Rusting away … the real last cab to Darwin in a yard in Darwin. Photo: Philip Nitschke Wants to shoot two films in Sydney … Hugh Jackman. Photo: Steven Siewert
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Thriller in Manila … Beast.

Real last cab is dying without dignity

As the film it inspired continues to perform strongly in cinemas, the real last cab to Darwin is slowly disappearing in an overgrown yard. Terminally ill Broken Hill cabbie Max Bell drove it to the Northern Territory capital in the 1990s — the journey that inspired Jeremy Sims’ film. Euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke , who was with Bell when he died, has owned the car ever since. “He left it to me, ‘To help to get the euthanasia law working’,” he says. “It became the Exit campaign car for the next 10 years till it finally died in Darwin with a failed welch plug.” Dr Nitschke says it’s sad watching such an historic vehicle slowly decay on his Darwin block. “It still has the taxi meter in it,” he says, “along with the length of chain under the seat that Max told me he used when people decided they didn’t want to pay the fare”. After a strong third weekend that saw its release widen to 247 cinemas — it started on 221 — Last Cab To Darwin has taken $4.4 million so far. It will widen again to 265 cinemas this weekend as it heads towards topping $6 million. Why Hugh Jackman won’t be directing

Hugh Jackman grabbed headlines with the big announcement this week that he is touring the country with the arena show Broadway to Oz — Hugh Jackman Live in Concert. But he also spoke about the two movies he is hoping to shoot in Australia — his final Wolverine instalment and Michael Gracey’s P.T. Barnum bio-pic The Greatest Showman On Earth. While both are dependent on locations, Jackman hopes to shoot them largely in Sydney, just as he has with X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Wolverine. Other than the filmmaking incentives to shoot in Australia, the attractions include being able to have a dip at Bondi before heading to Fox Studios. But while Jackman has moved into producing his movies, he has no interest in following fellow Les Miserables star Russell Crowe into directing. “I just ran into Joel Edgerton and he said he he’s had the time of his life [directing as well as starring in The Gift] and that made me think about it. But I just feel I’m a bit too indecisive.” Jackman says the greatest directors are very definite in their vision as they make 200 to 300 decisions a day. “I think I’d just be annoying to everybody and to myself,” he says. “‘Yeah, I like the red and the yellow dress’. ‘Well which one?’ ‘They’re both great.’ It would be that all day long.” Boxing pic gets Toronto debut

The directing debut for Australian brothers Tom and Sam McKeith, boxing drama-thriller Beast, has been selected for a world premiere in the Discovery section at the Toronto International Film Festival. The Australian-Filipino film centres on a young boxer (Chad McKinney) who is forced to go on the run through the streets of Manila after accidentally killing an opponent in a crooked fight. Garret Dillahunt (12 Years a Slave) plays his American expat father. The brothers, both graduates of the Australian Film Television and Radio School, said they were thrilled at selection for what was the perfect platform for the film. “We hope people respond to the film’s rawness and enjoy the bold performance of our lead Chad McKinney, a boxer who we discovered training at a gym in Manila,” they said. The festival said the brothers had taken “elements of classic boxing films, added thriller twists, and refracted the resulting story through the lens of social realism” to create “a heart-pounding tale”. More French films in new festival

The newest addition to the film festival calender opens next week — Alliance Française Classic Film Festival, which features six films starring the legendary Catherine Deneuve. Alliance festival manager Patricia Noeppel-Detmold expects the festival to attract both regulars at the Alliance’s French Film Festival every March and newcomers wanting to catch some classics on the big screen. The festival, which features the likes of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Belle de Jour and Indochine, is at Event George Street and Cremorne Orpheum from Thursday to Sunday. UnIndian heads to Montreal

The comic romance unIndian, starring former cricketer Brett Lee and India’s Tannishtha Chatterjee, has been selected for a surprising world premiere at the Montreal World Film Festival. Directed by Anupam Sharma, the film has also been picked up by Scandinavian international sales agent Yellow Affair, which describes it as “entertaining and genuinely funny” as “it touches cleverly on cultural differences”. Sharma describes the selection as “a pleasant surprise” for what was never intended to be a festival film.Unindian opens in Australian cinemas on October 15. Vacation opens on top

The National Lampoon reboot Vacation opened on top of the Australian box office on the weekend with $1.68 million. Boxing drama Southpaw had a better cinema average but came in second with $1.55 million. On a low-key weekend in cinemas, Jurassic World finally slipped out of the top 20 after 10 hugely popular weeks that saw it reach $52.8 million. It became the fourth highest-grossing movie in Australian cinemas, behind only Avatar, Titanic and The Avengers.

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Tasmanian Labor leader Bryan Green Photo: Paul Scambler/The ExaminerPressure is rising on the Liberal Party over its funds scandal, with Labor asking for a cover-up of a $48,000 debt in Tasmania to be investigated by the Australian Electoral Commission.
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The personal debt was incurred by disgraced former party director, Damien Mantach, while he held the job in Tasmania.

Mr Mantach’s debt was repaid in full in 2008 before he left, later to take on the same role in Victoria and allegedly embezzle $1.5 million.

Party figures have since traded accusations over the original debt, the re-engagement of Mr Mantach, and Liberal financial governance during his employment in Victoria.

Tasmanian Opposition Leader Bryan Green told the state parliament on Wednesday that Commonwealth electoral law required disclosure of “all money” received by a political party over a $10,000 threshold in 2008.

He held up a copy of the 2008 Liberal party return, and told Premier Will Hodgman: “Clearly this is not limited to donations. Will you and can you explain… why that amount was not declared as part of the party’s return?

“The fact that the money was not disclosed on the 2008 return can only mean one of two things, either the money wasn’t repaid … or that the Tasmanian Liberal Party is in breach of the Electoral Act,” Mr Green said.

He had written to the Australian Electoral Commissioner, Tom Rogers, seeking an investigation into whether  the Tasmanian division of the Liberal party had lodged a false and misleading return.

Mr Hodgman called the questions spurious and said they should be handled by the party’s administrative division.

“As the leader of the opposition knows, those returns relate to donations…,” Mr Hodgman said. “Clearly the matters in question are not donations to the Liberal Party.”

The party’s current state president, Geoff Page, told Fairfax Media he was not sure what Mr Green was getting at.

“Our accounts are audited by professional people outside the party every year,” Mr Page said. “I’m very comfortable with that.”

Mr Green also disclosed in parliament that at the time Mr Mantach left, the honorary treasurer of the party was Launceston businessman Sam McQuestin, who is now the state director.

“It’s emerged Mr McQuestin is central to this matter, but (he) has been in hiding from the public,” Mr Green said.

He called for Mr Hodgman to require Mr McQuestin “to come out and tell the Tasmanian people why this matter was covered up.”

Mr McQuestin was not available for comment.


Newcastle,home tothe world’s biggest coal export port, hasvoted to curb its links to banks backing the fossil fuel industry in a move described by a dissenting councillor as taking the city “back to the Stone Age”.
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Newcastle City Council on Tuesday voted 6-5 to alter its policiesto steer its $270 million in funds into banks involved in “environmentally and socially responsible investments” and avoid those in “harmful activities”, such as greenhouse gas pollution.

Preferred activities included renewable energy, social housing,resource efficiency and recycling.

DeclanClausen, theLabor councillor who brought the motion to council, said the move would send a signal that it was time for the city to diversify away from coal.

“It’s foolish to believe Newcastle can ride off coal far into the future,” Cr Clausen said.

Coal exports from Newcastle rose 6 per cent to a record 159 million tonnes in 2014, and comprised 97 per cent of the port’s volume, according to Port of Newcastle data.

The council stopped short of immediately dumping term deposits and other transaction activity with the big four banks – ANZ, Commonwealth, NAB and Westpac.

However, when deposits come up for renewal, council staff will be instructed to switch funds away from the large banks – all active funders of the coal industry – provided rates of return and the ratings of the alternative banks or credit agencies are similar.

Liberal councillor Brad Lukedescribed the move as “incredible”, and one that “would punish the biggest employer in the region” and the unions.

“It sends a signal that Newcastle Council does not support the creation of jobs in this area,” Cr Luke said. “It will take Newcastle back to the Stone Age.”

Greens councillor Therese Doyledismissed the criticism.

“It is coal that will send us back to the Stone Age,”Ms Doyle said.”It’s very clear that we need to get out of fossil fuels.”

The city had seen “very little social and economic benefit” from the coal industry and instead had to suffer from the health impacts of coal dust, noise and traffic disruption from coal trains.

“Coal production is increasingly automated,” Cr Doyle said.

“The way of the future is away from coal.”

Stephen Galilee, chief executive of the NSW Minerals Council, said it was up to the city council “to decide how they invest ratepayers’ funds, and to explain why, and the ratepayers of Newcastle will make their own judgement on whether it’s really the right way to go”.

Fairfax Media sought comments from the banks.

A spokeswoman for the Commonwealth Bank said “we can’t really respond at this point”.

Cr Clausen, who is a member of the Labor Environment Action Network, said unions including the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Unionrecognised that the coal industry in the Hunter Valley would likely shrink in the future.

“There will be far more jobs in sustainable industries than in the traditional fossil-fuel ones,” he said, noting the CFMEU had seconded Labor’s target for Australia to reach 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 at last month’s ALP conference.


Prime Minister Tony Abbott at the swearing in ceremony of the inaugural Border Force Commissioner Roman Quaedvliegn with Immigration Minister Peter Dutton last month. Photo: Andrew Meares The swearing in ceremony of the inaugural Border Force Commissioner Roman Quaedvliegn. Photo: Andrew Meares
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The price of a department’s integration? $52,000 per public servant

What’s in a name? If you’re the newly created Australian Border Force, the answer is about $10 million – splashed on military-style uniforms and thousands of signs at airports and detention centres to create a fresh, hardline image.

The uniform splurge follows recent reports by former detention centre workers that detainees at the Australian-run camp on Nauru have not been provided proper clothing, forcing parents to cut holes in their children’s ill-fitting shoes.

Australia’s newly named paramilitary border force began operating in July, triggering the 10th rebranding of the immigration bureaucracy since World War II.

The new name drew ridicule when flagged last year, described variously by critics as “hairy chested”, deliberately threatening and a “marketing disaster”.

Costings supplied to Fairfax Media shows the government spent $6.3 million kitting out 4500 ABF officials with new uniforms, insignia, name badges, buttons and safety helmets.

Veteran public servants were reportedly unhappy at being forced to wear the military-style uniform to work after a lifetime of civilian service.

However a department spokeswoman said the new agency and its law enforcement officers must be “properly attired and well equipped”.

“It is custom and practice that uniforms and equipment for law enforcement operatives be provided by their employer,” she said.

At a Senate hearing last month detention centre workers described as “horrendous” the clothing situation for detainees at the Nauru detention camp.

“Parents actually had to cut holes in their [children’s] sneakers because their feet were growing too much and their shoes were too small,” said former worker Samantha Betts.

“Children would often ask us to help fix their thongs, which we tried to do on several occasions … with bread ties and bits of string.”

Another case worker said a pair of pink hotpants had been provided to an elderly Burmese woman to wear as shorts.

The government spent a further $3.5 million on other rebranding activities such as new livery for 300 vehicles, including boats, helicopters and other aircraft.

New signs were erected at 11 international airports and more than 700 signs were required for seaports, depots, offices and immigration detention facilities.

About 8000 “Border Watch” signs replaced the previous “Customs Watch” signs. Thousands of vessel port and date stamps were also replaced.

A spokeswoman said the money was sourced from the department’s budget allocations and came at “no extra expense to taxpayers”.

The government has said the creation of the ABF, which consolidated customs and immigration border operations, would save hundreds of millions of dollars to be reinvested into the super-charged agency.

Some department insiders were said to be unhappy at the “militarisation” of the new regime. The department reportedly faces the public service’s greatest executive brain drain since the 1980s after a quarter of its upper ranks were either shown the door or left after the merger.

Despite the millions of dollars being spent on the ABF, its employees are facing cuts to pay and entitlements, triggering an internal revolt.

Since 1945 the immigration bureaucracy has been known by various names including the Department of Labour and Immigration, Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

Customs functions have also been rebranded, including in 2009 when the former Labor government dispensed with the Australian Customs Service, renaming it the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.

At the time, the Coalition questioned the cost of rebranding, and asked why the name change was needed when the government could have simply absorbed border control functions into the Customs Service.

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Peter FitzSimons says it is ‘simply not fair’ that no Australian can become the nation’s head of state. Photo: Louise Kennerley  Five things that need to happen before Australia becomes a republic
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The ACT’s Katy Gallagher will lead a national push for an Australian republic.

She will be co-convenor of a new parliamentary group, with federal Treasurer Joe Hockey, as part of an ambitious 10-year plan for constitutional change.

The group was announced at the National Press Club on Wednesday by Peter FitzSimons, chairman of the Australian Republican Movement and a Fairfax Media columnist.

The republican movement wants a national plebiscite on an Australian head of state by 2020, followed by a referendum proposing a specific republican model by 2025.

Should a plebiscite on a republic be held within that time frame, it could be the fifth time in as many years Australians were asked to go to the polls. Votes on marriage equality and constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians, as well as two federal elections, are also expected.

In 1999, a referendum on a move to a republic was defeated 55 per cent to 45 per cent. The ACT was the only jurisdiction to vote in favour of a republic.

Senator Gallagher, a former ACT chief minister, said there was acceptance of the lessons learnt from 1999, such as about divisions in the “yes” campaign.

“I think there’s also understanding now there needs to be stages about the way you progress to a referendum,” she said.

“It’s a long-term discussion for a long-term change.

“Politicians have a role to play but, ultimately, this is something the Australian community has to get behind; it has to be a much broader discussion.

“If we are looking at a five- to 10-year campaign, hopefully it is beyond the reign of Tony Abbott.”

Mr FitzSimons said support for an Australian republic was strengthening again, with 47 per cent of voters polled by Essential Media Research in favour of replacing the British monarch with an Australian head of state.

“It’s time for us to be entirely self-governing,” he said.

“We propose it starts with a simple question to be put before the Australian people some time in the next five years: do you support replacing the British monarchy with an Australian citizen as the Australian head of state?” he said.

“Bingo, simple as that. We reckon the ‘yes’ vote will look like Phar Lap at Flemington, like Bradman at Lord’s – well ahead of the field and looking good.”

Mr FitzSimons said it was essential republicans came together and agreed on a model before a referendum, rather than face a repeat of the 1999 vote, when arguments between republicans about different models contributed to the defeat of the “yes” case.

He said he favoured a minimalist model, with the head of state, who would still be called the governor-general, chosen by a two-thirds majority of Parliament.

“It is the most likely to succeed, as it addresses the foremost concern of the if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it crowd. Essentially, we are not fixing it. We would be snipping one unsightly apron string,” Mr FitzSimons said.

The Australian flag would not be part of the debate.

Mr FitzSimons warned Australia would only make the change if Mr Abbott, a strong supporter of the constitutional monarchy, was no longer Prime Minister: “The reality of this is we won’t get this over the line without bipartisan support.”

A spokesman for Mr Hockey said he “has long advocated his views on this issue”.

“They are a matter of public record and those views haven’t changed.”

Earlier this year, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten recommitted Labor to pursuing an Australian republic.