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Injuries, judiciary put Manly in strife

October 10th, 2018 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

Crunch … Bulldog Josh Jackson is slammed in Friday’s game against Manly.JAMIE LYON believes Manly can still mount a title defence even if a calf injury rules him out of Friday’s elimination final at Allianz Stadium.
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Injuries and probable suspensions are sure to test the Sea Eagles’ depth after a brutal loss to Canterbury at ANZ Stadium on Friday night. The fallout from the opening night of the play-offs include:

❏ A calf injury that forced Lyon off in the first half;

❏ Co-captain Jason King being placed on report for a high shot on Aiden Tolman;

❏ Steve Matai also being placed on report, for clocking Kiwi counterpart Sam Perrett high;

❏ Joe Galuvao in doubt with a calf injury;

❏ An injury cloud over forward Tony Williams following reports he hyperextended a knee.

Lyon limped off after just 25 minutes, forcing NSW utility Jamie Buhrer to cover for him in the centres.

”Not sure – hopefully it settles down well and we’ll see how it is,” Lyon said of his chances of playing this week. ”I was just going to sprint off and felt something go. I would have rather have been out there but these things happen. Hopefully it’s not too bad … Definitely, it’s not the best. We’ve got to grin and bear it, and hopefully the [scan] results are good.”

Asked if the premiers could rebound with so many stars in doubt, the former NSW and Australian representative said: ”It’s going to be tough but we’ll still field a strong team. We’ll come out firing next Friday and hopefully we’ll put in a good performance.”

The Sea Eagles face the prospect of having both their centres ruled out, meaning Buhrer will probably take one of the spots.

”I think he did a good job tonight and if he gets that opportunity next week I’m sure he’ll be able to handle it,” Lyon said. ”We’ll just have to wait and see how many troops we’ve got next week.”

Perrett has no memory of the Matai incident – and large patches of the game – that left him with a sore jaw. ”To be honest, I don’t remember a whole lot,” he said. ”I copped a whack in the head. I just can’t remember patches. I’ve got a sore jaw. I guess he got me somewhere there … I guess I was on autopilot.

”I felt fine, but just memory-wise I just had glimpses of the game, pictures and bits and pieces.”

Asked if Matai deserved to be suspended, he replied: ”He got put on report? I don’t know, I’d have to see it. It’s never nice anyone getting suspended but I guess I’d have to see it.”

Matai has 46 carry-over points and a 70 per cent loading from two previous charges, meaning a grade-one charge will rule him out for two weeks.

”It was a tough, physical game,” he said on the Manly website. ”It didn’t look too bad to me.”

Galuvao hopes for a swift recovery, saying: ”I’m pretty confident I’ll be out there next week. I think I’m just more old than anything. I got a sore calf as well and they took me off for precautionary reasons. I’ve got scans on Monday.

”I’m not ruling myself out. We’re all professional players and need to do what we do, do the rehab.”

Manly came into the match as premiership favourites but the Bulldogs now have that mantle, firming into $3. After defeating Des Hasler’s former team, his side enjoys a two-week break and is one victory away from a grand final appearance.

However, the Sea Eagles, who will need to win three on the trot, are not discounting their chances of becoming the first team since the 1992-93 Brisbane Broncos outfits to go back to back in a unified competition. ”We’ve faced adversity like this all year,” Galuvao said. ”We’ll get in on Monday and prepare as normal. All the boys are mentally tough and it’s what we’re known for.”

Tolman, who was awarded man-of-the-match honours, did not want to be drawn on the hit by King.

”Not too much,” he said of his recollections. I was a little bit dazed but that’s just part of the game. To be honest, it doesn’t really bother me. The judiciary is there to handle that sort of stuff.”

Twitter – @proshenks

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Mulloway answer is obvious

October 10th, 2018 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

There’s something seriously wrong when our fisheries managers call for public submissions to help save the mulloway (aka jewfish) while letting commercial fishers take big breeding specimens in their nets.
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We’ve campaigned here before, but the beach-haul fishery on the north coast supposedly chasing sea mullet nets an awful lot of mature 20-30 kilogram female jewfish.

Boxes upon boxes of the fish are put through the fish co-operatives every year. The bycatch of beach-haul netters, some 500 kilograms allowed to each fisher annually, seems to be the target instead.

Meanwhile, you can see hundreds more dead juvenile jewfish floating on the surface after their prawn trawlers empty their nets around estuary mouths.

More than once I’ve seen a stream of dead jewfish float past on the Hawkesbury. These fish aren’t counted in the catch rates.

I’ve also watched a local pro pick boxes of school jewfish out of his gill net while moored at Brooklyn. Anglers, on the other hand, are allowed to keep only two fish over 70 centimetres in length and no more than five over 45 centimetres. To catch a big jewfish is no mean feat. It’s a measure of great skill and a pinnacle of one’s fishing career.

The Department of Primary Industries concedes that mulloway have been overfished and a recovery program is required to help rebuild the population to a sustainable level.

It’s asking anglers to have their say on mulloway. Doubtless we will be restricted some more, but what the DPI needs to do is look at unsustainable commercial fishing practices instead. The mulloway recovery web page links from fisheries.nsw.gov.au.

Our central coast stringer Scott Thorrington has been taking more big kingfish on the deep reefs on jigs and live baits. Line-snipping leatherjackets hunting in packs are proving costly, however.

Colleague Paul Minto was scoring snapper, morwong and flathead out wide before the wind came up. Reef fishing has been pretty good all the way south to the Hump near Stanwell Park. Aussie salmon schools are around the headlands and beaches, while big black drummer are patrolling the washes. Bread berley and bait will be their undoing. We also hear of a good early run of lobsters on the kelp beds.

Hawkesbury reports are rare, but there’s generally more talk of flathead and flounder in most estuaries. That said, it’s the luderick that is omnipresent, with some real thumpers about.

As if to prove as much, Harbour guide Stuart Reid had a cracker week on the luderick around the mouth of Middle Harbour and at Sow and Pigs. Middle Head is a better option for land-based anglers.

Rippling schools of Aussie salmon have been parked between The Heads, especially midweek, while trevally are holding in the deeper holes, including those in Botany Bay.

There have been some big whiting mooching around Manly and doubtless other harbour beaches.

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Religion, according to Law

August 8th, 2018 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

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.
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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南京夜网.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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Ex-ombudsman attacks funding

May 9th, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

THE former Commonwealth ombudsman Allan Asher has attacked the federal government for paying lip service to the watchdog and hobbling its ability to investigate the immigration system through a lack of funding.
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In a speech to the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Mr Asher, pictured, described himself as a ”former immigration ombudsman who mistakenly believed that the government was genuine in its commitment to the compassionate and tolerant treatment of asylum seekers”.

He accused politicians of giving inadequate support to the ombudsman’s office.

”Most particularly, relevant ministers were, at times, resistant and resentful of the work undertaken by the ombudsman whenever criticisms were made of the administration of aspects of asylum policy,” he said.

He was particularly critical of a lack of funding for the office. ”Despite funding extra resources for almost every other aspect of management of asylum policies … no new resources could be found to support the impossible workload of the office for the ombudsman,” he said.

Mr Asher was forced to resign last year after he prepared questions for Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young to ask about his office in Senate budget estimates hearings.

He has recently appeared in the SBS television series Go Back to Where You Came From.

He said he believed the office of the ombudsman – which is supposed to conduct six-monthly reviews of asylum seeker cases – was hamstrung.

”The Immigration Ombudsman has the legal powers, experience and skills to play a significant role in maintenance and management of the human rights of asylum seekers,” he said. ”Nonetheless, without the active support of the executive or the Parliament, the role will continue to fall short of its potential.”

A spokesman for the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, said the government was open and accountable.

Funding for the ombudsman’s office went from $12,495,000 in 2005-06 to $22,472,000 in 2010-11, the spokesman said. But the office was forced to cut 10 per cent of its staff this year owing to financial pressures.

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AUSTRALIAN wool growers are being ”ripped off” an estimated $64 million a year by counterfeit inferior products marked with the globally recognised Woolmark label.
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Australian Wool Innovation, which owns the trademark and licenses its use, has been involved in 44 counterfeit cases this year compared with 12 in 2010. Two have been in court this year, and legal action has been taken in 12 more disputes.

AWI has found that most infringements are in China and southern Europe.

In recent years it has invested heavily in promoting the label, which guarantees the Australian wool is high quality. It has commissioned the Australian photographer Anne Geddes, world-renowned for her pictures of babies, to photograph them nestling in cradles of wool.

And now the body is fighting back against counterfeit products with the introduction of high-tech identification labels – Near Field Communication – that use chips that can be identified by a smartphone app. The chip is usually on the washing instructions label. Washing labels on some products will also be marked with nano markers, dots the diameter of a human hair that show a Woolmark hologram through a magnifying glass.

AWI’s chief executive, Stuart McCullough, said: ”We know we are getting ripped off and we know that our brand is being used out there illegally. In one court case won by the AWI a company had even painted the logo on the front of its building. It’s not like they were putting it on a handkerchief.

”We are very touchy about it because in the ’90s every physical asset the Australian wool industry had was sold. The Woolmark is one of the few we have left; it is a wonderful asset and it is certainly worth protecting and we will protect it vigorously.”

In January a Queensland manufacturer, Gold Coast Wool, had to pay a $6600 penalty for contravening consumer laws. Tests found wool doonas and underlays sold mainly to Asian tourists contained 42 per cent polyester. The Woolmark logo was falsely used.

Global wool retail apparel sales equate to about $80 billion a year. It is estimated that 8 per cent of this is marked with the Woolmark logo. The AWI says about 1 per cent of that ($64 million a year) involves counterfeit and illegal use of the logo.

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Jeremy Holcombe cannot sleep. He cannot work, he cannot relax and he is obsessed with bad news. He was hospitalised with panic attacks on the third anniversary of his son Elijah’s death in June this year.
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The physical manifestation of his grief continues, unabated.

Then came the letter from prosecutors late last month, indicating they would not be pursing the police officer who shot the mentally ill Elijah Holcombe for murder or manslaughter, despite a coroner’s view that such charges could be proffered.

For Mr Holcombe, this was just another heart-wrenching chapter in the tragic saga – as another is only just beginning. Mr Holcombe and his late wife’s estate have launched civil action against the State of NSW, claiming the Holcombes have suffered greatly from the ”unlawful” and ”negligent” conduct of Senior Constable Andrew Rich and his employer, the NSW Police Force.

In particular, they claim he did not heed warnings about Elijah’s mental illness and was not justified in shooting the man who health workers simply wanted to be returned to hospital for treatment.

Documents filed with the NSW District Court outline the repeated alerts issued over the police system warning officers searching for the 24-year-old that he ”suffers from mental health issues and is extremely frightened of police – use caution when dealing with – concerns he will run”.

Just hours earlier, Elijah had presented at Armidale police station to return his father’s car, which he had used to flee his parents’ home in Narrabri, and requested hospital treatment. He was taken to Armidale Hospital where nurses expressed concerns for his mental state, but as a voluntary patient he could leave whenever he pleased. He did – but worried health workers asked police to help find him and bring him back, so alerts were issued asking patrol officers to keep an eye out.

About 4pm that day he was spotted, and an officer began a pursuit, chasing Elijah through a mall, a cafe and then into a laneway. Senior Constable Rich called out to Elijah: ”Stop or I will shoot.”

Armed with a bread knife grabbed in the cafe, but still at least eight metres from the officer, Elijah turned to face Senior Constable Rich and was fatally shot with a single bullet.

”Elijah died because of the unlawful and negligent conduct of [the officer],” the Holcombes argue in their negligence suit. ”There is no reasonable possibility that [the officer’s] response was a reasonable response to the circumstances as he perceived them … [He] was not acting in self-defence … at the time of the shooting, [the officer] knew or ought to have known that Elijah had not committed or was not committing an offence which warranted the use of lethal force.”

Police said they could not comment on the case because it is before court.

Jeremy Holcombe told The Sun-Herald he wished no ill on anyone involved in Elijah’s death but hoped at least a civil court could adjudicate on what occurred.

His solicitor, David Sweeney, added: ”People often get relief when there’s recognition of their injustices.”

The State Coroner, Mary Jerram, shut down the inquest into Elijah’s death in October 2010, referring the case to the DPP for consideration of charges. The case will now return to her at a date in the future, while the civil case returns to court later this month.

The Holcombes’ criminal solicitor, Philip Stewart, told the The Sun-Herald he had urged the coroner to resume the inquest, taking evidence from the remaining listed witnesses.

”One would hope that the police have the fortitude to allow themselves to be questioned,” he said.

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Brad to the bone

May 9th, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

The films that brought Brad Pitt global star power, in an almost cult-like way, Fight Club and Se7en and, before that, Thelma and Louise, are long gone. Never mind that he’s closing in on 50 (well, he’s 49 in December), Pitt retains the kind of incandescent star power that outshines everyone else in the room. Rarer still is a bona fide movie star who talks candidly about what he does with his kids on his days off, or what hour he got to bed last night.
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I’m speaking to Pitt for other reasons, though. His friend Andrew Dominik, the New Zealand-born Australian director of cult hit Chopper, has a new film to promote, the dense pulp thriller Killing Them Softly, which Pitt’s company Plan B has produced. Just as he does with the Jolie-Pitt Foundation – a humanitarian aid organisation he set up with his fiancee, Angelina Jolie – Pitt is using his clout to ensure the kind of films that made him a superstar continue to see the light of day.

”I want to make a movie that says something about our time, that’s relevant,” Pitt says of Dominik’s movie, which had its world premiere at Cannes in May. ”Not necessarily about current affairs, but who we are as people. I want to work with filmmakers that I respect [as well]. It’s a collaborative sport. I want to make sure I’m in good hands if I’m gonna do something that takes me away from home.”

Pitt and Dominik, 44, became firm friends after their previous film, 2007’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, drew critical praise – although it failed to deliver at the box office.

The pair share a keen interest in original storytelling. ”I choose by feel, that inexplicable feeling: something new, something different,” Pitt says of his often unpredictable career choices, which range from playing a frenzied hobo in Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, to a hilarious Irish gypsy in Guy Ritchie’s Snatch, to a cool, calculating hitman in Killing Them Softly.

”Andrew has become a great friend of mine and Jesse James remains one of my personal favourites. I thought he made one of the best movies that I’ve been a part of – and he was really struggling to get something made.

”So when he came up with this idea, then I fit into it, I was thrilled. I knew immediately.”

Killing Them Softly, which co-stars Ray Liotta and Australia’s Ben Mendelsohn, among others, is set in an apocalyptic America, at the time of the 2008 US presidential election (its timing to this year’s race is coincidental, Pitt insists). Lashings of black humour abound, in a violent, unpredictable picture of a robbery gone wrong. It drew widespread praise upon its unveiling at Cannes.

”It’s a violent world we live in,” Pitt reasons, when pressed on the film’s brutality (the title refers to Pitt’s character’s preference to take out his targets from a distance). ”One of the many things you try to impart to your kids is to prepare them for life on their own and respect for the world at large… The film’s also a metaphor for business: business can be Darwinian, very cut-throat. The killings are metaphorical in that way, for me. It’s not a nihilistic violence, either. There is some care and thought for the [victim] to try and make it comfortable for them. It’s just an unfortunate part of their business.”

These days, Pitt is careful with his career choices. Working with Jolie, for instance, is not on the agenda, although he will happily take turns at staying home with their extended family. (”I worked a lot last year. This year, mum’s working a lot. So I get to be dad.”) He also has another project under way with Dominik, as a producer of a left-of-centre film about screen icon Marilyn Monroe. There’s also a cameo due in Steve ”Shame” McQueen’s next film.

The Missouri-raised Pitt, who famously dropped out of college to chase his film-star dream, remains as enthused as ever by the medium, in an industry that he can now command, seemingly at will, to play ball. ”Films always made me curious,” he says. ”[They] made me want to get out and travel and meet people who react differently about things than I do, who have a different point of view.

”I have a distinct memory of seeing Saturday Night Fever, an R-rated movie. [I was fascinated by] this New York family, the idea of a boisterous, gregarious family who are hitting each other, yelling at each other. They seemed ferocious, but there was a lot of love in it. I just remember seeing that, and being really affected by it.”

Killing Them Softly is in cinemas from October 11.

Twitter @EdGibbs

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IN THE 30 years or so that I’ve been running businesses, I’ve noticed that consumer sentiment is not only powerful but it is often created by a cultural environment rather than what is actually happening in folks’ lives.
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It seems that many people get pulled along with the general vibe instead of forming their own views.

This can work in favour of over-exuberance or it can create gloom. So positive sentiment can encourage thousands of amateur investors to buy “dotcom” stocks at highly inflated prices, or negative emotion can undercut a stock market, so that even 10 quarters of good results fail to impress investors.

We’re currently in one of the negative phases where the headlines are filled with pessimistic stories and we’re more than happy to absorb the sentiment, make it our own.

But there’s another way to treat the “bad” economic news and that is to see a free market economy as something that moves in cycles, which forces the constant revision and reinvention of just about everything.

An example I’ve been watching closely has been the financial troubles of the Darrell Lea chocolate and lolly brand, which has been in administration. I don’t want to give the impression that a business being unable to pay its bills and having to let go of 418 people is a good thing. But there is a positive to the story, and that is that the system works well enough for a new owner to step in and buy Darrell Lea and reinvent what that business does.

The buyer, VIP pet food owner Tony Quinn, told a Brisbane newspaper: “Let’s have some fun. Let’s fix this thing.” That’s the reinvention effect of our economic system – that’s a business brain that knows how to see the positives in a negative.

The signs of positives defying the negative are all around us.

Yes, Kodak went out of business, but other companies have reinvented personal photography, ensuring we can all afford a good camera and that we can choose which pictures we want printed. And Australian steel-making may be under pressure, but there was OneSteel, quietly making itself a miner of iron ore, not letting itself be forced into irrelevance.

Australian business owners and householders can train themselves to think this way as well – it isn’t just the domain of the entrepreneurs and the professional managers.

If you own a business that has slack sales, there is a way forward: you just haven’t found it yet. It may be as simple as rethinking what you sell, what you make, how you present yourself.

It’s the same in households. What might be an uncertain economic system in some people’s minds is actually flexibility for another person. The ability to up-skill, find another job, reinvent yourself as a different proposition to an employer, has never been better. You just have to start by seeing opportunity rather than doom.

Take the uncertainty created by the European crisis and the US slowdown. It has played on our minds and held back our own economy. But one of the benefits has been a cash rate which – at 3.5 per cent – is in the lowest range of the past 20 years.

Don’t be tempted to whine when you have interest rates like this – ask any baby boomer, who was paying 19 per cent on their first mortgage.

There are many people suffering right now, but to those who are not – but are thinking negatively, anyway – have a look behind some of the negative economic stories, see where you really sit. Inflation ran at about 1.2 per cent for the year to June, and the wage price index was sitting at 3.6 per cent. So wages are increasing at a greater rate than inflation is acting on the price of general goods and services.

That isn’t bad, especially taken with a low unemployment rate of 5.2 per cent in July. It doesn’t look exactly gloomy when compared with the US at 8.3 per cent, or the EU at 10.4 per cent unemployment in July.

And in a country where we all need a car, they are more affordable than they’ve been for a long time. The Allianz company’s research showed that a Ford Falcon in 1960 cost a man 60 weeks’ pay while in 2012 it cost 30 weeks’ average male pay.

The economy will cause more businesses to close or to contract – there’s nothing we can do about that. But the important part is what happens next, who sees it differently? And in your own life, are you keeping your eyes open, preparing yourself for what happens next?

A market economy always provides the chance to start again. What’s your reinvention?

Mark Bouris is executive chairman of Yellow Brick Road Wealth Management, ybr南京夜网.au. Follow Mark on Twitter at @markbouris.

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From a host of worthy contenders, the stars of the banking sector have been revealed with the judges delivering their verdicts on the top performers in the financial sector.

This year’s Financial Review Smart Investor Blue Ribbon awards brought together the top performers in funds management, banking and insurance during the past year.

The best banking products are an important part of the annual awards and, for the third year in a row, Bankwest took out bank of the year, the major prize for lenders. It got the gong again thanks to the consistently good service it offers to customers across a range of areas.

The major awards went to Heritage Bank for mutual bank of the year, while Newcastle Permanent won the best building society. Rounding out the top awards were CUA for credit union of the year and UBank for best direct institution.

HOME-LOAN HEROES

Variable interest-rate loans remain the mortgages of choice for many borrowers who have benefited from lower rates in recent years.

That gives savvy borrowers the chance to get debt-free faster, by keeping their repayments at the same level.

NAB’s online subsidiary, UBank, took out the Smart Investor Blue Ribbon Award for its variable home loan on the back of no fees, unlimited fee-free redraws and a relatively low interest rate.

Fixed home loans provide certainty in that you can plan your repayments. V Plus Home Loans was successful in the fixed-loan category. The judges, from research service InfoChoice, found it consistently offered competitive fixed rates for terms up to five years. V Plus was also successful in the basic home-loan award.

The category recognises the fact some homebuyers do not want a mortgage loaded with features. Instead, they are looking for a no-frills product to service their needs.

What appealed to the judges about V Plus’s basic loan is its ability to offer a competitive product in terms of rates and fees. They claimed it had the lowest overall costs in the category.

PLASTIC FANTASTIC

When it comes to credit cards, the low-rate category was won by the Community First Credit Union. Its Visa credit card was successful through providing a low market rate, low annual fee and 55 interest-free days. That put it out in front for the judges in a competitive market.

But not every consumer wants a no-frills card in their wallet. The Commonwealth Bank launched its Diamond Awards program towards the end of 2010, and this year it was awarded a Blue Ribbon.

What struck the judges was its combination of generous features and rewards. The fact the rewards were slanted towards items that are sought by consumers was a telling factor in its high ranking.

Many financial institutions try to lure customers by offering a better deal than they might be getting from their present credit provider. ANZ and its First Visa product won the balance transfer credit card award due to a low 12-month balance transfer offer and annual fee.

That combination should help consumers looking to lower their credit card debt, InfoChoice says.

CASH CLUB

With interest rates falling, many investors have been worried by declining returns from their term deposits. But there are still good products in the market that offer reasonable short and longer-term interest rates.

Citibank won the Blue Ribbon award for best term deposit for periods between 30 days and 270 days. In the 360-day-plus category, the top product came from RaboDirect, which caters for both small and large investors.

CommSec Investment Account won the best cash management award. Judges were impressed that it gives investors a high interest rate but with no monthly fee.

Deeming accounts cater to people who are older than 55 and on a pension. People’s Choice Credit Union was assessed as the top product owing to an absence of account fees and a competitive interest rate.

NAB and its online subsidiary, UBank, had a good run in other deposit-related categories. NAB’s Classic Banking offering won the personal transaction account because it offers a long list of features without a monthly account-keeping fee.

UBank was successful in both the online and overall savings account awards. Its USaver product helps many investors save while at the same time offering flexibility and secure access options.

For full details of Blue Ribbon award-winners, including the top insurance and investment products, see the October issue of AFR Smart Investor magazine, on sale now.

Best money managers

MANY of the award winners in the funds-management industry not only had good recent performances, but could point to an established business approach that had produced success over many years.

Vanguard Australia took out the award for fund manager of the year due to its solid performance across various categories, as judged in co-operation with Morningstar.

Eligible retail funds must have Morningstar analyst ratings of gold, silver or bronze, high Morningstar star ratings representing a strong historical risk-adjusted performance, and they must have performed well over the year to May 31, 2012.

The managing director of Vanguard, John James, says it’s not its style to predict what is happening in the next few months in the markets. Instead, the fund manager has a deep commitment to its index approach, which means it tries to at least match the results generated by the various markets it tracks.

So if the All Ords rises 5 per cent one year, an index manager such as Vanguard will try to provide a similar return. But James says while that might sound straightforward, it requires years of discipline to implement effectively.

Vanguard focuses on providing good returns over time while keeping costs under control, he says.

Other fund managers to figure prominently in this year’s fund manager and investment categories were Russell, BT, Macquarie, Sandhurst Investors Mutual, Hyperion, Pimco EQT, SG Hiscock, Blackrock and Magellan.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

I’m 55 next year and my partner will turn 55 this year. Both of us are permanent part-timers; I earn $60,000 a year and my partner $80,000. No kids and no debt. We own our home, plus $70,000 in shares intended for overseas trips when we retire. Our credit card at any given time can owe between $5000 and $10,000, which we pay off as quickly as possible. We live in an inner-city home, valued at $1 million, and intend to stay there for at least the next five years. My defined benefit (DB) super plan is worth $500,000 (Bank A staff super) and my partner’s is worth $130,000 (Bank B staff super). Not many planners have really explained the defined benefits plan. For our $3000 cost, all we get is a lovely 20-page booklet with little info in it and a few pages of info we have supplied them. Anyway, we have been advised we can, at age 55, get a part annuity from our DB super while still working. Is this true? We aim to reduce work to two or three days a week when 55 and start to draw on our super. I can get an income of about $30,000 a year from my super and my partner $28,000. What to do? S.D.
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It sounds wonderful to be able to draw on your super at 55 and retire young, or at least cut your working hours, but there can be so many negatives down the track I generally advise against it for all but the rich.

To begin with, you are together bringing in about $108,000 after tax and not saving much, from what you disclose, so your living costs seem quite high.

If, as you are considering, you retire on $58,000 a year, then, when you cease part-time work, your living standards will be roughly halved, although there is likely to be some topping up of your benefits when you finally retire.

Remember that until you turn 60, the taxable component of a super pension is taxed as salary, although with a 15 per cent tax offset – so if in the 32.5 per cent tax bracket, you end up paying 17.5 per cent tax.

I generally recommend against transition to retirement (TTR) pensions until turning 60. Instead, let’s say you want to retire on 75 per cent of pre-retirement income or $81,000 a year, indexed, which would be a healthy retirement income even though it requires a 25 per cent drop in living standards from your present lifestyle.

Let’s further assume you retire when both are aged 60, so the male and female spouses will have life expectancies of 23 and 26 years, respectively. To budget an annual retirement income starting at $81,000, indexed below average inflation at 2 per cent a year for 26 years, implies you would require about $1.55 million in super at retirement, assuming the fund earns 5 per cent and is untaxed. You are less than halfway there. So your priority should not be so much to dip into your superannuation savings now as to boost them as much as possible for as long as possible into the future.

If we base calculations on accumulation funds then, if you each salary sacrifice the maximum $25,000 a year, unindexed (this cap has not been indexed for five years), and if the funds average 5 per cent return a year before tax (4.25 per cent after tax), your combined super savings will reach about $1.43 million in 10 years – at age 65. Not quite enough.

As it is, you are both in DB funds, which means you are guaranteed a multiple of your final average salary at retirement. One big bank, the CBA, notes it has 14 DB divisions, some of which pay a lifetime indexed pension and some a lump sum. Some offer both – but with a guaranteed minimum – and some have an accumulation fund attached, into which you can make additional contributions. You need to find out what your benefits are projected to be if you retire at age 60 or 65 and see if they meet your needs.

At least one bank allows employees to convert their DB funds at 55 to accumulation funds and thus access a TTR allocated pension, which is not a guaranteed-for-life income stream but is, instead, guaranteed to run out if you live long enough.

The UniSuper affair, in which a DB fund has had its benefits slightly reduced, has emphasised that not all such funds are guaranteed by all employers. If the world enters a prolonged period of low investment returns, employers might find ways to reduce defined benefits, although you would hope the big-four banks would be immune.

Ultimately, it is your choice when you retire but taking your super now could result in you scratching by on a low standard of living later in life. Keep working!

If you have a question for George Cochrane, send it to Personal Investment, PO Box 3001, Tamarama, NSW, 2026. Help lines: Financial Ombudsman, 1300 780 808; pensions, 13 23 00.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

There goes the price of iron ore down the shaft, so to speak, which unfortunately puts a different complexion on things.
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Such as whether the dollar will be stronger for longer.

That’s easy. No.

Another rate cut? More than likely. And no more budget surplus, not that the mining tax was ever going to raise a cent anyway. Uh-oh, there’s always another tax.

Just as a rising iron-ore price lifted living standards – more jobs (without regard to what, where and for whom), lower inflation, higher wages and income-tax cuts, in case you’d forgotten – a decline will do the reverse.

It was only a few days ago, as the iron-ore price was on its way below $US90 a tonne – half last year’s peak – that the big miners were saying it was impossible for it to go less than $US120.

Still they’re saying it, allowing for the new spin: it’s a spot, not contract, price and can’t stay this low for long.

Never mind it was BHP Billiton that pushed contract pricing away from annual to quarterly to what became monthly, and now may as well be daily. Anyway, supposedly higher-cost Chinese producers can’t afford to mine iron ore for anything less than $US120 a tonne.

Ah, has somebody told them? Not that they’d stop mining, necessarily, since they’re state-owned, so have other considerations, such as preserving jobs. Besides usually they own the steel mills that use iron ore, so that settles that.

Only supply isn’t the issue anymore. It’s demand, or lack of it.

The biggest customers for our iron ore are the mostly loss-making Chinese steel mills, also state-owned, so normal rules don’t apply. Except this one: if there’s a glut in what you make, it’s rarely a career move adding to it.

Mind you, whether losing even more by going full steam ahead, or cutting back and having to admit to sitting on a pile of iron ore that was bought at inflated prices just in case, it is a tough call. Preventing further losses sounds safer to me.

Steel prices will keep on falling due to the near-depression in Europe, which the European Central Bank’s welcome but belated bond buying won’t prevent. It even admits a recovery would be ”very gradual”.

Trouble is, to get any return from the mega billions they’ve been investing in the Pilbara, the miners will need to dig up more iron ore, which will depress its price, though at least they’ll be selling more.

I love that about our miners: when the price drops they just dig up more. That’s the spirit, I say.

Still, miners will be getting some unexpected help soon. The dollar has also peaked, and it’s a surprise to no less than the Reserve Bank that it hasn’t dropped faster and further. Only when it does will mining shares dig themselves out of their hole.

Follow David on Twitter @moneypotts

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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A taste for life

April 10th, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

Dr Melissa Yang and husband Dr Ian Davis, who has been diagnosed with motor neuron disease (MND), have found support in energtic friends.When I think back to that first week after Ian’s diagnosis, my heart breaks for the carefree 30-somethings we had been just days before. Two people with everything to live for. Two people suddenly facing the dissolution of their lives as they knew them.
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We were engaged, I’d just finished my final exams and we were both in the training programs we had been working towards for almost a decade. We thought the tough part of our lives was over.

I wonder now how we, as the people we were then, got through those early days. How we managed to go to work every day, treat patients and yet keep our unfolding nightmare to ourselves.

We decided very quickly that the things that were important to us were still the same: to get married and to travel while we could. Ian wanted to get married while he could still walk, so we planned our wedding in less than three months. It was a good distraction, and kept us busy as the reality of our situation hit home. We only told our family and a couple of very close friends about the diagnosis at the time.

In less than a year, we’ve had to redefine ourselves. Life has become far more serious and we’ve faced much darker times than we were prepared for. We’ve forgotten what it is to be carefree or to have a future. Ian has had to come to terms with his diagnosis and had to grieve for the person he was and will never be, as he faces the relentless progression of his disease and the inevitable accumulation of physical impairments. I have had to assume the role of “carer” though not in the physical sense yet. How I will confront that is yet to be seen.

We initially reacted by becoming closer, united by our grief and by the secret that locked us together. But as Ian’s despair deepened, he began to push me away. In part to protect me, and in part I think to exert some sense of control over at least one aspect of his life, if no other could be controlled.

I realise now that I am watching from the sidelines, because ultimately this is Ian’s battle, and no one can understand how it feels to face your mortality until you are faced with it yourself.

We were waist-high in doom and gloom and dread. We knew what we were facing, as both of us as doctors have cared for people with motor neuron disease at the end of their lives.

What we desperately needed, and couldn’t find in those early months, was some optimism about the life in between – some hope that there could still be joy. I remember the morning when Ian first showed me the video of Steve Gleason, an American NFL footballer who was the same age as Ian when he was diagnosed with MND a year earlier. Steve’s story was aired on NBC on the night of the Superbowl. He was a young man with everything to live for – a beautiful wife, a newborn son – who was diagnosed with MND. And he was fighting it. Suddenly, here was a face we could identify with; someone who was going through the same battle, and making the best of it by putting all his energy towards something positive. His organisation Team Gleason raises money and awareness for MND in the US, but most of all it inspires. The story detailed the Gleasons’ journey from football, to marriage, to the diagnosis of MND and their decision to have a baby despite it all. It parallelled our own journey and was at last a glimpse of hope.

My first reaction to Ian’s diagnosis was that we should have a baby. It would be the only thing I would have of him after he was gone. It had always been a part of the future we had imagined, if not the immediate future. But since that time it has evolved that we are not likely to ever have a child of our own. Realising that the unborn child you talk to in your mind, that you imagine your husband holding for the first time, whose life is going to give yours a new meaning, is not going to exist is one of the hardest things to deal with as a 30-year-old woman. I know that I am not alone, and it has made me realise how it must feel for those people who desperately long for a baby and are unable to have one.

What I do have is an amazing husband, and that’s the best but hardest part of it all. Ian has always been good at everything he set his mind to (always with relentless determination). Not just good, the best. When he was diagnosed with MND, the irrational part of me wondered: why Ian, why not me? He’s a better doctor, much smarter, funnier, wittier, and would have left his mark on this world with a ground-breaking discovery to advance treatment of haematological diseases. He would have made a difference to millions of lives, I’m sure of it. What I’ve come to realise is that he is proving me right. He is still very much that person. He’s just making a difference in a different way.

When we were going through some of our darkest times, my best friend asked if Ian might consider writing a blog to share his experience and to connect with other people. At the time the idea was at a disconnect from where we were in our journey. And my reaction was that people who write blogs must firstly have a sense of self-importance, and secondly, an element of selflessness and generosity of spirit to put themselves out there in the hope of being of some help to someone sharing a similar experience. Things which we were not. And now here we are.

I don’t believe we have a sense of self-importance, because (I hope) we are writing for a purpose. I do believe, however, that Ian has reached that point of believing, finally, that he has something to offer and that his fundamental goodness and generosity is at last springing up from a place where it has been hidden by the burden of a terminal illness.

The real light first started to shine when the boys (Ian’s closest mates) started to invade our house on a Thursday evening. Ian had been refusing to answer their phone calls and so they took it upon themselves to turn up unannounced. I am so glad they did. I think it was what retrieved Ian from a place he was going to that I was helpless to do anything about.

At first the boys just started hanging out, and then someone had the bright idea to brew beer together. A Bright Ale. One of the greatest days was when I looked around my kitchen to see four huge men attempting to brew beer. I couldn’t have been happier. Ian was having fun and they were making something! And so the first brew was born, and with it a new purpose in Ian’s life.

He has renewed energy, and now has something to put his energy towards when he can no longer serve the patients he has cared for. The generosity and persistence of those boys I believe is what saved him, and is a tribute to the strength of friendship and the importance of the people that love you. For that I will be eternally indebted to his friends.

We have only “come out” and told people in the past couple of weeks that Ian has MND, just short of a year from his initial diagnosis. It’s not how I would have done it, but that was what Ian asked of me and I had to respect his decision. I’ve since realised that it was absolutely right for him, and for us, and I’m glad that I trusted his instinct, even if at times it made things more difficult.

We are in a different place now, and although it’s a hard thing to tell people, the fact that Ian is now in a place of acceptance and productivity means that it is much easier than before. In the same breath we can now say that this horrific thing is happening, but we are moving forward and can be proud of what he is achieving.

As our friends find out, they go through the journey we first experienced 12 months ago. It is emotionally challenging, but there is joy, even as we relive the grief with them. We are discovering the generosity in people, with their natural reaction to offer their help in any way possible. The timing is, in fact, perfect, and we are now able to harness that energy and channel it into Ian’s beer project.

While we are facing a much shorter future – one that inevitably has an ending with, at present, unfathomable pain and sadness – the journey in between, at last, has a sense of optimism and purpose.

Although many of our dreams will not be realised, I hope that Ian will see this dream come to fruition in the entirety of its potential. I’ve seen the darkness that Ian has endured, and because of that I know what this idea and this beer represents. I am incredibly proud that his emotional battles have led him here, and that he now has something bigger than himself to fight for.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Nadia Oosthuizen (left) attends Mentone Girls’ Grammar and wants to be a doctor. Thomastown Secondary College’s Michael Mitrevski hopes to study music at university.It’s not the school that breeds successful students. It’s the parents.
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DOWN by the bay, year 9 student Nadia is studying medical science with plans to become a doctor. ”I’m not really scared of blood,” she says with a smile. Across the city at Thomastown Secondary College, 16-year-old Michael is interested in playing guitar and a prospective career as a music teacher.

Each teen enjoys school and has dreams of what they want to be. But the uncomfortable truth is that it’s where they come from, and their parents’ income, that often plays a big role in determining their future. Prime Minister Julia Gillard said last week that by year 9, an average child from a ”battling family is three years behind classmates from the most well-off quarter of Australian homes”. It’s the equity gap, the key battleground in the debate over education funding.

It is impossible to generalise when it comes to individuals but Nadia Oosthuizen, 15, knows she is lucky to be attending Mentone Girls’ Grammar, where year 9 fees are more than $23,000. ”People in a lower socio-economic class, if they had the money I am sure they would want to put their children in the best school possible, but it’s not always possible, which is not always fair.”

It isn’t the school so much as a student’s socio-economic status that makes a demonstrable difference in educational outcomes. The most cost-efficient way to close the gap is targeted investment in disadvantaged students, according to the Gonski review into school funding.

But it will take more than money, said Monash University education expert David Zyngier. ”Children come to our classrooms with what has been called the ‘invisible backpack’ and some come with their backpack full of privilege and others come with a backpack of disadvantage,” he said.

Those backpacks weigh more heavily on Australian children than their peers in Canada, Finland, Shanghai and Korea. Students’ backgrounds account for 55 per cent of performance differences between schools in the OECD’s developed industrial economies – in Australia it’s 68 per cent.

Studies show that when a child starts school, 50 per cent of their future academic achievement is already determined by their family background, socio-economic status and intellectual ability. ”Children from a low socio-economic background have a working vocabulary of two to three thousand words at the age of six, whereas a child from a middle-class family where both parents have university degrees will have a working vocabulary of between 10 and 20 thousand words,” Dr Zyngier said.

”Teachers are unable to bridge that gap no matter how hard they work if they don’t have support, such as more support staff, smaller class sizes and more professional development time.”

The disparity is compounded by the siphoning of wealthier children into the independent system and high achievers into state selective schools. Government schools cater for 80 per cent of children from low socio-economic backgrounds, 85 per cent of indigenous children and 79 per cent of children with disabilities, Gonski says.

Thomastown Secondary College hosts children from 50 countries, who speak 30 different languages. ”If you’ve got a child coming out of Somalia who hasn’t been in school for five years, or if you’ve got a child with a learning disability or who hasn’t spoken English until grade 4, of course they are going to be behind, and most of our kids fit into those categories,” said principal Leonie White.

Year 10 student Michael Mitrevski is doing fine by comparison. His family isn’t poor, but isn’t wealthy either. He admits to slipping behind at times but is determined to finish school to study music at university. His older brother dropped out in year 12 to work for their dad’s airconditioning business. Neither parent went to university. His mother, Vanessa, recently quit work at a deli. ”It’s important to have an education, not like years ago when children could leave in year 11,” she said.

Nadia, who is on a partial scholarship at Mentone, won academic honours in years 7 and 8. An only child, she lives in a five-bedroom home in Patterson Lakes with her father, an IT software manager, and mother, a school integration aid counsellor.

To close the equity gap, some government funding should be shifted gradually from the private to the public sector, said Richard Teese, director of the Centre for Research on Education Systems at the University of Melbourne. ”If Shanghai were faced with the achievement gap we have in Australia heads would roll,” he said. ”Of course, some parents are working hard to pay private school fees but they’re also getting a huge benefit and that is just miles out of perspective from poorer families. There has got to be a re-balance.”

Mentone Girls’ Grammar principal Fran Reddan rejected this: ”You don’t want to rob Peter to pay Paul … There is need in every sector.”

Finland and Shanghai have achieved success in part by working one-on-one with disadvantaged students and Shanghai’s performance is also boosted by private tutoring. Finland also invests comparatively more in primary schools to address disparity early, said Stephen Lamb, of the University of Melbourne.

With Rachel Browne

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.