Mike Baird announces reform to state’s broken child welfare system


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More than 20,000 children in NSW are in out-of-home care. Photo: John Donegan Premier Mike Baird has vowed to overhaul the child protection system. Photo: Edwina Pickles

“We will start with one of the most vulnerable groups”: Family and Community Services Minister Brad Hazzard. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Thousands of vulnerable children are expected to be better off under a radical shake-up of the state’s child protection system announced by Premier Mike Baird on Thursday.

The reform comes after a review of the system found more than $300 million a year was being spent on support programs without any evidence to show they work.

The review by senior bureaucrat David Tune also found that children who had spent time in the state’s billion-dollar out-of-home care system were more likely to be unemployed, suffer health problems and have their own children removed, creating a cycle of disadvantage.

Mr Baird described the findings as a “sobering” assessment of the state’s trouble-plagued child protection system.

“It is failing to improve long-term outcomes for children and to arrest devastating cycles of intergenerational abuse and neglect,” Mr Baird said at the Australian Council of Social Service national conference in Sydney.

“For decades we have seen the number of kids in out-of-home care get larger and the outcomes are not just a cause for concern but a cause for action.

“We have been providing additional resources but the question is: are they producing the sort of results we want to see? Clearly they haven’t. We must do better.”

There are more than 20,000 children in out-of-home care in NSW, a number that has doubled in a decade. Mr Tune’s report found one-third do not finish year 12 and 44 per cent do not have jobs within five years of leaving care. The cost of providing government services to people over a 20-year period after they leave care is $284,000.

Mr Baird said the overhaul, which focuses on evidence-based individually targeted support for children and families, was the “single biggest reform to child welfare in NSW”.

Family and Community Services Minister Brad Hazzard said the reform was a direct response to Mr Tune’s finding that: “Expenditure is crisis-driven, not well-aligned to the evidence and does not effectively target clients.”

The first stage of the reform will be reducing the number of children in the state’s broken residential care system.

“We will start the reforms with one of the most vulnerable groups – children under 12 in residential care,” Mr Hazzard said.

“They will get the health, mental health and psychological interventions they need so that they can have a permanent stable home.”

Jacqui Reed, chief executive of advocacy group Create, said any reform should have children’s needs at the centre.

“We have had reviews, inquiries and reforms but the bottom line is children are still being harmed in out-of-home care,” she said.

“We need much more robust independent monitoring of children in care and, most importantly, we need to listen to children and act on what they say.”

Child protection expert Helen Keevers said the current system was financially unsustainable but reform would be a lengthy process.

“You can’t expect a quick fix,” she said. “Do the research, identify the programs which work, don’t go for the one-size-fits-all approach and give it time to work.

“Short-term solutions such as handing contacts to low-cost providers don’t work. They just create a sub-class of people. At best they have been babysat, at worst they have been abused and neglected.”

Dr Kath McFarlane, a former state government policy advisor now at Charles Sturt University’s Centre of Law and Justice, said child welfare agencies must be more accountable under the reform.

“This reform is born out of a real desire to fix the system and better support children and families but unfortunately that can be lost in the implementation,” she said.

“I’d like to see real enforcement of these ideas and see agencies held to account if they don’t deliver.”

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Naracoorte ewe lambs to $256


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Elders Minlaton branch manager Adam Pitt, with his son Paxton, 2, dad Evan Pitt, Lucindale, Elders Lucindale livestock production agent Brendan Voss and Jamie Weaver, Lucindale.NARACOORTE Cameron and Anne Jesse, Western Flat, with their sale-topping $256 ewe lambs and PPH&S agent Trevor Doecke.

Yarding: 27,300Ewe lambs to $256EWE lambs sold to a high of $256 at the Naracoorte first-cross sale on Thursday November 17, $26 up on last year’s top price.

The top price pen came from Cameron and Anne Jesse, Western Flat.

The pen was 94 April/May 2016-drops, Paxton/Collinsville-blood, which sold to Pinkerton Palm Hamyln & Steen.

The same vendor also sold a further 163 at $244.

Receiving the best-presented ribbon was Ian Farley, Marmon Pastoral, Jabuk.

His pen of 174 Inverbrackie-blds made $240, selling to Elders Millicent.

Other Marmon Pastoral lines included 224 at $230, 160 at $234, 293 at $230, 300 at $222, 182 at $222, 346 at $206, 381 at $196, 105 at $198 and 105 at $190.

Also selling near the top of the sale was Farmers Leap Pty Ltd, Padthaway, with 68 Wongary/Paxton-blds at $236, 150 at $228 and 140 at $210.

Duane Simon, McPiggery, Lameroo, sold ewe lambs to $232.

McPiggery, Lameroo, is always a strong performer at the ewe lamb sale, having won the best-presented pen many times.

With the ribbon for best-presented pen were Ian Farley, Marmon Pastoral, Jabuk, his daughter Cassie Oster, Elders Murray Bridge branch manager Phil Nagel and Marmon Pastoral sheep manager John Byrnes.

This year McPiggery sold 182 March/April 2016-drops, from Johnos sires and Gunallo dams,for a top of $232.

McPiggery also sold 189 at $214, 162 at $222, 189 at $218, 240 at $212, 174 at $200 and 129 at $194.

Naracoorte Combined Agents Association chairman Darren Maney said joinable ewe lambs represented good value.

First-time sellers at Naracoorte, Grace and Neil Kroehn, Belmont, Springton, sold ewe lambs to $198.

“I think the ewes that made $190 to $210 were better value than lighter one that made $180,” he said.

“On the lighter ewe lambs there was strong evidence of restocker activity, caused by destocking across the last two dry seasons, and there being plenty of feed out there.”

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In a year marked by some bad decisions, ICAC overhaul was among Mike Baird’s worst


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NSW Premier Mike Baird has angered ICAC commissioners past and present. Photo: Edwina PicklesAs Mike Gallacher stood to speak in the upper house of the NSW Parliament on Wednesday afternoon, a special guest was seated in the President’s gallery.

Senior Crown prosecutor Margaret Cunneen, SC, watched as Gallacher – a former Liberal MLC on the crossbench since the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s public inquiry into Liberal Party fundraising – delivered a 15-minute speech railing at the watchdog and its chief, Megan Latham.

As Cunneen looked on, Gallacher ended his contribution with an enormous smile. “Despite occasional challenges, some days just could not get any better,” he declared. “Let me say, that is exactly how I feel today.”

Cunneen, of course, is a sworn enemy of Latham’s after the ICAC’s aborted attempt to investigate her over a car accident involving her son and his then girlfriend.

Gallacher was police minister until forced to resign amid allegations raised at the ICAC during Operation Spicer, the investigation into Liberal Party fundraising before the 2011 election.

The final report made no corruption finding against him but Gallacher was found to be one of several Liberal MPs who had tried to evade political donations laws.

He was barred from returning to the cabinet or the parliamentary party.

Also watching was Christian Democratic Party leader Fred Nile, whom Cunneen has supported politically and whose party’s votes ensured the legislation Gallacher was speaking in favour of passed the upper house.

It was a gathering of the aggrieved. And they were there to celebrate the presumed imminent demise of Latham, the source of their collective angst.

A day earlier, in the lower house, Premier Mike Baird effectively delivered Latham’s head to them on a platter via a bill abolishing her position and forcing her to reapply for her job.

In a year marked by some bad decisions by Baird, this was easily among the worst.

It prompted fierce criticism from former ICAC commissioners and Latham – all beacons of integrity in whom successive premiers have placed their trust to safeguard the people of NSW from spivs keen to plunder the public purse.

Baird would well know the damage inflicted by such an attack from the state’s anti-corruption agency.

It has many wondering why he has chosen to spend what is likely to be the last dregs of a severely depleted stock of political capital on such an obviously controversial issue.

He strongly denies it, but the most likely answer is the need to appease his partyroom, sections of which are still seething over the way Latham oversaw Spicer, which destroyed the political careers of many of their former colleagues.

The smoking gun lies in the new ICAC structure, which has been strongly criticised by Latham.

The government says its new three-commissioner model is based on the recently established Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC).

Yet the chief commissioner of the new ICAC will not have veto power over the appointment of two part-time commissioners, as the LECC chief commissioner does.

So while this safeguard is good enough for an agency with responsibility for policing the police, it’s apparently not needed in an agency responsible for keeping politicians honest.

The easiest conclusion to draw is that the government wants control over the appointments, whose concurrence must be sought by the chief commissioner over decisions such as whether to hold public hearings or private examinations.

Since coming to office Baird has distinguished himself from his predecessor Barry O’Farrell as a man in a hurry. He wants to be remembered as the Premier who rescued NSW from years of Labor ineptitude.

As treasurer he built the foundations with disciplined economic management. As Premier he went on a politically risky privatisation drive to get the cash to build the infrastructure for which he wants to be remembered.

But moving this fast has its consequences, as Baird has discovered. Affected communities of interest bite back and his fall in popularity in the polls has reflected that.

Thus far Baird has been able to rely on one vitally important trait – his honesty and integrity – to more or less buttress himself and the government from these surging pockets of anger across the state.

It is something he worked on from the moment he came into the job.

Baird, to his credit, moved on political donations reform and made headway in the area of government transparency. Yet the attack on the ICAC and its chief risks destroying the gains from that work.

Instead of being regarded as the champion and protector of the state’s corruption fighter, Baird is now in open combat with its boss.

It has allowed his critics and enemies to draw a direct line between Latham’s oversight of Spicer and the legislation that sacks her.

That will only embolden the small but very vocal group who have already branded Baird “Casino Mike” over his defence of the state’s lockout laws, which don’t apply to The Star casino at Pyrmont.

It will confirm the suspicion in the minds of those determined to believe it that Baird is not the unsullied cleanskin he has styled himself as in his pitch to the electorate – “the Sunday school teacher”, as Labor leader Luke Foley taunted him in his late night speech on the ICAC bill this week.

Baird has repeatedly said that, despite his plunging popularity and the damage sustained by his backdown on the closure of the greyhound racing industry in NSW, he is determined to stick around as Premier to contest the 2019 election.

With only a little over two years to go, maybe the question is no longer for Baird, but one for his colleagues instead.

Mount Margaret remains on market


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ON THE MARKET: Mount Margaret was set aside at $15 million at an Elders auction in Brisbane this morning.LARGE scale Eromanga property Mount Margaret was set aside at $15 million at an Elders auction in Brisbane on Fridaymorning.

Mount Margaret, which includes Berellem, covers 470,504hectares (1.16 million acres), is described as“naturally organic” countryfenced into43 main paddocks and 15 holding paddocks. It is estimated to run7000 cows, selling the weaners, andhas theability to fatten cattle seasonally. It is also estimated to run60,000 sheep including20,000 ewes and2000 cows.

Marketing agent Dick Allpass, Elders, said two parties had registered to bid and negotiations were currently underway.

The country is described as astrong balance of flooded water course, open and shaded plains, red rolling pebbly country and strong red mulga. The predominant grasses areMitchell,Flinders, buffel, bluebush, lignum with an abundance of herbages, legumes, burrs and salines in season.About 70 per cent of the area receives beneficial flooding.

Mount Margaret features a large station homestead.

Water is supplied from 31bores, 58 dams and large water holes.

Improvements include a large station homestead,guest quarters, two staff homes, staffquarters and a recreational building, sheds, fourshearing sheds,and a sealed airstrip and hangar. Mount Margaret has two setsof cattle yards and a large set of portable yards.

The buyer of Mount Margaret also has the option to lease/buy Kihee Station.

Kihee covers 164,255ha (405,874 acres) is located adjacent toMount Margaret and surrounds the Jackson oil township. It is described as about 40pc pebbly red rolling downswith prolific Mitchell grass, shaded with gidyea and coolibah. A further30pc is soft red grazing country with the balance being red, stony hills, with good grazing.

The634,745ha (1.57m acre) aggregation is estimated to run 18,000 dry cattle,10,000 cows or 60,000 sheep and 6000 cows.

About 70 per cent of Mount Margaret receives beneficial flooding.

Kihee is fenced into four main paddocks and holding paddocks. It is estimated to run 3000 cows, selling the weaners. It also has the option to fatten cattle seasonally.

Water is supplied from seven bores, nine dams and the Brolga ponds.

Marketing agent Dick Allpass, Elders, said the soft Euro and Euro-cross cattle produced were indicative of the quality of the country. Weight gains of better than 1kg/day were achieved seasonally and 80pc-pluscalving rates had been achieved.

Contact Dick Allpass, 0417 070 418, Elders.

The country is noted for its Euro and Euro-cross cattle.

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Shellharbour hospital plans in sharp focus


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On Wednesday it arrived at the offices of the Illawarra Mercury.

It was a letter which was signed by 27 doctors of the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District stating their opposition to the Baird Government’s plans to part-privatise the Shellharbour Hospital.

It was bold because in essence the medical professionals had chosen to speak out publicly ultimately against their employer.

The front page of the Illawarra Mercury read “Test of Patients”.

NSW Opposition leader Luke Foley brandished that front page as he attacked Health Minister Jillian Skinner in question time in parliament in Sydney on Thursday.

Minister Skinner then returned fire brandishing an 800 words response from the Chairman of the IllawarraShoalhaven Local Health District Board Professor Dennis King, which he sent to the Mercury on Thursday.

While Professor King’s response was too large to print in paper in full, it can be found online at 梧桐夜网illawarramercury南京夜网419论坛.

Despite the doctors’ concerns about the impact on patients of the proposed changes, Professor King moved to reassured the staff and community this had the potential to return a better outcome.

“We will get more services for public patients for the same money,” Professor Kingsaid.

“[T]hat is, treatment will be provided free of charge and access will be solely on the basis of clinical need.

“I must reiterate to the community and our staff that no decision has been made on this proposal.”

DON’T DREAM IT’S OVERHave you ever wanted Crowded House tickets to “fall at your feet”?

Well theIllawarra Mercuryand Destination NSW are giving you that chance.

We have two tickets to give away to Crowded House’s Encore concert at the Sydney Opera House on Saturday, November 26.

All you have to do is go to the post on our Facebook page and tell us your favourite Crowded House track of all time.

Crowded House favourites such as Better Be Home Soon, Don’t Dream It’s Over and Fall At Your Feet featureprominently.

This series of concerts is the only concerts the band will play in the world in 2017.

The winner will be chosen at random at 10 am on Monday, November 21.

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Australian Open 2016: Curtis Luck upstages Jordan Spieth during intriguing first round


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Kids who skipped school came to watch Jordan Spieth, but they left talking about the guy he played with.

The scruffy, scrawny looking fella with a pony tail, pounding golf balls and perhaps more suited to catching Cottesloe’s hometown waves rather than riding a giant crest of one for Australian golf.

But whatever 20-year-old Curtis Luck did with club in hand, it wasn’t as impressive as what he did without it. Spieth mumbled often. Geoff Ogilvy agitated regularly. Luck smiled. And smiled. And smiled. And when he wasn’t smiling, his diminutive coach and caddie Craig Bishop did it for him.

Even when Luck dropped shots on consecutive holes late in his leaderboard-topping first round, which was seemingly fraying at the edges, the Spieth sideshow steadied to emerge as the real star.

“He could have shot even par for the day and instead he turned that into 5-under there in the middle of the round, so that’s the kind of stuff [that] is unteachable,” world No.5 Spieth gushed afterwards. “And he has that. I thought he was better composed than I was; no doubt. Certainly, I learned a bit from him today on that side of things.”

Let that sink in. An unflappable two-time major winner and former world No.1 learning from a West Australian kid who won’t earn a cheque this week playing his first Australian Open?

Tour veterans forecast amateur hour might hit Royal Sydney now that school is almost out for Australia’s Generation Next. It lasted for at least four hours on Thursday, headed by a kid wearing electric blue pants just in case his game wasn’t eye-catching enough. Aaron Baddeley circa 1999 all over again?

And yet Luck didn’t seem to be fazed. There was charisma too. Every time Spieth played one of those chips only he can do, or lagged a putt like only the world’s best with the flat stick can, Luck showed his appreciation. Either verbally or physically, at one stage abandoning his club to clap a Spieth gem.

“He was smiling the whole time, really enjoying himself,” Spieth said. “I had overheard him say, ‘haven’t hit a draw in a while’, to his caddy/coach … ‘but I guess we’re going to go with it today’. [He] just kind of understands where he’s at and how to play different shots. He’s certainly got all the tools.”

There was one point the normally unflappable Spieth (-3), who scrambled to finish two shots shy of Luck after the first round, vented uncharacteristically. Yet there was not a murmur from Luck if he strayed off course.

“God damn, Michael,” Spieth barked at his caddie Michael Greller, irritated with his own execution off the 17th tee which saw his ball plant in a greenside bunker. He would make an up-and-down recovery for par.

Luck: “I think every child at some point has a few little issues with controlling their anger, but it’s something I’ve got really good at.”

The standard fare when an amateur hidden away from the golf blow-ins for three weeks in summer surges above a couple of former No.1s in the Australian Open is usually a little bit of pandemonium. Who is he? Where did he come from? Why’s he playing with Spieth? There were 18 holes of reasons why on Thursday.

And you sense Luck, who is no Johnny-come-lately given his US Amateur win and with tickets into three majors next year if he wants them, won’t dwell one bit on the fact he outplayed Spieth and Ogilvy (-2) for a day.

“I find this pretty easy to do,” Luck said of the hype. “I kind of ignore it if you want my honest opinion. As I said, I’ll just do my own thing and regardless of what people are saying, I’ll just stick to what I’m doing. It seems to be working pretty well at the moment.”

Spieth had only moments earlier marched out of his own post-round press conference, quipping to a waiting Luck, “it’s your turn now”. That, it very well might be.

OPINIONDoing what we can … until real leaders rise again


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UNITY TRUMPS DIVISION: Flood-hit pupils from Picton’s St Anthony’s School being welcomed to Campbelltown five months ago. When people back each other up, not seek to divide and manufacture hate, is when magic happens.I was asked at an event this week what was the most heart-warmingnews story I saw in 2016.

I think it was when I snapped these photos.

Anxious students from St Anthony’s primary school in Picton–victims of the big main street flood in that township–were being bused up to temporary classrooms in Rosemeadow.

To see the smiles on their faces as they were welcomed by a parade of cheers, waving hands and streamers by the youngsters at Our Lady Help of Christians primary school was, I reckon, one of the most genuinely moving scenes.

I loved the simple message of unity. And in a week like the one we’ve just had–with naked hate and manufactured division being rewarded on the world stage–things like that are important.

Dunno about you, but my “battery” is constantly recharged by this incredible, big-hearted, artistic, and diverse community we live in.

It’s been more than a year since I quit as the editor, a bitburned-out, but the wonderful team at theAdvertiserhas held me close as a part of “the family”, getting me to write this weekly opinion column, and asking me to helpthem at events as diverse as Australia Day, the Fisher’s Ghost parade and the centenary of Tahmoor.

As I meet and chat with other locals, and photograph their smiles, I get the overwhelming vibe that much more unites us, than divides us. And, I’m still surprised by the unexpected.

I was at the John Therry High School’s Remembrance Day ceremony on Friday, and expected the solemn respect for our war dead. What I didn’t expect wasanother part of the assembly – including a clever film made by students – highlighting the importance of “random acts of kindness”. Brilliant.

But what do you say to idealistic young local people who say they despair at the hate and racism being rewarded and emboldened at ballot boxes around the world? All I can do is relate it to my time in newspapers.

The easiest thing for any journo is to write bad news. Crime, vandalism, stuff ups. Any cadet can do a story like that on their first day on the job. What really takes hard work is good news.

I mean backing causes, highlighting our schools, shining a light on quiet achievers, building campaigns, fighting broken promises and telling tales that make a difference. That takes time, hard work, research, community links and extra staffing resources where there are none.

Frustratingly, it is often the bad news that is rewarded, getting the big reactions or online hits. But, in thelong term, does it build communities and morale, and accurately reflect the depth of our amazing community? No.

That’s why it is such a credit to our tightly-staffed local media that it strives so hard to take the high road. That’s why, when stretched by other breaking stories, the big-hearted editor, Roma, will ask me to, say, cover kids from one flooded school being welcomed at another. Stories like that enrich us.

In contrast, the easiest thing for any grubby politician to do is take the low road.

To deliberately foster hate and racism and whip frightened or sidelined people into a frenzy of slogans. Like bad news, it too will be rewarded in the short term. But, in the long term, we need to believe the high road will eventually endure.

In the meantime, I suggest the best way to fight against big acts of hate is by doing small things with great love.

WE NEED REAL LEADERSWhen people feel unheard, ignored and unappreciated they often fall prey to snake oil salesmen.

There are manydecent hard-working families everywhere gettingscrewed by politicians and greedy bosses, while elite billionaires pay no tax. The real genius of Donald Trump, is that he’s an elite billionaire playing politics who pays no tax and reportedly screws his workers, but has convinced many battlers he is their messiah.

To quote a famous movie, he’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy.

And no leader. Real leaders bridge gaps, unite and make most people feel included. On a local front, I immediately think of the late Greg Percival. A former Campbelltown mayor (and namesake of the Ingleburn Library), he was one of our greatest statesmen. Why?

Well, Greg was a Liberal Party man by leaning, but instead of using that to buildwalls, he built close and respectful friendships with Labor mayors such as Aaron Rule and Bryce Regan. He was from one of our oldest pioneer families, yet warmly welcomed new residents and got them involved. Most tellingly, Greg was a World War II veteran who fought the Japanese, but in 1984 was at the forefront of creating the sister city bond with Koshigaya.

Wild ride in Nepal for university professor


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Preservation project: Federation University honorary researcher and wildlife photographer Steb Fisher will join Associate Professor Wendy Wright on a wildlife guide training program in Nepal. photograph steb fisher photography

A Gippslandbiologist will head to Nepal on Thursday to lead a wildlife guide training program aimed at preserving the region’s animals.

Federation University Associate Professor Wendy Wright will be joined by FedUni honorary researcher and wildlife photographer Steb Fisher on the trip to Bardia National Park, Nepal, where she will train local residents as wildlife guides.

Associate Professor Wright hopes by equipping residents with these skills it will provide the village with a reliable revenue stream through tourism and stop illegal poaching.

The park is surrounded by a buffer zone which supports poor farming communities and has significant populations of endangered species including rhinoceros, elephant, tiger, gharial crocodile and Bengal florican.

“A lot of the locals used to hunt the animals but they don’t do that anymore as they can make more money preserving and showing visitors these animals,” Associate Professor Wright said.

“This project… is about helping poor local communities in Nepal to get on board with wildlife conservation. It’s interesting, they are some of the poorest people in the planet but very committed to wildlife conservation.”

Mr Fisher said the trip also had its benefits for its volunteers.

“From a photographic point of view it’s very exciting. There are tigers, elephants, rhinos, deer all in this jungle and in the distance you look up and can see the Himalayas,” he said.

“It’s one of the most beautiful places in the planet and we are just lucky enough to get to help them.”

The pair leave for the Nepal trip on Thursday, with a stop-over in China, and will return about 10 days later.

Pasquale Barbaro promised Miranda Kerr as guest on underworld yacht party, court told


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CCTV footage shows Brothers For Life leader Farhad Qaumi (left) and Pasquale Barbaro at The Star casino in January 2014. Photo: Supplied Joe Antoun with his wife Teagan. Photo: Supplied

Sydney construction boss Elias “Les” Elias allegedly offered the Brothers for Life gang $200,000 to kill standover man Joe Antoun and offered to disguise the payment by buying a kebab shop, a murder trial has heard.

Farhad Qaumi, head of the Brothers for Life’s Blacktown chapter, is on trial in the NSW Supreme Court, charged with organising the shooting execution of Mr Antoun at his Strathfield home on December 16, 2013.

Insider details of the alleged murder contract were aired in court on Thursday as well as bizarre evidence that unwittingly dragged Australian supermodel Miranda Kerr into the trial and the recent murder of crime boss Pasquale Timothy Barbaro.

Barbaro, 35, was shot dead on Monday night just hours before phone intercepts of him talking to Mr Qaumi were due to be played in the murder trial.

A female acquaintance of Mr Qaumi’s, identified as Witness M, told the court on Thursday that she was present when Mr Qaumi and his brother Mumtaz said that Les Elias wanted Mr Antoun dead.

Mr Elias, a former business partner of Mr Antoun’s, had offered to hide payment for the killing by buying Mumtaz’ kebab shop, she said.

“Les was going to give them $150,000 for the kebab shop even though it wasn’t worth that, just to cover the money so it’s clean,” the witness said. “Mumtaz could keep it and Les would just get someone to run it.”

A few days later, the witness recalled driving up and down streets in Strathfield with Farhad, Mumtaz and a third man looking for a specific house.

At one point they stopped at a service station to look up a street directory because none of them had taken phones with them out of fear they would be tracked, she said.

The witness said she wasn’t present when Mr Antoun was killed but said Farhad was furious afterwards because the trigger-man “f–ked up”.

“He was happy that the hit was done but [the gunman] f–ked up because the guy had cameras and [the gunman] didn’t cover his face properly and he’s got f–ked up teeth,” the witness said.

Mr Elias, who survived an attempt on his life in the 1990s, moved to the Philippines and has refused to come back to Australia.

The trial also heard evidence about a New Year’s Eve yacht party in 2013 organised by Barbaro in honour of Mr Quami.

He had promised Mr Qaumi that all of the city’s biggest gangsters would be on the luxury Oscar II yacht and Miranda Kerr would be a special guest.

He told Mr Qaumi the party was “all for you” and he was “the main event”, a former Brothers for Life member, known only as Witness J, told the court.

However, Kerr did not attend the party and the Oscar II was shot at when it docked at Rose Bay at the end of the night. Mr Qaumi was hit in the shoulder.

Witness J told the court on Thursday that he thought Barbaro’s offer to Mr Qaumi was suspicious because the pair barely knew each other.

At the time of Mr Antoun’s death, Barbaro was pursuing him over an alleged $750,000 debt Mr Antoun owed to Griffith wine merchants.

The trial heard that Barbaro had told associates he had twice tried to kill Mr Antoun but had not gone through with it because both times Mr Antoun had been carrying a child.

Mr Qaumi’s defence team has argued that Mr Antoun had many enemies that could have killed him.

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Spiro Zavos: ‘Picasso of the Pass’ paints a sad picture

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QUADE Cooper grew up in the New Zealand idolising the extravagant rugby play of Carlos Spencer. Cooper has become a Spencer clone. There are the tats. And the cheeky grin when a clever play has come off. There are the outrageous passes (I once called Cooper, ”the Picasso of the Pass”), the sensational break-outs and the astounding variety of kicks that offer numerous chances for chasers to score tries. Why wouldn’t Robbie Deans pick this Wallaby wizard to bewilder the British and Irish Lions in their Test series?

The answer to this question, perhaps, is that Cooper has another trait of Spencer in his game, which is a tendency to make crucial mistakes in big games. And Deans knows crucial mistakes lose must-win matches. Roll the tape back to the semi-final of the 2003 Rugby World Cup tournament. The Wallabies are playing the All Blacks. As the All Blacks are leaving the field at the end of their warm-ups, Deans, then the assistant All Blacks coach, takes Spencer aside for one final instruction: ”Carlos, no cut-out passes!” After surviving a torrid initial onslaught from a fired-up Wallabies side, the All Blacks force a scrum 5 metres from the try line and near touch. They have the width of the field to score an easy try, if the ball goes through the hands. Spencer fires a long cut-out pass. Stirling Mortlock races on to it and runs to glory.

Roll the tape to the 2011 Cup semi-final. Deans is now the coach of the Wallabies. Cooper is his five-eighth. He kicks off. The ball goes out on the full. The All Blacks know this is their Mortlock moment. Then throughout the match, Cooper drops high balls under pressure.

There has been an intense Cooper v Deans debate in Australian rugby, before and after the naming of the Wallabies squad to play the Lions.

The case for Cooper: Deans has won 59.2 per cent of his 71 Tests. But this drops to 52 per cent for the 44 Tests when Cooper was not selected. The Wallabies have won 70 per cent of their matches (and 80 per cent of home Tests) when Cooper is the five-eighth.

The case against Cooper: in this year’s Super Rugby, Cooper has made 59 tackles and missed 12, for a completion rate of 83 per cent, the worst of all the five-eighths. The Reds have scored 26 tries this season. There are 9 other sides that have scored more tries. Cooper’s error rate, 29 for the season, is the highest in the tournament.

The case for Cooper is a historical argument. The case against him is a study in real time. Last weekend’s match, the Cheetahs v Reds at Bloemfontein, is instructive. We saw Cooper’s wonderful skills on display. There was a deft, exact kick early on in the match that Rod Davies chased through to score, but the try was overruled by the TMO for an obstruction off the ball that even the South African commentators disagreed with. Later, Cooper popped a slick inside-pass to Luke Morahan, for the fullback to burst through to score under the posts. Again, the TMO over-ruled the try, even though referee Craig Joubert watching the replays noted: ”Looks good to me”.

But early on in the match, the Cheetahs halfback burst clear. The commentator yelled out: ”He’s got Cooper to beat.” Moments later, with Cooper on his back after a feeble effort to tackle, the try was scored. Then towards the end of the match, Will Genia, under intense pressure, started to make uncharacteristic mistakes. Cooper was unable to hold the side together. Nor was he able to ”traumatise” the Cheetahs’ defensive systems. This was the explicit criticism of his current play that Deans made when he announced the 25-man Wallabies squad last Sunday.

Andrew Slack says Deans has not forgiven Cooper for his ”toxic environment” tweet of last year. It seems to me, though, the toxic impact of his mistakes on the field has more to do with his non-selection than his off-field comments.