Find the past residents of your home in this ongoing series on heritage

A search of land titles will help sort the puzzle of who’s lived in your house. Photo: FILE.When you bought your little charmer you were given a title. No, not a fancy new name to make you sound more important, but a legal document issued as part of the sale of your home. A title is proof of your ownership and an invaluable historical document that records every owner of the property back to the first time it was sold by the Crown.
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Titles also record any relevant legal claim on the property – in most cases this is the bank that lent you the money to buy it –transfers due to the death of an owner and even the occupations of owners. Back in the day occupations may have been a ‘gentleman’ or ‘home duties’.

Any time a property is sold, the existing title is ‘cancelled’ and becomes known as the ‘parent’ and a new title is issued to reflect the changes. Sometimes you are only dealing with one title – when the entire property is sold – but in more complicated situations you could be dealing with several titles such as when the property is subdivided into parts and sold.

To put together this piece of your house history puzzle, you will need to spend a little money and collect all of the cancelled titles of your property. Then you will have a complete history of all the people before you who once owned your house.

First, dig out your title from your files. Then go Landata, the Victorian government’s online service for titles and property information at and follow the instructions to create an account and log in.

Start by ordering a ‘Register Search Statement’ using the volume and folio information on your current title. The key information you need to trace past owners is the ‘parent’ volume and folio information for the cancelled titles. Using the ‘parent’ information, order a ‘cancelled title search’. Keep ordering cancelled titles on every parent title until you have traced all the titles back to the original owner and sale from the Crown.

Hint: On the older titles sometimes the parent information is recorded at the top of the second page of the title.

See how many people once owned your house. Happy titling!

Dannielle Orr isthe City of Greater Bendigo’s Heritage Planner.

READ: Who’s lived in my house: part 1

READ: Who’s lived in my house: part 2

Stuart MacGill’s potential $2.6 million payout will come from pockets of players

Stuart MacGill’s $2.6 million claim against Cricket Australia will come out of the pockets of his fellow players if he is successful in suing his former employer in the Victorian Supreme Court.
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The former leg-spinner this week became the second former Test cricketer to begin a high-profile, injury-related legal action against CA in recent years, following in the footsteps of ex-NSW and Australian paceman Nathan Bracken. He is suing over earnings he claims the governing body reneged on paying after his shock retirement in the West Indies in May 2008 which came only months after he was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and after a string of other injury troubles.

In the event the retired 43-year-old is successful the match payments, prizemoney and interest he is seeking will effectively be drawn from the cash reserves set aside for current players. Fairfax Media has learned that under the memorandum of understanding between CA and the Australian Cricketers’ Association injury payments are made from the so-called player payment pool, a figure that ranges between 24.5 per cent and 27 per cent of CA’s revenue based on the Australian team’s success.

In October last year, CA reported record revenue for the previous financial year of $295.9m. The development makes even more awkward a delicate situation, with MacGill in principle taking aim at CA but in effect standing to deplete a cash pool from which Australia’s current leading players are paid.

It’s understood that under previous MOUs the player payment pool was only used to cover a third of injury-related payments, with CA itself covering the rest.

The case of MacGill, who later returned to play the 2011/12 season in the Big Bash League with Sydney Sixers, has been described as “complex” by sports lawyer Paul Horvath, who is appointed to act as an independent mediator in injury-related disputes that arise between CA and the ACA.

“In the Nathan Bracken case he alleged negligence against Cricket Australia relating to his injury, which he said ended his career,’ Horvath said.

“In contrast, this case does not by my reading assert negligence at all on the part of Cricket Australia. It’s a straight breach of contract case. He refers to specific clauses in his contract and in the memorandum of understanding but he doesn’t say what those sections say or the effect of those sections, which makes it difficult to assess what the thing he is saying that happened that is wrong.

“In sport athletes get injured all the time and that is part of the process – and that’s why careers come to an end. Partly people get to a point of having too many injuries, or you start to get lots of injuries at the end of your career, or partly you get a bit slow.”

Horvath has not had a single dispute referred through to the arbitration process since being appointed eight years ago. “I’ve been told a couple of times and most recently maybe two or three years ago about a matter that was bubbling away and that never went to the mediation stage so I had assumed that it had resolved itself,” he said. “In any event, it never came to mediation.”

In MacGill’s case, CA have denied liability and refused to send it to mediation. “That just tells me as a lawyer that they’ve taken a firm view on the matter,” Horvath said.

Bernard Tomic fires up

CONFIDENT: Bernard Tomic arrives for a training session at Melbourne Park on Thursday. Picture: Getty ImagesFIT, focused and firing, Bernard Tomic sees a “huge opportunity” to go deep in the Australian Open draw.
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Tomic squares off against fellow Australian Sam Groth in a blockbuster third-round clash at Melbourne Park on Friday, with the winner’s reward a rich one.

Likely to be standing between Tomic or Groth and a quarter-final spot will not be Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer or Andy Murray, but Tomas Berdych.

Credentialed, yes, but the seventh-seeded Czech is a player Tomic has enjoyed success against, leaving the 22-year-old excited about his prospects of a career-best run at his home major.

“Two Australians playing in the third round, it doesn’t happen like this very often, so this is a huge opportunity for one of us to get into the fourth round,” Tomic said.

“I feel confident and stuff. I’m playing good. This is the tennis I’ve been waiting to play down here in Melbourne. I’m so happy. I’ll try to push for more wins.”

Tomic arrived in Melbourne full of confidence after after back-to-back quarter-final appearances in Brisbane and Sydney and says it’s no coincidence he’s playing some of the best tennis of his life after double hip surgery last year.

“I’ve managed to get so much more range of movement and flexibility,” he said.

Tomic’s vastly improved court coverage is now complementing his superb shot-making and one of the most underrated and effective serves in men’s tennis.

While Groth boasts more aces than any man left in the draw, Tomic is second on the list with only two fewer.

But no player is landing their first delivery more than Tomic and, as much as Groth will rely on his supersonic serve to spring an upset, so too will Tomic in a match where breaks will be gold.

“He’s going to be throwing a lot of stuff at me, coming forward, serve-volleying, and I have to focus on my serve,” Tomic said.

“Obviously I’m going to try to use my experience against Sam. But it’s going to be a tough match. I have to get ready. It’s not easy. He’s playing the tennis of his life.

“I’ll try to break him before it goes to the tie-breaker.”

As well as chasing a spot in the second week, Tomic is looking at the big picture, acutely aware of the chance to bag priceless rankings points in Melbourne.

“Last year, after losing first round, every match I play is a plus, every match I win here,” said the world No.66.

“Sooner or later I’m going to get inside the top 40, top 30.

“I just have to work hard and play the tennis I’m playing, beating guys inside the top 20.

“It’s going to be interesting after the Australian Open. The next five months I don’t have any points to defend. I can get inside the top 20 and then I can start choosing where I play.”

John Sidney Denham to serve minimum 19 years and five months in jail

“Denham [pictured] had not only seen St Pius X School at Adamstown as a kind of ‘‘paedophiliac smorgasboard’’ but that the principal, Father Tom Brennan, had helped Denham plan – and assisted – with the crimes”.PAEDOPHILE priest John Sidney Denham will serve a minimum of 19 years and five months in jail for the brutal and sadistic child sex offences against 57 boys aged from five to 17 in the Hunter over nearly two decades.
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Denham, 73, had to steady himself as he stood to be lead out of the dock to jail after Judge Helen Syme told Sydney District Court that Denham had not only seen St Pius X School at Adamstown as a kind of ‘‘paedophiliac smorgasbord’’ but that the principal, Father Tom Brennan, had helped Denham plan – and assisted – with the crimes.

Judge Syme also named Wingham priest Ron Pickin as a person who knew of Denham’s offending.

The judge repeatedly gave scathing comment about the signficant knowledge of Denham’s offending by people within the Catholic Church.

‘‘The apparent protected status of the offender … is a matter so ovbvious it cannot be ignored,’’ she said.

She said Denham’s offending and the systemic knowledge of that offending was something the likes of which was not often seen in the courts.

Denham, 73, has been in custody since August 2008 when he was charged with offences against 39 boys between 1968 and 1986.

He was convicted of those offences in 2010 and sentenced to a minimum 13 years and 10 months jail, with the earliest release in June 2022.

In 2011 and 2012, he was charged with another 48 offences against 18 victims aged from 11 to 17 at St Pius between 1975 and 1979.

In court on Friday, Judge Syme extended the sentence so the defrocked priest will serve a miniumum sentence in total of 19 years, five months and nine days, so that he will be nearly 85 when he is eligible for release in 2028.

Two of Denham’s victims who were in the court sobbed and ran from the court as Judge Syme recounted horrific offences against them when they were young and ‘‘extremely vulnerable’’ because of their family circumstances.

Judge Syme looked at Denham and then at the court where many people were in tears and said ‘‘old things cast long shadows’’.

Israel Folau wants to switch to centres for Waratahs

Back at work: Israel Folau at Waratahs training on Thursday Photo: Brendan Esposito Back at work: Israel Folau at Waratahs training on Thursday Photo: Brendan Esposito
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Back at work: Israel Folau at Waratahs training on Thursday Photo: Brendan Esposito

Back at work: Israel Folau at Waratahs training on Thursday Photo: Brendan Esposito

He was denied the chance last year but Israel Folau still harbours ambitions for an audacious midfield switch on the eve of the Waratahs’ Super Rugby title defence.

Folau has long dreamt of adding the No.13 to his rugby repertoire and believes it will give him more opportunities to contribute in attack and defence.

A move was on the cards last year, but Waratahs coaches Michael Cheika and Daryl Gibson opted to keep their dual international at fullback, a decision no one could question given the southern hemisphere’s most prized piece of silverware now adorns the trophy cabinet at Moore Park.

But last year’s success appears to have fuelled Folau’s hunger. In his first interview since returning to training this year he told Fairfax Media he hoped to keep the pressure on his coaches for a possible switch later this year.

“It’s something I see as a little bit similar in attack to what I played as a centre in league – running lines and getting in amongst it, the ball in hand, close to the action – that’s something that really excites me,” Folau said.

“But that’s only one element, the other area is defence, and at set piece. I’m willing to take up the challenge.

“We spoke about it last year, we haven’t spoken about it this year, but it’s something I keep in the back of my mind. I’m open to it and I’ve played wing before, so it would be good to have a whole different bag of skills where you could play in different positions for the team.”

A looming showdown with fellow league convert Sonny Bill Williams may be keeping it front of mind for Folau. Williams is back with two-time Super Rugby champions the Chiefs for his second stint in rugby after two seasons and one NRL title with the Sydney Roosters.

The 2011 World Cup winner resumed his midfield partnership with veteran All Blacks No.13 Conrad Smith and will travel to Sydney with his province for a Friday night trial match against the Waratahs on February 6.

It will be the first time Williams and Folau stand face to face on a rugby pitch. The Waratahs fullback is relishing the prospect.

“All the different codes he’s played and the boxing as well, he’s been around and he’s a quality player so it will be a great challenge,” Folau said, adding that he believed it would be the first time they have played against each other since a Storm-Bulldogs showdown in 2007.

“He was one of the danger men we looked at during the week going into those games. He’s dangerous with the ball in hand and can get second phase plays out with his offload.”

Williams returned to New Zealand after last year’s NRL season wrapped up and was drafted straight back into Steve Hansen’s All Blacks for the Test side’s spring tour. He capped his return with two tries against the United States and started two more Tests on tour.

Folau paid tribute to his rival’s impact on the code since his switch in 2011.

“He changed the game around with the offload and the way a No.12 plays,” he said.

“He’s strong, and he’s quick for his size as well, with pretty good skills for a big guy. He did really well when he played the game.”

Folau laughed off suggestions he could find himself in the running for the Wallabies No.13 jersey come September, when the World Cup kicks off, but said his rationale for some positional experimentation was adding more to his attacking repertoire.

“I’m usually out in those wider channels getting the ball and maybe just finishing off the plays, whereas I want to get a bit closer, get my hands on the ball and get a second touch so I can add that on to what I can do out wide,” he said.

“A positional change would add a little bit more to the attacking side of things, which for me would mean I’d have a lot to offer.”

European QE: what it all means

Mario Draghi Some economists say the ECB and national central banks could end up spending more than 2 trillion euros. Photo: Sean Gallup
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Mario Draghi

Mario Draghi

ECB launches €1.1 trillion rescue plan

The European Central Bank has announced a quantitative easing  (QE), or asset-buying, programme worth an initial 1.1 trillion euro. The much-anticipated plan is aimed at heading off deflationary pressures and stimulating growth across the eurozone. The program will involve mainly the purchase of government bonds using freshly-printed money.

How does it work?

In March, the ECB and national central banks of euro zone member states will start buying 60 billion euros of private and public sector debt each month. Of this, 50 billion euros will be spent on sovereign and European Union agency bonds, and 10 billion euros on repackaged private debt such as asset-backed securities and covered bonds, which are bank mortgages. Of the state debt allocation, 12 per cent will go towards bonds issued by the European Investment Bank and other EU agencies such as the European Stability Mechanism and the European Financial Stability Facility. A further 8 per cent will be accounted for by direct ECB buying of government bonds. The remaining 80 per cent of sovereign debt purchases will be by national central banks of bonds issued by the government of that country.They will carry the risk of default.

What are the rules?

Bonds rated BBB- and above qualify. Anything below this quality level are deemed “junk” or high-yield and do not qualify. A maximum of 33 per cent of the bonds issued by any one country may be bought. This means that Greece would not qualify for now because the ECB and other euro zone central banks already own more than this amount, after a bail-out of the country with the International Monetary Fund in 2010. In any case, exception would have to be made for any further purchase of Greek sovereign debt because of its low grade.

How long will the ECB’s QE last?

The initial plan is to buy bonds until September 2016 or until there has been a “sustained” improvement in consumer price inflation, which recently turned negative. The ECB’s official inflation target is 2 per cent. The program could end earlier if successful, or be extended if its impact is small. Some economists say the ECB and national central banks could end up spending more than 2 trillion euros.

What’s the point of QE?

The European economy is in a rut. Unemployment is high, growth is weak and inflation is dangerously low. The low inflation trap is especially pernicious, prompting consumers to delay purchases and companies to put off investment. If it worsens, Europe could face the widespread decline in prices known as deflation, which hurts companies’ profits and leads to more unemployment. Once deflation grips an economy, it is very difficult to escape. Japan has been trying to break the cycle for more than two decades. In such an environment, central banks usually cut interest rates. But the ECB has already lowered its benchmark rate to almost zero. It has even imposed a negative interest rate on bank deposits held at the central bank. The ECB has also been lending more money to commercial banks at rock bottom rates. But demand from banks has been tepid.So quantitative easing is the next logical step – and perhaps the central bank’s only option.

How does QE work?

By buying bonds directly from issuers and financial market investors, the ECB and national central banks keep bond prices high and yields low. This guarantees companies, governments and households low financing rates over the long term. It also frees up money for investment in higher-risk assets such as shares, property and business expansion, which can help re-inflate economies as activity heats up. Low short- and long-term bond rates will also keep the euro low, which should make the EU more competitive in its exports and against imports.

But will it work?

The most important effect of quantitative easing might be psychological. By demonstrating that it is serious about stoking inflation, the ECB could prevent people from adopting a mind-set where they think prices will continue to fall. This is why Mario Draghi, the central bank president, and other top central bankers talk a lot about “inflation expectations”. Another benefit would be the weaker currency, although a lot of EU trade is conducted with itself, and export demand from outside the common currency area remains weak. As to QE’s objective of stimulating borrowing, this is unlikely to be as effective as in the United States, where companies regularly tap the corporate bond market for financing. European companies, by contrast usually get credit from banks. Although banks have, and will, benefit from QE, demand for bank credit from companies and households has been weak – most have been focused on paying down debt and consolidating since the global financial crisis. There are also those who say that QE is only effective when the capital markets cease to function, as they did during the the GFC. This is not the case now, so ECB QE may be too little, too late.

How will ECB QE affect Australia?

The most obvious and immediate impact is on currency trading – note the commotion set off when the Swiss National Bank gave up trying to hold down its currency against the ever-weakening euro. Despite the doubts, currency can be an important weapon in the battle for a share of global trade. The lower a country’s currency against that of its competitors, the cheaper its exports. Also, competing imports become more expensive, helping high-cost domestic producers. ECB QE could encourage other central banks, including the Reserve Bank of Australia, to ease monetary policy to keep the Australian dollar competitive, although this will depend on the performance of the domestic economy and what happens elsewhere. For example, the Canadian central bank’s decision this week to cut interest rates could be more influential when the the RBA next meets to discuss policy. With European bond yields likely to stay low for longer, the yield on Australian bonds again looks attractive to investors, not only in Europe but in countries with large savings pools such as Japan. This search for yield can work against attempts to keep the currency low. Share markets – including the Australian Stock Exchange – normally get a boost  from QE announcements and money-printing because they result in new money looking for returns away from bond markets.

with agencies

Job figures ‘fudged’

INQUIRY: Phillip Cresnar after giving evidence at the Independent Commission Against Corruption. Picture: Kate GeraghtyA FORMER Ausgrid worker at the centre of a $300,000 kickbacks inquiry told a contractor he “fudged the figures” so it would win a contract, according to a secretly taped phone call.
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Phillip Cresnar appeared at the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Thursday to face allegations he solicited cash and gifts from contractors in exchange for helping them win multimillion-dollar contracts for excavation and cable-laying work.

In a February 7 phone call last year with one contractor, his friend Denis Twomey from Murray Civil Works, Mr Cresnar said another contractor was “slightly cheaper than you but I fudged the figures” for a “cable pull [job] you did this morning”.

But the former Ausgrid project engineer told the ICAC that he did not remember what he meant by “fudged” in that context and “I’d have to go into the figures . . . to see if I was lying to him [Mr Twomey] or not”.

In another phone call, in October 2013, he told a Murray Civil employee that a particular job was about to be changed and they should get there quickly and “f–king do a couple of trial holes and saw up the whole footpath . . . then that’ll stop that”.

But Mr Cresnar denied he was trying to make work for Murray Civil, which won Ausgrid contracts worth more than $26 million between 2012 and 2013.

Mr Cresnar agreed Mr Twomey had given him a number of expensive gifts, including paying $7800 for an imported marble bath and marble toilets for his property in Alexandria in inner Sydney.

He denied the gifts were kickbacks and said he had given Mr Twomey “between 10 and 15” Royal Doulton-style jugs valued at up to $2000.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Cresnar said that more than $70,000 in gifts from another contractor, Jason Bastow of Bastow Civil Constructions, were payment for “after hours” work he had done for Mr Bastow to help him formulate contract offers that were submitted to Ausgrid.

Bastow Civil won $20 million in Ausgrid contracts between 2007 and 2012. Mr Cresnar said he “didn’t perceive any conflict of interest in secondary employment”.

The former Ausgrid project engineer had said in a private interview with the commission last April that he did “nothing” in return for Mr Bastow “showering” him with gifts.

Asked to explain the radical change in his evidence, Mr Cresnar said: “A few too many schooners between then and now.”

“You are lying about that arrangement,” counsel assisting the ICAC, Tim Gartelmann, said.

“How do you know I’m lying about it?” Mr Cresnar said.

Mr Bastow has given evidence that he felt he was being “held at ransom” by Mr Cresnar.

Mr Cresnar was employed as a graduate engineer by Ausgrid – one of the “poles and wires” electricity network companies the Baird government wants to privatise – in April 2006.

He resigned last year after the state-owned company served a notice of its intention to sack him.

Mr Cresnar said he had forgotten about another alleged gift from contractor Patrick Miskelly, whose company Fer-Aim secured more than $3 million in contracts with Ausgrid between 2010 and 2011.

EDITORIAL: Insurance impasse can’t go on

PRIVATE health insurance premiums, it seems, are about to surge another 7per cent, assuming the government rubber-stamps the latest increase being sought by Australia’s health funds.
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The prime minister, Tony Abbott, has already signalled that he can see no reason to intervene in a business decision by health funds, even if the proposed hike is triple the inflation rate.

According to the health insurers, the upward spiral in the cost of their product is due to the rising cost of claims in the health industry. One health fund executive, attempting to explain the problem, told reporters this week that a single member recently claimed more than $270,000 for ‘‘end-of-life’’ care.

That was an illustration of the increased costliness of care, as well as of the problem of an ageing population.

It’s an issue that policymakers seem to find intractable. When people are sick they’ll generally pay whatever they have to in order to get well, and that makes it easy for providers of treatment to charge high prices for their services.

Historically, when insurance hasn’t been available, medical bills have been a major cause of bankruptcy and imprisonment. And yet, when insurance is introduced into the picture, it can be argued that it gets even harder to restrain the earning expectations of practitioners and medical entrepreneurs.

Much is said about the rising cost of new technology and that’s valid, to a point. But even when technology makes particular treatments easier and cheaper, practitioners often show unwillingness to reduce their fees accordingly.

It might be suggested that the health insurance industry benefits from expensive care, since people – frightened of economic hardship due to illness – will find insurance attractive.

But the upward spiral of treatment costs and insurance premiums reaches a point at which more and more people are simply priced out of the market.

Australia’s Medicare system of universal taxpayer-funded health insurance provides a powerful backstop, enabling many to treat private insurance as an optional item, useful if income permits, but not essential.

But with Medicare under sustained assault from the private sector and its political allies, the nation is drifting towards the feared American model, where corporate medicine is immensely profitable but where millions of people simply can’t afford to be insured at all.

Cost control will be essential if Australia is to avoid that awful trap. That means more preventative care to help keep people well. It means closer scrutiny of treatments and products to ensure they represent value for money.

Private insurance and corporate medicine have their place, but their endlessly rising prices suggest that they should not be permitted the market dominance they appear to crave.

William Spedding’s children back him over disappearance of William Tyrell

Police detectives with items for forensic testing. Picture: Nick MoirTHE children of a tradesman questioned over the disappearance of toddler William Tyrell say they love him and are certain he has done nothing wrong.
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Police searched the home and business of William Harrie Spedding, 63, after they learnt he had been hired to fix a washing machine at the mid-north coast house from which the three-year-old vanished on September 12.

The search of Mr Spedding’s home in Bonny Hills, which included draining the property’s septic tank and the excavation of some land, ended late on Wednesday. No charges have been laid.

Mr Spedding’s daughter-in-law, Aimy Spedding, told Fairfax Media his son and daughter supported him fully and believed he had nothing do with William’s disappearance from his grandmother’s home in Kendall.

Toddler, William Tyrell, missing since September 2014. Picture: NSW Police

‘‘We fully support him. We know that he has had nothing to do with this,’’ Mrs Spedding said. ‘‘We have spoken to him. Obviously he is very upset, his wife is devastated.

‘‘Basically we spoke to him and said ‘We love and have your back and we support you 100 per cent’.’’

Mrs Spedding said the washing machine repairman and his wife Margaret were distressed that their home had been raided by police and guarded for nearly 48 hours.

Cars, a single mattress and computer equipment were among a number of things seized and taken away for forensic examination.

Mrs Spedding’s comments came hours after police took down crime scene tape from around the couple’s semi-rural property.

A town looking for answers. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Police say their investigation is ‘‘active’’ and the search was a line of inquiry.

Mrs Spedding said her family understood police had to follow all possible leads but felt that draining a septic tank and digging up Mr Spedding’s backyard on Wednesday were ‘‘extreme’’.

‘‘The police have obviously got to follow up lines of inquiry but the way they have gone about it is extreme,’’ she said.

‘‘They are obviously between a rock and a hard place because they are being driven by the public for an answer.

‘‘We’ve found it completely confronting and concerning.’’

Police have described Mr Spedding as a person of interest who has been assisting them with their inquiries. Mrs Spedding said her father-in-law had five children and many grandchildren who adored him.

‘‘I was quite shocked when I first found out and I ended up leaving work,’’ she said. ‘‘He’s lovely, he’s a gentleman and for a father-in-law he is brilliant.’’

She said she had known the 63-year-old for 17 years and asked people not to jump to conclusions.

Police searched the Bonny Hills property on Tuesday 20 January. Picture: Nick Moir

‘‘What’s upset me the most is seeing nasty people on Facebook jumping to conclusions,’’ she said.

Family friend Colin said he spoke to Mr Spedding on Wednesday night and that he was coping but was highly distressed by the media attention.

Mr Spedding has been active on social media in recent months, writing posts about the search for William. On December 4, Mr Spedding shared the link of a photo of William, which had a caption underneath that read: ‘‘Today, somebody is keeping a secret. They got up this morning. Had breakfast. Realised they need to pick up some milk. Wasted time on Facebook. Made some calls. All the while maintaining a poker face.’’

He added a comment that read: ‘‘Don’t give up looking.’’

Homicide detectives said a number of properties had been searched in recent months in relation to the disappearance of William, and they would continue to follow up all possible leads.

APS “work cultures” in the spotlight

Employment Minister Eric Abetz. Photo: Alex EllinghausenMore public service news      
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The Abbott government has ordered a sweeping review of Australia’s workplace laws which will examine the rights, entitlements and “long-held work cultures” of 160,000 federal public servants.

The issues papers for the inquiry into Australia’s workplace relations framework puts key public service conditions, some of which have been in place for decades, squarely on the table.

Five issues papers that set out the key areas of the Productivity Commission’s inquiry, the broadest review of IR laws of its kind in a generation, were published on Thursday.

The section of the document on public sector employment asks for submissions on ways to bring public service conditions more in line with those of workers in the private sector.

Protection under administrative law against unfair dismissal or other unjust punishments, available to public servants but not other workers, will come under scrutiny.

The existence of the office of the Australian Public Service’s Merit Protection Commissioner, to which government officials can appeal employment decisions, is also up for discussion.

Do you know more? Send confidential tips to [email protected]上海龙凤

The Productivity Commission’s issues paper canvasses the National Commission of Audit, which called for the institution to be scrapped altogether altogether and for legislative amendments requiring public servants to be “highly productive”.

“Administrative law (for example, merits review) covers some key public sector employment issues, adding another layer of regulatory requirements and scope for appeal,” according to the Issue Paper.

Issues of “management control” in Australia’s public sector workplaces will also be examined by the inquiry as will their workplace cultures.

“Management control in the public sector is less clear-cut than in the private sector, for example, in relation to the dismissal of staff,” the document states.

“Reforms to the workplace relations system applying to the private sector may need to be accompanied by complementary measures (for example in administrative law, codes of conduct or long-held work cultures) to realise the benefits for the public sector.”

The comission notes that any changes of the Fair Work Act that come out of its inquiry might need specific provisions relating to public sector employees to make sure the full effects of reform were felt in federal, state and local government workplaces.

“The impacts of changes to the generic WR system may vary depending on whether workplaces are private or public,” the issues paper says.

“Reforms might need to take account of the fact that outputs and productivity improvements are less easily measured and consequently less transparent in the public sector.

“Accordingly, arrangements in the workplace relations system aimed at improving productivity in the private sector might not always be easily transferable to the public sector.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz said he wanted all interested parties to make submissions to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry.

“This is a once in a generation review of the workplace relations system and I encourage all interested parties to take this important opportunity to participate, whether they are unions, employer groups, employers, individual employees or the unemployed,” Senator Abetz said today.