Whooley wins right of appeal

ROB WHOOLEY, a Denmark Shire councillor elected after being sacked as the municipality’s chief engineer, had his day in the Supreme Court of Western Australia this week to appeal his earlier loss of a long-running unfair dismissal case against the Shire.

Shortly after appearing before Supreme Court President Michael Buss, and Justices Graeme Murphy and Rene Le Miere for two hours on Tuesday, Cr Whooley said he was pleased the Industrial Appeal Court in Perth agreed to hear his case.

“The question was whether they would even allow the appeal to be heard,” the self-represented appellant said.

“Most of [the Shire’s] lawyers said I had no chance of winning.

“The good thing is the [court] obviously contemplated there is a basis [for action].”

Cr Whooley said that whether he wins the case will be “another thing”.

“But they could have just chucked it out and said: ‘Nah, we’re not even gonna hear it, mate’,” he added.

In December, The Weekender revealed that in 2015 the Shire had offered Cr Whooley money to discontinue his claim originally filed in the Fair Work Commission (‘Denmark offered Whooley money’, 21 December, 2017).

Now the case is before the Industrial Appeal Court, an arm of the Supreme Court, Cr Whooley is no longer in a no-costs jurisdiction.

It is understood that if he loses his appeal the Shire would be entitled to seek legal costs in excess of $80,000.

Cr Whooley said the Shire had hired a Sydney-based barrister who brought two other lawyers across the continent with him.

“It must have cost a small fortune, but anyway, [after the hearing] I shook hands with them and said: ‘Thanks, Jamie, I’ll see you in the High Court, and he kind of giggled and after that, I said: ‘I’ll see you in the Privy Council’.”

On a more serious note, Cr Whooley said the case had been very stressful for his family.

“It’s been going since 2015,” he lamented.

Contacted for comment on Tuesday afternoon, Shire CEO Bill Parker said he did not attend the hearing, but was expecting a call from the Shire’s solicitor.

The court has reserved its ruling for a later date.

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Surf club battles tide

A SPECTACULAR new surf club building revealed to Weekender readers a fortnight ago cannot come soon enough for Denmark, with the Southern Ocean undermining the concourse and contorting ramps leading up to the current clubhouse.

Shire CEO Bill Parker confirmed suspicions raised by a visual inspection at Ocean Beach on Sunday – that high tides and large swells had eroded the sand at the front of the club.

“This has undermined some structures and caused paving to collapse,” Mr Parker said.

“At the moment, the Shire is making the area safe by restricting access and conducting regular inspections.”

Red-and-white tape marked ‘DANGER’ surrounds subsided areas, including a stretch of the paved concourse that has collapsed.

Surf club president Jane Kelsbie said she had not seen the paving collapse before.

Shire Councillor Rob Whooley who was controversially sacked as chief Shire engineer in 2015 (see below) said repairs to other erosion around the club had been necessary in his day.

And a section of the concourse was rebuilt in 1999 after major erosion back then.

Mr Parker said high tides and large swells were expected over the next few weeks and damage would be repaired thereafter.

He said the Shire had identified the erosion would have occurred at some stage.

“As a result, the Shire has been working with the Denmark Surf Club in terms of relocating and potentially establishing a new facility,” he said.

The Weekender revealed as much on August 30 (‘Denmark surf club plans surface on architect site’), pointing readers to renders of the planned clubhouse higher up on the hill that overlooks Ocean Beach.

Shire President Ceinwen Gearon said council staff had been down to the beach to have a look.

“So, we know what needs to be done but we have to wait because there is another swell coming through and there’s no point in trying to fix it now,” she added.

She said a silver lining to the erosion was that local surfers were digging the big swell.

“When I went down there late this after- noon there was certainly plenty of surfers out there and they were still piling in,” she said on Tuesday.

“They’ve had some magnificent days of surfing over the past few days.”

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Feature film for Barker

A FULL-BLOWN feature film, possibly starring Sam Neill, who played devilish Damien in The Omen, or Michael Caton, who played underdog dad Darryl Kerrigan in The Castle, will be shot in Mount Barker over coming months.

The close-knit Great Southern town is abuzz at the prospect of rubbing shoulders with the stars, with film crew already on site in pre-production mode, and the Plantagenet Players thespian group to audition extras this weekend.

Shire of Plantagenet CEO Rob Stewart confirmed the movie would be shot under the working title Rams, a comedy/ drama about two feuding brothers who try to outsmart the government to preserve their family’s legacy after a town’s sheep flocks are threatened by a rare disease.

“They are in town now setting up,” Mr Stewart said of the film’s crew.

“They are asking us for goodwill and support and have indicated that for safety there may be some times when we need to temporarily close a road.

“One of the big parts of the film is the fire scene and they’ve been working with [us] to find a site just out of town that would be able to be burned for that scene.”

Mr Stewart said the Rams crew had already started moving into the Plantagenet Lesser Hall they will occupy for the duration of the shoot.

“It’s at least as big as Breath [also shot in the Great Southern], and it is based on a Scandinavian film of the same name,” he said.

“One of my staff was told yesterday they might use his sheep dog for certain scenes.

“They’ve got a trained one but the one here looks better.”

Asked if a feature film had been shot in town before, Mr Stewart, who has been in Mt Barker for 17 years, quipped: “Only the chook ad; I think that’s the closest we’ve ever come”.

A Screen Australia document seen by The Weekender says Rams will be a drama/comedy flick featuring Neill, Caton and Golden Globe winner Brenda Blethyn, and directed by Jeremy Sims, who was born in Perth.

But Perth-based Aidan O’Bryan – who with Janelle Landers is producing the picture for a company called WBMC – said those actors and Sims could not be guaranteed.

Due to organisational constraints upon him ahead of an official announcement, O’Bryan was tight-lipped on the cast and on whether Rams would be the final title.

But he did say Mt Barker was chosen from an international field of locations due mainly to Plantagenet’s natural beauty, welcoming people, and the town’s relevance to the theme of the movie and proximity to Albany Airport.

He said producers and crew would shoot the movie around town until Christmas.

Plantagenet Players is hosting a casting call this Saturday between 2pm and 4pm, and Sunday from 10am to noon at the Plantagenet District Hall.

A recent body-length head and shoulders shot is required, and can be brought along or taken on the day.

Mount Barker Visitor Centre volunteer Glenys Ecclestone said she expected a fair bit of buzz when the production ramped up.

“There will be a lot of extra people here, and they’re looking for different people to take part in it,” she said.

“It’s quite a big thing for little Mt Barker.”

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Singapore sling

AS THE world’s best drivers sling around the track during the Singapore Grand Prix this weekend, the world’s richest spectators will enjoy a taste of the Great Southern.

Through a carefully blended mix of guerilla marketing, plain hard work and vinicultural fortitude, Albany’s Wignalls Wines 2017 Pinot Noir will be served to VIPs as they look to quench their discerning thirst in trackside comfort.

Winemaker Rob Wignall said the opportunity to take his wines to the world quickly accelerated after a chance meeting with an event official.

“I was introduced to the Singapore Grand Prix Director of Food and Wine, Lea Yuen Ming,” he said.

“We went out for dinner where I gave him a sample of some of our wines and he encouraged me to submit some bottles for consideration for the Grand Prix.”

Mr Wignall said only 15 varieties of red wine were selected for the event.

“When they were tasting the wines, they were looking for quality and if they were extremely likable,” he said.

“For such a young wine to be selected is incredible and a massive achievement.

Mr Wignall said the selection of the Pinot Noir would be perfect for the warmer climate of Singapore, which is forecast to reach a top of 29 degrees with 77 per cent humidity on race day.

“Pinot can handle being lightly chilled and is still really quite tasty when cool,” he said.

“Other varieties like Cabernet or Merlot just shrivel up and die when cold, so Pinot is perfect.

“I can just imagine people sipping on a cool glass of Pinot Noir while the Formula 1 cars scream by.”

Mr Wignall said the past two seasons for the Great Southern had been excellent and he would be expecting more recognition for producers to come.

“I’ve been saying for the past 30 years that the Great Southern is a powerhouse for wine. Now it’s really happening,” he said.

“After all these years, the Great Southern is really getting the recognition it deserves for the amazing wines and spirits it produces.”

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Cancer funding coup

IN A game changer for the Great Southern, cancer patients could receive radiotherapy as soon as June next year at Albany Health Campus, with Federal funding secured for the project that State officials had said would not be in the pipeline until at least 2024.

Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson exclusively told The Weekender this week that $6.6 million had been locked in through the Radiation Oncology Health Program Grants Scheme.

The funds will assist the purchase of a linear accelerator, a CT simulator and a CT interfacing planning and computer system for three workstations.

As recently as March, the WA Country Health Service confirmed a radiation oncology treatment facility would not be planned for the Great Southern until at least 2024.

Weekender readers may recall that Denmark resident Mary Williams began a campaign two years ago to raise money for a cancer radiation machine (‘Cancer machine resolve’, 19 October, 2017).

Ms Williams had decided “enough was enough” for cancer patients that were forced to travel hundreds of kilometres for treatment.

She organised a radiothon, fundraisers and road-side signs throughout the Great Southern to raise awareness and money for radiotherapy equipment.

“Families are split, businesses are affected, and this shows how desperately we are in need of a radiation machine,” she said in October.

“I will make sure this happens.”

In confirming the funding, Mr Wilson thanked Ms Williams for her efforts, saying she had been “pivotal” in disseminating information and raising funds for the “much needed” radiation facility.

“While Mary has very much understated her role, she has been involved in fundraisers, including everything from sausage sizzles to a 24-hour radiothon,” he said.

Mr Wilson said Albany, with a catchment population of more than 60,000 people, was the largest area in WA where cancer patients did not have access to local radiation oncology services.

He said despite having oncology specialists working in the Great Southern, travel was still an issue for many families facing a cancer battle and hence emphasised the importance of having a radiotherapy facility close to home.

“While we are fortunate to have many dedicated specialists working in the Great Southern, I often encounter constituents who need to travel long distances and endure protracted separation from their families to receive the therapy they require,” he said.

“For many, the stress of temporarily relocating to Perth is compounded by the financial burden of these potentially life-saving treatments in addition to the cost of travel and transport.

“Many patients who would benefit from radiotherapy opt for other treatments or choose no treatment at all.”

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Not in Kansas now

CLEAN-UP efforts are nearly complete in the Shire of Plantagenet following a purported “mini tornado” that struck Mount Barker, Kendenup and the outskirts of Cranbrook last week.

Manager of Works and Services for the shire, David Lynch said wild wind hit mid-afternoon on August 28 and travelled in an almost straight, south-easterly direction from Nunijup Road.

It tore down trees and fences along Martagallup, Boyup, Gough, Beattie, Hobbs and Jutland Roads, creating a trail of destruction Mr Lynch approximated at being 40km long.

He said it would have been “an absolute disaster” if any houses had been in the path.

“In some areas, the trail is about 200m to 500m wide,” Mr Lynch told The Weekender on Tuesday.

“Martagallup was in such a mess, there were six farmers already helping to clean up by the time we got there.

“Beattie Road was completely covered in trees so we had to use a bulldozer to clear the road.

“I’ve had about 10 to 14 guys out there working for the past seven days and I reckon we’re about 90 per cent finished cleaning up now, but over the next two weeks we will probably still be picking up stuff off the roads.”

Plantagenet Shire CEO Robert Stewart was in disbelief about how much demolition the wind had caused.

“It really did a lot of a damage,” he said.

“It chopped some trees in half, it’s quite amazing.”

Manager of Works for Cranbrook Shire Jeff Alderton said the town was very fortunate to have missed the brunt of the weather event, receiving only a couple of reports of fallen trees during the course of that afternoon.

“We had a couple of call-outs to north of Tenterden up to Tunney with people using the Snap Send Solve app, which was fantastic, because a big tree to one person is a small tree to someone else, and that helped us with organising the clean up,” he said.

A spokesperson from the Bureau of Meteorology told The Weekender that their observations showed a maximum wind speed of 35kph in Mt Barker on that day, which was “by no means excessive”.

The spokesperson also said that despite public perception, there is “no such thing” as a mini tornado.

“It’s not an area where the Bureau of Meteorology has extensive weather recording equipment – most of the observations in that area come from DPIRD,” the spokesperson said, regarding the Shire of Plantagenet.

“There were no wind warnings issued for the region on the day in question, despite a low-pressure system moving through.

“Having said that, small extreme wind events can occur undetected in areas without weather monitoring equipment.”

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Rabbits in Shire’s scope

THE Shire of Kojonup will weigh up its options for pest control over the coming weeks following an increase in rabbit numbers in the township.

In a recent report made to the Shire, Landcare officer Jane Kowald said the rabbit population had been steadily increasing over the past few months.

“A number of complaints have been made about their numbers,” she stated.

Ms Kowald’s recommendation to control the rabbit situation was to release a vial of the Schedule 4 restricted chemical RHDV1 K5, a variant of the calicivirus.

According to the Australian government Pest Smart website, RHDV1 is “one of the more humane methods of controlling wild rabbits”.

Shire CEO Rick Mitchell-Collins said it was all well and good to get rid of the problems caused by high populations of the rascally rabbits, but the far-reaching consequences of releasing the virus would need to be considered.

“There is a fl ow-on effect if we get rid of the rabbits,” he said.

“Without the availability of rabbits as a food source, predators such as foxes, feral cats and feral dogs are known to go after lambs during lambing season.

“Such is the dilemma of dealing with one nuisance but transferring the problem elsewhere.”

Mr Mitchell-Collins said consideration would need to be made for domesticated pets due to the highly contagious and effective characteristics of the virus.

“Before we need to make a decision on whether or not we release the virus we need to look at all of the effects it could have,” he said.

“We need to know how many pet rabbits are in the township and find a way to make sure those pets are inoculated.

“We can’t look at the issue in isolation. We don’t know the extent of the issue or the extent of the implications yet.”

Mr Mitchell-Collins said the Shire would seek community feedback on the nature, type and number of rabbit related problems in the town site.

“We’ll speak with farmers to hear what they think about the numbers of rabbits and number of lamb deaths caused by foxes,” he said.

“We don’t want to be in the same situation as Queensland with the cane toads and we don’t want to see pet rabbits dying due to the virus.

“It will take around six weeks to do all of the research and we’ll probably bring it back up for discussion in October.”

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GS reps on nanny state probe

THREE of five politicians on a new parliamentary committee charged with reporting on so-called ‘nanny state’ laws have seats that together span the entire Great Southern region.

On the Select Committee on Personal Choice and Community Safety are Labor MLC Sally Talbot and Liberal MLC Steve Thomas whose South West electoral region takes in the Great
Southern municipalities of Albany, Denmark, Plantagenet and Jerramungup.

The Agricultural Region represented by Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MLC Rick Mazza, a third member of the committee, covers the Great Southern shires of Katanning, Kojonup,
Cranbrook, Gnowangerup, Woodanilling, Broomehill-Tambellup and Kent.

None of the three parliamentarians is yet permitted to speak publicly about the inquiry that was only convened last week, but committee chair Aaron Stonehouse, the MLC for South Metropolitan, is.

“Speaking as a member of parliament and not as the chair of the committee, I’m a member of the Liberal Democrats, which is a party of small government, low tax and personal choice,” said Rockingham-based Mr Stonehouse, who lobbied hard for the inquiry to be initiated.

“Fighting against the nanny state and against paternalistic regulation is a big part of what the Liberal Democrats stand for, not because any individual regulation or law is a nuisance but because, taken collectively, it is a question about who is in charge of our lives.

“It’s my view and the Liberal Democrat philosophy that individuals should be making their own choices and free to live their lives, perhaps do silly things like ride their bike without a helmet, so long as they’re not hurting anybody else.”

On an issue of key concern to Dr Talbot and Mr Thomas’ South Coast constituents, and to Mr Mazza’s fishing backers – that of Premier Mark McGowan’s recently mooted mandating of
life jackets for rock fishers at dangerous spots, Mr Stonehouse said the government should tread cautiously.

“In some cases you should be wearing a life jacket, but again the idea of a blanket approach here, I’m quite cautious of, because not everyone fishing from rocks is necessarily in a situation where they may be washed out to sea,” he said.

“I’m not [necessarily] against the idea that there would be specific areas [such as Albany’s treacherous Salmon Holes fishing spot] that could be targeted.

“I would rather people have their choice, but if we are going to have some kind of mandate, having it at least targeted is my preferred option.”

Mr Stonehouse’s committee will look specifically into laws that regulate the use of things including e-cigarettes, bicycle helmets and life jackets for kayakers.

Broadening the scope of the inquiry potentially to any number of laws is a term of reference that states “any other measures introduced to restrict personal choice for individuals as a means of preventing harm to themselves”.

The public can have its say on the inquiry until Friday, October 5, and Mr Stonehouse said he hoped submissions would flood in.

“My electorate office has been inundated with complaints about nanny state laws and regulations since I announced that we would be establishing this committee,” he said.

The committee is yet to decide if hearings will be held in regional Western Australia.

The Liberal Democratic Party was founded in Canberra in 2001. Mr Stonehouse is the party’s only representative in the WA Parliament.

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Guide dog graduates

HAVING the freedom and independence to stroll to the shops isn’t as simple as it seems for vision-impaired people.

While it may seem like an everyday chore for most, for the vision-impaired stepping out their front door raises serious safety concerns.

For Albany local Glenn Wilson, the reality of slowly losing his sight due to a form of macular dystrophy was made apparent in his 30s, but wasn’t diagnosed by an optometrist until his 40s.

“My eyesight has deteriorated to be able to count fingers in my left eye and having big holes in my vision in my right eye,” he said.

“I have problems with my distances and can’t see details very well.”

With his eyesight deteriorating, Mr Wilson decided to start the process of applying for assistance in the form of a guide dog.

“It took me around three and a half years to get Obie,” he said.

“The dog is matched to the person so if there isn’t a dog out there that suits you, you don’t get one.”

After the many weeks spent training Obie through a guide dog trainer and further training with Mr Wilson, the Labrador was finally put in her harness and put to work.

“It changed things that’s for sure,” he said.

“I’m used to having dogs as pets, but there definitely was an adjustment to having Obie with me at all times and everywhere I go.”

Mr Wilson said getting around town had become safer since having Obie by his side.

“You can’t rely on her 100 per cent of the time because she is a dog and can get distracted,” he said.

“What we do though is encourage intelligent disobedience which is where she knows to stop when a car is coming.

“It doesn’t always work when drivers try to let me cross. But I wave them on so Obie isn’t confused.”

Mr Wilson said that he hadn’t been confronted negatively by any shop owners or establishments since having Obie but had instances where people have tried to pet her.

“You absolutely can’t assume that you can pet a working dog while she’s in her harness,” he said.

“It distracts her from looking out for me and gets her in to the habit of seeking attention when she should be concentrating on me.

“It’s okay to come up and ask me to pet her, I’ll still say no but I’ll also explain why.”

Obie and Mr Wilson will head to Perth in a couple of weeks to attend the Guide Dogs WA graduation ceremony.

Guide Dogs WA Deputy Chief Executive Officer Debra Barnes said the graduation of a guide dog was a special occasion.

“It’s a landmark event to celebrate the loyal and devoted friendship between the dog and their owner,” she said.

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Hello, is Allison there?

YOUTH seeking advice on their sexual health can simply ‘ask for Allison’ when calling up Headspace Albany from tomorrow as part of a new initiative aimed at increasing young people’s
awareness about sexually transmitted infections.

Headspace Albany manager Andrew Wenzel said ‘Sexy Fridays’ with Nurse Allison will take place every second Friday from 2.30pm to 4.30pm and will “fill a need for easy and confidential prevention, testing and treating” in young people.

He said it will also help reduce the stigma around getting tested for STIs.

“Young people often worry about getting a blood test or having someone poke and prod them, but, it’s really easy; you just wee in a jar,” Mr Wenzel said.

He said there had been more than 70,000 new cases of chlamydia diagnosed in 2016 nationwide and three quarters of these were in young people aged 15 to 29.

Mr Wenzel also said the rates of gonorrhoea infection in young people from rural and remote areas, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, were higher than youth from the city.

“While we know that mental health issues are the most common health problem experienced by young people, the increasing rates of STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea are growing
at an alarming rate, for conditions that are easily and completely preventable,” he said.

“Although lots of young people are aware of the importance of contraception, there seems to be a bit of disconnect when it comes to STIs and how to prevent them.”

Nurse Allison Key said a generation ago, people could have unprotected sex with four or five different partners before being at risk of contracting an STI.

Now, she says, people are at risk after having unprotected sex just once.

“We recommend people get screened yearly, and when they have a change of sexual partner,” Ms Key said.

“Around 80 per cent of people with chlamydia don’t know they have it, as there are no symptoms, and if it’s left untreated, it can cause infertility in both men and women.”

The ‘Sexy Fridays’ service will be via appointment or walk-in and will be free or billed through Medicare – this means no out-of-pocket expenses.

All youth aged 12 to 25 are welcome to utilise the service and can talk about respectful relationships, sex education and contraception as well as STI screenings with Nurse Allison.

To book a session, call Headspace Albany on 9842 9871 and ask to see Allison.

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