Sailing in the wake of the Vikings

Sydney doctor John Vallentine John Vallentine on board Tainui: fascinated by Viking journeys. Photo: Supplied
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An Australian adventurer is preparing for a pioneering trip along the waterways of Russia from the Arctic to the Black Sea, opening up a route that few foreigners have travelled since the days of the Vikings.

Sydney doctor John Vallentine, who spends half his time practising medicine and the other half sailing the world’s oceans, is wading through marshes of bureaucracy to make the trip possible this northern summer.

His boat, the cruising cutter Tainui, is laid up in Tromso, Norway, after an exploratory trip Dr Vallentine made to St Petersburg last year.

He plans to set off from the Arctic port of Murmansk at the time of the summer solstice, when the midnight sun will illuminate his way down waterways long closed to foreigners. His route will take him past the Solovetsky Islands, used as gulags in Communist times, and down the infamous Belomor (White Sea) Canal, built by slave labour under Stalin.

He will travel to the Karelian capital of Petrozavodsk, founded by Peter the Great, and to the River Volga cities of Yaroslavl, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan and Saratov, before leaving Russia at Azov and entering the Black Sea at Kerch in Ukraine.

All these places were well known to the Vikings, but few foreigners have made the full north-to-south journey by water in modern times.

”I have always been fascinated by the eastward journeys of the Vikings, who explored these inland waterways a thousand years ago,” Dr Vallentine said. ”I would like to write about the less-well-known history of this proud, violent nation of superb seafarers. What better way to research it than on the waterways themselves?”

Dr Vallentine said he was aware of only three other foreign yachtsmen having made the voyage in the past 75 years – one from Britain, one from Northern Ireland and one from Germany.

The sailor from Northern Ireland was Miles Clark who, with grudging permission from the KGB and sponsorship from National Geographic, sailed his family yacht Wild Swan on the 3200-kilometre route in 1992. Sadly, shortly after finishing the voyage, he died and it was left to his father, Wallace Clark, to complete a book, Sailing Round Russia, based on the ship’s logs.

Dr Vallentine said he was learning as much as possible from the experience of his predecessors and hoping to write his own guide for foreigners who might follow him. Cruise ships travel on only part of the route.

The yachtsmen who went before Dr Vallentine made their voyages in the early 1990s, when the then president Boris Yeltsin was opening up Russia after 70 years of Soviet rule.

Now President Vladimir Putin is also keen to attract foreign ventures and visitors – especially in the run-up to next year’s Sochi Winter Olympics, which he hopes will be a showcase for Russia.

Dr Vallentine must apply to the Russian Interior Ministry for permission to make the voyage and anticipated there might be problems with ”Russian regional bureaucracies, as well as pedestrian difficulties such as acquiring fuel and water, negotiating the many locks with a mast strapped on deck, navigation generally and mosquitoes”.

But for a man who has sailed to Patagonia and who began his double career of doctor and sailor as a medical officer on British trawlers off the coast of Iceland in the 1970s, these are problems he can probably take in his stride.

So far the bureaucratic snags have come from Australia.

”Australian bureaucracy can make life difficult in silly little ways,” he said.

”When I applied for recertification of my commercial master’s ticket, I was told I had to have a first aid certificate.”

So even though he is a registered medical practitioner, specialist physician and holder of advanced life support credentials, he had to go off and study first aid.

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Tahs turn arm wrestle their way

Israel Folau Photo: Cameron SpencerAs it happened / match stats
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If former NSW coach Michael Foley came hunting for revenge in Sydney this weekend, he was sent home empty-handed.

But only just. The Waratahs fought off a gritty second-half fightback from Foley’s Force outfit to notch their third win of the season in front of 15,300 fans on Sunday.

Second-half tries to both sides and a furious final 15 minutes enlivened an otherwise stop-start game in which the crowd watched penalty kick after penalty kick while the Waratahs opened up a six-point lead at the break.

A try to Adam Ashley-Cooper early in the second half extended the lead to 14 points before the Force hit back with their own five-pointer, to fullback Alfie Mafi, and a 60th-minute penalty to get within four points of their opponents.

The final 20 minutes were an evenly matched arm wrestle. The Waratahs did most of the running but couldn’t complete, while the Force chipped away at the Tahs’ defence and never made it easy.

For the Waratahs, this was another building block in coach Michael Cheika’s grand design and keeps them in the hunt with the majority of the season still to run.

The Force, in a similar rebuilding phase to their east-coast cousins, continue to chase an elusive second win after beating the Reds last month but struggling to topple good sides since then.

Halfback Brendan McKibbin gave NSW the first-half edge, kicking five in a row as the Force struggled with discipline. The Force notched three of their own, including the first two three-pointers of the match, with a smart pressure game that forced the Waratahs to defend in tight.

There were plenty of opportunities to attack in the first half for NSW but execution was the familiar sticking point, tripping them up every time they revved their engines in attack.

They were able to take points from each opportunity, equalising at 6-6 in the 19th minute and leading 9-6 after an impressive period of phase play in the 22nd minute.

The Force could do little for themselves with 14 men on the field, while prop Salesi Ma’afu sat in the sin bin for a high tackle on replacement hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau.

Fullback Israel Folau combined superbly with his five-eighth, Bernard Foley, both players breaking the line and getting the Waratahs within spitting distance of the try line before, on at least two occasions, the Force gave away penalties and points. The Waratahs made it 12-9 with 11 minutes to go in the half.

Returning Force captain Matt Hodgson boosted his side in attack, at one point getting two touches of the ball in the Waratahs’ half but pushing it too far at the breakdown a minute later to give the Waratahs yet another three points.

Both teams tried to up the pace in the second half and the Waratahs won the early battle, taking a penalty goal and the first try of the match within the first seven minutes. It was again the work of Folau in attack that put Foley in a position to pass to centre Adam Ashley-Cooper in the left corner. This time, unlike their first-half attempts, the Waratahs executed, Ashley-Cooper taking NSW to a 23-9 lead over the visitors.

The Force were next, fullback Alfie Mafi completing in the right corner to put them back in the game. Sias Ebersohn converted to make it 23-16 with 25 minutes to go and kicked them to within four points of the Waratahs three minutes later.

NSW WARATAHS 23 (Adam Ashley-Cooper try Brendan McKibbin 6 pens) bt WESTERN FORCE 19 (Alfie Mafi try Sias Ebersohn con 4 pens) at Allianz Stadium. Referee: Steve R. Walsh. Crowd: 15,348.

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Beguiled fans dressed up and ready to play new Game

L-R Bernadette Staron, Francesco Orsenigo, Ru Owyong, Claudia Bergsdorf, Theresa Winters, Mathieu Perrault, Jessica Farrell and Lucie Ornatova mad fans of the new series ‘Game of Thrones”. Photo: Simon O’Dwyer Most pirated show: Writer George R. R. Martin. Photo: Supplied
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Theresa Winters likes to sign her RSVPs “Winters is Coming”. It’s a reference to one of her favourite TV shows, Game of Thrones, and when season three kicks off on Monday she’ll be there with bells on – and she won’t be alone.

“People are definitely excited about it,” said the 31-year-old who is originally from Chicago. “There will be some fur.”

Ms Winters managed to dragoon quite a lot of fur, a few medieval-style dresses, numerous wigs, a plastic sword or two and about a dozen friends and acquaintances to a dry-run for Monday’s premiere. Her fellow fans were harvested in large part via

“It’s basically a hospitality exchange around the world, sort of a facebook for travellers,” explained Ms Winters, who has lived in Australia for two and half years.

Via the site, she organises regular viewing nights – True Blood is another favourite – where people get together to watch a couple of episodes, drink some wine, eat some cheese and get home by 10pm. “It’s basically inviting strangers to come to your house, but it’s not as scary as it sounds,” she said.

Among Thrones fans in her group is Francesco, a 31-year-old software programmer from Italy. The show attracted a particular type of person, he said. “It catches a more intellectual viewer. It’s very complex, very cerebral.”

The show has become a massive cult hit, spawning wiki sites, complex family trees, cookbooks, and a roaring trade in illegal downloads. As George R. R. Martin, the author on whose doorstop-heavy novels it is based, noted last year, “We are the most pirated show in the world.”

As Martin also noted, much of that downloading is happening in Australia. The website torrentfreak南京夜网 says 10.1 per cent of illegal downloads of season two were from Australia. Sydney alone accounted for 3 per cent of the traffic.

The episode torrentfreak cited was downloaded 4.28 million times (marginally more than its legitimate audience of 4.2 million in the US, where it airs on premium cable channel HBO). That suggests about 430,000 people downloaded it illegally in Australia. To put that in perspective, OzTAM reported that the season two finale was watched here, in its first airing on Foxtel last June, by about 90,000 paying customers (multiple encore screenings and recordings of the episode on Foxtel’s iQ service will have added significantly to that number).

Little wonder Foxtel is rush-releasing the latest series; it will first air the season opener at 4.20pm on Monday, just two hours after it goes to air for the first time in the United States.

The pay TV network is adopting a similar express strategy with a number of other frequently torrented series, too, including Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire and The Walking Dead.

All over the world, people will be huddling around the box to watch Game of Thrones the very first moment it’s available.

Every broadcaster’s dream is of content viewers can’t wait to see. Their collective nightmare is that many people will no longer wait – or pay – to see it.

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MKR serving up conflict on a budget

Congratulations, you have almost made it to “After Easter”, when television executives wipe the chocolate from their faces and decide to drip-feed the big shows back into the system.
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The biggest this season is My Kitchen Rules (Seven, 7.30pm), with an audience that has grown like well-rested pasta dough. Apologies. So big is this franchise now that Seven has decided to run “special episodes” starring guest judge Colin Fassnidge in a bid to undercut the return of Nine’s The Voice. But that’s for next week.

On Monday, MKR gets back into kitchen HQ with a challenge that will set series villains Ashlee and Sophia against . . . well, everybody, really. Most specifically, it seems that since the demise of Angela and Melina, the feuding knife has been passed on to Jenna and Joanna.

Spoiler alert: I’m about to reveal the budget for their team challenge. Each couple has to serve up a meal for four that costs just $10.

“Ten dollars! That’s like $2.50 each,” Elle says helpfully. Yep – or five bucks for two, just to clear it up even further. No matter which way you break down that difficult equation, the answer is television-friendly tension in the supermarket.

While much of Australia will enjoy their hot cross bun hangover in front of MKR, another couple of series returns are equally impressive.

I must confess I came to Game of Thrones (Showtime) for the naked ladies, but I’ve stayed for the glorious political intrigue. And the naked ladies.

If you haven’t seen the first two series of this multi-layered drama set in the bleak imagined landscape of Westeros and Essos, you may struggle to catch up with the arrival of series three “express from the US”. It may be a little like meeting up with the party in the pub after you’ve come from the office and they’ve been at a long lunch. They’ll appear to be speaking a different language, there will be the chance of conflict. And you might see naked ladies.

Peter Dinklage as the dwarf Tyrion Lannister is a personal favourite, despite his role said to be slightly less dominant this time around. He is evil, but he also has comic one-liners – a great combination.

Let’s get this straight: yes, there are naked ladies. But the women in this series tend to hold the positions of power. Terrific stuff.

Keeping clothes on is more important in Mad Men (SBS, 9.30pm), given that it’s pretty much suit porn. The look of this show remains delicious. It’s probably unfortunate that Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and his cohorts look so good smoking cigarettes like there’s no tomorrow. Or fewer tomorrows, anyway.

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Sports world stunned by death of respected journalist

Popular sports media consultant and former Fairfax Media sports editor Rod Allen has been found dead at the bottom of a cliff on Cockatoo Island after celebrating at a former colleague’s 50th birthday party.
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Allen, 45, was camping overnight at the Sydney Harbour venue with his wife Laila, and is believed to have accidentally fallen 50 metres over a walkway ledge, guarded by a chest-high fence, early on Sunday.

Police said they are investigating the discovery of his body and there are no suspicious circumstances.

Some of the 100 revellers at the party in the heritage-listed Biloela House said Allen was in ”good spirits” and ”top form”.

Tributes were made as news of his death spread. Australian Olympic Committee director of media Mike Tancred said Allen managed the AOC’s office in the main press centre at the London Olympics.

”Our media team in London was one of the best ever and Rod Allen was key to that success. We are deeply saddened to learn of the sudden death of our friend and colleague.”

Football Federation Australia chief executive David Gallop said Allen was a major asset to the sport. ”Rod had a remarkable career in sports journalism, and more recently sports administration, and was regarded as an extremely professional and well-respected journalist, editor and media manager.

”His no-nonsense approach to the task at hand was his trademark and many who dealt with him appreciated this dedication to getting the story, hitting deadline or managing an issue.”

Mr Gallop said Allen worked with the FFA during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and bids to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2015 AFC Asian Cup.

”On behalf of the Australian football community, we offer our deepest condolences to his family during this extremely sad time,” he said.

Australian Turf Club chief executive Darren Pearce said in the past four years Allen had worked tirelessly in Sydney racing.

”He will leave his mark in so many ways,” he said. ”It’s just perplexing, tragic and sad. I regularly see Rod’s mum at the racing and we always say ‘g’day’. I feel for her.

”I feel for the whole family. Our thoughts are with them all.”

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How Sky Blues lost their silver lining

1. Game plan
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Sydney’s game plan needs to be drastically overhauled before next season. Coach Frank Farina and his assistants must use the off-season to create a strategy that will enable them to compete with the league’s best teams. It’s no coincidence that the three top sides this season have the three best tacticians – and Perth Glory have raced into the finals after Alistair Edwards implemented a modern, dynamic plan. After coming from a low base, the A-League is evolving tactically at warp speed and those coaches who can’t adapt will find themselves falling behind the pack. The way forward clearly combines the three Ps: passing, positioning and possession. They’ve hardly excelled in all three, but being a team of such stature, Sydney should aim to lead the pack in all facets, and tactics shouldn’t be an exception.2. Defence

First things first: defence isn’t about the back four. It’s the whole 11. It starts from the front and each line should feverishly endeavour to pressure and then win back possession. Too often, opponents have been able to glide through Sydney’s front six and then put pressure on the defence. No team defends better as a unit than Western Sydney, who are tight, compact and composed and almost impossible to break down with any frequency. It’s a two-sided challenge – one part is for Farina to recognise this, the other is for the team to execute it on game day. Teams need to fear the defensive pressure coming from the Sky Blues. Right now, they don’t, and it shows. The back four next season should at least be bolstered by the return of Pascal Bosschaart, who brings a winner’s mentality each week.3. Slow start

Sydney have missed the finals in two of the past three seasons and the sloppy starts in both campaigns left them chasing their tails and ultimately falling well short of expectation. Although they won two of their first four matches, they lost their next four, and then won just one of their subsequent four games. Though they also failed to take points late – winning one of their final six – there was always a feeling that the troubles of October and November would ultimately cost them. Next season, the Sky Blues have to commit to getting away to a quick start and then trying to hold their place near the top of the table. As a club that leans so heavily on momentum, particularly in terms of crowd support, they need to chalk up results and confidence, not just among the players but in the stands.4. Fitness and injuries

The Sky Blues need to look long and hard at how they manage the condition of their players. Though all teams go through peaks and troughs, Sydney rarely seemed able to get their best side on the park. Early in the season they didn’t seem fit enough. By the end, they seemed plagued by injuries, and both conspired to cost the team at key stages. There needs to be a cohesive, year-long plan put in place to ensure players are fit and healthy from the first game to the last. Special consideration has to be placed on managing those over 30, of which the Sky Blues have plenty. If the club can co-ordinate a plan to get them to full strength over the pre-season, they’ll be a much better chance of competing for silverware.5. Player discipline

Sydney FC’s players might be well behaved off the field but on it, they need to tone down their hostility. Staggeringly, of the 10 worst offenders for cautions and send-offs in the league this season, Sydney has five players. Between Ali Abbas, Terry McFlynn, Brett Emerton, Sebastian Ryall and Fabio, they picked up 41 cards. It’s fine to be aggressive – and quite a good thing when used correctly – but for players of that ilk and experience, they shouldn’t be attracting the referees’ attention so frequently. Sydney ended far too many games with just 10 men or less on the park and several possible comebacks were invariably thwarted when red cards were shown.

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Bridge safety crisis

High risk: A school bus at Grieves Crossing. Photo: Peter Rae bridge
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Hundreds of ageing bridges and culverts across NSW are at risk of collapse, as councils fight a losing battle against a $6.9 billion bill to bring regional infrastructure up to an adequate standard.

In the Kyogle area alone, bridges have collapsed three times since 2004, including just last year when the Mills Road bridge failed under a loaded gravel truck. Council officials have expressed alarm about the dangers posed to school buses from a similar collapse.

Across two-thirds of the state, councils are in urgent need of more than $340 million just to bring their timber and concrete bridges up to a ”satisfactory” condition. The problem is intensifying each year as many of the 9289 bridges across NSW reach the end of their structural life.

A joint Herald/UTS investigation has found that although local governments are spending $16 million a year in an attempt to maintain their bridges, they need to be spending double that amount just to prevent the spans from deteriorating further.

Although major bridges and spans in metropolitan areas are the responsibility of the state roads authority, the majority must be managed by local councils.

Mick Savage, from the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia, said a new source of funding for the state’s bridges had to be urgently found.

”There are 650 bridges that are soon going to be unserviceable and some of those are likely to be currently unsafe,” he said.

On the north coast, a clutch of councils including Kyogle, Clarence Valley and Kempsey Shire are facing a potentially catastrophic failure of one of their 806 bridges.

For several years, these councils have been forced to continually lower the load limits on their bridges to keep them open.

”They are a massive, massive problem for us,” said Graham Kennett, the head of infrastructure at Kyogle Council. ”It is the only ‘extreme risk’ we have got.”

Mr Kennett said that in 2008, a council water tanker fell through the Simes Road Bridge, ”which we preferred than a school bus”.

But a 12-tonne school bus still plies its way each day over the Grieves Crossing, one of 13 bridges along Gradys Creek road in the Kyogle council area. Grieves Crossing is rated 4.04 on the government’s 1-5 condition scale; a level 5 would be deemed ”critical, beyond repair”. There are an unknown number of similar school bus crossings across the state.

According to the first ever statutory self-assessment required of councils, at least 65 councils in 2011 reported significant or ”critical” deterioration of their bridges and culverts. Despite this, just months after winning government, the O’Farrell administration terminated a program to replace timber bridges that had been running since 2006, and which had led to the construction of 172 new spans in 57 council areas.

A $145 million ”Bridges for the Bush” program announced in October last year instead caters to bridges on roads used by major haulage companies, and will not provide a single dollar to councils trying to prevent the closure, or worse, the collapse of their bridges.

Meanwhile both bus and transport companies are lobbying the state government to raise load limits on local roads, the Herald has learnt.

In the Clarence Valley area, there are 17 bridges that have the second-worst asset condition rating, described in official government reports as ”requires major reconstruction”. If these bridges are not swiftly repaired, they will move to ”critical, beyond repair”.

The council also has 163 other bridges rated as ”deterioration evident”, some of which are in ”marginal” condition.

The Herald’s analysis was based on a new mandatory reporting regime forced on councils in 2011, whereby each council had to produce a detailed asset condition report known as a Special Schedule 7.

These documents show that some of the poorest councils in the state also face the largest infrastructure bills.

Cobar Shire Council (population 5120) needed to spend $46 million to bring its bridges and culverts up to a satisfactory standard, and Lachlan Shire Council (population 6967) faced a $23 million bill. In Cobar, the backlog equates to a bill per household of $18,714.

A 2011 report by the Mid-North Coast Group of Councils reported that the average condition of bridges on the north coast was ”evident deterioration”, and that each council was spending about $928,000 less per year on maintenance than was required. But the problems could be worse.

The Herald analysis shows that in 2011, dozens of councils failed to meet the new statutory reporting requirements in full, with many unable to identify the condition of their bridges.

Mr Savage said councils are going to be forced to close an increasing number of bridges because they cannot afford to maintain them. ”The only hope that local government has got is that there is a new source of revenue negotiated with the federal government.”

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Online apps take bite of illegal betting

Concerned: Senator Richard Di Natale wants the federal government to “clamp down” on overseas gambling operators. Photo: Pat Scala Senator Nick Xenophon wants legal loopholes to be closed.
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Independent MP Andrew Wilkie wants the rules on online gambling sites to be tightened. Photo: Brendan Esposito

Apple Australia may be breaching federal online gambling laws by offering apps such as PokerStars which allow Australians to bet on casino-style games with real money.

”We don’t allow online poker in Australia for Australian people under the Interactive Gambling Act … they [Apple] have got an obligation to take down apps that are against Australian law and they should do it,” said Greens senator Richard Di Natale, a member of the gambling reform committee.

While online sports betting is flourishing, the act prohibits the provision of all online casino-style gambling to Australians.

Fairfax Media was able to download the PokerStars app from the Australian iTunes app store, deposit real money and join cash tables. Apple declined to comment.

The final report of the review of the act, released in March, found that there may be about 2200 online gambling providers illegally offering services to Australians, who lose an estimated $1 billion a year on online gambling outlets that are not licensed in Australia.

The review found that existing regulations were not adequate and recommended the legislation be amended to enable and encourage prohibited online gaming sites to become licensed. However, the government has rejected the recommendation.

Many services are hosted overseas and so operate without Australian consumer protections and regulations and do not pay any tax here. Some, like PokerStars, have an Australian office and bank accounts.

Senator Di Natale said the federal government should ”clamp down” on these operators where possible. He also expressed his concern about social gambling apps on services like Facebook, which he believes may ”normalise” gambling, particularly for children.

Some online gambling services exploit a further legal loophole by allowing Australians to pay real money for virtual currency which is then gambled but cannot be cashed out. Independent senator Nick Xenophon said this ”habituates gambling”.

”If the government is serious about … [avoiding] the kids of today becoming the gambling addicts of tomorrow they need to close this loophole,” Senator Xenophon said.

One Perth-based social gambling app operating in the grey area is Chumba Casino, which founder Laurence Escalante said crossed social gaming with online gambling by adding experience points, avatars, quests and social bonuses.

”We ‘gamify’ gambling to make it even more fun, accessible and safe,” said Mr Escalante, who recently raised $2.5 million venture capital and is seeking a gambling licence.

”[Prohibition] simply doesn’t work, and enforcing it in practical terms is difficult, if not impossible.”

Gambling reform committee chairman and independent MP Andrew Wilkie has said rather than allowing online gambling sites to be licensed in Australia, the government should ”tighten” the rules further ”and put in place strategies to deter Australians from accessing the dangerous offshore sites”.

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Lost revenue demanded after asylum seekers housed at club

Unhappy: John Clunies-Ross and Maxine McCartney. Photo: Wolter Peeters On a midweek afternoon the Cocos Club is a hive of activity.
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The club, in the bustling community hub of West Island, home to about 120 people in the Cocos Islands cluster, is run by a small co-operative of islanders. But this tiny place, just 14 kilometres long, has found itself unwittingly thrust into the national asylum debate.

The Cocos Islands, an Australian territory just over halfway between Sri Lanka and Australia, has not traditionally been part of the people smugglers’ trade route but, at one point last year, the islanders say, about four boats were arriving from Sri Lanka each week.

With scant facilities on the island, federal authorities commandeered the social club – which is owned by the Commonwealth and leased to the co-operative – about half a dozen times in 2011 and last year to temporarily house asylum seekers while preparations were made to send them to Christmas Island. The club’s management say they should be paid for their lost revenue during these times and for the use of the facility.

Increasingly angered by the attitude of the federal government, the club has sent increasingly high bills and demands for payment to the Department of Immigration. It is now asking for about $79,000.

”It’s just frustrating,” club manager Maxine McCartney said. ”We’re a forgotten little dot of fly poo in the Indian Ocean.”

The club was first, briefly, taken over in 2010 before arrangements could be made to take asylum seekers to Christmas Island. In 2011 the club was home to 86 asylum seekers, Ms McCartney said, from Easter Thursday to the following Monday night.

Ms McCartney said islanders spent their days and nights cooking meals for the men, women and children sleeping in the club and sourcing bulk supplies of T-shirts and sarongs from nearby Home Island.

”So many people gave up their time without question, without hesitation, and they won’t get any compensation,” she said. ”We didn’t even get a response.”

A Department of Immigration spokesman said: ”The department has paid all outstanding invoices for which it is liable for the use of the Cocos Club on Christmas/Keeling Island.”

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Abbott’s daughters back ‘inevitable’ gay marriage

Gay rights advocates have applauded declarations of support for same-sex marriage by Tony Abbott’s daughters, saying they hope the remarks will help the Opposition Leader’s views ”evolve”.
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Mr Abbott’s daughters Frances and Bridget said in a weekend interview they strongly supported the rights of same-sex couples to get married – unlike their father.

Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said Mr Abbott’s daughters were ”typical of their generation”. Their support showed same-sex marriage was inevitable – though he stressed gay and lesbian couples should not have to wait a generation.

”Children are educating their parents and I’m hopeful that Frances and Bridget can have an influence on their dad … [and] this influence will see Tony Abbott evolve on the issue,” he said. ”If he feels he can’t go so far as to support it, at the very least, he needs to give Liberal MPs a conscience vote.”

Frances Abbott, 21, told the weekend’s Daily Telegraph she had discussed her support for gay marriage with her father.

”I believe it is inevitable,” she said. ”I believe by the time our generation gets into power, I hope and pray something is done about marriage equality and gay rights.”

Bridget, 20, added: ”I just think being gay is a lot more accepted and open for our generation.”

Melbourne lord mayor and former Victorian Liberal leader Robert Doyle has urged state and federal governments to legalise gay marriage. Prominent federal Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer also stated her public support recently.

Mr Croome said the next step towards gay marriage would happen on the state level, with legislation being considered or proposed in most states and territories.

Mr Croome predicted same-sex couples would be marrying in one state or another by the end of the year and ”when that happens, it will change this debate forever”.

”The question for Tony Abbott and [Prime Minister] Julia Gillard is, do they want to be remembered as having stood in the way?” he said.

Ms Gillard also opposes gay marriage.

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