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Time to act on air pollution says man who became ‘canary in the coalmine’

Gasping: Uniting Church minister Wes Hartley and wife Beverley Biggs at Mayfield in 2013. Within months they were forced to leave after a doctor warned Reverend Hartley a respiratory condition could shorten his life.A DOUBLING of coarse particle pollution from coal mines in the past five years has left the Hunter with some of the state’s worst air quality readings in 2015, promptingawarning from theUniting Church minister who was gasping for breath within weeks of moving to the region.
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“What surprised me most about living in Newcastle was the total, almost fatalistic, acceptance of an environmental situation that would be unacceptable in most other parts of Australia,” retired minister Wes Hartley, 69, said from his home in Busselton, Western Australia.

“The reality is that out of nowhere a serious respiratory condition emerged shortly after we moved to Mayfield in 2013, and within months my doctor was telling me I had shadowing on the lungs and I had to leave.”

Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) has called on NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman to make 2016 the year of committing to controlling particle pollution after air pollution figures for 2015showedNewcastle suburbs with some of the state’shighest 24 hour concentrations of coarse particle pollution.

Stockton recorded 24 hour coarse particle pollution readings of up to 101.4 micrograms per cubic metre in 2015, or more than double the national 24 hour standard of 50, while Mayfield recorded 84.7, Carrington 80.6, Wallsend 77.5,Newcastle 70.4 and Beresfield 64.9.

Sources of coarse particle pollution in Newcastle include uncovered coal wagons and export terminals.

Stockton also recorded the highest annual average of fine particle pollution, at 9.63 micrograms per cubic metre, or significantly greater than the new nationalannual average of 8 micrograms per cubic metre.

The EJA said all 14 of the Hunter region’smonitoring sites recorded exceedances of the 24 hour average for coarse particle pollution, with the highest concentrations recorded at Camberwell (86.7), Singleton (85.3), Mt Thorley (85.2), Merriwa (83) and Singleton South (82.5).

While Sydney and Wollongong recorded the highest 24 hour average concentrations of fine particle pollution in 2015, Muswellbrook with readings as high as 31.2 micrograms per cubic metre, and Stockton at 30.9, were above the new national 24 hour average of 25 micrograms per cubic metre.

EJA researcher Dr James Whelan said particle pollution caused a range of respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, and contributed to the premature deaths of more than 3000 Australians each year.

“There is no ‘safe’ concentration below which particle pollution does not cause adverse health impacts,” Dr Whelan said.

“Coal mining is responsible for almost half of annual national coarse particle (PM10) emissions. Coarse particle pollution from coal mines has doubled in the last five years and trebled in the last decade. Fine particles (PM2.5) primarily result from combustion processes. Major sources include coal-fired power stations, motor vehicles and wood heaters.”

In December Australia’s state and federal environment ministers agreed on new particle pollution standards, although NSW rejected calls from Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory to commit to World Health Organisation standards of 20 micrograms per cubic metre for annual average fine particle concentrations.

Dr Whelan said controlling coal dust emissions from uncovered stockpiles and wagons would be “a great start” to a NSW Government commitment to meeting the new national standards.

Reverend Hartley arrived in Mayfield in February 2013, expecting to stay for a lengthy period as the Uniting Church equivalent of Bishop of the Hunter.

By April he thought he was coughing, and within weeks was coughing to the point of exhaustion, vomiting without warning, unable to speak, lethargic, and experiencing breathlessness similar to chronic asthma.

“We moved back to Busselton where we had been living but it took me eight months living in a pollution-free environment to recover,” he said.

“I was, literally, the canary in the coalmine.

“I can only speak from my own experience as someone not used to the environment in Newcastle, but with more and more people moving into the Hunter I think it’s a factor that needs to be taken into account.”

A NSW Environment Protection Authority spokesperson said the NSW Government recognisedthe concerns of residents living in Newcastle and the Hunter and hadfocused significant resources on better understanding air quality in theregion.

“This includes two particle characterisation studies currently underway in the Lower Hunter that will provide a better understanding of the sources contributing to elevated particulate levels in places like Stockton and Carrington, and help focus regulatory efforts,” the spokesperson said.

“These studies are due out in early 2016. The NSW Chief Scientist andEngineer is also continuing her review of rail coal dust emissions management.

“It should be noted that elevated PM10 and PM2.5 levels in Stockton are likely due to higher amounts of sea salt in the area resulting from its proximity to the beach. Also, the figures for the highest 24 hour concentrations of PM10 emissions in the Newcastle area given by EJA were recorded during the state wide dust storm event on 5-6 May.”

Jamie Briggs inappropriate bar incident was serious: Malcolm Turnbull

Junior minister Jamie Briggs resigned following an ”incident”.Jamie Briggs: an ambitious MP who overstepped the markSome enchanted evening turns to a hangover for Jamie Briggs
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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has contradicted reports the Hong Kong bar incident that ended Jamie Briggs’ ministerial career was little more than a playful misunderstanding, describing the female diplomat’s complaint against Mr Briggs as a “serious matter”.

The former cities minister, who is married with three children, admitted to a lapse of professional judgment after behaving inappropriately towards a female employee of Australia’s Consulate-General in Hong Kong.

The woman, who is in her 20s, reported his behaviour to her superiors which sparked two independent investigations, the results of which were considered at cabinet level.

According to the first details of the incident, which emerged in newspaper reports in Mr Briggs’ home city of Adelaide, the incident involved a kiss on the woman’s cheek and remark about her “piercing eyes”.

But in his first public statement on the scandal, more than 24 hours after the Liberal minister fell on his sword, Mr Turnbull appeared to dismiss the idea that the incident could be interpreted as playful flirtation.

“This is a serious matter,” he said.

“It was considered very carefully with due process, consultation with senior colleagues, it was considered very, very carefully.

“Ministerial standards were breached. His conduct did not live up to the standard required of ministers and as a consequence, he reflected on that and made a decision to offer his resignation which I accepted and it was the appropriate course of action.”

Mr Turnbull remains under attack by the Opposition for what it calls “grotesque media management” in getting the Briggs’ resignation announcement and the sidelining of Special Minister of State Mal Brough out the door on the same day.

Shadow special minister of state Gary Gray called on Mr Turnbull to explain why Mr Briggs waited a month to resign for his behaviour during the late night drinking session in the bustling Lan Kwai Fong party district of Central, Hong Kong.

“This grotesque form of media management that would think it appropriate to drop this out in the week between Christmas and New Year in order to avoid questions is absolutely appalling,” Mr Gray told Fairfax Media.

Mr Gray said he would be writing to the Public Service Commission and Mr Briggs seeking a clearer timetable of when the complaint was lodged and action taken.

“We don’t want anything released that will identify the public servant but we should understand when the government knew of this event, why it was necessary to carry out several investigations and why it took so long,” he said.

Mr Gray said the matter should have been dealt with before Parliament rose for the year in December.

“This should have been dealt with in a transparent way in the parliament with a simple statement to conducted in an open way with an apology and resignation from the minister and most importantly with dignity and the protection for the Commonwealth public servant,” he said.

Mr Turnbull insisted there was no delay in dealing with the Jamie Briggs issue.

“The announcement about Mr Briggs was made on the first business day after Christmas and the decision was taken just before Christmas. So the process that we went through following the complaint about the incident becoming known was a proper due process, very much in accordance with the code of ministerial standards,” he said.

Mr Turnbull described Mr Brough’s sidelining as a “political decision” as the Australian Federal Police investigation into his involvement in the procuring of Peter Slipper’s diaries remains ongoing.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

need2know: Oil slides, shares follow

Local shares are poised for a flat open as shares drifted lower overseas on further weakness in oil
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What you need2know

SPI futures flat at 5290

AUD at 72.77 US cents

On Wall St, late, S&P 500 -0.4%, Dow -0.3%, Nasdaq -0.4%

In Europe, Stoxx 50 -0.79%, FTSE 100 -0.64%, CAC -0.52%, DAX -1.08%

In London, BHP -1.96%, Rio -0.96%

Spot gold down $US8.33 or 0.8% to $US1060.78/oz at 3.01pm New York time

Brent crude down $US1.35 or 3.6% to $US36.44/bbl at 2.36pm NY time

What’s on today

Thursday: Australia November credit.

Stocks in focus

Deutsche Bank has a ‘buy’ recommendation on Flight Centre (FLT) and a $46 target price.

Macquarie Wealth Management has an ‘outperform’ rating on Austal (ASB) and a $2.26 target price.

Currencies

China has suspended at least two foreign banks from conducting some cross-border yuan business until late March, limiting their scope to profit from a widening gap between the currency’s exchange rates at home and abroad.

The US dollar’s share of allocated currency reserves rose to 64 per cent in the third quarter this year, from 63.7 per cent in the second quarter, data from the International Monetary Fund showed.

Russia’s rouble and the South African rand weakened at least 1.1 per cent versus the US dollar, leading declines in emerging currencies, which slid for a third day, driving the gauge of 20 emerging currencies 0.2 per cent lower.

Commodities

“The most important things for Glencore is to keep our investment-grade rating and to find areas where we can cut production,” said director John Mack, a former chief executive officer of Morgan Stanley. “We are not backing out of trading. We are as aggressive as we have ever been in trading.” Mack said the company remained bullish on Chinese demand for commodities.

Brent crude slid back towards 11-year lows as US stockpiles swelled and Saudi Arabia reiterated a commitment to keep pumping oil. A Reuters poll estimated that data would show a 2.5-million-barrel draw in the week ended December 25, but US crude stocks rose by 2.6 million barrels.

The most-active May iron ore contract on the Dalian Commodity Exchange rose to a session high of 324.50 yuan ($US50.01) a tonne, before paring some gains to close up 2.9 per cent at 321 yuan.

United States

If the S&P 500 closes 2015 higher, it will be its fourth consecutive annual gain, while a loss would make it the worst year since 2008. The index has risen as much as 3.5 per cent in the year and was down 9.3 per cent at its low in August.

Apple was the heaviest drag on all three major indexes, falling 1 per cent. Concerns about potentially soft iPhone sales have hit the stock in recent weeks. Netflix and Amazon南京夜网, the S&P 500’s top two performers in 2015, were down 0.96 per cent and 0.04 per cent respectively.

“I just don’t see any upside leadership,” said Donald Selkin, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York. “I’d be happy if we ended the year right here.”

Weight Watchers soared 23 per cent, extending gains for the third day after the company launched an advertising campaign last week featuring Oprah Winfrey.

Europe

European stock markets fell on Wednesday as weak commodity prices impacted the shares of mining and energy companies. European equities are heading for their worst December since 2002, down 4.6 per cent.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index lost 0.5 per cent at the close of trading, after the previous session’s 1.4 per cent gain. The volume of shares changing hands was 40 per cent lower than the 30-day average. Markets will shut on Friday for New Year. Some including Germany, Switzerland and Italy, will also close for New Year’s Eve, while others will have shorter trading hours.

The DAX, up 9.6 per cent in 2015, will rally 9.8 per cent to 11,792 next year, according to the average of 13 strategist projections compiled by Bloomberg. Natixis’s prediction calls for an 18 per cent surge.

What happened yesterday

The benchmark ASX 200 index closed 1 per cent higher at 5319.9, while the broader All Ordinaries lifted 0.9 per cent to 5366.4. The Santa rally so far has lifted the ASX 200 more than 8 per cent since its December 15 nadir of just over 4909. The index is now within 1.7 per cent of its position at the start of the year – 5411.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Big Bash League 2015: Fan takes spectacular catch off Chris Gayle’s massive six

Howzat: The spectator takes a screamer in the thick of the crowd. Photo: Screen grabMichael Klinger and Shaun Marsh in record standWhy you can’t keep a catch at a BBL game
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Etihad Stadium often plays host to spectacular high marking during winter, but on Wednesday night there was a comparable speccy taken at a Big Bash League match – by a member of the crowd.

Perth paceman Jason Behrendorff’s remarkable one-handed return catch, to remove Melbourne Renegades’ Cameron White, was relegated to the second-best take by the efforts of the man sitting on the second tier of the stadium who dived across fellow patrons to snare the chance.

West Indies enforcer Chris Gayle clubbed three sixes in making 41 for the Renegades in their 10-wicket loss to the Scorchers. The biggest of them, off veteran spinner Brad Hogg, was dispatched 99 metres over wide long-on.

The ball was set to land about two metres to the right of the spectator. Rather than be dissuaded by that, that spectator rose from his seat and flung himself to his right in pursuit of the catch.

In a season hitherto dominated by poor catching in the crowd at BBL matches, the spectator got one back for the public by claiming the chance at full stretch, while using on the heads and backs of a man and woman in front of him.

While both of the latter patrons were stoic, and seemingly uninjured, by having someone jump on them without warning, the catcher was ecstatic. After throwing the ball back on to the field of play he raised his arms in triumph.

That the spectator was took the catch while horizontal was reminiscent of the spectacular mark taken by high-flyer Warwick Capper for the Sydney Swans over Hawthorn’s Chris Langford in the 1987 qualifying final of what was then known as the Victorian Football League, now the Australian Football League.

The irreverent Capper took to Twitter to give qualified congratulations to the catcher.

“We’ve gone to the judges and mine is better! Not enough ‘Hollywood’ in his! Super effort though, mate. haha,” Capper said.

Given the spectator had to return the ball, the quality of his catch may persuade Cricket Australia to revisit a proposal to let spectators who catch a six to keep the ball, similar to baseball, or at least be given a replacement ball or some official memento after the match.

The crowd of 26,787 was a BBL record for Etihad Stadium for a match excluding derbies between the Renegades and Stars.

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A big year for council, with much more to come in 2016

Council is an integral part of the fabric of the local community – making decisions that reflect the diversity of our people and planning strategically for future growth and economic stability. Our shared vision for Newcastle 2030 guides the many projects, activities and services we provide throughout the local government area, leading us to become a smart, liveable and sustainable city – a place where people want to live, work, play and raise families.
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We are at a critical point in our city’s history and the decisions we make today will shape Newcastle and affect our future. Improved transport networks, revitalisation of the city centre and further growth in the diverse local economy will be key drivers in sustaining our future. Council’s commitment to support the city renewal project Renew Newcastle with $30,000 annually for three years is just one example of how we are working towards supporting the emerging creative industries.

REVITALISED: Nuatali Nelmes at a completed section of the Bathers Way project – the shared pathway linking Newcastle’s seven coastal precincts. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

This Council is committed to bringing the city back to financial stability through our long-term financial plan while protecting local services and community amenitiessuch as pools, parks, libraries and cultural facilities both in the city and suburbs. In addition, we are planning for greater community change through the Wallsend Master Plan, the Foreshore Plan of Management and the Local Planning Strategy.

We also want to capitalise on our city’s unique history, wonderful cultural facilities and burgeoning café culture, which are major attractions to both locals and visitors. Council is committed to retaining Newcastle’s heritage, continuing to support and improve the Regional Art Gallery and Museum and helping people learn more about our history. This year we introduced five new self-guided walking tours that allow people to explore Newcastle’s past and present.

Over the past year we have made tremendous progress on our four priority projects. We have completed major sections ofthe Bathers Way project as well asbeach revitalisation; we opened a new wildlife arena and amenities block at Blackbutt Reserve; our building façade improvement scheme is upgrading80 city businesses and our place activation initiative has delivered popular projects such as Hit The Bricks.

The community came through a traumatic event together this year in the form of the April super storm. So severe was the damage that Newcastle was declared a natural disaster zone, and we are still working to repair the significant amount of damaged infrastructure, which included the loss of 10,000 trees.More than 50,000 people attended the Anzac dawn service at Nobbys to pay their respects to those who fought for our country. Thousands more joined services across the city. My sincere thanks go to the Council staff, the community, RSL sub-branches and local businesses who worked so hard to deliver such moving events, just days after our region had been so devastated.

Last summer Newcastle continued to impress internationally by staging the Asian Cup, the biggest football tournament Australia has ever hosted. Broadcast to approximately 800 million people worldwide, itwas the most watched Asian Cup ever.

Newcastle is clearly experiencing a rebirth, and growth and change always come with challenges and sometimes difficult decisions. Council is committed to a consultative leadership approach so that we face these challenges together and we make decisions with full understanding and consideration of community perspectives.

Cr Nuatali Nelmes is NewcastleLord Mayor

Gayle tips special Knight

SPECIAL BOND: Gayle Masterson gives Knight Sprite a hug at their Hexham home this week. Masterson hopes Knight Sprite can give her a maiden group race win as a trainer on Friday night. Picture: Marina NeilGAYLE Masterson knew before she was supposed to that Knight Sprite was something special.
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Gayle Masterson

Now the hobby trainer from Hexham is hoping the black dog can go from special talent to a group-winning performer in the Gosford Cup on Friday night.

Knight Sprite was a $3.50 chancein the group 2 feature with the NSW TAB on Thursday after a scorching 29.40-second win in his heat on Sunday night. Richmond Vale trainer Jason Mackay’s Smart Missile was a $2.90 chance from box two.While premier Hunter Valley trainerMackay is no stranger to group success, Masterson, 64, is enjoying a dream run with Knight Sprite.

A three-year-old in February, Knight Sprite has 20 wins and 14 placings in 44 starts for Masterson, who knew nothing of the sport before meetingWayne Masterson and marrying into a greyhound racing family35 years ago.Now a trainer for 20 years, Gayle had success with Shotgun Kid locally a decade ago but nothing like the ride she is on with Knight Sprite. And it was a run she saw coming early.

“I was telling everyone from the time we brought him home, when he was about three months old, I said hewas really special,” Masterson said.“Everyone said, ‘you can’t tell yet’, but I said, ‘you wait and see’.

“I had bred a couple of litters and I was going country with them, which I enjoy very much, but it certainly makes you appreciate when you get a good dog like him.”

Knight Sprite’s success has included an impressive record at Gosford, where he won his four of five starts.

“He loves Gosford.First start therehe was second, and his second start he ran 29.46 and his next two he ran 29.51, so he’s always been around that mark, so it was no surprise,” Masterson said of the heat run.

She said thedraw in seven for the finalwas a bonus for Knight Sprite, who has won four of six starts from the box.

“He comes good out of any box, but I think in the field that he’s in, I’d like him out wide because he can do his own thing out there.”

She said Knight Spritewas coming back from a toe injury and underdonewhen fourthin the group 3 Christmas Giftthis month but“hopefully it’s his turn” at the elite level on Friday night.

Tinkler’s Dartbrook mine plan predictable and alarming, says former coal executive

Alarmed: Former Australian Coal Association chairman Ian Dunlop says Nathan Tinkler’s plan to run an open cut coal mine at Dartbrook is “a microcosm of a much, much bigger problem” in a world just starting to tackle climate change.NATHAN Tinkler’s planfor open cut coal mining at Dartbrook fulfils an analyst’s prediction about major companies offloading rehabilitation liabilities to smaller, riskier buyers, and is “a microcosm of a much, much bigger problem”, a former international coal, oil and gas executive has warned.
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“This is not just a small issue, it’s a very big issue,” former Shell executive and Australian Coal Association chairman Ian Dunlop said after Mr Tinkler’s Australian Pacific Coal advised the Australian Stock Exchange it planned to buy the mothballed Dartbrook underground mine from Anglo American and apply for an open cut mine.

Mr Dunlop, now a climate change campaigner who was involved in planning for Dartbrook while an energy industry executive in the 1980s and 1990s, said the controversial sale was a sign of things to come unless governments acted.

Plummeting coal share prices, stagnant coal prices and growing global acknowledgement of the need to tackle climate change meant that “major companies are now trying to sell off coal assets left right and centre”, and the prospects for local and globalcommunities were alarming.

“The Tinklers of this world will keep on having a go tomake a quick buck, and the community will pay the price,” Mr Dunlop said.

“To have any hope of meeting climate change targets, Australia should not only stop approving greenfield mines, but the mines that are shut down, like Dartbrook, should stay shut.

“People like Tinkler will try to get an asset at a low enough price and make a bit of money in the short term, but things like mine rehabilitation are not going to get a look in.”

Mr Tinkler’s announcement of his plans for Dartbrook in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange on Tuesday raised serious concerns about liabilities, after the statement noted a sale would release Anglo American from any future liabilities for the mine.

These include rehabilitation of the existing underground mine, which was mothballed in 2006 after three deaths over 12 years, and problems with gas, groundwater and spontaneous combustion caused “unanticipated operational difficulties at the mine”, according to a Department of Planning assessment report in 2009.

Existing infrastructure potentially affected by any mine rehabilitation work includes the four kilometre long Hunter Tunnel which runs beneath the Hunter River.

Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis analyst Tim Buckley expressed concern that only $7.7 million of “financial assurances” appeared to have been set aside for rehabilitation of the underground mine, but there was no mention of rehabilitation in Mr Tinkler’s statement to the stock exchange.

The statement instead emphasised that Australian Pacific Coal’s purchase of Dartbrook included “significant land ownership comprising the majority of the open cut potential”.

The 3400 hectares in Upper Hunter Shire covered “the majority of the potential open cut mining area”, leaving the question of the future of the underground operations an open one, Mr Buckley said.

He has repeatedly warned of the risks posed by large companies selling mines in the Hunter region to smaller operators as a method of offloading rehabilitation liabilities in the multi millions of dollars.

“The sale of closed mining sites by global mining majors to private firms of unknown but limited financial capacity is the standard way to dodge the rehabilitation liability,” Mr Buckley wrote in a report for the institute in September.

“The July 2015 ‘sale’ of the closed Wilkie Creek coal mining site in Queensland for a reported US$10-20 by Peabody to the private Exergen frees Peabody of an associated US$55 million liability relating to rehabilitation costs and take or pay infrastructure obligations.”

Mr Tinkler did not respond toHerald questions about Dartbrook and mine rehabilitation liabilities.

Anglo American did not respond to a Herald request for a mine closure plan showing the extent of underground mine rehabilitation obligations at Dartbrook.

Short story: What Ishmael Wants

Worth 1000 words: Summer Herald will each day publish an entry in our short story competition. The winner will be announced on January 30. Picture: Simone De Peak.
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ISHMAELhad always been fortunate. He had grown up on the wealthy eastern suburbs of Sydney. As an only child of a single parent he was spoilt and had his gluttony rewarded.

After finishing his law degree he married his college sweetheart, Amber.

The two soon moved into a small suburban home. But their marriage lasted little more than four years, ending when Amber suddenly abandoned their home and her married life. There were no children to consider and Ishmael seemed to move into his new status as a bachelor with remarkable speed.

Ishmael had never wanted the married life. It wasn’t exciting enough, nor did he long for a garden or picket fence. He had married Amber for one purpose, she was his and he wanted to keep it that way.

But now as a newly minted single man he was free from prying eyes, free to fully embrace his more unusual tastes. With the spectre of 30 looming, and with his growing contempt of his legal career,his hunger had never been stronger.

Amber wouldn’t be his one and only dirty little secret that he kept for the rest of his days. She would merely be number one.

His emptiness could not be satiated, though it could be filled, if only for a short period. If he would just feed his deepest desires. Desires that he thought that he had abandoned or forgotten years ago.

Every morning since Amber, he would awake consumed by thoughts of unbridled joy and ecstasy of a solace and of a release that he had thought unattainable.

Amber could now bear witness to his transformation. She could remain under the floor boards.

At first he had wanted to move her, but no one had questioned his story that she had simply abandoned the marriage. She could stay with him and soon with the others.

Ishmael had been freed from the husk that he once was and the life that he never wanted. His slanted shoulders and glazed-over eyes replaced by a new-found vitality. Born of excitement and enjoyment. His new life awaited and there were so many that he wanted to introduce himself to.

A simple glance a look of shared interest would be enough to allow him the freedom to feed his needs. The paved, bustling sidewalks afforded him the perfect opportunity to become one with the faceless masses. Though he would forever be alone. A lone hunter stalking.

Blonde hair and blue eyes were burned into his mind. Amber hadhad these attributes and he wanted to find them again. And again. He needed to replicate the emotions that he felt when he took her life. When he looked into her eyes and saw the fear and shock cloud over.

The disappearance of his unhappy wife had gone unheeded. She had simply needed to escape a life that she no longer wanted.

If more women were to disappear, the bodies would mount,and he really wanted them too.

But what could be worse than a budding killer being caught before he had the ability to experiment and grow. The chance to build a name for himself.If he was caught he wanted it to be years down the track when he had the notoriety, the fame.

Maybe he could manage a career where he remained unchecked and unchallenged and would become an urban legend, a bogeyman.

The answer to so many unanswered questions. Amber would stay with him always, but the others … he had to dispose of them. Cutting, burning, dissolving. He enjoyed the notion of the visceral sensation that these options afforded yet none offered a signature flair. Something that was his and his alone.

He was a wolf among the sheep. He was fast, he was lethal he could feel his physical power.

Every day since Amber’s death he felt more and more powerful.

His lungs were full of fire and he wanted others to burn.

They were weak and inferior, spending their lives in service. They didn’t have the strength to do the hard thing. The brutal, cruel, unimaginable thing. Those who didn’t have the strength –the will to survive – were little more than sheep that he would lead to the slaughter.

What did it matter if one or two or three more women disappeared?

They were nothing. He was giving them the opportunity to be part of something bigger to be part of him, to be part of his legend.

He had wanted this for so long and now with Amber, his loving wife he had taken his first step into this new world.

The rush of euphoria was intoxicating. He wanted more and more. He would pile the bodies high, feeding his needs with every new victim.

Picking and choosing who he wanted from the masses allowing his need for power and blood to fuel every facet of his life. Giving over to his base instincts and allowing them to take hold.

Stewart plays it smart

RISING FAST: University’s Grant Stewart will make his Australian Country Championships debut next week. Picture: Josh CallinanTHERE are plenty of new things in Grant Stewart’s life.
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The newbat he bought at Christmas,the newcap he earned for NSW Country selection, andthe new ball he may take at next week’s Australian Country Championships in Mount Gambier.

It is all part of a new experience for the Lorn21-year-old, who will leave the family turf farm on Friday to debut at the national titles in South Australia starting Monday.

The tournament spans eight days, encompassing five back-to-back matches separated by one rest day, and the University all-rounder said he was looking forward to the test.

“I’ve never done anything like this before, so I’m not really sure what to expect,” Stewart said.

“The closest thing would probably be junior carnivals over four days, but it will be a good challenge.”

Stewart will be one of the front-line bowlers in the squad, either opening or first change, and will bat aboutseven or eight after proving himself with a match-saving half-century for Newcastle in last month’s NSW Country Championship decider at No.1 Sportsground.

A maiden ton in Newcastle district firstgrade last start and a hat-trick earlierthis season also signal good form, but he knows he will have to step up again at the next level.

“I think I need to be a lot more consistent with the ball and be a lot more patient when I bat,” Stewart said.

“You are going to face a lot more good balls and you need to stick to your plans when bowling, not try to get a wicket every ball.”

Stewart’s rise,from Maitland first grade to NSW Country XI intwo years,hit home recently at a training camp in Sydney.

“We had been having a hit in the nets, and then we got taken out onto the Sydney Cricket Ground,” he said.“That’s where they presented us with our baggy blue caps, so it was a great experience.”

Stewart will be the first player from Maitland to represent NSW Country since Michael Eccleston almost two decades ago.Others from the town to reach that stage include Tony Fort, Paul Dyson and Geoff Cooke.

Short story: Out of the Silence

Worth 1000 words: Summer Herald will each day publish an entry in our short story competition. The winner will be announced on January 30. Picture: Simone DePeak
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SO incredibly quiet, his own footsteps clunking on the granite to break the silence. No echo as he walks, no doubt years of industrial grime coating the once sparkling surface. Why is it so quiet he wonders? Where is the background noise? Birds? Traffic? Voices? Just the sound of his own footsteps.

His footsteps and his heart pounding in his chest – his head – both? He isn’t sure. He stops still and waits in trepidation. He listens to his breath as he inhales. The short sharp whoosh of the exhale. His mouth feels dry, his tongue grabbing at gum in passing. It tastes stale. The first wave of nausea passes through him leaving his face flushed before the colour washes away to grey. The second wave washes through with such force that his stomach muscles clench tight up towards his spine, forcing his head to bow. He tries to hold back the vile liquid climbing upwards, searching for its escape route. As the acidic fluid hits the point of no return, he openly retches, spitting the excess moisture to the ground. Bile and stale spit tempt his body to void again, his head barely strong enough to evade a second onslaught.

Sitting down on the cold yet strangely comforting ground, he pulls his fabric backpack closer to his leg. Close so he can feel the light pressure against his thigh. Shrill ringing inside his head alerting him of what? What warning does he need now? High pitch and continuous. Deafening. Reaching for his water bottle, his hand shakes as he urgently negotiates the lid. He turns his hands in unison, the technique implanted inside his brain no doubt from childhood, yet incredibly awkward in his desperation. The feel of cool water splashed haphazardly across his arm brings immediate yet temporary relief. His palms feel sweaty. His hand still shaking he focuses on his breathing. Inhale, hold, exhale. Still no sound around him as he lets his body slouch, his head finding purchase against a hard grainy surface.

Now, through the silence he looks around– slowly – carefully. He sees nothing but his ears scan for something – anything. Confusion, disbelief, fear, and what? Nothing, yet everything all scrambling through his head as he sits motionless on the ground. So many questions, yet no answers. Not yet anyway. Just silence. Not comforting or peaceful. Eerie silence and bewilderment.

Loud chirping from somewhere nearby breaks through the calm. One lone bird brave enough to raise its voice. It chirps again, this time repeatedly through the still air. Maybe its calling its mate he ponders, still terrified to move. He can see his leg flinching beneath the loose fabric covering. An insane feeling of relief flooding in as he watches the spasm. No watch to tick over and mark the time. Time that is lingering, obscenely flaunting its ability to warp, yet still holding its intense accuracy. Through the silence, more deafening than the shrill ringing inside his head, his ears reach hard to grasp the sound. Faint, yet comforting. A familiar sound, still distant but increasing its intensity. Sirens. More than one? He isn’t sure, but it’s definitely sirens. Not daring to move, he sits and waits. No other sound but wailing beacons approaching urgently.

The immediate siren stops while more continue their cacophony in the background. Voices yelling nearby, though the words sound jumbled as his head attempts to decipher their origin. He remains motionless, his muscles beckoning him to release them, his fear ordering their containment. Just a little bit longer he tells himself. He finds himself idiotically counting inside his head, somehow drowning the din. One. Two. Three. Still nothing. Memories invite themselves in as he counts. Sitting in the back seat of the car with his brother. Counting because they were bored. Counting because it might get them there quicker. Just counting. Four. Five. Sitting in the corner of the kitchen, his mother counting because he hit his little brother. Not daring to move while she was still counting. Six. Seven.

“Don’t move!”

Loud. Aggressive. The voice rolls over his body, lifting him up high before dumping him down deep into darkness. Black. Dark. Cold. Nothing.

His head hurts though the pain seems irrelevant as he lays flat, sweat beading across his lip and brow. A man’s voice, calm and somehow soothing, beckoning him to move. Willing his eyes to focus, his head to process, he can no longer control the urge to project the lingering bile from his mouth. He lets his body retch, convulsing forward with each expulsion. He can hear the uniformed man’s voice somewhere in the background, but he can’t bring it closer. So much noise. Sirens. Voices. Trafficnearby. The hand reaching to him misses as he gags wearily at the ground. The second attempt successful, the weary and terrified man is gently supported as he is escorted to a stretcher. Laying on the soft clean surface he feels immediate comfort and warmth. He wants to return to the memories of times past. He wants to sleep – to forget. To forget what his head screams! Sally!

“Sally! Where’s Sally?”the lone man yells.

The memories, the emotions – love, hurt, anger and despair cascade like a waterfall. He remembers – remembers he was supposed to meet Sally. Processing profusely like a virus his brain lurches to grasp beyond the darkness to remember. He remembers the deafening sound of the shot as it ricocheted past him. Waiting, expecting pain to tear through his body. Then nothing. Just silence.

Caresses along his hand bring him back. The touch is familiar and tender. The salty tears taste like nectar as they find his parched lips. Sally gently kisses his mouth, her eyes searching for damage. Her fingers interlock with his,as he apologises. Not once, but many times over.