Dajarra health focus

ALTERNATIVE transport solutions could be in store as part of improved health services for the North West community of Dajarra.
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The Dajarra community will meet key health stakeholders twice a year, after a health forum was hosted by the North West Hospital and Health Service earlier this month.

North West Hospital and Health Service chief executive Sue Belsham praised the Dajarra community and key stakeholders after their meeting at Jimberella Hall in Dajarra.

“The Dajarra health forum was a fantastic example of constructive and open discussion with our communities,” Mrs Belsham said.

“We had a roundtable discussion and received insightful feedback from all attendees.

“For example, we circulated a breakdown of local patient travel use and expenditure.

‘‘During our discussions, a possible alternative transport solution was put forward that we will definitely explore.

“The topics discussed were broad, but clearly community driven. We covered electronic records, Primary Health Networks, Royal Flying Doctor Service schedules, telehealth services, patient travel support and how to inform the North West HHS Strategic Plan.

“We also provided data on baseline health statistics and trends specific to Dajarra and alerted the community to upcoming changes to our services.

“Whilst the North West HHS is geographically large, diverse and sometimes challenging to get out and about, our board and executive are committed to personally staying in touch with our communities, patients and staff.’’ Mrs Belsham said.

Representatives from the Cloncurry Shire Council, Phosphate Hill, Queensland Police Service, Royal Flying Doctor Service and Central and North West Queensland Medicare Local had also travelled to Dajarra to take part in the health forum with local residents.

Cloncurry Shire Council brought valuable local governance expertise to the health forum discussions.

Council chief executive David Neeves said: “Council is committed to advocating for the development of health services in our shire.

‘‘As custodians of our communities, we understand the importance of good health services for the ongoing wellbeing of our community.”

The Dajarra community met with key North West Hospital and Health staff earlier this month.

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CCTV solution: MP calls for urgent funding following spate of crime in The LeveePOLL

CCTV THE ANSWER: Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon.A spate of break-ins and thefts in central Maitland has prompted renewed calls for CCTV cameras to be installed in the CBD.
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Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon says the federal government should give Maitland City Council funding to install security cameras in the Levee precinct.

Thieves stole $25,000 worth of tools from construction workers between 3.30pm on March 21 and 5.30am, March 23.

The tools had been secured in a High Street office.

The Mercury reported last week that six Maitland CBD businesses had been broken into and robbed in the past two months.

These included five beauty outlets and an op shop.

“With the spate of break-ins and theft that has taken place in and around The Levee and CBD within the past two months, it’s now time for Mr [Tony] Abbott to restore the funding based on a need, not onpolitical partisanship,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“I won’t rest until Maitland and Singleton councils’ funding is restored.”

The previous Labor government earmarked $186,340 for Maitland City Council in 2013 as part of the National Crime Prevention Program.

The money was to be used to buy and install CCTV cameras in Central Maitland’s shopping strip and Rutherford’s retail precinct.

But Labor did not ­deliver the funding before it lost government to the Coalition.

The Abbott government replaced Labor’s initiative with the $50 million Safer Streets Program.

Maitland missed out on its application for the first round of funding last September.

Port Stephens council installed six CCTV cameras in Raymond Terrace CBD, in the vicinity of William Street, in 2011.

Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research figures show that the number of assaults and robberies on roads, streets and footpaths in Raymond Terrace dropped for two consecutive years after the cameras were installed.

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Regatta really oarsome

IT has been many years since Spinifex State College could hold its annual Canoe Regatta because of drought conditions in Mount Isa.
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But with Lake Moondarra flourishing after rainfall this year, it was all systems go for the students and teachers on Sunday.

Teams of six raced around buoys with three laps in total covered by the paddlers in a fun-filled relay-style event to build camaraderie and mateship within the students and staff from the junior and senior campus.

The North West Canoe Club members helped out by patrolling the water for safety as more than 60 paddlers got among the action.

TeacherKristen Curd, who organised the day, said she was impressed to see the students from both campuses interacting and rivalling staff teams on the water.

It is one of a few opportunities for the students to come together as one from both campuses.

There was only one capsize on the day, by a team of teachers – a moment which was enjoyed by the students.

Race placings were:

1: Brian Silayo, Oliver Desvaux, Khrystal Santos, Jessie Pitkin, Kody Donnelly and Danica Crebbin

2: Anthony Bulgarelli, Korey Trott, Quiana Busch, Warren King, Callum Barr and Caleb Pigliafiori

3: Kira Macleod, Rosie Yalinatoba, Hingaia Hahipene, Jessica Griffin and Nivedita Chetty

Picture: BRENT CLARK

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Thai flights banned in three countries as PM invokes powers to address safety record

Bangkok: Thailand’s junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha has invoked the powers of a dictator to address a poor airline safety rating that has seen Japan, China and South Korea ban Thai carriers from adding new flights from his country.
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More than 150,000 passengers will be affected by the bans during the April to May tourist high season as airlines including Thai AirAsia X – a joint venture with Malaysia’s low-cost carrier AirAsia, Nokscoot and Asia Atlantic Airline cancel extra planned flights.

Mr Prayuth told reporters he needed to use special powers to bypass time-consuming legislative approvals for improving safety procedures on Thai carriers.

The junta that toppled Thailand’s democratically-elected government last year has been trying to limit damage to the country’s airline industry after an audit by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the aviation watch-dog, raised safety concerns, primarily related to air operator certification procedures.

Mr Prayuth said he will use powers written into law after he seized power to set-up a panel that will speed up a restructuring of the industry and change laws and budget allocations.

He said the aviation watchdog had expressed concerns about Thailand’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) for a long time as the country’s air traffic increased to 600,000 flights a year.

“What happened? There are only 12 DCA officers responsible for the flights,” he said.

Mr Prayuth said Thai aviation officials had persistently raised problems but politicians had not solved them.

“This is our mistake and we have to concede that we violated the rules and we must find ways to address the problems,” he said.

Thailand’s transport minister Prajin Juntong, a former air force chief, said he was concerned the bans may spread to other countries, further hitting the country’s tourist industry that accounts for more than 10 percent of Thailand’s economy.

“Unless this is solved quickly, the problems can create a domino affect,” he said.

Mr Prajin said the Department of Civil Aviation proposed an action plan to deal with the safety concerns on March 2 but it was rejected by the International Civil Aviation Organisation which insisted a two year proposed time frame was too long.

He said a new plan will be submitted to the organisation that will see changes implemented within eight months.

The ICAO first flagged issues in Thailand’s airline industry in 2005 which according to a report by Watson, Farley and Williams, an international law firm with a commercial transport practice, included personnel licensing and training, airworthiness assessment and certification and airline operations oversight.

Japan’s ban will prevent established carriers like Thai Airways International from adding flights to Japan.

But Thai Airways said in a statement that all its current flights remain operational although two charter flights may be affected.

Mr Prayuth’s decision to invoke powers under Section 44 of an interim constitution has prompted concerns by some human rights groups, politicians, academics and legal experts.

They give the former army general “powers to make any order to disrupt or suppress regardless of the legislative executive or judicial force of that order.”

Martial law that gives sweeping powers to the military remains in place across the country.

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Alleged police impersonator found with crossbow and tomahawk in car at Richmond

A Richmond man who tried to pull another driver over using a police-style red and blue strobe light has been arrested and charged with possession of dangerous weapons, police say.
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Officers were called to a section of Windsor Road at McGraths Hill about 8.30pm on Monday by a motorist who reportedly said he was being targeted by a police impersonator.

Police intercepted a Ford Territory that allegedly had a strobe light mounted to its dashboard. Police say a search of the car uncovered a tomahawk, crossbow, arrows with barbed tips, restraints and knives.

The 61-year-old driver of the car was arrested and taken to Windsor police station. Police say a subsequent search of a residential property uncovered firearms.

Police charged the man with two counts of having a knife in a public place, two counts of possession of an unregistered firearm, failure to keep firearms safe, and four counts of possession or use of a prohibited weapon without a permit.

The man was denied bail and will appear in Penrith Local Court on Tuesday.

There have been a number of incidents involving alleged police impersonators reported to police in the Hawkesbury area in the past month.

On March 6, police reported that a man was pulled over by an unmarked white sedan with red and blue flashing lights on Mulgoa Road in Penrith. The man was then allegedly forced to hand over his driver’s licence before being assaulted and robbed of cash by two men of Caucasian appearance.

A 20-year-old woman was reportedly pulled over on March 13 by a man driving a dark blue sedan with a flashing light on the dashboard on Bells Line of Road in North Richmond. The man apparently told the woman to open the car door but she became suspicious and drove away.

Police say the incidents are unlikely to be connected and are continuing their investigation.

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Weatherzone: Month of March among Sydney’s warmest as city dries off

Stormy times at Lurline Bay, Sydney, on March 30. Photo: Nick Moir Stormy times at Lurline Bay, Sydney, on March 30. Photo: Nick Moir
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Cloudy but not so wet in March. Photo: Nick Moir

Stormy times at Lurline Bay, Sydney, on March 30. Photo: Nick Moir

Stormy times at Lurline Bay, Sydney, on March 30. Photo: Nick Moir

It may not have felt it but Sydney has just had one of its warmest March months on record with the city also clearly on the dry side.

The final readings aren’t quite done, but Sydney’s average maximums are likely to come in at about 26.8 degrees, placing it fourth warmest on record, according to Brett Dutschke, senior meteorologist with Weatherzone. That’s two degrees above normal for March.

“It’s likely to continue to warmer than average,” said Mr Dutschke, noting the on-going influence of El Nino-like conditions in the Pacific Ocean, which tend to mean reduced rainfall across eastern Australia and clearer skies.

Temperatures in the coming week will mostly be above average for the Easter break, with showers expected most days, forecasts show.

Sydney’s rainfall for March came in 65.2mm, according to the Bureau of Meteorology’s tally, which runs to 9am on the last day of each month. That was about half the city’s average for the month, and extends a relatively dry period for Sydney.

The months of February and March were the driest for the period in the past nine years, Mr Dutschke said.

Conditions were much drier in the west of the state. Broken Hill recorded just 5.2 mm for February and March – the driest such period in 24 years for the town – with just 0.4 mm falling for March alone.

Towns such as Balranald and Ivanhoe recorded no rain in their gauges this month.

The only regions of NSW to record more than average rain for the month were in the north-east, such as the Northern Rivers region, Mr Dutschke said.

The bureau is predicting some rainfall relief in coming months, at least for the state’s south-western areas.

Warmer-than-usual ocean temperatures in the eastern Indian Ocean favour good rains for central and southern areas of Australia for the coming three months, particularly for April, the bureau said last week.

Conditions also point to above-average temperatures for most coastal areas – including Sydney –  especially for overnight temperatures.

El Nino watch

The Bureau of Meteorology, meanwhile, has updated its fortnightly El Nino-Southern Oscillation report, stating that recent warming in the tropics “has primed the Pacific for El Nino”.

“International climate models monitored by the Bureau indicate the central tropical Pacific Ocean is likely to continue to warm, with all models predicting El Nino thresholds will be reached or exceeded by mid-year,” the agency said, cautioning that models are lower prediction skills at this time of the year.

Still, many of the indicators that signal an emerging El Nino event continue to be observed.

For instance, sea-surface temperature anomalies in the eastern tropical Pacific “have increased by the largest amount for any two-week period since at least July 2001”, the bureau said.

Sub-surface waters in the central equatorial Pacific are also continuing to warm, with anomalies exceeding 4 degrees at depths below 100 metres in places. Trade winds, which normally blow east to west, have reversed to become westerlies in parts of the western equatorial Pacific for the past seven weeks.

Apart from raising the odds of a drier and hotter than usual year for most of eastern and southern Australia, an El Nino would also likely boost global temperatures as the Pacific absorbs less heat.

With climate change already lifting the background warmth, an El Nino would increase the chances that 2015 will top 2014 as the hottest year globally on record, climate specialists say.

Weatherzone is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of this website.

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Former director of National Gallery of Australia Betty Churcher brought art to the masses

Betty Churcher on her property in Wamboin in 2014. Photo: Melissa Adams Betty Churcher, at her home in Wamboin in 2012 Photo: Graham Tidy
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Betty Churcher’s final testimonial to her enduring love of artObituary: Betty Churcher, 1931-2015Betty Churcher: Tributes flow’Queen of the arts’: John McDonald pays tribute to Betty Churcher

She was the public face of art in Australia, famous for bringing culture to the masses through blockbuster exhibitions and television shows.

But Betty Churcher, who died on Tuesday aged 84, was just as committed in her private life to thinking, writing and above all talking about the subject she loved most.

The former director of the National Gallery of Australia is remembered as a seminal figure in the arts sector, a superior curator and administrator as well as a gifted communicator who introduced Australians to the world of art outside the national collections.

As director of the NGA from 1990 to 1997, she was an indomitable character who set out, right from the start, to put the gallery on the map.

She changed its name from the Australian National Gallery to its current title, the National Gallery of Australia – a symbolic shift in direction, bringing it in line with other international institutions.

It was also in keeping with her strategy to bring the outside art world into Australia.

Famously dubbed “Blockbuster Betty”, she presided over 12 international shows in seven years, bringing queues to the gallery the likes of which had never been seen before.

It’s a reputation she always professed to be perfectly proud of, even if she once had her detractors. And the gallery has been staging successful international shows ever since, not least 2010’s Masterpieces from Paris, which broke all Australian records for crowds and revenue.

“Why I think it’s so wonderful is we can never, in this country, own a lot of those great masterpieces, because we started too late, for one thing. So by the time the Australian gallery started the European galleries had stuffed their cellars full of all the great masterpieces,” she said in 2011.

Not only did the crowds love the shows, they were also motivated to look at the rest of the gallery and the permanent collection, as well as bringing tourist dollars into the capital.

After leaving the gallery in 1997 and settling in Wamboin, a village just outside Canberra, she remained committed to bringing art to the masses and ensuring that as many people as possible could enjoy the world’s great artworks.

An unmistakeable figure with her trademark silver bob and high cheekbones, she hosted a television program on ABC, Hidden Treasures, for some years and later wrote several books about her travels around the world’s great art galleries.

Notebooks, published in 2011, was a journey through some of Europe’s greatest galleries, undertaken as her sight was deteriorating.

A melanoma had robbed her right eye of its vision and she later developed macular degeneration in the left. In 2006, she decided to take a last trip to Europe and commit to memory some of her favourite paintings while she still could.

In Notebooks, she published her own sketches alongside images of the works themselves – a lifelong habit that had always ensured she could keep paintings in her mind.

A trained artist who once showed great promise, she gave up painting to focus on raising her four children with the artist Roy Churcher.

It’s a decision she maintained she never regretted – for her, raising a family was not compatible with painting.

Despite failing health – she suffered from emphysema and last month announced that she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer – she published a follow-up last year, Australian Notebooks, focusing on six major state galleries in Australia.

Roy Churcher died last year, and Betty Churcher is survived by their four sons.

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Betting unshaken despite favourites drawing wide in Doncaster Mile at Randwick

Set for the extreme outside: Hallowed Crown. Photo: Anthony Johnson Set for the extreme outside: Hallowed Crown. Photo: Anthony Johnson
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Set for the extreme outside: Hallowed Crown. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Set for the extreme outside: Hallowed Crown. Photo: Anthony Johnson

Doncaster Mile markets remained stable despite two of the favourites, Hallowed Crown and Real Impact, drawing wide gates for the 150th running of the $3 million Randwick feature on Saturday.

Japan’s George Ryder Stakes winner Real Impact drew awkwardly in gate 21, two alleys to the inside of dual group 1 winner Hallowed Crown which is set to launch from the extreme outside gate.

Fourth emergency Malavio drew barrier 24 and is considered extremely unlikely to get a run.

But it hasn’t shaken punters’ confidence as Hallowed Crown remained rock solid as the $4.60 favourite to land James and Bart Cummings a third major with the Gooree progeny.

“I’ve never known a race where there’s only four price changes,” a stunned TAB’s Glenn Munsie said of the stable market.

Second emergency Kermadec remains a $6 second favourite despite not being guaranteed a run with Real Impact slightly easy at $7.

The news was not much better for Japan’s other Doncaster Mile representative World Ace, which will jump from 16 after finishing down the track in the George Ryder Stakes.

The barrier draw capped a morning of high drama on Tuesday after crack three-year-olds Sweynesse and Kermadec were left stranded as the first and second emergencies.

Chris Waller’s bid for a historic third straight Doncaster with topweight Sacred Falls will feature a supporting cast of Royal Descent and surprise acceptor Moriarty.

Jockeys Dwayne Dunn (Ninth Legion), Craig Williams (It’s Somewhat) and Corey Brown (Suavito) were all permitted to ride half-a-kilogram over their mounts’ allotted weights.

Meanwhile, Victoria Derby hero Preferment’s bid of completing the double suffered a minor blow when he drew the outside gate of 10 for the Australian Derby.

Preferment ($3.50) shares favouritism with last weekend’s Tulloch Stakes winner Hauraki.

Rosehill Guineas winner Volkstok’n’barrell will start from the middle of the line in barrier 5.

The ultimate racing guide with the latest information on fields, form, tips, market fluctuations and odds, available on mobile, tablet and desktop.

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Chocolate on the nose as many look to keep Easter egg-spenses in check

It’s not just weight worries that have many people kicking the chocolate habit this Easter. Chocolate is not the only indulgence getting the flick this year
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Easter spending is likely to be lower this year as consumers tighten their belts after spending up over Christmas.

A survey of 1000 consumers on their Easter spending plans, found that more than a third will not buy Easter chocolate this year, citing a need to save cash and cut the calories.

The survey, for ME Bank, discovered that one in 10 will be spending significantly less this Easter because of overspending during the December festive season.

The survey also found that chocolate is not the only indulgence getting the flick this year, with one in five claiming to be cutting back on Easter entertainment such as going to the cinema, dining out and attending Easter festivities.

ME Bank’s Nic Emery says a pricey Christmas has been a wake-up call for consumers to plan ahead this Easter to keep their spending down.

“Many Australians can be financially unprepared for Easter, particularly families,” Emery says.

“Before you know it you’re hit with the cost of overpriced chocolates, gifts, food and drink for entertaining, weekends away and interstate travel to visit family.

“It can be also compounded by back-to-school expenses, school holidays and spontaneous trips away as people realise it’s the last of the longer public holidays for a while,” Emery says.

Top tips for Easter Set a budget for Easter. Incidentals like petrol and last-minute hot cross buns and champagne for entertaining can stack up quickly, so know your budget and stick to it.Entertain at home. Host gatherings at home where everyone brings a plate.Camp instead of staying in a hotel and chose a destination closer to home so you can drive and take advantage of low petrol prices instead of flying.Use credit cards wisely as a way to manage cash flow rather than as a source of long- term and expensive credit.

Source: ME Bank

@jcollett_money

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Top Gear producer Andy Wilman quits over Jeremy Clarkson sacking

In reverse … the departure of Jeremy Clarkson and now executive producer Andy Wilman is a double blow for remaining Top Gear presenters Richard Hammond, left, and James May, right.Update:Wilman denies quitting Top GearUpdate: Clarkson coming to Australia, with a catchClarkson sacking sparks death threatsTop Gear producer attacked by trolls
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Andy Wilman, the executive producer of Top Gear and the man responsible for much of the show’s style and humour, has quit the program following the sacking of his close friend Jeremy Clarkson.

In a leaked email obtained by motoring blog site Jalopnik, Wilman thanked staff and called Top Gear “one of the most iconic programs in TV history” that was “beautiful to look at and beautiful to listen to”.

“Well, at least we left ’em wanting more,” he writes. “And that alone, when you think about it, is quite an achievement for a show that started 13 years ago.

“We had a lot of laughs, we had a lot of tiffs. We went to amazing places and we went to some shitholes. We nearly killed a presenter, we had to run for the border.”

Clarkson, who was sacked after allegedly assaulting a Top Gear producer, first met Wilman when they were both students at Repton School, a $20,000-a-term private boarding school in Derbyshire.

Top Gear mythology has it that the pair cooked up the new format for the show in 2002 while sitting in the pub.

But while Wilman’s departure is undeniably a huge blow for the BBC and its Top Gear cash cow, which earns up to £150 million ($290 million) worldwide for the corporation, he gave some hope to fans in his email.

“For those of you who still rely on it for work, don’t worry, because the BBC will make sure the show continues,” he writes. “Our stint as guardians of Top Gear was a good one, but we were only part of the show’s history, not the whole of it. Those two words are bigger than us.”

Wilman’s decision to pull the pin follows reports that co-hosts James May and Richard Hammond are also considering quitting.

Late last week, another key member of the Top Gear team also headed for the door. Richard Porter, the show’s long-time script editor, announced via Twitter that he was leaving, adding further credence to the view that Top Gear will have to be rebuilt from the ground up if the BBC is hoping to resurrect the series. Porter, R. Scrpt ed. 13 years, 22 series, 175 programmes. Hon. dis. — Sniff Petrol (@sniffpetrol) March 26, 2015Top Gear Festival slated for April 18 and 19 at Sydney’s Motorsport Park are still waiting to find out the fate of the event.

Many have taken to social media to vent their anger, with some calling for refunds if the show was to go ahead without Clarkson.

A decision from BBC Worldwide is expected by the end of the week.

Full text of Andy Wilman’s email

Well, at least we left ’em wanting more. And that alone, when you think about it, is quite an achievement for a show that started 13 years ago. I know none of us wanted it to end this way, but for a moment I’d like us to look back and think about just what an incredible thing you all had a hand in creating. When Jane Root gave us the green light in 2002, the brief was to reinvigorate a car show and get an audience of three million. What you all ended up making was one of the most iconic programmes in TV history, a show about cars that went global, won countless awards, was devoured by non car fans and ended up in the Guinness Book of Records.

We had a lot of laughs, we had a lot of tiffs. We went to amazing places and we went to some shitholes. We nearly killed a presenter, we had to run for the border. We started off with whoever we could get in the Reasonably Priced Car, and ended up with Tom Cruise. Throughout all this we made television that was beautiful to look at and beautiful to listen to. The work ethic never slipped, the desire for everyone in this dysfunctional family to do right by the show never faltered. Jeremy, Richard and James, as the visible tip of the iceberg, got most of the attention and praise, but you all in your own fields had such an immense hand in weaving this unforgettable tapestry. I would love to single out everybody by name to thank them for what they did, but it’s impossible and I’d forget someone I shouldn’t have and that would be crap, so I’ll just say Jim, I’m sorry we never got a bear to drive an automatic.

For those of you who still rely on it for work, don’t worry, because the BBC will make sure the show continues. Our stint as guardians of Top Gear was a good one, but we were only part of the show’s history, not the whole of it. Those two words are bigger than us.

Anyway, when you’re feeling low in your working day at any point, look around at some of the crap on TV, then have a think about Top Gear, 2002- 2015, and say to yourself: “I made that.”

A big, big, big thank you, which will never be enough.

Andy.

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Charted: Why the iron ore price keeps falling

Iron ore continues to tumble, falling close to 4 per cent over the last week. Here are four charts explaining why.
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Over the past 12 months, the Australian dollar has fallen 17.4 per cent against its US counterpart. In that same period, iron ore has more than halved. The Reserve Bank of Australia wants the local currency to push lower to help competitiveness and the difference between the fall against the greenback and a slump on a trade weighted basis, down 10.1 per cent, suggests there is further down to go for the Aussie dollar.

Chinese economic growth is losing momentum, which is hardly surprising given the rate of growth it has experienced over the past decade. Last year, China grew at its lowest rate in more than two decades and marginally missed its 7.5 per cent growth target. With a 7 per cent growth target set for this year, many, such as PIMCO, the world’s largest mutual bond fund, are predicting a second consecutive miss.

“The fall in the iron ore price is overstated compared with the Chinese industrial production growth slowdown from 15 per cent in 2011 to closer to 6¾ per cent by early 2015,” TD Securities chief Asia macro strategist Annette Beacher said.

China overnight has moved to boost its housing sector by cutting the minimum down payment for a second home to 40 per cent from 60 per cent. Authorities also plan to introduce a policy in which individuals selling an ordinary house would be exempt from business taxes if they had owned it for more than two years, from a previous five years.

Oversupply of high quality iron ore from the three majors, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Brazil’s Vale, have flooded the market thanks to a ramp up in production. With demand soft in China, the price of iron ore, and the high cost miners, have been squeezed tightly.

“Iron ore shipments from Port Hedland jumped about a year ago and remain high,” Ms Beacher said.

While the price of iron ore has dropped dramatically, the value of exports from Western Australia to China, 80 per cent of which are iron ore, according to TD Securities, has not matched the fall. This is thanks to the sharp increases in production of iron ore from major miners, as mentioned earlier.

“There are clearly two forces applying downward pressure to the iron ore price: while there has been declining Chinese demand, ramped up production and exports of iron ore from Western Australia (where the iron ore is extracted and exported out of Port Hedland) appear to play a larger role more recently,” Mr Beacher said.

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Adam Voges, Fawad Ahmed in Test squad for West Indies, Ashes

Adam Voges starred with the bat this summer. Photo: Peter Stoop
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Adam Voges starred with the bat this summer. Photo: Peter Stoop

Adam Voges starred with the bat this summer. Photo: Peter Stoop

Fawad Ahmed reveals life and death struggle

The two newest additions to Australia’s Test squad for the winter tour of the West Indies and England, Adam Voges and Fawad Ahmed, demanded selection through the dominance of this summer’s Sheffield Shield runs and wickets tallies, Rod Marsh says.

The chief selector also offered his personal backing to the notion that Steve Smith’s assured performances at No.3 in the one-day team this summer should see him replace Shane Watson in that position in the Test team.

“Personally — if you’re not asking me as chairman of selectors — I would say yes,” Rod Marsh said on Tuesday. “If you ask me as chairman of selectors I’ll give you the stock-standard answer: captain set the batting order.”

Australia could field up to three debutants in the tour: Voges, Ahmed and 29-year-old NSW wicketkeeper Peter Nevill, who was chosen as Brad Haddin’s understudy. The 16 players will depart in mid-May for the tour, with Ryan Harris to join the squad in England once his wife has given birth to their first child.

If 35-year-old Voges was chosen to play in any of the seven Tests — two in the West Indies, five in England — he would be Australia’s second-oldest debutant batsman in Test history, ranking only behind South Australian Arthur Richardson who was 36 years and 148 days when he debuted in 1924.

Western Australia captain Voges this season plundered 1358 runs at an average of 104.46. Marsh said selectors were swayed not just by the number of runs he made — the right-hander’s average was the highest of anyone to have played more than seven matches in the shield season — but the way he compiled them.

“He had a magnificent shield season, there’s absolutely no doubt about that. I looked at him on about four or five occasions – maybe more – this year and I thought ‘I don’t know how anyone is going to get this bloke out’ – he was that dominant,” Marsh said on Tuesday. “It wasn’t only the fact he made 1300-odd runs. It was the way he made them. It was as good Sheffield Shield batting as I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen some good stuff.”

Marsh said Voges was elevated at the expense of Joe Burns, who averaged 36.5 in his two Tests against India and ranked sixth for shield runs with 793 at 52.87, due to “pure weight of runs” and his manner of doing so.

“You could just see ‘Test player’ written all over him. Everyone [on the selection panel] was the same. Mark Waugh saw him bat, Trevor Hohns saw him bat, I saw him bat. All the state coaches, all the state talent managers. Everyone said the same thing. Surely we can’t all be wrong.”

Victorian leg-spinner Ahmed has been rewarded for snaring 48 wickets at an average of 24.79, the most by a spinner in a decade. This included a shield-final record 8-89, a haul achieved in front of Australian selector and former leg-spinner Hohns. Ahmed was particularly accurate this season, with his performances good enough for him to trump WA’s Ashton Agar, who debuted in the 2013 Ashes series, and NSW’s Stephen O’Keefe, who was Australia’s No.2 spinner for the series late last year in the United Arab Emirates against Pakistan.

As for Ahmed, Marsh said the way the 33-year-old performed was not just defined by statistics.

“Him being a leg-spinner, a wrist-spinner as opposed to a finger-spinner, probably also gave him a slight advantage because, believe it or not, Australia is always looking for leg-spinners. We’ve had a proud history of leg-spinning in this country and we want that to continue,” he said.

“He doesn’t bowl too much rubbish, and he creates a lot of pressure. He’s able to have men around the bat in most instances, and he keeps on asking the batsmen questions. That’s what good spinners do.

“You need to be able to remain ‘on’ as a leg-spinner. It’s all very well coming in and ripping the ball but if you’re bowling two full tosses and two long hops it’s very hard for the captain to keep you on, because you’re going for that many runs. He maintains good economy and he asks many questions of both left- and right-handed batsmen, which is very important remembering that England may have about seven left-handers in their line-up.”

Workhorse paceman Peter Siddle will return to the squad for the two tours after falling out of favour this summer but responding with a dominant shield season. Nevertheless, the fact he was also dropped from the national contract list for the first time in six years, added weight to the theory his best chance of selection will come in the expected difficult bowling conditions in the West Indies.

The player who has overtaken Siddle in the pace and contract pecking order, Josh Hazlewood was lauded by Marsh ahead of his first Ashes tour.

“Personally, I think he [Hazlewood] will be a terrific bowler in England. I really think he’s one guy that I’m looking forward to seeing bowl in England. I think he could be very, very good – [Glenn] McGrath-like,” he said.

Selectors overlooked two of the key players for Australia in their triumphant World Cup campaign, James Faulkner and Glenn Maxwell. Marsh offered consolation to both, explaining it had been difficult to fit more than two incumbent all-rounders — Shane Watson and Mitch Marsh — in the squad and acknowledging both had had their shield opportunities curtailed because of their importance to Australia for overlapping limited-overs series.

“James desperately needs some red-ball cricket. It’s not his fault that he’s not played any red-ball cricket really. Glenn Maxwell is another who hasn’t played much red-ball cricket. We’re giving Glenn some [for Australia A] but we’ve also got hopeful plans, which I can’t reveal right now, for Jimmy Faulkner.

“He’ll be right. He’s a hell of a good cricketer and he’s a hard man to keep down. We certainly haven’t forgotten him, put it that way.”

The chairman also said he would “love to have” Maxwell playing in all formats for Australia and, like for Faulkner, indicated selectors had plans for him to help him achieve that.

Wicketkeeper Nevill was chosen after a season in which he scored 764 runs at an average of 76.4, including 235 not out in February in Hobart, and was typically neat with his glovework. Marsh said he had been “bashing the door down”.

AUSTRALIA TEST SQUAD FOR WEST INDIES AND ASHES: Michael Clarke (c), Steve Smith (vc), Fawad Ahmed, Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris (Ashes only), Josh Hazlewood, Mitch Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Peter Nevill, Chris Rogers, Peter Siddle, Mitch Starc, Adam Voges, David Warner, Shane Watson.

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

Peter Siddle sidelined but Steve Smith, Mitch Starc succeed in CA contract list

Siddle has been dumped from Cricket Australia’s contract list. Photo: Pat Scala Siddle has been dumped from Cricket Australia’s contract list. Photo: Pat Scala
Nanjing Night Net

Siddle has been dumped from Cricket Australia’s contract list. Photo: Pat Scala

Siddle has been dumped from Cricket Australia’s contract list. Photo: Pat Scala

Given Steve Smith has moved up the order in the one-day team and is poised to do the same in Tests, it is only fitting he has done the same in the contracts that reflect players’ importance to the Australian cricket team.

The combination of the 25-year-old’s mighty Test performances and his addition to the one-day team, of which he made himself an integral member, strengthened his position when it came to the contracts given by Cricket Australia for 2015-16. Mitch Starc did likewise with his dominant performance in the World Cup that sealed his elevation to the top of the ICC’s one-day bowling rankings.

CA has elected to expand its contract base by one, to 19, to be paid from a retainer pool of $14 million. The minimum contract is $260,000.

Mitch Marsh and Josh Hazlewood have been chosen for the first time, while Pat Cummins returns after a one-year absence that was triggered by his injury problems. That will benefit NSW, which last season had to fit both in their state-contract pool.

Peter Siddle was the only player overlooked from last year’s list, which also featured Phillip Hughes. It was the first time in six years the Victorian has not received a central contract and reinforced the theory he had been overtaken in the fast-bowling pecking order by Hazlewood, the 24-year-old who took his place after the first Test of the past summer.

Chief selector Rod Marsh on Tuesday conveyed his lofty expectations for Hazlewood, who made his international debut in 2010 but was not a regular until this season, mainly due to injury.

“Personally, I think he [Hazlewood] will be a terrific bowler in England. I really think he’s one guy that I’m looking forward to seeing bowl in England. I think he could be very, very good – [Glenn] McGrath-like,” he said.

Marsh did not address the suggestion that Siddle, renowned for his physical resilience, could be primarily used in the West Indies series expected to be played on difficult pitches for pacemen and then be outside the first-choice attack for the Ashes. He instead focused on the potential for the 30-year-old to promptly return to the contract list by playing enough matches across the two series to qualify for an automatic upgrade.

“Anything is possible once we get away,” he said. “You’ve got to remember blokes are going to the IPL as well. ‘Sidds’ is going off to play at Lancashire and by the time that first Test match [in Dominica] gets underway . . . I’m not sure what that line-up will be. I’m not sure anyone knows just yet. ‘Sidds’ could very easily jump back into a contract just through sheer weight of [contract upgrade points from] being chosen. It only takes three Tests I think.”

The weighting given to Tests in the contracts was particularly pertinent this year given the Test team will play more Tests (19) in the contract period than one-dayers (10). Australia will most likely play more Twenty20 internationals than one-dayers too, with seven already confirmed and then the World Twenty20 next March in India.

Captain Michael Clarke’s contract has been reduced because he has retired from one-dayers and is now only available for Tests.

The left-hamstring injury that kept James Pattinson from contention to tour the West Indies has not threatened his central contract.  Marsh reiterated his high expectations for the 24-year-old.

“We hold him in high regard. He’s a hell of a good bowler. It’s just a shame he’s injured. We want him right, and when he gets right then we’re going to have some real selection problems trying to pick the best three because they are a pretty good bunch of fast-bowlers at the moment,” the chief selector said

While Marsh lamented that Pattinson would not recover in time for the West Indies he raised the possibility of an Ashes call-up by declaring “that [inability to be a contender for the West Indies] doesn’t mean if someone gets a niggle that we can’t get him to England”.

2015-16 CONTRACTED PLAYERS: George Bailey, Michael Clarke, Pat Cummins James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Mitch Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Chris Rogers, James Pattinson, Steve Smith, Mitch Starc, David Warner, Shane Watson.

In: Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitch Marsh

Out: Phillip Hughes, Peter Siddle

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

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