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Malouf to leave Michelin-starred Petersham

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Australian chef Greg Malouf has parted ways with Petersham Nurseries Cafe in Richmond, England – the shabby-chic restaurant that recently retained its Michelin-star status under Malouf’s guiding hands.
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Petersham Nurseries, a favourite among London’s celebrity set, rose to acclaim under the stewardship of another Australian chef, Skye Gyngell.

A spokeswoman for Petersham Nurseries Cafe has been quoted on caterersearch南京夜网 saying that the cafe was searching for a new “guest chef” to take over from Malouf, implying his appointment this year was only ever temporary.

Gyngell departed in controversial circumstances in February after telling Good Week-end that the awarding of a Michelin star had made working at Petersham unbearable because it gave rise to unrealistic expectations among diners. Malouf, then based in Australia, was appointed by owners Gael and Francesco Boglione as consultant chef following her departure.

Malouf had previously formed a relationship with Petersham and the Bogliones, having launched one of his acclaimed books at the cafe and having worked there occasionally as a guest chef.

Malouf has made many changes at Petersham in his short stint there, overhauling Gyngell’s kitchen staff and installing four Melburnians; Catherine Ashton (head chef), Lucia Corbel (sous chef), Tom Sarafian (senior chef de parte) and Liana Crothers (chef de parte) and slowly introducing his signature Middle Eastern flavours to the menu. At the beginning of October Petersham Nurseries Cafe retained it’s Michelin star, with editor of the British guide telling The Age the transition between Gyngell and Malouf had been seamless and that Malouf had put his stamp on the menu.

While in Melbourne last month Malouf told The Age he was in contract negotiations to stay on at the cafe. He said a sticking point was not money, but whether or not he would be granted enough time away from Petersham to make frequent return trips to Australia, where his wife Chalice and her children are based. Malouf is also working on two more books – a cookbook and a travel book – with former wife Lucy Malouf for publisher Hardie Grant. He also said he saw his role at Petersham as a stepping stone and that he would like to open his own restaurant in London in coming years.

However, a spokeswoman for Petersham Nurseries Cafe has been reported as saying yesterday that Malouf’s appointment was only ever intended as short-term. “Greg was booked as a guest chef consultant to cover the spring and summer period, a role that he completed with great success,” said the spokeswoman.

“The owners, the Boglione family, are very happy with the kitchen team at Petersham all of whom have benefited enormously from the experience of Greg’s guest tenure. Petersham is planning to repeat the experience with a different chef and will announce details in due course.”

The Age has attempted to contact Malouf, who is credited with introducing Middle Eastern flavours to Melbourne’s dining scene during his long and successful stints at restaurants MoMo and O’Connell’s.

Meanwhile Melbourne-based chefs have already begun hailing news of his return. Shane Delia from Maha, routinely characterised as having been influenced by Malouf, tweeted last night that it would be great to have Malouf back in Australia and that he was happy to hand back the Middle Eastern crown.

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8 places not to visit alone

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By all means, visit Egypt – but if you’re a woman, it might not be so much fun on your own.OK, don’t get all huffy. You can go to these places alone if you want to. I’m sure plenty of people do. Actually, I know it.
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But what I’m saying is that there are some cities and countries around the world that are better to experience with company.

Some are more fun with friends. Others are safer with company. Others are just designed for couples.

Regardless of the reason, if you’re heading to any of these places, it might not be a bad idea to talk someone into coming along with you.

Queenstown is party town. The restaurants are great, and the bars are even better. Many a ski day has been skipped at Coronet and the Remarkables due to a Queenstown-induced hangover. But if you head to the Kiwi adventure town on your own there’s every chance you’ll miss out on that completely, especially if you don’t stay in a hostel (and thus have less chance of meeting like-minded solo travellers). I was even told by one restaurant that they don’t do tables for one. I’ll just eat in my room, shall I?

I love Moscow – absolutely love it. But the Russians can be tough nuts to crack. They’re not the sort of people to immediately take a stranger under their wing. What that means is that if you’re travelling solo, it’s unlikely that you’ll make many local friends, especially when you throw in the language barrier. Take a buddy of your own, however, and you’ve at least got someone to talk to. And get a smile from occasionally.

This is like Queenstown, but times 10. Visiting Las Vegas without a friend would be about as much fun as visiting Alaska without a jumper. Unless you count the sad sacks playing the pokies on their own all day, no one seems to go to Vegas without some company to get a little crazy with. We’re talking pool parties, nightclubs, go-kart races and shooting ranges. Vegas is about letting loose – and that’s not much fun to do alone, is it?

There’s an unfortunate little caveat to this one: while the political climate is not the best right now for anyone to be travelling Egypt alone, it’s particularly bad for solo female travellers. It’s the constant hassle you get – the sort of behaviour that’s borne of the seemingly widely held belief in Egypt that Western women don’t need to be treated with the respect afforded locals. Maybe I’m wrong (I haven’t experienced it, for obvious reasons), but Egypt looks a tough one for solo women to me.

Italy is a country designed for sharing. It’s about sharing food. It’s about sharing drinks. It’s about sharing time with family and friends. There’s nothing wrong with visiting Italy alone, but you do get the feeling that this is an experience that would be far better with company – someone with which to make la dolce vita even sweeter. Otherwise you end up drinking a lot of wine alone (although that’s possibly just me).

It’s like a combination of Queenstown and Italy – a party town with great food and wine that should really be experienced with company, whether that’s good friends or a partner. This isn’t a place of particularly good museums or interesting monuments. It’s all about eating and drinking, so unless you particularly fancy the idea of standing around in a packed bar yelling, “How good is this food!” at no one in particular, don’t try to fly solo in San Seb.

These Pacific islands are stunningly beautiful, endlessly romantic, and just the sort of place you’d like to take your significant other to. And that’s what people do. Most of them, in fact. Perhaps aided by the fact that this isn’t a destination in the price range of most dirty backpackers, French Polynesia is littered with sickeningly happy couples getting their smooch on, and little else. Do yourself a favour: take someone with you.

A few people on Twitter helped me out with this one, as I haven’t actually been. But PNG, by all accounts, is a scary place (the cities, that is – I’d jump at the chance to visit the outer islands for some of the world’s best scuba diving). As most travellers know, it’s about strength in numbers in dangerous cities. One person is a target, while two or more people at least give the bad guys pause to consider what they’re about to do. Walking the streets of PNG, I’d want to have a few friends around me. Or a bodyguard.

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Standard mistakes that could kill your start-up

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Give your business a fighting chance by getting things right from the start.Starting a small business can be an exciting, anxiety-provoking, hectic, costly and rewarding exercise. With so much to get your head around, it’s little wonder some important tasks get overlooked.
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Get it right from the ground up

It’s tempting to undertake all the necessary paperwork in-house, to cut out legal and accounting costs.

But Joe Kaleb, chartered accountant and CEO of small business portal www.australianbiz南京夜网.au, says many people focus on cutting costs and don’t consider the benefits of contacting their accountant for advice before embarking on their venture.

“Perhaps the most common and important mistake that business owners make when starting up is that they don’t seek advice early on important matters, such as the appropriate legal structure to operate the business, setting up appropriate systems, the best way of funding the business, having the right insurance policies in place, and having a business plan that is updated on a regular basis,” Kaleb says.

“The consequences of this is that the business owner may end up paying more tax, because, for example, a company was not set up as opposed to running the business as a sole trader … it increases the risk that the business will fail.”

Learn from others’ mistakes

Failing to properly register business and trading names is more common than you’d expect, according to Ben Dalton, senior business facilitator at (Sydney’s) Eastern Suburbs Business Enterprise Centre.

Dalton says the top five mistakes small businesses make when starting out are:

1. Not checking if the preferred trading name has already been registered with ASIC

“Up until recently, business names were regulated separately by each state government. (Therefore) it was possible that the same name would relate to a range of businesses across multiple states,” he says.

“For businesses that are just starting and concentrating on their local market, this might not be a problem, but once they start to expand (especially with a presence on the internet), they could find that they are being confused with an inferior producer – or even worse, other businesses are benefiting from their hard work and good reputation.

“Now that the federal government has taken over regulation, the price has come down and registration is national, so that’s great, but it also means it’s even more important to check first before the domain name is purchased, promotional material is printed and signage paid for.”

2. Businesses that have registered the business name – but fail to check if a trademark has been registered

“Sometimes a business can be in operation for years, and then suddenly gets a ‘cease and desist’ letter as they are infringing someone’s trademark,” he says.

“Often it’s not understood that business name registration is designed to protect consumers, so the operator of a business can easily be tracked down if something goes wrong. A trademark is designed to protect the intellectual property of the business owner. This could include (singly, or in combination) the business name, colour/s, logo, smell – even sounds.”

3. Lack of a five-year plan with milestones to a clear exit strategy

“When I bring this up in the facilitation meetings we hold, people often ask: ‘why would we be discussing the end, when I am only just beginning?’,” says Dalton.

“I reply that, without a clear idea of what all the blood, sweat and tears are for, it will be almost impossible to get through the long days and cold, lonely nights that is the reality of running your own business. The end goal not only has to have a deadline, it also needs to have a number that makes it worthwhile investing five years of your (and your family’s) life.”

4. Trying to appeal to too broad an audience

“We often see people who have a very general product or service, and they often try to appeal to as many different types of customers as possible – simultaneously,” he says.

“This is almost always a mistake. By completing a competitor analysis, they could find out what is going on out there with products that are similar, and then via the ‘5 P’s’ of marketing (product, price, place, promotion and people) (to) identify what their point of difference is. This will then make it easier to identify what target market would find this point of difference attractive. Once they know who the target market is, they can then make it easy for that market to find them.”

5. Why?

“One of the most elemental aspects of starting a business is often the most overlooked, and that is the question of: why? This process begins with (asking yourself): ‘why would anyone start and run this business’, and then leads to ‘why am I starting and running this business?’ If the answer is not clear…then it probably shouldn’t be done.”

Other reasons businesses fail

• Lack of management skills and business experience• Inadequate working capital• Poor marketing• Inadequate market research/poor geographic location• Poor competitor analysis• Poor understanding of relevant laws and regulations that must be complied with• Poor inventory management• Over-investment in fixed assets• Poor sales• The absence of an entrepreneurial orientation

Source: Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry

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New faces to sit at China’s top table

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THE stakes are so high in Thursday’s leadership transition that many Chinese analysts are framing it in terms of the rise and fall of dynasties, amid accumulating social, political and economic stresses.
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After a year of scandals and rising public cynicism, the administration of General Secretary Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao begin the handover to a new team led by their deputies, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, at 2pm Melbourne time.

The identities of another five, or perhaps seven, leaders in the Politburo Standing Committee – the inner sanctum of power – will be gleaned by the order in which they walk on stage at the Great Hall of the People.

Analysts, including global investors from Sydney to New York, will be looking for the names of two key potential reformers, Li Yuanchao and Wang Yang, as they gauge the likelihood that the party can deal with growing challenges to the way it dominates political and economic life.

They will also be watching whether Mr Hu hangs on to his post as chairman of the Central Military Commission, as did his irrepressible 86-year-old predecessor, Jiang Zemin.

Mr Hu’s complete retirement might indicate the ascendancy of factional rivals led by Mr Jiang, analysts say.

Alternatively, it could suggest Mr Hu has begun to institutionalise the winner-takes-all norms of elite combat that have governed Chinese politics for two millennia.

”A lot of Chinese think of political development in terms of the dynastic cycle,” said Feng Chongyi, a political scientist at the University of Technology, Sydney. ”The Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang leadership is the last opportunity for the party to start a transition to constitutional democracy to break away from the dynastic cycle.”

Dr Feng, an insider and activist, has ceased paying his party membership fees but is yet to have his membership formally revoked.

China watchers, analysts and pro-democracy advocates are fiercely debating whether Mr Xi is at heart a reformer or a stalwart product of the ruling party system.

Some contend that Mr Xi will bide his time and consolidate his power before embarking on a bold political restructuring of the country’s Communist-run political system. Others see an inherently cautious operator who has no interest, and certainly no power, to dramatically reform the system.

At most, they say, he might offer token reforms to stave off dissent and maintain the party’s ironclad grip on power.

About the only one in Beijing who has not offered a view of any kind is Mr Xi. Keeping with protocol, he has said little during the past months or years that would reveal even the slimmest hint of his intentions. His public speeches have largely been typical jargon laced with Communist fare, urging the party to maintain ”purity”.

Mr Xi’s silence on political reform has made the portly 59-year-old a veritable walking Rorschach test, allowing observers to project onto him whatever views they choose, or perhaps hope, to see.

”Compared to Hu Jintao, Xi is more like a reformer,” said Mao Yushi, an economist, offering one commonly heard sentiment. ”China is a country under dictatorship, but the new leadership group, I don’t think, will take active measures to change the situation. It’s too difficult.”

Li Datong, a journalist and reform advocate who was fired from his editor’s job at China Youth Daily for pushing against official censorship, said he believed Mr Xi realised the imperative for reform but might be hamstrung by a Communist Party that is fearful of losing its power.

”The CPC is facing an unprecedented crisis of credibility, which is fatal for them,” Li said.

”The party has already lost its credibility because of the long time of one-party dictatorship. The regime will collapse like the last few years of [the] Qing Dynasty if the new leaders don’t catch this chance to reform.” With NEW YORK TIMES

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Prince Charles uses website to set the story straight

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PRINCE Charles doesn’t order seven boiled eggs for breakfast in order to choose the one he likes best, his office said in a statement designed to dispel myths about the heir to the British throne.
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The claim was made by BBC television presenter Jeremy Paxman in a 2006 book. The website of the Prince of Wales was updated to dismiss that assertion and other commonly held views about the prince and his family.

”Does the Prince of Wales have seven boiled eggs cooked for his breakfast but only eat one, as claimed in Jeremy Paxman’s book On Monarchy?” reads one entry on the site. ”No, he doesn’t and never has done, at breakfast or any other time.”

As the Queen celebrated 60 years on the throne this year, courtiers are gradually managing the process of succession. The prince celebrated his 64th birthday yesterday. Charles has a reputation for eccentricity. In 1994 he was mocked in the press for revealing he talks to plants.

He has been a critic of some modern architecture and criticised traditional science in a 1996 speech that said it had assumed a ”tyranny” over ”our understanding of the world”.

The website also explains why, despite his environmental interests, he is driven in a Bentley and owns a classic Aston Martin that Prince William used on his wedding day last year.

”The prince does not own or choose to drive around in a Bentley,” it says. ”The car is required for some engagements for security reasons” and is owned by London’s Metropolitan Police.

It points out that the prince’s cars have been converted to run on biodiesel or bioethanol.

The website also denies that Charles advocates dangerous and untested medical therapies, saying that he favours a ”wider, preventative approach to health care by addressing the underlying social, lifestyle and environmental causes”.

It also poses the question: ”Does the prince dislike all modern architecture?” It answers: ”No. The prince has been the patron of several contemporary architects, and has provided training to young architects through his charity, the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community.” BLOOMBERG

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Testing the boundaries

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Mark Taylor, Michael Slater, Greg Chapell and Richie Benaud.THE absence of Tony Greig was conspicuous as Channel Nine began its 36th year broadcasting Australian cricket last week. Along with Richie Benaud, Ian Chappell and Bill Lawry, Greig is synonymous with Nine’s coverage of the nation’s summer sporting pastime.
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For hundreds of thousands of Australians, those four are no less than the soundtrack to summer, their idiosyncrasies and catchcries aurally documenting the game’s triumphs and disappointments.

This week Greig, who is battling lung cancer, began chemotherapy. When the group gathered at the Gabba in Brisbane for the first Test in the blockbuster Australia-South Africa series – the second Test starts on November 22 in Adelaide – the inimitable Greig was sorely missed.

Former Australian opening batsman Michael Slater, who along with former teammates Mark Taylor and Ian Healy form the ”younger” core of Nine’s on-air cricket team, sent him a text message: ”It’s not the same without you, Greigy.”

”The challenge in front of him is very sad,” Slater says.

Late on Friday afternoon, Nine crossed to Greig’s Sydney home. The 66-year-old, who has revelled in his on-air role as devil’s advocate since he relocated for Kerry Packer’s World Series Cup in the late 1970s, was plainly emotional.

He pledged to fight his cancer. After the cross aired, he teared up, pointedly telling his colleagues off-camera: ”It’ll come one day that you don’t go to the cricket, so don’t ever take it for granted.”

Choking up, host Mark Nicholas excused himself from his commentary duties for a minute. Not that the day in the box was morbid. As Healy says, these men simply get on with it.

”Hard is never a word we use around here,” he said. ”We just move on. That’s how we’ve been trained. It’s really different without his presence … He’s the most global out of all of us in his game knowledge.”

The next day, Nine’s head of sport, Steve Crawley, summed it up best.

”That’s the family thing with this group,” Crawley said. ”Greigy is not a softie. He is a big, tough bastard. But yesterday him [choking up] was a big insight into the feeling of cricket in this joint.”

That feeling may be about to be tested further. Nine’s seven-year agreement to cover the Australian national cricket team’s home games, worth about $300 million, ends at the conclusion of the summer. There is a sense that Cricket Australia, having watched sports such as Australian football and rugby league accumulate billion-dollar broadcast deals, is after its own profound payday.

”I’m hoping we’re here doing this again next year,” Taylor says. ”But I know that no one has an absolute right to broadcast the game forever.” On the second day of the Brisbane Test, November 10, rain fell on the pitch. Eventually, play would be called off. Yet Nine’s storied team remained busy in the stands, awaiting play to resume.

Nicholas spoke with network statisticians in the box. Chappell sat at a desk writing a newspaper column. Benaud was perched at his laptop, mulling over statistics. Taylor was busy entering a fishing competition online. Healy was introduced to a group of Nine sponsors touring the boxy Gabba studio.

An hour later, as they queued with production staff at bain-maries for a lunch of roast beef, baked potatoes and salad, the banter flowed freely. When asked individually, all concede talk of future broadcast rights is prevalent among the group.

”We keep asking each other when a deal is going to be done,” Slater says. ”At the moment, there’s no news.”

Of course, a few months ago, Howzat!, a dramatised telling of the story behind former Nine boss Packer’s takeover of World Series Cricket – and the commercial broadcast rights for the game locally – encapsulated the relationship between the game and the Nine Network.

To the outsider, the two appear intrinsically attached. Rugby league is the pillar around which Nine’s winter sports coverage is built; cricket is the summer schedule bedrock. As recently as a few months ago, it seemed unthinkable Nine could lose the cricket.

Sources say a decision will be made in early January.

”We have a great relationship with Cricket Australia,” Crawley says. ”We’re confident. It’s part of our DNA. That sounds like a cliche, but it’s true. Our original commentators are still working on the team. One’s 82. Another’s deep into his 70s. Without being arrogant, I don’t know if anyone can do the cricket as well as us. I don’t think they could.”

Either way, changes are ahead. Although next summer’s mouth-watering Australia-England Ashes Test match series is a massive drawcard (and guaranteed ratings hit), just as crucial will be the rights to the sport’s new growth centre, Twenty20 (T20).

Chappell, who as the captain of the rebel Aussie side portrayed in Howzat! has an almost four-decade relationship with Nine and the Packers, is a voice of dissent when it comes to Howzat!.

While happy with actor Clayton Watson’s portrayal of him, he is critical of the dramatisation of the story. He was incensed, for instance, by the depiction of former teammate David Hookes and felt Packer was ”hard done by”.

”There was another side to Kerry,” Chappell says. ”He wasn’t the only one dropping F-bombs.”

Chappell is indicative of Nine’s crossroad with its cricket coverage. Five-day Test match cricket, the most prestigious and pure form of the game, but also arguably its toughest sell, has been outshone by the hyperactive T20s.

When Nine began broadcasting T20 in 2006, it split up its commentary team. The old firm of Chappell, Benaud and Lawry were left out in favour of younger, exuberant talent such as James Brayshaw. Removing Chappell and co from T20s was difficult for Nine.

”It was,” Crawley says. ”They’re competitors. When you tell someone like that they can’t do something, they don’t like that. They might be respectful, but you know those decisions burn. But that’s the sort of people we want to be working with.”

For his part, Chappell remains diplomatic. ”They made the decision, so you learn to live with it,” he says.

For the first 25 years or so of Nine’s coverage, Benaud was the onscreen leader. He would host the coverage from an inside studio. Chappell would lead the team’s captain out for the coin toss. And Greig would deliver a pitch report.

However, the shift to Nicholas as host has coincided with a shift in style. There’s more filmed outside, for instance. ”We are living the game more,” Taylor says. ”The technology and the broadcast have evolved massively.”

The generation gap in the box is pronounced. Lawry is said to watch every ball of play intently. Like Chappell, whose wife complains when she watches sport with him at home that he commentates too much on the couch, Lawry instinctively calls the action whether on or off camera.

In contrast, during Shane Warne’s breaks while commentating at Nine, he was said to sit on his laptop playing poker.

”The older fellas were never coached,” Healy says. ”They just went and played, whereas we had coaches and the younger players now expect feedback. If the older guys thought they had a good day, it was a good day.

”Now, players want to know why it was a good day and how you went. Television traditionally doesn’t really tell you what it wants or how you’re going. Feedback is not big in TV. They just react to the public. You have to find your own niche.”

Crawley is consistently looking at younger former players to join the team. As well as Warne, Adam Gilchrist has featured sporadically in recent years and Glenn McGrath was in the box this week in Brisbane.

Is McGrath auditioning? ”Yes, it’s an audition both ways,” Crawley says. ”Because he doesn’t know if he wants to do it and he needs a taste of it. I think in years to come, Michael Clarke is ready-made for this. Whether he wants to do it or whether he is as good as we think he will be is another thing.” It’s not only the voices that have been tested. Producer Brad McNamara, a former player for New South Wales, sits at the back of the box during games and spends his winters working on improvements for the broadcast, more of which can be expected at the Melbourne Boxing Day Test.

”Boxing Day is the marquee day of the summer,” McNamara says. ”We’ll bring out our best silverware for that one. We do hold back stuff for that. We try not to bombard the viewers with all the new things at once.”

Not everything runs smoothly. The ”spider cam”, which hangs above the heads of players and is connected with wires set between the stadium light towers, was out of action on Friday in Brisbane due to jostling over player enmities.

However, by Monday afternoon, Nine was broadcasting spectacular overhead views of the players. In Adelaide, McNamara will introduce ”augmented reality”, which will take the commentators from the studio and insert them as a 3D figure in graphics or historical footage. Despite all this, the cricket on Nine is not yet shown in high-definition. ”We do shoot everything in HD and it’s actually downgraded to go to air,” Crawley says.

”We do not have the spectrum to show it as yet. The government won’t let you. We don’t understand exactly why that is … Our trucks are all HD. It’s a political thing and the same for every other free-to-air sports broadcaster. But it’s not forever. In the goodness of time, HD will be out there.”

Crawley and Healy defend the team against charges they lack punch in their call. Healy says the group discusses criticisms from the outside. ”If we see it, we talk about it and we think about it,” he says. ”We have a fair idea as to whether we know it’s fair or if the journalist is biased.”

For former players, a spot on Nine’s commentary team gives them nearly everything they miss about their playing career. They still spend their summers on the road, travelling in a team environment. The thrill of camaraderie remains.

”And you’re out of your comfort zone,” Healy says, ”so you still get nervous. Live television is a sphere where you can look very foolish very quickly.” Slater, who joined Nine in 2006 after a working for Channel 4 in Britain, admits joining Benaud’s team was intimidating.

”It was a great honour, but it took a while to feel comfortable,” he says. ”I was worried most when I started about what the guys in the room listening would think about my commentary and if it was acceptable to their standard.”

After 12 years with Nine, Taylor notes that occasionally after he has made an on-air statement, Benaud will glance intently at him sideways. ”Sometimes I don’t know if it’s a good glance or not,” he says.

When Benaud’s role will end, if ever, is impossible to say. Crawley notes drily that Benaud’s mother lived to 104.

”Richie can be sitting here in the box or at home in Coogee and he’s still the captain,” Crawley says. ”But let’s face it, it is coming to an end. We can’t keep going and going with what we’ve got. A lot of people when they get old can’t change. But there’s a reason these guys can still do this at their age. They adapt. And that’s why they have been able to move with the times.”

The second Test, in Adelaide, begins at 10.30am on Thursday, November 22, on Channel Nine.Future of cricket is no safe bet

ANOTHER challenge facing cricket, aside from future TV rights, is the question of match-fixing and betting corruption surrounding teams such as Pakistan.

”There’s a huge cloud,” Ian Chappell says. ”It’s the issue that can bring the game down. The public won’t watch something they think is rigged.”

Ian Healy says the image of cricket as a quaint ”gentleman’s game” has been altered by illegal gaming scandals. ”We’re much more likely to think that a sport is tarnished now,” he says. ”The spectre of gambling has been exposed. For cricket, the gentlemen’s game tag was probably always unfair.

”In 1994, the corruption was so brazen, they approached two Aussies. Lots of former players had bookmaker connections and many loved the punt, so you wonder how long it was going on.”

For networks such as Nine, the sponsorship money offered by betting agencies comes at the risk of polarising viewers.

”It’s a real dilemma for any sport,” Chappell says. ”There is huge money coming in but there is also a huge problem with [potential corruption]. This is not unique to cricket. It’s a big issue for all sport.”

ANDREW MURFETT

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Absurdity in the suburbs

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Sam Simmons (right) is the brains behind Problems, a confronting new concept coming to the ABC.AT A pub in Sydney recently, Sam Simmons watched a woman defecate on stage.
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”She put on a Philip Glass track, rolled out a tarpaulin and dakked herself,” says the popular comedian and Triple J presenter. ”The whole audience was going, ‘No, oh no, she’s not actually going to do this.’ And then she started having a shit.”

Simmons bites into his bacon sandwich and continues. ”I also saw Nick Sun, one of our best comedians, perform in that pub. He wanted to point out the racial stereotype that all Asian men have small penises, so he stood behind a curtain and said, ‘You can all come and have a look – but you have to line up and look one at a time.’ So everyone formed this long queue.”

All this talk of defecation and penises as performance art is not merely an aside. ”That stuff is important and it needs to happen,” Simmons says. ”It’s a reversal of the banality we see on television.”

Hence his new sketch show Problems, airing Wednesday nights on ABC1. As the creator and star of the series, Simmons is bringing his brand of absurdist humour to the masses. But don’t be fooled by the term ”sketch comedy” – or the prime-time slot on Aunty.

”The first episode is really f—ing out there,” he says. ”It’s anarchic, subversive and dark. Lazy journalists are going to say, ‘It’s like The Mighty Boosh,’ but it’s nothing like the f—ing Mighty Boosh. That’s what they’ll write, though, because we can’t get our head around absurdism in this country.”

Nothing invigorates Simmons like good comedy.

His eyes flash and his voice gets louder. Problems is his baby, and he’s damned proud of it.

Each episode focuses on a seemingly trivial annoyance: a lost Christmas decoration; favourite childhood foods that don’t taste as good as they used to; looking for ice-cream on a hot day.

”It’s not really about searching for ice-cream, though; it’s about searching for something else,” he says. ”But there’s no Scrubs-style message at the end; no ‘I learnt that I could be a good person’ crap.”

The cast of 10 includes established comics such as Lawrence Mooney and Anthony Morgan, and rising stars Claudia O’Doherty and David Quirk. The show is set in the suburbs (it’s filmed in Melbourne’s Bundoora) but it is not another parody of middle Australia.

”We’re not pointing and laughing at anyone,” Simmons says. ”In fact, we show what the suburbs really look like and the people who really populate them, not just the usual white-bread portrayal.” One thing’s for sure: there will be no ”What’s the deal with …?”-type riffing in front of a microphone.

”Those T-shirt philosophers – those twentysomething dudes standing there telling me how it is – I don’t f—ing care!” he says. ”They know the rhythm of how a joke should go but there’s no risk.

”I don’t know if I’m just an ageist Gen Xer, but where’s the anarchy in Gen Y? They’re so conservative; they don’t say anything risky because they want to get on this or that panel show. It’s just bullshit.”

Needless to say, panel shows hold no appeal. ”Being a talking head is just not my thing,” he says. ”I don’t think I’m educated or smart enough to make comments about Syria. Comics feel it’s their right to be able to do that, but I don’t. There are too many comedians on telly with opinions and it just annoys me.”

Could the play-it-safe mentality be heightened by social media? Many of Simmons’ peers, after all, have been subjected to intense online hate campaigns – often for the mildest of supposed infractions. ”I think we, as Australians, are just bored,” he says emphatically. ”There really is something not right with our culture. We’re boxed into the suburbs, into little f—ing fences, we don’t talk to our neighbours, and we’re all too scared to say the ‘wrong’ thing.”

Born in Melbourne, Simmons spent his childhood in Perth and his teenage years in the Adelaide suburb of Hallett Cove.

”It was a rough area but it was great,” he says. ”Adelaide had the most impact on me. The place where you sprout your pubes is the one you remember the most.”

He adores Melbourne but now lives in Sydney, partly because he believes its creative community is more daring.

”Melbourne is wonderful, but it is up its own art-hole. There are great comedy rooms in both cities, but Sydney is a bit less self-conscious. You’ve got these anarchic kids doing weird shit on stage – literally. That’s f—ing cool, and that’s why I live there.”

Problems starts Wednesday, November 21 at 9pm on ABC1.

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

Hopes rise for retail recovery

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DEEP cuts in interest rates appear to be finally gaining traction with consumers, raising hopes of a long-awaited retail recovery in the crucial run-up to Christmas.
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Shoppers are feeling more confident than at any point since April last year, according to Westpac’s index of consumer sentiment, which jumped by a surprising 5.2 per cent this month.

The rise, which comes amid the continuing malaise in the retail industry, suggests the 1 percentage point reduction in official interest rates this year has lifted households’ spirits, and could point to stronger spending over summer.

With the property and sharemarkets also showing tentative signs of life recently, some analysts predict better times ahead for the ailing retail industry.

”I think retail is going to get some support at Christmas from the fact that interest rates are lower and there has been employment growth in the last few months,” the chief economist at HSBC, Paul Bloxham, said.

While the sector was unlikely to return to the boom era it enjoyed before the global financial crisis, Mr Bloxham argued lower rates were also stimulating a recovery in housing, after back-to-back rises in building approvals.

”When people build houses they need to start filling them up with things, and those durable goods are bought from retailers,” he said.

The chief executive of retail conglomerate Wesfarmers, Richard Goyder, also said its flagship businesses Coles, Target and Bunnings, had experienced growth during the

first quarter. ”We are hopeful of a positive trading outcome in the retail businesses during the important Christmas period,” Mr Goyder said. The lift in sentiment comes after a bleak couple of years for discretionary retailers, with the collapse of consumer confidence, coupled with historically high savings, decimated sales and crunched earnings.

But despite the improvement, business confidence and the labour market remain soft. This was underlined by Australian Bureau of Statistics figures that showed wage growth slowed to 0.7 per cent in the September quarter, from 1 per cent.

JPMorgan economist Ben Jarman said he was sceptical of the lift in sentiment, which could be overshadowed by continuing pessimism among businesses, which appear reluctant to hire more staff.

”I don’t think a few months of better consumer data is going to cause the retail sector to turn around,” he said. In a further sign of slowing in the resources boom, wage growth in mining was just 0.5 per cent, the second-slowest after finance, where wages rose 0.5 per cent.

Retailers such as the leading stores Myer and David Jones have been forced to rub out their profit forecasts and replace them with more subdued outlooks.

Harvey Norman posted a 32 per cent dive in its full-year net profit for 2011-12 as price deflation, especially in the TV category, saw revenue slide and margins shrink. JB Hi-Fi, once a market darling, posted a 5 per cent drop in its full-year net profit.

But in November, 56.2 per cent of those surveyed felt it was a good time to buy major household items, the highest proportion since September 2011.

The share of households who felt their finances had improved compared with a year ago, 26 per cent, was the highest since August 2010.

Investor attention will now turn to the imminent release of first-quarter sales performances from Myer and David Jones, with the department store owners to shed more light on their expectations for the crucial Christmas trading period.

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

Watson bowling fitness test

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AUSTRALIAN coach Mickey Arthur is upbeat about the possibility of Shane Watson returning for next week’s second Test in Adelaide, but the all-rounder and vice-captain has been told he will need to prove his fitness as a bowler and will not be considered as a batsman only.
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Watson strained a calf muscle while bowling for New South Wales in a Sheffield Shield match in Brisbane 12 days ago, forcing his withdrawal from the first Test at the Gabba.

His replacement, Rob Quiney, scored only nine with the bat at No. 3 but made a strong impression with the Australian hierarchy, taking two outstanding catches and, according to Arthur, fitting in well.

If fully fit, Watson would slot straight back in at the expense of the Victorian and there is an increasing likelihood that both will be named on Friday in an extended squad for Adelaide, with the all-rounder getting the nod if his calf is cleared by team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris.

Arthur said on Wednesday Watson would return to bowling practice on Friday. ”Watto has had two net [sessions]. He’s come through them very well.

”He did a bit of running [on Tuesday] and he came through that well. He’s having a bowl on Friday and we’ll see later in the week, and into next week, exactly where Watto is.”

If Watson can bowl in Adelaide he would add vital additional balance to a bowling attack that early in the Gabba Test struggled to make an impact against the top-rated South Africans, with left-armer Mitchell Starc also providing a different flavour if he is brought into the side for Ben Hilfenhaus.

Australia has previously baulked at picking Watson as a batsman only and that is a mantra it will not retreat from in this series.

Australian general manager of team performance, Pat Howard, said on Wednesday that selectors decided on a series to series basis whether Watson had to play as an all-rounder, or could be chosen as a specialist batsman, and against the Proteas it had been decided he must be in a position to bowl.

”If the Test match was tomorrow he wouldn’t be playing,” Howard said. ”But he’s progressing and I think when the team goes [to Adelaide] on Sunday we’ll have a far better indication of where he is at.”

Howard said it would count heavily against Watson at the selection table if he could not bowl. ”The value and the balance of the team is what the selection panel talk about. It’s the selection panel’s call when they come together on this,” he said.

”The ability for people to take up bowling slack is important, so without making it a Shane Watson conversation, the ability to take overs up was pretty well demonstrated in that first Test.”

Hilfenhaus lacked penetration in Brisbane and selectors will consider him making way for Starc on an Adelaide track in which Starc could take advantage of the rough produced by spinner, Nathan Lyon.

”Mitchell is playing a shield game at the moment – we’ll see how he goes in that one and it might give us another option come Adelaide,” Arthur said.

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

Nakia’s rep call-up eases pain

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PAUL Davis usually finds it hard to smile at this time each year.
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On Monday, the Central Newcastle rugby league coach and former Balmain Tigers five-eighth will commemorate the third anniversary of the death of his 15-year-old son.

Paul Davis-Welsh was killed in a car accident at Kempsey just days after being named in the NSW under-16 Indigenous team to play the curtain-raiser to the inaugural NRL v Indigenous All Stars exhibition game on the Gold Coast.

Paul had signed a three-year contract with the Titans and had the world at his feet.

Davis still chokes back tears when he talks about his son, but that pain was eased last weekend when his 16-year-old daughter, Nakia Davis-Welsh, was selected in the Australian Indigenous Women’s All Stars team.

The Year 10 Hunter Sports High School student had not played organised rugby league until six weeks ago, when she helped the Mindaribba Sisters win the annual Koori Knockout at Raymond Terrace on the October long weekend.

‘‘She got picked for the NSW Indigenous team from there and they went to Queensland at the weekend and played the Queensland girls, then she texted me after that and said, ‘Dad, I got in,’’’ Davis told the Newcastle Herald last night.

‘‘I couldn’t believe it. She’s only 16 – 17 next April.

‘‘We’re over the moon, me and my family, because my son was killed in a car accident three years ago.

‘‘This weekend is the trials for the Indigenous under-16s, and three years ago he got chosen in that team, then three days later he was killed in a car accident.

‘‘It’s mixed emotions for us … We were over the moon that she was even considered for it.’’

Three of Nakia’s Mindaribba teammates, Candice Clay and sisters-in-law Rebecca and Emma Young, will join her as Newcastle’s four representatives in the 20-woman squad to play before the NRL v Indigenous All Stars game at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on February 9.

‘‘I still can’t believe it. It’s a privilege to be picked,’’ Nakia said.

Davis’s role as Central coach set Nakia on the path to All Stars selection.

Central’s captain is former Knights forward Michael Young, whose sister is Emma and wife is Rebecca.

‘‘Mick was getting a team together for Mindaribba for the Aboriginal knock-out carnival, and he asked me if I knew any girls who wanted a run,’’ Davis said.

‘‘I told him my daughter’s played touch before but she’s never played league before but … she’s been to Canberra playing AFL with the school team and was player of the tournament.

‘‘She plays netball … CHS touch football, now she’s in the Indigenous All Stars team.

‘‘It’s been a hard road for us … but Nakia is helping to fill those gaps.’’

GOOD NEWS: Paul Davis with daughter Nakia last night. Picture: Simone De Peak

ICAC: Coal farm tip-off

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THE Obeid family used ‘‘inside information’’ that coalmining would start in NSW’s Bylong Valley to snap up farms sitting on lucrative coal deposits, a corruption inquiry has heard.
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The Independent Commission Against Corruption is investigating former Labor minister Ian Macdonald’s decision in 2008 to open the Bylong Valley to coalmining and how it benefited another ex-minister, Eddie Obeid.

Mr Macdonald is accused of doing the bidding of Obeid family members, who allegedly hid their involvement through complex trust and company structures.

Confidential documents made by Chris Rumore, a lawyer for the Obeid family, were shown to the inquiry yesterday, revealing the Obeids knew about a government expressions of interest (EOI) process to open up coalmining in the Bylong Valley before the EOI was issued.

One of the documents referred to a meeting between Mr Rumore and Paul and Gerard Obeid, two sons of Eddie Obeid, on June 23, 2008.

The government EOI was issued on September 9, 2008.

‘‘The Obeids were telling you that an EOI would issue … and they knew that it would relate to obviously coal,’’ counsel assisting the inquiry Geoffrey Watson put to Mr Rumore.

‘‘Yes,’’ Mr Rumore replied.

The inquiry has previously heard only high-level officials inside the department of primary industries or the minister’s office should have had access to the ‘‘inside information’’.

The inquiry was told that in 2008 the Obeid family acquired two properties in the coal-rich Bylong Valley located close to another property, Cherrydale Park, that Eddie Obeid had acquired in September 2007.

Mr Rumore said the Obeids stood to gain financially from the purchases after the EOI was issued and mining leases were granted over the land.

‘‘I was always told that the Obeids expected that when the mining lease was granted that their property would increase three to four times its current value as a rural property,’’ Mr Rumore told the inquiry.

Mr Rumore said at the time he did not consider the EOI information was secret because it was openly discussed by the Obeids.

Earlier, John Cherry, a former accountant and farmer who sold Cherrydale Park to the Obeids, said Eddie Obeid wanted to change details on documents to hide his involvement.

Mr Cherry said Mr Obeid wanted to make the changes to create the appearance that ‘‘he was against coalmining in the Bylong Valley’’.

The inquiry will continue today.

TESTIMONY: Lawyer Chris Rumore, right, leaves after giving evidence.

State power up for grabs

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THE ‘‘for sale’’ signs will be officially slapped on the state’s electricity generators today with state cabinet signing off on the sale process.
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The sale, which includes the Hunter’s power stations and other electricity assets, could raise up to $3billion.

But debts of the generators would need to be settled from the gross proceeds.

The government is also facing a potential loss of $1.5billion on the Cobbora coalmine that it will also seek to sell or lease.

Treasurer Mike Baird said the sales would still proceed only if they were of net benefit to taxpayers.

Proceeds would be invested in state infrastructure.

The sale process would be carried out over 2014 and 2015, with legislation enabling the privatisation having passed state Parliament earlier this year.

The government would begin with Eraring Energy and Delta West.

The former Labor government sold the rights to trade their output under its ‘‘gentrader’’ contracts.

The government would now offer the generators themselves to the gentrader owners, TruEnergy and Origin Energy.

Macquarie Generation, which operates the Upper Hunter’s Bayswater and Liddell power stations, and then Delta Central Coastal, which runs Colongra and Vales Point power stations, would be offered through a competitive bidding process.

Coal- and gas-fired power station developments sites at Bayswater, Tomago and Munmorah would also be sold.

Macquarie Generation can generate about 29per cent of the state’s electricity and Delta Electricity about 28per cent.

The power stations are major employers in the region.

The government agreed earlier this year that permanent power station workers would be given a four-year job guarantee, as part of negotiations with Shooter and Fishers Party MPs.

Mr Baird said the sale would save the state about $1billion in ongoing operation and refurbishment costs, and a further $6billion that would otherwise be needed to meet future electricity demand.

Proceeds from the sale of the state’s electricity generators will be invested in infrastructure.

Knight visits teen who ‘died’ twice

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BOORAGUL teen Blake Tweedie, who has emerged from a coma after a horrific accident, had his spirits lifted with a visit from Knights star Jarrod Mullen.
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Mr Tweedie, 18, faces a long recovery, having become a paraplegic with brain damage after being hit from behind by a four-wheel-drive.

Mr Mullen visited Mr Tweedie in John Hunter Hospital recently, giving him a signed jersey and hat.

‘‘The club got the call after Blake’s accident because he is a mad fan and his family thought we could help lift his spirits,’’ Mr Mullen said.

‘‘We were more than happy to spend some time with Blake.

‘‘He is obviously doing it tough but he responded to us, which was great to see.’’

Mr Mullen hoped he brightened his day and ‘‘helped in some way’’.

‘‘I told him we would come back to check on him and I would take some of the other boys with me,’’ he said.

Mr Tweedie’s mother Melissa Tweedie, of Toronto, said she appreciated the Knights’ compassion.

The Newcastle Herald reported last month that a vehicle hit Mr Tweedie while he was walking home from Booragul railway station with two mates along the side of Toronto Road near St Paul’s High School, Booragul.

The impact threw him 20metres through the air.

After emerging from a coma, Mr Tweedie was moved from intensive care to the hospital’s high-dependency unit.

‘‘They’re not sure how much brain damage he has until he goes to Sydney in a fortnight for rehab,’’ Mrs Tweedie said.

Mrs Tweedie said her son had died twice, once on impact and a second time on the operating table.

It will be a long road ahead for Mr Tweedie, but he has improved and started to communicate.

Mrs Tweedie said her son would be in rehabilitation for about 12 months.

While he could not talk, and needed speech therapy, he was texting.

‘‘We took him his iPod to listen to music and the next minute we gave him his phone and he was texting,’’ she said.

THUMBS UP: Knights star Jarrod Mullen visits Blake Tweedie in Hospital after the teenager emerged from a coma. On October 5 the Newcastle Herald reported a vehicle hit Mr Tweedie.