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Sydney weather damage: 7100 insurance claims, 5500 calls for help

Hazards: SES workers clear up a fallen tree in Bellevue Hill. Photo: Louise KennerleyLIVE: Storm batters NSW coastThree killed, homes washed awayCruise ship battles huge seas
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More than 7100 insurance claims were lodged on Tuesday as rescue workers battled wind and torrential rain to respond to more than 5500 calls for help around the state.

NSW State Emergency Service deputy commissioner Steve Pearce estimated the bad weather had caused millions of dollars in damage to property and infrastructure.

“Damage costs for this event are already in the millions and are expected to rise as the storms continue to strike this evening,” Mr Pearce said.

The Insurance Council of Australia said insurance companies had received about 7100 claims on Tuesday for storm-related damage across NSW including the Sydney metropolitan area, the Hunter and Illawarra.

“Most of the damage is for fairly light damage to homes, mainly water damage and other damage caused by wind,” an insurance council spokesman said. “There has also been damage to motor vehicles.”

Networks NSW estimated that the overall repair bill to electricity networks for Ausgrid​ and Endeavour Energy would be many millions of dollars. About 8000 Endeavour Energy customers were without power throughout the day.

A spokeswoman for Networks NSW said severe weather was continuing to cause major damage to the electricity network across Sydney, the Central Coast and Hunter region, leaving about 200,000 homes and businesses without power.

“Customers should prepare to be without power throughout the night while crews work through more than 4500 reports of urgent hazards, including trees bringing down live powerlines,” she said. “Storm activity is forecast to continue this evening and into tomorrow, causing further damage to the electricity network, and it’s likely to be several days before electricity supply is restored to all homes and businesses. “Ausgrid​ thanks customers for their patience and support for crews as we prioritise these emergency repairs to help keep the community and our staff safe.”  Customers were urged to only phone through to operators to report hazards and emergencies on 13 13 88.

Power workers have been battling to restore electricity to thousands of homes and businesses after the weather felled trees and power lines.

The Electrical Trades Union said thousands of its members responded to hundreds of calls for assistance after heavy rain and strong winds cut power supplies.

“While most people were in bed last night, thousands of electricity workers worked through the night in dangerous conditions to protect the public from downed power lines and to restore power to more than 130,000 homes and businesses,” ETU organiser Mark Buttigieg​ said.

“What we saw last night was nothing short of devastation, and the clean-up task – including the restoration of power – will continue for several days to come.

“As always, electricity workers put the community first by working around the clock responding to emergency call outs, and the ETU believes these workers deserve recognition for their selflessness and committed service to the public in extremely dangerous conditions.”

Brian Seidler​, executive director of the Master Builders Association, said storms forced delays in major structural work on building sites around the state.

“This sort of weather would be impacting on most building projects, particularly the ones coming out of the ground,” he said.

“All excavation work under these terrible conditions would be difficult to continue. Any exposed building processes, brick work and standing of scaffolds would be hazardous to undertake.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Numan Haider’s death prompts fear and loathing among young Muslims

The shot from a police pistol that killed young Afghan terror wannabe Abdul Numan Haider last September has echoed loudly down the weeks and months since he died.
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Some of those men arrested on Saturday and charged with allegedly planning a killing spree on police and civilians on Anzac Day were friends of Haider’s, and police believe the suspects were plotting to avenge their mate.

But the effect of Haider’s death has been much broader still.

Many young Muslim men in the Melbourne’s far south-eastern suburbs where Haider grew up and died, are openly sceptical of the police version of the events of that night. These are people with no connection to terrorism, but who already feel marginalised by the political and media depiction of their religion.

After Haider’s body was seen by many in the open casket at his funeral with a huge bullet hole in his head, the topic has become an ongoing obsession for some.

“Everyone feels sorry for him and even people in my [Shiite] community talk about it a lot,” young Afghan community activist Mohammad Ali Baqiri told Fairfax Media.

“They say there were federal police there, two police officers, and they say he’s only got a knife, so why shoot him in the head? [There’s] always rumours that something was going on.”

A senior member of the al-Furqan mosque, believed to be the epicentre of radical Islam in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs, said: “I don’t understand why would the police actually shoot him in the head, why not shoot him somewhere else? It sounds a bit suspicious.”

Senior members of Melbourne’s Muslim community are now worried that Haider’s death is acting as a lightning rod for broader discontents with Australian society, and distrust of authorities.

“It’s definitely put back the relationship between police and young boys living out in that area,” says secretary of the Islamic Council of Victoria Kuranda Seyit. “I think the police have to do a lot more to improve that relationship … there’s much more distrust.”

The problem has been allowed to fester because, seven months after Haider died, a full airing of the circumstances in a coronial inquest is still weeks or months away. The Coroner’s court held a directions hearing in October, a month after the events of September 23, 2014 outside the Endeavour Hills police station.

The police account of events was briefly read out to the court, but no evidence released. A second directions hearing date has not been set, as the court waits for the homicide squad to complete its investigation. This includes a report from the internal investigator, the Professional Standards Command — part of any investigation into a police shooting.

Sources say the inquest will be even further delayed by the arrests on the weekend of Haider’s friends.

Meanwhile conflicting media reports of friends being near the scene with video cameras, or of Haider’s attempts to behead one of the police officers have never been fully clarified.

In Sydney, by contrast, events at the Lindt cafe siege and the death in a police shooting of gunman Haroun Man Monis and his victims Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson were revealed in significant detail just six weeks after the event.

“This early directions hearing, so soon after the event, is in recognition of the need to launch a thorough and prompt examination,” counsel assisting, Jeremy Gormly, SC, told that hearing. “Fact, accuracy of fact, is what everyone needs … It is being done at this early stage before hearings commence, to answer speculation that may be unhelpful to legitimate public discussion.”

In Melbourne, by contrast, speculation has been allowed to run rife, and it has fed into broader concerns by the Islamic community that the media and politicians are demonising them. Fairfax Media has spoken to a dozen or more community leaders who agree a sense of alienation and distrust is beginning to afflict Muslims in Melbourne, of whom about 29 per cent are aged under 14.

Mr Seyit  says allegations spread in graphic detail on mainstream and social media of alleged police brutality during last Saturday’s arrests, means the “sense of victimhood will only be accentuated”.

“When they see the extent of people being treated badly by police in their eyes, it only makes the situation worse and drives young people further away from mainstream society.”

Islamic State has attempted to use Haider’s death as a recruiting tool, saying in its magazine, Dabiq, that the killing was part of the “chaos [that] erupted around the world” after a call to arms last year by Abu Mohammad al-Adnani. It was evidence of the “deadly tinderbox [that] is fizzing just beneath the surface of every western country, waiting to explode into violent action”.

Mr Seyit disagreed, saying Haider’s death should have “very limited impact” on recruitment to Islamic State. But the longer that question marks lurk around the investigation, “there will always be young people … who have conjectures about what happened”.

“Unless an independent investigation brings more light, those questions will linger, and it’s not healthy for community relations.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Abbott government refuses to release documents outlining effects of lower pensions on war veterans and widows

Bob Whinnen (pictured), who fought in Vietnam, said conscripts like him were never able to fulfil their full potential in civilian life. Photo: SuppliedVeterans groups fire up over pension changes
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The government is blocking the release of documents that would reveal what Veterans Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson knows about how proposed changes to pensions would affect 300,000 military veterans and their spouses.

A Freedom of Information expert has expressed concern at the decision to prevent the release of 13 documents that contain advice from the Department of Veterans Affairs about a decision in the Coalition’s first budget to index ex-services and war widow pensions at the lower rate of inflation rather than average male weekly earnings.

The decision is forecast to cut $65.1 million from veterans and widows when it takes effect in 2017 but the effects will compound year on year.

The government also announced the scrapping of the $800-a-year Seniors Supplement – accessed by an estimated 29,000 veterans – to help pay for energy, telephone, internet bills and council rates.

The quarantined documents include question time briefs and Senate estimates briefs which are prepared with an eye to their contents being made public in Parliament and are routinely released under Freedom of Information.

In twice refusing to produce the documents, departmental officers claimed that disclosure would “compromise the Department’s ability to provide frank and honest advice to the Minister” and result in them being written differently in future if bureaucrats suspected they would be made public.

“Disclosure of the material would likely result in future briefs being tailored to a different audience and thereby compromising their purpose,” wrote Frank White, acting director of legal services, assurance & deregulation at Veteran’s Affairs.

“While the briefs were prepared to assist the Minister … the advice contained in the briefs was provided on a confidential basis.”

The FOI request was made by the Transport Workers Union which represents a number of veterans, including Vietnam vets, who now work as truck drivers.

Bob Whinnen, a South Australian truck driver who fought in Vietnam, said conscripts like him were never able to fulfil their full potential in civilian life.

“We fought for this nation and we should be sharing the prosperity of this nation,” he said.

“We were conscripted by a Liberal-National Coalition government and they sent us there grossly ill-equipped with World War II arms. The North Vietnamese were cutting the grass with their machine guns. Now another Coalition government does this to us.”

Daniel Stewart, a senior lecturer in the College of Law at Australian National University, said the justification that the department wrote briefs without knowing they could be released is not sufficient reason to keep them secret.

“I wouldn’t be satisfied with those reasons. I don’t think those reasons justify not releasing the documents,” he told Fairfax Media.

He said ministerial briefs can contain material that could be considered secret if that material relates to decisions not yet taken but after a period of time there should be no reason not to release the documents.

The FOI request relates to advice provided between May 13, 2014 and October 13, 2014.

“I would have thought there could be some aspects of the documents at least that could be released,” said Mr Stewart.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal has previously rejected argument that public servants have a reasonable expectation that the documents they prepare will remain confidential.

TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon said: “The changes to veterans’ pensions was outrageous given the sacrifice our armed forces have made for our country. But to not reveal the thinking behind it is a terrible betrayal to these brave men and women. It shows the underhanded way this government operates.”

Senator Ronaldson was en route to Gallipoli and his office said it was not appropriate for the minister to comment on FOI decisions taken by the department.

Follow us on Twitter  Australian Politics – FairfaxThe original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Storm of the century batters Sydney and the Hunter, leaving three dead and homes destroyed

Massive waves hit Lurline Bay, Sydney. Photo: Peter Rae Massive waves hit Lurline Bay, Sydney. Photo: Peter Rae
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Massive waves hit Lurline Bay, Sydney. Photo: Peter Rae

Massive waves hit Lurline Bay, Sydney. Photo: Peter Rae

LIVE: Storm batters NSW coastThree killed, homes washed awayCarnival Spirit voyage ‘is very scary’ 

The biggest storm to hit Sydney and the Hunter region this century swept along the coast, leaving at least three people dead, dozens of others needing rescue and entire homes washed away in floodwaters.

Heavy rain and cyclonic winds saw power cut to hundreds of thousands of homes, as well as three hospitals, and the closure of 100 schools.

It also caused chaos on the roads and public transport, with felled trees, downed power lines, blacked out traffic lights and slippery conditions making for a nightmare commute.

Flooding at Marrickville train station left commuters stranded during the Wednesday morning peak, with the Bankstown line partially closed between Sydenham and Campsie. Replacement buses were ordered to shuttle passengers between the stations.

Brett Dutschke, senior meteorologist at Weatherzone, said heavy rain and strong winds would continue to batter Sydney on Wednesday morning, with the wettest period expected between 8am to 11am. Conditions would gradually ease on Wednesday evening, as the low pressure system lost intensity.

“Once we get past 7pm, there will be no more heavy showers,” he said

NSW Premier Mike Baird urged Sydneysiders to stagger their travel to and from work on Wednesday, delay unnecessary travel and avoid travelling during peak times if possible.

He asked employers to be flexible and warned drivers to stay away from flooded roads.

“There is no doubt this is a very severe storm event, indeed it is a once in 10-year event,” Mr Baird said.

“We have lost some homes. There is a number of roofs taken off. We have also lost life. It is a huge storm event that is wreaking havoc across NSW.”

The destructive winds, which topped 130km/h, dumped blankets of sand from Sydney’s beaches onto nearby streets and carparks. The storm also forced the closure of the Sydney Harbour port,  leaving passengers on board the Carnival Spirit cruise ship stranded in swells of up to nine metres outside Sydney Heads.

On Wednesday morning, the State Emergency Service said it had handled 7900 call-outs since Monday and rescuers had saved 47 people from floodwaters.

The Manly Dam was overflowing on Wednesday, but there was no immediate threat to nearby residents.

The worst affected area on Tuesday was the central Hunter township of Dungog where three residents, two men and a woman, were killed by flash flooding.

The woman, believed to be aged in her 60s, died while trying to rescue her dog, a neighbour said.

“I heard she didn’t want to abandon her dog and she was washed away, but the dog survived”, resident Sally Fitzpatrick said.

The two men are reported to have died after they became trapped in their home.

Another Dungog resident, Andrew Braham, lost his home in the low-lying end of town after it became submerged.

“It washed away about 7am,” his daughter, Tinara Braham, said. “We checked it about 5am and it was submerged but OK – by the time we got back to our house … it was gone.

“The house next door to it was also washed away and completely destroyed.”

More than 200,000 homes and businesses in Sydney, the Hunter and the Central Coast were without power with Ausgrid warning repairs could take a number of days.

Mr Baird urged people to be patient as emergency crews dealt first with life-threatening situations.

“People need to be patient while we focus very clearly on the critical services in health and aged care,” the Premier said. “We will get to you.”

Emergency Services Minister David Elliott described the weather system as a “once-in-a-decade storm” and said that there were 500 SES volunteers risking “life and limb” to ensure that the people of NSW got through the storm.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Toronto residents oppose public road on their driveway

Brad Rostron, with residents on the planned road site. Picture: Max Mason-HubersRESIDENTS of a Toronto apartment block have accused Lake Macquarie City Council of a ‘‘land grab’’ that would cost them privacy and a lot of money.
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The council wants to run a public road along the Riva Apartments’ driveway to provide a second access to Toronto Diggers RSL.

Not only that, but the council wants the apartments’ residents to foot the bill for this work and any future maintenance, council documents show.

Riva Apartments owners corporation secretary-treasurer Brad Rostron said ‘‘our property would go from a secure site to an unsecure site’’. ‘‘There’s no way it should be a public thoroughfare,’’ Mr Rostron said.

The apartment complex had 36 residential apartments and four commercial activities.

‘‘It’s busy enough as it is – but the council seems hellbent on pursuing this and it’s costing us a fortune,’’ Mr Rostron said.

Mr Rostron said a security fence would have to be removed and a ramp built to enable the access road ‘‘from the Diggers’ car park through our lot and onto Victory Parade’’.

He estimated this work could cost residents $30,000 or more.

Residents had engaged a lawyer to defend this matter previously.

In November 2012, the council wrote to the residents’ lawyer and stated: ‘‘Council will not be taking any further action in seeking to transfer lands to council’’.

Mr Rostron said the council had reneged on this statement.

The council was seeking to enforce a condition it placed on the Riva Apartments development approval in 2004. The condition, agreed between the council and developer Buildev, was for the land owner to sell the access route to council for $10.

But it was not enacted at the time of the development.

Under the condition, the owner [now the residents] were ‘‘responsible for any work necessary to provide the access and for ongoing maintenance’’.

A council statement said it would ‘‘consider options for enforcement should it become necessary to do so’’.

Mr Rostron said the land was worth much more than $10, but residents did not want to sell it.

Residents said the condition was not disclosed on their land title when they bought their apartments.

Toronto Chamber of Commerce president Gail Ryan said an access road was needed because ‘‘Toronto is a bottleneck’’, but residents should not have to pay for it.

A Toronto Diggers statement said the condition had been in the public domain for more than a decade.

‘‘The access road would improve traffic flow in the CBD,’’ the statement said.

Buildev could not be contacted.

Melbourne Rebels to pay their way within five years, says CEO Peter Leahy

They are Rebels in name only, with a financial dependence on the Australian Rugby Union that cost the game’s cash-strapped national body more than $3 million last year alone.
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But Australia’s youngest Super Rugby franchise has fended off calls to have its licence revoked and vowed to cut the apron strings by 2020 by way of an aggressive growth strategy in Melbourne and top-secret private equity deal by the end of the year.

Rebels chief executive Peter Leahy said the Rebels would wash their own face “well within” the next Super Rugby broadcast agreement, which runs from 2016 to 2020, but also warned against suggestions the ARU cut its commitment to the competition from five teams to four, or even three.

“I would be confident that well within the next licensing agreement we would be well and truly financially self-sustaining,” Leahy said.

With encouragement from head office, the Rebels are actively looking for a private sector partner to help plug an operating hole worth almost $9 million over the past two years. Since the departure in 2013 of the consortium led by media buyer Harold Mitchell, the ARU has stumped up $5.5 million in 2013 and $3.3 million last year.

Fairfax Media understands both the ARU and Rebels are confident a private equity deal will be secured by the end of the year. Leahy would not comment on details about the deal, or which individuals were involved, but said: “I am very confident of our financial future”.

The Rebels boss also lambasted rugby powerbrokers who have suggested behind closed doors that the ARU should cut adrift the Rebels and Western Force and pour its resources into the traditional heartland markets of Queensland, NSW and the ACT.

“Strategically it is important that places like here and Perth have a long-term future. There’s been a lot of noise from north of the border questioning why you would have [the Western Force] or us, but if you’re going to shrink to greatness and go back to fortress NSW and Queensland, that’s a recipe in the long term, I would suggest, for irrelevance.

“You have to craft a commercial strategy that suits the competitive environment and right now it is one of growth, which is what all the other codes are doing. If rugby was going to shrink back to the so-called heartland, the other codes of football would be laughing all the way to the bank.”

The Rebels are sitting in 11th spot on the Super Rugby ladder heading into an Anzac Day clash with the Waratahs at ANZ Stadium on Saturday. They have never finished better than 12th in their four years in the competition, but have reached a number of milestones this year, including their first win on foreign soil (against the Crusaders), their first win away against the Brumbies (in Canberra last week) and their first consecutive away game victories.

Leahy said the franchise needed stability in order to succeed.

“[Coach Tony McGahan] is two years into a three-year journey and what goes hand in hand with that is building a financially sustainable business model,” he said.

“Tony is the third coach and I am the sixth CEO since 2011 and 82 guys have pulled on a Rebels jumper in 4½ seasons. This place cannot continue to be a revolving door. The program Tony has in place is exceptional and we are working hard to bolster the commercial side of things.

“There is one thing the club needs more than anything else and that is a period of stability.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Victims hail ‘great day’ as big banks front Senate over financial advice

Senator Nick Xenophon addresses the media ahead of the Senate inquiry. Photo: Sean Davey Senator Nick Xenophon addresses the media ahead of the Senate inquiry. Photo: Sean Davey
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Merilyn Swan and Jeff Morris. Photo: James Brickwood

Senator Nick Xenophon addresses the media ahead of the Senate inquiry. Photo: Sean Davey

Senator Nick Xenophon addresses the media ahead of the Senate inquiry. Photo: Sean Davey

Merilyn Swan and Jeff Morris at the Senate inquiry. Photo: Sean Davey

For Merilyn Swan, it was a great day.

For six years, she has been seeking help for her parents Robyn and Merv Blanch, who invested $260,000 in 2007.

Following advice from the Commonwealth Bank’s financial planning arm, by 2009 the self-funded retirees’ funds had plummeted to $92,000.

The bank blamed the GFC but, when Ms Swan had a closer look, she uncovered “fraudulent” advice from a rogue planner, who she says preyed on her elderly parents.

Fighting back tears, Ms Swan talked of how her father and mother now had only one hope.

“My parents are 90 and 79, and their only hope, my dad says, is to live long enough to see people who had been adversely affected by the Commonwealth Bank get some justice.”

“I think this is a great day for the victims of this scandal,” she said before bosses of four of the country’s biggest banks faced a Senate hearing into financial advice.

“Self-funded retirees cannot afford the legal system.”

Commonwealth Financial Planning whistleblower Jeff Morris added a sombre footnote before the hearing began. Dud financial advice did not just have a financial cost, he said, speaking of the depression, misery and ill-health that people had suffered as a result.

“The stories are really awful,” Mr Morris said.

The Senate’s financial advice crusaders senators Sam Dastyari and Nick Xenophon came out swinging on Tuesday.

They marched through the halls of Parliament on the way to the hearing rooms with a posse of fellow committee members and everyday Australians who had been caught in the web of bad financial advice.

“Today’s about doing what we can,”  Labor’s Senator Dastyari said, upbeat before taking on the banks.

Arguing for a new compensation fund to help victims of financial misconduct, the independent Senator Xenophon was more philosophical.

“We have a legal system, not a justice system,” he said.

Those who were expecting shouting and table-slamming in the committee room were to be sorely disappointed, however.

Not only did Senator Dastyari, as committee chair, go out of his way to thank the banks for arranging their diaries to come to Canberra, but the executives turned up wearing their most conciliatory suits.

Macquarie Group chief executive Nicholas Moore talked of being “open for a dialogue” about a victims’ compensation scheme.

Commonwealth Bank chief executive Ian Narev​ said his bank was committed to doing the “right thing”.

“I apologise unreservedly to the customers that received poor advice from us,” he said.

“Their stories are very hard to hear as a bank executive.”

Follow us on Twitter  Australian Politics – FairfaxThe original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Joe Hockey renews calls for details on Labor’s anti-tax avoidance policy

Joe Hockey has called on Chris Bowen to release details of Labor’s anti-tax avoidance policy
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Joe Hockey has called on Chris Bowen to release details of Labor’s anti-tax avoidance policy

Joe Hockey has called on Chris Bowen to release details of Labor’s anti-tax avoidance policy

Joe Hockey has called on Chris Bowen to release details of Labor’s anti-tax avoidance policy

Treasurer Joe Hockey has re-ignited debate with Labor about its plan to close tax loopholes that allow multinational corporations to shift billions in profits overseas, calling on Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen to release the assumptions underpinning his work.

Mr Hockey says he has asked Mr Bowen to release the details of Labor’s policy three times now but little information has been provided.

And he has asked Mr Bowen to do so yet again, in a letter on Tuesday, saying it is in the interests of the public.

“It is important that Australia continues to have an informed debate about multinational tax avoidance,” Mr Hockey wrote.

“As such I, once again, call on you to release all information, including the Parliamentary Budget Office costing, relating to your proposed policy.

“Your policy of focussing on limiting debt deductions, where Australia has already taken action, does not combat the areas where anti-avoidance action is needed … [and] Treasury has advised that further tightening of thin capitalisation law could deter investment and cost Australian jobs.”

Labor’s plan was announced on March 2 and claims it will “bring at least $1.9 billion back to Australia in tax from big multinationals” over the next four years.

It will make changes to the arrangements for how multinational companies claim tax deductions, it will encourage greater compliance work by the Australian Tax Office to track down and tackle corporate tax avoidance, and it will crack down on multinational companies using hybrid structures to reduce tax.

Labor says its plan was developed in consultation with multinational tax practitioners, academics, and industry, and costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office.

But Mr Hockey says little information has been provided about the policy beyond a two-page press release and a handful of interviews.

“You indicated that the revenue estimates for your proposed package of measures are based on detailed publicly available information, [but] I am advised by Treasury that this is not the case,” Mr Hockey says.

Mr Bowen said Labor had approached the policy in the spirit of bipartisanship.

“Joe Hockey would have all the details of Labor’s $7.2 billion multinational tax package by now if he had taken up Labor’s long-standing offer for a detailed briefing,” he said.

“We have approached this policy in a spirit of bipartisanship because we know it is in Australia’s national interest to ensure big companies pay their fair share. Sadly, we have seen nothing but public grandstanding from Mr Hockey in return.”

Mr Hockey announced on Sunday that Australia and Great Britain had agreed to work together to combat multinational tax avoidance, and that he and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne had agreed to set up a working group to “address the diversion of profits by multinational enterprises away from their host countries”.

Mr Bowen dismissed the move on Sunday as “all talk and no action”.

Follow us on Twitter  Australian Politics – FairfaxThe original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Natural history illustration student chosen for prestigious exhibition

Natural history illustration student chosen for prestigious exhibition Illustration students Maxine MacKenzie, Deidre Bean (mentor), Linda Cox, Lauren Sahu-Khan and Tallulah Cunningham and their work. Main picture: Peter Stoop
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Illustration students Maxine MacKenzie, Deidre Bean (mentor), Linda Cox, Lauren Sahu-Khan and Tallulah Cunningham and their work. Main picture: Peter Stoop

Drawing from life. The artists’ photo realistic work and their subjects.

Drawing from life. The artists’ photo realistic work and their subjects.

Drawing from life. The artists’ photo realistic work and their subjects.

Drawing from life. The artists’ photo realistic work and their subjects.

Drawing from life. The artists’ photo realistic work and their subjects.

TweetFacebookLAUREN Sahu-Khan has tried desperately to ‘‘loosen up’’ her style of drawing.

‘‘But I can’t help myself from trying to represent something as accurately as possible,’’ she said.

‘‘My whole life I’ve loved to draw and have always set myself the goal of achieving realism.’’

The University of Newcastle natural history illustration alumna has recently been selected for one of the country’s most prestigious exhibitions for botanical art, Botanica 2015-The Art of Seduction: The Birds and the Bees.

Ms Sahu-Khan described her selection as a ‘‘big tick’’ and a ‘‘huge vote of confidence’’ as she pursued her dream career.

‘‘It’s a very difficult career choice, you don’t go far unless you’re committed and you love what you do.

‘‘There’s no set path you can follow, you’ve just got to set your own course and roll with it.

Current PHD candidate of natural history illustration and award-winning botanic artist Deirdre Bean contacted Ms Sahu-Khan and students Maxine MacKenzie, Linda Cox, Tallulah Cunningham and Sam Blanks late last year.

Ms Bean has been exhibiting in Botanica for the past 15 years and volunteered to guide the students as they created works they hoped would be selected for exhibition.

All were successful.

Ms Sahu-Khan had previously preferred painting wildlife and only developed her interest in botanica – which captures the beauty of native or foreign flora with scientific accuracy – after stumbling upon the vibrant work of English artist Anna Mason.

‘‘Natural history illustration is a bit of a rollercoaster, it’s completely dependent on your own determination and you’ve got to be committed and focused,’’ she said.

Botanical art is traditionally completed in watercolour medium, but the Newcastle entrants’ works also include ink, gouache and graphite.

Ms Sahu-Khan has painted a gum leaf collected on a bush walk and the skeletal remains of a leaf collected in Glenrock State Conservation Area.

‘‘I especially love gum leaves that have already fallen from a tree – they are so imperfect but so pretty,’’ she said.

Botanica 2015 can be viewed at Lion Gate Lodge, the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, from now until May 10, 10am to 4pm daily. Entry is free.

WINE: The secrets to Andrew Thomas’ success

Winemaker Andrew Thomas, of Thomas Wines, with a fine batch of 2013 shiraz reds. Picture: Ryan Osland.THERE’S a larrikin touch to the public persona of Andrew Thomas, but behind that is a thoughtful, innovative, masterful winemaking brain.
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His skills have twice won him the Winemaker of the Year title at the Hunter Valley Wine Awards.

Those 2014 and 2008 awards reflect the great national and international show successes of wines made by ‘‘Thommo’’ for his own eponymous wine label and, under contract, for some of the Hunter’s best boutique brands – like Bob and Maryanne McLeish’s McLeish Estate and Sydney supermarket display shelf manufacturers John Hindman and Richard Friend’s Pokolbin Estate.

The key to Andrew’s success is encapsulated in his flagship KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) shiraz reds. The wines showcase the Thomas formula of selecting top-quality grapes and letting the fruit do the talking through minimum-intervention winemaking.

The 2013 KISS, which I reviewed in last week’s Wine List, is one of six fine 2013 reds released by Andrew this month. They are the $24 Andrew Thomas 2013 Synergy Shiraz and the 2013 Sweetwater Shiraz ($35), along with the 2013 Two of a Kind Shiraz ($24), the 2013 DJV Shiraz ($30) and the 2013 Elenay Shiraz ($45), which are reviewed in today’s Wine List.

The Two of a Kind label recognises Andrew’s affinity with McLaren Vale and the Hunter. The son of popular winemaker Wayne Thomas, Andrew was born and educated at McLaren Vale. He spent his childhood days in his parents’ vineyard and winery, Andrew came to the Hunter in 1986, becoming a key member of the Tyrrell’s Pokolbin winemaking team from until 1999, when he set up his own winemaking and consultancy operation.

The 2013 Two of a Kind shiraz is a blend of 42per cent McLaren Vale shiraz and 58per cent Hunter shiraz from the Motel Block and Pokolbin Estate vineyards. The Motel Block vineyard in Hermitage Road, Pokolbin, was planted in 1967 by legendary wine and food identity J.K ‘‘Johnnie’’ Walker and now leased by Andrew Thomas. The DJV shiraz wines, the tag stands for déjà vu, are Andrew’s re-creation of the old-style, lighter bodied, traditional ‘‘Hunter River Burgundy’’-style shiraz. The 2013 Sweetwater is the latest in a string of single-vineyard reds made from grapes grown on the Sweetwater Road, Belford, vineyard owned by developer Duncan Hardie. The Elenay marque made its appearance in the Thomas portfolio in 2011 and it and the 2013 both are the blends of barrels of shiraz that didn’t quite make the final cut for the Kiss and Sweetwater reds.

Correct bottle prices

THE correct prices for the Camyr Allyn wines reviewed last week are: Camyr Allyn 2014 Hunter Valley Verdelho, $22, Bass Creek 2014 Merlot, $20; Bass Creek 2014 Verdelho, $20.

Wirra Wirra moves into reds

THE McLaren Vale-based Wirra Wirra wine company has bought the highly regarded Adelaide Hills pinot noir producer Ashton Hills.

The move into cool-climate red wine production comes more than 10years after Wirra Wirra began making white wines from grapes bought in from the Adelaide Hills. The three-hectare, dry-grown Ashton Hills vineyard’s pinot noir and riesling plantings were established in the Piccadilly Valley in 1982 by Stephen George, acclaimed maker of the Clare Valley Wendouree wines.

Wirra Wirra managing director Andrew Kay said Stephen George would have a continuing role in the Ashton Hills brand. He would remain living on the property, have hands-on involvement in the vineyard and take a mentoring role with the Wirra Wirra winemaking team to maintain the Ashton Hills wine style.

Wines matched with meals

WHISPERING Brook winery and olive grove at Broke will stage its 2015 Olive Long Table Luncheon on Saturday, June 6.

The annual event will feature Whispering Brook wines matched with a four-course Mediterranean-inspired meal prepared by chef Andrew Wright, a tutored olive grove and vineyard tour, an olive-oil appreciation and tasting session and live music.

Australian olive-oil expert and show judge Peter Olson will be the guest speaker. The cost is $139 per person.

Further details can be obtained and bookings made on 0298184126, [email protected]整形美容医院m or whispering-brook整形美容医院m.

Andrew Thomas 2013 Two of a Kind Shiraz, $24

THIS Hunter-McLaren Vale blend is excellent value, weighing in at 14per cent and glowing bright garnet in the glass. It has potpourri aromas and brings juicy blackcurrant flavour to the front of the palate. The middle palate introduces elements of rhubarb, peppermint, licorice and nutty oak and minty tannins come through at the finish.

DRINK WITH: spaghetti bolognaise

AGEING: four years

RATING: Four and a half stars

Andrew Thomas 2013 Elenay Shiraz, $45

THE inaugural Elenay won a gold medal in the 2013 Hunter Valley Boutique Winemakers’ Show at Maitland. This one is in the same multi-faceted mould. It is crimson with purple tints, has berry pastille and bay leaf scents. The front palate shows vibrant Satsuma plum flavour, followed by Maraschino cherry, coffee cream chocolate, cloves and leathery oak characters. The finish has persistent berry fruit and minty tannins.

DRINK WITH: rack of lamb with rosemary stuffing and mint sauce

AGEING: eight years

RATING: Four and a half stars

Andrew Thomas 2013 DJV Shiraz, $30

YES, this wine is very reminiscent of the great Lindeman’s Hunter River Burgundy reds of old. It has 12.8per cent alcohol, is ruby red and has scents of strawberries and violets. Velvet-smooth blood plum flavour glides onto the front of the palate and mulberry, spice and mint fruit characters integrate with subtle vanillin oak on the middle palate. Soft earthy tannins feature at the finish.

DRINK WITH: roast duck with plum and Cointreau sauce

AGEING: 10 years

RATING: Five stars