Birds perish as scorching weather dries out Hunter Wetlands

Grim: Hunter Wetlands Centre CEO Dr Stuart Blanch said an estimated 100 egrets died in the recent hot weather. Picture: Jonathan CarrollEgrets are to wetlands what canaries are to mines, a Hunter wildlife expert says –if the egrets are fine, then so are the wetlands.

That’s why Dr Stuart Blanch, the CEO of Hunter Wetlands Centre, was so dismayed to find about 100 dead egret chicks at the Sandgate conservation area last week, as hot weatherdried-outthe ecosystem.

“When the egrets are in trouble, the wetlands are in trouble,” he said.

“These are high level predators. They eat fish, snakes, aquatic insects, frogs –that’s the top of the food chain, almost.

“They need everything else in the wetland to be going right. The flooding, the water quality, not too many weeds, the rest of the food chain. We love them and we love seeing them around. They are evidence that the ecosystem is working well.”

Dire: Hunter Wetlands Centre CEO Dr Stuart Blanch says the egret is an important part of the wetland ecosystem. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Dr Blanch estimated there were about 200 nests on the property, each containing one or two chicks, which meant between a quarter and half of the young birds were lost in the heat wave. While the weather was also a challenge this time last year, DrBlanch said last week’s harsh conditions were worse.

Blistering temperatures reachedthe mid 40s on the worst day, January 6.

“Birds can’t handle that, particularly young chicks,” he said. “We had dozens leaving our property. It was stinking hot and there was no water. A lot of the chicks that died were two, three, four weeks old.”

When Hunter Water heard of the wetlands’ plight, the utility donated three million litres of water to soak part of the dry wetlands and provide relief for the birds. Hunter Water saidit was possible because of conservation steps that had helped save water.

“Just like at the wetlands, the warm and dry summer conditions have also taken their toll on Hunter Water’s dams, which are at their lowest summer levels in more than a decade,” Hunter Water’s managing director Jim Bentley said.

“Hunter Water has made significant inroads to reduce our own leakage, including by using new tools to manage our water network better.”

Hunter Wetlands was established in 1985 and was added to the list ofWetlands of International Importance in 2002, according to the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

There is an estimated 200 plant and bird species at the site.

Wallarah 2 coal mine approved despite risk to Central Coast water supply

Wallarah 2 coal mine approved despite risk to Central Coast water supply Decision: NSW Planning Assessment Commission members (from left) Andrew Hutton, David Johnson and Dr Peter Williams at a November Wallarah 2 hearing.

Protest: Central Coast residents protest outside the Wallarah 2 Planning Assessment Commission hearing in November.

Concerns: Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council chief executive Sean Gordon outside the PAC hearing. An earlier Wallarah 2 proposal proposed mine infrastructure over Darkinjung land without consent.

TweetFacebookWallarah 2 coal project is completely unacceptable and completely unwanted.

Australian Coal Alliance spokesperson Alan Hayes

Mr Phillips said the mine was risky because of its threat to the safe drinking water supply of more than 300,000 people, and “has been knocked back by a previous state government for that very reason”.

“The Coalition came to power promising to end mining in sensitive drinking water catchments. They promised to stop this very coal mine – Wallarah 2 – but now they’ve given it the green light,” Mr Phillips said.

The Planning Assessment Commission approved the underground mine to produce up to five million tonnes of coal for 25 years. The coal would be exported to Korea and used in “local domestic power stations”, it said.

It noted that demand for coal for 25 years and the acceptability of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the end use of coal remained “significant uncertainties for the project”.

The commission acknowledged subsidence of up to 2.6 metres beneath a state forest area;increased flooding impacts for more than 170 property owners that could require lifting or relocating homes andincreased flooding impacts affecting 15 bridges and roads.

It also acknowledged that “economic costs and benefits of the project are finely balanced, with inevitable uncertainties about demand for thermal coal 20 years in to the future”, after Kores’ economic benefit estimate of $1.56 billion to the state was reduced to $32 million in a report commissioned by the Department of Planning.

The commission said it was satisfied impacts on surface and groundwater, and the Central Coast water supply, could be “acceptably managed”.

“The commission has found there is a small risk of impacts including to the drinking water catchment, and a small level of scientific uncertainty to these. On that basis the commission is satisfied the threat of serious or irreversible damage is very low”.

“Any potential loss to the water availability from the aquifer of the Central Coast water supply would be compensated by the applicant providing 300 megalitres a year of treated water to the catchment,” the commissionsaid.

The underground mine would provide 450 jobs during construction and 300 once operating, and any risks could be “appropriately managed and contained” by a “rigorous framework of conditions,management plans, monotiring programs and independent audits”.

Primary school program to stop cyber-bullying

HEALTHY HAROLD: Life Education has been teaching students about healthy lifestyle choices in NSW since 1979. School health education provider, Life Education, launched a new program on Wednesday aimed at tackling the rising problem of online bullying.

The program, to be rolled outat the start of 2018 school year, comes following the death of 14-year-old Northern Territory girl Amy Everett.

Ms Everett had been subjected to both online and in-person bullying, and tragically took her own life on January 3.

She had been the face of a marketing campaign for Australian hat company Akubra, at age six.

Read more:Tears for dolly as family and friends gather in Katherine

Her death highlights the renewed concerns about cyber-bullying which prompted Life Education to create the new module – ‘Relate, Respect, Connect’.

The program will be aimed at children aged 10-13 and teach them how to construct safe and respectful relationships.

“We must take a constructive approach to the problem rather than assigning blame,”Life Education spokesperson Kellie Sloane said. “Often, young people don’t see the link between their actions andconsequences.

Statistics from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute showone-in-three boys and one-in-four girls as young as eight and nine years old, are experiencing bullying on a weekly basis.

Further, over 60 per centof primary school students are nowon Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

“Across our community there is a need to promote tolerance and respect,” Ms Sloane said.

“There is more to cyber-bullying than just teaching children how to block the culprits.”

The new program will complement a cyber-safety module for children aged 8-10 ‘bCyberwise’ the organisation commenced in 2016.

That module was their most sought after program in the past 12 months, reaching around 70,000 students across the country.

Life Education has been teaching students about healthy lifestyle choices in NSW since 1979.

In 2017, they delivered their health education program in the Hunter to 26,462 studentsacross48 preschools, 129 primary schools and foursecondary schools.

To contact 24-hour service Lifeline – phone 13 11 14

Encouraging graduates to stay in the region

CHOICES: University of Newcastle students Olivia Cook and Kristy Mullen, weighing up their workforce choices once they finish their studies. Picture: Jonathan Carroll.A DECADE ago, at the height of the mining boom, much was made of the “two-speed economy” of the time, in which the mining sector flourished, while the rest of the nation stagnated under the weight of the global financial crisis.

Today, it can be argued that we still have a two-speed economy, but the division this time around is between the capital cities and regional Australia.

Here in the Hunter, we might only be a few hours’ drive from Sydney, but a host of economic indicators show that we are very much a regional economy.

This is no bad thing in itself: most of us live here very happily, and would not swap the lifestyles we have for the congested scramble of our southern neighbour.

But in the two decades since the closure of the steelworks in 1999, we have seen an acceleration of a trend that was already under way back then: the closures of the regional branch offices of major corporations that had traditionally been a source of stable, well-paying Newcastle jobs.

Unfortunately, the decentralisation that was promised by the arrival of the internet and the digital age does not seem to have eventuated to any real degree. Perhaps more tech firms will move here once the NBN is fully up and running. Butfor the time being at least, relatively few employers seeminterested in making the journey up the M1, despite the promise of cheap land and a captive workforce.

For young people –especially university graduates –who don’t want a career in the mining industry, the relative lack of higher-tier white collar jobs means that many will find themselves turning to Sydney, more by necessity than desire, to find work.

Some may eventually return to the region, but the more our best and brightest areforced to look elsewhere for the fruits of their education, the more that we as a society lose. It is fair to say that our civic leaders are aware of this problem. It’s an answer to the brain-drain that eludes us.

With the Newcastle CBD in the midst of a once-in-a-century makeover, conditions have probably never been better when it comes to attracting big, white-collar employers. And if the coal industry is the dying beast that an increasing number of thought leaders believe it is, then there has probably never been a more urgent time for this region to put real effort into really competing with Sydney.

ISSUE: 38,701.

How Ronaldinho shaped football for Generation Y

I can still remember rushing home from school in June 2002 to watch England take on Brazil. Twelve years old and deeply immersed in the World Cup for the first time in my life, it was 1-1 at half-time after Rivaldo had cancelled out Michael Owen’s opener.

And then it happened. Brazil were awarded a free kick on the right-hand side of the field, some 40 yards from goal. A young Ronaldinho stands over the ball as his teammates position themselves on the edge of the area, waiting expectantly for a cross that would never come.

He does the unthinkable – he shoots. Nobody sees it coming, certainly not goalkeeper David Seaman, who meekly stumbles backwards as the perfectly placed ball sails over his head and into the back of the net, just inside the left post.

Did he mean it? Was that a shot?

To this day, people argue about it but, in retrospect, when you consider the brilliance that the Brazilian would go on to achieve, there can be little doubt of his intent in that moment.

Ronaldinho was a relative unknown at that point, plying his trade for a pre-billionaire backed Paris St Germain in France. My only knowledge of him was as a competitor on Nike’s ad campaign “The Secret Tournament”, teamed up with his countryman Denilson and South Korea’s Seol Ki-hyeon.

But after that day in Shizuoka, everybody would know the name of the man who would come to dominate the sport, in on-field ability and off-field personality, for years to come.

Before there was Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and after Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo, there was only Ronaldinho. You couldn’t make a case for anyone else being the most popular player in the world in the time that he was at Barcelona: the face of virtually every Nike Football campaign, the cover star of the video game series FIFAin 2004, and then again from 2006 to 2009. He was everywhere.

From a statistical viewpoint, his numbers don’t jump off the page. In the modern arms race between Messi and Ronaldo, goals have been recorded at such a rate that virtually any other player in any other era seems profligate by comparison. But where Messi is slight and reserved, and Ronaldo often derided for on-field petulance, everything about Ronaldinho was just … cool.

His long flowing hair, that permanent, extra-toothy smile and the usually over-sized, untucked shirt: everything about his on-field persona was captivating. He would attempt flicks, dribbles and shots that few would contemplate. You can still type the words “Ronaldinho skills” into YouTube and be fixated for hours.

At training, we’d try rabonas, backheels, roulette turns and countless other tricks because he made them look so easy. They weren’t.

But that was the beauty of him as a player. Football, at its core, is supposed to be a simple game, and it’s supposed to be fun. He, more than any other player, embodied that ideal.

After starring in Barcelona’s Champions League-La Liga double-winning team of 2005-06 and winning the Ballon d’Or, awarded to the best player on the planet, the decline was swift. He would leave Barcelona in 2008 to join Italian powerhouse AC Milan but never again reached the dizzying heights that he did in Catalonia. And although he officially announced his retirement today, he hadn’t played since 2015.

Even if the peak of his career was shorter than most, few, if any, could say their’s was more entertaining or memorable. Even in 2017, when he travelled to the NBA’s All-Star game, a cavalcade of the world’s best basketballers lined up to have photos and exchange jerseys with him.

Here’s to you, Ronaldinho. Waking up, bleary-eyed at 4.45am to watch you in the Champions League was a privilege, and we may never see another player like you again.

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Families grieve for young couple killed in crash

Hannah Ferguson had just spent six wonderful days at her family’s farm with boyfriend Reagen??? Skinner when the pair made the fateful decision to travel to Dubbo so Reagen could catch a train home.

As the pair sat in a queue of six vehicles at roadworks just 20 kilometres from their destination, a prime mover careered into them.

Hannah and Reagen, both aged 19, were killed in the crash that also injured 10 people.

“Wrong place at the wrong time,” Hannah’s devastated father, Ian Ferguson, told the Herald.

The pair, who had been seeing each other for eight months after meeting at Charles Sturt University’s campus at Bathurst, had spent almost a week together at Hannah’s family property at Gulargambone.

The pair set off on Tuesday morning on the 110-kilometre trip so Reagen could catch the XPT at Dubbo.

Hannah, who had graduated from Dubbo Christian School and was about to start her second year studying a business degree at Bathurst, was staying behind to keep her summer job in Dubbo.

The young couple were in one of four cars that had stopped behind a utility and a B-double in the southbound lanes when tragedy struck about 12.30pm.

The driver of the prime mover, a 50-year-old man, suffered leg fractures and suspected internal injuries and was flown to Westmead Hospital.

He is yet to speak to crash investigators in charge of discovering how the tragedy occurred.

As the families of Hannah and Reagen grapple with the randomness of their deaths, relatives and friends of an 18-year-old man are questioning how he survived.

He was in another of the cars that were crushed between the two trucks.

His vehicle ended up under the semi-trailer, completely crushed except for a small pocket between a back wheel and the engine bay.

Somehow, he ended up in the pocket.

He was trapped for more than three hours before being flown to Concord Hospital’s specialist burns unit for treatment to burns to his back.

In a third car were the driver, a 43-year-old woman who suffered a broken arm, and two passengers, a 52-year-old woman and 25-year-old man who suffered minor injuries. They were taken to Dubbo Base Hospital and later discharged.

In a fourth car were the driver, a 26-year-old woman who suffered facial injuries and was taken to Dubbo Base Hospital, a 24-year-woman who was taken to Royal North Shore Hospital with a suspected spinal injury, a two-year-old girl and a 19-year-old man, her uncle, who were taken to Dubbo Base Hospital with minor injuries.

The girl and her uncle have also been discharged.

The driver of a utility, a 39-year-old man, and the driver of the B-double, a 27-year-old man, suffered minor injuries and were also taken to Dubbo Base Hospital.

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Hunter Street ‘nasties’ won’t change light rail cost: government

Hunter Street ‘nasties’ won’t change light rail cost: government TweetFacebookNewcastle Herald that he was not aware of coal tar being found but the air “absolutely stank of tar” in the first two or three days of work outside his store this month.

He said he had seen a black, wet substance in the material dug up outside his shop and had felt slightly nauseous at the end of each day.

Unions NSW spokesman Peter McPherson said the discovery of far more “nasties” than predicted had prompted fresh negotiations between head contractor Downer EDI and the state government over the cost of the light rail project.

Buta Transport for NSW spokesperson denied that an excess of contaminants had brought Downer and the government back to the bargaining table.

The spokesperson said the discovery of coal tar had been “expected” and had not affected the 2.7km light rail’s price tag, which stands at $290 million, not including $200 million to shut down and repurpose Newcastle’s heavy rail corridor.

RMS websiteHerald with aphotograph of what he identified as viscous coal tar dripping off a slabof excavated concrete in Hunter Street.

A substance transport engineer Ron Brown says is viscous coal tar on a chunk of concrete in Hunter Street.

He said coal tar was still visible in the street on Wednesday.

The NSW Roads and Maritime Services website says coal tar “may still exist as a road surface layer but is more commonly found as a discreet subsurface layer overlaid by more modern bitumen asphalt”.

“The most obvious way most Roads and Maritime workers identify the presence of coal tar asphalt, as distinct from bitumen, is the distinctive odour it gives off when heated,” it says.

“This odour occurs when the coal tar asphalt is milled and the friction heat from the milling machine releases coal tar fumes.

“Cancer risk can be managed with appropriate work processes and personal protective equipment.”

The RMS says the chemicals that make up coal tar have been found to cause serious skin irritation and photosensitisation, increasing the risk of sunburn,if protective equipment is not used.

The agency, after a risk assessment in 2007, decided that excavated coal tar must be taken to a licensed landfill and not re-used for any purpose, although the risk to the public when coal tar was re-used in road construction was “negligible”.

The website directs workers to stop work immediately if they find coal tar, wash exposed skin, apply sunscreen and wear overalls, impervious gloves, safety glasses and respirators.

The magic of little-known place en route to Antarctica

A trip to Antarctica is a gamble. Everything hinges on one almighty, uncontrollable, unfathomable factor – the weather.

It is not the cold. It’s not the rain and not the snow. It is the wind that is your master. The wind decides whether it’s safe to disembark the ship and board a Zodiac to go ashore, where the wildlife awaits amid the spectacular majesty of landscapes that exist nowhere else on the planet.

And so it was that after more than a year of anticipation and many days at sea, the first two stops on my 18-day voyage to the Antarctic Peninsula, via the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, were scratched.

“Sorry folks,” came the morning call over the Ocean Endeavour’s public address system, “but Carcass Island is not in our future.” Then, later the same day, what had been considered the more likely and accessible of the two Falkland Island wildlife stops, West Point Beach, was out as well. Too windy. Too much swell. Ouch.

Suddenly all the expectation that grew from fairytale imaginings was irrevocably punctured. I would never see all those little rockhopper penguins that I had pictured going about their penguin business in what had become my once-again-childlike sense of longing.

I felt utterly deflated.

So many on the ship were downcast. Not angry. Just quietly miserable and sombre.

Then came some hope – literally, as it turns out, because that was her name. Esperanza, Spanish for hope, was the ship’s doctor. We sat together one night at dinner. When the conversation turned to our abandoned landings, she told me something that threw everything into stark relief.

She had been on one journey where the passengers were able to disembark for only one day and a half. That was it. On a week-long voyage, it was safe to disembark for 36 hours. The rest of the time the passengers were, in effect, prisoners on the ship.

Suddenly having missed those two landings did not seem so bad. We had been on terra firma a few times by then, done some cruising in the Zodiacs, seen Magellanic penguins in the Falklands and king penguins and fur seals in South Georgia, and albatross and petrels and dolphins and so much more.

I asked her what her favourite place was on this particular itinerary, and she said Gold Harbour, in the South Georgia Islands. We had not yet stopped there and I wondered what was so special about it. “It’s magical,” she said, simply, because there are animals everywhere.

On shore at 6am, it was an early start for Gold Harbour, so much so that I contemplated staying in my warm bed. A lot of passengers did exactly that but I dragged myself up, donned my layers and waterproofs and went ashore. I wanted to see what was so magical about this place, with its many species and a spectacular Bertrab Glacier as its backdrop. My expectations were dulled at this point, because I know that one person’s paradise isn’t necessarily the next person’s, but I wanted to see for myself.

I walked ashore, removing my lifejacket as I went and then taking all the things I would need out of my waterproof bag so they were accessible. I wasn’t really looking around me as I concentrated on my preparations. But as it turns out, there were some baby elephant seals – about a month old and just weaned – concentrating on me.

I looked down to see three of of them approaching me at speed, flubbering their big fat bodies along the ground, with one making definite and determined eyes at my knee.

The weaners, with their giant, shiny, wide brown eyes, were in search of milk, and apparently I looked a likely candidate.

I stepped back, conscious of the repeated instructions we had had to maintain distance from the animals at all times. Then Shane, the expedition leader called out, “They won’t hurt you”.

I’m not worried about them hurting me, I said, I’m worried about the rules. Turns out if the animal comes to you, it’s different. It’s OK when they breach the five-metre rule.

In fact, it’s not just OK. It really is magical.

And as the others on shore walked away to marvel at the raucous king penguin colony further along the beach, I stayed put. The elephant seals gathered around my feet, looking up at me hopefully, clearly missing the warm milk their mothers were now withholding.

I crouched down on the shore and let the seals come to me, as much and as close as they liked. They did. One was in my lap, a totally wild animal, utterly trusting of another species, without a suggestion of fear or even caution. There are very few places in the world where that is even conceivable. Here, it is normal. But for some reason, only at the beach in Gold Harbour.

Eventually I picked myself up off the black sand and trudged up the beach to see what we had come here to witness: Nesting adult king penguins and last year’s chicks, spread out as far as the eye can see, in the shadow of a magnificent glacier and intermingled with egg-thieving skuas, gentoo penguins, every vista was crammed with fearless animals.

It truly was wonderful and like so many other stops on the journey, which took us to parts of the Antarctic Peninsula where there were macaroni penguins and Adelies and chinstraps and leopard seals and kilometres-long icebergs, it was breathtaking.

But the magic of that moment, when a wild animal has total trust in you, was unimaginably special and utterly unforgettable. TRIP NOTESMORE


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LATAM and Qantas offer direct flights from Melbourne and Sydney to Santiago, Chile, and from there, connections are available through a number of airlines. See latam苏州美甲学校, qantas苏州美甲学校. Air New Zealand has a non-stop flight from Auckland to Buenos Aires. See airnewzealand苏州美甲学校419论坛TOUR

Peregrine Adventures runs a number of tours to Antarctica. The 20-day Falklands (Malvinas), South Georgia and Antarctica tour, departs from and returns to Buenos Aires, and includes full-board accommodation onboard the Ocean Endeavour. Extras include cross-country skiing, mountain climbing, stand-up paddle-boarding, ice camping and a range of other activities, at an additional cost. Not all activities are offered on all departures. Prices start from $16,520 per person. See peregrineadventures苏州美甲学校/antarctica/ocean-endeavour

The writer travelled at her own expense.

Cambodian court delays bail decision on Ricketson

Phnom Penh: Declaring that journalism is not a crime, accused Australian spy James Ricketson was ordered returned to one of Cambodia’s harshest prisons on Wednesday after judges delayed announcing whether he could be released on bail.

“I have a right to free speech under the Cambodian constitution,” 68-year-old Ricketson said as guards led him from the country’s Supreme Court.

“I would like to think the Australian government would defend my right to free speech,” he said.

Ricketson arrived at the court almost an hour after the delay was announced in an apparent jail transfer mix-up.

“I’d love to know what country I am supposed to be spying for,” Ricketson told Fairfax Media while handcuffed to another prisoner.

Court officials said the case was delayed until January 31 because authorities were late bringing Ricketson from jail for Wednesday’s hearing.

Ricketson said he was not confident of being released on bail because it would be a “loss of face” for those building a case against him.

Authorities are investigating Ricketson over his alleged links to a now-disbanded opposition party, which has been accused of attempting to overthrow strongman Hun Sen in a purported United States-backed conspiracy.

He was arrested after flying a drone over a rally on Phnom Penh’s riverfront staged by the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party in June and accused of spying against the government.

The opposition party’s leaders have been jailed, are in hiding or have fled the country in a sweeping crackdown on opponents of Hun Sen ahead of elections scheduled for mid-year.

Analysts say the supposed conspiracy has provided Hun Sen, one of the world’s most notorious autocrats, with an excuse to target his political opponents, as he shrugs off any pretence of democracy in the country where Australia has a deal to send refugees from Nauru.

Opposition figures and the US have strongly denied involvement in any conspiracy.

Ricketson, a prolific letter writer and blogger and award-winning documentary maker from Sydney, was a familiar figure over years at opposition and protest rallies in Phnom Penh, where he has been filming a documentary on a former street beggar he has supported for decades.

Ricketson told an earlier court hearing he came to Cambodia “to help poor people and make films, not to be a spy”.

For years he has supported scavengers at a rubbish dump on the outskirts of Phnom Penh while writing critical blogs about some non-government-organisations in Phnom Penh and campaigning against the conviction of a convicted British child sex offender, who he says is innocent.

Ricketson has been held in pre-trial detention since June in Prey Sar, one of Cambodia’s notoriously harsh jails, as he protests his innocence.

“I am still confused as to what I have done other than flying a drone without a permit to deserve such punishment,” Ricketson wrote from a cell he is sharing with 27 other prisoners.

The circumstances of his arrest and detention have been murky.

Officials said he has been accused of spying “for a foreign state or agents” but provided no further details.

Fresh News, a pro-government news site, accused Ricketson of being an “important spy” and linked him to the supposed plot to overthrow Hun Sen that allegedly involved opposition leaders, staff of NGOs, US embassy officials and journalists.

Support for Ricketson is growing in Australia where thousands of people have signed a petition calling for his release and criticising the Turnbull government for failing to intervene in his case.

Australian journalist Peter Greste, a press freedom advocate who was jailed along with two other Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt, has thrown his support behind the campaign.

Greste tweeted to his 50,000 followers: “Help free another journalist in prison on national security charges. No evidence that James Ricketson in Cambodia is guilty of anything other than caring.”

People who know Ricketson say any suggestion he is was spying is ludicrous.

Ricketson is suffering un-medicated high blood pressure and other ailments and his family fear he may die in jail.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the “Australian Government is continuing to provide consular support, while ensuring we do not prejudice in any way his current situation.”

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‘Simply outrageous’: Train strike could cost economy $100m

Commuters wait for the train at Strathfield station as timetable changes and shortage of train drivers has forced some services to be cut. Strathfield, Sydney. 15th January, 2018. Photo: Kate Geraghty NSW Premier Mike Baird, Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian and Sydney Business Chamber Executive Director Patricia Forsythe make a business tax announcement.Photo Nick Moir 13 June 2016

NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance (left) & Sydney Trains CEO Howard Collins (right) at Martin Place train station. Sydney CBD. 15th January, 2018. Photo: Kate Geraghty

A planned 24-hour train strike later this month could cost the local economy more than $100 million, the Sydney Business Chamber says, labelling the strike “simply outrageous”.

Patricia Forsythe, executive director of the Chamber, also said the rail union’s call for people to stay home on the day of the planned strike on January 29 was irresponsible.

“It’s one of the busiest days of the work year: the Monday after the Australia Day holiday is traditionally one when basically all of the workforce is back from summer holidays, schools are returning. It is a significant day in our economy,” she said.

“If they were going to pick a day for maximum disruption they’ve certainly done that.”

Ms Forsythe said the Business Chamber’s estimate was based on the fact about 10 per cent of the workforce in greater Sydney use the rail system to get to work, and Sydney had a “billion dollar economy”.

“Our estimate – and it depends on how many people can’t get other means of transport – is that it could effectively cost the Sydney economy more than $100 million,” she said.

“Without a doubt it represents millions and millions of dollars to our economy.”

On Wednesday, the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) announced the details of their planned strike, saying NSW train workers will stop work at 12.01am on Monday, January 29 and start work again at 12.01am on Tuesday.

The union’s NSW secretary Alex Claassens??? said Transport Minister Andrew Constance and the state government “[hasn’t] left us with any other choice” after pay negotiations stalled.

“There’s never an ideal time to take this kind of action, but the reality is, we have to,” he said.

Mr Constance told Network Seven on Wednesday that the proposed strike is a “silly stunt”.

“The rail union don’t want to meet with me,” he said.

The RBTU is asking for a pay rise of 6 per cent per year, while the government is sticking to their proposed 2.5 per cent increase.

Opposition Leader Luke Foley said he thought the union was asking for too much, and while he was not a fan of the planned stop-work he thought rail workers deserved better conditions.

“Workers deserve to be treated with respect, people who work for a living delivering vital public services deserve to be well treated with fair pay and good conditions,” he said.

“They deserve a pay rise, but 6 per cent is too much.”

Mr Foley said Mr Constance needed to sit down with the union and work the problem out, otherwise one million commuters will be affected by the strike action.

“This requires both sides sitting down in good faith, negotiating a common-sense solution – there’s plenty of middle ground here,” he said.

The Opposition Leader said Mr Constance had “inflamed” the situation with the union.

“His premier needs to sideline him so that this matter can be resolved,” he said.

Ms Forsythe said the Business Chamber has spoken previously to Mr Constance’s office, but on Wednesday they were calling on the union to halt their industrial action.

“It’s the wrong call, it’s the wrong message,” she said.

The planned strike comes after a horror week on Sydney’s train network, with staff shortages and network damage leaving thousands of commuters stranded.

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Why Woolies boss is looking at start-ups to never run low on bread again

Technology is revolutionising the way supermarkets do business but Australian shoppers aren’t yet ready to embrace some of the futuristic innovations retailers are trialling, Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci says.

“Technology has become crucial to the future of retail – this is the key for us,” Mr Banducci told Fairfax Media on the sidelines of the National Retailers Federation’s annual expo in New York City.

Mr Banducci was scouring the expo on Tuesday looking for the latest innovations from tech giants and start-ups that could be used in Woolworths’ almost 1000 stores.

Among those that caught his eye was a new barcode scanning technology from software company Digimarc which embeds a code that is imperceptible to the human eye into a product’s packaging design, meaning any part of the item can be scanned at checkout.

The technology has been used by US supermarket Wegmans on its entire range of home-brand products, and Digimarc says it speeds up checkout scanning times by 30 per cent.

“We know our shoppers will let us use their data to help them have a better shopping experience, but we’ve got to be very cautious,” Mr Banducci said.

Several exhibitors at the conference are pitching software that uses cameras and image recognition software to monitor product levels on shelves.

“If you want to upset a customer, don’t have bread,” Mr Banducci said, adding that technology that alerts store managers whenever stock was low was a “fantastic” tool.

Similar technology was being used to check the accuracy of online orders before they are collected or shipped, and to monitor supply chains.

Mr Banducci said he spotted a couple of other attractive technologies that “we’d rather keep to ourselves”.

Some of the most significant advances in the way supermarkets operate have happened recently in China, where some shoppers do not ever encounter a staff member or checkout.

Some Suning and Alibaba stores use facial recognition software to identify customers and automatically charge their bank accounts for the products, which are tagged with sensors, they walk out with.

Mr Banducci said Woolworths could be doing similar things if it wanted to, but had to tread carefully around customers’ privacy concerns and privacy laws.

“I don’t know if the Australian consumer is ready for it. Maybe the next generation will be,” he said.

“We know our shoppers will let us use their data to help them have a better shopping experience, but we’ve got to be very cautious.”

Woolworths recently introduced a suite of digital innovations at its Marrickville Metro store, including installing touch screens to tell bakery staff what they needed to bake and when, and enabling an in-store product finder in its app.

“We’re doing a lot of learning and proof of concepts in that store before we take it to further roll-out or further enhancements,” said Fay Ilhan, Woolworths’ head of e-commerce sales and digital innovations.

Those changes were driven by the company’s new division WooliesX, which was formed last year and brought together its digital, e-commerce, customer loyalty and customer services teams in an effort to drive innovation at the 93-year-old supermarket.

“There is as much opportunity to digitise the back of house as the front of the shop: how you sign in contractors, how you figure out how many chickens to cook – there’s amazing opportunities,” Mr Banducci said.

The reporter attended NRF as a guest of Microsoft.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美甲学校.

Fifteen-year-old storms past Rogowska

It took until the post-match interview on court before many in the crowd appeared to realise that teenage sensation Marta Kostyuk was just 15 years old.

The audible murmur that hummed around Margaret Court Arena was one of surprise, as the exhausted Kostyuk, born in June 2002, found the right words to describe her elation at making the third round of a grand slam for the first time.

Her feat is not to be underplayed, as she is the youngest female player to reach such a stage in a grand slam since Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in the 1997 US Open, and the youngest to do so in Australia since Martina Hingis in 1996.

After watching her demolish her opponent 6-3, 7-5, the crowd’s reaction was understandable, as even her vanquished opponent, Australian Olivia Rogowska, was taken aback by the power of Kostyuk’s shots.

The 26-year-old said post-match she did not feel as though it was a 15-year-old on the other side of the net.

“She’s going to be a dangerous player when she grows up,” Rogowska said.

Kostyuk’s threat level, already high enough to dispose of the Australian wildcard and the 25th seed Shuai Peng in the first two rounds, is only going to grow.

The only pointer to her tender age on the tennis court was the inconsistency in her play.

Eleven double faults and 22 winners give an indication of the 89 minutes of ups and downs, but those slingshot returns from the back of the court that did hit the mark were unstoppable.

Already it’s easier to catch a hungry lizard’s tongue than return Kostyuk’s forehand when she hits one with force.

At times she took both feet off the ground and pirouetted like an Olympic ice skater, twirling through the air to put her full weight behind the balls she fired past a hapless Rogowska.

It was a shot combining the grace and power of an acrobat, a skill Kostyuk has practised for seven years, or nearly half her life.

She knows her fame is growing, admitting after the win that she sensed something had shifted, and it wasn’t just the size of her bank balance.

The first words she uttered as she entered the packed media conference were: “This is scary.”

It was a quote befitting someone her age, but she showed great maturity in dealing with the focus.

“It’s actually the first win when I feel like something is going on, something different,” Kostyuk said.

She said the experience she gained the previous year, when winning the Australian Open junior final, stood her in good stead and the only nerves came when she served.

She also admitted the code violation paid against her for coaching from the sidelines left her fuming, as the incident threatened to upset her equilibrium and momentum early in the second set.

“I was so mad. I wasn’t upset. I was so mad, because I didn’t see what mum was showing me,” Kostyuk said. “Then when the referee said code violation, I was, like, what? I didn’t even see her, like – like, I swear, I didn’t see what she was showing me.”

It was, it seemed, the sort of interaction mums have with their teenagers every day, with her mother also telling her post-game to stay away from her phone until she had eaten properly.

The sparkly teenager was compliant, as she knows what needs to be done to succeed in her chosen profession.

“I know that only talent will not help me to play good,” Kostyuk said. “I’m working pretty hard.”

Now she faces her Ukrainian compatriot Elina Svitolina in the third round, and will go into the game with some expectation to perform. Not that it concerns her too much.

“I will just enjoy it. I think I’m going to play on big court again, but I will just try to show my best tennis,” Kostyuk said.

Meanwhile, title favourite Svitolina celebrated like she’d won the Australian Open after surviving a stern test against rising Czech Katerina Siniakova to reach the third round.

Fourth-seeded Svitolina exploded with an animated double fist pump after battling back from a set down to progress 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.

She conceded it was tough going in her first appearance of the tournament at Rod Laver Arena.

“I thought I’m going to melt today. It was not easy and I was struggling a bit,” she said after the 2??-hour workout.

“Hopefully I can recover. I can’t wait for an ice bath.”

With AAP

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美甲学校.