JOANNE McCARTHY: Seeds of revolution

THERE were no fireworks in the NSW Supreme Court on Wednesday as Rio Tinto and the NSW Government argued a judge got things wrong when he rejected the Warkworth coal mine extension near Bulga in April, and found in favour of Bulga residents.
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A dour barrister for the mining giant read out slabs of transcript. There were questions and answers about background noise levels. Some points were made. But to quote Bulga-Milbrodale Progress Association president John Lamb at lunch: ‘‘That was boring as batshit.’’

But oh so significant despite that. This is about coal, but it’s also about belief in government and the integrity of processes supposedly in place to protect the public.

Land and Environment Court chief judge Brian Preston’s criticism of the government’s Warkworth approval outraged Rio Tinto and its subsidiary Coal & Allied. Planning Minister Brad Hazzard sought immediate legal advice.

Rio Tinto met with Premier Barry O’Farrell in May, to push the point made in its statement immediately after Preston’s decision – that a judge could ‘‘overrule’’ decisions of the Planning Minister, government departments and the Planning Assessment Commission which constituted a ‘‘rigorous three-year process’’.

That’s one way of looking at it.

I recommend reading just one document, the February 2012 Planning Assessment Commission decision to approve the Warkworth extension, to get a sense of another way of looking at it – the perspective of Bulga residents, and many other Upper Hunter mining communities.

The Planning Assessment Commission accepted the ‘‘very significant’’ negative impact of the extension on the village and the local environment. It accepted that both the mining company and the government had failed to deliver on previous commitments, including the terms of a Ministerial Deed of Agreement, despite Bulga residents relying on those commitments to invest in homes and businesses.

It accepted that ‘‘best management practices’’ at the mine complex could be ‘‘substantially improved’’, which supports residents’ complaints of serious noise and dust problems based on current operations, even before the mine extends closer to the village.

The Planning Assessment Commission recommended approval subject to ‘‘robust and clear’’ environmental standards, ‘‘unambiguous’’ obligations to meet those standards, and ‘‘effective regulatory action in the event of poor performance’’.

They’re fine words, but the reality is Bulga residents repeatedly making late-night phone calls to complain about excessive noise and dust, having those complaints challenged, and almost laughably small fines when matters are actually pursued by government departments.

You could argue – and certainly mining companies and politicians argue – that the economic benefits of mining outweigh the rights of a small place like Bulga with its 300 residents.

The NSW Government’s proposed State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) makes that abundantly clear. We might have dust monitoring. We might have health studies. However, a SEPP that says in black and white that the value of the coal resource is the principal consideration in decision-making, above all others, which puts a question mark beside the point of any health or environmental considerations.

Coal rules.

But not quite yet.

There they sat in the impressive Banco Court on Wednesday – about a dozen Bulga residents including John Lamb, John and Leslie Krey, and Marie and Stewart Mitchell. Outside the court, hundreds of others protested the SEPP and proposed changes to the state’s planning laws.

People like John Lamb, the Kreys and the Mitchells believed the O’Farrell government’s promises of integrity in planning, and transparency in government decision-making. After the ugliness of Labor’s corrupted coal approval processes, it was a relief.

What they got – what we got – was a NSW Government that has damaged public confidence by a different means. We weren’t given the chance to vote about a government that would value the coal resource above other considerations when making decisions about mines.

This government hasn’t explained why it needs to sit in the Banco Court this week beside Rio Tinto, and against the people of Bulga. It didn’t tell us it would consider doing that.

It’s a corrosive thing, when people cannot believe the politicians who lead them.

The people of Bulga are fighting that, as much as they’re fighting a mine where too many commitments have already been made, and broken.

On Wednesday John Lamb fronted Barry O’Farrell while the Premier was standing in a cafe ordering a sandwich. He asked O’Farrell to visit Bulga, to talk to residents.

In NSW, in the Great Age of Coal, it’s almost a revolutionary idea.

Winners of the Hunter Valley Wine Show

PEPPER Tree, Tyrrell’s and Audrey Wilkinson were the stars of the 2013 Hunter Valley Wine Show as trophies and gold medal awards were presented on Friday at the presentation luncheon at Pokolbin.
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Pepper Tree, the centrepiece of millionaire geologist and oil exploration company director John Davis’s wine empire, won four trophies, including the Doug Seabrook Trophy for the best dry red of the show.

The Seabrook prize was one of the four trophies claimed by the Pepper Tree 2011 Limited Release Shiraz, which also won the Hector Tulloch Trophy for the best currently available dry red, the James Busby Trophy for the best premium-vintage red and the Elliott Family Trophy for the best two-year-old red.

The Davis family also owns the Hunter’s Briar Ridge and Tallavera Grove operations and vineyards in Wrattonbully, Orange and Coonawarra and notched three gold medals with Pepper Tree wines and one from Briar Ridge.

The Petrie-Drinan Trophy for the best white wine of the show was won by the Audrey Wilkinson 2006 Museum Reserve Semillon, which also collected the Maurice O’Shea Trophy for the best currently available dry white and the McGuigan Family Trophy for the best premium vintage dry white.

Audrey Wilkinson is part of the Agnew wine group, which includes the Poole’s Rock, Cockfighter’s Ghost and Firestick brands, and is headed by Brian Agnew – a past chairman of the big Moray and Agnew specialist insurance law firm.

Audrey Wilkinson’s three trophies were accompanied by two gold medals and Poole’s Rock took gold with a 2009 semillon.

The Tyrrell’s family wine company won the Singleton Council Trophy for the most successful exhibitor in young wine classes and notched three other trophies and seven gold medals.

The Tyrrell’s Old Vines Chardonnay won the Ed Jouault Trophy for the best one-year-old dry white and the Murray Tyrrell Trophy for the best any-vintage chardonnay.

The Tyrrell’s 2007 HVD Vineyard Semillon won the Tyrrell Family Trophy for the best named vineyard dry white.

Ace winemaker Andrew Thomas was again among the major winners with his semillons from the veteran viticulturist Ken Braye’s Braemore vineyard in Hermitage Rd, Pokolbin.

The Thomas 2013 Braemore Semillon won the H.J. Lindeman Trophy for the best current-vintage dry white and the Marshall-Flannery Trophy for the best current-vintage semillon.

The 2007 Braemore Semillon and the 2011 Elanay Shiraz brought the Thomas gold tally to three.

U and I Tinkler won the John Lewis-Newcastle Herald Trophy for the best museum vintage dry red with the Tinkler 2005 U and I Shiraz.

The Tinkler wine operation is headed by Usher William (Bill) and Kathie Tinkler and brother and sister-in-law Ian and Leonie Tinkler.

The wine was made by Bill and Kathie Tinkler’s son Usher, who is the sixth generation of his family to be involved in the Hunter wine industry.

The Tempus Two 2003 Copper Zenith Semillon won the Graham Gregory Trophy for best museum vintage dry white.

Tulloch Wines claimed the Iain Riggs Wines of Provenance Award, which requires entrants to submit three different vintages of the same labelled wine, covering a vintage spread of at least 10 years with one wine being 2009 vintage or younger.

Bill and Vicki Widin’s 1693 Broke Rd, Pokolbin, Leogate winery had dual trophy success with the Leogate Estate 2011 Western Slopes Shiraz.

The wine won the Len Evans Trophy for the best named vineyard wine of the show and the Drayton Family Trophy for the best named vineyard dry red.

The Windins, long-time wine enthusiasts who own the 5870-hectare Middlebrook Park Black Angus cattle stud at South Tamworth, took the plunge into Hunter winemaking in 2007 and 2008 when they bought the two sections of what was the former Rothbury Estate Brokenback vineyard, at Broke Rd, Pokolbin.

Other trophy winners were:

Two Rivers 2013 Hidden Hive Verdelho (Jay Tulloch Trophy)

Mount Eyre 2013 Three Ponds Fiano (best any-vintage alternate white varieties trophy)

Margan 2011 Limited Release Barbera (best any-vintage alternate red varieties trophy)

Margan 2011 Botrytis Semillon (Doug Galbraith Trophy for premium vintage sweet white)

Drayton’s Non-Vintage Heritage Vines Verdelho (Trevor Drayton Trophy for best premium vintage fortified

The show, which was judged this week at Singleton Army Infantry Centre attracted 730 entries from 78 large and small Hunter producers.

Find out the prices and where to buy 2013 Hunter Valley Wine Show trophy and gold medal wines in next Wednesday’s Good Taste Wine column.

Pepper Tree owner John Davis after winning The Hector Tulloch Trophy for best dry red wine. Picture: Peter Stoop

The smallest star shines brightly

When the directorial team of Scott McGehee and David Siegel discuss the star of their new film, What Maisie Knew, they talk about her ease in front of the camera, her ability to convey powerful emotions in close-up, and her gift for instinctively understanding a scene’s emotional core. They had the same fortunate experience, the pair say, with Tilda Swinton on their 2001 thriller The Deep End, but whereas Swinton was a classically trained, Cambridge-educated screen veteran, their new lead, Onata Aprile, was a six-year-old girl.
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”It would have been disastrous if we’d got it wrong,” McGehee admits. ”What we found with Onata, and what kept expanding as we worked with her and cut her performance together, was that we were able to rely on her much more than we anticipated. We were able to use her remarkable ability in close-up to help build the emotional story in a way that we couldn’t have imagined at the script stage. All the time she was really honest, giving a genuinely emotional performance.”

A contemporary retelling of Henry James’ 1897 novel about a child’s view of her bitterly divorced parents and their new partners, What Maisie Knew couldn’t work without a gifted child actor as its fulcrum. Every scene is told from the perspective of Maisie, a bright but increasingly abandoned six-year-old fought over but then neglected by her selfish parents – veteran rock star Susanna (Julianne Moore) and art dealer Beale (Steve Coogan).

Without narration or contrived exposition, Maisie’s understanding of her situation, and that of her parents’ new spouses, bartender Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgard) and her former nanny Margo (Joanna Vanderham), is told visually. Onata’s face flickers from joyous to solemn as the mood changes, while her realisation that her parents’ love is flawed proves heartbreaking.

Since the earliest motion pictures, filmmakers have been working with children, and audiences have responded. In 1935, seven-year-old Shirley Temple was the biggest box-office draw in the world, receiving more fan mail than Greta Garbo or Clark Gable.

Child actors, as opposed to the older teenagers who came to the fore in the 1950s, could bring an innocence and emotional clarity to the screen, although their naivete has long been exploited.

”We’ve heard some terrible stories about the way people have got performances from kids,” McGehee says. ”We heard from an assistant director once about needing an emotional performance from a kid and telling the kid that her parents had left and were never coming back. She made the kid believe it – she’d built up this bond of trust throughout the shoot for this one decisive moment – and was telling it to us proudly.”

Child acting is a lucrative profession, and some hopefuls come with professional headshots and first-name knowledge of the relevant casting directors. Onata Aprile, a student at Manhattan’s P.S. 3 school, had already enjoyed two small roles, but that flowed on from tagging along with her actor mother, Valentine. She wanted to act, but had no idea of the stakes involved or the responsibility that would be placed on her tiny shoulders on workdays that were legally mandated at nine hours long.

”We were talking about resting an entire movie on her and that was a huge leap of faith,” Siegel says. ”We considered what would happen if we got to day five and she didn’t want to do it any more.”

Onata was supported and prepared by her mother, who McGehee and Siegel stress was the opposite of the sadly common pushy stage mother, while her adult co-stars also worked closely with her. Skarsgard, who uses his considerable height to show vulnerability instead of his usual dominance in the film, bonded with her after one play session on the floor of Siegel’s apartment.

”There was just something about her energy that felt so raw and so real,” the Swedish actor told a news website.

”And it was like she was so strong but yet vulnerable at the same time, which was a quality we were looking for. So I flew out to New York and met with her, and I was just blown away immediately.”

Moore, whose scenes with Onata are some of the emotionally harshest as Susanna draws her daughter in but then coldly puts her aside or guiltily lashes out when her career and art call, would talk through each set-up with the six-year-old, explaining her intentions. But when they shot, Onata would take those parameters and expand them, often providing Moore with something extra for her performance.

”It takes actors a long time to go from the state of acting to the state of being. She does that, and instinctively knows how to be on camera,” Moore told reporters. ”Whenever I held Onata while we were shooting, I always had this necklace on. She’d always take the locket and open and close it and look at it. Everything she did was so textured and interesting; she’d play with someone’s hair and engage physically with them. It was really remarkable.”

Onata hasn’t acted on screen since What Maisie Knew was released, although the film’s lengthy and well-received journey from the festival circuit to commercial release has kept her busy. But given the enthusiasm and ease they witnessed daily on set, McGehee and Siegel have no doubts where her future lies.

”Onata was the last person to be wrapped on the film, with a scene running up and down stairs at midnight, and everyone knew what was coming except Onata,” Siegel says.

”Dylan, our assistant director, gathered everybody and when we called ‘cut’ her mum picked her up because she was tired, and then Dylan came out and said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, that’s a picture wrap on Onata Aprile’, and the place just went bananas.

”Everyone thought this child was special, whether they were close to her or not, and there was just this roar.

”Initially, Onata flinched and for a second I thought, ‘Oh, this is too much for her’, but then this smile spread across her face like a beam of light.

”It wasn’t just that she was happy, it was her feeling that she’d made it, that she’d got through the movie without failing us.”

■ What Maisie Knew opens on Thursday.

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

Could Peter Meakin be Ten’s golden goose?

Veteran TV news executive Peter Meakin has joined Network Ten as executive director of news and current affairs.
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Meakin, who will be 71 this year, now has cards to all three commercial networks, having held similar posts at Nine and Seven.

Renowned and respected as a straight-talking and hard-nosed rogue with an instinct for commercial news, Meakin is credited as the driving force behind Nine’s decades-long leadership in news and current affairs, as well as Seven’s resurgence after he unexpectedly decamped to the rival network in 2003 following a falling-out with his former boss at Nine, John Alexander.

Meakin has never disputed having called Alexander a “24-carat c—” when changes were made to the news department.

Former Four Corners executive producer and ABC news head Peter Manning once described Meakin as “the best ever news director for both Nine and Seven, getting eyeballs to the channels during their news hours with serious political events or crises”.

“He brought all his commercial and populist expertise to bear to bring a serious perspective to commercial TV. When it would have been easier to ignore difficult, serious events that were happening, Peter committed himself to intervene in the schedule.”

Announcing Meakin’s appointment to Ten, CEO Hamish McLennan says Meakin “has an extraordinary news sense and an ability to bring stories to viewers that no one else in Australia can match”.

“It also marks a new era in the way we will develop, produce and present our news and current affairs programs.”

Meakin left Seven in November 2012 following a restructure of the network’s news and current affairs division.

Meakin says that he will be part of Ten’s initiative to make a bigger name for itself in news.

Ten’s News At Five is often the struggling network’s highest rating show. Apart from the weekdaily Project and Late News, the network doesn’t have a dedicated regular current affairs show in its schedule.

Present news and current affairs head Anthony Flannery will report to Meakin.

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Deals of the week: into Africa

Lion Sands Tinga Lodge. Golf with Peppers.
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A QT resort room.


Book a 2014 Africa trip with APT in 2014 and receive a companion return airfare from Australia to Africa free (though pay taxes from $845 a head). One eligible trip is APT’s 16-day South Africa Highlights tour, which leaves from Cape Town and includes Victoria Falls, the Garden Route, Zululand, Swaziland, Kruger National Park and Victoria Falls. From $8695 a head, twin share, it features two private game park experiences, 15 nights’ accommodation including in the five-star Table Bay, in Cape Town and Lion Sands Tinga Lodge, Kruger National Park; 29 meals; all flights and airport taxes in Africa; all tips, game park fees, sightseeing and porterage. The airfare offer is available on all bookings of eligible trips made by December 31.

Phone 1300 278 278. See aptouring南京夜网.au.


Harvey World Travel is offering four nights for the price of three at the new QT Resort, in Port Douglas. The package includes: four nights in a resort room, breakfast daily, a $20 spa voucher and guaranteed late check-out at noon. Prices, twin share, start from $349 a head. The offer is valid for sale until August 30, unless sold out before, and for travel October 6-December 25, then January 5-March 31.

Phone 13 27 57. See harveyworld南京夜网.au.


Travel南京夜网.au has put together an accommodation and airfares package for a Cook Islands break. The deal includes return flights with Air New Zealand to Rarotonga, four nights at the Rarotongan Beach Resort and Spa in a garden room and three nights at Aitutaki Lagoon Resort and Spa in a beachfront bungalow. The package includes breakfast daily, a one-hour spa hydrotherapy package for two at Aitutaki Resort, return domestic airfares to Aitutaki and airport transfers. From $2569 a head (dependent on Australian city of departure), twin share. Airfares include carry-on baggage only. The offer is valid for travel November 1-December 19 and January 11-March 31. It is valid for sale until 3pm September 30 unless sold out before.

Phone 1300 130 483. See travel南京夜网.au.


Peppers has a package for the annual Craigieburn Hickory Cup with the Australian Heritage Golf Society, Bowral, on Sunday September 8. Enjoy 18 holes of vintage golf on the 100-year-old Craigieburn Golf Course, and, after the cup, attend the Living Legends Dinner at historic Peppers Craigieburn. The Heritage Weekend package costs from $299 a couple and includes Sunday night accommodation and breakfast on Monday, one entry to the Hickory Cup and two tickets to the Living Legends Dinner.

Phone 4862 8000. See peppers南京夜网.au/craigieburn.


Yabbaloumba Retreat, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland bordering the Conondale National Park in the Conondale Ranges, is a drive of about 90 minutes north of Brisbane. It is a working property with luxuriously appointed cottages overlooking a dam that is stocked with Australian bass. Wotif has a deal for stays at the property priced from $180 a night, for two people. It includes accommodation in a cottage with an in-room spa, private balcony and gas fire and a daily breakfast hamper, one dinner pack and wine and cheese on arrival. The price represents a 40 per cent saving. The deal is valid for two-night minimum stays from Sunday to Thursday until the end of November, or until sold out. It is available Saturday to Sunday priced from $225.

Phone 1300 887 979 and quote “Wotif deal with meal”. See wotif南京夜网/hotelW134007.

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


Indulgence winner … Toraja Luxury just outside Byron Bay.Getting away from it all? Not any more — we want holiday homes that have it all, writes Belinda Jackson.
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For generations of Aussies, summer holidays always started with a long, “I spy”-dominated drive to the beach. The accommodation was either a caravan park, where kids ran rampant from dawn until dusk and the queue at the shower block was the essential meeting place, or the classic beach shack, built on a shoestring and furnished with the cast-offs from the family home.

We’ve always loved our beach shacks: hidden from view on the white-sand beaches of the NSW south coast or up in idyllic Byron Bay, you’ll see them among the dunes along the South Australian coastline, tucked away down sandy lanes on the Bellarine and Mornington peninsulas, so laid-back they’re almost horizontal.

Stayz, a division of Fairfax Media, recently held its annual awards for the best holiday rentals in seven categories including best for pets, romance, families and eco-friendliness, as well as a people’s choice. Judged by a panel of travel industry experts with guest ratings and reviews in the mix, the results are an eye-opener.

These days the locations are different: we’re not just running to the beach any more. Sure, there are winners in Noosa, Byron Bay and on Culburra Beach, just outside Nowra, but there are also winners in the Victorian foodie region around Kyneton, in the genteel NSW southern highlands and another on the sleepy east Gippsland coastline.

“The mix of holiday homes is changing,” says Anton Stanish, general manager of Stayz. “We’ve also got more inner-city serviced apartments, especially on the Gold Coast. They’re so convenient for fly-in holidaymakers. And we’ve got more unique properties.”

Choose your dream: a tree-house? A castle? A lighthouse? Or a yurt? A train carriage or go underground to a subterranean B&B? You might need a jetty for your own boat, or helicopter access for a particularly dramatic arrival. While the shape of the holiday house has changed, so have our requirements.

Nowadays, remember to take your iPad and smartphones, Stanish says. Far from getting away from it all, a huge percentage of holiday homes now have Wi-Fi. We’re holidaying differently: we expect great beds, pay-TV and internet access. We’re out to “enjoy ourselves” and “we’re no longer doing hardship”, he says.

With the rise in demand comes the rise in agents happy to supply, and not just traditional real estate agents. The last year has seen a rush of activity among the online players, which include behemoth Stayz, which has more than 40,000 properties on its books, HomeAway南京夜网.au with 19,000 holiday listings, and wotif南京夜网, which launched a dedicated holiday homes service in March 2012. Newcomer Airbnb, which lets people advertise not only their homes but also rooms, launched in Australia late last year, and has gone public about its intention to take on Stayz in the holiday rentals market.

With such choice available, you need to choose carefully. Think about what you’d use the property for: obviously, a couple chasing romance doesn’t need to pay for a two-bedroom house and if you’re a large group, check that there are enough bathrooms for you all.

Groups also need to ensure they have enough transport, especially if you’re booking a country house, such as a Victorian farmhouse B&B.

If you want to eat in a different restaurant every night, is a country retreat really for you, or would it be better basing yourself in a foodie town, such as the beloved spa town of Daylesford, Victoria, where you can totter home afterwards, bypassing the need for a designated driver? And while pool fences are compulsory in Australia, it also goes without saying that kids and cliff-top retreats don’t mix.

If you’re packing the pets, check that the local beaches or parks are leash-free: in summer, many beaches ban dogs in daylight hours. Hound-friendly holiday homes are on the increase and the advantage for holiday home owners is that dog owners are a sturdy bunch, with the market not so reliant on good weather.

“Many dog owners are happy to get a break from the city all year around to give their dogs a run, so dog-friendly holiday rentals are becoming increasingly popular,” says Stephen Nicholls, Fairfax Media’s national Domain editor and property trend-watcher.

However simple or complex your wishes, at the end of the day, it’s still a holiday. We’ve come a long way for the best getaway. In many properties, you’ll also find quality linen supplied, brand toiletries, top-brand coffee machines… all the lovely things we may not necessarily have at home.

You can tick off the five key factors that make a good holiday home: uniqueness, good value, the right space and size, exclusivity of use and that old real estate mantra, location, location, location.

Once upon a time, you just added water – think beaches, rivers or lakes – to make the perfect holiday home. Now, we expect dependable internet, luxury linen, professionally kitted-out kitchens and a plethora of entertainment options from restaurant strips to theme parks and, of course, a great beach.

The great Australian getaway definitely has changed as our households have changed, with more singles on the move, as well as couples young and old without kids. Holidaymakers, as Nicholls points out, want to travel with their pets, with a group of mates, or take a holiday that leaves a lighter footprint on the planet.

Families are also more adventurous – no staying at home just because we have young children, and thanks to rising petrol costs, lower airfares and more services to regional airports, many visitors will arrive at their destination by plane rather than a long road trip through countless country towns. Baby boomers are happily blowing their children’s inheritance on holidays, while the core holiday home market – inter-generational travel, which sees grandparents holidaying with all their kids – has always been a key holiday rental market.

While villa rentals are on-trend in our favourite international destinations such as Bali and Thailand, Australia’s stepping up to the plate; which is particularly timely as our obsession with overseas travel is set to wane as our dollar winds back recent gains.

Building on our existing love of a beach shack, those holiday homes are now a bit glossier, more polished, with matching linen and chic, gingham-checked breakfast baskets featuring sumptuous piles of regional produce.

Something that hasn’t changed is that the most popular spots for holiday homes remain within 2½ hours’ drive of our capital cities. “That’s about as long as young families with two kids in the back seat can tolerate for a weekend break,” Nicholls says.

For Sydneysiders, the south coast is a hot locale. Destination NSW says the most popular spot in the state for Sydney short-break holidaymakers is the south coast, with 23 per cent of us heading there, while the north coast gets 17 per cent of the traffic, and the Hunter Valley 15 per cent. The beach towns of Hyams Beach, Nowra and Huskisson remain popular as well as Nicholls’ personal favourite, Jervis Bay, right on the 2½-hour mark.

While it’s traditionally quiet in the middle of winter, Todd Gallant from Hyams Beach Real Estate says the beachside spot, which sells itself as having the whitest sand in the world, is increasingly popular with holidaymakers, though official tourism figures show its biggest rival is NSW’s north coast, with tourist traffic to Byron Bay currently booming, and we’re not even talking about across the border to the holiday mecca that is Noosa.

Not quite as far away from Sydney, Pacific Palms – specifically Blueys Beach – is just under three hours’ drive north of Sydney on the appropriately named Holiday Coast, a strong lure for time-poor north shore holidaymakers.

As the six-week summer holiday fades into a nostalgic haze, the long weekender continues to rise in popularity: four-day mini-breaks are hot right now.

For a full-list of the winners of this year’s Stayz Group Holiday Rental Awards, see stayz南京夜网.au.



In peak times, such as Christmas, school holidays and the ski season, houses can be booked out 12 months in advance. Otherwise, allow at least three months.


Most properties have midweek specials and some beach areas drop their prices in the colder months or throw in an extra night free. Traditionally, May is the slowest month.


Many owners add special touches, particularly in their downtime, such as breakfast baskets filled with home-made jams and eggs from their own hens, or a bottle of local wine on arrival.


Some properties have two-night minimum stays on the weekends, and up to seven-night minimum stays in the peak seasons. Staying two weeks usually attracts a lower rate.


If you’re flying in, book your car at the same time, so you’re not left stranded on the ground.Stay with the stars

Our top picks of the Stayz 2013 holiday rental winners.


Toraja Luxury, NSW

A luxury pad with 180-degree ocean panoramas just outside Byron Bay. Sleeps six.

Who goes there? Honeymooners and lovers (of each other and of luxury).

When to go All year round thanks to the swimming pool, open fireplace, outdoor lounges and gourmet kitchen.

Must-visit local attraction The sparkling beaches of Broken Head and Lennox Head.

Guest comment “The pool area is a beautiful spot to while away the hours … the verandah [and all of the windows in the house] look out over rolling green pastures to the sea.”

Trip notes From $470 to $1100, minimum three nights, stayz南京夜网.au/115047.


Liptrap Loft, Vic

A rustic shack in Walkerville, south Gippsland. Sleeps six.

Who goes there? Bushies for privacy and a Japanese bathhouse.

When to go Summer for the beach, winter for the whales and their calves in Waratah Bay for R&R.

Must-visit local attraction Wilson’s Promontory, 30 minutes away, is a naturist’s delight.

Guest comment “Eccentric in a beautiful way, the furniture is a delight.We will return in winter to hunker down with the fire and listen to nature’s best.”

Trip notes From $190 to $265 a night, minimum two nights, stayz南京夜网.au/22270.


The Evening Star, Vic

A polished two-bedroom cottage outside Bright, in the Victorian High Country. Sleeps four.

Who goes there? Mountain lovers, bike riders, kids over 10 years old.

When to go Autumn for the colour.

Must-visit local attraction Bright’s foodie scene and Hotham’s ski fields are 45 minutes away.

Guest comment “Deafening silence, crisp mountain air and amazing views from a gorgeous house where all the little touches have been added.”

Trip notes From $250 (weekdays) to $400 (weekends) a night, minimum two nights, stayz南京夜网.au/19289.


Riversdale Retreat, Vic

A super-slick eco-cottage at Chewton, near Castlemaine. Sleeps three.

Who goes there? Melbourne foodies. Shortlisted for the World Architecture Festival Awards 2009.

When to go Great for a cold-weather getaway.

Must-visit local attraction Daylesford and the restaurants and vintage shopping in Kyneton and Castlemaine.

Guest comment “It felt a bit like a groovy city pad in the middle of the bush. Even honoured by visits from kangaroos and red-bellied robins. Enjoyed bushwalking and the marvellous Chewton market.”

Trip notes Costs $220 a double (Monday-Thursday), $265 (Friday-Sunday), minimum two nights, stayz南京夜网.au/66476.


Noosa Holiday House, Qld

A three-story house at Castaways Beach, near Noosa. Sleeps eight.

Who goes there? Pet-owning design lovers.

When to go A minute from the beach, summer is hugely popular.

Must-visit local attraction The restaurant strip at Sunshine Beach; Peregian Beach design markets.

Guest comment “With the home being on three levels, we were able to have time to ourselves and our children loved the free Wi-Fi. Dog loved the backyard … lots of great bush, beach and rainforest walks.”

Trip notes From $550 to $900 a night, minimum five nights, stayz南京夜网.au/55345.

Stayz is a division of Fairfax Media.

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

US retail struggles amid supposed recovery

From Wal-Mart Stores and Gap to Macy’s and McDonald’s, chains that cater to middle- and lower-income Americans say they are feeling the pinch of an uneven economic recovery.
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A host of retailers have reported tepid sales lately, highlighting the stress that consumers are feeling because of higher payroll taxes, expensive gasoline and a slow job market four years after the US economy started to rebound.

“Everyone wants to talk about recovery – it’s like the unrecovery,” Susquehanna Financial Group analystBob Summers said following the Wal-Mart results. “The demographic that they cater to, not only has it not seen improvement, I would argue that things have gotten worse.”

Look no further than Macy’s for a snapshot of the consumer. For its namesake mid-tier department stores, Macy’s reported the first decline in same-store sales in nearly four years this week, and said shoppers had been gravitating to its less expensive items. That’s a contrast with Macy’s upscale Bloomingdale’s, which came in with strong results.

The trend also turns up in results posted on Thursday by Wal-Mart, which emphasizes low pricing. Its US sales at stores open at least a year unexpectedly fell 0.3 per cent last quarter, a second decline in a row, prompting the world’s largest retailer to lower its sales forecast for the year.

Last week, a group of US retailers including Costco Wholesale and Gap reported modest gains in July same-store sales, thanks largely to bargains.

Adding to the pressure, Macy’s said many shoppers are redirecting their spending to their cars, housing and home improvement.

Automakers reported a 14 per cent US sales increase in July from a year earlier, industry consultant Autodata Corp said.

Wall Street analysts expect home improvement chain Home Depot to report same-store sales rose 7 per cent, the biggest gain of any major retailer Thomson Reuters tracks.

Outside of home improvement and cars, many retailers say economic conditions were less than ideal.

In July, US employers slowed their pace of hiring, with the number of jobs outside of farming increasing less than economists expected.

The average price for a gallon of gasoline in the United States was still high: at the end of July, it was $US3.67 compared to $US3.51 a year earlier, according to the Lundberg survey.

As of May, 47.6 million Americans, or one in seven, received food aid – highlighting the ongoing strain on Americans struggling to make ends meet. That was 1.1 million more than a year earlier, and 7 million more than in 2010.

Real wages are also stagnating: they fell 0.1 per cent between June 2012 and June 2013, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, excluding inflation and civil servants and military personnel.

“The consumer doesn’t quite have the discretionary income, or they’re hesitant to spend what they do have,” Wal-Mart Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley told reporters on a call.

A recent government report showed 5.7 per cent of Americans who had jobs in July could not get enough hours to qualify as full-time workers, the same per centage as in June.

While the unemployment rate has fallen steadily over the last year, the share of part-time workers who want more hours has barely dropped, according to BLS statistics.

“Workers are not doing well,” said Elizabeth Ashack, an economist at the BLS. “They’re losing ground because wages are not growing in real terms.”

Teen employment levels are down this summer, and that may be contributing to same-store sales declines at Aeropostale and American Eagle Outfitters.

Spending on essentials

The latest batch of retail reports shows the ways in which customers are pulling back again.

Macy’s said shoppers at its namesake chain were holding back on anything nonessential, adding it didn’t expect to make up the sales shortfall this year and cut its forecasts.

Kohl’s said comparable sales had slid for purchases paid for with a credit card, transactions typically made by people on a budget. And both Wal-Mart and Costco said sales of higher-ticket items such as electronics and games have been soft.

Several companies have said shoppers are waiting longer to buy back-to-school items, suggesting they are waiting for deals and that they see no urgency to hit stores.

This week’s results may presage more of the same next week, when big chains like Target, J.C. Penney and Sears report earnings.

In May, Target cut its profit forecast after weak sales, and this week Wells Fargo lowered its profit estimates for the discounter saying Target was unlikely to have been spared by the pullback in spending.

The S&P Index retail was down 1.9 per cent on Thursday, and many retail experts predicted it will be slow going for the industry for a while.

“The US consumer is weary in this turnaround. It has been quite anemic, relatively speaking. I think many of them just don’t see it on Main Street,” said Eric Beder at Brean Capital LLC.

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

Garry Lyon Who can be lucky losers?

I have no idea whether Essendon will compete in this year’s finals series. Which is a staggering thing to say, given there are just three games remaining in the 2013 season.
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But while there is a possibility that the sanctions handed down to the Bombers, in the wake of the charges laid this week, will include the loss of premiership points, there is the reality that, for the first time, nine may indeed go into eight.

And yes, those clubs that are sitting outside the top eight at the moment would only be participating in September by default, but, so what? These are unprecedented circumstances that we are dealing with, and if you think that the coaches and players of Carlton, West Coast, North Melbourne and Adelaide are going to feel bad about replacing Essendon, if that’s how the cards fall, then you are sadly mistaken.

Or, you should be, if your club has the ruthless, “never give a sucker an even break” mentality that premiership clubs are defined by. There is the possibility, in the next fortnight, that one of these clubs is going to be handed the golden ticket that has a coveted second chance at finals success attached to it.

And there is only one way that fortunate club can approach this situation. And that is to greedily embrace the twist of fate that delivers it to football’s promised land.

There is no time to dwell on the regretful circumstances that have dominated this season from start to finish.

The fact is, while none of the Blues, Eagles, Kangaroos or Crows have played consistently enough, or been able to convert match-winning leads into victories to qualify for this year’s finals series, they may very well arrive there by default.

And if they do, it is clearly the Kangaroos and the Eagles that the team that occupies fifth position on the ladder, would least like to confront.

Brad Scott has already publicly embraced the possibility of good fortune shining down on his team and would relish the opportunity to salvage something from a what-could-have-been season for his side.

Just maybe it can, in the space of a couple of weeks of finals football, turn that year into something truly memorable.

No side would relish the prospect of taking on a Kangaroos side that has been freshly handed a reprieve.

What they would encounter is a side that has a nothing-to-lose mentality, and one that should be encouraged to play with a freedom and an attacking mentality that, when executed properly, is as difficult to defy as most football played this season.

Just ask Richmond, which suffered its biggest loss for the season at the hands of the Roos just six weeks ago. It was virtually powerless to stop North’s blistering counter-attack football and succumbed to the tune of 62 points in round 15 at Etihad Stadium.

That was the Roos at their best. Big forwards Robbie Tarrant and Aaron Black hit the scoreboard; their defence kept Jack Riewoldt and Tyrone Vickery under control and their midfield group took the honours over the highly rated Tiger group.

And then, two weeks ago, they inflicted Geelong’s fourth loss of the year at the same venue, with the class acts of Brent Harvey and Daniel Wells leading the way.

On this occasion, they were challenged by a side that, admirably and rightfully arrogantly, thinks it is its right to win any sort of a dogfight, on any occasion, against any opposition.

But not this time, with the Roos unloading a monkey off their back, hanging on to a lead that they had worked hard to maintain all night.

North Melbourne would be a terribly dangerous wildcard in the event a replacement was needed for the Bombers.

The consensus among its opposition is that it is a very dangerous attacking outfit, one of the very best in the league, but there are question marks over its ability to work both ways and to add that defensive steel that most successful finals outfits possess.

I’m not sure they would be too comfortable putting that theory to the test in the first week of September.

The other side that would put shivers down the other seven sides in the eight would be the Eagles. Not, it has to be pointed out, on their output this season. They boast only a single victory over a top eight side, against the Bombers last weekend.

Their other eight wins have come against bottom 10 sides. But it is that dreaded word, “potential”, that would have sides looking over their shoulders.

A couple of weeks ago I was of the opinion that the Eagles’ season was over.

They went down to the Dockers in the derby and then the Swans the following week.

Nic Naitanui was finally rested against the Western Bulldogs, Darren Glass didn’t play, due to “soreness”, players like Cale Morton and Scott Lycett were given a chance, and when they went down by 22 points it appeared that the Eagles were done and dusted.

Add to that the speculation that John Worsfold might not have had the drive to carry on and the hot pre-season premiership favourites looked likely to limp to the line and, unbelievably, miss out on the finals.

A couple of weeks can be a long time in football. Woosha looks set to re-sign for another couple of years, Glass, Mark LeCras, Matty Priddis and Chris Masten have all come back into the side, Dean Cox has turned the clock back with a couple of vintage performances and now the whispers are that big Nic Nat may not be done for the year after all.

And, pointedly, Cox publicly declared that the Eagles would have no qualms about stepping in for the Bombers should the need arise, and that they would jump at the chance to do some damage in September.

As is increasingly the case, it’s the sides that are playing their best football at the right time of the year who prove the most formidable. It would be stretching the point to suggest that the Eagles, on the back of successive wins over the Suns and the Bombers, are back to their imposing best, but the prospect remains.

With Cox, Jack Darling, Priddis, Masten, LeCras, Josh Kennedy, Andrew Gaff, Sharrod Wellingham and Scott Selwood playing some of their best football of the year, they loom as one of the most dangerous eighth-qualified team of recent years.

Of course, this could all be speculation, if this Essendon saga finds its way into the courts.

But I think it’s one of the most fascinating, potential fallouts of this whole mess if, say, the Eagles or the Roos were able to win their way through until preliminary final week, on the back of a team losing all of their premiership points for the first time in history.

With the sort of year we’ve had, you wouldn’t bet against it.

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

New evidence backs Dons’ Mexico link

Fresh evidence has emerged confirming reports that some Essendon players were given an unknown supplement sourced from Mexico, with the club backing away from its claim on Thursday that this did not occur.
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Multiple sources have today confirmed that evidence collected by ASADA includes information that the substance given to some Essendon players was sourced in Mexico. This includes an interview investigators conducted with the muscular dystrophy patient who was given the supplement overseas and brought it to Australia.

Fairfax Media has further confirmed that Essendon is still unable to state with certainty what was in the supplement, although the club believes it most likely contained a mixture of safe amino acids.

Today, Fairfax Media published comments that Essendon lawyer Tony Hargreaves made on Thursday and which challenged earlier reports that some players had been given an unknown supplement sourced in Mexico from a man with a muscle wasting disease.

Mr Hargreaves said he had made his Thursday comments after he had spoken to the patient in question and had been told that supplements were sourced from a neurosurgeon in the United States.

But this afternoon, Mr Hargreaves said he had received fresh information today.

“The information I based the request for a retraction on was based on a conversation I had [with a party closely involved in this matter] on Thursday. Since that time, further information has arrived that cast some doubt on whether what I was told was accurate.’’

Fairfax Media has confirmed that evidence gathered by investigators and referred to in the AFL-ASADA report states that the patient told ASADA that he had purchased supplements in both Mexico and over the border.

The evidence gathered to date also confirms that some players were given supplements suspected to have been sourced from Mexico.

A source closely involved in the drugs scandal today questioned why Essendon had sought to publicly challenge the original story rather than confront the real issue it raised: the fact that players had been given a supplement whose contents was, and remains, unknown.

The shifting claims about the provenance of the drugs also highlights the way that much of the information surrounding the scandal is heavily contested.

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

Pearson second fastest in heats

Sally Pearson has run her fastest time of the year to comfortably advance to the semi finals at the world championships and confidently begin her world title defence.
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Threateningly though the young American Brianna Rollins, who has burst onto the scene this year running the third fastest time ever, ran the quickest time of any of the heat winners to lay down the challenge to Pearson.

And on the field Australia’s Kim Mickle threw a new personal best 65.73m – the second biggest throw by an Australian woman ever – to automatically advance to the finals of the javelin where she joins Kathryn Mitchell who also advanced when she managed a season’s best throw of 62.8 metres.

Pearson ran a promising 12.62 seconds to easily win her heat at the Moscow World Athletics Championships and go through to the finals on Sunday morning (AEST).

“I was a bit more nervous than normal, because I think I wanted to get it right and I didn’t get it right at the start,” Pearson said.

“It was good to feel myself again I just have a bit of tidying up to do at the end of the race but that will come I think it is just because I have been waiting so long, two days off before training before this.

“It was a season’s best, I thought I would run faster but I screwed up the last hurdle and a half – if you can do that – I just have to make it cleaner.

“It was nice to be out there again and hurdling with confidence and I am not in pain which is the best thing.

“It was good fun to be out there I feel like I am a caged tiger again … I certainly got inspiration from the 4 x400 boys. It was the only event that I actually stood up out of my chair and screamed at the TV.”

Moments after Pearson’s comfortable run, Rollins ran her first heat at a major championship and was far from overwhelmed by the experience running a sharp 12.55seconds – the quickest of any heat.

In June this year at the US trials Rollins ran a world-leading time of 12.26 seconds – the third fastest time ever – a time which put the world on notice that notwithstanding the fact Pearson was already recovering from two hamstring strains, the Australian would confront a different landscape this season.

Ordinarily Pearson runs hardest and fastest in each of her heats with other runners holding something back for the finals. Rollins evidently comes from Pearson’s school of thinking for she was clean and quick over the hurdles.

The first heat of the morning had established a sluggish pace with Canadian Angela Whyte winning in just 12.93s.

Briton Tiffany Porter won her heat in 12.72s with former Olympic champion and London silver medallist Dawn Harper running a surprisingly slow 12.84 to run third yet still advanced to the semis (the first four runners in each heat went through). Queenie Harrison won her heat in the unimpressive time of 12.95s.

On the field Australia’s Kathryn Mitchell threw 62.8m with her second throw to automatically qualify for the women’s javelin.

“A little bit of stress after the first throw, that was to bow out the cobwebs and nerves the first one, but I knew it was in there I just had to be patient and put it out there and it happened to come out and pass the auto qualifier and it did.’’

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