The Footy Show lasted longer than Fatty would have ever imagined

You’re right.
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Under the circumstances, it is a little difficult to talk about the abrupt departure of a major Channel Nine star, without being compromised every which way, but let’s do it anyway.

I refer, of course, to the sudden end of Fatty Vautin and The Footy Show, and must, as ever, disclose that I do regular work for Nine myself, as does my wi … oh, wait!

In the world of sports media, it is one of the more significant events of the year, the end of an era, the final burying of a show whose demise has been predicted for the better part of two decades, and …

And right there is one of the problems. For starters, those under 40 will have just about no memory of what Vautin was like as a player.

The answer is, he was a bloody good one, playing for Manly, the Roosters, Queensland and the Kangaroos, even though – and this was part of his charm – he didn’t particular look like one. See, though a player in the era of Wally Lewis and Mal Meninga, he had nothing like the skill of the former, and was perhaps just half the muscle mass of the latter. But he was passionate, enduring and more often than not on the winning side of things, including captain of the 1987 Manly side that won the premiership.

“I had a great run,” Vautin acknowledged to Brendan Jones of WSFM fame, on Wednesday. “Especially for a short, chubby, redhead who played for both Manly and Queensland. That’s not a career, that’s a miracle.”

That is Vautin all over – always the one with the funny quip, the twinkle in his eye and the one right in the middle of the colourful stories. My own favourite goes back to the 1987 Origin series when Wayne Bennett picked a young bloke from Ipswich called Alfie Langer in the Queensland side. In one of the first team meetings, there was open discussion between Bennett and Lewis as to how best to go about covering for Langer’s presumed defensive deficiencies. Should he go in the second line or out wide?

Having listened to the discussion for as long as he could, Vautin could bear it no more.

“Hey, he’s a Queenslander!” he roared. “He won’t let us down. He’ll play where he normally plays.”

(Which Langer did, mowing down anything that moved just on suspicion, and won the man-of-the-match award.)

With a fund of such stories to draw on and an inexhaustible supply of quintessentially n quips, Vautin prospered in the media from the first, and though he started with a bits and pieces role at Channel Seven, it was at Channel Nine from the early 1990s onwards that he truly found his feet.

No, he couldn’t dissect a game like Peter Sterling, or call one like Ray Warren, but he was strong and his passion always shone through. While some thought commentators should be neutral, that was never Vautin’s go and in Origin matches, he would sometimes forget himself and roar, as those from north of the Tweed were getting close to the line, “Go, go, GO!!!”

He also shone with Kerry Anne Kennerley with regular appearances on the Midday Show. He was so good that in the latter months of 1994 he was given his own show to host, The Footy Show where, again, he shone from the first.

The basic idea was that instead of deadly earnest analysis of football, you’d have fun with it and yes, it included lots of embarrassing skits that invariably involved the likes of Vautin and Steve “Blocker” Roach, putting on women’s dresses. It was not to everyone’s taste, but enough people loved it that it became iconic, and though it had many transformations over the years, the one thing that never changed was Vautin, with his twinkle, his head-wobbles, his catchphrases, “Turn it up”, “I’ll get back to you shortly” and “That’ll do me”.

Outside of the studio, he was never particularly hard-working but he was always popular with floor crew, producers, camera, makeup people etc. There were never stories about Fatty behaving badly, because he was off-camera exactly what he was on camera, a really good bloke.

His key love through all those years, beyond his family, was playing golf. He could never quite believe that he had landed such a well-paying gig, just for being himself, and was always open about how lucky he was with everything that had happened to him and how Nine, as he said to me once, “looks after me like a silkworm”.

The fact that The Footy Show is now over for him is, as he would be the first to acknowledge, not bad luck. It is simply the end of era – and one that lasted much longer than he ever thought it would have.

So good on you, Fatty. I am not sure if there is a sports media hall of fame, but if they start one, and I get to be a judge, you and Sterling would be my first two picked from the ranks of rugby league players.

Go well, and I look forward to seeing you around the traps.

On board the dredger “David Allan”

On board the dredger “David Allan” The hull of “David Allan” splits to release the load in its hopper off the Newcastle coast.
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Preparing to leave from Dyke 6.

Crew members Mick Crabb and Damien Dunphy on board “David Allan”

“David Allan” leaving its berth

“David Allan” leaving its berth

Crew members preparing “David Allan”

“David Allan” deck

Crew member Mick Crabb

Crew member Damien Dunphy

“David Allan” heads down the South Arm

“David Allan” heads down the South Arm

Crew member Damien Dunphy

Crew member Damien Dunphy

“David Allan” in Newcastle harbour. Picture: Simone De Peak

Crew member Mick Crabb operates the drag head and pump on “David Allan”. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

The dredging equipment on “David Allan” is lowered

Preparing to pump silt and water into the hopper

Silt and water pour into the hopper

Silt and water pour into the hopper

Silt and water pour into the hopper

“David Allan” heads out with a full hopper towards the disposal ground.

“David Allan” heads out with a full hopper towards the disposal ground.

“David Allan” in Newcastle harbour

“David Allan” in Newcastle harbour

“David Allan” heading out to sea

Colin O’Donnell, foreground.

Port of Newcastle’s Keith Wilks studies a chart on the bridge.

Colin O’Donnell watches the load pour into the sea at the disposal ground

Crew member Doug Robinson

The hull opens to release the load into the sea

“David Allan” in Newcastle Harbour. Picture: Simone De Peak

TweetFacebookDavid Allan as its hull splits down the middle and its load pours into the sea.

This is not a maritime disaster I’m witnessing. David Allan is designed to do this, and the ship’s hull iscleaved apart a number of times every day.

Still, it’s a disconcerting sight, to be peering at the swell through a ship’s split hull.

David Allan deliberately opens itselfto the sea so that other ships’ hulls don’t become stuck on the bottom of Newcastle harbour. For David Allan is a dredger, picking away at the Hunter River’s muddy mouth and keeping clear the commercial shipping channel and berths in what is one of ’s busiest ports.

MAKING WAY: Silt and water sucked from the bottom of the shipping channel in Newcastle harbour pour into the hopper of “David Allan”. Pictures: Jonathan Carroll

OF the more than 2200 ships that cruise in and out of Newcastle harbour each year, none is seen more often than David Allan. It is perhaps the most visible vessel on the water, for it seems to be a constant presence.

Even the most casual observer of harbour life would have noticed this 71-metre vessel, as it ploughs in and out past Nobbys or slowly picks its way around the port.

“It’s just like a great, big vacuum cleaner,” says Keith Wilks, Port of Newcastle’s executive manager operations and infrastructure.

The ship’s official title is a trailing suction hopper dredger (TSHD), which, Wilks explains, is essentially what David Allan does; it drags a trail, sucks in what it stirs up, and that poursinto the ship’s hopper. The processis dredging.

To see the TSHD in operation, Keith Wilks and David Allan’s crew of seven invite the Herald on board. Wilks can quickly find his feet on a ship’s deck. He went to sea for the best part of a decade and, before this job, he worked for the tug company Svitzer and was involved in the Pasha Bulkersalvage operation in 2007.

“David Allan” in Newcastle harbour. Picture: Simone De Peak

David Allan is berthed at Dyke 6, on the edge of the former BHP steelworks site,in the Hunter River’s South Arm.

On the other side of the river, along the Kooragang shore, are a few of the reasons David Allan’s work is crucial.

A row of bulk carriers is being loaded with Hunter coal, each tonne pushing the massive hulls ever closer to the harbour bottom.By the time some of these ships depart, there may be clearance of little more than a metre in the channel. David Allan provides certainty for those on board that there’senough water under them in the port.

“A ship has to have uniform depth; it’s critical in keeping a port going,” Wilks says.

The dredger maintains the channel at a depth of 15.2 metres from the breakwalls to the Kooragang 10 berth in the river’s South Arm, which is a distance of about nine kilometres.

“It’s a lot of channel for us to maintain,” Wilks says. David Allan also keeps clear 20 ships’ berth boxes, and the Basin area off Carrington to a depth of 12.8 metres.

David Allan is on the harbour seven days a week. Its role is ceaseless, flowing on as surely as the river that makes the ship’s place in the port so necessary. The Hunter carries the silt into the harbour, and the dredger clears at least some of it.

“David Allan” heads out with a full hopper towards the disposal ground.

The Port of Newcastle is licensed by the federal government to remove 650,000 cubic metres of silt and sand a year. On average, Wilks says, about 500,000 cubic metres are removed annually. About 30,000 cubic metres of sand are removed from the harbour entrance. The rest is silt that has come down the river.

“We help it on its way, because it’s coming anyway,” Wilks says. “It’s fair to say the Hunter River is a fairly disturbed system.”

The river becomes more disturbed after major storms, and what is washed into the Hunter upstream will most probably show up in the harbour, creating even more work for the crew. After the 2007 “Pasha Bulker” storm, Wilks says, there was so much sediment the channel lost about a metre and it took six months of dredging to clear.

“Probably in nooks and crannies, they’d still have [silt from] the Pasha Bulker storm in there,” he says.

“Most of the silt comes down the North Arm,” he explains, because it is broader and shallower than the South Arm, and the particles are carried along more quickly, before a lot of it is dumped in the slow sweep of the river off Stockton known as the Horseshoe.

PLANNING: Port of Newcastle’s Keith Wilks examines a chart in the bridge.

That is the area the dredger is bound for on this day. The port’s hydrographic survey team has been measuring the harbour’s depth in the vessel JT Gowlland, and its data determines what parts need dredging. So that information has helped set the course for David Allan.

The ship doesn’t begin at one end of the port and works its way down. Rather, “we jump around according to what needs dredging,” explains Wilks.

“And dredging can’t get in the way of shipping movements.”

After he has coaxed David Allan away from the wharf and we cruise downstream, Trent Hollis, who is the ship’s master today, points to patches of pink on a computer screen. That’s what has to be dredged. Hollis will guidethe ship, while crew member Mick Crabb, who is sitting beside him, will operate the drag head and pump.

Crabb has been a crew member for about six years, and before this, he worked on gas tankers and rigs, mostly off ’s north-west coast.

Crew member Mick Crabb operates the drag head and pump on “David Allan”. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

The dredgercruises at under two knots, while the drag head is lowered over the starboard side and into the mud.

“The first law of dredging – don’t go backwards,” says crew member Colin O’Donnell, who has worked on the ship for 25 years.

The first law is followed, the pumping begins, and a slurry pours into the hopper. It looks as though the harbour is being turned upside down, as the mud and water flow in. Keith Wilks says the sediment is sampled and tested before it is pumped up and disposed of out to sea.

“What we’ve seen over time is a general improvement,” he says, citing the closure of the BHP works as contributor to a cleaner harbour bottom.

The hopper, which holds about 1100 cubic metres, is quickly filled.

The ship’s bow points to the immensity beyond Nobbys, and Trent Hollis hands over control of David Allan to crew member Jon Baxendale to guide her out to sea.

“She’s not too bad, very responsive,” says Baxendale, a second-generation mariner, as David Allan picks up pace at the touch of open water. “And I get a kick out of going to sea; it must be in the blood.”

The dredger doesn’t head out when the sea is angry. But today, the swell is about one and a half metres, and David Allan nods and gently sways, as Baxendale steers her to the disposal ground. The site is a one kilometre-square area, containing, on a chart at least, 100 “boxes”. This load is to be dumped above “Box 15”.

Trent Hollis orders a turn to starboard to “slow it down for the hole”.

“Coming around!,” responds Baxendale.

David Allan steadies and then her hull parts on large hydraulic hinges.

“It splits 27 degrees,” says Colin O’Donnell.

The hull of “David Allan” opens to dispose of its load of silt and water

The deck rises like a seabird’s wings, exposing the swell. One of the crew later says that as a mariner, it’s a disturbing sight:“Ships aren’t usually meant to split open.”

Within about 10 seconds, the hopper is empty, and the hull is sealed once more.David Allanpushes towards the harbour entrance. The dredger makes this voyage on average five times a day.

On the way back in, Colin O’Donnell scans the water. Despite him having made this voyage thousands of times, he mutters, “there’s always something different happening on the water, always something”.

Brought up in Kurri Kurri, O’Donnell went to sea in the 1960s as a cadet on theIron Wyndham, part of the BHP fleet that would load and unload in that stretch now occupied byDavid Allan.

Colin O’Donnell, foreground, on the bridge of “David Allan”

He has seen remarkable changes on the harbour and along its shores, a lot of it shaped by this ship he is on. When O’Donnell joined the David Allan in 1992, the BHP steelworks was still operating, and there were only a couple of coal-loading berths. He is amazed by the transformation of the South Arm, particularly at the Kooragang berths upstream, where great ships are nudged into the bank.

“All that up the river was just about swamp,” he recalls. “You could walk across parts.”

But some things don’t change.

“It’s one of those things that if you come back in 150 years, they’ll still be dredging the port of Newcastle,” O’Donnell muses.

The ship’s relief master, Trent Hollis.

If you went back more than 150 years, there was dredging in the port.

In the late 1850s, Edward Moriarty, who was the engineer for Hunter River Improvements, devised a plan for developing the harbour. From 1859, continuous dredging took place on the harbour. Within two years, he could report that parts of the harbour had been deepened by 10 feet, or just over three metres.

Yet maintaining the port was an unrelenting challenge then, as it is now. In 1889, TheIllustrated Sydney Newsreported how “a good safe enclosed harbour has been secured; but unfortunately, owing to the immense quantity of sediment brought down by the Hunter River, dredging operations have to continually kept up”.

The same story could well be published today.

“This never ends, we’re always on the river,” Keith Wilks says. “Unless you stop erosion, it’s just going to keep on coming.”

HAVING helped clear a path for other ships,David Allanthen stays out of their way in the port.

Trent Hollis is alerted that a bulk carrier,Star Artemis, has just “lifted off” from the Kooragang 9 berth and is heading down the South Arm. He has to work out where to pass the fully laden ship.

“We can’t stay in the channel,” Hollissays.

Hollis peers at his paper charts then at a computer screen that marks other vessels on an automatic identification system, before looking up and out.

“Whatever we’re looking at electronically, you verify it by what you see out the window,” he explains.

The 44-year-old has been on ships for almost half his life. He’s been on water for much longer. He grew up by Lake Macquarie. Hollis has been onDavid Allanfor four years and is the Mate and ReliefMaster.

“It’s a good position,” he says, “and it can be stressful at times. The biggest stress is being aware of other vessels . . .You’ve got to be a step ahead.”

“David Allan” with Nobbys off its stern

Just below Walsh Point, near where the North and South arms meet, Trent Hollis takes control to pass the approaching bulk carrier. He takes the dredger just out of the channel, andStar Artemislumbers by.

“I take a lot of pride in this,” says Hollis. “We realise how important it is to maintain those draughts of the big vessels.”

For if ships are stuck, a lot of trade would be left high and dry. In 2016, almost $16.7 billion worth of exports passed through the the port. While coal accounted for the bulk of that, everything from wheat to aluminium was shipped out.What’s more, almost $2 billion in products were imported through the port.

“If we lost depth [in the port], then farmers can’t expect their wheat to be exported,” says Keith Wilks. “A lot of people rely on this port.”

SoDavid Allan, he concludes is more than a constant presence on Newcastle harbour; it’s a vital one.

“It’s playing an important role in keeping an economy going,” Keith Wilks says, “and not just in the region, but also inthe state and the nation.”

Brambles wears shareholder wrath over exec pay

Brambles will overhaul pay for its senior executives in the face of an investor backlash that almost delivered the company a first strike vote against its remuneration report.
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Following a year that saw the global pallet giant ditch profit targets in the face of strong competition and changing dynamics for its important customers, Brambles copped strong protest votes from investors at its annual general meeting.

The final vote tally was 76.77 per cent in favour with 23.23 per cent against, so the company avoided the 25 per cent no vote threshold for a first strike.

Shareholders also voted strongly against the re-election of long-serving chairman Stephen Johns with proxy votes lodged ahead of the meeting recording a 24.77 per cent vote against his continuing on the board.

The re-appointment of director Brian Long also attracted a hefty 18.2 per cent vote in opposition from shareholders ahead of the meeting.

The shareholder angst came as Maurice Blackburn also announced on Wednesday it was seeking to build a class action against Brambles after it downgraded its earnings guidance earlier this year.

The changes to executive pay will see Brambles able to clawback long and short term bonus awards of shares which had been awarded to executives but that had not yet vested.

“I would like to acknowledge shareholders’ disappointment with the company’s performance [in the 2017 year],” Mr Johns told the meeting in Sydney on Wednesday.

“This disappointment is reflected in the lower level of shareholder support for some of this year’s resolutions to be considered at today’s meeting.

“I want you to understand that the board also shares your disappointment and is united in overseeing the effective management of the company on behalf of you, our shareholders.”

Mr Johns told shareholders that he expected there would not be a repeat of the poorer 2017 result pointing to the company’s previous record of growth.

“We hope and expect to return to those [returns] in future years, we are looking for a return to very, very good figures and very good performance,” he said.

The board had opted not to pay any short-term bonus for the 2017 financial year to former chief executive Tom Gorman, who left Brambles earlier this year.

Director Tony Froggatt said the company had reviewed its payment structure leading to a recasting of executive remuneration.

Key changes included a shift towards using underlying profit as the key measure for the determination of bonuses, delivering greater powers to the board to clawback bonuses and restrict the trading in shares by the chief executive.

Mr Froggatt said the changes would better align the interests of executives and shareholders.

n Shareholders’ Association representative Mary Curran raised concerns that new chief executive Graham Chipchase had retained his position as a director of AstraZeneca which was worth about $1 million a year and could be a distraction given it has faced its own challenges.

“I think we need his full attention because [total shareholder return] is dismal, in fact we have had a palletful of poor returns,” Ms Curran said.

Mr Johns said Mr Chipchase gained valuable experience from his board position but that he had agreed to relinquish it if it interfered with his Brambles’ responsibilities.

One investor who indicated he would vote against Mr Johns’ re-election said the chairman was in an “awkward” position.

“Last year he told us all was well with the company. Obviously he didn’t know what the reality was or didn’t reveal it,” he said.

Stars hope Pietersen can play on beyond 2018

While Kevin Pietersen has declared his English Twenty20 career is over, the Melbourne Stars hope the England batting great has more than a season left in his Big Bash League career.
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Pietersen’s two-year deal with the Stars expires after this summer’s campaign, with the 37-year-old hopeful of another strong campaign amid what shapes as a powerful batting line-up.

Stars chief executive Clint Cooper dined with Pietersen, in Sydney for a promotional shoot, on Monday night.

He said the Stars’ list management team would wait until the end of the summer before consulting with the flamboyant star about his future.

“He has got everything to play for. If he plays the way he did last year, why wouldn’t he want to go around again? At this stage of his life, it’s what opportunities are in front of him and what is more important for his family,” Cooper told Fairfax Media.

“Regardless of whether he plays or doesn’t play on with us, he will certainly be involved with the club in some capacity. We had a club [event] around his rhino contribution [last summer], and that has gone worldwide. We will continue to work on that. He has been sensational for us, on and off the field, and I think we have been sensational with him, too.

“You only have to go back to the last Ashes campaign, and the perception of him from the n public is very different to what it was back then.”

Pietersen was eighth on the BBL run-scoring list last summer, but did not have the influence he had hoped for. Overall, he had a team-high 268 runs at 38.28 in eight matches, at a strike rate of 128.22. He passed 50 only twice and did not reach three figures. He had led the league with 323 runs at 40.37 in nine matches a year earlier, with a strike rate of 159.11 and four half-centuries.

Adelaide’s versatile power hitter Ben Dunk was the competition’s leading run-scorer last summer, with 364 at 52, including three half-centuries, and he has signed with the Stars.

“Essentially, we will review the entire list towards the end of the season. Someone like Kevin, who is an absolute superstar and done incredibly well for our club over the last three years, it basically is a year-by-year proposition at that age,” Cooper said.

“He certainly has a lot to offer … but as he inches closer to retirement other interests come in.”

Pietersen is likely to also have commentary duties in an Ashes summer, ensuring he will have plenty of time to prepare for the BBL.

“He is training relatively well. He will be out here for the summer, which is great. We will have a bit of time to get some practice into him, which will be terrific,” Cooper said.

Pietersen confirmed his career in England was over in August, after Surrey bowed out in the quarter-finals of the T20 Blast. He had managed only two matches because of a calf injury.

He said at the time he would continue to play T20 cricket overseas, and spend more time involved in his wildlife conservation programs in South Africa.

The Stars have confirmed they will play a practice match against the Hobart Hurricanes under lights at Traralgon Recreation Reserve on December 15. The expanded BBL begins on December 19, with the Stars, under new captain John Hastings, opening their campaign in Brisbane against the Heat on December 20.

Meanwhile, the Melbourne Renegades have added Gayle While, the deputy chief executive of Clemenger Melbourne, to their board. The board comprises Jason Dunstall (chairman), Paul Jackson, Jamie McPhee, Chris Nikou, Liam Pickering, Suzana Ristevski and While.

‘A fiscal termite eating away at the foundations of our corporate tax system’

Labor MP for Lilley and former Treasurer Wayne Swan, poses for a portrait in his office at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday 30 March 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Labor MP for Lilley and former Treasurer Wayne Swan, poses for a portrait in his office at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday 30 March 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
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Former treasurer Wayne Swan has launched another extraordinary attack on mining giant BHP, labelling it ‘s “worst tax dodger” and linking a million dollar bonus to the company’s CEO to his success at minimising tax.

Under the cover of parliamentary privilege, Mr Swan called BHP “a fiscal termite eating away at the foundations of our corporate tax system” and rubbished the company’s claims to be a global leader in tax transparency and corporate responsibility.

The world’s biggest miner has been in a long-running dispute with the n Tax Office over assessments spanning 11 years that total $661 million in primary tax, plus interest and penalties that take it to more than $1 billion. Under dispute is the margin on mark-ups on commodities sold to its Singapore marketing business, which many argue is a ploy to avoid tax in .

BHP strongly denies this accusation.

But Mr Swan said the BHP dispute accounted for a quarter of the ATO’s total $4 billion total corporate tax disputes, and accused the company of “pillaging the n Treasury and short-changing the n people, pure and simple”.

The backbench Labor MP – who clashed with the resources sector over his failed mining tax – also took aim at the company’s “self-righteous” leadership, claiming chief executive Andrew Mackenzie’s latest million dollar bonus was linked to tax evasion. Tax representation is listed as one of Mr Mackenzie’s performance indicators in the company’s 2017 annual report.

“In essence, BHP’s board have awarded their CEO a million dollar bonus for a billion dollars avoided in tax,” Mr Swan said.

“A million dollar bonus for organising aggressive tax minimisation through a tax haven resulting in one of the largest tax disputes in n history. A million dollar bonus for enhancing transparency and tax reputation when the company’s current tax affairs can only be described as a high farce.”

BHP declined to comment on Mr Swan’s speech but a company source dismissed his claims around executive remuneration as ridiculous.

In its latest economic contribution report the company described its dispute with the ATO as “complex”.

“BHP does not agree with the ATO’s position. Consequently, we have objected to all of the amended assessments and intend to continue to defend our position, including by initiating court action if necessary,” it said.

BHP said it has paid $66 billion in taxes and royalties to n governments in the past decade.

It paid a corporate effective tax rate of 34.5 per cent in 2017, higher than the general corporate rate of 30 per cent. Once royalties are included, the rate increases to 46 per cent.

Mr Swan made the claims during a debate on the government’s next tranche of company tax cuts, which he said was part of the “toxic foreign import” of trickle-down economics.