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Flight Centre goes home brand in profitability push

Flight Centre will try to sell customers more of its own tours, hotel rooms and other products as the nation’s largest travel agent tries to improve its profitability in the notoriously margin-thin industry.
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The company told shareholders at its annual general meeting on Thursday that it wanted to make selling its own “in-destination” products a core pillar of business growth, along with leisure and corporate travel bookings.

“It is about the vertical experience,” managing director Graham Turner told Fairfax Media.

“You deal with the customer instore and then they go on your own products as well.

“Still, 80 to 90 per cent of our business will be on other suppliers’ product, but because we’ve got the distribution network it is quite important that we sell our own product as well.”

Travel agents take a relatively thin cut from airline bookings compared to hotel rooms and other products, and Mr Turner said selling more ancillary products would improve the business’ profitability.

The company, which has been on an acquisition spree in recent years, owns a number of tour operators, a hotel management business, and “destination management” businesses which arrange services such as airport transfers.

Owning these businesses meant Flight Centre had more control over the quality of what it was selling customers, and could market unique products, Mr Turner said.

Flight Centre is targeting a return to a 2 per cent profit margin within three to five years, up from 1.6 per cent last year, along with 7 per cent average transaction growth over the next three years, and cost growth of less than $100 million this year.

The company said it was on track to return a profit before tax of between $120 million and $135 million in the first half of the financial year.

That will be growth of between 6 to 19 per cent on the same period last year, when profit grew at 1.8 per cent, and will set it up for a full-year profit of between $350 million and $380 million – up 6.2 to 15.6 per cent on 2017.

Mr Turner said its international businesses would be the core growth driver in 2018, as its n and New Zealand stores undergo booking system upgrades that are expected to disrupt sales and see first local half profits dip “slightly”.

North America, which delivered about 10 per cent of the group’s $329 million underlying profit last year, was seeing improvements in the challenging leisure and wholesale markets. That was a result of closing under-performing outlets, which would likely continue as more shop leases expire.

n leisure travellers account for about half the company’s profits, and Mr Turner said that while “very few” of its local shopfronts were unprofitable, it would look to close or relocate struggling stores.

Record low international airfares out of have hurt the company’s earnings over the past year but Mr Turner said fares appeared to have stabilised.

Shaw and Partners analyst Darren Vincent said Flight Centre’s performance update on Thursday gave credence to the performance targets it first revealed in August.

“Investors have been reluctant to factor in some of those aspirational targets,” said Mr Vincent, who has a bullish outlook on the company.

“With today’s announcement you’ve seen Flight Centre management pretty much saying: ‘we’re on track for delivering the start of what we said we’d deliver’. So I think that’s why you’ve seen the share price react pretty positively.”

Shares rose 2 per cent to close at $47.45, up from $29.50 a year ago.


18/01/2019 0

CBA tipped to avoid second ‘strike’ on executive pay

The Commonwealth Bank looks set to avoid a damaging second “strike” on executive pay, with influential proxy advisers and the peak group for retail investors supporting the bank’s remuneration report.
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However, proxy firm CGI Glass Lewis is advising investors to vote against the re-election of one non-executive director, Andrew Mohl, pointing to damage to CBA’s reputation caused by the money-laundering compliance scandal.

After the bank suffered a fierce shareholder backlash at last year’s annual meeting, chair Catherine Livingstone will next week chair her first AGM at the bank after a tumultuous few months for the lender.

Ms Livingstone is likely to face questions over the explosive allegations from Austrac that CBA repeatedly breached anti-money-laundering laws by failing to report thousands of suspicious transactions through its ATMs between 2012 and 2015.

But in welcome news for the bank, proxy firms ISS, Ownership Matters, and CGI Glass Lewis have advised large investor clients to vote in favour of the company’s remuneration report.

This comes after Ms Livingstone scrapped all executive short-term bonuses as a form of collective accountability following the Austrac scandal, and a revamp of CBA’s remuneration policies.

Last year, 50.9 per cent of CBA’s shareholders rejected the remuneration report, making CBA the first major bank in to receive a first strike on executive pay.

If CBA receives a second “strike” next week, it will trigger another vote on whether to call another meeting to spill the board, but proxy firms are also recommending shareholders vote against this conditional motion, if it comes to that.

ISS recommended a “qualified” vote for the bank’s remuneration report. It welcomed changes such as CBA’s greater emphasis on financial targets when setting bonuses, and the fact outgoing chief Ian Narev will not be eligible to earn new long-term bonus shares.

CGI Glass Lewis also supported a vote in favour of the remuneration report, noting executive pay at CBA this year had been “significantly lower” than last year.

However, CGI advised clients to vote against the re-election of Andrew Mohl, who is seeking re-election for one more year before departing next year.

Mr Mohl has been on the board for nine years, and CBA says it is asking for him to serve one more year because of his experience in insurance, given the bank is in the process of selling its life insurance business.

But CGI said all directors who were on the board at the time of the alleged Austrac contraventions should be accountable, and the only non-executive directors who have served for more than three years were Mr Mohl and Brian Long.

As Mr Long is not up for re-election this year, CGI said it had “no other option” but to recommend a vote against the re-election of Mr Mohl.

While noting Mr Mohl’s insurance expertise, it said: “Nevertheless, we are unable to endorse this nominee up for election this year, in light of the reputational issues that have a significant negative impact on shareholders.”

ISS gave “qualified support” for the re-election of Mr Mohl, and other directors Sir David Higgins, and Wendy Stops.

Shareholders will also vote on the proposed appointment of former Westpac banker Rob Whitfield to the Commonwealth Bank’s board as a non-executive director. ISS and CGI supported Mr Whitfield’s appointment.

The n Shareholders’ Association has also backed the remuneration report, but will vote against the re-election of Mr Higgins as a director, because of his role in overseeing the creation of last year’s remuneration report that incurred a no vote.

“By voting against his re-election, the ASA is holding him accountable for the first strike on the remuneration report,” the ASA’s voting intentions document says.

Since Austrac accused CBA of the massive compliance breach in August, the board scrapped senior executive bonuses for this year, cut board fees, and it was announced chief executive Ian Narev will leave the lender by the end of this financial year.


18/01/2019 0

Geoff Wilson counters Nick Bolton’s raid on Molopo’s $65m cash box

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 11: Geoff Wilson, from WAM, during the UBS Investment Conference on November 11, 2016 in Sydney, . (Photo by Daniel Munoz/Fairfax Media)It has all the makings of a Sergio Leone western.
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Interests associated with corporate spiv, Nick Bolton, and Perth-based cowboy Farooq Khan, are no longer the only ones making a grab for the $65 million cash box that is Molopo Energy.

A white knight has emerged in the form of respected fundie Geoff Wilson.

His group, Wilson Asset Management, joined the treasure hunt on Thursday with a $33 million cash takeover bid for Molopo.

“If they want liquidity, we are offering 100 per cent cash,” Wilson told CBD.

His bid matches the offer from Aurora, an entity associated with Bolton – the guy who has been banned from acting as a company director for three years following his involvement in the failure of 13 companies that left creditors with debts totalling $25 million.

So if you think Wilson’s $33 million cash for a company doesn’t sound like a great deal, wait until you hear the offer from Aurora, which offers a small amount of cash and then units in an Aurora fund that has a redemption schedule set up by associates of Bolton.

The best option, of course, is to stay put and keep Botlon’s crew out of the driver’s seat.

Wilson is targeting 50.1 per cent acceptance as a minimum condition, which is why its offer is also conditional on the outcome of a legal challenge by the Bolton and Khan-backed Keybridge. It is a major Molopo investor.

The Takeovers panel ordered Keybridge and Aurora to divest some of the shares the two companies acquired as part of their raid on Molopo after declaring “unacceptable circumstances”.

It amounts to a 16 per cent stake in Molopo that ASIC will be selling once the legal challenge is settled.

The Wilson offer should add to the fun at this Friday’s Molopo shareholder meeting. Keybridge will attempt to knock off Molopo executive chairman Alexandre Gabovich, and replace him with one of its own, William Johnson. Fox Cunning

Rupert Murdoch’s crucial backer at 21st Century Fox – Prince Alwaleed bin Talal – sold most of his shares as much as two years ago and the group still hasn’t confirmed this fact to the market.

So there was no way that Fox CEO James Murdoch, and co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch, were going to come clean about any alleged attempt to sell Fox’s TV and movie production businesses to Disney when they fronted analysts for the group’s Q1 results on Thursday.

“Let me be very clear up front that we have a long-standing policy of not commenting on speculations around corporate activity or transactions ??? we will not be responding at all to questions or comments regarding recent press speculation,” Lachlan told analysts in his opening breath.

But he did not entirely avoid the issue, which goes to the heart of why a sale of these assets would make sense: Does Fox has the scale to compete with the Netflixes and other potential new predators in the media landscape?

“Let me be very clear, Fox has the required scale to continue to both execute on our growth strategy and deliver increased returns to shareholders,” said Lachlan.

James dutifully promised that Fox is still engaging with UK regulators over its next big play at building scale – the Sky takeover – and said “we anticipate the transaction to close by the middle of 2018”.

The good news is that there was a brave soul among the analysts who tried to indirectly address the elephant in the room, Michael Nathanson from MoffettNathanson.

He opened with the suggestion that Fox is perceived as an asset collector. Nathanson then asked if industry trends had changed enough for Fox to rethink its asset mix for the long term.

“So I just want to know thematically, are you guys at the right scale?” asked Nathanson.

Both James and Lachlan swung at this one.

“We’ve always been asset builders whether it’s Sky or Star or Fox News or the Fox Network, we operate these businesses to build them and grow. And we will continue to do so,” said Lachlan.

James pointed out that the company has been happy to sell “assets that weren’t going to change our lives”, citing the sale of its Russian outdoor business as an example.

It would have been lost on no one that the sale of Fox’s entertainment assets would be very life changing for James who runs these businesses. Home fires

There’s something brewing in the household of Treasury Wine boss, Michael Clarke.

Just a few weeks ago he sold $2.8 million worth of stock and shuffled another 100,000 shares to his missus, Fiona Clarke.

On Thursday Mr Clarke disclosed to the market that Ms Clarke sold 90,000 of those shares for $1.4 million. Mr Clarke also transferred another 100,000 shares across to his wife.

So we know who makes the big decisions in THAT household.

Follow CBD on Twitter. Got a tip? [email protected]苏州夜总会招聘.au


18/01/2019 0

Every croak counts: ‘Urgent rescue mission’ to save China’s frogs

??????Godzilla?????? the Green tree frog , on a smart phone. The n Museum has produced an app which can identify frog species using their calls for the public to help track species in . Pic Nick Moir 8 nov 2017
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A smart phone reflected in the eye of a Pobblebonk frog .The n Museum has produced an app which can identify frog species using their calls for the public to help track species in . Pic Nick Moir 8 nov 2017

??????Godzilla?????? the Green tree frog , on a smart phone. The n Museum has produced an app which can identify frog species using their calls for the public to help track species in . Pic Nick Moir 8 nov 2017

Like the stars of stage, screen and Sesame Street, the 25-year-old green tree frog called Godzilla??? was immediately ready for his croak up.

When Godzilla saw an iPhone at the n Museum this week, the male frog hugged it. It was an appropriate response given that a new smart phone app called FrogID is being described as an “urgent rescue mission” to save frogs that are vulnerable or endangered.

It’s part of a national citizen science initiative to count ‘s frogs, which is being launched by the n Museum on Friday.

The app developed by IBM works a bit like the music identification and discovery app Shazam by recording male frog’s chirps, barks and croaks. After downloading the app and turning on the location to aid identification, all users have to do is hit record when they think they hear a male frog calling out to attract the females of its species.

The museum’s frog expert Jodi Rowley said frogs were often hard to identify by sight: some species look so similar that she sometimes has to inspect the front legs to find small differences. Like humans, each frog has its own “voice”, and a larger frog will sound deeper than a younger, smaller frog.

Of the 240 native n species, four frogs are already extinct, five are critically endangered, 14 are endangered and 10 are vulnerable, said Dr Rowley, the curator of amphibian and reptile conservation biology.

“Frogs are an incredibly threatened group of animals,” she said. “Globally it is 42 per cent of all species [that are threatened], which is faster than birds and mammals. And one of the major obstacles in preserving frogs is a lack of knowledge.”

Godzilla, the green tree frog. Photo: Nick Moir

In , an estimated 20 species of frogs have yet to be named or identified. There may even be cases where what is thought to be one species could actually be three. “That has huge conservation implications,” she said.

Frogs are bio-indicators, and, like the canaries in the coal mine, they are often the first to perish when the quality of water deteriorates or from changes in their habitat.

Kathy Potter of the Frog and Toad Study Group lives with Godzilla and about 40 other frogs, which the educational group has saved or rescued.

“It is nice to see people doing things with frogs,” she said of the new FrogID app. “It’s usually pretty lonely out there. It is a really specialised kind of crazy.”

A Pobblebonk frog. Photo: Nicholas Moir

Frogs were easier to find than most people thought, she said, adding they were everywhere.

“You don’t have to go out into the wilderness and be the next David Attenborough … you can go to your local oval at night, you find them in drains, you find them in gutters, any parkland with waters, a good thing to do with friends.”

Dr Rowley is hoping citizen scientists may also find some frogs that have gone missing, such as the peppered tree frog, which was last seen in 1970s in NSW’s Northern Tablelands and may be threatened with extinction.

“It is a little bit of a needle in a haystack because it is about two centimetres in body length [and lives in deep gorges],” she said.

“This is one species where it would be amazing if somebody out there recorded its call,” said Dr Rowley who has been looking for it.

Download info available at FrogID苏州夜场招聘.au


18/01/2019 0

Conservative forces push to frustrate same-sex marriage legislation

Senator Louise Pratt joined the Canberra Gay and Lesbian Qwire to sing outside Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday 16 August 2017. Fedpol. Photo: Andrew Meares MPs in favour of same-sex marriage reform are bracing for “a blizzard of amendments”, or a rival bill, from Christian conservatives intent on delaying the legalisation until they have all the safeguards for religious freedom they deem necessary.
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Conservatives believe the Parliament should ensure businessess and individuals who refuse services to same-sex couples on religious grounds are not exposed to adverse legal consequences under any change to the Marriage Act.

The looming progressive versus conservative battle is the next headache for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who was criticised for ordering the $122 million protracted postal poll, while reassuring voters their verdict would be respected if they backed change by Parliament expediting the matter before Christmas.

With the n Bureau of Statistics reporting that nearly eight in 10 ns returned their forms, pessimistic “no” campaigners have confirmed they will insist on major changes to the way same-sex marriage is introduced if the “yes” vote gets up – as expected – when results are announced next Wednesday.

At present the only proposed same-sex marriage legislation on the table is the private member’s bill drafted by Liberal senator Dean Smith. This bill has been through the committee process and is ready to go.

But prominent conservative “no” MPs say this bill fails to provide sufficient religious exemptions for businesses, individuals and schools, and that it does not guarantee freedom of speech to conscientious objectors.

“In the event of ‘yes’ vote, the Dean Smith bill is an insufficient basis to start the conversation,” conservative Liberal senator Eric Abetz told Fairfax Media.

“While it would be desirable to have the matter resolved by Christmas, it is an artificial deadline in relation to this matter.

“It’s more important to get this right, rather than rushed.”

One MP said the Dean Smith bill was “exceptionally narrow”, and conservative sources confirmed a rival bill is being drafted by a group of right-wing MPs.

Mr Turnbull has pledged that in the event of a “yes” result, the government would “facilitate” the passage of a private members’ bill but has not said which one.

There are only two parliamentary sitting weeks left this year in which to legislate gay marriage.

Former Abbott government minister Kevin Andrews has argued Senator Smith’s proposed legislation is silent on crucial protections.

“The Dean Smith bill has virtually no protection for religion and belief in its terms,” he said.

“It’s very narrow, it doesn’t even apply to all marriage celebrants, and it only applies to the wedding ceremony itself.”

Education Minister Simon Birmingham on Thursday issued a clear warning to conservatives angling to take control of the parliamentary process.

“It would be illogical and inconsistent with past practice for those who oppose change who seek to be the authors of a bill for that change,” he said.

Pro-gay marriage LNP MP Warren Entsch said the Dean Smith bill had already been scrutinised and should be introduced without delay if the “yes” vote was successful.

If conservative MPs wanted to amend it, they could “test the numbers on the floor of the house”.

“Let’s do what we’re paid to do. Let’s put the bloody legislation through without any further delay,” Mr Entsch said.

“I am confident the vote will go through in the last few weeks. It has to, it has to. I will not go into Christmas without it. There have been commitments made.”

Another pro-change MP told Fairfax Media it would be “a bit rich” if the people who have campaigned furiously against the change, “decisively lost the argument with voters, but still expected to write the bill”.

Progressives also complain that the “no” case focused on “everything but same-sex-marriage” during the postal survey campaign period and, having seen their arguments rejected by voters, unreasonably demand that the Parliament take up the cause.

n Conservatives senator Cory Bernardi has linked the upcoming parliamentary debate to the dual citizenship crisis, saying instead of waving through the change, the Parliament should be prorogued.

“I don’t want to lose it with people in the Parliament who shouldn’t be there,” he said, as more MPs suspected of dual citizenship emerged on Thursday.

But in the wake of what is tipped to be strong public support, conservatives trying to drag debate into 2018 will have their own factional leaders to contend with, as well as the bulk of Coalition MPs who have promised to respect the postal survey outcome.

Senior ministers including prominent social conservatives like Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, Treasurer Scott Morrison, and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, have told colleagues they want the marriage law settled by the Parliament this year.

They believe any manoeuvres seen as creating unnecessary delays following a decisive public vote for change would leave ns feeling cheated.

Mr Dutton and Senator Cormann, key members of Mr Turnbull’s Praetorian Guard, also believe the same-sex marriage issue has dogged the government for long enough, causing disproportionate damage to party room unity, and attracting more attention than it is worth.

Along with Mr Morrison, they are expected to use their influence within the party’s right wing to ensure the change is enacted before Christmas.


17/12/2018 0

Why Postecoglou should fear playoff venue

If the Hondurans have it their way on Friday, they could spend the evening dancing on a grave.
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The apprehension of n fans over the venue for the away leg of the World Cup play-off against Honduras appears well-founded: the Socceroos are walking into a stadium locals have proudly christened “La Tumba”, or “The Tomb”, thanks to its reputation as the final resting place for the ambitions of a string of visiting overseas coaches.

While the warm and welcoming people of San Pedro Sula have struggled to change negative perceptions of their city, the intimidating reputation of Estadio Olimpico is one they revel in. They go to great lengths to accommodate foreigners but proudly boast their stadium will chew up visiting teams and spit out their coaches.

The heat, humidity, passionate fans and hostile atmosphere make La Tumba one of the most difficult places to play in international football. In the short time it has been the permanent home of Honduras, four coaches have been sacked directly after defeats at the Estadio Olimpico.

The first casualty was Rene Simoes after Jamaica lost there to Honduras in 2008. Sven Goran Eriksson’s tenure with Mexico came at an abrupt end in San Pedro Sula, while Trinidad and Tobago coach Stephen Hart was twice sacked at the venue, once with Canada and another with his native country. Indirectly, they also claim responsibility for last month’s sacking of Bruce Arena from USA after Honduras eliminated the Americans by beating Mexico at the Olimpico.

It wasn’t until the qualification process for the 2010 World Cup that the venue was discussed as a primary base for the Honduran national team. At the start of that campaign, newly-appointed Colombian coach Reinaldo Rueda asked his players to choose their permanent home venue. According to Diego Paz, editor of Diez, Honduras’ daily sports newspaper, those players changed the fate of the national team.

“Most of the players are from the north side of the country. That’s where the best players are born, maybe more than half the players in the national league are from this side,” he said. “They could get a climate advantage and the players wanted to play close to their people, their family and their friends.”

A team dominated by the minorities of the north refused to play in the capital, Tegucigalpa. The football-specific Estadio Morazan in San Pedro Sula was ruled out, deemed too exclusive with its capacity of just 18,000 and potentially unsafe. The choice of Estadio Olimpico, the 40,000-seater athletics venue built for the 1997 Central American Games, was not well received by all.

Graveyard: Honduras coach Jorge Luis Pinto celebrates after Honduras’ 3-2 victory over Mexico last month, which eliminated the USA and led to the sacking of their coach, Bruce Arena.

Resting at the foot of the Sierra Merendon mountain ranges, the Estadio Olimpico sits in a natural catchment of rain and humidity. Combined with the searing tropical heat, the south of the city makes for a nightmare venue for any elite athletes. With limited shade and shelter, it wasn’t initially popular with the fans either, but that soon changed.

“People started liking it because of the results they were getting,” Paz said.

Two years later, Honduras qualified for their first World Cup in 28 years and just the second in the country’s history. A national holiday was declared on October 15, 2009, the day after they beat arch rivals El Salvador to qualify for South Africa. The party continued four years later when Honduras reached the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, making it two from two since moving to the Olimpico.

The stadium was decorated in the team’s colours, while a designer noticed the structure at the entrance formed a giant “H” and painted it blue. It was during that period of Honduran regional dominance when the heads began to roll.

“They started calling it the home of the national team and then ‘La Tumba de los tecnicos’ – ‘The Tomb of the Coaches’,” Paz said.

The success of Honduras was not measured just by World Cup appearances but also by the scalps of coaches sacked by their own federations after failures in San Pedro Sula.

Much of that had to do with the local fans. Some Hondurans say that football has given the country its deepest pain as well as its greatest joy. Considering a football game started a war with El Salvador, it is not much of an exaggeration.

But in the Estadio Olimpico the people began to feel an ownership of their national team and stadium. When it’s not used by Honduras, it’s open to the public specifically for community and youth programs. It has connected the team with its people, and in San Pedro Sula football takes an importance above nearly everything.

“Right now, we have national elections in 19 days and nobody is speaking about who is going to be the next president, they’re talking about who is qualifying for Russia 2018,” Paz said. “It makes you feel proud of what you are, what you represent – being Honduran. We want to see our five-star flag in Russia.”

The “house full” sign for the match against the Socceroos officially went up on Tuesday, yet scalpers continue to flood the streets of San Pedro Sula waving tickets at motorists. When on sale via legal outlets, the cheapest seats were sold for around $26 – a quarter of the weekly wage of the average Honduran. That price soared on the black market.

After sacrificing so much, the normally generous and hospitable Hondurans break character for 90 minutes inside the stadium.

Intimidating: Police use shields to protect Panamanian Abdiel Arroyo from missiles thrown from the stands as he leaves the field at the Estadio Olimpico.

“I’ve seen like 25 cups of beer rain down on our guys when they’re trying to take a corner. God bless the running track,” USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan told The Players’ Tribune.

“The fans could look right down into our locker room from street level. The next thing we knew, people were kicking through the windows and trying to throw stuff down at us. It was pandemonium, but I have to say, it was also a pretty great adrenaline rush.”

A lack of faith in their current coach, Jose Luis Pinto, and concerns over a rare long-haul trip to have sown doubt in the minds of many fans over Honduras’ chances of making it to Russia. But the locals’ confidence in La Tumbaand its daunting reputation is undiminished.

“It’s very difficult,” Honduras most decorated player, David Suazo, said about the play-off against . “But what I do know is that Honduras has to be respected in San Pedro Sula.”

A concrete stadium will vibrate as nearly 40,000 jump in unison. The noise of the drums, horns, whistles and chants make a wall of sound aided by a steep-tiered bowl. The Socceroos will dodge coins, lighters, and cups from their arrival to their departure. Local fans will be hanging from the fences, climbing light towers, painted, masked, waving flags, banners and even lighting fireworks. All the while, the groundsmen will be building another crypt in the tomb.

“You better watch out for your national coach, because he’s not having a good time right now,” Paz said.

For all the speculation surrounding Ange Postecoglou’s future as Socceroos coach, the Hondurans have good reason to believe that La Tumbamight well take the decision out of his hands.


17/12/2018 0

Strong postal vote outcome the key to social and political support

For critics of the government’s constitutionally pointless marriage poll, the time has come to “flag down a black cab and head for Real Street”, as Red Dwarf’s Dave Lister would say.
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Time for progressives – if not the LGBTI community, which must speak for itself – to pop a prophylactic Quick-Eze and prepare to eat Humble Pie.

Time to give Malcolm Turnbull, George Brandis, and yes, even Peter Dutton, their due credit.

From its comical inception, the Coalition’s ungainly “snail-mail” survey championed amazingly by the ultra-conservative Dutton, was the butt of derisive humour.

Transparently self-serving, it seemed like just another hurdle, just another can-kicking exercise, risible and beneath contempt.

Once green-lighted, after a desperate High Court challenge, it provoked the gravest warnings.

It would license a hideous public discourse, applying an unfair society-wide judgment on individual identity – a cold-hearted metric devised exclusively to devalue same-sex attracted relationships.

Zero weight was given to any affirmation arising from the major party leaders backing the change, let alone that flowing from a likely victory.

And in all the indignation, it was completely lost that marriage is by definition quintessentially a social construct. The broader the social engagement in its modernisation, the greater its validity once so broadened.

Politically this has been excruciating.

There’s no denying the Prime Minister lost paint in middle by embracing an ostensibly “ridiculous” process. But neither can one ignore the realpolitik. Bluntly, Turnbull saw no realistic alternative if he was to drag his party into the 21st century.

Wisely, equality advocates chose to participate strongly, even as some within favoured a boycott. The temptation was to limit its turn-out to below 35 per cent and then argue its result was meaningless.

Hardheads decided to go for broke. They knew that drumming up the vote was also drumming up the survey’s credibility, thus validating the Coalition.

But the bigger principle was worth protecting.

Ironically, the greatest advantage now, assuming a strong public endorsement, is the legitimacy of any question that has been so publicly and extensively litigated.

Indeed, the greatest asset the “yes” case has ahead of the parliamentary vote is that clear public endorsement.

Denial would be betrayal on a colossal scale.

In practical terms, the survey has given Coalition MPs the cover they need to ignore their recalcitrant base and vote squarely for social justice. More than that, it brings a moral and democratic obligation.


17/12/2018 0

Phoenix rising: the reborn Ten begins emerging from the ashes

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 14: The sunset on a sad day for Channel Ten as the network announces it is entering voluntary administration on June 14, 2017 in Sydney, . (Photo by Jessica Hromas/Fairfax Media)In Greek mythology the phoenix was an immortal bird which died when it was consumed by its own fire, only to be reborn again and again. In n mythology the phoenix is a 53-year-old television network named Ten.
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Twice in its life Ten has been seared by the flames of receivership, only to have its debts wiped, bestowed with a second chance at finding a competitive edge among our unholy trinity of commercial broadcasters.

In 1990 the network was saved through its acquisition by the Canadian-based Canwest Media. This year salvation has come from the US$30 billion ($39.06 billion) American commercial television giant CBS.

Though CBS has not yet fully acquired the network – a wrinkle expected to be smoothed in the coming days – the leaner, meaner Ten was showing off her best side last night to media buyers, producers and industry heavyweights.

The message was clearly steady as she goes: established Ten brands such as MasterChef, I’m A Celebrity and the various Bachelor (and Bachelorettes) are deemed safe. The drama slate, while solid, is expensive, which means the fate of programs such as Offspring and The Wrong Girl is less certain.

The crucial piece of the jigsaw is Ten’s next move, something we won’t clearly see until the new in-laws arrive from America and start renovating the house.

But the way forward is not as simple in 2018 as it was in 1990.

Back then Ten was saved by a curious pastiche of British reruns, US talk shows and the then-much younger seeming 20th Century Fox library titles including The Simpsons and The X-Files.

Nowadays the Fox library – yanked from the network schedule in the wake of CBS’s sudden displacement of the Murdoch takeover plan – looks comparatively tired; The Simpsons is in its 30th season and The X-Files, recently exhumed, has also aged.

Equally, CBS’s own program library, while formidable, is no genie bottle. Nor is Ten’s personality suited to take on its breadth. Seal Team and True Blood are too American. Bull is too niche. And NCIS shows the fatigue of most 15-year-old brands.

The rebirth of a CBS-owned Ten will ultimately be defined by the re-alignment of the network’s personality. The younger-skewing Ten, while difficult to shed quickly, will likely be consigned to demographic history.

In its place will stand a debt-free n commercial network backed by a deep-pocketed American one.

To suggest Ten could become the equal of Nine or Seven might seem ambitious, but Ten’s rivals, having evaded their own financial rebirth by fire, are instead older and loaded with debt.

And in competitive terms Ten might be restarting the race as a rookie sprinter but she’s a decade younger and half a billion in debt lighter than either of her two rivals.

And in commercial television terms that makes Ten a deadly, if still unpredictable, proposition.


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Women’s Ashes Test delicately poised after opening day

England blew a golden opportunity to assert themselves on day one of the Ashes Test as produced a flurry of late wickets to leave the visitors 7-235 at stumps.
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Star all-rounder Ellyse Perry claimed a pair of final-session wickets while debutant Tahlia McGrath chipped in with her second scalp of the day to put the brakes on what had been a promising English start, which earlier on sat comfortably at 1-129.

Most of the damage came once with the second new ball under lights in front of 2805 fans at North Sydney Oval, most of whom hope to witness a win for the home side which would mean retaining the Ashes.

As expected, the pink ball started swinging around in the evening session after had toiled earlier in the day on a dry wicket all but devoid of grass.

“I’ve found this using the pink ball a little bit in training, some swing more than others and I don’t think the first one really swung all that much and the wicket probably wasn’t hugely responsive either,” Perry said.

“The second one definitely swung a bit more, obviously we were under lights as well but I think the seam was a little bit more raised on that one so it tended to swing a bit more.

“It’s pretty even conditions out there for the bat and ball. England batted well at different times, there’s definitely enough there to take 20 wickets.”

English opener Tammy Beaumont and captain Heather Knight took charge before tea having won the toss and batted, and the pair put on 104 runs for the second wicket, patiently but confidently stroking the ball around the picturesque suburban ground.

It was another debutant in Amanda-Jade Wellington who broke that stand when a sharply turning leg break shaded Beaumont’s outside edge before landing snugly in Alex Blackwell’s grasp at slip.

Wellington was one of three Test debutants for , alongside McGrath and Beth Mooney who will open the batting with Nicole Bolton.

That meant Sydney juniors Lauren Cheatle and Ashleigh Gardner both missed out on selection.

No Cheatle meant the Aussies had just the three seam options. Megan Schutt was economical and produced her trademark in swing under the lights, but bowled without luck.

Perry and McGrath were complemented by the attacking Wellington, and the metronomic orthodox tweaker Jess Jonassen who grabbed a couple of wickets herself.

She trapped Heather Knight LBW to remove the dangerous stroke maker, before the English middle order failed to take advantage of their solid start.

Georgia Elwiss faced 95 balls for her 27 before skying a ball to square leg, unravelling all of her hard graft.

The classy Natalie Sciver (18) never quite found her rhythm while Sarah Taylor’s 29 was effortless but over far too quickly.when she belted one back to Perry who managed to snaffle a catch in her follow through having seemingly not sighted the ball until it struck her on the arm.

“I just slipped a little bit in some footholds on that delivery and my head went down and I lost all sight of it,” Perry said.

“I kind of looked up and the lights were a little bit in my eyes. The first time I spotted the ball was just before it hit my arm, rather embarrassingly I managed to catch it.

“It provided a lot of entertainment for everyone and I lost all composure and I’m really glad [captain] Rachael [Haynes] took me off after that.

“Every now and then you bowl some bad ones or you have a bit of luck or something obscure happens and that’s what makes the game so fun and entertaining.

“You’d happily get her [Taylor] out any way possible. I don’t think it had anything to do with my skill or ability.” iFrameResize({checkOrigin:false},’#ashes-squad-selector-2017′);var frame = document.getElementById(“ashes-squad-selector-2017”); iFrameResize({checkOrigin:false},’#ashes-squad-selector-2017′);var frame = document.getElementById(“ashes-squad-selector-2017”);


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Cessnock jail expansion: rapid-build the new approach for prisons as state tackles overcrowding

IN CHARGE: Governor Richard Heycock at Cessnock jail as it undergoes a massive expansion. Picture: Marina NeilTHERE are no cells. Inmates have an interactive TV. Correctional officers are encouraged to be “pro-social” with crooks. And prisoners will go through a rigorous application process for the dubiousprivilege of being locked up here.
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This is the new world of life behind bars.

And it is unfolding in the Hunter as Cessnock jail prepares to take on 400 fresh maximum security prisoners in stage one of the facility’s massive expansion plans.

The Newcastle Herald was given an exclusive tour of the new rapid-build prison ahead of its opening early next year.

While corrective staff are promising a “culture change” for inmates and officers, this is still a maximum security prison.

“Make no mistake about it,” Governor Richard Heycock said.

NEIGHBOURS: The dormitory-style accommodation that will house maximum security inmates.

“They are still maximum security inmates. This is definitely not a soft approach, but they are going to be treated like adults. It’s like raising children – if you want people to behave a certain way, you treat them a certain way.

“For many that is culture change. The previous thinking has been minimal interaction with inmates.”

The most striking difference between the new Hunter Correctional Centre and the existing jail is the lack of physical cells. Inmates are locked up in open plan dormitory-style accommodation across four wings, with each wing containing four “pods” with room for 25 inmates.

Governor Richard HeycockHeraldwas told, the screens will have access to Skype.

VISITORS: The visitation room inside the new facility.

Inmates are also allowed more time in the yard, but it is lights out at 10pm.

The visitation area is also different, with Mr Heycock pointing out thechildren’s play area.

“You won’t see any of this anywhere else,” he said.

“The build and the concept itself is very unique to . It’s a very innovative way of approaching corrections.”

He said the prison would appeal to inmates because of its modern features and possibly its additional privileges.

A selection process to determine who would be transferred to Cessnock was still under way, with only those who meet a strict criteria approved for transfer.

There is renewed focus on reforming inmates.

“If you’re going to prison, this is where you want to come,” Mr Heycock said.

“It will allow you to undertake industries, get vocational education, better yourself and give yourself a much better standing to get back out into the community and become a productive member of society.

“But the inmates are here to make a change in their lives, and they’ve got to be able to show they want to make that change.”

PLANS: An overview of the Cessnock jail expansion.

Corrections Minister David Elliott said the rapid-build design was chosen out of necessity, with a rising inmate population putting strain on the existing prison system. The new Cessnock jail has risen from the ground in 51 weeks, shaving about two years off normal construction time.

“In a perfect world the number of inmates would be going down,” Mr Elliott said.

“But, unfortunately, they’re not, which is why I’ve been impressed not only by the facility, but the ability to keep to a timetable.”

The jail will have a workforce of234 people, with roughly 80 new staff.

Mr Heycock said the “hand-picked” correctional officers were in training up until the arrival of the inmates early next year.

“It’s a huge task, but the team I’ve got are very skilled and experienced at what they do,” he said. “On day one, this will be a normal prison”.


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