Canberra housing approvals slump

While approvals for construction of new homes jumped nationally, defying expectations of a downturn, Canberra approvals slumped.
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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.
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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).
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“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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Zullo rejects Asian offers to remain with Sydney FC

A better pay-day in Asia wasn’t enough to lure Michael Zullo away from Sydney FC after the defender rejected offers from abroad to sign a new contract with the Sky Blues.
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The lean back four of Sydney FC is one step closer to remaining together for next season after the Sky Blues retained the services of left back Zullo for an additional two seasons. The former Australian international was coming off contract at the end of the season but sealed his future with the club after signing a contract extension on Thursday afternoon that will keep him at Moore Park until May, 2020.

The 29-year-old has enjoyed a return to form and fitness since joining Sydney FC in 2016 and began attracting a flurry of offers from rival clubs and foreign teams to sign for next season on the back of his performances and success with the Sky Blues. Some clubs from South East Asia guaranteed him a higher salary than what he is on at Sydney FC while bigger teams in East Asia dangled the carrot of playing in higher-quality leagues. However, Zullo says he wasn’t prepared ot sacrifice his satisfaction, fitness and performances by moving from Sydney.

“I didn’t really want to get into looking at stuff in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, it’s not for me at this stage of my career. There were some interested opportunities in Japan and Korea but you have to take everything into account and Sydney was what was right for me,” Zullo said.

With player welfare in many Asian league’s not at the standard of Sydney FC who have the best injury record in the A-League, Zullo was hesitant to put himself at risk of poor physical management like that he experienced while in the Netherlands.

“I don’t begrudge someone who makes that decision because everyone is in a different situation and circumstance. My fitness is paramount, playing in a successful team and enjoying my football – they’re the three most important things for me,” he said. “It would have taken something really, really exceptional to draw me away from Sydney at this stage of my career. I still think we still have a lot more to achieve here. We have the A-League still to finish and the Champions League. If we are successful with our goals then we will be the most successful team in A-League history.”

While Sydney FC are Zullo’s fourth club in the A-League, it’s one where he’s felt a strong sense of obligation to remain at the Sky Blues. Rivals Western Sydney Wanderers were among those interested in signing Zullo as a free agent however he says he wasn’t interested in moving across town.

“Modern-day football, I think circumstances come up where you have to move around, that’s what happens. But when you come to a stage where you’re happy, you’re performing well, they’re treating you well and they’ve put faith in you, I think a time comes where you have to repay that faith,” Zullo said. “It’s not going to be life changing to move clubs in the A-League. If a club wants to keep you, you’ve been successful and they’ve done right by you, then you shouldn’t do the wrong thing by them.”

Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold had no hesitations offering Zullo a renewed offer, making him the first player to renew their deal this season.

“Michael is one of the integral cogs in our defensive unit and it’s pleasing to have him on board for another two seasons,” Arnold said.”He’s a fantastic player to work with and his presence within the playing group only brings out positives.”

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Blue Suede Express makes its debut at this year’s Parkes Elvis Festival

Excited Elvis impersonators sang as one at Central Station on Thursday morning, singing at the top of their lungs as they danced their way through the station for what is being described as the “Southern hemisphere’s biggest and best tribute to the King”.
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And making its debut on Thursday morning was this year’s new train service, the Blue Suede Express, accompanied by the eye-catching Elvis Express train as it made its merry way to the annual Parkes Elvis Festival.

The two trains departed at about 9.30am on the seven-hour, 365km trip.

Brody Finlay checks his appearance in the window reflection before boarding the train to Parkes for the Elvis Festival. Photo: Kate Geraghty

“I’ve been an Elvis fan for many years now and it grows on you when you attend Parkes Elvis Festivals,” said Parkes Mayor Ken Keith, dressed in a re-creation of Presley’s blue pinwheel suit.

Since its inception 26 years ago, the five-day event attracts more than 25,000 die-hard Elvis Presley fanatics, promising a “whole lot of non-stop entertainment” as they celebrate this year’s festival theme: Elvis’ famous ’68 Comeback Special.

This 50-year musical milestone marked Presley’s television appearance in a rare “unplugged styled-performance that re-launched his comeback into music”.

READ MORE:Elvis (Express) hasleft the building

According to one of the festival’s youngest impersonators, Botany resident Brody Finlay, this will be his “first Elvis train experience” ever.

“When I was three years old I got handed the movie King Creole and I never turned back from there,” said the now 21-year-old.

For Edmund Koh, travelling all the way from Singapore was worth it.

“For me, Elvis is always alive,” he said.

Tourism Minister Adam Marshall said more than 25,000 revellers are expected to pack the rural town, but there is also the money, honey, with a forecast $14 million pumped into the local economy.

“It’s the largest celebration of the King globally and it’s right here in NSW,” he said.

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Tamper-resistant oxycodone fails to curb opioid epidemic

Tamper-resistant oxycodone tablets have not made a dent in Australia’s dangerous dependence on prescription opioids, a major study shows.
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The findings are a stark reminder that injecting users are not the main game when it comes to combating Australia’s burgeoning opioid misuse. Pain and drug experts say inappropriate prescribing is at the heart of Australia’s addiction to the painkillers.

The tamper-resistant formulations were introduced in Australia in April 2014 in response to growing concerns people were crushing and dissolving the tablets to snort or inject the potent opioid.

The tablets contain a polymer, making them hard and plastic-like, as well as a hydrogelling agent. The tablets can’t be crushed into a fine powder, and rather than dissolving in water, they form a thick gel.

Tamper-resistant oxycodone has had no effect on the rates of opioid use, admissions to hospital and overdoses at a population level, found the five-year National Opioid Medication Abuse Deterrent (NOMAD) study published on Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The NOMAD study found people who injected drugs were less likely to tamper with the deterrent tablets and did not appear to switch to other opioids, such as heroin.

But the tamper-resistant tablets did not slow the unrelenting rise in opioid misuse in Australia, and there was no change in the rates of opioid-related harm including hospital admissions, emergency department presentations or ambulance call-outs for overdoses. Data on fatal overdoses was not available.

There had been no drop in the sales of higher-strength controlled-release oxycodone and an increase in lower-strength formulations at a population level since the new formulations were introduced, reported the authors, led by researchers at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.

The most thorough evaluation on the issue to date analysed Australian opioid sales and health datasets, annual surveys of people who inject drugs, and a cohort of more than 600 people who reported tampering with opioids in NSW, South Australia and Tasmania before and after the introduction of the tamper-resistant tablets.

Briony Larance is the lead author of an international study. Photo: Nick Moir

The findings were unsurprising to opioid misuse experts, considering most opioid users take them orally and don’t have a history of drug use.

While the tamper-resistant oxycodone did have significant impact among the group of people who inject drugs, who are exposed to significant opioid-related harm, this group accounted for a “tiny minority” of Australia’s opioid-using population, lead author and NDARC researcher Briony Larance said.

An estimated 93,000 people injected drugs in Australia in 2014, compared with 2.9 million who were prescribed an opioid.

About 20,000 doses are prescribed for every 1 million people in Australia every year, the latest data shows.

Australia ranks eighth among the world’s top 30 users of prescription opiates and pharmaceutical opioids were responsible for more than 70 per cent of opioid overdose deaths in Australia.

A multifaceted, population-wide strategy was needed to combat inappropriate and over-prescribing of opioids, Dr Larance said.

People who misused opioids needed access holistic chronic pain management, evidence-based long-term opioid treatment, and harm-reduction strategies, she said. Crackdown on codeine and opioid misuse

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said there was clear evidence of significant misuse of codeine in Australia, with almost half a million people incorrectly using painkillers containing codeine.

“It is a very real and increasing problem,” Professor Murphy said.

The federal government has taken steps to curb Australia’s opioid dependence rates, including up-scheduling low-dose codeine products.

From February 1, medicines containing even low doses of codeine will no longer be available without a prescription, bringing Australia in step with 26 other countries.

“This decision is about saving lives,” Professor Murphy said.

The move has prompted some members of the public to stockpile the drugs, but Professor Murphy said the best medical advice and research showed codeine was no better for pain than any other over-the-counter medicine.

“There are numerous studies that show that codeine is not the miracle pain relief drug that people think it is and there is compelling evidence of harm caused by overuse and abuse of over-the-counter codeine-containing medicines.

“Stockpiling over-the-counter codeine is simply a waste of time,” he said.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced an additional $16 million towards the roll-out of a national real time prescription monitoring system to directly address preventable deaths from misuse of these drugs.

A spokesperson from the department of health said the states and territories were working towards having a real-time prescription monitoring solution by the end of 2018.

Pain specialist at St Vincent’s Clinic Milton Cohen said inappropriate prescribing was the primary driver of opioid misuse.

“Chronic non-cancer pain is a complex situation and doctors have got to look at psychological and social issues. If all they are doing is prescribing medication then we are going to run into trouble,” Professor Milton said.

Chairman of Scriptwise and the AMA Council of General Practice Richard Kidd said improving education among the public and clinicians needed to be at the centre of any strategy.

Patients seeking a prescription for low-dose codeine present “an opportunity for GPs to offer much better alternatives to help manage their pain”, Dr Kidd said.

“There are a significant number of people who end up with dependency issues because they haven’t understood that codeine withdrawal creates some pain and headaches and other side effects.

“People then take more codeine, not realising they are not treating primary pain problems but secondary withdrawal problems.”

The up-scheduling of codeine has been vigorously supported by the Australian Medical Association, the RACGP and Rural Doctors, the Consumer Health Forum, Pain Australia, the National Prescribing Service Medicinewise, and hospital pharmacists.

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Violet Crumble back in Australian hands after Nestle deal

A fourth-generation family owned confectionery business is bringing the iconic Violet Crumble chocolate bar back into Australian hands after striking a deal with Swiss food giant Nestl??.
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Adelaide-based Robern Menz will buy the Violet Crumble brand and its associated intellectual property, plant and equipment for an undisclosed sum.

It already produces more than 100 products including Menz FruChocs, Crown Mints and JeliChocs at its Adelaide factory, which will begin manufacturing Violet Crumbles in the coming months.

Robern Menz is as old as the chocolate bar itself. The Robern business traces its origins back to 1908, when Walter Sims opened his first grocery store in Unley, an inner-southern suburb of Adelaide.

English migrant Abel Hoadley is credited with inventing the Violet Crumble a few years later at his confectionery works in Melbourne. His Hoadley’s Chocolates business was bought in 1972 by the UK’s Rowntree Company, which was in turn acquired by Nestl?? in 1989.

In an interesting twist, in 1985, Robern bought a honeycomb plant from Hoadley’s and set up a manufacturing plant in Stepney, South Australia. In 1992, Robern bought Menz Confectionery from Arnott’s biscuits and renamed the company Robern Menz.

Robern Menz chief executive Phil Sims, a great-grandson of Walter, on Thursday said the company was excited to buy “what is undoubtedly one of Australia’s great brands”.

“As the new gatekeeper of Violet Crumble, we are aware of the responsibility that comes along with owning a brand so highly regarded in the Australian market place,” he said.

“We are fiercely passionate about Australian brands and with a significant honeycomb business of our own, the opportunity was too good to pass on. With our expertise, we can ensure that Violet Crumble is produced with no change to the recipe, and with the same passion and affinity Australians have had towards the brand since 1913.”

Robern Menz, which will invest $4 million in 2018 on a factory refit and extension and new warehousing facilities, expects the deal to create up to 30 jobs.

Nestl?? general manager, confectionery, Martin Brown said the company was delighted that the history and tradition of Violet Crumble would continue under local ownership.

“I want to recognise the passion of generations of confectioners who have made Violet Crumble in our Nestl?? Campbellfield factory. We remain committed to manufacturing our other loved brands, such as KitKat, Milkybar, Allens and Soothers here in Australia,” he said.

Mr Sims said Robern Menz had had a relationship with Nestl?? over the years “on confidential projects”, so at the start of last year when Nestle asked if it was interested in acquiring the Violet Crumble brand, it jumped at the chance.

???”I think it’s great for Australia that we’ve been able to hold onto an iconic Australian brand. It enables us to go to a new level from a national perspective, having a brand like Violet Crumble that’s really up there with Vegemite and other iconic Australian foods. It’s an exciting future,” he told Fairfax.

Robern Menz plans to look at ways to further develop the product for both Australian and overseas markets, including bringing back “nostalgic” formats that were no longer available.

“Clearly there’s a demand to bring back some old favourites,” Mr Sims said.???

“We already have a very significant honeycomb business ourselves. Violet Crumble is a similar food form. The recipe is very different, but we have very strong skills in this area. [Violet Crumble] is a very good fit for us … We will continue to work on the expansion of both of them.”

The purchase price has not been disclosed but the company was aided by a $750,000 state government Future Jobs Fund grant and a $900,000 loan from the Investment Attraction Agency.

Violet Crumble is the second well-known food brand to return to Australian ownership after dairy company Bega clinched a $469 million deal last year to buy Vegemite from US food giant Mondelez.

with AAP

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Diamonds captain Bassett says teammates will be heartbroken

Australian Netball Diamonds players with the new federal sports minister Bridget McKenzie and Australia sports commission CEO Kate Palmer. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos Australian Netball Diamonds. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos
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Australian Netball Diamonds. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

Australian captain Caitlin Bassett admits some of her Diamonds teammates will be left “heartbroken” when their Commonwealth Games squad is announced early next month.

The Australian side are simulating their Games schedule across a four-day camp at the AIS which began on Thursday, as they look to defend gold on the Gold Coast in April.

The Diamonds are preparing for a quad series against New Zealand, England and South Africa from January 20-28 and will fly to London at the conclusion of the camp on Sunday.

Bassett is expecting a gruelling three days of internal matchplay as players battle for a spot on the plane and a potential Commonwealth Games berth, with the Gold Coast squad to be announced shortly after the tour.

“It’s going to be tough and I’m glad I’m not a selector because there will be girls who are heartbroken,” Bassett said.

“I’ve been there myself, sitting in a room when my name wasn’t read out but it was fuel to make me work even harder the next year.

“We want to have the best of the best fighting each other for position and there is no doubt the matchplay over the next three days is going to be hotly contested.

“It’s really tough and sometimes you can be really hard on yourself, with the training camps and playing against each other all the time we know each other’s games inside out.

“We’re friends off the court but enemies on the court… Sharni Layton and I have played against each other for 10 years and you can get frustrated at times but that’s the best way to have it because you’re only going to get better by being challenged.”

Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander said her squad is anything but set as competition for spots heats up.

“We can’t wait for next couple of weeks in England and South Africa but we’ve just got this little camp to get through first which is going to provide a great challenge for this group as we head into that competition phase and our final selection,” Alexander said.

“It’s a massive decision to make for myself and the selectors, we certainly don’t take this selection lightly, it’s going to be very, very tough on all of these athletes.

“At the end of the day the 12 very best will represent our country but there are going to be at least nine that miss out.

“That’s the reality of our sport but the strength of our sport because we’ve got a million participants who play in this country and we reflect that community.”

Alexander confirmed former captain Laura Geitz is in contention for a Commonwealth Games spot after she was invited to join the Diamonds as a training partner in Canberra.

It marks her return to training with the national team after giving birth to her first child Barney last February and is the 30-year-old’s first involvement with the Australian squad since May 2016.

“At this stage Laura just wants to see how she goes, it’s been a while since Laura has been in this environment and we want to support her,” Alexander said.

“In own words are she said ‘I want to help the team be prepared to go away on this series’ and that just encapsulates her team-first attitude.

“If it works out that things present themselves and she performs very well then we’ll talk about that later.”

Bassett echoed her coach and said it was fantastic to her have Geitz back in the fold.

“We really missed her and she’s got Barney here with her as well which makes our team more like a family,” Bassett said.

“To have her experience and leadership back in the team is invaluable and to have her back out on court is great – I’m looking forward to doing battle with her.”

Australian Diamonds: Caitlin Bassett, April Brandley, Courtney Bruce, Paige Hadley, Emily Mannix, Kate Moloney, Susan Pettitt, Kim Ravaillion, Gabi Simpson, Caitlin Thwaites, Gretel Tippett, Liz Watson, Jo Weston, Stephanie Wood.

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Profit expected after Leagues Club sale

Newcastle RL CEO Matt Harris says his organisation will be turning a profit in 2019 off the back of the sale of the Newcastle Leagues Club and are pushing ahead with plans to affiliate with the NSW Rugby League.
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The Leagues Club sale was finalisedjust prior to Christmas, fetching close to $2.5 million, in a massive boost to theNewcastle RL’s dwindling financial reserves which have been eaten into after several tough years without additional funding.

Harris said his board will meet next week to formalise a plan to re-invest the money from the sale.

He revealed the likely return on the investment coupled with their normal revenue streams will see the Newcastle RL in the black during the 2019 season.

“The Leagues Club settled on the Monday before Christmas and now we need to sit down and plan the best way to re-invest that money,”he said.

“It certainly puts us in a far stronger position financially and I’m confident we will be turning a profit in 2019 with the return on the investment.

“But there is a lot to be done obviously. We’llalso be having furtherdiscussions with the NSWRL about affiliating with them possibly as early as next week.

Harris said NSWRL agreed to the affiliation last month on the proviso the clubs and referees’ association were unanimous in agreement with the move to sever ties with the CRL.

The planalso had to have the backing of Wests Group and the Newcastle Knights.

“We have ticked all those boxes. All their requirements have been met so it is our expectation that it will be all systems go,”he said.

Harris said he doesn’t expect rumoured merger talks between the NSWRL and the CRLor any move by the CRL to block the move to delay the affiliation process.

“I don’t think it is any secret we support the model that his the single spine –the same model that the Queensland Rugby League has,”he said.

“The sooner the merger happens the better. But I don’t believe those talks will hold up our affiliation process.”

The Newcastle Heraldunderstands at least two other CRL-run competitions are also in talks with the NSWRL.

Boost: Newcastle RL CEO Matt Harris says his organisation is now in a much stronger financial position.

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Leading ladies back in business

HAPPY DAYS: Veruca Salt are where they want to be – together again and making music.Veruca Salt came out of nowhere with debut single Seether in 1993 and grabbed the music industry by the throat.
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Fronted by Louise Post and Nina Gordon, the Chicago four-piece injected angsty power pop into alt-rock with bittersweet harmonies that cut to the bone. They toured with the likes of Hole and PJ Harvey and their debut album, American Thighs, sold millions.

Within five years, though, Veruca Salt had split. Trouble had been brewing since the band went to Hawaii to recordtheir second full-length album, Eight Arms To Hold You, with producerBob Rock.

“I just think we were so overwhelmed,” Post tells Weekender. “We couldn’t appreciateeverything that was happening to us. We weren’t grounded.”

Jim Shapiro left in early 1997 and the band officially called it quits when Gordon left a year later.The split took a heavy emotional toll on Gordon and Post. Years went by without the two speaking. Then, in 2003, theybegan to slowly mend fences, emailing each other sporadically. By 2008, both had married andstarted families and they began to lean on one another as new mothers.

“After Nina and I split up I made albums I really cared about, and I toured on them, but there was something just so basically different about doing it without her. Ididn’t have the fight in me any more and I really just wanted to live a normal life. I just wanted out,” Postsays.

“I had hidden my guitars in my cupboard andhad literally stopped playing and yet I kept on writing songs in my head, despite myself. Icouldn’t make it go away, even though I tried.”

As painful as it was, the 14-year separation was ultimately necessary, says Post.

“Nina and I were so intertwined and joined at the hip that I think our identities were becoming intertwined. We needed to strike out on our own and establish our own lives as adults,” Post explains.

“We separated and became healthy and whole. We reunited over motherhood, and music was the icing on the cake.When Nina emailed me saying ‘Let’s get together, Mazzy Star is playing Coachella – why aren’t we?’, well, that was the clincher.All of a sudden it was like ‘Shit, let’s play music’.

“When I pick up the guitar a song comes out. It is always the way for me. They are there waiting to come out, you know?At the risk of sounding self-important and over dramatic, sometimes it feels like I am just a vessel to write and record and that’s why Ikeep doing it.”

Gordon and Post’s reunion eventually led to the pair reforming Veruca Salt with theiroriginal bandmates: Shapiroand bassist Steve Lack.

“It’s miraculous to have this brand-new, beautiful chapter,” Post says. “We never saw itcoming, and yethere we are. To be able to reconnect and play with these dear friends ofmine who are like my family–it’s such a gift.I feel like a huge weight has been lifted. Everything is whereit’s supposed to be.”

Post is matter of fact about Veruca Salt’s early success. She says the band“found a very receptive audience” and “didn’t have to fight too hard to be heard”.

“It starts with a song, and we had a song (Seether) that caught like wildfire. There was some magic there that made that song catchy enough that people wanted to hear it a lot. Combine that with the fact that we were young and pretty, that was unmistakably the one-two punch.

“We were treated very much like thenext big thing as soon as we stepped foot in the industry.

“Having said that, Nina and I spent a tonne of time sitting in our living room writing and honing our sound and recording four-track demos by ourselves.By the time we reached the music we were on a solid footing.”

Post also downplays Veruca Salt’s reputation as being trailblazers for other female rockers.

“Look, there were women who had paved the way before us. I grew up listening to Fleetwood Mac and Heart, Mamas andthe Papas, The Breeders, My Bloody Valentine, The Sundays, Sinead O’Connor, Chrissie Hynde –the list goes on,” she says.

“We stepped on the stage that they were just stepping off of, you know. They were also our peers, a lot of those artists. It felt very natural, it didn’t feel like a struggle. It felt like there were a lot of female-led bands around us.

“And yet we were still somewhat revolutionary in that it was still relatively new to have a female-fronted band. Not playinginto the hands of the patriarchy and doing things on our own terms –that was important to us.

“Only later did we become aware that we were being managed by men, being manipulated by men, all that time. It ultimately broke up the band.We weren’t necessarily as vigilant as we needed to be. There was a lot of whispering and side-taking, triangulating. We drank the Kool-Aid and ended up falling apart.

“We’d been walking around carrying the feminist flag and then we literally fell apart.We also proved we were just human though, andwhat we get to do now is our victory lap.”

Veruca Salt play A Day On The Green at Bimbadgen on February 24 with The Living End, Spiderbait, Lemonheads, The Fauves and Tumbleweed.

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All aboard the Jets’ bandwagon

NIGEL Boogaard says he still gets goosebumps when he remembers playing an A-League semi-final in Newcastle.
Nanjing Night Net

LOYAL: long-suffering Newcastle fans.

LEADER: Nigel Boogaard

On that occasion, in season three of the A-League, the rookie defender was wearing Central Coast Marinerscolours, and he will never forget the intimidating atmosphere and parochial support 22,960 Novocastrians provided as their team soared to a2-0 victory.

Ten years on, Boogaard wearsthe captain’sarmband forhis home-town team, and his dream is to leadthem back to the same stage, hopefully with a similar or even larger contingentof fans occupyingthe bandwagon.

“Although I was a Mariner at the time, for me to come back to Newcastle and see people supporting the local team like that was massive,” Boogaardtold theNewcastle Herald.

“Probably 70 or 80 per cent of them were against us that day, but the atmosphere in that stadium was amazing.

“There’s a rich football history here. There’s a lot of people around town who are very knowledgeable about football.

“To have a packed stadium, with 24 or 25,000 people, it would be amazing to get to that level again. Hopefully we’re on our way to that.”

Newcastle have attracted average crowds of 10,229 to their eight home games this season, an increase of more than 18 per cent on last season (8645).

That includes several attendances that were affected by unfavourable weather.

Boogaard said the support this season has been “outstanding” but was hopeful it would continue togrow in the countdown to the play-offs.

Newcastle are second on the ladder, and aim to move eight points clear of third-placed Melbourne City, and within five points on leaders Sydney FC, with a win at home against Brisbane Roar on Friday night.

Boogaard said fanpower had played a“massive” role in Newcastle’s dramatic revival this season.

“Just that noise, knowing that they’re there, they’re vocal, they’ve got your back regardless, especially later in games, when the boys are fatigued and their minds are starting to wander a bit, to have that support really pushes us on,” he said.

“Especially with the way [coach] Ernie [Merrick] wants us to play, attacking with front-foot football, having that crowd support eggs you on to do that.

“They’re a key ingredient for us to be successful this year.”

After failing to reach the A-League finals intheir past seven campaigns –and collecting the wooden spoon 12 months ago –Boogaard said the Jets were determined to make amends this season.

“We still have to stay focused and keep striving for that common goal, which is to make the top four,” he said.

“I think the difference this year is that we’ve got key individuals around the club who know how to be successful and make sure that people don’t get carried away and get ahead of themselves.

“There’s a good balance within the squad and the coaching staff.

“Hopefully we can keep it going and put ourselves in a position to challenge for a title. It would be great to bring that back to Newcastle, because this town deserves some success.”

After the 2-0 win against Central Coast midweek and Friday’s clash with Brisbane, Newcastle will host last-placed Wellington on Saturday week and coach Merrick said it was important to capitalise on their home-ground advantage.

“Three home games …there’s no doubt when times are tough on the field, that the crowd help to get you over the line,” Merrick said.

“Hopefully we get a bigger crowd on Friday and next week again.”

Merrick said after Tuesday night’s win that Argentine import Pato Rodriguez would“definitely” start against Brisbane, but after Thursday’s final ball-work session he said it would depend on how the 27-year-old“pulled up”.

Meanwhile, Jets defender Daniel Georgievski offered a forthright appraisal of strugglingBrisbane, saying they were“in all sorts of strife” and Newcastle were confident of adding to it on Friday.

“It probably hasn’t worked out for them,” Georgievski said.“That’s why they’ve changed their formation so many times.

“For us, we just look for the next game … history has shown we will overcome whatever they bring.”

Brisbane have won only three games all season.

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ASX extends losing streak as banks weigh market down

Australian shares declined on Thursday as banks weighed the market down, after worries about the future direction of bond markets unsettled Wall Street.
Nanjing Night Net

The S&P/ASX 200 index lost 29 points, or 0.5 per cent, to trade at 6067 while the All Ordinaries lost the same amount of points to trade at 6176. The Australian dollar climbed to $78.72 after a strong retail sales print.

The 1.2 per cent jump in retail sales in November, up from a 0.5 per cent rise in October, and much higher than the 0.4 per cent increase economists had been expecting, helped several retailers to gain on Thursday.

Companies advancing after the release of the data included Super Retail Group, up 3.5 per cent at $8.77, Retail Food Group, up 3 per cent at $2.37 and Harvey Norman Holdings, up 1.4 per cent at $4.38.

Other consumer-focused companies gaining ground included supermarket giant Woolworths, up 0.4 per cent at $27.40, and Ansell, up 1.8 per cent at $8.77.

Banks were lower with Westpac trading down 0.5 per cent at $31.43, CBA down 0.4 per cent at $140.75, Macquarie Group down 0.8 per cent at $101.14, and ANZ trading lower by 0.2 per cent at $28.73.

Antipodes deputy portfolio manager Sunny Bangia said that growth is becoming elusive for the sector which has had a phenomenal run over the last seven years.

However, they are now under a bit of profit pressure, he said. “It’s become a mature cycle and they are fully priced. There could be some earnings downside,” he said.

Miners were also broadly lower, with BHP down 0.4 per cent at $30.84.

Lithium miners were notably weak, with Galaxy Resources down 10.8 per cent at $3.98 and Orocobre down 4.4 per cent at $6.78. Pilbara Minerals traded lower by 6.6 per cent at $1.14 and Mineral Resources lost 3.3 per cent to $20.51.

Other big decliners included A2 Milk, which slid 4.6 per cent to $7.01, and Blackmores, which traded down 5.4 per cent at $154.33.

Some miners gained, however, with iron ore producer South32 up 0.8 per cent at $3.72 and gold miner Newcrest Mining up 0.7 per cent at $22.81.

US markets ended lower on Wednesday, stalling the rally that marked the start of 2018, after a report that China is considering slowing its purchases of US government debt.

Stockwatch

JB Hi-Fi was a standout on Thursday, up 4.4 per cent at $27.99 after an upgrade to overweight by Morgan Stanley’s consumer team. It was also added to Morgan Stanley’s model portfolio by its strategy team who noted that the bank’s consumer team is expecting solid trading and upside to earnings post-interim results. “We back this conviction into earnings and add JBH to our model portfolio replacing Aconex, which is now under takeover offer,” the strategists said. “Our broader view is to still caution a wholesale rotation towards consumer-facing stocks at this juncture.”

Aussie dollar

The Australian dollar jumped to a three-month peak on Thursday after a surprisingly strong reading on retail sales boosted the outlook for consumer spending and economic growth, while narrowing the odds on a rate hike this year. The Australian dollar hopped to US78.73??, from 78.42??, but again shied away from stiff chart resistance at US78.84?? and US78.98?? – a double top hit in September. The rally came after official data showed retail sales climbed 1.2 per cent in November, three times the market forecast and the biggest gain since early 2013.

Gold

Gold prices rose for a second day on Thursday, extending the gains in the previous session when prices climbed to the highest since September, as dollar weakness and a flagging rally in equities enticed investors to buy the yellow metal. Spot gold was up 41 cents at $US1,317.33 an ounce. Prices rose to as high as $1,326.56 an ounce on Wednesday, the most since September 15. Gold prices on Wednesday rose over 1 per cent as the dollar swooned after a report that Chinese officials had recommended slowing or halting purchases of US Treasury securities

Bank of Japan

The Bank of Japan maintained the amount of its bond purchases on Thursday, helping to soothe a market rattled earlier this week by a cut in its buying of longer-dated debt that fanned worries the central bank may be moving to turn off its stimulus. The BOJ maintained the size of its buying in one- to three-, three- to five-, and five- to 10-year Japanese government bonds at 250 billion yen ($2.24 billion), 300 billion yen and 410 billion yen respectively. Most market players expected the BOJ to avoid causing another shock in the market, especially after US bond markets were shaken by a report that China, the biggest foreign holder of US Treasuries, could slow or stop buying government bonds.

Bitcoin

The US Senate’s financial services panel will hold a hearing next month with the country’s top markets regulators to discuss bitcoin amid rising concerns over the risks cryptocurrencies pose to the financial system, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters. The Senate Banking Committee will take testimony from Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Christopher Giancarlo and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton in early February, the source said. Concerns about a bubble in the bitcoin market have heightened since the currency soared to record highs of more than $19,000 in December.

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

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Trio accused of trafficking thousands of pills for nightclubs

Ian Weightman (top), Peter Moore (bottom left) and Nathan Weightman (bottom right).
Nanjing Night Net

Investigations into three men charged over a large drug operation in Ballarat where pills were manufactured and sold to nightclub patrons are continuing.

Peter Moore, 20, Nathan Weightman, 21, and Ian Weightman, 59, are accused of manufacturing and trafficking drugs in Ballarat and Melbourne during 2017.

Police allege drug paraphernalia, including a 30-gram block of methamphetamine, was found at Moore and Nathan Weightman’s Golden Point home onOctober 20.

A tablet press machine was allegedly found at Ian Weightman’s Redan home on the same day.

Ian Weightman.

Police allege powdered drugs were manufactured into thousands of pills and sold.

The trio fronted the Ballarat Magistrates Courton Thursdayfor a committal hearing.

The court was told police investigations were incomplete but should be finalised by the end of March.

Peter Moore.

Investigations include fingerprint and drug analysis.

Ian Weightman’s lawyer, Jon Irwin, said DNA and fingerprints were important in his client’s case.

He said Weightman denied the drug paraphernalia was linked to him.

Mr Irwin was acting for Nathan Weightman on behalf of lawyer Scott Belcher.

Nathan Weightman, 2014.

He said he understood Weightman was pleading not guilty to the drug charges.

Defence lawyer Mike Wardell requested an adjournment for his client, Moore, so the prosecution and defence could explore a resolution.

Magistrate Ron Saines adjourned the three cases toMarch 22for a further committal mention.

Moore and Nathan Weightman’s bail was extended, while Ian Weightman remains in custody.

The Courier, Ballarat

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