Monthly Archives: December 2018

OPINION: Slingshot launch pad for bright new ideas

LIGHT UP: The government is committed to supporting entrepreneurs.LIGHT UP: The government is committed to supporting entrepreneurs.
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AS our economy undergoes structural change, the future success of many Australian industries will rely heavily upon their ability to innovate and adapt.

Those who develop new ideas, integrate new technologies and employ modern, competitive ways of doing business will be out in front.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of launching the first Hunter-based technology accelerator, Slingshot – a fine example of the power of innovation at work.

This unique program will invest $10million of seed funding into Australian companies to help them turn innovative ideas into commercial realities.

Ten emerging businesses will be selected to take part in the intense 12-week program where they will co-locate in Slingshot’s Newcastle offices, be given access to leading business mentors and be exposed to investors, partners and sponsors.

The end result could be remarkable new companies ready to pitch themselves to venture capitalists for further funding here and abroad; helping create new jobs.

The journey from good idea to new product or service can present many challenges.

The Gillard government is focused on fostering competitive and innovative industries, including through promoting venture capital.

The Slingshot program, for example, utilises the government’s Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnership tax arrangements to raise the dedicated seed funding required to support successful enterprises.

Opportunities exist, for assistance, through other government initiatives such as the Innovation Investment Fund, Commercialisation Australia, the R&D Tax Incentive, Enterprise Connect and Industry Innovation Precincts.

This approach also plays into the Gillard government’s central objective of creating and supporting local jobs.

Our recently-released Industry and Innovation Statement, A Plan for Australian Jobs, is a $1billion investment in productivity, prosperity and jobs.

It will ensure Australian firms have the opportunity to bid for more work, create industry precincts that strengthen our ability to win business abroad, and help small and medium businesses grow.

As part of this plan, the government will invest a further $350million in the Innovation Investment Fund, matched by private industry, to create an additional $700million in venture capital for smart Australian businesses.

There are improvements to venture capital taxation arrangements, and support for emerging technology is also evident through the government’s investment in high speed broadband – the backbone of the new digital economy.

The National Broadband Network (NBN), which is already rolling out in our region, will improve the competitive advantage of regional centres such as Newcastle and support entry into global markets and supply chains.

We are committed to supporting small business and entrepreneurs to reach their potential. The government’s Digital Enterprise Program, for example, is providing free group training and face-to-face support for SMEs and not-for-profit organisations to help improve service delivery online.

There is a positive alignment between what Slingshot, created by locals Craig Lambert and Trent Bagnall, aims to achieve and the Gillard government’s vision to drive innovation, create jobs and improve our competitiveness for the future.

Slingshot’s partners include the Newcastle Herald, Sparke Helmore, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Hunter Business Chamber, University of Newcastle, and TAFE.

By bringing together our best businesses and researchers to create global quality products, boosting capability for business and entrepreneurs, and providing access to capital to grow early stage businesses, the government is creating the base from which creative entrepreneurs, through initiatives like Slingshot, can thrive.

The key drivers of economic change are the rise of the digital economy and the shift towards a low-carbon global economy.

Our investments in the NBN and the Clean Energy Future package will help Australian industry, including those based here in the Hunter, to embrace and profit from these changes.

Greg Combet is the federal Labor member for Charlton and the Minister for Industry and Innovation.

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Finance expert new acting GM 

NEWCASTLE City Council’s new acting general manager says he has “no false expectations” about the challenges facing the city during a $190 million round of cost cutting.
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Ken Gouldthorp, the former Toowoomba Regional Council chief executive, will begin his new job in Newcastle on Monday.

Mr Gouldthorp has accepted a six-month contract as the city’s interim chief, and said yesterday it was “too early to mention” whether he would be a candidate for the job on a permanent basis.

“I’d never rule anything out,” he said.

Mr Gouldthorp arrives in Newcastle with experience leading councils and other organisations through periods of significant change. At Mackay and Toowoomba he steered regional councils through mergers.

This has not always been without controversy. In Mackay he was dubbed “cashed-up Ken” by local media when he walked away from the newly amalgamated regional council with two years’ salary.

At Toowoomba, he managed about 1700 staff before resigning suddenly last year. Newcastle is a smaller organisation but the job comes with a higher profile and the responsibility of reversing dire budget projections.

Mr Gouldthorp is a qualified accountant and has degrees in economics and finance and a masters degree in commerce.

His financial qualifications are understood to have weighed heavily during the selection process.

The immediate challenge in Newcastle will be cost-cutting plans that are already well underway.

The council wants to cut 10 per cent from its annual budgets over two years and is working through proposals internally before releasing them for comment in the coming months.

Mr Gouldthorp said his first tasks would include going over council budgets and financial projections.

“I have no false expectations about the work and the changes that are required,” he said.

Lord mayor Jeff McCloy said he was pleased to get Mr Gouldthorp on board, although the Newcastle Herald understands the council decision to appoint Mr Gouldthorp was not unanimous.

“Mr Gouldthorp is very keen to get started and help council’s executive leadership team guide the city through its current financial challenges,” Cr McCloy said.

He will become the fifth occupant of the general manager’s office since 2008.

The revolving door has spat out Janet Dore, Lindy Hyam, acting boss Rob Noble and Phil Pearce.

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Tapuai fancied a Rebels move

Queensland Reds inside-centre Ben Tapuai last year seriously contemplated a future as a Melbourne Rebel.
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The Rebels chased him hard and he was tempted to return to the city where he grew up, but in the end he decided to remain at the Reds and take advantage of the start he had been given by coach Ewen McKenzie, when he snared a regular position in 2011 and was part of the championship-winning team.

Tapuai had moved to the Gold Coast after taking up a scholarship to The Southport School.

So the 24-year-old remains part of the cluster of Australian players who grew up in Victoria but are part of rival teams, with the talented back among the Reds team that will play against the Rebels at AAMI Park on Friday night.

Tapuai is contracted to the Reds until the end of next year, and while he has not thought about his future beyond that date, he said the possibility of one day playing for the Rebels held some appeal.

”I just pretty much started, so if I moved again [last year] it just would have felt like I had started again,” said Tapuai, who played rugby at Box Hill.

”I was contemplating going, but at the end of the day I stuck at it and stuck with the Reds … but in saying that it would be awesome to go back to Melbourne and to finish off there, but I haven’t even thought of that.”

Tapuai’s star has risen to the extent that he has now played seven Tests for the Wallabies and is regarded as an integral part of the Reds back line, despite the bigger name players around him, such as Quade Cooper, the injured Will Genia and Digby Ioane. He said a change in attitude before the 2011 season sparked the upward momentum of his career.

”I think it’s commitment and diet. I was pretty bad in the diet situation. I just kind of ate anything and everything and then that pre-season – end of 2010, start of 2011 – that’s when I started to try and take things serious and things worked for me and it paid off.”

But Tapuai’s immediate thoughts are on Friday night’s clash with a Rebels team that he believed would provide more challenges than at any time during the Reds’ previous games this season.

”If they were playing in Melbourne last week against the Tahs, I reckon they would have got away with it … they were up 16-6 at half-time and they let it go in the last 20,” he said.

”But if you look at them from two years ago when they were beaten by the Waratahs by at least 30 points … they’ve improved immensely.”

Tapuai said the Rebels would lose little with James O’Connor replacing Kurtley Beale at five-eighth, with Beale sidelined with a broken hand.

Reds five-eighth Quade Cooper agreed with that assessment, noting that O’Connor had bulked up during his lay-off with injury. ”He’s grown up a lot and he’s a lot bigger. He’s not like a little 18-year-old any more.”

With aap

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Family happy with peacekeeper decision

NO ONE could ever tell proud father Peter Pridue that his son Beau’s service wasn’t worthy of the Australian War Memorial’s roll of honour.
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Yesterday, after a sustained campaign by Mr Pridue and the families of other fallen soldiers, the war memorial council made the historic decision to overturn its policy on the recognition of peacekeepers.

Speers Point soldier Beau Pridue, who died in a vehicle crash in East Timor in 2011, will now have his name etched on the panels that mark the service of Australia’s 102,000 war dead.

‘‘It’s probably the best day since he passed away, just knowing that it’s probably the last thing I will be able to do for him,’’ Mr Pridue said yesterday.

‘‘It’s just brilliant.

‘‘All those young lads who were killed will all be looking down saying ‘we have been remembered and respected’.’’

For decades, the war memorial has not recognised peacekeepers on the roll of honour if their service was not deemed ‘‘warlike’’.

If Craftsman Pridue’s accident had occurred in Afghanistan, his name would have automatically been recorded on the honour roll.

Instead, his name is one of 48 included in a remembrance book that remains locked away behind a glass cabinet at the Australian War Memorial.

The campaign to recognise peacekeepers began with Perth mother Avril Clarke, whose son Jamie died in the Solomon Islands in 2005.

Ms Clarke’s Change上海夜网 petition gained 41,000 signatures. The campaign was also supported by the Newcastle Herald.

Yesterday’s Herald online poll found readers more than 95per cent in favour of peacekeepers being included in the honour roll.

“This is an incredible victory for people power. I am just over the moon,” Ms Clarke said.

“For years, I had been fighting a lone battle to win some respect and recognition for peacekeepers like Jamie who had died serving their country.’’

War memorial council chairman Rear Admiral Ken Doolan said the decision reflected ‘‘a wider community perspective in a changing world.

“The founder of the memorial, Charles Bean, could not have envisioned the world in which we now live, but it is important that we uphold the spirit of his vision,’’ he said.

He said it is of vital importance that members of the defence force be fittingly commemorated.

The council will add a new plaque to the honour roll to commemorate the fallen peacekeepers. It is expected to be completed by September.

Change上海夜网 campaigns director Karen Skinner said the decision was a David and Goliath story.

“A working mum from Perth has managed to create a national movement and convince one of the most venerable institutions in Australia to change their policy,” Ms Skinner said.

BEST: Peter Pridue at Speers Point. Picture: Simone De Peak

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To market, to market: Kitchen crew hit the road to pressure cooker

Tasmania’s Sam is feeling the farming vibe with his checked shirt. Going bananas… just another day in the My Kitchen Rules competition.
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Tonight on MKR it’s Market Madness, as Australia’s most popular reality program turns to social commentary with an unflinching look at the failures of late capitalism.

We begin with the theme song blaring “This is the best night of my life”, a lyric that is by now devastatingly ironic, and then some dramatic action film music as the teams walk purposefully towards Kitchen Headquarters.

“My heart’s thumpin’,” says knockabout bloke Mick in a knockabout way. Is he nervous? No, just really unhealthy.

“Hey guys, the kitchen’s closed,” calls Luke with the sort of naturalistically convincing depiction of surprise rarely seen outside Meryl Streep acceptance speeches. All the contestants are shocked at this unexpected twist – they never saw it coming.

The sign says more information is in the cars. “Go to your cars? I can’t drive!” exclaims Ashlee. Oh no! I guess she’ll just have to stay there then, sitting outside Kitchen Headquarters playing with passing ants, as she was woefully unprepared for this dynamic and utterly unpredictable turn of events.

In the cars they find a letter telling them that Pete and Manu have decided they need time to find themselves, and wishing them all the happiness in the world.

No, actually it’s a letter telling them to drive to Sydney Markets, where they will open stalls and sell their food to the public. The team that makes the most money wins.

This is a great challenge, as there is no more discerning audience for fine cuisine than the patrons of Sydney Markets. It also tests the number one criterion for any aspiring chef: the ability to yell loudly enough at as many people as possible until they give you their money.

The first snag is struck when it is discovered that nobody can reverse a car without putting themselves in mortal danger. Horns honk, Melina screams, the police are called, and we’re off to the markets.

“The first team there gets to start shopping and start cooking before anyone else,” says Luke, his years of study on the linear nature of time having paid off in spades here.

Sophia demands that Craig not let anyone in, playing the Ethel Merman to his Milton Berle in this culinary-themed reboot of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World. “Craig’s as competitive as we are, so it’s a good match,” Sophie informs us, although to be honest it seems more like the prelude to a violent in-car murder.

“Such a smooth car,” says Ali, aware of how much Honda has paid for its products to appear in this episode. “Such a good driver!” retorts Sam waggishly, ruining the moment.

Samuel interjects in a cutaway to explain how Sydney is very big, compared to other places that are smaller. Here the markets are far away but in Tassie it takes five minutes to get to the markets. Nobody points out to him that it takes five minutes to get to the markets in Sydney too if you live five minutes away from the markets, because nobody who works on MKR has any interest in exposing the deeper truths of the universe. “From anywhere,” adds Ali, the filthy liar.

In Josh and Andi’s car, tension is rising, and by “car” I mean “relationship”. “Where do I go?” demands Andi. “Just settle down,” says Josh, refusing to answer the question. Andi puts her hands to her head, thereby rendering herself unable to either steer or see.

Everyone else is just stunned by the size of the markets, especially Ali and Samuel, since in Tassie every building is only a metre high.

Pete and Manu are looked for in the throng, and after a quick edit cutting out the four days of searching, they are located. “This is where you’re shopping, this is where you’re cooking!” Manu bellows. Or maybe he said, “Tease it, wear your chopping, tizzle we’re yo cocking.” Or “Underwear’s a-hopping, just beware your booking”. I honestly have no idea any more. Manu explains the teams have 90 minutes to shop (“shoop”?), cook and start selling, a look of abject terror on his face. This cutaway was filmed after the challenge, and you can tell that Manu has seen things this day that he knows he can never un-see.

Pete tells Dan, Steph, Luke and Scott that they were the last to arrive and they had better hurry up. They stand there gazing at him, unable to move, transfixed by his diamond-cutter cheekbones.

In the markets, Mick and Matt are bewildered – the Sydney Markets are actually three times the size of Tasmania itself. “I feel like I’ve just flown into Bangkok,” says Mick, bewildered by the amount of transgender sex being offered to him. A quick series of cuts establish that the market is a) big; b) full of people waving bananas; and c) being destroyed by MKR idiots crashing their trolleys into stuff.

Joanna is insistent she win the people’s choice today, but Jenna is already on her fifth drink of the morning and it looks doubtful. “I just want to make the most money,” says Joanna, as Jenna nods along, blissfully ignorant of her surroundings. Joanna commandeers the PA system to announce she will be providing hotcakes for all. She is besieged by anxious shoppers wondering where their lost child is.

Kerrie and Craig are making gozleme, which is a thing apparently. Kerrie worries that Craig doesn’t know what he’s doing: Craig assures her he has changed. Mick and Matt are making cinnamon chicken, but their shopping is being put at risk by Mick’s intense misanthropy.

Meanwhile, Jake is hitting people with his trolley and harassing an innocent AC/DC fan to bring him some pork. Josh is pushing his way through the throng. He feels like Moses parting the sea, and dreams of drowning thousands. “I think people are going to like our dish, Josh!” Andi shrieks in his ear for no particular reason.

Elsewhere, Manu is ordering Ashlee and Sophia to run, for his own dark motives. Ashlee and Sophia quickly move into top gear, saying “Babe” more than times within a minute.

Ali and Samuel are making spiced chicken with a pumpkin rosti. Samuel explains to Ali that it is a South American dish, delighting in her ignorance. He then explains that it’s actually a multicultural dish, containing “flavours of the world”. He then explains that a rosti is a “Swedish pancake”, as Ali begins to think very seriously about having him committed. “Definitely food fit for this market,” Samuel declares. Apparently the market is full of people who also don’t know what a rosti is.

The teams begin pricing their dishes, and Sophia begins calling Kerrie “Babe”, which is an act of uncalled-for aggression against a foreign power. Elsewhere, peeling these prawns will take Dan an eternity, mainly because he thinks he’s still in bed. Dan and Steph think their dish is multicultural too, unaware of how racist prawns can be. What Dan loves about the dish is that it’s easy to eat: Dan has been burnt by difficult foods before.

Activity is furious, but curiosity begins to grow as to why Jake and Elle have yet to return to their stall. Have they been involved in a fatal trolley pile-up? No it’s just that they need limes and their metalhead pork boy has played them for suckers.

Scott tells us that today’s challenge is all about serving great dishes to the public, even though it’s actually all about sweating heavily and yelling. Pete is explaining the rules of the challenge to Manu, who had no idea because he wasn’t listening to the voice-over before. Manu explains the rules back to Pete. Everyone seems pretty happy.

And Jake and Elle have their pork! Jake begins harassing people forthwith. They’ll need to, because Angela and Melina are making popcorn chicken with hot chips – they’ve been to markets before. Melina shouts “Eat me!” and a popular new ring-tone is born.

The batter is proving difficult, however. “It’s like a five-spice batter party!” Melina yells. “I’ve got batter in my hair!” Angela screeches. It’s all incredibly arousing. But the last thing Melina is thinking is that she’s making a mess – she’s actually thinking about the family of otters hidden inside her hairdo.

Manu yells at Jake and Elle. Jake yells at Elle. The cycle of violence continues. Elle, admirably, does not kick Jake in the crotch.

Over at Sam and Chris’ stall, Sam and Chris are still on the show.

Meanwhile, Joanna is pouring out an industrial bag of flour while Jenna tries to remember how to spell “hotcakes”. Over at Luke and Scott’s stall, Luke makes a pun about corn and therefore is automatically eliminated.

Kerrie is screaming at Craig as yet another mince-related divorce begins to loom. Manu explains to Pete how they couldn’t find any mince, and Pete’s eyeballs leap out of his head and go for a walk around the city.

Andi wants to prove she can handle couscous. Her life goals have really shrunk since she was a little girl.

Pete and Manu continue to talk about things they already know. Pete tells Manu the problem with Mick and Matt is that Mick is really slow, conveniently glossing over all the other problems. Mick is cutting up some vegetables in the rapid-fire, quicksilver manner of a man undergoing a major stroke. Meanwhile, Samuel has spilt peppercorns all over his chicken and become even less likely to get Ali into bed.

At Ashlee and Sophia’s stall they are calling each other “Babe”, but suddenly drama, as the “Babes” subside and begin to be replaced by words too rude for Channel Seven to air. The pressure is getting to them and suddenly Ashlee and Sophia are sniping viciously at each other in the same way everyone else in the world wants to. It’s possible that within a few minutes someone will be disembowelled with tongs.

Sophia tries to mend bridges by calling Ashlee “Babe” a few more times, but Ashlee is having none of it, hurling bleeps back like R2-D2. It’s all very amusing to Jake and Elle, who like nothing more than watching friendships disintegrate.

Speaking of disintegration, Kerrie and Craig now loathe each other. When they were married, Craig never revealed that he was terrible at mincing, and this deception has hit Kerrie hard. But if there’s anything slower than Craig’s mincing, it’s Mick’s chopping, and Matt experiences explicit patricidal fantasies.

Joanna and Chris are making sexual innuendoes at each other and it’s disgusting. Much like Dan’s prawns. Everything Dan and Steph have made, in fact, look like what’s left on the market floor at the end of the day.

Elle is stressed by how many elements are in a Vietnamese baguette: four, apparently. Conversely, Mick is just stressed by the existence of vegetables. He begins making skewers, and at the current rate should be ready to serve by the next series of Celebrity Masterchef.

“Are you having problems?” Kerrie asks Sophia. “Not any more,” says Sophia, strongly suggesting she has murdered Ashlee. But no, happily the Babes are back.

It’s almost time to start selling, as Luke descends into insanity and starts frying up some dog vomit. What’s worse, he’s burnt it! At least he’s not Melina, who is being driven nuts by the tongs situation. Luke’s had to throw his vomit fritters into the bin. “We needed these fritters on plates, not in the bin,” says Luke, savvy businessman.

At the gates, a horde of hungry patrons wait, eager to barge down the aisle and engage in the foodie freak show that awaits. They enter, and it is time for Chris to explain the rules again. Which means it’s time for Ashlee to explain the rules again.

Money is changing hands everywhere but Angela and Melina’s stall, where there is nothing to serve except chips. Which, to be fair, still look better than most of what’s being served. Over at Jake and Elle’s stall, Jake begins shouting about his food, which seems like a major miscalculation of just how annoying Jake’s voice is. Meanwhile, Ashlee and Sophia have upped their “Babe” rate and are five minutes from degenerating into an incomprehensible Smurf-style Babe-language.

Pete and Manu are disgusted with Angela and Melina’s effort. The popcorn isn’t crispy. Manu looks around for a table to flip.

In the battle of the pancakes, Sam and Chris are winning, their ability to quickly crank out large numbers of well-made pancakes proving more effective than Jenna and Joanna’s ability to go a bit cross-eyed from time to time. Manu would have preferred fresh fruit to cooked fruit on J and J’s hotcakes, but you know, Manu, it’s not all about YOU.

Elsewhere, Andi’s couscous is lovely and fluffy and she can die happy. Which she might do soon if the look on her face is any guide.

Dan and Steph’s rice paper rolls are a success. Less successful is Samuel’s tactic of attracting customers by screaming incoherently at them. It seems less likely to earn him money than it is to have him arrested, but maybe it’s a Tasmanian thing.

Ashlee and Sophia have sold out, and so write on their board “SOLD OUT SUCKERS”, because they are just as ungracious and rude in moments of triumph as they are in moments of disappointment. They take the opportunity to wander about the market and say nasty things about everyone else, sticking with their strengths.

On seeing Angela and Melina’s dish, Sophia opines, “It looks like a mess, just like them”, just in case there was anyone left in Australia who didn’t hate her. Jake and Elle have also sold out, but Ashlee and Sophia still find ways to be bitchy about them: they are nothing if not resourceful. “Just because you put coriander in a dish doesn’t make it Vietnamese,” says Ashlee, speaking some bizarre alien tongue I am unfamiliar with.

Manu enjoys Kerrie and Craig’s gozleme, though it could be the cognac talking. He is less impressed with Mick and Matt’s cinnamon skewers lightly dusted with chicken. Mick, though, is “feeling pumped”: he’s so full of energy he’s managing to make up to three skewers an hour.

Closing time, and judgment awaits. One team will gain immunity: one team will go to sudden death. The other teams will just sort of stand there, uninterestingly. Jake expresses the hope that he has not failed: that’s what makes him such a fierce competitor.

Manu tells them they did well: he makes special comment on something or other that I can’t understand. Bad news for Luke and Scott though: Manu hated their mushy fritters. But Pete loved the mushy fritters! Pete and Manu wrestle to decide it.

Dan and Steph’s rice paper rolls are a hit: after all, a rice paper roll is just like a see-through sausage. Mick and Matt, though, were stunningly bad. As for Josh and Andi, Pete says, “what can I say except, yum!”

He then proceeds to say a lot of other things. Ali and Samuel’s chicken was delectable, though Manu found their salsa not wet enough … IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

Pete and Manu explain to Ashlee and Sophia that their dish was wonderful apart from the bits that were terrible, and also that they should have been nicer to each other: none of your business, Pete and Manu.

And of course Angela and Melina failed miserably: Manu thinks it was good for the kids, but his childlike sense of wonder was long ago beaten out of him by the misery of the world. And Kerrie and Craig did very well and do not have to split up yet.

Manu tells Joanna and Jenna that he’s been waiting for a great dessert from them … and is still waiting. Jenna begins crying, either because of the harsh judgment, or because a slight breeze just ruffled her hair.

And finally, Sam and Chris: they have nothing to worry about, says Pete. This is an exaggeration, but their pancakes were good. Pete tells them their dish looked “feminine”: everyone immediately starts worrying about Pete.

But who wins people’s choice? Who has exploited the principles of supply and demand most successfully? It is … AD BREAK.

We’re back, and Samuel explains that it’s now time to find out who made the most money, for those who tuned in during the ad break, or those with short-term memory loss. Ashlee and Sophia hope they’ve won, just to upset Angela and Melina, but they can suck it, because Jake and Elle have won. “I’m on the moon right now!” says Elle, so happy she’s forgotten how figures of speech work.

Ashlee is gutted that another Vietnamese dish won, because she has a pathological need to reduce everything to race. Sophia notes that if they had done Jake and Elle’s dish, it would have been “authentic” – several thousand TV screens are at this point kicked in.

Jake and Elle now gain immunity from elimination, and also the chance to choose another team to gain immunity. They pick Kerrie and Craig. Whatever, I guess. Everyone gets unnecessarily emotional.

But what of the most important question: who are the losers? I mean, Ashlee and Sophia obviously, but who lost the challenge? It’s Jenna and Joanna!

Manu thinks of petite and pretty when he thinks of them, and he didn’t believe their desserts were coming from them. Does he suspect them of stealing hotcakes from somebody else? Jenna is devastated, tearful and kind of sleepy. Pete would look at it as another chance to shine, but Jenna and Joanna look at it more as another chance to stab themselves with toasting forks.

And so till next week, when we will return to Kitchen Headquarters to find out who will face Jenna and Joanna in a sudden-death cook-off, and whether they’ll finally have the guts to make “sudden-death” literal … adieu!

Ben Pobjie will be appearing in Let’s Put on a Show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from April 9-14.

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Transform with NBN or miss out: Conroy

SMALL businesses will ‘‘have their lunch cut’’ by new, tech-savvy rivals if they don’t tap into the National Broadband Network and build their online capacity.
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The warning came from Senator Stephen Conroy, the federal Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, during a whistlestop visit to the Hunter yesterday.

Visiting an NBN-ready exchange in Hamilton with the federal Member for Newcastle, Sharon Grierson, and federal Labor candidate Sharon Claydon, Senator Conroy said the network would begin to roll out in Newcastle in the second half of this year. ‘‘I wouldn’t want to say in which street and on what day, because we are renting Telstra’s [facilities], so there might be need for remediation, but construction will be commencing,’’ he said.

‘‘Once we start digging in your streets, within 12 months you should get the box on the side of your house and it should go up.’’

Senator Conroy said initial work would connect about 9700 homes and businesses in Hamilton, Newcastle and surrounding suburbs.

By mid-2015 work would be under way or completed for 85,400 homes and businesses in Newcastle and surrounding areas including Charlestown, Mayfield and New Lambton.

Senator Conroy said Newcastle had ‘‘done it tough’’ when the steelworks closed and the NBN was the ‘‘extra piece in the jigsaw to really turbocharge’’ transformation.

He said the message behind the government’s digital enterprise programs, which will train individuals and business to use the NBN, was ‘‘get on board or miss out’’.

‘‘Eighty-sixper cent of Australians buy online but only a third of businesses have websites,’’ he said.

‘‘Businesses have to take this step otherwise you will have your lunch cut by new businesses coming along.’’

Brendan Brooks, president of the Hunter Digital Industry Growth and Innovation Taskforce (DiGiT), said he had received an assurance that the NBN three-year rollout regions announced last year for Newcastle, Maitland and some areas of Lake Macquarie were ‘‘locked in’’ regardless of the result of the federal election.

‘‘The NBN is very real, and the business community needs to prepare itself to take advantage of this transformational infrastructure in order to pursue competitive advantage,’’ he said.

READY TO GO: Labor candidate Sharon Claydon, left, and federal Broadband Minister Stephen Conroy, centre.

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Rawiller to miss Randwick Guineas after suspension

Nash Rawiller will miss Randwick Guineas day after he was suspended for five meetings for careless riding at Newcastle on Wednesday.
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The champion hoop pleaded guilty to shifting in at the 1000-metre mark on Ivanhoe, checking Entirely Platinum ridden by Jay Ford. He made an application to be reprimanded but stewards suspended him.

This leaves the Gai Waterhouse stable without its No.1 rider for the first leg of the three-year-old triple crown, which could be Pierro and Proisir’s next appearance.

Meanwhile, Racing NSW will move towards the model used by Victoria in charging more for premium meetings under the racefields fees, starting from Saturday’s Chipping Norton Stakes meeting at Warwick Farm.

The standard fee of 1.5 per cent of turnover will jump to 2 per cent for premium meetings that carry a race worth more than $150,000. It is the same impost Racing Victoria put on all meetings in October and November.

”This is not unique,” Racing NSW chief Peter V’landys said. “It is only fair that a premium product attracts a premium fee as it does in any other business.”

The first harness meeting to charge 2 per cent was Sunday’s Inter Dominion final at Menangle, which had nationwide turnover of more than $7 million.

“It means an extra $30,000 to $40,000 for the meeting,” Harness Racing NSW chief executive Sam Nati said. “We have set our premium meetings as ones with a race more than $30,000, and it is around 10 per cent of all our meetings.”

The racefields fee earns Harness Racing more than $7 million a year. V’landys puts racing’s product fee at $40 million to $50 million a year.

The increase has angered bookmakers. “Bookmakers will adjust their odds because of the extra costs, and it will hurt punters,” Rob Waterhouse said.

V’landys countered: “This does not affect punters, it only cuts into the profit made by the corporate bookmakers. The argument that it slugs punters is ridiculous.”

Betstar boss Alan Eskander warned that racing might be pricing itself out of the market.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Continue reading

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Tillegra Dam land put back on block

HUNTER Water Corporation is putting up for sale one of the properties acquired for the former Tillegra Dam project.
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The corporation’s board approved the sale of 182Salisbury Road, Munni, last week.

The property’s former owners chose not to take up their right of first refusal to buy back the property.

It was one of 46 properties acquired for the project over three decades that were intended to be inundated by the dam.

Eleven former Tillegra owners have been offered the opportunity to buy back their properties while others have opted to wait for the release of the Lower Hunter Water Plan this year before deciding.

The sale of the Salisbury Road property coincides with the launch of the land use and management plan for Hunter Water’s land holdings in the area.

Stakeholders including the Dungog Shire Council, government authorities and the community will be consulted as part of the process, which is being overseen by consultants Architecture, Engineering, Consulting, Operations and Maintenance.

A draft plan will be publicly exhibited in August with a community information session to follow its release.

There will then be further opportunities for submissions before a final report is released in October.

The plan’s development runs parallel to the development of the Lower Hunter Water Plan.

The Herald reported yesterday that a major focus of the plan would be the region’s vulnerability to drought.

The Metropolitan Water Directorate is considering all options as part of the water plan.

It is consulting the community as part of the plan’s development and residents are encouraged to take part.

Be heard

OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND: Land near Dungog was earmarked for the Tillegra Dam.

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Suspensions loom for Cronulla stars

Up to 14 Cronulla players left a meeting at Sharkies Leagues Club on Tuesday night fearing their careers may be in tatters after being told that they should accept a six-month suspension – or risk further sanctions over the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
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A lawyer, hired by Cronulla to negotiate with ASADA in the wake of the drugs body’s investigations into peptide use, had come to the meeting with documents already prepared for the players to sign, admitting to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

The players were told that if they signed the documents, they would face no further sanctions beyond the six-month ban and would remain employed by the club, but that if they did not sign, they would open themselves to the possibility of longer suspensions. But the players, who attended the meeting with their agents, refused.

It is understood the players were set a deadline to sign the papers. It is believed the same lawyer had previously told players at the club that they had little to worry about, before dramatically changing tack this week following further talks with ASADA.

The investigation into Cronulla has focused on the 2011 season, and the involvement of controversial sports scientist Stephen Dank. The players believe that a former employee has blown the whistle on the use of supplements at the club. That employee refused to comment on Wednesday night when contacted by Fairfax Media.

The ACC and ASADA had come under significant pressure since the release of an unclassified document to name names. But the events of the past few days have brought the focus clearly onto Cronulla, leaving Sharks officials devastated. It is understood that eight players at other NRL clubs have been implicated in the latest ASADA investigations.

Fairfax Media was told that the meeting on Tuesday night was the sixth attended by the Sharks players since the dramatic news conference in Canberra a month earlier to announce the findings of an ACC report into doping and match fixing.

However, it was the first to which player agents had also been invited and rumours quickly began swirling on Wednesday morning of a story that would knock Ben Barba and Sonny Bill Williams off the front and back pages of newspapers. No player is thought to have failed a drugs test.  It is understood that if players do admit to taking a banned substance they would claim to have done so unknowingly.

Fairfax Media has been told that Sharks players were given beta thymosin and CJC 1295 during 2011.  It has been suggested that the substances were not on the World Anti-Doping Agency banned list at the time. Sharks coach Shane Flanagan and football manager Darren Mooney did not return calls.  A club spokesman denied reports that the players had been interviewed by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority on Wednesday.

Instead the players trained as normal to prepare for Sunday night’s match against Gold Coast, but their futures are uncertain amid speculation that either ASADA or the club will stand them down on Friday.

A shopping centre appearance by players on Thursday night was scrapped and an announcement of a new sleeve sponsor has been delayed. The Sharks say they have already lost a deal of up to $2million for the naming rights of their stadium after they were one of six NRL clubs named in the ACC report.

All six clubs – Cronulla, Penrith, Manly, Canberra, Newcastle and North Queensland – have links with sports scientist Stephen Dank, who is at the centre of an investigation into an AFL club, Essendon.

Dank was sacked by Essendon at the end of last season and more than 20 of the club’s players have been interviewed.

The Sharks issued a statement on Wednesday night, announcing they were working with ASADA.

‘‘Sharks fans and all rugby league supporters can be assured the club has been very proactive in fully co-operating with ASADA and taking other measures that prioritise the integrity of our club and the welfare of our playing group,’’ it said. ‘‘While there are strict boundaries around what we can say while the ASADA investigation is ongoing, fans should be assured that as soon as there is an opportunity to provide further information we will do so.’’

NRL officials said they had not been contacted by the Sharks or ASADA over the fate of any Cronulla players.

There were high hopes Cronulla would break their title duck this year but the latest developments have cast a pall over the club.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Continue reading

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The 50 most influential people

Three’s company: Nick Murray, Andrew Denton and Michael Cordell of Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder. Photo: Nic WalkerThe Oxford dictionary defines ”influence” as the capacity to have an affect on the character, development or behaviour of someone or something. In television, that translates into only one thing: having a hand in the most successful programs.
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Yet influence is more complex than mere power. Chief executives have power by virtue of their office. Programmers have it by virtue of their control over the schedule.

The Guide canvassed a panel of experts – critics, executives and industry insiders – to compile the list of the 50 Most Influential People in Television.

This draws together the power partnerships, the deal-makers behind the deals and the new generation of rising stars.

The bosses

Richard Freudenstein, chief executive, Foxtel

The head of Australian television’s most innovative multichannel business, Freudenstein has worked at News Digital Media and BSkyB, where he launched Sky+ (the UK’s iQ-equivalent service) and BSkyB’s HD service.

David Gyngell, chief executive, Channel Nine

The son of television pioneer Bruce Gyngell and the boss of Australia’s oldest, and once top-rating, commercial TV network, who took it to the financial brink in 2012 and – extraordinarily – brought about its rebirth.

Mark Scott, managing director, ABC

The boss of the national broadcaster has steered it into the digital age, launching new channels and the market-leading online TV catchup service iview.

Lachlan Murdoch, chairman, Channel Ten

The scion of one of Australia’s foremost media dynasties has emerged as the man with his hand on the tiller.

Bruce Gordon, chairman, WIN Television

One of Australian TV’s old school, a former heavyweight in the global TV market, now a regional TV mogul and a major shareholder in Ten.

The artisans

Peter Andrikidis, director

Considered one of Australia’s best television directors, Andrikidis’ credits include the critically acclaimed East West 101, G.P., the police drama Wildside and Ten’s Bikie Wars: Brothers in Arms.

Kevin Carlin, director

One of Australia’s most respected television directors, Carlin’s resume is broad, and includes Newstopia, The Wedge, All Saints, Stingers and Packed to the Rafters.

Bevan Lee, network script executive, Seven

Lee is one of Australian screenwriting’s true artisans. He worked on Sons and Daughters and Home and Away, and created Always Greener, Packed to the Rafters and Winners & Losers for Seven.

The players

Julie Ward, executive producer, The Voice

The woman behind the biggest show on TV since MasterChef, the ratings-topping Channel Nine flagship The Voice. Ward’s credits include So You Think You Can Dance and Australian Idol.

Brian Walsh, director of television, Foxtel

Australia’s one and only ”Mr Television”, whose peerless resume includes launching Neighbours, major campaigns for the NRL and the Olympics, BSkyB and now a suite of Foxtel’s leading channels.

John Edwards … and Imogen Banks, Jacquelin Perske and Mimi Butler, Southern Star

The master of brilliant collaborations and the women – just three of many – with whom he has created the best TV in years, including Tangle, Offspring, Rush, Paper Giants, Puberty Blues and Howzat!

Mark and Carl Fennessy, Shine Australia

Mark and Carl have an impeccable record for delivering TV hits: Australian Idol, Australia’s Got Talent and So You Think You Can Dance, MasterChef, The Biggest Loser and now The Voice.

Rikkie Proost, executive producer, My Kitchen Rules

Proost is the puppet master of Seven mega-hit My Kitchen Rules, which has shored up the network’s commanding lead in the ratings and is ready to take on Nine’s The Voice.

Adrian Swift, director of development, Nine Network

Swift worked in the multichannel and multi-platform space in Britain before returning to Australia and Nine. With Shine’s Fennessy brothers and Julie Ward, he oversees TV’s reigning ratings titan, The Voice.

Bob Campbell and Des Monaghan, Screentime Australia

One of television’s most respected and enduring partnerships set the agenda in the talent genre with the trailblazing Popstars and set a new benchmark for Australian drama with Nine franchise Underbelly.

Ian Hogg, Jason Stephens and Jo Porter, FremantleMedia

Hogg runs the production company that wrote the rule book on shiny-floor shows, has expanded its drama slate with Stephens (The King) and Porter (the Prisoner remake, Wentworth) at the helm, and launched a branded content business, Spring.

Leonie Lowe, CEO, ITV Studios

A rising star in the executive ranks who has overseen a range of unscripted formats, from Dancing with the Stars to Mad As Hell and Ten’s Talkin’ ’bout My Generation.

Janeen Faithfull, CEO, Southern Star

A television industry veteran of almost 30 years, 15 of them at the Seven Network, Faithfull joined Southern Star in 2012.

Angelos Frangopoulos, CEO, Sky News

Master of pay TV’s smart and sharp 24-hour news channel is one of television’s most connected players. His resume includes stints at BSkyB, Nine and Prime.

Nick Murray, Andrew Denton and Michael Cordell, Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder

The first of Australia’s proper super-indies; that is, small production companies with clout. CJZ’s titles include Go Back to Where You Came From, Bondi Rescue and Gruen Planet.

Chris Oliver-Taylor, Debbie Lee, Penny Chapman and Tony Ayres, Matchbox Pictures

An emerging force in the super-indie sector, Matchbox has the backing of NBC Universal and immense talent in its executive team. Its credits include The Slap.

Tony Iffland, director of content, SBS

One of television’s rare gentlemen, a shrewd channel manager and content commissioner, who is steering SBS into a smart, sexy digital era.

The triple threats

Brendan Cowell, Claudia Karvan, Chris Lilley and Shaun Micallef, actor-writer-producer-directors

Australian TV has delivered a diverse class of talent in recent years, but the gold standard is a new generation of actor-deal makers who conceive and produce their own projects, including Summer Heights High, Love My Way and The Outlaw Michael Howe.

The innovators

Tracey Robertson and Nathan Mayfield, Hoodlum

Hoodlum specialises in multi-platform projects and has produced digital content for the BBC series Spooks, the US series Lost, films including The Bourne Legacy and, most recently, the ABC2 comedy The Strange Calls.

The master programmers

Michael Healy, director of television, Nine Network

A master of fine-tuning the schedule to squeeze the smallest fractions of audience gain, Healy has overseen Nine’s recapture of much lost ground, notably in the key demographic of viewers aged 25 to 54.

Tim Worner, chief executive, Seven Network

Taught by the industry’s best – former chief executive David Leckie and former Nine programming genius John Stephens – Worner controls the most successful commercial program schedule in Australia, and has a commanding lead over his rivals.

The rising stars

Adam Zwar, High Wire Films

Zwar, with his real-life partner Amanda Brotchie, has created a suite of edgy, engaging shows, including Lowdown, Agony Uncles, Agony Aunts and The Agony of Life.

Asher Keddie and Lachy Hulme, actors

You can count on one hand the number of Australian actors who have the clout to walk into a room and get a project the green light. They’re smart and bankable and they balance critical praise with commercial appeal.

Rick Kalowski, creative director, Quail Television

One of Australia’s most prolific comedy writers, with credits including Comedy Inc. and Double Take. Kalowski co-created At Home with Julia for ABC1.

Hamish Macdonald, senior foreign correspondent, Ten

Began his career at Britain’s Channel Four and Al Jazeera. In 2012, he became host of the revived Ten Late News; now he gets his own show, The Truth Is.

Robyn Butler and Wayne Hope, Gristmill

A partnership in every sense of the word – Butler and Hope are married – this duo specialises in darker comedies, notably The Librarians, Very Small Business and the as-yet-unseen Upper Middle Bogan for ABC1.

The money man

Harold Mitchell, executive chairman, Aegis Media

In television, nothing is truer than the golden rule: he who controls the gold rules the roost. And Harold Mitchell is in charge of more gold than anyone else in the business. He controls the biggest media-buying agency in Australia and wields enormous personal influence through a vast array of connections.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Continue reading

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