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Brave captain returns for first game

CBR Brave captain Mark Rummukainen (right) with Jordie Gavin and Maxime Suzzarini. Photo: Melissa AdamsHe was a leading force behind the birth of the CBR Brave, and captain Mark Rummukainen has returned from the world championships to lead the side for the first time.
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The Brave hosts defending Australian Ice Hockey League champions the Sydney Ice Dogs at the Phillip Swimming and Ice Skating Centre on Saturday night.

It will be Rummukainen’s inaugural game for the Brave after he missed its 2-0 season-opening loss to Newcastle a fortnight ago while representing Australia at the division two world championships in Serbia.

“I was pretty bummed to miss out on the first game with a big crowd and a bit of hype around it, but obviously you’re not going to turn down representing your country,” Rummukainen said.

“To see tangible evidence of what we wanted to get done is being done, I’ll be very proud and excited to see a huge crowd and play as part of the Brave.

“Hopefully we can put out a huge effort and come away with some points.”

Rummukainen was the former captain of the Canberra Knights before the team folded just six weeks before the start of the season.

He played a major role in getting the Brave off the ground and ensuring there remained an ice hockey team in Canberra.

Rummukainen is hoping for better luck than what Australia had in winning just one of its five games at the world championships.

”You go to a tournament like that to win, so it’s disappointing,” he said.

“We had two overtime losses and the last game against Serbia, they scored in the last three minutes to win 1-0, so there’s three games that could have gone either way.

“A lot of positives came out of it for our program going forward, but we would’ve liked to have at least won a medal.”

The Brave takes on an Ice Dogs team in turmoil after the shock resignation of head coach Ron Kuprowsky on Thursday.

Assistant coaches Colin Downie and Brad Andrlon have also stepped down, but the Brave is wary of taking them lightly.

“They won the whole thing last year and they’ve changed their style of play the last couple of years,” Rummukainen said.

“You’ve got to beat every team and you’ve got to win games to win the league, so we’re new and want to prove something, so it’s time we stick it to them.”

SATURDAY: Australian Ice Hockey League: CBR Brave v Sydney Ice Dogs at the Phillip Swimming and Ice Skating Centre, 5.30pm.

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Lost world of The Grand Budapest Hotel’s Stefan Zweig

Stefan Zweig: ‘a connoisseur of coursing blood and throbbing temple’.Like a literary version of the Kevin Bacon Game, it’s a challenge to find an important cultural figure from the early 1900s through the 1940s who didn’t connect with Stefan Zweig. Zionist founder Theodor Herzl gave him his start with front-page articles as a 19-year-old. Einstein became a fan. Zweig introduced Dali to Freud and served in the War Archive with Rilke before working with Joyce to translate A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man into Italian. He watched Rodin sculpt and Richard Strauss compose.
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Today some of his exile-friends have joined him in receiving popular revivals: Joseph Roth (who abused Zweig despite – or because of – his unfailing financial support), Jakob Wassermann and the daring Irmgard Keun, who sued the Gestapo for lost income after the ban of her ”degenerate” books.

Before Wes Anderson ”discovered” the world’s most popular writer of the 1920s and ’30s, more recent fans such as Colin Firth, Kazuo Ishiguro, Belinda Carlisle, Carla Bruni, Salman Rushdie and Antony Beevor lauded the Austrian writer, whose massive body of work includes a cache of novellas, biographies of figures as diverse as Marie Antoinette, Magellan and Freud, a memoir of Europe’s interwar years, a novel, plays, libretti, and hundreds of poems and essays. In the decades after his death in Brazil in 1942, Zweig’s works faded from popular consciousness. In France, though, he has remained among the top three foreign-language bestsellers, behind only Shakespeare and Agatha Christie.

Those who become acquainted with Zweig through the coda that ends The Grand Budapest Hotel, ”Inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig”, may find themselves perplexed when they crack open the author’s greatest fiction. While Zweig peaked during the glitzy but uncertain era that embraced Hemingway and Fitzgerald, his characters don’t muster the manic levity of flapper girls or the bravado of post-war wanderers. Likewise absent are the zany characters who populate Anderson’s jolly romp.

While often daring in its descriptions of sexual obsession and psychological undoing, Zweig’s work retains the feel of a lost world as its passions remain keenly topical. His writing teeters between the old and the new, the cream-puff facade of decadent Viennese splendour alongside dirty secrets, with nods towards Freud, that proliferate in the tightly constrained.

Zweig’s characters allow their misunderstood but unchecked emotions – and their straining bodies – to betray their assumed selves and tempt death. There are murders, illicit affairs, suicides and devilish psychological manipulation, but – unlike in The Grand Budapest Hotel – no madcap chases from evil henchmen. Zweig and his work are comfortable on film. In the 1930s, Hollywood offered him $US3000 (circa $40,000 today) a week to write for the screen; he declined. But he occasionally penned scripts, and more than 40 film versions of his work have appeared, including Max Ophuls’ 1948 Letter from an Unknown Woman and, most recently, A Promise (based on Journey into the Past).

Pushkin Press, leader in the Zweig resurgence, has ensured the availability of much of his work, often in the inestimable Anthea Bell’s crisp new translations. To coincide with the release of The Grand Budapest Hotel, Pushkin has issued a Wes Anderson-curated best-of sampler. Inexplicably sporting the title of one of the film’s sections, The Society of the Crossed Keys includes a French Riviera-based novella about obsession and the beginnings of Zweig’s memoir and his only full-length novel, alongside an interview between Anderson and George Prochnik, whose new book on Zweig, The Impossible Exile, appears next month.

Anderson admits to stealing his film’s structure from Zweig’s most common and affecting trope: the amazing ”true” story of an individual as relayed to an unsuspecting author, who remains a mere receptacle. The film’s introduction lifts nearly verbatim the first passages of Beware of Pity: ”There is nothing more erroneous than the idea, which is only too common, that a writer’s imagination is always at work … In reality he does not have to invent his stories; he need only let characters and events find their own way to him …”

When an artist names his inspiration, it’s tempting to hunt point by point for what he has captured and twisted from the original. But an inspiration remains by its nature unviewable and often mingles with too many other unidentifiable strands. The appropriation of a work, though, can be tinged through this kind of use. Woody Allen’s Love and Death spoofs the great Russian novels, just as his Midnight in Paris caricatures the Lost Generation, but the viewer is complicit with the jokes through shared knowledge. For a writer who has fallen into relative obscurity, this type of reinvention and subversion becomes more problematic.

A primer for Anderson fans arriving at Zweig with only The Grand Budapest Hotel for guidance: forget the film’s gorgeous Technicolor lobbies and deadpan delivery, physical comedy and whimsical characters. Most importantly, forget the raucous laughter.

Zweig’s writing is more subtle, but at the same time overflows with over-the-top, emotionally draining yet exhilarating melodrama. His work does not remove the viewer from their situation the way the best comedy can; his dramas amplify and, at their most successful, elucidate it. If Anderson is all about laughs, Zweig is a connoisseur of coursing blood and throbbing temple.

This marriage might seem more fitting when viewing Anderson’s film as a pleasure for those seeking reprieve into an imaginary place where the surroundings are more beautiful and the worst scenarios (dismemberment, incarceration) become the stuff of hilarity. Zweig, too, was a crowd pleaser of a different sort. Thomas Mann and Robert Musil disregarded him as a populiser for the masses, and his work helped overthrow the belief that German-language writers must be difficult.

There are writers we love to resuscitate over and over. Some finally stick, their hearts strong enough to sustain the repeated alternating throttles and neglect. Aside from his masterful stomach-churning plots that make the most ordinary life appear precious and precarious, Zweig provides a back-story that becomes ever more tantalising. With his life’s glittering distractions, his precisely groomed moustache, fussy manners and naive pacifism, it is tempting to settle on the figure of a man who appeared to have everything even as the world self-destructed – and who is now resigned to history as the driving-force behind the double-suicide that cut short his life and that of his 33-year-old wife.

Most important about Zweig is the cache of gems he left behind. The World of Yesterday, his memoir of Europe from the turn of the century through to the rise of Hitler, remains a touchstone with its overview of shifting culture, morals and politics. The culmination of his fiction, Beware of Pity, first published in 1939, alternately condemns war and muses on how an insignificant remark can reshape a life if unbridled emotions rule actions.

Alongside The Luzhin Defense by Vladimir Nabokov, Zweig’s final work, The Royal Game (or A Chess Story), remains one of the finest fictions about the game. In it, a man imprisoned by the Gestapo steals a book in hopes of maintaining his sanity. To his horror, he discovers that the book is a compilation of famous chess matches. For those looking for a more complete education in Zweig, Pushkin offers a 720-page Collected Stories.

There’s hope, still, that the new wave Anderson has added to the ever-flowing Zweig resurgence will keep the writer where he belongs: in the hands of readers who will wonder, as did Anderson, ”How is it that I don’t already know about this?”

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Dunemann defends controversial call

Adamant … Andrew Dunemann has defended his ‘no-try’ ruling during the Parramatta-Wests Tigers match on Monday. Photo: Melissa AdamsNRL video referee Andrew Dunemann has staunchly defended his decision to disallow a try to Parramatta due to obstruction in its 21-18 loss to Wests Tigers on Monday, adamant the call was a ”no-brainer” despite criticism from the Eels.
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Dunemann and fellow video referee Steve Clark overruled on-field referee Matt Cecchin after he approved a try to centre Will Hopoate, ruling Eels forward David Gower impeded Tigers youngster Luke Brooks, who fell to the ground.

An angry Eels coach Brad Arthur accused the halfback of taking a dive, while Parramatta star Jarryd Hayne branded the obstruction rule a “lottery”.

As the former player in the box, it is Dunemann’s responsibility to make the final call.

The former Canberra Raiders assistant and interim coach used his blog on the website for his company Boom Sports Management and Media to stand by his decision.

“The try in which Luke Brooks was interfered with, in my opinion, was a no-brainer,” he wrote.

“In my opinion there is no way he took a dive, and there was no way I was going to be the person who questioned his character with the evidence I had in front of me.

“It doesn’t take much when you are [sliding in defence] to be brought down, particularly when it’s big man against little.

”The other things to note are Brooks was basically in front of the sweep runner, and had no reason to play Russian roulette as it would have been a three-on-three situation, and possibility four-on-three to the defence.

“The last damning piece is the sweep runner runs into the immediate space Brooks would have been defending in.”

The obstruction interpretation has been a constant source of frustration for players and fans this year. It intensified when the NRL admitted the referees were wrong in awarding Manly’s Kieran Foran a crucial try in the team’s win over North Queensland last Friday night.

Video referee Paul Mellor, who made the decision, was dropped for this weekend.

“To all intents and purposes it [Hopoate’s no try] is what happened in the Cowboys game, except instead of being able to make some play, Brooks was on the ground,” former halfback Dunemann wrote.

“The inside defender is denied a chance to fill his immediate space, in which the attacker continues to run to create an advantage.

“The tolerance of contact will always be different depending on what then unfolds with the play, what type of play it is, where the space is created, and where the try is scored.”

Arthur vented his frustration after the game, accusing Brooks of gamesmanship and said clubs are now confused about what constitutes obstruction.

“I don’t know what an obstruction is any more,” Arthur said.

“As coaches, we’ll start to encourage our players to take a dive.

“The rule is you’ve got to get back on the inside shoulder and that’s what Dave Gower did.”

Hayne also insisted it should have been a try.

“In the past, that’s a try,” he said.

“Let’s just keep consistent and on the same page and not change it a week, two weeks after.

“That’s what’s frustrating the most.”

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A brush with better design

At last the toilet brush is out there as a fashionable signifier of rebellion. Earlier this year in Hamburg, Germany, protesters – largely members of the Pirate Party – began taunting police by brandishing toilet brushes, like warriors rattling sabres. The Hamburghers’ objection? Random police searches in the city’s danger zones. And they didn’t mean its bathrooms.
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Online, cheeky German culturejammers tweeted mock-heroic posters: Harry Potter casting a bristled wand. A doctored Banksy bandito hurling an incendiary brush. And Braveheart’s Mel Gibson screaming out that what’s at stake is FREEDOM.

Not since Philippe Starck redesigned the Excalibur toilet brush in the mid-’90s has the quotidian product had such bad-boy cachet.

Perhaps it’s time to make it a poster boy of product design – to stand up and say ”I’m glad as hell”.

Toilet brushes rarely if ever win awards. Yet they are further confirmation that everything is designed. They are the utilitarian tool. The epitome of functionality.

Ironically while they are the product we love to hate – a begrudging purchase for a loathsome task – millions of brushes are sold each year. Surprisingly, sales spike at Christmas. Not for reasons of gift giving. People want to make sure they have pristine porcelain when guests arrive, says industrial designer Paul Charlwood.

The award-winning designer of the Commonwealth Games torch, among dozens of other products, Charlwood’s consultancy has for the past nine years designed brushes of every stripe for venerable Australian manufacturer Oates. His brooms recently featured in Melbourne Now’s design wall – but you can view them on any supermarket rack.

Charlwood modestly downplays the attention. ”It’s not rocket science,” he says. Maybe. Nevertheless, failure is not an option. Consider for a fleeting moment the full horror of a product malfunction. Bristles that fold, flick or fail to release residue. A handle that isn’t long enough or snaps because it’s too thin. A receptacle bowl that doesn’t air and retains smelly run off.

It’s a tough job, but someone with a cool head has to consider it.

When Charlwood and the Oates poobahs test their products in a disabled toilet the Kenny jokes are kept to a minimum. It’s a ”deadly serious” business, says Charlwood.

Just what sort of bristles work the right magic? As it happens it’s the same material our food containers are made from, polypropylene. It’s a long way from pig and horse hair stuck into a block of wood.

The biggest factor in the evolution of the toilet brush is that toilets themselves have changed over the past decade. Modish commodes that adopt squarer geometries make it difficult to delve into tight corners. More significantly, sustainable toilets use less water, but narrower ”throats” create problems for cleaning. With this in mind the ball of bristles undergoes some topiary. ”It’s like doing hair cuts,” says Charlwood.

While there is an appreciable difference in quality between the budget ball brush and the Oates stainless steel petal canister, people don’t tend to spend time looking for it. ”It’s an impulse buy,” says Charlwood. ”It’s not something people do a lot of research on.”

And yet, every so often, toilet brushes become fashionable; the de rigueur item for designers to fiddle with.

”It’s one of those funny things – a bit like with dildos,” Charlwood muses. ”You’re surprised how many big-name designers have done vibrators. It was one of those must-do type things.”

Alongside Starck, star designers to turn their hand to the brush include Ross Lovegrove’s exotic Istanbul range from 2006 and Michael Graves’ offering for Target. Marc Newson has also entered the bathroom arena with a colourful Caroma product, which Charlwood hopes will ignite the industry and see a return to colour. ”It’s been white and stainless steel for years,” he says.

Today bathroom palettes are more reminiscent of day spas, says Kim Chadwick, managing consultant at Colourways, Australia’s leading forecaster. ”Grey and charcoal will continue to be popular in floor tiles. The ideal or obvious thing is to mimic the floor tile. The more camouflaged they could be, the better.”

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In tune with the times

Helen Marcou, Quincy McLean and Mahnya Smith at the courtyard garden. Photo: Joe ArmaoAll gardens have constraints, but the one at the Bakehouse rehearsal and recording studios on Hoddle Street has more than most. It is in an internal courtyard-cum-passageway that has limited direct sunlight but loads of musicians bustling through juggling drum kits, guitars and heavily laden trollies. Affixed to one wall are three airconditioning units that blow out cones of hot air all summer. Visiting dogs dig out the odd pot, and almost everything is donated or found on the street.
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The gardening budget does, however, extend to employing Mahnya Smith, a visual artist who for two years has been propagating, re-potting, feeding, arranging and rearranging to come up with a leafy, cocooning space that now immerses the visitor in greenery. Plants are running over the ground, climbing the walls, and hanging from the ceiling.

What Smith started with was an uneven concrete-paved space in the middle of a two-level rented building and a vast quantity of plants and pots that Bakehouse owners Helen Marcou and Quincy McLean had been collecting for about 15 years.

The begonias and staghorn ferns came from Marcou’s aunt, the jades and a lilly pilly from her brother and sister-in-law, a chain of hearts from her cousin. McLean found the jacaranda tree when it was half-dead and thrown out on the side of the road. He has also found discarded lilly pillies, a magnolia, a fan palm, ginger lilies, loads of succulents – including several agaves – geraniums, bamboo and spider plants. The spathiphyllums were leftover props from a film shoot, the elkhorn fern was thrown out by a neighbour, and the ponytail plant was found discarded behind an apartment block.

McLean found all the vessels they are growing in, too. The rusty milk pails, 44-gallon drums, watering cans, concrete, terracotta and ceramic pots and wire baskets have all been picked out of skips or off footpaths and ferried here in McLean’s Honda hybrid.

The trick is to make it not seem like a hotchpotch of whatever is to hand, but a deliberate, unified collection. While there are still lots of small pots, Smith has made a point of incorporating much bigger ones as well. She has now ”totally rearranged it several times” and is very strict about grouping like with like. All the salvaged birdcages hang above the stairs, near a cluster of black ceramic pots. Elsewhere, there is a grouping of ragged concrete pots, somewhere else again the different-coloured glazed ones. A particularly shady spot has been reserved for terracotta.

While some of the like plants are collected together as well – the variegated ones, for example, or the begonias – she is not so strict about this, and is happy to weave jades and ferns, for example, throughout the space. And while Smith did buy a bougainvillea for a wall that catches the light, and a wisteria to train above a table and chairs that McLean picked out of a skip, she is otherwise content to grow only what he collects off the street.

”I turn up to work and there is something ridiculous – like that milk pail – to incorporate. It’s collaborative in that way, and a challenge.”

McLean doubles as the garden’s ”structural engineer”. Because the ground is so uneven, he secures unstable pot-stands to pillars. He fixes broken pots with cable ties, and – above one of the tables – has secured a rusted piece of steel mesh from which hanging baskets can be suspended. He also has an eye for discarded bluestone, pieces of which Smith has positioned to prevent musicians running their trollies into pots. She also protects the plants by sitting them on the hubcaps, wheels and bricks McLean finds.

What Smith does lash out on, though, is quality potting mix, liquid fertiliser and pea-straw mulch. Everything is watered by hand and she is always looking for ways to better maintain moisture.Smith, who has worked in fashion styling and performance art and whose childhood hero was Edna Walling, says she wants the courtyard to feel like a leafy, serene oasis.

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PM must persuade the motormouths

Little is known about Senator-elect Ricky Muir, of the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party, beyond his self-evident enthusiasm for motor vehicles.
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Since last year’s election, Muir has made one public appearance, when he announced he would form a voting alliance with the senators-elect from the Palmer United Party. There are three PUP senators – the Brick with Eyes, aka Queenslander Glenn Lazarus; Tasmanian single mother and Hanson-esque battler Jacqui Lambie; and Dio Wang, a polite Chinese migrant who will quit as managing director of the majority Clive-Palmer-owned Australasian Resources to take up his Senate gig.

This means that come July 1 when the new Senate is formed, Tony Abbott’s government will have to deal with a four-person Palmer power bloc on any of its legislation not supported by Labor and Greens senators.

Abbott is in an eccentric position – despite his resounding lower house election victory, this first-time prime minister will have to deal with the largest Senate crossbench in Australian history. There are 18 cats to herd, and he needs six on his side to achieve anything. Abbott, the great pusher-through and pugilist, will need to negotiate.

Presuming the 10 Greens senators vote (mostly) against the Coalition, the PUP bloc will be integral, but only if they stay as a bloc. The government will do everything to ensure they don’t, and Clive Palmer will do everything he can to make sure they do. The result will be a magnificent battle of wills.

The first clash between the quixotic Clive and our hard-headed Prime Minister came in 2012, when Palmer was still a member of the Queensland Liberal National Party. The two had a heated argument in a Brisbane restaurant over an issue that now seems rather poignant – lobbyist influence. Palmer wanted lobbyists banned from holding executive positions in the party. Then opposition leader Abbott disagreed. Anglo-Saxon language was deployed by both men, and a few months afterwards, Palmer quit (possibly just as he was about to be expelled from) the Liberals to form his own party.

(Abbott, of course, has recently come around to Palmer’s point of view on lobbyists, announcing a crackdown on party officials who lobby government).

The two men clashed again this week. First, Palmer demanded the government scrap its plans to cut a welfare payment to the children of war veterans, or else he would direct his PUP power bloc not to support the repeal of the mining tax.

A second and more intractable conflict came when Palmer announced he would not support the Coalition’s “direct action” carbon emissions reduction scheme because he believes it is a waste of money.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt says direct action has its legislative basis in the budget (which he believes the PUP bloc would never dare block), but this is far from settled.

How the gods would smile if Abbott were forced to stake his leadership over a carbon emissions reduction scheme. If Palmer digs his heels in, how hard will the Prime Minister fight for it?

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s most controversial policy, the paid parental leave scheme that compensates working women on salaries of up to $150,000 a year, will most likely pass the Senate with the Greens’ help.

None of the other crossbenchers support it but the Greens have indicated their willingness to wave the scheme through as long as the cap is reduced to salaries of $100,000.

Such is the serendipity of the Senate – Abbott, great nemesis of the left, could team up with the hemp-wearing hippies to deliver a scheme that horrifies both economic dries and labour types alike.

The government’s best hope in dealing with an unruly Senate will be to split the Palmer power bloc, the motley crew of interests, eccentricities and political inexperience that will roll into a curious Canberra on July 1.

Muir will surely be the first target – he is completely inexperienced, lacks friends in Canberra and seems out of his depth. He has been more or less mute since the election, save for a brief television doorstop near his home in country Victoria, in which he came across as sweetly shy.

The main impression the 30-something Victorian has left on the public is his reputation as a roo-poo thrower, thanks to a home video-gone-public that showed him engaged in some backyard horseplay with his brother. (I tried and failed to contact Muir at work and home for this column. Keith Littler, media liaison for the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party, did not return calls.)

Such is the intrigue around this missing Senate puzzle piece that a month ago Muir was photographed, paparazzi-style, by a Victorian tabloid newspaper, as he reported for duty at the sawmill where he works, in the Gippsland town of Heyfield.

It was a precise portrait of a working class bloke – high-vis vest and steel-capped boots, his only accessories a wedding band and a pair of sports sunnies resting atop his short-back-and-sides. Littler told the newspaper: “At the moment he’s not a senator, he’s just an ordinary Australian.”

Muir might be the protagonist of a Gippslandian version of Mr Smith Goes to Washington. But nobody knows how the story will end. Little is known about AMEP’s policy stances on most parts of the government’s legislative program, from direct action and paid parental leave, to its proposed changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

The one area where the non-Greens crossbench senators are open to supporting the government is on the issue of lowering penalty rates. All except Democratic Labour Party senator John Madigan, who opposes lowering them, and Muir, whose position is unknown.

What an irony, then, that this is the one policy area Abbott has said he will not touch in his first term.

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Factional menace has potential to rear its head again

Balancing act: O’Farrell organised a “round table” to hammer out a peace agreement between the NSW Liberals’ warring left and right factions. Photo: Chris LaneOne of the keys to Barry O’Farrell’s success as a leader of the Liberal Party lay in an extraordinary meeting he organised not long after Peter Debnam’s disastrous attempt to tip Labor and Morris Iemma out of office at the 2007 election.
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It was a period of intense factional brawling within the NSW division, which had already contributed to the tearing down of its former leader – and one-time great hope for premier – John Brogden. In short, the Libs were tearing themselves apart.

One of O’Farrell’s first moves as new opposition leader was to organise a “round table” with warring left and right factions. Behind closed doors and away from the glare of the media, they hammered out a peace agreement to provide the stability to win government.

O’Farrell recognised that if the Liberals were ever to earn the confidence of the people to run NSW, they had to get their own house in order first.

Watching the extraordinary events of a week ago, when O’Farrell fell on his sword after giving false evidence to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, it’s hard not to recall the achievement – and recognise that the same menace he tamed might have played a significant role in his downfall.

As has been well covered, O’Farrell told the ICAC under oath that he did not receive a $3000 bottle of Penfolds Grange Hermitage from businessman Nick Di Girolamo.

Di Girolamo was lobbying O’Farrell and others over a potentially lucrative government contract for the company of which he was chief executive, Australian Water Holdings.

The next day, Di Girolamo’s barrister presented the ICAC a handwritten note from O’Farrell thanking Di Girolamo for the lavish gift.

It later emerged that two News Corp journalists had been tipped off about the gift to O’Farrell before it was raised at the ICAC, but both failed to publish the story. Quizzed over who might have been the source of the leak, counsel assisting the ICAC, Geoffrey Watson, SC, asked Di Girolamo if he had passed the information to journalists or former energy minister Chris Hartcher. Di Girolamo said he had not and the next day Hartcher emphatically denied any knowledge of the Grange.

Without evidence to the contrary, we must take Hartcher on his word. But the reason Watson asked the question is clear: Hartcher had motivation.

Motive one: Hartcher was humiliated in December when ICAC officers raided his office in relation to a forthcoming inquiry into illegal political donations. He did not just step aside; he resigned from cabinet altogether in a strong indication O’Farrell had demanded it.

Motive two: the reason Hartcher will find himself in the ICAC witness box in coming weeks can be traced back to a factional skirmish on the central coast.

The $5000 donation that sparked the inquiry was revealed during 2011 preselection interviews with a local builder, Matthew Lusted, who wanted to stand in Dobell. Liberal senator Bill Heffernan reported his concerns about the legality of the donation to head office. They were passed on to election funding authorities and the ICAC by O’Farrell’s director-general.

In 2012, Heffernan clashed spectacularly with Hartcher forces over preselection decisions for Dobell and Robertson, forcing then opposition leader Tony Abbott to intervene.

Supporters of Hartcher – then a leader of the right faction – have long claimed the decision to refer the donation was an attempt by Heffernan to smear Hartcher, with whom he had a poor relationship. Hartcher will be given the opportunity to repeat his denial under oath in the course of the donations inquiry, which starts on Monday. Whatever happens, his political career has been irreparably damaged.

As Mike Baird monitors proceedings, he would do well to remember the history behind them – especially given the eruption of disquiet from the right wing in the days before he named his cabinet.

Senior right sources claimed the faction had been sidelined under O’Farrell. Baird seems to have delivered by elevating leading right-wingers Dominic Perrottet and Jai Rowell to the important finance portfolio.

The bigger issue is whether the factional genie – blamed by O’Farrell for keeping the Libs out of power for almost two decades – can be kept in the bottle.

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Good journalism ruled by head not heart

Attacking journalists is hardly a new phenomenon.
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It’s been a blood sport since the 19th century, when, not coincidentally, the rise of the press coincided with the rise of democracy in the West.

But after too many months of bitter accusations of bias, prejudice and lack of “batting for the home team”, it’s time to recall the forgotten figure of the mugwump. The non-partisan observer of politics. Most journalists are mugwumps, though you might not know it from the way we are often described as ideological warriors salivating over opportunities to pursue foes. (A prospect as exhausting as it is fictional).

This does not mean they do not have private views – journalists do vote – but that journalism is a profession and bias is unprofessional. As ABC journalist Jonathan Green put it: “Journalism tainted by conviction just isn’t. That’s the simple truth of it.”

The name mugwump originated with a group of US Republicans who refused to support their candidate, James Blaine, in 1884 because of financial corruption and instead supported the Democratic candidate Grover Cleveland, who went on to become president.

Mark Twain was a mugwump. He described them in his autobiography as “a little company made up of the unenslaved . . . We were not a party; we had no candidates; we had no axes to grind. . . . When voting, it was our duty to vote for the best man, regardless of his party name. We had no other creed.”

Excellent, right? Now it means a person who acts independently, observing politics with a cool, practised eye.

Most journalists who spend any considerable period of time immersed in, and reporting on, politics are mugwumps. Mugwumps know there are fools, narcissists and decent people on both sides of politics. That the best of intentions can warp. That, under the full glare of scrutiny, some men and women wilt, some bloom and some morph into something, or someone else. That power does very peculiar things to people. That corruption flourishes in dark corners and spreads when questions aren’t asked. That extracting truth can be like a bloody-fingered archaeological dig. That the process of politics can be farcical, brutal and absurd. That, once or twice a century, a brilliant leader can miraculously emerge.

Mugwumps are also data driven. So what does the data actually tells us about bias?

In 2012, economists Joshua Gans and Andrew Leigh published a detailed study of media bias in Australia in The Economic Record. Using several different metrics for media slant, they found “most media outlets are close to the centre position”. Only one of nine newspapers – The Age – was found to be not in the centre and it was to the left. But here’s the crunch – in the 1996-2007 period, 36 out of 44 election endorsements favoured the Coalition. Media proprietors also donated far more to the Coalition, with a skew as high as three to one.

They also found ABC TV news was slanted towards the Coalition. (Leigh says since this study The Australian has shifted right. He is now a Labor MP but he is not alone in this view.)

A recent study from the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism at the University of Technology, Sydney, found a strong skew towards climate sceptics in the Australian media.

Last month, an independent audit of the ABC – by former 60 Minutes executive producer Gerald Stone – found 93 of 97 stories about asylum seekers did not show bias. A second audit into radio interviews conducted during last year’s federal election also cleared the national broadcaster of bias. The conclusion was that the ABC overwhelmingly meets its professional standards.

Other studies show while a majority of newsroom journalists have liberal leanings, a majority of management leans right.

So why the ferocity about an alleged leaning to the left? We seem to have confused interrogation with prosecution. We should not need to spell out journalism involves relentless, uncomfortable questioning.

Why don’t we discuss instead the fact that the media are still mostly run by men who are white and middle class?

Of course, not all journalists are fair, balanced and accurate. But those who aren’t are not the lions of our profession; not who we aspire to be or respect.

Mugwumps recognise strengths in both parties. And weaknesses. Both, for example, have been fiscally sloppy, poll-driven and shameful on asylum seekers.

Which takes me to a final point. Are we really to imagine that the only people in this country who care about the fate of asylum seekers are on the left? Both major parties agree on offshore processing. It is a severe indictment of us all to suggest the word “compassion” is inflammatory and not one of the most important of human virtues.

If we have got to the point that to ask how a person was killed or injured while in our care, if pregnant women have access to adequate medical facilities in detention and if locking children up for years behind wire has a lasting psychological impact on them, then we have lost sight of our basic responsibility as human beings. Now there are fresh allegations that guards on Nauru assaulted children; hitting one girl so hard she fell to the ground.

It is not bias to care for the stateless and vulnerable. It’s decency.

And it’s a question of good government. And that’s why we need mugwump journalists.

Julia Baird is a co-host of The Drum on ABC24.

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ANZAC: Mateship remembered in Maitland memorial service, photos

Scenes from the Maitland Anzac service. Picture: Simone de Peak WASHOUT: Anzac march participants take flight to the bowling club Picture: Simone de Peak
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Scenes from the Maitland Anzac service. Picture: Simone de Peak

Scenes from the Maitland Anzac service. Picture: Simone de Peak

Scenes from the Maitland Anzac service. Picture: Simone de Peak

Scenes from the Maitland Anzac service. Picture: Simone de Peak

Scenes from the Maitland Anzac service. Picture: Simone de Peak

Scenes from the Maitland Anzac service. Picture: Simone de Peak

PAYING RESPECTS: Abby Capararo, 16, of the 308 Squadron Australian Air Force Cadets with her father Graham after the memorial service, Picture: Simone de Peak

RESECT: Gladiators members lay flowers to honour fallen soldiers during the service. Picture: Simone de Peak

Scenes from the Maitland Anzac service. Picture: Simone de Peak

Scenes from the Maitland Anzac service. Picture: Simone de Peak

ON THE MOVE: Maitland’s Anzac march was transferred to the bowling club due to bad weather. Pictures: Simone De Peak

MAITLAND drew an impressive crowd to honour the Anzacs despite a cosy wet weather setting at the Maitland Park Bowling Club.

All were in good spirits as they heard the addresses given in honour of fallen soldiers.

Miss Maitland 2014, Alexis Adams gave the youth address, commenting on the bravery and mateship highlighted by many Anzac stories.

She said Anzac Day represented hard work that is mirrored in the everyday lives of many young people training in the armed forces today.

The main commemorative address focused on indigenous Australian soldiers, who were forced to fight for half pay with no opportunity for promotion and were not even allowed inside pubs for moments of long-earned respite.

One medal-adorned member of the crowd was Graham Capararo, 61, whose father and grandfather fought in the world wars.

Mr Capararo’s father, Kenneth Andrew Capararo, was posted in New Guinea during WWII. He was discharged in late 1944 due to suffering constant malaria. He served for almost four years.

Graham Capararo’s grandfather, Harry Langford fought in WWI and was wounded in two battles in France. After retiring, he returned to Australia, but Mr Capararo said shrapnel remaining in his body shortened his life.

Mr Capararo was conscripted to serve in Vietnam, but the war was over before his service began.

Another military-minded member of the family, Mr Capararo’s daughter, Abby, contributed to the Maitland Anzac dawn service as a sergeant in the 308 Squadron Australian Air Force Cadets.

Abby Capararo is just 16, but already has her heart set on joining the Australian Air Force next year.

She spent a month last year in France with the rest of the cadets, visiting WWI battlefields.

There, she saw the sites where her great-grandfather was wounded.

‘‘It was a very emotional experience for me,’’ she said of the trip.

‘‘I teared up in a lot of the places we visited.’’

But Ms Capararo said she was disappointed by the commercialisation of Anzac Day in Australia.

‘‘I saw Normandy and the Western Front. In the silence, I could hear birds and wind and silence from those visiting. Now there are seats everywhere. It’s like a theatre.

‘‘Gallipoli, as well, is particularly commercial during this time, and people going there for an emotional experience will be disappointed if that’s the kind of thing they see.’’

Still, she says the respect for WWI Australian diggers displayed by France and England was encouraging.

‘‘Recognising by our uniforms that we were from Australia, people near the battlefields in France asked us to have lunch with them and didn’t even make us pay,’’ she said.

‘‘And in the middle of Hyde Park in London, a WWI memorial pays tribute to Maitland, Cessnock, Dungog and Newcastle.’’

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One day three ways: Belfast

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A travel company recently analysed millions of location-tagged photographs on Instagram, and concluded from all the smiling faces that Belfast is now the happiest city in Britain – possibly because the city is so affordable. Start your day with low-cost, high-grade coffee and a bacon bap at Common Grounds, a cafe inside the Belfast City church ($5, commongrounds.co.uk). Take a Harper’s Taxis tour up the Falls Road and down the Shankhill, where the famous sectarian murals provide a vivid visual aid to understanding the city’s former troubles (from $50, harpertaxitours南京夜网). Spend the afternoon in the Cathedral Quarter (www.thecathedralquarter南京夜网) – a dead end recently revived with new art venues and galleries, then the evening in the tiny and fantastic Spaniard pub ($30). The Premier Inn is also near the cathedral, with rooms from $45 (premierinn南京夜网/en/hotel/belbar/belfast-city-cathedral-quarter)

TOTAL: $130


The great wee corner cafe Rhubarb does a full “Ulster fry”- the mightiest of breakfasts – for less than $10 (rhubarb-belfast.co.uk). If it’s raining, browse St George’s market, one of the last and best historic covered markets in Britain (budget $50 or so). Spend the rest of the day on the Titanic Experience and Titanic Discovery tour – a whole quarter of the city is now given over to the story of the doomed ship and its construction in Belfast (from $30 for both main tours, titanicbelfast南京夜网). Then mix with the locals in the Crown Liquor Saloon, a Victorian drinking palace that also does decent pub food ($50 approx for drinks and dinner, nicholsonspubs.co.uk/thecrownliquorsaloonbelfast), before taking a room at the Europa. Famous as the most bombed hotel in the world during the Troubles, it has long since been expensively refurbished – double rooms from $250, with regular online discounts, hastingshotels南京夜网/europa-belfast

TOTAL: $380


Now that almost everyone in the world is watching the HBO fantasy TV series Game of Thrones, you can book a luxury private tour of the show’s filming locations near Belfast – including a visit to the Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, both spectacular sites (from $160, viator南京夜网/Belfast). Head back into town for fresh oysters and champagne at the Mourne Seafood Bar ($70 approx, mourneseafood南京夜网), and if you’re going high-end shopping your money is probably best spent on quality Aran knitwear that will last you a lifetime, as sold by local specialists EilisOg (items from $150, eilisog南京夜网). Deane’s Restaurant remains Belfast’s finest dining option ($150 for the six-course tasting menu, plus wine, michaeldeane.co.uk), and the Merchant Hotel provides for exclusive clubbing and lounging, with five-star accommodation upstairs (double rooms from $330, plus drinks, themerchanthotel南京夜网).

TOTAL: $1000

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Frequent Flyer: Tom Griffith

Tom Griffith, co-founder of Emma & Tom’s Australian-owned natural wellbeing drinks and snacks.
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A good mate of mine held a four-day 40th birthday party at the Hotel Splendido in Portofino. It was beautiful to stay in a majestic balconied room looking over the little harbour and Mediterranean Sea.


I have flown with my two young daughters on a weekly basis since they were one and three years old, not always the most relaxing experience. After hundreds of flights, I have to say that Virgin Australia have been exceptionally strong performers, right down to Mark, one of the stewards, blowing up their blue rubber latex gloves and making the girls an elephant each. They still talk about it. Internationally, I am most happy with Singapore business class.


The Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji is an hour’s flight from Nadi. It’s very private, the team who run it are faultless, all the fruit and vegetables are grown organically on the island and fish are caught on the reef. There are no telephones or television.


I have had a long relationship with Tumi, in almost every configuration possible. I love their products for their durability and simplicity.


Running gear, every single time. I have loved running around the streets of Paris, along the canals in Amsterdam, the Bund in Shanghai, in the hills surrounding Cape Town and around Stanley Park in Vancouver. You immediately feel like a local, scope out the city and shed any lingering jet lag.


I lived in Whistler for a couple of seasons before we launched Emma & Tom’s. I would love to take my partner high-altitude big-mountain skiing.

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Antonio Carluccio: I know this great little place . . .

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London-based Italian chef Antonio Carluccio runs the Carluccio’s restaurant chain in London, has written 18 cookbooks, stars in the SBS show Two Greedy Italians, and has a passion for collecting and cooking mushrooms. See carluccios南京夜网.


My dining table at home. It fits a maximum of 10 people, which is the number I like to have for dinner parties.


The top of the rape plant before it comes into flower. The little spears look and taste like broccoli.


That it’s possible to get tripe as one wishes (not the over-blanched kind) at Chinese food shops.


I don’t go for big nights out. I do, however, like to go to a good Chinese restaurant, or Japanese for sashimi, and I’ve discovered an Italian restaurant called Bocca di Lupo. See boccadilupo南京夜网.


The countryside, provided you have a lovely base from where you can look for mushrooms.


Finding a street market that sells old-fashioned jellied eels.


All food destined for tourists. It’s cheap and nasty and should be forbidden.


I see lots of delicatessens popping up; I hope they sell good food.


June or July. It’s fantastic to see people in London’s many beautiful parks, lying on the grass and just enjoying the moment.

Antonio Carluccio will host a food and wine culinary event at Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa from July 18-20. See wolganvalley南京夜网.

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I don’t want my kids sitting next to a man on a plane

I know it’s sexist. But I don’t want my kids sitting next to a man on a plane.
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Sure, almost 90 per cent of child sexual abuse is committed by someone in, or known to, the family, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

However, stranger danger is a risk and women are perpetrators in only about 8 per cent of cases, says the ABS data.

In 2001, Northwest Airlines paid a US family half a million dollars after a 10-year-old girl was molested by a 28-year-old man on a flight from Kansas to Detroit.

So how do we protect our kids?

A spokeswoman for Qantas says the airline is seeing more and more unaccompanied minors travelling, especially during school holidays.

In 2012, flight crew forced a male nurse to swap seats with a female passenger, because he was sitting next to an unrelated girl travelling on her own.

“It seemed I had this sign I couldn’t see above my head that said ‘child molester’,” he said later.

The airline defends its policy, which still states: “Unaccompanied minors are allocated seats next to adult female customers. Where possible, Qantas aims to seat children near crew areas or next to an empty seat.

This policy reflects parents’ concerns and the need to maximise the child’s safety and well-being.”

In the words of former NSW Commissioner for Children and Young People Gillian Calvert: “In the absence of any other test, it’s one way in which the airline can reduce the risk of children travelling alone.”

Virgin also copped criticism when 33-year-old Johnny McGirr was told by a flight attendant: “You can’t sit next to two unaccompanied minors.”

Now, its policy reads: “On a space available basis, we will allocate a spare seat next to the child. In some instances, flight passenger loads may prevent this and a female or male passenger will be seated in the vacant seat.”

My nine-year-old Taj and seven-year-old Grace flew as unaccompanied minors, for the first time, on Virgin last year. They were put in the last row with a bunch of other kids where doting staff plied them with treats.

It was a relief to see their smiling faces at the end but I was disappointed I had no choice about where they’d be sitting.

Fragmented families means there are more young people flying unaccompanied more frequently, some as young as five.

In fact, Virgin has expanded its unaccompanied minors program to include seating in business class, while passengers from the age of two earn points and status credits.

All kids under 10 can collect stamps on a new High Flyer passport, which a Virgin spokeswoman says will instill a sense of pride each time they fly.

But it remains a conundrum: How do we encourage a sense of adventure while ensuring their safety?

My advice is this: Plan well in advance, as airlines have only a limited number of unaccompanied minor seats on each flight.

If you’re worried, request that your child is seated next to another child, or an adult female. Some airlines will quietly comply.

Talk to your child about stranger-danger: Not to scare, but to inform them.

Sure, not all men are paedophiles but offenders are predominantly male.

I figure it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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