Royals release family photo that features on 2017 Christmas card

IT’S that time of the year, when you send out Christmas cards and family photos to loved ones with details of your lives.
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In that way, the royals are no different from the rest of us.

Unlike the rest of us, a family portrait and details is enough to create a storm on social media.

Britain’s Prince William, and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, pose with their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte, at Kensington Palace. The photo has been used on the Cambridges’ Christmas card. Picture: Chris Jackson/Kensington Palace via AP

Kensington Palace has released the picture featuring on Prince William and Kate’s Christmas card via Twitter.

The photograph showsthe Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their two children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

It was captured earlier this year by royal photographer Chris Jackson.

The @KensingtonRoyal account also shared the news two-year-old Princess Charlotte would attend the Willcocks Nursery School in London from January 2018.

A statement from the school said:

Prince George, 4, started primary school in September at Thomas’s Battersea.

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall have also released their official Christmas card, via Twitter account @ClarenceHouse.

The featured photograph was taken by Hugo Burnand, during a private 70th birthday party of The Duchess of Cornwall.

Here is this year’s official Christmas card from The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall.The photograph was taken by Hugo Burnand at Highgrove in July during the private 70th Birthday party of The Duchess of Cornwall. pic.twitter南京夜网/yX2Ig92hui

— Clarence House (@ClarenceHouse) December 18, 2017

From fossils to ferments

PEOPLEget into the wine industry via all sorts of unusual occupations, butsenior winemaker and general manager for the Hungerford Hill, SweetwaterEstate and DalwoodbrandsBryan Currie arguably takes the cake by once being a palaeontologist.
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From a Gippsland dairy farming family, Bryan was born in Melbourne and after school studiedpaleontologyat Latrobe University. On graduating he began a career studying fossils in the uni’spaleontologydepartment and wrote several papers on the subject.

Life as an academic paled for Bryan and he took time off to work as a vineyard and cellar hand at various wineries – an experience that led him at the age of 20 to begin a Charles Sturt University winemaking degree. That was followed by 18 years at Calabria Wines, during which he was chief winemaker. He then joined McWilliam’s as premium labels winemaking manager and developed a particular regard for Tumbarumba fruit.

Now aged 41 he has the stimulating task of running the burgeoning wine empire of the Iris Capital group of hotelier and developer Sam Arnaout.

A hugely exciting aspect will be reviving the Dalwood brand that hasn’t been seen for 40 years or more. That comes because Sam Arnaout recently bought the right from the Penfold arm of Treasury Wine Estates to restore the Dalwood name to the historic Hunter River frontage Dalwood-Wyndham Estate property at Branxton, recognised as Australia’s oldest continuous winegrowing site.

Dalwood was the name given by pioneer George Wyndham when he and his family settled there in 1828 and, after buying it in 1904 and selling it in 1967, Penfolds continued to own the name.

Last July Iris Capital bought the property with its beautiful winery buildings, vineyard, tasting cellars, picnic grounds, restaurants and function rooms from the French Pernod Ricard Group, which in 2014 had shut down the site.

Now Bryan Currie will be able to release Dalwood-brand wines from Branxton-grown 2017 vintage semillon, chardonnay and shiraz and from grapes from the coming 2018 vintage.The first Dalwood-label wine, a 2017 chardonnay, will be released next autumn and other wines will be available later at the Hungerford Hill cellar door and reopened Branxton cellar door. Bryan is also in charge of making the Sweetwater wines from the prized 16-hectare vineyard at Rothbury, and the Hungerford Hill portfolio from Iris’s 41 hectares of Hunter vines and grapes from the prime NSW areas of Tumbarumba and Hilltops.

Wine reviewsSEMILLON FROM DALWOODTHISHungerford Hill 2017 Hunter Valley Semilloncomes from Dalwood vineyard fruit and is green-tinted straw and has orange blossom scents and crisp lemony front-palate flavour.The middle palate has nashi pear, sherbet and slate and the finish flinty acid.PRICE: $27. DRINK WITH:oysters. AGEING: six years. It and today’s other wines are athungerfordhill南京夜网419论坛and1 Broke Rdcellar door.

RATING: 4.5 stars

A SWEETLY AGED SHIRAZTHEHermitage on the label grates, buttheSweetwater Hermitage 2005 Shirazis a beautifully aged 13.5 per cent alcohol Hunter red with deep purple hues and bouquet garni aromas. The front palate introduces plush blackcurrant flavour and briar, licorice, black pepper and mocha oak integrate on the middle palate. Minty tannins play at the finish.PRICE: $90. DRINK WITH:osso bucco. AGEING: 12 years.

RATING: 5 stars

JUICY 2015 HUNTER REDWITH13.5 per cent alcohol, this multi-facetedHungerford Hill 2015 Hunter Valley Shirazshines bright garnet in the glass and shows berry pastille scents. The front of the palate bring in juicy plum flavour and the middle palate has elements of mulberry, peppermint, capers and savoury oak and earthy tannins come through at the finish.PRICE: $45. DRINK WITH:beef fillet tornedos. AGEING: 10 years.

RATING: 4.5 stars

CRUCIAL ROLE IN WINE EMPIRE: Bryan Currie, senior winemaker and general manager for the Hungerford Hill, Sweetwater Estate and Dalwood brands. Photo: Simone De Peak

Economists’ fearless predictions point to lower returns for investors in 2018

**NOT TO BE USED BEFORE 030424**SPECIAL REPORTS**SEE AFR FOR MORE INFO**FORTUNE. 001120. PI/AFR. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION LOUIE DOUVISgeneric. whether the sharemarket follows the economy or vise versa. crystal ball, fortune telling.***afrphotos南京夜网***Despite the worries about Donald Trump, Chinese debt, North Korea’s missile tests and whether property prices in Australia will crash, investors have had a good 2017.
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Whereas the local sharemarket looks like ending the year with a total return of about 10 per cent, economists expect tougher going next year, with our sharemarket ending 2018 with a whimper at 6200 points, from about 6000 points now.

And global shares are unlikely to do as well next year, after producing a likely total return (including dividends) for 2017 of about 15 per cent in Australian dollar terms.

The cash rate is likely to stay on hold at 1.5 per cent; though, economists say there’s a chance of one, or perhaps two, rate hikes by the end of 2018.

The fearless forecasts of economists should be taken with a pinch of salt; as they point out, forecasting is more art than science. It’s the assumptions behind the forecasts that are often more interesting.

Most economists expect economic growth to continue at the current annual rate of 2.8 per cent, or even closer to 3 per cent over the course of next year.

They say home building, which has big knock-on effects for the economy, remains solid in most states and territories and the business sector is in good shape. Interest rates low

Craig James, the chief economist at CommSec, says inflation and interest rates have probably bottomed.

The cash rate is likely to remain at 1.5 per cent for most of next year, though he has pencilled in the possibility of a rate hike in December 2018.

Paul Bloxham, the chief economist of Australia and New Zealand for HSBC, is more bullish.

Growth could lift 3.2 per cent in 2018, supported by rising business investment, increased spending on urban infrastructure and strong growth in exports of LNG, tourism and education services, Bloxham says.

Higher growth is expected to tighten labour markets and increase wages and inflation, he says.

“We expect the Reserve Bank to start lifting its cash rate from around mid-2018 and expect the cash rate to be 2 per cent by the end of 2018,” he says. Properties’ soft landing

CoreLogic figures show Sydney prices have fallen 1.3 per cent over the past three months to the end of November, but risen by 1.9 per cent in Melbourne – though price growth in Melbourne is slowing.

Sydney and Melbourne prices could fall by about 5 per cent over 2018, says Shane Oliver, the chief economist at AMP Capital Investors. Adelaide and Brisbane will likely see moderate gains, while Hobart prices likely to continue to boom, he says.

Paul Bloxham says Australia has had a housing boom rather than a housing bubble. He is expecting Sydney prices to rise by up to 4 per cent in Sydney and by up to 9 per cent in Melbourne. Global shares to cool

With US shares in particular having had a very good run again in 2017 “it is due for a pause and I would not see much action over the next 12 months on the US sharemarket, up or down”, says Chris Caton, an independent economist.

“There’s one big caveat – the political situation in the US is potentially unstable,” Caton says.

It is just over a year since Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. It has been a wild ride with resignations and sackings.

Trump does look to have cleared the way through Congress for his business and personal tax cuts, which could see the boom in US shares extended into 2018. China debt

As everybody knows, any sharp slowdown in China would have big impacts on Australia.

As Australia’s biggest trading partner, the Reserve Bank keeps a close eye on China. The Reserve Bank said in October that it is worried about China’s debt level.

“Relative to GDP, China’s corporate debt exceeds that of most advanced economies, and is more than three times higher than in economies with comparable per capita incomes,” the RBA said.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says the Chinese economy is continuing to slow. It estimates GDP growth will be 6.7 per cent for 2017 and 6.4 per cent in 2018. Bitcoin bubble

The award for the most irrational phenomenon of 2017 goes to bitcoin, the price of which has risen to about $US1800 (at the time of writing) from about $US1000 at the start of this year.

The massive returns from the cyptocurrency over the year masks some big falls. It looks as if increasing numbers of small investors are buying the “currency”, forcing up the price as demand outstrips supply.

The Reserve Bank of Australia governor, Philip Lowe, recently used the words “speculative mania” when talking about cryptocurrencies.

Twitter: @jcollett_money

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Hamish and Andy go out with a bang in radio ratings

Hamish and Andy have signed off on a high, winning their last ever radio survey in Melbourne’s hotly-contested drive timeslot.
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The boys finished the year with an audience share of 11 points, narrowly pipping 3AW host Tom Elliott’s 10.7.

Nova’s Kate, Tim and Marty are well placed to be crowned the kings of FM drive next year with Hamish and Andy hanging up the headphones. The trio wrapped up 2017 hot on the boys’ heels on 10.5 points.

In third place for drive were KIIS FM’s Hughsey and Kate, who are swapping networks next year to replace Hamish and Andy with an extended national drive show on Fox FM. The program will also be hosted by The Project’s Carrie Bickmore and Tommy Little.

In the coveted FM breakfast slot, Gold’s Jo and Lehmo slipped from first to third place behind Triple M and Nova’s Chrissie, Sam and Brownie. The pair’s show was formally axed last month despite recently recording the station’s best ever breakfast results in a decade.

Triple M executives will be patting themselves on the back, as this survey was the first to feature comedian Wil Anderson on Eddy McGuire’s breakfast show. Hot Breakfast is traditionally one of the most listened to FM shows in Melbourne, but hasn’t finished first or second in the past few surveys despite dominating earlier in the year.

3AW’s Ross and John won breakfast overall, with a mammoth 20.1 audience share. ABC Radio Melbourne clawed a small gain in listeners, but a question mark hangs over next year’s results when Sami Shah and Jacinta Parsons take over from popular but controversial presenter Red Symons.

Fellow ABC presenter Jon Faine also narrowed the gap between himself and Neil Mitchell, however the 3AW mornings presenter retains a considerable five-point lead.

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Retail Food Group shares plunge 25% on profit downgrade

Retail Food Group’s shares have gone into freefall after the cafe and bakery giant issued a profit downgrade and admitted franchisees were leaving its network.
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RFG’s shares plunged 25 per cent to $1.98 on Tuesday, after the company said it expected its first-half statutory net profit to fall to $22 million, from $33.5 million in the same period last year.

This follows a 7 per cent share price slide on Monday after Fairfax Media reported allegations of widespread wage underpayment in the company’s network.

The stock has now fallen 55 per cent since December 8, when Fairfax published the first of several articles revealing that RFG’s business model was driving some franchisees to the wall.

Almost $460 million has been wiped from the company’s market capitalisation, which now sits at $361 million.

In a trading update released on Tuesday morning, RFG said Crust Pizza and Donut King were trading as anticipated but its Michel’s Patisserie, Brumby’s and Gloria Jean’s chains were trading below expectations.

This was “consistent with recent trading updates of other retailers, particularly those retailers with shopping centre exposures”, RFG said.

The company said negative media coverage about franchising and RFG was making it harder to attract new franchisees or hold onto existing store owners, which would hit earnings.

“Associated revenues are now forecast to be below prior expectations and future franchise trading revenues are also likely to be impacted,” the update said.

Fairfax’s investigation into the company found that at least 200 stores across RFG’s numerous brands, which also includes Pizza Capers and Crust, are up for sale.

The expected $11.5 million earnings slump this half includes the $7 million costs of a business-wide review, and losses from disposing of corporate properties. !function(e,t,s,i){var n=”InfogramEmbeds”,o=e.getElementsByTagName(“script”),d=o[0],r=/^http:/.test(e.location)?”http:”:”https:”;if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=r+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var a=e.createElement(“script”);a.async=1,,a.src=i,d.parentNode.insertBefore(a,d)}}(document,0,”infogram-async”,”https://e.infogram南京夜网/js/dist/embed-loader-min.js”);

RFG said Tuesday’s profit guidance depended on $5 million of new international licence sales, which it hoped to complete by December 31.

It was also subject to “heightened risk to franchise earnings, given the current adverse publicity”, it said.

The company had not previously given guidance for the half, but Tuesday’s forecast of a 34 per cent profit slump was below what analysts expected based on RFG’s full-year guidance for 6 per cent earnings growth.

RFG reiterated that guidance 12 days ago, and at its full-year results in August said it anticipated “organic growth” across all its divisions.

RFG also said it was negotiating with lenders to extend a three-year loan of $150 million set for repayment in December 2018, and would “advise the market when this process is finalised”.Advertising blitz

RFG has meanwhile launched an advertising blitz promoting its franchisee model to customers and potential new store owners.

Online advertisements are appearing on several popular websites, which link to profiles of Pizza Capers, Michel’s Patisserie, Brumby’s and Crust franchisees, spruiking the benefits of running an RFG business.

Each profile also explains why the franchisee thinks the local community should support their store.

An RFG spokeswoman said the franchisees were not offered incentives of any kind to take part in the campaign, which was intended to remind consumers of the “great job our franchisees are doing every day”.

“We have many examples of successful, hard-working franchisees throughout our network and given the current, tough, retail market conditions, we wanted to remind consumers of what a great job our franchisees are doing every day,” the spokeswoman said.

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Nationals MP defends Sydney stadium splurge, calls for more for rural grounds

Show us the money: Hilltops Council mayor Brian Ingram, Cootamundra MP Steph Cooke and Deputy Premier John Barilaro. Photo: Craig Thomson.More money needs to be spent on sporting infrastructure in regional and rural areasaccording to Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke.
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Ms Cooke reactedto the Liberal party’s Sydney centric sports stadium focus,including the $2.3 billion pledged to rebuild two Sydney stadiums,by reaffirmingher by-election promise to fight hard for sporting infrastructure in towns and villages across the Cootamundra electorate.

“I acknowledge there has been a discussion about spending on stadiums in Sydney which has created strong feelings in regional NSW,” she said.

“I am continuing to advocate strongly for increased spending on sport in the regions which, after all, is where a lot of sporting success stories have begun.”

Opposition Leader Luke Foley indicated he would not support the stadiums being rebuilt, saying the money should be spent on “schools and hospitals”.

“I will not allow this obscene amount of money to be spent on a couple of Sydney stadiums,” Mr Foley said.

“When thousands of children in the regions, like those in Young, are being taught in demountables and thousands of people are waiting months for elective surgery it is a crime that this out of touch government has committed such a huge amount of money on a couple of Sydney stadiums.”

The Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance (ATA), a non-partisan grassroots advocacy body representing the interests of Australian taxpayers also condemned the NSW cabinet’s decision to spend $2 billion to replace the Sydney Olympic Stadium and Sydney Football Stadium.

“The Berejiklian government plan is evidence of deeply misplaced priorities at a time when the people of New South Wales stand in dire need of services to cater for our state’s burgeoning population.” Satyajeet Marar, Director of Policy at the ATA said.

“Instead of prioritising suburban infrastructure or prioritising grassroots facilities to encourage and nurture the athletes of tomorrow – the NSW government has chosen to extract a whopping $720 per household in state funds to destroy and replace state-of-the-art, international standard facilities, including the Olympic Stadium which is barely 17 years old.”

However, the Cootamundra MP has taken an ultra-local approach to the NSW Government’s increasing political problem.

Ms Cooke said a call to sporting organisations to tell her what was needed as far as sports infrastructure in her electorate has received an overwhelming response.

“We now have a definitive list which we can work towards achieving in the months and years to come. I want to make sure that every single sport gets a chance to have its say so that I can push as hard as I can for additional funding,” she said.

“The NSW Government has already committed to a wide range of infrastructure investment which will benefit communities across the state and the Cootamundra electorate.

“The Stronger Country Communities fund is bringing $200 million worth of investment into projects in Young, Temora, Aria Park, and right across the Cootamundra electorate. We are benefiting and will continue to benefit from NSW Government investment which will in no way be impacted by the decision to rebuild Sydney stadiums.”

Ms Cooke said the Sydney stadiums wouldbe world-class facilities which will drive tourism spending as well as making trips to Sydney for residents in the Cootamundra electorate much more enjoyable.

“Let’s not forget that many of us travel to Sydney to see international sporting or music events, and these trips create such happy memories,” she said.

“To be able to see these great events in a state-of-the-art stadium which has the best safety, security and comfort features will make these trips even more enjoyable.”

‘They didn’t have to do that’: How six strangers saved Ivy’s life

For six weeks, three-year-old Ivy Exantus was kept alive by blood donations from six dedicated strangers.
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Their precious platelets – almost an exact match to her own – were flown from collection points across Australia to Sydney Children’s Hospital, where Ivy’s family were preparing for a bone marrow transplant donated by her six-year-old donor brother, Jaye.

The wait for the first urgent bag of platelets, the clotting component of blood, was the most anxiety-inducing, Ivy’s mother Kimberley Exantus said.

Ivy was diagnosed with Fanconi anaemia after she didn’t bounce back from a playground bug in April. Her blood tests showed she was dangerously low in haemoglobin and platelets, the clotting agent in blood.

“Her platelets were so low that nothing would have stopped the bleeding if she got a bump on the head or a bad cut. She would have bled out,” Mrs Exantus said of her daughter and youngest of three children.

Ivy would need to undergo surgery to insert a central line before her transplant to receive immunosuppressants and cytotoxic medication, but her body had begun to create antibodies to the platelet transfusions she was receiving and threatened to reject the donations.

Her surgery could not go ahead while her platelet count was so low.

“She was so sick. It was so horrible. She had blood blisters all through her mouth and gums. She was bruised all over,” Mrs Exantus said.

Ivy’s parents had to stop brushing her teeth for fear the toothbrush would nick it and she would start haemorrhaging.

An urgent search began to find donor platelets with proteins called Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) that matched Ivy’s HLA profile.

The Australian Red Cross Blood Service found two bags of matched platelets in Perth. They were flown to Sydney overnight and arrived just in time for the central line insertion.

Ivy would now need daily transfusions from her six unknown donors with matching HLA, whose platelets were collected specifically for the three-year-old as she waited for her bone marrow transplant.

Mrs Exantus and Ivy’s father James don’t know who these individuals are, but can’t thank them enough.

“They kept her alive. They didn’t have to do that. They didn’t have to keep donating of their own accord,” Mrs Exantus said of the anonymous donors.

“It’s hard to explain how much that means to us, when we weren’t able to help her. I would love to be able to tell them how much I appreciate it. Hopefully they see this story.” Increase in demand

Supplies of platelets are at risk of being exhausted over the Christmas and New Year period unless an additional 4000 donors roll up their sleeves, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service has warned.

NSW alone needs 1000 extra people to book an appointment from December 26 to January 2 to forestall a shortage of blood products crucial for cancer patients who rely on the platelets to prevent internal bleeding as they undergo treatment, as well as trauma patients, new mothers and people with blood disorders.

The Australian Red Cross Blood Service will need to collect 3500 half-litre bags of red cells and platelets; a total of 12,500 donations nationally to meet the demand Australian hospitals are predicting.

Blood supplies are particularly vulnerable over the festive season, said service spokeswoman Jemma Falkenmire.

Regular donors are away on holidays and stocks are exhausted in the lead-up to Christmas as hospital staff try to get as many patients home to their families for celebrations.

Around one in five people cancelled their blood donation appointment over the same period last year, Miss Falkenmire said. The service predicted the same proportion would cancel this year, exacerbating a 5 per cent increase in demand.

For the first time, blood donor centres will be open on a Sunday (Christmas Eve), but any donations collected before Christmas will have expired by the following week, Ms Falkenmire said.

“If people do need to cancel we ask them to cancel early so we can try to fill that appointment,” she said.

A tiny proportion of the Australian population – just 3 per cent, half a million people – keep blood supplies going all year round, despite 8.5 million Australians being eligible to give blood, according to the service.

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Perth concert promoter dumped over sexual misconduct claims

A prominent Perth music promoter has been dumped by his own company following sexual misconduct claims.
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Dave Cutbush, the promoter behind touring company Life is Noise who also had a long association with Perth community radio station RTRFM, has found himself at the centre of allegations of “unacceptable behaviour towards women”.

Dave Cutbush has been prominent in the Perth music scene for more than a decade. Photo: Supplied

Life is Noise issued a statement on Friday morning saying “Dave will no longer have any involvement or association” with the company.

Jack Midalia, who runs the Melbourne arm of the business, said he took reports about the behaviour of Cutbush seriously.

Life is Noise was established in Perth by Dave Cutbush. Photo: Kate Hedley

Brisbane outfit Siberian Hell Sounds issued a statement saying they would donate the payment they received from a previous Life is Noise gig to a women’s shelter.

“We will no longer be playing or attending any Life is Noise events,” the band said.

US metal band Sleep have cancelled an upcoming tour following the allegations.

“It is with great regret that we must cancel our planned tour of New Zealand and Australia this coming January,” the band posted on Facebook.

“We hope to arrange another tour with a new promoter or touring company, to be determined at a future date.”

Cutbush released a statement on Friday afternoon saying he was “genuinely and deeply sorry”. Dave Cutbush statement

To everyone this may concern,

I would like to address the accusations levelled in social media and beyond about my conduct. It is true that in the past I have acted poorly and in a manner that is inappropriate and sleazy.

Using my male privilege to gain sexual favours has been disrespectful towards women. I have used my position in the music industry to my advantage. I have propositioned women much younger than me and have behaved creepily in person at music events and online.

I wish to apologise to the many women I have hurt. However, I don’t expect forgiveness. It has taken me too long to realise I have created situations which made women in the music community and beyond feel uncomfortable or unsafe. I’m now committed to examining my actions and learning ways to change.

The #metoo campaign and more recently the #menomore campaign has been weighing heavily on my mind. I thought this day would come when my actions and behaviours would be exposed, and I deserve to be found out.

Specifically, I would like to apologise to the young girl in Sydney I asked out for a drink. This was a few years ago and she was 16 at the time, and this proposition was not appropriate as I was almost 20 years older. I am sorry for that. It was entirely out of line.

Whilst I have acted shamefully and said things I regret, I have at no stage physically or sexually abused anyone. This is something of which I am certain. Any allegations to the contrary are untrue.

I have been removed, effective immediately as a Director of Life Is Noise and will have no future involvement in the company. I would like to offer my sincere apologies to my former business partner, whom is in no way responsible for my actions and behaviours.

I humbly acknowledge these mistakes have not just affected the many women I have hurt but everyone around me, my family, friends and colleagues who have stuck up for me over the years. I sincerely apologise to you all.

But most of all I am sorry to the many women I have treated inappropriately, hit on, been sleazy towards or any other negative, disrespectful behaviour. Should anyone wish to speak with me in person, I am here to offer you my apology face to face. There are no excuses for what I have done.

I am also seeking treatment for substance abuse problems which is not an excuse for my behaviour but an explanation of the context surrounding such poor actions.

I want to respectfully acknowledge my wrongs and educate myself to be a more compassionate human and show more respect to women.

I will be taking time to deeply reflect on ways to change and be a better person. None of these words makes this right. But I am genuinely and deeply sorry.

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Cruisy dining and drinks by the water

LIVING THE DREAM: Crusoe’s on the Lake is the next best thing to being on the water. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers Despite our proximity to the beaches, the harbour and the beautiful lake, there actually aren’t that many eateries that take advantage of being right on the water. At the aptly named Crusoe’s on the Lake at Lake Macquarie Yacht Club, you can’t really can’t enjoy a mealany closer to the lapping shores of the lovely lake.
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Every seat is either looking out the window to the water or on the deck listening to the sloshing of the water against the pier. There are boats, there are seagulls, there are reserved car spaces for the commodore of the club. This is a nautical wonderland.

The restaurant is situated to one side of the club, with the bulk of seating on the back covered deck and a smattering of tables out in the sunshine. The set-up is casual: order and pay at the counter and they’ll give you a number and bring your food out to you when you’re ready.

As expected, there’s a strong focus on seafood, but there’s also plenty of other options, including pub favourites, to keep turf-eaters happy. A plate of oysters is always a happy place to start, but when given the choice, I’ll always head for scallops. In this instance, they are five seared scallops served with a sweet pea and mint risotto and sauce beurre rouge (the sauce is reduced with red wine instead of white).The scallops have a lovely delicate flavour and are very tender with the barest of searing. Searing seafood comes down to the minute sometimes, but these could have done with atiny bit more heat for about 30 seconds. The bed of risotto isn’t gluggy which is nice, and is speckled with slivers of sweet onion and a hearty sprinkling of dill. The beurre rouge adds colour

SEAFOOD FOCUS: Try the baked whole baby barramundi.

The pile of chilli salt and pepper squid with tartare is tried and tender. The crumbs are chunky, perhaps a little doughy in places, but it has pockets of heat from the generous seasoning of cracked pepper and chilli flakes. You can bump this up to a main serving if squid was your go-to dish and you’d be pretty happy.

For mains, there’s a classics section that features all the usual suspects: burgers, fish and chips, fishermans basket, and schnitzels –big,hot and crispy schnitzels witha parmigianatopper and plenty of chips and salad.

For something with a bit more finesse, try the crispy skin Atlantic salmon served with paris mash, wilted greens, grilled peaches and a maple seeded mustard glaze; or dig into a baked wholebabybarramundi stuffed with orange, ginger, coriander andshallots served with chips and salad. There’s summer storm rolling in and the temperature is dropping a bit so I decide to comfort myself with rich bowl of bouillabaisse. Mussels, clams, prawns, fish pieces and a battered salmon rillette float in the thick stew. Peas, red onions and cherry tomatoes are hidden in the depths below. It’s packed with so much I pretty much eat it with a fork, and then use a couple of pieces of toasted sourdough to mop the restup.

The big draw card, and definitely one worth trying in a group or with a large appetite, is the house specialty: Crusoe’s seafood platter. For $100 you can feast onblue swimmer crab,king prawns, oysters three ways, tomato and chilli blacklip mussels, battered fish pieces, panko-crumbed prawns, chilli salt and pepper squid and fresh fruit. With a glass of cold white wine on a balmy summer’s evening, I can’t imagine a much lovelier eating experience.

Crusoe’s is an easy-going venue; there aren’t any airs and graces here. It’s popular this time of year (any time probably) for parties, family gatherings and locals.

It’s a top spot to sit and watch the action on the water, or at sunset with the colours changing over the lake.

QUICK BITE FLAVOURS: The crispy skinned maple-glazed salmon with grilled peaches.

The essentialsWhat: Crusoe’s on the Lake at Lake Macquarie Yacht Club, BelmontBookings:4945 5522Hours: Lunch and dinner, 7 daysChef: Cole KenningAccessibility:YesTake note: No BYO; $15 weekday lunchesBottom line: Entrees $16-18; mains $18-100Must try: The seafood platter