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Wollongong on cash-strapped councils list

Wollongong on cash-strapped councils list

Major Sydney councils including Mosman, Liverpool and Hornsby deny that they are at risk of defaulting on their financial obligations despite being placed on a list of councils with ''unsatisfactory'' levels of accessible funds.A Department of Local Government report into the performance of councils has named 15, including 10 in urban areas, as having insufficient funds readily available to pay for the goods and services they use.To reach this finding, the report assessed the ''level of liquidity and the ability to satisfy obligations as they fall due'' at each council. It presented its findings as a ratio of the amount of money available to meet liabilities (called the unrestricted current ratio) and said any ratio less than 1.5:1 was ''unsatisfactory''.Among those ranked unsatisfactory is Mosman with a ratio of 1.4:1, Liverpool with 1.29:1 and Hornsby's at 1.19: 1. Griffith was the worst ranked council in the state with a ratio of just 0.57:1.Hornsby's mayor, Nick Berman, insisted there was ''no chance we are unable to meet our short-term commitments'' despite the council's failure to win approval to increase rates above the government imposed cap.Cr Berman agreed it would have to cut services but declined to identify where they might be. ''We are having a close look at our core business and what things we should be cutting out.''While he would not say what services he believes are ''core services'' there was ''no chance'' libraries would be cut.Hornsby's 50-year-old pool was badly in need of replacement but the council did not have the money to do so without increasing its debt levels, which he said were low and there were no plans to increase them.The finance manager at Mosman Council, Mark McDonald, said: ''There are no concerns about Mosman meeting its debts'' despite its ''unsatisfactory'' rating.His council had been doing a lot of infrastructure work, including expensive repairs to sea walls and had gone into ''a bit of debt''.The council had a 10-year financial plan that would improve the ratio, which Mr McDonald expected to be 1.8:1 at the end of that period. The plan to increase the amount of money at hand to meet expenses did not involved cuts to services, he said.Liverpool Council's acting general manager, Farooq Portelli, disputed the minimum 1.5:1 ratio advocated by the Department of Local Government and said the ''accepted benchmark for the industry'' was 1:1. ''Council's independent auditor also continues to confirm that council remains in a sound and stable financial position," he said.He said the fire that destroyed the council chambers would have no impact on the financial position as ''any recovery costs will be met by insurance".The group manager for business at Griffith Council, Max Turner, agreed ''that ratio is not ideal and we'd be looking to improve'', but denied there was any risk of not paying debts. The council cut capital expenditure programs from $15-$16 million to ''below $10 million'' and had ''tinkered'' with some services but not to the extent that it had received any complaints. He said the ratio was misleading and did not take into account that a rural workforce like his accrued large amounts of leave which distorted the ratio used in the report. ACCOUNTS DUECouncils with least access to sufficient cash reserves:1. Griffith2. Port Macquarie3. Hastings4. Wollongong5. Cobar6. Wingecarribee7. Canada Bay8. Penrith9. Hornsby10. Liverpool
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Finals play-off may be at SFS

Finals play-off may be at SFS

St George Illawarra chief executive Peter Doust yesterday left the door open for the Dragons to move next month's home qualifying final to the Sydney Football Stadium.The competition leaders are guaranteed a top-four position on the NRL ladder with two rounds remaining, but Doust said a decision was yet to be made on a venue for their first play-off game.The clash is likely - but not guaranteed - to be played at Kogarah's WIN Jubilee Oval, which holds 20,541. It can't be played in Wollongong, as WIN Stadium is out of action due to a $29 million western and southern grandstand redevelopment. Where should the Dragon's home qualifying final be held?But Doust refused to rule out the possibility of moving the semi to the SFS, which holds 45,500 fans - a move sure to upset devoted fans."It's a bit premature to say we've made a decision on a home semi," Doust said."Albeit with the WIN Stadium western grandstand currently not open, it's fair to consider the game might be played at Kogarah."Last year Doust was under immense pressure to shift the Dragons' ill-fated home final from Kogarah to the SFS.A crowd of 18,174 packed into WIN Jubilee Oval to watch Parramatta's comprehensive 25-12 win over the Dragons.This came despite the NRL having offered a $250,000 incentive for the Dragons to switch the game to the SFS in the hope of a 40,000-plus attendance.At the time, Parramatta chief executive Paul Osborne labelled Doust a "chicken" for not switching venues, but the Dragons boss stuck to his guns.NRL chief operating officer Graham Annesley yesterday told the Mercury he would not try to force St George Illawarra to move the game."At the annual conference last year clubs decided they should retain the rights to play a final at their home venue," Annesley said."It's the Dragons' call, we wouldn't stand in their way."Annesley said he expected pressure to be put on Doust to host the game at the SFS if the Dragons take on a Sydney-based team in the first week of the finals."There could be a lot of public and media calling for the game to be moved," he said."But the feeling among the clubs was they would be letting their players down by moving it, having worked all year to have the right to host a final."The Dragons let a chance to secure the minor premiership slip with Sunday's 32-16 loss to Canberra, but they only need to win one of their remaining two games to finish in first place.The race for the remaining positions in the top eight is less clear, with 12 teams still mathematically in the running to fill the finals placings.
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How to form government from a hung parliament

How to form government from a hung parliament

Australia's next government will be formed by whichever party can secure a majority of 76 votes in the House of Representatives. This is rightly a political and not a legal process. The constitution says nothing about hung parliaments, or how such a situation is to be resolved.Instead, hung parliaments are resolved by a set of unwritten rules inherited from Britain. Fortunately, these conventions are clear and well tested. They include that the governor-general acts on the advice of the caretaker prime minister.The governor-general should only act contrary to that advice where the rules have not been followed, such as if the prime minister seeks to stay on despite having lost parliamentary support. In this case, the governor-general could sack the prime minister and commission a new government.Applying such conventions has become commonplace in Australia. There is a legion of recent examples across the states and territories where no party has won a clear majority of seats. Fortunately, in most instances, initial uncertainty and instability has been replaced by stable government, including in Tasmania earlier this year and in Western Australia in 2008.These examples also demonstrate how government need not be formed by the party with the most seats or highest popular vote. Both can play a role in negotiations and grant a sense of moral authority, but neither must have any bearing on which party wins the keys to office.In the end, all that matters is who can secure enough support to command a majority in Parliament.Forming our next federal government will take time. If nothing else, neither of the two big parties will know for a week or more how much extra support they will need to secure a majority of seats.Governments are formed out of Parliament, and that usually cannot occur until the final make-up of Parliament is known.Ultimately, the relative strengths of Labor and the Coalition will need to be tested on the floor of the House of Representatives.Convention dictates that, as caretaker Prime Minister, Julia Gillard will have the first opportunity to form a government. She will do so if she survives a no-confidence motion moved against her.If she does not, the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, will be given the next opportunity. If neither succeeds, a new election is likely within months.In a hung parliament, everything will come down to the support of the independents and the Greens MP; they will have the power to make a government, and to break it.In Australia's last federal hung parliament, after the 1940 election, coalition governments were formed by Robert Menzies, then Arthur Fadden, on the back of independent support. A year after the election, those same independents switched their votes to Labor. The Coalition was forced out of office and John Curtin became prime minister.A hung parliament means a period of instability and uncertainty. The challenge facing Gillard and Abbott will be to resolve this by forming a new government that lasts the distance. In doing so, they will also face the challenge of creating a government able to realise their election promises.George Williams is the Anthony Mason professor of law at the University of NSW. Source: The National Times
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Greenslide takes upper house by storm

Greenslide takes upper house by storm

Newly-elected Greens MP Adam Bandt. Picture: CRAIG SILLITOEWhile the Greens surprised few by securing the balance of power in the Senate, the magnitude of their coming of age was unexpected even among party optimists. The party looks to have won a Senate seat in each state, come within reach of tipping the Liberal Party out of the ACT and scoring a record national vote for a third party.''From where I sit,'' said the party's leader, Bob Brown, ''that's a Greenslide.'' And it's as difficult to disagree with that assessment as it is to foretell with certainty the precise make-up of the next Senate, from next July, such is the unwieldiness of the beast.The Democratic Labor Party - the result of an ideological schism in the 1950s - may make a comeback after a Senate absence of 36 years. John Madigan, a Ballarat blacksmith, has won just 2.2 per cent of the primary vote but is favoured to nudge out Julian McGauran, who was demoted to third on the Coalition ticket after defecting from the Nationals, and Steve Fielding, the Family First senator whose 2004 election was considered a fluke of preference flows.Senator McGauran is also at risk from Labor's third candidate, the former union leader Antony Thow.The Senate may provide other surprises. With a likely nine senators - six elected on Saturday, the other three in 2007 - the Greens will decide the outcome of legislation opposed by the main parties. The Coalition, which had a brief Senate majority when John Howard was prime minister, will most likely have 34 senators to Labor's 31.In NSW, the former Legislative Council MP Lee Rhiannon is odds-on to wrest the sixth Senate spot from Labor's Steve Hutchins, with the help of Sex Party preferences.The NSW result will depend not just on the Rhiannon-Hutchins struggle but on whether the persistent independent Glenn Druery can sneak past the third Coalition candidate, Fiona Nash.The Coalition has lost Senate seats in Queensland and Tasmania and is in a battle for the sixth spot in South Australia, where Bob Day of Family First is challenging the Liberal Party's David Fawcett.The Greens' highest hopes for a senator on the eastern seaboard were invested in Victorian Richard Di Natale, and he repaid that faith by garnering a quota - 14.3 per cent of the vote.Penny Wright has been elected for the Greens in South Australia and Larissa Waters in Queensland, where the Coalition shrank below its 2004 high-water mark of four senators.In the ACT, Lin Hatfield Dodds, former president of the Australian Council of Social Service, scored a record vote for a Greens candidate in a state- or territory-wide poll but fell just short of the 33 per cent required to unseat Gary Humphries, a Liberal who benefited from Democrat preferences.Christine Milne was returned in Tasmania and Rachel Siewert in Western Australia.
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Calls for Bitar’s head after ‘inept’ campaign

Calls for Bitar’s head after ‘inept’ campaign

The former NSW premier Morris Iemma has publicly repudiated Labor's federal campaign director Karl Bitar, saying if he had a ''conscience'' he would hand his resignation to the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.In a blistering attack on Labor's five-week campaign, Mr Iemma described it as ''the most inept in living memory'' salvaged only by the ''personability and ability of Gillard''.''Labor booth workers and Labor supporters to a man and woman agree that it was the worst campaign they can recall … It is not for Julia Gillard to ask for Karl Bitar's resignation, it's for him to have a conscience and offer it up,'' Mr Iemma said, publicly stating sentiments that a number of senior insiders have voiced privately.Mr Iemma was dismissive of Mr Bitar's attempts on Channel Nine yesterday to blame Labor's poor performance on anti-Gillard leaks in the second week of the campaign.Mr Bitar said the leaks, which targeted Ms Gillard for questioning pension rises and allegedly reneging on a deal with the former Labor leader Kevin Rudd, wiped 10 points off Labor's vote.But Mr Iemma said Mr Bitar was failing to show ''contrition''.''No amount of spinning, no amount of fakery about his research can save him,'' the former premier said.Mr Bitar said the remarks were unfortunate coming from someone who played no role in the campaign.The bitterness between the pair stems from Mr Bitar's former role as a general secretary of the NSW ALP who helped end Mr Iemma's premiership.However a number of senior party figures contacted yesterday shared some of Mr Iemma's criticisms.Among the weaknesses they cited was failure to offer voters a clear strategic vision, frequent switching between messages, the failure to bring Mr Rudd into the campaign earlier, and an over-reliance on narrowly based questions put to focus groups in marginal seats.''I don't think it was a disastrously executed campaign, I think it was a very ordinary campaign run by people used to running state elections,'' said one party veteran.Several internal critics accused Mr Bitar and his mentor, Senator Mark Arbib, of setting up a ''closed loop'' of advice inside Labor's national headquarters, where dissenting voices were not welcomed.Senator Arbib and Mr Bitar hail from the NSW party office in Sussex Street. Mr Bitar took over the top campaign job after the national director Tim Gartrell resigned in 2008.He became determined to put his own stamp on Labor's campaign team, party observers say. He alienated Neil Lawrence, who had masterminded the winning Kevin07 advertising campaign, by asking other advertisers to bid for the ALP account.When Mr Lawrence left as a consequence, Mr Bitar said it was because he could no longer afford him on a tight budget. But many in Labor believe the party's TV advertising suffered as a result, failing to sell its achievement in warding off mass unemployment after the global financial crisis.Mr Bitar also edged aside Tony Mitchelmore, the pollster who had worked closely with Mr Lawrence and Mr Gartrell on the 2007 campaign.Instead, Mr Bitar took the polling work to research company UMR but is said to have personally written detailed guidelines and the questions for grilling focus groups.This, the critics claim, resulted in a small-minded federal campaign which lacked a compelling national narrative.The mixed messages, said one insider, were like ''the pearls without the string. It doesn't make a necklace. The missing string was a strategy.''Perhaps the worst mistake, in the eyes of some, was failing to reach a pact with Mr Rudd before the campaign started. It appears Labor's campaign directors grossly underestimated voters' lingering resentment about Mr Rudd's political execution.An uneasy rapprochement between Ms Gillard and Mr Rudd was finally reached in the third week of the campaign after intense diplomacy by Senator John Faulkner. But by then the damage had been done.
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A sneak preview of a Keneally bloodbath

A sneak preview of a Keneally bloodbath

Picture: ANDREW MEARESThe swing of almost 7 per cent against Labor across NSW continues a voting trend likely to overwhelm the Keneally government at the election in March.While the Premier, Kristina Keneally, was clinging for comfort to narrow Labor victories in two central coast seats and in the southern seat of Eden-Monaro, the results across greater Sydney, the Hunter and the south coast hold grave implications for Labor-held state seats.Byelections since late 2008 have produced state swings of between 10 and 25 per cent.The loss in Macquarie - based in the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury - suggests defeat in the state electorate of the Blue Mountains. The big anti-Labor swings in Lindsay and Greenway bode ill for the state electorates of Mulgoa, Londonderry, Riverstone and even Toongabbie. Calls for Bitar's head after inept campaign Voters censure Labor's lack of principlesThe Gillard government's failure to win Hughes in the south-west, nominally Labor under new boundaries, is bad for Labor in at least three state seats - Menai, Heathcote and parts of East Hills.Another nominally Labor federal seat, Macarthur on Sydney's south-west fringe, fell easily to the Liberals, putting on notice the state Labor MPs for Wollondilly and Camden.A third federal seat that had been redistributed in Labor's favour - Gilmore on the south coast - went comfortably Liberal, in a sign of likely defeat for the Keneally government in the electorate of Kiama.In the federal seat of Reid, in the inner-west, the Labor MP John Murphy, long considered an ideal parish-pump MP, suffered an 8 per cent swing, which should terrify the state Labor member for Drummoyne, Angela D'Amore.The Keneally government's prospect of holding the state seat of Coogee in Sydney's east also weakened, given the 10 per cent swing to the Liberals' Malcolm Turnbull in Wentworth and the 8 per cent swing from Labor's Peter Garrett in Kingsford-Smith. Coogee straddles the boundaries of Wentworth and Kingsford-Smith, and the Greens also polled strongly in both federal electorates.The huge Greens vote of 25 per cent-plus in the federal seat of Grayndler almost guarantees they will take the state electorate of Marrickville in March. Neighbouring Barton delivered an 8 per cent swing to the Liberals - a worrying portent for state Labor in the seats of Rockdale and, possibly, Kogarah.In regional NSW, the 8 per cent swing to the Nationals in Calare and the 5 per cent swing to the Liberals in Patterson - which Labor had targeted as a possible pick-up - will be gloomy results for the Keneally government as it fights to retain Bathurst and Maitland.While the Labor machine argues the Keneally government could withstand a uniform 7 per cent swing, the ABC election analyst, Antony Green, told the Herald: ''State Labor was not on the ballot at this election. The Keneally government should not be thinking about 7 per cent but about the 25 swing against it at the recent Penrith byelection.''
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DRAGONS BLOG: Why I hate the Raiders

DRAGONS BLOG: Why I hate the Raiders

Okay, maybe that’s a bit extreme. I mean, I can’t totally hate the place – my wife came from the city. And the in-laws still live there.It’s probably more accurate to say I hate part of the city. The part that wears awful lime green jerseys and hangs around in the vicinity of Bruce Stadium.I hate them because we’ve only beaten them once in roughly 712 games. I hate them because we haven’t won in Canberra since dinosaurs roamed the earth. I hate them because, even when their season is over or they’ve exhibited very ordinary form and it seems like a win over them should be the easiest thing in the world, it turns out to be anything but.Yesterday afternoon was supposed to be different. Yesterday afternoon was supposed to be the time we ended the hoodoo. We were in the ascendency on the back of two very good games while the Raiders were supposed to be feeling the pressure of having to beat the Dragons to keep their finals hopes alive.And, of course, we were supposed to inflict an enormous defeat that would see the Raiders fans leaving at half-time. Okay, to be honest, I’d have been happy if we only inflicted a small defeat. Even by a field goal in golden point. And I hate golden point. But I hate the Raiders more.All that was supposed to happen. In fact, I was so sure of things that I was really excited about watching the game. That lasted for half the game, where while we could only score a single try, we denied the Raiders 74 of them (yes, that’s correct. I counted each one). But then the second half came along and a different Dragons team came out.Actually, I reckon if you made the teams swap jerseys for the second half, their performances would fit what everyone expects of both teams. Everyone expects the Dragons to dominate the completion rate, starve the opposition of good field position and run in some tries. And everyone (except those who live in Canberra) expect the Raiders to perhaps score a try or two in the back 40 but generally get overwhelmed and lose.Yet the two sides reversed their roles in the second 40 – the Raiders came out ready to smash and score while our players seemed to have the hoodoo in our heads more than they might admit. And we got beaten by a scoreline I decline to mention here (but I think it was the most amount of points we’ve had scored on us this season. Which would be one more reason to hate the Raiders).While I am certainly incredibly irritated at the loss, it’s not the end of the world. Coming into the last three rounds, I would have loved to win them all but would settle for two out of three.And it’d also be nice if the Raiders didn’t make the semis. Because, if they do they’ll most likely finish in eighth spot and, with us most likely in first, that means we’d play them in the first week of the finals.And we all know how the Dragons go against Canberra.
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Rivals try to poach top Stingrays

Rivals try to poach top Stingrays

Grand final goal-scorer Ash Connor, plus Trudy Camilleri and Sam Muscat could be lost to the Stingrays in 2011 after rivals Marconi dangled cash in front of the trio before yesterday's decider.Coach Brett Wallin made the startling revelation just moments after Illawarra completed back-to-back doubles by defeating Inter Lions at Balls Paddock.Wallin, who has been with the Stingrays since their formation in 2006, is confident the lure of more silverware, rather than money, will keep the influential threesome in Wollongong. Stingrays celebrate grand final victory"A few of them have received money offers to go elsewhere," he said."I'm pretty angry about the timing, but if they can get money elsewhere that they can't here they're going to go with my blessing."This team doesn't want to split up. They love each other and work for each other. I think we have a very good chance to keep them."Players were offered cash to go elsewhere this year and they didn't go."Wallin declared his side could complete a hat-trick of top-flight titles next season if its core remains intact."If we stay together as a group I can't see any reason why we can't keep going," he said."We proved that this year when we lost some quality players and didn't miss a beat."Wallin pin-pointed hard work - not loot - as the reason why Illawarra could call themselves the best side he has seen at this level."That's a good call; it's the best team I've seen since I've been in the comp and that's seven years," he said."I don't know if we want that tag yet, but we're right up there as a great side."We're a good team on the training paddock as well."I've played in semi-pro teams and even the men didn't do that. They're unbelievable."We're where we are because we are the hardest working side."Although Illawarra had to battle hard for their third consecutive grand final victory - including the 2008 Super League triumph - Wallin believed the title was never in danger."It was unreal, the result could have come a bit earlier, their goalkeeper did very well in the first half," he said."We controlled the game and picked up where we left off in the major semi against Manly."They only had a couple of chances on the break - our two best performances of the year came at the right end."
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Wayne Bennett’s take on latest Raiders loss

Wayne Bennett’s take on latest Raiders loss

Danielle Vidot gets a late ball away. David Shillington comes under pressure from the Dragons. Pictures: KARLEEN MINNEY
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Coach Wayne Bennett has promised there will be no psychological fallout from another loss by St George Illawarra to Canberra in the national capital yesterday.Stretching their Canberra Stadium winning streak over the Dragons to 10 years and eight consecutive wins, the Raiders piled on six second-half tries in an emphatic 32-16 victory.Last year the Green Machine were full of grit and barge in a strong-arm performance that derailed the Dragons' premiership campaign. Full coverage of the Dragons Yesterday, it was an effort full of breathtaking skill that delivered four tries in eight minutes to deny the competition leaders victory and stop them from securing the minor premiership, at least for now.But Bennett dismissed comparisons to last year's devastating loss, declaring the Dragons had suffered an intensity let-down on the back of rugged recent victories over Manly and the Roosters."I expected a flat spot," Bennett said."You can't go and play Manly last week and the Roosters the week before [without one]."And [we had] the Broncos the week before that up in Brisbane, the list just goes on for us in the last five weeks."We've been on our game and we've been trying extremely hard."We were a bit off the pace here today and we hung in good and we were gutsy to half-time, but they played just about the perfect second half."Canberra trailed 4-0 at the break, only because of some desperate Dragons defence which denied them on several occasions, but winger Daniel Vidot put the Raiders on the board when he scored in the corner on 49 minutes.It signalled the start of a Raiders onslaught which saw them score four tries in eight minutes, including breathtaking runaway efforts from fullback Josh Dugan and second-rower Joe Picker.The floodgates had suddenly opened, after the Raiders went to half-time wondering how they were going to break them.St George Illawarra produced a mini-revival when Mark Gasnier (70th minute) and Neville Costigan (72nd) crossed to close the gap from 22 points to 26-16.But replacement hooker Glen Buttriss darted over with three minutes left to seal victory for Canberra.The heat remains on the Dragons in the minor premiership race with two rounds remaining, after Wests Tigers hung on to beat Parramatta yesterday at Parramatta Stadium.And the Gold Coast have the chance to join the Tigers on 32 competition points, two behind the Dragons, if they beat the Roosters in Sydney tonight.Bennett said St George Illawarra's focus would be on regrouping for Saturday night's showdown with Newcastle and not capturing the JJ Giltinan Shield for a second successive year."It would be nice [the minor premiership], but we're in a great position," he said."We've just got to go home and get ourselves refocused a little bit and recognise the things that work for us."And not the things that make us look like any other team and that's what we were in the second half today, just another footy team," he admitted.

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Albion Park campaign to win Miss World crown

Albion Park campaign to win Miss World crown

Miss World Australia Ashleigh Francis at Tecnica salon in Albion Park with Felice Colarusso. Pictures: SYLVIA LIBER Ashleigh Francis shows the style that won her the Miss World Australia title.
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Is Ashleigh Francis, 23, the young woman who can bring the Miss World crown back to Australia for the first time since Belinda Green won in 1972?Albion Park hair and beauty salon owner and national Miss World Australia judge Felice Colarusso thinks she has a great chance.In fact, Mr Colarusso and hairdresser Zarrette Sheil are keen to help Ms Francis prepare in any way they can to be the first Australian in 38 years to win the international title.They talked her into choosing Albion Park for her first public appearance since she was named Miss World Australia, on August 3.It didn't take too much to convince the former McDonalds' College of the Performing Arts student and budding fashion designer to visit the Illawarra.Ms Francis lives at Rushcutters Bay with her Jamaican father and Scottish mother, but once lived in the Macarthur region and spent many a summer's day visiting Bulli."I used to go to Bulli for the dogs and I would sit under those big palm trees and get fish and chips across the road," she said."Bulli was awesome."Ms Francis' visit to Albion Park on Saturday was an important part of her preparation for the Miss World judging in China in just over a month, where she will contest the title with 119 other young women from around the globe.The contestants won't have hairdressers or beauticians on hand during their four weeks in China, so Ms Francis was invited to the Tecnica salon for tips and advice on how to manage it all herself.She said she was also using her contact with Mr Colarusso, who has also judged in Italy, to help get herself mentally ready for the month away from home."It will be very intense but I am up for the challenge," she said."We will be constantly watched. It is very exciting."The pressure to go there and do your best is a challenge in its own right and that is what I have promised myself and Australia that I will go and do."It is 38 years since Australia has won the title ... I believe it is our time."

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