Monthly Archives:August 2018


Hunter council elections

August 8th, 2018 / / categories: 苏州美甲学校 /

The Jeff McCloy official after-polling party. Josh Hodges reading numbers to the crowd. Picture: Peter Stoop Nuatali Nelmes checking the numbers at the Seven Seas. Picture: Peter Stoop

Jeff McCloy, Josh Hodges and Tim Owen. Picture: Peter Stoop

Tweet from @corrinnepaterson from the New Lambton booth count.

At the Fern Bay polling booth earlier today. Picture: Ben Smee

Tweet by @garthk (Garth Kidd)

11.01pm:It’s just about goodnight from us here in the Herald’s tally room.

A region wide recap for you before we head off to bed.

In Newcastle it looks like Jeff McCloy will be the new lord mayor and will win with more than 40 per cent of the primary vote. Labor’s vote was up, and would have been enough to win the last election. But Mr McCloy steamrolled fellow independents, and preference flows will leave Nuatali Nelmes short of the mark.

In Lake Macquarie, Labor’s Jodi Harrison is set for victory with an impressive swing towards the party.

Labor is also in front at Cessnock, and the party would be pleased to win back two mayoralties and see an increased vote across the board.

In Maitland, Peter Blackmore annihalated his opposition and will not need a preference count to win another term in office.

At Port Stephens, the race is tight, but Bruce MacKenzie looks set to return to his old job as the area’s first directly elected mayor. He has been run very close by Geoff Dingle, but preferences will get Macka over the line.

Elsewhere, the vote at Singleton will go to preferences, with Kylie Stibbard narrowly leading John Martin, and incumbent Sue Moore running third.

We’ll have a full run down of the results in Monday’s Newcastle Herald, including council ward races.

Thanks for following!

10.56pm:PORT STEPHENSWe finally have a result! Or as close to a result as we could hope for. Bruce MacKenzie spent a lot of money on his campaign, but he has been run extremely close by Geoff Dingle. “Macka” looks set to win, after doing a preference deal with Sally Dover, who also polled well.

Geoff Dingle 9556 34%

Bruce MacKenzie10,47537%

Sally Dover791928%

10.37pm: CESSNOCKWith most of the precincts reporting, Bob Pynsent looks to be Cessnock’s new mayor. Labor has won 27 per cent of the vote in a 10-way contest. Preferences will be needed and the count will continue into tomorrow. Alison Davey has been well and truly tossed out.

Alison Davey 1435 8%

James Ryan 1731 10%

Toby Thomas 1425 8%

Bob Pynsent 4785 27%

Cordelia Burcham 268515%

John Harvey 2621 15%

Allan McCudden9055%

Ian Olsen 7824%

Rachel Main 11176%

Neil Gorman 292 2%

10.36pm: LAKE MACQUARIEDamon Cronshaw reports from Lake Macquarie, with 50 per cent of the vote counted:

ALP’s Jodie Harrison – 35.1 per cent

Ind Wendy Harrison – 22.9 per cent

Lib Ken Paxinos – 22.5 per cent

Ind Jim Sullivan – 7.4 per cent

Greens Phillipa Parsons – 8.6 per cent

Ind Arjay Martin – 3.5 per cent

The results so far show a swing to Labor of 8.9 per centand a swing away from the Independent Lake Alliance of 38.3 per cent.

ALP’s Jodie Harrison is on course to be Lake Macquarie’s first female mayor.

”It’s great to be out in front nearly halfway through,” Jodie said.

10.23pm:MAITLANDIt’s a runaway victory for incumbent Peter Blackmore in Maitland, as expected. With one booth still to report back, Blackmore has already won the election on primary votes. His total should be about 54 per cent of the city.

He said he was “very pleased that I had the overwhelming support of the people.”

“It’s great for me and the team. When I say the team I’m talking about the officers of council, employees of council, fellow councillors and the community.”

Just another quickplug for our election contractors, who are still reporting on their website that only two booths have reported results.

10.10pm:SINGLETON All the booths are in for Singleton’s poll. Kylie Stibbard has a lead of about 350 votes, but it looks like this one will be decided by the three Ps. Pre-poll, postal and preferences!

John Martin 2658 22%

Kylie Stibbard 2992 25%

Lee Gallacher 519 4%

Sue Moore 1923 16%

Terence O’Brien 664 6%

Fred Harvison 1421 12%

Tony McNamara 1664 14%

9.57pm: NEWCASTLE The official results are only very early, but feedback is that Labor will win four council spots, and the Libs will win at least three, with Allan Robinson elected in Ward 4.

The Greens are also likely to get up in Ward 1, which means Aaron Buman could be leaving the council altogether. Races in the other wards are expected to be tight.

9.44pm: PORT STEPHENS It’s three and a half hours since polls closed and the Port Stephens returning office has gone offline. No phones, no web updates. Former mayor Bruce MacKenzie says “I don’t know what’s going on”. The best feedback we have is that Cr MacKenzie is leading in five of six booths to report back, but that his council adversary Geoff Dingle is also polling well.

9.36pm:UPPER HUNTER All booths are in at Upper Hunter Shire, with some pre-polls and Sydney votes still to come. Lee Watts has three times a quota and should get Deirdre Peebles and Ron Campbell from her ticket on to the council. Michael Johnsen and Maurice Collison also have a quota.

9.27pm:We’re also getting a lot of feedback about the paucity of results coming from the contractor running the Lower Hunter elections. The electoral commission can post results promptly. To borrow a turn of phrase from Jeff McCloy, “surely it’s not that hard”.

9.26pm:PORT STEPHENS Westill have no official results, just word of mouth. We understand that Bruce MacKenzie is leading in four of the five booths reporting, but that Geoff Dingle is also polling well. Will post results as soon as they’re made available.

9.21pm:CESSNOCK We’ve been sent an updated count for the coalfields. We only have percentages, but will have the official numbers soon. Preferences will come into play, but it’s another decent result for Labor. The party would certainly be happy to win back two mayoralties tonight.


Ryan 10.2%

Thomas 8.5%

Pynsent 26.3%



McCudden 5.4%

Olsen 4.4%

Main 6.3%

Gorman 1.8%

9.20pm:NEWCASTLE: Jeff McCloy has scored in some odd places today. Cooks Hill usually goes bright Green. Results show Mr McCloy more than doubling the tallies of the Greens and Labor there.

9.19pm:NEWCASTLE Labor’s hopes tonight rest on good results at Islington and several booths around Mayfield that have not yet reported and would typically lean to the left. If those booths can pull back Jeff McCloy’s lead, we will have ourselves a race.

9.06pm: MUSWELLBROOK Most of Muswellbrook is reporting and it looks as though Mayor Martin Rush, Brett Woodruff, Stephen Ward, Gary Serhan and Graeme McNeill will reach the quota on first preferences. The final spots might require a preference count.

9.01pm:LAKE MACQUARIEThis just in from our Lake Macquarie reporter Damon Cronshaw.It looks like Jodie Harrison will provide a big positive for Labor tonight.

40,000 votes (about 35-40 per cent of total) counted in Lake Macquarie.

Jodie Harrison (ALP) – 14,298 – 35%

Wendy Harrison (Ind) – 9258 – 22.7%

Ken Paxinos (Libs) – 9359 – 22.9%

Jim Sullivan (Ind) – 2792 – 6.8%

Phillipa Parsons (Greens) – 3626 – 8.9%

Arjay Martin (Ind) – 1485 – 3.6%

Vote so far represents an 8.8 per cent swing to Laborand a 3.7 per cent swing away from the Greens.

8.58pm:NEWCASTLE Labor’s 26 per cent of the vote in Newcastle is still a very healthy improvement from four years ago, when the party polled just 18 per cent. In fact, if things remain in step, it would be Labor’s best result in Newcastle since 1999. That tally would have been enough to win four years ago. But McCloy seems to have thoroughly scooped the independent vote.

8.57pm:LAKE MACQUARIE Damon Cronshaw is getting information that with 40 per cent of the vote counted, Jodie Harrison from Labor still has a healthy lead.

8.56pm:The private contractor running elections has not yet posted results for Newcastle or Port Stephens. It’s been nearly three hours since counting began. Our results for Newcastle are official booth counts.

8.51pm:Have just recieved a message from Kristen McPherson, who is the Newcastle lord mayor’sexecutive assistant. She served for 13 years with John Tate and is watching our coverage with interest.

“Hi Ben, spending my Saturday night with you hoping to find out who willbe my new boss,” she writes.

8.46pm: DUNGOG Dungog’s A Ward, which is centred on the township, is a very tight race for three council seats.

Tracey Norman 240 22%

Stephen Farrow333 31%

Neville Bale 277 26%

Jennifer Lewis 217 20%

8.41pm:NEWCASTLEUpdated, with percentage counts. McCloy has a commanding lead, but remember that Nelmes will recieve most of the preferences from the Greens and Buman. It’s just close enough to remain too close to call.

Nuatali Nelmes 529926%

Aaron Buman1376 7%

Jacqueline Haines8924%

John Sutton2176 11%

Bryan Havenhand 5103%

Col Peebles403 2%

Jeff McCloy8505 41%


Total 20,307

8.36pm:NEWCASTLE Results are finallyofficial and it looks like we’re heading for a McCloy coronation.

Nuatali Nelmes 5299

Aaron Buman1376

Jacqueline Haines892

John Sutton2176

Bryan Havenhand 510

Col Peebles403

Jeff McCloy8505


Total 20,307

8.33pm:If you’re wondering what’s happening across the rest of New South Wales, check out Bevan Shield’s live coverage.

8.31pm:SINGLETON Only three booths left to report in the Singleton mayoral race. This will certainly go down to preferences, and the result is unlikely to be known any time soon.

John Martin1948 24%

Kylie Stibbard 192624%

Lee Gallacher 2403%

Sue Moore 143018%

Terence O’Brien455 6%

Fred Harvison 880 11%

Tony McNamara 1184 15%

8.26pm: GLOUCESTER Checking in at Gloucester and the first results are mixed. Nine candidates are vying for seven council spots.

Frank Hooke 452 27%

Aled Hoggett 25215%

Tony Tersteeg164 10%

James Dupree82 5%

Katheryn Smith 116 7%

John Rosenbaum171 10%

Jim Henderson 198 12%

James Hooke 136 8%

Jerry Germon 102 6%

8.21pm:LAKE MACQUARIEHere are the full results for the lake city. Damon Cronshaw reminds us that while it looks hopeful for Jodie Harrison, don’t count your chickens. West Ward is Wendy Harrison’s stronghold, and many booths there are not yet reporting.

Arjay Martin 447 4%

Ken Paxinos2665 21%

Jodie Harrison 411133%

Jim Sullivan1000 8%

Wendy Harrison3102 25%

Phillipa Parsons1120 9%

8.16pm: LAKE MACQUARIE Our Lake Macquarie reporter Damon Cronshaw is on the case, even if the private contractor isn’t. Looks like the Independent Lake Alliance is going to struggle to hold the council after the retirement of Greg Piper.

He reports that with 12 booths reporting, the mayoral count is:

Jodie Harrison (ALP) 32.5%

Wendy Harrison (Ind) 23.6%

Ken Paxinos (Lib) 23%

[View the story “Lake Macquarie snapshot” on Storify]8.12pm:LAKE MACQUARIE: We’re hearing unofficially that Labor’s Jodie Harrison has the lead in the mayoral race. Booths reporting so far are from the North and East wards. No official results yet.

8.09pm:We’re still waiting for results at Port Stephens, Lake Macquarie and Newcastle. Reports from Newcastle have Jeff McCloy ahead on primary votes in all booths. He’ll need to win handsomely on primaries, as most preferences will flow to Labor’s Nuatali Nelmes.

8.08pm: CESSNOCKWow, what a tight race in the Coalfields!

Alison Davey 32 9%

James Ryan 26 7%

Toby Thomas11 3%

Bob Pynsent75 21%

Cordelia Burcham 75 21%

John Harvey 78 22%

Allan McCudden 27 8%

Ian Olsen 14 4%

Rachel Main 13 4%

Neil Gorman 4 1%

8.06pm:CESSNOCK First results are in and it’s very, very close. Only two small booths (Neath and Pokolbin) reporting, but John Harvey, Cordelia Burcham (Liberal) and Bob Pynsent (Labor) are all within three votes of one another. Incumbent Alison Davey has just nine per cent.

8.02pm:UPPER HUNTER Mayor Lee Watts is easily the most popular council candidate in the Upper Hunter Shire, with about 30 per cent of the vote. Michael Johnsen and Maurice Collison seem to be safe also.

8.01pm:SINGLETON John Martin and Kylie Stibbard have pulled clear of Sue Moore in the mayoral race. There’s only five votes separating the frontrunners.

John Martin 1505 24%

Kylie Stibbard 150125%

Lee Gallacher 187 3%

Sue Moore1079 18%

Terence O’Brien 344 5.6%

Fred Harvison631 10%

Tony McNamara 89215%

7.56pm:MAITLAND For the record, the two booths reporting at Maitland are East Maitland Public School and Millers Forest.

7.52pm: NEWCASTLE No formal results yet, but word from the Jeff McCloy camp is positive for the businessman and developer. Feedback is that their numbers are high, including at places like Mayfield East where they expected Labor to poll well. I spoke with Mr McCloy briefly, and he said he was still expecting “Nuatali [Nelmes] to poll strongly”

7.46pm:GREAT LAKES We won’t have detailed results for Great Lakes until later,because most candidates are running in groups. The groups led by Len Roberts and Jan McWilliams both have about 25 per cent of the vote.

7.41pm:SINGLETONSue Moore looks to be in a close fight to hold on to her job as mayor.

John Martin 477 22%

Kylie Stibbard 419 20%

Lee Gallacher 482%

Sue Moore 57326%

Terence O’Brien 126 6%

Fred Harvison 1597%

Tony McNamara 338 16%

7.38pm:DUNGOG Glenn Wall has pulled ahead in Dungog’s C Ward. The early vote must not have been from the Vacy area, where the former mayor is very popular. Looks like it will be tight for the final of three spots in the ward.

Robert Booth 356 28%

Linda Bowen 220 17%

Glenn Wall 487 38%

Dave Rouse20416%

7.37pm:We’ve just had word throught Twitter that Cordelia Burcham and her supporters are watching our coverage. Hope to bring you some news from Cessnock very soon.

7.31pm:The private contractors are being thoroughly thrashed by the NSW Electoral Commission. Still no official booth counts from Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens and Cessnock – the five councils that opted to run their own polls.

7.26pm: SINGLETON Incumbent Sue Moore is pulling away in mayoral polling and has 32 per cent of the primary vote.

John Martin243 18.22

Kylie Stibbard20115.07%

Lee Gallacher352.62%

Sue Moore42832.08%

Terence O’Brien 96 7.20%

Fred Harvison785.85%

Tony McNamara25318.97%

7.24pm: NEWCASTLELooks like a good night ahead for Jeff McCloy. No results yet from Newcastle [email protected] has just tweeted from the New Lambton booth count (see gallery). The biggest pile, she says, is for Jeff McCloy.

[View the story “Hunter council elections #2” on Storify]7.17pm: UPPER HUNTERWe’ve also gone one booth reporting from Upper Hunter Shire. Things still very early:

Lee Watts (Group)37 24.67%

Wayne Bedgood24 16%

Lorna Driscoll 10.67%

Kiwa Fisher85.33%

Russell Sakey 2 1.33%

Michael Johnsen1812%

Peter Bishop 11 7.33%

Gary Mauger0 0.00

Maurice Collison 4832%

7.11pm: MUSWELLBROOK It looks like Muswellbrook is backing Mayor Martin Rush for another term on council. He’s the standout from early polling.

Stephen Ward 50 17.54%

Karen Portolan 72.46%

Brett Woodruff 56 19.65%

Martin Rush 94 32.98%

Malcolm Ogg20.70%

Rod Scholes82.81%

Christine Phelps22 7.72%

Janelle Risby10.05%

John Shewan6 2.11%

Jennifer Lecky82.81%

Gary Serhan 17 5.96%

Raymond Butchard 72.46%

Graeme McNeill 7 2.46%

7.07pm:Nothing yet from our five lower Hunter councils using a private contractor.

7.03pm: SINGLETONWe also have early results from the Singleton mayoral poll. Way too early to represent a trend across the local government area.

John Martin 122 26.75%

Kylie Stibbard 8418.42%

Lee Gallacher 8 1.75%

Sue Moore 9721.27%

Terence O’Brien 33 7.24%

Fred Harvison 306.58%

Tony McNamara 8217.98%

7.02pm: DUNGOGOur first results tonight come from Dungog’s C Ward. Robert Booth won more than 50 per cent of votes at the first polling place to report. Only 346 votes counted so far.

Robert Booth 173 52.23%

Linda Bowen 32 9.85%

Glenn Wall 31 9.54%

Dave Rouse89 27.38%

6.57pm:Just a reminder to contact me with any election tips, gossip or feedback:

[email protected]苏州美甲学校.au/ @bensmee

6.47pm:One of the other great contests on election day is the polling booth barbeque. We’ve heard good things about New Lambton South, but @garthk took a photo of the Mayfield East sizzle, and it looks pretty appetising!

[View the story “Hunter council elections” on Storify]6.45pm:At Port Stephens, voters are directlyelecting their mayor for the first time. The controversial former mayor BruceMacKenzie is running against a bitter opponent, Medowie councillor Geoff Dingle.Cr Sally Dover is also a contender.

Maitland Mayor Peter Blackmore is tipped tokeep his job. He tweeted earlier that it was a “great day in Maitland”.

Just a reminder that we will post theresults here as soon as booths are reporting.

6.30pm:The contest at Cessnock is anotherthriller. Nine candidates have lined up to knock incumbent Alison Davey off herincreasingly shaky perch.

If Davey loses, it could mean that general managerLea Rosser’s days are numbered. Many of the contenders are councillors whosupported a no confidence vote in the general manager.

Cessnock is an area Labor is hoping to winback, while Liberal Cordelia Burcham has also campaigned strongly.

6.20pm:At Lake Macquarie, we should soon have abetter idea about who will succeed Greg Piper as mayor. The focus of that race has been on theHarrisons – Independent Wendy Harrison and Labor’s Jodie Harrison.

For Labor, this is an important election inthe Hunter heartland. They party’s head office has helped bankroll localcampaigns as it looks to rebuild support in the lead up to a Federal election.Tonight could be a good night for Labor, or a statement that the party’sheartland is indeed shrinking.

The other story at Lake Macquarie is theBack to Basics coalition, who have run in opposition to the council’s rates increase.They have been encouraged by their pre-poll showing.

6.10pm:There are some really interesting racestonight.

In Newcastle, the city is picking a successor to lord mayor John Tate.Campaign volunteers for Jeff McCloy and Labor’s Nuatali Nelmes are both upbeatafter balloting today.

The big talking point in Newcastle has beenformer jockey Allan Robinson, who turned his back on Aaron Buman’s ticket andbacked Jeff McCloy.

6pm: Hello and welcome to our live electioncoverage.

Ben Smee here with you and we expect the first results for 11 Huntercouncils to start rolling in about 7pm.

You can share your thoughts by [email protected]苏州美甲学校.au or [email protected]

Many of the elections are being run by aprivate contractor and results will not be available on the NSW electoralcommission’s website. Let’s hope the counting goes more smoothly than some ofthe ballot draws last month.

Related coverage:

VIDEO: Newcastle Lord Mayoral Candidate Forum

Robbo turns back on running mate Buman, backs McCloy

LIVE BLOG: NSW council elections

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has struck a formal deal with Papua New Guinea to open an asylum seeker centre in an effort to fireproof Labor’s new Pacific solution against any High Court challenge.

Ms Gillard met with her PNG counterpart Peter O’Neill this afternoon on the sidelines of a summit of regional leaders in Vladivostok.

Mr O’Neill had said only last week a new written arrangement with Australia was not required to reopen a detention centre on Manus Island.

But Ms Gillard said after legal advice amendments had been needed to bring the PNG agreement into line with a similar deal struck last week with Nauru.

Ms Gillard also met with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and the two agreed to ask officials to discuss the Malaysia people swap, struck down last year by the High Court.

But she said there was no timeline for finalizing a deal.

Mr O’Neill said it was in the hands of the Australian government how long it would take to open the centre and PNG’s only pre-condition was for Australia to improve to facilities on Manus Island.

This is a regional issue, we’re not interested in making money out of it,’’ he said.

Ms Gillard said she aimed to see people transferred to Nauru by the end of the month but again would not put a timeline on how long asylum seekers could spend on the Island.

Labor has controversially adopted a ‘’no advantage’’ idea put forward in a report by former defence chief Angus Houston last month that says asylum seekers should not receive earlier settlement after coming to Australia by boat.

But there is no average time for refugees to be resettled through conventional mechanisms, with some waiting years for an outcome.

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Religion, according to Law

August 8th, 2018 / / categories: 苏州美甲学校 /

Benjamin Law: ‘I find humour in discomfort’.A self-confessed Catholic atheist, a politician who once called for a religious monument to be built on Mt Bartle Frere and an author is at home discussing Marcel Proust as he is bodily fluids.

All debating the Bible and whether reading it, is good for you.

In public.

What on earth could go wrong?

A whole bunch of things, according to Brisbane Proust-discussing, bodily fluid aficionado, author Benjamin Law.

“I find humour in discomfort,” Law said.

“And the fact that Germaine Greer and Bob Katter are on the same side, on the same team, I think is going to be just hilarious.

“I have a feeling that even though they are on the same team, they are going to contradict each other while me and [fellow debaters] Richard Holloway, Jacqui Payne and Rachel Sommerville just smile along smugly with our hands behind our backs.”

Whether the audience watching the Brisbane Writer’s Festival Great Debate tonight shares that smug smile is yet to be seen, but Law said at the very least it opens the topic up for discussion.

“I quite like the Bible; I spent 12 years at a Christian school,” he said.

“I’m not religious myself, but it is an interesting book. I think that people should read it; I just don’t think it is necessarily good for you.

“The debate topic is that reading the Bible is good for you and [my argument] is that it is good for you, but only if you have religious and theological authorities to put the Bible into context for you, to translate it as a guide for good modern living.

“If you just pick up the book and read it, which is how most people read text, it is not going to be necessarily a healthy outcome.”

Which brings Law to a topic close to many writers and readers hearts; context.

“Context is everything. You can’t read Huckleberry Finn, or any of the books by Mark Twain now without coming across the N-word,” he said.

“These are really lovely books, but words which were acceptable then are not acceptable now and as a child, you can’t just read Mark Twain books and come across the N-word and think that is OK.

“You do need someone explaining to you that these were written in a very certain cultural context in a very certain period in time.”

And the same goes for the Bible, he said.

“I think even if God looked down at the Bible now, he’d probably think it was a little bit dated and it was probably worth updating for the 2000th anniversary edition,” he said.

“It is not just about providing context, it is about debating context as well, which is exactly what we are doing on Saturday night.

“I never think it is a great idea to say ‘here is a text’ and say ‘here is how you must digest it, or interpret it, or apply it to your life’. There needs to be a level of free will and critical analysis too.”

As a member of Queensland’s small but passionate author’s club, Law is used to critical analysis, both of his work and his state.

But with the Brisbane Writer’s Festival in its 50th year and the recent show of support for Queensland’s literary scene after the axing of the Premier’s Literary Awards by the new government, Law remains proud of his home state’s “incredibly supportive and really tight” writing scene.

“One of the reasons I have stayed in Brisbane, even though a lot of my friends have moved on to Melbourne to become writers, is that there is a really great scene here,” he said.

“You’ll go to book events or go down the street and there is Nick Earls and there’s [brisbanetimes苏州美甲学校.au columnist] John Birmingham, some of the really great Australian writers out there and they are just so easily accessible.

“It has always been a really great supportive scene and even with an institution like the Premier’s Awards being cut, the writing and the publishing community is robust enough to make an award of their own and I think that is a testament to the people’s passion in this town for writing and literature.”

Which leaves Law feeling that writing and its Newtonian result, reading, is in a pretty good place in 2012.

“There has just been this glut of books, fiction and non-fiction, it has just been so good, internationally and Australian,” he said.

“There is nothing like reading a book and to me, it really doesn’t matter if you are reading it is a paper back or reading it on your e-reader, the thirst for good writing hasn’t diminished at all.”

More information on the Brisbane Writer’s Festival can be found at the BWF website.

Benjamin Law’s second book, Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East, is out now.

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When Thomas Behling returned to his home state of Saxony-Anhalt in 2006, he was drawn by a job in the solar industry and the chance to participate in Germany’s renewable energy boom. He was fired in July.

Behling’s employer, Sovello, produced its last solar panel on Aug. 26, sending 1,000 workers home after attempts to find an investor to save the seven-year-old company failed. Next door, Q-Cells SE, once the world’s largest solar-cell maker, is being acquired by Hanwha Group of South Korea as soaring debt brought it to the brink of bankruptcy. At least 12 German solar companies filed for protection from creditors in the past year.

Their demise, fueled by price competition from China and a cut in German subsidies from April, has hobbled Saxony-Anhalt’s effort to turn a 350-hectare (1.4 square miles) business park near the town of Bitterfeld-Wolfen into Europe’s solar-power nucleus. Even as Chancellor Angela Merkel pins Germany’s exit from nuclear energy on power derived from the sun and wind, a global glut of solar panels is killing the fledgling firms.

“I believed that I was working in an industry with a future,” Behling, a 31-year-old industrial mechanic, said in an interview. “That it’s over now is very sad.”

The European Union yesterday threatened to impose tariffs on solar panels from China, echoing a similar move by the U.S., as it opened a probe into whether Chinese manufacturers are selling them below cost, a practice known as dumping. Tariffs however will come too late for Sovello and many German firms.

Bosch closing

The closures aren’t confined to Saxony-Anhalt. Robert Bosch, the world’s biggest car parts manufacturer that has invested at least 1.5 billion euros in its solar division, said last week it would close a plant in the state of Thuringia by the end of the year. First Solar Inc. of the U.S. said in April it would shutter its biggest European manufacturing site in Brandenburg that employs 1,200 people.

China’s share of global crystalline silicon-cell capacity surged to 66 percent last year from 26 percent in 2006, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Germany’s share sank to four percent from 23 percent six years ago.

Crystalline-based cells are the principal device in most solar panels.

Of the world’s 10 biggest solar-cell manufacturers with a combined production capacity of almost 17 gigawatts, eight were mainly based in China and two in Taiwan as of last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. JA Solar, the biggest cell-maker based in Shanghai, more than tripled its capacity to 2.8 gigawatts from 2009 to 2011.

Chinese panel makers led by Suntech Power are grabbing market share from European rivals in a price war that drove solar-panel prices down by about 50 percent last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Price matters

“Quality matters, but what matters more is price,” Heinz Steffen, an analyst at Fairesearch GmbH in Kronberg, said in an Aug. 30 interview.

The Bloomberg Industries Global Large Solar index has fallen about 37 percent this year as German solar companies including Solon SE, Solar Millennium AG and Solarhybrid AG filed for insolvency. That compares with the 2.7 percent gain in the period by the MSCI World Index, a 1,625-member global benchmark.

The collapse flies in the face of a German plan to use renewable energy as a pillar to rebuild the economy in the eastern part of the country after reunification in 1990.

The policy helped turn a landscape that in the 1980s was dotted with coal-fired power stations that emitted fly ash and chemical plants that pumped waste into local rivers, earning it the title of Europe’s dirtiest region, into a clean-energy hub.

Solar survives

The government pumped about 375 billion euros ($450 billion) into eastern Germany in the 20 years after reunification, according to a study by the Ifo Institute for Economic Research in Dresden. It led industrial nations in subsidizing renewable energy generators, which supplied 25 percent of the nation’s power in the first half of this year.

German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier said on Aug. 16 that “it’s in Germany’s interest” that the domestic solar industry survives.

Germany’s introduction in 2004 of the world’s first above-market rates for solar energy turned the country into the single-biggest photovoltaic market that same year, prompting Spain, Britain and Japan to follow suit with similar initiatives aimed at generating “green jobs.”

Q-Cells produced its first solar cell in 2001, with 19 workers. Six years later, it had more than 1,700 employees and generated annual sales of 860 million euros. By 2008, it had overtaken Sharp of Japan as the world’s biggest producer of solar cells.

Purge overcapacity

“The solar industry needs this storm to purge some of the overcapacities, not just in Germany but in Asia too,” Fairesearch’s Steffen said. “German solar companies still have excellent intellectual property, so there’s hope that some will survive.”

While German cell- and panel makers have largely stayed domestic, the U.S. solar industry, led by First Solar of Arizona, is focusing on thin-film technology and is producing mainly in Southeast Asia.

The U.S. government mainly supports installations with a 30 percent investment tax credit for solar projects through 2016 and has backed projects with billions of dollars in federal loan guarantees. First Solar got $3.1 billion in such guarantees for three projects it later sold.

As Chinese companies took market share from Q-Cells and the failed Solyndra LLC of the U.S. in the last few years, they’ve become burdened with billions of dollars in debt amid the global drop in profit margins they helped instigate.

Chinese financing

State-owned China Development Bank has offered at least $47.3 billion in financing since 2010 to support the country’s wind and solar manufacturers, though credit lines were only been partially tapped, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Employment in Germany’s clean energy industry probably will “stagnate” this year after creating about 31,600 jobs a year since 2004, Claudia Kemfert, a senior energy analyst at the DIW economic institute in Berlin, said in April.

Unemployment in Saxony-Anhalt dropped from about 20.5 percent in 2003 to 11.6 percent last year. That’s still more than Germany’s 6.8 percent national average. The state’s Economy Ministry estimates that as many as 6,000 positions at local suppliers, including glass makers, are dependent on the solar industry.

All not lost

Rainer Haseloff, the governor of Saxony-Anhalt, and state Economy Minister Birgitta Wolff traveled to South Korea on Aug. 29 to meet with potential investors, Beate Hagen, an economy ministry spokeswoman, said.

“The solar industry is very important for Saxony-Anhalt and for eastern Germany as a whole,” Hagen said by phone on Aug. 28. “We have the entire solar value chain in our region and we’re doing everything possible so that it stays here.”

Still, all is not lost. Hanergy, a Chinese renewable-energy operator, agreed in June to buy Solibro, a thin-film unit of Q-Cells, pledging to raise production at its plant in Germany’s Solar Valley to 100 megawatts.

The Fraunhofer Center for Silicon Photovoltaics CSP in nearby Halle is conducting research into new technologies, and Calyxo GmbH, a maker of thin-film solar panels, plans to more than triple its output to 80 megawatts by the end of this year.

Thin-film technology

“Thin-film has a very attractive future,” because the technology’s costs will continuously fall, Florian Holzapfel, the company’s chief executive officer, said in an interview with Photovoltaics International.

Thin-film panels are made by depositing semiconducting material such as cadmium telluride onto metal or glass. While cheaper, they’re less efficient at converting sunlight to power than traditional, polysilicon-based panels. The falling cost of polysilicon has narrowed the price gap between the technologies.

The creditors of Q-Cells on Aug. 29 backed a takeover bid from Hanwha, which pledged to keep manufacturing and research in the Solar Valley and keep 1,250 of the company’s 1,550 global jobs.

“We’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel for Solar Valley,” Hagen said.

Behling, who operated and monitored Sovello’s machines for the past six years, is optimistic he can start working elsewhere by October. While three local companies contacted him after he sent around applications, none of his potential new employers works in the renewable energy industry, he said.

“In life, you have to move on,” he said.

Bloomberg News

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ANIMAL rights activists fear there will be more revelations of cruelty to Australian sheep exported to the Middle East with the upcoming Muslim festival of sacrifice Eid al-Adha.

The Department of Agriculture is investigating alleged breaches of strict new animal welfare rules that were implemented after last year’s cattle slaughter controversy in Indonesia.

Animals Australia investigators last month filmed sheep being sold in non-approved markets and slaughtered in a sub-standard and cruel manner in Kuwait.

The celebration of Eid al-Adha in the Middle East involves the slaughtering of an animal such as a sheep, camel, or goat to commemorate Abraham’s act of faith in preparing to sacrifice his son. It runs from the evening of October 25 to the next night.

Animals Australia has previously uncovered cruelty during the festival, including sheep being dragged along the ground and stuffed into car boots.

The group’s lead campaigner, Lyn White, said the festival was the peak period of animal suffering across the region and called on the government to implore exporters to have staff in every market place to ensure animals are not sold to non-approved facilities.

”Animals [are] being bought en masse for sacrificial slaughter by families and individuals. We hold grave concerns that Australian exported animals will continue to find their way into markets, in breach of regulations,” Ms White said.

Many in the industry are also worried about the potential for more cruelty in October.

Labor backbenchers Melissa Parke and Kelvin Thomson have led a vocal campaign against the trade, both seizing on the latest revelations as evidence the industry cannot be trusted to self-regulate.

Ms Parke and Greens senator Lee Rhiannon, backed calls for Australian officials to be in the Middle East to monitor welfare during the festival.

Ms Parke has singled out Emanuel Exports, one of the companies alleged to have breached rules, saying its export licence should be revoked – she has previously criticised the company’s directors in Parliament for their poor track record and the department’s lack of action against them.

The Fremantle MP yesterday said the department had a conflict of interest because its primary concern was supporting agriculture not the welfare of the animals.

”I believe the responsibility for the welfare of animals needs to be given to an independent office. It is Labor Party policy to establish an independent office of animal welfare and this needs to occur sooner rather than later,” Ms Parke said.

Senator Rhiannon said the Greens would move an ”urgency debate” in the Senate next week to discuss all recent developments in the trade.

Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said the system was working but was ”not perfect”, conceding slip-ups would occur.

”But we now have the provisions in place to act on those slip-ups and hold exporters accountable for their actions and supply chains.”

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