Waffle goes but praise flows

NOVEMBER 8 was eventful for Albany MLA Peter Watson who as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly turfed Opposition Leader Mike Nahan out and was later showered with praise by Premier Mark McGowan.

Mr Watson called Dr Nahan to order four times before finally turfing him from Parliament, after counselling him on asking long questions.

Later, Deputy Opposition Leader Liza Harvey asked Mr McGowan why, according to her, he planned to privatise the Albany wind farm, “thereby sidelining local Albany workers and businesses who were employed to maintain it”.

Mr McGowan theorised that Mrs Harvey had fallen into a trap.

“I think the Leader of the Opposition deliberately got himself thrown out and gave a false question to the member for Scarborough to make her look stupid,” he continued.

“It was a cunning plan on his behalf to set the member up in that way.

“I have no idea what the member is talking about —”

Interjecting, Mrs Harvey accused Mr McGowan of demeaning the position of Premier “with this nonsense”.

Mr McGowan said he had “no idea” what she was referring to.

“But I will say this: Albany is one of my favourite towns,” he segued.

“It has been well represented now for the last 17 years by one of the finest members for Albany I have ever seen!”

Several members interjected, and again Mr Watson stepped in.

“Members, I want to hear this!” he quipped.

Mr McGowan resumed, saying the Speaker had been “a terrific member for Albany”.

“He won the seat unexpectedly and has held it in every election since,” he recounted.

“It is now a city that I think is one of the pre-eminent places in regional Australia for people to live, have a great lifestyle with great community facilities, and good employment prospects.”

After Mr McGowan said most of that came down to Mr Watson’s hard work, Mrs Harvey launched a supplementary question.

“Given the Premier’s answer applauding the actions of the member for Albany, can the Premier advise whether the member for Albany has contacted him with respect to these businesses and workers who no longer have work at Albany wind farm; and, has the member for Albany approached the Premier’s office to get $6.6 million of funding for the GenesisCare cancer centre?,” she posed.

“You said he was a great member.

“[The Premier] didn’t answer anything about the wind farm.”

Mr Watson told Mrs Harvey that her question had been asked.

“Even though I am hurt by it, I want to hear [the answer],” he said.

Mr McGowan said that Minister for Energy Ben Wyatt was sitting to his right.

“If the member has any of these claims, he could have been asked,” the Premier chided.

“I have the Minister for Health sitting to my right if the member is asking about some health-related issue that I am unaware of.

“I am proud of all the work we have done in Albany, and I am proud of the work the Member for Albany has done.”

Image: Mr Watson does some housework back in Albany. Photo: Anthony Probert

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Centre shot fired

ALBANY, Denmark and Plantagenet have jointly lodged a proposal to host the State’s bushfire centre of excellence but the Government will not reveal who else is in the running.

Asked this week if the consortium of councils from the Lower Great Southern did throw its hat in the ring, as The Weekender revealed they had planned to (‘Joint bid for centre’, 18 October), a City of Albany spokesman said “yes”.

Asked in Parliament on November 6 to release names of metropolitan and regional municipalities that had lodged a proposal, Labor MLC Stephen Dawson on behalf of Emergency Services Minister Fran Logan said he could not.

Liberal MLC for South West Steve Thomas had told Parliament that, as the process was not a formal tender one, commercial-in-confidence provisions did not apply.

But through Mr Dawson, Mr Logan said the process had been conduct according to a State procurement guide that required details of proposals to be kept under wraps.

Unless the State makes an announcement in the meantime, the public will only learn which metropolitan and regional municipalities were in the running after a decision has been made on the winner.

Dr Thomas further asked whether the State was seeking concurrent Federal funding for the centre.

The metropolitan Perth Shire of Serpentine-Jarrahdale has proposed that $5 million of Federal money go toward a $23 million centre within its boundaries.

“Our Shire is ideally situated to support this facility,” a Serpentine- Jarrahdale glossy says.

“Only 40 minutes from the Perth CBD and well-connected to regional centres across WA via transport infrastructure, we are also passionate about local emergency response.

“Our Shire has a range of existing relationships with key stakeholders such as the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, local environmental groups, tertiary institutions and primary producers.”

The City of Albany spokesman said Federal funding had not been a part of the Great Southern submission.

“We have not yet received any feedback regarding the submission,” he said.

Dr Thomas, who is Shadow Minister for Emergency Services, has been consulting widely on the centre with municipalities in the Great Southern and Southwest.

Based on these consultations he recently said he anticipated proposals from the Lower Great Southern group of three, Pinjarra and Waroona or a combination of both, Collie, Bunbury possibly in partnership with Dardanup or Collie, Busselton and Manjimup.

He has been urging the Government not to base the centre – which aims to train volunteer fire fighters – in metropolitan Perth.

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Festival program launched

MORE than 4000 people are expected to flock to Albany next year for the expanded Albany Arts Festival Season program.

The festival was launched this year following the exclusion of the Great Southern from the Perth International Arts Festival, and included 18 theatre, classical and contemporary music, visual art and circus acts.

Co-curator of the event Drew Dymond said the 2019 festival season will see 27 different acts perform in Albany across four months.

He estimates 4250 people will attend.

“We had an audience of 3300 people this year, so we hope to build on that,” Mr Dymond told The Weekender.

“And 30 per cent of that figure was from people outside the Albany postcode, so I think there’s an appetite for it.”

Four of the 27 acts were revealed on Tuesday ahead of the full program announcement before Christmas, which included Albany-bred stand-up comedian Amy Hetherington.

Jazz singer and Grammy Award nominee Jazzmeia Horn, theatre production Wot? No Fish!! and Irish singer Sharon Shannon featuring SON form the first Festival Preview Package alongside Ms Hetherington.

“It’s really pleasing,” Mr Dymond said of including local acts.

“We have three collaborations with local and national artists planned.

“It’s terrific to give local artists a platform.”

The inaugural Albany Shanty and Sea Song Festival is one of the new events on the festival season calendar and Mr Dymond believes it’s the first of its kind in the country.

“It’ll be the first Australian shanty festival, as far as we know,” he said.

“Albany is entirely suited to it, being a seaside town, and it will be entirely free.

“It’ll be a pretty enjoyable event.”

Co-curator Rod Vervest confessed the idea for the Albany Shanty and Sea Song Festival came to him while on the airwaves.

“The whole idea unfolded on radio when I was talking to Andrew Collins [ABC],” he laughed.

“The Albany Shantymen were visiting the Fairbridge Festival and it was suggested, well, why not have a shanty festival?

“Australia doesn’t really have an official shanty festival so we thought, let’s go out on a limb.”

Mr Vervest said the “greatest shanty group in the world”, Kimber’s Men from the UK, will be the centerpiece of the festival and be accompanied by seven other local and visiting shanty groups, including Albany’s male and female shanty groups.

He agreed with Mr Dymond that Albany was a “good fit” for such event.

“The festival will open on the Amity,” Mr Vervest said.

“It’ll be a shanty blast.”

Other new elements of the festival season include an additional three theatre performances – both traditional and interactive digital public theatre – 13 free events and the premiering of a local composer’s work.

“I really hope people seriously look at and engage with the program,” Mr Vervest said.

“Just because you haven’t heard of it, doesn’t mean it isn’t good…we haven’t gone with the obvious and popular, we’ve gone with the new and interesting, people on the world circuit.”

“They’re certainly all must-sees,” Mr Dymond added.

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Coffee shop quiz

ALBANY’S chamber of commerce has asked the city’s council why it would “orchestrate” a coffee shop in its new visitor centre “in direct competition to already struggling businesses in York Street”.

In a passionately* worded submission on City of Albany plans to let a 14.25sqm space at the visitor centre to barista Chris Saurin, the Chamber also asks why new floor space has been created when there are “lots of empty shops on York Street”.

“If concerns are being raised to the City of Albany about visitors complaining about lack of choice/options for coffee/food, why hasn’t that been taken up with existing businesses to address the problem?” the Chamber continues.

Months ago, The Weekender revealed the City would create a space beside the library overlooking Alison Hartman Gardens, and that Mr Saurin had been tentatively selected to fill it with a coffee spot he intended to call ‘Booked’ (‘Coffee booked in’, 30 August).

Then, on October 19, the City hosted a meeting of concerned York Street traders at which the Chamber was present.

Now, City official Tanya Catherall has recommended the Council approve a $9000-a-year lease to Mr Saurin.

Ms Catherall’s recommendation was considered by a City committee on Monday night ahead of referral to a future meeting of the council for a final decision.

Mr Saurin has indicated Booked will generally trade seven days a week and public holidays.

In response to the Chamber’s submission, Ms Catherall notes the coffee shop will occupy only “a modest space”.

“There is currently no other retail offering on the west side of York Street between Grey Street and Serpentine Road, other than the City’s existing civic facilities,” she argues.

“The City is not concerned about lack of choice or options.

“But we see an opportunity to provide a service from our visitor centre.”

Ms Catherall asserts the City has previously asked businesses to operate at the Town Square, including during events.

“The response from businesses has been inconsistent and the City allows coffee vans and other pop ups to meet demand,” she added.

“The vacant commercial space was advertised extending the commercial opportunity to all existing and new local businesses…”

Counter to the Chamber’s advice that York Street is struggling, The Weekender has recently revealed the openings there of Blush Retail Gallery, Monk & Hound Barber Shop, Little Italy restaurant, and the relocation to palatial digs at Albany House of Mark Blyth Fine Jewellery.

* NOTE: this word was originally ‘colourfully’, and was meant to describe a submission that was ‘full of variety or interest’ as per the first definition by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary rather than the dictionary’s second definition: ‘of speech : RUDE, OFFENSIVE‘. The Weekender at no time wished to indicate that the Chamber’s submission included offensive or swear words.

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Players lighten the mood

COMEDY and war aren’t often two things you’d put together.

But Plantagenet Players managed to do it delicately and with style in their latest production 1918 The War is Over.

From cooking shows in the trenches and marriage proposals with an elderly nymphomaniac, to operations with a kooky doctor armed with a mallet for anesthesia, the Players embraced the costume and attitudes reminiscent of the wartime era and breathed hysterical slapstick life into it.

A few serious moments were fed into the script to reflect on those who lost their lives and souls in the war, but the mood was brought back up with dimwitted chefs and drunken mothers.

It was a perfect way to lightly reflect on the past amidst other more sombre Armistice centenary events held across the Great Southern.

The Weekender’s Andy Dolphin showcased the broad spectrum of his acting skills by portraying a surgeon, chef, snobby father and larrikin farmer, triggering fits of laughter in every scene he graced.

Pat Topping surprised the audience with her cheeky lines and animated facial expressions – her mature age making them even funnier.

Co-producer Helen Jeffery smoothly and hilariously transitioned from a thickly moustached sergeant to a singing nurse and later, a half-cut mother.

To top it off, the tale of a boy eaten by a lion – read by Siobhan Gallagher – was woven in between scenes and made eyes water from giggling.

1918 The War is Over will play for two more nights – this Friday and Saturday, and tickets were still available at time of going to print from Mt Barker’s Scrap Shak.

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Albany expert on panel

ALBANY-based palliative care specialist Kirsten Auret says she will approach the topic of voluntary assisted dying with intellectual and emotional openness following her appointment to the expert panel that will draft legislation to be put to State Parliament.

On Monday, Health Minister Roger Cook said a bill to legalise voluntary assisted dying would be presented to Parliament in 2019 with members of Parliament offered a conscience vote.

Dr Auret has 20 years’ experience in the field, is the deputy director for the Rural Clinical School of Western Australia and an Associate Professor with the University of Western Australia.

“I was quite vocal during the Joint Select Committee hearings earlier this year,” she told The Weekender.

“I spoke at a hearing in Perth about my medical students and assessing competency with medically unwell patients and also spoke at the hearing in Albany.

“I guess that’s why the Minister for Health gave me a call and asked if I would sit on the panel.

“I felt that it was important for the community for the Bill to be tabled, so I joined.”

Dr Auret said a wide range of perspectives would be heard during the panel meetings, with the group consisting of a mixture of health and law professionals.

“There are law, health, palliative, geriatric and intensive care experts that will get some balanced opinions for the wider community,” she said.

“Going into this panel, I need to listen to the views of the community so we can draft good legislation that is in the best interests of everyone.

“It’s an extremely divisive topic. We need to look at previous legislation, for example Victoria’s Bill, and we also need to look at making the legislation fit WA’s culture.

Dr Auret said the panel needed to consider if assisted dying was the best way to relieve suffering for people who wanted to relieve their suffering.

“We need to act with kindness and compassion as doctors, and the Bill needs to honour that,” she said.

Dr Auret said she hoped other recommendations in the My Life, My Choice report concerning palliative care would be addressed in the future.

“There is a concern articulated that the further you get from Albany or from the city, it is more and more difficult to access palliative care,” she said.

“Albany is very, very blessed to have the hospice and the palliative care nurses. The further away you are though is an issue.

“If the legislation goes through, I hope that the other recommendations that were made are also taken up.

“Palliative care is a less controversial good to discuss.”

The first panel meeting is set for early December.

Joining Dr Auret on the panel are Dr Penny Flett, Dr Scott Blackwell, Dr Roger Hunt, Dr Elissa Campbell, Dr Simon Towler, Kate George, Fiona Seaward, Noreen Fynn, Samantha Jenkinson and former Governor of WA Malcolm McCusker as chair.

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Cancer cost counted

A BUNKER to house new radiotherapy equipment in Albany will cost nothing like the $14 million floated by State Health Minister Roger Cook, says Federal Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson.

“I believe that is what it cost to instal two machines into the Bunbury Health Campus,” Mr Wilson said.

“The information I’ve received from Genesis Health Care is $3 million to build the bunker at [the public] Albany Health Campus, or $6 million to $7 million as a stand-alone build at the [forthcoming, private Great Southern] Health Precinct.

“Genesis is an Australia-wide company with extensive experience in installing and operating these machines and that gives me confidence that the numbers they’ve provided me with are sound numbers.”

Mr Wilson said the Bunbury machine had been supplied by GenesisCare.

In State Parliament last week, Mr Cook said the WA Country Health Service was a “long way away from” advertising a tender for a radiotherapy machine in Albany (‘Cancer cash raincheck’, 8 November).

He put a $6.6 million Federal grant for the machine, revealed by The Weekender (‘Cancer funding coup’ , 13 September), down to Liberal pork-barrelling before the upcoming Federal election.

He said the “lion’s share” of expense would be a bunker to house the equipment.

Mr Wilson agreed cost of the bunker was an issue, but timeliness of care another.

“Who knows which of us might be requiring that machine in six months’ time, or seven-and-a-half months’ time?” he posed.

“The funding that the Commonwealth Government has made available is from July 1, 2019.

“That’s when we want to see the machine operating, and by co-locating at the Albany Health Campus I’ve been told that timeframe is possible.”

“I assume Genesis is waiting for the State Government to give them an indication of support before they come to the State with a formal proposal,” he said.

“I guess the fact there had not been a formal proposal is partly because Mr Cook has not engaged at all with Genesis.

“He hasn’t met with them, but I’ve written requesting that he meet with them and Genesis has been seeking a meeting, and that’s why they approached me originally back in late June because they hadn’t been able to secure a meeting with the Minister.”

Mr Wilson said one reason GenesisCare was keen to instal a radiotherapy unit in Albany was because the company was treating patients from Albany and the Great Southern in Bunbury and Perth.

“Effectively, Genesis is saying they’re providing a service in Bunbury, the State Government is paying Patient Assisted Travel Scheme [money] for people to travel and stay there, with these treatments taking up to seven weeks,” he said.

“Genesis says they can provide that treatment in Albany, and put a lot less stress on patients and their families, and it doesn’t cost the State Government any more.”

The $6.6 million grant is to be paid in 10 annual amounts of $660,000 to cover the capital cost of the machine.

Neither Mr Cook nor General Manager of GenesisCare WA Michael Davis responded to questions by deadline.

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Hill climb sell-out

THE chance to drive a bit faster than the speed limit up Albany’s Marine Drive has proven too tempting for motoring enthusiasts, with tickets for the Racewars Sprint selling out in less than 24 hours.

Event director Jonathan Murray said the 3km Middleton Beach Hill Climb had exceeded all expectations for ticket sales.

“The level of interest has been nothing short of astounding,” he said.

“It looks like it will become an iconic headline event in its own right.”

Tickets are still available for the standard competitor entries for the 1/4 mile and 1/2 roll racing sessions at Albany Airport over the March long weekend.

Murray said the future of Racewars would be centered around more non-competitive car culture events.

“Runway racing will continue to underpin the event with strong support for ancillary events like the hill climb,” he said.

“To keep growing we need to increase off-track activities, especially those that make use of the region’s world-class natural advantages and tourism infrastructure.

“Over the run until the December holidays, we’ll be announcing new noncompetitive and social aspects of the event people can participate in as we look to grow the event.”

Murray said Albany’s status as a motorsport town was further cemented following the City of Albany’s approval to purchase land for the Great Southern Motorplex last month.

“Albany has been at the heart of WA’s motorsport history since the 1930s,” he said.

“With new developments like the Great Southern Motorplex now on the horizon, Albany is ideally positioned to further entrench its position at the heart of our community.

“Ultimately motorsport, while not to everyone’s taste, is to everyone’s benefit both socially and economically.

“It’s great to see Albany capitalise on the opportunities this sector presents.”

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Kings of the road

THE Swing Kings will be going their separate ways this November after three sell-out performances and a debut EP, but not before hitting the stage for one more weekend to bid goodbye to the Great Southern.

The Weekender had the chance to stop by during one of their rehearsals for a chat about their rapid rise to local fame and their plans for the future.

The band, which consists of Evan Ayres on guitar and lead vocals, Oliver Tetlow on bass, Mollie Hare and Bonnie Staude on backing vocals, Bryce Taylor on trumpet, Anna Leach on saxophone, Hunter Ewen on trombone and Jeremy Staude on drums, said the experience had been very rewarding.

“It’s been terrific,” Ayres said.

“It’s been such a great opportunity.”

The group has a wide range of talents and interests, which is evident when talking about their plans for after the final show.

Front man Ayres plans to pursue music, hoping to score a place at the WA Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) next year.

The same goes for backing singers Mollie Hare and Bonnie Staude, who are both hoping to study musical theatre at the Academy.

Oliver Tetlow is going to university to study engineering, Anna Leach to study social work, Hunter Ewen plans to go into pathology, Bryce Taylor’s going to university in Canberra, and Jeremy Staude said he’d like to go on holiday to Japan.

When asked how being in the band had impacted their lives, the band agreed that it had made life a whole lot busier, but more exciting too.

“It’s a bit tricky to balance our workload with all of us still in school – well, except for Mollie – but I think Evan’s got his priorities straight: music first,” Bonnie Staude said, much to the amusement of Ayres.

“But yeah, it’s definitely worth it.”

The band were quick to respond when asked about the highlights of their brief Swing Kings career.

“It’s probably the adrenaline of performing,” Bonnie Staude said.

“It’s cool to be in a band that’s so high calibre; it’s really good music that you don’t always find.”

Ayres said that having five sell-out shows – including the two upcoming farewell performances – had been one of his major highlights.

“One sold out in two hours, which was pretty amazing,” he said.

Tetlow said his high light came after their first performance.

“There was a lady who came up and said that I was her hero,” he said, sparking a collective “awww” from the rest of the band.

Taylor explained how supportive their fans had been.

“It’s the response we get after the shows; we have people coming through with CDs asking for autographs or just saying how much they enjoyed the show,” he said.

“I like playing fast songs,” Jeremy Staude said plainly, causing an eruption of laughter from his fellow band members, who joked that they’d often catch him nodding off during the slower numbers.

Though the band is splitting up for now, they are all hopeful there will be a Swing Kings reunion in the future.

“It would be sad if there wasn’t,” Bonnie Staude said.

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YouTuber steps in for Kanye

AUSSIE YouTube star and self-proclaimed loose unit Alex Williamson is heading to Albany next week for a show “so wrong, it’s wrong”.

Williamson first hit YouTube in 2003 with the likes of his seven-part Sweet AFL Dream Team series, The Summer of Ben Cousins, and later his most renowned series, Loosest Aussie Bloke Ever.

Along the way, he’s roped in MC Eso from Aussie hip hop trio Bliss n Eso, and fellow Aussie comedians Troy Kinne, Superwog and Frenchy, to perform skits about standard Aussie banter, sex, drugs, booty calls, Pokemon and his beloved C-word.

From there, Williamson’s career spun into an international one, leaving behind his high school teaching career to entertain on stages across Australia and the UK, and wrangling interviews with actors Sacha Baron Cohen, Jennifer Aniston, Harrison Ford, Robin Williams, Ryan Reynolds and Tom Felton.

Williamson spoke to The Weekender while enjoying the sunshine back home in regional South Australia between his Renmark and Ipswich performances of his So Wrong, It’s Wrong tour.

“I was a quiet little kid,” he said, reflecting on his childhood.

“People always ask was I funny in school and I say, ‘nah, I was a f***in’ quiet loser’.

“But I was always talking to people, I never shunned anyone out.”

Williamson said he chose to embrace the Aussie bogan stereotype in his videos because there was “no point” denying it.

“It was hiding deep within,” Williamson laughed.

“Now I’ve realised I’m a bogan, I’m living life to the fullest.”

He said despite being Aussie through and through, he’s had people question his lineage due to his “Aussie-isms” and ocker accent.

“I was overseas and someone came up to me and thought I was doing well, because they thought English was my second language,” Williamson chuckled.

“But when I’m overseas I want to Aussie it up a bit…I flick the Aussie knob to 110 per cent.

“And in the UK, they love it!

“They’ve just got this fascination… but I did feel like I should’ve been in the bogan enclosure at London Zoo.”

His speech has confused a few Americans on his travels too.

“I was at a house party in the US talking to this girl,” Williamson began.

“And at the end of the conversation, I said, ‘ah, fair-o!’ and she looked at me and said, ‘whaaat? Like an Egyptian Pharoah?’”

Williamson is keen to get around regional Australia where everyone “speaks his language”.

“You know us country folk, we can read Harry Potter out loud in five minutes,” he said.

“And I can include all my Aussie-isms that I had to abandon in the UK.

“I had a joke for a UK show and the punch line was Shannon Noll, and when I realised he’s not the next Taylor Swift, I had to change it to some sh** celebrity they would know.”

When informed by The Weekender that Albany is inhabited by a predominately older demographic, Williamson said they might be “a bit stunned and shocked” by his show, but still encouraged all people to come along.

“I had a couple of 90-year-olds come to a show once because they thought they were seeing John Williamson,” he said.

“They left after 10 minutes and complained to the doorman that the only word they understood was the F-word.

“But, they said, ‘well at least he’s getting young people to the theatre’.”

Williamson said he loves regional shows and bringing something to rural towns, as he couldn’t imagine people like Kanye West would make the hike.

So, he’s “stepping in” for Kanye and performing at the Albany Entertainment Centre on November 17.

Tickets can be purchased at the AEC Box Office or online at tickets.ptt.wa.gov.au.

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