Why deny US-style Fair Use copyright laws to Australians?

Copyright reform needed: LaborWhy did we gain the restrictions of US copyright law but not the rights?After an 18-month review, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has backed calls to bring Australia’s copyright laws into the modern age with “Fair Use” exemptions. The change would streamline our current hotch-potch copyright laws, which aren’t designed to cope with the rapid pace of technological change.  Australia’s current copyright laws need to be rewritten to account for every new technology, an approach which saw everyone breaking the law for almost thirty years until we gained the right to record free-to-air television in 2007. The ALRC’s “Copyright and the Digital Economy” report wants to replace this with proactive Fair Use laws which use four technologically-neutral “fairness factors” to determine whether an act of copying is within the law.Federal Attorney-General George Brandis agrees that copyright laws need an overhaul, describing them as “overly long, unnecessarily complex, often comically outdated and all too often, in its administration, pointlessly bureaucratic”. That sounds promising, until Brandis keeps talking and you realise he wants to focus all his attention on filtering the internet and chasing movie downloaders, rather than forging balanced copyright laws. Brandis has already signalled his reluctance to embrace Fair Use law due to the supposed uncertainty it would create for copyright holders. This of course conveniently ignores the fact that the United States – one of the world’s major content creators – has had similar Fair Use laws in place for decades.The ALRC report anticipated this kind of response from the likes of Brandis, and addressed it head on in the summary report:”The standard recommended by the ALRC is not novel or untested. Fair use builds on Australia’s fair dealing exceptions, it has been applied in US courts for decades, and it is built on common law copyright principles that date back to the 18th century.””If fair use is uncertain, this does not seem to have greatly inhibited the creation of films, music, books and other material in the world’s largest exporter of cultural goods, the United States.”Fair Use laws obviously aren’t creating too much uncertainty in the US, but our current laws are definitely creating uncertainty in Australia. The Optus TV Now and IceTV cases are two high profile examples where businesses were dragged through the courts even though they felt they were on the right side of the law – and so did the courts in some circumstances. Fair Use rules will create more certainty for copyright owners and businesses contemplating new services based on their content. What’s really frustrating is that Australians didn’t inherit Fair Use rights under the 2005 US Free Trade Agreement, in a text-book example of “do as we say, not as we do”. The agreement saw Australia adopt many of the restrictions of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, such as a ban on circumventing Digital Rights Management even if you’re exercising your rights under copyright law. Even if Australians are granted Fair Use exemptions for acts such as format-shifting our DVD libraries, these digital rights management (DRM) laws will stand in the way.If Fair Use does get up in Australia, it will be interesting to see if other services and copyright holders introduce token DRM protection just so they can neutralise Fair Use exemptions. Other agreements such as the secretive Trans Pacific Partnership also seem heavily weighted in favour of protecting copyright holders and at the expense of our rights under law.The ALRC clearly states that Fair Use does not include piracy, but some people are happy to muddy the water to ensure we get more copyright responsibilities without the corresponding rights. If Fair Use copyright laws are good enough for the US, why aren’t they good enough for Australia? Where do you think the balance lies? 
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Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest pockets $103m as Fortescue joins dividend rush

Andrew Forrest at his iron ore mine at Cloudbreak. Photo: Quentin JonesFortescue Metals Group has joined in the dividend bonanza sweeping the Australian market, announcing a higher than expected half-year payout that will see close to $103 million flow to its biggest shareholder, billionaire rich-lister Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest.
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The 10¢ per share dividend is equal to the dividend that came with full year profit announced by the company in 2013.

The dividend came as Fortescue reported a $US1.71 billion net profit for first half, which was slightly lower than the $US1.77 billion that a consensus of analysts were expecting.

But it was better than the $US1.67 billion that UBS was expecting.

The result is a stunning 259 per cent higher than the first half of 2013, and reflects the huge rise in production that is underway at the iron ore miner.

Fortescue has also benefited from higher than expected iron ore prices over the past six months.

Fortescue has kept its full year export guidance at 127 million tonnes, despite weather challenges over the past seven weeks.

Fortescue chief executive Nev Power warned last month that heavy rainfall was persisting through January and could interrupt production and shipments.

The wet weather has continued since then, and UBS analyst Glyn Lawcock noted this week that one year’s worth of average rainfall in the Pilbara had fallen in January alone.

That prompted Mr Lawcock to lower his export estimate to 125 million tonnes, but the company is so far holding its guidance at 127 million tonnes.

Fortescue was initially forecasting that exports would range between 127 million tonnes and 133 million tonnes in the 2014 financial year, but changed that in January to 127 million tonnes exactly.

Fortescue wants to gradually increase its dividends until it hits a consistent dividend payout ratio of between 30 and 40 per cent.

But the company will need to pay down more of its debt before it hits that level.

The dividend paid out by Fortescue was almost double the 5.3¢ dividend analysts had been expecting.

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‘Dairy wars’ not over as Bega Cheese positions for battle

Bega Cheese’s factory on the NSW south coast. Photo: Orlando ChiodoNSW-based Bega Cheese has hinted the dairy wars are not over, saying the company is well-positioned for further consolidation and the battle for milk supply as it reported an 18 per cent jump in first half profit to $18.7 million.
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The cheese company, which listed on the ASX in 2011, recently lost out to Canadian giant Saputo in the dramatic three-way takeover battle for Victorian dairy group Warrnambool Cheese & Butter.

But Bega said it has reaped $98.9 million, before tax and costs, for its 18.8 per cent stake in WCB and expects to report an after-tax profit of $44 million in its full-year accounts.

“The recent battle for control of WCB was a demonstration of both the value of dairy assets in Australia and Bega Cheese’s positioning as a key player in the ongoing rationalisation of the Australian dairy industry,” Bega said.

“Bega Cheese has a very strong balance sheet and is well-positioned to participate in the ongoing opportunities in the Australian dairy industry.”

The comment comes just days after the banker who led Saputo to victory in the $530 million battle for Warrnambool said he expects dairy deals to keep flowing.

“There’s a trend of bringing global companies like Saputo to the Australian market and helping them build out their position,”Rothschild managing director Sam Prentice said.

“Private equity firms are all looking at their portfolios and which of their investee companies are suitable for IPOs.”

Announcing its first-half profit, Bega said there are a number of organic growth opportunities it intends to pursue in further value-adding its whey and dairy nutritionals products.

“The group expects to consider a number of investment and corporate opportunities in the short to medium term.”

Adverse weather and competition for milk supply drove an 8 per cent drop in milk intake to 336 million litres, but group revenue rose 4 per cent to $510.6 million and earnings before interest and tax jumped 15 per cent to $30.2 million.

Near-record dairy commodity prices and the recent decline in the Australian dollar underpinned the growth in earnings.

Bega said the outlook for dairy commodities is positive primarily due to the insatiable demand from China for whole milk powders and whey powders.

The company said a key focus going forward will be on providing incentives to grow its existing milk pool and procure new supply, suggesting it is ready for a battle to win farmers from rivals like new entrant Saputo.

“A number of new entrants in milk supply procurement, strong competition amongst existing players and increased returns from international markets will continue to create a highly competitive market for milk,” Bega said.

Bega declared a full-franked interim dividend of 3.5¢, matching the dividend paid in the prior period.

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The Real Housewives of Melbourne set their own rules about catfights

The Real Housewives of Melbourne (L-R) Andrea Moss, Jackie Gillies, Lydia Schiavello, Chyka Keebaugh, Gina Liano and Janet Roach: the show will premiere on Sunday on Arena. Photo: Tamara DeanDon’t be fooled by the big hair, spangly dresses and killer heels.
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There is evidently more brain than brawn among this group of alpha Melbourne “housewives”, who are about to explode on screens on Foxtel on Sunday night in the latest chapter of the reality juggernaut.

The colourful sextet who arrived in Sydney on Tuesday morning and are taking to the Harbour on Wednesday, are about to launch onto television screens as part of the global franchise The Real Housewives, which is also filmed in New York, Orange County, Vancouver, Beverly Hills and Miami, among other US post codes.

For the uninitiated, the format typically sees a handful of gazillionaire wives, who argue about who said what to who, socialise and attend functions. They are pursued by cameras which eavesdrop on their every move. The over-the-top results are traditionally wildly disturbing yet utterly fascinating.

In what appears to be a world first, Fairfax Media has learned that these wise-cracking, fast-talking, Louboutin-wearing women of the up-market postcodes of 3141-3144 (or “Planet Toorak” as Housewives outsider Jackie Gillies likes to say) asserted their authority on the show’s producers, Matchbox Pictures, before they had even filmed their first scene.

Gathered at The Darling Hotel in Pyrmont the perfumed posse reveal that after much discussions with the production company’s lawyers, the group negotiated to have things removed from the standard contracts issued to Housewives across the globe – which they were not comfortable with.

No bitch-slaps and poolside wig-tugging for this lot, as is the standard pre-requisite and what we’ve come to expect from flash-and-trash Real Housewives series.

Barrister Gina Liano, 47, a divorced mum-of-two who has been fighting battles in the courtroom for 14 years (not to mention creating a range of sequinned stilettos on the side), leads the charge to have certain clauses removed after reading the contract.

The main sticking point was the clause in the contract which said the Housewives were allowed to be physically harmed in the line of duty and would not be able to sue the production company if they were hurt.

Traditionally cast members around the world get pushed into pools, shoved from their towering heels or involved in catfights with no recourse. Think Jerry Springer but with Gucci, false lashes and hair extensions.

“Even in the contracts in the US, I understand they are actually allowed to assault each other. It’s part of the contract. When we got our contracts that was one of the conditions. It said that we consented to being assaulted. But I got rid of it,” legal eagle Liano reveals.

“I said, apart from anything I’m not about to embark on anything like that and nor are the rest of the cast – or the three girls that I knew [before the show started taping] – and I said to them ‘you can’t bind yourself into anything like that’.”

Despite being a likely first for the franchise, all of the women read their contracts and agreed it had to be removed.

“I think we all had a discussion about what we were comfortable with – all the girls read it, we are all business women,” Liano says, with Janet Roach, 55, the solo blonde of the pack adding: “I was going through mine with a tooth comb but Gina explained it really well. She said ‘we’re not doing that, we’re not doing that or that’.”

Brunette mum and extravagant shopaholic Lydia Schiavello, 45, said the only part she agreed with on her contract was the name and date.

“The only part of the original contract I was going to actually sign was the date and my name, they were the only things that were fine until we all attacked it.”

Liano, with her background, then approached the show’s legal department.

“I went and sat with the solicitor face to face for about 30 hours actually. There were about five things we changed.

“We the signed uniform contracts, with special conditions attached to each contract and particular to all of us.”

Clearly the leader of the pack, the no-holds-barred Liano even calms the youngest member of the pack, rock star wife Jackie Gillies, 33, (she’s married to Silverchair’s Ben Gillies) when she asks if we should be discussing contracts at all.

“Yeh, yeh it’s fine,” Liano settles her. “Trust me, I know what’s in that contact! It’s fine.”

Even after fixing their contracts the women agree they didn’t really know what they were signing up for.

A little like lambs to the slaughter, the group admit they were naieve when it came to the editing process and dealing with the media. Both Roach and Moss hadn’t even seen the other Real Housewives shows when they were approached.

“It’s all new to us. We are all raw. I think they chose us for that reason,” says the most level-headed of the group Chyka Keebaugh, 45, who along with her husband Bruce runs one of Australia’s biggest and most successful privately-owned catering companies, The Big Group.

“We knew this was going to happen – but we didn’t know the level to which it would happen,” Keebaugh says.

Property developer Roach, a singleton who dumped her husband last year after an internet dating scandal, says she’s nervously awaiting episode four and seven when she goes on a date with a younger bloke.

“It’s nothing like what I expected, but lots and lots of fun,” says the effervescent blonde. “I think when it was sold to me it was a little bit less; it wasn’t such a big thing that we would film this little show for a few weeks.

“I had never seen an episode. We had to watch an episode before we signed, and I watched Atlanta. They had sequinned dresses on and pulled each others wigs off and pushed each other into the pool. So I did have an idea of what I was getting myself into.”

Moss says her husband told her she shouldn’t do it after he watched a Miami episode where one wife had sex.

Are they worried about how they will be portrayed?

“I went into this with a TV background, and I am a journalist, so I felt they could only portray me the way I am,” Moss says.

She, however, didn’t bank on the copious amounts of champagne supplied creating onscreen gold.

“The tricky thing is when there’s no alcohol involved you are yourself and you’re careful. But when they put the alcohol there and you have one or two glasses of champagne (for the record Liano doesn’t drink), well, after a couple of champagnes you loosen up … which is fine, I can drink a lot being a journalist. But then I don’t have such good recollections of what I said or did.

“Having said that I think I’ve pretty much stood true to who I am.”

In the first few episodes alone fat-wobbling machines have opening nights, vaginal botox is discussed (seriously) and when Gillies, a psychic, tells Liano her long distant boyfriend is having an affair she hops on a plane straight to the US.

It’s also evident several friendships have been ruined by the show – a common trait of the series, which sees best friends end up enemies.

Liano and Moss came into taping as the firmest of friends and it’s clear during our photo shoot that isn’t the case now. The tension is noticeable as Moss and Schiavello appear to be the ones cosying up together today. (A little bit Mean Girls but outside of the playground.)

“Yes, it’s true,” says Liano.

“Friendships and relationships did fall apart. I think Andrea has described it the best way. In normal life if you had a falling out with a friend you’d back off and wait a while till you saw each other and cool down, but with this you were contracted and forced to see each other the next day.

“We don’t speak that much now…”

Moss agreed she and Liano had come into the show friends. “We came together more because of the contract initially. I’m too busy anyway with work and kids. Gina said a couple of things that upset me.”

All six women then heatedly rake over what happened in most heated moment of the first episode, when Liano was given the reading by Gillies and the ensuing fallout.

“I wanted to be Switzerland,” says Schiavello. “When Jackie gave Gina a reading she was upset and I rang to see if she was upset. I then had to go to the art gallery to explain it to Jackie.”

“But you misquoted me,” Liano interjects.

The fallout was the result of chinese whispers at play, which created the typical blown-out-of-proportion hysteria expected of reality drama.

“The producers won’t manipulate the storyline by telling you actually what happened – I guess that’s why we’ve got a good show,” says Liano. “But that means you’re reacting to situations without knowing everything.”

The entire group have signed for three series and it’s up to Foxtel whether it’ll commission them. Series two is apparently in the pipeline.

“We all pushed and pushed and pushed only to do one [series] – to suck it and see – but then the fee was not negotiable,” says Moss.

“It’s uniform and I think we’re all paid the same as what the American girls are paid. You don’t want someone who does a show like this for the money, you want unfiltered real women.”

For Roach the show was “definitely an emotional rollercoaster”.

“I found lust,” she says, with a laugh, about her young romance depicted in the show, while another voice adds: “It was the young jump she had to have – which is very good for the ego.”

“So far all we’re all happy,” says Schiavello.

For tough-talker Liano, dealings with the media have actually been the hardest on her during the whole experience.

“I think what’s been challenging about it for us is the media and what’s been quoted and what’s being said.

“I said things about Lydia, like she’s a beautiful woman, she’s a beautiful mother and they just cut it – and I can see that now, so I’m much more careful about what I say.”

Roach says she too has been shocked by the publicity process.

“Before as a punter I had a different idea about what was on TV and what was written about it.”

And while Gillies had been warned of how things worked by her rocker husband, who has spent years in the spotlight, she says nothing can prepare you: “I knew they take things and write anything to sell a paper. They add things. Things are left out and taken out of context. We think now before we talk.”

Always armed with the most rounded view, Chyka chimes in: “I think the level of production has been fantastic, Melbourne looks incredible and so far the back stories have been true to us.”

Mind you, the ladies have only seen up to episode three – there’s seven more episodes to go.

“I have no regrets at this stage. Though I’ll let you know after 10 episodes,” Liano says with a wink.

With talons sharpened, no doubt that will be one reunion episode worth watching.

The Real Housewives of Melbourne premieres Sunday, February 23, at 8.30pm on Foxtel’s Arena.

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Biennale of Sydney: artists send protest letter over detention centre links

Luca Belgiorno-Nettis is executive director of Transfield Services and the Biennale chairman. Photo: James Brickwood Signatory: Angelica Mesiti with “The Calling 2013/14”. Photo: Angela Wylie
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The ethical minefield of arts sponsorship

Artists involved in this year’s Biennale of Sydney have threatened to pull out unless event organisers abandon a sponsorship deal with a company involved in offshore detention centres.

The move casts a cloud over the showcase event, the biggest on the nation’s visual arts calendar.

The Biennale of Sydney, which starts on March 21, lists Transfield Holdings as a major sponsor.

Transfield Holdings is a minority shareholder in Transfield Services, which holds contracts with the Immigration Department to provide services at detention facilities at Nauru, such as management, maintenance and perimeter security

Transfield Services has also been in talks with the federal government to extend its services to Manus Island and take over welfare services, including education and recreation, at both sites.

Transfield Holdings and Transfield Services are partners in the Transfield Foundation, which supports the Biennale of Sydney.

Refugee advocates have been calling on artists and the public to boycott the event over Transfield’s involvement.

In an open letter to the Biennale board, sent on Wednesday, 28 Australian and international artists called on the directors to abandon the funding arrangement with Transfield. There are some 90 artists taking part in the event.

In a separate statement, the artists said some were “reconsidering their participation” and others were “organising different forms of protest from within”.

Signatories to the letter include prominent British artist Martin Boyce, winner of the coveted Turner Prize.

Australian artists include Callum Morton, Deborah Kelly and Angelica Mesiti – a video artist who won the Art Gallery of NSW’s Anne Landa Award last year.

The artists say mandatory detention contravenes Australia’s human rights obligations and they object to “being funded by an arts organisation whose sponsor is profiting from the policy”.

The furore coincides with a call by Human Rights Commission for an independent inquiry into the conditions in Australia’s offshore detention centres and follows clashes between security forces and asylum seekers on Manus Island that left one Iranian asylum seeker dead and 77 injured.

A spokesman for Transfield Services said “this is a matter for the Biennale and its board to discuss with artists”.

Transfield Holdings has a stake in Transfield Services and its executive director, Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, is the Biennale chairman. Transfield Holdings founded the Sydney Biennale in 1973.

Mr Belgiorno-Nettis said: “Many Australians struggle with the problems of managing the transit of refugees to this country; this is a global challenge. The Biennale of Sydney acts as an artistic platform for dialogue around issues such as this.”

A spokeswoman for the Biennale said the board would meet on Thursday to consider the letter.

Transfield Holdings has a long history of sponsorship in the arts and its philanthropy has been directed towards a number of the country’s premier cultural institutions.

As well as the Biennale of Sydney, it has ongoing relationships with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Walsh Bay Sculpture Walk, Sculpture by the Sea and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Mr Belgiorno-Nettis, AM, is not only chairman of the Biennale of Sydney, but also chairs the Art Committees at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) and the University of Western Sydney (UWS), and is a member of the Australian International Cultural Committee.

His brother, Guido Belgiorno-Nettis, AM, who is also on the Transfield advisory board, is president of the Art Gallery of NSW.

The Biennale’s website says the event, themed You Imagine What You Desire, shows that “powerful art is not divorced from the cultural conditions, political, social and climactic environments in which it is generated”.

with John Saxby

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‘It won’t survive’: bashed newborn’s Bunbury grandfather reveals heartbreaking pain

“It won’t survive” were the simple, yet heartbreaking words from the grandfather who expected the life support to his one-month-old grandson would be turned off this weekend.
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The prematurely-born baby suffered critical head injuries, allegedly by his 15-year-old father at Bunbury Regional Hospital on Saturday night.

The father, a ward of the state who was abandoned by his own mother three years ago and reported to have atroubled past, has been charged with aggravated bodily harm.

The mother’s family spoke out how they are confused as to how the tragedy was able to unfold.

“We just want to know what happened and how it happened,” the newborn’s maternal grandfather told Radio 6PR.

“I want to know how come that boy was allowed back in.

“He’s supposed to be under care and wasn’t supposed to be at the hospital – that’s what we’re trying to understand.

“Especially at night like that, where were the nurses?”

The grandfather claimed the teenage boy did not have access to the child on Friday and wanted to know what changed between then and Saturday night, when the alleged assault occurred.

“He shouldn’t have been allowed in there,” he said.

His daughter, the mother of the child, was yet to come to terms with the injuries inflicted on her son, he said.

“She’s completely in shock.

“She keeps on asking how it happened, why it happened, all that.

“There’s nothing much I can do, nothing much I can say.

“No one should have let that kid in there – he’s only a kid.”

Department of Child Protection director general Terry Murphy told Radio 6PR that the father’s visitation with his son was restricted, but not banned altogether.

“All the advice that I’ve received from the hospital, from our staff who meet with families through these situations, was that the father’s access to the child was never questioned,” Mr Murphy said.

“At one point, after a meeting between hospital staff and the family, it was restricted to some degree, in so far as it was only to occur between visiting hours and not during the lunch break, and [at] a time at which there would be adequate staffing on the ward and adequate support for what are very young parents.”

But he said hospital staff had not predicted the father would pose a danger to the newborn.

“I, on the basis of everything I’ve seen from the hospital, from our staff, from other government agencies, am of the belief this was not a predictable event,” Mr Murphy said.

“It is a tragedy – there’s no question that this boy had a troubled life, there’s no question that this relationship between these teenage parents had difficulties, but none of those facts would predict such a tragedy as has occurred.”

As far as the department’s investigation had learned, the family had not requested the boy’s access to the child be restricted, Mr Murphy said.

It was reported on Tuesday thatthe father regularly visited and helped feed the babyfrom the day he was born.

Mr Murphy said the department would continue to supply support to the mother where possible.

“We’ve had a relationship with mum since her relationship with father and her pregnancy came to our attention late last year,” he said.

“That relationship continues – this mum needs tremendous amount of support.

“That will come mostly from family, but we will provide whatever support we can to her and her family.”

All future medical decisions concerning the baby will be made by Mr Murphy, following thebaby being taken into the care of the Department of Child Protection.

The baby has been transferred to Princess Margaret Hospital where staff are continually reviewing his health.

Advice given to the family by a PMH neurosurgeon was that they were still waiting for swelling to go down, the grandfather said.

“It’s just a waiting game,” he said.

“I’m going up there now just to hold him or kiss him and show my support.”

All decisions relating to a 28-day-old baby fighting for life after being allegedly bashed by his teenaged father will now be made by Department for Child Protection (DCP) and Family Support chief Terry Murphy.

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Education union criticises appointment of Greg Craven to chair Coalition’s teacher training review

Greg Craven, vice-chancellor of the Australian Aatholic University, has been chosen to chair the federal government’s review into teacher training. Photo: Louise KennerleyThe Australian Education Union has blasted the Abbott government for appointing a vocal critic of minimum entry scores for education degrees to lead its review into teacher training.
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Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne announced on Wednesday morning that Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Greg Craven will chair the government’s review into teacher training.

Mr Craven has previously said that ”university cut-offs are as easy to rig as a bush picnic race meeting” and rejected NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli’s call for all teaching students to have an ATAR of at least 70.

AEU president Angelo Gavrielatos said Mr Craven’s views compromise the review before it begins.

“We stand on the side of rigour and strong standards – Greg Craven stands for something different to that.”

He said the fact Mr Craven’s university enrols students with an ATAR as low as 50 makes him ”part of the problem, not the solution”.

The AEU wants the review to consider setting minimum ATAR entry standards for teaching degrees.

Mr Craven denied that his position at the ACU poses a conflict of interest and said he was prepared to take on the unions over minimum entry standards.

”I would say to the unions: if they succeed in restricting entry to teaching amid a high number of retirements then they are advocating a shortage of teachers and massively increased class sizes,” he said.

”I find it fascinating to see an element of the industrial sector lining up against diversity and more lower socio-economic students coming into education. I am happy to have that debate.”

Speaking in Adelaide today, Mr Pyne said he believed teacher quality was the most important factor in improving student outcomes, ahead of a rigorous curriculum and school autonomy.

“For a long time the anecdotal evidence, surveys and results have shown that neither the students coming out of university, the principals who are employing them or the year 12 students choosing teaching are happy or satisfied with the offerings at university,” he said.

He said he wanted teacher training to involve more experience in school classrooms rather than in university lectures and tutorials.

An independent consultant will also be engaged to conduct a benchmarking study of the world’s best teacher education programs and compare them to Australia’s.

The advisory panel also includes University of Melbourne Dean of Education Field Rickards, University of Wollongong Deputy Vice-Chancellor Eeva Leinonen, Grattan Institute school education program director Ben Jensen, and maths education expert Kim Beswick.

John Fleming, deputy principal at independent Victorian school Haileybury, and Trevor Fletcher, principal of the Eastern Fleurieu School in South Australia, will also sit on the panel.

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Kanye West enlists American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis for Yeezus film

Kanye West brings Yeezus tour to AustraliaFull movies coverage
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Already a man with a musical empire, a fashion business and an ego the size of Microsoft and Apple put together, Kanye West is set to become a film mogul.

The musician who is long past the simple description of “hip-hop star” has inveigled celebrated author Bret Easton Ellis to write the screenplay for a film based on West’s chart topping 2013 album, Yeezus.

The pair began work seven or eight months ago, said Ellis, who told an American website that his initial reluctance evaporated when West gave him an early copy of the album “and I thought, regardless of whether I’m right for this project, I want to work with whoever made this”.

While something of a concept album, being semi-autobiographical and examining West’s pressures, fears and (inevitable) triumphs, Yeezus is not strictly speaking a narrative album with an obvious story within its “three act” structure.

However, as Fairfax Media critic Craig Mathieson put it: “Given [West] is a fashion designer, he knows how to extrapolate small tendencies into big things.” Mathieson said Yeezus was “a fascinating album that is critically focused on remaking both pop music and hip-hop even as it wallows in narcissism”.

If West is new to the film world, Ellis isn’t a stranger to the idea of books and music converted to film, or vice versa. Several of his novels – American Psycho, Less Than Zero and Rules Of Attraction – have been made into feature films while he wrote the screenplay for last year’s Paul Schrader film The Canyons.

Furthermore, not only does music feature heavily through most of his books, as character pointers as much as scene-setters, both Less Than Zero and its “sequel”, Imperial Bedroom, were named after Elvis Costello songs.

It may disappoint West to hear that he is not the first to go this route as films inspired by or made from songs make up a small but surprisingly vibrant sub-genre.

Sean Penn’s directorial debut, The Indian Runner, was based on the characters in Bruce Springsteen’s song Highway Patrolman while Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant Massacree inspired the film Alice’s Restaurant (which could also inspire Kanye West as Guthrie had a role in the film).

Country music’s fondness for stories-in-song helped turn hits such as Harper Valley PTA and The Gambler into big screen efforts; Pink Floyd’s tale of rock’n’roll ennui The Wall was made into a film, starring musician Bob Geldof; and more recently playwright Tom Stoppard adapted Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon for a radio play called Darkside.

Meanwhile, West will tour Australia in May performing songs from Yeezus.

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BHP buyback on the cards, analysts predict

BHP Billiton can continue investing in new projects as well as return money to shareholders, analysts believe.
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The diversified miner posted an underlying half-year profit of $US7.8 billion on Tuesday and said it was on track to reduce its net debt to $25 billion by June.

Analysts said BHP cutting gearing levels to below 30 per cent would trigger a shareholder buyback or investments in further growth.

”We think they can do both,” Deutsche Bank analyst Paul Young said.

”Management believe they can achieve an average internal rate of return of over 20 per cent for the major project options. We see further project approvals with the 2014 full year results”.

Mr Young suggested the Spence copper project in Chile or the Pilbara iron ore business were the most likely candidates for investment funding.

BHP will spend $US16 billion on projects this financial year. UBS analyst Glyn Lawcock said that figure, combined with a debt reduction, would give the company the capacity to complete a shareholder buyback and invest in growth.

”We believe that BHP’s target of maintaining capex at up to US$15 billion per annum keeps the balance sheet flexible enough to balance shareholder value between investments in growth projects and capital management,” Mr Lawcock said.

”We do not believe that BHP is sacrificing future growth for cash returns. It is more a case of not over spending such that projects suffer from lack of ability to manage from a resourcing perspective.”

Mr Lawcock added the Jansen potash project in Canada to the list of projects for possible investment funding.

He estimated that BHP could announce a shareholder buyback of $US5.3 billion at its full-year result.

”To be conservative, the buyback could be over two years enabling further debt reduction also.”

But Macquarie analysts said while BHP could launch buybacks of up to $US7 billion, it was more likely to favour growth investment, citing a rising share price and fierce internal competition for capital.

BHP’s share rose for the ninth consecutive day on Tuesday, its longest rally since mid 2009, to a high of $38.89. Shares were slightly lower at $38.88 in midday trade on Wednesday.

Macquarie said BHP was targeting annual capital expenditure of $US15-16 billion in 2015, double rival Rio Tinto’s 2015 spend of $8 billion.

”And yet BHP’s production is only 40 per cent higher in copper equivalent terms suggesting, this is about more than merely replacing current production, with the focus of future investments being iron ore, copper and petroleum alongside jansen,” Macquarie said in a note to investors.

But Citi analyst Heath Jansen said BHP had scope for a modest buyback. He said he did not expect returns to shareholders to accelerate dramatically until net debt has been been cut to $US20 billion, ”which will not occur until 2015 on our estimates”.

”In addition to capital management initiatives, we expect BHP’s dividend to increase 7 per cent in FY14,” Mr Jansen said.

”The payout ration including buybacks has averaged 50 per cent in the last 10 years, and our forecasts imply a dividend payout ratio of 43 per cent in FY14 and 47 per cent in FY15.

”We expect the total payout ratio after buybacks to be over 50 per cent in FY15.”

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Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra to face anti-corruption commission next week

Bangkok: The immediate fate of Thailand’s beleaguered prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra will be decided on Thursday next week when judges of the country’s anti-corruption commission summon her to answer a charge of negligence over a controversial rice subsidy scheme.
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If the judges find her guilty she will be suspended from office and face impeachment proceedings in Thailand’s Senate, bringing an abrupt end to the two and half year-rule of Thailand’s first woman prime minister, and plunging Thailand deeper into political crisis.

As renewed violence erupted on Bangkok’s streets, Ms Yingluck lashed out at her political enemies, accusing them of obstructing the implementation of the rice scheme she insisted had benefitted farmers and underpinned the economy.

“I am saddened and must apologise to the farmers as anti-government groups are holding rice farmers hostage and blocking the government from effectively implementing the scheme,” she said in a televised address.

“I must reaffirm the rice pledging scheme is the right policy and there was no conspiracy to corrupt.”

Ms Yingluck’s government is winding down the scheme at the end of February after it had suffered losses totalling as much as $US8 billion because farmers were paid almost 50 per cent above global market rates for their rice.

The government has struggled to find enough money to pay farmers for their latest crops, bringing hundreds of them on to the streets to protest.

Depositors at the Government Savings Bank pulled more than $US1 billion from their accounts on Monday after the bank provided a loan to the agricultural cooperative operating the rice scheme.

Ms Yingluck’s supporters say the anti-corruption commission’s action is part of what they see as a judicial coup orchestrated by powerful figures in Bangkok.

Ms Yingluck, who chairs a body that oversees the scheme that has left Thailand with huge stockpiles of unsold rice, denies any wrongdoing.

Pro-government red shirts in Thailand’s north and north-east have said they will mobilise 500,000 people to fight if she is forced from office, including setting up an alternative capital in northern Chiang Mai.

Meanwhile, clashes appear likely to continue on Bangkok’s streets as anti-government protesters vow to step-up their campaign against Ms Yingluck’s government and refuse to negotiate with police over their weeks-long occupation of protest sites across Bangkok.

Labor minister Chalerm Yoobamrung has warned that protesters must leave the sites at key government buildings this week or police would move to reclaim them.

More than 15,000 police have been mobilised in Bangkok for the operation.

On Tuesday a policeman was among four people killed as police clashed with protesters near government buildings in Bangkok’s historic quarter.

In his latest firebrand speech protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban declared that Ms Yingluck should be forced from the country.

“It is time to run this she-devil out of our native land,” he said.

The upheaval is the latest episode in an eight-year conflict that in broad terms pits one elite group of Thais backed by Bangkok’s middle class with another group backed by exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is Ms Yingluck’s brother.

The protesters have been rallying since November in a campaign to force the powerful Shinawatra family from politics and set-up an unelected body to run the country for up to two years.

The latest violence brought to 14 the number of people killed since the protests began after the government attempted to pass an amnesty bill that would have allowed Mr Thaksin to return from exile without having to serve jail time for corruption.

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G20: Joe Hockey to take NSW infrastructure model to the world

NSW Treasurer Mike Baird, left, and Federal treasurer Joe Hockey speak ahead of the G20 Finance Ministers Meeting and Infrastructure at the Transport Management Centre, Eveleigh. Photo: Tamara DeanTreasurer Joe Hockey will plug the “NSW model” of infrastructure development to the world’s most powerful economic officials when they gather in Sydney this weekend.
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Mr Hockey applauded the state’s strategy of privatising public assets and using the capital to help fund new transport projects ahead of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting.

“I want to praise the NSW Government for its approach to recycling of government investment in existing assets into new assets,” he said. “The sale of ports, with the proceeds going into new road infrastructure, is a benchmark for the rest of Australia and arguably many countries around the world and I will be using that as a clear example to G20 finance ministers this weekend.”

Australia will use its presidency of the G20 in 2014 to foster stronger global growth and will push for infrastructure investment to be a key growth engine. On Saturday night, Mr Hockey will host an “investment and infrastructure working dinner” as part of the G20 program. The G20 meeting in Sydney will be a who’s who of global finance, including Janet Yellen, the first female chair of the US Federal Reserve, and International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde along with finance ministers who preside over 85 per cent of the world economy.

“This is where the rubber hits the road in terms of the future of the world economy and I look forward to meeting with my fellow finance ministers and central bank governors over the next few days as we shape the destiny of the world economy,” Mr Hockey said.

The NSW Treasurer, Mike Baird, who joined Mr Hockey in his infrastructure pitch, said Australia was considered an “infrastructure capital of the world” by foreign industry players because of the number of existing assets that are likely to be privatised in future and the pipeline of new projects.

Since coming to office in 2011, the O’Farrell Government has privatised the Sydney desalination plant, Port Botany and Port Wollongong and will “recycle” the capital raised to fund new infrastructure projects. Last week Mr Baird announced the NSW Government will sell Macquarie Generation to AGL Energy for $1.72 billion. The long-term leases of the Port of Newcastle will be finalised before the state budget in June.

Mr Hockey would not be drawn on whether the state government should sell its electricity distribution network – the so called “poles and wires”. He said that was a decision for the NSW government.

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Asylum seekers’ personal details made public on website, Immigration Department concedes

Details of asylum seekers across Australia were revealed, Immigration concedes. Photo: Luis AscuiUPDATE: Asylum seekers could win refugee status over bungleMichael Gordon: Stop transfers until we have answersTony Wright: Australia put these people at riskDesperate calls for help as violence erupted on Manus
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The Department of Immigration has conceded that details of thousands of asylum seekers held in Australia were inadvertently made accessible online.

A report in Guardian Australia on Wednesday said that the personal details of a third of asylum seekers held in Australia – making up about 10,000 people – were released by Immigration in a serious breach of privacy.

The department was alerted to the breach and pulled the data down.

The information included all asylum seekers held in a mainland detention facilities, on Christmas Island and several thousand in community detention. Children were also included.

Despite the federal government’s insistence about the need for greater secrecy when it comes to immigration and border protection, the report said that a database containing the full names, nationalities, location, arrival date and boat arrival information was revealed on the department’s website.

On Wednesday, in response to questions about the breach, a spokeswoman from the Department of Immigration, said ”this information was never intended to be in the public domain”.

”The department acknowledges that the file was vulnerable to unauthorised access. The file has been removed and the department is investigating how this occurred to ensure that it does not happen again,” she said.

Fairfax Media has also contacted Immigration Minister Scott Morrison for comment.

Guardian Australia has not identified where the database was located online and said it told the department about the information before it reported the breach.

Refugee Council of Australia president Phil Glendenning said the release of asylum seekers’ information was “outrageous” and unprecedented.

“We are deeply disturbed by this,” he told Fairfax Media.

Mr Glendenning said the breach ran the risk of exposing people who were already vulnerable to “very serious danger”.

This not only included reprisals if asylum seekers were sent back to their country of origin, but their families – either in home countries, or transit countries in between.

The Refugee Council is also seeking particular assurances about the safety of people in community detention who may have had their location revealed.

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O’Farrell government breaks election promise by backing central coast coal mine

That was then: Premier Barry O’Farrell in 2011 with (from left) Chris Holstein (Member for Gosford), Darren Webber (Member for Wyong), Barry O’Farrell (Premier), Alan Hayes (Australian Coal Alliance), Chris Spence (Member for The Entrance) & Chris Hartcher (Member for Terrigal & Minister for Energy). Photo: Supplied”Unjust” mining laws slammed by former judgesMore NSW news
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The O’Farrell government has been criticised for breaking a key election promise by recommending approval of the Wallarah 2 coal mine on the central coast.

Before the 2011 state election, as opposition leader, Barry O’Farrell said a Coalition government would not approve the mine because of its impact on drinking water catchments.

However, the Department of Planning and Infrastructure has now recommended the project be approved, subject to strict conditions.

NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard said the Independent Commission Against Corruption hearings into mining approvals under the former Labor government had resulted in “seismic changes” in the way planning decisions were made.

“Three years of Eddie Obeid and mates at ICAC has underpinned a critical need for the integrity of an arms length independent decision-making process through the Planning and Assessment Commission,” Mr Hazzard said.

“The Green groups are playing dangerous political games if they are arguing in the face of ICAC recommendations supporting independent processes.”

Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Officer Pepe Clarke said the department’s decision was a “bitter blow” to the people of the central coast and to Premier O’Farrell’s credibility.

“Mr O’Farrell gave a personal guarantee before the election that, under his government, mining would not be permitted to occur in drinking water catchments, no ifs, no buts,” Mr Clarke said.

“At the time, Mr O’Farrell and Central Coast MP Chris Hartcher were even photographed together wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the words ‘Water, Not Coal’.

“The position they adopted helped the Coalition win key marginal seats of the central coast. It is time Mr O’Farrell’s government delivered on his promise by creating binding legal protections for water catchments to ensure proposals like Wallarah 2 cannot be approved.”

Mr Clarke said that if it proceeds, the Wallarah 2 project will undermine several waterways and result in the extraction of up to 5 million tonnes of coal a year for 28 years. He said the former Labor government rejected the project in early 2011 because of uncertainty around subsidence, unacceptable impacts on surface water quality and uncertainty around ecological and heritage impacts.

“The mine would operate for less than 30 years, but the damage mine subsidence could do to local aquifers and streams would be permanent,” Mr Clarke said.

“This was a point that Mr O’Farrell clearly understood and was prepared to campaign on when in opposition. Now he is in power he has the opportunity and a moral responsibility to ensure this project does not proceed.”

Planning and Infrastructure Executive Director Chris Wilson said the department’s assessment of the project was supported by independent studies and had found there were no environmental or amenity reasons to stop the project going ahead, subject to strict conditions around the protection of water supplies.

“After careful consideration of all potential environmental, social and economic impacts the department is satisfied that the economic benefits of the mine can be realised without significant adverse impact,” he said.

“The department found the company has comprehensively addressed those factors which underpinned the refusal of a separate application in 2011.”

Mr Wilson said the project would be in line with the NSW Aquifer Interference Policy and have minimal impact on underground water tables and would not adversely affect the region’s water supply.

He said there would be no significant subsidence impacts on the region’s water infrastructure or major water courses.

He said any discharges from above-ground facilities would be limited under any environmental protection licence and could be adequately controlled.

Recommended consent conditions had been developed in consultation with the NSW Office of Water and a range of other state and federal agencies.

The conditions included performance measures requiring the mine to have negligible or minor impacts on all major streams, creeks and rivers and the development of an extensive ground- and surface-water monitoring network.

“The Wallarah 2 project would generate a significant number of employment opportunities in the local region, including 300 direct jobs and an estimated 500 flow-on jobs in related industries,” Mr Wilson said.

“It would also have direct economic benefits to the state, including an estimated $134 million in taxes and $207 million in mining royalties.”

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