Rex defends delays

EXTENDED delays to Rex’s Albany flights have raised the ire of MLA Peter Watson, who says he will raise the matter with his State Labor colleague Transport Minister Rita Saffioti.

“I’m going to catch up with Rita to find out what the benchmarks are, because of the amount of complaints I’m getting,” Mr Watson said on Monday night after belatedly arriving in Perth.

That morning, his scheduled 6:30am flight did not depart Albany until 11.25am.

“It just happens all the time,” he told The Weekender.

“It’s a weekly occurrence.”

The parliamentarian said he took between 30 and 40 return flights to Perth a year, and Rex offered a wide range of reasons for delays.

“Sometimes, they say: ‘Oh, we can’t get the pilots’,” he lamented.

“They’re also putting people off planes because it’s too heavy.

“I was at Perth Airport a couple of weeks ago, and they said they needed two people to volunteer, otherwise they could not take off because it was bad weather in Albany.”

Mr Watson said he checked the weather on his phone and Albany seemed all clear, and when he finally touched down the weather was okay at Drome.

He said a fellow passenger, recently diagnosed with cancer, who missed a 9.45am specialist’s appointment in Perth thanks to Monday’s long delay, had emailed him.

“I didn’t receive a text message and did not find out about the cancelled flight until I arrived at the airport at 5.45[am],” the woman wrote.

“Had I received a message about the flight last night, I could have driven to Perth and made the appointment.

“I have to spend the night in Perth now, which I do not want to [as it] will incur extra charges.”

Mr Watson said that over the past 12 months, delays and cancellations had got “worse and worse”.

“Their name is ‘Regional Express’, but as someone said at the airport this morning, they may as well take the ‘express’ off because they’re never on time,” he said.

“They seem to think: ‘Oh, it’s a business, take what you get, we’ve got the [monopoly] rights [to run the service]’.

A Rex spokeswoman said Mr Watson’s flight was delayed due to “crew rest requirements as specified by Civil Aviation Orders”.

“The inbound flight from the previous night was delayed, resulting in an extended rest requirement for flight crew,” she said.

She said Rex’s on-time performance was “well above” the benchmark stipulated in the airline’s agreement with the State to operate the monopoly Albany service.

“In Financial Year 2018, Rex operated more than 2300 flights between Albany and Perth with 88 per cent operating on time and we expect a similar result in the full Financial Year 2019,” she said.

“There have been slightly more delays between Albany and Perth during the winter months of July and August.

“However, we are already seeing a significant improvement post winter.”

The Weekender asked questions of Ms Saffioti and received no reply.

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Searching for soul

ANCIENT Irish archaeological sites and the Baltics are on the list of places to visit for Albany sculptor Kevin Draper following his win of a $30,000 art scholarship.

Draper is one of three artists to receive the Helen Lempriere Scholarship, an award designed to enable artists to further their artistic development through travel, study and the purchase of new equipment.

The money is also to be used to support the artists’ inclusion in Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi which begins on October 14.

Draper won the scholarship as a mid-career artist, alongside emerging artist Britt Mikkelsen and senior artist Hossein Valamanesh.

Draper began the year with his black-and-white 16-branch tree sculpture Configuration featuring in the Cottesloe Sculpture by the Sea, so being part of the Bondi exhibition for the sixth time and winning the scholarship has added more excitement to his year.

“It’s a very artist-friendly scholarship,” Draper said of the grant.

“My first thought was, well, I could buy new art materials, but it should be used for something special and a bit different.

“Travel is always a good option.”

Draper said he is normally only able to stay for the installation period at Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, so has decided part of the scholarship will go towards a longer stay in Sydney.

He plans to stay for the entire period of the sculpture show with his partner, Indra before travelling up and down the east coast visiting regional art centres.

“We’ve never had time to do that before,” Draper said.

But the travelling art research won’t stop there.

Come June next year, Draper plans to whisk himself and Indra away to Ireland, the Baltic states, the top of Scotland and potentially Berlin.

He also hopes to travel through Sweden and Norway to explore a few outdoor sculpture parks.

“I’m of Irish descent on my mum’s side, and her family’s original farm is still in Northern Ireland,” Draper said.

“There’s some ancient archaeological sites on the edge of Ireland too, and it all influences my work – how farmers use the landscape and my heritage.

“So, that will be a starting point…I’m not sure what I’ll find.”

Draper said he finds the symbology and language of Northern Europe interesting and is keen to visit a number of European art galleries.

“I’ve always been influenced by where I live and have travelled to,” he said.

“There’s just something about ancestry and the thousands of years of history that I don’t have over here [in Australia].”

Draper’s sculpture installation Configuration can be viewed at Bondi Beach from October 18 until November 4.

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Centennial Park smoking ban mooted

ONE footy and two soccer groups have backed a draft policy proposing that game day smokers be banished to nine cigarette spots on the fringe of Albany’s vast Centennial Park sporting precinct.

In a report to be considered by a City committee on October 9, community engagement manager Julie-Ann Gray recommends a ban be slapped on smoking across the precinct that includes Centennial Stadium, and Albany’s main cricket, hockey, athletics and soccer and swimming facilities.

While Ms Gray believes there is a ‘medium’ risk that local media outlets will spread a perception of ‘over-policing’, she recommends that a media blitz follow in the wake of a February 2019 launch of the ban.

She further recommends that venue staff report on patrons’ “smoking/ non-smoking behaviour” and the City conduct an “audit” of cigarette butts before and after the ban’s introduction.

Ms Gray expects the ban will cost $23,000 to implement, including $6000 for radio advertisements and $3500 for cinema ads. Newspaper ads are also proposed.

Albany Sharks Football Club President Geoff Oldfield has offered his organisation’s “support in principle to having the Centennial sporting complex made a smoke free zone”.

“I would like to see sensible designated smoking areas with butt bins to accommodate smokers away from the main buildings and high use areas,” he told the City’s recreation services manager Samantha Stevens.

Great Southern Soccer Association Registrar Jos Pass has told Ms Stevens she supports a ban on smoking, except in designated areas as proposed under the policy, “if there needs to be such areas”.

Meanwhile, Albany Junior Soccer Association President Grace Knowlson has asked the City to prohibit smoking at all playing pitches, clubrooms and canteens when sport is being played.

Under the policy, Centennial Stadium and the 11 sports fields that surround it on the eastern side of the Lockyer Avenue/North Road intersection will have just two designated smoking areas.

The policy would also prohibit smoking at all outdoor events run by the City, and in and around Albany’s library, visitor centre, town hall, airport, Anzac Centre and Vancouver Arts Centre.

Ms Gray recommends that $6750 be spent on the erection of 27 ‘You can’t smoke here’ signs, and $2000 on eight ‘You can smoke here’ signs.

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Bloody battle fought

LOCAL martial arts teacher Daniel McGrath returned from Japan recently after coaching American mixed martial arts fighter Will “The Kill” Chope at a top-level Lethwei tournament.

Lethwei is a Burmese bare-knuckle boxing full contact sport known for being one of the most aggressive and brutal martial arts in the world, mainly because it allows fighters to head-butt their opponents.

McGrath said Chope performed well for his first foray into the bloody sport, while wearing his Albany Fight Fit Martial Arts Centre clobber.

“Will has done heaps of MMA, UFC and Muay Thai style fighting in the past,” he said.

“When he called me to ask if I would coach him for his first Lethwei match I couldn’t book my plane tickets quick enough.”

Chope faced off against seasoned Lethwei fighter Shan Ko, who originates from the sports birthplace, Myanmar.

“It’s a brutal sport and pretty bloody,” McGrath said.

“There wasn’t a win for the night since there weren’t any knock-outs.

“Will’s legs were pretty cut up from Shan’s kicks but he managed to get in a few head-butts and a knee to Shan’s face.

“Shan is one tough-as-nails guy.”

McGrath said the atmosphere in Japan’s famous martial arts arena, the Korakuen Hall, was electric.

“To meet other fighters of that level was incredible,” he said.

“I think Will is the second Westerner to fight Lethwei and he’s already lining up a fight for next year.”

McGrath said he first met Chope around eight years ago at the well-known Tiger Muay Thai gym in Phuket, Thailand.

“I was training in Thailand and it was an experience and a half,” he said.

“It really took me to a whole other level.

“Will heard that I was doing some crazy kicks at the gym and sought me out. I had no idea who he was at the time.”

The teacher became the student not long afterwards, with Chope coaching McGrath through his first fight.

“We’ve coached each other over the years and become great mates,” he said.

“Will even came to my gym for a few months earlier this year and ran some classes.

“The kids absolutely loved him.”

McGrath said Chope would return to the MMA scene next month in Seoul, Korea.

“I’m hoping to coach him there as well,” he said.

“To have him represent our gym on the global martial arts stage is an honour and the least I could do is coach him.”

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RAC aboard chopper bid

THE RAC has revealed it will again throw its hat in the ring to sponsor Western Australia’s two rescue helicopters, with a two-to-five year sponsorship deal for the choppers now up for grabs.

The Weekender recently learned the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, which operates the service, was set to advertise the sponsorship package (‘Sponsor up in the air’, 13 September).

That happened late last week, and RAC’s Executive General Manager Advocacy and Members Patrick Walker says he looks forward “to continuing our partnership with the State Government and the rescue helicopters”.

But continuation of the RAC deal is by no means guaranteed, with DFES calling for tenders from any organisation wishing to pay an annual fee, and chip in an additional $150,000 a year to fund a media campaign to promote the helicopters.

In New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania, the Westpac bank sponsors those states’ helicopter rescue services.

DFES wants a sponsor to slap their livery on the fuselages of the ‘copters for two years from July 1 next year.

Thereafter, three one-year extensions will be available at DFES’ discretion.

RAC has sponsored the WA service since its inception in 2003, and was last selected as naming rights sponsor in mid-2014.

The choppers, based in Bunbury and Perth, serve more than 90 per cent of the state’s population.

Beneficiaries of the service include Hamish Bolto, then 10, who was rescued in 2015 after his trachea was severed in a motorbike accident on his family’s Katanning farm.

Applications for the sponsorship close on November 9.

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Wishes come true

FOR Make a Wish Albany president Ellie Gregory and vice president Sherri Willock, it’s all about seeing the smile light up on a sick child’s face that makes the long hours fundraising worthwhile.

From building cubby houses and buying state- of-the-art computers, to sending families on holidays and creating special baby hampers, the pair have seen and done it all in the name of giving sick children from the Great Southern a break from hospitals and needles.

Ms Gregory said Make a Wish Albany’s next fundraiser, to be held this Saturday, will take a different form from the usual quiz night and bake sale to create a more inclusive style of event.

“We felt like stuff was missing for young kids,” she said.

“So this is the first time we are doing a kid-focused fundraiser.

“We just want to do something to benefit the community.”

A range of kids’ activities will be held from 9am to noon on October 6 at the Albany Town Square and for $4 per child, kids can dance with Happy Feet Fitness, play games with Jamie the Clown, buy a treat from the bake sale and go in the running to win a raffle prize.

All money raised will go directly to Make a Wish to help grant wishes, of which the Albany branch has granted 15 in 10 years and one was completed as recently as May.

Albany’s own Taj Stubber, now 16, was one of the 15 children who had his wish granted in the past and said having a wish become reality helped alleviate the stress of his medical battle.

Taj was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia when he was four years old and living in Borden.

He spent three years receiving treatment in Perth and staying at Ronald McDonald House with his mum, and missed time at home with his dad and two older brothers.

It was when Taj was seven years old and back at home that some of his secret wishes came true.

“I got told I was doing a grocery run in town,” Taj recalled.

“When I got back, there was a West Coast Eagles-themed pool party and David Hall, my favourite sprint car driver, was there.

“Then I found out I was going to the Gold Coast for a week with Mum, Dad, Bodhi and Logan.”

Taj said he got to meet Nitro, one of the hosts from TV series The Shak and went to all the different theme park ‘worlds’.

The smile on his face when reflecting on the trip eight years on showed how much of a difference the holiday made for Taj and his family.

“It was a pretty tough time,” Taj said about the toll his cancer battle took on his loved ones.

“So it was good to get away and have time to hang out together.”

Ms Gregory revealed the Albany Make a Wish group is about to start working on a new wish for a child living in the Great Southern, and said she encouraged people to attend Saturday’s event to help raise money for the charity.

Young Taj said he still receives annual health check-ups and planned to have one this week in Perth, which he hopes will be the last one in Perth before receiving them annually in Albany.

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Tale of happiness

HOT on the heels of Albany-bred author Tim Winton’s book-to-film adaption of Breath being filmed in Denmark and the announcement of new movie Rams to be filmed in Mount Barker until December, Albany will have its time to shine with a new feature film commencing shooting in town next month.

H is for Happiness will tell the story of Candice Phee, a 12-year-old girl determined to bring happiness and joy back to her family following a tragedy.

The tale will follow Candice and a new friend she meets on their joint quest to find happiness, and has been described as a “very sweet, family drama comedy” by director John Sheedy.

Mr Sheedy remained tight-lipped on the final cast list when talking to The Weekender, but revealed the movie will be filmed entirely in Albany from the second week of November and feature many iconic Albany locations.

He said Albany will keep its name in the film and feature in the opening line of the movie – “A is for Albany”.

“I love the bottom part of Albany; it has this old-world sense,” Mr Sheedy said.

“It’s very charming and quirky, and the coastal landscapes are beautiful.”

Mr Sheedy said the windfarm, the old yacht club, the “Lady Gaga mansion” – Maitraya Private Retreat – York Street and Albany Senior High School are among the locations to be used for the film.

He’s excited to see what the Albany landscape can offer, explore its uniqueness and work alongside locals.

“There’s something very special about WA,” Mr Sheedy said.

“There’s a lot of character and charm, great views, it’s not flat and there are so many talented artists here.

“There must be something in the water.”

Head of production and development for ScreenWest Matt Horrocks said he is excited to get WA back into the spotlight with H is for Happiness.

He revealed the new movie will be one of many programs to be filmed in and around the Great Southern in the coming months.

ScreenWest is one of the companies involved in H is for Happiness’ production investment.

“WA is the busiest state in the country at the moment,” Mr Horrocks said.

“There’s been projects in the Kimberley, Busselton and Denmark, and now Albany will be the star of the show.

“We are really thrilled that a series of TV shows and films for around the South West and down your way [Albany] will be announced in the next few weeks.

“The Great Southern has some of the most extraordinary locations, of which some can be hard to get to for shooting, so we are trying to activate those extraordinary locations.”

Mr Horrocks said he is “very keen” on H is for Happiness and believes people from all over Australia will love it.

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Feds push State to back cancer care

DESPITE unwavering Federal and local support, the State Government says it needs to put “more consideration” into backing a radiotherapy facility in Albany to enable Great Southern cancer patients to receive treatment closer to home.

In the wake of a $6.6 million funding announcement by Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson to aid the purchase of radiotherapy equipment for a private facility at Albany Day Hospital, State health minister Roger Cook said further thought and planning was required before the State could throw its full support behind the project.

“The WA Government welcomes the Commonwealth funding commitment towards the purchase of oncology equipment,” he said.

“More consideration needs to be given to the project and communication is ongoing with the Federal Government and the WA Country Health Service.”

Federal health minister Greg Hunt made a whirlwind trip to Albany on Tuesday in a show of support for the project and further insisted the State come to the party.

Mr Hunt said the likely remaining cost for the radiotherapy facility would be $6 million, of which the State’s contribution could potentially be half.

He said Genesis Cancer Care, the private provider awarded the license for the facility, would contribute “significantly” and split the remaining cost “50/50” with the State.

“This [facility] is in WA’s interest, it’s in Albany’s interest and we would like the State to do what other states are doing and provide this basic facility,” Mr Hunt said.

“It’s about moving quickly now.

“This is in the top 100 projects in the country.

“The Commonwealth has assessed need and viability, and determined that Albany has high need and high viability.

“I don’t think the State can ignore this finding by the Commonwealth.

“It is innovative, where you have private and public and community com- ing together, and the only missing part now is the State.”

Genesis Cancer Care general manager Michael Davis said although he would not guarantee the facility would be operational by the June 30, 2019 date as suggested by Mr Wilson previously, he said it would not be a long process once the wheels started turning.

“There are many requirements to be considered prior to commencing a service,” he said.

“The first step is to agree on a service model that will benefit all patients in the region.

“Then, a site is required and further capital raised to build the facility.

“There are still a number of unknowns, but once these are agreed, the service can come together quickly.”

WA Country Health Service regional director for the Great Southern David Naughton, who stated in March that the WA Health Clinical Services Framework for 2014 to 2024 did not include a dedicated radiation oncology treatment service for the Great Southern, would not speculate on the role WACHS would play in a radiotherapy facility.

“In other parts of Western Australia, some public radio oncology treatment services are delivered by the private sector and organisations such as Genesis Care,” he said.

“However, as there has been no formal assessment of the capital cost of an Albany facility, it would be remiss of the WA Country Health Service to speculate on the role it would play in the development and operation of this technology.”

Mr Naughton said patients in the Great Southern currently have access to a range of specialised outpatient cancer treatments in Albany and are supported to access radiotherapy in Bunbury and Perth.

In instances where travel is required, Mr Naughton said eligible patients are able to apply for financial support in the form of the Patient Assisted Travel Scheme.

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‘Truckload of trouble’

A PUSH by grain exporter CBH to introduce 42-metre triple road trains to South Coast Highway between Albany and Jacup has been slammed by the City’s Deputy Mayor.

“I am violently opposed to the idea,” Greg Stocks said in a candid interview with The Weekender.

“Until South Coast Highway is upgraded properly, if you’ve ever driven to Jerramungup behind a B-double, you add another five-and-a-half metres to it, nobody’s ever going to get past these things.

“You put a bigger vehicle and more weight on the road-base of South Coast Highway, which is probably nearly 60 years old, you start putting bigger, stronger, heavier, longer vehicles on those roads, it’s gonna tear ‘em up.”

Councillor Stocks said he learned of the CBH application during a recent harvest sundowner at the Wellstead CRC.

“It was a grain grower who said: ‘The triple [trailer] means cheaper freight for me, but I absolutely don’t want it, it’s just not safe enough, so do something about it’,” he explained.

“No-one wants it there, so that’s a farming community and the people who will supposedly benefit from it saying: ‘Do what we can to stop it’.”

A Main Roads spokesperson said CBH’s planned 42m A-triple road trains were at the early stages of a rigorous approval process.

“This process involves the vehicles being specifically designed, constructed and certified to meet stringent safety performance standards,” the spokesperson said.

“The … standards are higher than those of conventional 36.5m road trains which are already operating on South Coast Highway.”

South Coast Highway is already an approved route for three-trailer 36.5m B-triple and two-trailer 36.5m B-double road trains.

The CBH application for the 42m A-triples covers the 215km stretch of highway from Albany through Manypeaks, Boxwood Hill, Gairdner and Jerramungup to Jacup.

The spokesperson said the highway from Albany to Esperance had for the past three years been approved for the 42m trucks and a small number of A-triples were already operating under that approval.

“There are no specific [highway] upgrades planned as a result of [CBH’s] recent application,” the spokesperson said.

“The State Government has previously approved $30 million over the period 2018 to 2022 for Main Roads to improve a number of sections of South Coast Highway between Albany and Jerramungup.

“The improvements include widening sections of the road, reconstructing sections of pavement and construction of additional passing lanes.”

The spokesperson said A-triples “are considered to be safer than conventional road trains, as they are assessed on their safety performance, as opposed to prescriptive dimension limits”.

“While they are slightly longer than conventional road trains (i.e. 5.5m in this case) they are specifically designed to meet stringent safety standards and are equipped with additional safety features, including electronic braking systems with rollover stability systems and are monitored via in-vehicle telematics systems to ensure compliance with route and speed requirements,” the spokesperson said.

“If CBH is able to develop a suitable design for the … 42m … triples and it is economically viable then Main Roads will work with CBH to en- able their proposal to be discussed in more detail with stakeholders.”

A CBH spokesperson said if the A-triples were approved, the number of grain trucks on the highway would be reduced, with several replaced by the newer, safer ones.

“As the WA grain industry has not previously investigated [these] truck operations, CBH is in the engineering design phase,” the spokesperson added.

“As the application progresses, we will keep key stakeholders informed.”

The spokesperson declined to reveal how many A-triples CBH plans to run along the highway.

An Austroads report published in 2014 found that if more freight were carried by A-triples, there would be significantly fewer truck crashes.

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Open to inspiration

IMPROVISATION violinist Rupert Guenther will star in the annual Albany Festival of Strings next month and he promises to deliver a program of music reflective of the Great Southern.

Guenther will host a public lecture at UWA Albany Centre on October 18, star in a concert for the Albany Fine Music Series at Albany Uniting Church on October 19, be part of the Albany String Festival at Albany Senior High School on October 20 and host two workshops at ASHS on October 21.

The works presented will showcase the evolution of Guenther’s music from classical to original, and prove to audiences how he went from being the “sideman to the stars” to the main act.

“I started getting into music when I was eight years old,” he said.

“I had a keen interest in violin during school and had a few interesting experiences with musicians along the way.”

Guenther said his parents were patrons of the arts in his hometown of Melbourne and often had visiting artists come by for dinner.

He said this set him on a “wonderful pathway” and encouraged him to pursue a musical university degree and work alongside orchestras and operas in Austria and Vienna.

Guenther has even rubbed shoulders with the likes of Olivia Newton-John, John Farnham and The Beatles record producer Sir George Martin during his career.

But it all changed 15 years ago.

“I was always the side-man to the stars and terribly dissatisfied with my performances,” Guenther said.

“My stage fright had been endemic since I first started performing…

“But in 2003, I realised I’d had a year without stage fright.

“Twenty years of unnecessary fear had come to an end.

“And I had a breakthrough; I could improvise my own classical music with my own inspirations.”

Guenther’s solo career took off from there and saw him gain international recognition for his creativity.

He held masterclasses at international music conferences and European conservatoriums, including the European String Teachers Association in Austria and Sweden, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and the WA Academy of Performing Arts in Perth.

“It doesn’t get much better than this,” Guenther reflected on his solo career.

“And it’s so much more than just the music; it’s about how people inspire me and how we as artists can affect people’s lives.”

The Albany Festival of Strings concert will mark Guenther’s first visit to Albany, and he is excited to explore the town and gain inspiration for the music he will perform during the festival.

“The concert will be a representation of my experiences while I’m here,” Guenther said.

“All my concerts are inspired by the landscape, history and energy of the land, like an exhibition of paintings, so these concerts will be all about the Great Southern.”

To find out more information about the Albany Festival of Strings or to purchase tickets, visit

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