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Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte ‘could face international court’

by admin on 04/12/2018

Bangkok: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte could face international criminal charges as the death count in his relentless war on drugs tops almost 2000, human rights advocates say.
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Comments by the tough-talking former provincial mayor such as “all of you are into drugs, you sons of bitches … I will kill you” could be used as evidence to prosecute him, they say.

Sam Zarifi from the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) says it is likely that as the killings continue lawyers will gather evidence to initiate legal proceedings against Mr Duterte like 9541 victims of the late Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos did in the United States in the 1990s.

In 1995 a US court awarded the victims $US1.9 billion after finding that Marcos, who died in exile in 1989, was responsible for massive human rights abuses, including torture, murder and “disappearances of fellow Filipinos”.

At the time lawyers said the verdict set a ground-breaking precedent upholding the principle that military “command responsibility” for wartime misconduct is applicable in a class-action suit alleging peacetime human rights abuses by the agents of a political leader.

Mr Zarifi, the ICJ’s regional director for Asia and Pacific, told the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand that the killings in the Philippines since 71-year-old Mr Duterte was swept into office at May elections are widespread and systematic, meeting the criteria under international law of crimes against humanity that could be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

He said while anyone can submit a case to the International Criminal Court, prosecutors there would be unlikely to initiate proceedings unless pressed by a global political movement.

But he said criminal charges could be laid against Mr Duterte in any country.

“I am not holding my breath for international action but if these (killings) continue at the same velocity I would expect cases to start popping up,” he said.

Mr Zarifi said Mr Duterte has made many comments that could be used against him in foreign courts, including several weeks ago declaring: “My order is to shoot to kill. I don’t care about human rights … this is a war against drugs and we have to fight it.”

Phelim Kine, Human Rights Watch’s Asia director, described the first weeks of Mr Duterte’s rule as “nothing less than absolute human rights disaster”.

“We have the highest elected official of the land openly, actively, aggressively calling for the extrajudicial killing of criminal suspects,” he said.

“The numbers are absolutely shocking.”

Mr Duterte promised during the election campaign that 100,000 people would die in his drugs crackdown and that fish in Manila Bay would grow fat from eating bodies.

But amid condemnation from human rights groups, the United Nations, the United States, the Catholic Church and some politicians, Mr Duterte has in recent weeks denied security forces have carried out extra-judicial killings, saying police have only killed in self-defence.

The latest police data shows that around 1000 accused drug suspects have been killed in police operations and another around 1000 in shootings by unidentified assailants.

Opinion polls show approval of Mr Duterte continues to hover around 90 per cent in the country of 100 million people with one of Asia’s highest rates of illegal drug use and crime.

Mr Duterte claims there are more than three million drugs users in the country.

More than 600,000 have surrendered to police since July 1, packing prisoners into already overcrowded jails.

Claudia Karvan to star in new ABC drama; Are You Being Served? remake savaged

by admin on 04/12/2018

Brett Tucker, Claudia Karvan and Toby Schmitz will star in Newton’s Law for the ABC. Photo: Lachlan MooreDrama for Judge Judy
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Television judge Judy Sheindlin, who presides over the long-running televised small claims court show Judge Judy, is to become the subject of a scripted drama. Her Honor will be based on Sheindlin’s own life as a young New York judge who presides over a turbulent family court. The pilot is being developed for CBS Studios by Law & Order writer Michael Chernuchin; Sheindlin is credited as a story co-writer on the project. Though her earlier career as a serving judge was legendary, television has been generous to Sheindlin: the deal for her daily court show Judge Judy is worth more than $US50 million ($66 million) per year and is secured until 2020 under its present agreement. The 73-year-old Brooklyn-born Sheindlin has also written several books, including the memorably named Don’t Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining. (The sequel: Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever.) Spin on music awards

In a dramatic demonstration of the shifting sands between traditional and streaming television, the MTV Video Music Awards posted a steep decline of roughly a third of their television audience. The music network spun the bad news to say the streaming numbers were up, but when coupled with audience declines for the Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes overall, it signals a weakening in the power of “live television events” – once billed as traditional TV’s salvation – on the digital landscape. MTV roadblocked the telecast across 11 channels and drew just 6.5 million viewers; compare that with 2013 when, with just the one channel, they managed to pull 10.1 million viewers. The good news was all social media: trending on Twitter, record Facebook streams and almost all TV-specific social media posts while they were on air. Now someone just has to work out how to turn all that noise into money. Top cast for ABC series

Claudia Karvan will headline a new Australian drama, Newton’s Law. The series, from Every Cloud Productions, the company behind the ABC’s hit series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, will also star Toby Schmitz, Georgina Naidu, Sean Keenan, Brett Tucker and Miranda Tapsell. Karvan will play Josephine Newton in the series, a “suburban solicitor with an over-developed sense of responsibility who attempts to return to her briefly glorious stint at the Bar.” The series will be produced by two of Australia’s best drama producers, Deb Cox and Fiona Eagger, whose collective credits include SeaChange, Crash/Burn, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, The Gods of Wheat Street and The Society Murders. Newton’s Law will be filmed in Melbourne and will air on the ABC in 2017. ‘Dreadful’ remake

The BBC’s remake of the iconic comedy Are You Being Served? has made its debut in the UK to scathing reviews. The remake was one of several one-offs commissioned to mark the 60th anniversary of sitcom as a form, but even when the plan was announced last year it was met with some scepticism. The reboot was well cast – notably John Challis from Only Fools and Horses and Niky Wardley from The Catherine Tate Show – but that wasn’t enough to save it. Fans of the original series piled on social media to voice their objections (“Unfunny, canned laughter, dreadful acting. Why do they think they can do it?” said one) and London’s venerable Daily Telegraph newspaper punished it with two stars and said it was loaded with “mothball-worthy gags”. Footnote: the BBC’s comedy commissioner Shane Allen said the script was “a riot”; one imagines he didn’t mean would literally provoke one.

‘Woefully inadequate’: lack of text message policy for NSW Police criticised in budget estimates

by admin on 04/12/2018

NSW Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn leaves the Lindt Cafe siege inquest earlier this month. Photo: Michele Mossop Commissioner Andrew Scipione and Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn fron a budget estimates hearing on Thursday. Photo: NSW Parliament
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Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn has revealed she has a setting on her mobile phone that automatically deletes text messages.

The revelations came in a budget estimates hearing on Thursday in which Commissioner Andrew Scipione said the police force has no policy or rules to stop officers from deleting work-related texts.

Ms Burn and Mr Scipione were grilled on the subject after Ms Burn deleted two potentially-important text messages from the night of the Lindt Cafe siege.

The deleted messages became the subject of intense scrutiny and criticism earlier this month as the inquest into the December 2014 siege examined possible failings by police during the 16-hour standoff.

In an unexpected and embarrassing twist, they were discovered in Ms Burn’s email inbox on the morning of her second day in the witness box.

In several fiery exchanges with Mr Scipione on Thursday morning, Greens MP David Shoebridge asked whether the police should have a policy for not deleting work-related text messages.

“To the extent that they’re records for policing work, they could well be essential,” he asked.

Mr Scipione said officers must keep emails, under the State Records Act, but text messages are often private, short or inconsequential texts such as “see you in five minutes”.

He said it wasn’t always necessary to keep texts.

Mr Shoebridge suggested it was “woefully inadequate” for the police to have no policy on retaining text messages.

“Given the nature of the 21st century, often critical information is retained by way of text message. It may well be ‘I will see you there in half an hour’ but that may ultimately be critical information,” he said. Crucial police information is no doubt communicated in police text messages, but there is no policy to protect this information #nswpol— David Shoebridge (@ShoebridgeMLC) September 1, 2016

He then asked Ms Burn if she had a policy of routinely deleting text messages. She replied that she retains very few texts.

“Those that I retain are normally retained in hard copy or email format,” she said.

Asked why she routinely deletes messages, she said one reason was that phones can be set to automatically delete text messages.

On an iPhone, it can be set to 30 days or one year.

“I don’t keep emails either but there’s a storage system that retains them,” she said.

Mr Shoebridge suggested it was “grossly inadequate” for her to be routinely deleting text messages that may be essential.

The State Records Act does not include any reference to text messages.

Mr Scipione said he would look into whether they should be any guidance on the issue for police officers.

Hunter BreakfastFriday, September 2, 2016

by admin on 09/10/2019

MORNING SHOT: INSTA @nine_inch_snailz Hello #spring !! You are more than welcome here! #springhassprung #mynewcastle #newcastle #newy #newcastlensw #visitnewcastle #visitnsw #newcastlelifestyle #beach
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Hunter roads: All Hunter roads are clear this morning.

Hunter trains: There is a good service on the Central Coast and Newcastle line and the Hunter line.

Hunter weather: Cloudy with rain for Newcastle (20 degrees), rain in Raymond Terrace (18 degrees), rainy day in Maitland (18 degrees) and a wet and rainy day for Scone (18 degrees)

Hunter beachwatch: After a near perfect spring day to start off the new season it’s all going out the window for today. We’ll have mainly onshore winds, overcast skies and more than a few showers. The wind will be east to north-east but may head more to the north later in the day. The swell is from the south-east around half to one metre with the northern ends having the better conditions. Around town try Newcastle, Bar Reef, The Cliff, North Dudley and Redhead. Down south try Frenchmans, North Catho and Soldiers. At Port Stephens try Samurai and Birubi. If you’re keen for a swim most beaches will be okay but it is cool in. The water temperature is 16 degrees.

►SAVE our Rail were trying to “save our parliament”, lawyers for the group have argued.The group is seeking to have theCourt of Appeal judgement in favour of the governmentset aside,along with an order that the community group pay the government’s legalcosts, thought to be more than $800,000. More here.

►HE was the Catholic bishop whose term in office started in 1995 with two of the Hunter’s most notorious paedophile priests, was dominated for16 years by “quite explosive local problems of historical abuse”, and ended with his request for early retirement, exhausted by the struggle within his own church. More here.

►EVEN having a parishioner walk in on him while he was abusing an altar boy was not enough to stop serial paedophile Vince Ryan, the Royal Commission has heard. More here.

►CHARLESTOWN residents are fighting the installation of a 31-metre Optus mobile phone tower they say is “completely inappropriate” for a suburban streetand potentially dangerous for human health. More here.

►It’s only been a few days, but most of the bricks have been laid, the tiling is done, the internal walls are up and the kitchen has been installed.There’s no question that this year’s Build for a Cure House is being built with love. More here.

►Christie Dawes has been there and done it all before but the 36-year-old from Merewetherwillarrive in Rio this Sunday in career-best form. More here.

►LABOR have accused NSW Treasurer Gladys Berejiklianof “putting a brake on economic development in Newcastle for a century” by putting a cap on container ships at the city’s port. More here.

►FOR Brooke Osland, there is no higher compliment than when someone asks where she bought her dress. More here.

►PRESSURE is mounting on the state government to reopen the iconic Bogey Hole, with Newcastle MP Tim Crakanthorp accusing the government of denying a “rite of passage” for a generation of Novocastrians. More here.

►IT took less than five minutes to lift the final span of the Market Street walkway from its perch of 30 years to the ground on Thursday. More here.

►UNIVERSITIES need to ensure they bring their support services to students in need, instead of waiting for pupilsto seek help, according to visiting scholar Professor Jacqueline Stevenson. More here.

►THE Royal Commission has heard that bishop Michael Malone intervened to stopa priest later convicted for paedophilia being appointed as principal of St Francis Xavier College in 1997. More here.

►He isn’t the biggest in the dojo, but seven-year-old Daniel James has all the makings of a prodigious martial artist. More here.

► A small rural lobby group has called on the state government to intervene in the development application process for aseniors’ living project at Berry Parkit believes should have gone before the Joint Regional Planning Panel. More here.

►Maitland Mayor Peter Blackmore has defended councillors accused of sitting on their handsduring the limbo council merger period. More here.

►A fire that destroyed a home at Weston on Wednesday night is being treated as suspicious. More here.

► A NATIONAL survey could aim to determine the size of the recreational fishing take. More here.

►THE sun shone bright down on Westlakes Netball Association’s courts on Saturday where semi-final action was beingheld. More here.

State of the nationNeed anational newssnapshot first thing? Well, we have you covered.

►NEWCASTLE: TheRoyal Commission has heard that bishop Michael Malone intervened to stopa priest later convicted for paedophilia being appointed as principal of St Francis Xavier College in 1997.Although he did this, he told the commission he did not report the priest, Brother Dominic, to the police, and left it to others to deal with. Read more

Bishop Michael Malone leaves Newcastle Courthouse on Thursday after giving evidence.

►ALBURY:A womanhas been charged with murder after a man was stabbed to death in West Albury on Thursday.Police found Scott Dickinson, 48, dead in his Hibiscus Crescent home about 5.25am after receiving a triple-0 call.

Items are removed from the home.

►WAGGA: The city will absorb a significant blowto its highway patrol resources amid revelationstwo of the city’s police motorcycle units willbe removed from the region.

Two motorbikes will be relocated to the South Coast.

►BALLARAT:Wendouree MP Sharon Knight will table a petition calling for a school bullying inquiry in state parliament.Ms Knight said on Thursday she would table the petition currently being circulated around Ballarat by aconcerned parents group in the Legislative Assembly.

Wendouree MP Sharon Knight.

►TAMWORTH:A policeofficer convicted of perjury and fabricating evidence after an incident in a police cell almost seven years ago has been handed a suspended jail sentence.

Convicted: Sergeant Anthony Kirk, pictured in November, 2013, receiving a bravery award from NSW Police. Photo: Great Lakes Advocate

►TASMANIA: Recreational fishers have hit out at a draft report by theProductivity Commissionrecommending the introduction ofsaltwater recreational fishing licences to Tasmania, labelling the proposal a cash grab.

►KATHERINE: All votes received for the Division of Katherine will be counted for a third time on Monday.The NT electoral commission will conduct recounts in thedivisionsdefined as close, with less than 100 votes separating the leadcandidates. Read more

The ALP’s Sandra Nelson leads by 39 votes.

National news►The Turnbull government suffered an embarrassing setback just as MPs were preparing to fly home on Thursday afternoon, losing its first vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Senior ministers including Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, Justice Minister Michael Keenan and Social Services Minister Christian Porter were absent from the chamber, allowing Labor to defeat an adjournment motion.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten in Canberra on Thursday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

►He’s risen tonational attention as theChinesebusinessman who forked out for Senator Sam Dastyari’s travel bill.But the story ofMinshen Zhuis far bigger than just the NSW Labor powerbroker.

Dr Zhu is a man with links to the communist government in China, helping trigger renewed debate about political donations and the rising importance of Chinese money in Australia. Read more

Dr Zhu with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in November 2015. Photo: TEI

►A planned concert seriesglorifying the life of Chairman Maohas been cancelled in Sydney and Melbourne after strong backlash within the Chinese community prompted police concern over public safety were it to go ahead.

The tribute to MaoZedong, marking the 40th anniversary of his death, touched a raw nerve among many Chinese-Australians, whose families suffered under the former Communist Party’s brutal legacy, with the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward contributing directly to the deaths of tens of millions. Read on

National weather radarInternational news

JUST IN: Dramatic video captures SpaceX explosion at Cape Canaveral. https://t上海/YQHFmbkfXrpic.twitter上海m/AdbA8HCDQS

— ABC News (@ABC) September 1, 2016Onthis daySeptember 2, 1945: Japan surrendered to theU.S.aboard theUSS Missouri, ending World War II. The war ended six years and one day after it began.

The faces of Australia: Judy MartinJUDY Martin was just 16 or 17 when she started working as a nurse at Inglewood hospital. Today,at the age of 70, Ms Martin is bidding farewell to her decades-long joband retiring.

Ms Martin’s mother worked as a cook at the hospital, so she began working there too. Read more

Nurse Judy Martin is retiring, more than 50 years after she began working at Inglewood hospital. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

Calls for restrictions on Medicare access to IVF subsidies for older women

by admin on 09/10/2019

The IVF success rate is less than one per cent for women aged over 45. Professor Michael Chapman: “Is that value for money?” Photo: Domino Postiglione
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A decade after the IVF industry defeated the federal government’s attempt to restrict Medicare access to older women, the president of its peak body has says there is little taxpayer value in subsidising the treatment after a woman turns 45.

Statistics on fertility treatment outcomes released on Friday show that 73,598 women started IVF cycles in 2014, the most recent year for which statistics are available, and one in five of them (19.8 per cent) delivered a live baby.

This represented a 10 per cent improvement in the live birth rate over five years, which has been attributed to better freezing technology.

But the success rate dwindled to 6 per cent for women aged 40 to 44, and less than 1 per cent for women aged over 45.

Fertility Society of Australia president Michael Chapman said if all the costs of IVF treatment for women aged over 40 were added together and then divided by the number of babies born, this worked out to $100,000 per baby, compared with about $28,000 for babies born to women aged 30.

For women aged over 45, the cost worked out at $200,000 per baby.

“Is that value for money?” Professor Chapman said. “That’s a question the taxpayer has to answer.

“In healthcare you do spend a lot of money on fairly significant treatments like cancer for outcomes that are likely to be very poor, so it’s a hard trade off and I think for the individual couple who are desperate to have a baby, it’s worthwhile, but I think over 45 you have to think seriously about whether Medicare should cover them.”

Medicare subsidises about $5000 per cycle, and patients foot $4500 to $5500 in out-of-pocket costs, depending on their clinic.

In 2015, Medicare expenditure for assisted reproductive technologies was over $250 million.

An attempt by the Howard government to rein in the cost of IVF in 2005 was thwarted by a campaign by the industry and fertility support groups, who said that restricting access to the treatment would mean it was only available to the wealthy.

Terry Barnes, an adviser to then health minister Tony Abbott, said he had become more sensitive to the plight of IVF couples than he was in 2005, but how many attempts should be subsidised by taxpayers was a difficult debate that Australia had to have.

“We expect women to build both careers and families, so subsidised IVF for childless older women who have put off starting a family is fair,” Mr Barnes said.

“But taxpayers can’t be expected to fund unlimited attempts with low success rates – we need to get the balance right.”

The report also showed that 74 women aged 40 to 44 had completed 10 cycles of IVF, and just three of them went on to deliver a live baby – but more than 70 per cent of them went on to have further cycles, the results of which were not collected.

Professor Chapman said fertility doctors discussed with patients their chances of conceiving after the age of 40 and the women often decided not to have further cycles, before reconsidering when the results did not work.

“These are desperate women. I say, ‘You would need a miracle,’ and they say, ‘I want to keep trying’.”

The Department of Health said the MBS review taskforce would review every item on the Medicare schedule for how it was aligned with health outcomes and evidence. A gynaecological working group would be established later this year.

“The government’s arrangements for Medicare funding of IVF services are some of the most generous in the world, providing for unlimited treatment cycles, a rebate of around $5300 per stimulated cycle and no upper age restrictions on eligibility,” it said in a statement.

Treehotel, Lulea, Sweden review: The world’s coolest B&B

by admin on 09/10/2019

Sensational suspension: Treehotel, Lulea, Sweden. Photo: SuppliedIt started with a fishing trip. Kent Jonsson Lindvall, a Swede whose interest in adventure travel had led him to lead fishing trips across Europe, was taking a group on a fly-fishing tour of Russia. On this occasion, that group just happened to include three of Sweden’s leading architects.
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Kent, with his wife Britta, also ran a small bed and breakfast in Harads, a tiny town about an hour outside the city of Lulea in northern Sweden. Though it had built a reputation for cosy accommodations and quality food, Britta’s Pensionat, as it’s called, is a simple place. A small guesthouse with nine rooms, sitting alone on the side of a major road. Inside, mismatched antique furniture, china tea sets and floral fabrics give the place a sense of quaint, old-fashioned charm. It’s a world away from what you’d call cutting-edge design. But beyond the main building, things are different.

During that fishing trip with the architects, conversation naturally turned to design. It was then Kent had an idea. Could these ground-breaking designers come up with some rooms for him?

The property behind the B&B extended up a hill and into forest. Though Kent and Britta owned it, it was essentially wasted space. Part of the land had already been used to build a treehouse, for use in the Swedish documentary The Tree Lover, but the structure was too remote to be used by guests.

It was this first treehouse that inspired the architects to come up their own versions – striking designs that could be used as hotel rooms by guests.

The Treehotel opened in 2010 and now offers six treehouses, each its own unique design, inside and out. My own stay is in the Blue Cone, which is actually red (and Kent won’t be drawn on why this is so). The small structure looks like a child’s drawing of Santa’s holiday house.

Nearby is the Mirror Cube, which is, exactly as the name suggests, a perfect cube in the trees with mirrored surfaces. The visual effect is such that when you first see it, you’re not quite sure what you’re looking at.

The same goes for the Bird’s Nest, a structure covered in jagged branches that looks like the home of some giant raptor. In the dense forest, it’s easy to miss at first glance.

More obvious is the UFO, a classic sci-fi design that looks like it just landed on earth after arriving from a distant planet. Entry is via a retractable ladder that descends from the bottom of the room, its glowing light making you feel like you’re ascending to depart like Richard Dreyfus at the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The Cabin and the Dragonfly feature similar designs, both suspended in the trees. The former offers two guests a rooftop deck for an even higher view of the landscape, while the latter is the largest of the rooms, able to accommodate four guests as well as doubling as a conference facility with seating for 10.

Each one is equally striking, with some blending in with the landscape while others are brightly contrasting with the forest surrounds. Guests staying multiple nights will often change rooms to experience more than one.

Our Blue Cone is a short walk from the main house along a snow-covered track, marked with small posts. The snow dusts the forest firs – we are truly walking in a winter wonderland. The room is not high in the trees and can be accessed easily from the short, bright red ramp that leads to the door.

Inside, it’s a classic example of Swedish design – making intelligent use of every space. The queen-size bed sits in an alcove, with two chairs sitting at the large window that frames the outside landscape like a painting. We’ve been in the room several minutes before I realise there’s a ladder leading to a loft space where there’s two single beds.

There’s no plumbing here in the trees – instead, we have an inverted water bottle above the bathroom sink, but showers need to be taken down at the main house. The lack of plumbing does not prevent us from having a toilet though, but rather than the sort of smelly drop toilet you might find in the Australian bush, ours has a built in incinerator, which also helps heat the room.

Although the interiors are basic, there’s a surprisingly strong Wi-Fi signal – better than I’ve experienced in many city hotels. So it’s an opportunity to start Instagramming straight away.

Meals are served at Britta’s restaurant in the main building and it’s hearty, warming home cooking. For lunch it’s sausage, bacon and potato stew with vegetables, while for dinner we try out the local fish – Arctic char.

While Britta looks after the cooking, Kent takes guests on outdoor activities. In the early afternoon we take snowmobiles down a trail and onto a frozen lake, where Kent demonstrates how to fish with a line in the ice, before we head back to land to enjoy a sundowner around an open fire (it’s winter, so this sundowner is happening at about 3pm).

Kent tells us of his plans for another hotel, this one floating on the nearby lake. He already has designs drawn up and this idea looks just as imaginative and striking as the last.

In the meantime, the Treehotel continues to draw attention from across the world. Even New York’s barometer of all things cool and fashionable, Vogue magazine, has given the Treehotel the ultimate compliment – the world-famous publication did a fashion shoot at the hotel, making the place world famous in the process.

Lulea itself, a town where the main industry is farming and processing reindeer meat, had already made world news in 2011 after becoming the home for Facebook’s European data centre – the company’s first outside the US.

I’ve little doubt that the servers in the centre have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of photos of the Treehotel pass through them on their way to people’s Facebook pages from around the world.

It’s a special place, and certainly hard not to “Like”. Trip notes

Getting there

Etihad flies from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth to Abu Dhabi with connections to Berlin through Air Berlin. From there, several airlines fly to Sweden. The nearest airport to Harads is Lulea, about one hour’s drive.

Staying there

Rooms in the Treehotel start from 4700 Swedish krona ($720) per night for two. See treehotel.se

Touring there

Off the Map Travel specialises in luxury adventure tours with a focus on Scandinavia and can arrange activities, transfers and accommodation. A four-night Lulea Winter Adventure to Swedish Lapland starts from £1999 ($3479) per person twin share including transfers, meals and activities with stays at a Sami Lavvu Tepee at the Aurora Safari Camp; two nights at Brandon Lodge and a night at the Treehotel. See offthemaptravel上海.uk

Craig Platt travelled as a guest of Off the Map Travel, Etihad and Air Berlin.

Is ASIC chairman Greg Medcraft contemplating life after a financial divorce?

by admin on 09/10/2019

Treasury Wine CEO Michael Clarke may have had the best line of reporting season so far. Photo: Eddie Jim ASIC chairman Greg Medcraft is enjoying his final year at the top. Photo: Christopher Pearce
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CBD couldn’t help but wonder what was the driver behind the corporate plod’s latest initiative labelled “new divorce and separation resources to support your financial decisions”.

“A relationship breakdown changes many aspects of a person’s life, including their finances. This can leave people feeling stressed and overwhelmed and make it difficult to focus on financial decisions,” said ASIC deputy Peter Kell.

“The new resources can help sort out money issues and guide people through the financial uncertainty they may be facing when a relationship ends, by providing practical steps to separate finances.”

It includes a divorce and separation financial checklist and asset stocktake calculator.

Could it be a coincidence that Malcolm Turnbull is putting his investment banking skills to good use – let’s not talk about his political skills – by divorcing the incredibly lucrative corporate registry business from ASIC and flogging it off to the highest bidder.

According to reports, ASIC generated revenue totaling $842 million from its various services, but less than $100 million was sourced from fines and penalties generated by its actual enforcement business.

The rest is derived from what the registry business charges companies to file documents, and then charges the public to access these documents – at prices that far exceed the meagre cost of running the business.

The government’s tender for the business closed last week, and maybe Greg Medcraft’s team at ASIC is starting to contemplate the implications of its own divorce.

As the press release says: “The resources are designed to help Australians manage their finances and make informed financial choices to avoid financial pitfalls during periods of significant change in their life.”

Luckily for ASIC, it always kept its finances separate from the registry business cash cow. And it has more to fear from the Liberal Party’s distaste for corporate scrutiny – as expressed in Tony Abbott’s budget cuts for ASIC.   Go Harvey!

Australia’s housing boom underpinned Harvey Norman’s earnings bonanza on Wednesday, so don’t expect its billionaire founder Gerry Harvey to tell you the party might be ending any time soon.

In an interview on Thursday morning, the ABC’s Fran Kelly asked whether Harvey Norman investors should worry about economist predictions that house prices on the east coast are due for a correction.

“Interest rates, I think, are heading to zero, and the inflation rate does not look like being very high for a long time so why would house prices crash?” said Harvey, who has added $1 billion to his net worth since 2013 on the back of his company’s rising share price.

“There is no guarantee it will fall at all,” he said of the housing demand, which is helping feed a renovation boom that boosted the company’s earnings before interest and tax 27 per cent to $522.5 million.

Our ever-optimistic retailer has further assurances for home owners and his investors worried about a potential correction.

“All I know after looking at the economy for 56 years now is that things always come back and exceed their highs some years later,” he said.

Obviously, Gerry is not talking about his punt on the transportable mining accommodation business in 2012 – on behalf of his fellow investors – just as the bust loomed on the horizon. Red Treasure

Treasury Wine Estate’s premium reds are keeping its boss, Michael Clarke, in the black.

The dual Irish-South African citizen has now taken home $10 million in remuneration during the past two years. Clarke’s pay for last year totalled $5.9 million including $3.5 million in base pay and cash bonuses, according to the winemaker’s annual report, which was released on Thursday.

And imagine what Clarke can do this year, now that he’s been able to dispense with boardroom duties at Quiksilver in February after hedge fund Oaktree took control of the surf group followings its emergence from bankruptcy.  Hardie tax 

And following our reports on James Hardie and its potential tax issues in Ireland, CBD thought a line in a corporate presentation – which popped up on the ASX Thursday – was worth a mention.

“Income taxes are not currently paid or payable in Europe (excluding Ireland) or Australia due to tax losses. Australian tax losses primarily result from deductions relating to contributions to AICF (Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund).”

Got a tip? [email protected]上海m.au 

How old-fashioned apprenticeships can work in new industries

by admin on 09/10/2019

The old-fashioned apprenticeships in plumbing, carpentry, electrics and bricklaying not only worked, they built a nation. Photo: Louie DouvisYou might remember being given a nickname at school or as you took up your apprenticeship.
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In Sydney an “o” was often added. In advertising a young John Singleton quickly became Singo while he was still learning on the job.

And the great advertising duo of Alan Morris and Allan Johnston quickly became Mojo, turning out jingles like “you outta be congratulated”, and the time-honoured “C’mon Aussie, C’mon”, that they did for their good mate Kerro, AKA Kerry Packer. Then of course in cricket there was the great captain Simmo, Bob Simpson.

In Melbourne the tendency was to add “y” and our fast learning new Premier in 1999 came to office as Bracksy, AKA Steve Bracks with his deputy Thwaitsey otherwise known as John Thwaites. The Treasurer, John Brumby, already had his own Y. Not fair.

But this great Aussie tradition of affectionate initiation for those starting out on a career in the workplace had its grandest example with Hawkey, the great PM who really brought the country together.

Apart from the early nicknames, so much of our future is determined by the way in which we enter the workforce. I have to say our new Education Minister, Simon Birmingham is onto it.

He’s a star and so we’ve decided to call him, “Birmers” in the English tradition.

We first noted Birmers when he talked about increasing the value of the technical institutes, the TAFEs, and he made a lot of sense.

Many readers of this column would have got their start in life, as well as their nickname, when they took up their apprenticeship but these days it seems we are becoming less interested in training on the job.

The latest report from The Foundation for Young Australians tells us that 70 per cent of vocational education and training (i.e. the synonym VET) students are being trained for jobs that will be lost or radically changed in the immediate future by automation. They simply just won’t get the job that they train for. “Stupid” says Louise.

To make matters even more critical, the unemployment rate for young people hovers around 12 per cent, double the national average and even when they are employed, young people are likely to be underemployed in part-time jobs of little relevance to their qualifications.

Some people blame the labour market. Others say it’s just a transition and that young people will find their feet. Both explanations are covering up the real problem.

Put simply, we’re not training our young kids for the jobs that are available and we’re not good at filling them. By the time a young person finishes an IT degree the industry has already moved on. The fact is that there is always a lag between contemporary industry practice and education curricula.

Some of our new politicians complain about our levels of immigration but last year we granted around 40,000 visas to skilled overseas workers in order to fill jobs where no skilled locals could be found. And yet we have such high levels of youth unemployment.

“So what’s the answer?” asks Louise.

Charlie gets it. He says that the radical expansion of the time-honoured apprenticeship system can reverse the unemployment and underemployment trend and enable a rapid growth of a skilled workforce.

Young people who complete their apprenticeship are almost guaranteed a job – 90 per cent are employed immediately. That’s better than any university can claim.

The good news is that apprenticeships have trebled in the last 20 years but they are not applied widely enough. Birmers is on to it and has been making speeches during the week. This was followed up by a report from CEDA and its chief executive Professor Stephen Martin. “Good old Marto from Hawkey’s years in power” comments Louise. Tick to that.

But the matter is urgent because industry is moving so quickly. The old-fashioned apprenticeships in plumbing, carpentry, electrics and bricklaying not only worked, they built a nation. In fact my start in the workforce as a 16-year-old was made possible by a form of apprenticeship in the advertising industry.

But we need to get our government to encourage the new industries to take on apprentices. The growth industry of finance, for instance. Why aren’t the banks running apprenticeships instead of pinching people from each other?

The same is true in IT. How many apprentices did Google employ in Australia last year? I’m not sure.

“What about politics?” asks Louise “How about an apprentice Prime Minister?”

“Well, they all learn on the job” says Charlie. “And some of them need to hurry up and graduate.”

Over to you Birmers, you’re headed in the right direction.

Let’s release a new workforce of young people learning on the job and building the nation with industry-learnt skills and competencies of today – not yesterday.

Fresh questions over Sam Dastyari’s entitlements as calls grow for foreign donations ban

by admin on 08/09/2019

Kim Carr and Sam Dastyari pose for a picture on Victoria’s 2014 election day. Photo: FacebookIs this Australia’s most connected Chinese donor?
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Sam Dastyari has pointed to his attendance at a Chinese film festival to justify using taxpayer funds to campaign for Labor, even though MPs are banned from using their travel perks for political work.

The embattled Labor senator has gone to ground amid a ferocious government assault, triggered by a Fairfax Media report that he asked a business with links to the Chinese government to pay a $1600 bill after exceeding travel entitlements.

Attorney-General George Brandis even questioned whether Senator Dastyari had “compromised” himself by letting the company pick up the tab.

The former NSW Labor secretary has also come under fire after revelations he backed China’s position on the South China Sea while standing next to another Chinese donor who has previously paid the senator’s legal bills. The mid-election declaration was at odds with Labor’s policy, drawing a strong public rebuke from factional ally Tony Burke on Thursday.

A fresh examination of the senator’s travel logs show he billed taxpayers $650.40 to fly from Sydney to Melbourne on November, 29, 2014 – the day of the Victorian state election. His flight from Melbourne to Canberra the next day cost $516.99.

Senator Dastyari posted a photo of himself on election day “working a booth” with Victorian senator Kim Carr.

The Department of Finance forbids MPs from travelling on the taxpayer’s dime for party-political purposes.

But Senator Dastyari insisted he did not breach the rules because he attended a Chinese film event at the Crown Hotel, where he stayed at the Chinese Film Association’s expense.

“That was the primary purpose of my trip,” he said.

“I had been invited to the event in my capacity as a senator. No Victorians from the opposition were able to attend because of the state election.”

A further review of Senator Dastyari’s register of interests also shows he failed to properly disclose the identity of donors who provided him with tickets to sporting matches, including the A-League, an international Test cricket match and the NRL grand final.

The guidelines for disclosing gifts states: “The source of any gift should be identified by name.”

When asked why the donors had not been named, Senator Dastyari said in a statement the Western Sydney Wanderers and the NRL had provided the tickets to the relevant games and conservative lobbyist David Miles paid for the cricket match. He promised to check with the Clerk of the Senate about his reporting requirements.

It is not the first time Senator Dastyari has been forced to defend using taxpayer fights for Labor Party purposes. Last year it was revealed he charged taxpayers to fly from Sydney to Melbourne, where he attended a rail union protest.

Senator Brandis led the government’s attack on Thursday.

“Senator Dastyari’s acceptance of personal benefits from an entity or entities with links to the Chinese state, and the carefully opaque way in which the payments have been described in the Register of Senators Interests, raises the inevitable question of whether Senator Dastyari — whether advertently or unwittingly — has allowed himself to be compromised,” he said.

“Senator Dastyari needs to answer whether, in fact, he is delivering on the extensive support provided to him.”

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo called for Senator Dastyari to stand down.

The suddenly media-shy senator declined all interviews on Thursday after revelations he asked the Top Education Institute, run by prolific Chinese-Australian businessman Minshen Zhu, to pay his personal debt to the Commonwealth worth $1670.

Things got worse when the Australian Financial Review reported that at a June press conference for Chinese media, Senator Dastyari pledged to respect China’s position in the volatile South China Sea dispute, at odds with the Labor Party’s position.

The senator was also reported as saying “the South China Sea is China’s own affair”. He called on Australia to remain neutral and drop its opposition to China’s air defence zone in the region.

Labor frontbencher Tony Burke slapped down his colleague on television and restated the party’s “crystal clear” stance on the issue.

“All parties should respect international law and we urge restraint and that’s the position and that’s what the answer should have been,” Mr Burke said.

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Panti Bliss, face of Irish marriage equality, says plebiscite might have upside

by admin on 08/09/2019

Panti Bliss, aka Rory O’Neill, in the documentary The Queen of Ireland. Photo: Supplied It’s amazing what a good scandal can do.
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Conor Horgan had been pottering along on his portrait of Irish drag queen Panti Bliss for five years or so, shooting snippets of footage whenever he could raise funding. Then, over the course of a few weeks in 2014, things suddenly exploded.

“I thought, and he thought, we were making a small character documentary,” says Panti’s alter-ego, Rory O’Neill. “Conor started to realise he had a film when I got into trouble on the TV show. And he was absolutely delighted.”

O’Neill’s “trouble” began when he named a few people in the Irish media he believed were homophobic during an appearance on a TV talk show in January 2014. Threatened with a defamation suit, the panicked RTE hastily settled, with payouts reportedly totalling €85,000 ($126,000).

O’Neill was furious at what he saw as the national broadcaster’s cowardice, and three weeks later gave a rousing speech at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre. The subject was homophobia and the self-loathing it induces, and Horgan was there to record it.

The next day he posted it on YouTube and it quickly went viral. “He had no trouble getting money after that,” laughs O’Neill.

The film they made together, The Queen of Ireland, charts O’Neill’s rise from small-town boy to the face (as Panti) of Ireland’s marriage equality campaign, via a stint in Japan in the 1980s and a thriving career as a theatre performer and owner of a drag bar in Dublin.

It captures the twin triumphs of Ireland’s yes vote for marriage equality in November 2015 and, on a smaller but no less emotional scale, Panti’s homecoming drag show in Ballinrobe (population 3682) the same year.

Panti with director Conor Horgan.

You might imagine that growing up gay in the oppressively Catholic Ireland of the 1970s might have been horrendous, but not so in O’Neill’s telling.

“In many ways it was quite idyllic, but as a gay kid it was pretty alien – there were absolutely no gays in my life, no gays on the TV, you didn’t have Graham Norton or Boy George. I didn’t even meet a real-life homosexual until I was 18.

“I think from my early teens I realised there was something different about me, but I was so innocent that it took me quite a while to work out what that was. These days I’d be on the internet at 13 watching Brazilian boys having sex, and I’d be like, ‘Oh, that’s me!’ But at the time, no.”

Ireland has changed almost beyond recognition as the moral stranglehold of the church has been weakened by a succession of scandals in the past couple of decades. The world outside may still think of it as a nation in the grip of the priests but, O’Neill says, the reality is quite different.

Nowhere was that more apparent than in the referendum last year that granted marriage equality to LGBT people. It followed a long and sometimes bitter campaign, but at the end of it 62 per cent of voters were in favour of the change.

Celebrating the yes vote with supporters at Dublin Castle, Ireland, on Saturday May 23, 2015.

Unlike Australia, referendums in Ireland are common, and binding. And, says O’Neill, they are always fiercely contested, whatever the question.

So, are people right to fear that the proposed Australian plebiscite on the issue will become a platform for hate speech?

“Absolutely they are,” O’Neill says. “We’re well used to plebiscites, but the question became something bigger: ‘Are you OK with gay people?’ So if you spend six months walking down the streets seeing posters saying you make horrible parents or your relationships are worthless or whatever, and every time you turn on the radio or open a newspaper there are people saying horrible things about you, that can become very tiring, wearing, depressing. It’s a really unpleasant experience.”

That said, there is an upside to a plebiscite, he says. “It feels like that debate is over, done, finished and settled now. Nobody can claim it was brought in by a political elite – the whole country decided on it. All the worst things that could be said were said and got out into the open, and still the result was an emphatic yes. And that has been really powerful for the gay community.

“Since the day of the result,” he says, “the LGBTI community is very secure and confident of their place in Irish society, in a way they weren’t before and in a way I think they wouldn’t be if it had just been brought in by politicians.”

So, are you saying a plebiscite might not be so bad after all?

“I’m still not going to recommend it,” he says emphatically. “It is unpleasant, and difficult and in your case so unnecessary and expensive. And if you don’t get the right answer you’re going to have to wait ages to do it again.”

The Queen of Ireland opens September 8

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World Cup qualifiers: Ange Postecoglou always confident that goals would come as Iraq wilted

by admin on 08/09/2019

Australia had made all the running, huffed and puffed but had failed to break down a stubborn Iraqi resistance by half-time in their opening World Cup qualifier in Perth.
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But coach Ange Postecoglou was hardly concerned, so confident was he that the Middle Eastern team would run out of stamina as they tried to defend against constant Australian pressure.

And when Massimo Luongo and Tomi Juric scored a goal apiece shortly before and shortly after the hour mark, he was far from surprised.

The win put Australia on a solid path to the World Cup in Russia, although they now face a tough task in the early hours of Wednesday morning (AEST) when they face a confident UAE side in Abu Dhabi.

Conditions will be hot and difficult, and the UAE will be cock a hoop after their shock 2-1 win in their opening qualifier in Japan.

Still, Postecoglou is happy just to focus on his own side.

“I was pleased with both our performance and the result. I knew they would make it difficult for us.

“We got off to a really great start. We probably should have had a goal in the first 20 seconds. I thought we controlled the tempo of the game.

“They were working hard to try and stop us and I knew we would eventually wear them down.

“They were clocking up the kilometres, but at some point we knew they would run out of petrol because you can’t keep going at that pace.

“In the second half we scored two, we hit the post, Tomi [Juric] had a very good chance, their keeper pulled off a couple of great saves. All in all against a difficult opponent I thought it was a good start.”

Juric had a game of highs and lows, missing a clear-cut chance but setting up Luongo’s first goal and scoring the second himself.

“I thought him and Lecks [Mathew Leckie] were really good up front, they worked hard, created opportunities, continually asked questions of the opposition.

“We were going to make the substitution before the corner but we decided to leave him [Juric] on for that hoping he could get a touch on it … it was just a reward more than anything for his good play.”

Socceroos v Iraq: Ange Postecoglou always confident goals would come in World Cup qualifier

by admin on 08/09/2019

Australia made all the running, huffed and puffed but failed to break down a stubborn Iraqi resistance at half-time in their opening World Cup qualifier in Perth.
Shanghai night field

But coach Ange Postecoglou was hardly concerned, so confident was he that the Middle Eastern team would run out of stamina as they tried to defend against constant Australian pressure.

And when Massimo Luongo and Tomi Juric scored a goal apiece shortly before and shortly after the hour mark, he was far from surprised.

The win puts Australia on a solid path to the World Cup in Russia, although they now face a tough task in the early hours of Wednesday morning (AEST) when they face a confident UAE side in Abu Dhabi.

Conditions will be hot and difficult, and the UAE will be cock-a-hoop after their shock 2-1 win in their opening qualifier in Japan.

Still, Postecoglou is happy just to focus on his own side.

“I was pleased with both our performance and the result. I knew they would make it difficult for us.

“We got off to a really great start. We probably should have had a goal in the first 20 seconds. I thought we controlled the tempo of the game.

“They were working hard to try and stop us and I knew we would eventually wear them down. “They were clocking up the kilometres, but at some point we knew they would run out of petrol because you can’t keep going at that pace.

“In the second half we scored two, we hit the post, Tomi (Juric) had a very good chance, their keeper pulled off a couple of great saves. All in all against a difficult opponent I thought it was a good start.”

Juric had a game of highs and lows, missing a clear cut chance but setting up Luongo’s first goal and scoring the second himself.

“I thought him and Lecks (Mathew Leckie) were really good up front, they worked hard, created opportunities, continually asked questions of the opposition.

“We were going to make the substitution before the corner but we decided to leave him (Juric) on for that hoping he could get a touch on it … it was just a reward more than anything for his good play.

Australian accused of child sex tourism arrested in the Philippines

by admin on 08/09/2019

Alleged paedophile Peter Gerard Scully, 52, is arraigned in the Philippines. Photo: Joseph Ben R. DevezaAn Iranian-born Australian accused of child sex tourism and possessing child pornography in the Philippines had travelled 65 times to Asian nations in 18 months, police say.
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The arrest of Farhanipour Gholamreza, 50, after he had allegedly paid money to a 13 year-old Philippine girl will bolster a call by newly elected Victorian Senator Derryn Hinch​ to strip convicted sex offenders of their passports.

Australian Federal Police say 15 of the trips that Mr Gholamreza made were to the Philippines, a popular destination for foreign paedophiles where there is a booming trade in online child pornography.

Records show he also visited China, Singapore and Thailand.

Senator Hinch told the Melbourne Press Club in August that as the Immigration Department withdraws the passports of bankrupts it should do the same for sex offenders.

“Now they’re not going there for the sun, they’re going there for the sons and daughters,” he said.

Police allege that Mr Gholamreza arrived in the Philippines from Sydney on August 19 to meet the 13 year-old girl whom he met through Facebook.

Police allege that Mr Gholamreza lured the girl to send explicit naked photos to him through a messaging system with the promise of money.

Facebook personnel informed authorities when they discovered the photographs.

“It’s a protocol of Facebook to monitor all the chat logs and they came upon the account of this minor (girl) chatting with an Australian national,” police superintendent Rosauro Acio told reporters.

“The victim had long been providing explicit images.”

Police allege that Mr Gholamreza twice transferred money to the girl before arriving in the Philippines where he tried to set-up a meeting outside of Manila.

But they lost contact because the Facebook account was closed.

Police and child social workers then set up a sting operation in which a police agent posed as a friend of Mr Gholamreza to facilitate a meeting between the girl and Mr Gholamreza, police allege.

As the girl’s mother went to collect money from a branch of Western Union she was detained and her daughter taken into the care of social workers.

Mr Gholamreza was arrested as he was about to fly out of Manila international airport and is seeking legal assistance.

Police said Mr Gholamreza will face charges either under Anti-child Pornography Act or the Anti-trafficking in Persons Act.

Australian Federal Police data shows that more than 2,700 registered sex offenders have travelled from Australia in the past five years.

Around 250 of them travelled to the Philippines in 2014 alone.

Meanwhile, authorities say the trial of alleged Melbourne child-porn kingpin Peter Scully, who was arrested in the Philippines last year, will be held behind closed doors to protect children he is accused of abusing.

Mr Scully, 53, pleaded not guilty to some of the most shocking child-sex crimes in Philippine history at pre-trial hearing on June 27, including raping an 18-month old baby and murdering a 12 year-old girl.

Eight alleged girl victims of Scully are being cared for under witness protection pending the trial.

Two others have returned to the care of their parents after receiving psychotherapy treatment.

The allegations against Mr Scully, who left Melbourne in 2011 after being accused of fraud and deception, have prompted calls for the reintroduction of the death penalty in the Philippines.