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January, 2019

It’s time for the states to be the heroes

The big news this week was the sale of Medibank and everybody seemed to win on day one.  Charlie thinks it was a brilliant move but Louise argues that if there is a winner, there must be a loser.
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As the government was keen to point out during the week, Medibank is an insurance company and should be completely free to look after its own affairs. And its first step to that resulted in it putting $5 billion in the bank raised from a very excited market.

It seems like the Treasurer and the Finance Minister were right in claiming that the market would be a much better owner and perhaps this success will make them very interested in a speech given recently by Terry Moran AC – the Secretary of the of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet for much of the period of the Rudd and Gillard governments.

Terry’s learned address traced the history of our federation since 1901 and finally concluded that the Federal Government should stop providing services.

An example would be that the responsibility for education should be given fully to the states and an agreed share of income tax revenues paid to them for that purpose.  The roll-on effect at Federal Government level should be a dramatic restructure of the public service.

“Don’t you mean cut,” says Louise.

That and more. The fundamental role would change as well – from service provision to technical and strategic advice. Charlie’s eyebrows went up as he mumbled, “Sounds like we don’t need them for very much.”

Some months ago I argued that our three tiers of government were seriously underperforming. The question seems to be which one to leave out but there’s no perfect solution.  Terry Moran is one of our most thoughtful public servants and he has started to move towards an answer by recognising the key problem – Federal Government just isn’t working as a service provider.

It was a great state leader who showed the way about fearlessly fixing a budget. Jeff Kennett did the job by selling assets that the state couldn’t run well and sharpened the performance of the public sector with more-flexible contract arrangements and importantly, by reducing its number!

So what about our federal public service that was formed on January 1, 1901. Well as at June 2014, we have 159,126 public servants.  “Gee, that’s a lot,” says Louise.  “What do they do?”

The largest is the Department of Human Services with 33, 658, followed by the Australian Taxation Office with 24,274 and the Department of Defence, with 22,330.  That’s not counting the 30,000-40,000 soldiers and sailors on top of that. Louise says, “But we’re not even at war”.

Public service numbers grew every year from 2001 to 2012 under the Liberals and Labour,  with the biggest annual increases occurring under the Coalition and the highest annual increase achieved by John Howard with an almost 10 per cent increase in 2006. But now, thank goodness, the numbers are starting to fall.

Louise thinks its like coat hangers; you close the wardrobe door and they multiply.  Charlie says they come from the drycleaner but he can’t understand where the public servants came from.

And sacking a few doesn’t work because the wages keep increasing. In  2013 the number reduced by 0.8 per cent but wages went up by 4.1! It’s the coat-hanger theory; they’re taking over the world.

Terry Moran is right.  The Federal Government should get out of providing domestic services and let the states be the heroes. And if they don’t do the job, they get thrown out.

And that’s the way it was originally set up before WWII. But the states ceded their income tax powers to the Feds as a wartime measure but the Feds never gave it back and went on to try to run everything.

Time to turn this right around.

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

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika brought to tears by Phillip Hughes’ death

London: Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was brought to tears by news of Phillip Hughes’ death but hopes his passing does not turn into a debate about the dangers of playing sport.
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The Wallabies will pay tribute to Hughes by wearing black armbands for their Test against England at Twickenham on Sunday morning Australian time.

Hughes, 25, died on Thursday, two days after he was hit on the neck by a bouncer and collapsed on the field at the SCG.

The Wallabies and England have also lobbied officials for an appropriate way to remember Hughes at the ground and there will be a minute’s applause before the game after Hughes spent three seasons playing county cricket in England.

Hughes wore a Wallabies jersey earlier this year as part of a cross-sport promotion and Cheika was hit hard by the news, despite never meeting Hughes.

“We just want to show that we care in any small way we can,” Cheika said.

“I don’t know why there’s that connection. I’d never met Phil, but when I heard about it I cried. There’s something that touches you about it and how unfortunate it is.

“All we want to do is show we care and we’re praying for the family, that’s all we can do and any type of respect we can show, we’ll do it.”

Hughes was in a photoshoot with Matt Toomua, Israel Folau and Nic White in Brisbane in June.

The Australian rugby and cricket teams then shared dinner, which was organised by Darren Lehman and then coach Ewen McKenzie.

Hughes’ death has rocked international sport, in particular English cricket.

Fans laid flowers at the Grace Gates at Lord’s, where Hughes spent a season playing for Middlesex.

His former English county teammates paid tribute to him, describing him as a “cheeky chap”.

“It’s simple, we just want to show respect for the family and maybe people will remember the man for another moment,” Cheika said.

“Because it’s something so unlucky and unfortunate and out of the blue … it brings home how you’ve got to enjoy things as much as possible.

“No one expects that to happen on a cricket field. It’s about empathising with the family so they can feel the support in times of mourning.

“Remembering [Hughes] for those moments. [The dangers of sport] will probably be talked about, but I don’t think any sportspeople are thinking about that. The last thing people want is to politicise it, just care for the family.

“I’ve seen the messages from English cricketers and that’s testament to [Hughes] as a player and person that he was widely respected. We just want to show that we were proud of him as well.”

Flags were flown at half mast at Lord’s in a tribute to Hughes. Hughes’ most recent stint in England was with Worcestershire in 2012 and he left a huge impression.

“Phil was a top man and will be very sadly missed,” Worcestershire captain Daryl Mitchell said.

“Cricket-wise he was fantastic for us … he carried us through to the quarter finals really with the runs he got in that competition. He had a fantastic T20.

“The biggest memories will be of Phil as a guy and in the dressing room. He was a top lad and had time for everybody, a lot of dressing room banter and a cheeky chappie.

“Bulls and cricket was what he talked about – probably bulls in front of cricket at times. He was a country boy and proud of where he was from and I think that is what drew him to Worcestershire so much, and how he lived his time here, a small city.

“He wasn’t one for the big lights of London and Sydney, he liked his smaller towns and closer knit community.”

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

Lights turned on for Brisbane’s Christmas celebrations

Christmas comes to Brisbane with the lighting of the solar-powered tree with 16,000 lights. Thousands turned out for the celebration. Photo: Robert ShakespeareAfter a stormy Thursday night brought dozens of trees down, one special tree came alight last night to brighten the mood and usher in the festive season.
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The 20-metre tall Christmas tree, garnished with 40km of decorations and 16,000 twinkling lights, was lit by Lord Mayor Graham Quirk at King George Square, where it will remain for the Christmas period.

The tree lighting kicked off the new Wonder of Christmas program of free entertainment, which the Mayor said is the largest of its kind in Australia.

“This year’s extensive program includes more than 200 free events and activities across the City and South Bank,” Cr Quirk said in a statement.

This includes South Bank’s first-ever Christmas markets, a three-day event at Stanley Street Plaza.

“These will be Christmas markets with a Brisbane twist: the cobbled streets will be transformed into a treasure trove of Christmas-themed stalls draped with garland, real Christmas trees, twinkling lights and festive live music and carollers,” said Cr Quirk.

One distinctively Australian addition to the festivities is a Christmas Cinema Series at Streets Beach at South Bank, where visitors will be able to watch films from the shore or whilst cooling off in the water.

The film series will include The Muppet Christmas Carol, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Elf, Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Polar Express.

At close proximity to the Christmas tree, the City Hall will be illuminated over the season for regular 15-minute light shows.

Also in the CBD, the consistently popular Myer Christmas Parade will make a return, showcasing more than 200 performers including members of the Queensland Ballet.

From December 17-21 there will be a Christmas Fireworks Spectacular, best viewed from the Clem Jones Promenade or Victoria Bridge.

Four days before Christmas there will be a one-off screening of the Queensland Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker at South Bank.

Cnr Quirk said the Christmas program would strengthen end-of-year trade, saying last year’s brought over 328,000 visitors to the CBD.

“Visitors spent a total of 6.5 hours in the CBD on average, and we’re anticipating this year’s attendance to be even bigger and better,” he said.

Brisbane City Council is offering $5 parking for weeknight and weekend visitors to the city centre.

The full Wonder of Christmas program is available online.

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

Survey of volunteering shows Gen Y expects to volunteer in work hours

Jack and Alice Maxwell are volunteers at the Sacred Heart Mission in St Kilda. Photo: Photo: Angela WylieThe United Nations created International Volunteer Day in 1985 to recognise people who donated their time at “considerable personal sacrifice” but for Generation Y, the notion has evolved into personal gain.
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Gen Ys have redefined unpaid work by expecting to volunteer during work hours and award themselves a halo by adding it to their resume. And they want a tax incentive. These are the findings of a survey by SEEK, the nation’s largest website for volunteering opportunities.

Volunteer Day on December 5 is a time to reflect on what selfless means because 46 per cent of Gen Ys believe their employer should provide paid days off to volunteer. And 61 per cent think the government should provide a tax incentive.

To paraphrase 1990s super-model Linda Evangelista, they don’t get out of bed unless there’s a dollar in it for them. The UN must have been referring to volunteer surf lifesavers and firefighters for risking their lives, not those wanting to enhance theirs.

Of course, not all Gen Ys are takers rather than givers. For a generation that is typecast as entitled or lazy, two people rolling up their sleeves are Jack Maxwell, 24, and sister Alice Maxwell, 21.

Growing up with strong social-justice values, they help feed the disadvantaged at the Sacred Heart Mission in St Kilda and see close up what hardship is 300 when people pack into the dining hall for lunch.

Mr Maxwell is doing a post-graduate law degree at the University of Melbourne and has volunteered for five years. He believes small gestures go a long way and can help change the world. “I’m just there chopping up veggies so someone can have a feed,” he said.

Ms Maxwell is also at Melbourne University doing a Bachelor of Arts (honours) and said while poverty and homelessness seemed like an impenetrable issue, working in a kitchen made a tangible difference.

“You do a four-hour shift with a clearly defined role and there is visible impact on these people who need a simple meal,” she said.

Australia is not a nation of selfish slackers because data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics on “voluntary work” shows 6.1 million people volunteer for an average 1.1 hours a week. While the motive is altruistic, the SEEK survey found 66 per cent of people believe volunteering is “something attractive” to add to their resume.

Not everyone is out to impress an employer or get a promotion or pay rise. Driven by the desire to “pay it forward”, Caroline Chagas is a 30-year-old marketing consultant who volunteers as a Lifeline telephone counsellor over the needy Christmas period but doesn’t list it on her resume.

“I don’t do it for the kudos or to get ahead,” she said. “It is my personal conviction that I have a responsibility to the world I live in.”

Victoria needs 4146 volunteers judging by the number of positions listed on Volunteering Australia’s GoVolunteer website, which is run by SEEK. The causes span sport, drug and alcohol support, indigenous Australians, arts and culture.

Volunteering evokes passionate responses about “giving back” and doing it from the heart but it can be useful beyond bragging on a resume. One flippant line people use is: “It’s always good on the CV – when you’re in court.”

And when campaigning for world peace and trying to win Miss Universe.

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

Socialites swing into casual mode for polo at Albert Park and Portsea

Spectator sport: Polo ditches the formal atmosphere and ramps up the schmoozing. Photo: Mark Dadswell Spectator sport: Polo ditches the formal atmosphere and ramps up the schmoozing. Photo: Mark Dadswell
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Spectator sport: Polo ditches the formal atmosphere and ramps up the schmoozing. Photo: Mark Dadswell

Spectator sport: Polo ditches the formal atmosphere and ramps up the schmoozing. Photo: Mark Dadswell

Polo club: Nick Myer and Obsession display their skills at Albert Park. Photo: Joe Armao

If there were an investigation into how the spring racing carnival differs from the polo, exhibit A would be the midriff.

Crop tops exposing the extent of a bad fake tan on the tummy were banned by the Victoria Racing Club in members’ areas and the birdcage, but there are no flesh police at the polo. It’s when Melbourne goes all Sydney and confuses “smart casual” with a daytime disco.

Ditching the formal atmosphere and rules, there is no limping in uncomfortable stilettos but parading in stylish-yet-sensible wedges or flats when watching the people rather than the horses.

Polo in the City stampedes into Albert Park on Saturday with 3500 spectators cranking up the end-of-year schmoozing. For the wristband brigade in the Pol Roger marquee, it’s sipping bubbly from $100 Waterford crystal flutes. Land Rover’s “Polo Club” marquee has a gazebo with topiary for its garden-style picnic.

On January 10, all roads lead to Portsea when the Point Nepean National Park is overtaken by 5000 lifestylers. A privileged 400 will be guests of the “Jeep Grille” and watch MasterChef’s Matt Preston flip 400 burgers and sizzle 350 sausages. A further 400 will be in the Peroni marquee that’s styled on the Italian Riviera, with the “face” of the brand, Natalia Borges, flying in from New York. Guest lists are judiciously curated because it can cost up to $450 to wine and dine one person.

Mention “chukka” and people scratch their heads, but it means a period of play. Watching polo players command a horse and swing a mallet has been made more spectator-friendly at Albert Park by shrinking the polo field and only having two games.

Janek Gazecki, a former lawyer who founded the Albert Park event in 2005 with player Ruki Baillieu, said that when polo began 2500 years ago in Persia, it was for mounted cavalry, not the spectator.

“The big joke is nobody watches the polo,” he said. “They watch our polo.”

Cavalry is needed to set up the Portsea event, an extravaganza founded 14 years ago by Dan Vaughan, David Calvert-Jones and Josh Mantello. Jeep and Peroni have created a mini-birdcage with double-storey marquees.

However, Mr Vaughan recalled the early days: “You would pull your car up and have your picnic. Like you see at Werribee.”

It is a logistical feat building a tent city 90 kilometres from Melbourne in seven days and dismantling it in three.

“There is no power, no water, no gas.”

French-born Caroline Vosse, an image consultant at Fren’CHIC Touch, is excited about going to the polo for the first time on Saturday and watching a sport that is foreign to her.

“I’m pretty curious because we don’t have polo in France,” she said.

Polo continues to fight its elitist image given jet-setting players need four polo ponies per game and that costs more than playing football or soccer.

In some ways, the smaller-scale spectacle is more democratic than the Melbourne Cup carnival because the general public can walk up to the marquees and have a peak, whereas at Flemington, they are excluded by a maze of turnstiles.

And every woman can have a Pretty Woman moment by imagining they are Julia Roberts when stomping the divots.

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