Danny O’Brien, Mark Kavanagh, Tom Brennan banned over cobalt

The careers of trainers Danny O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh, and vet Dr Tom Brennan, are in jeopardy after the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board handed down disqualification penalties on Wednesday.


O’Brien has been disqualified for four years, Kavanagh for three years and vet Brennan for five, though O’Brien and Kavanagh say they will lodge appeals with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (VCAT), enabling them to continue to train under a stay and ensuring the long-running cobalt saga still has a way to play out.

Both trainers emerged from the hearing room at Racing Victoria and spokesman O’Brien said they were unimpressed by RVL’s handling of the case.

“We are really pleased to get this part of the process behind us, obviously it has been a long 12 months and certainly some of the processes have been less than satisfactory,” he said.

“We’re on our way to VCAT to get a stay of proceedings, pending an appeal date.”

Dr Brennan left the hearing without making a comment.

David Moodie, the head of Racing Victoria, came out in full support of hisintegrity department, saying that he respected the verdict of the RAD Board.

“The integrity department headed by Terry Bailey, Dayle Brown and Brian Stewart have the full support and backing of RVL,” he said.

Moodie added that despite contrary reports, chief steward, Terry Bailey was on leave and would recommence work on the first of February.

Moodie was supported by his CEO, Bernard Saundry, who said “Racing Victoria is fully committed to enforcing the rules of racing and protecting the integrity of the sport”.

“As the parties to the hearings have a right to appeal, it would be inappropriate for Racing Victoria to comment any further.”

Kavanagh, O’Brien and Brennan had all been found guilty in December 2015 of administering cobalt to affect the performance of a horse in a race – the most serious drug charge in horse racing.

Disqualification means that a person cannot go onto a racecourse or associate with other licensed people including owners, trainers and jockeys, meaning the careers of these three individuals are effectively over if their appeals fail.

News of the VCAT appeal was not a surprise, as O’Brien publicly flagged an appeal after he was found guilty.

Given the mandatory three-year minimum disqualification for a cobalt doping conviction, an appeal was always likely.

However, the RAD board – comprised of legal figures and headed by Judge Russell Lewis, a former county court judge – was clinical in delivering the guilty findings and the resultant penalties.

The board said that after considering submissions, the following penalties would be appropriate.

“In relation to each of the horses trained by him, Danny O’Brien is disqualified for a period of three years, an aggregate of 12 years. Four months of the penalties imposed in relation to Bondeiger, De Little Engine and Bullpit are to be served cumulatively upon the penalty imposed in relation to Caravan Rolls On [three years] and upon each other. A total of four years disqualification.”

Kavanagh received three years on one charge, that of presenting his horse Magicool.

The board found trainers O’Brien and Kavanagh and vet Brennan guilty of doping to affect race performance, effectively saying that there is no room for that type of behaviour in racing.

Williamtown RAAF Base is on bottled water after “strong smells” in water from firefighting hoses

WILLIAMTOWN RAAF Base was on bottled water on Tuesday after strong smells were detected in water fromthree fire hoses.


Staff including subcontractors working on the base were advised not to drink tap water until tests determined what was causing the odour.

The Department of Defence will issue a media release before noon but the Newcastle Herald has been advised there was a strong acetone smell about the water.

Hunter Water interim chief executive Jeremy Bath said the RAAF Base advised Hunter Water of the incident.

“They flushed the hoses and that removed the odour immediately. They took the precautionary step of advising people not to drink tap water until they knew what had caused the smell,” Mr Bath said.

There was “absolutely no threat of any sort of contamination –if it is found to exist on the base –of Hunter Water’s network”, he said.

Although there was public comment linking the water odour with the perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) water contamination scandal at the base, Mr Bath said PFOS had no odour.

“Defence does not for one minute believe it is PFOS,” he said.

Mr Bath said even if there is a contamination incident at a private property, including the RAAF Base, the network has backflow prevention devices to stop contamination from individual sites affecting the network.

A Defence spokeswoman confirmed a statement would be issued later on Wednesday.

Williamtown RAAF Base: It was bottled water on Tuesday at the Defence base after strong smells from three firefighting hoses led to water tests.

Mexico fined over fans’ chanting of homophobic slur amid cultural misunderstanding claims

The Mexican Football Federation is planning to appeal a US$20,000 ($28,930) fine from FIFA over what football’s troubled governing body regards a homophobic chant long used by the country’s supporters, sparking debate about whether it has been culturally misunderstood.


Mexico is one of four federations to be fined by FIFA for its fans’ use of the term “Ehhh…p–o!” during recent 2018 World Cup qualifiers – a slang term meaning homosexual man or male prostitute – which is often directed at an opposition goalkeeper when they are preparing to take a goalkick.

Mexican fans have long argued the practice – which was spawned in 2003 when Atlas fans chanted it at their former goalkeeper who had joined bitter rivals Chivas – is a light-hearted effort to distract the shotstopper.

But despite charging Mexico with improper conduct after fans chanted the term in a World Cup match against Cameroon in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, FIFA has gone a step further and fined the country’s association after it was again heard in the terraces during their 3-0 victory over El Salvador in a 2018 World Cup qualifier in November.

Argentina, Peru and Uruguay were also fined US$20,000 ($28,930) after the chant was adopted across Latin America, while Chile has been fined US$70,000 ($101,250) for repeat offences at four different matches.

The Mexican Football Federation is the only one to publicly claim they will challenge the sanction.

Mexican fans have long considered the chant harmless and the national side’s coach during the 2014 World Cup, Miguel Herrera, defended its use claiming it was derived from the ancient indigenous language of Nahuatl from a word he jokingly said means “to force a bad clearance by the goalkeeper”.

Other fans have argued the term is not aimed at gay people and foreigners don’t understand some of their language culturally, with the term also meaning “dumb ass” or “bitch”.

Guillermo Cantu, the general secretary of the Mexican federation, told ESPN the chant “is not discriminatory” and it is often misunderstood “culturally”.

But it hasn’t washed with Mexico’s gay rights campaigners, who claim the shouting from the stands is not just an attempt to prevent an opposition goalkeeper from his job but it is also used to treat them with contempt and challenge their masculinity.

Mexico, the world No.23 whose side includes former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker Javier Hernandez, top their World Cup qualifying group after two matches.

They will face second-placed Canada in late March before hosting Honduras in September and will progress to the final stage of qualifying for North and Central America if they can finish in the top two in their group.

Rumour has it, but News Corp is not investing in Twitter

News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch (left) and chief executive Robert Thomson (right) at a press conference in August. Photo: Simon O’Dwyer Twitter shares spiked last night.


Here’s another great example of just how skittish markets are these days.

Media giant News Corp was overnight forced to deny vague market rumours that it was going to buy, or had already bought, a stake in Twitter.

The rumour, which was – among other news outlets – reported by News Corp’s very own Marketwatch site, lifted shares in Twitter, the beleaguered social network, by as much as 14 per cent.

The stock retreated following the denial, but still finished the regular trading session on the New York Stock Exchange about 4 per cent higher.

That News Corp would at least consider buying a stake in Twitter – whose shares are trading near their lowest levels since listing in 2013 – is not entirely implausible. After all, the company dropped $US580 million on MySpace – a kind of forerunner to Facebook, back in 2005 (although it sold the business for just $US35 million in 2011, and later described the investment as a “huge mistake”).

Also, don’t forget News Corp’s billionaire boss, Rupert Murdoch is clearly a fan of the service. He’s a prodigious tweeter, having posted his most recent tweet just five hours before publication of this story.   Obama says Australia second biggest anti-iSIS fighter. So where the heck are NATO partners?— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) January 20, 2016

Yet alas, any Twitter investment is clearly not happening. ” The rumour is untrue,” a New York-based representative for News Corp told Fairfax categorically.

These types of shady rumours tend to emerge when companies are struggling, and for Twitter that is certainly true. Its stock has tumbled more than 50 per cent over the past year – amid investor concerns over its the lack of growth in its user base. Twitter has 320 million monthly active users, compared to 1.5 billion for the social media behemoth Facebook.

To add to its woes, Twitter suffered a widespread outages on Tuesday, rendering millions of users across the globe unable to access the service.

December temperature spike capped record hot year in 2015, US agencies say

Record heat was reported from the oceans to the land in 2015. Photo: Leigh Henneingham2C or not 2C? It’s a regional questionRecord hot end of 2015 for Australia


A remarkably warm December helped drive global surface temperatures in 2015 to the hottest year in records going back to 1880, the US National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration said.

Temperature records were broken for 10 of the 12 months of last year but it was December’s spike that marked the sharpest leap for any month, surging 1.11 degrees above the 20th-century average.

It was the first time a monthly temperature anomaly had exceeded 1 degree, NOAA said.

Land temperatures last month were 1.89 degrees above average, smashing the previous record departure from the norm, set in December 2006, by almost half a degree (0.48 degrees).

Sea temperatures were 0.83 degrees warmer than the 20th-century average, beating the previous record anomaly for December 2009 by 0.36 degrees.

The December surge came during a month when leaders from almost 200 nations gathered in Paris to set a new agreement to keep temperature increases to less than 2 degrees and reduce the risk of dangerous climate change.

The NOAA report on Thursday coincided with a paper in Nature by Swiss and Australian researchers that outlined how a 2-degree target would still see some parts of the world – notably the Arctic – rise by as much as 6 degrees because of regional differences.

‘Emphatically broken’

As a whole, 2015 was a standout year, with surface temperatures 0.9 degrees above the 20th-century average.

The tally was 0.16 degrees above the previous record year – set only in 2014 – making it the largest margin by which an annual temperature record had been broken, NOAA said.

David Jones, head of climate monitoring at the Bureau of Meteorology, said previous stand-out years, such as 1998, had also come at a time of a big El Nino event in the Pacific.

“Now we’ve emphatically broken [all the previous records],” Dr Jones said. “Decade after decade, the planet is accumulating more heat because of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Temperatures are rising about 0.17 degrees per decade since 1970, NOAA said.

During El Nino years, the Pacific Ocean’s normally westward-blowing winds stall or reverse, leading to a warming of the central and eastern Pacific. Global temperatures get a kick of about 0.1-0.2 degree during such events.

The current El Nino – among the three strongest on record – probably peaked at the end of last year. The temperature impacts on the globe, though, typically lag about six months so it is likely that the start of 2016 will also be exceptionally warm, Dr Jones said.

The gap between last year and all previous record hot years was wide and widening by the end of 2015, as the following NOAA chart shows:

All of the 16 warmest years on record have happened since 1998, NOAA said.

Regional heat

The unusual warmth was widespread, with the Indian Ocean among those regions posting record heat.

Asia and South America had their hottest year on record, while Africa and Europe posted their second hottest years.

The US and Australia had their fifth hottest years on record, NOAA said.

Australia was about 0.8 degrees above average in 2015, or not far short of the global anomaly.

Land temperatures worldwide, though, were 1.33 degrees above average, beating the previous record departure from the norm by a quarter of a degree.

Australia’s famously variable climate can cause annual temperatures to gyrate about 1 degree compared with the long-term average, while global shifts are in the order of 0.2-0.3 degrees, Dr Jones said.

While temperature changes were worth highlighting, people may also experience climate change through altered rainfall patterns and rising extremes, such as fire weather, he said.

Australia’s fire season is already a particularly active one, with widespread fires in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania – with at least another month of high fire risk to come.

‘Don’t panic’: Experts reveal their investment tips for volatile times

Around $120 billion has been wiped off local shares in 2016. Photo: Jessica Hromas “It’s about buying good, quality companies that have strong businesses through cycles,” Ross Barker, managing director of AFIC, said. Photo: Adrianne Harrowfield


Blue-chip stocks such as BHP and Rio have been two of the biggest market casualites, shedding 40 per cent and 24 per cent respectively since last year. Photo: Michele Mossop

China fears! Billions of dollars lost! Unprecedented volatility!

With investment markets in full blown panic mode, two listed investment company stalwarts are advising investors to keep cool heads as they wade through some of the most volatile times on record.

Tom Millner, chief executive of the $900 million BKI Investment Company, urges investors not to see red despite nearly $120 billion wiped off the Australian share market since the start of this year.

Ross Barker, managing director of the $6.2 billion Australian Foundation Investment Company (AFIC), believes now is a great time for investors to cherry pick where to put their funds.

These are their investment tips for navigating through the volatility in 2016: 1. Don’t jump

As the markets yo-yo with gains and losses throughout the trading day, Mr Barker has this to say to investors: “Don’t panic.”

Herd or mob mentality often permeates the market when investors dump stock in a state of panic, resulting in the overselling of companies.

Australian shares tumbled to a 2 1/2-year low on Wednesday as investors worry about China’s growth prospects and slowing global commodity markets.

“People get caught up in the mentality of the moment and they can often sell good things when they shouldn’t be selling,” Mr Barker said.

“There’s concerns about China but we’re still confident about the growth prospects of the economy.” 2. Take your time

“Be patient.”

That is Mr Millner’s response to the panicked selling since the start of this year that has spared few companies on the ASX.

Casualties such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, two of the largest resources stock on the sharemarket, have shed 40 per cent and 24 per cent respectively since last year.

But Mr Millner remains confident major Australian resources companies exposed to commodities such as oil, coal and copper in particular will bounce back as the imbalance between supply and demand is adjusted and the Australian dollar continues its descent.

He believes large resources companies may rebound over the next 12 to 18 months.

“It’s just short term noise – so be patient,” he said.  3. Buy quality

If a company is temptingly cheap but there’s little basis for future growth, don’t buy it.

“Stick with quality is my advice,” Mr Barker said about picking stocks amid the market downturn.

Healthcare and diversified financial stocks are AFIC’s picks thanks to an ageing population, while companies that source their revenue from overseas markets are also attractive.

The LIC has bought stakes in companies such as annuities giant Challenger and Macquarie Group.

“It’s about buying good, quality companies that have strong businesses through cycles,” he said.  4. Stay for the long haul

“We tend to try and hold a stock for at least 10 years,” Mr Millner said.

While the thought of clinging to a company for a decade might not be every retail investor’s cup of tea, holding a stock for a few years rather than dumping them at the first sign of trouble could yield strong growth potential.

Investors who bide their time and reap the dividends from blue chip companies or businesses with strong fundamentals will benefit through the volatility.

“We’re in this for this for the long haul, and we do like the thematics of healthcare in particular with an ageing population.”

BKI has been buying stock in Ramsay Healthcare and Sonic Healthcare as part of their long term investment strategy.

The company returned 10.9 per cent for the year to December, beating the S&P/ASX300 Index’s 2.8 per cent over the same period.

need2know: Positive start in store after crazy night on Wall Street

The Dow’s 500-point swoon would mark the third time since mid-August the 30-stock gauge has tumbled that much on a closing basis. Photo: Richard DrewLocal shares are poised for a positive start after a roller-coaster night on Wall Street.


What you need2know

SPI futures up 38pts or 0.6pc to 4840

AUD at US69.00¢, 80.85 Japanese yen, 63.52 Euro cents and 48.80 British pence.

On Wall St, in late trade, S&P 500 -0.5%, Dow -1%, Nasdaq +0.5%

In Europe, Stoxx 50 -3.3%, FTSE -3.5%, CAC -3.5%, DAX -2.8%

In London, BHP -7.4%, Rio -4.8%

Spot gold +1.4% to $US1103.11 at 2.53pm New York time

Brent crude -3% to $US27.90 at 2.28pm New York time

US oil -6.5% to $US26.61 at 2.28pm New York time

Iron ore last traded down 2.73% at $US41.61 a tonne.

What’s on today

Australia consumer inflation expectations January, HIA new home sales November. Euro inflation for December, Euro consumer confidence January. France manufacturing confidence January. US Philadelphia Fed manufacturing January. Earnings: Verizon, Amex, Starbucks, United Continental, Schlumberger.

Stocks in focus

Investec recommends investors sell shares of Glencore, Anglo, Antofagasta and Ferrexpo. The analysts have buy ratings on Rio Tinto and Centamin. “Market conditions represent the perfect storm for commodities given that demand is falling, supply is rising, inventory levels remain stubbornly high and the US dollar stubbornly strong,” Investec wrote.

A measure of volatility over 10 days on BHP’s London stock jumped to the highest since September 10 on Wednesday. The stock tumbled 7.4 per cent in London trading to its lowest in 11 years, extending its decline this year to 24 per cent amid mounting speculation it will cut its dividend next month. BHP’s drop this year has outpaced declines by Glencore and Rio Tinto Group in London.


The yen strengthened 0.9 per cent to 116.58 per dollar, and touched 115.98, the strongest level since Jan. 16, 2015. Japan’s currency appreciated 0.9 percent to 127.19 per euro. The euro was little changed at $1.0897.

Russia’s currency weakened as much as 3.1 per cent to a record 81.0490 against the US dollar. The Mexican peso fell to a record 18.4775 per US dollar and is down 6.4 per cent this year, making it Latin America’s worst performing major currency.

Saudi Arabian banks are under orders to stop selling currency products that allow investors to make cheap bets on a devaluation of the riyal, according to five people with knowledge of the matter.


The Bloomberg World Mining Index dropped as much as 3.3 per cent to its lowest since September 2003, with the world’s biggest miner, BHP Billiton, losing 7.4 per cent in London.

Citigroup cut copper and other base-metals forecasts. Benchmark three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange closed down 1.1 per cent at $US4360 a tonne, having hit its highest since January 8 on Tuesday. However, prices remain near their weakest since May 2009 at $US4318, marked on Friday. Nickel fell, so did zinc, lead and aluminium.

The world’s biggest miners have little to offer to shareholders, Investec said. They are selling assets and ending dividend payments to generate cash, analysts wrote in a report on Wednesday. Earnings are now a “scarce commodity” for the industry, they wrote.

United States

US stocks fell, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index reaching at 21-month low, following a renewed selloff across stocks worldwide as scepticism about the strength of the global economy intensified.

Equities staged a late-day rally paced by health-care and small-cap shares that briefly erased a drop of 3.7 per cent in the Nasdaq Composite Index. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 cut their worst losses by more than half. Energy companies sank further into five-year lows, on pace for their worst monthly slump since 2008 as oil plunged. Chevron slid 3.1 per cent. International Business Machines fell 4.9 per cent after its earnings forecast missed projections.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 1.2 per cent to 1859.43 at 4pm in New York, closing at its lowest level since April 2014. The gauge trimmed a slide of more than 3.6 per cent.

“We were oversold and we didn’t keep falling off the table,” said Walter “Bucky” Hellwig, who helps manage $US17 billion as a senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.. “The last-hour strength is positive and I think it’s due to the fact that investors are saying, ‘This thing is oversold, I’m going to put some money to work,’ and it’s worked out better than buying it on the up days and then watching it disappear.”


European stocks slid to a 15-month low as falling oil prices and results from companies including Zurich Insurance Group and Royal Dutch Shell exacerbated investor concern about global growth. The Stoxx 600 erased Tuesday’s rebound, tumbling 3.2 per cent to 322.29 at the close of trading. The VStoxx Index measuring volatility expectations for euro-area shares jumped 14 per cent.

“I’m sitting on my cash, not buying right now, because we think it can get worse..” said Michael Woischneck, an equities fund manager who oversees the equivalent of $US156 million at Lampe Asset Management in Dusseldorf, Germany. “We see a worst case of another 10 per cent down.”

Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest bank, said it expects to post a loss for the fourth quarter after taking additional litigation charges of about €1.2 billion. Full-year revenue will be about €33.5 billion, with the net loss estimated at €6.7 billion for the year, Deutsche Bank said in a statement late Wednesday. The results include previously disclosed impairments taken in the third quarter, full-year litigation provisions of about €5.2 billion and restructuring and severance charges of €1 billion, the lender said.

Barclays chief Jes Staley has started a fresh round of cuts at the investment bank, affecting staff in New York, London and most deeply in Asia, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

What happened yesterday

Australian shares closed at fresh 2½-year lows on Wednesday after worries about Chinese growth and global commodity markets continued to weigh on investor sentiment, while investors dumped ANZ and BHP.  The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 62 points, or  1.2 per cent, to 4841.5, while the All Ordinaries 58 dropped points to 4896.9.

Short story: I Just Need Margaret

Worth 1000 words: Summer Herald will each day publish a short story competition entry. The winner will be announced on January 30. Picture Simone De Peak


SHE had been the belle of the ball – Margaret Gorton.

Her flowing blonde locks had been coveted across town. Even when winter arrived, she carried the ethereal glow of an eternal summer.

Margaret was a regular at the Friday night dance. Her floral dresses and lipstick shades were the town’s Monday morning gossip. I had done my best to impress her but I wasn’t much of a dancer myself. Hell, she could have had any man in town. Perhaps that is what she had found so attractive. I was a man who knew his place in the world.

It had seemed so unlikely. A Paterson of all people! My family weren’t exactly known for their status. I was from the wrong end of town. The offspring of a dodgy mechanic and an easy hairdresser. I could feel the town scoffing at Margaret and I’s budding audacity. Our rainy sidewalk strolls had attracted the attention of every man and his dog.

“A Paterson and a Gorton?” they scorned from behind their shop window.“Who does he think he is?”

With a cough, I startled myself from my daydream. The fabric of the recliner had dewed sweat upon my shoulders and brow. How long had I been sitting in this damned thing? Marg would be angry. That was something I tried to avoid at all costs. It wasn’t worth having to witness the pulsing vein in her forehead.

I glanced at her seat next to the fireplace and was startled to find her absent. Tuesday was crossword day, her favourite day of the week, and something she never missed. Standing slowly, I lumbered down the hallway and poked my head into our crammed bedroom.

The bed was cold.

“Marg, love?” I called, turning back towards the kitchen. Maybe she had had the good sense to put the kettle on.

I came to a halt in the hallway as I examined the photo frame on the wall. That was peculiar. I definitely hadn’t taken these pictures and I didn’t recognise the people either. An old person was peering back at me. Heck, a really old fella and he was standing with an adult. They were smiling sedately. A woman, dressed rather strangely, arm in arm with the ancient man.

“Marg, who the hell are these folk?” I shouted, pulling the frame from the wall and marching towards the kitchen. “I’ve never seen these people in my life! Why do we have ‘em hanging from our walls?”

There was no answer. The kitchen was empty and the kettle certainly wasn’t boiling. This made no sense. Was this my house? It had to be. The linoleum floors were where I had laid them. The kitchen hadn’t moved. The garage? I quickly hobbled down the few stairs to the shed and shoved the door from my view. My Torana! Where the hell had it gone? I hadn’t driven it anywhere lately and Marg didn’t have her licence. It was the blasted neighbourhood hooligans! They had nicked it. I needed to phone the police but for the life of me I couldn’t find the damned telephone.

Fine!I’d go to the station myself. Johnson would be on duty. He would be able to make time for a midday cigarette. Now in a hurry, I stepped onto the street and began the short journey.

“How can I help you?” asked a young policeman as I trudged through the doors of the Watt Street station.

“I’m here to see Johnson,” I ordered, tapping my foot impatiently.

“Mister Paterson?” the policeman asked.

“How do you know my name?” I barked, squinting my eyes at the young blighter. “I want to see Johnson! He’s always on duty on a Tuesday.”

“Sir, no Mister Johnson works here.”

“Suit yourself,” I muttered, throwing the boy a glare. I would report the theft another day when Johnson was around. Instead, I would visit Marg at work. That’s where she was. She must have had an early shift.

A grin crossed my face as the train station came into view as I marched down Watt Street. Margaret had always been good at her job. She sold train tickets to the commuters and passengers that visited the harbour.

“I’m the first thing they see when entering the city,” she’d laughed once, running her hand through her tresses. “I feel sorry for them.”

“Love, anyone who has the privilege of laying eyes on you is having a lucky day,” I had cooed, pressing a soft kiss to her neck.

The station was silent as I approached. It was far cry from the usual bustling chaos. There were no trains waiting at the platforms. In fact, there where thick bars blocking my entry. Dark maroon iron bars reminiscent of a prison. What was happening? I threw my fists against the metal. I needed to see Marg. I needed to hear her voice. I needed to …

“Dad?” came a wary voice from behind me.

“You’ve got the wrong person. I ain’t no Dad,” I answered, without looking away from Marg’s office behind the bars.

“Dad? Are you OK? The police rang. Said you were asking for Johnson again?”

I turned to look at the mistaken woman. My mouth dropped open as I recognised her as the one from the photograph. The one with the old man. Her blonde hair was the mirror image of Marg’s …

“Where’s Marg?” I demanded.

“Mum died a few years ago, Dad.”

“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” I shouted, a sudden wave of fury sweeping over me.

“Dad, Margaret died in 2012. We’ve been over this.”

I shook my head. The stranger was wrong. This was 1968. Marg was fine. She would finish work in a few hours. I’d be smiling as she swayed into our home to make dinner. Maybe it would be my favourite – a chicken roast.


“Everything will be all right,” I whispered, turning back towards the abandoned station.

“I just need Margaret.”

Tony Abbott’s lexical legacy: Captain’s call is 2015 Word of the Year

Tony Abbott’s 2013 decision to install Bronwyn Bishop as Speaker was seen as an early captain’s call. Photo: Alex EllinghausenFor a man whose linguistic bloopers have come to shape much of his political career, Tony Abbott is an unlikely origin of 2015’s Word of the Year.


But it is the former prime minister’s style of decision-making that has thrust the expression “captain’s call” into the spotlight, beating all other Macquarie Dictionary entrants as the term that most “perfectly encapsulates what happened in Australia over the past year”.

The term, originally limited to cricket argot, has been adopted in the ever-changing world of political patter where it has come to define Mr Abbott’s habit of making important decisions without thorough consultation.

“There has been an interesting change in usage; an infrequent item of the jargon of cricket makes the leap into politics and is now being used generally with an ironic tinge to it that is very Australian,” the Macquarie Dictionary committee said.

The dictionary’s editor, Susan Butler, said that discussion had veered towards “lumbersexual” but eventually settled on “captain’s call” as the year’s stand-out “lexical item”.

“It leapt out as something significant that entered our lives and lexicons in the previous year, people are using it with a slight sense of irony and are taking playful satisfaction in it.”

A close second on the list, earning an honourable mention, was “deso”, an abbreviated version of designated driver and an entry that Butler said was both unexpected and very Australian.

“It’s amazing, really, we seem to find a way of [shortening] all sorts of words, of all sorts of lengths, in all sports of parts of speech.”

Other new entries in the leading dictionary include listicle, snackable, ecocriticism, bae, merman hair, hoverboard, open kimono, manspread and fitspiration.

The editor’s favourites are both words that revolve around the consumption of media and information – and our changing relationships with the ways in which we read, watch, listen and play.

“I like listicle and snackable,” she said.

“Snackable seemed to me to capture something about the way in which we now consume information, we’re now flooded in vast amounts of text, but we’ve figured out a way to deal with it, which is to scan. We’re now presenting information in ways that are possible to scan – everything is in snackable bits.”

Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year 2015, committee picks:

wombat gate: noun, a swing gate installed in a ditch going underneath a fence, so that wombats, who follow very predictable patterns pass under without destroying the fence.

abandoned porn: noun, a genre of photography which romanticises abandoned buildings and urban areas in a state of decay. Also, ruin porn.

price baiting: noun, the practice adopted by a real estate vendor of advertising a property at a discounted price which would not ultimately be accepted at auction, in an attempt to lure possible buyers to the auction.

deso: noun, colloquial, a designated driver. Also, deso driver.

listicle: noun, a type of article in online journalism and blogging which is presented in the form of a list.

Frankenfruit: noun (also lower case), a fruit produced as a hybrid of other fruits, or infused with the flavour some way.

cool burn: noun, a bushfire mitigation procedure in which small fires are lit in circumstances which do not allow them to develop the kind of intense heat which is destructive to vegetation and wildlife, but which reduce the threat of uncontrolled bushfire.

lumbersexual: noun, an urban male who wishes to associate himself by his appearance with a rugged outdoors way of life, as by wearing outdoor clothes such as check shirts, jeans and typical of a lumberjack.

grolar bear: noun, a hybrid species, the offspring of a grizzly bear and a polar bear; occurring naturally in greater numbers as a result of climate change.

fitspiration: noun, 1. an exhortation, usually online, designed to push the reader or viewer to undertake more strenuous exercise in the pursuit of health and fitness, sometimes associated with the pursuit of an ideal body image. 2. such an exhortative message.

dox: noun, 1. an internet-enabled attack on a person’s privacy, in which their personal details and sometimes those of their family and friends are released online, viewers being invited to use them in whatever way they wish. –verb (t) 2. to publish the private details of (someone) online.

captain’s call: noun, a decision made by a political or business leader without consultation with colleagues.

fur baby: noun, colloquial, a pet animal, child. Also, fur child, furbaby.

slackpacking: noun, an arrangement for a walking trip lasting longer than one day, in which heavy items such as food, wine, etc., are delivered to accommodation points, the walkers being required to carry only a daypack.

selfie drone: noun, a drone equipped with a camera so that it can take photographs and videos from the air of the owner posing or performing various actions.

A living, growing collection of art

They say home is where the heart is.


That’s certainly true for Sandra Baker and her New Lambton home, where her love of art is distinctively on display.

From the mural-adorned tiled front entrance, right through to a bathroom surrounded with seas shells, every inch of the Mackie Avenue home is elaborately adorned with art.

The entrance alone makes a striking impression, but the eyes only open wider on treading the beautiful black and white tiles of the hallway and rounding the corner.

Known as the “primitive room”, its walls and display stands are covered with tribal masks.A visit to New Guinea while working as a mess girl on a Norwegian freighter sparked Sandra’s interest.

“That’s where I started my collection of primitive work,” she says.

There are a few authentic pieces, but most were made by a friend, suffering illness, who carved to pass the time and gave the pieces to Sandra, knowing she would somehow use them.

“I’d go to work and come back to a couple of boxes of stuff,” she says.

A surprise feature in the room is a nook with a bath, mission brown and surrounded in tiles painted with insects.It’s a space to lie and contemplate, Sandra says.

Another favourite spot is the library, a room Sandra says is “more of a man’s domain”, with its model ships that belonged to her father, as well as glass decanters, a comfy antique chair and rows of books enclosed in a case with lovely leadlight glass that Sandra had made from old windows.

“I quite like sitting in here and reading,” she says.

A textile room has an enviable display of retro garments and sewing gear, while an Egyptian space at the foot of the stairs has boxes, cabinets and walls that Sandra has painted to look like artefacts.

“I can’t afford real Egyptian artefacts, so I’ve hand-painted them,” she says.

“Everything presents as such but in reality it’s not.”

The laundry is undergoing a transformation as a Greco-Roman or Pompeii enclave.

The bathroom (there is another tub in here, this one a large corner suite with antique brass taps picked up at a garage sale) is based on marine life and references the 2000BC to 1400BC city of Knossos in Crete.

There are walls of sea shells displayed behind perspex, a coral collage, jellyfish paintings, turtle shells and sea-life themed glass lamps and murals.

Across in the Oriental room, Japanese-style screens, a gong (bought at auction), parasols, tea pots and cups, dolls and cushioned corner bench seats feature, along with a marble fireplace.

The theme in the kitchen and dining area has some Indian influences (Sandra is working on a totem pole of elephants for this space – “as you do of course”, she says) as well as a great display of retro canisters on shelves under the island bench, cabinets containing pewter items, cast iron pans underneath an antique-looking sink and a walk-in pantry filled with bits and pieces.

“The house was built in 1919,” Sandra says.

“It’s like people have lived here and left pieces of themselves behind.

“So there’s a collection of bits and pieces.”

Sandra sleeps upstairs, in a bedroom off a large landing. The theme is art-deco, with ceramics, 1930s art and a leadlight bay window among the highlights.

Sandra’s love of art started young.

“I’ve always drawn, I suppose,” she says.

“I think Mum encouraged us just to use chalk on the pavement.”

Then came art school and a career as an art teacher.

The home renovations started in 1982.

It followed the tragic death of Sandra’s husband in a motorbike accident, just months after they married.

“I had to create something that would keep me going,” she says.

Walls were ripped out, the brown paint work, lining boards on the walls and lino on the floor removed and replaced with art.

The house is still a work in progress, Sandra says.

The transformation took a back seat when she opened Studio 48 art gallery about 15 years ago in the house next door.

She plans to continue work on her home and renovate the gallery this year, before potentially opening the doors to both in 2017, for exhibitions at Studio 48 and “tea and tours” (a look through with a cup of tea or coffee to follow) of her unique house.

Man charged after stolen Porsche crashes, overturns in Leichhardt: police

Sparks were flying from the back of the Porsche before it slammed into a tree. Photo: Channel 7 The man fled the wreckage after the car slammed into a tree. Photo: Channel 7


A man has been charged over a high-speed police pursuit in Sydney’s inner west that ended dramatically when an allegedly stolen Porsche crashed into a tree and flipped onto its roof.

CCTV footage of the crash on Norton Street in Leichhardt early on Wednesday shows sparks flying from the back of the out-of-control luxury coupe as it slams sideways into the tree, spins around and overturns.

Remarkably, a person can be seen climbing out of the wreckage seconds later and staggering away from the vehicle, before a police officer with his gun drawn approaches the crashed vehicle.

Police said an officer from the Motorcycle Response Team began pursuing the grey Porsche on the City West Link at Annandale just after 6am on Wednesday. The Porsche had allegedly been stolen from a home in Vaucluse in Sydney’s east earlier that morning, police said.

The chase continued to Norton Street, where the driver of the vehicle lost control at high speed.

Police say the officer ordered the driver to get onto the ground after he climbed out of the vehicle, but the alleged offender ran away.

More officers arrived on Norton Street and searched for the man, but he could not be found.

Police said a 30-year-old man was arrested at Campsie police station later on Wednesday and charged over the police pursuit, with taking and driving a conveyance, and driving while disqualified.

He was refused police bail and is due to appear in Burwood Local Court on Thursday. */]]>

Newcastle Jets could play Steven Ugarkovic against Perth Glory: VIDEO

HEADING HOME: Jets midfielder Steven Ugarkovic playing against UAE in the Olyroos’ Asian championship opener last week. Picture: Getty ImagesJETS signing Steven Ugarkovic is poised to make his A-League debut off the bench against Perth Glory on Sunday after his Olyroos team were knocked out of the Olympic qualifiers on Thursday morning in Qatar.


The 21-year-old midfielder is expected to arrive in Newcastle on Friday or Saturday and be named in the Jets’18-man preliminary squad.

Ugarkovic, a former Croatia under-19 representative fromSydney, has been playing in Croatia at second-division club Gorica on loan from top-tier Osijek.

The Jets are missing the suspended Ben Kantarovski on Sunday but have midfield back-up in Cameron Watson and Nick Cowburn.Ugarkovic is unlikely to start, but coach Scott Miller rates the youngster highly.

Steven Ugarkovic playing in CroatiaJets defender Jason Hoffman said on Thursday that he knew a little about Ugarkovic from former Olyroos teammates.

“You hear them talk about him, and they’ve said he’s a good footballer, and he’s in the Olyroos squad, which is a great achievement,” Hoffman said.

“I am sure he’s got the quality and footballing talent we need here at the Jets. Hopefully he can return from that and be fit and ready to make an impact for us.”

Ugarkovicstarted the Olyroos’ first game at the Asian under-23 championship, a 1-0 loss tothe UAEin which he was substituted in the 64thminute for Mustafa Amini.

He did not feature in the following game, a 2-0 win over Vietnam, nor in the goalless draw against Group D runners-up Jordan on Thursdaymorning, which left Australia in third place.

Hoffman was involved in the Olyroos’unsuccessful qualifying campaign for London 2012 and knows what his new teammate will be going through.

“To miss out on the Olympics was shattering,” Hoffman said.“That’s your one chance to go to the Olympics, really, unless you go as an over-age player.

“It’s extremely disappointing, but as long as Steven has learnt while he’s had his time in the national team and come back a better player for the Jets, then hopefully he can hit theground running here.”

Hoffman expects influential Serbian midfielder Nebojsa Marinkovic to return from a hamstring injury for Perth, joining returned striker Andy Keogh in a revitalised attacking line-up for the visitors.

The Jets are throwing open the gates to children for free on Sunday.

Australian political wizard Lynton Crosby’s company made handsome money during UK’s 2015 election

Lynton Crosby’s polling and market research company, CTF Partners, billed more than £2.4 million to the Conservatives in the year leading up to the 2015 election. Photo: Janie Barrett A CTF invoice sent to the Conservatives in the run up to the 2015 election. Photo: Supplied


London: On top of his knighthood, Australian political wizard Lynton Crosby made handsome money from helping the Conservatives to a surprise victory in the UK’s 2015 election.

His polling and market research company, CTF Partners, billed more than £2.4 million ($4.93 million) to the Conservatives in the year leading up to the vote, according to figures released today by Britain’s Electoral Commission.

The biggest bill was £390,200 ($801,561), for “tracking polls, focus groups and ad hoc polls”, billed in late February as the election campaign heated up.

But it was not the only bill that month – the company also charged a £63,600 ($130,649) “consultancy fee”.

The next month saw another bill for £245,200 ($503,697) come through, plus the regular consultancy fee.

Political blogger Guido Fawkes calculated that CTF’s bill made up 15 per cent of the Conservative Party’s total £15.5 million ($31.84 million) election budget.

“Given the against-the-odds result, that surely represents great value for money,” Fawkes wrote.

The party also spent £369,000 ($758,011) on the services of former Obama campaign guru Jim Messina, and £1.2 million  ($2.47 million) on Facebook advertising.

The BBC calculated that the Conservatives spent £1.38 ($2.83) per vote, compared with £1.29 ($2.65) for Labour, £1.46 ($3) for the decimated Liberal Democrats, and just 73p ($1.50) for UKIP.

Sir Lynton was knighted in the New Year honours, in a list that was widely criticised for rewarding undeserving political donors and supporters – of all parties.

Fairfax contacted Sir Lynton for comment, and in reply CTF sent a prepared statement.

A spokesman for CTF Partners said in the statement the company deployed a team of “up to 10” working full-time on the election campaign, which was represented by the consultancy figures released on Wednesday.

“We are proud of the roles they played in the victory,” the spokesman said.

“We are also proud of our extensive research work – represented by the research figures – and how this highly targeted strategy ultimately proved successful in delivering a Conservative government.

“Any claim that these figures represent Lynton Crosby’s salary is wrong and deliberately misleading.”