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Election speculation grows

Written By miftah nugraha on Sabtu, 03 Agustus 2013 | 19.55

SPECULATION is growing that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is planning to visit the Governor-General tomorrow or on Monday seeking approval for a September 7 election.

Sources have told media Mr Rudd has settled on the date and is ready to start one of the most anticipated political contests in memory.

The possibility of an official start to campaigning follows Friday's delivery of an update to May's budget predicting weaker economic growth, growing unemployment and more government debt.

Another budget shambles - we're $30bn in the red

L-plate Treasurer's bad news in red

More than 800,000 Australians will be out of a job by the middle of next year, the highest level since 2002. The budget will fall further into the red, with the revelation it had already blown out by $12 billion in just 80 days.

Invoking desperate measures to cushion the economic shock, Treasurer Chris Bowen announced a further round of tax hikes and Budget cuts worth $17 billion to limit the damage.

He blamed the economic slowdown on China for a further $33 billion in revenue losses, bringing writedowns to almost $100 billion over the next four years. Almost $18 billion of that, however, was caused by lower income tax receipts as workers' wages continue to stagnate.

The May budget forecast a $18 billion deficit for this year will now reach $30.1 billion, Mr Bowen revealed. And the national debt will soon surpass $300 billion. But he suggested any attempts to stem the revenue losses in the face of slower economic growth with more savage spending cuts risked killing the economy and adding to further job losses.

Unemployment is set to rise from 5.45 per cent to 6.25 per cent this year, with economic growth also expected to contract from 2.75 per cent this year to 2.25 per cent.

Citing optimistic Treasury forecasts, Mr Bowen claimed things would improve by 2015-16, with a return to surplus of $4 billion for 2016-17 and a miraculous drop in unemployment to 5 per cent.

Claiming the economy was not in crisis but in "transition", Mr Bowen released the Government's economic election plan yesterday by allowing the budget to book $54 billion in deficits over the next two years.

Mr Bowen admitted his statement was the economic plan Labor would take to the election. He challenged the Coalition to adopt the measures.

"This is our economic plan. It has our bottom line in it, it has our costing and our funding proposals," he said.

"The Government is doing this in a transparent way. The alternative government should be doing the same. Australia is undergoing an economic transition, not a crisis, a transition which needs careful economic management. The world is growing more slowly and is having an impact on Australia."

Coalition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey accused the government of losing control: "The budget is in free-fall. The budget has fallen $3 billion a week over the last 10 weeks.

"It's blatantly obvious - Labor has lost control of the Budget and is losing control of the economy."

However, economists and business groups are questioning whether the outlook is still too optimistic in forecasting a surplus within four years.

-- with AAP

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Armed bandit robs hotel

A HAMMER-wielding bandit robbed the Black Stallion Hotel at Rocherlea last night.

Police said the man enter the hotel's gaming room about 9.40pm and demanded money from the female staff member.

He fled with an undisclosed amount of money.

Police said the man was last seen on foot heading towards the intersection on Lilydale and Georgetown roads.

Anyone with any information is asked to call Launceston CIB on 6336 3751 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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World Cup boon

HOWZAT: Cricket fans Ned Worledge, left, Varuni Kulasekera and Darragh Carey, all of Hobart, and Alex Ford, of Geeveston, are already gearing up for the World Cup matches to be played at Blundstone Arena in March 2015. Picture: NIKKI DAVIS-JONES

HOBART'S three-match World Cup coup has more than Tasmania's cricket fans excited -- and the state's tourism industry believes it has the potential to draw thousands of new visitors to the island from interstate and overseas.

Ireland, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Australia, plus a qualifying nation, will do battle at Blundstone Arena in March 2015, and Destination Southern Tasmania boss Ben Targett says the international combination could be a boon for tourism operators.

"The Irish are mad about their sport in general and travel extensively to support their national teams, and the Sri Lankan people love their cricket," Mr Targett said.

"Melbourne has a significant Sri Lankan population and we hope to work with the community there to entice strong support of their team on March 11 in Hobart."

Mr Targett also said the quadrennial one-day tournament would provide a great opportunity to showcase Tasmania to the world, with more than one billion television viewers expected to tune in.

He said Blundstone Arena had already established itself as one of the most picturesque boutique venues in world cricket, and the current $30 million grandstand development would enhance this reputation.

"Destination Southern Tasmania will be working with the Cricket World Cup 2015 preferred tour operators, our existing travel partners, and our local industry and community to make sure our festival of cricket has a truly international feel," Mr Targett said.

Lifelong Sri Lankan cricket fan and Hobart resident Varuni Kulasekera said she was overjoyed when the World Cup fixtures were announced, and she predicted an influx of brightly dressed, noisy Lions come March 2015.

"I'm so excited Sri Lanka are coming to Tasmania. It's a big thing for us, and I think it will be a great game," she said.

"I just love cricket. It's in my blood.

"And I think the Sri Lankans living in Melbourne would be very interested in coming down for the game, and we should try to promote Tasmania and everything the state can offer to that community."

Cricket Tasmania chief executive David Johnston said he was thrilled Tasmania had scored three games during the World Cup, and promised to work closely with Tourism Tasmania to attract new visitors.

"To get three games with so many different nations is a real boon for Blundstone Arena," Mr Johnston said.

"We'll be working closely with Tourism Tasmania to try to make sure we attract people. Because we have our games within a week, we are hoping people will stay and sample some of the delights of Tasmania other than the cricket."

Blundstone Arena's new stadium is expected to be unveiled in November next year.

The matches at Blundstone Arena for the 2015 ICC World Cup --

March 7: Zimbabwe v Ireland

March 11: Sri Lanka v 3rd non-Test qualifier

March 14: Australia v 3rd non-Test qualifier


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Tribute to Bett in words and art

Written By miftah nugraha on Jumat, 02 Agustus 2013 | 19.55

CREATIVE PAIRING: Poet Pete Hay, left, and artist Tom O'Hern are taking part in the tribute to contemporary arts scene pioneer Dick Bett. Picture: NIKKI DAVIS-JONES

DICK Bett's vision for a collaborative and vibrant arts community in Tasmania will be continued this month, as poets and painters pay tribute to the late gallery owner and contemporary arts scene pioneer.

Tasmanian artists such as Tom Samek, Raymond Arnold, Patrick Hall, Tom O'Hern and Barbie Kjar have been paired with some of the state's most prolific poets including Sarah Day, Richard Flanagan and Pete Hay to create works in collaboration with each other.

For 25 years, Bett ran a series of Poets and Painters exhibitions, bringing together his love of the visual arts and of poetry, with his focus on building a strong arts community in Tasmania.

"These collaborative works pushed the boundaries for both the artist and the poet," Dick's daughter Emma Bett said.

"Both practices are quite solitary and can be lonely but these collaborations push them in different directions."

Ms Bett said it was fitting that the first event reviving the project was a tribute to her father.

"Dick was challenging new ways of thinking long before MONA came along," Ms Bett said.

Poets and Painters: A Tribute to Dick Bett, AM, exhibition, featuring 32 poets collaborating with 32 artists, opened last night at Bett Gallery, 369 Elizabeth St, North Hobart, and continues to August 23.

There will also be poetry readings today at 3pm.

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Psycho thriller sets pulses racing

FINE WORDS: Co-writers Tom Holloway, left, and Jonathan auf der Heide with actors Adrienne Pickering and Oscar Redding before the public reading of the film script of This Dark Wood at Salamanca yesterday. Picture: NIKKI DAVIS JONES

HOBART theatre enthusiasts' hearts raced last night as local and interstate actors presented a script reading of The Dark Wood - a psychological thriller set on the rugged West Coast.

There are plans to turn the script into a film, which is likely to be filmed in Tasmania.

But first Tasmanian duo Jonathan auf der Heide (director) and Tom Holloway (playwright), are seeking feedback on their script, which is why it was read to the public at Salamanca's Peacock Theatre.

The free reading featured familiar faces including actors Oscar Redding (Van Diemen's Land and Top of the Lake) and Adrienne Pickering (Rake, Home and Away, Candy).

It was held as part of Screen Tasmania's Scripts Aloud initiative, which supports the development of Tasmanian screenplays by providing opportunities to have the scripts read by professional actors in front an audience.

Mr Holloway said there had been interest in the script from producers in Australia and overseas, and he hoped it would be produced in the next couple of years with a budget of between $1-$5 million.

He and Mr auf der Heide plan to shoot the film in Tasmania, to take advantage of Tasmania's scenery while boosting the local industry.

It is Mr Holloway's first screenplay.

His award-winning plays include Beyond the Neck about the 1996 Port Arthur massacre and an adaptation of Storm Boy for the Sydney Theatre Company.

Mr auf der Heide's first feature film Van Diemen's Land was partly filmed in Tasmania.


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Vote 1 for our big-wave surfers

COME on Tasmania, it's time to vote. But it has nothing to do with waves of support for our politicians.

Rather, readers have the chance to help two local surfers win $30,000 in a new competition.

Marti Paradisis and Tyler Hollmer-Cross have been invited to take part in a new national surfing competition that will run over six months and be scored by a public voting system.

The surfers have to submit a 30-second film short every month until January.

The Original Source Intense Surf Challenge is the first of its kind in Australia.

The Tasmanian pair are two of 15 Australian surfers selected based on their reputation as the country's best extreme surfing talent.

Paradisis said he was glad Tasmanian athletes were being recognised for their efforts on extreme waves.

"I just want to do Tasmania proud by bringing the first prize home to Tassie," Paradisis said.

To support these extreme Tasmanian athletes, vote at www.intensesurfchallenge.com/users/sign_up

Voters also go into the draw to win $5000.

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Not guilty plea from Gay

Written By miftah nugraha on Kamis, 01 Agustus 2013 | 19.55

FORMER Gunns chairman John Gay has entered formal pleas of not guilty to two charges of insider trading.

Mr Gay has appeared by video link in the Tasmanian Supreme Court in Hobart, where the pleas were entered to allow legal argument.

The former timber company head is accused of selling about 3.4 million shares, worth about $3 million, with knowledge about Gunns' performance that was not available to the market.

A jury is scheduled to be empanelled in Launceston on Monday.

The trial is expected to ask between three and five weeks.

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NTFL eyes off slice of TSL

AFL Tasmania has offered the NTFL half of Devonport's State League licence for free.

The NTFL board will vote on whether or not to accept the offer on Tuesday.

In what is shaping as a watershed moment for Tasmanian football, a second-tier body would own half of a TSL club.

The offer was made at the last night's meeting on the North-West Coast between the potential stakeholders involved in sharing the now vacant Devonport licence, after the northern Magpies announced they no longer want to operate it by themselves.

Under the proposal, AFL Tasmania would own 50 per cent of the Devonport licence and the NTFL would own the other half.

The two bodies would create a new club, with its own board, and use players and resources from NTFL clubs East Devonport, Ulverstone, Latrobe, and also Devonport, which hopes to drop back to become the seventh team in the NTFL.

AFL Tasmania CEO Scott Wade said today the offer had the in-principle support of Latrobe, East Devonport, Devonport and Ulverstone.

"The NTFL is rightly very proud of their competition and its overall value to the region," Wade said.

"If ratified by their full board, the NTFL should also be strongly commended for taking what is a massive step forward in respect to securing the future of their competition and more importantly positioning themselves as legitimate leaders in Tasmanian football.

"The easiest decision for the NTFL to take would be to just concentrate on what is best for their own six-club competition, however, the in-principle decision to work in partnership with AFL Tasmania in the interests of the greater good of the game clearly demonstrates the NTFL's willingness and commitment to legitimate regional leadership of AFL football."

NTFL president Andrew Richardson said it was time to think big.

"The future success of AFL football in Tasmania will be based on regional and state leaders of our great game being able to work together to provide structures and pathways that satisfy both the talent and participation needs of players and their respective community clubs," Richardson said.

"We believe that it is very important that our North-West region has two clubs playing in the TSL, given that it is the pathway for our most talented young players to test themselves against the best players in the Northern and Southern regions, and the TSL is also the pathway to the AFL.

"This in-principle decision may also result in the Devonport Magpies returning to the NTFL in 2014 and increasing the size of the NTFL competition can only be good for the development of the NTFL competition moving forward."

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Channel swimmers setting off

THREE Tasmanians attempting to swim the English Channel for charity are set to begin their epic journey.

Weather conditions have improved, allowing friends Tom O'Byrne, Jeannie Baxter-Reid and Ross Youngman to start swimming at 3am today UK time (noon AEST).

They had hoped to take to the water earlier this week but were delayed by bad weather.

The trio has already raised $44,000 for the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation.

To donate or follow their journey, click here.

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Airport visitor numbers surge

Written By miftah nugraha on Rabu, 31 Juli 2013 | 19.55

Launceston Airport has had its biggest year on record with 1.22 million passengers.

LAUNCESTON Airport is celebrating a record year, recording an 8 per cent surge in passengers in 2012-13 to 1.22 million.

Airport general manager Pamela Graham said a number of industry partners had played a role in achieving the bumper result.

"Our record growth has been largely driven through increased capacity by our airlines, with Qantas and Jetstar in particular boosting services," Ms Graham said.

"Pleasingly, and what can be seen as a vote of confidence in the Launceston market, Qantas and Jetstar increased services throughout the entire year as well as over the traditionally busy summer period."

Ms Graham said Tourism Tasmania's "go behind the scenery" campaign had provided a boost for passenger growth.

"Tourism Tasmania has been instrumental in forging stronger ties with the aviation industry through co-operative marketing campaigns and we urge the State Government to strengthen its support of the work that Tourism Tasmania is doing," she said.

The result follows similarly strong passenger figures for Hobart Airport, which also had its biggest year on record with two million passengers, a 12 per cent rise on the year before and double the figures from 10 years ago.

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New Abt Railway head named

THE chairman of West Coast Tourism has been selected as the new general manager of the Abt Railway.

Phil Vickers, who is also executive chairman of West Coast Heritage Ltd and a West Coast councillor, was announced as the Abt's new chief by Infrastructure Minister David O'Byrne today.

"This is a significant milestone in securing a bright, viable future for this important piece of Australian history," Mr O'Byrne said.

"Mr Vickers will oversee the railway operations including coordination of infrastructure works and rolling stock repairs.

"Importantly he will also oversee preparations for passenger operations for the summer tourist season, when we expect the railway to be operational again."

Mr O'Byrne said Mr Vickers was chosen because of his administrative and tourism experience.

"Mr Vickers' substantial administrative capabilities will complement the existing Railway operational workers," he said.

Mr O'Byrne said tenders for track repairs are expected to be called in the next few weeks with tenders for bridge works at the Strahan end a short time later.

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Ex-bikie gang boss jailed

A FORMER state president of the Rebels motorcycle gang was sentenced to three years' jail for trafficking in $504,000 worth of methylamphetamine.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Estcourt said it was a large-scale drug trafficking operation not often seen in Tasmania.

But Colin David Picard, 67, avoided a $117,000 pecuniary penalty after declaring himself bankrupt last month.

Picard, of Ravenswood, pleaded guilty to one count of trafficking 36 ounces of methylamphetamine between November 1, 2010 and July 5, 2011.

His arrest came after a police operation -- Operation Dorothy -- in which police used telephone intercept powers and twice intercepted Picard delivering drugs near Perth on the Midland Highway.

In one raid police found $10,200 in cash in a Mr Picard's gold Falcon sedan.

Crown prosecutor John Ransom told the court that the organised crime operation operated in the South, North and North-West of Tasmania.

He said a Launceston man Barry William Gleeson brought in large supplies of the drug from Melbourne.

Gleeson, who was jailed last year, sold the methylamphetamine to Picard.

"Picard was president of the Launceston chapter of the Rebels and he onsold to Rebels around the state and to members of the Outlaws motorcycle club," Mr Ransom said.

He said Picard had bought the methylamphetamine and it was delivered to his Ravenswood home.

Some of the drug was sold from the Rebels clubhouse in Merino St, Launceston.

The court heard that Rebels members spoke in code on the telephone with one message saying: "painting inside today, please send down help".

Defence counsel Adrian Hall told Justice Estcourt that Picard had declared himself bankrupt in June and received the aged pension.

He said Picard had never served time in jail and had formerly operated a cartage business.

He said Picard bought the drug for $4000 an ounce and sold it for $5000 an ounce.

Gleeson gave Picard one ounce free for every eight ounces Picard bought, meaning Picard made $13,000 for every nine ounces he sold.

Justice Estcourt set a non-parole period of 18 months.

He said Picard's bankruptcy meant there was little point in making the penalty order.

The seized $10,200 was forfeited by Picard.

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ACL closure adds to job woes

Written By miftah nugraha on Selasa, 30 Juli 2013 | 19.55

LAUNCESTON-based car part manufacturer ACL will close down by June next year with the loss of 136 jobs after a sales process was unsuccessful.

Receiver manager Matt Byrnes said staff had been briefed this morning.

"There will be an orderly wind down of operations with operations to cease by June 2014," Mr Byrnes said.

Receiver managers have been operating the company for four years since August 2009.

Mr Byrnes said entitlements would be paid by the Federal Government's General Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme.

He said there was a moratorium on redundancies until October 1.

The average length of service of employees was 20 years.

He said that the bearings company's customers would be approached and orders taken.

"We will continue to operate at near full capacity until early next year," he said.

ACL, which supplies critical components including engine bearings and gaskets to the automotive industry, exports about 75-80 per cent of its product.

He said there was no one single factor why the company failed although the strong currency and the location in Tasmania were factors.

Mr Byrnes said buyers had been genuine but could not consummate a deal.

The closure follows a series of disastrous job losses in Tasmania including Australian Weaving Mills, Rio Tinto and Bradken in recent weeks.

Tasmania already has Australia's unemployment rate at 8.1 per cent.

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Power rises 'thing of the past'

A LOWER price for power in Tasmania is due to be set within weeks.

Deputy Premier and Energy Minister Bryan Green today said the Economic Regulator's report had confirmed the state's electricity prices would fall from January next year.

The new prices would be set by the Economic Regulator after the State Government recommended tariffs for approval over the next fortnight, he said in a statement.

"While we can't say definitively what the decrease will be until then, we are confident that it will be greater than our original prediction last month (of between 1 and 2 per cent)," Mr Green said.

"Electricity prices around Australia are continuing to go up but we are bucking the trend in Tasmania.

"Recent electricity prices rises experienced in Tasmania will soon be a thing of the past."

Mr Green said the State Government was on target to introduce retail competition in Tasmania's electricity market from January 1, which would put more downward pressure on prices.

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Chopper joins Cygnet search

A MISSING man was rescued last night after being found injured on a remote hill at Deep Bay, near Cygnet.

David Ellis Wood, 66, was reported missing by his wife early yesterday morning but may have left his Deep Bay home late the night before.

A ground and air search was conducted in the Cygnet area and police held serious concerns for the safety of Mr Wood, who is believed to have chronic health and mobility issues.

Police and volunteer searchers located him at 7.45pm last night on a remote hill off the Channel Highway at Deep Bay.

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Fire-hit kids continue to heal

Written By miftah nugraha on Senin, 29 Juli 2013 | 19.55

TASMANIAN children identified as distressed after the January bushfires have been offered further support.

Children have been assessed by mental health professionals engaged by beyondblue, which launched the program in Dunalley in April.

So far 212 had been assessed at three local schools and several in Hobart for ongoing trauma.

Of those, 26 had been identified as needing intervention and their parents have been offered free help for their children.

Parents of the remaining 186 were reassured their children were recovering well.

Beyondblue chief executive officer Kate Carnell said the professionals had identified children who had not recovered from the horror of the fires.

"Living through a natural disaster such as these bushfires can leave children traumatised and, without this early intervention, some may have gone years without getting the appropriate support, if they ever got it all," Ms Carnell said.

"Prolonged trauma can lead to depression and anxiety, and early intervention such as this significantly boosts the children's wellbeing and gives them the best chance to make a full recovery. It also gives parents peace of mind after they learn that either their child is recovering well or needs further treatment, which beyondblue provides for free."

Six sessions for parents were held in Dunalley, Nubeena and Dodges Ferry and parents were told about common emotional and behavioural responses in children and adolescents after a natural disaster.

Teachers have also been trained to help them identify difficulties.

The program was adapted from one that helped children after the 2011 Queensland floods.

The $650,000 cost is covered by $250,000 from beyondblue and the rest from the Red Cross Tasmanian Bushfire Appeal.

School visits are by professionals from the Kids in Mind unit at Brisbane's Mater Children's Hospital.

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Top cop welcomes new talent

Tasmania Police Commissioner Darren Hine says the 25 recruits now in training were chosen from a field of more than 900 hopefuls.

AN OLYMPIC cycling gold medallist is among Tasmania Police's latest intake of recruits.

The recruit course – the first since 2011 – is being inducted today at the Rokeby Academy.

The nine women and 16 men, aged between 19 and 51, will be put to the test over the next 28 weeks in subjects including conflict resolution, road policing, investigations and operational skills.

The rookie officers are due to graduate in February 2014, with another recruit course scheduled to start in October.

Police Commissioner Darren Hine said the 25 recruits were chosen from a field of more than 900 applicants.

"Our newest recruits come from a broad range of backgrounds and occupations and bring with them many unique life skills and experiences which will stand them in good stead for their new careers as police officers and serving the Tasmanian community," he said in a statement.

Among them is a former motivational speaker, as well as a statistician, a nurse and an Olympic cycling gold medallist.

Read more in tomorrow's Mercury

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Guilty plea over death crash

A MAN accused of fleeing the scene of a deadly car crash in February 2012 did not abandon his mate, the Launceston Magistrates Court has heard.

Tristan Gilbert, 32, today pleaded guilty to causing death by negligent driving, plus a range of charges including resisting a police officer, escape, burglary, stealing and minor firearms and drugs charges.

Defence counsel Evan Hughes said after crashing a turbocharged 1998 Nissan Skyline into a tree on the East Tamar Highway, having lost control at an estimated 118km/h, Gilbert had helped to lift unconscious Troy Lee Dolbey out of the car, fearing that the car would catch fire.

Mr Hughes said Mr Dolbey had regained consciousness outside the car and Gilbert had asked him if he needed to go to hospital.

The court heard that an ambulance had been called and that Gilbert only fled the scene when he heard the ambulance siren. Mr Hughes said Gilbert could have done little more to help Mr Dolbey, who later died in hospital from internal injuries.

Mr Hughes said Gilbert suffered from bipolar disorder and associated anxiety, which was a factor in his ongoing amphetamine addiction.

He said Gilbert had received death threats following the crash and he had fled the state with his partner and two children aged under five, taking only what they could carry. Mr Hughes said Gilbert had abandoned his home near Launceston.

"The home which he built with his own hands was burned down as an act of revenge," Mr Hughes said.

He said other property, including a jet ski and woodworking tools, had been stolen from him.

The court heard that after Gilbert had been extradited back from Queensland in April this year, he had been assaulted in custody, taken to the Royal Hobart Hospital to receive six stitches, and had attempted to get away from a guard, who was attempting to hand cuff him upon leaving the hospital.

Mr Hughes said Gilbert, originally from NSW, was an accomplished woodworker whose work had been exhibited widely around Australia and the recipient of a Churchill Fellowship.

He said Gilbert was also a talented snow skier and sportsman.

He said Gilbert had not been familiar with the car which he crashed on February 6, 2012, a powerful car in an unroadworthy condition with two bald tyres, which he said had been a primary contributor to the crash on wet roads.

Magistrate Tim Hill ordered Gilbert to remain in custody while an assessment was made on his eligibility for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, a process that could delay sentencing for longer than a month.

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Museum all about the apple

Written By miftah nugraha on Minggu, 28 Juli 2013 | 19.55

TASMANIA'S fast-growing cider industry will take another leap forward later this year, with the Willie Smith company announcing a $250,000 plan to develop the Huon Apple Museum into a tourist launchpad to the valley.

The development will include detailed exhibitions about the apple industry's history, with artefacts dating back to the mid-1800s, as well as cider displays, a tasting bar and a providore-style shopfront featuring local produce.

The redesign will be overseen by Futago, the Tasmanian firm that worked on the redevelopment of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

Willie Smith's co-owner Andrew Smith described taking ownership of the museum's rich history as a huge responsibility, but said he planned for the revamped attraction to become a "must visit" destination for tourists to the state and a key stop on Tasmania's new Cider Trail.

"This is very much a two-stage project, but we are excited that we are going to produce something the valley is going to be proud of," Mr Smith said.

"The first stage involves developing the cafe, museum and cider-tasting area, and providing visitors with a really clear story of the Huon.

"The second stage is to make it an experience destination, which will involve some of the neighbours and incorporate the nearby dam, blueberry farm, heritage orchard and our own farm."

Entry to the museum will be free, with retired orchardists on hand to conduct expert tours, while in summer visitors will be offered the chance to pick cherries and apples straight from the tree. Mr Smith said the nascent Cider Trail was further proof of the health and potential of the Tasmanian cider scene, made possible, he said, by riding on the coat tails of the popular wine and whisky industries.

He said that the mixture of vineyards, distilleries and cideries was providing tourists with value for their trip to the state, and well as offering hope for Tasmania's once-mighty apple-growing sector.

Fellow Willie Smith's Cider co-owner Sam Reid said Tasmania was now offering visitors a critical mass of attractions to keep them in the state longer and draw them to regions like the Huon Valley.

"We want a space that the local people can feel a strong connection to their community and re-familiarise themselves with the history and heritage of the Huon Valley," he said.

The apple museum will remain closed to the public during its facelift, and is expected to reopen in November.


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Fast-track ER plan

TASMANIAN hospitals will get new fast-track emergency units under a $22 million Federal Government funding deal expected to be announced today.

Overcrowding of emergency patients at hospitals in Hobart and Launceston will be reduced by the introduction of new Tasmanian-designed emergency units, federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek told the Sunday Tasmanian.

The agreement between the federal and Tasmanian governments means the units will reduce avoidable admissions to take the pressure off emergency departments in the state's two main hospitals.

"This innovative solution will assist in reducing unnecessary admissions to hospital wards," Ms Plibersek said. "It will also help to reduce emergency department overcrowding."

The Royal Hobart Hospital has been allocated $10.3 million for an emergency medical unit and psychiatric nurses for its emergency department.

The State Government will add $533,000 to that.

The Launceston General Hospital will get $11.6 million for a GP and hospital department referral-based service and pre-admission treatment of chronic condition patients.

The LGH also will expand its emergency department fast-track service.

National Health Performance Authority figures last week showed the Royal Hobart was Australia's worst major regional hospital at getting patients operated on inside the recommended 30 days. The LGH was the second-worst.

The new units were welcomed by state Health Minister Michelle O'Byrne.

"Launceston's emergency department fast-track service has already achieved significant reductions in waiting and treatment times for low-urgency patients," she said.

"The Royal's new unit will have a broadly skilled team and will be separate from the emergency department. It will look after patients who need short-term evaluation, investigation and treatment."

The agreement is part of the Federal Government's $325 million Tasmanian health assistance package, which will fund the new clinics until 2016.

The Australian Greens yesterday committed to an additional $664 million in Medicare funding.

Spokesman Richard Di Natale said the Greens espoused universal healthcare.

"Labor cut over $600 million in Medicare funding in the last Budget," he said.


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Poster girl for devil cause

This cheeky little Tasmanian devil joey is set to entertain at the Healesville wildlife sanctuary in Victoria. Pictures: DAVID CAIRD

SHE may grow up to be a predator, but right now she is one cheeky little devil.

The playful yet-to-be-named joey bucked her species' reputation and turned on the charm for the cameras at her first photo shoot last week.

She is one of three Tasmanian devil joeys who will go on display at the Healesville Sanctuary, near Melbourne, next month.

At four months old, she is growing fast and can guzzle up to five bottles of milk a day.

She loves a hug, likes to play games with her keepers and will soon be joined by her brother and sister, who are still being fed by mum.

Almost 100 joeys have been bred at the sanctuary since 2006 as part of the Save the Tasmanian Devil conservation program.

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