Smail falls off the pace with horror back nine

THE 2008 Australian Open was full of near-misses, and no one will remember it with such clarity as David Smail, the New Zealander who threw it away.

Smail began the final round with a one-shot lead and played peerlessly through 14 holes, grabbing a three-shot lead. At the turn, his lead was four, and he didn’t look like faltering.

Then two bad tee shots at the 15th and 16th holes brought him down. The first drew hard into the heavy rough and bushes down the left, and he took a double-bogey six. Then he smacked his drive at the 16th into more trouble, and carded a seven on the par-five.

Suddenly dropping off the top of the leaderboard, the Japan-based Kiwi needed a birdie on one of the last two holes to reach a play-off with South Africa’s Tim Clark and Tasmanian Mathew Goggin, who had posted nine-under-par totals. But he missed the green on the right, and his attempt to chip in rifled past the flag.

"I just thought I’d have a go," he said. "I wasn’t too worried about positions. I thought I’d try to make that play-off. It went pretty close."

Smail rolled in a three-metre par-saving putt to card a 75, and while Clark and Goggin went back down the 18th hole again, Smail was forced to explain away his implosion for a back nine of 41. "I’m just gutted really," he said, his voice wavering. "I can’t say much about it. Everything was going so well. The tee shot on 15, the wind was coming hard out of the left, and I thought I hit a pretty good shot. It just kept on drawing. The wind just stopped. I chipped out pretty well but I was a bit shattered after that. I hit a bad iron shot, I didn’t get up and down and I lost my way."

The Hamilton native could not recall a similar choke in his career. "It’s been a long year. It really was. Looking back, I can’t think of a tournament that I’ve really lost. When I’ve been up there, I’ve managed to finish it off. So it’s a pretty gutting feeling."

Last night, Smail was heading off for a drink with his wife Sheree, and a rest. Having played 12 tournaments in 14 weeks, he admitted he was exhausted. "It could have been a lack of focus, really, at the end. She’ll look after me."

More stars please, not freak shows

FOR all of tournament golf’s obvious and seemingly insoluble problems in Australia, the three weeks that now constitute the visible part of the Australasian PGA Tour proved something of an unexpected, if minor, success.

It helped that the past two tournaments, the Australian PGA and the Australian Open, took place in weeks left vacant on the Test cricket calendar and that the many still underappreciated Australian players who are, along with a perennial place at the top of the sporting rich list, Greg Norman’s great legacy, filled the breach with some entertaining performances.

At the same time, in the way the Sonny Bill Williams saga and the subsequent predictions that foreign money would spell the end of the NRL seemed to reinvigorate media coverage of the game, talk of golf’s desperate search for salvation – chiefly, finding someone with Tiger Woods’s mobile number – at least created discussion.

No doubt John Daly’s brief and, by the standards of almost everyone except a top-flight golfer, well-paid appearances added greatly to the success of the three tournaments, given the unusually respectable galleries on the 6½ days Daly teed it up and the headlines he created.

But you would hope he was not the overriding factor.

After all, to hail Daly’s visit to Australia a success would only compound the humiliation of the Australian Open organisers and Australasian PGA Tour officials whose failure to publicly criticise the American for smashing a spectator’s camera or to announce what, if any, punishment he had received for his hissy fit, was as telling an indication of the game’s diminished status here as the lack of international superstars on the leaderboard.

If the officials did not embarrass themselves enough by not condemning Daly, seemingly for fear he would not return for another two-day cameo, their suggestion that the incident was the fault of a spectator who had broken the rules by bringing – the horror! – a forbidden camera into the course, and then had got too close to Daly bordered on offensive.

For three weeks, Daly’s presence had been justified by his appeal to the non-conventional fan. As was evident in Melbourne, Coolum and Royal Sydney, the pack-a-nine man who had boozed and gambled his way around the world still drags his fellow Joe Sixpacks through the gates. Yet, having consciously suspended the decorous rules of the country club to cater for a man no less famous for playing a practice round topless than for winning two majors, our officials were suddenly aghast that someone should pull a camera from his pocket and try to snap Long John before Long John snapped back. It is the double-bogey of double standards.

Perhaps the kid-glove treatment for Daly was a concession that, just as the organiser of a bear-baiting competition might feel responsible if the grizzly got off the chain and mauled his tormentors, by resorting to using a man who has become the game’s lowest common denominator, they shared the blame for Daly’s idiocy.

Whatever the reason for the kow-towing, it left a slightly sour taste after – to damn with faint praise – a trifecta of tournaments that provided some evidence Australian golf may yet fill some sustainable dates on a crowded sporting calendar. But only as the type of credible tournaments played out on the past three weekends, supplemented by the edition of credible international stars. Not with another episode of the Daly freak show.

Fund to ease carbon cost

SMALL businesses and community organisations will have access to a $1.4 billion fund to help them cut their energy use and avoid the brunt of price increases to be caused by Australia’s emissions trading scheme.

The Climate Change Action Fund, available for five years, will be among the details of the emissions trading scheme to be launched in Canberra today.

The Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, was to have launched the scheme but the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, will now do the honours.

The Government is expected to accept Ross Garnaut’s recommendation of an emissions cut of 10 per cent by 2020 but it will express it as a range of 5 to 15 per cent to preserve negotiating flexibility.

It is also expected to put forward the prospect of cutting emissions by 25 per cent by 2020 in the event that the world’s big polluters agree to take action.

The final target will be settled on in 2010, when the scheme is scheduled to start.

Unlike heavy industry, pensioners and low-income households, all of which will receive billions of dollars in compensation for increased costs, small business and community organisations will have no direct assistance.

Grants from the $1.4 billion fund could be used for such simple energy saving measures as insulation, more efficient lighting and energy-efficient hot water systems and other equipment.

Treasury has estimated the average household will spend an extra $4 to $5 a week on power and $2 a week on gas, for a combined increased energy cost of about $350 a year.

Compensation details for low-income households will be announced today and it is understood a periodical remittance, rather than direct subsidising of energy bills, will be recommended so that high bills still act as an incentive to use less energy.

The Australian Council of Social Services called yesterday for compensation to be indexed and for separate grants to help householders upgrade appliances.

Before today’s release, lobbying intensified from groups on both sides of the debate. Environmental groups called on the Government to adhere to the science and cut emissions hard while business and industry urged restraint in acknowledgement of the economic crisis.

In a separate gesture yesterday to the environment, the faltering economy and fears that cutting emissions would cost jobs, Mr Rudd said the Government’s $500 million renewable energy fund would be spent within the next 18 months, not across six years as originally planned.

Under the speeded-up scheme, $100 million will be available this financial year and $400 million for 2009-10.

“It’s good for jobs, it’s good for stimulus, it’s good for acting on climate change,” Mr Rudd said.

Professor Garnaut urged the Government to keep alive the possibility of a 25 per cut.

A 10 per cent cut is consistent with a carbon level in the atmosphere of 550 parts per million, risking permanent damaging effects. A cut of 25 per cent is the minimum required to stabilise carbon at about its present level of 450 parts per million.

“While the world is still a long way from an agreement that sets us on a path to stabilise emiss-ions at 450ppm, it is important that Australia keeps the possibility of such an agreement alive by saying that it is prepared to play its full proportionate part – a 25 per cent cut in emissions entitlements from 2000 levels by 2020 – if the world is able to go that far,” Professor Garnaut said.

The Climate Institute called for a 25 per cent cut but the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said already weak business confidence risked being eroded further by proceeding with an ambitious scheme in hard economic times. It requested “realistic” emissions reductions targets and “extensive” industry compensation.

Greenpeace wants cuts of 40 per cent by 2020. Yesterday it said the Government would need to cut emissions by 50 per cent by 2015 to counter the extra pollution that will be caused by Friday’s infrastructure funding announcement that will double coal exports from Newcastle.

Agony of deciding who will look after young

SALLY was a 15-year-old street child with a drug habit when she gave birth to a son, Daniel. Not surprisingly, he was taken into foster care. Two years later, she gave birth to a daughter, Janelle, who was placed with a different carer.

Now 21, Sally has won a court battle for the return of the two children. They will soon join their mother and her partner in the early 30s – who is not their father – in a home that already holds seven children under 13. Sally has three babies with her partner and her partner has four primary-school-aged children all living together.

“It’s been a long battle to get these children returned,” Sally says. ” No one gets a child back after 5½ years unless you have really proved yourself. I have turned my life around. I am young, energetic and I have so many children, another two doesn’t matter. It’s just another bath, another feed.”

But the foster carers of Daniel and Janelle are distraught. They say the children are settled, stable and doing well. They cannot fathom a decision to remove them from the homes they have known since they were babies to put them in a household where they will be one of nine under the care of such a young mother.

“We are heartbroken,” says Bev. With her husband, Alan, she has cared for Daniel since he was 13 months. She is also foster carer to her young grandson who has the same father as Daniel (but a different mother).

“He doesn’t want to go. I’m the only mum he’s known. The half-brothers sit in each other’s arms crying about it. He has to go on contact visits now and he’s tied himself to the bed with ropes so he won’t have to go. Now he’s blaming me for sending him back.”

“It’s devastating,” says Darlene, who with her husband, Peter, has cared for Janelle since she was seven months old. “She’s like my daughter. I’ve done my crying and when the time gets closer I will start all again. I just hope the court has made the right decision.”

The case highlights the exquisite dilemmas children’s court magistrates and Department of Community Services workers face in decisions about children’s care.

When is the right time – if ever – to restore children to their biological parents? How is it possible to weigh up children’s stability and their attachment to their long-term foster carers against the potential enduring benefits of growing up in their biological family, knowing their siblings and their culture?

And in this case, how must the age of Daniel’s foster mother – who is in her 60s – be weighed against the enormous challenges facing the young biological mother?

“These decisions are not easy ones,” says Judy Cashmore, of the University of NSW, an expert on out-of-home care. “And it’s more of a dilemma for children who have been in one place almost from birth.”

To their mother, the removal of the children was another case of “stolen generation”. From an Aboriginal family, Sally was in foster care at the age of 11 and on the streets by 14. “DOCS workers have known me since I was a child and they’ve never liked me,” Sally says. Now self-confident and articulate, she says she turned her life around after meeting her partner four years ago. He had won custody of his own children. “He said to me, ‘You can be a mother or you can do your own thing.’ It really hit me,” Sally says. “My kids are more important than anyone else in this world.”

The Department of Community Services originally opposed the restoration of the children to their mother. It told the children’s court it was in the best interests of the two children for them to remain with their carers.

But the children’s court magistrate, Anthony Murray, ordered an independent assessment by the children’s court clinic, which supported the restoration. The court ordered DOCS to prepare a care plan.

Now, after a staged process lasting two months, Daniel will be living full time with his mother from early next month, and Janelle, at a later date.

Sally says Daniel is “so happy and grateful to be with us” on the contact visits. There is another child of a similar age in the family and the pair are known as “the twins”. According to his mother, Daniel “suffered more in DOCS’s hands than in my hands”.

But an Aboriginal elder, who sat on the original panel that approved Bev and Alan as foster carers, says: “This little boy will be destroyed if he is removed. He is doing excellently in school, he plays sport, he swims. He is given responsibility.

“Bev and Alan are not Aboriginal but Bev’s first husband was and she had two daughters to him. She is very knowledgeable about our culture.”

Darlene says she had supported contact between Janelle and her mother every two months for the past 3½ years though no overnight visits had occurred. “Janelle calls me ‘Mum’ and her ‘Mummy Sally’. In the end I want what is best for her, and I don’t think this is. I’m not saying Sally is not a good mum. But to Janelle, we are family.”

Sally says promised support from DOCS – a new fridge, a bigger car – might not now eventuate. “People who don’t like me still see me as Sally the child, not Sally the mother,” she says. “They don’t realise I’ve changed.”

Paul Delfabbro, associate professor of psychology from the University of Adelaide, says a study he conducted showed children who entered foster care at a young age and enjoyed long-term stability with their carers were likely to turn into well-adjusted teenagers.

But children who experienced repeated failed attempts at restoration with their families were troubled teenagers. “But there are pluses and negatives,” Professor Delfabbro says. “If the new partner is a good carer, that is a plus. But if there are too many children the same age, that is a negative. All I can say is ‘good luck to them’.”

* Family names have been changed

Boost for child protection officers

HALF-EMPTY child protection offices in remote NSW are slowly filling up, thanks to incentives of up to $20,000 a year for case workers to take on some of the toughest jobs in NSW.

In February, the Herald reported that half of the budgeted case-worker positions in Department of Community Services offices in north-western NSW, from Wilcannia across to Inverell and south to Dubbo, were unfilled. There were 25 jobs to fill in Dubbo.

There were no case workers at all in Brewarrina, where four positions remained empty, and case workers were travelling 100 kilometres to service the town from Bourke – where six out of 11 positions were also unfilled.

The shortages made the north-west a particularly dangerous place for indigenous children, who are four times more likely to be victims of abuse or neglect, according to the NSW Government’s report Breaking The Silence . Several towns in the north-west region, such as Brewarrina, Walgett and Wilcannia, are more than 50 per cent indigenous.

But 16 new case workers were placed in the seven months since the Herald’s story, using annual incentives such as a living away from home allowance of $12,000-$16,000 a year, a $5000 cash bonus and additional training, the department said. Nine were new appointments and seven were "tree-changers", voluntarily transferred from metropolitan offices.

There are now three positions empty in Bourke, two in Brewarrina and 19 in Dubbo.

Despite the progress made, the Wood report into child protection in NSW last month found that "the existing services for responding to substance abuse, family violence and neglect in NSW are fragmented, poorly linked and do not reach the more high-risk, remote communities".

Linda Burney, the first Aboriginal community services minister in NSW, promised indigenous staff a "new beginning" in child protection at a conference last month.

She said the main test of her tenure as the state’s first indigenous community services minister would be reducing the 30 per cent of children in out-of-home care who are indigenous, although they make up only 4 per cent of the population.

It would require more Aboriginal case workers and foster carers, and cultural change within the organisation, but she knew the issues backwards and the situation of indigenous children was already improving. "The distance between where the department was then and where it is now is immeasurable," she said.

DOCS says filling vacancies in remote NSW is a continuing challenge "due to the nature of the work and the breadth of coverage required to meet community needs".

The MPs John Cobb, Dawn Fardell and Kevin Humphries have called forpreventive "safe houses" to be funded in every town and a "flying squad" of case workers on permanent rotation out of metropolitan offices into remote NSW.

For sale: absolute waterfront … on a king tide

DEPENDING on which bit of the city you were in, the arrival of biannual king tides yesterday brought either a mood of great buoyancy, or a sinking feeling.

For Brad Mooney, a member of the Cooks River Motorboat Club it was a chance to take to Bay Street, Tempe, in a boat and have “a bit of a laugh and a galah about” in view of the club founded in 1917 opposite the spot where Captain James Cook’s anchor was found. Mr Mooney was pretending “to set out a new course in the back street” for the racing season.

He said he attracted a bit of attention from a “couple of old guys looking over the fence”.

But while it was all plain sailing in Tempe, the king tides arrived at Kurraba Point, Neutral Bay, with a crash when residents were given only minutes to flee two blocks of units on Saturday after high tides and a strong chop driven by southerly winds demolished a seawall.

“They said you’ve got two minutes,” said Brian Walton. “I asked when can I come back. They said you might not be coming back. And when I tried to get in a bit later, they wouldn’t let me in.”

Overnight the 2.1 metre king tides, abetted by strong winds, made small work of the waterfront soil and grass, and between 7am and 11am yesterday a further 1.5 metres of foreshore subsided into the harbour, leaving a tangle of rubble and exposing one of the building’s cracked concrete foundations.

“It was all soil and rock this morning but now it’s been washed away,” said Dan Begley, 29, whose unit is directly above the subsidence. “I can fish directly into the harbour from my balcony.”

The seawall had been in danger of collapse for up to two years, but residents said some owners had been slow to act. “If there’s anything good at all that can came out of this, it’s that the strata groups have to learn to be more proactive and less reactive,” Mr Walton said.

Seawall falls in ‘perfect storm’

THE COLLAPSE of a harbourside seawall in Neutral Bay has put all owners of Sydney waterfront units on alert that they must be prepared to dip into their pockets to maintain the whole property, or risk those properties dipping in value, if not dipping into the harbour itself.

The seawall, at Kurraba Point, collapsed on Saturday, and police ordered an immediate evacuation of adjoining blocks of units at No. 21 and No. 23 Baden Road.

Yesterday a further metre and a half of waterfront slid into the harbour in front of No. 23, exposing that building’s cracked concrete foundations, and threatening the integrity of the shared waterfront.

"What we have here is a lesson for strata groups all around the harbour," said Mark Bryant, who owns a unit next door.

"Just as it takes five or six things to go wrong for a plane to crash, a few different things had to go wrong for this to happen. We had the king tides, the wind and all the rain. But there’s drainage issues here, and leaky pipes, which gives you a potential for subsidence. And there’s concrete spoilage, which you get all around the harbour [and] affects a building’s structural integrity."

The seawall, which crumbled before 2.1 metre king tides and a strong southerly chop, had been in a serious state of neglect for a long time. "It was at an angle leaning out toward the water for at least the past eight months," said Dan Begley, 29, who rents a unit in No. 23.

"Last week I heard one tenant say it was only a matter of time before it went in. And then it did."

"We’d been trying to do something about the seawall for two years," said Mark Foley, 44, who owns a unit in No. 23.

"One of the owners had said that fixing it was too dear. He owns 10 units and the levies are a lot to pay, so it got held up. But two months ago we exchanged contracts and I’d been at them to get started. And the agreement was they were going to start on Monday."

Mr Bryant said strata owners needed to act for general good rather than procrastinating out of self-interest.

"The lesson here is [that] executives of a body corporate need to accept responsibility and act on issues in a timely fashion.

"Waterfront property is expensive, and it costs money to maintain it and to maintain its value. But sometimes you get people who are just investors and don’t want to spend. And sometimes you get a complacent executive. It was a perfect storm of things for a perfect mess."

Mr Begley’s unit in No. 23, the worst affected of the two blocks, is situated right above the subsidence. "I can fish directly into the harbour from my balcony. The water has gone under the concrete, under the flooring of the building, so it’s all hollowed underneath … the concrete block is cracked and it looks like it’s going to fall into the harbour."

Two separate structural assessments were made on Saturday, one by a North Sydney council engineer and another by an engineer contracted by Body Corporate Services, the company that manages strata for the adjoining blocks. Both engineers declared the buildings safe.

The king tides, an annual feature of Sydney summers, were expected to peak even higher last night at 2.2 metres. With more strong winds in the offing, residents were anxious.

Despite assurances that the knowledge the buildings are founded on secure bedrock, there was still room for anxiety, and a little humour, too.

Mr Foley said he phoned the engineer contracted by Body Corporate Services yesterday morning after he saw how much more land had slid into the harbour. "They told me that if the engineer had said it was safe, then there’s no need for him to come out again. But he should see it … I wish I hadn’t sold my surf ski now."

Dad’s the word on discrimination

MEN have been prevented from taking on greater responsibilities at home by the Sex Discrimination Act, the legislation designed to break down gender inequality.

A review of the legislation has found it should be overhauled to reflect the changing workplace and people’s needs for greater flexibility to allow them to meet caring responsibilities for children and aged or sick relatives.

The Federal Government is considering a three-stage overhaul of the Sex Discrimination Act as recommended by the Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee. Its chairwoman, the Labor senator Trish Crossin, said that although there was widespread support for the act, now nearly 25 years old, the suggested changes would ensure it remained "modern and relevant".

The committee heard evidence that men had found it difficult to get flexible working hours. Amending the act would make it easier for men to take action against recalcitrant employers and help speed up the process of achieving equality between men and women, the committee heard. The Productivity Commission has recommended to the Federal Government a system of paid maternity leave with some paid time off for new fathers.

But there is doubt that such a scheme will be adopted because of the Government’s concern about the slowing of the economy.

The existing legislation assumes the person seeking flexible hours is a woman.

Also among the committee’s recommendations is specifically outlawing discrimination against breastfeeding. This is now covered by the more general area of sexual discrimination. Sexual harassment and sex discrimination should also be generally outlawed, the committee recommends, because the current legislation does not cover all circumstances. For example, customers of businesses, volunteer workers and independent contractors cannot be prosecuted for sexual harassment.

The Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, was shocked to hear numerous stories of overt sexual harassment while on a recent tour of the country.

At one workshop she attended, Ms Broderick told the Herald , half the women told of being harassed in their first or second jobs. This included supermarket checkout operators being told to wear see-through blouses or women being asked for sex by their bosses.

Labor members endorsed a suggestion by the Australian Human Rights Commission that there no longer be separate pieces of legislation covering discrimination in such different areas as sex, race and disability.

Instead, they see merit in the possibility of a National Equality Act encompassing all areas.

Greater powers for the Sex Discrimination Commissioner are also recommended. These include giving the office the power to investigate complaints and initiate legal proceedings. Parents are under constant strain to balance their work and family commitments, a struggle likely to get worse as the economy slows and workers fear for their jobs.

The Federal Government promised to introduce "right to request" laws that would allow parents to have one year of unpaid leave after the birth of a child.

Parents would also then be able to request flexible work arrangements with the onus on the employer to demonstrate why such conditions would then not be possible.

Boom to bust: Rudd’s strip club hits bottom

FOR evidence that nothing is recession-proof, look no further than the imminent demise of that Manhattan landmark and one-time host to the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, the Scores strip club on Upper East Side.

Scores will not see out the year, its owners have declared, attributing its closure at least partly to the failing economy.

The economy is not entirely at fault. The Scores chain took a big hit this year when its West Side club lost its liquor licence after a police raid resulted in prostitution charges. Undercover police were offered oral sex and "more exotic acts" for $300 to $1100. Authorities are believed to be preparing to revoke the liquor licence of the more prominent East Side location as well.

Scores’s menu of nudity and sex has not always guaranteed its financial success, at least not accounting for the under-the-table cost of forking out for mafia "protection". Scores, which opened on East 60th Street in 1991, sought to trade out of bankruptcy a decade ago after making pay-offs to the Gambino crime family of $1.6 million.

An FBI probe into the extortion resulted in a prison term for John "Junior" Gotti, and the club’s original owners being admitted to a witness protection program until they, too, were jailed on fraud charges.

But until this week Scores had survived the police raids, rezoning attempts to curtail adult entertainment and the killings of a waiter and a bouncer during an early morning party in 1996, when the club was widely regarded as a Mafia hangout.

The club is still promoting its "diamond dollars", which are used in-house to buy lap dances, but the end is near, a

co-owner, Elliot Osher, has told US media.

Even if it was always on the periphery of prostitution and touched by violence, Scores managed to glamorise and even normalise tabletop dancing with a publicity campaign of gossip column sightings of celebrities.

The actors Russell Crowe, Colin Farrell and Lindsay Lohan were reported as regulars in the self-proclaimed "man’s paradise" of juicy steaks, fat cigars and naked women. George Clooney had a birthday party there. Madonna was a regular in its early days.

Rudd was introduced to this masculine fantasy by the Australian editor of the New York Post , Col Allan, in 2003. Rudd was the opposition spokesman on foreign affairs at the time. News of the visit briefly threw Labor’s election campaign last year, although Osher said Rudd left soon after realising the sort of club he was visiting.

Explaining his attendance, Rudd said he had had too much to drink when Allan suggested visiting the club. "With the benefit of hindsight, I should not have gone on for a further drink," he said.

While Rudd escaped unscathed from his brush with Scores, others who stayed longer were not so lucky.

The club has been hit with writs from customers who woke the morning after with six-figure credit card bills.

A Missouri businessman, Robert McCormick, ran up a bill of $370,000 on his corporate charge card in one drunken splurge at Scores. While he did have the help of three friends, McCormick claimed he spent a mere $30,000 and his company claimed he was a victim of fraud. American Express, which paid out on the bill, then sued McCormick for the money.

A Bangladeshi diplomat to the United Nations was recalled home after her husband, Tauhidul Chaudhury, ran up a bill of almost $200,000 at Scores East. For his money, Chaudhury bought bottles of Dom Perignon and Krug and lap dances from a harem of more than a dozen strippers. And he tipped lavishly.

That, supposedly, is an every night occurrence, according to a club spokesman who justified such hefty bills with the claim that high rollers tipped up to $15,000 for dances.

But Chaudhury regretted his generosity and sued the club over the bill, claiming it had taken advantage of his drunkenness.

Still another customer sued Scores over a bill of almost $40,000. Dozens of staff, including a barman and strippers, have also sued the club because management was allegedly raking off a percentage of their tips.

Maybe it is something about Scores’s somewhat seedy location, under the grimy steel stanchions of the Queensboro Bridge, but new owners, without the liquor licence problems confronting Scores management, are already in place to take over the site.

Australian steps down as Britain’s exams chief

RESIGNED: Ken BostonONE of Britain’s most highly paid and powerful public servants, the former NSW education chief Ken Boston, has resigned his £328,000 ($873,000)-a-year post after a chaotic round of national curriculum tests.

Dr Boston, who began his career as a teacher in Victoria and was in his sixth year at the helm of the British schools testing watchdog, announced that he believed in public officials "taking responsibility when things go wrong".

Thousands of British children aged 11 and 14 received late – or incorrect – Standard Assessment Test results this year after the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority outsourced their administration to an American company, ETS, which signed a £156 million contract for the job. The British Government sacked the company in August.

Known as SATs, the tests are given at the end of years 2, 6 and 9 and are designed to measure children’s progress in comparison with peers born in the same month. The mess led the Government to drop the tests for 14-year-olds and there has been debate about scrapping the tests for 11-year-olds.

An inquiry by Lord Sutherland was launched into the disastrous round of SATs three months ago and is widely predicted to contain serious criticisms of the authority. The report is due to be handed down in London tomorrow.

Dr Boston, 65, was instrumental in delivering many reforms to the NSW education system during the early 1990s under Dr Terry Metherell. He has headed the British authority since 2002.

He said at the weekend that the performance of ETS had been "quite unacceptable" and repeated an apology issued to the 1.2 million students who took the tests and their teachers at the end of the summer term in Britain.

Criticism of Dr Boston has been tough since the disastrous results and he has come under pressure about his salary package, which includes the use of a £1 million apartment in London’s fashionable Chelsea district as well as six business-class flights a year back to Australia. London newspapers have also made an issue of his ownership of a yacht in Sydney.

Dr Boston said in his statement: "I have reflected since the summer on the delivery failure and on the difficulties associated with key stage testing.

"I have always believed in public bodies and public officials taking responsibility when things go wrong. In the light of that reflection and that belief, and in view of the challenges facing the QCA in the coming year, I believe it would be in the authority’s interests to find new leadership."

It is not known whether Dr Boston’s resignation has been considered or accepted by the authority’s board. His contract is due to expire early next year.

Dr John Dunford, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, described Dr Boston’s resignation as a "tragedy" and praised the work he had done at the authority.