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WA’s Argyle Diamond Mine wet mess goes dry

Since FIFO mining established itself in Western Australia in the late 1970s, the wet mess has been a regular feature within on-site camps. Photo: Nic WalkerHigh times in the mining industry that once saw fly-in, fly-out workers being offered attractive incentives are changing.
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In a move that may have made Rio Tinto less desirable to workers in the past, the global mining company has decided to make its Argyle Diamond Mine site camp alcohol-free, by shutting down its wet mess.

While the mining heavyweight would not go into the reasons for the change, industry insiders say it is clear that as demand for workers to the mining and resources sector reduces, so too does the need to win over employees with generous work conditions.

Argyle Diamonds managing director Shane Johnson confirmed to Fairfax Media that “Argyle Diamond Mine has announced its intention to transition to an alcohol-free site.”

“Argyle has moved into a new era of complex underground mining and transitioning to a dry camp is an important part of its future operating model.”

Mr Johnson would not provide specific details about when change occurred or whether the facility remained open without alcohol.

Resource analyst Peter Strachan described facilities at mining camps as the “icing on the cake”.

He said there was “no doubt there was a dash to get skills and people on a while back and the unions were in a very strong position to demand all sorts of benefits for FIFO workers in terms of accommodation and schedules”.

“The spending phase, when the focus was not on costs is over and companies are now paring back costs to ensure they can produce the returns they’d hoped for,” Mr Strachan said.

Since FIFO mining established itself in Western Australia in the late 1970s, the bar or on-site tavern – the wet mess – has been a regular feature within the camps where workers reside.

Mr Strachan said throughout the years an increased focus from human resources and occupational health and safety saw regulations applied to wet messes in an attempt to ensure workers did not drink to excess and were fit to work.

He said wet messes became a safety issue in the 1980s and 1990s and there was a move to restrict people to a “two-can” limit.

“The unions have brought this on in some ways… because the safety culture has become, in some ways, a sort of religion.

“It may be that the wet mess falls to the gods of safety.

“You don’t want drugs and alcohol coming into play when people are operating sophisticated machinery.”

CFMEU WA mining sector spokesman Gary Wood said employees were “basically desperate for employment with all the retrenchments going on” and the removal of a wet mess was “taking advantage of the current conditions”.

He said he did not support the removal of wet messes from camps, especially where workers were there for more than a week at a time because they were an integral part of creating a comfortable social environment and providing workers with a way to “wind down”.

According to 31-year-old FIFO truck driver ‘Simon’ who works at a mine in the Pilbara said that the removal of a wet mess would upset some but most would be reluctant to leave a job over it.

“The way that the industry is going, everyone is aware jobs are scarce, a few years ago people would change jobs if they didn’t have the right flavour of ice-cream but it’s not like that anymore,” he said.

In the past, Simon would often go for a drink when he worked longer rosters which included a 24-hour shift change break

“It was like your weekend,” he said.

Simon said workers are breath-tested every morning to ensure they did not still have alcohol in their system, so most did not drink to the point where it affected work.

“I know guys who go and have four or five drinks a night and wake up OK for work at 4am,” he said.

For some, especially older mine workers, the wet mess was a social hub where they spent most evenings.

Simon said that he hoped mines that chose to go dry, like Argyle, would keep the recreational facilities such as dart boards and pool tables, so that hub still remained.

Having worked for Rio Tinto in the past, he said it was not unusual for the company to roll out the same policies across all camps, and believes other wet messes at other Rio camps could also be on the chopping block.  Follow WAtoday on Twitter

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Hiker saved at Bluff Knoll after weather, terrain hamper rescue

An officer who chose to rough it overnight with a hiker who had become lost at Bluff Knoll, near Albany, has been praised.
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Although the hiker was located on Saturday, wild weather kept a police helicopter grounded at Albany Airport after it had earlier dropped off an officer to help the lost man.

The 18-year-old Leederville man had become disorientated and had no food or water.

State Emergency Services volunteers attempted to reach the pair on Sunday morning and while they were able to hear the pair, rough terrain meant the SES volunteers were unable to reach the two men.

The police helicopter was given clearance to pick up the men on Sunday evening.

Police first winched the officer up, before dropping another member of the crew down to prepare the hiker for rescue. Both men were finally picked up about 8pm on Sunday night.

The hiker was taken to Albany Regional Hospital by ambulance as a precaution.

Inspector Jenny O’Connell described the rescue as very difficult and praised the efforts of the officer who chose to spend the night on the ground with the young man, who remains in Albany Regional Hospital.

“I am very pleased to say that both are doing very well,” she said.

“They were certainly affected by the elements and conditions they were in overnight, but both are doing very well.

“He [the officer] was prepared for the drop, with warm clothing, an EPIRB, some flares and some other essential items but we certainly weren’t expecting at that stage to be leaving them, as we were still trying to effect the rescue then.

“He was more than happy to spend the night up there with the young man…he has been very brave and done a tremendous job.”

She said Sunday night’s successful rescue was a matter of necessity.

“Certainly as far as we were concerned it wasn’t an option to leave them there another night,” she said.

“We were very lucky at the time the clouds cleared and the winds eased off, and we were able to get in there and it worked.”

– with the Great Southern WeekenderFollow WAtoday on Twitter

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No need for umbrellas as Sydney’s sunny days roll on

The only umbrellas needed for now. Photo: Darren Pateman Salute to the morning sun. Photo: Janie Barrett
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Sydney’s long spell of crisp mornings, mild days and a lack of rain is set to run another week with the city now in the midst of its driest run since September.

The Bureau of Meteorology predicts largely sunny days out to Monday with most days sporting only a 10 per cent or lower chance of rain.

Although umbrellas will be of little use for a while, a decent coat will be handy for Wednesday through Friday as the next cold front brings another bout of stiff winds.

“We’ve had this constant trend of cold fronts moving across the state but really all the moisture and rainfall have remained on or west of the ranges,” said Josh Fisher, a meteorologist with Weatherzone. “Sydney has been consistently missing out with those dry westerly winds.”

That next cold front will bring fresh snow falls to alpine regions with ski resorts likely to enjoy another 10-20 centimetres of the white stuff – good timing with school holidays still on.

Overnight temperatures in Sydney will drop to as low as 6 degrees overnight Monday, below the July average of 8 degrees.

A lack of cloud, though, will see maximum temperatures of 18-20 degrees for most days over the next week, extending the run of tops a couple of degrees or more above normal.

Dry spells

The run of three weeks without rain is not uncommon at this time of year, with July the most likely month for 20-day or longer runs without a drop, according to Acacia Pepler, a climatologist at the bureau.

Of the 51 such periods since 1859, about one in five have occurred in July, Ms Pepler said.

Sydney’s most recent lengthy period without rain was the 32 days to 13 September 2013, a period that helped set up the early fire season that ignited the following month.

The city is already off to a dry start to the year, with 391.2 millimetres falling at Observatory Hill during the first six months, or just over half the long-run average.

Those six months were the driest for the first half since 2004, and the eighth-driest on record, Ms Pepler said.

Sydney’s main reservoir is now about 84 per cent full, down on near full-capacity levels a year earlier after heavy rains.


The arrival of south-easterly winds next Monday or Tuesday may bring coastal showers, including for Sydney, Weatherzone’s Mr Fisher said.

The middle of July and later may see more chances of showers “but it doesn’t look like anything particularly heavy”, he said.

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

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Canberra limps through coldest morning of the year

Canberra has limped through the coldest morning of the year with temperatures dropping to a low  of -3.9 degrees around 5.40am.
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Weatherzone meteorologist Max Gonzalez said July was shaping up to be a colder-than-average month with an overnight average of -1 degree and a daytime average of 11 degrees, which is 0.5c colder than the July average.

“Temperatures have dropped below freezing in Canberra every morning this month with the exception of Thursday and Sunday morning,” he said.

Mr Gonzalez said Monday morning felt so chilly was because it was more than 8 degrees colder than the Sunday low of 4.4 degrees – an exceptionally warm morning for July.

“It was a little windy with gusts up to 10 or 11km/h [on Monday] which were enough to make it feel pretty chilly,” he said.

Mr Gonzalez said the next few starts would not be as cold as Monday morning although temperatures were tipped to drop below freezing with a 40 per cent chance of fog.

He said frosts were a near certainty on Tuesday morning.

The bad news for those feeling the cold is there’s another cold front due to a pass over Canberra on Wednesday evening and Thursday.

“Rain should develop late on Wednesday in Canberra but don’t expect too much, probably between 2-8mm falling before Thursday night,” he said.

The cold front should bring another 20-40cm of snow to Thredbo and Perisher on Wednesday night with windy and cloudy conditions.

Perisher spokesman Richard Phillips said the resort was preparing for a “reasonably big snow storm” that could result in 1.7m of snow cover for weekend skiers.

“It’s a really good cover at the moment and 100 per cent of the mountain and lifts are open with good quality dry snow,” he said.

Mr Phillips said there was 1.3m of snow at the resort on Monday morning which was more they’ve had at this time of the season for many years.

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Juniors treated to some Swift advice

GUEST APPEARANCE: NSW Swifts player April Letton autographs a bear for WRAS netballer Jess Matthews during the three-day Netball Rookie Camp, held at the CSU Gymnasium. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK 070614capril1a
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BATHURST and Central West junior players were treated to a visit from NSW Swifts player April Letton on Sunday for the final day their three-day Netball Rookie Camp at CSU.

The Swifts’ goal defence was on hand to offer support and advice to the girls as they worked on areas from skill development to physical testing.

The three days’ work culminated in a tournament and presentation on Sunday afternoon.

Letton said she had enjoyed the day in Bathurst and was happy to witness the high turnout for the camp.

“I’ve come here to have a look and give some feedback to the girls and that’s what it’s all about. It’s really great to see the programs they’ve got going for the girls because these guys are the future.

“They did some specials work this morning, so things like defence, midcourt and shooting. That was really interesting to see that pan out. They’ve been doing some fitness testing as well yesterday [Saturday] and Friday as well.”

The camp was also used as an opportunity to help teach coaches how to mentor players and bring out the best in their teams.

On top of that, the camp was an opportunity for the Western Region Academy of Sport to make scholarship recommendations for their netball program, beginning in September.

That allowed both new and experienced players the chance to take something away from the weekend.

“I think it’s really important for these girls to get as much feedback as they can at a young age as they keep going through,” Letton said.

“I’ve enjoyed coming out today. It’s my first time in Bathurst, and it’s great to see what’s happening out here.

“It’s good to be giving back. We were all here at one stage or another at a young age. Hopefully they will want to be playing for the Swifts too, they can believe it’s possible.”

Letton has now spent three ANZ Championship seasons at the Swifts, and is hoping her team can go a few steps better in the next competition.

“We had a new coach this year, Rob Wright, and he was great. He brought a different kind of spin on the aspect of coaching and that’s helped us see things differently as a team and grow our game,” she said.

“We came in fourth, a big improvement to last year. We had such a good team culture going on. All the girls are good friends off the court. It’s a rare feeling within the team and you can’t describe it.”

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American exchange student heads home after spending a year in the Eurobodalla

HOME TIME: American exchange student Corey Powers leaves on Tuesday July 8 after spending a year in the Eurobodalla LEARNING to surf and becoming an honourary prefect at Moruya High School were just two of the things American exchange student Corey Powers achieved during his year on the South Coast.
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Seventeen-year-old Corey from Connecticut came to Moruya on a Rotary International exchange to “see what Australia was like”.

After spending a year in the Eurobodalla, Cory travelled 26 hours home on Tuesday June 8.

Duringhis stay, Corey became a part of the Broulee Runners, learned to surf, helped start up Rotary Interact at Moruya High School and made it to the regional level of school cross-country.

“I loved being a part of Broulee runners,” Corey said.

“At home I am part of my schools’ cross-country track and athletics team so it allowed me to keep training.”

During his time at Moruya High School, Corey made lots of friends and built a strong bond with fellow class mate and “host-brother” Will Scobie.

“Saying goodbye to Will was hard, there were a few tears,” Corey admitted.

“I feel like I’m a part of the community.

“I will definitely be back soon.”

Corey said the highlight of his year in Australia was travelling to Uluru with the other exchange students from the South Coast and Sydney as part of a Rotary excursion.

“Walking around Uluru on sunrise was amazing,” he said.

“It was beautiful.”

Although he achieved much and enjoyed his time in Australia, it wasn’t all smooth sailing.

Corey said the hardest part about his exchange was not being at Thanksgiving in November when his grandfather was sick.

“I haven’t really been home sick but not being there for my grandfather was hard,” he said.

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Football Mid North Coast round 11 results

Old Bar’s Jake Dawson with the ball on Saturday.FOUR teams are now equal fourth on the Football Mid North Coast Premier League competition ladder following round 11 fixtures.
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Taree, Port FC, Kempsey Saints and Macleay Valley sit on 14 points, six shy of third placed Camden Haven.

Wallis Lake appears headed to the minor premiership and lead the ladder on 26 points with Port United on 22.

In round 11 games Macleay Valley Rangers and Taree Wildcats drew 0-0 at Dangar Street, Kempsey.

Port United accounted for Kempsey Saints 4-0, while Wallis Lake trounced Old Bar 5-2 at Old Bar.

Port FCscored a 5-2 win over Port Saints, while Camden Haven accounted for Wingham 3-1.

In reserve grade Macleay and Taree drew 1-1 while Port United thrashed Kempsey Saints 6-0.

Wallis Lake smashed Old Bar 6-0 while Port FC accounted for Port Saints 2-1.

Wingham Warriors relegated Camden Haven to last spot with a 1-0 win at Wingham.

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The Voice Kids loses moral ground over Romy rejection

After rejecting her audition, the judges pose for photos with Romy. Photo: Supplied 12-year-old Romy sings on The Voice Kids, but fails to earn the judges’ attention. Photo: Supplied
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TV dad and noted philosopher Homer Simpson once described television as a “teacher, mother and secret lover”.

In truth, it is none of those. It is a harsh mistress whose spotlight can burn and for proof we need not look further than 12-year-old Romy.

The barely teen-aged contestant on The Voice Kids was left weeping on national television after all four coaches on the show – Delta Goodrem, Melanie Brown and brothers Joel and Benji Madden – failed to turn their chairs and select her during her audition.

All four raced to console the sobbing girl, and their concern for her welfare is clearly visible in the segment.

In its aftermath there will be hand-wringing, and questions about responsibility, duty of care and whether it was appropriate to include the segment in the broadcast of the program.

But the inescapable truth is this: we knew this moment was coming. It isn’t the first time. It won’t be the last.

Reality television is a brutal genre, concerned with exploiting the emotions of its subjects, and its audience, in the pursuit of ratings and revenue. Adding children to that recipe is always risky.

That is not to say the producers of The Voice Kids embarked on this particular enterprise hoping to damage their young charges. And on numbers alone more kids than not will enjoy the process.

But one clear question remains: who decided to include the segment in the broadcast, and why?

With no one willing to coach her, Romy’s performance was effectively rejected from competition. Which means its only value to the broadcast narrative of The Voice Kids was either to capitalise on the emotion of the moment, or to illustrate the compassion of the judges.

Either way, The Voice Kids seems to be guilty of the very thing which once set it apart from other talent shows that exploited, humiliated and belittled their subjects.

Lesser shows played those games, we were assured, while The Voice was something better, with a focus on music artistry instead of cheap TV moments.

Let’s be frank: in the handbook of TV “moments”, a sobbing child, with four celebrities racing to embrace her, does not sit at the expensive end of the spectrum.

Children and show-business are not new bedfellows. Ever since Baby Peggy, born in 1918, a child star at six and penniless by the age of 11, the entertainment industry has had a poor record of handling small charges.

With the advent of reality television, those risks have increased exponentially.

In the US, programs such as Dance Moms, Toddlers & Tiaras, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Jon and Kate Plus 8 exploit their young charges for entertainment.

And when they prove too hot to handle, programs like Brat Camp, Super Nanny and Nanny 911 are there to readjust them.

In 2007, the British version of The X Factor lowered the minimum contestant age from 16 to 14 and drew widespread criticism. They reversed that decision several years later. The Got Talent format allows children to compete with parental consent.

After a nine-year-old contestant on Britain’s Got Talent, Malakai Paul, was reduced to tears, veteran British TV broadcaster Sir Bruce Forsyth weighed into the debate saying that children had no place on reality TV. “I don’t think they should get young children and put them through such an emotional thing,” he said.

He’s right.

The brittle sensibilities of young children require very specific handling. The problem is that television too often demonstrates it is barely able to do better than one-size-fits-all.

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Andrew Forrest-backed Poseidon buys Norilsk nickel project

Andrew Forrest-backed junior explorer Poseidon Nickel has bought from the world’s largest nickel and palladium producer.Andrew Forrest-backed junior explorer Poseidon Nickel has bought the Black Swan nickel project from Russian mining giant Norilsk for an undisclosed sum.
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Norilsk, the world’s largest nickel and palladium producer, flagged in September that it would sell its Australian assets.

Poseidon has been looking to restart its Mt Windarra nickel mine in the West Australian goldfields in the face of poor nickel prices and tight debt markets.

It said the acquisition of the Black Swan nickel sulphide plant would allow it to process ores from Windarra.

“Poseidon will have the option to either recommission the plant in its current location to take ore shipped from Windarra, or the plant can be removed and relocated at Windarra creating a considerable cost saving,” Poseidon said in a statement to the ASX on Monday.

Poseidon added it would not need to raise additional money for the deal, saying it can fund the transaction from its current resources. Citigroup is understood to be handling the sales process for Norilsk.

Last year, Mr Forrest, chairman of Fortescue Metals Group, resigned as chairman of Poseidon because of his “overwhelming philanthropic duties”. He was elected to the Poseidon board as chairman in July 2007 at the time of a boom in nickel prices.

The billionaire also declined to participate in another equity raising by the nickel minnow in May. Mr Forrest started 2014 with 33 per cent of Poseidon shares, but according to Bloomberg he now holds just over 23 per cent of the company.

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Heritage trails step into history of Brisbane suburbs

Brisbane’s Albion Hotel, circa 1866. Photo: State Library of QueenslandThree new heritage walking trails through Albion, Indooroopilly and Ascot have been released by Brisbane City Council. They feature in a digital library that also includes trails through the City Centre, Fortitude Valley, Rosalie, South Brisbane, Milton, Bulimba and along the Brisbane River. Guides for the walks and an outline on the history of some of the buildings in the areas can be downloaded from council’s website. If you take an iPad, you can follow the heritage walk as you walk through the suburb. The Albion Heritage Trail – dubbed “Amble About Albion” – takes walkers through one of Brisbane’s most interesting areas. It begins at the Albion Hotel on Sandgate Road, passes the former site of the Albion Flour Mill, up Sandgate Road to the historic residence Whytecliffe, then down the hill to Crosby Park. The Albion Hotel is one of Brisbane’s oldest pubs, dating back to the 1860s. Parts of the Albion Flour Mill were destroyed by fire last year and the building has been demolished, but it still gives the atmosphere of Brisbane’s oldest working flour mill. From Crosby Park the walk passes through some of Albion’s oldest suburban streets, then down Sandgate Road to the historic commercial centre of Albion. The walk through Indooroopilly – Eye on Indooroopilly – takes in some Brisbane’s oldest homes. City visitors can take the train from Central or Roma Street stations along the Ipswich line to Indooroopilly station to do the heritage walk. The Indooroopilly Trail begins at the Indooroopilly War Memorial in Keating Park, goes under the rail bridge to the spectacular Church of the Holy Family. It then travels down the hill to some of Indooroopilly’s grandest houses, the important World War II site at Witton Barracks on the river, up historic Station Road to end at the Shopping Centre. “Eye on Indooroopilly includes the early settlement of the suburb when Brisbane’s well-to-do built stately homes on large estates,” Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said. “The extension of the rail-line and the construction of Albert Bridge, the impact of the 1893 flood on the fledgling suburb, Indooroopilly’s important war memorials and the transformation of the suburb’s centre with the coming of the Indooroopilly Shopping Centre in the 1970s are all part of the walk.” The Ascot Heritage Trail, travels up Racecourse Road, past the St Augustine’s Anglican Church, along Windemere Road. It then works its way through some of Brisbane’s best preserved historic sites and ends at the famous Eagle Farm Racecourse.
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“This walk explores the establishment of the racecourse, the suburb’s important contribution to the war effort during World War II, entertainment at the Tivoli Gardens Theatre and some of Brisbane’s most beautiful and historic homes,” Cr Quirk said.

The Ascot and Hamilton Heritage Walk is available here. Cr Quirk gave everybody the chance to learn a little more about Brisbane’s history. “These new heritage trails highlight important historic sites, colourful stories and infamous events that have shaped our suburbs,” Cr Quirk said. The heritage trail information will also appear on promotional postcards available at local libraries. For further inquiries, phone 07 3403 8888.

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