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Black Jack beats Wild Oats XI to win Big Boat Challenge

Super maxi Black Jack made an early statement ahead of this year’s Sydney to Hobart, finishing 43 seconds clear of fierce rival Wild Oats XI to take line honours in Tuesday’s Big Boat Challenge.
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Wild Oats XI skipper Mark Richards, who was joined in the crew by Crown Prince Frederik and Princess Mary of Denmark, was quick to promise his boat would improve ahead of the 73rd ocean classic before taking a swipe at the lack of competitors in the only lead-up race on Sydney Harbour.

Just four boats contested the annual Big Boat Challenge, which raises money for the Safety Of Life At Sea (SOLAS) trusts, established after six competitors lost their lives in the 1998 Sydney to Hobart. There were eight starters in the race last year.

Beau Geste was third across the line while 66-footer Wild Oats X finished fourth, although it did win the Big Boat Challenge on handicap.

Of the other super maxis entered into the Sydney to Hobart, LDV Comanche didn’t contest Tuesday’s race because most of the crew is still in the United States, while InfoTrack, formerly Perpetual Loyal, was not yet ready to compete. But it was a conspicuous spectator as skipper Christian Beck took it out for a practice sail.

“This was a fundraising event for the SOLAS foundation, which is a big deal, a foundation that really supports us as sailors at sea more than any other foundation in the whole industry,” Richards said. “To be not supporting that I think’s a real shame.

“It’s the second biggest spectator boat fleet on the harbour apart from the Sydney to Hobart every year. A lot of people are interested in the race, a lot of people are out there giving to charity, there’s a lot of functions on before the event for charity, the positions on the boats raise a lot of money for the foundation, and to have a small fleet is pretty disappointing.

“We had a few issues on board. The Black Jack guys did a better job today and they got the result.

“I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Having mistakes on board isn’t great, I’ve forgotten them already.

“It’s the difference between crossing or not crossing that can be the boat race and that’s just the way it goes. We had a few too many little things today. That’s life. The guys know what the problems were, and we’ll be better tomorrow for it and away we go.”

Wild Oats XI hadn’t lost a Big Boat Challenge since 2009, when it was beaten by the same yacht, at the time under the guise of Alfa Romeo.

Alfa Romeo went on to win that year’s Sydney to Hobart before being sold to European interests. Peter Harburg bought the boat earlier this year and brought it back to with an eye to the Sydney to Hobart, but was quick to play down Tuesday’s mini-victory of Wild Oats XI.

“We finished in front of Ricko [Richards] but, until we did that last jibe across the line, we hadn’t won it,” Harburg said.

“They got so close at times. I think I saw the whites of his eyes.

“It’s a lot nicer to win than come second and we’re very pleased with that. One swallow doesn’t make a summer, that doesn’t really prove anything. We know these guys are going to come back stronger than ever.

“Wild Oats has ruled the waves here for so many years now and it’s so good to be able to come and compete with them. We’re very happy with the performance, very happy with what the guys have done with the boat and very happy with the crew.”

The two yachts have clashed several times already this year. Wild Oats XI enjoyed a narrow win in the Sydney Gold Coast race, before Black Jack took line honours in the Cabbage Tree Island race.

Both boats won a race apiece last weekend in the CYCA Trophy Series.



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Newcastle residents wake to find hot air balloons hovering over Harbour

Balloons wake up Newcastle TAKE OFF: Launched from Horseshoe Beach just after sunrise, the three balloons took staff from company ‘Balloon Aloft’ on a joyous 45 minute flight. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.
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The balloons move over the Harbour early on Tuesday morning. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.

The Balloons lofted across the Harbour down towards Hamilton where they landed on a cricket field. Pciture: Max Mason-Hubers.

SUNRISE: The view from one of the balloons as captured by Herald photographer Max Mason-Hubers.

The Fearney Dawes Athletic Centre. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.

A spectacular view high above the city of Newcastle. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.

The sunrise in the background as the balloons loft over the Harbour. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.

The view from inside one of the baskets as captured by our Herald photographer. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.

Picture by Dave Anderson

Picture by Dave Anderson

Picture: Jan Lowe

Picture: Jan Lowe

TweetFacebookWe just woke a lot of people up, which they all seemed to enjoy.

Balloon Aloft General Manager David BainBalloons in Newcastle Harbour this morning, definitely quieter than supercars pic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/XA0CIpzBQF

— Christine Prietto (@47damselflies) December 11, 2017

The unexpected marketingmanoeuvre brought pleasant intrigue fromearly risers with aflurry of social media posts capturing the moment.

“No one [knew], we alerted Williamtown obviously that we’d be flying in the area, but other than that not too many knew about it,” Mr Bain said.

“We just woke a lot of people up, which they all seemed to enjoy.”

Did you spot the balloons? Send your photos to [email protected]苏州夜总会招聘.au



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Helen Hopcroft plans for the summer heat 7 months into her year as Marie Antoinette

Marie, let them eat icy poles SUMMER IS HERE: Helen Hopcroft cools off in Maitland Pool while dressed as Marie Antoinette. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
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SUMMER IS HERE: Helen Hopcroft cools off in Maitland Pool while dressed as Marie Antoinette. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

SUMMER IS HERE: Helen Hopcroft cools off in Maitland Pool while dressed as Marie Antoinette. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

SUMMER IS HERE: Helen Hopcroft cools off in Maitland Pool while dressed as Marie Antoinette. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

SUMMER IS HERE: Helen Hopcroft cools off in Maitland Pool while dressed as Marie Antoinette. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

SUMMER IS HERE: Helen Hopcroft cools off in Maitland Pool while dressed as Marie Antoinette. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Helen Hopcroft ahead of a fundraiser event in July for Maitland Regional Museum called Let Them Eat Cake. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Helen Hopcroft ahead of a fundraiser event in July for Maitland Regional Museum called Let Them Eat Cake. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Helen Hopcroft dressed as Marie Antoinette visiting the Versailles exhibition at the National Gallery of on Friday, March 16

Helen Hopcroft dressed as Marie Antoinette doing a cross fit class in Thornton. Picture: Simone De Peak

Helen Hopcroft dressed as Marie Antoinette doing a cross fit class in Thornton. Picture: Simone De Peak

Helen Hopcroft dressed as Marie Antoinette doing a cross fit class in Thornton. Picture: Simone De Peak

TweetFacebookMy Year as a Fairy Taleproject on May 1 –a year dressed as lastQueen of Francebefore theFrench Revolution, who the phrase “let them eat cake” has been famously attributed to.

Despite the hot days ahead, Ms Hopcroft is committed to her craft, with the aim of using the costume to promoteMaitland as a creative city. It seems to be working.

“There’s certainly been a number of creative projects pop up this year,” she said.

Theartist-run Inside Out exhibition currently on displayat Rutherford and East Maitland Libraries, cafe poetryprogram Verses, portable puppet showFrank’s Fantastic Fairy Tale Theatre which will feature in The Levee next year and an upcoming micro-film festival areseveral examples of Maitland’s thriving cultural scene she mentioned.

“I’m not going to take the credit, but I hope I’ve been a little bit ofa catalyst,” she said.

The year has come with challenges though –Ms Hopcroft has had to attenda funeral and visit the GP all in 18thCentury attire.

Helen Hopcroft dressed as Marie Antoinette doing a cross fit class in Thornton. Picture: Simone De Peak

“It means you’re late for everything,” she said. “There are days you just do not want to do the supermarket run.

“School things are interesting –I promised my daughter I’d never wear the wig to school. Luckily I haven’t been pulled over for speeding yet.

“Any sort of responsibleadult thing, it naturally sends it straight towards comedy. It’s absolutely ridiculous and that’s the whole concept.”

It is worth it though for Ms Hopcroft, who wants to see a purpose built space for the city’s regional museum as well as a centrally located art space in Maitland before her year as Marie Antoinette is finished.

“If either one of those happens, I think it’s a year well spent,” she said. “The arts are important,you’ve got to fight for them.”

Ms Hopcroft also said the experience had allowed her to build resilience.

“I’m excited to see what happens –the shift in the psyche. How does that change you?

“It toughens you up. I feel like I’m capable of anything.”

Passers-by have also generally been supportive and joined in the fun.

“I’ve been bowed and curtsied to a lot,” she said.

“The reactions range from playful engagement to absolute terror.

“But most people know I’m genuinelytrying to do something to help Maitland along. I’m trying to get stuff to happen here.”

Ms Hopcroft hosts a monthly event for local creatives called Creative Coffee. The next one will take placeat The Hunter Artisan Gallery & Cafe on Monday.



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Wunderkind Dastyari’s fall over China links has a silver lining

Sam Dastyari announces his resignation at a press conference in Sydney. 12th December 2017 Photo: Janie Barrett Leader of the Federal Opposition Bill Shorten (right) in his seat of Maribyrnong with NSW Senator Sam Dastyari . Photo: PENNY STEPHENS. The Age. 9TH AUGUST 2016
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Ironically, the manner and timing of Sam Dastyari’s departure has achieved some important things his ongoing presence in the Senate had compromised.

First, by yielding to what in the end was unbearable political pressure, he has reinforced to Beijing, and to its wealthy business and political surrogates here, that will safeguard its sovereignty as jealously as does China.

Second, via his high profile rise and fall, the 34-year-old wunderkind has provided a brutal human lesson. Politicians seen to be influenced by a foreign power will be of no durable value to that government because their credibility will evaporate, and their sponsors exposed and neutralised.

And third, despite being personally crushed, Dastyari has departed without rancour thus salvaging some honour – given his pitiable circumstances. He did this by rejecting (for the record) doubts over his n patriotism, reaffirming his commitment to the ALP, and thanking the leadership that had persevered with him.

Of course, Bill Shorten and Penny Wong had done so in the fervent hope that the young senator would do the right thing.

That judgment proved correct, but not before Shorten’s otherwise stellar year tumbled headlong into the Dastyari-China-national security quagmire.

The Labor claim that Dastyari had already paid for his Huang Xiangmo links because he’d been dropped as deputy opposition whip in the Senate, was always hopelessly inadequate.

These were serious allegations and included the revelation that even after his demotion for soliciting money from the billionaire benefactor to cover travel costs, Dastyari had visited Mr Huang and advised inter alia about n security agency surveillance.

Despite his huffing, Shorten had been left looking impotent, fuelling the suspicion that Dastyari’s power in the infamous New South Wales Right, exceeded his – that the leader could not sack the junior senator because of what it might cost him.

The government was never going to allow that to go unremarked, much less the suggestion of shadowy Labor links to the cashed-up Chinese Communist Party.

In recent days, Coalitionists had ratcheted up their attacks using hyperbolic terms such as “treasonous” and “double agent”.

A final observation. By falling on his sword before Christmas, Dastyari has stemmed Shorten’s bleeding. That much is good for Labor in 2018 but the affair, on the eve of the Bennelong byelection has also reminded Sydney voters of the ugly side of New South Wales politics where business types, hefty donations, and murky dealings are all too common. iFrameResize({resizedCallback : function(messageData){}},’#pez_iframeTT’);



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Rachel Jarry fuels Canberra’s bid to avoid wooden spoon

The Canberra Capitals will use Rachel Jarry’s presence as motivation as they look to claw their way off the bottom of the WNBL ladder in their own “grand final”.
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Jarry won’t play again this season and could face up to six months on the sidelines after suffering her seventh career concussion last Saturday.

But she will join the Capitals in camp for their clash with the seventh-placed Bendigo Spirit as they look to force their way out of last place at Bendigo Stadium on Thursday night.

The prospect of avoiding the wooden spoon looked impossible with the Capitals locked in a horror 13-game losing streak but Jarry is fuelling Canberra’s bid to turn things around with five games left.

“???Having her leadership for a tough game against Bendigo [will be invaluable], because it’s almost like a grand final for us, we’re fighting to not be on the bottom of the table against Bendigo,” assistant coach Peta Sinclair said.

“There’s a lot riding for us on this Thursday night. We’re hoping that having her there will add some extra motivation for the group.”

Jarry’s concussion held up play for almost 20 minutes and the Capitals stayed on the court in a strong showing of unity as their teammate was stretchered from the venue.

Jarry gave the thumbs up on the way out and Sinclair says her high spirits provided a huge boost when the game was in the balance, and she’s already hoping for more of the same.

“It was really hard when saw Rachel go down with that concussion because it’s been quite a troubling season for her health-wise,” Sinclair said.

“She had the neck brace on and she was in high spirits so I think that really motivated the girls. They all went over and said good luck and wished her all the best.

“She’s doing really well from what we’ve heard so far and hopefully when she comes back we’ll be able to consult with the medical staff and see where she’s at.”

The Capitals ended the second-worst losing run in club history but a look at the margins suggests they haven’t been too far off the mark despite a handful of blowouts.

The Capitals have lost five games by less than 10 points this season and Canberra forward Keely Froling says breaking through for a win has provided “a massive confidence boost”.

“We’ve been so close but now we know we can win and we want to get on a roll now and obviously get Bendigo on Thursday night and then focus on Adelaide for Sunday,” Froling said.

“[The win was] such a relief for our group because we’ve been working so hard and we’ve been so close in so many games so it’s just really nice to finally get a win.”

???Meanwhile, the Canberra Gunners have retained star players Ben Allen and Daniel Joyce for the 2018 SEABL campaign as they look to end a finals drought.

WNBL

Thursday: Round 11 – Bendigo Spirit v Canberra Capitals at Bendigo Stadium, 7pm.

Sunday: Round 11 – Canberra Capitals v Adelaide Lightning at National Convention Centre, 3pm. Tickets from Ticketek.



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Pressure mounts on Cardiff out-of-home care provider Premier Youthworks amid whistleblower and legal advocate complaints

Premier Youthworks managing director, Lisa Glen Part two: Lawyer slams blood and broken glass in Premier group homeAN EMBATTLED out-of-home care provider is poised to pick up new government contracts worth millions of dollars, despite a sustained attack by whistleblowers and legal advocates who say it is failing some of Newcastle and Canberra’s most vulnerable children.
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Premier Youthworks is under fire on multiple fronts, with complaints spanning its governance and financial management to allegations of blood and broken glass being inside one of its residential homes and a staff member being threatened with a meat cleaver.

The fresh concerns have been raised as part of a jointNewcastle HeraldandCanberra Timesinvestigation into the company, which cares for more than 80 children across NSW and the ACT.

They also arise close to 12 months after a scathingFour CornersABC TV expose turned the spotlight on Premier Youthworks. Questions have now been raised about whether state government regulators are providing proper oversight of the sector.

A source familiar with Premier Youthworks’ inner workings said he was stunned at what he regarded as a lack of meaningful action by either the company or the state government since the broadcast, while standards – he believed –had further deteriorated.

“My way of looking at it is that this time next month, it will be 12 months since theFour Cornersreport and nothing has been learnt and nothing has changed,” he said.

“Much to my shock –I wasn’t prepared for this.”

NSW Department of Family and Community Services spokesperson.Herald at the company’s headquarters in Cardiff.

She defended the quality of care received by the children, and said the criticism amounted to the isolated concerns of a small number of disgruntled former employees.

“If I wanted to do it to be rich, I would have chosen a much easier business,” said Ms Glen, who remains the company’s sole director and shareholder.

“I would have worked at Dusk and put nice candles on the shelves. Like this is tough, it’s really really tough … people can sit back and say that, but they can come and walk in my shoes for a little while.”

Premier Youthworks has received more than $44 million in taxpayer funding since 2013, shared across 15 residential care homes in the ACT and 20 in the Newcastle region.

Children and teenagers are grouped together in Premier homes when they are unable to live with their families, often because the government has decided they are at risk of abuse or neglect.

The NSW Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) has been tendering for new residential care contracts, due to begin in 2018, and sources said Premier Youthworks was in the frame to renew, or potentially grow, the number of children in its care.

Following theFour Cornersbroadcast, FACS launched a review of the company, which is understood to have concluded in October. But the department has refused to publicly release its findings or comment on what action, if any, has been taken as a result.

“A range of matters are being followed up with Premier Youthworks in the course of contract management,” a FACS spokesperson said.

Ms Glen would not be drawn on what ground had been covered by the review, but admitted it had highlighted the need for more “transparency”.

“It wasn’t about us holding things back, we just need more transparency in our reporting because, again, we’re different to other agencies within the sector,” Ms Glen said.

She also said FACS was now “fully understanding” of controversial leasing arrangements surrounding a number of Premier’s group homes in Newcastle.

Twelve of the homes are owned by Ms Glen and leased back to Premier Youthworks through a series of trusts linked to her super fund.

Taxpayers foot the bill for the rents paid by Premier Youthworks to Ms Glen, which in some cases arewell above market rates.

Ms Glen denied she was charging the taxpayer exorbitant amounts and defended the arrangements as “common practice” within the sector.There was good reason for the inflated rents, she argued.

“They are not normal rentals,” she said. “There’s modifications that are made and there’s the upkeep of them. What people don’t really understand is that each of these houses is a big risk to me as well.”

LINKS: Premier Youthworks’ sole director Lisa Glen is also a director of Beam Wellbeing, a psychological services provider at Cardiff.

Additionally, Ms Glen is a director of Beam Wellbeing, a separate psychological services provider, also based at Cardiff.

When asked if she benefited financially every time Premierreferred one of its children to Beam for counselling, Ms Glen said that was not the case.

She had“stepped away” from dealings between the two organisations.

“I’m not part of any of the negotiations,” she said.“So if the people that are looking after the clients here don’t believe that Beam’s the best provider, so be it, they go to another person.”

Ms Glen dismissed suggestionsemployees might still feel obligated to refer children to Beam, saying“everyone is acting in the best interests of the kids”.

Another recent incident that apparently struck a nerve with staff occurred in August, when Ms Glen demanded that government funds being used to set up internet access at Premier’s group homes be used to install wi-fi at her personal residence.

In an email obtained by Fairfax Media, she expressed her annoyancewith delays in connecting her property.

“Really annoyed about this given that I need access and I would expect my house to be reasonably high on the priorities,” she wrote. “Would really appreciate you letting me know what is going on please … as doesn’t [sic] inspire much confidence to be honest.”

The taxpayer had footed the bill because Ms Glen had decided to work from home and it was a “standard office requirement”, she said.

“There were significant NBN connection issues lasting several months and, as such, requests were eventually made to make connection to Lisa’s house a priority,” a company spokesperson said.

“In fact, until recently, after some five months, there was still no stable connection.”

Sources said the installation fee was $1500.

“The installation fee was not this high, however a business grade NBN connection is more costly than standard connections,” the spokesperson said.

Do you know more? Email [email protected]苏州夜总会招聘.au



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NYC suspect ‘chose site because of Christmas posters’

San Francisco: A former hire car driver chose to bomb one of New York City’s busiest subway corridors because of its Christmas-themed posters, law enforcement officials said following the explosion that sent peak-hour commuters into a frenzy at the start of the working week.
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Akayed Ullah, who moved to the US from Bangladesh on a family visa seven years ago, was “angry” and learnt how to build a bomb on the internet at his Brooklyn apartment, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

But the 27-year-old allegedly hoped to wreak far more destruction when he detonated an improvised device on the underground walkway between the Times Square and Port Authority subway stations just after 7.20am on Monday, local time.

The low-tech homemade pipe bomb, strapped to his abdomen with Velcro strips and cable ties, didn’t detonate properly.

Packed with household items, Christmas tree lights and screws, the device’s chemical component exploded but the pipe failed to shatter, and Ullah injured only himself.

CCTV showed Ullah, wearing beige cargo pants and a hoodie, walking among commuters before a loud bang and a small plume of smoke engulfed him. He lay on the ground in foetal position as commuters scrambled for the exits.

“There was a stampede up the stairs to get out,” commuter Diego Fernandez said. “Everybody was scared and running and shouting.”

Ullah, who suffered burns and cuts to his hands and abdomen, has made several statements to investigators from his hospital bed, multiple local media outlets reported.

He said he chose the hallway beneath 42nd Street and 8th Avenue because of its Christmas-themed posters, recalling strikes in Europe against Christmas markets, several law enforcement officials told the New York Times.

He also told investigators that he set off the bomb in retaliation for US air strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria, Gaza and Israel.

He admitted that he had looked up online how to build the bomb and had assembled it at home, buying all of the materials except the pipe, which he said he found at a job site where he was working as an electrician at 39th Street and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, two officials said.

Police believe he may have become familiar with the Port Authority site after working in the area.

The Bangladeshi government condemned the attack.

“Bangladesh is committed to its declared policy of ‘Zero Tolerance’ against terrorism, and condemns terrorism and violent extremism in all forms or manifestations anywhere in the world, including Monday morning’s incident in New York City,” it said in a statement.

Police in Bangladesh were not in a position to comment on the suspect.

Mr Cuomo confirmed that investigators believe Ullah was motivated by Islamic State. He described the man as someone “who was annoyed or irritated by our political position or who was sympathetic to ISIS”.

Like Sayfullo Saipov, the Uzbek immigrant who allegedly used a rented ute to fatally mow down eight people in New York in October, Ullah was “disgruntled”, Mr Cuomo said.

“Both of them went on the web, downloaded information,” he said on MSNBC. “Fortunately the bomb was very low-tech. It did go off [but] it didn’t have the desired effect.” BREAKING VIDEO: Moment of explosion at 42nd St and 8th Avenue in Manhattan pic.twitter苏州夜总会招聘/JwygdnnwNb??? New York City Alerts (@NYCityAlerts) December 11, 2017



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Anonymous donor gives $5.2 million to HMRI to improve rural and regional health

A healthy injection of philanthropic funding Practice makes perfect: NSW Ambulance paramedics Greg Nott and Paula Stitt demonstrate CPR skills at the HMRI funding announcement. Simulation manikins will soon be rolled out to all NSW stations. Picture: Marina Neil
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Big gift: $5.2 million was given to the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) by an anonymous donor. Picture: Marina Neil.

Practice makes perfect: NSW Ambulance paramedics Greg Nott and Paula Stitt demonstrate CPR skills at the HMRI funding announcement. Simulation manikins will soon be rolled out to all NSW stations. Picture: Marina Neil

Big gift: Allan Loudfoot explains how the funding will help build the competence, confidence and reach of the NSW ambulance service. $5.2 million was given to the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) by an anonymous donor. Picture: Marina Neil.

Practice makes perfect: NSW Ambulance paramedics Greg Nott and Paula Stitt demonstrate CPR skills at the HMRI funding announcement. Simulation manikins will soon be rolled out to all NSW stations. Picture: Marina Neil

TweetFacebookAN anonymous donor has given$5.2 million to the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) toimprove access to high quality health care for vulnerable andremote communities acrossNSW.

The philanthropic funding, announced on Tuesday, is the largest single donation in HMRI’s history.

It willforge an alliance between HMRI, NSW Ambulance and the Hunter New England Health district to boost emergency out-of-hospital treatment and telehealth care for patients for the next five years.

“It represents a transformational step towards delivering world-leading, out-of-hospital care, particularly to those living outside metropolitan areas,”HMRI director, ProfessorMichael Nilsson said.

The funding would“level thefield” for people living in rural areas by providing timely access toworld-class clinical services via telehealth, and maintainingthe skills and confidence of paramedics throughout the state via extrasimulation education and training.

“A person’s postcode should never impact on their medical care,” Professor Nilsson said.

“We can address the current imbalance by mobilising medicine and furnishing regional communities with more sophisticated telehealth technologies.”

Professor Nilsson said the donor, who wished to remain anonymous, was “highly motivated” to improve access to high quality care, particularly for vulnerable and remote communities.

The funding would enable NSW Ambulance to upgrade its facilities with new education equipment, and developlearning modules for paramedics. Additionally, it would fund a dedicated research fellowship to offer “vigorous evaluation” of the models of care being developed to inform future healthcare policies.

Allan Loudfoot, the senior assistant commissioner of NSW Ambulance, said the project wasultimately aimed at providing better clinical outcomes for patients throughout the entire state.

Mr Loudfoot said paramedics working in rural areas may not have as many opportunities to deal withcomplex medical cases.

But having the opportunity to practice a range of scenariosusing advanced technology simulation manikins, which will be rolled out to every ambulance station in NSW under the project, would build their skills andconfidence.

Jane Gray, executive director of research, innovation and partnerships for Hunter New England Health, expressed her “sincere and heartfelt gratitude” to the anonymous donor.

“It isextraordinarily generous, but also a rare example of humility,” she said.

“Wonderful healing takes place in hospitals, but the truth is, a stay in hospital disrupts daily life for patients and families alike –especially families in our district, who can travel eight hours to receive specialist care at John Hunter Hospital. That’s why keeping people well, and out of hospital, is part of the vision.

“That’s why we invest so much in telehealth, and models of care that help people stay as close to home as possible.

“With a clever use of technology, we have made it possible for people in the farthest reaches of our district to see expert specialists. We have people seeing neurologists,psychologists, endocrinologists, and more, all through the magic of telehealth.”



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Why the record-breaking run of flat interest rates has further to go

In Philip Lowe’s time as governor of the Reserve Bank, he’s chaired 14 meetings of its high-powered board, and each has had the same result: no change in interest rates.
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If you believe the financial markets, Lowe will do more of the same for much of 2018, and perhaps further into the future.

Great news for people with big mortgages, and bad news for those earning interest on their savings, right? Maybe. But if you dig into why this change has occurred, it’s a less rosy picture even for those with large debts, because the lack of change in rates is a reflection of very weak wage growth.

As 2017 has drawn to a close, there has been a significant shift in the arcane parts of the financial markets where people bet on the future course of official interest rates, those set by the Reserve Bank.

They still believe the next move in rates set by the RBA will be up. But there is an expectation the change will be smaller, and take longer, than previously thought.

It’s been quite a change of heart. Just three months ago, the markets were convinced 2018 would be the year in which rates finally rose, for the first time since 2010. That may still happen, but it’s no longer seen as a sure thing.

In September, the futures markets were betting that official interest rates would climb by 0.4 percentage points by the end of next year, which is another way of saying there was a good chance of two standard 0.25 percentage point increases.

Now, they are only betting rates will rise by 0.15 percentage points – meaning they are no longer sure there will even be one standard-size increase in rates.

The shift in expectations of how rates will move over the next two years has been more dramatic. Markets had previously priced in an increase of 0.9 percentage points in official rates by late 2019; now it’s only 0.4 percentage points.

The other signal that rates may stay lower for longer is the recent decrease in fixed rate mortgages by some lenders including Westpac, Bankwest and CUA.

What’s behind the shift in opinion?

Like so many issues in the economy, this one is tied up with the very low rate of wage growth, and inflation.

The RBA aims to keep inflation between 2 and 3 per cent – compared with 1.8 per cent today. It is unlikely to raise rates, which would dampen economic activity, until it is confident that inflation is well on its way to returning to the target range.

Lately, however, progress has been slow. Despite a reasonably strong economy, and healthy jobs growth, wage growth has barely picked up, and it’s still running at just 2 per cent.

Until pay packets start expanding more quickly, it’s unlikely that businesses will put up prices more quickly. That suggests inflation will remain low, too.

Importantly, it’s not all bad news. Last week’s national accounts showed strong growth in non-mining business investment; something the RBA have been wanting to see more of for years.

That should ultimately help to push wages higher, and nudge inflation back towards its target range. But it will be a slow process, and that suggests little or no change in interest rates.

Previously, the RBA hasn’t left the rates unchanged for more than 15 months. That record looks set to be easily broken under Lowe’s watch.



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WinePassion for cool-climate winemakingJohn Lewis

GREAT PASSION: Chief winemaker Ben Haines in the “very special” Mount Langi Ghiran vineyard.MOUNTLangi Ghiran – the name’s a tongue twister, but the new wines I have just tasted from this western Victorian Grampians Region brand are balm to the taste buds.
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The name means“home of the yellow-tailed black cockatoo” in local Aboriginal dialectand the vineyardwas establishedin 1963 by three Grampians area concreters, brothers Don, Gino and Sergio Fratin.

The Fratins sold in the 1980s to Trevor Mast, whose skills rocketed the brand to international fame and in 1996 saw Trevor named world winemaker of the year by US wine guru Robert Parker.

Sadly Trevor died in 2013 at 63 after a five-year battle with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

In 2002 he had sold Langi Ghiran to the Rathbone Wine Group, owner of Margaret River’s Xanadu and Yarra Valley’s Yarrabank and Yering Station brands and headed by Doug Rathbone, founder of the international Nufarm agricultural chemical giant.

Langi Ghiran gets a top five red stars rating in James Halliday’sWine Companionand since the 2015 vintage chief winemaker Ben Haines has been in charge. Four of the five new-release wines I recently tasted are from Ben’s inaugural vintage. The five are the $30 Mount Langi Ghiran2015 Cliff Edge Shiraz and 2015 Cliff Edge Cabernet Sauvignon and $20 2015 Cliff Edge Riesling and the $18 2015 Billi Billi Shiraz and 2016 Billi Billi Pinot Gris.

Cliff Edge reds come from vines up to 50 years old on the slopes of anisolated granite mountain at an altitude of 350 metres-plus above sea level and with a mean January temperature of a chill 18.1 degrees.

Ben Haines grew up in country Victoria and developed an interest in winegrowing from walking through vineyards to school.

His post-school launch into a wine career took him toSouth , Tasmania, Europe and the US before returning to Victoriato workfrom 2006 to 2010assenior winemaker at Mitchelton in Central Victoria’s Nagambie Lakes area – a post that fostered a great love of Rhone-styles and varieties.

In 2008 he was The Wine Society’s Young Winemaker of the Year and now at Mount Langi Ghiran he has “boundless artistic opportunity” allowing him to exercise a passion for cool-climate winemaking, especially with shiraz.

“The feeling this place gives is indescribable,” he says, “you simply cannot deny the heritage and the sheer beauty and energy of this very special vineyard.

“There is so much to acknowledge of the past here at Langi – the more you dig, the more you find.”

WINE REVIEWSCABSAV GRABS ATTENTIONSHIRAZis Langi Ghiran’s showcase variety, butthisMount LangiGhiran 2015 Cliff Edge Cabernet Sauvignondemands attention with its 13.9 per cent alcohol, garnet hues, briar scents and vibrant blackberry front-palate flavour.Bramble jelly, spice, herb and mocha oak integrate on the middle palate and the finish has minty tannins.PRICE: $30. DRINK WITH: cherry-glazed roast duck. AGEING: 12 years.

RATING: 5 stars

GREAT-VALUE BILLI BILLITHEgreat-valueMount LangiGhiran 2015 Billi Billi Shirazcomes from a brand based on Langi Ghiran and bought-in Grampians fruit. The wine has 14.5 per cent alcohol, purple hues and spicy blackcurrant on the front palate. The middle palate introduces Morello cherry, mint chocolate, capers and mocha oak and peppery tannins play at the finish.PRICE: $18. DRINK WITH: lamb kebabs. AGEING: four years.

RATING: 4.5 stars

COOL-CLIMATE ELEGANCEFROM50-year-old very cool climate vines, thisMount LangiGhiran 2015 Cliff Edge Rieslinghas a mere 9.5 per cent alcohol, is green-tinted straw in the glass and has honeysuckle scents and elegant lime front-palate flavour. Lemon curd, apple peel and gunmetal character feature on the middle palate and slatey acid refreshes at the finish.PRICE: $20. DRINK WITH: seafood marinere. AGEING: 10 years.

RATING: 4.5 stars



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