ADVERTISING FEATURE: Camp-out initiative

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SWAG OF MEMORIES: Scouts from the Hunter region are looking forward to camping out at Fort Scratchley for the Anzac Day celebrations.A troop of scouts will watch the rousing Nobbys Dawn Service from a camp at Fort Scratchley and tour visiting frigate HMAS Newcastle as part of this year’s expanded Anzac Day commemorations.

Around 100 scouts from the Hunter and Manning Valleys will camp out for three nights as part of an educational initiative to reflect on the sacrifices of servicemen and women and continue proud Anzac traditions of mateship and respect.

The children, aged 11-14, will sleep in swags either out in the open or beneath the fort’s verandas during the educational camp sponsored by Newcastle City Council, Aussie Disposals and Coates Hire.

“I’m proud to say we have two new fixtures on the itinerary this year as part of the city’s growing Anzac Day commemorations,” Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.

“The scouts will have a bird’s eye view of the city’s amazing Dawn Service from Fort Scratchley and HMAS Newcastle will exercise its right to Freedom of Entry to the City with a march to confirm the bond between the ship and the citizens of Newcastle.”

RSL President Ken Fayle said the scout camp would combine the old with the new to give the children an unforgettable experience and familiarise them with the work of the armed forces.

“It’s an introduction to times past by staying at the fort, but also a chance to see modern technology at work on HMAS Newcastle and at the RAAF base,” Newcastle RSL Sub-Branch President Ken Fayle said.

“We hope to make Camp Fort Scratchley an annual event and this is a toe in the water exercise to make sure we can do it.”

The scouts have been drawn from the Hunter region, which spans an area from Woy Woy to the south, up to Taree in the north and out to Murrurundi in the west.

“We were approached by Newcastle RSL and Newcastle City Council with a view to doing it each year,” said Deputy Regional Commissioner of Hunter and Coastal Region Scouts Kevin Allen, who is overseeing the campout.

“We felt this was an opportunity for young people to get involved.”

Eagles star Mitchell’s race against time to run out against Hawthorn

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West Coast midfield ace Sam Mitchell will have to perform heroics akin to a Grand Final week recovery to play in an emotion-charged clash with his old club Hawthorn in Melbourne on Sunday.

The four-time premiership Hawk turned West Coast recruiting coup faces a race against time to recover from a nasty ankle injury he copped 10 minutes into the second term in the Eagles win over Sydney in Perth last Thursday.

He suffered bone bruising as well as hefty soft tissue damage in his left ankle in an accidental kick from Eagles follower Jack Redden.

It is understood the decorated Hawks superstar runs significant risk of more extensive damage to his injury if he plays on Sunday.

He would need pain-killing assistance and heavy strapping to take on his old outfit just 10 days after suffering the blow to his shin just above his ankle, and an inward twist as Mitchell tumbled to the turf.

It is the kind of desperate measures players will generally take into knockout finals and a Grand Final.

But a more conservative approach is on the cards from Eagles medical staff for a home-and-away engagement so early into a season with such a superior star and play-maker.

Mitchell was coy on his recovery progress at a media conference at Eagles headquarters on Tuesday.

“I’m not ruled out at this stage, so I’m a chance,” he said.

Mitchell claimed he would test his injury and recovery progress with training, before making a final decision on whether he will play.

West Coast and Mitchell have flagged prospects of strategic rest periods through the 34-year-old’s first Eagles season in a bid to limit expected wear and tear in balancing his playing, recovery and a far heavier travel commitment than at any other stage of his 311-game, 16-year career.

West Coast heads into Mitchell’s first ever Western Derby against bitter rivals Fremantle just six days after Sunday’s clash with the Hawks.

The Eagles then have a road trip to in-form Port Adelaide, before hosting reigning premiers Western Bulldogs back in Perth in round eight.

Despite a horrid MCG record the fifth-placed Eagles, with three wins and a loss so far this season, are widely expected to beat the Hawks who sit rock bottom without a victory and a shabby percentage of only 56.

Even if the big possession-winning and highly influential midfielder misses the Hawks clash, it seems more likely that West Coast could topple Mitchell’s former powerhouse but now beleaguered outfit.

West Coast has lost four of their last five MCG appointments including twice to the Hawks in the 2015 Grand Final by 46 points and by the same margin again in last season’s round two re-match.

The Eagles last beat the Hawks on the MCG in 2006 and since winning the flag later that year have only won six times from 23 trips to the game’s undisputed headquarters.

Mitchell is expected to take crucial steps toward whether he plays or misses the clash with his old teammates in a closed Eagles training session on Thursday, ahead of team announcements and a squad travelling to Melbourne on Friday.

Eagles coach Adam Simpson indicated on Monday he would give Mitchell every chance to prove his fitness for his big outing against the Hawks.

Mitchell could be named in a provisional 25-man squad and withdrawn ahead of bounce down.

Candidates for recall to possibly replace Mitchell will include enigmatic midfielder Lewis Jetta who was dropped for a second time this season ahead of the Sydney clash.

Jetta, 27, hit back with a dominant 38 disposals at Eagles alignment outfit East Perth along with other contenders Dom Sheed who had 24 touches in his bid for a recall and 32 possessions for Mark Hutchings.

James Packer: Vale the most powerful Chinan in Hollywood

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Godzilla 2014. Warner BrosWhen we think of ns who have made it in Hollywood, it’s usually the actors who spring to mind: Hugh Jackman, Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Geoffrey Rush and the scores of younger stars who have followed in their trailblazing footsteps.

The more studious might, perhaps be able to name a few directors – the pioneering Peter Weir, Fred Schepisi, Gillian Armstrong, Phil Noyce and Bruce Beresford; the blockbuster helmers George Miller and Baz Luhrmann; the new breed that includes Patrick Hughes, James Wan and Joel Edgerton.

But who, when pressed to identify the most powerful n in Hollywood, would think immediately of James Packer? In all likelihood, only those who read the trades.

But short of Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corporation owns Fox, no other n has left such a mark on the business as has Packer, and certainly not in such a short space of time.

The Hollywood adventure that began less than four years ago has now come to an end with the sale of his stake in RatPac Entertainment, the company he launched in 2013 with director-producer Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, X-Men: The Last Stand).

Packer has sold his stake – to Access, a multi-industry conglomerate headed by Ukraine-born, London-based Len Blavatnik, Britain’s richest man – for an undisclosed sum, and for reasons we can only guess at. If I were a betting man, I’d be putting some money on “cash-flow issues related to a downturn in the casino business”, though given Packer’s history of blow-ups I might also put a small stake on “rumoured breakdown of relationship with Ratner”.

How big a deal was Packer? Well, RatPac didn’t just produce films and TV, it also partnered with former Wall Street banker Steve Mnuchin – now Donald Trump’s Treasury Secretary – to provide finance for the Warner Bros production slate. And it is arguably this deal that made him one of the biggest players in Hollywood.

The deal RatPac-Dune struck was to provide $US450 million to finance of up to 75 films; according to reports, $US300 million of that was in loans, the rest in equity, which suggests a major punt on Packer’s part.

According to the company’s website, RatPac has to date funded more than 50 films, with a combined box office of more than $US10 billion.

There have been hits and misses, but RatPac could hardly have got off to a better start: the first film it helped finance was Gravity, which took $US723 million globally on a budget of $US100 million, winning seven Oscars – including best director (it was pipped for best picture by 12 Years a Slave) – along the way.

Financing deals, and the credits that come with them, are complicated, but James Packer is listed on imdb as a producer or executive producer on 24 titles, starting with The Lego Movie in 2014 and ending with the still-in-production second sequel, The Lego Ninjago Movie.

On the plus side of the ledger, his credits include Jersey Boys, Black Mass, The Revenant and, depending how you feel about Russell Crowe, The Water Diviner. On the not-so-successful side of the ledger, there’s the Colin Farrell stinker Winter’s Tale (Crowe was in that one too; mateship clearly has its costs) and Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply, which opens in this week.

Through the funding facility, RatPac Dune is involved in upcoming titles including Wonder Woman, Guy Ritchie’s update of King Arthur and Christopher Nolan’s epic WW2 drama Dunkirk, all of which should be strong performers.

Now, though, the Hollywood dream is over.

Packer was first reported to be looking to offload his stake in RatPac back in February, though a company spokesperson denied the rumour. The previous month, Steve Mnuchin had announced he would divest his holding in Dune if confirmed as Treasury Secretary, to avoid any conflicts of interest. Still, that didn’t stop him getting into hot water last month for telling a room full of reporters that they “should send all your kids to Lego Batman”.

If things between Packer and Ratner really have deteriorated, Mnuchin no longer playing the role of buffer may have been a factor in his desire to exit the business.

At any rate, as a Hollywood mogul Packer has generally avoided the spotlight, that failed romance with Mariah Carey aside. From outside the tent, it’s hard to know to what degree, if any, he was a creative force in RatPac’s development slate. But as a money man, he was no doubt a player.

We can, with good reason, decry an industry in which it is the depth of a man’s pockets rather than the breadth of his imagination that elevates his standing in what we still call, with less and less justification, a creative industry. But in a town where money speaks, James Packer was heard, loud and clear.

Whatever you think of him, let’s take a moment to acknowledge that, for a brief moment at least, the big man was the biggest n in Hollywood.

Facebook: karlquinnjournalist Twitter: @karlkwin

‘Robo-debt’ collectors paid by commission, had KPIs

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A debt collection agency contracted by the Department of Human Services under its controversial “robo-debt” program was paid on a commission basis used by private companies and had KPIs, a Senate inquiry has heard.

Probe Group chief operating officer Jarrod Kagan told a Sydney hearing of the inquiry into the “robo-debt” system his company was paid commission where it received a percentage of the debts it recovered for Centrelink, but no base rate.

The payment arrangement was different to that used by another agency engaging Probe to collect payments, the n Taxation Office, which used a flat payment rate.

Mr Kagan said the DHS’ payment arrangement was typical of that used for debt collection services by banks, energy retailers and telcos.

But he did not say what percentage his company received in payment from debts it collected for the department.

He said that Probe set key performance indicators for staff collecting debts for Centrelink according to its agreement with the DHS, and referred cases back to the department if it could not collect money from clients.

“Typically the KPIs that we would set would reflect what the KPIs in the deed of agreement would be. Plus we also have a range of internal KPIs that would reflect what is important to us as an organisation,” Mr Kagan said.

n Privacy Foundation chair Kat Lane said automated debt recovery methods breached the federal government’s own privacy guidelines.

Ms Lane said it was disturbing the government appeared to have decided the voluntary guidelines issued by the n Information Commissioner “didn’t apply”.

DHS service leader in Sydney Scott Chant said its service centres were told to direct people asking about the data-matching program to a phone number or an online portal.

“Our role was to facilitate the person through to the right officer,” he said.

“We want to get the recipient through to the people who have had the training and the skills for that purpose.”

DHS representative Marc Mowbray-d’Arbela said it didn’t believe reports that staff were directed to ignore errors, or that it issued a direction adding to stress, were correct.

Reports there was a significant increase in staff stress were “not borne out by the facts”, he said.

Acting Commonwealth Ombudsman Richard Glenn told the hearing robo-debt recovery methods were not working well before a critical audit was launched by his office.

A report released this month found Centrelink’s demands on former welfare recipients were neither “reasonable” nor “fair”.

“If you talk about the system as part of a process that needs to be implemented and rolled out to real people to use, it didn’t work well at the beginning and it is working better now,” Mr Glenn said.

“I certainly think that the recommendations that we have made and that the department has accepted set the foundation for it to be working well but in all of these situations, the only test is to see it working and to see how people react.”

‘Sick and dirty’: Sydney GP inappropriately touched five female patients

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A Sydney GP has been found guilty of professional misconduct for inappropriately touching five female patients for sexual gratification including two young teenage girls.

The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal found Elvin Suet Pang Cheng guilty of professional misconduct of a sexual nature “of the most serious kind” concerning a series of consultations he had with the five patients between 1993 and 2003.

The decision comes 12 years after the Lidcombe-based GP was reprimanded for inappropriate physical and sexual misconduct with a patient in 2005.

A woman identified as Patient A was 13 years old in 1993 when her mother took her to see Dr Cheng regarding lumps in her breasts and moles on her back.

After her mother left the consultation room, Dr Cheng asked the teenager to take off her clothes, Patient A told the tribunal. He then stood behind her, reached around her and grabbed her breasts. The patient, now in her 30s, said it seemed like he was fondling her breasts in a squeezing and massaging motion.

“She felt uncomfortable and frozen and too scared to say anything or move ??? she rotated her hips to look at the respondent and noticed that he had an erection,” according to the patient’s evidence detailed in the tribunal decision.

The woman said she did not want to tell her mother, feeling “sick and dirty and the shame and guilt”.

She saw Dr Cheng again when she had been vomiting and feverish. She said Dr Cheng asked her to take her clothes off including her underwear. Dr Cheng again massaged her breasts, then moved his hands down her abdomen, to her groin, asked her to open her legs and palpated her labia.

When she became sexually active at 17 and was concerned about bleeding, pain and whether she had contracted a sexually transmitted infection, Dr Cheng put gloves on and inserted his fingers into her vagina, she told the tribunal.

The second patient was 13 years old and living in public youth housing when she first saw Dr Cheng for bronchitis and a check-up.

In a statement to police in 1993, the teenager alleged Dr Cheng carried out a breast examination without a parent or guardian present, using both his hands to massage her breasts for about 10 minutes.

He pulled her tracksuit pants and underwear down to the top of her legs and touched her around her pubic bone, she told the tribunal.

The teenager told several social workers at the youth home about the encounter and burst into tears. A placement officer told her that Dr Cheng was a good doctor and she should keep seeing him, the patient told the tribunal.

The third patient, a woman in her 20s, needed a referral for an X-ray for an injured shoulder.

Dr Cheng asked her to undress, lie on the examination table and remove her bra so he could check her heartbeat. He performed a breast examination and abdominal examination, moving lower to her pubic bone, where he pulled down her underwear until she stopped him, the tribunal heard.

The fourth patient presented to Dr Cheng with flu-like symptoms in 2012 when she was 21. Dr Cheng decided to perform a breast exam and put his hand on her right breast. The patient said Dr Cheng told her he felt a lump but did not discuss a possible diagnosis or follow-up.

The fifth patient, also in her 20s, presented to Dr Cheng in 2013 after noticing a rash on her stomach and chest pains after a trip to Vanuatu and was worried she had malaria after being bitten by a mosquito on her leg.

Dr Cheng pulled down her pants and lifted the crotch of her underwear and inspected her vagina and vulval area without asking permission, and performed chest and cardiograms at a follow-up consultation that required her to remove her bra without an appropriate explanation.

The tribunal concluded Dr Cheng had touched the five women “in circumstances where there was no adequate or appropriate clinical reason for doing so, other than sexual gratification”.

“The misconduct of which we have found the respondent guilty carries with it sexual connotations of the most serious kind,” the decision read.

“A medical practitioner, such as the respondent, who has, as we have found, deliberately and intentionally carried out inappropriate examinations in an inappropriate manner for sexual gratification is clearly guilty of professional misconduct.

“There can be no motivation for the manner in which the respondent exposed and viewed the bodies of these patients, including sensitive areas, and touched them in circumstances where there was no adequate or appropriate clinical reason for doing so, other than sexual gratification.”

The tribunal will determine whether Dr Cheng will have his medical registration suspended or will be struck off on May 17 and 18.

In 2005, Dr Cheng was found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct and/or professional misconduct for inappropriate physical and sexual contact with a patient on about five occasions. He was severely reprimanded, fined $10,000 and conditions were placed on his practice.

In May 2016, the Medical Council of NSW again placed conditions on Dr Cheng’s medical registration, including that he not treat or perform any procedures on any female.

NSW Police said Flemington Local Area Command were conducting inquiries after receiving reports from the HCCC about the alleged misconduct of a doctor between 1993 and 2013.