ALP slams bushfire buyback exclusions

Jacinta Allan.THE state government’s bushfire land buyback scheme has been criticised for being ”too narrow” because it does not apply to some high-fire-risk areas such as Cockatoo and the Otways that were not hit by bushfires in 2009.
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More than 500 properties destroyed by the 2009 fires are expected to be eligible for the voluntary scheme, for which the government has made available $50 million.

But Labor frontbencher Jacinta Allan slammed the program, saying it exposed as ”a sham” the government’s commitment to implement all 67 recommendations from the Bushfires Royal Commission.

”This Baillieu government scheme is for people affected by the 2009 bushfires only,” she said. ”It has no regard for people who live in high-fire-risk areas in other parts of Victoria and the [ commission] recommendation was to implement this policy in high-fire-risk areas.”

The buyback plan excludes high-fire-risk areas such as Cockatoo, Mount Macedon, and the Otways, devastated in previous bushfires, she said.

Ms Allan said the scheme did not give any detail on what would happen to land acquired under the buyback. ”Who will manage it to keep the fire risk down? If DSE [Department of Sustainability and Environment] is to be responsible, what additional resources will they be given and when?”

Recommendation 46 of the Bushfires Royal Commission final report urged the state to ”implement a retreat and resettlement strategy for existing developments in areas of unacceptably high bushfire risk, including a scheme for non-compulsory acquisition by the state of land in these areas”.

In a discussion of ”high-risk areas” attached to the recommendation, the commission said the government should consider a range of factors including ”giving priority to acquiring land that is in an area of unacceptably high bushfire risk and on which dwellings were damaged or destroyed by the 2009 bushfires”.

When asked yesterday why the buyback did not apply to high-fire-risk areas that did not burn in 2009, Bushfire Response Minister Peter Ryan said: ”When you have regard to the provisions of recommendation 46, this scheme is appropriate.”

Mr Ryan said the rules of the buyback were ”not set in stone” and the $50 million would be increased if needed. He also denied the buyback rules were too stringent, adding that people whose houses were destroyed in 2009 and had since built in a different location could still qualify for the buyback on their burnt property.

Mr Ryan said if acquired land was left vacant it would have a ”minimal” impact on country communities. Acquired land left in public hands would have to be maintained by the DSE to an ”appropriate standard” to minimise bushfire risk, he said.

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More carbon support for dairy farmers: Fonterra

JOHN Doumani, managing director of Fonterra Australia New Zealand says that the unique electricity demands of dairy farmers need to be understood when it comes to carbon pricing and compensation.
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Speaking as the nation faces the introduction of a carbon tax and several related impacts on business, Mr Doumani said that his company is advocating for greater assistance for farmers to help them transition to low carbon technologies.

“The reality is that dairy farmers engage in energy intensive processing, so they should be eligible for funding to help them adapt.

“We have been talking to Government about the special needs of dairy farming and so far, they are very receptive of the message,” he said.

“The biggest likely impact of carbon pricing for dairy farmers will be electricity price increases. Electricity is a major input cost in dairy farming as energy intensive milk processing starts on the farm.

“We expect the Government’s carbon pricing will have a direct impact of about $3,000 per dairy farm per year on average in terms of increased electricity costs. Predicting this, we want to help our farmers identify ways to reduce electricity use on-farm today, in preparation for a carbon-priced tomorrow.”

Mr Doumani said that he and Fonterra as a company accept that a low carbon future is an inevitability – and a challenge that has to be faced.

“But it is also an opportunity to innovate, invest and drive for a more competitive future; with lower costs, improved market access and greater consumer confidence,” he said.

“We have initiated a series of programs to reduce our carbon emissions across our manufacturing operations, and now we are turning our attention to how we can help our farmer suppliers.”

Fonterra said that this week it had launched a guide to provide dairy farmers with practical advice on how to manage the electricity cost increases of carbon pricing.

It covers the key areas of on-farm electricity usage and invites farmers to do a self-assessment of their operations.

Mr Doumani said the guide is just the first piece in an overall program to help Fonterra’s dairy farmer suppliers in Australia prepare for a new low carbon economy.

“We have been engaging with our farmer suppliers here in Australia in conversations around sustainability. What they tell us is that they want to operate a sustainable business and they want to reduce their carbon emissions, especially in light of the additional costs that will be associated with the carbon pricing, but that they don’t know how to do it or fund it.

“What they want is independent advice from someone who really understands dairying to advise them on what technologies to employ. Farmers are telling us that they are wary of the “snake oil salesmen” knocking on their doors offering a whole range of dubious solutions. They are concerned about unproven technologies and capital costs necessary to implement change,” he said.

The guide includes a calculator to help farmers consider their likely electricity bill increases and a self-assessment tool so they can understand how their operation rates against best practice electricity usage.

In addition, practical energy saving advice is provided across seven key areas:

Hot water heating Milk cooling Vacuum pumps Water and effluent pumps Lighting Energy sourcing Cleaning systems Fonterra is also running information sessions for farmers and providing expertise to assist with on-farm assessments.

“We have listened to our farmers’ concerns and now we want to help them make informed decisions for their businesses,” concluded Mr Doumani.

Copies of the Fonterra guide; “What does a carbon price mean for you?” are available by calling the Fonterra Supplier Administration Centre on 1800 266 674.

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Resilient Merinos one step closer

Sheep CRC post-graduate student Gus Rose.BREEDING Merino sheep that can withstand harsh summers across southern Australia without losing weight is a step closer to reality.
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Such sheep could potentially reduce feed costs and the risks of running livestock in areas of high seasonal variability and boost ewe reproductive performance and lamb production.

Sheep Cooperative Research Centre (Sheep CRC) post-graduate student Gus Rose has found that Merino ewes can be bred to lose less weight during summer when there is poor feed and gain more weight during the spring flush.

“This is a step towards breeding sheep that are better adapted to Australian pasture conditions and that will be more tolerant of climate variations in the longer term,” he said.

Mr Rose’s four-year PhD project is investigating the genetic and economic value of sheep resilience to liveweight loss in summer and autumn. He is being supervised by a team of Sheep CRC researchers in Perth, WA, and Armidale, NSW.

The Sheep CRC is a collaboration of industry, government and the commercial sector and aims to increase the productivity and profitability of the industry via new technologies for adoption by both the meat and wool supply chains. It is supporting 31 doctorate and masters students as part of its postgraduate education and research program.

Mr Rose said the problem of sheep weight loss during summer affected most livestock enterprises in Mediterranean environments in Australia and overseas.

He said reducing weight loss without incurring high feed costs, especially for breeding ewes, would be a major plus for livestock producers right around the globe.

“It would also reduce the risks and costs of maintaining sheep in good condition during summer in more marginal areas with inconsistent rainfall,” he said.

“There may also be potential to run more sheep than normal in these areas and increase returns.”

Mr Rose is also working in collaboration with the Netherlands-based Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre at Wageningen University, where researchers are assessing the genetic robustness and fitness of cows.

“The Dutch have developed a good scientific knowledge about animal adaptation and it is a good fit for my research,” he said.

Mr Rose analysed five years of data from a sheep resource flock in Katanning, WA, to discover the heritability of variations in Merino weight loss and gain.

His findings were recently presented to the annual European Federation of Animal Science (EAAP) convention, where he won the prestigious prize for best scientific poster in the genetics category from a field of 100 participants.

This convention targets young scientists from across the global animal science sector and his award earned him the right to chair a session at next year’s event.

Stage two of Mr Rose’s PhD project will investigate the genetic and economic links between sheep resilience to live weight changes and other important production traits, such as wool weight and reproductive performance.

He said this process would include surveying farmers across Australia to identify the main profit-driving traits for Merino enterprises in a wide range of geographic environments.

“Once we know that sheep can be genetically robust and resistant to summer weight loss during times of low feed availability, then we can start to work out the best breeding objectives to target other economically important traits in these flocks,” he said.

Mr Rose said including an economic analysis in his research was vital because it would allow farmers to scenario-plan their most profitable options.

“If we can identify the more resilient sheep to weight loss and gain, we need to know the potential advantages and trade-offs with other breeding traits and what impact these will have on farm business bottom lines,” he said.

“For example, if labour costs are included, resilience to summer weight loss might be highly valuable to farmers because it has potential to reduce labour requirements and potentially free-up more time for other enterprises, such as cropping. This allows the whole farm to operate more efficiently.”

Mr Rose said he hoped his research would help sheep breeders breed animals that better coped with the environment, allowing them to concentrate on other production traits to optimise profits.

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Stephen Crafti: Black warehouse a modest advert for Big Red

A Prahran warehouse redesigned by Pandolfini Architects for advertising agency Big Red. Photo: Josh RobenstoneUnlike many advertising agencies whose splashy signs clearly light up their building’s facades, Big Red gives no clue as to what goes on behind its office’s black exterior.
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Visitors simply walk through a car park and enter through steel-and-glass doors. Even the reception area is underplayed, with stained black timber-battened walls and a modest glazed window resembling Ned Kelly’s helmet in a painting by the likes of Sidney Nolan.

“Our brief included a secure entrance as well as a level of discretion,” says architect Dom Pandolfini, director of Pandolfini Architects.

Originally built as a warehouse/factory in the 1960s, this orange-brick warehouse in Prahran was previously used as a gallery for Helen Gory, together with studio spaces for artists and designers.

The orange bricks have been painted black to complement a black web-forged steel wall and security gate. Reworked by Pandolfini for Big Red, the discrete facade conceals a busy office – well, three interconnected offices that work independently as well as coming together for larger advertising campaigns. “Each ‘arm’ of the business required its own space, but one of the key drivers in the design was flexibility,” says Pandolfini.

While the original warehouse-style office space appears relatively intact, the architects virtually gutted the 800-square-metre building (over two levels) and created new steel and glass windows to increase natural light and allow for greater transparency. One of the few remaining features is a side steel door where a lift and freight platform once stood, together with a terrazzo staircase typical of the late 1960s. “We retained all the structural steel and concrete columns, but removed paint from ceilings and floors to expose the concrete,” says Pandolfini.

At ground level, occupying their own niches, are a number of enclosed offices. And to the rear of the building is now the staff kitchen linked via large doors to a boardroom. “When larger functions are called for, the two areas become one,” says Pandolfini, who included a generous commercial-style kitchen complete with a five-metre long stainless steel island bench. Double doors, equally as generous, measuring almost four metres in height, allow the rear courtyard to be integrated into the scheme during warmer months of the year. “One of the most challenging things with the brief was to create quiet and more intimate nooks and meeting areas, while still allowing for fluid spaces that could be used by larger teams,” he adds.

The first floor of the Big Red agency combines both these type of spaces. Pivotal to the design is a house-like structure completely covered in grey felt. Enclosing three meeting areas, including a mezzanine-style office on the roof (below the ceiling), the felt functions as both a pin board as well as for acoustic control against the concrete floors. “Staff are constantly pinning work on walls and discussing ideas and concepts. It’s an integral part of how an advertising agency operates,” says Pandolfini.

Pandolfini’s brief included using a limited colour palette, restricted to black, grey and white. The only exception is the red, indicative of the agency’s name, appearing in the red painted steel rafters. Even the photos, dotted around the building, taken by eminent photographer Angus O’Callaghan in the 1950s through to the 1970s, are in black and white. Depicting Melbourne’s street life from that period, these photos, like this warehouse, are a gentle reminder of the city’s previous life. “Our approach is fairly restrained, so this brief tied in with our office’s aesthetic,” adds Pandolfini.

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Deals: Bargains of the week

Skiers at Aspen. Photo: SuppliedROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH
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Travelplan Ski is offering significantly economy and business fares to those travelling to Aspen and all major Colorado resorts for the whole US ski season. The offer also includes being able to add other US destinations to your trip. For example, you can add New York to your Aspen (or other resort) fare for $200. It also extends to upgrades. For instance, upgrade your business class fare from Australia to first class for only $490 each way.

Travelplan Ski is also offering 20 per cent discount on some of the most popular Aspen apartments, with very limited availability, and similar great accommodation deals at Telluride, Crested Butte, Steamboat and more.

All deals are valid for sale till December 31.

Call 1300 754 754, or visit Travelplanski南京夜网

MILLENNIUM SMUG

Stay seven nights at the Millennium Resort Patong Phuket for $999 for two adults with up to two kids, aged six or younger, staying free. The package,  valued up to $3599, includes daily breakfast, some dinners, spa treatments, Wi-Fi, and much more. The Millennium Resort is in the heart of Patong, close to the beach and Jungceylon​ shopping centre.

The sale expires December 19 and the deal is valid for travel until December 2016 with minimal blackout periods (travel is available during most of the summer holidays). Phone 1300 889 900. See LuxuryEscapes南京夜网.

EAST TO EDEN

Ecruising.travel has partnered with the Singapore Tourism Board, Singapore’s airport and P&O Cruises on a range of holiday packages centred on Pacific Eden cruises during her inaugural Asia season in 2016.

Holidays range from seven to 17 nights and include return international flights, hotel accommodation, transfers, tours and cruise. For instance, a 10-night package is priced from $1899 a person, departing on July 30.

Ports include Phuket, Krabi, Bangkok, Ko Samui and Ko Chang in Thailand as well as ports in Indonesia, Malaysia and Cambodia. The longer 17-night packages are from $2189 a person twin share.

Phone 1300 369 848. See ecruising.travel/eden.

GLAMP-O-RAMA

Cockatoo Island is offering discounts on its glamping packages, camping packages and camping sites for the 20th Biennale of Sydney.

The former convict settlement and shipyard is one of several sites around Sydney to host Biennale events and for the duration will be home to major works by Korakrit Arunanondchai​, William Forsythe, Camille Henrot, Lee Bul, Chiharu Shiota​, Ming Wong, and Xu Zhen (produced by MadeIn Company).

Book accommodation on Cockatoo Island before December 31 and get 20 per cent off for stays March 18-June 5. Use the promo code *DSYDART20.

Book January 1-February 29 and get 15 per cent off, using the promo code *DSYDART15, and book March 1-18 to get 10 per cent off – use the promo code *DSYDART10. See cockatooisland.gov419论坛/stay/book-stay

AS NATURE INTENDED

Save $693 on a stay at Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley that includes three nights’ accommodation at the five-star self-rated property in a Heritage Villa, gourmet breakfast daily, lunch and dinner daily, local wine and beer with meals and two on-site nature-based activities a person a day.

Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley is a luxury resort in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage area. Activities include four-wheel-drives, guided Aboriginal interpretive tours, nature walks and wildlife spotting as well as a Conservation Hour available to guests each day.

The package is priced from $2769 a person, twin share. The deal is valid till March 31, 2016, unless sold out prior for travel April 1-23, April 26-June 11 and June 14-September 14, Sunday to Thursday night stays only.

Phone 1800 044 066. See travel-associates南京夜网419论坛

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Luxury ‘tree house’ Indonesian resort Nihiwatu on Sumba Island

A bedroom at the resort. Photo: SuppliedHow to build a unique resort suite that combines luxury with a tree house? Employ an architect with a deep understanding of location, high-end property and doing things a little differently.
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As recent winner of the 2015 PURE Design Award, the luxury Indonesian resort Nihiwatu on Sumba Island takes design principles seriously. So when they set out to create three new villa residences to complete the resort’s existing 21-villa estate offering, including the Mamole Tree House, they called on Habitat5, a Bali-based firm that has done extraordinary projects such as Jamie Durie’s beautiful multi-level Balinese home, the unique form of which sympathetically mimics the rice paddies surrounding it.

Perched on wooden stilts and based on similar principles of place-sensitive design, the three-bedroom Mamole Tree House melds into ancient trees and is positioned to have Nihiwatu’s best view of the beach. It comprises three two-storey, circular villas with a lounge area on the entry level and bedroom, bathroom and balcony on the upper level. A bamboo bridge connects the villas and a shared infinity pool with lounging deck features at the front.

The main space includes a private infinity pool and large living area with bathroom on the entry level, and upstairs, a bedroom with a bathroom, balcony and connecting bridge to the main outdoor bathroom.

With interiors by Parisian interior designer Marco Scarani and partner Susan Colley, Mamole Tree House is Sumbanese in style with traditional touches including local carvings, antiques and Ikat prints.

Mamole Tree House costs US$7260 a night including tax and service charge.  See nihiwatu南京夜网.

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Travel: Cruise packages and deals including a Christmas-themed river trip

Kayaking in Alaska with AdventureSmith. Photo: Picasa 2.7Christmas cruising
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Getting into the Christmas spirit? Then it’s time to start thinking of a Christmas-themed river cruise for next year, with Scenic unveiling its festive cruises for 2016. Among them is a 15-day “Christmas Markets” river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest departing November 21, 2016, which includes shore excursions to Christmas markets in Vienna, Rothenberg, Nuremberg and Cologne. There’s also a 16-day “Christmas Wonderland” cruise departing December 14, 2016 that will have you in Durnstein in Austria on Christmas Day for a traditional dinner and midnight mass; extend your stay and enjoy New Year in Prague.

Phone 13 81 28. See scenic南京夜网419论坛.

To the islands

Aranui Cruises’ latest ship Aranui 5 sets sail today on its maiden voyage from Papeete in Tahiti. The custom-built, dual-purpose vessel replaces Aranui 3 (there is no Aranui 4) and will continue to deliver cargo to ports across the Marquesas, Tuamotu and Society Islands while passengers disembark and explore during the 14-day round-trip journeys. The 254-passenger freighter offers Aranui’s first single staterooms, new premium and deluxe cabin categories and suites, and significantly more balcony cabins. It also has airconditioned public spaces, restaurant, four bars, lounge, library, computer room, spa and fitness and boutique.

Phone 03 9449 3778. See aranuicruises南京夜网419论坛.

Intimate Alaska

AdventureSmith Explorations has a new “Islands, Whales & Glaciers” itinerary on the newly acquired, 10-passenger yacht Misty Fjord. Guests cruise between Sitka and Juneau or enjoy an alternative route from Petersburg or Ketchikan. Native culture and off-the-beaten-path explorations include excursions by sea kayak, zodiac and on foot in this corner of southeast Alaska, while a hover flight at Taku Glacier brings guests onto an amphibious hovercraft vehicle designed to travel over ice, water, sandbars and grasslands. Other new Alaska itineraries include an eight-day “Glacier Bay & Island Adventure”, with a focus on local nature, history and First Nations culture.

See adventuresmithexplorations南京夜网.

Remote floats

Silversea is now featuring over 100 expedition cruises during its 2017 season, and will make inaugural calls in places as remote and diverse as Ampangorinana​ and Nosy Komba​ in Madagascar, Aride Island in the Seychelles, the Scottish Isle of May and Grimsey​ Island in Iceland. Silver Explorer will visit Canada’s remote and spectacular Torngat Mountains National Park, while a new Colombo to Kolkata sailing on Silver Discoverer heads to the Andaman Islands and – in a first for any cruise ship – a visit to Bangladesh, with stops at Chittagong, Maheshkhali Island and the UNESCO-listed Sundarban Islands.

Phone 1300 306 872. See silversea南京夜网.

North and south

Cruise Express has a 33-night luxury holiday package in mid-2016 with two cruises that showcase both northern and southern Europe. The Contrasts of Europe journey departs Australia on May 18 and opens with a 12-night cruise between Venice and Rome on Celebrity Constellation, with stops in the Adriatic, Malta, Sicily and the Amalfi Coast. There are then two nights in Rome and three in London before travellers embark at Southampton for a 14-night round trip on Celebrity Eclipse to Belgium, Scandinavia, Russia, Germany and Estonia, including two nights at dock in St Petersburg.

Phone 1300 764 509. See cruiseexpress南京夜网419论坛.

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Shout it from the rooftop at lovely Bellevue Hill

New bamboo floors are among the many updates to the apartment done in the past several years. Photo: Supplied The huge rooftop terrace has views out to the harbour and Bondi. Photo: Supplied
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The apartment is one of six in the art deco building. Photo: Supplied

One of the bedrooms at 6/73 Birriga Road, Bellevue Hill.

In the early years of the colony of NSW, lime and plaster of Paris were eye-wateringly expensive. Consequently, only the wealthiest people had decorative plasterwork in their homes, and even then it was meted out with caution.

Even in the grandest houses ceiling roses and cornices were only installed in public zones, according to a research paper published in Australasian Historical Archaeology.

From the 1830s, a range of factors, including growing affluence, fashion and technological developments such as gelatine moulds and canvas plaster, made it more affordable and fostered a thriving industry capable of producing increasingly elaborate and finicky designs.

This light and lovely top-floor apartment was built when the decorative plasterwork industry was going strong, and it has the beautifully patterned ceiling panels and cornices to prove it. The builder’s will to embellish did not stop with the interiors, either. The entire exterior of the block of six is covered in decorative dots, like a rash or a wedding cake, depending how your mind works. The building is scheduled for a full re-paint in February and the vendor has already paid her portion of the cost.

While the unit pays due respect to its past, it has plenty of 21st-century elements, too. Over the past eight years, the vendor has installed a new kitchen with Caesarstone benchtop, gleaming bamboo floorboards and elegant built-in wardrobes in both bedrooms.

The most recent improvement has been to re-seal the floor of the unit’s private, 82-square-metre rooftop terrace. The rooftop is on title and includes a cabana, a big laundry (there’s also a laundry space in the apartment’s bathroom), a storage space, a vast open area and bewitching district views that stretch from the harbour all the way across to Bondi.

The two bedrooms, the main with study, are notably spacious and airy, and they share the same view as the terrace. As elsewhere in the apartment, the bedroom windows would benefit from therapeutic attention.

The bathroom, while fine as it is, has lots of potential for improvement.

The ceiling light fittings are another striking feature of the property, but the spectacular one in the living room, which has attracted a great deal of attention during inspections so far, has been specified as an exclusion in the contract. Smitten would-be buyers could, of course, try lobbying for that to be altered.

The owner says: “I love the beautiful old, art-deco ceilings and the size of the rooms, but the biggest surprise is the magical view from the huge roof.”

Room for improvement: Most of the windows are in need of some TLC.

6/73 Birriga Road, Bellevue Hill $1.1 million + 2 beds, 1 bath Built Early 1900s Size 93 square metres internal, plus 82 square metres rooftop terrace Strata levy $1898 a quarter Inspect Saturday and Thursday, 10am-10.30am Auction December 19 ​Agent McGrath, 0414 400 345

Need to know: Last traded $900,000 in 2007 Highest recorded apartment price in Bellevue Hill (past 12 months) $4.3 million for 1/47 Victoria Road in October Median price for units in Bellevue Hill $963,000

Recent sales: $1.2 million for 2/267 O’Sullivan Road in November $1,165,000 for 1/18 Bellevue Road in July $1,115,000 for 2/70 Birriga Road in April Source: Domain Group

Surrounding areas: Bellevue Hill is one of the most affluent suburbs in Sydney and home to some of its most lovely heritage buildings, including Rona, Ginahgulla and Caerleon. Postcode 2023 also hosts Cranbrook School and The Scots College, two elite private schools with vast campuses, and rubs up against the manicured links of the Royal Australian Golf Club. Serviced by Buses Close to Double Bay, Bondi Beach, Rose Bay and Cooper Park, with its charming cliff walk and popular tennis courts. Bondi Junction’s multitude of shops and conveniences are about 10 minutes away by car or 25 on foot.

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The price of leaving the Rebels: know nothing and owe nothing

Rebels member Darren Wallace, 32, was shot dead in Picton. Photo: Facebook Rebels bikie gang members. Photo: Pamela Mirghani
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If you owed nothing and knew little, your transition out of the club would be a lot easier.  It was when you held value that your path to “patch out” became risky.

That was the experience of a former Rebels bikie gang member who got out of the brotherhood and lived to tell the story.

Police believe his decision to leave the club is one now  also being taken by other Rebels members.

Among them is Rebels enforcer Ricky Ciano, who had his club tattoos removed and walked from the club.

Tevita Daunibau was also on the way out when he shot Rebels bikie member Darren Wallace in the chest outside a Picton petrol station on Wednesday.

As police then saturated the tiny town in the Macarthur region to hunt him down, Mr Daunibau calmly walked to a nearby creek and shot himself.

It was an unusual show of violence in a town content to co-exist with the Rebels presence.

“We know they are here but they don’t interfere,” one business owner said. “They just blend in.”

The former ADF soldier’s brazen display of violence is believed to be linked to his path out of the club.

Sources have told Fairfax Media Mr Wallace arranged to meet Mr Daunibau, potentially to talk about the terms under which Mr Daunibau would leave the Rebels.

It is believed Mr Daunibau was a member of the Macarthur chapter. The chapter’s conflict with the leadership had reached a point where it had split from the Rebels club entirely, sources said.

One former bikie who spoke to Fairfax Media on the condition of anonymity explained a member’s path out the door depended on knowledge, debts and any ill-will.

“I have seen a lot of people leave over the years but they knew nothing and owed nothing,” he said. “So there is no reason to waste your energy or your time on doing something you may get caught for. “

He said bikes given to incoming members, who were required to pay them off, were repossessed and colours handed in.

He also remembered one member being coughing up $10,000 to leave a chapter.

“He honoured the deal and was let go.”

However, hanging up the colours only to go on and wear the patch of another club would mean the former member would be targeted.

Sometimes the exits turned ugly. Last year eight Rebels – linked to the powerful Liverpool and Penrith chapters – were arrested after the alleged kidnapping and torture of a chapter leader. At the time police alleged the torture was part of a violent ritual for members who left the outlaw bikie club on bad terms.

The former Rebel said his time as a bikie – spanning years under Alex Vella’s rule – had “f–ked his life”.

Despite that, he could still remember the good aspects, including always having a fat wallet.

But the “downhill run” began when he looked at his colours hanging on his wardrobe one day and thought: “f–k, I’m not going to be here forever”.

Years later he was out.

He is not alone in believing the absence of Mr Vella’s leadership – “run a lot out of fear” – in the Rebels had crippled the club.

Police say the Rebels are now “less disciplined and less co-ordinated” as Mr Vella’s absence left a leadership vacuum.

Mr Vella was on holiday overseas last year when the federal government cancelled his Australian visa.

Not long after the Rebels long-standing sergeant-at-arms Simon Rasic died of a heart attack, adding to the club’s leadership woes.

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Strata contracts link Auburn’s mayor Le Lam to another councillor’s development

Le Lam … declined to comment. Photo: Andrew MearesThe mixed-up world of local politics and development in Auburn is even smaller than previously known.
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The Herald has learnt that the mayor of Auburn, Le Lam, is paid to manage the strata for a development built by her current council ally and former mayor Cr Ronney Oueik​.

That’s a link she has never disclosed, despite recently voting on a development proposal that would have financially benefited Cr Oueik.

The former mayor confirmed his company had awarded the contract to Combined Real Estate, a company directed jointly by Cr Lam and her brother-in-law Minh Hua.

“My manager gave the job to Minh,” he said. “But that was six years ago [when the project finished]”.

It is not known how much money the contract is worth to Cr Lam; she said she was not involved in the company’s strata management division. But the building’s strata levy is believed to run to $1600 a year. It has 40 apartments.

But Cr Oueik denied the mayor should have declared any potential conflict of interest.

“Let me tell you about the council and how it works,” he said. “All jobs over 20 million [in value go to a state government panel for approval, not council]. All of my jobs are nothing less than 20”.

But in September, Cr Lam voted with her colleagues to approve Mr Oueik’s bid to modify plans for a 100-apartment complex.

The new plans allowed him to convert one penthouse into four extra two-storey units.

Cr Oueik denied the development was financially significant and said he intended to live in one of the apartments himself.

He paid the council about $1 million as a development contribution in exchange for approval, a not uncommon practice.

Cr Oueik is not the only councillor whose developments have awarded the mayor’s company a potentially lucrative strata contract.

Earlier this week, a court heard Cr Lam’s Combined Real Estate was the party responsible for managing a development built by her controversial colleague Salim Mehajer.

A cleaner, Anping Yan, appeared in court on Wednesday to claim he was owed up to $25,000 by Cr Mehajer for a backlog of cleaning work on two projects on John Street in Lidcombe.

Cr Mehajer’s defence highlighted just how close business relationships are on the council. He told the cleaner to re-direct his suit to a company owned by Cr Lam, who managed contractors.

Developers can use a controlling stake in a strata executive committee to appoint a building’s property manager.

Mr Yan refused to drop the suit and said Cr Mehajer had regularly handed him cheques and acted as his boss. The matter returns to court in February.

At the last council meeting the mayor voted to bestow the honorary title of “emeritus mayor” upon Cr Oueik.

The mayor’s brother-in-law and business partner, Mr Hua, has also previously been in business with Cr Mehajer. The two jointly run a company that is currently in liquidation. Cr Lam has previously said she was unaware her brother-in-law and council colleague had a business relationship.

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The danger when porn becomes sex ed

Question: Is your teenage son or daughter watching pornography online? Answer: Yes, almost certainly.
Nanjing Night Net

As new figures show 93 per cent of boys and 61 per cent of girls aged 13 to 16 are exposed to porn online, experts are raising the alarm over its impact on young people.

Young women, according to one Melbourne doctor, are being pressured into trying the sexual activities that both sexes are watching on their screens. And many young men are describing porn as “their sex ed”.

“What really worries me is I’m seeing a lot more young women having sexual pain due to unaroused sex and thinking there is something wrong with them because things like hard, aggressive sex, anal sex, do not appeal,” says Dr Anita Elias, a specialist in sexual medicine for around 20 years.

To her male patients she says: “It’s not real, it’s like a movie, like James Bond. You might like Bond movies but you wouldn’t jump out of a helicopter without a parachute”.

Researcher Maree Crabbe​, who has interviewed more than 70 teenagers as well as doctors, researchers and others in the field, says there is clear evidence of teenage boys demanding or expecting porn’s so-called signature practices including deep throating​ (pushing the penis far into the throat), anal sex and ejaculating onto faces and bodies.

With this forming the new reality for teenagers, the traditional sex education taught in schools seems archaic and irrelevant.

Alice, 17, said while she knew some boys watched porn, no one spoke openly about it. She said it should be included in sex ed but kids generally didn’t pay much attention to that.

“It’s (sex ed) pretty unrealistic and kids mainly don’t listen,” she said.

Brandon, 23, who watched online porn for the first time at about 15, says it was often the only reference point for people when they started having sex because school sex ed gave so little information about what to expect.

“I remember losing my virginity and there’s really no way to know that you’re doing the right thing. Especially for me, because sex ed only deals with straight men. It takes a while to work out that you don’t have to be aggressive, you don’t have to be a porn star.”

“But it’s not so much about porn, it’s about education. People are going to be watching porn, that’s how the internet works, and they’re going to be doing it at a younger age. But we need to educate young people about what they’re seeing.”

Jessica, now 24, clearly recalls the first time she saw online porn. The teacher had walked out of her year nine class and one of the boys opened up his laptop and started playing “some pretty harrowing stuff”.

“I was disgusted, I thought, ‘Oh my god that’s a woman’. I think most of the girls felt the same but nobody said anything. Some of the guys were laughing.”

Jessica says it is recognised in her circle that most of the men watch at least some porn online, but it’s not openly discussed. She​ has been in a relationship for some time and has never been pressured to do anything she is uncomfortable with, but she worries about this happening if she was dating again.

“It feels like (porn) would create this unrealistic idea of, ‘OK, this is sex and this is what women want from sex’.”

She was among many who spoke to Fairfax Media who said pornography should be discussed in schools.

The State Government last week announced that pornography and sexting​, including the impact of online porn on teenagers and young adults, would be included in new curriculum aimed at countering violence against women. The new subject will be introduced at a year 10 level.

Dr Megan Lim, Head of Sexual Health and Young People Research at the Burnet Institute, sounds a note of caution: young people urgently needed to know about the potential impact of pornography on them and their peers, but tackling this in sex education would be very challenging.

“We need to be educating young people about the things in porn that are fake and [to let them know] that porn is not a teaching tool.”

Lim recently interviewed 1000 young people (aged 15 to 29) about pornography and found that those who watch porn at a young age are more likely to be sexually active at a younger age. People who watch porn more often are also more likely to engage in some riskier sexual practices such as having casual sexual partners and anal sex.

The study found that the average age of first seeing porn was 13 years old for men and 16 years old for women.

Crabbe​ says with porn now “the most prominent form of sex education for many teenagers” it was wrong and naive​ to confuse the kind of porn that most teenagers are viewing online with milder examples of erotica.

“They’re learning things about bodies, about sexual health, about pleasure, about consent, or the absence of it. Porn is shaping young people’s sexual understanding.”

Crabbe says the teenage boys she has interviewed frequently talk about having initiated some of the things they have seen in porn, and many teenage girls “talked again and again about really struggling” with this pressure.

Particularly disturbing was the amount of aggression and violence in porn, with over 80 per cent including aggression directed at women. Ms Crabbe​ said this gave young men and women very confusing messages.

“In porn, almost every incident of aggression is met with a pleasured response. The message to the viewer is that girls and women like it when men gag them, choke them, slap them. It doesn’t necessarily look like aggression when you see a woman smiling when she’s being gagged and penetrated aggressively by multiple men.”

Researchers also raised concerns about young people who watched porn online becoming desensitised to what they saw and watching more and more extreme material.

In a recent study at the University of Sydney, researcher Dr Gomathi​ Sitharthan​, found that over time some people’s viewing habits escalated to involve more extreme and even illegal material.

Sitharthan’s​ work also found that for young people who watchporn excessively the consequences included skipping school, grades going down, not engaging in social and sporting activities, secretive behaviour and moodiness, and forming unrealistic expectations when interacting with the opposite sex.

“We have seen some young adults who seem to think it’s OK to approach a girl and expect she will have sex with them immediately, says Dr Sitharthan​. “This is what happens in porn movies where there is limited ‘meaningful dialogue’ and all action starts as soon as people meet for the first time.”

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Choice reveals the popular sunscreens that failed to deliver on SPF 50+ claim

Choice found only two out of six tested sunscreen lived up to their SPF claims. Photo: Choice Choice tested six SPF 50+ sunscreens and found four failed to meet their SPF claims. Photo: Choice
Nanjing Night Net

Australians are urged to protect themselves from strong and damaging UV rays.

The weather is hot, the beach is beckoning, and thoughts are turning to sun protection. But tests have found popular sunscreens are failing to live up to their SPF claims.

Consumer advocacy group Choice tested six SPF 50+ sunscreens and found four failed to deliver on their UV protection claims, with worst performer Ego Sunsense Sport 50+ only providing an SPF 29.

“Australians have one the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, making sunscreens an essential part of outdoor life. So it is deeply concerning these products are not providing their stated level of protection,” said Choice’s Tom Godfrey.

The four products that failed tests were Banana Boat Baby Finger Spray and Banana Boat Sport tube, both of which only offered SPF 42, Ombra Kids roll-on, which actually offered SPF 36, and the Ego Sunsense Sport.

The two products that matched its sun protection claims were the Cancer Council’s Classic Zinc and Nivea Sun Kids Caring roll-on.

“If these products don’t meet their stated SPF claims, you are at risk of burning quicker than you would with a true SPF 50+ product,” said Mr Godfrey.

“Given that most people don’t use enough sunscreen, applying a true SPF50+ product will better allow for some user error.”

Ego Pharmaceuticals’ scientific affairs manager Dr Kerryn Greive​ defended the company’s Sunsense Sport sunscreen, saying it had official certification to support its SPF claim and to register it with the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Sunscreens sold in Australia must be registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration. In order to be listed, manufacturers must test the product according to the Australian standard.

“Our consumers have no reason to be concerned by these abnormal results. Every SunSense product is tested for quality at our laboratories and SunSense sunscreens are subject to regular and on-going stability testing to ensure quality and consistency,” she said.

“Australia has one of the highest incidences of skin cancer in the world and it’s important that Australians aren’t discouraged from using sunscreen to protect against UV damage.”

Dr Greive said all SunSense products were made and tested according to TGA requirements.

“Our manufacturing facility in Australia is licensed by the TGA, with all of our sunscreen manufacturing methods fully validated in compliance with the requirements of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). This ensures the quality and reproducibility of our processes,” she said.

A TGA spokesman said the regulator would consider Choice’s findings before determining what appropriate action may be required.

The TGA capped the maximum rating of SPF 50+ in November, 2012.

“If a breach of the legislative requirements is identified, compliance actions can include a proposal to cancel the product from the ARTG, which would mean the product could not be sold in Australia,” he said.

“If concerns relating to the quality, efficacy or safety of a therapeutic product arise, the TGA can require that the product is removed from supply on the Australian market.”

The Cancer Council’s Craig Sinclair said both SPF30+ and SPF50+ sunscreens offered high levels of protection, with the former filtering out 96.7 per cent of UV radiation and SPF 50+ filtering out 98 per cent.

While accurate labelling was important, he said the bigger issue was Australians were not applying an adequate amount.

He also said consumers could generally be confident in SPF claims because in Australia sunscreens were treated as therapeutic goods, that is, in the same category as medicines.

“Current testing guidelines include human subjects, which can result in some variability. The standard involves testing how long it takes for human skin to burn when the sunscreen is applied,” he said.

“Different individuals can burn at different rates, resulting in different results in small sample sizes. In the future hopefully, we will have better ways of testing sunscreen that won’t involve variable human factors.”

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Guinea pig nuclear scientist reveals stone age

Nuclear scientist Vladimir Levchenko has carbon-dated kidney stones for the first time and has discovered they form much earlier than once thought. Photo: Penny Stephens Vladimir Levchenko with one of the Dutch kidney stones he carbon-dated. Photo: Penny Stephens
Nanjing Night Net

Nuclear physicist Vladimir Levchenko arrived at hospital by ambulance with debilitating back pain. He suspected the agony was caused by a volleyball injury rather than the true culprit: a peppercorn-sized kidney stone.

Ever the scientist, Dr Levchenko had more questions than time to ask as he was being wheeled into theatre. Before the anaesthetic took hold he managed to quiz the surgeon on what caused kidney stones, how they formed and how long they took to grow.

The revelation that medical science had no idea prompted him to make one last request before going under – please could his kidney stone be saved so he could study it?

“I was curious, I wanted to know if I could do it,” Dr Levchenko said. “The scientist is a scientist even on the operating table.”

Back at work at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation at Lucas Heights outside Sydney, Dr Levchenko set about carbon-dating his kidney stone.

It turned out to be the first time the experiment had been done anywhere in the world. The results were so revelatory, they attracted international attention and have set up new research projects and collaborations.

The results showed Dr Levchenko’s stone, small and slow-growing as it was, had started forming almost 18 years ago.

After failing to find Australian researchers working in the field and only a handful internationally, he contacted a Dutch research group led by urologist Dik Kok at the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam.

An enthusiastic Professor Kok sent Dr Levchenko two kidney stones, each the size of a $2 coin, from Dutch patients to be carbon-dated.

Though similar in size, the results painted a different picture of how the Dutch stones came to be, shedding new light on the growth cycle and longevity of kidney stones. One stone was dated at seven years old, while the other was 24 years old.

“After I passed the results onto my Dutch colleague, he became extremely excited,” Dr Levchenko said.

The fast-growing, younger stone turned out to be about 40 per cent phosphate. Interestingly, it belonged to a patient who regularly drank soft drinks – which contain phosphoric acid.

Meanwhile, the 24-year-old stone belonged to a patient who had a suffered a lower-back injury near the kidneys – intriguingly in a skiing accident which occurred 24 years ago.

“It is the first time that there has been a connection made between injury and the formation of a kidney stone,” Dr Levchenko said. “He was very excited because before that we didn’t know what triggered a kidney stone.”

The slow-growing stone also belonged to a patient who was more active, drank less alcohol and soft drink and ate less fast food.

The findings will be published in the journal, Radiocarbon, this month.

One of the most common medical conditions, kidney stones affect about one in 10 Australian men and one in 35 women.

 

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