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Kernaghan’s “high octane” show at Mount Isa Rodeo

By HARRY CLARKE

LEADING the lineup of entertainment at the 2021 Mount Isa Mines Rodeo will be Australian country music icon Lee Kernaghan and pop star Guy Sebastian.

Kernaghan, a regular at the annual event, spoke with the Caller about some of his fond (and not so fond) memories from years gone by, dating back to when he was in his teens touring the country with his father.

The other two performers at the Rodeo Rock Concerts are country music artists Casey Barnes and Mick Lindsay.

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Bollywood superstar’s new life in country Queensland

By HARRY CLARKE

A WORLD away from where she rose to stardom in the Indian mega metropolis of Mumbai, Bollywood celebrity Evelyn Sharma has settled into a new life in the Queensland country town of Chinchilla.

Ms Sharma, a German-born Indian actress and model, spent close to a decade starring in big budget Bollywood productions such as cult classic Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, romantic blockbuster Ishqedarriyaan and action thriller Saaho.

She became a regular subject of Indian tabloid and mainstream news media, amassed millions of online followers and was followed relentlessly by paparazzi in the country of 1.2 billion people.

But “at the right time”, just as the then 30-year-old was contemplating the next phase of her life, Ms Sharma met Australian-Indian dentist and entrepreneur Dr Tushaan Bhindi.

Evelyn Sharma and Tushaan Bhindi

Dr Bindhi, originally from Sydney, met Ms Sharma through mutual friends while he was on an extended visit to India, and a long distance romance blossomed following their first date.

Eventually Ms Sharma made the radical decision to leave the big screen spotlight and follow her heart to the small town of Chinchilla, where Dr Bhindi had recently purchased the dental practice.

Ms Sharma has not shot a film since, and in her first interview since moving to Australia, she sat down with the Caller to talk about her unique background and new life in country Queensland.

Country crowd congregates for Q-Cup coasty clash

Burleigh Bears’ Dylan Kelly looks for the offload against Wynnum-Manly at Chinchilla. IMAGE: QRL Media

By HARRY CLARKE

IT’S been hard for organisers to quantify exactly how many spectators came through the gates of Bulldog Park, when it hosted two of Queensland’s iconic rugby league teams for the Intrust Super Cup’s annual ‘Country Round’.

But all agree it was the biggest sporting crowd to congregate in the region for decades.

More than 1,200 adults purchased tickets at the gate on Saturday, but there’s no tally on the hundreds more youngsters aged under 18 who came through free of charge.

Spectators in the famous ‘Dog House’ tin can bar spilled across the southern hill of the local footy ground. The grandstand was packed to the rafters and it was ‘standing room only’ along the whole western sideline.

It was a classic afternoon at Bulldog Park, with the highest standard of rugby league out west in living memory on display as the Wynnum-Manly Seagulls clashed with the Burleigh Bears.

Anyone who’s played at the ground before would have enjoyed watching professional kickers from the two coastal clubs trying to contend with the notorious winds that can blow a gale overhead at Bulldog Park.

Homegrown heroes Sam Scarlett and Luke Bateman were on the field for Wynnum and had family in the crowd, but it seemed any supposed home-ground advantage wasn’t enough to win.

Burleigh Bears captain Luke Page celebrates winning the Adam Watene (Cook) memorial trophy with local Chinchilla kids

The renowned footy club from Brisbane’s Bayside was overcome by Burleigh, who headed back to the Gold Coast having secured a nail-biting 26-20 victory.

“It was unreal to be back at Bulldog Park, aside from the loss” said Sam Scarlett, former Wandoan boy and now Seagulls captain and halfback.

“I hadn’t actually lost a game here. We were undefeated when I was playing for the Bulldogs in under-16s, so it’s a shame we got the loss.

“But I think we started too slow today, and with a side like Burleigh you can’t give them a lead. They’re too clinical. The ref really let the game flow. It was very quick and I think we ended up tiring in the end.

“But either way it’s really good to get back to play here and seeing friends and family. I love playing in the country, so credit to the Bulldogs for putting on a good show.”

Wandoan product, former Chinchilla Bulldogs and Wynnum-Manly captain Sam Scarlett spreads the ball. IMAGE: QRL Media

The day began with an on-field upset when Chinchilla toppled ladder heavyweights, the Wallumbilla Red Bulls, in Reserve Grade.

In a novel scheduling idea by the Bulldogs committee, the Intrust Super Cup game was played before the local A-grade derby, meaning the bush footy players could enjoy the experience of running out and playing in front of the huge crowd.

“It was good to see a lot of people here watching,” Bulldogs veteran Anthony Horswood said.

“The town obviously really got behind the day and I think all the boys enjoyed being a part of it.”

The Bulldog were close to securing an upset in A-grade as well. The Red Bulls are premiership contenders and currently sit at second on the ladder behind the undefeated Roma Cities.

Red Bulls coach-captain Ricky Wright said getting “the simple things” right paved the way for the win. He acknowledged the efforts 17-year-old Matt Yorke, who was playing his first A-grade game.

“It was a big game. We had seven players away for rep football, so we had a lot of reserve graders and debutants step up and it was a really good effort.” Wright said.

“One game you always dread is coming to Chinchilla and playing in front of their home crowd. They really get behind them, especially in the Dog House.

“The crowd here today was unbelievable.”

Big crowds at Bulldog Park for the Intrust Super Cup’s country round. IMAGE: QLR Media.

Police close Qld’s largest cattle duffing case in decades

By HARRY CLARKE

TWO North Queensland cattle crooks have been locked up over what police say is the largest case of livestock stealing seen in the state for decades.

The sentencing of a 58-year-old Capalaba man in Townsville this week, and a 36-year-old Atherton man in Cairns last month, brought to an end the years-long Operation North Veering, carried out by the Cloncurry police stock squad.

The operation began in 2015 after a the owner of a property north of Richmond reported the theft of more than 600 head of cattle. The stock were stolen between 2014 and 2015.

After a four-year investigation, detectives from the Cloncurry stock squad (formally Major and Organised Crime (Rural)) arrested the 36-year-old man, Brenton Butler, who was the manager of the property at the time the cattle were stolen.

He was charged with the theft of 664 head of cattle.

Two months later the 58-year-old Capalaba man, a former property owner, was charged with the theft of 280 head of cattle.

They have now been jailed for three years and nine months, and two years, respectively.

A cattle truck used to steal cattle from a property north of Richmond. IMAGE: Supplied

Detective Sergeant Liam Scanlan (pictured above) said the operation highlighted the dedication and resolve of MOCS Rural detectives to hold offenders to account.

“This is one of Queensland’s largest reported cattle thefts in decades, with factors such as the timeframe between the offence and the complainant noticing the stock missing, the remoteness of the property and the various locations of witnesses all adding to the complexity of the investigation,” Detective Sergeant Scanlan said.

“What this case highlights is just how many cattle can be stolen, the impact on producers and how seriously police take this type of offending.

“It is a timely reminder to all cattle property owners to be vigilant of any suspicious activities and to report it to police as soon as possible.”

Some of the cattle stolen from a property north of Richmond. IMAGE: Supplied

North Queensland savanna becomes mock warzone

By KATE BANVILLE

AUSTRALIA will be fighting an offshore enemy alongside its foreign allies in “highly sophisticated warfighting”, using lethal weapons and equipment, as part of an elaborate mock wargames ramping up across North Queensland.

It comes as the Prime Minister confirmed this morning a Chinese spy ship was spotted off the coast of Queensland. It’s not the first time a high tech surveillance vessel has been spotted in the region during exercise Talisman Sabre, with exercises in 2019 and 2017 confirming the Chinese presence. 

Talisman Sabre remains the largest bilateral training activity between Australia and the United States, designed to test the combat readiness of the Army, Navy and Air Force troops and US Marines in a series of complex war scenarios. 

The 17,000 strong contingent is made up of troops from the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, and for the first time, the Republic of Korea. 

Defence estimates Exercise Talisman Sabre 2019 delivered an economic benefit to the Queensland economy of around $20 million, and although TS21 will involve fewer international participants – the high intensity training remains.

A combined Australian-US effort will see troops close in on, and destroy an enemy force that has lodged and is defending key terrain, as part of the land component.

Other elaborate scenarios will see land manoeuvres executed with amphibious and maritime forces, supported by offensive air support during complicated beach landings.

Australian Army soldiers serving with the 2nd Batallion, The Royal Australian Regiment, approach Langham Beach, Stanage Bay, during Talisman Sabre 2019. IMAGE: Supplied

“It is exceptionally complex, there’s a lot of detail in it, and that makes the challenge of what we’ll be doing over the next number of weeks quite exciting,” said Brigadier Kahlil Fegan.

“It’s an opportunity for our soldiers right from our senior officers down to our newest soldiers, to operate with foreign forces, and understand how they work so that if we ever have to do so in a contested operational environment, we’re able to do so as effectively as possible.”

Unlike any of the previous exercises, planning for the ninth iteration of Talisman Sabre required additional contingencies due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19. Something the 3rd Brigade Commander said was likely to be a factor included in military operations for many years to come.

In response, it meant some components, involving foreign maritime and air elements, will occur exclusively offshore – meaning no US sailors or marines will be allowed off their ship with a number of activities being run exclusively offshore. Isolation tents will also be set up in the field in case any Australian or foreign service member falls ill with COVID-19.

“We’re training in a COVID environment so we have to be 100% compliant with state and federal rules and regulations pertaining to mitigation of the COVID threat,” Brig Fegan said. 

“I consider that a right and proper thing to be doing but not only that, it presents us with a training opportunity because there’s nothing to say that we would not be operating, potentially, in a foreign country that has been contaminated in some aspects.

“So there’s a real training benefit for us in ensuring that we are compliant and we are safe.”

U.S. Marine Cpl. Nicholas Umbarger scans his sector near Stanage Bay, Queensland, during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2019. IMAGE: Supplied

The peak of the mock war-games action will occur in the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area in Byfield, north of Rockhampton, as well as further north in Townsville and off the east coast of Australia between July 14-August 1, with smaller components anticipated to extend from Weipa to the Whitsundays and down to Evans Head in NSW.

The Australian Defence Force will have its most advanced equipment put to the test, including M1 Abrams Tanks, chinook helicopters, integrated technical systems, HMAS Choules, a 16,000 tonne 176 metres long warship capable of carrying more than 350 troops.

However, one big ticket item expected to be absent is Army’s $3.8 billion fleet of 47 MRH-90 Taipan helicopters, which has been suspended from service since May, after major safety and maintenance issues were discovered.

The Defence department said at the time the decision to suspend the aircrafts operations were “temporary”, and as a “safety precaution”.

It comes after Defence stripped its multi-billion-dollar Battle Management System (BMS) from Army equipment in May. 

Defence is yet to provide an update on the Elbit Systems BMS, or future of the MRH-90 Tapains which have been listed as a major project of concern for the ADF since November 2011.

A U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter carries an artillery piece over Langham Beach during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2019. IMAGE: Supplied

Expansion gives Qld coal mines another 22 years

By HARRY CLARKE

TWO adjoining coal mines which have been laying dormant in Central Queensland’s Bowen Basin for two years have been given a new lease of life.

Stanmore Coal has announced that MetRes, a 50-50 joint venture between Stanmore and M Resources, has fully acquired the Millennium and Mavis Downs coal mines near Moranbah.

More than 150 jobs are expected to be created after operations resume next month. Including rehabilitation, the predicted life of the mine is 22 years.

The mines will feature a mix of open cut, high wall and underground mining methods used for the extraction of high-quality metallurgical coal.

The project will have a total production of 13.9 million tonnes of coal during its lifespan.

“Auger mining is scheduled to commence August 2021, with rail and port logistics contracts executed providing a clear path to delivery allowing the company to take advantage of favourable market conditions,” Stanmore’s board said in a statement. 

A statement in April following the sale announcement said “restarting the Millennium and Mavis Downs Mine represents a low capital and quick to market investment opportunity in a high-quality metallurgical coal asset, supported by access to existing critical infrastructure.”

An aerial shot showing rehabilitation works at Millennium mine in the Bowen Basin. IMAGE: Supplied

The mines were previously owned by Peabody Energy Australia but have been mothballed since operations ceased in mid-2019.

Under the acquisition, MetRes will be required to undertake rehabilitation obligations estimated at $25.7 million, with Peabody reimbursing $12.5 million of incurred rehabilitation costs over a two-year period.

State Resources Minister Scott Stewart (pictured above) said the investment was a sign of growing confidence in Queensland’s resources sector.

“The resources sector supports more than 84,000 jobs across Queensland and represents $44 billion in exports,” he said.

“The sector has played a vital role in supporting jobs during the pandemic and will continue to do so into the future.

“Queensland is naturally blessed with the world’s highest quality metallurgical coal, which the world needs to make steel.

“Even as the world transitions to renewables, metallurgical coal for steel will remain an essential and valuable international export commodity for Queensland.”

Century old polo club fit for a family & fit for a prince

By LAUREN MARER

LIKE many bush kids, Sam Coulton’s first taste of polo was on the sidelines.

With a mallet in hand, Sam paced up and down the field to the echo of horses thundering after the coveted white ball.

He watched his uncle and dad ride where his grandfather once did and hoped that, one day, he could do the same.

Sam (pictured above) had the horsemanship to play. He grew up riding on his family’s cotton farm in northern New South Wales, but the skills with the mallet and ball were missing.

He enrolled in Kildonan Polo School in the late 90s; the final ingredient in his polo pursuit.

Lined up at the Goondiwindi Polo Club. IMAGE: Supplied

On the field now it’s a family affair. Sam’s brothers, Andrew and Tom, play alongside their dad, Dave, for the Goondiwindi Polo Club.

“Dad was worried about how many horses we’d need,” Sam said.

“But he was excited when we all wanted to play, because what other sport can you play with your father competitively? When your fathers in his 60s, you can still play together as a family.”

Every August the club holds the annual Goondiwindi Polo event, revived in 2012 after a hiatus through the millennial drought.

But this year’s affair affirms the club’s importance in local history as it marks 110 years since the Goondiwindi Polo Club was first founded.

In 1911 when the club was established, the game was different, but the aim was the same.

“The horsepower now is certainly a lot stronger, but the game is, and always has been very inclusive,” Sam said.

“No matter who you are, what age you are, or what skill you, have there is always a spot on a team for you.”

RH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (centre), on top of the secretarys office at the Goondiwindi Polo fields, with Dick Doolin to his left and Sinclair Hill to his right in 1968. IMAGE: Doolin family archives.

There has even been a spot for a Duke. 50 years ago the club famously hosted Prince Phillip for an exhibition match while he was touring Australia.

The Duke of Edinburgh made sure he wouldn’t forget the visit by borrowing Mr Coulton’s grandfather’s tie, and ‘forgetting’ to give it back.

“My brothers were lucky enough to meet the Duke a few years back, and they asked if he still had the tie and the Duke just laughed and winked at them,” Sam said.

(L-R) Ross McGilvary, Dick Doolin, Ken Telford, John Elder, Peter Roberts, Laird McColl, Ron Hunt, Hugh Fisher Snr, Sinclair Hill and Prince Phillip. IMAGE: Supplied

Ensuring the survival of the club has come with its challenges. The club was forced into a 20-year hiatus in the post the war years and reformed again in the 1950s with 24 founding members.

More recently the drought made it tough to maintain polo fields, horses and morale. This year the club’s annual event returns to the Goondiwindi Polo fields on Saturday August 7 following last year’s cancellation.

“It has been a really challenging few years but we live in an extremely resilient community who come together when times are tough, and that’s why they club has lasted so long,” Sam said.

Crowds will be treated to a full day of polo action. Players will be travelling from the Gold Coast, Scone and the Packer family founded club of Ellerston in the upper Hunter region.

There will also be a celebration of the Goondiwindi region’s producers, with the signature lunch event ‘Grazing at the Polo’ featuring food sourced sourced the local area.

Lunch organiser Elizabeth Africano said “We are so spoilt when it comes to what is on offer throughout the Goondiwindi region, and the polo offers such a great opportunity for us to showcase that to the wider community.”

Sam, his father, and two brothers will all be taking to the field again this year, with the hope of the club lasting another 110 years.

The Welltown Challenge Cup was first contested at the Goondiwindi Polo Fields in 1911. It was first won by Inglewood but then Goondiwindi bounced back to win the following three years before World War I intervened. IMAGE: Supplied

Queensland bucks the trend in State of Origin bull ride

The victorious Queensland team after the first night of the 2021 PBR Origin event. IMAGE: Supplied

By HARRY CLARKE

TURNING the tables on what’s been a woefully one-sided State of Origin contest on the rugby league field, Queensland’s top bull riders have beaten their New South Wales counterparts to take an early lead in the three-part PBR Origin series.

It was a back and forth battle between the Blues and the Maroons before a packed house of more than 5,500 spectators at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

Ariat cowboy Lachlan Slade was the top performer on the night, riding time on two out of three bulls for a combined total of 172 points.

The win moves him to up to fifth place on the 2021 Australian PBR Championship, which is currently led by Queensland captain Aaron Kleier.

Unfortunately for Slade, he missed the chance to steal victory for NSW on the final ride of the night by failing to overcome the fearsome, top-ranked bull Cattle King Boogers Beach, which remains unridden after 13 bucks.

“I was disappointed I couldn’t ride my last bull to win it for NSW but when you get on the best bulls, a little mistake like that – you can be done,” Slade said.

“When you know what a big bull like that is capable of, you have butterflies. You’re ticking in the chest. He yanks you. He’s a good bull.”

Ariat cowboy and PBR Origin I top rider Lachlan Slade takes on the unridden bull Cattle King Boogers Beach. IMAGE: Supplied

A clutch moment 8-second ride by Mundubbera cowboy Lane Mellors put Queensland in front by one ride in the bonus round. The 2017 PBR rookie of the year now sits at 7th on the national rankings and 99th in the world.

As well as Kleier with his 169-point double, standout performers included Cody Heffernan and Ariat’s Lachlan Richardson, both from NSW, who scored 87-point rides.

PBR Australia general manager Glen Young said the Origin concept, now in its third year, was proving to be a success.

“In the US they’re moving towards teamed events, so it sort of made sense for us that if we’re going to do a teamed event, we’ll do an Origin event,” Young said.

“It’s all new to the rider. It’s something that they rise for. Everyone wants to ride for their state and it’s a legitimate competition for them. It’s not just an exhibition event.

“You know what Queensland and New South Wales teams are like – they want the bragging rights.”

The PBR Origin will move on to the Cairns Convention Centre on July 17 before finishing at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre on October 23.

For the full schedule visit the official PBR Australia website.

INTERVIEW WITH LACHLAN SLADE

Gladstone LNQ exports hit record high

By HARRY CLARKE

MORE of Queensland’s liquified natural gas (LNG) left the shipping port of Gladstone in the previous financial than ever before, with exports up 3.72 percent from 2020-19.

Some 23 million tonnes of the super-chilled fuel was exported from Gladstone’s three LNG terminals on Curtis Island, in what Gladstone Ports Corporation COO Craig Walker said was testament to the hard work of industry professionals navigating the unprecedented pandemic challenges.

“We’re extremely proud of our results however it is thanks to our dedicated GPC employees who are the backbone of our business, as well as our strong relationships with customers who work safely, efficiently and sustainably to facilitate trade in each of our ports,” Mr Walker (pictured above) said.

“Shipping and ports hold the world economy together. They connect countries, markets, businesses and people, on a scale not otherwise possible.”

Curtis Island is home to LNG exporting operations GLNG, APLNG and QCLNG, for which the upstream gas development companies are Santos, Origin and Shell QGC respectively.

“These companies have also managed through a very challenging year and their staff and customers must be acknowledged” Mr Walker said.

During the financial year, Gladstone Ports Corporaion facilitated 350 LNG vessel movements, ported 1909 ships and exported and imported 123 megatonnes through its three ports in Rockhampton, Gladstone and Bundaberg.

GPC’s internationally accredited pilotage service completed 4,678 pilotage shipping movements. The Port of Gladstone also recorded more than 9100 towage movements.

Minister for Resources Scott Stewart said the gas sector was a critical contributor to the economy.

“Not only does the gas sector create direct jobs but the positive flow-on effects are evident in the indirect jobs it enables downstream in the energy and manufacturing sectors,” Mr Stewart said.

IMAGE: Supplied

Chinook choppers’ spectacular Townsville touchdown

By KATE BANVILLE

AUSTRALIA has taken delivery of two new heavy-lift battlefield helicopters as part of a deal worth half a billion dollars. 

With only eight hours flight hours clocked, the two new CH-47 Chinooks touched down in Townsville on Wednesday afternoon on board the gigantic US AirForce C5-M – the largest military aircraft owned by the US.

Australia’s current fleet of Chinook helicopters will grow from 10 to 14 under this acquisition program, with the third and fourth Chinooks expected to arrive in Australia in mid-2022.

“The Chinook is Defence’s largest helicopter, with a long and proven track record of supporting ADF operations in Australia, our near region and further afield,” Defence Minister Peter Dutton said.

Townsville’s 5 Aviation Regiment took ownership of the two CH-47 chinooks, which drew large crowds as people watched in awe of the spectacular landing, before the helicopters were then unloaded from the front of the plane in what was nothing short of a logistical feat.

US AirForce C5-M, the largest military aircraft owned by the US. IMAGE: Supplied

Flying direct from Honolulu, the US Airforce crew only had three hours in Townsville to unload the choppers and take off on a direct flight to Guam. Most of the US troops stayed on board in order to maintain their strict COVID-19 quarantine requirements.

“Whether you’re an aviator or non aviator its super exciting to see these coming in and  everytime there is something like this for 5 Aviation there is a huge amount of pride,” said Major Nicholas Ludwick, one of the Regiment’s Squadron Commanders.

The delivery comes just days ahead of Australia’s largest wargames with foreign forces, and as it’s $3.8 billion fleet of 47 MRH-90 Taipan helicopters remains suspended from service because of major safety and maintenance issues discovered in May.

The latest incident comes as defence officials concede a fault found in one of the helicopters in 2019 amid serious concerns about the tail rotor blades – when it was on its way to pick up the Australian Defence Force chief, Angus Campbell – could have led to “catastrophic consequences” if left unfixed.

Costing about $50 million per chopper, the MRH-90s, made and managed by Airbus, only started arriving in Australia in 2007.

Previous figures provided by the Defence Department estimates the total cost of the MRH-90 Taipan program will be $15 billion by the time the helicopters are due to be withdrawn from service in 2037, including $3.7 billion for the purchase and $11.3 billion to sustain them.

A spokesperson for Airbus Helicopters said they were “working closely with the Australian Defence Force to resolve the situation and end the suspension as soon as possible”. But even so, its unlikely they’ll be back in the air in time for the war games which begin in the coming days.

CH-47 Chinook unloaded from the US AirForce C5-M. IMAGE: Supplied

With a backdrop of the pandemic, Talisman Sabre has hasn’t been without uncertainty either. Just last week the major exercise was paused and troops from the 3rd Brigade in Townsville were sent home during a three day lockdown ordered by the state government for parts of Queensland. Defence officials had no choice but to watch the situation unfold and work on contingency plans.

Tens of thousands of troops are expected to descend on North Queensland in the coming weeks and days, with US forces completing the remainder of their quarantine in Brisbane, a Defence official said. 

“The plans leading up to TS remain deliberately flexible almost to the fluent stage, noting there were so many uncertainties,” Major Nicholas Ludwick said.

“But planning in a lack of information is actually one of the strengths of the defence force and so contingency planning is something we always take into account so this (delivery of chinooks) is validation the planning done worked to enable TS to go ahead.”

SLIDESHOW: Images supplied

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