Think of your customers, ANZ: Aus Post CEO

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The head of Post has urged ANZ to put its customers before its profit and sign a new agreement with the national postal service.

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The Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac have each signed a new partnership agreement with Post this month, which includes a new $22 million access fee to be invested in its post office network.

The deals also involve revised charges for the banks for each transaction their customers conduct through Post.

Post says it can no longer subsidise such services, having previously lost money by providing them on the banks’ behalf.

But Post chief executive Christine Holgate has told a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra that ANZ does not want to sign a new agreement.

She has urged the bank’s executives to reconsider.

“ANZ, we urge you to consider your customers, the services they need in communities, before you consider your profits and what you think they are compared to other banks,” she told the hearing on Tuesday.

ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliot says the current deal is unfair as ANZ has fewer customer’s using Post than its competitors, meaning the agreement’s fixed costs will hit ANZ harder.

“We just want a fair deal. We will happily pay more. A lot more,” he wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

“We can’t pay multiple times per transaction what our competitors pay.”

But Ms Holgate said claims ANZ’s transactions will be multiple times larger than its competitors are “absolutely not true”.

“All four banks have had transparent, fair and equal treatment,” she said.

Both parties remain open to discussions, but Ms Holgate said Post won’t be cutting a deal with the bank.

ANZ’s current agreement with Post expires in three months.

The postal boss, who has been in the job a year, also told the hearing that the dramatic drop in the number of letters sent through the post is the biggest risk facing her organisation.

The volume of letters handled by the organisation dropped by about 11 per cent in 2017-18, delivering a $50 million hit to revenue.

“We have some major hurdles there and it’s our single biggest risk in the business,” she said.

Parcel volume increased by about 10 per cent in the same time, but Ms Holgate said it hadn’t been enough to compensate for the letter decline.

Shield rejig ensures NSW to play at SCG

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A tweak in the Sheffield Shield schedule has ensured NSW will play their first home game of the season at the SCG.

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The SCG Trust, Cricket NSW and Cricket (CA) have agreed on a solution to ensure there is no repeat of last summer, when Justin Langer was among those lamenting that a virtual Ashes selection trial between the Blues and Western was held at Hurtsville Oval.

There was an asterisk in the original 2018/19 Shield schedule next to the third-round clash between NSW and Tasmania, which is among the key fixtures that will shape the selection of ‘s Test XI to face India.

That first-class game, which will feature Test captain Tim Paine if the wicketkeeper is dropped from the national one-day side as has been speculated, was originally going to start a week after Saturday’s A-League derby at the SCG.

The Shield match will now begin on November 5, giving ground staff a couple of extra days to get the pitch ready.

“We’re really, really pleased,” NSW skipper Peter Nevill told reporters.

“We want to play as many games as we can at the SCG.”

Cricket NSW’s strong preference was always to host the Shield game at the SCG but Wagga Wagga was among other options canvassed as negotiations between the parties dragged on.

NSW hope to play their final two home games of the regular season, which start on February 23 and March 12, at the SCG but the demolition of Allianz Stadium means the oval is proving more in-demand than usual this summer.

The NSW Waratahs expect to play at least one Super Rugby match at the famed venue while Sydney FC are booked in to host four A-League fixtures at the ground.

The relationship between Cricket NSW and its landlord has proven prickly at times during recent years.

The Blues recorded what was effectively a loss at the SCG in 2015 because the surface was deemed unsafe and the Shield game was abandoned, only for former curator Tom Parker to claim match officials made the wrong call.

The Blues only hosted two games at the SCG last season, both in February, because the Test ground underwent its first full returfing in seven years.

Barilaro publicly backs Newcastle container terminal, despite policies

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Deputy Premier John Barilaro says the state’s farmers would “absolutely” benefit from being able to export through a container terminal in Newcastle – an outcome made more difficult by his own government’s policies.

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The NSW Nationals leader’s public support for a container terminal in the Hunter pitches him into a long-standing controversy over the terms under which his government privatised the operation of Sydney’s Port Botany and the Illawarra’s Port Kembla.

Read more:Port of Newcastle says container terminal will proceed if secret subsidy to Botany is removed(August 27, 2018)

The terms of that 2013 privatisationinclude a clause entitlingthe lease holders to compensation from the Port of Newcastle if more than 30,000 containers were transported through the Hunter.

According to the operators of the Port of Newcastle,itself privatised in 2013, this clause prohibits investment in port facilities at Newcastle capable of mass-handling containerised freight.

The clause, currently under the microscope of competition regulators,forces more traffic on the M1 motorwaybetween Sydney and Newcastle, as well as driving up the cost of farming exports, advocates for a Newcastle terminal argue.

“Absolutely,”Mr Barilaro replied last monthat a Committee for the Economic Development of forum, when asked if western district farmers and primary producers would “benefit from a container port at Newcastle”.

Read more: Newcastle talks break down as container terminal operator turns to rivals(August 16, 2018)

The question was met with muted laughs from the audience, recognising that it touched upon a controversial topic.

“Absolutely. We have opportunities right across the eastern seaboard and you look at Newcastle, of course container port but that would be one that’s got to have a conversation piece broader than just this room tonight,” the Nationals leader said.

Mr Barilaro then referred to an expansion of the Port of Eden on the south coast.

“Here in Newcastle you could do exactly the same in the same area,” he said.

In a statement, the chief executive of the Port of Newcastle, Craig Carmody, said the organisation “welcomed Mr Barilaro’s comments in support of regional development and the lowering of freight costs”.

Comment: Why we need a world-class container terminal at Newcastle (July 26, 2018)

Mr Carmody said private investors had already approached the port interested in committing funds to building a container terminal “if the current financial penalty is removed”.

“As a world-class port already servicing many of ’s leading commodity exporters, PoN is certain a Newcastle container terminal is commercially viable in the context of the current economic environment.”

The Port of Newcastle this year commissioned analysis from Deloitte Access Economics that argued exporters in the state’s central west and north-west would spend 32 per cent less on their rail transport costs and 18 per cent less on road costs if they were able to export through Newcastle.

Government MPs have argued that the Port of Newcastle is not prevented from developing a container terminal by the terms of the Botany privatisation, and container trade at Newcastle does not approach the 30,000 per year threshold.

Read more:Sydney takes an interest in Newcastle container terminal(April 13, 2018)

“It is not within a bull’s roar of that trigger,” the former ports minister, Duncan Gay, told Parliament in 2016.

Advocates of a terminal at Newcastle, however, say that trigger would be easily met if a container terminal was developed – but the financial penalties prevent such a terminal being developed.

TheHeraldasked Mr Barilaro’s office if the Deputy Premier was attempting to alter the commercial restrictions on the Newcastle port’s expansion.

A response from a spokeswoman did not address the question.

“The Port of Newcastle is the largest coal terminal in the world,” the spokeswoman said. “Despite this, the NSW government is supportive of the diversification of this port into new markets, especially if it results in greater outcomes for businesses and communities within NSW. Any future decision of Newcastle Port to diversify would need to be made with respect to commercial arrangements entered into by that operator.”

The n Competition and Consumer Commission is expected to conclude an investigation into whether the terms of the Port Botany and Port Kembla privatisation breaches competition law this year.

The government’slatest freights and ports strategy,released last month, offers no support for a Newcastle container terminal.

The Sydney Morning Herald

Deeper reading on aNewcastle container terminalPort of Newcastle’s new chief pushing for a container terminal(August 1, 2018)Baird government’s “strictly confidential” agreement protects Botany container terminal against Newcastle competition (July 28, 2016)Port of Newcastle says Newcastle needs a container terminal (December 18, 2017)Hunter industrial companies back call for Newcastle container terminal (May 16, 2018)Port of Newcastle chairman Roy Green takes criticism over container terminal (August 22, 2018)Newcastle container terminal would ease Sydney congestion, Newcastle Institute forum hears (April 22, 2018)Port of Newcastle and DP World no longer talking over containers (August 16, 2018)ACCC confirms new inquiry into Port of Newcastle privatisation(April 5, 2018)

Benji sees Brooks step up at Tigers

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Luke Brooks is set to make the No.7 jersey his permanently at the Wests Tigers, says Benji Marshall.Luke Brooks is ready to stamp his authority as the Wests Tigers’ No.7 for the rest of his NRL career, according to veteran Benji Marshall.

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Brooks is off-contract at the end of next season, but his future at the Tigers looks safer than ever after Nathan Cleary re-signed long-term with Penrith last month.

There had been some suggestions the Tigers could pursue Cleary in a bid to create a father-son combination with coach Ivan – a pairing that now looks likely to happen at Penrith.

Marshall was of the belief there was room for both Brooks and Cleary at the Tigers, but regardless said he’d seen enough of Brooks in 2018 to know he was ready to take the reins for good.

“What I’ve seen on Luke’s transformation this year is a belief I haven’t seen previously in Luke, where he actually believes in himself,” Marshall told AAP.

“He feels like he can take the game on and be the main man in the team and not be scared or shy of that.

“His growth gives me a lot of hope he is going to be the Tigers’ long-term No.7 for the rest of his career.”

Brooks had undoubtedly his best season for the Tigers in 2018, claiming their player-of-the-year award as well as the Dally M halfback of the year.

With a senior five-eighth in Marshall back by his side and more experience around the club, the one-time teenage prodigy’s game reached its potential as he returned to his running best.

At age 23, he had more runs, linebreaks and tackle busts than in any other season of his six-year career as the Tigers shot out of the blocks before eventually finishing ninth.

“The pressure he has been under for the past few years, to be the next Andrew Johns was unwarranted pressure. The big four and all that rubbish,” Marshall said.

“I was just so proud to see him all turn it around. And you know how he did it? Playing the way he played when he was a kid.

“When I first saw him play he used to run the ball, take the line on and be so strong and deceivingly fast.

“And not worry about controlling the team. As a halfback sometimes you can get too caught up in trying to control the team.”

A landmark court case in Dungog Council’s favour has led to calls for government redress

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Objections: Dungog residents at a public meeting against the Martins Creek Quarry expansion. Picture: Simone De Peak.THE NSW Government and Martins Creek Quarry should compensate Dungog Shire Council after a landmark court decision found quarry operators –including state rail agencies –unlawfully extracted and transported millions of tonnes of material over two decades, say Dungog residents.

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The council deemed “unfit” for the future by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Authority (IPART) in 2015 gained little benefit from the unlawful operations, but incurred substantial costs in damage to roads from hundreds of truck movements per day that were not part of the original 1991 consent.

In the longest judgment in Land and Environment Court history Acting Justice Simon MolesworthJusticeMolesworth found the quarry was mined significantly beyond the 5 hectare footprint of the original approval as part of a“transformation” from a railway ballast quarry into an unlawful general quarry and asphalt manufacturing business.

Now Dungog Shire residents who bore the brunt of the unlawful expansion have called on the NSW Government to compensate the shire after evidence of its long-running attempts to rein in the quarry expansion, including while it was a state-run entity.

“It is disappointing that due to the conduct of the State Rail Authority, Environment Protection Authority and more recently owner Daracon in relation to the site, that for over two decades Dungog Shire Council has had to foot the bill in lost road levies totalling millions of dollars,” Martins Creek Quarry Action Group spokesperson James Ashton said.

Muswellbrook mayor and Upper Hunter Country Labor candidate Martin Rush said the NSW Government had to respond with a compensation proposal after the judgment, which outlined how unlawful expansion of the quarryoccurred many years before it was sold by RailCorp to Daracon in 2012.

Operations: One of the trucks at Martins Creek Quarry in Dungog Shire. A council win has turned attention to the cost of the unlawful quarry expansion.

Justice Molesworth agreed with the council that the quarry was restricted to 300,000 tonnes per year, with only 30 per cent to be transported by truck, and limited to 36 truck movements per day.

But Rail Infrastructure Corporation recorded significant increases per year so that more than 770,000 tonnes of material was produced in 2004, with more than 4.5 million tonnes of material quarried over the previous decade.

By 2014 Daracon had increased production to 900,000 tonnes per year, with an application to increase it to 1.5 million tonnes. The quarried material was used to construct Hunter road projects and involved hundreds of truck movements per day.

Martins Creek Quarry Action Group spokesperson James Ashton Victory: Dungog Shire Council expressed relief after winning a landmark Land and Environment Court case against the operators of the Martins Creek Quarry.

“Not everything should be sheeted home to the present owner which is why it’s important the State Government comes to the party and sorts out safe appropriate access to and from the quarry,” Mr Rush said.

“Hauling material through Paterson and other villages on small local roads is unsafe and inappropriate. The quarry is an important provider of local jobs.”

Mr Rush said the government also needed to negotiate the cost of continued operations at the quarry –pending a new development application –on local roads.

During the NSW Government amalgamation process, while the council was criticised for taking on the expensive legal challenge to the quarry, the then Dungog mayor Harold Johnston met with government ministers to discuss the need for adequate government roads funding.

In evidence to the court Daracon argued that 60 truck movements per hour from the quarry was “within the bounds of reason”.

Justice Molesworth said the level of unlawful truck movements over many years meant it was “not surprising the road has deteriorated”.

“It is highly likely that the increase in truck movements has contributed to the poor state of the main road, and thus the further decrease in amenity in Paterson,” he said.

The Martins Creek Quarry Action Group said a new proposal for 60 trucks per hour and 280 trucks per day was “still completely unacceptable”.

A Daracon spokesperson said a road levy arrangement between RailCorp and Dungog Council, which earnt the council a sum for each tonne removed from the quarry, expired in 2012 before Daracon took over the quarry.

“Daracon anticipates that the new consents currently being applied for will address what we consider to be our corporate responsibility to make contributions towards road maintenance and other related matters,” the spokesperson said.

The factor forcing students out of Catholic schools

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Enrolemts in Sydney Catholuc School are down for the first time in 20 yearsEnrolments in NSW Catholic high schools have dropped for the first time in almost 20 years and are down overall in Catholic schools for the first time since 2008 as struggling families are forced into overcrowded public schools.
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The latest enrolment figures show there are 219,862 students in the state’s systemic Catholic schools, down 179 from last year, according to the minutes of the NSW Catholic Education Commission’s March meeting.

Schools in the Maitland diocese had the largest enrolment increase, with 392 extra students this year, while the largest decline was in the Parramatta diocese, with saw a drop of 353 students.

At the same, the latest enrolment figures from the NSW Department of Education show that some public schools within the area covered by the Parramatta diocese have ballooned by about 20 per cent in just four years.

“This is the first year since 2008 in which total enrolments have declined from the previous year [and] this is the first year since 1999 in which secondary enrolments have declined,” the minutes say.

Maitland-Newcastle and Wollongong dioceses had enrolment growth in both their primary and high schools, the minutes say.

“Sydney and Lismore also grew overall but declined in the secondary and primary sectors respectively.”

The executive director of Catholic education in Parramatta, Greg Whitby, said there were substantial financial pressure on families in western Sydney.

“House prices and rental costs, as well as general cost of living increases, are putting many families in a situation where they don’t feel that they can afford even the modest cost of systemic Catholic schools fees,” Mr Whitby said.

But Mr Whitby said some parents were also “hesitant” about the “strong school transformation agenda” in Parramatta.

“For some communities, this student-centred, inquiry-based learning model is very different from what they know or are used to. For the schools that have embraced this contemporary approach to learning and schools, they are doing outstandingly well,” Mr Whitby said.

“Others are more hesitant or are still in the early stages of change. We believe this is reflected in enrolment numbers.”

In the Sydney diocese, primary school enrolments increased by more than 100 students but there was a “slight decline” of less than 50 students from their secondary schools, according to a spokeswoman.

“Preliminary research shows that some families, particularly in the southwest regions of Sydney, are already struggling to make ends meet especially due to the mortgage stress of the Sydney housing market,” the spokeswoman said.

“Only 35 per cent of families in our south-west Sydney schools can comfortably afford a Catholic education, while 15 per cent find it a real struggle.”

The spokeswoman said the Catholic systemic schools had always maintained to keep school fees “affordable to the bare minimum required to deliver a quality education”.

The fees for years 7 to 8 are about $1600 per year, increasing to about $1700 per year for years 9 and 10 and $2200 per year for years 11 to 12, according the the Sydney Catholic Schools website.

“The reality however, with the current uncertainty in Commonwealth’s announced 10-year funding school model means, Sydney Catholic Schools could face fee increase potentially forcing some families to seek enrolments in the already overcrowded state education sector,” the spokeswoman said.

Prison officer ‘plotted to murder husband’ after affair

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After 23 years of marriage, Sharon and Dean Yarnton??? planned one last meal together before they went their separate ways.
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They had dinner with friends at Merrylands Bowling Club, and got into their car to go home late at night.

About 1am on February 1, 2015, Mr Yarnton woke in the passenger seat and heard a “hissing sound” coming from an open gas bottle in the car, and found his socks soaked with petrol.

Ms Yarnton, 50, is now facing trial in the NSW District Court, charged with attempting to cause an explosion or fire with the intent to murder of Mr Yarnton???.

Married couple Monique Hayes, 25, and Fady Houda, 24, face the same charge, with prosecutors alleging they were part of the plot???.

All three have pleaded not guilty.

Crown prosecutor Guy Newton told the jury they would hear evidence the Yarntons were high-ranking prison officers, and Ms Yarnton found out Mr Yarnton was having an affair with one of their colleagues.

Tension and animosity grew as they separated, but continued to live together in their Menai home while it was being sold, Mr Newton said.

In January, Ms Yarnton went to a bank to request a $25,000 loan, telling the manager loan sharks were after her husband.

“Ms Yarnton was, prior to the event, trying to set up some records of some person being after her husband,” Mr Newton said.

After the loan was granted, Ms Yarnton withdrew the money, and had a conversation with the bank manager.

“[Ms Yarnton] said words along the following lines: that she was counting down the days until she got the f—er out of her life. She also said words to the effect of ‘I wouldn’t care if he burned to death’.”

During the Yarntons’ final night out, Ms Yarnton bought her husband a beer, and security cameras captured her pouring it into another glass at the bar.

“[Ms Yarnton] put some substance in the drink with the intention of somehow making Mr Yarnton more drowsy,” Mr Newton said.

When Mr Yarnton woke up alone in the car on Henry Lawson Drive at Picnic Point, finding gas bottles and petrol in and around his car, he called Ms Yarnton.

“She said she had no idea and said that she was going to the toilet, that she was defecating in the bushes. She said that she was lost and she was in the bush,” Mr Newton said.

DNA allegedly matching Mr Houda was on a black glove found near the car, the court heard.

During police interviews, Ms Yarnton said she had no knowledge of the petrol or gas, but that Mr Houda offered to find someone to “kneecap” Mr Yarnton after Ms Yarnton told the young couple he was abusive.

Ms Hayes told police she had met with Ms Yarnton, who showed her a bag containing $20,000 cash, and asked her if she would kill Mr Yarnton.

The 25-year-old told police both she and Mr Houda declined.

But Mr Newton said there were message exchanges and phone calls between the trio on the night of the alleged attempted murder that appeared to discuss arrangements.

Defence barrister Michael Pickin told the jury Mr Houda denied any involvement. Mark Austin, for Ms Hayes, told the jury the trio were effectively facing separate trials and implored them to listen to all the evidence.

The trial continues before Judge Paul Lakatos???.

BDAFL side get shot at Sydney

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The Black Diamond squad beat Sydney under-22s by 48 points three years ago at No.1 Sportsground.The Black Diamond AFL representative squad will get the chance to prove themselves when they finally meet their Sydney AFL counterparts on Saturday.
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The Black Diamond squad have won their past four fixtures, against Farrer in Wagga Wagga in 2013 and 2016, the NSW/ACT under-23s in 2015 and Sydney under-22s in 2014. They also beat the powerful Riverina squad in 2010 in Wagga Wagga.

Coach Chris Bishop said his side had won as underdogs in most of those games, and will have another chance to knock over a more fancied rival on Saturday at Adelaide St Oval on the Central Coast.

“We’ve been asking for this game for the past few years,” Bishop said.

“Everywhere we go we’ve always been rated as second best whoever we play, the Riverina, the Farrer guys.

“We’ve knocked over those guys, so we just wanted the opportunity to play a bigger league and better players.

“The guys have got it now, so hopefully we can perform.”

Bishop said Sydney would be tough opponents.

“They normally give us the under 23s from their league, but obviously we’ve won the last four, so they’ve given us a challenge, which is really good for us. I can’t wait for it.

“Obviously they’ve got a massive pool. There’s some great players down there, but our league’s come on in leaps and bounds in the last five or five or six years. The depth’s not as strong, but individually we should be right.”

The BDAFL women’s side will play Sydney at noonbefore the men at 2.15pm.

Black Diamond men’s squad: Marcus DeLeur, Tom Yensch, Zac Metcalfe (Cardiff); Scott Reed, Beau Cubillo, Alex Bailey, Tim Oosterhoff (Killarney Vale); Wade Beard, Pat McMahon (Maitland); Chris Eddy, Jeremy Eddy, Luke Price, Todd Thornton (Nelson Bay); Conor Haswell, Mac O’Malley, Aaron Seen (Newcastle City); Alex Mitchell (Singleton); Corey Billins, Corbin Bond, Sam Ellis, Kurt Fleming, James Hart, Mark Skuse (Terrigal Avoca); Ben Kernahan, Rob Schindler-Taylor (Warners Bay).Black Diamond women’ssquad:Karina Berry, Rebecca Collins, Emily Crookes, Rachael Elcoate, Alison Parkin (Gosford); Georgia Butler, Tarryn O’Hehir (Killarney Vale); Jacqui Dudgeon, Sarah Burns, Sarah James (Maitland); Jemma Astley, Sophie Balcombe, Lauren Cooper, Kate Holland, Jess Phillips, Pippa Smyth, Lisa Steane (Nelson Bay); Audrey Gillingham, Kailee Goodwin, Sarah Halvorsen, Meaghan MacDonald, Paige Mathewson, Erin White (Newcastle City); Kate Booth (Warners Bay); Rebecca Ives (Wyong Lakes).

Newcastle boxer Scott Edwards charged with sexual assault offences

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ACCUSED: Newcastle boxer Scott Edwards has been charged with six counts of aggravated sexual assault. His solicitor, Chris O’Brien, said on Wednesday that his client “vehemently rejects any wrongdoing”. Picture: Phil HearneA NEWCASTLE boxer accused of multiple sexual assault offences “vehemently rejects any wrongdoing” and is being “set-up” by his ex-wives,Newcastle Local Court has heard.
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Scott Edwards, 30, was due to defend his NSW welterweight title at Wests City on April 1 this year.

But instead of headlining “Detonation 8”, Mr Edwards – who operates Sapphire Boxing and Fitness in Newcastle – was in jail charged with six counts of aggravated sexual assault on a victim under the age of 16 years, an offence which carries a maximum of 20 years in jail.

Mr Edwards appeared in Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday via audio visual link from Parklea Correctional Centre, where his solicitor, Chris O’Brien, applied for bail on his behalf.

As well as the sexual assault offences, which are alleged to have occurred during 2012, Mr Edwards was charged on the same day with break-and-enter and installing a listening device,the court heard.

Mr O’Brien said Mr Edwards had given an electronically recorded interview with police where he had denied all allegations.

“He vehemently rejects any wrongdoing and, in fact, in his interview the propositions are put to him simply and he denies them all,” Mr O’Brien told Magistrate Robert Stone.

Mr O’Brien said Mr Edwards suspects he was “set-up” by his former partners, who he said “could have put their heads together” and concocted the allegations.

“Mr Edwards claims that this is just nothing more than the family just trying to get rid of Mr Edwards out of their lives,” Mr O’Brien said.

ButOffice of the Director of Public Prosecution solicitor Julie Gomez said police recorded a conversation between Mr Edwards and the alleged victim, during which Mr Edwards was allegedly “evasive” and “apologised” for something.

Mr O’Brien said his client had strong ties to the community through his family and his gym and offered up a raft of bail conditions, including a $10,000 surety, reporting to police and a type of chaperone condition, that he said would ameliorate any concerns the court would have about Mr Edwards failing to appear or committing a further offence.

Mr Stone said the conditions proposed by Mr O’Brien could mitigate many of the risks suggested by Ms Gomez.“But ultimately the assessment boils down to the strength of the case,” Mr Stone said.

He described the prosecution case against Mr Edwards as “reasonably strong” and said hehad “significant concerns” that the Newcastle boxer “couldn’t remember” certain things during his police interview.

Mr Edwards was refused bail and the matter was adjourned to June 28.

ANALYSIS: No quick fix for Dungog’s ratepayers

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TOUGH JOB: Dungog Council General Manager Craig Deasey, who believes councillors should pursue a merger with Port Stephens Council. Picture: Simone De Peak
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THE question for Dungog ratepayers after Tuesday’s decision to avoid pursuing a merger with Port Stephens at least before the September election is: what happens now?

Well, depends who you ask.

Nancy Knudsenand the other councillors who stuck with their original May 1 motion to avoid the merger expect the council to now begin working on the alternate decision they reached that night.

That is, for the general manager and mayor tobegin negotiations with Maitland, Port Stephens, the NSW government and the Boundaries Commission.

There’s doubt aboutwhether those options are viable, though. The role of the Boundaries Commission, for example, is to report matters referred to it by the Local Government Minister –and Dungog’s general manager Craig Deasey told theNewcastle Heraldon Wednesday that he wasn’t yet sure whether it would be possible to execute the motion.

There’s also hope of other financial aid.

The freeze on indexation on financial assistance grants has been lifted, and Port Stephens MP Kate Washington has suggested Hunter Councils are thinking of ways to help Dungog alleviate its $40 million infrastructure backlog.

But it’s not clear how much more money will flow into the council’s coffers as a result of the financial grants, and even Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent –the head of Hunter Councils –isn’t convinced their plan wouldbe enough.

“I don’t know whether they [Dungog] are saveable if both the general manager and mayor are saying there’s very little that can be done,” he said.

Here’s the reality though: whether Dungog amalgamatesor not, its rates are going up.

Using the mean land value in Dungog of $125,000 as a measure, ananalysis of 2016/17 residential ratesshow a huge discrepancy between Dungog, Maitland and Port Stephens.

In Dungog villagearatepayer coughs up $581, compared to $994 fornon-urban residential areas in Maitland and $785 in Port Stephens.