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After the terror, sanctuary under the Triforium of Westminster Abbey

“If police tell you to run, run.” The officer’s chilling instruction rang out across the quadrangle in the Commons below Big Ben.

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Above the Elizabeth Clock Tower, helicopters whirred. Below, an unlikely crew of primary schoolchildren, ministers, visitors, staffers, peers and journalists listened intently to the police.

The news of the attack cascaded through the Houses of Parliament, depending on where you were.

One man, who did not want to be named and who has been working in the Palace of Westminster for 30 years, told Fairfax Media he was sitting on the terrace balcony overlooking Westminster Bridge when the car ploughed into pedestrians.

“I saw a body fall from the bridge into the water,” he told me. He was still digesting what he had witnessed.

Others inside the building heard the commotion but dismissed it as one of the regular, rowdy protests that spring up outside Britain’s halls of democracy and history.

For the group of foreign journalists being briefed by the Lords, the news was broken in an entirely modern, if not distant way.

A breaking news alert flashed up on one correspondent’s phone and was read aloud by another.

Almost simultaneously, every reporter’s phone began buzzing with urgent requests from their news desks at home.

“We get security situations all the time,” one Lord scoffed.

But this was not to be. The television mounted on the wall showed the Commons, which had been voting, was suspended.

When it resumed, the Leader of the House in the Commons, David Lidington told MPs a “police officer has been stabbed” and the “alleged assailant” had been “shot by armed police”.

As the Commons fell silent once more, the channel was changed to the BBC.

Parliament went into lockdown and no one was to move. For a time, we, a group of journalists, were learning more from the television about what was happening metres away from us than we were with our own eyes and ears.

Forty minutes later the order came: “Gather your things, we’re leaving.”

Visitors, staffers, peers alike were herded through the building as counter-terrorism police wearing helmets and face covers yelled their orders.

“Go, go, go, keep moving.”

In the space of three minutes at least 10 SWAT police officers, several regular police and more police who regularly guard Parliament carrying machineguns.

“When I saw all the SWAT teams, I felt like I was in a movie; it was a surreal experience,” Lailah Nesbitt-Ahmed, 27, said.

Police feared a second attacker could have penetrated the palace. In the bowels of Parliament one officer stood, semi-squatting in the doorway opening into an empty, brightly lit corridor, gun poised.

There would be no miss if a shot was required. That was certain.

Calls were made to loved ones.

“Parliament is under attack,” one man said down the line – his matter-of-fact tone only emphasised the sense of danger.

All conversation stopped when we were shuffled past the crime scene.

Peering between the line of police, a body-shaped mound covered with a white material could be seen lying on the stones outside the entrance to the grand Westminster Hall, the setting of medieval banquets and contemporary state visits.

There was silence as the group took in the scene, the ambulance next to the body and the rubbish strewn on the ground around it.

But not everyone was rubbernecking.

“I couldn’t look,” one woman confessed.

The slain officer’s colleagues, witnesses to the attack, were taken across the road to Westminster Abbey’s Lady Chapel to give their statements to police.

Two hours later, just before 5pm, the thousand-strong occupants found sanctuary under the Abbey’s Triforium or gallery.

It had always been planned that, if Parliament was under attack, the Abbey would be the refuge.

They would stay there for four hours waiting for enough police to arrive to take the details of every single person.

As phones ran empty and the temperature dipped further, blankets were found for those who had had to abandon their coats. But not a complaint was heard.

“No one’s complaining, everyone understands that this is a crime scene and it takes a long time and if everyone has to give a statement that’s absolutely what we should do,” Tory MP Sarah Wollaston said after the marathon lockdown ended.

The British stoicism prevailed throughout and there was praise for police, who peers, staffers, visitors all remarked responded swiftly to the threat upon their London icons.

They applauded police after one of many mundane, housekeeping announcements, as their patriotism combined with pride, cognisant that they lost a colleague hours earlier. Bookends to a day.

A post shared by Latika M Bourke (@latikambourke) on Mar 22, 2017 at 3:14pm PDT

Cheryl Grimmer died an hour after being taken: police speak out about Wollongong cold case

Cheryl Grimmer died an hour after being taken: police Detective Inspector Brad Ainsworth addressed the media on Thursday regarding the arrest of a man over the murder of Cheryl Grimmer.

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Police and volunteers search for Cheryl Grimmer on January 13, 1970. Picture: JOHN ELLIOTT

The military join police in the search for Cheryl Grimmer on January 15, 1970. Picture: JOHN ELLIOTT

Cheryl’s brother Stephen Grimmer outside Fairy Meadow Surf Club in December. Picture: ROBERT PEET

Police and volunteers search for Cheryl Grimmer. Picture taken January 13, 1970. Picture: JOHN ELLIOTT

Police search disused cars for Cheryl Grimmer.

Police and volunteers search for Cheryl Grimmer on January 13, 1970. Picture: JOHN ELLIOTT

Police and witnesses return to Fairy Meadow Beach in an attempt to uncover more details on the disappearance of Cheryl Grimmer in December. Picture: NSW POLICE

Cheryl Grimmer’s brothers Stephen Grimmer, Paul Grimmer and Ricki Grimmer spoke of their grief at a press conference in December. Picture: ROBERT PEET

The military join police in the search for Cheryl Grimmer on January 15, 1970. Picture: JOHN ELLIOTT

Carole Grimmer with her three sons, Stephen, Ricki and Paul, the day after her three-year-old daughter, Cheryl Grimmer, disappeared from Fairy Meadow Beach. Picture: JOHN ELLIOTT

Click on the image to view an enlarged version. With thanks to Wollongong City Library for archive assistance.

Click on the image to view an enlarged version. With thanks to Wollongong City Library for archive assistance.

Click on the image to view an enlarged version. With thanks to Wollongong City Library for archive assistance.

Click on the image to view an enlarged version. With thanks to Wollongong City Library for archive assistance.

Police and witnesses return to Fairy Meadow Beach in an attempt to uncover more details on the disappearance of Cheryl Grimmer. Picture: NSW POLICE

Police and witnesses return to Fairy Meadow Beach in an attempt to uncover more details on the disappearance of Cheryl Grimmer. Picture: NSW POLICE

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‘I shouldn’t have left’: brothers haunted by Cheryl’s disappearancePolice hone in on boys’ reform school in Grimmer cold caseHer disappearance sparked a manhunt across the Illawarra and has remained a mystery for 47 years, but police now believe three-year-old Cheryl Grimmer died within an hour of being taken from Fairy Meadow beach.

Speaking outside Wollongong police station after a 63-year-old man was arrested for the toddler’s murderDetective Inspector Brad Ainsworth said police would allege her death occurred within “an hour of so” of being taken.

He could not go into specifics of the police case before the man appears in Wollongong court on Friday, but said details of the offence we “quite horrific”.

Click the image below to watch the press conferenceDespite the breakthrough arrest, Det Insp Ainsworth indicated the little girl’s body was unlikely to ever be found, as the area where she went missing has been redeveloped into residential housing.

The police chief praised the work of the local detective who cracked open the case after 50 years.

He agreed the arrest –which is the oldest cold case arrest made in Australia –was a big moment in policing. He said the work of Damien Loone, Constable Frank Sanvitale and Craig Barrass, who began reexamining details of the case last year,was a fantastic accomplishment.

Detective Senior Constable Frank Sanvitale outside Fairy Meadow Surf Club in December. He was one of three officers who began reexamining the case last year. Picture: ROBERT PEET

“We’ve had the luxury of being able to dedicate two to three detectives to this investigation, and it’s borne fruit,” he said.

“It’s a fantastic accomplishment thus far, obviously the end result is what we’re looking for, it’s got to go before the court, andas we all know that’s a different jurisdiction.”

Det Insp Ainsworth confirmed the man who has been arrested –who was 16 at the time of his alleged crime and can not be named –had been interviewed by police 18 months after Cheryl’s disappearance.

“I’m not here to criticise for one moment any investigation that was carried out back then,” he said.

“But yes, he was one of many persons of interest that were interviewed at the time and as it’s turned out, yes, he has been spoken with. And now he has been arrested.”

He said Cheryl’s brothers had be “buoyed at the news”.

Police search disused cars for Cheryl Grimmer.

“But in saying that, the investigation and the whole ordeal moves into another sphere now it moves into the court process. It’s not going to be resolved for some time,” Det Insp Ainsworth said.

Illawarra Mercury

NHRU: Newcastle rugby referees face concussion test

Newcastle referees will have the power to sideline concussed players for 12 days under an Australian Rugby Union trial this season.

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The ARU, responding to growing concern about the long-term effects of head knocks in contact sports, announced on Thursday that it would trial a“blue card” system in Newcastle and Canberra rugby before rolling out the system nationwide next year.

The on-field referee will have the authority to issue a blue card to “any player presenting signs of concussion”. The player must then leave the field for the rest of the match and cannot play again for at least 12 days, even if they pass a doctor’s concussion test. Juniors cannot play or train for 19 days.

“As there is no gold-standard test that a doctor can do post-match to reliably diagnose or exclude concussion in their rooms, the ARU errs on the side of caution,” the governing body said.

“A person with concussion can appear normal at rest (in the doctor’s rooms) but become symptomatic with activity. Therefore, a doctor can only conclude a concussion over time.”

Referees can already stop a game and send off concussed players, but Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union general manager Andy Fairfull expected it to be more common now that officials had the visual cueof the blue card and more concussion training.

“Itgets reported into the Rugby Link playing system . . . it’s now far stricter to get you back on the field,” Fairfull said. “They’re a little worried about the over-precautionary side of it, but given where it’s heading with law suits, and also it’s still truly unknown medically.

“I reckon with a blue cardmore will go off the field than last year, because the referees have had the training about recognition and they’ve got another card.It’s brought it into focus.”

Head knocks have been in the news after former Knights NRL winger James McManus launched legal action against Newcastle over the ongoing effects of repeated concussions.The NRL fined three clubs, including Newcastle, a total of $450,000 over their handling of concussed players in matches last weekend.

Fairfull predicted the new mandated 12-day break for blue-carded players would be a point of contention for NHRU clubs.

“Wait til it happens. I guarantee there’ll be uproar for days if a superstar misses out on the finals series,” he said. “But the evidence is that concussion management is the right way to go. You wouldn’t have these law suits in league if it wasn’t the right way to go.Players themselves are recognising the safety.

“We’re delighted to have the trial. We think it’s the right way to go. At some point in time, legally, injuries are going to start to become civil cases, clubs will get included on suits, associations will get included on suits.”

New Zealand is introducingblue cards to all club rugby this year after a trial in 2014. Its stand-down periods are21 days for seniors and 23 for juniors.

Fairfull said the growing athleticism of club rugby players inevitably led to harder collisions.

“Rugby isn’t quite as savage [as league], but the fact still remains players are training more, they’re faster, stronger, but the field is still the same size.”

He said the increased pressure on referees to assess concussion was more a factor in junior ranks, where some referees are as young as 15.

“In chatting with the referees about it, they’re probably more worried about that issue in juniors, because in seniors, if it’s a Dan Kevill, you’ve got the best referees in the zone, they’re used to being under pressure, they’re used to being criticised, getting howled at.

“If you take some of these younger referees who are doing juniors and a parent starts ripping in. Their attitude to that pressure will be interesting.If we don’t get that behaviour back to the referees right, you’re cutting off young guys wanting to be referees.

“Thebluecard at the wrong time in an under-15 fixture can count out a superstar for finals.But it’s one of the issues: how do our younger refs learn it properly and execute it widely.”

Fairfull said it was not practical to have independent assessors at every game and the ARU was attempting to find a workable solution.

ARU medical and development staff have held seminars in recent weeks to educate NHRU referees, coaches and club medical staff on the system.

“The aim is to gather feedback from the upcoming trials and work towards rolling out the blue card system nationally across our grassroots competitions at both junior and senior level,” ARU chief medical officerWarren McDonald said.

Online STI testing being offered by Hunter business could break down barrierspoll

Getting results: Dr Mitchell Tanner, one of the Hunter men behind Stigma Health, which is offering online STI testing.

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SHAME, embarrassment and fear of judgement can hold people back from getting a sexual health check, but a Hunter-based initiative is hoping to break down some of those barriers.

Singleton GP Mitchell Tanner, with business partner James Sneddon, launched Stigma Health in December as an online alternative for people to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

“There was a 2011 study called Understanding Barriers to STI Testing Among Young People, which identified several reasons,” Dr Tanner said.

“But some of the more prominent ones were embarrassment, fear of staff attitudes, cost, and time factors.”

Dr Tanner said a 2016 Kirby Institute report showed that rates of STIs, with the exception of HIV, were increasing in Australia. While the report noted the growing rate could beproportional to increased testing, he said the rates were still “well below” where they needed to be.

“We’re providing analternative way for people to get STI tests, because clearly not enough people are using the traditional methods already available,” he said.

Stigma Health asks patientssix key questions about their sexual behaviour, cultural background,and drug useto determine which pathology tests are needed.

Dr Tanner then issues a pathology request form via theMediRecords App.

“Ireview the results and send a notification to that app advising of the results.”

In the case ofchlamydia, the most common STI, Dr Tanner would provide a prescription for anantibiotic, which would be sent to the patient in the mail.

When further treatment wasrequired, they issueda letter explaining the diagnosis and urging patients to see their GP or sexual health clinic to start treatment.

About 200 Australian patients over the age of 16had used theservice, returning“several” positive results. Dr Tanner said it made STItesting more convenient, more affordable, and it eliminated having “potentially awkward or embarrassing” conversations face-to-face.

“If they can order their test online, they don’t have to waste time in a waiting room,” he said.

“For all of those reasons, hopefully we can increase the STI testing rates through our service.

“We have been identifying STIs in a wide variety of our patients, and far and away our largest uptake has been in the population of men who have sex with men,” he said.

The service offers testing for the most common and serious STIs, including chlamydia, gonorrhoea, hepatitis B, C and A, syphilis and HIV.

Feud brings Baby Jane back to grotesque, brilliant life

THE PLANNER FEB 1CHAUVEL?? CIN????MATH????QUEWhatever Happened toBaby Jane?what_ever_happened_to_baby_jane.jpgThere is so much pleasure to be had from Feud: Bette and Joan (Showcase, Sundays at 8.30pm) you can’t help feel a little guilty for watching it.

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It’s not just the cattiness that informs virtually every exchange between Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) as they make What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, though there are some wonderful moments to be had there.

It’s not just the period detail either, with its echoes of old Hollywood and of Mad Men-era glamour (a connection heightened by the fact Kiernan Shipka, aka Sally Draper, plays Davis’ daughter BD). And it’s not just the behind-the-scenes voyeurism that gives us glimpses of how one of the great works of cinema grotesque was put together in 1962, with Robert Aldrich (Alfred Molina) directing and Jack Warner (Stanley Tucci) clutching the purse strings very tightly indeed.

What impresses more than all of that is the way Feud probes the power dynamics that quite deliberately pitted these two screen titans against each other, for the benefit of the studio, the picture, and the gossip columns, but at considerable cost to the women themselves.

In this week’s episode, the third of eight, we see just how much Bette and Joan have in common. Or would have in common, if they were only allowed, or allowed themselves, to find out.

The episode is titled Mommie Dearest, and it’s not just a nod to the 1978 memoir of that name from Crawford’s adopted daughter Christina, in which the actress was accused of a litany of abuses.

BD similarly went on to publish a memoir that accused Davis of much the same sort of mistreatment. Both women were depicted by their kids as self-centred alcoholics capable of great emotional cruelty. They don’t get off unscathed in Feud, either, but their failings are handled with a little more sympathy.

When BD lands a part in the film, her mother tries to support her but in the end is unable to hide the fact she thinks her kid’s performance is awful. But when gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Judy Davis in fabulously big-hatted over-the-top form) says she hears BD’s performance “stinks on ice” and “practically ruins the picture”, Bette barks at her to get out. Good, you think; nice, defensive parenting. But then she adds as a parting shot: “She doesn’t ruin the picture. Her role isn’t important enough to do that.” Of course, BD overhears her.

Feud paints Davis as a plain-speaking perfectionist whose occasional cruelty is an unfortunate byproduct of her single-mindedness. Crawford, by contrast, is far more insecure, a woman whose self-esteem has always owed much to the attentions of men, a commodity in increasingly short supply as she nears 60.

Sarandon gets the best lines by a long shot – she comforts BD, for instance, by saying, “If Crawford couldn’t ruin the picture, nobody could” – while Lange gets the pathos. It’s harder to like her Crawford, perhaps, but it’s not so hard to understand her.

There is a wonderful scene in this episode where they share a drink, a rare moment in which the fog of animosity recedes just long enough for each to catch a proper glimpse of the other. They talk about their childhoods, their relationships with their mothers, their first sexual encounters. It’s intimate, touching, shocking and enormously powerful. And as close as they would get to being friends.

From Ryan Murphy, who also gave us Nip/Tuck and Glee, Feud is as alive to the tragic aspects of the Davis-Crawford dynamic as it is the bitchily, campily comic. Its central figures were both single mothers, worried about where the next job would come from, how they would pay the bills, the prospect of growing old alone.

The business was never going to make it easy for them. But in pitting them against each other, it also made sure they couldn’t make it any easier for themselves.

Karl Quinn is on Facebook at karlquinnjournalist and on Twitter @karlkwin.

MP’s expenses scandal claims for Ballarat and Ocean Grove total $174K

Former deputy speaker Don Nardella in parliament on Tuesday. Photo: Justin McManusDisgraced Melton MP Don Nardella chose not to live in his St Kilda property because it was “not spacious enough” and chose to live in an Ocean Grove caravan park so he could continue claiming a lucrative second residence allowance.

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A report from parliament’s auditors PwCsaid a simpler option for Mr Nardella would have been to live in Melbourne or his Melton electorate after he moved from his home in Ballarat in 2014.

The auditors recommended that all allowancesbe removed and replaced with reimbursement for business-related expenditure. The audit also said second residence allowances should be tied to an MPs’ electorate rather than their choice of home base.

Despite being the Melton MP, Mr Nardella hadchosen to live outside the electorate since 2010and had claimed $174,836 in allowances for living outside Melbourne.

Mr Nardella moved to the Ocean Grove caravan park in 2014 after the breakdown of his relationship.

In Ocean Grove he entered into an arrangement with a family member, paying $200 in rent per fortnight despite owning property in Melbourne.

“The Member already had a second residence in Melbourne so that, at the time, a simpler option might have been to relocate to the second residence in Melbourne or Melton his constituency. The Member stated that the accommodation in St Kilda (second residence at the time) was not spacious enough,” the report said.

“Viewed from the perspective of the average person on the street, an objective observer, a position could be taken that the arrangement in this period with the Member’s close family may have been entered into to ensure that the member would continue to receive the second residence allowance.”

Read the auditor’s report here

The report also revealed Mr Nardella failed to provide tax returns, travel records to and from his declared home base, and an address for health insurance or banking correspondence.

The only evidence Mr Nardella provided to prove Ocean Grove was his home base was a drivers licence, vehicle registration, electoral enrolment and receipts for capital improvements.

The report revealed that since 2010, Mr Nardella had claimed $174,836 for second residences. Mr Nardella has refused to repay the money.

The allowance is meant to be for country MPs who must travel to Melbourne to carry out their duties.

The full report, tabled in parliament on Thursday, confirmed former speaker Telmo Languiller had intended to move his home base to Queenscliff but due to family circumstances he spent little time there.

He has repaid the $37,834 he claimed.

A timeline from the report

Premier Daniel Andrews said on Thursday morning he expected both MPs to remain in Parliament. But he had not yet read the report.

Serious flaws identified in the second allowance processincluded:

A lack of definition of what constitutes principal place of residence.No documentation required to prove a home base.Inconsistent requirements for statutory declarationsRichard Willingham, Benjamin Preiss

FROM WEDNESDAY

Under fire Melton MP Don Nardella’s total taxpayer funded livingclaims could tip almost $200,000 after it was revealed the disgraced member was based in Ballarat for four years.

Now the former deputy speaker could find himself on the end of an electoral commission fraud probe after the Coalition stated its intention to write to the Victorian and Australian electoral commissions seeking an investigation into the expenses scandal.

The former Labor member who was booted from the party earlier in the year listed 11 Parker Street, Lake Wendouree as his home base between 2010 and 2014, claiming the second residence allowancedesigned for rural and regional MPs who have a metropolitan base during sitting weeks.

The arrangement was revealed in state parliament by Legislative Council President Bruce Atkinson on Tuesday, who said Mr Nardella left the Ballarat address after a relationship breakdown.

Western Victoria MP Josh Morris said Mr Nardella’s position in parliament had been rendered untenable by the revelation.

“He has systematically misused the parliamentary entitlements system and he should seriously consider whether he should remain in parliament,” Mr Morris said.

The Lake Wendouree residence Don Nardella lived in between 2010 and 2014. Picture: Lachlan Bence.

Last month Fairfax Media revealed Mr Nardella along with fellow Labor MPTelmo Languiller had used the second residence allowance while living along the Bellarine Peninsula.

Mr Languiller has since repaid the$37,800 he had claimed through the entitlement, however Mr Nardella has deniedany wrongdoing and has declined to pay back any of the funds.

Questions have since been raised around whether Mr Nardella did in fact live at Ocean Grove after it was revealed he rented the property from family without a formal lease.

Mr Nardella notified the clerk of the Legislative Assembly that he had changed his primary address from Ballarat to Ocean Grove in April 2014, however Mr Nardella paid just $200 a fortnight for the coastal property and did not pay any bills.

Price Waterhouse Coopers is currently conducting an independent audit of parliamentary entitlements and earlier this month Mr Nardella notified the auditors he had recently moved out of his Ocean Grove home base.

Mr Morris said regardless of whether Mr Nardella didlive at the Ocean Grove address, he had already misused taxpayer funds.

Western Victoria MP Josh Morris

“He could have chosen to live in these places and not claim the allowance but he has despite it being very clearly for country members who need a city residence during parliament.”

Victoria Police is also investigating whether Mr Nardella has any case to answer.

Premier Daniel Andrews said he would wait for the PwC report and the police investigation to be completed before commenting on whether the two MPs should be booted from parliament.

Mr Nardella’s office was contacted for comment.

The Courier, Ballarat

George selling luxury NYC apartment amid custody battle

Melissa George opens up about violent end to her relationshipLike any woman escaping a violent marriage, Melissa George deserves supportManhattan condo to smash New York record

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Australian actor Melissa George has listed her apartment in the FlatIron district of New York for sale, amid revelations of an unravelling custody battle with her ex-partner.

The sale comes after an emotional interview aired this week in which she admitted she was struggling financially as she fought to secure the custody of her two children from French entrepreneur Jean David Blanc.

Her personal woes made headlines in the media when it was revealed she tried to take her children, Raphael, 3, and Solal, 1, to the United States on a private jet.

George said she has missed out on work that required travel to Los Angeles as she did not want to leave her children, and is unable to take them with her.

In order to support herself she said she was being forced to “sell everything”.

The interior of Melissa George’s art deco apartment now on the market. Photo: ScottParks International Realty.

The outdoor area of the apartment in the FlatIron district of New York. Photo: ScottParks International Realty.

The New York property she has listed for sale is an apartment she had owned with a previous partner, film director Claudio Dabed, whose share she bought out in June last year. It was listed as a fully-furnished rental in August for $US14,000 ($18,200) a month.

They had bought the one-bedroom pre-war apartment in the 141 Fifth Avenue building in 2010, for $US1.8 million ($2.34 million). It’s now on the market for $US2,995,000.

The property comes with two bathrooms, a walk-in wardrobe, 3.35-metre ceilings and a 46-square-metre outdoor terrace.

The kitchen. Photo: ScottParks International Realty.

The building exterior. Photo: ScottParks International Realty.

George parted ways with Blanc after a violent attack in September last year.

Blanc allegedly pushed her into a door, struck her face, slammed her head into a metal hatstand before smacking her in the mouth and standing over her saying: “Now you’re a real actress.”

Both were found guilty of assault and are now both appealing the convictions.

Jean-David Blanc and Melissa George prior to their split.Photo: Getty Images

After making her name as the character of Angel in Australia in the Channel 7 soap opera Home and Away, George had success in the US with roles in Alias, In Treatment, Grey’s Anatomy, The Good Wife and the US version of The Slap. She was most recently appearing in the medical drama Heartbeat.

Support is available by phoning National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service 1800 737 732; Men’s Referral Service 1300 766 491.

Turnbull minister invokes penalty rates to defend travel allowance

Minister for Small Business Michael McCormack arrives for the Mid Winter Ball at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday 31 August 2016. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen fedpol Photo: Alex EllinghausenMalcolm Turnbull’s Small Business Minister has charged taxpayers nearly $50,000 to stay in his wife’s Canberra apartment but has defended the spending by comparing his travel allowance to penalty rates.

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Michael McCormack is one of about 50 federal politicians believed to use their $273-a-night Canberra travel allowance to help pay off a second home. His wife bought the property in the leafy suburb of Kingston – close to Parliament House – in May 2013 and he now stays there whenever he visits.

The Nationals MP claimed $48,256 in Canberra travel allowance between May 2013 and June 2016 and has likely claimed close to a further $10,000 in the last nine months, although those expenses have not yet been disclosed.

The allowance comes on top of his ministerial salary of $313,500.

The New South Wales-based MP is not breaking any rules, but his defence of the spending has drawn fire given the Coalition’s support for the Fair Work Commission’s cuts to some Sunday penalty rates.

“I get a travel allowance, others get penalty rates – it’s part of the package,” he told his local newspaper, The Daily Advertiser in Wagga Wagga.

In an interview last year – after he was named by Fairfax Media as one of the MPs who use their allowance to pay off a mortgage – Mr McCormack also said politicians earned less than people in the private sector and did not deserve so much scrutiny.

Asked whether he stood by the penalty rates comments this week, Mr McCormack said salaries and allowances were set independently.

“As determined by the independent Remuneration Tribunal, members of Parliament receive a flat rate for accommodation in Canberra,” which “is paid regardless of an MP’s position, electorate and party”, he said.

But Labor employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor slammed Mr McCormack’s comments.

???”Mr McCormack is just another member of the government who is so divorced from the lives of working Australians that he doesn’t understand the difference between low-paid workers relying on penalty rates and his own travel entitlements,” he said.

As many as one in five federal politicians use their travel allowances to supplement the cost of second homes in Canberra.

Other ministers including Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, Social Services Minister Christian Porter and Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion also stay in houses or apartments they own and claim the allowance. Labor frontbenchers including Richard Marles and Penny Wong also claim the allowance.

While the Turnbull government is cracking down on politicians’ entitlements, it is understood to have no intention of scrapping or reducing the Canberra travel allowance, even for those MPs who use it to pay off mortgages.

The payment was examined as part of an investigation into MPs’ allowances but the review recommended no changes.

“How parliamentarians use the flat rate allowance to support their accommodation in Canberra is a matter for them,” said the review, which was released a year ago and forms the basis of many of the government’s changes.

Many small business owners – with whom Mr McCormack works closely as minister – have welcomed the commission’s penalty rates decision last month, saying it may help them open more often and take on more staff.

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Andrew and Julie Swan, Anthea and Mick Newton, have created a fundraiser to help Fijian kids

Plea to give water, basics, to school kids TweetFacebook Pics: Take a look at the basic facilities at this Fijian school +25MORE GALLERIES

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facebookSHAREtwitterTWEETemailwhatsappcommentCommentsWhen Julie and Andrew Swan realised children at a remote school in Fiji had to bring their own water to school and tip dirty bore water down the toilet they wanted to help.

They uncovered the limited facilities during a holidaylast year when they went on an adventure to the main island to immerse themselves in authentic Fijian culture.

The water tanks at Qumusea District School were cracked and couldn’t hold water, the gutters had fallen into disrepair and the toilets didn’t flush.

Each student had to bring their own water to schooland hopetheir daily allocation didn’t run out.

Mrs Swan said the school’s 98 primary school children took turns at using dirty bore water, which the government supplies, to manually flush the toilets at the end of the day.

She could not believe there were only two toilets at the school and said no child should have to perform that task.

She also said the children didn’t own any shoes to protect their feet during the long walk to and from school.

“They have no verandahs on their classrooms, the windows are rusted and hard to open and close, and there is no play equipment at all – just a large patch of grass where they hope to one day enjoy some equipment,” Mrs Swansaid.“These are basic needs the children are entitled to.”

A chance meeting during the holiday saw the couple team up withAnthea and Mick Newton, the directors of A Day On the Green,andcreate a plan to help.

They hope to raise $10,000 to pay for the repairs through a collection at A Day On The Green atBimbadgen Estate on April 1 anda Go Fund Me page.

“I was so excited to think that they too wanted to help out, and that we had the opportunity of doing something to make our goal of helping these kids a reality,” Mrs Swan said.

Mr Newton urged people to dig deep and support the cause.

“ A Day On The Green is always keen to support local communities and one way we can do that is by having a tin collection at our events,” he said.“This can greatly benefit local charities so we’re really happy we can provide the opportunity … we hope all our patrons will dig deep.”

To donate visithttps://苏州美甲学校论坛gofundme苏州美甲学校/donatefijischool

Fluro Friday movement: How surfing saved my life

Grant Trebilco in action at his early morning ‘board meeting’. Photo: AquabumpsIf you spot Grant Trebilco out in the waves –ripping it up in a pair of bright yellow leggings, perhaps a floral shirt, and a face slathered in pink zinc –you’d assume the surfer is one of the most carefree blokes getting around.

苏州美甲学校

Grant Trebilco, founder of Fluro Fridays. Photo: Aquabumps

But paddle closer, and the 36-year-old may share some darker stories. Like the time he experienced psychosis during a work trip to Mexico, and seriously considered ending his own life.

Or the day he had to scarper from a work presentation because of sky-high anxiety. And the many times his bipolar was misdiagnosed as anxiety and depression.

A break in the systemThen there was the week-long manic episode when he broke up with his long-term girlfriend, spent all his money on bar tabs, went to work dressed as a tequila farmer and quit his marketing job. It ended when he stole a rescue board at a surf competition and was handcuffed in front of hundreds of people and taken to Manly Hospital’s mental health ward.

“I thought I was having the time of my life and it wasn’t until I got handcuffed and taken to the mental health ward that it all kind of came crashing down,” says the New Zealand-born Sydneysider.

Colouring the future Participants are encouraged to get their colour on. Photo: David Bryant

Talking about his experiences has become the norm for Trebilco, who four years ago founded a non-profit movement known asOneWave, which runs regular events known as ‘Fluro Friday’.

The idea is that surfers come together, dressed in fluro, to share their stories and enjoy the soothing effects of surfing.

“I thought fluro, it makes people happy, but it also makes an invisible issue visible,” says Trebilco. “It gets people asking questions about mental health.”

100 beachesHe and mate Sam Schumacher, a surfing instructor who studied aerospace engineering, have helped build Fluro Friday into a global phenomenon that’s spread to more than 100 beaches in over 20 countries.

Trebilco says his 10 days in the mental health ward – the worst experience of his life –inspired the idea.

“I was just angry at the world,” he says. “But it was in there that I started to think – shit –well at least I know I’ve got bipolar. At least I don’t have to hide it any more.”

Shared experiencesTrebilco, incredibly bored, started chatting to other patients to try and understand what they were going through.

“I just kind of found everyone was fighting a battle they knew nothing about,” he says. “We kind of all yarned and it all helped me a lot.”

On day seven, he was allowed out for an hour, so his family arrived and raced him to the surf, where Trebilco found a glimmer of hope for his future.

Finding solace in the wavesAfter being released from hospital, he returned to New Zealand for six months, where his family cared for him and he surfed and surfed – sometimes up to six hours a day.

“I couldn’t sit still on the couch for longer than a couple of minutes, because the anxiety was so bad from the medication that I was trying out. But I could sit in the ocean for hours.”

Eventually, Trebilco decided that living with bipolar would be much easier if he told his mates. But it was tough.

Morning board meetings”I told my best mate out in the surf and I was shitting myself,” he says.”For some reason I thought he might think it’s a weakness and treat me differently. But he just gave me a hug and said ‘man, I’ve got your back no matter what’.”

Emboldened, Trebilco dressed in an unorthodox surfing get-up – board shorts, a business shirt and a tie – and hit Bondi Beach one Friday morning for a ‘board meeting’, hoping that it would encourage other surfers to strike up a conversation.

Breaking the silence The Fluro crew. Photo: Aquabumps

Many simply laughed, but one surfer started chatting and Trebilco shared his story.

“He kind of sat there silent for a bit and then you could see in his eyes that it meant something to him,” says Trebilco. His new acquaintance revealed he’d been suffering depression for years, but had never told anyone.

“It was two guys like tearing up in the surf and I was like if this is all it takes, me dressing up like an idiot every week and going surfing to get people to talk about mental health, then l’m going to do it for the rest of my life,” says Trebilco.

Turning a life aroundThat first outing soon morphed into Fluro Friday, which this Friday will mark its fourth anniversary with surfers gathering at more than 50 beaches globally to mark the milestone.

Meanwhile, its founder has largely learnt to live with his bipolar, but says anxiety raises its head regularly between the highs and lows. Just after he launched OneWave, Trebilco got so excited that he couldn’t sleep and wound up back in hospital.

He’s now an in-demand speaker, spreading the word at schools and corporate workplaces including Westpac, LinkedIn and RedBalloon.

Saltwater cureTrebilco, who hasn’t missed a single Fluro Friday in four years, says he probably would “have been screwed without surfing”.

“But once you get out there…it’s like the saltwater just rinses off all the bad vibes and it makes everything that little bit easier.”

Click here for more information on Fluro Friday.

Executive Style