Action all too real as movie interrupted by car chase drama

Crash … the stolen car crashed into this green hatchback.A quiet night in front of the television turned into a live action drama for one Sydney resident when a man was arrested outside his home for allegedly leading police on a high-speed pursuit in the city’s inner east.

The resident was watching the action flick The Bourne Identity in his living room in Paddington just after 1am on Monday when the sirens he initially thought were coming from his television seemed too realistic even for Hollywood.

“We thought the sirens were part of the movie, and then we realised they were getting closer,” the man, who did not want to be named, said.

He then heard a crash, which “sounded like a lot of broken metal and a lot of screeching tyres”, and ran outside to find a Ford Territory, which police said was stolen, had hit a small hatchback.

Police said officers had stopped the black Territory in Bondi Junction about 1am and the driver was unable to provide identification.

When officers went to their car to conduct checks, the driver allegedly mounted the gutter and hit the police car before speeding away.

Police chased the car, which allegedly reached speeds of 160km/h in a 60km/h zone.

Police said the Territory ran through a red light and struck a green hatchback at the intersection of Flinders Street and Moore Park Road in Paddington, before the driver again sped away and mounted a footpath, causing a large amount of property, suspected of being stolen, to fall from the boot.

The driver ran from the car before officers chased him and arrested him.

The 32-year-old driver was taken to the Prince of Wales Hospital for medical checks. He is expected to be questioned later today.

A female constable was taken to the same hospital for observation after the crash.

The man driving the green hatchback did not require treatment.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.


Too high a price to pay

‘The chickens are included!’: Auctioneer Stephen Whitelaw at the auction of a Californian bungalow in Thornbury. It sold for $950,000.If 2012’s underperforming real estate market has a silver lining it could well be a sharper focus by vendors and agents on accurate price quoting. The New South Wales and South Australian governments are cracking down on the illegal practice of underquoting and Melbourne agents face rising pressure from buyers to provide accurate price guides.

A new study by the Carlton North-based buyer advocate Secret Agent compares the advertised quote ranges of 324 inner suburban properties offered for sale between September and November with their eventual sale prices.

More than 78 per cent of the properties sold for prices above the high end of their quoted range. But the prices they fetched exceeded their quotes by an average of 8 per cent, and many experts would regard this as acceptable. Agents use comparable sales data and should be able to quote within 10 per cent of the selling price for most properties.

Secret Agent director Paul Osborne said when a property was quoted at ”$700,000-plus” and sold for $701,000 it was counted as selling above its quote. The survey showed 36 of 38 properties in Richmond sold for more than their quote. Properties in Fitzroy and Flemington were far more likely to sell within or below their quote.

Overall, the selling prices of the 324 properties, including 180 houses, exceeded their quoted range by a median $65,000.

At the onset of a property sale, a vendor and an agent sign a listing authority. Vendors can (but don’t have to) nominate the price they will sell for on this legal document. But the agent must appraise the property and provide an estimated selling price or price range.

”If the vendor writes on the authority, ‘I want $800,000’, even though the agent appraises the property at $650,000 to $700,000, then the agent must quote $800,000,” JPP Buyer Advocates director Ian James said.

He said more agents were removing all price quoting from advertisements and more vendors were writing ‘To be advised’ in the price section of authorities. ”Agents are buying the listing by telling the vendor they will get a lot more than what they really will, and they then low-quote to potential buyers,” he said.

NSW Fair Trading officers last month attended 20 Sydney auctions in a blitz on under-quoting.

The South Australia government has introduced a bill that will make it illegal for properties to be passed in at a higher price than the reserve, which must be set at no more than 10 per cent of the price acceptable to the vendor and listed on the listing authority contract.

In today’s more transparent market some buyers are voting with their feet. Mal James, of James Buyer Advocates, said he was seeing more buyers who refused to consider properties listed by agents who had a reputation for low-quoting. ”Owners should know they are losing buyers,” he said.

He isn’t impressed with agents who tell buyers ”we have interest around” a certain figure. ”A one-off figure is not an appropriate way to put a value on a home,” he said. ”Homes really do have a wide range.”

Real Estate Institute of Victoria spokesman Robert Larocca said the REIV and Consumer Affairs Victoria encouraged agents to offer a price quote range, rather than plus-style quotes.

Saturday’s auction clearance rate was 60 per cent for the 811 auctions reported to the institute.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.


‘She’s not pretty’ – meet a real hobbit

A new evidence-based image of the tiny hobbit species – known officially as Homo floresiensis.SHE’S not what you’d call a classic beauty. Her chin is non-existent and her forehead less than flattering. But a new evidence-based image of the tiny hobbit species – known officially as Homo floresiensis – is about scientific accuracy, not aesthetics.

Released on Monday, the 2D image was created by facial anthropologist Susan Hayes from the University of Wollongong.

“She’s not pretty,” Dr Hayes said after working on the project for eight months. “She doesn’t have those hyper-feminine features such as big eyes; there isn’t much of a forehead.”

With a background in forensic science, Dr Hayes created the image using high-resolution 3D imaging and CT scan data obtained from a female hobbit skull that dates back about 17,000 years.

The information was loaded into a computer graphic program, which allowed Dr Hayes to reconstruct the skull. The face and its features were then added, based on the skull’s structural attributes.

“Compared to other archaic hominins, there was a remarkable amount of information there,” she said.

Dr Hayes also analysed existing portraits by other palaeo-artists. She said the earlier depictions were largely dominated by monkey features, whereas her findings suggested modern anatomical features were more appropriate.

“As a Homo floresiensis she is closer to us than to a chimpanzee, which is our closest relative,” Dr Hayes said. “She is certainly more us than them.”

The remains of Homo floresiensis were unearthed by Professor Mike Morwood and the Liang Bua archaeological team in Flores, Indonesia, in 2003.

Dr Hayes said the task was an extraordinary challenge.

“She’s taken me a bit longer than I’d anticipated, has caused more than a few headaches along the way, but I’m pleased with both the methodological development and the final results,” Dr Hayes said.

Homo floresiensis lived on the Indonesian island of Flores until about 17,000 years ago. Nicknamed hobbits because of their diminutive size – at less than a metre tall – remains of at least 13 members of the species were unearthed between 2001 and 2004.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.


Expect the unexpected to keep 2013 a lucky one

At the end of any investment period, you can produce a list of the 10 best-performing stocks and the 10 worst-performing stocks and, despite all the highbrow debate, opinions and blah-blah-blah, these lists are all you need to know.

As we look forward to 2013, which will surely be a better year, all we need to do is guess what’s going to be on these lists in 12 months’ time. How do we do that? Simple.

In any period, the stocks that move are not the stocks that do what was expected, but the stocks that do things that weren’t expected.

If BHP hits its consensus forecasts, for instance, it won’t be on the list. Share prices move on new information and surprises, rather than expectations being hit and forecasts being fulfilled.

There is no money to be made from consensus forecasts. What moves share prices is changes in consensus forecasts and expectations.

So forget what’s cheap or expensive on current forecasts and forget what everyone expects. Imagine instead what’s going to surprise us.

Your job for 2013 is to get a gin and tonic, sit by the pool, shut your eyes and imagine what’s going to happen next year that no one expects.

This year, the ASX 200 was up 11 per cent, and the themes were pretty obvious. Anything to do with resources has underperformed and anything to do with banks, real estate investment trusts, healthcare, utilities, infrastructure and defensive stocks such as gambling have outperformed.

The 2012 performers list, which includes the banks and Telstra, might be characterised as a ”safe income” list. But it isn’t safe income at all; a lot of these stocks have below-average yields.

It is a ”reliable earnings” list. Westfield, for instance, has no earnings growth and a low yield (4.7 per cent), but is up 33 per cent this year.

All these stocks were bought because they represented businesses with low-risk, often regulated earnings, and not necessarily earnings growth.

The question is what’s going to happen in the coming year that no one expects. Here are some possibilities. Don’t laugh.

Someone sells a term deposit and puts the money into equities. Imagine that!

The new Chinese regime upgrades official growth domestic product growth forecasts. The resources sector goes into uptrend.

The US housing market leads a US economic recovery, driving cyclical growth stocks.

Fear subsides and the ”safety bubble” deflates. Suddenly, a lot of boring stocks with no growth are going to look heavily overbought.

The Australian dollar falls and currency stocks come into focus.

Retailers have a good Christmas.

At the moment, there is no faith in retail earnings forecasts. But what if retailers move from talking about a ”challenging outlook” and ”we cannot provide any earnings guidance” to an ”improving consumer outlook” and ”expecting earnings growth of X per cent for the full year”?

Consensus forecasts have some major retail stocks on a 10 per cent to 13 per cent gross yield. Imagine if that turned out to be true.

Now get yourself a gin and tonic, and see what you can come up with.

Marcus Padley is a stockbroker with Patersons Securities and the author of sharemarket newsletter Marcus Today. For a free trial, see marcustoday杭州夜网 His views do not necessarily reflect the views of Patersons.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.


Actuaries walk the walk on women’s super

Rice Warner Actuaries wants to pay its female employees more superannuation than its male employees and has applied to the Human Rights Commission for an exemption from the Sex Discrimination Act.

Rice Warner, which provides management consulting and actuarial advice to the financial services industry, wants to pay its women workers an additional 1.5 percentage points above the 9 per cent superannuation guarantee. The push follows the release of its report Valuing females and rewarding them in retirement, which identifies the barriers that leave women with less retirement income. The report, written by Rice Warner’s deputy chief executive officer, Melissa Fuller, suggests employers could be doing more to help close the retirement savings gap.

Rice Warner estimates its female employees will live on average three years longer than men and undertook modelling to calculate how much additional super would be required to cover this period. As well as living longer, the report says women retire two years earlier.

One of the main reasons women retire with less than men is that women are paid less. The Australian Bureau of Statistics said this year that the gender pay gap was 17.4 per cent. The biggest gap, of 33 per cent, is in the financial services sector.

To help women with their retirement savings, the report says the government could include the superannuation guarantee on its paid parental leave scheme. The scheme is 18 weeks on the minimum wage with no superannuation guarantee. The Coalition has a policy of 26 weeks on full salary, capped at $150,000, with the superannuation guarantee.

The planned increase in the superannuation guarantee – from 9 per cent to 12 per cent in the financial year beginning July 1, 2019 – will help boost Australia’s super balances over time.

But Fuller says women need to engage with their retirement savings. ”Super funds and employers can help make women aware of the issues, but women have to take action themselves,” she says.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.


Stock-ing fillers for mum

Share the love … buy your mother stocks that will grow steadily. Illustration: Simon BoschTricky things, Christmas presents, especially for your mum. How many facials and cookbooks does she need? And why punish her for your lack of creativity?

This year, do something different. Buy your mum something that will last and grow over the years. Then, when she’s ready, she can sell it and do what she wants with the proceeds.

Shares are a great Christmas present. Trouble is, there aren’t many bargains in Australia right now. Intelligent Investor’s Buy list sported 34 companies just more than a year ago. Now it features 14.

But, like many people doing their Christmas shopping on overseas websites, you’ll find bargains in Europe and the US. And one or two safe bets here.

So here’s the gift idea: make use of our strong currency and buy your mum a cheap overseas stock. Failing that, a reasonably priced local retailer will make a great stocking filler.

Now, you don’t want your mum worrying. Steer clear of any of those dodgy resources and technology stocks. Buy her enduring franchises that will grow steadily and pay her a decent dividend.

Woolworths is a good example. While Coles’s revival is getting all the media attention, Woolies remains the superior business, with far higher margins.

Metcash is the company losing in the battle between these two giants. Stick with the best: Woolies.

On a forecast price-earnings ratio of 17, it isn’t especially cheap but the fully franked dividend yield of 4.3 per cent will come in handy.

If mum is a little more adventurous, how about its British equivalent, Tesco? Tesco, the company where Woolies gets most of its great ideas, trades on a price-earnings ratio of just 10. It also boasts a 4.5 per cent dividend yield.

Ah, you say, mum might be OK with a local stock, but an international retailer? Too risky.

So here’s your argument, to be gently presented over a few wines and a bit of turkey.

Tesco is now the world’s fourth-largest retailer and dominates British grocery sales. Its Clubcard loyalty scheme and stunningly successful move into private label (40 per cent of its products are now Tesco-branded) have boosted its British market share from 10 per cent in 1990 to 31 per cent today.

The group’s operating margin of 5.8 per cent is well above its British and international peers, and 30 per cent of its operating profit comes from an international operation.

No wonder, you explain, that earnings per share have risen at an average annualised rate of 11 per cent in the past decade.

If she’s still not happy, you have two aces up your sleeve.

First, tell her Tesco is, in fact, a massive property portfolio with a retailer attached. The property is on the books at £22 billion ($33.8 billion), but management estimates it has a market value of £37 billion. The company’s net debt of £6.8 billion pales into insignificance in this context.

Tesco’s market capitalisation is about the price of its property portfolio. Tell mum she’s getting the supermarket business free.

Second – and this will be fun – tell her she bought in cheaper than Warren Buffett.

After the company announced a profit downgrade in January, Buffett increased his stake to more than 5 per cent of the business, paying a price that’s potentially a few percentage points more than you paid just before Christmas.

How good is that? She got in at a price cheaper than the world’s greatest investor. (Yes, you paid for it, but still.) If the only words your mum hears from your pitch are ”profit downgrade”, you’ll need to explain why Tesco is so cheap. You’ll need to admit this is a textbook case of a high-quality business going through tough times – that’s why it’s cheap.

But Buffett, like you, believes these problems are temporary.

The company is also a good hedge against inflation, which might be important if Britain resumes quantitative easing.

And, with the Australian dollar strong against the pound, Tesco offers useful currency diversification should the dollar eventually weaken.

If Tesco turns things around in a few years, your mum can sit on the dividends or cash in a little of her stake and take a trip to Britain to inspect her investment.

That’s got to be better than another facial, hasn’t it?

This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 282288). Nathan Bell is the research director at Intelligent Investor, intelligentinvestor杭州夜网

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.


Dad accidentally shoots son, 7, outside gun shop

A 7-year-old boy had been buckling himself into his safety seat in the back of his father’s truck when he was shot to death after a handgun accidentally went off as his father got in the front seat, police said on Sunday.

Joseph V. Loughrey, 44, told police he had been trying to sell the guns on Saturday at Twigs Reloading Den in East Lackawannock Township, 60 miles north of Pittsburgh. He unloaded the magazine at home, but didn’t realize a bullet was still in the chamber, Lt. Eric Hermick said. His son, Craig Allen Loughrey, was shot in the chest and died at the scene.

State police Lt. Eric Hermick said Sunday the father had secured a rifle in the back of the truck and placed his pistol on the console when the handgun went off. Hermick said police are reviewing surveillance video from the store, which helped lay out the chain of events; the video is not being released.

“It is very clear-cut exactly what transpired here,” Hermick said of what he called clearly an accident. “As he’s laying it down, it discharges.”

An autopsy was scheduled for Sunday and the results of the investigation will be given to Mercer County District Attorney Robert G. Kochems, Hermick said. A message left with Kochems was not immediately returned Sunday.

Hermick said the father was very distraught and cooperative; he said he doubts there will be charges, but that it’s up to the district attorney. The father could face charges, including involuntary manslaughter, Hermick said.

“It’s obviously negligent and reckless to some degree,” he said. “It’s obviously in that gray area, where it’s a true accident. But is there negligence or recklessness with him not clearing the chamber?”

A message left at a telephone listing in the father’s name was not returned.


The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.


2Day threats mount as prank anger rises

Jacintha Saldanha and her two children, taken from Facebook. Sorry … Mel Greig and Michael Christian.

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 Hangzhou Night Net.


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.

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

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 Hangzhou Night Net.


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.

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杭州夜网m. Follow her on Twitter: @NicolePedMcK.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.


Find inspiration in the cabinet of curiosities

Rural Australian Homes Text: Leta Keens Photos: Simon Griffiths

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 Hangzhou Night Net.


Plot going to pot

Herbs, vegetables, fruit trees, succulents and ornamental plants are all grown in pots by Ta (pictured) and Alex Fearnside. Gardening

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 Hangzhou Night Net.


Peak performance

Illustration: Robin Cowcher.As the summer begins to sizzle and you reach for your air conditioner’s remote, there’s something you need to know.

A big chunk of rising energy prices is caused by surging demand on the hottest few days of the year.

In its report on electricity regulation, the Productivity Commission states that just 40 hours of peak use during the year account for a quarter of our bills.

”We invest in the capacity of the network – the poles and wires – so we’re able to turn on the air conditioning when it’s incredibly hot,” says Dr Lynne Chester, from University of Sydney. ”But it’s used for a very small proportion of time.”

In the past few years, our overall demand for electricity has fallen, but the peak level continues to rise.

The reason? Air conditioning has gone through the roof. By 2020, it is forecast to double from 2000 levels.

The Productivity Commission attributes the change to rising incomes, cheaper air conditioners, bigger new homes and the trend to install more than one unit, ”particularly by higher income households”.

It’s an equity concern too: because everyone pays higher network costs, people who don’t use air conditioners at peak times are subsidising those who do.

But Dr Chester says there’s a broader problem. ”As our lifestyles change, we’ve taken things like water and electricity for granted. It’s there whenever we turn on the tap and the switch.”

If we’re to avoid excess investment in the network – and the inevitable higher prices – we need to reduce peak demand first. And that means a shift away from a ”predict and provide” approach to electricity, to something more complex.

Householders can expect a more active role in the way we manage energy production.

Smart meters allow electricity retailers to charge more when demand is high. ”Time-of-use pricing means that when demand goes up, the price will go up,” Dr Chester says. ”The most expensive time will be late in the afternoon, when the kids are home, the TV is on and you’re preparing dinner – that’s when the daily peak is occurring.”

That’s the stick approach, but there’ll be carrots too. Some retailers will alert you in advance of a critical peak, and offer discounts or incentives for switching off, if you can.

In South Australia, distributor SA Power Networks has been trialling ”direct load control”, which takes the day-to-day decision out of customers’ hands. If residents agree – in exchange for $100 – they install a widget on their air conditioner and, at critical times, remotely switch off the compressor (but not the fan) for about ten minutes every half hour.

The results are significant: among participants, they’ve been able to reduce peak demand by more than one-third without people noticing any loss of comfort. To make a dent in the overall spike, however, they would need residents to sign on in large numbers.

Dr Chester says the problem will keep growing, unless our consumption habits change. For that, we need different norms and different buildings.

”We’re treating the symptom and not the cause,” she says. ”We don’t build houses with eaves and verandahs, or design them for natural breezes. We’re turning on air conditioning instead.

”We’ve got to improve the efficiency of existing stock. We could start by retrofitting public housing; what better way to help low-income households improve energy efficiency and reduce energy bills?”


The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.


‘I’m learning about how capable I am’

Kate Waterhouse with Cathy Freeman.Olympic legend Cathy Freeman will always be best known for winning the women’s 400 metres at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The athlete has moved on to motherhood with her 17-month-old daughter, Ruby. Kate Waterhouse chats with the 39-year-old about fitness, her fans and about having a child.

Are you enjoying motherhood?

It’s challenging, but it’s a joy. I love being with my girl and I love how she affects my husband. I love how she makes people happy. She is an amazing little thing.

Is it everything that you thought it would be?

It’s more than I ever thought was possible, actually. I think it’s because whilst it’s demanding, challenging and you have to be organised, you also have to be quite self-aware. For example, when you know you need to rest, you lean on people, you have to really act on it and really be aware of your fatigue levels and your inner health. I really love how I’m learning about how capable I am.

Is your husband a hands-on father?

He’s wonderful. Mind you, I prefer to take control and do everything to the point where it allows him to step in when I actually need him to. I’m really happy being more hands-on than him, but he’s a fantastic dad, too; he enjoys being a dad, he loves our little girl and he’ll always be there if I need him. If I’m ever away or unwell, he’ll do everything.

How did your role as blogger and ambassador for the Coles Baby and Toddler Club come about?

Well, I had a previous association with Coles, and this seemed to be a natural shift with my little girl. The arrival of her and the growth of me personally, becoming a mother, seemed to just be an opportunity that came out of my personal circumstance.

Will you encourage your daughter to follow in your footsteps?

I will encourage my daughter to be true to herself; hopefully I’m setting that example really well for her. In terms of following my footsteps in that regard, yes.

Is fitness still a big part of your life?

Yes, it really is. I was over in New York a few weeks ago with the intent of running my first marathon. Unfortunately, it was cancelled but now we’re aiming for another marathon early next year, so you have to be fit.

A marathon is a big commitment, especially soon after having a child.

I think I needed to have that kind of goal because that’s how I’m precoded anyway in my previous life, and it’s what I’m so familiar with.

Do you still maintain a strict diet, similar to when you were competing, or are you more relaxed now?

I’m definitely a lot more relaxed because the stakes are different. I tend to enjoy more food now, although I do prefer not to eat a lot of bread. I have to watch my sugar intake because I have diabetes, so I think my sugar intake has definitely been monitored daily.

Do you get recognised everywhere you go?

In Australia, yes.

Do you still get a lot of fan mail?

[Yes.] It means a lot to me because I have been retired for [about nine years] and folks are still wanting photographs from my running days … It’s good for my ego [laughs].

What is the most frequent request from fans?

Autographs mainly, but sometimes a serious sports fan would ask for an action shot of when I’m in competition. Sometimes it’s a lovely letter from a 12-year-old, or sometimes I get a letter from an elderly person just wanting to share their wisdom with me.

It’s fantastic that after all these years, people have so much admiration for you.

I think it was just one of those times in our lives where it had such a unifying effect. When our sporting champions win, especially on their own turf, it’s very memorable, and people like to revisit that memory.

Do you still have that competitive spirit?

I do for things I’m passionate about, like seeing results achieved for my Cathy Freeman Foundation, but in terms of me personally, no I’m not competitive at all.

Do you hope to have a big family?

I’m enjoying our family unit as it is at the moment. I’m pretty content. Ruby, James and I are just one happy little family.

WE WENT TO The Grounds of Alexandria.

WE ATE Za’atar on toast with avocado, Persian fetta and heirloom tomatoes; slow-cooked lamb with yoghurt, chickpeas, roast pumpkin and sherry vinaigrette.

WE DRANK Mineral water and ginger beer with fresh garden mint.

CATHY WORE Zara pants and Tommy Hilfiger blouse.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.


Will Max ‘The Axe’ fall over royal prank?

From respected senior public servant to Sleazemaster-General, Max ”The Axe” Moore-Wilton has fallen a long way.

In public service, Moore-Wilton climbed to the very top, becoming department head to prime minister John Howard in 1996.

These days the Companion of the Order of Australia plies his trade in the private sector, where he is chairman of both Sydney Airport and moral-free broadcaster Southern Cross Media Group, aka Southern Cross Austereo.

Moore-Wilton is paid $250,000 a year to lend his respectability to the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is Southern Cross, and it is he, and the rest of the board, who shareholders should hold ultimately responsible for the latest debacle enveloping the company.

He has been chairman since 2007 and, during his tenure, the company has perpetrated a series of outrages, most of them emanating from the Sydney studios of flagship station 2Day FM.

Remember the merry jape when ”Vile” Kyle Sandilands and his equally culpable enabler, Jackie O, hooked up a teenage rape victim to a lie detector? Or how about the hilarious time, just a few months ago, when Kyle called a female journalist a ”fat slag” and promised to ”hunt her down”?

In the latest stunt-gone-wrong, Southern Cross has suspended all ads from 2Day FM following the suspected suicide of a British nurse who was collateral damage in a prank call targeting the royal family.

While the two DJs who made the call aren’t completely free from blame, the real problem is that Southern Cross has a business model that involves teetering on the edge of a moral abyss.

Each so-called ”prank” may carry only a small risk, but their number makes eventual disaster all but inevitable.

And yet, somehow, its management seems surprised each and every time it falls in the muck. Witness the bleating from $1.3 million-a-year chief executive Rhys Holleran on Saturday that the company was ”confident we haven’t done anything illegal” and acted in accordance with its internal procedures. So that’s okay then.

Atop this structure sit Moore-Wilton and a board of worthies – former Freehills partner Leon Pasternak, former regulator Chris de Boer, media veteran Tony Bell, former head of Macquarie Capital Michael Carapiet, adman Peter Harvie and Mirvac director Marina Darling – who, in return for their wisdom, are each entitled to a minimum of $125,000 a year.

When CBD called, Moore-Wilton deflected the blame in Holleran’s direction.

”The chief executive officer is responsible for the operations of the organisation within the framework that the board broadly sets,” he said.

And he insisted that the company had taken action over previous incidents.

No doubt, but with 2Day’s license already subject to conditions, advertisers in retreat and Scotland Yard detectives investigating the death, clearly more needs to be done.

On Sunday night, the board was holding an emergency meeting to consider its next move.

While Moore-Wilton has so far failed to rein in the company’s rancid culture, there remains one productive step he could take immediately: resign.

Don’t hold your breath.

Hot tip on hot air

Think of it as a bottom-of-the-harbour scheme James Packer would be happy to embrace.

The gambling tycoon has been lobbying hard for approval to build a luxury casino at Barangaroo, a prime slice of Sydney being developed by Lend Lease.

Lend Lease, which won the tender on a promise to make Barangaroo a model of sustainability, is nearing a decision on a key component of its deep-green credentials: a centralised cooling plant using seawater from Sydney Harbour.

The hot tip is Dalkia, the energy services unit of French giant Veolia Environment, will emerge with a major contract from Lend Lease.

A win for Dalkia may give it an edge on rivals such as Origin Energy, which is just dipping its toes into the potentially big business of heating and cooling whole districts rather than single buildings.

Strike one

Bloodied but unbowed, the board of media and mining minnow Motopia survived an attempted putsch by major shareholder Wendy Symes last week, though it did suffer a strike against its remuneration report and couldn’t get the 75 per cent needed to allow it to issue new scrip. However, a return bout is inevitable: following the meeting, the company acknowledged as legitimate a request for an EGM that Symes lodged last month.

Motopia will lodge a notice of meeting with the exchange on Monday.

Numbers game

A slice of white collar criminal history is up for grabs in Melbourne. While it’s not in quite the same bloody league as one of the Carlton locations, where various dastardly deeds went down during the gangland wars, the cute little city venue has its own story to tell. It belonged to an accountant with the Pratt family’s Visy Board who was accused of stealing more than $3.3 million from the company.

The Victorian Supreme Court froze the property, in Little Lonsdale Street, early this year. The building is leased to hipster eateries, together bringing in rent of more than $150,000 a year.

Auctioneers Gross Waddell put it under the hammer on Wednesday at noon.

Got a tip? [email protected]杭州夜网

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.