The biggest ship to visit Australia, the Queen Mary 2, arrives in Sydney

The Queen Mary 2 arrives at Circular Quay on Wednesday morning. Onlookers photograph the Queen Mary 2 at Circular Quay in Sydney on Wednesday morning.
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The biggest ocean liner to ever visit Australia, the Queen Mary 2, docked in Sydney Harbour early on Wednesday morning for a whirlwind visit as part of its second circumnavigation of Australia.

Built at a cost of $US800 million ($A884 million), Cunard Line’s 151,400-tonne flagship Queen Mary 2 will carry almost 2500 guests to Sydney, 850 of whom are Australian, along with 1200 staff and crew. The ship is almost twice as large as the original Queen Mary, is two-thirds the length of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and, sitting at 62 metres above the waterline (equal to the height of a 23-storey building), is far too big to fit underneath it.

Seventy-year-old Sydneysider Helen McMaster has cruised on the ocean liner almost every year since it’s maiden world voyage in  2007.

“I used to dream of doing such a voyage when I was young, so I set off for what I thought was a once-in-a-lifetime trip,” said Mrs. McMaster, who ended up meeting her 85-year-old now-husband Andrew during that voyage. The couple got married 12 months later on the Queen Victoria, and now spend “every year on the ship for our anniversary dinner.”

The McMasters, who have done a total of eight world cruises together, including five on the Queen Mary 2, are continuing their journey from Sydney today all the way to their final destination of New York, which they will reach on May 16. “She’s just a beautiful ship, we really do think of her as our home for five months,” Mrs. McMaster said.

By the time the McMasters disembark the QM2 in New York, they will have spent a total of 750 days on the Queen Mary 2.

The 10-year-old ship arrived in Sydney, its ninth visit, from Melbourne and sails to Brisbane on Friday. It won’t return to Sydney until the end of it’s full circumnavigation of Australia on March 14. The voyage is part of the ship’s seventh world voyage over 119 nights, and it will stop off at eight Australian ports including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Fremantle, all of which will be visited by the liner twice.

The Queen Mary 2 has 1310 guest rooms, a six-storey grand lobby, 17 decks, the largest library at sea (which houses more than 8000 books), the largest ballroom at sea, more than 10 restaurants and cafes and a spa spanning two decks with 24 treatment rooms. It also has the first planetarium at sea, 14 clubs and bars and four outdoor swimming pools.

During February and March this year, Cunard is sending all three of its Queens (including Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2) to Australia as part of its world voyage program spanning six continents and almost 80 destinations. It will be the first time all members of the royal triumvirate have visited Australia in the same season.

The Queen Mary 2 will depart Sydney at 9pm on Wednesday evening.

Sydney will receive a record 39 visits by 25 cruise ships during “Super February” this year, up from 36 visits last February.

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SES warns on Macleay floods

JUST a yearago, the Macleay was enjoying the lull between two of the biggest rain events of recent times – tropical cyclone Oswald, which swept down from the north in the closing days of January, and an un-named but equally ex-treme weather system less than four weeks later hosed the area with hundreds of millimetres of rain.
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The view of SWR Road from the Kempsey bypass bridge in February 2013.

Evacuations, road closures and emergency call-outs were making the news up and down the Valley, with the Macleay River peaking at 7.1m at the Kempsey traffic bridge – which was still well below the 1949 record of 8.42m.

Twelve months on, things couldn’t be more different, with Kempsey currently in near-drought, despite the respite of the past few days rainfall, and the shire council last week announcing water restrictions.

During the two floods the NSW SES responded to over 354 requests for assistance and conducted a number of critical flood rescues in the Macleay area.

SES members from Kempsey, South West Rocks and Gladstone provided 4240 volunteer hours of work during the two early 2013 flood emergencies.

One year on and the SES is encouraging those businesses and residents in flood-risk areas to stay prepared.

SES controller for the Mid North Coast, Stephen Hart, said it was important people in flood-risk areas were aware of the consequences of flooding.

“By having an understanding of the potential impacts of river heights on their property and having a written flood plan in place, with river height triggers for implementing actions, and maintaining a home emergency kit, you can be prepared for a flood emergency,” Mr Hart said.

Since last year’s floods the SES has been working with businesses in the coastal settlements of Hat Head, South West Rocks and Crescent Head to refine strategies for getting food and other essential supplies and services into the three communities when the next big rain comes.

New SES headquarters in Gladstone

The organisation has also been working with the shire council on the construction of a new headquarters for its Glad-stone unit, which will contain boat and vehicle storage areas, office space, an operations room, a training room and a laundry.

For more information on flood safety go to the SES FloodSafe website www.floodsafe爱上海同城论坛, and for emergency assistance in floods and storms call the NSW SES on 132 500.

Anyone wanting information on how to become an SES volunteer should phone 1800 201000 for an information pack.

What road? Glenrock Drain burst it banks in the 2013 floods, closing the Highway between Kempsey and Frederickton, and leaving at least one car under water

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Best of Sochi: Day 10GALLERY

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES
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2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Day 10. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

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Modern Family cast touches down in Australia

Cam and Mitchell ‘together again in Sydney’ … Modern Family actors Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler-Ferguson joked on Instagram.Sandilands can’t be ‘arsed’ over Modern Family roleCast destined for Hayman Island, Queensland
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The stars of the hit series Modern Family have landed in Sydney today, including cast members Sofia Vergara (Gloria), Ed O’Neill (Jay), Sarah Jane Hyland (Hayley), Rico Rodriguez (Manny) and Nolan Gould (Luke).

Executive producer Steve Levitan, co-executive producer and writer Danny Zuker and co-stars Eric Stonestreet (Cam), Jesse Tyler-Ferguson (Mitchell) and Aubrey Anderson-Emmons (Lily) are already in Australia.

Tyler-Ferguson and his “little girl” in the hit show, Anderson-Emmons, were mobbed by fans at the Sydney International Airport.

The cast, including Ty Burrell (Phil), Julie Bowen (Claire) and their on-screen daughter Ariel Winter (Alex), will be filming scenes for the next week around Sydney.

Plans to film the Australian episode were revealed exclusively by Fairfax last September.

The show has established a tradition of filming an “away” episode every season, which involves the Pritchett-Dunphy-Tucker-Delgado family travelling as a group.

In past seasons they have visited Hawaii, Florida, a dude ranch in Wyoming and LA’s Disneyland theme park.

“We loved the family vacation episodes we shot in Hawaii and Wyoming. This one is certainly our most ambitious yet,” the show’s co-creator and executive producer Steve Levitan said.

The show has a strong following in Australia. It screens on the Ten Network and Foxtel.

The show’s fifth season is currently in production, and airing in Australia and the US.

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Liberal MPs suspended over corruption probe

Former energy minister Chris Hartcher. Photo: Supplied Suspended: Liberal MPs Chris Hartcher, Chris Spence and Darren Webber.
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Analysis: State Liberals as corrupt as Labor

Former energy minister Chris Hartcher and other central coast MPs Chris Spence and Darren Webber have been suspended from the NSW Liberal Party after being named in two major corruption inquiries.

Acting state director Simon McInnes announced in a statement on Wednesday morning the trio had “voluntarily withdrawn” from the party after the O’Farrell government was dragged into the scandal surrounding the family of former Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid, with an announcement that public hearings would begin in weeks.

A senior government source said the Liberal Party had decided on Tuesday night to begin proceedings to suspend the trio.

The MPs had just renominated for preselection in their central coast seats for the March 2015 state election.

But on Tuesday members of Mr Spence’s electoral conference for The Entrance were told a meeting scheduled for next Monday to confirm his candidacy was cancelled until further notice.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption will hold a public inquiry, starting on March 17, into allegations of corrupt conduct by public officials and ”persons with an interest” in the Obeid-linked company Australian Water Holdings.

A second inquiry will be held from April 28 into allegations Mr Hartcher, who is the member for Terrigal, Mr Webber, who is the MP for Wyong, and Mr Spence ”corruptly solicited, received and concealed payments” in return for favours.

Australian Water, which became one of the largest donors to the NSW Liberals before the 2011 state election, was allegedly one of the sources of the payments.

ICAC says the first inquiry, Operation Credo, will look at whether, between 2004 and 2012, interests in Australian Water benefited by inflating charges to state-owned Sydney Water corporation.

It will examine allegations ”public officials and others” were involved in falsifying a cabinet minute relating to a public-private partnership proposal by Australian Water to mislead a budget committee of cabinet.

Mr Obeid and his fellow former Labor ministers Joe Tripodi and Tony Kelly are alleged to have ”misused their positions as members of Parliament” to try to influence public officials over the deal.

It is alleged that, in November 2012, Liberal Party identity Nick Di Girolamo – a former chief executive and major shareholder in the company – and Eddie Obeid jnr tried to mislead ICAC’s investigation into whether Mr Obeid snr tried to use his position as an MP to influence public officials over the proposal.

Within hours of the Tuesday announcement, Mr Di Girolamo resigned as a director of the state-owned State Water Corporation.

The second inquiry, Operation Spicer, will look at whether between April 2009 and April 2012 Mr Hartcher, Mr Webber and Mr Spence, along with two former staff of Mr Hartcher – Tim Koelma and Ray Carter – corruptly solicited payments for political favours.

It will also examine whether, between December 2010 and November 2011, the MPs and Mr Carter solicited banned political donations.

The inquiry will consider allegations Australian Water Holdings, through Mr Di Girolamo, made ”regular payments” to Eightbyfive, a company owned by Mr Koelma in return for Mr Hartcher favouring Australian Water interests. The payments were allegedly claimed to be for public relations advice.

Mr Hartcher suddenly resigned from the cabinet in December after ICAC raided his office.

In 2012 Mr Carter and Mr Koelma resigned and Mr Carter was suspended as Terrigal electorate officer after the party referred allegations they had breached donations laws to the Election Funding Authority.

A $5000 payment to Eightbyfive, from Wyong builder Matthew Lusted, sparked the referral by the party.

Mr Lusted was approached for the payment by Mr Carter shortly before the March 2011 election. It is understood Mr Lusted’s name and others were given to Mr Carter by Wyong mayor Doug Eaton, who has refused to comment.

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Husband charged with murder of wife Margaret Tannous in their home

A son has posted an emotional tribute online after his father allegedly murdered his mother in their Bankstown unit on Monday night.
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Margaret Tannous, 47, was found with serious head injuries at 8.30pm, moments before her husband, 57, turned himself in at Bankstown police station where he was charged with murder.

Mrs Tannous’ son Elie Boukarim said his mother was “my angel my life my queen the closest person to me.”

He said she had spent 18 years suffering in a marriage that most women would have “let go” after three months.

“Everything in this world you sacrificed for me and my sister you lived for us you worked for us everything you did was for us and I’m so proud to be called your son,” he said.

It’s believed Mr Boukarim arrived home on Monday night to see his mother being stretchered out by paramedics and police.

Neighbours in the Meredith Street unit block told 2UE Radio that the husband had confided in them in recent years that he believed his wife was having an affair.

Friends of Mrs Tannous’ son and daughter, Therese, expressed deep shock on social media.

“Still in shock. To hard too believe. I couldn’t imagine anyone that could endure what she had too. She is a decent woman that wanted to do right by her kids,” said one friend.

Mr Boukarim said one of his final memories of his mother would be sharing a cup of scotch with her. He said she was now “in a better place.”

“You were the strongest woman, the strongest PERSON i knew,” he said. “You taught me that the most power you have in this life is in your brain and not your fists or your muscles, you taught me to do right by people even though they do wrong to you.”

George Tannous was refused bail in Bankstown Local Court on Tuesday.

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Etihad flight diverted to Jakarta after ‘disruptions’

A dozen passengers have been detained by Abu Dhabi security authorities, after multiple fires were lit on board a flight that left Melbourne on Monday night.
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On Wednesday night a spokesman for Etihad Airways said no arrests had been made but that the airline was co-operating fully with the investigation.

The flight was forced to make an emergency landing at Jakarta airport, before arriving four hours late at Abu Dhabi airport, where police were alerted and began searching passengers.

The aircraft was also searched the Etihad spokesman said it was released shortly after arrival at Abu Dhabi.

According to passengers who contacted Fairfax Media, multiple fires were lit in the aircraft’s toilets.

The series of small fires filled the cabin with smoke, sending passengers into a panic and setting off the smoke alarms.

The boyfriend of one passenger on board told Fairfax Media the plane was only able to stay in Jakarta for a few hours.

Against many passenger’s wishes, the flight then continued to Abu Dhabi.

However a few hours into the second leg of the flight, smoke was again detected coming from bathrooms.

The cabin crew then locked down all toilets and confined passengers to their seats.

Meal and drink services also stopped. Sarah Jeffery, a passenger on the flight, told Fairfax Media the experience was ‘‘very frightening’’.

She said she awoke suddenly to the sounds of a ‘‘loud alarm, a flashing red light and rushing crew members’’.

‘‘I looked and saw flames coming from the bin in the toilet, and two cabin crew members put it out,’’ she said.

‘‘It was very smoky, and it felt like the aircraft had filled with smoke.’’

Ms Jeffery said when the plane landed in Jakarta, passengers were evacuated and their bags searched before the flight resumed.

While the plane was flying above the Indian Ocean, she said another fire was ignited while crew members were preparing breakfast.

The staff – which Ms Jeffery said were ‘‘very vigilant’’ during the flight – quickly extinguished the blaze.

‘‘At this point, we were all asked to remain seated, and the toilets couldn’t be used,’’ she said.

‘‘Breakfast was not served, which also meant we had only had one drink and a muffin in over 12 hours.’’

‘‘I was very frightened that we had two more hours before reaching Abu Dhabi, and I actually sent messages to my boyfriend and son telling them how much I loved them, in the hope that if anything happened they would receive them.’’

Reports have emerged that a female passenger is being investigated.

Norwegian professional golfer Caroline Martens, who was flying home from competing in the Australian Masters golf tournament, told Norwegian radio and television public broadcasting company NKR that a fire was started on board ‘‘directly while we were above the sea’’.

‘‘After a few hours I noticed that it smelled like smoke … but I thought everything was fine and just fell asleep,’’ she said.

‘‘About two hours after I woke up as the fire alarm went off again.’’

Ms Martens, 27, said there was a fire in one of the toilets and smoke billowing out of another.

After the plane landed in Jakarta, the golfer said all passengers and crew were searched by local police, but no culprit was found.

‘‘Thus we were all sent on a plane again without knowing who had done it. It is just not nice to know that someone will set fire to the aircraft you will be travelling with,’’ Martens said.

‘‘I’m just very happy to be on the ground again.’’

Another passenger, Dale Henderson, described how he the fire alarm went off in one of the middle toilets when what is believed to be a cigarette was thrown into a toilet waste bin.

He said a second fire started in the rear toilets and “this time it was a goer, flames and all.”

He said the staff were quick to extinguish the flames.

He described how tense the situation was on the aircraft, and how they could not believe someone on board would be putting them in such danger.

Mr Henderson said that the flight personnel did a “fantastic job with the very bad situation” and “without their expertise and professionalism we wouldn’t be here”.

Other passengers on flight EY461 have taken to social media to report a series of fires being lit during the flight, with some claiming to be ‘‘lucky’’ to have arrived safely.

One Instagram user wrote: ‘‘Try having someone set the plane on fire, in two different places, having to emergency land in Jakarta, get back on after hours of investigations, for the IDIOT to set three more fires in three more toilets while mid-air and nowhere to land!!!!!’’

Another person claiming to have been on flight EY461 took her grievances to Twitter, complaining that Etihad Airways did not ‘‘feed customers for almost 15 hours’’ on the flight.

Fairfax Media has translated Ms Martens’ quotes from Norwegian.

with Bridie Smith

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My Kitchen Rules recap: Gatecrashers Carly and Tresne bring out the ocker in jus

They just need a ‘snuggly hug’ … Carly and Tresne are a breath of Australian air to the MKR kitchen.MKR casting agents – you have truly outdone yourselves this series.
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You’ve given us mouthy, cocky designer Jess, who so satisfyingly met her end on Sunday night, you’ve given us the wicked witches of West Australia, Chloe and Kelly, and you’ve given us Dave “The Captain”, the wanker banker whose readiness with a clanger is second-to-none.

Just when we thought things couldn’t get any better, we have three “intruder” newcomer couples – self-proclaimed “experimental foodies” from Melbourne, a stuffy mother and daughter pair from (posh) country NSW, and the stars of tonight’s episode, Carly and Tresne. A teacher and estate agent respectively, from Clarencetown, near Newcastle.

These bubbly blondes are fuelled by positive thinking and at their pop-up restaurant, Inspire, have decorated the walls with motivational quotes and their napkins with mood rings.

If this wasn’t enough, they’re charmingly ocker to boot, prone to sayings like, “Oh holy dooley,” and “Holy snapping turtles!” Maaaaate. It makes for bloody good TV, tell ya what.

As they prepare their maiden meal, the girls, particularly Tresne, are worried about how their entree of beetroot tart with goat cheese mousse and balsamic reduction will be received. The balsamic, in particular, proves a difficult beast to tame – first it’s the victim of overheating (the solution: to cool the pot over the air vent on the floor), and then, it’s worryingly acidic.

“Puttin’ ya head in that balsamic vinegar is like putting tear gas in ya face,” squawks Tresne. It’s subsequently added to the entree with restraint, and while the rocket leaves suffer for remaining undressed, overall, Pete and Manu say they’re off to a good start.

Tresne isn’t convinced, and says she feels a bit deflated. But when she also bemoans the state of the main, a beef filet, which everyone else says is cooked perfectly, it becomes clear that this spiritual sheila is more than a bit hard on herself – and that her preferred maxim, “If you think you can, you can, and if you think you can’t, you can’t,” is not always on the money.

Elsewhere, tonight’s supporting players are delivering in ways their food never will. The West

Australian weevils appear to be feeling a bit threatened by the new “ladies of the manor”, particularly Anna being a NSW food critic. “She’s way too skinny to be a food critic, she must be hopeless!” they cackle.

Unfortunately Anna is quite odious in her own right, nodding in glittery-eyed agreement* with every minor criticism Pete and Manu make of Carly and Tresne’s meal and being generally snotty.

Dave, bless him, pronounces “jus” as if it rhymes with fuzz, and not poo, and the sniggering this induces from around the table impels him to refer to it as” gravy” from that point on.

Harry and Christo, bloody lucky to still be in the competition, continue to amuse each other and each other only, making terrible jokes and collapsing into peals of laughter, while the molecular gastronomist newbies from Melbourne remain suspiciously quiet.

Manu isn’t quiet, he’s practically climaxing as he samples the main, singling out the jus as worthy of a 10 out of 10. “Thank God, thank you for giving me my sauce that I’ve been begging for,” he swoons, and Pete is just as impressed.

The beetroot discs are deemed a little sweet, but it’s still easily one of the best mains we’ve seen so far; Tresne’s worries were completely unfounded.

Carly is delighted with the judges’ response. “It was like a big, warm snuggly hug and bowl of porridge,” she says. “Now we just need to smash out the dessert,” says Tresne, who proceeds to “fang” the cream into the caramel sauce in a worrying fashion.

Both girls are aware the Caramel Divine is too sweet but it’s too late to start again so out it goes as is, and they hope to glide through on the power of positive thinking.

The judges aren’t so easily fooled; they could barely manage to eat half the dish on account of its sweetness, cueing evil grins from their competitors as they dig into their own desserts and regurgitate the criticisms of Manu and Pete, as they are so irritatingly fond of doing.

Perhaps feeling threatened, the competitors are a little harsher than expected on Carly and Tresne when final scores are given – posh pair Cathy and Anna only award them a five, and David and Corinne a stingy six, but Pete and Manu are more generous and the girls wind up with an impressive 74 overall.

Turns out these chicks can cook. Tomorrow night, it’s Chloe and Kelly’s turn, and we’re hoping they go the way of their fellow acid-tongued West Australian, Jess.

The ads promise tears. It’s shaping up to a be a good night.


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Asbestos warnings for more than a thousand homes issued by ACT government

asbestos Workers wrap a plastic shield over a house in Downer for the safe removal of asbestos last year. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
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The owners of 1049 Canberra homes that were exposed to Mr Fluffy asbestos in the 1970s will be urged by the ACT Government to have their homes professionally inspected for remnants of the potentially lethal insulation.

This is despite these residences being part of a $100 million clean-up program that took place between 1988 and 1993 and targeted roof cavities of houses with Mr Fluffy insulation in them.

Residents will receive a letter from Tuesday warning them that ”it is likely that some insulation material remains in these homes, including in places such as internal and external wall cavities, sub-floor spaces and underneath cornices.”

It is believed the warning follows disturbing findings of the extent of asbestos contamination in a home on Bradfield Street in Downer, which was accidentally missed during the Commonwealth’s original removal program. Last July it was encased in a plastic bubble, pulled apart and buried in an asbestos dump at a cost to ACT taxpayers of more than $2 million.

ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe, on behalf of the government, has written the letter, which strongly warns all homeowners against any renovation or even minor disturbance of their walls, sub-floors or eaves, until their homes have been inspected by a licensed asbestos assessor.

The cost of such an inspection will be about $700.

The loose amosite asbestos that was used as a cheap form of insulation installed in the 1960s and ’70s by ”Mr Fluffy” Dirk Jansen and his sons, is now known to be among the deadliest forms of asbestos as it is easily airborne and its minute particles are difficult to contain.

Mr McCabe said that while the Downer house was at an extreme end of the danger spectrum in that it had never had the original loose asbestos removed from its roof and it had been left to dissipate and deteriorate over two decades, it ”confirmed what we have always known, which is that there can still be material behind the walls”.

ACT Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations Minister Simon Corbell said homeowners had been reminded about asbestos safety in 1993 and 2005 but the government was now ”stepping up” its ”proactive program”.

”People may think, ‘well my home has been remediated as part of the program so there is no need for concern’,” Mr Corbell said.

But it was critical in homes that had been exposed to Mr Fluffy that owners understood the risk.

”I am not interested in creating some sort of panic – that would be unjustified.

”These homes are not unliveable if they are managed,” he said.

Meanwhile, he had instructed his directorate to strengthen the information made available to prospective buyers regarding a home’s potential to contain remnant loose asbestos.

”There is already information on the title, and you can make further inquiries on the building file, which should be done as part of the conveyancing, but I have asked my officials on how we can strengthen further the information made available on the title – I think we can do more in terms of that advice and that work is ongoing.” Mr Corbell said he was not in a position to speculate whether this information would potentially devalue a home when it came on the market.

He also noted that the ACT government was not liable for any further remediation of homes.

”The program was never represented as saying it would completely clean the property – it was always very clear it would clean the

most accessible part of the property but there was no guarantee or warranty on the remainder of the property,” he said.

He blamed the ACT’s asbestos contamination on ”inaction on the part of various federal governments prior to self government”.

”The ACT government will continue to pursue the federal government for contributions to the clean-up of asbestos and other contaminated materials that were dumped under their watch.”

A hotline has been set up through Canberra Connect on 13 22 81.

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APN confirms $246.5m Clear Channel buyout

APN News & Media has confirmed it will pay $246.5 million to take control of its radio assets from America’s Clear Channel, as it announced a $132 million non-renounceable entitlement offer.
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The acquisition will be funded through a fully underwritten entitlement offer, proceeds from the $69 million sale of APN Outdoor and debt from existing facilities.

The buyout came as APN said its full-year profit after tax but before exceptional items rose 10 per cent to $59.5 million.

The company also said it was running ahead of cost savings targets, having booked over $40 million in full-year cost savings.

The deal, revealed by The Australian Financial Review on Wednesday, will be funded by a $132 million fully underwritten 5-for-9, pro rata accelerated non-renounceable entitlement offer; $60 million in proceeds from last month’s sale of APN Outdoor; and $61 million in debt funded from existing facilities.

APN said it has received support for the deal from its top shareholders including Independent News & Media, Allan Gray Australia and Baycliffe Limited, representing 50.4 per cent of the company’s current issued share capital.

INM, controlled by Irish billionaires Tony O’Reilly and Denis O’Brien, is not participating in the entitlement offer but the company said it “remains committed to its stake in APN”.

APN has commitments from Allan Gray and Baycliffe, an investment vehicle controlled by Mr O’Brien, that they will take up their full pro rata entitlements.

Baycliffe is also sub-underwriting part of the entitlement offer equal to the entitlements of INM.

The relevant interest of Baycliffe of 30.8 per cent in APN will therefore not change as a result of the entitlement offer.

Chief executive Michael Miller said the acquisition meant the majority of APN’s assets would be in the growth businesses of radio, outdoor and digital.

“ARN and TRN are businesses that we know extremely well, having run them for almost 20 years.They are managed by highly competent teams and continue to deliver growth both in audience numbers and advertising revenues,” he said in a statement.

“We are confident that radio will continue to grow as a medium and that ARN and TRN will continue to capture a greater share of the market.”He added: “A key part of our thinking in acquiring full ownership of ARN and TRN was to boost operating cash flows to better position APN financially.”.

“The reduction in leverage from paying down debt through the year will considerably improve our refinancing options during the second half of 2014. Meanwhile we have sufficient headroom within our current facilities to meet all our obligations for the current year.“It is also very encouraging to have received the support of our major shareholders, a strong endorsement for the acquisition.”

APN said it remains committed to strengthening its balance sheet and is targeting the generation of operating cash flows of $60 million to $70 million for the full year 2014 to be used to pay down debt.It said it expects to achieve this target through continued focus on cash generation, ongoing restructuring and cost saving initiatives and increased operating cash flows under 100 per cent ownership of ARN and TRN.

The purchase price represents an enterprise value to ebitda multiple of approximately 6.9, in line with Allan Gray’s statement to The Australian Financial Review in October that it would support a buyout for a multiple of less than 7.Reported net profits were just $2.6 million, double last year’s figure, on continuing revenues down 1 per cent to $817 million. Like last year, there is no dividend.“These are APN’s best results in a number of years with NPAT and EBITDA growth at their highest level since 2007 and 2005 respectively,” Mr Miller said.

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