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agrees that copyright laws need an overhaul, describing them as “overly long, unnecessarily complex, often comically outdated and all too often, in its administration, pointlessly bureaucratic”.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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Property group Mirvac strikes agreement with US outfit

Diversified group Mirvac has forged a relationship with the US based financial services company TIAA-CREF to co-invest in premium-grade office development projects sourced by Mirvac for a three year period.
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Called the Australian Office Alliance (AOA), TIAA–CREF will have the first right to buy a 50 per cent stake in any prime-grade Australian office towers, but only in projects that are acquired by Mirvac from now on.

It will not include the new City Tattersalls project in Pitt Street, to be constructed by Mirvac.

Under the scheme, the US group will provide the funding, with Mirvac will retain development risk.

Mirvac’s business will also provide investment management services, property management services and development services in respect of the assets held through the Alliance.

The news comes on the eve of Mirvac’s interim result, with analysts forecasting a net profit after tax of $214.7 million and a distribution of 4.4¢.

That compares to the result for the December 31, 2012 half which was impacted by asset impairments of $273.2 million. Mirvac reported a profit of $194.2 million, down 4 per cent, for the six months to December 31, 2013.

After those impairments and other asset revaluations, the statutory profit was down 69 per cent to $55.2 million.

Analysts have said the relatively high exposures to NSW and medium density residential sectors place Mirvac in a strong position to meet increasing demand by pulling forward project commencements.

Mirvac’s chief executive, Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz, said, said she was pleased to have formed a strategic relationship to acquire core office properties with TIAA-CREF.

”The alliance with TIAA-CREF is in line with Mirvac’s strategy to sell-down up to 50 per cent of major assets and development projects to strategically aligned, long-term wholesale investment partners.”

The analysts at JP Morgan said Mirvac should comfortably meet its 11.7-12¢ earnings per security guidance (+7-10 per cent) and the stronger residential markets should allow it to push Harold Park, Sydney, settlements into the 2015 financial year.

”Mirvac will use third party capital to fund half its office development pipeline (699 Bourke Street and 664 Collins Street, Melbourne projects),” the analysts said.

Mirvac is also looking to sell 50 per cent of its 275 Kent Street, Westpac headquarters, worth about $410 million and a further $500 million of ”non-aligned” assets to help fund its office and retail projects and recent acquisitions.

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Corporate penalties need to ‘create fear’, says watchdog ASIC

ASIC chair Greg Medcraft has defended the performance of the agency. Photo: Jim RiceThe Australian Securities and Investments Commission has defended its record as the country’s main corporate watchdog, saying Australia doesn’t have big enough penalties to deter corporate misconduct.
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ASIC chairman Greg Medcraft told a Senate estimates hearing this morning that the regulator was upholding its mandate and called for tougher government policy to help it conduct its job better. ASIC is facing staunch criticism for its role in investigating a number of cases.

The Senate inquiry into its performance follows a number of articles in Fairfax Media that revealed serious misconduct and a cover-up by Commonwealth Bank’s financial planning arm and the failure of ASIC to act promptly.

”It is frustrating – both for us and the public – when the penalty available to respond to misconduct is much less than the profit someone made in the process,” Mr Medcraft said. ”If this is so, then rational players in the market will routinely take that risk.”

”If the thinking of law-breakers is a tussle between fear versus greed, then we need penalties that amplify the fear and smother the greed.”

”We need penalties that create a fear that overcomes any desire to take risks and break the law.”

Dealing with whistleblowers

Mr Medcraft also said ASIC was attempting improve its dealings with whistleblowers that approach the regulator with information.

This includes establishing specific whistleblower staff and bolstering training around whistleblower protections and handling of whistleblower complaints.

He said the watchdog had a strong record on enforcement and was proactive in identifying market problems. He said Australia needed stricter penalties to improve its enforcement record.

”ASIC recognises a number of submissions were from people who have incurred significant monetary loss and suffered serious financial hardship.

”We appreciate the difficult circumstances these people face and the trauma that it can bring – and we thank them for their contribution to the inquiry.

”Individual losses are distressing. However, the settings established by Parliament for our financial system are such that no financial regulator can prevent all losses from occurring.

ASIC’s performance on the issue of whistleblowers is also coming under scrutiny by the Senate economics committee inquiry. The inquiry was launched in the wake of series of BusinessDay articles that exposed allegations of forgery, fraud and a cover-up by former CBA financial planners including Don Nguyen and Ricky Gillespie.

Hundreds of clients are believed to have lost hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of the misconduct. Commonwealth Bank has so far paid out $50 million in compensation.

ASIC has previously acknowledged that its dealings with a group of whistleblowers who contacted the regulator with concerns about CBA’s financial planning operation in October 2008 were “not adequate”.

BusinessDay has revealed that ASIC took 16 months to act on the information provided by the whistleblowers.

‘Front page test’

Following ASIC investigation into the actions of two David Jones directors, Mr Medcraft also called on companies to look beyond the law and at the “front-page test” when allowing their directors to trade shares,

“[Companies] do need to go beyond the law and you need to be careful about perception,” he said.

“Any company needs to make sure that the market has confidence in it.”

The inquiry began with the chairman of the Senate Standing Committees on Economics, Mark Bishop, questioning Mr Medcraft and his commissioners about ASIC’s investigation into the purchase of shares by two David Jones directors just days before Myer approached its rival about a $3 billion scrip merger.

Senators Mark Bishop and John Williams questioned the commissioners over the timing of the share purchases by the directors, which were made three days before a better-than-expected quarterly sales update.

But the ASIC commissioners, including Mr Medcraft, said they did not deem the information held by the directors to have been material, meaning that it could have affected the share price. They said the material, on its own, was not deemed material by ASIC, especially given that the like-for-like sales were 0.3 per cent lower than in the previous corresponding period.

Expert advice

ASIC revealed that Harold Schapiro, an experienced stockbroker, was the market expert they had engaged to assist them with the investigation into David Jones and allegations of insider trading and the improper use of confidential information.

Mr Medcraft said that while ASIC had issued a “no further action letter”, it was not a tick of approval and the corporate regulator held the right to open the case again.

He added that Myer’s offer of a nil premium scrip merger was “just a try-on … frankly”.

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Jimmy Fallon Tonight Show debut wins ratings with Will Smith, Lindsay Lohan help

Actor Will Smith joins Jimmy Fallon on his debut on The Tonight Show as host since Jay Leno’s departure.It’s one of the biggest events on US TV this year. Jimmy Fallon handily took the gold medal for non-Olympic TV viewing on Monday when he made his debut as host of The Tonight Show, succeeding Jay Leno.
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Twenty per cent of US households watching TV at midnight tuned in to Fallon, according to preliminary Nielsen ratings data shared by NBC on Tuesday.

Network NBC said the show drew 11.3 million viewers, which is short of the 14.6 million who tuned in to see Fallon’s predecessor Leno sign-off after 22 years helming the program.

NBC said the show – which started a half-hour later than usual due to Winter Olympics coverage – was “easily the number-one non-Olympic telecast” on Monday, as well as the evening’s dominant late-night program.

Trailing well behind were CBS’s The Late Show with David Letterman and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, each with 5 per cent of households tuned in.

Leno, 63, signed off from The Tonight Show after 22 years on February 6 as NBC relocated the show from Los Angeles to New York and put Fallon, 39, in the host’s chair in a bid to attract a younger, hipper demographic.

“I really don’t know how I got here,” said Fallon to a cheering studio audience after passing through a blue curtain to take the reins of one of the greatest franchises in American television.

“I just want to do the best I can, and take care of the show for a while,” he added.

“If you guys let me stick around long enough, maybe I’ll get the hang of it.”

His guests on Monday night’s show included Will Smith and U2, the latter performing atop Rockefeller Center, plus a parade of other celebrities including Lady Gaga, Lindsay Lohan, Mike Tyson, and Robert De Niro who paid back mock $US100 bets that Fallon would never host the show.

AFP, Reuters

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Rich harvest reward of tender care

Suri Talip with his black sweet japanese pumpkin. Photo: Katherine Griffiths Photo: Katherine Griffiths
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Suri Talip of Holder practises a form of organic gardening known as Yoko agriculture, which includes giving positive words of encouragement to the plants, giving ”true light” (spiritual energy) to the garden, and having gratitude for the fine tilth of his soil that produces easily lifted kipfler potatoes and black sweet heirloom Japanese pumpkins.

For Talip, gardening has a spiritual side, and he quotes Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet: ”And what is it to work with love? … It is to sow the seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy.”The Holder harvest

Rows of tomatoes, among them red and green striped tigerella and longish Amish paste, form a bower. The family reaped a January harvest of a year’s supply of purple Italian garlic, grown from garlic from organic suppliers in Melbourne and Canberra, and white onions, red salad and red Spanish onions, and cream gold (brown) onions raised from a supplier at the Exhibition Park farmers’ market. The honey and cream corn and breakthrough corn from Diggers Club in Victoria are growing prolifically.Orchard trees

Talip has planted five varieties of apples – pink lady, granny smith, sundowner, golden delicious and red fuji. He has nectarines, plums, apricots, figs, almonds, pomegranate, and an old peach tree they are trying to cure of curly leaf and brown rot. A variety of citrus includes oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, tangelo and cumquats. He espaliered young pear trees beside the chook run and round nashi pears dangle at eye height with sun-blushed williams bon chretien pears.Indonesian inspiration

Surianshah (Suri) Talip was born in Kalimantan Timur on the island of Borneo. In Indonesia his family had a wet paddy field and grew hill rice by shifting cultivation – after one planting and slash and burn, they would move back to that site five years later. They grew their own vegetables, tapioca, sweet potatoes and bananas and his mother was the greenest ”green finger”. He and his wife, Jackie Talip, met when both studied at the University of New South Wales. They have seven children. Talip came to Canberra in 1974 and taught surveying at Canberra Tech College (now the CIT). He lived in Charnwood, then ”in the sticks”, where he kept an organic garden and was vice-president of the Canberra Natural Health Society. He left for overseas work in 1977 and returned from Malaysia in 2007.Berry curtain

Raspberries are grown on single stems and trained up wires to create a living curtain between the house and a paling fence. They have just produced a second flush of fruit. There are goji berries, a bumper crop of youngberries, gooseberries, blueberries, currants, kiwifruit vines, rockmelons and honeydew melons. Surrounding the strawberry patch are the blue-starred flowers of borage that are used as an edible decoration on fruit salads.Nowra’s Yellow House

The Burketts of the Yellow House in Nowra are friends of the Talips and they inspired him to create an integrated garden incorporating vegetables, fruit, flowers and chickens. Since 2009 the Burketts have been selling heritage perennials through their garden nursery at the Yellow House and, apart from a vast orchard, their culinary ”wonder vegetable” is the choko.

Talip’s tips

Talip grows lemon verbena and uses the fragrant leaves in tea or adds them to iced water. To improve the soil he uses compost, green manure, mulch, liquid fertiliser made from compost, comfrey and worm teas. He has a small worm farm and the family keeps four isa brown chickens. A friend recently gave them two rhode island reds but they are having trouble integrating with the others. He is a member of the Diggers Club in Melbourne and subscribes to the ABC’s Organic Gardening magazine. Jackie French’s books are constant references, particularly Backyard Sustainability.

In the kitchen

Talip is the cook in the household and he cooks a variety of cuisines, including Mediterranean using homegrown mini black eggplants, and Asian dishes incorporating homegrown bok choy (pictured). He is also happy cooking scones for morning tea in the garden. Baked meatballs with tomato sauce made from homegrown tomatoes, garlic, red onions and capsicums were a frequent request from a seven-year-old grandson recently.

>>Susan Parsons is a Canberra writer.

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Alcoa denies carbon tax led to closures, job shedding

Shock news: Workers David Browne, Vince Purcell, Ben Bernabe and James A’Hern said they heard of the review two weeks ago. Photo: Edwina PicklesThe last aluminium recycling plant in NSW will close, leaving about 180 workers in western Sydney out of a job. Alcoa has also announced it will shut its Point Henry aluminium smelter and a rolling mill in Geelong, Victoria, resulting in the loss of 980 jobs in August.
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The company said the 50-year-old Victorian smelter was no longer economically viable.

A spokeswoman for Alcoa said the closure of Alcoa’s aluminium rolling mill and recycling centre in Yennora in western Sydney would result in the loss of another 180 jobs.

But the company contradicted federal government claims the carbon tax led to the decision to shut the company’s Point Henry smelter and two rolling mills in Geelong and western Sydney.

Treasurer Joe Hockey and Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane blamed the tax for the loss of nearly 1000 jobs.

A company spokeswoman confirmed ”the carbon tax was not a factor in the decision to close Point Henry smelter or the rolled products business”.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Hockey said the company’s decision was ”disappointing”, but ”predicable’ and linked it to the carbon price imposed by the Gillard government, which he said had added to the high cost of production at the plant. He called on Labor to back the Coalition’s legislation to repeal the tax.

”The carbon tax adds to the cost of production,” he said. ”It does, no matter what people say. You cannot say the carbon tax helps with producing things in Australia.

”At the end of the day, the carbon tax is a greater cost on business. It is a massive cost on aluminium smelters, obviously. A 50-year-old smelter with a carbon tax is never going to be cost effective.”

NSW Treasurer Mike Baird also blamed the carbon price for the company’s woes.

”With higher energy costs and increased manufacturing in neighbouring Asia, Australian manufacturers are clearly facing challenges in remaining open,” he said.

”It’s time for federal Labor to support jobs and vote to repeal the carbon tax.”

Alcoa had been exempt from 94.5 per cent of its carbon tax liability for its smelting operations as a so-called emissions intensive trade-exposed industry.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union NSW secretary Tim Ayres said the closure was ”the next wave of blue collar job losses in western Sydney”.

”There have been jobs flowing out of the Toyota and Holden decisions and a series of closures over the last few months,” he said.

Mr Ayres said Alcoa was the only aluminium recycler in NSW, churning through 55,000 tonnes of scrap metal each year.

”It puts a question mark over whether we can recycle aluminium,” he said.

”Recycling uses 5 per cent of the energy needed to produce aluminium. All of our scrap aluminium will have to be exported.”

Mr Ayres said the federal and NSW governments had shown ”hostile indifference” to the plight of manufacturing workers facing a ”jobs crisis in NSW and particularly in western Sydney”.

He said they had no plans to ensure Australia remained competitive in manufacturing.

”We have to make sure we have the capability to build more jobs,” he said. ”Barry O’Farrell is refusing to get involved. The north west rail link is the biggest project around and there is no local jobs plan attached to it.”

Vince Purcell, 50, of St Clair, said he first started working at Alcoa’s plant in Yennora at the age of 22 just after getting married.

”I’ve had one redundancy here many years ago. My current employment is 21 years,” he said.

”We were notified two weeks ago that this plant was under review. Up until then we were told our grandkids would have jobs here.”

NSW Opposition leader John Robertson said the closure of the Yennora plant was a blow for western Sydney.

”The O’Farrell government should be immediately working on a jobs plan for western Sydney and the rest of NSW that addresses the growing trend of job losses,” Mr Robertson said.

with Brian Robins

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Quirk hopes to show more flair for Reds

Ed Quirk, the Reds flanker with the World Wrestling Federation hair, insists Queensland are on alert for everything but an elbow off the top rope as they prepare for their Super Rugby opener against the Brumbies on Saturday.
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Quirk shapes as a key player for a Queensland side determined to find the kind of attacking zing that saw them skip away with the 2011 title. Last year, that attack faltered, particularly when they lost 24-6 to the Brumbies in 2013’s first round.

With a pack lacking the muscle and bulk of some rivals, the Reds are once again intent of swinging the ball around the park, rather than crashing one-out drives into the kind of muscular defence the Brumbies are certain to provide.

Coach Richard Graham wants the attack to flow not just from Will Genia and Quade Cooper but from the backrow. With a background in Sevens and a good handle on the ball, Quirk wants to see some more room when the chances arise.

But he said to exploit that opportunity, it first had to be gained at the breakdown. After losing George Smith, the Brumbies now bring David Pocock to the fight. It’s a fair replacement.

The Reds were stung by the physical intensity of the Brumbies in this fixture last year and never recovered during the match. Quirk said some heavy duty training with forwards coach Nick Stiles had sharpened them for the expected onslaught.

“They’re good. They’ve got some world-class players that get on the ball. We’ve done a lot of stuff in pre-season with Stilesy to counteract that so we’re a bit more efficient on the ball,” Quirk said.

“Just some hard stuff, him being an ex-prop, just getting in and getting your head in bad places.

“Last year we got caught out a bit but we’re playing a more expansive game. We want to use the ball more but if we have to dig deep and go, we will.”

The return of that adventurous spirit was evident in the first trial against the Chiefs but the Reds battled in their loss to the impressive Rebels last week.

Graham was hardly impressed but Super Rugby is a different ballgame and Quirk said the confidence was high, especially given the good news about Quade Cooper’s neck injury.

The Reds couldn’t best the Brumbies in two outings in 2014, while the ACT went on to make the grand final as the Reds dipped out early in the finals race.

Quirk admitted there was some history between the teams and the derby had become as heated and important as the more traditional meeting with the Waratahs.

“The Reds and the Brumbies had some history last year, with some really hard fought games. We didn’t come out with a win but to start off the season again with the Brumbies, it’s good for us,” Quirk said.

“It’s a new year. We had a poor ending to the season and they went through to the grand final.

“Both games were very physical and there’s a lot of Wallabies versing each other. Wallaby spots are up and a lot of guys push for that. And you want to top the Australian conference.”

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Inquiry into Manus Island violence should be independent, says Human Rights Commission

Federal politics: full coverageMichael 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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Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs has urged the Abbott government to appoint a respected former judge or public servant to investigate the conditions in Australia’s offshore detention centres.

Her comments come as Iran’s foreign ministry reportedly called in Australia’s ambassador to protest the death the Iranian asylum seeker.

According to a report from the country’s official news agency, IRNA, the ministry’s consular director, Hosein Mirfakhar, expressed Iran’s ”protest and discontent” to Australia’s ambassador to Iran Paul Foley.

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

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 said at a news conference in Canberra.

Mr Morrison said an independent review would investigate the violence. The secretary of his department, Martin Bowles, would “initiate a full review into this incident in the same way the former government commissioned previous reviews into incidents”.

But Professor Triggs said she did not believe these inquiries would be sufficiently objective.

”I think we’ve reached a stage now with the violence – both of course a year ago in Nauru and now again on Manus – that it really does call for a more objective inquiry into what is happening at these detention centres and what the conditions are that lead to the levels of very high anxiety and in some cases violence,” she told ABC radio on Wednesday morning.

Professor Triggs said it would be appropriate for a retired judge or civil servant to handle the inquiry. She also called on the government to appoint an independent panel to monitor conditions inside Australia’s detention network.

”I think that a regular monitoring body of respected professionals in the area would carry considerable credibility and would keep us all better informed,” she said.

Professor Triggs said she believed the “tipping point” for the latest violence was a lack of clarity about when asylum seekers would be processed.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said it was a “bit rich” for the Iranian government to criticise Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers.

But Ms Plibersek said: ”I think the reports [of violence on Manus Island] are very disturbing indeed and I think it’s important that there be a full investigation and that it is made public.”

Mr Morrison said that Tuesday evening passed without incident at the Manus Island centre and that conditions remained calm.

An asylum seeker involved in the incident on Tuesday night has been flown to Brisbane to receive treatment for a fractured skull.

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