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.

The Footy Show lasted longer than Fatty would have ever imagined

You’re right.
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Under the circumstances, it is a little difficult to talk about the abrupt departure of a major Channel Nine star, without being compromised every which way, but let’s do it anyway.

I refer, of course, to the sudden end of Fatty Vautin and The Footy Show, and must, as ever, disclose that I do regular work for Nine myself, as does my wi … oh, wait!

In the world of sports media, it is one of the more significant events of the year, the end of an era, the final burying of a show whose demise has been predicted for the better part of two decades, and …

And right there is one of the problems. For starters, those under 40 will have just about no memory of what Vautin was like as a player.

The answer is, he was a bloody good one, playing for Manly, the Roosters, Queensland and the Kangaroos, even though – and this was part of his charm – he didn’t particular look like one. See, though a player in the era of Wally Lewis and Mal Meninga, he had nothing like the skill of the former, and was perhaps just half the muscle mass of the latter. But he was passionate, enduring and more often than not on the winning side of things, including captain of the 1987 Manly side that won the premiership.

“I had a great run,” Vautin acknowledged to Brendan Jones of WSFM fame, on Wednesday. “Especially for a short, chubby, redhead who played for both Manly and Queensland. That’s not a career, that’s a miracle.”

That is Vautin all over – always the one with the funny quip, the twinkle in his eye and the one right in the middle of the colourful stories. My own favourite goes back to the 1987 Origin series when Wayne Bennett picked a young bloke from Ipswich called Alfie Langer in the Queensland side. In one of the first team meetings, there was open discussion between Bennett and Lewis as to how best to go about covering for Langer’s presumed defensive deficiencies. Should he go in the second line or out wide?

Having listened to the discussion for as long as he could, Vautin could bear it no more.

“Hey, he’s a Queenslander!” he roared. “He won’t let us down. He’ll play where he normally plays.”

(Which Langer did, mowing down anything that moved just on suspicion, and won the man-of-the-match award.)

With a fund of such stories to draw on and an inexhaustible supply of quintessentially n quips, Vautin prospered in the media from the first, and though he started with a bits and pieces role at Channel Seven, it was at Channel Nine from the early 1990s onwards that he truly found his feet.

No, he couldn’t dissect a game like Peter Sterling, or call one like Ray Warren, but he was strong and his passion always shone through. While some thought commentators should be neutral, that was never Vautin’s go and in Origin matches, he would sometimes forget himself and roar, as those from north of the Tweed were getting close to the line, “Go, go, GO!!!”

He also shone with Kerry Anne Kennerley with regular appearances on the Midday Show. He was so good that in the latter months of 1994 he was given his own show to host, The Footy Show where, again, he shone from the first.

The basic idea was that instead of deadly earnest analysis of football, you’d have fun with it and yes, it included lots of embarrassing skits that invariably involved the likes of Vautin and Steve “Blocker” Roach, putting on women’s dresses. It was not to everyone’s taste, but enough people loved it that it became iconic, and though it had many transformations over the years, the one thing that never changed was Vautin, with his twinkle, his head-wobbles, his catchphrases, “Turn it up”, “I’ll get back to you shortly” and “That’ll do me”.

Outside of the studio, he was never particularly hard-working but he was always popular with floor crew, producers, camera, makeup people etc. There were never stories about Fatty behaving badly, because he was off-camera exactly what he was on camera, a really good bloke.

His key love through all those years, beyond his family, was playing golf. He could never quite believe that he had landed such a well-paying gig, just for being himself, and was always open about how lucky he was with everything that had happened to him and how Nine, as he said to me once, “looks after me like a silkworm”.

The fact that The Footy Show is now over for him is, as he would be the first to acknowledge, not bad luck. It is simply the end of era – and one that lasted much longer than he ever thought it would have.

So good on you, Fatty. I am not sure if there is a sports media hall of fame, but if they start one, and I get to be a judge, you and Sterling would be my first two picked from the ranks of rugby league players.

Go well, and I look forward to seeing you around the traps.

On board the dredger “David Allan”

On board the dredger “David Allan” The hull of “David Allan” splits to release the load in its hopper off the Newcastle coast.
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Preparing to leave from Dyke 6.

Crew members Mick Crabb and Damien Dunphy on board “David Allan”

“David Allan” leaving its berth

“David Allan” leaving its berth

Crew members preparing “David Allan”

“David Allan” deck

Crew member Mick Crabb

Crew member Damien Dunphy

“David Allan” heads down the South Arm

“David Allan” heads down the South Arm

Crew member Damien Dunphy

Crew member Damien Dunphy

“David Allan” in Newcastle harbour. Picture: Simone De Peak

Crew member Mick Crabb operates the drag head and pump on “David Allan”. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

The dredging equipment on “David Allan” is lowered

Preparing to pump silt and water into the hopper

Silt and water pour into the hopper

Silt and water pour into the hopper

Silt and water pour into the hopper

“David Allan” heads out with a full hopper towards the disposal ground.

“David Allan” heads out with a full hopper towards the disposal ground.

“David Allan” in Newcastle harbour

“David Allan” in Newcastle harbour

“David Allan” heading out to sea

Colin O’Donnell, foreground.

Port of Newcastle’s Keith Wilks studies a chart on the bridge.

Colin O’Donnell watches the load pour into the sea at the disposal ground

Crew member Doug Robinson

The hull opens to release the load into the sea

“David Allan” in Newcastle Harbour. Picture: Simone De Peak

TweetFacebookDavid Allan as its hull splits down the middle and its load pours into the sea.

This is not a maritime disaster I’m witnessing. David Allan is designed to do this, and the ship’s hull iscleaved apart a number of times every day.

Still, it’s a disconcerting sight, to be peering at the swell through a ship’s split hull.

David Allan deliberately opens itselfto the sea so that other ships’ hulls don’t become stuck on the bottom of Newcastle harbour. For David Allan is a dredger, picking away at the Hunter River’s muddy mouth and keeping clear the commercial shipping channel and berths in what is one of ’s busiest ports.

MAKING WAY: Silt and water sucked from the bottom of the shipping channel in Newcastle harbour pour into the hopper of “David Allan”. Pictures: Jonathan Carroll

OF the more than 2200 ships that cruise in and out of Newcastle harbour each year, none is seen more often than David Allan. It is perhaps the most visible vessel on the water, for it seems to be a constant presence.

Even the most casual observer of harbour life would have noticed this 71-metre vessel, as it ploughs in and out past Nobbys or slowly picks its way around the port.

“It’s just like a great, big vacuum cleaner,” says Keith Wilks, Port of Newcastle’s executive manager operations and infrastructure.

The ship’s official title is a trailing suction hopper dredger (TSHD), which, Wilks explains, is essentially what David Allan does; it drags a trail, sucks in what it stirs up, and that poursinto the ship’s hopper. The processis dredging.

To see the TSHD in operation, Keith Wilks and David Allan’s crew of seven invite the Herald on board. Wilks can quickly find his feet on a ship’s deck. He went to sea for the best part of a decade and, before this job, he worked for the tug company Svitzer and was involved in the Pasha Bulkersalvage operation in 2007.

“David Allan” in Newcastle harbour. Picture: Simone De Peak

David Allan is berthed at Dyke 6, on the edge of the former BHP steelworks site,in the Hunter River’s South Arm.

On the other side of the river, along the Kooragang shore, are a few of the reasons David Allan’s work is crucial.

A row of bulk carriers is being loaded with Hunter coal, each tonne pushing the massive hulls ever closer to the harbour bottom.By the time some of these ships depart, there may be clearance of little more than a metre in the channel. David Allan provides certainty for those on board that there’senough water under them in the port.

“A ship has to have uniform depth; it’s critical in keeping a port going,” Wilks says.

The dredger maintains the channel at a depth of 15.2 metres from the breakwalls to the Kooragang 10 berth in the river’s South Arm, which is a distance of about nine kilometres.

“It’s a lot of channel for us to maintain,” Wilks says. David Allan also keeps clear 20 ships’ berth boxes, and the Basin area off Carrington to a depth of 12.8 metres.

David Allan is on the harbour seven days a week. Its role is ceaseless, flowing on as surely as the river that makes the ship’s place in the port so necessary. The Hunter carries the silt into the harbour, and the dredger clears at least some of it.

“David Allan” heads out with a full hopper towards the disposal ground.

The Port of Newcastle is licensed by the federal government to remove 650,000 cubic metres of silt and sand a year. On average, Wilks says, about 500,000 cubic metres are removed annually. About 30,000 cubic metres of sand are removed from the harbour entrance. The rest is silt that has come down the river.

“We help it on its way, because it’s coming anyway,” Wilks says. “It’s fair to say the Hunter River is a fairly disturbed system.”

The river becomes more disturbed after major storms, and what is washed into the Hunter upstream will most probably show up in the harbour, creating even more work for the crew. After the 2007 “Pasha Bulker” storm, Wilks says, there was so much sediment the channel lost about a metre and it took six months of dredging to clear.

“Probably in nooks and crannies, they’d still have [silt from] the Pasha Bulker storm in there,” he says.

“Most of the silt comes down the North Arm,” he explains, because it is broader and shallower than the South Arm, and the particles are carried along more quickly, before a lot of it is dumped in the slow sweep of the river off Stockton known as the Horseshoe.

PLANNING: Port of Newcastle’s Keith Wilks examines a chart in the bridge.

That is the area the dredger is bound for on this day. The port’s hydrographic survey team has been measuring the harbour’s depth in the vessel JT Gowlland, and its data determines what parts need dredging. So that information has helped set the course for David Allan.

The ship doesn’t begin at one end of the port and works its way down. Rather, “we jump around according to what needs dredging,” explains Wilks.

“And dredging can’t get in the way of shipping movements.”

After he has coaxed David Allan away from the wharf and we cruise downstream, Trent Hollis, who is the ship’s master today, points to patches of pink on a computer screen. That’s what has to be dredged. Hollis will guidethe ship, while crew member Mick Crabb, who is sitting beside him, will operate the drag head and pump.

Crabb has been a crew member for about six years, and before this, he worked on gas tankers and rigs, mostly off ’s north-west coast.

Crew member Mick Crabb operates the drag head and pump on “David Allan”. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

The dredgercruises at under two knots, while the drag head is lowered over the starboard side and into the mud.

“The first law of dredging – don’t go backwards,” says crew member Colin O’Donnell, who has worked on the ship for 25 years.

The first law is followed, the pumping begins, and a slurry pours into the hopper. It looks as though the harbour is being turned upside down, as the mud and water flow in. Keith Wilks says the sediment is sampled and tested before it is pumped up and disposed of out to sea.

“What we’ve seen over time is a general improvement,” he says, citing the closure of the BHP works as contributor to a cleaner harbour bottom.

The hopper, which holds about 1100 cubic metres, is quickly filled.

The ship’s bow points to the immensity beyond Nobbys, and Trent Hollis hands over control of David Allan to crew member Jon Baxendale to guide her out to sea.

“She’s not too bad, very responsive,” says Baxendale, a second-generation mariner, as David Allan picks up pace at the touch of open water. “And I get a kick out of going to sea; it must be in the blood.”

The dredger doesn’t head out when the sea is angry. But today, the swell is about one and a half metres, and David Allan nods and gently sways, as Baxendale steers her to the disposal ground. The site is a one kilometre-square area, containing, on a chart at least, 100 “boxes”. This load is to be dumped above “Box 15”.

Trent Hollis orders a turn to starboard to “slow it down for the hole”.

“Coming around!,” responds Baxendale.

David Allan steadies and then her hull parts on large hydraulic hinges.

“It splits 27 degrees,” says Colin O’Donnell.

The hull of “David Allan” opens to dispose of its load of silt and water

The deck rises like a seabird’s wings, exposing the swell. One of the crew later says that as a mariner, it’s a disturbing sight:“Ships aren’t usually meant to split open.”

Within about 10 seconds, the hopper is empty, and the hull is sealed once more.David Allanpushes towards the harbour entrance. The dredger makes this voyage on average five times a day.

On the way back in, Colin O’Donnell scans the water. Despite him having made this voyage thousands of times, he mutters, “there’s always something different happening on the water, always something”.

Brought up in Kurri Kurri, O’Donnell went to sea in the 1960s as a cadet on theIron Wyndham, part of the BHP fleet that would load and unload in that stretch now occupied byDavid Allan.

Colin O’Donnell, foreground, on the bridge of “David Allan”

He has seen remarkable changes on the harbour and along its shores, a lot of it shaped by this ship he is on. When O’Donnell joined the David Allan in 1992, the BHP steelworks was still operating, and there were only a couple of coal-loading berths. He is amazed by the transformation of the South Arm, particularly at the Kooragang berths upstream, where great ships are nudged into the bank.

“All that up the river was just about swamp,” he recalls. “You could walk across parts.”

But some things don’t change.

“It’s one of those things that if you come back in 150 years, they’ll still be dredging the port of Newcastle,” O’Donnell muses.

The ship’s relief master, Trent Hollis.

If you went back more than 150 years, there was dredging in the port.

In the late 1850s, Edward Moriarty, who was the engineer for Hunter River Improvements, devised a plan for developing the harbour. From 1859, continuous dredging took place on the harbour. Within two years, he could report that parts of the harbour had been deepened by 10 feet, or just over three metres.

Yet maintaining the port was an unrelenting challenge then, as it is now. In 1889, TheIllustrated Sydney Newsreported how “a good safe enclosed harbour has been secured; but unfortunately, owing to the immense quantity of sediment brought down by the Hunter River, dredging operations have to continually kept up”.

The same story could well be published today.

“This never ends, we’re always on the river,” Keith Wilks says. “Unless you stop erosion, it’s just going to keep on coming.”

HAVING helped clear a path for other ships,David Allanthen stays out of their way in the port.

Trent Hollis is alerted that a bulk carrier,Star Artemis, has just “lifted off” from the Kooragang 9 berth and is heading down the South Arm. He has to work out where to pass the fully laden ship.

“We can’t stay in the channel,” Hollissays.

Hollis peers at his paper charts then at a computer screen that marks other vessels on an automatic identification system, before looking up and out.

“Whatever we’re looking at electronically, you verify it by what you see out the window,” he explains.

The 44-year-old has been on ships for almost half his life. He’s been on water for much longer. He grew up by Lake Macquarie. Hollis has been onDavid Allanfor four years and is the Mate and ReliefMaster.

“It’s a good position,” he says, “and it can be stressful at times. The biggest stress is being aware of other vessels . . .You’ve got to be a step ahead.”

“David Allan” with Nobbys off its stern

Just below Walsh Point, near where the North and South arms meet, Trent Hollis takes control to pass the approaching bulk carrier. He takes the dredger just out of the channel, andStar Artemislumbers by.

“I take a lot of pride in this,” says Hollis. “We realise how important it is to maintain those draughts of the big vessels.”

For if ships are stuck, a lot of trade would be left high and dry. In 2016, almost $16.7 billion worth of exports passed through the the port. While coal accounted for the bulk of that, everything from wheat to aluminium was shipped out.What’s more, almost $2 billion in products were imported through the port.

“If we lost depth [in the port], then farmers can’t expect their wheat to be exported,” says Keith Wilks. “A lot of people rely on this port.”

SoDavid Allan, he concludes is more than a constant presence on Newcastle harbour; it’s a vital one.

“It’s playing an important role in keeping an economy going,” Keith Wilks says, “and not just in the region, but also inthe state and the nation.”

Brambles wears shareholder wrath over exec pay

Brambles will overhaul pay for its senior executives in the face of an investor backlash that almost delivered the company a first strike vote against its remuneration report.
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Following a year that saw the global pallet giant ditch profit targets in the face of strong competition and changing dynamics for its important customers, Brambles copped strong protest votes from investors at its annual general meeting.

The final vote tally was 76.77 per cent in favour with 23.23 per cent against, so the company avoided the 25 per cent no vote threshold for a first strike.

Shareholders also voted strongly against the re-election of long-serving chairman Stephen Johns with proxy votes lodged ahead of the meeting recording a 24.77 per cent vote against his continuing on the board.

The re-appointment of director Brian Long also attracted a hefty 18.2 per cent vote in opposition from shareholders ahead of the meeting.

The shareholder angst came as Maurice Blackburn also announced on Wednesday it was seeking to build a class action against Brambles after it downgraded its earnings guidance earlier this year.

The changes to executive pay will see Brambles able to clawback long and short term bonus awards of shares which had been awarded to executives but that had not yet vested.

“I would like to acknowledge shareholders’ disappointment with the company’s performance [in the 2017 year],” Mr Johns told the meeting in Sydney on Wednesday.

“This disappointment is reflected in the lower level of shareholder support for some of this year’s resolutions to be considered at today’s meeting.

“I want you to understand that the board also shares your disappointment and is united in overseeing the effective management of the company on behalf of you, our shareholders.”

Mr Johns told shareholders that he expected there would not be a repeat of the poorer 2017 result pointing to the company’s previous record of growth.

“We hope and expect to return to those [returns] in future years, we are looking for a return to very, very good figures and very good performance,” he said.

The board had opted not to pay any short-term bonus for the 2017 financial year to former chief executive Tom Gorman, who left Brambles earlier this year.

Director Tony Froggatt said the company had reviewed its payment structure leading to a recasting of executive remuneration.

Key changes included a shift towards using underlying profit as the key measure for the determination of bonuses, delivering greater powers to the board to clawback bonuses and restrict the trading in shares by the chief executive.

Mr Froggatt said the changes would better align the interests of executives and shareholders.

n Shareholders’ Association representative Mary Curran raised concerns that new chief executive Graham Chipchase had retained his position as a director of AstraZeneca which was worth about $1 million a year and could be a distraction given it has faced its own challenges.

“I think we need his full attention because [total shareholder return] is dismal, in fact we have had a palletful of poor returns,” Ms Curran said.

Mr Johns said Mr Chipchase gained valuable experience from his board position but that he had agreed to relinquish it if it interfered with his Brambles’ responsibilities.

One investor who indicated he would vote against Mr Johns’ re-election said the chairman was in an “awkward” position.

“Last year he told us all was well with the company. Obviously he didn’t know what the reality was or didn’t reveal it,” he said.

Stars hope Pietersen can play on beyond 2018

While Kevin Pietersen has declared his English Twenty20 career is over, the Melbourne Stars hope the England batting great has more than a season left in his Big Bash League career.
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Pietersen’s two-year deal with the Stars expires after this summer’s campaign, with the 37-year-old hopeful of another strong campaign amid what shapes as a powerful batting line-up.

Stars chief executive Clint Cooper dined with Pietersen, in Sydney for a promotional shoot, on Monday night.

He said the Stars’ list management team would wait until the end of the summer before consulting with the flamboyant star about his future.

“He has got everything to play for. If he plays the way he did last year, why wouldn’t he want to go around again? At this stage of his life, it’s what opportunities are in front of him and what is more important for his family,” Cooper told Fairfax Media.

“Regardless of whether he plays or doesn’t play on with us, he will certainly be involved with the club in some capacity. We had a club [event] around his rhino contribution [last summer], and that has gone worldwide. We will continue to work on that. He has been sensational for us, on and off the field, and I think we have been sensational with him, too.

“You only have to go back to the last Ashes campaign, and the perception of him from the n public is very different to what it was back then.”

Pietersen was eighth on the BBL run-scoring list last summer, but did not have the influence he had hoped for. Overall, he had a team-high 268 runs at 38.28 in eight matches, at a strike rate of 128.22. He passed 50 only twice and did not reach three figures. He had led the league with 323 runs at 40.37 in nine matches a year earlier, with a strike rate of 159.11 and four half-centuries.

Adelaide’s versatile power hitter Ben Dunk was the competition’s leading run-scorer last summer, with 364 at 52, including three half-centuries, and he has signed with the Stars.

“Essentially, we will review the entire list towards the end of the season. Someone like Kevin, who is an absolute superstar and done incredibly well for our club over the last three years, it basically is a year-by-year proposition at that age,” Cooper said.

“He certainly has a lot to offer … but as he inches closer to retirement other interests come in.”

Pietersen is likely to also have commentary duties in an Ashes summer, ensuring he will have plenty of time to prepare for the BBL.

“He is training relatively well. He will be out here for the summer, which is great. We will have a bit of time to get some practice into him, which will be terrific,” Cooper said.

Pietersen confirmed his career in England was over in August, after Surrey bowed out in the quarter-finals of the T20 Blast. He had managed only two matches because of a calf injury.

He said at the time he would continue to play T20 cricket overseas, and spend more time involved in his wildlife conservation programs in South Africa.

The Stars have confirmed they will play a practice match against the Hobart Hurricanes under lights at Traralgon Recreation Reserve on December 15. The expanded BBL begins on December 19, with the Stars, under new captain John Hastings, opening their campaign in Brisbane against the Heat on December 20.

Meanwhile, the Melbourne Renegades have added Gayle While, the deputy chief executive of Clemenger Melbourne, to their board. The board comprises Jason Dunstall (chairman), Paul Jackson, Jamie McPhee, Chris Nikou, Liam Pickering, Suzana Ristevski and While.

‘A fiscal termite eating away at the foundations of our corporate tax system’

Labor MP for Lilley and former Treasurer Wayne Swan, poses for a portrait in his office at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday 30 March 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Labor MP for Lilley and former Treasurer Wayne Swan, poses for a portrait in his office at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday 30 March 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
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Former treasurer Wayne Swan has launched another extraordinary attack on mining giant BHP, labelling it ‘s “worst tax dodger” and linking a million dollar bonus to the company’s CEO to his success at minimising tax.

Under the cover of parliamentary privilege, Mr Swan called BHP “a fiscal termite eating away at the foundations of our corporate tax system” and rubbished the company’s claims to be a global leader in tax transparency and corporate responsibility.

The world’s biggest miner has been in a long-running dispute with the n Tax Office over assessments spanning 11 years that total $661 million in primary tax, plus interest and penalties that take it to more than $1 billion. Under dispute is the margin on mark-ups on commodities sold to its Singapore marketing business, which many argue is a ploy to avoid tax in .

BHP strongly denies this accusation.

But Mr Swan said the BHP dispute accounted for a quarter of the ATO’s total $4 billion total corporate tax disputes, and accused the company of “pillaging the n Treasury and short-changing the n people, pure and simple”.

The backbench Labor MP – who clashed with the resources sector over his failed mining tax – also took aim at the company’s “self-righteous” leadership, claiming chief executive Andrew Mackenzie’s latest million dollar bonus was linked to tax evasion. Tax representation is listed as one of Mr Mackenzie’s performance indicators in the company’s 2017 annual report.

“In essence, BHP’s board have awarded their CEO a million dollar bonus for a billion dollars avoided in tax,” Mr Swan said.

“A million dollar bonus for organising aggressive tax minimisation through a tax haven resulting in one of the largest tax disputes in n history. A million dollar bonus for enhancing transparency and tax reputation when the company’s current tax affairs can only be described as a high farce.”

BHP declined to comment on Mr Swan’s speech but a company source dismissed his claims around executive remuneration as ridiculous.

In its latest economic contribution report the company described its dispute with the ATO as “complex”.

“BHP does not agree with the ATO’s position. Consequently, we have objected to all of the amended assessments and intend to continue to defend our position, including by initiating court action if necessary,” it said.

BHP said it has paid $66 billion in taxes and royalties to n governments in the past decade.

It paid a corporate effective tax rate of 34.5 per cent in 2017, higher than the general corporate rate of 30 per cent. Once royalties are included, the rate increases to 46 per cent.

Mr Swan made the claims during a debate on the government’s next tranche of company tax cuts, which he said was part of the “toxic foreign import” of trickle-down economics.

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.

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