Talented women brushed as Malcolm Turnbull lets the Nationals run amok

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull gives a press conference at 1 Bligh Street to announce his cabinet reshuffle on 19 December 2017. Photo: Jessica Hromas
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In the race between the merit principle and sectional politics, the former is often cited, but the latter more often observed.

Now we have a frank explanation of how power is really apportioned within the Coalition: geography.

Thus, Victoria’s Darren Chester, widely agreed to be the Nationals’ most competent figure, gets punted from Malcolm Turnbull’s cabinet to be replaced by a rookie preferred by Barnaby Joyce.

Why? Because the replacement, David Littleproud, is a moral conservative and a Queenslander.

Consider his qualifications for federal cabinet: 18 unremarkable months on the backbench, notable for not much more than voting against same-sex marriage in the House of Representatives where it was his voice that called for a division.

Ditto the promotion from obscurity of John McVeigh – another Queensland LNP backbencher who leapfrogs the junior ministry to go straight into cabinet.

That Joyce should swing such lead will be seen by most voters for the absurdity it is. This is the man whose stewardship of the junior Coalition party has been a liability through 2017, contributing to Turnbull’s humiliation over a banking royal commission, and resulting in Joyce’s own expulsion from the Parliament. And let’s not forget the $40,000 cheque he initially accepted from Gina Rinehart for his brilliance as Agriculture Minister?

Chester, on the other hand will be remembered as one of the few Nationals possessed of the courage and the simple 21st century modernism to stand with the Australian mainstream as an outspoken advocate for marriage equality.

What does he get for this willingness to line up with the PM no less? The axe.

It’s a reminder that one should never underestimate this government’s capacity to muff the politics, or worse, lurch gratuitously to the right even when the only pressure to do so comes from within.

The talking point in federal politics as 2017 winds up has been the extent to which Turnbull’s fortunes have improved in the final days as big problems like the dual citizenship fiasco, same-sex marriage and energy policy have been resolved.

Progress on these fronts has shifted the pressure to Labor, which is now struggling with the citizenship backwash threatening a series of ruinous byelections.

But where success emboldens some leaders, it seems to have no such effect on Turnbull.

After his initial promise in fixing Tony Abbott’s unconscionably bloke-heavy bias, Turnbull has elevated just two women this time and one of them, Bridget McKenzie, purely because she is the new Nationals deputy leader. Her portfolio of sport, rural health and regional communications is barely cabinet level.

Once again, competent women such as Julia Banks, Nicolle Flint, and Sarah Henderson must wait, having been overlooked in a Coalition that says quotas on gender are anathema, but defends trashing the merit principle on just about any other grounds.

Turnbull called his line-up diverse. Perverse would be more accurate.

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Top scores a bittersweet result for Amber

The Age, News, 19/12/2017, photo by Justin McManus. Amber Truong has become the dux of the disadvantaged Wellington Secondary College, achieving an incredible ATAR of 99.4. But the Vietnamese international student’s VCE journey has not been easy. Her mum died when she was hit by a motorbike in Vietnam. She was travelling to her second job when the fatal accident took place. She held down two jobs so that she could send Amber to an Australian school. Amber had to return to Vietnam to bury her mum.Amber Truong’s world fell apart a few weeks after she arrived in Australia.
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Her mother and father had been involved in a horrific motorbike accident back home in Vietnam.

As they were picking up vegetables for their market stall and wholesale business, a drunk cyclist hurtled into them on the dark road.

They worked long hours – from midnight to midday – so they could send their eldest daughter to Wellington Secondary College in Melbourne’s south-east.

Amber, who was then a year 10 student, caught the next flight home to Vietnam. iFrameResize({checkOrigin:false},’#vce-honour-roll’); var frame = document.getElementById(“vce-honour-roll”);

But by the time she arrived, her mother had passed away in hospital.

“She gave up her entire life to give me and my siblings the best living conditions and a better future,” Amber said.

The teenager made an important promise at her mother’s funeral.

“I promised that I would study hard to make that money worth it,” she said.

“I will become successful one day and take care of my siblings and my dad.”

Amber’s decision to stick by this promise appears to be paying off.

The 18-year-old has been crowned dux of her school with a bitter-sweet ATAR of 99.4.

While the Mulgrave state school is considered disadvantaged, it punches above its weight in academic performance.

This year, 33 students achieved an ATAR of 90 or above, with the majority local students.

“You couldn’t get a prouder school,” principal Hugh Blaikie said.

Amber hopes to study biomedicine, and has received scholarships at Monash and Swinburne universities.

She said the months following her mother’s death were a struggle.

Amber cried a lot. She also worried about money.

Her mother was the main income earner and in order to continue paying the $16,000 international student fees her father had to sell the family car and a block of land.

Her aunt, who she lives with in Waterways, provided emotional and financial support.

“They know how much I wanted to study here so they gave me everything,” she said.

Her mother’s death wasn’t the only hurdle that Amber encountered during her final years of school.

When she arrived in Melbourne in 2014 she hardly spoke a word of English.

“It was really scary,” she says. “I couldn’t understand what people were saying.”

She spent two terms in intensive English language classes at school before moving into mainstream classes.

Easily distracted at home, she maximised her study time at school.

The diligent VCE student stayed back at school until 7 or 8pm every night. Her cue to leave was when the teacher in charge of locking up the school walked towards her classroom, jangling a big bunch of keys.

She woke up every morning at 4am, when the house was quiet, and studied in her bedroom, surrounded by motivational quotes pinned to the walls. ‘Never ever underestimate anything’ one reads.

Amber is among the 14,797 VCE students who received a study score of 40 or above in at least one subject.

She received a 45 in maths methods, 45 in further maths, 44 in English as an additional language, 42 in chemistry and 40 in physics.

Her favourite thing about school was the dedicated teachers.

“All my teachers are very supportive. I came to them every single day at recess and lunchtime and asked questions.”

Early on Friday morning, Amber caught the bus to school so that she could open her VCE results with her maths methods teacher Jan Mann.

“We hugged each other when we saw the score and jumped around,” she said.

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Sydney man charged with ‘foreign incursion’ after raid at Mount Lewis

A man from Sydney’s west has been charged with foreign incursion offences after police raided a home near Bankstown on Tuesday morning.
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Belal Betka, 25, from Mount Lewis, allegedly travelled to the conflict zone in Syria in March 2015 before returning to Australia seven months later.

He is accused of aligning with the so-called Islamic State, and to have been in its defacto capital of al-Raqqa.

Mr Betka has been investigated by police since his return to Australia in October 2015, according to a joint statement by NSW Police and Australian Federal Police.

On Tuesday, he was arrested by the Joint Counter Terrorism Team and charged with incursion into foreign countries with the intention of engaging in hostile activities, which carries a maximum penalty of life behind bars.

He is the first person based in Australia to be charged with such an offence, according to police.

Mr Betka has also been charged with entering/remaining in a declared area, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment, and dealing in proceeds of crime in excess of $1 million.

He will face Bankstown Local Court tomorrow.

Mr Betka is not one of the most renowned people alleged to be an Australian foreign fighter. However, his alleged activities were nonetheless regarded as significant by Australian authorities.

The Joint Counter Terrorism Team ??? made up of NSW Police, AFP, ASIO, and the NSW Crime Commission ??? said there is no “current or impending threat” to the community.

AFP acting Assistant Commissioner Jennifer Hurst said the arrest was “the culmination of long-term surveillance, intelligence, and protracted evidence-gathering”.

“This has been a long painstaking process, putting the pieces of the puzzle together to turn intelligence into evidence,” she said.

“Keeping the community safe from anyone that may seek to cause Australians harm is the key role of the JCTT.”

NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing said it’s illegal to fight for a terrorist organisation, and anyone who thinks they can “needs to reconsider that position”.

“The public can be reassured that all law enforcement agencies, at state and national level, work tirelessly to ensure the safety of the community,” Assistant Commissioner Willing said.

Both police agencies urged anyone with information to phone the National Security Hotline on 1800 123 400.

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Temperatures to top 42 degrees in Sydney’s west before southerly arrives

Sydney will sweat through a scorching day on Wednesday, with parts of the city to exceed 40 degrees as firefighters warn of “very high” fire danger for the region.
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The Bureau of Meteorology predicts the inner city will reach 36 degrees, while Bondi will have a top of 34, Penrith and Richmond will have a maximum of 42. Campbelltown and Liverpool will reach 38 degrees.

Angus McLean-Smith, a meteorologist with Weatherzone, said the hottest temperatures are expected in the late morning, driven by north-westerly winds.

A southerly change will then sweep across the city from about midday, with temperatures dropping quickly and rain and thunderstorms possible for the afternoon.

In the west, the cool change is due from about 1pm.

“There’s a southerly coming through, a big southerly change in the afternoon,” Mr McLean-Smith said. “That’s going to cool across the board.”

The NSW Rural Fire Service has declared a total fire ban for the Greater Sydney, Greater Hunter and North Western regions for all of Wednesday, with hot and windy conditions bringing “very high” fire danger for Sydney and “severe” fire danger for the other two regions.

The Greater Sydney region includes the Blue Mountains and Central Coast, while the Greater Hunter encompasses Cessnock, Dungog, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Muswellbrook, Newcastle, Port Stephens, Singleton and the Upper Hunter, and the North Western region includes the Moree Plains, Narrabri, Walgett and Warrumbungle.

After Wednesday, the heat will temporarily taper off, before the mercury rises again in time for Christmas Eve. Christmas Day itself is due to be mild and cloudy, with late rain, southerly winds and possible thunderstorms.

On Tuesday, NSW Ambulance received 55 calls for heat-related illnesses between midnight and 2pm, including dizziness, nausea, fainting, heat exposure and one child who was locked in a car.

Most of those feeling the heat were aged over 60, with the weather exacerbating pre-existing conditions like heart problems, diabetes or chemotherapy.

Temperatures soared away from the coast, with Badgerys Creek, Camden, Campbelltown, Horsley Park, Penrith and Richmond all reaching or exceeding 40 degrees.

The heat affected track infrastructure on the Blue Mountains train line, causing some delays.

A NSW Ambulance spokeswoman urged people to take care in the heat, reserve their activity to the coolest part of the day, avoid drinking tea, coffee and alcohol, and keep up with their medications.

“Try to stay out of the direct sun – this is particularly important for the elderly and very young,” the spokeswoman said. “Drink plenty of water and if outdoors, carry a water bottle.

“If you know of family, friends or neighbours who are isolated or alone, check on their well-being to ensure they are OK.”

Weatherzone is owned by Fairfax Media, the publisher of this website.

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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.


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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