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Origin denies claims of oil, gas leaks

A series of independent assessments failed to verify claims of compliance failures at oil and gasfields operated by Origin Energy. The claims were made by a disgruntled former employee, who has lodged an unfair dismissal claim against the company.

Origin operates and participates in a series of oil and gasfields across Australia and New Zealand that are the subject of claims by a former compliance manager with the company, Sally McDow. She lost her job with the company as part of a significant restructuring earlier in 2015, which saw as many as 1000 employees axed in the wake of the slump in the oil price.

The collapse in the price of oil over the past 18 months from more than $US100 a barrel to its present level of around $US36 has forced Origin along with other oil and gas producers to axe employee numbers in a bid to rein in costs. Origin was also forced to go cap in hand to raise $2.5 billion from shareholders to strengthen its balance sheet following a heavy round of spending to develop a gas processing and export facility in Queensland.

“She made a series of compliance claims and there were three independent investigations into her claims – all were independent and none substantiated those claims,” a spokeswoman for Origin said.

“Claims of [oil and gas] leaks were not substantiated,” the spokeswoman said.

Ms McDow’s legal representative, Maurice Blackburn, would not comment on the case.

Ms McDow was based in Queensland and it is unclear whether she was privy to some of the information about alleged leaks in projects in parts of Australia and New Zealand which form part of her unfair dismissal claim.

She first raised issues about compliance in connection with HR conversations she was having with Origin management, the Origin spokeswoman said, which were then subject to independent investigation, which failed to substantiate the claims, including of claims of serious compliance issues or cover-ups.

The spokeswoman said Origin encourages employees to raise genuine concerns, which is what Ms McDow did. However, on this occasion none of those concerns were substantiated.

Origin said it “will vigorously defend” itself from Ms McDow’s claims in court.

Specifically, the energy company said there had been no known oil leak to an aquifer in the Surat fields, although “minor operational ‘weeps’ of gas occurred at the Rimu, Kauri and Manuhati​ fields in NZ, which were not reportable incidents, the spokeswoman said. Additionally, there have been no known gas leaks at the Kauri C well site, from pipelines and no unassessed gas leaks at Heytesbury site in WA.

In the Otway Basin and at the BassGas project, any emissions such as nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides in excess of the set limits are reported to the regulator, which is available publicly.

At the Jingemia oilfield in WA, an independent third party confirmed that there has been no release of naturally occurring radioactive materials, the Origin spokeswoman said.

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WIN’s last minute deal with Nine keep Canberra TV viewing unchanged

WIN Canberra news readers Amy Duggan and Kerryn Johnston.A last minute licensing deal between regional television broadcaster WIN Corp and Channel Nine is not expected to change viewing for the Canberra audience.

She said the local news was a WIN product, and not involved in discussions with Channel Nine related to supply of programs.

WIN Corp has narrowly avoided its services “going to black” on the stroke of midnight by extending its licensing deal with Nine Entertainment for six months and hinted at a bigger tie-up between the companies.

WIN, which is owned by Bermuda-based billionaire Bruce Gordon, was facing the possibility of losing its feed from Nine. The city broadcaster wanted a bigger share of its affiliate’s advertising revenue and the existing contract was set to end at Midnight tonight.

Failure to strike a deal would have left regional viewers with the limited range of programming that WIN itself controls. Rural and regional fans of the cricket would have had to switch over to SBS for the upcoming Tests between Australia and the West Indies as well as India.

But after tense talks at the highest levels of both companies on Wednesday, the parties agreed to extend their arrangements for six months until June 2016 with Nine getting additional payments over the period.

The bigger story is the increased cooperation between the two companies that could lead to a merger, which would create a broadcasting giant worth up to $1.8 billion.

Sources close to both parties revealed to Fairfax Media that merger talks were on the table throughout these discussions.

“NEC and WIN have also agreed to work together on a range of opportunities relating to their content and to the mutual growth of their respective businesses,” Nine said in a statement.

“Broadcast television is evolving, but the role of the affiliate and its relationship with the local community remains important,” Nine chief executive Hugh Marks added.

WIN would be expected to keep a stake in a combined entity, but discussions remain at an early stage with no firm discussions around price or structure. WIN’s value has been speculated at between $150 million and $300 million. Nine’s market capitalisation is $1.6 billion.

Mr Gordon already owns a 14.95 per cent of both Nine and Network Ten.

But both parties are limited by the federal government’s “reach rule”, which prevents any one party from owning metropolitan and regional broadcasters. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is expected to push for a scrapping of the law next year.

June 2016 is shaping up as a vital year for regional and rural TV viewers.

Nine has held previously exploratory talks to supply its broadcast feed to rival rural broadcaster Southern Cross, which currently uses Network Ten’s less popular content in a deal that expires in June 2016.

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Teen’s higher calling

ON TOP: Chelsea Egginton at the NSW junior titles in February when she cleared a then world-best 1.76 metres. Picture: David TarbottonREDHEAD high jumper Chelsea Egginton ended 2015 just one centimetre off the best height for her age group in the world.

Not bad considering a seriouship injury in Mayall but wiped out the rest of her year.Now the 14-year-old is back and determined to one day become a Commonwealth and Olympic Games athlete.

Egginton jumped 1.76 metresto win the NSWjunior title on February 6, ranking her first in the world for 2015 in her age group and just five centimetres off the all-time 13-years mark.She was aiming tochallenge the world record before her birthday in July, but anavulsion fracture in the growth plate of her right hip during training on May 4 ended her hopes.Anavulsion fractureis when a small chunk of bone attached to a tendon or ligament breaks off. It is a common injury for athletes in their early teens.

“A week before the injury happened, it was pulling and feeling tight,” Egginton said.

“We didn’t think it was a big issue, then I played in the Bill Turner Cup soccer the week before it happened, and that’s when I started to notice somethingwas wrong.I took it easy thenthe day before my school carnival, I went out to train and it happened in my high jump run-up. It sounded like when you throwa handball at a brickwall. Just a big pop. My coach heard it from 20 metres away.”

In her absence, UkrainianOlena Zhmur cleared1.77m to top the age group for 2015.Egginton, who returned totraining in August, remained No.2despite the long lay-off.

She said the experience “just makes me keen to jump back to those heights so I can be on top again”.

“I’m going in a few more comps now andI’ve been jumping in the 160s.My main goal is to get back jumping in the 170s andI want to get there by NSW juniors in February,” she said.

She will compete at the January 30Hunter Track Classic at Glendale ahead of state and national junior championships.

Her goal is to jump at theworld juniors and youth titles over the next two years thenrepresent Australia at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

Reo’s sad end in front yard

DEVASTATED: Jake Lewis and Charmaine Robold, with 20-month-old Kalani. Picture: Simone De Peak.

REO,amalteseterriercross,waslazinginhisowners’NelsonBayfrontyardthe dayanotherdog walked up and mauled him to death.

That was Monday. Charmaine Robold and Jake Lewis looked up to seea large mixed-breed dog withtheir dogin its jawsshakinghard. It would be their last daywith their petof nine years.

“We were in our front yard getting ready for family to come over, and Reo was sun-baking there,” Ms Robold said.

MISSED: Reo, a maltese terrier cross, was euthanased after being mauled by a bigger dog in a Nelson Bay front yard.

“Jake has ripped itsmouth open to get our dog out. He’s had him since he was five months old.”

Reo was euthanised early Tuesdayat theNewcastle Animal Referral andEmergency Centre. VeterinarianWendy Fishersaid the centre hadhadan influx of dogsattacked by other dogs since Christmas.

The reasons arevaried.People get puppies for Christmas and have trouble socialising them; holidaymakers let their dogsoff-lead; there are simply more dogs about.

“The nastiest injuries are big dog on little dog attacks where they can penetrate a cavity and pick them up and shake them,” Dr Fisher said.

“In Reo’s case, you could see his lungs from the outside. His left-hand chest wall was badly damaged and he had four ribs that weren’t just fractured, butvery severely displaced.”

TOO LATE: Vets worked to save Reo, but he suffered lung injuries and had four ribs (right side of x-ray) “severely displaced”.

Though often “lovely” towards humans,staffordshire bull terriers frequently attack other dogs, Dr Fisher said.

Ms Robold and Mr Lewis think the dog that attackedReo belonged to visitorsand have filed a report with Port Stephens Council.

They don’t know how to explain itto their 20-month-olddaughterKalani, butwant their experienceto be a lesson to dogowners.

People should invest as much vigilance in walking a dog as in driving a car,Rob Stabler, a Newcastleanimal behaviour and welfare consultant, said.

“Off-lead, in my opinion, is an accident waiting to happen. There’s some bullying that happens.Some dogs will get around being unpleasant,” Dr Stabler said.

“Dogs don’t need to play with other dogs. Everyone thinks they should befrolickingon the beachbut it’s not really necessary.”

Signs that a dog might attackinclude a straightened tail, raised hackles,wide stance or, moreseriously, a“freeze”.

The best way to placate a dogin afreeze is to whistle, click or clap, Dr Stabler said, rather than yell.

NYL offers Brennan fresh start for Jets

UP FRONT: Andy Brennan at Jets youth team training on Thursday. Picture: Michael ParrisJETS rookie Andy Brennan will try to kick-start his professional career in the club’s youth team on Saturday after an injury-plagued six months in Newcastle.

Brennan has struggled with a hamstring injury since joining the Jets on a two-year contract from South Melbourne in June,but youth coach Clayton Zane said the 22-year-old would play his second competitive game for Newcastle in the National Youth League match against Wanderers at Popondetta Park in Sydney this weekend.

“There’s been a lot of speculation when he first came to the club. People wanted to see him,” Zane said.

Andy Brennan playing for South Melbourne early 2015“That jump from NPL to A-League, it’s a big jump, just from the training loads, and he’s a very explosive player, so already the risk of muscle injuries is heightened, and then he’s made the jump from a weaker competition to a much stronger one and become a full-time player.

“I think it’s normal what’s happened to him, but, at the same time, as time ticks by, more expectation falls on your head as a result of that.”

Zane hoped the Tasmanian, whose other Jets appearance was as a second-half substitute in the first round of the NYL,would soon be in a position to help the senior squad, who have not scored in four games.

“He’s starting to get to a point now where he’ll hopefully be knocking on the door for the second half of the A-League to get a position on the bench,” Zane said.

“It’s very important, these youth league games, for players who aren’t in the squad, if they use them wisely, they can get back in the frame.”

Brennan has trained as a winger, but Zane predicted a different role for him on Saturday.

“He’s got a lot to prove, and we had a look at him at training this week to potentially play as a No.9 to give him a little bit of confidence to make that jump to the A-League team.This will be a 45- or 60-minute game for him, I think, in his recovery from injury.”

“We’ll look to give him a go in a central position to have more contact in and around the goal for him. That’s one way we’ll try and help him.At the same time he’ll help our team because he’s quick and he can make runs in behind.”

Former coach Phil Stubbins signed Brennan in the final weeks of his and Nathan Tinkler’s reign at the Jets. He played for South Hobart before joining South Melbourne and scored 25 goals in his last Tasmanian NPL season to win the league’s best-and-fairest award.

“He’s on a two-year deal, so he’s fortunate he’s been given a bit of extra time,” Zane said. “Not all state league players get given that luxury.Andy has that real rawness to him, but he’s desperate to get through on goal and get goal-scoring opportunities, and you can’t coach that. He wouldn’t have been brought to the club if he didn’t have some strengths.”

Two other youngStubbins signings, midfielder Josh Barresi and centre back Themba Muata-Marlow, have played most of the season in the NYL and are yet to make the bench in the A-League.Barresi, 20, is nearing the end of his two-yearcontract, but Muata-Marlow, 21, has another year at the club.