Sex Discrimination Commissioner shocked by findings of Human Rights Commission report

“No group is immune”: Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick. Photo: Ben RushtonOne woman was told to consider having an abortion when she announced her pregnancy to her boss while another was told she would have to choose between her baby and her job in shocking stories which have emerged from a study into discrimination against parents in the workforce.
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The Australian Human Rights Commission report, to be released on Friday, found that one in two women and one in four men have experienced discrimination relating to their family obligations.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said the findings shocked her. The report makes wide ranging recommendations to improve awareness of workplace rights among both employers and employees.

The survey found 22 per cent of women who had suffered discrimination opted out of the workplace entirely, Ms Broderick saying lack of support for parents was affecting productivity.

‘‘Three areas need to be strengthened for women’s workforce participation to increase and one is they have got to be able to work in non-discriminatory environments,’’ she said.

‘‘They have to have access to a strong paid parental leave scheme and they need affordable, accessible childcare. They are all connected.’’

The survey of 2000 women and 1000 men found that discrimination was widespread across all sectors and levels of seniority, although workers in large companies were more likely to suffer than those in small organisations.

‘‘From the factory floor to the most senior managers, no group is immune,’’ she said.

‘‘At the senior levels we often heard women being told: ‘Your choice: the job or the baby’ to the woman who is not allowed a toilet break. I mean she’s pregnant, for heaven’s sake. A lot of these views are coming from female managers. Women with children. I found that shocking.’’

Ruth, a general manager with a top 50 company, was informed she could no longer have a senior role if she wanted a family.

Her female manager told her, ‘‘I needed to decide what I wanted – a family or a senior role in the company, you can’t have both, it’s a myth you can have both’’.

The Sydney woman, whose name has been changed, was booted out of a talent program when ‘‘the only thing that had changed was my pregnancy/child status’’ and her role was ‘‘dumbed down’’ to the point where she was asked to organise table placements at functions to be attended by her boss.

Another woman was called ‘‘placenta brain’’ by her male colleagues and another was told she was a ‘‘bad mother and a bad employee’’ for trying to work while raising a family.

A man’s request for paternity leave was met with derision, his boss saying: ‘‘That’s for the mum.’’

Ms Broderick said the findings show there was a need for greater awareness about workplace rights and made a case for tackling negative stereotypes about workers with caring responsibilities.

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Child abuse reports increase but less than half investigated: report

About 50,000 allegations of child abuse in NSW and 54,000 in Victoria were not investigated in 2012-2013.The number of child abuse reports increased by 15 per cent over the past two years, but more than half of all reports were never investigated by authorities, according to new figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
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Almost 273,000 reports were made about children at risk nationally in 2012-13, up from a low of 237,000 in 2010-11.

Child welfare experts attributed the increase to greater pressures on families and a heightened awareness of abuse.

The 272,980 abuse notifications involved 184,216 children, the majority living in NSW and Victoria.

Following initial assessment, only 45 per cent of reports were investigated nationally, leading to 53,666 proven cases of abuse involving 40,571 children, which marks a 29 per cent increase on 2010-11.

About 50,000 allegations of abuse in NSW were not investigated and 54,000 reports received no scrutiny in Victoria.

But the figures show a slight rise in the number of investigations nationally, from 116,528 to 122,496.

The investigations led to 26,860 proven instances of abuse in NSW, up from 23,175 in 2012. In Victoria, there were 10,489 substantiated cases of abuse, up from 9075 in 2012.

Institute spokeswoman Dr Pamela Kinnear said the rise in substantiated cases was due to improved targeting of children at risk.

‘‘Child protection agencies across the country have been increasingly focused on providing child protection services to those who really are likely to need intervention,’’ she said.

Louise Voigt, chief executive of child abuse prevention charity Barnados, said the community was more alert to vulnerable children.

‘‘There has been increased debate in the community about child protection,’’ she said. ‘‘The royal commission [into child sexual abuse] is just one of the many issues which brings this forth.’’

Children most at risk come from less affluent backgrounds with the institute’s Child protection Australia: 2012–13 report showing that 42 per cent of abuse victims were from the areas of lowest socioeconomic status.

Ms Voigt said that increasing homelessness was contributing to neglect and abuse.

‘‘While the old social problems remain – poverty, alcohol, drugs, violence – they are happening against a backdrop of serious housing issues, particularly in big cities,’’ she said.

‘‘You have families sleeping on friends’ sofas, sleeping in cars. The sort of stress this puts on any family is horrendous. Until some of those stresses are reduced it’s unlikely we’ll see any sort of reduction in these figures.’’

With children under the age of four the most vulnerable, Greg Antcliff, director of professional practice at the Benevolent Society, called for improved early intervention for families at risk.

‘‘We are getting better at recognising and reporting when children may not be in the safest environments but it’s far better to intervene early rather than after a child has been harmed,’’ he said.

The institute figures showed that indigenous children were at the highest risk, being eight times as likely as non-indigenous children to be receiving child protection services.

Emotional abuse accounted for 38 per cent of substantiated cases, followed by neglect (28 per cent), physical abuse (20 per cent) and sexual abuse (13 per cent).

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MH17, Gaza and the value of human life

Illustration: Simon Letch Illustration: Andrew Dyson
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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the value of human life. About the lives so cheaply lost on MH17. About the anger and grief this tragedy has unleashed. About the sense of sacredness and solemn ceremony that followed it. There’s something cathartic about all this. That we mark this with ritual public grieving tells us that these lives – and therefore our own lives – are sanctified; that their termination is an almost blasphemous violation. On some level this reassures us, which is probably why we pore over news coverage of such events, seizing on small harrowing details and the personal stories of the victims.

But I’ve also been thinking a lot about why it is these lives particularly that have earned such a response. The more I heard journalists and politicians talk about how 37 Australians were no longer with us, the stranger it began to sound. Something of that magnitude happens just about every week on our roads, for instance. In the last week for which we have official data, 29 people were killed this way. The youngest was two. We held no ceremonies, and we had no public mourning of the fact that they, too, were no longer with us.

Why? I don’t ask critically, because I’m as unmoved by the road toll as anyone. But it’s surely worth understanding how it is we decide which deaths matter, and which don’t; which ones are galling and tragic, and which ones are mere statistics. We tell ourselves we care about the loss of innocent life as though it’s a cardinal, unwavering principle, but the truth is we rationalise the overwhelming majority of it. What does that tell us about ourselves?

Here, the most obvious counterpoint is the nightmare unfolding in Gaza. As I write this, nearly 600 people – overwhelmingly civilians a third of whom are children – have been killed. By the time this goes to print, that number will be redundant. There’s grief, there’s anger and there’s some international hand-wringing, but nothing that compares with the urgency and rage surrounding MH17, even if there is twice the human cost.

If you take your cues from social media, on which this comparison is being relentlessly drawn, the reason is simple: Palestinians are not rich Westerners, and so their lives simply don’t matter. No doubt there’s some truth to this: humans are tribal animals, and we’re as tribal in death as we are in life. But it’s not an entirely satisfactory explanation because it comes from people who would likely exempt themselves from this rule. And yet those same people have almost certainly grieved comparatively little over the thousands of South Sudanese killed in the past six months, or the 1.5 million to have been displaced. Should we conclude they value African lives less than Palestinian ones?

It’s not merely a matter of cultural affinity. Consider the Egyptian press, which has wholeheartedly embraced the Israeli offensive. “Sorry Gazans, I cannot support you until you rid yourselves of Hamas,” wrote Adel Nehaman in Al-Watan. He was comprehensively outdone by Al-Ahram’s Azza Sami who tweeted “Thank you Netanyahu, and God give us more men like you to destroy Hamas”. Then she prayed for the deaths of all “Hamas members, and everyone who loves Hamas”. Meanwhile, television presenter Tawfik Okasha urged Egyptians to “forget Gaza”, adding for colour that “Gazans are not men” because they don’t “revolt against Hamas”. That, presumably includes the hospital patients or the kids playing football on the beach who have been bombed in the past week or so.

This is about as thorough a dehumanisation of Gazans as you’ll find anywhere in the world. Israel’s media doesn’t even come close. And this in a country where the Palestinian cause has been a kind of social glue for decades. But that’s what happens when the sanctity of life meets the power of politics. For the Egyptian media – now effectively a propaganda arm of the government – Gaza merely represents a chance to attack the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Hamas emerged. It doesn’t matter who dies. It doesn’t matter how many. What matters is that their lives – and especially their deaths – can be used in the service of the story they are so desperate to tell.

And that, I fear, is a universal principle. It is not merely the death of innocents that moves us, even in very large numbers. It is the circumstances of it that matter. We decide which deaths to mourn, which to ignore, which to celebrate, and which to rationalise on the basis of what story we want them to tell. Palestinian deaths matter more than Sudanese ones if you want to tell a story of Israeli aggression. Israeli deaths matter more than Palestinian ones if you want to tell a story of Hamas terrorism. Asylum seeker deaths at sea matter more than those on land if you want tell a story about people smuggling. But a death in detention trumps all if your story is about government brutality. And a death from starvation matters if you want to tell a story about global inequality – which so few people do. Everyone will insist they’re merely giving innocent human lives their due. And that’s true but only in the most partial sense. These are political stories driven by political commitments.

MH17 allowed us to mourn and to rage because it delivered a story we were well prepared to tell. It’s easy to rage when the plot is one of Russian complicity, roguishness and cover-up. And frankly, Russia deserves the whack it’s getting for its handling of the aftermath. But in my most naive moments I hope for a world where the value of human life is universal enough that we can outrage ourselves; where we can tell the stories we don’t particularly want to; the stories in which we are neither the heroes nor the victims, but the guilty. That’s what we’re asking of Russia. One day someone mourning no less than we are will ask it of us.

Waleed Aly is a Fairfax columnist. He hosts Drive on ABC Radio National and is a lecturer in politics at Monash University.

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Commonwealth Games: Wilkie makes strong start in pairs

Brett Wilkie with Prince Edward and Australian teammate Karen Murphy in the lead up to the Commonwealth GamesBRETT Wilkie and singles star Aron Sherriff kick-started the men’s pairs tournament with a convincing win over Cook Islands at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games on Thursday night.
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They out-class their rivals 25-11.

The Australians took a little while to impose their authority, but did so with four shots in the fourth end to get out to a 7-2 lead.

Wilkie, who grew up in Ballarat and played with Webbcona before venturing to Queensland, and, and Sherriff added another five shots on the seventh end.

This gave them a 10-shot lead and a comfortable cushion for the rest of the match.

The 12th end was another big moment for the Aussie, when they added another five shots.

Cook Islands steadied the ship over the last six ends to share the honours 4-all, but it did nothing more provide some damage control.

Wilkie’s win rounded out an impressive first day for “Team Ballarat”, with Matthew Flapper earlier in the day enjoying success in his first triples match.

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Ashes showdown for gold in team pursuit as Bradley Wiggins hits the velodrome

Australia have set up a mouth-watering gold medal showdown with Bradley Wiggins’ England quartet on Thursday as they look to get their campaign at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome off to a flying start.
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In a big opening day the country’s flagbearer and four-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Anna Meares will be the hot favourite in the women’s 500m time trial and there are medals up for grabs in the men’s team sprint, but the men’s team pursuit final will be eagerly anticipated.

The world champion Australian team were the fastest qualifiers of the six competing nations, with Jack Bobridge, Luke Davison, Alex Edmondson and Glenn O’Shea piloting them into the gold medal playoff in a time of 3.57.939.

England’s Wiggins, Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Andy Tennant (3.59.249) pipped the other major challenger New Zealand, who blew an opportunity to cancel the Ashes-themed rivalry in the final when a second rider lost pace on the final lap.

The result ensures a gripping late afternoon session in Glasgow’s east end, with all eyes on four-time Olympic gold medallist and 2012 Tour de France winner Wiggins in his return to track cycling for the first time in six years.

It is the 34-year-old’s only event in Glasgow, and he is seeking a first Commonwealth Games gold, and there was a noticeable lift in the first-day crowd as he shot to the front of England’s quartet on Thursday.

Australia, however, are keen to play spoiler for Wiggins and Clancy, who won team pursuit gold together at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

They have their own star rider, Bobridge, back in the pursuit train at a major competition after a spell away from the track riding professionally for Orica-GreenEDGE and then Belkin.

It’s the 25-year-old’s first international competition since London 2012, where he claimed silver in the team pursuit, but his time on the road did not appear to have slowed him down one bit in qualifying on Thursday.

Elsewhere on the track, Australian sprinter Matthew Glaetzer claimed a Commonwealth Games record of 9.779sec in qualifying of the men’s sprint, and is through to Friday’s quarter-finals.

Five riders including Glaetzer’s compatriot Peter Lewis went under fellow Australian Shane Perkins’ mark of 10.058 from Delhi in 2010 and Lewis also reached the final eight safely.

England’s triple Olympic champion Jason Kenny scraped into the quarter-finals via the repechage.

Perkins, who sat out the individual sprint, will contest the team sprint later on Thursday, while in an all-Australian playoff for bronze in the women’s Para-sport sprint B tandem Felicity Johnson and Holly Takos will take on Brandie O’Connor and Breanna Hargrave.

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Daly Cherry-Evans silent on prospect of leaving Manly

DRAMA: Daly Cherry–Evans at Manly training yesterday with halves coach Andrew Johns. Pictures: Getty ImagesSUPERSTAR halfback Daly Cherry-Evans is declining to dampen speculation he could exit Brookvale when his contract with Manly concludes at the end of the 2015 NRL season.
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One of the game’s leading players, Cherry-Evans was already linked to a four-year $4 million deal with Parramatta starting from 2016 and a move to Brisbane.

Moves to poach the Queensland playmaker are just part of the drama engulfing the Sea Eagles, with Steve Matai asking for a release to join the Warriors next year and Brett Stewart and Anthony Watmough also reportedly wanting out.

Speaking at training yesterday, Cherry-Evans insisted he was “very happy” at Manly.

Asked about his future beyond next year, the 2011 premiership winner was non-committal.

“I think it’s too far away for me to judge,” he said.

“I’ve still got another year left on my contract so for me to be talking about that a year-and-a-half out is ridiculous.”

Five-eighth Kieran Foran has conceded player contractual issues are afflicting the NRL competition leaders and called for Sea Eagles management to allow Matai to make a big-money move to the Warriors.

DRAMA: Daly Cherry–Evans at Manly training yesterday DRAMA: Daly Cherry–Evans at Manly training yesterday. Pictures: Getty Images

Matai requested a release from the final year of his current contract with Manly to take up a four-year deal with the Warriors starting next season reported to be worth around $2.5 million.

Brett Stewart and Anthony Watmough also reportedly want out of their contracts.

Foran admitted at training yesterday that resentment still runs deep between the playing group and management over their refusal to offer Glenn Stewart a contract extension earlier this year.

Stewart, 30, since signed with South Sydney for next year.

“I guess there are issues to be sorted. I think the club underestimated Glenn Stewart’s departure and we said all along ‘Gif’ was a massive part of building this culture here and as players we probably felt that he deserved a contract put in front of him,” Foran said.

“I guess all the boys are mates with him and they are probably disappointed.

“I wouldn’t say there is disharmony; our results have shown on the field that we are getting on good here.

“But I believe there are issues higher up than just the playing group.

“Whether or not that [the salary cap] was the reason Glenn was forced out I am not so sure.”

Foran was also linked to a move but said he would see out his contract at the club, which ends next year. AAP

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Business as usual, says Bennett, as Knights face premiers

Knights player Willie Mason, left, with Roosters player Sonny Bill Williams. Ready for another face-off. FROM the outside looking in, the Knights have had to deal with another series of disruptions in an abbreviated build-up to their game against the Roosters at Hunter Stadium tonight.
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Since the emotionally charged ‘‘Rise For Alex’’ game against the Titans just five days ago, the Knights learnt coach Wayne Bennett will be returning to Brisbane, and teammate Darius Boyd checked himself into a mental health facility to be treated for depression.

Hardly an ideal lead-in to a game against the defending premiers, but Bennett believed his players had become accustomed to rolling with the punches this season.

Bennett said his decision to rejoin the Broncos was of no consequence, because he announced two weeks ago that he was leaving the Knights at the end of the season and it should matter little to the players where he would be coaching next year.

As for Boyd’s indefinite absence, Bennett said he and the players addressed that issue on Wednesday.

‘‘We got it resolved, and I don’t think it will have a huge impact on the boys. Last time we played the Roosters we played without him, because he was away with Origin duties, so I think we’re all handling it good,’’ said Bennett, who spoke to Boyd yesterday.

‘‘He was pretty settled and happy with what the process has [been] in the past 24 hours and thanked everybody for their well wishes, but he felt that he’d made a good decision and he was in the right place and he needed to be there right now.’’

Bennett said Boyd was aware of the mostly positive response from the rugby league community, and was heartened by comments from his Queensland coach Mal Meninga and Maroons and Australian teammate Johnathan Thurston.

‘‘Overall I’m really pleased with the media,’’ Bennett said.

‘‘I thought yesterday the press conference was really good and sensitive enough to the situation and most of the reporting has been great.

‘‘There’s been the odd one, I would think, that probably hasn’t been, but I just said to him this morning that Mal Meninga had made some wonderful comments about him and Johnathan Thurston – people that he knows and trusts – and I think he was pleased to hear that. But other than that, he wouldn’t have watched the news service and he wouldn’t buy a paper.’’

Bennett believed the support services provided to players by all NRL clubs and the game’s governing body was bordering on ‘‘overkill’’ but it was preferable to bygone eras, when mental health issues were considered a sign of weakness.

‘‘I think we do it pretty well now, to be honest with you,’’ he said.

‘‘There’s so much out there inside the clubs at the moment to help these players, it’s just incredible. It worries me sometimes that we’ve got overkill.

‘‘When they leave us, I don’t know, they’ve got to grow up somewhere in their life, so it’s a fine line, but the game does take their welfare very seriously and I’ve got no complaints about the game and how they treat the players.’’

Boyd, who has been tipped by some pundits to follow Bennett back to the Broncos at the end of this season, could have played his last game for the Knights as he has told teammates and officials he will not return next year.

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T4 opponents, Nobbyssupporters call for Labor vote

The state ALP conference has been asked to consider protecting the public ownership of Nobbys Headland by placing it in the hands of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. THE NSW Labor party has been urged to adopt a policy of opposing new Newcastle coal-loader developments – by some of its own Hunter branches.
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Protecting the public ownership of Nobbys Headland by placing it in the hands of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and easing parking pressures for family members visiting hospital patients are among those motions also submitted for the party’s annual state conference to consider.

It will be held in Sydney at the weekend, is expected to be attended by up to 880 delegates and will hear from federal Labor leader Bill Shorten, state leader John Robertson and former premier Bob Carr.

The Newcastle federal electorate council and the Stockton branch have both urged the conference, which is the party’s binding policy maker, to object “to the construction of a fourth coal-loader [T4] on Kooragang Island”.

The party’s policy committee has recommended only that the conference note the motions.

It suggests giving in-principle support to the Mayfield branch’s motion that the conference oppose the building of a coal-loader and rail line at the former steelworks site at Mayfield, due to the increased environmental impact on Mayfield East.

The Newcastle federal electorate council has also sought the amendment of rules to allow for a rank-and-file ballot of members to select the parliamentary leader, currently Mr Robertson, from among Labor MPs.

However, the conference is expected to endorse a new process of a 50-50 vote of rank-and-file and the state parliamentary party to elect the leader, beginning after the next state election in March.

Newcastle state candidate Tim Crakanthorp said other motions from city branches opposed to TAFE funding cuts recognised the importance of vocational education to the region.

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Preschoolers learn social justice

EMPATHY: Eli Flanagan, 4, left, helps preschool classmates Isabella Machan, 4, and Paddy O’Sullivan, 3. Picture: Peter StoopFOUR-year-old Eli Flanagan is putting his preschool lessons about social justice into practice.
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The KU Maitland Mobile Preschool student could not stop grinning when asked about how he helped other people: “I help pack up toys … I help my mum at home … I teach my sister things … I help the other kids learn.”

The activities are part of a move to help children between three and five learn about fairness, sharing and helping others. This week the children are participating in a charity drive for Carrie’s Place in Maitland, a refuge for women and children affected by domestic violence.

Preschool director Nicole-Brooke Dean said the children helped a charity every year, and the task helped to teach them about having compassion for those less fortunate.

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Paul Harragon has faith in Knights

A PLAYER in jail, one in a wheelchair, another in a mental health clinic, an owner gone broke and a coach who has quit.
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Some clubs wouldn’t survive a season like Newcastle have endured this year but Knights chairman Paul Harragon firmly believes they will come out of it stronger than ever.

‘‘I don’t know too much about too many things but one thing I do know is that this club has gone through an evolution to a point now where it is in the best position ever to be a powerhouse club,’’ he says.

The man who led the Knights to the famous 1997 grand final win over Manly that all but ended the Super League war always bled red and blue but the way the city rallied behind last weekend’s fund-raising efforts for Alex McKinnon demonstrated that many others in Newcastle still do too.

– PAUL HARRAGON

It is unlikely any other club in the NRL is as closely bound to the area it represents as the Knights, whose players helped fans cope with the 1989 earthquake and mine closures of the late 1990s, while feeding off the support of people who lined the road to Sydney to farewell the team before their 1997 and 2001 grand final triumphs.

Yet since the departure of Michael Hagan – another member of the club’s hall of fame – as coach in 2006, there has been a disconnect between Newcastle and the Knights as fans reacted to not having one of their own in charge or as many local players in the team, and ultimately a club they viewed as a plaything for now-failed mining magnate Nathan Tinkler.

However, the ‘‘Newcastle’’ chant that reverberated around an emotion-charged Hunter Stadium last Sunday as a crowd of 26,401 – the Knights biggest home attendance of the season – turned out to support McKinnon suggested the fans feel it is their club again.

‘‘In the history of the club, we have had some tumultuous years, we have had years where we have been close to administration and folding and carried large debts and all sorts of obstacles, but certainly this year takes the cake,’’ Harragon said of a season which also saw Russell Packer jailed, Darius Boyd seek treatment for depression, Zane Tetevano sacked, Willie Mason arrested for drink driving, players go unpaid by Tinkler and coach Wayne Bennett quit to join Brisbane.

‘‘Right from the very start, it has just been incident after incident but true to Newcastle and Hunter Valley form, people haven’t shied away,’’ he said.

‘‘In fact, if anything they have rallied around and we are gaining strength under fairly bad weather.

‘‘Right now we are about as low as we can be but with a huge light at the end of the tunnel.’’

That light comes not only from the renewed support of fans but the opportunity to rebuild a club that struggled financially almost from the time it was founded in 1988, only kept afloat by the support of fans and funding grants during the Super League war when the Australian Rugby League and then News Ltd identified Newcastle as pivotal to the battle for control of the game.

Former ARL chief executive John Quayle, who oversaw the Knights admission and led the game during the Super League war, believes the club is as important now.

Quayle, who has been engaged by the ARL Commission to help Newcastle through their transitional ownership period after Tinkler was forced to relinquish control of the club two months ago, said the Knights were on the verge of bankruptcy before the former billionaire took over but the NRL ‘‘would not have let them go’’.

‘‘I think back in our time we never had any doubts that Newcastle had to be a major player in the long-term success of league and we have seen that,’’ Quayle said.

‘‘You have got the fifth biggest city in Australia, you have got everything that is going forward and that is why it is important that league moves with the city and again becomes the heart of the city.

‘‘You can have a lot of sporting clubs around but if they don’t have a heart they don’t work that long.’’

Despite the turmoil of Tinkler’s three-year reign, Newcastle now have $5.1 million in the bank and the NRL is planning to establish a seven-person board consisting of four independent directors, two representatives of the club’s new shareholders and a nominee from the Knights Members Club, which has a 20 per cent stake.

‘‘The benefits for the club are that there is a clean sheet of paper and a new board and new ownership and new coach,’’ Harragon said.

‘‘In professional sport you rarely get the opportunity to start from scratch.’’

Quayle said the NRL had not ruled out further private ownership for the Knights but the club would always retain its ties to the community.

‘‘There is nothing wrong with that, as long as the structure is set up so that if a partner comes in then goes out the club always remains viable. That is what we must get right this time.’’

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