Tanya Plibersek in ‘witness protection’ over boats at Labor’s national conference

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek during the launch of the national conference on Friday. Photo: Andrew MearesTanya Plibersek’s gay marriage vote threatens ShortenProtesters dragged out as Labor debate heats up
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Labor deputy leader Tanya Plibersek has drawn fire from her own side for being in “witness protection” over the ALP’s decision to adopt the Coalition’s policy of turning back asylum seeker boats.

And fellow frontbencher Anthony Albanese, who has led the Left in fighting the ALP’s adoption of the boat turn-backs policy, declared in a fiery meeting of delegates that “doing nothing” on turn-backs was not an option.

Ms Plibersek and Senator Penny Wong – who are both members of the leadership group – voted by proxy for the Left motion to avoid publicly opposing leader Bill Shorten.

Mr Albanese, who publicly backed a motion to explicitly forbid Labor from performing boat turn-backs in government, told the Left delegates meeting that “unlike other caucus members I won’t just sit there and do nothing”.

“This [boat turn-backs] is a red line we cannot cross,” he said, adding that he would vote for the Left’s motion.

Those comments were understood by multiple sources in the room as criticism of colleagues including Ms Plibersek and Senator Wong.

However, Mr Albanese later told Fairfax Media that he had not been criticising his colleagues and that he had in fact praised others in the meeting who had a different view to him.

Queensland MP Terri Butler stood in for Ms Plibersek and ACT Senator Katy Gallagher stood in for Senator Wong.

Behind the scenes, Ms Plibersek has been under intense pressure from her political allies in the Left to publicly oppose the adoption of boat turn-backs.

But Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, who is seen by some in the party as a future leader and is a rival to Mr Albanese in the Left, has had to balance that pressure with the need to support Mr Shorten.

One Left delegate said Ms Plibersek had “barely spoken” on the issue during meetings and appeared to be in “witness protection”, to the disappointment of many political allies.

Another Left delegate said Ms Plibersek had “put her duties as deputy leader of the Labor Party first” and that she was “much more hardline than Albo [Mr Albanese] on asylum seekers”, though that delegate said that at least some in the Left understood the bind the deputy leader was in.

A third delegate said Ms Plibersek’s absence from public debate over the issue showed she was “not used to serious scrutiny”.

But an ally of Ms Plibersek’s said she had focused her energy, during negotiations over the policy, on doubling the refugee intake and securing additional funding for the UNHCR – both outcomes that were secured.

“She has been genuinely conflicted on turn-backs, as deputy the need for solidarity has been at the top of her mind. That’s why she hasn’t bought in to public debate at all, it wouldn’t have helped the leader,” the ally said.

The Left-aligned Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy union also backed Mr Shorten to defeat the motion to forbid turn-backs, and sections of the United Voice union also backed the Labor leader.

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AFL spectacle ‘more critical than it’s ever been’ due to threat of soccer, says legend Leigh Matthews

Leigh Matthews (right) says the AFL has cause for concern. Photo: Joe Armao Leigh Matthews (right) says the AFL has cause for concern. Photo: Joe Armao
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Leigh Matthews (right) says the AFL has cause for concern. Photo: Joe Armao

Leigh Matthews (right) says the AFL has cause for concern. Photo: Joe Armao

Australian football legend Leigh Matthews has warned the AFL that the league’s “spectacle is more critical” than it has ever been, with football’s “monopoly on Melbourne winter sport” lost.

A crowd of 99,382 attended Friday night’s International Champions Cup soccer game between Real Madrid and Manchester City at the MCG, while just 26,815 turned up to see Hawthorn inflict Carlton’s heaviest ever defeat at Etihad Stadium.

None of the three biggest crowds at the MCG so far this year have been for an AFL game, with Friday night’s soccer, March’s Cricket World Cup final and June’s State of Origin rugby league all drawing more than the 88,395 that watched Collingwood’s ANZAC Day win over Essendon.

With the AFL scoring drought continuing amid massive stoppage numbers, Matthews said on Saturday the league would need to be vigilant.

“We have to accept a little bit that the AFL has no longer got its monopoly on Melbourne winter sport,” Matthews said on 3AW.

While he believed football was still the “biggest show in town”, Matthews said he realised the seriousness of the AFL’s challenge when 50,871 watched May’s A-League semi-final between Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City at Etihad Stadium, only slightly less than went to the same night’s Geelong-Collingwood MCG game.

“[The A-League] was being spoken about almost as much in the general media in the Friday night that particular week.”

“That’s the first time I can ever recall anything other than the the Friday night AFL game being anywhere near potentially the biggest show in town.

“I think last night just emphasised it again that therefore the spectacle is more critical than it’s ever been because there is genuine opposition out there.”

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Developer pays $1.5 million over reserve for rundown Granville house

The house at 33 William Street, Granville, which is zoned R4 for apartments, sold for $2,781,000. Photo: domain上海夜网m.auVIDEO: Woollahra cottage sells at first sight for $1.76 million
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Frenzied bidding between six developers resulted in an unrenovated Granville house selling $1.53 million over reserve at auction on Saturday morning.

The house, which sold for $2,781,000, stands at the front boundary of a 1440-square-metre block at 33 Williams Street adjoining the Granville Diggers Club.

It was sold by an elderly woman – who had lived in the home for more than 60 years – and her grandson.

It was one of 715 homes scheduled to go under the hammer on what was the busiest July auction day on record.

By Saturday evening, Domain Group had collected 553 results and put the clearance rate at 79.7 per cent, the lowest rate recorded this year.

“The market is creaking under record winter listings,” said Domain’s senior economist, Dr Andrew Wilson.

Twenty five developers registered to bid on the Granville property, which is zoned R4 for apartments under Parramatta council’s codes.

Selling agent Tony Eltakchi of LJ Hooker Granville said the owners had, until recently, been unaware their land had been rezoned.

After the hammer fell the pair were close to tears. They said the result had changed their lives. Soon after, they drove off in their car. “They were off to Picton to buy a new house,” said Mr Eltakchi.   */]]>

House prices in Granville have surged by 34.2 per cent in the past year, making it one of the city’s fastest growing suburbs.

Even so, the sale price of 33 William Street was more than three times the suburb’s median of $768,500.

Asked whether he thought the huge disparity between his price guide of “more than $1 million” and the sale price could be construed as underquoting Mr Eltakchi said no-one knows exactly what can be built on the block.

“There’s a very large easement in the backyard so it’s not known what can and can’t be built on the block or the floor-space ratio,” he said. “But someone must have done their homework.”

The bidding opened at $900,000 and when the property was called on the market at $1.25 million by auctioneer Rob Trovato of Auctions Services, the bidding “went into a frenzy”, said Mr Eltakchi.

He had earlier approached the owner of the house next door to see if they wanted to sell but was told not yet.

“He wants to sit and wait in the box seat,” said Mr Eltakchi.

Parramatta City Council is in the middle of an apartment building boom with $8 billion worth of development in the pipeline.

At the start of the year the council announced it intended to double the size of the Parramatta CBD in 10 years and create a rival to the Sydney CBD.

This duplex at 10 Bruce Avenue, Manly, sold for $4.55 million on Saturday. Photo: Craig Bryant

One of the highest sales of the day was a waterfront duplex in Manly. It sold under the hammer for its reserve of $4.55 million.

The buyers are an ex-pat couple living in Manila. The wife flew in on Wednesday to inspect the property; her husband, an IT professional arrived on Friday.

Selling agent, Cherie Humel of Clarke & Humel had three registered bidders. She said the buyers will rent it out for about $2500 a week before returning to Sydney.

A house at 46 Thurlow Street, Redfern, sold for $1.9 million on Saturday – $100,000 over reserve.

In other auctions, a four-bedroom house at 46 Thurlow Street, Redfern, was hot property, going for $1.9 million – $100,000 over its reserve through Ray White Surry Hills.

The couple who bought it were “chuffed”. “We can’t believe we got it under $2 million,” IT manager James Sillence said.

There were 10 registered to bid but the buyer’s agent acting for the couple blew away the opposition with the $1.9 million opening bid.

As an indication of how much stronger the market is this year than last year, the same home was listed for sale at $1.9 million last September and then discounted down to $1.7 million before being withdrawn from sale.

This house at 13 Edna Street, Lilyfield, sold for $1.4 million – $300,000 over reserve. Photo: domain上海夜网m.au

In Lilyfield, fast bidding took the sale price for a two-bedroom semi $300,000 over reserve. A couple from Newtown beat four other parties paying $1.4 million for the Victorian house with city views. It last traded for $840,000 in 2010.

Selling agent, Simon Pilcher of Pilcher Residential said the Lilyfield market has been “on fire” for the past 12 months with the suburb record being broken five times since October.

The buyers of the semi at 13 Edna Street had been searching for seven months and had missed out on multiple homes.

This house 7 Merton Street, Zetland, sold for $1.5 million on Saturday.

At Zetland, the rare offering of a partly renovated Victorian house in a suburb surrounded by new developments had two buyers take its sale price $254,000 over reserve.

The buyer, a grandmother who has been a Zetland resident for 10 years, paid $1,504,000 for the two-bedroom house with a car space at 7 Merton Street.

She plans to rent it before renovating and adding a second storey and moving in.

David Bettini of Martin Property Agents said it was a “cracker result.”

“The big plus there is the location,” said Mr Bettini. “It’s close to the new East Village shopping centre and to Green Square town centre with the library and Aquatic Centre coming soon. The whole area is just fantastic.”

With Stephen Nicholls

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After five years of Towards Normal Birth in NSW, are mothers better off?

“Don’t underestimate what your body can do,” says new mum Libby Nathan, who gave birth to her baby boy this week at the Royal Hospital for Women. Photo: Louise KennerleyIt was picture-perfect: Intense, emotional and “excruciatingly painful” but also everything Libby Nathan hoped it would be. This week the 36-year-old gave birth in the Royal Hospital for Women to her little boy – the first baby for her and husband Jeremy.
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“It was a very empowering experience and I’m proud that as a team we were able to do it,” she says.

The team Nathan is referring to didn’t involve a doctor. It consisted of her, her husband, midwifery practice at the Royal, and her privately hired doula, or birth support companion, who, she said, was “agreed to and embraced by” her midwives.

Nathan is the face of a shift in obstetrics in NSW. She delivered her baby without medical intervention, which is what she had wished for, but she also benefited from the high level of care available from the hospital, which is leading the push towards natural birth among the state’s major hospitals.

Ten days before giving birth she was knocked over, and needed special monitoring in the lead-up.

“It was a good lesson in things not always going to plan,” she says. “We always knew things don’t always go to plan, but we wanted to maximise our chance of a natural birth.”

As it happened, she was in hospital getting test results when midwives suggested she might be in labour. By 3pm her waters had broken and by 7.45pm her baby was born.

She says despite the fact she had coped with the pain and felt positive about the birth, she doesn’t judge woman who seek medical intervention.

“Even with my shorter labour it was just exhausting,” she says. “With my holistic philosophy I believed I was capable of it. But every situation is different, and I know women who were also so geared for a birth like that. But then they are in labour for 30 hours and it’s just not progressing.”

Amid spiralling use of medical interventions such as caesarean section, and a continuing fight from women’s rights advocates to give women more control, five years ago NSW’s Towards Normal Birth policy was launched.

Its aims were ambitious – expecting more than 80 per cent of women to give birth vaginally, and 60 per cent of women who had already had one caesarean to give birth to their second baby vaginally by 2015 – and signalled a landmark policy change to birth in NSW.

But today, on paper at least, the policy has not achieved its goals. Data released by Health Statistics NSW on birthing outcomes in NSW to 2013 (the most recent year for which information is available) show under 57 per cent of mothers in NSW have a normal vaginal birth, down from 58.2 per cent five years previously.

Only half of all first-time mothers now have a spontaneous vaginal birth, while there has been a large spike in women being induced to nearly 39 per cent of first-time mums, a 15 per cent increase on 2009, and more women are having major haemorrhages after they give birth.

The community of people involved in birth, from mothers to midwives, doulas to doctors, is divided over the right response. Why can’t we meet the targets, and should we even try?

It’s a minefield. Every woman’s experience is different and so are her values. Beliefs vary from wanting a vaginal delivery more than anything else, to deciding the pain and potential side-effects are an unnecessary evil best avoided.

Language drips with normative value – from talk of risk and choice, to words like “achieving” and “natural” – that seemingly politicises every aspect of birth.

Against this background, debate can be difficult. But the head of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Michael Permezel​, says the fact NSW has not met its targets is not necessarily bad.

“The most important thing is it’s not health administrators who write policies that are determining the mode of birth, it’s really the women themselves,” he says. “The reality is in Western countries the rates are remarkably similar, and women are voting for caesarean section rates of around that 25 to 30 per cent mark mostly.”

He says women are becoming more risk-averse, so as they get older and heavier, which makes birth more risky, they are less likely to opt for a vaginal birth.

For example, while NSW has seen spiralling rates of labour induction, NSW Kids and Families, the ministry in charge of Towards Normal Birth, says one explanation could be that in NSW the percentage of mothers aged over 35 years (24 per cent in 2012) was almost twice that of the national average (14 per cent).

“If a vaginal birth is completely safe, of course most women will chose that option, but the surveys are very clear that where there is added risk from vaginal birth, most women will choose a caesarean section,” Permezel says.

He fears insisting on strict targets could be dangerous.

“When health services perhaps decide on the caesarean section rate first, and then try and fit the women to that caesarean section rate, it might lead to some inappropriate decision-making,” he says.

St George Hospital in Sydney’s southern suburbs stands as an example of how targets that look good  on paper can be difficult to achieve.

The rates of women there who had a vaginal birth for their second baby after previously having a caesarean were low – only about 17 per cent of cases – compared with the Towards Normal Birth target of 60 per cent by 2015, when the hospital set out to make a change.

But Trent Miller, the clinical director of obstetrics and gynaecology, says it wasn’t the target that motivated them as much as feeling their low rates meant women were not getting the best possible care.

“We went into it being quite pro vaginal birth … we wanted to be pretty liberal in offering it to everyone because most women can have a go,” he says.

The team found despite strong evidence it is safe to have a vaginal birth after a caesarean (and that repeated caesareans put both mother and baby at risk), many women were reluctant.

“A lot of the time it is the poor experience from the last birth – they are scared. They were traumatised by what happened and they don’t want to go through that again,” he says.

“And then there was another group of women who had had a caesarean, but didn’t really mind that was what had ended up happening – and that second group is actually much harder to convince.”

Smaller teams, ensuring the advice given was consistent, and helping those women deal with their bad experiences, did have strong success – increasing their VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) rates to 27 per cent.

But there were also some tragedies. Two women had uterine ruptures, and in one of those cases the baby died. Another woman had a stillbirth.

The relatively high number of terrible events in that time was a statistical aberration – Miller says there have been no such deaths since they published the results of their efforts in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology last year.

But it highlights the high stakes. The team needed to warn women clearly about the risks, but make it clear they are very rare and outweighed by the benefits.

“There are some women who will take that and say ‘that’s not for me’, and for some women that is absolutely fine,” he says. “We are not there to convince women to do something they don’t want to do”.

But the truth is, Miller says, that without forcing some to have vaginal births, it simply would not be possible to reach the 60 per cent target in Towards Normal Birth. Stop ‘blaming women’ for systematic failures, midwives say

Hannah Dahlen​ is on the front lines of the push towards normal birth in NSW. The spokeswoman for the Australian College of Midwives and professor of midwifery at the University of Western Sydney was involved in the development of the NSW policy, and rejects the idea it is unachievable.

She says smaller hospitals that tend to have lower-risk patients in particular are seeing incredible results, citing Fairfield Hospital as just one success story, where vaginal births were above 78 per cent in 2013.

But the private sector, she says, has got “so much worse”. Induction in private hospitals is also high, at around 50 per cent.

“We are doing it all to save babies apparently, but there has been no change in the perinatal mortality rate over the past decade – none,” she says. “But we have escalated and escalated and escalated the intervention.”

“We are ending up with so many women who are traumatised by their birth. Then these women say ‘I’m not walking back into a hospital’ and they make dangerous decisions like deciding to freebirth.”

Dahlen says there is still not enough support available to ensure women can give birth naturally, particularly first-time mothers, which then triggers more intervention down the track.

“I agree mothers are older, women are overweight, but it’s not enough of an excuse for us to keep blaming mothers,” she says.

Nordic countries have similar rates of maternal risk factors but manage to have much lower caesarean rates, she adds.

Dahlen says private obstetricians should be forced to publish their individual caesarean section rates, and women should use the NSW health statistics to research what hospital they give birth in.

“If you go out and buy a fridge or a washing machine you would do research, so why wouldn’t you do it when you are having a baby,” she says.

Dahlen believes an increased number of dangerous bleeds  which appears to be occurring recently could be related to a lack of respect for the “third stage” of labour when the placenta is delivered, with research showing increased interventions such as induction can lead to haemorrhage.

But the haemorrhage issue provides just one case study of the divided opinions about what is happening in NSW. NSW Kids and Families says that the apparent rise is small enough that it might not be a trend.

And while Dahlen believes it is likely linked to increasing intervention and medicalisation, Professor Hans Peter Dietz has a different idea.

The obstetrician and gynaecologist spends his days fixing the pelvic floor damage women have experienced in childbirth.

He worries that the increasing push towards natural birth is having the unintended consequence that more women are having longer, more difficult labours.

“In the past it was two to three hours of unsuccessful pushing before obstetricians intervened, now it may be six,” he says. “It has the advantage that some women will push their baby out, but the risk that some will be left with a post-partum haemorrhage.”

(NSW Kids was unable to say what proportion of caesarean haemorrhages occurred after the type of situation Dietz is describing, which would have required an emergency, rather than elective caesarean.)

Dietz is also concerned by an increasing trend towards doctors using forceps.

As an example, he cites the Royal Hospital for Women, one of the only major hospitals that has lowered its caesarean rate, by  10 per cent between 2007 and 2013, and is considered a leader in the field in NSW. But in that same period, its forceps rate increased by  more than 50 per cent. He estimates that for every  10 caesareans prevented, it is likely that four additional tears to a woman’s levator muscle – which holds the pelvic organs and bowel in place – occur, and four additional sphincter tears.

“Of those eight additional tears (in about 6 women), it is very likely that only one or two are even diagnosed at birth, and even when diagnosed, such tears are often not well repaired, which means the damage is major and permanent in about five women for every 10 caesarean sections saved,” he says.

“Obstetricians and midwives are often blissfully unaware of the additional damage done in the quest to reduce caesarean rates, especially as most of the damage only causes symptoms, [such as] urinary and fecal incontinence, prolapse, sexual dysfunction, years or decades later.”

Dietz says the goal of vaginal birth is important, but to achieve it as mothers get older and more overweight you have to shift the goalposts of what you think is an acceptable level of risk. And, he says, the goalposts are clearly placed differently depending on what hospital you give birth in.

“It’s as if there are two different philosophies, and we are making decisions for these women without ever informing them properly,” he says.

“In my entire clinical life, how many women with major later life health problems due to caesarean have I ever seen? I can’t remember a single one. How many after forceps will I see? Several a week, at least 100 a year, maybe 200 a year,” he says. Balancing fear vs information

Let’s get one thing straight: you are probably going to be fine. Most women can come through a vaginal birth (or a caesarean section) relatively unscathed.

But what happens to those who don’t? For women who feel robbed of natural birth by hospital interventions, the disempowerment and painful memories can last a lifetime.

But there is also another, largely silent group of women: those who may “achieve” a normal birth, but at great physical and emotional cost.

Liz Skinner is a registered nurse and midwife of  more than 20 years’ experience.

As part of her PhD project undertaken with Professor Dietz, Skinner has interviewed 40 women who experienced major pelvic floor trauma.

Her findings paint a disturbing picture of the care given to women with birth trauma.

Two-thirds of the women showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and many couples were experiencing sexual and emotional problems.

Every woman interviewed had had her pelvic floor muscles pulled entirely off her pubic bone and pelvic side wall. Yet not one had been identified as suffering this major trauma after their birth.

Only five of the 40 had been diagnosed with major anal sphincter tears, yet further examination revealed 55 per cent had them.

“Health professionals were not attentive to any of this – I felt alone, I still do,” one respondent said.

Two-thirds said their doctors and midwives had dismissed the symptoms they experienced after birth, while nearly 90 per cent said they had got confusing and conflicting information from their treating team before, during and after the birth.

Skinner says she was shocked by both the suffering, and lack of support.

“It’s a hidden issue and they are not talking about it because it’s women’s business to have babies,” she says.

While feminists previously fought to  return control to women  giving birth, Skinner sees the new feminist issue as ensuring that women are correctly assessed for their risk of complications, given full and frank information and support if things go wrong.

“This issue of scaring women is the elephant in the room. But if you were going for heart surgery they give you lots of information before you go into the room, including the risk you might have a heart attack or stroke. Should we not tell you that? It’s the same with any medical intervention, so why is information about complications not given to mothers?” So what are hospitals doing to lower intervention?

But Andrew Bisits​, the medical co-director of maternity services at the Royal Hospital for Women, says in his hospital, encouraging women towards normal birth is never about encouraging them at any cost.

“It’s really about responsible, appropriate use of intervention,” he says.

He credits the Royal’s success in decreasing intervention to ongoing, systematic reviews of every birth.

But he believes all interventions at the hospital, including its forceps use, should still be lower.

Even the Royal is a long way off meeting the state targets, but  Bisits thinks they are achievable, if a little ambitious.

“I think there is a substantial quantum of enthusiasm in this area for women to have natural birth,” he says. “I can’t really say that has increased [over the past five years] but I think our enthusiasm for it and willingness to support that in a responsible way has become more explicit.”

Yet the team often comes up against a high degree of fear, and a lot of misinformation promoting caesareans.

“People forget that a caesarean is a relatively major operation. It’s an instant trauma to the body. It’s anything but keyhole surgery,” he says. “I think that fact sometimes gets lost and people forget that you can get through a normal birth with no scratches or just a few scratches.”

There is also increasing evidence that the process of childbirth is important to the child’s long-term wellbeing, as it transfers vital bacteria to the baby, decreases the risk of conditions such as asthma, and encourages bonding between mother and child.

For new mum Libby Nathan, who spent a few days at the Royal bonding with her new baby, the key is confidence – she avoided all negative stories about birth and focused on positive thinking.

“The only thing I would say is, don’t underestimate what your body can do,” she says. “But also don’t be too proud or hard-headed to change the plan if you need to.”

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Higher-end vendors holding fire

Agent and auctioneer Bill Karp of Barry Plant looks for a bid at the auction of an Essendon home on Saturday. Photo: SuppliedMore than 700 properties were auctioned on Saturday but prospective sellers of mid- to high-priced homes in Melbourne’s inner-east and key bayside suburbs largely held fire.
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Only 70 inner-east properties went under the hammer, a lower-than-normal listing ratio that indicates many $1.5 million-plus vendors – and buyers – are holding off until spring.

Real estate agents say the bayside and southern suburbs are also seeing an “unseasonably low” level of winter listings.

The Domain Group posted a clearance rate that continued the trend of below 80 per cent through winter, clocking in at 76 per cent from 557 auctions. There were 178 unreported results.

Tap here for Saturday’s auction results.

Tap here for the Market Snapshot.

Melbourne recorded five consecutive weekends with auction clearance rates below 80 per cent. This followed 10 weekends through April, May and into June when clearances spiked up above 80 per cent.

Some agents expect a moderating influence on prices as listing volumes surge in August and September.

“I think the market, price-wise, has had its run,” Greg Hocking, of the nine-office Greg Hocking Real Estate, said on Saturday.

“There are still spot fires going off here and there but the real push in general price rises is not sustainable – not in the next period because we’re going to get a bump-up in volume.”

Hocking said price growth had been high, “if not surging” in bayside areas but this would change as more supply came on.

It’s difficult to get a firm reading on what the likely state of play will be for the spring market until more high-quality homes are listed for sale in September.

Domain Group senior economist Dr Andrew Wilson said in recent weeks that clearance rates had slipped in the inner-city and St Kilda.

“There has been an improvement in the west and the north, amid signs of a solid revival in the local economy,” he said.

“That’s part of the equation now, particularly with the building boom in the city, which is providing jobs for people in the western and northern suburbs.”

The Domain House Price Report, released last week, shows how the Melbourne market has defied expectations this year.

In the three months to June 30, house prices grew 3.5 per cent to a median of $668,030.

This brings the total growth for 2014-15 year to 10.3 per cent, or more than $62,000.

The report says the latest quarterly rise is the strongest result since December 2013 and coincides with Sydney’s median house price reaching $1 million after shooting up 8.4 per cent.

James Buyer Advocates principal Mal James said the market in September was often unusually strong because buyers had come in after a winter lull. It would take about six weeks to identify any change trends, he added.

Both James and Michael Ramsay, of The Advocates, believe Melbourne property is now firmly an international buying market.

Ramsay said the extent of overseas buying of $2 million to $10 million properties hadn’t been affected by new state and federal government restrictions and charges for international buyers.

“The way the market is travelling is unsustainable for any length of time, such as for another five years,” Ramsay said.

“But I can’t see that the market is going to slow down significantly because of the amount of people coming into the state and the amount of wealth that seems to be still out there.”

Yet obtaining approval to borrow funds isn’t getting any easier. Last week, the ANZ and Commonwealth banks both increased interest rates for housing investors by 0.27 percentage points in a bid to limit borrowing by landlord buyers.

Property advisers and mortgage brokers also say lenders are becoming more conservative in valuing the properties they advance loans on.

Broker Ashley Playsted​, of Wealthie​, said the stricter valuations were mainly affecting apartment buyers.

Low interest rates continue to be the big drawcard for all kinds of buyers. Playsted said high-net-worth buyers rarely paid cash and were just as motivated by low-rate deals as other borrowers.

“They are concerned about getting the right loan product at the right rate but are less concerned about rates going up by half a per cent because their financial position gives them a greater degree of immunity,” he said.

There are 623 auctions scheduled for next weekend. Domain Read More …

Fusion home in Northcote sets a price record for suburb

The sale of 11 Mitchell Street, Northcote, has set a suburb price record. Photo: Supplied The glistening, modern extension at the rear of 11 Mitchell Street, Northcote, which sold for $2.82 million on Saturday. Photo: Supplied
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The owners of 11 Mitchell Street in Northcote created a surprising home that fused period and contemporary. Photo: Supplied

The winter market continues to see properties with outstanding selling features draw multiple bidders.

An impressive fusion of a polychrome brick Victorian and a cutting-edge two-storey glass and steel rear extension delivered $500,000 over reserve.

Some 350 people saw three local families wrestle for the five-bedroom house at 11 Mitchell Street, Northcote. The winners paid $2.82 million, against a reserve of $2.3 million.

Hocking Stuart auctioneer Sam Rigopoulos​ said this was a record price, both outright and per square metre, for the suburb.

Another polychrome brick Victorian, on just 130 square metres, had been held for the last 60 years.

It offered the only slot in tightly held Princes Hill apart from one other property which was asking $5 million-plus. Interestingly, the niece of the first owner of the tiny, 112-year-old two-bedroom terrace at 361 Pigdon Street said on Saturday that during the Depression, 12 people were living there.

At auction, five out of nine interested parties put their hand up. Woodards’ Quentin Hinrichs sold it for $973,000 against a “conservative” reserve of $800,000.

In Hampton a first-home buyer with her parents fought off four investors for the keys to a two-bedroom, first-floor apartment, close to Hampton Street’s shops and station. She had to ante up $753,000 to Hodges auctioneer Stephen Wigley for 15 Foam Street. The reserve was $680,000.

The sale of a “war service” home with three small bedrooms, built economically on a generous 722 square metres, showed the surging interest in demolition for multi-unit development in Preston, Coburg and North Coburg, said buyers advocate Bruce Renowden. Four bidders, all developers, heard 19 Belgrove Street, Preston, was on the market at $730,000 and they took it to $810,500 for Barry Plant.

Call Auction Action with your auction results, tips and comments on 8667 1147 between 11am and 4.45pm on Saturday, or email [email protected]上海夜网m.auDomain Read More …

Tom Parker Bowles takes a date with Kate Waterhouse

Tom Parker Bowles confesses he loves McDonald’s takeaways as much as he loves fine dining. Photo: Nic Walker Photo: Nic Walker.British food writer and critic Tom Parker Bowles is the son of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall  and a judge on the Australian cooking reality television series The Hotplate, which premieres on Channel 9 on July 28.
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Kate Waterhouse caught up with the 40-year-old to chat about how he critiques a restaurant, his favourite places to dine and how his mother’s cooking influenced his career.

 Tell me about your time in Australia.  I was here for three months filming The Hot Plate … Australia gets into your soul. It gets into your bones. There are certain things I miss [when I’m back in London] – things like chicken Twisties, Tim Tams and the lollies and that sort of stuff. And those fries at Red Rooster with chicken sauce. It’s those sort of things I miss and I find myself slipping into calling everything “heaps good”.

 For work, you must eat at fine dining restaurants. Do still appreciate junk food? [Yes] I like all level of food. I never have guilt about food. If I want to go and have McDonald’s I have McDonald’s. I love crap food and I love beautiful food. I love street food and I can’t bear those restaurants where – my wife calls them “cling cling” restaurants because all you hear is a “cling cling” of the glass on the table – where everyone is so scared to be in there and scared to eat.

Where did your love of food come from?  It started with greed, really. I’m the greediest person. I really love eating. My father is very greedy and he was a good gardener. We grew up in a farm. So we all knew about seasons and where our chickens, our beef and vegetables came from. In those days, there weren’t many supermarkets in the ’70s, when we were in the country. And my mother was a good cook.

Did your mother’s cooking have a big influence on your career?  Probably subconsciously. She brought us up along with my father to appreciate good food … She is very good at cooking a roast, roast chicken or roast beef or pies … She still cooks. She is much busier now, obviously … But we argue in the kitchen! She says, “Why are doing that? Why are doing this?” but if she came into my kitchen I’d do the same, so we actually cook separately now [laughs].

 How did you become a food critic? Out of university, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was sacked from pretty much every job I did. There’s a magazine called Tatler and I was a bit pissed at a party and I wobbled up to [the editor] and said, “Can I write a food column?” He said, “Send me 800 words”. So I did a food column with him for Tatler for eight years. Then I moved to GQ and then to Esquire and then The Mail on Sunday. Suddenly it became my life to write about food. I find food endlessly fascinating. It’s not just lifestyle; it’s a prism through which you can see history, economics, health, wealth, happiness. Everything comes down to food. Food is the one experience we all share, so everyone has an opinion on it and it’s very relatable.

When you dine at a restaurant, how do you critique the food?

Basically, in 850 words I like to bring in the person…. you want to give the reader an idea of what sort of restaurant it is. So it’s everything from the service to the feeling. How it is put together is as important as the food.

What are some of your favourite Australian restaurants?

I think Estelle [The Hot Plate co-judge] Scott [Pickett’s] restaurant is stunning. I also absolutely love North Bondi Fish with the kids. I love Spice I Am. I was obsessed with Apollo. Then Melbourne has Chin Chin, and Flower Drum, which I love.

What is it about Australian cuisine that you love?

What I love about Australian cuisine is, because you have such a big Asian population here, the ingredients are very authentic Thai or Vietnamese food and the flavours are all zinging. With modern Australian – which is a dodgy term that I don’t really like – but what I like about Australian chefs [is] there’s a sense of freedom. There’s a sense of not being restricted by the past. It’s not like being a French chef who says, “You have to do this, you have to do that.” There’s no fear.

When your mother married Prince Charles, did that make a big difference to your life?

Not really to my life. To her life, I think it did. But you know, she was a mother. She didn’t have a full-time job; she was a full-time mother. But suddenly she was working 10 to 20 engagements a day. I have nothing but amazement and respect for how [the Royals] all do it. I could never do it. I could never be that nice and friendly and interested. She is always interested and she is good with people. When you have to have every bit of the day absolutely scheduled, it’s incredible. I think when she goes back to her house – where we all grew up – that’s where I think she can sort of chill out and perhaps maybe have dinner in her dressing gown! But she’s happy and that means we are happy. She is really excited to come out to Australia later in the year.

There is so much written about your mother and your family. What is the biggest misconception about your mother?

I’ll tell you what pisses me off: I saw in the paper the other day, “Oh, she has just given up smoking.” She gave up smoking 20 years ago! It pisses me off … the bullshit [that] is written. The papers make up shit sometimes but you just get used to it.

You are also a chef. What’s your signature dish at home?

It’d probably be something with tons of chillies that only my wife could eat. Because we always have friends over, we cook stir-fries or all sorts of Thai or Mexican dishes. But our chilli  capacity has gone up so much.


WE WENT TO The Four Seasons Hotel, Sydney.

WE ATE Ocean Trout ‘Ham from the Sea’; yellow fin tuna, watermelon and ginger; broccolini, fermented chilli, almond.

WE DRANK Sparkling mineral water.


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Barrister turned novelist John Tesarsch reveals battle of wills

Balancing the setbacks: Author John Tesarsch. Photo: Joe ArmaoThe Last Will and Testament of Henry Hoffman by John Tesarsch.
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Balancing the setbacks: Author John Tesarsch. Photo: Joe Armao

Balancing the setbacks: Author John Tesarsch. Photo: Joe Armao

The Last Will and Testament of Henry Hoffman by John Tesarsch.

Balancing the setbacks: Author John Tesarsch. Photo: Joe Armao

The Last Will and Testament of Henry Hoffman by John Tesarsch.

The Last Will and Testament of Henry Hoffman 

By John Tesarsch

Affirm Press, $24.99. Buy now on Booktopia

Conflict over an inheritance can bring out the worst in families, from the Rineharts to those with only their childhood home to fight over. “People are turned inside out by the hurt and pain, people who are otherwise reasonable lose all perspective,” says Melbourne barrister John Tesarsch.

As a barrister in Melbourne, Tesarsch has “come across some horrendous family disputes” and finds them draining, so he sticks mostly to commercial work. As a novelist, however, he is drawn to the tensions and moral challenges sparked by wealth, death, wills and secrets.

In 2010 his first novel, The Philanthropist, observed the fallout from a tycoon’s decision to leave his fortune to charity, and brought Tesarsch to attention as a impressive late starter.

His new book, The Last Will and Testament of Henry Hoffman, returns to the same territory with even greater nuance and human insight in a story told from five perspectives.

When Hoffman shoots himself dead rather than go into a nursing home, his three adult children must negotiate his unfair will, and another secret will that leaves everything to a stranger, while grappling with their own work, love and financial problems.

“Issues of jealousy and resentment can be bubbling under the surface and when you put people under pressure they come out,” Tesarsch says, adding that he tries to be sympathetic to all his flawed characters.

“I started the novel five or six years ago, with the image of old Henry as a fellow burdened by the past and unable to relate to his kids. It was some kind of warning to myself of what not to become.”

At 47, Tesarsch has two young sons with his wife Dinusha​ but following a serious illness, he says, “Overnight I aged from 31 to 81 in terms of what mattered to me.”

He has had misfortune with his health. At school he began playing the cello, which “became the focus of my plans and my identity”. He won a scholarship at 18 to play in Vienna for a year, but his musical career ended at 22 when he developed a skin allergy to the rosin he rubbed on his bow.

“My whole life crashed into nothingness in the blink of an eye, and I had to rediscover myself,” he says. He had studied music and law at university “as something to fall back on” – and he did, working full-time as a lawyer until illnesss struck again.

In 1999 he developed tongue cancer and had surgery and chemotherapy, followed by reconstruction that turned his tongue sideways. He had to learn to talk again and while he was off work he read voraciously.

“All that reading kicked a lever in my head. I turned to writing to express my thoughts.”

He had written a few poems in his youth. Now law and writing are “a nice diversion from each other”, and though he often writes at night it energises rather than tires him.

He had three unpublished novels written before he was ready to go public, and now a couple of new ideas are competing for his attention.

Tesarsch grew up happily among the apple orchards of Doncaster in suburban Melbourne. His German father had come to Australia in 1950 and became a successful small businessman. But he lost his retirement savings in the 1990 collapse of the Pyramid Building Society and died at 64 from motor neuron disease. Tesarsch’s Australian-born mother – possibly related to a Dane who brought the first elephant to Gippsland – died of cancer at 74.

“It was very traumatic in both cases,” Tesarsch says. However, his parents’ straightforward wills caused no fights. Tesarsch is close to his older brother, who is also a lawyer, and he recalls, “The last thing my mother said to me in hospital when she passed away was, ‘You’ve been wonderful boys. I love you both the same.’ “

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Running hot – the Australian taking 3D printing from the lab to the factory

Engineer Michael Fuller shows off the 3D printed heat exchanger he has developed for Formula One teams. Photo: Wayne TaylorWhat Michael Fuller pulls from his briefcase looks like a small piece of plumbing – like something that catches hairballs – but it may well represent a levelling of the playing field in manufacturing.
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“Because it costs the same to make here as it does in China,” he says.

Fuller’s gizmo is a heat exchanger – a device that is found in fridges, air-conditioners, power stations and, in this case, cars – and a product of 3D printing. Its internal geometry is so complex it can’t be made any other way. It’s half the weight of similar devices, significantly more efficient – and already has Silicon Valley venture capitalists keen to know more. Why?

Because the heat exchanger industry will be reportedly worth $20 billion within the next five years. So there’s that. Kerching.

For Fuller, 39, an engineer, the heat exchanger is merely “a conduit … to the bigger vision” of taking 3D printing out of the laboratory and into production. “There is this advanced manufacturing utopia we talk about, where we transition from a high labour quotient to a more productive one,” he says.

3D printing, or metal additive manufacturing, will be part of utopia, albeit as a cottage industry. “As we move to producing, say, 2000 of these a year, the price point drops to where the product is competitive.”

Fairfax Media spoke to Fuller on the eve of him leaving for Britain , to talk to former colleagues in the Formula One racing industry. His plan is to have a team bolt his heat exchanger into a high-performance car, create a bit of PR dazzle and move on from there.

The move is no less audacious than how Fuller became an engineer in the first place. He was 12 years old, racing go-karts, and telling everyone who asked that he wanted to build racing cars when he grew up. At that time the Australian Grand Prix was run in Adelaide and the family made an annual pilgrimage to see the race.

“I was a mad fan,” he says.

There were no doubt many young boys being condescended to as they voiced their racing dreams. But Fuller’s father, who was always working on car engines in the home garage – “one of my early memories is him dropping a gearbox on my hand” – took young Michael seriously. He said it was time to write letters to Formula One teams and ask their advice.

“So I write, ‘I’m 13 years old living in Australia. How can I work for you?’ Some of the teams wrote back,” he says. “One in particular laid it out: this is what you need to do.”

He needed to become a mechanic or an engineer and then volunteer to help out with race teams. Fuller found he was “too cerebral” to be a mechanic, and did a mechanical engineering degree. He then spent a year on the hyper-masculine V8 touring circuit. “It was character building,” he says. “There was an anti-engineering bias. They’d call them boffins.”

At the end of that year, 2000, literally on the day of the season’s last race, Fuller flew to Britain to break into European motorsport. At the end of his first week he was juggling three job offers. By 2008, he was working for BMW’s Formula One team in Switzerland, when word came that his father had brain cancer. Fuller returned to Melbourne, spent a terrible 14 months watching his father die, lost his brother soon after in a motorbike accident – and lost too his passion for Formula One.

He turned his focus into starting up Conflux Technology, and last year began work on his heat exchanger. Word of the project has been relatively quiet. But an interview with a technology website was spotted by Marc Andreessen, the US nerd who who coded the first web browser and co-founded Netscape.

Within 12 hours of Andreessen tweeting the link to the story, Fuller was approached by venture capital companies who have invited him to talk at a Silicon Valley conference in October.

Fuller wants to change the world. Already, the boffins – the new world’s true leaders – are wondering if maybe he’s already done it.

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Liverpool Council upsets Orthodox community by leaving pork off the menu for interfaith lunch

Macedonian community member Alex Dzepovski with a plate of traditional grilled meat and pork dish at the Europe Grill Macedonian restaurant in Newtown. Photo: Peter Rae Macedonian community member Alex Dzepovski with a plate of traditional grilled meat and pork dish at the Europe Grill Macedonian restaurant in Newtown. Photo: Peter Rae
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Macedonian community member Alex Dzepovski with a plate of traditional grilled meat and pork dish at the Europe Grill Macedonian restaurant in Newtown. Photo: Peter Rae

Macedonian community member Alex Dzepovski with a plate of traditional grilled meat and pork dish at the Europe Grill Macedonian restaurant in Newtown. Photo: Peter Rae

They were trying to be respectful and cater to all faiths when they decided on the menu for Liverpool Council’s first Christian Orthodox Interfaith lunch.

But instead of a delicious spread that would be palatable to all, a scandal has erupted that has become known locally as “porkgate” and it has the councillors and community members scrambling to defuse the furore.

It was what was not included on the menu’s menu for lunch next Sunday – pork – that has upset members of the Orthodox Macedonian community.

As the luncheon was being hosted on behalf of the Orthodox community, they wanted to eat and share their traditional dishes and that, according to author and musician Alex Dzepovski, includes pork.

Mr Dzepovski said pork is special to the Macedonian community and in historical terms played a large part in their lives under Ottoman rule. To some members of the community it had become a symbol of their survival as pork was their main meat staple for hundreds of years.

So when it was left off the menu for the Liverpool Council lunch it sparked complaints and an article in the online newsite Falanga上海夜网m.au which complained about the “discriminatory policy of the Municipality of Liverpool”.

A translation of the article said that the council was discriminating against Orthodox people (including Macedonian, Serbian, Russian and Greek Orthodox), due to the council’s current Islamic leadership.

But the office of Liverpool mayor Ned Mannoun​ has said he has no problem with pork or alcohol being served at the luncheon.

When questioned why pork was off the menu, a council spokeswoman had said that “to serve pork at such a lunch would mean that none of the Muslims in attendance could eat ANY of the food served from the kitchen where all the food is prepared. Apparently pork contaminates the food area and therefore would be insulting to our Muslim guests (or Jewish) and be completely at odds with the entire point of an interfaith lunch where we are trying to bring together people of different faiths.”

Liverpool councillor Peter Ristevski​ had foreshadowed a motion for a council meeting on Wednesday night pushing for the lunch budget to be increased so the menu can be expanded to include a traditional pork dish as a menu choice.

But a spokeswoman for the council told Fairfax Media they had relented and they would now give guests the options of pork, chicken and beef.

Two options were usually served at council functions and “because Muslims, Hindu and Jewish people don’t eat pork, we don’t normally serve it”, she said.

“This is the protocol at most levels of government for multicultural events … Council holds a large number of functions and events throughout the year and this is the first time we’ve received a complaint about the menu,” she said.

More than 14 different faiths would be represented at the lunch, she said.

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Get out of town: Check out these homes in Merimbula, Bangalow, Newcastle and Thredbo

5 Patrick Court, Merimbula has great views. Photo: Kit Goldsworthy 1 Rifle Range Road, Bangalow has undergone extensive renovations. Photo: domain上海夜网m.au
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41 Corlette Street, Newcastle is at the end of a row of terraces. Photo: Karly Silvello

3 Crackenback Drive, Thredbo is close to the skifields. Photo: domain上海夜网m.au

Merimbula 5 Patrick Court


4 bed 2 bath 3 car

Views over Merimbula Lake, Bar Beach and as far south as Pambula Beach are the drawcard of this contemporary, architect-designed house. Glass walls in the living space and master bedroom maximise the water views by day and Merimbula below twinkles at night. Open-plan living, a gourmet kitchen, spotted gum floors and double glazing complete the picture, along with low-maintenance gardens and a 5000L rainwater tank.

Agent Merimbula Realty, 0409 139 546


1 Rifle Range Road

$2.85 million

5 bed 3 bath 2 car

This stylish home has come a long way from its 1903 beginnings and still retains character. A major rebuild has turned it into a light-filled modern house with a multiple-use open living space, large entertaining deck, swimming pool and a self-contained studio. The marble-wrapped kitchen has a walk-in pantry and the main bedroom has a buiIt-in four-poster bed, en suite and dressing room.

Agent Unique Estates, 0411 144 877


41 Corlette Street

$570,000 +

2 bed 1 bath 0 car

Sitting at the end of a row of terraces, this renovated c1900 house is close to cafes, shops and within walking distance of beaches. Set over two levels, the living and dining rooms (both with working fireplaces) are downstairs with the kitchen and a powder room, while the bedrooms and bathroom are upstairs. A rear courtyard has shed and pedestrian access.

Agent PRDnationwide Newcastle, 4926 0600

Auction August 12


3 Crackenback Drive

$1.59 million

3 bed 3 bath 2 car

Lightning is the name of this three-level duplex, and possibly the speed at which you’ll hit the slopes from here. It has a dual-key studio with kitchen, three living areas, a designer kitchen, living room terrace and four covered balconies. All-important drying/laundry space is in the double garage, and it’s a short level walk to the nearest run to the Valley Terminal.

Agent Mountain High RE, 0408 273 958

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GST debate explained: why the Abbott government’s talking about a tax rise no one wants

Where’s the money coming from? Australia faces a growing gulf between revenue and expenditure. Photo: James DaviesWe’ve been told we’re heading for ever-growing deficits. Is the problem with revenue or expenditure?
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Both. As a number of leading economists have said, Australia doesn’t only have a spending problem. It also has a revenue problem.

That’s because revenue that comes mainly from taxes – such as company tax – is falling as the mining boom ends and iron ore prices take a hit.

There’s greater economic uncertainty – both locally in terms of how strongly jobs will grow – and overseas with uncertainty in China and Europe.

At the same time as incoming revenue is falling, government spending on areas such as health, education, welfare and defence is rising.

Leading economist Saul Eslake has said that: “The problem we have is a long-term mismatch between what people expect government to spend on them and what they’re willing to pay in taxes.”

How much will increasing the GST to 15% raise? 

KPMG did economic modelling for CPA Australia that showed increasing the GST rate from 10 to 15 per cent leads to additional GST revenues of more than $20 billion a year.

But how much money is raised depends on whether there’s associated compensation.

Preliminary modelling that NSW Premier Mike Baird presented at this week’s COAG retreat said that lifting the GST – without broadening its base to include food and education – would raise an extra $36 billion by 2020.

And what about compensation for low-income earners?

There’s also been talk of using money that would come from a GST rise to abolish a number of inefficient state taxes, hand down personal income tax cuts, and/or provide compensation.

Mr Baird says if the GST goes up to 15 per cent households on less than $100,000 a year should be compensated.

But NATSEM’s Ben Phillips has said, if compensation’s introduced for households earning up to $100,000, “you would be compensating most households and not getting much in net terms”.

Mr Baird says after households earning below $100,000 are fully compensated for the rise, and those earning between $100,000 and $155,000 receive back half the increase, the revenue boost would be about $18 billion.

This would still fall billions of dollars short of the revenue that modelling suggests is needed to cover escalating national healthcare costs.

Is 15% high on a global scale? 

Australia’s 10 per cent GST rate – which hasn’t changed since its introduction by the Howard government in 2000 – is now half the average of the developed world, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The OECD average rate is 19.5 per cent, and it says there is scope to lift the GST rate and broaden the base to bring Australia into line with other countries.

The New Zealand government in 2010 increased its GST rate from 12.5 per cent to 15 per cent.

Nordic countries, including Denmark, Hungary, Norway, Iceland, Finland and Sweden have some of the highest value-added tax (another term for GST) rates internationally at or near 25 per cent.

Is there a plan to broaden the GST? 

The federal government’s tax white paper is examining an increase to the GST as part of a broader tax reform agenda.

Treasurer Joe Hockey has said that any changes to the GST need to be supported by the states, as they will be the beneficiaries.

While Mr Baird is supportive of increasing the rate, other state premiers – who went to state elections promising no GST change – have said they will not support an increase in the rate or broadening of the base.

Queensland and Victoria are instead advocating a 2 percentage point rise in the Medicare levy (the levy was already increased from 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent last year to pay for the National Disability Insurance Scheme).

This would mean the levy hits 4 per cent, and would push the highest marginal tax rate to 51 per cent.

It seems like the Abbott government is pushing this discussion by removing funding from health and education. Is that correct?

The states face a long-term funding shortfall as our population grows and there’s greater demand for public health and education services.

In last year’s budget the Commonwealth withdrew $80 billion in long-term funding, leaving the states unable to fund the increased demand for such services.

The recent leaders’ retreat was aimed at discussing where they can go to now.

Is there a politically palatable way to raise taxes?

The Abbott government has not yet sold the case for tax reform, and unfortunately what makes economic sense does not always make political sense.

The problem with the GST is it is considered a regressive tax. The lower your income, the higher the percentage of that income that is spent on the goods and services covered by the tax.

That means that any reform needs to be associated with compensation, and or lower personal taxes. But then as stated, there’s less revenue coming in.

Business and community stakeholders in the tax debate have said it is important that the federal government looks at the tax system as a whole, and not cherry-pick.

Rather than just increasing the GST, the government could also look at thesacred cow tax breaks – billions of dollars going to superannuation concessions and negative gearing that primarily benefit the rich. Mr Hockey and Prime Minister Tony Abbott have ruled out doing so.

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Portable and inflatable pools: experts consider the dangers

Peta Ryder of Southgate and her son Hugh enjoy the winter sun in Grafton on Saturday. Photo: Simon Hughes Three-year-old Hugh Ryder enjoys the warm weather in Grafton on Saturday with Eden Hiatt, aged two. Photo: Simon Hughes
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Comment: Carefree attitudes

Inflatable and portable children’s pools may be required to be sold with compulsory fencing to prevent backyard drownings, with some experts even floating the idea of a ban.

A draft paper by a Westmead Children’s Hospital pool safety group warns portable pools are “more dangerous than permanent pools” because many parents perceive them as less risky.

“The injury to young children caused by unfenced portable pools is too great a price to pay,” said a draft report by the swimming pool safety working group.

In addition to fencing and more public education, it also suggested a ban as another way of preventing drownings and near-drownings in the 110,000 portable pools sold annually.

The chair of the group, Professor Danny Cass, ruled out a ban on Saturday.

He described the paper obtained by Fairfax Media as a “draft of a draft”. It was mistakenly circulated to the swimming pool industry last week.

The finished paper will form part of the hospital’s submission to a major review of pool fencing being conducted by former Treasury secretary Michael Lambert.

Professor Cass said his experience was that working with industry on previous safety issues like baby walkers, trampolines and skateboards had avoided the need for regulation.

Professor Cass, who is the director of trauma at the hospital, envisaged the preferred option would be requiring portable pools to be sold with a fence, something similar to the inbuilt fencing that now surrounds trampolines.

“There is nothing that engineering can’t fix,” he said.

The draft discussion paper estimated that there are as many as 10 incidents classified as “non-fatal drownings” in portable pools a year. Health experts in the United States had noted a rise of drownings and near-drownings in unfenced portable pools of as much as 25 per cent.

Because of increased awareness of the risks associated with non-fatal drowning, more parents and ambulances were sending children who had suffered a non-fatal drowning to hospital for treatment.

Professor Cass said only 5 per cent of these children would suffer permanent and serious injury. The hospital was also beginning to track children who appeared to have fully recovered after the incident. In some cases, these children had minor concentration and behavioural problems that the hospital was studying.

Under existing pool guidelines, all pools that are capable of being filled with more than 300 millimetres of water (about the depth of the average ruler) must be surrounded by a four-sided fence, with a height of 1.2 metres above the ground. Yet many parents are unaware that portable pools also need fencing.

Professor Peter Middleton, the chair of the NSW Branch of the  Australian Resuscitation Council, said the problem with many portable and inflatable pools was that they had low sides, making them easy for kids to access.

“These pools are real danger, and we wouldn’t leave kids in a full bath of water by themselves, or even in the same room, but some parents leave them in a bath full of water in the garden.”

He said the fatality statistics hide a problem: the children who don’t die from drowning but who are left with brain damage.

Brian Owler, the president of the Australian Medical Association, said parents often had a false sense of security with portable pools because they were so easy to buy.

“People think it is just a portable pool, kids can’t drown in them, and people don’t pay as much attention as they do to properly installed pools,” said Dr Owler.

The head of the Swimming Pool and Spa Association of NSW, Spiros Dassakis – a member of the working party – declined to comment until his organisation had finalised a response.

Professor Cass said nothing should overshadow the primary safety messages, which was “supervision, supervision and supervision”, the need for a gate and the importance of CPR.

He estimated that of all drownings, including those that were non-fatal, as many as half were caused by a lack of parental supervision.

Professor Cass suggested a slip-and-slide might be a safer and healthier way to cool off next summer.

“Everyone is starting to come on board, and realise that maybe a bit of plastic and a hose, and have the kids slide along, might be a little better than a plastic thing that gets algae and causes middle-ear infections or worse.”

Read More …