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Postie Bike Nationals held in Maitland

Postie Bike Nationals | Photos Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL
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Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Scenes from the Postie Bike Nationals at Maitland. Riders cruise in to Newcastle on Saturday morning. Photo: MARINA NEIL

Picture: Nick Bielby

Picture: Nick Bielby

Picture: Nick Bielby

Picture: Nick Bielby

Picture: Nick Bielby

Picture: Nick Bielby

Picture: Nick Bielby

Picture: Nick Bielby

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Ken LongworthShrek: The Musical Jr

THE number seven has been very important in the lives of two of the main characters in Shrek: The Musical Jr – the title ogre and a princess.
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Shrek was sent away by his parents on his seventh birthday after being told he was old enough to find his own way in the world.

And Fiona was imprisoned in a tower when she was seven and has remained there because a dragon drives away knights who try to rescue her.

The two discover that they share more than a dislike of the number seven when circumstances lead them to meet in this colourful story.

The animated musical film Shrek was a worldwide hit when released in 2001 and was adapted for the stage in 2008.

The success of that show led to it being further adapted in 2014 to a 70-minute junior version for young performers.

Hunter Drama is staging Shrek: The Musical Jr with a predominantly teenage cast of 56 as a school holiday attraction at Newcastle’s Civic Theatre. There will be six performances over three days from September 29.

As well as an ogre, a princess and a dragon, the story includes many fairytale characters, including Pinocchio, the Three Little Pigs, the Big Bad Wolf, the Wicked Witch, Peter Pan, the Ugly Duckling, the Mad Hatter, Humpty Dumpty, a shoemaker’s elf and two bears.

The fairytale characters are ordered by a huge dwarf, Lord Farquaad, to leave the area around the royal palace and live in a swamp that has been Shrek’s home since his parents sent him away.

With the help of a friendly Donkey, Shrek heads to the royal palace to confront Lord Farquaad, who plans to become the country’s king, and meets Princess Fiona along the way.

The pair share some of the bright songs by David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tersori.

Tom Rodgers, who plays Shrek, said he had added a human side to the ogre so that he is more than a cartoon character.

He’s also had the tricky task of learning to walk normally while fitted with the ogre’s big stomach.

Phoebe Bayliss and Maisie Owens, who are alternating as Fiona, see her as more feisty than a typical Disney princess because she has been locked in the tower for so long.

Charlie O’Connell, as the Donkey, has a lot of energy, but also wants attention from those he meets.

And Rory Pollock, the tale’s Lord Farquaad, said he sees himself as the next big thing, in more ways than one.

Shrek: The Musical Jr, directed by Daniel Stoddart, has shows at the Civic on Thursday, September 29, at 10.30am and 2pm, and on Friday, September 30, and Saturday, October 1, at 2pm and 7pm. Tickets: $40 to $55. Bookings: 4929 1977.

A ‘HUMAN SIDE’: Tom Rogers as Shrek and Charlie O’Connell as his friend Donkey. Picture: MARINA NEIL

Going cashless? ‘Curse of Cash’ author Kenneth Rogoff says we have more of it than ever

In circulation. Photo: Image ForumWhat with myki cards, Opal cards, e-TAGs, epay, payWave, bitcoin and mobile phones, we’re using less cash than ever, right? Not on your life.
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The latest Reserve Bank figures show there were seven $5 notes per person in circulation in 2015, well up from five per person ten years earlier, and four 10 years before that.

(If those numbers seem small, but climbing, it’s because the same notes get used over and over. They are a bit like extras in a movie.)

We have around six $20 notes per person, close to a record high, and far more $50 notes than we used to (25 per person) because of their use in automatic teller machines. But it’s the use of $100 notes – the kind most of us hardly ever see, and the kind bank transfers should have rendered redundant – that is exploding.

Twenty years ago there were only five $100 notes per person in circulation. They were less common than $20 notes, which was appropriate given they were far less used. A decade later in 2005 after the introduction of the goods and services tax (the one we were told would kill the cash economy) we had seven per person, and now we have 12. A graph included in the latest Reserve Bank annual report shows the number of $100 notes in circulation climbing faster than any other denomination.

Note that I said “in circulation”. They are certainly not in day-to-day use. A few years back I was asked on ABC radio what colour they were. I had to guess, and I guessed wrong. Whereas the lobster-red $20 notes are always in and out of our purses and wallets and last about 12 years before being damaged and returned to the Reserve Bank, the Bank expects the typical $100 note to last 70 years. When they do come back they are often not even unbundled.

Who’s got them? According to The Curse of Cash released this week by influential US economist Kenneth Rogoff, they are mainly in the hands of drug lords, human traffickers and tax evaders. We are actually worse than the United States, according to Rogoff. Ninety-two per cent of our currency is in large denomination notes, compared to 84 per cent in the US. Only Switzerland, Israel, Norway and Russia use big notes more than we do.

Rogoff wants us to go “cashless”, at least for denominations above $10, and eventually he would turn the $10 note into a coin to make it harder to move around undetected. Phasing out high denomination notes would be painless, for those of us with nothing to hide. We would be invited to deposit them in banks in return for their full value up until a deadline, after which they would no longer be legal tender and worthless.

Naturally, there’s a catch. Our Reserve Bank, like the US Federal Reserve, makes money from issuing $100 notes. It’s conflicted, being in effect a silent partner in organised crime.

Peter Martin is economics editor of The Age 

What is so controversial about a climate ‘toolkit’?

Taking the toolkit approach. Photo: Gary MedlicottIn the topsy-turvy world of Australian politics, much of the environment movement is more attached to neo-liberalism than the Coalition government. While US President Barack Obama might have used air quality regulations and a moratorium on building new coal mines to get around a grumpy Congress, in Australia we are often told that only a “market-based mechanism” can be trusted to solve climate change. It can’t.
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This week the Climate Change Authority, to which Tony Abbott appointed Wendy Craik (ex-head of the National Farmers Federation), Kate Carnell (ex-Liberal chief minister and ACCI head) and John Sharp (ex-National Party minister and current National Party Treasurer), released a report which it provocatively titled Towards a Climate Policy Toolkit; Special Review on Australia’s Climate Goals and Policies.

What on earth could be provocative about a “toolkit”, I hear you ask. Well, for those who have spent a decade arguing that an economy-wide emissions trading scheme linked to global carbon markets delivers “least cost abatement”, plenty.

The idea that an emissions trading scheme is the “one true climate policy” is one of the last vestiges of the Kevin Rudd era and the highfalutin rhetoric about “evidence-based policy” and great moral challenges. To be clear, an emissions trading scheme is neither sinner nor saint, it’s just a policy idea with a patchy theoretical and empirical track record. A well designed ETS might be capable of driving rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions at low cost, but we can’t say for sure because nowhere in the world has a well designed ETS been used to achieve such an outcome. But there are plenty of economists who aren’t worried about practice getting in the way of theory.

The CCA report is the last of three that were negotiated as part of Clive Palmer’s deal with Greg Hunt to pass his Direct Action legislation through the Senate. Not surprisingly, the CCA took as its starting point the climate legislation that currently exists and tried to build a bridge forward. While it might be possible to design a more elegant bridge by ignoring our inelegant starting point, such a design would be as irrelevant as it was well designed.

Big changes in policy impose significant transition costs on industry, consumers and the bureaucracy. Abbott’s determination to rip up the carbon price while retaining the expensive compensation was as costly as it was unnecessary. But the fact that the former prime minister was indifferent to the economic cost of his political symbolism is not a strong argument for why the current or future leaders should be similarly reckless.

Further, if the CCA did recommend the complete abolition of the Abbott government’s direct action scheme and its replacement with an emissions trading scheme along the lines of the one that cost Malcolm Turnbull the leadership in 2009, there would be zero chances of such a policy making it past the Liberal party room, let alone the Senate.

So what has the CCA recommended and why were its recommendations so controversial that two of its own board members have written a public critique?

In addition to straying from the “true path” of economy-wide emissions trading, the CCA has committed several other crimes against neo-liberalism. It proposes that good old- fashioned regulation is sometimes the most efficient way to solve a problem, it recommends that different sectors of the economy be treated differently (we used to call that “industry policy”), and that some industries be protected from unfair foreign competition (dare I say protectionism?).

Significantly, the diversity of mechanisms proposed by the CCA mirrors the diversity of challenges faced by Australian industry. As those who designed Rudd’s carbon pollution reduction scheme eventually discovered, the issues faced by the owners of rubbish dumps that leak methane are quite distinct from the problems faced by a chemical factory or a coal-fired power station.

One of the more novel proposals from the CCA is the creation of an “emissions intensity” trading scheme for Australian electricity generators as distinct from an emissions trading scheme for the whole economy. The differences between the two are both subtle and significant.

An economy-wide ETS sets an upper limit on the number of tonnes of pollution that can be released across the whole economy. In theory, companies need to buy a permit for each tonne of CO₂ they emit, but under Rudd’s CPRS, for example, big polluters were to be given 94.5 per cent of the permits they needed for free.

An EI scheme that covers only the electricity sector, on the other hand, doesn’t set a cap on the tonnes of pollution that can be emitted. Rather, it sets a cap on the tonnes of pollution per megawatt-hours of electricity produced. Confused? Don’t be. Just think about cars.

Imagine if the government set a cap for the average fuel efficiency of the car fleet owned by big Australian companies of 10 litres a 100 kilometres and legislated that the fuel efficiency standard would decline steadily to zero by 2040. If a company’s car fleet was using an average of 12 litres a 100 kilometres, the firm would either have to replace its thirstiest cars with more efficient ones or, buy “credits” from another company whose car fleet was averaging less than 10 litres a 100 kilometres. The only way for a company to meet a zero emissions target by 2040 would be to switch its whole fleet to electric cars.

This week, the CCA recommended that the emission intensity of the Australian electricity sector should fall to zero “well before 2050”. Put another way, the CCA recommended that all of Australia’s coal-fired and gas-fired power stations need to shut down and be replaced with 100 per cent renewable energy in the next 25 years. In the meantime, the CCA plan would require coal-fired power stations (which are already well above the proposed starting level of “emission intensity”) to buy credits (sound like a carbon price?) from low emission generators like solar and wind (sound like a subsidy?)

So if a Climate Change Authority with a majority of members appointed by Abbott is recommending a scheme that breaks with the tenets of neo-liberalism, supports a carbon price (by another name) and says we need to shut down all coal and gas-fired power stations “well before 2050”, why did some of the ALP appointees to the authority attack the integrity of both the report and their fellow commissioners?

Professor David Karoly and Clive Hamilton rightly argue that that government’s 26-28 per cent emission reduction target is inadequate if Australia is to pull its weight in global efforts to avoid dangerous climate change. They highlight that unless we take urgent action today, then we will use up so much of our “carbon budget” in the next few years that it will become nearly impossible to avoid blowing that budget in the future, and they are right.

The uncomfortable irony of the rejection of the CCA road map forward is, however, that if the current government doesn’t introduce an EI scheme in 2018, as the CCA recommends, then even more of the carbon budget will be used up in the next few years making it even harder to stay within the long-term carbon budget.

But, we are where we are. Australia has been dragging its feet on climate action for more than a quarter of a century. Neither Rudd’s 5 per cent emission reduction target for 2020, the current government’s 26-28 per cent target for 2030, or the CCA’s previous recommendation target for 40-60 per cent on 2000 levels by 2030 are consistent with a purely scientific approach to the problem. And, of course, neither major political party nor the CAA wants to discuss the fact that Australia sees building enormous new export coal mines as an essential part of our commitment to helping the world reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A significant majority of the CCA members believe that giving the Coalition a way out of the climate policy cul-de-sac it is in, is worth the effort. While the decision of some members to criticise the report has attracted a lot of attention, the important question is whether or not a majority of the Parliament will agree with the majority of the CCA and conclude that in this climate progress is more important than protest. Time will tell.

Richard Denniss is the chief economist for The Australia Institute.

Twitter: @RDNS_TAI

Bill Shorten to skip Parliament for date with Canada’s Justin Trudeau

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will co-host a session with Bill Shorten at the Global Progress conference in Montreal. Photo: Adrian WyldEXCLUSIVE
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Just don’t ask Bill Shorten to explain quantum computing or perform any incredible feats of upper body strength.

After Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s week on the world stage it’s Mr Shorten’s turn: the opposition leader will skip two days of Parliament this week to rub shoulders with heartthrob Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, meet with officials in Washington DC and talk defence in Dallas.

Mr Shorten and Mr Trudeau will also co-host a session on the future of progressive politics at the Global Progress 2016 conference in Montreal. The Labor leader will no doubt be hoping some of Mr Trudeau’s star power rubs off.

Mr Trudeau is still riding high in the polls almost a year after he took power, unlike Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Mr Shorten will also deliver a speech at the conference focused on equality and fairness.

“Fairness isn’t some warm and fuzzy feel-good notion to benefit some – it’s a driver of economic growth,” he told Fairfax Media.

“This is something conservatives just don’t get. Good social policy is not just about a strong safety net, and it’s not a matter of charity.

“It’s about investing in lifting people back into work, in supporting their full participation in our economy and our society.”

The conference is also expected to be attended by US Vice-President Joe Biden, Italian Prime Minister Matteo​ Renzi​ and senior leaders from Germany, the United Kingdom and South America.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt and other business and charity leaders will also attend. Mr Shorten will meet with a number of the leaders on the sidelines of the event before heading to the United States.

Mr Shorten will meet with officials in Washington DC, just two months out from the US election.

The Labor leader has been deeply and publicly critical of Republican candidate Donald Trump, calling him “barking mad”. However he’s likely to attempt a more diplomatic approach when he’s on US soil.

In Dallas, Mr Shorten will tour Lockheed Martin’s Joint Strike Fighter facility. Australia is buying 72 of the next-generation fighter jets at a cost of at least $17 billion.

Mr Turnbull benefited from his time abroad last week, attending the G20 in China, the East Asia Summit in Vientiane and the Pacific Islands Forum in Micronesia. The trip allowed him to escape the domestic fray where the government is under pressure to reform the political donations system.

Mr Shorten will be abroad for five days, returning next Sunday.