All eyes on Lew ahead of DJs vote

If all goes to plan, David Jones, Australia’s oldest department store, will shift into foreign hands on Monday.

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The sale to South Africa’s Woolworths Holdings is widely expected to win approval at an extraordinary general meeting in Sydney, but nervousness exists in some quarters surrounding the intentions of retail magnate Solomon Lew.

Lew has bought up a 9.9 per cent stake in the company – theoretically enough to block the takeover in certain scenarios – as part of a 17-year feud with Woolworths over fashion retailer Country Road.

Woolworths beat Lew in a takeover battle for Country Road in 1998, but he has retained his 11.88 per cent stake ever since, apparently agitating the South African retailer to buy him out at a premium along the way.

His foray into the DJ’s takeover appears to have been enough to extract his ransom, with Woolworths offering to buy his stake for $17 per share – a $200 million pay day, not including the small benefit he’ll receive for his DJs holding.

It all sounds like a big win for Lew, but the retail mogul has remained quiet on the offer and that has some wondering what he’s planning.

“It’s all a bit of a mystery as to what Solomon Lew is going to do,” OptionsXpress market analyst Ben Le Brun says.

The takeover proposal needs the support of 75 per cent of shareholders at Monday’s meeting, a threshold it should pass given the wide support among investors for the $4 per share offer.

But given a large number of retail shareholders are unlikely to cast their votes, Lew’s stake, plus maybe a few extras, could technically be enough to block the bid.

Mr Le Brun says that would be a disaster for David Jones shareholders, with the company’s share price likely to fall back towards $3 per share.

But Lew would be the biggest loser of all – save perhaps Woolworths’ boss Ian Moir – stuck with his Country Road holding and suffering a loss on his DJs shares to boot.

So the most likely outcome is for the takeover to go ahead, though we’ll have to wait until Monday to find out.

“I think all things being equal he should vote with it but who knows, he might have an ace up the sleave yet and the fact he hasn’t said anything just adds an element of uncertainty.

“Until the meeting we don’t really know what’s going to happen.”

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‘Fireball’ dazzles Aussie sky watchers

The scientific community is sounding concensus that the object was a Russian rocket re-entering the atmosphere after launching a Russian meteorology satellite earlier this week.

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Professor Brian Schmidt, a Nobel Prize recipient and astronomer at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University, immediately tweeted that the object was likely to be space junk. 

So our fireball may well have been a piece of space junk. Obj 40077 see 南宁桑拿网,南宁夜生活,/cR5pL9ecR7

— Brian Schmidt (@cosmicpinot) July 10, 2014

And later: 

I believe this is the satellite whose 3rd stage came to ground last night 南宁桑拿网,南宁夜生活,/QoUoB5Tizq

— Brian Schmidt (@cosmicpinot) July 10, 2014

The Sydney Observatory cited Professor Schmidt in its Twitter feed :

@AAOastro @sydneyobs Pretty sure it was Meteor #2 stage 2 deorbitting.

— Brian Schmidt (@cosmicpinot) July 10, 2014

An astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Jonathan McDowell, has tweeted a statement that the object is confirmed to be a Soyuz rocket stage.

Australian fireball: US @SpaceTrackOrg [corrected] confirms reentry of Soyuz rocket stage 40077 at 1142 GMT+/- 1 min over 35S 146E

— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) July 10, 2014

Although NASA issued an alert on Thursday saying a seven-metre, three-tonne, cylindrical object would plunge to Earth over Victoria and Tasmania, the agency has not yet made a statement. 

Airservices Australia spokesman Paul Sadler told the ABC, “It’s understood there were a number of triple-zero calls to emergency services possibly reporting a plane in trouble but that certainly wasn’t the case.” 

Lisa Gent, who saw the object just before 10pm while driving in Diamond Creek in outer north-eastern Melbourne, said, “It was an amazing bright light with a really long, white tail with flecks of red. It was just amazing.

“It looked like absolutely nothing I had ever seen. Quite scary once we knew it was something like we had never seen before.”

Witnesses were dazzled in three states, with residents of Melbourne and Gippsland in Victoria and Burnie in northern Tasmania, expressing awe at the bright object.

Here’s the observations of tonight’s space junk #fireball over eastern Australia @TiffanyDay @astroduff @geoffnotkin pic.twitter南宁桑拿网,/0t91pm5ZPb

— David Finlay (@ClearSkiesTV) July 10, 2014

Meisha Hawkins, in Upper Burnie, Tasmania, said “I thought it must have been real close but clearly it was big and bright and even had a tail like on the movies,” she said.

Lisa Rochfort Demsey of Langwarrin, in Melbourne’s southeast, said her husband Glen saw the meteorite as he took his bins out. 

“He saw a massive shooting white star moving south to north with what looked like sparks trailling off its long, white tail. Then he lost sight of it. All up it took about six seconds,” she said.

Just saw a #meteor over North #Melbourne! pic.twitter南宁桑拿网,/NhFEdwdSAK

— Nathalie J. Berger (@najube) July 10, 2014

Residents of Cobar, in western NSW, heard a sonic boom after a five minute delay, which reportedly indicates that the object disintegrated within 100 kilometres of the town.

Remarkably consistent reports from Hobart, Sydney, Parkes. Latest analysis: likely a fireball as travellling wrong direction for space junk.

— Sydney Observatory (@sydneyobs) July 10, 2014

Did you spot the unusual light? Tweet us your photos at @sbsnews

with AAP

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People smugglers ‘even more dishonest’

People smugglers are resorting to even greater duplicity to snare paying passengers.

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One asylum seeker who wanted to go to New Zealand was told he’d reached Australia – after their boat ran aground in Indonesia.

People smugglers are adaptive and resilient criminals who would exploit any easing of Australian border security measures to resume their trade, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, head of Operation Sovereign Borders, warned a Senate committee.

He said smugglers used to be able to tell clients “give me all your money and I will get you to Australia” but that is no longer the case.

“Smugglers are being forced to resort to even greater depths of dishonesty in their struggle to remain in business,” he told the committee on Friday.

General Campbell told of a man apprehended in Indonesia after a smuggler promised to get him to New Zealand.

“When their boat ran aground, the client was told they had arrived in Australia. In reality they had merely come ashore elsewhere in the Indonesian archipelago,” he told the inquiry.

General Campbell said it was now six months since a people smuggling venture reached Australia and no ventures had departed Indonesia since early May. There had been no known deaths at sea since December 9.

“From mid-December 2013 as an additional measure we have turned back boats where it is safe to do so,” he said.

The committee is seeking information about the unrest in February at the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea.

But Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young also wanted to know about 153 asylum seekers who are aboard an Australian Customs vessel in the Indian Ocean after being intercepted en route to Australia.

She found it “extraordinary” the general had not mentioned this incident in his opening statement to the committee.

“Ultimately the buck stops with you … these are surely issues that are at the top of your mind at the moment,” she said.

General Campbell said it would be inappropriate to comment on matters now before the High Court.

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Paul Simon and wife face US court

Paul Simon and his wife, Edie Brickell, were arrested on disorderly conduct charges by officers investigating a family dispute, but the couple held hands in court on Monday and said they did not feel threatened by the other.

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Simon told a judge that he had a rare argument with his wife on Saturday night at their home in New Canaan.

A caller from the singers’ home dialled emergency services Saturday night and hung up, police chief Leon Krolikowski said at a news conference Monday. Officers who responded found minor injuries and believed it was a case of domestic violence, he said.

Simon and Brickell, who have been married for more than two decades, were each given a misdemeanour summons and one of them agreed to leave and go to another location, Krolikowski said.

“There was aggressiveness on both sides,” he said. “They’re both victims and they have children involved and we’re trying to be very cautious of that.”

A lawyer representing the couple, Allan Cramer, said the incident was very minor.

“They are here together, they get along fine with each other,” Cramer told reporters before the hearing.

“If it were Joe Blow we wouldn’t be here. You certainly wouldn’t be here. These people have had a wonderful life together and they’ve never had these types of problems.”

At Monday’s hearing, Simon and Brickell each said the other was not a threat. Judge William J Wenzel said he did not see a need for a protective order.

“We’re going to go back home today. We’re going to watch our son play baseball,” Simon said.

Simon, 72, and Brickell, 47, were asked to return to court on May 16.

Simon’s agent in Los Angeles did not immediately return a call seeking comment. An agent for Brickell did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Simon is a 12-time Grammy winner and member of The Songwriters Hall of Fame and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – as half of the duo of Simon and Garfunkel and as a solo artist.

Last month, he wrapped up a national tour with Sting. Most recently, Simon performed at the 25th anniversary of the Rainforest Fund benefit concert in New York on April 17.

Brickell is perhaps best known for the song What I Am, recorded with her band the New Bohemians and released in 1988.

She collaborated last year with comedian Steve Martin, who has an acclaimed career as a folk musician, for the roots album Love Has Come For You. The pair won a Grammy for best American Roots song in January. The two are touring and are due to perform next on May 9.

Simon and Brickell were married in 1992. They have three children together.

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The world’s best restaurants

Rene Redzepi has once again been crowned culinary king, with his Danish eatery Noma reclaiming the title as the world’s best restaurant.

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The World’s 50 Best Restaurants for 2014 awards, by Restaurant Magazine, were announced in London on Monday, with Noma jumping up a spot, followed by El Celler in Spain and Osteria Francescana in Italy.

Here are the top 10:

1. NOMA, Copenhagen, Denmark

Noma has long been known among foodies as the pinnacle of dining, with a menu focusing on simple Nordic ingredients.

The aim is for diners to connect to the land and sea, so expect dishes including snails, moss and cod liver.

The 45-seat restaurant has two Michelin stars and is located on Copenhagen’s waterfront.

Details: noma.dk

2. EL CELLER, Girona, Spain

It may have dropped one place since last year, but El Celler de Can Roca has frequently ranked at the top of the list.

The restaurant has a reputation for being avant-garde, with a menu that blends traditional ingredients and innovative techniques.

Details: cellercanroca广西桑拿,

3. OSTERIA FRANCESCANA, Modena, Italy

With just 12 tables, dining at Osteria Francescana is an intimate affair.

The man behind the restaurant is Massimo Bottura, acclaimed in Italy and worldwide.

Osteria Francescana is in Bottura’s hometown of Modena, and dishes include lobster with riesling and bisque; tagliatelle with ragu; and foie gras, leek and truffle ravioli.

Details: osteriafrancescana.it

4. ELEVEN MADISON PARK, New York

With a number of stars to its name, you’ll be guaranteed a sophisticated experience at one of New York’s top restaurants.

This is where you go for that oh-so-special private meal, with two private dining rooms overlooking a main dining room and Madison Square Park.

The restaurant is a Relais & Chateaux property with an award-winning wine list.

Details: elevenmadisonpark广西桑拿,

5. DINNER BY HESTON BLUMENTHAL, London

Finding inspiration from Britain’s history, diners here can enjoy dishes such as earl grey tea cured salmon; spiced pigeon and cod in cider.

You can even watch the chefs at work, with floor-to-ceiling glass walls giving diners views into the kitchen.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is at the Mandarin Oriental in London’s Hyde Park.

Details: dinnerbyheston广西桑拿,

6. MUGARITZ, San Sebastian, Spain

If the food isn’t enough to draw you here, the landscape surely will.

Situated among rolling hills and oak trees in Spain’s popular tourist destination San Sebastian, Mugaritz is a restaurant for the senses.

Meals are kept as a surprise, with tables left almost bare so as not to reveal which dishes (there are 24) are to come.

It has won a number of awards for gastronomy, including two Michelin stars.

Details: mugaritz广西桑拿,/en

7. D.O.M, Sao Paulo, Brazil

At D.O.M, chef Alex Atala values small producers and authentic Brazilian flavours. But Atala wants diners to step out of their comfort zone with a culinary experience that’s different.

You’ll be treated to a tasting menu with ingredients from across the country, from tapioca (starch) and canjiquinha (white corn) to the herb jambu from the Amazon and the medicinal plant beldroega.

Details: domrestaurante广西桑拿,.br/en

8. ARZAK, San Sebastian, Spain

The cuisine at Arzak is constantly changing, as the restaurant has a strong focus on local ingredients which are in season and cutting-edge cooking techniques.

The menu is self-described as avant-garde, “not cloning other leading cuisines nor renouncing to anything”.

This is a family-run restaurant where it’s hoped diners feel at home.

Details: arzak.info

9. ALINEA, Chicago

The US has nabbed another on the world’s best list, with Alinea, known for deconstructing classic flavours.

Head chef and owner Grant Achatz opened the Chicago restaurant in 2005 and since then it has accrued three Michelin stars.

Dining at Alinea is based on a ticketing system, requiring diners to prepay for their meals.

Details: alinearestaurant广西桑拿,

10. THE LEDBURY, London

This two Michelin star restaurant in Notting Hill has an Australian at its helm.

Brett Graham, who started his cooking career in Newcastle, NSW, is head chef at The Ledbury, where his menu embraces traditional and interesting British meats and produce.

There’s the jowl of middle white pork with chervil roots; the loin and neck of lamb with salt-baked turnips and walnut miso; and Scottish langoustine (scampi) with smoked dulse (seaweed).

Details: theledbury广西桑拿,

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Hamburg’s Van der Vaart racing to be fit against Bayern

The 31-year-old Dutch midfielder, out for weeks with a thigh muscle injury, returned to team training on Tuesday, raising the possibility of him playing against the Bavarians.

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Hamburg, nicknamed ‘dinosaur’ for being the only club to have played in the Bundesliga every season since its creation in 1963, are on the relegation playoff spot with 27 points, one above Nuremberg and two ahead of last-placed Eintracht Braunschweig with two games left in the season.

The distance to safety and 15th spot, currently occupied by VfB Stuttgart who are five points ahead, is almost out of reach following their 3-1 defeat at Augsburg on Sunday.

The only way Hamburg can guarantee their Bundesliga survival is if they win their next two matches and Stuttgart lose both of their remaining games.

“Rafael could be an option for the game (against Bayern),” said Hamburg sports director Oliver Kreutzer, who was highly critical of his players following the Augsburg defeat.

Kreuzer said the midfielder still needed work to build up his fitness.

Despite the injury, Van der Vaart has not been spared criticism with his personal life and a very public divorce making the headlines rather than his sporting performances.

Team mates Hakan Calhanoglu, Marcell Jansen, who are nursing minor knocks, and Heiko Westermann, out with flu, were missing from training on Tuesday.

The former European champions host Bayern on Saturday and then travel to European hopefuls Mainz 05 next week on the last matchday of the season in search of points to avoid the dreaded drop or at least get another lifeline with a playoff.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann)

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Paul Simon, Edie Brickell arrested

Paul Simon and wife Edie Brickell have been arrested on disorderly conduct charges by officers investigating a family dispute.

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However, the celebrity couple held hands in a Connecticut court on Monday and said they did not feel threatened by one other.

Simon told a Norwalk Superior Court judge he had a rare argument with his wife on Saturday night at their home in New Canaan.

The arrest struck a discordant note for the couple. Simon burst onto the national stage with former partner Art Garfunkel in the 1960s, adding a gentle voice to the growing chorus of opposition to the Vietnam War. Brickell, meanwhile, gained fame for her songs that blend rock, folk, blues and jazz.

A caller from the singers’ home had dallied emergency services and hung up, police chief Leon Krolikowski said at a news conference on Monday.

Officers who responded found minor injuries and believed it was a case of domestic violence, he said.

Simon and Brickell, who have been married for more than two decades, were each given a misdemeanour summons and one of them agreed to leave and go to another location, Krolikowski said.

“There was aggressiveness on both sides,” he said.

“They’re both victims and they have children involved and we’re trying to be very cautious of that.”

A lawyer representing the couple, Allan Cramer, said the incident was very minor, though there was a slight shove. He didn’t say who did the shoving.

“They are here together, they get along fine with each other,” Cramer told reporters before the hearing.

“If it were Joe Blow we wouldn’t be here. You certainly wouldn’t be here. These people have had a wonderful life together and they’ve never had these types of problems.”

At Monday’s hearing, Simon and Brickell each said the other was not a threat. Judge William J. Wenzel said he did not see a need for a protective order.

“We’re going to go back home today. We’re going to watch our son play baseball,” Simon said.

Simon, 72, and Brickell, 47, were asked to return to court on May 16.

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Giggs can be United’s Guardiola

Manchester United interim manager Ryan Giggs has the potential to replicate Pep Guardiola’s success as coach of Barcelona, according to goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard.

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“It might sound pretty rash and naive, but, in my opinion, we are dealing with a new Guardiola,” Lindegaard told BBC Sport on Tuesday.

“What we have seen in the first week has been more than convincing. The similarities with Sir Alex Ferguson are striking and it is evident that Ryan Giggs has learned from one of history’s most respected football managers.”

Giggs, United’s record appearance-maker, was temporarily placed in charge of the United first team last week after David Moyes was sacked just 10 months into a six-year contract as the successor to Ferguson.

In his first game at the helm, Giggs oversaw a 4-0 victory at home to Norwich City, and Lindegaard says the 40-year-old midfielder made an immediate impression on his one-time team-mates.

“Some would question whether you can go from being a team-mate one day to a manager the next. Normally I would have reservations as well, but, in the case of Giggs, it is different,” the Dane added.

“His latest speech, before the team went onto the pitch for the Norwich game, made my hairs stand on end in a way that I have only ever experienced from Sir Alex Ferguson.”

Giggs is reportedly not in contention to succeed Moyes on a permanent basis at United, with Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal and Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said to be among the front-runners for the post.

Now the coach of Bayern Munich, Guardiola made his name as a player with Barcelona before becoming coach in 2008. He led the club to 14 titles before stepping down two years ago.

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Australia tops recreational drug use: UN

Australia’s use of recreational drugs has reached an all-time high, according to a new UN report, with the country leading the way when it comes to ecstasy consumption.

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New statistics by the UN 2014 World Drug Report, showed that the consumption of Australia’s recreational drugs such as cannabis and cocaine has increased.

Surprisingly, although Australians lead the way in ecstasy use, the consumption of this recreational drug is declining.

“In Australia, expert opinion points to an increase in the consumption of cannabis, cocaine, hallucinogens, and solvents and inhalants, but a decline in the use of ecstasy,” the report stated.

“There is a wide range of drug analogues and new psychoactive substances that are currently available in the Australian illicit drug market.”

Australia is third in methamphetamines, fourth for cocaine use, and seventh for cannabis.

But it’s not just illegal drugs that are popular.

The UN report also showed a rise in demand for prescription pain killers such as codeine and morphine.

“Many countries have expressed concern about misuse, and available data show a high prevalence of misuse of prescription opioids in some countries,” the report said.

“This includes the high-income countries, such as Australia, Canada and the United States that have high per capita consumption of opioids for medical purposes.”

Geoff Munroe from the Australian Drug Foundation says the misuse of prescription painkillers is one of the most serious drug-related issues in Australia.  “Pharmeceutical drugs and pharmeceutical overdoses are now rivalling the road-toll in States like Victoria – so more people are dying overdosing on pain management drugs than are dying on our roads.”

Interestingly, the increase in prescription opioid use meant that heroin dropped. The report suggested that users “resorted to prescription opioids as a substitute” and a “cheaper alternative” to the costly imported heroin.

The penalities for trafficking prescription medication is also less than for an illicit drug. 

Independent Senator Nick Xenephon says the governement should consider mandatory rehablitation such as the program adopted in Sweden, or Australia’s drug problem will worsen. 

“It’s ease of availability it’s lack of having comprehensive rehabilitation and when people who get caught for trafficing get let off with fines then you know there’s something wrong with the system.”

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Pine Creek in NT fears life without mine

The small Northern Territory community of Pine Creek fears for its future after indications its biggest employer, the Frances Creek iron ore mine, will close.

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The 600-odd residents of the town, about 200km south of Darwin, are heavily dependent on the 320 jobs generated by the mine, but many are due to be cut by the end of the year.

“It’s sad that the mine is finishing, but I think it went longer than anyone was expecting,” Victoria Daly Council board member Gaye Lawrence told AAP on Thursday.

“(But) blind Freddy could see the price of ore is dropping.”

She was unable to attend a town meeting on the subject last week but says the community is abuzz with news that the mine will close.

“I heard the (fly in, fly out) workers are finishing up, but that anyone who lives locally and isn’t a cost to the mine because they don’t live in the camp would stay on stockpiling ore until December and then it was going to be mothballed,” she said.

A resident who declined to be named said she had heard up to 60 per cent of workers would go.

“Nobody knows much … not even the miners know,” she said.

AAP understands the mine has not yet made any formal announcement to the NT government, and is operating at regular capacity.

Mine operator Territory Iron has declined to comment, but in last week’s issue of the Pine Creek community newsletter stated that production and processing of shippable ore had been reduced in June due to the challenges of accessing proposed satellite pits at its Elizabeth Marion mine.

It said the proposed approval for mining at that site would require an unexpected and extensive environmental impact statement before work could start.

This would begin immediately but would not be completed until mid- to late 2015, while iron ore prices also remained down 30 per cent on what was projected for the year.

“Rest assured our international teams are working … hard to maintain their investment in the region,” it said.

Ms Lawrence said the FIFO workers did not contribute much to the town’s economy because they lived on site, but small contractors had distributed money with local businesses.

The town was a good place to retire but would struggle to attract young people due to a lack of work opportunities, but it would turn to tourism and not go under, she said.

“Pine Creek is a mining town. It’s been hard for a long time and the whole town fluctuates with mining,” Ms Lawrence said.

“The town will always survive.”

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War Memorial shoots down calls for Indigenous memorial

 

Veterans push PM for Indigenous war memorial

The Australian War Memorial (AWM) has rejected calls during NAIDOC Week for a separate memorial to mark the sacrifices made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait service men and women.

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NAIDOC committee co-chair Anne Martin and the AWM’s indigenous liaison officer Gary Oakley earlier this week said it was time for a national indigenous memorial.

 

This year’s NAIDOC Week theme is ‘Serving Country: Centenary and Beyond’, coinciding with the start of the First World War.

 

Thousands of indigenous men and women have served since the 1860s and hundreds have died fighting for Australia.

 

“A memorial that specifically separates indigenous service from non-indigenous service would not be supported at the Australian War Memorial,” said AWM director Dr Brendan Nelson in a statement to SBS.

 

“However, as I have said on previous occasions, a memorial illustrating the service of indigenous and non-indigenous Australians alongside one another on the grounds of the AWM would be strongly supported by me.”

 

Dr Nelson said the AWM is not campaigning for the commissioning and construction of a dedicated indigenous war memorial in Canberra.

 

Federal Veterans’ Affairs minister Senator Michael Ronaldson in a statement to SBS said a proposal for such a memorial needs to be a community driven.​

 

AWM’s Indigenous liaison officer told SBS earlier this week there was mounting evidence of the contribution of indigenous Australians.

 

“Everybody thought there was not enough for us to talk about but now that research has been done in the last 10 years, it’s not just one or two indigenous Australians who served, it’s literally thousands, so the time is right to push for a national memorial,” said Gary Oakley.

 

The co-chair of the National NAIDOC Committee, that sits within the responsibility of the prime minister’s office, agreed.

 

“I think it’s time that we all step forward as a nation and redress this. It’s a great opportunity and I would call upon the Australian government to take this into consideration,” said Anne Martin.

 

“I would say Prime Minister Abbott, I would like you to take this into consideration.”

 

The principle of erecting war memorials to indigenous service personnel has been established with the Commonwealth funding Australia’s first in Adelaide last year with a $143,000 grant.

 

Another is planned for Hyde Park South in Sydney and the Queensland government is expected to announce next month it will erect one in Brisbane’s ANZAC Square.

 

Approval for national memorials is the responsibility of the National Capital Memorial Committee, which is chaired by prime minister Tony Abbott.

 

Dr Nelson said the prime minister is not directly responsible for the installation of such a memorial and the AWM is not calling on him to approve or authorise any specific memorial, whether it be for an individual or a group.

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Cost of living drops in Australia, but locals don’t reap the benefits

Australian cities have fallen in rank in a cost of living survey, making them more attractive to expats and global companies.

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But local rental markets in Sydney and Melbourne show residents are still struggling to break into the property market.

The 2014 Mercer Cost of Living Survey shows Sydney has dropped from a ranking of 9 in 2013 to 26 in 2014.

Melbourne dropped from 16 to 33, with Brisbane and Canberra falling outside the top 50.

The Mercer survey covers 211 cities across five continents, measuring the comparitive cost of housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment.

Changes in the value of the Australian dollar against the US dollar have been credited for the drop in the rankings.

However, the results of the survey do not mean that Australian cities have become cheaper for Australians.

“It does mean that in relative terms our Australian cities have become more cost competitive locations for companies to relocate expatriates too,” Mercer’s Garry Adams told SBS.

“So the business case to put those people in Australia has strengthened this year as our costs have come down.”

Australian cities have been driven down the list due to the strengthening of the Chinese Yuan and currencies in Western Europe against the US dollar.

Rankings in some regions were impacted by recent world events and political and economic upheaval.

The most expensive cities, Luanda and N’Djamena are relatively inexpensive cities, but are quite costly for expatriates as imported goods come at a premium.

Rent rises in Sydney and Melbourne

A quarterly report from Australian Property Monitors shows that asking rents in Melbourne and Sydney have increased, while other capital city markets remained subdued.

Nationally, rental growth for units is outperforming houses in most capital cities.

“I think there’s an affordability issue at play here,” Andrew Wilson, Senior Economist at Australian Property Monitors told SBS.

“I think those 500 dollar a week rents we had for houses in Sydney for quite a while reflected that ceiling that incomes couldn’t match the asking price for rents.”

In Melbourne unit rents increased to a median of $370 per week with median asking house rents remaining flat at $380 per week.

In Sydney, unit rents have reached a peak of $500 per week.

Hobart also experienced strong growth in unit rentals but house rents remained flat in the city.

All other capitals saw flat or declining rents for houses and units.

Mercer Cost of Living Survey- Worldwide Rankings 2014

(Click image to enlarge)

 

Most expensive

    Luanda, AngolaN’Djamena, ChadHong Kong, Hong KongSingapore, SingaporeZurich, SwitzerlandGeneva, SwitzerlandTokyo, JapanMoscow, RussiaShanghai, ChinaBeijing, China

Least expensive

    Karachi, PakistanWindhoek, NamibiaBishkek, KyrgyzstanIslamabad, PakistanManagua, NicaraguaKolkata, IndiaCape Town, South AfricaLa Paz, BoliviaJohannesburg, South AfricaTunis, Tunisia

 

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McCaw out for Crusaders

All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw will miss the Crusaders’ crucial final round Super Rugby clash with the Highlanders in Christchurch on Saturday.

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McCaw has been given another week to recover from a rib injury suffered in last month’s Test series against England.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has made just one change to his team with All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock returning after his late withdrawal due to a calf injury before last week’s 21-13 win over the Blues.

Whitelock’s return means Jimmy Tupou goes back to the bench.

Dan Carter has again been named at inside centre, where he started last week, with Colin Slade at five-eighth.

Seven times Super Rugby champions the Crusaders are already guaranteed a finals spot, but need a bonus point win to clinch the New Zealand conference.

The Waratahs have wrapped up the overall top spot, with the Crusaders second on points differential from the Sharks.

Both teams have amassed 46 points from 18 weeks of competition, and if the Crusaders can maintain their second place, they will proceed directly to a home semi-final.

“That will require us to beat the Highlanders and beat them well,” Blackadder said.

“The Highlanders are also a gutsy side, and we know that they will be putting everything they’ve got into this encounter. We are going to have to put in the performance of the season to come out on top.”

The Crusaders won’t know their fate until after the Stormers-Sharks clash in Cape Town, the last game of the final round of pool play on Sunday morning (AEST).

Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Kieron Fonotia, Ryan Crotty, Dan Carter, Nemani Nadolo, Colin Slade, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (capt), Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock, Dominic Bird, Owen Franks, Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Corey Flynn, Joe Moody, Nepo Laulala, Jimmy Tupou, Luke Whitelock, Willi Heinz, Tom Taylor, Johnny McNicholl.

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