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Book review: Australia Under Surveillance, by Frank Moorhouse

Sleepless: David Irvine said threats to our security were so serious that they kept him awake at night.AUSTRALIA UNDER SURVEILLANCE ByFrank Moorhouse Vintage, $32.99
Nanjing Night Net

I wish I still had that very old Disney comic that showed ducks in raincoats on a beach, hiding one behind the other under a jetty, all peering around the pylons through binoculars. Even before I understood the perennial question, “who will guard the guardians themselves?” I found the idea of spies, counter-spies, and counter-counter spies absurd.

David Irvine does too, he admits, in an interview edited in Frank Moorhouse’s new book. But as he prepared to retire as Director-General of ASIO, Irvine candidly told audiences around Australia how threats to our security were so serious that they kept him awake at night. Then he reassured them with examples of how ASIO was protecting them. I was reminded of a former employee of the US National Security Agency who joked to an audience in Washington that the job of the NSA was to scare people so they would go on paying for it. Australians pay vastly increasing amounts for ASIO.

Shortly before Irvine retired, ASIO and the AFP deployed more than 800 officers in night-time raids on houses in Sydney and Melbourne, which resulted in several arrests but just one prosecution. Was this a fishing expedition that failed, a training exercise, a tactic to scare would-be terrorists, or an anticipatory demonstration of ASIO’s and the AFP’s need for even more powers, which were soon to come before parliament? It may have been all four. We cannot know, because the raid was one of many activities about which we have few details, and ASIO is exempt from Freedom of Information applications.

Two other possibilities: either we are paranoid, or we have learnt from 1949 of enough egregious stuff ups not to trust ASIO. Moorhouse supplies a list of these, and Meredith Burgmann’s 2014 collection, Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO Files, contains more. An agency screened from public scrutiny, no matter how well intentioned, will inevitably develop contempt for those outside its select community, even while it owes its existence to the public, and is tasked to protect them.

Irvine, Moorhouse points out, sits on the Council of the National Archives, and his former deputy at ASIO is the Archives’ Director-General. The Archives, Moorhouse observes in one of the most disturbing sections of his book, are the only historical record the public has of the workings of ASIO and our five other intelligence agencies. Yet ASIO can refuse requests for release of files on grounds of “national security” even after the normal 25-year withholding period is over. ASIO can destroy information, and can decide which of its records to make available to the Archives. In practice, Moorhouse says, that means none.

So what, after Communism, does ASIO now protect us from? Terrorism, of course, and extremism or fanaticism, we are told. These labels are loose enough to provide the national security agencies with the ill-defined enemy necessary for their perpetual operation. They appeal to moral panic. Terrorism is already “the new normal”, according to Dick Cheney. It is an intractable threat that, Moorhouse observes, seems to excuse democratic governments behaving as badly as some terrorists. Yet in the 50 years to 2005, less than 1000 Australians died from wars and terrorism (Moorhouse cites Paul Sheehan), while 134,548 deaths on Australian roads were not considered a threat to national security. Moorhouse lists nine “terrorist” incidents in Australia since 1970. By my count, of the four deaths that occurred, only one did not involve the security agencies themselves.

ASIO has for long had a negative reputation among Australians old enough to remember the Cold War, to have seen their file, and to know if they lost a job, a promotion, or a government grant because of its contents, accurate or not. Younger Australians, however, may approach Moorhouse with reasonable, contemporary questions: if I have nothing to hide, why should I fear ASIO surveillance? If others plan acts of violence, shouldn’t ASIO intercept them by whatever means? If national security is endangered, isn’t it appropriate to reverse the onus of proof onto the suspect? Doesn’t ASIO need to operate in secrecy?

I hoped for answers from Moorhouse’s book, following his prizewinning Griffith Review essay, The Writer in a Time of Terror (2006-7). I found a discussion of what he calls the Dark Conundrum, the sly behaviour of a democratic government that contradicts its own espoused values, justifying behaviour of dubious legality in the name of political necessity and national security. This since Vietnam has become increasingly obvious to most alert Australians. He doesn’t mention the much more troubling Special Intelligence Operations, about which Australian citizens are not allowed to ask questions, and which journalists can be jailed for unwittingly revealing. He doesn’t refer to the Deep State, a linked intelligence community in the Anglophone countries that, according to Canadian author Peter Dale Scott, operates as an unchallengeable, permanent authority in parallel with impermanent governments. He doesn’t cite Glenn Greenwald or Jennifer Robinson, whose views on private ownership of information would illuminate his Conundrum. He admires the leakers Manning and Snowden, but calls Assange a hacker. In fact, WikiLeaks does not hack, but publishes information leaked to it, just as the news media do (and some of them hack).

Moorhouse burrows into his Conundrum, wandering down the dark passageways of his personal predilections: censorship, the politics of sexual preference, the French Revolution, nihilism, the human condition and more. His research assistant advised him to order his material chronologically, but that thread is abandoned. Every so often he comes up from the mine with a nugget of a question, asking, for example, if a secret agency is needed for the safety of a democracy; and whether a modern state can any longer keep its own secrets, let alone those of its citizens. But these reflections are left dangling, and Moorhouse admits his proposals for reform are unlikely to be adopted. Appending an extract from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he notes that Australia is a signatory, but doesn’t point out that its provisions have not been incorporated into Australian law. Neither have those of the Convention on Civil and Political Rights nor of the Rights of the Child. Australia is alone in the OECD in having no charter or bill of rights, a situation our political leaders show no inclination to change.

As “national security” is increasingly used to justify the erosion of such privacy and liberty as Australians have, many of us, like Moorhouse, are concerned about state surveillance of individual academics, writers, filmmakers, journalists, and particularly Muslims. But as Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs has recently argued, the situation of Australia’s democratic institutions is worse: national security is being used to marginalise and overpower the judiciary, to concentrate power in the executive, to allow the armed forces to be deployed as and where the prime minister wishes, and to imprison people without charge or trial. The deep state is the new normal.

Alison Broinowski was a Senate candidate in NSW in 2013 for the WikiLeaks Party.

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

Book reviews: Strange Country; 100 Moments in Australian Painting

STRANGE COUNTRY: WHY AUSTRALIAN PAINTING MATTERS By Patrick McCaugheyThe Miegunyah Press/Melbourne University Publishing, $49.99.
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100 MOMENTS IN AUSTRALIAN PAINTINGBy Barry Pearce NewSouth Publishing, $49.99.

Two profusely illustrated books have recently appeared, both in one way or another offering an account of the past couple of centuries of Australian art and both, coincidently, limited to a consideration of painting only.

Patrick McCaughey is an art critic, art academic and long serving director of the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne and of the Wadsworth Atheneum and the Yale Centre for British Art in the United States. His Strange Country: Why Australian painting matters presents a most readable account of Australian painting; one which dips into art historical research, but also has a journalistic flair in the expression of strongly held convictions.

McCaughey was born in 1943, and when he was 17 he saw the inaugural Helena Rubinstein Travelling Scholarship Prize exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1960. From then on, he was hooked on Australian painting. His book commences with a quick overview of the modern Aboriginal art movement and then moves into a broad survey of early colonial painting, in which Nicholas Chevalier and ST Gill do not rate a mention. From here the account moves straight into the Heidelberg School, where we encounter interesting insights, such as the suggestion that the swagman in McCubbin’s Down on his luck (1889) is modelled on the pose of Durer’s Melencolia I (1514), but shown in reverse. Such quirky, but interesting observations are scattered throughout the book.

Although on occasion it is difficult to agree with some of McCaughey’s opinions, it is impossible not to admire the literary flourishes with which he discusses some of his selected paintings. When writing on Hugh Ramsay’s The sisters (1904), he observes “The compression of the composition, the closeness of the sitters to artist, breeds an airless claustrophobia. The alternating alertness and ennui of the sisters, bored by having to dress up in evening gowns in the middle of the day and pose in the over-heated studio, adds to the ambivalence of the painting. Far from being an essay in the feminine, the dying painter/brother is under scrutiny of his sisters, even as they fall under his gaze. A suffocating pall hangs over the work.”

His broad brush approach to Australian art history certainly takes few prisoners. In one sweeping overview sentence he notes “Hall and Lambert are now curiosities; perennial attempts to revive ‘late Streeton’ have petered out, and Heysen is hardly taken seriously outside Adelaide.” McCaughey champions Sidney Nolan and Fred Williams as the two giants of Australian painting and concludes with a rather cursory glance at contemporary art practice and with the tactful statement “all of these painters … they stand as representative for many who must go unmentioned …” Much is unmentioned in this book, but that which is mentioned is discussed with passion and understanding.

Although I was occasionally frustrated by the laconic nature of some of the discussion, as a whole, this account of Australian painting sparkles with intelligent insights and with some very memorable expressions in which wit and perception are united in flowing prose.

Barry Pearce in 2012 retired from his position as Head of Australian Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales after 33 years in the job. This book is his personal final tour of the collection, pausing to discuss some of his favourite paintings. Apart from personal preference, the 100 selected paintings present something of a chronological account of the development of Australian art as held at the Sydney gallery, a collection which Pearce help to form and develop.

Except for a single bark painting, Indigenous art is excluded from this selection, in part, because he saw his brief as the curator for “Anglo-European Australian” art, but also in part because he felt that Indigenous and non-Indigenous art don’t really mix and when they are put together they do not really make sense. He writes “The intention [to combine Aboriginal and non-Indigenous art] was worthy, but in the end I believe nothing much was gained, other than a temporary frisson of aesthetic confusion in an attempt to identify similarity”. This is not an argument which I personally find particularly convincing simply because so many Australian artists, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, draw on each other’s traditions and it is this, that to some extent gives Australian painting some of its distinctive character.

The strength of this book is that it is written by a person who has the eye of a curator, a person who is perceptive, passionate and at times possesses a forensic knowledge of the provenance of a particular painting under discussion. We are given wonderful accounts about the hunt for long-lost paintings involving ingenious detective work leading to profound joy on their rediscovery. There are also many passages of detailed observation of paintings and speculation on their evolution, sources and influences. Take for example the discussion of Ralph Balson’s Portrait of Grace Crowley (1939), where we learn not only the artist’s probable source, Millet, but also where he saw a reproduction of this source, an issue of the Studio magazine in the Sydney Art School library, and the reason of why he turned to this source, Julian Ashton’s teaching.

Pearce writes with passion on the paintings which he admires, for example Hugh Ramsay’s wonderful painting, The Sisters (1904), which the young artist painted virtually from his deathbed. Pearce writes “The Sisters shows not so much virtuosity or glamour in its dazzling render of gold and cream fabric, as a dance with the brush about transient beauty and an underlying sense of mortality.” It is such wonderfully evocative and insightful passages that make this book so rewarding to read.

Australian painting, which only a few decades ago in some of our art schools was pronounced dead and obsolete in the context of contemporary Australian art practice, in Patrick McCaughey and Barry Pearce has found two wonderful advocates who guarantee its high profile and ongoing viability.

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

Book review: The Peaceful People, by Paul Malone

Stewards of Sarawak: The Penan have survived British and Malaysian invasion of their forests. Photo: Phyllis Webster Only 20 per cent of the Penan people’s forests remain.
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THE PEACEFUL PEOPLE: The Penan and Their Fight for the Forest. By Paul Malone. Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, Malaysia. $27.

A theme in world history is Europe’s great colonial expansion and the resulting dispossession of indigenous peoples. Regular Canberra Times columnist Paul Malone documents the ironic variation wrought upon Sarawak’s indigenous Penan. They can “fondly recall” the relatively light touch of British Sarawak on their lands and lifestyle. With the Malaysian takeover of 1963, only 20 per cent now remains of the primary Sarawak forests they used to roam.

Malone had visited a remote Penan group in 1974. Back in Sarawak in 2006, he was talked out of repeating the experience. His inner reporter was galvanised to revisit the Penan the following year. He filed a Canberra Times story about Penan elder Kelesau Naan’s campaign to stop the logging. Naan’s suspicious death months later prompted further visits and ultimately this book.

The title clearly sums up the author’s view of  the Penan. “The world can surely learn something” from their peaceful society and its non-violent protests.

Malone notes the pitfalls of romanticising indigenous groups. But the colonial, ethnographic and missionary records locate the Penan as “starkly different” from other Sarawak tribes. They took no human heads nor animal sacrifices, lived by rotational hunting and sago gathering not rice cultivation, and kept to smallish jungle bands whoavoided rivers andharsh sunlight. They also memorised their significant campsites and gravesites down the generations, but their kind of land stewardship didn’t cut much ice at the land titles office.

Other tribes thought them fair game. Malone recaps several massacres of the Penan dating from as recently as the turn of the 20th century. Things got tough again when logging took off in the 1970s. Short of violence, the Penan used “every available means” of protest and blockade to halt the logging or at least get compensation. Charismatic Swiss activistBruno Manser communicated their cause to the outside world, but the deforestation went on.

Again, Malone trawls the records, re-interviewing Penan who knew Manser. The Penan being generally resistant to outside influence, he disputes that Manser manipulated them. He verifies Manser’s own reports of events.

The Penan have continued to be further displaced by a supply-side development strategy to dam Sarawak for “inexpensive hydropower” to attract industry. In Malone’s current assessment, a few Penan are still nomadic while a few hold good jobs. Most fall in between, their limited access to the cash economy constituting a shaky exchange for formerly self-sufficient lives. Groups that opted for “collaborative” negotiation seem to be better compensated than groups that resisted logging outright. But Malone visits one village that’s going its own way yet going well.

If Australia has a Sarawak, it’s Tasmania, another island economy in thrall to logging and hydropower. Critics looked askance at the cosy relationship between the Tasmanian government and former forest titan Gunns Limited. In Sarawak, critics have focused on the forest and financial interests associated with Abdul Taib Mahmud, long-term Chief Minister and now Governor of Sarawak. Malone re-presents some of this material. It is examined in depth in the Swiss Lukas Straumann’s Money Logging, recently co-launched in Sarawak with The Peaceful People.

Despite the ruthless upheaval of the Penan by capital and development, Malone ends on a buoyant note. To improve the lot of the settled Penan villagers of today, he recommends practical measures in curriculum, schooling, employment and tourism.

Paul Malone will talk about The Peaceful People at the Asia Bookroom on December 1. Lawry Place, Macquarie, 6pm. RSVP by November 30, 625 15191. Gold coin donation to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

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

The week in pictures: Photos

The week in pictures: Photos LAUNCESTON: Legana Presbyterian Care nursing home resident Nella Groves shows off the nude calendar the nursing home has produced. Picture Mark Jesser
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WAGGA: Country singer Grant Luhrs dears up for the Country By the Lagoon concert. Photo Les Smith

LAUNCESTON: Storyteller Bert Spinks spins a yarn inside Saint John Craft Beer Bar. Picture Scott Gelston

FORSTER: Buster is obsessed with his ball. Photo by Kath Majewski

FORSTER: Lightning over Bennetts Head on Monday. Photo by Merryl Kemp

PORT ELLIOT: Four-year-old Huxley Golder welcomes the new pedestrian crossing in Port Elliot, near the site where a local toddler was killed at Easter 2012. Photo Anthony Caggiano

REDLAND CITY: Dry weather brings out magnificent blooms in city streets. Picture Chris McCormack

REDLAND CITY: Local boat builder Aluminium Marine launches its lastest boat built for New Zealand tourist market. Picture Chris McCormack

VICTOR HARBOR: Thousands flocked to Victor Harbor for the annual Schoolies Festival. Photo Ryan Finlay

WAGGA: Australian Army Band Kapooka musicians Russell Hodges and Corporal Justin Kennedy are heading to Gallipoli for the Anzac Day centenary. Photo Les Smith

WAGGA: Bureau of Meteorology Wagga’s acting officer Robbie Lennard and technical officer Nigel Smedley show off the bureau’s new 2015 weather calendars. Photo Les Smith

WAGGA: Sunrise Rotary’s Dennis Blackett is merry and bright as he checks out a Christmas tree, for sale just in time for the festive season. Photo Michael Frogley

WAGGA: WIRES volunteers have been caring for fruit bats. Photo Michael Frogley

WHYALLA: Whyalla Leisure Centre has received a $320,000 Regional Development Australia Fund. Pictured was Minister for Regional Development Geoff Brock visiting Whyalla Leisure Centre. Photo Kayleigh Bruce

YANKALILLA: Author Angela Goode was the guest speaker at the opening of the new Yankalilla Library. Photo Alice Dempster.

ROXBY DOWNS: Wade Hooper is no mug when it comes to golf courses, after all he started playing the game at 10 years of age. He is the new superintendent of the Roxby Downs Golf Course and Town Oval. Photo Jack McGuire

PORT LINCOLN: Fresh Fish Place owner Craig McCathie and staff members Debra Harder, Rhiannon Osborn and Kelly Ridgway showed off some of the fresh local seafood that is getting popular heading in to Christmas.

BATEMANS BAY: Detectives Andy Tyler, Peter Gillett, Simon Davies and Bredan Lee flaunt their Movember creations.

ULLADULLA: Craig Smith (left) has sold Milton District Meats and the operation will be run by general manager Frank Schnoor and CEO Leisa Perfect on behalf of the new owner who has plans to expand the business and export meat to Asia.

EDEN: Eden Marine High School graduate Harrison Warne’s photo of a Gippsland Water Dragon has taken out second prize in the Ecological Society of Australia photography competition.

KIAMA: Kiama Preschool director Maria Whitcher with Molly Peseta, Coby Rogers, Jack Norris, Ruby Gallagher, Lindy Verryt and Isabelle Fredericks. The preschool recently received achieved high honours as part of a national assessment system. Picture: GEORGIA MATTS

NOWRA: No one was seriously injured when this car ploughed into a house in Bomaderry last Friday. It was the second time in as many days that a car had lost control and collided with a building.

WYNDHAM: Students from Wyndham School of Dance will perform ‘Mary Poppins Comes to Wyndham’ in a special show to mark the school’s 20th birthday next month.

TAMWORTH: Tamworth’s Chloe Morris, 6, and Ella Jones, 5, show off their gap-toothed grins. Photo: Barry Smith

BATHURST: Such are the rapidly deteriorating seasonal conditions that David Suttor from historic ‘Brucedale’ on the Sofala Road has just terminated a 250-acre wheat crop. He’s opted out of waiting until harvest and made round bales of hay.

ORANGE: White Ribbon Day was the catalyst for Orange to reflect on its poor record of domestic violence, which is more than double the state average.

BATHURST: Cherry orchardist Russ McCarthy says recent warm, dry weather has ensured a bumper crop of cherries this year. He is among local stone fruit growers revelling in good growing conditions. Photo PHILL MURRAY

MUDGEE: Tyla James doing his best to escape Sunday’s extreme heat by going for a dip. Photo: COL BOYD

DUBBO: Women spent two days at the weekend learning how to mentally and physically prepare themselves for a bush fire at the Women with Flair workshops. Pictured is Sharon Balmer using a portable pump while Helena Patriarca, Ani Langbien, Heidy Steppat, Sue Lomax, Alison Oliven and Ann Myes supervise. Photo: GREG KEEN.

DUBBO: It is exactly 11 weeks today since Kibibi was born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo and the hippo calf is growing in both confidence and size. Photo GREG KEEN

WELLINGTON: Wellington Public School students tie their balloons and pledges to the fence at school during White Ribbon Day.

WOLLONGONG: The 10th i98 Camp Quality Convoy. Photo Christopher Chan

NEWCASTLE: The long wait for Skywhale resulted in a short appearance in the skies by the $300,000 art work. Photo Simone De Peak.

NEWCASTLE: Eric Platt of Newcastle soaking up the rays at Bar Beach. Photo Simone De Peak

NEWCASTLE: NBN Newsreader Mike Ribbard is retiring from the NBN News. Photo Phil Hearne

NEWCASTLE: TAFE Final Year Graduates of Advanced Diploma in Industrial Design Samantha Wigman (left) and Peter Hunt with a lamp by Vera Brack, a TAFE 1st Year Advanced Diploma in Industrial Design student. Students putting together their best work on display at The Edwards.

NEWCASTLE: Storm rolls in over Newcastle. Photo Ryan Osland.

MACKSVILLE: Macksville Public School mourns the passing of Phillip Hughes.

PORT MACQUARIE: Some of the talented dancers from Port Macquarie High School who will perform in Schools Spectacular this Friday and Saturday – back from left, Molly Cassidy, Jamie Roberts, Amelia Pitt, centre, Shannon Beck, Lani Webber and Tia Tyler, front Denika Bendt. Absent – Sarah Bisco, Emma Piper, Morgan George, Tanish Palmer and Sasha Langdon.

WARRNAMBOOL: Hopkins river was a great place to be last Sunday.Pictured is Matt Primmer and Julian Bellamy. Photo Damian White

WARRNAMBOOL: Brauer College Christmas Gala Market held at the school hall. Student Sarah Hancocks 14 selling her xmas wreaths. Photo Damian White.

CUDGEE: Cudgee Primary School held a Night Market on Friday. Pictured L-R 11 yr old Jarren Maddocks, 6 yr old Audrey Moore and 11 yr old Kalin Jans. Photo Leanne Pickett

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Banks may need to set aside rainy-day capital

‘System robust’: Financial Systems Inquiry chairman David Murray. Photo: Nic WalkerA year ago when Joe Hockey appointed David Murray to lead a “root and branch” review of the financial system for the first time in 16 years, he raised the risk that governments always take on when they launch an inquiry without knowing where it will lead.
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The Wallis report in 1996 had resulted in financial system architecture that worked: a specialist bank and insurance regulator, APRA, a specialist companies and markets regulator, ASIC, and a central bank that acted as the gatekeeper of the financial system and the economy.

Wallis wasn’t the only thing Australia had going for it during the 2007-09 global crisis. The government entered it with relatively low balance-sheet gearing, for example. Australia’s large stock of variable rate loans also allowed Reserve Bank interest rate cuts to flow into the economy quickly, something that did not occur in the United States, where a much larger stock of debt is fixed rate.

The consensus not just in Australia but around the world was, however, that Wallis passed the global-crisis stress test successfully, to the point where it became an exemplar.

There was no serious appetite for it to be dumped, and sighs of relief last July when the Murray inquiry’s interim report concluded that Australia’s regulatory architecture could be renovated and improved, but was at its heart “robust and effective”.

The Murray inquiry’s final report is expected to be released by the government on Sunday week, December 7, and the big banks expect it to recommend that they underpin their home lending books with more balance-sheet capital, to reflect the growing share of home loans on their lending books, the growing share of loans to investors in their home loan portfolios, and the risks they face if housing prices turn down sharply.

The banks have been fighting a rearguard action against the recommendation, which was foreshadowed in the interim report.

The household debt-to-income ratio had declined since the global crisis,  home loan repayments as a percentage of household income had fallen during the same period to the average since 1980, and sub-prime home loans that peaked at 14 per cent of total home lending in the United States before the global crisis got to only about 1 per cent in Australia, Westpac said in its response to the interim report, for example.

Large-bank non-performing loans were less than 2 per cent of total loans compared with more than 3 per cent in the US, almost 6 per cent in the United Kingdom and 8 per cent in the Euro area, it added.

A stress test conducted this year by APRA that assumed a horror scenario – a 4 per cent contraction in economic growth, unemployment of more than 13 per cent and a double-dip slide in house prices of more than 40 per cent – did, however, conclude that the banks could rack up losses of $170 billion during 5 years, about a third of them on home loans. If it took a hit of that magnitude, Australia’s banking system would not be fully functional, APRA’s chairman Wayne Byres said in a speech early this month.

Byres said the regulator was not forecasting that a slump of that ferocity would occur. The stress test was nevertheless “very deliberately designed” to expose vulnerabilities in the banking system, he said. That, and the fact that the banks are still reliant on overseas markets for funding, is likely to persuade Murray that extra “rainy-day” capital should be set aside.

As much as $53 billion could be needed, according to the Fitch credit rating agency. The big banks earn that much among them in about two years, however. Fitch says they are well positioned to raise the money internally, and would be given time by APRA to do so.

If it calls for the banks to build their capital buffers but endorses Wallis’s system architecture, the Murray report will be classed initially at least as being less influential than the Wallis report or the Campbell inquiry in 1979 that lit the fuse on financial deregulation.

What that would mean, however, is that Murray and his colleagues got it right. The system needs fine-tuning rather than a radical overhaul, and there will still be much in the final report worth taking up.

The interim report made it clear that superannuation would be a major focus, and noted that the regulation of superannuation had been focused more heavily on the accumulation phase than the retirement, or drawdown phase.

Some might say this is an obvious conclusion to reach after the examples of adviser misbehaviour and investor losses that have emerged since the global crisis occurred, but the obvious conclusion is in this case the right conclusion, and it will be very interesting to see where it lands.

It is hoped the final report will, for example, recommend that the gearing of self-managed superannuation for property purchases be banned, closing down an opportunity for self-interested alliances between property spruikers, lenders and financial advisers that should never have been allowed to open up.

The interim report also asked for feedback on whether genuinely independent advice needed to be more clearly distinguished, as it is in the UK, where advisers must tell their clients whether they are independent – able to recommend all products – or restricted, and able to recommend only some products. A similar recommendation here would be a body blow to the big banks and their tied planner networks.

It also asked whether ASIC should be given the power to prescribe marketing terminology for complex and risky products and, if necessary, temporarily ban them. ASIC’s equivalent in the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority, already has the power. ASIC wants it, and Murray may well strengthen its arm.

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

McCullum smashes Black Caps’ quickest century

Captain Brendon McCullum’s belligerent record-breaking century put New Zealand on top in the third Test after offspinner Mark Craig’s career-best 7-94 finished off Pakistan for 351 early this morning.
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McCullum smashed New Zealand’s fastest ever Test hundred off 78 balls, and he and Kane Williamson combined for the Kiwis’ biggest second-wicket stand against Pakistan in reaching 249-1 at stumps on the second day to trail by 102 runs.

The skipper was unbeaten on 153 off 145 balls, hitting 17 fours and eight sixes, in a 198-run stand with Williamson, who will resume on 76.

Earlier, Pakistan resumed the day on 281-3 and lost its last seven wickets for just 70 runs in the first session, with Craig claiming the last five.

Play was abandoned on Thursday after the death of Australia batsman Phillip Hughes, and the match was extended by a day.

Pakistan stemmed the flow of runs after tea through offspinner Mohammad Hafeez, limiting New Zealand to 85 runs in 20 overs.

But in the second session, McCullum pulverised the bowlers as the Black Caps racked up 164 runs in 25 overs for the loss of Tom Latham for 13.

McCullum punished fast bowler Mohammad Talha (7-0-62-0), and spinners Zulfiqar Babar and Yasir Shah conceded 130 runs in 20 overs on the flat pitch.

McCullum missed Tim Southee’s New Zealand record of fastest Test half century by just one ball, when he raced to 50 off 30 deliveries by smashing fast bowler Rahat Ali for two successive boundaries.

He took four boundaries in Talha’s penultimate over before tea, and turned Babar around the wicket off the last ball before the interval to complete a magnificent 10th test century, and his first against Pakistan.

Ross Taylor held the previous New Zealand record of an 81-ball hundred, against Australia at Hamilton in 2010.

McCullum’s blitz overshadowed Williamson’s knock, as the right-hander scored his first half century of the series and hit seven fours and six.

Earlier, Hafeez resumed at 178, but missed out on a maiden double century, and was out for 197 before Craig quickly wrapped up the innings in an extended 2 1/2-hour first session due to Friday prayers.

There were no celebrations from New Zealand players because of Hughes’ passing, despite Pakistan losing wickets in quick succession at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

The teams and officials wore black armbands and lined up to observe a minute of silence before play. As another mark of respect, both teams put their caps on the handles of their bats and placed them along the fence near the field entrance. The New Zealanders also penned the initials PH on their shirts below the Silver Fern.

Neither Southee nor Trent Boult bowled a short delivery with Hughes’ death from a bouncer still fresh. The players were visibly sombre, and even McCullum was subdued when he reached his 100, with barely an acknowledgement to his applauding team, and a hug from Williamson.

Captain Misbah-ul-Haq couldn’t add to his overnight 38 before he drove at a wide Southee delivery, and was caught behind in the fourth over of the day.

Hafeez dominated the bowlers on the first day with his crisp cuts, pulls and drives, and on the verge of reaching 200 on Friday he pulled legspinner Sodhi and was out at deep midwicket off a top edge.

Hafeez faced 316 balls, hitting 25 fours and three sixes in just over seven hours of flawless batting, but his departure at 311-5 ignited the collapse, as Craig claimed all of the remaining five wickets.

Taylor became the second New Zealander to achieve 100 catches, after former captain Stephen Fleming, when Rahat Ali edged Craig in the slips. Taylor added one more to his tally by having last man Yasir Shah caught at the same position for 25.

Stuff

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

Motorcyclist dies, another critical after separate crashes

The death of a motorcyclist this morning in Toorak caps off a horrific week on Victoria’s roads.
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The male motorcyclist was killed when he hit the back of a turning truck and then crashed into a car on Toorak Road at 8.40am on Saturday morning.

The motorcyclist died at the scene, but the drivers of both the truck and the car were uninjured.

Police will prepare a report for the coroner.

His death is the second serious accident involving a motorcyclist in a single day.

Five hours earlier, another motorcyclist suffered life threatening injuries after being hit by a Ford sedan on the Princes Highway in Noble Park.

His death is the eighth fatal crash on Victorian roads in just five days prompting renewed pleas by police for motorists to drive safely.

Among the other accidents: On Friday afternoon, in Orbost, a male driver in his 20s was killed and his female passenger flown to the Alfred in a critical condition after a head-on collision with a cattle truck.  In the early hours of Friday morning, a 39-year-old Brighton man died after his car came off the road in Wonthaggi.The day before three people were killed in separate accidents. A 46-year-old Wangaratta woman died when her car hit a grain truck in Rutherglen, a 91-year-old man died in hospital after a car crash in Mount Martha.On Tuesday, a woman in her 60s crashed into a tree in Kanumbra, while on Monday, 57-year-old St Kilda man died after the car he was a passenger in collided with a truck in Springhurst.

Road Policing Assistant Commissioner Robert Hill said: “Each death on our roads is a tragedy and should send a stark reminder to all Victorians to take extra care.”

Since a traffic blitz began on November 14, police have identified over 21,000 traffic offences.

“When more than 7000 people have been caught speeding and more than 900 have been caught driving drunk or on drugs it’s lucky we haven’t had more people killed,” he said.

The state’s road toll sits at 230 for the year, up from 212 in 2013.

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

Wilscot holds off challenge

Wilscot holds off challenge Wilscot was the second winner for Brian Cox. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK
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Jake Duffy rode Wilscot to victory in race 4. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Jake Duffy rode Wilscot to victory in race 4. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Wilscot, ridden by Jake Duffy, returns to scale after winning race 4. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Wilscot, ridden by Jake Duffy, returns to scale after winning race 4. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Trainer Brian Cox was emotional after Minnie Downs won the Wodonga Cup. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

The field bunches up as jockeys set sail for home. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Wodonga Gold Cup winner Minnie Downs trained by Brian Cox and ridden by Craig Newitt. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Trainer Brian Cox was emotional after Minnie Downs won the Wodonga Cup. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Owner John McPhee, trainer Brian Cox and jockey Craig Newitt speak after Minnie Downs won the main race. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Trainer Brian Cox speaks to owner John McPhee after Minnie Downs won the main race. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Trainer Brian Cox was emotional after Minnie Downs won the Wodonga Cup. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Trainer Brian Cox was emotional after Minnie Downs won the Wodonga Cup. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Horses tear up the track in the main race. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Wodonga Gold Cup winner Minnie Downs is pushed over the line by jockey Craig Newitt. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Jockey Craig Newitt pats Minnie Downs after the race is won. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Brian Cox holds up the Wodonga Gold Cup. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Kept Woman – ridden by Linda Meech – won race 5. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Kept Woman – ridden by Linda Meech – won race 5. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Kept Woman – ridden by Linda Meech – won race 5. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Kept Woman – ridden by Linda Meech – won race 5. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Jockey Linda Meech was looking pleased after Kept Woman won the race. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Albury’s Wade Towerton sits one out. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Crowds line up to watch the race. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Gentleman of the Day William Bonnici. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Millinery of the Day went to Renee Nesbitt. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Wodonga’s Cathy Jiang and Walwa’s Ella Hanna cool down with an ice cream.Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Wodonga’s Jayde Fisher and Hollie Symons were both stylish and sun smart. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Wodonga’s Alex Hill and Conor Sheridan enjoy a few beverages. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

You couldn’t miss Wangaratta’s Jorja Lindsay and Wodonga’s Katelyn Humphris with this bright orange umbrella. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Special guest, The Batchelor’s, Laurina Fleure holds the cup. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Wodonga’s Logan Anderson, 17 months, looking dapper in his black tie.Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Serina Gray, Sarah Peters and Bridget Parker. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Charlotte Carr, Ruby Pearce, Jessica Strauss and Kellie Simmonds, all from Wodonga. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Racegoers watch the horses fly by. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Jorja Lindsay parades for the fashions judges. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Lady of the Day Kira Johnston. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Special guest and The Batchelor contestant Laurina Fleure.Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Crowds watch as the horses race past. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Crwods watch from the stands. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Studying the book. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Crowds lining up for the race. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

All tuckered out after a big day. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Wow, check out those shoes! Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Katrina Hosie stood out with her brightly coloured hair. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Fashions on the field isn’t just about the dress. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Jed McPhee, 12, special guest Laurina Fleure, and Jed’s cousin Fergus McPhee, 8, all fighting for the gold cup. Jed and Fergus are grandsons of John McPhee, owner of the cup winner Minnie Downs. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Crowds watched in anticipation. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWIC

TweetFacebook”Hopefully the drought is well and truly over. I thought that was a race he could win.”

BRIAN COX’This one’s for dad,’ emotional Brian Cox saysCox choked back tears after Minnie Downs handed him his first Wodonga Cup success without his father and long-time mentor, Ollie, by his side.

Public holiday a gold winner for Wodonga CupRacegoershave made the most of a new public holiday, with crowd numbers doubling at yesterday’s Wodonga Gold Cup.

Police arrest man over headbuttA man has been hospitalised after being headbutted in a fight at the Birallee Tavern. The man was believed to have come from the races.

Cav rues Wodonga bad luck as Pedro retiresWodonga Gold Cup day is fast proving to be a nightmare for Albury trainer Brett Cavanough.

“I’m a bit like the Albury Football Club. You lose two but you just go and find another two to replace them.”

Wilscott holds off challengeWilscottfinally delivered on his promise in landing the feature sprint on Wodonga Gold Cup Day for premier trainer Brian Cox.

“Hopefully the drought is well and truly over.”

Aalbers in exclusive companyVeteran horsewoman Liz Aalbers has been made a life member of the Wodonga Turf Club.

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Remote indigenous towns fear trauma and dislocation as bulldozers roll in

Gone: Abandoned chair in avenue of trees in Oombulgurri. David Ryder: A former Oombulgurri resident and elder. Photo: Marieke Ceranna
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Community gone: Abandoned buildings in Oombulgurri.

Gone: Abandoned chair in avenue of trees in Oombulgurri.

Gone: Abandoned chair in avenue of trees in Oombulgurri.

Gone: Abandoned chair in avenue of trees in Oombulgurri.

Indigenous leaders call for PM to intervene

The front line in the battle for survival of remote indigenous communities in Australia is a half-hour boat ride up the Forrest River from Wyndham in the East Kimberley.  In the community of Oombulgurri, once an Anglican mission, wild horses roam streets lined with baobab trees.

Last month, the horses were joined by a bulldozer that had arrived to demolish most of community’s houses. By the end of next week, the West Australian government expects the demolition to be complete. Some old stone structures from the mission days, a few houses and community buildings will remain to support “non-residential future use”.

Oombulgurri is not a typical remote indigenous community. It is a place with a dark history.

In 1926, it was the site of a massacre of Aboriginal people by law enforcement following the killing of a pastoralist. More recently, it has been known for child neglect, sexual abuse, domestic violence and alcohol-related harm.

The WA government took the decision to close the community in 2011 in response to a coronial inquiry into five deaths in the community, including four suicides, over a 12-month period.

The coroner concluded that “many millions of dollars had been spent in propping up and perpetuating a community which in many respects on any objective criteria was a disgrace”.

No one disputes the existence of grave social problems in Oombulgurri but views differ on whether closing down the community was the right response. And many fear the large-scale trauma and dislocation that followed Oombulgurri’s closure may soon be repeated across the nation.

For half a century, since the 1967 referendum gave the Commonwealth the power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, the federal government has funded the delivery of essential services to remote indigenous communities. This was a recognition that without private property ownership, rates could not be collected to fund local government. In recent years Labor and Coalition governments have sought unsuccessfully to have states and territories take over this responsibility. In September, Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion announced a breakthrough, an “historic” deal in which West Australia, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania would agree to deliver essential services such as power and water to indigenous communities in their states.

Earlier this month, WA Premier Colin Barnett announced  the state could not afford to service as many as 150 of the state’s 274 remote communities. These “unviable” communities would have to close. The South Australian government, which had rejected Scullion’s offer of $10 million in transitional funding, said the Commonwealth’s withdrawal of funding for remote communities placed 60 communities, home to more than 4000 Aboriginal South Australians, at risk of closure.

Speaking in Parliament, Barnett said many communities were not just unviable in a financial sense but because of social dysfunction, child abuse and neglect, poor education and a lack of opportunities.

Cissy Gore-Birch, who grew up at Oombulgurri, admits the community had very serious problems, including with mismanagement, alcohol, violence and sexual abuse.  But she insists addressing those issues did not have to mean the death of the community.

“I don’t think closing the community was the way to deal with it,” she says.

She says the Oombulgurri she lived in as a child functioned well.  She remembers a community without alcohol or police, where elders had authority, children were safe and fresh food was plentiful.

Ms Gore-Birch, the chairwoman of the Balanggarra Aboriginal Corporation, says the WA government failed to consider alternatives to closing Oombulgurri, and says relocating people to towns such as Wyndham and Kununurra without adequate support services had transferred some problems from one place to another and created new ones. While some demountable cabins were provided for transitional housing in Wyndham, and some former Oombulgurri residents moved in with family, exacerbating overcrowding, others camped on the oval at Kununurra or on the marshes on the fringe of Wyndham.  Liz O’Brien, the director of Kimberley Community Legal Services, says three years after the closure, some remain homeless. She says some residents have lost benefits because they could not receive Centrelink correspondence and the shortage of appropriate housing has meant many former Oombulgurri children are not attending school regularly.

David Ryder, a former Oombulgurri resident and elder, said many former Oombulgurri residents were drinking more due to the ready access to alcohol in town and were attracting police attention. Now sharing a house in Wyndham with family, Mr Ryder says he misses hunting goannas and catching barramundi in traps made of leaves and stakes. “It was a land of milk and honey,” he says.

Tammy Solonec, the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Manager at Amnesty International Australia, which campaigned to stop the demolition of Oombulgurri, said the community’s story was a case study in how not to close a community, because there was no effective strategy to integrate former Oombulgurri residents in their new homes, and they were not properly consulted.

“Each one of them is a human being and they all have their own story and they all have a right to be heard. That didn’t happen, they were tarred with the same brush, and punished for the actions of a few,” she said.

“When you push Aboriginal people off their homelands, it’s going to create trauma… and the trauma that it creates is not trauma that can be overcome easily. It’s trauma that becomes intergenerational, that you’re then going to have to deal with through social consequences for years later.”

WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Peter Collier said he remained convinced that thedecision to close Oombulgurri community was “the right thing to do”. Mr Collier said at the time of the closure, most residents had left voluntarily and there was an average population of fewer  than 30 people. He said the Amnesty campaign was “ill-informed and appears to have little support from those directly involved”, and the demolition works were necessary to reduce vandalism and theft and make the site safe for future non-residential use.

Ms Solonec said the Amnesty campaign had been informed by a visit to the Kimberley in September when  she met 25 community members.

“The testimonies we gathered universally tell not of voluntary departure but of forced eviction – indirectly due to the closure of essential health, education and police services, or to follow children removed by government agencies, and directly when the last remaining residents were forcibly evicted by the WA government,” she said.

Barnett has said his government will consult communities before deciding which to cut services to. He says just 507 people live in the state’s smallest 115 communities and, in one community, the cost of providing essential services runs to $85,000 per person per year. Indigenous leader Pat Dodson has called for creative solutions to service isolated communities, such as making greater use of solar power and the School of the Air.

Scullion said the threat of community closures was a matter for Western Australia and South Australia and had nothing to do with the Commonwealth’s decision to transition responsibility for essential services delivery to the states. He said Western Australia had for many years been discussing the closure of remote indigenous communities.

“Any state suggesting municipal and essential services arrangements are behind closures is simply looking for an excuse and a distraction,” he said.

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Chinese dancers mimic willow in the wind in sweltering heat

Beauty and bliss: Dancer Alison He says being part of a dancing group feels like family. Photo: Nic Walker Leaning back: Alison He performing in Mary Street, Surry Hills. Photo: Nic Walker
Nanjing Night Net

Beauty and bliss: Dancer Alison He says being part of a dancing group feels like family. Photo: Nic Walker

Beauty and bliss: Dancer Alison He says being part of a dancing group feels like family. Photo: Nic Walker

Beauty and bliss: Dancer Alison He says being part of a dancing group feels like family. Photo: Nic Walker

It’s the dance that opens doors and fans, especially on a sweltering Friday in Surry Hills.

In a small rehearsal room every week, a group of 15 women practise traditional Chinese dances such as the Dance of the Willow. It’s a coquettish performance. Fans with long red tassels are flayed and closed to mimic the swing of the willow in the wind. Fans are often positioned in a girlish way across the five dancers’ faces.

Fuelled by traditional custard tarts and boiled eggs, around 15 svelte women aged 24 to 60 practise for a growing number of performances around Sydney.The group performed at 70 events this year, said Maggie Wu, the vice-president of the Australian Chinese Community Association of NSW and the dance group’s manager.

“Now we’re becoming popular,” she said, noting that the women’s performance often provided a calm change after the explosions of traditional dragon dances.

Unlike Chinese audiences, who often chatted through performances, Westerners were quiet, she said. “They are very respectful, they don’t talk, they don’t eat and they want to know later where they can get our costumes,” Ms Wu said.

Jackie Seow, of Strathfield, said the dancing made her “very happy”,  a word repeated by different dancers.  “It’s very happy, very flowing movement,” she said of the willow dance. It shows the elegance of the ladies,” Ms Seow said.  “The swaying of the body represents the romantic, it represents the unlimited love of the lady.”

Alison He, at 24 the youngest of the group by 20 years, did belly dancing when she lived in China. Now finishing a masters of finance at the University of Western Sydney, she started Chinese dancing in Sydney. “I love dancing very much … it is like a big family, I feel very warm here. We are very happy. Happiness is very important when we dance, ” she said. 

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Queensland Tourism Award winners 2014

Fun Over Fifty took out gold for Best Tour. A room at Brisbane’s Emporium Hotel.
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Woodford Folk Festival.

It appears seniors are getting the best holidays with tour company Fun Over Fifty taking out gold at the Queensland Tourism Awards for Best Tour or Transport Operator.

As the name suggests, the company takes adventure seekers over 50-years-old on its diverse scenic tours, travelling anywhere from outback Queensland to the Mediterranean region.

Fun Over Fifty also won silver for Heritage and Cultural Tourism at the awards, falling behind gold-winner The Workshops Rail Museum.

Another notable success was the Emporium Hotel’s, winning a gold award for Luxury Accommodation and induction to the category’s Hall of Fame.

TAFE Queensland Brisbane was one more local champion, winning gold for Tourism Education and Training.

The 30th anniversary of the awards presentation recognised local industry contributors over 32 award categories, hosted by the Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC).

Altogether, Brisbane tourism operators were recognised with 17 accolades.

“The Queensland Tourism Awards give businesses and individuals an opportunity to take pride in their contributions to the industry, raise the standard of quality tourism experiences throughout the state and strive for ongoing improvements to achieve our tourism goals,” said QTIC Chief Executive Daniel Gschwind.

“Since 1985, the Queensland Tourism Awards have served to highlight tourism’s powerful role in driving Queensland’s economic and community development.”

Queensland’s iconic XXXX Brewery won the tourism in wineries, distilleries and breweries award.

Woodford Folk Festival won the major festivals and events award, pushing Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art into second place for its popular exhibition ‘Cai Guo-Qiang: Falling Back to Earth’.

Jann Stuckey, the Minister for Tourism, said the awards are a benchmark for industry excellence.

“Operators who strive to find something extra, and give tourists an experience they will never forget should be congratulated,” she said.

Gold winners from the business categories will gain automatic entry into the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards held in April next year.

The tourism industry employs over 235,000 Queenslanders.

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

Is the Trunkster concept the future face of luggage?

Sexy and lightweight: The Trunkster suitcase. Photo: kickstarter南京夜网 Sexy and lightweight: The Trunkster suitcase. Photo: kickstarter南京夜网
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Sexy and lightweight: The Trunkster suitcase. Photo: kickstarter南京夜网

Sexy and lightweight: The Trunkster suitcase. Photo: kickstarter南京夜网

At the moment, Trunkster luggage is a Kickstarter project awaiting a sizeable capital injection by way of crowdfunding to get it off the ground and into shops, but it represents a radical rethink in luggage design.

Proposed as carry-on and suitcase versions, Trunkster bags feature zipperless entry, a removable battery with a USB port and a digital scale that weighs the case. They’re also GPS enabled, allowing the case to be tracked via any connected device and they come with a five-year warranty.

Construction is a polycarbonate skin over an aluminium frame, a proven formula for durability and light weight. Trunkster bags open like a rolltop desk, via a concertina door that slides down the entire face of the bag. A TSA-approved combination lock provides security. The handle extends from one side of the bag to the other, claimed to offer enhanced manoeuvreability.

All that techno-punch comes with a weight penalty. The carry-on has a projected weight of 3.6 kg. For the checked bag it’s 4.5 kg. That’s a bite out of the permitted weight especially in the case of the 7 kg that is the common maximum carry-on weight.

The concept for the Trunkster comes from the real-world experience of two passionate travellers, born of frustration with existing designs. The aim is to build “a well-crafted suitcase that prioritises utility and versatility in a minimalist style.” If the Trunkster becomes a reality, expect to see at least some of its features copied by major players in the game.

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Low-ball Calliden takeover in trouble as opposition mounts

Stephen Atkinson, of Adam Smith Investments, has doubts over the Calliden dealInstitutional investor opposition to the sale of insurer Calliden is hardening, with mounting indications the bid by Steadfast may be in trouble, as a shareholder vote on the proposal looms.
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Fund manager Adam Smith Asset Management has gone public with its opposition to the offer, which it deems to be too low. It joined NAOS Asset Management, which earlier expressed the view that the offer on the table for the company “arguably undervalues the company”.

Steadfast is offering 41.5¢ cash a share for insurer Calliden, with shareholders also to receive a 5¢-a-share special dividend.

The offer, via a scheme of arrangement, can be defeated if 25 per cent of the shares vote against it at a shareholder meeting on December 8.

Indicating the poor value of the bid for Calliden shareholders is the fact that Steadfast’s share price has rallied on the bid move, fund managers said.

“We feel Steadfast can  – and should – be paying more this with or without a competing bid,” Adam Smith director Stephen Atkinson said.

“At 46.5¢, the independent expert has ‘low-balled’ the bid.”

The independent expert has assessed the full underlying value of the shares to be in the range of 45.7¢ to 51.1¢, so the 46.5¢ payment per share is at the low end of the range.

However, Calliden has significant franking credits and substantial tax losses that Adam Smith feels have been undervalued. Additionally, the expert valuation has attached a low figure to the worth of Calliden’s insurance underwriting unit as well as undervaluing its insurance broking arm

“We don’t feel Steadfast is paying a very full price for the business,” Adam Smith’s Mr Atkinson said.

Others, such as activist investor Sandon Capital, are also unhappy with the bid price.

“We haven’t made a decision” whether to support the bid, Sandon’s Gabriel Radzyminski said.

“We’ll probably wait until the very end to see if there is a change to the offer.

“It’s a very good price for Steadfast.”

At its December 31 balance date, Calliden had in hand $26 million of franking credits, which will still be sizeable after paying the planned 5¢-a-share special dividend and 1¢ interim payout that will chew an estimated half of this balance.

Since the Steadfast offer was disclosed, Calliden shares have regularly traded 0.5¢ above the imputed value of the offer, although usually with only small volumes traded at the higher price.

This occurred again just over a week ago when a small parcel was traded at 47¢, slightly higher than the theoretical value of 46.5¢.

Under a scheme of arrangement, the proposal could fail if more than 25 per cent of shares vote to oppose the deal. Calliden has a handful of shareholders with large stakes.

Australian Unity holds 13 per cent, with a range of other fund managers such as First Samuel, NAOS, Greencape and Challenger holding  6 to 8 per cent.

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

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