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Private school to pay back $4.3 million after making illicit profits

A private Sydney school will pay back $4.3 million in taxpayer funds to the NSW government after it was found to have illicitly operated for profit for seven years.

The repayment agreement between Lakemba’s Rissalah College and the NSW Education Department also states the school would lose all future funding if it ever employed, contracted or paid its former long-time principal, Ali Roude, or members of his family.

Mr Roude, an Order of Australia medallist, his wife Susan and his sister Nada, were sued by the 430-student primary school for allegedly benefiting from large unauthorised transactions.

The Roudes, who strongly denied the allegations, agreed to pay the school $300,000 as part of a separate 2015 settlement, without admitting fault.

Staff have previously complained of a severe lack of money in the school. One former senior teacher said in 2015 that staff had been forced to cut used stamps from old envelopes for reuse.

After a four-year legal battle, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal declared in July the school’s future funding would be conditional on improved governance and paid on a month-to-month basis.

An Islamic community leader, Mr Roude, told Fairfax Media he had done nothing wrong and the school had been cleared by six audits.

“It’s a case of injustice,” Mr Roude said. “But because we are locked up with the deed of settlement, I can’t make any further comment on the case.”

Mr Roude was the principal between 2007 and 2013, the period in which the school was found to be in breach of the Education Act. The Act makes it illegal for the NSW government to provide public funding to a school operating for profit.

The school has also been referred to the NSW Education Standards Authority, the Australian Taxation Office and the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission for investigation.

The July agreement states that Rissalah will miss out on 40 per cent of its state funding each year, roughly $567,000, until the $4.3 million is repaid.

Principal Naslie Styer, the fourth head of the school in four years, did not respond to written questions, including how the funding cut would affect students or whether parents had been formally notified.

The tribunal ordered that “future financial assistance is conditional upon the school board communicating with parents and the school community on the outcome of the investigation and the sanctions applied”.

Almost all Rissalah’s students come from non-English speaking backgrounds. It receives more than $6 million a year in federal and state taxpayer funding, up to 80 per cent of its annual budget.

The school charges students $2600 a year in tuition fees. It owns more than $8 million in real estate and despite litigation costs last year advertised for a project manager to help a transition towards a K-12 program.

Samih Zreika, a director of Rissalah College since 2000, said the tribunal settlement was “really unfair” and had been accepted against his own wishes.

“The management is very weak,” he said.

Mr Zreika defended Mr Roude as having done “everything for the benefit of the school, to grow it up”.

Mr Roude’s wife, Susan, was employed as a school administrator and his sister Nada as head of community strategy. His niece, Roukaya Dannoun, another Rissalah employee who allegedly received an unauthorised payment, settled with the school along with the Roudes on a no-admissions basis.

In 2013, Rissalah became the first of seven Islamic schools to have its funding frozen after claims of financial mismanagement. Respected former PLC principal Bill McKeith began work on an “emergency repositioning” and funding was restored the following year.

Ali Roude, pictured leaving his home, was principal of the school in the years when it was found to be operating for profit. Photo: Ben Rushton

Mr Roude, who lives in a five-bedroom, five-garage stone home in Greenacre, with a letter R painted on top of its wrought-iron gates, had his contract terminated in June 2013.

But two years later, and just months after the $300,000 settlement, the board sought legal advice on a plan to allow Mr Roude to return, in a newly created chief executive role. Lawyers for the school strongly advised the board not to pursue the move.

Mr Roude remains deputy chairman of the Islamic Council of NSW, which has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funding per year. iFrameResize({resizedCallback : function(messageData){}},”#pez_iframe_tipstar_546″);

He is also chairman of the Voice of Islam radio station, which broadcasts recitations of the Koran, Friday sermons, talk shows, and trivia from the Lakemba premises it rents from Rissalah.

The NSW Department of Education warned Rissalah in 2014 against selling the property to the radio station, arguing the sale would not be “at arm’s length” given they shared directors.

A spokesman for the department said the NSW Minister for Education, Rob Stokes, was considering next steps in regards to the school.

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Family’s uncertain future after visa crackdown

Like most children born in Australia, Samuel* is a happy and healthy toddler, who loves animals and visiting the zoo.

But a federal government decision to cut almost all support for dozens of Australian-based asylum seekers may change his future.

Samuel was born in Australia after his parents – along with 370 other asylum seekers captured under the new visa crackdown – were transferred from offshore processing centres for medical treatment.

News of the Turnbull government’s decision to cut income and accommodation support to up to 100 asylum seekers has thrown Samuel’s parents into a tailspin.

Family groups are not part of the first batch of asylum seekers to be targeted by the new “final departure” visa cuts, but Naomi* said she felt like her family could be sent to Nauru within six months.

“I’ve never seen my husband like this,” she told Fairfax Media.

“Ninety-nine per cent of our worry is for our son. One per cent is for my husband and me.”

Samuel, pictured above, was last publicly seen in early 2016 as part of a campaign featuring the faces of numerous asylum seeker babies who were born in Australia but wanted by the government to return with their families to Nauru.

Since then, Naomi and Samuel have enjoyed a relatively calm and stable life in Australia.

Even though the government saw the High Court refuse a challenge from human rights advocates for a big group of asylum seekers living here for medical reasons to remain in Australia, Naomi said it appeared to be happy enough to let many of them remain in the community.

For Samuel, this has meant enjoying all Sydney and Australia has to offer. Visits to the zoo and playing with other kids in a nearby park have been highlights of his young life.

The prospect of their meagre income support and accommodation disappearing has Naomi despairing about what the future might hold for her family, and in particular, what Samuel stands to lose.

“My husband and I have been through so much,” she said.

“The experience of Nauru traumatised us. But we are very proud of ourselves that our son was born in Australia and has had the privilege of possibilities here; the fresh air, the freedom.”

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said that “every IMA [Illegal Maritime Arrival] transferred from a regional processing centre to Australia for temporary medical assistance was aware that once their medical needs were met they would return to Nauru or Manus”.

He said people would be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has slammed the plan to end income and accommodation support, describing the move as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s “weakest move yet”.

In a strongly worded rebuke, Mr Shorten said the decision was a “new low” from the government.

Mr Shorten said that kicking people onto the streets with no support is “needlessly cruel and really, really dumb”.

“It won’t fix anything. It’s just hurting vulnerable and sick people for the sake of it,” he said.

But Human Services Minister Alan Tudge??? has defended the move, declaring the asylum seekers won’t be receiving any further taxpayer support.

Mr Tudge said the asylum seekers facing the new conditions had received medical treatment in Australia “and consequently now they are required to go back to Nauru, or to PNG, or indeed back to their home country”.

“That is what this is about, and it is consistent … with the principle that anybody who arrives by boat to our shores, won’t be settled in Australia; they will be settled elsewhere. That is what this is about,” he told the ABC.

The Greens have vowed to try and use Parliament to stop the government’s move. Leader Richard Di Natale said on Sunday the minor party was seeking advice on whether the use of a new “final departure Bridging E Visa” – expected to be issued to asylum seekers from Monday – can be overturned when the Senate returns in a week’s time.

“We do call on members of the crossbench and the Labor Party to support us in doing everything we can to stop this unspeakable cruel act getting through the Senate,” he said.

Human rights lawyers believe that about 370 people, including more than 50 babies born in Australia and 66 children born overseas, are highly likely to be captured by the government’s decision to place new bridging visa conditions on dozens of asylum seekers as of Monday.

The cohort also includes 83 single men and 14 single women. More than 20 of the asylum seeker women have suffered sexual assault or rape in their past.

“This decision is about politics not people,” said Amy Frew, a lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre.

“It is unconscionable to force families to choose between homelessness or certain harm in the offshore detention centres. We have had to advise all of our clients, 370 people, nearly one-third of which are children, that it appears that the government will force them out of their homes, leaving them destitute and homeless.

“These families are living in our communities. Building their lives. They have woken today to terrifying news. There are kids who will be in classrooms this week who on Sunday woke up to incredible uncertainty. They will be confused and afraid.”

The asylum seekers captured by the “final departure” visa conditions all tried to enter Australia by boat.

The majority of them are Iranians, Syrians and Afghanis from minority backgrounds. Sri Lankan Tamils and people from the Burmese minority group Rohingya are also included in the group.

While adult asylum seekers living in Australia on medical grounds have been prevented from being able to work, the children have been able to go to school.

Under the new visa conditions, children will still be able to go to school until they turn 18. Those aged over 18 are denied any educational opportunities.

Those issued with the new visa conditions will be given work rights in order for them to try to earn an income to pay for accommodation, food and other expenses while they remain in Australia.

They will also have some medical support and access to a case officer.

The government’s move is expected to place further burdens on church and charity groups.

As Naomi and many other asylum seeker mothers like her face uncertain times ahead, she is putting her faith in the Australian people to help her son have the best shot at a safe and productive life.

“People can use their voice to help the government change their mind about how they are treating us,” she said.

* Naomi and Samuel are not their real names.

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Psychologist: ‘Selena Gomez has blood on her hands’


A scene from 13 Reasons Why, a Netflix series that deals with suicide and depression.

Netflix is under attack from Australian experts for failing to add local helplines at the end of its most controversial programs, including 13 Reasons Why which portrays a young girl’s suicide.

Child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg says US popstar Selena Gomez, an executive producer of 13 Reasons Why, has “blood on her hands” for the “dreadful” way in which the show streaming on Netflix portrays suicide.

His criticism comes as Netflix continues to reject requests from Australian mental health groups to retrofit shows with support numbers at the end of each episode.

Dr Carr-Greg said 13 Reasons Why violated every rule on the portrayal of suicide.

“Probably 75 per cent of kids who watch it, there will be no impact, but I’m worried about the ones who have pre-existing vulnerabilities,” he said, after watching every episode.

“A bloke in Canberra told me that his daughter had watched the 13 Reasons Why without his knowledge and she had to be rushed to hospital because she tried to take her own life.”

The series has been widely criticised for glamorising suicide, with US researchers reporting that suicide-related searches were 19 per cent higher than expected in the days following the premiere.

Ms Gomez has defended the series, saying the graphic content was “real” and “honest”, but Dr Carr-Gregg rubbished those claims.

Singer and actress Selena Gomez is one of the executive producers of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Photo: HRC

“I think she’s already got the blood of a number of kids on her hands so I those reasons are absolutely crap,” he said.

“If one kid kills themselves as a result of watching this show, then she’s got blood on her hands and the reality is that instead of educating and informing, it has exploited the vulnerabilities of young people in the most dreadful way.”

The drama is among a host of Netflix-created dramas that target young people, and explore difficult subjects such as eating disorders (To the Bone) and autism (Atypical).

Netflix has also rejected requests from the Butterfly Foundation, which supports people with eating disorders, to add localised help information at the end of To the Bone.

In a meeting with Netflix, the Butterfly Foundation asked it to adhere to Mindframe’s Guidelines for the portrayal of eating disorders. But apart from trigger warnings at the start of the film, there are still no Australian support numbers at the end.

Christine Morgan, chief executive of the foundation, said visual portrayals of eating disorders could trigger harmful behaviour and there was a strong need for helpline information.

“The response from Netflix has been disappointing because I believe it could have adopted a more responsible approach to screening the film,” she said.

“It wasn’t as though Netflix was unaware of the triggering nature of the content of their film, they chose not to support all of Butterfly’s requests.”

Professor Jane Burns, a youth mental health expert and the mother of an autistic child, said she also has concerns about the portrayal of autism in Netflix’s series Atypical.

“The issues raised are complex, difficult to portray with empathy and without context, triggering and potentially dangerous,” she said.

“Entertainment is just that, entertainment – but the opportunity to use this popular culture as a myth-buster and really explore the power and the potential of the human psyche is often missed in cliche and story lines that leave the viewer at best lost and at worst in deep despair.”

Netflix and other streaming services are not regulated and they do not appear to be bound to an industry code of conduct.

Julie Inman Grant, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, said the Butterfly Foundation’s request was reasonable, especially because Netflix created and streamed these controversial shows.

“They have a responsibility to put more information out there, help seeking information,” she said.

“The best way to stave off regulation would be to do the right thing and provide the protections and that shouldn’t be a heavy lift.”

Fairfax Media did not receive comment from Netflix or Gomez before deadline. Lifeline 131114Beyondblue 1300224636

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McMahon’s blunt message for Wallabies haters

Australian back-rower Sean McMahon has a blunt message for the people who threw barbs at the Wallabies before their gallant effort against the All Blacks on Saturday.

“What other people have to say about us, we couldn’t give two shits to be honest,” McMahon said. “We’ve got to focus on doing our game and not listen to the outside crew. [Saturday] proved that if we just focus on ourselves and our own game, we can continue to build.”

Although the Wallabies fell 35-29 to the All Blacks in heartbreaking circumstances in Dunedin, they showed enough ticker and temerity to win back the hearts of Australian rugby fans.

McMahon had his best game ever for the Wallabies; making 13 carries for 68 metres in a performance that was inspiring to say the least.

It was so impressive that even coach Michael Cheika, who is usually a little reserved in his praise for players at post-game press conferences, couldn’t contain his admiration for McMahon’s work ethic across 80 minutes.

“There’s a word for Sean McMahon and that was outstanding,” Cheika said. “He was truly outstanding. He gave it everything. That’s the Sean McMahon we know and that’s why I’ll be aiming all guns [blazing] towards Japan to try and get his contract torn up over there.

“I don’t care what it takes to make him stay here because we want him, we need him.

“Maybe it’s nice to say publicly now how badly we want a player to stay here because we love him and we want him to keep playing like that in a gold jersey.”

McMahon will leave Australian rugby at the end of the year to take up a two-year deal in Japan, most likely at the Suntory club alongside Wallabies legend George Smith.

There is the possibility McMahon could return for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, given the Japanese Top League season runs after the international Tests and does not cross over with Super Rugby.

Asked whether he had a desire to play at the World Cup, McMahon was non-committal but said it was nice hear praise from Cheika.

“If I can keep putting performances on like that, it might be something in the future that can change the opportunity for me to come back and shift the pieces around for me to get that opportunity,” McMahon said. “Right now it’s just week to week.

“It’s great to hear comments like that but you can’t let anything like that go to your head. I’m focusing on the next game and getting another opportunity for the gold jersey.

“Down the track, if the opportunity comes back for me to come back, that might happen but right now I’m focusing on the next game over in Perth and at the end of the year, I’ll focus on when I go to Japan.”

McMahon echoed the feelings of other teammates, saying they were all shattered after coming within two minutes of knocking off the All Blacks on their own turf in what would have been one of the greatest upsets in the history of Australian rugby.

“Losing like that in the last two minutes when we put a hard grit effort into trying to get the result there is disappointing,” McMahon said. “All we needed to do is finish there and get a good exit and it could have been a different story. But I think we showed a lot of grit, a lot of passion.

“All we talked about in the sheds was focusing on now we’ve got to build and go to another level. That’s just the start of where we think we can go and we’ve got to continue to build up if we want to be the top of the table.”

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McDonald’s defends not paying weekend penalty rates and shoppies union wage deal

The fast food giant pays no weekend and limited late-night penalties. Photo: AP Photo/Alan Diaz.Fast food giant McDonald’s has defended not paying its workers weekend penalty rates as it came under pressure over a controversial wage deal estimated to leave nearly two-thirds of its workforce underpaid.

Senior executives at the burger chain were quizzed at a Senate inquiry on Friday about itsagreement with the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association(SDA) that pays no weekend and very limited late-night penalties.

The inquiry comes after a Fairfax Media investigation in 2016 found the agreement would result in nearly two-thirds of McDonald’s workers being paid less than the award – the minimum pay and conditions safety net.

The findings were based on hundreds of payslips and the leaking of an entire store’s roster that showed 63 per cent of employees at a large Sydney outlet were paid less than the award.

On Friday, Greens senator Lee Rhiannon cited pay recordsof an adult worker at McDonald’s who she said was more than $4000 a year worse off under the union deal when compared to the award. She also highlighted the case of a 17-year-old casual worker who was nearly $2000 a year worse off.

Retail and Fast Food Workers Union official Josh Cullinan. Photo: Penny Stephens

McDonald’s senior vice-president Craig Cawood defended the agreement and the higher hourly wages it paid.

However, he conceded that the burger giant had not conducted a financial analysis to check if workers were being paid less than the award overall.

“I don’t, in some ways, accept the premise of the question,” he said, noting that workers had voted for the deal and the Fair Work Commission in 2013 had approved it. He said he didn’t know whether McDonald’s would “employ the same number of people” if it had to pay award wages.

There are two separate Senate inquiries underway that stemfrom a 12 month Fairfax Media investigationinto agreements between the SDA and big employers, trading penalties and other loadings. The deals are conservatively estimated to have left more than 250,000 workers paid less than the award and saved Australia’s biggest employers more than $300 million a year.

In 2016, the full bench of the Fair Work Commission, in a landmark decision, quashed an agreement between Coles and the SDA as it failed the “better off overall test”. Evidence in that Coles case showed 56 per cent of workers were paid less than the minimum award rates.

In the Senate hearings this week McDonald’s and major employers, such as KFC and Woolworths, claimed they had not done an analysis to determine whether their workers were worse off but noted that their agreements had been approved by the tribunal.

Those agreements were approved, though, before the Coles decision last year and the Fair Work Commission says it now has a more thorough approach to checking whether workers were paid enough.

The inquiry on Friday also heard evidence from five workers from companies including Coles, Woolworths and Myer, on SDA agreements that they said had left them paid below award rates.

Coles worker David Suter said he was losing between $1500 to $2100 a year from the agreement. “Every hour and every shift I work attracts reduced penalty rates when compared to the award,” he said. “I’m not looking for a handout. I want a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.”

The workers were part of a submission from new union the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union, which was set up late last year.

RAFFWU secretary Josh Cullinan called for a fresh parliamentary inquiry to investigate the fine detail of how many workers had been underpaid. He accused big employers of deliberately not having done those calculations or analysis.

It was time, he said, for parliament to “dig behind this and do the investigation that others have not”.

SDA national secretary Gerard Dwyer this week defended the union’s record and said loaded rates –where penalty rates are traded off for higher hourly rates –had been part of the system for decades.

He also again said the Coles decision involved a new interpretation of the law,although this has been strongly disputed.

McDonald’s Craig Cawood also supported a separate decision by the Fair Work Commission this year to cut penalty rates in fast food and retail.

He said the finding was consistent with the views of McDonald’s workers that the existing Sunday penalty rate was “neither fair or relevant”.

“As I acknowledge, the change to penalty rates does not affect us,” Mr Cawood said. Labor Senator Gavin Marshall responded that it was not possible to cut penalty rates from zero at McDonald’s.

– Sydney Morning Herald

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Swans expect Tippett to be fit for must-win final

Finals draw in a nutshell for Swans and Giants

Sydney is confident Kurt Tippett will be fit for the Swans’ first final after re-injuring his troublesome ankle against Carlton.

The ruckman had scans on the weekend and if results come back as expected, the Swans believe Tippett will take his place in the side to face Essendon.

The Dons, wooden-spooners last year, booked their place in the eight after overcoming Fremantle, while Richmond’s comfortable win over St Kilda send the Swans back to sixth position.

Tippett hurt his ankle in the first term but returned to play out the second and third quarters. He sat out the final term as a precaution once it became clear the Swans had the game won.

The injury is to the same ankle he hurt in round two and which, along with a hip issue, contributed to a run of poor form. But the big man has made a strong impression since returning to the side three weeks.

The Swans also believe Callum Sinclair will be available. With Sam Naismith also fit, this leaves the club with a selection dilemma in the ruck.

Dan Hannebery and Tom Papley are expected to come back, which means the Swans will be at full strength heading into the most important month of the season.

The Swans are the form side of the competition but their slow start to the year means they will have to win the flag the hard way.

“Certainly after six rounds you’d take where we are now, that’s for sure,” veteran defender Nick Smith said.

“It’s well done, big sigh of relief but we’ve got to get going again because nothing’s been really achieved for us yet.

“Well done to us for getting here, but it doesn’t mean much. We need to refocus and get ready to come out in a couple of weeks’ time.”

Superstar forward Lance Franklin stole the headlines with 10 goals in an ominous sign for rival defenders.

“He is an absolute freak, it’s unbelievable to be out there and see it first-hand,” Smith said.

“He’s just a freak how quick he is, how big he is, he’s just an absolute gun.

“We’ve got to be a little bit careful not to always kick it [to Buddy] but when he’s in the form he is today, it seems like you kick it anywhere near him and he’ll end up kicking a goal. It’s a bit of a balance, but the form he’s in today you just want to get it to him.”

The Swans were far too good for the Blues but were given a run for their money in the second term.

“We started all right, we could’ve kicked a bit straighter. To their credit they kept plugging away. We took the foot off the gas a little bit in the second,” Smith said.

“They’re a good team when they play the way they want to, and we let them do that in the second quarter but then we got back to what we wanted to do in the third and the score looks after itself when we do that.”

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‘More discerning’: Wary Sydney buyers opt out of auctions

More than 30 per cent of auction properties in Sydney failed to sell at the weekend as wary buyers opted not to compete for second-tier houses and apartments.

B and C-grade properties (unrenovated, on main roads, near commercial and industrial sites) almost always do well in a boom market. But experts say Sydney is returning to a “normal” market in which real estate transactions are being driven by traditional factors such as a demand for larger family accommodation or a need to downsize, rather than straight-up property speculation.

The big spin-off from these changed market conditions is that the second-best properties aren’t selling nearly as well as they did late last year.

Some agents selling “move straight in” renovated homes above $2.8 million also say properties are now more likely to sell for a price within their price guide, and the market is seeing fewer tearaway results compared to 10 months ago.

For the second week in a row, Sydney’s auction clearance rate fell below 70 per cent. The Domain Group posted a clearance rate for Saturday of 67.9 per cent per cent from 675 scheduled auctions.

The result – the lowest clearance rate recorded on a non-holiday weekend in Sydney since April last year – suggests that this year’s spring market, which kicks off next Saturday, will be more buyer-friendly than the 2016 and 2015 spring markets.

112 Cardigan Street, Stanmore, sold for $3,075,000 on Saturday.

Of course, much will depend on the parts of city that property punters target. Home prices in in-demand areas in the inner suburbs, such as the east, the inner-west and the lower north shore, are relatively bullet-proof compared to the prices being paid in more fickle markets, especially in the mid and outer western suburbs. Related: Rundown Clovelly home sells for $3.4mRelated: Click here for Saturday’s auction resultsRelated: Click here for the Market Snapshot

Real Estate Institute of NSW president John Cunningham said gaps were appearing in the market, particularly around properties that didn’t tick all the boxes for buyers.

“In booming conditions, everything goes well,” he said. “It doesn’t matter whether a property is on a main road, hanging off the side of a cliff or in a gully. Those properties normally would have trouble selling and now we are finding that the days on market for those sorts of properties is starting to extend out. It is definitely affecting their prices.”

Mr Cunningham, a Balgowlah and Manly-based agent, said agents were seeing a trend where only those auction properties that had multiple positive attributes attracted five or more bidders.

“When a market changes, you see the urgency go out of buyers,” he said. “They just don’t grab anything because the market is racing away, they become more discerning and I would definitely call this a more discerning market.”

Sydney has experienced five years of fairly constant house price growth. Little wonder that a veritable platoon of market watchers is now pointing to a change.

For example, the national valuations company Herron Todd White, earlier this month ranked Sydney as “starting to decline” in the national property clock it publishes monthly. By contrast, Melbourne’s market was ranked as “approaching the peak of the market”.

The most expensive property sold on Saturday was 1503/61 Macquarie Street, Sydney, which went for $7,110,000.

Some observers think it’s wrong to read too much into any differences between A-grade and lesser-light properties, particularly when it comes to high land-value real estate in the inner areas.

Domain Group chief economist Andrew Wilson said while there were different demand drivers for particular property types, such as semi-detached terraces and bigger houses, the inner ring remained largely bullet-proof.

“There is not so much differentiation between the inner suburban properties in Sydney that you can start classing them because they all have a line of buyers behind them,” he said.

But Dr Wilson said the inner west market had been a little softer in recent weeks.

On Saturday, Cobden & Hayson auctioned a renovated and extended five-bedroom period home at 112 Cardigan Street, Stanmore, which last sold in 2012 for $938,000.

32 Colbran Avenue, Kenthurst, sold for $4 million on Saturday.

Although the property was eventually bought by a family for $3,075,000, the auction was a slow-moving affair.

Selling agent Jonathan Hammond said the house was quoted at $2.95 million to $3.2 million and there were three registered bidders.

“We struggled to get it off the mark,” he said. “There was a vendor bid at $3 million and that was rescinded. Then we had a buyer who came in with $2.9 million and then we negotiated to $3,075,000 after the auction. But, in terms of per square metre land prices in Stanmore, the price paid was a great result.”

Top sales reported at the weekend included a five-bedroom home at 32 Shadforth Street, Mosman. It was sold for $5,675,000 by Simeon Manners, while a six-bedroom house at 32 Colbran Avenue, Kenthurst, was sold by Lumby Hampson for $4 million.

32 Shadforth Street, Mosman, sold for $5,675,000 on Saturday.

The most expensive property reported sold at auction was a three-bedroom unit at 1503/61-69 Macquarie Street, Sydney. It fetched $7.11 million at an auction conducted by Morton Circular Quay.

Dr Wilson said Sydney was experiencing a clear disparity in regional results with inner suburban areas doing much better than the middle and outer suburbs.

The lower north shore was the best performing region at the weekend with an upbeat clearance rate of 81 per cent. It was followed by the upper north shore with a 75.5 per cent clearance rate, the city and east with 72.2 per cent, the inner west with 71.9 per cent, the northern beaches with 70.8 per cent, the central coast with 66.7 per cent, and the west with 65.9 per cent.

Canterbury Bankstown was a significantly better performer at the weekend with clearances at 60.5 per cent. The north-west had a clearance rate of 58.8 per cent, the south had 55.2 per cent and the south-west trailed the market with a clearance rate of 50 per cent.

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Shoulder injury leaves Daniel Saifiti in doubt for World Cup

WOUNDED: Daniel Saifiti braved the pain barrier against Canberra. Picture: Jonathan CarrollKNIGHTS prop Daniel Saifiti is in danger of missing the World Cup after suffering a partially dislocated shoulder in Friday night’s 46-28 loss in Canberra.

DOUBT: English import Joe Wardle will need to overcome an ankle injury to play against Cronulla.

Saifiti is awaiting the result of scans and hopes to play in Sunday’s final-round clash with Cronulla at McDonald Jones Stadium, but Newcastle coach Nathan Brown has admitted there is a chance the 21-year-old will require surgery.

If so, that would almost certainly cost him the chance to represent Fiji at the World Cup.

Daniel and twin brother Jacob have both represented Fiji in mid-yearPacific Tests and were shaping as key figures for the Bati in theend-of-season tournament.

GONE: Korbin Sims won’t play again this season after fracturing his arm in Thursday’s loss to Parramatta.

In another body blow for the Fijians, who made the semi-finals at the 2013 World Cup, Brisbane’s Korbin Sims appears unlikely to be available after suffering a fractured arm in Thursday’s loss to Parramatta.

Fiji have a host of quality outside backs at their disposal –including Suliasi Vunivalu, Akuila Uate, Waqa Blake, Kevin Naiqama and possibly Jarryd Hayne –but are light-on for NRL-standard forwards.

In the likely absence of Sims and Daniel Saifiti, they will be relying heavily on Jacob Saifiti and Roosters duo Kane Evans andEloni Vunakece.

Knights officials will be desperately hoping that if Saifiti does need surgery, it is not a full shoulder reconstruction, which would probably mean his entire pre-season was spent in recovery-and-rehabilitation mode.

Knights coach Nathan Brown said Saifiti “gave a good account of himself’’ when he insisted on playing through the pain barrier against Canberra.

“They’re starting to learn that there is injured, and there is hurt,’’ Brown said.

“There’s two different things and some of them are starting to learn that.”

Saifiti has played in 21 games for Newcastle this season and will be a contender for their player-of-the-year award, along with Dane Gagai, Sione Mata’utia and Mitch Barnett.

But Brown said he is still a work in progress.

“Diet, training, sacrifices,’’ were the areas Brown identified. “He’s improved on where he was, but to get to the level we want him to get to –and more importantly to get to the level of player he should get to over his career –he’s still got some areas that he needs to work hard at.”

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Australia Council arts grants could be more efficient: audit

100910 SMH Domain Photo Steven Siewert.Tony Grybowski in the foyer of the Wroxton Apartment building in Elizabeth Bay/ Rushcutters Bay that was originally covered on carpet over the floors and walls.The wood paneling and Terrazzo floors have been restored. SPECIAL SS100910 Tony Grybowski, the new Australia Council for the Arts chief executive officer.

An audit of grants by the respected Australia Council has found more efficient processes are needed at the arts funding and advisory body, while new metrics for administration should be created.

The Australian National Audit Office probe published last week considered more than $173 million in grants programs awarded by the council in 2015-16, representing 88 per cent of its $197.6 million in total expenses.

A federal government entity, the council exists to fund the creation and presentation of new art that is accessible to audiences across Australia and overseas.

Auditor-General Grant Hehir said benchmarking of the council’s activities against comparative organisations indicated administration of its grants to Australian artists and arts organisations could be improved.

The report said the council had not established metrics to inform itself, federal Parliament and the public about how efficient its distribution of funding was, had not measured changes in output over time and had not used key data to improve internal review processes.

It found the average cost for the Australia Council to administer the grants program was $0.04 for each $1 of grant funding, and the cost to administer each application received was $1359.

The average cost to administer the grants program was found to be 33 per cent above the average costs for a group of similar organisations.

Results for three of its five programs were lower than the average cost for the eight other programs considered, while the average cost across the five Australia Council programs was 46 per cent higher than the average cost of the other grants programs.

“It is unclear if the Australia Council has become more efficient over time,” the report said.

“The Australia Council has not established grant administration metrics to support the measurement and benchmarking of its efficiency in administering grant funding – one of the key mechanisms for delivery of its statutory functions.

“Benchmarking conducted by the ANAO indicates that the efficiency of the Australia Council’s administration of the grants program, and its component grants programs, varies across the measures calculated.”

In 2015, then arts minister George Brandis said the Australia Council was perceived as a “closed shop” for established artists, with an “iron wall that you’re either inside or outside”.

He controversially diverted nearly $105 million to a new program controlled by federal bureaucrats, sparking outcry from advocates who protested cuts to funding and possible political interference.

His successor, Mitch Fifield, axed the Catalyst program and returned funding to the council.

The report called for more formal risk assessment processes, greater focus to the efficiency of grants administration, as well as routine benchmarking and evaluation.

The council agreed to the recommendations in principle but disputed the benchmarking against other organisations as an appropriate comparative measure.

“Throughout the design and implementation of the grants program, the Australia Council and its board have worked assiduously to achieve high standards of efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of arts funding,” the council said in response to the report.

“Efficiencies have already been realised through a significant reduction in the number of grants categories, development of streamlined funding criteria and eligibility requirements, and a decrease in staffing levels for the grants program, despite increases in the quantum of grants funds under administration.”

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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NSW Education Minister won’t budge on scripture

Parents will lobby the state government to change the strict rules around scripture in schools and the teachers’ union will review its existing policy on special religious education after new data revealed a rise this year in the number of students who did not list a religion on their enrolment form.

A motion was passed on Saturday at the P&C annual general meeting to write to Education Minister Rob Stokes and urge him to change the rules that prevent students who opt out of scripture or ethics classes from doing any educational activities while SRE is being offered.

The motion said the P&C would ask Mr Stokes to amend the department’s religious education implementation procedures to ensure that “all students participating in special religious education may be granted access to educational opportunities that align with the curriculum during the time scripture is being taught”.

But a spokesman for Mr Stokes said the government would not be “revisiting its position”.

“Any move to allow students to participate in formal classes during this time will unfairly disadvantage students who have a legal right to attend these classes,” the spokesman said.

The motion came as the NSW Department of Education for the first time published 2016 and 2017 data last week showing the number of students who did not nominate a religion on their enrolment form.

The data showed the number of students who listed no religion, not stated (intentionally) or unknown/not had risen more than 6 per cent from 2016 to 2107. At the same time, total enrolments grew 1.25 per cent.

The latest data was published after the group Fairness in Religions in Schools (FIRIS) accessed earlier enrolment data under freedom-of-information laws. That data revealed more than 40 per cent of the state’s 795,000 students do not list any religion on their enrolment form, which is an optional section.

If a student does not nominate a religion, the principal writes to parents informing them of the available religious programs at the school.

The NSW Teachers Federation supports SRE but at its council meeting on August 5, it decided to review its existing policy before its annual conference next year.

A spokesman for FIRIS, Darrin Morgan, said the group supported the P&C motion.

“This would be a very easy change for the minister to make because it is not in legislation, it is just in their implementation procedures,” Mr Morgan said.

It is also not clear how many students who nominate a religion attend scripture because the department does not track SRE enrolments, despite a recommendation from an independent review into scripture in the state’s schools.

But a spokesman for Christian SRE, Murray Norman, said 71 per cent of NSW students did SRE and it would be unfair to them if other students were allowed to do extra class work.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.