Investigate claims of burns, say voters

Prime Minister Tony Abbott complained about the ABC’s coverage of the burns claims, but a new poll says two-thirds of Australian voters believe the claims should be investigated. Photo: Andrew MearesFederal politics: full coverageMichael Gordon: Demonising and secrecy must endFresh breakout at Manus Island
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Two-thirds of Australian voters, including more than half of all Coalition supporters, believe claims that asylum seekers’ hands were deliberately burnt by Australian border protection authorities should be investigated.

That is despite the Abbott government refusing to launch an investigation into the claims, while slamming media organisations such as the ABC as ”malicious” for reporting them. The result comes from the latest Fairfax-Nielsen poll conducted among 1400 voters across the country from Thursday to Saturday last week.

The ABC has also been strongly supported in the survey, with just three in 10 voters viewing the publicly funded national broadcaster as politically biased while 59 per cent said it was not.

Asked if they thought allegations that the navy had deliberately burnt the hands of asylum seekers warranted an investigation, two thirds of respondents, or 66 per cent, answered yes.

Even among Liberal and Nationals voters, the proportion in favour of an investigation was safely in a majority at 55 per cent. Those satisfied with the claims being dismissed as hearsay constituted just 31 per cent.

Among ALP supporters, the ratio in favour of investigation was 75 per cent – a figure that jumped to 88 per cent among Greens voters.

The government launched an unprecedented attack on the ABC earlier this month for reporting that Indonesian police were investigating allegations that Australian navy personnel forced asylum seekers to hold on to burning hot engine pipes aboard their boat as a form of punishment. The initial story showed graphic photographs of burnt hands along with the suggestion that the injuries appeared to support the torture claims.

The ABC subsequently acknowledged that its report may have lent too much weight to the veracity of the torture allegations, but stood by the story from its Jakarta correspondent, George Roberts.

However its reportage became a focal point for a slew of conservative-led attacks alleging the ABC was left-leaning, culturally biased against the Coalition, and without mature judgment.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott complained the ABC too often took ”everyone’s side but Australia’s”, as he criticised it for lacking a basic affection for the home team. He said the ABC should have given the navy ”the benefit of the doubt”.

Defence Minister David Johnston, however, made those comments look mild, admitting he was so furious at ABC management that he had taken a week to cool down enough to speak publicly.

He attacked ABC management for using ”weasel words” to justify its reporting, which he said had ”maliciously maligned” the navy.

”If ever there was an event that justified a detailed inquiry, some reform and investigation of the ABC, this is it,” he said.

While the Abbott government has railed against the ABC, 67 per cent of respondents said they believed it provided a more balanced presentation of news than commercial television news services. Just 15 per cent trusted commercial television news more.

Even among conservative voters, over half (53 per cent) said the ABC was the more balanced television provider.

Among the 31 per cent who felt the ABC was biased, a third called it ”pro-ALP”, 15 per cent said it was ”left-wing”, and another 7 per cent described it as ”anti-Coalition”.

However, just 1 per cent branded it either ”un-Australian” or ”anti-Australian”.

Support for the ABC has softened slightly, however, with the 67 per cent backing of its news and current affairs services dropping 3 percentage points over 14 years, when its support was measured at 70 per cent.

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Let’s go aperitivo

Aperolspritz. Photo: Anna KuceraItalians certainly aren’t above criticism (Silvio Berlusconi, anyone?), but when it comes to eating and drinking – and the rituals associated with eating and drinking – they lead a fairly blameless existence.
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Take aperitivo for example. The word, which comes from the Latin ”aperire”, meaning ”to open”, describes a particular type of drink imbibed before dinner to help stimulate the appetite. Usually dry and crisp like prosecco or slightly bitter like Campari, these types of drinks can also be found in other cultures (the French Lillet, for example, or fino sherry in Spain), but only in Italy does aperitivo operate as a verb as much as a noun.

The phrase ”prendiamo un aperitivo” is an invitation to participate in a post-work, pre-dinner ritual that involves having a drink and tucking into a variety of snacks that are often included in the price of the drink (though drink prices are often jacked up a little to cover the cost).

Some of these snacks are as prosaic as potato chips and bowls of nuts, but it varies from bar to bar and might also include grissini, pizza, little pasta dishes, fresh mozzarella, grilled vegetables and salumi.

Whatever the offer, the atmosphere of the aperitivo is innately civilised and convivial, leagues away from the idea of ”happy hour” or an all-you-can-eat buffet.

The drinks are targeted to the purpose of the aperitivo – getting you primed for dinner – with the most common being the Spritz (most commonly a mix of Aperol, prosecco and soda water, served over lots of ice with a slim wedge of orange) and the Americano (Campari, sweet vermouth and soda water either shaken with ice and strained or served on the rocks, both garnished with an orange wedge). Drinking prosecco, champagne or table wine (as long as it’s on the crisper, drier end of the spectrum) is also perfectly legit.

Aperitivo is widespread across Italy but is more common in the north, with places like Milan and Venice elevating it to a kind of art form.

It’s a little harder to come by in Australia but it does exist, though often you’ll have to pay for the snacks as you go. It may not be quite in the spirit of true aperitivo but, as the Italians know, even the idea of aperitivo is better than no aperitivo at all.

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Demonising and secrecy must stop, Mr Abbott

Federal politics: full coverageFresh breakout at Manus Island
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The apparent delivery of the first of Tony Abbott’s three-word promises as Prime Minister is being undermined by a lack of accountability that is unsustainable.

It is one thing to hold back information that might be useful to people smugglers. It is another to dismiss serious allegations as unworthy of investigation, and to besmirch those who consider it in the public interest to report them.

And it is another to continually demonise those already in indefinite detention in punishing conditions on Nauru and Manus Island, and to obfuscate on their fate.

Abbott’s ”stop the boats” promise clearly resonated with the electorate, but voters are entitled to know how that promise is being implemented and even Coalition supporters – or a majority of them – believe the claims of ”torture at sea” should be subjected to scrutiny.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison rejects calls for an inquiry because he has been assured that nothing untoward happened when a group of asylum seekers was turned back to Indonesia.

He says the claims that asylum seekers were deliberately burned are being ”endlessly repeated” in a bid by ”smugglers and others” to undermine the government’s policy, yet surely a short, sharp and independent probe could have quickly put them to bed.

The Prime Minister says he is ”thrilled” Indonesia and the US can have candid talks, but his joy will be tempered if our largest, nearest neighbour expresses its displeasure at how its opposition to his turn-back-the-boats policy has been so flagrantly disregarded.

Moreover, the lack of clarity about what awaits those already on Nauru and Manus Island is an invitation for tensions to erupt, as they did in a minor way at Manus Island at the weekend.

Telling them, as Abbott did on Monday, that ”if you don’t want to be in detention, don’t come illegally” might deter others from coming but only worsens an already fraught situation in the camps.

So does prejudging their claims by casting them as people who ”are living in a horrible country” and want a better life.

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UGL boss denies ‘blowing the place up’

Richard Leupen. Photo: Michele MossopUGL chief executive Richard Leupen has defended his 13-year tenure at the engineering contractor, claiming he had not ”blown the place up” after abandoning its interim dividend and scaling back the group’s 2014 profit forecast.
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UGL’s shares fell 12 per cent, close to eight-year lows reached in December, after engineering profits tumbled 40 per cent in the first half.

Mr Leupen, who has been UGL’s chief executive since 2000, argued the group’s business model was holding up ”reasonably well” under stress as a 27 per cent rise in property group DTZ’s earnings and a lower tax rate boosted first-half net profits. ”I didn’t get us into potentially some of the biggest trouble this company could have found itself in,” Mr Leupen said.

But continued weak cash flow – which is running at $9 million, an ongoing decline in engineering profits, and the scrapping of a dividend for the first time during Mr Leupen’s tenure showed UGL still had problems to tackle, investors said.

”It’s another result where their free cash flow looks poor,” said James Power, a research analyst at Legg Mason, which owns UGL stock.

Cash flow has been hurt by costs associated with some 1178 lay-offs and a planned spin-off of DTZ.

Legg Mason holds UGL shares because it hopes to benefit from a de-merger or sale of DTZ, but is also hopeful the group’s engineering business will improve if it wins some of the $4.6 billion of engineering-related bids in its order book.

”The amount of bids they have out there is very large compared with the last couple of years,” Mr Power said, adding he was open to either a sale of DTZ or a de-merger as long as the company reaps between $1.3 billion and $1.5 billion from a potential buyer.

UGL plans to consider unsolicited approaches from several private equity companies in the next two months. But it is also proceeding with plans for a stock market listing of DTZ in Australia with the hope of completing the split this year.

”It’s not clear to us if [the approaches] are just bait or serious bids yet,” Mr Leupen said.

But some analysts expressed scepticism about the sale talk, arguing that UGL may be trying to flush out potential buyers to avoid having to proceed with a dilutive equity raising of up to $400 million to complete the demerger.

UGL, which has gearing of about 35 per cent, scrapped its interim dividend to strengthen the balance sheet ahead of the demerger.

A lawsuit filed by the former head of DTZ, Robert Shibuya, in California alleging UGL had engaged in financial manipulation and discrimination, had ”no substance”, Mr Leupen said.

”It’s a vexatious claim,” he told journalists. ”There is no substance to it.”

”It’s an extortionate claim seeking money.”

UGL plans to take legal action to defend the claim and will also consider counter-claims against Mr Shibuya, the company said.

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Alcohol lobby link to dumping health body

Federal politics: full coverage
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Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash’s former chief of staff had links to the alcohol industry – and played a key role in stripping Australia’s peak drug and alcohol body of its funding.

Alastair Furnival told staff at the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia in a meeting in December that their organisation, established 46 years ago, would no longer be funded.

The Public Health Association of Australia and Australian Medical Association say the de-funding is not in the public’s best interests and must be reversed.

Fairfax Media can reveal that Mr Furnival ran the meeting where the council was informed of the funding cut, with no input from the Assistant Health Minister despite a former Liberal politician being a key player on the council’s board.

Former Liberal MP Mal Washer said he had contacted Senator Nash’s office on several occasions, but had only been able to speak to Mr Furnival.

”Normally when you contact them, they will have a yarn with an ex-federal colleague,” Dr Washer said. ”There was no reason given [by Mr Furnival] for the cut except for ‘We don’t have enough money and have a nice day’.”

He said neither Mr Furnival nor Senator Nash appeared to have much knowledge about the council, including its huge library of more than 100,000 drug and alcohol resources that will now have to close.

Mr Furnival resigned as Senator Nash’s chief of staff on Friday citing a ”smear campaign” against him after Fairfax revealed that he and Senator Nash had intervened to have a new healthy food website taken down, and that he had been involved in high-level food policy negotiations with the states and territories without disclosing that he co-owns with his wife a lobbying company that works for the soft drink and confectionery industry. At these meetings both declared no conflict of interest.

Senator Nash made a late-night statement to the Senate on Tuesday to admit that Mr Furnival had ”a shareholding” in Australian Public Affairs, after earlier stating he had no connection with it.

Documents lodged with the corporate regulator show it is wholly owned by another company, Strategic Issues Management, of which Mr Furnival and his wife Tracey Cain are the sole shareholders, and Mr Furnival was the director.

In 2004, Strategic Issues Management was described as specialising in co-operatives in the alcohol, transport and agriculture industries. Australian Public Affairs appears to have been involved in alcohol-industry PR at least as recently as 2012.

Public Health Association of Australia head Michael Moore said the government had to reinstate the council’s funding and reinstate the website.

The council’s chief executive, David Templeman, agreed the decision should be overturned. ”I’m just literally gob-smacked by the vetting process that has gone on in the Prime Minister’s office,” he said. The government had changed its story on why the funding was cut, first saying that it needed the savings and then wrongly stating that the council had been in financial difficulties.

”I know that the industry has not been happy with our advocacy, they expressed that to the chair of the ADCA board last year,” he said.

Council patron Ian Webster, Emeritus Professor of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of NSW, said in the past it had successfully worked with numerous state and territory governments, including John Howard’s.

It also helped develop the Hawke government’s National Drug Strategy. He said it was ”absolutely strange” to suddenly have its funding removed. He said it had taken a number of positions on alcohol – including supporting taxation based on alcohol volume, rather than product, and limits on advertising and availability – that were opposed by many in the industry.

”I do know that there are some powerful interests involved … we now have an alcohol-industrial complex at every different level promoting an economy where each on its own is reasonable, but together does a great deal of harm to the community,” he said.

Labor health spokeswoman Catherine King said: ”Senator Nash needs to make a full account of these matters. In particular why she chose to abolish ADCA and is opposing the health-star rating system in light of these conflict-of-interest revelations”.

Australian Medical Association head Steve Hambleton said the funding cut should be reviewed. ”When we see adverse effects and acute side-effects from a toxic product continuing to rise we have to really question the wisdom of de-funding a body that is trying to reverse that,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Senator Nash said there had been no discussions about whether the funding cut would be reviewed.

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Rutherglen reloaded

Last year the Terrace restaurant at the All Saints Winery in Wahgunyah scored a chef’s hat in The Age Good Food Guide 2014.
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Given that it is the only restaurant in the Rutherglen winemaking region to have received such a gong, it attracted a lot of attention and chef Simon Arkless was perceived by some as a shining light in the region’s culinary darkness.

But there is a more interesting dimension to this story than just the successful tree-change of a formerly Melbourne-based chef. This is not to diminish Arkless’ achievement (the Terrace under his watch is an excellent restaurant, deserving of the accolades), but to see it as part of a bigger picture, a generational change that is making one of Australia’s oldest winemaking regions one of its most interesting and exciting, too.

There is a weight of history here. The first vines were planted in the 1850s, and Australia’s first wine festival was held here in the late 1960s. Rutherglen fortified wines – tokay, muscat and port – have been world famous for years and the family names associated with them (Campbell, Chambers, Jones, Morris) are comfortably familiar.

It can all sound a bit dusty, but the place has a real energy that has been building since the mid-2000s, when many of the next generation of the winemaking families began to return to the region after studying, travelling, working and living in other parts of Australia and around the world.

Eliza Brown owns All Saints and St Leonard’s wineries with her sister and brother. She and husband Denis Lucey, owner of Melbourne restaurant Bottega, have worked to get the Terrace on the culinary map and, for six nights in January, ran a pop-up bar called Brown and Jones with Mandy Jones, of Jones Winery and Vineyard, in Rutherglen’s old fire station.

”It was packed every night,” she says. ”The locals, in particular, were very supportive. It seems that there is a market for such a business in Rutherglen and perhaps that’s part of a rolling effect from the energy that this next generation of winemakers brought with them.”

Jones returned to Rutherglen after living in Bordeaux for 14 years and not only became the winemaker at the winery that has been in her family since 1927, but opened the charming Jones Cafe, which offers a simple menu of French bistro-inspired food.

At Scion Winery, mother and son Jan and Rowly Milhinch, descendants of the Morris family, are making innovative, handcrafted wines using local heroes muscat and durif, while Michael Chambers has recently moved the cellar door of his Lake Moodemere Vineyards to the heritage homestead, home to four generations of Chambers, where lunch and tasting platters are served overlooking the lake.

Add picnics, with hampers available by prior notice, at Pfeiffer Winery; pizzas baked in the outdoor oven at the sustainably run Valhalla Winery; Pickled Sisters’ classic cafe fare; and the festivals Taste of Rutherglen and Day on the Green, and Rutherglen is, again, the region to watch.

Tastes of Rutherglen festival is on March 8-9 and 15-16. Phone 1300 787 929; see winemakers爱上海同城论坛m.au.

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Rupert Murdoch takes to twitter-sphere to spruik pay TV bargain

He may be worth billions but ”Citizen” Rupert Murdoch has not lost his common touch.
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He performed the public service on Monday of tweeting the great value to be found in the services of his pay TV/cable businesses for budget-conscious consumers.

”$90 for 100& 24/7 tv channels expensive? Try family outing two-hour movie and compare,” says Rupert, who has obviously graced the cineplexes recently with family in tow.

Last week Murdoch was tweeting about other thrifty deals such as the subscription offer from News Corp paper The Times, which was offering Spotify free to its digital subscribers.

”Fabulous tone quality. I link spotify to my Jambox,” he tweeted of the music download service.

Jambox, for the digitally unhip, is a portable Bluetooth speaker.

Don’t expect Bing Crosby on Rupert’s Jambox. Black Eyed Peas front man will.i.am is one of only 78 people Rupert follows on Twitter.RBA in the market

Is the RBA making a call on the housing market by putting a ”for sale” sign on its Kirribilli mansion?

The sales blurb describes it as a ”grand federation manor in an exclusive peninsula enclave” with six bedrooms, five with ensuite, 3.5-metre ornate ceilings and parking for four cars.

The home, which is next door to an RBA training facility, has been owned by the bank since 1986 but it has been rented as two separate properties to external parties for years.

In fact, this appears to have caused some issues for the bank when it came time to turf the tenants last year, with the spat making its way to the office of Glenn ”the Guv” Stevens.

In documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, an RBA internal email from June 6 reads: ”The letter from the [name expunged] is somewhat emotive and contemplates actions beyond the nature of the contractual relationship. We are looking for a polite, un-emotive response that clearly articulates our rights as landlord to terminate the lease.”

It adds: ”Noting this letter has been sent directly to the Governor of the RBA we are requesting a timely response.”

By June 14 a letter was making its way to the tenant on behalf of ”the Guv” and expiry of the lease was not the only issue addressed.

”I note your request to negotiate off market for the acquisition of the property, if the Bank decided to sell it. If the Bank were to sell any of its properties, for reasons of probity and in the taxpayers’ interests, it would approach the market transparently and at arm’s length.”

For the record, the RBA will be approaching the market ”at arm’s length” on March 22. No word on whether ”the Guv” is open to offers.Pot luck for Joyce

Qantas chairman Leigh Clifford added $1000 to the charity pot of his chief executive, Alan Joyce, just ahead of Monday night’s Qantas-sponsored CEO CookOff.

The only question is whether Clifford was in a charitable mood, or, was he rewarding his CEO’s successful appeal to government philanthropy last week?

Joyce also received $5000 from the Dick and Pip Smith Foundation, and $500 from Lachlan Murdoch.

It starts a social week for Joyce. He welcomes the cast and crew of hit US TV series Modern Family on Thursday as official sponsor.

Coincidentally, Modern Family is produced by the Murdoch family’s 21st Century Fox and is broadcast locally on the Lachlan-chaired Ten.A Williams worry

CBD is wondering if Kim Williams’ new role as an AFL commissioner might be causing a little indigestion for his former employer, pay TV broadcaster Foxtel, and in the free-to-air broadcast industry.

The AFL is already gearing up for the next round of negotiations over broadcast rights for its code.

Williams, in his former role as Foxtel boss, was at the core of negotiations on the last rights deal that Foxtel stitched up with Seven.

The deal didn’t go down well with Lachlan Murdoch in his role at Ten and is said to have helped ensure Kim’s departure from News Corp.

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Chill out with an icy brew

Melbourne’s iced coffee and teaSydney’s iced coffee and tea
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Cold coffee has been the cafe star this summer. From cold drip to chilled pour-overs, coffee sparklers and inventive riffs on the affogato, here is our guide to the hottest cold brews and where to drink them.Cold drip

What is it? This is a slow drip-filter infusion using laboratory-like apparatus. Hario, the Japanese Pyrex, makes a cold drip set-up consisting of a beaker with a tap at the bottom that sits over another beaker for the ground coffee. The tap is set to let water flow at the chosen rate – say, one drop a second (very scientific) – on to a filter paper on top of the coffee. Once the filter paper is saturated, water seeps through the grounds and is collected in a third vessel at the bottom. The slow brew time, anywhere from three to 24 hours, and robust ratio of coffee to water (as much as 80 grams to the litre) can produce rich liquor-like flavours.

Sample Coffee’s Reuben Mardan does a quick cold brew, about three hours, with fruity coffees such as Kenyans to produce a cleaner, less boozy cup. Bean Drinking’s Keith Reay uses higher-acidity coffees and Africans like the Kenyans and Rwandans, as cold extraction reduces the acidity in the coffee. The absence of aromatics in coffee served cold – a major component of flavour – means the method works best with clean-flavoured coffees that cut through.

Where to try it: VIC Campos Coffee, Carlton; Industry Beans, Fitzroy; NSW Bean Drinking, Crows Nest; Sample Coffee, Surry Hills.Cold brew

What is it? Ground coffee is immersed in cold water and left to steep for up to 24 hours, either at room temperature or in the fridge, then filtered and served over ice. The Toddy is a purpose-made immersion brew jug with a tap in the bottom and a cloth filter. (It has nothing to do with toddy palms or hot toddies. It was invented in 1964 by a man called Todd.) Aaron Wood, of Seven Seeds, says they brew at a ratio of one part coffee to 10 parts water, then give the coffee a second filtering through V60 papers. The result is clear and sweet, more tea-like, says Wood, and free of the boozy flavours that cold drip produces sometimes. Salvage Specialty Coffee in Artarmon bottles its Toddy brew and keeps it in the fridge ready to go.

Where to try it: VIC Seven Seeds, Carlton; NSW Salvage Specialty Coffee, Artarmon.Cold espresso

What is it? Espresso coffee made the normal way then chilled for serving. In Milan an espresso shot with some sugar stirred in goes into a cocktail shaker with ice and comes out nicely chilled: caffee freddo. At Everyday Coffee in Collingwood, they add sugar syrup and give it a good shake to produce a frothy, cool espresso drink with an interesting savoury sweetness. Kino Verzosa, of Paramount Coffee Project, Sydney, says the baristas there put a double shot of espresso, two cubes of ice and some sugar syrup in a cocktail shaker ”and shake the crap out of it”. The trick is to get it nice and frothy, he says. Copenhagen’s Coffee Collective claims the froth brings out the fruity notes and gives the shakerato, as it is known here, a special mouth feel. Also on the menu at Paramount is the iced long black, made with cold water and ice cubes in the cup first, followed by a double espresso shot.

Where to try it: VIC Everyday Coffee, Collingwood; NSW Paramount Coffee Project, Surry Hills.Cold filter

What is it? Filter coffee brewed hot and then chilled. Everyday Coffee in Collingwood brews filter batches with a Moccamaster automatic drip brewer then plunges carafes of the coffee into ice to cool quickly it before bottling it. Reuben Hills in Sydney brews pourovers with hot water straight on to ice for a chilled filter coffee hit. Paramount Coffee Project’s Kino Verzosa serves the coffee with the ice melted as a fully cold beverage. His recipe: 14-15 grams of coffee, 80 grams of ice in the beaker and 120 grams of hot water poured over the ground coffee.

Where to try it: VIC Everyday Coffee, Collingwood; NSW Reuben Hills, Surry Hills; Paramount Coffee Project, Surry Hills.Sparkler

What is it? A mixture of coffee and chilled sparkling water. Bean Drinking in Crows Nest uses low-sodium sparkling mineral water and cold drip coffee. Keith Reay, of Bean Drinking, says it is less intense and more approachable than some cold drip coffee: the coffee flavours open up to make a refreshing summer drink. Coffee Alchemy in Marrickville serves a cold drip with carbonated water, on tap, while Double Roasters down the road mixes a double espresso shot with tonic water and lots of ice: an interesting mix of bittersweet espresso and sweet-bitter tonic water, with a bit of carbonated sparkle. In Melbourne, Omar and the Marvellous Coffee Bird float a double ristretto of their Black Blend on cold mineral water. ”One gulp. A sensory explosion,” says Andy Gelman, of Omar, while at Reverence Specialty Coffee & Tea, they serve Slow Dance Coffee’s cold brew with sweetened sparkling water to make a summer cooler that is reminiscent of chinotto.

Where to try it: NSW Bean Drinking, Crows Nest; Coffee Alchemy and Double Roasters, Marrickville; VIC Omar & the Marvellous Coffee Bird, Gardenvale; Reverence Specialty Coffee, Ascot Vale.Iced latte

What is it? What it says on the can: a double espresso shot served with chilled milk and ice. This is the drink that coffee-flavoured milk tries to emulate. At Double Roasters, they brew espresso shots, then add chilled milk and ice. St Ali offers a ready-to-go variation with filter-style coffee. They brew batches of something nice and chocolatey and bottle it with fresh biodynamic milk as white and white, with two sugars to go.

Where to try it: Double Roasters, Marickville, NSW; St Ali, Carlton North, South Melbourne and Bondi Beach.Affogato

What is it? The classic Italian version is a shot of espresso over a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, a mix of rich coffee flavours and warm, viscous liquid contrasting with the cold sweetness of the ice-cream, melting into a creamy-milky coffee slurp by the end. Gelato Messina does a great version: a scoop of its vanilla gelato in a glass, with a classic Italian espresso shot on the side – pour it over and get going. Sample Coffee has been pushing the affogato envelope: its Kenji affogato marries condensed-milk ice-cream (from a local Japanese joint) with espresso, while its lamington affogato – a lamington, vanilla-bean ice-cream and a double espresso shot in a glass – has been succeeded this summer by the tiramisu affogato: mascarpone ice-cream and soaked sponge finger biscuits layered with a double espresso shot of the house roast, Pacemaker. In Melbourne, Vincent the Dog pours a shot of Small Batch Candyman over a Ferrero-Rocher-flavoured scoop – delicious.

Where to try it: NSW Sample Coffee, Surry Hills; Cow and the Moon, Enmore; VIC Gelato Messina, Fitzroy; Vincent the Dog, Carlton.

ALSO TRY

Industry Beans: fifty/fifty The Fitzroy roaster brews batches of cold drip coffee – say, a Nicaragua Finca Limoncillo – and 24-hour cold immersion brew – maybe Mexico Nayarit – then serves both. The idea: sip a little of each to get the flavour differences, then mix to make your own custom cold coffee blend.

Bean Drinking: Arnold Palmer The Arnold Palmer (iced tea and lemonade) gets a  Coffea arabica reboot at Bean Drinking in Crows Nest: the tea is substituted with an infusion of cascara (coffee cherry pulp), while the lemonade is Bean Drinking’s own homemade version.

St Ali: Cold drip negroni A coffee cocktail, with cold drip coffee adding Punt e Mes-like extra bitterness to the negroni’s usual Campari, gin and vermouth mix.

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Labor’s man an also-ran as Downer heads for London

Heading to London: Alexander Downer. Photo: Tomasz MachnikFederal politics: full coverage
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Former foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer is set to be named high commissioner to London in a move that would cut short the term of the Labor appointee Mike Rann.

The move is understood to be Mr Downer’s second preference after he lobbied hard to get the Washington posting but was rebuffed.

A source said Mr Downer’s links to the Republican side in the US capital were extensive but he was not so well-connected to the Democratic Party.

Fairfax Media has learnt the Abbott government has decided on the controversial switch with Mr Rann but, aware of the sensitivities, is not planning to announce the change until after the state election in South Australia on March 15.

The aggressive move would cut short Mr Rann’s three-year tenure, making his the second case of a former Labor premier being dumped for a former Howard government minister in a plum diplomatic posting.

But the news is not all bad for Mr Rann because he is likely to be moved to Rome as Australia’s ambassador there.

Mr Rann’s wife, Sasha Carrouzzo is of Italian extraction and it was known that Mr Rann had been keen for the Rome posting before his London job was announced.

Mr Rann is a former 17-year parliamentary leader of the ALP in South Australia and was premier from 2002 to 2011. He was also national president of the ALP in 2008.

Victoria’s erstwhile Labor premier Steve Bracks was blocked on the eve of his departure for the consul-general post in New York, shortly after the Coalition came to power last year.

He has since been replaced by the former Howard finance minister Nick Minchin in a move criticised as jobs for the boys. He is yet to take up the post.

Both South Australians, Mr Minchin and Mr Downer were conservative lions of the Howard cabinet and remain highly influential figures in the Liberal Party.

John Howard himself has also been the subject of speculation in relation to the Washington post, which is now held by former Labor leader Kim Beazley. Mr Beazley’s term was recently extended.

Other Howard-era figures have been appointed to government jobs, including Amanda Vanstone, who is engaged on the Audit Commission, and dumped Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella, who was appointed to the Australian Submarine Corporation.

Labor MPs are likely to be furious at the treatment of Mr Rann after the Rudd government elected to leave Ms Vanstone in Rome and the former Nationals leader Tim Fischer was appointed as ambassador to the Holy See at the Vatican in 2008. Former Liberal leader Brendan Nelson was also appointed by the Rudd government as Australia’s first ambassador to NATO in 2009.

Mr Downer’s appointment follows his recent conclusion of a post as chief United Nations envoy to Cyprus – a post he has held for five years. Persistent speculation has surrounded his next move, with the Washington slot regarded as his clear preference.

In a recent interview with Fairfax Media, he was typically vague: ”If any of those jobs came my way, I’d make a decision, but it would mean giving up my other jobs,” Mr Downer said of the London and Washington options.

Fairfax Media has been told Mr Downer has been lobbying hard for one of the roles despite claiming he intended to focus on his home state of South Australia, where he holds the state presidency of his party.

Mr Rann was appointed by the previous Labor government and took up his post in London in December 2012.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop scotched Mr Bracks’ post almost as her first decision.

Liberal sources at the time acknowledged the soundness of appointing Mr Bracks, but criticised the outgoing Labor government for making a political appointment which did not even take effect before the election of that year.

Mr Downer’s appointment would see him return to the city of his youth in a role previously occupied by his father, Sir Alexander, who held the post from 1963 to 1972.

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A corker debate

Numbers game: Whether a 20-point or a 100-point scale, rating wine is a complicated business. Photo: Graham TidyThe late Sir Kingsley Amis called it boozemanship: ”the art of coming out ahead when any question of drinking expertise or experience arises.” In a world awash with wine controversies, a crack team is about to wade into some of wine’s most hotly contested topics.
Shanghai night field

A session on March 2 at the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival promises outspoken debating and debunking of everything from vintage variation to closures, natural winemaking and scoring systems. What do those terms actually mean?Varying vintages

Wine grapes are a once-a-year crop, and the weather in any year – hot, cold, dry, wet – at any given location affects how the grapes and resulting wines taste. This is ”vintage variation”. Conventional wisdom has it that this variation is most evident in Old World regions such as Burgundy and Bordeaux; indeed, old-school, Old-Dart commentators have been known to contend it does not exist in sunny Or-Stralia.

Although most obvious in marginal, cooler climates, it occurs everywhere to some degree.

Is it desirable? Producers with trusted mass-market labels aim to deliver a consistent product and will minimise annual differences, often by blending grapes grown in different regions and conditions.

Premium winemakers aiming to express the character of a particular patch of land in an individual year are more likely to embrace these variations – up to a point, as they want their wines to be recognisable from year to year.We need closure

Wine-speak for the thing that keeps the wine in the bottle, a ”closure” is – in most of the world – a cylinder of bark taken from a cork tree in southern Europe. Since the 1980s there has been increasing concern about cork’s propensity to harbour and impart a chemical compound that makes otherwise good wine smell and taste like mouldy carpet – aka ”corked”. The cork industry has spent several zillion euros trying to counter this problem: through research; by changing industrial practices; and with international public relations campaigns. Cork remains the closure of choice in most countries, but most Australian producers regard corks with a vampire’s enthusiasm for garlic. Here, we prefer metal screwcaps. What’s not to like about screwcaps? Those who take the long view say we do not yet have a clear picture of how wines made to age for the long term will fare under screwcap. A criticism is that some wine sealed this way can be ”reductive”, a polite way of saying it smells like an egg sandwich in a warm lunchbox.Natural vs unnatural

Sound the klaxon and reach for your radiation suit – nothing generates explosive debate like the N-word. Natural practitioners advocate minimal intervention in the winemaking process and are often organic or biodynamic growers. They generally eschew additions (such as packet yeasts) used in conventional winemaking. The adventurous leave wines unfiltered; others use vessels such as clay amphorae or concrete ”eggs” for maturation; a few make ”orange” wines from white grapes fermented with the grape skins.

Supporters argue these wines are more exciting and a truer expression of the fruit than conventional, industrially produced wines. Detractors call it lazy, cowboy winemaking that results in unbalanced wines incapable of ageing well. In the demilitarised zone are those who applaud minimal intervention but believe it requires more skill and judgment than simply letting nature do her thing – and mutter that the word ”natural” is smug, divisive and undefined. This group includes makers who have worked for decades according to sustainable, minimal-intervention principles and methods, but neither use nor like the label ”natural”.

Some self-proclaimed natural wines show great character and finesse; some are proudly weird and – to their fans – wonderful; some simply seem off. Those without at least a little sulphur dioxide added at bottling can go from good to nasty quickly.Pssst, wanna score?

Wine is sunlight held together by water; bottled poetry; proof God wants us to be happy. So said Galileo, Robert Louis Stevenson and Benjamin Franklin. Can something so elusive be expressed in a number? To many wine buyers, an ostensibly objective score is easier to understand than a description.

So what’s the problem? Objectivity has its limits. One critic’s 90-point wine is not necessarily another’s.

Australia’s wine shows have traditionally used a 20-point scoring system, but the 100-point scale favoured by many critics is increasingly being adopted. Can you just multiply a 20-point score by five to get an equivalent 100-point score? Certainly not, say the critics. Although the 100-point scale appears more precise, it is generally applied in a narrower band between 80 and 100.

Acqua Panna Global Wine Experience – Storm in a Wine Glass, Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, March 2, with Tim Atkin MW, Sophie Otton, Steve Webber and Tim White, moderated by Mike Bennie.

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