Fairfax journos strike over job cuts

Journalists at the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have gone on strike for a week after Fairfax Media announced it would cut about 25 per cent of the jobs at its major Australian newspapers.

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The seven-day strike starting on Wednesday afternoon means the stoppage will potentially run into Tuesday’s federal budget.

“We are taking this action today because we are shocked and appalled at the decision that management has taken,” Herald journalist Sean Nicholls said in Sydney.

“The scale of these cuts is unprecedented in Fairfax history.”

Nicholls said the strike “potentially covers the federal budget next Tuesday”.

He said one in four employees in every metropolitan newsroom was to be axed and called on management to have a “serious rethink”.

Court reporters walked out of courtrooms on Wednesday afternoon following the vote.

“Fairfax journo at Bell/Landry case whispers to person sitting next to her ‘we are on strike’, then stands and excuses herself from the court,” Nine Network reporter Tom Steinfort tweeted from Sydney.

The Age’s crime writer Tom Cowie tweeted: “The Age newsroom just voted to strike for a week #fairgofairfax” while Herald reporter Lisa Visentin noted the strike “takes us out of the federal budget” in Canberra.

Fairfax is cutting costs by $30 million in the face of declining advertising and circulations, and told staff on Wednesday it is looking to lose 125 staff from the newsrooms of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Brisbane Times and WA Today.

“While we will be looking across all parts of the newsroom, at the end of the redundancy program we expect there will be significantly fewer editorial management, video, presentation and section writer roles,” the company said in an internal note.

Fairfax axed 120 editorial jobs from its newsrooms in Sydney and Melbourne a year ago in an earlier cost-cutting exercise and outlined its latest target last month.

It called it an effort to secure the titles’ future but only revealed the details on Wednesday.

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, the union for journalists, slammed the move, saying it was “appalled” by the decision which would weaken Fairfax’s business.

NRL star Jarrod Mullen gets four-year ban

Jarrod Mullen’s NRL career is all but over after he was suspended for four years for doping offences.

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The governing body on Wednesday rubbed out the former Newcastle and one-time NSW Origin playmaker until 2021 after he was found guilty of taking banned steroid Drostanolone by the NRL’s anti-doping body.

The 30-year-old has 21 days to appeal the decision and take the NRL to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Mullen delivered a positive result for Drostanolone after a routine swab test during pre-season training last year.

In March ASADA recommended Mullen be banned for four years however he chose not to accept the punishment and appealed to the NRL anti-doping tribunal.

He pleaded for leniency, arguing he was not attempting to gain a competitive advantage but was hoping to repair his body after suffering a second serious hamstring injury in a year.

Mullen, who played 211 games for the Knights since debuting in 2005, was provisionally suspended on January 17 and was on Wednesday suspended after the anti-doping tribunal, chaired by former High Court judge Ian Callinan, found he had violated the game’s anti-doping policy.

“As we have said all along, this has been a disappointing matter for all parties,” Knights CEO Matt Gidley said.

“We wish to reiterate this matter took place independently of the club.

“It is important to acknowledge Jarrod made a significant contribution to the club over a long period of time and that adds to the disappointment in how he now departs the club.”

ASADA CEO Ben McDevitt said: “ASADA will continue to work to protect those athletes who make the right decisions when it comes to injury treatment and rehabilitation”

“Ultimately, Mr Mullen has paid a heavy price for his poor decision making.”

Oakden buck stops with me: SA premier

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has taken ultimate responsibility for the abuse and poor care inflicted on patients at a state-run nursing home.

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Ahead of meeting with some family members who blew the whistle on the problems at the Oakden facility, Mr Weatherill has again backed Mental Health Minister Leesa Vlahos for her handling of the issue.

But the premier also acknowledged the serious failings at the centre and said he took ultimate responsibility.

“I have to. This is part of the mental health care system that should be providing the best possible care to the most vulnerable citizens,” Mr Weatherill told reporters on Wednesday.

“It’s providing sub-standard care and, in some cases has actually had direct abuse going on.

“I have to accept responsibility for that.”

Mr Weatherill said there had been multiple failing of all the checks and balances put in place in the mental health system, and described the revelations of the treatment of elderly dementia sufferers at Oakden as “distressing”.

In his investigation, SA’s chief psychiatrist uncovered the rough handling of patients, an excessive use of restraints, and a concerning level of injuries.

Ms Vlahos said there had been a culture of cover-up among staff at Oakden, which will now be closed.

But the opposition, medical groups and some families accused the government of ignoring previous warnings about care at the home.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists said the poor treatment of patients at Oakden was also part of a bigger problem.

“It reflects a whole service that has had deficits in governance over a long period of time,” RANZCP President Malcolm Hopwood said in a statement.

“Resulting in neglect of resourcing and an absence of a workable model of care.”

Professor Hopwood said the SA government should invest in new facilities and develop a new model of care, based on those elsewhere in Australia and globally.

Manhunt after Melbourne triple shooting

A young Melbourne man said goodbye to his friends after a party, opened a garage door and was gunned down, dying in the street as his killer fled.

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Two of his friends were also hit by bullets when a shooter, or shooters, fired at them through a rear garage door of the house in Keysborough on Tuesday night.

The 22-year-old man who died had been shot in the chest and was in cardiac arrest when paramedics arrived.

A 23-year-old man received a gunshot wound to the arm and a 22-year-old man was hit in the leg.

Both are in a stable condition in The Alfred hospital.

“The deceased was going home from the social gathering and he’s opened up the garage door and he’s been shot,” Victoria Police Inspector Mark Langhorn said on Wednesday.

The shots were fired from a rear alley used by residents to access their garages in a quiet housing estate 40km southeast of the city.

A neighbour, who didn’t want to be named, said she barricaded herself and her young daughter in a walk-in wardrobe as she called police.

“My daughter was upstairs sleeping. The gunshots were so loud and sharp I can still hear it,” the woman told AAP.

“Police said to me to keep low and to keep away from the windows.

“So we went into my wardrobe and I had a heavy-duty torch and I’ve actually got a baseball bat in the house too.”

There were six or seven people at the party when the shots rang out, but the three victims didn’t live at the house.

Residents say they heard five or six loud bangs but police are yet to confirm how many shots were fired.

They are also yet to establish a motive for the attack and say the victims aren’t known to police and are co-operating with investigators.

“The two survivors are lucky, and we will be putting a lot of extra police in here over the next few weeks,” Insp Langhorn said.

The estate was built two years ago and residents say it’s a quiet family neighbourhood.

“They’re brand new neighbours so no one really knows them. But this is definitely not random, you can just tell,” another witness, who also did not want to be named, said.

Nearby resident Angela Merchant said her family was asleep when they heard shots and then people screaming in pain.

“We just heard loud screams. We knew someone was hurt,” she told the Nine Network.

Investigators are looking for a dark-coloured 4WD and a “shiny car” seen speeding away from the scene.

Aust on track to meet renewables target

Unprecedented investment in wind and solar power puts Australia on track to meet its 2020 renewable energy target, the sector’s regulator believes.

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The Clean Energy Regulator’s report on 2016 investments, released on Wednesday, says 98 new large-scale renewable energy plants were accredited last year, the vast majority of them solar farms.

And $4 billion was committed to building new projects, more than in any single previous year.

The regulator says this building momentum puts Australia in a strong position to meet the legislated target of having 23.5 per cent of energy generated from renewables.

The momentum has continued into 2017, with one-third of the total build required for the year achieved within the first three months.

However chair Chloe Munro cautions that while the target is achievable, 2017 will be a critical year, particularly with the heated political debate surrounding reviews of energy market security and climate policy.

“It is possible the tenor of public discussion around these reviews may unsettle investor confidence before any policy decisions are made,” she writes in the report.

But on the whole, she believes investors are more likely to remain positive.

She notes the regulator was worried in mid-2016 that the sector still hadn’t recovered from the two years of uncertainty around the RET, but investment bounced back in the later part of the year.

Both Clean Energy Council head Kane Thornton and Australian Energy Council boss Matthew Warren said support from state and territory governments had played a large role in reducing costs and restoring confidence to the sector.

Mr Thornton said the price of large-scale solar had halved over the past few years, making it competitive with not just wind power but fossil fuels such as gas.

“Renewable energy is now the cheapest kind of power generation it is possible to build today, and solar power plants have a relatively short project lead time compared to other technologies,” he said.

Australia now has the highest penetration of rooftop solar in the world, with 2.6 million households having a system, and has returned into the top 10 global destinations for renewables investment.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg noted in a speech to the Carbon Market Institute the “dramatic seachange” in the cost of large-scale solar systems had led to more investment.

“When it comes to renewables – and this is absolutely critical to the power generation sector, which makes up a third of the country’s emissions – there is an irreversible transformation taking place,” he told the conference in Melbourne.

However, Mr Warren warned there was still much to do to avert an energy crisis.

“More renewables are part of the solution, not the solution itself,” he said.

“We still need a durable national energy and climate policy that unlocks all types of energy investment and allows the market to coordinate energy technologies to deliver reliability and lower emissions at the lowest cost to consumers.”