Newcastle Permanent staff charity donations total $750,000 over two decades of fundingTopics

Are you someone who donates to a charity straight out of your regular pay?

CUDDLY CAUSE: Newcastle Permanent staff member Brianne Donald holds a bear with Toni Watson, vice president and co-founder of Bears Of Hope.

It seems a logical way to contribute to a worthy cause on a consistent basis, rather than ad-hoc donations to a bucket being carried around a supermarket, club or street.

The staff at Newcastle Permanent recently ticked over $750,000 worth of donations to local charities from money derived directly from their fortnightly pay.

The figure, reached over a 20-year period, has allowed more than 50 charities to be supported during that time.

Last week, Bears Of Hope –an organisation that supports families who experience the loss of a child through pregnancy or infancy – was handed $15,500 in funds from the pool of staff donations.

Four recipients are selected each year to support and are split over two rounds of funding.

The best part is, staff who contribute to the pool of money are allowed to nominate a charity of choice.

Participating staff then vote on the charities nominated to decide who receives the funding in each round.

Bears Of Hope was nominated by Newcastle Permanent staff member Brianne Donald, who received a Bear of Hope after her child past away.

“When we were given a Bear of Hope, which had been donated by another grieving family, we were reminded that there were others out there who had walked in our shoes,” Mrs Donald said.

“It gave us a keepsake to remember the life we had lost and comfort in knowing we were not alone.”

GIVING: Newcastle Permanent staff member Brianne Donald handing vice president and co-founder of Bears Of Hope, Toni Watson, a $15,500 cheque.

The money will help Bears Of Hope support 140 families through the giving of a bear, support resources and guiding parents through the process of leaving hospital.

Counselling and a grief workshop will also be able to be offered to parents free of charge.

The other recipient of a $15,500 donation in this round of funding is Little Wings, an organisation which provides regional and rural children with free flights and transfers from airports to hospitals.

They will be receiving their cheque from Newcastle Permanent staff on Monday at Maitland Airport.

“Newcastle Permanent is committed to giving back to our community,” Newcastle Permanent CEO Terry Millet said.

“Be it through our extensive corporate sponsorship and community programs, through the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation, or through providing our staff the opportunity to donate their own hard-earned salaries to local charities that are important to them.

“For our staff to reach this significant donation milestone of $750,000 –and it be entirely made up from our staff’s own salaries – is remarkable and shows the generosity of our team.”

Does your workplace donate from your regular pay? Let us know.

LIFE IN A PIPE SOLID FOUNDATIONS: The water pipe designed for living in Hong Kong.

The tiny house movement.

Apparently it’s been booming, or should we say rooming, for the past few years.

For both economical and geographical reasons, houses designed on the minute scale have become a legitimate reality for many around the world.

The movement even garnered the production of two television programs in the US –Tiny House NationandTiny House Hunters.

And now, adesign company in Hong Kong believes they’ve come up with an answer to the country’s housing crisis.

Building on the tiny house movement’s foundations, architect firm James Law Cybertecture has created a stylish micro-house from a massive concrete water pipe.

Designed to accommodate one or two people, the 1000 square feet of living space comes with all the necessary amenities.

A living room bench that converts into a bed, a mini-fridge, bathroom complete with a shower, and space for storage and belongings.

Business ownerJames Lawactually envisions entire tube communities installed in alleyways, under bridgesand other typically bare urban areas.

ROUND TOWN: Life inside the concrete pipe is full of mod cons.

Perhaps the only catch, if you view it as one, is the fact the house weighs22 tonnes.

But apparently they stack well on top each other.

While theNewcastle Heraldhas plenty of modern house reviews in its Weekender lift-out magazine, Topics is wondering whether there are any tiny house enthusiasts in the Hunter?

And not just a cubby house for the kids,aliveableabode…

If you know of one, give us a shout.

Meet the Aussie trying to fix the US electoral system

n?? Ruth Greenwood and her husband cut their wedding int he shape of the electoral map of Winsconsin. Greenwood is a legal expert?? leading arguments in North carolina against gerrymandering.New York: An n lawyer, who led a successful court case last week that ruled Republicans unconstitutionally gerrymandered North Carolina congressional districts to guarantee their electoral victory, describes the win as evidence of “a huge problem” within the American electoral system.

Ruth Greenwood, a graduate of Sydney University’s law school, led legal arguments that three federal judges agreed showed North Carolina’s electoral map is rigged in favour of the Republican Party.

“This is democracy,” Greenwood who is senior legal counsel for the voting advocacy group Campaign Legal Centre in Chicago, says.

Gerrymandering describes the practice of drawing electoral maps in a way that strings together voters who can give a party the best possible chance at victory.

North Carolina has 13 congressional districts that send representatives to Washington on a map drawn by the Republican-controlled state legislature.

Partisan boundaries defined after the 2010 Census saw North Carolina elect 10 Republican candidates and just three Democrats – even though the state has more registered Democrat voters than registered Republicans, according to figures from the state Board of Elections.

“If you get an election where the vote is 50-50 then we would expect the congressional delegation would be 6-7 or 7-6,” say Greenwood, highlighting the imbalance.

“The Republicans didn’t feel they needed to hide any partisan intent. They stood up publicly and said we’re doing this so [they could] get a 10-3 Republican map and the only reason we’re doing that is because we can’t get an 11-2 map.

“To his credit, [state] Representative Lewis was very honest in his deposition – he said he thinks the world is a better place when Republicans are in charge so he put through a bill to make sure there are more Republicans elected.”

“I think that is not democratic and that is the problem,” Greenwood says.

Pending an appeal the North Carolina decision will see a balanced state map for the upcoming 2018 midterm elections.

Greenwood, 36, is a keen observer of American politics. After graduating from Sydney University she continued legal studies at Columbia University in New York where she became interested in voting rights while volunteering during the 2008 presidential elections.

“There were signs put up to look like they were from the Board of Elections saying turnout was going to be unprecedented so Republicans vote on Tuesday and Democrats vote on Wednesday,” she recalled. “Are you kidding me? This is supposed to be the world’s greatest democracy.”

Greenwood’s passion for the issue was shown when her wedding cake featured an electoral map of Illinois District 4, and was featured in an episode of Last Week Tonight, the satirical TV show hosted by comedian John Oliver.

She has found the US electoral system littered with contentious issues including the infamous electoral college that saw Donald Trump elected president with a minority popular vote. Campaign financing and ethics were also problems, she says.

“People in the US ask me how I know there is a better system out there and I say I come from a country where we do it differently.

“There may be problems in but we managed to get rid of gerrymandering and we use ranked choice – or preferential – voting so we don’t get so many political extremists. These are systems that could be implemented in America and hopefully will, one day.”

While compulsory voting in the US is unlikely to get traction, Greenwood says the concept could invigorate low turnout in American elections. The issue for many people, she says, is not a will to vote but finding a way to vote among other priorities.

“In America they say that people are choosing not to vote but actually they are choosing to look after kids or choosing to work three different jobs or choosing to do the three million things they have to do before they get to the polls.”

Greenwood says her n accent has caught judges off guard but used it to good effect.

“One of the judges said, ‘You’re not from around here are you?'” she recalled.

“No,” she responded. She was “from a little more south.”

“Being able to help out disenfranchised people in North Carolina is awesome,” she added. “But it [also] matters to the world what goes on here.”

Greenwood is not the only n with a role in gerrymandering cases before the courts in the US.

Professor Simon Jackman, chief executive of the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, was called as an expert witness for the North Carolina case. Jackman spent a decade at Stanford University in California and is recognised as an authority on the subject.

Mark Wahlberg donates US$1.5 million reshoot fee following outrage

All the Money in the World star Mark Wahlberg and the agency which represents him have bowed to growing outrage over his US$1.5 million fee for filming reshoots on the movie and will donate the fee, and another US$500,000 to the Time’s Up fund.

The astonishing pay cheque was revealed after an investigation by the newspaper USA Today and sat in stark contrast to Wahlberg’s co-star Michelle Williams, who was paid only a per diem to cover expenses – totalling around US$1000 – for the reshoots.

The scandal was compounded by timing; USA Today published the explosive revelation the day after the highly politicised Golden Globe awards, where actresses almost uniformly wore black to shift focus to the Time’s Up movement, to combat sexual harassment and inequality in the workplace.

“Over the last few days my reshoot fee for All the Money in the World has become an important topic of conversation,” Wahlberg, who earned $US68 million last year, said in a statement issued to media.

Wahlberg said he “100 percent support[ed] the fight for fair pay” and that he would donate his US$1.5 millon fee to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund in the name of his co-star, Williams.

Wahlberg’s agency, William Morris Endeavor, which represents both Walhberg and Williams, said it would make an additional donation of US$500,000.

“The current conversation is a reminder that those of us in a position of influence have a responsibility to challenge inequities, including the gender wage gap,” the agency said.

“It is crucial that this conversation continues within our community and we are committed to being part of the solution,” the statement said.

Mark Wahlberg topped Forbes’ list for being the highest paid actor in 2017. He took home a total of $US68 million, more than 2.5 times the $US26 million Emma Stone made, Forbes reported.

William Morris Endeavor has already donated US$1 million to the fund; inclusive of the new donations, a total of US$3 million has been poured into the fund, which plans to provide legal support to people in all workplaces fighting sexual harrassment and inequality cases.

While the individual actor’s fees were negotiated separately, outrage over the discrepancy has grown for the past week.

Commenting on social media, the producer/director Judd Apatow described it as “so messed up that it is almost hard to believe.”

“Almost,” Apatow added. “This is how this business works.”

The reshoots on All the Money in the World were required when director Ridley Scott decided to cut actor Kevin Spacey from the film, in the wake of allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour, and recast his role with actor Christopher Plummer.

The decision came less than a month before the planned release of the film, so the reshoots were organised hastily and depended on the cast effectively dropping whatever they were doing and agreeing to participate.

In line with her co-stars – at least, it appears, as far as she was aware – Williams agreed to return at no additional cost.

In a break with that position, which director Ridley Scott praised in interviews, it is understood Wahlberg demanded an additional payment.

Some media reports suggested that Wahlberg’s contract allowed him to approve casting and that the fee was required to obtain his consent to Plummer replacing Spacey.

It is still unclear which actors in the cast had reshoots included in their original contracts – a standard inclusion for most major projects in Hollywood – and whether some did not.

Williams later issued a statement praising Wahlberg and William Morris Endeavor for their actions, and also singled out actor Anthony Rapp for praise.

Rapp, who stars in Star Trek: Discovery, was the target of actor Kevin Spacey’s inappropriate behaviour; it was Rapp’s statement about Spacey’s actions which set in motion the course of events which led to Spacey’s removal from the film and the subsequent reshoots.

“Today isn’t about me,” Williams said. “My fellow actresses stood by me and stood up for me, my activist friends taught me to use my voice, and the most powerful men in charge, they listened and they acted.

“If we truly envision an equal world, it takes equal effort and sacrifice,” she said.

Williams described it as “one of the most indelible days of my life because of Mark Wahlberg, [William Morris Endeavor] and a community of women and men.”

Williams added: “Anthony Rapp, for all the shoulders you stood on, now we stand on yours.”

The film, based on John Pearson’s 1995 book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty, is the story of J. Paul Getty’s refusal to cooperate with his grandson’s kidnappers in 1973.

Plummer replaced Spacey in the role of J. Paul Getty.

The film was released on December 25 and has grossed almost US$30 million worldwide since opening, off a budget of around US$50 million.

Scott, Williams and Plummer were all nominated for Golden Globe awards; Plummer is nominated for a British Film Academy award for his work on the film.

False savings from sacking public servants

Would you burn $1 of petrol driving to the other side of the city so you could save 50 cents filling up? Would you recommend to a friend that they buy the cheapest printer, knowing it has the most expensive ink cartridges? Do you advise family to save money by not getting the flu vaccine?

Of course not. Fortunately, we’re familiar with the idea of a false economy: a saving that turns out to be illusory because it eventually costs you more.

Unfortunately, not everyone seems to have cottoned on to what this means for the n Public Service. While public service jobs have been decimated, spending on consultants has ballooned. Work that used to be at the core of the public service, like policy development and stakeholder engagement, is increasingly outsourced.

First, a bit of background. During Labor’s last term in office, from 2007 to 2013, the number of federal public servants grew from 155,087 to 166,139. Outside Canberra, the Liberal Party decried this increase as a wanton waste of public resources. The critique insults those public servants who built the national disability insurance scheme, devised a fiscal stimulus package that kept out of recession, and all those who serve ns daily. It also misses the fact that the number of public servants per n fell during these years.

But in Canberra, the Liberals peddled the opposite line. Here, they weren’t railing against a growing public service. Instead, the Canberra Liberals told porkies about how Labor had “cut” the public service. Or was secretly planning to. Or something.

To keep both constituencies happy, the Liberals promised they would cut 12,000 public service jobs, all by natural attrition. Then the heads began to roll, beginning with several agency heads being sacked. Five years on, 152,095 public servants remain. That’s 14,044 job losses.

Not only were these job cuts a broken promise, they also look like a false economy. We’ve seen the Tax Office website crash repeatedly, Centrelink customers waiting on hold for hours and the census failure. Now, a report from the n National Audit Office has estimated how much the federal government spent on consultancy contracts established due to the “need for specialised or professional skills”. The audit office found that such consultancy spending doubled from about $250 million in 2012-13 to over $500 million in 2016-17. Appropriately, Parliament’s joint committee of public accounts and audit is holding an inquiry into these troubling findings (submissions close on February 16).

No one doubts there are moments when it’s appropriate for the public service to ask for outside help. If you’re deciding how should respond to the Ebola crisis, it may make sense to draw on people and organisations that dedicate their lives to fighting public health emergencies in developing nations. But the problem comes when outsourcing involves tasks that should be the core responsibility of government. Mainstream policy development, community engagement and strategic planning should primarily be done in-house, not by outsiders.

Get a group of retired public servants together and they’ll often have stories about the moment they were pushed out of their jobs, only to be hired back a few months later on consultant rates. Such an approach costs the taxpayer more and denudes departments of historical memory. As shadow finance minister Jim Chalmers puts it: “There is no point hitting an arbitrary short-term headcount target at the cost of building higher consultancy costs into the budget in the future.”

History, too, can teach us about the value of a strong public service. A few years ago, the Grattan Institute named 10 major reforms over the past generation that underpinned our prosperity. They included Medicare, tariff reduction, national competition policy, superannuation, broadening the income-tax base, and changes to the structure and funding of higher education. The public service underpinned all of them.

If people tell you we have too many public servants, a simple riposte is to suggest they look across the advanced world. The public sector employers 18 per cent of n workers, well below the OECD average of 21 per cent. Of course, that figure includes state and local public sector workers. Narrow things down to the federal level, and there are more people working for Woolworths than in the public service.

Between miserly pay offers, job cuts, reliance on labour hire and rising use of consultants, it’s been a tough few years for the APS. It needn’t be that way. Past Liberal leaders, such as Robert Menzies and Malcolm Fraser, recognised that a strong and capable public service is a national asset – no less valuable than our educational institutions, our iconic buildings and our sporting stars.

When natural disasters strike, it is public servants who race to ensure that those affected by floods and fires receive immediate relief payments. When teenagers get into strife overseas, it is to n diplomats that they turn for help. Our quarantine officers keep pests out. Staff who administer our income-support system oversee a social safety net that is rigorously targeted towards the neediest.

It’s time we stopped attacking ‘s public servants, and began celebrating them.

Andrew Leigh is the shadow assistant treasurer and the federal member for Fenner. andrewleigh苏州美甲

Michael Danby silent on using Commonwealth limousines for personal holidays

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten arrives by a comcar for his visit to the Sydney Markets on Friday 11 December 2015. Photo: Alex EllinghausenFederal Labor MP Michael Danby has refused to explain how and why he used Commonwealth limousines on personal holidays to Queensland that he later claimed were charged to taxpayers because of administrative error.

The Melbourne Ports MP charged taxpayers about $500 for COMCARs to and from the airport on three trips to the Gold Coast or Cairns for which he had no official parliamentary business. The trips took place in 2010, 2012 and 2015.

Mr Danby says he reimbursed the Commonwealth for those holidays last year after a self-audit, including flights and car costs. He claimed the trips were charged to the taxpayer in error by his staff, caused by the fact he used the same booking agent for personal and business travel.

However, the COMCAR booking system is completely separate to the booking agency used for airfares. Mr Danby has also refused to explain how he could have taken a Commonwealth limousine to the airport for a personal holiday and failed to realise a mistake had been made.

COMCARs are only to be used while MPs are in Canberra, if they are interstate on parliamentary business, or if they are travelling to the airport in their home city for parliamentary business.

Several former MPs who are intimately familiar with the parliamentary expenses system told Fairfax Media administrative errors did happen, but it was virtually impossible for such a mistake to go unrealised. They said the right way to deal with such a mistake was: “Don’t get in the car.”

Fairfax Media asked Mr Danby about the COMCAR expenses but neither he nor his spokesman answered questions or returned calls.

Earlier this week Fairfax Media revealed Mr Danby charged taxpayers almost $15,000 for six trips to Queensland over a period of six years, accompanied by his wife, who also travelled at taxpayers’ expense.

Mr Danby – who holds the seat of Melbourne Ports – identified parliamentary business for three of those trips, which included meetings with Labor hero Con Sciacca, who had been out of Parliament more than five years, as well as union functions and a protest.

He said he reimbursed the Commonwealth for the other three trips, including a holiday to Cairns in 2012 and a trip to the Gold Coast in January 2015, after a self-audit last year prompted by the downfall of former cabinet minister Sussan Ley.

Labor leader Bill Shorten was on leave this week and through a spokesman declined to comment on Mr Danby’s travel. Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said it was a reminder for all MPs of the need to follow the rules.

In comments to other media outlets, Mr Danby described Fairfax Media’s reporting on his travel as a misleading “attack”.