Monthly Archives: January 2019

Andrews withdrawal a ‘cop out’: Nalliah

Federal minister Kevin Andrews’ decision not to speak at the controversial World Congress of Families conference is a cop out, the event’s new host says.


The social services minister and Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark cancelled their speeches a day before the Saturday conference, run by pro-family religious group the World Congress of Families.

Pastor Daniel Nalliah’s evangelical Christian group Catch The Fire Ministries is hosting the conference after three other venues refused to hold it.

“I am aware that Kevin Andrews has basically pulled out because the building is Catch The Fire Ministries’,” Mr Nalliah told AAP on Friday.

“I think that is, frankly, an absolute cop out.”

Mr Andrews said he originally planned to attend the conference because tolerance was critical in a western liberal democracy.

The World Congress of Families has attracted opposition because of its stance against gay marriage and claims of links between breast cancer and abortion.

It also lists divorce, “confusions over sexual identity”, human trafficking, violence against women and child abuse as problems facing society.

“The calls for me not to attend demonstrate the intolerance of the Greens and the left – instead of arguing their case in the public arena they seek to shut down debate,” Mr Andrews said.

“Equally, I cannot support intolerance from other quarters. As I have been informed today that the event is now to be hosted by Catch the Fire, I have decided not to attend.”

Mr Nalliah attracted controversy in 2009 when he said the deadly Victorian bushfires were the result of the state’s decriminalisation of abortion.

Mr Clark’s spokesman said it was regrettable protesters prevented the conference from running at its original venue.

“In a democracy such as Victoria, all people are entitled to express their views within the law, and those who disagree should respond with argument and debate rather than by trying to prevent others from gathering to express their views,” the spokesman said.

Conference organiser Babette Francis said she was disappointed Mr Andrews would not attend the event, but said it would still go ahead.

Protest organiser Gaye Demanuele considered the withdrawal of Mr Andrews, Mr Clark and Victorian upper house MP Bernie Finn as a victory.

“What we also count as a victory is that this extremist hate-filled World Congress of Families are now revealing their true colours,” Ms Demanuele told AAP.

She said protesters would demonstrate outside Catch The Fire Ministries’ building in Hallam, which Mr Nalliah welcomed.

“I’m all for free speech, I’m looking forward to the protesters coming in and demonstrating and protesting, as long as they do it peacefully and respectfully,” Mr Nalliah said.

Mr Nalliah said the politicians’ withdrawal showed they “have no guts”, while the venues who refused to host the conference were “cowards”.

Liberal senator Cory Bernardi cancelled his appearance several months ago, while his colleague Eric Abetz had never planned to attend despite being listed as a supporter.

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High Aussie dollar means no rate hike

Good news for borrowers – the chance of an interest rate hike before June 2015 is becoming less and less likely.


The Reserve Bank’s interest rate cutting cycle is well and truly over, but some economists are pushing back their forecasts for a rate hike as the persistently high Aussie dollar weighs on economic growth.

All 15 economists surveyed by AAP are forecasting the cash rate to remain at 2.5 per cent after the RBA’s board meeting on Tuesday, and for the rest of 2014.

Only four of those surveyed predict a hike in the first half of 2015, which would be the first interest rate rise in over four years.

HSBC Australia chief economist Paul Bloxham was previously tipping a rate hike before Christmas, but has now pushed that out to the middle of 2015.

“The high Australian dollar has acted as a drag on income growth,” he said.

“It has also hindered competitiveness and appears to be discouraging non-mining business investment.”

Prices for Australia’s mining exports have fallen 11 per cent in 2014, but the Australian dollar has bounced around between 90 US cents and 95 US cents for the past six months.

“This reduces the Australian dollar value of local incomes, which is a drag on local economic growth,” Mr Bloxham said.

Traditionally, commodity prices and the Aussie dollar have moved in unison, which has acted as a “shock absorber” for the economy when commodity prices change, he said.

“In our view, the longer the Australian dollar stays high, the longer the RBA is likely to leave rates on hold,” Mr Bloxham said.

JP Morgan chief economist Stephen Walters has removed a cut in the cash rate from his forecasts because of the strength of the housing sector.

RBA officials are reluctant to provide further policy support partly because of signs of housing market exuberance, he said.

“Our forecast now includes the period of stability in policy interest rates that RBA officials favour in their policy guidance, with the first hike not coming until the third quarter of 2015.”

Citigroup economists Paul Brennan and Josh Williamson said a temporary slowdown in economic growth in 2014 is not going to be a concern for the RBA.

They believe governor Glenn Stevens will remain patient about the pick up in the non-mining investment needed to make up for the fall in mining investment.

“Ultimately the governor sees upside risks to the outlook,” Citigroup said.

“In particular, he sees a number of conditions being in place why investment outside of mining will gradually pick up, including low interest rates, but also strong population growth, rising wealth and the leverage to Asia’s rising living standards.”

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Asylum seekers plea for temporary visas

Christmas Island asylum seekers have added weight to a federal government push to reintroduce temporary protection visas, pleading to be released on them rather than suffer deteriorating mental health in detention.


A male asylum seeker, representing several families who arrived after July 19 last year, called for the controversial visas to be reinstated.

“We are really so tired from our lives here. We need freedom,” the man wrote in a letter to Sky News, detailing asylum seekers’ fears about being sent to Nauru or Cambodia and depression.

“This detention, this prison, this life is very, very bad for children, teenagers and adults,” he said.

Criminals in jail were better off than those waiting for refugee status decisions because they knew when they would get out, he said.

The Senate last year blocked the Abbott government’s bid to reintroduce the visas abolished by Labor in 2008.

Under the Howard government they gave refugees protection for up to three years but banned them from applying for permanent protection.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott maintains they are the “most humanitarian policy”.

“I want to see the obstacles to that policy removed,” he told reporters in Canberra on Friday.

But his government will have a tough task convincing the Senate to support the policy.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has talked to Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer but the outcome of their meeting is unknown.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten dismissed the visas as a bandaid fix that keeps people in limbo.

He believes the Papua New Guinea refugee resettlement deal made the case for the visas redundant because resettlement in Australia was off the table.

Meanwhile, Mr Morrison’s office has confirmed an asylum seeker has been evacuated from Manus Island detention centre for urgent medical attention in Brisbane.

He received medical treatment in Port Moresby first.

Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young fears the 24-year-old Iranian man was airlifted to Australia too late and urged Mr Morrison to explain.

She said he has a skin infection that has turned life-threatening.

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Harvey Norman says recovery under way

More houses are being built and renovated, and that makes Gerry Harvey optimistic about his business’ fortunes.


Harvey Norman has turned around two years of declining profit, growing its bottom line by 49 per cent to $211.7 million in the year to June.

The retailer has come through the other side of a difficult period, including the GFC and the underperformance of its Clive Peeters and Rick Hart brands, the 74-year-old billionaire and executive chairman said.

A surge in housing construction in the first six months of 2014 was a good signal for Harvey Norman’s “market leading” furniture and household appliance retail operations, Mr Harvey said.

“We’ve had a few slings and arrows of outrageous fortune come to visit us,” he told AAP.

“Hopefully we’re on the way to a recovery, the economy is in reasonable shape.

“There are no reasons to be pessimistic at this stage and believe interest rates are going to rise to three to four per cent, or unemployment is going to be 10 per cent.”

Harvey Norman’s improved performance sent its shares up 26 cents, or 7.9 per cent, to $3.55.

That added $81.5 million to the value of Mr Harvey’s stake in the company, to $1.1 billion.

Profit growth was driven by changes to the company’s property values, and a jump in sales.

Sales in stores owned by Harvey Norman grew more than 14 per cent to $1.51 billion.

Overall like-for-like sales growth was 4.7 per cent in the year, to $5.77 billion, due to more modest growth in franchise stores.

Mr Harvey said it was pleasing to see improved performances from each of the company’s business segments, despite some short term weakness related to the Federal budget and general weakness in retail.


* Full year net profit of $211.7m, up 49 pct from $142.2m in 2012/13

* Sales revenue of $1.51b, up 14 pct from $1.32b

* Final divided of eight cents, up from 4.5 cents

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Masters of love

By Emily Esfahani Smith

Every day in June, the most popular wedding month of the year, about 13,000 American couples will say “I do,” committing to a lifelong relationship that will be full of friendship, joy, and love that will carry them forward to their final days on this earth.


Except, of course, it doesn’t work out that way for most people. The majority of marriages fail, either ending in divorce and separation or devolving into bitterness and dysfunction. Of all the people who get married, only three in ten remain in healthy, happy marriages, as psychologist Ty Tashiro points out in his book The Science of Happily Ever After, which was published earlier this year.

Social scientists first started studying marriages by observing them in action in the 1970s in response to a crisis: Married couples were divorcing at unprecedented rates. Worried about the impact these divorces would have on the children of the broken marriages, psychologists decided to cast their scientific net on couples, bringing them into the lab to observe them and determine what the ingredients of a healthy, lasting relationship were. Was each unhappy family unhappy in its own way, as Tolstoy claimed, or did the miserable marriages all share something toxic in common?

“Disaster” couples showed signs of being in fight-or-flight mode in their relationships. Having a conversation sitting next to their spouse was, to their bodies, like facing off with a saber-toothed tiger.

Psychologist John Gottman was one of those researchers. For the past four decades, he has studied thousands of couples in a quest to figure out what makes relationships work. I recently had the chance to interview Gottman and his wife Julie, also a psychologist, in New York City. Together, the renowned experts on marital stability run The Gottman Institute, which is devoted to helping couples build and maintain loving, healthy relationships based on scientific studies.

John Gottman began gathering his most critical findings in 1986, when he set up “The Love Lab” with his colleague Robert Levenson at the University of Washington. Gottman and Levenson brought newlyweds into the lab and watched them interact with each other. With a team of researchers, they hooked the couples up to electrodes and asked the couples to speak about their relationship, like how they met, a major conflict they were facing together, and a positive memory they had. As they spoke, the electrodes measured the subjects’ blood flow, heart rates, and how much they sweat they produced. Then the researchers sent the couples home and followed up with them six years later to see if they were still together.

From the data they gathered, Gottman separated the couples into two major groups: the masters and the disasters. The masters were still happily together after six years. The disasters had either broken up or were chronically unhappy in their marriages. When the researchers analyzed the data they gathered on the couples, they saw clear differences between the masters and disasters. The disasters looked calm during the interviews, but their physiology, measured by the electrodes, told a different story. Their heart rates were quick, their sweat glands were active, and their blood flow was fast. Following thousands of couples longitudinally, Gottman found that the more physiologically active the couples were in the lab, the quicker their relationships deteriorated over time.

But what does physiology have to do with anything? The problem was that the disasters showed all the signs of arousal—of being in fight-or-flight mode—in their relationships. Having a conversation sitting next to their spouse was, to their bodies, like facing off with a saber-toothed tiger. Even when they were talking about pleasant or mundane facets of their relationships, they were prepared to attack and be attacked. This sent their heart rates soaring and made them more aggressive toward each other. For example, each member of a couple could be talking about how their days had gone, and a highly aroused husband might say to his wife, “Why don’t you start talking about your day. It won’t take you very long.”

The masters, by contrast, showed low physiological arousal. They felt calm and connected together, which translated into warm and affectionate behavior, even when they fought. It’s not that the masters had, by default, a better physiological make-up than the disasters; it’s that masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy that made both of them more emotionally and thus physically comfortable.

Gottman wanted to know more about how the masters created that culture of love and intimacy, and how the disasters squashed it. In a follow-up study in 1990, he designed a lab on the University of Washington campus to look like a beautiful bed and breakfast retreat. He invited 130 newlywed couples to spend the day at this retreat and watched them as they did what couples normally do on vacation: cook, clean, listen to music, eat, chat, and hang out. And Gottman made a critical discovery in this study—one that gets at the heart of why some relationships thrive while others languish.

Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife—a sign of interest or support—hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.

The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband, as Gottman puts it. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that.

People who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who didn’t—those who turned away—would not respond or respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper. Sometimes they would respond with overt hostility, saying something like, “Stop interrupting me, I’m reading.”

These bidding interactions had profound effects on marital well-being. Couples who had divorced after a six-year follow up had “turn-toward bids” 33 percent of the time. Only three in ten of their bids for emotional connection were met with intimacy. The couples who were still together after six years had “turn-toward bids” 87 percent of the time. Nine times out of ten, they were meeting their partner’s emotional needs.

* * *

By observing these types of interactions, Gottman can predict with up to 94 percent certainty whether couples—straight or gay, rich or poor, childless or not—will be broken up, together and unhappy, or together and happy several years later. Much of it comes down to the spirit couples bring to the relationship. Do they bring kindness and generosity; or contempt, criticism, and hostility?

“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”

Contempt is the number one factor that tears couples apart.

“It’s not just scanning environment,” chimed in Julie Gottman. “It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or scanning him for what he’s doing wrong and criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.”

Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there. People who give their partner the cold shoulder—deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally—damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they’re not there, not valued. And people who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them not only kill the love in the relationship, but they also kill their partner’s ability to fight off viruses and cancers. Being mean is the death knell of relationships.

Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved. “My bounty is as boundless as the sea,” says Shakespeare’s Juliet. “My love as deep; the more I give to thee, / The more I have, for both are infinite.” That’s how kindness works too: there’s a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship.

There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don’t. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise. Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. They know that they have to exercise it to keep it in shape. They know, in other words, that a good relationship requires sustained hard work.

“If your partner expresses a need,” explained Julie Gottman, “and you are tired, stressed, or distracted, then the generous spirit comes in when a partner makes a bid, and you still turn toward your partner.”

In that moment, the easy response may be to turn away from your partner and focus on your iPad or your book or the television, to mumble “Uh huh” and move on with your life, but neglecting small moments of emotional connection will slowly wear away at your relationship. Neglect creates distance between partners and breeds resentment in the one who is being ignored.

The hardest time to practice kindness is, of course, during a fight—but this is also the most important time to be kind. Letting contempt and aggression spiral out of control during a conflict can inflict irrevocable damage on a relationship.

“Kindness doesn’t mean that we don’t express our anger,” Julie Gottman explained, “but the kindness informs how we choose to express the anger. You can throw spears at your partner. Or you can explain why you’re hurt and angry, and that’s the kinder path.”

John Gottman elaborated on those spears: “Disasters will say things differently in a fight. Disasters will say ‘You’re late. What’s wrong with you? You’re just like your mom.’ Masters will say ‘I feel bad for picking on you about your lateness, and I know it’s not your fault, but it’s really annoying that you’re late again.’”

* * *

“A lot of times, a partner is trying to do the right thing even if it’s executed poorly. So appreciate the intent.”

For the hundreds of thousands of couples getting married this month—and for the millions of couples currently together, married or not—the lesson from the research is clear: If you want to have a stable, healthy relationship, exercise kindness early and often.

When people think about practicing kindness, they often think about small acts of generosity, like buying each other little gifts or giving one another back rubs every now and then. While those are great examples of generosity, kindness can also be built into the very backbone of a relationship through the way partners interact with each other on a day-to-day basis, whether or not there are back rubs and chocolates involved.

One way to practice kindness is by being generous about your partner’s intentions. From the research of the Gottmans, we know that disasters see negativity in their relationship even when it is not there. An angry wife may assume, for example, that when her husband left the toilet seat up, he was deliberately trying to annoy her. But he may have just absent-mindedly forgotten to put the seat down.

Or say a wife is running late to dinner (again), and the husband assumes that she doesn’t value him enough to show up to their date on time after he took the trouble to make a reservation and leave work early so that they could spend a romantic evening together. But it turns out that the wife was running late because she stopped by a store to pick him up a gift for their special night out. Imagine her joining him for dinner, excited to deliver her gift, only to realize that he’s in a sour mood because he misinterpreted what was motivating her behavior. The ability to interpret your partner’s actions and intentions charitably can soften the sharp edge of conflict.

“Even in relationships where people are frustrated, it’s almost always the case that there are positive things going on and people trying to do the right thing,” psychologist Ty Tashiro told me. “A lot of times, a partner is trying to do the right thing even if it’s executed poorly. So appreciate the intent.”

Another powerful kindness strategy revolves around shared joy. One of the telltale signs of the disaster couples Gottman studied was their inability to connect over each other’s good news. When one person in the relationship shared the good news of, say, a promotion at work with excitement, the other would respond with wooden disinterest by checking his watch or shutting the conversation down with a comment like, “That’s nice.”

We’ve all heard that partners should be there for each other when the going gets rough. But research shows that being there for each other when things go right is actually more important for relationship quality. How someone responds to a partner’s good news can have dramatic consequences for the relationship.

In one study from 2006, psychological researcher Shelly Gable and her colleagues brought young adult couples into the lab to discuss recent positive events from their lives. They psychologists wanted to know how partners would respond to each other’s good news. They found that, in general, couples responded to each other’s good news in four different ways that they called:passive destructive, active destructive, passive constructive, and active constructive.

Let’s say that one partner had recently received the excellent news that she got into medical school. She would say something like “I got into my top choice med school!”

Those who showed genuine interest in their partner’s joys were more likely to be together.

If her partner responded in a passive destructivemanner, he would ignore the event. For example, he might say something like: “You wouldn’t believe the great news I got yesterday! I won a free t-shirt!”

If her partner responded in a passive constructiveway, he would acknowledge the good news, but in a half-hearted, understated way. A typical passive constructive response is saying “That’s great, babe” as he texts his buddy on his phone.

In the third kind of response, active destructive, the partner would diminish the good news his partner just got: “Are you sure you can handle all the studying? And what about the cost? Med school is so expensive!”

Finally, there’s active constructive responding. If her partner responded in this way, he stopped what he was doing and engaged wholeheartedly with her: “That’s great! Congratulations! When did you find out? Did they call you? What classes will you take first semester?”

Among the four response styles, active constructive responding is the kindest. While the other response styles are joy-killers, active constructive responding allows the partner to savor her joy and gives the couple an opportunity to bond over the good news. In the parlance of the Gottmans, active constructive responding is a way of “turning toward” your partners bid (sharing the good news) rather than “turning away” from it.

Active constructive responding is critical for healthy relationships. In the 2006 study, Gable and her colleagues followed up with the couples two months later to see if they were still together. The psychologists found that the only difference between the couples who were together and those who broke up was active constructive responding. Those who showed genuine interest in their partner’s joys were more likely to be together. In an earlier study, Gable found that active constructive responding was also associated with higher relationship quality and more intimacy between partners. 

There are many reasons why relationships fail, but if you look at what drives the deterioration of many relationships, it’s often a breakdown of kindness. As the normal stresses of a life together pile up—with children, career, friend, in-laws, and other distractions crowding out the time for romance and intimacy—couples may put less effort into their relationship and let the petty grievances they hold against one another tear them apart. In most marriages, levels of satisfaction drop dramatically within the first few years together. But among couples who not only endure, but live happily together for years and years, the spirit of kindness and generosity guides them forward.

This article was originally published on The Atlantic. Click here to view the original. © All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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Skelton to provide Wallabies’ X-factor

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie admits the selection of super-sized lock Will Skelton for his Test debut on Saturday is more about breaking the All Blacks’ Bledisloe Cup stranglehold than intimidating the French.


While the 203cm, 140kg second-rower will bring obvious power to the Wallabies pack, McKenzie says he picked Skelton for his brain not brawn.

Skelton replaces World Cup captain James Horwill as the Wallabies target a clean sweep of France in the final match of their three-Test series at Allianz Stadium.

But with bigger fish to fry than Les Bleus, McKenzie is hoping Skelton’s vision and soft hands can provide the X-factor the Wallabies need to end the world champion All Blacks’ 12-year trans-Tasman dominance.

“Everyone talks about his size, but I’ve been more impressed by the skill touches,” McKenzie said.

“I’ve said for years now the thing that’s defined the All Blacks is the forwards’ contribution to passing in the game.

“You’ll find that the All Blacks, their forwards might make up to 25 per cent of the passing in the game. Most other countries are around the 12 per cent mark.

“So having forwards who can create opportunities creates lots of diversity in the game.

“It’s easy to crash the ball up. It’s knowing when to do that and when to create opportunities for someone else and I’ve seen him do that a number of times this year and that’s the thing that has impressed me the most.

“He’s just got a good instinct for the game. Anyone who’s been watching the Waratahs all year will know what he’s capable of doing.

“They’re things that we want to see if we can incorporate into our game and get some value out of that.”

The inclusion of 22-year-old Skelton in the Wallabies’ last Test before tackling the All Blacks in Sydney on August 16 is one of two changes from Australia’s starting XV that beat France 6-0 last Saturday.

Skelton’s NSW Waratahs teammate Wycliff Palu returns at No.8 at Ben McCalman’s expense after missing the second Test in Melbourne with a minor ankle injury.

There are two changes to the bench, with Brumbies prop Scott Sio and Waratahs outside back Rob Horne getting their first opportunities in the match-day squad for this season.

Horne comes in for Pat McCabe, who has suffered a nerve compression injury to his shoulder, while Sio replaces the Western Force’s Pek Cowan on the bench.

Saturday’s victory over France was Australia’s sixth consecutive win, a feat last achieved by a Wallabies team in 2005.

The Wallabies haven’t won seven straight Tests in 15 years.

Australia: Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Nick Cummins, Bernard Foley, Nic White, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper (capt), Scott Fardy, Will Skelton, Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, James Slipper. Reserves: Nathan Charles, Scott Sio, Laurie Weeks, James Horwill, Ben McCalman, Nick Phipps, Kurtley Beale, Rob Horne.

AAP djw/rw

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Labor blasts ‘underspending’ budget

Opposition leader John Robertson has accused the Baird government of underspending in the key areas of health and education in its 2014/15 budget.


Mr Robertson said his opposite number had failed to stand up to Tony Abbott’s budget cuts and labelled the budget a document of spin which fell $500 million short on health spending.

“Today we discovered there will be half a billion dollars less in our hospitals,” Mr Robertson said.

“That means more pressure on everyone who works at our hospitals, because the money is not there because Mike Baird has rolled out Tony Abbott’s cuts.”

Treasurer Andrew Constance on Tuesday announced $1.3 billion for building and redevelopment of health facilities including Westmead, Sutherland, St George and Gosford Hospitals.

He also announced $220 million to retain patient services previously funded by the Commonwealth and $24 million for five new ambulance stations.

But the Australian Medical Association says the money won’t be enough.

Australian Medical Association (AMA) NSW president, Saxon Smith, says the cuts to health in the federal budget have flowed through to the NSW budget.

“This has resulted in a lower than required level of growth funding for health,” Dr Smith said.

“While the 5.2 per cent increase is in line with past years, the NSW government has had to absorb funding for programs previously funded by the Commonwealth government.

The AMA says health growth funding needs to increase by approximately seven per cent per year to maintain current levels of services.

Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon said the budget failed in the areas of jobs for the young, injured workers and pressure on public service jobs.

He said he believed 2,500 jobs are set to go from the public service.

“It will put further pressure on public sector workers to deliver services that the NSW government needs.”

The NSW Greens said control of the budget had been passed to the business sector, who will reap $780 million in benefits from the abolition of transfer and duty taxes.

Greens spokesman John Kaye said taxes on poker machines could give the budget an $800 million boost to fund growth in education spending the federal government deserted.

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‘MH370 search not in crash hotspot’

The search for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 is yet to target the most likely crash site after being distracted by what are now believed to be bogus signals, British company Inmarsat claims.


Inmarsat’s scientists told the BBC’s Horizon program they had calculated the plane’s most likely flight path and a “hotspot” in the southern Indian Ocean in which it most likely came down.

The flight lost contact on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with a total of 239 passengers and crew on board.

Hourly pings sent by the plane were received by Inmarsat’s spacecraft, leading scientists to calculate its likely path.

Australian naval vessel Ocean Shield was dispatched to investigate, but before reaching the likely site it began to detect a signal that it believed was coming from the plane’s black box, Inmarsat said.

Two months were spent searching 850 square kilometres of sea bed northwest of Perth, but the source of the “pings” was not found and a submersible robot found no evidence of the airliner.

“It was by no means an unrealistic location, but it was further to the northeast than our area of highest probability,” Chris Ashton at Inmarsat told Horizon on Tuesday.

Experts from the satellite firm modelled the most likely flight path using the hourly pings and assuming a speed and heading consistent with the plane being flown by autopilot.

“We can identify a path that matches exactly with all those frequency measurements and with the timing measurements and lands on the final arc at a particular location, which then gives us a sort of a hotspot area on the final arc where we believe the most likely area is,” explained Ashton.

Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC), established to manage the search, said the four acoustic “pings” picked up by the black box detector attached to Ocean Shield had to be pursued at the time.

“The four signals taken together constituted the most promising lead in the search for MH370 and it was a lead that needed to be pursued until completion so the search team could either discount or confirm the area as the final resting place of MH370,” JACC said in a statement to AFP.

Australian officials agree that a linear arc produced using the satellite messages, or “handshakes”, leading to the southern Indian Ocean likely represents the plane’s flight path.

But the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said experts were still working to define the area to be scoured in the next phase of the search, which will plunge ocean depths of up to 1829 metres (6000 feet).

“The search strategy group is continuing its analysis of satellite and aircraft performance data, along with a range of other information, to determine the area that offers the highest probability of finding the aircraft,” a spokesman said.

“This is highly complex work that requires significant collaborative effort with international specialists. The revised search zone is expected to be available in the coming weeks.”

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Rates likely to stay put for a while

The Reserve Bank appears more downbeat on Australia’s economic growth prospects, suggesting interest rates could be on hold for even longer.


The minutes of the central bank’s June board meeting highlight the RBA’s concern about how the tough federal budget and expected falls in mining investment could impact the economy.

Although March quarter economic growth was stronger than forecast, that was mainly driven by solid mining exports which were not expected to be sustained, the minutes said.

“The expectation of substantial falls in mining investment, below-average growth of public demand and non-mining investment remaining subdued for a time implied that the pace of growth was likely to be a little below trend over the rest of this year and into the next, before gradually increasing,” the minutes said.

Economists said the RBA appeared to be less confident about Australia’s growth prospects, raising the prospect of the central bank moving even further away from hiking rates.

“At the top of the RBA’s concerns appeared to be the sharp decline in mining investment and the fiscal consolidation set to occur,” St George economist Janu Chan said.

“The range of concerns from the RBA and recent indicators suggesting a loss of momentum in the June quarter is suggesting that a rate hike is still some months off.”

The RBA has kept rates at the record low of 2.5 per cent since August.

During its June meeting it repeated its familiar line that “the current accommodative stance of policy was likely to be appropriate for some time yet”.

RBC Capital Markets head of economics Su-Lin Ong said “modestly dovish” minutes maintained the view that the RBA will sit on the interest rate sidelines for a while.

“The RBA’s long-held narrative has been for low rates to assist in supporting the rates-sensitive sectors of housing, consumption, and non-mining investment as mining-driven capital expenditure begins to drag more heavily on activity,” she said.

“In today’s minutes that confidence appeared less so.

“History tells us that during times of uncertainty, the RBA tends to sit on its hands and await further data and developments.

“This is consistent with an extended period of steady cash, which we expect will continue well into 2015 with a modest tightening cycle unlikely to begin before the June quarter.”

CommSec chief economist Craig James said the RBA had played down the recent good GDP growth figures, making it clear that rates are stuck in neutral.

“The Reserve Bank has downplayed a number of factors that alternatively could have lent support to a change in monetary policy stance,” he said.

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Man ‘stomped, kicked Vic cabbie’s head’

A Melbourne man stomped on the face of a cabbie and repeatedly kicked him in the head in a savage, unprovoked attack at a service station, a court has heard.


Stewart Siwek, 37, faces a range of charges including intentionally causing serious injury, assault by kicking, criminal damage and reckless conduct endangering life over the June 1 attack.

Detective Senior Constable Alex Lewis told a bail hearing on Tuesday that Siwek grabbed a windscreen washer, struck the victim’s cab with it and threw it at him as the driver refuelled the taxi in suburban Spotswood.

The driver did not react aggressively at any stage, he said.

Det Sen Const Lewis told the Melbourne Magistrates Court that Siwek kicked the driver’s side mirror and window until the driver went to check the damage.

He said the driver ducked a punch from Siwek but was kneed or kicked in the face, knocking him unconscious, then Siwek repeatedly kicked him, stomped once on his face and broke the mirror and window before leaving.

The driver suffered facial bruising, a cut lip and bruises to the back of his head.

Prosecutor Senior Constable Tania Fox said Siwek was an unacceptable risk for bail because he was likely to reoffend.

Defence counsel Stephen Devlin said Siwek had been confined in police station cells, mainly in Ballarat, since his arrest on June 2, making a full psychiatric assessment impossible.

A preliminarily examination indicated Siwek suffers paranoid personality disorder. He has an alcohol problem and may have acquired brain injuries from an earlier assault and a fall into a crevasse, he said.

“The community will be better protected if this man is properly assessed and treated,” Mr Devlin said.

Magistrate Jelena Popovic on Tuesday granted Siwek bail saying his courtroom behaviour indicated he needed assessment and treatment.

“I am concerned about your client’s demeanour. He appears to be completely disengaged from these proceedings. I don’t know if it is a coping mechanism but it is very concerning,” she said.

Siwek, of Spotswood, must report daily to police, reside with his mother, not leave Victoria, not contact witnesses, abstain from alcohol and comply with any police request for a breath test.

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