Filing from the front

Hugh Stevenson Roberton – or “Peter Snodgrass”.
Nanjing Night Net

HUGH Stevenson Roberton is arguably the most remarkable person who has written for The Land – a farmer and farm leader, columnist, author, soldier, Menzies government minister and Australia’s first ambassador to Ireland.

And for most of his stellar career he kept writing his fortnightly articles for The Land under the pseudonym “Peter Snodgrass”, the name of a character in a play written by his father, Sir Hugh Roberton, a famous Scottish choral music composer and conductor.

Roberton had carried his Hermes typewriter in a metal box during his stint as an anti-tank gunner with the 9th Division in the Middle East during the Second World War so he could keep writing his columns for The Land.

His commanding officer turned a blind eye when he tossed away his gas mask and spare pair of boots so he could carry his typewriter, nor did he ever have any problems with wartime censors.

* Read more about some of The Land’s legendary columnists in our 100-page Centenary liftout free inside the January 27 issue.

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

Dairy despair at Coles cut

THE Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) has hit out at the decision by supermarket giant Coles to cut the price of its ‘supermarket brand’ milk, warning that the move will place significant financial strain and pressure on already stressed farming families.
Nanjing Night Net

Earlier today, Coles announced that it would be taking advantage of the earnings downturn faced by rival Woolworths to launch a heavily discounted milk offer to tempt shoppers into its supermarkets.

QDO President Brian Tessmann said dairy farmers across the country woke this morning to the unpleasant news, and said that milk prices are under unsustainable downward pressure from the retailers.

Coles will terminate its Smart Buy milk brand and reduce the price of its house brand milk to become its new flagship offering.

The price of a Coles brand two-litre carton of lite milk will come down to $2, a 33 per cent discount in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Coles full-cream milk will also be cut down to $2.

“We are now facing the bleak prospect of retail milk prices reaching a point that is unsustainable for the milk value chain. This will flow back through the processing sector and ultimately to farmers,” said Mr Tessmann.

“It is kicking family farmers when they are down. This is happening at a time when the industry is battling the devastation of the massive Queensland floods.

“These floods are taking a heavy financial and emotional toll on farmers, and for Coles to give farmers this announcement on Australia Day is cruel and insensitive. We want our farmers to have confidence in the future and to be rebuilding their businesses after the flood,” said Mr Tessman.

The QDO said that what is ultimately a publicity ploy from Coles will mean farmers will ultimately be paying for the advertising bill.

Mr Tessman said that Coles’ assertion that the price drop would not affect milk processors and dairy farmers was simply wrong.

“We know from a recent Senate Inquiry that the growing trend toward supermarket brand milk is putting a squeeze on the value chain and ultimately the farmer. This price drop will increase the price difference between large retailer ‘supermarket brand’ milk and milk processor branded milk. So of course shoppers will opt for supermarket brand milk and, with that, lower returns go to processors and that will flow on to the farm gate.

“We know that already the price differential between supermarket-brand and branded milk sucks about $90 million from the value chain in Queensland alone every year,” said Mr Tessman.

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

Swan opts to fight states, not the miners

Wayne Swan.This time last year, Wayne Swan had spent his holidays reading a top-secret copy of the Henry review, which urged a 40 per cent tax on the mining industry.
Nanjing Night Net

A year on, with one prime minister removed after taking on the miners, the Treasurer’s holiday reading was a far cry from Dr Henry’s tome.

Shortly before Christmas, the former BHP chairman Don Argus handed Swan a report outlining the much watered-down resource rent tax, which has been welcomed by the big miners.

But although he now has much of the industry on side, Swan’s quest to extract more tax from the mining industry is far from over.

After what he admits was a ”bruising” encounter with mining heavyweights in 2010, Swan has effectively swapped a fight with the miners for a stoush with the states.

He is now pleading with Queensland and Western Australia to cap future mining royalties to keep the industry competitive – and the states are having none of it.

Swan’s decision to take on the states raises questions about just how powerful the mining heavyweights have become, with the industry expected to resume hostilities if the government cannot get the states on side.

Making matters more complex, Swan’s showdown with the states comes amid growing evidence Australia should be saving more of the proceeds from the once-in-a-century resources bonanza.

In the turbulent weeks after Julia Gillard replaced Kevin Rudd, quelling the mining industry’s anger was a top priority in Canberra.

She largely achieved this in early July, signing a breakthrough agreement with the big three – BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata – to soften the tax considerably.

Rather than the 40 per cent tax proposed by Henry, it was agreed miners would pay effective tax rates of 22.5 per cent and enjoy generous deductions. Miners called off their anti-government ad campaign, and restarted work on shelved projects worth billions to the economy.

But although Gillard’s deal with the miners was hailed as a smart political move at the time, it now looks like a temporary solution.

In the secret July negotiations, the boss of BHP, Marius Kloppers, insisted that all state royalties – including future increases – would be refunded by the federal government.

Canberra later hinted it might not credit all future royalties because this would amount to writing states a blank cheque, but Argus’s report affirmed that all future royalties should be refunded.

Swan is widely expected to adopt this recommendation, and has already called on states to promise they won’t increase royalties.

However, the request has been met with vocal opposition from the premiers of Queensland and Western Australia, setting the scene for heated negotiations this year.

The floods – expected to slash Queensland’s royalty revenue – add another layer of complexity. Nevertheless, Swan has elected to fight the states rather than risk provoking the miners. His willingness to do so raises questions about just how powerful the mining industry has become.

The opposition’s spokesman on mining, Ian Macfarlane, says it is now clear the government rushed to sign a deal without fully understanding the consequences. While he opposes the tax in principle, Macfarlane also recognises the power the Big Three held over government.

”I suspect that the government has got itself so far in that they will have to bow down to the mining companies. They got skinned and that’s a fact,” he says.

”The mining companies have achieved the effective abolition of state royalties.” Macfarlane doesn’t blame the miners for this – instead pointing the finger at Canberra’s failure to consult with the industry and states before it announced the original 40 per cent tax.

On the government’s side, the Labor senator Doug Cameron is even more frank about how miners have thrown their weight around this year. ”I think the behaviour of the miners is the most overt case of big business using their power and privileged place in society to protect their own individual interests,” Cameron says.

”This is going to be something that is debated for many years, in relation to how you can ensure the national interest is placed before the interests of mega-rich mining magnates.” More sympathetic observers, however, say the miners were able to make a convincing argument against paying more tax because the public identified with the industry.

A former head of the Minerals Council, David Buckingham, says miners benefited from a perception that the industry had been an important factor in Australia weathering the global financial crisis. Over the previous decade, he says, the industry had also remade its public image around its handling of environmental and Aboriginal issues.

”There’s been an evolution in the position of the industry. I don’t think it’s simply been a case of a big ugly industry using its muscle,” says Buckingham, who supported the concept of a super profits tax.

Whatever the reasons for the government’s backdown, the miners’ strong influence over government will linger.

If Canberra cannot reach a deal with the states, miners have made it clear they will consider restarting their campaign of destabilisation.

In the weeks before Christmas, the boss of Xstrata Coal, Peter Freyberg, repeated his warning that the company would review $20 billion in planned projects if the government failed to refund all royalties.

Indeed, some official sources suggest the mining companies are deliberately seeking to exploit the government’s razor-thin majority in the lower house in anticipation of the debate heating up.

Small miners – who remain deeply opposed to the tax – would only need to convince a few rural independents to oppose the tax to defeat it. Coalition senators are now leading an inquiry which has aired small miners’ concerns, and is scrutinising the government’s deal with the big three.

In spite of this tension between the government and smaller miners over the tax, there is growing economic evidence that now is the right time for a meaningful resource rent tax. In November, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said the government’s mining tax was too narrow – and it should tax more products than iron ore, coal and gas.

While it supported the tax overall, the OECD said this focus on only parts of the resources sector could distort investment and would hurt its ability to raise revenue.

The governor of the Reserve Bank, Glenn Stevens, has also reminded the government that with a once-in-a-century mining boom gathering pace, now could be a good time to increase public sector saving.

In a November speech, he suggested a ”stabilisation fund” that could offset some of the volatility of a commodities boom led by China and India. Stevens didn’t mention the mining tax – but it’s increasingly clear the watered-down MRRT won’t be taking much heat out of the mining boom.

An economist at the Grattan Institute, Saul Eslake, is blunt when asked if the tax could help deal with some of the challenges of the two-speed economy. ”No, because it was not intended to, and now it would seem there are so few companies that are going to pay it,” Eslake says.

Even among companies which will pay the tax – it only applies to those earning more than $50 million a year – there are doubts it will raise the revenue Canberra claims.

According to official estimates, it will raise $7.4 billion, down from the previous $10.5 billion predicted before the election and $12 billion under Rudd’s super profits tax.

The government says the latest revision was driven by the strong Australian dollar, but analysts say the forecast was more likely slashed after officials consulted with companies about how the tax would be paid in practice.

And with each downgrade in how much revenue it will raise, the government is also pushing the friendship with the Greens, needed to pass it through the Senate in 2011.

The Greens leader, Bob Brown, sent the government a reminder in late December that his support is not guaranteed. He described the tax as a ”patched-up deal between the government and the mining barons”. He prefers the 40 per cent tax favoured by Rudd, and it is not clear whether he will support the mineral resource rent tax.

Cobbling together support from Brown, miners and the premiers of mining boom states won’t be easy. But this is the task facing Swan if he is to make the mining tax a reality.

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

Canberra’s prison bookworms favour Game of Thrones, Muhammad Ali and cookbooks

The library inside the Alexander Maconochie Centre. Photo: Jay Cronan The Hume library’s collection at the Alexander Maconochie Centre contains about 5000 items. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Nanjing Night Net

The life of sporting great Muhammed Ali, the real-life hell faced by Australian soldiers during World War I and the gory violence of Game of Thrones have proved an acceptable form of escape for inmates locked inside Canberra’s jail.

ACT Corrections has shed light on the most requested books pored over by detainees at the Alexander Maconochie Centre library.

Fantasy fiction was the leading choice for male and female detainees from the Hume library’s collection of about 5000 items in 2015.

Prisoners were engrossed by American fantasy writer Peter V. Brett’s fear-laden The Painted Man, the first in The Demon Cycle series that features flesh-eating demons that rise at night and feast on humans.

The blood, power struggles and romance that fill George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones books, which inspired the hugely popular television series, were also sought-after.

As were books from Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Saga, part of The Riftwar Cycle series, which follows an epic battle between human magicians set in the mythical worlds of Midkemia and Kelewan.

Inmates also gravitated towards fictional works with a tighter grip on reality, such as action thriller books by Australian writer Matthew Reilly and British novelist Lee Child.

Stories of real life featured prominently next to works of fiction in last year’s literary preferences.

Detainees commonly borrowed biographies and autobiographies, particularly of sports legends such as boxer Muhammed Ali, and stories of Australian history such as Gallipoli Diaries, about the Anzacs, by Jonathan King.

Yearly editions of Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, which detail bizarre items and events from around the world, were another hit.

Last year’s most popular items also included books focused on learning and practical skills for inmates who wanted to use their spare time productively.

Cookbooks were crowd-pleasers, particularly 4 Ingredients and books published by the Australian Women’s Weekly.

Inmates also favoured dictionaries, poetry books and volumes on art and drawing, such as How to Draw Animals.

Language books were well-read, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Asian languages the most favoured.

Indigenous inmates make up roughly 20 per cent of the ACT’s prisoners.

Surging detainee numbers have put significant pressure on the territory’s jail facilities in recent years and the AMC’s population reached more than 400 inmates on Christmas Day.

Detainees at the main jail and a 30-bed overflow facility at Symonston Correctional Centre can also browse regional newspapers, legal materials and magazines.

The most popular magazines in the past 12 months were motoring and science publications, including National Geographic.

Fantasy books by Raymond E. Feist and George R. R. Martin, as well as thriller novels by Lee Child, featured in last year’s favoured literary choices for Canberra’s jail inmates.

Prison memoirs had also been in demand.

Choices among the territory’s prison population appeared to differ from residents outside the jail walls, with Libraries ACT last month revealing its most borrowed book for 2015 was the thriller Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins.

That was followed by romantic comedy The Rosie Effect, a sequel to romantic comedy bestseller The Rosie Project, by Melbourne-based writer Graeme Simsion.

Journalist Annabel Crabb’s look at work-family balance in The Wife Drought, Marie Kondo’s The life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organising and former prime minister Julia Gillard’s My Story rounded out the top five.

In 2010, the most borrowed book from the AMC’s then-new library was The Damage Done, the autobiography of convicted Australian drug trafficker Warren Fellows.

The book details the harsh conditions Fellows faced during 12 years in Thai prisons for his role in a heroin distribution ring.

White Lies, the musings of Damian Marrett, a former undercover officer with Victoria Police who helped bring down members of the Griffith mafia, came in at number two, followed by John Silvester and Andrew Rule’s Underbelly.

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

Maeve O’Meara’s Food Safari Fire heats up world cuisines from all over Australia

Food Safari Fire presenter Maeve O’Meara.Maeve O’Meara gets so close to her subjects in her new series Food Safari Fire that she actually singed off a handful of hair.
Nanjing Night Net

“We were filming a wood-fired oven in Adelaide on a really cold day,” she says. “I just needed to stand right up against that oven to get as warm as I could, and I didn’t realise but I reached up [to her head] and thought, ‘Oh my god’.

“It wasn’t the flame, it was the hot air coming up outside that oven and it very neatly gave me a very different hairstyle.”

Fortunately that was the only hazardous incident on O’Meara’s six-month journey across Australia for the 10-part series that focuses on the most primal of cooking techniques.

It’s not merely snags on the barbie – the show uses fire to link together cuisines from all over the world, from Japanese to Chinese, Mexican and beyond. Episodes are themed around topics such as street food, grilling, spit-roasting and smoking, with some of the nation’s most famous culinary faces sharing their fiery wisdom.

What is it about cooking with fire that makes it such an enticing, compelling process?

“It’s beautiful, it’s sensual and it’s challenging,” says O’Meara. “Even top chefs talk about how each time it’s different and, in a cooking sense, that’s fantastic. I also think cooking outside, you don’t feel as rule-bound as say cooking in a kitchen and being really strict on technique.

“For everyone that we filmed, men, women of all different ages, there’s some sort of DNA part that relates to fire that is deep within them and is so enjoyable.”

Marinades and cuts of meat make up only a small part of the picture. The intricacies of elements such as charcoal and different types of wood are investigated, for example. Chef Lennox Hastie from Sydney’s Firedoor demonstrates how fruit woods can be used like a spice to flavour. Elsewhere, Movida’s Frank Camorra and his parents, who moved from Spain to Australia, demonstrate the more social side of fire and invite O’Meara to their weekly family get-together in Geelong, cooking traditional Spanish dishes in a perol pan over fire.

Smoking, one of the big trends at the moment, is another subject tackled. “Smoking is really the new black in fire cooking,” says O’Meara. “Everybody is just excited by it because you’re cooking secondary cuts of meat, learning to use different flavour combinations, whether it’s a dry rub or cooking over a particular sort of charcoal, and it’s that low and slow cooking that is just about to boom here.

“The brisket and pulled pork revolution is well and truly on us and I think more and more people will want to have a taste of that and think ‘we could do this ourselves in our backyard’.”

O’Meara says 12-hour brisket is more the “advance class” of cooking, but the show does cover elements that are achievable for everybody. She says it’s possible just to do something as simple as getting a $50 barbecue from a Middle-Eastern store to use for cooking over charcoal.

O’Meara herself bought a tandoor oven from NSW potter Cameron Williams, which she says is a like a “terracotta R2D2”, and is mastering the art of cooking chicken, prawns and lamb cooked in that way.

The new series is the seventh season of Food Safari and is teamed with a book featuring techniques, information and recipes. O’Meara says she’s also going to be live tweeting while the show airs.

She says the new series carries all the hallmarks of what Food Safari fans know and love, plus a power from fire that drives it as well.

“The images are beautiful and I think that when you see drops of juice coming on to charcoal and spurts of smoke coming up, those moments are like, ‘Oh my god, I reallyneed to eat something’.

“It’s meant to be inspirational and practical, but really its strength is the people who cook and create, who are so fabulously disarming and loving what they do. Translating that to the screen is the real strength of Food Safari.”

She says her top dish is possibly Tetsuya Wakuda’s​ mackerel cooked on a small konro grill with miso and soy, but her favourite experience of the show is the people.

“I love my job and my life and I love going into people’s homes and capturing what brings them together and their culture. It’s like a great, big warm hug. Filming an extended Samoan family cooking an umu, a ground oven feast, was just something I hadn’t seen before.

“This is the suburbs of Sydney, the fact that it is there in the backyard next to you and it’s so different and interesting. It’s probably not something that everybody is going to be able to recreate but what joy to have that as part of our culinary mix in the backyards of Australia.”

WHAT Food Safari Fire

WHEN SBS, Thursday (January 7), 8pm. 

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

Frances O’Connor talks about harrowing drama The Missing

Frances O’Connor, centre, and James Nesbitt, right, in the series The Missing.In The Missing, Frances O’Connor plays Emily Hughes, who faces every parent’s worst nightmare when her five-year-old son disappears on a family holiday. The stylish, chilling and highly acclaimed thriller drew a huge response when it aired in Britain and the United States, and now SBS is giving the series another look.
Nanjing Night Net

The Missing had a huge impact and became a real talking point. Did you expect such a big response?

When I read the script I was just excited because I thought, ‘God, this is such a great script.’ When we were filming it, [we knew] we had something special and we worked hard to try and make it authentic, but we didn’t realise that it would have quite the reaction that it did. Friends would say I just can’t watch any more and then would call me a few months later and say I ended up binge-watching the rest of the show. I think it just disturbed a lot of people, a small child disappearing at a swimming pool. It’s something that we’ve all had moments when our children have just gone missing for 30 seconds and that feeling of panic.

Was it hard being a parent [to son Luka, 10] and doing the role?

It’s very hard to kind of not go there because you’re doing those scenes. When we were establishing it in the first couple of weeks, I did go there in terms of substituting and thinking that that could happen. But then it very quickly just started to feel real in the moment, especially with Jimmy [Nesbitt, who plays the father, Tony]. He’s so good and we really started to believe in our characters and essentially really missing Oliver, the kid. It was a tough one but the script was so good we both felt really passionate about going there.

What is the most compelling aspect in the way the story is told?

I think because it’s not linear and there are lot of different time jumps, the audience are not really spoon-fed so they’re participating in putting the information together, and so that’s very thrilling for the audience and it’s also very thrilling for us. We shot in blocks, so we shot all of 2013 first and then we went back in time to shoot the summer where the child goes missing, so it meant you had a great continuity in terms of how you played your character and the history of what they’d been through. The good thing was Jimmy and I knew each other so well by the time we got to the summer when Ollie went missing, we had a great sense of intimacy and connection because we’d done all the other work first.

What were the demands on you personally?A British tabloid reported that you’d get home and burst into tears.

I never said that! I said there were times when you’d get home, and I was talking about it in context of being away in Brussels Monday to Friday [where it was filmed], sometimes you’d be a bit teary when you’d get picked up from the train station on the Friday, but just because you missed them [her family]. I guess what I was saying is that it could be emotional, I wasn’t saying I was a nervous wreck.

Why would anyone want to watch such a harrowing subject?

I think it moves pretty quickly off the experience of being in a situation where your child is abducted and moves on to the mystery of it. A lot of it is to do with who did it, and the way that it it tells the story. It doesn’t sit with the parents for eight episodes, it moves on to other characters and explores their motives and their reality, so in that way it is palatable. They do find a way of exploring the issues without dragging the audience through the mud too much. The truth was, people were coming up to me in the schoolyard and going, oh my god, did you see yesterday’s episode, can you tell me what’s going to happen?

You received a Golden Globe nomination for your performance, how did that feel?

It was nice. We were so happy with how the show went and we got so much out of working on it. It was just nice that we all got to go to LA and get dressed up and celebrate. The show got nominated, and Jimmy should have got nominated, he was so brilliant in it, but it was just really nice. We got to have a party and a glass of champagne, it felt karmically that we had deserved it after we’d finished shooting [laughs].

The Missing airs on SBS on January 6 at 8.30pm.

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

Sydney New Year’s Eve 2015: Where to see fireworks on the Harbour and beyond

Front row seat: Jose Palacios and his family wait for the fireworks at McMahons Point. Photo: Cole Bennetts People camp out at Blues Point Reserve to secure a spot ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations. Photo: Wolter Peeters
Nanjing Night Net

Early birds have found spots both comfortable and less so in Kirribilli. Photo: Nick Moir

New Year’s Eve weather

With road closures, price hikes and plenty of competition, catching the crackers on New Year’s Eve can be a struggle for Sydneysiders. Thankfully, there are plenty of outstanding locations where you can spend the night within sight of the fireworks display – and many are nowhere near the Harbour. Families

Balmain Peninsula

Balmain and Birchgrove are always popular destinations for families. Entry is free and there is a lot of green space to spread out a picnic rug and enjoy Balmain’s village vibe. There will be numerous road closures from 3pm onwards, so buses will have free rein. Catch a 444 or 445 down Darling Street straight to Illoura Reserve, or you can take the 441 to Mort Bay Park and Birchgrove Park. All parks and reserves in the Balmain peninsula worth spreading your rug on are designated as alcohol-free areas.

Parramatta Old King’s School

Parramatta Council will host a huge free event especially tailored to families along the Parramatta River foreshore, on the grounds of the Old King’s School. Live entertainment will feature an appearance from Curious George the monkey and some rocking soul performances to keep the parents’ enthusiasm piqued. Food, rides and roving performances will ensure the party mood endures until a spectacular fireworks finale at 9pm. The celebrations start at 4pm – get there early to ensure you are not turned away if the grounds reach maximum capacity. The event is alcohol-free.

For more information see the Parramatta City website.

Brighton Le Sands

You can get the best of the fireworks and water views in Brighton Le Sands with Rockdale Council’s fireworks released off barges on Botany Bay at 9pm. The foreshore parks of Cook Park and Lady Robinsons Beach provide the perfect new year family destination with great access to toilets, public transport and plenty of green space and sand for picnickers. Brighton Le Sands foreshore parkland is alcohol and glass free.

For more information see Rockdale Council’s NYE guide. Young ones

Coogee Beach

Even if you haven’t booked tickets to any of the parties in Coogee, you can still make an event of New Year’s Eve by heading to Gordons Bay in the afternoon for a dip before making your way around the headland to Dunningham Reserve, where Coogee’s fireworks will be released at 9pm. Secure a spot on Trenerry Reserve on the southern side of the beach to get a complete view of the display, and a little distance from the night’s revelries. The Coogee Bay Hotel and Coogee Pavilion will be thumping.

For more information about the Coogee Sparkles event go to Randwick Council’s website.

Blues Point

Blues Point is a Sydney sweet spot that’s worth getting to early. Smack bang in front of the Harbour Bridge and entirely free, secure a patch of grass here and you can be sure to start off the new year very smug. Simply catch the train to North Sydney station and walk down Blues Point Road. Bring a guitar and some snacks and usher in 2016 with perfect views. Non-alcoholic drinks and food will be available on site.

Parramatta River foreshore

Parramatta is pulling out all stops to provide a New Year’s Eve event that rivals the house music and hordes of young people on Sydney Harbour. While Paramatta’s youth-oriented event on the river foreshore between Lennox Bridge and Parramatta Wharf is strictly alcohol-free, a well-curated DJ line-up, hip-hop dancers and jet-ski pyrotechnics more than makes up for it. Enjoy Parramatta’s 9pm fireworks, then head to one of the numerous bars in the area to dance away the rest of your evening.

For more information see the Parramatta City website. Seniors

Dee Why Beach

The buzzing atmosphere and stunning views at Dee Why will bring you a New Year’s Eve to boast about. Crackers will be released at 9pm off a barge, showering Dee Why’s expansive beach. There are restaurants along the Strand, or you can bring a picnic to eat on the beach as you strain the sand with your toes.

For more information see the Sydney南京夜网 website.

Westfield Miranda

Westfield Miranda features the only fireworks display in the Sutherland Shire. The Shire community has come together to make this a luxurious evening with live music and a dedicated fireworks display at 8.45pm.

For more information see the Sutherland Shire’s website.

Nield Park Oval, Five Dock

This is an old inner west favourite that is easily accessible with nearby parking, toilets and a passable view of Sydney’s fireworks. While you won’t be able to see the Harbour Bridge, the city skyline will certainly be alight, and a short walk to Rodd Point will earn you water views across Iron Cove. Catch a 436 bus to Rodd Point and bring some snacks. Couples

Campbelltown, Koshigaya Park

So you were looking forward to all the extravaganza and romance of NYE with crowds, colourful entertainment and a brilliant firework display at midnight – but you haven’t booked anything. Campbelltown’s Koshigaya Park could be your salvation. Enjoy funky DJs with adult entertainment starting from 8pm onwards, fireworks displays at 9pm and midnight, and lots of food. Share fairy floss with your loved one and take a spin on the Ferris wheel. The park is within easy walking distance from parking in Campbelltown’s CBD and Campbelltown train station.

For more information see Campbelltown Council’s website.

Woolwich Peninsula

Couples who want to nestle in greenery with a picnic and unencumbered views of Sydney Harbour would do well to make their way to Clarke’s Point Reserve near Woolwich Marina. This reserve has a rich industrial history – a short stroll around the dock will provide a pretty interlude before sundown. Leave your car in Hunters Hill and catch the 528 down Woolwich Road. Parts of the reserve are steep, so leave your heels at home.

Rowland Reserve, Bayview

Rowland Reserve is a secret hideaway from the hot mess that is Sydney on December 31. Enjoy fireworks displays at 9pm and midnight, intermingled with the sound of waves lapping on the sand of this protected bay. Yachts, dinghies and bush in the background only make Rowland Reserve more picturesque. Alcohol is prohibited. Road closures and restrictions

Sydney Harbour Bridge will be closed from 11pm to 1am. Anzac Bridge, Victoria Road and the Western Distributor will be closed from 8.30pm to 9.30pm and from 11.30pm to 1am.

There will be road closures in the CBD and other areas such as Balmain, Birchgrove, Parramatta and North Sydney. Check council websites for specific streets and times – using public transport is recommended.

Additional bus services will be travelling to and from the celebrations. Some ferry services end as early as 5.39pm, so plan your trip ahead.

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

Opal heralds end to most paper tickets for NSW public transport

Long-time transport ticket collector Noel Farr is sceptical Opal will help reduce fare evasion. Photo: Nic Walker The sale of most public transport tickets will cease in NSW on New Year’s Day. Photo: Nic Walker
Nanjing Night Net

The new year marks the end of the line for the vast majority of NSW’s magnetic-striped paper tickets for public transport.

Long a part of daily life for millions, they are about to become relegated to the collections of people such as Noel Farr, of Camperdown in Sydney’s inner west.

Mr Farr, 61, who has collected about 10,000 transport tickets since the 1970s, said the move signalled the end of an era for paper tickets.

“It is a progression. We have gone from Edmondson ticketing to the magnetic-striped tickets and now to Opal,” he said.

“If it’s an improvement in the system, I am all for it. But I am a bit doubtful that it is an improvement.”

As part of the switch to the state’s Opal electronic ticketing system, 57 types of magnetic paper tickets will no longer be sold to commuters from New Year’s Day, including MyBus Travel Ten, MyMulti Weekly and Pensioner Excursion.

Mr Farr is sceptical about suggestions Opal will help the government reduce fare evasion, because only about 16 per cent of train stations have gates.

“When they bought out paper tickets they said it would eliminate fare evasion and reduce cost,” he said. “Now they are saying that about the Opal cards. Unless you put gates on every station, it will never happen.”

However, Transport for NSW said a recent survey showed fare evasion across the state’s transport network dropped from 11 per cent in 2012 to 5.2 per cent this year. About 70 per cent of passengers pass through stations that have gates.

Another collector of NSW travel tickets, who wanted to remain anonymous to safeguard his collection, said the state risked watching history “slipping through its hands” because the concept of archiving old tickets was foreign to many in government.

Although the sale of the vast majority of tickets will end, single and return adult and concession tickets for buses, trains, ferries and light rail will still be sold as part of efforts to cater for tourists and infrequent users of public transport.

More than 4.7 million Opal cards are now in circulation in NSW. About 700,000 Gold Opal cards have been issued to pensioners, senior commuters and war widows; the card caps their fares at $2.50 a day.

The NSW government has spent $1.4 billion on the electronic ticketing system.

About 100 top-up machines for Opal cards have been installed at train stations, ferry wharves, light rail stops and major bus interchanges, and transport officials expect 350 to be in operation early next year.

The government has said it will give commuters “plenty of notice” of the final date they can use paper tickets that will no longer be sold from January 1.

Whereas tickets such as the Family Funday Sunday will become a relic of the past, fares will be capped at $2.50 for travel on Sundays for Opal card holders.

Opal also gives cardholders unlimited free trips after they have notched up eight paid journeys in a week.

At one of Australia’s largest train museums, Trainworks at Thirlmere, staff have spent the last year cataloguing a large collection of the state’s railway tickets from the past century.

It includes more than 17,000 Edmondson tickets donated by former NSW station master Ken Ames, who now lives in Tasmania.

The drawcards include nine-carat gold “life passes” issued to parliamentarians and governors-general for free journeys on the state’s public transport system.

Etched on each of the gold passes is a coat of arms and the recipient’s name.

Not everyone, however, is enamoured of paper transport tickets.

Mr Farr admits his wife, May, doesn’t share his passion for collecting thousands of tickets, including Edmondson cardboard tickets. “She doesn’t quite understand … “

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

Canberra traffic means big business for south coast arts community

Lizette Richards and Paul Ware, of the Artery Gallery, Mossy Point. Photo: Jay Cronan Paul Ware, of the Artery Gallery, Mossy Point, says the gallery had become well known because it had been established for a long time. Photo: Jay Cronan
Nanjing Night Net

Lizette Richards, of the Artery Gallery, Mossy Point, says summer is the gallery’s big trading period. Photo: Jay Cronan

Complete South Coast summer holiday guide

The annual pilgrimage to the south coast means big business for local art galleries that pin their hopes on tourist trade.

For Paul Ware and Lizette Richards, the owner operators of the Artery Gallery, south of Batemans Bay in Mossy Point, it is also a chance to make up for quieter months.

“During winter we may only open two days a week but summer is our big trading period so we try to get work from as many local artists as we can,” Ms Richards said.

“I think people around here know that Canberrans have money and they know that they want to spend it while they are down here.”

Ms Richards said her gallery was often filled with tourists who wondered why local cafes were not open every day during December and January as they had money to spend.

The couple, who began the gallery as a hobby in 2002 to showcase local talent, have come to rely on the summer period to boost their sales. While managing full-time work in other professions and children at school, they have spent months acquiring stock and working with local artists.

“We like to have a range of things and prices because people tend to wander in and not expect to buy something,” Ms Richards said. “We have a lot of local honey and also some bigger works as well, like furniture and paintings.”

Mr Ware, who builds furniture for the store and sells photography, said this year’s winter trading period had been worse than normal and they were hoping for better success over summer.

“We thrive on the Canberra trade over summer,” Ms Richards said. “This winter has been dead although the last few winters have been OK, we got through them just fine,” she said.

“We never used to sell much in the lead-up to christmas but that’s changed too. We would go month to month as we’re not a big business, but our Januaries have always been good.”

The couple are also preparing to work every day until the end of March to maximise their sales.

“After the school holidays finish you get a lot of older couples who travel to the coast to have a summer without all the Canberrans around, so it’s still quite busy for us, Ms Richards said. “The water is warm until Easter and we try to have as much stock as possible.”

The arts community on the south coast has been building slowly in recent years with many galleries in Mogo, south of Batemans Bay.

“There are quite a few little galleries dotted along the south coast and we are quite well known because we have been here for so long,” Mr Ware said.

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

Australorp breeder Peter D’Arcy in 30-year quest for a champion chook

Australorp breeder Peter D’Arcy at his Carwoola property feeding his hens and rooster. Photo: Jeffrey ChanPeter D’Arcy does not care for the eggs of these Australorp chooks, even though the Australian breed became the world’s best layers.
Nanjing Night Net

Look at that 12-month-old rooster at right. He represents Mr D’Arcy’s 30 years of breeding for the perfect bird.

“His confirmation is close to ideal, he’s broad, lovely curves, very good black round eye,” says the retired Canberra primary school teacher, with a proven eye for a champion.

The red serrated comb and wattles hanging from its throat, coal black feathers with an iridescent green tinge could earn enough points to win the Sydney Royal Easter Show next year.

Developed from English Orpingtons in the early 1900s, Australorps shot to fame when one laid 364 eggs in 365 days, smashing the record. These days commercial producers prefer high performance isa browns, which originated from France.

As backyard enthusiasts across Canberra are discovering, the French imports run out of puff after a few years, unlike the plump Aussie Australorp, a stayer of a layer.

Australorp Club of Australia president, Mr D’Arcy moved with his wife Robyn to the bush overlooking the Molonglo River at Carwoola 25 years ago.

From June, when ice lines the river and days grow shorter, lights come on at 5am in Mr D’Arcy’s breeder sheds and burn away until 10pm to coax his hens to lay.

“You nearly feel guilty when they look at you as if to say, ‘you want me to breed now’ ?” he says.

He examines his chooks for external and internal parasites. He feeds them a consistent diet which began when they were freshly hatched. Chicken crumble at first, after they are hatched in a big incubator. As day-old chicks they keep warm under lights for six to eight weeks.

Then they progress to pullet grower feed, and finally, show and breeder pellets. Sweet-smelling lucerne hay is heaped in their yard to scratch through, and vegie scraps grown from the raised plots their yards surround are served regularly.

Mr D’Arcy won best standard Australorp at the Sydney Royal Show last year, and first, third, fourth and fifth in the pullets. The previous year he won first, second and third in the pullets.

“You get a bit closer and closer, every bird you look at has a minor thing you would like to improve,” he said.

“The difficult part is a good serration – the comb, it is worth four and six points. The eyes have to be perfectly round and dark, beak has to be as dark as possible, legs have to be black with white souls and white toenails,” Mr D’Arcy says..

He travels to Cooma, Moss Vale, Bega, Sydney, Wagga, and Queenslands for the national championship. “You talk to people from a club point of view, from a breeding point of view, you swap eggs, you swap chooks,” he said.

“You can outsource [breeding]. There are good breeders around, a bloke in Bredbo, a good breeder in Bega, there used to be one of Australia’s top breeders who lived in Queanbeyan, Jim O’Malley.

Mr O’Malley became legendary when a photograph of his Australorp cockerel was chosen as the breed’s perfect chook. When the D’Arcy family lived at Farrar they named their rooster James after Mr O’Malley. James left after a neighbour complained, much to the distress of the D’Arcy’s daughters.

“They are a very quiet breed, a lot of people have hens in Canberra and the Australorp are quiet birds, neighbours would hardly know they existed,” Mr D’Arcy said.

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

Apple faces $5 million class action over iPhone fault claims

Users are having problems downloading iOS 9. iPhone 4s Photo: supplied
Nanjing Night Net

iOS 9 was meant to smooth out most of the rough edges left from previous versions.

Apple has been hit with a $5 million class action from 4s iPhone owners seeking damages for deceptive trade practices and false advertising.

The lawsuit comes after reports that the older model iPhone’s functions are disrupted after users upgrade to iOS 9 software.

More than 100 people have joined the class action filed on 29 December, claiming the iOS9 rendered their 4s iPhones essentially unusable, according to documents published on AppleInsider.

Planned obsolescence is at the heart of the lawsuit, with plaintiffs claiming the upgrade “interfered with the normal usage of the device”, including touchscreen responsiveness, freezes and crashes.

The lawsuit goes further, asserting that the tech giant and engineers at Cupertino were aware of the deleterious effects the iOS 9 upgrade on the 4s models through internal testing, or “other means”, yet proceeded with the upgrade regardless.

The class action is also critical of Apple’s advertising campaign, claiming it misleads consumers by suggesting the upgrade would increase the performance and battery life of the iPhones.

The final insult: a number of the plaintiffs claim they were forced to purchase new iPhones, arguing that the iOS “ecosystem” meant users were loathed to switch to a competitor.

iOS9 copped heavy criticism when it launched in September for slowing down even the latest generation iPhones.

A significant number of Apple customers complained that their mobile devices crashed after attempting to upgrade to the new upgrade, the latest in a line of launch glitches for the tech giant.

Twitter and other social media were awash with disgruntled customers reporting two distinct faults, with one appearing to be linked specifically to older models of Apple iPhones and iPads.

A poll by9to5Mac found 43 per cent of 33,000 respondents said their iPhone was “significantly slower after the update.

iOS9 claimed to have, for the most part, fixed the problem, 9to5Mac reported.

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

Big Bash League: Perth’s Michael Klinger and Shaun Marsh in record stand as Renegades’ bowlers fail

Melbourne Renegades’ paucity of strike bowlers while James Pattinson is on national duty was again ruthlessly exposed, as Michael Klinger and Shaun Marsh made Perth the first team in Australia to mount a successful chase without losing a wicket.
Nanjing Night Net

Klinger’s 90 from 58 deliveries and Marsh’s 76 from 54 took Perth to victory with eight balls to spare, after the Renegades had made 4-170.

The record non-derby crowd of 26,787 at Etihad Stadium would have been disappointed that the Renegades were again unable to defend a hefty total, just as happened against Sydney Sixers a week earlier. But they would have been impressed by the masterful batting of veteran Klinger and Marsh.

For Klinger, it was another reminder of his reliability as a top-order batsman in either limited-overs format. For Marsh, who spent the preceding four days carrying drinks at the MCG despite his 182 in Hobart, it continued his remarkable record in Melbourne. Since the Big Bash League expansion in 2011-12, the left-hander has scored 99 not out off 52 against the Renegades and 79 off 51 against the Stars, before Wednesday night’s effort.

Almost as pivotal to the Scorchers’ victory was their opening bowler, Jason Behrendorff. The left-armer bowled half of the powerplay overs, yet finished with 2-14, with 15 dots from his four overs, in a performance that should have caught the eye of national selectors.

The suspicion that the Renegades’ weakness is their bowling was reinforced by the Scorchers reaching 0-86 at the halfway mark. Their only nervous moments came when Marsh twice riskily lofted the ball on the leg side during the powerplay. Both times it fell safely between fielders.

By the time Marsh twice hit Hauritz over his head for sixes in the 12th over and then nudged a few singles in the next, both he and Klinger had reached their half-centuries and the Scorchers needed just 57 off the last 42 deliveries.

Earlier, the Renegades enjoyed a 98-run opening stand, with captain Aaron Finch taking the lead ahead of big-hitting West Indies batsman Chris Gayle. Gayle fell in the 12th over for 41 off 35 deliveries, but it was the loss of Finch early in the 18th over, for 72 off 48 deliveries, that was more consequential as they were unable to successfully accelerate at the death, despite having plenty of wickets in hand. Team P W L NR T Pts NRR Sydney Thunder 33—61.155Perth Scorchers 321–40.754Sydney Sixers 422–40.708Adelaide Strikers 321–4-0.081Hobart Hurricanes 321–4-1.000Melbourne Stars 312–2-0.082Melbourne Renegades 312–2-0.290Brisbane Heat 4-4–0-1.107

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

Video captures man’s attempt to catch woman falling 11 storeys

Man attempts to catch woman falling 11 storeys Photo: Supplied Man attempts to catch woman falling 11 storeys Photo: Supplied
Nanjing Night Net

Warning: the following contains content that may be distressing to some readers.

A former soldier has been left with serious injuries after he attempted to catch a woman who plummeted 11 storeys from a building.

The dramatic attempted rescue was captured on a surveillance camera in Chongwen Square in the Hubei Province, China.

Feng Ning, a 23-year-old army veteran can be seen in the black-and-white footage rushing into the street, his arms outstretched as a group of passers-by watch on.

Mr Feng frantically adjusts his position, darting forward and to the side, but always looking up.

A split-second later, the woman’s body falls through the top of the frame in a sickening blur. Her rapid descent knocks the man to the ground.

The woman later died of her injuries, according to Chinese news network CCTV.

Mr Feng writhes on the ground as bystanders came to his aid.

“There was a loud noise, as if it was an earthquake. Then I heard the young man screaming in pain,” a witness told CCTV.

“The young man cried and cried while sweating badly. He looked as if he was in a great pain,” the witness said.

He was taken to hospital, suffering injuries to his knee joints (torn anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments, as well as a dislocated medial ligament) and a tibial plateau fracture, according to his treating doctor.

Mr Feng was walking to a restaurant when he hear someone crying out for help from a residential building nearby, CCTV reported.

He looked skywards and saw a woman hanging from an 11th floor window, he said.

“I ran to the building, but she had already fallen before I could reach the entrance. So I got ready to catch her instead. I don’t know what happened next,” Mr Feng said, according to an English translation.

“I don’t regret. It’s a shame I couldn’t save her,” Mr Feng said from his hospital bed.

The circumstances that led to the woman’s fall is unclear.

Feng joined the army as a college student in 2013. He retired in September after full service, CCTV reported.

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