HunterNet seeks collaboration opportunities to push innovation

COLLABORATION IN FOCUS: HunterNet chief executive officer Tony Cade at the co-operative’s new headquarters at PKF. Picture: Simone de PeakHUNTERNET will up the ante in collaboration this year, joining forces with the region’s leading organisations to drive innovation in manufacturing.

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Chief executive Tony Cade said the peak industry co-operativewill seekto partner closely with CSIRO and the University of Newcastle on variousprograms that would commercialise the capabilities of manufacturers.

“We are looking at where we can maximise regional benefits through collaborational projects,” he said, adding that HunterNet’s focus remained on energy and resources andinfrastructure and asset management.

Formed in 1991to unite and drive innovation among small and medium enterprises hit by the winding down of steel production, HunterNet today has about 200 members in the Hunter and Central Coast.

It recently moved its headquarters to accountancy firm PKF, based at Mark Richard’s former surf store in Hunter Street.

“It makes sense to be in the west end of the CBD, which is continuing to transform with plenty of development activity,” Mr Cade said.

PKF managing director Steve Meyn said it had been an active member of HunterNet and the move would create opportunities for both organisations.

HunterNet’s 2015member survey found that only four per cent of firms areexporting, howevera third hope to switch industries within five years and many are eyeing Asian markets.

Mr Cade said the “relatively low” export result was countered by the fact 51 per cent of companiessay they want totake part in the HunterNet/Austrade Asian Business Engagement program.

HunterNet is seeking more funding for the program, designed toharness commercial opportunities in Asia, where HunterNet is actively targeting new business windows for its members.

Mr Cade said new funding would allow it to train manufacturers to fully leverage opportunities arising from free trade agreements in China, Japan and South Korea.

The new Future Leaders program, which teams young and veteran business leaders to push innovation, will continue this year.

Joel Griffiths writes for the Herald: Why the Jets should keep Carney

DURING my playing days one of my greatest assets was my passion, even ifit sometimes got me into trouble.

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And one thing that I am extremely passionate about is Newcastlefootball.

If you count my time with Newcastle United in the old national league, and my two stints with the Jets, it adds up to more than 120 games over six seasons –long enough to form a lastingemotional attachment.

Having played for Newcastle when we won a grand final and were attracting sell-out crowds to home games, I know how much potential the club has and how much support there is in the community.

Unfortunately it’s been a long time since Novocastrianshada successfulteam to cheer for.

There are any number of reasons why such a proud footballing region has struggled for so long.Obviously the club’s ownership situation is well documented. The sooner that is resolved (and I’m hearing promising rumours), hopefully the sooner we start seeing some progress, on and off the field.

But one thing that has consistently been a problem for the Jets has been retaining good players.I’ll never forget how, within days of winning the grand final in 2008, Andrew Durante, Mark Bridge and Stuart Musialik had signed with rival A-League clubs.There’s not much clubs can do to stop Australian players heading overseas. But when you lose your teammates to other A-League sides, that’s really disappointing.

Players come and go. But at Newcastle,every off-season seems like a rebuilding phase.

I was at a Jobe Wheelhouse Football coaching clinic this week and I was asking kids how many Jets players they could name. Most only knew two or three.

Some even said they supported other teams “because Newcastle always let their best players leave’’.

But the one player almost everyone knew wasDavid Carney. With that in mind, I can’t understand the delay in re-signing Dave.

He’s been their best player this seasonand his experience is so valuable, when you consider the Jets have a very young squad.

He’s only 32, andDavehas missed only one game this season, through suspension. He’s got plenty of good football ahead of him.

He’s had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus during his career but I doubt he has ever been so happy and settled.

From my experience, Daveis not only a good player, he’s a great team man. The type of bloke you can build a club culture around.

I think he deserves some transparency. If the Jets don’t want to re-sign him, let him know so he can start looking for another club.If they do want to sign him, then make him an offer. I’m sure he’ll provide value for money.

I really hope he is not destined tojoin the long list of good players the Jets have let slip through their fingers.

WEALTH OF EXPERIENCE: Former Socceroos David Carney, left, and Joel Griffiths were teammates at the Newcastle Jets last season. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

‘Swedish Fritzl’ doctor accused of imprisoning woman in bunker is ‘highly intelligent’

Martin Trenneborg has been dubbed the “Swedish Fritzl”. Photo: IBL/REX/ Shutterstock These masks were found in the home of Martin Trenneborg. Photo: Swedish Police Authority

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Swedish police photos taken inside the bunker built by Martin Trenneborg. Photo: Swedish Police Authority

Martin Trenneborg allegedly wore these masks as he drove the woman to a dungeon he had spent years building. Photo: Swedish Police Authority

‘Swedish Fritzl’ accused of drugging woman

This is the doctor accused of drugging a woman with Rohypnol-laced strawberries and keeping her captive in a sound-proof bunker he had built under his rural property in Sweden.

Martin Trenneborg, 38, will face a trial in Stockholm next week charged with kidnapping and raping the 38-year-old woman, who allegedly spent a week locked in the bunker in Kristianstad, in the country’s south, late last year.

New details have emerged about Dr Trenneborg, who has been compared to Josef Fritzl, the Austrian man who kept his own daughter locked up in a cellar for 24 years.

Dr Trenneborg studied to become a doctor at the prestigious Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, before working as a GP in Stockholm and Kristianstad, German newspaper Bild reported.

Dr Trenneborg also claims to be a member of Mensa, an international organisation for people who attain a score within the top 2 per cent of the general population on an approved IQ test.

A man who claimed to be a friend of Dr Trenneborg told Swedish daily newspaper Kristianstadsbladetthat he was always helpful, nice and extremely intellectual.

“He is a head man. He does not speak about feelings and tries to solve everything intellectually,” the anonymous friend was quoted as saying.

Images on Dr Trenneborg’s Facebook page show him mountain climbing, while, on a blog, he wrote that his favourite actors were Christopher Walken, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Italian porn star Rocco Siffredi, Bild reported.

Prosecutor Peter Claeson told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladetthat Dr Trenneborg spent several years building the bunker, which was about 60 square metres in size and sound-proof and light-proof.

It is not clear how Dr Trenneborg was introduced to the woman, but they spoke on the phone for the first time on September 10 last year, Kristianstadsbladet reported.

Two days later, they met in person at the woman’s Stockholm apartment, where Dr Trenneborg allegedly drugged her with Rohypnol-laced strawberries, before using a wheelchair to take her to his car and driving her more than 550 kilometres to the bunker.

He allegedly wore rubber masks of bearded and elderly men during the journey to avoid being recognised.

The woman is reported to have been handcuffed for most of the six days of her incarceration and raped repeatedly, according to CNN.

Aftonbladet reported that the doctor allegedly acquired the contraceptive pill, as well as equipment to test if the captured woman had a sexually transmitted infection. He allegedly tested the woman’s samples at his work.

After six days, Dr Trenneborg reportedly drove back to Stockholm to retrieve some of the woman’s belongings from her apartment, when he discovered she had been reported missing.

Dr Trenneborg’s barrister, Mari Schaub, told Bild that her client found a piece of paper taped to the woman’s front door that read: “We miss you”.

“Someone had searched for the woman. That was the last straw,” she said, the newspaper reported.

Dr Trenneborg then took the woman to a police station in Stockholm on September 18, hoping to persuade police that she was unharmed and that they were a genuine couple, according to The Local, an English-language newspaper in Sweden.

However, officers became suspicious and spoke to the woman separately. She told them that she had been kept prisoner.

The newspaper reported that Dr Trenneborg admitted drugging the woman and taking her to his home, but denied raping her. He also wanted the kidnapping charge to be reduced to a less serious charge of deprivation of liberty.

“He is a man who was mentally depressed and, when at the police station, complied with all the requests of the police,” Ms Schaub told CNN.

“He is very much in regret of what he has done.”

When police searched the bunker, they allegedly found a simple Ikea pine bed, a desk and a kitchen area with a sink and hot plate, as well as a fridge stocked with fresh food.

Dr Trenneborg’s trial is due to start in the Stockholm District Court on Monday, local time.

Crime writer Barry Maitland dabbles in painting

Another talent: Barry Maitland with one of his paintings based on Glenrock Lagoon. Some of his artwork will be shown at Maitland Regional Art Gallery in April.BARRYMaitland, by his own admission, could use abreak.

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Internationally acknowledged as one of the world’s leading crimenovelists, the Maitland writer has just sent off a manuscript to his publisher, thefinalinstalment of his Harry Belltreetrilogy.

It completed his contract to supply three books in three years which,in writing terms, is going like theclappers.

Time to put the feet up? Yeah, right.

He has somehow managed to agree for an exhibition of his artwork – his other great passion – to be hung at Maitland Regional Art Gallery and is frantically putting the finishing touches to it.

“They’re mostly oil, with a forest floor theme,” he explains.

At a time in life when most people are slowing down, Barry Maitland just hasn’t picked up the knack.

I arrive at the door of his central Maitland 1888 pre-Federation home to be greeted by his two dogs, Dodger the Labrador and Layla the collie rough, tails frantically wagging, clearly not the shy and retiring types.

After a tricky piece of manoeuvring, the man himself manages to slip past them – no easy feat – and shakes my hand.

It is a spacious, split-level home with parquetry floor, wide arched hallway with artworks along both sides – some his, others not, with Aboriginal dot paintings making an appearance as well.

His office is upstairs at the back, equal part author’s den – two long desks, books, thesaurus, computer, manuscript paper – and artist’s studio – colour tubes, brushes, his old architect’s bench, an easel and pieces of artworked stacked against the wall, ready to be exhibited.

He can see what I’m thinking.

“It’s usually worse,” he says.

Maitland is a humble man, not one to blow his own trumpet, so let’s get things in perspective.

He has written 12 best selling crime novels in the Brock-Kolla series – a male-female team in London Central Metropolitan police – as well as a stand-alone book based in Australia, Bright Air, and now the Harry Belltree trilogy, which is even closer to home with a storyline that takes in Newcastle and the Hunter – in ­particular Ash Island, the name of the second novel.

In his crime genre, he is one of the world’s best, no doubt.

“A master of mysteries”, according to the LA Times Book Review.

“More please Mr Maitland,” says the Washington Times.

There are plenty more, but you get the idea.

As an artist he’s not on the same standing, but he’s most certainly very talented.

Kim Blunt, Maitland Regional Art Gallerycurator, is a fan.“His work has evolved and become more abstract,” she says. “I really like it. He’s here on the quality of his work, not just because he’s Barry Maitland. We’ve hung his works before and have been following him for a while.”

But it’s his writing that has led me to him today.

Ironically his journey fromsuccessful architect to crime writer started indirectly with the Newcastle earthquake of 1989.

“I’d moved from London to Newcastle in 1984 and was working as Professor of Architecture at Newcastle University when theearthquake struck,” he recalled.

“I got a call to say that the chimney and roof had fallen in at home in Laman Street and that my wife Margaret had been very lucky to escape. It was a surreal, topsy-turvy time. Normal life stopped, the army sealed off streets, our house waslooted … It got me thinking about crime, and one thing led to another.

“We decided to buy another house, spotted this one in Maitland which we loved straight away, and we’ve been here ever since.

“As for writing, I had dabbled in it and decided to make the jump and go to full time crime writing.

“All these books later and here we are.”

He assures me that after this art exhibition, he will have a rest.

At this stage he doesn’t even know if he’ll return to London with his ­highly popular Brock-Kolla team, or head in a new direction.

“I recently opened my website up to readers’ comments, and there’s been quite a bit of feedback asking me to keep Brock and Kolla going, which is nice,” he said.

Every writer seeks his own inspiration, and in Maitland’s world, it comes from the location. Get that right and the rest will follow.

So it means that, for Brock and Kolla for example, he’ll head to adifferent part of London for each story, soak the place up … talk to the locals, go to the pub, eat in the corner cafe, and let the inspiration come.

I ask for an example.

“In Raven’s Eye, I went to London and spotted these narrow boats at Paddington on the canal. I saw a woman get out and start heading to work, so I caught up with her and asked her about living on a boat. She had a normal office job, but lived in one of the prime residential districts of London. Ringo Starr lived just up the road for heaven’s sake, but she lived on a boat. I found that fascinating, so I did some research on the narrow boats and canals of London and I had my setting.

“It was a similar thing in Spider Trap. I was interested in the West Indian migration to South London, so I went to Brixton for a while and found a Jamaican immigrant, immersed myself in his neighbourhood, heard how they speak and interact … and it started from there.”

Don’t be fooled into thinking the rest comes easy though.

Maitland will typically research for three to six months before he starts writing. Unlike Patricia Cornwell for example, who he has heard has a whole staff to help with research, Maitland does virtually all the hard graft himself.

Then, even after he starts writing, the story and characters will invariably evolve.

“Sometimes a character won’t be as interesting as I’d hoped, and I need to change things, or maybe something in the storyline doesn’t feel right,” he says.

“And other times I’ll see the ­possibilities of taking things in a new direction … it could be any number of things. It often means going back to an earlier part of the book and rewriting it to bring it all together.”

Maitland doesn’t set himself a word limit to write each day and finds he works best when he builds momentum with his writing.

“I might start off with, say, 500 words on the first day and build from there. I’m probably happy when I’m averaging about 1000 words a day.

“But some days it just isn’t working and you need to get away from it for a day or two.”

When he has the momentum he hates to be distracted.

“Often you have other commitments, and I hate it when I have that momentum and things are really flowing and then I have to stop. Often I’ll get back to writing and I’ve lost the pace of it … the feel isn’t there and it takes time for me to find it again.”

When he’s finished, before hiseditors or publishers see a word, first draft invariably goes to his wife Margaret who is an avid reader, for feedback.

So, it she a harsh critic?

“I respect her opinion,” he says, with all the verbal dexterity of a man who has been married for years.

What sort of things does she criticise, I ask?

“She always says I do the sex badly,” he says.

There’s a momentary pause.

“Hang on, let me explain . . .” he says, breaking into a laugh.

Barry Maitland’s exhibition at Maitland Regional Art Gallery will run from April 9 to June 5.

The revolution has arrived: six televised women’s cricket matches in 11 days

Breaking down barriers: The Women’s Big Bash League has arrived with a bang with six matches televised in 11 days. Photo: Wayne TaylorThe watershed season for women’s cricket will end in fitting fashion, with six matches broadcast live on free-to-air TV in 11 days.

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Network Ten’s broadcasts of the two Women’s Big Bash League semi-finals and the final will be followed by Nine Network providing live coverage of Australia’s national team, the Southern Stars, in their three Twenty20 matches against India next week.

It is almost eight years since women’s matches were first shown on TV, in a match between the Southern Stars and England in which 17-year-old Ellyse Perry made her Twenty20 debut. Cricket Australia’s general manager of media rights and broadcast, Stephanie Beltrame, is understandably delighted in the unprecedented level of coverage for – and interest in – women’s cricket.

“There’s a lot of momentum around women’s sport,” she said. “We’ve kind of hit that bit of a wave, where we’ve got the volume of content and so much peripheral momentum that’s pushing it along … respect for female athletes and female sport.

“There’s been a perfect storm of factors to give it a bit more oxygen this year.”

The key to the surge in popularity, reflected in ratings on Ten that have been strong enough to exceed A-League matches, has been CA’s decision to subsidise Ten’s production costs in order to get eight WBBL matches shown in its inaugural season. The response was so strong that CA and Ten then expanded the coverage list to include the semi-finals on Thursday and Friday.

Beltrame said that investment, mirroring a strategy it employs to get the Matador Cup one-day tournament shown by Nine in October, is being vindicated.

“Television is still absolutely the No.1 way to reach people, so getting the exposure is the most important factor,” she said.

“The intent of the WBBL was to show girls you can aspire to play in a competition like this. From a viewing perspective, there are men and women, boys and girls who are watching. It might be a slightly different game – there are nuances in the women’s game – but cricket is cricket, and men are watching.”

Beltrame said CA was appreciative of the support of Ten, for its extensive promotion of the WBBL and its decision to move some of the matches from ONE to its main channel to better capitalise on demand. Nine has followed suit, deciding to show the Southern Stars’ Australia Day match on its main channel.

For the past six years, the women’s domestic Twenty20 final has been broadcast live, first on Fox Sports and then on Ten in the past two years.

Beltrame said a key benefit of having more matches shown is that it has given viewers an opportunity to become familiar with players beyond the recognised superstars like Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry.

“We’ve always had belief in the product, the content, because it’s always rated pretty solidly without it ever being in prime time, and with neither us nor the broadcaster giving it any major promotion. The big difference I’m finding this year is because there are a lot more games [shown] you’re able to tell a bit of a story,” she said.

“That’s always been a challenge with women’s cricket, that we don’t play enough to be able to sustain genuine momentum.

“It’s not just Perry. You’ll remember what other players have done, because they’ve been on TV and you’ve seen it. That’s just so powerful to get that exposure.”

Two players whose profiles have surged due to their WBBL performances are Adelaide’s Amanda Wellington, whose leg-spin has been strongly commended by Adam Gilchrist, and off-spinner Molly Strano, who claimed an 8-35 for Melbourne Renegades in the two televised matches she featured in.

CA has been so rapt with the level of interest in WBBL in its first season it is keen to get at least the same level of match coverage next year, ideally with Ten.

“That would be our logical point,” Beltrame said. “We want to sit down with them to get their thoughts on what’s worked, but also what we can improve.”

The long-term goal for CA is to be able to play women’s matches as standalone matches at boutique-sized stadia and be shown in their own right in prime time, as happens in England on pay TV broadcaster Sky Sports.

“The only downside with double-headers is we don’t get to push the content into prime time, so there’s always a little bit of a cap on the ratings … but we have to earn that right,” Beltrame said. “The ultimate vision is when we’re not necessarily having to piggyback with the men’s sport.

“We do now because we recognise it’s a smart and efficient way of doing it, but if we continue to go on an upward trend, then there’s no reason why we couldn’t start to establish a standalone product.”

The more immediate priority is to reduce the gap of at least 90 minutes between the women’s and men’s double-headers, to make it more attractive for spectators to watch both matches. Even with those large gaps, there have been a number of matches this season where crowds have exceeded 10,000 by the end of the women’s match.

“I always believed we had something we could build and build, but it’s just been an outstanding response,” Beltrame said. “We’re really, really proud of every element: the way the broadcasters have embraced it, the way the girls have become more professional, stronger athletes, and the quality of the game is changing.”

The revival of Cessnock CBD

Street Smart: An artist impression of Cooper Street’s future look and feel, as part of a Cessnock town centre upgrade. Picture: Cessnock CBD Masterplan.Cessnock’s central business district was experiencing a renaissance, bucking the trend of other main-street areas in decay, mayor Bob Pynsent said.

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“This is going against the trend because our main street is growing, where most main streets are struggling,” Cr Pynsent said.

Cr Pynsent said a revitalisation had occurred in the two years since the Hunter Expressway opened, with about 10 vacant shops being filled.

“One or two might have fallen over, but the others have sustained and that’s positive,” he said.

“We still have vacant shops, but not as many as we had before the expressway opened.”

He said the expressway had “taken about 90 per cent of the heavy vehicles off Vincent Street”.

“A number of those new businesses are cafes,” he said.

“It’s far more attractive to sit on the footpath and have coffee.”

Cessnock City Council recently received a $950,000 federal grant, which will be used to redevelop the CBD in four stages over four years.

The work will include upgrades to laneways, the streetscape and park and playground areas.

It aims to improve access for pedestrians, cyclists and traffic.

The project funding includes street art, which will adjoin a laneway art project.

Stage one works will begin in 2016-17, with all four stages to be complete by 2019-20.

Cr Pynsent said the work would make the town more attractive and functional.

It follows the council spending more than $100,000 to improve garden beds, replace street trees and clean and seal pavers in the CBD.

Changes in the town’s economy were understood to be partly related to people losing jobs in the traditional mining and manufacturing industries.

Some of these people had sought to invest in the service and retail sectors.

Cessnock councillor Bryce Gibson agreed that the town was undergoing a renaissance.

Cr Gibson, who owns and leases real estate in the town,supported the work which was occurring as part of the council-approved Cessnock CBD masterplan.

But he said bigger changes lay ahead in other stages of the plan.

“The big windfall for the CBD will be when we get increased parking spots, more accessible parking and better traffic flows, in particular in peak periods,” he said.

“That’s the holy grail.”

As for the economy, he said “there has been new businesses come to town, new businesses go and businesses change hands”.

“I don’t see that as any different to what it’s always been,” he said.

“There’s always going to be fluctuations in the real estate market.”

Mayor Bob Pynsent

Australian Open 2016: Ana Ivanovic left shaken after woman falls mid-match

Ana Ivanovic said she was left shaken when, during her second round win over Anastasija Sevastova on Thursday morning, she heard a spectator crashing down a set of stairs.

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The match was delayed for more than 25 minutes when a woman in the crowd at Rod Laver Arena fell at 11.35am.

The incident comes after Australian Bernard Tomic was left rattled when a tennis fan fell ill during his win over Denis Istomin on Tuesday night.

Tennis officials at the Australian Open said a health professional in the crowd went immediately to help the woman, first aid officers working at the event followed and she was eventually carried away on a stretcher.

Ivanovic was on serve leading 4-3 when play was halted, leaving the players to watch on.

Ivanovic and Sevastova were seen alternately sitting on the sidelines and pacing the court as the drama unfolded, before they briefly left the court.

They were allowed a warm-up hit before resuming the game and Ivanovic, ranked 23 in the world, went on to win the match 6-3, 6-3.

In the post-match press conference, Ivanovic said she immediately stopped play when she heard the woman fall.

“I just hope the lady was fine,” she said.

“It was actually good that we had to wait a little bit because I was really shaking, because I could imagine and it was not so nice.

“Then they told us she was bleeding, so, yeah, I hope she’s well.”

On Tuesday Tomic said he feared for a spectator’s life after a woman collapsed during his match and was taken from Hisense Arena on a stretcher.

Fellow spectators had on that occasion called for an EpiPen, which was thrown from one of the upper levels of the stadium.

Tomic was relieved to hear the ill woman had recovered.

Bill Shorten’s chief spin doctor, Kimberley Gardiner, exits as Labor struggles in the polls

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten consults advisers Ryan Liddell and Kimberley Gardiner during question time in May. Photo: Andrew Meares Team Bill: Shorten in Canberra in November with his staff, including Kimberley Gardiner (left) and Ryan Liddell (second from left). Photo: James Brickwood

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Bill Shorten’s chief spin doctor, Kimberley Gardiner, is leaving the Opposition Leader’s office by mutual agreement following an internal review ahead of the next election.

In a move that will be interpreted as the Opposition Leader looking to sharpen his political messaging and re-connect with voters in 2016 after falling well behind Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the opinion polls, Ms Gardiner is leaving the role of communications director after more than three years working for Mr Shorten.

The review of Mr Shorten’s office was undertaken by chief of staff Cameron Milner, a former Queensland Labor state secretary who replaced Ken Macpherson as chief of staff in September last year.

Ms Gardiner was a long serving staffer to Julia Gillard when she was deputy prime minister and worked for Mr Shorten when he was a minister in the former Labor government as well as in opposition. She has clocked up almost a decade of service in total with the ALP, including time with former Queensland premier Anna Bligh, as well as for AFL club St Kilda.

She had a reputation inside the parliamentary wing of the ALP as a political hard-head, leading some Labor MPs to criticise her performance for being too risk averse.

Others, however, have praised her for running a tight ship and for helping guide Mr Shorten’s political ascendancy over Tony Abbott before the change of prime minister in September last year.

Her exit, after that of deputy chief of staff Sarah Adams last year, means there are now no women in senior roles in Mr Shorten’s office. It also marks another significant change of personnel in the Shorten office after the addition of Ian McNamara as strategy director in June last year.

Ms Gardiner remains close to Mr Shorten, who praised her work ethic and commitment to the ALP. In a statement, the Opposition Leader said he was sorry to see her leave.

“Kimberley has done a tremendous job for me over many years, for which I’m forever grateful,” he said.

“She has played a critical role in driving Labor’s agenda over the past two years – I have greatly valued her strategic advice.”

A spokesman for the Opposition Leader emphasised the move was by mutual agreement and that a number of positions in Mr Shorten’s office would be restructured.

A replacement as communications chief has not yet been identified and it is possible that a “flatter” structure will be put in place that would see the position abolished, in a move that would be designed to better integrate the policy, strategy and media teams in Mr Shorten’s office.

In the short term, Mr Shorten’s well-regarded senior press secretary Ryan Liddell will run the Opposition Leader’s centralised media unit.

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Guarding rhinos could help extend Wallabies and Brumbies star David Pocock’s career

Time away: David Pocock says taking time out from rugby union to train with Zimbabwe rhino guards could help prolong his career.It was just one day’s training with a dedicated group of Zimbabwe rhino guards, but ACT Brumbies flanker David Pocock says those breaks from rugby help him “freshen up” and could help extend his career.

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But Pocock, off contract at the end of 2016, is still unsure where the next stage of his career will take him as he continues talks with the Brumbies and the Australian Rugby Union.

The World Cup star spent a day training with anti-poaching scouts in Malilangwe, which was an experience that allowed him the best of both worlds – training to ensure he is fit for the upcoming Super Rugby season, while also getting completely away from rugby.

He said the scouts were not big, but they were “exceptionally fit” and could run and walk all day in their roles of protecting the dwindling white rhino population. Thanks to Malilangwe scouts for the invite to join fitness + weights session they put new recruits through this am. pic.twitter杭州夜网/lxnXGdhukX— David Pocock (@pocockdavid) November 29, 2015

At the end of a long year – when Pocock not only helped the Brumbies to the Super Rugby semi-finals, but was also instrumental in getting Australia to the World Cup final against New Zealand – he said it helped take his mind off rugby, which could in turn help prolong his career.

“I think that mental break’s key. Physically and mentally at the end of the international season you’re pretty cooked,” he said.

“Finding a space away from rugby to physically freshen up – you still obviously have to train – but mentally to get away from the game and experience something a bit different.

“I hope [it helps keep me in the game longer], I think it does. This is my 11th season now, I’m still enjoying it.”

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was in Canberra last week speaking to Pocock, while there were reports Pocock was set to turn his back on lucrative offers from Europe to stay in Canberra.

But Pocock, who Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced as ACT Australia Day ambassador on Thursday, said that was yet to be decided.

He does not want contract negotiations to linger on, but he was not in a rush to get them done.

“It’s something we’re still thinking about and have started talking to the ARU and Brumbies about,” Pocock said.

“It’s just one of those parts in professional rugby is deciding what’s the next step and we’ll wait and see.”

Meanwhile, SANZAR was expected to announce a revamp of the bonus-point system for Super Rugby, to try and promote more free-flowing rugby.

The governing body is considering scrapping the bonus point for scoring four or more tries and replacing it with a bonus point for scoring at least three more tries than your opponent.

But Pocock had no idea whether the proposed rule change would have the desired effect, leaving that to Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham to work out.

Instead he was focused on getting ready for the season ahead.

He said the Brumbies were going “as well as they could be at this point”, but they wouldn’t get a “gauge of where you’re at in that first trial” – against the NSW Waratahs in Wagga Wagga on February 6.

“We were really disappointed to lose in that semi [to the Wellington Hurricanes] last year,” Pocock said.

“In terms of team a lot of guys have played in those combinations for a few years now so hopefully we can build on that.”

Tim Crakanthorp called on to declare position on heavy rail by state government

THE state government has demanded that TimCrakanthorp make his position on the retention of heavy rail into Newcastle clear.

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This week the Newcastle Herald reported that both Jodie Harrison, the member for Charlestown, and Luke Foley, the opposition leader, had conceded that there would be no chanceof Labor reinstating the heavy rail line if it was returned to power in 2019 because work on truncating the line would be too far advanced.

Ms Harrison told the Herald on Mondaythat the party had moved on from the issue, saying “the fight is lost, the rail is gone”.

Her comments were echoed by Mr Foley when he was in Newcastle on Tuesday, the opposition leader saying it “won’t be possible” to restore the line, and that the party would focus on “policy development to improve public transport services in this city”.

But on Thursday the government’s parliamentary secretary for the government,Scot MacDonald, called for “consistency” from the party, accusing Labor members who have campaigned on reinstating the line, like Mr Crakanthorp and the member for Maitland, Jenny Aitchison of ducking the issue.

“The local MPs, in Maitland and Newcastle in particular, are saying one thing to their community and another thing when they go down to Macquarie Street,” he said.

“We get the opposition leader come up from Sydney and he says this is the case [that heavy rail won’t be reinstated],but we’ve still got the local MP’s from Newcastle and Maitland with a very clear record of saying they will restore the rail.

“So who’s in charge?”

Ms Aitchison though hit back angrily at Mr MacDonald, saying he was “like a mosqutio thatbuzzesaround trying to make trouble”.

“We have been very clear all the way –we made a commitment that if Labor was elected we would not proceed with cutting the line, that did not happen, but even after that we fought and fought and fought,” she said.

“At the end of the day by time Labor comes back into government in 2019 the corridor will be gone, so what can we do?

“I am the most disappointed person in Maitland, believe me.

“We have to look at the reality of the situation, and in the here and now what we can do is hold the government to account on what they have promised.”

Mr Crakanthorp has been unavailable for interview on his positionthis week and hasnot responded to direct questions about whether Ms Harrison’s comments represented a shift in the party’s policy.

In a statement he said that by “the next state election in 2019 there won’t be a rail corridor to save”.

“Labor has not changed our policy, we are simply stating reality,” he said.

“The Baird Government has completely ignored the wishes of the Hunter community and is proceeding with ripping up the rail line and doing deals with developers to build on the land.

“The Liberals shouldn’t be forgiven for blatantly ignoring the region. This is just a political stunt from an arrogant government who now thinks it’s also a good idea to privatise Newcastle’s public transport network.”