Fury at council’s timely rezoning plan

No consultation … Wallace Zagoridis at the Lindfield site of his proposed development in Ku-ring-gai.IN A series of votes after midnight, Ku-ring-gai Council has overturned recommendations from its own staff and slashed the size of 18 projects in decisions developers say will cost them millions of dollars.
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One small developer, Wallace Zagoridis who owns Arkibuilt, said the council halved the value of his $8 million site opposite Lindfield station when at 1.45am it cut two-storeys off his seven-storey project, giving him no chance to voice his opposition.

Five years ago, when he bought the 4000-metre site that includes a service station, the Ku-ring-gai Local Environment Plan allowed him to build a seven-storey development – two storeys of shops and businesses with five floors of apartments.

”If I was allowed to build only five storeys, I would have paid $4 million, but I paid $8 million and I have had it for four years paying bank charges … the problem I have is the bank will now look at the zoning and say it’s not zoned for anything viable,” he said.

”We have lost millions of dollars on the whim of the council vote to rezone our land without discussion or any justification.”

Another developer, Barry Murphy, was equally furious with council’s treatment of his site on the Pacific Highway at Pymble, part of which he bought in 1999 when it had already been approved for luxury units.

He has since increased the size of the site, buying more properties after the NSW government forced the council to zone land to allow for 10,000 extra dwellings.

Council staff said his 7500 square-metres of land opposite Pymble station should be zoned for at least 70 units, but councillors last Tuesday, in a special meeting just ahead of next month’s council election, accepted an amendment making it suitable only for five freestanding houses.

”It’s ridiculous, the whole thing is unbelievable … my land is sitting between two, four-storey blocks of units,” Mr Murphy said of the council decision.

”I have spent $300,000 on plans for the front of the site seven or eight months ago and I only did this on the basis of council telling me all this was going to be approved,” he said.

Council’s special meeting was supposed to end a decade-long fight between residents, the council and the state government which has been forcing all councils to accept more dwellings, as Sydney’s population grows.

Last week’s meeting was to ratify a draft local environmental plan which has been exhibited and debated by the community after an earlier plan was rejected by the Land and Environment Court because parts of it were different to the draft that had been publicly exhibited.

The planning consultant Andrew Minto, who represents Mr Murphy, Mr Zagoridis and three other owners whose properties were rezoned, said he doubted whether the government could legally gazette the new plan given the late-night changes were never put on exhibition and the same problem would arise.

”How do you have a site on the highway that’s only for single storeys, that’s just where you should have residential flats,” he said.”

The mayor of Ku-ring-gai, Jennifer Anderson, was one of three councillors who voted against all the rezonings and sympathised with the developers.

”I did not vote for it, I am very conscious of the requirements for viability on sites for development,” she said.

Cr Steven Holland was part of a block of six councillors who voted to rezone all 18 sites. He said he sympathised with developers such as Mr Zagoridis.

”So many different people are affected in so many different ways, some people are going to be happy and some aren’t,” he said.

The Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard, will determine the plan approved by council but said he could not comment on it until he was briefed by his department which is awaiting a report from the council.

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Obeid’s son succeeds in having $16m debt to council wiped out

THE $16.6 million debt Moses Obeid’s company owed to the City of Sydney was wiped out yesterday after Obeid-friendly creditors voted to accept payment of 1¢ in the dollar in full satisfaction of their debts, most of which were small.
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Yesterday the administrators Mr Obeid appointed to his company Streetscape, Ozem Kassem and Robert Kite from the accountancy firm Cor Cordis, used their casting vote to side with creditors owed a fraction of the amount owed to the council.

”The city is disappointed that the majority of creditors owed monies by Mr Obeid’s company Streetscape agreed to accept an arrangement to allow the company to wipe out its debts,” said a spokesman for the council.

Mr Obeid is the son of Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid. The former Labor minister and his son are both set to feature in an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry in November.

Describing Mr Obeid’s conduct as ”dishonest and fraudulent”, in February Justice Clifford Einstein ordered him and his company to pay the council $12,123,470 for secretly selling the council’s multifunction poles overseas in breach of licensing agreements.

With interest and other court costs, the council’s debt has ballooned to $16.6 million.

At a creditor’s meeting yesterday, the council and other creditors such as Telstra, ANZ bank and Streetscape’s landlord Abacus Property Group, voted against the proposed Deed of Company Arrangement that proposed unsecured creditors, owed a total of $17.5 million, accept 1¢ in the dollar in full satisfaction of their debts.

Thirteen smaller creditors such as Mr Obeid’s sister, Gemma Vrana, his business associate Rocco Triulcio, the office cleaner, the local newsagent, the Obeids’s long-time accountant, Sid Sassine, the family’s lawyers, Colin Biggers & Paisley and former employee, John Angus McLeod voted to accept the DOCA.

This effectively meant they agreed to write-off the debts owed to them by Streetscape and to halt further investigations into the company’s finances.

The international arm of Streetscape, which sold the council’s poles throughout the Middle East, made profits of at least $40 million. The council wanted Streetscape to be placed into liquidation so that a thorough investigation of the company’s finances, assets and recent transactions could be done.

Earlier this year, Justice Peter Young of the Supreme Court rejected Mr Obeid’s application that he did not have the money to pay the council’s debt and that any payment should be put on hold until after an appeal is heard in November.

Justice Young said he could have ”very little confidence” in the evidence of Mr Obeid and noted that the Obeids appeared to exemplify the doctrine: ”How to live well on nothing a year” from William Thackeray’s classic novel Vanity Fair.

Moses Obeid claimed he did not have any assets or the means to pay the $12 million but Alan Sullivan, QC, for the City of Sydney, identified a complex series of trusts controlled by the family through which millions and millions of dollars had flowed for the benefit of Mr Obeid and his siblings.

Mr Sullivan also told the court that Mr Obeid’s company Streetscape ”over the years has received large sums of money, hundreds of thousands of dollars in a number of years, as a beneficiary under the Obeid Family Trust.”

The council is pursuing bankruptcy against Mr Obeid but it cannot be finalised until after Mr Obeid’s appeal, which is listed to commence on November 26.

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Background of ‘punters club’ boss revealed

THE reclusive boss of the ”punters club”, which reaps more than $60 million a year through a global betting operation, began devising gambling systems at age 12 with a toy roulette wheel, court documents reveal.
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Zeljko Ranogajec, now in his 50s, is being pursued by the Australian Tax Office for tens of millions of dollars in unpaid tax from the profits of the punters club – a sophisticated operation that uses complex algorithms to calculate the odds in thousands of horse and greyhound races.

Through a series of subsidiary companies, it then places in excess of $2 billion in bets a year on sporting events all over the world, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Mr Ranogajec, a Sydney resident until last year, is appealing the Tax Office’s assessments of his income in the Federal Court, arguing that he is not a businessman pursuing profit but a passionate gambler.

”[Mr Ranogajec’s] first encounter with gambling was at around the age of 12,” says his appeal statement, lodged with the court this week.

”His father was a regular visitor to Wrest Point Casino and at home the applicant would experiment with systems using a toy roulette wheel.”

The documents show that Mr Ranogajec enrolled in a commerce-law degree at the University of Tasmania in 1978 but attended ”only periodically”.

His university days may not have yielded a degree but they did yield an association with a small cluster of students who shared his fascination with gambling. This association was the genesis for the punters club.

Among the members of the group was David Walsh, the owner of Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art, who is also being pursued by the Tax Office.

But according to Mr Ranogajec’s statement, the gambling operation remained informal.

”The punters club operated on trust,” his statement reads.

According to the Tax Office, the ranks of the club swelled over the ensuing decade, and by 1991 it was a business devoted to profit.

The Tax Office claims that, at the same time, Ranogajec went to great lengths to hide the growing scale and sophistication of his operation from them. .

In his statement Mr Ranogajec claims he ”wished at all relevant times to comply with his taxation obligations” and that he ”repeatedly sought” the Tax Office’s views on how his gambling winnings should be treated.

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Gillard announces review of counter-terrorism legislation

A LONG-AWAITED review of counter-terrorism laws Australia introduced after the London bombings is finally going ahead.
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The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, announced yesterday that a committee led by retired NSW judge Anthony Whealy, QC, would report back to the Council of Australian Governments within six months.

The review of federal and state counter-terrorism legislationwill look at control orders, preventative detention and certain police emergency stop, question and search powers.

According to the Law Council of Australia, since the September 11 attacks in 2001, there have been about 50 pieces of ”anti-terrorist” legislation introduced.

The Law Council President-Elect, Joe Catanzariti, said that a lot of that legislation had been rushed through parliament, some was counter to principles of criminal justice and some had never been used.

”[The laws] give massive discretion to the police and prosecutors without any fetter,” he said. Mr Catanzariti expressed particular concern about ASIO’s powers to detain non-suspects for questioning. ”We’re quite delighted that the Prime Minister has finally announced the establishment of this review. We thinks it’s overdue,” he said.

The review was due to start in 2010, with COAG flagging in 2006 that there should be a review of the new laws five years after their introduction.

The head of the Attorney-General’s department, Roger Wilkins, told a senate committee last October that COAG had decided to delay the review. He suggested it had ”drifted” due to concerns about how it would overlap with the appointment of the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, Bret Walker in April 2011.

The Monitor also reviews counter-terrorism and national security laws, reporting annually to the Prime Minister. Ms Gillard said yesterday that the committee would liaise with Mr Walker.

In a statement, the Prime Minister said that terrorism was an ”ever-present threat”.

”’The review of our laws is important to ensure that our laws remain necessary and provide effective powers for our police and security agencies,” she said.

Other members of the panel include retired Victorian judge David Jones, South Australian Ombudsman Richard Bingham and Australian Federal Police Commander Justine Saunders.

The president of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties, Terry O’Gorman, said the make-up of the panel was ”far too one-sided” towards law enforcement experts.

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Fashion paradox puts Edmiston in the dress circle

LEONA EDMISTON is exasperated with the egos of some Australian fashion designers.
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”Your customers have to want to spend their hard-earned money, so it really should be all about them,” Edmiston said yesterday. ”It shouldn’t be about how clever we are as designers, and the focus shouldn’t be on us being amazing with our dexterity.”

Over the 11 years since she founded her fashion brand, Edmiston has kept a flinty focus on the customers she designs for.

”It should be completely focused on what customers want, because if they don’t want it, they won’t buy it,” she said. ”That’s the real key to staying in business or not staying in business.”

The philosophy has served Edmiston well. The Oscar de la Renta of Australian fashion, she juggles 10 product lines, including apparel, footwear, handbags, children’s wear, hosiery and scented candles.

Two years ago she introduced Leona +, a range for sizes 16 to 22, again in response to customer feedback.

”From the start we always went up to a size 16 and often size 16 was the quickest size to sell out,” Edmiston said. ”We tried [selling] it online first, because the structure and pattern gradings are quite different but once we felt we knew what we were doing we brought it into store.”

Edmiston last night staged her brand’s first solo catwalk show in six years with a presentation to 150 guests at Pelicano Bar in Double Bay.

The designer traditionally holds intimate media previews of her new spring summer collection in April but this year decided to move back to August, when the clothes are actually available in stores.

”It’s a way to kick off the spring summer season and show all our ladies what will be coming into store,” she said. ”It’s reminding them that now is the time to look at spring and get excited about the new season.”

Oversize kaftans, vibrant prints, maxi-dresses and cocktail options were among the 32 looks she presented in the show that concluded with a performance by Katie Noonan.

The presentation was but a snapshot of the 100-odd pieces in the full range that will be stocked in Edmiston’s 30 boutiques around the country, including standalone stores and concessions in Myer.

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Coalition split over energy price rises

THE Coalition energy spokesman, Ian MacFarlane, has contradicted his leader Tony Abbott’s claim that carbon tax is the only cause of power price rises, saying the Coalition would ”forcefully encourage” the states to privatise their electricity networks and would listen to calls to rein in overinvestment.
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Yesterday Mr Abbott said the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, had ”fabricated” the entire idea that overinvestment in electricity ”wires and poles” had caused price rises beyond the carbon tax, and refused to commit the Coalition to regulatory reform.

”The problem is not the regulation of power prices. The problem is the carbon tax putting up power prices,” he said.

”This is a fabrication by the Prime Minister. This is an absolute furphy from the Prime Minister. Why would we believe the Prime Minister now about so-called gold-plating of power infrastructure when she’s never talked about it for the last five years?

”The Prime Minister herself in Parliament last year said that there was a need for more investment in power infrastructure. So, if there’s such a terrible problem of overinvestment in infrastructure, why did the Prime Minister say the opposite last year?”

But Mr MacFarlane told the Herald the issue of over-investment in wires and poles was ”absolutely a question for a Coalition government and we wouldn’t take five years to do something about it”.

He said he would ”forcefully encourage state governments to open their electricity distribution networks to competition, whether that is by privatisation or allowing private competitors into the market” to ensure price rises slowed down.

”We couldn’t force them but we could use all the levers available through COAG [Council of Australian Governments] to push them in that direction.”

He said he would ”listen to and take advice from the Australian Energy Regulator” about regulatory rules. The regulator

has been proposing regulatory changes for more than a year and has repeatedly argued that the present regime means power bills are higher than they should be.

Mr MacFarlane agreed and said by his calculation the NSW government was earning $190 a year from every household through its electricity assets.

”The biggest immediate pressure is the carbon tax but I accept electricity prices have risen because of unnecessarily high distribution costs … the government knew these astronomical price rises were coming through the system because of transmission investment and they’ve been asleep at the wheel. We wouldn’t be,” he said.

The federal MP Malcolm Turnbull said it was legitimate to ask ”whether the level of investment has been excessive, whether there has been gold-plating”.

In a speech today, the chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Rod Sims, will push the need for privatisation of networks.

”We still have key networks in government hands in Tasmania, Queensland, NSW and Western Australia … The incentives of government shareholders are unavoidably mixed and complicated … It is difficult to know what the objectives would have been had the businesses been in private hands but perhaps … [it] would have assisted in preventing some of the recent significant price increases,” he will say.

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Accuser in tears after arrest of Hey Dad co-star

Sarah Monahan … and as she appeared in the Hey Dad cast. Arrested … Robert Hughes.
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AFTER a two-year investigation and a three-month global hunt by police, former Hey Dad..! TV star Robert Hughes was last night behind bars in London, accused of molesting five girls more than 25 years ago.

His arrest prompted tears from Mr Hughes’s former co-star Sarah Monahan, who played Jenny on the hit show.

Ms Monahan tweeted: ”I am literally crying with happiness right now.”

Police allege the charges relate to crimes against five girls between 1985 and 1990 in a number of northern Sydney suburbs.

In May this year, police applied for an arrest warrant on 11 alleged offences, including sexual and indecent assault.

But Mr Hughes, who had been living in Singapore when the claims were first aired, could not be located.

Strike Force Ruskin police said detectives had ”conducted extensive inquiries internationally to locate the man”, eventually finding Mr Hughes in London. At about 4pm Sydney time yesterday, officers from the London Metropolitan Police arrested Mr Hughes, whose age was given as 63, in an upmarket area of central London.

He was taken to Belgravia Police Station and was last night expected to be charged by virtue of the arrest warrant. A Westminster local court hearing was expected to be held late last night.

Australian authorities would apply for the man’s extradition to NSW, with investigators from Strike Force Ruskin planning to travel to Britain to secure his return to Sydney.

The strike force was set up after Ms Monahan, the actress who played one of Mr Hughes’s on-screen daughters in the hit situation comedy, first raised the allegations via the media.

Ms Monahan alleged Mr Hughes, who played architect Martin Kelly on the sitcom, touched her inappropriately while on the set of the show, which aired on Channel Seven from 1987 to 1994.

Ms Monahan, who now lives in the US, last night thanked detectives for ”lots of hard work by all. You guys rock.”

”I got the call at 2am my time, promised I wouldn’t leak it out till they made their official announcement, but by 3am it’s all over the news! How awesome is today?”

The Herald last night contacted the talent management company run by Mr Hughes’s wife, Robyn Gardiner, but it did not respond to questions.

When the allegations were first publicly raised, Mr Hughes denied claims he had molested his young co-star.

”I’m absolutely, totally shocked at the allegations and I deny, absolutely deny, everything,” Mr Hughes told Channel Nine’s A Current Affair.

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Joyce spots chink of light in bid for lower house

BARNABY JOYCE’S path to the House of Representatives – and possibly the deputy prime ministership – appears smoother after the Nationals MP he is seeking to replace refused to commit to recontest his seat.
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Senator Joyce has been keen to move to the lower house at the next election. For months he has has been eyeing the Queensland seat of Maranoa, held by Nationals MP Bruce Scott since 1990.

Previously Mr Scott, who held a junior ministry in the Howard government, has resisted pressure to move aside for Senator Joyce, and frequently insisted he would recontest. But with the preselection to be decided for the first time by a postal ballot beginning next month, Mr Scott would only say yesterday he would do what was best for the Coalition.

”I’m a team player of a strong Coalition team and I will be spending my time and energy talking about how we can defeat this dreadful Labor government at the next election,” he said. ”I’m absolutely committed to getting the best for the electorate and do everything I can for a change of government in Canberra.”

He said he was ”fit and healthy” and enjoyed his job but declined to say in the statement, and through a spokeswoman later, whether he would renominate.

Senator Joyce said if Mr Scott did not renominate, he would run. If Mr Scott did nominate, he would consult local Nationals first, but it is believed he would challenge regardless. He said he had no immediate designs on the Nationals leadership, held by Warren Truss, a position he would need to fill if he were to become deputy prime minister in an Abbott government.

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, declined yesterday to comment, saying it was a matter for the party.

Preselection squabbles are rife in the Coalition. The Nationals and the Liberals in NSW are at loggerheads over who should run for seats including Hume, Lyne and Gilmore.

NSW Liberal and National officials are trying to finalise an agreement to determine which party runs in which seats.

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Silent journeys

Desh Balasubramaniam is a former asylum seeker and founder of arts movement Ondru.THE political debate in Australia about asylum seekers has focused on those arriving by boat. They have been demonised, rather than described as what they truly are – some of the most desperate and vulnerable people on the planet, usually fleeing persecution, violence and even torture.
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It is disappointing that senior politicians fan the dog-whistle notion of ”queue jumpers”. In the overwhelming majority of cases, there is no queue or processing system accessible to asylum seekers in their home nations; indeed, only 0.5 per cent of the world’s more than 15 million asylum seekers have access to a queue.

Most asylum seekers are not ”boat people”, another dog-whistle term that sells Australians short; most Australians are kind and generous, and many celebrate that a key strength of our nation is a cultural diversity partly generated by refugees.

Of those who do arrive by sea, about 90 per cent are found to be genuine refugees. In the past 30 years, only about 30,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Australia by boat. The vast majority of people who ask for asylum here arrive by plane and seek refugee status while living in community housing.

Another disingenuous tactic to generate or inflame some voters’ antipathy is the use of the term ”illegal immigrants”. Asylum seekers are neither immigrants nor illegal. Immigrants leave their country by choice and can return at any time. There is no Australian law against arriving here without a valid visa to seek asylum. Further, as a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees, Australia is obliged to protect people escaping persecution.

One way to help stop these people from risking their lives at sea is to seek a regional solution; only a handful of countries in our region are signatories to the Refugee Convention. Another part of the solution is to significantly increase the number of asylum seekers officially permitted to come here. Australia takes a mere 13,500 asylum seekers a year, or about 0.2 per cent of the world’s refugees. We rank 69th in the world in terms of the number we take relative to our population. As many as eight in ten asylum seekers are in developing nations; the biggest numbers are in Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Germany and Jordan.

The issue of asylum seekers is a humanitarian one, not political. Today’s guest in The Zone is here to help put a human face on the debate. Not only is Desh Balasubramaniam a former Sri Lankan refugee, he is also the founder of a Melbourne-based arts and literature movement, Ondru, set up to help broaden minds and deepen understanding about people who are forced to flee their home nations. Ondru’s mission is to ”evoke, challenge and inspire positive social change through honest expressions of arts and literature”.

His personal story exemplifies the contribution asylum seekers can make to our economy and society, and Ondru’s existence shows the way creativity can be used to help promote a positive public conversation, rather than the often-toxic one that has sullied Australia.

”What we want to do is broaden people’s perspectives, to create dialogue, to question. Nobody leaves their country without actually considering the options, and they leave as a last resort. We don’t talk sufficiently about the journey they go through, all that uncertainty.

”And then they arrive here and there’s another struggle – whether you’re accepted to stay here. And then there is another struggle, and that is to adapt. So those are the matters that we should question and reflect upon, not just make uninformed statements that too many people are coming.”

Balasubramaniam was born and raised until the age of 13 in the war-ravaged northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. His parents fled with their four children and accepted on humanitarian grounds by New Zealand, where they settled in a country town.

Balasubramaniam spoke little English, and says the hardest thing he has ever done is get through his schooling. One of his abiding memories is being told by his father to do his homework by looking up every single word in the dictionary. The struggling student declared this an impossible task. His father threw the dictionary across the room to him and retorted that ”impossible” was a term found only in a fool’s dictionary. Balasubramaniam subsequently crossed out the word in every dictionary in the household.

He completed secondary school and went to university, where he took degrees in law and business.

He then found himself struggling to find his identity, so he travelled on a limited budget though a number of countries, usually hitchhiking, and worked in a series of jobs as he sought to reconcile being Sri Lankan, a Tamil and a New Zealander. His voyage took him to Melbourne, and something clicked.

”I felt Melbourne had this beautiful essence where I was able to meet people from all walks of life. Initially I was washing dishes, I was driving forklifts.

”I felt that whatever I wanted to do could be done here in Melbourne. I didn’t feel that in other places before. There was this beautiful essence and I felt this is where I want to be.”

He’s still here. Having worked in law firms, he moved to his current employer, the Victorian Department of Education. His work has contributed to engaging various disadvantaged communities through education and jobs as well as supporting industry to fill skills gaps.

That’s his day job. He spends another 40 hours a week alongside the other volunteers who have created Ondru.

Ondru means ”one” in Tamil and was an idea that came to him during his travels. Ondru seeks to inspire and generate community dialogue through a range of projects.

Balasubramaniam and his partners, who come from various nations including Spain, Sudan, France and Australia, are also planning to create workshops for schools, and would be happy to hear from teachers or principals, who can contact them through the website ondru南京夜网.

”It’s not just about living beside the other person, it is about being able to understand each other. If we’re saying we are to inspire social change or evoke and challenge, that is the context that we must understand – the intentions and why people act in a certain manner. That’s what we’re trying to bring about through our expressions.”

Their projects and events are all detailed on the website. They include dance, poetry, other literature, a magazine, film and photography.

Projects under development include Tales of Exotic Stress, a photographic study of indigenous themes, and Carriage of the Unspoken Letters, which combines photography and dance to compare Eastern identity with Western modernity.

In coming weeks, Melburnians will witness one of the biggest and most ambitious things Ondru has attempted. In a project called Voiceless Journeys, the group has photographed and interviewed 101 people from diverse backgrounds who are making their lives here after leaving their countries as a result of internal problems or conflicts. The plan is to enlarge the images, in some cases to the size of a wall, and display them throughout the city.

”We focused on telling the silent stories of people who have left their countries as a result of conflict or internal problems to make their lives here. What we wanted to do was not only celebrate the cultural diversity of Melbourne and wider Australia, but also raise awareness about their journey, their struggle, their survival, and their achievements.”

Balasubramaniam’s journey, struggle, survival and achievements enrich our community. He and the many others who have been sufficiently resilient and resourceful to escape terrible circumstances and rebuild their lives, are, surely, the sort of people employers should fight to employ and neighbours and communities hasten to embrace.

As we head towards another election, we can only hope our political leaders cease seeking political mileage out of the plight of such people, and encourage acceptance and understanding of potentially outstanding contributors to the growth and continuing prosperity of one of the world’s richest and most diverse nations.

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Attempt to wind up Islamic school over debts

Dianne and her son Mustafa, 6, moved from Queensland so Mustafa could attend the school.A CLOTHING company which supplies school uniforms has made a court application to wind up Malek Fahd Islamic School in Sydney because of its alleged failure to pay debts of $286,303.
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In its application lodged with the Federal Court, Duboke Pty Ltd, trading as Oz Fashions, alleges Malek Fahd has failed to pay 11 invoices dating from January 18 to February 14, this year.

The Federal Court of Australia will hear the matter next Friday.

Documents filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission show that Duboke and Malek Fahd’s parent company, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, share the same business address at 932 Bourke St, Waterloo.

Duboke made its application on July 19, 11 days before the NSW Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, wrote to the school asking it to repay $9 million in state-government funding.

Mr Piccoli said the school had breached funding requirements which prevent it from operating for profit. He said the school was transferring money to the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils without receiving any services.

The Association of Independent Schools of NSW was also asked to terminate more than $1 million the school receives in National Partnership funding for disadvantaged students, as part of a five-year agreement between state and federal governments.

For its state government funding to be reinstated, Mr Piccoli said the school would need to provide credible evidence that services were being provided in return for the money it transferred to the federation.

Mr Piccoli wrote to the federal Minister for Education, Peter Garrett, saying he had referred the matter to police and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.

The federal Department of Education commissioned an independent audit of the school in December to find whether it was spending public funding on the education of students.

The Herald was unable to contact the school principal, Dr Intaj Ali, for comment yesterday.

In a statement on July 31, he disputed Mr Piccoli’s findings that the school was operating for profit and said he would challenge his decision.

”The school will take the appropriate steps to have this decision reviewed and is confident that ultimately the correct outcome will be achieved,” he said. ”Malek Fahd wishes to reassure all parents, students, staff and the wider community that its focus remains on the delivery of quality education for our students and it will continue to work with both the NSW and the federal education departments.”

The Herald also sought comment yesterday from the federation, which declined to comment and from Duboke’s solicitor, Marc Ryckmans, who did not return calls.

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