Man charged by Strike Force Trawler over alleged online child exploitation

A man has been charged following an investigation by Strike Force Trawler detectives into the alleged online procurement of a child for sex.

In July 2018, detectives from the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad’s Child Exploitation Internet Unit (CEIU) began engaging online with a man from the Hunter region.

Police will allege in court that the man believed he was speaking with a 14-year-old girl and engaged in highly-sexualised conversations and made arrangements to meet with the child for sex.

Following extensive investigations, a 42-year-old man was arrested by strike force detectives in a shopping centre carpark at Salamander Bay, about 10am yesterday (Thursday 18 October 2018).

Shortly after the arrest, a search warrant was executed at a Tanilba Bay home, where investigators seized two laptops, and an electronic storage device.

The man was taken to Raymond Terrace Police Station and charged with use carriage service to procure person under 16 years for sex.

He was refused bail to appear at Raymond Terrace Local Court later today (Friday 19 October 2018).

Investigations are continuing.

Strike Force Trawler is an ongoing investigation by the CEIU into the sexual abuse and exploitation of children facilitated through the internet and related telecommunications devices.

Regular covert online investigations are conducted by the CEIU; and police in NSW work closely with their law-enforcement colleagues interstate and overseas.

Anyone with information about internet predators should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page: https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au/

Information you provide will be treated in the strictest of confidence. We remind people they should not report crime information via our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Man charged with murder following disappearance of Leisl Smith – Wallarah

A man has been arrested over the disappearance of Leisl Smith, who went missing from the Central Coast in 2012.

Leisl Smith, then aged 23, was last seen about 1pm on Sunday 19 August 2012, leaving her Wallarah home.

Concerned family members alerted police when she failed to return home and she could not be located or contacted.

Extensive searches were conducted for Leisl; however, police have been unable to locate her.

Strike Force Wehl – comprising detectives from Tuggerah Lakes Police District – was subsequently formed to investigate her disappearance.

Leisl’s car, a Honda Accord, was found abandoned at the Tuggerah Railway Station car park on Wednesday 26 September 2012.

Strike Force detectives spoke to a then 42-year-old man before searching two properties in Wallarah and Brookfield on Thursday 4 April 2013, seizing a number of items.

Further properties were searched bordering the Golden Highway at Merriwa, approximately 60km west of Scone, in the upper Hunter Valley.

The investigation has been ongoing since this time.

About 5.10pm (Thursday 18 October 2018), detectives from Tuggerah Lakes Police District

arrested a 48-year-old man on the Gwydir Highway, west of Inverell.

He was taken to Inverell Police Station where he was charged with murder.

He was refused bail and will appear in Inverell Local Court on Friday 19 October 2018.

OMCG member faces further charges over Cooks Hill shooting

A member of the Nomads Outlaw Motorcycle Gang (OMCG) has been charged over a shooting at Cooks Hill in July.

About 2.20am on Wednesday 25 July 2018, police were contacted following reports of a public place shooting on Darby Street, Cooks Hill.

Officers from Newcastle City Police District attended and located bullet holes in the exterior of an apartment block. No one was injured.

A crime scene was established and examined by specialist forensic officers.

Detectives from the Criminal Groups Squad’s Strike Force Raptor North commenced an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the shooting.

On Friday 27 July 2018, a 42-year-old man was charged with multiple firearms offences following the search of a home in Cooks Hill.

Following further investigations, today (Thursday 18 July 2018), an additional charge of discharging firearm with intent to cause grievous bodily harm was added to his charges at court.

He is next due to appear before Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday 24 October 2018.

Detectives investigate sexual assault of girl – Lake Macquarie

Police will address the media after launching an investigation into the reported sexual assault of a teenage girl in the Hunter region yesterday.

About 3.30pm (Wednesday 17 October 2018), a 14-year-old girl alighted a bus on the Pacific Highway near South Street, Windale, and walked along Yertala Close before entering scrubland, where she was approached by an unknown man armed with a knife.

The girl was dragged into the bushes and sexually assaulted. The man then ran from the scene and is believed to have driven away in a silver vehicle.

Police were notified after the girl reported the incident when she arrived home.

Emergency services attended the girl’s home before she was taken by NSW Ambulance paramedics to John Hunter Hospital for examination. She has returned home into the care of her family.

Detectives from the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad and Lake Macquarie Police District have established Strike Force Kielpa to investigate the incident.

A crime scene has been established off the Pacific Highway, near South Street, which is currently being examined by specialist forensic officers.

Local police are also conducting a high-visibility policing operation throughout the area to complement investigative strategies.

The man has been described as being aged in his 30s or 40s, with a heavy build, a large belly and legs, a prominent nose and lips. He was last seen wearing a black hooded jumper, long dark-coloured pants, and white sneakers.

Investigators are urging anyone who may have been in the Windale area yesterday afternoon and noticed something suspicious to contact police.

In particular, they are seeking dash-cam vision from motorists who may have been travelling on the Pacific Highway or South Street between 3pm and 4pm to provide copies either to Belmont Police Station or upload it through the Crime Stoppers online reporting page.

Greens Call for Newstart Increase

Newstart is currently just $38 a day – and it hasn’t changed since 1994. People are living in poverty and this has to change.

The fact is people don’t want to be on Newstart that want work. People seeking work deserve to be supported adequately, and living in poverty  is a barrier to work. Those seeking work should be able to afford the essentials, the current payment of less than $40 a day doesn’t cover that.

It’s disappointing that both major parties are refusing to budge in this space when people are clearly living in poverty.

The Government and the Labor party need to find the political will and exercise some compassion and common sense. It is accepted by all major stakeholders that the payment is too low and that needs to change.

Greens say Leigh Creek Energy project must be stopped

A team of senators from the Morrison Government, the Labor party, and Nick Xenophon’s Centre Alliance has rejected a motion calling for a ban on dangerous underground coal gasification. It followed a protest at Leigh Creek Energy’s AGM today.

“It is a disgrace that the Morrison Government, the Labor party and Nick Xenophon’s Centre Alliance teamed up today to vote down a motion that called on a ban to underground coal gasification. They were faced with the facts of the disastrous effects UCG has on communities and still backed poison over people,” Greens environment spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.

“Passionate activists and community advocates are working hard to put an end to this poisonous practice in Leigh Creek. The Greens  will continue to fight in the Parliament for a nation-wide ban, in the hope that the environmental disaster seen in Queensland is never repeated.

“Poisoning the water table and contaminating soil and air for the sake of profits that will mostly go offshore does not fly with the South Australian community. It is widely known that this toxic practice is not only harmful to the environment, but it makes workers sick and has been linked to some cancers.

“Queensland has acknowledged what a gross error it made when it allowed underground coal gasification to go ahead, and it was revealed yesterday that taxpayers are forced to pay the clean-up bill. It is devastating that the project ever got the go-ahead in South Australia.

“The Greens will continue to fight against this toxic project, and stand up for the community in Leigh Creek, and the traditional owners who want this project stopped.”

Greens Senate motion:

The Senate—

a)            notes that Leigh Creek Energy have produced their first syngas using underground coal gasification (UCG);

b)            notes that UCG was banned in 2016 in Queensland after the Linc Energy disaster in Chinchilla, which was declared Queensland’s worst environmental disaster;

c)            notes further that UCG has been responsible for incidents of poisoning the water table and contaminating soil and air and has been linked to an increase in cancers, including lung and breast cancers.

Calls on the government to urgently intervene and stop the Leigh Creek project from progressing any further and ban UCG across the country.

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young

Janet Rice on Greens bill to remove discrimination against LGBT+ students and staff in religious schools

I’m proud to rise to speak on this Greens bill, the Discrimination Free Schools Bill, which would remove exemptions from our federal anti-discrimination laws that currently allow religious schools to expel lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or gender-diverse students and to fire LGBT teachers and staff members simply because of who they are. The Greens have been fighting for years to end these exemptions. They were written into our anti-discrimination laws by the Labor Party and have persisted for far too long. These exemptions must be removed.

Imagine being a student at a religious school and knowing that, if you come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, gender-diverse or non-binary, you risk being expelled. Imagine the extra stress and burden that that places on you at a time when you’re already feeling particularly vulnerable. The majority of Australians have been unaware of these discriminatory exemptions, but for LGBT+ people working at religious schools, many of them have gone to work each day knowing that, should they come out or let slip something that they shouldn’t, or somehow have their sexuality or their gender identity discovered, they risk being fired and losing their job—just because of who they are. These exemptions have a devastating impact on people’s lives.

Over the past week, so many people have come forward sharing their stories. We’ve heard how some teachers and staff members have been forced back into the closet as soon as they’ve been offered a job.

We’ve heard how they’ve feared holding their partner’s hand in public in case they bump into a colleague or a student who could out them, which would see them lose their job and their livelihood. We also know that LGBT+ people already suffer worse mental health than their heterosexual and cisgendered peers, because of the stress of things like these exemptions, which mean they could be expelled from their school or fired from their workplace.

Rainbow Families Victoria have collected stories of LGBT+ families whose lives are being affected by our current discriminatory laws and have shared them with members and senators. A future stepmother of five children, who’s engaged to her same-sex partner, spoke out this week saying:

I teach at a conservative Catholic primary school. I am constantly afraid that someone will find out and that I will lose my job. I am the main income earner and my employment is incredibly important. I worry that I will lose my job. I worry that my employer won’t give me a good reference if she finds out. This could affect my future employment opportunities. I feel like a criminal and I have done nothing wrong.

For others, these discriminatory exemptions have prevented them from applying for their dream jobs. Tim Hoffmann in my home state of Victoria shared his story with The Age earlier this week:

I have a Masters in Theology and want to teach in religious schools. However, I will never apply. I have absolutely no chance as, though I’m Christian, I am an openly gay man.

It was almost a year ago that the marriage equality postal survey results came in showing that the majority of Australians supported ending the discrimination in our marriage laws and making marriage equality a reality. It was a hard-fought and, for many queer Australians, personally difficult win but it confirmed what we had known for years—that Australian people have opened their hearts and truly embraced their LGBTIQ+ family members, friends and colleagues. For years now the majority of Australians have stood side-by-side with LGBTIQ members of our community in our fight for equality and against discrimination, and on this issue it is no different. A Fairfax poll released this week showed that an overwhelming majority, 74 per cent, of Australians oppose this discrimination. I am so heartened and unsurprised that the vast majority of Australians do not support this legalised discrimination against LGBT Australians.

Our parliament must support the people we represent and fix up these discriminatory laws. Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ordered the Ruddock religious freedom review last year as parliament moved to legislate for marriage equality. It was said that he did this as a sop to the right-wing hate-filled conservatives who continue to fight against equality until the very end, but it now seems the Ruddock review has not quite turned out the way they thought. It’s only through the review’s recommendations being leaked that the Australian people have been alerted to these discriminatory exemptions that have sat within our antidiscrimination laws for many years.

This Saturday, voters in the seat of Wentworth will be going to the polls to elect their new representative to replace former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Despite the Liberals comfortably winning this seat in 2016 there is a very real chance the Liberals will lose Wentworth this Saturday, because the people of Wentworth are shocked by what this Liberal government has done—its devastating inaction on climate change, its ongoing torture of people seeking asylum and its interference with and funding cuts to the ABC. In the Liberals’ desperation to cling on in Wentworth we’ve seen them release some shocking policies in the lead-up to this Saturday, yet we are still to see Prime Minister Scott Morrison release the full report of the Ruddock review, because the Liberals are afraid of drawing more attention to their awful policies towards LGBTIQ people. Ruddock is a former Liberal government minister after all. His review quite reasonably can be seen as a reflection of where this government is currently at with regard to allowing and entrenching discrimination.

We have now heard both Labor and the Liberals speak up big over the last week about how we need to make sure that LGBT students are not discriminated against. I was pleased to hear from Minister Cormann that he is now going to move quickly to amend legislation to stop the discrimination against LGBT students. It has been wonderful to see this backflip in the Liberals’ position. It has also been wonderful to see the Labor Party come out to say that their position now is to end discrimination against students and to end discrimination against teachers and other staff. But it has only been because of the intense community pressure that both the Labor and the Liberal parties have changed their positions over the last fortnight.

So, us bringing on this debate today is a very important opportunity. It’s an opportunity to get the government and the Labor opposition on the record about ending this discrimination before the pressure comes off after the vote in Wentworth on Saturday. We heard Minister Cormann say that, yes, he was happy. The government are going to move to end discrimination against students. But when it comes to teachers and other staff, he is silent. Despite the impact that this discrimination is having on teachers and staff at schools, the government remain silent. One can only presume that their intention is to continue to prosecute the case for allowing those discriminations to continue on in our antidiscrimination laws, to allow the continuation of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teachers and other staff.

We’ve got the Wentworth by-election coming up, and it’s important that the voters of Wentworth know, because they overwhelmingly voted for equality and against discrimination in the marriage equality postal survey last year. Wentworth delivered an 81 per cent yes vote in the postal survey last year. So they deserve to know. Through this debate, they are able to hear where Labor and the Liberals stand before Wentworth goes to the polls this Saturday.

I’m really proud of the bill that we are debating today. It would remove exemptions not just for students at religious schools but for all teachers and staff members as well. And it would not just work to protect students, teachers and staff members on the basis of their sexuality and their sexual orientation but also on their gender identity. Trans and gender diverse people have hardly been mentioned in the public debate over the last fortnight. We must ensure that trans and gender diverse students cannot be expelled because of their gender identity and that trans and gender diverse teachers and other staff members aren’t able to be fired.

Yesterday Prime Minister Morrison said, and I quote: ‘We must act right now. We can deal with this once and for all.’ Well, Mr Prime Minister, you have an opportunity to act right now and remove this unfair discrimination once and for all. To do act now and particularly once and for all means we’ve got to remove discrimination against students but also against teachers and other staff. We need to do it now. Labor and Liberal must turn their words into action and vote for this bill, vote for our Greens bill, to protect students, teachers and other staff members from being expelled or fired by religious schools just because of who they are. So I call on both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to work with us in good faith and support this Greens bill today—no ifs, no buts. Together, we can end this unfair discrimination once and for all.

Greens say Labor and Coalition back corporate power over community rights

The Morrison Government and the Labor Party have thrown Australia under the bus in teaming up to pass the dodgy Trans-Pacific Partnership today, giving big corporations more power than elected Governments.

“Labor has abandoned its own party platform, Australian workers, our environment and our sovereignty in rolling over for the Morrison Government to pass the TPP,”  Greens trade spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.

“This is a deal for big corporations, at the expense of the rights of the community.

“The economic benefit to Australia from the TPP is something between nothing and a rounding error – while the cost to everyday Australians, and our environment, are huge.

“Our environmental policy limbo and action on climate change cannot be addressed without serious risk of multinational corporations suing our nation. If the US decides to re-join the costs of new cancer medications would go through the roof. And, as the deal stands, vulnerable workers from six nations will be put into jobs without offering them first to Australians looking for work.

“We cannot address the TPP’s most devastating failures – ISDS provisions and weak labour market testing – now the deal is done. Labor has squibbed the opportunity to do the right thing, and to hold the Morrison Government to account.

“We must, of course, be a trading nation, but what has happened today is chaining us to trade for the sake of multinational corporations and shareholder profits, rather than engaging in deals that help take our nation forward.”

Lambton kids link centuries through time capsule

LAMBTON’s Mia Witherdin, 4, hopes to convince onlookers at a local war memorial in 100 years’ time that coins, USB sticks and newspapers actually once served a purpose.

The items will be among a host of contemporary curiosities buried this Saturday as part of a time capsule to replace another by left by unsung heroes from the Great War a century ago.

Time-Capsule-Photo-2-inside.jpg

St John’s Primary School students Remy Whitson, 9 and Elliot Guest, 9 with Mia Witherdin, 4 (middle).

“Thank you for putting that time capsule in the ground a long time ago and another one this Saturday,” says Mia, who may well live to address the 22nd century event to unearth the new capsule.

While 140 Lambton men were off fighting World War One, a number of their wives, mothers and sisters formed the Lambton Ladies Committee to raise money to pay for Lambton Park’s Memorial Gates.

Their makeshift time capsule, buried in a bottle beneath the gates a few weeks before armistice, is the only such World War One commemoration in Australia.

When recently unearthed, a newspaper reporting the declaration of war and decaying pennies were found inside.

The 100-year-old bottle was painstakingly dug up – and the new time capsule prepared – to officially salute the 30 visionary women who together mourned 27 local men who didn’t return from the war.

“Saturday’s event will be a community celebration of a resilient group of women with enough spirit and foresight to leave us a link to that disastrous time for the world and the defining event of their lives,” Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.

“Everyone in the Hunter is invited to turn out to be part of an important piece of local history.

“The City of Newcastle unanimously resolved to help excavate and replace the time capsule by supporting the project with around $60,000 in funds and in-kind support, and Ward 3 Councillors Rufo, Clausen, Winney-Baartz and I will be there on Saturday as very proud representatives of the City.”

Time-Capsule-Photo-4-inside.jpgLord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes pictured with Elder Street Early Childhood Centre students Lucas Wang, 5, and Mia Witherdin, 4. 

Descendants of the Ladies Committee will attend the celebration together with Sydney man John Estell. He will bring the engraved golden trowel his great grandfather, then the local state member, used to lay the foundation stone.

Scores of local kids – Mia among them – will also be there after receiving commemorative medallions from Hunter Development Corporation to encourage them to return in 2118.

The centenarians will then be charged with explaining the contents of the second time capsule, which was built with 21st century smarts, including high-grade stainless steel and an air filter.

“Once closed and sealed, inert argon gas will be pumped into the 26-litre box through one of two valves to avoid mould and oxidation,” City of Newcastle heritage specialist Tom Smith said. “The other one will be used to expel any impure air.”

Lambton community historian Robert Watson said archaeologists, volunteers and a stone mason recently took around nine hours to exhume the old time capsule.

“The whole excavation was a painstaking process because underneath the foundation stone was solid a block on concrete with the glass bottle inside,” he said.

“The rolled-up newspaper was pretty damp and in a bad state of decay and we could barely read anything on a penny because of the corrosion.”

The new capsule will also contain:Golden-Trowel-(1).jpg

  • A letter from Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes
  • A letter from His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley
  • A letter/document from Newcastle Museum with a contemporary interpretation of World War One
  • A letter from Terri-Lee Darcy/Auntie Phyllis to consider Aboriginal cultural heritage and stories/family experiences
  • A contribution from Lambton Jaffas Football Club
  • A contribution from Lambton Swimming Pool
  • Photo of RSL guard of honour set against backdrop of the Gates
  • Photo and names of the Newcastle City councillors
  • Cr Rufo’s Council badge
  • A copy of the invite to the event
  • A USB stick with a copy of My Country video and VR package from 2018 NAIDOC Week and another containing photos of 1918 capsule and its retrieval
  • A copy of all 54 issues of The Lambton Local
  • A copy of the names of the Anzac Ladies Club’s members
  • RSL charter
  • Sonia Hornery – RSL book
  • Photos of pre and school kids – whole of school / preschool or classes
  • St Johns photo
  • Stamps and Armistice Commemorative coins from 2018
  • Photos documenting original time capsule from International Conservation Services
  • The Story of Lambton in Lambton book by Julie Keating
  • A street map of Lambton with current lot & DPs
  • Old RSL relic items – two bullet shell cones and the Lambton-New Lambton RSL Sub- Branch Constitution, 1938.
  • Current issue of coins.
  • Program from Lizottes
  • Music from This Land

Man charged over alleged indecent assault of young employee

A man has been charged after allegedly indecently assaulting a young employee at a Hunter region take-away shop.

Detectives from the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad commenced an investigation earlier this week after receiving reports a teenage girl had been indecently assaulted while at work.

Following investigations, a 74-year-old man was arrested by detectives at a shop on Tarean Road, Karuah, just before 10am yesterday (Tuesday 16 October 2018).

He was taken to Raymond Terrace Police Station and charged with four counts of indecent assault-person under 16 years.

Police will allege in court that the girl was indecently assaulted on a number of occasions while working alone with her employer at a take-away store at Karuah.

The man was refused bail and appeared at Raymond Terrace Local Court yesterday, where he was formally refused bail to reappear at the same court on Tuesday 6 November 2018.

Investigations are continuing.