Media reforms that should have been delivered 10 years ago

Senator Mitch Fifield has announced a media reforms policy that should have been delivered 10 years ago.

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And I am by no means criticising the senator. To the contrary.

The senator has fought long and hard to get a comprehensive package up and within reach of passage through a reluctant and out-of-touch Parliament.

The very fact it has taken 10 years for politics to catch up demonstrates what a gulf now divides the worlds of media and public policy-making.

Where media companies without exception grapple with structural changes that threaten their very existence, our policy makers seem to have little sense of the changing world.

The Fifield reform package simply acknowledges what everyone in the media has been fighting for years.

New Zealand, a generally well-governed country, is still to read the memo as demonstrated by the fresh decision by the New Zealand Commerce Commission to reject the merger of the country’s two major publishers Fairfax NZ and NZME.

Looking at Fifield’s list of reforms – two out of three, the reach rule, licence fee relief and so on – you can see their greatest relevance was five, even 10 years ago.

That was the time the industry should have been allowed a level playing field so it could prepare for the big global players.

It is a much tougher world now. Google and Facebook hoover up the lions share of advertising in the Australian market, create no local content and pay little in taxes. By futzing??? around with notions of “diversity” that were made irrelevant by the emergence of the internet in the 1990s our policy makers across all parties have threatened the depth and breadth of local news, information and entertainment in the years ahead.

Where at least the Turnbull government recognises the issues, the NZCC stands condemned as a regulator totally out of touch.

By denying Fairfax and NZME the ability to take back end, non-content costs out of a merged business it will force both companies into reviewing their editorial workforce and number of publications.

We wish it were not so. Media companies want to produce more content not less, employ more journalists, developers, producers, actors, artists, not fewer.

But look at our universe. Last year Morgan Stanley estimated Google and Facebook extracted $4 billion to $5 billion of ad revenue from Australia. That is a 35 per cent to 40 per cent market share. And their share is growing faster than the overall market.

Companies such as Fairfax, which spotted the trends early and acted – reducing legacy costs and building new businesses like Domain – cannot only survive, but thrive in the new world.

Because Fairfax Media has taken the tough but necessary decisions to ensure its survival, its market capitalisation of $2.4 billion is greater than the three free-to-air TV companies – Seven, Nine and Ten – combined.

But if our policy makers want strong local voices, they need to stay tuned to the media and never again get caught so far behind the real world.

Greg Hywood is Fairfax Media chief executive.

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May 7: Tony Trobe interviews Anna Howe

SUBURBIA 031204 PIC MICHELE MOSSOPGENERIC PENSIONS SUPERANNUATION RETIREMENT HOUSING INTEREST RATESSPECIAL22133 house home woman lady rake raking / pensioner / aged / elderlyPart 1: Is Canberra an age-friendly city for downsizers?

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Part two of an interview with Anna Howe, who has had a long involvement in housing for older people. She feels that current ACT housing policy seems to imply that only apartments and family homes are needed and totally overlooks the diverse needs of those reaching late middle age and older age.

TT: So how can we increase the options for housing for these younger seniors?

AH: One of the goals of Canberra’s Age Friendly strategy is to facilitate access to appropriate housing for older people. To realise this goal, planning needs to be more pro-active and allow for more experimentation about what can be built instead of regulating what cannot be done.

Redevelopment of large Mr Fluffy blocks offers a rare opportunity for a controlled experiment, but is stymied by planning regulations. Mr Fluffy blocks over 700 square metres can be subdivided, but coverage is limited to 35 per cent of each block compared to 50 per cent on a whole block. The result – relatively less indoor space and more outdoor space – is exactly the opposite of what downsizers are looking for. If liveable/adaptable housing is built, the plot ratio increases to 50 per cent, but 60 per cent would make for a real incentive.

TT: What about the impact on neighbourhood character that is such a concern?

AH: Two single-storey dwellings could have much less impact on neighbourhood character than the bulk of a large, two-storey house. Setback requirements can maintain streetscapes and placate the NIMFYs – not in my front yard -and allow for smaller backyards in which residents can do what they want. Of the Mr Fluffy blocks that came on the market last September, half were battle-axe blocks on which single-level dual occupancies would be inconspicuous.

A real paradox here is that several small social housing projects for seniors exemplify the kind of housing that is highly sought after, but Canberrans who already own their home are not eligible for this housing and big developers are not providing it. Small in-fill projects designed by different architects and built by different builders would ensure diversity.

TT: You talk about an experiment with Mr Fluffy blocks. If it works, what are the wider implications?

AH: Allowing more subdivision to provide more housing suited to downsizers frees up the family homes they move out of. Pressure for more and more suburban expansion is reduced, and instead of polarisation of younger and older suburbs, all communities are more age-diverse.

TT: What are the chances of changes coming about?

AH: Not good. The NIMFYs certainly made their voices heard in the submissions on the draft variation to the Territory Plan that allowed unit titling on subdivided Mr Fluffy blocks. A hundred of 124 submissions objected. There was not a single submission from any of the seniors groups. The Institute of Architects argued for higher plot ratios, as I did in my submission. About a third of the Mr Fluffy blocks have been sold or are on the market, so this opportunity is disappearing fast. Our Chief Minister has said he doesn’t listen to anyone over 40, and we’ve yet to see if Caroline Le Couteur has a wider vision of the housing diversity that would make Canberra more age-friendly.

Tony Trobe is director of the local practice TT Architecture. Is there a planning or design issue in Canberra you’d like to discuss? Email t[email protected]广州桑拿广州桑拿论坛

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Canberra’s auction market weathers public holiday distractions

Andrew Wilson: Canberra leads capital city pack for house price growth

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The Canberra housing market has weathered a month of lengthy holiday distractions, reporting more solid results for sellers.

With May arriving, however, all eyes will turn to the contents of the federal government’s Budget, to be announced next week and likely to prominently feature initiatives directed specifically at the national housing market.

Canberra recorded a clearance rate of 67 per cent over April, which was slightly lower than the 68.2 per cent reported over March but well clear of the 62.3 per cent recorded over the same month last year.

During April, 327 homes were listed for auction in Canberra, which was predictably lower than the 350 listed over March but higher than the 302 listed over April last year. During the first four months of this year 1005 auctions have been listed, which is a sharp increase of 16.5 per cent, or 142 more than the 863 listed over the same period last year.

Although Canberra auction clearance rates and volumes were down over April, the median auction price increased over the month to $710,000, compared with the $705,000 recorded over March. The median auction price has now increased by 2.9 per cent over the past year.

Belconnen was the top-performing Canberra auction region over April with a clearance rate of 77.3 per cent and the highest listings with 88. Next highest was Canberra Central with 72.7 per cent and 60 listings, followed by Woden Valley with 68.3 per cent and 42 listings, Gungahlin with 60.9 per cent and 47 listings, Weston Creek with 54.5 per cent and 32 listings and Tuggeranong with 53.7 per cent and 58 auction listings.

Canberra Central recorded the highest median auction price over April at $1.1 million and an increase of 23.9 per cent over the past year. Next highest was Woden Valley at $895,000, up 27.8 per cent, followed by Gungahlin at $727,000, up 1 per cent, Weston Creek at $668,000, up 6.5 per cent, Tuggeranong at $623,250, up 11.2 per cent, and Belconnen with a median auction price of $607,500, which was a decline of 2.8 per cent compared with April last year.

Over recent months governments and policymakers have directed significant attention to solving perceived housing market imbalances. The clear risk, however, is that ad-hoc, one-size-fits-all policies may create or exacerbate stress in local markets and market segments.

Monetary policy continues its weighty focus on supposed generalised housing market stress, with the Reserve Bank leaving rates on hold again this month in hopeful anticipation of an economic revival sooner rather than later.

Next week it will be the turn of fiscal policy to address the much-promoted woes of the housing market through the Federal Budget. Relax everyone.

Dr Andrew Wilson is Domain Group Chief Economist [email protected] join on LinkedIn and Facebook at MyHousingMarket.

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Canberra property costs outstrip other states despite tax reform

In the last week the ABS released new data on the financial and capital contributions collected through rates, property taxes and stamp duty. The growth in the amounts collected (2015/16) quite simply, is outstripping every other state and territory in Australia.

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Overall figures include growth of 17.5 per cent in property taxes compared to 11.1 per cent in Melbourne. Our stamp duty in the same year grew 32.4 per cent, compared to 13.3 per cent in Sydney.

The property sector supports the ambitious tax reform agenda of the ACT government. We acknowledge that we are only five years into that program. We are the only jurisdiction undertaking such reform in the country. But the risk is while we wait for the years to tick over and gradually see stamp duty phased out – we are stuck between a rock and a hard place – where rates are increasing, property taxes and charges are also up, and the stamp duty collected overall keeps on growing.

We can point to increased activity – that comes from a growing population, new housing and land coming on the market, teamed with a buoyant forward work schedule and these are important points, which do highlight the strength in the property sector, and its growing contribution to the ACT economy.

But increasing costs for homebuyers make it harder for new developments to remain attractive for investors, ahead of other cities. Reform must deliver equitable and affordable outcomes and make it achievable to meet the policy objectives our city needs – such as urban renewal, housing affordability and housing choice. In the upcoming ACT budget, let’s hope these ambitions are kept at the forefront of the government’s mind. After all the aim is to be known as an exciting and changing city – not just the city of charges.

Adina Cirson is the ACT executive director of the Property Council of Australia.

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The Princess Diana effect: Australia under her spell

‘She’d just buy a Popper’: When Diana hid from the world in a NSW beach town Diana descends Uluru, 1983. Photo: Getty Images/Ben Tweedie

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The royal couple received a rockstar reception at the Opera House in 1983. Photo: Lionel Cherruault

Princess Diana after visiting Fremantle Hospital, 1983, in a dress by Donald Campbell and hat by John Boyd, Millinery. Photo: Tim Graham/Getty Images

Diana at a Bicentennial dinner-dance in Melbourne, 1988, in a dress by Catherine Walker. Photo: Getty/Tim Graham

Diana with Brett Hooey (at far left) and other Terrigal lifesavers in January 1988. Photo: Getty Images/Tim Graham

Princess Diana and Prince Charles at the National Galley in Melbourne, 1985, wearing a dress designed by Bruce Oldfield. Photo: Getty/Tim Graham

Diana at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute dinner-dance at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, 1996. Photo: Getty/Tim Graham

The Waleses meet the Hawkes in 1983. Photo: Getty Images/Bob Thomas

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facebookSHAREtwitterTWEETemailwhatsappcommentCommentsOver five visits to Australia, Princess Diana dazzled and delighted audiences – all the while hiding inner turmoil. Nearly 20 years on from her death, Neil McMahon retraces her steps.’She first came to these shores in secret and last left them in a storm of flashbulbs amid speculation that she might actually come to live here. Imagine: the most famous, most beautiful, most admired, most eligible woman in the world living here! You could fantasise about it – or you could grow out of believing in fairy tales. If Diana taught us anything, she taught us that.

A span of 15 years separated these two visits in 1981 and 1996, years that contained nearly all of her adult life and more than a few of her growing pains. The Sydney society and charity fixture Marie Sutton, who helped pull off the celebrity coup of the decade when she brought a divorced Diana to Australia in late 1996, tells Good Weekend: “Her greatest achievement was that she didn’t go under … She was a different woman by 1996.”

It can be argued that Diana grew up more quickly than we did: there was no dithering when the time came for her to ditch the Windsors and make her own way in the world. It can also be argued that so complete was the devotion she inspired here that it lessened the chances of Australia soon following her bold example of leaving the Windsors behind. A rebel she might have been, but her son was still the future king. Diana might have dreamed she could have it all but, when put to the test at the 1999 republican referendum, Australia wasn’t so sure it could.

We could debate the whys and wherefores of that question, but what cannot be contested is that Australians adored – utterly adored – the Princess of Wales or, at the least, were transfixed by her story in spite of themselves. Jane Connors, who in later life wrote a history of royal tours, confesses that, as “a dour left-wing feminist” in the early 1980s, she wore a “Don’t Do It, Di!” badge – but still threw a party to watch the royal wedding in 1981.

Today host Lisa Wilkinson, who observed the Diana phenomenon as a magazine editor in the 1980s, says she, like most of us, was hooked from the minute the future princess appeared on our front pages posing with kids at a London kindergarten, her legs famously backlit through her thin skirt. Wilkinson was the editor of teen bible Dolly at the time: “I don’t think there was any generation that wasn’t fascinated by this young girl who we later discovered had pretty much been thrown to the wolves.”

You can ask ordinary folk, like Brett Hooey – the lifesaver immortalised alongside her at the NSW Central Coast’s Terrigal Beach in his Speedos in 1988 – who says today: “When she looked at you, you just melted.” Aviva Basger was just eight when she met Diana in Sydney in 1996. “It’s burned on my brain,” she says. “She was so lovely.” Basger’s mother hadn’t told her where they were going when they climbed into the car for an afternoon trip which took them, via a florist for a bunch of white roses, to the InterContinental hotel in Sydney’s Double Bay. There, they joined a large crowd of onlookers outside the building from which Diana was shortly expected to emerge.

When she did, however, she jumped straight into a waiting limousine. There was to be no walkabout that day. But as the limousine pulled around the hotel driveway, it suddenly stopped in front of Basger, who stood clutching her bouquet of roses. “The windows rolled down and I could just see her in this beautiful white suit,” she says. “I gave her the white roses. She said, ‘Thank you, they’re my favourite.’ ” Basger still owns the dress she wore that day.

Other people still have their souvenir scrapbooks, tea towels and teaspoons, and talk about their encounters as if they happened yesterday. You can even ask the great and the good. As Victorian Labor premier, John Cain hosted the Waleses on three official tours in the 1980s. “A sparkling personality, great company,” the staunch republican says of the princess, although he also shows Good Weekend a private diary entry from 1983 that hints at the challenges she faced. “She’s obviously very shy and really doesn’t know yet what it’s all about,” he wrote, “but she does her best and does it quite well.”

Cain’s NSW counterpart Barrie Unsworth, Labor premier during the 1988 Bicentennial jamboree, was also captivated. Like many, he was disarmed by her evident vulnerability. “We were talking and she said, ‘Do you have much trouble with the media?’ And I said, ‘Do I ever!’ And she said to me: ‘In your situation, you can walk away from it. I can’t.’ “

Her last chance at doing that – at least with any hope of salvaging a private life in the process – had vanished seven years before that lunch with Unsworth at Circular Quay. In Australia in February 1981, Diana – already secretly engaged to the heir of the throne –found space for a private period that seems especially poignant, even haunting, given what would happen to her over the next 16 years as the woman her brother would come to describe as “the most hunted person of the modern age”. For, over the course of a summer month spent in Mollymook on the NSW South Coast, the 19-year-old virgin who was destined to become one of the most photographed human beings in history was never once captured on film.

Lady Diana Spencer was used to things being named after her family in Britain; it’s not clear if she knew there were places whose name and history she shared in Australia but, long before she ever came here, the ties ran deep. The Spencer Gulf in South Australia? Named for the second Earl of Spencer, Diana’s forebear, by explorer Matthew Flinders in 1802. In the late 1940s, the eighth Earl – Diana’s beloved father, Johnnie – served as aide-de-camp to the governor of South Australia. And in early 1981, a few months into her startlingly shallow courtship with Prince Charles, Australia offered an escape route from the attention of a frenzied British media pack.

Her mother, Frances, had married Peter Shand Kydd, heir to a wallpaper fortune, and he owned a sheep farm in Yass, NSW. According to Tina Brown’s 2007 book, The Diana Chronicles, Frances had reservations about the royal engagement. “[She] whisked Diana off to a remote hideout in Australia to throw off the press and make her think more seriously about the momentous step,” Brown writes. The Fleet Street mob had a fair idea where Diana had gone – likely Australia, and therefore Yass – although no one knew for sure. A wire service report told a breathless world in February 1981: “Lady Diana Spencer, the favourite in the Prince Charles marital sweepstakes, is in Australia, or the Caribbean, or none of the above.”

As recorded by Andrew Morton in his 1992 book Diana: Her True Story, there were no sheep in sight at the actual Spencer hideout: a beach house near Mollymook Golf Club. The media didn’t find Diana, but she didn’t go completely unnoticed. Margy Nyholm, who owned the Beach Hut, a fish-and-chip shop, had heard talk that Diana and her mother were in the area, and when a tall, quiet and apparently anxious young woman began appearing in the shop day after day with other English women in tow, she twigged.

“She was attempting to be incognito, but instead she stood out,” Nyholm tells Good Weekend 36 years later. “She was a very tall girl, young with very white skin. She wore a scarf, big dark glasses and a beach coat. And it was summer – February – and my kids had gone back to school. She would come in and stand at the bain-marie. She’d just buy a Popper – a little fruit-juice box. She wouldn’t make eye contact. There was a fragility about her. A beautiful-looking woman, but not a happy one.”

This was, of course, nearly all mind-reading on Nyholm’s part, but it tallies with Diana’s own memories of the 1981 visit. “A disaster,” as she told Andrew Morton during their secret, marriage-detonating book collaboration a decade later. Diana couldn’t relax; she fretted furiously about her groom-to-be, who wouldn’t return her calls. “I thought that was very strange,” she told Morton, an unease that evidently didn’t leave her for their entire marriage. Later in February she returned from Australia to London, the engagement announcement imminent.

By Tina Brown’s account, veteran correspondent James Whitaker called Diana at home to ask about her holiday. “Something about her voice told him this would be the last time she picked up her own phone. ‘Goodbye, Mr Whitaker,’ she said. ‘And thank you.’ “

On February 24, 1981, the world watched as Charles paraded his bride-to-be for the camera, a stonking ring on her finger and a large knot of anxiety in her stomach. The press call yielded an instant which is now burnt into the collective memory, says Lisa Wilkinson. When the interviewer asks if they are in love, Diana replies, coquettishly, “Of course!” Charles replies, “Whatever ‘in love’ means.”

When the Waleses’ plane touched down in a boiling Alice Springs on Sunday, March 20, 1983, it was clear this was going to be no ordinary royal visit. Australia had a new prime minister – Bob Hawke had swept Malcolm Fraser from office just a fortnight before – and the Prince and Princess, in a break with royal tradition, had brought their nine-month-old son, William, with them.

“The Queen would never travel with Charles in case they both went down and Charles was not supposed to travel with his new son,” says Jane Connors of a tour she calls the most significant since the Queen visited Australia in 1954. “Bringing William was what made it really different. There was a huge amount made of Diana being a breath of fresh air and [so] modern. It was enormous.”

The baby prince was deposited with his nanny at Woomargama, a sheep station near Albury, so chosen because its location allowed the royal couple to fly back to him every night. The British press laid siege to the farm, desperate for news of the young prince’s progress.

Ruthie Farrar, an RAAF flight steward working on the VIP aircraft assigned to the royal visitors, had an intimate, up-close view of the princess on tour. She was, says Farrar, clearly learning on the job: “Nobody seemed to have told her what to do or trained her.” But compared with many VIPs who find their way onto the government fleet, Diana was a pleasure to serve. “She had this way of making you feel like her friend,” remembers Farrar. She nurtures a lifelong memory of being given William, briefly, to cuddle.

The story Fleet Street was missing, however, was far more serious: a marriage already under strain and a wildly popular princess sometimes fraying at the seams while also beginning to understand the astonishing power of her celebrity. “Traumatic,” Diana later wrote of the first week; it was, she added, “the week I learned to be royal”. And from the School of the Air in Alice Springs to a dazzling mayoral ball in Brisbane, just about everyone in Australia, it seemed, was falling under her spell.

In his private diary, John Cain wrote of the astonishing crowd reaction when the couple visited Cockatoo near Melbourne, where the community was still recovering from the Ash Wednesday bushfires of February 16, 1983. “Astounding,” Cain wrote. “People still respond to the mystery and aura and all the trappings that surround royalty.”

Charles, Cain wrote, was an old hand at royal duties. But Cain tells Good Weekend that he saw hints of the private strife Diana later revealed about her husband’s jealousy. “The prince did indicate to me in one of the several discussions we had that people responded more warmly to his wife that they did to him,” he recalls. “He felt she was the subject of more attention and acceptance than he was.”

Diana, too, was feeling the tension. As she told Andrew Morton for Diana: Her True Story: “Everyone always said when we were in the car, ‘Oh, we’re on the wrong side, we want to see her, we don’t want to see him’ … and obviously he wasn’t used to that and nor was I.”

But all the thronging crowds on the street could see was a fairy tale. In Cockatoo, the traumatised community welcomed the royal couple with open arms. Firefighter Eric Bumpstead remembers that extraordinary day: “I think [the visit] helped the morale of the community a lot. It showed them they weren’t on their own. They [Charles and Diana] were very conscious that they didn’t want to be the main [focus].

“They were there genuinely to support the victims and they didn’t want to feel as though they were strangers pushing into the area. They asked us a couple of times what we thought about it and if we thought it was appropriate or not.”

Publicly, the tour was a success that wowed and stunned even veteran Buckingham Palace hands. As Tina Brown wrote, they had little idea what to do with this unrivalled new star in their midst.

BY the time Diana and Charles arrived in Australia on the second official tour in November 1985, the daylight had not quite seeped in and the public fantasy was still intact. There was even a second child to admire, Harry, born in September 1984. But in private, the marriage was in free-fall. We know now that both were having affairs, Charles with his old flame Camilla Parker-Bowles and Diana with army officer James Hewitt. But you wouldn’t have known it to see them.

The most famous moment of that tour came at Melbourne’s Southern Cross Hotel when Charles whizzed his blushing wife around the dance floor at a charity do as the band played Isn’t She Lovely. And she surely was, stopping the show in an emerald-green gown teamed with an emerald choker – worn as a headband. The couple beamed.

Ian “Molly” Meldrum, the TV and music industry personality, spent considerable time with Diana in his role as host and organiser of a Rocking With the Royals concert on the banks of the Yarra. “She was very open with a great sense of humour,” says Meldrum. Indeed, so relaxed was she that on one limousine ride from a charity event, Diana prodded Meldrum to make a quick stop at Meldrum’s Richmond home.

As Meldrum recalls: “She says to me, ‘Can I have a look at it, please?’ Lynne Randell was my PA at the time. God bless her, she was in the kitchen making tea and I walked in and said, ‘Your Royal Highness, this is my personal assistant, Lynne Randell.’

“And Lynne looks at me and says, ‘You’ve got to be f—ing kidding me!’ We all had a laugh.”

John Elliott, then a beer baron and president of the federal Liberal Party, also has only happy tales to tell of the 1985 tour, during which he achieved his greatest publicity coup – getting the royal couple to present the trophy to the winner of the first Foster’s-branded Melbourne Cup. Over lunch before the big race, Diana said to Elliott: “Wouldn’t it be great, Mr Elliott, if the first Foster’s Melbourne Cup could be frothing over with Foster’s?”

Elliott loved the idea; the Victorian Racing Committee hated it. But Elliott got his Diana-fuelled global publicity bonanza anyway when Charles joked in his speech that the cup would be overflowing with Foster’s if most of the supply wasn’t in London.

Brett Hooey has never forgotten it. How could the Newcastle lad when his moment on the world stage was this one: he, a strapping, 23-year-old, sun-bronzed lifesaver from central casting standing side-by-side on the sand with a real-life princess?

Following his encounter with Diana in late January 1988, as she presented medals at a surf life-saving carnival at Terrigal, the irresistible image of them together beamed around the world. It’s a moment Hooey treasures. “When she walked down the stairs, it was like she had a little dust cloud around her … it was amazing,” Hooey recalls. “She was in her own cloud and when you looked at her, you just melted. She took your breath away.

“The way she’d speak to you, you just felt at ease. Everything she had – it all came from inside. The way she spoke to me, the way she touched me, was perfect.”

The January 1988 tour by Charles and Diana was all razzle-dazzle and timed to coincide with the Bicentennial Australia Day celebrations on Sydney Harbour. There had been hints aplenty that all was not as it seemed in the marriage by this stage but, my goodness, how they fooled us. Tina Brown writes of the images of conjugal serenity that flew around the world from their various Australian pit-stops, “They put on such a sparkling display of marital unity at a dinner dance in Melbourne that even [James] Hewitt was impressed – and a little baffled.”

As then NSW premier Unsworth says, though, whatever else royal life is, it is essentially a job and, whatever difficulties were consuming them behind the scenes, the prince and princess were consummate professionals. “I thought Charles was quite attentive,” Unsworth says. “They were a great couple. They were doing a job and they did it very well.”

It wasn’t to last, of course. The 1988 tour was their final Australian visit together. Diana wouldn’t return for another eight years, for one last spectacular show.

Marie Sutton first met the Princess of Wales at a private function on the NSW Central Coast in 1983. The woman she helped bring back to Australia in 1996, as the very special guest at the launch of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, was a very different person. “Diana was a survivor and I would say that after what she went through at such a very young age, the greatest thing about her was that she stayed sane,” Sutton recalls.

Post-divorce, pre-Dodi Fayed, this was the Diana of endless possibility, of a select few good works – and the Diana who was now privately seeing a London-based heart surgeon who’d once worked in Sydney. It was this connection between Diana’s new beau, Hasnat Khan, and doctors at the new Chang facility that helped pave the way for what was an extraordinary PR coup.

And by this stage of her life she was, says the Chang Institute’s Professor Bob Graham, much more than just a pretty face decorating a cause: “She knew quite a lot about heart disease actually.”

It was all a long way from the shy and uncertain ingénue Australia had met and embraced in 1983, but Graham says the quality that drew people to her remained intact. “What appealed to me most was when we went one time from the institute across the road to the hospital to visit patients,” he says. “There was a huge crowd outside and there was a woman with a baby. Diana went right up to the woman and held the baby. You could see she was driven by what made her feel good. And maybe reading between the lines, what she might have missed out on as a child, someone to cuddle her and nurture her and make her feel wanted.”

That’s a reminder that although she could be, as Clive James wrote after her death, as captivating as a giggling sunrise, there was much more to her than just the familiar Diana spellbinding glow.

And yet, in life and death, nature nearly always provided the needed reference point. She was the sun or a storm, a lamb or a lioness, a seed growing or a stem broken. At her funeral, close friend and favourite performer Elton John summoned one more metaphor for a country in mourning: a lament for England’s rose.

In Australia, though, she had been another thing: a rose, perhaps, but one that had bloomed in the shade of eucalypts and wattle trees. Quite why we fell for her so hard is not entirely to be explained or understood. We just did, and she mostly made the falling worthwhile.

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Jason Geria says A-League grand final’s the norm at Melbourne Victory

Melbourne Victory defender Jason Geria says grand final appearances are the bare minimum expectation at the club as the Canberra export guns for his second A-League crown in as many years.

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Victory face a red-hot Sydney FC in a rematch of the decider that Geria’s men won in Melbourne two years ago and the visitors are preparing an ambush in the harbour city.

The Sky Blues have put together the best season in A-League history, dropping just one game en route to the most competition points ever accumulated, but the gloss of those unprecedented statistics will be washed off with a loss on Sunday.

There was daylight between the clubs in the regular season with Victory finishing 17 points behind Sydney, but Geria said the gap is far closer than the ladder suggests.

“Everyone is entitled to their opinion and can say what they please but we know what we can do and know if we execute to the best of our ability we’re very hard to stop,” Geria said.

“Against Brisbane [last week] was as very good performance and we’re going into Sunday with pretty much the same mindset of imposing our game plan and pressing and keeping the game moving and looking to score goals.

“We showed how dangerous and hard to stop we are when we play like that so we’ll be looking to do that again and if we can it should be a pretty special game for us.”

The 23-year-old said nerves won’t be a factor in the biggest game of the year because the team expected to be there from the first day of preseason.

“In preseason we said grand final and championship and now we’re here so we’re setting out to do what we originally planned,” Geria said.

“I feel privileged this is the second one I am involved in but at Melbourne Victory we set our standards pretty high and grand finals and championships are the standard for us.”

After being named in the starting XI Geria will earn more than the two minutes he tasted in Victory’s 2015 title win, but said victory on Sunday would be a reflection of nine months work, not 90 minutes.

“The last final I didn’t get too much time but regardless if you do play a lot or not the feeling of winning a championship is for everyone. The team the staff, the supporters, everyone is included and that overrides how much involvement you actually have on the pitch,” Geria said.

“My main priority is getting the job done and winning the championship and the team comes before the individual, whatever role you need to play you do it.”

The clash represents the latest chapter in a storied rivalry between the clubs and Geria is expecting nothing short of fireworks as he looks to spoil Sydney’s party and shut down the Sky Blues gun midfielder and skipper Alex Brosque.

“It’s probably the oldest one [rivalry] in the league since its inception. Games against them are always pretty intense and it’s another Big Blue grand final like we had two years ago,” Geria said.

“That game from kick-off was 100 miles an hour and in this one we’re expecting a lot of challenges and we’ll have to win our on-on-one battles because there is a lot on the line.”

Melbourne Victory have won just one of seven away games in the post season but Geria said the only way to fix that is meeting the challenge head on.

“We just need to embrace it, it was good to win a championship at home two years ago and it will be a different experience having one away,” he said.

“But we’re going to have a lot of support coming over, I think there will be the most away support ever seen in a grand final, so we’ll have thousands of our fans there who will make it feel like home and hopefully we can get the win for them.”

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NSW Firefighters Championships, Day 1Photos, Video

NSW Firefighters Championships, Day 1 | Photos, Video Firefighters form up for the official opening

广州桑拿

Bega’s defending state champion team Trent Smith, Cassandra Dickson, Clinton Towill and Gerard Hanscombe

Trangie brigade

Bega crew

Bega crew

Bega crew

Bega crew

Bega crew

Bega crew

Bega crew

Bega crew

Bega crew

Bega crew

Assistant Commissioner Rob McNeil

President of the FRNSW Firefighter Championships Association Captain Greg Fredericks

Cr Sharon Tapscott

Cr Sharon Tapscott

Bronnie Taylor MLC

Port Macquarie crew feeling the chill

Commissioner Paul Baxter

Commissioner Paul Baxter

Commissioner Paul Baxter

Assistant Commissioner Rob McNeil

Dylan Hitchcock and Bega’s Gerard Hanscombe hand out Bega banners and gifts to competitors

Dylan Hitchcock

Dylan Hitchcock

Ulladulla crew

Ulladulla crew

Ulladulla crew

Ulladulla crew

Moruya crew

Moruya crew

Moruya crew

Moruya crew

Moruya crew

Moruya crew

Moruya crew

Moruya crew

Moruya crew

Moruya crew

Moruya crew

Moruya crew

Moruya crew

Moruya crew

Moruya crew

TweetFacebookMORE GALLERIES

facebookSHAREtwitterTWEETemailwhatsappBega’s Valley Fields is hosting the NSW Fire and Rescue Firefighters Championships overthe weekend of May 6-7.

The championships put firefighters from right across the state –and a visiting Victorian brigade –through competitive events showcasing the skills applicable to their emergency response work.

(Click or swipe through the above gallery to get a taste of day one and the pump and ladder event on a chilly Bega morning.)

The NSW Firefighters Championships were officially opened by newly appointed Fire and Rescue NSW Commissioner Paul Baxter, Assistant Commissioner Rob McNeil, Parliamentary Secretary for the Deputy Premier Bronnie Taylor MLC and Bega Valley Shire councillor Sharon Tapscott.

NSW Firefighters Championships, Day 1 | Photos, Videohttps://nnimgt-a.akamaihd.net/transform/v1/crop/frm/38KKizhZLpuTDCkJAjRb34b/711f672b-9edf-41be-8483-cc724f9c3bea.jpg/r2_164_3202_1972_w1200_h678_fmax.jpgNSW: Action from day one of the NSW Firefighters Regional Championships in Bega.multimedia, photos-and-video, firefighters, firefighting, FRNSW, bega, south coast, fire and rescue2017-05-06T17:00:00+10:00https://players.brightcove.net/3879528182001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5423850600001https://players.brightcove.net/3879528182001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5423850600001BVSC Cr Sharon Tapscott welcomes competitors to BegaTwenty-two teams from across NSW as well as some visiting teams from Victoria were in Bega to take part over two days, putting their firefighting skills to the test in a competitive environment.

Assistant Commissioner McNeil, who is also the championships director,told the Bega District News it came down to “the four C’s” –competency, capability, commitment and credibility.

He said firefighters can know what to do with their skills and gear, but when pressure is on and lives are at stake, accuracy and safety is critical.

“In a competitive environment, everyone feels the pressure, you’re on display,” he said.

“These are real skills andall very aligned with what we do on the fireground.

“And it’s a way of refining those skills you can’t usually do unless you have a realemergency when lives are at stake.”

NSW Firefighters Championships, Day 1 | Photos, Videohttps://nnimgt-a.akamaihd.net/transform/v1/crop/frm/38KKizhZLpuTDCkJAjRb34b/711f672b-9edf-41be-8483-cc724f9c3bea.jpg/r2_164_3202_1972_w1200_h678_fmax.jpgNSW: Action from day one of the NSW Firefighters Regional Championships in Bega.multimedia, photos-and-video, firefighters, firefighting, FRNSW, bega, south coast, fire and rescue2017-05-06T17:00:00+10:00https://players.brightcove.net/3879528182001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5423849195001https://players.brightcove.net/3879528182001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5423849195001Bega crew #2 run the Urban Pumper and ladder eventAssistant Commissioner McNeil said the championships held throughout the year across NSW have the added benefit of increasing teamwork and camaraderie throughout the brigades.

“So when we come together for state disasters –like the recent floods at Lismore –they’re like a hand in glove, all working together.

“I’m very proud of what they do. They have all come here in their own time and on their own dollar just to compete –and have fun!”

Brigades competing in Bega are:

Two from the host brigade (Bega is also the current and defending state overall champion)MerimbulaMittagongMoruyaNowraUlladullaArmidaleDubboKelsoKootingal RFSMerrylandsPort Macquarie x2ScarboroughTrangieUrallaWyongWAFA x2EchucaTamworth City RFSThe championships run through to around 4.30pm Saturday then again on Sunday, May 7, 7.30am until 1pm,at the Keith Mitchell Sportsground (Valley Fields)

NSW Firefighters Championships, Day 1 | Photos, Videohttps://nnimgt-a.akamaihd.net/transform/v1/crop/frm/38KKizhZLpuTDCkJAjRb34b/711f672b-9edf-41be-8483-cc724f9c3bea.jpg/r2_164_3202_1972_w1200_h678_fmax.jpgNSW: Action from day one of the NSW Firefighters Regional Championships in Bega.multimedia, photos-and-video, firefighters, firefighting, FRNSW, bega, south coast, fire and rescue2017-05-06T17:00:00+10:00https://players.brightcove.net/3879528182001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5423881954001https://players.brightcove.net/3879528182001/default_default/index.html?videoId=5423881954001Segments from the official opening

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Investor beats out first-home buyer for $1.25 million one-bedroom home

The key to creating Sydney’s friendliest streets is to add plantsAuctions down for resilient Sydney marketBaby Boomers v Gen Y: Did past generations have it better as buyers?

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A first-home buyer stood little chance when she went up against three investors for a one-bedroom terrace that sold for $150,000 above reserve on Saturday.

The auction for the heritage sandstone workman’s cottage saw more than 50 people pack into the leafy laneway outside 12 McElhone Place, Surry Hills. They milled around alongside several carefree felines, who roam the street affectionately known as “cat alley”.

It was one of 458 auctions held on Saturday. By the evening, Domain Group had collected 316 results to put the clearance rate at 73.6 per cent – a decent drop from the previous week’s 80.3 per cent. “The Sydney auction market has fallen sharply to a year-low result on lower listings, as all eyes now turn to the federal budget,” Domain Group chief economist Andrew Wilson said.

Bidding for the small two-level home – which sits on a 51-square-metre block and has no parking – started with an opening offer of $1 million from a first-home buyer.

From there it went up in $25,000 increments as the eventual winning bidder and first home-buyer went back and forth, before dropping down to $10,000 jumps.

Two other investors joined in before auctioneer David Giezekamp, of Callagher Estate Agents, declared the property sold for $1.25 million after almost 30 bids – more than double the $523,500 records show it last traded for in 2006.

“The result is amazing,” vendor Christopher Dancey said after the auction. “I’ve got slightly mixed emotions, it’s been a great place to live, we’re selling because we’re moving up to Queensland in search of more affordable homes.”

“This place has more than doubled in price in the time we’ve had it, which is symptomatic of the Sydney market.”

Mr Dancey, who had recently been renting out his former home, will be moving up to Buderim on the Sunshine Coast with his wife and their four-year-old son.

“We haven’t bought yet, we’d been waiting to see what sort of budget we would have, but from this we should be able to get a good quarter-acre block in a good spot.”

The successful bidder – Sans Souci investor Tony Peters – said the property was a rare opportunity to buy a heritage home in a great inner-city location.

“I was in and out of the bidding a few times, but I just kept coming back in, I thought it was too unique and precious to let it go,” he said. “I spent about 10 per cent more than I’d planned to stop at.”

He said though he felt there was uncertainty in the market about potentially slowing price growth, he was not concerned as he had bought the property for the “long-haul”.

“I’ve got two children [aged 14 and eight], this might be something they can move into when they’re older.”

Alaina Favretto, the first-home buyer who kicked off the bidding, said she was disappointed to have missed out on another property.

“This was my fourth auction, at two of the others the opening bid was already over my max,” she said. “I’d love to get a terrace, but they’re generally a bit out of my budget so I’ve been looking at apartments. I thought there was a chance with this one though as it’s a one-bedroom.”

“I’ve been looking for about nine months now, in the city and eastern suburbs,” she added. “It’s a hard market.”

Selling agent James Burke, also of Callagher Estate Agents, said the home – inspected by about 80 groups – had drawn interest from a mix of investors, young couples and downsizers.

“We had a lot of people that had been looking at two-bedrooms apartments as well,” he said. “This is in the same price range, and while it’s a one-bedder, it appeals because it doesn’t come with strata and is on a beautiful laneway.”

Mr Giezekamp said while April’s triple whammy of Anzac Day, Easter and the school holidays had impacted the volume of buyers going through some open homes, there was still strong demand.

“There was a lot of disruption in April … as soon as that was done, volumes started coming right back up.”

“After Easter we used to say hold off for the spring selling season but those days are gone.”

In neighbouring Redfern, it was an owner-occupier who beat out investors to snap up a one-bedroom apartment at 46/249 Chalmers Street.

Bidding started at $850,000 and almost 60 bids were made by five of nine registered bidders before the property sold for $1.09 million – $140,000 above reserve.

“It went well above the owner’s expectations,” said selling agent Duncan Gordon of Raine and Horne Newtown.

He noted the apartment’s central location and position overlooking Redfern Park were big drawcards. Elsewhere across Sydney:

3 Lawson Street, Bondi Junction NSW 2022. Photo: Supplied.

SOLD $2.85 million Bondi Junction 3 Lawson Street 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 1 car space

It didn’t take long for bidding for this contemporary home to soar over the $2.6 million reserve. It started at $2.5 million and went up in $50,000 increments, before dropping to $10,000 jumps at the $2.7 million mark. The property, sold through Edward Brown of Belle Property Bondi Junction, was snapped up by a young local family. The end result was $1.15 million more than the $1.7 million records show it last traded for less than four years ago.

11 Universal Street, Mortdale NSW 2223. Photo: Supplied/Stewart Low.

SOLD $872,500 Mortdale 11 Universal Street 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 0 car spaces

More than 20 parties registered to bid on this tightly held deceased estate on a 220-square metre block. The bidding started at $500,000 and, while only six parties bid, it quickly surpassed the $650,000 reserve. A local investor snapped up the cottage, built in the 1930s, which was sold through Stefan Bujak of Harcourts Georges River. The home was inspected by almost 100 groups, with the majority planning to extensively renovate it or knock it down.

4/10 Emmett Street, Crows Nest.Photo: Supplied/Mind The Gap.

SOLD $1.36 million Crows Nest 4/10 Emmett Street 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 1 car space

Five of 12 registered bidders battled it out for this art deco apartment, which sold for $80,000 above reserve. After an opening bid of $1.1 million, bidding went up at a steady pace, rising in $10,000 increments for much of the auction. It sold through Tom Scarpignato of Belle Property Neutral Bay, who had shown about 70 groups though the apartment and issued about 16 contracts prior to auction day. Records show it last traded for $706,000 in 2011.

2 Denning Street, Petersham.Photo: Supplied

SOLD $1.99 million Petersham 2 Denning Street 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 0 car spaces

This family home sold for over a million dollars more than the $875,000 records show it traded for five years ago, at auction on Saturday. After an opening bid of $1.75 million, the bidding went up in $25,000 increments and didn’t slow down until it passed $1.95 million. A couple upsizing beat out three other bidders to nab the property. It sold through Lars Foged of Ray White Petersham, who showed about 60 groups through prior to auction day.

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Lawyer cracks open ‘piggy bank’ to buy massive inner-city block

Is stamp duty stifling Australian house sales?Bold bidding nabs Graceville family a new homeKeith Urban and Nicole Kidman’s potential new mega-penthouse

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There was stiff competition to win the keys to 17 Errard Street, Kelvin Grove, but lawyer and mother Liz Hardie had a secret weapon in friend Josie.

“Thank goodness I had support,” she said, gesturing to her friend. “I wouldn’t have done it without her.”

Bidding started at $800,000 but hit $1 million in just four bids. Offers then slowed to smaller increments, until the remaining two bidders haggled over how much above $1.2 million they would pay, eventually settling on $1.21 million.

“I had a number in my head I wasn’t allowed to go past, we went past it but that’s OK,” Mrs Hardie said, laughing.

“I have a very large piggy bank that I will be smashing when I get home.”

The buy was worth every cent, she said. There was plenty of room for her two young sons to play soccer, and was within walking distance to everything her family needed.

“They can walk to Brisbane city, down past the creek and stuff, which will be good,” Mrs Hardie said. “They can walk to soccer training, they still go to school at Kelvin Grove.

“My husband can walk to work, he works at Just Us Lawyers just down the road.”

Space Property agent Judi O’Dea said the 1002-square-metre block in upmarket Kelvin Grove was rare.

“There’s enormous potential because the house sits right at the front of the block.

“It would have to be renovated because it’s a character home.

“From the back there’s actually good elevation, so you don’t have to lift the house, you’d actually dig out,” she said. “It would be very easy to extend the back of the home.”

Ms O’Dea said the property would be perfect for the Hardie family to grow into.

“It’s a very private backyard,” she said..

“It’s ripe for a couple who have a couple of children; the backyard is a beautiful backyard with room for a pool.”

Ms O’Dea had expected a family to snatch up the property. “There were builders looking at it but most wanted to keep the block intact.”

Just down the road in Park Street, Kelvin Grove, an old family estate went to auction later on Saturday.

Investors Andy and Cindy Ho beat several other interested parties for the property, paying $697,000 for the dilapidated home.

Mrs Ho said the price they paid for the 405-square metre block was, “just OK”.

The pair plan to renovate the cottage. “First [it will be an] investment property and then after that my son will live here, to go to university at QUT,” Mrs Ho said.

Belle Property Paddington agent Elizabeth Wright said the house would require renovations before the new tenants could move in, but was not sure what the owners would do with it.

“Well, how long’s a piece of string?” she said. “It’s so hard, you don’t know what the finish will be like.

“Even if it’s just a basic fix up, it would change the whole look of that house. It’d be very liveable.”

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Thailand buys $530m submarine from China, a move ‘opposed by most Thais’

Thailand has bought the first of three submarines from China in the strongest signal yet the military-ruled country is reducing reliance on its long-time ally, the United States.

广州桑拿

A Thai navy admiral signed an agreement for the $US393 million ($530 million) Yuan-class diesel vessel in Beijing even though Thailand’s state audit office is still investigating the purchase.

Thailand’s cabinet, dominated by military officers who seized power in a 2014 coup, approved the deal in secret in April, prompting accusations of a lack of transparency in the country’s largest defence purchase.

The US downgraded defence ties with Thailand after the coup, including reducing participation of its troops in joint military exercises.

But US President Donald Trump last week invited Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to the White House in what analysts interpreted as an attempt by Washington to restore the relationship.

Officials in Washington said Mr Trump needed the help of south-east Asian nations to pressure North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.

Mr Prayuth, a former general who led the coup, has repeatedly put off elections that, when eventually held under a new constitution, will protect the military’s influence in civilian affairs.

Critics of the Royal Thai Navy’s $US1.17 billion purchase over 11 years say the government has failed to explain publicly why the vessels are needed for a country surrounded by shallow seas where they will not be able to operate effectively.

They also point out that Thailand faces no apparent threat from any country.

The Bangkok Post said in an editorial that Thailand’s purchase of an aircraft carrier in the early 1990s was plagued by problems and never contributed to the nation’s security.

Jets and helicopters deployed to it were not given an adequate budget to operate.

The newspaper said in an editorial the submarine purchase was opposed by most Thais.

“By pressing on, the government and junta are entirely responsible for everything that follows, quite possibly for years to come,” it said.

Mr Prayuth defended the purchase, saying: “We can’t rely on others to help us.

“It’s like safeguarding your gold. If you have more, you will keep it in a safe place and lock it up ??? our resources too. We have to safeguard them,” he said.

The submarines will be built by China Shipbuilding and Offshore International, a company authorised by the Chinese government to export military products.

Thailand’s Auditor-General Pisit Leelavachiropas told reporters his office did not prohibit the agreement being signed before its investigations were completed.

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