The charred remains of the Gafatar settlement burned down by a local mob. Photo: Amilia Rosa Former members of the Gafatar sect at a temporary evacuation camp in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, on Monday. Photo: Amilia Rosa
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“We love this country”: Gafatar leader Mahful Tumanurung. Photo: Amilia Rosa

The razed Gafatar camp at Mempawah regency, West Kalimantan. Photo: Amilia Rosa

Indonesia cracks down on ‘deviant sect’ after village burned down by mob

Jakarta: The former leader of a group labelled a “deviant sect” in Indonesia claims its sole priority was to create food security to help Indonesia survive a global food crisis.

Gafatar, also known as the Fajar Nusantara Movement, was disbanded in August 2015, after the government, suspicious that it mixed beliefs from several faiths, refused to register it as an organisation.

But it resurfaced in the news following the disappearance of multiple people, including medical doctor Rica Tri Handayani and her son, many of whom were found living on a remote farming settlement in West Kalimantan.

In an interview with Fairfax Media, ex-Gafatar leader Mahful Tumanurung said no one had been forced to move to Mempawah regency in West Kalimantan.

“After we disbanded we committed to one thing: we will continue to work for this country to provide food security,” Mr Mahful said. “There was no instruction for an exodus, everybody decided on their own to go.

“As we foresee it, a food crisis will happen all over the world, including Indonesia. Indonesia has the potential to survive it, with its vast oceans and rich natural resources. But if no one cares about the food problems, who will work on it?”

The Gafatar settlement in West Kalimantan on the island of Borneo was torched by a rampaging mob last week and its members are now being transferred to their home towns, where they will be “re-educated” by religious leaders.

Gafatar has been accused by some of trying to establish a separate state known as NKSA or Negara Karunia Tuhan Semesta Alam (State gifted from the Lord of the Universe), which could amount to treason.

However Mr Mahful denied this. “There is not the smallest intention of Gafatar friends to commit treason against the government or to stage a power coup,” he said. “We love this country too much, this is where we were born.”

Yogyakarta police spokesperson Anny Pujiastuti said police had received 36 missing persons reports that were linked to Gafatar since last December. Two people, including an ex-Gafatar member, have been named as suspects over the kidnapping of Dr Rica, whose husband filed a missing person report.

“F, an ex-member of Gafatar, like Dr Rica was a few years ago promised a new job in Kalimantan, but there was no new job,” Mrs Anny said.

“We returned her back to her husband and waited until she was stable enough. She has now given her statement and based on it we have determined that F and E are suspects.”

Abdul, from Semarang in Central Java, said his son, who has a masters degree in planning, had gone missing last November.

He said when his wife had warned their son that the teachings of Gafatar were wrong, he had cut all contact.

“We looked for him everywhere, we were so confused, frantically looking for him,” Abdul said. Police finally located him in Pontianak in West Kalimantan.

“He was asked to lay out a city, or a country, that’s why they kept him hidden in the city. I believe it’s part of Gafatar’s plan to create their own country. Isn’t that treason?”

He said his son was back home but “still adjusting”.

Abdul called on the government to be more vigilant in assisting ex-Gafatar members return to “normal” psychologically, not just through religious leaders but also with the help of therapists.

The head of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) in Yogyakarta, Thoha Abdurrahman, said it was important to distinguish between the victims of Gafatar and those who still consider their spiritual leader to be Ahmad Moshaddeq.

Ahmad was jailed for four years for blasphemy in 2008 after he declared himself a prophet following 40 days of meditation on a mountain in West Java.

“It’s what they believe in that makes them a deviant,” Mr Thoha said. “The rest are victims, lured with [offers of] food security and land. Then they will be brainwashed to be a true believer. We have to identify the victims and the believers carefully and separate them.”

Mr Thoha said it was important the former Gafatar members were embraced by their communities when they returned to their home towns and not ostracised. “Everybody makes mistakes, we can’t cast them off just because they did wrong,” he said.

He said the MUI, Indonesia’s top Muslim clerical body, did not consider Gafatar to be terrorists: “Radical, yes, but not physically radical.”

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Expect a rough end to the working week, weatherwise. Photo: Sam Scotting A wet under to a wet month. Photo: James Alcock
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Storm clouds gather above the Sydney CBD. Photo: Quentin Jones

A fierce looking storm sweeps across Sydney. Photo: Quentin Jones

Wild weather that dumped a month’s rain in 90 minutes on parts of inland NSW will head Sydney’s way, bringing the prospect of severe thunderstorms for the city by end of the week.

Sydney has already had more than twice the rainfall of a typical January, with 227.6 millimetres with four days to go.

The last time it was wetter in January in Sydney was in 1988, Ben McBurney, a meteorologist with Weatherzone, said. Suburbs such as Chatswood had already had more than 300 mm, with more to come.

“It’s been an exceptionally wet January,” Mr McBurney said.

The combination of an upper “cold pool” of air combining with lower-level warm, moist air has the potential to create widespread instability over eastern NSW.

Thunderstorms if they occur on Thursday are likely to be mainly in Sydney’s west during the afternoon and evening, the Bureau of Meteorology said. Storms are possible again on Friday.

“These systems have the potential to bring severe storms [on Friday],” Mr McBurney said, with a good chance for hail in some places.

Inland regions  had a decent soaking on Wednesday, with a broad area reaching from NSW into relatively dry parts of Victoria receiving 25-40 mm of rain. Those rains should help reduce bushfire risks, particularly south of the Murray.

Heaviest January falls in 21 years

Walgett, in north-west NSW, recorded 71 mm rain since 9am on Wednesday, including 46mm in about an hour.

It was the town’s heaviest January falls since 1995 and the most for any month in seven years, Mr McBurney said.

The Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe thunderstorm warning on Wednesday afternoon for most of central inland parts of NSW, including for large hailstones and damaging winds.

Across southern Australia, the heaviest falls for the four days from Thursday are expected in north-eastern Tasmania. Regions in that state’s west now facing fire threats will also get some much-needed rain, the bureau predicts:

Sydney can expect 1-5 mm of rain on Thursday and 2-10 mm on Friday and Saturday, the bureau said.

Thursday’s forecast top for the city is 28 degrees, rising to 30 on Friday.

Even with the relatively large rainfall total – and the cool start to the year – Sydney should still end January with temperatures about 1 degree warmer than normal for the month.

Weatherzone is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of this website.

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Despite a midday bump, the benchmark ASX200 finished 1.2 per cent lower. Photo: Nic WalkerAustralian shares ended a three-day winning streak, pushing the benchmark index back below 5000 points as the big banks suffered some heavy selling and an early mining rally went into reverse, amid a continued slide in Chinese stocks.
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The market was down from the outset, playing regional catch-up due to the Australia Day public holiday, and despite a midday bump, the benchmark ASX 200 finished 1.2 per cent lower at 4946.4 while the broader All Ordinaries closed 1.1 per cent lower at 5000.8.

The falls came despite the Dow Jones on Tuesday notching its best session since December 4, rising 1.8 per cent as US investors looked past another rout in Chinese stocks to focus on a rally in crude oil and some better-than-expected earnings reports.

“It’s quite difficult to work out because the Dow Jones was up 282 points and I thought we’d run with it,” said Morgans senior client advisor Bill Chatterton. “The only thing I can think of is that the market has moved up a bit over the last few days and there’s been a bit of profit-taking. There might also be a bit of nervousness about next month’s reporting season.

“It’s completely across the board. The only areas that are getting any kind of reprieve are property-related stocks and the gold stocks – Newcrest is up.”

December quarter CPI figures – which showed annual inflation increased to 1.7 per cent from 1.5 per cent, above the consensus forecast of 1.6 per cent – did not appear to move the market.

The Aussie dollar jumped around 0.3 of a US¢ to last fetch US70.36¢, suggesting at the margin the number reduced the chance for a RBA rate cut. Shanghai Composite turns tail

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index opened up slightly but then quickly turned tail and was down 3 per cent in afternoon trade, after tumbling 6.4 per cent on Tuesday, on track for its worst two-day performance since last year’s markets rout in August. But most other regional markets posted solid gains on Wednesday, recovering from the previous session’s losses.

Among the blue-chip miners, BHP closed 1.8 per cent lower at $15.01 while Rio Tinto shed 2.7 per cent to $38.11. News that Indonesia’s powerful Salim group had bought one of Rio’s NSW mines failed to rally the stock. The sale of Rio’s second coal mine in NSW in a matter of months extends its retreat from the coal industry amid the extended slump in coal prices.

Fellow blue-chip Telstra lost 0.9 per cent to $5.53.

National Australia Bank fell 3.1 per cent to $26.90 after shareholders voted emphatically in favour of spinning off its poorly-performing United Kingdom business, clearing the way for a float of Clydesdale Bank next week. At a meeting in Melbourne, 98 per cent of NAB investors backed the bank’s plan to demerge Clydesdale, a Scotland-based bank NAB bought in 1987.

Among the other banks, ANZ dropped 1.9 per cent to $23.68, Commonwealth Bank lost 1.8 per cent to $77.66 and Westpac declined 1.9 per cent to $30.33.

By far the day’s best performer was AWE, which rocketed 56.9 per cent after the oil and gas junior said it had divested its 10 per cent stake in the Sugarloaf shale project in Texas for $US190 million ($271 million).

Oil Search shares plunged 4.6 per cent to $5.99 after the oil and gas explorer flagged the write-off of much of its exploration assets in Kurdistan in the wake of poor results and amid a slump in the oil price, which is also forcing it to cut exploration and development work.

Shares in GUD Holdings plunged 9.7 per cent to $7.13 after the consumer and industrial products company trimmed full year earnings guidance by as much as 8.8 per cent in the wake of unexpected losses from Sunbeam appliances.

Greencross revealed a number of parties are interested in acquiring the pet care group after The Australian Financial Review revealed the company had rejected a $740 million takeover bid from TPG Group. The stock lifted 2.9 per cent to $7.01.

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The halving of the coal price has led to Rio Tinto dumping its expansion plans for Mount Pleasant. Photo: Rob HomerRio Tinto’s push to sell Australian coal assets is gathering pace with the latest deal delivering Indonesia’s powerful Salim group the company’s Mount Pleasant mine development in NSW for $US244 million ($347 million).
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As recently as 18 months ago when the thermal coal price was holding at around $US100 a tonne, Rio Tinto was touting Mount Pleasant as one of a slew of “growth options” which included expanding Bengalla and pursuing underground expansions at other of its NSW thermal coal mines.

But the halving of the coal price subsequently has seen Rio Tinto’s expansion plans dumped as it now seeks to sell much of its NSW coal assets.

Rio has had government approvals in hand to develop Mount Pleasant since 1999 but has failed to commit to the project.

The deal comes as controversial coal mine owner Nathan Tinkler must finalise a $US25 million payment by Monday if he is to complete the deal to buy Anglo American’s Dartbrook coal mine after his earlier plan to acquire US miner Peabody Coal’s Wilkie Creek mine in Queensland for $80 million failed when he couldn’t raise the money.

Both of the Mount Pleasant and Dartbrook projects produce thermal coal, which is primarily used to generate electricity.

Concerns about carbon emissions from power stations coupled with a deep global glut in thermal coal production has pushed the spot thermal coal price to long term lows at around $US50 ($72) a tonne, resulting in a lengthening line of mine closures and production cuts, particularly in North America and Indonesia.

The Salim group is to pay $US244 million ($350 million) for Mount Pleasant, along with paying a 2 per cent a tonne royalty once the thermal coal price tops $US72.50 ($104) a tonne, which is significantly above the present price.

Its plan to acquire Rio coal assets was first reported in the Australian Financial Review’s Street Talk column.

The Salim Group is controlled by one of Indonesia’s richest families, and over the years has had assets spanning food, shipping, finance, healthcare and and beyond. It owns Indofood, which some claim is the world’s largest maker of instant noodles.

Under the terms of the deal with Rio, which is subject to Foreign Investment Review Board approval, it is to pay $US83 million ($119 million) on settlement with two further payments of $US58 million over the next 16 months and a further $US25 million ($36 million) conditional payment, which is believed to be linked to when the mine actually enters production, which will require significant further investment.

The Salim family has signalled the purchase of more Australian coal assets, stating its corporate strategy “is to achieve its vision is to pursue the acquisition of advanced tier one coal mining assets in Australia that produce high quality coals that are in high demand as the world transitions to a low emissions economy and are low cost, long life and near production”.

Mount Pleasant is the second sale by Rio of NSW thermal coal assets in recent months, and it follows the sale for $US606 million ($869 million) of its 40 per cent stake in the Bengalla mine to New Hope Corp. Rio’s larger Mount Thorley Warkworth and its Hunter Valley operations mines are also said to be on the market.

“The cash from the sale will give a modest boost to Rio’s balance sheet, which needs it given we forecast a cash burn of $US1.9 billion [$2.72 billion] in 2016, although this would fall to about $US0.5 billion [$717 million] at spot commodity prices (higher iron ore prices the key benefit),” Citi told clients following the sale.

Along with the other Rio assets on the market, Anglo American has sold two small mines, Dartbrook and Callide, with speculation surrounding Peabody’s plans for some of its local coal mines.

“There have been only few deals done,” Paterson Securities analyst Matthew Trivett said of asset sales in the sector. “”The thermal coal price is still languishing and there still hasn’t been a huge supply response globally, and NSW is definitely contributing to that with not many people pulling back production.

“It won’t be until the market rebalances before we can see any real change. It’s difficult to justify looking at too many names or putting money into the sector until at least the price stabilises.”

At current prices few mines in the Hunter Valley are profitable.

“The benchmark Newcastle export price is at $US50 a tonne which is making it hard for some coal producers and raising questions over Asciano’s Pacific National’s coal freight arm,” another analyst said, in the wake of recent comments by Aurizon about prospects for its bulk commodities rail freight arm.

A spokesman for Mr Tinkler said he has nothing to say about the status of the plans to fund the Dartbrook acquisition.

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NELSON Bay Golf Club has risen from the ashes of a devastating Father’s Day fire that ravaged its clubhouse last year,returning bigger and better.
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‘‘This is more than a golf club, it is a huge part of the community,’’ president Max Pride said at the time.“It is devastating but we will get through it.’’

In an amazing effort by staff, local tradespeople and volunteers, early in December Nelson Bay proudly opened a temporary clubhouse, capable of catering for about 120 customers.

Acclaimed as one of the busiest golf clubs in Australia, the Nelson Bay complex reopened in time for its busiest season, the Christmas-New Year holidays.

The temporary clubhouse provides comfortable accomodation and full facilities for members and visitors, with dining/bistro services and a full bar providing draught beer.

The new clubhouse overlooks the practice fairway and greens and from the balcony there are wonderful views of the golf course.

“Our 27-hole championship layout has never been better and was open and fully operational since the fire in September and full parking facilities are available,” club captain Peter Power said.

“Our PGA professional Maurie Moses is also providing normal services from a temporary facility and visiting golfers, whether individuals or groups, are welcome seven days a week.”

Plans for the rebuilding of a the permanent clubhouse are progressing well.

“We have all the facilities of a clubhouse, but on a small scale,” club managerTrevorHarrisonsaid.

“Social golf is available seven days a week; golfing and social memberships are available, as well as flexi membership; theBluewater Grill is open for lunch seven days and dinner fromThursday to Saturday; andkangaroo tours can be organised by arrangement.”

The kangaroo tours are the result of a partnership Nelson Bay Golf Club formed with Sydney University three years ago to create a kangaroo research and fertility control program.

“The kangaroos are a much loved and integral part of the course, but we needed to manage their numbers – for both animal welfare and the golfing fraternity,’’ Nelson Bay’s ‘Kangaroo Phil’ Murray, a golf club member and volunteer working with the researchers, said.

‘‘As a result we have managed to reduce and manage the predominantly eastern grey kangaroos on the course.’’

TheNelson Bay Golf Course clubwas built in 1963, with multiple additions as the Tomaree peninsula grew and took the club with it, now boasting3500 current members, including 1500 playing members.

For further details contact the club on (02) 4981 1132 or go to梧桐夜网nelsonbaygolf南京夜网.

Malcolm Turnbull’s feel-good assertions are at odds with Coalition reality. Photo: Rob HomerCoalition tensions flare over same-sex marriageHow about an insurgency to aid and Abetz the flat-Earthers?
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Malcolm Turnbull’s implicit promise to the Australian people, used to justify his raid on Tony Abbott’s power, was to lead a modern government; less narrow, less defensive, and determined to be truly representative.

“This will be a thoroughly liberal government,” he told reporters within minutes of his party-room coup, “… committed to freedom, the individual and the market.”

The sense of national relief was palpable and the bounce in the polls, gargantuan – from looming disaster to leading the race. Lickety-split.

Yet as his first calendar year begins, promise and reality are straining apart. Labor’s refrain that Turnbull was merely Abbott in a better suit, had glanced off in the heady atmosphere of the time, appearing faintly desperate. “All their policies are the same,” Bill Shorten had protested lamely.

But there was something to this. Turnbull may have replaced nope with hope, but he had expressly traded away his wish to accelerate the same-sex marriage timetable, and had surrendered his signature emissions trading ambitions, in the quest for a conservative majority.

Even within these constraints however, Turnbull somehow managed to cloak his new leadership in the rhetorical garb of optimism. It was as if his reputation as a forward leaner on global warming, marriage equality, the republic, and the internet, cut more ice with voters than the pesky details and squalid compromises necessary to secure the leadership.

As things stand, in January, 2016, support for the government remains high, and for Turnbull, stratospheric. Yet danger looms. Conservative Liberals are on the warpath, hitting back at attempts by moderates to remake their party, and reminding voters that Turnbull’s internal authority, especially in the absence of his own mandate, is a matter of perspective.

Former frontbenchers Eric Abetz and Cory Bernardi have defied their leader, vowing to vote against marriage reform even if a future plebiscite supports change. There will be others. This makes a mockery of Turnbull’s reassurance that of course, the costly and disruptive peoples’ vote would be honoured by the government and the Parliament.

On the republic, Turnbull has retreated too – advising he has no stomach for another honourable loss. Here his words, signalling that the time is not right and that the next attempt must be driven from the ground up, are at least technically defensible.

But the atmosphere of resignation they create is pungent, and antithetical to his broader promise. His feel-good assertion that there’s never been a better time to be an Australian, is being tempered with the acrid reality that there has rarely been a better time to be a monarchist – when even the nation’s chief republican concludes that an historic cross-party consensus, means nothing.

Small-target strategies are more usually the refuge of oppositions.

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Queensland finalist Catherine McGregor and Australian of the Year 2016 David Morrison. Photo: Alex EllinghausenComment: David Morrison was prepared to learn, now to teachComment: Straight, white and male – Australia’s latest diversity advocate
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Australian of the Year finalist and transgender military officer Catherine McGregor has swiftly apologised after branding the appointment of her former boss David Morrison to the position as a “weak and conventional choice”.

After the former chief of army was named Australian of the Year, Group Captain McGregor told the prominent gay and lesbian magazine the Star Observer that the National Australia Day Council board did “not have the courage to go with an LGBTI person”.

“I thought it was time … It was a weak and conventional choice,” she said.

“I think I’ll die without seeing a trans Australian of the Year and I think that’s terribly sad.”

Group Captain McGregor revisited the remarks when speaking to Fairfax Media on Wednesday afternoon, saying she felt the decision by the board had been overly “safe” and “predictable”.

“I thought there was an opportunity to do something very strong,” she said.

She also told the Star Observer that Mr Morrison still had a lot to learn about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) issues.

“He’s on a steep learning curve when it comes to LGBTI and trans issues, he needs to learn a lot and rapidly,” she said.

She said that Mr Morrison has used the wrong pronouns when talking about her in media interviews since the award and “dead-named” her, referring to her by her former male name. However she said she did not believe he had done so maliciously.

But Group Captain McGregor, who was Queensland’s Australian of the Year and was up against retired Lieutenant-General Morrison for the national title, later took to Twitter on Wednesday to apologise for her comments.

“I wish to apologise to the National Australia Day Council unconditionally for my remarks in the @star_observer,” she wrote.

“I made a criticism about the choice of [Australian of the Year] based on my personal view that an opportunity had been missed to name an LGBTI Australian. This was poor judgement.”

She also apologised to General Morrison. She has repeatedly congratulated her former boss – who declined her resignation offer in 2012 when she was going through her gender transition – on his victory and said she believes he will do a good job.

Group Captain McGregor previously worked as General Morrison’s speech writer and wrote the famous 2013 video address in which he told sexist soldiers to “get out” of the army after revelations of a sex scandal in the force.

General Morrison was appointed Australian of the Year on Monday night for his work advocating gender equality, both as chief of army and in his community work since he retired last year.

The National Australia Day Council Board said it was “very disappointed by the comments made today by the Queensland Australian of the Year, Catherine McGregor, and her apology is appreciated and accepted”.

“The board stands by its decision to select David Morrison as the 2016 Australian of the Year as a champion of diversity and for marginalised communities in Australia, including the LGBTI community,” the board said in a brief statement.

The board said it looked forward to working with “David, Catherine and all the 2016 Australian of the Year finalists, all remarkable Australians, to make our great nation even better”.

General Morrison declined to comment.

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Police outside the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place during the siege in December 2014. Photo: Daniel MunozLawyers for the family of Lindt Cafe siege victim Katrina Dawson have expressed concern they may be “cut out” of examining sensitive documents about the police response to the siege during the inquest into the tragedy.
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The Commonwealth and the NSW Police Commissioner have sought to block the release of some documents revealing the police response and tactics, including so-called “Emergency Action Order” and “Direct Action Order” plans, the inquest heard on Wednesday.

They have made claims for public interest immunity – which would prevent the material being aired as part of the inquest – over hundreds of documents.

Counsel for the NSW Police, Robin Bhalla, proposed that in some cases the documents could be taken into account by NSW coroner Michael Barnes and counsel assisting the inquest but would not be released publicly.

Junior counsel assisting the inquest, Sophie Callan, said access to the documents would not extend to the legal representatives for the victims, Ms Dawson and Lindt Cafe manager Tori Johnson.

Phillip Boulten, SC, for the Dawson family, asked for time to seek instructions from his clients about whether they would oppose the orders sought by the Commonwealth and the police.

“Cutting our clients out of this information is something about which we need specific instructions,” Mr Boulten said.

He said “the people I represent are very anxious not to expose to public view matters that could risk public safety or national security” but they also had a “particular interest in how the siege developed and how it was managed”.

The inquest heard that in most cases the claims relate only to individual words or sentences in documents.

Ms Callan said the Commonwealth had made public interest immunity claims over 170 documents but only seven were still in dispute.

The NSW Police Commissioner had made claims over 292 statements or documents, with 110 still in dispute.

Mr Barnes is yet to rule on the claims, which relate to evidence to be presented in the next tranche of siege inquest hearings slated to begin on March 21.

The adequacy of the police response is one of the final questions to be addressed by the inquest, which started on January 29 last year.

Ms Dawson, a mother of three young children, was killed by a stray police bullet when gunman Man Haron Monis​, who executed Mr Johnson, became involved in a shoot-out with police in the final stages of the siege.

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A banner protesting the removal of trees along Anzac Parade. Photo: Supplied Workers felling trees on Wednesday as part of light rail construction. Photo: Daniel Munoz
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Workers prepare for the tree cull along Anzac Parade and Alison Road on Wednesday. Photo: Daniel Munoz

The RSL has condemned protesters opposed to the removal of century-old Moreton Bay fig trees along Sydney’s Anzac Parade for using in their campaign a poem to the fallen in World War I.

Despite mounting opposition, the Baird government is standing firm in its decision to allow trees, said to have been planted along the avenue in 1917 in honour of Australian diggers, to be felled for a $2.1 billion light rail line to the city’s eastern suburbs.

Contractors began cutting down eight trees on Anzac Parade near the new Albert (Tibby) Cotter Walkway on Wednesday and a further nine on Wansey Road near Randwick Racecourse.

The tram line will link Circular Quay to the eastern suburbs via Anzac Parade, and includes stops near Moore Park and the racecourse.

While sad to see the removal of trees planted a century ago, RSL state president Rod White said activists opposed to the removal of trees had inappropriately used Laurence Binyon’s poem, For the Fallen, on banners along Anzac Parade.

“It is disrespectful and wrong for protesters to have used it on banners along Anzac Parade,” he said.

Mr White said many memorials and commemorative plaques in NSW had been relocated or replaced due to developments over the past century, and the latest work along Anzac Parade was another example.

The RSL would seek to have the original intent of the memorial trees along Anzac Parade reinstated when new plantings were made in the area.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said the tram route had been known publicly since January last year and the government had been working to “minimise disruption to trees”.

“You can’t have it both ways. Unfortunately some vegetation is going to have to be removed to build this $2.1 [billion] construction project,” he said.

“The reality is that you can’t do the big build without disrupting vegetation.”

Mr Constance described as “simply outrageous” comments and actions from Randwick City Council, which has campaigned against the tree cull, and Labor leader Luke Foley.

“We have to be realistic here – we cannot build this project without removing some trees. This is the best outcome we can achieve.”

Mr Foley said the historic trees could be saved if the government considered alternative plans such as those submitted by Randwick City Council.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. The community can have light rail without the carnage,” Mr Foley said.

Jeff Angel from the Total Environment Centre, which has campaigned against the tree cull, said the RSL should recognise that the trees were not only important commemorative plantings but also provided “clean air, shade and wildlife, all of which new plantings cannot compensate”.

He estimated up to 40 trees that had been planted as a memorial to Australian soldiers in 1917 would be felled for the light rail.

The government has guaranteed it will plant eight new trees for every mature tree felled, and four for every mid-sized one.

In a letter to Mr Constance, Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore said the large number of trees removed along the route was “extremely distressing, particularly historic trees”.

“The avoidable loss of trees along the [light rail] route threatens to further jeopardise community support for the project,” wrote Cr Moore, who has been a supporter of the project.

“Given this late stage, I urge you to urgently intervene to protect the further destruction of significant Moreton Bay figs in Moore Park.”

CBD co-ordinator general Marg Prendergast said the road would have to be widened to accommodate traffic if the existing route for the light rail was moved.

“We are not happy about having to remove trees but it is a necessary evil of this major transformation project,” she said.

“One myth that’s out there is that every tree we are cutting down is a 100-year-old fig – that is not true. There is a minority of significant trees and it is heartbreaking. Some of the other trees are noxious weeds.”

Early this month about 35 trees were removed from Alison Road in Randwick, and a further four from Anzac Parade for the project.

The environmental impact statement for the light rail shows up to 760 trees along the entire length of the 12-kilometre light rail line could be felled.

However, transport officials say they are confident fewer will need to be cut down for the project.

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Sydney Thunder spinner Erin Osborne (right) has lost her WBBL medal. Photo: Robert CianfloneLost: one inaugural WBBL premiership medallion, last seen at a trivia night in Sydney. If found, please contact Cricket ACT.
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Sydney Thunder all-rounder Erin Osborne has put the call out for the return of the medal she won in their thrilling win over the Sydney Sixers at the MCG on Sunday.

Thankfully, the ACT Meteors off-spinner still has her woman of the match award – although she’s not expecting her efforts in the WBBL final to lead to a call-up for Australia for the women’s World Twenty20  in India in March.

Osborne said being able to celebrate with the Thunder men after the franchise’s extraordinary victory in both the BBL and WBBL  made it even more special, with the party starting in Melbourne before continuing in Sydney on Monday – even if her winner’s medal has gone walkabout in the process.

“I’m sure one of the girls has it. If they have it, could you please give it back to me,” Osborne said on Wednesday.

“We had some good celebrations on Sunday night and we came back to Sydney and had some more celebrations on Monday.”

Osborne was omitted from the Southern Stars squad that started a three-game T20 series against India on Tuesday, although Aussie vice-captain Alex Blackwell has backed her to get picked for the World Twenty20.

The 26-year-old hasn’t played for Australia since August last year.

Osborne took 3-21 to help limit the Sixers to just 115 from their 20 overs, which the Thunder was able to chase down with three balls to spare.

She felt not getting picked for the India series actually helped her play her best cricket in the finals.

“I’m not too fussed about it to be honest with you. Obviously I’d like to be in it, but it’s out of my control now,” Osborne said.

“I’ve done all I can to put my hand up to get back in there, but I’m actually quite happy to be home and be able to rest and catch up with my family again.

“There’s just a bit more freedom to go out there and play cricket and really enjoy it. When I got the phone call [that I missed out] there was disappointment, but a massive weight off the shoulders as well.”

The inaugural WBBL was a massive success, with television ratings so strong Channel Ten ended up switching games from One to their main channel.

Osborne felt they were “almost professional athletes” during her time in the Thunder camp and she hoped the first season’s success would help make them become full-time cricketers in the future.

She also hoped it would lead to Cricket Australia being able to sell the TV rights for the WBBL in the future.

Osborne said the WBBL “provided a visible pathway for young girls” and hoped it would help grow the women’s game in Canberra.

“Just [from] the overwhelming support from the Australian public I’m hoping Cricket Australia could potentially sell the media rights next year instead of probably paying Channel Ten to put it on,” she said.

The Southern Stars play their second T20 against India on Friday and will travel to New Zealand next month.

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