Wild Oats XI in race against time after being struck by lightning

Wild Oats XI heads out of Sydney Heads at the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race on Monday 26 December 2016. Photo: Andrew Meares Wild Oats XI will be put through its paces on Sydney Harbour on Wednesday to learn whether it can still contest this year’s Sydney To Hobart after being struck by lightning on Sunday.
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Owner Sandy Oatley is confident the eight-time line honours winner will still contest the 73rd classic, despite several navigation computers being damaged during the electrical storm. It is not known yet if any carbon fibre rigging was damaged during the storm.

Race favourite Comanche was docked next to Wild Oats XI when she was hit, but escaped from the incident unscathed.

It continues a wretched run of luck for the super maxi which has been forced to retire from the last two editions of the race.

The yacht was in its cradle out of the water at its Woolwich dock undergoing pre-race observations when the bolt of lightning hit the 45-metre high carbon mast.

“[It was] out of the water doing pre-Hobart checks … in an electrical storm the mast got struck by lightning and we’ve damaged a lot of the wiring and computers on the boat,” Oatley told Fairfax Media on Tuesday night.

“Some of the processes of the navigation side of the sailing systems on the boat, they’re damaged. There are only two in Australia so we’ve bought those and we’re freighting two from America.

“Black Jack has lent us two of theirs from their Volvo 70, which is up in Brisbane. That’s a great effort.

“They’re sailing tomorrow [Wednesday] hopefully and we’ll work out anything else that’s gone wrong. We don’t know until we get it all fired up and get all the computers working and see what doesn’t work. That’s life.”

Wild Oats XI’s shore team manager Paul Magee travelled to Brisbane on Tuesday where Peter Harburg’s Black Jack Volvo 70 is stationed, and procured the navigation equipment that needed replacing.

“That’s the spirit that exists in this level of ocean racing,” Oatley said.

“We might be arch rivals on the race course, but we’re all supportive of each other when necessary.”

Skipper Mark Richards was confident the yacht would be ready to sail on Boxing Day.

“I’d like the think that this is the third strike when it comes to bad luck for Wild Oats XI in the Hobart race,” Richards said.

“Two years ago the mainsail shredded in a storm. Last year the canting keel hydraulic system keel failed, and now we’ve been hit from the heavens.”

Black Jack beat Wild Oats XI in last Tuesday’s Big Boat Challenge by just 43 seconds. It was the first time since 2009 that Wild Oats XI hadn’t claimed line honours in the traditional pre-Sydney To Hobart warm-up race.

The latest blow is the third in as many years for Wild Oats XI, which is aiming for its first line honours triumph since 2014.

Two years ago the boat shredded a mainsail when the wind down Australia’s east coast changed frighteningly quickly.

Then last year a hydraulics issue forced the boat to retire early on December 27 after enjoying an early lead in the race eventually claimed by Perpetual Loyal.

On December 14, the Wild Oats XI Facebook page posted a video of the supermaxi being hoisted out of the water.

“After a busy week of racing and training it’s time to come out of the water,” the post said. “We’ll be doing pre-Rolex Sydney Hobart checks and finalising our preparations to be race ready”

with Georgina Mitchell

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Pok??mon awarded $1 in damages against Redbubble

The Federal Court of Australia has awarded media company The Pok??mon Company International $1 in nominal damages in a copyright infringement case against retail site Redbubble.
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Pokemon sued the online store, known for customised clothes and phone cases, in 2016 over the use of Pok??mon and one of its main characters, Pikachu, on products such as clothing available through its site.

A hearing was held in Melbourne for a week in September.

The Federal Court found in favour of Pok??mon on Tuesday. It did not award injunctions but did award nominal damages of $1.

That was because the designs were not available for purchase within the official Pokemon universe and would not have yielded royalties, the judge said.

“Many of the items sold through the Redbubble website involved a ‘mash up’ of images, such as the combination of Pikachu and Homer Simpson,” Justice Pagone said in his judgment.

“The evidence thus did not support a confident finding of damages in the amount claimed.”

Justice Pagone said Redbubble’s business model of allowing artists to upload and sell any design made copyright infringements “inevitable”.

The store reviewed artist’s accounts regularly for intellectual property breaches but only after they had been made available for purchase.

“The business established by Redbubble carried the inherent risk of infringement of copyright,” the judge said.

“There may have been a sound commercial basis for Redbubble to manage the risks of infringement as it did, but in doing so it authorised the infringements which occurred.”

But he noted its conduct did not amount to flagrant disregard of Pokemon’s rights.

Redbubble was ordered to make declarations of copyright infringement and will face a hearing on legal costs at a later date.

In an announcement to the Australian Stock Exchange, Melbourne-based Redbubble chief executive Martin Hosking said it had “always respected the rights of content owners and continue to work with them in the fight against infringement and piracy across the internet”.

“We remain focused on creating the leading marketplace for independent artists.We are pleased that the judgment recognises the reasonable steps that Redbubble takes to prevent infringements occurring on the platform,” he said.

The site, founded in 2006, describes itself as having 400,000 artists and designers globally who upload their designs to the site. Redbubble then handles the printing on more than 60 different items, including tote bags, clothes, phone and laptop cases, stickers and wall decals.

Mr Hosking previously said the company was defending all claims.

The Redbubble prospectus filed when it prepared to list on the ASX in May 2016 indicated there had been three lawsuits filed against the company since it started.

One of these involved the Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation, which alleged copyright infringement, trade mark infringement and contravention of Australian Consumer Law.

It also mentioned the Pok??mon case, saying it was “possible” Redbubble would be unsuccessful in fighting the claims from either company and they could have “a material adverse impact” on the company.

Pok??mon alleged Rebubble had used sponsored advertisements on Google to promote Pok??mon-branded products sold by the company, but argued the products were counterfeit.

“A search of Google for ‘Pikachu shirt’ conducted on 3 February 2016 resulted in the identification of eight sponsored links. Six of those sponsored links were to products sold by Redbubble,” Pok??mon alleged.

The company, known for its character Pikachu, alleged searching the character’s name resulted in 11,564 products from Redbubble, and 43,528 when searching the Pok??mon name.

It described the conduct as “misleading or deceptive”.

A search of Pikachu on the site on December 19 found 5320 results, and 35,802 for Pokemon.

Searching “Pikachu shirt” on Google did not show a sponsored advertisement from Redbubble, though did show its results on the search giant’s first page.

A page on Redbubble’s website about copyright recommends artists “speak to an attorney” before uploading to the site if they have specific questions or concerns about their artwork.

It notes using characters from video games or text from a book could infringe someone else’s copyright.

with AAP

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The relatively unknown enclave with some of our best beach views

DOM SEAHOLME Online Picture Michael Rayner . The Esplanade Seaholme DOM SEAHOLME Online Picture Michael Rayner . Jogger and city views from The Esplanade Seaholme DOM SEAHOLME Online Picture Michael Rayner . Dog friendly beach Seaholme DOM SEAHOLME Online Picture Michael Rayner . Jogger and city views from The Esplanade Seaholme
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DOM SEAHOLME Online Picture Michael Rayner . Seaholme Railway Station DOM SEAHOLME Online Picture Michael Rayner . Jogger and city views from The Esplanade Seaholme

The beachside suburbs of Melbourne’s west have long been disregarded, only coming up on the radar when crazy stuff happens, like this cocaine disguised as coffee bust last month, and then there was the famous Snorlax appearance of August 2016 which brought insane crowds to Altona town’s pier.

But our western beachside burbs have a lot more to offer than drug busts and Snorlax. Altona’s got an awesome dog beach – where owners wade in waist-deep water with their pooches. Its human beach is often less packed than closer-to-Melbourne, and therefore much busier, Williamstown’s. And Altona’s even got cafes to satisfy the rest of Melbourne’s hipsters.

I’m not sure whether it’s the underlying hum of the industry surrounding it (seriously, stand still and listen), but Melbourne’s western beaches are buzzing. In some ways they’re even better than their southern counterparts: the views of the city are quite extraordinary, and established trees shade grassy bits making them a little easier to picnic around. It’s more “park and get to the beach” and less the “park and battle seaside vegetation and cliffs” of Melbourne’s other bayside.

But there’s one little spot out west that, still today, few have heard of. Seaholme. This little enclave has its own gorgeous circa 1920 train station, beachfront, plethora of seafaring activities, and even a primary school. But it’s almost invisible when it comes to its big neighbours: Altona and Williamstown. According to the 2016 census, little Seaholme is home to just under 2000 people.

Still, Seaholme’s foreshore is full of action. Hobsons Bay Council suggests fishing, walking, picnicking, jet skiing, cycling, running and boating – and that’s just in Seaholme. It’s home to old school clubs, too: there’s the bowls club, the cricket club, the darts team, Hobsons Bay Sport and Game Fishing Club, the Seaholme Boat Owners Association (and more…). At least, if you didn’t know anyone before you moved here, you could join a club and meet plenty of locals after.

If you can get in, that is. Only 11 sales occurred in the past six months, according to Domain Group data, and house prices are up 40 per cent to a median of $1,215,000. It’s not far off better-known Williamstown’s $1.47 million median. It’s way more expensive than Altona, which is still growing in price. Almost 100 sales in the past six months have put Altona’s median house price up 12 per cent to $865,500.

There are a few seaside abodes in Seaholme on the market now. Grab yourself a pretty “serenely quiet” Cal bung at 6 Wattle Grove or a retro delight at 46 Station Street. There are a few things you’ll have to give up if you move here, though. The corner shop is one. The few old shopfronts on High Street have been mostly converted into homes. Altona Sports Club is as close as a restaurant as you’ll get: check out the views from the bistro while enjoying a $20 chook parma.

The biggest issue is how to get here. Obviously the train station is an asset, and visitors from Melbourne may well hop off here to find a spot of beach, rather than going to Altona.

It’s a breeze to get to by bike along the Bay Trail West, just get yourself to the West Gate Bridge first. If you’re on the southside, try the punt from West Gate Landing in Port Melbourne. From the West Gate, you can get all the way to Altona (via Seaholme) on designated bike/walking paths. They take you through some of the natural assets of the area that you just don’t get to experience properly by car, like Altona Coastal Park and Jawbone Conservation Reserve.

Five things you didn’t know about Seaholme:The Coastal Trail/Bay West Trail will take you through it: it’s a 23 kilometre trail beginning at the Melbourne side of the West Gate Bridge in Newport, and ending up in Altona Meadows.It’s bordered by Cherry Lake on Millers Road in Altona, which has a 3.5 kilometre walking/cycling trail around it.Cherry Creek divides the suburb in two.Locals can help out the endangered Altona skipper butterfly by planting chaffy saw-edge/gahnia.Seaholme is home to four reserves: beachside WD Cresser Reserve, HC Kim Reserve, PA Burns Reserve and Fell Reserve.

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The iconic Australian brand willing to help the old enemy

Australian manufacturer Kookaburra has offered to cross the battle lines of the game’s oldest Test rivalry to assist beleaguered England by having their red cricket balls used in the northern hemisphere.
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Australia’s own troubles on Ashes tours since their last series victory in England in 2001 have led Cricket Australia to broker a deal with Dukes to use the English balls in the latter half of the Sheffield Shield competition.

Now, with England 3-0 down and having lost the Ashes, former captain Michael Vaughan is pushing for the old enemy to do the same and begin to use Kookaburra balls in the county championship.

England’s seam bowlers were comprehensively out-played in the Ashes series, unable to get the lateral movement with the Kookaburra they would get in their home conditions. The Australian pace-bowling trio – Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins – have been key players in the hosts’ triumph, using the extra pace at their disposal to maximum effect.

Kookaburra already have an arrangement in place with the England and Wales Cricket Board for white-ball cricket and would welcome an England decision to expand on their deal.

“Kookaburra supply balls to the ECB for various purposes, mainly white balls at the moment, but if there was a want to use red Kookaburra balls for any competitions we’d be interested and happy to accommodate,” a Kookaburra spokesman said.

“When red Kookaburras have previously been used in England there hasn’t been any issues as far as balls holding up in the conditions.”

With an eye towards the second Ashes Test at Adelaide Oval, Vaughan argued in August that England should be using the pink Kookaburra, rather than a pink Dukes ball, in their first day-night Test against the West Indies at Edgbaston.

In his column for the London Telegraph newspaper on Tuesday he again said England had to take a leaf out of Australia’s book.

“I wrote at the weekend that I hope England do not go for the short-term fix of playing on juicy pitches at home. Win well on good surfaces. One idea from social media has been to play with the Kookaburra ball in county cricket. Why not?” Vaughan wrote.

“Australia are planning for the 2019 Ashes by using the Duke ball here. We have to start planning in the same way for our next tour to Australia.”

“If you look at Australia, they have a team which will be just the right age to win the Ashes in England in 2019, something they have not done since 2001. They have three quicks who will be around for another three or four years.”

CA introduced the Dukes ball into the Sheffield Shield last season, a practice it will continue when the first-class competition resumes after the Big Bash.

There is much hand-wringing in English cricket as to why they cannot produce fast bowlers capable of bowling regularly above 140 km/h like Australia have with their premier quicks.

England coach Trevor Bayliss is at a loss to explain the lack of penetration by his bowlers in Australian conditions. Their pitches are not as hard as Australia’s and have traditionally favoured swing and seam, reducing the need for raw speed.

“The most difficult thing is the conditions don’t suit,” said Bayliss, an Australian who played in the shield for NSW in the 1980s and 90s.

“How can we encourage them to keep bowling fast and keep getting better without the wickets being conducive to fast bowling I’m not exactly sure.

“Do they play too much? Can we keep them fresher? They’re all questions we have to ask. Can the wickets be produced that are a little harder or do we keep going down the track to play in conditions that suit what we do. I haven’t got the answer.

“If the wickets are responsive to fast bowling, it gives encouragement to young fast bowlers to bowl fast.

“If they don’t, well, it’s probably the opposite and discourages bowlers to try and run in and bowl fast.”

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The hunt is on: The Melburnians looking for a home worth $50m

The ad as placed in Domain magazine this month. 39 St Georges road Toorak. 20th April 2016. The Age Fairfaxmedia News Picture by JOE ARMAO
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Two super wealthy Melbourne families are on the hunt for luxury trophy homes worth up to $50 million.

In a sign of the extraordinary riches held in the city’s bricks and mortar, a prominent real estate agency has confirmed it has two clients looking to drop between $35 million to $50 million each on a house in Toorak or its surrounds.

Marshall White has taken on the somewhat onerous, but undoubtedly lucrative, task of playing property matchmaker. The agency has launched an advertising campaign to find potential sellers, offering a rare glimpse into the high-stakes wheelings and dealings in the ultra-prestige real estate market.

In July, Victoria’s house price record was smashed when an offshore buyer agreed to pay $40 million for the sprawling estate at 18 St Georges Road in Toorak. Land title records show the transaction is yet to settle.

Marshall White director Marcus Chiminello estimated there were no less than 50 properties in the leafy inner east that were worth more than $35 million, but they were all tightly held.

“Out of that 50, there is probably a very small percentage that would consider a sale,” Mr Chiminello said.

“This has all come about because a few months ago, we had an offer of $41 million on a property under construction in Toorak and the owners decided not to sell.

“So we’re just trying to find them something of equivalent calibre, which has proven to be difficult.” Related: Toorak mansion breaks Victorian recordRelated: Melbourne homes could be worth $100m

Mr Chiminello said both his clients were Toorak locals looking to upgrade. One family’s price range sits between $35 million and $40 million, while the other family could splurge $50 million for the right property, he said.

Both clients share a similar brief; they want a newly-built or completely renovated house on at least 2500 square metres of land, with a tennis court and pool.

“It needs to have basically every family lifestyle amenity,” Mr Chiminello said.

Offers and transactions of such magnitude are rarely discussed in the public realm; affluent individuals typically seek confidentiality agreements and most sales are off-market.

Mr Chiminello said if a deal goes ahead, it would likely be done behind closed doors. “It will probably occur and no one will know about it,” he said.

The true depth of wealth in Melbourne’s blue-ribbon boulevards is largely a secret, but some industry insiders believe there are Toorak estates that could command up to $100 million.

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Starc on crutches as availability doubts grow for Boxing Day Test

Star paceman Mitchell Starc was on crutches on Tuesday as doubts grow over his availability for the Boxing Day Test.
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The left-arm pace ace had scans to determine the extent of the heel problem that surfaced during the first innings of Australia’s victory in Perth.

The crutches are believed to be a precaution to take the weight off Starc’s bruised right heel. That Starc was able to complete the game has raised hopes he has avoided a more serious injury such as a fracture.

The injury is not believed to be related to the stress fracture that forced him home early from the Test tour of India and sidelined him again after the Champions Trophy.

With the Ashes won and a marquee four-Test series in South Africa on the horizon, selectors will be loathe to take any risks with Starc, who is the leading wicket-taker this campaign.

They would have little to gain and plenty to lose if Starc was to break down having been asked to do too much on what has traditionally been a batsman-friendly MCG strip, particularly in a dead rubber.

If Starc was to aggravate his heel issue, he would be racing the clock to be fit for the start of the series in South Africa in just over two months’ time.

While he was upset to miss the Boxing Day Test in 2012, he played in last summer’s feature and could also line up at his home Test if he misses out in Melbourne.

“We’ll wait and see. It’s the same 13, we’ll make that decision when we get to Melbourne,” coach and selector Darren Lehmann said.

Tasmania’s Jackson Bird would come into the XI if Starc was ruled out. The Sydney-raised Bird is also a chance to play at the SCG if selectors opt to wrap Cummins in cotton wool at the end of a long series.

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While Steve Smith has taken man of the match honours in two of the three Tests, the ability of the big three quicks – Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins – to strike regularly has been a key in Australia’s success.

The star trio, who have regularly hit speeds in excess of 140 km/h, have taken 45 wickets at 24 apiece to the 31 at 42.6 by England’s quicks.

While Joe Root’s seamers have been criticised for lacking the pace to have an effect in Australia, they have also had to contend with arguably the best batsman in the world – Steve Smith.

“Our fast bowlers have bowled very well,” Usman Khawaja said. “When fast bowlers don’t go as well sometimes the credit has to go to the batsman and vice-versa.

“You might have to give credit to Steve Smith, who is absolutely on fire. No one seems to be able to get him out. [Mitch] Marsh batted beautifully this game and Shaun the game before.

“Our batsmen have done the deed, made some runs and big runs and the English haven’t been able to do that yet. Probably more credit to our batsmen than anything.”

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Who should be the ACT Brumbies captain in 2018?

Incumbent ACT Brumbies skipper Sam Carter is keen to retain the captaincy role next year, and the sleepless nights that come with it, if new coach Dan McKellar decides he is the right man for the job.
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But the tireless lock says he will happily step aside if McKellar opts for someone else, with the looming return of Christian Lealiifano and David Pocock to add starch to the Brumbies’ leadership group.

McKellar will wait until the entire squad returns to training in January before making a decision on who will lead the Brumbies into the 2018 Super Rugby season.

Carter grew into his first year as captain, admitting he the responsibility weighed heavily on his shoulders before the first game of the season.

He shared the role with Lealiifano in a co-captains arrangement and led the Brumbies to their fifth consecutive finals berth.

Asked if wanted to continue as captain, Carter said: “Absolutely. Christian did all of the off-field stuff, and when it was on the field it was my turn.

“I know if Christian is back in the team next year he’ll be calling all of the plays anyway. There’s a few leaders within in the team and whoever has the ‘c’ next to their name is irrelevant.

“We could go with co-captains or a single model, it just depends what the coaches go with. Whoever is picked will lead the team.

“I didn’t get much sleep [before the first game], I was a bit worried about all of the things that could have gone wrong. The more game time I got as captain, the more irrelevant all of those worries were.

“I’d be comfortable [if I’m not captain], I’ll do everything I can to support the team and be a leader on the field anyway. As long as everyone’s working towards the same goal as a team.”

The Brumbies launched their 2018 jersey on Tuesday and will finish their first pre-season block on Friday, with the players to restart training on January 8.

Lealiifano and Pocock will arrive back in Canberra two weeks later after finishing their respective playing stints in Ireland and Japan.

Christian Lealiifano. Photo: Rohan Thomson

“Both of those players have been involved in Wallabies teams in the past, the form Christian is showing Ulster will be a bonus and benefit for us,” McKellar said.

“They’re smart footballers, they’ve been around a long time and they’ll fit into our program seamlessly in terms of how we want to play. I’ve been talking to them to keep them in the loop to make sure it’s not information overload when they do get back.

“The guys in leadership positions now won’t be cast aside and forgotten about when we get senior players back, we’ll make sure there’s flow on and continue to develop leaders.”

Carter played three Tests for the Wallabies in June, but was overlooked for the Rugby Championships and end of year spring tour of Europe.

But McKellar hoped the Brumbies change of style would help Carter show improvements in his game to put him back on the Wallabies radar.

“I think he’s started already, the changes we make to how we play the game will hopefully suit the areas he wants to improve,” McKellar said.

“He’s in the best shape I’ve seen him in since I’ve been at the Brumbies and is leading by his actions. Carts is always in good condition, that’s a strength of his game.

“He’s got a very good engine, but I think he’s probably taken that to another level.”

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Ex-Queensland state minister John McVeigh joins federal cabinet

FILE PHOTO: Nationals MP David Littleproud has a beer with Nationals candidate for New England, Barnaby Joyce, at the Aero Club in Tamworth, the evening before the New England by-election, on Friday 1 December 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex EllinghausenFormer Newman government minister John McVeigh has been promoted to the federal cabinet as part of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s pre-Christmas reshuffle.
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The Prime Minister announced the cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr McVeigh, the former agricultural minister turned federal member for Groom, will be the Minister for Regional Development.

Mr McVeigh resigned from the Queensland Parliament in April 2016 following his LNP preselection for the seat of Groom, triggering a by-election in his seat of Toowoomba South.

The federal seat became vacant when Ian Macfarlane, a minister in the Abbott government, quit federal politics earlier that year.

Mr McVeigh went on to win the federal seat of Groom, which was once held by his father, Tom, in the 1980s.

Mr McViegh said it was a great honour and very humbling to be promoted to cabinet.

“I recognise there is a lot of work ahead of me,” he said.

Mr McViegh said his role as a minister for the Newman government not only covered the regional industries of agriculture, fisheries and forestry but he also sat on some COAG committee with other states, territory and federal ministers, including the Northern Australian Ministerial Forum.

“So I have had a lot of experience working with other states, particularly across the Northern Territory and Western Australia in collaboration with Queensland so [I have] a good background in reaching out beyond the state boundaries in that role,” he said.

“I am very excited, I do believe I have a good background and skill in the area.

“In the last six months or so I’ve chaired the parliamentary selection committee for regional development and decentralisation and through that role have been to every state and territory in the country in recent months so have had a little bit of a head start there as well.”

Mr McViegh said he was thrilled to be able to join with the likes of Peter Dutton and Steven Ciobo from Queensland in the cabinet.

First-time Queensland LNP backbencher David Littleproud, who sat in the Nationals party room, has also been promoted to cabinet as Agriculture and Water Minister.

When Mr Turnbull was asked if Mr Littleproud as a first-termer was qualified for the frontbench he said he was a very capable man.

“He’s had 20 years’ experience in agribusiness. He really does understand agriculture very well, both at a practical level and at a financial level. So no, he’s certainly well-qualified.” he said.

Mr Littleproud said it was Mr Turnbull who got to chose who had the best experience to fill the portfolios that will give the best outcome for the entire nation.

“Obviously I’m not naive, I understand there are some huge challenges ahead but am going in with a clean slate, enthusiasm and fresh ideas,” he said.

Mr Littleproud said the Queensland representation in the cabinet was fantastic.

“We’re there to represent all the nation, not just Queensland but I’m a proud Queenslander, born and bred in Queensland and obviously a real maroon but the reality is that we’re there for the entire nation,” he said.

“It’s great to see Queensland acknowledged for its contribution to parliament.”

Christan Porter is the new Attorney-General, replacing Queenslander George Brandis will replace Alexander Downer as high commission to London.

Mr Turnbull said he had refreshed the ministry to reflect the priorities and values of his government.

“The Ministry is filled with energy and rich with diverse life experiences,” he said.

“Together we look forward to securing and delivering a safer and more prosperous Australia.”

Mr McVeigh and Mr Littleproud were travelling to Canberra on Tuesday evening ahead of being sworn in on Wednesday.

Mr Macfarlane went on to lead the Queensland Resources Council.

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How an Australian first-timer landed Jackman’s Greatest Showman

For an Australian filmmaker making a name in Hollywood, Michael Gracey is virtually unknown in his own country.
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But the visual effects artist and commercials director has just directed his first movie – and it happens to be a mega-budget musical about circus entrepreneur P.T. Barnum starring Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron and Michelle Williams with music by two of the composers who won an Oscar for La La Land this year.

While yet to open anywhere – it’s out in the US this week and Australia on Boxing Day – The Greatest Showman has already been nominated for three Golden Globes, including best musical or comedy movie, best actor for Jackman and best original song for the stirring This is Me.

So how did a newcomer land a gig like that?

“That’s a very good question,” Gracey said cheerfully ahead of the Australian premiere in Sydney on Wednesday night. “It came out of doing a commercial with Hugh for the Japanese market.

“I actually got the gig because they thought, being Australian, I knew Hugh Jackman, and I didn’t. But I also didn’t correct them.”

After bonding over that Ice Tea commercial, Jackman suggested they make a movie together then surprised his new friend by sending him the script for The Greatest Showman.

“That started a seven-year journey,” Gracey said. “We went down a number of different paths.

“There was a stage where we were being encouraged to do a jukebox musical … But not being content with that, Hugh and I were like ‘let’s make an original musical’.”

The movie follows Barnum’s rise from humble origins to drawing together all kinds of exotic performers – a bearded lady, a tiny man, conjoined twins – into a phenomenally successful circus then risking everything on a singing tour by a Swedish soprano.

Gracey said fellow Australians Baz Luhrmann, Tim Minchin and Peter Allen were inspirations as he made The Greatest Showman.

“There is something about musical narrative and Australians,” he said. “If you want to do something, you kind of have to do it at a level – because we’re so far away from everywhere else – that exceeds what is just normal if you want to convince people that some guy from Australia is worth backing for an original musical.”

Gracey hopes The Greatest Showman will have a life like classic original musicals The Sound of Music, Singin’ in the Rain and Mary Poppins.

“I’d be very surprised if The Greatest Showman didn’t end up on Broadway at some point,” he said. “And I wouldn’t even be surprised if it ended up on Broadway with Hugh Jackman playing the role.”

Gracey, 41, grew up in Melbourne – in Carlton then Kew – then started working in visual effects and music videos before making his reputation in advertising, impressing with his Christmas commercials in the UK and US.

Rather than a bio-pic, he sees The Greatest Showman as “a musical reverie” about a famous impressario whose creativity extended to three autobiographies that told different versions of his life.

“I kind of feel like if P. T. Barnum was around now, this would be the version of his life that he would tell and he would cast Hugh Jackman, who looks nothing like P. T. Barnum, to play him,” Gracey said.

While Gracey has been linked to a movie adaptation of the Japanese manga series Naruto and an Elton John bio-pic called Rocketman, he is not sure what his next project will be. Much depends on how The Greatest Showman fares at the box office.

“If you look at the things I’m drawn to, it’s always stuff that’s got a lot of imagination and heart,” he said. Gracey ‘kind of a big deal’: Jackman

Zac Efron, Zendaya, and Hugh Jackman arrive at the Australian premiere of The Greatest Showman in Sydney. Photo: AAP

Jackman has said that when he first met Gracey, he was already “kind of a big deal” in musical storytelling. And pitching the project around Hollywood while they were trying to get it financed, “he was better than I’ve ever been playing P.T. Barnum”.

At the Sydney premiere of the film, Jackman said the past seven and a half years developing the passion project had been surreal.

“For the first three years I was acting like I knew the film was going to happen but I really wasn’t sure,” he said.

“At the time I’d never done a movie musical, I’d done a lot of movies and a lot of musicals and I’d just hosted the Ocsars. I thought ‘I’d love to give it a go’ but I wasn’t sure I’d get a shot.”

When The Greatest Showman was green-lit by 20th Century Fox, there hadn’t been an original Hollywood movie-musical for over twenty years.

“We just put everything into it and we took a risk. I’m very proud of the film,” the 49-year-old said on the red carpet at The Star in Sydney.

The Golden-Globe nominated actor said he’d be game to portray Barnum if The Greatest Showman were ever to be adapted for the stage.

“I’d be interested in that. I really really love the music.”

A week after Disney’s takeover of 21st Century Fox was announced, industry heavyweights are still scratching their heads on what the merger will mean for the film-making landscape.

“It’s a huge shift, it’s a lot to take in. I don’t think anybody really knows what the plan is moving forward,” Jackman said.

When asked whether less risks would be taken with movies going forward, Jackman said only time would tell.

“I don’t think we can assume that Fox or those departments are not going to make these kinds of movies any more. I think the next year will tell.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Fight for survival: Deadline looms for Blue Mountains council

The Blue Mountains council claims it has done everything in its power to respond to allegations of asbestos management breaches, while it awaits the government’s verdict over whether it will be suspended.
Nanjing Night Net

The council’s case for survival is contained in a lengthy submission to Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton, who last week issued the council with a seven-day deadline to respond to the allegations or face a three-month suspension.

The council urged the minister against suspending the elected body, claiming it “has acted in a timely, cooperative, open and appropriate manner” in responding to asbestos issues.

Speaking ahead of an extraordinary council meeting on Tuesday night, Mayor Mark Greenhill said he was “confident” Ms Upton would accept the council’s position.

“To suspend us, the minister would have to be of the view we were not acting on the information that was coming to us. Clearly that is not right.”

Cr Greenhill said the elected council first became aware of the council’s asbestos issues in May, and in the months since had been working with SafeWork NSW and the Environmental Protection Authority to resolve the issues.

The council was issued with several improvement notices by SafeWork NSW in November, after its inspectors discovered asbestos at a number of council-owned properties, including at pre-schools in Wentworth Falls and Katoomba.

SafeWork NSW is also investigating whether workers were exposed to asbestos-contaminated material at a council-depot site in Lawson between November 2016 and November 2017.

“At no point has the elected body shirked its responsibility. SafeWork NSW have expressed contentment with our work. We’ve met every single deadline they’ve set,” Cr Greenhill said.

Ms Upton’s intervention last week came two days after her cabinet colleague, Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean, ordered Safe Work NSW to investigate asbestos management practices at the council.

Liberal councillor and former mayor Daniel Myles said the council was being punished for its outspoken views on Badgerys Creek airport and overdevelopment in the mountains.

“If we are removed from office it will absolutely be about more than asbestos,” he said.

“The people of the Blue Mountains gave this council a mandate to govern. That mandate is as significant as any other level of government and it should not be withdrawn, especially before the full facts are known and the inquires are completed.”

The government’s intervention also followed several weeks of media coverage by influential Sydney radio commentator, Ray Hadley, who raised the issue directly with Ms Upton during an interview on his morning show in November.

“I’ve been calling on you for a week to take some action. This council, minister, needs to be sacked,” Mr Hadley said on air on November 20.

In her suspension notice to the council on December 13, Ms Upton cited media coverage, and its reflection of community concern, among the reasons for her intervention.

Addressing this issue in its submission, prepared by general manager Rosemary Dillon, the council said inaccurate media coverage had led to “a detrimental impact on procedural fairness for the council in addressing concerns of the NSW government”.

The submission took aim at Hadley’s commentary, claiming he made “a number of unsubstantiated claims about the organisation, the elected body, the mayor and many council staff”.

The council is expected to adopt the submission at Tuesday’s council meeting before providing it to Minister Upton by the Wednesday deadline.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.