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NSW premier flags hospital privatisation

Written By doni donian on Minggu, 20 April 2014 | 14.00

New NSW Premier Mike Baird has flagged he'll be looking to privatise the state's public hospitals. Source: AAP

NEW South Wales' new premier has flagged he will be looking to privatise the state's public hospitals as a way to "transform and improve health care".

Only days after taking the state's top job, Premier Mike Baird highlighted the role that the private sector already has in running NSW hospitals.

"These (services) extend anywhere from cleaning, to the public-private partnership to design, build, operate and maintain the new Northern Beaches Hospital," he said in a statement to AAP.

"My government will continue to look for ways to transform and improve health care."

The "key thing", he said, was that whatever the model the government pursued, public patients would be cared for as they are currently.

All they would notice was "enhanced services and facilities", he said.

But Opposition leader John Robertson said NSW families would lose out.

"Our hospitals are here to service the people of NSW, they are not here to be run as businesses," he told reporters.

Mr Robertson accused the new premier of being "out of touch", saying he was a "former merchant banker who lives on the northern beaches of Sydney".

"He just doesn't get what it is like to be a family that is struggling to make ends meet."

He said Mr Baird's "mode of operation" was to privatise the state's assets, including electricity poles and wires.

The Health Services Union (NSW) secretary Gerard Hayes said its members would campaign against the privatisation of hospitals.

"The private sector does not take this work on out of the goodness of its heart. It does so to make a dollar."

To turn a profit, he said they would either slash jobs and wages or offer inferior services.

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New intensive care beds for Vic babies

SICK babies will have more intensive care beds in Melbourne, the state government has promised.

Five new neonatal intensive care unit cots will be funded in the May 6 state budget, taking the state's capacity to 100 baby beds.

Health Minister David Davis said $4 million of capital funding would get the cots ready, with a further $5.6 million a year set aside to staff them.

"As well as newborns, this specialist equipment supports babies after surgery, infants requiring long-term ventilation and those suffering from seasonal illnesses such as bronchitis," Mr Davis told reporters on Sunday.

He said the beds were most often used for babies who were born early and had complications from birth.

Mr Davis said Victoria handled the most difficult cases from Tasmania, South Australia and southern New South Wales.

"We do carry a larger-than-our-share load, but we do that willingly," he said.

"We have very capable hospitals."

The new cots will be installed at the Royal Children's Hospital, Monash Medical Centre, the Royal Women's Hospital and Mercy Hospital for Women.

Mr Davis said they would be rolled out once negotiations with Victoria's health services were complete.

Opposition health spokesman Gavin Jennings said the government was playing catch up because it failed to keep up with demand for intensive care treatment for babies.

"We've had situations where our babies have had to be sent interstate because we haven't had enough intensive care beds," he told reporters.

"The last time that that was measured, it was running at about one baby a month being transferred out of Victoria to receive intensive care. Clearly that is not good enough."

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Prince George finally meets Bilby George

Prince George has met Bilby George in a successful first official engagement in Australia. Source: AAP

PRINCE George has met Bilby George in a successful first official engagement in Australia for the youngest royal.

George was relatively well-behaved, if a bit nervous at first, but then quite friendly. And so was Prince George.

The two came face-to-face on Sunday at Taronga Zoo's enclosure, where it was officially named the Prince George Bilby Exhibit as part of Australia's gift following the prince's birth on July 22 last year.

It had been anticipated that Prince George would make his only public appearance at the zoo, but it wasn't confirmed until he was filmed being put into the car by his mum Kate.

Kate carried George - dressed in dark blue shorts, a striped lighter blue-coloured shirt, dark blue socks and shoes - as they entered the zoo.

He looked inquisitive, and was chuckling and looking at the cameras.

Kate had changed out the dove-grey Alexander McQueen outfit she wore to church, into a lemon cream broderie anglaise dress by a designer who did not want to be named. The dress had a fitted bodice and flared out to the knee.

After a quick photo op, the family headed into the enclosure where the meeting took place.

Prince William helped break the ice, when he enticed the bilby - renamed George - over with some food.

Kate held George close to the glass wall dividing the pair, and he started to show a keen interest in the endangered marsupial.

But despite being royal, he proved himself to be a normal baby - eagerly grabbing the stuffed bilby present before throwing it on the ground - and sticking a card straight in his mouth.

This was Prince George's second official function.

During the New Zealand leg of the trip, he "hosted" a play group event with other babies his age at Government House.

After the very short engagement, George returned to Admiralty House, while the duke and duchess continued through the zoo, feeding tree kangaroos, walking past giraffes, enjoying a bird show, and taking in the rhino conservation display.

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Injured dirt bike rider flown to hospital

Written By doni donian on Sabtu, 19 April 2014 | 14.00

A DIRT bike rider who was seriously injured after crashing on a fire trail northwest of Sydney has been airlifted to hospital.

Ambulance and police officers staged a two-hour rescue effort for the 46-year-old man who was knocked unconscious after crashing off his bike at Colo Heights at about 10am on Saturday.

After friends of the Kurrajong man raised the alarm, ambulance paramedics hiked in and carried him out to a nearby property where they met a Careflight medical team who flew him to Westmead Hospital.

The CareFlight doctor said the man suffered leg and wrist fractures along with head and other injuries.

He remains in a serious but stable condition in hospital.

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Royal stop at church, zoo on Easter Sunday

THE Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are set for a big day five of their royal tour that includes attending an Easter Sunday church service and a visit to Sydney's Taronga Zoo.

The royal couple - and Prince George - are spending their final day in Sydney before they fly to Canberra for a well earned day off on their whirlwind 10-day tour of Australia.

While in Sydney the Cambridges have already visited the Opera House, the Blue Mountains, the Royal Easter Show, Bear Cottage children's hospice, and a surf life saving demonstration at Manly beach.

The pace doesn't slow on Sunday, with the royal couple due to attend an Easter Sunday morning church service at St Andrews cathedral.

As well as attending the service, the couple is expected to sign the First Fleet Bible - a historical King James Bible brought over on the First Fleet in 1788.

The bible has previously been signed by the Queen, Princess Diana, Prince Philip and Prince Charles.

From church, the royals are due to make the short trip to Taronga Zoo for a stop at its bilby enclosure - named after Prince George as part of the nation's gift following his birth.

Bilbies are marsupials and are the largest of the bandicoot family. The zoo says its bilbies act as a symbol of friendship between Australia and England.

The Cambridges are also scheduled to feed tree kangaroos, walk past giraffes, enjoy a bird show, and take in the Rhino conservation display at the zoo.

Taronga Zoo director, Cameron Kerr, said the royal visit was a "wonderful opportunity" to raise awareness about Australia's native animals.

"Bilbies were once found right throughout Australia, but are now threatened in the wild (and) Taronga is part of a national breeding program ... to provide an insurance population to safeguard this species into the future," Mr Kerr said.

"Taronga is incredibly proud to be part of Australia's gift to Prince George and we look forward to introducing their Royal Highnesses to our bilbies."

William has an interest in animal conservation and earlier this year joined forces with his father Prince Charles to film a video calling for the world to act now to save endangered animals.

This royal tour comes 30 years after Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, visited Australia and New Zealand for six weeks with William when he was Prince George's age.

The trip, which will be the Duchess's first official visit to Australia, follows Prince William's last official visit in March 2011 to Queensland and Victoria.

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Swag maker among guests at royal reception

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have arrived in Brisbane to another strong crowd reception. Source: AAP

A GRAZIER, a swag maker and an Olympian are among the 224 Queenslanders invited to meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Barry Hughes, from the farmers' advocacy group Northhead, wants to tell Prince William about the plight of drought-stricken Queensland producers.

"I know he's well and truly aware of the issue otherwise I wouldn't have been invited," he told AAP.

"I know he'll give some kind words of compassion."

The last time William was in Queensland, it was to console victims of the 2011 floods that devastated parts of Brisbane and Ipswich.

Olympian Sally Pearson says she's met the Queen and it will be "an absolute honour" to meet the Duke and Duchess.

Pearson, who is dressed in a stylish knee-length orange dress, doesn't have anything in particular to say and says she'll only speak to them if they seek her out.

"I know the protocol," the gold medallist laughed, as guests waited for the royal couple to arrive at Brisbane's South Bank precinct.

"This is the future King and Queen, it's so exciting."

Jean Madden, who runs Street Swags, will give the Duchess a swag on behalf of her charity, and a dress designed by Sasha Drake "on behalf of all the women in Queensland".

"I've met the Duke before and spoken about my charity, hopefully he'll remember me and I'll have a few minutes with Duchess this time."

The royal entourage arrived at the reception venue at 2.13pm.

An estimated 9500 people were waiting for the couple to emerge, and they didn't disappoint.

The couple, despite running behind schedule, have rewarded the wellwishers who have been waiting to in 28 degree heat.

Outside the reception venue, the South Bank parklands are packed with royal watchers, some draped in the Australian flag, others carrying memorabilia from Prince William's 2011 wedding to Kate.

Among those hoping for a brush with royalty is 87-year-old great-grandmother Jennie Cushway, who has seen three generations of the royal family in Brisbane over the years and is hoping to glimpse a fourth on Saturday.

The Brisbane widow says she'd love to add William and Kate to her list.

"I really wanted to see them, I think they're great," she told AAP.

"I might give them a little bow. I only hope I can see them and get nice photos."

She saw the Queen in February 1954, a few months after her coronation, and glimpsed Prince Charles touring Griffith University as a bachelor in the late 1970s.

She said she'd also seen the late Queen Mother and Prince Andrew with his then wife the Duchess of York.

The royal couple will make a brief public walk after the reception, where Kate will pause to chat with the crowd and accept more bouquets of flowers.

One young bub in the crowd, 10-month-old Grace, grabbed the media scrum's attention with her pink "Marry me George" t-shirt, and grand feathered head wear.

She teamed the shirt with a flouncy pink skirt but looked a little unamused about being in the middle of an excited, swollen crowd.

Another veteran royal watcher, Helen Jackson, 70, arrived with her husband Gavin at 7am to secure a prime position near the convention centre entrance.

Mrs Jackson saw Prince William three years ago as he comforted Ipswich flood victims, which included her daughter.

"I have met the Duke before ... I just wish him all the best," she told AAP.

"I stood in the background because it was for the flood people that lost their houses and I stood back."

Even self-confessed republicans couldn't stay away.

One, Agnes Delos Santos, has spent seven hours waiting for the royal couple's public walk.

"This is history, their visit to Brisbane," the 42-year-old theatre nurse told AAP. "It's just good to be here and see them."

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RAAF visit for Cambridges on Saturday

Written By doni donian on Jumat, 18 April 2014 | 14.00

THE last time Prince William visited Queensland, he was consoling people left devastated by the worst floods in 40 years.

That visit in 2011 was part of his first official tour of Australia, but it came about because of disasters in New Zealand and Australia - the Christchurch earthquake and Cyclone Yasi and floods in Queensland and floods in Victoria.

His visit to the Sunshine State on Saturday - accompanied this time by his wife Kate - will be a happier affair.

So far on this visit to Australia, the royal couple have been greeted by large and enthusiastic crowds, and Queensland is expected to be no different.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will touch down at Amberley RAAF base first to spend time with service families.

Kate will have plenty in common with the military wives, having spent the first year of married life with William while he served as a RAF search and rescue pilot at Anglesey in Wales.

William retired last year from the RAF after serving for seven and a half years.

The royal family has a long military history and William has made sure to connect with service men and women during his visit to New Zealand and Australia.

Last week in Auckland, they spent time at a RNZAF base.

At Amberley - Australia's largest operational air base - they'll inspect the F/A-18F Super Hornet, plant a tree in the memorial garden and meet RAAF personnel and their families.

Later they'll head to Brisbane for a civic reception to be hosted by Premier Campbell Newman and Governor Paul de Jersey.

William - who came to Australia with his parents Charles and Diana when he was nine months old - didn't see Queensland, in an official role, until March 2011 when he was 28.

Prince George, the couple's first and to date only child, won't be joining William and Kate on this occasion.

His ancestors began their Sunshine State pilgrimage in 1868.

It is, after all, a place named after Queen Victoria, the baby future king's great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother.

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Royals highlight of Easter Show

Big crowds have greeted Prince William and Kate at Sydney's Royal Easter Show. Source: AAP

THE Sydney Royal Easter Show could have been renamed the Cambridge Royal Easter Show on Good Friday.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made a two-hour visit to the show at the Sydney Olympic Park on a perfect warm autumn Sydney day.

The show, which was founded in 1822, attracts close to 900,000 visitors every year. And it seems many of them were there on Friday, greeting the royal couple with wild cheers and applause.

Kate wowed by wearing a white cotton lace dress by Australian designer sisters, Nicole and Simone Zimmermann.

However, like many eight-month-olds, Prince George was deemed too young to see the show - but it didn't mean he was forgotten.

While admiring piles of root vegetables in the South East Queensland display, Kate told preserve maker Diana Lisle that George was particularly fond of sweet potatoes.

And there were plenty of presents. A trolley was brought to cope with the flow as the crowds passed books, Possum Magic and Peppa Pig toys and bouquet after bouquet to the royal visitors.

The couple were greeted by the president of the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW, Glenn Dudley, and his wife, Jennifer, before being taken to look at a fresh food display in the main exhibition dome.

A female security guard collapsed just before the royals arrived and was loaded into an ambulance.

It might have been the bright sunshine. It might have been the royal effect. Australians have warmed to William and Kate on this trip.

"They're such a lovely couple. They're so much in love," Margaret Bryant from Cowra told AAP.

She and her pals Margaret Wright and Marie Whiteman - all in their 80s - arrived in Sydney at 3am (AEST) to see the royals.

The royals saw sheep shearing, vegetables, showbags, skateboarding and snakes.

They also unveiled a plaque in the new Southee and Badgery Pavilion, home to the Show's arts and crafts, fashion and style and flower and garden displays.

At the Wool for School exhibit, Catherine met last year's winner, Sophie Aylward, from Kinross Wolaroi School in Orange, whose winning design was a blue woollen dress for the Duchess.

The couple were due to sign the Show's visitors book upon leaving, but made time to receive posies from a trio of girls and finally a bunch of red and yellow roses from Jessica Badman, 30, and her one-year-old daughter Alivia, on their way out.

Ms Badman, from the Blue Mountains, said the Duchess asked her whether Alivia was walking yet and said her outfit was beautiful.

"I can't believe that just happened," said an overwhelmed Ms Badman. "It's just like talking to a girlfriend, she's absolutely lovely."

Then it was back on the Australian tour merry-go-round as the royals were whisked off to Manly for their second engagement of the day.

Just another day on the royals' wild ride around Australia.

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Cambridges spend hour at kid's hospice

THE Duchess of Cambridge has called Sydney's Bear Cottage children's hospice an "inspirational haven" as a part of an uplifting visit by the royal couple to the centre at Manly on Sydney's northern beaches.

On a sparkling autumn day in Manly, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge spent more than an hour with sick kids and their families at the cottage - one of just two children's hospices in Australia. The other is Hummingbird House in Brisbane.

So keen were the royals to mingle with families that the visit, which included a visit to the centre's play room, outdoor garden and roof terrace, went almost 30 minutes overtime.

In her first speech of the Australian visit, the duchess told parents, staff and kids, it was "wonderful to be here today".

"The haven that you have created here is inspirational, and there is so much that you can share with each other as you continue to support and nurture those in your care," the duchess said to the packed room that included Prime Minister Tony Abbott and NSW Premier Mike Baird.

"First class delivery of children's palliative care is life changing.

"When families are confronted with the shattering news that their children have a life limiting condition, their world can fall apart.

"It is at those times that professional support is imperative."

Kate, who is royal patron of the East Anglia Children's Hospice (EACH) in the UK and has also visited children's hospices in Malaysia and New Zealand, added that she was "delighted that Bear Cottage and EACH are planning to be part of a 'community of best practice'".

The royal couple's visit to Bear cottage began about 3pm after they arrived to cheers and hoots from the big crowd along Fairy Bower road.

After meeting Mr Abbott and his wife Margie out the front of the centre, the royal couple were escorted inside to the playroom where they split up, with the duchess mingling with kids, while the duke spoke privately with families.

"Very nice to meet you, Daniel," Kate said on meeting Daniel Howarth, 16, who suffers from lung disease and had a Union Jack flag strapped to his wheelchair.

From the playroom, she made a brief visit to the centre's quiet room then ventured outside to the garden to take part in a music therapy class with sick children and their families.

The duchess, wearing a cream lace Zimmerman dress, sat on a wooden garden bench and played a drum with the children, and also took part in a rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, before the duke, dressed in a navy blazer, blue collared shirt and sandy chinos, joined her to meet with families.

From the garden, the royal couple took part in an informal afternoon tea where they were presented with an artwork painted by Bear Cottage kids.

Sophie Martyr, 16, was still shaking after making the presentation to the royal pair.

"It was amazing, it was unforgettable," she told AAP.

"They're really personable, they're really genuine."

On his way out, Mr Abbott said it was a "fabulous afternoon for Bear Cottage".

"These are magnificent people here. There are some very special and brave kids here," Mr Abbott told AAP.

"To get this visit from Prince William and the duchess is just extraordinary."

Before getting in the royal motorcade, Kate thrilled the crowd by meeting a number of fans and receiving flowers and a toy footy.

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Baby George to rule the waves?

Written By doni donian on Kamis, 17 April 2014 | 14.00

BRITANNIA once ruled the waves but its citizens have never quite ruled the surf.

That could change though, after baby Prince George receives his first surfboard - aged just eight-months-old - during the royal family's latest visit to Manly.

The high-born nipper will receive the gift as he and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge tour the northern beaches suburb on Good Friday.

"It's something quite unique and Australian," said Greg Bennett, who is making the board at his factory in Brookvale.

Manly Mayor Jean Hay commissioned the six-foot surfboard and said it's appropriate "because Manly is the birthplace of surfing".

Could it inspire the baby prince to take up the sport?

Well, yes, quite likely - the royals are keen surfers, albeit not expert.

Prince Charles was once told to "eff-off" for poor surfing etiquette in Cornwall circa 1973.

Peter Robinson, founder of the Museum of British Surfing, revealed in 2012 how Prince Charles infuriated locals when he repeatedly "dropped in" on them during the trip to southwest England.

And Prince William looked wobbly when he surfed during his buck's party in the neighbouring county of Devon in 2004.

William, Catherine and George are certain to see exactly how it's done during the tour of Manly Beach.

Surf Life Saving NSW is putting on a surf carnival, including demonstrations of water safety and races for nippers.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is expected to attend the event.

London Olympics kayaker Naomi Flood and Surf Life Saving NSW's Shannon Job will greet William, Catherine and George as they arrive at Manly Beach by car.

The pair will give the royals a brief overview of the surf lifesaving movement before the group watch the displays.

"Lifesavers are already internationally recognised as Australian icons but this will take things to a whole new level," said Shane Knight, Surf Life Saving NSW's surf sports manager.

Newly-elected premier and Manly MP Mike Baird added: "It's fantastic that the royals are coming to visit what is undoubtedly the most beautiful beach in the country."

Manly has been a popular destination for British royals, with Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester visiting in 1934, the Queen Mother attending a Manly surf carnival in 1958 and the Queen and Princess Anne visiting the Royal Far West Hospital in 1970.

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