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.

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

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

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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Paris UN climate conference 2015: Old and new alliances line up in shadow box

The Eiffel Tower lights up with the slogan “Action Now” as part of the United Nations climate change conference in Paris. Photo: AP/Michel EulerParis: New and old alliances are making their mark on the Paris climate summit as ministers including ‘s Julie Bishop shadow box their way through key disputes over what will end up in a global agreement..
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Different groupings of countries sought to position themselves ahead of the Wednesday release of a new draft version of the agreement,

which negotiators said would be the biggest test yet of the summit as it would reveal the depth of the divisions that remain.

If any group of countries choose to reject the new draft it would likely fracture the talks and threaten a final outcome, due by Friday.

The most powerful of the emerging economies – the so-called BASIC group of Brazil, South Africa, India and China – released a statement calling for rich countries to rapidly boost financial help for poorer nations to cope with climate change, which is a major area of dispute in the talks.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes a group of industrialised nations – in particular the United States, Canada and – continued to push for major emerging economies to be required to do more than has been expected in the past.

In particular, they have been agitating to expand the donor base for climate funding to include the most advanced of the developing countries – notably China. But they stress that these contributions from developing countries would be voluntary.

Perhaps the most significant moment on Tuesday was a joint statement by the European Union and 79 mostly poor African and small island countries. In part, it aimed to break down some of the traditional barriers between the developing and developed world.

The EU-African-islander statement called for a legally binding, ambitious and fair deal that established a long-term goal to tackle global warming.

It set out agreed positions on some key disputes, including how often emissions targets should be reviewed under the Paris agreement.

EU Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said: “These negotiations are not about ‘them’ and ‘us’. These negotiations are about all of us, both developed and developing countries, finding a common ground and solution together.” <a data-cke-saved-href=”” href=””></a>

Elsewhere, observers still have one eye on what is known as the Like Minded Developing Country group. It includes India and China and several countries such as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Malaysia that are regarded as troublesome wildcards that have sought to move procedural motions that, if successful, have would slowed the negotiations.

Russia is not in this group but has been dubbed a “black box” by European negotiators because of the uncertainty surrounding the role it may play.

Countries are starting to flag their final negotiating positions. One European Union negotiator told Fairfax Media that the continent would be inclined to sacrifice some of the ambition of the final agreement provided it included a system to review emissions target with some integrity.

China and India are among nations calling for greater transparency about climateaid that is supposed to amount to $US100 billion ($136 billion) a year by 2020, and rise after that.

The EU delegate said the richer nations of Europe would likely have little problem complying with that as their reporting systems on climate finance were already open.

Of greater importance to the donors will be what happens to the money they provide. Among the options being negotiated is initially having different transparency demands for rich and developing nations, with the requirements to converge in the future.

Wednesday will likely see the talks enter a final spurt, but the EU negotiator said they were not expected to finish on time by 6pm on Friday. If they did, she said it would be a bad sign.

“It would mean we have concluded a low-level, minimalist treaty and that is not our goal,” she said.

She said success would be a treaty strong enough – even before future reviews to accelerate carbon cuts – to send a clear signal of a global shift away from fossil fuels.

Fairfax Media is a partner of the United Nations Foundation

Brawler at Lollipop’s play centre children’s birthday party avoids jail

A screengrab of the brawl inside Lollipop’s Playland & Cafe in Wetherill Park. Several parents were taken to hospital after a fight inside Lollipop’s Playland & Cafe in Wetherill Park. Photo: Facebook
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A woman who pleaded guilty to affray over a wild brawl at a child’s birthday party at a western Sydney indoor play centre has been sentenced to 12 months’ jail.

But Marleen Isaac won’t spend time behind bars if she remains of good behaviour, after a Fairfield Local Court magistrate on Wednesday agreed to suspend her sentence.

Six other adults charged with assault offences over the violent brawl at Lollipop’s Playland & Cafe in Wetherill Park in June will appear in court during the course of the day.

Magistrate Vivien Swain described the melee that erupted on June 20 as “very serious”.

“These events occurred in Lollipop’s Playland, which is a place where children go to celebrate special occasions, to play, to have fun,” Ms Swain said.

“And this all started, it seems, because Mr Isaac Isaac had a disproportionate protective instinct towards [one] child.”

She told how he had assaulted a little girl who had bumped into another child, “grabbing her by the arm and saying: ‘Don’t do that. Play nice.’ “

The girl, aged just seven, ran over to her father, who approached Isaac Isaac for an explanation.

Within moments, six members of the Isaac clan had dived into the fray – including family patriarch Aduard Aushana, also known as Edward Isaac, who at 61 is the oldest person charged over the offences.

A police statement said the grey-haired war veteran, who the court has previously heard relies on the disability pension, inserted himself in the brawl before he returned to his table, removed his jacket and sunglasses, then walked over to another man who was not involved in the violence.

Ms Swain said Mr Aushana “set upon” that man, the grandfather of a little boy who was celebrating his fourth birthday at Lollipop’s, and punched him down.

The brawl, which was filmed on a mobile phone, was said to have started when children from each birthday party were using the equipment at the indoor playground for children aged two to 11.

The brawl involved up to 12 people of the approximately 70 who were at the play centre at the time.

In the days after the brawl, the uncle of a seven-year-old girl believed to be at the centre of the dispute told Fairfax Media that his niece had come out of the play equipment crying, claiming that “a man pulled my hair”.

The situation then degenerated into a brawl between the adults.

Superintendent Peter Lennon, from the Fairfield Local Area Command, said at the time: “After viewing footage of the incident, police were concerned about the safety of all people involved, particularly the children, who were heard to be screaming at the height of the brawl.

“The search warrants and arrests [issued] this morning send a strong message to the community, that the behaviour that was seen at a children’s venue will not be tolerated.

“The behaviour we saw in the play centre was something I cannot understand.

“There are a number of children that can be seen in the footage who are extremely upset and crying.”

The play centre, on McIlwraith Street, promotes itself as a popular party venue for babies, toddlers and school-aged children with slides, ball pits, jumping castles and a tea-cup ride.

AAP, Megan Levy, Patrick Begley

More to come

‘Weight-loss is really easy’: Celebrity trainer James Duigan

James Duigan. Photo: Supplied”I lost my dad to cancer two years ago,” James Duigan, the n famous for training A-listers like Elle Macpherson and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, tells me over a green juice in Sydney’s Bondi.
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He is telling me about the effect of emotions on our weight and overall wellness.

During his battle, his father ate to keep his weight up and because he “felt lonely”, Duigan ate with him, putting on 10 kilograms in the process.

“Dad passed away and I felt like I’d let him down – I wanted to save him and I couldn’t and I was just racked with shame and guilt,” Duigan explains.

Previously, with his support and making lifestyle changes, his father had beaten cancer, Duigan says. He had faith they could do it again, telling his son, “Now I know you’re here we can beat it”.

“He had so much trust in me and I just felt like I’d let him down,” Duigan recalls.

“I was just holding onto it all and there was nothing I could do and I’d just go ‘OK, I’m going to clean up my diet because I’ve written five Clean and Lean books and I’d just find myself not.”

Unable to pull himself out of his rut and return to shape mentally or physically, he says his wife, Chrissy, eventually told him he had to let go of his guilt.

“I really worked at it,” he says. “It wasn’t like ‘that’s right, I’ll let go of the guilt’. I worked at it every day. It was affirmations and being disciplined with my thoughts – it’s really easy to get into a spiral with your thoughts and I just thought ‘enough’.

“You can control your thoughts and then thinking these good things and being vigilant with them you just start to feel better generally and I looked around and I’d lost 10 kilos in three months.”

Guilt and shame are important, often overlooked, components of weight and health problems, according to the owner of Bodyism and author of Clean and Lean.

“Weight loss in itself is really easy,” he says. “Biologically it is – unless there’s a really hard-core hormonal or parasite type of thing going on, the mechanics and biology of weight loss is really simple.

“It’s the psychology of it that’s the issue. And also all of the mixed messages – gluten-free, low-fat.”

Duigan (pronounced Dye-gan) is mostly gluten-free and sugar-free but says as soon as you start to get dogmatic about any way of being “people fall through the cracks”.

“Like if you’re going to have a brownie, have a brownie. Not a beetroot and brussels sprout brownie. Just go for it, do it,” the 40-year-old father of two says.

“I love food. It should be celebrated. The energy you put into your food is almost as important as what you’re eating.”

He is saying that the more we are stressed about the food we eat, the more we produce cortisol which inhibits fat loss.

It relates to exercise too.

“Some of the most dramatic weight-loss results we’ve had is when we’ve said, ‘OK, you need to to stop running’, you get them walking and doing yoga and their stress levels go down and they just become unrecognisable versions of themselves,” he says.

Does that mean that if we really enjoy moments of indulging, (or not running) the cascade of pleasure hormones counteracts the effects, at least a little, I wonder.

“I think so,” Duigan replies. “Guilt is the deep-fried doughnuts of emotion – it will hold onto more fat than anything you eat.”

That’s not a licence to go and eat whatever you want, he adds.

“Choose foods that work for you. People say, ‘go on, live a little’ – yeah, absolutely, do stuff that makes you feel better.”

I suggest that the message gets skewed along the way – that people often take the idea of eating what makes you feel better as the foods that are emotionally comforting rather than foods that make your body feel better.

It comes back to psychology, he says.

“A lot of people don’t have a deep belief that they deserve to be happy and healthy … There’s a lot of shame and guilt.

“The minute you change that conversation and the minute that you do understand that you do deserve to be happy and healthy, everything becomes easier and you tend not to sabotage yourself and you tend not to do these crazy things, because if it sounds crazy, it is crazy.”


“Instagram has promoted health and wellness but, it’s also so dangerous,” Duigan says. “You’ve got the rise of Instagram anorexics who are just ruthlessly opportunistic and ruining people’s lives.

“There’s zero accountability. If someone says something horrifically dangerous, like just eat 10 bananas a day, limit your intake to 800 calories a day and do these plyometric exercises that I do so cutely with my boyfriend.

“The banana one – that’s actually a real thing and there’s another one – they had a fight – who has 4 million followers – hard-core plyometric exercises, super calorie-controlled – all just on the border of acceptable in terms of dietitians. It’s crazy.”

Everyone is affected by the images on Instagram, he says.

“I speak to people now – one of the most famous actresses and she’s like ‘I feel terrible’ and I said, ‘why?’ and she said, ‘I was on Instagram for half an hour this morning, just feeling terrible’.

“There’s a Victoria’s Secret girl we’re training and she’s like ‘Oh, for god’s sake, I can’t do it anymore’.

“I know two of the biggest wellness bloggers and my heart goes out to them, but they’re suffering eating disorders and it’s like ‘you didn’t eat that, stop it, stop saying you did’.

“The good news is that the fastest way to lose weight is to focus on your health. And that’s a great thing, but people can’t believe that. They’re like ‘where’s the pill’ or ‘what do I have to do miserably for this to work?’

“A lot of people think health means boring and drab like steamed chicken breasts with a bowl of dust … that’s where Instagram is great – people sharing beautiful, delicious food.

“There’s nothing wrong with social media it’s just a few opportunists are ruthlessly exploiting it and are faking it as well: ‘Oh look this is this thing I like’, and they’re getting paid for it.”​

Duigan has a new cookbook out in December called Clean & Lean for Life. 

Burt Reynolds blasted for saying Charlie Sheen ‘deserves’ HIV positive status

Burt Reynolds’ comments were called “ignorant” and unnecessary”.Burt Reynolds recovering from heart surgeryCharlie Sheen announces he is HIV positiveCOMMENT: Sheen’s HIV admission isn’t shameful
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Screen legend Burt Reynolds is under fire for saying he thought Charlie Sheen deserved his HIV-positive status on national television.

The 79-year-old made the comments on UK television show Loose Women when asked if he sympathised with the actor.

Reynolds himself was the subject of HIV rumours in the 1980s after he lost a considerable amount of weight due to a prescription pain killer addiction.

“He’s handled it badly, I think,” he said. “His father [West Wing actor Martin Sheen] is a very, very decent man and a dear friend of mine.”

“I feel bad for him. But Charlie? I don’t feel bad for him. He’s getting what he deserves. If you’re going to misbehave, then they’re going to get you.”

When pressed by host Ruth Langsford to clarify his comments, Reynolds went further.

“No, he deserves it. He misbehaved badly. Very badly. But you know when you’re that age, it’s tough. All the things are coming at you and it’s difficult.”

The comments were blasted by UK-based HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust, as well as shocked viewers, who called Reynolds “ignorant”.

“What a horrible thing to say,” one woman wrote on Twitter. Did Burt Reynolds really just say Charlie Sheen deserved what he got? #loosewomen— Madeleine Rich (@MadeleineRich) December 8, 2015#loosewomen#burtreynolds what a horrible thing to say about #CharlieSheen, felt sorry for #ruthlangsford she didn’t know how to react.— gilly (@gillypants) December 8, 2015What an ignorant person Burt Reynolds is!! How can he utter those words – Charlie Sheen deserved HIV!! #loosewomen— Nina Boyden (@BoydenNina) December 8, 2015

Terrence Higgins Trust executive director of external affairs, Shaun Griffin, also shot-down the harmful comments.

“The comments made today on Charlie Sheen’s HIV status are completely unnecessary,” Griffin told the UK’s Independent. “It is not right for anybody to be deemed ‘deserving’ of HIV, or any health condition.”

Reynolds is currently on the publicity circuit for his new memoir, But Enough About Me.

Sheen, 50, revealed his HIV status on NBC’s Today show last month, saying he wanted to put an end to rumour and speculation.

“I am here to admit I am HIV-positive and I have to put a stop to the onslaught and barrage of attacks and sub-truths and harmful stories that are about threatening the health of so many others,” he said.

In 2012, the former Two and a Half Men star was forced to apologise for a homophobic slur at the opening of a club after he called the audience ‘f**gots’.

Households face further strain as economy struggles, says former RBA economist Jeremy Lawson

Jeremy Lawson: residential investment contributed about 20 per cent of growth in 2015. Photo: Dominic LorrimerThe n economy will struggle to maintain already lacklustre growth rates next year as the main drivers of expansion in 2015 start to flag, a former senior economist with the Reserve Bank of has warned.
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Standard Life Investments’ chief economist Jeremy Lawson says a decline in housing investment, along with the impact of cooling property prices on household spending, will add to the continuing drag from weak commodity prices and falling resources-related business spending to further slow growth rates.

“If you think about the housing market, residential investment contributed about 20 per cent of the growth that saw in 2015,” he said.

“Forward-looking indicators suggest that that investment is slowing down quite substantially, and it’s not just on the volume side – there are also signs that price growth is levelling off.

“So, without having to forecast an actual drop in n house prices, if you think about the wealth effect and how that tends to operate in , I’m pretty convinced that one of the reasons why household consumption growth has been solid despite weak wage growth is because of that positive wealth effect,” he said.

His comments add to a chorus of economists warning that despite better than expected gross domestic product growth of 2.5 per cent year-on-year in the third quarter, faces a difficult 2016.

and New Zealand Banking group economists Katie Hill and Justin Fabo cautioned this week that the Reserve Bank of ‘s forecasts for household spending “are highly exposed to disappointment”. Squeeze coming

They say entrenched weak wage growth and shrinking national income from falling export prices will further squeeze household budgets, which will crimp spending and so discourage investment by business.

“First, our view is that households are viewing lower income growth as being relatively persistent rather than mostly transitory,” they wrote in a note to clients.

“This is consistent with elevated measures of job insecurity and the drag on income growth from the falling terms of trade.

They said the extent to which consumers would dip into their savings to compensate for the fall in real incomes is “likely to be limited in our view amid much more muted wealth gains”.

“A soft outlook for household spending will also hinder the ability for non-mining business investment to strengthen appreciably,” they wrote

“Together, these account for two-thirds of GDP.” Slow pick-up

Although less downbeat, Barclays’ chief economist for Kieran Davies said this week slowing property price growth would hit sentiment and household consumption, although he argued the health of the job market would prop up incomes and support spending.

“We expect spending to slowly pick up next year on a hiring-driven lift in incomes, as we think wages will stay subdued for some time yet,” he said.

Mr Lawson, meanwhile, argues that with the boost from two cash rate cuts and lower oil prices this year already absorbed, households have run out of support for a lift in spending.

“I think it’s likely that we’ll see disposable income growth slow in 2016,” he said.

“Unless the household savings rate declines, that will mean slower consumption growth.”

Consumer confidence cools amid GST talk

Concerns about possible changes to the GST may be stoking pessimism. Photo: Erin JonassonConsumer confidence has slipped after two upbeat months, according to the latest Westpac-Melbourne Institute sentiment index, as the cooling housing market, talk of a rise in the GST and worries about family finances began to weigh on the mood.
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Westpac said on Wednesday that its main consumer sentiment index eased 0.8 per cent this month, from 101.7 points in November to 100.8 points, seasonally adjusted.

When the index tops 100 points, it means optimists outnumber pessimists – and this is only the fourth time in the last 20 months that the glass-half-full brigade has won the day.

However, this month’s slight fall follows a near two-year high last month, when the index surged 3.9 per cent, and a healthy 4.2 per cent jump in October after Tony Abbott was dethroned by Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister.

“The Index has held on to most of the gains from last month’s surprise 4 per cent lift and is 10.7 per cent above its levels this time last year,” said Westpac’s chief economist Bill Evans. “There have only been two months since January 2014 with higher Index readings.”

The survey asked respondents to list news items that attracted their attention, and the proportion of consumers recalling the topic of budget and taxation has almost doubled since September.

Mr Evans said this topic was also viewed as considerably less favourable.

“Presumably, speculation around tax changes, particularly with respect to the GST, is beginning to unnerve respondents,” he said.

While the sub-index on expectations of future economic conditions fell, the sub-indices for family finances – reflecting both current conditions as well as expectations over the next 12 months – both showed healthy gains of more than 5 per cent.

And slightly more people surveyed think it’s a good time to buy a major household item.

“There is an important message from the movements in the components of the Index,” Mr Evans said. “Last month we saw a surge in sub-indexes measuring the economic outlook whereas respondents’ assessments of their finances deteriorated. We attributed the economic  boost to confidence in the government’s new leadership team, and the concerns around finances to the banks’ mortgage interest rate increases in October.

“In this month’s survey, assessments around finances have almost fully recovered their October levels, but expectations for the economic outlook have been pared back, albeit with these components still well above their October levels.”

Adversity can help us get stronger

It seems that some of us, perhaps particularly those with a tendency towards anxiety, spend our lives trying to minimise the chance that bad things will happen. We try as hard as we can to manage our fear that in fact things can go wrong by putting in place imaginary protection – live invisible force fields. We delude ourselves that by making sure everything is ordered and perfect we can somehow inoculate ourselves from the ills that seem to befall the rest of the world.
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Yet sometimes much of the investment we make in time and energy is largely for nought because, of course, bad things do happen and the fact is that we have little control over that. Mental health workers are also now better at understanding that when bad things happening, besides being unpreventable, it doesn’t necessarily lead a person to having a devastated life.

Yes, there are those who have experienced so manydifficult events that they are knocked over by the relentless waves of misfortune and find it difficult to get their feet. But there is also some evidence that some level of pain in our lives, some experience of suffering is in fact good for our resilience, akin to a vaccination’s impact upon our psychological immune response.Perhaps a small amount of pain and suffering activates our systems so that we are inoculated with strategies and coping the next time something goes wrong. We can better learn how to think, and act, and manage our way through adversity. And we also learn that we can survive. We can be OK.

In her TED talk, human resource consultant Regina Hartley, mentioned how in her research and experience it can be those who have experienced adversity and suffering that have the resourcefulness to deal with the difficulties life may bring them. She suggests when interviewing people for a position of employment, rather than choosing the person who has achieved but not suffered, versus ‘the scrapper’ (in her words), who has overcome adversity to achieve the same academic success, to choose ‘the scrapper’. Choose the person who will have developed the skills and the mindset, the perseverance and the perspective that they will need to get through the tough times of any employment. Choose the person who has already been vaccinated by life’sexperiences.

Tarnya Davis is a clinical and forensic psychologist and principal of NewPsych Psychologists (4926 5005). Her book, All Things Considered, is available attheherald上海龙凤论坛m.au.

THE Newcastle cafe with an Imperial Walker towing a landspeeder.

IT’S no secret there’s enough Star Wars memorabilia atThe Empire Coffee Co to fill a space cruiser, and they’ve truly embraced theForce-tive season. Sorry.
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The Newcastle cafe, we’re quite sure, is the only one currentlywith aTatooineLandspeeder outfrontbeing towed byRudolph the red-laser AT-AT. The only one.

Now, we could be wrong…

FORCE-TIVE SEASON: Rudolph the red-laser AT-AT at The Empire Coffee Co.

Airport’s spicy season A Spice Girls fan has been to the airport.

NEXT time you’re at the airport, whileyou’rebuyingthe paper and one of thoseneck support pillows,why not pick up a pink Christmasbauble?

Newcastle Airport is selling the decorations for $2 as part of its Christmas appeal to supportthe Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation.

“This Christmas we’ve decorated our airport terminal in the vibrant pink of our charity of choice, the Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation,” says Newcastle AirportchiefDr Peter Cock.

“We’re asking the community to add to our terminal decorations by purchasing a pink Christmas bauble from any of our airport retailers. We’ll write your name on it and hang your baubles behind our giving tree in the departure lounge.”

That’s nice. You know, a personal touch. Just like thehandiwork of a Spice Girls devoteeon this stop sign (pictured) at the airport.

It’s hard to read in the photo, but it says “Stop right there, thank you very much, I need somebody with a human touch”.

We’ll get back to youFOR a department with a cast of thousands in its media unit, Defence hasn’t been a model oftransparencysincethe Williamtown toxic scare.

Responsesto journalists’ questionshave ranged from sluggishtoglacial, and the answers thattrickle down bear scant relation to what was asked. Case in point. The experience of the Herald’s Joanne McCarthy.

McCarthy went through the properDefence channels and emailed a series ofquestions –big, important stuff about contamination and who knew about it, too dry for us –on October 21.

The response, a week later: “Hi Joanne,Thanks for your email. We endeavour to get back to you as soon as we can”.

Which was somehow hard to believe. On November 27 McCarthy upped the ante with more“questions Defence has not answered to date”.

Two days later she asked again and gave an hour’s“deadline”.

“Suddenly a named Defence person responded.”

Topics doubts anyone working in the media unit is happy with this, and strongly suspects the kind of departmentalinterference that’s maddening for everyone.

Bevan bails without fuss Scott Bevan has signed off from the ABC.

THIS is how TV starsretire now: not with a network special, but with a tweet. Well, sometimes the networkspecial follows,after you die.

ABC News 24 host and former Topics writer Scott Bevan pulled the plug yesterday afternoon with little ceremony.

“I’ve resigned from the ABC,” he tweeted.

“Finish in Jan. My thanks to the Aust public for giving me a job, & for the privilege of telling our stories.”

Fans expressed dismayat Bevan leaving just as he was getting his tie “near perfect”, and speculated on him growing a beard and starting a musical career.

“Not full-time music,” Bevan hinted.

“But more music in my life.”

BevanspenttwoyearsastheABC’sMoscowcorrespondent, and camein from the cold to jointhe 24-hour channel in 2010.

Investors brace for more losses as commodities crunched

Miners are struggling to keep their heads above water as commodity prices continue to tumble. Photo: Robert RoughBHP shares have dropped below $17 each and South32 under $1 for the first time after commodities were crunched again overnight and mining giant Anglo American cancelled its dividend.
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Brent oil dipped below $US40 a barrel for the first time since early 2009, before recovering, while iron ore continued its descent, with the Qingdao benchmark shedding another US41¢, or 1.1 per cent, to $US38.65 a tonne.

On the London Stock Exchange, investors dumped Rio Tinto, driving the price of its shares down 8.4 per cent, while BHP Billiton dropped a further 5.5 per cent.

In morning trade on the ASX, BHP was down a further 1.5 per cent to $16.80, while Rio Tinto was 4.2 per cent lower at $40.64. South32 fell as much as 3.2 per cent to below 99.75¢ before recovering to trade 1 per cent lower at $1.02.

Energy stocks, however, bounced after enduring a torrid session on Monday.

The Aussie dollar also slipped below US72¢ overnight, completing a US2¢ turnaround from its Friday highs of close to US74¢, before recovering to last fetch US72.2¢.

In addition to the falling commodity prices, mining investors were also hit by news that Anglo American would shelve its dividend and cut two-thirds of its workforce. Anglo shares dropped by more than 12 per cent to a record low.

“Any asset that is cash-negative will not remain in the portfolio,” Anglo chief executive Mark Cutifani said. ”It is a strategic call and we are not going to look back.”

That built on yesterday’s announcement by Rio that it would reduce next year’s capital spending by almost $US1 billion to $US5 billion.

But even the heavy-handed cuts announced by Anglo were not enough to assuage the market, with one analyst telling clients that “the chief executive and Anglo American appear in denial”.

“Production, cash flow, earnings are all under pressure and the group is not moving quickly enough. The poor newsflow and downgrades are likely to continue until there are asset disposals or somebody else steps in.”

While the big job losses at Anglo were “headline grabbing”, the real focus for investors is the miner’s decision to scrap its dividend payout policy until 2018, IG market strategist Evan Lucas said.

“The 2016 commodity thematics make BHP’s progressive dividend policy hard to swallow and the Anglo-American moves overnight just adds pressure to scrap what is an out-step program,” Mr Evans said.

“The likely write-downs coming at [BHP’s] half-year [profits announcement] in February, due to the mass decline in commodities, will lead to a [dividend] policy change.” Heavy selling

The heavy overnight selling in the big ASX-listed miners might have been, at least to some degree, catch-up for Monday’s n trade, where Rio fell 4.3 per cent to $42.40 and BHP 5.2 per cent to $17.05, again in response to commodity price weakness. The Aussie miners’ shares are at six- and seven-year lows, respectively.

Futures trading suggests the S&P/ASX 200 index will open 23 points lower, which would push the benchmark index below the 5100-point mark. The measure has now shed 5.6 per cent for the year.

The n dollar dropped as low as US71.87¢ overnight, tracing the drop in oil prices, before recovering to fetch US72.09¢ in early local trade. The currency has fallen by 2.4 per cent from its Friday high of US73.85¢.

While oil has been stealing the headlines, iron ore remains the weaker story long term, reckon analysts at Societe Generale.

“Once the post-OPEC concern about a lack of storage and on-going excess supply fade, there’s a good chance that oil will continue to outperform iron ore, which is obviously more tied to the (soggy) Chinese economic outlook,” SG strategist Kit Juckes said.

“The view of SG’s oil experts is that there is adequate storage to meet the market’s needs in the coming months and that the supply/demand mismatch continues to be met (slowly) by falling supply,” Mr Juckes said.

“That should support prices in 2016, but doesn’t prevent a further near-term, sentiment-driven fall.”

“Beyond the thin December market we’re in now, I’d rather be short the Aussie dollar (or New Zealand dollar, or any other Asian China-sensitive currency except then yen), than short [the oil-tracking] Norwegian kroner or Canadian dollar.”

No Saint: Jimmy Kimmel tricks public with fake Kim and Kanye baby names

Jimmy Kimmel loves playing a frank on the public. Photo: Screen grabMiley Cyrus goes undercover as n reporter on Jimmy Kimmel Live!Kim Kardashian and Kanye West announce second son’s name.
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Did you hear the one about Kim and Kanye calling their second child, born on Saturday, ‘Saint’?

So did half the world. US talk show host Jimmy Kimmel decided that the other half was fair game and set out to test ordinary people’s gullibility and tolerance of celebrity eccentricity, telling them that the power couple had named North West’s younger brother something horrifically indulgent.

It wasn’t an easy assignment with the public jaded by years of jaw-dropping celebrity baby names like Zuma Nesta Rock (Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale), Fifi Trixibelle (Bob Geldof and the late Paula Yates), Blanket (the late Michael Jackson) and Jermajesty (Jermain Jackson).

The Jimmy Kimmel Live! show sent a reporter onto the Californian streets to provoke the public for their reactions to, for example, “Kia Sorento” (which is of course the make of a popular lite urban SUV) as a baby name, then “Fastest Gun in the West”.

Most punters were sadly unshocked, swearing blind they’d been discussing that exact same news with friends only a few minutes prior, mostly on social media. Had they actually checked, they have found the infant’s real name is in fact Saint, which is not a bad effort, although some cynics have pointed out its traditional owners had performed a miracle whereas this was just a recipe for a miraculous ego in a child.

Back to the trusting streets of America. One woman’s cool and confident exterior gradually cracked on camera when the reporter informed her Kanye and Kim had opted for “Khaleesi Cruella Cuckoo Kimchee Kombucha Klondike Kielbasa Kaleidoscope Kikuju Kaley Cuoco West.”

“Not surprised at all. I wouldn’t put it past them,” she said, grinning broadly.

Fittingly, Kimmel calls the semi-regular segment – in which citizens are asked a bunch of plausible questions that sound silly if we know the real answer – ‘Lie Witness News’.