Customs and Border Protection spokesman said Bradken could face a fine of up to $850,000 or three times the value of the locos, whichever is greatest.

“Importers are responsible for ensuring goods they import are free from asbestos and must declare this on import documentation,” he said, declining to comment further.

Bradken’s spokesman would not reveal the cost of the locos and said independent testing revealed the white asbestos was contained.

He said there was no risk ‘‘of any exposure to personnel’’.

‘‘Our specifications to the supplier was they be asbestos free,’’ he said. ‘‘The reality is they have not spent very much time on track at all.’’

The diesel locos were made by China Southern Rail and were undergoing registration and commissioning work in the Hunter.

Freight carrier SCT Logistics imported 10 of the same locos and asbestos was detected in October following complaints by Adelaide maintenance workers about white dust around the engines.

Tests revealed there were carcinogenic fibres in the cooling pipe, exhaust and brake insulation.

Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency chief executive Peter Tighe said the situation highlighted “serious problems” with Australian compliance.

“As far as the Chinese are concerned there is no problem with asbestos,” Mr Tighe said.

“It is far too easy for these things to slip through the cracks when all you need to import something is a certificate from the manufacturer to say it’s asbestos free.”

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union NSW secretary Tim Ayres said if a local manufacturer used asbestos it would be shut down.

‘‘These companies are getting a cheap deal, by setting up a supply chain they can’t guarantee,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s pretty simple, trains made in Australia don’t contain asbestos and they keep workers in jobs.”

Bradken’s spokesman said the company acted immediately to quarantine the locos and was co-operating with investigators.

He said the asbestos would be removed and the locos put into service with an Australian operator.

A spokesman for Qube Logistics confirmed it ordered six of the same locos, but said it would not accept them with asbestos.

‘‘We have our inspectors working with the manufacturers on site to ensure that no asbestos is used,’’ he said.

This is not the first time China has broken the Australian ban on asbestos.

In 2012 more than 25,000 Chinese-made Great Wall, Chery and Geely cars were recalled after asbestos was discovered in engine gaskets and brakes.

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Bradken’s Mayfield headquarters

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OPINION: Booze-culture reform requires new policies

‘‘HE’S awake and talking but unfortunately he can’t feel or move his hands or feet.’’
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I was in an emergency department in Sydney, talking to a young man’s father who was back in the UK. After breaking the news over the phone I could hear his panicked voice echo down the phone as he called to his wife. He relayed the news; their son had broken his neck. He had fallen off a balcony. Drunk. That New Year’s Eve, and the phone call, is seared into my memory.

Sadly, an almost identical event occurred a few years later, again as a result of a New Year’s Eve party that spiralled out of control because of alcohol. A fight, fuelled by alcohol, had broken out just after midnight and a young man had fallen off the balcony. When he landed he was conscious. He knew immediately he was a quadriplegic.

Personal experiences such as these are what motivate and galvanise the effort of doctors, nurses, police and emergency workers to try to stop alcohol-related violence and the effects of harmful alcohol consumption.

Alcohol continues to be a major issue for our health and justice system. While there may have been reductions, in 2012 there were still more than 14,000 alcohol-related non-domestic assaults and 1300 alcohol-related assaults on police.

A recent NSW Auditor-General’s report estimated the economic cost of alcohol-related harm to be more than $4billion, although the true impact is difficult to measure partly because of a lack of data.

The public was rightly outraged at the senseless death of Thomas Kelly. His parents Ralph and Cathy have bravely continued to highlight the repercussions of alcohol-related violence. It’s not just neurosurgeons who know the consequences of king hits. Other outcomes of alcohol-related violence are disfigurement and eye injuries that result from glassings, the multi-traumas from drunk drivers, and spinal injuries.

But there is much more, including the 10,000 cases of alcohol-related domestic assault and the many cases of child abuse where alcohol is a factor. Alcohol-related violence is not just an issue for the street. It enters into our homes as well.

Alcohol-related harm should not be a political issue. It is a significant public health issue, indeed a preventive health issue.

A recent survey of public hospital emergency departments showed that on Saturday night one in seven emergency department visits were alcohol-related. In some areas the rate was as high as one in three.

Personal responsibility is an important part of tackling the problem. But this is a hollow one if there is no active policy to change the alcohol culture that pervades Australian society.

Australians have been sold a dud through advertising and marketing. Many believe that excessive drinking is part of our culture. Despite the advertising budgets of the alcohol industry, government can positively shape attitudes to alcohol just as we do with other public health initiatives. We need the sporting heroes and other respected public figures to lead.

Alcohol-related violence and harm is a complex problem. It cuts across almost every government portfolio – police and emergency services, justice, tourism, family and community services, education and health. We need a whole-of-government approach that looks at education, marketing of alcohol, especially to young people, pricing and taxation, venue licensing and opening hours, harm minimisation and enforcement.

The recent five-year review of the Liquor Act 2007 and the Gaming and Liquor Administration Act 2007 had some positive recommendations, including a requirement for payment of an annual liquor licence fee based on venue risk. But there is no annual review of the licence itself, so NSW remains one of few places to grant liquor licences in perpetuity.

The measures that were part of the Newcastle trial are not the only solution, but the way alcohol is provided through licensed venues is important. At the very least, consideration should be given to extending the trial to other areas. In medicine, when we think we have a potential treatment we continue researching, expanding our research with larger trials until we are confident it is safe and works.

The Newcastle research has been published in peer-reviewed journals and the treatment measures should be the subject of continued research.

There are no simple solutions, but the NSW public needs to know that the NSW government understands there is a problem.

We need to see that whole-of-government NSW alcohol strategy that puts the health and safety of the public ahead of the alcohol industry and vested interests.

Professor Brian Owler is a Sydney neurosurgeon and Australian Medical Association NSW head.

PREVENTABLE: Up to one in three visits at emergency departments on Saturday nights are alcohol-related. The Newcastle alcohol trial should expand to to other areas, writes Brian Owler.

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Antarctica rescue: Aurora Australis spots stricken Akademik Shokalskiy

The Xue Long becomes visible to the Aurora Australis for the first time. Photo: Colin CosierAustralian icebreaker the Aurora Australis has spotted the stricken Akademik Shokalskiy on the horizon for the first time since it was asked to rescue the Russian vessel on Christmas Day.
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The Aurora has spent most of New Year’s Day ploughing through pack ice towards Chinese ship the Xue Long, which has also been waiting in the pack.

It is now 3.1 miles from the Xue Long and has made slow but steady progress through the ice, which has been broken up by the wind and is more flexible in places.

Heavy fog that has hampered rescue efforts for the past two days finally lifted on Wednesday mid-morning.

Watt Bay, near the Mertz Glacier, has been shrouded in low-hanging fog, preventing the helicopter on the Xue Long from flying because without a horizion pilots find it difficult to distinguish between ice floes and clouds.

The first part of the rescue will be carried out by the Chinese, who will use their helicopter to transport the 52 passengers from the Shokalskiy, which has been hired by a group of Australian scientists and tourists, to the Xue Long.

The Aurora will co-ordinate the second phase of the evacuation by shipping the Shokalskiy passengers from the Xue Long to the Aurora, using its barge.

The Australian ship spent Tuesday and Wednesday morning navigating a path through thick pack ice towards the Xue Long, which has been sitting within the pack for several days.

“We went in to see how far we could get in close to the Xue Long and let them know where some easy ice was,” Aurora captain Murray Doyle said.

The Xue Long is within about 18 kilometres of pack ice, which is needed so it can operate its helicopter when the rescue begins.

“[Captain Wang] has been sitting there because his helicopter doesn’t have floats, so it can’t fly over water.”

But to avoid getting caught in the pack itself, the Xue Long has been slowly moving back towards open water, Captain Doyle said.

Crew on board the Aurora, which is owned by P&O Maritime and leased to the Australian Antarctic Division, have been preparing a selection of dried food items to transfer to the Shokalskiy for the crew, who will remain on the beset vessel.

The Shokalskiy has been trapped by thick sea ice since Christmas Day. There is now about 22 kilometres of ice between the ship and open water.

Pack ice moves at the mercy of the wind and because the Shokalskiy is surrounded by pack ice, it moves with the ice. Over the past two days the ship has moved 1.3 nautical miles – about 2.4 kilometres.

Nicky Phillips and Colin Cosier are travelling in Antarctica as part of the Australian Antarctic Division’s media program.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.