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Month: April 2018

Residents oppose TAFE sale

Residents oppose TAFE sale

THE Baillieu government is facing calls to halt the multimillion-dollar sale of a TAFE site near Richmond and instead use it to establish a boys’ high school.
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The large block that houses the Kangan Institute in Cremorne was put on the market late last month after training at the site was transferred to a new centre in Docklands.

Local residents say the site would be ideal for a badly needed boys’ high school in the area, while local MP Richard Wynne said the sale showed the government ranked privatisation above helping local communities.

He said the government was ignoring a shift in demographic trends that showed families were increasingly settling in the inner city.

However, the government has said the sale will proceed because a high school is not needed in the area.

Richmond High School was closed in 1992 by the Kennett government as part of its massive cuts to public services to fix Victoria’s tattered economy.

The site was used to establish Melbourne Girls College in 1994, meaning Richmond families send their boys to suburbs such as Camberwell or Kew to educate them in a government secondary school.

The education facilities already at the Kangan site, which is expected to fetch about $8 million for the government, and public transport accessibility mean residents say it is an obvious choice for a new school.

Cremorne resident Alexandra Davine, who has a twin eight-year-old son and daughter, said Collingwood College was an option but traffic congestion made it difficult for local families to get to. She said she would like her children to attend the same school but this was unlikely because her daughter would probably go to Melbourne Girls College.

She said the local population was booming but the government was selling a potentially excellent school site.

”A government education should be available to all, in reasonable proximity to their homes and be safe to get to.”

The population of the Richmond, Cremorne and Burnley area grew by more than 6 per cent to 26,000 in the five years to 2011.

Justin Naylor from the Richmond High School Choices action group said there was increasing pressure on the government to deliver a new school. He said the government must conduct an independent study to ensure the Kangan site would not be an appropriate site for a new school before selling off a public asset that it may have to replace in the near future.

A spokesman for Education Minister Martin Dixon said future enrolment predictions for the Richmond area showed a new secondary school was not needed, but growth in the area would be monitored.

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

Finance control for state courts

Finance control for state courts

VICTORIA’S courts are expected to have greater control over their own finances from today after the Baillieu government put in place the first phase of the long-awaited Courts Executive Service.
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The changes, promised days before the 2010 state election, come just weeks after the state’s top judge, Chief Justice Marilyn Warren, slammed state bureaucrats’ relentless focus on financial targets and ”inappropriate” productivity goals, saying they had relegated the courts to little more than ”a car factory”.

Asked if he agreed with the judge’s comments, Attorney-General Robert Clark said Chief Justice Warren ”is making a very similar point to what I have been making, that the courts need to have more control over their own activities and that would be greatly strengthened if they have direct control over the administrative services that support the courts”.

The changes that come into effect today were promised by the then opposition Liberal-National Party coalition just before the November 2010 election.

Until now, courts have been in direct competition for funds with other areas administered by the Justice Department, such as police and Corrections, leading to criticism by the state’s top judges that the courts are constantly overlooked in their requests for adequate funding and services.

The changes give the courts more autonomy by ensuring funds earmarked for the courts are channelled via a dedicated unit, to be known for now as the Courts and Tribunals Service and which will become the Courts Executive Service.

The CES will have a board comprising the state’s top judges, and the judges – not the attorney-general – will appoint the chief executive.

Mr Clark said while the CES would be a ”freestanding, virtually autonomous” unit within the Justice Department, it would not have power to change the total amount earmarked for each court by the government.

The changes come one year after a steering committee, led by the former Federal Court chief justice, Michael Black, QC, handed the government its final structural recommendations.

Talks are continuing between the government and the state’s top judges on the final detail, including the CES legislation.

Mr Clark said the government wanted to bed down the CES administrative structure now, before the legislation was drafted, so that the state’s top judges could see if it would work properly and propose changes if needed.

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

Boer War families receive anniversary honour

Boer War families receive anniversary honour

The Reserve Forces Day Parade at the Shrine of Remembrance marks the 110th anniversary of the end of the Boer War. Wendy Baden-Powell, granddaughter of Lord Baden-Powell, says she is very proud of her grandfather.
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IT WAS 110 years ago when Australian Light Horse Sergeant Ralph McCracken stood in a guard of soldiers to witness the shooting execution of convicted war criminal and folk hero Harry ”Breaker” Morant.

The story of ”The Breaker” lives on in McCracken’s daughter, aged 90, who yesterday withstood rain and cool weather to receive a medallion at the Reserve Forces Day Parade.

”Dad always swore blind that Morant and [Peter] Handcock were innocent,” Ethel Burridge, of Pakenham, said.

”And he always reckoned that Australians were better soldiers than the British.

”There’s not too many of us alive who can say that our fathers fought in the Boer War.”

Ms Burridge cried as she remembered her father, who sailed for South Africa on the SS Medic with the first Victorian contingent of men and horses.

It was the first time a regiment was formed for active service out of the Australian colonies.

She was supported by her daughter Margaret and son Graham, who carried his grandfather’s medals.

They were among 90 descendants presented with Boer War Dependant Medallions at the Shrine of Remembrance to mark the 110th anniversary of the end of the war.

Also among those honoured was the granddaughter of Lord Baden-Powell, a lieutenant-general in the British Army known as the Defender of Mafeking. He went on to found the global Scouts and Guides movement.

Wendy Baden-Powell, of Camberwell, said she moved to Melbourne from England in 1983, with her mother and brother, and was keenly involved with the Guides.

”It was very special for me today and I’m very, very proud of what my grandfather did,” she said.

”He played a very big part in the Boer War, which was really the Gallipoli of its day because thousands died,” she said.

”Many people came up to me today and said I’m very proud of your grandfather, he did a lot for me.”

About 16,000 troops from the Australian colonies fought for the British Empire in the Boer War, mostly in mounted units, according to the Australian War Memorial.

Colonial troops were typically bushmen, who were valued for their ability to “shoot and ride”.

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

Lygon Street misses pizza festival action

Lygon Street misses pizza festival action

LYGON Street can rely on soccer fans to go nuts with flares when Italy wins or loses a match but its pizzerias have already lost out in the inaugural Melbourne Pizza Festival after being excluded from the top 12. There is also no D.O.C. in Faraday Street, Carlton, the trail-blazing eatery of Tony Nicolini, or Rita Macali’s Supermaxi in Fitzroy North, but that has more to do with them wanting to stand alone and not be judged in a competition. Festival creator Matteo Rubbettino approached restaurants to sign up and contribute some dough (the dollar variety) for the chance to be numero uno. The entrants are +39 in the CBD, I Carusi in Brunswick East, Ladro in Fitzroy and Prahran, Pizzeria Amici in Heidelberg, Non Solo Pasta in Docklands, La Svolta in Hampton, Pizza e Birra in St Kilda, Mamma Vittoria’s in Fitzroy, Pizza Meine Liebe in Northcote, Woodstock in Carlton North, 400 Gradi in Brunswick East and Il Borgo in Camberwell. Rubbettino chose the restaurants based on their ”commitment to authenticity” and understanding of the pizza ”philosophy”. This means the less is more approach and no matchstick-style ham co-mingling with pineapple. Melburnians are invited to get munching from July 9 and the winner will be announced at the La Dolce Italia expo on August 12 at the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton. It’s near the Lygon Street pizzerias that won’t be receiving a gong.
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Under Nick’s underBRACKS

UNDERWEAR entrepreneur Nick Bracks will gird his loins for a chilly morning run, hoping not to look too conspicuous in pink boxer shorts from his underBRACKS label and nothing else, apart from socks and runners. The son of former premier Steve Bracks signed up for The Age’s Run Melbourne on July 15 and will pound the pavement in the 10-kilometre event with friend Adam Rabone, a model. To combat the glacial air, Nick will wear a pair of undies under the boxers. ”Or some padding,” he said. Preferably thermal. He chose pink because he’s supporting the Breast Cancer Network Australia, the organisation of which mum Terry is deputy chair. Retired hurdler Jana Pittman will be chatting to entrants and while they are free to tweet shots of Nick’s boxers, they should consider her tough-love approach to Olympians who tweet: ”You’re there to do a job, so suck it up and get the job done and come home and play on Twitter as much as you want.”

The knockout Eagle has landed

NOT all of us have several slashes in our title, such as model/waterskier/boxer/one-time Celebrity Apprentice contestant Lauryn Eagle. The athlete is readying her fists for a Friday the 13th boxing match against Natasha “The Nightmare” Spence in the Women’s World Boxing Foundation super featherweight title at the Melbourne Pavilion in Flemington. To ensure black Friday is not such a nightmare, Eagle has trained with bantamweight pro Susie ”Q” Ramadan. Eagle will bring her knockout look to the Fashion Aid gala at Crown in September as co-host with model Laura Dundovic. Event director Emma Rombotis has enlisted her glamour friends as stylists, one of them being Fiona Gatto, the daughter-in-law of a certain Carlton identity who threw punches during his time in the ring. Fiona, who’s married to Damian Gatto, lent her fashionista touch to style model Silvana Lovin for the official Fashion Aid photo. Expect more femme fatale knockouts on the night.

Digging deep into the subtext

LITERARY savants gather for the Melbourne Writers Festival from August 23 but before that, there’s the ”underground” Bendigo Writers Festival. Keynote speaker Ita Buttrose will be above ground at the Capital Theatre on August 11 but another session is 61 metres below ground in the Central Deborah Gold Mine’s function room that caters for weddings, parties and bookworms. In the touted ”world first”, festival chairman Rod Fyffe hosts ”Deep and Meaningful: readings down the mine” with hard hats provided for the descent.

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

Arson squad investigates Kimberley burns death

Arson squad investigates Kimberley burns death

Arson squad officers have flown from Perth to the Kimberley this morning to investigate the burns-related death of a 57-year-old Padbury man.
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The man was camping with his 64-year-old brother-in-law at Telegraph Pool on the Fitroy River and was sleeping in a roof-top tent with an awning attached to his ute.

His brother-in-law, who was sleeping in a tent nearby was awoken early on Sunday morning by shouts from the man and found him with extensive injuries.

The man was taken to Derby Hospital but was pronounced dead on Sunday morning.

The arson squad officers will attend the scene with local detectives tomorrow morning as a matter of procedure.

Follow WAtoday on Twitter @WAtoday

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

Brad and Lara win on a night of bizarre bidding on The Block

Brad and Lara win on a night of bizarre bidding on The Block

Brad Cranfield and Lara Welham, winners of The Block.The Block contestants, Brad and Lara.
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Brad and Lara’s bathroom on The Block

Brad and Lara’s bedroom

Brad and Lara’s hallway.

Brad and Lara’s Master Bedroom.

Brad and Lara’s “cool” laundry.

Brad and Lara’s second bedroom.

The Block, the Grand Finale … the helicopter hat.

Wow, it’s the finale approximately two million official Australians, plus the countless others watching bars and live sites around the country (oh wait, I think I’ve misunderstood the term Block Party) have all been waiting for, and to start we get a close-up of a helicopter hat. That and Scotty Cam’s intellectual summary will leave no one wondering, this certainly is real estate renovation for the lowest common denominator.

The show starts with a brief summary of what we’re about to see, like a For Sale sign right outside the front door of this episode – “One up, three down” it might read, “renovator voyeur’s delight”.

The Block bobble head opening titles kick in and we journey back in time to the night before the Block’s open for inspection as the neighbours are invited in for a look and an opportunity to sign a waiver stating they won’t complain about the hordes of Block-heads set to descend on their street tomorrow.

One of the neighbours, Maria, tells us of how her father bought the Sophie and Dale’s house 45 years ago only to sell long before Nine paid through the nose for four run down dumps. Oddly she wishes she still owned them, so that she could have received some of Nine’s nose money.

Justine who lives right next door to the Block assures us that everyone who worked on the site was amazing, and polite, and now having spontaneously and voluntarily informed us of this she is heading off on a Getaway trip around the world that she won by complete coincidence last week.

It’s the next morning and the street is blocked off, possibly by the council, possibly just by the sheer quantity of sponsors tents, cars and detritus that is blocking the road.

Sophie and Dale’s real estate agents have concluded wisely that it is likely to be younger people interested in their home, so they’ve taken to this new found gadget “teh interwebs” to promote the house. On the site they interviewed tradesman who are willing to attest that some of the renovations on Dale and Sophie’s house are sound / cheap to fix / easy to remove. Dale and Sophie’s For Sale sign also states I Can Haz Cheezburger? because that’s how they roll.

Then Dale and Sophie head out to meet the crowds, wearing sunglasses because they are famous now. The other couples come out to meet the fans, except for Dan and Dani who mistakenly walk out into their back yard and try to see what is happening from there. Dani has a good idea though, what if they went out the front to where the crowds are? They could see a lot more AND be yelled at too, not that they’ve been cast as the villains of the piece or anything, though one production assistant does hand Dan a waxed moustache and Dani an actual witch’s hat on the way out.

Scotty complies with the standard council terms and conditions and gives the mayor some free publicity … sorry screen time. Then the thousands of Melbournians who believe a game between Collingwood and Essendon is happening in the backyard flock inside. Their disappointment has only just begun.

Dale and Sophie’s house gets the first up close inspection. A montage of clips show their kookiness as well as their improvement over the course of the series from inept amateurs to quite ept amateurs.

And now a meander down memory lane with Dale and Brad’s bromance, including hand holding, couples skateboarding and the ever famous MasterSex moment. If only the producers had invested in a The Block After Hours late night series so we could really see how these boys handled their tools.

Dale and Sophie reminisce that “it” has definitely improved their relationship, though it is unclear if “it” is competing in The Block or if “it” is getting away from the place, getting some sleep and obtaining a restraining order on Brad.

Thousands (ok tens) of people are then seen trampling, ogling and deflowering the house, before the extraordinary revelation that kids love Sophie and Dale’s house, in which every room was designed with a care-free kid-inspired touch with kids in mind. Extraordinary. A collective of parents quietly approach the producers to see if they could all chip in 10% of the purchase price and just move their kids in, with the cameras left in place to act as babsysitters. As the producers mull over the possibilities of The Block Junior meets Big Nanny we go to an ad as a member of the Victorian constabulary chooses to mock-arrest Dale so she can get into mock-trouble when she gets back to see her mock-superiors.

It’s time for the brothers time in the montage-light; Mike and Andrew, the only pair to have obtained matching sponsored hoodies. Their house is inspected by the die-hard Block fans who want to touch, operate and write on everything, before every girl who walks on to the roof spontaneously tells the camera that the cushions could be arranged differently in response to the question from the unseen producer “Would you do the cushions differently? Or do you have no taste?”

Flash back time, with a montage of zero sleep room reveal days, chump hats and styling dags – concluded by the boys telling us that they wouldn’t change a thing about the house, nothing at all, except the styling. Then we see how the experience has brought the boys together and how they’ve really synched up, so much so that Mike’s offer of a high five is instantly reciprocated by Andrew’s proffered hand for shaking. Just before the next ad, the boy’s real estate agent reveals that two buyers have registered interest in buying the house. Two whole couples. Enough for a feverish mad minute of bidding later. The ratio of two from a 20,000 crowd really builds a sense of imminent success.

Brad and Lara are up next and Lara is giving a talk to a pre-school class who may have misunderstood what sort of Blocks were being discussed. Then the montage proves they are a couple very much in love and very much abysmal at styling, before Lara proves to be a woman of tears and tremendous work ethic, able to build a deck and shed a tear. She is the perfect modern man – in female form.

Brad then reveals that he won’t be proposing at the auction night finale, mostly to avoid any heated jealousy from Dale. We don’t hear anything about what the lucky few who inspected Brad and Lara’s house thought of it, probably because it was their nap time.

Back outside, the crowd is getting restless as they realise they’re not going to get in, so they take part in the world’s first relationship counselling flash mob, with thousands of people offering to donate a spine to Dan. Dani tells him he’s not allowed one though so once again the hoard is disappointed.

Once the few select fans are allowed in, it comes as little surprise to discover that the sheer craziest of Block fans really love Dan and Dani. One fan tells us he travelled from the Gold Coast with his sons to visit the set of the “Dan and Dani Show”, while another tells us she actually won the first room because some time in the early 80s she lived in this room, or at least in a room, somewhere. She also won Gold at the Olympics because she visited Homebush in 2003.

A montage of Dan and Dani reveals that they fight a lot, however that wasn’t their fault, it is the fault of the restrictions and resentment cast upon them after they cheated, which was … well their fault. Also we learn that Dan is hairy, Dani is a grammar nazi and even edited very tightly Dan and Dani have spent hours and hours just yelling at each other.

We follow that up with a montage of real estate agents talking to their clients and it is very revealing, as the agents break stereotype entirely by telling their clients exactly what they want to hear based on events, opinions and facts that have mysteriously managed to evade being accurately recorded by the multiple cameras that have never left the premises. The montage has to be quick though as none of the agents are willing to demonstrate their hypnosis techniques on air for fear the people at home may accidentally sell their homes in the ad break.

It’s time for the reserve price reveal, with the all important numbers in being delivered by an armoured car, which makes sense to … someone presumably. Someone who doesn’t understand how reserve prices work and assumes they are traditionally expressed as piles of cash. Or someone who would love to see an impressive action film where a complicated plot sees eleven mastermind criminals contriver and counter-contrive to swindle a billionaire out of four empty suitcases containing numbers printed on sheets of plastic. I just hope they registered the script idea before this went to air, I mean if they’re willing to make Battleship imagine the studios jumping at Numbers In A Case.

Dan and Dani tell us they hope their reserve is a million because they’re sure their house will go for $1.1 or 1.2 million, and if the reserve is high they think they’ve got a good chance of winning, which demonstrates a profound understanding of the rules of The Block and the concept of subtraction.

Comedy antics (TM) then occur as Scotty deliberates over whose reserve to reveal the reserves:

MIKE AND ANDREW: $970,000 (less $4,000) = $966,000 DALE AND SOPHIE: $985,000 (less $10,000) = $975,000 DAN AND DANI: $1,000,000 (less $8,000) = $992,00 BRAND AND LARA: $1,120,000 (less $6,000) = 1,114,000

Then after a brief chump pun, Scotty suggest the teams work out between themselves the auction order and the teams meander off trying to work out what difference it can possibly make, given that the registered bidder system makes it unlikely that any one bidder is even able to bid on multiple houses even if they wanted to. Still, perhaps there’ll be a spontaneous argument between the couples, or a manufactured one. Either way is good TV, right?

Negotiations get off to an awkward start as the couples all go into their own homes, refusing to even relinquish home ground advantage in this vital and utterly meaningless question.

Lured by the offer of some aggression inspiring anti-pasto, the teams come together allowing Dan and Dani reveal a cunning plan. While no one wants first or fourth, they, with their bang-in-the-middle reserve price, suggest the order go highest to lowest reserve or lowest to highest. Gosh. How generous! After an hour of equally inspired strategising that would leave Baldrick scratching his turnip in jealousy, Scotty arrives with the sorting hat, which tells them they’re all muggles and places them into the following order:

Brad and Lara Dan and Dani Dale and Sophie Andrew and Michael

The teams then gather in front of another crowd, on some other day, just around the corner, to be cheered and celebrated … and in one case rewarded with a car. The contestants given the Best Sports on the Block award by the home viewers are Brad and Lara, while Scotty is awarded the Leg of Ham award for terribly unconvincing disappointment at handing over of “his car”.

Brad and Lara’s real estate agent then participates in Agent Stereotype #2 by suddenly changing his tune on the day of auction, lowering expectations and insisting that the auction order is awful, that the weather isn’t right and that the team should accept any offer they can get. It is then pointed out that the teams actually have no role in accepting bids or lowering reserves, which leaves the agent feeling redundant in this whole exercise. Imagine that.

We return from the ad break to the strains of the Eurovision winning entry, just to emphasise the important, serious and entirely unrigged nature of this competition. The couples appear relatively calm, however Scotty and Shelley do their best to wind them up, leading to the shocking revelation that the youngest couple, Dale and Sophie have never sold a house at auction before and that Brad and Lara are, wait for it, anxious to find out the result. This is the stuff of Logies people.

The auctioneer unravels his usual banter with a side of patter and launches the auction asking for $50,000 bids from the starting point of $1 million and it soon rockets to $1.2 million before we have our first TV Auction moment when he reveals we are “probably maybe on the market”. A new entrant comes in at $1.3 million and as it moves to $1.34 million Brad makes mention of his sheet full of holes and the auctioneer reveals the house is now totally and utterly on the market, which is good because houses with a bit each way just confuse everyone.

At $1.36 million Brad and Lara move to take the record profit margin in Block history and by the time the bidding reaches $1.4 million Dani hopes “this happens for everyone” while crossing her fingers that everyone doesn’t actually include the other couples, and the editors furious cutting requires an ad break to prevent a national epilepsy incident.

After the break the bidding races to $1.52 million at which point Lara expresses her disbelief as to whether “this is real or not” before being crash tackled by contract waving producers. The profit margin of $406,000 has the pair feeling happy with their time spent.

As group hysteria kicks in the bidding reaches $1.6 million. The auctioneer then tries a perverse tactic of saying he “knows how much they paid for it and how much they paid for the renovations and it’s still below cost” at which point the room is stunned into silence as people wonder if he knows this whole renovation process was televised and know exactly how big a lie that is.

Finally the property is sold for $1.62 million, giving the couple a $506,000 in profit, which is the block of land in Maitland they’ve always dreamed of. Dani is reduced to tears of genuine joy for Brad and Lara who point out that what they hoped would provide a deposit has instead provided an entire purchase price, that went up in increments of “my yearly wage” for Lara or “advertising units in this finale” for the network.

As the second house goes to auction, Dan and Dani sit down to freak out while the other three couples break out the champagne. Dan and Dani are told they need $1.498 million to win and Scotty points out a genuine buyer who was in the previous auction and who puts paid to my theory that the order doesn’t matter. The drama of the moment then evaporates as the opening bid of $1.22 million from another repeat-bidder kicks Dan and Dani straight into profit, Dani into hyperventilation and the show into another ad break featuring a truly surreal ad for Farmer Wants A Wife.

Our auctioneer reveals himself to be a man with a different style, throwing order and the ability to follow what is happening out the window and endeavouring to wrap the auction up quickly by threatening to end it every second breath. He takes the bids in $10,000 instalments which rotate around the room rapidly until we reach $1.44 million from the tall guy at the back who lives next door. Having learnt his property skills playing Monopoly he’s quietly assuming he can build a big red hotel here if he gets two more houses.

That leaves Dan and Dani with a final profit of $448,000 and the previously incredibly competitive pair wash down the acid of not winning with their near half a million pay day. Dan then tells us how the experience drew them together and that the cash is just a bonus and we realise she was swapped out for a double by producers after the whole “is this real?” gaffe.

As we prepare for Auction #3, Brad and Lara predict that Sophie will be losing it, before Scotty asks Sophie how she’s doing and she confirms she’s a wreck, this in turn confirms that Sophie has apparently been a wreck all series as she looks exactly the same.

The auctioneer gets in on the stereotype act by drawing matters out with the phrase “I’m not going to draw it out” before he finally starts proceedings only to discover half the people in the room want to open the bidding, which rapidly raises to $1.325 million. And there it stalls. Finally an adventurous suspect ups the bidding by $1,000 before it advances again to $1.33 million where it is sold for a $355,000 profit.

After Scotty and Dale have a chat about how much this all means, Sophie turns out to actually be wrecked as she endears herself to Australia by just shaking her head, unable to speak. After a brief moment of celebration with the other couples (Dan and Dani distinctly the last to be hugged) Sophie and Dale take a moment to point out that a $355,000 cheque will really knock the edge off not winning and allow them to buy their first house, or if they pool together with Brad and Lara, to buy Greece.

We return to a montage of people using their mobile phones, high heels, drinking and other signs that Australia’s economic downturn may be a reality but certainly isn’t Reality television, with three teams having cleared well over $1 million in combined profit already.

As Michael and Andrew sit down, the auctioneer waffles for a moment and then the man who has been standing in his branded t-shirt down the front for every auction so far opens the bidding (over the top of another bid of $1.2 million), with a bid of …


The auctioneer desperately hopes for someone to up the bidding before he has to repeat that bizarre number, before finally reading it out from a note provided, before he is instantly upped to $1.31 million by a man who just liked to see him squirm, at which point it gets WEIRD.

WEIRD is a bid for $1,311,104.28 which the auctioneer refuses to take. It’s almost like the guy bidding is here just to get a mention of his T-Shirt. The auctioneer duly states the name of his organisation and accepts another bid from the man, however a second individual who is entirely lacking in novelty bids takes it swiftly to $1.33 million.

T-shirt-teaser then takes it to 1.357 million “and a bit more” before some more … errr … sane people take the bidding to $1.366 million. T-shirt ups it to $1.367 million. His competitor takes it to $1.37 million before T-shirt approaches normality with a bid of $1,371,100.00. The auctioneer then looks for a bid from space, before someone points out that the bids are actually coming from the internet and his future clientele run out the door to an auctioneer who has joined the 21st century.

Then … oh bugger it, it’s kind of bizarre television but makes for terrible text. T-shirt versus the internet, it could be the name of a spoof horror film, instead it is just one man’s effort to make the Chk Chk Boom girl look like an intellectual as he bids like some deranged random number generator.

The boys make another mention of T-shirt’s promotional opportunity of choice, yet as they’re doing it another room he doesn’t know to reward them with another bid so it is finally sold at $1,400,001.01 to a man I fully expect to sign the real estate contract with a false name using a pen with disappearing ink, however, if and when the novelty sized cheque from ACME bank clears, it will mean a profit of $434,001.01 for the boys.

The party of nouveau riche couples then moves “next door” to yet another venue (not the fifth newly renovated house which gets no attention at all) where family and friends await, and the boys get to pick up their mum in a very cute moment. Brad and Lara are anointed winners of The Block 2012 and Scotty announces the twist for The Block 2013, it’s to be an All-Stars Block, which sees Dale propose a union with Brad.

The proposal they promised would never happen has actually happened, The Block really is full of twists.

Right, that’s yer lot, back to The Big Bang Theory.

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

Sonia McMahon’s home settled for $6.25m

Sonia McMahon’s home settled for $6.25m

Lady McMahon’s $6.25 m Bellevue Hill home and garden.THE Bellevue Hill home of the late Lady (Sonia) McMahon sold for $6.25 million at the close of the financial year.
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The Victoria Road residence sold on Friday after being on the market since mid-February, when it was listed for auction with $6 million-plus price expectations through Sally Hampshire, of Laing+Simmons Double Bay, and Victoria Morish, of Di Jones Real Estate.

At the auction on March 24, the property passed in on a $5.9 million bid, and the agents have since been negotiating to secure its sale with the eastern suburbs buyer.

A socialite and generous patron, Lady McMahon, widow of the former prime minister Sir William McMahon and mother of actor Julian McMahon, was 77 when she died in April 2010.

The property has a northerly aspect and harbour views and is set near Scots College and Cranbrook School. Last traded for $3 million in 1991, the French Riviera-inspired residence stands on a block of 1252 square metres with a level lawn, swimming pool and harbour views.

It is totally private from the street, has four-bedrooms, large entertainment areas, a main bedroom wing (with two walk-in wardrobes, an en suite and terrace) and a poolside cabana with a sauna and bathroom.

In May last year another Bellevue Hill house was sold from Lady McMahon’s estate. Set on a 1745 sq m block in Drumalbyn Road, the six-bedroom, circa 1920s house remained vacant after she moved to live at her Victoria Road residence.

Sold for $9 million, the Drumalbyn Road house is where Lady McMahon lived with her husband and their children Julian and daughters Melinda and Deborah. Lady McMahon bought it for $123,000 in 1968, the year Julian McMahon was born. Her husband, who was prime minister between 1971 and 1972, died in 1988 at the age of 80.

Australian Property Monitors figures indicate 32 Bellevue Hill houses have sold during the past six months with a median price of $3.15 million and a top price of $13 million – for Rothesay, a Cranbrook Road mansion sold by property developer Tim Casey and his wife Anne-Marie.

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

US senator calls to prosecute Assange

US senator calls to prosecute Assange

THE head of the US Senate’s powerful intelligence oversight committee has renewed calls for Julian Assange to be prosecuted for espionage.
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The US Justice Department has also confirmed WikiLeaks remains the target of an ongoing criminal investigation, calling into question Australian government claims that the US has no interest in extraditing Mr Assange.

”I believe Mr Assange has knowingly obtained and disseminated classified information which could cause injury to the United States,” the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein, said in a written statement provided to the Herald. ”He has caused serious harm to US national security, and he should be prosecuted accordingly.”

Senator Feinstein’s call for the Obama administration to move ahead with plans to prosecute Mr Assange came as a US Justice Department spokesman, Dean Boyd, publicly confirmed that ”there continues to be an investigation into the WikiLeaks matter”.

Mr Assange remains in Ecuador’s embassy in London while itsgovernment assesses his application for asylum.

In a statement made last Friday, one of Mr Assange’s British lawyers, Susan Benn, highlighted evidence of the existence of a secret US grand jury investigation targeting Mr Assange and other ”founders or managers” of WikiLeaks.

The Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr, claimed last week there was ”not the remotest evidence” of the US government wanting to prosecute the WikiLeaks founder.

On June 20, a US State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, denied any US involvement in diplomatic discussions relating to Mr Assange’s asylum bid or extradition to Sweden. Yet when asked specifically about the US government’s interest in Mr Assagne she said: ”We want to see justice served. Let’s leave it at that.”

with agencies

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

Ikin’s lover admits forging will, denies kill plot

Ikin’s lover admits forging will, denies kill plot

THE man accused of murdering the Australian rock music executive Peter Ikin has spoken for the first time since being released from a French jail, denying that he plotted the murder of his lover to get his hands on his $15 million estate – but admitting that he forged his will.
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Mr Ikin, a former Warner Music executive, who counted Elton John, Rod Stewart and Billy Joel among his friends, died mysteriously in a Paris hotel room in November 2008, just weeks after marrying Alexandre Despallieres, 20 years his junior.

Mr Despallieres, who had told Mr Ikin, 62, he was dying of a brain tumour, was arrested 18 months later for forging a ”secret” – and photocopied – will. In an interview with Businessweek published last week, Mr Despallieres admitted he had forged the will with his friend, Jeremy Bilien, but that it was a bad forgery.

”If he [Jeremy] wanted to make a will he could have at least made a proper will,” Mr Despallieres said in the article published on Friday.

”This will looked like nothing. It did not look professional.”

Mr Despallieres was released on bail last year after nine months in a Paris jail, and while French authorities remained confident at the time that a case would still be brought against him, no date has been set for a trial.

The Businessweek journalist Brad Stone told the Herald that during the interview, Mr Despallieres insisted he had been cleared of Mr Ikin’s death.

”According to his lawyer, he was released on a procedural technicality,” Stone said.

Asked by Businessweek what happened to Mr Ikin, the 44-year-old – who has aged since his time in a Paris jail – replied: ”He died because, there were two reasons.

”For a long time, he used too much stuff like cocaine. And he had an infection, something he caught in the hotel because of the air-conditioning. Something very bad.”

Mr Despallieres claimed he took Mr Ikin to the hospital three times, and each time he was released. ”He knew he was going to die. I don’t know what happens in the brain. It was very painful to me. And then all those accusations,” Mr Despallieres said.

(An analysis of a blood sample taken from Mr Ikin was carried out months after he died, which showed lethal doses of paracetamol, raising suspicions about the circumstances of his death.)

Mr Despallieres said he had Mr Ikin cremated in France with the full knowledge of Mr Ikin’s friends because logistical challenges made it too difficult to transport his body to Australia.

Mr Despallieres also said in the article that he did not care about money or wealth, despite going on a spending spree weeks after Mr Ikin had died, buying three Porsches and expensive jewellery.

He said he sank into a depression after Mr Ikin’s death. ”I had nothing left in my life. My life was broken. When Peter passed away, and 10 years ago I had lost my parents, that was too much for me,” he said. Then, he said, he ”did something stupid”.

Mr Bilien and another witness to the forged will had asked Mr Despallieres to buy them Porsches, and Mr Despallieres claimed he was too disheartened to resist. So he bought three. ”My state of mind was, ‘Who cares?’ I wanted to die.”

Mr Despallieres, whose whereabouts are unknown, claimed he was going to be the subject of a Hollywood film.

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

Boards must accept blame on debt row

Boards must accept blame on debt row

‘When times are good, poor management and weak boards can fly under the radar because everything is growing.’AMID the recent string of profit downgrades and equity issues, companies have sheeted home the blame to external factors such as the weather, cost pressures, the debt crisis in Europe, structural changes and the slowing economy. None have mentioned the role of poor management, weak boards or deficient strategy.
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While there is no doubt that external factors have played a role in the disastrous profit results corporate Australia is about to spoon out, many of these downgrades and capital raisings can be blamed on senior management and boards for a failure to knuckle down like some of their international counterparts.

As Warren Buffett once said, ”Only when the tide goes out do you discover who is swimming naked”. Over the past 20 years a strong economy that navigated its way through the GFC became a fig leaf for Australian executives and boards. But as the economy slows, investors are starting to get flashes of many naked men – and a few women – desperately swimming to shore.

To put it into perspective, a year ago earnings per share growth was expected to be 20 per cent. It is now close to zero. An equities report by Deutsche Bank’s equity strategist Tim Baker says the resource sector is now expected to post no growth in 2012, but a bounce is expected in 2013, predicated on commodity prices rising. However, given recent commodity price movements, a blowout in costs and some questionable strategic decisions by some of the bigger resource houses, this bounce may turn into a dead cat bounce.

A telltale sign that good managers can navigate their way through challenging conditions is that in each sector a few companies have not had to make big profit downgrades or raise equity at a hefty discount to shore up their balance sheet or to use for working capital. In the case of AGL, its equity raising was to fund an acquisition that was going cheap, but in most cases the equity raising is to reduce debt ahead of a tough refinancing market or to use for day-to-day business.

Examples of well-run companies operating in tough sectors include luxury retailer Oroton Group, construction and engineering group United, Amcor, Worley Parsons, Chris Corrigan’s Qube Logistics and the big four banks.

The howlers include Leighton Holdings, which has stumbled from one disaster to the next over the past 18 months and is still suffering from high gearing, unresolved issues in the Middle East and the Victorian desalination plant project; Qantas, which is trading at near-record lows; Billabong, which has seen its share price plunge from $17 five years ago to $4.70 a year ago and $1.07 on Friday due to an ill-judged strategy, a series of profit downgrades, a capital raising, liquidity and debt fears, a dysfunctional board and low staff morale; Myer, which has never traded above its issue price, and engineering group Hastie, which went belly up last month after a string of poor acquisitions, revelations of accounting irregularities and a culture of hiding bad news.

But there are many more, including Boral, which has had three profit downgrades in the past year and Metcash, which is raising

$325 million to partly cover acquisitions and also fund a business model that Merrill Lynch analyst David Errington describes as ”broken” because it is financially supporting uncompetitive retailers.

Deutsche Bank estimates that in the past month earnings forecasts were cut for 123 ASX200 companies, and lifted for only 50 companies. As companies review the 2012 financial year, there will undoubtedly be a few more nasty surprises in the coming weeks.

Some of the problems appear to be a lack of quality systems and forecasting skills, poor financial disciplines and an overall lack of rigour. Proper systems should be fundamental to the running of any company to enable shareholders to trade with confidence and promote the integrity of the sharemarket.

When times are good, poor management and weak boards can fly under the radar because everything is growing. It is when things turn bad, as they are now, that poor systems result in a mis-estimation of costs and a weak management team is unable to identify the problem until it is too late.

It seems companies that compete best generally run without disasters. But the rest will be in for some embarrassing and difficult times as challenging conditions persist and tighter credit conditions globally will put pressure on companies to shore up their balance sheets. Given the $100 billion that was raised during the GFC, company gearing is relatively low, but there are still some companies with relatively high gearing and/or a skinny net interest cover.

Potential equity raising candidates include Alumina, Leighton, Myer, OneSteel and Seven West Media, which recently announced the highly regarded Don Voelte as its new boss.

In the weeks and months ahead there will also be an uptick in takeover activity as share prices fall so far that they become a break-up opportunity for a trade buyer or private equity operator. It is understood that a wealthy Melbourne family operation is hunkered down, looking at retail opportunities. There is also strong talk that Billabong will be taken over in the next few weeks. In the meantime, all eyes will be on the next development in the David Jones takeover announcement on the last day of trading for the financial year. Whether it turns out to be bogus or legitimate, it is likely to flush out other interested parties to break up the department store chain and extract value from its properties. The company can’t do it itself as it would get a whopping capital gains tax bill.

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