Archive for July, 2019

New trends in outdoor furniture

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

Canasta loungeColour clash

At recent design fairs both here and overseas, such as the recent Spoga gafa held two weeks ago in Cologne, bold hues rule. Safe colours are definitely out as explosions of colour in contrasting blocks or in geometric patterns dominate outdoor furniture designs.

Adam Robinson, a sought-after Sydney landscape designer and a canny outdoor stylist says colour is the most significant trend in outdoor decoration this summer.

“It seems that as the weather warms up, we have more confidence to embrace colour,” he says. “Bulky brown synthetic wicker settings with a combination of taupe cushions have well and truly slipped from being a top trend and there is certainly a move towards colour.

“We are not afraid of combining colour and pattern either,” says Robinson. “And just like in fashion we are seeing colour blocking outdoors. This is evident in soft furnishings, in particular. Due to improvements in textile technology we can leave our cushions outdoors all year round, without major moulding or fading.”

There are edgy tints and tones, too: “Lovely soft pastels and nature’s gentle earthy tones are coming into play,” says Robinson. “Think mint green, soft pink, peach, lavender, powder blue, as well as army green and burnt orange.”Multitalented pieces

As an international landscape designer, television personality and a designer of both indoor and outdoor furniture, Jamie Durie, knows a good sunbed when he sees one.

He says we’ll be seeing a lot more modular furniture: “Outdoor modular lounges are a great versatile design idea that allows you to create different configurations to suit your lifestyle and the size and shape of your outdoor room. The new Fremantle modular in my Patio range at Big W is really clever. Each piece is available separately and features an ottoman that doubles as a coffee table.”

Having furniture that performs more than one function is making sense indoors so why not outside? Just like Durie’s Patio ottoman, there are benches and sofas that provide storage as well as comfortable seating.

Other popular pieces of multifunctional furniture include fire pit tables or chairs and benches that incorporate places to grow plants within the seating design.

Robinson suggests you get inventive about furniture use. “Think about how you might find a double use for some product. For example, a low stool might double up as a side table when not required for extra seating. A decorative timber screen might hide a solution for storage.”Shape shifters

There’s a trend towards more refined silhouettes. A sleeker, lighter look is particularly enhanced in the soft curves of wire furniture or in the detailed cut-outs of powder-coated aluminium pieces.

Wooden outdoor furniture is showing up in slimmer shapes, too, echoing mid-century style, no less, especially in dining settings.

“This season we are seeing less bulky furniture pieces coming through,” says Robinson. “We are moving away from chunky dining chairs and seeing seamless light chairs, which are often stackable. They have a lovely sculptural quality and don’t clutter up an outdoor space.”

Motion furniture is also trending well. Swing seats and hammocks have always been popular, but now there are new versions, which boast very stylish, luxurious designs, such as pod chairs and swivel seats. In fact, creating one’s own outdoor spot in a cocoon-like hideaway, swaying in the breeze, is becoming the ultimate chill-out zone.Favourite things

There’s no reason why your outdoor space shouldn’t boast furniture that’s just for you.

Robinson currently prefers retro: “I have always loved the butterfly chair. It’s been around commercially since 1947 and is still in production. It has beautiful clean lines and is the perfect outdoor chair.”

Durie says that if he could buy just one statement piece for his garden, it would be a sunbed. “It just gives you that instant sense of luxury and resort style living. It’s perfect for relaxing outside on the weekends, or piling onto with friends and family when you’re entertaining.”

Looking to the future, Robinson says there will be a bit of a revival on old styles and materials that come into play. “I’m quite in love with cane furniture at the moment. Its old charm has a relaxed Palm Springs vibe to it,” he says. “They are very comfortable with deep cushions and the best part you can customise the fabrics to suit your space. Being cane they really need to be undercover to ensure durability. A verandah is ideal.”

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OPINION: Bennett a master at inspiring leadership

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

I HAVE a couple of confessions to make.

First, I am a big Knights fan – Knights tragic, my wife would say.

So, like many ‘‘Huntercastrians’’, I am filled with hope about our team’s chances this weekend.

I also have a man crush on coach Wayne Bennett.

While he is the most successful rugby league coach of all time, he impresses me more by what he does to change people than by his coaching of winning footy teams.

Inspiring leadership in others is my passion and I can’t help but be fascinated by what I see Bennett is achieving with our guys.

Apart from the technical aspects of the game that Bennett brings to a side, the number one thing that he does is to help people believe in themselves.

In modern professional sport there is hardly any difference in strength, speed, strategy and skill between the athletes and the teams. The way that he makes a difference is to lift the performance of his players and teams by focusing on their thinking, particularly their self-belief and their belief in each other.

Bennett is famous for treating his players like people first and footballers second, building character and purpose foremost, then skill and fitness next.

Take for instance the effect he has had on Willie Mason.

Here comes another confession – I was one that thought the Knights were wrong for giving Big Willie a chance at redeeming himself in the NRL. Too much baggage, I thought.

What I did do was underestimate Bennett’s influence and his ability to change people. In an interview aired just before the telecast of the Knights win over the Storm last Saturday, Mason paid tribute to Bennett and the way he gets the best out of people, especially him.

He referred to the trust that Bennett placed in him and that it is a key factor to both his recent on field and off-field performances.

In my work in leadership development, I am always looking to take the lessons from the playing field to the boardroom.

Wayne Bennett shows us that we can help the individuals in our teams, and the team as a whole, achieve far greater than they normally would by building their confidence and self-belief.

Investing in the relationships we have with them by seeking to understand them better and building their self-belief means that they will rise to levels of performance they thought weren’t possible.

A leader who places trust in a team member, and perhaps takes a risk by doing so, sends a message to the individual, and often they respond positively.

Wayne Bennett is showing the rest of us what strong leadership can do to a team. We can replicate many of his actions and simple philosophies with our teams.

You don’t have to be famous to be an inspirational leader.

Simply care about your people, invest in the relationships you have with them and help them believe in themselves.

Greg Mowbray is the founder and CEO of Licence to Lead leadership development program. Contact him at [email protected]苏州美甲美睫培训.au or @gregmowbray on Twitter, or Licence to Lead on Facebook.

OPINION: Group push needed to tackle climate crisis

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

WHEN I started working on climate change in the early ’90s I could count the number of climate change policy advocates in Australia on one hand. Since then, concern about the impact of burning coal, oil and gas on the global climate has grown.

So has the number of climate groups, think tanks and government agencies trying to tackle the problem.

In Australia alone there are environmental groups as well as our key national scientific body, CSIRO. There is also The Climate Institute, Climate Change Authority, ClimateWorks, the Climate Change Institute, Centre for Climate Economics and Policy, and, until last week, the Climate Commission.

Given that we are fast running out of names that can be attributed to a ‘‘climate’’ body, it is not unreasonable to ask what is the purpose of all these bodies and why can’t we just rely on CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) for information, as the new government argues.

But when you look clearly at what the challenge entails, you see that the simple answer is no.

All of these groups and bodies have different roles to play. CSIRO and BoM have world-class scientists who ensure that we have the best scientific knowledge available to guide policies to reduce emissions and adapt to the climate change that is now inevitable.

This is why the rebirth of the Climate Commission as the Climate Council is good news. The commission, set up by the previous government to raise public awareness on climate science and economics, suffered the chop in one of the first acts of the new government. Then, on Tuesday, it was reborn, with public financial support, in the form of the Climate Council.

In its previous incarnation the organisation played an important role in synthesising knowledge and engaging directly with the community in building public understanding of climate science and its implications for Australia.

That is a role we still need someone to play, as most other groups are focused narrowly in a sector (for instance environment groups), or on policy that the public never really wants to know the full details around.

Also the Climate Commission, CSIRO and BoM mostly avoided offering policy prescriptions to address scientific concerns.

That role is left to groups like us, The Climate Institute. We look at the science and try to communicate the potential consequences, whether it’s on key sectors like emergency services, or major infrastructure like roads and energy networks, or how your own superannuation fund investment ties into Australia’s ability to make the transition to a cleaner economy.

We also look at how other countries are tackling climate change and inform our government of best policy approaches.

You would be forgiven for being turned off by climate change stories in the media over the past few years. News cycles dominated by ‘‘the carbon tax lie’’ and widely exaggerated claims of economic Armageddon as the world’s biggest carbon tax (which it is not, by the way) drives industries to the polluting shores of China, the world’s biggest investor in clean energy.

This politicising of the climate change issue is exactly why we try to reframe the debate in more tangible ways for everyday Australians. For instance, we have long felt that climate scientists are faceless to the broader community. To try and change this we asked their views on what keeps them up at night.

For our part The Climate Institute will be expanding its independent, non-partisan and solutions-focused efforts in the time ahead.

The new government is yet to provide its own independent assessment of whether it can achieve the emission targets it has committed to.

Holding the government to account ultimately can only be done if the full gamut of organisations is there, actively playing to their respective strengths, working towards a safer and cleaner Australia.

Chopping one here and another there may seem like saving taxpayer dollars. But it is actually just a short-term knee-jerk reaction that leaves us exposed to much greater costs in the future – costs that are not just financial, but physical and potentially impossible to recover from.

Independent commentators and evidence-based analysis remains critical to ensure we don’t just try and wish climate change away.

Erwin Jackson is deputy chief executive officer of The Climate Institute, Sydney.

Defence report critical of lapses after inside attack killed three Diggers

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

An inquiry into the deaths of three soldiers at the hands of an Afghan National Army soldier is highly critical of short-falls in force protection, defence says.

The report on the insider attack, released on Wednesday, makes 22 findings of which around half relate to force protection.

On August 29, 2012, Lance Corporal Stjepan Milosevic, Sapper James Martin and Private Robert Poate were killed in the attack.

A person wearing an Afghan National Army uniform opened fire with an automatic weapon inside a patrol base 20 kilometres north of Tarin Kowt in Oruzgan province.

Two other diggers were wounded.

The assailant was identified as Sergeant Hek Matullah, an Afghan National Army soldier.

He remains on the run.

Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin says the inquiry officer found only the minimum level of authorised protection was available to provide security for the soldiers.

Air Marshal Binskin said the inquiry officer found that having a single roving picket on duty at the base on the day was not adequate.

“He also found the decision to adopt a relaxed level of security – Australians were not in a state of readiness – was not in accordance with orders in place at the time,” he said.

Some soldiers on the base were dressed in gym gear and not wearing their body armour.

“This limited their ability to react and was not in line with the usual existing standard operating procedures,” Air Marshal Binskin said.

Two soldiers had since been disciplined over the pickets and inappropriate dress, he added.

“Although shortfalls in force protection were identified, the inquiry officer was not able to prove or disprove whether these arrangements directly or indirectly gave Hek Matullah the opportunity to attack Australian soldiers,” Air Marshal Binskin said.

Intelligence had not highlighted a likely risk of insider attacks prior to the shooting, although Air Marshal Binskin said such threats were “complex and evolving”.

“In terms of intelligence prior to this attack the inquiry officer found there was no intelligence available to Australia or (the) coalition to suggest there was a specific insider threat,” he said.

Nor was there information that raised concerns about Hek Matullah.

“In fact, his existence was unremarkable from a personnel or intelligence perspective,” Air Marshal Binskin said.

The inquiry officer found there was some truth in claims the Afghan National Army were aware of Hek Matullah’s Taliban links, but that on this occasion he had acted independently.

“This is supported by the fact the Taliban has not claimed responsibility for the attack, as they normally do,” Air Marshal Binskin said.

Air Marshal Binskin said the lesson for commanders on the ground is to provide the best level of protection possible for their forces.

“Don’t take anything for granted,” he said.

He said the company commander had been deeply affected by the deaths.

“Any commander who has deaths, whether it’s in combat or in training, or on exercise, it hits you hard. You do take it personally,” he said.

The patrol commander on duty at the time was one of three people named as having “a case to answer”, based on the report, Air Marshal Binskin said.

It was he who had instructed a “minimum” level of force protection be in place at the time of the attack.

Air Marshal Binskin said that was not appropriate, but conceded greater security would not have necessarily prevented the deaths.

“No matter how much you put in place you can never, 100 per cent, stop someone trying to commit a crime like this,” he said.

“You can mitigate the risk as best you can but I don’t believe you could ever stop someone who is intent on doing this.”

Air Marshal Binskin said although the base had sufficient resources to provide force protection, the decisions made weren’t appropriate.

But it wasn’t possible to make a link between protection arrangements and the reasons behind the insider attack.

“There were no weaknesses or deficiencies in our intelligence preparation and no information to Australian or coalition forces to suggest Hek Matullah was a threat to Australians,” he said.

Defence has agreed to all six recommendations made by the inquiry officer.

Four recommendations relate to the possible administrative action against three ADF members, which the chief of the defence force has referred to the chief of army for consideration.

The fifth recommendation concerns instant response capability that has been implemented and the sixth is that a commission of inquiry is not warranted.

He said since the attack the Afghan National Army had continued to improve its recruitment screening process.

“This was a highly complex situation, our intelligence and resourcing were appropriate, however there were shortfalls in the force protection measures and in the decisions made on the ground,” Air Marshal Binskin said.

Bringing Hek Matullah to justice remained a key focus.

“Let me assure you, we will not let this go.”

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I’m pregnant but he doesn’t want kids

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

Q. James and I (mid 30s) have been together for six years. We are both ambitious, high-achieving professionals who love our work. James has always said he didn’t want kids, so I’ve been taking the pill. But last month, I had severe gastro and must have thrown up my pills, because now I am pregnant.

As soon as I saw the positive test, I was filled with joy, excitement and love. I couldn’t possibly consider having a termination. How do I tell James? I don’t want him to think I’ve deliberately trapped him, and I’d be devastated if he left me. Please help. 

A. No matter how much we attempt to control the way our lives unfold, we’re all subject to the whims of chance and contingency.

It’s only in the past 80 years that effective contraceptives have been readily available. The authorities opposed attempts to open birth control clinics in the United States before 1920, and it wasn’t until after World War I that Marie Stopes was able to open her clinic in Britain.

The ability to decide you will have sex, but not have children is, therefore, a new privilege. For thousands of years, every sexually active couple, regardless of wealth or social status, knew pregnancy was a possibility, no matter how careful they might be. In her diaries, even Queen Victoria bemoaned the fact that every time she and Prince Albert had sex she conceived. Families of more than 10 children were common and, in many cases, the only way to stop having babies was for the couple to stop having sex.

Today, contraceptives are up to 99 per cent effective, but couples need to be aware pregnancy can still occur, as you’ve discovered. The bottom line is that it would be unreasonable for anyone who is having penetrative sex to get angry if the woman conceives. Any man who’s completely certain he doesn’t want to be a dad has the choice to have a vasectomy.

Talk to James straight away. Tell him what’s happened and how you feel about it, without apologising or making excuses – you haven’t done anything wrong, and you’re both equally responsible for this pregnancy.

It’s impossible to predict James’ reaction, so be prepared for a range of responses. Sometimes, men who say they don’t want children find they feel very differently when a baby is on the way. Or he might be very negative to begin with, but grow to accept, or even embrace, the situation as the pregnancy progresses, or when he meets his child. Many men who were reluctant to become fathers have told me that, in the end, it was the best thing that ever happened to them. Not all ”accidents” are bad.

When a person experiences fear it can be expressed as anger – I know men who have lived to regret their words or actions at times like these. Some irrevocably damaged the relationship; some struggle to have a connection with their child. A lifetime of pain can result from a moment’s bad behaviour.

If James freaks out and you’re both in turmoil, consider seeing a relationship counsellor. A professional will be able to guide you as you negotiate this situation, and hopefully assist you in avoiding too much damage.

In the end, James might remain adamant that he doesn’t want this child, in spite of your feelings, in which case the relationship could end. This might seem like the worst-case scenario, but time will tell.

While it might not be ideal, becoming a single mother is a reality for many women, even when their pregnancy was planned. Some relationships fail. Sometimes the father is absent due to death, chronic illness, imprisonment, military service, or shift work. If you can contemplate and accept the reality of this possibility, you’ll feel more confident and less fearful and defensive when you talk to James.

Maureen Matthews is a sex educator, speaker, and founder of online female sensuality business Bliss4Women.  

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TOPICS: Willie or won’t he

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

TOPICS was sure, for ages, that Willie Mason was sport’s version of a movie bad guy. Perhaps Ivan Drago from Rocky IV, or that bully in Karate Kid.

Then he signed with the Knights and became, with straight man Wayne Bennett, one half of a comedy duo.

But is the script about to take a turn towards … romance?

Willie’s mum Sonya Mason let slip yesterday on the David and Tanya KOFM radio show that her boy could be getting married next month, or in November.

Asked if wedding bells were on the cards for her boy, Mrs Mason said, ‘‘I’m waiting for that day, which is apparently sometime next month. They told me last year it’s in November this year.’’

Last Topics knew, he was engaged to long-time partner Clare Hallinan.

A spokeswoman from the Knights said Mason didn’t want to comment, though a tweet from the big forward seemed to confirm the timing of the nuptials.

‘‘Oh no! Muuuuummm lol she told me that she had an interview!! She’s hilarious,’’ tweeted Mason.

What we can say for certain is that Mason stayed behind long after Knights training yesterday, on his own, to sign autographs and pose for photos. He’s fast becoming the fans’ favourite Knight.

Demand the worst

THE following classified has found its way to Topics’ desk.

We suspect it’s in response to a job ad put out by the owners of the Vincent’s At The Coliseum cafe in Mayfield, which stipulated that ‘‘bludgers’’ and people who ‘‘feel depressed’’ need not apply.


■ Looking for somebody who thinks they’re better than the customers.

■ Must claim to make the best coffee in the world, no matter how undrinkable it may be.

■ Must pretend not to notice customers who are waiting to be served, even though they’re standing right in front of you.

■ Must be able to roll eyes every time someone orders a decaf, skim or soy variety.

■ Most importantly, we’re looking for a barista who never says ‘‘hi’’ or dares smile at a customer, no matter how friendly they are. Remember our motto: the customers are beneath you, little lord barista.

NB: Unruly facial hair and general unwashed look a bonus. Hipster glasses a given.

To apply, call NXFM on 49456839.’’

Those blessed rates

WHAT goes on at those Port Stephens Council meetings?

Sometimes, hearing reports from up there, Topics is unsure whether these are 21st-Century elected officials or we’ve passed out in front of the TV and Benny Hinn’s come on.

Case in point: the debate over whether councillors should keep ‘‘in Jesus’ name’’ in their opening prayer, which they voted to introduce a year ago.

And this little gem from deputy mayor Sally Dover.

‘‘After just 12 months, council is being encouraged to change our prayer,’’ she told the chamber on Tuesday night.

‘‘We have wonderful things happening in Port Stephens and I believe it’s because of this blessing.’’

The ‘‘wonderful things’’ that have resulted from the prayer, according to Cr Dover, include a reduction in the council’s levels of debt. Should’ve introduced it years ago. Port Stephens locals are entitled to ask: do we still need to pay rates?

Willie Mason still signing autographs after training yesterday when all the others have left. Picture: Darren Pateman