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Concerns over Bindoon School raised with welfare department, Royal Commission hears

WA victims tell commission they were ‘forced’ to sign settlementPerth child abuse inquiry told about the horrors of sexual abuseVictim became Christian Brother only to be ‘treated like outsider’

Concerns about the living conditions at Bindoon Farm School were raised in documents from the West Australian government department responsible for child welfare at the time, an inquiry into institutional abuse has heard.

WA Department of Child Protection acting director general Emma White presented the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse with a number of documents on the third day of the public hearing being held in Perth.

An inspection report written in November 1947 about a visit to Bindoon Farm School the month before raised concerns with “the cleanliness and physical environment in which the children were being kept”.

A letter from the secretary of the government department to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Perth in regard to this visit addressed these welfare issues.

“I have no doubt when I next visit in three or four weeks there will be a decided improvement along the lines I wish, and more particularly in the educational facilities.”

In further reference to the visit in another document also raised the issue.

“I think you will agree as Minister for Education that boys of school age being brought out from England under the migrant scheme must at least be given a chance to be decently educated”

There was also mention in a report that no more boys should be admitted to Bindoon until the “general standard of clothing and cleanliness and better facilities for education provided.”

There was no mention of sexual abuse being noted in any available documents.

Few details of the role the department played were found after records from much of that period were destroyed, as per department policy.

Ms White told the commission no one currently working in the department had any working knowledge of the events in question. She said there were not even any living former employees able to be found who had worked for the department at the time.

Ms White said as far as she could tell the department at the time had “obligations” which included site visits and institution inspections but these were listed as “discretionary powers” and were “ad hoc in nature” and “at the discretion of the minister”.

Independence of Christian Brothers service for ex residents questioned

The independence of a body set up by the Christian Brothers to assist ex-students from Christian Brothers institutions has been called into question at the hearing.

Maria Harries, the head of the Christian Brothers Ex Residents Service, which was set up in 1994 to “meet the needs of former students” said the body was meant to be independent from the church.

Professor Harries said the service “was ever growing but different for all of them [clients]”.

Among other services, CBERS assisted men originally from Malta and the United Kingdom to travel there for “reunification,” assisted with family tracing services, literacy programs and offered ex-students 12 sessions of counseling.

During questioning it emerged that Brothers were present at meetings but Professor Harries said matters were only discussed in “general terms” with the Brothers.

She said this was required “in order to tell them [the Brothers] what we wanted to do, because we needed money to do it”.

She said having transparency about the relationship with the Christian Brothers was important as “we owed it to the men”.

Professor Harries said matters being dealt with by CBERS were not always private from the Brothers.

“Sometimes the Christian Brothers knew things that I hadn’t told them,” she said.

“Nothing is ever that neat.”

Professor Harries said she’d never set up an organisation before and she worked in a team alongside Dr Paul Carman and Professor David Plowman, two people who had been recommended to her by the Christian Brothers.

She said the popularity of the service saw it expand from part time to a full time service.

Professor Harries admitted that at the time, 20 years ago “post traumatic stress disorder was only emerging as a concept,” and there was a lot of “learning” as the service was operated.

She said, however, “there was never any closure, you cannot ever get back the life you lost”.

The service operated until a review in 2005 showed there was reduced demand for it.

Professor Harries gave evidence after the last of the victims testify gave evidence on Wednesday.

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Harriet Burbidge-Smith quits school to chase BMX dream

Harriet Burbidge-Smith. Photo: Katherine GriffithsCanberra BMX racer Harriet Burbidge-Smith admits she has made a ”huge gamble” to quit school and chase her world championship and Olympic Games dreams.

The 17-year-old, who has been labelled a Caroline Buchanan clone, will get a close view of the reigning world titleholder at this weekend’s national titles in Shepparton.

Burbidge-Smith will aim to wrap up the national series title on Thursday before she lines up in the Junior Elite category on Saturday.

Her focus will then turn to competing professionally in the US and Europe and putting up a strong showing in her last event as a junior at the world championships in Amsterdam.

Burbidge-Smith left the final year of school at Dickson College to be a full-time BMX racer and has designed her own range of clothing.

She understands the enormous risk she is taking, but believes it is something she has to do to reach the pinnacle of her sport.

“When I left college it was a huge gamble, that’s everyone’s back- up and what everyone looks at when you go for a job, and I was willing to give up everything and put it on the line,” Burbidge-Smith said.

“That just shows the commitment I’m giving to it.

“I’m a very determined personality, in terms of I don’t see any grey, I either go for it 100 per cent or I don’t go for it at all.

”I didn’t want 90 per cent BMX and 10 per cent school, I wanted to be 100 per cent BMX because that’s what my dream is.”

The dual world champion commissioned a professional photo shoot at the start of the year for her website as a way to promote herself to potential sponsors.

Burbidge-Smith has trademarked the ”Haz” name for her business and splits her days between training and working on her laptop.

“You can be the fastest rider out there, but if you’re not promoting yourself and you can’t talk well, you’re not going to get very far,” she said.

“You’re not going to make a living just off riding your bike.

“That’s what sponsors and investors look for.

“In the last six months I have really made that transfer to being a professional athlete.

”It’s your job 100 per cent, that’s how you’re going to pay the bills and have a house, so you’ve got to take it serious.”

Having already been in the sport for 13 years, it’s easy to see why there are comparisons between Burbidge-Smith and fellow Canberran Buchanan.

Burbidge-Smith is flattered by it, but at the same time she wants to show she is her own competitor and is focused on representing Australia at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“Caroline’s an amazing rider and an amazing person, so people just assume because I’m following the same path as her that I’m copying her,” she said. “We’ve got such similar interests and we work together with our ideas.

“She’s a world champion and has been to the Olympics, so if I can be compared to her as a rider then that’s amazing.”

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McLachlan to mend relationship with Hird

Gillon McLachlan will attempt to repair the AFL’s fractured relationship with James Hird when the suspended Essendon coach returns home.

The frustration, even anger, the Hird camp had towards the AFL over the supplements scandal was still obvious last month when Tania Hird again took aim at outgoing AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou.

McLachlan, having officially been appointed as the new chief executive, said it was important the relationship with Hird, who is set to return as coach later this year, was mended.

“I think it’s incredibly important that we move forward with Essendon and every individual there, whether that’s James or Mark [Thompson] or everyone,” he said.

“I think most of the relationships have progressed. I am sure at the right time when James returns we will talk and we will move on because that’s what the industry and Essendon needs.”

Hird is in France completing a degree at a business school.

The AFL and Essendon executives have already worked hard this year to begin afresh, although Bombers chairman Paul Little re-opened debate at the weekend when he claimed the club “gave away all our leverage” by self-reporting last year.

McLachlan was involved in brokering the contentious suspensions of Hird and former football department chief Danny Corcoran last year.

He admitted the controversy at the time, not to mention the later disclosure that Hird, although suspended, was still being paid by the club, had stripped some “skin” off him, but was glad it had not affected his hopes of being offered the chief executive role by AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick.

“I don’t propose to go back and look at that. With respect to me specifically in this role, I am sure there was some skin taken off me. There was skin taken off a lot of people,” he said.

“It was an incredibly tough period in the history of our game. We ended up in a position that I don’t think was edifying for a lot of people and it certainly wasn’t great for the game. It probably did take some bark off me, but as I sit here right now, having reached agreement with Mike yesterday, thankfully not too much.”

McLachlan said he expected that if any show-cause notices to players as a result of the investigation by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority were forthcoming they would be issued in the second half of May.

He said the report into the scandal, compiled by retired federal court judge Garry Downes, would be handed down by Thursday.

As a result of the scandal, the AFL has looked to establish an independent panel that would adjudicate on all serious matters, ensuring the AFL executive and commission cannot again be considered to have had a conflict of interest. This would also avoid the potential for legal appeals.

“We have done quite a lot of work, we haven’t reached the formal conclusion yet,” Fitzpatrick said. “I have got a very good sense of the shape of it but it would be a bit premature to announce it today.”

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Chris Hartcher sought illegal donations from Nathan Tinkler: ICAC

Liberal party fundraiser Aaron Henry leaving the ICAC hearing. Photo: Rob Homer Sydney accountant Timothy Trumbull (left) leaves the ICAC hearing. Photo: Rob Homer

ICAC appearance: former resources minister Chris Hartcher. Photo: Phil Hearne

Former Liberal state energy minister Chris Hartcher was personally involved in seeking illegal donations from embattled coal mogul Nathan Tinkler, text messages tendered at a corruption inquiry reveal.

A former staff member to Mr Hartcher, Aaron Henry, texted the controller of an alleged Liberal Party slush fund on June 8, 2010: “CPH [Christopher Peter Hartcher] wants confirmation the invoice has been sent to Patinack Farm.”

“Confirmed,” a long-time adviser to Mr Hartcher, Tim Koelma, replied at 9.52am.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption is investigating allegations that Mr Koelma set up a “sham business” called Eightbyfive to receive donations from illegal sources, including $66,000 from Mr Tinkler’s property development group Buildev via his horse racing business Patinack Farm.

Property developers have been banned from donating to political parties in NSW since December 2009.

Mr Hartcher and fellow central coast MPs Chris Spence and Darren Webber, along with staff members Mr Koelma and Ray Carter, allegedly solicited secret donations in return for political favours.

Mr Henry told the commission on Wednesday he did not know why Mr Hartcher would be “distracting himself” from the March 2011 state election campaign by asking about a horse racing operation.

“This is a pretty important inquiry, I think,” counsel assisting the commission, Geoffrey Watson, SC, said. “Most people in NSW are watching it. It’s pretty important for us to find out why.”

Mr Henry said he was a “junior staffer” and was “at the direction” of his boss.

Later on Wednesday, Sydney accountant Timothy Trumbull was accused of knowingly breaching political donations laws by using Irish backpackers on his payroll as “fronts” to donate $4000 to the NSW Liberal Party.

The inquiry has heard the money eventually made its way into another alleged slush fund, Micky Tech, after Mr Hartcher laundered the money through his old law firm, Hartcher Reid. The firm is not accused of wrongdoing.

Described as ”avidly anti-socialist”, Mr Trumbull, his wife Lynn and his company had all reached their cap on allowable donations, the hearing was told.

Mr Trumbull insisted he was not breaking the law as the backpackers were ”very interested in politics” and were happy to spend their bonuses on donations.

”They were not even entitled to vote, they were backpackers from England and Ireland,” Commissioner Megan Latham said.

”I don’t even have an interest in my own country’s politics,” one of the backpackers said in a statement tendered to the commission.

But Mr Trumbull insisted: ”It was organised so that no laws were broken.”

”I am putting to you that you are lying,” Mr Watson said.

The inquiry was told that Mr Trumbull dropped the three cheques to Dee Why real estate agent John Caputo before the 2011 state election.

Mr Caputo, who is a former mayor of Warringah and a major fund-raiser for Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Premier Mike Baird, later gave the cheques to Mr Hartcher. He is expected to give evidence on Thursday.

The inquiry also heard that Mr Hartcher used Liberal MLC Charlie Lynn to do a favour for Obeid-linked company Australian Water Holdings, which donated more than $180,000 to Eightbyfive.

Mr Lynn, who is not accused of wrongdoing, said he was not a friend of Mr Hartcher although they were “supposedly” from the same conservative right faction of the Liberal Party.

“I think they call it the IKEA faction now,” Mr Lynn said. “You join it together when you want something done.”

Ms Latham quipped: “Does it come with its own Allen key?”

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Netball powers should consider a two-point scoring zone

Tall order: Romelda Aiken of the Firebirds. Photo: Quinn RooneyThe emergence of the towering goal shooter in the ANZ Championship has seen a marked shift in the way the game is played by some teams and should have netball powers considering the introduction of a two-point scoring zone.

This would not only have the obvious effect of encouraging teams to take a risk with a long-bomb shot for the reward of double points but it would also bring the goal attack back into play as a shooting option in those teams which  rely on a tall goal shooter to do the bulk of their scoring.

Watching the NSW Swifts defeat New Zealand side Southern Steel in their historic ANZAC Day clash proved an interesting contrast in attacking styles, and showed up the limitations of the lofty, holding goal shooter. The Southern Steel – featuring the ANZ Championship’s tallest player, 198 centimetre Jhaniele Fowler-Reid – played an incredibly one-dimensional game and were held to account by a Swifts defensive unit that played a tight marking style, and never allowed Steel to find their rhythm and their gigantic target.

At the other end the Swifts more mobile duo of Susan Pratley and Caitlin Thwaites used ball speed and clever moves to pile on the goals to set up their team’s win. Interestingly the Swifts goal circle of Pratley and Thwaites have the most even returns of any partnership in the league, with just 13 goals separating their respective hauls of 210 and 197 goals for the season.

The most successful teams are those that can score through both their goal shooter and their goal attack. This is because a goal attack who is in the circle putting up goals splits the defensive unit, and in doing so creates more space to play with. To do this she needs a goal shooter who can get out of the circle to make space when necessary, and who can also set up play for her attacking partner.

When a team boasts a towering goal shooter whose game plan is to plant herself in the middle of the circle plucking in skyscraper passes there is little doubt that she will dominate the scoreboard, but the team  also runs a huge risk that it will be shut down by a well-prepared defence. This is the case for the Steel, and, to a lesser extent the Queensland Firebirds with Romelda Aiken and West Coast Fever with Caitlin Bassett. Between them these three teams boast the tallest shooters in the competition, who regularly deliver 40 goal-plus games for them, yet only one of them, the Firebirds, sit in the top four of the ladder.

Added to the risk is the downside for the fans in that it really does make the goal attack the third feeder. This takes away the opportunity to see just how good goal attacks are at creating play, using space and, most importantly, sinking shots. Generally goal attacks are among the best athletes in the team, so the challenge is to find a way to encourage them to use that athleticism and skill when they are paired with a tall shooter who dominates the attacking space.

Coaches can do this in the game plan they devise, but administrators also have a role to play. Any change to the rules of netball as fundamental as altering the scoring system would have to be carefully considered. It would be a worthwhile exercise if it ensured that some of our sport’s best athletes don’t become a sideshow.

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Former refugee warns Cambodia not ready to accept asylum seekers

No fond memories: Youhorn Chea fled Cambodia more than 30 years ago when the Khmer Rouge was in power. Photo: Wayne TaylorLike it was yesterday, Youhorn Chea recalls being crammed into the back of a truck by people smugglers and making the dangerous 300-kilometre journey across the Cambodian border into Thailand.

It has been more than 30 years since he fled the Khmer Rouge regime, which claimed both his parents and five of his siblings, but he still remembers every detail; navigating landmines, armed gangs swarming the jungle, soldiers indiscriminately shooting refugees in the night.

After a year in a Thai refugee camp, Mr Chea eventually made it to Australia with his family. Now president of the Cambodian Association of Victoria, he has condemned the federal government’s plan to resettle refugees in Cambodia, saying the south-east Asian country is still plagued by human rights atrocities.

”They shoot their own people there,” he said. ”The treatment for the refugees would be very bad. If they don’t listen, they will just eliminate them. They will shoot a refugee.”

Mr Chea said news of the controversial deal was designed to scare asylum seekers from coming to Australia.

”I think it will work,” he said. ”The Cambodian people still do not have any real freedom, so how can they give freedom to the refugees? There is corruption, no freedom of speech, and they discriminate against poor people. Contacts in Cambodia tell me the government is almost like the puppet of the Vietnamese regime again. The Australian government just wants to close their eyes.”

Mr Chea said the Australian-Cambodian community was “disgusted” by news of the plan. ”They all say the same thing, they can’t understand why Australia would send refugees there. No one wants to go there.”

Mr Chea escaped Cambodia with his wife, their four young children, and two other family members. ”There were a lot of landmines so a lot of people died,” he said. ”We each carried one of the children, but if we did not have help to carry them we would not have been able to escape.”

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Easier ways to fix budget than ‘deficit tax’

Tax credits: Dr Nicholas Gruen of Lateral Economics. Photo: Rodger Cummins Other options: Saul Eslake from Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Photo: Pat Scala

The federal government’s budget deficit could be paid back more easily, and without the political pain, if it considered alternatives to its controversial “deficit tax.”Some of Australia’s most respected economists have suggested simple policy ideas that would help the Abbott government to return the budget to surplus.Some were considered by the Henry Tax Review in 2010, which reviewed the taxation side of the federal budget.Others would affect the expenditure side of the budget, which is being considered by the Commission of Audit.“There are a few big changes we can make,” Dr Nicholas Gruen, of Lateral Economics, said.“There is a very strong case against dividend imputation (tax credits paid to shareholders).”Dr Gruen said the government could abolish dividend imputation and use the money to fund a gradual reduction in the company tax rate, to 19 per cent.He said dividend imputation is not recorded as a tax expenditure, but its cost would be well over $20 billion a year.“It would immediately solve the budget deficit problem,” Dr Gruen said.“Over time you could then phase company tax down to fully reflect the additional revenue that it brought on as the budget position gradually improved with fiscal drag and economic growth,” he said.Saul Eslake, the chief economist of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said the Abbott government could abolish negative gearing, broaden the base of the income tax system, and stop taxing trusts as companies.“This last idea was something Joe Hockey advocated soon after becoming shadow treasurer, only to be slapped down by many of his colleagues,” Mr Eslake said.“I’d also eliminate the seniors tax offset, and I’d reintroduce indexation of the petroleum products excise.”This  proposal was backed by Chris Richardson, the director of Deloitte Access Economics.“It’s now 13 years since we stopped indexing the petrol excise,” he said.”It’s been frozen at 38.1 cents a litre for 13 years now and there is no possible word to use for that other than ‘dumb’.”That is because we are making the decision every day as a nation to reduce fuel tax as a share of our purchasing power, he said.“And I would prefer that they adopted Henry Review-style treatment of superannuation, so the biggest benefits do not go to the highest income earners”.Mr Richardson supported the Commission of Audit, because it was looking at ways to reduce spending and the “biggest mistakes of the past decade” have been in spending.He said Australian governments “overdid it” with family benefit payments, with baby bonuses, and the increase in corporate welfare.“This happened under both sides of politics,” he said.Mr Eslake said one of the ideas from the Henry Tax Review – to introduce a minerals resource rent tax – was laudable in principle.“[That review] recommended a minerals resource rent tax, and while I am, in principle, in favour of such a tax I never was in favour of the form of it that Henry recommended, he said.“But clearly that’s not going to happen anyway”. 

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Decision to quit vindicated: White

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA – APRIL 24: Jake White, Director of Rugby of the Sharks during the Sharks captain’s run at Growthpoint Kings Park on April 24, 2014 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images) Photo: Gallo ImagesFormer ACT Brumbies coach Jake White says he has no regrets about quitting the club last year, adding the timing of his departure was “win-win” and has been vindicated by the Canberra team’s ongoing success this year.

White is back in Australia preparing to lead the Durban Sharks on a four-game Australia-New Zealand tour, which includes a potential top-of-the-table blockbuster against the Brumbies in Canberra on May 10.

White’s abrupt departure last year, two years into a four-year deal, shocked Brumbies players and fans.

The South African mentor hoped he wouldn’t be subjected to a backlash from Canberra supporters, the Brumbies toying with plans to encourage fans to wear white to the game as part of a “White-out”.

But with the Sharks and Brumbies first and second respectively on the Super Rugby ladder, White felt both camps had benefited.

“I genuinely thought it was a win-win situation for everybody,” White said of his departure from the Brumbies. “In a lot of ways that has been vindicated now by the way the Brumbies have continued their success.

“From the bottom of my heart I believe the Brumbies are in a great place. [Leaving] was never done with any bad intent.

“[New coach] Stephen Larkham is doing a great job … I really believe everything I set out to do [at the Brumbies] is coming to fruition.

“I can’t emphasise how much I loved my time in Canberra, it was one of the highlights of my coaching career. I don’t have any regrets. It would be sad for me if I arrive and it leaves a bitter taste.”

White said the changing landscape of Australian sport was part of his decision to return to South Africa.

He was in contention to coach the Wallabies when Robbie Deans was sacked, but the ARU opted for Ewen McKenzie. ARU chief executive Bill Pulver had admitted one of McKenzie’s key advantages was coaching to “play the Australian way”.

“When I arrived in Canberra there were three foreign coaches in charge of national soccer, cricket and rugby union teams and the ARU always made clear there would be opportunities,” White said.

“That landscape changed, there was no reason and it’s not right or wrong. But it had a significant impact on whether I wanted to stay miles and miles away from my family.

“I want to coach internationally and anywhere in the world but you need opportunity. I would have loved to have finished my contract [at the Brumbies] but I really believe it was the right decision, despite how difficult it was.

“[In 2011] the Brumbies fired a coach [Andy Friend] two games into the season. For me, clubs can’t have their cake and eat it.”

White rebuilt the Brumbies when he started as coach in 2012, beginning with just three Australian Wallabies players on his roster. That has grown to 15.

The Brumbies narrowly missed the finals in his first season before charging to the grand final last year, losing to the Waikato Chiefs.

White hopes his knowledge of Australian rugby will help the Sharks to become the first South African team to win abroad this season, playing the Melbourne Rebels on Friday night.

The Brumbies fly to Christchurch to play the Canterbury Crusaders on Saturday, aiming to break a 14-year drought against the Crusaders in New Zealand.

The Sharks are basing themselves in Sydney during the two-week tour. White will only bring his team to Canberra on the eve of the May 10 match against the Brumbies.

“When is the right time to leave? I did what I thought was the right thing. If there are people that aren’t happy, I understand that. You can never make everybody happy.

“It’s easy to look back in hindsight … I know in my heart there was a decision that had to be made. Whether it suited the Brumbies, probably not.

“Coaches leave clubs, it happens. [NRL coach] Des Hasler left Manly. Ricky Stuart is now coaching Canberra. Timing is never easy, it’s about understanding where you want to be and where you want to go.”

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Chris Lilley shares a bit in common with Jonah

Pushing boundaries: Chris Lilley (centre) in Jonah from Tonga.Recently, Chris Lilley was conversing via Twitter with Paris Hilton.

”You get ridiculously famous people following you and then you follow them and then they private-message you,” says the comedian and television hyphenate. ”I had Paris Hilton send me a private message saying, ‘I can’t believe you follow me, you’re amazing, I love you’, and we had this chat. It’s weird, because a few years ago you’d have to call someone’s agent, but now Lindsay Lohan and I chat privately.”

If it sounds like Lilley is living out the fantasies of one of his characters, such as narcissistic schoolgirl Ja’mie King, then the instigator of polarising successes such as Summer Heights High and Angry Boys is taking it all in his stride. Even as he’s built the Lilleyverse – an interconnecting web of memorable characters that is about to launch his latest production, Jonah from Tonga – and attained an international profile, the 39-year-old has remained productively holed up in Melbourne, shunning the spotlight and retaining control.

”Everyone is like, ‘Why don’t you go to Hollywood and get in some big show like Modern Family?’. But to me that’s boring,” says Lilley. ”Why would I want to read someone else’s lines when I can write my own, then edit them, and decide what happens?”

The six episodes of Jonah from Tonga, a mockumentary that extends the impertinent antics of schoolboy tearaway Jonah Takalua from 2007’s Summer Heights High, will screen on the ABC, the BBC in Britain and the cable network HBO (Game of Thrones, Girls) in North America (the first two broadcasters will also stream the entire series between May 2 and May 4). If it sounds logistically complex, the end result is that Lilley has leveraged prior success into creative freedom.

”The arrangement is that there’s no input from anyone. The ABC and government funding bodies and HBO are paying for it, and the ABC check for their editorial policies, but I don’t get notes,” Lilley says with some satisfaction. ”HBO have this great policy of finding creative teams and letting them do their thing. They read the scripts and are supportive, but there’s no interference. I’m getting away with it.”

When Lilley is in Los Angeles to liaise with HBO, he sometimes meets American comedy producers and stars who invariably ask him how many writers he has working on his show. They usually assume the answer is 10 to 12, but as Lilley explains, it’s just him. He writes by himself, and only about the characters that excite him. If he wants to return to a character, as he’s doing with Jonah, he will.

”Certain characters, I finish a show and I think, ‘There’s no way I’m leaving them there’. I love them too much and I want to come back and explore their world,” say Lilley. ”Jonah was always going to come back – he’s a great character and I’m obsessed with that whole culture he’s from.”

This time the 14-year-old is first seen in Tonga, where he’s been banished by his disapproving father. The second line of dialogue, courtesy of Jonah’s aggrieved uncle, is that ”Jonah is like a f—ing idiot”, and he’s not wrong. Foul-mouthed, interested in daft boasts, bullying and graffiti, and seemingly allergic to authority, the dim adolescent is a raw nerve of obnoxiousness. Brought back to Australia and enrolled at a Catholic co-education high school, Jonah’s soon diverted into a stream for problem pupils, alongside his new crew of fellow Pacific Islander students, where he manages to aggravate his teacher, burly former soldier Mr Joseph, to the point of violence. Jonah pushes the boundary of comic offensiveness, testing both his teachers’ and the audience’s capacity for his incessant retorts and ludicrous attention-seeking.

”Most of my characters never change as [a series] goes along,” says Lilley. ”There’s a familiar structure to television where the character is a certain way and then they go through a certain experience and they become different, but I like the idea that people don’t change. That represents reality more.”

The idea that a character has to be likeable on an audience’s terms, or ultimately be redeemed, doesn’t interest Lilley. His younger protagonists, such as Ja’mie or Jonah, can sometimes sense their failings, but awareness doesn’t help them address their problems.

”Jonah’s not the brightest kid. He doesn’t think things through. Watching him make the wrong decisions is fascinating,” Lilley explains. ”The show doesn’t have the cues of a normal sitcom, so some people feel uncomfortable because that hits close to home, but that’s cool and what I like about it.”

In his own school days Lilley was, like Jonah, in the bottom class and in the hands of various remedial specialists, but his issues stemmed from an anti-authority stance. ”I didn’t like being told what to do,” recalls Lilley, and he remembers sitting in class thinking to himself, ”You’re all a bunch of idiots”.

His revenge was to impersonate his teachers at Hornsby’s Barker College on Sydney’s North Shore whenever he got the opportunity. In year 12 he spent months rehearsing a performance, instead of studying, where he played five different teachers, complete with drag for his female subjects, and even alluded to an affair between two of the academic staff.

Two decades on and Lilley is intrigued by how television creates its own version of the truth. He was obsessed by glossy LA reality shows such as Laguna Beach and The Hills. He prefers to cast amateurs that fit a character’s description, as opposed to actors, in supporting roles on his show. Several of Jonah’s Fobba-liscious gang were students Lilley found at the school he used as a location in Hopper’s Crossing.

”Actors are much harder for me to edit together to appear real, as they give away the game too much,” admits Lilley. ”The framework for the show is that’s a fake documentary, so it’s meant to seem like it all really happened.”

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Development body’s concern for refugees resettled in Cambodia

Would not elaborate on what rights refugees would have in Cambodia: Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Alex EllinghausenRefugees who are resettled in Cambodia by the Australian government will be unlikely to gain employment rights, get an education or be given permanent residency, according to a peak international development body.

The Australian Council for International Development said Australia had entered “uncharted territory” by resettling refugees in a developing country, renowned for its questionable human rights record and political instability. It also said it was improbable refugees would be given fundamental rights.

“Cambodia does not have any capacity to provide resettlement for refugees such as employment, access to land. They can’t even provide land titles to their own people, let alone refugees,” said Marc Purcell, the group’s executive director.

A report on human rights in Cambodia published by the US government said Cambodia’s national asylum system had limited capacity, which had resulted in lengthy delays for some asylum seekers.

“According to an NGO, individuals without proof of nationality often did not have access to formal employment, education, marriage registration, the courts, or the right to own land,” the report said.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison would not elaborate on what rights refugees would have in Cambodia.

“The government is continuing its discussions on these issues and welcomes the receptive and positive response from Cambodia that has been provided to date,” a spokeswoman for Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison has continually stated any resettlement deal was not a ticket to a “first-class economy”.

“It’s not about whether they are poor, it’s about whether they can be safe,” Mr Morrison said last week. “That’s the issue. The [refugee] convention was not designed as an economic advancement program.”

It is likely the 1177 asylum seekers who are found to be refugees in the Nauru detention centre will be relocated to Cambodia.

The Greens have attacked the potential resettlement deal, questioning whether money to fund it will be plundered from the federal government’s $4 billion overseas aid budget.

“What agreements have they entered into with Prime Minister Hun Sen in order to be able to dump Australia’s responsibility on one of the poorest countries in the world?” Greens senator Christine Milne asked.

Mr Purcell said if the agreement was to be paid for by Australia’s overseas budget, it would be an “extremely poor use of taxpayers’ money”.

“It skews limited resources away from the people who need it most,” he said. “It’s not based on need and merit. It’s based on a political fix.”

Labor’s spokesman on immigration Richard Marles said it was “concerning” the Coalition government found it so difficult to be upfront with the Australian people.

“If the Australian government are legitimately pursuing an arrangement with Cambodia, then the very least they can do is be upfront with the community about the proposal,” Mr Marles said.

Over 9 million people have no access to adequate sanitation in Cambodia, and over 10,000 Cambodian children die each year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation, according to Water Aid Australia.

Cambodia is rated 138 out of 186 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index, which rates countries on their access to development and standard of living.

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