ICAC hearing: Barry O’Farrell denies knowledge of Penfolds Grange wine gift

List of expenses: Nick di Girolamo. Photo: Nick MoirPremier Barry O’Farrell has categorically denied to a corruption inquiry that he received a $3000 bottle of wine from the head of a company linked to the Obeid family.
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In a tense afternoon at the Independent Commission Against Corruption, Mr O’Farrell insisted he also could not recall a phone call on April 20, 2011, with the man who allegedly sent the lavish gift.

The commission heard explosive claims earlier on Tuesday that the then chief executive of Obeid-linked infrastructure company Australian Water Holdings, Nick Di Girolamo, sent Mr O’Farrell the $2978 bottle of Penfolds Grange in mid April 2011.

Mr O’Farrell did not declare the gift on his pecuniary interests register.

Counsel assisting the commission, Geoffrey Watson, SC, accused Mr Di Girolamo of “trying to butter Mr O’Farrell up” over a public-private partnership proposal, a suggestion Mr Di Girolamo denied.

When the Premier gave evidence later in the day, he said he and his wife, Rosemary, had no recollection of the gift.

“I’m no wine connoisseur. I don’t drink a lot these days, that’s evidenced by my size.”

Mr Watson said the 1959 Penfolds Grange from Mr O’Farrell’s birth date, May 24, was “the Don Bradman of wine, it’s unforgettable isn’t it?”

“I don’t believe I would have forgotten it,” Mr O’Farrell said.

Mr Di Girolamo gave evidence that Mr O’Farrell thanked him for the gift – intended to mark his election victory – in a telephone call.

Phone records record Mr O’Farrell called the businessman at 9.29pm on April 20, 2011 – around the time the gift was couriered to his house.

“I have no knowledge,” Mr O’Farrell said of the 28-second call.

The commission is investigating allegations that the family of corrupt former Labor minister Eddie Obeid were “secret stakeholders” in Australian Water and stood to make up to $60 million from the partnership proposal.

A month after the wine was allegedly couriered to Mr O’Farrell’s north shore home, Mr O’Farrell met Mr Di Girolamo at state Parliament, on May 27, 2011.

Former finance minister Greg Pearce has given evidence he was “taken aback” at how “cosy” the meeting seemed when he arrived.

Mr O’Farrell admitted that he and Mr Di Girolamo had each other’s mobile phone numbers and said they may have spoken to each other or texted once a month or once every two months.

Asked how Mr Di Girolamo, a prominent Liberal Party fund-raiser and associate of the Obeid family, could have secured a meeting with him, Mr O’Farrell said that at the time Mr Di Girolamo was a prominent businessman.

“I do think we need to judge people as we found them at the time and not with the benefit of hindsight,” he said.

The inquiry is expected to conclude tomorrow.

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Rob Kerr to head Essendon’s football department

Brisbane Lions list and talent manager Rob Kerr has been appointed to oversee a radically restructured Essendon football department alongside Neil Craig, who has been promoted to general manager of football in charge of coaching, development, team and high performance.
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Craig and Kerr will join Essendon’s executive team in a move which was communicated on Monday night to suspended coach James Hird.

Craig, who has a two-year deal with Essendon, will oversee Hird should he return as contracted to coach next season.

“Neil is a very strong leader,” said acting Essendon chief Xavier Campbell. “He is big on values and he is big on behaviours.”

Kerr, who was released from his Brisbane contract on Monday and will start his new role back at Essendon immediately, will run the Bombers’ list, recruiting and IT programs as well as playing a key role in the club’s new focus on compliance. He last worked at Essendon as an assistant coach under Kevin Sheedy over 1998 and 1999.

Kerr, who is a former AFL Players Association chief executive,

has a relationship with both Mark Thompson – whom he worked with on the coaching panel at Essendon in 1998 – and suspended coach James Hird, who was captain when Kerr worked at the club in the late 1990s.

He also is well known to Essendon’s football director Chris Heffernan and Steve Alessio, who is the acting general manager of football, as well as long-time recruiting manager Adrian Dodoro.

The Bombers have been searching for a head of football since Danny Corcoran decided not to return to the club at the end of last year following his short suspension arising from the supplements saga.

Kerr moved from Essendon to the players’ association in 1999 and replaced Andrew Demetriou as head of the AFLPA in 2000, remaining in that position until 2004. He has a PhD in psychology  and has been working with the Lions since 2010 in his current position, having been placed there with the backing of AFL headquarters to try to fix the Lions’ playing list and salary cap, which was bursting following the disastrous Brendan Fevola deal.

Michael Abrahams, the former legal counsel to the Australian Cricketers’ Association, has been appointed as Essendon’s integrity officer, a role newly created by the club.

Campbell said the restructured football operation was “not knee-jerk and not a band-aid. These appointments demonstrate how difficult the role of running football now is and how the scope was perhaps too broad for one person to handle.

“The structure was put in place and then we found two people we felt would allow the new structure to have longevity and sustainability,” Campbell added.

“We believe we have put in place the structure and the personnel to creat a strong and sustainable football department.”

Campbell remains favourite to assume the yet-to-be-filled chief executive’s position which will be advertised over the coming months and is likely to be decided by June.

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Bendigo boy raises more than $20,000

A BENDIGO boy has raised $22,882 for cancer research.
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Cooper Hale, 10, was inspired by his own cancer journey to raise money to help other children with blood cancers.

So on March 14, a year from the day heentered isolation to begin chemotherapy and preparation for his bone marrow transplant, Cooper shaved his fiery red locks forGo Red for Cooper Day.

Cooper’s mum and dad, Kirsten and Jamie Hale, said the response hadbeen overwhelming and hadonly just come up with a final fundraising tally.

“The past month has been most humbling,” Ms Hale said in a thank you letter to supporters.

“Words cannot express the pride and gratitude we felt on March 14that Cooper’s fundraising day, seeing his beaming smile as he had his head shaved, surrounded by family, friends and so many of our business contacts.

“The support and conversations we had with you during his fundraising efforts have been very humbling …we raised a grand total of $22,882.15 for the World’s Greatest Shaveto provide much needed funding for the Leukaemia Foundation to educate, support and hopefully find a cure for blood cancers.”

Ms Hale said about 200 people cheered Cooper on during his shave and many of his friends from school had coloured or shaved their hair.

“When he first told us he wanted to do it we started with a goalof$2000,” Ms Hale said.

“We just thought we’d do it among family and friends and then someone said to me,’You always get people asking you for sponsorship, it’s a good cause’.

“Then we emailed all our contacts through work (Jackal Fencing)and we got the $2000 within five days.

“We then aimed for $10,000.

BRAVE: Cooper Hale, 10, has his locks shaved by his dad, Jamie. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

“Never for a second did we think we’d get that much but with only two weeks to go until shave day we hit the $10,000 …We’re just so grateful to the amount of people who just jumped in and said we’d love to help.”

SUPPORT: Cooper’s basketball team went red for the cause. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

GO RED: Supporters watch on as Cooper shaves. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

HAIR CUT: Cooper shaves other brave participants’ hair. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

FUN: Cooper’s big event. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

RED: Cooper’s event. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

The Bendigo Advertiserhas followed Cooper’s journey with a series of reports during the past year.

“We’re pretty proud that we were able to use his journey and have him talk about it to raise awareness,” Ms Hale said.

“We even made a little YouTube clip with him doing an interview about why he wanted to do it so that’s helped raise awareness, too.”

Cooper Hale’s storyTo watch the video and see more pictures and stories from Cooper’s journey, visit www.bendigoadvertiser南京夜网.au

[email protected]南京夜网.au

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Your health is your wealth

Christine Hawkins: discovered the value of private insurance when she had a hip replacement.The cost of private health insurance keeps going up, with the federal government approving an average price rise of 6.2 per cent for private health cover from this month, on the back of a 5.6 per cent rise in 2013.
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Given those steep price increases, it’s worth getting a feel for which policies provide the best level of cover, and what you really need.

Money has investigated how to choose the right policy to cover you and keep your health care costs in check.Making a choice

Just how to choose the right cover for your needs? Andy Sheats, chief executive of private health insurer health南京夜网.au, says that across the industry, health insurers have created really complex products that make it hard to figure out exactly how much you can claim.

”There are all sorts of ways the industry controls claims costs, including dollar limits for specific items and family limits,” says Sheats.

”For the most part, a lower-priced health insurance policy is highly correlated to lower coverage; it’s almost always the case that you get what you pay for. But a low price is great if the product provides what you need, so the key is to find a health insurer that makes you feel confident you understand exactly what you are getting,”he says.

When it comes to making a choice, Danny Saksida, chief sales and marketing officer at private health fund HCF, says consumers should think about finding the best value, rather than simply the lowest cost private health insurance. This means it’s important to weigh up the cost of the insurance with the level of cover you receive.

But as Grant Waldeck, spokesperson at comparison site comparethemarket南京夜网.au notes, value for money means something different to each person, depending on their circumstances. Cover that means you get a substantial amount back for, say, the cost of orthodontic work will be more valuable to a young family than cover that gives a great payout after a hip replacement.

When weighing up if a policy offers good value, Waldeck recommends making a list of the top five things you want your insurance to include, and then working out whether the policies you’re considering cover those things.

Then decide how much excess you’re willing to pay and whether you’ll end up paying tax as a result of not having hospital cover.

”More extras don’t always mean the most comprehensive policy,” he says. ”Make a list of the extras that would have the most value to you and evaluate from there. Don’t consider a policy unless at least 80 per cent of your wants and needs are ticked off.”

According to Waldeck, if you’re single, under 30 and aren’t expecting any hospital visits in the near future, you might consider an extras-only fund. If you’re a couple starting a family, look for a policy that includes obstetrics. Families should keep an eye out for policies that cover not just orthodontics, but also speech therapy and accident cover. If you’re over 55, look out for policies with added value such as home nursing and chronic illness management.

Chief executive of Teachers Health Fund Brad Joyce says that all health funds have websites with product information available to allow you to compare services and benefits.

”The Federal Government also runs a great site, privatehealth.gov.au, to help consumers choose the right fund,” he says.

Teachers Health Fund is one of the industry-based funds that offers cover to members of a specific industry or employee group and their families. Most are not-for-profit, so any surplus generated from premiums is generally reinvested back into the fund. This is in contrast to for-profit funds, which distribute profits to shareholders as dividends.

It’s worth remembering this when making your choice. It doesn’t necessarily mean industry funds are cheaper – and sometimes membership is restricted – but it’s worth keeping in mind.

Leaving the value debate aside, research by the consumer group Choice suggests that the cheapest hospital covers to avoid the Medicare levy surcharge and lifetime health cover charges (on a per-month basis, based on 2013 figures and not taking into account rebates) are GMHBA’s Frank basic hospital cover ($66 in Queensland; $67 in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria) and NIB public hospital cover with $400 excess ($72 in ACT and NSW; $65 in Tas).

Choice also rates GMHBA’s Bronze Extras as the best basic extras cover ($26 in ACT, NSW, Qld and WA; $29 in SA, Tas and Vic).

It says the top hospital cover with a $1000 excess is Latrobe X3 Top Hospital CoverWise ($270 in Qld, SA, Tas and Vic).

The best hospital covers, without excess or co-payment, are AHM’s Top Hospital ($243 but only in the Northern Territory) and HCF’s Top Plus (which costs $313 in WA, but more in other states), followed by Medibank Private’s Top Hospital ($347 in ACT and NSW; $214 in NT).

Choice has named Peoplecare Gold Extras ($135 in all states) as the top extras cover, along with St Lukes’ Super Extras, which costs $106 in all states.

Aside from checking Choice’s website, HCF’s Saksida recommends reading the annual State of the Health Funds report from the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman, a government agency set up to protect the interests of private health insurance consumers.

”A good objective indicator of value is the proportion of the insurance premium returned to members as benefits, which can be found in the report,” Saksida says.

It’s also worth remembering that it’s not hard to switch insurers and usually, if you do switch, any waiting periods are waived.Keeping costs down

One way to help reduce your premium without sacrificing your level of cover is by taking on an excess or increasing your existing excess if you already have a policy in place.

You can also manage the amount you spend on private health insurance by buying cover with exclusions.

So if you’re not planning on having any more children you could look for a policy without obstetrics cover.

It’s also possible to reduce your premiums by downgrading your extras cover without sacrificing your hospital cover.

When you’re making your choice, Teachers Health’s Joyce says it’s a good idea to understand whether the fund is prepared to waive any waiting periods.

He also says it’s worth finding out if you can choose your own practitioner to receive the full benefits of the cover, or whether you’re limited to a list of the fund’s preferred providers.

Whatever you decide: Before you make the move and switch to a different provider, make sure that you fully understand how your cover will change, and seek confirmation from the health fund you are switching to that they will indeed waive waiting periods.

It’s in their interests to do so to encourage people to move funds.Private clinic and rehab

In December 2009, at the age of 43, school liaison officer Christine Hawkins from Sydney’s northern beaches found herself in need of a total hip replacement. “It was absolutely necessary,” she says. A member of Teachers Health Fund, she was able to choose her surgeon, stay at the private hospital of her choice and spend two weeks in rehab.

The operation and its associated costs would have cost a total of $27,000, but with the fund’s coverage the cost dropped to just $3000.

Hawkins moved across to Teachers Health Fund from another provider after seeing the greater benefits for teachers early in her career. The return on medical services is just one of the reasons she has stayed with the fund. She says it provides good value for fees, and better returns for its members as it was designed for teachers and their families.Understanding the limits of your policy

Sports physiotherapist Andrew Darcey, of Leading Edge Physical Therapy, says it is important people understand the limits of their cover, for example the total amount a health fund will pay for the calendar year.

”Even if you see [your health fund’s] preferred provider, you won’t usually receive a higher limit of cover,” he says.Need to know: Rebate and surcharge

There are three government policies it pays to understand when deciding on health cover. The basic message these policies send to consumers is: take out cover or pay the price.

The Medicare Levy Surcharge is a tax payable by high income earners. It is usually cheaper to take out hospital cover with an excess of $500 for singles or $1000 for couples or families than pay the surcharge.

The Private Health Insurance Rebate is a contribution the federal government makes to hospitals and extra cover up to 38.72 per cent of the cost of premiums. The amount the government pays reduces once a single income hits $80,000 a year and when families and couples earn $176,000.

Lifetime Health Cover adds 2 per cent to the cost of your hospital cover for every year over the age of 30 you don’t have cover, and can add up to 70 per cent to the cost of your premium.

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Forwards the key to Victory, says Jurman

Sydney FC left full-back Matt Jurman believes blunting Melbourne Victory’s explosive forwards is the key to securing an upset victory in their elimination final on Friday night.
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The Victory have scored 42 goals in 27 games, just one less than premiers Brisbane, and boast a strike force of Archie Thompson, James Troisi and Kosta Barbarouses, with Connor Pain and Andrew Nabbout offering pace off the bench.

In attacking midfield, Tom Rogic’s ongoing problem with a groin complaint is one boost for the Sky Blues but they still have to contend with another mercurial talent.

“They’ve got a very good front third, especially with Gui Finkler in behind them as well,” Jurman said at training on Tuesday. “They’re a dangerous team but if we, as a back four, keep compact and keep talking, that’s the main thing for us. We need to make sure they can’t do the things we all know they can do.”

Jurman acknowledges Victory’s unusual attacking line-up – having their front two strikers start as wide players with continuous rotation – can create plenty of confusion.

“It’s a bit hard sometimes. You see all these forwards running and sometimes you wonder who your man is,” he said. “But if you have good communication with your back four, they can’t really cause you too many problems if you’re doing the right things.”

Sydney can at least draw plenty of confidence from their three clashes against the Victorians this year, having beaten then 3-2 in Sydney, then 5-0 at Etihad Stadium and, three weeks ago, drawing 1-1 at AAMI Park.

“Maybe we do match up well and maybe we do play a lot better against them,” Jurman said. “But this Friday is another game, and we can’t really afford to look back on our past form. We need to be as good as we can and if we do those things, we’ll give ourselves a good chance of winning the game.”

The Sky Blues needed to win their last two matches of the regular season to make the final, a feat they accomplished as expected, toppling Wellington and Perth at home. Jurman believes that has inspired belief in the team heading into the knockout phase.

“We didn’t play our best [against Perth] but we got the win which was the main thing,” he said. “But when you’re not playing your best and you can still get wins, it’s always a good thing. We’re going into the finals with a bit of momentum after the last couple of wins. It always helps with the confidence.”

The 24-year-old has played an important part in that rise, shaving kilograms from his frame as he transformed from a centre-half to a left full-back, allowing Ali Abbas to shift forward into midfield.

“I’ve really enjoyed playing the past few months in that position,” he said. “It’s given me a lot of freedom to express myself and I think, as a team, we’ve been playing well, so it’s helping me in the position as well. I’ve been getting forward, which is good fun, and hopefully I can keep doing well for the team.”

Backing up on a five-day turnaround, with a flight included, has its own set of issues for the Sky Blues, who have carefully managed the load of their players this week, especially among the club’s over-30 brigade.

Marquee man Alessandro Del Piero did not train with the team while goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic completed an extended recovery away from the main group.

Meanwhile, Jurman’s hunt for a contract extension with Sydney FC hasn’t yielded any results just yet, which may alert rivals in need of an in-form defender.

“No, to be honest, I haven’t heard anything from the club,” he said. “So I’m just concentrating on playing at the moment and that stuff will sort itself out at the end of the season.”

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