Newcastle startup Herb Urban takes the guess work out of gardening for those who want to grow their own

TINKER TAILOR: Jared Lawlor, founder of Herb Urban, with an example of one of his smart garden systems. JARED Lawlor has a green thumb but when he moved into a Tighes Hill house a few years back he grew it –and a business – to next level proportions.
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Mr Lawlor andpartner Heidi took the sun for granted until they settled in thesouth-facing home, which enjoyed little drenching natural light beyond a small patch at the front fence.

“Being so used to growing herbs and veges we didn’t know what to do so I put my skills to the test,” says the electrical engineer.

He ran PVC pipes along a wall and developed a complex watering and plant nutrient system which quickly drew comments.

“Friendswere like ‘wow, that is a great idea’ and I soon realised it was and started to look at ways to simplify the system so the end user who didn’t have time or the inclination to do the tech stuff but wanted a garden could just set it and forget it,” he says.

Today Mr Lawlor’s startup Herb Urban is thriving, with plans to retail its smart gardening systems nationally and globally. It offers automatedgardening systems including vertical farms, urban farms and automated green wall systems, all of which turn on a controller with sensorsthat ensure plants receive the right amount of water and nutrients.

Greening spaces: A Herb Urban installation in Newcastle.

“It is a zero waste system – there is nothing out there on the market like it and I’ve designed this from scratch in Newcastle,”says Mr Lawlorof the product that he makes in the Islington co-workspace of carpenter Stu Pinkerton.

Watch my garden grow: The controller of the Herb Urban system is in the large box, which controls the water and nutrients given to the garden.

“The plants only get given what they will use and nothing more or less so they are living in a perfect state.”

Herb Urban will soon release its first commercial product, a DYI “plug and play” product allowing customers to buy and setup the system at home.

Out of the box: Herb Urban garden systems are horizontal and vertical and made to measure for urban spaces.

“The first units will be delivered around Newcastle but the product will be refined so we can go interstate and globally,” says Mr Lawlor.

He and his partner have long grown their own produce, keen to cutwaste associated withsupermarkets.

Mr Lawlor says Herb Urban grew from a pure desire to give people the ability to grow their own food without having to think about it.

“People who can gardentake it for granted, the knowledge base you have to build up over a long time; ifyou are gardening conventionally you have to cultivate soil and put time and sweat into it,” he says. “We wanted to take the guess work out of it.”

Mr Lawlor, a participant in The Business Centre’s Start House 100 innovation course, says many clients live in central Newcastle andwant to grow their own produce for sustainability and health reasons.With manyhavingan oversupply of produce, heplans to create a community of sharing via a local farmers markets stall or an online forum.

Dissecting the Amerika dream

Making independent films anywhere is never easy, but it’s that much harder in a country embroiled in a debt crisis.
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All really good Greek actors are working at two theatres simultaneously and making films on the side just to make ends meet, says Yannis Sakaridis, who nevertheless managed to round up a formidable cast in his film Amerika Square. The good thing, from a film-maker’s point of view, is that all the privation makes you nimble.

“You get really good practice when you work on a Greek film. We did this film in four weeks. A lot of people do it in less time. There is a lot of talent at the moment in shooting and acting, really good crews and I guess the weather always helps.”

Sakaridis lived in London for 18 years, so he has a point of comparison with an arts environment that is relatively flush. “And I realise that Athens is really a very modern place for art, with amazing theatre, music and novels being written. People matured very quickly after the crisis, I think. You miss something but you get something. I mean, there is obviously not enough money. But there is a lot going on.”

Amerika Square is an adaptation of a novel by Yannis Tsirbas that deals with another of Greece’s immediate issues: the fact that this cash-strapped country is the first staging post for refugees from Syria trying to get to Europe. The eponymous square is an unofficial meeting point for those new arrivals, those hoping to leave and the so-called “travel agents” who will supposedly smuggle them across borders.

“In the ’60s it used to be a place where all the artists used to be, but then it moved on,” says Sakaridis. “In the last few years it’s been like Casablanca.”

In the original novel, Victoria Doesn’t Exist, the story was told from the point of view of Nakos (Makis Papadimitriou), a fellow-traveller with fascist party Golden Dawn, whose personal sense of grievance is grounded in the fact that even in his late 30s, he still lives with his parents and can’t hold or generally get a job. His friendship with Billy (Yannis Stankoglou) goes back to their shared inner-city childhood, but Billy is almost the opposite: cool, liberal, curious, possibly harbouring a secret wish to do something heroic in his life.

In the film version, Billy becomes the central character, watching aghast as Nakos becomes increasingly fanatical. He can’t let him know about Tarek (Vassilis Koukalani) – the third major character – a Syrian doctor he is hiding in the basement of the cafe he runs. “We wanted to have three stories because we wanted to see the three representative ideologies and ways of dealing in that area,” Sakaridis says.

The average Greek is sympathetic to the refugees, who have had significant support from the current Greek government, Sakaridis says.

“Because we are a refugee nation. Thousands of Greeks came from the east, or their grandparents or great-grandparents like mine. My grandparents came from Istanbul in 1922 so I’ve got in my DNA a sort of refugee mentality.”

What is most remarkable is that Greece has produced a film like Amerika Square – now its national Oscar entry – which has been lauded by the international film press as “one of the best European films to date on the subject of immigration in all its painful implications”. That’s pretty good going on no money.

Penrith great Mark Geyer has endorsed Garth Brennan for the head-coaching vacancy at the Gold Coast.

IN THE HOT SEAT: Garth Brennan is tipped to be announced as Gold Coast coach on Thursday. Picture: Jonathan CarrollPenrith great Mark Geyer has endorsed Garth Brennan for the head-coaching vacancyat the Gold Coast, amid speculation the Titans will confirm his appointment on Thursday.
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Brennan is believed to have emerged atop a list of coaching candidates including sacked South Sydney coach Michael Maguire, Brisbane assistant Jason Demetriou and Ipswich’s coaching brothers Shane and Ben Walker.

Brennan’s credentials include winning the NSW Cup with Penrith in 2014 and the NSW Cup-NRL State Championship double this year after cutting his teeth as the club’s under-20s coach in 2012-13.

The former Newcastle Wests and Waratah-Mayfield fullback, who still lives at Stockton, also coached the Knights into the National Youth Competition finals in 2011.

“If it is true, geez, that’s a great result for the Titans because not only have they got a great coach, but they’ve got a great bloke,” Geyer said on Triple M Sydney on Wednesday.

“He’s got good intestinal fortitude. He’s all about making the player better. He’s not into politics. He doesn’t like the shit in the game. He just gets straight into what’s important and that’s the players and their performances on the footy field.

“They need a bloke to go in and be a great mentor and also going to be firm, but fair.”

Another premiership-winning ex-Panther, Martin Lang, wished Brennan luck and added that he is “going to need it”.

Lang said Brennan’s greatest challenge would be in managing enigmatic superstar Jarryd Hayne.

Hayne fell out with former Titans coach Neil Henry, who was subsequently sacked with a year to run on his contract.

“Everything I hear about him is very good,” Lang said of Brennan. “He’s got a great knowledge, good relationship with the players.

“But at the end of the day it will come down to how he handles Jarryd Hayne.

“I know these NRL jobs are few and far between but that’s a tough job to go into.”

Lang reckoned there were worse ideas than for the Titans and Panthers to trade Hayne and Matt Moylan if Brennan got the green light.

Moylan reportedly fell out with recently re-signed Penrith coach Anthony Griffin, missing the NRL finals campaign this year.

“Maybe he should swap him for Moylan at Penrith so Hayne can go to Sydney where he is happy, I don’t know,” Lang said. “But as a first-time coach Garth will know everybody needs to be treated differently.

“In many ways you have to treat someone like Hayne like a thoroughbred racehorse.

“But you have to set standards and if they are broken you have to pull everyone in line whether they are paid $1.2 million a year or $80,000.”

Lang said Hayne was just one dilemmaBrennan would faceat the Gold Coast.

A call on which consortium will buy the Titans off the NRL is not expected until November.

It is unclear whether Brennanwould relinquish his roleas New Zealandassistant coach at the World Cupjob if he securesthe Titans job.

Halfback Ash Taylor has also delayed contract extension talks until the Titans’ future is clearer but he becomes a free agent on November 1.

Other Titans can’t wait – prized utility Tyrone Roberts announced a surprise move to English Super League club Warrington from next season.

“There’s the club ownership, player retention, re-signing Ash Taylor, Roberts has gone to England – it’s a big call taking on the Titans job,” Lang said.

Cricket loses Sutherland … to study

It was a battle between cricket and football this year for Will Sutherland, but it seems study is a greater priority than either.
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Despite starring with 4-11 in a win against New South Wales last Sunday, the batting all-rounder has been left out of Victoria’s 14-man squad for the JLT one-day cup finals as he enters the home straight of his schooling, with the Scotch College Year 12 student’s VCE exams just around the corner.

Sutherland, who had been shaping as a likely first-round pick in this year’s AFL draft had he chosen to pursue a career in football, turns 18 later this month, with the son of Cricket chief James Sutherland hopeful of qualifying for a commerce degree at the University of Melbourne.

Not that Victoria don’t have quality players to fill the void. Internationals Daniel Christian, Glenn Maxwell and Aaron Finch return to the Bushrangers squad after featuring in ‘s tour of India, while Cameron White keeps his spot as he works his way back from an injury that kept him out towards the end of the preliminary stage.

Sam Harper and Blake Thomson join Sutherland in making way for the returning international trio.

Victoria face South in Thursday’s elimination final, with the winners to take on Western in Saturday’s decider. Both games are in Hobart.

Bushrangers coach Andrew McDonald was hopeful the returning stars could catapult his team to the final. “To welcome back guys of such high calibre as Finch, Maxwell and Christian at this stage of the tournament is a big win for us, and they’ll certainly add some depth to both our batting and bowling line-up,” McDonald said.

“The squad has been brilliant so far this tournament to get us to this point, and now hopefully with the return of our n representatives we can go a step further and qualify for the final.”

‘I’d be quite happy not to have textbooks in schools’:PM’s prize winner

Brett McKay, a science teacher who is going to receive the PM’s prize for excellence in science teaching in secondary schools?? is pictured at Kirrawee High School with students on 16 October, 2017. Photo: Brook MitchellIn the past three years, so many students have started choosing science subjects for their HSC that Kirrawee High School has run out of laboratories.
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The school, in Sydney’s south, is going to start bringing in “portable trolleys”, or mobile science labs, so that students in regular classrooms can keep doing experiments, head teacher of science Brett McKay said.

About 60 per cent of Kirrawee High’s year 12 students are about to sit at least one HSC science exam, and a slightly higher proportion of year 11 students are studying one or more science subjects, Mr McKay said.

However, the real surprise came when year 10 students recently made their HSC subject choices.

“About 140 kids [or 70 per cent of the cohort] are doing a science,” Mr McKay said.

“We were shocked when we saw that, there will be three extra classes next year.”

Mr McKay, 50, has been recognised for his work in inspiring students to pursue science as this year’s recipient of the Prime Minister’s prize for excellence in science teaching in secondary schools, presented in Canberra on Wednesday.

Mr McKay said he led the push to promote science subjects at the school when he was appointed head teacher about three years ago by bringing in an array of practical opportunities for students.

“We started by sending some girls to the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor and they learnt that science wasn’t what they thought it was,” he said.

“When they came back we made them spokespeople for science. When students get that passion, they feed it on to others.

“And new activities mean students have got a buzz about them, and then the year below goes, ‘Oh yeah, we want to go to that’.”

Students from the school have also had the chance to work with CSIRO astronomers and control the Parkes radio telescope, and participate in competitions such as a recent forensics problem-solving challenge.

Science teachers have also started taking a more hands-on approach to teaching within the classroom.

“We’re making bionic hands out of straws and we use [toy] flying pigs to talk about circular motion,” Mr McKay said.

“We do experiments with things like ice, where you see if it melts faster on something cold or warm and then work out why it’s happening.

“By actually doing it they have the knowledge in a much more solid way and in the long term.”

He said his aim in bringing different programs to the school is to “give [students] as broad a range of opportunities as possible”.

“Their passion might not be what I’m passionate about … I’m constantly picking out different activities so students can follow the paths they’re interested in,” Mr McKay said.

His advice to other teachers is to “take [science] away from being an elitist subject”.

“It’s not about the textbook, it’s about what students are interested in,” Mr McKay said. “I’d be quite happy not to have textbooks in schools.”

Mr McKay decided to become a teacher after spending a year after university as an industrial chemist and said his favourite part of the job is “seeing [students’] faces light up when it clicks”.

He has been teaching at Kirrawee High for 20 years and also works with country schools to advise HSC science teachers.

Mr McKay has also been involved in providing feedback to the NSW Education Standards Authority ahead of the release of new HSC science syllabuses.

Former England opener slams ‘pathetic’ Warner comments

David Warner’s call to arms for his teammates to find their inner “hatred” of England this summer has been labelled “pathetic” and mocked by the Old Enemy.
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Former England vice-captain Marcus Trescothick led the attack on Warner, after the n vice-captain said he and his teammates needed “to delve and dig deep into yourself to get some sort of hatred” about the tourists.

This prompted Trescothick, a key figure in England’s 2005 Ashes series win, to attack ‘s dashing opener.

“It’s pathetic. To come out with those sort of comments is not needed,” he told the BBC.

“There’s always the hype that comes around before the Ashes, so I don’t think it’s something the [English] players will be drawn into.

“I think it will just be a good distraction, hopefully, for and they can get caught up in the war of words.”

Warner has been nicknamed The Reverend in recent years for having little to say to rivals on the field, but his comments this week have prompted a sharp response.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan even mocked Warner, using social media to declare: “Better get some Tanks and Machine Guns ready then …. What nonsense !!!?”

Former England captain Geoffrey Boycott also took to social media to respond.

“They want to get [England] down, abuse & sledging, a war, that’s what it is to them not cricket. It’s a test of character for our lads,” Boycott wrote.

Kevin Pietersen, who has never been short of a word, has said pre-Ashes banter counts for little.

“The facts of the matter are, all pre-Ashes chat counts for f… all! All that counts is runs & wickets! You don’t walk out to bat or bowl thinking about a headline!” he said on Twitter.

Warner’s on-field antics drew the ire of Cricket chief James Sutherland in 2015, and he has since adopted a more cautious approach.

However, with desperate to regain cricket’s most famous prize, Warner wants this summer’s campaign to have an edge – in much the same manner as four years ago when then n captain Michael Clarke called on England paceman Jimmy Anderson to “get ready for a broken f—ing arm” at the Gabba. The tourists were crushed 5-0.

“I would like to see it like a bit of State of Origin. Let things just flow on and you deal with everything afterwards,” Warner said.

“Let a couple of penalties go and get on with it.”

He added this week: “I’ll be doing everything I can to make sure that when we’re out there, we’ve got a lot of energy, a lot of buzz, whether that’s being vocal or with my intent batting and in the field.”

The verbal warfare is set to be aimed particularly at England’s inexperienced batsmen Mark Stoneman, James Vince and Dawid Malan.

Off-spinner Nathan Lyon said it was clear who the tourists’ kingpins were, nominating skipper Joe Root and former captain Alastair Cook, and said it was important the younger batsmen were put under pressure early.

Turnbull plan would cut 6 per cent off power bills in best scenario

Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten (right) is seen with site manager Glen Poynter during a visit to the Incitec Pivot industrial chemicals plant in Brisbane, Tuesday, October 10, 2017. Mr Shorten was in Brisbane to discuss the national energy crisis. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt) NO ARCHIVINGEven the best energy policy will do little to reduce costs for consumers, experts have warned, as the Turnbull government resists pressure to substantiate claims its new policy will save ns $2 a week on power bills.
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In Parliament on Wednesday, Labor seized on suggestions the reduction could be closer to 50?? a week but Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg stood by the claim of an average $115-a-year saving between 2020 and 2030.

“The national energy guarantee is a credible, workable, pro-market policy that will deliver lower power prices for ns and involves no taxes, no subsidies and no emission trading schemes,” he said.

A report this week from the n Competition and Consumer Commission found a 63 per cent power price rise since 2007 had put consumers under “unacceptable pressure”.

Based on these figures, the Energy Security Board’s unreleased modelling on the $115 saving would cut 6 per cent off the average annual bill of $1691 by 2030.

Labor leader Bill Shorten urged the government to release the full report.

“They haven’t done their homework, they can’t back up their numbers and they’re only offering ns, in the best-case scenario, somewhere between 50?? and a little bit more each week in three years’ time,” he said.

But the director of Deakin University’s Centre for Energy, Samantha Hepburn, said even the most thorough review of policy settings would struggle to make a dent in prices for consumers.

“Transitioning to a lower emission intensive framework generates cost uncertainties,” Professor Hepburn said. “This is exacerbated by the gas position – gas affordability on the east coast is largely an issue of supply.”

She said that once the federal renewable energy target (RET) ends in 2020 the national energy guarantee (NEG) would allow retailers to choose the least expensive mix of generation to meet their emission obligations.

“It may not achieve the same levels or emission reduction or affordability [compared to the renewable energy target],” she said.

Energy Consumers welcomed the announcement but said thorough consultation was still needed.

The policy will rely on the market to encourage renewable energy uptake through technological advances and falling costs, while $66 billion in renewable subsidies to the sector will be scraped.

At the same time, the government will mandate a minimum amount of base-load energy be generated through sources such as coal and gas in an effort to keep prices down while preventing blackouts.

“It is time to move beyond acronyms and get on with the job because households and small businesses want these issues settled,” Energy Consumers chief executive Rosemary Sinclair said.

“There is no silver bullet here, there are instead several policy levers which will need to work together to provide more affordable and reliable power for consumers, while lowering emissions at least cost.”

The MGA Independent Retailers Association said the plan offered some hope to many retailers who had been looking down the barrel of closing their businesses.

“They simply cannot continue facing out-of-control energy bills and survive into the future,” he said.

“It may not be ideal and there may be alternatives. But at this point in time it is the only feasible solution we have been offered. We urge state governments and others that are bickering over the finer details of the plan to desist from arguing from an ideological perspective and to accept this is a plan that we can utilise to move forward.”

The country’s largest energy producer, AGL, will front a public hearing on Thursday and is expected to focus on the role of battery storage and solar in private homes in reducing costs “behind the meter,” according to a submission from its chief economist Tim Nelson.

It has begun briefing shareholders on its plans for life after its coal fired plant Liddell, which it had planned on shutting in 2022, but it is understood that plan is now under review to ensure it is consistent with the Energy Security Board’s recommendations.

The energy company has flagged batteries at Liddell power plant, an upgrade to Bayswater and a new gas operation in Newcastle on the mid-north coast of NSW as potential options to keep baseload power running in the event of a Liddell closure.

EDITORIAL: Corridor the city’s key planning decision

OF all of the aspects of the state government’s Revitalising Newcastle project, none is so central to the future of the city as that section of the former heavy rail corridor not needed for light rail.
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After years of bruising debate, the line is truncated at Wickham and work is soon to start on 2.7 kilometres of light rail to run along the corridor to Worth Place, before swinging out onto Hunter Street, and later Scott Street, for the duration of the journey.

The state government, which is funding the project, is adamant there will be development on certain sections of the corridor, which means that unless these future buildings are constructed leaving room for people to pass through beneath them, it will no longer be a corridor as such.

Still, the proposal to build on the corridor seems to have a majority of public opinion behind it, and while a vocal public transport lobby is still calling for the light rail to run its entire length along the corridor, there seems no chance of that happening this late in the piece.

Documents relating to the rezoning have been on display with Newcastle City Council since September 18, with submissions closing on Monday. The documents on display state that changes have been made to the original UrbanGrowth/Hunter Development Corporation proposal for the corridor. They say the number of apartments hasfallen from as many as 600 to between 100 and 150, and that land for commercial and retail use has been cut by 1000 square metres from the original 5000 square metres.

The documents say public recreation space is up by3200 square metres, withbuilding heights reduced in some places.

The peak developer lobby, the Property Council of , says it’s an “excellent proposal”, but it wants more density between Darby Street and Brown Street, and concessions for developers with heritage buildings facing Hunter Street and backing on to the corridor. It’s widely believed the light rail was moved on to Hunter Street to favour developers but the property council says it has longwanted to preserve most of the corridor for public use, and that large scale or high rise development along the corridor’s length is “simply not feasible, nor desirable”.

Even so –as noted above – it will only take one building to block the corridor to end its future utility. Which is why some scepticswant to see the light rail working properly before the corridor is sacrificed forever.

ISSUE: 38,627.

Four Lisa Wilkinson myths busted

Lisa Wilkinson’s sudden departure from the Today show has sent the Nine Network’s publicity machine into overdrive as they attempt to mitigate the fallout from one of their biggest stars switching teams.
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Nine spinners have been working overtime to shelter the network from potential backlash, then throw in what Ten and Wilkinson’s allies have had to say and an already highly-contentious subject has become a very muddy pond of spin and speculation.

There has been exhaustive coverage of Wilkinson’s contract negotiations over the past 48 hours, and rightly so. But you shouldn’t believe everything you read.

Here are four myths that have been doing the rounds since the saga unfolded:

Myth 1: The final straw was Wilkinson’s contract negotiations being leaked

Nine management have been on the phone to reporters saying they’ve long disliked Wilkinson’s arrangements with commercial rivals, but the final straw was when her contract renegotiations were leaked to the Murdoch press.

This may have made TV bosses hot under the collar, but it ignores an inconvenient fact: Wilkinson’s longtime co-host Karl Stefanovic also leaked details about his contract renegotiations to the Murdoch press this time two years’ ago.

It goes without saying, but Stefanovic’s professional relationship with Nine is still going strong. This is despite a front page story in The Sunday Mail in October 2015 that reported the Gold Logie winner’s contract was up for renewal and there was a “strong possibility” he would be leaving Today the following year.

It’s common practice for some of TV’s biggest personalities to leak details of their contract negotiations to newspapers in the hope it will give them stronger bargaining powers. Producers have been known to do it too, not just the people in front of the cameras.

Myth 2: Stefanovic is worth more

Nine’s chief executive Hugh Marks lashed out at Wilkinson’s “defection” in The Daily Telegraphon Wednesday morning, defending his network against claims of pay disparity.

The TV boss said Stefanovic was simply worth more money. Nine’s final offer was reportedly around the $1.8 million mark, in comparison to Stefanovic’s $2 million salary.

While Stefanovic films several 60 Minutes episodes a year as well as the high-rating program This Time Next Year, it is important to note that he steps away from his Today hosting dutiesto fulfill his other in-house commitments.

Yes, Wilkinson is paid a six-figure sum for her involvement with HuffPo , but Nine sources say she wasn’t provided the same prime-time opportunities as Stefanovic. Hence why Ten’s plan to use her more broadly across the network, with some reports indicating they intend to make her “‘s Oprah Winfrey”.

The fact Ten was reportedly willing to fork out $2 million for the TV star and former magazine editor proves Wilkinson is worth as much as her former co-host, if given the opportunity to shine in prime time along with the gruelling breakfast shift.

Myth 3: Wilkinson could replace Carrie Bickmore on The Project

A bizarre story that circulated on Tuesday was the possibility of Wilkinson replacing longtime Project host Carrie Bickmore.

The basis of these reports? Not well-placed sources at Ten, but instead a nice bit of PR cooked up from betting agencies.

It didn’t take long for Ten to rubbish those claims, pointing out it’s possible for The Project to have two female anchors at the same time.

“Carrie is contracted to host the show four days a week and that role won’t change,” The Project’s executive producer Craig Campbell said. “She’s been here since day one and has led The Project all the way to the Gold Logie podium. Having these two strong, intelligent and independent women, both at the top of their game, on our team is a privilege.”

Myth 4: We saved 10 people’s jobs

Ahhh that old chestnut. Let’s appeal to the bleeding hearts whose deep concern is for all those poor young journos gripping to their desks for grim life as Greedy Lisa demanded more money than they could ever dream of making.

While times are tough in TV-land with people moving over to streaming platforms, it is hardly Lisa’s fault if Hugh Marks can’t balance the books and pay his two breakfast presenters the same wage.

Further to that is the fact they haven’t revealed how many jobs had to go when they bumped up Karl’s salary a few years ago. Yes, the media landscape has changed in the past two years, but the whole thing smells of desperate spin to turn some of the heat Nine is getting back onto Lisa.

ASX extends winning streak to nine sessions

The n share market finished marginally higher on Wednesday but managed to extend a nine-session rally as the index approaches six-month highs.
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The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 1 point to end the day at 5890. The All Ordinaries index slipped 3 points to 5954. The n dollar was at US78.46 cents.

The recent hot run on the ASX has added $100 billion worth of value over the past nine sessions, with investors hopeful that the powerful sharemarket gains enjoyed in other countries has finally reached n shores.

“Risk assets are in a sweet spot where despite messages of pending monetary tightening and elevated valuations, improving growth momentum on the back of highly accommodative liquidity conditions is fuelling a coordinated rise,” Macquarie n equity strategist Jason Todd said.

” has been caught up in this slipstream, helped also by a move lower in the n dollar which was an underappreciated headwind through May-August this year,” Mr Todd said.

“We believe the best way to play an ongoing global risk rally is via banks who stand to gain from steepening yield curves as well as miners and energy and global industrials.”

By sector, an advance for healthcare and utility stocks offset losses from telecoms and consumer discretionary firms on Wednesday.

On the individual company level, Rio Tinto fell 0.8 per cent following news that two former executives have been charged with fraud by the SEC. BHP shares slipped 0.5 per cent after the mining giant released mixed production figures.

In a busy day for corporate news, Specialty Fashion Group plunged 14 per cent after it said its first half earnings will halve after poor trading conditions continued into the new financial year.

Crown shares fell 4.3 per cent after the firn deliberately tampered with poker machines to increase gamblers’ losses while turning a blind eye to drug use and domestic violence, federal parliament has been told.

Blood products giant CSL rose 1.8 per cent after averting a second strike against its remuneration report and reaffirming profit guidance.

Brambles boosted its first-quarter sales 6 per cent – a performance that impressed investors who pushed the stock 0.8 per cent higher.

LendLease was another heavy faller, losing 10.5 per cent after UBS downgraded the property manager after it sold some of its stake in its retirement living business.

Magellan Global Trust traded for the first time, the $1.6 billion listed investment trust managed by Magellan closed at $1.53 versus its $1.50 offer price. Market moversStock Watch: Afterpay Touch Group

Shares in the payments solutions company have continued their rally, bumping up 10.2 per cent on Wednesday to $5.18. Afterpay announced that underlying annualised sales are now tracking in excess of $1.5 billion based on its recent monthly performance. The fintech’s first quarter sales hit $367 million, up from $271 million in the fourth quarter and comes after Target, Luxottica and Petbarn recently adopted its online payments system. The company says more than 8600 merchants are now on board, up from about 6000 at June 30. More than 1.1 million customers now use the service, up from 841,000 at June 30 and new customers continue to grow on average by more than 3000 a day. Afterpay has also spread to travel after Jetstar began a trial of the platform last month for domestic bookings. China Congress

Markets around the region were cautious on Wednesday as China’s President Xi Jinping spoke at the opening of the Communist Party Congress. Though many expect little to emerge from the twice-a-decade congress in Beijing, investors will focus on any comments about de-leveraging, capacity reduction and the global belt-and-road infrastructure plan. While equities consolidated, there was violent movement in the Chinese yuan which is experiencing the largest average intraday swings in the past decade. Home loan arrears

The number of delinquent housing loans underlying n prime residential mortgage-backed securities fell to 1.1 per cent in August from 1.17 per cent in July, according to a recent report by S&P Global Ratings. The fall, which is not unusual because arrears typically have fallen in August for the past 10 years, was partly influenced by an increase in loan balances outstanding during the month, according to the ratings agency. Oil

Oil prices bumped higher on Wednesday, lifted by a fall in US crude inventories and concerns that tensions in the Middle East could disrupt supplies. Iraqi government forces captured the major Kurdish-held oil city of Kirkuk earlier this week, responding to a Kurdish independence referendum, and there are concerns that fighting could disrupt supplies. Traders said that prices were pushed up by a drop in US crude inventories, which fell by 7.1 million barrels in the week to October 13. Fed chair worries

Yields on two-year US Treasuries hit their highest since November 2008 amid speculation President Trump could choose a more hawkish leader to replace Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen. A Reuters poll conducted on a group of 40 economists said Jerome Powell was the next likely candidate after Janet Yellen. The majority surveyed expect Yellen to stay in place. Interest rates futures imply around a 90 per cent probability of a Fed hike in December.

The simple household jobs no one knows how to do anymore

Question: How many Millennials does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: None – that’s what outsourcing is for. OK, so that’s a gross generalisation, but if statistics are to be believed, the joke is not that far from the truth.
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A recent survey, by the British company YouGov, found that one in nine young Britons don’t know how to change a light bulb, and 35 per cent don’t know how to sew on a button. It gets worse – the Good Housekeeping Institute (GHI) recently published a guide on how to – wait for it – properly wash the dishes. But its introduction reveals its first mistake, to wit:

“Whether you’ve got a dishwasher or not, sometimes there’s no escaping the washing up.”

“Oh, no? Watch me!” cried a chorus of 10,000 men, aged 18-24.

Yes, it seems that what mothers have long suspected is true: boys are the worst at this.

Indeed, 18 per cent of men are so afraid of the washing machine, they’re wearing their underpants twice or more before washing them. Twice or more. Sorry. I just think such a gaping lack of hygiene and personal respect bears repeating.

And bless the British newspaper, The Guardian, because it has written its own guide to doing basic household tasks, including “how to make a bed”, little realising that it’s not ignorance stopping young people from learning about these household tasks, but rather the will to care.

“ns in rental accommodation are less likely to be spending on renovations and repairs (generally the landlord’s responsibility), or even redecorating,” is how Michele Levine, chief executive of Roy Morgan Research puts it. Related: The garage sale is making a comebackRelated: A buyer’s guide to washing machinesRelated: Why I am giving up being a house guest

“When they do, the timing and decision-making process are very different, with longer-term tenants being more inclined to make home improvements. No doubt, feeling secure in their lease and established in their rental residence would play a role in this.”

And that’s just it. You need to actually own a house before you can be house proud. If young people aren’t galavanting about eating their avocado sandwiches, they’re usually renting or living at home, so the incentive is simply not there.

This still does not explain why so many kids these days don’t know how to, you know, do stuff.

Wait, that’s probably too harsh. Let me confess that there was a time when I did call a handyman to change two lightbulbs in my flat. It’s not that I didn’t know how, it’s that the ceilings were too high for me. Well, that and I couldn’t be bothered.

We are living in a fast-paced society, OK? And Georgie Walker, the marketing manager at Hire a Hubby, agrees with me.

“The type of customer [we see] has changed along with the general population,” she says of the Handyman franchise, which began in 1996. “These days more families and couples need to work full-time, so often the customer is time poor.”

We’re outsourcing everything from grocery shopping to baby sleeping, because we just don’t have the time, so why would we spend four hours working out whether we need to buy a bayonet or a screw-in style of bulb, going back and forth to Bunnings, when a quick email to an expert will ensure the job is done and done properly?

“Life has changed,” Trisha Schofield, director of the GHI told The Guardian. “But it’s sad that we’re losing all those skills. They can save us money, are often quicker to do than farming it out, more satisfying and relaxing.”

If she thinks changing a light bulb is relaxing she’s obviously never gone on a Netflix binge.

There’s also this. In the late 1980s, when my father was doing all the handy jobs in our house, from fixing the toilet to rewiring the TV antenna, he was letting fly a stream of expletives so colourful I can’t even hint at them here and I’m sure I’m not alone.

So, “satisfying” and “relaxing” are not how many people would describe handy work. Also, men no longer feel pressured to prove their masculinity through handy work and shouldn’t that be celebrated?

The downside of this, of course, is that women are doing more of the groundwork. “You’d be surprised how often I hear that women have waited and waited for their partner to fix something, and he hasn’t, so they call me,” says one handyman, who wishes to remain anonymous. “Or the guy’s had a crack at it, and he’s made it worse.”

But before we go on blaming the youth and the men, we should remember that there’s one demographic that actually needs to outsource.

“Many repairs seem simple on the surface,” Walker says. “But changing a globe or smoke alarm batteries is a classic case where, for the elderly, this can be a difficult job.”

A recent survey from Oneflare – an n online marketplace that connects customers and businesses – found that the most popular household service that n’s outsource was cleaning, followed by landscaping and carpentry/handiwork.

The online marketplace, partially owned by Domain Group, also found that the majority of those surveyed didn’t feel compelled to supervise the job and were happy to leave it to the professionals.

Rio’s board should have come clean over dishonesty allegations

If the fraud allegations made by the US regulator against Rio Tinto, its former chief executive Tom Albanese and finance director Guy Elliott prove correct, serious questions should be asked of those directors in the January 2013 line-up.
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Those questions should go not just to their competence but also to their public characterisation of what went on during a troubled time for the mining giant.

In announcements at the time heralding the departure of Albanese and Elliott after the $US3 billion writedown of its Mozambique coal assets and up to $US11 billion on its aluminium assets, there was no mention by the board of it being misled, no allegations of fraud, no suggestion the pair had inflated asset values.

Indeed Rio said Albanese’s departure was based on mutual consent. Chairman Jan du Plessis even thanked him for his contribution, integrity and dedication.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission paints a very detailed, and different, picture of what was going on inside Rio Tinto from the time it outlaid $US3.7 billion for coal assets in Mozambique in 2011 to the time it admitted the assets were virtually worthless less than two years later. Mounting problem with coal assets

The allegations outlined in a court writ released on Wednesday describe an elaborate deceit employed by Albanese and Elliott to hide the huge and mounting problems with those coal assets, one of which began only months after they were purchased.

In a nutshell the coal reserves were smaller than anticipated at the time Rio acquired them but, more significantly, Rio’s plans to transport the coal to port collapsed because the Mozambique government refused to allow coal to be barged down the river. Meanwhile, rail capacity was very limited and building a new railway was ruled out because the $US16 billion cost made it financially unviable.

So for more than a year the true value of the coal assets was allegedly hidden by Albanese and Elliott from others in the organisation, including the wider board, its audit committee, the executive in charge of asset impairments and Rio’s independent auditors.

Thus the SEC alleges a series of financial documents, including half yearly and annual statements and others supporting two separate bond issues totalling $US5 billion, were based on misleading statements.

This explains why the SEC is calling fraud on Albanese and Elliott.

But it’s the events of December 2012 and early 2013, once the board apparently became aware of the alleged deception, that call for more scrutiny.

The SEC investigations reveal that overvaluation of the Mozambique project only came to the attention of the chairman thanks to a whistleblower who was part of a technology and innovation team that did a valuation in August 2012. They concluded project was worth between negative $US4.9 billion and positive $US300 million, a far cry from Rio’s $US3.7 billion book value. Red flags

The head of the technology and innovation team had previously raised a red flag, having discussed with Elliott the valuation problem in November 2012 on the eve of a board audit meeting.

He was assured Elliott would raise the “significant valuation issues” confronting the coal business in Mozambique (Riversdale) at the upcoming audit committee meeting.

Instead, and bizarrely, Albanese and Elliott said nothing when a different executive – the controller who was in charge of internal valuations – submitted to the audit committee an upgrade to the value of the assets of between $US4 billion and $US5 billion.

According to the SEC: “Contrary to his promise, Elliott did not disclose the significant valuation challenges that T&I (Technology & Innovation) had flagged for him in their previous call”. Rather, Elliott merely alluded to the information he had received from T&I as “late-breaking” news of a “technical nature”.

Having heard nothing further from Elliott, the tenacious whistleblower made his concerns known to Albanese who sought and later received verification of the inflated value of the Mozambique project.

The whistleblower wasn’t satisfied so went over the heads of Albanese and Elliott and approached the chairman. Things then started to move. A fresh investigation was activated by chairman Du Plessis and, weeks later, at the January 2013 board meeting, the assets were formally written down by 80 per cent.

The SEC’s complaint against Rio does not mention if the board had pieced together the alleged fraud and cover-up at the time it announced Albanese and Elliott’s departures.

It is hard to believe that the chairman’s investigation in the December 2012-January 2013 period did not uncover, for example, that Albanese and Elliott had allegedly been told by the Mozambique subsidiary’s management in early 2012 that the assets were worth negative $US680 million.

If the board found out it was misled by these executives, then it should have told investors. If they were the victims of deceit, this should have been disclosed to the market.

Meanwhile, Rio has also been charged by the SEC with fraud and inflating the value of assets. It told the market on Wednesday it would vigorously defend the charges.

“Based on the complaint’s allegations, Rio Tinto plc, Rio Tinto Limited, Albanese, and Elliott are charged with violating the anti-fraud, reporting, books and records and internal controls provisions of the federal securities laws,” the SEC’s legal filing said.

“The SEC seeks permanent injunctions, return of allegedly ill-gotten gains plus interest, and civil penalties from all the defendants, and seeks to bar Albanese and Elliott from serving as public company officers or directors.”

The SEC is taking a tougher stance than Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority, which determined the company breached its disclosure and transparency rules and hit it with a $36.4 million penalty but made no findings of fraud.

Tokyo toilets are an electrifying experience

THE following column contains copious references to toilets, rear ends, butts and other things ablution-related that might offend some readers, or at least put you off your Weetbix.
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Yes, I have just come back from Japan–a land of gorgeous public gardens, spectacular food, stupendously busy but efficient railway stations andelectronic toilets that scare the pants off unsuspecting tourists.

Within a few minutes of landing in Tokyo with friends, I was in trouble.

Picture the scene. Tired, middle-agedn woman wanders an airport corridorminutes after landing from a nine-hour flight.

“I just need to duck into the toilet,” I threw over a shoulder as our group headed for the baggage area.

A few seconds later everythingchanged.

It would be fair to say I like the simple things in life. Sit me down with apot of tea, some toast anda good book and I’m just about the happiest person on the planet.

I like quiet, and gardening, and walks in the bush. I can’t stand it when things that should be simple–like dealing with government departments, or negotiating complicated automated processes to do everyday things like bill-paying–are made onerous by bad technology or needless complexity.

So I was always going to be challenged by what was hiding behind the cubicle door in that Tokyo airport women’stoilet, and unprepared.

Somewhere back in the past–in June, 1980 according to Wikipedia–Japan decided, for some unknown reason, to bring together two previously unrelated items, the toilet and electricity. Going to the loo was never the same again.

The Tokyo airport women’s toilet, like virtually every Japanese toilet we used over the following two weeks, had a control panel. It had plenty of buttons anddinky little stick-figure pictures. It had lots of Japanese and English writing. It had a heated seat. It had bells and whistles all over the place that were enough of a distraction that all thoughts of relieving myself went out the window for a minute or two.

So complex and wondrous was the Tokyo airport women’s toilet that when it came to actually flushing the thing and departing, I was suddenly flummoxed. Without my glasses, which were in my bag outside, I couldn’t actually read what the buttons and bells and whistles said. I couldn’t make out what I had to flush, and I was nervous about randomly pressing things for fear of what might happen.

And thus began the strange toilet ritual that occurred quite regularly during ourJapanese stay, because who thinks to take their glasses for a trip to the toilet? Even the blokes I know who take a magazine with them for quality toilet time only look at the pictures.

My Japanese toilet ritual involved squinting at the control panel from very close range, checking the cistern for flushing buttons or levers, waving my hands near things that might have been sensors, and calling out to friends in nearby cubicles to see if anyone else had worked out where the flush was on the particular model we were using.

A typical conversation across cubicles went like this:

Me: “Has anyone worked out where the flushing thing is?”

Friend 1: “Have you tried the little flat button on the far left of the control panel?”

Me: “No.”

Friend 1: “Me either. It just looks like it might be the right one.”

Friend 2: “It’s the lever on the left hand side of the cistern, down the back.”

Me: “How on earth did you find that?”

Friend 2: “I’ve been in here for five minutes. I just pushed everything until something worked.”

I can’t remember where we first experienced two other fabulous features of the Japanese toilet cubicle–the automatic water sounds that erupted from the control panel to coverembarrassing noises, and the public toilet cubicle intercom.

The water noises seemed to come in two versions –loud waterfall or crashing waves –although people talked about visiting toilets with the option of classical music and singing. Wikipedia helpfully advises it was an innovation introduced to stop Japanese women from repeatedly flushing the toilet and wasting water to cover their toilet sounds, and the option is known colloquially as “Sound Princess”.

I don’t know when the public toilet cubicle intercom was introduced, but it was a huge temptation as I sat and pondered where the flush point was on a number of occasions.

Who would be on the other end of the line if I hit the intercom button? The Toilet Emergency Response Department (TERD)? What government authority would cover that? I will die wondering.

One of the first companies to develop and market the new “washlet” toilets from 1980 thought it was on a winner with an electronic toilet that had a control panel which allowed users to select bidet options.

By 1982 it was ready to promote its wonder toilets with a commercial that featured a young pop singer and the advertising slogan “Our butt wants to be washed too”. True.

There were complaints. Viewers weren’t thrilled about advertisements for toilet seats during dinner, and they objected to the reference to “butt”. But they bought the electronic toilets so that now more than 80 per cent of Japanese toilets areelectrified, to confound and entertain people like me.

I loved Japan. It is a gardener’s and food-lover’s delight and its people are friendly. And I almost miss its loos.