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Pups of Chinchilla rugby league race into season 2021

THE Chinchilla Junior Bulldogs junior rugby league club is bounding back to the footy field for the 2021 season, with dozens of youngsters having already signed on and registered.

Some 170 kids played for the Bulldogs in 2019 but, to huge disappointment, the season couldn’t be held last year due to pandemic restrictions.

Committee president Ben Smith said the club hoped strong enthusiasm for rugby league among Chinchilla’s youngsters would see similar numbers return.

“There’s a good community about this club. Seeing the kids out there every year, kicking the footy with their mates every weekend, is a great tradition,” Smith said.

“Everyone encourages each other, there’s a good atmosphere and the coaches all do a great job teaching the kids about sportsmanship.

“We’re all really looking forward to the season.”

The club expects to again field two teams in each age group for Under 6, 8, 10 and 12 players, as well as Under 14 and 16 teams.

The Under 16 team has just been approved by Queensland Rugby League to join the Toowoomba competition.

The official sign-on day will be held at Bulldog Park on Saturday March 13 but players can easily sign on leading up to and beyond the event. All details can be found on the Chinchilla Junior Bulldogs Facebook page.

Smith said the club was grateful for the support of sponsors CFP Australia, Blinco Timbers, AUSCO, Laser Plumbing Edan Zerbst Builder, Central Motor Inn, Chinchilla Betta Home Living, LCR, Jackson’s Parts & Industrial Supplies, McDonalds, Ainsworth Motors, AJ Horswood Carpentry, LPH Group, BM & MJ Davies Welding, Keppel Accounting.

LISTEN: Shadow health minister tours Western Downs

Shadow health minister Ros Bates

QUEENSLAND shadow health minister Ros Bates has toured the Western Downs to meet with local health industry professionals.

She spoke with Country Caller editor Harry Clarke about the purpose of her visit, the Covid vaccine rollout for people in the remote areas, the proposed Wagner quarantine facility near Toowoomba, and country maternity service needs.

Six-week build for Wagners’ Toowoomba Covid quarantine camp

Steven Miles and John Wagner at Wellcamp

By HARRY CLARKE

RETURNED international travellers could be quarantined at purpose-built camps outside Toowoomba within six weeks of the government approving their construction.

Billionaire local businessman John Wagner was joined by Queensland deputy premier Steven Miles and treasurer Cameron Dick today at the Wagner-owned Wellcamp Airport and Business Park, advocating the construction of a remote quarantine facility as a permanent alternative for hotel quarantine.

The camp site, a four-minute bus ride from the Wagners’ international Wellcamp Airport, would ultimately house 1000 overseas returnees and 300 full-time staff, taking up to 14 weeks to construct completely.

But Mr Wagner said his company could have the first 400-500 rooms functional within only six weeks of federal and state government approval.

“We will build it, maintain it, do the food and beverage, and Queensland Health will be involved in how the health side of things works,” Mr Wagner said.

“Every room will have its own air conditioner system. There’d be no corridors for people to transmit (coronavirus). Every worker at this facility will be vaccinated, otherwise they won’t be able to come onsite.

“So the risk of community transmission, with the vaccination being rolled out, is extremely low.”

Mr Wagner also stressed that the facility would be “self-funding”, meaning guests would reimburse the government for accomodation costs in a way similar to current hotel quarantine arrangements.

But he said the cost of building the camp was “commercial in confidence”.

“We are not asking any level of government for any funding of this project,” Mr Wagner said. “It’s a user pays facility, so it’s self funding.”

The proposal would need approval from the federal government, which recently rejected a proposal to quarantine return travellers in existing resource industry camp facilities around Gladstone.

And the Toowoomba facility has been met with resistance from other renowned local business identities. Builder and philanthropist Clive Berghofer has already advertised his concern for Toowoomba’s safety and reputation in local media.

Mr Miles, who with Mr Dick was attending the sod-turning of new a trade distribution centre and recycling facility at Wellcamp, said the government supported the Wagner quarantine camp proposal.

“We’ve put this forward as a proposal to avoid having to shut down whole cities for four or fives days as we’ve seen in Perth and Brisbane and Melbourne,” Mr Miles said.

“Scott Morrison really needs to consider how many times he wants to see that happen before we put in place a more effective quarantine regimes.

“There are two big advantages (with the Wagner proposal). You can properly ventilate the spaces around the accommodation – you don’t have the hallway or corridor effect that we’ve seen in the recent outbreaks.

“Also the ability to have a secure, stable work force, just allowing people to work full time in the one location also reduces the risk.”

LISTEN: Katter’s colourful take on outback Survivor film location

By HARRY CLARKE

ANYONE who’s ever interviewed Bob Katter before knows it can be quite difficult to keep him on topic.

The maverick North Queensland MP is perhaps more prone to digression than any other Australian politician. Theories, anecdotes and passionate arguments often erupt without any warning or conversational prompt.

But during a 44-minute phone conversation with Mr Katter, there was a 10-minute period when the Member for Kennedy dutifully remained on the topic of “survival” in relation to his home town of Cloncurry.

It was revealed last week that the next season of reality television juggernaut Australian Survivor would be filmed around Cloncurry. The TV show pits contestants against one another in a series of challenges, often set in harsh climates and terrains.

The announcement had clearly got Mr Katter thinking and reflecting, because only days later he posted a very amusing meme to his official Instagram page, offering the show’s contestants some Cloncurry survival tips.

IMAGE: @bob_kattermp

The image was followed by a series of historical references to the Kalkadoon indigenous tribe, Dame Mary Gilmore and a unionist shearers’ strike shootout on a North Queensland sheep station.

The Caller immediately contacted Mr Katter’s office to find out more, and within minutes the man himself was on the phone discussing (among countless other things) his delight that Cloncurry had been chosen to host Australian Survivor.

Here’s a recording of the interview:

The Caller is obliged to ‘fact check’ some of Mr Katter’s claims:

The Kaldadoon people – Mr Katter claimed that about 120 black people and 120 white people were killed during the Kalkadoon wars, which lasted for about 60 years during the 1800s. This is disputed on the website of renowned Kalkadoon artist Cher’nee Sutton who, along with a group of historians and website curators, has compiled an extensive documentation of Kaladoon history. The website suggests that the period of colonial violence lasted closer to 40 years, and that up to 900 Kalkadoon people were killed.

Mr Katter was correct in saying that today the Kalkadoon people were “land-rich” due to native title arrangements. However, one historian lamented to the Caller that the community was “land-rich but money-poor”.

Dame Mary Gilmore – Mr Katter mentioned the fascinating but perhaps little-known fact that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a distant relative of famed Australian writer Mary Gilmore, whose profile is immortalised on the Australian 10-dollar note. It’s difficult to confirm whether Dame Gilmore “had it off” with past political and poetic icons Ted Theodore, Jack Lang and Banjo Paterson, but her relationship with writer Henry Lawson is well documented.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison visits his great great aunt Dame Mary Gilmore’s grave in Cloncurry. (AAP)

Shearers’ Strike shootout – Mr Katter said “three, arguably four people, were killed” during a unionist shearers’ strike. The Caller assumes this is a reference to a shooting at Grasmere Station near Cloncurry during a shearers’ strike in 1894. Monument Australia suggests only two people were killed.

Record temperature – The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the scorching 53-degree temperature recorded in Cloncurry in 1889 was actually taken from a gauge situated inside “a beer crate nailed to the side of a house”, and that the true temperature would actually have been closer to 47-degrees.

Qantas, Distance Ed, Bank Robbery, Ernest Henry – It seems that pioneer Ernest Henry was indeed speared by aboriginals and was then forced to ride from Mt Isa to Cloncurry on horseback. Investigations of the 1932 Cloncurry bank robberies turned up nothing. The MySchool website indicates that Charters Towers School of Distance Education currently has 2024 enrolments, as opposed to nearly 3000 as suggested by Mr Katter. According to Wikipedia, the last fatal Qantas flight was in 1951 which was 60 years ago, not 100 years ago. There is also no suggestion that Qantas once had the highest number of fatal crashes in the world.

TUCKER: A “seriously easy” mint lamb casserole

By LULU HARRISON

I always get excited when I hear people tell me that a favourite recipe of theirs is “sooo easy”, but we all know that’s not always the case.

Usually it’s a 20-step Ottolenghi-style process, which requires a sous vide machine at minimum – but I swear, this minted lamb casserole is the real deal. 

It’s a guaranteed mid-week crowd pleaser, even though it only has 6 ingredients.

All you have to do is chuck it in a pot, wait a bit and you’ll have yourself some good tucker.

I hope your family and loved ones enjoy it as much as my partner and I do (every Thursday night !).

Ingredients:

1.5kg of diced lamb

2x 375ml tins of Heinz big red tomato soup

2x onions (diced)

3x garlic (crushed) 

Large bunch of mint (chopped)

Half a pack of frozen peas

Method:

1. Dice onions and put in casserole dish with oil….cook for 15 mins constantly stirring until translucent…then add crushed garlic and salt and pepper…stir around.

2. Add in diced lamb- no need to brown beforehand. Also add in tomato soup and mint. 

3. Cook for 2 hours roughly on low heat…check as you go but until the meat is soft….then 20 mins before serving add in peas.

4. You can either eat this on its own or serve with brown rice and top with Parmesan cheese, chopped mint or parsley from the garden if you’d like. 

The “cowboy industry” text message sacking 230 solar farm workers

By HARRY CLARKE

CONTRACTORS and union representatives will meet with a major international solar farm builder on Monday to resolve an ugly industrial relations dispute which this week saw hundreds of workers sacked suddenly via text message.

A combined workforce of 230 electricians, mechanics and unskilled labourers received an SMS about 6am Monday, February 8, saying they’d been laid off from Shell QGC’s Gangarri solar farm construction effective immediately.

“Torquejobs have been advised by the host employer that Saturday 6th was the final shift and they no longer require casual labour hire personnel on the Gangarri Solar Projecty until further advised,” the text message said.

“You will be required to make arrangements to vacate any supplied accomodation this morning Feb 9th and return to your regular places of residence.

“Thank you for you (sic) work on this project and we look forward to working with you in the future.”

The 120 megawatt Gangarri project near the Queensland town of Wandoan has been described to the Caller as a “crown jewel” project for Shell QGC, as the major coal seam gas developer steps into the renewable energy space.

The primary contractor for Gangarri is Sterling & Wilson, an Indian-headquartered solar company which has also just begun building what will be Australia’s largest solar farm, the nearby Western Downs Green Power Hub.

The dispute is over payments between Sterling & Wilson and Davis Contracting, which is providing workers via labour hire company Torquejobs for the installation of solar panels and electrical connection work.

Shell QGC is understood to be furious about the dispute and the negative publicity it has generated, with reportedly only 13 percent of the contract work having been completed.

The Gangarri Solar Project is located at Woleebee, near Wandoan. IMAGE: SHELL QGC

A Shell QGC spokesperson said the company was not party to the dispute but was working with its contractor to assist in finding a resolution.

“I can’t speak on behalf of another company on any questions specific to their contractual issues,” the spokesperson said.

“We are aware of the matter, and Shell is working with our primary contractor Sterling & Wilson to assist in finding a resolution.

“Shell remains committed to the safe delivery of this project, which will generate ongoing benefits to the local community, deliver 120 megawatts of solar electricity and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by around 300,000 tonnes a year.”

Neither Sterling & Wilson nor Davis Contracting have responded to requests by the Caller for comment on the matter.

Queensland Electrical Trades Union state secretary Peter Ong. IMAGE SUPPLIED

Queensland Electrical Trades Union state secretary Peter Ong said the problem at Gangarri was symptomatic of what he described as a “cowboy” solar industry in Australia, where workers’ rights were under-regulated.

He said federal legislation and current provisions in the Fair Work Act allowed the casual employees, many of whom were backpackers fulfilling visa obligations, to be sacked without notice.

“To wake up on a Monday morning, putting your boots on, to a text saying you don’t have a job is an absolute disgrace,” Mr Ong.

“Companies are able to employ people on a casual basis and then terminate them on a casual basis. They don’t have any holiday pay, redundancy pay or termination pay – they’re just thrown on the scrap heap.

“The solar industry is continuing to have insecure employment. They need to take ownership of this and their social obligations.

“All we’ve seen are poverty jobs. We’ve seen these companies come into our communities, deliver nothing for those communities, pay ordinary wages and then bugger off to the next one.

“These unscrupulous employers and developers need to be regulated.”

Outback Queensland to host TV show Australian Survivor

Survivor host Jonathan LaPaglia. IMAGE: Endemol Shine
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THE sixth season of reality television juggernaut Australian Survivor will be filmed in the outback Queensland town of Cloncurry, where “harsh climate and challenging weather conditions will turn the game on its head,” it’s been announced.

Australian Survivor, a TV Week Logie and ACCTA Award-winner, will create about 150 jobs for production crew and generate an estimated $14.6 million, the Palaszczuk Government claimed in a press release.

The hit international TV show pits contestants against one another in a series of tasks in challenging, often remote, locations. It’s broadcast nationally on the Ten Network.

The Caller understands then show’s producers are currently in the Cloncurry region, making arrangements with local stakeholders and scouting locations for filming.

Filming will begin mid this year. As well as television industry professions, there will be opportunities for local tradespeople to gain employment from the production. Enquires can be made my emailing tvcrewcloncurry@gmail.com

“We’ve got a winning combination in terms of competitive incentives, fantastically diverse locations, best-in-the-business local crew and one of the world’s most COVID-safe environments,” the Premier said.

Contestants from the fifth season of Australian Survivor. IMAGE SUPPLIED

“Queensland is the place to film right now; the positive impacts flowing from our production boom are vast and varied, and my Government is doing everything in its power to maximise these benefits for all Queenslanders.”

Screen Queensland CEO Kylie Munnich said it was positive news for the remote township of Cloncurry, which will benefit from jobs for local crew and be showcased nationally and internationally on the program.

“It’s rewarding to see such a big show as Australian Survivor heading to outback Queensland—a region that knows adversity and hardship first-hand, and whose people, I expect, share those human qualities celebrated in the show: courage, endurance and strength,” Ms Munnich said.

“From urban centres and coastal ranges to sweeping outback plains, Queensland has enormous capacity to cater for a wide range of screen productions—from international features through to reality juggernauts like Australian Survivor.”

Chief content officer and executive vice president Beverley McGarvey, from production company ViacomCBS, added: “We are thrilled that our new Australian Survivor castaways will have the chance to outwit, outplay and outlast each in other, right here in Queensland, Australia. Outback Queensland’s harsh climate and challenging weather conditions will turn the game on its head. 

“Moving from the beaches of Fiji to the outback of North Queensland will shift the game in a way we haven’t seen before. If the castaways think they know how to play the game, they will need to think again.”

Third time lucky for the Dawson Jockey Club, holding a successful meeting after two previews wash outs.
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NOT SO WOKE: The co-ed state high school with all-girl captains

Chinchilla State High School captains
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By HARRY CLARKE

THE show was almost stolen by the student concert band’s edgy rendition of Adele’s hit Rolling in the Deep, but at Chinchilla State High School’s annual leadership induction ceremony, it was the girls who truly shone.

For the first time in its 58-year history, CSHS has appointed an all-female team of school captains, straying away from the traditional composition of two boys and two girls. 

Naturally, there’s been “backlash” since the leadership group was announced late last year.

Accusations have been made that the girls’ election was a ‘woke’ statement by a school overcompensating for gender inequality, trying to appeal to the PC brigade.

But CSHS Principal Ian Insley insists the truth is quite the opposite. He said he was adamant the Year-12 girls were elected “entirely on merit”.

That’s how it always should be. The school body spoke and that’s who they wanted put forward.

CSHS vice captain Hayley Underwood

“It was a really rigorous election process,” Mr Insley said.

“If you want to be a leader of our school you need to apply, you need to have references, you need to sit an interview and go through an election process where our students and staff vote.

“They also have to get up in front of their peers and talk about why they’d be the best person for the job.

“These girls are a testament to our school and to our town. They got the job entirely on merit.”

CSHS captains Bridie Benecke, Chloe Ellem, Jemina Lithgow and Hayley Underwood

The delightful young group – Jemima Lithgow, Chloe Ellem, Bridie Benecke and Hayley Underwood – would’t have it any other way. 

Chloe said there’d been plenty of cynics, especially given there was virtually an equal number of male and female students in the class of 2021.

But she said the fact she and her friends were elected because of their leadership talent, rather than gender, made them proud.

It’s not just good marks, it’s who we are as people and the ideas we have.

CSHS captain Chloe Ellem

“There was heaps of backlash,” she said. “People were saying ‘imagine if it was all boys. Imagine the riot that would cause’, but we’re like – not really.

“There’s a really good system that goes into electing the school captains. It’s not just good marks, it’s who we are as people and the ideas we have.”

Hayley added: “And that’s how it always should be. The school body spoke and that’s who they wanted put forward.”

“It’s changed for the better. I think in the future people will be coming into the vote with a completely different mindset, because of the way we’ve been elected.”

CSHS class of 2020 graduate Lachlan Reis received his award at the leadership ceremony based entirely on merit as well.

Last year, Lachlan topped his class in the inaugural Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) examinations and was awarded the school’s prestigious Gallipoli Student Dux Award, sponsored annually by the local RSL.

“It’s exciting, especially after a tough year with all the Covid interruptions, to be recognised,” Lachlan said.

Lachlan is already running his own drone business locally and has established an additional web business. Long term, he said he aspired to join the Australian Defence Force.

CSHS Dux Award recipient for 2020, Lachlan Reis, with his former headmaster Ian Insley
Third time lucky for the Dawson Jockey Club, holding a successful meeting after two previews wash outs.
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Limited stock & record sales in Surat Basin real estate

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By HARRY CLARKE

LOW interest rates, market confidence and better incoming-producing properties are creating a highly active real estate market across the Surat Basin, limiting buying stock and ensuring rentals are hard to come by.

Real estate agents are reporting property turnover rates similar to pre-gas boom levels, while the Australian Reserve Bank cash rate remains at record lows – currently 0.1%.

Better rain seasons over the past 12 months are also being attributed to a squeeze in the availability of agricultural properties, while first time local buyers are snapping up homes in town for “bargain” prices.

Elders Dalby sales manager Brian Laverty said his office was on track to sell a record number of homes this financial year, with some 750 rentals currently on the books and only nine properties on the market.

“Sales numbers for this financial year are nearly as strong as what I’ve seen in my 15 years in real estate,” Mr Laverty said.

“There are bargains out there for buyers. There’s some great value and it’s also getting pushed a little bit because of the vacancy rates in the rental market.

“We’ll possibly get 80 sales for the financial year. The biggest year we ever had was in 2009 when we sold 72.

“People who are buying their first home are spending $230,000 to $250,000 and they were getting rentals for $320 a week. So they’re in a better position to be paying a house off with the current interest rates.”

Mr Laverty said while real estate in the region’s smaller towns such as Jandowae and Bell wasn’t “quite as strong”, larger centres such as Chinchilla and Roma appeared have similarly high activity.

Warren Barker, sales manager at Nutrien Harcourts Chinchilla, said a relative scarcity of rental vacancies was steering clients into the buyer market, creating higher turnover over for the past year than in 2018 and 2019.

“If the price is right the property won’t last long. A lot of them are selling before they’re even listed online,” Mr Barker said.

“At the moment agricultural properties are more active than in town, especially the bigger places – incoming producing places – they’ve been hot property.

“That probably comes down to the lowest interest rates. There’s cheap money and it’s filtering into smaller blocks as well.

“There’s obviously confidence out there. Cattle prices are strong, there ’s been rain.  

“It’s brighter than I’ve seen in a long time.”

Ray White Roma principal Michelle Cloherty said rentals in the Maranoa capital were currently “very tight” while sales turnover was also high.

She attributed the activity to financial savings some buyers had made during the uneventful pandemic period.

“There are vacancies coming up all the time but it’s hard to keep up with the demand,” she said.

“When it comes to sales, I’m doing quite a few conjunctions with other agents as well as the ones we’re doing ourselves, just to keep across all the properties.

“It’s busier now than it has been since I’ve been here.”

Third time lucky for the Dawson Jockey Club, holding a successful meeting after two previews wash outs.
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WATCH: All the action from the Roma Rugby 7s

By HARRY CLARKE

Reporting can be a dangerous sport, especially when you participate in the story!

This journo thought he’d have no problem playing seven-a-side rugby at age 30 without any real fitness, and alas, had to be carried off the field during the first game with a knee injury. Initial medical advice suggests it’s very likely a torn ACL.

For that reason, physical ability to cover this event was limited. Unfortunately no footage was gathered of the women’s games, and there are no shots of winning teams raising their trophies.

Perhaps most disappointingly, there also aren’t shots of the Budgy Smuggler “Flash Off” that occurred late in the day.

Country Caller be back at Roma next year, fighting fit to make up for the loss.

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