Sydney import Josh Childress capable of leading Kings towards NBL crown

An NBL import needs to have two things – the ability to drastically improve his team and box office appeal. Sydney Kings forward Josh Childress has both.

Judging by his NBL debut, Childress has the attributes to improve Sydney’s chances of making the finals, perhaps even challenge for the crown, while also dragging casual fans back to the Kingdome.

He was a class above everyone else on the court in the 86-83 home win over Wollongong last Saturday night.

Childress filled up the box score, finishing the game with 26 points, eight rebounds, three steals, three assists and two blocks. More importantly, he made his teammates better, something last season’s NBA recruit, Sam Young, didn’t always do even though his own stats were usually impressive.

The former Atlanta and Phoenix veteran unselfishly did not appear to be trying to dominate but he controlled proceedings often simply with his presence. The Hawks defenders always knew where he was and their focus on Childress led to a few easy buckets for his fellow forward, Tom Garlepp, who was Sydney’s next highest scorer with 20 on 8/11 shooting.

Due in no small part to the interest created by Childress’ debut, a crowd of 6928 created a rousing atmosphere at the Entertainment Centre. They’ll all be back this season and if the wins keep coming, they’ll be joined by many more from Sydney’s unfailingly fickle sports fan base.

Encouragingly for Kings fans, it was the kind of match they would have lost last year. Repeatedly. In fact they lost all four clashes with their NSW rivals in 2013-14, usually out-hustled and out-muscled by Hawks players proudly wearing a chip on their shoulders against their higher-profile counterparts up the freeway.

Was this just a flash in the pan, yet another false dawn for frustrated Kings fans? Or was this the opening step in the storied franchise’s return to the playoffs after last season’s pathetic fade-out to a disappointing 12-16 record and sixth place.

Granted, it’s only a small sample size but these Kings look to be made of sterner stuff.

Garlepp has continued his rapid improvement from last season, new centre Angus Brandt overcame a shaky start to show he will be a presence in the paint and shooting guard Ben Madgen played his role effectively – now that he doesn’t have to handle the ball as much, he can start hitting his outside shot more regularly like he did two seasons ago when he made the All-NBL first team..

Sydney’s only sour note on opening night was the performance of their other import, point guard Kendrick Perry.

The word from the Kings camp was that Perry was extremely nervous in his NBL debut going up against the more-experience former league MVP in Gary Ervin. Perry got into early foul trouble and never found his groove with only four points on 2/9 shooting in less than 20 minutes on court. However, he did feed some nice passes into Childress, who found the bottom of the net with seven of his 11 field goal attempts.

If Perry can strike up a good combination with his fellow American so Childress doesn’t have to continually create his own shot, he will probably average more than the 26 points he dished up for his opening match in the Australian ranks.

In another good sign for the NBL’s bid to regrow the game, there was an air of unpredictability over the first round of the NBL season. Last year there was an inevitability about Perth winning the title from early in the season. It was just one loss but the Wildcats’ heavy defeat in their fortress-like home gym at the hands of the New Zealand Breakers was a good sign for the competition overall even if the 12,000 plus fans in red shirts went home with faces to match.

And nobody predicted a coach would head for the exit after the first weekend with Chris Anstey sensationally parting ways with Melbourne United after their drubbing at the hands of surprise competition leaders Cairns.

It’s never easy to predict how the Kings will fare week to week, let alone for an entire season, but the early signs were promising that Childress can be the catalyst for this team to become a legitimate title contender.

Taking it to the poll … 

The first Double Dribble poll of the new season asked who will win the NBL title  and it resulted in Perth as the clear favourite from the 1500-plus votes with Sydney, the Breakers and Melbourne the best of the rest.

Court told Daniel Fing used baseball bat in attack on female acquaintance

A 2006 file photo of Daniel Fing.A DRUG-fuelled sleepover ended badly for a female acquaintance of Daniel Fing who says she was beaten about the head with a baseball bat by Mr Fing when she tried to leave.

The 28-year-old, Tugba Zuban, has told police she was involved in a fractured, intimate relationship with Mr Fing which revolved around the purchase and use of heroin.

She had a boyfriend at the time but she nonetheless sometimes slept with Mr Fing who was living in Belmont North at the time, in October of 2012.

According to her statement to police, tendered in Newcastle Local Court on Wednesday as part of the brief of evidence, Ms Zuban, 28, said she woke up and felt sick on October 22 and announced to Mr Fing she was leaving.

As she got up to leave she allegedly felt a blow to the back of her head and she turned to see Mr Fing holding a steel baseball bat with two hands. Ms Zuban said she screamed, then he swung and hit her in the forehead.

He then swung the bat a third time, hitting her in her right arm.

Mr Fing’s mother came to her aid but she did not go to hospital straight away, she said.

When she did attend Belmont Hospital a couple of days later, requiring stitches, she said she had fallen down some stairs. It was not until five days later when she decided that Mr Fing did not show any remorse that she reported the incident to police, she said.

Mr Fing, 30, was committed to face trial in the Newcastle District Court and has not entered a plea to the charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

He remains in custody until his next appearance via video link in the local court on a separate charge.

Medibank Private boss George Savvides says people paying too much for a range of surgeries

Medibank Private chief executive George Savvides says ”Australia cannot afford to let healthcare costs get out of control”. Photo: Mal Fairclough Medibank Private chief executive George Savvides says ”Australia cannot afford to let healthcare costs get out of control”. Photo: Mal Fairclough

Medibank Private chief executive George Savvides says ”Australia cannot afford to let healthcare costs get out of control”. Photo: Mal Fairclough

Medibank Private chief executive George Savvides says ”Australia cannot afford to let healthcare costs get out of control”. Photo: Mal Fairclough

Medibank Private managing director George Savvides has said Australians overpay for common surgeries such as hip replacements and caesarean sections, as the health insurer ramps up its campaign to put a lid on private hospital costs before its $4 billion-plus float.

Across the $19 billion health insurance industry the cost of medical claims is rising faster than revenue from membership premiums. As the government-owned insurer approaches its December initial public offering, Mr Savvides has made no secret of his goal to rein in the amount it pays to private hospitals for care.

Medibank’s ability to put the squeeze on hospitals as a way to boost future earnings is expected to be a key selling point in the insurer’s prospectus, which is due to be lodged with the corporate regulator early next week.

Mr Savvides will meet potential investors next week before travelling overseas in the coming weeks to promote the float, which banks have said could reap between $4.1 billion and $5.7 billion

He also gave a presentation about the sale to staff in Sydney on Wednesday, but declined to provide further comment about the process. The float’s pre-registration closed on Wednesday.

Mr Savvides told a conference that “Australia cannot afford to let healthcare costs get out of control”.

“We’re seeing [customers] who are saying to us … ‘I’m finding it hard either to afford the constancy of health insurance premium increases, year on year, and also I’m tempted to downgrade my cover’,” he said.

Medical claims account for about 87 per cent of Medibank’s $5.6 billion in annual premium revenue.

The insurer, which has a market share of about 30 per cent, has recently begun promoting new “quality and affordability criteria” in contract negotiations with hospitals. Mr Savvides has previously said Medibank does not need to contract with all of the country’s private hospitals.

He told the Australian Healthcare Summit that the insurer’s move from just “paying bills” to having a greater say in where and how its members are treated has riled some in the medical industry. “That’s raised a few eyebrows,” he said.

Mr Savvides pointed to 2013 data from the International Federation of Health Plans, which show the average costs for a range of surgeries. He said he was “worried” that on some measures Australia is in line with the US, which spends 18 per cent of gross domestic product on healthcare, compared to Australia’s 10 per cent.

“There are some things we don’t really want to do well against in terms of US comparatives,” he said.

A hip replacement in Australia was $US26,297 ($30,116), compared to $US26,489 in the US, but just $US19,011 in New Zealand and $US19,722 in the Netherlands, according to the data.

Caesarean sections, which account for about a third of births locally, cost $US10,263. In the US the same procedure cost $US15,240, compared to $US5492 in the Netherlands.

Mr Savvides said Australia performed much better on the cost of a day in hospital, which was $US1308 last year, compared to $US2491 in New Zealand and $US4293 in the US.

But the rising claims costs faced by insurers is not just a function of hospitals charging more, which the providers argue is underpinned by the rising cost of labour and medical supplies.

The jump is also due to an increase in the utilisation of healthcare. Mr Savvides said some of that care could be avoided by having a better functioning healthcare system. Medibank is running a trial in Victoria to better manage the care of chronically ill patients.

Across the industry, patients often described as “frequent flyers” are responsible for a large proportion of an insurer’s outgoing costs. About 2.2 per cent of its 3.8 million members account for 35 per cent of hospital and medical expenditure and 70 per cent of this group have a chronic disease.

Correction: This article has been corrected to remove a reference to Mr Savvides meeting potential investors this week.

James Ehnes shares his loves for strings and sports cars

Fast cars, old Strads: Passions collide for Canadian violinist James Ehnes. Photo: Dallas Kilponen Fast cars, old Strads: Passions collide for Canadian violinist James Ehnes. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

Fast cars, old Strads: Passions collide for Canadian violinist James Ehnes. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

Fast cars, old Strads: Passions collide for Canadian violinist James Ehnes. Photo: Dallas Kilponen

There are some obvious similarities between a 1715 Stradivarius violin and a 1979 Ferrari GTS: their shared Italian origin and their breathtaking price.

But to Canadian violinist James Ehnes, owner of both, these two “high-precision machines” have a more important characteristic in common.

“Strads are a little bit like Ferraris in that there is so much more that you can do with them than 99 per cent of people have any interest in doing,” he says.

The 38-year-old virtuoso has returned to Sydney with his 1715 “Marsick” Stradivarius violin to perform Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. He last performed with the SSO in 2010, playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto under Vladimir Ashkenazy.

He didn’t bring his prized car with him, but he was enthusiastic about the sports car brand sitting in a Ferrari 458 Spider in Sydney last week

“In a Ferrari racing car, I’m sure I could get from A to B, but that’s completely not the point,” he said.

“So it’s funny when there are amateurs who will buy a Stradivarius violin and they’ll have it almost de-tuned, so they kind of know how to operate it and it’s not too feisty. But that’s sort of missing the point.”

Ehnes performed Prokofiev’s violin concerto last week in a program that included Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.5 and the Excelsior! concert overture by Swedish Romantic Wilhelm Stenhammar.

His performance with the SSO, under the baton of Danish conductor Thomas Søndergård, was described as “compelling…with a sound of utmost clarity and blemishless beauty”.

Ehnes will perform in two sold-out performances of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at City Recital Hall Angel Place on October 16 and 17.

Off the stage the violinist has put his hands to another delicate art, taking apart and rebuilding a vintage car. His first buy was a bright orange 1971 Chevrolet Corvette which he rebuilt from the wheels up. Ehnes is also the artistic director of the Seattle Chamber Music Society and an occasional music commentator.

In a comment piece for the Huffington Post in 2013 he called for the revival of lesser-known works that consistently fail to make the program over the more recognisable favourites. Why not take them for a spin? he asked.

Ehnes wrote: “[It is] time for violinists to return to the days of living dangerously, and time for critics and concert presenters to accept that music doesn’t have to be by Mozart, Beethoven, or Brahms to be worthwhile and enjoyable.

As the Four Seasons is arguably the most popularised and lauded of Vivaldi’s works, Ehnes happily admits “that doesn’t really apply to these two weeks”.

While it is important that musicians today challenge “traditional” concert repertoire, he says at the same time “when someone calls you to ask if you want to play the Four Seasons, you’re going to say yes.”

“It is such a ubiquitous piece for performing musicians, you’re surrounded by it your whole life. It’s just one of those miracle pieces.”

Immersed in music from birth, Ehnes grew up surrounded by the artistic friends of his trumpet professor father and ballet dancer mother, and thinks he first became interested in the violin after watching Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlman on Sesame Street.  

He got his first violin for Christmas when he was four, and now takes to international stages with his beloved Stradivarius.

While violins crafted by the Stradivari family are traditionally considered the greatest, there is debate about whether they are really worth the dollars and the praise they earn. A little bit like sports cars.

“Like anything in life you can pay exponentially more money for something that gives you a tiny bit of an advantage.” he says.

Provided the violinist is of a certain level, Stradivari’s violins can offer a player options they might not get on another instrument, Ehnes said.

“But people always want to talk about how much they cost and how old they are, neither of which is really relevant; my violin is 300 years old and my viola is 3 years old and I love them both.”

James Ehnes plays Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Thursday and Friday at City Recital Hall

Visa for the wealthy fuels house price fears

The new visa program is likely to boost investment, but much of this could go into property, adding to the heat in the nation’s housing market. Photo: Glen McCurtayne The new visa program is likely to boost investment, but much of this could go into property, adding to the heat in the nation’s housing market. Photo: Glen McCurtayne

The new visa program is likely to boost investment, but much of this could go into property, adding to the heat in the nation’s housing market. Photo: Glen McCurtayne

The new visa program is likely to boost investment, but much of this could go into property, adding to the heat in the nation’s housing market. Photo: Glen McCurtayne

Advisers have cheered the creation of a $15 million fast track to permanent residency for wealthy foreigners, in a move by the Abbott government to harness Asia’s wealth to boost economic growth and job creation.

But the move has also sparked concerns much of this investment will flow into Australian property, driving prices up even further.

The new premium investor visa program puts Australia on the front foot in the competition for rich investors looking to safeguard their wealth in stable offshore markets, advisers said.

“Australia competes with many countries for high net wealth migrants, making it an attractive prospect is in the national interest,” migration lawyer Alan Rigas said.

The program, announced on Tuesday as part of the government’s competitiveness agenda, gives permanent residency to applicants investing $15 million in certain assets after 12 months.

“The changes can only lead to more investment,” said Prosperity Fountainguard Advisers’ Luke Malone, who led a nine city investor roadshow throughout China in June.

Fountainguard has a second investor delegation currently en route to Shanghai, where it will present to more than 20 individuals looking to invest up to $20 million each. He said the visa, available from July 2015, will be “highly attractive” to this group.

But business migration agent John Findley feared much of this investment will be attracted to property assets. It will drive up prices, which many, including billionaire Lang Walker, said are already inflated by a flood of Chinese developers.

“The likelihood of the $15 million going into property is very real and very high,” said Mr Findley.

Investment choices too broad

He said investment choices for compliant funds are too wide and the government should direct it towards infrastructure, or new investment in small and medium businesses.

NSW recently scrapped the requirement for significant investor visa applicants to park $1.5 million into low yield Waratah Bonds.

As part of the changes announced on Tuesday, the Australian Trade Commission, or Austrade, will be handed responsibility for drawing up the list of complying investments.

While details are yet to be released, the government has indicated compliant investments will align to five sectors earmarked for growth: food, agri-business, mining technology and services, gas and energy resources, medical technology and pharmaceuticals, and advanced manufacturing.

Latest figures show that to July 1, the federal government has granted 286 significant investor visas, out of a total of 1027 applications, bringing $1.4 billion worth of foreign investment. Most came from China.

The significant investor visa program, which began in 2012, grants permanent residency to foreigners who invest a minimum of $5 million in prescribed assets after four years. A review by the department of immigration found other countries with similar investor visa programs “have less onerous application criteria and processing requirements”.

The government wants to “target premium investors more effectively”, and streamline the administration of the program. It also wants to “diversify the sources of investors” under the program, while maintaining safeguards to ensure it is not abused.

Safe Haven

Risk Basis Point managing director David Chin said investment from China has only just begun. “Research indicates that 5 per cent of the wealth of Chinese high net worth individuals was allocated outside of China.

“In other countries this group of investors have around 24 per cent of their wealth outside their home region.”

Egg policy ‘commodifies’ women

IVF technology has come a long way in the last decade. IVF technology has come a long way in the last decade.

IVF technology has come a long way in the last decade.

A leading Australian workplace relations expert has labelled a policy of paying female staff to freeze their eggs and delay childbirth as a “loaded option” that commodifies women’s lives.

Professor Marian Baird, who heads up the Women and Work Research Group at the University of Sydney’s Business School, said she was “astonished” when she first heard news of the policies in place at tech giants Apple and Facebook, and questioned the business case behind them.

“Here are companies basically buying the ability of their talented female employees and giving them some sort of capitalist incentive to delay having children – which may not even work,” she said.

Apple announced it would pay up to $US20,000 ($22,953) to cover the costs of freezing and storing eggs of full-time and part-time female staff, from January 1, 2015.

Facebook also confirmed it had introduced a similar policy on January 1 this year, accessible by US employees covered by the company’s insurance plan. The benefit covers all costs of egg freezing for medical and non-medical reasons, also up to $US20,000.

Facebook’s egg-freezing policy does not apply to its Australian employees. However, local staff can access other family benefits at the company, including 16 weeks’ maternity leave, four weeks’ paternity leave, family health insurance and a baby bonus to help cover extra costs associated with having a baby.

Dr Tony Bartone, president of the Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association, told Fairfax Media “no employer should determine when a women can have a baby, or any other pregnancy and/or contraception decisions”.

Far from dictating when women should fall pregnant, Apple says the policy empowers female staff members. Facebook declined to comment.

However Professor Baird said the policies sent a subliminal message to women that freezing their eggs and having children later may be the best option for their careers.

“This is a real dilemma for women as they often reach their peak career times at the best time to have a baby,” Professor Baird said.

“We already see that women who have babies are not seen to be committed. It’s a very loaded option.”

Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, has pointed to the pressures surrounding women and family in the workplace.

“I know many women who won’t discuss their children at work out of fear that their priorities will be questioned,” Ms Sandberg wrote in her bestselling book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.

University of Melbourne bioethicist Dr Rosalind McDougall warned that embarking on IVF after thawing eggs was “no guarantee” of producing a baby.

She said egg-freezing human resources policies were essentially endorsing “social freezing”, although whether or not that was a problem was debatable.

Doctors have reported that egg-freezing is becoming increasingly popular for social, as opposed to medical, reasons.

In Australia, Medicare covers the majority of IVF treatment costs for medical reasons such as infertility, but does not cover “fertility preservation for social reasons”.

In the US, health insurance is usually provided by an individual’s employer, although the Obama government’s Affordable Care Act (dubbed “Obamacare”) has introduced a public health safety net more akin to Medicare.

Professor Baird said the decision by US companies to take advantage of the “social freezing” trend was evidence of “the cycle of employment” further encroaching into “the cycle of life”.

“No company introduces a policy without a business case,” she said, but questioned whether such a case was sound from both a corporate and personal perspective.

Such policies were “commodifying the whole fertility process”, she said.

Associate Professor Jeremy Thompson, a fertility expert at the University of Adelaide, said an older woman’s uterus was just as capable of supporting a healthy pregnancy as a younger woman’s, so long as the eggs were young and healthy.

“These days the pregnancy rates from freezing and thawing are very good,” Associate Professor Thompson said.

In some ways it was a healthier pregnancy because the IVF process meant the uterus was “naturally primed”, with benefits to the health of the child, he said.

However, natural conception was still the “first choice” for any couple looking to have a family, Associate Professor Thompson said.

US technology companies, often located in or around Silicon Valley, California, are known for being ahead of the curve with human resources policies as they battle it out for the best tech talent. Many offer on-site fitness centres, massage therapy and free meals.

Ebola front line hard to walk away from for Cook Hill Red Cross nurse Libby Bowell

IN ISOLATION: Libby Bowell of Cooks Hill, left, who is now in isolation for 21 days, has spent five weeks helping in the fight against Ebola.LIBBY Bowell may be physically, mentally and emotionally drained after five weeks helping to control the deadly Ebola epidemic in Liberia, but her remarkable resolve to see the disease eradicated has not wavered.

‘‘It was difficult to leave – there’s still a lot to be done and if I could have stayed longer, I would have happily stayed longer,’’ Ms Bowell said.

‘‘The Liberians are very grateful for any help they get and they see it’s an enormous sacrifice for us to leave our families and go there – but all the American troops are far from being on the ground and while there’s certainly people turning up, we’re too slow.

‘‘They need more help, they need a lot more people and a lot more resources, they can’t afford to run out of supplies.

‘‘We’re still behind it – we’re nowhere near it.’’

The Australian Red Cross health aid worker left Liberia on October 10 and is in 21 days of isolation, keeping a low profile and venturing from her Cooks Hill home only for the occasional walk and to visit the supermarket when it is not busy.

Ms Bowell had been on about 20 Red Cross missions when she flew to Liberia’s capital Monrovia on September 4 as the organisation’s emergency health co-ordinator for the Ebola response.

When she arrived, the highly contagious Ebola virus disease had spread to 13 of Liberia’s 15 counties, more than 2000 people were infected and more than 1000 people had died.

During her five-week stay, the disease swept through the remaining two counties and the tally rose to 4200 people infected and 2400 dead, including 15 doctors and about 80 nurses.

‘‘The feeling is one of desperation, there’s still not enough beds by several hundred and the existing health infrastructure is completely overwhelmed,’’ she said.

Ms Bowell said that in some cases, the sick who were unable to get an ambulance were using taxis to travel between full treatment centres, where they were turned away and had to go home, potentially infecting other family members.


LAUNCESTON:Precautions over Ebola, just in caseALBURY: We are ready for Ebola, say Border hospitalsCOMMENT: Ebola response inadequateOthers would seek assistance from – and subsequently infect – health workers in their homes.

She said she had also heard of healthy pregnant women who needed to go to hospitals – which had been closed to prevent transmission of the disease and where medical staff had been redeployed elsewhere to fight the outbreak – risking infection for a bed at a treatment centre where they could give birth.

‘‘Every day it goes up by about 50 to 70 cases and between 30 to 50 deaths across the country and the really scary part is it’s in the city, in Monrovia, where the numbers continue to escalate – it’s much harder to contain because it’s such a denser population,’’ she said.

Ms Bowell worked for an average of 17 hours a day in a non-clinical role that involved training Liberian Red Cross volunteers in three areas: educating communities about how to protect themselves and prevent the further spread of Ebola; how to remove and manage dead bodies; and how to psychologically support family members of those who had been infected or died.

She also developed a program to teach families how to provide temporary care for a sick relative awaiting transport or treatment, including how to provide food and dispose of waste while maintaining a safe distance.

Despite travelling to some remote communities, Ms Bowell said she didn’t feel at risk of infection.

She washed her hands at least 20 times a day, had her temperature taken regularly, did not hug or shake hands with anyone and only had to wear the head-to-toe protective suit once, when she was providing training to the 16 teams of six people who make 10 trips a day to remove highly contagious bodies from homes, spray properties and take the dead to a crematorium.

Up to 50 people are cremated at a time, with the Liberian government keeping the ashes from each day for a memorial to be erected once the disease is eradicated.

When Ms Bowell’s period in isolation concludes at the end of the month, she plans to visit her parents in Kempsey and resume travelling in her role as national education manager with CRANAplus, promoting health in remote Australian regions.

But she will never be able to forget what she saw in Liberia.

‘‘The local people kept me motivated, they keep getting up every day and doing this [aid work],’’ she said.

‘‘They do it with dignity and energy and they believe they have to keep doing it to get this dreaded disease out of their country – then they cry at night.

‘‘I’ve got something to give and while it’s tough and sad, it’s tougher and sadder for them and they can’t leave.

‘‘The feeling is this will continue into next year and we have to continue to help – they can’t do this on their own.’’

To donate to the Red Cross Ebola appeal, visitredcross杭州龙凤论坛.au

Source: Newcastle Herald

Woodside boosts its full-year production target

Following a 46 per cent jump in third-quarter sales, the company raised its production target for the year. Following a 46 per cent jump in third-quarter sales, the company raised its production target for the year.

Following a 46 per cent jump in third-quarter sales, the company raised its production target for the year.

Following a 46 per cent jump in third-quarter sales, the company raised its production target for the year.

Woodside Petroleum has boosted its full-year target for production for the second time in three months after a strong September quarter that also benefited from a rise in liquefied natural gas prices.

Output in 2014 is now set to reach between 93 million and 95 million barrels of oil equivalent, as much as 9.1 per cent up on last year, compared with an initial forecast for the year that suggested only a modest rise, if any.

Sales for the third quarter surged 46 per cent from a year ago to a record $US1.96 billion ($2.24 billion), fuelled by higher LNG prices from the $15 billion Pluto project and the Vincent oil project off the Western Australian coast.

“The numbers were strong,” said RBC Capital Markets analyst Andrew Williams. “We were always at the high end of the production guidance: operationally it’s going very well.”

Woodside shares gained 1.7 per cent to $39.66, beating the benchmark energy index.

Production was particularly robust in the third quarter, up 15 per cent from a year earlier to 25.2 million barrels of oil equivalent, well above analysts’ estimates that were mostly in the range of 22.4 million to 23 million boe.

Between the North West Shelf Venture and Pluto, Woodside shipped 91 LNG cargoes in the three-month period, 15 more than in the same quarter last year.

Thanks to higher LNG prices at Pluto that took effect this year, revenues from Pluto gas exports alone more than tripled to $US935.2 million and output of condensates produced alongside the gas also increased.

JPMorgan analysts told clients: “This is a very strong result, which should provide confidence in the bankability of Woodside’s current producing assets as well as the strong Pluto prices indicative of a favourable outcome from the renegotiations.”

Woodside reported little progress on new projects, but reiterated its aim of committing to engineering and design work for the Browse floating LNG project late this year.

It also indicated a final investment decision would be taken this half to develop the Persephone gas field, the next big gas development for the North West Shelf Venture.

On the exploration front, Woodside reported the Toro-1 discovery in the Exmouth part of the Carnarvon Basin in July. But it is still drilling its Hannover South-1 well in the Outer Canning Basin, where it has reduced its risk by selling part of its stake to British oil major BP.

Chief executive Peter Coleman has taken Woodside into several new overseas exploration plays in recent months, most recently in Cameroon, as announced this week.

However, in the company’s Canary Islands venture with Repsol, Woodside has decided not to take part in a well to be drilled by its partners this quarter.

The new output target for 2014 compares with the guidance of 86 million to 93 million boe at the start of the year, which was upgraded to 89 million to 94 million boe in July.

Label My Fish calls for an overhaul of fishy seafood labelling

Frank Camorra is calling for better labelling on seafood products. Photo: Eddie Jim

Enjoy the flathead fillets dished up last night? Chances are the “flathead” was an unrelated species, bottom-trawled in Argentinian waters.

Australia’s lax labelling laws for seafood mean restaurants and retailers can withhold information on the origins and species of popular seafood, depriving consumers of the ability to make informed choices.

On Thursday, Greenpeace and the Australian Marine Conservation Society launched the Label My Fish campaign, demanding Australian laws match the European Union standards that require the origin, species and method used to catch or farm be declared on seafood labels.

“The Aussie ‘flathead’ we think we are eating may well be an imported, cheaper South American fish, of a completely different family,” said David Ritter, chief executive of Greenpeace Australia. “But there is often no labelling on your pub or fast food menu, or packet of frozen ‘flathead’, to reveal the truth.”

The Label My Fish alliance, backed by celebrity chefs, academics, and Taronga Zoo and Zoos Victoria, says clearer labelling will encourage the use of sustainable fishing methods, boost the local fishing industry and lift public health protections.

Greenpeace research shows basa, native to the Mekong Delta and not a member of the dory family, is often marketed as “pacific dory”. Two-thirds of barramundi is imported from Asia.

Pregnant women and children under six are warned by health experts to limit their consumption of certain species, such as shark (sold as flake), catfish and orange roughy, because of mercury content.

“But the labelling laws make it impossible for pregnant women to follow the warnings and that’s a big shock,” said Mr Ritter.

Restaurant and Catering Australia oppose the calls, saying the industry will lose $300 million a year to comply with such laws. The “onerous” task will require updating menus, reconfiguring back-end systems and maintaining compliance.

Its chief executive John Hart says with 70 per cent of seafood coming from overseas through “fragmented”, “irregular”, and regularly disrupted supply chains, even suppliers will struggle to offer detailed information about the product.

“There’s a long way to go before we’re even half way close to being able to meet such labelling requirements at the back door of restaurants,” he said. “Most of the suppliers don’t have anywhere near that level of information. If we don’t know, we can’t put it on the menu.”

Frank Camorra, executive chef of the hatted MoVida restaurants, changes his nuevo-Spanish menus daily and has thrown his support behind the campaign.

He says his suppliers, Joto in Sydney and Clamms Seafood in Melbourne, “know exactly who’s caught the seafood, how it’s been caught and where”, allowing him to share information readily with patrons via menus and wait staff.

“It seems common sense to me. People want to know not only which state it comes from, but almost which regions,” he said, referring to items such as surf clams, prawns and scallops.

Greenpeace says new labelling laws will also benefit local and overseas fisherman who have invested in fishing sustainably but struggle to compete with cheaper imports.

Louis Hatzimihalis, a fisherman from Port Phillip Bay in Victoria, has stopped catching arrow squid and scallops because of imports from South America and China. “We can’t afford to catch it at that price. But you just can’t compare the quality.”

Consumer advocate Matthew Evans interviewed chefs, retailers, suppliers and fisherman here and abroad to examine the impact of weak labelling laws for a three-part series called What’s the Catch?, to be screened on SBS from October 30.

“Some [fishing methods of] seafood we eat damage our marine environment, are produced by people under unfair conditions and may carry risks to our health,” he said. “What we really need is to know just what’s on our plates.”

Chefs Peter Gilmore of three-hated Quay and Tom Kime of Fish & Co have also joined the demand for labelling reforms. Academics from the Australian National University, Sydney University and the University of NSW have also given their support.

A Senate inquiry into seafood labelling is underway and will hand down a report on December 4.

Billy Idol added to ‘A Day on the Green’ concert

Billy Idol added to ‘A Day on the Green’ TweetFacebookBritish rocker Billy Idol will head to the Hunter in early 2015 to play A Day On The Green alongside Cheap Trick and The Angels.

Idol is best known for hits like Dancing with Myself and White Wedding, but the Generation X veteran is still making music.

New album Kings & Queens Of The Underground is due for release tomorrow, while his tell-all autobiography Dancing With Myself was released last week.

In it, he thanks his fans for their ‘‘priceless help…as we work through this nutty gift we’ve been given’’.

The addition of Idol means the show, originally scheduled for February 21, will be shifted to March 28.

Previously announced acts Baby Animals and the Superjesus will no longer perform.

Promoters say any tickets to the original show will still be valid for the new show, or full refunds are available. An email was sent by Ticketmaster this morning to explain the options.

A Day On The Green promoter Michael Newton said the show was shifted to accommodate Idol’s tour to Australia to promote new projects.

“When the Billy Idol tour came up, we thought it would be an amazing opportunity to include Cheap Trick, The Angels and the Choirboys all on the same bill. It just seemed to work together,’’ Newton said.

‘‘The bands loved the idea, we all did, so it’s been great that we’ve been able to make it happen.’’

He said the move has had a positive reaction so far.

“We’ve had fantastic feedback this morning already from ticketholders really excited about getting to see Billy Idol as well. It’s going to be an amazing show.’’

American rockers Cheap Trick and Aussie legends The Angels were announced earlier this year as co-headliners for the festival, alongside pub rock band Choirboys.

The appearance will be one of the first for the Angels – now fronted by Screaming Jets singer Dave Gleeson – since founding member Doc Neeson died in June.

Tickets to A Day On The Green on sale now through Ticketmaster.

The Chaser’s evil genius is back at work with Media Circus

The Chaser’s Media Circus on ABC.The Chaser’s Media Circus on ABC.

The Chaser’s Media Circus on ABC.

The Chaser’s Media Circus on ABC.

What is it?

In their first efforts at “turning the news into a game show” the Chaser folk returned to television last night with the first episode of Media Circus.

Craig Reucassel, who described the show’s format as “kind of like The Hamster Wheel… of fortune”, hosted the show, assisted by Chas Licciardello in the role of a one-man media brains trust.

What happened:

First up we met Team Australia, with the The Chaser’s Andrew Hansen, Radio National Drive host Waleed Aly (or the “thinking man’s Alan Jones”), and Ben Jenkins of The Checkout.

But as we’re carefully reminded, if you’re not in Team Australia “all that’s left” is Team Evil, with Alex Lee from The Roast, “(failed journalist) Chris Taylor” and “(real journalist) Ellen Fanning.”

The game ran smoothly with the occasional hot-tip provided by Licciardello in the fact-checking chair.

Round one began with “News your own adventure” in which Hansen selected “ISIS” from among the news topics of the week.

His question, which he chose to accept, came off the back of a Channel Seven news report and asked the one thing “Aussie terrorist’s who have gone to the Middle East miss the most about Australia.”

The answer? Coco Pops, which is surely the reason terrorists are so violent, says Hansen, “because they start the day with some sugary cereal.”

After a few stabs at the banality of war, and the rhetoric of our countries leaders, it was then on  to round two, “Evil Mastermind”.

The challenge was to determine if sentences with the word “evil” in it were uttered by Prime Minister Tony Abbott or a fantasy movie character, like Elrond the elf master  from Lord of the Rings, or Viggo, the master of evil from Ghostbusters II.

For example: “They will get their hands on whatever they can and they will use it for evil.”

Unfortunately for Team Evil’s Fanning, who guessed a movie character as the sentence was not dramatic enough for Tony Abbott, it was in fact uttered by our fearless leader.

Team Australia won again in round two, taking home a Tony Abbott humanitarian action figure, which came with a Bill Shorten figure to “follow him around wherever he goes.”

And that brought us to the next game “Viral News”. Aly had  to figure out which line about Ebola did not run in the news cycle.

Of his four options, “may be the ISIS of biological agents”, “one of the greatest threats to our existence”, “terrorists might turn themselves into Ebola suicide bombs” and “may push up chocolate prices”, the answer (option two) only illuminated how colourful the media cycle can truly be.

As always they kept the show riding the fine line of political correctness, and never more so than in the next game “Deadly Implement or Religious Accoutrement” – think rosary beads (deadly, according to a YouTube video explaining how they can be used as nunchukkas), a Jewish menorah (deadly, based on the candlestick weapon in the game of Cluedo), and a crucifix (also deadly for obvious reasons).

Team Evil took out this round, winning a statue of a Buddha which doubled as a hand grenade.

Round three began with the game “That’s un-Australian”, with the competitors’ tasked to point out obscure destinations on a world map. Both teams were pretty dismal in locating their designated areas.

And with round four it was time to play “Yesterday’s News”, with Team Australia kicking things off.

On October 15, 1984, the news reported Prime Minister Bob Hawke took revenge on a journalist by stringing him up between two war ships. The question was, why?

Thankfully for Team Australia, Aly remembered the incident from his childhood. Hawke had been batting in a cricket match when a ball bowled by journalist Gary O’Neill hit him in the eye and broke his glasses.

In a sentence:

All-in-all things are looking good for The Chaser’s Media Circus, which kept the laughs rolling and the news ridiculous. With any luck, another week of news will leave them with plenty of material for the next episode.

Best bit

The show is sure to keep you on your toes and keep you watching the news a little more closely. The format is great, and the different style of questions and games keep it fun.

Worst bit

Having to face the reality of how ridiculous Australian media really can be (though this may also be the best bit).

Next episode

Next Wednesday night 8.30pm.

Worth watching again?




Ten’s loss bigger than expected in ratings struggle

Revenue slumped by more than a quarter as Ten’s inconsistent ratings deterred advertisers. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones Revenue slumped by more than a quarter as Ten’s inconsistent ratings deterred advertisers. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones

Revenue slumped by more than a quarter as Ten’s inconsistent ratings deterred advertisers. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones

Revenue slumped by more than a quarter as Ten’s inconsistent ratings deterred advertisers. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones

Tough conditions in the advertising market and poor ratings have pushed Ten Network Holdings to a full-year loss of $168 million, less than last year’s, following the write-down of its television licences.

The metropolitan free-to-air broadcaster reported an underlying loss of $115.4 million in the year ended August 31. The underlying result was worse than most analyst expectations, with consensus net profit after tax for an underlying loss of about $76 million, compared with the $115 million result.

The $168 million full-year loss, following a $52 million write-down of its television licences and other impairments, was an improvement of 40 per cent compared with the previous year in which the network reported a $284 million loss.

“The television impairment charge reflects that the free-to-air television advertising market growth cycle remains low, and that the [Ten’s] share of that advertising market has reduced from the low point in the previous year, albeit showing some signs of recovery,” the company said in its financial report.

Net debt as of August 31 was $80.5 million.

Revenue from continuing operations fell by close to $28 million, while television costs increased by more than $100 million.

“These results highlight the operational challenges facing Ten, with revenue declines and cost pressures. The cost guidance for financial year 2015 suggests management are taking corrective action to address the earnings imbalance, although we still forecast EBITDA loss in [the next financial year],” Citi analyst Justin Diddams said.

Ten is forecasting television costs to fall by 8 per cent in the 2015 financial year.

Ten’s revenue share for the 12 months to the end of August was 20.5 per cent, while its ratings share was 22.8 per cent in the 2014 ratings year-to-date.

“The balance sheet leverage implies sufficient headroom to continue day to day operations which should provide management time to focus on getting the programming mix right and thus improve the revenue prospects,” Mr Diddams said.

Ten shares have slumped more than 32 per cent this year and touched a record low of 18¢ on Wednesday.

While the company is loss-making, the TV licence remains an attractive asset, Mr Diddams said.

There are rumours that private equity firm Providence will be watching the sharemarket reaction to Thursday’s results. A lower share price could make the broadcaster more vulnerable to a takeover attempt.

Ten said advertisers continue to book on short notice, but the metropolitan market is expected to show marginal growth in the coming financial year.

As reported by Fairfax Media this week, the network is attempting to boost revenues by increasing the amount of advertiser-funded television programs it broadcasts. Ten believes the market for brand-funded content to be around $200 million and hopes to make it larger.

Hayne ‘an incredible athlete’, Seahawks

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The head coach of the reigning NFL champions has called Jarryd Hayne “an incredible athlete” and “a great competitor”.

But was the Seattle Seahawks’ Pete Carroll just having a joke?

Carroll was quizzed in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon US time as to whether the Parramatta Eels star could make a radical code-hop after quitting rugby league.

“Our scout down under has been on this for some time now,” Carroll said, which provoked titters in the room.

“He’s an incredible athlete and a great competitor, which is the kind of stuff we like. We’ll see where it goes.”

After the press conference, the Seahawks’ communications head Dave Pearson warned against reading too much into the coach’s comments, ESPN reported.

“He doesn’t even know who the guy is,” Pearson said.

Carroll, a former head coach of the New York Jets and New England Patriots, led the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl victory in franchise history last year.

Despite his apparent joshing on Wednesday, he seemed open to the prospect of rugby league players transitioning to the NFL, calling it “an exciting thought”.

“I’ve always thought it would be exciting to recruit down there and all that because there’s some great players. It’s a great game and it’s a very physical, demanding game and those guys have all the same kind of stuff we’re looking for in our guys.

“They’re great athletes. They run fast, they hit hard, they can handle the ball.”

Carroll was mindful of the differences between the games but also saw commonalities.

“The style of throwing and catching things is different and running routes is different to, you know, whipping it out there to them,” he said.

“So there’s different stuff, but we’re looking for great athletes to make the transition. Because our guys on our level are fantastic athletes and I’m sure our guys could cross over too once they figure out how to lateral it all the time and kicking it on the run and all that junk.

“We’d be miserable at that I’m sure. But there’s just a lot of general carry-over. There’s running and making people miss and tackling and hitting and being tough and physical.

“Those things are pretty common.”

Carroll was asked: “How hard would it be for an adult who has never played organised football to jump into the NFL?”

“I think it would be really hard,” he said.

“I think it would be a tremendous challenge and only certain few could do it. There will need to be a lot of patience from the club that goes for it, if you do it in the end.

“It isn’t the kind of thing, I don’t think – and we’re writing a great script here – where a guy could come in in the middle of the season and all of a sudden present a starring role for that team.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think it’s going to take more time than that. But we’ve seen guys come over from other sports, we’ve seen basketball players doing it, it can happen certainly.”

Carroll said he did not meet with Hayne when the Dally M medal winner recently visited with the Seahawks in Washington.