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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A life, almost lost, reborn

Before: Craig, 43, three months ago after being bashed by a woman he knew. After: Craig in a recent Santa photo with Wollongong Homeless Hub manager Julie Mitchell. He’s now in rehab and getting his life back on track.The firstphoto shows a man who’s been bashed and battered –mentally as well as physically.The second, a clean-cut man getting into the spirit of Christmas.
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It doesn’tlook like the same man, which is fitting because Craig doesn’t feel like the same person either.

Seven weeks sober, the 43-year-old is confident he can finally change his life around –a life that has been plagued by alcoholism, homelessness and violence.

He started drinking at nine years old, was living on the streets by 13. He’s tried to get clean before, but ended up back on the drink to ‘’forget the bad times’’.

Then three months ago, Craig was bashed by a woman he knew on his birthday. After he was discharged from hospital, and back sleeping rough, a gang attacked him and broke his toes with a hammer.

It was then that he decided he’d had enough of that life, and withhelp from the Wollongong Homeless Hub and Wollongong Hospital he’s making a new life.

Now in rehab interstate, Craig wanted to share his story to let others in the grip of addiction,homelessness or at risk of violenceknow that help is available.

‘’It’s hard living on the streets –you’ve got to be careful where you sleep or you might get robbed or bashed where you sleep,’’ he said this week.

‘’You drink a lot to keep warm, to forget the bad times. But living rough, bunking in this house or bunking in that house, it’s not a life and I finally realised that that’s not the life I wanted anymore.’’

His transformation bringsJulie Mitchell -the manager ofWollongong Homeless Hub and Wollongong Emergency Family Housing –to tears.

It was Ms Mitchell, and her team, who picked Craig up –time and again –and who never gave up on him.

‘’I met Craig a year ago –he’d been assaulted then and his jaw had been broken and he came in one day and I gave him baby food to eat,’’ she said.

‘’Wetried to get him into rehab many times –it wasn’t that he failed, it was the system that failed him. He steadily went downhill and told me that he wouldn’t be alive by Christmas.

‘’We’ve finally found him the help he needs. However Craig’s story only highlights the absolute need in Wollongong for more housing, more crisis accommodation, and more money forrehab services.’’

Ms Mitchell hopes Craig stays on the right path; she’s pretty sure he will.‘’I’ve seen thechange in him –this time he’s really focused.’’

He recently came back for a visit to thank Ms Mitchell. They saw Santa in a shopping centre and decided to have a bit of fun and pose for a photo.

‘’I felt like a kid again,’’ he said. ‘’I’m not sure I ever got a photo with Santa before.’’

Illawarra Mercury

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Big Picture competition 2015: Winner and finalists announced

The winning picture for the Big Picture competition 2015. Photo: Sally HintonSelecting from the best of travel images submitted, Fairfax photographic editors Mags King, Leigh Henningham and Fairfax photographer Steven Siewert have chosen a winner in the latest round of Traveller’s The Big Picture competition in association with Fairfax Media’s Clique Photographers Association.
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The shortlisted images for this round of judging in The Big Picture competition were nothing short of refreshing, according to the judges.

“There is a sense of the natural without being contrived and indicative of people being more comfortable with photography and in a world with temptations such as Instagram and filters there was very little trickery in terms of manipulation of the images.”

Thanks to all of our readers for the hundreds of entries, some of the best of which are shown here.

Congratulations to Sally Hinton, who will travel with a partner or friend to Japan, courtesy of Singapore Airlines (economy class), staying three nights at the Conrad Tokyo and two nights at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto with all breakfasts and a seven-day JR Rail Pass (ordinary class), courtesy of Singapore Airlines Holidays.

Keep reading Traveller and see 梧桐夜网traveller南京夜网419论坛 for more information about our next competition.

Jane Reddy, deputy national editor, travel.THE WINNERDATELINE BOTSWANA, AFRICA

These impala bucks were frisky one winter’s morning, entertaining a baboon as they leapt about the water hole in the Mashatu Game Reserve. Sally HintonJUDGES’ COMMENT

Titled A Leap of Faith by its author, this image is playful and dynamic. It’s not unexpected to see a dramatic wildlife scene of a stampede, for example, entered into a photographic competition so it is quite refreshing to see a wildlife image that is clearly of a moment, an impala in flight with a single baboon as a spectator. The image creates a light-hearted scene that is balanced in composition – as though it was contrived, yet we know it could not have been. The frame is panoramic in shape which, if cropped, could have accentuated the moment but we feel that the space on the right balances the jaunty leap. The photographer has captured a great moment of travel. THE SHORTLISTED FINALISTSDATELINE: HIMBA VILLAGE, NORTHERN NAMIBIA, AFRICA

Photo: Jenny Fowler

“A fascinating image and interesting play on perspective with the hairdo and the wall.” DATELINE: ARNARSTAPI, ICELAND

Photo: Gordon Shaw

“So bleak and beautiful. The solitude and the placement of the house is a good composition and a nice change of pace in travel photography when there is often a bombardment of activity.” DATELINE: UOLEVA ISLAND, TONGA

Photo: Seb Maupas

“Physically and technically this can be a very difficult image to capture and the photographer has done very well. There’s emotion in the eyes of the calf. The serenity and beauty of the whale up close has been captured.” DATELINE: VARANASI, INDIA

Photo: Jane Sheers

“An intimate moment captured. Compared to the,usual rich colours of Varanasi it’s a beautifully sparse image.” DATELINE: SKAGAFOSS, ICELAND

Photo: James Stone

“Beautiful use of the shutter speed with a sense of scale and perspective.” DATELINE: ANTELOPE CANYON, ARIZONA, UNITED STATES

Photo: Todd Kennedy

“It’s a good use of colour at the right time and would’ve been helped to have a person or object to give a sense of size and scale.” DATELINE: LAKE CLARK NATIONAL PARK, ALASKA

Photo: Kathryn Soddy

“A playful and different wildlife pic showing another side of a wild animal’s life. The image is to the point with nothing to detract from it, with just the animal, grass and horizon.”

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Teenager drowns after work Christmas party on a houseboat

Bailey Maher, 18, who drowned during his work Christmas Party. Photo: Facebook “Rest easy up there big fella:” Friends remembered Bailey Maher, 18, in messages on Facebook, after he drowned in the Hawkesbury River. Photo: Facebook
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Friends have paid tribute to an 18-year-old man who drowned in the Hawkesbury River during a work Christmas party on Friday night.

Bailey Maher, a roof tiler from Camden, was on a houseboat with his family and colleagues when he went swimming just before 8.30pm.

His family called triple-zero when he failed to return, and police helicopters, divers, state emergency services and NSW Marine Rescue combed the area on Friday night and Saturday morning.

But more than 14 hours after he went missing, his body was found.

As the news of his death broke on Saturday afternoon the heartbroken friends of Mr Maher, a former Camden High School Student, took to social media to pay tribute to the teen.

School friend Greg Bentham wrote “there is nothing that can explain the pain it feels to lose a best friend”.

“You were the closest thing I had to having a brother and will be dearly missed by all who loved you,” he said on Facebook.

Another friend, Connor Bates, said on Facebook “rest in peace Bailey Maher you will always be my best mate and I will never forget the memories we’ve shared together, rest easy up there big fella”.

Just after midday on Saturday the NSW search and rescue helicopter, Westpac Life Saver, tweeted that it was returning to base.

Hawkesbury Police acting inspector Andrew Martignago said that Mr Maher’s family were devastated.

“One man dived in to the water and then another person saw that he was having difficulties in the water,” Hawkesbury Police acting Inspector Andrew Martignago said.

“Other witnesses dived in to assist, but they lost sight of him.”

At about midday on Saturday the Westpac Live Save helicopter Tweeted that the body of Mr Maher had been found.

“Sadly, the body of the missing 18-year-old male has been located. RIP,” the rescue service wrote.   UPDATE: Lifesaver 21 returning to base. Sadly, the body of the missing 18 year old male has been located. RIP— Westpac Life Saver (@Lifesaverhelo) December 12, 2015

At the time of the man’s disappearance a southerly change with winds of up to 50 km/h was making its way down the coast.

NSW Police are preparing a report for the coroner. 

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Cronulla riot put to rest: Shire looks forward to Australia Day

Picture: John VeageUpdate Monday:
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Police and Sutherland Shire residents have been praised for their response to the activities of extremist groups on the tenth anniversary of the Cronulla riot.

Cronulla MP and Environment Minister Mark Speakman said residents made a strong statement by boycotting the so-called anti-Islam and anti-racism events on Saturday, which he described as “fizzers”.

Mr Speakman suggested the community’s stand would help lay to rest images of the 2005 violence.

‘‘Hopefully, now the community has voted with its feet and said, ‘We are beyond those events’, we can have closure, and people can recognise what a predominantly tolerant, decent and harmonious community Cronulla is,’’ he said.

Mayor Carmelo Pesce said, from the briefings he received in the lead-up to the anniversary, he was always certain police were prepared.

‘‘Everything I was told went to plan,’’ he said.

‘‘I thank the police and other emergency services, and council staff, as well as the community for their co-operation, which resulted in there being no major incidents.

‘‘We can now look forward to our celebration of Australia Day, which shows what the shire is really made of, with a great range of events at Illawong, Engadine and Cronulla.’’

See more in Wednesday’s Leader.

Do you think the situation was handled well?

Anti-fascist activists from the Antifa group confronted anti-Islam protesters in Don Lucas Reserve in Cronulla. Photo: James Brickwood.

Saturday3.30pm: The tenth anniversary of the Cronulla riot was markedby more violence, but on a much smaller scale than seen 10 years ago and local residents stayed away.

A group of about 150 anti-racist protesters verbally abused and jostled people theyconsidered to be anti-Islamic, and there were clashes when police intervened.

Two people were arrested.

However, the protesters on both sides were gone by 3pm and Cronullawas back to normal.

Police ensure protestors leave by train peacefully.

Cafés were packed, the mall was busy, surfersdefied a cool breezeand kites flew over Elouera Beach.

The barbecue held by the extreme right wing group Party for Freedomhad finished, and the anti-racist protesters had gone home by train.

Protestors arrive. Picture: John Veage

Residents heeded the pleas to stay away from Wanda, making the task ofpolice much easier.

Police remained vigilant, but it appeared there would be no further disruption.

Cronulla MP Mark Speakman said the so-called “anti-Islam” and“anti-racism” events were complete “fizzers”.

“They were organised by vocal outsiders and poorly attended'” he said.

“Locals stayed away from both events. I haven’t come across a singlelocal who said they attended, or were planning to attend, eitherevent.

Pro-Islamic protestors.

“Cronulla has moved on from 10 years ago. Sadly there’ll probablyalways be pockets of hatred and bigotry on the far right and the farleft. Cronulla, however, is predominantly a tolerant and cohesivecommunity, which I’m proud to represent.

“I thank the NSW Police, other State Government agencies andSutherland Shire Council for their comprehensive efforts over severalmonths to protect the local community and maintain public safety.

“We’re enormously fortunate to have such competent and dedicated police in NSW.”


Flankedby police, the protesters marched along the Esplanade toCronulla, changing slogans such as, “Say it loud, day it clear,Muslims are welcome here”.

They made their way past the scene of the riot in 2005, past the rockpools and up through Cronulla Park, where children were playing.

Police and protestors.

Police were waiting for them at every point, and kept them in a tightcorridor as they progressed to the railway station, where they were marshalled on to a train.

There were a few heckles along the way, but there appeared no be nofurther incidents after initial skirmishes with police at Wanda.

Fortunately, the Party for Freedom was well away, having theirbarbecue at the northern end of Don Lucas.

At Wanda, some people regarded as anti-Islam protesters were set uponby the pro-Islamic group.

The anti-racist group included members of Antifa (anti-fascism), dressed in black with black face masks.

Some anti-Islam protesters were shoved and abused as “f— fascists”.

One middle-aged woman draped in an Australian flag caught in the crowd was surrounded by 20 to 30Antifamembers who shouted at her to “take that fascist flag off now”.

A man in the crowd yelled “burn that flag and burn that woman”.

Police arrested two pro-Islamic demonstrators.


Pro-Islamic supporters clashed with police when they staged a rival rally to the group commemorating the Cronulla riot.

While only about 60 people attended the barbecue in Don Lucas Reserve that replaced the rally organised by the right-wing Party for Freedom,a group of about 150 pro-Islamic supportersgathered in the park above Wanda surf club.

Police formed a cordon around them, but they staged a rolling protest,heading along the Esplanade towards Cronulla.


By 11am senior police had formed the view the gathering at Don LucasReserve would be “a non event”.

Only a small group of supporters were present when Nick Folkes arrivedat Don Lucas Reserve dressed in a burqa, which he removed as soon ashe finished a media conference.

Security: Police on patrol on Saturday. Picture: John Veage

As he did when he woreIslamic clothing during a court appearanceearlier in the week, he denied he was mocking Muslims but was “justmaking a point about the way Australia is headed”.

Chief Inspector Mark McGrath gave Mr Folkes instructions on what hecould and couldn’t do as a result of the court orders.

Nick Folkes and supporters. Picture: John Veage.


Chief Inspector Matk McGrath questioned Sergio Redegalli, who arrived with a spit and a pig to roast.

Cronulla riot put to rest: Shire looks forward to Australia Day Chief inspector Mark McGrath with Nick Folkes, wearing a burqa.

Nick Folkes after the press conference.

Sergio Redegalli, who arrived with a spit and a pig to roast.

Party for Freedom barbecue.

Police at Crinulla station as protestors arrive.

Police patrolling Cronulla on Saturday morning..

Residents were out walking their dogs.

Residents walking their dogs.

Sutherland Shire Mayor Carmelo Pesce was an early starter and asked residents to stay Way later in the day.

Police patrolling Don Lucas Reserve.

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Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group buys South China Morning Post

Beijing: Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group has acquired the South China Morning Post, a move which simultaneously signals its intention to expand its media influence beyond mainland China while sparking fears around editorial independence at the venerable Hong Kong newspaper.
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Announcing the deal on Thursday night, Alibaba, founded by one of China’s richest and most recognisable billionaire businessmen, Jack Ma, pledged to uphold editorial independence while leveraging the group’s digital expertise to transform the 112-year-old English-language newspaper to a media entity with global reach.

But in interviews, Alibaba Executive Vice-Chairman Joseph Tsai hinted at a desire to improve China’s image in what he considered a “negative” portrayal of the company’s home country in western press.

“Today when I see mainstream western news organisations cover China, they cover it through a very particular lens,” Executive Vice-Chairman Joseph Tsai said in an interview withthe Post. “We believe things should be presented as they are. Present facts, tell the truth, and that is the principle that we are going to operate on.”

Mr Tsai denied the Chinese government played any role in Alibaba’s decision to acquire the media assets of the Hong Kong-listed SCMP Group, which include other smaller fashion and lifestyle publications. The purchase price was not disclosed.

But mainland ownership of one of Hong Kong’s most recognisable mastheads comes at a politically delicate time in a city where many are concerned about encroaching mainland interests and a perceived decline in its free press. The territory of 7 million also remains sharply divided after last year’s citywide pro-democracy demonstrations, which were imbued with strong anti-mainland sentiment.

Hong Kong’s relatively free press is not subjected to the same strict government oversight and censorship the Communist Party requires in mainland China. And while the Post has come under criticism in recent years for its increasingly pro-Beijing stance under recently departed editor-in-chief Wang Xiangwei, it has produced powerful and award-winning coverage of issues which were censored heavily in the mainland, including extensive reporting of the Occupy protests and last year’s 25th anniversary of the military crackdown of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations.

The paper also reports on human rights abuses and sensitive political scandals in mainland China in consistent detail, all of which may prove awkward, if not untenable, under the ownership of Alibaba and Jack Ma, known for his close ties with China’s central leadership.

“We’ll let the editors make their judgment on what to publish and not to publish,” Mr Tsai told the New York Times. “I can’t think of anything being off-limits.”

In 2013, a Post reporter was forced to apologise and resign after Alibaba complained she had misquoted Mr Ma. The story said he had compared the tough decision-making skills required to run Alibaba with the Chinese government’s crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 by saying: “As the country’s most senior decision-maker, he had to be stable and he had to make cruel decisions. It was not the perfect decision, but it was the best decision, and it was the best decision at that time.” The reporter was suspended and subsequently resigned.

Like most traditional media companies, the SCMP has struggled with declining profitability amid a fragmenting readership and advertising market, and some analysts said the injection of Alibaba’s undoubted financial heft and innovation could benefit the flagging title.

Alibaba, best-known for its online shopping platforms Tmall and Taobao Marketplace, has pledged to invest in the business, hire more staff, and leverage its digital expertise to grow its global audience. It will remove the website’s paywall.

In recent years, Alibaba and Mr Ma have made extensive investments in social media platform Weibo, the YouTube-like Youku, and various domestic media outlets including China Business News.

Mr Ma and fellow billionaire tycoon Wang Jianlin, founder of Wanda Group and also known for his close ties with the Chinese government, have also invested heavily in areas favoured as a priority in the Communist Party’s global soft-power push, including in film production, the arts and football.

The Post was once part of the Rupert Murdoch media empire but since 1993 has been in the hands of Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok.

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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


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 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


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


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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