Man on waiting list with injury – again

A MARYLAND man who spent more than 18 months on unofficial waiting lists for shoulder surgery has found himself back in the same situation after sustaining a second injury.
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The Newcastle Herald first spoke to Jason Williams in 2010 after he had waited months for an appointment with a surgeon while in constant agony.

Mr Williams said he waited so long for his first surgery that much of his muscle deteriorated and the injury could not be properly repaired.

The Maryland man was injured again in late 2011 and has yet to see a surgeon, despite at least three referrals from his doctor, including one classed as urgent.

Mr Williams sustained a muscle tear in his right arm that has left his fingers numb and again in constant pain.

Following the latest referral, his case was transferred to Belmont Hospital, where staff told him in January there were people who had been waiting 350 days to see a surgeon.

‘‘I wish I had private health insurance, but I didn’t think the health system was this bad,’’ he said.

Mr Williams said he was prepared to wait for surgery but had not even been able to get in for an initial consultation.

‘‘I can’t really do much because I’m right-handed,’’ he said.

When in opposition, NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner described Mr Williams’s situation as a ‘‘waiting list for the waiting list’’, because of the one-year limit to official waiting lists.

The Newcastle Herald reported in October last year there were more than 16,000 people on the region’s outpatient waiting lists and many more on queues to join waiting lists.

Hunter New England Health said the Belmont Hospital referral was regarding Mr Williams’s first injury, which Mr Williams denies.

Following inquiries from the Newcastle Herald, acute networks operations director Todd McEwan said they had offered Mr Williams alternative options for his current injury, including seeing a surgeon as a private patient.

‘‘If surgery was required, [he] could be placed on the public hospital’s waiting list,’’ he said.

Jason Williams has waited for urgent surgery to his shoulder for more than two years.

Yancoal looks to expand

MINE subsidence of up to 3.1 metres is predicted if Chinese company Yancoal wins approval to expand its Abel underground coalmine at Black Hill.
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Yancoal wants approval to lift production at Abel from 4.5million tonnes a year to 6.1 million tonnes and to extend its operations from 2028 to 2030.

Abel began in 2008 under different owners as a bord-and-pillar mine but Yancoal wants to introduce longwall mining to cut costs and increase the amount of coal recovered.

Yancoal plans to close its adjacent Donaldson open-cut mine later this year but is also seeking approval to lift production at the nearby Tasman underground from 1million tonnes to 1.5million tonnes a year.

The Abel lease runs under Black Hill and Stockrington across 2750hectares bordered by the Hunter Expressway, John Renshaw Drive and the F3 Freeway.

An environmental assessment on display with the NSW Department of Planning says the new Abel plans would meet the mine’s ‘‘existing subsidence commitments’’.

As well as the longwalls, Yancoal is also planning narrower, 120-metre ‘‘shortwall’’ panels.

Most of the subsidence is expected to be between 300millimetres and 1.7metres but the impacts could be substantially greater where the longwall goes under the long-closed Stockrington No.2 mine.

Yancoal’s experts say this ‘‘multi-seam’’ arrangement could result in 3.1metres of surface subsidence, or about three-quarters of the combined thicknesses of the two seams.

Although this would be in an area of the mine closest to the Hunter Expressway, Yancoal says subsidence impacts on the road would be ‘‘negligible’’.

It says existing subsidence impacts – including the ‘‘apparent sag of power lines’’ between power poles and surface cracks up to 375 millimetres wide – have been dealt with under a subsidence management plan.

Yancoal says the expansion would add another 10million tonnes of run-of-mine coal production, taking the remaining output to 65million tonnes.

Employment would increase at peak from 375 to 400, with about another 20 people employed at the Bloomfield coal preparation plant, which washes the coal on contract, taking its workforce to more than 50. The Abel plans are on display until March 19.

Hey Ellen, could you lend a hand

AWARENESS: Aaron Jordan, pictured with his mum Brenda, may have the chance to meet talkshow star Ellen DeGeneres when she visits Australia next month.HE may be a man of few words but Aaron Jordan’s family guarantee the 17-year-old’s story will touch the heart of US talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.
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The Warabrook teenager suffers from a severe neurodegenerative disease known as Ataxia Telangiectasia, so rare there are only 35known ‘‘AT families’’ in Australia.

The condition is essentially like having five major disorders in one, leaving the sufferer without an immune system and about 1000times more susceptible to cancer or leukaemia.

Confined to a wheelchair since he was seven, the disease has affected Aaron’s speech and muscle growth but not his ‘‘contagious’’ smile.

‘‘There is no cure and because it is considered an ‘orphan disease’ funding and research are significantly lacking and desperately needed,’’ his mother, Brenda Jordan, told the Newcastle Herald.

In a bid to create awareness and find a celebrity to champion the disease, Mrs Jordan and Aaron’s sister Chloe posted a photograph of the teenager and some words about his battle on The Ellen DeGeneres Show’s Facebook page earlier this month.

The response floored the Jordan family, with the post receiving more than 50,000 ‘‘likes’’ from Facebook users, while thousands more sent messages of support.

Mrs Jordan said at the very least the post and photograph introduced about 50,000people to the debilitating disease.

But she hoped her son would get the chance to meet Ellen, known for her philanthropy and charity work, when she brings her show to Australia for the first time on March 15.

‘‘We realise that Ellen gets a lot of requests like this but what sets Aaron’s story apart is that his condition is so rare and very few people know anything about it,’’ Mrs Jordan said. ‘‘Also, any research that is undertaken could help with so many other diseases out there.

‘‘Everybody that knows Aaron just loves his smile and I think that’s all Ellen will need to see and she will be on board.’’

TV personality Ellen will visit Australia on March 15, and Aaron’s mum hopes he’ll be chosen to go on air.

Activist steps up dog fight

AN animal welfare activist has vowed not to rest until the owner of dangerous dogs at Mirrabooka is banned from keeping dogs.
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Callie Redman, of Macquarie Hills, is taking her case to the Ombudsman, Police Commissioner, Lake Macquarie mayor Jodie Harrison and Charlestown MP Andrew Cornwell.

She has met Cr Harrison and spoken on the phone to Mr Cornwell, who chairs the state government’s Companion Animals Taskforce.

Ms Redman said Mr Cornwell told her the council had the power to act.

‘‘He told me the council needs to go to court and seek an order for the owner to be banned from owning animals,’’ Ms Redman said.

A council statement said that councils had the ability, under state law, to recommend to a local court that it ‘‘remove a person’s right to register and own a dog, where sufficient evidence exists’’.

‘‘It is too early to speculate how this incident will proceed legally as council’s investigation is ongoing,

and police investigations continue as well,’’ it said.

The owner of the dogs said he was aware that Ms Redman had investigated dogs at his property.

‘‘She has been for a long time,’’ the owner said.

‘‘I’m not going to get into a discussion about it.’’

Cr Barry Johnston said the council should get tougher on protecting the public from dangerous dogs.

Ms Redman gave evidence to the council, RSPCA, police and state government in late 2011 and early 2012 about dangerous and allegedly mistreated dogs at the property, but the problem was not solved.

Last May, two American Staffordshire terriers from the property jumped two two-metre fences and attacked Natalie Southam, leaving her with injuries to her ear, neck and arms that required 19 stitches.

The Newcastle Herald reported last week that Lee Smith, Ms Southam’s partner, killed two vicious American Staffordshire terriers that were mauling his dog to death.

The dogs came from the same property and police are investigating the incident.

The owner of the dogs said there was more to the story.

‘‘There’s plenty to come out very shortly,’’ the owner said.

Ms Redman said the council and RSPCA should have taken action before the attacks.

She alleged dogs at the property had been ‘‘emotionally and physically abused and kept in appalling conditions’’.

The council and RSPCA have said they investi-

gated, but did not have enough evidence to act before Ms Southam was attacked.

The council did act after the attack on Ms Southam, prosecuting the dog owner and destroying the dogs.

As for the dogs that attacked Mr Smith’s dog last Tuesday, the council said they were seized and remain at the RSPCA pound, pending the completion of investigations.

Callie Redman, from Animal Liberation NSW, with her dog Lochie. Picture: Anita Jones

Student discount on travel

STUDENTS who work can legally claim a travel concession after the state government overturned rules many students flouted anyway.
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Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian announced the state government has rescinded regulations that limited 50 per cent discounts on bus and train fares to full-time, unemployed day university and TAFE students only.

Under the changes university, TAFE and private college students will now be eligible for transport concessions if they have a job or other income, attend evening classes or are undertaking postgraduate study.

The Newcastle Herald reported in 2011 travel concession rorting was widespread among students, who either mistakenly or deliberately flouted regulations preventing postgraduate or students with part-time work claiming discounts.

Many said they did not work when they applied for a concession stamp on their student card, the students’ union said at the time.

“The eligibility criteria for travel concessions have been around for many years and simply did not reflect how people live and study today,’’ Mrs Berejiklian said.

Newcastle University Students’ Association president Rose Gosper said it was great to see their campaign actually working.

■ Universities have called for more government money in their Smarter Australia policy document released yesterday.

Glyn Davis, Universities Australia chairman, said the sector wanted base funding lifted by 2.5per cent a year over the next three years.

Responding to the recommendation, University of Newcastle vice-chancellor Caroline McMillen said Australia’s public funding of universities was ranked in the bottom 20per cent of Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

Libs push for asylum crackdown

Liberal backbencher Russell Broadbent.A LIBERAL backbencher has accused his own party of vilifying asylum seekers, after Coalition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison called for special ”behaviour protocols” for those released into the community and the mandatory notification of police and residents in areas where they were housed.
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Mr Morrison said the charging of a Sri Lankan asylum seeker with the alleged indecent assault of a young woman in a Sydney university dorm ”demanded” an immediate suspension of the community release program and a review to determine new ”behavioural protocols … with clear negative sanctions for breaches”.

But Victorian Liberal backbencher Russell Broadbent said there should ”never be special categories of laws for different categories of people … the rule of law should apply to all and we should not set some people apart”.

”This kind of vilification of asylum seekers is unacceptable in this nation,” he said.

Mr Broadbent is one of a small group of backbenchers who successfully demanded the softening of asylum laws during the Howard government.

Mr Morrison said the government had ”no idea” where 8700 people released on bridging visas pending assessment of their refugee claims were living, and it was ”very reasonable” to ask why asylum seekers were not released with reporting requirements similar to offenders released on bail.

”This is a wake-up call … this case has exposed the complete absence of commonsense safeguards,” he said.

Mr Morrison said the behaviour protocols should be the ”terms and conditions of how one is expected to behave in the community”, similar to codes applying in immigration detention centres.

Service providers such as the Red Cross and accommodation services should be required to report any breaches, he said.

But the government said Mr Morrison was ”cynically exploiting an incident which is before the courts to cause fear and unrest in the community”.

A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor said people on bridging visas were required to report regularly to the Immigration Department. They were also required to provide their address and to report any move.

She said people underwent security assessments before they were released from immigration detention, although Mr Morrison claimed asylum seekers could be released before their identity had been established.

Based on 2011-12 statistics, most of the 8700 asylum seekers on bridging visas are refugees. In that year, about 90 per cent of boat arrivals were later found to be refugees.

Barrister Greg Barns, spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, said his organisation was concerned about the ”fear campaign” being run by Mr Morrison, “which implies that there are large criminal elements among asylum seekers, which is just not the case”.

Mr Barns said he had acted for many asylum seekers in the area of refugee law. ”Interactions by asylum seekers with police around Australia are few and far between,” he said, and were ”usually very low-level stuff”.

Karen Willis, the executive officer of the NSW Rape Crisis Centre, said Mr Morrison’s comments were creating unnecessary fear in the community.

She said that less than 1 per cent of sexual violence in the community occurred through so-called ”stranger danger”.


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Politics of fear commands a high price

THE opposition’s unhesitating call for a freeze on bridging visas for asylum seekers, sparked by a single case of alleged sexual assault, is not merely opportunistic, it is symptomatic of an election contest being defined in terms of western Sydney.
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It is lowest common denominator politics.

With the Prime Minister about to spend next week immersed in the supposedly deeper concerns of outer-suburban voters, the opposition’s deft conflation of public anxiety about crime and safety and overcrowding on the one hand, and border security on the other, is unmistakable.

The assault case and the impending but unrelated prime-ministerial campaign visit provides a convenient moment to suggest that Labor’s soft border security policies are adding to overcrowding and to declining public safety.

To that extent, the emergence of the issue at this time is a political gift for Tony Abbott and his hard-line immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison. But like any gift, someone’s had to pay up somewhere.

In this case, it will be the thousands of asylum seekers who have broken no law and who are determined to be legitimate refugees. Nine out of every 10 applicants processed have been found to have a sound case for resettlement.

There is some logic to Morrison’s call for more information about the placement of people on bridging visas given, as he says, they have had only preliminary security assessments at this stage.

He points out, for example, that if their addresses are not known by authorities, they are not able to be provided with adequate support services, leaving them vulnerable.

But of course the dominant

message for people in the target audience – those fearing that our borders are being overrun and so forth – is be afraid and be angry.

The actual matter before the courts involves a serious sexual assault charge against a 20-year-old Sri Lankan, who is on a bridging visa. The incident took place in Macquarie University’s student accommodation and, while there are some 55 bridging visa holders temporarily domiciled there, the defendant in this case was not one of them.

Yet on the basis of this case alone, the opposition has called for a freeze on releasing people who arrive by boat into the community and for a series of measures including behavioural protocols to apply if the community release program is restarted.

People in the community should be told when they are placed, and police and others informed, he says. Why exactly?

Is there evidence that the arrangements to date have detracted from public safety? Would security checks have stopped the alleged sexual assault incident from happening? Of course not.

Labor’s response has been muted, which tells you all you need to know about the potential for ongoing demonisation in an election defined by appeals to the lower aspects of the electoral character.

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Reveal full diary, PM urged

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama, does it; British Prime Minister David Cameron and his ministers do it; and Queensland Premier Campbell Newman plans to do it.
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Now the Australian Information Commissioner, John McMillan, has recommended that Prime Minister Julia Gillard also release a version of her official meeting diary, so people can see who is gaining access to the ear of our most powerful person.

”There is undeniably a strong public interest in knowing what ministers are doing officially and who they are meeting or addressing,” the commissioner said in a decision issued in response to a Fairfax Media request under the Freedom of Information Act.

While there was no legal requirement for Ms Gillard to do so, the commissioner said such an approach ”was implicitly encouraged by the FOI Act”.

Professor McMillan noted that Ms Gillard publishes a limited ”public schedule” but said other governments including the British government and that of Mr Newman had gone much further.

A lawyer, Peter Timmins, said the release of information about meetings between leaders and those seeking to influence them was increasingly part of contemporary tools to ensure accountability of government.

”Yet in Australia we have seen resistance to it,” he said.

Mr McMillan ruled against Fairfax on its specific FOI request for one month of the Prime Minister’s diaries on the grounds it would involve too much work for her office. Fairfax made that request in 2010.

It asked for all personal entries and meetings with constituents to be excluded because the FOI Act covers only information relating to activities as a minister.

Ms Gillard’s office responded that the request covered 40 pages and included about 500 entries, which had to be assessed. It estimated that it would take about 163 hours or more than four weeks to process. The commissioner agreed this was too time consuming.

A separate application by a Liberal MP, Paul Fletcher, seeking diary entries relating to meetings between the Prime Minister and the Greens and independent MPs Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, was successful.

A spokesman for Ms Gillard said she already publishes a detailed diary on her official website (www.pm.gov.au/your-pm/public-schedule). However, the schedule includes only her official public engagements, caucus, question time and cabinet. It does not disclose meetings she has with stakeholders.

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Professor Palmer’s ship comes in

NEW YORK: Australian billionaire Clive Palmer revealed his grand design plans to build a modern-day replica of the doomed Titanic, confirming the cruise liner would make its maiden voyage in 2016.
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At a press conference in New York on Tuesday, and following a rendition of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On, Mr Palmer told the world’s media construction of the 835-cabin ship would begin in China later this year.

The billionaire, who used the honorific ”Professor”, awarded by Bond University in 2008, for the announcement, said 40,000 people had already registered for tickets on the first voyage, which will retrace the fateful 1912 trip from Southampton to New York, in which more than 1500 passengers and crew died.

Among those interested were 16 who were willing to pay between $750,000 and $1 million for a spot.

Refusing to divulge the cost of Titanic II (”I have enough money to pay for it, so that’s all that really matters”), the 58-year-old said it was not about money but recreating the romance and memories of a bygone era – minus the iceberg.

Passengers aboard the 10-deck ship will be provided with 1912-style outfits to wear during their holiday and there will be no phone or television – and he was debating about internet access.

Titanic II will have Turkish baths, a smoking room, casino, theatre and hospital. Key differences to the original include a high-tech engine, airconditioning and a safety deck with more lifeboats (including 18 covered motorised lifeboats).

As with the original, there would be first, second and third classes and they would not be allowed to mingle. Mr Palmer said he would be travelling third class, dressed in a wig and 1912 garb.

”I like Irish stew and potatoes … . I’m looking forward to banging the drums, playing the fiddle and getting dizzy as I twirl around like Leonardo did in the movie,” Mr Palmer said, referring to the 1997 blockbuster, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio.

At the press conference, Mr Palmer provided Helen Benziger, of Wyoming, whose great-grandmother survived the 1912 disaster, the chance to speak. She said she was ”thrilled” about the project ”because the professor has assured me he will honour those passengers that perished and survived”.

Mr Palmer said Titanic II would be the safest cruise ship in the world but, when asked if it would be unsinkable, he said: ”It’s very cavalier to say that. I think people have said that in the past and lived to regret it.”

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Stoppard in name of love

Benedict Cumberbatch and Adelaide Clemens star as the love-struck leads in the TV adaptation of the novel Parade’s End.SUSANNA White, producer of Generation Kill, and Sir Tom Stoppard, author of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, make a most unlikely partnership.
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And yet in fusing the two together the last thing you would expect them to deliver is a period drama such as Parade’s End.

Adapted from the novel by Ford Madox Ford, it is a sweeping period saga, spanning seven bodice-ripping, war-torn years from 1912 to 1918, with a flashback to 1908 thrown in for good measure.

Think Downton Abbey with the fate of the free world at stake.

While the narrative is propelled by the events of the First World War, Parade’s End is more of a bitter-sweet love story focusing on the world of the aristocratic Christopher Tietjens (Benedict Cumberbatch).

He is trapped in an unhappy marriage to Sylvia (Rebecca Hall), while being drawn to a woman he quickly realises he is deeply in love with, the outspoken, system-bucking Valentine Wannop (Adelaide Clemens).

White describes Ford Madox Ford’s original novel as a natural for screen adaptation because of its extremely visual style. ”His grandfather was Ford Madox Brown the painter, and he was married to two painters, so he is very visual as a writer,” she says.

”He was a modernist, he edited Conrad and he knew Joyce, he knew Virginia Woolf. He was very stimulated by that whole modernist world. And the more I read, the more I started to see all these painting references in his work. That’s very much the look we’ve gone for with the television adaptation.”

Enter Sir Tom Stoppard, who was asked to write the adaptation by Damien Timmer, whose production company Mammoth Screen made the series. Timmer paired Stoppard with White, whose credits include the edgy HBO war drama Generation Kill.

”The responsibility is directing a huge piece of work by Tom,” White says, smiling. ”He’s one of the world’s greatest writers. But you can’t think too much about that or you’ll go mad. So you just get on with it.”

It’s an unlikely partnership, she admits, but one that has been a thrilling ride. ”What always attracts me to a piece of work is storytelling, and I love Tom’s voice, in his plays, and in Shakespeare in Love,” she says.

”People find me unusual because I like having a writer on my set. I would be silly not to have Tom on my set, because he’s a tremendous resource.”

And what a set it is. Borrekens Castle is standing in for the Tietjens family home. It sits in the middle of a dense woodland just north-east of the small Belgian town of Vorselaar.

The five-hour series was filmed at several locations in Britain including the Kent and North Yorkshire countryside, and in several locations in Belgium, notably Aalter, Nieuwpoort and Veurne.

White, who is producing and directing the series for the BBC, HBO and a third co-production partner, the Belgian network VRT, says the length and intensity of the location filming was difficult.

”For the first time I walked onto a set I’d never seen before because we literally had a ticking clock,” she says. ”I had to hold my nerve and remember I have a great team around me.”

The scale is epic. Particularly because part of the story is shaped by the events of the First World War. But White doesn’t define Parade’s End as a war drama. Far from it. She sees it as a love story.

”I think Tom has filleted this very complicated novel and at the heart of our piece of work is a love triangle, and I think a changing portrait of Britain, with all these women trapped in their gilded cages at the beginning.

”In the 10-year span of Parade’s End we see [that] the world changes and all the values that Christopher stood for are blown apart by the events of the war, just as people were physically blown apart by mechanised war. In that sense, the war serves as something of a catalyst, for the changing of people and the changing of the values of society.”

In the middle of this set we find Clemens, the 22-year-old Australian actor who was plucked from the crowd to bring Valentine to life. Clemens secured the role after being told the producers wanted an English actor. ”In the end I sent an email and I said I can’t put this to rest, can I have 15 minutes of your time; 15 minutes became three and a half hours and here I am,” she says.

Clemens is best known to Australian audiences as Harper in John Edwards’ critically acclaimed pay TV drama Love My Way. She says the apprenticeship served her well. ”The John Edwards dramas have such an authenticity to them, the characters are so multifaceted, and they’re these kind of very everyday scenarios that are so real they’re overwhelming,” she says.

”That experience, those actors, they all swept me off my feet. I feel the exact way being here with Benedict [Cumberbatch], Rebecca Hall, Stephen Graham and Anne-Marie Duff. It’s amazing.”

Clemens describes Valentine as a woman ahead of her time. ”She has incredible morals, but she’s seen the world, she’s been into London, been a part of the suffragette movement.”

In a sense, she is destined to become Christopher’s mistress, but Clemens loved the moral absolutism of the relationship. ”They’ve done nothing to damage Sylvia and Christopher’s relationship. If they could turn off the switch and not be in love that would be great, but they can’t.”

It isn’t long before Clemens is called back to filming, and the master himself appears – Sir Tom Stoppard, playwright and great thinker, an unlikely presence on a TV set, largely because he seems so serious.

He agreed to take on Parade’s End because he loved the book. ”But it’s more than a war story,” Stoppard says. ”And it’s more than a love story. It’s about the loss of idealism, about life in the upper echelon of London society but most of all it’s about the individuals, all of whom are interesting in different ways.”

Stoppard wrote his adaptation by hand, trying to assemble a story told (in the novel) out of linear sequence into one that made chronological sense. ”I don’t think you should begin until you are saturated and immersed in it and reading it isn’t quite enough,” he says. ”It’s built like a Russian doll.”

This is his first live TV set and he seems rather pleased with the experience. Very often, he says, he is surprised when an actor interprets a line in an unexpected way. ”It makes me feel like I have a very conventional mind.”

Sir Tom Stoppard, television producer? ”This is not typical,” he insists. ”I have never ever been to a set in my life. It’s ruining my life. I am supposed to be writing a play because I haven’t written one in a while,” he says, laughing. ”What am I doing here?”

Parade’s End premieres on Wednesday at 8.30pm on Channel Nine.

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