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.

‘Name a woman’s job’: Family Feud under fire for ‘misogynistic’ question

Survey says: sexism. All eight ‘popular’ answers. Photo: Screengrab Host: Grant Denyer. Photo: Supplied

Channel Ten game show Family Feud is facing fierce criticism after suggesting jobs for women commonly include hairdressing, reception work and domestic duties like washing clothes and doing the dishes.

During an episode broadcast on Wednesday night, host Grant Denyer asked contestants to “name a woman’s job”.

The game show’s format pits two families against each to other name the top eight most popular responses to survey questions posed to 100 Australians.

The correct answers to the question on Wednesday night’s episode included cooking, washing clothes, cleaning, nursing, doing the dishes, hairdressing and domestic duties.

When asked to name a man’s job, the top responses were builder, plumber, mechanic, carpenter and being a tradesman in general.

Viewers reacted angrily on social media, with many branding the show “misogynistic”.

“It is not a woman’s job to do the dishes or clean or do the domestic duties in general,” one said. “Women can do whatever the f— they want, not just what they’ve been told to do throughout history.”

RMIT University’s deputy dean of media and communication Lisa French questioned the integrity of the game show’s “surveying” procedure to determine the most popular answers.

“Where did they find these 100 people? I don’t think I know anyone who would respond in that way,” she said.

“Could it just be a ploy for publicity?”

Associate Professor French said the program showed sexism was “alive and well” in Australia.

“When the answer that the most popular women’s jobs are ‘washing, cooking and cleaning’ arises, it makes it clear that sexism is alive and well, and it highlights that women are still being demeaned,” she said.

“It oppresses men as much as it does women for jobs to be typecast according to gender … what we want is freedom of choice, and for those choices to be respected.”

Network Ten has been contacted for comment.

Commonwealth Bank chief Ian Narev lists reasons to be cheerful

Illustration: John Shakespeare.It’s rare to hear an Australian business leader so upbeat about everything, from the economy to politics and governments, the environment, the regulators and even gender equality.

But the Commonwealth Bank boss Ian Narev broke with tradition on Wednesday, launching his own rendition of Reasons to be Cheerful in an almost Pollyanna-like address on Australia’s future.

There’s nothing wrong with talking up the economy – arguably there should be more of it.

But the timing is curious given the myriad of obstacles the economy is facing.

The sharemarket is dangerously close to a correction, there has been a massive fall in commodity prices since the start of the year, yet another set of poor inflation numbers came out of China this week and we are faced with an increasingly sluggish European economy.

To top it all off, Tuesday brought an extraordinarily strong warning from the assistant governor of the Reserve Bank, Guy Debelle, that there was a dangerous complacency in financial markets and we could be facing a rout on bond markets that could be relatively violent.

To the extent that Narev dished up any real criticism, it was confined to the doomsday prophets from a few years back, whose predictions of the post-global financial crisis malaise turned out to be wildly overstated.

In Narev’s defense, there is nothing to be gained by his jumping on the negativity bandwagon.

He is running a retail-based banking business that is highly sensitive to consumer confidence, which is fragile and highly influenced by negative press.

Instead, he needs to maintain and push the message to his customers and shareholders that the Australian banking system is strong and able to withstand internal and external headwinds.

He, like all heads of Australian banks, has to work his public relations message at a time when the financial services inquiry is deliberating on whether to recommend the local banks beef up their levels of capital.

(On that point, Narev stressed he believed – like his peers in banking – that his institution was perfectly well capitalised. In the past week the bank’s board was presented with management’s onerous stress-testing measures and was given a healthy report card.)

But unlike some in the industry – such as the rather more direct-speaking ANZ boss Mike Smith – Narev is trying his hardest to make his point without picking a fight with members of the financial services inquiry, and in particular its head David Murray.

Indeed, he was quick and effusive in his praise of the inquiry.

“The financial services inquiry has been an excellent process of consultation … We don’t know what the final recommendations are going to be and we can’t tell you whether we are going to agree with them but … we felt well listened to [and] we got our opportunity to present our views to a very thoughtful panel of people, and it felt like we were heard.”

The banking majors also need to navigate the potential hazard of regulators instituting macro-prudential measures that would place boundaries on lending for investment into the rampaging property market.

But there was nothing but praise for the Australian regulators, and in particular the Reserve Bank, including Debelle and governor Glenn Stevens, whose job it is to warn people of the risks.

“Guy Debelle absolutely did his job, which is make sure the economy doesn’t get exuberant and doesn’t get complacent and understands its risks … [It’s] one of the key things a good Reserve Bank can do,” Narev said.

But he doesn’t necessarily agree that the outcome is likely to be as serious as Debelle suggested.

“There is a general period of unease and there has been for a while about low levels of volatility, and the reasons we’ve had low levels of volatility is because we’ve had low levels of interest rates around the world and therefore [these] have had an effect on asset prices. There is a very wide range of views on how that will play out in markets in the near and medium term. No one knows what the answer is.”

But Narev is not sipping from that half-empty glass.

“There are ongoing risks in Europe, geopolitical risks, there are climate risks, there are risks in what the US Federal Reserve are going to do. And yes, there is a possibility any one of – or a combination of – those factors in coming months or coming years might make life quite difficult here for a period.

“We hear a lot about those but we don’t hear as much about the countervailing circumstances.”

Narev’s list of positives include living in an economy with 22 years of consecutive growth (even though that can foster complacency), the fact Australia still has GDP growth, household savings rates having strengthened, business balance sheets looking good, business credit quality looking good and a government that understands the risks of excessive borrowing.

We also have state and federal governments committed to spending on infrastructure and a central bank that manages monetary policy “exceptionally well”, he says.

And as far as Narev is concerned, the business leaders who moan about the political impotence resulting from a hostile Senate should stop complaining, start adapting and get on with the job.

EDITORIAL: Coalition’s election challenge

THE steady exodus of NSW MPs continues, with Deputy Premier and National Party parliamentary leader Andrew Stoner announcing that he won’t contest the general election next March.

The announcement came as another Coalition MP, former resources minister Chris Hartcher, also confirmed he wouldn’t seek re-election in March.

Premier Mike Baird welcomed Mr Hartcher’s departure but expressed regret that Mr Stoner would be quitting.

Mr Stoner said he wanted to spend more time with his family, denying that his decision had anything to do with this year’s hearings in the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Mr Stoner told the ICAC that, as shadow minister for ports, he had six meetings with representatives of companies associated with coal deal-maker Nathan Tinkler, who was pushing to be allowed to develop a coal-loader at Mayfield. But there has been no evidence suggesting any wrongdoing on his part, unlike some other MPs.

Mr Hartcher, for example, has been accused of soliciting illegal donations for a slush fund to help the Coalition’s election campaigning.

The former minister was one of several MPs forced onto the crossbenches and one of a group of Central Coast and Hunter representatives caught up in the ICAC hearings.

It is fortunate for Premier Baird that his majority in Parliament is so commanding. It would require a big swing in a lot of seats to cost the Coalition power.

Even so, the election will present Mr Baird with many challenges. On the Central Coast and in the Hunter, he will have to find fresh candidates for Newcastle, Charlestown, Upper Hunter, Terrigal, Wyong and The Entrance. And in Port Stephens and Swansea, both former Liberal MPs are now sitting as independents, following the admission by one that he failed to declare some donations and caused a sham invoice to be created to disguise their source, and by the other that he accepted money from a banned category of donor.

The approaching byelections for Newcastle and Charlestown might have been seen as a kind of gauge of the public response to the Coalition’s ICAC woes, except that the Liberals chose not to field candidates.

Presumably, they will endorse candidates in those seats for the general election, and it remains to be seen whether alterations to electorate boundaries between the two polls make a difference either way.

One big challenge for the Coalition, and the Premier, is to cut through the noise of continual reminders of the ICAC – and like it or not, these latest departures are such reminders too – and getting a clear run into the general election.

It’s starting to look as if that might not be possible at all.

Sione Mata’utia happy to rub shoulders with stars

Sione Mata’utia. Picture: Jonathan CarrollEVEN if he does not get to play a game in Australia’s Four Nations campaign, Knights whiz kid Sione Mata’utia is primed for the time of his life.

Mata’utia will live out a dream when he joins Greg Inglis, a fellow former Hunter Sports High student, and other childhood heroes in camp with the Kangaroos in Brisbane on Friday.

“I can’t imagine being around him and having a joke,” the 18-year-old rookie said.

“It’s gonna be awesome, being with players I see week to week and on TV. I can’t wait to brush shoulders with them and just talk to them about playing Four Nations, playing for the country, and how I can get a few tips off them and take this whole experience in.

“In the Prime Minister’s XIII team, I got to talk to Greg Bird and Robbie Farah, and the youngsters like Josh Mansour and Matt Moylan, so I got to learn a lot.”

After just seven NRL games for Newcastle, Mata’utia is one of 11 debutants in Australia’s 24-man squad for games against New Zealand, England and Samoa in the next four weeks.

Ten first-timers were named in the original squad on Tuesday, but Moylan made it 11 when he was called in on Wednesday to replace Jarryd Hayne, who has quit rugby league to pursue a gridiron career in the NFL.

If he plays, Mata’utia will displace Israel Folau as the youngest to represent Australia in a Test.

Australian coach Tim Sheens has made no guarantees but, since taking over from Ricky Stuart in 2009, has always used every player in his squad for at least one game in Four Nations tournaments.

The same applied in the World Cup last year.

Naturally, Mata’utia wants nothing more than to play at least one Test in the next month, but as the freshest face in a new-look squad he accepts his position in the pecking order.

“If I get picked in a team, I’m going to be truly honoured and humbled by it, and if not, I’ll be truly grateful for the opportunity I have been given,” he said.

“To even get in the Prime Minister’s XIII, I thought that’s as far as I’ll go, so to get this achievement, it’s awesome.

“If there are better players in the squad than me that make it in front of me, I’ll let whatever’s best for the team happen and I’ll be there cheering them on and supporting.”

Sheens will pick his best 17 for games against New Zealand at Suncorp Stadium on October 25 and England at AAMI Park on November 2, so the game against Samoa at WIN Stadium on November 9 looms as the most likely opportunity for Mata’utia.

Should Australia win their first two games, they will have already qualified for the November 15 final in Wellington, giving Sheens a chance to blood any unused rookies.

“I know who my family is going to be supporting,” Mata’utia said of the prospect of playing against older brother Peter in that game.

“If I do get to play Samoa, it’s going to be a real good experience for me. I’m sure that the players will know I’m Samoan background, but I was born in Australia so I am Australian.

“I had the option to go to Samoa or Australia, but I pledged to Australia first, because being an Australian myself, I would like to represent my country and it’s always been a dream.

“I was going to represent Samoa for my mum because she wanted me to support her family and her heritage . . . but I pledged to Australia and now this opportunity has come.”

Sheens said on Wednesday that Mata’utia was capable of playing anywhere in the backline and, in the absence of so many veterans, deserved a chance.

“He’ll be in the back end of the group, along with young Dylan Walker and Alex Johnston, as back-ups to the senior guys, but his versatility, his strength and his talent is there for all to see,” Sheens said.

“He can play fullback, wing and centre, and I went looking for that type of player. Dylan Walker’s that sort of player as well, and Johnston has played wing and fullback, so we needed to cover all those positions and it was a good chance to give these young guys an opportunity.

“Better judges than I have seen it coming, too, with these kids. In fact, I’ve not had anyone say to me, ‘What the hell is he doing in the squad?’ So that’s a good sign.

“Whether it’s in club land, when you see the young guys coming through, or at international level, they’ll inject that enthusiasm into the squad and keep the old guys in the squad honest.”

Sheens was not the only influential figure Mata’utia impressed in the Prime Minister’s XIII game against Papua New Guinea at Kokopo last Sunday. Bird, who captained the side, was voted players’ player after the win, but he voted for Mata’utia.

Power workers seeking pay increase and job security ahead of privatisation

Power industry workers are seeking greater job security and a wage rise that analysts say could devalue the Baird government’s proposed sale of the state’s distribution and transmission network.

The Electrical Trades Union is seeking a 4 per cent wage rise, which, based on the McKell Institute’s economic modelling, would add $5.27 or 10¢ a week to the average power bill.

ETU secretary Steve Butler said the union was also trying to negotiate greater security for workers on an average salary of $78,878 ahead of the government’s planned privatisation of the Ausgrid “poles and wires”. The union wants redundancy entitlements of three weeks per year of service in the company policy to be formally included in an enterprise agreement.

“These job security measures have zero cost impact but provide workers and their families with certainty and security,” Mr Butler said.

“Given the government wants to privatise Ausgrid, we are hoping that the Premier and management will take this into consideration during negotiations and offer workers greater job security.”

UBS utilities analyst David Leitch said any contractual obligations for higher costs will reduce the value of the asset.

“If the company can demonstrate that the wage outcomes are fair and they have done their best effort to control them, you can normally recover those through the regulatory process in prices,” he said.

“But I can’t see the regulator or any reasonable person allowing a regulated business to recover costs that are just part of its normal sale process. Why should ETU people get greater job security than workers at BHP or a coalmine?”

A spokesman for Energy and Resources Minister Anthony Roberts said Networks NSW understands job security is important for employees and containing electricity price increases is important for households and businesses.

“While Networks NSW is in the early stages of the good faith bargaining process, Ausgrid has offered a three-year agreement without forced redundancy in recognition of employee concerns around job security,” he said.

“Networks NSW is committed to delivering on its promise to customers that it will contain increases in its share of electricity bills to less than CPI for the next five years. All costs, including labour, must be held to CPI or less to deliver on the promise to the state’s households and small businesses.

“Networks NSW has explained to the unions that one of the most important ways to secure jobs is to safely improve the productivity and competitiveness of the enterprise agreement.”

Staff at Sydney Ferries negotiated a one-off bonus of up to 30 weeks’ pay for going to work for a private operator that started running the ferries in 2011.

The offer included a provision for no compulsory redundancies for at least two years under the private operator and a 3.25 per cent annual pay rise for two years.

Jarryd Hayne: Taking off

Jarryd Hayne speaks to media during a press conference to announce he is quitting the NRL to pursue NFL in America.NRL chief Dave Smith says there was nothing he could have done to keep Sam Burgess, Sonny Bill Williams and Jarryd Hayne from leaving the code, after the trio claimed their decisions were not based on money.

Parramatta superstar Hayne told Smith on Tuesday night he was quitting the NRL to try his luck in the US in what is a big blow for the game after Burgess and Williams moved to play rugby in England and New Zealand respectively.

Smith admitted he was disappointed by the players’ departure but said the game was strong enough to cope.

‘‘I am of course disappointed, but I quickly realised that Jarryd is a young man who wants to do something else as part of his career path,’’ Smith said on Wednesday. ‘‘It’s not about money – it’s about chasing a dream – and there isn’t much we can do, but I wish him well.

‘‘It’s the same for Sonny and Sam. They are very talented guys who are great representatives for the game, but they are trying to develop their lives, and that’s a good thing.’’

Smith says he expects criticism of the NRL from some quarters but believes the level of talent still in the game is good enough to compensate.

‘‘Ideally, it wouldn’t happen, but it’s three out of 450-odd players, so it’s a very small proportion,’’ he said. ‘‘You only have to look at the talent coming through like Luke Brooks, Matt Moylan, Dylan Walker, Alex Johnston. The game is still very strong.’’

Parramatta have kept the door open for Hayne, who has vowed never to play against them, if the NSW fullback fails to make it in the tough world of the NFL.

The Eels signed former Canberra custodian Reece Robinson on Wednesday and he is expected to line up in the No.1 shirt next season.

Robinson will be paid significantly less than the $800,000 a year Hayne was believed to have been earning and, if a return to Parramatta was in doubt due to salary cap restraints, Smith has the power to step in and use his marquee player discretion.

‘‘If I wanted to, I could have used my discretionary powers to keep him, but money wasn’t the issue with Jarryd or Sonny, and Sam, for that matter,’’ Smith said. ‘‘But if he wanted to come back, then potentially we could do something that would allow him to return if that issue was to arise.’’

Smith also believes any success Hayne has in the States will have a positive effect on the NRL internationally.

‘‘Jarryd has always been a great ambassador for the game and will shine a bit of a torch for the NRL,’’ he said.

‘‘He is a great player and a great young man who will always be welcome back.’’

NSW coach Laurie Daley said Hayne’s exit was a big setback for his side.

‘‘Jarryd’s decision is obviously a blow but, as he said, he’s not ruling out a return, and hopefully one day he’ll be back in Blue, too,’’ Daley said. ‘‘He’s a tremendous athlete and will be remembered by Blues fans as one of the best to pull on a NSW jumper in State of Origin.’’

Can Hayne make it in the NFL?

MP Peter Walsh urges super funds to ‘show leadership’ and invest in agriculture

Food bowl: MP Peter Walsh believes Victorian agriculture can become “Asia’s high-end deli”. Photo: Glenn Hunt Food bowl: MP Peter Walsh believes Victorian agriculture can become “Asia’s high-end deli”. Photo: Glenn Hunt

Food bowl: MP Peter Walsh believes Victorian agriculture can become “Asia’s high-end deli”. Photo: Glenn Hunt

Food bowl: MP Peter Walsh believes Victorian agriculture can become “Asia’s high-end deli”. Photo: Glenn Hunt

Australian superannuation fund managers should “show some leadership” and invest in agriculture, says Victorian Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh.

Mr Walsh said capital investment would help Victoria significantly increase food and fibre production and that would come from a mix of sources, including domestic and foreign money.

“The super funds are an interesting creature,” he told a Rural Press Club of Victoria. “I’d like to see them invest more in the production systems. I could be cynical and say they effectively drive the sharemarket and the CBD property market in Australia. It would be good if one of them actually broke out and showed some leadership and went into something a bit more productive than those two particular markets.

“But that is up to them, because they’re playing with yours and my super, so we don’t want them to risk it too much,” he said.

Mr Walsh said some exciting joint ventures had occurred in recent years involving foreign investors and local agriculture/food projects, and that would continue.

Later, he told Fairfax Media that large superannuation funds could make a “substantial investment in agriculture”, even by allocating to agriculture just a fraction of their overall money.

Brent Finlay, president of the National Farmers’ Federation, joined Mr Walsh in encouraging super funds to invest in agriculture.

“We’d certainly like to see superannuation money invested,” he said.

“Capital investment into agriculture is really important and I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to invest in agriculture. We’ve got this massive opportunity.”

Presently, superannuation funds seem to have only a small connection to Victorian agriculture. However, the $13 billion superannuation fund VicSuper, which says it has more than 240,000 members, owns farmland in north-west Victoria near Swan Hill. Considerable investment and improvements have been made to some of this land, with a landmark cotton crop grown there recently.

Mr Finlay said overseas pension funds had also recently invested in agriculture in Queensland.

Meanwhile, in a bid to develop closer ties in some key Victorian agricultural export markets, Mr Walsh announced that should it win the November state election, the Coalition would hire three food and beverage trade specialists, to be based in Japan, Thailand and the Middle East, a move immediately welcomed by the Victorian Farmers Federation.

These staff would “play an important role in connecting businesses with buyers and positioning Victoria as a producer of high-value, high-reliability produce”, Mr Walsh said.

The recent Victorian Food and Fibre Export Performance Report revealed that the state’s food and fibre exports were valued at a record $11.4 billion in 2013-14, a 12 per cent jump on the previous year.

Mr Walsh predicted that by 2030, Victorian agricultural production would be double what it was in recent years.

He forecast that in 2030, Victorian agriculture would be “Asia’s high-end deli. We’re not actually their Coles or Woolies … We want to aim for that high-value end of the market; we’re not going to supply the mass market.”

Painting a bright picture of how Victorian agriculture would look in 2030, he said: “Our industry is the heartbeat of the Victorian economy and the envy of the world.”