‘Underquote the sh– out of it’: Agency cops record $880k fine

A Balwyn-based real estate agency has been fined a record $880,000 for underquoting 22 properties in some of Melbourne’s blue chip suburbs, the strongest penalty for the practice in Victoria.
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In handing down the fine on Thursday, Justice Bernard Murphy said the size of the punishment would deter other agencies from similar behaviour, given several recent Consumer Affairs prosecutions, “and common experience” pointed to “a widespread problem of underquoting by residential real estate agencies”.

Fletcher and Parker (Balwyn) Pty Ltd was fined $40,000 for each of the 22 properties that was underquoted by sales representatives in its Canterbury and Blackburn offices in 2015.

The agency had a cavalier attitude to its responsibilities, Justice Murphy said. The evidence included: The quote of the week in one 2015 sales meeting was: “market the f— out of it and then underquote the shit out of it – good vendor management”;Sales staff were at least once provided training which focused on cases where underquoting had seemingly led to a high sales price and a significant spike in interest;One agent telling a vendor the best way to get “a record price” was to advertise a property with a low price, and later remove the price guide altogether;Sales agents describing Consumer Affairs as “a toothless tiger”;Agents in the Canterbury and Blackburn office were warned by the chief executive to ensure their price quotes aligned with price estimates.

Justice Murphy highlighted one example where the seller of a Balwyn North property asked her agent why her house was marketed between $1.1 million and $1.2 million when the agency estimated it would sell for between $1.5 million and $1.65 million.

She was told the quote was low because “it brings in a broader market range” and ‘people with a low budget will often come up, and it will also catch the people with bigger budgets as well”.

The $880,000 penalty is more than double the commission it made from the 22 properties and constitutes more than one third of the company’s profit for the last financial year.

Thursday’s case was the latest in a string of prosections for underquoting, the biggest of which was last year when the Richmond office of Hocking Stuart was fined $330,000 for underquoting on 11 properties listed for sale in Richmond and Kew.

Fletcher and Parker Balwyn chief executive Bradley Brown apologised to those affected.

“I want to apologise to all the homebuyers whose valuable time we wasted as a result of this unacceptable conduct by a few members of our team,” he said.

“This type of behaviour went completely against everything we stand for as a business and how we treat our customers, which is why we have taken significant steps since the incidents were uncovered in 2015 to ensure they never happen again.”

Mr Brown acknowledged that homebuyers faced enough challenges in the market.

“They don’t need underquoting, and we don’t tolerate it either, which is why we have put strict compliance measures in place to stamp it out for good,” he said.

Justice Murphy ordered Fletcher and Parker publish notices about its misleading and deceptive conduct in full-page newspaper ads and on its website, and to pay $40,000 to Consumer Affairs, the prosecuting agency.

Consumer affairs minister Marlene Kairouz said: “Underquoting is dishonest, misleading and against the law – and today’s decision shows that if you do it, you’ll pay the price.”

With AAP

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The Trip: Borneo wildcat safari

NAME Margarita Steinhardt, Sydney, NSW
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THE TRIP Wildlife watching safari in Deramakot Forest Reserve, Borneo

THE ITINERARY Over the past three years, Deramakot Forest Reserve in the Malaysian state of Sabah in Borneo has been gaining a reputation as the go-to place to see Borneo’s wild cats.

Urged by the desire to see a clouded leopard in the wild, I teamed up with three other wildlife watchers and we booked a 10-night safari with Adventure Alternative Borneo. We all flew to Sandakan, and from there on AA Borneo took care of everything else: transfers, permits to enter Deramakot, all food and drink and accommodation. They also provided us with an unstoppable support team: Mike our eagle-eyed guide, Caleb – the fearless driver and Giddi – a talented cook, who wasn’t opposed to cooking some of our meals out in the field.

For the next 10 days, our activities alternated between long night drives in search of wildlife and lazy days around the living quarters. After searching the jungle for seven nights, we finally found our main quarry – the notoriously elusive clouded leopard. The following night, we found an equally elusive marbled cat camped up on a tree branch about 40 metres above our heads. While looking for cats, we had close encounters with Borneo pygmy elephants, watched flying squirrels soar across the sky, saw orangutans, colugos and a plethora of other wildlife.

The accommodation in Deramakot is not flash, but comfortable. We had a three-bedroom chalet to ourselves that came equipped with airconditioning and en suite bathrooms.

BEST BITS Apart from the unique and rarely-seen wildlife, it was the magic of the jungle at night. On clear nights, we could see the bright band of the Milky Way arching over the treetops.

WORST BITS Borneo is one of the wettest places on earth, so be prepared to get caught in a tropical downpour at least once during your stay.

BEST TIP Visit between March and November to have the highest chance of dry weather.

WHERE TO NEXT Argentina and Brazil for jaguars and ocelots.

Community spirit shines

FAMILY FIRST: Meryl Swanson MP, Member for Paterson pictured with her family.As the year draws to a close I find myself reflecting on thepeople who’ve touched my life during the year. The trials and triumphs they’ve faced. And, ultimately, the courageous spirit that defines our community and lifts us through every adversity. I’d like to thank every individual, school, community,business group, and sporting association that has invited me along to functionsand meetings during the past year. I’ve been grateful for your warm welcome. I also thank my team, who have helped many, many people with issues such as NDIS, NBN, Centrelink and so much more. They make my role so much easier and I couldn’t do it without them.
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It has been an absolute delight to meet volunteers and advocates who give so much to our region, and to help allocate hundreds of thousands of dollars in Stronger Communities and Sporting grants to support great work in our electorate.

I’m proud that I have been able to bring our plights and our achievements to the halls of federal Parliament. I’ve had the opportunity to advocate for our veterans; fight for the rights of those affected by PFAS contamination; and demand that the Government come up with an energy policy that ensures fairer prices for individuals and reliable electricity for industries. The chambers of Parliament House have rung with my praises for a multitude of people and projects that have helped make our community the wonderful place it is to live, work and play.

The Parliamentary record reflects my gratitude to the firefighters who battled the devastating bushfires that struck the Coalfields in January and again in September, and the pages of Hansard convey the colour and atmosphere of the Kurri Kurri Nostalgia Festival and the eucalypt scents of Port Stephens Koalas.

On a personal note, my family has this year supported my eldest daughter Lara through her HSC and this month welcomed a new foal to our farm. She was born the day the Marriage Equality bill passed Parliament, and we named her Aequitas in honour of thehistoric occasion. From my family to yours, we hope you have a safe and happy festive season. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.Meryl Swanson MP, Member for Paterson

‘I’ve got a dead person’s tendon in my knee’: Boxer’s remarkable Commonwealth Games journey

If Canberra Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson needs a bit of motivation after knee surgery, he should introduce himself to Anja Stridsman – the boxer who will compete at the Commonwealth Games with a dead person’s Achilles tendon in her knee.
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In a remarkable tale of guts and pure grit to book her ticket to the Gold Coast, Stridsman won her three qualification fights on a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament before paying $13,500 to replace her damaged tendon with an Achilles tendon from a corpse.

The Sweden-born graphic designer from Sydney will be based at the AIS in Canberra before the Commonwealth Games, slowly increasing her training to pursue her gold-medal goal in April.

But she feared her dreams had been crushed just eight weeks before the Commonwealth Games trials when her knee twisted awkwardly when she tangled with an opponent in Poland.

It’s the same injury that will keep Hodgson out for the bulk of the NRL season next year in a major blow to the Raiders’ hopes of breaking back into the finals.

But instead of having surgery immediately, Stridsman opted to box on without an ACL for two months to qualify and then have dip into her savings, take out a loan and get help from family to cover the $13,500 surgery costs.

Stridsman considered having revolutionary LARS surgery or a traditional hamstring replacement, but opted to find a specialist who would use a dead person’s Achilles tendon to fix her knee.

The plan is for her to be fit to compete on the Gold Coast just five months after her operation.

“I had tears when I won my three fights to qualify, but even then I didn’t know if they would pick me for the Commonwealth Games,” Stridsman said after the team was named on Thursday.

“I can’t run right now and I have to be careful of my knee … but [being at the AIS] I’ve got a whole team of doctors and physios to help me and make sure I don’t push too hard.

“It’s five weeks after surgery [on Friday] and when I first did it, the reaction was everyone was, ‘you’re out, you can’t do it’.

“But my coach said some footy players play without an ACL. If they can do it, I can. Every set back I had, I did everything I could to make sure I could keep going forward.

“It’s obviously a tight timeframe, but I’m dedicated to getting it down.

Officials are still deciding on what strapping tape or brace Stridsman will be allowed to wear when she’s in the ring, but it seems the least of her worries after powering through the pain of a ruptured ACL to secure her spot.

The 30-year-old grew up in Sweden but moved to Australia when she was 19 to further her studies. She has been based here for the past 11 years, and started boxing when she was 23.

But her hopes of representing Australia at the Commonwealth Games were grim when she got injured. Her knee kept collapsing at training and she only decided to compete at the trials just five days before they started.

After she won her fights, she had surgery and such was her determination she was already wriggling her foot as the anesthetic started wearing off. As if that wasn’t enough, Stridsman is also back at university to start a double degree.

Boxing Australia are funding her move to Canberra and to use the AIS facilities for training programs and injury rehabilitation.

The Australian Commonwealth Games boxing team. Photo: AIS

She will fight in the 60 kilogram division and join Taylah Robertson, Skye Nicolson, Kaye Scott and Caitlan Parker in the women’s team chasing medals on the Gold Coast.

???”I know it’s crazy, but I’m so happy to be here,” Stridsman said.

“I don’t know whose tendon is it that they gave me, but I know the Achilles tendon is thicker and it will become my ACL. It’s quite fascinating.

“Boxing Australia is investing in me to get to the Games now, so I want to be there. This was a freak accident and I’m just so happy that I’ve still got the opportunity to compete.”

COMMONWEALTH GAMES BOXING TEAMS

Women: Taylah Robertson (51kg), Skye Nicolson (57kg), Anja Stridsman (60kg), Kaye Scott (69kg), Caitlin Parker (75kg).

Men: Jack Bowen (56kg), Harry Garside (60kg), Liam Wilson (64kg), Terry Nickolas (69kg), Campbell Somerville (75kg), Clay Waterman (81kg), Jason Whateley (91kg), Toese Vousiutu (91+kg).

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Now we need to act to keep children safe

In the mid 1990s the Wood Royal Commission undertook the first public investigation of child sexual abuse in NSW. Survivors of child sexual abuse came forward and tried to tell their stories. They spoke of abuse being committed by powerful people who had the protection of powerful institutions. They were ignored. The institutions didn’t change. The abuse continued. Society, it seemed, just couldn’t accept the scale of the betrayal that is implicit in child sexual abuse.
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When I entered the NSW Parliament in 2010 nothing had changed. The Catholic Church, Anglican Church, Salvation Army, YMCA and other non-government institutions were considered above politics. They did good. They had power. They had best be left alone was the political understanding.

In the face of these institutions stood many brave, and sometimes broken, survivors of abuse. They started coming to see me. Often they came alone. Sometimes they were helped by a lawyer or advocate. They all were saying the same thing. Why is it that no one is listening? What will it take to break down the wall of silence? How can we hold the powerful to account?

Everyone knew the history. This is why I found myself pretty much alone in the NSW Parliament when I spoke up about child sexual abuse.By 2012 many survivors thought they knew what was needed. So too did journalist Joanne McCarthy at the Newcastle Herald. What was needed was a royal commission. When the Herald and my office jointly hosted a public meeting in Newcastle in September 2012 we asked the question: “Do we need a royal commission into child abuse in the Catholic Church and other institutions?” Hundreds of survivors and supporters came to the meeting. Journalist and author Peter FitzSimons spoke. So too did Detective Inspector Peter Fox, who had investigated child abuse in the region. He stood up, walked to the podium and declared: “Too bloody right we need a royal commission.”

Within two months, Prime Minister Julia Gillard did what many thought impossible and established a royal commission with Peter McClellan as its chair. For survivors, and the institutions who failed them, the world has been turned upside down. Where once they were ignored, Justice McClellan and the royal commission team have listened, understood and acted.The churches and so many others have been brought to account. They were forced to see, often in the white light of the public gaze, how appallingly they failed children in their care. More than 8000 survivorstold their story, with 2500 cases referred to police and 250 prosecutions already afoot. Some 4000 institutions were referred to the royal commission as places where abuse occurred. Butit’s not the statistics, as appalling as they are, that has made the case for change. It is the way the royal commission has given voice to victims and let their stories of tragedy and bravery come through.

The royal commission has exposed the structural failures that leave children at risk. It has exposed the internal failings and the gaping holes in the civil law. It has identified how the justice system is stacked against child victims andit has convinced the Australian public of the need to fix this.

Today every government in the country will receive the royal commission’s final recommendations. Because of this remarkable work the Australian public is on the side of the victims. That public now expects parliaments to act and make the changes needed to keep children safe and deliver respectful compensation for survivors.

David Shoebridge is a NSW Greens MP

University gifts dental van

ALL SMILES: University of Newcastle Bachelor of Oral Health Therapy students completed clinical placements at Ungooroo Aboriginal Corporation in Singleton for the first time in 2017. Picture: Supplied. UNGOOROO Aboriginal Corporation are set to benefitfrom the permanent donation of the University of Newcastle’s oral health van.
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The van had been used throughout the year by the University’s Bachelor of Oral Health Therapy students to complete their clinical placements at the Ungooroo site in Singleton.

Thirty-six final year students, along with their superiors, offered services twice weekly to Ungooroo children aged 1-18.

Associate Professor Janet Wallace, program convener of the Oral Health Therapy degree,said the initiative was made possible after receiving a $6,000 (US) Wrigley Company Foundation Community Service Grant.

“We used that money to help us provide consumables at the van; so things we need to provide clinical care,” Ms Wallace said.

“This is the first time the program has been involved there [Ungooroo]and its a great way for students and oral practitioners to give back to the community.We’ve got an MOU [memorandum of understanding] with Ungooroo and we’ll have students there next year aswell.”

The van was previously used in a mobile capacityat locationsaround the university’s Ourimbah campus –wherethe Oral Health Therapy degree is run.

“For a number of years the van was on the Central Coast and traveled around to a couple of differentsites and provided examinations and cleaning.

“There was an opportunity to work with Ungooroo, who were working out of portable equipment and didn’t have a proper dental service, so we worked with them and moved our van out there.

“The students have loved the experience, the feedback from both the students and staff at Unogooroo has been fantastic.”

Ungooroo Aboriginal Corporation chief executive offiver Taasha Layer said the partnership has helped fill a gap in dental health services for Ungooroo’s community.

“It’s a service that’s been really lacking in the upper hunter,”she said.

“The closest one they were going to was Awabakal in Newcastle. So it’s really created a needed service in the community.”

The Wrigley Company Foundation Community Service Grants, co-administered by the Australian Dental Health Foundation,aimto help bridge the gap in access to oral care services across Australia.

The grants have helped enable many similar initiatives around the country and Ms Layer said thestudents hadbeen inspired by the program.

“They’ve really enjoyed working with the indigenous community and some of them have asked for a further placement back at Ungooroo or in an another indigenous community health organisation.”

How do match-fixing, spot-fixing and pitchsiding work?

Sports betting continues to grow in popularity, and with more gambling come more attempts to control outcomes.
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So how do they do it?

Match-fixing is the process of intentionally losing a game, through players performing poorly on purpose or corrupt officials. Boxing in the 20th century was rife with fighters taking dives, but the most famous example of early match-fixing came in 1919 when several players from the Chicago White Sox baseball team agreed to throw the World Series. They were later banned from baseball for life.

As sports betting has become more detailed and exotic, spot-fixing has risen. Unlike match-fixing, this involves fixing small aspects of games, often inconsequential to the end result. This can be anything from the time of the first throw-in at a football match to whether a wide will be bowled in a particular over.

The fixing scandal that engulfed the cricket world on Thursday dealt with alleged spot-fixing, rather than fixing the result of matches. One of the alleged fixers in a video from The Sun newspaper in Britain explains how it works – although some of his more outrageous claims, such as getting the total runs of an innings correct, would require multiple cricketers on each team to be in on the fix and are likely to be false.

More straightforward fixes, such as when a no-ball will be bowled, require only one player to be involved. This is what Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir of Pakistan were banned and jailed for doing in 2010.

They signal to spotters when a fix is about to take place with something innocuous, such as a physical gesture, adjusting their playing equipment or changing their clothes. From there, the pitchsiders take over.

Because of the delay between live events and broadcasts and the rise of in-play live betting, punters and bookies stay ahead via associates who sit on their mobile phones at the ground and report on the action to their client before it is shown on television. There are multiple cases of pitchsiders being evicted and banned from games, in Australia and around the world.

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What a view: Nua and the Queen on top

New tribute: Newcastle artist Mitch Revs and his dog, Abby, with the first print of his newly-completed Queens Wharf Tower art poster. Picture: Simone De PeakAlmost 30 years since her last visit to Newcastle, Queen Elizabeth II has returned.
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The Queen, wearing an emerald green dress and waving,takes pride of place, along with Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, atop the Queens Wharf Tower in pop artist Mitch Revs cool new tribute to the structure’s final days.

The Lord Mayor is proudly wavinga banner, which wraps around the tower, that says “All good things come to an end”.

The striking colour artwork not only has a cheeky sense of humour, but a reflection on the here and now:arainbow flag flies on the tower’s dome, V8 Supercar-related signage adorns the base, a trio of military jets fly past.

Revs has added a myriad of particular details –fiction, of course, from him on the roof of an adjacent building with a can of spraypaint and a REVS tag, to a crab trying to snatch a fish from a fisherman’s bag on the wharf. The longer you look, the more you see.

Point of interest: Mitch Revs’ new poster.

The first print of Rev’s poster rolled out of his printer on Friday afternoon, less than three weeks after Newcastle City Council voted to demolish the structure.

“I don’t want it be a joke,” Revs said. “I want it to be a topic around the structure itself. I am not trying to take the piss, I just want to create an artwork for Novocastrians to enjoy it, because it’s not going to be there much longer …”

The Queenopened the tower on May 7, 1988, as part of Australia’s Bicentenary celebration. It stands at 40.4 metres to the top of the spire, weighing in at 80 tonnes of Newcastle-made tubular steel. Council documents indicate it was meant to be 12 levels with 240 steps, although it is commonly quoted as 180 steps.

Last month, in a move led by council’s chief executive Jeremy Bath, who called it an “embarrassment”, the council voted to demolish the structure. It is expected to come down within six months, giving everyone an adequate chance to say goodbye.

Long called “The Big Penis” by townspeople and visitors alike, because of its design and placement, it is a local landmark.

At the least, Revs agreedthat saving the tower’sdome for conversion to another usewould be a worthy concept.

Revs has madeposters of several iconic Newcastle area places, includingTownson Oval,Horseshoe Beach, Anzac Skywalk, Pasha Bulker, Cowrie Hole, the Sygna wreckageand Bar Beach skate bowl.

Revs will showthe new posterSaturday at Sunset Gather markets at Gregson Park in Hamilton, which operate from 4pm to 8pm.

Retailers tipped to withhold at least part of NBN price cuts

Telecommunications companies are tipped to withhold at least part of the national broadband network’s price cuts, with retailers facing a potentially “problematic” situation if they pass along the full saving to consumers.
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Internet providers received the formal NBN Co pricing paper on Thursday, as it enters its final five weeks of consultation about cheaper pricing options for 2018.

While this is widely expected to make accessing the NBN more affordable for customers, a research note from global investment bank UBS analyst Eric Choi, using estimates of Telstra’s costs, found a full drop in price might not be the best approach for the retailer.

Cost estimates provided by the NBN Co show retailers could save about $16 on a 50 Mbps plan and $7 on a 100 Mbps plan.

The cost of buying additional bandwidth, Connectivity Virtual Circuit (CVC), would be $7 less per megabit per second – a 43 per cent discount.

Despite the significant savings on offer, Mr Choi found the company would be hard pressed to pass along fully discounted prices for the 50 Mbps product as this would leave it very close in price to the 25 Mbps plan.

This was potentially “problematic” for lower-tier price plans, the research found.

UBS said retailers had several options for how to manage the discount when selling the new bundle: they could risk the public’s ire by keeping the price at current levels; drop the retail price; use the funds to increase the offered bandwidth; or a combination of the latter two.

But even if retailers kept the windfall but improved the user experience by doubling their spend on bandwidth, it could still appear to customers there had been no changes in price and “customers may have little visibility into the increase in CVC provisioned”, the analysis said.

Mr Choi expects a combination of lower price and more bandwidth will be compelling to Telstra, and probably most other retailers.

This scenario would involve a cut in retail pricing by a portion of the discount provided by NBN Co, in addition to investment from the retailer into more bandwidth.

This could save 50 Mbps users $8 to $10 on their plan, on UBS calculations, and it would allow better bandwidth for users.

Some retailers have voiced concern that already-thin profit margins would be eroded further if they passed on the full saving.

Telstra said it was “reviewing” the NBN plans and did not provide comment on its pricing. Other major retailers are also discussing how to position the new products to customers.

Amaysim commercial director of broadband Rob Appel also said the changes “don’t necessarily lower the price for consumers”.

“What they do is give retailers the opportunity to provide a better service by increasing bandwidth to each customer,” he said.

He wanted to see a pricing model without bandwidth charges.

Jennifer Duke

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Delays spell reprieve for Stockton Centre

TEMPORARY REPRIEVE: Delays mean the Stockton Centre and two other Hunter disability centres will not close as scheduled on June 30 next year. The state says it will close its Ageing, Disability and Home Care agency by that date.THE Hunter’s three large residential disability centres –Stockton, Tomaree and Kanangra (Morisset) – will be staying open well beyond the state government’s deadline of June 30 next year.
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In an announcement on Thursday afternoon, the Family and Community Services (FACS) agency said the complexity of the program, together with “unexpected challenges along the way”, meant it would not be able to move everyone from the three large centres into their intended group homes.

“Despite careful planning and progress to date, the [new] Hunter Residences will not be completed by 30 June 2018, . . . the date it was expected that all FACS operated disability services would transfer to non-government operators to support the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS),” the agency said.

It said 62 people from the Hunter centres had already moved into 11 new homes.

In February,Home4Life –a consortium of two not-for-profits, Newcastle’s Compass Housing and the Campbelltown-based BlueCHP –was selected to build the rest of the homes. The Newcastle Herald understands there are still about 320 people at Stockton, 60 at Kanangra and 35 at Tomaree, meaning that another 80 or so group homes will be needed.

FACS said it had bought land for most of the remaining houses. Home4Life wassubmitting designs for council approval and it was likely the first homes would be ready “towards the end of 2018 with the remaining homes to follow in stages”.

The agency gave no indication of how long it would take overall.

“We will develop plans for the transfer of staff and services to the new group homes as more is known,” the agency said. “These homes will transfer to the non-government sector, however the timing and scheduling of this transfer is not yet known.”

Despite the delay in the Hunter, the agency confirmed that the rest of the state government’s disability services would be transferred to the private sector by June 2018, withanother 1500 staff tobe transferred to Life Without Barriers, Achieve Australia and the Cerebral Palsy Alliance.

Wendy Cuneo of the Stockton Hospital Welfare Association said the delay was good news for all of those who wanted the centres to remain open. She said that while the government was concentrating on its new group homes it was letting Stockton “run down badly”.

“They say they are keeping families and staff updated but that’s not been the case,” Mrs Cuneo said.

Public Service Association Hunter organiser Paul James also welcomed the delay and said the government should never have started its privatisation of disability services.

Newcastle state Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp said:“Given the tragic fatalities earlier this year, this Government needs to take a more measured approach. The safety of our most vulnerable must not be compromised. “

2017: A year on a plate

AUTHENTIC: Chris Schofield, head chef of Susuru Ramen and Gyoza. Picture: Marina Neil It has been a big year for food in Newcastle. Every second week a new cafe, restaurant or coffee spot popped up in the city or in the suburbs. Slowly but surely, the Hunter Region’s reputation for coal and steel is being replaced by quality food and trendy eateries.
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TALENT: Nathan Martin and Nathan David Griffin. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

ON THE MOVE FRESH AND FUNKY: Bao Brothers Eatery. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

But first, pop-ups – 2017 was definitely the year for food on the move. Restaurants, cafes, wineries, breweries and even chefs became more mobile than ever.

Many bricks and mortar businesses purchased a “food truck” of sorts to taketheir product to the people at special events and markets. It’s not a new phenomenon, certainly, but it has definitely become more common.Newy Burger Co. has been doing the rounds with“Preecy”. MEET popped up on Darby Street, The Tea Project bought a Kombi van for its new “Collective” ventureand El Poco Loco is still going strong.

Sometimes it worked in reverse. Doughheads and Bao Brothers started off as pop-ups and then invested in the bricks and mortar.

It helps that the increased popularity –and availability – of international “street food” is tailor-made for the mobile market. We’ve seen Taiwanese, Japanese, American, Mexican, Vietnamese and evenFrench cuisine represented. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Online ordering systems like Uber Eats, Crave and EatNow were introduced and are redefining the conceptof takeaway and food delivery. Once again, the focus is very much on making life easier for the consumer. A phrase being used more and more is “delivered dining” and we can expect to see more players enter the game this year.

Two enterprising youngchefs took the pop-up idea another step further by branching out into unique pop-up culinary events. Josh Gregory, of EXP. restaurant, launched Hunter at Keith Tulloch Wines on August 14. Who knows where and when Hunter will pop up next however the inaugural dining event was a success. Unique, clever and thought-provoking.

Pastry chef Gareth Williams, of Restaurant Mason, challenged himself with pop-up bakery Covered In Crumbs. Every last crumb sold at the first event in November at Sherwood Coffee Bar.

INTERNATIONAL FLAVOURSAnother inner-city trend was the addition of more and more international cuisines to our culinary smorgasboard. Winnies Jamaican (Jamie Thomas), SusuruRamen & Gyoza (Taiyo Namba with chef Chris Schofield), Cielo and Signora Italian (Andrew and Lisa Margan), Little Castro, Hawaiian poke bowls at Lulus, Austrian fare at Doppelganger Kitchen onDarby Street, Vietnamese sandwiches at Screamin’ Veemis (Andy Howard and Adam Lance) –the list goes on.

Acai and “Buddha” bowls continued our preoccupation with healthy wholefoods, and ingredients became easier to source as new wholefood stores opened around town.

Tapas remained popular –Tatlers in the Valley launched a new menu, and Battlesticks Bar and Blacksmiths’ Te Aroha Place opened, for example–and from thisthe concept of shared plates became commonplace. It didn’t matter if the menu was Spanish or not. Reserve, owned by Patrick Haddock,started offering shared plates, as didSignora at The Landing Bar & Kitchen.

The idea of sharing food and making it a communal, social event caught on.

Street Feast on Market St Lawn soon spread to beachfront sites; Street Eats kicked off in Maitland and Feast Fest gained a foothold. Once again food trucks played a major part. Many markets also adopted a strong food focus, like Five Senses Twilight Market, and Olive Tree Market continued to promote artisan food makers and products.

FORWARD THINKINGAnd then there wasHey Zeus, an entity of its own. No waitstaff, no visible cooks – you just order electronically, pay and pick up your meal. Owner Jacob Beye’s innovative Newcastle story was picked up as far away as London.

Foraging was a buzz word for a while, inspired by the Nordic practice and redefined by Cooper Thomas, also known as The Wilderness Chef; and Maitland’s own Josh Niland put his own stamp nose-to-tail seafood at Saint Peterin Paddington.

Frank Fawkner of EXP. restaurant launched Fawk Foods and started making and selling his very own“black garlic”, earning high praise from his peers.

Troy Rhoades-Brown of Muse Restaurant toldWeekender: “I think his style and offering is different for our region with some uncommon and individual flavour pairings that are strongly influenced by native Australian and locally grown ingredients. The restaurant’s food service is interactive with the chefs, which a lot of guest really seem to enjoy. It’s a young restaurant but it’s ongoing success will continue to see it grown and evolve.”

As for Muse, the two-hatted Pokolbin restaurant continues to raise the fine-dining bar –and move the goal posts. Rhoades-Brown and his team are always looking for new and unique ways to use Hunter produce and are, for example, teaming up with a farmer who breeds lamb in his olive grove.

“We are still at a trial stage but we break down the whole lamb, leaving it on the bone, hot smoke it for two hours with olive wood and pits then finish cooking submerged in extra virgin olive oil served with olives all from the same farm,” Rhoades-Brown says.

It’s all about, he says, “what makes us unique in terms of produce in the Hunter and Upper Hunter region –our diverse range of landscapes, soil and sub climates which allowsus to be successful in so many agricultures. Beef, dairy, poultry, lamb, vegetables, fruit, nuts, grapes”.

One of Muse Restaurant’s most recent additions to the menu – local red deer served raw in fine sheets of pickled turnip katsuobushi, black sesame, puffed buckwheat and radish –is a case in point. Talk about combining cooking methods, local ingredients and diverse textures, not to mention flavours –this is the very definition of fusion.

In addition to locally-sourced ingredients, sustainability influenced many a menu and a back-to-basics approach was generally favoured when it came to flavour. Native Australian ingredients continued to be in high demandand in-house fermenting and pickling proved popular. Slow Food Hunter Valley launched a world-first “earth market” and farmers from the Great Lakes region, just a couple of hours’ north, banded together to promote their unique coastal food bowl through the seasonal Great Lakes Food Trail.Port Macquarie’s Tastings on Hastings festival proved people will travel for a love of food.

Maitland Taste and Maitland Coffee and Chocolate Festival continued to be crowd-pleasers. It will interesting to see what Newcastle Food and Wine Festival, which was postponed from November2017 until April 2018, will bring to the table.

SUPERCARSMany traditional chefs and restaurateurs also proved they were willing to adapt. Take, for example, the way Rascal and Restaurant Mason teamed up during the Supercars event in Newcastle in November. It was heartening to see talented chefs manning an outdoor table and dealing directly with customers.

The same goes for Samuel Alexander of Reserve. He was spotted literally running after people with some kind of sausage sandwich in his hand.Bocados set up shop on thepavementwith churros and coffee; Momo introduced a special race-day menu and The Persian Place had easy-to-eat lunches ready to go.

Chefs spruiking their food to the masses –showing initiative, modifying their menus to suit their audience and taking their service to the streets – were the ones who prospered. Many of thesealso had the benefit of location, of course.

Oma’s Kitchen, who had closed for several months while roadworks were going on outside their Watt Street restaurant (and so that they could film season two ofTravel Guides) had a stall near pit lane.

Other venues chose to offer wine, dine and box seat package deals for their customers –think Rustica, Paymasters, Customs House, 48 Watt and Bocados.

It was a learning experience for all. As Randolph Movickof Paymasters told Weekender in August, it was always going to be a case of “suck it and see”.Some did it tough, especially those just outside of the race circuit. Year one was alwaysgoing to be a challenge. It will be interesting to see what happens at next year’s race event.

Uniformity will kill our universities

This is our penultimate column for the year.
Nanjing Night Net

“Oh, so we’ve got one more?” says Charlie.

Louise lifts an eyebrow “you do know what penultimate means?”

In preparation I was starting to put together a list of things to do in the holidays. There was a time when we would set aside two or three books, but Charlie is telling me that he is now storing a number of complete TV series on his Apple TV and Netflix wishlists instead.

I was persisting with an old fashioned bibliographical approach in the newsagent a few days ago when I saw a claim that the economy has revived.

I knew that our redoubtable forecaster Charlie would be rolling his eyes, so I tracked him down on Fitzroy Island off Cairns where he is trying to escape any possibility of a white Christmas.

“Rubbish” he said, adding that his analysis, is that the economy is barely ticking over.

According to Charlie, 55 per cent of GDP is taken up with household expenditure and it only grew by a minuscule 0.4 per cent in the year to the end of September. And the significant jobs growth early on, was in Victoria, which the last time I looked, created 60 per cent of the national tally.

Charlie’s mobile connection became increasingly dodgy as he went on debunking over exuberant economic spin, so I went back to assembling the summer reading list.

And I have one that will surprise you. Its “The Idea of A University” by Glyn Davis, the outgoing Vice Chancellor of the University of Melbourne.

Now I know you might have been expecting the new Peter Carey or a J K Rowling crime thriller, but this book by the young VC who still has much ahead of him, is gripping.

He points out that our university structure which started with Sydney University in 1850 and Melbourne University a few years later, is based on a resolutely British ideal modeled by Oxford and other UK universities. And it’s hardly changed in 150 years despite the broadening of the sector by Hawke Government Education Minister John Dawkins and increased public access since the Whitlam era.

I knew that the funding trend was moving towards user pays but I was staggered to learn that the government contribution has gone down from 100 per cent to 14 per cent.

Davis argues that our cloning approach to universities needs to be disrupted, just like so many other enterprise sectors, if our people are going to reach their potential and be able to compete in a roaring digital economy.

He makes the point that diversity is the key and that sameness is stagnation.

I agree, and I can see this extending throughout our economy.

Earlier this week I chaired a meeting which included observers of the world economy.

We heard that Australia is not moving at a rate equivalent to others in the world and that it is only a matter of time before we drop out of the G20.

The G20 of course has been the bragging territory for every Treasurer since Kevin Rudd pushed us into it some years ago.

And so, it is with universities. We have outstanding universities, some 40 of them, with 1.4 million students and 120,000 staff.

But according to Davis and his publisher Melbourne University Press there may only be 10 left worldwide by 2070 because “relentless inventive entrepreneurial agendas (available online) promise students a world of unbounded study options”.

Just look at the leaders of the digital economy like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg who never attended University or dropped out before completing a single degree.

And I would add that it has always been thus. Many successful entrepreneurs that I know didn’t even get the chance to go to university. I’m one of them.

Glyn points out that our revolving door governments, not to mention prime ministerial leadership, means that no one can be sure about the long term.

But he offers a way out. A revived Australian Territory Education Commission is one mechanism that would enable sector-wide review, analysis and action on lessons learned. Basically, leave the politicians out.

I also sat in a meeting earlier this week that reviewed a trip to Israel earlier this year where we came face to face with a country of 8 million people that has more startups than all of Europe put together.

There is absolutely no doubt that our future prosperity is dependent on us ditching old models of sameness and having much greater confidence in diversity.

As the new year approaches, it’s worth thinking about some resolutions that we should keep and not continuing to fool ourselves that we’re doing ok, because we’re not, and we can do better.

If you’re prepared for a shake up, Glyn Davis’ book is a good place to start.

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

VCE results do not tell students, schools or universities what was really achieved

From 7am this morning, more than 51,000 students across Victoria will log on to receive their VCE results.
Nanjing Night Net

The sum total of 13 years of learning will be boiled down to the rough handful of study scores that inform their Australian Tertiary Admission Rank.

This is the ATAR. It assigns each student’s ranking, compared with all other VCE students in 2017, rendered as a percentile. In the gruelling marathon that is Year 12, the student with a 99.00 has achieved results that put them in the top one per cent. The student with an ATAR of 50.00 has not ‘barely passed’, but is simply further back in the pecking order.

A school’s median ATAR is closely studied by principals and parents; ATAR medians above 80 are cited as signs of academic excellence.

But the ATAR does not tell us that much about the skills a student has acquired and nowhere near enough about a school’s ability to teach.

A good study score in, say, Further Maths, does not prove the student understands the difference between nominal and effective interest rates, or how this knowledge could be used. It simply demonstrates that student A performed better than other students who sat the same test, even if all of them mastered the basic concept or none of them did.

This is one of the reasons why many universities use interviews and folios when considering applications – some tertiary courses bypass ATAR scores altogether, and have offered places directly to students who impress at interviews.

There is considerable hand-wringing over slipping standards at tertiary level. Indeed, the “clearly in” ATAR cut-offs published by universities now serve as a kind of stock market where the exchange rate is based on course demand – an increase in the ATAR cut-off indicates a surge in the stocks of nursing degrees, a low-ranking cut-off for IT courses suggests coding jobs have been shorted by students cautious about job prospects.

A business that merely ranked all its employees from 1-100 would not know what their employees could already do or needed to learn. And yet our entire tertiary admissions system is this opaque.

Education reformers have long been campaigning for clearer reporting of the student skills, from the ability to read a picture book in early primary to problem solving in middle years to sophisticated analysis in year 12. Some study designs for VCE subjects require students to demonstrate these higher order skills under exam conditions, but nobody will ever know for sure, because the exams themselves, and the real marks, are never seen – unless the student pays to get the exam back.

It is too glib to tell the class of 2017 that “the number does not matter” when this is all the current system provides them in exchange for their efforts. It could be argued that completing VCE equips students to knuckle down to complete hellish workloads under punishing deadlines under high stress – conditions they may face in many future workplaces.

But their hard work demands reforms that help students – and their future teachers and employers – measure the skills they’ve learned in practical and transparent ways. A note from the editor – Subscribers can get Age editor Alex Lavelle’s exclusive weekly newsletter delivered to their inbox by signing up here: 梧桐夜网theage南京夜网419论坛/editornote

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