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Jun 11 , 2018 / By :

IT WAS 17 minutes to disaster.
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A cleaner for the Mill Hotel at Milperra started work on July 25 this year and stumbled across the deadly device – a sophisticated home-made bomb allegedly placed by a Comanchero bikie.

The hotel, previously the Viking Tavern, is where seven people died in a shootout between rival bikie gangs the Comanchero and the Bandidos on Father’s Day 1984.

Police cannot say why the bomb’s timer stopped 17 minutes before exploding.

But, with 20 people inside the venue, the attempted attack would have had ”catastrophic consequences”, with a number of lives lost or hurt and serious damage to property, police said.

The head of the NSW Police gangs squad, Detective Superintendent Arthur Katsogiannis, said Samy Duong, 40, a Comanchero member, of no fixed abode, was charged on Tuesday with attempt to damage property with an explosive device after being arrested at the Mercure Hotel in Liverpool.

”There was a real danger someone could have been hurt or died,” Superintendent Katsogiannis said. ”From our perspective this has taken it to another level.”

A police source said Mr Duong, who changed his name by deed poll, was a new Comanchero member.

A Mill Hotel manager, who wished to remain anonymous, said despite the potentially deadly consequences their Nepalese cleaner was relaxed about his find. ”He said ‘in my country this looks like a bomb’ and we then called police,” the manager said.

The Comanchero have one of their strongest chapter club houses in Milperra and in the 1980s the Viking Tavern was a famous bikie haunt. Nowadays, the hotel is better known for its swish surrounds, beer garden and menu.

In early July the hotel’s manager said security had barred entry to Comanchero members.

”We’ve never had any trouble with that group before but we have a strict policy against any bikie colours in the bar,” he said.

Superintendent Katsogiannis would not confirm this was the motive, but he ruled out a bikie war or internal Comanchero fighting, as seen earlier this month.

”We have two solid lines of inquiry that at this stage I don’t want to confirm as the motive,” he said.

In 2009 the now defunct Notorious bikie gang was allegedly behind the bombing of the Hell’s Angels Petersham club house.

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Jun 11 , 2018 / By :

Seeing double … Grace McDonald, Sarah Lennon, Naomi McDonald and Kate Lennon are two pairs of identical twins and all will play for the ACT under-13s side.This is double trouble – times two.
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If one set of identical twins wasn’t confusing enough, spare a thought for the players and coaches of the ACT girls under-15 cricket team, who have to tell the difference between Kate and Sarah Lennon, and between Grace and Naomi McDonald at this week’s national championships in Sydney.

You’d have to an eagle eye to pick them apart from a physical standpoint.

Kate is shorter than Sarah but 13 minutes older than her sibling, while Grace claims bragging rights over Naomi by a mere five minutes.

On the cricket field, though, they are vastly different players.

Kate bats left-handed while Sarah takes guard with her right, but both bowl right-handed.

It’s the reverse with the McDonald sisters – they both bat right-handed while Naomi bowls left-handed.

”They call us different names, but we do our hair different so they can tell us apart,” Kate said.

All four are from country NSW and are helping to bolster the ranks so the ACT can field a competitive team.

Grace is a shadow player in the 14-strong squad, as is Claire Lennon, a sister of Kate and Sarah.

ACT coach Em Preston said having two sets of twins had presented her with unique challenges.

”It’s never happened before so it was nuts when I found out we were going to have two sets of twins,” she said. ”It’s been hard to tell who is who, but they do their hair differently, that’s how we tell them apart.”

There are five girls in the team from the ACT, but Preston hopes the numbers will improve in future years.

”It’s becoming more and more difficult to get girls in this age group,” Preston said.

”Unfortunately the numbers seem to be getting less and less, but we need to put some things in place to get girls back into cricket.”

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Jun 11 , 2018 / By :

REGIONAL Express says pre-tax profits will fall by as much as 35 per cent this financial year due to an expected economic slowdown and additional costs such as the carbon tax.
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Australia’s largest independent regional airline told shareholders at its annual meeting in Sydney on Tuesday that pre-tax profits could drop by between 25 and 35 per cent to as low as $22.8 million in 2012-13.

The latest guidance from the ASX-listed airline is worse than the outlook Rex issued in August when it said earnings could fall by between 15 and 25 per cent. Last financial year Rex posted a record pre-tax profit of $35.1 million, which made it more profitable than larger rivals Qantas or Virgin Australia.

As well as the impact of an economic slowdown, Rex has blamed its lower earnings guidance on the carbon tax, additional security charges and the end of an en-route rebate scheme from the federal government.

Shares in the tightly held airline fell 5 per cent to $1.11 on Tuesday.

Rex had previously put the cost of the additional charges – including those from the carbon tax – and the end to the rebate scheme at between $4 million and $5 million.

Despite the headwinds, Rex’s deputy chairman, John Sharp, told shareholders the airline was ”well poised to face the many challenges ahead”. He cited the strong earnings in the longer term from the company’s new pilot training school, the Australian Airline Pilot Academy.

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Jun 11 , 2018 / By :

THE problem with smart meters is consumers are not told what’s so clever about them and why they need them.
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That is the view of Yolande Strengers, a research fellow at RMIT University who has studied energy consumption behaviour in NSW.

In theory, the digital devices should provide consumers with real-time updates of electricity usage and how quickly the household bill is running up. Power companies, meanwhile, benefit by identifying potential faults before they happen and can refrain from dispatching meter-readers to every household and business.

Having that information, however, is of little benefit unless there are sufficient differences in pricing between peak and off-peak levels to make it worth not running the clothes dryer, say, until a cheaper time of day.

”There’s a lot of confusion out there,” Ms Strengers said.

The NSW Minister of Resources and Energy, Chris Hartcher, has released a discussion paper on the introduction of smart meters.

Victoria has held off introducing a full range of prices until July next year, and even then only for those who opt in.

The cons of smart meters got the headlines, Ms Strengers said, while the benefits were downplayed. One big saving from smart meters the federal and state governments left out was that consumers big and small could lower their power bills by avoiding unnecessary usage during days of peak demand and high prices.

As studies show, each standard air-conditioner requires about $7000 in extra spending by energy suppliers to ensure they meet reliability standards on the hottest 40 hours or so each year. Smarter use of electricity could blunt, if not eliminate, those spikes.

The chief executive of the Council of Social Service of NSW, Alison Peters, said smart meters were not a perfect answer to reducing electricity bills.

”Having the smart meter that tells elderly people at home how much electricity they are using, isn’t necessarily going to help them pay their bills,” she said.

”People like that need to have the heating or cooling on to avoid health problems.”

The Greens NSW MP John Kaye said no vulnerable customer should be forced to pay more for electricity. ”Low income and vulnerable households should be given financial assistance to offset the costs of purchasing a smart meter,” he said.

Asked if households would be given any government assistance for smart meters, a spokeswoman for Mr Hartcher said: ”Households won’t be forced to install a meter if they choose not to.”

The spokeswoman said the government had not decided whether it supported the wider availability of smart meters. ”The government does not support a mandatory roll-out of smart meters but the taskforce has identified a market-led approach as favourable, where energy companies may offer innovative pricing products that suit the circumstances and lifestyles of their customers,” she said.

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Jun 11 , 2018 / By :

Canberra has been added to what could be the Ricky Ponting farewell tour, as the former Australian captain comes under increasing pressure in his spot in the Test team.
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Ponting will join a distinguished list of former skippers to lead the Prime Minister’s XI in the historic first-ever day-nighter at Manuka Oval in January.

The 37-year-old will be in charge of the invitational outfit when it takes on the West Indies in the annual 50-over encounter on January 29.

Ponting is regarded as one of Australia’s most successful Test batsmen, having scored 41 centuries and more than 13,000 runs at an average of more than 52.

But he has come under intense scrutiny after scoring just 20 runs in three innings in the current Test series against South Africa.

In Canberra to cast his eye over several players involved in the Sheffield Shield match between NSW and Queensland, national selector Andy Bichel had faith Ponting’s recent run of outs was an aberration and not a sign of a more serious decline.

”If you have got all six players scoring runs that’s good, but you don’t have that luxury all the time,” Bichel said.

”He’s been up against some quality bowling that’s tested him.

”But going into the Perth Test there’s no worries from where I sit as far as Ricky playing.

”If he’s not playing at his top then he’s a good enough man to work that out.

”When that time comes I suppose it’ll happen, but at this stage he’s there to play the next Test.”

Australia takes on Sri Lanka once the South African series is complete, with the first game of the three-match series at Ponting’s home ground, Bellrive Oval in Hobart.

That could be the perfect spot for Ponting to bow out, except he is keen to play on to help Australia regain the Ashes in England next year.

Ponting is the latest in a long line of former Australian captains to receive the honour of skippering the Prime Minister’s XI.

Others have included Australia’s most celebrated cricketer, Sir Don Bradman, Allan Border, Kim Hughes, Richie Benaud, Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh.

”It’s a great opportunity for the Canberra public to get out and see him,” Bichel said. ”He’s a legend of the game.”

Cricket ACT chairman Ian McNamee was over the moon to have Ponting lead the Prime Minister’s XI.

”He’s the greatest run scorer for Australia, he’s played more matches than anyone else, he’s taken more catches … he’s just an icon of Australian cricket.”

The rest of the Prime Minister’s XI will be announced in January.

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Jun 11 , 2018 / By :

IT WAS the moment the second Test slipped through Australia’s fingers – or at least Matthew Wade’s – but his mentor, and Australia’s most recent wicketkeeping great, are happy to see him pushing up to the stumps and taking the game on.
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Wade’s grassing of a Faf du Plessis edge in the last over before tea on Monday, while standing up to opening bowler Ben Hilfenhaus, has been bemoaned as the dismissal that could have sent Australia to Perth with a 1-0 series lead. Steve Rixon and Ian Healy prefer to give it the context of a chance that Wade had a big part in creating, if not taking.

”I’ve got no problems with it,” Healy said. ”If he [du Plessis] was batting outside his crease, that’s the best thing to do – go up there and drag him back, and hope that Hilfenhaus gets the lbw ball going well.

”If he was out of his crease [and Wade stayed back], who’s to say the nick would have come? The ball might have been perceived differently by the batsman and not nicked. By being up there, he created that chance, and he helped the bowler in enabling another chance. I’m very happy to see it.”

Rixon sat with Wade on Monday evening and reflected on his fifth Test, which with a missed stumping during Graeme Smith’s first-innings century wasn’t the happiest of the 24-year-old’s short career. Australia’s assistant coach said Wade knows exactly what he did wrong – coming up out of his crouch too early so that the ball hit the ends of his fingers rather than nestled in the palms of his hands.

”It was an error, but at the end of the day it’s only because of what it ended up [the hosts falling two wickets short of victory, with du Plessis South Africa’s unbeaten hero] that made it such an issue,” Rixon said.

”Everyone drops catches along the way, but we don’t rave on about them because it doesn’t often affect the game. It just happens this one did.”

While Healy saw Wade trying to bring leg-before back into the equation after du Plessis had taken guard outside his crease to mitigate against Hilfenhaus trapping him in front, Rixon noted that the ball had started to stay low, prompting a player who can change the game to take the initiative.

Making a stonewalling batsman think twice about letting balls go is another motive. Whatever the reasoning, the wicketkeeper’s mantra – ”stay low, stay low” – is put to its greatest test.

”Staying down is one of the key essentials of wicketkeeping, and [up] on the stumps, that’s where you get found out,” Rixon said, adding that hours of practice is put in with tennis and cricket balls to condition a keeper’s body to defy a natural urge to lift the head clear of the danger zone.

”It’s a skill, it’s the true test of wicketkeeping. If you’re keeping well to medium-pacers up on the stumps, you’ve normally got a fair idea that you’re in pretty good nick.”

Healy knows it’s a hard skill to master, fighting the natural tendency to ”flinch” and come up a fraction too early ”because something’s coming at you at 130ks, with a swinging bat in front of it”. He reckons they either stick or they don’t.

”That’s where you’ve got to drill your body height and train yourself to put natural instincts aside and stay with the ball. It’s extremely difficult,” he said.

Healy rates keeping to spin bowlers on wearing wickets as the greatest challenge, but this is up there. Failing to glove an early ball cleanly only added to the pressure. ”He [Wade] was just unlucky that the first one that got through, it had a nick on it.”

Bowlers who see themselves more as fast-medium than medium-fast sometimes take seeing their wicketkeeper in the batsman’s hip pocket as an insult. But Rixon says Wade’s move on Monday took place in concert with bowler and captain Michael Clarke.

”Bottom line, you’re trying to create something – that’s exactly what Wadey was doing, and I had no problem with it.”

Rixon says Wade is enjoying having someone ”who can talk the same lingo”, and understands how he feels and what he is trying to create as he beds down a demanding job. He saw many things he did well in Adelaide, too, which went largely unnoticed.

”We’ve got to move on. If he keeps thinking about something like that he’ll find the rest of the day gets very, very long and more errors will be made. We had a chinwag about that, and all good, he’s ready to rock and roll.”

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Jun 11 , 2018 / By :

Inquiry … Gardner Brook, a former senior vice-president of Lehman Brothers, arrives at the commission to give evidence.NOT only did they pay for his legal team, but the Obeid family also provided a witness with an elaborate spreadsheet to assist his ”recollection” before giving evidence at a private hearing, a corruption inquiry has heard.
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Giving evidence on Tuesday at the Independent Commission Against Corruption was Gardner Brook, a former senior vice-president of Lehman Brothers.

The commission heard that the family of the former Labor minister Eddie Obeid provided Mr Brook with highly confidential government information so he could sew up a deal between the Obeids and the mining company that would win a government tender.

The inquiry heard that the former mining minister Ian Macdonald was alleged to have provided the Obeids with inside information on a government tender for coal exploration licences in 2008. That information was used to secure the Obeid family with deals that had the potential to deliver them a $100 million profit.

Mr Brook, who now lives in Singapore, was introduced to Moses Obeid by Arlo Selby, a colourful financier with a criminal history. Mr Brook claimed that a five-page statement created by Mr Selby, which alleged corruption over the coal licences, was given to the Obeid family early last year. Mr Brook said it was part of an attempt by Mr Selby to blackmail him.

When Mr Brook was asked if the Obeid family had tried to contact him about giving evidence, Eddie Obeid’s barrister, Stuart Littlemore, QC, leapt to his feet saying, ”I object to the use of the word, Obeid family.”

Counsel assisting Geoffrey Watson, SC, shot back, ”It’s not a word, it’s actually a phrase.”

Mr Watson then asked Mr Brook if anyone ”with the surname Obeid” had tried to contact him.

Mr Brook said Moses Obeid, out of the blue, had recently sent him an email saying, ”What’s up, big fella.”

He also said one of the Obeids’ ”frontmen”, Andrew Kaidbay, who worked at the mortgage broking company Yellow Brick Road, had handed him a seven-page spreadsheet saying ”you better take a look at this”.

Mr Brook said this was given to him before he gave evidence at a private ICAC hearing in March. The Obeids picked up the bill for a barrister and solicitor to represent him on that occasion, the commission heard.

According to the Obeid spreadsheet, it was Mr Brook who was the mastermind behind the various coal deals. ”It’s a pretty self-serving document,” Mr Brook said, adding that much of it was false.

In earlier evidence, Mr Brook confirmed Moses Obeid had given him confidential, high-level ministerial documents that revealed proposed areas for coal exploration licences.

He also confirmed that Moses and his brother Paul had shown him confidential maps highlighting areas that would be open to a government tender. The commission then revealed that the same maps had been recovered from the office of Paul Obeid at Birkenhead Point during a raid.

The next witness is Mr Kaidbay, the Bankstown mortgage broker without any mining experience who won one of the coal exploration licences, allegedly on behalf of the Obeids.

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Jun 11 , 2018 / By :

NSW bowler Doug Bollinger bends his back during the Sheffield Shield clash with Queensland at Manuka Oval.Doug Bollinger had two wickets in his first three deliveries, the new ball hooping around and the old ball reversing.
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But the forgotten Australian paceman isn’t holding his breath for an international resurrection after dramatically falling down the pecking order of the country’s fast bowlers.

Bollinger (2-39) put on an impressive display for NSW as it took the upper hand after the first day of the Sheffield Shield game at Canberra’s Manuka Oval on Tuesday.

The Bulls were on track to be bundled out cheaply when they slumped to 2-0 and 4-18, before half centuries to Nathan Reardon and Chris Hartley steadied the ship and took Queensland to 7-198 at stumps.

Bollinger has taken 50 wickets from 12 Tests at an average of 26, but the 31-year-old hasn’t donned the baggy green for almost two years.

Six other fast bowlers – Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson, Josh Hazlewood and John Hastings – have been selected in a 14-man squad for the third Test against South Africa at the WACA Ground, starting on Friday. Injured duo Pat Cummins and Ryan Harris have also been involved in the Test team while Bollinger has been overlooked.

”A little bit disappointed, but hopefully I can get another go and if not, that’s the way it is, I’ll just keep playing for NSW and taking as many [wickets] as I can,” Bollinger said.

”Good luck to the boys that got picked, especially Josh Hazlewood, he’s been bowling well, and I hope they get a go.”

With national selector Andy Bichel sitting in the grandstands, Bollinger made the most of swing-friendly conditions, dismissing Bulls opener Wade Townsend leg before wicket on the first ball of the day.

More joy came two balls later when Usman Khawaja got caught plumb in front, umpire Paul Reiffel having no hesitation in raising the finger.

Bollinger toiled hard when the shine went off the ball without any luck, with Reardon singing the paceman’s praises. ”If he keeps bowling like that I don’t think Test cricket will be too far away again for him,” Reardon said. ”He got it to start going reverse nicely at the end and he’s a quality bowler.”

Left-arm quick Josh Lalor (2-28) chimed in to have the Bulls in dire straits before Reardon and Hartley put together a valuable 117-run partnership. As they appeared to gain the upper hand, rookie leg-spinner Adam Zampa grabbed both wickets, dismissing Hartley lbw for 66 before Reardon top-edged a sweep shot to be on his way for 71.

”It was a bit of a rush of blood, that’s pretty common with me,” Reardon said of his dismissal. ”It probably wasn’t the situation or the time of the game to be playing it, but hopefully the bowlers can do a job with the bat for us.”

Ben Cutting (23 not out) and Cameron Gannon (four not out) will resume on Wednesday at 10am.

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AT A GLANCE

SHEFFIELD SHIELD: Queensland 7-198 (N Reardon 71, C Hartley 66; J Lalor 2-28, A Zampa 2-30, D Bollinger 2-39) at stumps on day one against NSW at Manuka Oval.

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Jun 11 , 2018 / By :

PETER SIDDLE
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Case for: Victoria’s most famous vegetarian became Michael Clarke’s go-to man in Adelaide when the Test was on the line – and he delivered in spades. He was heroic on the final day, but it’s worth remembering it was his fiery spell two days earlier which turned the game in Australia’s favour.

Case against: After bowling 53 overs in Brisbane, Siddle headed into red flag territory with his 64 overs in Adelaide. Medical staff will be racing against the clock to patch him up for Friday, but there must be concerns he could be vulnerable to injury should he play.

BEN HILFENHAUS

Case for: The Tasmanian made good improvement in Adelaide and he’ll appreciate the WACA Ground even more, where the Fremantle Doctor should help his outswinger. The 29-year-old destroyed India in Perth last year and despite his technical troubles remains clearly Australia’s best swing bowler.

Case against: He is yet to rediscover the form of 12 months ago and appears to be paying the price for a preparation dominated by Twenty20. Like Siddle, he’s also bowled plenty of overs this series and the short turnaround between Tests may count against him in any line-ball call.

MITCHELL STARC

Case for: He was close to playing in Adelaide so logic says he should come straight in for the injured Pattinson. A left-armer, Starc provides much-needed variation to the attack and will also be suited by the Doctor, which will assist his in-swinger to the right-handers. Has a knack of taking wickets even when not on song.

Case against: He is yet to hit his straps since returning from the Champions League and selectors may decide to back Johnson’s experience and proven track record in Perth and against South Africa. It’s hard to see two left-armers being selected.

MITCHELL JOHNSON

Case for: Seems to wear a cape whenever he wears the baggy green out west. His career-best 8-61 in Perth four years ago and his devastating spell at the venue in the last Ashes series will be hard for the selectors to ignore.

Case against: As difficult as it is to forget Johnson’s outstanding numbers in Perth, his waywardness and inconsistency towards the end of his last stint in the Test side is also hard to forget. Johnson says he has improved, and so too do many in the know. Are selectors game enough to find out?

JOSH HAZLEWOOD

Case for: Batsman around the country are impressed by the lad from Tamworth. He hits the deck hard, gets steep bounce with his height and will appreciate a lively surface. Former Test bowler Stuart Clark says he won’t let Australia down if given the chance.

Case against: The friendly giant is still finding his feet at shield level and his record of 43 wickets at an average of 32 hardly screams ”pick me”. If Siddle is passed fit to play, Hazlewood will most likely have to wait until Boxing Day to make his debut.

JOHN HASTINGS

Case for: He does not appear the most threatening bowler but keeps taking wickets. On the comeback trail after shoulder surgery, Hastings has collected 22 shield victims at 19 this summer, including a five-for in his last game. Also a handy lower-order batsman.

Case against: At around 130km/h, he is not overly quick, nor does he produce sharp movement. And if you were South African skipper Graeme Smith, would you rather face Johnson or Hastings?

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Jun 11 , 2018 / By :

AN INTERNAL police report into allegations of corrupt behaviour by some high-ranking officers will be kept secret after a review found it ”fundamentally flawed”.
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The decision to keep the almost decade-old report private has been criticised by the Police Association of NSW as ”disappointing and completely unsatisfactory”.

The Police Integrity Commission Inspector, David Levine, was asked by the NSW government to review whether the report compiled by Strike Force Emblems, written in 2004, should be made public.

The strike force examined complaints against officers, including the present Deputy Commissioner, Catherine Burn, while they were working in the Special Crime and Internal Affairs Unit.

The allegations include that the unit induced a criminal to breach his bail in a bid to gather evidence on a police officer and then influenced him to ”perjure” himself under oath.

The complaints were examined by Strike Force Emblems, which also found the unit may have engaged in criminal conduct” when it bugged 100 serving and former police.

The Police Minister, Michael Gallacher, on Tuesday said the Emblems report and its recommendations would not be released after Justice Levine found the report, and the investigation into the allegations, were of an ”unsatisfactory standard”.

”To say that [Mr Levine] has been critical of this Emblems investigation would be an understatement,” Mr Gallacher said. He would not publicly release Mr Levine’s review of the report, instead releasing the cover letter.

”This is not a question of the avoidance of public scrutiny but rather of the operation of a transcending public interest in the fair and considered protection of the good name of the NSW Police, of those who serve in it and of other members of the community,” the letter states.

Mr Gallacher would not disclose how Mr Levine found the investigation inadequate.

The allegations investigated by Strike Force Emblems are now being investigated by the NSW Ombudsman, Bruce Barbour. Mr Gallacher will meet him on Wednesday to assess his inquiries.

The Police Association president, Scott Weber, said the officers who were allegedly victims of illegal bugging ”had the right to feel that the matter was not being taken seriously”.

”Quite simply, the PIC Inspector has failed to get to the truth of what is an extremely important issue about the actions of secretive oversight bodies that have extraordinary power,” Mr Weber said.

Greens MP David Shoebridge said Mr Gallacher had called for the report to be released when he was in opposition ”but now he is burying it”.

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