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Petrol price rise fuels anger

Written By miftah nugraha on Sabtu, 09 Februari 2013 | 19.55

THE sharp rise in petrol prices is a mystery, Tasmania's peak motoring body says.

RACT public policy general manager Vince Taskunus said calls from irate RACT members since late last week indicated Tasmania had been hit by an across-the-board increase of about 5c a litre -- from about 150.9c to 155.0c a litre for unleaded petrol.

A recent fall in the value of the Australian dollar could not have triggered the petrol rise because it took at least five days for supplies of the more expensive fuel to flow through, he said.

RACT members had asked him whether this week's rises resulted from moves by supermarket chains to increase shopper docket petrol discounts from 4c to 8c a litre.

A Woolworths spokesperson blamed price rises on the rising wholesale costs.


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The last train pulls out

APRIL 13, 2013. The coal is shovelled into the firey furnace. The steam rises. The whistle blows for the final time. The brakes are released, and a train creaks along the long and winding track, slowly at first before building momentum. This is the last journey of the Abt Railway.

The story of the pioneers who built the original track more than 100 years ago will only be told in history books.

The hand-hewn rock cuttings and ancient rainforests never again seen by international tourists.

It's a $35 million investment in regional tourism that's run out of steam. Fallen off the tracks. Lost its puff. Been derailed.

It's predicted the already fragile railway infrastructure will fall into ruin in no time.

Left unmanaged, the 35km track will give in to slippage and rot, and troublesome weed will overtake the rail corridor, threatening the pristine wilderness it intersects.

The best case scenario, says Tourism Industry Council Tasmania chairman Simon Currant, is a short-term shutdown until October so that long over-due repairs can be done.

But that's only if someone coughs up the $5.8 million needed for upgrades.

It's a big "if" and it doesn't give much hope to the 48 people employed on the railway, from steam train drivers to office managers and tour guides.

There are also the businesses that will be indirectly affected. The hotels will have no tourists to stay in them. Coach companies will have no one to transfer. Coffee shops will have no diners.

Many staff at these businesses have already been put on notice and are looking for work elsewhere.

With them will go their families.

It's a hefty loss for a town of just 2500 people.

"Queenstown will become nothing more than a drive-in, drive-out mining town if this continues," one local lamented.

The community has forged an identity on the success of the railway attraction in recent years.

There's the Railway Express general store, the West Coaster Hotel, Tracks Cafe and the Railway Hotel Motel.

A Queenstown without the railway is like a Port Arthur without an historic site.

There's been much debate this week about the importance of regional tourism to the state economy and outright criticism of Premier Lara Giddings and Tourism Minister Scott Bacon.

They took centre stage as accolades from Lonely Planet and Trip Adviser rolled in last year on the back of MONA's impact in the national market.

They were patting themselves on the back when Tiger Airways returned to Tasmanian skies and Qantas and Virgin increased flights.

But at a crisis community meeting in Queenstown there were calls for Ms Giddings to make an appearance, and Mr Bacon found himself defending slashes to tourism marketing in past budgets.

After the meeting, it was Infrastructure Minister David O'Byrne who fronted waiting media as Mr Bacon drove past the throng in his chauffeur-driven car.

But locals and tourism groups were asking how long the State Government could lean on the likes of MONA.

Mr Bacon told the Mercury he was committed to "supporting the regional tourism sector".

"This financial year, we're spending more than $10 million marketing Tasmania as a world-class destination to potential visitors interstate and overseas, with an additional $1 million for marketing activities announced towards the end of last year," he said.

"[Tourism Tasmania] are also promoting the West Coast's tourism industry through funding to the Cradle Coast Authority for co-operative marketing activities with local operators to promote the area's tourism activities and experiences, and stimulate the bookings."

But there is little sign of stimulated bookings in Queenstown.

West Coaster Hotel owner Brett Cannon said the railway's uncertain future was already having an impact on businesses in the area.

He put renovation work on hold after taking a $16,000 hit in bookings and cancellations in just four days after news of the railway's closure.

Debate rages about who should take responsibility for the $5.8 million repair bill -- the State Government or gambling and tourism juggernaut the Federal Group, which had a 20-year government lease to run it.

But pointing the finger after the event won't help.

The Federal Group has wiped its hands of the venture and was given approval to do so.

The struggle now is to find the cash to fix the railway and a new operator to run the attraction.

The tourism council wants the Federal Government to put up $5.8 million to repair the track, with the State Government to fund operating costs and losses for two years while it tries to secure a long-term operator.

ABT RAILWAY'S WILD RIDE

The Abt Railway may once again disappear into the ancient forests of the West Coast.

• Carved into the harsh landscape more than 100 years ago, the original track quickly succumbs to the rugged wilderness when it closes in 1963.

• It costs more than $35 million to restore the railway in the late 1990s, with contributions from Federal and State Governments and private developer Roger Smith.

• In 2001 the partly completed Abt Railway opens as a tourist attraction, but trains suffer several derailments. The full 35km line is completed in August 2002 with funds from the State Government. It crosses 40 bridges, wild rivers and climbs over 200 metres on its journey from Queenstown to Strahan.

• Four months later Smith sells his interest back to the State Government for $10.2 million -- enough to recover his investment. Eighteen months later he receives a payout of $836,000 from the State Government for the loss of revenue caused by construction delays.

• In late 2002 Federal Group signs a 20-year lease to run the attraction as the West Coast Wilderness Railway. More than 39,300 people ride the railway in 2002-03.

• The Tourism and Transport Forum says the attraction increases the amount of time people spend in the region from an average of 1.3 to 1.8 nights per person.

• Two of the original five Abt locomotives that operate on the railway are believed to be the oldest, fully restored working locomotives in the world.


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Club attack man spared jail

A YOUNG man has been given a suspended jail term for a drunken attack on a stranger in a Hobart nightclub.

Matthew Roland Almond, 18, of Rokeby, pleaded guilty to a charge of assault over the incident at Syrup on July 29 last year.

Almond and a friend were sitting at one end of a couch in the nightclub when his friend punched a man sitting at the other end of the couch.

When the pair fell on to the couch, Almond joined in and punched the victim about 14 times to the head.

Justice Helen Wood said the attack was recorded by CCTV cameras inside the venue.

"Mr Almond struck a man who was already down, a man who had already been the victim of an unwarranted assault," the judge said.

Justice Wood said the victim suffered a fractured eye socket, had been forced to take three weeks off work to recover from the injuries and continued to suffer migraines brought on by the attack.

Almond, who was drunk at the time of the attack, was extremely remorseful but could not remember his actions or their motivation.

He described his behaviour as "disgusting" and said he had dramatically reduced his alcohol intake since the incident.

Justice Wood sentenced Almond to nine months' jail but suspended the sentence for two years on the condition Almond not commit an offence punishable by imprisonment.

She also ordered him to perform 182 hours of community service.

david.killick@news.com.au


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One of the good guys

Written By miftah nugraha on Jumat, 08 Februari 2013 | 19.55

CHART-topping singing sensation Guy Sebastian is heading back to Hobart as part of his largest national tour to date.

Since winning the first series of Australian Idol in 2003, Sebastian has become one of the country"s biggest stars, releasing seven multi-platinum albums and earning a place in history as the only Australian male artist with six number one singles  -- Battle Scars, Angels Brought Me Here, All I Need Is You, Out With My Baby, Like It Like That and Who's That Girl? -- to his name.

Battle Scars (featuring US rapper Lupe Fiasco) spent six weeks at number one last year and also broke Sebastian into the US market, topping the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Digital Song Chart.

Now Sebastian is looking forward to playing songs from his latest hit album Armageddon on his 40-show Get Along regional tour, which will come to Hobart City Hall on Friday May 17.

"I can't wait to get back on the road again and play songs from my new album to all of my loyal regional fans and of course I"ll play all the old favourites too!" he says.

Tickets go on sale at 9am on Wednesday from www.oztix.com.au.

kane.young@news.com.au


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The truth is out there ...

The photo Olivia Upchurch says she took from the veranda of her Dodges Ferry home on January 5. Picture: OLIVIA UPCHURCH

UNEXPLAINED sightings of strange objects and lights in the sky have Tasmanians scratching their heads.

Olivia Upchurch says she took a photo recently from the veranda of her Dodges Ferry home, in the state's south-east, but didn't notice the strange object in the foreground until she loaded it on to her computer.

"I was snapping pictures of the smoke from the fires on the peninsula," she said.

"It wasn't until a few days later I saw the object in the sky. It's strange as it doesn't appear in any of the other photos I took that day.

"I thought 'what's this' and my friend said 'it looks like a UFO to me'.

"It's very surreal. I don't know what it is."

Ms Upchurch is adamant the image has not been manipulated.

A Central Highlands couple has also reported seeing strange lights in the sky above their property on more than one occasion.

They told an ABC reporter they had seen "yellow and white lights which join together and dart off in different directions".

The couple is compiling a report for the Tasmanian UFO Investigation Centre.

  • Have you snapped anything out of ordinary? Send it to us at readerspix@dbl.newsltd.com.au

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Experts probe chopper crash

Devastation left by the fierce blaze at Molesworth. Picture: ZARA DAWTREY

EXPERTS are trying to determine what caused a helicopter to crash while battling a bushfire near Collinsvale.

Tasmania Police officers today walked to the scene of the crash to examine the badly damaged machine.

Air crash investigators will conduct a mechanical investigation but access to the stricken chopper has been hampered by fires burning nearby.

The helicopter was water bombing a home near paddocks behind Collinsvale, north-west of Hobart, late yesterday afternoon when the pilot was forced to make an emergency landing because of a sudden mechanical failure.

The Tasmania Fire Service says the pilot was badly shaken but walked away without injury.

The loss of the helicopter was a major blow for the 38 crews on duty last night, battling to save Molesworth and Collinsvale homes.

The TFS says a drop in wind speed and temperature, coupled with a small amount of rain, has improved the situation today and so far no homes have been lost.

The fire has ripped through more than 1000ha of land and evacuated residents are being asked to stay away from the area until further notice.

Glen Dhu Rd and Collins Cap Rd remain closed, with pastures scorched, fences destroyed and power poles still smouldering.

Speaking at Molesworth today, TFS district officer Mark Klop said the main fire front was burning in the cliffs behind Glen Dhu Rd.

The rugged terrain was making it very difficult to put in more containment lines.

"We've got two dozers working to build fire breaks at the moment but the helicopters have proved invaluable to us fighting this fire," he said.

"We can't get ground crews or dozers into most of the areas where the fires have been burning, so without the aircraft the situation would've been very different."

The TFS has three helicopters water bombing and conducting fly-overs to map the fire today.

Mr Klop said homes would have been lost without the aerial presence.

"They've certainly protected a lot of homes and they've also kept our ground crews safe," Mr Klop said.

"Something flares up, we tell them, and they come in and bomb it until the danger passes and we're right. They're doing an excellent job."

A "watch and act" alert is in place for residents of the fire-affected areas, with regular updates available on the TFS website.

Read more in tomorrow's Mercury ...


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Report reveals sport drug use

Written By miftah nugraha on Kamis, 07 Februari 2013 | 19.55

Chiefs of Australian sporting codes, Sports Minister Kate Lundy, ASADA CEO Aurora Andruska, Justice Minister Jason Clare and Australian Crime Commission CEO John Lawler speak at the release of the ACC's report into Australian sport. Picture: GETTY

TASMANIAN Institute of Sport boss Paul Austen cannot guarantee all athletes in Tasmania are drug-free.

Austen's comments come in the wake of the Australian Crime Commission releasing the findings of the year-long "Project Aperio".

The reports uncovered evidence of widespread use of prohibited substances -- including peptides, hormones and illicit drugs -- match-fixing and the infiltration of organised criminal groups in the distribution of performance and image enhancing drugs.

Austen said TIS athletes were well-educated in the evils of performance-enhancing substances, but he could not vouch for players from other popular sports.

"That's not a question I can answer," Austen said.

"All I can say from an Institute viewpoint is that we have zero tolerance to the use of performance-enhancing substances.

"We are signatories to the WADA code and any athlete that is involved with the institute has to operate under that code.

"And if they don't they have to suffer the consequences.

"It's impossible for anybody to know what any one individual may or may not be getting up to."

There were few sports the TIS oversaw that would involve a temptation to cheat.

"About 85 per cent of the athletes we work with day-in, day-out are in the development stage of their careers, and as such their risk profiles would be exceptionally low," Austen said.

"They all understand the consequences of getting it wrong.

"We've had a couple of instances over the institute's history where people have made errors in judgement, not necessarily to gain an advantage, and not being totally responsible for what they ingest.

"We believe we have educated our athletes well about the risk of operating in a drugs-in-sport environment, and the reality of it is the risk profile is not high."

The key points to the crime commission's findings were:

• Widespread use of peptides and hormones by professional athletes across all sports and levels

• Coaches, sports scientists and support staff orchestrating and condoning use of prohibited substances

• Some substances have not been approved for human use

• Organised crime involved in domestic distribution of performance enhancers

• Two codes briefed on the use of peptides by players from different clubs

• Officials from unnamed club identified as administering variety of substances via injection and drips, possibly including peptides and possibly in breach of anti-doping rules

• Evidence of match fixing being investigated in unnamed code

• NRL looking into a number of players from a number of clubs, but has not outlined allegations

• Concerning relationships identified between professional athletes and criminal identities

Read more on the ACC report at news.com.au


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Cup compassion runneth over

WHILE many punters pray for a winner, Father Laurie Moate will be asking his congregation to spare a thought for others when he delivers a special mass ahead of Sunday's 2013 Hobart Cup.

The pre-cup mass used to be a traditional event on Hobart's racing calendar and it's one Father Moate will revive on Saturday after an almost 20-year gap.

The service, starting at 6pm, will be held at the St John's Catholic Parish in Glenorchy.

Father Moate will offer prayers for all cup participants -- especially jockeys, who put their lives at risk every time they hop aboard a race horse.

A traditional Melbourne Cup mass has been celebrated for the past 54 years in the Victorian capital.

"It's a great way to get involved in the week-long festivities of the Hobart Cup and a perfect opportunity for people involved in the sport to gather together," Father Moate said of the resurrected cup eve mass.

"It's also a time to be mindful of what jockeys go through in their day-to-day life as they provide entertainment for many people who follow the sport.

"It's a time to pray for the safety of all involved in racing -- including the horses."

Father Moate has a keen eye for the horses and suggests that Fieldmaster (Michelle Payne) and Geegees Blackflash (Peter Mertens) will prove hard to beat in the cup on Sunday.

Payne and former jockey Kevin Ring are among many racing industry identities planning to attend Saturday's service.

A collection will be taken for the National Jockeys Trust, which raises money for riders and their families who may have fallen on hard times.


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State jobless rate grows

TASMANIA'S unemployment woes continue to grow, with new figures showing the state's jobless rate at 7.4 per cent.

The State Opposition said the figures showed the State Government's jobs plan was not working.

However, Premier Lara Giddings said the figures highlighted the need for the Tasmanian Jobs Package – which was unveiled late last year.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show, in trend terms, Tasmania leads the nation in unemployment.

The national jobless rate stands at 5.4 per cent. Western Australia (4.3 per cent) and the Northern Territory (3.9 per cent) have the lowest jobless rates in the country.


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GG tours fire-ravaged region

Written By miftah nugraha on Rabu, 06 Februari 2013 | 19.55

Dunalley residents Noel and Judy Young show Governor-General Quentin Bryce the site where their home once stood. Picture: NIKKI DAVIS-JONES

THE Governor-General has paid tribute to the fighting spirit of Tasmania's fire-ravaged communities.

Quentin Bryce arrived in Hobart yesterday after a whirlwind Antarctic visit.

She today visited some of the 193 properties ravaged by a fire that started on January 4 and wiped out homes and livelihoods in the Dunalley and Murdunna areas in the state's south-east.

To see the gallery, click here

"I've met people today who have lost everything, so many treasures, so many things that make up their memories across generations, but I am struck by the courage that shines through," she said at Sommers Bay this afternoon.

"There are people who are retired and who are starting all over again, then there are the children we've been talking to who lost everything except for one Christmas present.

"From time to time they break down in tears … but we know they'll all get going.

"What I want to do is anything I can to ensure we keep our commitment to being part of this road to recovery ahead with them."

Ms Bryce thanked Tasmania Fire Service chief Mike Brown for his team's life-saving efforts in the face of extreme danger.

She also praised the mateship shown by hundreds of interstate and New Zealand firies who travelled to Tasmania to help out.

"I am so filled with admiration and respect for the emergency services workers and the marvellous volunteers," Ms Bryce said.

"I feel enormously proud of the spirit of our fellow Australians."

Ms Bryce also visited the resurrected Dunalley Primary School -- razed by fire on January 4 -- to inspect the rapid progress being made.

Several temporary classrooms will open for business next Wednesday.

"This is a story about hope and courage and a reminder of how volatile this beautiful landscape can be," the Govenor-General said.

"It makes you think very deeply and with enormous gratitude that no one's been hurt, that nobody's been badly injured."

Those who met Ms Bryce said they were heartened by her visit.

"We see we have so much support from so many people out there and it really does make such a difference," Boomer Bay resident Simon Brooks said.

"We'll get there."

Ms Bryce ended her tour of the fire zone with lunch and a chat with affected residents at the local golf club.

She is due to fly out of Hobart later today.


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Molesworth fire alert

WATER-BOMBING helicopters were flying in relays today to protect properties from a bushfire in rugged terrain near the Derwent Valley hamlet of Molesworth.

More than 20 fire crews were on the scene of the blaze this afternoon, which was burning through bush near Glen Dhu Rd.

Many residents in the area evacuated ahead of the fire front.

Readers' pictures can be emailed to readerspix@dbl.newsltd.com.au  

Several local roads were closed, with police setting up barriers to control traffic.

The Tasmania Fire Service warned residents of the impending threat.

It issued a "watch and act" alert this afternoon, saying the fire could affect Molesworth, Glenlusk and Collinsvale within hours.

Read more in tomorrow's Mercury


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Burke names trawler panel

FEDERAL Environment Minister Tony Burke will wait for legal advice before deciding if a banned super trawler should be allowed to operate as a giant freezer for smaller ships fishing in Australian waters.

The company behind the Abel Tasman, the factory ship controversially banned from fishing last year, has written to Mr Burke about its proposal to act as a "mother ship" for smaller vessels.

Under the proposal from Seafish Tasmania, small ships could transfer catches of mackerel and redbait to the Abel Tasman's large onboard freezer facilities for processing.

Mr Burke rushed legislation through parliament in September giving him new powers to ban the trawler for two years while its environmental impact was assessed by an expert panel.

He can also refer new fishing methods to that expert panel for review and take further action to make those activities illegal if necessary.

Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie, a staunch opponent to the vessel, said Seafish Tasmania was cynically attempting to circumvent the ban and asked what Mr Burke was doing to "stop the madness".

Mr Burke said he had asked his department to prepare fresh legal advice about this proposal and wouldn't prejudge the outcome.

"But on the face of it, many of the environmental issues we were dealing with a few months ago still arise in this new proposal," he told parliament.

The minister has written to Seafish Tasmania warning the company he reserved the right to deny their proposal.

Mr Burke today announced the make-up of a four-member expert panel chosen to determine the future of super trawlers in Australia.

The panel will assess the environmental impacts of factory vessels like the Abel Tasman, the largest factory ship ever to enter Australia.

Its plan to fish for an 18,000 tonnes catch in waters stretching from southern Queensland to the Bass Strait and Western Australia caused public outcry and led to Mr Burke taking action.

The panel will be chaired by Mary Lack, a company director with more than 25 years of experience in fisheries management.

The panel has until October next year to make its conclusions and report back to the environment minister.


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West Coast railway out of puff

Written By miftah nugraha on Senin, 04 Februari 2013 | 19.55

Federal Group has run the West Coast Wilderness Railway for the past 10 years, under lease from the Tasmanian Government.

THE future of West Coast tourism is facing derailment, with plans to shut down one of the region's most popular attractions.

Federal Group today announced it would stop running the West Coast Wilderness Railway on April 30.

The move comes just 12 years after federal and state governments contributed more than $35 million to the restoration of the track connecting Queenstown and Strahan.

The closure will also jeopardise the future of 48 railway employees.

The Abt Railway in pictures

Federal Group has run the Wildness Railway for the past 10 years, under lease from the Tasmanian Government. But escalating capital and maintenance costs have brought the venture to a halt.

"In 2002, Federal Group took on the role of operating the West Coast Wilderness Railway with the expectation that the asset would be fit for purpose with ongoing maintenance," Federal Group corporate affairs director Daniel Hanna said.

"However, with capital and maintenance requirements becoming progressively more onerous, the company became concerned last year and engaged expert engineering consulting firm Worley Parsons to undertake an assessment of the state of the infrastructure.

"The report confirmed that significant capital investment would be required in the near future to address issues with the state of the track infrastructure, including the sleepers, rail and ballast."

Mr Hanna said the attraction had also suffered a drop in patronage.

"It has been a very difficult environment for regional tourism in Tasmania in recent years and no part of the state has felt this more than the West Coast," he said.

"The number of passengers on the railway declined from nearly 45,000 a year about five years ago to just over 30,000 in the last year."

More than 80 per cent of the 400,000 people who rode the railway in the past decade were from interstate and overseas.

The Tourism Industry Council Tasmania will hold a special board meeting tomorrow to consider the implications of the closure.

"The issue now is what happens to this asset that is owned by the Tasmanian people and was built by the Tasmanian and Australian governments for $35 million just 12 years ago," TICT chairman Simon Currant said.

"The Australian Tourism Award-winning West Coast Wilderness Railway is one of the world's outstanding and unique heritage rail experiences.

"It is integral to the Tasmanian visitor experience and the West Coast's fragile tourism industry."

The Wilderness Railway has won several tourism awards, including three Tasmanian Tourism awards and an Australian Tourism Award for best "significant regional tourism attraction".

Federal Group said railway employees would be able to apply for other positions within the company, where available.

Read more in tomorrow's Mercury.


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Eye tests essential for tweens

Inessa Corney, 15, and sister Raphaela Corney, 11, trying on glasses in Hobart. Picture: NIKKI DAVIS-JONES

UP to 60 per cent of children with learning problems have an undiagnosed vision problem, says the Optometrists Association.

Thousands of Tasmanian children have undetected vision problems including short sightedness, which usually crops up about the age of 12 or 13.

State association spokesman and Hobart optometrist Andrew Hogan, who specialises in paediatric optometry, said it was vital children were tested when they started school.

They should also be re-tested every two to three years.

Eye examinations as children entered the teenage years were particularly important.

"Kids won't tell you they can't read comfortably or that things are blurry, so the only way to know is by testing," Mr Hogan said.

All eye tests have a Medicare rebate and most optometrists bulk bill.


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Teens torch four cars in a night

A GROUP of teens who torched four vehicles in one night had shown "complete disregard" for their victims, a Hobart judge has said.

The Supreme Court in Hobart heard James William Lynch, 19, and three 18-year-old mates met up on July 6 last year and decided to entertain themselves by stealing cars.

Seven vehicles were targeted, with four set alight and destroyed.

One of the victims was unable to work without a car and his family suffered as a result.

The court heard the four teens first drove to Margate and stole five cans of fuel.

Lynch then drove the group to Montagu St, in Hobart, where they were thwarted in their efforts to steal a Subaru Liberty because it had an immobiliser fitted.

They continued on to Cross St, New Town, and broke into a Nissan Patrol wagon. They stole a computer inside the vehicle before driving it into a boomgate near Tolosa St Reserve and setting it on fire.

The next stop was Spring St, Claremont, where they stole a Nissan Navara and torched it.

The group then moved on Baker St, New Town, and broke into a Toyota Hiace van to steal a Navman GPS.

After failing to steal a Nissan Skyline at Glebe, the group drove to Fletcher Ave, Moonah, where they took a Toyota SUV with a trailer attached and "hooned" around a Moonah car park.

They set fire to the SUV after driving through a fence and hitting an excavator.

Still on a rampage at 7am, they stole a Subaru Brumby in Montagu St and drove it to Risdon Cove before setting it alight.

Police later identified one of the teens as a suspect, which led to Lynch being apprehended.

"He said that he had no explanation for what had happened and acknowledged the stupidity of his conduct, saying that if he could turn back the clock he would," Justice David Porter said in sentencing Lynch.

"He seems to be genuinely remorseful for his actions."

The judge told Lynch the group's conduct had caused considerable distress.

Lynch was sentenced two years and three months in jail, wholly suspended on the condition he completes 150 hours of community service and complies with a probation order.


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Mum wouldn't do this to us

Written By miftah nugraha on Minggu, 03 Februari 2013 | 19.55

WHEN the Royal Hobart Hospital's chief radiation physicist disappeared from his yacht at Sandy Bay on Australia Day 2009, two families were plunged into a controversy that rages still.

Bob Chappell, 65, had owned the $200,000 yacht Four Winds with his lover of 20 years, Susan Neill-Fraser.

By the time police arrived about 7am on January 27, waves were lapping over the vessel, which was estimated to have been sinking for between nine and 12 hours.

An officer found blood aboard but there was no sign of Mr Chappell.

Despite extensive searches of the River Derwent, neither his body nor a murder weapon was ever found.

In 2010 Neill-Fraser was found guilty of Mr Chappell's murder.

At the time of sentencing, Hobart Supreme Court judge Alan Blow said he was convinced the then 54-year-old had attacked Mr Chappell, weighted his body with a fire extinguisher and dumped it overboard before sabotaging their yacht to cover her tracks.

Mr Chappell's family, including his son Timothy and daughter Kate, had appeared as witnesses during the trial but were not present when the verdict was handed down.

Neill-Fraser was sentenced to 26 years behind bars, with a non-parole period of 18 years.

Last March the sentence was reduced on appeal to 23 years, with a minimum 13-year term.

The convicted killer remains locked up in women's minimum security at Risdon Prison and, because she is still unwilling to admit guilt, will probably be kept there until she has served the maximum penalty.

Her daughters and supporters cannot accept this.

They, and a legal team made up of prominent freedom-fighters Barbara Etter, Greg Barns, Madeleine Ogilvie and Tom Percy QC, are working on a petition for mercy and have launched a bid for a full and public coronial inquiry in the hope it might clear Neill-Fraser's name.

Her family insists the whole truth is yet to come out.

Sarah Bowles, 28, and expecting her first child next month, is adamant her mother is innocent.

"Yes I'm her daughter, but I'm also a thinking person," Mrs Bowles said.

"Our primary concern is to find the truth about what happened to Bob. There are many unanswered questions and disturbing aspects surrounding the police investigation. The best way to now resolve this is through a coronial inquiry.

"We are confident in Mum's innocence. I've seen all the evidence. I don't believe they have proof Mum is guilty beyond reasonable doubt and as such, I believe there has been a miscarriage of justice.

"I think humans are capable of doing bad things, but Mum would never put us through this. I believe an innocent person is sitting in prison."

Neill-Fraser's supporters list a raft of issues they believe were never fully explored before the jury that convicted the accomplished horsewoman and keen "yachtie".

"Mum was not physically capable of carrying out the crime she has been accused of," Mrs Bowles said.

"She loved Bob and when he disappeared she was frantic, absolutely distraught.

"She was waiting for him to come through the door and my husband and I moved in with her because she wasn't coping with the grief.

"Then, suddenly, there was a change in the community's perception ... people who'd never met Mum accused her of being cold, detached, but when we hear that it's like they're talking about a different person. Mum is warm, loving.

"There is so much inaccurate gossip and rumour circulating in the community and I'm worried this influenced the court case. Despite Mum's first husband attending every court appearance in her support, people still say to me that they heard that she murdered him also. It's just incredible to hear when he is standing right there beside me offering support."

Mrs Bowles and her older sister, Emma, grew up with Mr Chappell.

Mrs Bowles was just 24 when he disappeared and holds power-of-attorney for her imprisoned mother.

Instead of riding horses or cooking meals with her mother, these days they spend their precious time together under guard in a stark prison.

The family accepts Mr Chappell is most likely dead.

Any suggestion he deliberately absconded does not resonate with those who knew him.

"Bob would never see Mum go through something like this. It doesn't make sense but it's very hard with no body," Mrs Bowles said.

"I still find myself looking for him in crowds."

On top of living with the public stigma of being Neill-Fraser's daughter, Mrs Bowles and her sister have essentially had two parents taken from them.

Emma gave birth to her second child last month.

Mrs Bowles will give birth to her first child without her mother beside her.

Mrs Bowles said her mother had made the best of her situation, mentoring other prisoners and planting a vegetable garden.

"I lean on my husband, Mark, a lot," she said.

"But for Mum, at the end of the day there are those four concrete walls around her, and then they shut the door and it's just her."

The family is down to its final options after an application for leave to appeal to the High Court was rejected.

If the coroner refuses their request, they intend to petition the Attorney-General.

That is it.

Asked if it would not just be easier to accept Neill-Fraser was guilty, Mrs Bowles is considered in her response.

"Mum was 54, a middle-aged mum. She wasn't capable of carrying out the steps they said she would have had to.

"But if someone had something really compelling, something that said she did it beyond reasonable doubt, then at least I would then know what had happened to Bob ... I wouldn't look for him in crowds anymore.

"Whatever happened, I would like to know the truth. I hope a coronial inquest can help bring closure to what actually happened to Bob."

"I don't think there's ever been a major miscarriage of justice exposed in this state and we realised too late how naive we were.

"We have this mentality that the police are the good guys, if they think someone's done something, they probably have. And maybe that's true most of the time.

"But the problem is what happens if they get it wrong?"


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Young Libs' gay marriage call

THE Young Liberals will urge the Federal Liberal Party to grant a conscience vote to members on marriage equality.

Delegates at the Young Liberals conference, being held in Hobart this weekend, yesterday passed the motion, apparently proposed by Victorian member Matthew Lesh.

"The Federal Conference calls on the Federal Party to grant it's Members and Senators a conscience vote on same-sex marriage," the motion read.

Proceedings at the conference were closed to the public and the outcome of voting on motions is supposed to be confidential, but Mr Lesh wrote on Twitter at 12.26pm: "The @FedYL just passed the motion I proposed in favour of a conscience vote for same-sex marriage in the Liberal Party."

Young Liberal Movement president and Tasmanian member Trent Hasson would not confirm the outcome of the vote but said the motion had been debated.

"Any motions we pass do not become Liberal Party policy until passed by the senior party's federal council," he said.

Australian Marriage Equality national convener Rodney Croome said support from the Young Liberals highlighted how important the issue was to young Australians.

"The Young Liberal motion increases pressure on Tony Abbott to include a conscience vote in this year's Coalition election platform and adds to growing pressure for a conscience vote from within the Coalition and from within Mr Abbott's own family," he said.


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Hello world, it's Tassie calling

Battling tourism business operators, from left, Wally Lyne, Roger Self, Gary Hooper, Heather Henri, Kate McCarthy, and John Hay put out their SOS yesterday. Picture: NIKKI DAVIS-JONES

"A MILLION likes would be great ... but paying us a visit would be even better."

That's the message tourism officials hope will spread around the world, through a social media campaign to arrest the tourism downturn in the bushfire-stricken Tasman Peninsula and elsewhere in the state.

The Sunday Tasmanian today partners tourism authorities to launch the campaign and drive tourism traffic back to the state.

For many operators it should be their busiest time of the year but accommodation houses are battling for business.

Guests have cancelled holidays or asked for discounts of up to 50 per cent to stay at venues on the Tasman Peninsula or East Coast.

Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin said it was too early to tell just how much the bushfires would cost the state's tourism industry.

But operators and regional tourism groups want to take action to limit the impact and let the world know they're open for business.

Mr Martin said they wanted to send the message viral, and they needed help from everyone.

He pointed Tasmanians to the Port Arthur & Tasman Tourism Association Inc Facebook page and urged them to click "like" on the Open For Business campaign.

"Then make sure you share the post with family and friends," he said.

People are being urged to post on social media with the tags #tassiecalling and #openforbusiness.

Similar campaigns have been run in Australia and overseas with overwhelming success, sharing thousands of photographs, videos and experiences through social media to boost tourism trade and bolster local economies.

Fox and Hounds Resort owner Jo Dias was concerned it could take a long time for local tourism businesses to recover from the bushfires.

"We were into the first week of the busiest three weeks of our year [when the bushfires hit] and it just disintegrated," she said.

"Apart from the [hotel] rooms, our restaurant normally does upwards of 150 people a night. It's gone from that to zero.

"There are people worse off than we are, but in order to keep the [region] going businesses need to function."

It was a similar story for Wally Lyne from Port Arthur Villas who said guests had cancelled bookings for coming weeks, demanding full refunds, while others had offered to stay at heavily discounted rates.

"The next week or so I'm down to one or two people [staying] a night and this is a period when we're normally fully booked out," he said.

"This is the time we normally get our reserve to carry us through winter."

Tourism Minister Scott Bacon encouraged Tasmanians to support by visiting the Tasman Peninsula or East Coast for an overnight visit.

"One of the best things we can do is spend a night or two in those parts of the state that have been affected by the fires," he said.

Find more holiday and travel ideas and information on the Discover Tasmania and Tasman region websites.


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