Cut-price alcohol education … links from the “Out Tonight? Party Right” website offer teens poor advice.Children have been directed to websites containing adult relationship advice, instructions on taking peptides and other inappropriate content through a new government site that is supposed to raise awareness about alcohol misuse.
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The Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing said on Monday it would review the Out Tonight? Party Right site, and remove links to some external websites after Fairfax Media asked questions about their content.

Health experts said the site was at best incompetent, and at worst could put young people at risk of harm by directing them to unchecked overseas websites that give advice that is not based on evidence.

Mike Daube, the director of the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth, said the site “gives stunning incompetence a bad name”.

“It is beyond bizarre that their ‘educational’ activities offer links to promotions for online dating and peptides,” he said.

One of the links on the Out Tonight site is for alcohol-related aggression. It takes you to about南京夜网, and a page by a writer who goes by the name of “Buddy T”, a recovering alcoholic who writes regularly on alcohol issues.

Another, on the emotional impacts of drinking, takes you to the Lance Armstrong-associated “Livestrong” website.

This website also contains information on using and buying “peptides” (protein-producing substances, used by bodybuilders and athletes) and on other performance-enhancing protein powders.

Out Tonight was launched last week by the Minister for Hospitality, George Souris, and was supported by police and council groups, along with the Australian Hotels Association, Clubs NSW and the Liquor Stores Association of NSW.

Professor Daube said every day in NSW, an average of three children get so drunk they require an ambulance, and “working parties with the alcohol industries and disastrously bad websites are not the answer”.

“The NSW government should scrap this atrocious material … and establish a proper, independent, well-funded education program,” he said.

The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education chief executive, Michael Thorn, said if the government removed the inappropriate links “it won’t have much of a website left”.

He said the NSW government was shifting the responsibility for alcohol education onto foreign governments and the liquor industry, after recently abolishing the Department of Education’s drug and alcohol policy development unit.

“It is not acceptable that the government sees fit to ignore the advice and input of independent research organisations, and allows this educational resource to be developed by the alcohol industry – an industry with an undeniable and obvious conflict of interest,” he said.

He said the website also linked to British alcohol websites that provided emergency contact details for the UK only.

NSW Labor education spokeswoman, Carmel Tebbutt, said the inappropriate links on the website could end up doing more harm than good.

“Unfortunately, this is what happens when governments try to cut corners,” she said.

“The O’Farrell Government’s abolition of the … highly regarded Drug and Alcohol Prevention Unit is a very retrograde step.”

A spokesman for the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing said the office would now monitor websites linked from the site, and remove the links highlighted by Fairfax Media.

“While the government does not control these external websites or their advertising, we will actively monitor them to ensure that any accessible content is appropriate for senior high school students and, if content is deemed inappropriate, then links will be removed,” he said.

A spokesman for the NSW Department of Education & Communities said it still had drug and alcohol experts within the department, and comprehensive drug and alcohol education was available to all students through the Personal Development, Health and Physical Education syllabus.

He said the website had been developed with the NSW Curriculum and Learning Innovation Centre, but the website and its management had been handed to the office of liquor, gaming and racing in January.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said the offending links were still active. The active links were not visible to new visitors to the website.

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Selling pianos is a dream gig for Mark O’Connor.Flying to Portsea in a helicopter to tune trucking magnate Lindsay Fox’s piano is all in a day’s work for Mark O’Connor.
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As is having customers part with $250,0000 for a grand piano, despite not being able to play a note. Then there was a time a potential customer arrived with a rubbish bag stuffed with $50,000 in notes, asking for a cash discount on a very expensive Steinway.

“It took us half an hour to count that,” says O’Connor, the managing director of the Exclusive Piano Group, of which Fox is the major shareholder.

The business, which has one store in Essendon, Melbourne, and another opening soon in Adelaide, started in 2008, with all of Fox’s profits going back into music and the arts.

With a floor full of pricey handmade instruments, it’s a business that needs some serious financial backing. In its fifth year, it has just started turning a profit.

“That’s the benefit of having a partner like Lindsay Fox,” says O’Connor. He’s just an amazing guy and I’ve got nothing but respect for him. I’ve known him for 20 years.”

The pair met when O’Connor was general manager of music store group Allans. In August, Australian Music Group Holdings, owner of the 30-store Allans Billy Hyde chain, was placed in voluntary administration.

“Originally [Fox] was a customer of mine and we just seemed to get on well. He wanted his grandkids to learn the piano,” says O’Connor.

Their long association eventually culminated in the Exclusive Piano Group, which sells mainly high-end pianos – with a focus on Steinways – to professional musicians, symphony orchestras, beginners and those who just appreciate the value of a handmade instrument that can be a year in the making.

“We estimate that about 60 per cent of our customers that buy a Steinway can’t play,” says O’Connor.

Lindsay Fox also belongs in that category.

“He absolutely loves music, he’s got an amazing memory and can start singing songs I’ve never even heard of,” says O’Connor. “He loves music, but he can’t play.”

The piano group is the only Steinway & Sons agent in Victoria, South Australia and the ACT.

Steinway is considered one of the best pianos in the world, with artists who favour it including Billy Joel and Harry Connick jnr. Designed and handcrafted in Germany, each piano can take up to a year to make.

“With a Steinway, the whole philosophy of their pianos revolves around making the most of the sound vibrations in the piano,” says O’Connor.

Recently the group has sold pianos to the Melbourne, Adelaide and Tasmanian symphony orchestras and Melbourne’s revamped Arts Centre.

“You can’t reopen a centre like the Arts Centre and have old pianos,” says O’Connor. “Generally a venue like that would like to have a piano that is less than five years old at any time.”

A customer recently snapped up a piano that had been played by Tony Bennett, Burt Bacharach, Herbie Hancock, Regina Spektor and jazz legend Chick Corea.

While Steinway pianos date back to 1853, they have not escaped the touch of the techies. In his store, O’Connor sells an iPad-operated system called the PianoDisc.

By selecting a song on the iPad, a customer can bring a virtual concert to life in their own lounge room. Like a very modern-day version of the pianola, the keys play of their own accord, while the artist’s voice booms out as if they were in the room. The system certainly impresses the punters, says O’Connor.

It’s all a dream gig for O’Connor, who started his career as an organ demonstrator at Brashs in Melbourne’s Northland shopping centre as a 15-year-old.

However, despite Fox’s backing, and access to his company’s infrastructure, such as lawyers, HR and payroll, the Exclusive Piano Group is a business much like any other.

“He doesn’t give me a dollar for free. The business has to pay its own way,” says O’Connor. “We’re not making millions of dollars, it’s not that kind of business’

The plan is to eventually have a store in each state.

“I believe there’s an opportunity for us to have a real influence in the Australian market.”

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Is your money tied up?Picture this: a new client asks you to complete a job at short notice. You do the work, the client is happy, your invoice is sent, and a month later the bill remains unpaid. So you send a reminder email that goes unanswered, and follow up with a phone call that is not returned.
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You don’t want to push the matter too hard and damage a new relationship. As a small venture, you don’t have a lot of power or resources to take on late-paying big companies.

But you have bills to pay and can’t afford a client to threaten your company’s cash flow, or its survival. Eventually, the bill is paid three months later, and after several stressful time-wasting follow-ups. Or not at all.

Sound familiar? Welcome to the world of many small ventures, where getting paid sometimes feels like a lottery, and where getting paid on time is a luxury. A world where honest, hard-working business owners can go bust because a client treats them like a bank for several months.

Yes, there are plenty of stories about how small ventures can improve their cashflow management through smarter debt-collection procedures. To be sure, many of them are hopeless at chasing up overdue invoices, and in turn allow themselves to be treated like an ATM.

A bigger problem is when emerging companies are brainwashed to pay bills as late as possible – well beyond agreed terms – to improve their working capital.

For small ventures, paying bills late and making life torture for suppliers by stretching out payment is usually dumb business. It has a marginal effect on cash flow and damages supplier relationships and the firm’s brand.

I’d argue that firms that pay bills early – or even on time – create a huge competitive advantage through building stronger relationships with their suppliers. People want to work for the business and do a great job, because they appreciate early, reliable payment. They can spend more time on the work, rather than hassling clients to be paid.

It takes  52 days on average for businesses to be paid in, according to the latest trade payments data from credit-reporting agency Dun & Bradstreet. That’s down from a peak of 57.4 days during the GFC in 2009, but firms are still waiting more than three weeks longer than standard payment terms. Firms in New Zealand only wait an average 40 days to be paid.

D&B says 62 per cent of accounts in Australian are settled late and that about seven in 10 firms are concerned about their cash flow in coming months.

My guess is many small ventures wait considerably longer than 52 days to be paid. Their invoice terms – payment required within 14 or say 28 days – is little more than window dressing.

Rather than advise small companies how to be paid faster, the five tips below are for companies that take forever to pay their bills, or sometimes cannot pay them. Hopefully, the advice can help more late payers (some for reasons beyond their control) to better manage the process.

1. Be clear on payment terms: When commissioning work, ensure the supplier understands your payment terms and billing problems. Part of the problem is poor communication upfront: the supplier expects to be paid within 30 days, you only pay after 45 days, for example.

2. Ensure staff handle bills appropriately: Nothing frustrates suppliers more than staff in a big company sitting on a bill or refusing to forward it because it has low priority. If your staff commission and handle supplier invoices, ensure they know what is expected on receipt.

3. Be upfront: I had a late-paying client who refused to take my calls or answer emails about unpaid bills. It exacerbated the situation. Explain to suppliers if you are having trouble paying a bill and reasons why. Ask them to treat the information in confidence. That has to be better than letting suppliers think your firm is yet another that does not pay its bills and rips people off.

4. Be specific: Telling a supplier “I’ll pay you as soon as I can” is not good enough. Give a timetable, as best you can. Perhaps it involves part-payment of a bill over several months, as well as interest on the outstanding debt until repayment. Aim to pay as least some of the bill straight away if you can.

5. Do not confuse work and personal life: Never tell a supplier you cannot pay a bill because of a personal situation: an unexpected tax bill, personal financial problems, or a bad investment. It’s unprofessional and, in my experience, just inflames the situation. Blurring work and personal life only makes your firm look more inept in the eyes of suppliers who just want to get paid.

What’s your view?Does your business struggle to get paid on time by clients?How many of your clients often require at least one reminder before they pay?What is your worst experience of being paid late (no names, please).Is it getting harder to be paid on time?Do the benefits of paying suppliers early outweigh the costs?

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

A lawyer’s body has warned of a funding risk to the national disability insurance scheme.Australia’s Goods and Services Tax could be broadened or a Medicare-style levy considered to pay for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, a top lawyers’ body believes.
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The Australian Lawyers Alliance says Labor’s proposed $8 billion-plus NDIS is a necessary social reform but risks becoming financially unsustainable over the longer term unless it is both well-designed and given dedicated funding.

It also wants to see rigorous external pricing oversight, perhaps using the corporate and consumer watchdog, the ACCC, to guard against private insurers offloading risk to the public sector.

The group, which is not claiming specific economic expertise, argues the funding base of the proposed scheme must be realistically confronted because it is impossible to guarantee individual legal rights if those same rights later become hostage to limited funding.

ALA President Tony Kerin will give evidence on Tuesday to a Senate inquiry into the NDIS in Adelaide where he will argue the design and funding arrangements need to be fully worked out to ensure the integrity of the NDIS for generations to come.

He told Fairfax Media the New Zealand experience showed the scheme would be vulnerable to a constant tinkering and narrowing of entry criteria unless its future operating costs could be accurately forecast and funded.

The ALA also believes the way the scheme is being legislated is problematic.

In a letter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard before the Senate inquiry, Mr Kerin said the ALA opposed establishing it through ”shell” legislation, which left major design features to be set out in rules.

”The Bill grants power for ‘NDIS  Rules’ to be created, at any time, without any extensive parliamentary scrutiny of such rules,” Mr Kerin writes in the letter obtained by Fairfax Media.

”Insufficient clarity about what support people will receive, and what ‘reasonable and necessary support’ truly means, is another concern.

”We believe that this is liable to change in the future, under the NDIS Rules, unless people are protected by clearly defined legislation.

”It appears the individuals’ current legal rights may be suspended, or revoked, under the bill’s present wording – with potential catastrophic impact for people.”

The government has so far ruled out using a special levy to meet the scheme’s costs, but the ALA says merely funding its operation from consolidated revenue means it will always be buffeted by competing priorities and subject to contraction.

The government has not yet quantified how much the system will cost into the future but has allocated $1 billion for five introductory sites to begin operating from July 1.

It is consulting with interested groups as it works through initial design issues and will use the Senate inquiry to help inform its final design.

GST revenue, which is raised by the Commonwealth but provided directly to the states under the terms of its inception, is expected to collect about $54 billion next financial year.

However, discussion of either increasing its 10 per cent rate or broadening its incomplete scope to include fresh food for example, has been a political no-go zone since its inception in 2000.

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As a young indigenous man sat in the dock of a north coast police station speaking to his mother, a police officer allegedly taunted him, making obscene gestures behind the woman’s back, the Police Integrity Commission has heard.
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The commission is investigating allegations that Corey Barker, 24, was assaulted at Ballina police station on January 14, 2011, after an altercation with police, and that officers then falsely accused the young man of assaulting them, giving sworn testimony to this effect in court.

Giving evidence during the second day of the commission on Tuesday, Mr Barker said that after being placed in the station’s perspex-walled dock in a distressed state, officers stood behind his mother and sought to aggravate him further.

“I remember an officer standing behind doing the gesture, pretending to squeeze her arse,” Mr Barker said.

“They were trying to aggravate me. I said ‘Mum! Look what they’re doing behind your back … It just kept going. I kept my cool for a bit, then I just lost it – started punching the glass.

“I was treated like a piece of garbage … of course I was going to be upset.”

CCTV footage of the alleged incident, played during Tuesday’s hearing, did not show police taunting the young man. But the footage did show him seeming to react angrily to something happening off screen, and his mother turning around to look behind her.

Mr Barker repeatedly jumps to his feet and bangs the Perspex screen with his fist, while his mother appears to be attempting to calm him down.

Earlier in the hearing, Mr Barker described the circumstances of the altercation outside Tamar shopping centre that led to his initial arrest.

The 24-year-old said he and his friend, Byron Nolan, had started running towards what he thought was a domestic incident after hearing a young woman in distress, to discover that two of his friends were in a physical altercation with a number of men.

“I’ve yelled out, ‘Hey! Oi,’ but just nothing – I don’t know if they even heard what I said,” Mr Barker said.

“I got my phone out [to film them] … next minute I’m tumbling, head over heels onto the ground.”

He said that officers placed a knee in his back and an elbow into the back of his neck, as he struggled to get up.

“I just kept hearing the words ‘stop resisting, stop resisting’…”

On Monday, the commission heard allegations that a female friend of Mr Barker was slammed into a gutter during a violent arrest.

The hearing continues.

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Australia’s leading Jewish community organisation has broken a week-long silence on the case of the death of Australian-Israel dual national Ben Zygier.
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In a statement issued today, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry welcomed announcements by the Australian and Israeli governments of inquiries into the circumstances surrounding the death dual Israeli and Australian national Ben Zygier, who died while in high-security custody in Israel in December 2010.

”We welcome the fact that the Israeli Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Subcommittee for Intelligence and the Israeli State Attorney’s office, part of the Ministry of Justice, have both announced that they will be conducting investigations into the circumstances surrounding Ben Zygier’s death,” Executive Council President Dr Danny Lamm said in a written statement.

”We also welcome the inquiries being undertaken by Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the fact that he has invited the Israeli authorities to have an input into those inquiries.”

Australian Jewish community leaders have been reluctant to speak publicly about the death in Mr Zygier, a former Melbourne lawyer, which was disclosed by ABC TV’s Foreign Correspondent program last week.

Mr Zygier, who reportedly served with the Israeli foreign intelligence service Mossad, was arrested in Israel in February 2010 and died in prison 10 months later.

Jewish community sources told Fairfax Media that hesitation in making public comment arose from respect for Mr Zygier’s family which, apart from a brief expression of loss and grief to the Australian Financial Review, has not spoken publicly, and because community leaders had no information on the case other than what had been reported in the media.

However, the announcements by Senator Carr of an internal inquiry by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade into the consular aspects of Mr Zygier’s case and the Israeli government and parliamentary investigations provided an appropriate opportunity for comment.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has said he saw no reason for any inquiry into the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation’s involvement in Mr Zygier’s case.

It has been reported that ASIO was investigating Mr Zygier’s alleged involvement in the use of Australian passports to provide cover for Israeli intelligence operations and that ASIO tipped off a Fairfax journalist who contacted Mr Zygier shortly before he was arrested by Israeli security authorities.

Reportedly charged with ”national security”-related offences, Mr Zygier was not tried or convicted of any offence before his death.

”We look forward to the official inquiries publishing concrete information about the circumstances surrounding the death of Ben Zygier in the hope that it will put further rumour and speculation to rest and bring some comfort to his still-grieving family and friends,” Dr Lamm said.

Australian Jewish community leaders were privately highly critical of what they considered to be an overreaction by former prime minister Kevin Rudd and then foreign minister Stephen Smith to allegations that Israeli intelligence used Australian passports in an operation to assassinate a militant Hamas leader in Dubai in January 2010.

Following the Government’s decision to expel a senior Israeli intelligence officer from Israel’s embassy in Canberra in May 2010, Mr Rudd and Mr Smith attempted to defuse tension by inviting six Jewish community representatives, including then Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Robert Goot, for discussions at a private kosher dinner at The Lodge. The meeting was also attended by Labor MPs Michael Danby and Mark Dreyfus.

It is believed that no mention of Mr Zygier’s arrest and detention was made at this gathering.

”None of us knew anything about [the Zygier case], and neither the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister said anything about it,” one of the community representatives who attended the meeting told Fairfax Media on Tuesday.

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TurnbullStuck on slow copper in a suburb with cable? Malcolm Turnbull is happy to leave you in the lurch under his NBN vision.Australia’s Hybrid Fibre Cable rollouts of the 1990s were a hotch potch mess, with Telstra and Optus chasing each other down one street and then skipping the next street completely. Many homes in the so-called HFC areas are still struggling to get a reliable 5 Mbps over copper DSL and must rely on satellite for limited pay TV. Meanwhile their neighbours are enjoying 100 Mbps thanks to the latest cable upgrades.The HFC rollouts created a digital divide within suburbs and even within streets. It’s not just multi-dwelling units that were overlooked. In suburban Melbourne, my next door neighbour has access to 100 Mbps Telstra cable, but I struggle to get 4 Mbps over a dodgy copper connection. It’s a common story.There seems to be this myth that everyone on ADSL2+ in the ‘burbs is now happily pulling down 20 Mbps, but the reality is very different. Many DSL fringe dwellers are struggling to get a reliable 5 Mbps even though a HFC cable is hanging in the next street. It’s as much to do with the deterioration of the copper as the distance to the exchange. But no amount of pleading with Telstra and Optus will get them to roll out another inch of cable. Even getting them to fix a dodgy copper line is a painful experience.While it’s a frustrating scenario, at least I know the NBN fibre will roll down my street in the next few years and I’ll be on equal footing with my neighbour. Yet it could be a much longer wait if the Coalition has its way.This morning Opposition Communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull discussed the Coalition’s HFC plans as part of his address to the Kickstart technology conference on the Sunshine Coast. He reiterated the Coalition plan to put the NBN on the backburner for areas covered by HFC cable.”As far as policy is concerned, what I’ve said about HFC is that we are going to prioritise the areas that are poorly served,” Turnbull said.”So areas that do have very good broadband, or very good broadband relative to the rest of Australia and that would include most of the HFC areas, would not be the highest priority. I’ve have not said that we won’t overbuild, in fact our intention is to continue as planned to overbuild it. In the HFC areas ADSL is a very active competitor on price generally.”DSL might be a competitor on price, but it’s certainly not a competitor on performance. When this was pointed out to him, Turnbull added;”This is the point you’ve got to remember. A lot of people are prepared to accept lower performance at a lower price. One of the challenges that telecom companies have is that they invest a lot of capital to upgrade services to have the capacity of 1 Gbps or 100Mbps. Then they struggle to get people to pay for it or pay any sort of meaningful premium for. Many people they can do everything they want to do at a lower tier — that might be 50 or it might be 25 Mbps.”Turnbull’s idea “a lower tier” such as 25 Mbps is still a pipe dream for every ADSL2+ customer, even if they live next door to the exchange. I don’t begrudge regional users getting priority, as even my 4 Mbps is an unattainable dream for many people. But to class those of us stuck on deteriorating suburban copper as the lucky ones because we can see the cable in the distance could leave us in the lurch for many years to come.Are you stuck on copper in a cable area? Is it a “very active competitor”?FOLLOW UP: Fibre to the Basement — an acceptable NBN compromise for units?
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There was Bill Shorten on ABC radio the other day, desperately trying to spin cutting back research and development tax deductions as a job creation plan, when he dropped General Motors Holden in the muck as a trade cheat.
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Shorten said one of the things the government was doing to save AWU membership numbers was cracking down on dumping. OK, he didn’t quite say that – it might have been manufacturing jobs rather than AWU members, but we know what he means with an election in the offing and even some of the rusted-on votes flaking off.

Governments of both colours ramp up the anti-dumping rhetoric from time to time, but the rhetoric is much easier than the action. And all sorts of companies from all sorts of nations indulge in a little dumping from time to time. According to Bill Shorten’s definition, Holden is one such company.

Shorten defined dumping as dastard foreigners selling stuff here for less than they do at home. So in his opinion, Holden selling re-badged Commodores in the United States for $10,000 less than they can be bought for in Australia must be, er, dumping – that bad thing the government wants to stamp out when other countries do it.

And Holden, along with Ford and Toyota, is the happy recipient of substantial government subsidies of one sort or another. In the spirit of international trade law, that would make dumping worse.

It starts to look not just like a manufacturer with excess stock flicking it at a loss in some far corner of the globe, but a national policy to compete unfairly, subsidising uneconomic activity for domestic political motives. Cue tirade against Chinese state-owned enterprises.

So, again applying Shorten’s definition, Australian tax payers are subsidising American car buyers to very expensively preserve a few blue-collar jobs in Melbourne and Adelaide at the cost of a few blue-collar jobs in Detroit.

With Australians voting with their wallets by conspicuously buying fewer Commodores and Falcons, it seems a strange use of scarce public funds.

Of course the spirit and the letter of international trade law can be quiet different things and I’m sure those nice people at Holden and in Canberra are careful to arrange their subsidies and international sales in such ways as to be perfectly legal.

And there wouldn’t be any illegal transfer pricing or profit shifting either, the way there isn’t at Google and Apple and eBay and Amazon and all the others.

We learned a collective lesson last century about trade legalities when the Howard government was done over for subsidising the export of our beautiful Howe leather – Howe wasn’t how to do it. The government cheques for Holden aren’t export subsidies – they’re investments in painting cars green, or something.

Besides, just about everyone does it, one way or the other – but that is no excuse for expensive policy and clouds another issue about the government’s latest appeal to its heartland: what’s the big deal about creating or preserving blue-collar jobs, as opposed to collars of any other hue?

It will sound like heresy to some in the manufacturing lobby and trade unions, especially those who seem to have a hold on the Prime Minister’s attention, but there is nothing intrinsically superior about a manufacturing job compared with a services job or primary industry or extractive job or any other job. The idea that the only jobs that really count are the ones that make something you can touch is plain wrong.

Even within the total loop of manufactured goods, the actual manufacturing can be the least rewarding aspect, as previously illustrated by the Barbienomics story: breaking down the economic content of a Barbie doll, the Chinese manufacturer actually makes the least after the retailer, the wholesaler, the intellectual property owner (the brand name), the logistics chain and the packaging and raw materials have all had their share.

That’s not the case with all products and it is nice to have internationally-competitive manufacturers, as it is nice to have internationally-competitive anything, but if we want a country with high wages and high living standards, the colour of our manufacturing collars will be mainly white, not blue. (Or, more accurately these days, fluoro.)

The key justification for subsidising manufacturing – whether directly or indirectly by such things as suppressing gas prices – is that if it’s not supported, there will be nothing left here when our strong currency eventually weakens.

That is a simplistic view as the strong dollar is already pushing manufacturing further up the value chain and forcing manufacturers to become more productive, which they are.

Some can’t survive and their failure can be very hard for the people involved, even personally tragic, but the track record of protectionism is that it lowers standards and, perhaps counter-intuitively, the protectors end up paying substantially more than the protection is worth.

It could be a long wait yet for our dollar to substantially weaken – until sustainable fiscal policy replaces indulgent politics and bad management in the US, Europe and Japan. Falling for the protectionists’ siren song now could come at a very high price, whatever shade your collar.

Michael Pascoe is a BusinessDay contributing editor

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

Bronwyn Lynch with daughter Brianna Gorfine Picture Jonathan Carroll . WINNER: Brooke Davey, senior national physical culture champion 2012.
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While these days you’re more likely to find people running off to a Zumba class in their lunch breaks, in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s it was physical culture luring them from their office cubicles to get moving.

Anyone with sisters, daughters, nieces, girlfriends or granddaughters are likely to have heard of physical culture – or “physie” – as it’s fondly known.

But as it incorporates a variety of dance styles, as well as gymnastics, marching and balancing, it can be difficult to describe.

“It incorporates a bit of ballet and gymnastics and calisthenics and jazz dancing,” says Fiona Way, of Waratah BjP Physical Culture Club.

A business women’s physie class believed to be circa 1940.

“It’s a really friendly form of dancing, and it’s age specific.

“It’s relatively low cost in comparison to other dance schools.

PIONEERING TEACHER: Val Connors at her home in Charlestown. Picture Jonathan Carroll

“It also lends itself to a competitive edge as well – you can compete as an individual or as a group for your club.

“But if you don’t want to go in a competition, you’re not compelled to. It’s optional.”

Competition starts mid-year, and those who make the national finals compete at the Sydney Opera House.

New routines are choreographed and learnt every year to suit the different age groups.

“There’s not a lot of sports around that can really be promoted as a mother and daughter sport, but physie is,” Way says.

“My mother started physie in the 1950s and she competed until she was in her 50s.

“I was about two when I started copying my older sister in the lounge room.

“I love learning the new routine and dancing to the music.

“I love competing in the team events and competing with the friends I’ve made throughout the years.

“You compete against girls you’ve known forever. Once you’ve got the bug you never really stop.”

Inspired by European and Scandinavian exercise styles, physie – pronounced “fizzy” – was developed by Danish-born Hans Christian Bjelke-Petersen in Hobart in 1892.

(If you’re wondering at the name, former premier of Queensland Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen was his nephew).

The success of Bjelke-Petersen Bros. gym – which later became the Bjelke-Petersen School of Physical Culture (BjP Physie) – spread to Sydney and Melbourne.

By the early 1900s, physical culture was taught in private city schools and some businesses.

“It started because more people were moving into sedentary jobs in offices and factories and as people moved into cities, it was a way to keep them active,” Way says.

“It was for men and women, but over the years it evolved into a dance sport for girls and women. They taught it at schools, and they would teach women in the city during their lunch breaks.

Charlestown’s Val Connors, 80, brought physie to Newcastle 50 years ago.

The milestone was celebrated with a reunion at Harbourview Function Centre in December.

“The DJ had probably never seen the dance floor so packed,” Way laughs.

Connors became a physie teacher after being rejected from teachers college on account of being left-handed.

“You weren’t allowed to be left-handed in those days,” she says. “And I started to stammer when they tried to change me, so I remained left-handed.

“But the Bjelke-Petersens ran a three-year course to train you as a PE and physical culture teacher, so I did that.

“Prior to that I’d only ever done physie at school, and I’d loved it.

“I was teaching in the private schools, then I took to teaching physical culture in the clubs in the evenings to make some extra money.

“My husband was a doctor and he took an internship at the Mater Hospital, so we moved to Newcastle.”

Introducing physie to Novocastrians wasn’t easy.

“No one had ever seen or heard of it,” Connors says.

“But I trained the teachers and they nearly all came out of Waratah club, and that’s how it expanded.”

About 700 girls and women continue to do physie in the Hunter Region today.

Connors retired from teaching four years ago.

She has collected many funny memories from the physie floor. She remembers telling the audience at a physie demonstration how learning physical culture would teach them how to move gracefully and beautifully, before promptly stepping back and falling into a hole on the stage.

“Another time, one of our teams went out and did their floor routine at a competition,” she says.

“Then when the music stopped they all got up except for this one girl who was still on the floor on her hands and knees.

“I went over to her and whispered, ‘What are you doing?’ and she whispered back, ‘I’ve lost my contact lens!’ So she and the rest of the team were crawling around the stage looking for the missing contact lens,” she laughs.

“There have been many funny moments and mishaps over the years.”

Many may still associate physie with big hair, heavy make-up and fake tans.

Some young dancers (circa 1980s) were even known to skip school the day before a physie competition so their peers wouldn’t see them decked out in hair curlers and orange-tinted tans in preparation. Fake tans weren’t nearly as subtle then as they are today.

But the sport has changed in that regard. Especially for the younger dancers.

“It’s like anything – some would go over the top,” Connors says.

“The children were allowed to have their hair teased, and then all of a sudden they became these huge bouffant styles – they were enormous!

“And little kids were wearing false eyelashes and glitter on their faces.

“They did away with all of that gradually about 15 years ago.

“They are children when it’s all said and done.”

Now, girls up to the age of 14 cannot wear face or body glitter, false eyelashes, fake tan, hair pieces, fake nails or heavy eye make-up in competitions. Their hair must be simply groomed, adorned only by a plain ribbon.

“I was very pleased when that rule came in. They were starting to look like the little kids in those beauty pageants,” Connors says.

“Now there is more of a positive message – it’s not about what they look like, it’s more about how they’re dancing.

“But the senior girls can do whatever they like – they all wear the fake tan, without a doubt.

“But the senior girls are beautiful, and really quite glamorous.

“They move so beautifully and they know how to present themselves.

“Their make-up is perfect, their hair is spot-on, they choose leotards and clothing that suits their complexion.”

The leotards were introduced in about 1967.

Prior to that, they wore tunics.

“They were horrified, they thought they’d never be able to walk out in a leotard,” Connors says.

Physie has had to move with the times and evolve.

More than 130 clubs are registered with BjP Physie, with numbers ranging from 20 to 250 members at each. It remains the largest physie organisation in the country.

Last year, some of its members broke away to begin APDA – the Australian Physie and Dance Association.

“Some people’s perception of physie was that it needed to be modernised,” APDA director Ronelle Wilson says. “A few of the teachers wanted to move it in a different direction.

“It’s still pretty much physie as people have always known it, but we wanted to bridge the gap between contemporary dance and physie.”

There are APDA physie clubs in Port Macquarie and the Central Coast, but none in Newcastle as yet.

“The first option for a lot of parents is to take their children to ballet or jazz classes,” Wilson says.

“Physie offers that anyway, but people might not think to go to physie.

“So we’re trying to bridge that gap even more, so that if you go to physie you get jazz ballet and contemporary dance all mixed into the one class.”

Everyone agrees on the benefits of physie.

The self-confidence it brings, the health and fitness benefits, and the good posture, flexibility and sense of rhythm it promotes.

You can start physie from as young as three, and there is no upper age limit.

Some women compete into their 70s and 80s.

“There’s an over-60s team event, and there was a team from Merewether who got a place in that section last year,” Way says.

Merewether’s Bronwyn Lynch, 38, has done physie non-stop since she began as a three-year-old in Wauchope.

As a junior, she won five of seven titles at the Sydney Opera House national finals.

Now she competes in the ladies category, and teaches physie.

“It gets in your blood and you just keep going,” she laughs.

The dancers are judged on their strength, control, flexibility, accuracy, expression and posture in competitions.

Lynch continued to do physie throughout her two pregnancies.

“It’s great to be able to do physie together, to do it as a mother and daughter thing,” she says.

“It’s that constant personal achievement to do something the best you possibly can.

“And the fear of getting into fishnets and lycra in November each year is enough to stop you eating too much rubbish, let me tell you,” she laughs.

Physie has changed a lot since Lynch began 35 years ago.

“It’s much more dance-oriented now, and the music is much more current.

“Years ago it was getting a bit daggy, but it has really come up to speed.”

There are seven physie clubs in Newcastle and surrounds. They are taking registrations for 2013.

To find your nearest club, visit physicalculture南京夜网.au.

Shaun Micallef and Kat Stewart in Ten’s Mr & Mrs Murder. Shaun Micallef and Kat Stewart in Ten’s Mr & Mrs Murder.
Nanjing Night Net

NEVER mind splitting the atom. Who can make a show that truly harnesses Shaun Micallef?

It’s been promising to happen since he jabbed his smart brand of silliness into Full Frontal and The Micallef Programme.

The promise grew with Newstopia and the spontaneity of Your Generation, then faded a bit with the scripted Mad As Hell.

How do you get the most out of Micallef, who can have you in stitches with a raised eyebrow? Will he ever find that career-defining hit?

Mr & Mrs Murder, Ten’s laconic new murder mystery, may not be that hit. But there are plenty of reasons to watch it.

Wednesday night’s first episode introduced us to Charlie and Nicola Buchanan (Micallef, Kat Stewart), a husband and wife team of “trauma cleaners” who mop up crime scenes. They have a knack for solving murders.

If that all sounds grisly, it’s not. The blood is more alluded to than shown. And if the murder case of the week sounds like well-trodden terrain, Micallef and Stewart spend most of each episode plucking playfully at the strands of the detective genre.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Charlie tells a widow in next week’s second episode, before stopping himself.

“It’s a particularly empty expression and I apologise for using it.”

There’s a lot of Micallef in Charlie; that clipped, friendly way of a barrister on his third glass of red at a party you want to be at, and anyone who watched Newstopia knows that these two crackle on screen. The breezy Buchanans are an antidote to the hardened, jaded sleuths we’ve come to expect.

Nicola has a penchant for hugging crime victims and suspects, even if they’re not on board, and can conjure what Charlie calls her “Harriet the Spy” face.

With a convincing, likeable couple at its heart and a menagerie of guest stars like Vince Colosimo, Merick Watts, Alison Bell and Kate Ritchie, Mr & Mrs Murder is still at its best during the bursts of Micallef.

There are some sublime moments. Does it get better than Shaun Micallef trying to reason with a barking Rottweiler in German? Probably not.

Mr & Mrs Murder airs 8.30pm Wednesday on Ten.