Little Blacks Army on a mission to have fun

KING OF THE KIDS: Maitland Blacks vice-president Dan Gollan with part of the club’s Little Blacks Army. Photo: Max Mason-HubersMaitland Blacks vice-president Dan Golan proudly looks out over a sea of tiny black jerseys having a ball playing a game which has been part of his family’s history for three generations.
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They are the Little Blacks Army, 89 energetic and enthusiastic boys and girlswho take part each Saturday in the club’s stand alone under-7 competition.

Golan is hopeful that within a few weeks the club will have 100 under 7s on their books, probably the biggest program of any rugby club in Australia.

To put the club’s success into perspective, there are more under 7s competing at Marcellin Park each week than from the combined total of the eight Newcastle clubs in the Newcastle and Hunter Junior Rugby Union competition.

“It’s unbelievable how it has developed,” Golan said of the program which he and Blacks president Ben Emmett discussed over a drink four years ago.

“We had 30 in the first year, 50 the second, 80 last year and 89 already this year and we are probably expecting 100 by the end of the season.”

Golan said the club now had more than 400 junior players across the age groups, with three under-8, three under-9 and three under-10 teams, which came through the under 7s,competing in the Hunter junior competition.

“When such big numbers started to take part we decided to run our own competition at Marcellin each week,” Golan, whose daughter Poppy starts under-7s this year,said.

“It means they don’t have to travel far and we now have two specific fields for them with modified goal posts.

“We hold eight games each Saturday.”

Golan said one of the keys to the program’s success was securing sponsorship and keeping the price for parents to a minimum.

“One of our Blacks people Todd Holden, from Euro Cars, came on board and has pretty much under-written it from the first year,” he said.

“It means that we have been able to keep our registration fee to just $50 and that includes a training jersey, a sticker, presentation day costs including a photo and medallion.

“We’ve got kids from all over Maitland and as far afield as Pokolbin, Cessnock, Kurri Kurri and even Dungog.

“We’re a family club and pride ourselves on providing a safe and caring environment for our kids.

“All our coaches need to have appropriate certificates to work with children and coaching accreditation.

“From under 12 our kids move up into our Blacks academy where they have access to specialist coaching from Sydney and beyond.

“Our Little Blacks Army is our club’s future and the future’s looking bright.”

The Walking Dead finale recap: Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan is the villain we needed

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan in The Walking Dead. Photo: AMC Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Lucille in the season 6 finale of The Walking Dead. Photo: AMC
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The Walking Dead S6 E15 recap: Five get lost in the woodsThe Walking Dead S6 E14 recap: Eugene and the willyMore TV recaps

Talk about delayed gratification. We first heard the name Negan in episode six of this season of The Walking Dead, but it took until the last 10 minutes of episode 16, the finale, for him to finally show his face.

But what a face it is: suave, handsome, charming, cruel. I know Jeffrey Dean Morgan can’t help being blessed with good genes, but in this towering actor – most recently seen as Alicia’s investigator/love interest Jason Crouse in The Good Wife – we have a villain who is charismatic, seductive and an utter A-hole. The attributes of the classic psychopath, in other words, whether in business, politics or the post-apocalypse.

He came on like the smooth-as-f— head of a corporate sales department presenting his record quarterly figures to the board, but his arrival capped the narrative arc of the entire season: the utter humiliation of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln).

Our erstwhile hero began season six having just staged a military coup in the greenie utopia of Alexandria. He ended it on his knees, in abject submission.

Hubris and humiliation. That’s what this season has been about – for Rick at least. His final moments of the season saw him trembling with fear, fresh out of ideas and options, as Negan hovered above 11 of our crew, Lucille – his baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire – in hand. He was going to beat the crap out of one of them to establish his God-like authority, because he could, because he wanted to. But which one would it be? Glenn, who has risen from the dead once but might not manage it a second time? Maggie, almost dead already from some pregnancy-related complication? Rick, or his one-eyed son Carl? Abraham, his new squeeze Sasha, sidekick Eugene, or Aaron, who normally takes his beatings from Rick? Or would it be Michonne or Rosita? Or Daryl, already wounded from a gunshot?

With so many to choose from, no wonder Negan had to resort to the old eeny-meeny-miney-mo.

“You. Are. It,” he said, finally settling, but on whom? The camera’s POV was that of the victim staring up at Negan, the final image of blood on the lens – the same as last week, when Daryl was shot – the final sounds, fading over black, the repeated thunkings of Lucille into an unknown skull. It was brutal.

How did we get to this?

The episode began in pastoral mode, a recurring theme this season, as if to suggest that when we are all gone from the face of the Earth nature will carry on just fine without us. Morgan (Lennie James), tracking Carol with all the dogged instincts and hangdog face of a bloodhound, finds a horse in a field, already saddled and waiting. Never one to look a gift equus in the mouth, he hops on.

When he finds Carol (Melissa McBride) huddling in a doorway in some abandoned town – she’s been stabbed – she tells him to bugger off and leave her to die. “If you care about people, there are people that you will kill for,” Carol explains. “And if you don’t want to kill, you have to get away from them. You should know that.”

“Everything is about people,” says Morgan the pacifist. “Everything in this life that’s worth a damn. That’s what I know.”

Carol is so moved by his speech she pulls a gun on him. Later, while he’s out milking the horse, she does a runner.

My God, do you chuggers never give up?

Back in Alexandria, Rick and co are readying the Winnebago to take Maggie (Lauren Cohan) to Hilltop, where there’s a doctor. They’re leaving Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) in charge, so the jury is out on the wisdom of this plan.

In the ‘bago, Rick offers some solace to Maggie. “It’s always worked out for us because it’s always been all of us,” he says. “As long as it’s all of us, we can do anything.”

It’s a stirring speech that rather conveniently fails to mention any of the people who’ve died along the way – Tyreese, Beth, Herschel, Noah – but it does prove one thing: Rick’s sense of his own power is out of control.

They soon run into a road block, with some poor guy lying crumpled on the tarmac, barely alive, while eight Saviors hover over him. “He’s someone who was with a whole lot of someones who didn’t listen,” lead Savior (Steven Ogg) tells Rick and co.

“We can make a deal,” says Rick.

“That’s right, we can. Give us all of your stuff. All you have to do is listen.”

“Yeahhh,” Rick drawls. “That deal’s not going to work for us.”

He rounds up the posse, tells Savior man they’re leaving.

Soon they hit another roadblock, with twice as many Saviors, then another, this time just a line of zombies chained together across the road. They eventually chop their way through this chain gang, but as they’re driving off, Rick realises the Saviors had always intended for them to go in this direction. They’re being toyed with.

That’s the sound of the dead men working on the chain gang.

Another bend, another roadblock, with lots more Saviors: at the established rate of increase, let’s say there are 32 this time.

“Turn around,” says Rick, who is fast running out of options, with fuel low and Maggie’s temperature sky high.

Carol, meanwhile, is jumped by the Savior who has been following her since last week’s bloodbath. They fight, and he grabs her pistol and shoots her in the arm, because he wants to watch her die slowly, “just like my friends back there on the road”.

Lying on the bitumen, blood pouring from her arm, she starts laughing.

“What the hell’s wrong with you,” asks the Savior.

“I’m going to die,” she says, “so there’s nothing wrong with me any more.”

He shoots her in the leg. “You think you’ve suffered enough now?”

“No, probably not.”

He walks away, spun out by this crazy woman. “What, are you done,” she asks, channelling the Black Knight. Come back here, I’ll bite your legs off.

He does come back, planning to finish her, but Morgan is there. Finally, he has a reason to kill. He unloads his revolver into the Savior.

“Would you please just let me go,” says Carol by way of thanks.

He turns around and there’s two men there, in body armour, with long spears, one of them on horseback. They look like medieval knights.

“I’ve got your horse,” says Morgan. And, referring to Carol: “She needs help.”

“Then let’s get you some help,” says Sir Galahad, and what with all this “run away” and “that’s just a flesh wound” and a knight without a horse, you have to wonder if the ghost of Monty Python and the Holy Grail doesn’t hover over proceedings in some strange way.

Yea verily, it is a pleasure to meet you, Sir Knight.

Actually, this whole season has taken on an increasingly medieval hue, with isolated fortresses ruled over by heavily armed despots, with tithing of the weak by the strong. There’s shades of Riddley Walker, Russell Hoban’s magnificent novel of the post-apocalypse, in all this. But there’s also something very real-world about it too, with Rick – always the stand-in for hawkish America – brought to his knees by a force whose full-on embrace of middle ages-style terror he can’t quite match.

Yes, Negan and his Saviors are to Rick’s world as ISIL is to ours.

One more road block, and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) nails the reality of their situation. “We are neck-deep up shit-creek with our mouths wide open.”

Eugene (Josh McDermitt) has an idea – he will take the van as a decoy, while everyone else can get out and carry Maggie on foot for several hundred kilometres by night. Man, that dude will do anything to get out of work.

And that’s how they end up kneeling before Negan.

Hey Eugene; about that plan of yours…

“Pissing our pants yet,” he asks as he makes his long-delayed entrance. “Boy, do I have a feeling we’re getting close. It’s gonna be Pee-Pee-Pants City here real soon.”

As first impressions go, you have to admit it’s pretty good.

He introduces himself to Rick, then tells him: “I do not appreciate you killing my men. Also, when I sent my people to kill your people for killing my people, you killed more of my people. Not cool.”

Negan outlines what he calls the New World Order to his hostages. “Give me your shit or I will kill you.” Not even the TPP’s terms of trade are quite that lopsided. “You work for me now. You have shit, you give it to me. That’s your job.”

He’s not going to kill them, he says, because he needs them to work for him. But he is going to beat the crap out of one of them, using Lucille, who is “awesome”.

Abraham straightens up, stares Negan in the eyes, as if to say, “Go on, beat me; I can take it”. Negan just sizes up his ranga mutton chops, rubs his hand over his own stubble, and says, “Huh, I gotta shave this shit”. He is a master of humiliation.

Rick is trembling. “It sucks don’t it,” Negan says. “The moment you realise you don’t know shit”.

He may be vile in his outrageously charismatic way, but The Walking Dead needed Negan. There have been times this season when the walk slowed to a shuffle. There have been great moments – Glenn’s death and resurrection, Maggie’s pregnancy, the attack on Alexandria by the Wolves and the flooding of the town by walkers after the wall came down – but too often the terror was vague, amorphous (in the way only a decaying body can be amorphous). Now, it has a human face again. It’s less predictable than the brainless horde, and thus so much more dangerous.

That didn’t stop people venting about the ending on social media, though, mostly on the issue of why we had to wait six months to meet Negan and now have to wait another six months to find out who he killed (that’s assuming he actually did kill someone – though given the way he swung that bat, you’d have to assume he did). Put another way, cliffhangers suck even more.

Yeah, I get that, but it misses a couple of points. First, cliffhangers are an intrinsic part of serial culture. You don’t like it, go jump (which many fans are already threatening to do).

Second, and it is something this season has made abundantly clear, this will never end. There is no cure, no salvation, just endless trudging in search of respite and supplies through a world that has gone to Hell and then rapidly run downhill from there.

This stuff is easy; it’s the live ones that are hard.

If you accept that you quickly realise that The Walking Dead could in theory keep going forever, or at least for as long as those endlessly running daytime soapies. Like sands through the hourglass, these are the days of our barely-alives.

It won’t go on forever, of course; it’s too expensive for that and eventually a tipping point will be reached where declining audiences and rising costs bring it all to an end. But for now, Rick and co are doomed to keep sloughing through the same cycles of hope and despair, of settlement and dispersal, of power and subjugation, a journey that has no end other than death, whether at Negan’s hand or some other.

Hey, maybe it’s not about the apocalypse at all. Just life as we know it.

Karl Quinn is on Facebook and on twitter @karlkwin

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Challenge to Mike Baird: replace stamp duty and gift the NSW economy $5b

There has been a call for stamp duty on property sales to be dumped and replaced by a newly designed land tax. Photo: DAVID GRAYThe Baird Government could boostthe state economy by $5 billion by eliminating stamp dutyand substitutingit with a broad-based land tax, new modelling shows.
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The NSW Business Chamber, the NSW Council of Social Services and the NSW Branch of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union have combinedtocall forstamp duty on property purchases to be dumped andreplaced by a newly designed land tax.

Modelling by KPMG for the State Chamber and NCOSSshowsthetax switch could increase Gross State Product by more than 1 per cent – currently equivalent toabout $5 billion -and create up to 10,000 jobs.

The findings ramp uppressure on the NSW government to introduce significant state tax reforms amid a nationaldebate about how states will cover theballooningcostofhealth and education services.

The newcall for property tax reform, whichunites a peak business lobby, a peakwelfare group and alarge union,comes days after premiers and chief ministers rejected a federal government proposal for them to levy their own income tax.

NSW already has anarrowland tax system but it does not apply to owner occupied land. Under the proposed tax switch, property buyers would no longer pay stamp duty but a broadland tax would be applied to allowner occupied land toeventuallyraise a similar amount of revenue.

NSW Business Chamber Chief Executive, Stephen Cartwright, said the modelling made it clear that stamp duty is not serving the people of NSW.

“Business, unions and the community sector have found common ground on the urgent need to abolish stamp duty in favour of a more efficient system of tax; it is now time for the NSW Government to put stamp duty on the table if it is genuine about tax reform,” he said.

The NSW government expects to collect more than $8 billion in stamp duty on property transfers this financial year making it one of the state’s biggest sources of tax revenue.

But it is a highly inefficient tax that has been blamed for pushing upproperty prices and unnecessarily discouraging people from moving house.

Recent officialmodelling found the economic cost of collecting eachadditional dollar of revenue through stamp duty on property is 72 cents in the dollar, compared with 19 cents for the GST and virtually zero for a broad-based land tax.

A 2011 auditof NSW’s finances by former Treasury Secretary, Michael Lambert, declared stamp duty on property to be the state’s worst tax. He proposed a broad-based land tax to replace itbut therecommendation was shelved bythe Coalitiongovernment now led by Mike Baird.

Last month the McKell Institute called forstamp duty to bereplaced by a annualland tax of 0.75 per cent of land value. Under the plan atransitionalarrangementwouldprotect those who had recently paid stamp duty and asset rich,cash poor retirees would be entitled to adeferral scheme.

Mr Cartwright said stamp duty reform should not be an opportunity for the Government to lock-in a higher overall tax burden, but to create a more efficient tax system.

“By distorting buyer behaviour in the property market and limiting the ability for skilled workers to re-locate to meet employer demand and live closer to where they work, the exorbitant cost of stamp duty in NSW puts employees and businesses at a competitive disadvantage and harms the long term growth prospects of the state economy,” he said.

Quirky things owned by politicians in the Museum of Australian Democracy

Museum of Australian Democracy content development manager Kate Armstrong with some of the quirky items belonging to politicians now in the collection at Old Parliament House. Photo: Melissa AdamsAlready under intense scrutiny, the things politicians own, wear, or even lose can reveal a lot; whatever did happen to Malcolm Fraser’s trousers in Memphis?
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While some personal possessions become defining symbols (think Tony Abbott’s blue ties) others were kept secret (like Bob Hawke’s hair dye).

Among the 40,000 items in the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House, about 7000 are associated with politicians and about 100 were once owned by prime ministers.

The museum’s staff took Fairfax Media deep inside the museum’s bunker to see some of the collection.

There are the things you expect like briefcases, stationery, medals and uniforms, but others are more quirky like a pillow belonging to the first Aboriginal MP Neville Bonner.

While some items were donated by families or valued former staff, others were bought at auction.

“Sometimes we’re just looking online and something will just pop up for sale and you’ll think ‘wow’,” senior historian Libby Stewart said.

More recently politicians have been known to donate items themselves.

“We’ve got a large collection over there belonging to a just-retired politician, Christine Milne,” she said, motioning towards several plastic storage tubs.

Here staff talk us through some of the highlights formerly owned by six politicians:

1. Senator Dorothy Tangney’s champagne bottle “battleaxe”. Donated by Tangney’s family in 2005. Not on display. Photo: Melissa Adams.

Long before Australia’s first female prime minister Julia Gillard was calling out misogyny, one of the first two women to enter Federal Parliament, Western Australian senator Dorothy Tangney was gifted a “battleaxe” in 1944 “to be used as and when required”.

“She was launching a ship up in Maryborough, Queensland, with a champagne bottle and obviously the shipbuilder has taken it with all its jagged edges and then very cleverly … fixed it to an axe handle,” Ms Stewart explained.

“This is probably one of almost my all-time favourite objects in the collection.”

But the “brutal-looking weapon” was at odds with Dame Tangney’s reputation for being “quite a lady” – one of her other possessions in the museum’s collection is a lace tablecloth which she took with her everywhere she went.

2. Bob Hawke’s hair rinse, laxative, contact lens solution etc. Found by staff in the 1990s. On display in prime ministers’ dressing room. Photo: Melissa Adams.

If you’re colouring your hair at home most people would do it in the bathroom, but it seems when he was prime minister, Bob Hawke preferred to do it in his dressing room.

Among a bevy of unexpected toiletry treasures, found in a drawer in the prime ministers’ office dressing room in the 1990s, were hair rinse, laxatives, contact lens solution, shoe laces and the instruction booklet for an electric shaver.

“Bob Hawke was the last prime minister in this building so we’re assuming they were his,” manager of content development Kate Armstrong said.

With hair rinse in the shade of “white minx” it’s hard to believe they could have belonged to anyone else.

Ms Armstrong said Hawke’s “luscious locks” and tanned skin were important parts of his image, so it’s “intriguing to think he had to have a little freshen-up”.

“[They] give you a certain impression based on media and speeches but sometimes it’s actually the really small personal items that can really help you understand the humanity of the person.”

3. Robert Menzies’ Cinque Ports flag, coat of arms shield, and pennant flag. Donated by Menzies’ daughter Heather Henderson in 2001. Not on display. Photos: Melissa Adams.

While Hawke mightn’t like the world to know he dyed his hair, another former prime minister Robert Menzies was very proud of his paraphernalia which would later end up in the museum.

Well-known for his devotion to the monarchy, Menzies was rather chuffed with the “spiffy” uniform, flags and shield he received when he was made Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports in 1966 – the first non-Brit and one of only three commoners to receive the honour.

It was a role traditionally in charge of a group of five port towns on the south-east coast of England which provided defence before England had a formal navy.

“All you were really required to do was ceremonial duties and for it you got accommodation at Walmer Castle in the UK,” Ms Armstrong said.

“This was really important for Menzies hence the reason these would go straight to the pool room.”

4. Edmund Barton’s Privy Council bicorn hat. Bought in 2012. On display from June. Photo: Melissa Adams.

Although Edmund Barton’s bicorn hat was the same type as Napoleon’s, Australia’s first prime minister would have been unlikely to have worn it.

Instead, he carried it tucked under his arm much like a “man-bag”, content development and commissioning curator Stephanie Pfennigwerth​ said.

The beaver fur hat with its gold thread and white ostrich feather was part of the elaborate uniform Barton had to wear as a privy councillor whenever he was in the presence of the King until 1910 when the rules changed.

During Barton’s time the Privy Council was an advisory committee acting as the High Court of Appeal for the entire British Empire.

It retained the ability to oversee Australian appeals until 1986 and up until the 1970s it was general practice for Australian prime ministers to become councillors.

Barton copped “satirical swipes” for wearing the fancy uniform after cultivating an everyman image when travelling around rural NSW spruiking the concept of federation in the late 1800s.

“A few years later he’s prancing around in gold and silk tights, it would have been a bit jarring for people,” Ms Pfennigwerth said.

“But he didn’t throw the uniform away … it was important to him and us because it really symbolises Australia’s place in the British Empire.”

Unlike Menzies’ British honour, Barton’s status as privy councillor was far from ceremonial and he was far from impressed when a family holiday to London was interrupted when he had to sit on five appeals.

5. Malcolm Fraser’s Nareen property sign. Bought in 2015. On display in Prime Ministers of Australia gallery. Photo: Melissa Adams.

Out of context the simple timber routed sign, which once hung on the farm gate of Malcolm and Tamie Fraser’s pastoral property Nareen in south-west Victoria, seems of little consequence.

But for a man with a reputation as being a “cashed-up, Collins Street cow cocky”, its plainness is symbolic in itself, Ms Pfennigwerth said.

“He was [seen as] a silver tail grazier, someone very wealthy who was totally out of touch with the ordinary Australian … and Nareen was used as a weapon against him,” she said.

“But it was Fraser’s sanctuary … a lot of his personal quirks relate to his farming background.”

Indeed his reputation as being “aloof, surly and pompous” could have been attributed to a back injury caused by lifting bags of fertiliser on the farm where he had a very different persona, Ms Pfennigwerth said.

“He use to invite jackaroos and shearers and workers on his farm to Christmas dinner … he actually had some pretty strong grassroots values,” she said.

6. Tony Abbott’s blue Hermes silk tie and custom-made Hillbrick bicycle. Donated by Tony Abbott on February 26, 2015. Bike on display in Prime Ministers of Australia gallery. Tie not on display. Photo: Andrew Meares.

Besides his red budgie smugglers, could there be any better way of summing up Tony Abbott than a bike and blue tie?

Abbott rode the carbon-fibre bike for one of his Pollie Pedal charity bike rides and the tie was one of the infamous blue ties Julia Gillard condemned and Abbott defended as part of his “work uniform”.

“It’s interesting he self-identified [the bike] as something that was important to him,” Ms Pfennigwerth said.

“We tend to look for objects that aren’t just important because they belonged to a prime minister but something that says a lot about them as a person.

“For some … due to personality or time or a combination of both, there aren’t a lot of physical objects around … often we’re hard-pressed to find something.”

Ms Pfennigwerth said ties were heavily laden with symbolism.

Abbott’s tie isn’t the only one in the collection. There’s also a tie owned by Australia’s first immigration minister Arthur Calwell who wore black ties every day after the death of his son in 1948 and a collection of hundreds donated by former deputy prime minister ​Tim Fischer.

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New Zealand detainee dies inside Villawood detention centre after apparent altercation

A file image of the Villawood detention centre in Sydney. Photo: Kate GeraghtyThe death of a New Zealand detainee at the Villawood detention centre has triggered calls for independent scrutiny of the network, and prompted fresh questions over Australia’s bid for a United Nations human rights council seat.
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A 42-year-old New Zealand detainee died at Villawood detention centre overnight, the Immigration Department has confirmed.

There have been reports he died after an altercation, however the department said in a statement there were no disturbances at the centre and it was “not aware of any suspicious circumstances surrounding the death”.

The department said staff were alerted to an unconscious man at about 9.45pm on Monday and attempted to resuscitate him.

“Paramedics also treated the man but he could not be revived. The man is suspected to have suffered a heart attack,” it said, adding the mood at the detention centre was “calm”.

The department expressed sympathy to the family of the man and said the NSW Coroner was preparing a report on the death, and police were investigating.

The incident has fuelled concern over the 181 New Zealand nationals in Australian immigration detention centres as of February this year, as the federal government cracks down on foreign criminals.

Recent laws allow for the mandatory cancellation of visas for foreigners sentenced to at least one year’s jail, or convicted of sexual offences against children.

New Zealand Labour MP Kelvin Davis questioned why New Zealanders who had finished their prison sentences in Australia were being further detained in immigration facilities, describing it as “double jeopardy”.

“Some of these people are spending more time in detention than they did in the original prison sentence,” he said.

“If you are thrown into, in effect, another prison without any idea of how long you are going to be there, away from your family with limited access to lawyers, the whole situation is so stressful and upsetting for these people.”

He claimed Australia was flouting international human rights conventions by detaining people “without trial”.

“I don’t believe New Zealand should be supporting Australia to get a seat on the United Nations human rights council until such time as Australia sorts their detention centre mess out. It’s just diabolical,” he said.

Speaking to Fairfax Media from the Villawood centre, fellow New Zealand detainee Vaelua Lagaaia identified the man who died as Rob Peihopa. He believed Mr Peihopa died after an argument with a fellow detainee.

He said Mr Peihopa had spent about 10 months in detention and went to the gym almost every day, adding “it was unbelievable” that he suffered a heart attack.

“His body was there for about five hours with a blanket over the top,” he said.

“[Authorities] gave us the opportunity of saying a farewell to him and doing a haka as they moved the body from the detention centre.”

Labor’s immigration spokesman Richard Marles said the death was “tragic” and called on Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to provide assurances that Villawood was safe.

“Labor expects the government to investigate this incident without delay, so we can determine precisely the circumstances of his death,” Mr Marles said.

He said should Labor win power, it would establish independent oversight of all Australian-funded detention facilities.

A spokeswoman for Mr  Dutton said the circumstances of the death were not believed to be suspicious. She said: “Mr Marles or any other politician trying to make political gain out of this situation is a disgrace.

“An investigation by NSW Police is under way and that should be respected.”

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Manus Island witness ‘terrified’ after Reza Barati’s accused killer escapes

Mourners at the memorial service for Reza Barati, held at the Al-Mahdi mosque in the Nabard neighbourhood in South East Tehran, Iran. Photo: Kate Geraghty Labor MP Melissa Parke has petitioned for witness Benham Satah to be brought to Australia.
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A key witness to the slaying of Reza Barati in the Manus Island detention centre in 2014 says he fears for his life after one of the alleged killers escaped from prison.

Kurdish Iranian Benham Satah, who says he received death threats from guards at the centre after giving evidence against Joshua Kaluvia, has asked to be placed in isolation in the centre’s mental health unit after the escape. So far the request has been denied.

“Since my testimony I cannot sleep at night in case something might happen to me. Now I heard he has escaped and is on the island,” Mr Satah told Fairfax Media.

“All his friends, his relatives are working here still. Now I have to be more careful than before. I’m going crazy.”

The escape on March 28 coincides with heightened tensions at the centre over the decision to separate the more than 900 detainees according to their refugee status.

Kaluvia, a former Salvation Army worker at the Manus Island detention centre, had been facing trial for the wilful murder of Mr Barati and was meant to appear in court this week to continue the trial.

Dominic Kakas, from the PNG Police Media Unit, confirmed Kaluvia’s escape to Fairfax Media, saying he would make information available as it came to hand.

Mr Satah said he slept for three of the last 24 hours, suffering constant nightmares where he was pursued and his throat is cut. He is alarmed that the escape only came to notice when Kaluvia failed to appear in court this week.

Mr Satah has testified that Kaluvia came into the centre during a riot on the night of February 17 and struck Mr Barati multiple times in the head with a piece of wood.

Another man, former G4S guard Louie Efi, is accused of dropping a large rock on Mr Barati’s head as he lay on the ground.

Both Kaluvia and Efi have protested their innocence, with Kaluvia complaining about the standard of his defence when the trial began last year. The trial judge, Nicholas Kirrowom, has issued a warrant for Kaluvia to be recaptured and to reappear in court by April 18.

Two expatriates, an Australian national and a New Zealand national, who were also allegedly responsible for Mr Barati’s murder, left Papua New Guinea after the riots and have not been interviewed by PNG police, despite repeated requests for them to be returned.

“He believes he is going to be killed at any moment,” says Diana Cousens, who organised a petition requesting Mr Satah be brought to Australia and resettled and spoke to him on Tuesday.

Labor MP Melissa Parke last month tabled the petition in federal Parliament seeking Mr Satah’s transfer to Australia. It has more than 18,000 signatures.

Meanwhile, at least four refugees who left Manus Island are believed to have returned to the province after attempting to settle in PNG’s two biggest cities, Port Moresby and Lae, complaining of fear and poverty.

Since the move to separate detainees, six of those who have refugee status and had so far refused to leave the centre are understood to have signed papers providing for their re-location to a transit centre in Lorengau.

Behrouz Boochani, a Iranian Kurd and writer, summed up his view of the predicament of the detainees on Facebook.

“If you stay in the centre, you must endure much traumatising pressure and live in a hell prison. If you leave the centre you must live in East Lorengau, with no safety and a deep feeling of insecurity and loneliness,” he wrote.

“If you leave the island you must live as a homeless person and endure hungriness and live like a poor man. I believe the main aim is that the pressure they put people under will force them to go back to their country of origin.”

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Nine shares slump after ad market warning

“Nine’s summer of cricket was adversely impacted both by the weather and the standard of the competition,” Nine said in a trading update. Photo: Cameron Spencer Nine’s television revenues were down 11 per cent in the third quarter of the final year. Photo: Louie Douvis
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Reno Rumble has been a ratings disaster for Nine. Photo: Supplied

A dire summer of cricket with a below-par West Indies team and lots of wet weather, as well as a poor start to the ratings year that included the disastrous launch of Reno Rumble, have combined to deliver a serious blow to Nine Entertainment’s revenue and sent the company’s shares tumbling.

Nine’s television revenue was down 11 per cent in the third quarter of the financial year, compared with the corresponding period, which the company said was also affected by an earlier Easter and no Cricket World Cup.

Nine shares plunged 24.7 per cent to $1.14 in morning trade.

Following the conclusion of the third quarter, Nine said that the advertising market remained subdued in March.

“Nine’s ratings during the period were softer than anticipated, which has impacted [free-to-air] revenue share. In particular, Nine’s Summer of Cricket was adversely impacted both by the weather and the standard of the competition, with [circa] 30 per cent of scheduled play days lost,” Nine said in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange.

Nine’s Reno Rumble debuted its second season on March 21 with just 395,000 metropolitan viewers, with rival Seven securing 1.46 million viewers for My Kitchen Rules.

After a week of poor ratings, Nine dropped the show from its 7.30pm timeslot, back to 8.50pm on Mondays and 8.40pm on Tuesdays. It is being replaced by a new season of Married at First Sight on Mondays and Tuesdays and back-to-back episodes of The Big Bang Theory on Wednesdays. In a bright spot for Nine, despite poor reviews, Daryl Somers’s new show, You’re Back in the Room launch on Sunday night with 1.65 million viewers nationally, and 1.16 million metropolitan viewers.

“The free-to-air advertising market is now expected to record a low single digit decline for FY16, versus our previous guidance of ‘flat to down marginally’. Reflecting the disappointing ratings start to 2016, Nine’s share is now expected to be [circa] 37 per cent for the year,” the statement says.

Nine had previously forecast to have FTA share of 38 per cent.

The company said that the trend in digital, which was double digital earnings growth in the first half, was expected to continue in the second half.

Nine flagged at its half-year results that it had begun a number of cost-cutting initiatives in order to combat the soft revenue environment. It forecasts that costs, excluding higher-than-expected legal costs from the second half, to be down 4 per cent for the financial year.

In an interview with Fairfax Media last week, Nine chief executive Hugh Marks said the metropolitan broadcaster was making good progress on cutting costs and flag that it was still looking at other areas of the business.

“$700 million of our $900 million cost base is in content. So getting efficiencies in our content spend, making sure we’re spending the right dollars on the right programs is really what the focus is,” Mr Marks said.

However, Mr Marks said he did not have any planned changes for senior programming people.

“I’m working with the team that we’ve got to make sure when we launch next year, we’ll launch with a much more competitive set of programming. The plan is certainly to improve,” he said.

“Would I have loved to have launched better? Yep. Will we get there next year? That’s my challenge now.”

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iPhone SE review: small, blocky smartphone has guts where it counts

The most important thing to realise about the iPhone SE is that it’s not a new phone. Not really.
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This phone is kind of like the ‘s’ branded iPhones that release every second year and serve as refinements to their direct predecessor, except that the SE is a refinement to 2013’s iPhone 5s. For anyone used to a newer phone, the biggest shock in using the SE will be the reminder of what flagship phones looked and felt like three years ago.

Of course, the phone’s insides are taken from the much newer iPhone 6s, meaning for anyone using Apple’s latest the SE represents a downgrade in physical design (and price), and a sidegrade in guts.

While there are several reasons a 6 or 6s owner might want to switch to the SE (more on that in a bit), the diminutive iPhone’s biggest success is in filling a hole Apple had in its line for a less expensive, more manageable handset that has the latest functionality. Many more people — whether they’re on a budget or simply don’t need the biggest, fastest, prettiest pocket candy they can get their hands on — now have the option of getting a brand new iPhone, and that can only be a good thing. Build and screen

The SE looks like a throwback, especially since the 5 and 5s were already retro-looking at the time of their release. Unfortunately, the first thing I noticed when I switched on the device was also a bit of a time trip — back to an age before HD phone screens.

It won’t be a big deal to everyone given the size, but coming from the world of big phones where 1080×1920 is the bare minimum, the little panel plucked directly from the iPhone 5s shows its age. Viewing angles and contrast are identical to the 2013 phone, but it’s the resolution that sticks out most. A 4-inch LED at 640×1136, the pixel density is comparable to the iPhone 6s but far below the 6s Plus or any recent Android flagship.

The phone’s body has seen some minor updates in the details — the aluminium and shiny Apple logo are a bit nicer this time around — but at a glance and in the hand the SE could well be mistaken for an iPhone 5s.

The edges are chunky and square, which makes for excellent grip and easy one-handed use. I was shocked to remember how much of the phone’s face was taken up by plastic, which makes the small screen feel even more cramped, but being able to reach both the home button and top edges with the same thumb is nice. The 3D Touch of the iPhone 6s is nowhere to be seen on the SE. Performance

Inside that ageing shell beats the heart of a much more modern machine, with the central processor, graphics processor and RAM pulled straight from last year’s iPhone 6s. The efficiency of the new tech paired with the simplicity of the sub-HD screen means the SE has the snappiest navigation of any iPhone you can get right now, and probably the best battery life too.

According to Apple’s own battery numbers, the big iPhone 6s Plus has the SE beat for standby longevity and talk time (since the screen is off), and the SE has a slight edge when it comes to internet use. In much less scientific real-world use however, the SE seems to last quite a bit longer than its larger brothers, and way longer than the 5s does.

The quickness of the SE shows iOS 9 in its best possible light, with buttery smooth transitions and no delay or stuttering when launching apps or navigating that animation-heavy app switcher. If you’re currently on an iPhone 6 or 6s and like the sound of a smaller screen, the more stable overall performance could be enough to sway you to sidegrade.

Of course apps and games benefit from the improved internals as well, with the phone taking even the latest 3D intensive graphics in its stride. It’s worth thinking about the apps you use when considering the SE though, as it’s clear developers tailor their efforts for the 4.7-inch iPhone. When shrunk to the SE, tap targets can be harder to hit and your hands will cover more screen real estate. While this is something you get used to with some apps — messaging, browsing, more passive games — it can make others difficult.

Camera-wise, you get a mixed bag with the SE. The main shooter is straight from the 6s, which remains one of the best mobile cameras on the market. Live photos and burst mode are supported, which will be a nice upgrade if you’re trading in your 5s, and all this without the unsightly camera bump seen on the new iPhones. Less nice is the fact that the front-facing camera is the same old 1.2MP guy from 2013, meaning low-light selfies are pretty poor even with the light-blasting ‘retina flash’.

Finally, while the SE packs the same version of Touch ID seen on the 5s, it has an NFC chip ready for Apple Pay built into the back. Should you get one?

If you don’t currently have an iPhone and are in a position to get any one you like, your decision will depend on your priorities. The SE is the smallest, lightest and cheapest of the five options available from Apple, while the others are bigger, bolder and pricier. If you already have a 6 or 6 Plus, moving to the SE will give you a noticeable performance bump, while 6s and 6s Plus users don’t have a reason to switch unless they really want a smaller phone.

The user more likely to consider the SE is the one who can’t (or doesn’t want to) drop the kind of cash needed for Apple’s big new phones. If this is you, you can rest assured that the SE is every bit as capable as its biggest brothers, even if it’s not quite as shiny. Using the screen and body of a three-year-old device, this is definitely a budget product (although Apple would never designate it so), but it’s shiny and new where it counts.

The iPhone SE is available in silver, gold, ‘space grey’ and ‘rose gold’. Outright from Apple, the 16GB model costs $679, while the 64GB model costs $829.

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Family want new investigation team on death of Scott Johnson in Sydney cliff fall

Scott Johnson was about to receive a doctorate in mathematics before his death. Photo: NSW Police Steve Johnson, brother of Scott Johnson, outside the NSW Coroners Court in 2015. Photo: Nick Moir
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NSW Police Detective Inspector Pamela Young. Photo: Wolter Peeters

The family of Scott Johnson, whose body was found at the bottom of a Sydney cliff, say NSW Police should have nothing to do with the investigation into his death, claiming the force’s “bias” could unfairly affect the coronial process.

Instead, they want to see a new team replace investigators currently on the case.

A third inquest is set to be held into the death of Mr Johnson, a 27-year-old mathematics prodigy, whose naked body was found at the bottom of a cliff near Blue Fish Point, Manly, in 1988.

His family believe Mr Johnson was thrown or chased off the cliff and that his death was one in a spate of gay hate murders in Sydney in the 1980s.

At a directions hearing on Monday, barrister for the Johnson family, John Agius SC, indicated they wanted a change of investigators.

He said in an “ideal world” NSW Police should have nothing to do with the investigation.

“They have demonstrated their position to be one of so much bias that it could only unfairly infect the coronial process,” he told the Coroner’s Court.

However, Mr Agius conceded the chances of achieving that were not great.

He submitted a new group other than the unsolved homicide team or a team that had nothing to do with the current investigators, should be given carriage of the case.

Further submissions will be made on Thursday.

Originally, Mr Johnson’s death was ruled as a suicide however that finding was thrown out when a coroner made an open finding in 2012.

Mr Johnson’s brother, Steve, has spent $1 million carrying out his own investigations.

Last year, the lead unsolved homicide team investigator on the case, Detective Chief Inspector Pamela Young, accused a former police minister of “kowtowing” to the Johnson family during an extraordinary interview with ABC’s Lateline program.

Inspector Young also told the program there was still evidence pointing to suicide as the cause of Mr Johnson’s death.

The NSW State Coroner Michael Barnes then asked that Inspector Young be taken off the case as her interview had the potential to undermine public confidence in the experienced detective’s impartiality.

The coroner acknowledged that Inspector Young had devoted an enormous amount of time to the investigation and had an intimate knowledge of it.

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Gig Guide

LUXURIOUS: Sarah Blasko will provide the council chambers with a beautiful shake-up on Saturday night when she performs at Newcastle City Hall.MUSIC5 Sawyers Friday,DJ Perry Carter. Saturday,DJ ShotsFired.
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Anna Bay Tavern Saturday,SpankN TheMonkey. Sunday, Daxton Monaghan.

Argenton HotelFriday, Karaoke.

Argyle House Friday, Slumberjack. Saturday, Running Touch.

Australia Hotel Cessnock Saturday,TheBadandtheUgly.

Avon Valley Inn Saturday,Xyz.

Bar 121 Friday,Tiali. Saturday, Tommy Gun.

Bar Petite Thursday, Back & Forth album launch. Friday, Truman Smith. Saturday, Emmy Rose. Sunday, CrocQ.

Bay Hotel Saturday, Lounge Lizards.

Beach Hotel Sunday, Go Stereo.

Belmont 16 FootersFriday,MidnightDrifters,RyanDaley. Saturday,ElvisToTheMax…starringMaxPellicano,Cruzers,BobbyC. Sunday,PhillipCrawshaw.

Belmont Hotel Saturday, The Hummingbirds.

Belmore Hotel Saturday, Hard Grime presentsIan Munro&DJ I-Dee.

Beresfield Bowling Club Friday, 24 Hours. Saturday, The Smarts.

Bimbadgen Estate Saturday, Chris Isaak, James Reyne,Richard Clapton,Thirsty Merc.

Blackbutt Hotel Friday,Angel Gear. Saturday,Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

The Bradford Thursday, Lennie. Friday, Monsters of Rock Down Under.Saturday, Unlocking The Doors. Sunday, Frets With Benefits.

Burwood Inn Friday,DaneFitzsimmons.

Cambridge Hotel Thursday, The Bennies, Off With Their Heads,Hightime.Saturday,Craze Nightclub featuringOski,Trey-Y,Amir.

Cardiff RSLClubFriday, Aqwa Duo.Saturday,Loko.

Carrington Bowling ClubFriday, Karaoke Klubhouse.

Carrington PlaceThursday, The Frenchman Street New Orleans Jazz Band. Saturday, The Royal Key.

Catho Pub Saturday,Angie. Sunday,Unlocking The Doors.

Central Charlestown Leagues ClubFriday, MattSemmens.

Central HotelStroud Saturday,Greg Bryce.

Cessnock Rugby League Supporters Club Saturday, Counterpart.

Charlestown Bowling Club Thursday,Anyerin. Friday,The Levymen. Saturday, Earthbound.

Chittaway Bay Tavern Friday, Bob Allan Trio.Sunday, RickO’Keeffe.

City Hall Saturday, Sarah Blasko.

Club AzzurriSunday, Latinova.

Club KotaraFriday, Daniel Arvidson.Saturday, Solid Gold Party.

Colliery Inn Friday, Karaoke. Saturday, Pete Sneddon.

Commercial HotelBoolaroo Friday,Murray Byfield.

Commercial Hotel Morpeth Friday, Mark Wells. Saturday,PeteGelzinnis.

Country Club Hotel Shoal Bay Friday, resident DJs. Saturday, Shivoo, Dave McCredie. Sunday, JamieMartensDuo.

Criterion Hotel Weston Saturday, Sam Russell.

Doyalson RSL Sunday, Kelly Hope.

Drone Friday, Suburban Haze,Dog Act, Introvert, Jacoband Altai.

Duke Of Wellington Friday, TK. Saturday, The Big Bang.

East Cessnock Bowling Club Saturday,CathyCannon. Sunday, Boney Rivers.

East Maitland Bowling Club Saturday, Boney Rivers.

Edgeworth Bowling ClubFriday,All Access 80s.

Edgeworth Tavern Saturday,Jackson Halliday.

Exchange Hotel Friday,TwinsanityTrio. Saturday, Alias.

Finnegans Hotel Saturday, Luke La Beat.

Firestation Hotel Saturday, The Royals.

Foghorn Brewhouse Friday,Hartley Duo. Saturday,Hot Cop. Sunday,Crazy Old Maurice.

Gallipoli Legion Club Friday, Yes Commissioner.

Gateshead Tavern Friday,The Brown Bull.

Greta Workers Club Friday,Soundabout.

Grain Store Saturday,Ryan Daley. Sunday,JJ King.

Grand Hotel Tuesday,Cleon’s Three.

Gunyah Hotel Friday,Ngariki. Saturday,GenR8.Sunday, Blues Bombers.

Hamilton Station Hotel Thursday, Suburban Haze.

Harrigan’s Pokolbin Friday, X&Y. Saturday, Aqwa, Misbehave. Sunday, Kristn Lane Duo.

Honeysuckle Hotel Thursday, Mark Wells. Friday,GarethHudsonTrio. Saturday,Adrianna MacTrio. Sunday,MickJones,TheLamplighters.

Hotel Jesmond Friday, Phonic Duo. Saturday, Kim and Mik. Sunday, Michael Mills.

Iron Horse Inn Saturday, Purple Rain.

Jewells Tavern Saturday,The Way.

The Junction Hotel Friday,Advocate. Saturday,Mike Horzbac.

Kent Hotel Friday,The New Cool. Saturday,Fox Catapult. Sunday,Giant Blues Band.

King Street Hotel Friday, Senor Rose. Saturday, Samuel James. Sunday, Any Given Sunday.

Kotara Bowling Club Friday,DanielArvidson.

Kurri Kurri Bowling Club Saturday, ShirazandDiamond.

Lake Macquarie Tavern Saturday, October Rage.

Lake Macquarie Yacht Club Sunday, Bob Allan.

Lakeside Village Tavern Saturday,TheV Dubs.

Lambton Park Hotel Saturday, Daley Holliday.

Lass O’GowrieFriday,Los Scallywags,Voodoo Youth,Stale Cakes. Saturday,Truman Smith Band,Michael Mason.

Lizotte’s NewcastleFriday, The Pigs. Saturday,First Ladies of Soul.Sunday,The Rehab Brass Band.

Mark Hotel Saturday, The Gaudrys. Sunday,TheJungleKings.

Mary Ellen Saturday, Love That Hat.

Mattara Hotel Friday, Beth Gleeson.

Mavericks On The Bay Friday, Phil McKnight. Saturday, Todd Schmoo. Sunday, Kim.

Mayfield Bowling Club Saturday,Busta Thong.

Muree Golf Club Saturday,DaxtonMonaghan.

Murray’s Brewery Sunday, Mick Boogaard.

Nag’s Head HotelSaturday, Redline.

Neath Hotel Saturday, Hayden Johns.

Nelson Bay Diggers Friday,LokoTrio. Saturday, Coastal Craze. Sunday, Holly Wilson.

Newcastle United Sports ClubFriday,You’re The Star Karaoke.

Northern Star Hotel Friday,Alex Johnson. Saturday,Graham Raisbeck.

Pippis At The Point Friday,Dean Kyrwood,The Remedy.Saturday, Kristen Lane Duo.Sunday, Kylie Jane.

Plough Inn Friday,DaxtonMonaghan.

Potter’s Brewery Friday,Makaylie.

The Pourhouse Maitland Saturday, Ian Henry.

Premier Hotel Saturday,Free Willy & the Grace Brothers. Sunday, Jungle Kings.

Queens Wharf Hotel Friday,DJ Matteo Verde. Saturday,Horenco,Eoin Smith.

Railway Hotel CessnockSaturday, Hendo.

Rathmines Bowling Club Sunday,PeterStefanson.

Regal KurriHotel Saturday, Secret Society.

Royal Crown Hotel Dudley Saturday, Holly Wilson.

Royal Federal Hotel Saturday, The Gracetones.

Royal Hotel Singleton Sunday, Top Shelf.

Royal Motor Yacht Club – TorontoFriday,Leigh Warren. Sunday,Georgina Grimshaw.

Salamander Shores Friday,Chad Shuttleworth.

Seven Seas Hotel Carrington Friday,Kieran Glasgow. Saturday,Thomas Blake.

Shaft Tavern Friday, The Big Bang.

Shortland Hotel Friday,KarenO’Shea. Saturday, Mick Jones.

The Small Ballroom Saturday, Borkfest feat.Trophy Eyes,Stories, Chronolyth, Burial At Sea, Buried With The Rest,PashaBulka,OfDivinity,ScarsHaveFaded,Chromatide,Lycanthrope,TheCondemned, Dimensions.

Soldiers Point Bowling Club Friday, Peter Stefanson.Saturday, BlueSuedeRockers.

Stag and Hunter Hotel Thursday, Merewether Fat Blues Band. Friday, The Ironhorses, The Hurricanes. Saturday, Sean McMahon & The Moonmen, Elwood Myre.

Star Hotel Friday, Bobby C. Saturday, Mark Wells Duo.

Stockton Bowling Club Friday,Bounce.Sunday, Phil McKnight.

Summerland Sporties Sunday, Darren Rolling Keys.

Swansea RSLClub Saturday,BackBeat.

Sunnyside Tavern Saturday,Government Grants.

Sydney Junction Hotel Saturday, Shooting Molly.

Tea Gardens Hotel Motel Saturday, Frets With Benefits.

Tilligerry RSL Friday,JaybeeDuo. Saturday, Kelly Hope.

Town Hall Hotel Friday,Jungle King Duo.Saturday,Kevin O’Hara. Sunday,Kenny Jewell.

Wangi District Workers Club Friday,Maryanne Rex. Sunday,Emile.

Wangi Hotel Sunday,Jackson Halliday.

Warners At The Bay Thursday, Kylie Jane.Friday,Secret Society. Saturday,Loose Bazooka.

Warners Bay Hotel Saturday,4 Letter Word.

Westfield Kotara Friday,Ava. Saturday, Jessica Cain. Sunday, Gareth Hudson.

Wests Leagues Club New Lambton Thursday, Angamus.Friday, LoveThatHat.Saturday, The Snape Trilogy.Sunday,The Fabulous 60’s and 70’s Show. Tuesday, Angamus.

Wickham Park HotelFriday,Loose Bazooka.Saturday,King Shakey,Viagro.Sunday,Thomas Blake,Mark Wells Band.

Windsor Castle Hotel Saturday, Jake Folbigg.

MOVIES10 Cloverfield Lane(CTC) Waking up from a caraccident, a young woman finds herself in the basement of a man who says he’s saved her life from a chemical attack that has left the outside world uninhabitable.

FANTASY: Australian actor Chris Hemsworth has reprised the role of Eric in The Huntsman: Winter’s War, the prequel to 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman.

45 Years (R)There is just one week until Kate Mercer’s 45thwedding anniversary and the planning for the party is going well. But then a letter arrives for her husband. The body of his first love has been discovered, frozen and preserved in the icy glaciers of the Swiss Alps. By the time the party is upon them, five days later, there may not be a marriage left to celebrate. (Regal)

Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice(M)Fearing the actions of a god-like super hero left unchecked, Gotham City’s own formidable, forceful vigilante takes on Metropolis’ most revered, modern-day savior, while the world wrestles with what sort of hero it really needs. And with Batman and Superman at war with one another, a new threat quickly arises, putting mankind in greater danger than it’s ever known before.

Brooklyn(M) In 1950s Ireland and New York, young Ellis Lacey has to choose between two men and two countries.

Deadpool(MA15+) Deadpool is an unique super hero film thattells the origin story of a former special forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson, who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopts the alter ego Deadpool.

Eye In The Sky(M) When UK intelligence officer Colonel Katherine Powel discovers the terrorists she is tracking are planning a deadly suicide attack, her mission escalates from “capture” to “kill”. American drone pilot Steve Watts is poised to engage when, suddenly, a nine-year old girl enters the kill zone.

Hail, Caesar!(PG) A Hollywood fixer in the 1950’s works to keep the studio’s stars in line. (Regal)

How To Be Single(M) New Yorkis full of lonely hearts seeking a match, and what Alice, Robin, Lucy, Meg, Tom and David have in common is the need to learn how to be single in a world filled with ever-evolving definitions of love.

London Has Fallen(MA15+) In London for the Prime Minister’s funeral, Mike Banning discovers a plot to killthe attending world leaders.

Looking For Grace(CTC) When their teenaged daughter goes missing, a couple and an investigator search for her while keeping their own secrets and stories hidden.

Kung Fu Panda 3(PG) Continuing his “legendary adventures of awesomeness”, Po must face two hugely epic, but different threats: one supernatural and the other a little closer to his home.

Miracles From Heaven(PG)Based on the incredible true story of the Beam family. When Christy discovers her 10-year-old daughter Anna has a rare, incurable disease, she becomes a ferocious advocate for her daughter’s healing as she searches for a solution. After Anna has a freak accident, an extraordinary miracle unfolds in the wake of her dramatic rescue that leaves medical specialists mystified, her family restored and their community inspired.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2(PG)After spending most of their time focusing on their troubling teenage daughter, Toula and Ian are facing marital problems while also having to deal with yet another Greek wedding – this time, even bigger and fatter.

National Theatre: Les Liaisons DangereusesIn 1782, Choderlos de Laclos’ novel of sex, intrigue and betrayal in pre-revolutionary France scandalised the world. Two hundred years later, Christopher Hampton’s irresistible adaptation swept the board, winning the Olivier and Evening Standard Awards for best play. Josie Rourke’s revival marks the play’s 30-year anniversary. (Event Newcastle)

Room(M) A modern-day story about the boundless love between mother and child. (Regal, final screening)

Sherpa (M)A fight on Everest? It seemed incredible. But in 2013 news channels around the world reported an ugly brawl at 21,000ft as European climbers fled a mob of angry sherpas.

Spotlight(M) The Academy award-winningtrue story of how the Boston Globe newspaperuncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire church to its core.

The Daughter(M) The story follows a man who returns home to discover a long-buried family secret, and whose attempts to put things right threaten the lives of those he left home years before.

The Finest Hours (PG)Casey Sherman and Michael J. Tougias’ book detailing a daring 1952 coast guard rescue off the New England seaboard comes to the screen in this Disney film.

The Huntsman Winter’s War (M)As two evil sisters prepare to conquer the land; two renegades – Eric the Huntsmen – who previously aided Snow White in defeating Ravenna, and his forbidden lover, Sara set out to stop them.

The Jungle Book (PG)Mowgli is a human boy raised by the Indian wolves Raksha & Akela ever since he was a baby andbrought to them by Bagheera, the black panther. When the fearsome Bengal tiger Shere Khan threatens his life, since man isn’t allowed in the jungle, Mowgli leaves his jungle home. (Advanced screening)

The Lady In The Van(M) A man forms an unexpected bond with a transient woman living in her car that’s parked in his driveway.

Where To Invade Next (M)To discoverwhat the USA can learn from other nations, Michael Moore playfully “invades”them to see what they have to offer. (Event Newcastle)

Zootopia(G) In the animal city of Zootopia, a fast-talking fox who’s trying to make it big goes on the run when he’s framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Zootopia’s top cop, a self-righteous rabbit, is hot on his tail, but when both become targets of a conspiracy, they’re forced to team up and discover even natural enemies can become best friends.

THEATREA Little Something Hunter TAFE’s acting diploma students present amusing poetry, self-devised monologues and engaging group improvisations. Civic Playhouse, Newcastle. Nightly until Saturdayat 7.30pm. Free. 4923 7595.

Robyn Schall – New York Comedy Gala The American comedian offers amusing tales aboutlife in the Big Apple. Lizotte’s Newcastle, Lambton. Thursday, dinner and show from 6pm. Show only at 8.30pm. 4956 2066.

The Magic Flute A handsome prince, aided by a reluctant bird-catcher, fights the evil Queenof the Night and other villains in his search for romance; Mozart’s lively opera. Central CoastOpera and Central Coast Conservatoriumat Laycock Street Community Theatre, Gosford.Thursday8pm; Saturday 2pm and 8pm. 4323 3233.

The 39 Steps Lively and amusing adaptation by Patrick Barlow of Alfred Hitchcock’s spy-chase film, with four actors playing 139 roles. Theatre on Brunkerat St Stephen’s ChurchHall, Adamstown. Friday and Saturdayuntil April 23 (dinner and show at 7pm, show only at8pm), plus Sunday matinees onApril 10 and 17at 2pm. 4956 1263.

Witness for the Prosecution Tense Agatha Christie thriller about a man put on trial formurder and the views of his wife and others about his guilt or innocence. DAPAat DAPATheatre, Hamilton. Friday and Saturday 7.30pm, plus 2pm Saturday and Sunday matinees.(Final week). 0416 252 446.

Stars of the Central Coast: Dance for Cancer Prominent Central Coast members performdance routines with the support of professional dance instructors to raise money for theCentral Coast branch of the NSW Cancer Council. Laycock Street Community Theatre,Gosford. Friday8pm. 4323 3233.

Singalong to the Shows: Requests Audience members join in singing favourite songs fromstage and screen musicals, with this program drawn from the most popular songs since the showbegan seven years ago. Adamstown Artsat the Adamstown Uniting ChurchDungeon. Saturday2pm. 4943 5316.

Melinda Does Doris – A Tribute to Doris Day Country singer Melinda Schneider performsfavourite songs by the popular Hollywood actress. The Harbour Agency. CessnockPerforming Arts Centre onSaturday2pm; 4990 7134. Laycock Street Community Theatre,Gosford, Sunday2pm; 4323 3233.

Disney’s Mulan Jr A determined Chinese girl dresses in men’s clothes and joins the army tohelp fight foreign invaders and save her family; heartwarming musical. Young People’sTheatreat Young People’s Theatre, Hamilton. Opens Monday and plays daily at 11am untilFriday, April 15, plus 7pm show on Wednesday. Then plays each Saturday at 2pm and 7pmfrom April 16 to May 21, plus 2pm Sunday matinees on May 1 and 15. 梧桐夜网ypt.org419论坛;4961 4895.