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Fawkner Mansions, the mystery building on Punt Road in Prahran

Fawkner Mansions was a rooming house but has fallen into disrepair. Photo: Penny StephensIt stands vacant on one of Melbourne’s busiest thoroughfares, a mystery to many of the thousands of people who drive past every day.
Nanjing Night Net

Built in 1910, Fawkner Mansions on the corner of Punt Road and Commercial Road in Prahran is one of Melbourne’s oldest remaining apartment buildings. Until a few years ago it operated as a rooming house, accepting referrals from housing agencies until it fell into disrepair.

After it closed, housing workers wondered whether it had been sold, abandoned or prepared for redevelopment.

From about the late 1990s Fawkner Mansions provided accommodation to people facing homelessness.

But one of its co-owners Jeffrey Nguyen said the building’s deteriorating condition and damage had forced its closure. He said he is spending his own savings and time slowly renovating the three-storey building, which has more than 70 rooms.

Now it is home to pigeons that have nested in the rusted pressed tin ceilings.

Uncertainty still surrounds the building’s future partly because it lies within the Punt Road acquisition overlay zone, which means it may one day be acquired for a possible widening of the congested road.

Mr Nguyen said the acquisition overlay made it difficult to raise funds to invest in the building. And renovations to meet heritage requirements were also costly, he said.

Mr Nguyen said one option is to resurrect Fawkner Mansions as a rooming house but he concedes that could be many years away at the current rate.

“It’s a terrible shame when people are sleeping on the street,” he said.

Mr Nguyen said the building was worth preserving for its heritage value.

Inside, Fawkner Mansions is a maze of dilapidated bedrooms, halls and bathrooms. Rotting arched window frames point to a splendid past and the mammoth task in restoring the building.

Housing groups want it reopened so they can resume referring clients who might otherwise be forced into rough sleeping.

Heather Holst, deputy chief executive of homeless support service Launch Housing, said referral options including Fawkner Mansions were crucial. “Now we’ve got more capacity to provide support to people in those units as well,” she said.

However, she said such options were disappearing.

A spokeswoman for Planning Minister Richard Wynne said the acquisition overlay had been in place since the 1960s but it was under review to determine whether it was needed. “It has been in place for a long time but we want to give property owners clarity,” she said.

An independent panel had produced a report but Mr Wynne had asked for more information from VicRoads before making a decision in coming months, the spokeswoman said.

Prahran Greens MP Sam Hibbins said the acquisition overlay needed to be scrapped so that Fawkner Mansions could reopen its doors to the homeless.

“There’s demand out there for this sort of accommodation,” he said.

The red brick building with parapet corner towers was purchased by the Alfred Hospital in 1950 and was used to house nurses, according to a Stonnington council heritage citation report.

Last month The Age reported that at least 300 beds of last resort throughout the inner and middle suburbs had been lost to gentrification. These included large boarding houses, low-cost motels and caravan parks.

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

Lindt cafe siege inquest exposes ‘crisis of leadership’ in NSW police

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione arrives at the Lindt cafe siege inquest. Photo: Daniel Munoz NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn arrives at the Lindt cafe siege inquest. Photo: Kate Geraghty
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Hostages flee from the Lindt cafe in Martin Place during the early hours of December 16, 2014. Photo: Andrew Meares

Former deputy police commissioner Nick Kaldas departed the force this year. Photo: Cole Bennetts

 

“It was a shambles, a shambles of command, control, co-ordination and intelligence.”

That was the damning assessment of one seasoned counter-terrorism expert who’d followed the Lindt siege coronial inquest from start to finish and spoke to Fairfax Media on the basis of anonymity this week. Others have used blunter language. “Man that was a f— up,” the tactical officer known as Officer B allegedly told a paramedic, shortly after police stormed the cafe. In evidence he said he had not used those words but might have said it was a “f—ed up situation [because] no one wanted to go into that cafe”.

Whatever the language, one thing is clear: on the evidence before coroner Michael Barnes, the management of the Lindt cafe siege stands exposed as well short of the finest hour for the state’s police leadership.

The ramifications go well beyond an overhaul of counter-terrorism management and capability. They go to the fraught question of succession. Both Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione and the woman once deemed likely to follow him into the role, Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn, have had the sheen taken off them in public hearings before Barnes this week.

And other law enforcement agencies at the national level and around the country have been watching closely.

“The widespread view in law enforcement … not just in this state but nationally, is that there is a crisis of leadership in the NSW police and it hasn’t just emerged because of this: it has come about because of a number of historical events,” says an observer with close knowledge of the force.

Key among those “historical events” is a long-running feud that erupted between Burn and Nick Kaldas, until recently another deputy commissioner, over a police internal affairs investigation in the late 1990s. Kaldas, unjustifiably as it later emerged, became one of the unwitting targets of that investigation, named in no fewer than 80 bugging warrants sought during an operation of which Burn was team leader.

“Scipione did not put a stop to the internecine warfare that was going on between Cath Burn and Nick Kaldas,” says the source. “It was incredibly destructive, and polarising for the entire NSW police leadership team, and it was allowed to go on for years.”

Kaldas, an Arabic-speaker who had worked closely with Sydney’s Islamic communities, departed the force only this year to pursue an international policing post , his reputation intact but reportedly worn out by the internal battle. He was off duty sick on the night of the siege. But he followed events closely, at one point ringing in to convey an offer of help from religious leader the Grand Mufti.

No one disputes the bravery of the police tactical teams who were on the frontline that night and stormed the cafe in the early hours of December 16, 2014. Having waited hours in a nearby vehicle bay for an order to go in, loaded with weaponry and on high alert, they testified that they expected to die that night, still believing gunman Man Haron Monis to be armed with a bomb.

But for those higher up the chain, the coronial inquiry – triggered by the deaths of cafe manager Tori Johnson and barrister Katrina Dawson (who perished from police bullet fragments) – has been an excruciating examination of decisions on the night.

Why did police wait for a hostage death before they stormed the cafe? Why did senior commanders decide not to approve a so-called “deliberate action” that would have given tactical police commanders the option of bringing the siege to an end at a time of their choosing? What were the barriers to a greater role for the defence force? Why were technical and equipment failures not notified on the night to senior commanders – particularly Burn, who had line responsibility for resourcing these areas? Why were the resources of agencies such as ASIO apparently not tapped at the earliest opportunity? Why were third party intermediaries, such as the Grand Mufti, not utilised? Why did senior police stick so long with a “contain and negotiate” strategy that might have worked well in the sieges that NSW police had encountered to date – mostly of the domestic violence sort – but which, as the hours dragged on, became increasingly ill-suited to what was shaping up as the most critical terrorist incident yet to occur on Australian soil?

“Counter-terrorism capability is a system of systems, with complex moving parts, and different operational and tactical units required to work together seamlessly in live time,” says the expert source. “What we saw revealed at the Lindt inquest is that this did not occur. It was broken and needs to be fixed.”

Scipione and Burn were the final witnesses in the long-running inquiry, which heard from 119 witnesses over a total of 109 hearing days, spread over 15 months.

Giving evidence about their role, both took a strikingly similar tack: that despite their positions at the very top of the police hierarchy, neither issued any orders that night because that was the preserve of operational commanders. Burn said she had been assigned the role that evening of liaising with the state crisis committee (which includes NSW Premier Mike Baird and other ministers) as well as federal and interstate agencies and the media.

Scipione said he did not have the requisite expertise, nor would it have been appropriate given his many other responsibilities. Yet both held reserve powers by virtue of their office to issue orders if they thought it necessary, as Burn acknowledged in evidence. And both said they were there to provide advice and support as needed.

Despite this, neither took steps to follow up on the failure of senior commanders to approve a controlled deliberate action plan (the DA) before Burn and Scipione went home to rest between 10.15pm and 11.30pm on the night of the 15th.

Even though police negotiators had failed to strike up direct contact with Monis as the siege dragged into its 13th hour, Scipione sent Burn a late text which seemed to reflect an assumption that the situation would hold till the morning. “See you bright and early in the morning” it finished.

The fact that a DA was never approved for police to have in their back pocket on the night has deeply upset the Johnson and Dawson families, if questions asked by their lawyers during the hearings are any guide. One police expert told Fairfax Media he believed it “unprecedented” for there not to have been a DA. “It should have been up there clearly on the whiteboard.”

Senior police gave evidence that they persisted with their “contain and negotiate” strategy because they still felt it held out the best prospects for a peaceful resolution. But as another expert source points out: “In 14 hours, they had not got into a conversation with the perpetrator. If that was a strategy, it was not working. If not for the fact that two innocent people lost their lives, it would be risible. Where was their plan B? It was an abrogation of responsibility. Can you imagine somebody in French or British policing having the temerity to say this in a command role?”

The “see you bright and early” text was controversial for another reason. It is the only one that has survived from the phone Burn was using that night. She says she deleted the texts from that period, regarding them of no importance, having been told the morning after the siege that she would not be deemed an “involved officer” in a critical incident inquiry. So when the text turned up last Tuesday morning it landed like a bombshell.

Burn said she had forgotten about it, but that it survived because she emailed it to herself at 10.57 on the night of the siege. It is still not clear how and when police unearthed it. But Jeremy Gormly, SC, counsel assisting the inquiry, was visibly annoyed, particularly as it revealed Scipione had visited technical officers at the forward command post at the height of the standoff and discovered they had had to borrow equipment from “another agency” (which was not identified) – apparently to deal with deficits in audio and visual surveillance of the cafe. “You knew your texts might have been relevant to police reviews?” Burn was asked. “I did not assess that was the case,” she responded. Yet according to several sources consulted by Fairfax Media, “policing 101” should have dictated the retention of such texts in these circumstances – even if only to prove later, as she asserted, that they had no significance.

Another area of confusion was over the triggers for an emergency action, or EA, which police finally launched after Tori Johnson had been forced to his knees and executed at the point of Monis’ sawn-off shotgun.

The inquiry heard different officers had different views as to what the emergency triggers were. Some thought the firing of a shot, others the imminent threat of harm or death to a hostage. In the event, when a sniper finally saw Johnson forced onto his knees shortly after the escape of half a dozen terrified hostages at 2.03am, the message did not get through to the decision-makers in time for them to order the EA. Disturbingly, the inquest heard this was likely due to radio communication problems.

Johnson died at 2.13am. A tactical commander later gave evidence that if he had known about Johnson being on his knees, he would have recommended an immediate storming of the building.

Pressed on whether she supported the inquest process this week, Burn replied “yes”. But she conceded there had been “concern” among police at the prospect of an open inquiry into the Lindt cafe deaths. And when it was put to her that many police would have preferred a “quick inquiry behind closed doors” of a kind conducted by French authorities after their terrorist crises, she didn’t demur. The evidence of recent weeks is a vivid illustration of why that might have been the case.

The Lindt cafe saga has served to put Baird on notice that he needs to be thinking hard, now, about a successor for Scipione. The rift between Kaldas and Burn effectively ended their chances of taking the top job when it exploded into public view. Burn appears even less feasible as a successor after this week.

Some observers believe there is no obvious candidate now within the ranks of NSW police to take over when Scipione retires next June (he has already had a two-year extension and now been in the role for nearly a decade).

Others say Mick Fuller, the force’s current spokesman for domestic violence, the southern regional commander Gary Worboys and Geoff McKechnie, one of the assistant commissioners who has rotated through the acting deputy commissioner role since Kaldas’ departure, could be credible candidates to step into the nearly $600,000-a-year job should there be an internal appointment.

But it is also known that the NSW government has been sounding out figures from the federal arena. One name quietly being mentioned is that of current head of the Australian Border Force, Roman Quaedvlieg.

For now, until there is change at the top, the senior levels of the force remain frozen.

Fairfax Media has spoken to several senior officers who say the instability and infighting at the top has trickled down through the ranks. They are frustrated by the little to no change in top brass – commissioner, deputy commissioner and assistant commissioner – over the past seven to five years. This has meant holding back the current future leaders of the force at the inspector and superintendent level.

“There is a whole generation of good officers who have great potential who are starting to look elsewhere because of the lack of opportunity,” says one senior officer.

Another says “it’s been a failure not to have proper succession planning – it should have been part and parcel of a performance agreement”.

Scipione and Burn both emphasised in the witness box this week that NSW counter-terrorism capability – once the country’s finest at the time of the 2000 Olympics – had been overhauled and improved since the fateful night of the Lindt siege.

What was lacking was any statement recognising that things could have been done better on the night. It was a statement that might have given some comfort to the bereaved families of Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson.

The coroner’s report is due by the end of the year.

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

Fear or greed: what drives the response to Chinese investment in Australia?

Scott Morrison cited “national security” as the reason to block the Ausgrid deal. Photo: Bradley Kanaris Professor Peter Drysdale of ANU found Australian exports to China will still grow by 28 per cent. Photo: Sasha Woolley
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Late on a frigid afternoon two days before Christmas last year, at a power station in western Ukraine, a worker was startled to see his computer’s mouse suddenly lurch across the screen of its own accord. As he watched, it clicked through to the controls for the circuit breakers, and shut down one after another of the region’s substations, locking him out. The remote intrusion was repeated at two other stations, and light and heat was cut off from hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian homes.

It was a complex and sophisticated cyber attack, long planned and involving multiple remote actors: the first ever confirmed hack to take down a power grid, according to detailed post mortems by the FBI and others. The security experts investigating declined to expressly identify the attackers, but we’ll just call them “the Russians”, since everyone else does. Power was restored within hours, but eight months later operations are still constrained by damage caused by malware used in those attacks.

“So far, only Russian APTs have proven capable of entirely shutting down an enemy’s power grid,” says James Scott, senior fellow at the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, a US think tank that specialises in infrastructure security risks. APTs are “advanced persistent threat” units, covert offensive hacker teams, usually, but not always, state-sponsored.

It’s a scenario that has resonance for Australia after Treasurer Scott Morrison’s decision to reject two China-linked bidders for Ausgrid on unspecified national security grounds. But the risks are real, if more subtle than that, the institute’s Scott says.

“The notion of China turning a nation’s grid on and off as a form of leverage is unlikely, outside of perhaps invasions,” Scott says. “Rather, allowing China to own the grid provides it with economic leverage over the nation and social leverage over the population. For instance, China could control an economy by regulating electricity prices (all businesses run on electricity), they could collect information about business usage and growth, or they could collect information about individual and population usage.”

It has been argued by some troubled by the anti-foreign investment message sent by the decision that ownership is irrelevant, that if China wanted to hack into Australia’s power grid, it could do so without buying it. This is not true, Scott says. Not yet, anyway.

“Chinese cyber-attackers are more numerous than sophisticated,” he said. “Purchasing the infrastructure provides China with the hard and soft power (leverage and espionage respectively) that it can use in its dealings with foreign nations. At the moment, if China wanted that threat over foreign nations, it would have to purchase the grid because its APTs currently lack that capacity.”

Peter Jennings from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a strong voice in the argument against the Chinese-linked companies’ Ausgrid bids, says he has been telling the story of the Ukrainian grid’s bad December day a lot lately.

“We now find ourselves at a tipping point,” he says, “for the notion of how China is emerging as a state makes our dependence on that economic relationship now something of a risk factor. I think this is going to be a horribly difficult problem for governments to work out how to navigate. The way Xi Jinping seems to want to take China, it is simply no longer possible for Australia to believe that there is only growth and no risk in terms of doing business with China.”

The alternative view was put succinctly to this reporter by an electricity sector worker who supports selling to the highest bidder. “It’s like you put your car up for sale for ten grand,” he says, “and someone comes along and offers you 14 grand and you say no, because you’re Chinese. Your money’s no good here.”  ‘It’s a bunch of people talking in completely different worlds’

No one reading reports on China’s brazen cyber espionage, even the non-classified stuff, would be particularly surprised by the Treasurer’s decision. But plenty of people were – not least the NSW government, apparently, which has already promised voters a lot of goodies from the $10 billion they were going to get from the sale. The state government has no mechanisms or expertise for assessing foreign security risks and apparently relied on Commonwealth advice throughout the process.

The divide in Australian policy circles on China is stark. It was somewhat pejoratively summed up by Tony Abbott’s insightful coinage “fear and greed”, and the Ausgrid decision is where the two camps have collided spectacularly.

“It’s a bunch of people talking in completely different worlds,” says Jennings. “It’s almost a breakdown in public policy with economists and strategists talking past each other. They read different journals, they’re motivated by different concerns, and really up until now it’s fair to say they haven’t really treated each others’ views that seriously.”

China optimists, overwhelmingly on the economic or business side of the debate, were dismayed by the messiness of the process and the apparent inconsistent application of the foreign investment rules. Former foreign affairs minister Bob Carr, who leads the China-backed ACRI think tank at UTS, pronounced it “a policy sacrifice to the witches’ Sabbath of xenophobia and economic nationalism stirred up in the recent federal election”.

The economic case for optimism about China was outlined in forensic detail this week in a major report, produced with the support of both countries, which examined the bilateral relationship and found nothing but upside. Even on the most pessimistic scenario for China’s growth trajectory, lead author Professor Peter Drysdale of the ANU found Australian exports to China will still grow by 28 per cent and Chinese exports to Australia by 20 per cent over the next decade. China’s soaring middle classes want Australian cheese, Australian universities, Australian vitamins.

For speakers at the Sydney launch of the Australia China Joint Economic Report hosted by Asialink and Corrs Chambers Westgarth on Wednesday, security concerns were just a bump in the road.

China “urged a measure of regulatory certainty” in our foreign investment regime, Drysdale said, in reference to the Ausgrid deal.

Chinese investors expect Australia to have a national security policy, said Dr He Fan, an economist from Renmin University, but the “main complaint is that the policy needs to be more transparent. Make the rules more clear. Fifty-one per cent is too much? Just give us the number, we’ll adjust the investment.”

Speaking at the same event, Carr repeated his concerns about the decision, asking why State Grid, a Chinese state-owned enterprise, was allowed to buy into the South Australian grid, which supplies Woomera, a rocket range, and why late last year State Grid got the go ahead to bid for another NSW electricity distributor.

“There are serious questions and inconsistencies that ought to be addressed,” he said.

There are a lot of answers to those questions. There is the Treasurer’s, who said on radio this week, “just because someone is able to own one asset, doesn’t mean they can own another one”, arguing the character of Ausgrid and the structure of the proposed deal made this a different case.

There is the fact the foreign investment review regime was changed late last year expressly to take into account national security concerns, and the former ASIO head David Irvine was appointed to the Foreign Investment Review Board in December.

There is the fact of China’s increasingly aggressive tactics in the South China Sea, where they have been building military bases in disputed waters; and increased awareness of China’s policy of actively pursuing infrastructure and port acquisitions throughout the Asia-Pacific.

And there is ASPI’s Jennings, who says bluntly that three years ago, when State Grid was permitted to buy the South Australian distributor, “we had a FIRB that didn’t take security issues as seriously as it should have”.

Morrison’s office would not confirm it, but experts believe the Port of Darwin was the tipping point. When the Northern Territory government sold 80 per cent of the port to Chinese company Landbridge in November, the Americans made their displeasure at the surprise well known. Within weeks, the government was quietly rolling out foreign investment regime reforms, including the register of agricultural land and the appointment of national security experts to the board.

Sales of the Port of Melbourne and the Port of Fremantle are on the horizon.

“There has tended to be a bifurcation of economic and security issues in discourse about China, but of course they’re connected,” says Marina Tsirbas, from the National Security College at the ANU. “In the investment context there now seems to be a more overt expression of the fact that foreign investment including potentially Chinese investment can have national security implications. That’s more overt than 10 years ago, where I think the Treasurer would have just said national interest.” But she doesn’t believe China’s territorial aggression has impacted the decision. “I think the change of perception may be more in the public eye.”

The broadly bipartisan line since John Howard was prime minister has been that Australia does not have to choose between its history and its geography: that we could continue to walk a happy line with our major security partner being the US and our major trade partner being China. But finding that line is getting trickier by the day.

There’s a future where China’s growing power and assertiveness put Australia’s security and autonomy at risk; but there’s also another version, where economic interdependence and trade is a disincentive for hostilities and helps to temper security problems in the relationship. At this point, we can only hope the second version wins out.

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

Older experienced drivers dying on NSW roads

Economic pressures could be behind a dramatic increase in the deaths of experienced male drivers on NSW roads in what the state’s leading road safety expert has called a “new dimension” to the problem.
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Tradesmen working long hours and travelling long distances to squeeze more jobs into their working day are some of the factors being attributed to the spike in deaths for men aged between 30 and 50.

In the first seven months of this year, at least 30 men in the 30-50 age group died in speed-related accidents, more than double the number for the same period last year.

By comparison, speed was a factor in the deaths of just two women aged between 30 and 50 this year.

According to Bernard Carlon, executive director of the NSW Centre for Road Safety, the figures represent a departure from the common perception of young men, often P-Platers, as the largest contingent in road fatalities.

“There’s an older male cohort which is clearly another issue now. That’s a new dimension to the problem.”

While occupation data is not collected alongside fatality statistics, Mr Carlon pointed to other elements such as a 75 per cent increase in fatigue-related crashes this year and a rise in fatalities involving light truck drivers from five to 23 deaths as supporting a theory that blue-collar workers were dying in greater numbers.

“The issue from our point of view is that those vehicles are not as safe. Light fleet vehicles are safer.”

Mr Carlon pointed to economic pressures as “potentially a factor” behind common anecdotal evidence of tradesmen working over 12-hour days, which could see them average as much as 100km each day.

“When you’re awake for 17 hours, it’s the equivalent of 0.05 [blood-alcohol content] in terms of your cognitive ability,” he said.

Another key issue was a lack of strong regulation around light commercial drivers, compared with truck drivers, he said.

“When you think about it, they are operating as professional drivers as well as professional tradespeople. We then need to rely on corporates and governments and businesses to have a really strong safety culture in the workplace.”

In just three days last weekend, seven people lost their lives on NSW roads, leaving police and road safety campaigners exasperated as the death toll dramatically outstripped last year’s count.

The current road toll stands at 256 deaths, an increase of 39 fatalities compared with the same time last year.

While older drivers died in greater numbers, young drivers continued to be over-represented, with at least 21 young people dying in crashes involving P-platers this year.

The figures prompted the NSW government to announce a crackdown on inexperienced drivers last month.

Included among a raft of new measures, all P-platers will be banned from using their mobile phones while driving from December, including to access GPS map directions.

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Community rallies behind ‘honest, reliable’ Byron Bay woman Sara Connor arrested in Bali

Sara Connor has been described as a hard-working, honest and reliable woman in the wake of her arrest in Bali. Photo: Facebook Ms Connor travelled to Bali to meet up with David Taylor, friends say. Photo: Supplied
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As a Byron Bay mother-of-two faces interrogation in Indonesia following the bashing death of police officer, her family and community back home are rallying around her.

Sara Connor left the seaside town on the NSW north coast for a short holiday in Bali this month.

She met up with David Taylor, a British-born DJ who lived at Byron Bay until recently and played various gigs at dance parties and on local radio.

Somehow the pair have been wrapped up in a murder investigation involving a Bali police officer on the holiday island’s popular Kuta beach.

After visiting the Australian consulate, Ms Connor and Mr Taylor turned up at Denpasar police station on Friday afternoon, where they were arrested.

News of the mother-of-two’s arrest soon reached the tight-knit Byron Bay community, including her ex-husband and father of her children Anthony “Twig” Connor.

A statement released on Saturday by Ms Conor’s “Byron Bay family” described her as a very positive and happy person, who is devoted to her children and business.

“As a treasured part of the Byron Bay community, friends, family and work colleagues are devastated and shocked to hear that their beloved Sara Connor has been arrested in connection over the death of police officer Wayan Sudarsa,” the statement read.

“Sara is a very honest, reliable and generous person; she is a great organiser and is very supportive in bringing people together and looking after her friends.

“The accusations laid against her are totally out of character for this beautiful person.”

Ms Connor was living with a housemate in Byron Bay after separating from her husband, a local licensee, a couple of years ago.

Ms Connor, who is believed to hail from Italy, runs her own business, Byron Bay Fresh Pasta, and also works as a housekeeper at the Nomad Arts Factory Lodge.

“She is highly creative and has gained respect throughout the local restaurants and food outlets,” the statement read.

“She has worked very hard to set up her business in a highly competitive market and managed to do so while raising two young boys.

“Her love for her boys is the biggest love in her life.”

A long-time friend of Ms Connor, who met the businesswoman as a teenager in Europe, said she was very confused by news of the arrest.

“Sara is the least violent person I have ever met,” she told Fairfax Media.

“She is like a puppy dog.”

Oren Bresler, who has shared a house with Ms Connor for the past two years in Byron Bay, described her as “just a really good person … she’s kind of like my second mum”.

“She’s a super nice person, she’s a really hard-working person, she’s got really lovely kids, she’s the most accommodating person I’ve ever met,” he told Fairfax Media on Friday.

News Limited has reported that Mr Taylor had failed to get his visa extended in Australia and travelled to Bali where Ms Connor met up with him.

Police in Bali are yet to state whether Mr Taylor and Ms Connor are suspects. They were due to start interrogation from midday (AEST) on Saturday.

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

Bondi Fitness First personal trainer Lee Clark gets five years for dealing drugs

Lee Clark was a mid-level drug dealer while working as a personal trainer at Fitness First. Photo: SuppliedAfter a Sydney personal trainer was declared bankrupt, he decided to roll the dice and live a double life.
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Lee Clark, 43, who worked at Fitness First Bondi Platinum gym, was running a sophisticated criminal side business out of his Randwick apartment and a Paddington garage.

A day before his arrest Clark was recorded saying: “I could end up in a prison cell, you know? It’s not like, it’s not all peaches and cream, but you know?”

Clark was not only selling cocaine, ecstasy and steroids to clients himself but also employed five other people to run drugs for him.

He prepared the drugs for sale by cutting the cocaine with other substances, placing MDMA into capsules, weighing and placing the cocaine into plastic bags for distribution and packaging the steroids in vials for sale.

On Friday, Clark was sentenced to a minimum five-year jail term in the NSW District Court.

In a conversation recorded by police, Clark spoke to an associate about how much cocaine he was selling.

“I have five people working for me as well. Yeah I give them, I give them each week about forty bags. They make eighty, ninety bucks on one, I make a hundred.

“I just paid two fifty for a kilo of coke and still got one twenty in a safety deposit, just sits there doing nothing you know what I mean? If someone raided me now they’d find nothing. Find about, probably five, six bags, that’s it.”

But police found a whole lot more when they raided his unit, a garage and a safety deposit box he had registered in someone else’s name on March 26, 2014.

Police found $143,980 in cash, 417 grams of cocaine, 402 grams of MDMA and nearly 60 kilograms of steroids.

In the Paddington garage officers also found a hydraulic pill press, a booklet titled Cocaine Handbook, a set of electronic scales, various sizes of plastic bags, a Sunbeam Foodsaver vacuum packager and 563.9 grams of lignocaine – a substance commonly used to cut cocaine for supply.

Court documents obtained by Fairfax Media outline how Clark met one Commonwealth Bank employee three times in seven days, selling him a total of 10 grams of cocaine.

Just hours before his arrest, Clark met the Commonwealth Bank employee known as the “Irish guy” and sold him six grams of cocaine at the Rose Bay Caltex Service station.

After the sale, police record Clark talking to an associate about how much cocaine he sells the “Irish guy”.

Clark: “Irish guy, f—ing, I don’t know how he’s still alive. And him alone uses for himself at least ten bags a week … ten to fifteen. He just got six off me now.”

Associate: “Aren’t you worried that if something happens to the guy it’s going to come back to you? If he dies?”

Clark: “Mate, he holds a job down, he works at Commonwealth Bank. What would they do, go through his phone, if they see a dodgy number, that phone gets thrown away.”

During his sentencing remarks on Friday, Judge Andrew Scotting​ took into account Clark’s guilty plea and noted he suffered from depression and drug and gambling addictions at the time of the offences.

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Sydney property developer Salim Mehajer releases bizarre ‘motivational video’

A stills from the motivational video posted by controversial Sydney property developer Salim Mehajer. Photo: YouTube A shot from al video posted by Salim Mehajer. Photo: YouTube
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In times of crisis, one must seize control of the narrative.

With three apprehend violence orders against him, several court battles to fight, his marriage broken down and a public inquiry into the local council he used to lead, controversial Sydney property developer Salim Mehajer has released his own inspirational video.

Published on his Facebook page overnight, Dream – Motivational Video features stirring music, a rousing narration,  plenty of slow motion and stock footage, and the word “dream” over and over again.

“Do you dream of being successful? Do you think you will ever make it to the top? Do you dream of becoming an inspiration to millions of people out there? Or are you just one of them?” the narrator asks over shots of a blue-suited Mr Mehajer stepping out of his  white Ferrari and walking through a crowd of people.

“Well let me tell you … if you don’t dream … then you’re setting yourself up for failure.”

A climatic moment in the two-and-a-half minute YouTube clip comes when a latte-sipping older woman reads a newspaper headline about Mr Mehajer before looking at him, shaking her head and walking away.

“Not everyone will like you. Some people will try to put you down. They will discredit you. They will back stab you,” the narrator says, before Mr Mehajer chases after the woman to return her lost mobile phone.

“Just be yourself, stay genuine, and dream.”

The clip is directed by Manuel Abdo, whose True Dreams Media company was also behind Mr Mehajer’s now infamous pre-wedding video.

It was the extravagant wedding, which shut down a public street with helicopters and a cavalcade of luxury cars, that threw Mr Mehajer, then deputy mayor of Auburn Council, into the headlines.

It also drew the spotlight onto Auburn Council, which was ultimately sacked and is now the subject of a public inquiry.

Mr Mehajer’s latest video appears to be only the start of his video ambitions. On his Facebook page he wrote that the clip was just a teaser trailer with a “full episode” to be released on October 21.

But it seems Mr Mehajer might first be the unwitting star of another video.

Television show A Current Affair has been running promo advertisements featuring a video of Mr Salim losing his temper during a telephone call.

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

Man shot at in car keeps driving to bowling club for help

A man who was shot multiple times while driving in Sydney’s south west pulled into a popular bowling club in the next suburb looking for help.
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Detective Inspector Stuart Cadden said the 35-year-old man was driving with two passengers along Edensor Road in Cabramatta West when the car was sprayed with bullets on Saturday night.

“There’s three fellows in a car driving along. A car has pulled up alongside them and from the passenger window a number of shots have been fired,” Inspector Cadden said.

The man was shot in the upper legs and lower body, and kept driving until he reached St Johns Park Bowling Club in the neighbouring suburb.

Emergency services were called to reports of a man shot in the stomach and bleeding in the club’s foyer just after 10.20pm, and he was taken to hospital in a serious condition. The man’s two male passengers were not injured.

Inspector Cadden said police were following a “number of lines of inquiry” but there there was no “immediate indication” of what, if anything, triggered the shooting.

Asked if road rage could have been behind the shooting, Inspector Cadden said: “we don’t have anything at all to indicate that at this stage.”

Police have spoken to the man in hospital, but he has not yet been formally interviewed as he was due to undergo surgery on Sunday.

Channel Seven reported on Sunday night that there was an incident at the hospital as the man’s family members tried to gain access to him.

“As a precaution, there was extra security for the safety of patients and staff,” a NSW Health spokeswoman said.

Inspector Cadden said the injured man’s two passengers were co-operating with the police investigation, and had both made statements.

“I don’t know why but he kept driving. He was going west and he kept going west. I guess it’s really the first thing you come to. There’s a 7/11 and the bowling club,” Inspector Cadden said.

“He’s probably taken his bets there would be security there and help for him there.”

On Sunday morning, a manager at St Johns Park Bowling Club said it was business as usual and there were no signs of any disturbance in the foyer.

On Sunday night, the man was listed as being in a stable condition. */]]>

With Josh Dye

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

Sydney weather: cold snap brings rain and temperature drops for the end of winter

Sydney wet weather in August this year. Photo by Edwina Pickles. Photo: Edwina PicklesSydney can expect wet conditions this week as we enter the final weeks of winter.
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Rain is expected to fall all week, after last week’s first glimpse of spring was felt with sunshine and balmy weather in the mid 20s.

But, heavy rain this week will remind us that winter is still very much here.

The rain is expected to start on Monday, with up to five millimetres forecast to drop in the late afternoon with more of the same on Tuesday. This is expected to increase throughout the week, with Wednesday forecast to be the wettest day with up to 35 millimetres expected, combined with strong winds.

The wet weather is expected to ease on Thursday and Friday with a max of five millimetres of rain expected on both days, in time for the weekend which is forecast to be rain-free.

With the wet weather will come colder nights, as temperatures dip to overnight minimums below 10 degrees near the coast and five degrees in the west.

Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Mohammed Nabi said maximum day temperatures would remain near average for this time of year between 17 and 19 degrees.

He said another cold front was expected early next week. “It won’t be as strong as Wednesday’s cold front,” he said.

The expected front will signal the official end of winter, but Mr Nabi said cooler days were still expected in Sydney until October.

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

Sara Connor and David Taylor join long tradition of Byron Bay media obsessions

Sara Connor travelled to Bali to meet up with David Taylor, friends say. Photo: Supplied David Taylor being interrogated by Bali police on Saturday. Photo: Supplied
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Sara Connor after a physical examination at Trijata police hospital in Denpasar. Photo: Amilia Rose

 Saturday evening in Byron Bay’s main street and a lone guitarist is making like Santana for the coins of passersby outside the Patagonia shop.

The 6pm news had just told the town one of their women had been charged with murder. So too had her friend, an Englishman.

“Play some sad song for Sara,” a local shouted across Jonson Street to the player.

A lot of people know Sara Connor, 45. She is the woman who has the pasta-making business in town and two little boys at Byron Bay Primary School.

Few know her friend, David Taylor, 35. But many heard him on the local radio station, BayFM 99.9, through his Thursday night show First Bass, a program of “phat funky fresh beats and some booty bouncing breaks”.

Until the killing in Bali, hardly anyone around town even knew they were an item.

Perhaps the only hint surfaced on August 3, when Taylor interrupted his usual stream of consciousness thoughts on dub music to post a coy Facebook reference to her business, Byron Bay Fresh Pasta, with just five words: “Perfect dinner made with love!”

Now the world has descended on the two lovers.

Bali and Byron are paradises found and sometimes lost. The 2002 bombing, the hangings, Schapelle Corby, schoolies week, shark attacks, Bali and Byron just seem to drive the media into frenzy.

The internet trolls have started. 60 Minutes, the acme of chequebook journalism, is trawling Byron Bay for friends of Connor and Taylor.

Depending on the court outcome, this is a story that will run and run. Australians could be following it for years. As the story erupted on Saturday, a Byron Bay marketing consultant Sarah Mulvin moved in to handle the story, she said “on behalf the family and the local community”.

“The accusations laid against her are totally out of character for this beautiful person,” a statement issued by Mulvin said.

“All of Byron unite in harmony and wish the world to know that Sara is one of the most generous, fun, honest and loved women in the Byron Bay community. She is incredibly inclusive of everyone, making sure anyone in her company feels nurtured and cared for. She has a huge heart. Her love for her boys is the biggest love in her life. She is very passionate about life and exudes enthusiasm wherever she goes.”

Sara Connor moved into the Byron area with her new husband after they met roving the world in the late 1990s.

Twig Connor, a knockabout surfer dog cum barman/ manager from the Tweed Coast, had long dropped his Christian name Anthony, – preferring to answer to the nickname bestowed upon him by surf mates during his early teen years – when he met Sara Pistidda.

She had left northern Italy and headed for London where she shared a house with Connor. They poured beer at various pubs and clubs and ended up working together at the Southside Bar, a DJ nightclub/bar in Covent Garden. He managed, she collected glasses.

A Swedish-born friend, now residing north of Byron, lived with the couple in London.

“Sarah is my surrogate big sister,” she says. “I’ve never met anyone so kind, so gentle, all she wants to do is mother everybody. It’s inconceivable what’s happened,” she says.

Twig Connor and Sara Pistidda married in London and he took her home to northern NSW. They moved into an idyllic farmhouse secreted in the cane fields besides the Clarence River outside Yamba. They married there.

Two boys, Noah and Eli, arrived. The family moved to Berlin for a year or so and then returned to Australia, moving into a house on the northern outskirts of Byron Bay.

In 2013 Sara Connor got a half arm tattoo and a job as a cleaner at the nearby Arts Factory Backpackers Lodge. Older, better organised and overflowing with personal warmth, management saw her value and put her on the front desk.

But the marriage had started to sour and she moved out to a house nearer the backpackers lodge.

But with the two boys at school, coupled with the cost of living in Byron, Sara Connor in 2014 thought up a way of making money on the side: she returned to the old marital home so she could start a pasta -making business in the twin-door garage supplying local restaurants and food outlets.

“Pasta was her passion and her heritage,” a fellow worker said.

She quickly became a leading member of Byron’s happy tribe of workers who service the tourist trade but still manage to live the life laid back. And in the Byron way of kindness, she sometimes offered a spare room or tent space to backpackers she took a shine too.

A couple of dub music dudes moved in and she started to hang with the crew who play reggae at the Beach Hotel every Monday.

David Taylor was born in Halifax, England, in 1982; He has travelled the world for the last 15 years, working as a disc jockey under the name DJ Nuts. After temporary visits, he settled in Byron By in 2014.

His last program on BayFM was on July 22. He reportedly left Australia because his visa had expired, or was about to.

Sara Connor followed Taylor to Bali. Her sons were left in the care of Twig Connor.

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