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Sceptics question WA message in a bottle

The world’s oldest known message in a bottle has been found on a beach near WA.A Perth businessman is rejecting suggestions his discovery of a 132-year-old message in a bottle on a West n beach is an elaborate hoax.

Kym Illman is fending off the scepticism after claiming his wife Tonya found a remarkably well-preserved note, dated 1886 and written by the captain of the German sailing barque “Paula”, within an almost pristine, unsealed Dutch gin bottle that was partly buried in sand about 50 metres inland near Wedge Island.

The pair brought the items to the Western n Museum, which concluded they had made a historic and record-breaking find.

But the fact there’s a remarkable connection between the name of Mr Illman’s company and the find – not to mention his well-known penchant for securing free promotion through “ambush marketing” – has sceptics asking if this is just another publicity stunt.

He admits the coincidence is both remarkable and fortuitous.

“It couldn’t have fallen into better hands,” he told AAP.

Mr Illman scoffed at the suggestion he could have mocked up a fake so convincing it fooled the experts, but accepts most people would expect such old objects to be in worse condition.

“If I’ve shonky-ed this up, I’m even better than I think I am,” he said.

“To get access to the name of the boat, where it was on a certain day – because it’s not online anywhere – you’d have to go into the annals in Germany, get the information, find a bottle of that vintage and put it up there, wrap a note so that the indent of the rope is visible.

That would be the greatest fluke in the world if I managed to pull off a scam like that. If I’ve done it, I am a genius.”

Museum assistant curator of maritime archaeology Ross Anderson said he was surprised the bottle and message were in such good condition.

But there were other rare examples of objects kept intact by a perfect micro-environment.

He said it must have come ashore within six to 12 months of being jettisoned and spent the years buried in sand, with the tight rolling of the paper aiding its preservation.

“We’ve done as much as we can to corroborate the find,” Dr Anderson told AAP.

The museum says it is one of thousands of bottles that were thrown overboard during a 69-year-long research project by the German Naval Observatory, which sought information about global ocean currents by asking finders to report where and when a bottle had been recovered.

Offshoots of the observatory verified the authenticity of the message found by the Illmans, which matched other records written by Paula’s captain that were stored in German archives.

It is now believed to be the world’s oldest message in a bottle ever discovered and is being assessed for a Guinness World Record.

2018 Herald Women’s Premier League starts on March 11

LAUNCH TIME: Representatives from the seven Herald Women’s Premier League teams gathered at Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility on Tuesday ahead of the 2018 season, which kicks off on Sunday. Picture: Simone De PeakThe 10thHerald Women’s Premier League season starts on Sunday and competition is expected to be fierce with five current and several former W-League players spread throughout the seven teams. This is how theyare shaping up:

ADAMSTOWNCoach: Paul Devitis.Last season: Finished third. Squad news:Rosebud are withoutlong-serving wide player Emily Frost and her loss will be felt on and off the field by the tight-knit group.Fearless leader Clare Cummings plays with her heart on her sleeve and will again be key to Rosebud’s success, along with midfielders Elodie Dagg and Jorjia Hogg. United States-based strike weapon Lauren Allan scored 16 goals in eight appearances last season and will be a welcome addition when she returns early in the second round for another cameo. Bottom line: They retain the core of a talented young squad which has maintained the club’splaceinfinals football despite goingthrough a rebuilding phase since 2015and should be in the mix again.

MEREWETHERCoach: Cassie Koppen. Last season: Finished second, won the grand final.Squad news: Grand final heroines Sarah Halvorsen and Tayla Braithwaite and midfield lynchpin Jane McDonald are all having the year off. All three have a physical presence on the field and their loss will be evident. United’s attack will remain strong through new signingLeah Giuffre, who returns to the league after several years away, and the return of W-League championship winner Rhali Dobson, who scored 20 goals last season. They also have former Jetsplayer Grace Macintyre in the middle of the park and Alison Logue in goals.Bottom line: A benchmark side for the past few seasons witharguably the best defence in the league, they will be in the fight for the minor premiership.

Read more: Rhali rejoins Merewether

NEW LAMBTONCoach: Keelan Hamilton. Last season: Did not play WPL. Squad news:Joey Burgess, Tara Andrews and Stacey Day are key signings. Burgess has 40 caps for the Matildas and played over 60 W-League games,Andrews has two caps for and over 75 national level appearances for Newcastleand Day is a former Jet. They have alsopicked up experienced WPL goalkeeper Darcie Bell and striker Georgia Amess. Bottom line:The Eagles may bethe new kids on the block but they do not intend to just make up numbers in their first year.They will be a mix of youth and experience and how theyoung squad handle the week-in, week-out intensity of senior football willbe the telling factor.

Read more: Key signings for Eagles

SOUTH WALLSENDCoaches: Brad Parkes and Gary Wilson.Last season: Finished fifth.Squad news:The Wolves’ biggest losseshave been Stacey Day to New Lambton and Laura Byrnes to injury but they have picked up a swag of experienced players. Former WPL player of the yearTracy Baker-Holmes returns to football aftertwo seasons out with a knee reconstruction. Former Young Matildas strikerBeth Kermode also makes a return to WPL after starting a family. They have four players with W-League experience in new signings Alesha Clifford and Olivia Kennedy and returning players Gemma Pearce and Maddy Searl. Bottom line: Inconsistency and a lack of depth was South Wallsend’s biggest enemy last year. They are finals contenders on paper and consistency and how quickly they gel will be key factors.

THORNTONCoach: Robbie Richardson. Last season: Finished last. Squad news: They have lost Jenna Kennedy and Sarah Bennett to New Lambton and goalkeeper Danielle Redding to Wallsend. Captain Sophie Milton only played a handful of games last year but is fully on deck this season in a big boost to a side which has also strengthened with the signings ofOlivia Tannock from Football Queensland’swomen’s National Premier League and central midfielderLauren Rouse-Upjohn, who played in Germany’s Bundesliga 2for SV Bardenbach.Bottom line: They showed some promising signs in patches last season but struggled to be consistent for a full 90-minute match and only managed to win two games. The Redbacks have probably the most experience this year that they have had since joining the competition in 2015 butatop-four finish might still betoo far a stretch this season as they continue to rely on a lot of youth.

Read more: Merewether win grand final thriller in come-from-behind win

WALLSENDCoach: Marc Hingston. Last season: Finished sixth. Squad news:They have lost leader and midfield force Keely Gawthrop but still have the ever-consistent and dependable central player Laura Hall as well former Jets player Libby Copus-Brown. The addition of fleet-footed Sass Seaborn from Warners Bay will be a big boost and the Red Devils have picked up Danielle Redding in goals.Bottom line: Wallsend played a good brand of football last year but at times struggled in the final third. The recruitment of proven goalscorer Seaborn should help address that and the return ofMarc Hingston, who coached them to a grand final appearance in 2016, means they will be well-drilled and supremely fit but without many big-name players they may struggle to finish in the top four.

WARNERS BAYCoach: Cassidy Davis. Last season: Finished first, lost grand final. Squad news: They have lost the ever-improving Sass Seaborn, goalkeeper Rhiannon Hines and possibly former W-League defender Brooke Miller through injury. Butlast year’s minor premiers and state cup champions have picked up Jets player Tara Pender, who can play anywhere, and will still be well-led by steely captain Nadja Squires and Jets pair Cassidy Davis and Jenna Kingsley, who scored 35 goals in 21 games last yearincluding a grand final hat-trick. Bottom line:Despite some big losses, theyretainthe core of a side which were 2016 champions and last year’s yardstick and should push for more silverware again.

Read more: Jets player stays local to strengthen WPL

Round 1, March 11Wallsend v New Lambton, at The Gardens, 2.30pm;

Adamstown v Thornton, at Adamstown Oval, 2.30pm;

Warners Bay v South Wallsend, at John Street Oval, 2.30pm;

Merewether –bye.

Tigers retain blueprint for AFL success

Jack Riewoldt kicked two goals in Richmond’s 2017 AFL grand final win over Adelaide.Richmond star Jack Riewoldt believes the Tigers still have the blueprint for premiership success as they prepare to defend their AFL crown.

Riewoldt spoke to reporters at the launch of the AFL’s Kick 2 Kick program at the MCG on Tuesday and said it was important for his teammates not to forget the lessons of last season.

“Naturally you think back and reminisce. All the players who played in the grand final are still on our list … so there’s moments when we reflect on that,” Riewoldt said.

“We also like to look back and see how we played the game because we think that’s important.

“Certainly the back end of last year and the grand final was the way that we wanted to play … it’s a blueprint for us going into this year.

“It’s only natural to do that but our focus is firmly on the 2018 season.”

Riewoldt forecast a continuation of the high-pressure game style that propelled Damien Hardwick’s side to grand final success against Adelaide.

While happy to continue to relive the 48-point win, Riewoldt has seen no signs of complacency and declared the Tigers are hungry for more success.

“I think as leaders we’re constantly on the look out for areas that we can improve in and making sure that we’re steering the ship in the right direction,” he said.

“But you look at day one of pre-season and how the players came back … obviously we were coming off the highest of highs in winning a premiership but our players came back as professionally as we could have asked.

“As leaders we’ve seen no lag there … we’re excited to attack the season.”

Richmond play their final pre-season series match against North Melbourne at Ikon Park on Wednesday night.

Ahmed lifts Vics as NSW feel Shield blues

Victoria’s Glenn Maxwell and Fawad Ahmed played key roles in their Shield win over NSW.Victoria’s hopes of extending their three-year dominance of the Sheffield Shield seemed dead and buried a month ago but a tense 23-run win over NSW continued a dramatic turnaround for the Bushrangers.

NSW were on track for a famous victory as they chased 309 on a challenging Junction Oval batting wicket, after they began day four at 2-150.

With Moises Henriques (49) and Peter Nevill (26) at the crease the Blues were marching toward a much-needed win, before Fawad Ahmed had his say.

NSW, at one stage, required just 35 runs with four wickets in hand, only for legspinner Ahmed to run through the tail and earn figures of 5-94.

“We knew that if we got a new batter on that wicket, especially against Fawad who is so dangerous against the tail, we would have a great advantage,” Victoria captain Aaron Finch said.

“(Peter) Siddle and (Scott) Boland were exceptional early in controlling the run rate and we didn’t get rewards early, but we got them late.”

Victoria resumed after the mid-season break last on the Shield standings but have jumped to second with one round of matches remaining.

NSW, conversely, have slipped from top spot after a winless run in the past four matches.

Victoria are chasing a rare fourth-straight title and Finch believes his side have found form at the right end of the season, after four home draws on the lifeless MCG pitch earlier in the summer.

“The rewards are coming for us at this end of the season,” he said.

“We are starting to play a lot better cricket, this game and last game.

“It has been simple plans and hard graft from our players.”

Defeat effectively ends NSW’s Shield hopes, barring an unlikely series of results.

It comes despite bowling out Victoria on day one for just 199, as spinner Steve O’Keefe took career-best figures of 8-77 and a 10-wicket match haul.

NSW had little luck on the final day with opener Daniel Hughes dismissed hit-wicket for 59, while Kurtis Patterson was run out for 53 thanks to brilliant fielding from Glenn Maxwell.

Ahmed said Victoria are “absolutely” pushing for more Shield glory..

“We played some good cricket in these past few games and hopefully we can continue this momentum,” he said.

“We have a really good side and a good mix (of players). We are on a roll now.”

Victoria can still overhaul leaders Queensland and earn hosting rights for the final.

If they do so, they will have the opportunity to play at the newly-redeveloped Junction Oval, having taken their past two finals to Alice Springs.

State action needed to fix Stockton erosion

NSW Government action and funding are needed for a long-term solution to Stockton’s worsening erosion issues.There is no quick fix to this longstanding threat, but it’s now more urgent than ever – as parts of the suburb sit on the precipice.

Council took leadership on this issue, recently meeting with members of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and the NSW Government’s Coastal Panel to work towards the best viable solution to protect Stockton.On Wednesday the council will hold an information session to update the community, inviting other agencies to ensure everyone is on the same page.The meeting will bring together the council, OEH, Lands and Environment, the Environmental Protection Agency, Mission and Hunter Water to provide an update on Newcastle’s Coastal Zone Management Plan.The gathering at Stockton RSL will also canvass current erosion management issues, the childcare centre, recent repairs to the Mitchell Street seawall and remediation of the old landfill site.

The council has been calling for action at Stockton for more than a decade.A study done 10 years ago recommended an artificial headland with beach nourishment to solve the suburb’s shoreline woes, but our 2009 funding request to the-then premier was met only with instruction to reconsider the proposed works.Council reviewed all potential options in a draftNewcastle Coastal Zone Management Study, which proffered extension of the Mitchell Street seawall northward – with beach nourishment to the south – as the best financially viable solution.

The council adopted the Newcastle Coastal Zone Management Plan in November 2016 and submitted to the Department of Planning.In it, the council identified other options to protect Stockton, including beach nourishment, an offshorebreakwall, an artificial headland and an artificial reef.

But the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage (OEH) rejected the plan, citing the need for a cost-benefit analysis and further interaction with other government agencies.

This leaves us in a tough position as a council because the cost of a genuine long-term solution is beyond the revenues of a local government.

These are complex issues that need a collaborative approach from all levels of government together with the community.

Meanwhile, the most recent incidence of erosion has forced StocktonEarly Learning Centre operatorMission to dramatically reduce its play area.Last month’s weather event also exposed a new environmental hazard in the old tip at what used to beHunter Water’s Stocktonsewage treatment plan.

While we are frustrated by the lack of action, we will continue to work with OEH, the community and researchers to find the best technical and most cost-effective solution.

I assure the people of Stockton that the council is doing all it can. After the June 2016 east coast low, when access ways between the surf club and the breakwater and dune vegetation were destroyed, we rolled up our sleeves.The rock seawall and dune we built to protect assets stood up to last month’s worrying events.

The Mitchell Street seawall was built from 1989 to 1990 in partnership with the state government and a sandbag seawall was formed in front of the surf club in 1996 (both were repaired in 2010).

In 2009, a large sand nourishment program was undertaken with the Port of Newcastle, when clean sand dredged from the mouth of the Hunter River was placed off Stockton Beach.

Council has an ongoing partnership with the port to continue this.

As all this shows, we’ve long been doing our bit for Stockton. And we will continue to fight for a long-term solution.

Nuatali Nelmes is the Lord Mayor of Newcastle

Light rail tracks appear in Newcastle’s old heavy rail corridor

On track: The light rail network is scheduled to begin running in early 2019, from the Newcastle Interchange into the city.Light rail tracks have started to appear in Newcastle’s former heavy rail corridor, as progress continues on construction of the city’s new transport infrastructure.

Revitalising Newcastle’s work on the light rail network, which is expected to be up and running early next year, is“proceeding as planned”, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Read more:Light rail taking shape in Hunter Street

The project is particularly taking shape between Newcastle Interchange and Worth Place, where the track slab and track form–in which the rail lines will be placed–have been put down.

“Significant progress is being made on light rail construction between the Newcastle Interchange and Worth Place,” theRevitalising Newcastlespokesperson said.

Track work in old corridor as city’s light rail build continues The light rail track goes down on the former heavy rail corridor. Picture: Revitalising Newcastle

The light rail track goes down on the former heavy rail corridor. Picture: Revitalising Newcastle

The light rail track goes down on the former heavy rail corridor. Picture: Revitalising Newcastle

The light rail track goes down on the former heavy rail corridor. Picture: Revitalising Newcastle

The light rail track goes down on the former heavy rail corridor.

The light rail track goes down on the former heavy rail corridor.

The light rail track goes down on the former heavy rail corridor.

The light rail track goes down on the former heavy rail corridor.

TweetFacebook Light rail track goes downWork has started on construction of the light rail track on the former heavy rail corridor. Read more:3D renderings show finished light rail

Meanwhile, various works are continuing across all 10 construction zones between the interchange at Wickham and Telford Street in the city’s east end.

Construction ofthe Honeysuckle light rail stop and the stabling facility near Steel Street will also start this month, according to the March work schedule.

NSW government pokie cap affects Hunter, Lake Macquarie suburbs

No additional gaming machines will be allowed inpubs and clubs atseveral locationsacross the Hunter and Lake Macquarie as part of aNSW government crack-down on problem gambling.

NSW racing minister Paul Toole announced the pokie cap on Tuesday, which meansthe government willnot allow the number ofgaming machines to increase in “higher-risk” communities across the state.

Belmont South/Blacksmiths, Beresfield/Hexham, Cessnock, Kurri Kurri/Abermain, Maitland, Mayfield/Warabrook, Mt Hutton/Windale and Raymond Terrace areclassified as “band three” communities that would be subject to the cap, according to Liquor and Gaming NSW data.

Read more:Hunter gamblers put $44 billion through pokies

The cap was one of the results of a review ofgambling regulation, witha package of reforms introduced to NSW Parliament this week.

Other measures in the legislation include a tenfold increase in fines for gambling operators who offer illegal inducements, a lease scheme to help small hotels and clubs work towards becoming free of gaming machines and tougher penalties for club directors found to have done the wrong thing.

New measures: Several communities in the Hunter and Lake Macquarie have been deemed high-risk enough for the state government to stop any additional gaming machines being brought in.

“Local community caps are an appropriate response to concerns that some areas have too many gaming machines,” Mr Toole said.

Read more:‘Pokies like vampires, sucking Hunter dry’

“A number of councils and community groups suggested caps and the NSW government agrees this is the right thing to do in higher-risk areas.Local community caps are part of a package of reforms that represent the most significant changes to gambling regulation in NSW for a decade.”

n Hotels Association Hunter branch president Rolly de With said on Tuesday afternoon that he was“still evaluating the impact on Newcastle and Hunter hotel operators”.

n Hotels Association Hunter branch president Rolly de With.

“At first glance, it appears to be a strengthening by the NSW government of the conditions pertaining to gaming in NSW,” he said.

AHA NSWliquor and policing directorJohn Green saidhe expected smallhotels in regional areas would benefit from the introduction ofleasing arrangements.

“Over recent years many country pubs have been forced to sell off their gamingassets when times got tough,” he said.

“Of course, they were only able to do this for as long as they had assets to sell. Afterthe assets were sold, many were forced to close their doors.”

Clubs NSW CEO Anthony Ball said hewas satisfied with the government’s review process.

“Ultimately, it needed to weigh up the interests of the industry against any potential for community harm and on that score the government has got the balance about right,” hesaid.

Liberal women set up fighting fund

Kelly O’Dwyer says the Liberal Party needs to do more to encourage women to run for parliament.Female federal Liberal MPs are putting together a fighting fund to boost their ranks within parliament.

Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer says she will personally cross the country raising money to promote female conservative candidates at the next federal election.

She has acknowledged there is clearly much more work for the Liberal Party to do in encouraging women to put their hand up to run for parliament.

Ms O’Dwyer has regular meetings with female colleagues – “some of our male colleagues refer to it as secret women’s business” – to examine the barriers, including a discussion over the past fortnight about putting their money where their mouths are.

“When women put their hand up, they need to be able to know that they have got the financial firepower behind them to run effective campaigns,” she told the National Press Club in Canberra on Tuesday.

“And so we are talking about putting together a federal fighting fund for women and I have committed to them that I’m happy to go around the country fundraising for my colleagues for that purpose.”

But she also says the party has to back women in order to lift their representation from its current dismal 21 per cent.

“We need to be pretty frank with the party organisation when we say, you know, the buck stops with you,” she said.

“You need to highlight the fact that we need to get more women into parliament and we need to look at what barriers that are there and how we can eliminate them.”

The Liberal Party recently adopted a non-binding target to increase its female representation to half of its seats in both houses of parliament by 2025.

Labor has had a quota for female representation since 1994 and increased this in 2015 to aiming for half of all MPs to be women by 2025.

It also ensures women are chosen to run for winnable seats and has had the financial backing of Emily’s List for more than two decades.

At the moment, women make up 44 per cent of Labor’s federal ranks.

Lottie Consalvo and her new work on stage at Heide Museum of Modern Art

Newcastle artist Lottie Consalvo gives the art world a huge hug Candid: Newcastle artist Lottie Consalvo in a Hamilton studio working on pieces for her show at the Heide Museum of Modern Art in Victoria. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

TweetFacebookI’m so overcome with this work, but also with Lottie emerging as a sculptor.

James Drinkwater, husband and artistRead moreJames Drinkwater’s journey

Titled “Final Remembering”, Consalvo’s show included paintings, videos and sculptures that were precursors to “The Hug”. So she sees that Newcastle exhibition as an important link to her Heide show, which will be called “In The Remembering”.

JUST like a memory, artworks can sometimes come apart.

“The Hug” was toppling off its base, so Consalvo called herfather to help quickly build a new base before the sculpture is sent off to Victoria.

“Generally, whenever I have a disaster in the studio, generally with sculpture, I call my Dad,” Consalvo says. “I think I’ll be doing it forever.

“He’s so busy with his own show coming up, but I was, ‘Please! I need you!’.”

Dino Consalvo grew up in Newcastle. He lived and worked in Melbourne for about 30 years before returning to his hometown, where he has been painting the faces and places of a changing coastal city.

Some of Lottie’s earliest memories are of wandering out to her father’s large studio in country Victoria. The paintings that surrounded her as a child had a major influence on her, as did Dino’s advice and guidance. While she wanted to be an artist, her Dad advised her to first do a business degree.

“It was good advice,” she says. “I think I probably shouldn’t have done a business degree, I should have just travelled. But it bought me time.”

Consalvo finished the degree, even though she spent a lot of lectures sketching instead of taking notes. The lecturer would be talking about “how to make a business that would make millions” but she thought, “That is so uninspiring”.

“It really showed me the kind of person I am,” she says. “I thought, ‘Oh, hang on! Is this how other people think?! Okay’.”

For a time after graduating in Melbourne, Lottie Consalvo was doing little painting. She was making jewellery and working in an office when she met Drinkwater at a concert. He had also drifted away from painting and was playing in a rock band.

After the concert, they showed each other their artworks. Both encouraged theother to return to painting. They found themselvesthrougheach other. If ever there’s a couple who define the term “soulmates”, it’s Consalvo and Drinkwater.

“I always think of that sliding doors moment, if we hadn’t met each other,” she muses. “I could imagine the life I would be living. Maybe I’d have my own business. I think I would have met artists, and I would have gone, ‘I could have been you, but I didn’t’.

“I think because we took the risks together, it didn’t seem like a risk. We never had a back-up plan. And it wasn’t scary, because we did it together.”

The painting pair quickly became a couple. They lived and worked in Germany for three years, sharing a cramped apartment that they had turned into a studio, before returning to and moving to Newcastle.Drinkwater is a Novocastrian, and Consalvo had visited her grandmother in Newcastle each year. But it wasn’t their past they were returning to; Consalvo saw Newcastle as key to their future as artists. The cost of living was cheaper than in Melbourne or Sydney, and being out of major art centres was good for their own work.

“I think it’s afforded me time and space to think, and to be able to spend time focussing on making good work rather than thinking, ‘I better go to that opening, I better meet that person, I better tick those boxes’.

“Time is very important for us right now, we have a young family, so you’ve got to grab it and use it really, really well. So I like living here.”

Just as they have done since meeting, Consalvo and Drinkwater support each other at home and in the studio. Both say there is no creative competition between them.

“When something great happens for her, that’s great to me,” says Drinkwater, adding he is so proud of what she’s creating for the Heide show.

“I’m so overcome with this work, but also with Lottie emerging as a sculptor. These are some of the most stunning forms I’ve seen.”

The importance of family continues to shape Lottie Consalvo’s life and art. Both she and Drinkwater share the jobs at home, as they raise five-year-old Vincenzoand one-year-old Hester.

“You just don’t really stop. I sometimes look atour couch and think, ‘It would be nice to sit on you’,” she laughs.

“But I wouldn’t have it any other way. To have family around, that’s really important. I think it’s actually helpful for your work to have to step back, to keep reassessing, rather than being six days a week in the studio, tenhours a day.”

Family and love will also craftan exhibition planned for Newcastle next year. Consalvo and herfather will be holding their first combined show.

“So looking forward to it,” Lottie enthuses. “I keep thinking about how our works will look side by side. I’d never really imagined that.

“That will be one of the most important things I do in my life. To have a show next to Dad.”

But for now, Lottie Consalvo is embracing her Heide exhibition, which opens on Saturday, and the thought that her work will be seen in such an important place in n art history.

“I’ll feel like I’m a part of that history as an artist,” she says. “We all are in , we’re all just adding to what has come before.”

CFMEU, MUA merger approved but big business opposed

BROTHERS IN ARMS: CFMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor and MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin, photographed during early merger negotiations in February 2016. Picture: Nick MoirTHE Newcastle branch of the Maritime Workers Union says the new amalgamated “super-union” will not wreak the industrial havoc that employers are predicting.

The MUA and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union are combining, along with the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union, to create a single body known as the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union.

The amalgamation is set to take effect on March 27 after a 71-page decision handed down in the Fair Work Commission on Tuesday by Deputy President Val Gostencnik, who found there was no legal impediment to the three-way merger.

Employer groups led by the Master Builders Association and the n Mines and Metals Association have opposed the merger, saying it will be easier for the union to put industrial pressure on employers and projects, and harder for employersto prove “secondary boycotts”, whenmore than one workplace is dragged into a dispute.

The metals association says a single union will controlmuch of theHunter Valley Coal Chain.

“As one of ’s most important resources regions, this merger represents a very real threat to the Hunter Valley coal region,” association director Amanda Mansini said. “We are highly concerned about the now imminent escalation of unlawful conduct which these unions, on their own public statements, have promised will result from this merger, from pit to port.”

Despite the concerns of employers, MUA Newcastle secretary Glenn Williams said the new combined union was subject to the same industrial relations laws, which were heavily weighted against unions and workers.

“Virtually all of our employers are multi-nationals with plenty of resources,” Mr Williams said. “The merger gives us combined resources when it comes to strategy, research, campaigning and media. As waterside workers, we can’t just jack up in support of miners up the valley. We will work with them as we always have with solidarity, but this thing about holding the whole coal chain to ransom is just ridiculous.”

The new union’s national secretary, Michael O’Connor, said:“Big business has too much power, we have record levels of inequality in our community, and working families are finding it hard to make ends meet. We will be fighting every day to restore the fair go.”

The CFMMEU will have 140,000 members, making it the nation’s second biggest.

UNION POWER: MUA member after a court hearing during the major Patrick Stevedoring dispute of 1998. Employers have opposed the merger, saying it will give the combined union an extra advantage in terms of organising ability. The unions say they are still restricted by the existing industrial relations laws, whether they are one union or two.

The Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Union is believed to have about 200,000 members, and the n Workers Union about 100,000 members.