Strategy of linking Barnaby Joyce to Abbott makes Tony Windsor a danger in New England

Tony Windsor has announced he will contest the seat of New England as an independent candidate. Photo: Andrew Meares Tony Windsor has sought to make the most of the link between Barnaby Joyce and the Coalition’s right, including Tony Abbott. Photo: Andrew Meares

Barnaby Joyce (top left) with other members of the frontbench of former prime minister Tony Abbott (bottom right). Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Tony Windsor confirms tilt at Barnaby Joyce

It’s not often that a 65 year-old retired politician can, with a straight face, pitch himself as the future-looking candidate in an election contest.

Tony Windsor just about got away with it.

He mounts a strong case that Barnaby Joyce, 48, is one of a cabal of “right wingers”, along with Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz and Kevin Andrews, who are acting, in his words, as a “handbrake” on the progressive instincts of Malcolm Turnbull.

It’s a powerful argument because everyone can see it’s true.

It is reflected in every recent poll that the Turnbull government is viewed as being mired in policy paralysis and wracked with internal divisions.

As Windsor said, Australia breathed a sigh of relief in September. But the conservative handbrake is unwilling to accept the changes that by rights should result from such a dramatic rejection of Abbott.

Against that backdrop, Windsor is a genuine danger to Joyce in New England.

“There’s an enormous future looking at us, there’s enormous opportunities and the local member is looking backwards. [Barnaby Joyce] is not in this century yet,” Windsor said.

Windsor came with a list: Gonski schools funding, NBN, climate change, coal mining and water.

On all these issues, he is positioned to the progressive side of his opponent. Right or wrong, he has a positive message to sell on all those issues. By comparison, Joyce issued an agricultural white paper that assumes climate change will have no bearing on the farm sector.

The obvious danger is that Windsor is seen as too much of a lefty and a rural turncoat.

Even before the official announcement, Joyce had described Windsor’s political journey as one where he “started as an independent and ended up as a member of the Labor-Green-independent alliance”.

Windsor’s message will clearly go down well in inner-city seats that he is not contesting, but he thinks it will also resonate in regional New England.

Nearly 60 per cent of New England voters backed someone other than a Coalition candidate in the Senate in 2013, indicating the electorate may not be as conservative as some assume.

Windsor will not be short of willing volunteers and financial backers to mount what he promises will be a “full-scale grassroots campaign”.

But given his established media profile, it will not be the “David and Goliath” battle he has tried to cast it as.

One of the broader effects of his inclusion in the contest will be to hem Joyce into New England, sidelining him from the “wombat trail” that the National Party leader would normally lead across the countryside.

The Nats smell an opportunity to defeat Cathy McGowan in Indi, thereby derailing Sophie Mirabella’s political comeback, and also need to defend seats like Dawson in Queensland from Labor and the Greens and Joyce will have less time to devote to those ventures.

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Sister of paedophile dance teacher Grant Davies ‘failed’ children, royal commission hears

Grant Davies with students at his studio. He is awaiting sentencing on multiple offences. The sister and former business partner of paedophile dance teacher Grant Davies has issued a tearful apology to his young victims, telling a royal commission she failed to protect them.

Rebecca Davies told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse she did not identify her brother’s predatory behaviour with RG Dance students as paedophilia.

“I make this apology to the children, many now young adults, who suffered abuse by Grant Davies while at RG Dance,” she said.

“I am deeply sorry to those survivors who have lost their precious childhood innocence and continue to suffer and deal with the impacts of this abuse today. This royal commission has helped reveal to me my personal failings.

“I completely accept that my judgment was clouded by the fact that Grant Davies was my brother. I failed to protect the children entrusted to me.”

The commission heard evidence that Ms Davies was concerned about her brother’s overly familiar behaviour with students as early as 2002.

It also heard she was aware in 2007 that parents complained he told their then 13-year-old daughter he had had a dream about having sex with their daughter and a threesome with another teenage student.

Ms Davies told the commission that in 2008 a teacher raised concerns about Davies being alone with a student in a room at the Chiswick dance studio.

She said she had read a 2012 email which she acknowledged raised allegations of a sexual nature against Davies, without specifically naming him or the school.

She conceded to the commission she should have asked for more information when a teacher and mother of a student told her and Davies in early 2013: “There are things I have been hearing that I thought you should know about,” to which Davies responded: “Are you calling me a paedophile?'”

The commission heard Ms Davies had no idea her brother was sexually abusing children until April 2013, when his now ex-wife found explicit photos and messages involving a young girl on his computer.

“We were in complete shock,” she said.

Davies was arrested in May 2013 and charged with 63 child sex offences committed between 2001 and 2013.

He admitted to a string of offences against nine victims aged between nine and 15 years old and will be sentenced in May.

RG Dance closed in the wake of Davies’ arrest but Ms Davies continues to work in the dance industry in Victoria.

The inquiry into performing arts schools before Justice Jennifer Coate continues.

For help or information call Lifeline 13 11 14; Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 or the Royal Commission 1800 099 340.

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Former Home and Away actor Martin Lynes charged with sexual assault

Martin Lynes has been charged with sexual assault over an alleged attack in February. Photo: FacebookFormer Home and Away actor Martin Lynes has been charged with sexually and indecently assaulting a woman in his home on the NSW Central Coast.

The 48-year-old has been charged with nine offences including having sexual intercourse without consent, assault with an act of indecency, four counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and three counts of common assault.

The attack allegedly occurred on February 29 when Lynes became involved in a dispute with a woman in his home in Sycamore Avenue, Bateau Bay.

“The altercation allegedly escalated, during which the man sexually and indecently assaulted the woman,” a police statement said.

The woman contacted her family and police went to the home but Lynes had allegedly left before officers arrived.

The woman was taken to Gosford Hospital for treatment and was discharged the next day, police said.

Lynes was arrested at 4.15am on March 1 and taken to Wyong police station where he was charged.

He appeared before Wyong Local Court, where he was granted conditional bail, on the same day.

An apprehended violence order has been taken out against Lynes, preventing him from approaching his alleged victim.

Lynes did not return Fairfax Media’s calls on Thursday for comment.

A spokesperson for real estate company Property Central, where Lynes works as a sales negotiator, said it would not make any comment on the charges.

The father-of-two had most recently played villain Adam Sharpe, the older brother of Ricky Sharpe (played by Bonnie Sveen), between 2012 and 2014 on Home and Away, a long-running Channel Seven soap. He appeared as the mentor of Darryl Braxton (Steve Peacocke). In some of his last acting scenes for the soap, his character was sentenced to 25 years to life for his crimes and also confessed to the murder of Johnny Barrett (Stephen Anderton).

Originally from Perth, Lynes moved to Sydney in 1990 to pursue acting and was accepted into the National Institute of Dramatic Art.

He has also appeared on Packed to the Rafters (2010 – 2011), Blue Water High (2005-2008), McLeod’s Daughters (2008) and All Saints (1998-2004) but retired from acting in 2014 “to create financial security” for his family.

His real estate biography reads: “Marty is humble about his acting work but his communication skills and public speaking abilities have aided his rise in real estate.

“Real estate is now Marty’s chosen career path,” it added.

He is also described as, “a fearless negotiator”, “fiercely loyal to his clients” and “passionate about real estate.”

Lynes will face Wyong Local Court on April 27.

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Rising misuse of Ritalin

RISK: Dr Adrian Dunlop, area director and addiction medicine Senior Staff Specialist with Hunter New England Local Health District. Picture: Max Mason-HubersNEWCASTLE-based drug and alcohol expert Dr Adrian Dunlop has warned against the overdiagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, and the over-prescription of psychostimulants such as Ritalin to treat it.

In an articlein the Medical Journal of Australia, Dr Dunlop says rising rates of psychostimulant prescription highlightthe possibility of over-prescription and overdiagnosis,with the implication that disorders of children in particular are being “medicalised”.

RISKS: Dr Adrian Dunlop is among a number of experts calling for closer scrutiny of the rising prescription rates of ADHD medications, citing anecdotal reports of Ritalin being mixed with party drugs.

There are 24,000 new cases of medicated ADHD every year in Australia, an increase of about 20 per cent per yearamong children and adults, Dr Dunlop said.

Careful assessment and universal precautions are necessary, he says, to ensure other more complex problems which might be underlying behavioural and emotional difficulties were investigated and taken into account.Dr Dunlop has linked the rising rate of prescriptions with a reported three-foldrise in the number of ADHD medication-relatedpoisonings, a total of about 150 per year. “The data,from the NSW Poisons Information Centre,is very specific, but not super-sensitive, so we can’t tell if it is self-harm, or not, we don’t have enough details to really know,but themedian age of those reporting is 17, which is a real concern.”

The study cites a doubling inthe rate of themisuse of Ritalin in the ten years to December 2014, with at least 93 per cent of overdose patients requiring hospitalisation.

Some users were injecting the drugs, and others were taking them with alcohol and other drugs, increasing the risk of serious side effects, Dr Dunlop said.There were two broad categories of users, adultswho were prescribed the medication and were misusing itor giving it to somebody else; and cases where it hadbeenprescribed for a child, and misused by the parents.

“Critics of the article would say, ‘Oh,150 poisonings, that’s not that many given there are 117,000 people nationally medicated with ADHD’, but that number is increasing by about 20 per cent per year. It’sputting it out there for discussion.”

Dr Dunlop is among a number of experts calling for closer scrutinyof the rising prescription rates of ADHD medications, citing anecdotal reports of Ritalin being mixed with party drugs, and with underlying concerns that assessments for ADHD and the need for medication may not be comprehensive enough.

It was important thatalternativediagnoses such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders were also considered, Dr Dunlop said.“The use of medication in various neurodevelopmental conditions may be quite appropriate but should not be seen as the sole treatment approach.”

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Canberra weather hits record-breaking run of hot March days

Big Splash head lifeguard Jacob Cumming, still on duty above and below the water after another hot day in Canberra last month. Photo: Jay Cronan A severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for ACT region. Photo: Glenn Campbell

A severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for the ACT with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting large hail, heavy rain, and damaging winds

The warning, issued just after 5 pm, also covers the Snowy Mountains, parts of the Hunter, Illawarra, Central Tablelands, and Southern Tablelands.

The BOM said severe thunderstorms were likely to produce heavy rainfall which may lead to flash flooding, large hailstones and damaging winds over the next several hours in the ACT, Snowy Mountains and parts of the Southern Tablelands.

Locations which may be affected include Cooma, Bombala, Captains Flat, Jindabyne, Bredbo and Nimmitabel.

Parts of the Hunter, Illawarra, Central Tablelands and Southern Tablelands districts could also be affected including Mudgee, Bathurst, Katoomba, Oberon, Blayney, Trunkey Creek, Hill End, Crookwell and Taralga.

The State Emergency Service advises people to move cars under cover away from trees, secure loose items around the house, unplug computers and appliances, and avoid using the phone during the storm.

People should also stay indoors away from windows, avoid flood water and keep clear of fallen power lines, creeks and storm drains.

For emergency help in floods and storms, ring the SES (NSW and ACT) on 132 500.

The ACT cemented a new record for the longest run of March days above 30 degrees when the mercury crept past 30 degrees shortly after 12.30pm on Thursday.

The previous record stood since 1983, when Canberrans endured nine March days in a row over 30 degrees.

But as the temperature soared on Thursday, our consecutive streak of 30-degree-plus days hit 10, making this Canberra’s hottest start to autumn ever.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s senior climatologist Agata Imielska said Canberra’s last shot at smashing that long-standard record was in 2009, when we had six consecutive days above 30 degrees.

And with a top of 32 predicted for Friday and Saturday, it looks like that tally is set to climb even higher.

By next Wednesday, the temperature is predicted to peter out to a more manageable 25 degrees.

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