Canberra housing approvals slump

While approvals for construction of new homes jumped nationally, defying expectations of a downturn, Canberra approvals slumped.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics’s latest data shows dwelling approvals rose 11.7 per cent in November in seasonally adjusted terms, up from 0.9 per cent, above the market expectations of a 1 per cent decline.

Approvals for apartment construction were up 5.6 per cent in Victoria but they plunged by nearly 22 per cent in the capital.

The ABS’s director of construction statistics, Justin Lokhorst, said the rise in approvals was driven by the renewed strength in approvals for apartments.

“Approvals for private sector houses have remained stable, with just under 10,000 houses approved in November 2017,” Mr Lokhorst said.

Masters Builders ACT chief executive Michael Hopkins said the figures reflected a general trend of declining building approvals in the territory, with an increasing amount of demand for new housing being met by surrounding regions beyond the ACT borders.

“Monthly building approval statistics for a small market like Canberra need to be interpreted with some level of caution because of the high degree of volatility,” Mr Hopkins said.

“The decline in the November building approvals are driven mostly by a drop in apartment and unit approvals, which have fallen from 611 in August to 38 in November. Apartment and unit approvals are now around the February 2015 levels.”

He said approvals for single housing have performed better in recent months, with 103 new housing approvals recorded in November, slightly under the 10-year average of about 120 single housing approvals.

“What the ABS data doesn’t show is how much demand for new housing in Canberra is being serviced by regional areas beyond the ACT borders,” he said.

“Feedback from Master Builders members indicates that an increasing amount of new housing is now being supplied in areas like Googong, Queanbeyan and Murrumbateman to service demand from Canberra.

“Master Builders ACT expects that with the current tax and land release settings this trend will continue.”

Dwelling approvals also increased in Tasmania by 3.1 per cent and South Australia by 0.1 per cent, but for the rest of the country it decreased. In the ACT it dropped 21.9 per cent, followed by Northern Territory by 3.8 per cent, Queensland by 1.2 per cent, NSW by 0.9 per cent and Western Australia by 0.6 per cent in trend terms.

Nationally, approvals for apartments, or private dwellings excluding houses, rose 30.6 per cent month on month while private house approvals fell 2 per cent.

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Union to appeal Fair Work’s ATO hot-desking decision

A union for tax officials is appealing an industrial umpire decision letting the Australian Taxation Office roll out hot-desking across the agency.

After the Fair Work Commission last month found the latest ATO workplace deal let it move all staff onto hot desks, the Australian Services Union has lodged an appeal saying the umpire erred and that the agreement prohibited the office fit-outs for non-fieldwork public servants.

ASU official Jeff Lapidos said hot-desking, a controversial workplace trend, was a dramatic change to staff’s conditions of employment.

The Australian Services Union is appealing a Fair Work decision about hot-desking at the Tax Office. Photo: Louie Douvis

“This type of change needs to be negotiated by the unions and approved by a majority of ATO staff through the enterprise bargaining process. This has not occurred,” he said.

“Many types of ATO work are definitely not suitable for hot-desking. If the ATO wants to utilise hot-desking it needs to reach agreement with the unions and its staff about what types of work are appropriate for hot-desking and how it could be implemented.

“There are also issues of inconvenience, hygiene, uncertainty, inability to personalise your desk and many others.”

The union would also want to reach agreement with the ATO on the types of desks to be used and the facilities needed to support hot-desking.

Mr Lapidos said it wanted the ATO to negotiate all accommodation measures with unions as part of the 2020 enterprise agreement, so staff could decide whether to support hot-desking, and that if the ASU lost its Fair Work appeal the agency would introduce the new fit-outs to other offices.

Despite arguments from the ASU and the Community and Public Sector Union, Fair Work last month found the enterprise agreement let the ATO move all of its public servants into hot-desking, an office set-up whereby staff find new desks each day and pack up their belongings before finishing.

But the Tax Office, which wants to adopt hot-desking at its new Gosford office and has trialled it at Docklands, said after the decision it had no plans to roll it out in all workplaces.

“Where there is the opportunity in the fit-out of new buildings or refurbishments the ATO will consider how to design spaces in a way that creates a healthy working environment that improves flexibility, agility, collaboration and productivity,” a spokeswoman said last month.

The ATO in December said its pilot site for “activity-based working” in Docklands had a waiting list of staff wanting to work there.

“We have many staff across other locations asking for similar work spaces to be installed so we have the type of professional and modern workplaces they see in a large and growing number of other organisations,” it said.

The Docklands trial and staff consultation had made the ATO more adaptable to business and staff needs.

“Staff working in this environment have told us they have spent more time sharing their ideas and knowledge and believe they have increased their individual and team productivity.”

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Fresh or frozen? When it comes to IVF it doesn’t matter, study says

WORLD NOV 2 – GENERIC – culture, inside, microscope, petri dish, science, scientific, small, sterile, sterile environment, technician, technology, transferring egg, treatment, under microscope, woman, working, young adult, young woman, physician, pipette, pregnancy, research, sample, 20s, 25-30 years, adult, caucasian, clinic, color, colour, microscopic, mid-adult, mid-adult woman, modern, one person, one person only, person, interior, ivf, lab, lab worker, laboratory, laboratory equipment, medical, medical procedure, dish, doctor, egg transfer, embryologist, embryology, equipment, ethnicity, examining, female, fertility, hands, horizontal, image, in vitro fertilization, indoor, indoors, infertility mark image as offensiveTwenty-two years ago Li Peng Monroe and her then husband, were having trouble getting pregnant. Like many couples with fertility problems, they turned to in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

“It’s not an easy process to go through ??? the probability of falling pregnant was quite low back then through IVF, for me certainly,” Ms Monroe, 51, said.

“There’s a perception that fresh is better so you start with the fresh ones, and then if the fresh ones don’t take, you’ve got embryos that are frozen that you can use,” she said.

It was her frozen embryos that gifted her two daughters, Melissa, now 20 years old, and Ashley, 17. Frozen embryo transfer has come a long way in the past few years.

A new study now gives couples trying IVF peace of mind whichever method they choose, showing both fresh and frozen embryo transfers offer an equal chance of having a child.

In women without polycystic ovaries, the pregnancy rates and live births were comparable when implanted with either fresh or frozen embryos, according to the study published in The New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday.

Rates of ongoing pregnancy occurred in 36 per cent of the frozen-embryo group and 34.5 per cent in the fresh-embryo group, according to the study.

Live births were recorded in 33.8 per cent of the frozen-embryo group and 31.5 per cent of women in the fresh-embryo group.

The study included almost 800 couples undertaking IVF in Vietnam, who received either fresh or frozen embryo transfers on a randomised basis and was completed in under a year.

Michael Chapman, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at UNSW and President of the Fertility Society of Australia – who was not involved in the study – said the slight percentage difference in groups is not significant.

“Even with 800 odd patients in the study … [frozen-embryo transfer] may turn out to give an extra one or two pregnancies,” Professor Chapman, who is also a consultant at IVF Australia, said.

“It’s good that [clinicians] will be able to advise patients that frozen-embryo transfer is as good as fresh, because historically frozen has not been as good.”

Co-author Ben Mol, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute, said the study was done after the development of a ‘quick-freeze’ vitrification method in recent years resulted in an increased uptake of frozen-embryo transfers.

But the study suggests it may not increase the chances of a live birth compared to fresh embryos in the study population.

“There are many examples in medical history where people jump to innovation and new things, and then after a while it turns out that the new thing is not necessarily so much better,” Professor Mol said.

Previous research conducted on women undergoing IVF with infertility problems linked to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), found frozen-embryo transfer led to more live births.

But until now, it was not known whether this was also the case for women confronted with fertility problems due to other reasons.

Professor Mol said going down the path of frozen-embryo transfer can come at a cost.

“It’s not a lot, but it’s a couple of hundred of dollars that you’re talking about, so obviously that could be part of the choice [for patients],” he said.

“The other thing is that people want to have their baby as soon as possible, and frozen transfer means a delay of at least one month, so there are arguments for fresh transfer.”

Professor Chapman said one limitation of the study was applying the results to Australia.

“They only looked at day-three embryos, whereas the general practice in Australia today is day-five transfers,” he said.

But the research was the first of its kind to study fresh versus frozen-embryo transfers in such a large number of non-PCOS patients.

“It’s fantastic that Australian researchers are collaborating with other countries to get high class research coming out of Asia,” Professor Chapman said.

“Health systems in other countries make it more possible to do proper randomised control trials, so it’s excellent that we are getting those relationships built up.”

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Did that just happen? The most perfect moment in travel

It seems staged, like a lot planning has gone into this moment; into the wrangling of a rhinoceros and its tiny offspring to ensure the pair appear in this exact place at this exact moment, looking calm and natural, right there in front of us. Real life can’t be this perfect, you know something tricky must surely be going on behind the scenes.
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And yet, it’s not. It can’t be. There’s no trapdoor for these huge animals to appear from; no wall for a troupe of handlers to hide behind. There’s no other explanation for this moment of absolute perfection playing out before us but sheer, dumb luck.

It was worth the wait; worth the drive. My girlfriend, Jess, and I arrived in Johannesburg a few days ago, picked up a hire car and spent all of the day driving south through this spectacular country, from the high veld in South Africa’s north to the stream-riven farmland of the Eastern Cape. We’d been driving for 10 hours by the time we rolled into Shamwari Game Reserve, past a couple of zebras, near a few warthogs, pulling up at the lodge and checking in.

We’d dragged ourselves up the grand old staircase in the main homestead and into our room, grabbed a couple of beers from the fridge and opened them while making our way onto the balcony. We’d taken a seat there to admire the splendour of South Africa, to watch as dusk enfolded the game reserve laid out before us, to rest our limbs and recover, when this ??? this happened.

It’s a lazy travel writer’s cliche to profess to be moved to tears by a moment of beauty – is everyone really crying that much? – but Jess is most definitely welling up as we sit there on the balcony and watch as two of Africa’s most beautiful and sought-after animals magically appear before us, padding silently across the grassy clearing towards a waterhole where mother and calf stop to drink, gaze around in the slowly dying light, and then amble away again, back into the bush, into the darkness.

It’s one of those, “Did that just happen?” moments. I actually ask the Shamwari staff later if they planned it, only half jokingly, though clearly they couldn’t have. It’s just one of those things that seems to happen around here, the perfect introduction to South Africa, to life on safari, to everything Shamwari has to offer.

And that’s a lot, despite this not being even close to one of the country’s most famous reserves. It’s nowhere near Kruger National Park. It could hardly be further from Sabi Sand. Shamwari is a modest – by comparison – patch of former agricultural land near the southern town of Port Elizabeth, a conglomeration of former farms that have been slowly restored to their former glory. The Eastern Cape used to be filled with wildlife, but these days it’s pretty much barren once you’re outside the Shamwari fenceline. Inside that protective barrier, however, something beautiful has happened, with giraffes, leopards, lions, elephants, oryx, waterbuck, eland, hippos and many, many more species are now thriving in the beautiful hills.

And we’re going to see them. After that beer on the balcony, Jess and I join the other guests for dinner, and meet Westley , our wildlife guide, who says he’s planning a night game drive. “We’ve had some good sightings the last few nights,” he says in his broad South African accent. “Let’s get out and see what we can find, uh?”

We’re on the hunt for lions tonight, searching for red eyes glowing in the torchlight. There are two prides at Shamwari, Westley explains, the north pride and the south pride. We’re hoping to spot a few from the former, but luck is no longer on our side. We do watch, however, with bated breath , as a hippo out of the water, hauls its huge bulk, with incredible speed, back to the safety of a natural pool.

Westley seems to know every inch of Shamwari’s 25,000 hectares of land. His sense of direction is unerring; his knowledge encyclopedic. Even when there are no animals around he’s constantly rattling off titbits of information, identifying shrubs and trees, spotting footprints, describing animal behaviour, predicting our next sighting. Every Shamwari guide, Westley explains, has to walk unaided from one side of the park to the other before they can become qualified, which sounds simple until you consider the size of the park, and the size of the animals that roam free here.

Though Shamwari is primarily a conservation project – there are three education and rehabilitation facilities onsite – part of the area’s human history has also been retained. Of the six, separate five-star lodges on the property (some that allow children, some that don’t), the first to open, the place where Jess and I perched on the balcony to share a sunset beer and a surprise rhino viewing, is Long Lee Manor, one of the Eastern Cape’s original farmhouses, built in 1916.

It’s a beautiful old building that commands views across manicured gardens to the savannah. There’s something charmingly traditional about the way Long Lee is run, too, with big family-style meals and friendly service. It brings you together with the people with whom you share a safari vehicle, allows you to get to know other people as well as the South African bush. One guest here, we find out, is on her ninth trip to South Africa in nine years. Another is on her first overseas holiday.

Each day here has a familiar rhythm: rise early for a morning game drive, spreading blankets over laps to fight off the cold, before returning to the manor for a full breakfast; rest during the warmest hours, just as the animals do; head out again with Westley in the afternoon, on the hunt for whatever the African bush chooses to reveal; and then toast the sunset with a gin and tonic before sharing a huge dinner and tales of adventures past.

It’s not until day three that we finally find those lions. Westley spots a few hartebeest – large antelopes, bolting skittishly through the bushes. “This might be something,” he mumbles, pulling the car off the dirt track, pointing its nose at the place where the hartebeest began their sprint. Sure enough, we bump over a few rocks, scrape past a few shrubs, pull up in a clearing, and there they are: the south pride, six lions relaxing in the sun, fixing us with wild eyes, staring at the only humans for miles around.

It’s another moment of safari perfection, another event so precise and so moving that it seems like it must surely have been staged. But it can’t have been.

Ben Groundwater stayed as a guest of Shamwari Game ReserveTRIP NOTES





Qantas flies direct from Sydney to Johannesburg six times a week, with onward connections to Port Elizabeth. qantas南京夜网 or call 13 13 13. Transfers are available from Port Elizabeth to Shamwari via the lodge.


Shamwari Game Reserve is a 25,000-hectare private game reserve situated one hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth. There are six separate five-star lodges on the reserve, and one tented camp. Rates at Long Lee Manor at Shamwari start from $532 per person per night, inclusive of all meals and guided activities. shamwari南京夜网MORE THINGS TO DO IN THE EASTERN CAPE


???One of the world’s most famous surf breaks – and yes, the place where Aussie surfer Mick Fanning punched a shark – can be found on the coast of the Eastern Cape, a beach surrounded by a small, laidback town that’s the perfect spot to while away a few days.


???This famous roadway – a 300-kilometre meander through some of South Africa’s most beautiful coastal and hinterland scenery – begins in the Eastern Cape town of Storms River, which is also a bit of an adventure sports hub, with bungy jumping, mountain-biking and more.


???South Africa’s fifth largest city is friendly and laid back, with plenty of beach frontage, and activities such as hiking, golf, sailing and game-viewing. Port Elizabeth is also one of South Africa’s most popular scuba-diving spots, with plenty of reefs and wrecks to explore.


???This national park, dedicated to wildlife conservation, was originally set up solely for elephants, but now hosts all of the “Big Five”, as well as penguins and other marine life on its coastal fringes.


???This 17-kilometre hiking trail is the perfect option for those who want to slow down their Garden Route experience. It’s a gentle two-day journey through Tsitsikamma Forest near the town of Storms River with spectacular scenery and a good chance of spotting dolphins.

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Kai the wonder dog travels 25km to return home

REUNITED: Tanja resident Jane Gordon and her dog Kai relax at home after his 25 kilometre trek home from Bermagui. Photo: Alasdair McDonaldAfter almost three days missing, a dog has made a 25 kilometre trek home.
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On Boxing Day, Tanja’s Jane Gordon left her 12-year-old dog Kai with her partner in Bermagui on the NSW far south coast, before heading on a plannedtwo-day trek ofMount Kosciuszko.

The next morning Kai was gone.

Kai was found days later in Wapengoby passersby, just a few kilometres from home.

Tanja’s Jane Gordon

“He is a rescue dog and my friends say he has some huge separation issues,” Ms Gordon said.

When her partner returned home from a surf the next day Kai had gone, and scaling a four-metre fence was his only way out.

“I drove back home and went to all the beaches we walk along, Iwas even looking for him in cars just in case someone had found him,” Ms Gordon said.

“By the morning of the 29thI knew I just had to be still, and I had a clear sense he would be back.”

Jane Gordon said she had a feeling Kai would return home. Photo: Alasdair McDonald

Ms Gordon was unaware at the time two women had found Kai just down the road, he followed them home and they fed him Christmas leftovers of roast pork and apple sauce beforestumbling across Ms Gordon’s desperate social media post and sent her a message.

“I saw the message and just burst into tears,” Ms Gordon said.

“I was just so elated, Iwas so happy. I think I slept all night just stroking his head.”

Some animals use the sun, or the stars, and even magnetism for navigation.Others, like dogs, can use scent.

While nothing is certain, dogs use overlapping circles of familiar scents to get around, and some studies have shown mammals haveiron in their ears, which may link tomagnetic fields.

Photo: Alasdair McDonald

Kai’s strong sense didn’t end there –the women who found him said he appeared to know Ms Gordon was on her way to bring him home.

“I don’t know how, but he knew I was coming, he was just waiting at their front door,” Ms Gordon said.

“He jumped straight in the car.”

Chosen for his calm personality in 2012, Kai has built a close bond with his new family.

“You just can’t leave him anywhere,” Ms Gordon said with a smile.

Bega District News

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‘For those who lose loved ones’: Roadside memorials disappear

Adam Baskijin, 20, and Aaron Ogg, 30.Two roadside memorials dedicated toyoung Ballarat men have been stolen in recent weeks, leaving their families wanting answers.
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Debra Kopunovic, whose sonAdam Baskijindied in a crash on the Midland Highway, read a story inThe Courierlast Sunday about a missingwooden cross that was hung on a tree in Nerrina for drowned Ballarat man Aaron Ogg.

The reportleft her surprised as a wire cross she previouslylaidfor Adam on the Midland Highway near Buninyong also vanished last month.

Initially, MsKopunovic had sought written permissionfrom VicRoads to erect a wooden cross, which stood on the site fora decade after Adam’s death in 2007.

However, it sustained weather damageand Ms Kopunovic replaced it with the wire cross, which recently went missing just like Mr Ogg’s.

The theftdealt a big blow to Ms Kopunovic, who has regularly visited the site for years.

“Death is an every day thing and it’s a reality,” she said.

“Adam didn’t just vanish not to be mentioned again, I don’t believe in that. I believe that life continues and it’s up to us to carry on his memoryby mentioning him and showing respect.”

MsKopunovicdid not think VicRoads removed the wire cross as the previous woodenone had remainedfor years without a problem.

A spokesperson for VicRoads said on Thursday the memorial was not removed by the authority.

VicRoads western region director Mal Kersting saida roadside memorial would only be taken down if there were safety concerns that would impact on the community or maintenance works.

“We understand that roadside memorials can play an important part in the grieving process for those who have lost a loved one on our roads,” he said.

Similarly,Mr Ogg’s uncle, Craig,did not believe a ranger removed their cross, with a Parks Victoria spokesman confirming on Thursday the authority did not take it down.

“Its (theft) has made me feel very angry because his dad, Ian, goes up there and sits there all the time to think,” Craig said.

Debra Kopunovic

The Courier, Ballarat

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Deals – Bargains of the week, Saturday, January 13

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Cruise Express is offering a free upgrade to an Oceanview Cabin worth $1600 a couple on the June-departing 18-night Journey to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest itinerary. It includes return flights from Australia to Alaska (and home from San Francisco) for a seven-night cruise to Vancouver aboard Celebrity Millennium. Visit Seattle and Portland by coach, including wineries. There’s an overnight vintage rail trip to San Francisco for two nights with gourmet wine experiences, including the Napa Wine Train.

Package from $10,990 a person, twin-share including upgrade. Offer available until sold out.

Phone 1300 766 537. See cruiseexpress南京夜网419论坛AIR APPARENT

Fly for $999 return to Europe when you book a 2018 Britain or Europe itinerary with Insight Vacations, such as the 11-day Treasures of Italy itinerary.

Starting in Rome, where you have VIP access to the Vatican Museums, you travel to Pompeii and Capri. After crossing the Bay of Naples, take a scenic road trip to Florence before the Cinque Terre and Portofino to Santa Margherita. Finish at Lake Maggiore. The price includes many meals and excellent hotels.

If you book before February 28, it’s priced from $5894 a person twin share, including flights. Phone 1800 001 781. See insightvacations南京夜网GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY

Golden Door’s all-inclusive health retreat programs are now reduced in price: $1000 off the seven-night and $800 off the five-night.

Each includes luxury villa or suite accommodation, a personal wellness assessment on arrival, all nutritious meals and snacks, group fitness activities and relaxation and mind-body classes, health education seminars and workshops, and access to all the spa facilities, including steam room, spa bath and relaxation lounges. In addition, the seven-night includes set-time transfers from Newcastle and Sydney airports, plus three spa treatments and one wellness consultation to the value of $110 each.

Valid for stays January 14-March 31, the prices are now from $2595 for five nights and $3395 for seven nights. See goldendoor南京夜网419论坛IN YOUR ELEMENT

Receive a free room upgrade at Elements of Byron in Byron Bay.

Element of Byron is a beachfront resort with 193 villas dotted throughout 20 hectares of natural bush and rainforest gardens. The central pavilion is home to the restaurant and bar with views across the sunken fire pit and lagoon pool. The resort recently opened a new adults-only pool and other facilities.

This Travel Associates’ deal is for three nights with bonus upgrade to a Lagoon Edge Villa, bottle of wine on arrival and $50 resort credit.

The price is from $529 a person twin share. The deal is on sale until February 28 for travel from May 1 to August 31.

Phone 1800 044 066 and quote deal code 4984953. See travel-associates南京夜网419论坛ITEM

This Phuket package gives you four free nights.

Pay from $275 a person twin share and receive eight nights for the price of four in a Deluxe Room at Centara Kata Resort Phuket, breakfast daily, return airport transfers and the choice of free massage or a Phuket tour for two.

Centara Kata Resort Phuket is close to Kata Beach and a range of shopping, dining and entertainment options. Facilities include on-site bars and restaurants, a fitness centre, day spa, kids’ club, three swimming pools and more.

The deal is valid for sale until February 28 and for travel from April 11 to October 31.

Phone 1300 883 887. See travelonline南京夜网


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[email protected]: ASX set for flat open; bond bulls take the night

The information of stocks that lost in prices are displayed on an electronic board inside the Australian Securities Exchange, operated by ASX Ltd., in Sydney, Australia, on Friday, July 24, 2015. The Australian dollar slumped last week as a gauge of Chinese manufacturing unexpectedly contracted, aggravating the impact of declines in copper and iron ore prices. Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg MARKETS. 7 JUNE 2011. AFR PIC BY PETER BRAIG. STOCK EXCHANGE, SYDNEY, STOCKS. GENERIC PIC. ASX. STOCKMARKET. MARKET.
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Stock information is displayed on an electronic board inside the Australian Securities Exchange, operated by ASX Ltd., in Sydney, Australia, on Friday, July 24, 2015. The Australian dollar slumped last week as a gauge of Chinese manufacturing unexpectedly contracted, aggravating the impact of declines in copper and iron ore prices. Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

The night belongs to the bond bulls, who have had a rough ride of it of late, with cries that the 30-year bull market is over.

I have been cautious on this view and suggested there was still a lot of work to be done before we can say such claims with any conviction, although recognise the longer-term prospects of the Treasury market do face headwinds. The long and short of it

1. Bonds in focus: So despite the recent claims from high profile bond investors we have seen reasonable buying across the US Treasury curve, with the 10-year Treasury now trading 2 basis points (bp) lower at 2.53%. The buying has been assisted by a well supported $US12 billion 30-year Treasury auction (the bid to cover ratio was 2.74x), while a 0.1% decline month-on-month (2.3% annualised) in US producer price inflation was also in play. While the actual read-through is low, there are clearly a few traders somewhat anxious about being short bonds or too long USD’s ahead of tonight’s (00:30 aedt) December core consumer price inflation (CPI) report. A read on the annualised print of say 1.6% or below and bonds should fly and the USD will naturally follow suit.

I say ‘bond bulls’ have had a small victory, but that seems specific to the US and understand that things are not so great in Europe and if you want to be bearish bonds this has been the place to be. Although, we can see the Japan 10-year government bond also breaking out and this is creating JPY inflows, although shorting Japanese bonds is one of the hardest trades ever – it’s why they call it the “widow maker”. The ECB have caused a stir in markets, with the minutes from the December meeting detailing that the “language pertaining to various dimensions of the monetary policy stance and forward guidance could be revisited”. In effect the bank are prepping the market for subtle changes in its policy settings over time, with headlines doing the rounds that “The ECB could consider a gradual shift in guidance from early 2018”. This is the main story of the trading session, although we also heard from the ECB’s chief economist Peter Praet, who gave a somewhat more cautious take on the minutes, emphasising that forward guidance was key and trying to emphasise that nothing material was changing from these minutes.

2. Market responds: Whichever way you slice and dice the narrative the market has responded and we can see a strong reaction in interest rate markets, with the difference between the euribor futures December 2019 and December 2018 contracts blowing out to 37bp (+5bp), highlighting the market is seeing less policy stimulus in play in the period ahead. The fixed income markets have naturally responded, with good selling across the German bond curve, although front end yields have move slightly more aggressively. When we consider that the USD has found sellers across all G10 currencies, EUR/USD has naturally caught a bid and we see price now trading up at $1.2038, and just off the session high of $1.2059. The eyes of FX traders once again hone in on the September highs of $1.2092, although as we saw back on the 4 January high traders seem happy to fade moves into here.

3. Europe: In European equity land, we have seen modest weakness in European equities indices, but look behind the cover and see the good flows into European banks, who benefit from the re-pricing in European interest rate markets. The Eurostoxx banking index is now up for eight consecutive days, but I would play this through ETF’s and one can see solid moves of late in the EUFN ETF (iShares MSCI Europe financials ETF), where price resides at the strongest levels since June 2015.

4. US dollar: The USD weakness has resonated, not just in G10 FX but also in good strength in emerging market assets. Outperformance has been seen in the Scandinavian currencies, but it’s worth highlighting that the AUD/USD has broken out of its recent consolidation phase and looks like a beacon of strength, with a likely test of the 79c level in play today. There seems little domestic data to drive today, and while some will point to China trade balance, this is a notorious difficult data point to read, not just because there is no set time, but also because it gets so badly reported. Also in G10 FX, USD/JPY could weigh a touch on the Nikkei 225, with a focus on whether it can break ??111 today (currently sitting at ??111.08) and more specifically the 27 November pivot low of ??110.84, where a break in my opinion takes the pair into ??109.10. Flip the chart to a weekly timeframe and one can see a strong bearish outside week reversal in play, that again argues for lower levels, but much will be premised on the upcoming US core CPI print.

5. Gold shining: So, with broad USD we can see solid moves again in gold, which is threatening a break of the recent consolidation phase. My preference though is platinum, which has gained 1.4% on the day and where we can see that seasonally holding long platinum positions through January is almost always a winner. In the past 15 years we can see aside from 2016, where price fell 2.3%, it has rallied every single year in this month! Oil has closed largely unchanged, as has copper and we can see mixed moves in bulk commodity, with spot iron ore closing +1% at $79.08, while iron ore futures are 1.6% lower.

6. Wall Street: The mixed moves in commodities has not resonated in US equities, which are moving higher here on reasonable volume and where energy is up 2% as a sub-index and materials 1%. If we look at BHP’s ADR it suggests an open for the heavyweight miner at $31.43 (+1.9%), with FMG eyeing Vale, where it is currently up 2% in its US-listing. European banks are steamrolling ahead, but we can see US banks moves have cooled a touch, although all eyes now fall on JP Morgan, who expected to report numbers at 22:45 aedt, with the consensus EPS west at $1.69 on revenue of $25.5 billion. Wells Fargo (00:00 – EPS $1.02, $22.41 billion) are also in focus.

7. ASX: Whether this good-will towards offshore banks flows into Aussie banks is yet to be seen, but given Aussie SPI futures are essentially unchanged and our ASX 200 opening call sits at 6070 (+3 points) and we can see a strong open in store for BHP, one would assume I would expect a fairly subdued open for the banks.

8. Market watch:

SPI futures up 4 points or 0.1% to 6017

AUD +0.6% to 78.89 US cents

On Wall St: Dow +0.6%, S&P 500 +0.5%, Nasdaq +0.6%

In New York, BHP +1.4% Rio +1.8%

In Europe: Stoxx 50 -0.4%, FTSE +0.2%, CAC -0.3%, DAX -0.6%

Spot gold +0.4% to $US1321.92 an ounce

Brent crude +0.6% to $US69.64 a barrel

US oil +1.2% to $US64.30 a barrel

Iron ore +1% to $US79.08 a tonne

Dalian iron ore -1.6% to 546.5 yuan

LME aluminium -0.3% to $US2175.50 a tonne

LME copper -0.2% to $US7140 a tonne

10-year bond yield: US 2.54%, Germany 0.58%, Australia 2.73%

This column was produced in commercial partnership between Fairfax Media and IG

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McNamee aims to make Boomers, Opals Australia’s No. 1 teams

Paul McNamee (centre) has moved his professional interest to Australian basketball.Paul McNamee sees what other people don’t.

When he took over the Australian Open in 1995 he saw Australia’s biggest sporting event even though its public profile wasmuch lower in the pecking order.

Under his stewardship the tournament became the “grand slam of the Asia-Pacific”and it is now a $200 million business.

McNamee sees similar unrealised potential in the Australian Boomers, the Opals and the WNBL, so he has taken on a new role with Basketball Australia where he has been contracted to drive “commercial growth”.

His main focuses will be to push up the commercial and supporter appeal of the national teams and the WNBL, which still produces the bulk of the Opals squad.

The Boomers are being driven into the public consciousness by Australia’s NBA stars led by Ben Simmons and the new international schedule thatsees them play FIBA World Cup qualifiers every three months.

But the Opals are spending too long out of the public eye, although 2018 promises to be a busy year with this month’s WNBL finals followed by the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and the FIBA women’s World Cup in Spain in September.

Women’s basketball is popular in Australia. Photo: FIBA

McNamee wants to change the way everyone, both inside basketball and outside it, talks about the Opals, whom he believes are Australia’s No.1 women’s team.

“It starts with behaviour and if we are going to have a presence in the very cluttered Australian sporting landscape then we need to have a very good story which is credible and I think we have that,” McNamee said.

“Basketball is really Australia’s No.1women’s sport but I know the perception is not that, especially with the rhetoric around the Matildas and I love soccer so don’t get me wrong.

“They are hoping to compete for a world cup, we have won a world championship and we are looking for another one in Spain this year.

“So our behaviour in the messages and imagery we send out has to reflect this fact and I’ve been involved in some pretty big women’s sports in tennis and golf.”

McNamee has spent the past three years living in Istanbul where his company ran major tennis tournaments but he has decided to come back to Melbourne and was looking at his options.

Boomers team member Patty Mills. Photo: Pat Scala

BA chairman Ned Coten reached out to him to see if he could help out and McNamee said he immediately saw the potential in the sport, especially with the nation’s international stars, the resurgence of the NBL under Larry Kestelman’s leadership and coverage of both leagues on pay television.

“The Boomers are huge, physically and financially,” McNamee said.

“The top 10 sports earners just came out and six of them are in basketball, that is a complete domination of the brand equity and earning capacity of our best athletes.

“I don’t have to repeat the excitement around some of those guys in the NBA but we are now in a World Cup qualifying phase, there are two games next month in Melbourne and we have a World Cup in China in 2019 and an Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.

“All of the stars are aligning in that way –it means prime time matches with our best players on court and we need to exploit that.

“We need to get that right.”

McNamee’s big vision may be met with some scepticism, especially fromthose in basketball circles who have been let down by big visions in the past.

Paul McNamee at Melbourne Park in 2002. Photo: Gerry Angelos

While McNamee acknowledges there are obstacles,he is certain the sport is about to hit a growth spurt.

“We know what our story is, we know what is ahead the next couple of years but there are some obstacles we have to overcome and changing those perceptions is not a walk in the park,” McNamee said.

“Are the Opals playing again in Australia this year [aftertheCommonwealth Games]? They didn’t play here last year so we have to get that right.

“We need a couple of friendly games for the Opals here in their gear before the World Cup in Spain –that works –but we need to make that happen otherwise they are invisible.”

The Boomers received no favours from FIBA when they were drawn into two away games during the June window when the NBA players are in off-season and potentially available to play.

It looks unlikely they will be called up, although if the country gets the first game at home in the September window then it remains possible someone under contract like Matthew Dellavedova may choose to suit up, but that remains in doubt.

“Having two away games in June must not happen again,” McNamee said.

“Maybe we can make sure there is a home game in the September window and maybe convince one or two NBA guys with secured positions [contracts] to play. We need that access to execute our strategy,2019 is an easier sell as it’s a World Cup year but we need to make things happen this year.”

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Three airlifted from serious South Coast crash

The male patient is loaded into an ambulance to be taken to Milton Ulladulla Hospital for emergency treatment before he is airlifted. Photo: Jessica McInerney.Three people including a five-year-old boy have been airlifted tohospitalfollowing a serious head-on collision atNarrawallee, north of Mollymook, Thursday afternoon.

The coastal village is home toLisa Elmas, the first to arrive on scene of a horrific Boxing Day crashsouth of Sussex Inlet that claimed four lives, including three of the four members of Sydney’s Falkholt family.

Incredibly, Ms Elmas also chanced upon this afternoon’s crash,which has caused critical injuries to a 37-year-old woman, and left a five-year-old boy seriously hurt.

Emergency services prepare the female patient to be airlifted to hospital. Photo: Jessica McInerney.

Emergency services were called to the crash on Matron Porter Driveabout 3.50pm.

A 36-year-old male driver was trapped by his left legin a silver sports utility vehicle, suffering afractured left femur, pelvis, right wrist and fibula and suspected spinal injuries.

He was taken by road ambulance to Shoalhaven Hospital, then airlifted to St George Hospital.

His front-seat passenger, a woman believed aged 37, was airlifted in a critical condition withabdominal injuries, a fractured right tibia and fibula and suspected spinal injuries to a Sydney hospital.

Meanwhile, a five-year-old boy was taken to Milton Ulladulla Hospital by road withfacial injuries, where his condition deteriorated. He has since been airliftedtoSydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick.

A witness on the scene said “up to nine people” were working to free the man.

Emergency crews used hydraulic cutters to remove the man from the car. Pieces of the car, including the boot, wereremoved.

The cars collided in a 60km/h roadwork zone on a bend.

A man travelling in a separate vehicle was transported to Milton Hospital for assessment, suffering minor injuries, a NSW Ambulance spokesman said.

The road remained closed in both directions on Thursday evening while crash investigators examined the scene.

Judy Brownwas on the scene shortly after the crash.

“I was leaving to go somewhere five minutes before so I was lucky,” shesaid.It’s a bit of a sweeping bend there. At the moment it’s only 60 km/h but it’s normally 80 km/hwhich is probably a bit too fast.

“They’re doing the footpath extending up the hill at the moment so there are roadworks.”

“You just hope that they’re all going to be okay.”

The coffins of Annabelle Falkholt (centre) and her parents Lars and Vivian Falkholt are carried out of St Mary’s Catholic Church following their funeral in Concord, Sydney, yesterday. Picture: Kate Geraghty

The crash comes the day after Vivian Falkholt, her husband Lars and their 21-year-old daughter Annabelle were farewelled at a funeral service –casualties of a horror Boxing Day crash on the Prinnces Highway.

Craig Whittall from Ulladulla swerved onto the the wrong side of the road, killing the family and himself.

Annabelle’s sister, Home and Away actress Jessica Falkholt, remains fighting for life.

Lars and Vivian Falkholt, Annabelle Falkholt and Jessica Falkholt. Picture: supplied

Ms Elmas was first on the scene of that crash.

She later described how she pulled the sisters from the wreckage and attempted to retrieve their mother’s body before the car went up in flames.

Ms Elmas told the Mercury she was approaching the Narrawallee crash site this afternoon when she realised what she was seeing, and –knowing there were others already assisting the injured -turned her car around.

“It was too much for me. I turned around after the police overtook me,” she said.

“It’s too soon.

“I’m up and down. It’s a day to day process. It’s going to take some time. I just want to try and get back to normality for my children.”

Lisa Elmas. Picture: Jessica McInerney

In the aftermath of the Boxing Day tragedy, Ms Elmas has called for first aid kids and fire extinguishers to be made mandatory in all vehicles.

She has created a petition –which can be signed at –in support of the cause.

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Jessica Falkholt remains critical in hospital after Princes Highway crash

A woman who lost her entire family in a head-on crash on the Princes Highway on Boxing Day was still fighting for life in hospital on Friday morning, the hospital said.

It’s understood the life supportfor actor Jessica Falkholt was due to be switched off on Thursday night, but early on Friday morning, the hospital said she remained in a critical condition.

Jessica Falkholt, 28, is in a critical condition in hospital. Photo: Supplied

The 28-year-old has been in St George Hospital with serious injuries since the fieryBoxing Day collision near Ulladulla, on the NSW South Coast.

She had been riding in a car with her father Lars 69, mother Vivian, 60, and younger sister Annabelle, 21,on the morning of December 26, 2017 when it was hit head-onby a four-wheel-drive that veered onto the wrong side of the roadnear Ulladulla at about 10.45am.

Lars andVivian died instantly on impact, while bystanders managed to pull Jessica and Annabelle from the wreck.

READ MORE: Hundreds of mourners farewell Falkholt family after Boxing Day crash

Home and Away, on which Jessica had her break-out role, posted on social media on Thursday night: “Rest in peace, beautiful Jessica Falkholt”, with a link to a news story about her life support being turned off.

However, a police spokeswoman said they had not been informed of any change to Jessica’s condition either by crash investigators or St George police.

Lars Falkholt, his wife Vivian, and their daughter Annabelle have died, while Jessica Falkholt remains critical. Photo: Facebook

Craig AnthonyWhitall, 51, who was behind the wheel of the Toyota Prado, also died on impact.

Both sisters were flown to hospital, butAnnabelle died after her life support was switched offdays after the crash.

Hundreds of mournersattended the funeralfor Annabelle and her parents at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Concord on Wednesday.

In his eulogy, Vivian’s brotherPaul Ponticellothanked emergency services and the bystanders who pulled Annabelle and Jessica from the wreckage.

“Their lives ending on a highway makes absolutely no sense,” he said.

“We take little comfort in knowing that they are together and always will be.”

Lars was remembered as a wonderful husband and father, and Annabellewas remembered as a loving and kind person.

“She loved to laugh and the sound of it is something many of us will carry for the rest of our lives,” her close friend BrittanyMacchettatold the funeral service.

TheFalkholtswere travelling back to Sydney after a short Christmas break when they came into the path of MrWhittall, who was on his way home from a methadone clinic.

MrWhitall, who was known to police, was making the hour-long drive home to Ulladulla after visiting the clinic in Nowra on Boxing Day morning.

About 50 kilometres into the 65-kilometre trip, as he neared the Bendalong turnoff, hisfour-wheel-drive failed to negotiate a sweeping left-hand bend and crashed into theFalkholts’ Mazda.

Crash investigators are examining the cause of the accident and whether methadone played a part.

with AAP

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UK foils Assange escape plan, insisting he must ‘face justice’

The UK government has blocked a plan to whisk Julian Assange to freedom, denying an application for diplomatic immunity and insisting he must “face justice” for breaching bail.

Ecuador confirmed on Thursday it had granted citizenship to Assange in December, at his request.

It appears this was part of a plan to make him a part of Ecuador’s diplomatic mission, which would grant him immunity from prosecution under international law.

Since mid-2012 Assange has stayed inside Ecuador’s small London embassy, which he entered after he exhausted his legal options in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden to face rape allegations.

Last year Swedish prosecutors officially ended their investigation into the allegations.

However Assange still faces arrest over breaching bail conditions, and fears extradition to the US to face charges over his work with Wikileaks.

On Thursday the UK Foreign Office revealed that the government of Ecuador had recently requested diplomatic status for Assange in the UK.

“The UK did not grant that request, nor are we in talks with Ecuador on this matter,” an FCO spokesman said.

“Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice.”

On Tuesday Ecuador’s foreign minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa said Assange’s position was “unsustainable” from a human point of view, because “a person cannot live in these conditions forever”.

She was “exploring the possibility of mediation” by a third country or person to resolve the situation.

She said the UK “has also shown interest in finding a way out”.

Ms Espinosa also said Ecuador would “continue to protect Julian Assange while his physical and psychological integrity is in danger”.

At a press conference on Thursday – at which she confirmed reports that Assange had been naturalised Ecuadorian – Ms Espinosa said she feared for threats to Assange’s life coming from third party states.

“The Ecuadorian government has the power to grant nationality to a protected person,” she said.

They would continue to look for alternatives, under international law, to resolve the situation.

“We are currently exploring other solutions, in dialogue with the United Kingdom, in a possible mediation that could facilitate a just, definitive and dignified solution for all parties involved, within the framework of international law,” Ms Espinosa said.

Reports of the escape plan spread this week after Assange’s name was discovered on Ecuador’s online civil registry, linked to an identity card number 1729926483. The first two digits of the number indicate he is a citizen of the province of Pinchincha, where the capital city Quito is located.

Assange fuelled rumours by Tweeting a photo of himself in the Ecuador national football team kit.

According to the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service, the UK follows the 1961 Vienna Convention on the rights of diplomats, which confers immunity from criminal prosecution for all entitled members of a foreign mission.

However immunity confers only after their names have been sent to – and approved by – the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

And the Convention obliges diplomats to respect the laws of their host country.

Fairfax contacted members of Assange’s legal team for comment but was referred to the statement by Ecuador.

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World needs to ‘prepare for the worst’ with North Korea, retired general warns

Retired South Korean General I. B. Chun addressing the Policy Exchange in London on January 11, 2018, on the threat posed by North Korea. Story by Latika Bourke. Retired South Korean General I. B. Chun (left) listens to Conservative MP and chair of the British parliament??????s foreign affairs committee Tom Tugendhat at at address to the Policy Institute in London on January 11, 2018. Story and photo: Latika Bourke

London: The world needs to “prepare ourselves for the worst”, a recently-retired South Korean general has warned, despite hopes that tensions between North and South Korea could thaw following recent talks.

Lieutenant-General I.B. Chun told the Westminster-based think tank Policy Exchange that, while his heart hoped the talks would lead to peace, every indication was that “we have a long way to go”.

In landmark 11-hour peace talks this week, North and South Korea agreed that the North would send a team to compete in next month’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang

But North Korea said it would not discuss its nuclear weapons because they were aimed only at the United States and not its “brethren” in South Korea, or Russia or China, showing that a diplomatic breakthrough to the global crisis remained far off.

Chun is also a former national security adviser to South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in when he was running for office. He first gained prominence in 1983 when as a young lieutenant he was credited with saving the life of a senior general during a terrorist bombing in Burma. Later, he became one of the most senior contact points for US military commanders in South Korea.

When asked by Fairfax Media if the first talks in two years signalled any material change, Chun said his 39 years of military experience had taught him that South Korea needed to be ready because often the only proven pathway to peace is war.

“You must seek peace but at the same time prepare ourselves for the worst,” he said.

But he said he was confident that, despite North Korea’s nuclear and chemical weapons and cyber warfare capabilities, the United States would prevail.

“There is no doubt in any South Korean’s mind that if there’s war that the alliance will win and it’s just the fact that the sheer air power that the Korean and the United States – with British aircraft – that will hopefully come to our aid, can inflict on the North Koreans,” he said.

“It’s North Korea against the world at the moment.”

He said US President Donald Trump’s confrontational tweets, in which he has threatened military action against North Korea, had spooked the country’s leader Kim Jong-un.

“Right now they’re a little off balance because of Mr Trump, so because of Mr Trump they’re trying to figure out is he really crazy? Is he really going to do this or not? Mr Trump has put them off balance,” he said.

“My greatest fear is that the North Koreans are believing their own propaganda.”

But he said Kim’s provocations, including repeated missile tests, had “awoken the average American” and given “all justification to get his arse kicked”. Kim Jong-un ‘like Hitler’

Chan said Kim views himself as akin to the Swedish royal family and is not crazy but is similar in temperament to Adolf Hitler.

He said the Kim dynasty had created such a cult in North Korea, where citizens are indoctrinated, that ridding the country of the family would be less like deposing the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and more like trying to remove Allah in Muslim countries.

“Can you imagine what that would look like? Trying to get rid of Allah in Afghanistan or Iraq?”

Australia, Britain and the US have all named North Korea as the culprit behind the global WannaCry cyber attack that crippled the British health system and infected 300,000 computers across the world.

Chan said Pyongyang’s ability to hack systems worldwide should not be underestimated.

“North Korean cyber capability is right below nuclear capability in terms of threat.” China prefers nuclear North to US in Asia

North Korea ramped up missile launches last year and conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, prompting a US-led campaign to impose some of the strongest international sanctions yet, which Pyongyang dubbed an “act of war”.

The international community, including Australia, has called on China to do more to contain North Korea.

But Chan said Beijing had calculated that it would prefer a nuclear-armed North Korean neighbour than an increased US presence in its neighbourhood.

Conservative MP and chairman of the British Parliament’s influential foreign affairs committee, Tom Tugendhat???, said Britain, Australia and the rest of the Commonwealth had a great stake in the Korean peninsula, although he cautioned against any direct British role in “tipping the balance”.

Tugendhat singled out Australia’s high commissioner to Britain, Alexander Downer who attended the speech.

“It’s very good to see you here representing the great Commonwealth,” Tugendhat told Downer.

“We have this enormous shared trade culture but we actually have a lot more than that too that’s less noticed,” he said, adding that Australia and Britain were major investors in South Korean enterprises.

But he said this was a secondary priority compared with Britain and Australia’s interests in upholding the international rules-based order.

With agencies

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