FFA set for showdown talks with active fans and A-League chairmen

Under fire: Football Federation chief executive David Gallop and chairman Steven Lowy. Photo: James BrickwoodWednesday is D-Day for Football Federation as the governing body comes face-to-face with their biggest adversaries: A-League chairmen and active fans.
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In what rates among the most important 24 hours in A-League’s recent history, the FFA will be steeling itself for a brutal grilling from two of the sport’s key stakeholders.

Both the men in suits and fans from the stands will come armed with a suite of complaints and it promises be an enormous test of will for new FFA chairman Steven Lowy and the chief executive David Gallop.

The meeting between the FFA and the A-League chairmen is a scheduled part of their ongoing dialogue but the roundtable with the active fan leaders is an unlikely, extraordinary development.

It is the first time active fans have collectively met with the FFA on such a large scale, with representatives from all 10 A-League clubs. The presence of the fans is being funded by an unspecified “third party”.

While the FFA is confident it can placate active fans and avoid the continuation of a boycott that marred last weekend’s round of matches, various fan groups have promised to stand their ground should their requests not be met.

What originally began as a response to the naming of 198 banned fans in a Sunday Telegraph article a fortnight ago has evolved into a league-wide movement, led by those who are lobbying for the better treatment of active supporters.

In a shared statement on their official Facebook pages this week, the Western Sydney’s Red and Black Bloc and Sydney FC’s The Cove, outlined how they have repeatedly let the FFA know about their concerns for many years but had failed to see a response.

“The FFA has been aware of these issues for a number of years and we have only reached this point with the support of every fan who has supported the cause,” it read. “We will continue to stand up for our rights and the rights of every single person who attends a FFA-sanctioned event. The outcome of Wednesday’s meeting, and subsequent actions will be dependent solely on FFA’s willingness to address those issues fully.”

The statement confirmed that the various fan groups were united on the issue of how active fans should be treated.

“We have been communicating with leaders of the other active supporter groups in order to go into this meeting with clear objectives and expectations of what is required from the FFA in order to end our protests,” it read. “These objectives are consistent across all fan groups as is our commitment to co-operating with everyone involved in order to find a solution.”

While some believe that the movement has been about freeing banned fans who have committed illegal acts, the groups confirmed this was not the case.

“One thing is certain. Change will only come about through unity of the fans. This is not about avoiding punishment for those who do wrong. We don’t want or expect special treatment, simply fairness,” the statement said.

In a statement on Melbourne Victory’s North Terrace page, they confirmed that three of their representatives would be present.

“We urge people not to raise their expectations,” it read. “This is a first step in a long journey.”

Raising the GST to 15 per cent is far harder than it seems

All but one of the options listed for boosting the GST are fraught with danger for Treasurer Scott Morrison. Photo: Andrew MearesEverything is on the table’Once in a lifetime opportunity’ for tax reform
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The agenda paper prepared for Thursday’s treasurers’ meeting ought to come with a big red stamp that reads “danger”.

All but one of the options listed for boosting the GST are fraught. Each requires “compensation”.

If the GST was lifted to 15 per cent, households earning up to $100,000 would need to be completely compensated. Households earning up to $155,000 would need to get back “at least half of the extra GST revenue”.

It would end up costing “at least half of the extra GST revenue”.

The real danger is that “at least half” would be only the beginning. If the treasurers so much as mention compensation in public, they run the risk of being heard to make commitments.

“Making commitments now risks overcompensation for households and adding significantly to the cost of household assistance,” the paper warns.

Lifting the GST to 15 per cent would raise $32.5 billion, the Treasury says. But $16 billion to $17 billion of it would be given back in compensation, which would be messy.

Some ns would get increased cash benefits: pensions, family payments and the like. Others would get tax offsets. The retirees who neither pay tax nor get get benefits would get a seniors concession allowance. Others who missed out would get a “transitional payment”.

And this time it would be harder to convince people the compensation would last. When the Howard government introduced the GST in 2000 it pushed up family allowances to compensate. Fifteen years on, the Turnbull government is planning to wind back those increases because it faces budgetary problems.

The only option for boosting GST revenue that wouldn’t need compensation is extending it to financial services. It wouldn’t raise much either, but the people it would hit most would be too well off to need compensation.

Victoria’s option of lifting the Medicare levy from 2 to 4 per cent of income is simple by comparison. It would raise $15 to $16 billion, about the same as would the GST rise after compensation, but because the low-income earners are already excluded from the levy, it could be done without paying anyone anything.

It’s looking like a long meeting.

Peter Martin is economics editor of The Age.

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Everything is on the table: leaked COAG agenda reveals GST changes being considered

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison. Photo: Andrew MearesRaising GST to 15 per cent harder than it seems’Once in a lifetime opportunity’ for tax reform
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Massive increases to the GST that would raise up to $45 billion annually will be on the table when Malcolm Turnbull and state premiers meet on Friday, according to a leaked document obtained by Fairfax Media.

The Council of n Governments document, marked “for official use only” and titled “Reform of the Federation”, reveals modelling prepared by the federal treasury at the request of the states in July, and will help frame the crunch tax meeting, which will be led by NSW Premier Mike Baird, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Mr Turnbull.

Eight options for tax reform – including six GST options and two Medicare Levy proposals – are canvassed in the paper, which sets out four previously unpublished tax options that have been costed by the federal Treasury, and four more that will be costed as the federal and state governments pursue tax reform.

Soon after becoming Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull said everything – including a consumption tax rise – was on the table as his government pursued tax reform.

The document confirms that a rise in the goods and services tax remains a live option and raises the prospect of a federal election in 2016 fought over the issue if the federal government adopts a plan to hike the GST and can strike a deal with the states, whose support will be needed for any increase.

The leak also comes as former Liberal treasurer Peter Costello warned “hot heads” in his party not to raise the GST to 15 per cent, and as Opposition Leader Bill Shorten promised to oppose a GST rise.

The first four options include lifting the GST to 15 per cent, raising $32.5 billion; lifting the GST to 12.5 per cent and expanding the base to include all food and non-alcoholic drinks, raising $25 billion; and raising the Medicare Levy from 2 per cent to 4 per cent in one hit, which would raise $15 billion. The fourth, and most radical option would be to raise the GST to 15 per cent, expanding it to include food and non-alcoholic drinks, water and sewerage. This would raise $45 billion annually.

The second set of four other options being considered are expanding the GST base to include health services; including education services; introducing a GST-equivalent financial sector tax; and raising the Medicare Levy to 4 per cent over eight years.

In 2014, it was estimated that extending the GST to health, education services and introducing a financial sector tax would each raise about $4 billion annually if implemented.

The Turnbull government has already indicated, however, that health and education are likely to be exempt from any GST changes, whereas fresh food and financial services are considered fair game.

The paper also hints at the difficult public debate that will accompany any rise to the consumption tax, warning “public commitments about which households will be fully compensated should be avoided” because “making commitments now risks over-compensation for households”.

Offsetting GST price rises for households earning less than $100,000, and half of the price rises for households earning less than $155,000, would use “at least” half the extra GST revenue, it states.

The $15 billion that would be raised by increasing the Medicare Levy, without assistance for households, is about the same amount left over if the GST is increased to 15 per cent and households are compensated.

That means, in effect, some people would be worse off under a Medicare Levy rise than a straight increase in the GST.

The increases in pensions, family payments, concessions for seniors and a rise in the low income tax offset were used to compensate households after the introduction of the carbon tax in 2010-11 and served as a “useful example of the form that compensation could take for a change in the GST”.

Treasurer Scott Morrison and his state counterparts will meet on Thursday in Sydney, the day before the leaders meeting, with reforms to state taxes to dominate discussions.

Last week, Mr Morrison played down the significance of the Treasury modelling, which has not been released, arguing it had been “done based on the request from the states”.

Mr Morrison said on Monday the “idea that we should be raising taxes to pay for higher levels of expenditure” by the states did not appeal to him, or the Prime Minister.

Mr Shorten said on Tuesday: “I don’t believe that the case has been made that , in order to make sure that we are a successful, fair country needs to have a GST where you put everything up to 15 per cent”.

Mr Costello wrote for News Corp that “if the Coalition goes ahead with that proposal [a rise to 15 per cent], you can put down the glasses and stop worrying about other policies … it will swamp everything”.

Mr Shorten said he didn’t always agree with Mr Costello “but he is stating the obvious, isn’t he? Putting up a GST to 15 per cent, it’s lazy”.

NSW and South have led the case, among the states, in pushing for a GST rise.

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CIMIC North Sydney site gets new tenant

In one of the milestone leases for the year, Jacobs, a technical, professional and construction services providor, has signed up for space at the $413 million skyscraper at 177 Pacific Highway, North Sydney.
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The deal comes as North Sydney braces for a new phase of rental growth, with the planned construction of the Sydney metro train stations leading to the loss of a significant amount of office space as the NSW government acquires properties for demolition, followed by the construction of the new transport infrastructure.

Under the lease, Jacobs will take 6872 square metres in the tower at 177 Pacific Highway, which is being developed by CIMIC Group through Leighton Properties on behalf of Suntec Real Estate Investment Trust and will be the new head quarters for CIMIC.

The adviser on the deal, CBRE head of office services for NSW Peter Flint, said Jacobs’ significant commitment demonstrates increased activity from tenants wanting to relocate to North Sydney, with this being one of the largest commitments in the area in many years.

He said supply has tightened and  the area’s vacancy rate has also declined significantly, which has led to an ongoing compression in effective rents and investment yields.

According to the Property Council of ‘s Office Market Report, in the six months to July 2015, North Sydney’s vacancy rate fell from 8.9 per cent to 8 per cent.

“Having been under pressure for a while, we are expecting the North Sydney market to have a rebirth, thanks to the Metro rail link, the new residential tower developments and the opening of 177 Pacific Highway,” Mr Flint said.

“Next year there will be an additional 3500 people in the area, which has prompted Investa and Cromwell to open new supermarkets in their buildings, and we expect more amenities over time.”

Other new leases include the top floor of 100 Pacific Highway by the Beam Suntory group, which is said to have paid about $750 per square metre a year in rent.

Market Wrap: Retail outlets still hot with investors

The sale of this three-storey building at 126-128 St Kilda Road reflected a land rate of $5275 a square metre. The home of GO KartSport Racing, the largest indoor track in at 244-248 Chesterville Road in Moorabbin, has sold for $3.7 million.
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SALES

Heathmont

Retail outlets are still in demand as the year draws to an end. A news agency sold for $1.305 million to an overseas investor, a price more than $300,000 above reserve. The shop at 150 Canterbury Road sold on a yield just above 3 per cent – a strong result linked to buyer’s appetite for secure income producing retail assets, said CBRE’s Sandro Peluso, Josh Twelftree and Rorey James.

Hallam

Adelaide based commercial property syndicator, Harmony Property Syndication, has paid $10.75 million on a yield of 7.1 per cent for a substantial industrial property at 1-5 Siddons Way. Savills ‘s Chris Jones and Ben Hegerty said the property sold subject to a long-term lease, expiring in 2026, to national tenant Pakcentre Marketing Services, at a current rental of $765,920 per annum net.

Moorabbin

The home of GO KartSport Racing, the largest indoor gokart track in at 244-248 Chesterville Road, has sold for $3.7 million. The looming retirement of the track’s owner, Garry Dubois, prompted the sale of the one-time aircraft hangar. The large structure was originally built in the US before being shipped to the Northern Territory and then disassembled and trucked to Melbourne. CBRE’s David Aiello​ and Stephen Adgemis​ handled the sale with Atholl Williams from Rutherfords Real Estate.

St Kilda

A local investor has swooped on a St Kilda development site, buying the prominent landholding for $2.3 million at auction. The sale of the three-storey building at 126-128 St Kilda Road reflected a land rate of $5275 per square metre, said CBRE’s Ed Wright, Mark Wizel and Joseph Du Rieu.

Richmond

A 1960s warehouse at 28 Gwynne Street, renovated as an architect’s office, changed hands under the hammer for $1.389 million. The single-storey solid brick factory was sold by Ian Price of Dixon Kestles.

Greensborough

Banyule City Council has sold a single-level shop at 61 Main Street, for $1.15 million. The building was previously occupied by the Bendigo Bank, said Knight Frank’s Tim Grant and Ken Smirk. It follows the council selling another shop at 55-59 Main Street $5.1 million on a yield of 5.3 per cent.

Sunshine West

A self-managed super fund snapped up an industrial property at 570-572 Somerville Road for $2.72 million on a 7.7 per cent yield in a deal brokered by Savills ‘s Chris Jones, Ben Hegerty and Brigitte Bennett. The 4444-square-metre site sold subject to a new four-year lease to global tenant Schenck Process at rent of $215,000 a year net.

Noble Park

An investor has paid $4 million on a yield of 9 per cent for a securely leased office and warehouse at 428-430 Princes Highway. Savills ‘s Kosta Filinis and Paul Jones brokered the deal for Prudent Properties. It sold subject to a lease to E-Pak Packaging at a rental of $360,000 per annum.

Edithvale

An investor outmuscled a developer to secure a site owned by charity St Vincent De Paul for $2.1 million. Gross Waddell’s Alex Ham sold 254-258 Nepean Highway in conjunction with Beller Commercial’s Liam Rafferty. Vinnies currently occupies the two-storey retail outlet opposite of Edithvale Beach, which it sold along with a vacant neighbouring block.

Cranbourne

A vacant two-storey building with ground-floor shop and first-floor office at 100-106 High Street in the heart of Cranbourne’s retail and commercial precinct sold under the hammer for $2.04 million in a campaign handled by Fitzroys’ Andrew Hewett and David Bourke.

LEASES

Moorabbin

Pellicano has secured one of south-east Melbourne’s largest commercial deals for the year with Visionstream taking 7600 square metres at its $500 million masterplanned Parkview Estate. The n and New Zealand telecommunications company committed to an entire office building within the 51-hectare estate.

Moonee Ponds

Fitzroys’ Jordan Ceppi has leased 605-625 Mt Alexander Road to organic produce store Greenline Organic for $75,000 per annum. Nearby, at 678 Mt Alexander Road, Mr Ceppi brokered a deal with new operator District North at the ex-Smok’n Joes site. The new Italian restaurant will take the 250-square-metre, double-fronted site for $74,000 a year.

Box Hill

Serco has expanded its operations in Box Hill with the addition of more than 4,000 square metres at the recently refurbished 990 Whitehorse Road on a six-year lease with options in a deal negotiated by Colliers International’s Kevin Tutty. Rental was understood to be in the vicinity of $400 a square metre (gross).

Mulgrave

Fast-growing product development firm Hydrix is preparing to relocate to Mulgrave after leasing a stand-alone office building in Compark Circuit. CBRE’s Elise Betts and Gianni MacDonald negotiated the 2600-square-metre lease for an entire building at 30-32 Compark Circuit on a 10-year lease for net rent of $260 a square metre. Hydrix had outgrown its existing space and wanted something that would appeal to their predominantly younger workforce, Ms Betts said.

Camberwell

Suburban office rentals are showing signs of growth according to Prowse Burns’ Fred Bartlett. Suite 505 at at 685 Burke Road was leased on a one-by-one-year lease at the commencing rental of $23,850.00 a year gross plus GST. Suite 403 in the same building leased for $32,000.00 a year gross plus GST on a two-by-two-year lease. And Suites 305 and 306 were combined as one for $60,000.00 gross plus GST, equating to $480 a square metre gross and showing signs of positive rental growth over past leasings in the building, he said.

Port Melbourne

A light-filled office at at 3/30 Prohasky Street has leased to national technology group Powermove Distribution on a four-plus-three-plus-five-year deal for rental of of $50,000 a year in a deal negotiated by CBRE’s Guy Naselli and Harry Kalaitzis.

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David Gonski appointed to lead the Art Gallery of NSW board

David Gonski has served on the boards of countless companies and arts organisations, and led the Gonski review into how funds schools. Photo: Michel O’SullivanThe NSW government has turned to a man described as a “fixer” and the “chairman of everything” to lead the Art Gallery of NSW’s board of trustees.
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David Gonski will take over as president of the gallery’s trust, replacing Guido Belgiorno-Nettis who is stepping down after his allotted three terms as a trustee.

It will be Mr Gonski’s second stint at the helm of the gallery’s trust following nine years as trust president from 1997 to 2006.

The appointment of Mr Gonski comes at a critical time for the gallery, which is asking the NSW government to fund the majority of the cost of its $450 million Sydney Modern new gallery wing.

However, several major arts institutions – n Museum, Powerhouse Museum – as well as arts centres in western Sydney are also bidding for money from the remainder of the NSW government’s $600 million cultural infrastructure fund.

The building plans have also become embroiled in controversy, with former prime minister Paul Keating criticising the proposed new gallery wing as a “land grab” entertainment complex “masquerading as art”.

Chancellor of the University of NSW, Mr Gonski will boost the gallery’s efforts to find corporate sponsors and philanthropists to back its controversial Sydney Modern building plans, according to the university’s Associate Professor Joanna Mendelssohn.

“He’s very good at encouraging people to give,” she said. “He’s very good at encouraging people to do things.”

The chairman of ANZ Bank and Coca-Cola Amatil, Mr Gonski has served on the boards of countless companies and arts organisations, and led the Gonski review into how funds schools are funded.

He has also been an advisor and board director of Westfield, whose founder Frank Lowy and co-chief executive Stephen Lowy have both previously served as presidents of the AGNSW’s board.

An exhibition space inside the Art Gallery is named the Lowy, Gonski Gallery.

The Herald’s art critic, John McDonald, described Mr Gonski as “a formidable businessman, a great fixer”, but said it was unusual for someone to get a second turn as trust president.

“Does this mean a reassertion of the Lowy dynasty, which has basically controlled the trustees for a long time at the Art Gallery of NSW?” he said.

He said Mr Gonski may have been brought back to the gallery to help guide the Sydney Modern project.

Arts Minister Troy Grant said in a press release that Mr Gonski’s expertise would benefit the trust in its advisory role to the gallery’s management team.

Mr Gonski was unavailable for comment but said in a press release he was thrilled to return to the gallery.

The gallery’s gain is the Sydney Theatre Company’s loss, with Mr Gonski ending his tenure as STC chairman in February.

STC general manager Patrick McIntyre said significantly increased levels of philanthropy had been a hallmark of Mr Gonski’s tenure.

“His wise counsel has been invaluable for the management team and board and he will be much missed,” he said.

Owen Pidgeon: How to grow great raspberries in Canberra for summer

One of the most delightful early summer treats is a dessert with a plateful of raspberries. This is a berry that you can grow in your home garden – sometimes with the help of your friends. And this is one berry that commands a premium at all retail outlets, so aim to grow your own.
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You may have heard the old saying that a raspberry cane, once established, will spread and spread. My experience has been mixed, to say the least. Initially I had little success with canes purchased from nursery suppliers, I think because they had very poor root systems and a hot, dry summer is no good for establishing a new berry patch when the root systems are not mature – even if you remember to regularly water. Once the canes do being producing their thick mat of fibrous roots can become a long term powerhouse of production and they will keep fruiting for many years.

So we owe a special thanks to our niece Lesley Pidgeon who brought across several well established spring fruiting raspberry canes from her garden in Bathurst. Planted in a good location, we are now finally set up for the early summer harvest.

Then other good friends Bruce and Sheree Roe from McKellar dug out some of their surplus Heritage raspberry canes with wonderful sets of fibrous roots. These transplanted raspberries are growing strongly alongside our Autumn Bliss berries. So with everything progressing well now, we can now also enjoy a good supply of home grown raspberries for several months. Good gardening friends are indeed friends worth having.

Raspberries grow well in the cooler temperate regions, so Tasmania and the Canberra-Southern Highlands are very good locations. They will grow well in the same climate where you see cherries and apple orchards. When they are flowering and fruiting, keep them well watered, as the fruit needs plenty of water to fill out.

They are gross feeding plants so it is helpful to add in plenty of compost before planting and top up each spring time. Also keep them well mulched to cool the soil and retain the moisture from evening waterings. Our early summer fruiting canes are close to two metres with lots of little berries now appearing on the tips of the canes.

Most of the commercial varieties have been developed in north America, with the Chilcotin and Chilliwack early summer varieties being bred in the fertile valleys of British Columbia, just east of Vancouver.

Nootka is another high yielding variety for cooler climates. It came from the Vancouver Research Station. It will yield a good crop of medium-sized berries around Christmas time and then give you a supplementary Autumn flush. Williamette is the other dual cropping raspberry bred in Oregon, USA in the mid 1940s,

The Autumn fruiting varieties, such as the well known Heritage and Autumn Bliss raspberries are pushing up their new season canes right now. They will then produce their crop of berries on this season’s wood.

In wintertime, you can simply cut back all the canes of the autumn varieties to near ground level. On the other hand, you will need to leave the new season canes standing for the early summer raspberries varieties, as they set fruit on their two-year-old canes. This week in the garden

* Plant out rows of open leaf lettuce, bush beans, beetroot, bok choi and cucumbers.

* Harvest young tips of basil and sow another planter box of both basil and coriander for late summer supplies.

* Complete harvesting all garlic and check on the maturing of onions. If the onion bulbs are fully developed bend the stems over for a few days before harvesting.

* Regularly tie up the tomato stems to their stakes and pinch out laterals.

* Take the moment to complete mulching all garden beds before the Christmas break.

* Check apples for early signs of codling moth and remove any that have been infested, to prevent the second cycle.

Photo: Getty ImagesRaspberry and apple flan

2 punnets fresh raspberries 6 cooking apples 2 tbs sugar

Pastry:

125g unsalted butter 2 tbs castor sugar 1½ cups plain flour ¼ cup self raising flour 1 free range egg ¼ cup custard powder

Crumble topping:

½ cup rolled oats 1¼ cups plain flour ½ cup brown sugar 2 tsps cinnamon 90g butter

Peel, quarter and slice the apples. Place them into a stainless steel saucepan with ½ cup water and cook until tender. Drain and allow to cool.

Pastry: Cut the butter into small segments and place in a medium sized bowl. Add the sugar and beat with an electric beater until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well. Add in the flours and the custard powder and mix in with a wooden spoon to form a smooth dough. Roll out the dough and line a 23 cm flan tin.

Topping: Combine the rolled oats, plain flour, sugar and cinnamon. Rub in the butter until it becomes a crumbly mixture.

Cover the flan dough base with the apple slices. Scatter the fresh raspberries across the apple and sprinkle the sugar over the fruit. Spread the topping over the fruit. Bake in oven set at 180C for approximately 45 minutes until pastry and crumble are golden brown.

Owen Pidgeon runs the Loriendale Organic Orchard near Hall.

Unpredictable second season of Transparent is still a cut above the rest

The cast of Transparent (left to right): Gaby Hoffman, Judith Light, Jay Duplass, Jeffrey Tambor and Amy Landecker. Photo: Monique FarmerThe launch of any television series is a calculated risk, and to some extent the most desired outcome is critical acclaim and a slew of awards. I say to some extent because such a win is often a poisoned chalice. Such success almost certainly catapults a show into a second season and then comes an even bigger, weirder hurdle: how on earth do you top an opening act like that?
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Transparent (Stan, on demand) faces just such a hurdle for its second season, having sailed out of its first into almost universal acclaim and a display case that required extra shelves almost as quickly as the show’s US commissioning broadcaster, Amazon, could build them. The show took the very longest of bows, and scooped up Emmy Awards, Golden Globes and awards from the Director’s Guild and a bunch of other gong-giving bodies.

The opening season’s premise met Mort Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambor), and came along on her journey as she revealed her actual self, Maura, to her family. It was quite simply beautiful. Seemingly caught in a perfect storm, it was bookended by stunning writing from series creator Jill Soloway, who didn’t so much base it on her own experience (and father) as borrow heavily, and a luminous performance from Tambor, an actor known mostly for his turns in sitcoms who brought an unexpected depth and humanity to this fragile individual.

Meeting Maura Pfefferman was genuinely altering. Not because she is a way of interpreting the transexual journey – although that, and all of the headlines her seemingly distant cousin Caitlyn Jenner created, are never far from the narrative. But because to some extent the question of trans identity is almost beside the point. Transparent uses transexuality as a means of exploring something far more fundamental: identity itself.

If something jars about the second season, it is that the spotlight has shifted slightly, and to some extent we now see the ensemble step more confidently into the frame.

That means more from Maura’s ex-wife Shelly (Judith Light), and angsty kids Sarah (Amy Landecker), Joshua (Jay Duplass) and Ali (Gaby Hoffmann). That feels very natural. This family has been through a fair amount, and the kids themselves have no shortage of their own issues. There is also a new and somewhat startling story thread, told in flashback, which we won’t elaborate on here, to preserve its authenticity.

One’s first instinct is to bristle at the change, and perhaps that’s why some critics have paused momentarily before offering their judgment on the second season. In truth, however, maybe we have to question our own willingness to embrace change, and our own approach to the shifting frame that Soloway has so spectacularly created.

Once you take a deep breath and surrender to the narrative, Transparent’s second season is delightfully bouncy. The writing is sharp, and the additional oxygen for some characters – notably Light’s Shelly – is very welcome.

While the show is undisputably Tambor’s, Light is brilliant. It would be hard to imagine Tambor without her.

The real strength of Transparent, however, lies with its unpredictability. It continually surprises, cleverly side-stepping moments that might otherwise slip on the creative banana peel of melodrama. That’s what keeps it a cut above the rest.

The Biggest Loser: Daniel Jofres crowned TBL Families winner after 51kg weight loss

Daniel Jofre stands on the scale on The Biggest Loser: Families finale. Photo: suppliedWhat’s on TV Tuesday: TBL FamiliesMichelle Bridges calls people who grow their own food ‘freaks’
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After three months of gruelling exercise, weekly weigh-ins and inevitable tears, 24-year-old Daniel Jofre has been crowned ‘s “Biggest Loser”.

It boiled down to the three Jofre brothers – Pablo, Tony and Daniel – battling it out on the scales in Tuesday’s glitter-covered finale on Channel Ten’s The Biggest Loser: Families.

While only one lucky sibling came away with the prize money of $100,000, Daniel says that his win was really a victory for the whole family: “What I’m most proud of in the journey is that we’ve all become a healthier us, a happier us, a better us. I’m proud of being a Jofre.”

From the beginning, the Jofres wiped clean their opponents, winning nine of 12 weekly weigh-ins and more than half of the challenges. That is after their trainer – Michelle Bridges – broke down in tears after meeting the family who ate ice cream for breakfast at the beginning of their “journey”.

Uncle Rob Jofre took away $10,000 for the biggest losing eliminated contestant, while the whole family received $100,000 for the combined highest weight loss, with a total of over 200kg.

Now that the competition is over, Daniel is determined to maintain his physique with a combination of healthy eating and building muscle mass. He slimmed down to just over 80 kilograms over the 12 weeks, losing 51 kilograms in the process.

“The scales don’t mean much to me anymore, as long as I’m healthy and fit,” he says.

The weight loss journey skyrocketed not just Daniel’s own confidence, but the whole family’s: “Rob’s definitely happier, healthier, fitter and he’s going to be there for his wife and Amelia and newborn Sophie… And for Pablo and Tony, their confidence has gone up and I know that they’re going to achieve great things in life now.”

Daniel is also looking forward to welcoming trainer Michelle Bridges and Steve ‘Commando’ Willis’ new baby into the fold: “That family is going to be great and one to look out for because [Bridges’ and Willis’ child] is going to be a superbaby.”

Former Biggest Loser contestant turned show host and international model, Fiona Falkiner paid respect to the hard work of the eliminated families as she welcomed them onto the stage: “So inspiring! That’s what this journey is all about.”

Despite the show’s inspirational celebration of all things health and fitness, viewer ratings have suffered throughout the season. But it’s still a 40 per cent rise from last year’s effort, with 630,000 national viewers tuning in on average per show this season.

NRL star Jamal Idris heads back to country rugby league – in Port Macquarie?


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Scoping out the town: Jamal Idris was in Port Macquarie on the weekend to watch the touch football action and to weigh up his future, which may lie with the Port City Breakers. Pic: NIGEL McNEIL

IT WILL be hailed as the biggest signing in Group 3 rugby league if it comes to fruition.

Port City Breakers are hopeful that Port Macquarie will play home to Jamal Idris with the National Rugby League superstar weighing up an offer from the club where he would line up alongside his cousin, Thomas Dooker.

The country rugby league community would be buzzing if Idris declares himself a certain starter for the Breakers.

Idris grew up in Forster and is eager to escape the fishbowl life of Sydney where the pressure and expectations were mounting by the game.

His talent is undeniable. His brute size and strength meant he became one of the game’s power house centres, devastating opponents week in, week out.

In a tumultuous career thus far, Idris has had a rough couple of seasons playing for the Penrith Panthers in the National Rugby League.

He burst onto the NRL scene in amazing fashion, playing with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in 2008.

His rise to stardom was quick, with experts almost immediately comparing him to some of the greats of the game and declaring him a future superstar.

He did not prove them wrong. He soon found himself in the NSW State of Origin jersey, followed by a Kangaroos cap in which he represented in 2011.

Superstar status earned him a multi-million dollar contract with the Gold Coast Titans but homesickness saw a move closer to family in Sydney where he has been playing with the Panthers since 2014.

A multitude of injuries has hampered Idris’ previous couple of seasons in the NRL and he has now asked for leave from the club on compassionate grounds, which he has been granted.

Earlier this year the 24-year-old had surgery on his back to remove some of his vertebrae and fix nerve damage to the left side of his lower body.

He was due to head to South Africa this week, and Idris will make a decision in January or February.

One thing is certain:He won’t feature in the NRL in 2016, with Port Macquarie his most likely destination.

The club, headed by new coach Digby Murray, has already strengthened its squad with a host of signings.

Speedy outside back Oral Monaghan will join former South Sydney Rabbitohs under-20s player of the year Mal Webster, Kurtley Scott and Adam McMurray from Wauchope, Korie Paio from rugby union, Gary Bywater from Western and Windsor Wolves stalwart Ben Stewart.

The gains aren’t without the losses, with Trae Clarke, Taylor Ridland and Kurt Lewis moving on.

Murray said all but one of the players had approached the club looking for a spot in the squad.

“Ben Stewart is a talent I identified and is the only one we have chased,” he said.

“We heard he was moving to town and I heard about his rugby league background and thought he would be a great asset to the club.

“These guys have approached us, we haven’t chased them. They have come looking for a spot and we are more than happy to look at their credentials and sign them if they suit what we are looking for.”

Murray said the Breakers were still looking to keep as many of their 2015 players and locals as possible.

The competition kicks off in April.

Port Macquarie News

Tony Abbott: I would have won the next election

Tony Abbott has flagged an intention to stay in Parliament. Photo: Andrew MearesTony Abbott was brought down by UN: MoncktonShirtfronted: The story of the Abbott governmentMalcolm Turnbull positions himself as the evangelist of change
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Tony Abbott has fired a broadside at the plotters who brought him down, defiantly declaring he would have led the Coalition to a victory at the next election.

The comments came in an interview in which he flagged an intention to stay around in Parliament; called on Malcolm Turnbull to spend a week in an Indigenous community each year; advocated a more robust defence of “superior” Western values in the struggle with Islamic extremism; and said his first budget was fine.

And, in a worrying sign for the government, he has also signalled he would not shy away from defending the facts where the record was intentionally falsified by surviving ministers.

Talking to Sky News, Mr Abbott said the West should continue to work with what he called “live-and-let-live” Muslims, as he issued an implicit criticism of political leaders appeasing Islam by suggesting there was a crisis of confidence and a lack of self-belief in Western societies and governments.

“If there is a problem today it is not just a problem within Islam, which is very serious, but it’s also a lack of cultural self-belief within the West and ,” he said in comments markedly different in tone to the conciliatory words of Mr Turnbull in the wake of the Paris attacks.

“There’s got to be a very strong security response home and abroad,” Mr Abbott said.

“We need a strong hearts-and-mind approach. We need to work closely with ‘live and let live’ Muslims. There needs to be a revolution within Islam. We can’t do it; Muslims need to do it for themselves. The other thing needed is a restoration of cultural self-confidence in those who are supporters of Western cultural civilisation.”

Mr Abbott is unlikely to decide on his future until April – when a Liberal candidate for his seat of Warringah must be endorsed – but he gave strong indications of the direction in which he is leaning, extolling the “vocation” of a backbench MP as a “noble, honourable, calling”.

“I’ve had thousands and thousands of messages of encouragement since mid September. The message I’m getting is I still have a contribution to make to public life. I’m not going to rush in the final decision, but that’s the message I’m getting from people,” he told the broadcaster’s Paul Murray.

If Malcolm Turnbull was hoping his former boss would make a quick and quiet departure, the signs suggest otherwise.

Mr Abbott said: “I think it’s important to correct the record when the record has been falsified. I did a bit of that last week, but I’m not in the business of replaying events … but it’s important I defend the legacy of the Abbott government.

“If I defend the legacy of my government, I’m helping the foundations of the Turnbull government.”

On the politically disastrous 2014 budget, which most Liberals now concede consumed all their goodwill with voters in a flurry of broken promises, Mr Abbott was direct, declaring it was Labor’s refusal to pass the measures aimed at budget repair that was the problem.

“Whoever led the Coalition, I believe we were going to win the next election and win it quite strongly, because obviously on all the evidence so far, the Labor Party can’t learn and it hasn’t changed.”

The statement is likely to excite furious disagreement from the Liberals who backed the September coup based on an entrenched an apparently permanent poll deficit to Labor under Mr Abbott’s leadership, a situation instantly remedied by the switch to Mr Turnbull.

In other observations, Mr Abbott: again defended his controversial chief of staff, Peta Credlin;refused to say if Buckingham Palace had asked for the knighthood for Prince Philip, but acknowledged it had been a political own goal;criticised crossbench senators as populists who had breached his trust by revealing private discussions, because they lacked seriousness and had reduced politics to a circus;confirmed he and Mr Turnbull had held a meeting last week, which was “certainly a genuine conversation” but declined to reveal details;welcomed what he termed “straws in the wind” suggesting the Obama administration was becoming more muscular in taking the fight to Islamic State;condemned Vladimir Putin for bombing opponents of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad rather than IS;and called for ‘s relationship with Singapore to become as familial as that with New Zealand.

Mr Abbott also revealed he will travel to Singapore on Wednesday for talks, including with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Fairfax Media revealed last week that Mr Abbott’s attempt to gain an audience with the Queen in the days after his September ousting had been rebuffed.

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Margaret Cunneen says she was joking about telling her son’s girlfriend to fake chest pains

Margaret Cunneen now claims she was only joking about the comments. Photo: Daniel Munoz Sophia Tilley was driving Margaret Cunneen’s car when she was involved in a car accident. Photo: Nick Moir
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ICAC ‘acted illegally’ in Cunneen inquiry: inspectorMargaret Cunneen blasts ICAC’s ‘extraordinarily draconian’ powers

In a remarkable backflip, Deputy Senior Crown Prosecutor Margaret Cunneen has admitted that phone taps recorded her recounting to a smash repairer that she had told her son’s girlfriend to fake chest pains – but now Ms Cunneen claims she was only joking.

Ms Cunneen took successful legal action to prevent the Independent Commission Against Corruption from investigating whether she was involved in an attempt to pervert the course of justice by advising Sophia Tilley, who was driving Ms Cunneen’s car, to fake chest pains in order to avoid a blood alcohol test at the scene of a car accident.

Unbeknown to Ms Cunneen, the n Crime Commission was monitoring the phone of a tow truck driver, who has links to organised crime. The tow truck driver on the scene passed his phone to a smash repairer George Kharadijan who asked to speak to Ms Cunneen, whom he knew.

The ACC listened as Ms Cunneen discussed her concerns that her car insurance could be voided if Ms Tilley, her son’s girlfriend, had any alcohol in her system.

As a P-plater Ms Tilley was allowed zero alcohol. According to a public statement issued by ICAC on Friday, Ms Tilley admitted that she had consumed alcohol prior to the motor vehicle accident.

Mr Kharadijan told Fairfax Media “I’ve known Margaret for years just through the area. We drink at the same pub.”

He said that after the accident he’d had a “tongue in cheek conversation with Margaret about Sophia’s fake boobs.”

Asked how this topic had come up, Mr Kharadijan said, “Because when I first met Sophia – she was in the pub and Margaret and I were just having a laugh about her fake boobs.”

Ms Tilley, 25 at the time of the May 2014 accident, did claim to have chest pains, saying that she was worried her breast implants had ruptured. It is understood that this delayed the blood alcohol test by just over an hour. Ms Tilley, who was not at fault in the accident, returned a zero blood alcohol reading.

Ms Cunneen has previously stated that the only thing she spoke to Ms Tilley about in the ambulance was an offer to call her parents, which Ms Tilley declined.

Speaking about the tape recordings, Ms Cunneen told News Corp on Tuesday that while she might have jokingly referred to Ms Tilley’s “fake chest pains” with Mr Kharadijan, she had not spoken to Ms Tilley or her son Steve Wyllie immediately after the accident.

Therefore, she “could not have told her to fake chest pains,” it was reported.

Ms Cunneen has previously stated in an email: “It is indeed amazing that these people don’t realise that my dear Sophia doesn’t drink (her blood test was 0.00) and the crash was so bad that the car was written off.”

Ms Tilley was not at fault in the accident.

Ms Cunneen initially blamed her estranged sister for sparking the ICAC investigation but in his damning report into the ICAC’s handling of the Cunneen the ICAC inspector David Levine inadvertently revealed that it was the ACC which had provided the information.

Following the release of Mr Levine’s report on Friday, the ICAC replied with a blistering response pointing out that “it is unlawful to disclose information about the issue of an interception warrant” and that Mr Levine may have breached the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act.

The ACC declined to comment on “allegations that the Inspector may have breached the TIA Act.”

Meanwhile, Ms Cunneen has warded off the potential for disciplinary action at her work place by obtaining legal advice that material retrieved from her phone was inadmissible as the ICAC had obtained the phone under a “notice to produce” rather than a search warrant.

In it’s response to Mr Levine, ICAC reported that it had the power to pass on material to the Director of Public Prosecutions “for consideration of disciplinary action against Ms Cunneen.”

The material passed on to the DPP, Lloyd Babb, SC, was the contents of Ms Cunneen’s mobile phone which revealed that she had been leaking confidential information about criminal matters to journalists.

After the meeting with Mr Babb, Ms Cunneen went on the attack telling News Corp papers that the ICAC had deliberately leaked text messages in which she was critical of Mr Babb in order to damage her.

“These texts are inaccurately rendered and can only have been … leaked by an organisation that has debased itself by its petty and personal efforts to damage me in every area of my life”, she told the Daily Telegraph.

The n suggested that the “leaks” to Mr Babb were done at the behest of the ICAC commissioner Megan Latham.

Ms Cunneen made no mention of the other text messages relating to allegations concerning the unauthorised release of material about confidential DPP matters.

Ms Cunneen has previously alleged ICAC officers have leaked details about her to Fairfax Media and has called for criminal charges to be laid against any officers caught doing this.

Late on Tuesday night Ms Cunneen said in a statement: “I have been completely exonerated of any disciplinary action in this matter, in writing, by the DPP, Lloyd Babb.”

“There was no confidential material to journalists. The only texts were from a journalist in a court telling me what was occurring.”

Arsenal to play friendlies against Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers

The wave of high-profile European clubs touring continues with English Premier League title candidates Arsenal set to play two games in .
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For the first time in 40 years, Arsenal will make the long trip to to play friendly games against Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers, likely at ANZ Stadium in July 2017.

The pre-season matches for all three clubs will be among the highest profile games to be played in in recent years, given the popularity of the north London club and their reluctance to make long trips for international friendlies.

They broke the ice with a tour of Vietnam in 2013 and are now set to make the longer flight to Sydney where n fans will have a glimpse of coach Arsene Wenger in pre-season mode, building up for the 2017-18 English Premier League campaign.

ns will be given a chance to watch the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Jack Wilshere, Olivier Giroud and Petr Cech in action when the Gunners play games against the A-League sides.

More than 150,000 supporters could walk through the turnstiles to gain the first glimpse of Arsenal Down Under since 1977, when they lost to the Socceroos 3-1.

The two games are set to be officially announced later this week to continue the recent blockbuster friendlies played by international football giants in this country. Already this year, Sydney has hosted two friendlies against Chelsea and Tottenham, while Liverpool, Real Madrid, AS Roma and Manchester City played exhibition games around the country.

Despite the games with Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers being more than a year away, both parties and the NSW Government are understood to be eager to lock in the series early given the popularity of as a destination for touring clubs.

Arsenal’s tour will also be the first time Western Sydney Wanderers have hosted a high-profile foreign club in a home friendly game.