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ALLIANCE: The Prime Minister has treated Senator Matt Canavan and deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce very differently in the citizenship furore, Mr Fitzgibbon argues. In my 21 years in the federal Parliament I’ve experienced some very interesting sitting weeks. For balance, many of them occurred during the 43rdParliament when Labor was in minority-government and Tony Abbott was making the most of every opportunity.
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But I believe last week’s sitting takes the prize as the most bizarre.

Behind all the political battle lines lay some very serious issues. When the two Greens declared their dual citizenship they immediately left the Parliament.

The Prime Minister admonished them for their “sloppiness” and declared their departure the right thing to do.

But he was happy to embrace somewhat of a lower standard for the National Party’s Senator Matt Canavan.

He was asked to step-aside from his Cabinet post and declared he would not exercise his vote in the Senate until the High Court determined his fate.

For the time being, he remains in the Senate.

When Barnaby Joyce rose to his feet in the Parliament to declare he is a citizen of New Zealand, the Prime Minister adopted a different and lower standard.

Joyce was allowed to retain his roles as deputy Prime Minister and cabinet minister.No satisfactory explanation was given to explain the different treatment for Canavan and Joyce.

Of course, the difference can only be their respective parliamentary chambers.

Governments are made and unmade in the House of Representatives. It’s where the numbers matter most.

Subjecting Barnaby Joyce to the same standard as Matt Canavan would have cost the government a vote in the house where it has the barest of majorities, just 76 of the 150 seats.

After providing the Speaker the number is just 75 seats.

Allowing the number to fall to 74 seats poses an existential threat to the government, and the Prime Minister was not prepared to take that risk.

This political expediency puts the government’s political interests ahead of the national interest.

We already have somethingof a crisis of confidence and a lack of community trust in our political system and institutions. Allowing members who appear to be in breach of the Constitution to continue to exercise their vote threatens to undermine that trust further.

It is likely to be late October before the High Court rules on the validity of Barnaby Joyce’s election.

In the meantime, he plans to vote on a number of crucial bills which affect all of us. He should not.

I’m yet to speak with a constitutional lawyer who believes Joyce’s prospects in the Court are good.

Like Matt Canavan, he should not exercise his vote until the verdict is known.

Just when we thought the Parliamentary sitting week could not grow crazier, Pauline Hanson donned the burqa.

Senator Fiona Nash also declared herself a Scot.

Like her party head, the Nationals’ deputy leader has no intention of giving up her vote or her cabinet post.

And we wonder why people are shaking their heads!

Joel Fitzgibbon has been the federal member for Hunter since the 1996 election. He is Labor’s shadow minister for rural and regional Australia, spokesman for the country caucus and shadow minister for agriculture, fisheries and forestry.Read More →

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Rome: An earthquake hit the tourist-packed holiday island of Ischia on Monday night, killing two people, injuring dozens and trapping three young brothers who survived for up to 16 hours before being rescued.
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Tourists and residents on the island off the coast of Naples ran out onto the narrow streets after the quake wrecked a church and several buildings. Fearing aftershocks, many decided to leave the island early.

Rescuers found a baby boy called Pasquale in the wreckage and pulled him out alive in his nappy early on Tuesday, seven hours after the shock. There was a hush followed by loud applause.

Fire crews found his brothers Mattia and Ciro, aged seven and 11, stuck under a bed nearby. They kept talking to them and fed water to them through a tube.

“I promised them that after this was all over we would all go get a pizza together,” one emergency worker said on Italian television.

They freed Mattia late on Tuesday morning and later extracted Ciro more than 16 hours after the quake hit. The parents were safe because they were in another room.

They said Ciro had probably saved his brother’s life by shoving him under the bed when the quake struck.

“The rescuers were great. We really have to thank God for this miracle,” said the island’s bishop, Pietro Lagnese.

About six buildings in the town of Casamicciola, including a church, collapsed in the quake, which hit at 8:57pm local time on Monday. The walls of one were ripped open, exposing a kitchen with a table still set for dinner.

Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology put the magnitude at 4.0, revising it up from an initial 3.6, but both the U.S. Geological Survey and the European quake agency estimated it at 4.3.

It struck three days before the first anniversary of a major quake that killed nearly 300 people in central Italy, most of them in the town of Amatrice. Falling masonry

The director of the island’s hospital said two women were killed and about 40 injured. One of the victims was hit by falling masonry from the church of Santa Maria del Suffragio, the Civil Protection Department in Rome said.

The church was rebuilt after it, like most of Casamicciola, was destroyed by an earthquake that killed about 2,000 people in 1883.

Most of the damage was in the high part of the volcanic island. Hotels and residences on the coast did not appear to suffer serious damage but fire brigades were checking to see if they were still habitable.

The island has a year-round population of about 63,000, which swells to more than 200,000 in summer, with many people from the mainland owning holiday homes.

Civil Protection Department head Angelo Borrelli said about 2,600 people could not re-enter their homes, pending checks.

Helicopters and a ferry boat brought in more rescue workers from the mainland. Some civil protection squads were already on the island because of brushfires.

Three extra ferries were provided during the night for about 1,000 residents and tourists who wanted to leave. As daylight broke, dozens of people went to the island’s ports, having decided to end their vacations early.

Many who were due to take ferries from Naples on the mainland to start their vacations cancelled their plans, local officials said.

Ischia, about a one-hour ride from Naples, is popular with German tourists, and Chancellor Angela Merkel has stayed there often.

Reuters /**/

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Clear skies: Blackall-Tambo mayor Andrew Martin is looking forward to the day when, rather than searching for a signal, he can operate his business “in the cloud”.Residents of the Blackall-Tambo region are on the cusp of a technological shake-up its leaders say will be the envy of regional communities around Australia.
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An exhaustive search by the region’s mayor for a communications solution to what he described as an “unreliable and expensive” satellite internet service has led to the announcement of a partnership with South Western Wireless for the provision of “superfast internet”.

“The fast backhaul offered by this idea would allow a company as big as BHP to set up here,” mayor Andrew Martin said. “It’s a blueprint for remote communities around the world to have the option of very fast internet.”

Although the bold project is not yet fully funded –it relies on a $500,000 grant from the federal Building Better Regions fund to become reality –Cr Martin is confident it will succeed.

“The applications are all intertwined, every level of government is aware of the other parts,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s a fait accompli but it’s unusual for these sorts of things not to get full support.”

The Blackall-Tambo Regional Council committed $125,000 to the project in its 2017-18 budget, to be used in conjunction with $500,000 from the state government’s Building Our Regions fund.

The scheme uses optic fibre cableat Barcaldine, bypassing Telstra’s fibre running through both Blackall and Tambo, and 24‘point to point’ microwave towers to transmit a wireless signal equally around the region.

As well as internet packages, even the most remote resident will be able to choose whether to continue with existing landline services or move to Voice Over Internet Protocols, and possibly use their mobile phone via wifi hotspots.

The 20-year deal will be hosted and maintained by South Western Wireless at no cost to the council.

“For the first time, people living on properties will be waiting for technology to catch up,” Cr Martin said.

The offering doesn’t stop there –not only will government departments, especially emergency services, be offered use of the network for no charge, grey nomads will be able to pull into laybys in the region and access wifi hotspots.

Council’s existing infrastructure will be upgraded, including rebroadcast capability for digital television and radio, UHF repeaters, and even its telephony services.

South Western Wireless CEO, Geoff Peach, described it as the BTRC Metro Area.

“Wifi hotspots and emergency telephones will be deployed at council’s roadside amenities stops to provide communications for travellers and monitoring of equipment at the sites using CCTV and other remote monitoring equipment.

South Western Wireless CEO, Geoff Peach

The scheme is an opt-in one, meaning people can choose to stay with their SkyMuster retail service provider or Telstra service but Mr Peach expected that 80 per cent of the shire’s residents would say they weren’t happy with their current service.

He is callingon organisations to offer services, based on the speeds and prices on offer.

As a vertically integrated organisation, it’s the subscriptions from users and companies with add-on services that South Western Wireless relieson for its profit.

“People on the network can have their telephones provided by us as well –it’s a whole of communications solution,” Geoff said.“People will be able to import their telephone number –everything is identical from the point of view of the subscriber.”

Geoff described South Western Wireless as the first company to bring in a facility that “deals with the needs of a whole region in one hit”.

“I think this will bring people back, and stop people from leaving,” he said.

Cr Martin has similar high hopes. He used the example of rural businesses not being able to use a custom-designed world-acclaimed accounting package on current internet systems, and shifting their businesses elsewhere.

“People are currently paying $90 a month for internet that’s sometimes unusable.”

Geoff expected they would start deploying infrastructure before the middle of August and hoped to have the first dozen of 24 towers in operation before Christmas.

Ongoing tower maintenance will be provided by South Western Wireless.

Two other councils have already asked for a similar deal for their communities.

Queensland Country Life

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Canberra quick Nick Winter’s time as a poor student helped him cope with being a poor cricketer.
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The 24-year-old signed his first full state contract for South Australia on Tuesday and had to spend a couple of months training full-time unpaid while the Aussie cricket pay dispute raged.

But Winter spent last season without a contract, going to university and playing district cricket on the injury comeback trail, which meant nothing had changed.

While his form playing for Adelaide University warranted a contract with SA – he was the club champion – he had to wait until Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers’ Association argued over the new pay deal before he could sign one.

Winter spent three years on a rookie contract with the Redbacks, but the left-arm quick tore a muscle in his side about 18 months ago.

He rushed to get back to play for the Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash League only to tear it again on his return.

It meant he missed out on a contract with SA, but after a season playing district cricket he’s back.

“I found out in April that I was looking likely, but the MOU negotiations meant that they couldn’t put anything in writing,” Winter said.

“That was a little bit disappointing, just because you like to secure your future, but when that was all sorted out and I was given the contract last week that was really good … I was pretty excited.

“It was a pretty unique situation … for me the good thing was because I wasn’t getting paid from cricket from the last year being delisted it was no real different situation for me.”

Winter has played two 50-over domestic games, along with four Twenty20s in the BBL, but was yet to make his Sheffield Shield debut.

That’s his goal for this summer, when he wants to use the upcoming one-day domestic competition to launch his career in the four-day game.

His cause will be helped by the absence of Kane Richardson, who was named in the Aussie T20 squad alongside fellow Canberran Jason Behrendorff.

With Richardson off to India in September, it opened the door for Winter to stake a claim for a spot when the ODDs start in Brisbane next month.

“I’ve played two one-day games since I’ve been across here. I was in the 12 for a Sheffield Shield game last year and didn’t get to play,” he said.

“That’s a bit of a step that I want to do this year is make my Sheffield Shield debut.

“Obviously before that we’ve got the [ODDs] so hopefully I get an opportunity there.”

While missing out on a contract due to injury and spending a season playing at a lower level might seem like a setback, Winter felt it helped with his life balance.

It allowed him to concentrate on his uni – he’s studying a Bachelor of International Studies and Politics – which he expected to complete this year.

He felt it gave him something to “fall back on” if the cricket career didn’t go according to plan.

Winter joked it could also see him perfectly placed for a return to his native Canberra for the start of a diplomatic career.

“It’s been good because it helps that life-away-from-cricket balance and my family were pretty keen on me always having that back-up plan,” he said.

“So however long I have left in my cricket career, I’ve got something to fall back on as soon as that’s done.”

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FOCUSED: Lakes United centre Jacob Gagai scored two tries in his return match from a hamstring injury against Kurri Kurri. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
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JACOB Gagai is accustomed to being known as “Dane’s little brother”.

The tag has followed him from their home town Mackay to the Newcastle Knights and Brisbane Broncos.

Five years the junior, Jacob is immensely proud of whatKnights and Queensland star, Dane, has achieved.

“I still pinch myself when he plays for Queensland,” the 21-year-old said. “To see a sibling of mine doing something like that. For him to receive player of the series, I was way proud.”

Jacob, while admiring Dane,is hisown man, with his own goals.

“I will always be looked at as Dane’s little brother,” Jacob said.“You hear it from the sidelines …I’m not the type of person who lets that stuff get to them. We are two completely different people.He has his life and his football career.If I worry about that, it can take distract me from what I want to achieve.”

Jacob, who came through the juniors at the Knights and Broncos, is in his second season at Lakes United.

The centre scored a double in his return from a seven-week hamstring injury in a 18-16 win over Kurri Kurri on Saturday.

Although Lakes and a successful final series is the focus, Gagai has a long-termgoal of playing in the NRL.

YEAH BABY: Jacob Gagai slides in for a try in the win over Monaro in the final of the NSW Country championships. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

“It has been a dream of mine since I was a boy,” he said.“Seeing my brother and cousin, Josh Hoffman, playing in the NRL, it gives you that bit more motivation.I feel like through the juniors, SGball and under-20s, I wasn’t mature and just thought it would happen.Now, I realise how badly I want to play in the NRL and make it my career. It is all I will be working towards until I get it.”

Lakes coach Dean Noonan has noticed a change in Gagaion and off the field.

“His approach to the game – his preparation and how he looks after himself – has gone up in spades,” said Noonan, who also works for the Knights and has known Jacob for five years.“When he was there last time he was a young kid and didn’t really put the pieces together. He has finally recognised, if you are going to have a crack at anything you have to work at it. Credit to himbecause that is what he has done. He still has a way to go but he recognises that.If anotheropportunity comes, I’m confident he will grab it.”

Gagai has taken confidence from his return match.

“As the game rolled out I started to get more comfortable with it,” he said. “I had zero pain and was just glad I got through 80 minutes.”

Gagai is one of eight players from the Newcastle Rebels selected in the NSW Country under-23s side for games against Samoa in Wagga (October 13) and Scotland in Balina (October 20).

“With the World Cup coming up they need a couple of trials,” he said.“Being under-23s it gives young blokes like myself and opportunity against players who play in the NRL.”

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“I’m sick and tired of hearing people say ‘that’s my money'”: Cheryl, who preferred not to give her last name, at Bankstown Central. Photo: Ben RushtonShe’s a Bankstown resident going through a tough time – relying partly on welfare while being treated for cancer.
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But Cheryl, who preferred not to give her last name, was part of a surprising number of local supporters for the federal government’s planned trial of random drug testing for welfare recipients in Canterbury-Bankstown.

“I one hundred per cent support it,” she said, taking a breather on a bench at Bankstown Central shopping centre. “Two hundred per cent.

“If you’re employed, employers have the right to do random drug-testing in certain areas. Why not where people rock up to ask for something for nothing?”

It’s not that Cheryl is a heartless hardliner. Having had to retire early from a human resources job for medical reasons, she said she knew how valuable welfare could be but was frustrated that people she knew had stayed on it for years.

“I’m sick and tired of hearing people say ‘that’s my money. How dare the government tell me how to spend it’,” she said.

“It’s not. It’s taxpayers’ money and they’re helping you get through a rough patch until you can get on your feet.”

Others held very different views in Bankstown on the day the government announced the area had been chosen for the trial next year because of an increase in welfare recipients and ice-related hospitalisations.

“Isn’t it taking your rights away?” said Samuel, who also preferred not to give his surname, on the steps of the Centrelink office. Having lost his labouring job, he has just started receiving benefits.

“They’re just making it more difficult,” he said. “It’s an excuse. Maybe they need to give people work.”

Another resident, who did not want to be named at all, questioned why Canterbury-Bankstown had been chosen.

“I don’t know why they’re targeting this area,” he said. “I grew up here and we’re always in the media.

“I shop here and I shop in Punchbowl and Lakemba. To me, it’s a lot safer than a lot of other areas.”

Cheryl, who has lived in Bankstown for 27 years, was not at all worried about being one of the trial locations.

“It’s probably because of the level of welfare here,” she said. “You’d expect that if it’s a high level, you’d target that.

“But given that it’s starting in a handful of areas – this being one of them – I’d expect it would eventually branch out to all areas. Somebody’s got to be a test case.”

Syrian refugee Marwan Almithyab, from Yagoona, believes other suburbs have a worse ice problem than Bankstown.

“There’s a bigger problem in other areas of Sydney, like Redfern and northern Sydney,” he said. But if it was a requirement to receive welfare, he would be fine with random drug-testing.

“It’s not about being intrusive,” he said. “It’s a right for the government if you have support from the government.”

Rod, who was applying for benefits after being laid off recently, was also happy to be drug-tested.

“No problem,” he said cheerfully. “All good.”

Bangladeshi immigrant Mohammad Moinulromn, from Lakemba, was just delighted that Australia had a strong welfare system to help people with health problems, including drug addiction.

“We appreciate the initiatives,” he said. “It’s a very nice system. In the USA, they don’t have a very humanitarian service.”

While without a job and unable to get welfare on his current visa, Mr Moinulromn would also be happy to be drug-tested.

“Of course,” he said. “I’m ready to do that.”

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Neil Cummins with the Kings Cross nightclub tsar John Ibrahim. A former bodyguard of Kings Cross identity John Ibrahim, who this week appeared on a list of Australia’s most-wanted, has handed himself in to NSW police.
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Neil Cummins, 42, walked in to Burwood Police Station on Tuesday after Operation Roam was launched the previous day to track down 20 alleged criminals on the run across Australia.

Cummins, the ex-husband of former Bardot singer Tiffani Wood, was charged over his alleged involvement in an extortion case at Coffs Harbour on the NSW north coast in 2014.

He appeared at Burwood Local Court on Tuesday and was granted bail ahead of his next court date on August 29 at Coffs Harbour.

Crime Stoppers NSW boss Peter Price blamed “incorrect” contact details provided to police for the inability of officers to locate him.

Also on Tuesday, Jayson Aworth, 41, attended Dareton Police Station after he was named on the most-wanted list.

He was charged in relation to alleged aggravated indecent assault offences that occurred in the far southwest of the state in January.

Aworth was refused bail and scheduled to appear at Broken Hill Local Court on Tuesday.

Operation Roam is a national initiative seeking public help to track down 20 people sought by police across Australia.

So far eight people have been arrested as part of the operation – including two before it officially kicked off – while 12 others remain outstanding.

Also on Operation Roam’s radar is accused double-murderer John Victor Bobak, 67, who has been on the run for 25 years.

Bobak is wanted for his alleged involvement in the 1991 execution-style killings of bookmaker Peter George Wade and Maureen Ambrose at a Surfers Paradise unit.

Jonathan Dick, from Victoria, is wanted over the murder of his brother, David Dick, at a Melbourne shopping centre in February.

AAP

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As the Opera House shimmered in the background overlooking the sunshine-soaked harbour, Stanford and Rice universities were welcomed Down Under by a joey and a koala to begin preparations for Sunday’s second Sydney Bowl.
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The American college football season will kick off in Australia for a second-straight year, following the success of the California Golden Bears and Hawaii’s Rainbow Warriors 12 months ago.

Version 2017 will be played at Allianz Stadium at noon on Sunday, and beamed to the US for the prime-time Saturday night slot showcasing two of the country’s most historic universities.

In one corner is the sporting and academic behemoth of Stanford, the Cardinal, based in California and laying claim to a whopping 33 alumni playing in the NFL this season.

Then there’s the Rice Owls from Houston, Texas, smaller in stature than Stanford but a division one college team nonetheless, coached by the larger-than-life David Bailiff embarking on his 11th season in charge of the football program.

Both universities have brought travelling parties exceeding 200 people, including players, staff, sponsors, fans and cheerleaders.

They’ll spend the week practicing for their season opener, but also taking in the sights and sounds a late winter in Sydney has to offer.

That includes Bondi and Manly beaches, harbour cruises and everything in between.

“Just look at this, I think I’m changing where I’m going to retire, I’ve been here five hours and already I’m thinking I’ve got to consider Sydney,” Bailiff said overlooking the harbour after his side touched down in Australia on Tuesday morning.

“You look at the backdrop of this place, driving over here just the architecture downtown, how it’s so much old and so much new and it’s all blended.

“It looks like a good-natured culture that likes to have fun. Respect them and they’re going to respect you back.

“We’ve got some fun mixed in for these guys, hopefully we’ll get to the zoo we’re going to try to pull that off. But we’ve got to practice every morning, we’re here to play football.”

The Cardinal have an early jump on their Sydney Bowl opponents – they landed a day earlier and have already visited Taronga Park zoo.

That’s allowed coach David Shaw, considered one of the finest in American college football, to tick off the two items that were top of his bucket list.

“Number two on my list after the Opera House was to get close to a kangaroo,” Shaw said.

Shaw is paid a reported $US3.9 million ($4.91m) a season, and leads one of the US’ most successful football programs.

Just two years ago the Cardinal won the Pac 12 conference title, and last year Shaw oversaw a 10-3 record that included a thumping win over Rice to close out the season.

The coach confirmed quarterback Keller Chryst had overcome a knee injury and would start against the Owls, who Shaw expected would be a much tougher opponent this time around.

“Late in the year they had some health issues, we also had a couple of guys banged up,” Shaw said.

“They’ve changed defensive co-ordinators, I know they’re going to be much better than they were last year.

“Keller is completely healthy, he’s ready to go, he’ll start the game, he’ll play the game and it [his knee] feels great. He’ll run the show.”

Rice will be led by freshman quarterback Sam Glaesmann who won the role in pre-season ahead of John Tyler Granato and Jackson Tyner.

Running back Nahshon Ellerbe will be making his first start for the Owls, having spent his first two years at the university predominantly wearing the red shirt on the bench.

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A budding price war in the IVF sector has led to lower treatment prices at one of Australia’s largest providers but costs for consumers could still go lower, according to one of the industry’s pioneers.
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Two of Australia’s largest IVF providers – Virtus Health and Monash IVF – have this week reported sluggish earnings as fewer Australians seek reproductive assistance and as they battle increasing competition from a low-cost operator, Primary Health Care.

Virtus shares tumbled as much as 7.5 per cent on Tuesday after the group missed analyst forecasts by posting a 14.6 per cent fall in net profit to $28.1 million. On Monday, Monash IVF’s shares dived 8.7 per cent on its results and lacklustre 2018 outlook.

Virtus shares closed down 3.2 per cent at $5.48.

Virtus chief executive Sue Channon said competition from lower-cost providers has led to Virtus adjusting the cost of treatments at its cheaper The Fertility Centre clinics to between $900 and $1500 out-of-pocket costs.

This compares to the average out-of-pocket cost of $800 at a Primary clinic.

“The key thing to note is the services are provided by fertility specialists,” Ms Channon said.

Monash IVF does not offer a lower cost option.

Professor Alan Trounson, who was one of the scientists who created the first IVF baby, told BusinessDay prices are still too high.

“I do think the price could go lower. A lot of clinics set the price at the rebate price,” Dr Trounson said.

“At least for younger patients, where the woman is under 38 years of age and the men are in their late 40s, their fertility is pretty strong and I think they could be treated in a much more economical manner than they are currently being treated.”

Dr Trounson, who helped found Monash IVF but has sold out of the company, said people with complex infertility issues needed more expensive care.

Ms Channon said low-cost fertility treatments made up 15 per cent of the company’s total IVF cycles in 2017, an increase on 13 per cent in 2016.

“The average age of our patients is 37 and they have complex fertility issues and so the low-cost options – both ours, bulk-billed and everyone else who provides low-cost services – are not for everybody,” she said.

Virtus will pay a final fully franked dividend of 12?? per share on October 13. During the year its revenue fell 1.8 per cent to $256.5 million. Australian earnings before interest, tax, amortisation and depreciation dropped 7.6 per cent to $65.8 million.

Driving the earnings fall was a 3.7 per cent decrease in IVF cycles on a like-for-like basis. Total IVF cycles were down 1.2 per cent in Australia over the year to June 2017.

Ms Channon said the sector was expected to continue to produce compound average growth rates of between 2 per cent and 3 per cent as it had over the past five years.

Morningstar analyst Chris Kallos said Virtus’ results had missed market consensus and the company’s outlook for growth rates in the sector coupled with weaker-than-expected growth in its low-cost option business had seen investors recalibrate the company’s overall growth prospects.

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Christchurch: Wallabies coaches Michael Cheika and Mick Byrne have responded to stinging criticism from Australian rugby legend Michael Lynagh, conceding the team’s skills weren’t up to scratch against New Zealand last Saturday.
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Byrne, however, insists there has been a marked improvement in overall skills since he took over last year and has explained that time is required to see results.

Following Australia’s 54-34 loss to the All Blacks in Sydney, Lynagh, who represented the Wallabies in 72 games from 1984 to 1995, could not hold back his frustration after the match.

“I can’t overestimate how angry I am at seeing an Australian team have skills that are non-existent,” Lynagh said on Sky Sports. “Passing and catching and making tackles and trusting the bloke beside you are pretty basic even at schoolboy level. Australia has had a month to work together to try and create stuff and do things and they come up with that in the first 40. Very, very disappointing.”

Speaking on Tuesday at Wallabies training in Christchurch, Cheika had little to say when pressed on Lynagh’s comments.

“Where’s he? Over in England isn’t he?” Cheika said. “If that’s how he feels, [we] can’t change it except for what we do on the field.

“There’s nothing else I can say to it, really.”

Byrne, a former All Blacks skills coach, gave an honest appraisal when asked for a response to the criticism.

“When you’re talking about a dropped pass or a missed tackle they’re skillsets and yeah, they weren’t up to scratch,” Byrne said. “When you’re out there as a group working on changing habits, there is a period of time when sometimes it’s not acceptable. I understand that.

“I honestly believe that when you’re inside, we know where we are going with it. We are not executing some of the things we’d like to but we are trying to get better every day.

“When you look at the game and from a scoreboard point of view, some of the errors we made, we took some great learnings.”

Byrne says he can understand the public’s frustration in the aftermath of a particularly sobering loss to the All Blacks but believes there are positive signs coming out of the Wallabies from a skills perspective.

“The improvements have been fantastic,” Byrne said. “We are seeing huge improvements there and it’s going to be persistence that will start to transfer it out into the game.

“I understand people’s frustrations that they’re not seeing it straight away. Maybe that’s a thing of society; there’s an instant gratification that’s everybody is after. But this is just hard work that takes time.”

Byrne, known affectionately as “Mick the Kick”, pointed to the fact that the All Blacks also needed time to see genuine improvements when he first came on board.

“If you go back, 2007 wasn’t a flash year for us trying to get things right but certainly when it clicks into gear it happens and when you turn the corner you turn it pretty quickly,” Byrne said. “The key is perseverance and these boys’ energy to do that has been tremendous.”

Meanwhile, recent Wallabies debutant Curtis Rona said there were “highs and lows” in his first outing in a gold jersey but his hunger to remain on the wing has well and truly remained.

If Dane Haylett-Petty is cleared of a biceps injury, which is likely, Rona will probably have to make way for his Western Force teammate.

“He’s got a good chance of being fit and it’ll be massive for the team if he’s ready to go,” Rona said. “In every game he’s played for Australia he’s been exceptional.”

Rona said in such tough times for Australian rugby, fans needed to show their support rather than bag the national team.

“What makes the game more important is if they stick it out with us and get behind us and encourage us and be positive more than negative,” Rona said. “That’s what we need in times like this.

“It’s all right for supporters to jump on a winning streak but when it’s times like this, against the best team in the world, we need people to support us and show some positivity coming into these games.”

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One of the two Wisconsin teenage girls charged in the 2014 Slender Man stabbing of a classmate has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.
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Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, who were both aged 12 at the time of the attack, were charged as adults with first-degree intentional homicide on the attack on Payton Leutner, who was stabbed 19 times and left for dead in a park during a sleepover party.

Both girls faced up to 45 years in prison, if convicted. The teenagers entered an insanity plea.

Weier, now 15, pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree homicide as a party to a crime, with use of a deadly weapon.

The court was told that the victim’s family supported the plea arrangement.

Weier will face a trial next month to establish the state of her mental health. If found guilty she could face up to 10 years in prison, however, if the jury found she was suffering mental illness at the time of the attempted killing, the 15-year-old will be sectioned to three years in a psychiatric hospital.

At the time of the attack, both girls told detectives they were acting to appease or impress Slender Man, an online urban legend the girls said they believed would harm them or their families if they didn’t kill Leutner.

For the first time since her arrest, Weier, now a much more mature looking and sounding teenager, spoke at some length in court. She had to explain to the judge that she understood what she had done, and the consequences of pleading guilty to the new charge.

Weier also told the court for the first time that she feared Morgan Geyser, her co-defendant, would return to Waukesha and kill her if Weier didn’t try to flee with her after the actual stabbing occurred.

Geyser pleased not guilty by reason of mental disease to attempted homicide chargers. Weier initially entered the same plea.

Luetner was found bleeding in a park by a passing cyclist. She was stabbed during a game of hide-and-seek after Geyser’s 12th birthday sleepover the night before.

With Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Paddle Pop, Magnum and Golden Gaytime maker Streets ice cream faces accusations of using “industrial blackmail” to push through cuts to staff wages and conditions.
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Unilever, the multinational company that owns Streets, has applied to the Fair Work Commission to terminate an expired enterprise agreement covering factory workers in the western Sydney suburb of Minto.

The company said the decision was made after “careful consideration of all options to create more flexible working conditions and enhance the competitiveness and viability of the factory in the longer-term, which is ultimately in the best interest of employees and the company”.

However, the union estimates the move would cut workers’ take-home pay by 46 per cent, a claim Unilever said in a statement had “no basis in fact”.

Steve Murphy, the assistant secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, said 145 Streets factory workers represented by the union faced an uncertain future.

“The nuclear option of terminating the agreement and cutting their workers’ pay will not be accepted by our members or the consumers of their products,” he said.

Mr Murphy said workers had been trying to negotiate a new agreement that improved productivity as well as pay and conditions. He urged Streets to return to the negotiating table.

But Unilever said the AMWU and Unilever would “all get to have a say and be heard” as part of the Fair Work Commission process.

The AMWU said Unilever’s application to have the Streets Minto factory enterprise agreement terminated would, if successful, mean workers would revert to the modern food award.

It estimates workers’ pay would be cut from $40.18 an hour to $22.43. Including changes to shifts, it said this would result in an overall annual pay cut of 46 per cent.

The union said workers could also face weaker pay rates for overtime and reductions in leave entitlements and flexible shifts.

The ACTU described the company threat to terminate the enterprise agreement as “industrial blackmail”.

“This is a new tool in the employers’ bargaining shed,” ACTU president Ged Kearney said.

“More and more, we are seeing employers use this tactic whereby they introduce a new enterprise bargaining agreement that they know will be unacceptable to the employees.

“They stretch out bargaining over and over and force the employees to vote down unacceptable agreements and then say ‘we can’t come to an agreement’ and apply to the Fair Work Commission for a termination.”

Ms Kearney said this left employees with a choice between accepting a new agreement that cut their pay below current levels, or being forced onto an award that paid them even less.

“They are using it as industrial blackmail,” she said.

“You are asked to choose between a pay cut and a worse pay cut.

“This tactic is driving down wages, trashing the bargaining system and making an absolute joke of any industrial relations protections that workers might have.”

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It is hard to believe activist shareholder Elliott Management is about to stop agitating for change at BHP now the company has caved in to its demands to ditch its US oil and gas shale assets.
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Quite the opposite. It will be emboldened to pursue other demands it thinks necessary for BHP to clean up its act.

It is too simple to assume that because BHP delivered a massive boost in underlying profits to $US6.7 billion ($8.5 billion), from $US1.2 billion last year, and more than tripled the dividend to shareholders that this would provide it sufficient armour to push Elliott into retreat.

First, this is because the overwhelming majority of the improved profit performance was due to higher prices in the commodities BHP mines and, second, because despite the massive jump in profit, it came in below what the market was expecting.

Sure, BHP chief executive Andrew Mackenzie has been doing a good job improving efficiency, reducing debt and trimming costs and capital outlays but Elliott wants more structural change.

In particular, it wants BHP to get out of the oil business altogether and at this stage the company won’t have a bar of it.

Neither will BHP acquiesce to Elliott’s push to collapse the dual-listed structure.

Having said that, Elliott has scored plenty of goals in its BHP game since the starting whistle sounded earlier this year.

The most important was BHP’s decision to sell the onshore oil/gas shale (unconventional) assets in the US.

While BHP is dressing up this announcement as its own decision – rather than a result of pressure from Elliott and some of its supporting fellow shareholders – the fact is that BHP first responded to this demand in April with a firm no.

In BHP’s initial response to rejecting this part of the Elliott proposal, it said among other things: “Onshore US expected to be free cash flow positive in FY17 and poised for growth as prices recover.”

On Monday, Mackenzie played the debate differently, saying that it had been going through the process of how to deal with these assets for years. He said the reason for selling was because the company couldn’t find additional shale assets to acquire in order to bulk up that division.

But it appears most likely that BHP had wanted to hold on to these assets in order to improve them to claw back some of the billions of capital blown up buying them. It paid $US20 billion for the assets and spent a further $US17 billion developing them – mostly under Mackenzie’s predecessor, Marius Kloppers.

However, Mackenzie did concede that the views of shareholders were always taken into account.

Meanwhile, an additional Elliott goal was revealed on Tuesday – the decision about developing BHP’s potash business would now be put on hold for a few years rather than going to the board for final approval next year.

Elliott had been hugely critical of BHP taking the plunge into potash on the basis that there was a risk of blowing up more capital, particularly given the current price of this commodity.

Elliott was also successful in its push for BHP to appoint a well-credentialled, cleanskin chairman to take over later this year when Jac Nasser retires. Although BHP may have done this without prodding.

There are a range of views from analysts and shareholders on whether BHP should unify its capital structure, but the majority are not in favour.

There are also plenty of experts looking at how much the shale assets are worth, (some say upwards of $US11 billion), how long it will take to sell them, how a deal could be structured and what it will mean for BHP earnings.

Mackenzie has a preference for a trade sale, but will look at other options.

A report last month by Macquarie found “in aggregate, we find that the valuation of the US onshore petroleum business is ~$US10 billion, driven mainly by the Permian and Eagle Ford. However, our analysis includes a number of assumptions, and risks to execution exist in achieving that value, which when taken into account, provide a more moderate view on valuation of $US8-10 billion for the business”.

It also said: “Shale sale is earnings accretive but value neutral: A sale of the shale assets for $US8 billion would be valuation neutral but deliver a material improvement to group earnings and cash flow. Our shale sale scenario delivers 10-25 per cent earnings per share upgrades for full year 19-21 and a 20 per cent reduction in capex.”

The bottom line is that BHP doesn’t want to hand over the company’s future strategy to Elliott (a 5 per cent shareholder).

Mackenzie is steadfast in his views that the conventional petroleum business is working well and delivering good returns and that there will be plenty more of that in the coming years.

He says there will be plenty of time (a couple of decades) of puffing on this cigar because electric cars will change the dynamics of the oil industry.

Not everyone agrees.

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