Police target truck safety

Senior Constable Jamie Mooney completes a computer check on a B-double. Picture: PETER MERKESTEYNTRUCK drivers are in the sights of police on both sides of the border as part of a nationwide road blitz.
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Police in Albury and Wodonga are inspecting drivers and their vehicles as part of Operation Austrans, which started on Monday.

The operation comes as police reveal the number of truck crashes resulting in serious injuries has almost doubled in the Wangaratta region, with nine serious crashes this year compared with five for the same period last year.

Albury police began inspecting trucks heading north on the Hume Highway at Holbrook yesterday and will spend 72 hours at the site.

Albury Highway Patrol Acting Sergeant Nick Fahy said the operation was about safety.

“We will target major factors that contribute to heavy vehicle road trauma,” he said.

“That includes excessive speed, driver fatigue, alcohol and drug impaired driving and seatbelt offences.

“The message is that drivers need to comply with all the road regulations and take their designated breaks.”

Log books, speed limit tampering and overweight vehicles will also be looked at by officers, who will target major roads and local streets.

“We will be conducting stationary and mobile checks on vehicles and heavy vehicles during the operation,” Acting Sgt Fahy said.

“The operation is designed to detect and deter inappropriate road user behaviour within the heavy vehicle industry.

“Most heavy vehicle drivers are compliant.

“All available police will be utilised for Austrans, not just members of the Highway Patrol.

“There are substantial fines and charges that people can face.”

North East divisional traffic adviser Sen-Sgt Darren Wittingslow said Victorian officers would set up road blocks on six occasions during the blitz, which will include random drug tests.

“We’ve had nine heavy vehicle collisions that have resulted in serious injuries this year,” he said.

“Not all have been the heavy vehicle driver’s fault; we have had two or three where cars have inexplicably pulled out in front of trucks.

“We want the public to be mindful of trucks given that they can’t stop quickly and need extra room.

“If you do have a collision there is quite a big chance you will be injured.”

Truck driving is one of the most dangerous jobs in Australia.

The operation runs until June 13.

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Man could impersonate cops with lights

POLICE were concerned a man from the NSW town of Bargo may have been impersonating a police officer with special lights fitted to his Ford Falcon XR6 car, a court heard yesterday.
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Jack Everitt Fullerton was sleeping in his car near the entrance to the Albury Airport about 4.10am on April 3 when general duties police checked on him.

They told Fullerton it was unsafe to sleep there and suggested a nearby 24-hour truck stop instead.

He drove off, but police did a registration check and found numerous entries on police intelligence suggesting the car may be fitted with flashing lights.

Other information said the vehicle may be used to impersonate police with other road users being pulled over.

Police stopped Fullerton on the Hume freeway in Albury about 30 minutes later.

He admitted the car was fitted with flashing fog and rear tail reverse lights.

The officers got Fullerton to activate the lights and filmed the vehicle with them working.

The lights were blue in colour and the headlights and indicators also flashed.

Officers believed there was no doubt the public could easily assume Fullerton’s car was an unmarked police veh- icle.

NSW police have used Ford Falcon XR6 turbo cars for some time as both marked and unmarked cars in their highway patrol fleet.

When checking the car, police noticed a number of unroadworthy items and put a defect notice on Fullerton’s car.

They also found he had two NSW driver’s licences with one in the name of Rodriguez Bohemanu.

It was found in the glove box and a check with Roads and Maritime Services showed the licence does not exist.

Fullerton, 24, pleaded guilty in Albury Local Court yesterday to charges of driving a car with an unlawful police insignia and unlawfully possessing an item which resembles an Australian driver’s licence.

He told magistrate Tony Murray the fake licence was obtained as a joke in Thailand two years ago when holidaying.

“I had no intention of using it,” he said.

Mr Murray said when imposing fines totalling $900 that it was an unusual matter.

He said understandably officers were worried because Fullerton’s vehicle may have been considered an unmarked police car.

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Sadness, anger, goodbyes at mill

Kimberly-Clark Australia Albury mill manager Graham Rodda says it has been a tough week as the plant officially closed its doors yesterday. Picture: JOHN RUSSELLKIMBERLY-Clark Australia’s Albury mill has officially closed its doors following its last production day yesterday.
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Twenty-six staff said their goodbyes as the nonwoven fabrics mill shut up shop, another victim of the region’s declining manufacturing industry.

Forty-four people have lost their jobs in the closure, although a number will remain until the end of July to pack up the factory and prepare it for sale.

Expressions of interest for the Drome Street site opened at the weekend, through LJ Colquhoun Dixon.

Mill manager Graham Rodda said staff had been supportive of each other in what had been a tough period.

“We’re a close-knit team, a family — and I don’t use that description lightly,” he said.

“There’s been sadness, a little anger, but on the whole they’ve got on with the job.

“The whole team has been fantastic ever since the closure was announced (in October), they’ve stayed focused and worked hard.”

A farewell celebration for staff and their families was held at the Commercial Club last Friday, after the last production machine was shut off, to “give the staff some closure as they move on to the next chapter”, Mr Rodda said.

“It’s never an easy process but we’ve kept the channels of communication open throughout and I hope the staff feel they’ve been treated with dignity and respect,” he said.

Staff at the plant had worked there for an average 17 years each; one employee finished up after starting with the company in 1987.

Mr Rodda said the Albury plant had been in a unique situation, under pressure as a small manufacturing site to keep its place in the market.

“It’s like the local corner store having to compete with the major supermarket chains,” he said.

He said about half the staff had found alternative work options.

Although the region’s manufacturing industry had struggled in recent times, Mr Rodda is holding out hope ano-ther local manufacturer could swoop in to buy the site.

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Parking woes fixed at hospital

Carparks have been created for tradespeople working on the cancer centre. Picture: PETER MERKESTEYN
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TRADIES working on the $65 million Albury-Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre have had a temporary carparking compound created for them.

The area fronting Borella Road has eased the concerns of local residents and businesses which were forced to compete with workers on the cancer centre for parking spots.

Albury Council has fenced off part of the road reserve in front of the cancer centre construction site.

Tradies were previously taking up all-day parking areas in the service road in front of the Borella Road shopping strip.

They were also occupying parking allotted for Albury Wodonga Health staff members in Keene Street.

Providing parking for workers was part of the original development application for the cancer centre project and head contractor Hansen Yuncken will remediate the newly created area when completed.

Mayor Kevin Mack said council had responded to concerns about parking raised by businesses and residents around the hospital.

“As someone who lives in that area there are certainly now a lot more available spaces in that service road at peak times,” he said.

“It has taken some pressure off in that respect, but also the staff parking areas.

“There are up to 50 vehicles in that area on any given day.”

Cr Mack said the council undertook traffic surveys before agreeing to create the compound.

“Initially we didn’t think it was that bad,” he said.

“But the people who live around there and have businesses in and around there said it was.

More than 100 tradies are working on the cancer centre most days with the project not expected to be completed until next year.

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Kinross case is set back

A FORMER employee of the Kinross Hotel at Thurgoona who has pleaded not guilty to the theft of more than $10,000 will have a two-day court hearing in September.
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Mathew Paul Coombes, 27, of Whitton Avenue, Thurgoona, has been charged with stealing property as a clerk or servant and dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception.

The case had previously been listed for a two-day hearing on July 6 and 7 with 26 prosecution witnesses to be called.

But police prosecutor Sgt Rowan Harris made an application in Albury Local Court yesterday to vacate the date in July.

“It is a circumstantial matter and one that has some complication about it,” Sgt Harris said.

Magistrate Tony Murray set the hearing down for September 2 and 3.

It is alleged Coombes stole $10,566.45 in assorted currency from hotel owner Nic Conway.

The case had been initially investigated by police as an armed robbery at the hotel.

Barrister Alan Blackman represents Coombes and has indicated most of the witnesses would centre around Coombes’ alleged motive.

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Jock had big part in girls’ success

THE Border and wider soccer community is mourning the loss of Jock Glass.
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In 2004 AWFA engaged the services of Glass as a sports medicine trainer to the girls’ representative teams.

His relationship with the world game spanned more than 60 years, including stints as a professional player in Scotland and coach of the 1987 gold medal-winning Australian Special Olympics soccer team.

After just recently losing his wife after 40 years of marriage Jock, 76, passed away in Launceston last Saturday of a suspected heart attack after coaching his under-11 soccer team.

Stephen Foden, the under-16 girls representative coach at the time Glass was involved in the game on the Border, said “Jock” would be sadly missed by all of the girls.

“He looked after them from 2004 to 2006 making the trip from Tasmania to wherever the tournament was,” he said.

“He took care of all injuries and had them back playing the next day.

“In 2005 we won every competition we played in much to the massive part played by him.

“His greatest achievement for us was helping us win the 2005 Victorian state under-17 championship.”

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Must get the facts on halal

LIBERAL senator Cory Bernardi has won a parliamentary inquiry into what he has described as the “racket” of certification related to halal foods.
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The six-month inquiry by the Senate Economics References Committee will also cover kosher foods, organic products and genetically modified foods.

Previously Senator Bernardi says he is worried about where the money for halal “ends up”, pushing for answers to the question of whether profits are ending up in the hands of terrorist groups.

There is no doubt we need the facts.

There has been so much speculation about certification fees ending up in the hands of terror organisations that if you ask many Australians they make the automatic assumption the involvement of terror organisations is the truth.

Determining the truth won’t be easy but it is absolutely necessary to protect producers who take the step to seek halal accreditation but then cop social media pressure from those who believe the link between halal and terrorism.

It’s fair enough for Senator Bernardi to remark he wants to establish the facts on behalf of concerned community members but he also has an obligation to the nation’s primary producers to promote the truth.

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The stigma of a mental illness

There is no question that people living with schizophrenia are still stigmatised.
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We know that people diagnosed as having schizophrenia die up to 20 years earlier than others in the community and a few years ago schizophrenia was declared the ‘abandoned illness’ by the Schizophrenia Commission in the UK.

Now new research, the largest study to explore renaming the illness, has again highlighted the complexities of damaging stigma associated with diagnoses.

After surveying more than 1600 people, researchers in the UK conclude that ‘any decisions to rename should be made with caution.’ However, they add, ‘a decision not to rename may overlook an important opportunity to tackle damaging stereotypes’.

In Japan, after they changed the name, psychiatrists were almost twice as likely to tell their patients about their diagnosis.

Furthermore, 86per cent of psychiatrists said it was easier to talk to families and discuss treatments.

Award winning Australian poet and author, Sandy Jeffs has lived with schizophrenia for 38 years. She says, somewhat despairingly, that even though mental health is discussed more openly and other mental health conditions become more visible, schizophrenia has retreated further into the shadows.

SANE Australia recently called on the federal government to put in place a five-year national stigma reduction campaign.

During this year’s Schizophrenia Awareness Week (May 17-23), I again urge the government to support this initiative, so that we can build a fair, decent and prosperous Australia in which we all have a place and contribution to make.

— JACK HEATH,

CEO SANE Australia

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Safety issue a real concern

THE Barnawartha North saleyards haven’t been opened for long but already a safety issue for motorists on the Murray Valley Highway has been identified.
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A livestock transporters association spokesman says the entry to the yards is “short-sighted” and there are fears the problem may lead to a serious accident that may be fatal.

Kevin Keenan from the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters’ Association is correct in calling for an audit of traffic conditions by Wodonga Council and VicRoads.

But in the interim there have been short-term suggestions to have lights installed at the intersection, the widening of the turning space and a speed limit reduction on the highway to 80km/h, all recommendations that should be considered.

There are also long-term recommendations to build an accelerating lane, a longer right-hand turning lane into the yards or even a large roundabout.

The general manager of the livestock exchange, James Thompson, says the drivers’ concerns are being examined and VicRoads says a road safety analysis was now under way.

Hopefully improvements can be made to ensure worst fears are not realised.

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Woman’s licence to be reviewed

A WOMAN who narrowly avoided driving her car into a building on Dean Street in Albury will have her licence reviewed.
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The 87-year-old woman lost control of her red Hyundai Sonata about 1.45pm on Monday while travelling towards Young Street.

Her car veered onto the wrong side of the road, hit a parked car, and came to a stop on the footpath near the Paleo Cafe.

The business closed last week, and there were no pedestrians in the area at the time of the incident.

Albury Chief Inspector Kim Sorensen said the matter would be referred to Roads and Maritime Services.

“They will be looking at her fitness to drive,” he said.

“Everyone has a responsibility to stop driving if they’re not fit to drive.

“The best time to stop is when you feel that you’re not 100 per cent.

“It’s always easier for a person to stop driving from their own decision, rather than waiting for the authorities to make the decision for you.”

No-one was injured during the incident.

The car hit the window of the building but did not shatter the glass.

Police said they would not take action against the woman, but her licence would be reviewed.

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