Benedict breaks silence to defend his papal record

August 8th, 2018

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has broken his self-imposed silence with a lengthy letter to a prominent atheist in which he defended himself from accusations that he did not do enough to bring to justice sexually abusive priests.
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The former pontiff spoke of his ‘‘profound consternation’’ that ‘‘evil’’ had entered so deeply into the Roman Catholic faith. But he denied that he had, either as pope or previously as head of the Vatican office dealing with abuse cases, tried to cover up the scandals that tarnished the Church’s reputation around the world.

‘‘I never tried to cover these things up,’’ he wrote.

‘‘That the power of evil penetrated so far into the interior world of the faith is a suffering that we must bear, but at the same time must do everything to prevent it from repeating.

‘‘Neither is it comforting to know that, according to research, the percentage of priests who commit these crimes isn’t any higher than the percentage of other similar professions.

‘‘Regardless, one shouldn’t present this deviation as if it were something specific to Catholicism.’’

The letter was sent to Piergiorgio Odifreddi, an atheist mathematician, who in 2011 wrote a book titled, ‘Dear Pope, I’m Writing to You’.

In his book, Odifreddi posed a series of polemical arguments about the Catholic faith, including the church’s sex abuse scandal.

The letter was reprinted by the leading Italian newspaper La Repubblica, and was the first published statement from Benedict since he said on retirement that he would live out his years ‘‘hidden from the world’’.

It discussed topics such as the nature of Catholic belief, the conflict between good and evil, and evolution, came two weeks after La Repubblica published a similar letter from his successor Pope Francis on atheism and agnosticism.

The Vatican said the timing of the two documents was a coincidence, rather than a concerted attempt by the two pontiffs to launch a fresh engagement with non-believers.

But the fact that a former pontiff and his successor wrote letters on the same issue within days of each other underlined the peculiarity of a situation in which, for the first time in centuries, two popes live virtually under the same roof.

While Pope Francis lives in a Vatican guesthouse called the Casa Santa Marta, his predecessor is living out his retirement in a former convent a few hundred yards away. It is not known how often the two men meet as they move around within the walls of the tiny sovereign state but they share the same private secretary – Archbishop Georg Ganswein.

Benedict’s assertion that he had done what he could to end sexual abuse by priests was disputed by groups representing the victims of paedophile clergy.

‘‘Over a clerical career that lasted more than six decades, we can’t think of a single child-molesting bishop, priest, nun, brother or seminarian that Benedict ever exposed,’’ said Barbara Dorris of the United States-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

‘‘In the Church’s entire history, no one knew more but did less to protect kids than Benedict. As head of CDF, thousands of cases of predator priests crossed his desk. Did he choose to warn families or call police about even one of those dangerous clerics? No. That, by definition, is a cover-up.’’

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Palmer candidate Jacqui Lambie claims final Senate seat in Tasmania

August 8th, 2018

Federal politics coverageLambie celebrates win, flips on carbon tax
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The Palmer United Party has won its first seat at the election, with its candidate Jacqui Lambie taking out the final Senate seat in Tasmania.

A 42-year-old single mother with two children, Ms Lambie squeezed past the Liberals’ third candidate Sally Chandler and sex industry lobbyist Robbie Swan to win a seat in the new Senate.

In the tightest contest in Tasmanian history, Mr Swan fell just 244 votes short of overtaking Labor senator Lin Thorp at the point where one or other dropped out of the count.

With just another 0.08 per cent of the vote, the Canberra-based co-convenor of the sex industry’s Eros Foundation would have topped her vote, won her preferences and most likely gone on to take the seat.

Instead, Ms Lambie won the seat, winning 6.6 per cent of the vote, in the Palmer United Party’s best performance anywhere outside Queensland.

She was helped over the line by a horde of preferences from other parties, ranging from the libertarian Liberal Democrats to the Greens.

The Palmer United Party is certain to win a second Senate seat in Queensland, where rugby union legend Glenn Lazarus won 10 per cent of the vote, and has a 50/50 chance of winning a third seat in Western Australia, where it is in a fight with the obscure Australian Sports Party.

PUP leader Clive Palmer won the lower house seat of Fairfax by 36 votes but the slender margin means the contest is now subject to a recount, with results not expected until next week.

The Coalition’s loss means it will have only 33 seats in the new 76-member senate, one fewer than now. Labor and the Greens will have 35 seats between them, with a crossbench of eight senators holding the balance of power.

A combative former military policewoman, Ms Lambie has warned the government she will be no pushover.

”If he thinks that Pauline Hanson was a pain in the rear end, Tony Abbott better look out,” she told Fairfax Media in an interview after early counting showed she may secure the seat. ”He hasn’t come up against Jacqui Lambie.”

The AEC has also officially announced the Senate results for the Northern Territory. As expected, the Country Liberal Pary’s Nigel Scullion has retained his Senate seat, with Labor’s Nova Peris taking the second spot.

Ms Lambie joined the army at 18 and served for 11 years before a back injury forced her to quit. She then spent years fighting the Department of Veterans Affairs in the courts before it finally gave her a disability pension.

A former member of the Liberal party, she originally sought its preselection for the north-west Tasmanian seat of Braddon. When that failed, she decided to stand for the Senate as an independent, selling her house in Burnie to finance her campaign, but then ran into party leader Clive Palmer at an airport, and agreed to be his lead candidate.

Ms Lambie has already shown an independent streak, telling the ABC she disagreed with her party’s policy to remove the price on carbon. “There still needs to be a carbon tax, but it just needs to be a lot lower,” she said.

However, she appeared to change her mind on the issue after her win was announced on Wednesday, saying ”I just buggered that up”.

She has also sharply attacked both major parties over cuts to welfare payments, and urged the new government to increase the staff of the Veteran Affairs department by 50 per cent.

She will replace Labor senator Lin Thorp when the new Senate takes its place next July.As expected, the other five seats in Tasmania went to sitting Labor senators Carol Brown and Catryna Bilyk, Liberal senators Richard Colbeck and David Bushby, and Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson.

with Judith Ireland

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Roseville cinema robbery: pair arrested for assaulting police to be questioned

August 8th, 2018

Police are investigating whether two people arrested after allegedly assaulting officers at a Kirrawee fast food outlet are linked to a violent rampage across Sydney on Monday night, during which a hotel and cinema were robbed and an elderly man was carjacked.
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The 22-year-old man and 20-year-old woman will be questioned at Sutherland Police Station on Wednesday over armed robberies at the Roseville Cinemas and the Revesby Pacific Hotel, in which staff and customers were threatened with a sawn-off shotgun. The pair will also be quizzed about a carjacking in Lane Cove on the same night in which an 87-year-old man’s car was stolen.

The pair was arrested at a McDonald’s outlet on the Princes Highway at Kirrawee about 11pm on Tuesday after police were called to investigate reports that they were acting suspiciously.

When police spoke with the couple, the man allegedly punched a constable in the face and the woman kicked another officer twice in the head.

The man then allegedly bit the first officer on the hand before running from the restaurant. He was arrested a short time later in Monroe Avenue.

More officers who were called to the fast food outlet were allegedly assaulted by the woman, before both were taken to Sutherland Police Station.

Police will also allege the woman scratched and punched the custody sergeant at the station.

A total of seven police officers were injured during the incident, police allege.

Officers seized a number of bags that were found with the couple and they are being forensically examined.

A NSW Police spokeswoman said the Metropolitan Robbery Unit, which was investigating the robbery at the Roseville Cinemas and at the Revesby Pacific Hotel on Monday night, was waiting to interview the couple. No charges have been laid.

During Monday night’s rampage, thieves carjacked a vehicle from an 87-year-old man in the driveway of his Lane Cove home before driving to the Roseville Cinemas.

Four thieves ran into the cinema about 8pm and threatened to shoot and kill a number of cinemagoers if they did not hand over their wallets, before stealing about $1000 from the cinema box office.

The thieves then fled in the stolen car, which police say was used in another armed robbery at the hotel in Revesby later that night.

Police have urged anyone with information about the robberies to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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On the face of it: Australia opts for traditional Next Top Model choice with Melissa Juratowitch

November 10th, 2018

Melissa Juratowitch is now the face of Australia’s Next Top Model, but could we have been a little more exotic in our choice? More of the same? … Former Australia’s Next Top Model winners Alice Burdeu, Montana Cox, Demelza Reveley and Amanda Ware.
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Bit too shiny … Australia’s Next Top Model live finale.

The diversity and ethnicity in the Australia’s Next Top Model finalists this season were hailed as the most distinct the show has ever produced.

It was billed as the year a very different model would be crowned winner in the television modelling contest, a chance to break the mould and step out of the box. An opportunity to redefine the notion of beauty in this country.

Yet Australia chose to crown 16-year-old Melissa Juratowitch winner during the live final at The Star on Tuesday night. The public ultimately opting for a doll-like winner, whose alien-like wide-eyed features fit the current catwalk brief, albeit a little on the short side.

The shock result saw underdog Juratowitch take out the eighth cycle of the show – the highest ratings for the pay television broadcaster with over 400,000 viewers a week – over the other two finalists; Sudanese Australian model Nyadak “Duckie” Thot and Fijian Indian model, Shanali Martin.

Both were hot favourites, mentor Didier Cohen openly backed Duckie – who was a front runner on social media – while designer Alex Perry stated up front he would ditch his trademark sunglasses if Shanali didn’t win quipping: “I’ve got my sunglasses riding on it”.

But in the end, Australia voted for a more traditional type of winner and opted for the established route. It felt like a a missed opportunity.

While Juratowitch does break the cookie-cutter requirements for models with her petite 173cm height (five centimetres short of the minimum requirement international scouts from IMG had recommended in the audition stages) she still fits the traditional style of winner, which to date, let’s face it, have been fair and translucent skinned. There is a certain degree of sameness. Think previous incarnations including Alice Burdeu, Montana Cox, Demelza Reveley and Amanda Ware.

Host Jennifer Hawkins told Fairfax Media ahead of the final: “They’re very diverse. It’s muliticultural and that’s great. It’s not just my decision, we all collaborated and it’s over the course of months.

“The shoots, how they performed, they’re great girls,” she said with her trademark smile firmly planted and, of course, not a hair out out of place.

“Melissa is such a stunner. She has such a modern, unique look that I think will translate on the international runways as well as in editorial … I remember the very first photo shoot from episode one, where she blew us all away, but really, she never stopped impressing us. Every week she has produced shots that we simply could not ignore and neither could the rest of Australia. What an amazing model we’ve found.”

But social media campaigns and Instagram (which became the social platform of choice for the show according to research) had overwhelmingly indicated the winner would be Duckie. There were even infographics showing her as the clear favourite to win based on popular appeal.

Coming in a close second ahead of the announcement, in the Twittersphere and on Instagram at least, was statuesque Shanali Martin.

Juratowitch was, according to the early predictions, not active enough on social media and not as popular in what was shaping up to be a popularity contest.

So when Juratowitch was announced, even she could be seen mouthing “what the f—?” as she hugged her competitor.

But the Melbourne school girl, who was plucked from the sidelines watching her friend in an early audition, took it all magnificently in her stride.

“I was waiting for her to say Shanali,” an elated but calm Juratowitch told Fairfax Media straight after the announcement, surrounded by her mum and dad,  sisters and 17 of her friends.

“I think it’s great – I’ve always been someone who’s pretty strong and if I can set an example for young girls to embrace their differences – and stop that feeling of so much pressure to look a certain way – I think it’s great.”

At 173cm (“I’m still growing”) Juratowitch is the first Aussie petite model the series has produced.

Professionally the notion is not completely impossible. Kate Moss, Gemma Ward and Bambi Northwood are famous under-standard-model-height success stories. However petite has been trialled, fairly unsuccessfully, in a cycle helmed by America’s Next Top Model host Tyra Banks.

With her Christina Ricci-esque “seven-finger forehead,” which she openly acknowledges (“I’ve always known I’m different”), Juratwich’s wide-eyed look has been described by Dawson as “alien doll” and “a unique look … a small package”.

Even tough, smart-talking judge Perry admitted for the first time in the show’s history that when it came to Juratowitch, height wasn’t such a big factor for him: “It’s all about her face.”

Harper’s Bazaar editor Kellie Hush, whose magazine’s cover Juratowitch will grace for the November 7 issue as part of her prize, says “Melissa is smaller than the other girls. [She has a] great face, and she plays to that”.

Industry insiders say she will struggle to get work internationally.

Juratowitch has also pocketed $20,000 cash from TRESemme, a Nissan Dualis and a modelling contract with IMG.

Social media criticism suggested the show had become more of a popularity contest than a straight out modelling comp. Juratowitch herself says social media was incredibly important to her campaign.

“As soon as we got our phones [once we left the house] all of us girls were straight onto Twitter and Instagram,” she said.

“These days, as a model, you have to communicate with a wide range of people, showcase all aspects of what you’re doing. These days it’s so important, as a model, to gain that following. I’ve got 12,000 Instagram followers and I only started that account a few weeks ago as my other one was hacked.”

Juratowitch says her calm exterior during filming, and in the final, is her technique for handling tough situations.

“I think I try and be calm and in the end it works for me, I don’t give myself a chance to be nervous.”

She will still complete year 11 and 12 and says she still plans on attending university.

“I’ve always wanted to do a degree, school is still important for me. But being on Top Model has completely changed my life.”

And while the winner may have been a shock, there was little else about the final’s super slick production to create watercooler talk.

Hawkins opened that big envelope without any fuss, in the final minute of the flawless live Shine production, so schmick and shiny it was almost too perfect. There were none of the gaffes, tantrums and insights into the series we have come to love and expect.

Long-time fans of the show, who may have been tuning in for some drama to dissect the next day, would have been left disappointed. Last night’s production was so tight, there was literally nothing left to talk about. The credits were rolling and the confetti falling after the blink-and-you’d-miss it announcement.

And if you heard that sigh of relief, it was Jennifer Hawkins in her striking and plunging electric blue J’Aton gown, wiping her perfectly arched brow as she sailed through her first live finale broadcast with flying colours. A giggling, perfect mannequin, whose exterior was unflappable. While viewers never really got to see past that perfectly bronzed skin to find her personal stamp on the production, there was little doubt she was more than capable and professional.

Let’s not forget the chalice of hosting Top Model has long been a poisoned one. Many more experienced presenters before her have spectacularly failed.

Previous disasters which have plagued the final production include Jodhi Meares pulling out at the eleventh hour (with Charlotte Dawson heroically saving the day in a moment Foxtel executives will never forget) and Sarah Murdoch’s global fiasco when she announced the wrong winner in 2010.

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

Cheap iOS 7 data calls a threat to telcos

November 10th, 2018

Is iPhone 5c a flop?
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A new calling feature in Apple’s latest operating system threatens billions of dollars of revenue that network operators such as Telstra, Optus and Vodafone receive from mobile voice calls.

The rising popularity of data-based voice calls and text messaging apps, known as “over-the-top” apps, may force telcos to adjust their charges to reflect the actual cost of providing each service to consumers.

The latest iteration of Apple’s iPhone operating system – iOS 7 – has added an audio-only function to the “Facetime” calling option, which previously allowed only video calls.

Facetime allows conversations over the internet rather than a traditional mobile voice connection. This uses the consumer’s monthly data allowance rather than a voice allowance. If a Wi-Fi connection is available, it costs nothing.

While data-based conversation apps such as WhatsApp, Viber and Skype have been available for years, embedding the VOIP option in the phone’s operating system increases the chances it could go mainstream.

The cost of making a VOIP call is the same for domestic and international calls, potentially slashing call costs for consumers. It could be used while travelling to reduce call costs, although would only avoid roaming charges if used exclusively on free Wi-Fi networks – using data on a foreign mobile network can be exorbitantly expensive.

A spokeswoman for Apple in Australia said the audio function was “more about the quality of the call and international calls”. The amount of data used by an audio call would depend on the type of, and congestion in, the network, she added. Facetime Audio provided a deeper and closer voice experience than normal mobile calls when tested by Fairfax Media, including international calls.

Despite the cannibalisation of their revenue streams, a spokeswoman for Vodafone said it did not block Facetime Audio and was not concerned about losing revenue. This is because voice and texts were “infinite” on their Red plans, whereas VOIP used up data allowances, which were limited. The quality of the VOIP call also varied depending on the data connection, she said.

“Generally VOIP provides a slightly degraded call experience compared to a regular phone call that is still very easy to hear and be heard by the person on the other end,” she said.

A spokesman for Telstra said it was ”theoretically possible” for the telco to disable functions like Facetime Audio, “but it’s probably not something we would consider if for no other reason than it would have an adverse impact on how our customers want to use our network,” he said, adding that voice traffic gets priority on Telstra’s network.

“Our current offers include very large value inclusions such that we don’t think there are many good reasons for customers to pursue these types of products. A further point to note is that, while we aren’t releasing further details at this stage, we are considering our own enhanced messaging solutions for consumers,” he said.

The number of phone calls made over Telstra’s network has increased steadily from 11 billion minutes in 2008-09 to 20.4 billion minutes in 2012-13, but it does not reveal how much revenue comes from voice-only mobile use.

Telstra estimates a 10 minute VOIP call on a mobile would use about 6 megabytes [MB] of data while the same video call would use about 300 MB. But another VOIP app called Viber estimates its app uses about 2.3 MB for a ten minute call.

Senior consultant and telecommunications analyst firm Ovum, Craig Skinner, said a “major one-time price rebalancing” could bring the prices of voice and data in line with the costs of providing the service.

“The basic problem is that mobile retail price structures bear little relation to traffic costs. Voice and data services impact differently on total revenues and costs, meaning that voice decline affects profitability disproportionately. Until these divergences are addressed, tensions between network operators and [apps] will continue,” he said.

Globally, network operators will lose up to $US12 billion of mobile revenue in 2013 and $US27 billion of fixed revenue as people move to “over the top” apps, according Ovum.

Mr Skinner said Apple added the new feature primarily to capture market share in the US, where many mobile plans still have unlimited data and consumers have a high incentive to avoid voice costs.

“For Apple [Facetime Audio] is more about locking people into their services and using it to call customers on other iPhones. In the US it is substantially cheaper to make the data call. If you are an iPhone customer calling another iPhone customer it is cheaper, but if you are calling an Android customer you have to pay more,” Mr Skinner said.

This copies the mobile network operators’ tactic of trying to lock customers in by offering free calls within their network.

It would be technically possible for Australian carriers to charge different rates for data-voice calls, but would need regulatory approval and could be unpopular.

“If there was not a regulatory problem then technically carriers could look at the packets [of data travelling on the network] – ‘this one is voice and this one is video’ – and separate it out and charge different rates,” Mr Skinner said.

“While all of the carriers might secretly think about it and want to do it – like a bank putting up interest rates – none of them would want to be the first to try it.”

Meanwhile, foreign telcos revenues have been slashed by data-based applications. In the Netherlands, network operator Hi Brand has suffered a 62 per cent decline in text messaging volumes since early 2012 as customers moved to cheaper data-based messaging, according to a recent report by Citi’s Asian telecoms analysts.

In Spain and the Netherlands, where telcos have been hardest hit, nearly all pre-paid customers admit to using Wi-Fi to make calls and send messages, thereby avoiding network costs altogether.

“Expensive voice pricing coupled with relatively affordable data pricing (€12/1.5GB of data) creates pressure on voice and even SMS revenues for the European names,” the Citi analysts found.

 How to use Facetime Audio 

– Select a contact

– iOS 7 gives the option to call or text “mobile”, or call or videocall with “Facetime”

– Push the telephone icon next to Facetime

– A digital dial tone rather than a normal “bring-bring” is used

– The other party can receive the Facetime call as normal, as long as they have the new operating system installed

– Call quality depends on mobile or Wi-Fi network congestion.

– iOs 7 only available on iPhone 4 and above

– Can be used for international calls

– Using a Wi-Fi network would not use the data allowance at all

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

Jacqui Lambie celebrates Senate win, switches to Palmer line on carbon tax

November 10th, 2018

Successful Palmer United Party Senate candidate Jacqui Lambie in Burnie, Tasmania.Federal politics coveragePUP candidate claims Senate seat
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In the end, the result was in the hands of “the big man upstairs”, newly elected Palmer United senator Jacqui Lambie said. And by that, she didn’t mean Clive Palmer.

“No, no, not this time around,” Ms Lambie said, minutes after the Senate preferences distribution gave her the final Tasmanian seat.

“Once it gets to that point, it’s up to God upstairs. There’s not much else I can do about it.”

Ms Lambie, who came onto the national stage after the election with a promise to be tougher than Pauline Hanson, said she had shared the thrill of her win with sons Brenton, 22, and Dylan, 19.

“They said: ‘You bloody beauty’.”

The 42-year-old single mother squeezed past the Liberals’ Sally Chandler and the Sex Party’s Robbie Swan to win a seat in the new Senate next July.

Under mentoring from Mr Palmer, which she described as very open-ended, Ms Lambie is also learning about a united party voice.

Her initial support for some sort of carbon tax has been abandoned.

“Oh no, I just buggered that up,” she said. “I’ll be honest. On the day it was a little bit nerve-racking with all you media around me. But no. My carbon tax is the same as the Palmer United Party’s. Is that there’ll be no carbon tax.”

Ms Lambie also partly joined the PUP line with concerns about the Australian Electoral Commission.

“I think there needs to be some reform about,” she said. “But everything is very clean swept down here in Tasmania. I’ve had no issues whatsoever.”

The issue that did bring the former military policewoman alive as she stood in the lobby of the AEC in Hobart was treatment of war veterans and injured defence personnel.

With almost nine months to wait until she takes her seat in the Senate, Ms Lambie said she would be using the time to take their case up to the Abbott government.

“There’s nothing to stop us coming out with solutions now,” she said.

“I know the Liberal Party is very aware of my concerns when it comes to war veterans and injured defence personnel. So if they don’t come through with it I’m going to ask for a royal commission … on the management practices of Veterans Affairs. Because it’s way overdue.”

She put her eventual win down to major party disillusionment. It leaves the Liberals and Labor each returning two senators, and the Greens one from Tasmania.

“I think people have had enough, and they’re sick of the lies. Come out and tell the truth. if you cannot achieve something come out and tell people you cannot achieve them, and then swing back around and see if you can fix the problem.

“Walking around and not being held accountable for your decisions – that’s not good enough.”

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

Memoir of a prime minister: Julia Gillard to lift the lid on parliament

November 10th, 2018

Portrait of Julia Gillard when she was Prime Minister of Australia. Photo: Nic Walker & Louie DouvisLife after parliament: Julia explains what’s next
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Australia’s biggest publishing house, Penguin Random House, has stolen the march on its competitors and is to publish the much-anticipated memoirs of the nation’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard.

Gillard has promised to give a frank account of her six years as deputy Labor leader, deputy prime minister and prime minister in a book to be published in October 2014.

Still immaculately groomed in her prime ministerial style, Gillard said in a promotional video she had wanted to commit to the memoir while the events of her political career were “emotionally and intellectually fresh to me”.

The memoir will be “my words direct”, written by Gillard herself, and will weave together the personal and political but will not be an intimate autobiography reaching back to her childhood and school days.

Instead, she wanted to answer questions constantly put to her about her motivations and how she coped with political life. While she thought it might be a struggle at times writing her account of her days in parliament, she said she enjoyed writing and was a “good typist” because her mother insisted she learn as a teenager so she could always get a job.

Gillard had recently been rumoured to be in talks with Penguin. Wednesday’s announcement by Gabrielle Coyne, chief executive officer of the newly merged Penguin Random House, represents the first major signing to the mega publisher.

The book will be published under the Knopf imprint of Random House Australia and is scheduled for publication in October 2014.

Nikki Christer, Random House Australia’s publishing director, said she was delighted and honoured to be publishing the memoir.

“There is much in Julia Gillard’s life and parliamentary legacy to be admired and debated,” she said. “In any reckoning of her achievements, both before and after becoming prime minister, this book, written by her and told in her own words, will be essential. I most certainly expect it to be not only one of the most anticipated books of 2014 but also one that is read and studied for a very long time.”

Gillard, who approached Coyne, said she will be touring the book when it is released. Without naming her political nemesis Kevin Rudd, Gillard said she wanted to distil for readers her achievements and her mistakes – “what drove me, where I erred; my personal resilience and how I coped”.

“I want to share my perspective on the issues of our times and how I strove to make a difference for the better every day I had the privilege of serving as prime minister,” she said in an accompanying statement. “I will also write about changing our nation and future challenges in the years ahead.”

Gabrielle Coyne said: “Ms Gillard’s personal and professional journey so far is a unique one. Many of us have observed the conviction and resilience that drove her commitment to the Labor cause and public policy debate in Australia and abroad for nearly two decades. It is a genuine privilege to be given the opportunity to work with her to help bring her story to readers in Australia and around the world.”

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

Christopher Pyne’s review of university places cap a ‘clear broken promise’

November 10th, 2018

Christopher Pyne. Photo: Andrew MearesThe Abbott government has been accused of reconsidering caps on tertiary places as an ”alibi for cutting university funding”.
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Acting Labor leader Chris Bowen accused the Coalition of walking away from its pre-election promises as he warned regional universities and aspiring students from less wealthy families would be the big losers if caps on places were reintroduced.

New Education Minister Christopher Pyne said on Tuesday he would review the uncapped system, warning any loss of quality would ”poison” the sector’s international reputation.

”Quality is our watchword and we aren’t bound by the previous government’s policy decisions,” he told Fairfax Media.

Labor’s higher education spokesman, Kim Carr, said he agreed the nation’s higher education sector needed to strive for excellence but the review was a ”clear broken promise”.

”It’s an ideologically driven exercise in trying to reshape the university system to their liking,” Senator Carr said.

”This is a return to their old political positions which I might say they weren’t gracious enough to mention during the election.”

Labor removed caps on the number of Commonwealth-supported university places, helping an extra 190,000 students to access higher education. This move to a ”demand-driven system” sparked concerns from some quarters about quality suffering and the rising cost to taxpayers.

The Coalition has long argued for an emphasis on quality as a key priority in the higher education sector, but played down speculation it may end the demand-driven system.

In a media release headlined ”Coalition will not cap places or raise HECS” on August 26 last year, Mr Pyne said he welcomed debate over quality and standards in universities, but had ”no plans to increase fees or cap places”.

And in an interview on ABC’s 7.30 program on July 17 this year, Mr Pyne said the Coalition had ”no plans to restore the cap” and believed the more students attending university, the better.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, when opposition leader, told a Universities Australia conference in February: ”A period of relative policy stability in which changes already made can be digested and adjusted to, such as the move to demand-driven funding, is probably what our universities most need now.”

Mr Bowen said the review would provide an excuse to cut university funding.

”If you abolish the demand-driven system you are cutting university funding,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

”That clearly wasn’t in their savings pre-election, and in fact we were told time and time again that education wouldn’t be cut. Guess what? Universities are education and abolishing the demand-driven system is a massive cut to university funding.”

Mr Pyne told ABC Radio on Wednesday he had not decided to bring back caps and accused Labor rival Mark Butler of living in “complete la la land” for arguing against a review.

”You must be living in a bubble … if you think that there is not an issue in universities about whether there are quality issues about the extraordinary number of students being enrolled,” Mr Pyne said.

During the radio debate, Mr Butler had accused Mr Pyne of ”cloaking a broken promise and an intention to impose cuts on universities with language about quality”.

Education consultant Andrew Trnacek, from advisory firm Grant Thornton, said a review of the demand-driven model made financial sense.

”It was the introduction of an uncapped demand driven model into the Victorian TAFE system that saw budgets balloon by $400 million,” he said.

”The problem with such funding mechanisms is that the government loses the ability to manage demand and therefore costs.”

A recent Grattan Institute report said expenditure on the demand-driven system was expected to increase by nearly 45 per cent over eight years, costing more than $11 billion a year by 2017.

Mr Pyne identified the review of the demand-driven system as one of his top three priorities for the higher education portfolio, alongside a desire to revive Australia’s international education market and cut tertiary sector red tape.

He said the review was simply about investigating whether the system was affecting quality as some had claimed.

Mr Pyne also confirmed the government would axe the compulsory fee collected by universities to support student services and scrap Labor’s targets to lift participation by disadvantaged students.

He said the student services and amenities fee introduced by Labor was ”compulsory student unionism by the back door” and the Coalition would abolish it – in line with its past opposition to the levy.

Mr Pyne said the government would axe Labor’s specific targets to increase participation by those from low socio-economic backgrounds to 20 per cent by 2020, and to have 40 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds holding a bachelor degree or higher by 2025.

Although he wanted to increase participation, Mr Pyne said he believed in outcomes rather than ”targets for targets’ sake”.

Senator Carr likened the targets to affirmative action, saying such goals were important ways to change behaviour. The axing of the targets would ”entrench inequality” and reinforce ”the great social divides in Australia”.

Senator Carr said the amenities fee was extremely important for students’ university experience and provided up to $300 million in economic activity. Labor was unlikely to vote to support the axing of the fee.

Labor and the Greens maintain their control of the Senate until June next year.

Greens higher education spokeswoman Lee Rhiannon said it was time for Mr Pyne and his colleagues to ”get over their ideological obsession that student organisations are hot beds of dissent”.

The Abbott government will put forward legislation to implement more than $2 billion in savings to higher education and student support originally announced by Labor in the May budget.

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

USA win would surpass Australia II

October 10th, 2018

Oracle Team USA Oracle Team USA
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If Australian James Spithill and his crew on the America’s Cup defender, Oracle Team USA, win tomorrow’s decider on San Francisco Bay after tying the series this morning (AEST), their comeback would better that of Australia II in their historic win in 1983.

That was the view on Wednesday of veteran Australian sailing campaigner Syd Fisher.

It was Fisher, 86, who gave fellow Sydneysider Spithill, now aged 34, his first break in the America’s Cup when he appointed Spithill, who was then aged 20, as the youngest ever helmsman for an America’s Cup on Young Australia for his 2000 campaign.

Fisher, a veteran of five America’s Cups (1983, 1987, 1992, 1995 and 2000), has been as surprised as anyone by how Oracle Team USA have clawed their way back from the brink of losing the Auld Mug when 8-1 down to draw level at 8-8 with Team New Zealand. More remarkable, to do so Oracle Team USA have had to win 10 races after starting at minus two points as a penalty for an infraction in the 2012 lead-up series.

Fisher said a victory by Oracle Team USA in the 19th and deciding race scheduled for Thursday morning (AEST) would surpass the feat of Australia II in 1983 when – on the very same day 30 years ago, September 26, 1983 – the Australians fought back from being 3-1 down to beat American Dennis Connors’ Liberty 4-3 in the seven race series and become the first non-American Cup winners in its then 132 years existence.

“That’s a comeback, isn’t it?” Fisher told Fairfax Media on Wednesday morning after Oracle Team USA won the 17th and 18th races to take the Cup to its one-off decider.

“Spithill and the boys have got the boat moving This is really a comeback …

“[Winning the America’s Cup now] would beat the 1983 comeback, after coming back from the deficit they had. It was unimaginable actually, that they could do it.”

With so much now at stake after the emotional and physical toil of having won the last seven races to draw level, how does Fisher believe Spithill will prepare his crew?

Fisher, who says one of Spithill qualities is that he is “cool and has a lot of common sense”, will know they can’t bank on their momentum of success getting them home.

Momentum is on the side of Oracle Team USA that has forced the Dean Barker skippered Team New Zealand crew to sit agonisingly on match point for one week.

But come the final race, says Fisher, all that will matter is performance on the day.

“You just have to tell the crew to take one thing at a time,” Fisher said.

“You might be having a bit of trouble, but you have to deal with each thing as they come up. What I think he will do is get the crew to realise, ‘This is a race. This is the one we have got to win. We won’t worry about the past, and we won’t worry about the future. We have to win this race, the one that we are in right now.”

Twitter: @rupertguinness

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

BMX champ Caroline Buchanan hints at track cycling switch

October 10th, 2018

World BMX champion Caroline Buchanan returned to a welcome-home surprise at Canberra Airport on Wednesday. Photo: Supplied Caroline Buchanan shows off her newest World Championship gold medal. Photo: Charles Robertson
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She’s a five-time world champion at 22, winning her two most recent titles in different cycling disciplines in the space of 56 days.

But Canberra’s BMX world champion Caroline Buchanan has signalled her long-term ambition to become Australia’s fastest woman on two wheels, teasing she may switch to track cycling after the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Buchanan returned to Canberra on Wednesday morning to be greeted by friends, family and supporters after a hectic and successful two months overseas.

Last weekend’s victory at the mountain bike four-cross world titles in Austria – her third after wins in 2009 and 2010 – came after she won her maiden BMX crown in Auckland in July.

Crammed in between was a fifth place at the world mountain bike downhill titles in South Africa.

Buchanan was world BMW time trial champion last year, making her a gold medal favourite at the 2012 London Olympics, where she finished fifth.

While Buchanan’s focus is on Olympic redemption and gold at Rio in the BMX, she wants to continue challenging herself across various disciplines in a bid to become one of the greatest Australian riders of her generation.

Buchanan revealed she was contemplating a future switch to track cycling, currently dominated by Australia’s London Olympics golden girl Anna Meares.

‘‘I’m definitely hungry for Rio [BMX] since London and that’s still the ultimate goal, but there’s a lot more goals,’’ Buchanan said.

‘‘To win these two world titles and to get fifth in the downhill and be so close there … there’s many other cycling disciplines I could have a go at.

‘‘I’d love to be able to dominate cycling in general, not just one event.

‘‘My dad comes from a track cycling background, so that may be something I do in the future.

‘‘As you get older your endurance abilities get higher, so that would be something more I could look to, less explosive events and more endurance based.’’

Buchanan was blown away to see about 50 of her most loyal supporters on hand to welcome her back to Canberra.

‘‘I walked down the stairs and I normally don’t get nervous, but I got pretty nervous and was blushing,’’ Buchanan said.

‘‘There was a whole wall of people in green and yellow balloons and my little French bulldog Diesel ran through the doors at the airport and almost up the escalators.

‘‘Now that I’m home and have two weeks here, everything’s sinking in a bit more.’’

Buchanan’s next event is a BMX race in the Caribbean in October as the countdown to qualifying for the 2016 Olympics begins.

‘‘The the biggest thing I’ve learnt is not to limit myself by the norm or what I should be doing,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s almost crazy for me to look at now, let’s do three separate sports, completely different in 56 days at opposite ends of the world and fit another race in Canada in between.

‘‘I have learnt that I’m capable of more than I know.’’

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

Koala detection dog killed

October 10th, 2018

Source: Merimbula News Online
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Jim Shields, of Tura Beach is mourning the death of his friend and co-worker, Oscar who was killed after being hit by a car as he worked to save a koala population in Port Macquarie, NSW.

To most people Oscar, was just another lively black Labrador, albeit a very adorable one, but to the few people who had seen him at work, he was very special, and truly one of a kind.

Oscar could smell a koala at 200 metres and when he did he let his owner, Jim, know without attacking or chasing either the koala or any other wildlife.

As far as Jim knows, Oscar was the only dog trained to find koalas and as people become more concerned about the plight of koalas, Oscar had more and more work from Rural Fire Service groups, prior to a burn, developers, prior to building and councils wanting to expand housing areas.

It was in this latter capacity that Oscar had been employed at Port Macquarie.

Jim said: “We were working in Port Macquarie, finding koalas or “Katies” in front of the excavators and harvesting machines making a new housing development. This was one of the conditions of approval from council – actually, they only required an ecologist to stand by for a run to the Port Macquarie Koala hospital – I was determined we would find them all before the machines did.”

It was while Oscar and Jim were attempting to remove a koala caught in a road way near their accommodation at the Hastings River that tragedy struck. The koala was blinded by the headlights of oncoming cars.

Jim said: “When Oscar picked up the scent of the koala, he ran onto the road way and barked once. The koala ran back to the roadway and escaped up a tree. He probably couldn’t see it in the glare because he put his nose down and did a perfect bend toward the koala. He raced straight forward much faster than I ever could have. He barked once as he hit the road way and the koala ran back to the roads edge. The approaching car hit Oscar – the driver truly didn’t have time to react. The following car stopped and I ran out to Oscar. He was still alive and tried to get up when he saw me. I stroked him and held his head; he barked twice more and died.”

Jim started training Oscar when he was eight weeks old.

“We started with detection. All his toys had koala scent on them, thanks to help from Potoroo Palace so the smell was associated as a good smell every time we played with Oscar.”

The training took over three years and included help from Gary Jackson, the Brisbane dog trainer who became world famous when he discovered a dog could detect cancer at an early stage.

Jim said: “He was more than just a dog, to me and everybody he met. I try to model my human relations and work ethic on Oscar – he was always glad to see you, and he was always ready to go to work.

“I could go on and on about the marvellous things he did and the fine dog he was. Oscar imprinted on me, wanted nothing more than to hang out with me, and was my constant companion.”

Oscar was buried privately under an old growth tallow wood tree, a primary feed tree of the koala, Jim said.

Oscar, believed to be the only dog trained for koala detection.

Diocese acted on wishes of clergy abused victims: special inquiry hears

October 10th, 2018

MAITLAND Newcastle Catholice Diocese officials should not be ‘‘unfairly’’ criticised for their handling of clergy abuse when they always acted in accordance with the wishes of victims, who did not want to report priests to the police, an inquiry in Newcastle has been told.
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Lachlan Gyles, SC, for the Diocese, told the Special Commission of Inquiry this morning no adverse findings should be made against it as officials had not obstructed police inquiries nor actively discouraged victims of Father Denis McAlinden or Father James Fletcher from reporting their abuse.

There was no clear evidence as to why McAlinden had moved about 30 times between parishes and overseas over several decades, Mr Gyles said.

Commissioner Margaret Cunneen SC interjected to question whether the moves were made because McAlinden feared his ‘‘indiscretions with children’’ were about to be exposed.

But Mr Gyles said other possible explanations for the moves, and for claims he was ‘‘run out of town’’ from Forster-Tuncurry, were that McAlinden was known to be restless, had a temper, old-fashioned doctrinal beliefs and may well have been ‘‘disliked’’ in the communities he resided.

‘‘[There] seem to be very few redeeming features,’’ Ms Cunneen said of McAlinden.

Mr Gyles said the reluctance of victims to report abuse to police meant the Church dealt with their complaints internally.

Even today, abuse victims were reticent to come forward and ‘‘expose one’s self to public scrutiny’’, he said.

As well, ‘‘one could not underestimate’’ the capacity for abusers like McAlinden and Fletcher to ‘‘ingratiate themselves with persons both in and out of the Diocese’’ and ‘‘hide what they were up to’’.

Mr Gyles warned the commission against seeking to find ‘‘scapegoats’’.

He also said the abuse matters before the commission had occurred within the diocese at a time other institutions in society were also grappling with internal abuse allegations, as observed from the recent hearings of the national Royal Commission.

The Catholic Church ‘‘does not have a mortgage’’ on child abuse, Mr Gyles said.

The inquiry is continuing.

China at the crossroads

October 10th, 2018

China once evoked mysteries of the orient: opium, corruption and the ineffable other. Today it is more substantial, its economic might visible in the endless ream of steel it rolls out for itself and the world, as well as in the massive iron ore developments of the Pilbara.
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Yet it remains a conundrum. How long can it sustain its extraordinary rise? How long can it keep churning out infrastructure and housing? And, perhaps most particularly for us over here, how long can it keep buying Australian bulk commodities hand over fist?

The bearish school, led by Professor Michael Pettis of Peking University, argues that to keep its high growth rates going China has had to engage in a form of long-term “financial repression”. By that he means that interest rates have been held at artificially low levels for a very long period to enable banks to keep lending to unproductive enterprises and governments, especially those engaged in building infrastructure.

This has led to surging investment and very high levels of growth. But ultimately it’s unsustainable, and evidence for its eventual undoing can be found in the declining growth on each borrowed dollar that China receives.

The more optimistic school of thought sees China’s high investment as the natural course for an economy in the early stages of capitalist reform. High rates of urbanisation and infrastructure investment, the bulls argue, will moderate as the economy moves up the value chain.

Turning Japanese

So who’s right, and what does it mean for Australian investors? Let’s start by taking in some history.

The rise of China began in the ’70s with the embrace of capitalism. The reform era, as it is known, brought private sector dynamism from the West together with the most abundant and cheap labour in the world. What followed was an explosion of economic growth that persists to this day.

This was not some miracle, however. In fact, China simply followed a script written by Japan and then Korea decades earlier. Open up to trade and inwards investment, allow labour to be mobilised by foreign capital, and invest heavily in urbanisation and infrastructure to modernise the economy and unleash its productivity potential.

In short, it is not difficult to evoke powerful growth in an underdeveloped economy. Many nations have succeeded at various times, including much of South America, Southern Africa and most of Asia. But after a certain point, when labour supply gets tight and incomes have risen materially, it gets much harder to keep things going.

Rising wages reduce competitiveness and formerly dynamic but labour-intensive export industries begin to wane before the economy has made the jump to the more sophisticated value-adding activities in exports and services that are the hallmark of developed economies.

Secret sauce

Far fewer nations have made the leap from fast early-phase development economics to fast post-middle-income development. Japan and Korea are outstanding examples, but many more have failed.

The secret sauce for those that made a successful transition was that they liberalised capital markets. These in turn prioritise returns on investment, shifting it to soft infrastructure like education and health, thereby driving labour to higher value-adding industries.

Returning to our central question then, the two schools of thought are much closer together than they appear. Whichever way you look at it, the next phase of Chinese development requires the same basic reforms – most particularly liberalised finance and a shift to soft infrastructure investment.

The difference lies in how well people think it will work. The China bears see growth falling quickly to developed economy levels, while the bulls see growth at 7 per cent or more for another decade.

Importantly, however, for Australian investors, the outcome is more clear cut. If the pessimists are right, Chinese growth will slow along with infrastructure investment and commodity prices will fall. If the optimists are right, fixed asset investment will still fall, to be replaced by other forms of less commodity-intensive growth.

Either way, China will need less commodities; and, either way, Australia and its miners will lose.

Mixed signals

So, is it a no-brainer to sell miners? Not quite. China is sending very mixed signals about when it intends to seriously embark on the reform process. The nation appears to be bitterly divided between the reform-minded new government of Li Keqiang and those interests aligned with former President Jiang Zemin. Zemin is heavily associated with the Shanghai elite that benefited spectacularly from the old development model and will lose if economic liberalisation is embraced.

If the reformers win and the rebalancing project begins in earnest, China may continue to enjoy high or moderate growth, but (combined with the existing supply deluge already pushing prices down) we’re likely to see large falls in bulk commodity prices from mid-2014.

If the reformers lose, China will lurch from stimulus to stimulus, supporting demand and prices for bulk commodities for another few years, before it ends in a Chinese financial crisis.

Be prepared

Predicting the timeline for these events is impossible. If China postpones its adjustment, earnings for the miners could still be good for another few years and, given low valuations, a decent rally is possible if markets focus on the cyclical over the structural. The Australian dollar may also stabilise at current levels until China’s structural challenge reasserts itself.

But over the medium and long term, the probable outcome is that the Chinese reformers will prevail – either that or crisis will ensue sooner or later. Either way, the outlook doesn’t look bright for our mining industry, our economy and our Aussie dollar.

As always, though, economic strife can be the source of opportunity rather than disaster for your investment portfolio, so long as you take appropriate precautions – as we’ve been recommending to our members.

We can’t put it better than the legendary Chinese philosopher Confucius, who said: “Success depends on previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.”

This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 282288).

By David Llewellyn-Smith of Macro Business, in conjunction with Intelligent Investor Share Advisor. BusinessDay readers can enjoy a free trial offer to Intelligent Investor Share Advisor, with access to 18 current Buy recommendations and four special reports featuring stock picks from some of Australia’s best fund managers, such as Kerr Neilson, Geoff Wilson and Erik Metanomski. For more Intelligent Investor articles click here.

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