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Australian Open 2016: All-Australian contest between immense talent and elite work ethic

Showman versus the journeyman: Bernard Tomic and John Millman. When Bernard Tomic was spending time in a Miami lock-up, sharing his cell with a television thief back in July, his next opponent John Millman was helping his Australian Davis Cup teammates prepare for their tie against Kazakhstan in Darwin.
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Millman was the hitting partner for the others. He wasn’t picked to play. Tomic was barred from participating by Tennis Australia.

While Tomic was rising up the rankings early last year, after reaching the fourth round at Melbourne Park, Millman was contemplating whether he should quit the circuit. In late August 2014, as he recovered from shoulder surgery, Millman was ranked 1192; a year later, he’d reached No. 71. Today’s he’s No. 95.

When Tomic was emerging from junior ranks, everyone knew all about him. He was another prospective Aussie saviour, who would play Davis Cup and reach the third and fourth rounds of a grand slam event as a teen.

When Millman was a junior, he attracted little attention, wasn’t touted as the next anyone. Unlike precocious Bernie, Millman was a late bloomer. Just as he began to emerge, shoulder surgeries set honest John back.

Bernie, by his own admission, hasn’t always worked hard. He’s coasted on immense talent. Millman, conversely, is said to have an elite work ethic, but wasn’t blessed with Tomic’s elite ball-striking and court craft.

On Saturday, Tomic and Millman meet in a rare all-Australian third-round match. This is the fifth time Tomic has progressed to at least the third round. Millman, needless to add, has never seen the last 32 of a major.

Both Tomic and Millman grew up and reside in south-east Queensland, but their experiences are a world apart. Millman, 26, is the tennis version of the batsman who was playing only district cricket 18 months ago and has just made the Test team. Tennis folk who know him say he has absolutely no sense of entitlement.

Millman knew Tomic growing up, even though he was three years older. He called Bernie “the benchmark” in Australian men’s tennis. “On the flipside, I feel I can go out there and have nothing to lose. He plays Davis cup every tie, just about … he’s our number one player.” Millman has never played on any of the three major courts at Melbourne Park. He’s a show court man, not a showman. Last year, he qualified for Wimbledon, won his first-round match and then led Marcos Baghdatis two sets to love before succumbing.

If it’s a test of skill, sublime Bernie will prevail. If it’s a test of will, dogged Millman will be dangerous. “When it comes down to a test of willpower and tenacity, he’ll back himself,” said Millman’s coach, Mark Draper.

Draper called his man “a bit of grinder” whose hard training and preparation meant he would fare well in tough, four or five set matches. “If it goes the distance, he’s got a good chance.” Draper said Millman had to “be aggressive” and “get him (Tomic) moving” around the court, affording him less time to use his magic.

Millman led Roger Federer one set and 3-1 in Brisbane last year, and has pushed Murray to a deciding set. He could match with the best players, Draper said.

Millman, who outlasted Gilles Muller in five sets to reach this match, said of his prospects v Tomic: “For me on paper he should win. But tennis is a funny game. You start off at zero all … on a given day, anyone can win.” If Tomic is worn down or has one of those attacks of disinterest, this 26-year-old “anyone” will suddenly become someone to talk about.

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WBBL: Lisa Sthalekar excels as Sydney Sixers win ninth in a row to seal derby WBBL final

Big hitting: Alyssa Healy smashed 32 off 22 balls as the Sixers cruised into the WBBL final. Photo: Robert CianfloneSydneysiders had rare cause to compliment the Melbourne weather on Friday when rain held off long enough at the MCG for the Sydney Sixers to extend their astonishing Women’s Big Bash League winning streak to nine to earn a berth in Sunday’s final against Sydney Thunder.
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Veteran Lisa Sthalekar, who came out of retirement for the tournament, was chiefly responsible for Hobart struggling to 8-86 in their 14 overs. She claimed 3-9 from her three overs, removing three of the Hurricanes’ top four.

A further rain delay reduced the Sixers’ target to 55 from eight overs which they reached with all 10 wickets and 10 deliveries to spare, thanks to an unbeaten opening partnership from Alyssa Healy (32 off 22 deliveries) and captain Ellyse Perry (21 off 16).

The Hurricanes chose to bat. They were only 1-6 after two overs but managed to salvage a decent powerplay, which was reduced to four overs in line with the rain reduction, by hitting four boundaries in the next two overs.

Sthalekar’s impact began with her first delivery, when she claimed a sharp return catch to remove England vice-captain and Hurricanes captain Heather Knight to begin the fifth over.

The Hurricanes’ best partnership came when Amy Satterthwaite joined Erin Burns. New Zealand international Satterthwaite was particularly strong down the ground, finding the long-on boundary three times.

At 2-65 after 10 overs the Hurricanes were well placed to surge in the last four overs. They were denied by Sthalekar, who removed both Satterthwaite (24 off 24 deliveries) and Burns (26 off 27) in her final over.

The only thing that did not go perfectly for Sthalekar in the field was dropping a catch in the final over, although by that stage it was of little consequence given how much the Hurricanes battled to score after that key partnership was broken.

Rain which arrived just as the Hobart innings ended caused a further delay. Had it persisted the Hurricanes would have progressed as the higher-ranked team. Thankfully – and deservedly – for the Sixers the rain cleared.

Healy made the most of the reduced powerplay of two overs by hitting two fours and a six to take her team to 0-20, needing just under a run-a-ball for the remaining six overs. Her crisp hitting meant Ellyse Perry barely had to get out of gear early.

The only time the Sixers showed a hint of vulnerability in the chase was Healy was given a life on 17 in the third over, courtesy of a dropped catch at square-leg by Brooke Hepburn.

Perry then scored boundaries in each of the next two overs to reduce the target to a leisurely 12 off 18, with all 10 wickets in hand. It would have been nine had it not been for another life for Healy, a missed stumping by Emily Smith off Knight.

The Sixers scored boundaries off all but one over, which allowed them to coast to victory and set up a Sydney derby for the final.

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Australia Day 2016: the barbecue goes low and slow

Celebrity chef Adam Liaw says today’s Aussie barbecue embraces global influences. Photo: Nic Walker Celebrity chef Adam Liaw says he loves the simplicity of the Australian barbecue. Photo: Nic Walker
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Australia Day is approaching and as cooks all over the country prepare to fire up their barbecues in celebration, the burnt snag is definitely off the menu.

The Aussie barbecue has evolved. These days tong-wielding enthusiasts are embracing global influences, turning down the heat, and transforming the humble backyard barbie into another excuse to pit mate against mate in healthy competition.

“We’ve probably been brought up with the burnt sausage and well-done steak off the barbecue,” Australasian Barbecue Alliance co-founder and general manager Adam Roberts said. “Whoever was doing the barbecue probably said ‘That’s the way I like them’, when in reality they’ve just buggered it up.”

The alliance was formed to promote and develop traditional barbecue and meat-smoking culture, and is the sanctioning body for competitions such as The Big BBQ, being held on Australia Day at Parramatta Park. Its members advocate the “low and slow” style of barbecuing – less heat, more time – usually using smokers and wood-fire barbecues. It’s part culinary movement, part sport.

“It’s vastly different to chucking a steak or sausage on the barbie and burning it to a crisp,” Mr Roberts said. “You have a large piece of meat – a whole brisket, or the whole back end of a pig – cooking for a longer period of time. You end up with a much more tender, flavoursome piece of meat.”

Celebrity chef and Sunday Life columnist Adam Liaw​ said cooking over coals was another way to enhance the flavour of meat, and was increasingly popular as people looked to bring out the best in their barbecue.

“You’re seeing more emphasis put on the quality of meat and less on marinades,” the MasterChef winner said. “When I was growing up, there wasn’t a piece of meat that went onto the barbecue that wasn’t heavily marinated the day before.”

Liaw said he loved the simplicity of the Australian barbecue “and the fact that it does bring in other influences from around the world. You might have Asian salads on the side, you might have American-style barbecue sauces.”

Chef Ben O’Donoghue, author of The BBQ Companion and star of TV show Aussie Barbecue Heroes, said Australians had grown “more adventurous in terms of cuisines they’re doing on the barbecue”.

“People are putting together a culturally refined menu,” he said. “If they’re doing an American-style one they’ll do a funky slaw, a potato salad, sides that match the style of cuisine. Korean barbecue is very popular … [with] marinades and ferments.”

Food media and social media were also having an influence, he said. “There’s a greater competitive element to cooking these days,” he said. “Between mates, between friends, they’re having barbecue-offs.There’s some backslapping going on across social media.”

O’Donoghue said he loved lamb on Australia Day: “a whole leg of lamb tied in a swaddle of rosemary that’s been caressed on the inside with an olive tapenade and anchovies. That’s always a real winner”.

Sales of lamb lifted more than 35 per cent in the week before January 26 last year compared to the weekly average, no doubt helped by Meat and Livestock Australia’s annual Australia Day lamb ad, which this year sparked an avalanche of complaints with a scene in which a SWAT team torches a vegan’s kale.  Adam Liaw’s five Aussie barbecue tipsIt’s important to rest meat when it comes off the barbecue. Keep a resting tray next to the grill and scatter it with fresh herbs and olive oil to give the meat extra flavour while resting.Hit your potato salad with an umami punch by mixing in a few tablespoons of finely grated parmesan.Cook in courses. There’s no need to throw everything on the barbecue at once. I like to start with seafood, then other meats, before finishing with sausages. Cooking for a crowd? Try the reverse sear method for perfect steaks. Slow-cook a tray of steaks in the oven at 125°C for 45 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 55°C for medium rare. Rest them well then finish them with a couple of minutes on the barbecue. Forget lemons, scrubbing with newspaper or ice. The best way to clean a barbecue is to let it burn on its highest heat for 10 minutes then brush it with a stiff wire brush.  

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The hazards on Turnbull’s high road

Comfortable on the international stage: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with US President Barack Obama in Washington this week. Photo: Andrew Harrer Illustration: Jim Pavlidis
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Malcolm Turnbull did more in Washington this week than put his stamp on Australia’s most important alliance. He articulated an approach to leadership that is likely to define his prime ministership this election year.

“This is a time for creative pragmatism and a recognition that difficult compromises will be required,” Turnbull declared in an address that combined thematic continuity with his predecessors and nuance with personal authenticity.

Turnbull coined his “creative pragmatism” in the context of finding a political settlement in Syria, but he could have been addressing any of the myriad challenges that lie ahead at home, from fixing the budget and reforming the tax system to workplace reform and ending the suffering of asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island.

Now he is back on home soil and, it seems, intent of taking the high road to political judgment day: going full-term and seeking a mandate for substantial change in the form of a blueprint for jobs, prosperity and growth that will be cast as fair but involve shared pain.

It’s a dangerous path because Turnbull would be assured of winning if he went to an election early and eschewed risk; because many who have watched their superannuation nest eggs take a hammering have already reached their pain threshold; and because it exposes Turnbull to the kind of negative scare campaigns that helped propel Tony Abbott to power.

Underpinning the high-road intention is the Prime Minister’s belief in his power to persuade and his conviction that this is the approach the country needs and the people want.

This is demonstrated in his insistence that “every option should be on the table”, including a 50 per cent hike in the GST, and encapsulated in the Martin Luther King quote Turnbull used to conclude his speech in Washington to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience,” King declared, “but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

This is such a time. Huge difference between perceptions and reality

One hazard for Turnbull is the huge difference between perceptions and reality in Australian politics as the year begins. The perception is that Turnbull’s ascension marks the return to what used to be the norm, with new prime ministers given at least a couple of terms to prove their worth.

The reality is that the problems that bedevilled his predecessor in the first two years of this government have only intensified since Turnbull was sworn in on September 15. The ability to fund initiatives to boost growth or even sustain living standards is even more constrained, just as the will of his colleagues to be brave on tax or on even modest workplace reform is even more drained.

In one sense Turnbull is a casualty of his own rhetoric. His central proposition is that adversity, volatility and disruption can be transformed into opportunity, so long as they are approached with confidence, agility, imagination and enterprise. It invites high expectations that will be extremely hard to realise when one of the principal drivers of prosperity, the Chinese high-growth era, is running out of steam.

The contradiction is reflected in qualitative research by Ipsos which shows that, on the one hand, Australians feel pessimistic about the future, believing that the country may have peaked and, on the other, that they have great faith in Turnbull to turn things around.

Laura Demasi, research director of the Ipsos Mind and Mood Report, says a constant theme of group discussion over the past four years has been that Turnbull’s business background and wealth are strong positive attributes, prompting comments such as, “If he can do that for himself, what could he do for the country?”

“There’s a sense of confidence in him as an economic manager and a general belief that, if anyone can turn things around, it’s him,” Demasi says. “It’s going to take a lot to erode all of that goodwill, expectation and hope.” The Abbott factor

Another hazard on the high road is the propensity of some in the Coalition to seek out any opportunity to undermine the leader who is ideologically closer to the US Democrats contending to succeed Barack Obama than any of the Republican candidates, especially by painting him as weaker than Abbott on terrorism.

Then there is Abbott himself, who is expected to announce his intention to re-contest his safe Sydney seat, but has a bigger decision to make. Does he take the high road back to a serious contribution? Or does he opt instead to be a lightning rod for conservative disaffection inside the Coalition partyroom?

If Abbott wants to be considered for a return to the ministry, the onus is on him to tell Turnbull that he intends to be a team player and to contribute to the return of a Turnbull government. That would not mean forsaking his conservative views, or even the ambition of one day returning to the leadership (however fanciful that ambition might now seem), but it would mean submitting to the discipline Abbott demanded of others and generally was afforded when he was Liberal leader.

The alternative path is the one Abbott appeared to be setting before the Christmas break: to position himself as the champion of conservatism at home and abroad, especially in the context of debates on asylum seekers, terrorism and Islamic extremism.

Any notion that this could be a path back to the prime ministership is, frankly, preposterous and Abbott’s recent silence suggests he understands that, if there is one lesson from recent history, it is that the vast majority of voters don’t like political infighting and recoil from radicalism, whether on the right or the left.

The reality of Turnbull’s first four-and-a-bit months in office is that there has been plenty of activity but little in the way of big decisions. He has been assured in Parliament and comfortable on the international stage; has prevailed on one minister to quit and another to stand down; has re-positioned in some areas and presided over the release of the royal commission report on union corruption and a new policy on innovation. But that’s about it.

Assuming he is intent on taking the high road to re-election, the journey has only just begun.

Michael Gordon is political editor of The Age.

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Malcolm Turnbull extends huge lead over Bill Shorten in first poll for 2016

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has spent the first fortnight back at work for 2016 visiting marginal electorates. Photo: Graham Tidy
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Shorten’s chief spin doctor exits

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s lead over Bill Shorten as voters’ choice as better prime minister has grown a whopping 19 per cent over the Christmas and New Year break, with the Opposition Leader plunging to his lowest ever rating in a ReachTEL poll conducted for the Seven Network.

Asked who they thought made a better prime minister, 80.8 per cent of voters nominated Mr Turnbull and just 19.2 per cent nominated Mr Shorten, whereas on November 26, 71.3 per cent of respondents had nominated Mr Turnbull and 28.7 per cent chose Mr Shorten.

A Fairfax-Ipsos poll conducted in November found that Mr Turnbull led Mr Shorten as preferred prime minister 69 per cent to 18 per cent.

The Coalition’s 10 percentage point lead over Labor in the two-party preferred vote has not changed, according to the poll of 3116 people conducted on January 21, with the same 55-45 result as the last ReachTEL poll conducted on November 26 last year.

The primary votes of the ALP, the Liberal Party, the Greens and the Nationals have barely shifted in the last two months.

Mr Turnbull has largely remained out of the political spotlight over the last month – though he did emerge to deal with the resignations of junior ministers Jamie Briggs and Mal Brough – and he has been in Iraq and then the United States in the last week.

He is due to return to Canberra on Sunday, cabinet will meet next week and Parliament is due to resume in 11 days time in a year that promises a tax reform package, other major policy announcements from both sides and an election likely in the second half of the year.

Back on September 15, after Mr Turnbull first took the nation’s top political job from Tony Abbott, 38.3 per cent backed Mr Shorten and 61.9 per cent backed Mr Turnbull, underscoring the precipitous fall in the Opposition Leader’s support.

Against Mr Abbott on August 28, Mr Shorten had led 57.9 per cent to 42.1 per cent.

Asked to rate the Prime Minister’s performance, 53.6 per cent of voters said it was good or very good, 33.8 per cent said it was satisfactory and 12.5 per cent said it was poor or very poor.

But just 13.8 per cent of respondents said Mr Shorten was doing a good or very good job, 28.8 per cent said they were satisfied and 57.4 per cent said his performance was poor or very poor.

The findings will add weight to the argument of a small core of critics of Mr Shorten inside the ALP that a change of leader may be necessary in the election year to shore up support for the party.

However, at the moment, there is a clear view within the ALP that the party must repair its reputation after the tumultuous Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years and stick with its current leader.

In addition, many Labor MPs question whether another leader – be it Anthony Albanese, Tanya Plibersek, Chris Bowen or someone else – would make any difference.

Mr Shorten has been campaigning around the country against an increase in the GST – a policy which has not yet actually been announced by the federal government and which may not be – and conducting a series of town hall meetings around the country.

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Teaching students to face personality assessments

The Board of Studies’ move to institute personality tests at all universities comes after a crackdown on teacher training by the NSW government in September. Photo: Lyn OsbornNSW teaching students will face personality assessments from next year, the NSW Board of Studies has confirmed.
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The President of the NSW Council of Deans of Education, Chris Davison, said the assessments will draw from tests similar to those undertaken for the army and will weed out candidates unsuited to teaching before they begin their degrees.

“The challenge is to have one that works for teaching. You probably need a much higher degree of empathy than you do in the army,” she said.

Professor Davison said that the national program was necessary despite tough new regulations on literacy and numeracy imposed by the NSW government.

She said the personality assessments were being implemented because students with poor communication or behavioral issues were still undertaking teaching degrees.

“At one stage it emerged that someone in our own program at UNSW had major psychological problems,” she said.

“They already had a degree in another field so had passed the academic requirements but they couldn’t maintain eye contact, they couldn’t maintain conversation. We found out they had recently been released from psychiatric ward and had problems interacting with people.

“Their counsellor suggested they take up a teaching degree. I counselled them to withdraw.”

The Board of Studies’ move to implement personality tests at all universities comes after a crackdown on teacher training by the NSW government in September.

For the first time this year, teachers had to achieve three band 5s to be accepted into university and pass literacy and numeracy tests, as thousands of school students prepare to return to school from January 28.

Less than 10 per cent of universities are impacted by the band 5 regulation, said Professor Davison. It does not apply to double teaching degrees such as a Bachelor of Science and Education.

The second degree is assumed to take the place of the three band 5 standard at most major universities.

Professor Davison said the tougher academic regulations announced by NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli at UNSW in September were “ironic, because we are not affected by them”.

While the regulations may not have prevented students from enrolling at most major universities, the publicity has made a dent in teaching applications throughout the state.

“Across the sector there has been a drop in applications for teaching this year,” said Western Sydney University’s Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Denise Kirkpatrick.

Professor Kirkpatrick said she welcomed the government’s tightening of teaching standards, saying it would lead to more well-prepared teachers in the state’s classrooms.

Despite the crackdown, second chances have been extended to teachers who have not met the three band 5 standard through alternative entry schemes or scored a double degree position.

At the University of Notre Dame Australia, students who failed to get the required marks will be able to take a bridging course that will equate to the threeband 5 qualification.

The course will focus on HSC English and the seven key competencies outlined in the Australian Curriculum: literacy, numeracy, ICT capability, critical and creative thinking, personal and social capability, ethical understanding and intercultural understanding.

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Tennis: Players were warned of match-fixing allegations

Match-fixing scandal forms a cloud over the Australian Open. Photo: Cameron SpencerTennis Australia was tipped off about the match-fixing allegations more than a month before the tournament started, with the ATP warning players of the bombshell that was about to be dropped.
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Fairfax Media has been told the ATP informed all players at a compulsory meeting at a Melbourne CBD hotel on Saturday. It is understood Tennis Australia also spoke to the management teams of several Australian players  leading into the tournament, to familiarise them with what was subsequently released by BBC and Buzzfeed on Monday.

It is understood several players have been approached in the past month by several media organisations in regards to suspicious betting and match-fixing in the  sport.

It is understood Tennis Australia was aware of the players  the BBC and Buzzfeed believed had allegedly been involved in matches with suspicious betting fluctuations.

The BBC/Buzzfeed did not release the players’ names, referring to them by code.

On Thursday, another website, Show Legend, claimed to have decoded the Buzzfeed algorithm and released a list of names on social media, including Lleyton Hewitt, that it alleged was the focus of the Buzzfeed report.

While the third-party report strongly rejected any suggestion Hewitt was involved in any dubious activity, the ATP and Tennis Australia are hellbent on ensuring the Australian legend’s reputation is not tarnished by the whole episode.

It is understood ATP and Tennis Australia solicitors are ready to launch a legal attack on any organisation that implies the two-time grand slam champion is involved or connected to match-fixing.

Fairfax Media contacted Hewitt’s agent David Drysdale, who backed his client’s stand in the press conference following his exit from the Australian Open on Thursday night.

“It is absolutely ludicrous that anyone would think Lleyton Hewitt would be involved in anything like this,” Drysdale said.

“Everyone in this country knows his character and there’s no questioning his integrity.”

Using an algorithm from information provided in the Buzzfeed report, decoders identified 15 players and a series of matches that raised flags because of betting irregularities.

Fifteen Hewitt matches were flagged, including at least one in the Davis Cup, outraging tennis purists and a country that widely recognises the 34-year-old as one of the most competitive athletes Australia has produced.

While Hewitt’s farewell was somewhat overshadowed by the speculation, the veteran did not shy away from the drama, describing it as “absurd” that his name had been thrown into the controversy.

“I think it’s a joke to deal with it,” Hewitt said of the saga after his career-ending straight-sets loss to David Ferrer.

“You know, obviously, yeah, there’s no possible way. I know my name’s now been thrown into it. I don’t think anyone here would think that I’ve done anything corruption or match-fixing. It’s just absurd.

“For anyone that tries to go any further with it, then good luck. Take me on with it. Yeah, it’s disappointing. I think throwing my name out there with it makes the whole thing an absolute farce.”

Hewitt is not the only high-profile tennis player to have his name publicly linked to suspicious betting activity.

A report in Italian newspaper Tuttosport linked Novak Djokovic to betting irregularities in a match he lost in 2007 to Frenchman Fabrice Santoro.

The world No.1 strongly denied the accusations, also describing it as absurd.

“It’s not true,” Djokovic said.

“What it is to say? I’ve lost that match. I don’t know if you’re trying to create a story about that match or for that matter any of the matches of the top players losing in the early rounds, I think it’s just absurd. Anybody can create a story about any match. That’s my point.

“There hasn’t been too many matches where top players lost in last decade or so in early rounds. You can pick any match that you like that the top player lost and just create a story out of it. I think it’s not supported by any kind of proof, any evidence, any facts. It’s just speculation. So I don’t think there is a story about it.”

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Nick Olive’s Fox Tales off to prepare for Black Opal Stakes

Canberra trainer Nick Olive is aiming Fox Tales at Canberra’s group 3 Black Opal Stakes. Photo: Elesa KurtzCanberra trainer Nick Olive is hoping Fox Tales can go one better than stable star Single Gaze in the $275,000 Black Opal Stakes (1200 metres) after the son of Foxwedge saluted on debut at Thoroughbred Park on Friday.
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Fox Tales jumped well and sat on the pace before taking the lead in the home straight, winning by ¾ length from Can’t Find Snippy, with No When To Hold Em third in the two-year-old handicap (1000m).

The final four races on Friday’s program were abandoned due to poor visibility. There were no issues with the track.

The two-year-old colt will go to the paddock for a brief spell to freshen up for next month’s Lightning Ridge Plate (1000m) as a stepping stone into the Black Opal Stakes on March 6.

“That’s where he’ll head. I’m thinking now of giving him five days in the paddock and missing the next two-year-old race and then heading to the preview, and then hopefully on to the Black Opal from there,” Olive said.

Olive said he thought Fox Tales would turn into a good horse, but he had a long way to go to show if he could be as good as Single Gaze, which is “the best horse I’ve ever had”.

Single Gaze finished second to Takedown in last year’s Black Opal after finishing third to Le Chef in the $2 million Magic Millions Two-year-old Classic (1200m).

“I really like this horse … he’s just improved [with] everything he’s done. He’s given me the feel of a good horse and he’s nowhere near his top yet,” Olive said.

“He’s got a lot to learn and a lot more to come down the track.

“[Single Gaze is] the best horse I’ve ever had so he’s got a long way to get to her.”

Single Gaze spent 10 days in the paddock and was back in work, getting ready for the group 2 Surround Stakes (1400m).

Then the plan is for the group 3 Kembla Grange Classic (1600m) on March 11, before the group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) two weeks later.

Potentially the $1 million Australian Oaks (2400m) would be after that.

“She’ll be nominated for the Oaks, but I don’t know whether she’ll run that trip,” Olive said.

Olive has Rose Of Falvelon running in the benchmark 78 handicap (1000m) at Randwick on Saturday, where she’ll probably run even though she doesn’t handle the wet.

Norm Gardner’s Atom Eve will jump in the Highway Handicap (1200m), where the unbeaten three-year-old filly is going for her third straight win.

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$24b high speed rail project into the heart of Newcastlepoll

A COMPANYbacked by China’s state railways companywants to spend $24 billion ona high-speed rail network that would make it possible to travel fromNewcastle to Sydney in less than an hour.
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Centurion Group, a developer and China Rail’s local partner, says a privately funded rail system running from Campbelltown, in Sydney’s south west, to Newcastle, is financially viable and could go ahead if the state government supports the project.

The 150-kilometre line, as envisioned by the company’s chief executive Patrick Yu,would run from Campbelltown, to Central, Chatswood, Wyong, and then to Newcastle after turning at Cameron Park.

“It would take less than an hour from Central to Newcastle,” Mr Yu said. “We are being cautious and saying 50 [minutes] at this stage.”

The line would run all the way into the city of Newcastle, but still allow the city to connect to the harbour, Mr Yu said.

“We would go underground,” he explained.

The plan would be for the line to run toitstruncation point–presumablythe proposed Wickham Interchange –and then entera tunnel which would leadall the way to the site of the former Newcastle railway station.The company has been pursuing the idea for some years, and has the support of NSW upper houseChristian Democrat Fred Nile, butthere’s one big challenge stopping the plan at its first hurdle.

Centurion says the line could be funded by “value capturing” –that is developing in areas around new stations –but firstwantsthe state government to redesign it’s $7 billion Sydney harbour tunnel crossing to accommodate a high-speed rail line.It says it would onlycost $250 million extrato make the tunnel large enough to fit the line.

“Otherwise you would have to legislate for a third tunnel through the harbour,” he said. “It’s a narrow harbour as it is, it could take 10 years before that happens.”

But Transport for NSW has been quick to knock the idea on the head, saying that designing the tunnels for high speed rail would mean making new stations in Sydney almost three times deeper.

“The new twin metro railway tunnels … are being designed to be as shallow as possible on either end of the harbourto make it easy for customers to get into and out of stations as quickly as possible,” Transport said in a statement.“The whole point of Sydney Metro is to deliver fast, frequent, convenient services.”

Don’t put the cart before the corridor

IT WAS four years ago that Todd Williams, the chief executive ofRegional Development Australia in the Hunter, helped cobbletogether a coalition of business leaders, government officials and politicians to lobby for work on a high speed rail network to begin in this region.

At the time, the thenLabor government wasworkingon the second partof amajor study into the feasibility of a Brisbane-to-Melbourne fastrailnetwork.

When the report came out in 2013it put theoverall cost of the project at $114 billionand estimated that the stretch between Newcastle and Sydney would be the most complicated and expensive –attaching a price tag of$141 million per kilometre.

Despite the cost, Regional Development Australiahaven’given up. Next month the general manager of Central Japan Railway, Shohei Yoshia, will deliver a key note address for the group.

Mr Williams said the issue was still “so important”, but had to be dealt with “one thing at a time”.

“What we found out back then was that there is currently no corridor preserved, there’s no land available, that needs to be dealt with as a priority,” he said.

The chief executive of the Hunter Business Chamber Kristen Keegan, agreed, saying that while she wasn’t familiar with the Centurion Group proposal, preserving a rail corridor was the first step.“It is important that if high speed rail in Australia is to become a reality that the appropriate rail corridor is identified and preserved,” she said.

Since the landmark 2013 study the government has changed and the issue has dropped off the agenda.

However a spokesman for the federal government’s infrastructure minister Warren Truss said the government was working with states “to identify priority sections of the preferred alignment for protection”.

“Jurisdictional consultations have focused on corridor issues relating to the preferred alignment,” the spokesman said.

Garry Glazebrook, an adjunct professor ofurban planningat theUniversity of Technology Sydney, did work mapping out routes for high speed rail for the previous government. He isskeptical of when it might happen, but thinks Australia would benefit.

“I think we’ll be just ahead of Antarctica in getting it,” he said.

He said that having a far closer link with a “global city” would make it easier for businesses to justify moving to Newcastle, as well as make it an attractive place to live.

“From a business point of view, you could argue firms will think well it’s cheaper, the lifestyle is better, but you have Sydney less than an hour a way,” he said.“I think certainly it would have that impact for housing, you would see development around railstations.”

The cost of not building high speed railZAC Zavos says he would “definitely” still be in Newcastle if high-speed raillinkedthe city to Sydney.

The co-founder and managing directorof Conversant Media –the publisher of culture site Lost At E Minor and sports opinion site The Roar –ran the company inNewcastle from the end of 2007 until last year,when the toll of travelling back and forth to Sydney caught up with him.

“I think a lot of businesses want to be in Newcastle but are forced to operate out of Sydney because that’s where they need to be,” he said.“But we only moved because of the distance, if you eliminated that then all of sudden businesses have the option of staying, or coming, to Newcastle.”

Mr Zavos employs 16 people in his Surry Hills office. Most were already based in Sydney, but, he says, if he could have, his Newcastle office would have been larger.

“We wouldn’t have left if there was any viable option to stay,” he said.“The economic benefit to me is simple; you’re decentralising Sydney and bringing businesses into regional areas like Newcastle.”

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Golden Guitar Awards 2016photos

Golden Guitar Awards 2016 | photos Photo: Gareth Gardner
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