Diary of a Wombat author Jackie French named Australian Children’s Laureate

Jackie French, Australian Children’s Laureate.Jackie French, one of the nation’s best-loved story-tellers, has been named the new Australian Children’s Laureate.
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French, the best-selling author of more than 140 books for both adults and children, was presented with her award in Canberra by actor Rhys Muldoon.

“This is a chance to give back,” she said of the high-profile appointment. “When I was a very, very scared teenager my wonderful teacher gave me books and also offered me a bed to sleep in. And if it hadn’t been for her, and her courage, I would not be a writer and I might not even be here today.

“In a little way over the next two years I want to give back what I have been given.”

French said when she was told by Australian Children’s Literature Alliance she had been selected, her first reaction was to ask whether there had been a mistake and her second was to start penning a manifesto of what she hoped to achieve.

“Every child in Australia needs a book to go to bed with, and a bed to read that book in,” she said. “Every child in Australia can learn to read and for kids like me who are dyslexic, with spelling that you might call ‘original’, and whose work always looks like a wombat has sat on it, never feel that you are dumb, never feel that you have failed. You haven’t failed it’s the adults who have failed to give you access to the heritage of humanity.”

French has been a full-time writer for more than 20 years, often exploring her passion for history, the environment and wombats in her work.

Her Diary of a Wombat, with Bruce Whatley, remains a consistent bestseller and she says one of the reasons for her prolific output is to pay for carrots to appease the rampaging wombats at her Southern Highlands home.

“There are many reasons a kid might not learn to read but there are no excuses,” she says. “If we have money for submarines, for Olympic medals and for expensive brands of ice cream, then we have money for every child to read.”

One of the key themes of her laureateship, she says, will be encouraging people to share books and stories.

“If you are a parent, read to your child. If you are a kid, read to your parents as they put dinner out,” she said. “Read to your grandparents over Skype, read to the dog – especially if the dog is going to the vet and you are both scared. The dog won’t criticise if you get a word wrong!”

French will take up her new position in January from the inaugural Laureate, a position shared between Alison Lester and Boori Monty Pryor.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of ChangZhou Plastic Surgery Hospital.

ADM sweetener for Graincorp fails to convince opponents

Plans by US grains trader Archer Daniel Midlands to sweeten some of the terms surrounding its $3.4 billion offer for grain handler Graincorp have failed to sway opponents.
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“We’re not happy,” a spokeswoman for the farmers lobby group NSW Farmers said. “We don’t think it will provide a level playing field. “It’s a bit of a sugar coating.”

Earlier today, ADM upped the ante in its Graincorp offer. In a bid to overcome deepseated opposition to the planned takeover, the US giant agreed to a package of additional commitments as it awaits the decision of the federal government whether to allow its bid to proceed.

ADM is offering $12.20 in cash for each share of Graincorp on issue, as well as allowing up to $1 in dividends to be paid.

The Federal treasurer, Mr Joe Hockey is to decide by mid-December whether to block the bid from proceeding on national grounds.

ADM this morning said it would commit to spending a further $200 million on agriculture sector infrastructure, with a focus on upgrades to the railway network, implement price caps on handling charges at silos and ports, as well as ensure open access to both the grain handling and port facilities.

Additionally, it said it would establish a grower and community advisory board with representation from New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, as well as undertake regular public grower consultation.

“We have had substantive discussions with growers, policymakers and other stakeholders, and we’ve been committed to finding common ground and developing solutions that address issues and opportunities that have been raised,” ADM Grain president Mr Ian Pinner said.

“Taking into account the feedback we received, we are committing to a further package of investments and initiatives.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of ChangZhou Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Alec Baldwin axed from MSNBC, following homophobic slur, ratings slump

The US cable news channel MSNBC has ditched outspoken actor Alec Baldwin and axed his new talk show, Up Late, after just a handful of episodes.
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“Up Late will not continue on MSNBC,” a joint statement from the channel and Baldwin’s representatives said. “It is a mutual parting and we wish Alec all the best.”

The channel had already suspended Baldwin after he verbally attacked a photographer and used a homophobic slur in his abusive tirade.

The photographer was attempting to get a photograph of Baldwin, who was with his wife and child at the time.

Unsurprisingly, Baldwin blames “the fundamentalist wing of gay advocacy” for the end of his talk show career, rather than sluggish ratings.

“They killed my show,” he told the US news website Gothamist.

He also took aim at the media firestorm that the initial scandal created.

“There’s nothing you can do when you get thrown in this washing machine, nothing. You know? Nothing,” he said. “All you end up doing is just defending yourself all day long.”

In the United States, where the story has been making noise for the past two weeks on news and entertainment programs, there was a measure of sympathy for Baldwin over the intrusion into his privacy, but little tolerance for his choice of language.

Compounding the problem even further, Baldwin initially denied that he had even used a gay slur.

In the exchange, he was heard calling the photographer a “c–k s-cking f-g.” Video of the exchange was obtained by and published on the celebrity news website TMZ.

Baldwin denied that claim, and insisted he had used the word “fathead” instead.

He followed that with an extraordinary – not to mention awkward – photo opportunity in which he appeared with his openly gay male hairdresser. “Am I a homophobe?” Baldwin asked. “Yes, big-time,” the hairdresser responded, jokingly.

But he eventually conceded he had used the offending word, and issued a formal apology.

“I did not intend to hurt or offend anyone with my choice of words, but clearly I have, and for that I am deeply sorry. Words are important,” Baldwin said in the statement.

“What I said and did this week, as I was trying to protect my family, was offensive and unacceptable. Behavior like this undermines hard-fought rights that I vigorously support,” he said.

It is not the first time Baldwin has used the same gay slur against photographers and journalists.

“Mr Baldwin can’t lend his support for equality on paper, while degrading gay people in practice,” a spokesman for the gay lobby group GLAAD, Rich Ferraro, said.

“It’s clearly time he listens to the calls from so many LGBT people and allies to end this pattern of anti-gay slurs,” Mr Ferraro said.

Baldwin has a long record of anger-fuelled outbursts.

Among the highlights are abusing his then-11-year-old daughter Ireland in 2007 by leaving her a voicemail in which he said: “You are a rude, thoughtless little pig. You don’t have the brains or the decency as a human being.”

He also unleashed his rage on New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley, who had reviewed poorly his performance in a play. “No one I know of in the theatre reads Brantley except in the way that a doctor reads an X-ray to determine if you have cancer,” Baldwin wrote in The Huffington Post.

And when he disagreed with a position taken by ultra-conservative newspaper columnist Michelle Malkin, he called her “a world class, crypto fascist hater”.

Earlier this year, Baldwin called a Daily Mail reporter a “toxic little queen”.

In some respects, the furor over Baldwin’s choice of words distracts from a more tangible commercial issue that his short-lived talk show career faced: despite having been on air for only a few weeks Baldwin’s show was struggling in the ratings.

When it was launched, MSNBC boss Phil Griffin said he was hoping Baldwin’s show would define itself by the quality of its interviews.

“It almost doesn’t matter who the guest is if you can bring out something that is unique and revealing,” Griffin said. “I have confidence that he’ll be known for his interviews.”

In truth, however, it never resonated with viewers.

Launching to around 654,000 total viewers – not an unreasonable result for a mid-tier news channel like MSNBC – it shed more than 40 per cent of its audience across the five weeks that it aired.

The final episode aired drew just 395,000 viewers, only 101,000 of whom fell into the advertiser-friendly demographic of adults aged 25-to-54.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of ChangZhou Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Gen Y travellers spend big with the boss’s money

Generation Y are big spenders of their company’s money when travelling for business, research has shown.Gen Y Australians have been maligned for being self-centred and materialistic. Now, new travel research about the under 34s has revealed that on business trips they are also spendthrifts with the boss’s money.
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They’ll splash out with their corporate cards on luxury purchases such as flight upgrades, room service and expensive meals, according to research by online travel company Expedia and corporate travel specialist Egencia.

The research shows that Gen Ys, known as millennials, are travelling more for business than pleasure. They take an average of five business trips a year at an average of two days each – and only three personal trips.

This compares with travellers aged over 35 who average two work-related trips and three for personal reasons.

About 60 per cent of Gen Ys also extend their business trips to personal holidays, at their expense.

Kyle Davis, the managing director of Egencia Australia, said: “With the increased earning potential of millennials, and with fewer family and financial commitments than mature business travellers, they’re much more likely to extend business travel into a holiday.”

Mixing business with pleasure seems to be a growing trend, according to Karsten Horne, the managing director of corporate travel specialist Reho Travel in Melbourne.

“We are finding that more and more Gen Ys are adding private trips to business trips,” he said.

“It is no longer just a few days lying on the beach at the end of a business trip. They are indulging in a personal passion. Quite often it can be something physical like mountain biking or surfing.

“A couple of weeks ago I went to Wellington for a weekend conference and I decided to give myself an extra day before the work began. I sourced a mountain bike shop, hired the best-equipped bike I could find and headed for the hills behind the city.

“We are also seeing a trend towards younger business people doing volunteering, assisting with community projects after business to trips to places like India with companies like Hand Up Australia,” he said.

The study, The Future of Travel, also reveals that under-34s are embracing mobile technology to plan and book travel.

Nearly half of millennial business travellers (48 per cent) use smartphones and tablets to plan, book and share their travels and 53 per cent use mobile devices for leisure travel.

Among the over-35s, the take-up of mobile technology for travel is a lot lower. Only 20 per cent use mobile technology for booking business trips and 10 per cent for leisure trips.

The study polled 8534 adults in 24 countries.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of ChangZhou Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Ocean rips kill 21 people each year

Source: Newcastle Herald
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Ocean rips kill more people in Australia on average each year than tropical cyclones, bushfires, floods and shark attacks combined.

Australia’s top rip expert, Rob Brander from the University of New South Wales, analysed fatality figures from rips, natural disasters and shark attacks going back as far as 1852 to reveal the omnipresent danger of Australia’s surf.

The study found that on average, 21 people drown in rips around Australia each year, compared with eight deaths from cyclones and six from bushfires.

When the data for only 2004-2011 was taken into account (the only years for which reliable rip fatality numbers are available), bushfires became the No.1 killer, claiming 27.1 lives a year. The higher bushfire death rate occurred because of the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria in 2009, which killed 173 people.

Dr Brander said the number of confirmed rip deaths was probably an underestimate of the actual number, because they were only confirmed when a witness described the victim.

Rob Brander is Dr Rip. He wants to educate people on the dangers of rips and the beach. Picture shows rob pouring purple die into the ocean so people can see the current. Caves Beach in January last year. Photo: JONATHAN CARROLL

“Unlike a disaster where there is a mass loss of life from one incident, rip currents do not have that shock value,’’ Dr Brander said.

‘‘Someone will drown, and then someone else will drown a few days later in a different location. It is not widely reported and people become complacent about the severity of the hazard.

“Studies show Australians do not understand rips and cannot identify rips as well as they think they can.’’

The report said more money was spent on programs warning about bushfires and other disasters even though they claim fewer lives on average yearly.

On Australia’s 11,000 mainland beaches, about 17,500 rips can occur at any given time.

Dr Brander wants more funding for school programs to teach kids how to identify rips from a young age. He also supports more lifeguards at currently-unpatrolled beaches, but understands the logistical challenge and expense.

Surf Life Saving Australia has collaborated with UNSW over the past three years to better document deaths caused by rip drownings.

“It is mostly Australians that are drowning in rips so people should not be complacent,’’ said Anthony Bradstreet, SLSA’s coastal safety manager.

‘‘The reality is that tourists are not the big issue as some people might think. Usually they account for less than 10 per cent of fatalities.’’

However SLSA has attempted to target tourists by airing videos about rips on inbound flights. Lifesavers also greet incoming travellers at baggage claim terminals in tourist hotspots like the Gold Coast.

Overhaul of NSW planning laws shot down in upper house

Knocked back: Planning Minister Brad Hazzard under pressure. Photo: Stephanie KellyThe state government’s landmark planning reforms are under serious threat after the NSW upper house blocked key parts of the new laws, in a move the developer lobby has described as a “disaster”.
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But community groups say the changes are an “immense win” that will give residents a voice on what is built in their neighbourhoods.

Planning Minister Brad Hazzard is under pressure to push the once-in-a-generation overhaul of planning laws through parliament this week before the Christmas break.

But Labor and the minor parties on Tuesday night forced major changes to the proposed laws, which have provoked strong community opposition since public consultation began more than two years ago.

The government must either support the revised planning bill when it returns to the lower house or withdraw it entirely – an embarrassing failure to deliver on a key election promise to overhaul the planning system.

It could also send the bill back to the upper house and force an extension of the parliamentary sitting year.

A new, streamlined development pathway known as “code assessment” was stripped from the bill. Under this system, if a development in high-growth areas meets agreed requirements, such as building type, heights and environmental standards, it must be approved by a council within 25 days, and the community’s right to object would be limited.

High-growth areas include those around the north-west and south-west rail lines, and so-called “urban activation precincts” – existing suburbs such as Randwick, Homebush and North Ryde which have been earmarked for higher densities.

Labor moved the amendment, which passed by just one vote.

Upper house MPs also backed a move by the Shooters Party to repeal mining rules that boost the chances of large projects being approved.

The rules, introduced earlier this year, make the economic significance of mining projects the “principal consideration” of the assessment process.

It came in response to a “David and Goliath” victory in the Land and Environment Court by the residents of the Hunter Valley town of Bulga against mining giant Rio Tinto. An appeal is pending.

The upper house also supported a move to reinstate affordable housing provisions for new developments.

The Greens failed to win support for an amendment to make ecologically sustainable development the overriding principal in planning decisions.

The bill replaces the concept of “ecologically sustainable development” with “sustainable development”, which Mr Hazzard said balances the needs of the environment with social and economic outcomes.

Urban Development Institute of Australia NSW chief executive Stephen Albin said the amendments were a “disaster”, adding that party politics had trumped the interests of the NSW economy and the need to cater to population growth.

NSW Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee described the mining amendment as “diabolical”, saying it would create industry uncertainty and “put thousands of jobs at risk”.

NSW Property Council executive director Glenn Byres said the original planning bill should be allowed to pass, saying critics held an “extreme position” and were opposed to “the natural evolution of cities”.

But Better Planning Network convenor Corinne Fisher, whose organisation represents more than 400 community groups, welcomed the amendments.

She described the code assessment changes as an “immense win for hundreds of thousands of people in NSW who will retain their rights to have a say on development … in their neighbourhood”.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of ChangZhou Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Housing affordability at decade high

A spring property revival hasn’t hampered affordability. Photo: Glenn HuntHousing construction beats forecasts
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Housing is at its most affordable level in a decade despite recent rises in home prices, the latest index says.

But while historic low interest rates and growth in wages has significantly offset the cost of housing across much of Australia, Sydney is just level pegging, the HIA-Commonwealth Bank housing affordability index shows.

Housing affordability rose across the nation over the September quarter by 3.2 per cent, with all capital cites benefitting, the index showed.

Sydney’s housing market is experiencing a spring revival which has seen prices climb steeply as buyers compete for homes.

The index, which tracks the relationship between household income, mortgage costs and home prices, shows affordability improved the most in Hobart where it rose by 10.1 per cent.

Sydney showed the least improvement, it went up just 0.5 per cent.

Melbourne’s affordability rose by 2.6 per cent.

‘‘Despite widely publicised dwelling price increases in some markets in recent months, affordability has continued to improve as a result of reduced interest rates,’’ HIA senior economist Shane Garrett said.

Affordability in some regional areas improved but in country Tasmania and regional South Australia it went backwards.

The Reserve Bank’s rate cuts since 2011 have seen discount variable interest rates for mortgages fall from 7.05 per cent over a two year period to around 5.18 per cent.

But low interest rates are not proving attractive to first home buyers.

They are being squeezed out of the property market. Across Australia, the proportion of first-home buyers taking out loans sank to 12.5 per cent in September.

Low rates are spurring a charge of investors into the market which is likely to push prices up further.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of ChangZhou Plastic Surgery Hospital.

We won’t back down: Hunter

Won’t back down: Sustainability, Conservation and Environment Minister Ian Hunter, centre, pictured with the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority’s Tim Hartman and Clyde Rigney, says he will not back down on a Murray-Darling funding deadlock with New South Wales.SOUTH Australia’s Environment Minister remains confident he will win a “staring” contest with New South Wales over funding to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA).
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Both states are due to significantly cut their financial support for the MDBA next financial year after NSW backed out of a previous funding agreement.

But Environment Minister Ian Hunter said he would bank on the Federal Government siding with South Australia rather than letting the MDBA collapse.

“I expect the Commonwealth Government will sit down with the New South Wales premier and treasurer and impress on them the absolute importance of New South Wales pulling its weight,” he said.

“If not, (the MDBA) will be under-funded.

“Why should New South Wales then get grants from the authority when they’re paying less than a quarter share?”

Mr Hunter made the remarks before a speaking engagement at the Murray Bridge Hotel on Tuesday night.

In his speech, he also expressed pleasure that a new drought management procedure for the Lower Lakes had been agreed upon earlier this month.

“The basin jurisdictions are committed to early discussions regarding water availability to the Lower Murray, before water levels start impacting upon the environment or the economic activities reliant on our water resources,” he said.

Mr Hunter’s visit came as part of a Lower Murray road show intended to show off the region’s tourism, agriculture and environment to Federal and State bureaucrats.

Between Sunday and yesterday, delegates visited local food producers including Coorong Wild Seafood; visited attractions such as Monarto Zoo and the Meningie Cheese Factory; and learnt about upcoming projects including Tailem Bend Motorsport Park, Murray Bridge’s education precinct and the Gifford Hill racecourse and housing development.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of ChangZhou Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Saputo ‘misinformed’ Warrnambool shareholders: Murray Goulburn

Dairy drama … Murray Goulburn believes Saputo has not been honest with Warrnambool shareholders. Photo: Nicolas WalkerMurray Goulburn is urging the Abbott government to halt Saputo’s bid to control Warrnambool Cheese and Butter, saying the Canadian dairy giant has ‘‘misinformed’’ shareholders.
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As Saputo’s stake in WCB increased to 4.8 per cent, Murray Goulburn asked the Australian Takeovers Panel to intervene and stop the Montreal-based company from accepting any more shares.

Murray Goulburn and Saputo are locked in a three way battle to control Australia’s oldest listed milk processor.

But while Saputo, which has the support of WCB’s board, can start accepting shares, Murray Goulburn has to wait up to six months to see if the competition regulator approves it bid.

In its application to the panel Murray Goulburn attacked WCB’s abandonment of two special dividends of 46 cents and 85 cents if Saputo’s holding in the company reached 50 and 90 per cent.

Instead, Saputo will pay shareholders an extra 20 cents if it hits 50 per cent, taking its bid to $9.20, or $515 million.

Murray Goulburn, which has offered $9 cash, or $505 million, argued that WCB shares traded from November 15 to 25 on the basis of ‘‘misinformation as to the terms of the Saputo bid’’.

‘‘Murray Goulburn seeks interim orders, including that Saputo be restrained from processing acceptances and acquiring Warrnambool shares on market,’’ Murray Goulburn said in its submission to the takeovers panel.’’

‘‘Murray Goulburn submits that the Warrnambool board should advise shareholders to wait until the bid is in its final stages, or bidders have declared their bids final.’’

Australia’s biggest dairy company also asked the Takeovers Panel to reinstate WCB’s proposed payment of special dividends, and stop Saputo from tinkering its bid to include the conditional payment of an extra 20 cents a share.’’

‘‘And Warrnambool should release the bid implementation agreement between Warrnambool and Saputo to the market, in line with market practice.’’

NSW-based Bega Cheese is the only suitor to declare its offer final. Its bid of $2 cash plus 1.5 Bega shares was worth about $8.99 based on current prices.

In a statement, Takeovers Panel counsel Alan Shaw said no sitting panel had been appointed, nor had a decision been made about whether to proceed further.

‘‘The Panel makes no comment on the merits of the application,’’ Mr Shaw said.

WCB secretary Paul Moloney said in a statement to the ASX that the company disagreed with the basis of Murray Goulburn’s application.

‘‘[We] will respond to it in accordance with the panel’s procedures,’’ Mr Moloney said.

He said WCB would not make any further comment, saying the panel’s guidelines prevented him from doing so.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of ChangZhou Plastic Surgery Hospital.

ABC confirms Jonah, Jack Irish, Utopia and Spicks and Specks for 2014

The new Spicks and Specks team: Adam Richard, Josh Earl and Ella Hooper. Chris Lilley will return with Jonah spin-off series. Photo: Courtesy ABC
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Barry Humphries on the set of the third Jack Irish telemovie, Deadpoint. Photo: Lachlan Moore

A new series from Chris Lilley, a revamped version of the popular music game show, Spicks and Specks, and a substantial slate of local drama series were among the major announcements made by the ABC on Tuesday night at the official launch of its 2014 line-up.

Lilley, who this year produced a series built around his schoolgirl character, Ja’mie King, will revisit another of his popular creations, teenager Jonah Takalua, last seen painting obscene graffiti on the school in 2007’s Summer Heights High.

Spicks and Specks will return with a new host, comedian Josh Earl, and team captains Ella Hooper and Adam Richard.

Among the new drama series are Anzac Girls, about nurses during the First World War, the mystery, The Code, which pivots on a death in the outback, and Old School, which stars Sam Neill and Bryan Brown as a retired cop and a retired criminal who team up to solve crimes. The Gods of Wheat Street, a six-part series starring Kelton Pell, focuses on an Aboriginal family in a regional town, while the telemovie Carlotta, starring Jessica Marais, explores the life of the Les Girls headliner.

Rake, starring Richard Roxburgh as incorrigible lawyer Cleaver Greene, will return for a third season. Also returning will be The Time of Our Lives and The Doctor Blake Mysteries, while Marta Dusseldorp will reprise her character, senior crown prosecutor Janet King, in a spin-off from 2011’s legal drama Crownies. There will also be another Jack Irish telemovie, Dead Point, starring Guy Pearce, as well as an adaptation of another Peter Temple novel, The Broken Shore, starring Don Hany and Claudia Karvan.

Among the new comedy series are Utopia, a satire about a government agency from Working Dog, the company that created Frontline and The Hollowmen, and The Moodys, which will revisit the family featured in A Moody Christmas.

Unveiling the line-up, recently appointed director of television Richard Finlayson said, “We want to start national conversation. We want to get everyone talking”.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of ChangZhou Plastic Surgery Hospital.

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