Independent MP Rob Oakeshott is angry that a coal seam gas project is going ahead in his electorate.Independent MP Rob Oakeshott is demanding an end to the 110-well coal seam gas project conditionally approved at Gloucester in his mid-north coast electorate, after both federal and state governments moved to stop CSG in western Sydney electorates that will be crucial to the federal election outcome.

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has announced a two-kilometre buffer around CSG mines, ending AGL’s proposed $100 million Camden North project in western Sydney, after escalating pressure from the federal Coalition and his own backbench.

But according to Mr Oakeshott ”if it’s good enough for western Sydney, it should be good enough for Gloucester”.

”It looks like my electorate is becoming the fall guy in the bad ad hoc politics of an election year, where both parties are running scared of the politics of western Sydney,” he said.

AGL recently postponed its western Sydney expansion due to community concerns and Environment Minister Tony Burke also expressed grave concerns about CSG wells under people’s houses. At the same time, Mr Burke gave conditional federal approval to Gloucester.

”If a two-kilometre zone is good enough for one place it should be good enough for the other,” Mr Oakeshott said.

Premier O’Farrell has said he can’t wind the clock back on approved coal seam gas leases but he can protect families in residential areas from new tenements.

Mr Oakeshott said NSW’s decision should not stop Mr Burke from expanding federal powers by introducing water as a new trigger for federal involvement under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The federal government is waiting to see the details of NSW’s new regulations and approval processes.

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The SapphiresFull film coverage

JUST weeks after The Sapphires swept the field in a feelgood ceremony at The Star in Sydney the AACTA awards – Australia’s equivalent of the Oscars – face a financial crisis that threatens their very existence.

The loss of a major sponsor late last year sparked a funding shortage that has led the organisation to shed almost half its staff in the past few months and put in doubt its ability to continue without additional industry or government support beyond next year’s event.

The body that runs the AACTAs, the Australian Film Institute, last week retrenched four staff. Two others were let go last October. The AFI now has just seven staff members.

”We’ve having ongoing difficulties raising the sort of support that’s required, and that has led to a need to restructure,” CEO Damian Trewhella told Fairfax Media on Monday. He added that the organisation was actively seeking new corporate sponsors but also called on the government funding agency, Screen Australia, to increase its support of the event.

The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts awards were born in late 2011 out of the AFI Awards in a bid to raise the profile of the local industry and to muscle in on the global awards season that culminates in February with the Academy Awards.

With a high-profile Academy president in Geoffrey Rush and top-line talent including Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett and Russell Crowe all participating, the second AACTA awards ceremony, held on January 30, appeared to be on the right path. Though the five-city overnight audience for the 9.30pm broadcast on Ten averaged just 318,000 viewers, that was better than last year on Nine and, the AFI claims, a five-year high.

However, the event was almost derailed by the loss in September 2012 of major corporate sponsor Samsung, whose commitment was believed to have been worth about $1.5 million annually to the event. The late withdrawal of host Hugh Sheridan just a week out from the telecast could have been another blow, but Crowe stepped in at the last moment and delivered a superb performance that gave no hint of the problems behind the scenes.

”It’s quite remarkable the event went ahead at all,” Trewhella confessed to Fairfax Media.

The 2012 AACTA Awards cost about $5 million to mount. This year’s event was put together for around $3 million, an amount that is insufficient to sustain the awards on an ongoing basis.

”It looks like we have to run this on a project by project basis,” Trewhella said. ”We’re taking a lot of pain at the moment.”

The Australian Film Institute was, for a time, one of the premier cultural institutions in the country, running cinemas, a short-film distribution program and a major research library in addition to the industry’s annual awards ceremony. But from the late 1990s, it has been a fading entity. The cinemas and library were offloaded, and the distribution and exhibition program abandoned as a reduction of government funding forced it to concentrate almost exclusively on the awards.

Now, even that is uncertain. While next year’s ceremony is all but guaranteed thanks to the support of Destination NSW, which tipped in about $1 million a year over three years to prise the event away from Melbourne, what happens when that deal expires in 2014 is far from clear.

”This is now a period of review and rationalisation,” said Trewhella. ”If we’re going to be able to do this we need to reset the priorities. There’s been a rush to acknowledge box office and ratings success and that’s important but it’s reductionist. We need a commitment to underwrite an event that celebrates excellence in our industry.”

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Gas utility AGL has slammed the decision by the NSW government to restrict exploration for coal seam gas around residential areas, which could substantially restrict the company’s activities in Sydney’s south west.

The NSW cabinet yesterday decided to impose a two kilometre buffer between exploration areas and residential areas, in a bid to take the heat out of  public unease over exploration for coal seam gas, with the move immediately sparking pressure from environmental groups for further restrictirons to be imposed.

AGL said the government’s move will “add to the gas supply crisis that New South Wales is facing as existing supply contracts roll off between 2014 and 2017”.

“This roll-off of contracts will coincide with very substantial increases in demand for gas as LNG export projects come on line in Gladstone. The absence of multiple new sources of supply in NSW will add to substantial upward pressure on gas and electricity prices in the state.”

Along with its exploration south of Sydney, AGL has significant exploration acreage in the Hunter Valley, which it is hoping to tap to supply the Newcastle market in particular, where it is building a gas storage facility.

Newcastle pays some of the most expensive prices for gas in the country, since it is located at the end of the gas supply pipeline which extends from central Australia.

AGL said it relinquished prime agricultural land used by the wine industry from its exploration licence in the Hunter following community opposition.

“The Hunter remains a critical future source of gas for NSW,” AGL said. “AGL will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Premier and Deputy Premier to clarify the details of this proposal.”

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‘Toxic’ … Australian swimmers abused alcohol and drugs, report finds.A report reviewing the leadership in Australia’s swimming team has slammed a “toxic” culture which saw swimmers abuse prescription drugs, alcohol and curfews during last year’s London Olympics.

The report also accused the team of being devoid of leadership, resulting in bad behaviour going unchecked and individualism thriving. London was remembered by many as the unpleasant “Lonely Olympics”.

In a warts-and-all review of culture and leadership in Australian Olympic Swimming, Doctor Pippa Grange paints a grim picture of the hierarchy of Swimming Australia and the unit that competed at the Games seven months ago.

“There were enough culturally toxic incidents across enough team members that breached agreements (such as getting drunk, misuse of prescription drugs, breaching curfews, deceit, bullying) to warrant a strong, collective leadership response that included coaches, staff and the swimmers. No such collective action was taken,’’ she wrote.

“At its least attractive, the team dynamic became like a schoolyard clamour for attention and influence.

“Although few situations relating to London reported through this review were truly grave in nature, they compounded in significance as no one reigned in control.”

Dr Grange, who has worked with several AFL football clubs, the AFL Players Association and now runs her own culture and leadership consultancy business, was employed by Swimming Australia to undertake the review.

Among her six recommendations to address the organisation’s seemingly deplorable leadership, Dr Grange describes the ‘‘dire need to develop and enable leadership throughout swimming, and to orient people to consider leadership as personal, not just functional’’.

In the pursuit of gold medals in London, Dr Grange reports ‘‘the ‘science’ of winning appeared to whitewash the ‘art’ of leadership’’. There was no sport psychologist with the swim team for the London Games.

Dr Grange refers to “the absence of a leadership voice from Swimming Australia”, which was run by CEO Kevin Neil who has stepped down from the position.

“Some review respondents have suggested that … the outcome was an increase in individualism, and in turn a diminished sense of responsibility or connectedness to the team,” Dr Grange reports.

“The formation of sub-groups was already likely in a team of this size, but fragmentation was compounded in the absence of familiarity and sufficient opportunities to connect formally and socially.”

Dr Grange’s six recommendations on standards and accountability include that Swimming Australia “create an ‘ethical framework’ … about what the organisation, team and individuals within it will stand for and what they will not stand for.”

She says Swimming Australia should invest in a ‘coach-the-coach’ leadership program for the head coach of the team, and that codes of conduct for swimmers, coaches and staff need updating.

Australian swimmers produced the worst Olympic result in London since Barcelona in 1992, returning with just one gold medal from a tally of 10 medals overall.

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Samantha and Jim Stynes. Sam and Jim Stynes

The reputation of former Melbourne president Jim Stynes will not be tarnished by any finding the club deliberately lost matches during his leadership, his widow says.

Stynes, who died almost a year ago, was club president in 2009 when the club was alleged to have deliberately lost matches in its efforts to secure better draft picks.

In a sometimes emotional interview, Sam Stynes defended her late husband, saying the former AFL star would not be tarnished by the tanking allegations.

“It worried me months ago because obviously investigations have been going on for six months and I became passionate and angry,” she told 3AW.

“To remember back when that happened, Jim was gravely ill. He may have made some mistakes in terms of possibly he should have stepped down from the club. But he wasn’t working 24-7 in the club. He did the odd thing when he was needed. He didn’t know what was going on all the time. He was gravely ill. It was not like he had a cold. He was fighting for his life. He had other more important issues that he was focusing on.”

Sam Stynes doubted that her husband would have even been aware of the likely investigation into his club before he died.

“Did he know? I actually don’t … Did he know? I don’t think he did actually, to be honest. He died March 20, you know what, I don’t think he did.

“Look, it’s hard to answer for him, because he’s not here. I wish he was here to speak for himself and shed some light.

“We have to deal with very reality – sorry I’m stumbling over my words because it’s obviously very raw and emotional – but he’s dead. That’s what we’re all dealing with and grappling with really at the end of the day.”

Sam Stynes said she wished her husband was still here to speak for himself, but in his absence, she was backing him.

“I just want him to be able to rest in peace. I don’t think it tarnishes your reputation if someone doesn’t want to erect a statue after him because of that, I go well ‘good on you’. I couldn’t care less. I couldn’t care less,” she said.

“What I find interesting in life is while people are riding high, there’s so many people willing to go off their coat-tails to suit their own causes and purposes.

“He’s not here to defend himself. In some ways I wish he was because he might have helped with the mess that it’s been – the whole tanking saga.”

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