Pubs, clubs are Newcastle Uber hotspots

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EARLY ADOPTER: Uber driver Kay Benson, 62, outside one of the service’s hotspots, the Cambridge Hotel. The ride-sharing app launched in Newcastle a year ago and now has 500 local drivers. Picture: Simone De PeakIF you’ve caught an Uberin Newcastle, it was most likely outside a Hamiltonpubjust before midnight.

A year since itlaunchedin Newcastle, the ride-sharing company says its50,000 local customers haveused their smartphones torequest rides from about 500 drivers.

The Sydney Junction Hotel in Hamilton is the most popularpick-up spot, followed by the Honeysuckle Hotel, the Cambridge Hotel in Newcastle West, and the bar and restaurant stripsofBeaumont and Darby streets.

It is less clear how many Uber trips have beentaken to the airport, or between the University of Newcastle and the city.

But for both its users and its detractors,Uber has changed the city’s transport habits in a year. Kay Benson, 62, is one of the topNewcastle drivers inthe app’s user-rated system.

“I don’t even look at that, I just give people rides. The most important thing, I think, is to keep an open mind and your sense of humour,” Ms Benson, of Broadmeadow, said.

“I was a mum taxi for years. Now I get paid for it.”

Uber trips in Newcastle spike at 11pmon Fridaysand especially Saturdays, and there is a smaller spike on Wednesdaysat 10pm.

Ms Benson drives peak-time shifts that can last several hours, collecting passengers frominner-city pubs linedwithcabs.

“Do I feel unsafe? No, I really don’t. You always have the option not to take a job,” she said.

“Sure, [passengers] might be drunk, but most people just want to go home to bed.”

Uber andride-sharing has been criticised by bodies such as the NSW Taxi Council, which say cabbiesare held to stricter standards of service for all passengers.

One taxi driver told the Newcastle Heraldthat Uber “has probably taken 25 per cent of our work” on Friday and Saturday nights.

“When the Knights play and get a crowd of 20,000 people, you used to get about 10 per cent usingtaxis to get to the football,” he said.

“Now even that’s starting to erode.”

But Uber, a multi-billion dollar company headquartered in San Francisco, emphasizes its ease of access for international visitors to Newcastle, andthe high numberof local female drivers.

One in five “driver-partners”in Newcastle are women, it says, twice the national average.

The company has also announced, “to celebrate one year of ride-sharing in Newcastle”, that it will roll Uber mapping cars through the city.

The cars will collect and record data tobe used to build Uber’sown digital maps, in a way similar to the collectionfor Google Maps, but with ride-specificinformation such as thestreet segmentsbest suited to pick-ups and drop-offs.

Turnbull, Dutton or Trump? Who killed 457 visas?

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Peter Dutton announced the government would be cracking down on the issuing of 457 visas. Photo: Alex EllinghausenSo who can really claim responsibility for the federal government’s decision to scrap the controversial 457 temporary work visa scheme?

Only an hour post the announcement, Pauline Hanson and Cory Bernardi both reckon they were inspirational;Bill Shorten says he was already planning a crackdown; others claim it was pinched from Donald Trump’s copybook.

Not surprisingly, Malcolm Turnbull is claiming authorship.

A popular policy has plenty of fathers. How can one argue with a policy catchline that says “we are putting jobs first and we are putting ns first”?

Of course it has its detractors. Big business appears to have been blindsided by Trumbull’s Facebook policy splash.

‘s richest person Gina Rinehart made use of 457 visas to build her massive Roy Hill iron ore project and won’t be a fan of Tuesday’s policy decision.

“Now that the government has taken this decision, it is crucial that they work with employers to get the details right and ensure industry’s ability to fill genuine skills shortages is enhanced, not degraded,” was the cautious response from the Business Council of .

One only needed to read social media to get a clear message that this scheme was overwhelmingly disliked by an array of society, but for different reasons.

The most legitimate reason to overhaul the policy that grants visas to foreign workers is that it was so clearly rorted by unscrupulous elements of business. Experts have long said that one could drive a truck through the loopholes in this policy.

The upshot was that workers were being shipped into , underpaid and without proper employee protections by some businesses just looking for cheap labour. If the system worked as intended there would be no room for pay variations because legally 457 workers are paid the same rates as locals.

And despite a couple of government attempts to improve the system, it was sufficiently damaged that it needed to be thrown out and replaced with a fresh policy.

Not surprisingly, unions hated it because they (like many others in ) saw it was a means to take jobs from locals.

Bernardi and Hanson are in a different camp again – the nationalistic one that has no time for immigration generally – which has been garnering increasing appeal among a wider group.

Those that supported 457 visas recognised that there were some legitimate shortages among some skilled occupations and that encouraging the very skilled professionals into to work was a boon for innovation and therefore very positive for the economy.

Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes has been one technology chief who has advocated fiercely for opening the doors to the very clever.

The Business Council of has been a strident supporters of skilled migration visas, saying there has been a genuine shortage of skills in some areas and to restrict entry of offshore would be bad for the economy.

The recrafted temporary skilled migration policy will be more restrictive around which occupations will be eligible, work experience, English language proficiency, and the need for these roles to be first advertised locally.

But in reality there are plenty of similarities with the existing 457 scheme.

And it’s a scheme that has even been criticised by those in highly skilled areas. For example, the IT Professionals Association (ITPA) recently pointed to a problem with 457s, especially in relation to visa holders filling the entry-level tech support roles that would normally go to local IT graduates.

The ITPA points out federal government data showing that while the overall number of 457 visas issued over the last decade (excluding IT) has risen by just 2 per cent, there had been a 136 per cent rise in 457 visas issued for IT workers.

At the other end of the scale, areport inThe n Financial Reviewoutlined a group of Chinese workers brought into to work as electricians and welders were paid no wages for months and forced to survive on a $15-a-day “food allowance” while housed in overcrowded accommodation in regional NSW.

Taiwanese company Chia Tung Development underpaid 13 Chinese and 30 Filipino workers more than $873,000 for labour over six months to February this year. Chia Tung employs more than 4000 staff globally and has associated entities registered within .

Only a few months ago Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton announced the government would be cracking down on the issuing of 457 visas to prevent being thoroughly overrun by general practitioners and registered nurses.

The Prime Minister said the 457 visa class had “lost its credibility” and would be replaced with two new temporary skilled visas.

There will be a short term two-year visa stream with a list of occupations that will be slashed by over 200, and there will be no path to permanent residency.

A second “medium term” visa will be for a four-year period for higher skilled, strategic jobs with significantly tighter restrictions and an even narrower occupation list.

The Newcastle Dog Olympics will be held at Islington Dog Park on Sunday, April 23

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Fetching frisbees at the Newcastle Dog Olympics | PHOTOS Champs: Lulu and Alfie at last year’s Newcastle Dog Olympics. Picture: Marina Neil.

Twin sisters Chloe and Georgia McBeath of Bolwarra Heights with their dogs, Lulu and Alfie. PHOTO BY MARINA NEIL

Owners Charlon and Mark Mahaffy with their dogs Irish Phelan and Conna. PHOTO BY MARINA NEIL

Irene Su with her dog Comet, dressed up as BatDog of Medowie. PHOTO BY MARINA NEIL

Sheba the mini foxie.

TweetFacebookTassie Tiger TalesAs we recently reported, reader Christian Kropp told us he’d twice had encounters with the Tasmanian tiger, deep in the Barrington wilderness.

For the record, we believe Christian. What can we say. He sounded sincere.

Academics reckon Tasmanian tigers have a 1 in 1.6 trillion chance of being alive.

Anyhow, as we’ve said before, scientists saythe Tasmanian tiger [also known as the thylacine] became extinct in Tasmania in 1936 and on the n mainland about 2000 years ago.

Now a report in New Scientist magazine said mathematical modelling done at the University of California suggestedthe probability of Tasmanian tigers still existing was 1 in 1.6 trillion.

Christian’s sightings (the latest of which occurred five years ago) did occur deep in the Barrington wilderness in a World Heritage Area. This is a place the National Parks and Wildlife Service describes as an “ancient landscape”.

Could his sightings really be true? Stranger things have happened.

Can’t Buy Me LoveThe average n would spend $3311 on an engagement ring, a survey says.

Aussies think $3311 is, on average, the right amount to spend on an engagement ring.

But the lawyers who did the survey warned that expensive rings don’talways buy happiness.

The survey of 1000 people found almost half of ns think the cost of an engagement ring doesn’t matter.

Men were willing to spend an average of $3487 on a ring, while women thought$3111 was the right figure.

The survey was commissioned by Slater and Gordon Family Lawyers.

One of the firm’s lawyersMona Emera said “you only have to look at celebrity couples to see that an expensive ring does not always buy happiness”.

“If James Packer had been part of our survey, there’s no doubt the $10 million, 35-carat diamond he bought Mariah Carey would have thrown off our results,” she said.

“But the average n couple can take comfort in the fact that even a $10 million ring doesn’t safeguard against relationship breakdown.

“In our experience, the relationships that are built on solid foundations are the ones that go the distance. There’s a reason ‘for richer or poorer’ is included in traditional marriage vows.”

We do wonder why lawyers would do a survey on engagement rings.

Hmmm. In their press release, they did provide legal answers to the question, “Who gets to keep the engagement ring if a couple breaks up?”.

Ahhh. Now we get it.

HistoryHunter’s almost forgotten heroMike Scanlon

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ELEGY: John Ramsland’s book on war hero Maxwell.

WE seem to take Anzac Day heroes for granted. It’s easy to forget they were just ordinary peopledoing extraordinary deeds at great personal risk.

Take the case of Hunter Valley World War I hero Joe Maxwell (1896-1967), a winner of the Victoria Cross, the world’s most famous symbol of bravery.

The former Hexham boilermaker, Lieutenant Joseph Maxwell VC, MC and Bar, DCM (to give him his full military title), had his own demons, which haunted him despite his jovial front to the world.

A great soldier, master storyteller and later popular author, Maxwell was the second most highest decorated n solider of the First World War (1914-1918).

With Anzac Day fast approaching, let’s turn the spotlight on this almost forgotten Aussie soldier.

Any study of his war service prominently features his battlefield courage during an attack near Estrees, in France, in October 1918. It was this episode that won him the Victoria Cross.

With his commander wounded he took charge, capturing a dangerous machine-gun post under intense fire. Soon, again single-handed, he silenced a second machine gun, seized 20 prisoners, but was himself then captured.

Maxwell, using a concealed pistol, shot two of his captors and escaped with his men under heavy rifle-fire, then returned to capture the post.

In 1919 Maxwell was invested with the Victoria Cross at Buckingham Palace. They were heady days. The veteran had won four gallantry awards in a little over 12 months.

But he was only 22 when the war ended, and this brilliant soldier later had trouble adjusting to peacetime.

There were hints early on to the strain he was living under when he sought solace in liquor. There was a wartime hotel brawl in London involving civil and military police. Then there was the reported stealing of a double-decker bus while on leave in wartime London.

In 1932, long after WWI ended, Maxwell found fame again with the publication of his classic wartime memoirs, featuring his horrific memories of the Western Front, in his (now scarce) book Hell’s Bells and Mademoiselles.

The book sold like hot cakes and made Joe Maxwell, the man with a jaunty smile and always a yarn, a national celebrity.

It’s easy to see why his exciting story grabbed the public’s attention. Few Aussie veterans could, or did, write about their painful experiences in the “vast open-air slaughterhouse” of WWI. But Maxwell did, and colourfully well.

Here’s a sample of how he felt being under enemy bombardment: “A flash blinds me. A terrific roar splits the air. A shell has landed almost in our bay. We are lost in a chaos of flying mud, flying bags, flying duckboards and barbed wire that twists in the air like mad serpents. Smoke, filth, confusion, racket! I spit and splutter and swear. A voice comes above the thump of falling sandbags. ‘Oh Christ! I think I’m flamin’ well dead’.”

And then there’s his laconic humour, like remembering the time Aussie general Birdwood visited the trenches and asked soldier Mick Clarke how is father was.

“My father is dead, sir,” he replied. Moving about the troops, Birdwood soon encountered Clarke again.

“How is your father?” the general absent-mindedly asked.

“He’s still dead, sir,” Clarke replied.

Years later, however, Maxwell could never duplicate the fame and success his best-seller brought.

In 1933, Maxwell was a defence witness in the trial of a former soldier accused of housebreaking.

Maxwell testified that the man, Jamieson, had been of good character but was poverty stricken and a victim of the Great Depression. It was not an uncommon story among ex-soldiers.

Three years before, in 1930, Maxwell himself had had a bitter, humiliating experience of being flung in Long Bay jail after being unable to pay maintenance arrears due to his divorced first-wife Mabel and young daughter Jean.

Probably traumatised by the experience, he didn’t remarry until 35 years after his brief first marriage.

Earlier, after his divorce, he’d become restless, changing jobs in Sydney, then Newcastle and constantly moving to places like Moree and Canberra, often working as a gardener or labourer.

In 1929, the Repatriation Department slashed his pension to a quarter of what it had recently been. So much for the once famous WWI slogan promising after war’s end to be a “land fit for heroes”.

But in many ways, Joe Maxwell was a reluctant hero. At Gallipoli in 1915, in his baptism of fire, a scared Maxwell asked himself what on earth he was doing there.

Born at Glebe, in Sydney, Maxwell was educated at Gillieston Public School, near Maitland. Maxwell’s father had moved the family there to find work on the East Greta coalfields during the 1890s economic depression in Sydney.

Maxwell was working at J & A Brown’s Hexham Engineering Workshop when war was declared in August 1914. Management suddenly panicked, assuming the overseas coal trade and ship repair work was finished. The large Hexham works closed, throwing 250 men out of work.

As a direct result, Maxwell enlisted for war. The daily Army pay of nine shillings (90cents) was one shilling (10cents) better than being an apprentice boilermaker, anyway.

Joe Maxwell might have stayed a mere mention in war histories except for John Ramsland, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Newcastle.

In 2012, Ramsland published an outstanding, long overdue biography of the decorated war hero called Venturing Into No Man’s Land, subtitled ‘The charmed life of Joseph Maxwell VC’, describing it as an elegy of mud, blood and darkness.

In his carefully researched tribute, Ramsland revealed Joe Maxwell had perfected a ‘devil-may-care’ public persona as a defence against anyone really knowing him and his deep feelings of sadness and loneliness. Mental depression hovered over him in the inter-war and post WWI years.

His life spiralled downwards despite his witty anecdotes spun at the bar as he regularly entertained his hard-drinking comrades of the time when they all had once entered the ‘mouth of hell’.

According to Ramsland, the remarkable Maxwell was haunted by many grim memories, including once helping bury hundreds of decaying corpses at Gallipoli.

Ramsland’s personal link with the restless Joe Maxwell stretches back from childhood, to the 1950s, when he went to help the war veteran stumbling his way home from a Manly pub.

Joe Maxwell was the only neighbourhood celebrity, but his eyes were bloodshot.

Then he spoke: “Never let the grog get you, son”.

Ramsland wrote that time eventually mellowed the sorrows and horrors of war for Maxwell. At one occasion in Canberra he stoutly defended the heavily criticised widow of another VC winner who said she needed to sell his medal.

Maxwell argued that a Victoria Cross for valour was all very well, but “you couldn’t cut it up and feed your kids with it . . . you couldn’t eat it.”

The itinerant former soldier collapsed and died on a Sydney street in 1967. He was 71.

By then, besides probably suffering for decades from post-traumatic stress disorder, most of his original war medals, except his VC, had long disappeared.

Maxwell said he lost many when a motor launch capsized on Lake Macquarie in the 1920s.

Some years later he said he lost the rest of his war decorations in a Brisbane fire.

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Life at the top: Five of Brisbane’s most exclusive penthouses

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Historic Brisbane penthouse for saleThe best castle-themed homes around NSW homes to escape to this winter

Penthouse apartments are a popular product among the rich and powerful and in Brisbane, the market for the expansive and luxurious homes is expected to grow.

McGrath New Farm agent Sherrie Storor tipped the Penthouse market to expand steadily. “I think it’s becoming more popular,” she said. “People who like the idea of low maintenance style life, who want the outlook and want the privacy, they might be over 20 years of cleaning.”

Ray White New Farm agent Josh Brown said by far, the biggest demographic of buyers for penthouses in Brisbane were retirees looking to minimise their housework responsibilities.

“It’s the premium product and I think with the aging population it’ll become a more widespread product as we progress that way,” he said.

He also said the luxury apartment market was continuing to grow despite doom and gloom about apartments in general.

“The bulk of the media surrounding oversupply is centred on one and two bedroom apartments,” said Mr Brown. “There’s been nowhere near as much product for larger apartments in recent years.”

Ms Storor agreed penthouse would continue to outperform their smaller counterparts.

“The bulk of the media surrounding oversupply is centred on one and two bedroom apartments,” she said. “There’s been nowhere near as much product for larger apartments in recent years.” 98 Thorn Street, Kangaroo Point

The penthouse at 98 Thorn Street, Kangaroo Point, offers a huge wrap around balcony that boasted views all around the apartment and uninterrupted look down the Brisbane River to the Story Bridge and CBD. The multi-million dollar property hasn’t changed hands since its construction nearly 15 years ago.

Ms Storor said the apartment was one of the best in Brisbane. “There’s much higher apartments, but it is a very nice property,” she said. “There’s wine fridges that carry over 300 bottles and a perfect north easterly aspect.” 53 Wyandra Street, Teneriffe

Further down the river in Teneriffe, Como is a multi-leveled home which makes use of the extra space to give the home a more wide-open feel, with voids above the living spaces.

Mr Brown said the apartment was one of the more spacious penthouses in the city. “Internally it’s got an immense volume of space for a three bedroom apartment,” he said.

Floor-to-ceiling windows in the bedrooms overlook the living areas and then floor-to-ceiling windows overlook eastern Brisbane suburbs from the apartment’s top floor perch. 461 Adelaide Street, Brisbane City

This Adelaide Street apartment is in the heart of Brisbane City, only a few hundred metres from the popular Eagle Street precinct.

The luxury four bedroom home is the top floor of a block of ten single floor apartments, but is by far the most luxurious.

One of the stand-out features is a dumbwaiter that ferries meals from the kitchen to the rooftop. 76 Thorn Street, Kangaroo Point

Thorn Street in Kangaroo Point must be a good location for penthouse living, with the top floor apartment from number 76 also making the list. The apartment is recently renovated and has the master bedroom and a private spa on the top floor.

The four bedroom apartment also offers views up the Brisbane River and into the city. South Brisbane Inspections are by appointment only for this South Brisbane Penthouse, with the address withheld from the prying eyes of the public. The exclusive home is situated directly across from the CBD and above the Roma Street parklands – arguably one of the best views in the city.