Monthly Archives: June 2019

Man admits role in $800k NAB loan fraud

A Melbourne man has admitted receiving almost $800,000 in commissions as an introducer for the National Australia Bank, though he had nothing to do with the loans.

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Nicola D’Agostino, 35, only kept five to 10 per cent of the money taken from the bank and even paid tax on it, his lawyer Nick Papas QC told a plea hearing in the County Court on Wednesday.

He’s pleaded guilty to two charges of recklessly dealing with proceeds of crime after filtering the money through his bank accounts between 2012 and 2016.

D’Agostino, who is a photocopier technician with no background in banking, became an introducer for the bank in 2011 after being told about the idea through a family friend.

Prosecutor Allan Sharp said introducers bring prospective clients to lenders and if the loan proceeds, the customer signs a form confirming the referral and the introducer receives a commission.

He said D’Agostino had received commissions for loans handled by his family friend, an NAB staff member.

While some of the introductions were legitimate, Mr Sharp said more than 300 transactions were not.

It’s alleged the family friend – who is also charged and due to face a committal hearing next month – added the commission paperwork to other loan documents for customers to sign.

An NAB audit picked up a disproportionate number of introductions to that man from D’Agostino, prompting an investigation.

While D’Agostino received $796, 274.31 over four years, most of it was passed back to the family friend, paid through invoices to the other man’s company, the court heard.

D’Agostino received $67,329.34, which his lawyer Nick Papas QC said he would pay back.

Mr Papas suggested the family friend was a “conman” and his client had been sucked in.

He told police he hadn’t known what he was doing was wrong.

Mr Papas accused NAB of leaving the door open for this type of behaviour, but added the bank couldn’t be blamed.

D’Agostino will be sentenced next week.

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Labor wants Turnbull to appear at inquiry

Labor wants Malcolm Turnbull to appear at an inquiry into the Great Barrier Reef Foundation grant.Labor is ramping up pressure on Malcolm Turnbull to appear before a Senate inquiry into a controversial $444 million grant given to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

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The inquiry wants to know why the government granted the six-year funding stream to the small not-for-profit foundation in a meeting that lasted less than an hour.

Labor has written to the former prime minister asking he return to Canberra for questioning.

Foundation directors, including chairman Dr John Schubert, were grilled during a three-hour hearing at parliament on Tuesday.

Dr Schubert told the committee the first he knew about the foundation receiving near half-a-billion dollars was in a meeting with Mr Turnbull and then-environment minister Josh Frydenberg in April.

The Sydney meeting was arranged only two days before and no information was given prior to what it was about.

“The idea that you can go to a meeting, with no paperwork, with no agenda and within half-an-hour you’ve got $444 million – you couldn’t write this stuff,” Labor leader Bill Shorten told reporters on Wednesday.

Dr Schubert said the foundation recognised that climate change is the biggest threat to the reef, believing it had already been “altered forever”.

Despite this, he said it was not the foundation’s place to take political positions on other projects that could contribute to climate change, including the proposed Adani Carmichael coal mine in Queensland.

Foundation director Grant King has expressed his support for the Adani proposal.

Labor senator Kristina Keneally, who fired questions at the foundation directors on Tuesday, believes there are too many unanswered questions for Mr Turnbull not to appear.

“We have written to (Mr Turnbull) – we have respectfully asked for his participation,” Senator Keneally told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

“The concern here is that there was no process to say that this was the best use of the money.”

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Senator weeps as he uses parliamentary privilege to air death list

Jordon Steele-John was almost alone in the federal chamber on Tuesday night when he read out a list of dead Australians, including nine-year-old Isabella Leiper fromClarence Town.

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Few senators were there to witness his tears as he struggled to read the names of those he said had died as a result of violence, abuse or neglect in institutional and residential settings.

“F—ing hell,” the 23-year-old could be heard saying under his breath, as he tried to honour the dead through his tears.

Using parliamentary privilege, which gives MPs special protection to raise allegations publicly and with impunity, Senator Steele-John listed the names of 34 Australians who died in recent years. All of them had a disability.

Some of the cases he named have been the subjects of state-based legal proceedings, such as inquests. They included the deaths of seven-year-oldShellay Ward, seven-year-oldLevai Bonar, nine-year-oldIsabella Leiperand 29-year-oldShona Hookey.

“These are the names that don’t get spoken,” Senator Steele-John said, after reading his list of 34 names.

“These are the human beings, these are the loved ones, the mothers, the fathers, the sons, the partners who need justice, who demand justice, whose lives were worth living, in whose memory I tonight wear a white flower and whose passing fills me with an iron-clad determination.

“I will not stop, I will not rest, until they find the justice that is desperately owed them,” he said as he wept visibly.

Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John became the first senator to serve with a disability after he replaced Scott Ludlum.Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Senator Steele-John is Australia’s first senator to serve with a disability. He replaced Greens senator Scott Ludlam, who was disqualified for holding dual citizenship. In his first speech to Parliament in November last year, Senator Steele-John vowed to use his role to be a “tireless champion for a fundamental change in the way that society thinks about people with a disability”.

“We must now recognise that disability is not created as the result of various medical impairments, but is, in fact, created by society’s collective failure to adapt to, embrace and celebrate the varying levels of ability which we all have,” he said.

He and other disability advocates are calling for the royal commission into aged care be extended to examine the treatment of not just the estimated6000 young Australians with disabilities but alsoall disabled people in all settings.Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the royal commission would take into account disabled people living in aged care homes but stressed that it would not be the priority.

“It will be dealing with young people living with disabilities in residential aged care,” the Prime Minister told reporters in Canberra.

“It is a very focused inquiry, it’s important that we keep the focus of the inquiries. If they become an inquiry into everything, they become too broad. I want to ensure that this inquiry remains very focused so it can give us some very clear direction.”

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Sydney act LamBros take out Newcastle final of Passport To Airlie

WINNERS: Northern Beaches duo LamBros rocking out during the Passport To Arlie at the Stag and Hunter Hotel. Picture: Craig Wilson – Swamphouse PhotographyNORTHERN Beaches duo LamBros were the first act from outside the Hunter and Central Coast to win the Newcastle final of the Passport To Airlie band competition on Sunday.

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The Lambrou brothers of Connor (vocals/guitar) and Harry (drums/didgeridoo) impressed judges at Mayfield’s Stag and Hunter Hotelwith their unique sound, which blends rock, roots and Indigenous influences.

Harry’s ability to play drums and didgeridoo simultaneously, inparticular, wooed the judges.

“All five of the bands could have won, in the end it just came down to festival compatibility,” judge Craig Wilson of Swamphouse Photography said.

Otherbands whoreached thedecider were Sydney alt-rockers Fossicks and Newcastle acts Diplazar, Shrimp and Smoke & Rain.

LamBros – Do SomethingLamBros, whoreleased their self-titled debut EP last year, will contest the grand final at Airlie Beach Festival of Musicon November 9-11. Other acts on the bill include Kasey Chambers, Smash Mouth, The Church and Killing Heidi.

The overall winner of the national band competition secures a place on the main stage line-up at the 2019 festival, a$1000 performance fee, accommodation anda spot onBalcony TV.

Newcastle band The Venom Lipswere the last Hunter act to win the competition in 2016.

SU’S BOOM TIMESUMorley’s title song, Boom Town, from her debut album as Steel City Sue, wonBest Songat the 2018 Australian Roots Music Awards at Nimbin on the weekend.

The song deplores the decrepitstate of Newcastle’s CBD, recalling its rich history of earlier times, and points the finger squarely at the lack of civic contribution from the coal industry.

The record was also a finalist for Best Roots Album.

Steel City Sue will playDashville Skyline music festival at Lower Belford onSeptember 28-30.

PURU DROPS EPIT’S been long over due, but Newcastle’s Kira Puru surprised her fans by releasingher eagerly-awaited self-titled debut EP on Wednesday.

When Puru spoke to the Newcastle Herald in June before her Cambridge Hotel show she expectedthe five-track EP would not hit the airwaves until later this year or even in 2019.

However, the Cardiff-bred singer-songwriter broke the news on triple j on Tuesday when she debuted her latest single Fly;acheeky electro-pop ode to joining the mile-high club.

The debut EP also features the already-released singles Tension and Molotov, which began Puru’s shift away from soul and jazz towards a electronic pop sound.

RED JUMPSUITED UPCLUB Azzurri isn’t generally considered a major live music destination in Newcastle, but that hasn’t stopped the Kahibah venue booking American post-hardcore band The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus on their upcoming national tour.

The Florida band is touring their first album in four years, The Awakening. Formed in 2003, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatuscommand 1.9 million monthly Spotify listeners andare most famous for their 2006 hit Face Down.

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatusplay their all-ages show at Club Azzurri on December 1.

Brisbane band The Comfort will be joining the four-piece on support.

GANG ONLANEWAYFIRST it was an NRL grand final appearance, now it’s a headline spot at Laneway Festival. The opportunities just keep building for Newcastle drummerDom Borzestowski with his Sydney band Gang Of Youths.

The line-up for Laneway, which stops at Rozelle in Sydney on February 3, also featuresCourtney Barnett, Camp Cope, Baker Boy,Methyl Ethel, Middle Kids,Mitski,Skegss, Red Orange County and Jorja Smith.

There’s been plenty of excitement about Gang Of Youths’ forthcoming grand final appearance and even suggestions from Borzestowski’s Newcastle friends about wearing a 1997 Knights jumper for the performance.

Please let this happen.

DIRTGIRL BOOGIEDitygirl – ChangesNEWCASTLE actress and entertainer Maree Lowes, better known as ABC Kids star Dirtgirl, is hitting the road to support her new album Gumboot Boogie.

The breezy folk-pop single Changesdropped last week and will be followed by the album on October 5.

Gumboot Boogie is all about encouraging environmental sustainability and fun for youngsters just like Dirtgirl’shit children’s TV shows Get Grubby TV and dirtgirlworld.

Dirtgirl is heading out on a spring tour, but unfortunately there’s no Newcastle show announced as yet.

LAURA RETURNSAFTER a five-year hiatus Central Coast-bred singer-songwriter Laura Imbruglia announced her return to music by releasing new single Tricks on Wednesday.

The younger sister of actress and singer Natalie Imbrugliahas spent the past five years, since her third album What A Treat, developing her comedy writing and TV production onweb series Amateur Hourand creating a Melbourne 3RRR radio show,Word Nerds.

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Sharp + Co riding high on platter trend for quality catering

Delivering quality: Sisters Laura Sharp and Jessica Sharp. Below, samples of their platters. Main picture: Marina NeilAFTER working in the corporate world, then in fashion, Laura and Jess Sharp began seeking a change.

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The answer came in the form of their life-long passion.

Celebrating with food.

“We just love food,” Laura says.

“As little kids, if we weren’t cooking it or eating it, we were talking about food.”

After spending the majority of the past decade both working for an engineering company in Western Australia and also establishing successful fashion brand Matters Speaking, the Newcastle-born, Port Stephens-raised sisters launched catering business, Sharp + Co Platters, in September 2017.

With a focus on supplying gourmet platters and grazing tables for everything from weddings and baby showers to birthdays and corporate events, the sisters’ talent for creating beautifully-styled food has already seen the business grow beyond their expectations.

Platter of plenty: Nothing is spared for quality by Sharp + Co.

They are expanding their team to meet with demand and have been picked to cater for two major events, including the launch of The Station (at the former Newcastle train station site) on September 29.

Sharp + Co is the exclusive caterer for the launch and Jess describes it as their “biggest moment” as they are set to prepare three grazing tables – including a huge four metre-long table – to greet the crowd at the event which is open to the public.

“It will be in theme to The Station, so that 1920s homage to the era of when it was built but done in a modern luxe way,” Jess says. “I think the public are going to be blown away with what they see and experience on the night.

“We feel really honoured to be a part of it.”

Creating food for celebrations is exactly what led to the conception of Sharp + Co Platters.

The pair has a large extended family, so gatherings are always big and memorable.

“The happiest we are is when we’re with the people that we love and eating,” Jess says with a laugh.

“We love it. That’s where our love for it [catering] came about and that’s something we’ve always loved to do together, so to be able to do that for other people, but still together, is special.”

Each grazing table is created using fresh artisan produce including premium cheese, cured meats, antipasto and savoury accompaniments, fresh bread and seasonal fruit, with the addition of greenery and flowers to achieve that Instagram-perfect look.

Platter attractio: The look and feel of Sharp + Co food is just as good as the taste.:

“Each graze is specifically for the person or the occasion and we put a lot of thought and time not into just the food and what we select, but also how we put it together,” Jess says.

In addition to the grazing tables, Sharp + Co offers a range of grazing platters or platter boxes: breakfast (yoghurt pots, fruit, pastries), cheese (with extras such as dips, olives, quince paste), savoury (biscuits, dips, lavash bread, dried fruit), fruit (in-season fruit), sweet (freshtreats), baguette rolls or wraps (choice of fillings), salads (Caesar, Greek, rocket, pear, parmesan and walnut or spinach fig, prosciutto, feta and pine nut) or canapes (15 choices, such as rare roast beef, horseradish creme and rocket crostini or avocado, lime and tomato savoury tarts) – any can also be added to grazing tables.

The boxes are made fresh in their kitchen and delivered to the event, while the grazing tables are set up upon arrival.

Catering for events in Newcastle, Port Stephens and the Hunter Valley, they operate seven days aweek and require 24 hours notice for platter boxes and one week for grazing tables.

“To be able to create memories with food for people is something we are so grateful for and for them to choose us to be a part of their celebrations is something we see as an honour,” Laura says.

“Making people happy with food makes us happy.”

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