Archive for January, 2019

NSW Liberal MP Kevin Conolly accused by Jess Diaz of trying to bribe powerbroker


The fight over Liberal preselection in the seat of Riverstone has been reignited after local powerbroker and councillor Jess Diaz referred sitting MP Kevin Conolly to the NSW corruption watchdog, accusing him of offering a “bribe” to secure his support.
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According to the complaint to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, obtained by Fairfax Media, Cr Diaz alleges last year Mr Conolly offered to have fellow Blacktown councillor Mark Holmes vote for him to become mayor last September.

In return, Cr Diaz would use his influence to ensure Mr Conolly was again preselected as the Liberal candidate for Riverstone for the forthcoming state election.

At the time Mr Conolly was under challenge for preselection from Liberal MP, Bart Bassett, who was confident of winning with Cr Diaz’s support.

Cr Diaz’s complaint to ICAC alleges the deal was made during a meeting initiated by Cr Holmes and attended by Cr Diaz and Mr Conolly.

“Cr Holmes advised that he was under immense pressure to ensure Mr Conolly wins preselection because his de facto partner, Elizabeth Banks, is an electoral officer of Mr Conolly and would lose her job if Mr Conolly’s instructions were not followed,” it says.

Alluding to a July 31 meeting to choose some of the preselectors for Riverstone, Mr Conolly is alleged to have told Cr Diaz: “Jess, if you vote for the selectors I want, you will be the mayor of Blacktown in September.”

“Mr Conolly and Cr Holmes tried to bribe Cr Diaz with the promotion or elevation to the position of mayor of Blacktown City,” the complaint states. It points out this would have meant an annual financial benefit of $50,000 to Cr Diaz.

The complaint says Cr Diaz rejected the deal and points out that in support of this, none of the preselectors Mr Conolly was seeking were chosen.

Cr Diaz says that in the September mayoral ballot, Cr Holmes, a Liberal councillor, voted with Labor councillors to secure a secret ballot. Cr Diaz lost the mayoral ballot to Labor’s candidate, Stephen Bali, by one vote.

Fairfax Media has previously reported that Mr Conolly fell out with Cr Diaz over support for his tilt at the mayoralty, causing Cr Diaz to withdraw his support for Mr Conolly’s preselection.

This led to Mr Conolly’s own branch members refusing to endorse his candidacy and put Mr Bassett in the box seat to secure preselection.

But Mr Bassett was subsequently called before ICAC to answer allegations that a company associated with coal mogul Nathan Tinkler made an illegal donation of $18,000 for Mr Bassett’s campaign before the 2011 election.

In January, with the backing of Premier Mike Baird, the Liberal state executive cancelled the preselection and installed Mr Conolly as the candidate for Riverstone.

Mr Conolly, Cr Holmes and Cr Diaz did not respond to requests for comment.

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Terror suspect Omar Al-Kutobi tried to join Australian army


The father of Omar Al Kutobi said he once loved Australia and wanted to join the army. Photo: SuppliedDetails revealed of alleged Sydney Islamic State videoMohammad Kiad a quiet nurse who loved luxury goodsSydney terror suspects not known to any authorities
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A western Sydney student accused of plotting an Islamic State terror attack tried to join the Australian army but was rejected, his family says.

Omar Al-Kutobi, 24, and his flatmate Mohammad Kiad, 25, were arrested on Tuesday just hours before they were allegedly going to kill a random white person in Sydney.

Police stormed their Fairfield granny flat, seizing a hunting knife, a machete, a home-made Islamic State flag and a video of Al-Kutobi kneeling in front of the flag and vowing in Arabic to attack the “kidneys and necks” of Australians.

The Fairfield granny flat shared by the pair that was raided by police earlier this week. Photo: Daniel Munoz

Al-Kutobi’s father, Ahmad, said his son once loved Australia and wanted to join the army.

He applied about two years ago but was told by the army that he needed more time.

Al-Kutobi, who was studying IT at Melbourne’s RMIT University, was only a permanent resident at the time and was granted citizenship months later in 2013.

The Department of Defence would not comment on Al-Kutobi’s application.

“Defence will not comment on a matter that is currently before the court,” a spokesman said.

Al-Kutobi was not on any intelligence radars at the time and had no criminal record.

It was only at 3pm on Tuesday that he came to the attention of authorities when he bought a hunting knife at Peter’s Military and Camping Supplies, a Smithfield store that stocks ammunition boxes, toy cap guns, military gear, knives and machetes.

When Al-Kutobi came to Australia as a refugee in 2009, he would tell his father it was the best country in the world.

But in the past six months, he grew frustrated and tired.

“He told me life in Australia is so hard,” said Ahmad, who lives in Germany. “I told him, ‘You don’t remember when you said Australia is the best country in the world?’ “

He said Al-Kutobi replied, “Yes, but it is changing”.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton foreshadowed the tightening of asylum seeker processing following revelations both men came to Australia as refugees and one used false documents.

Fairfax Media understands Al-Kutobi arrived by plane on a false passport, meaning he somehow slipped through immigration at an airport, though this was before biometric screening standards were in place.

The family fled Iraq because Al-Kutobi’s father was shot while working as a translator for the US Army.

Kiad was granted a family and spousal visa in 2012, but he separated from his wife soon after.

In an statement provided to Channel Ten, the estranged wife, who didn’t identify herself, said: “If they had managed to hurt someone I would have felt guilty for the rest of my life, because I brought this man to Australia.”

After the separation, Kiad, a nurse from Kuwait, moved in with his only friend Al-Kutobi, who was studying nursing.

The pair worked together as removalists for Santa Fe Wridgways in Villawood, but chief executive Andrew Simpson said on Thursday that both men were recently let go after being employed over summer.

Mr Abbott said Australia needed to question whether it was giving “the benefit of the doubt” too often to people who were granted residency or citizenship after arriving as asylum seekers.

“If you look at the Martin Place murderer, he had been given the benefit of the doubt at every stage by our system. I suspect that much the same will turn out to be the case with these people,” he told Fairfax Radio.

“We need to ask ourselves the question, ‘What useful purpose does it serve our country to have these people here?’ “

ASIO screens everyone who is granted asylum in Australia, at least at basic level, and usually at a deeper level if any red flags are raised.

Mr Abbott accused Labor of “reducing the level of ASIO screening” while it was in government.

Both men appeared in Central Local Court on Thursday and their Legal Aid-funded barrister Deone Provera said they would apply for bail on March 16.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story has been amended to accurately show the products sold at Peter’s Military and Camping Supplies in Smithfield.

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Newcastle Jets could be sued over ‘bullying’ and ‘harassment’ of players


Failing to take off: Joel Griffiths is in the bad books with Jets management. Photo: Jonathan Carroll Failing to take off: Joel Griffiths is in the bad books with Jets management. Photo: Jonathan Carroll
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Failing to take off: Joel Griffiths is in the bad books with Jets management. Photo: Jonathan Carroll

Failing to take off: Joel Griffiths is in the bad books with Jets management. Photo: Jonathan Carroll

Professional Footballers Australia has warned the Newcastle Jets they could be sued for “bullying and harassment” if five unwanted players are not allowed to join their teammates in full training.

Senior players Kew Jaliens, Joel Griffiths, Adrian Madaschi, Billy Celeski and David Carney have been in limbo since controversial Jets owner Nathan Tinkler announced they were sacked 16 days ago.

After the intervention of PFA, the players were allowed to resume training until they had agreed to sign termination documents. But for most of the sessions they have been segregated from the main group, a situation PFA chief executive Adam Vivian said was in breach of their rights as employees.

Tension between the players and coach Phil Stubbins reached flashpoint on Thursday when veteran Joel Griffiths unleashed a barrage of expletives, apparently after being told he and Carney were not required for a ball-work exercise.

Jaliens, Madaschi and Celeski had apparently already finished training by this point.

Griffiths was heard telling Stubbins to “have some f—ing respect” before storming away, hurling balls at the turf.

Vivian said Griffiths was merely venting justifiable frustration.

“We’ve spoken to Joel and David Carney, who was a witness to the event today,” Vivian told Fairfax Media. “Our understanding is those boys were being precluded from training once again, and that’s what culminated in Joel having words with the coach. From our perspective, Joel has been reminded of his employment rights and when he identified those rights were being interfered with, he expressed his concerns to Phil.”

Vivian said the PFA would contact Jets officials on Friday to “formally” remind them of the players’ rights.

“Players training alone is invariably one of those situations that will destroy the mutual trust and confidence which is essential to any employment relationship,” he said. “So we’ll obviously address that with the club tomorrow and hopefully we’ll see it remedied.”

Asked what options were available to PFA if the Jets continued to isolate the five rebels, Vivian replied: “There’s plenty of legal avenues we could investigate in that situation.

“If it breaches the standard player contract, if it breaches the collective bargaining agreement, it could potentially constitute bullying and harassment, which falls under employment law.

“So there are plenty of legal levers that we can pull should that be the case, however, we would rather see an amicable resolution than having to go down that path.”

Stubbins initially tried to dismiss his exchange with Griffiths as “just part of the training session” before acknowledging the mood of the players he is intent on discarding.

“I don’t think it’s toxic,” Stubbins said.

“Obviously there’s some angst from the boys not being able to be a full part of everything … once everyone can get across the genuine direction of where we’re moving, then we’ll move forward.”

Stubbins said he was trying to manage the situation “the best I can” and was hopeful it would be resolved quickly.

“The sooner we can put an end to it, and everyone can get some genuine direction as to where they’re going with some real clarity, I think it’s going to be better for everybody,” he said.

Stubbins would appear to have the rock-solid support of Tinkler in the dispute, after the embattled owner said in an interview this week: “I have simply told Phil to make a little naughty corner at training and give them a sandpit and a little ladder, or something, to play on over in the corner of the ground.”

Vivian said, in the circumstances, Griffiths’ outburst was “certainly not grounds for disciplinary action in any way”.

He said the five players would continue to “show up and be professional” until they were satisfied with the terms of their severance deals.

“If the boys can get to a position where they’re comfortable and satisfied with mutual terminations and that their obligations will be met and can move on with their careers, that would obviously give reasonable peace of mind,” he said.

“But at this stage we’re not there yet.”

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Exclusive look at the ATC’s new Golden Slipper campaign


New Breed: Kathy O’Hara in the Golden Slipper ad campaign. Photo: James MorrisonThis is the first look you’ll get of the Australian Turf Club’s cracking new promotion of the Golden Slipper carnival.
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Featuring leading female jockey Kathy O’Hara and the horses of top Sydney trainers Peter and Paul Snowden, the “New Breed Prepares” campaign was shot in Inglis’ historic Sydney Newmarket complex ahead of the three-day carnival on March 14, 21 and 28 at Rosehill Gardens.

Slipper day, of course, has always been massive, and this year will be no different, featuring the $3.5 million Golden Slipper, $1 million George Ryder, $500,000 Ranvet Stakes, $500,000 Rosehill Guineas and $400,000 The Galaxy.

The ATC copped some flak last year for its advertising campaign but this one is dripping class.


This effort is the first under new ATC chief operating officer Tony Partridge and goes to the heart of the club’s plans for Rosehill Gardens – right through from the latest $16 million it is spending on refurbishments to the innovation of racing and events out west.

“For the horses competing, the New Breed is the horse that will rocket to stardom by winning the Golden Slipper, as well as their future progeny,” Partridge said. “No race in Australia influences breeding and particularly yearling sales as much as the Golden Slipper. Colts can literally become worth their weight in gold and are destined to sire generations of future stars the moment they win the Golden Slipper.

“Racing’s customers and participants also relate to the New Breed. If you think a bit differently, and can challenge the status quo and prefer fun and excitement over stuffy traditions, then you’re part of the New Breed.

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Ewen McKenzie helping rebuild Christchurch in life after Wallabies


There have been a few sightings around Sydney and the southern highlands, including a rumoured beard, but until now there has been no definitive word on what life after the Wallabies looks like for former coach Ewen McKenzie.
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The Breakdown can reveal that, far from bunking down after a bitterly disappointing end to his time in charge at the top, McKenzie is embracing the next chapter and has returned to his town planning roots.

McKenzie has linked up with long-time supporter and benefactor Kevin Maloney, who has made his fortune from the mining and construction industry and whose company Tulla Group recently won contracts to help in the reconstruction effort in Christchurch.

Maloney has employed McKenzie in a full-time capacity as project manager on a bunch of interests, including the construction of a 166-room workers’ accommodation facility in the New Zealand city.

The work is keeping him very busy and involves frequent trips across the ditch. Maloney told The Breakdown McKenzie was already a popular figure in the rugby-mad community and was relishing life after rugby.

“He even has a smile on his face these days,” Maloney said. “He will be telling his side of the story at some stage but he’s working hard at the moment and has moved on.”


Important details have emerged since news broke this week that former Wallabies staffer Di Patston is suing the Australian Rugby Union over her departure.

Fairfax Media and other outlets reported that the ARU failed in its application to have Patston’s claim dismissed, but that is not correct.

Instead, the application will be heard on June 2 by Judge Vasta in the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane. According to court documents, the ARU is challenging the legality of Patston’s claim based on the fact the two parties signed a financial settlement when Patston resigned in October.

The basic principle, as the ARU hopes the court will see it? Patston cannot come back to the well twice after agreeing to a financial settlement the first time. They are citing two sections of the Federal Circuit Court Act to this end.

Whether Patston’s state of mind at the time of her resignation will come into it remains to be seen. The former team business manager had flown home from Argentina in distress and resigned 10 days later while on stress leave.

This could get very ugly for the ARU.


Literally every major power broker in Australian rugby turned out for the Waratahs’ season launch at Sydney’s Ivy this week. We’re talking ARU boss Bill Pulver, SANZAR chief Greg Peters, RUPA head honcho Greg Harris, chairman Bruce Hodgkinson, an array of NSW and Waratahs directors, and a host of other identities, including reclusive but influential identity Jon Collins and the president of French club Narbonne, Anthony Hill.

Everyone except the Waratahs chief executive, that is, who was conspicuously absent from the shindig on Wednesday.

But the plot thickens. Jason Allen actually hasn’t been in the office for weeks after emailing staff to let them know he is “working from home” until his role winds up next month.

Allen, who has steered the franchise through some shaky financial times during the past four years, has been in caretaker mode since the end of last year, when the franchise’s lucrative management deal with the operators of ANZ Stadium fell through and NSW Rugby stepped in to negotiate a new hire agreement with rival Allianz Stadium instead.

Waratahs Rugby director and former Wallaby Al Baxter was left to do the preamble with veteran master of ceremonies Greg Clark in what was the first genuinely upbeat season launch The Breakdown has attended. Nothing like a trophy to put the razzle-dazzle back in rugby.


The Waratahs have drawn up a list of potential candidates to take over from Michael Cheika when he joins the Wallabies full-time in just a few months.

Assistant coach Daryl Gibson is at the top of the list, but Wallabies forwards coach Andrew Blades is also a potential target if he departs the Test arena, as expected.

Other names doing the rounds are former London Irish coach Brian Smith, who knows Cheika, and Robbie Deans. The Waratahs also have a number of smaller names who boast big achievements, and have enlisted the help of recruitment analyst Ben Darwin.


It is the long-promised holy land of Australian rugby. A bright and shiny centre of excellence in every sense, designed to give Australia’s elite teams their best chance of flourishing and conquering on the world stage. It was going to be built at Ballymore, it was going to be built at Eastwood, then it sounded as though it was never going to be built.

But the centre of excellence lives on in the minds and plans of the ARU, which is plotting its third coming at Moore Park in Sydney’s east. Sources tell The Breakdown that chairman Michael Hawker is still keen to get in on the action at the precinct housing the Sydney Cricket Ground and Allianz Stadium.

That would make it the fourth rugby body to call Moore Park home and plans are afoot to move the first ARU personnel from St Leonards into the building housing the Waratahs and NSW Rugby as early as May or June.

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