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Politically expedient solution of banning donation misses the most rational option – caps

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says a parliamentary committee should consider donations reform. Photo: Sanghee LiuThe rush to find a politically expedient solution to the current donations furore could potentially kill off any meaningful reform before it even begins, constitutional experts have warned.

With Sam Dastyari’s fall from the Opposition frontbench came a spotlight on the broader donations system and from there, the political consensus has divided, with Coalition figures expressing support for restricting donations to those on the electoral roll – ruling out entities such as trade unions and big businesses – while Labor is pushing for an end to foreign donations.

But constitutional law experts argue that both options, while potentially constitutionally loaded, miss the most “rational approach” – capping donations and political party expenditure to remove any concerns about the funding source.

The High Court struck down a NSW attempt to limit donations to people on the electoral roll in 2013, raising immediate concerns that the solution Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been touting is potentially invalid.

But not impossible – Professor of Law and Politics at the University of Queensland Graeme Orr said the 2013 decision needed to be considered in its context, which included NSW’s donation cap.

“The High Court reasoned that if you are going to limit all donations to $5000 – what is the pressing need to ban permanent residents, trade unions, small companies, even I guess Australian citizens overseas who may have fallen off the roll,” he said.

But he said any restrictions would be examined by the High Court from the point of the principle of the law.

“And the principle has to balance three things – liberty to participate in politics, equality- it would have to be fair – and concerns about integrity,” he said.

Which, Professor Orr said, would raise concerns with restricting donations to the electoral roll, as, from a fairness point, organisations like not-for-profit groups and unions would be banned, but wealthy individuals who can donate as much as an entity, would be free to give as much as they liked – hampering, in the current political climate, one side of politics.

Canada has done it, with their model banning anyone but citizens and permanent residents from donating. But while banning foreign donations brings its own issues. The Sydney-based, Chinese institute at the heart of the Senator Dastyari affair had an Australian ABN, potentially ruling it out as “foreign”. And while it has been argued that two-thirds of the world’s nations have banned foreign donations, Professor Orr said that was a “false factoid”, because it included nations like France, which only banned donations from foreign nations and political parties.

But any solution would need to be independently and thoroughly examined, Professor Orr said, to ensure proper reform, a point the Dean of the University of NSW’s Law Facility, Professor George Williams, echoed.

“The [previous] attempts [at reform] have failed not because of the legal constraints, but because of a lack of political will,” Professor Williams said.

“This can be done, the legal impediments can be overcome, a good rival model can be produced that is safe and consistent with the constitution, which also achieves the community desire to free our politics of the undue influence of these donations and getting there now is a question of politics and leadership.

“And I think that is the main point really – that we just need to work through this in an appropriate, deliberate way.

“I think some sort of independent process to assess it is the right thing to do and we’ll see if our political leaders have the courage of their convictions to fix what is a very significant problem for our democracy.”

Which, he said, meant examining a “good and straightforward solution . . . [and] cap all donations from whatever source to a low enough level to mitigate against any one donor having an undue influence”.

“The approach the Prime Minister and others have suggested has very significant policy and popular appeal, but I think it is fraught with danger, given recent High Court decisions,” Professor Williams said.

“And a more prudent course would be to adopt a different approach, capping all donations to a low level because that is both likely to achieve the desired outcome, while also surviving muster in the High Court.

“What you also need to do is cap expenditure by parties as NSW has done. That’s important because it takes the heat out of the system by removing the need to raise large sums of money.”

Differences in jurisdictionsQueensland – $1000 declaration threshold, disclosed twice a year.  Committed to introducing real-time donations by February.NSW – $1000 declaration threshold, disclosed once a year.  Caps on donations per candidate and party expenditure.  Donations from developers, gambling, liquor and tobacco companies banned.Victoria –  No state disclosure. Donations over $13,000 are made under federal legislation.  Gambling and associated entity donations restricted to $50,000.SA – $5000 declaration threshold, disclosed once a year.WA – $2300 declaration threshold, disclosed once a year.Tas – No state disclosure.  Donations over $13,000 are made under federal legislation.Federal – $13,000 indexed declaration threshold, disclosed once a year.

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Cricket: Weston Creek Molonglo’s Joe Slater scores Sydney Thunder rookie deal

Fast bowler Joe Slater, with Beau Casson, has won a rookie contract with the Sydney Thunder. Photo: Sydney ThunderYou could forgive Weston Creek Molonglo fast bowler Joe Slater for struggling in his school exam on Friday afternoon.

His mind was likely racing having just won a rookie contract with the Sydney Thunder.

Slater was the pick of the bunch as 15 young hopefuls put their hand up for a spot with the reigning Big Bash League champions.

Wagga Wagga’s 15-year-old leg spinner Rachel Trenaman became the club’s first female regional rookie search winner.

Slater trialled last year when his former teammate Mac Wright won the Thunder rookie contract that catapulted him into Tasmania’s ranks.

“I guess [last year] prepared me for the experience,” Slater said.

“I think that helps with anything if you’ve been through it already you can prepare a lot easier.

“Obviously there is a heap of experience up there and some great talent, and you have plenty of people to learn from. That’s the main thing that I’m going to try and get out of this, is learn as much as I can.”

Thunder general manager Nick Cummins said Weston Creek Molonglo “must be doing something right” with Slater showing a marked improvement over the past 12 months.

“I asked [Slater] if he’d grown, he doesn’t know but he’s definitely a bit stronger and a bit faster than last year so he’s got some real potential,” Cummins said.

“I think he’s got a bit of Nathan Coulter-Nile about him with the way he bowls and his build. [He’s] very powerful and he’s still growing I think.”

The Thunder brought rain for the second year running, so the hopefuls headed to Kaleen’s indoor centre where the nets were divided into three facets of the game – bowling, power hitting and stroke playing.

Trenaman said “lots of questions will be asked” when she heads into camp in the lead-up to the Thunder’s WBBL title defence.

“[I’m] just gobsmacked and honoured and privileged,” Trenaman said.

“Just being around the whole environment and captain Alex Blackwell, I think it will be an awesome experience.”

Cummins said the pair will arrive in camp at the same time as the rest of the squad as the club coaches prepare to take a “disparate group of people and make it a team”.

“By dropping them right in the middle of that they get to see how you go about preparing for a tournament,” he said.

“I think one of the biggest challenges for young cricketers coming through, it’s not really the skill side it’s actually understanding what it takes to perform at the elite level.

“For Joe bowling next to Clint McKay or for Rachel bowling with Stafanie Taylor or Maisy Gibson, she’ll see what level and extent of preparation they go to. Then they usually take that back into their career and then they take the next step.”

While Trenaman secured the coveted rookie contract, Ginninderra’s Jess Howard has also been given an opportunity to train with the club.

Former paramedic Steve McDowell blocked from NSW Ambulance Facebook page after RUOK comment

Former paramedic Steve McDowell was blocked from NSW Ambulance Facebook page after criticising the organisation Photo: Dallas KilponenNSW Ambulance has hidden from public view Facebook comments by a former paramedic who wrote back to a woman’s concerning comment on an RUOK post and criticised his old employer’s response to the cry for help.

“It’s OK, not to be OK”, read NSW Ambulance’s Facebook page on Thursday.

The post included the an image of a paramedic dissolving behind the words “The community thinks you’re super heroes … but we know you’re human too”.

One reply stood out: “Today, I am not ok,” wrote one woman who Fairfax Media has decided not to name.

Former paramedic Steve McDowell responded, asking the woman: “Can I help at all?”

The pair continued to converse. Steve told the woman to “be kind” to herself and pointed her to his facebook page, “No More Neglect” a support group where paramedics share stories and raise issues about their employee.

His comments were also critical of NSW Ambulance, suggesting the organisation did not support its staff.

NSW Ambulance responded to the woman’s post two hours later, suggesting she reach out to staff support if she was a staff member or phone Triple Zero. The post also included the contact number for Lifeline.

Mr McDowell replied “Awesome effort NSWA it only took you two hours”.

His posts were subsequently hidden from public view. Posts by other Facebook users asking why Mr McDowell’s posted had been removed were also hidden. He was then blocked from accessing the Facebook page.

“It’s outrageous,” Mr McDowell said.

“I tried to help a member of the public who said she was not okay and two hours later I’d been blocked,” he said.

“It goes against everything they say they are trying to do: be transparent, telling paramedics they’re here for them. Then as soon as they’re challenged they delete,” he said.

Mr McDowell – who was medically discharged in January with post traumatic stress disorder – has been an outspoken critic of NSW Ambulance’s treatment of staff who have struggled with mental health issues.

Director of Marketing and Media at NSW Ambulance, Kristie Carter said “Steve McDowell was not blocked because he was critical of NSW Ambulance, but rather because he was critical of a response to someone in need.”

“We’d hate someone to feel like their personal issue that they’d been brave enough to raise publicly was overshadowed by any other agenda,” Ms Carter said.

NSW Ambulance said no comments had been removed, “however in line with our site administrator guidelines, some comments have been hidden from public view due to the personal distressing or concerns nature of their content”.

The woman removed her comments on Friday, which in turn removed the entire conversation train, they said.

NSW Ambulance said the purpose of the Facebook page was for engaging with the community, and “specific concerns, complaints and issues should not be published on this page”.

Child dresses as Hitler in Alice Springs as visiting Jewish student look on

Daniel Johnstone says reaction to this photo highlights how people are prepared to laugh at one issue – drugs – but get wound up by children dressed in “blackface.” Photo: Facebook/Daniel Johnstone ALast moth a Perth mothyer painted her son’s skin black for a Book Week parade because he had wanted to look like footballer Nic Naitanui

Nazi leader Adolf Hitler Photo: Supplied

A child at an Alice Springs private school has dressed up as Adolf Hitler for Book Week while visiting Jewish students from a college in Melbourne looked on.

It comes after social media went into meltdown after a Perth boy donned “blackface” last month to emulate his hero – AFL superstar Nic Naitanui.

Then only a couple of days later, a Perth dad was condemned for painting his son’s face and nose white to look like fallen ex-Eagle Ben Cousins.

The student at St Philip’s College in the red centre apparently got permission from his teacher to dress up like the Fuehrer at the school assembly for Book Week according to the ABC Alice Springs.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the student was awarded one of the “best dressed”. And the cringe factor gets worse, as the assembly was full of Jewish exchange students from Bialik College in Melbourne.

It’s not the first time a student has dressed up as the former Nazi leader and won an award. In 2010, a Catholic primary school principal in Perth apologised to parents after a student dressed as Adolf Hitler won first place in class on a school dress-up day.

St Philip’s College put out a statement saying it was an “innocent mistake”.

The statement said the student had an interest in politics and history and got permission for his book week costume.

“This was an innocent mistake by a teacher who is a respected, honourable and lovely person who got it wrong on the day,” the statement on the school’s website said.

“The school apologises unreservedly to everyone for any offence that has been caused. We have been in touch with the principal of the visiting students who were present on the day and they have accepted our apology.”

The college said it was reviewing its policies so something like this wouldn’t happen again.

“The school is providing support and assistance to the teacher, the student, and their family,” the statement said.

“It has been a very distressing lesson for all concerned.”

Bialik College principal Jeremy Stowe-Lindner told the ABC it was an “unfortunate incident.

“I understand that no malice was intended and I guess the coincidence of Jewish children visiting from Melbourne is a learning opportunity for the community, and that the principal assures me this is number one priority,” he said.

The chairman of the Anti-Defamation Commission Dvir Abramovich said he was “shocked” by the level of ignorance shown.

He is calling for mandatory Holocaust education in schools across Australia after the incident.

“Clearly, this offensive and ill-judged incident is a wake up call that we all have much work to do in ensuring that all students understand the evils of the Holocaust, and what Hitler represents, not only to the Jewish community, but to all the victims, the survivors and to those Australian soldiers who fought to defeat the Third Reich,” he said in a statement.

“This student, who displayed such disturbing insensitivity by choosing to dress up as Hitler, a brutal tyrant who symbolises unbridled hate and genocide, and the teacher who awarded him the prize, must be taught about the results of Hitler’s demonic plan to symmetrically exterminate the Jewish people and the enormous suffering he caused.”

The Perth mother who dressed her son as Naitanui said last month she expected to get some backlash from the political correct brigade, but she dressed him up anyway.

She boasted that he “looked fanf—ingtastic” and described the moment as a “parenting win”.

The photo of the boy sparked widespread condemnation on social media and a call for education from injured Eagles superstar Naitanui, who later volunteered to meet with the young boy.

The mother posted the photo on popular Perth blogger Constance Hall’s Facebook page, who deleted the picture because she didn’t agree with the use of “blackface”.

Ms Hall, who has over 880,00 followers, received deaths threats then overwhelming support on social media after she posted a picture of herself crying because of the venomous attacks.

“I got dressed. I didn’t think I could.  But I checked out of the hotel and I was hugged in the lobby by a beautiful woman, I cried again but it was such a relief.

“So I want you to know that all of these messages and supportive comments have reached me.

“So far in the last hour I have been hugged by three strangers in Freo. I feel like those hugs are coming from all of you, you have reached me. You’ll never know how much you mean to me.

“Thank you so much.”

Perth dad Daniel Johnstone who painted his son “whiteface” to look like Cousins said the fact he received no backlash on social media highlighted why society might laugh at drug problems but react differently to racial issues like Naitanui “blackface” controversy.

“I think it’s quite damning to Australians that 20,000 people thought it [the Cousins photo] was funny and everyone was jumping on the Nic Nat kid,” he said.

” I think there is a bit of double-standard in society with political correctness.

“Anything to do with drug use is hilarious but everyone is quick to jump on a kid painting himself black, which was quite innocent.” Follow WAtoday on Twitter

On the trail of Garrett Cotter

Canberra author Richard Begbie. Photo: Karleen MinneyCOTTER: A Novel. By Richard Begbie. Longhand Press. 365pp. $28.00

When Garrett Cotter was born in 1802 in County Cork, Ireland, the only settled part of the Australian continent was the small town huddled around Sydney Cove. This illiterate ploughman was transported to Australia in 1822. When he died in 1886 the Commonwealth of Australia was only 15 years away and eventually a National Capital would grow up near where he had lived, with a river named after him.

I asked my grandchildren what the word “Cotter” meant to them. They mentioned camping, and a picnic spot and bushwalking. This is the story of the man who gave his name to that river and the great dam that now controls it.

Years ago author and local farmer Richard Begbie was inspired to research the life of Garrett Cotter. He recorded the known facts in an article which appeared in the Canberra Times (October 12, 2013) Cotter was typical of the Irish peasant farmers of the 19 th century, oppressed by English penal laws, and consigned to poverty. In desperation such men turned to rebel gangs known as “Whiteboys”. The dramatic story of Cotter and two mates who tried to force the issue by confronting their oppressor, is vividly told in the first chapters. They were arrested and condemned under the blanket charge of “whiteboyism”, part of a group of men sentenced to the gallows.

The Irish newspapers record a full and dramatic account of the court case. But the sentence for Cotter and others was commutated to transportation for life to NSW.

The author has followed the trail of Garrett Cotter from Ireland to the Monaro but has to resort to a fictional approach when factual details have faded out. I found his imagined description of what the convict experience was like to be very convincing. Cotter was a hard worker and was given an excellent reference for his work with John Warby at Campbelltown and then Francis Kenny who settled on the shore of Lake George.

The other remarkable aspect of Cotter’s life was his friendship with an aboriginal leader named Onyong, spelt in various ways. This is an absorbing tale of mateship and mutual respect across the racial barrier. In a prolonged drought Onyong led Cotter to fresh pasture across the Murrumbidgee. Later, after an altercation with one Donald McKay, Cotter was banished “beyond the limits of location” for 4 years. But, as sometimes happened in the stories of the convicts, what seemed like a drastic punishment turned out to be a new opportunity. His later years were spent at Michelago where he lived with his wife and children. He died in 1886.

The author has painstakingly pieced together a factual outline of the events of Cotter’s life and then has woven an intriguing story around that outline. It has all the informality of a campfire yarn, written by someone who knows the “Cotter country” well. As I read the story I reflected that when Cotter died the absorbing details of his life died with him. There was no Oral History unit then but this fine novel helps us to relive a priceless part of our heritage.

Today Cotter’s name on the map and his one known photograph, together with the metal breastplate given to Onyong, (spelt Hong Gong), are evocative survivals of a story which also lives on in the memories of their families. At the book launch of Cotter at the National Library descendants of both Garrett Cotter and Onyong were present, so that the acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land was no mere formality.

Robert Willson is a Canberra reviewer.

The wellbeing cost of mental health hits $200 billion

xx Photo: Fiona-Lee Quimby The index of Australian wellbeing author Nicholas Gruen. Photo: Daniel Munoz

The cost of mental illness to Australia’s wellbeing has hit $200 billion a year – equivalent to about 12 per cent of the economy’s annual output.

The Herald-Lateral Economics Index of Australia’s Wellbeing – which provides a better measure of changes in national welfare than traditional economic data – shows the drag on our collective wellbeing caused by mental illness is worth $40 billion more than a decade ago.

The index’s author, Dr Nicholas Gruen, who is also the Chair of The Australian Centre for Social Innovation, said mental illness is “under-appreciated” as an economic problem.

“We’re not good at dealing with mental illness, and political debate rarely rises above advocacy for more funding – often for professionals,” he said.

“We need to confront our ignorance and build a learning system that systematically experiments to find solutions based on sound evidence that communities can embrace.”

About one in five adults experience mental illness in any year which makes it a major drag on Australia’s collective wellbeing. Traditional economic measures only pick up some of the financial impact of mental illness, such as days off work. But those with poor mental health tend to report much lower levels of wellbeing than average and the index puts a dollar figure on these major non-economic effects.

In 2005-06 the index put the wellbeing cost of mental illness at $159.7 billion but that had climbed to $203.1 billion by last financial year. The drag on wellbeing caused by mental illness was $52 billion in the June quarter alone.

The rising rate of obesity is another major drag on welfare. The index shows the annual wellbeing cost of obesity reached $122.5 billion last financial year. Australia has one of the world’s highest rates of obesity and drag on wellbeing caused by obesity measure has been growing more quickly than any other index component.

Despite the negative effects of mental illness and obesity rates, the wellbeing index overall rose by 2.5 per cent in the June quarter.

Letters to the Editor: Saturday, September 10, 2016

THE issue of governments purchasing a fleet of new trains from overseas instead offrom local manufacturers needs our attention.

Instead of assuming that the quoted price from overseas will be the real cost to us, wemust consider that to build them will take thousands of man-years of labour that Australians could supply right here.

To build them overseas costs many local jobs.One should therefore take the quoted cost of these trains as imports and add the costof thousands of man-years on the dole, thousands of man-years of lost income tax andthe multiplier effect of all the wages put in the local economy.

If this was done, localmanufacturers would win the contract for these trains hands down. Why was this notdone?

That our politicians and their advisors appear not to understand this doesnothing to support their credibility in my view.

Hank Willems, Merewether ALL ABOARD: Letter writer Hank Willems, of Merewether, says that we shouldn’t underestimate the costs of building trains in other countries.

HEARTY THANKS TO ALLI WAS shoppingwith my 18-month-old daughter, Poppy, at Westfield Kotara the Thursday before last.

My daughter started having an anaphylactic shock to some antibiotic medication she had been put on.

I went in to the Scott Dibben Chemistat first to see why they thought my daughter’s eye was swollen.

The staff in there, in particular Christie, were so helpful.

However it started to get worse and my daughter was getting a rash all over her body.Her lips started swelling rapidly on the way out to my car, so I raced in to the Kotara Family Practice clinic there at the shopping centre.A doctor there, Charlie Piao,was just leaving to go home. He immediately asked his fabulous receptionist, Ash’ey Bunn, to call an ambulance.

Dr Piao then took Poppy and I into the triage section of the clinic where he administered adrenaline and steroids to Poppy as her airways were closing up in front of us!

His quick actions saved Poppy’s life.

We were then taken to the John Hunter Emergency paediatric ward by friendly paramedics Paul and Genevieve.

Poppy was monitored the rest of the night. Prior to arrival, the ambulance even called in to my house where they turned my oven off! Nothing was too much trouble.

I am originally from England and wanted to say that my first dealings with NSW Health was outstanding.

We are so incredibly grateful to all of the staff that helped with our terrifying ordeal and just wanted to publicly acknowledge their fabulous skills.

Louisa Sparke,Adamstown HeightsSUBSIDIES, WHAT SUBSIDIES?MARK Ellis (“Selective subsidies” Letters 8/9)implies that “government assistance”provided tomining companies by G20 countries by way of subsidies is happening here in NSW.

The truth is that the NSW mining industry does not receive any significant government assistance.

In its annual Trade and Assistance Review released in July 2016, the Productivity Commission found the effective rate of government assistance to the mining industry in Australia is “negligible”. This has been the Commission’s finding for many years, and has been echoed by the Commonwealth Treasury.Similarly, the former head of the NSW Treasury, Michael Schur conducted a detailed examination of the level of subsidies claimed to be received by mining from state governments, and found almost all of the subsidies claimed simply did not exist.

However in the last financial year, the mining sector did pay around $1.4 billion in royalties and taxes to the NSW Government, assisting with the cost of providing teachers, nurses and police for the people of NSW.

Stephen GalileeCEO, NSW Minerals CouncilSPREAD THE WORD ON ABUSEI AGREE with Andrew McElroy (“Royal commission needs national spotlight” Letters6/9 ): the Newcastle hearings of theRoyal Commission into childdeserved national spotlight.

The 154 Marist Brothers included on a list of suspected and confirmed abusers presented at the hearings this weekneeds wider coverage.These abusers were often transferred and worked in schools not only in NSW but Queensland, Victoria and the ACT. The indicators suggest that abuse continued after moves and new victims were found for these deviants to prey upon.

The actual individual complaints made from possible victims was not made clear. These abusers rarely had just the one victim. Some had as many as 10, or even more.

The brave disclosures of the Newcastle/Maitland victims and their families may well have encouraged others outside of our region who still suffer in silence to come forward if appropriate coverage occurred.

Louise Turner,Adamstown HeightsGUARDED RESPONSEDESPITE Commissioner Peter Severin’s defence of Corrective Services NSW new policies for education and training (“Educating inmates”,Letters8/7),I find it difficult to accept that the educational outcomes for inmates will improve.

The shift to privatising education in prisons will have serious consequences for the quality of training offered.

The “training organisations” in which he places much hope do not have the same standards for their staff, who do not have to be teachers who can satisfy the requirements for teacher registration in NSW.

Both state and federal governments have discovered that the privatisation of community vocational education, as well as emasculating the TAFE system, has resulted in training being done by businesses that cannot deliver results, and which have squandered millions of taxpayer funds.

Commissioner Severin did not quote the Tasmanian experience that establishment of better support services and more innovative projects have engaged prisoners.

Even a community garden in prison has had positive outcomes in raising inmate self confidence.

According to the CSNSW website, fact sheet number eight states that after sacking all the existing teachers in prisons “roles in the new structure will be a little over half the current number.”How can this “reform” improve the quality of educational outcomes?

Doug Hewitt,HamiltonLETTER OF THE WEEKThe Newcastle Herald pen goes to the grateful Louisa Sparke, of Adamstown Heights, for today’s“Hearty thanks to all”.

Man admits to rape of 12-year-old girl he met on Facebook

A Newcastle man has offeredno explanation for his actions during sentencingfor the sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl he met over Facebook last year.

The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, denied he had done anything more than hug the victim and kiss her on the cheek –until shebecame pregnant and had a miscarriage.

The 19-year-oldpleaded guilty to four charges of sexual intercourse with a child between the ages of 10 and 14 after DNA testsidentifiedhim as the father of the child.

Herepresented himself in Newcastle District Court, even though he wasurged by the judge and Crown prosecutor to allow aLegal Aid solicitor to represent him.

He was warned he was facing a lengthy jail sentence for the offences, which carrya maximum penalty of 16 years imprisonment.

But the man, who has already spent the past nine months in custody over the charges, said“I don’t want no legal representative because then they have to adjourn it for another year”.

According to police facts tendered to the court, the man told police he originallysought the girl out on Facebook because he had wanted to “bash her ex-boyfriend”.

Over the course of severalconversations the pair began“dating” and the victim allowed the offender to visit her family home.

Howeverthe prosecution argued the victim showed “immaturity”and “naivety”by asking what the offender meant when he laid her down and told her “don’tworry about what isgoing to happen” before having intercourse with her.

He assaulted her another two times that night, even though the victim’s mother made him sleep on a sofa bed in another room.

The offender alsotook the victim’s mobile phone offher when she told two friends what had happened.

He was on parole for aggravated robbery at the time of the offences and theprosecution arguedhe should not be shown leniency because of his extensive criminal history and lack of remorse.

However he will get a discount for his guilty plea when sentenced on September 21.

David Morrow to take a break from NRL commentating for Savoureux in the Sheraco Stakes

Jockey Samantha Clenton rides Savoureux to win The Cellarbrations Handicap in January. Photo: bradleyphotos杭州m.auFor David Morrow work comes first as rugby league reaches the pointy end of the season, so he will have to watch talented mare Savoureux on television in the Sheraco Stakes on Saturday.

The commentator has a love of racing and owns a number of horses, but can’t get to the track during the NRL season and watches from the studio.

It will mean 2GB listeners can expect a commercial break about 4.30pm in the build-up to the NRL semi-final between the Raiders and Sharks, which Marrow will call, so he and his mates can cheer home the mare like they did earlier in the season when she won the Wenona Girl Stakes, at group 3 level.

“I have wanted to have a horse win a group race at Randwick all my life and I ended up watching it on my phone at Campbelltown just before they ran on,” Morrow said. “It seems like every time she runs in one of these races it is late in the day and I’m working but it is good to have a mare like her to run in them.

“We cheered her home that day, I think Piggy [Mark Riddell] backed her because I told him I thought she could win and we will hopefully do it again [on Saturday].”

Morrow takes a share in Joe O’Neill’s Prime Thoroughbreds syndicates every year and Savoureux is the best in the bunch. She is a winner of six of her 18 starts, including a couple at black type level.

“I have been mates with Joe for a long time, we go back to the Waverley cricket days and it makes even more fun,” Morrow said. “He finds good horses at a good price and we have had a bit of success together.”

Savoureux is prepared by Kris Lees and she is targeting the group sprints for mares over the spring, and after her third behind His Majesty on August 13 there is a bit of confident she could produce another effort like the Wenona Girl.

“Kris thought she was a stayer as a young horse but he has worked her out and she sprints and goes best with her runs spaced,” Morrow said.

“The run before the Wenona Girl she ran home sectionals better than Winx and her first-up run was just as good as that.

“Joe and Kris have got Hugh Bowman on her, so we have a bit in our favour. I think she is up to running a good race again and we might look to some in Melbourne later in the spring.”

Will someone please turn on the lights: Why have TV dramas literally become so dark?

Game of Thrones: ‘Let me give you some advice, bastard: There’s a sale on at Beacon Lighting.’Halt and Catch Fire is one of the most dimly-lit dramas of recent years.

Over the years, Home and Away, and many other Australian dramas, opted for darker lighting.

A scene from the critically acclaimed HBO drama True Detective.

To many fans, Game of Thrones is too dark. Not figuratively – they literally can’t perceive what’s happening on screen. so many scenes in game of thrones are too dark and I can’t see what the hell is going on— just ty (@tysechler) May 16, 2016

In fairness, GoT’s characters don’t have cheap lighting solutions at hand. (And most are pre-occupied with bigger problems.)

But the show symbolises a bigger problem: modern TV drama is too dim. Too inky. Can someone please switch on a lamp?

There is now a whole cohort of under-lit American shows, as Kathryn VanArendonk writes in Vulture, including Mr Robot, a “murky”-looking The Americans, and Halt and Catch Fire, set in “the darkest, gloomiest California imaginable”.

Here in sunny Australia, we’ve followed suit.

High-brow thrillers such The Code on ABC opted for a grey, washed-out palette. But even our soapies have toned themselves down.

When Lynne McGranger blew into Summer Bay in 1993, taking over the Home and Away role of Irene from Jacqui Phillips, she was a peroxide blonde – and the show was equally bright. But now, Irene’s diner is lit with all the moodiness of a dive bar.

Over in Erinsborough, Neighbours producers have also ripped out the high-wattage bulbs. Even dramas such as House Husbands – while not exactly dark – can seem muted at times.

All this is especially noticeable in contrast the reality genre, which prefers bright, bold colours.

But when – and why – did TV drama kill the lights?

A lot can be traced The Sopranos – itself modelled on the moody look of The Godfather, as Matthew Dessem explains in Slate.

Compared to more recent shows, The Sopranos might not strike you as dimly-lit. But, inspired by its success, others tried to replicate its look. “Dark” became synonymous with “quality” – then everyone got carried away. Now, we need to close the curtains and squint when we watch Hannibal, True Detective or Marvel’s Daredevil.

VanArendonk argues the dark = quality device has been over-used. Besides, Mad Men was awash in brilliant colour at times and even Breaking Bad, with all its moodiness, used colour effectively.

In contrast, she says, the determination of Halt and Catch Fire producers to mute everything lends a “weirdly gloomy” feel to the series. (She singles out a scene in which a family eats breakfast in an obviously sunny kitchen that is also inexplicably grey.)

Of course, dim lighting isn’t the only technique to have its moment in, erm, the sun.

Several years ago, as hand-held technology improved, film-makers went mad for the “wobble-cam” effect. Any script with a whiff of gritty realism had to look as though it was filmed in an earthquake. But for viewers, there’s a difference between “raw” camera work and needing motion sickness pills.

Technology has also been the biggest enabler of dark TV. Indeed, the reason TV was so dazzlingly bright, for so many years, is because it needed to be.

Our old 20-inch cathode ray sets had a clarity intolerable to modern eyes. To make images seem sharper, producers filmed everything under blazing lights.

It was safer that way, too. With digital cameras, a director can instantly review her work – something that’s impossible on film. And a poorly-lit scene was damn hard to fix in the editing suite.

But one show, above all others, defined the look of 20th century television: I Love Lucy.

Bright and low-contrast, that look was invented by Metropolis cinematographer Karl Freund to solve a problem. The program’s stars, Lucile Ball and Desi Arnaz, wanted to shoot on film – with a studio audience, no less. Except film was tricky, as was keeping an audience in constant laughter.

Freund found a way to allow multiple 35mm cameras to film together, without spoiling the lighting. He hung overhead lights from catwalks, hiding the cables, and attached others to the cameras themselves. Dessem explains: “The result was a show where everything was plainly illuminated, with very little shadow, and characters popped cleanly from the gray background thanks to backlighting.”

Until the explosion in high-definition TVs a decade ago, there was little motivation to play with lighting. On an analogue screen, an under-lit scene would look invariably awful.

Of course, just because a scene appears dark, it doesn’t mean it was shot that way – advances in post-production have also tinged our dramas.

Still, results vary.

Watching Game of Thrones on a 4K set, in a darkened room, is vastly different to seeing it on a glossy-iPad, on a plane, as your neighour’s reading light intrudes onto your screen.

Cheap televisions can have terrible reproduction. Poor eyesight makes a difference. And some of us are just over our favourite characters wandering around in near-blackness.

VanArendonk puts it best: “So-called ‘serious’ TV has so many tools to communicate complexity and bleakness … If the goal is to make a series hard to watch, there are lots of ways to do it. It does not also need to be hard to see.”

Twitter: Michael_Lallo