Verdict imminent over Craig Thomson fraud allegations

Craig Thomson leaves the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court at the end of hearings in January. Photo: Michael Clayton-JonesFederal politics: full coverage
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Former federal MP Craig Thomson is expected to learn his legal fate on Tuesday, with a verdict set to be handed down following his trial over fraud and theft charges.

More than a year after Mr Thomson first sat in a criminal court while being accused of using union funds on personal expenses, Mr Thomson’s case is scheduled to return to Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday morning. Magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg told all parties at the last hearing he was hopeful of resolving the matter at the next sitting.

Mr Thomson is accused of using Health Services Union credit cards and a Flight Centre account to accrue more than $28,000 in personal expenses, including sexual services, adult films in hotel rooms and flights and cigarettes for his then wife during his term as the union’s national secretary, from 2002 to 2007.

He is also accused of withdrawing cash from union accounts for himself.

The prosecution alleges Mr Thomson continued using HSU funds for personal expenses even after he left the union to become the Labor member for the NSW seat of Dobell. He lost the seat in last year’s election, standing as an independent.

Mr Thomson, 49, pleaded not guilty to more than 140 charges of fraud and theft during his trial, which began in December and finished last month, with about five weeks off between two stints.

If found guilty, Mr Thomson faces a maximum jail term of five years.

Mr Thomson is accused of using Health Services credit cards and a Flight Centre account to accrue more than $28,000 in personal expenses, including sexual services, adult films in hotel rooms and flights and cigarettes for his then wife during his term as the national secretary, from 2002 to 2007.

He is also accused of withdrawing cash from union accounts for himself.

The prosecution alleges he continued using HSU funds for personal expenses even after he left the union to become the Labor member for the NSW seat of Dobell. He lost the seat in last year’s election, standing as an independent.

Mr Thomson, 49, has pleaded not guilty to more than 140 charges of fraud and theft.

The legal argument at the end of the trial related to the wording of charges against the former federal MP, as Mr Thomson’s lawyers argued he did not obtain any property or financial advantage by deception because he was authorised to use the credit cards, and that the card providers were never deceived.

But prosecutors maintained the HSU was the victim in the matter, as it was the union’s money Mr Thomson used on personal expenses.

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Love across the ages in online dating

When Lieselotte Achilles went to meet Melbourne man Peter Leith at her local Gold Coast airport last February she immediately knew she had ”found her destiny”. They had been in contact for three months after meeting on the online dating site RSVP. Eighty-year-old Lieselotte readily admits she’d made the first approach – months of emailing, phone and Skype calls quickly followed.
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Finally 84-year-old Peter arrived for a visit. ”It was like we had known each other forever. We found a love for one another never thought possible at our age,” says Lieselotte.

Peter speaks glowingly of his new partner’s radiant smile and the indomitable spirit of the woman who spent her early teens surviving bombing raids on her German town. ”We are now an ‘item’,” he joyfully announces.

The proud couple is part of a growing trend for older single people to join the massive numbers now using online dating to search for a partner. The overall figures are staggering with up to 1200 people each day signing up as members of the largest site, RSVP.

There’s no independent way of checking membership figures but both RSVP and eHarmony claim to have 2 million members and more than 4 million people have apparently joined RSVP since it was launched 17 years ago. Indeed, Nielsen Research last year found most Australians (51 per cent) had either tried online dating or would consider doing so.

These figures reflect just how many people of all ages are now single and keen on finding a partner. These days most young people don’t settle down until they hit their late 20s and that means plenty still looking for a mate at an age when their parents had been married a good five to 10 years.

Many remain unmarried through to their 40s. Indeed, the number of women in their 30s without partners has almost doubled since 1986. Then they are joined by floods of divorced people eager to sign up for the second marriage market. And, finally, there’s the baby boomer generation which now contains increasing numbers of singles – a mix of never-married, divorced and widowed.

Few ageing baby boomers are keen on shouting over the din of noisy pubs or bars trying to chat up prospective dates. Looking for another option, many are attracted to the gradual approach offered by online dating.

It allows for the ”self-paced development of a relationship,” says the smitten Peter Leith, who likes the arms-length opportunity to read through profiles leading to emailing, phone calls, Skyping and finally a meeting when trust is established.

”Neither party is obliged to hold their nose, pray and jump in at the deep end at their first meeting,” he says. And if an 84-year-old can do it …

Success stories are attracting new groups to online dating, both young and old. ”There’s recently been a move for more baby boomers to come online as well as more younger singles,” says RSVP spokeswoman Melanie Dudgeon, explaining the shift from the 30s to 40s group that dominated 10 years ago.

In June 2013, 11 per cent of RSVP’s more than 2 million members were over 55, with a similar percentage now 18-24. The largest group is aged 25-34 (33 per cent) followed by 35-44 (26 per cent) and then 45-55 (19 per cent).

Just as many men as women are joining the major websites overall, but eHarmony acknowledges more females than males in all age groups over 35 – reflecting the gender split among singles in the overall population.

The latest 2011 Australian census figures show more unpartnered women than men in all ages over 35: for 45-54 year olds there are nearly 70,000 more single women than single men.

The increasingly social acceptability of online dating has meant these large numbers of single women have recently become far more active, joining online sites and then actually approaching men.

When RSVP started in 1997, males outnumbered females almost two to one and it was rare for women to make that first contact. Now many older men revel in finding themselves in a buyer’s market, on the receiving end of a lot of female attention. Some love it, others find it overwhelming.

”I’ve been on eHarmony on three separate periods of three months and receive approximately 600-700 matches each period,” says a successful Sydney academic and writer.

Online dating has become hard work due to the huge numbers, with some people being swamped with attention and others hardly noticed. Facing such tough online competition, many seek professional help with the daunting task of presenting a profile that stands out from the crowd.

In the US this led to a crop of new dating ”coaches” or dating ”concierges” – offering to help take the hard work out of the online process by helping with profiles, doing searches, offering strategies and support.

The American eHarmony has just launched an exclusive 3H+ Service, targeting members earning over $250,000 and charging $5000 for personalised searches and coaching.

Similarly busy professionals can outsource the daily grind of conducting searches and sorting out suitable prospects.

With more dating sites starting up all the time, choices can seem overwhelming. There are now dozens of sites in Australia, including many for sex hook-ups, and a rash of new ones targeting specific groups such as the over 50s, usually attracting too few people to be really effective.

People most in demand – the young and good-looking and well-educated, successful men – are likely to get lots of attention on most sites, from free ones such as OKCupid and Plenty of Fish, to the latest craze for the younger set, the smartphone app Tinder.

The Tinder app offers a heterosexual version of Grindr, a hook-up app that allows gays to check out local action. With Tinder, potential matches living locally are judged hot or not – on the basis of a photo and perhaps a tagline or two – and with a flick of the finger accepted or discarded. This process is not for the faint-hearted.

Those with less obvious attractions need to work much harder, choose their dating site carefully and make sure everything is working for them.

Take professional women seeking to find a partner from the sparsely stocked pond of well-educated men. Even for women in their 30s the outlook can be grim. According to 2011 census figures, almost one in four women in their 30s who have a tertiary degree won’t find well-educated men of the same age – there are only 85,000 unattached 30s’ graduate men for 113,000 single graduate women.

This means graduate women must find a website with the largest possible pool of these highly eligible men – less likely to be found on the free sites – and one where they choose their own search criteria to find the best prospects.


n Australia, the obvious choice is RSVP, since eHarmony doesn’t allow members to search but rather provides members with matches based on personality tests. RSVP also enables members to remain anonymous by hiding profile photos, a major attraction for women in big jobs nervous about their public reputations.

Having posted an online profile, professional women can’t afford to sit back and wait to be approached, particularly if they are not displaying their photos. Many men limit their search to profiles with pictures. Yet women can still do well if they are prepared to make the first move – on RSVP they can show the photos privately to men they approach.

It’s surprising how women resist taking that initiative. That’s one of the most perplexing discoveries from my recent work as a dating coach – old-fashioned 1950s’ dating rules still have a firm grip on many otherwise cluey women.

They trot out all the old cliches – like ”men prefer to be the hunter” and ”they don’t like pushy women”. Obviously there are some men like this but most male clients report being delighted to be approached, particularly when the woman pays for that vital first contact.

That’s a bridge too far for Sydney divorcee Diane Rymple, 54, who has been using RSVP for more than three years under the name ”ladylikestodance”. She’s willing to make the first approach, sending free ”kisses” to prospective dates letting them know she’s interested in making contact. Often they respond positively to her attractive photos showing bright-red lipstick and a wide, warm smile.

But then, instead of paying the $5-$15 (depending on how many she buys) for a ”stamp”, which enables her to initiate email contact, she sends another free kiss, once again suggesting she’d like to hear from them.

”I think they are put off, but I’m just old-fashioned like that. A chivalrous man will have the breeding to be willing to make that move,” she says. It doesn’t help that she’s set her sights high – quite literally. She is 175 centimetres and limits her search to the small pool of professional men more than 182 centimetres. ”Men want a woman who wears heels. When I tower over a gentleman it doesn’t feel right.”

It isn’t easy teaching people that they need to be more realistic about what they are looking for – they can’t date anyone they can’t attract. It’s particularly difficult with older women whose last date was 30 years ago when they were in their prime, knocking young men back like flies.

Many don’t take kindly to rejection – the dating world is full of women complaining they meet only losers, hardly the attitude likely to turn their luck around. Miffed women often write profiles that include snarly comments about men such as ”No players need apply”, an approach that is unlikely to deter a womaniser, and other men may be put off by this negativity.

Men also make this type of mistake. I told one of my male clients that he was doing himself no favours stating in his profile that he had no interest in women with ”hidden agendas” – a dead giveaway that here was a man who had been burnt.

So often people have no idea they are giving the wrong impression. A woman chooses a profile photo from her recent trip to Paris hoping to display her sophistication, not realising it can put off even some well-heeled men who decide she’s a spoilt princess.

I tell male clients not to mention sex in early email exchanges after hearing from one man who was getting no response at all to his lively, witty profile and attractive photos. When he sent me some of the emails he was sending out I discovered he was boasting he was ”tactile, sensual and sexy”, which was as subtle as a sledgehammer and likely to put off even women in his age group still keen on the dancing doona.

Not everyone can cope with the online process of finding a partner. Some people are remarkably resilient, dealing well with the inevitable kicks to the kerb and treating the whole thing as an interesting adventure. They are the ones most likely to end up finding partners, or at least some welcome new friends. Others give up too easily when their search for a soul mate doesn’t immediately pan out.

Yet success stories are everywhere. We all now know couples who proudly acknowledge they met online and that new openness is contributing to the current explosion in membership.

Canberra man Paul James talks glowingly about his first online dating experience saying .

”It was a fantastically successful for me,” he says, describing the woman he met online and who became his partner as ”absolutely wonderful”.

Sadly, seven months into their relationship, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died 18 months later.

It took him a couple of years to be able to face the idea of looking again for a new relationship. But he’s now back on RSVP (using the name ”distantthunder”).

Paul felt online dating was his only real option as he works in a male-dominated industry.

”The circles I move in don’t have many women. Through online dating I can get into contact with women I just wouldn’t meet any other way.”

He knows the process can work and is just hoping lightning can strike twice.

Bettina Arndt is a journalist and dating coach.

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Bisexuality: it’s more about you than them

Over the years I have encountered several clients who’ve told me they are bisexual. One of them had a dilemma. A woman in her late twenties had experienced several short-term relationships with women and men since she was a teenager. For the past three years, she had been in a monogamous relationship with a male partner, and now he had asked her to marry him.
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She loves him and they both would like to have children. The problem is that she has never told him that she is bisexual; she prefers to be in a heterosexual relationship because settling down and having a family is very important to her. Now her difficulty was, should she tell him or not!

I am often surprised how many people know very little about their partner’s sexual past. Sometimes this is because they don’t know how to ask, or they don’t want to know because of insecurity or jealousy. Having to compete with a member of the opposite sex can even be more daunting!

Most people don’t understand the concept of bisexuality, and the assumption is often made that “you are either, gay, straight, or lying”. Many bisexual people complain that they feel like outsiders, who don’t fit in to the gay or straight world. It’s difficult for them to find acceptance and there are very few role models.

Gay men often believe that bisexual men are really gay, but in denial. Bisexual women are often mistrusted by lesbians for “sleeping with the enemy” while straight women may reject bisexual men out of misguided fear they may have HIV or other sexual transmitted infections. Bisexual men are told to make up their minds.

The sex researcher Alfred Kinsey noted more than 50 years ago, that sexual attraction varies along a continuum and he devised a seven-point scale to describe this. At one end are people who are exclusively heterosexual and at the other end people who are exclusively homosexual. In between are many graduations of desire. This third category, meaning people with some significant attraction to both genders is called bisexuality.

In Australia there hasn’t been much research done yet into the subject. However last year in the US a Pew Research Centre survey revealed that bisexuals differ from gay men and lesbians on a range of attitudes and experiences related to their sexual orientation. For example, while 77 per cent of gay men and 71 per cent of lesbians say most or all of the important people in their lives know of their sexual orientation, just 28 per cent of bisexuals say the same.

Many bisexuals avoid coming out because they don’t want to deal with misconceptions that bisexuals are indecisive or incapable of monogamy, or going through a phase (stereotypes that also exist among straights, gays and lesbians alike). They also feel that they are sometimes shunned by the gay and lesbian and the straight world alike.

Another client, who has been happily married for 20 years and has three children, has an active sex life with his wife, but he also has occasional anonymous sex with men. He explained that while he is not romantically attracted to men, it’s exciting and easy to hook up with another man and get a sexual release. But his wife found out and was devastated and she believes he must be gay or bisexual.

This scenario happens quite often, and the men in this category are known as “married men who have sex with men”. Most of these men insist they are not gay or bisexual. However it’s very confronting and confusing for their wives if they are found out.

So, with all the myths and prejudices that bisexuals experience, will they be more accepted in the near future? There are many gay characters in the movies or TV but very few bisexual ones. Exceptions include Nolan Ross, the wealthy software inventor in the popular TV show Revenge. And The Good Wife has an interesting main character, the investigator Kalinda Sharma.

As for celebrities, Anna Paquin, Megan Fox, Lady Gaga, and Angelina Jolie have openly stated that they are bisexual, but maybe it’s slightly more acceptable for women. Katy Perry famously performed a song called I Kissed a Girl and Madonna kissed Britney Spears on stage, but I doubt if Justin Bieber or Bruno Mars would have dared to kiss a boy!

What do you think?

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Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa slams Australian spying reports

The latest spying revelations and Tony Abbott’s response have once again irritated Indonesia, with Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa ridiculing comments by the Australian Prime Minister.
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Pointedly, Dr Natalegawa made his comments during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Apologising to Mr Kerry for doing so, Dr Natalegawa raised new revelations that, in early 2013 the Australian Signals Directorate had spied on trade talks between the United States and Indonesia – in particular over a dispute involving Indonesian exports of prawns and clove cigarettes to the US.

Dr Natalegawa referred to a statement by Mr Abbott that ”Australia collects intelligence to save Australian lives, to save the lives of other people and to promote Australian values”.

Mr Abbott insisted on Monday no intelligence is gathered by Australia except to help friends and neighbours – including Indonesia.

”I find it a bit mind-boggling,” Dr Natalegawa said, ”how I can connect or reconcile discussions about shrimps and how they impact on Australian security.”

Dr Natalegawa said talks that were being spied on had involved ”a very technical, bilateral, US-Indonesia issue”.

”To suggest as if the future of shrimp exports by Indonesia to the United States has an impact on Australian security is a little bit much, and begs some kind of serious question about what it’s all about.”

Mr Kerry declared: ”The United States doesn’t collect intelligence for the competitive advantage of US companies, or US commercial sectors.”

The United States has at least 32 staff inside its Canberra embassy dedicated to sharing electronic eavesdropping on Australia’s neighbourhood.

The existence of the Special US Liaison Office Canberra, or SUSLOC, within the embassy was not widely known until the weekend disclosure of leaked documents by former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, which revealed the Australian spying on the trade talks.

A US spokeswoman said the embassy did not discuss its personnel numbers. But a 2010 audit by the US State Department lists the special liaison office with 32 staff, making it the third-largest of the military sections within the embassy. The audit, marked ”sensitive but unclassified”, also shows other US intelligence ties to Australia.

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The ‘slaw that makes salad hot

Jill Dupleix’s Asian slaw. Photo: Edwina Pickles Jill Dupleix’s Asian slaw. Photo: Edwina Pickles
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Don’t stop till you get enough: Asian slaw. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Horchata Photo: Edwina Pickles

What is it?

A crisp and crunchy coleslaw using the pale, softer wong nga bak (wong bok/wombok/Chinese cabbage) and a hot, sweet-and-sour Asian dressing instead of the traditional raw green cabbage and mayonnaise. Chefs use it to add freshness and crunch to steamed pork buns, Asian tacos and smoked meats.Where is it?

”It’s our No. 1 best-selling salad,” says head chef Alex Alice of Melbourne’s multi-tasking Howler, part warehouse bar, part arts hub and part beer garden/diner.

”We use red cabbage and Chinese cabbage, roasted snake beans, Vietnamese mint, basil and coriander in a punchy, hot-and-sour red nam jim dressing and top it with crisp shallots and roasted cashews.”

In Sydney, the best antidote to the full-on, feed-the-man barbecued smoked meats platter at hot new Papi Chulo in Manly, is a super-refreshing Vietnamese slaw of red cabbage, Chinese cabbage, mint, coriander and Vietnamese mint dressed in a tangy nuoc cham of fish sauce, sugar, lime, water and vinegar. ”It’s the traditional accompaniment to Vietnamese chicken congee and ‘bun mang vit’ duck and bamboo noodle soup,” says Merivale Group chef Dan Hong. ”We needed a nice fresh slaw with fragrant herbs to cut the richness of the smoked meats.”Why do I care?

Because it’s one of those can’t-stop-eating things that people go crazy about.Can I do it at home?

Too easy. For a real crowd pleaser, add a packet of Chang’s Fried Noodles at the last minute for an extra bit of crunch, or serve with Chinese barbecued pork or chicken.Asian slaw

Toss the salad just before eating or the cabbage will soften too much.

500g Chinese cabbage

75g small red cabbage

100g carrot, peeled

3 green (spring) onions

100g snow peas

1 red chilli

1 cup coriander sprigs

1 cup mint leaves

1 cup Asian basil leaves

2 tsp soft brown sugar

2 tbsp rice vinegar

2 tbsp fish sauce or soy sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

sea salt and pepper

2 tbsp beer nuts or cashews, roughly chopped

1. Cut the Chinese cabbage in half, lengthwise, then finely shred crosswise.

2. Finely shred the red cabbage.

3. Cut the carrot into long shavings with a vegetable peeler then cut into long thin matchsticks.

4. Cut the spring onions, snow peas and chilli into long matchsticks. Toss with the cabbages, carrot, coriander, mint and basil.

5. To make the dressing, whisk the sugar and vinegar together, then whisk in the fish sauce, sesame oil, chilli sauce and olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Pour over the cabbage mixture and lightly toss, scatter with nuts and serve.

Serves 4 as saladSourcing

NSW Papi Chulo, 22-23 East Esplanade, Manly Wharf, Manly, 9240 3000

VIC Howler Melbourne, 7-11 Dawson Street, Brunswick, (03) 9077 5572

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Fears of looming China credit crunch spark new gold rush

China’s “unfolding credit crunch” is having an unforeseen and dramatic impact on gold prices as investors urgently stock up on the precious metal as a form of financial protection against a sharp correction in the world’s second-largest economy.
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This is the main reason why gold prices have unexpectedly shot up more than 10 per cent to breach $US1300 an ounce for the first time since November against the prevailing forecasts for weaker demand made by many industry experts at the beginning of the year, according to Adrian Ash, head of research at gold trading platform BullionVault爱上海同城论坛m

Gold traded on the Shanghai Gold Exchange has also reached a three-month high.

Rebounding is part of the reason for the rise, Mr Ash said, adding: “Gold lost 30 per cent and silver nearly 40 per cent last year. The world economy will struggle to deliver all the good news priced in by that crash. But China’s unfolding credit crunch looks central now.”

Uncertainty is growing over China’s ability to sustain the rapid rates of economic growth it has seen over the past decade amid concern over high levels of debt among its provincial governments. These concerns have helped drive sharp falls across emerging markets since the beginning of the year.

Mr Ash says capital flight is happening at a rapid rate in China because of the $US1.8 trillion ($1.99 trillion) of funds that have flooded into unregulated, non-bank “wealth management products” that offered very high yields, up to 17 times as much as cash deposits. Many of these funds are now feared to be trading at a loss, setting up a crunch moment.

“Bullion traders never knew before what would happen to prices if China hit trouble,” Mr Ash said, “because we’ve never before seen Chinese demand plumbed into the world market so deeply. Its jewellery buyers, together with rising mining costs worldwide, helped finally put a floor under gold in 2013. But while that kind of consumer demand will never drive prices higher, capital flight by wealthier households and money managers certainly can.”

Mr Ash says the first default that could be a sign of China’s credit bubble bursting was reported two weeks ago when a $US50 million coal-mining bond failed to repay investors on maturity. He says that about $US875 billion of other such products are due to mature in 2014 and that Beijing has few answers.

“Gold’s 2014 rally had been steady before, far quieter than the rebound from last spring’s record crash,” he said. “But rising for seven of the past eight weeks, something it hasn’t managed in two years, gold has now risen for six trading days running. That’s a very rare move, last seen when gold neared its peak above $US1900 during the euro crisis, US debt downgrade and UK riots of August 2011.”

Meanwhile, uncertainty continues to surround a 500-tonne discrepancy in China’s gold import figures and its domestic supply. The unaccounted-for Chinese gold has helped to fuel market speculation that the People’s Bank of China may be stockpiling or that bigger volumes are changing hands on the grey market as a hedge against financial turmoil.

But other brokers say the rise in gold prices last week above its 200-day moving average was mainly because of the fall in the dollar against a basket of other currencies. Commerzbank said that SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold exchange-traded fund, raised its holdings above 800 tonnes of the precious metal for the first time.

Telegraph, London

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Researchers make blunt point about bad acupuncture needles

Microscopic images of needle tips before and after use. Photo: RMIT People have been advised to ask acupuncture practitioners to check on the quality of their needles if they experience pain during acupuncture. Photo: Tanya Lake
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Australian researchers have questioned the safety of commonly used acupuncture needles after they found some had blunt tips and metallic lumps on them that could be deposited into people’s skin.

Researchers from RMIT University in Melbourne studied 20 randomly selected, single-use acupuncture needles from two popular brands widely used in many countries. One brand was from China and the other from Japan, however they would not disclose their names due to “commercial sensitivity”.

When they took microscopic images of them, they found “significant irregularities and inconsistencies” on the needles, including scratches, blunt ends, metallic lumps and “loosely attached pieces of material”, both of which sometimes disappeared when used on models that emulated human skin.

The Chinese brand carried most imperfections, with many needles having several faults, whereas the Japanese needles had generally smooth tips with few lumps or attachments observed.

However, the needle surfaces of both brands contained significant proportions of chromium and nickel – a mineral and metal that have reportedly caused skin reactions to acupuncture in the past. The researchers said small metallic pieces loosely attached to some of the needle surfaces were mainly composed of iron, chromium and nickel.

Writing in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine, the researchers said these metallic pieces most likely resulted from the grinding and polishing process in the manufacturing process, which should include cleaning to eliminate them.

“If the needles had been used on patients, these materials could have been deposited in human tissues, which might have caused adverse events such as dermatitis,” they wrote.

They also said rough needle tips may be causing bleeding and bruising in people and that highly malformed tips on some of the needles could be responsible for the “occasional unexplained strong pain in the needling area reported by some patients during acupuncture”.

The report said that while acupuncture was very safe, with low numbers of adverse reactions reported worldwide, the findings were of concern and should prompt reviews of quality control procedures.

“The first disposable acupuncture needles were introduced in the late 1970s. After more than three decades of developments in regulatory standards and manufacturing techniques, it would be reasonable for acupuncturists and patients to expect high quality in such a widely used clinical device,” wrote the researchers from RMIT’s Centre for Innovative Structures and Materials, Faculty of Engineering and Industrial Sciences and Traditional and Complementary Medicine Program.

An estimated 1.4 billion acupuncture needles are used each year, with China producing up to 90 per cent of them.

Dr Mike Cummings, medical director of the British Medical Acupuncture Association and associate editor of the journal said the study showed the needles “look as awful as they did 10 years ago” when research highlighted similar problems.

He said although it was “highly unlikely” poor needles would affect patient health, if people experience pain during acupuncture, they should ask their practitioner to check on the quality of their needles.

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Melbourne Food and Wine Festival to transform railway bridge with Immersery pop-up

Immersery cocktail. Photo: Roberto Seba Immersery cocktail. Photo: Roberto Seba
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The Immersery bar dumplings.

Johanna Picton, left, and Mary Papaioannou from Hassell at the Sandridge Rail Bridge Immersary site. Photo: Eddie Jim EJZ

An aerial view of the disused bridge, soon to be transformed into a thriving festival hub.Aerial view of some of Queens Bridge. Photo: Paul Rovere

Not many new restaurants can expect 80,000 diners in their first three weeks, but the Immersery Festival Kitchen Bar and Raingarden, now taking shape on a disused railway bridge and a floating barge in the Yarra River, is no ordinary eatery.

Seven of Victoria’s top chefs will take turns in the kitchen, dishing up dumplings and share plates created especially for the festival, and 22 bartenders will be pouring cocktails in one-night-only collaborations.

Welcome to the 2014 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival’s signature site, the Immersery Festival Kitchen Bar and Raingarden.

”This is a massive project,” says festival chief executive Natalie O’Brien, of the pop-up space, which packs down and vanishes after 17 days. ”It’s the largest scale construction we have ever attempted.”

A complex, nine-day build, the Immersery is using 15 individual contractors and 1.5 kilometres of PVC pipe, and, once it’s in operation, nearly half the manpower of the festival’s staff and volunteers.

It’s oriented around the little-known and largely ignored Sandridge Rail Bridge, a Victorian Heritage Registered construct arching across the Yarra River. It has been out of public circulation since the 1950s, when its use as a rail freight link was decommissioned.

Designed by Hassell, the project expands on the festival’s water theme.

Temporary sites – for dining, drinking, community gathering and education – will be built around the historic bridge, each site exploring water in its three states (liquid, vapour and solid; see breakout), while serving as the festival’s hub.

”The reactivation of the bridge was really about trying to push the boundaries on every level, to think of ways where we could be on water, over water and beside the water,” O’Brien says.

”We really want to represent innovation and express the food and wine of Melbourne, while pushing the boundaries on what can be achieved. It’s mind-blowing for me some days to think this is where we have got to.”

Johanna Picton, one of Hassell’s young team and one of the project’s designers, is excited as she walks around the site.

”We will be extending the bridge and laying a temporary floor. It will then serve as a roof for the dining areas stationed beneath,” she says, walking beneath the point where the Sandridge Rail Bridge juts out over Southbank’s concourse.

She points to the space that will form a wall of rainwater gardens planted in reclaimed 40-gallon drums, then opens plans of the PVC water pipes, showing how they will create a floating ”cloud” above the bridge, framing a new view for Melburnians across the city.

”Everything is reusable,” she says. The pipes from Melbourne Water are cut into usable lengths to be resold following the event, and the raingarden plants will go back into circulation at nurseries.

For Hassell principal Mary Papaioannou, the entire project has been a thrill.

”The fact that it is constructed over nine days, is packed out for 17 days and then it disappears is something intriguing,” Papaioannou says. ”That we insert a structure that is a little surprising, very intense and that is there to serve a moment. It’s adding a new public space to Melbourne’s landscape and I think that is really worthwhile.”

As exciting as the structure is, it’s the food that’s the real thrill for Huxtable’s chef Daniel Wilson. He is one of the seven chefs involved in creating a menu that celebrates Melbourne’s love affair with Chinese yum cha, brought to life by Peter Rowland Catering out of a shipping container-turned-kitchen established on site.

”The idea is to cook using water techniques,” Wilson says, the more creative the spin, the better.

For Wilson, as for the others involved, the Immersery offers the chance to reach out to Melbourne in a big way.

”This is the largest scale cooking event I have been involved with,” he says. Each chef will be featuring for one night during the course of the project, with food served alongside drops from Seppelt, Coldstream Hills and T’Gallant.

”It’s really what Melbourne and the festival is all about.

”Innovation and doing things just a little bit differently.”Menu sneak peek

● Reuben dumpling Adam Liston and Joel Alderson (Borrowed Space) revamp this classic sandwich.

● Spiced Wessex saddleback pork empanadillas Jesse Gerner (Anada and Bomba) goes for a Mexican spin.

● Chicken, shiitake, fermented seaweed, preserved lemon, nori and rice crunch dumpling Rachel Reed and Hamish Nugent (Tani Eat & Drink) have created a triangular parcel of Japanese-inspired joy.

● Scallop, Sichuan pepper and snow-pea tendril with black vinegar and chilli oil dressing Daniel Wilson (Huxtable) adds some Chinese spice.

● Eggplant miso dumpling Flo Gerardin (Silo) takes a fresh look at Japanese.What is a raingarden?

Gardening guru Jane Edmanson is thrilled about the booming ”grow your own” trend that is sweeping Australia and, as Melbourne Water’s raingarden ambassador, she reckons raingardens are the ideal way to create our own backyard Gardens of Eden.

”A raingarden is a specifically built garden that employs the idea of a diversion of water,” Edmanson says.

It can be done with all kinds of plantings, including fruits and vegetables.

”Normally, when you have a big rain storm, water goes whooshing off the roof and straight to the stormwater drain, where it is lost. With raingardens, the water is funnelled straight into a garden bed, getting water to the plants at the root, a much more efficient way, as water isn’t lost through evaporation.”

Good draining is essential, so scoria (volcanic rock) is used as the base layer. Next comes the pipe diverting water from the roof, laid horizontally on top of the scoria. On top of that is more scoria and sand, then a wick to take the water up to the roots (fabric rolled into a cylinder), then a topping of potting mix or soil ready to take plants. An overflow pipe is also installed in case of flooding.

”It doesn’t eliminate the need for watering,” explains Edmanson, ”but you are making the most of the rainwater when it arrives.”The elements

Explore the three states of water – liquid, vapour and solid – at the Immersery Festival Kitchen Bar and Raingarden.


A floating bar stationed on a barge provided by Port of Melbourne beneath the Sandridge Rail Bridge on the Yarra River assumes the position of water’s solid state. Expect new-wave twists on cocktail classics exploring the three states of water as prepared by some of the best bartenders in Australia. Thursday to Sunday night is the time for one-off bar collaborations that bring together MONA’s Void Bar (Hobart) with the Lui Bar, Bulletin Place (Sydney) with Black Pearl and Alfred and Constance (Brisbane) with LuWow. Self-guided wine tasting flights available. Seats 80 and is available for private hire.


Food and plant life form the basis of water’s most familiar state. Bite in to the flavours of some of Melbourne’s top chefs at a swath of dining spaces, from river-edge seating for 30 to ticketed undercover seating for 100, as they prepare food using a range of water-based techniques against the backdrop of vertical raingardens, where visitors can learn about the benefits of this resourceful approach to planting.


For the first time, an installation on the disused Sandridge Rail Bridge will open up a new part of the city to the keen and the curious. The idea of the project is to form an urban retreat, a free space where an artistic scramble of PVC water pipes forms a cloud canopy framing a new vantage point of the city, soundtracked by a water-themed sound installation. Carry up a drink and enjoy the views.

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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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What is the difference between farro, spelt and freekeh?

What is the difference between farro, einkorn, spelt and freekeh? C. Fraser
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Centuries ago, Western civilisation had a midlife crisis and dumped a whole lot of wholesome and dependable grains for a newer, more glamorous species from the same genus – namely, wheat. We mostly stopped growing grains such as einkorn (Triticum monococcum), spelt (Triticum aestivum spelta) and farro (Triticum turgidum dicoccum) in favour of modern wheat varieties such as durum (Triticum durum).

Freekeh is made from modern wheat varieties that are harvested green then roasted. Einkorn is still grown in parts of Europe on poor soils. In France, it is called petit epeautre, or ”little spelt”, and in Italy, it is called farro piccolo or ”little farro”. It can be cooked in a chewy pilaf or tossed through a salad with beans and tomatoes.

Farro, sometimes called emmer, can be cooked as one would steam brown rice and added to salads, but is delicious made into farrotto, similar to risotto, or simmered in chicken stock with sauteed carrots and celery to make soup. Spelt is high in protein and quite commonly ground into flour and used in baking. Depending on how the grains are processed, they may require soaking before cooking.

How can anyone eat persimmons? They are vile. E. Latz

Oh dear. There are two types of persimmon. One is mouth-puckeringly astringent until it ripens to form an aromatic jelly inside. The other can be eaten like an apple. I think you may have tried the former. The persimmons that are ready to eat are varieties such as fuyu and its more colourful cousin, jiro.

Varieties such as nightingale need to be ripened at room temperature to break down the flesh inside, lose their astringency, and reach their voluptuous and heady jelly-like best.

What can I do with jars of old marmalade? C. O’Neill

There is a great chef called Suzi McKay, who used to grow all her vegetables for her restaurant long before it was fashionable. She smoked her lamb racks in the flue of a wood stove and had a collection of aged hand-made preserves. I tracked her down to her restaurant, the Five Fires, at the Jordan in Port Lincoln.

Although I have not found any health authority information to back her statement, she claims: ”Properly made marmalade never goes off. It ages like wine.” She reeled off a series of ideas on how to use aged marmalade: try it in a bread-and-butter pudding made with croissants; or a steamed pudding with marmalade at the bottom of the bowl; or a dipping sauce or marinade for steamed snapper with ginger, chilli, fish sauce, soy sauce and marmalade.

”When I had the Harvest Home Hotel,” she says, ”I would sear a duck’s breast, slather it in aged marmalade, then throw it into a stinking-hot oven and serve it with a baked eggplant seasoned with Moroccan spices.”

What is the difference between Israeli cous cous and moghrabieh? K. Lang

Israeli cous cous, or ptitim, is made from wheat-flour paste that is extruded to make pearl-like balls and was developed in Israel during the mid-20th century. It is cooked like pasta and used in salads. Moghrabieh is a cous cous made from semolina, hand-rolled and eaten throughout the Arab world. Cooked in seasoned chicken stock and served with meats, it is delicious.


The sausage correspondence continues, with J. Simpson writing: ”Around 1965, when I was 13, I worked on Saturday mornings making sausages for [butcher’s name omitted for legal reasons] in Cronulla. These sausages were very popular, with people travelling from afar to buy them. One day we had a visit from a Food Authority inspector who took away various samples. X was subsequently prosecuted and fined for selling sausages that contained insufficient fat. When this was reported in the media, we were inundated with customers. It was highly suspected, though never proven, that X and the inspector were wartime mates.”

Send your queries to [email protected]爱上海同城论坛

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