Monthly Archives: February 2019

2Day threats mount as prank anger rises

Jacintha Saldanha and her two children, taken from Facebook. Sorry … Mel Greig and Michael Christian.
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The boss of the radio station facing global condemnation after the death of a British nurse targeted in a radio prank said staff from the station tried at least five times to contact those involved in the call.

The station, 2Day FM, and broadcasters Michael Christian and Mel Greig, are under fire after nurse Jacintha Saldanha died in an apparent suicide after the call gained worldwide notoriety.

The pair had claimed to be Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles, and asked after the condition of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, who was in the King Edward VII hospital suffering from an acute form of morning sickness.

Mrs Saldanha answered Greig’s questions, referring to her as ‘‘ma’am’’.

Rhys Holleran, chief executive of 2Day FM’s parent company Austereo, reiterated on Monday that what had occurred was “a deeply tragic, unforseen circumstance” but that he was satisfied that the appropriate checks were conducted before the pre-recorded segment was broadcast.

“It is absolutely true to say that we actually did attempt to contact those people on multiple occasions. We rang them up to discuss what we had recorded. We attempted to contact them on no less than five occasions. We did want to speak to them about it,” he told Melbourne radio station 3AW.

Later, he said: “The day prior [to Mrs Saldahna’s death], people took it as a harmless prank in good humour.”

Greig and Christian’s program has been suspended and advertising on the station has been suspended until Wednesday. The station has not yet said when, or if, the presenters will return to the airwaves.

All Austereo staff were called to a meeting on Monday at 9am; employees have been gagged from speaking publicly.

Mr Holleran’s comments come as online vigilante group Anonymous is believed to have threatened the broadcaster in light of Mrs Saldanha’s death.

Using a new account on YouTube with the group’s branding, a person wearing a mask similar to that used by Anonymous members said 2Day FM was “directly responsible” for Mrs Saldanha’s death.

The video, uploaded from an account named An-onym Oz, purports to be from Anonymous but contains a spelling error in its opening titles. ‘‘Hello citizens of the world, we are Anonyomous,’’ it reads.

“We have listened to your excuses. We have heard the word ’prank’ a million times,” the person in the video says, in a digitally altered voice.

“We have studied the facts and found you guilty of murder. You have placed yourself in an untenable position. You have placed your advertisers at risk – their databases, their websites, their online advertising.

“We are Anonymous and hereby demand you terminate the contracts of Mel Greig and Michael Christian. We will not listen to any more excuses. We will not let you escape your responsibility. You have a funeral to pay for. We are Anonymous. We are legion. We are amongst you. Expect us. This is not a prank call; this is no laughing matter. This is your one and only chance to make amends. You have one week to do so.”

In Australia, New South Wales police are now helping Scotland Yard with its investigation into Mrs Saldanha’s death.

Mr Holleran said on Monday that he had not spoken to police “at this point in time”.

He said he did not believe any Australian Communications and Media Authority codes governing radio broadcasts had been breached or that the station’s licence was in jeopardy.

He said the company was happy to discuss the issue with any investigators.

“I’m sure that in the time ahead, there will be questions, and we’re happy to participate in that process, of course we are,” Mr Holleran said.

“We have said we won’t be running that style of call until we do [investigate] … this isn’t a witch-hunt and I don’t intend for it to be that way.

“If it’s appropriate to make changes, we will make changes, make no mistake about that.”

He would not comment on how much the fallout was costing the station financially and rejected suggestions of cultural problems at the station in light of repeated scandals, largely ignited by host Kyle Sandilands.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Read more »

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12 days of Christmas on the cards

People can be generous to a fault at this time of the year, but if you bought all the gifts in The 12 Days of Christmas on your credit card, you would be out of pocket more than $25,000 and potentially be paying off the debt for 42 years.
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Weekend Money tallied the partridge, the pear tree, the white swans (black ones would have been a lot cheaper), a day’s milking from a farmhand and the services of the Williamstown RSL Pipe Band, among other things, to find out how much the gifts in the Christmas carol would cost.

The carol repeats the previous day’s gifts and adds a new one as each day goes by, but we reckoned no one’s ”true love” would want 12 partridges in 12 pear trees – no matter how much they welcomed your attentions – so we kept it simple (see table).

We then asked financial products researcher RateCity to work out how long it would take to pay off the $25,042 total, assuming you had a rewards-linked card (as you would if you went around spending that sort of money) and paid only the minimum required each month.

It turns out, with a card charging 19.42 per cent interest (the average for a rewards card), and a minimum repayment of just 2.35 per cent of the balance (again average), the debt would take 42 years to clear, at a cost of $52,650 in interest.

And that doesn’t include the $135 annual fee you would pay for the average points-based credit card.

The $180 in shopping vouchers RateCity estimates you would earn on the average rewards card for that spending hardly compensates for an interest bill of $4702 in the first year alone.

The bottom line is you would still be paying for Christmas 2012 in 2054.

As unlikely as that might seem, it’s a fact that three-quarters of the collective debt on our credit cards is rolled over each month – about $35 million out of the $49 million outstanding at the end of the month. At an interest rate of 20 per cent, that’s about $7 million in interest a year.

It’s true Australians have become more reluctant to use credit cards. But card balances have their usual spike in February, even during the worst of the global financial crisis, as the bills arrive for gifts and holidays bought in December and January.

And it’s at this time of year, Reserve Bank data shows, that people leave a bit more on their cards for payment next time.

”We’ve seen how pre-Christmas shopping on expensive credit cards can make for a very unhappy new year,” says Penelope Hill, the advice services manager at MoneyHelp, a financial counselling service run by the Consumer Action Law Centre.

To make sure Christmas cheer lasts throughout the year, we’ve pulled together holiday advice from consumer and financial groups. This year, much of the advice focuses on online shopping, over which there’s concern about how easy it is to tick and click, as well as the potential for the theft of personal information for financial fraud.

Don’t fall for the glitter

Hill of MoneyHelp says giving gifts is one of the most rewarding parts of the holiday season, but people should look out for sales gimmicks aimed at getting them to spend more than they planned. ”Take a deep breath before typing in your credit card details, and consider your financial position before buying,” she says.

Make a list and check it twice

Set a budget for Christmas spending, write a shopping list of gifts and treats, then stick to it. Even if it’s not your habit, keep a record of your card spending and check the daily total against your budget.

Think twice before applying for more credit

It may be tempting, but if you couldn’t afford a higher credit limit last month, can you afford it now?

Protect your personal information

”Christmas shopping online can be convenient, easy and find terrific bargains,” says the senior manager for fraud and financial crimes at Abacus Australian Mutuals, Leanne Vale. ”But make sure you know the seller is legitimate, you are confident in the product purchased and your credit card details are protected.” Provide card details only to secure sites that have the symbol of a locked padlock in the browser.

Don’t forget your phone

Most people are aware of the need to have security software installed on their computers, but with smartphones just as likely to be used for banking and shopping, we need firewalls, antivirus protection and strong passwords for these devices as well. ”It’s particularly important to ensure shopping using your mobile phone or other digital devices is safe,” Vale says. See staysmartonline.gov.au.

Tell your bank about your travel plans

If you’re taking advantage of the strong Australian dollar and going overseas, tell your bank and give them your contact details, the Australian Bankers Association says. The bank needs to know there’s a logical explanation for those transactions in New York, and how to reach you if they suspect fraudulent activity on your account.

Use the card extras you’ve paid for

The number of credit cards offering ”premium services” has doubled in the past year, says a RateCity spokeswoman, Michelle Hutchison. One of the most popular additions is the ”price guarantee scheme”, under which cardholders can claim a refund of the difference between what they paid for an item and the cheaper price if it goes on sale. These cards have annual fees of $100 to $150, and have interest rates as high as 23 per cent, so make sure they earn their keep. Also check if your card insurance covers the excess for insurance on your rental car.

Know your rights

Under Australian consumer law, goods must be of acceptable quality and fit for their purpose. If there’s a major defect, the consumer – not the supplier or manufacturer – gets to choose whether they want a refund, replacement or repair. If the defect is minor and can be repaired, the consumer cannot demand a refund but can ask the supplier to fix the problem. It’s up to the supplier to offer a refund, replacement or repair. People who receive goods and services as gifts have the same rights as consumers who buy direct.

❏ By the way, if you were to follow The 12 Days of Christmas to the last turtle dove, the total cost would be $119,240 – and you would probably be accused of stalking.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Read more »

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Five ways to get a full rate cut

About $10 a month and $120 a year doesn’t seem much to miss out on. It hurts a little more when you realise that’s $2811 over the life of a 25-year, $300,000 home loan, and a further $2400 if you’d stuck with the higher payments you’re used to making.
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But it’s downright painful to consider that’s the result of the big banks hoarding just 0.05 points of one interest rate cut. Over the past five years, they’ve withheld a third of all official cuts and added a bit extra on to hikes for good measure.

As debate once again rages about whether the clawback is justified – the Reserve Bank and Treasurer Wayne Swan say no; banks and the federal opposition say yes – you can actually put a stop to this. There are five ways to secure the rate cut you deserve.

1. Apply for what they deliver. First, while a rate cut will be automatically passed through to your loan – when, eventually, it kicks in (ING Directs’ full 25 basis point cut, for example, doesn’t begin until Christmas Eve) – you need to apply if you want your direct-debit repayment reduced.

This is to the banks’ credit as it means, all of a sudden, you are overpaying, which will save you significant interest in the long run. If you hold a $300,000 loan on the likely new big bank average variable rate, 6.42 per cent, that’s an additional saving of $16,613, and you’ll be debt free more than a year early.

But if instead you want the monthly cash in hand, you’ll have to put up your hand.

2. Ask for the full whack.

OK, they may well laugh, but the sound will die in their throats if you reveal you know about the generous discounts they offer to select customers.

The fact is big-bank headline rates are no more than a starting point. You have bargaining power if you have a good credit history and/or are a long-standing customer, and your borrowings amount to more than, say, $250,000. Authorised discounts could be as high as a full percentage point, which puts big-bank rates much closer to the most competitive in the market.

Those lenders that appear at the top of interest-rate league tables, often non-banks, will have far less wriggle room.

3. Threaten to leave. Be prepared to lend weight to your request by making a genuine threat to leave.

Banks know that the ban on exit fees on loans taken out since July 1, 2011, and the requirement that those on older loans are fair and reflect only the revenue loss to the bank, give you mortgage mobility like never before. And your lender knows it.

What’s more, many rival institutions will happily waive any set-up fees to get your business across.

But you may not even have to bother. This could well be the bargaining chip that secures you a much better rate exactly where you are, with not a jot of extra effort.

4. Actually switch. If your lender doesn’t acquiesce, no matter – you should garner an even bigger discount by ditching and switching.

Remember, whatever individual lenders do with their rates each time, the gap between the big banks’ average variable rate and the best rates on the market has stayed at about 1 percentage point for years now – that’s not one but four rate cuts.

(Just be aware there are no assurances the cheapest lenders will maintain that margin, and funding difficulties may see them pass on less. Make sure the initial pricing is worth it.)

At current rates, improving your deal by this much on the big-bank average represents a saving of almost $52,000 on our $300,000 loan.

That’s about an annual wage. Do you think that justifies the bit of paperwork involved?

5. Save even more money. If you’re holding money in a savings account of some kind when you still have a mortgage, stop. You’ll struggle to get up to 5 per cent on deposit today – and from that you’ll lose interest. Put the money against your mortgage, however, and you’ll effectively earn 5.5 per cent or more, tax-free.

So the difference is much more than two rate cuts; there is simply no decision.

The smartest thing to do is not to put your money actually inside the mortgage but to house it alongside it in a linked offset account. The interest saving should be identical but you will retain full, free access. You can also get multiple offsets that allow you to keep your savings, holiday, car, etc., separate.

Don’t be at the mercy of the banks self-serving interest rate re-pricing, serve yourself an interest rate reprieve.

Nicole is editor-at-large of afrsmartinvestor上海夜网m. Follow her on Twitter: @NicolePedMcK.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Read more »

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Find inspiration in the cabinet of curiosities

Rural Australian Homes Text: Leta Keens Photos: Simon Griffiths
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Murdoch Books, hardback, rrp $89.99

We love a sunburnt country, but few of us get to live in it day in and day out, drawn as we are to city conveniences or coastal cool. Redressing this, Sydney-based writer Leta Keens turns her eye inland to 18 abodes set on the parched, harsh and resoundingly romantic landscape that is Australian country to tell the stories of how each came into being.

In so doing, she also draws on the historical and geographical context on which they are set. Keens’ choices run the gamut of cottage to converted shed to the architectural ingenuity of Permanent Camping near Mudgee, NSW, a tiny timber and copper tower that borrows from the concept of a tent. And here’s how she stumbled upon a homestead in Licola, Victoria: ”It took one photo of Glenfalloch Station in an email to make me want to go there. A picture of a three-storey brick tower that looked as it it was built for Rapunzel.”

This vibrant, well-written book, coupled with the stunning photography of Simon Griffiths, will go a long way towards reigniting our love affair with the bush.Bowerbird: Creating beautiful interiors with the things you collect By Sibella Court

ABC Books, hardback, rrp $59.99

It’s a rare stylist who doesn’t get inspired by a thing less ordinary. Sibella Court has been an avid collector all her life; since the age of three or four she has fossicked for simple objects that, to her, tell a story. She still has her first collection of shells, sequins, beads and ribbons.

It’s such everyday and inexpensive odds and sorts that make up the basis of Bowerbird, Court’s new book of personal collections and ideas for creating a unique decorative statement. Eschewing organised for organic, the stylist – who has worked for the likes of Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and Vogue Living – has put together a ”cabinet of curiosities” (lusciously photographed by brother Chris) that reflects her whimsical style, while encouraging the reader to evolve their own.

Court takes you through the ”hows” in a wonderfully revealing way that is at once haphazard and practical. As she says, collecting is dynamic, emotive and highly personal.Italian Home Photos: Massimo Listri Text: Nicoletta del Buono

Thames & Hudson, hardback, rrp $55

What makes an Italian home? Through the lens of architecture photographer Massimo Listri, the answers are myriad and magical. Travelling through the Italian countryside, Listri uncovers a sweeping landscape that melds tradition with innovation.

Each of the 21 homes he visits retains a character untouched by time, yet bears the indelible stamp of its current owner. Original features live alongside modern transformation in abodes framed by grand stone masonry and surrounded by imposing courtyards. In the baroque ”palace” of Il Castelluccio in Noto, Syracuse, Sicily, fashion designer Luisa Beccaria and husband Lucio Bonaccorsi have undertaken both restoration and decoration – while the original olive press and cellar stay intact, an old farm shed has been refashioned into a relaxation area.

Listri attempts to resurrect the spirit of writer Guido Piovene’s 1957 work, Journey Through Italy. Listri’s approach is less methodical, more intimate; less textual, more visual. But the artful way his photographs capture the spirit of modern Italian sensibility makes his effort no less laudable.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Read more »

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Plot going to pot

Herbs, vegetables, fruit trees, succulents and ornamental plants are all grown in pots by Ta (pictured) and Alex Fearnside. Gardening
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Ta and Alex Fearnside have lots of gardens. They’re growing a small one in their living room, a little one on their roof, a more abundant one on their balcony and a couple in the common areas outside their front door. They have a worm farm in their garage and a public park next door.

It hasn’t always been like this. Ta spent much of her childhood living in a sprawling private estate outside Osaka in Japan with a whole forest as part of the family’s backyard. Alex grew up in Canberra on the classic quarter-acre with room for cricket in the back garden. But they have both also spent time in smaller situations where every space (indoor and out) counted. And ultimately that is how they wanted to keep it.

The couple acquired their Brunswick townhouse three years ago – for its northern light, outdoor spaces, access to the park and general urban amenity. Ta, a nurse who is the gardener of the pair, has gradually set about planting every available spot, while Alex, who runs the Yarra Energy Foundation, is in the midst of constructing an Australian-plant-filled rain garden for their ground-floor courtyard.

The couple, who have had a foster child living with them for some of the time, grow their own herbs and vegetables, swap produce with neighbours and often barbecue and eat in the park.

Ta has pineapple sage growing inside next to her dining room table, as well as begonias, a kentia palm, Monstera deliciosa and succulents. On the balcony outside, the biggest expanse of herbs and vegetables is in a massive insulated plastic planter, one of two that a friend (the woman behind Edible Islands planters) gave the Fearnsides to trial.

The other is on the roof where Ta has an olive tree as well as polystyrene boxes that she plants with edibles and moves about to suit the season. Moving to the area outside the front door, there is an orange tree and an assortment of succulents and other hardy specimens, while in the communal area are more olives, as well as a lemon, lime and apples (all in pots.)

Ta says that in the home she likes to ”make it simple, minimise stuff, minimise clutter” but plants are the exception. She wants to plant more. She talks to them, harvests them and plies them with diluted worm-juice.

They have got her talking with the neighbours in this block of townhouses, too. The residents here regularly discuss their gardens, tackling the communal areas together and swapping produce, gardening tools and information.

Community is very much the Fearnsides’ priority. About five years ago, inspired by the co-housing models pioneered in Denmark in the 1970s that have since taken off elsewhere, they founded Urban Coup. It is a ”community” of households seeking to buy land in the inner urban area and develop it into a mixture of both private and common areas, including shared garden spaces. Should the plan come off, it would be a more exaggerated, purpose-built version of what they have now.

They like the fact that Ta grows rhubarb but gives it to her neighbour to cook, that they can jump from their roof deck to their neighbour’s and swap cuttings with those living around them. They also like that the grass, elms and plane trees in the park on their doorstep are maintained by the local council instead of them.

”There’s a real generosity here,” Ta says. ”And all the plants make me feel healthy.”

Plant care

– The Fearnsides’ garden is entirely in pots and therefore requires frequent watering and feeding. Mulch is a must. Ta uses both worm juice and worm castings – generated from food scraps in the worm farm in the garage – as a fertiliser. The worm juice – a watery liquid stemming from the breakdown of organic wastes – is diluted with water (at a ratio of 1:10) and applied to the soil as a liquid. This can be done weekly in the growing season. The nutrient-rich worm castings hold moisture and can be spread over the soil or dug in, particularly when planting seedlings.

– Pots need to be carefully matched with the size of the plant, with plants repotted as they get larger. The kentia palm (Howea forsteriana) is a slow-grower and will cope in the same pot for several seasons but will do best if some of the soil is replaced every one or two years. Like all indoor plants it will also benefit from the odd outing outdoors – nowhere too bright and somewhere where the rain will wash the dust from the leaves.

– Orange trees, like all citrus, can adapt well to pots but will always be smaller and yield less fruit than their in-ground counterparts. As well as regular feeding, dig them out of the pot and replace the soil every few years, at which point they can either be moved to a bigger pot or have their roots trimmed and remain in the original.

Megan Backhouse is pursuing a masters in urban horticulture.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net. Read more »

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