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Squeals of excitement filled Sacred Heart Primary School yesterday as the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter paid students a visit.
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EXCITED students received a lesson in water rescue yesterday when the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter touched down at Sacred Heart Primary School.Crew members fielded questions from students, who were full of knowledge after learning all about the rescue service as part of a school program.Sacred Heart was selected from more than 300 schools across the country to host the helicopter and crew members who demonstrated water rescue methods, talked about some of their toughest days on the job and reinforced the importance of water safety.

Chopper show thrills students HELPING HAND: Isaak Newcombe demonstrates the harness-safety procedure with student Zak Stavroudakis yesterday.

The rescue helicopter arrives at Sacred Heart Primary.

Student Francis Hogan asks lifesaver Isaak Newcombe a question about the helicopter. Pictures: Carmel Zaccone

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IN: Joey Leilua has been named in the centres to face the Warriors at Hunter Stadium on Saturday.KNIGHTS coach Rick Stone has opted for size and experience ahead of unlimited potential by omitting incumbent Test winger Sione Mata’utia from Saturday’s season-opener against the Warriors at Hunter Stadium.
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In what must rate as the most agonising selection dilemma of his career, Stone preferred Joey Leilua and Dane Gagai as his centres, naming Mata’utia as Newcastle’s standby player in jersey No.18.

Barring a late switch to the nominated squad, the youngest-ever Kangaroos representative and arguably Newcastle’s brightest prospect since Andrew Johns will be a spectator for at least the first-round showdown.

Gagai and Leilua have been Newcastle’s established centre pairing since early in the 2013 season and are seasoned campaigners with 65 and 100 NRL games respectively to their names.

Mata’utia, 18, made his top-grade debut last season, and his seven games, which produced seven tries, were enough to earn him a shock selection in three Tests during Australia’s Four Nations campaign. He scored a try in Australia’s 22-18 loss to New Zealand in the tournament final.

But for the first time since he burst onto the scene in round 20 last season, the young flyer has experienced a reality check.

Given Stone had already endorsed skipper Kurt Gidley and wingers Akuila Uate and James McManus as his back three, he had three players vying for two centre roles.

Gagai, who did not miss a game for the Knights last season and played in the recent All Stars match, was retained as right centre, leaving Stone to weigh up the merits of Leilua and Mata’utia.

Leilua had a lacklustre pre-season but was preferred possibly because he outweighs Mata’utia by 13kilograms and his powerful frame will come in handy against the heavyweight Warriors.

Leilua is expected to mark devastating ball-carrier Konrad Hurrell.

Given he was wearing the green and gold just three months ago, Mata’utia is entitled to be disappointed, but if an interview with the Herald last week is any guide, he is unlikely to sulk.

Speaking at the Knights’ season launch, Mata’utia said there was ‘‘plenty of time to play plenty of first grade’’.

‘‘The guys that have been here for years deserve respect, and I think it is important to learn from them before you get to take hold of the reins,’’ he said.

‘‘I’m pretty young and I reckon I’ve still got a lot to learn. I’m going to absorb everything the veterans have to tell me and when it is my time I’ll hopefully be ready.’’

It was a brave decision by Stone, especially as Mata’utia and his two brothers, Chanel and Pat, are embroiled in a contract wrangle after signing letters of intent with Canterbury late last year.

Knights officials remain confident all three siblings will renege on their offers from the Bulldogs to re-sign with Newcastle.

Mata’utia’s omission ensures there is plenty of pressure on Newcastle’s outside backs to perform, because he is capable of playing centre, wing and fullback and is a ready-made replacement for anyone who is injured or under-performing.

There also remains a chance he could be a last-minute inclusion.

Stone indicated on Monday that he would choose his team on a horses-for-courses basis and did not rule out 11th-hour changes to his nominated squad.

‘‘Obviously there’s a couple of key positions we’ve still got to sort out, and we might keep those to game day,’’ Stone said. ‘‘It will be up to us to decide what we think is going to be the best balance and formula for the team on the day against the appropriate opposition.’’

The rest of Stone’s squad was as expected.

Korbin Sims will partner Kade Snowden in the front row, while new signing Jack Stockwell, veterans Chris Houston and David Fa’alogo and versatile rookie Tyler Randell are on the bench.

AAP reports: Team medical officers this season will have sideline access to footage of injuries to help them determine their severity.

Last season was the first in which official concussion protocols were in place, and NRL head of football Todd Greenberg said more work had to be done to change the game’s culture.

Players who suffered head knocks last year had to be withdrawn from the field immediately and have cognitive testing by a medical officer.

But some incidents were missed, and Greenberg said the new technology, which will be accessible in a tent nicknamed the ‘‘injury bubble’’ on the side of the field, would allow doctors to spot anything they might have missed.

‘‘Last year 155 players were assessed,’’ Greenberg said.

‘‘In 67 cases the player did not return to the game. That has been unheard of in previous years. There were also 88 cases where the player was assessed and then allowed to return.

‘‘There will be technology on sidelines for doctors to use high-definition screens to track injury. Doctors can look at this at any time during and after game.’’

PIC OF THE DAY: Send your photos of the Wimmera to [email protected]南京夜网.au or tag us on Instagram @wimmeramailtimes and use the hashtag #wakeupwimmera to have your pic included! Picture: @sjflicksta, via Instagram
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WEATHER

It’s a partly cloudy day ahead, with a top of 24. The morning should be mostly sunny though – lucky for morning people!

FIVE YEARS AGO

Callawaddashearer Aaron Hemley will have all the liquid support he needs for a world record attempt 48-hour shearing challenge in August. Mount Franklin water has given Mr Hemley $5000 and all the water and Gatorade he needs for the challenge.

Callawadda shearer Aaron Hemley, front, will attempt a 48-hour shearing challenge in August. Stawell Regional Health group has assembled a committee of health professionals to help him prepare for the challenge. The team is, from left, Caroline Teggert, Amanda Hemley, Henry Hemley, Meg Blake, Les Power, Peta Andrews, Peter Edwards, Liz McCourt, Caroline Tuck and Debbie Bach. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“There were people lining up to collect their stakes from 3pm who stayed overnight.‘People line up for fishing and iPhones these days it seems.” – Excitement is building ahead of the Horsham Fishing Competition at the weekend, according to assistant secretary Prue Beltz.

Horsham Fishing Competition assistant secretary Prue Beltz with her stake at the Wimmera River ahead of Sunday’s fishing competition. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

TOP STORIES

Wimmera winemakers are praising an ideal growing season for the outstanding quality of this year’s grapes.

Noradjuha-Quantong Football Netball Club members Lucy Brand, Chloe Gabbe, Georgia Francis, Bianca Anson and Brooke Pay pick grapes at Norton Estate Wines. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

SPECIAL FEATURE: Day one at the Wimmera Machinery Field Days

Celebrity chef Bree May cooks rabbit risotto at the field days on Tuesday. For more field days pics, click the link above. Picture: SAMANTHA CAMARRI

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Police scour bushland near Bonny Hills for evidence relating to the disappearance of William Tyrrell. Photo: Peter Gleeson Person of interest: William Spedding. Photo: Kate Geraghty
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Bones found in William Tyrrell search Police scour dense bushland for missing William TyrrellWilliam Tyrrell disappearance: police visit Bill Spedding’s house

The son of tradesman Bill Spedding says his father had nothing to do with the disappearance of three-year-old William Tyrrell as police scour bushland for evidence, including the toddler’s red and blue Spider-Man suit.

Rodney Spedding said his father had been unfairly harassed by the media, even though a number of other homes and properties had been searched by police – some up to three times, he believed.

“He’s got the biggest heart, he’s very generous. Bill has our full support, and [has] no link to the disappearance,” Mr Spedding told Fairfax Media on Tuesday afternoon.

“I feel very upset, it’s upsetting. The media attention has killed his business, and it’s affected his livelihood.”

Police divers are expected to search a murky creek in bushland between Bonny Hills and Lake Cathie on Wednesday morning.

A search involving 30 officers began on Monday but a police source has told Fairfax Media that only a few soft drink cans and a number of logging markers had been found so far.

The source also said police were on the look out for William’s favourite Spider-Man suit and any other items of interest.

Mr Spedding’s Bonny Hills home and Laurieton office was raided by police in January, following William’s disappearance from his grandmother’s home in September.

The 63-year-old became a focus of investigations after police learned he was due to fix a washing machine at William’s grandmother’s house about the time the toddler disappeared.

Searchers have not been directly told to look for a body but the homicide detective in charge of the investigation said it was always a possibility.

“Of course when we are looking for evidence that would also include a body,” Detective Inspector Gary Jubelin said at the search site.

“Clearly the fact and the resources that we dedicated to the search we thought it was worthwhile information to follow up,” he said.

Police have repeatedly said Mr Spedding was not a suspect but a person of interest but he has been the subject of intense media scrutiny in the past several weeks.

Mr Speeding’s son said he wished police would publicly rule his father out of the investigation but understood they had a job to do.

“He doesn’t need the attention he is getting it just seems media have singled him out for some bizarre reason.”

“I was hoping by now they [the police] would come out and say there is no link.”

He said most of the community on the mid-north coast had been very supportive of his father but that it had taken a hard toll.

“It’s been terrible. When it all started [the first police search of his home], they took his phone off him and we weren’t able to contact him and find out what was going on,” he said.

“It was very, very hard and it’s been very hard on Bill and Margaret.”

Mr Spedding said he and one of his sisters would continue to support their father and hoped police would soon find William.

“I’d like to see him found alive and well. I’d love to see them find him – it would be really, really good.”

The current search of bushland is six kilometres from Mr Spedding’s Bonny Hills home and 21 kilometres from the town of Kendall where William was last seen.

Detetective Inspector Jubelin has said the search was initiated after “fresh information” was received in recent weeks and was expected to wrap up on Wednesday afternoon.

“There will be further searches, when and where that will be I’m not prepared to say.”

Anyone with information was urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000

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Former Knox Grammar headmaster Dr Ian Paterson offered a heartfelt apology to victims. Former Knox headmaster Ian Paterson leaves the royal commission after giving evidence on his failure to protect the boys in his care. Photo: Christopher Pearce
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The faces of Knox’s dark eraWilkinson ‘appalled’ by ribbon removalBoys ‘cheered’ while girl ‘assaulted”Gobsmacked’ paedophiles still there

The former headmaster of Knox Grammar School Dr Ian Paterson dismissed a claim that former teacher Craig Treloar watched pornography with a student as just a “silly mistake”, a royal commission has heard.

He also told one boy who reported abuse at the hands of teacher Damien Vance to “go away and think about what he’d said.”

Another former student who was threatening the school with legal action over claims he had been molested by music teacher Barrie Stewart was ignored, the commission heard.

The long-serving former headmaster took the stand for the first time at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and spent most of the day giving evidence, following a heart felt apology to victims.

In evidence, he said he did not realise that it was a crime for a teacher to grope and sexually proposition a student nor was he aware of his legal obligation to report abuse.

The commission also heard evidence Knox Grammar regularly employed staff without doing background checks and teachers known to be suspect were allowed to “resign” from the school with glowing references which did not mention misconduct.

Dr Paterson denied he failed to inform the police of a serious sexual assault on school grounds involving a balaclava-clad man because he was worried about the school’s reputation.

“Controlling the reputation of the school never once entered my head,” he said.

It was widely believed the perpetrator was staff member Christopher Fotis, who was allowed to resign from Knox after being arrested for masturbating outside another school. A warrant has been issued for Fotis’ arrest after his failure to appear at the royal commission to date. His whereabouts are unknown.

Fotis, along with other suspect teachers Vance and Roger James, were given positive references from Knox. Vance and James went on to teach at other schools before being arrested over the Knox sex offences in 2009.

Dr Paterson told the commission he did not quiz Treloar over the pornography claims or attempt to find out whether the incident also involved sexual abuse of a student.

He said Treloar was: “a young, relatively immature teacher who had enormous potential in the profession and who had made a very silly mistake.”

Dr Paterson said he did not ask Stewart whether he had molested a child after his parents complained about the teacher.

Instead, he advised Stewart to stop giving students lifts in his car.

The commission heard evidence that another one of Stewart’s victims, ATJ,was planning to take legal action against the school but Paterson did not report the allegations to police.

ATJ’s student file went missing from the school, the commission heard, along with the file of another student also named in ATJ’s allegations.

Dr Paterson told the commission he believed the boys took the files.

Outside the commission, a former Knox student who was abused at the school described the evidence as “ridiculous” and “mind blowing.”

The former headmaster, who worked at the school from 1969 to 1998 will continue giving evidence at the hearing before Justice Jennifer Coate on Wednesday. Adults Surviving Child Abuse: 1300 657 380Survivors and Mates Support Network: 02 8355 3711Bravehearts: 1800 272 831

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Deadly duel: it may be small but the redback spider conquers the dugite. Photo: Chris O’Keefe
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Deadly duel: it may be small but the redback spider conquers the dugite. Photo: Chris O’Keefe

Deadly duel: it may be small but the redback spider conquers the dugite. Photo: Chris O’Keefe

Deadly duel: it may be small but the redback spider conquers the dugite. Photo: Chris O’Keefe

Who’d have thought: it seems redback spiders taking down snakes is a thing.

Images of a redback spider stalking, striking and snaring a snake at a Gooroc farm shed in regional Victoria have created a stir but it seems the spider versus the snake is old news at one Casuarina workshop.

WAtoday南京夜网.au reader Chris O’Keefe took photographs of the deadly duo after finding a redback spider had spun a dugite into its web in the corner of his electrical workshop on Friday.

“It was huge,” Mr O’Keefe said of the redback.

“When I first saw it I thought it was some cable stuck in a web but when I saw the spider furiously running up and down it I had a closer look and discovered it was a dugite,” Mr O’Keefe said.

He said he was surprised to see photographs of a similar fight to the death scenario were taken only days apart but on the other side of the country.

“We thought maybe it was that time of the year for this type of thing,” he said.

Mr O’Keefe said he and his workmates were relieved they discovered the spider and its booty on the handle of the workshop fire extinguisher before any fire broke out.

“I think everyone deep down has a fear of spiders,” he said.

“I guess now we will have a greater fear of walking through a battle royale between two of Australia’s deadliest creatures. I will definitely keep an eye open at work from now on.” Follow WAtoday on Twitter

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European wasps can be deadly and thrive in the WA climateEuropean wasps continue to spread across Perth with the insects now covering an area that occupies most of the city’s metropolitan area.
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Marc Widmer, senior technical officer with the Department of Agriculture and Food, said the wasps have gained a strong hold on the city, from Joondalup to Bedfordale, from Fremantle to Midland.

He was in Banjup on Tuesday to remove another nest.

“It seems to be really widespread this year,” Mr Widmer said.

“Two years ago we found our first nest in Banjup, now we’ve found 12 in the last two months.”

Mr Widmer said 43 nests have been removed from Perth so far this year.

“And there’s still plenty of activity,” he said.

Mr Widmer said the reasons as to why so many wasps are appearing in Perth remain a mystery.

“We don’t know why: is it because a nest was missed and they matured and released queens,” he said.

“Or is there an industry nearby that’s bringing in heavily infested produce?”

The European wasp, or Vespula germanica, is considered the world’s worst social wasp and has the potential to become a greater pest in WA than anywhere in the world, according to the Department of Agriculture and Food.

It appears the wasp problem in WA may be the result of authorities in the eastern states letting their wasp populations get out of hand.

“As they’ve been left uncontrolled in the eastern states, they’re spreading,” Mr Widmer said.

“A larger area is now infested.”

Self proclaimed “wasp whisperer” Shannon Cash believes the wasp problem may be worse than many think.

He said he recently travelled to Quinninup, about 300 kms south of Perth, and while he was having a beer with mates at a local hotel, he noticed some wasps buzzing around that he thought were of the European strain.

When asked if he was sure if they were European wasps, Mr Cash replied: “Mate, I’m 100 per cent sure.”

Wasp whisperer Cash does have an eye for spotting the insects.

He managed to detect some wasps in Fremantle before their nest was removed in January, as revealed by Fairfax Media, and has since studied the insects after being provided with a wasp detection kit by Mr Widmer.

“I was alarmed when I saw them buzzing around a fence in Quindanning especially after our close encounter in Fremantle,” Mr Cash said.

“Clearly, the wasp problem is getting worse.”

Mr Widmer said he will investigate.

Anyone interested in helping to stop the wasps can contact the Pest and Diseases Information Service on 1800 084 881. Follow WAtoday on Twitter

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Andrew Chan, one of the Bali Nine duo at Kerobokan Prison on what his last day in Kerobokan Prison before he is transfered to Nusakambangan prison island. Photo: Kate Geraghty Myuran Sukumaran one of the Bali Nine duo (left) with Barrister Julian McMahon (right) at Kerobokan Prison on what is the last visit before he is transfered to Nusakambangan prison island for upcoming execution. Photo: Kate Geraghty
Nanjing Night Net

Bali nine executions: spiritual advisers ready for final hoursLegal appeals irrelevant, say Indonesian officialsRobb shelves trade delegation to Indonesia

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran will be transferred to the execution island of Nusakambanganon on Wednesday, it has been announced.

Momock Bambang Samiarso, Bali’s chief prosecutor and the man in charge of the transfer, made the announcement after meeting with police, military and other officials.

The two Australians, reformed drug smugglers, are aware they will be moved, said Kerobokan prison governor Sudjonggo. He said the duo had given some of their belongings to other members of the Bali nine syndicate and Sukumaran had told them to “be careful”, or behave well, after he left.

The duo will be allowed to bring personal belongings with them, but their families will not be able to visit them on Wednesday, as preparations for the move will restrict access, Sudjonggo told Fairfax Media earlier.

A dismayed Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said it was callous for the executions to proceed given the men’s rehabilitation.

“I will continue to contact counterpart ministers to press for a stay of execution,” she said.

Chan’s brother Michael and Sukumaran’s mother Raji visited the pair on Tuesday but left the penitentiary before news emerged of the timing of their transfer. Other family members are expected to come over from Australia soon. Families will be able to visit the two men on Nusakambangan.

As Sudjonggo spoke, they were being comforted by their lawyer, Julian McMahon.

The transfer will use two military transport planes, Mr Momock said. One will contain the Australians and their guards. The other will contain another contingent of security personnel.

He said the transfer would occur on Wednesday “siang”, or day. The phrase usually denotes a time between 10am and 3pm.

Speaking later, Mr Mocock told reporters to “standby from the morning”, meaning the transfer could happen even earlier.

The men are expected to be transported to Denpasar airport from the prison in armoured personnel vans, most likely the police’s Barracuda vehicles.

Chan and Sukumaran can expect to be executed soon after the transfer, with Indonesia’s attorney-general saying that the execution by firing squad of the two men and eight other drug felons will happen “ASAP”.

The men will be given 72 hours notice before they are killed. As well as their families, lawyers and a religious counsellor will be able to see them while on Nusakambangan, an island with a prison complex in Central Java.

Indonesian lawyers for Chan and Sukumaran have released a statement calling on the Attorney-General to refrain from executing the Australians or transferring them from Bali’s Kerobokan jail while legal action is underway.

The statement said the men had challenged the dismissal to their appeal in the Jakarta State Administrative Court on Monday.

Secondly, they had submitted a report to the Judicial Commission on February 13 alleging violations of judicial conduct and ethics.

This was based on information obtained by the men’s former lawyer, Muhammad Rifan, who alleged the judges who sentenced Chan and Sukumaran to death offered a lighter sentence in exchange for money.

“Indonesian criminal law basically guarantees the rights of convicts to defend their legal rights,” the statement said.

“Due to the ongoing legal recourse by Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan it would therefore be appropriate if the Attorney-General’s office respects such legal recourse by refraining from carrying out the execution of sentence against Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, including transferring them from Kerobokan prison to the prison at Nusakambangan.”

Indonesia’s attorney general Prasetyo said on Monday that legal appeals pending for Chan and Sukumaran would not have any impact on the executions. Because the drug smuggling duo had their clemency appeals rejected by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, he said, these later appeals were irrelevant.

Lawyers for Chan and Sukumaran reacted angrily to the remarks, saying Mr Prasetyo was not respecting the rule of law in the country and would bring international condemnation upon Indonesia by rushing through the executions.

Mr Prasetyo revealed on Tuesday that prisons on Nusakambangan have requested that the Bali nine duo not spend too much time in isolation on the island.

Stating – as he did on Monday – that preparations were 95 per cent complete for the execution of 10 drug felons, Mr Prasetyo said an evaluation of the first batch of executions this year had shown there were things that needed to be improved.

The execution of six drug felons on January 18 was hampered by weather problems, journalists masquerading as fishermen to try and access the island and confusion over the religion of those condemned.

“We will immediately carry out the executions when the preparation is completed,”  Mr Prasetyo said on Tuesday. “The principle is that once they are there they should not wait too long in their cell.”

There were also still prisoners who needed to be transported from Madiun and Yogyakarta. “After the evacuation we will determine the time of the execution,” Mr Prasetyo said.

Meanwhile, fellow prisoner on death row, Filipino Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso had her request for a judicial review into her case adjourned until Wednesday.

The migrant worker was sentenced to death for smuggling 2.6 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia from Malaysia in 2010.

Indonesia plans to kill 10 drug felons in a mass execution that will require 120 members of a combined firing squad, 12 for each victim.

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The Abbott government has failed to pass a controversial budget proposal to reduce research and development tax breaks for all companies by 1.5 per cent.
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The reduction in the rate was budgeted to provide a $620 million saving over four years but was voted down by Labor and the Greens on Monday night.

Opposition innovation spokesman Kim Carr said it was a “harsh, unfair and job-destroying measure [that] was based on a lie, and the Senate has rejected it accordingly”.

He said some of Australia’s biggest R&D investors – including companies such as Cochlear, CSL, Telstra and Caltex – had made it clear that constant tinkering with the tax break on R&D investment would cost jobs.

Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt said the Senate’s rejection of the $620 million in cuts was a “big win for science and research and a big win for business”.

“The Parliament’s rejection of these cuts is a step towards stemming the bleeding [to innovation],” he said.

Tax experts have welcomed the move to ditch the 1.5 per cent reduction in the tax offset but slammed the decision to limit tax breaks for companies spending over $100 million on R&D, and back date the change to July 1 last year.

As Fairfax Media reported, thanks to a deal with the Palmer United Party (PUP) last month, up to 25 Australian companies including Telstra, BHP and Rio Tinto will only be able to claim tax breaks for R&D spending up to $100 million.

Anything above that amount will no longer be eligible. The cap will apply retrospectively.

PwC tax partner Sandra Boswell said it could result in high-tech investment shifting offshore.

“It could mean that projects could move to more favourable regimes in the region, such as Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia,” she said. “They all have R&D incentive programs and they are increasing them, not putting caps on it.”

She said she hoped the upcoming tax white paper would consider new incentives encouraging companies to innovate.

KPMG head of R&D incentives David Gelb said any proposal to reduce the R&D rate again needed to be coupled with a reduction in the corporate tax rate.

He said the affect of the cap would mean that companies which have this level of R&D spending and engage with smaller companies, universities and research bodies to undertake work for them would no longer be able to do so.

“This engagement with the broader community will be significantly impaired,” he said.

MPR Group partner Brendan Brown said despite the cap, he was pleased that small to medium businesses would continue to get existing tax breaks on R&D spending.

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There are fears BHP will not renew its tugboat contract with Teekay.Port Hedland tugboat workers may give up some of the concessions they won just four months ago, amid fears tugboat operator Teekay may not have its contract to operate in the nation’s biggest iron ore port renewed by BHP Billiton later this year.
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Despite striking a new four-year workplace agreement in November, Teekay and the tugboat unions are back in negotiations over workplace conditions in a bid to help the company retain its contract beyond its expiry around September.

Teekay has written to unions informing them of an urgent need to reduce costs ahead of the expiry, with sources suggesting the tugboat operator may be the latest contractor to feel the force of BHP’s drive to reduce contracting costs.

BHP has recently invited Teekay and rival tugboat operators to tender for the contract, and sources have suggested BHP has given an outline of the terms under which it would ideally like to award the next contract.

There is a belief that BHP will favour bidders whose workforce is employed on an “even time roster”; such as where workers are rostered on for four weeks, then have four weeks off.

The tugboat workers were living under such an “even time” roster prior to November’s workplace deal, which gave them an extra four weeks of annual leave.

BHP has been pushing its entire contractor base for savings over the past three years in a bid to offset the impact of falling commodity prices, and has shown a willingness to change contractors in pursuit of savings and better results, as seen by the installation of mining contractor HSE on Queensland coal mines in place of Thiess and Leightons.

BHP sent a clear message to Teekay and the tug workers in December when it introduced a second tugboat contractor, Rivtow, to run four tugs at Port Hedland.

Teekay declined to comment on the sudden resumption of negotiations with the tugboat unions, while BHP confirmed Teekay’s contract would expire later this year.

“BHP Billiton has contracted Teekay Marine to provide towage services in the Port Hedland Port for more than ten years. BHP Billiton’s contract with Teekay will expire this year, and in anticipation of this, a competitive tender process is currently being conducted. Teekay Marine was invited to tender as part of this process,” said a spokesman for BHP.

BHP would not comment publicly on whether it had indicated the workplace terms it would like to see under the next contract.

Port Hedland is the epicentre of Australia’s iron ore export industry, and the tugboats are crucial to the operation of the port because the ships carrying the iron ore to Asia cannot enter or leave port without the assistance of tugs.

Australian Maritime Officers Union spokesman Robert Coombs, who represents one of the three classes of workers on the tugs, said tug workers may be willing to give up the extra annual leave if Teekay were successful in the tender.

“The best conditions are not worth anything if you don’t have a workplace,” he said.

“If Teekay wins the contract we may have to consider a variation [to the workplace deal struck in November].”

The Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers, which represents a different class of tug workers, has indicated it is willing to negotiate with Teekay, and would potentially be willing to part with the extra annual leave entitlements won last year.

“We stand prepared to engage in discussions aimed at retaining your current business case in Port Hedland,” the union said in a letter to Teekay this week.

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