$2.5m funding taken to ICAC

The Lysaght site.A $2.5 Million grant given to two Wollongong soccer clubs to move out of Brandon Park has been referred to the state’s corruption watchdog.The Department of Premier and Cabinet confirmed it had referred the matter to the Independent Commission Against Corruption this week.The department committed $2 million to help the Wollongong Wolves and Wollongong Olympic move from Brandon Park to Lysaghts Oval in 2002, to make way for the University of Wollongong’s Innovation Campus. It announced a further $500,000 grant in 2005.Wollongong City Council, trustee of the funds on behalf of the Premier’s department, said it was aware the matter had been referred to ICAC. In 2004, the Wolves and Wollongong Olympic entered a joint venture with Wollongong Sport and Recreation Centre Pty Ltd, owner of Lysaghts Oval, to turn the Figtree ground into the home of Illawarra football.In the contract sighted by the Illawarra Mercury, the soccer clubs agreed to pay the $2.5 million in government grants to Wollongong Sports and Recreation Centre which agreed “to endeavour to ensure” the ground was up to NSW Premier League standard for the 2005-06 season. The joint venture formed a building committee, including an independent chairman, three members from the recreation centre and one each from Wollongong Olympic and the Wolves, to oversee the project. The ground is yet to meet Illawarra Football Association or Football NSW competition standards. The grandstand frame has been erected. A department spokesman confirmed “certain allegations regarding payments from the Government relating to Wollongong soccer clubs and facilities” had been raised with the department.The matter has been referred to ICAC, which examines conduct involving or affecting NSW public officials. The ICAC Act gives the commission the discretion to decide whether or not it will conduct an investigation into any matter referred to it.Wollongong City Council general manager David Farmer said the council had fulfilled its responsibilities in terms of distributing the funds. As trustee, the council required an invoice for works, supplier invoice and verification by an authorised officer from the joint venture before funds were released.David Dowey, building committee chairman, guaranteed every dollar spent could be accounted for.”Six weeks ago, the State Government grant was down to $408,000,” Mr Dowey said. To date, the grandstand that used to stand at Brandon Park has been torn down and erected at Lysaghts Oval. Because the foundation at the Figtree complex wasn’t up to scratch, extra formwork had to be done before the slab was laid. Electrical work on the dressing rooms is set to begin next month. Four 30m light towers were erected in 2006. Mr Dowey said $1.8 million of the grant was left when he was appointed to the committee 18 months ago. The ground would be useable by March next year. “There will be changerooms and some seating,” Mr Dowey said. “Media boxes and bars won’t be completed … There are things that won’t be finished.”Mr Dowey confirmed Wollongong Sports and Recreation Centre had privately borrowed an extra $1 million to get the ground ready for next March. Two of the company’s six directors, Wally Boscoscuro and Hans Van Der Haar, said the $2.5 million was “never enough” for the project. “Wollongong Sport and Recreation are putting another $1 million into it,” Mr Boscoscuro said. Mr Van Der Haar echoed Mr Dowey’s assurance that money spent could be accounted for. “I can guarantee every cent we spend can be accounted for, without any problems,” he said. “We have taken out another $1 million loan to finish off the grandstand so it can be ready for March.”However, Wollongong Olympic have applied to IFA for entry in next year’s District League competition without specifying a home ground and Wollongong FC are trying to secure Crehan Park as their permanent base.Wollongong Olympic’s Manny Mavridis said the club was tired of waiting for a home ground.Wollongong FC CEO Jock Morlando said he hadn’t received an update about progress on the Lysaghts Oval project since declaring the ground was the club’s number one option for 2009 last month. “I needed to make sure we had alternate arrangements,” he said.
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Verbal attack in truant case

Brett and Debbie Boatwright, of Claude Rd near Sheffield, are charged with failing to ensure that their daughters attend school.
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In the Devonport Magistrates Court yesterday, Mr Boatwright asked Magistrate Arnold Shott to dismiss the case for lack of evidence.

The couple’s daughters Ripley, 10, and Kaliska, 8, have not been to school for almost two years.

Mr and Mrs Boatwright claim that the girls were “viciously” assaulted by another pupil at Devonport’s Hillcrest Primary School, and that the situation has not been dealt with satisfactorily.

The Boatwrights are both charged with two counts of failing to ensure that a child attends school, relating to a non- attendance period of 90 days.

Mr Boatwright told Mr Shott that the children would not return to school until the assault matter was resolved.

He said they were receiving distance education.

Yesterday Mr Shott listened to seven submissions from Mr Boatwright in which he claimed the prosecution’s case was based on a “dubious” school attendance list and no other evidence.

Several times Mr Shott asked Mr Boatwright to be courteous in the court after derogatory references to prosecutor Kate Brown, Ms Wriedt and Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis.

Mr Boatwright said the attendance list showed when children were not at school, but not why, and not whether a criminal offence had been committed.

“The document is just a list of dates. It could support evidence but is not evidence in itself,” he told the court.

He claimed that the prosecution had not investigated why the children had not been at school, the principal had never questioned them about it, and parents were not legally obliged to explain why children were not there.

Ms Brown said the prosecution did not need to prove anything except that the children did not attend school.

Mr Boatwright claimed that he and his wife had been prosecuted after they had complained to the school about the playground assault.

“These legal proceedings are a deliberate bullying tactic by the Education Department to force parents who have a dispute with a school to give in,” Mr Boatwright said.

“This case flies in the face of Education Minister Paula Wriedt’s public statements that prosecution should be the last resort in truancy cases.”

Mr Shott adjourned the case until September 10 at noon for his decision.

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Keelong closing down

The Keelong Juvenile Justice Centre at Unanderra is to close, with detainees to be spread out across other centres as part of State Government cutbacks to be announced next week.The Mercury can reveal that the centre, which employs about 100 people plus school teachers, will be officially given the chop in Tuesday’s mini-budget.Director-General of Juvenile Justice Peter Muir, accompanied by senior departmental staff and counsellors, delivered the news to staff yesterday morning.Keelong is the region’s only juvenile detention centre.The Department of Juvenile Justice, which was asked to find $17.2 million in savings for the mini-budget, plans to close the centre in the first quarter of next year.”They called us in and just dropped it on us. This has come out of the blue,” a staff member, who asked not to be identified, said. “Everyone was stunned and I don’t think many of us have much prospect of getting a job with the department in other areas.”They told us that it would stay open at least until Christmas so that’s some consolation I suppose.”A department spokeswoman said about 80 new detainee beds would be created at other centres and used for the relocation of Keelong’s 23 detainees.She said the department would be seeking voluntary redundancies and looking to relocate other employees. “Our hope would be that we would be able to keep everyone and redeploy them to other jobs within the department,” she said.A youth worker from the centre said there are often more than 30 detainees and doubted whether other centres would have the facilities and support of Keelong.The Public Service Association has organised an urgent meeting with the department. Assistant general secretary Steve Turner said he had grave fears for the jobs.”One hundred jobs is a lot,” he said. “And when you think we are hearing about (government superannuation administration business) Pillar being privatised, that’s more than 700 jobs you’re talking about.”A spokeswoman for Minister for Juvenile Justice Graham West said the centre was “old and outdated”. “We will be redeploying staff within Juvenile Justice where possible.”
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Nightingale gets a confidence boost

Jason Nightingale concentrates during the New Zealand session yesterday at Energy Australia Stadium. Picture: DARREN PATEMANA few select words from supercoach Wayne Bennett has given St George Illawarra and New Zealand winger Jason Nightingale confidence of a golden future for the Dragons.Kiwis assistant coach Bennett and winger Nightingale are plotting the demise of England in tonight’s World Cup clash at Newcastle.However, Nightingale revealed Bennett has spoken with him, as well as New Zealand lock and new St George Illawarra recruit Jeremy Smith, about the new regime at the Dragons.”We’ve more been focusing on the World Cup, but yeah, he’s had a few words in my ear,” he said.”It was more discussing facilities and the changes to training.”He’s done a lot of planning for the Dragons, it’s been great to hear his ideas.”Wayne has such a presence and brings so much experience to the New Zealand camp and also Jezza (Jeremy Smith) has taken on a major leadership role,” Nightingale added.”I’m sure he’d also be looking to take on some responsibility with the Dragons.”Having played in the grand final with Melbourne this season after winning last year’s premiership, Smith announced his move to the Dragons mid-season.Listed as an $11 equal favourite for first tryscorer with TABSportsbet, Nightingale is out to rediscover the devastating form tonight which saw him become one of the NRL’s most dangerous attacking weapons.The 22-year-old was a prolific tryscorer in the first half of the season as part of a dynamic combination with five-eighth Jamie Soward.And tonight Nightingale, who missed selection in the loss to Australia and victory over Papua New Guinea, will link up with one of the best playmakers in New Zealand five-eighth Benji Marshall.The Kiwis are favourites tonight, as they attempt to show Australia are not yet guaranteed victory in the tournament.Nightingale said New Zealand still had improvement left after overpowering PNG 48-6 on Saturday.”The guys have taken a lot of positives out of that game, but there’s definitely ways we need to improve in terms of execution,” he said.
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Shellharbour’s cricket revival

Shellharbour skipper Chris Halloran goes on the attack. Picture: DAVE TEASEFresh from slaying powerhouse Albion Park, Shellharbour want to continue their giant-killing run in this weekend’s double-header in South Coast cricket.Easybeats in recent seasons, Shellharbour have more to offer this campaign and stunned last season’s finalists with a two-run victory last weekend.The win was Shellharbour’s first of the season and has given the club a lift in confidence heading into today’s clash against Kiama and tomorrow’s clash against premiers Lake Illawarra.”Getting a win, especially against a good side like Albion Park, is just what we needed,” Shellharbour skipper Chris Halloran said. “We’ve been competitive in most games and, importantly, have made enough runs to stay in games. “There’s been lean times here for a while, but we think there’s some good times approaching.”Probably the difference this season is the young guys have a little bit more experience and know what to expect from first grade. “Winning gives us confidence and there’s no reason why we can’t go on with it from here.”Young paceman Mitchell Phelps, along with first-change bowler Beau Chamberlain and top-order batsman Pat Moulton, have played key roles in Shellharbour’s improvement this season. Shellharbour have an excellent chance to claim back-to-back wins when they take on struggling Kiama this afternoon at Tom Willoughby Oval. Both clubs will fancy their chances and Kiama will be desperate for a first win of the campaign. Shellharbour back up tomorrow again at home to Lake Illawarra, the Lakers heading into the weekend in equal third spot (51 points) with Albion Park.The Park will be without up to five key players for this weekend’s tough double-header against Warilla this afternoon and Oak Flats tomorrow. Park skipper Paul Schofield said Graeme Smith had a toe injury, while Clint McKenzie, Brett Baldwin and Jess Hancock will miss the Warilla game.Hancock will be back to take on Oak Flats, but spinner Adam Sharp is unavailable for that game.After the shock loss to Shellharbour last weekend, Schofield said his batsmen needed to take more responsibility. “Our shot selection was poor against Shellharbour,” he said “We need to bat a lot better.”In other round-seven games today, Lake host Gerringong and Oak Flats are at home to improving Jamberoo, who have beaten Shellharbour and Kiama this season. Jamberoo back up tomorrow at home to Gerringong, while The Rail host Warilla.Ladder (after round six): Oak Flats 58, The Rail 53, Albion Park 51, Lake Illawarra 51, Warilla Sports 46, Gerringong 39, Jamberoo 39, Shellharbour 24, Kiama 17.
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