‘It’s hard to hold back my anger’: Maddie’s father

THE father of the hoax collar-bomb victim Madeline Pulver has criticised attempts by his daughter’s attacker to distance himself from the crime, describing Paul Peters as a ‘‘pretty flawed individual’’ who did an ‘‘unbelievably callous thing to our daughter’’.
Nanjing Night Net

Bill Pulver and his wife Belinda sat through a sentencing hearing on Wednesday, in which a psychiatrist said  Peters was in a ‘‘psychotic state’’ when he attached a fake collar bomb to Ms Pulver’s neck on August 3 last year.

The court had also previously heard that Peters could not recall the actual crime, and only remembers walking up the steps of the Pulvers’ Mosman home. He says his memory returned about 2 hours later, when he had returned to the central coast.

Speaking after the day’s hearing, Mr Pulver said he did not believe Peters’s claim of temporary amnesia, saying his family believed the attack had been an ‘‘extraordinarily well-planned event’’.

‘‘He has very conveniently managed to forget the hour and a half when all of this nasty stuff took place, but then when he got to Avoca he logged on to three separate computers to check whether we had responded to his note,’’ Mr Pulver said.

‘‘It’s very clear this is simply an extortion case and while I don’t really question that there are some mental health issues, I think ultimately it’s an extortion.’’

He simply didn’t buy the idea being proffered that it was just a ‘‘clumsy’’ crime and Peters had wanted to get caught so he could be properly treated for a worsening psychiatric condition.

‘‘No –  he very nearly got away with it. The only reason he got caught [was because] Maddie rang me, and I immediately called the police,’’ he said.

‘‘She didn’t know at the time that this extortion letter was there. If I had known there was an extortion letter I ask myself the question many times – would I have actually rung the police? I’m really not sure what I would have done. He was unlucky not to get away with this.’’

Clutching his wife’s hand, Mr Pulver said at times he felt fury at the evidence being presented.

‘‘To be honest I look over at what I think is a pretty flawed individual, who did an unbelievably callous thing to our daughter and it’s just not normal behaviour, so it’s challenging at times to restrain the anger.

‘‘I think it’s ruined his life, his family know what it’s done …  he’ll still live with this for the rest of his life.’’

He said Maddie was unlikely to ever come to court, because ‘‘she doesn’t want to front him’’.

The consultant psychiatrist Dr Jonathan Phillips had earlier told the District Court that his diagnosis of a ‘‘psychosis’’ did not mean Peters’s actions were not well thought out.

Dr Phillips said that assessing Peters was as complex as any case he had tackled and there were times he struggled to understand what the former businessman was talking about.

The court heard that electronic evidence showed Peters had edited two ransom documents contained on a USB stick attached to the fake bomb for a total of 503 minutes.

Judge Peter Zahra will sentence Peters later this month.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Sobering study of strained relations

COMPLEX: Niels Arestrup in You Will Be My Son.You Will Be My Son (M)
Nanjing Night Net

Stars Niels Arestrup, Lorant Deutsch, Patrick Chesnais, Anne Marivin, Nicolas Bridet; directed by Gilles Legrand; 102 minutes.

The relationship between a father and a son is a complex one: love can sometimes be tainted – on one or both sides – by other, less positive feelings, such as disappointment, envy, resentment, competitiveness and excessive expectations. This sobering French film deals with two father-son relationships and won’t be for all tastes. Emotionally, it isn’t the easiest viewing, but despite a melodramatic turn towards the end, it’s a well-acted, atmospheric story. Just don’t go in expecting a frothy Gallic romp.

Widower Paul de Marseul (Niels Arestrup) runs a successful vineyard that has been in the family for generations. His son Martin (Lorant Deutsch) works in administration for him but Paul is contemptuous of his abilities as a winemaker and seldom passes up an opportunity to belittle the somewhat diffident young man and treat him with scorn and disdain. Tellingly, he has more respect for Martin’s feisty wife Alice (Anne Marivin), though she doesn’t like him because of his treatment of her husband.

Paul’s longtime estate manager, Francois (Patrick Chesnais), is dying and Martin hopes this will be his opportunity to take on a bigger role in the business. But when Francois’s son Philippe (Nicolas Bridet) arrives, having quit his winemaking job in California to be with his father, the situation becomes even more fraught. Paul is impressed with Philippe’s abilities and lavishes the praise and attention on him that he never gave Martin – even to the extent of offering him the job of estate manager when his father dies.

Although the film tends to take Martin’s side, there is complexity and depth to the characters and situations enabling us to see various points of view: Paul, though cruel, is concerned for the future of the renowned vineyard and may be justified in thinking Martin isn’t as talented a winemaker as Philippe, although how much of this situation is of Paul’s creation is arguable. Philippe, who doesn’t seem to be a bad sort, is uncomfortably caught up in the dysfunctional relationship of Paul and Martin. And Francois has his own resentments at the situation that is developing and his advice to his son is not without merit.

The music can be a little overbearing and, as noted, there’s one crucial twist that might seem a bit much. But the story, told well in straightforward fashion by director and co-writer Gilles Legrand, is a strong one. This is a film for people who like a good character piece with fine performances and something to think about.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Cooper cops $40,000 fine from ARU for outbursts

Quade Cooper gives a statement to the media after the disciplinary hearing. Quade Cooper at ARU headquarters after the hearing.
Nanjing Night Net

Quade Cooper arrives at ARU headquarters.

CooperDecCon

QUADE COOPER’S future in Australian rugby remains in limbo after the Wallabies five-eighth was fined $40,000 for criticising the team and coach Robbie Deans.

Although Cooper has signed a three-year deal with Super Rugby franchise the Reds, the ARU withdrew its top-up contract after the injured playmaker’s remarks in September.

Deputy chief executive Matt Carroll said the ARU had noted the tribunal’s findings and would consider the next step in the contracting process.

”ARU placed contract negotiations with Quade Cooper on hold until the tribunal process had been finalised,” he said.

”Given the tribunal has handed down its decision, this matter as far as we are concerned has been finalised. ARU will now look at how we address the contract situation involving Quade Cooper.”

After more than four hours of hearings and deliberations at the ARU headquarters in St Leonards on Wednesday, the three-person tribunal found Cooper had breached the ARU’s code of conduct in two separate instances.

He was fined $10,000 for a post on Twitter criticising an ARU-licensed computer game, Rugby Challenge, and $50,000 for comments he made in the general media and on Twitter, in which he called the Wallabies culture ”toxic” and criticised the team’s style of play under Deans.

A $20,000 portion of that was suspended, as was a three-match ban, but both will be activated if Cooper breaches the code of conduct again at any point in the next two years.

The Reds playmaker apologised to rugby fans and said he received a ”very fair hearing” at ARU headquarters. ”I’m very happy with the outcome and obviously the sentence that’s been handed to me, full respect for that, and I understand that I fell well below par for what it means to be a Wallaby, and for all the supporters who are out there, my apologies,” he said.

Cooper must wait while the ARU decides whether to put its contract offer back on the table.

But in the aftermath of the four-hour hearing, Cooper, who has battled a knee injury all year and will sit out the Wallabies end-of-year tour to Europe, broached the subject of playing again in the gold jersey. ”From now I’m just looking forward to the future, and hopefully having a big year with not only my state but the Wallabies and very much looking forward to overcoming my injury and getting back on the field,” he said.

Meanwhile, back-rower Alexandre Lapandry was called up by France coach Philippe Saint-Andre on Tuesday for the Test against the Wallabies in Paris on November 10 in place of the injured flanker Wenceslas Lauret.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

BCA demands 10-year costing on key reforms

A business leader has warned the Gillard government to “be realistic” about whether it can afford its disability insurance and school funding reforms, suggesting the measures may be scaled back.
Nanjing Night Net

Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott called on the government to reveal 10-year plans outlining the costs of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Gonski education reforms beyond the four-year budget cycle.

The call for a more modest version of the reforms comes as the government tries to clear the way for a school funding deal with state and territory leaders at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Canberra next week.

Federal School Education Minister Peter Garrett is expected to convene another phone hook-up with his counterparts to thrash out details of the Gonski reforms which are expected to inject an extra $6.5 billion a year into school funding.

Ms Westacott said the government needed to be realistic about what it could afford.

“We’re calling for the government to sit down with the states and really nut out 10-year implementation plans for Gonski and the National Disability Insurance Scheme, to make sure that we’re really clear about what we’re getting, that it’s meeting the outcomes that people think it should, and we can pay for it,” she said in an interview with Fairfax Media’s Breaking Politics program on Thursday.

Ms Westacott said the budget, to be handed down on May 14, should be clear about the cost beyond the four-year forward estimates.

“Things like Gonski, things like NDIS, if we’re going to pay for those as a country, there’s no point having small amounts of spending in the forward estimates with big amounts of spending beyond the forward estimates that aren’t clear to the states [and] aren’t clear to the community. We have to be confident we can pay for these things in the long term.”

Ms Westacott said while the intent of the reforms was “extremely good”, the government needed to phase in the changes in an affordable way.

“The question I would ask is what do people think we’re getting in these schemes? We talk about them constantly but I think if you said to the average person in the street, what do you think a National Disability Insurance Scheme is actually going to deliver on the ground, what will change tomorrow, I’m not sure that there’d be uniform agreement,” she said.

“I think we’ve got to sort of stop and say, what is it we’re trying to achieve in these schemes and can we do that in a way that does not impose a cost we can’t afford?

“Let’s take education. There are lots of things we can do around the Gonski package and around educational reform that are going to lift standards but don’t necessarily cost the same amount of money.

“I think it’s time . . . for the Commonwealth and the states to say what are we trying to do, can we afford it, can we do some parts of this reform without imposing more burdens on the taxpayer and are we really clear what the cost is going to be over the long term, and have we made the right provision so we can afford it?”

Ms Westacott called on the government to produce a credible medium-term plan to return to surplus, while taking care not to harm economic growth.

She said Australia did not have a “debt crisis” but did have a budget management problem.

Follow the National Times on Twitter

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Frankenstein remains in the lab

I, Frankenstein stuck in the lab
Nanjing Night Net

The release date for I, Frankenstein, the Australian-made, Hollywood-backed horror movie, has been delayed for a second time. Directed by Pirates of the Caribbean writer Stuart Beattie, the film is now slated for release on January 24, almost a year after its original release date. Starring Aaron Eckhart (pictured) and Bill Nighy and shot at Docklands Studios Melbourne, I, Frankenstein was first moved to September when US studio Lionsgate decided to convert it to 3D. It says the new date is not a sign of problems with Beattie’s directing. ”The film’s franchise potential, given its large-scale premise … are perfectly aligned with the 3D experience and the studio wants to put forth the best version of the film possible to audiences,” Lionsgate says.

Kon-Tiki Anglo-speaky

So why are Australian cinemas screening an English-language version of Kon-Tiki from Thursday, given it was up for the best foreign language Oscar this year? During previews for critics, there has been some confusion about the Norwegian drama on Thor Heyerdahl’s epic rafting journey from South America to Polynesia in 1947. If it was dubbed, it was dubbed very well. But producer Jeremy Thomas says Norwegian directors Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg shot two versions simultaneously for different parts of the world. The Norwegian actors, who all spoke both languages, would perform a scene in Norwegian first then do it again in English.

Duck to hit screen

While Simon Stone’s unannounced departure from Sydney’s Belvoir Street Theatre has been attracting attention, the former director-in-residence is forging ahead with plans to adapt Henrik Ibsen’s play The Wild Duck into a film. He won a Helpmann Award for his Belvoir production before an acclaimed season in Norway. Stone is working with producers Jan Chapman and Nicole O’Donohue, who collaborated on Griff The Invisible on what would be his film writing and directing debut, while continuing to direct for the theatre.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Back from the brink

Survivor: Tom Cruise plays an evacuee from an invasion-ravaged Earth in Oblivion.Two years ago, filmmaker Joseph Kosinski was trying to drum up attention for Oblivion, his idea for a movie about the last man on Earth. He created a graphic novel of the first chapter and took copies to the pop culture convention Comic-Con in San Diego to create interest.
Nanjing Night Net

”Someone picked up a copy and somehow it got to Tom Cruise and when I got back to Los Angeles, I got a call saying Tom wanted to talk about it,” the youthful-looking 38-year-old writer/director/producer recalls, still marvelling at the synchronicity that got his science-fiction blockbuster off the ground.

We are sitting in Hangar 8 at Santa Monica Airport, where some of the more elaborate space machines used in the film are being stored, including the impressive Bubbleship, a futuristic hybrid of a Bell 47 helicopter and a jet fighter that took five months to make and weighs more than 2000 kilograms. It’s flown by Cruise in the film and is one of the many ambitious props and sets that make the film a visual feast.

Ironically, Kosinski says his first meeting with Cruise was at the actor’s own airport hangar across town, where they bonded over toys. ”I’m such an aviation buff and he has a P51 Mustang, a whole suite of other planes and 30 motorcycles so we ended up talking about planes and cars and bikes and all this great stuff,” Kosinski says excitedly. ”Then we got down to the story and I spent an hour pitching him the movie and he was instantly hooked by the character and said, ‘Let’s do it!”’

The film is set in 2077, and Jack Harper (Cruise) is a drone security repairman working with a by-the-book navigator (Andrea Riseborough) stationed above Earth’s evacuated surface in a floating home called Skytower. He’s part of a massive operation to extract vital resources after decades of war with a terrifying alien threat decimated the planet. But when he rescues a beautiful stranger (Olga Kurylenko) from a downed spacecraft and meets a band of survivors led by Beech (Morgan Freeman), he’s forced to question everything he thought he knew.

Kosinski, who made his feature film directorial debut with the 2010 sequel TRON: Legacy, says it’s no coincidence both his films are science fiction. ”I was a child of the late ’70s and ’80s so I was brought up in that world of Star Wars, Blade Runner, 2001 and Back to the Future,” he says. ”Science fiction for me is the genre where you can really challenge people’s minds and their hearts and you can play with emotions. I love design, I love building worlds and I went to school for product design and architecture, so creating worlds is the fun part of making these kind of movies for me.”

Raised in Iowa as the son of a doctor, Kosinski earned an architecture degree from Columbia University in New York before moving to Los Angeles in 2005. ”I was having trouble breaking into the commercial music video business, where I wanted to get started,” he says. ”I’d been trying for months to get a foot in the door and couldn’t even get a fabric softener commercial, so I wrote a lot, including this story for Oblivion, in order to keep myself from going crazy.”

After TRON: Legacy grossed $400 million worldwide, Kosinski was given the green light to make the ambitious action-adventure Oblivion film, which shot for more than 80 days in Louisiana, New York and Iceland. ”When I was writing this, I had no idea it would blossom into something so big,” he says. ”Getting to a mountain peak in Iceland via helicopter, dropping off cranes and putting the biggest movie star in the world on the tip of that mountain and shooting a scene up there is something I’ll never forget.”

Kosinski admits he was also eager to learn from his leading man. ”I was shocked how down-to-earth he was, but it was also an amazing experience to hear him talk about working with Stanley Kubrick, Michael Mann and Ridley Scott,” he says.

”I felt like I was learning second-hand from all my heroes thanks to Tom.”Oblivion

Genre Science fiction

Critical buzz Will this big-budget sci-fi film turn things around for Tom Cruise at the box office after a tepid response to his past two efforts, Jack Reacher and Rock of Ages? The early buzz is that it will.

Stars Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko

Director Joseph Kosinski

Rated M

Release Now screening

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Australia falling further behind in IT ranking

Australia continues to fall in global rankings on how ready business and governments are to benefit from using technology, which industry blames on uncertainty around the national broadband network and business being too risk-averse and conservative with IT investment.
Nanjing Night Net

In the 2013 Global Information Technology survey produced by the World Economic Forum and released on Thursday, Australia ranked 18th of 144 nations, down one spot from the previous year and from ninth place in 2004.

The nation’s ranking for individual technology use rose one spot to 15th, but dropped three places to 25th for business use and down 11 positions to 19th for government.

“This reinforces both the need for high-speed ubiquitous broadband but importantly, the critical need to invest in lifting the skills needed to gain the greatest benefit from this infrastructure,” Australian Industry (Ai) Group chief executive Innes Willox said of Australia’s ranking.

Mr Willox said businesses required confidence and knowledge to invest, and governments needed policies in areas such as skills, innovation, cutting red tape, cybersecurity and buying technology goods.

“Lifting productivity is front and centre of the economic agenda and ICT [information and communications technology] adoption is an important part of this challenge,” he said.

George Kazangi, managing director of BlueCentral, which hosts mission critical business and web applications, said the reason business and governments were lagging behind the rest of the world was because they took a risk-averse and conservative approach to technology projects.

“I think it’s holding us back from the rest of the world because that conservative view doesn’t drive research and development and it doesn’t drive technology investment, which is really holding us back from becoming an IT powerhouse,” Mr Kazangi said.

Australian business and governments would go up the IT rankings when they became “more confident and more comfortable” with investing more money in technology projects, he added.

One of the major reasons businesses were putting off large infrastructure projects and investment in technology, he said, had to do with uncertainty surrounding the NBN rollout.

“So their concerns and the risk to their business are spending on infrastructure with such a long return, particularly because of the length of where the NBN stands now and how long it’s going to take to deploy. But also uncertainty as to what that will look like at the end of the deployment.”

Kevin Noonan, research director at Ovum, agreed with businesses being conservative and risk-averse. “The problem has been risk aversion when focussing on IT and then ignoring the enormous opportunity risks in not taking up business change,” Mr Noonan said.

“So what we [have been] focussing on is saving a couple of dollars on technology and missing out on the hundreds of thousands of dollars that could be saved through business change.

“I think though that we are starting to see some change happening there though.”

with AAP

 This reporter is on Facebook: /bengrubb

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

‘I’m not going quietly’: TAFE chief

The chief executive of Holmesglen TAFE has accused the state government of doing more damage to the training sector than any of its predecessors during his 31 years in the job.
Nanjing Night Net

Bruce Mackenzie has announced his retirement and will leave the job when Holmesglen finds a replacement, which is expected to happen later this year.

He lashed out at the government for its $300 million cuts to the sector last year. “I’m not going to go quietly,” he said. “This government has done far more financial damage to TAFE than any other government I’ve worked with. No question about that.”

Mr Mackenzie criticised the “policy vacuum creating enormous uncertainty in the TAFE sector” but said he was confident Holmesglen would continue to be an “enterprising” institute.

Holmesglen is one of Australia’s biggest providers of vocational training.

Mr Mackenzie also called for one jurisdiction to oversee the TAFE sector because a “disconnect” between the state and federal governments was failing Australia.

He said international students who wanted to study at Australian TAFE institutes found it too difficult to obtain visas, holding back the training sector.

A spokesman for Higher Education and Skills Minister, Peter Hall, said Mr Mackenzie had been an outstanding contributor to the training system and had “never been afraid to push the boundaries”.

“The government thanks him for his contribution over three decades and wishes him well,” he said.

“The government looks forward to working with the board of Holmesglen and their new leadership team in driving the institution forward to even greater heights.”

Mr Mackenzie’s impending retirement comes after the government sacked at least half of Victoria’s 14 TAFE chairmen late last month.

Fairfax Media can reveal that Brimbank Council administrator Peter Lewinsky will take over from sacked chairman Jonathan Forster, who is executive chairman of the Kane construction company.

Mr Hall’s spokesman said Mr Lewinsky had been elected by Holmesglen’s board as interim chairman.

Opposition spokesman for higher education and skills, Steve Herbert, said Mr Mackenzie’s resignation was a great loss to training in Victoria.

“Bruce was undoubtedly one of, if not the most, highly respected TAFE chief executives in the country,” he said. “He’s been one of the strongest advocates for the TAFE system in this country.”

[email protected]南京夜网.au

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

GREG RAY: Hopes for Kon-Tiki movie  

The Kon Tiki in 1947 on its voyage across the Pacific Ocean. THOR HEYERDAHL
Nanjing Night Net

MARGARET and David have given the Kon-Tiki movie three-and-a-half stars.

Sounds all right, but I don’t know if I want to go see it.

Because my memory of the book, while admittedly a bit hazy after a lot of years, is still pretty resonant. I’d hate to have that ruined, if I don’t like the film.

But then again, if it recaptured some of the exhilaration I felt when I first read Thor Heyerdahl’s incredible book, it would probably be worth the risk.

Kon-Tiki was one of those books that just gripped my imagination, as it gripped the imagination of the world when it appeared.

Most people, I guess, are familiar with the plot of the true-life yarn, but if you’ve never read the book you ought to put it on your list.

Heyerdahl had been fascinated by Polynesia for a long time. As a young man, with his wife Liv, Heyerdahl took the amazing step of leaving civilisation to go “back to nature” on the Pacific island of Fatu Hiva.

It proved to be an education, with the hardships of life on a “tropical paradise” much greater than he’d imagined. He and Liv saw how local people were ravaged by malnutrition and its ailments, and watched in horror as a village was decimated by influenza imported from a copra boat.

Civilisation had many redeeming features, after all, the couple learnt.

When Heyerdahl saw giant stone statues in the forests of the island that closely resembled some seen and illustrated by other people in South America, his mind went into overdrive.

He became obsessed with the theory that Polynesia may have been colonised in the dim past from South America.

But when he tried to share his theory, many established academics wrote him off, which prompted him to attempt the voyage, simply to show it would have been possible.

So he and some other Scandinavians went to South America in 1947, lashed some balsa logs together and hopped aboard to see where they’d end up. The raft design came from some very old drawings by Spanish invaders of Peru, and Heyerdahl insisted that no nails, spikes or wire be used in the construction.

As Heyerdahl had hoped and predicted, they wound up bumping into the islands of Polynesia after 101 days afloat, proving the feasibility his theory to his own satisfaction, if not necessarily everybody else’s.

But it was the journey, not the anthropological musings, that captured the world’s imagination.

I remember reading his book with astonishment at his audacity and boldness. Then I searched for his other books and read them, one by one. The others didn’t make such an impact, except Aku Aku, his wonderful Easter Island book, in which he explains to my complete satisfaction the “mystery” of the huge statues there.

Unlike some academics, Heyerdahl adopted the technique of winning the trust of the island locals and asking them patiently to share their old stories and traditions.

When he was given the folklore account of how the statues “walked” from the quarry to their final locations – and how their funny hats were put on – he asked for a demonstration and one was duly given.

After Aku Aku, I found the other fantastic book about the original Kon-Tiki expedition by Heyerdahl’s raft-mate Erik Hesselberg. Kon-Tiki and I is an illustrated version, much shorter, with hand-written text and lovely, quirky drawings, intended for young readers.

I’d like, some day, to watch the 1990 BBC series – Kon-Tiki Man – that covered the whole Heyerdahl saga, from Fatu Hiva and Kon-Tiki to the Ra and Tigris reed boat expeditions of later years.

In the meantime I have the book of the series, which is so comprehensive and readable that it probably makes ownership of most of Heyerdahl’s own works (except for Kon-Tiki and Aku Aku) unnecessary.

Kon-Tiki is a great, great story. I hope the movie measures up.

OPINION: Iron Lady’s dogma a hard lesson for us all

FORMER British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has been called a ‘divisive figure’ in the media.
Nanjing Night Net

This ‘divisiveness’ is merely a front to legitimise her policies in a post-Thatcher world where the swing to the right was mimicked by a number of countries, Australia included, and saw a politics created to benefit a rich minority while punishing the vulnerable.

This kind of politics was in no way ‘‘successful’’ except to benefit a minority and allow that minority to maintain their wealth and political power.

Lauding Baroness Thatcher’s policies is a mistake that we should not make today.

Lady Thatcher came to power promising to unite the country and to govern for everyone.

In reality her policies favoured those already well-off and hurt the already vulnerable. The gap between the haves and have-nots widened as a direct result of Lady Thatcher’s policy, leaving a distinctly un-United Kingdom.

The facts on the ground remain: unwilling to push for an overtly feminist agenda and unwilling to present a social agenda that was progressive in any way, Lady Thatcher pushed politics quite far to the right.

Economically, Lady Thatcher and the British Tory policies doubled unemployment, then pushed unemployed coal miners to register for long-term disability pensions to hide the unemployment figures.

The country’s gross national product fell, and there was never a recovery on the horizon, with top tax rates on the rich cropped from 83per cent down to 60per cent, while the value-added tax nearly doubled from 8per cent to 15per cent, largely hurting the poorer classes in the process, to recoup the revenue loss.

If not for the boom in North Sea oil, Lady Thatcher’s government would probably have been bankrupt in its first years.

Her refusal to co-operate in a greater Europe, her willingness to go to war, and her increased militarisation of the UK pushed international politics closer to crisis rather than further away.

At the same time this militarisation was coupled with a resurgent appeal to nationalism.

Her hostility towards Nelson Mandela, whom she derided as a terrorist, while having a long-lasting friendship with the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, remains a source of embarrassment and marks a shocking lack of personal judgment.

Lady Thatcher’s legacy is a world in which radical individualism is privileged at the expense of any sort of social solidarity or sense of responsibility to anyone outside of one’s self.

If we are to laud Lady Thatcher’s legacy then let us laud our own selfishness and greed as the products of this legacy.

We have seen how tolerating governments supporting dictatorships for the sake of convenience was dangerous in Lady Thatcher’s day and this continues.

Her neglect of the people hit hard by her economic policies, increased drug addiction, destroyed families, and caused enormous social problems in the UK.

If all governments, including ours here in Australia, were to act in such a manner, we would need to ask ourselves what it is that we need government for.

Helping to organise our lives for the better is part of the mandate of all governments, and pressing for positive change on the world stage is part of that. Lady Thatcher’s legacy is a cruel one, and not to be lauded.

Dr Robert Imre is a senior lecturer in politics and international relations, the University of Newcastle. Stephen Owen is a PhD student at the University of Newcastle.

Margaret Thatcher

OPINION: Opposition’s lack of vision for broadband

Fibre optic cable being layed in the Canberra suburb of Gungahlin this week. Photo: Alex EllinghausenTHERE is not much new in the opposition’s NBN policy.
Nanjing Night Net

Critical details on how it will achieve a cheaper outcome even at lower prices remains a big question. The roll-out of FTTN (maintaining the old copper network) is increasingly becoming a less-favourable option.

With the ageing of the copper network, that problem will only increase. Working with an old network means that you will come across many ‘‘surprises’’ in that network that need to be fixed and that will either increase the costs or make it impossible for people to get true fast broadband in.

There are plenty of such examples in Europe and North America.

This doesn’t need to be a major problem as long as there is a policy in place that recognises and address these issues. This, however, is still missing from the opposition, nor is there any recognition of the potential technical problems that might occur.

What will be its path to eventually get everybody in the country (i.e. more than 95per cent) on a network that provides an equal opportunity for all to participate in the rapidly developing digital society and digital economy?

Also, how is it going to entice Telstra and Optus to abandon their lucrative contracts with the government?

How is it going to entice the rest of the industry in relation to the far more complex regulatory issues that will occur if we keep the old Telstra-owned copper network?

One of the most significant problems arising in Europe in relation to FTTN is how to make it an open network in relation to ensure competition (wholesale) over that infrastructure.

While the opposition indicates you can’t trust this government in relation to its NBN, why would we trust it with its plan, as there are so many elements that can cause unforseen costs as well as hard-to-resolve technological problems that could lead to a widening of the digital divide – a problem that is increasingly seen as a major issue in European and North American politics.

True, if you have $5000 or so to spend to upgrade your own infrastructure to FTTH that is fine, but broadband is now seen worldwide as essential national infrastructure and it is seen as critical for the digital economy, e-health, tele-education and so on. The opposition still fails to address and recognise these issues and to formulate its policies accordingly. The question remains why does the opposition want a NBN?

This is clear in the case of the government: it talks about nation-building, essential infrastructure, etc. While there are still many questions that need to be answered by the government, at least it has policies in place, for example, the national digital strategy.

It is good to see that the opposition indicates that eventually FTTH will be needed.

So the question remains, how will the opposition address that issue in five years?

Eventually, for social-economic reasons, all of the network will need to be upgraded in order to run a sophisticated country such as Australia. There is nothing in the opposition’s plan that addresses this issue, beyond its initial quick and cheap fix, still at a considerable cost of $20billion.

There are quite a lot of assumptions in the opposition’s plan that are easy to say but difficult to reconcile.

Looking back over the past 10 years, all internet and broadband-based services have come down in price. If you compare an internet access product that was available 10 years ago, that same product (i.e. internet access at a certain speed) has come down in price more than 200per cent.

The reality, however, is that people still spend about the same as 10 years ago but now have speeds that are 20 or 40 times faster.

The same will apply over the next 10 years. It is highly unlikely that, as the opposition suggests, prices will increase.

There is no technological reason for this to happen and secondly, the ACCC would never allow it.

So, the opposition’s projected increased costs for the NBN (if continued) is scaremongering, as such a development would run against international trends.

There are still no clear policies on the demand side of the NBN (digital productivity). If the opposition doesn’t see the NBN as a socio-economic policy, it should abandon the NBN altogether and leave it to the private sector.

You would only, as a government, intervene if you believe that this was needed for a national purpose.

As a step-one plan, it addresses some of the cheaper and faster issues but it falls short of providing a true vision for the national digital infrastructure for Australia.

Paul Budde is a telecommunications consultant.

EDITORIAL: Fine way to make money 

THE trouble with imposing broadly based fines of any sort, such as those for parking or traffic infringements, is that a temptation soon arises to treat the income as a given in yearly budgets.
Nanjing Night Net

That leads to targets and quotas, which leads to pressure on those responsible for issuing fines, which leads to criticism that the organisation concerned has lost sight of the original reason for introducing the fines and is instead involved in naked revenue-raising.

If that sounds like a description of Newcastle City Council, that’s only because the organisation is so commonly the butt of public complaints about allegedly over-zealous parking fine practices.

Indeed, the council scarcely makes a secret of its expectation of minimum revenue receipts from its squad of compliance officers, although in the same breath it insists its only concerns are safety and support for businesses.

It might be presumed that the city area has now attained such a fearsome reputation as a place to be mercilessly fined that the council is being forced to work harder and cast its net wider to meet its desired revenue targets.

If so, that might explain the heavy and unpopular blitzes around the stadium during big sporting events, and perhaps even the sporadically vigorous activity around the Calvary Mater Hospital.

The council is not alone in its growing reliance on fines to bolster its apparently sick budget.

Other visitor magnets with notoriously poor parking provision are seeing their chance too. Rising stars in the Hunter’s fining stakes are Hunter New England Health and the University of Newcastle.

Parking at John Hunter Hospital is often extraordinary difficult.

That’s why cars are often backed up along Lookout Road and why residents of New Lambton Heights had to lobby for parking restrictions outside their homes.

The university’s case is probably worse, with paid parking permits cynically referred to by their holders as ‘‘hunting licences’’. If anybody cared to quantify the lost productivity due to time spent circling the campus in search of parking spots, the figure would probably be large.

Fines play a part in cutting traffic and maintaining safe practices. Knowing this, few motorists who knowingly park illegally complain.

The clearest indicator that the valuable practical functions of the system may be losing ground to revenue raising is the volume of protest at allegedly unfair penalties. That volume seems loud at present, which should mean something to those in control of the revenue targets.

Danish cabernet, anyone?

That bottle of Bordeaux you put aside may become even rarer in the next few decades if climate change reduces wine-grape production in traditional parts of the world and moves it elsewhere, researchers say.
Nanjing Night Net

Wine-grape production’s sensitivity to climate makes it a good test case for what could happen in the next several decades. And the land suitable for viticulture in current major wine-producing regions could be reduced by 20 per cent to 70 per cent by 2050, depending on the amount of greenhouse gases produced, the researchers said this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

An increasingly affluent global population is likely to create more demand for wine and ensure that wine-grapes will continue to be grown in current areas as much as possible, and be grown in new areas as well, the researchers said.

The researchers said they expected a “major global redistribution of suitability” for wine-grape production regions. That has significance for what happens to water resources and animal habitats, said Lee Hannah, an author of the study and senior scientist for climate change biology at Conservation International’s new Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Ecosystem Science.

That could mean that wine-grape production moves from regions such as Mediterranean France to higher latitudes, including northern Europe and the western US. At present, Mediterranean regions, with dry and warm summers and cool and wet winters, are especially suitable.

“The actual extent of those redistributions will depend on market forces, available adaptation options for vineyards, and continued popularity of wine with consumers,” researchers said.

Climate change could drive changes in viticulture that will change the ecosystems of the Mediterranean and threaten native habitats in areas where the industry goes, the researchers said. And a warming climate could force vineyard managers in traditional regions to try to cool grapes on the vine, and bring in more water – affecting the freshwater ecosystems.

The researchers, from several institutions in the US and elsewhere, used more than 100 models to assess potential climate change effects on wine growing. They said agreement using various models was high, both for signalling declines in suitability for wine grapes in the Mediterranean and projecting increases in northern Europe, New Zealand and western North America.

There are some coping strategies available, and others are needed, such as investments in new varieties of grapes that have different climate tolerances – such as withstanding heat stress – and new ways to manage vineyards, the researchers said.

Los Angeles Times via MCT  Find more Executive Style stories   Follow Executive Style on Twitter

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.