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agrees that copyright laws need an overhaul, describing them as “overly long, unnecessarily complex, often comically outdated and all too often, in its administration, pointlessly bureaucratic”.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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Why we didn’t see the GFC: OECD admits failures

Among their most prominent thinkers, there is no consensus as to how – or whether – governments in advanced countries can improve lackluster recoveries. All in all, the situation recalls a cruel joke:
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How many economists does it take to change a light bulb? None. When the one they used in graduate school goes out, they sit in the dark.

Recently, economists at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published a retrospective study of its economic forecasts. This qualifies as an act of bureaucratic courage, because the record was predictably dismal. Not only did the OECD miss the 2008/09 financial crisis, but it routinely over-predicted the recovery’s strength. In May 2010, for example, the OECD forecast that the US economy would grow 3.2 per cent in 2011. Actual growth was 1.7 per cent. This is a huge error, and there were larger misses for some European economie as well. 

The OECD wasn’t alone. As the study notes, ‘groupthink’ is endemic among forecasters. The International Monetary Fund, private economists and government agencies — including the Federal Reserve and Congressional Budget Office — all committed similar mistakes.

In explaining its poor performance, the OECD cites three under-appreciated forces.

First, globalisation: The weaknesses of some economies, especially the United States’, depressed other economies through reduced trade and greater financial strains.

Second, fragile banks: Countries with undercapitalised banks fared especially poorly, presumably because the banks lent less.

And finally, economic regulation: Highly regulated societies had a harder time adjusting to adversity than more flexible societies.

All these underestimated factors made forecasts too upbeat, says the OECD. Interestingly, one item not on the list is “too much austerity.” The OECD economists found that they generally hadn’t underestimated the effects of spending cuts and tax increases intended to shrink budget deficits in Spain, Italy, Ireland, Portugal and elsewhere. Greece was a conspicuous exception.

This conclusion is surely controversial because many economists attribute the weak recovery to misguided austerity, especially in Europe. Just follow the advice of John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946), they say. When the economy suffers a massive drop in private spending, government should offset the loss by increasing its budget deficits. Europe’s budget cuts were too aggressive, they say, while US “stimulus” policies were not aggressive enough.

Perhaps history will vindicate this appeal to Keynesianism. Or perhaps not. The fact is that the United States did respond aggressively under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. It certainly didn’t embrace austerity. Federal budgets ran massive deficits — $6.2 trillion worth from 2008 to 2013, averaging 6.4 per cent of the economy (gross domestic product). Nothing like this had occurred since World War 2. Yet, the economy limped along. Why wasn’t this enough?

It’s not just Keynesianism that’s under a cloud. The same fate has befallen monetarism — the doctrine that stable growth in the money supply can promote a more stable economy. Since 2008, the Federal Reserve has poured more than $US3.2 trillion into the economy to keep interest rates low and accelerate economic growth. By monetarist reasoning, so much money pumped out so quickly should spawn higher inflation. Some economists predicted as much; it hasn’t happened yet. Consumer prices today are up a mere 1.5 per cent from a year earlier.

If you add the last six years of US budget deficits and the Fed’s injection of cash into the economy, the total is approaching $US10 trillion. It’s hard to believe that all this stimulus didn’t aid the recovery, but the fact that it resulted in only modest growth has created an identity crisis for economists. The promise they held out was that, through suitable economic policies, they could produce long periods of stable growth and – just as important – avoid prolonged slumps and lengthy periods of substandard growth. Clearly, they aren’t delivering on this promise.

The Great Recession and financial crisis changed behaviour in fundamental ways that economists have yet to incorporate fully into their models or theories. The widespread faith that modern societies were sheltered from deep and sustained economic setbacks has been shattered, causing consumers, business managers and bankers to be more cautious in borrowing and spending. Economic stimulus may offset this caution, but if it signals that the economy is weaker than expected, it may also further depress private spending. There are countervailing tendencies.

The faith in economics was, in many ways, the underlying cause of both the financial crisis and Great Recession — it made people overconfident and careless during the boom — and the basic explanation for the weak recovery, as stubborn caution displaced stubborn complacency. To regain relevancy, economists are searching for a new light bulb — or better use of the old one. Meanwhile, most are still sitting in the dark.

Washington Post

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Found: the facelift alternative

Age-defying lotions and skin-plumping potions are all the rage today but in 2000, when Maria Hatzistefanis founded skincare business Rodial, her cutting edge anti-wrinkle formulations were ground-breaking.
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“There was a gap in the skincare market for a product that offered an alternative to cosmetic surgery,” she explains. “Nobody was making products like that.”

Ms Hatzistefanis’ background is in finance, not dermatology. She gave up a well-paid job at Salomon Brothers to spend a year researching the beauty market and meeting scientists. After countless trade shows and unsuccessful meetings in laboratories around Europe, she finally found a lab that could develop the formulas she wanted.

“From day one I always knew that I wanted to make original products, I didn’t want to copy anyone else,” she says. “We are still working with the same lab 14 years later and we still use only original ideas and concepts.”Ms Hatzistefanis started out with a single beauty brand, Rodial, which is sold through high-end retailers, including Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Space NK.

Over the past five years, the entrepreneur has rolled out Nip + Fab, which caters to the mass market. The company has doubled its revenues year-on-year and will turn over £15m in the year to March 2014.Part of Rodial’s allure is the brand’s eye-catching product names. “Some of our products sound scary,” admits Ms Hatzistefanis. “We have Snake Serum, Dragon’s Blood and Bee Venom. They are all very safe but we like to play with the names of our ingredients to create a talking point.”

Products start at £19 up to £375 for Bee Venom 24 Carat Gold Serum.

The company’s love affair with edgy names began with Snake Serum, launched in 2010. “When a snake bites you, it paralyses the muscles,” explains Ms Hatzistefanis. “The main ingredient in our Serum is a synthetic venom, called syn-ake, which performs the same way as viper venom.”

Snake Serum was unveiled with great fanfare. Adverts featured a black viper coiling around the products; Kate Moss and Victoria Beckham were rumoured to be fans and sales skyrocketed.

“There was the occasional person who didn’t like the product because they hated snakes but, mostly, it caused a lot of excitement,” says Ms Hatzistefanis. “So we thought, ‘What shall we do next?’ ”Dragon’s Blood is a bright red resin from a tree native to the Canary Islands and Morocco. The sap has been used for medicinal purposes since the times of the Roman Empire. “It helps to take down redness and irritation and I loved the name,” says Ms Hatzistefanis.

The skin plumping products are marketed as an alternative to dermal fillers, the so-called “liquid facelift”. “We added peptides and hyaluronic acid to make it really high tech and now Dragon’s Blood is our bestselling range.”

Bee Venom completed the animal-themed range. “Lots of customers were asking for it,” says Ms Hatzistefanis. “We took bee venom and the latest stem cell technology to develop a range for more mature skin.”

The business has made other bold moves in recent years. In 2012, the Nip + Fab brand launched a product called Tummy Fix.

According to the e-commerce site’s analysis, 40pc of the people buying the product were men. This convinced Ms Hatzistefanis to start researching the market for men’s skincare.“Women in London spend about £1,500 a year on skincare,” she says. “Men in London spend £1,100 – it’s not that far off.”

The Nip + Man range launched in May 2013. Products include Manotox, the men’s alternative to Botox, the Bicep Fix and the Ab Fix, with Gemmoslim to battle the bulge.

Nip + Man currently represents just 5pc of the company’s turnover, compared with Rodial, which has 55pc, and Nip + Fab with 40pc. “But it’s growing fast,” says Ms Hatzistefanis.

There has been one wrinkle in the firm’s growth trajectory, however. “A couple of years ago there was a big issue with a plastic surgeon who talked to a newspaper and said that our products didn’t do what they promised and could be harmful,” says Ms Hatzistefanis. “That was very shocking.”

Rodial’s lawyers sent a letter to the surgeon asking him to show evidence to back up his claims. A media storm ensued. “People said that we were threatening the plastic surgeon for expressing his opinion. The media called us bullies. Our integrity as a business was in question. Whenever we tried to clarify things, we couldn’t make it right. It was a really dark time.”

It took four months for the situation to blow over. Sales remained stable throughout but Rodial’s relationships with its customer base were sorely tested.

Today, the business is thriving. The products remain a firm favourite of celebrity make-up artists for the likes of Kylie Minogue and Lady Gaga, helping to generate positive press for the brand.

The company is expanding its presence in department stores such as Harrods by introducing its own beauty counters. TV shopping is another growth area and airport sales are booming. Bestsellers, or “classics”, are a rarity, with customers demanding a continuous stream of new products.

“Beauty has become more like fashion,” explains Ms Hatzistefanis. “You used to launch a range and then maybe add one product a season. Now, the customer expects something new every six to eight weeks.”As new lines are introduced, poorly performing products are phased out. This is a “brutal” process, Ms Hatzistefanis admits.

A new range called Super Acids, described as an alternative to chemical peels, is due to hit the shops this month, to be followed by a make-up range in September.

After 14 years, Ms Hatzistefanis, who owns 100pc of the business with her husband, still enjoys the cut and thrust of the beauty industry. She has no plans to sell up any time soon.

“There’s so much you can achieve with a skincare product now,” she says. “Just imagine what we’re going to be able to do in 10 years time.”

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The Big Dry through your eyesPHOTOS

Dust is part of everyday life for people like James Rogers and Jody Fraser, who work on a property near Cobar. Picture: Jody Fraser James Rogers pulls stuck sheep from a dam on a property near Cobar. Picture: Jody Fraser.
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Hand-feeding sheep in the Riverina. Picture: Caleb Thomson

James Rogers at work on a property near Cobar. Picture: Jody Fraser

James Rogers pulls stuck sheep from a dam on a property near Cobar. Picture: Jody Fraser.

Dust is part of everyday life for people like James Rogers and Jody Fraser, who work on a property near Cobar. Picture: Jody Fraser

Just a few years after the last drought broke, paddocks are getting barer. Picture: Jody Fraser

Dams across the state are drying up, leaving mud holes perfect for stock to get stuck in. Picture: Jody Fraser

A familiar but heartbreaking sight for many on the land, this messy job is a regular one. Picture: Jody Fraser

Dust is part of everyday life for people like James Rogers and Jody Fraser, who work on a property near Cobar. Picture: Jody Fraser

Flat, open plains of “Furlong”, west of Hillston. Photo: Allan Vagg

Flat, open plains at “Furlong”, west of Hillston. Picture: Allan Vagg

Feeding cattle at “Furlong”, west of Hillston. Picture: Allan Vagg

Picture: Allan Vagg

Picture: Allan Vagg

Moving sheep lift a little dust. Picture: Allan Vagg

There’s a mob of sheep under that dust. Picture: Allan Vagg

A dust storm rolls into the Riverina. Picture: Allan Vagg

Picture: Allan Vagg

Picture: Ben Holmes

Picture: Ben Holmes

Picture: Ben Holmes

Picture: Ben Holmes

It’s dry at Mayfield, western NSW. Picture: Kayla Barrett

It’s dry at Mayfield, western NSW. Picture: Kayla Barrett

It’s dry at Mayfield, western NSW. Picture: Kayla Barrett

It’s dry at Mayfield, western NSW. Picture: Kayla Barrett

It’s dry at Mayfield, western NSW. Picture: Kayla Barrett

It’s dry at Mayfield, western NSW. Picture: Kayla Barrett

It’s dry at Mayfield, western NSW. Picture: Kayla Barrett

It’s dry at Mayfield, western NSW. Picture: Kayla Barrett

Drought conditions at “Barwonnie”, Mossgiel, NSW are a not-so-distant memory. Picture: Di Huntly

Drought conditions near Ivanhoe, NSW are a not-so-distant memory. Picture: Di Huntly

Drought conditions at “Barwonnie”, Mossgiel, NSW are a not-so-distant memory. Picture: Di Huntly

Drought conditions at “Barwonnie”, Mossgiel, NSW are a not-so-distant memory. Picture: Di Huntly

Drought conditions at “Barwonnie”, Mossgiel, NSW are a not-so-distant memory. Picture: Di Huntly

Drought conditions at “Barwonnie”, Mossgiel, NSW are a not-so-distant memory. Picture: Di Huntly

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Asylum seeker data bungle: Thousands could be granted refugee status

Details of thousands of asylum seekers across Australia were revealed, Immigration concedes. Photo: Luis AscuiFederal politics: full coveragePrivacy Commissioner to investigate data breachCall for independent Manus inquiry
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The Privacy Commissioner and the Immigration Department have launched investigations into how details of thousands of asylum seekers in Australia were inadvertently made accessible online.

The breach could potentially see thousands of asylum seekers in Australia who were previously ineligible for refugee status have their claims validated, one legal expert says.

Refugee lawyer David Manne said the law was “crystal clear that identification of a person seeking protection can result in them being granted protection on that basis itself”.

“It’s a fundamental principle of refugee law that a person seeking asylum should be free to make their claim free of disclosure of their identity to the authorities in their home country,” he said, describing the reported revelation as one of the most “grave and dangerous breaches of privacy in Australian history”.

Guardian Australia reported on Wednesday that the personal details of a third of asylum seekers held in Australia – making up about 10,000 people – were revealed on the Immigration Department’s website.

Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim announced on Wednesday afternoon that he had spoken to Immigration and had “been assured” that the information was “no longer publicly available”.

Describing the breach as a “serious incident” Mr Pilgrim said he would investigate how it occurred. He added that Immigration would provide a detailed report about the incident as part of the investigation.

Later on Wednesday, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison released a statement confirming that an “immigration detention statistics report” released on the department’s website on February 11 “inadvertently provided access to the underlying data source used to collate the report content which included private information on detainees”.

Mr Morrison welcomed Mr Pilgrim’s investigation and said Immigration Department’s secretary Martin Bowles had also tasked KPMG to review how the breach occured, with an interim report due next week.

He said the “unacceptable incident” was a “serious breach of privacy” by the department.

“I have asked the department Secretary to keep me informed of the actions that have been initiated, including any disciplinary measures that may be taken, as appropriate,” Mr Morrison said.

The Immigration Minister said that immediate steps had been taken to remove the documents from the department’s website after media alerted it of the breach.

“The information was never intended to be in the public domain, nor was it in an easily accessible format within the public domain,” he said.

Mr Morrison also told Sky News it was still to be seen whether the release of the information would have implications for the protection claims of the asylum seekers involved.

‘‘All people’s protection claims are considered individually on the merits of each specific case,’’ he said.

‘‘There would be no general rule that would apply to these sorts of things.’’

A report by Guardian Australia said the information online 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 full names, nationalities, location, arrival date and boat arrival information was reportedly revealed on the department’s website.

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.

Labor’s immigration spokesman Richard Marles said the report was an “enormous concern”. “Let’s be clear – this is a government with a culture of secrecy but it is utterly unable to manage secrecy,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Coalition MP Jane Prentice told Sky News that the breach was a “shocking mistake” and that the “full ramifications” would have to be examined.

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Brisbane protest calls for Manus Island closure

Protesters outside the Department of Immigration’s Brisbane office call for the closure of the Manus Island detention centre. Photo: Cameron Atfield Former senator Andrew Bartlett addresses a Brisbane protest calling for the closure of the Manus Island detention centre. Photo: Ashley Mackinnon
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Refugee advocates have protested outside the Department of Immigration’s Brisbane office calling for the Manus Island detention centre to be closed after the death of a detainee.

The Australian and Papua New Guinea governments have announced inquiries after violent clashes between security forces and asylum seekers on the PNG island left one Iranian asylum seeker dead and 77 injured.

Refugee Action Collective spokesman Mark Gillespie said his organisation had been in touch with asylum seekers, who were allowed phone access, and staff on Manus Island.

He said details of recent events were sketchy.

“All the messages we’re getting from the asylum seekers themselves and the staff at the detention centre are saying it was more than just them trying to get out, that it was an attack on the centre,” Mr Gillespie said.

On Tuesday night, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison conceded it was unclear whether the attacks happened inside or outside the detention centre.

“I can’t give you an absolute position on that as there are some conflicting reports at the moment and once those are resolved and the reasons for those conflicts then I’d be in a position to report on it,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Mr Gillespie said the Brisbane protest was organised on Tuesday following the violent clashes.

“A person has lost their life on Manus Island and we think that’s just tragic,” he said.

“We put it out on Facebook and, in less than 24 hours, this is the turnout.”

Former Queensland Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett, now the state convenor for the Greens, said he had “seen firsthand” the damage done during the Howard government’s Pacific solution.

“(It was a) deliberate policy of putting people beyond the reach of the law and beyond the reach of the media,” he said.

“What is happening now on Manus Island is clearly far worse than any of the harmful atrocities committed under the Howard government.

“This is an inevitable consequence of what happens when you dehumanise people, when you put them outside the reach of media and public scrutiny.”

Among the 50-strong protest was Julie Mauger.

“The government promised two things to the Australian people, that they’d stop the boats and that the PNG solution would work effectively,” she said.

“The riots on Manus and what’s happened this week has just shown that it’s simply not workable.”

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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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