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Surging cash bank prompts big South 32 buy-back

Delays in prospective acquisitions combined with continued high commodity prices has prompted South32 to buy back close to 5 per cent of its shares for $US500 million even before it pays its recently declared interim dividend.
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The miner, which was spun out of BHP Billiton, has been strongly tipped to launch a share buy-back amid resurgent cashflows thanks to the surprise lift in many commodity prices over the past year or so.

“We recently explored the capital allocation possibilities for companies under our coverage … and concluded that an on-market share buyback would be the most likely option,” RBC analyst Paul Hissey told clients on the news of South 32’s planned buy-back.

The surge in the manganese and coking coal prices has given South32’s earnings a huge fillip, with the coking coal price in particular rising to more than $US200 from $US100 a tonne. Current talks in Tokyo are expected to see the quarterly price hold at around $US160 a tonne.

South32’s share price fell 1.84 per cent on Monday to $2.67.

Also adding to the miner’s cash reserves was the decision just over a month ago by the competition watchdog, the ACCC, to block pending a review the planned $US200 million ($262 million) acquisition of Metropolitan Collieries, which would have expanded the miner’s coking coal acreage in the Illawarra, south of Sydney, as well as doubling its interest in the Port Kembla coal loader.

“South32 would become the Illawarra’s only supplier of large volumes of coking coal in the medium term, following the expected closure of Glencore’s Tahmoor mine,” the watchdog noted when it stepped in last month.

Additionally, the recovery in the global price for manganese, which is mostly used to make specialty steel, has undermined earlier optimism that South32 would be able to take full control of its manganese operations in which the South African miner Anglo American has a large minority stake, which has also left the n miner with additional cash on hand.

South32 has a controlling 60 per cent shareholding in Samancor with Anglo holding the balance. The venture operates mines in and South Africa. Anglo put its coal, manganese and iron ore operations on the block a year ago but the subsequent recovery in prices has resulted in this speculation fading.

When it ruled off its books at the end of December, South32 had net cash of $US859 million, with $US200 million earmarked for the Metropolitan Colliery purchase and $US192 million for the interim dividend.

“South32 remains a cash flow machine,” Citi noted in a report issued to clients after the release of the miner’s interim earnings in mid-February as it forecast net cash to reach $US1.4 billion by mid-year.

It forecast as much as $US1.6 billion could be returned to shareholders in fiscal 2018 while still keeping $US500 million in hand “for elusive value accretive M&A”.

RBC’s Mr Hissey said: “South32 could be one of the companies best placed to distribute excess cash flows to shareholders, given a lack of internal capital options, which could consume the additional circa $US850-1200 million excess cash we think is likely to materialise over calender year 2017-18.

“We note that under our base case after deducting 500 million shares bought back at $2.72/share, net cash at the end of fiscal 2018 would be just under $US1.5b. This would leave South32 with sufficient headroom to pursue other growth opportunities, should they present.”

NSW ex-cop accused of advising organised criminals how to beat police detection

A former NSW Police officer has been caught allegedly supplying kilograms of cocaine and advising organised criminals on how to fly under the radar of law enforcement.
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David Redshaw, 32, was a general duties officer with the force before his departure about six years ago.

In the past two weeks he had registered two businesses in his name, one for labour hire and the other for private investigations.

But those ventures look to be short-lived following his arrest in a sweeping organised crime sting that uncovered more than 15 kilograms of drugs, 10 firearms and a booby-trapped gun safe.

The Moorebank man’s arrest last week marked a significant development for Strike Force Bugam, which for 10 months had been investigating an international money laundering network and its clients.

Among that clientele were Asian crime figures, bikies and significant organised crime targets.

As well as his involvement in the alleged drug supply, police say Redshaw, who served as a police officer for four years, was giving tips to other members of the syndicate on how they could avoid detection.

Police allege Redshaw, and Robert Fullagar, 29, were using the money laundering network to siphon through the proceeds of their drug deals.

It is further alleged the pair sourced their drugs from two accused drug mules who swallowed pellets packed with cocaine before boarding flights from Thailand to late last year.

The cocaine was then taken to a warehouse in Yennora where it was re-packaged and distributed through a criminal network in Sydney or couriered over the border to Melbourne.

Cash from the drug sales was then transported back to Sydney, where it was processed through money remitters and funnelled offshore.

One of the suspected money couriers was arrested in January after highway patrol officers pulled over his car near Goulburn and found $1.5 million in cash hidden in $10,000 bundles throughout the vehicle.

This side of the network was allegedly linked to Vietnamese hotelier Thi Lan Phuong Pham, a 40-year-old single mother accused of running the international money laundering operation police were targeting.

Last Wednesday night, officers pulled over a tow truck towing a Hyundai van on the Hume Highway at Marulan.

Inside the van, officers allegedly uncovered eight kilograms of cocaine, 6.2 kilograms of methamphetamine and a Glock pistol originally part of a huge gun importation from Germany more than five years ago.

It will be alleged that Redshaw and Fullagar put the gun and the drugs inside a toolbox before welding it shut, placing it in the back of the van and organising a tow truck to collect it.

The drugs were on their way to Melbourne when police intercepted.

The gun was later found to be one of hundreds.imported from Germany between 2011 and 2012. The firearms were dispersed across Sydney’s underworld, changing hands regularly and popping up in high-profile shootings and armed hold-ups.

Hours after the drugs and handgun were found in the van, police arrested Redshaw at his Moorebank home.

During the following two days, dozens of police raided different properties in East Hills, Moorebank, Miranda and Yennora.

At the sprawling Yennora factory, officers found nine guns, a bulletproof vest, MDMA, more ice and cocaine and steroids.

The n Defence Force had to be called in after three military-grade booby traps were found in a gun safe at Redshaw’s house.

Redshaw and Fullagar, both charged with commercial drug supply and criminal group offences, have been refused bail and are due in Campbelltown Local Court on May 10.

Strike Force Bugam is led by the NSW Organised Crime Squad and n Criminal Intelligence Commission.

The three-way race for the Socceroos No.1 spot

has rarely had a shortage of quality goalkeepers, but rarely has the national team had all its best stoppers fit, in form and playing regularly at their clubs. When Mark Bosnich was shining for Aston Villa in the English Premier League, Mark Schwarzer was languishing on the benches of Dresden and Kaiserslauten in the Bundesliga.
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Had Zeljko Kalac opted to sign for AS Roma, Udinese or Fulham as a first-choice goalkeeper rather than move to AC Milan in 2005, Schwarzer’s position would have been under much greater threat leading into the 2006 World Cup.

Now, Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou is facing a headache few before him have had to deal with: selecting one from three strong goalkeepers for the crucial World Cup Qualifier against UAE on Tuesday night.

The 24-year-old Mat Ryan has emerged as ‘s first choice option between the posts having played 17 of the past 24, with most of those seven games only missed due to injury. However, his stranglehold on the No.1 jersey could be under threat by the re-emergence of Mitch Langerak whose stellar form for Stuttgart in the second tier of Germany has put him back in the frame for a starting position with the national team.

Sydney FC goalkeeper Danny Vukovic is the outsider making a late charge but impressed ‘s goalkeeping coach Tony Franken since coming into camp following his role in the Sky Blues’ premiership win this season.

By contrast, Ryan endured a difficult spell this season after struggling to break through into the first team at Spanish giants Valencia before moving to Belgian club Genk on loan in January to gain game time. He’s regained his match fitness, playing 11 games since his move but it couldn’t prevent him losing his place to Langerak for ‘s 1-1 draw with Iraq last week.

“I thought Mitch was good, he’s deserved a crack at it. We kind of knew what kind of game it was going to be. I just thought with the ground conditions the way they were, [Iraq] were going to go direct. We figured there will be a fair few crosses coming in and that’s really Mitch’s strength,” Postecoglou said.

The decision has not been made yet whether Langerak will retain his position for the vital qualifier against UAE at Allianz Stadium but the race is on now that Langerak is fit, playing regularly and in form.

“[Ryan] hasn’t let us down in the past either and in the end it’s good to know we’ve got two goalkeepers because, to be fair in recent times Maty’s deserved his position but we’ve never really had Mitch in any sort of condition where we’ve had an alternative there,” Postecoglou said.

“We never had Bosnich up and running at the same time as Schwarzer and Mitch was a bit like that as well where he never had a good run at a club or he’s been injured,” Postecoglou said. “What we do want is with Mitch, next year if he keeps doing well he’ll be playing in the Bundesliga and with Maty, we are not sure but we hope he gets his future sorted out. But, you don’t want to go into another World Cup campaign with just one goalkeeper in your sights.”

EDITORIAL: Hunter disability group Lifestyle Solutions and Four Corners

MONDAY night’s edition of Four Corners –titled Fighting the System –took a critical look at the way that Hunter-based Lifestyle Solutions and other organisations have handled their responsibilities in caring for people with disability.
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In its investigation, Four Corners has highlighted the deaths of five people in the care of Lifestyle Solutions;four of them from the Hunter. It has also spoken to various people unhappy with how their family members have been cared for –the same sort of concerns that theNewcastle Herald has raised in recent years.

Although the evidence obtained by Four Corners is troubling in the extreme, the problems at Lifestyle Solutions need to be seen in the broader context of the massive national shakeup that has been triggered by the adoption of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Promoted as a revolution in disability funding, the NDIS has indeed given people with disability a degree of choice in how they receive disability services. But its biggest impact probably lies with the decisions taken by NSW and most other state and territory governments to dismantle their disability and home care departments as part of their negotiations with Canberra to build this new federally administered model.

This is not to say that the private sector is not capable of good care. Indeed, many of the private agencies that comprise this sector had their beginnings as small organisations formed by the families of the people needing care.

But as the Four Corners investigation and recent Herald articles about shortcomings in disability carebear out, there are real concerns that the sector is growing so quickly that it is difficult to keep checks and balances in place. Lifestyle Solutions, for example, has gone from revenues of less than $10 million a decade ago to $124 million last year, almost all of it from governments.

The NDIS’s likely annual costs have gone from $22 billion to almost $30 billion a year, and almost all of it will be spent with organisations such as Lifestyle Solutions.

With new care organisations being registered seemingly every day –and with government backup disappearing just as quickly –this is a crucial time for those organisations electing to look after some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society. Unfortunately, good intentions do not always guarantee good outcomes.

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Hunter drive-by shootings: detectives investigating reprisal bikie attacks as tensions escalate

UNDER FIRE: A car parked in the driveway of a home on Conder Crescent, Metford, was sprayed with bullets in a drive-by on Monday morning.DETECTIVES are investigating tit-for-tat bikie attacks as bad blood between members of the Hunter’s outlaw bikie gangs continues to escalate with a second drive-by shooting in just days.
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UNDER FIRE: The Nomads’ Islington clubhouse was sprayed with bullets at the weekend.

In the latest shooting, a home on Conder Crescent in the Maitland suburb of Metford was sprayed with bullets from multiple weapons in the early hours of Monday morning, in what is understood to be a reprisal attack on an ex-Nomad who later defected to the Finks.

There were no injuries in the Metford drive-by, despite the man’s young family being home at the time.

It is the second targeted gun attack in the Hunter in three days, after the Nomads’ Islington clubhouse was shot at multiple times about10.30pm on Saturday.

And it comes after two violent assaults; one at the Anytime Fitness gym in Kotara on Friday, and another in Honeysucklethe next night.

Three Nomads members, who areaccused of being separately involved in the assaults, were all granted bail.

Kane Benjamin Tamplin, 26, appeared in court on Monday, where he pleaded not guilty to charges of affray and assault occasioning actual bodily harm stemming from an alleged assault on two Sydney men, aged 42 and 40, in a Honeysuckle hotel on Saturday night.

According to police, Tamplin is accused of head-butting and punching the 42-year-old man.

Tamplin’s solicitor, Iain Bruce, applied for bail on his behalf and it was granted by Magistrate Robert Stone.

His matter was adjourned to May.

Dylan Britliffe, 32, who police said was a member of the Nomads, was charged with affray and reckless wounding in company in relation to the alleged Honeysuckle hotel brawl.

Britliffe is accused of hitting the 40-year-old Sydney man in the side of the neck with a glass about 7.15pm.

The 40-year-oldman suffered a deep laceration to his neck and fell to the ground, where his head was allegedly stomped on, police said.

Britliffe was granted conditional bail in Newcastle Bail Court on Sunday, withhismatter adjourned to next week.

Blake Kevin Martin, 26, of Branxton, who is alleged to have used a steel bar to basha rival Finks memberat a Kotara gym about 4.30pm onFriday, was also granted conditional bail on Sunday.His matter was adjourned to next week.

Police are let to lay charges over either of the shootings.

Banks lead ASX fightback

The ASX opened solidly lower on Monday but recovered throughout the day, almost entirely making up the losses to finish only slightly lower by the close.
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The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index finished down 0.1 per cent to 5746.7, while the broader All Ordinaries was also down just 0.1 per cent.

“Weakness in resource stocks was offset by strength in the banks,” said Atlas Fund Management’s Hugh Dive.

The financial sector drove the partial recovery, with the heavyweight big four banks up by between 0.3 and 0.4 per cent, with the exception of CBA, which ended the day flat.

Mr Dive said investors were positioning ahead of the May bank earnings results, which he expected should be upbeat. “Bad debts should be lower, and you’ve got the loan repricing,” he said. “And they’re normally quite strong in the lead-up to May.”

Loan repricing – all four banks raised interest rates out-of-cycle with the Reserve Bank last week – was also the topic of a Macquarie note on the sector, which forecast a 3 per cent boost to bank earnings due to recent “repricing initiatives”.

“In the short term, we see banks’ ongoing ability to reprice and maintain earnings growth as a positive for the sector,” they wrote. While the ability to raise interest rates without RBA movement is positive for the sector, Macquarie remains “neutral” on it given “relatively high regulations and increasing regulatory risks”.

Meanwhile, continuing weakness in key commodity prices dragged on the miners. BHP Billiton fell 2.9 per cent, Fortescue Metals shed 3.0 per cent. while Rio Tinto gave up 1.8 per cent.

Falling on the day it announced a $US500 million ($655 million) share buyback was South32. Mr Dive speculated the lack of “juice” in the announcement – the stock fell 1.8 per cent – might partly be because investors were worried about a repeat of BHP’s top-of-cycle share buyback in 2011.

Myer shares jumped 18.3 per cent towards the end of the day after a big block trade of more than 81 million shares was sold at $1.15 – well above the day’s open at $1.08.

Shares in Downer EDI recovered some ground from Friday’s 21 per cent slump, closing up 3.1 per cent.

Gold miners were, in their usual contrarian fashion, the standouts, after the yellow metal’s price climbed above $US1250 an ounce. Newcrest rose 1.3 per cent while St Barbara added 2 per cent. The All Ordinaries gold index ended the day 1.9 per cent higher.

Stock watch: Funtastic

Struggling toy and confectionary wholesaler Funtastic dropped 47 per cent to less than 1c after it announced it was taking steps to delist from the n Securities Exchange. The delisting announcement came after a decade’s worth of sliding earnings and shares. Funtastic, which distributes Cabbage Patch Kids, Care Bears and Star Wars branded toys and merchandise, has seen its share price fall markedly since a profit warning in 2007. Its shares were trading around $1.57 in December 2006 but fell to 16.6 cents by December 2008. At their peak in 2003, they were at $2.13. Funtastic said that over the past six months less than 2 per cent of its shares have traded in any one month.

Property soars

House prices remained on a tear, jumping more than 5 per cent in Sydney since the start of the year and 4.4 per cent in Melbourne, but BetaShares chief economist David Bassanese is convinced the RBA won’t hike rates in response. Raising rates might well work to at least momentarily cool prices, but won’t tackle the real underlying drivers of their house price boom unless the the central bank tightened policy dramatically. “And were the RBA to tighten more aggressively, the wider-ranging effects on the economy would be disastrous,” Mr Bassanese said.

Japanese Yen

A reassessment on the likelihood of pro-growth policies in the US, and a series of domestic and technical factors, combined to reignite buying interest in the yen – for which analysts see more upside. Rising Japanese real-interest rates, the yen’s haven status from global political uncertainty and technical signals monitored by foreign exchange traders have helped the currency rebound 7 per cent from December lows against the US dollar. A further 2 per cent rise to 108 yen per US dollar is possible by June, according to market participants

Oil review

A joint committee of ministers from OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers agreed to review whether a global pact to limit supplies should be extended by six months, OPEC said in an overnight statement. An earlier draft of the statement had said the committee “reports high level of conformity and recommends six-month extension”. But the final version said only that the committee had requested a technical group and for the OPEC Secretariat to “review the oil market conditions and revert … in April, 2017 regarding the extension of the voluntary production adjustments

Iron and steel

Chinese steel and iron ore futures plunged to their lowest in more than six weeks, extending a five-day losing streak as speculative investors continued their exodus amid mounting concerns about demand and growing inventories – which grew at major ports for the second week in a row. Steel is set for its worst day since early February, with the most-active rebar contract on the Shanghai Futures Exchange down 4 per cent at 3026 yuan ($US440.31) a tonne. Iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange plunged 6 per cent to 545.5 yuan ($US79.37) per tonne.

Six of the Hunter’s most prestigious historic homes

Beauties from a bygone era Belltrees near Scone
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Aberglasslyn House near Maitland

Lance Villa in Newcastle

Jesmond House in Newcastle

Minimbah House near Singleton

Duckenfield House, near Morpeth.

TweetFacebookBelltreesThe magnificent Belltrees pastoral station and homestead still survive in the Upper Hunter as a great monument to a pioneering past. On Gundy Road, Scone, the Belltrees property has been home to the White family since 1831, although the pastoral dynasty really began in 1853.

Today it remains as one of ’s most famous rural properties and home to seven generations of the White family. Sited over fertile river flats, Belltrees homestead was built by pastoralist H.L.White at the peak of the wool production boom. That was in 1907.

The distinctive 53-room homestead was designed by prominent Maitland architectJ.W.Pender and is heritage-listed. It is the family home of Dr Judy White, author and historian. From at least 1901 up to 1920, about 100 people worked in the station’s shearing shed where 180,000 sheep were shorn and 3000 bales of wool were exported to England.

By 1912, the Belltrees estate covered 65,000 acres and had more than 3000 kilometres of fencing and 64 houses.

Today Belltrees consists of 9000ha of prime grazing country fronting the Hunter River. The emphasis, however, hasshifted from sheep to Black Angus cattle breeding.

Fine horse breeding has long been a tradition on the property, with station horses once exported overseas to the Boer War. In the polo season, matches are an exciting spectacle at the Scone Polo Club at Belltrees.

Today, accommodation on site is available at several self-contained cottages.

Minimbah HouseThis huge 45-room mansion is a true Singleton district landmark. Built between 1875-1877 by Hunter Valley pastoralist Duncan Forbes Mackay, the house sits in the saddle between two mountain ranges.At Whittingham, on the eastern outskirts of Singleton township, it is truly one ofthe Hunter’s grandest homes.

But beautiful Minimbah House has always needed a lot of tender loving care. Oneprevious owner is reported to have spent $1million to keep the home in good order. The first sight of the mansion is impressive. The facade, which features numerous columns and a long lacework verandah, isthe first of many surprises.

Just inside the entry foyer is a grand, ornately carved timber staircase made of n red cedar and rosewood and carved in Germany. It is one of the hints of past glories when the house was first built and money was lavished on it.

Cedar joinery is found throughout the house as are stain glass windows.

The two-storey structure, made from cement-rendered sandstone and sandstock bricks, originally stood on 48ha of land at Whittingham, but is not immediately visible on the landscape from the New England highway.

Built in a U-shape design, Minimbah was formerly known as Dulcimah, and is officially described as being a Victorian Italianate mansion.

With the Brokenback Ranges as a backdrop, the house had two architects. The original plans were drawn up for William Dangar, the eldest son of the famous Hunter Valley pioneer and surveyor Henry Dangar, who surveyed Newcastle in 1823.

William Dangar, heart-broken then on the death of his wife, sold the plans to Hunter Valley settler Duncan Forbes Mackay who had them modified.

The design as we know it today is by colonial architect Benjamin Backhouse.

Minimbah House was expensive to build during the high Victorian boom era and it has been estimated to be worth more than $30million in replacement value today.

The Mackay family once also owned Anambah homestead out of Rutherford, near Maitland.

From the mid 1990s until 2007, Minimbah was owned by Bill and Bliss Ryan whocarried out extensive restoration work on the homestead and planted a vineyard at thehouse entry. Bliss Ryan had also been Miss in 1954.

At one stage in its recent history, the mansion, because of its size, was planned to beturned into a retirement home for wealthy women, but the project fell through.

A striking feature of the home is its ornate central tower. It’s said it was erected to keep awatchful eye out for any bushrangers roaming the countryside.

The truth though is far more likely to be that the Mackay family wanted Minimbah Houseto be more imposing than the Dangar family’s residence at the nearby Baroona mansionbelow.

Baroona is also one of the Hunter Valley’s most historic houses, having later been builton the Castle Forbes property where a famous convict revolt once occurred.

Duckenfield HouseSadly, this mansion near Morpeth no longer exists, although it was once extremely

famous in the Hunter Valley so it’s worth recalling it briefly here now. Begun by empire-builder John Eales Snr (1799-1871), the 45-room mansion was completed by his son John Eales Jnr MLC.

The lavish project took 18 years from 1854 and was once the most recognisable symbol of opulence in the Hunter Valley. It was then sold in 1917 and dismantled, its stone creating at least five new Hunter structures, including Mayfield houses and BHP’s pattern store. A new book on the rise and fall of the “Valley King” was only published last year.

Aberglasslyn HouseSituated just out in rural Maitland, off Aberglasslyn Lane, this is one of the great houses of the Hunter Valley. A massive, square, two-storey sandstone Greek revival style villa with spacious cellars, it dates back to about 1840. After a succession of owners, it was largely derelict by 1977 when new owners began urgent conservation work.

Built originally by cattle breeder George Hobbler, worked suddenly stopped in 1842 due to drought. Hobler was soon bankrupt. Features of the 17-room, heritage-listed home include a stone flagged entrance hall, an impressive winding stone staircase with wrought iron railings, marble fireplaces and rooms some 18ft (5.4m) high.

Overlooking a bend in the Hunter River, it has been described as one of the most important colonial homes in still in a rural setting.

Jesmond HouseSitting atop The Hill in Barker Street, above Newcastle CBD, this 1875 mansion became Newcastle’s most expensive property in 2008 when it sold for a record $7million.

Originally built for a Henry Rouse, it was extended by new owner and beer baron John Wood. Legendary architect Frederick Menkens designed the rear buildings while another architect James Henderson designed the building’s tall Italianate tower.

Son John Robert Wood then married popular Shakespearean actress Essie Jenyns in 1888 and the house then became the centre of the district’s social events.

A brother, Joseph Wood, also built the Woodlands mansion in Church St west in 1879 to overlook the town. It later became the Centaur Hospital in World War II, then a boarding house for migrants, before reverting to a private hospital for 24 years until 1979.

Lance VillaAlso in Church Street, The Hill, is the yellow brick Italianate style Lance Villa on the corner of Church and Perkins streetsoverlooking Newcastle Harbour.

Built in 1890 under the direction of famed architect Frederick Menkens, the home may only have had three family owners in its 127-year history. Full of ornate detail, the house forms a bookend to the nearby historic Victorian terraces. And looks are deceptive, the impressive two-storey house is actually four-storeys high.

Olympic hurdler Lauren Wells eyeing 10th national title

Canberra’s Olympic hurdler Lauren Wells isn’t one to tempt fate.
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She’s already got a world championships qualifying time under her belt, but 30 hurdles stand between Wells and a 10th national title ??? which would automatically book her ticket to London.

Wells will look to seal a world championships berth when she runs in the 400m hurdles at the n athletics championships in Sydney on Friday.

The 28-year-old’s world championships qualifier came in a resounding Canberra Grand Prix win, in just her third race of the season. Never before has she qualified for a major championship so early.

Going into nationals without the added pressure of trying to register a qualifying time for worlds is “a luxury” for Wells and she can use nationals to fine-tune her preparation.

“Now I can go into nationals knowing that I can just enjoy running the races,” Well said.

“Obviously the goal is to win the national title because that will seal my selection on the team but it’s all focusing on the process.

“There’s still heats, semis, and finals. I’ve still got three rounds to get through. Obviously 10 hurdles every race. It’s certainly not a done deal, I’m not one to tempt fate. It’s all about the process, but in saying that I’m certainly not resting on my laurels from the race in Canberra. I know I can run a lot faster that I did here, so I’ll certainly be looking to go to nationals not only to win, but to run a fast time as well.”

The prospect of clinching a 10th national title is a surreal feeling for the two-time Olympian, but she is always focused on the next step.

Wells’ hurdling style is often compared to that of former Jana Pittman ??? and she wouldn’t mind drawing another parallel to the two-time world champion with a title of her own.

“Some people never get to win one, so it’s a huge honour to be crowned the national champion,” Wells said.

“But it’s all about wanting to be the best in so you can take on the best in the world. I’m always going out there every time I race, racing the clock, trying to run a [personal best], trying to execute my race and if I can nail the process and nail my stride pattern the time will come from that.”

Wells registered a 400m hurdles personal best of 55.08 seconds four years ago in Belgium, and has backed herself in to break through for a new one.

Every time she steps out on the track she is hunting for a PB, and the national titles won’t be any different.

“I think that’s what every athlete does so it’s been a few years since I’ve run one and I certainly think that I’m in shape to run something fast this year,” Wells said.

“Whether it’s in Sydney or whether it’s overseas somewhere, I’m not sure, but that’s what we’re working towards, definitely.”

Rose River to flow at Newcastle Writers Festival

CHANGING TIDE: Deanna Rose, far right, will debut a new line-up for Rose River when they perform at the Wisdom Tree Live showcase during the Newcastle Writers Festival.DEANNA Rose admits she initially haddoubts when Newcastle Writers Festival director Rosemarie Milsom handed her the set list.
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Punk rock isgenerally doesn’t feature inthe Tamworth-raised Newcastle-based folk singer’s repertoire. But as part of her band Rose River’s showat the Writers Festival she will performfive songs selected by Brisbane novelist Nick Earls.

The performance will be based on Earls’critically acclaimed novellas, Wisdom Tree, and will feature songsinspired by the locations of each book.

“The rehearsals are coming along quite well,” Rose said.“There’s one song by the Ramones I was a little bit worried about as I didn’t know how we were going to do it because I’m a folk singer.”

Rose River is a constantly-changing unitand the show on April 8 at the Unorthodox Church of Groove will be this line-up’s first public performance.

“It’s kind of referring to the river of musicians that I go through, because it’s really hard to get people to go in the same direction,” Rose said.“As a soloist I tend to use a lot of people all over the place.”

The 2015 Voice contestant is also gearing up for a final hurrah with another project Rose & The Sea at the Gum Ball in April. Rose’s partner in the duo, Milli Casey, is opting to focus her energy on music booking and management following the Dashville gig.

However, Rose has already kick-started a new project with NatHenry from the Wayward Henrys. The pair played Wollombi Tavern last weekendand are hoping to record an album later this year.

BLISSFUL RETURNIT’S been a horrible 2017 so far for Bliss N Eso. In January 28-year-old stuntman Johann Ofner was shot dead when a gun accidentally discharged during the filming of a Bliss N Eso music clip for FriendLike Youin Brisbane.

The Sydney hip-hop posse will attempt to move on from the tragedy this winter with 27-date tour announced to promote their new album Off The Grid. Their sixth studio album will be released on April 28 and featuresFriend Like You and Dopamineand upcoming singleMoments.

Bliss N Eso perform at the Cambridge Hotel on June 30.

UNION OF ARCADIA MAIDEN TRIP: Brisbane’s Blues Arcadia play the Stag and Hunter Hotel on April 7.

LONDONER Chris Harvey had to travel half way around the world to Brisbane to find his musical partner in Irishman Alan Boyle. The creativity between the pair was instant as their Bella Reunion project went straight to #1 in the n Blues and Roots AirplayChart in 2015.

A year later they addedbassist Jeremy Klysz and jazz pianist Parmis Rose to become Blues Arcadia. Again the foursome attracted instant success with their self-titled debut EP earning nominations for Group Of The Yearand Song Of The Year for Corner Girls at the n Blues Music Awards in January.Blues Arcadia playtheir first show in Newcastle on April 7 at the Stag and Hunter Hotel.

SHOW OFHOPEMOUNT Hutton’s Centre For Hope will throw open its doors on Saturday to celebrateYouth Week with music, an African drums workshop and live graffiti art.

Sydney hip hop artist Hyjak headlines the show, bringing the rhymes and dropping the beats that led him to perform with celebrated acts The Hilltop Hoods and De La Soul. Aboriginal roots musician Gambirra will also perform at the All Elements showcase, which runs from 10am to 2pm. Entry is free.

CRUDE ATTACKFrenzal Rhomb – C–T Act (language warning)FRENZAL Rhomb might be middle-aged and fathers, but they haven’t given up on being provocative. The punk larrikins have released a scathing new single, with the colourful name C—t Act, that attacks passengerswho recline fully on flights, social media trolls, companies that use off-shore tax havens and individualswho think its hilarious to dress upas black people.

The band’s video also features cartoon versions of conservative commentators Andrew Bolt and Miranda Devine, as well as disgraced Catholic cardinal George Pell.

C—t Act is the lead single off Frenzal Rhomb’s forthcoming album Hi-Vis High Tea, released on May 26. Fanscan hear tracks from the album on August 4 when Frenzal Rhomb play the Cambridge Hotel.

MORGANA DEBUTANYONE who hasseen Morgana Osaki and Huw Jones, aka Fox Control, perform live around town knows the pair make emotionally-rich music. Osaki’s harp and haunting vocal mixed with Jones’ guitar and electronic sounds are a beautiful union.The pair will finally launch their long-awaited debut EP Kraken Lady on April 28 at the Cambridge Hotel.

BEACHSIDE COLLINSREIGNING golden guitar best male artist Travis Collins is making use of his new-found success. The Cessnock troubadour was added this week to the line-up forthe second Broadbeach Country Music Festival on the Gold Coast.Collins joins America, Kasey Chambers, Shane Nicholson, Sara Storerand Troy Cassar-Daley at the festival from July 28 to 30.

VIDEO: Peep Tempel find joy in China’s shady characters

INTENSE: The Peep Tempel’s third album Joy is critically-acclaimed for its unhinged punk rock and stories of colourful characters. DESPITE living in Melbourne, The Peep Tempel’sBlake Scott is constantly searching beyond thecity’s expanses to the far-flungreaches of for inspiration.
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Scott seeksthe stories of thedusty bar-room raconteurs or the crooks on the run,and theresults havebeen thrilling. The Peep Tempel’s past two albums Tales (2014) and Joy (2016) have been critically-acclaimed for their visceral punk-garage rockand Scott’s blistering stories of dark na thatfollowthe proud tradition of The Cosmic Psychos and The Drones.

Scott, a carpenter by trade, grew up in the Western nwheat belt town of Narrogin as the son of a truck driver. It was there among Narrogin’s pubs that Scott developed anaffinity forthe working man.

That understanding is articulated in his portraits ofhard-drinking miners (Kalgoorlie), storiesof a corrupt policemen (Constable) and angry retorts to racist (Rayguns).

“The characters in the songs are made up, but they do come from somewhere,” Scott said.“You meet these people on your travels, especially in the north of . There’s so many places that people go to hide– actually hide or hide away from society.

“In those back blocks you really meet some interesting people and you can be surprised how worldly they are and where they’ve been and what they’ve done and it’s interesting the reasons why they end up in these out posts. I’ve certainly been intrigued by isolation and the isolation you can come by in . I find that fascinating and something I’ve enjoyed myself.”

Scott is unsure where his interest in the dark side of the “lucky country” is derived. As he points out, many of his stories are littered with sarcasm.

The Peep Tempel – Rayguns“It always just seems to turn to the dark side,” he said. “It’s grotty rock’n’roll guitar music, that justhappens to be the sound that comes out when we get together. I guess it’s the platform or canvas for the characters or the topical content of the songs.

“I actually thought Joy was pretty joyous, but maybe I’m a dark person, or maybe I’m not and I’m just getting it out on a Peep Tempel record. It is a bit of fun. It’s easier to write about a crook, it keeps it interesting and it’s been fun creating these characters who are a little gnarly.”

Joy featured on various critics’ “best of” album lists last year and has enabled Peep Tempel to secure slots on the recent Golden Plains and upcoming Gum Ball music festivals.

“I guess take off is the word,” Scott said.“It started to happen with Tales. We haven’t be hurdled into the stratosphere, but we’re getting some really cool opportunities and enjoying what we’re doing. There isn’t as much hardship now.

“We actually get to enjoy it. It does get to a point where you get pretty worn out, especially in the beginning when you’re touring really hard. A few years ago we played in Newcastle to one person, so it’s nice to have that stuff behind us even though you’re learning how to be on the road together.”

The Peep Tempel perform atthe Gum Ball at Dashville on April 21-23.