QBE on track to reach $US250 million in savings

Insurer QBE is on track to meet its savings targets.QBE says it is on track to hit its target to cut costs by “at least” $US250 million by 2015, as it replaces hundreds of jobs in western countries with staff in Manila.
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The global insurer also affirmed its full-year guidance on Tuesday, as it benefits from relatively few natural disasters and the recent fall in the Aussie dollar.

At midday its shares had risen 2.6 per cent, or 39.5c, to $15.70.

QBE, which is looking to rationalise its operations after a spate of acquisition-led growth under former boss Frank O’Halloran, earlier this year unveiled a plan to save $US250 million a year by 2015 by sending about 700 positions to the Philippines.

As the changes are rolled out across its Australian division, chief executive John Neal today stressed that he expected expenses would be cut by “at least” $US250 million as a result of the program.

The cost-cutting push will also result in changes to its operations in North America and Europe – where the company may also look to carry-out cuts in its European business slightly earlier than expected.

“This is very much the start, the first wave if you like, and there will be more activity that will follow,” Mr Neal said.

So far, 521 positions in Australia have been affected by the offshoring changes.

Most of these staff are set to be redeployed within the group, while 39 have been made redundant, and 52 contractor positions have not been renewed.

The chief executive of its Australian arm, Colin Fagen, said QBE was “extremely confident” it would save more than the original $85 million in costs that it had planned to trim from its Australian operations by 2015 through the offshoring changes.

This was likely to occur because the company’s redundancy costs had been lower than expected, while the volume of work being carried out in Manila had exceeded expectations.

Mr Neal also said he was confident the company expected to hit its full-year forecast for premiums to increase by about 5 per cent, and indicated it had benefited from several one-off factors.

He said conditions were “very positive” in Australia and North America but tougher in Europe, where rates were flat.

“It’s still very very early days in the year but we are quite relaxed about where we see ourselves for the half year.”

QBE, which reports its profits on a calendar year basis, will present its half-year results in August.

Insurers have benefited relatively few natural disasters in recent months, while QBE has extensive US operations, so it tends to benefit from a falling Australian dollar.

“Overall, the weakening in the Australian dollar is good news for us, but it does bring some complications,” Mr Neal said.

Deutsche Bank analyst Kieran Chidgey said the progress on cost-cutting and positive one-off factors should cause the “market’s conviction in QBE’s turnaround” to increase.

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Spencer rules breakfast, but Nova’s share explodes

He’s done it again; 612 ABC Brisbane announcer Spencer Howson has retained his crown as king of the lucrative breakfast radio session.
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Despite a 0.1 per cent drop, Mr Howson’s 13.1 per cent market share is still firmly in front of his commercial rivals, ratings agency Nielson confirmed on Tuesday.

But DMG’s Nova106.9 breakfast team of Ash Bradnam, David ‘Luttsy’ Lutteral and Kip Wightman closed in on Aunty’s star, gaining 1.1 per cent to steal the number two spot from Robin Bailey, Terry Hansen and Bob Gallaghar on ARN’s 97.3FM.

Nova also overtook 97.3 as the station with the largest overall audience through the week – a coup that rounds out its standing dominance of the weekend market.

Fairfax Radio 4BC, owned by the publishers of this website, also improved its overall market share, growing its audience by 0.9 per cent to beat 4KQ, 4BH, and the ABC’s Radio National and Triple J for the number six spot.

The station’s breakfast team also recorded a 0.4 per cent audience boost to maintain its sixth-place ranking.

Meanwhile the Triple M Grill Team – Pete Timbs, Michelle Anderson and Greg ‘Marto’ Martin – moved from fifth to fourth place, changing places with their Austereo cousins at B105 – Jason ‘Labby’ Hawkins, Stav Davidson and Abby Coleman.

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What a relief; now let’s get on with it, says Horwill

Now we can all get some sleep: Wallabies captain James Horwill, left, fronts the media with coach Robbie Deans after the judicial hearing. Photo: James BrickwoodWallabies captain James Horwill says he feels ‘‘vindicated’’ by an International Rugby Board ruling that a stamping allegation against him be dismissed for the second time in nine days.
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The Test second-rower is free to play in the series decider against the British and Irish Lions in Sydney after 12 hours of deliberation overnight on Monday produced the same result as the first hearing on June 23.

Horwill said he was ‘‘very relieved’’ to be told the news during a gym session on Tuesday morning after enduring a sleepless night in limbo.

‘‘I feel very vindicated by the way it’s gone,’’ he said. ‘‘I love what I do and it means a hell of a lot to represent my country and not only to represent it but the opportunity to lead in what is probably the biggest game in this country since the 2003 World Cup final. I’m very excited and now we can focus on the game and that’s what is important.’’

The decision was handed down by Canadian judicial officer Graeme Mew  at about 10am on Tuesday, 12 hours after he took final submissions from Horwill, his legal counsel and the Australian Rugby Union.

Mew found there was no cause to overturn the original ruling of judicial officer Nigel Hampton QC, who said on June 23 that he could not find an intentional or deliberate action of stamping or trampling on the head of Lions second rower Alun Wyn Jones.

‘‘For the appeal to succeed the IRB would have to establish that there was some misapprehension of law or principle by the judicial officer or that his decision was so clearly wrong or manifestly unreasonable that no judicial officer could have reached the conclusion that he did,’’ Mew noted in his judgement.

‘‘There was sufficient evidence upon which a reasonable judicial officer could have reached the decision that was made.

‘‘Accordingly, it could not be said that the judicial officer was manifestly wrong or that the interests of justice otherwise required his decision be overturned.’’

Horwill accepted the decision calmly on Tuesday but was obviously pleased to have the uncertainty behind him.

‘‘I can’t complain. It’s been a very fair process both times; as I said before, the hearings have been very fair and the process is what it is,’’ he said, after  thanking the public for their support.

‘‘My family and the team have been very overwhelmed by the amount of support we’ve received so I thank you very much and it’s now time to get on with football.’’

The original incident occurred in the third minute of the Lions’ 23-21 victory over the Wallabies in the first Test.

Horwill struck Jones in the head during a ruck. The Lions second-rower played out most of the match and required stitches to his eye after the full-time bell.

The Lions referred the matter to the citing commissioner after the game, but a four-hour hearing in front of IRB-appointed judicial officer Hampton last Sunday night found there was enough merit in Horwill’s explanation that he was ‘‘spun off balance’’ by Lions players entering the ruck from the other side.

The decision was controversially overturned by the IRB on Thursday night and while the board did not provide a clear reason,  they cited the ‘‘preservation of player welfare’’.

‘‘It is important for the IRB to ensure amongst all stakeholders in the game that there is full confidence that priority is given to player welfare and the values of the game,’’ the IRB said at the time.

Horwill said he had been unaware of the incident until he was cited and had a chance to view footage from the game.

Rugby Union Players’ Association chief executive Greg Harris congratulated Horwill on being cleared to play.

‘‘James Horwill was initially cleared of the stamping charge as per the IRB’s established judicial process.

“RUPA, like the ARU, was both surprised and disappointed that the finding of the IRB appointed judicial officer, Nigel Hampton QC, from New Zealand was deemed to be ‘erroneous’.

‘‘The fact that the verdict was not delivered until midday on Tuesday added significant disruption to the preparation of the Wallabies team for the third, and deciding Test.

‘‘RUPA still remains sufficiently concerned with the perceived inconsistencies with the processes and as such has raised the matter with the International Rugby Players’ Association and requested that IRPA raise the matter formally with the IRB.’’

Harris said the case set a dangerous precedent by the IRB and that not only the RUPA membership, but the broader rugby community in Australia, were concerned about the motives behind the decision to refer the matter again.

‘‘James is the Australian captain and is a sportsman of impeccable character who in 130 professional games had never been cited.

“He always had the full support of RUPA and his fellow players no matter what the outcome of the IRB’s judicial processes were to be,’’ Harris said.

The IRB released a statement a short time ago accepting Mew’s decision.

‘‘While ultimately not proving successful in its appeal, the IRB is satisfied that it took the right approach,’’ the statement said.

‘‘The IRB would like to acknowledge the professional manner in which the Australian Rugby Union managed the process as host union of the tour.’’

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Top 5 Tuesday

A night spent in the back of a car is often out of necessity, convenience, for thrills or a right of passage.
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The experience can be endearing or tedious – think cold morning air, fogged-up windows and dishevelled hair. But it is usually always memorable.

Most Australians can vouch for sleeping it rough in a vehicle at least once in their lifetime. Some can even lay claim to being conceived in the back of a car.

So in honour of those circumnavigating Australia or planning a budget trip to the snow, Drive has assembled a list of the five best sleeping cars.1. Holden Sandman

The Sandman is the doyen of all sleeper cars.

Developed by Holden and sold on the sales pitch of ‘a vehicle for work and weekend’, the Sandman became deeply etched in the popular surf culture of the ’70s.

On top of GTS dash and steering wheel inserts, many owners individualised their Sandmans with features including shagpile carpet, analogue televisions or pedestal fans.

Despite the sales moniker “Everything is standard except the paint job”, original models can be hard to track nowadays, particularly those in good condition.

The Sandman was sold from 1974 to 1979 (HQ to HZ) and equipped with the choice of a six-cylinder or eight-cylinder engine.

Like the drive-in movies they were once (rather notoriously) synonymous with, Sandmans are few and far between nowadays.2. Volkswagen Kombi

The Volkswagen Kombi is the iconic campervan.

Introduced in 1950, the Kombi joined the Beetle as the second tier to Volkswagen’s burgeoning line-up. By the ’60s, it was the poster car of the hippy movement.

Today, original Kombis are an appreciating commodity. A quick browse of drive南京夜网.au yielded few results under $10,000, but there plenty in the five-figure range.

Sadly, Volkswagen will formally end production of the Kombi this year because of more stringent safety rules.3. Toyota LandCruiser troop carrier

Here is a vehicle that can accommodate and navigate in some of the most extreme circumstances imaginable.

The only candidate listed with a high ground clearance and four-wheel drive capability, Toyota’s troop carrier is a popular choice of travellers and residents in outback Australia.

The current 70 series (produced from 1984 to present) replaced the 40 series, which included the FJ40.

Most troopies are equipped with in-line six-cylinder diesel engines. In 2007, Toyota upped the ante and introduced a 4.5-litre turbo diesel V8 to the range.

It is not uncommon to find a tinnie or canoe strapped to the roof of a troop carrier. And with space for 11 seated adults, they are also a favourite for footy trips and pub runs.4. Volvo 240 station wagon

Volvos are traditionally known for their safety features and ability to raise the ire of other motorists. But it turns out they are quite capable in accommodating occupants, too.

The Volvo 240 was one of the first passenger cars to be fitted with split fold seats, with the feature dating back to some models from the 1980s. According to wagon owners, the layout allows enough room for a double mattress with the seats down.

About one-third of all 240s sold worldwide were station wagons which featured an admirable cargo space of 1.2 cubic metres.5. Toyota HiAce

A favourite among surfers, motocross riders and kart racers, the HiAce is undoubtedly the sleeping choice for Gen Y drivers.

Launched in 1967, the latest generation model (2004-present) comes equipped with a choice of refined 2.7-litre petrol or 2.5-litre turbo diesel engines, plus a host of safety features which separate it from early iterations.

One overriding issue for HiAce guests is the bulky wheel arches which protrude from the floor. Many people have overcome the problem by building an elevated timber floor, which also gives more space for luggage or surf boards.

HiAce owners have followed their forebears in individualising their trusty steeds, adding subwoofers and DVD players, among other personal touches.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

State of the market

It’s too early to make a call about just how long the recent pick-up in housing prices will last, and whether it will gather pace, says Bank of America Merrill Lynch chief economist Saul Eslake.
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As the data houses agree that property prices are generally rising, the talk is now turning to just how long they will stay in positive territory.

Eslake says the current upswing is weaker than past cycles and is being weighed down by a general reluctance among first home buyers to enter the market and a desire by existing home owners to make hay from lower interest rates by paying down their mortgages rather than trading up into shiny new abodes.

Eslake says investors have driven much of the recent price growth. He suggests big income earners may have been influenced to re-enter the property market in the wake of muted changes to superannuation rules for those earning over $300,000 a year.

Commonwealth Bank economist Gareth Aird says the two bigger factors driving house price increase have been lower interest rates – down 2 percentage points since late 2011 – and pent‑up demand created by years of slower housing construction.

Could further rate cuts drive up prices? The consensus is an interest rate cut remains on the cards for later this year but it’s probably not just around the corner.

The Reserve Bank didn’t see the need to cut rates this week, noting: “The easing in monetary policy over the past 18 months has supported interest-sensitive spending and asset values and further effects can be expected over time. The pace of borrowing has remained relatively subdued, though recently there are signs of increased demand for finance by households.”

However, the RBA, which believes it has inflation in check for at least the next year or two, also stated “the inflation outlook, as currently assessed, may provide some scope for further easing, should that be required to support demand”.

On the supply side, building construction rates remain sluggish.

However, building approvals, which are a leading indicator of housing construction, have been trending up. “In April, building approvals surged by 9.1 per cent and are now 27.3 per cent above year-earlier levels,” a note from the Commonwealth Bank says.

Aird cautions that building approvals are notoriously volatile though, and can be skewed in one month if a large apartment development is included, as each unit is counted as a dwelling.

When the May building approval rates are released this Thursday, Aird is betting there will be a drop of about 1 per cent. “We are expecting a statistical payback,” he says.

Aird says if the current cycle of residential growth continues it could add two to three percentage points to Australian GDP growth over an average two to three-year cycle.

Do you think the current pick-up in housing process will last? Or are you waiting for the market to cool somewhat?

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Why Gerro’s victory left me dizzier than stage’s 10,000 corners

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Simon Gerrans never ceases to amaze me. When it comes to athletes in any sport, he must to be a standout for delivering when it really matters. When Gerro targets a race, more often than not he hits the bullseye. And he did it again on Monday in the Tour de France when he won the third stage – his second in the Tour – in a bunch sprint, beating, of all people, the big favourite – Slovakian Peter Sagan.

People often refer to Gerro as an opportunist, and some of his early wins may have come that way. But I think his stage win on the 145.5km third stage from Ajaccio to Calvi of this year’s 100th Tour proved once and for all that he is not an opportunist, but an all-round, classy, smart bike rider.

Gerro showed that when he won Milan-San Remo last year, but his win over Sagan into Calvi in the tightest of sprints re-inforced that reputation.

I mean Sagan, he is the Slovakian rider who everyone has talked up as the star who can win everywhere – in sprints and on climbs and against anyone. Fair enough … in reality, Sagan does not win every race he enters. But taking the Slovakian’s scalp at least once is a major feat for any rider.

And now Gerro can say that he has done that. But knowing Gerro, who lives in Monaco where I do, he will take more pride in the fact that he has added a second Tour stage win to his name – and, more importantly, that he has done it wearing the colours of his Australian Orica-GreenEDGE team.

He will be as happy for how the win came his way – that being, off a tremendous collective effort from his teammates to set him up for the victory.

Heading into the Tour, I knew he was confident. I sensed that on our last ride together – and in the gym where we also do weights sessions together.

On Sky, we were close to the front coming into the finale to avoid the potential carnage from crashes – that, thankfully, we did not have on Tuesday. But I got to see a great finale unfold and Orica-GreenEDGE rode great. But of all their riders, Simon Clarke and Daryl Impey really pulled out great rides.

It was a great ride by Clarkey in the break. Impey’s lead-out for Gerro was pretty savvy. He got Sagan out of position a bit … but it was nothing illegal.

After I eased up in the finale knowing we were all safe and crossed the line, and rolled across the line, I heard Sagan had won and that’s what I thought until I heard otherwise. And it was only until I watched the replay on television that that I realised how tight that finish was.

But then nothing was simple – or easy – in these three stages on Corsica; as beautiful as the island really is.

Monday’s stage was spectacular for the view – well, it was during reconnaissance of it earlier in the year. In a race, it’s far different.

But I can see why they called the course we raced over the “Stage of 10,000 Corners” – it leaves you feeling pretty dizzy by the time you reach the finish after a helter skelter race.

I have to say, I was relieved when it came to leaving Corsica for Nice where the Tour will resume on Tuesday with the stage four team time trial.

We have one rider hurting, Geraint Thomas, with a slight fracture of the pelvis from his stage one crash; but we have otherwise been lucky for injuries.

Since our ‘recon’ of the Corsican stages a number of us had lost sleep for fear of what could have happened on the sinewy roads of the island.

Still, that doesn’t mean the rest of the Tour will be stress-free. I’ve learned every day offers up dangers. The stress is a part and parcel of the Tour.

Read Richie Porte’s exclusive daily Tour de France diary throughout the race in Fairfax Media.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Husic abuse shows Australia’s racist rump

Ed Husic, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Parliamentary Secretary for Broadband, during the swearing-in ceremony at Government House with Governor-General Quentin Bryce. Photo: Alex EllinghausenThe abuse dished out to Ed Husic on social media, after he became the first cabinet member to swear an oath on the Koran, is as depressing as it is predictable.
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On one hand it’s tempting to dismiss the abusers as an ignorant rabble – the kind of mouth-breathers who couldn’t even find Mr Husic’s ancestral homeland of Bosnia on a map.

The kind of people for whom any Muslim – even a non-devout one such as Mr Husic – who contributes to public life is automatically assumed to have an agenda that includes Sharia law, or compulsory burkas, or some other dog-whistle rubbish.

The kind of people for whom the debate barely rises above the level of “Urrggh, Muslims, un-Australian, this is a Christian country, God save the Queen, waahh”.

On the other hand it’s important to ask why such regressive views persist in an era when those with power and influence have realised the importance of not alienating other cultures.

Remember that Mr Husic, while the first to swear in on the Koran, is not the first minister to opt against using the Bible.

In 2010, new MPs Josh Frydenburg and Michael Danby both swore an oath on the Jewish holy book.

Julia Gillard, when swearing in an Prime Minister, chose to take an ‘affirmation of office’, rather than an oath.

Ms Gillard’s atheism has been the subject of much hand-wringing from Christian conservatives (not that it seemed to affect her policy stance on issues like gay marriage).

But these choices didn’t provoke a national controversy. It seems that things become instantly more fraught once the Koran is mentioned.

At the ceremony itself, Governor-General Quentin Bryce proclaimed Mr Husic’s oath as a great moment for Australian multiculturalism.

Other politicians voiced their support for Mr Husic. Mr Frydenburg tweeted that a democracy “must respect freedom of religion”.

But the prism of social media also sheds light on the racist rump that still persists when it comes to Muslims, or indigenous affairs, or any multicultural issue in modern Australia.

There are people who see suburbs with thriving Muslim communities – made up of people born and bred here, as well as immigrants from Africa, Asia or Eastern Europe – and think they are being overrun and turned into ethnic ghettos.

But they fail to ask what the people who live in these communities want. In most cases, it is simply to work, live and raise a family while maintaining contact with their cultural heritage. The thousands of Poms living in Perth’s north want exactly the same thing, but you won’t hear rednecks yelling that Joondalup is being ghetto-ized, even though by this definition it most certainly is.

There are people who still struggle to separate the words ‘Muslim’ and ‘terrorist’. But they fail to appreciate the vastly differing worldviews of a Bosnian ethnic minority Muslim and an Al-Qaeda hardliner.

Some of these people will never be convinced – their mistrust of other cultures is too entrenched. They can’t see past the fact that a misguided minority of extremist Muslims have inflicted terror and death on others, even though multicultural society has united in condemning this barbaric violence, which has everything to do with Islamism, and nothing to do with Islam.

But Ed Husic’s critics should pause and ask themselves what exactly they expected him to do. Would they prefer a politician who stays true to his values, stands up for his heritage, and does what he feels is right? Or someone who toes the line, and does something he doesn’t believe in for the sake of the status quo?

The first set of values sounds much more ‘Australian’ to me. Perhaps if we gave politicians a free hand to choose their oath-signing literature (Shakespeare? Gandhi? Darwin?), we could all focus on something a bit more relevant instead.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Certifiable green KFC opened in East Maitland

ENVIRONMENT Minister Robyn Parker opened KFC Australia’s first certifiable green store in East Maitland on Tuesday.
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The fast food restaurant features the latest in environmentally-friendly building design, operations and technology.

It is expected to reduce energy use for lighting by 50 per cent, reduce water use by 20 per cent and re-direct 40,000 kilograms of waste from landfill each year.

The venue is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design [LEED] certifiable and, once certified, will be the ninth addition to KFC certified restaurants worldwide.

Ms Parker said she hoped the building would encourage local business to incorporate environmental sustainability.

‘‘The NSW Government is committed to supporting local businesses to become more water and energy efficient so they too can drive down operating costs and help the environment,’’ she said.

Warm blankets and hot chocolate 

So, I didn’t quite get the chance to write this blog lastweek.
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I can probably give you several excuses as to why it didn’thappen … some of them pretty good as well, but there are only two that will sitright with me.

1. Ijust ran out of time. (In case you didn’t hear there were somemassive news events last week both nationally and in the central west).

2. Ididn’t want to really admit that I have kindafallen off the wagon a bit. I have fallen into a pile of warm comfortableblankets, nice wine, television shows and hot chocolates. And that is probablymy main excuse.

But, here I am, a bit late, but writing the blog I don’treally want to confess to.

Three weeks ago my plateau started. I haven’t lost a thingfor the past three weeks. Thankfully I haven’t gone up either, but thosenumbers not moving kinda depresses me and makes me think ‘why bother’.

The winter weather hasn’t helped either (yes, yes, I know Ihave overcome all these excuses in the past but for some reason that’s just notworking!) It’s been cold and miserable in the mornings, and after long days atwork I haven’t wanted to exercise so I have given in.

I have also reached for hot chocolate and marshmallowsinstead of tea in the evening – because in my mind tea just isn’t as yummy as ahot chocolate with melted marshmallows on top, while you curl up under theblanket in front of the television. (Can you imagine what I would be like if Ihad a fire and a good book!)

Anyway … I am happy to say as of Monday this week I am backon track. The sun was (thankfully) out yesterday and a run/walk with the dogfelt so good. An ab workout when I got home topped off my exercise session.

I also have a full freezer of 12 week body challengeapproved meals to keep my calories in check and I am going to do what I can toget over my plateau. I have four weeks and I plan to give it my all.

Wish me luck … the sun is out, I am going for another runthis afternoon!

GETTING HEALTHY:Is it really never too cold to exercise? | Losing weight isn’t that hard | Is it all about the numbers? | In sickness and in health

Even when 2GB loses it wins

It’s good to be the kings … John Singleton, Alan Jones and Ray Hadley celebrate at a bar in Darling Harbour. Photo: Rick Stevens Nielsen Commercial Radio Australia ratings Sydney ? Survey #4 2013
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Back on top in the Drive slot for the first time in 2013 … Richard Glover on ABC702

Radio giant 2GB demonstrated just how strong it is in the Sydney market by retaining its number one position in the Nielsen ratings despite a significant decrease in listeners.

The station experienced a drop in audience of 1.7 per cent overall – including a 3.8 per cent drop for Ray Hadley on mornings, 2.8 per cent for Chris Smith on afternoons and 1.2 per cent for Alan Jones’s high profile breakfast show – yet didn’t come close to losing the top spot overall, nor in any of those timeslots.

2GB’s significant drop in the fourth survey of the year, which measures Sydney listeners for the period from April 7 to June 22, comes as something of a surprise as there have been no major scandals during that time period to suggest such a shift. The last time 2GB experienced an audience loss of this magnitude was a 2.3 per cent drop in the first survey of the year which came on the back of Ray Hadley’s alleged bullying scandal.

The talkback station’s loss proved to be the ABC’s gain, as many of those listeners appear to have been hoovered up by ABC702 for the most part, where an overall 1.2 per cent increase was built on a 1.8 per cent jump in ratings for its morning and afternoon shows.

Richard Glover’s Drive show went one step further, reclaiming the top spot that it lost to 2GB in the first survey of the year.

ABC702 also recorded a big increase in the breakfast ratings, bringing in an extra 1.4 per cent share, however it wasn’t all good news for the national broadcaster as it had big losses in the same timeslot on both News Radio (-1.0 per cent) and ABCFM (-1.3 per cent) amounting to a 34 per cent and 40 per cent drop in listeners respectively.

2UE also experienced a slight downturn in audience in all weekday programs.

AM Spectrum total audience share Mon‐Sun 5.30am‐12.00 MidnightThis story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Failed $47m carbon reduction project abandoned

Former minister of foreign affairs Alexander Downer, and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono mark the Forests Partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Sydney in 2007. Photo: Peter BraigAustralia has effectively killed the last of its vaunted on-the-ground projects in Indonesia to restore and protect forests and peatland for the carbon dioxide they store.
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In a small note on the AusAid website, the Commonwealth government has confirmed a $47 million project to restore 25,000 hectares of peatland on the Indonesian island of Kalimantan will end before most of its major milestones are met.

The Kalimantan project was first launched with great fanfare in 2007 by then foreign minister Alexander Downer and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. It then became the centrepiece of a $100 million Indonesia-Australia Forest Carbon Partnership launched by President Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2008.

The end of the project comes as Mr Rudd is likely to head to Indonesia later this week to meet with President Yudhoyono.

The project had originally aimed to re-flood 200,000 hectares of dried peatland, protect 70,000 hectares of peat forests, and plant 100 million trees in Central Kalimantan.

But as the project ran into difficulties and delays it was later scaled back to about 10 per cent – or 25,000 hectares – of the original 200,000 hectares of peatland to be re-flooded.

Peatland soils are some of the most carbon dense landscapes in the world, and are estimated to hold about 18 times the carbon dioxide of trees. Previous estimates have found that only about four per cent of Indonesia’s original peatland areas remain in pristine condition, with another 37 per cent containing forest with signs of degradation.

The major part of the Australian project was to remove or block large canals to re-flood the peatland that had been drained for a failed agriculture project under President Suharto.

On its website AusAid says the project: “will not extend in its current form, but both governments are discussing which parts might benefit from additional work in the next 12 months to maximise outcomes”.

“Large-scale blocking of drainage canals will no longer be carried out. However, the methods and plans for blocking canals that were designed under [the project] are valuable. They can be used by others in Kalimantan, elsewhere in Indonesia, and internationally for projects in peatlands that are facing similar challenges.”

Professor Luca Tacconi from the Australian National University said loss of peatland was a major source of Indonesia’s emissions and he expressed disappointment that the Australian government had pulled out of the project before it completed its goals.

“Australia had made a lot of noise about supporting emissions reductions in countries like Indonesia, and the peatlands were the right place to be,” he said.

Professor Tacconi said the project had developed some good science around peatland emissions and brought the problem to the focus of the international community.

But he said had the project been completed it would have demonstrated how peatland areas can been rehabilitated, which would had been fundamental to helping countries in Asia protect and restore such sites.

Professor Tacconi said it was unclear why the project has ended without blocking any canals. He said the engineering plans to block the drains were completed late last year and had gained Indonesian regulatory approval to proceed. He added a community development project had also been built around the project, which had raised expectations in local villages.

It is understood the government may continue some of the community and monitoring work at the site for another year. AusAid has been contacted for comment.

On its website AusAid say the project’s achievements include rasing 2.6 million seedlings for planting in the project area and a monitoring system for estimating peat emissions had been developed.

It is the second Indonesia peatland and forest project to be cancelled early by Australia. A second $30 million project to protect forests for carbon on the island of Sumatra was dropped before any on-ground work had begun.

As part of the Forest Carbon Partnership, Australia is also helping Indonesia develop a national carbon accounting system.

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Labor preselection battle for Kingsford-Smith

Seeking preselection for Kingsford-Smith … Labor Senator Matt Thistlethwaite.Labor Senator Matt Thistlethwaite has confirmed he will stand for preselection in the federal seat of Kingsford-Smith, which the former education minister Peter Garrett has decided to vacate.
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Despite “pressure” from head office to not stand, Randwick mayor Tony Bowen will also run for preselection for the seat, which was held for 20 years by his late father, the former deputy prime minister Lionel Bowen.

Mr Bowen, who has been Randwick mayor since September and a councillor for five years, said he made up his mind to run on Friday after Mr Garrett had announced he would not recontest the seat.

“I was very surprised to be contacted out of the blue by head office and told in no uncertain terms I should not be running and to withdraw any idea of nominating,” Mr Bowen said. “It is important for there to be a rank and file preselection. It is a test for the party.

“The Labor Party has a great history of producing high-quality local members for Kingsford Smith.

“Peter Garrett’s resignation was unexpected but understandable in the circumstances.”

Fairfax Media understands Mr Bowen received a call from NSW Labor’s deputy general secretary Jamie Clements, who had advised him not to run because Mr Thistlethwaite was certain to win the preselection which needed to be settled quickly in time for the federal election.

A spokesman for NSW Labor head office said: “we need to get a candiate into the field as soon as possible due to the uncertainty of the election date and the overwhelming view of locals is that Matt will win the preselection and will be the candidate.”

Mr Bowen was a barrister for 11 years and also worked as a solicitor.

His father, Lionel Bowen, was the member for Kingsford Smith from 1969 to 1989. He served in Gough Whitlam’s cabinet and as Bob Hawke’s deputy prime minister. He was also a mayor of Randwick during the 1950s.

“Dad never encouraged any of his eight children to get involved in politics. He did encourage us to think for ourselves and to stand on our own two feet,” Mr Bowen said.

“What prompted me to join the Labor Party in 1996 was the election of John Howard as prime minister.”

The NSW MP for Maroubra, Michael Daley, and the NSW MP for Heffron, Ron Hoenig, are backing Mr Thistlethwaite as the preferred candidate.

Mr Daley said Mr Thistlethwaite “was born and bred in Maroubra Junction, is president of the Maroubra Surf Club and president of the Maroubra Police Citizens Youth Club”.

“We are really lucky in this area – the Labor Party has always had many people of great talent. Matt Thistlethwaite is one of them,” Mr Daley said.

If Mr Thistlethwaite wins preselection for Kingsford-Smith it will open a vacancy in the Senate which may be filled by NSW Labor’s general secretary, Sam Dastyari.

In a tweet, Mr Dastyari said he was focused on the job of helping Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to get re-elected.

Former NSW Premier Nathan Rees believes that if Mr Dastyari leaves party headquarters, Mr Rudd would need to order a full-scale intervention in the state party, which has been disgraced by years of revelations about corruption among MPs and union officials.

“If the successor to Sam Dastyari does not have the same enthusiasm for party reform, then the PM should give his consideration to stepping in,” he said.

On Friday, Mr Rudd said repeatedly he was “revolted” by the Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiries into former Labor ministers Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald. Former ALP official Michael Williamson is also under police investigation into the way he ran the Health Services Union.

Mr Rudd said: “I am revolted by what I have seen unfold in NSW … I am revolted that this could’ve been seen to have been acceptable practice. I will therefore be having a very deep discussion with cabinet colleagues of an entirely political nature about the new direction for NSW and more broadly, where we go on the overall remit of party reform nationwide.”

Mr Rudd said his “overwhelming preference” was for local democratic preselections. The only exception was a genuine crisis of time, which was not the case in the Sydney electorate of Kingsford Smith.

A spokeswoman for Mr Rudd said “these matters are organisational matters for the ALP”.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Folkes pays price for Dragons woes

Parting of the ways: St George Illawarra assistant Steve Folkes and head coach Steve Price. Photo: Kirk GilmourFormer premiership-winning coach Steve Folkes is set to be the first casualty of St George Illawarra’s poor season as the Dragons look to revamp their coaching structure next year.
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Fairfax Media understands Folkes, an assistant coach to Steve Price, has been told his contract won’t be renewed at the end of this season. Folkes joined the Dragons on a two-year deal last year to add some experience to the coaching ranks. But with the Dragons sitting just two points away from last place, the club hierarchy thinks changes are needed, with Folkes likely to exit at season’s end. St George Illawarra have won just two of their past nine games and are on the verge of missing finals in consecutive years for the first time in the joint-venture club’s history.

Folkes’ demotion comes after the Dragons re-signed Price for an extra season earlier this year. Folkes has had a decorated coaching career. He spent 11-seasons in charge of Canterbury, including the 2004 premiership win. He left at the end of 2008 before taking up a stint as the fitness coordinator for the West Indies cricket team. Folkes also spent time at the Wests Tigers before joining Price and fellow assistant Joey Grima at the Dragons.

The changes will force a reshuffle within the Dragons coaching ranks. It is understood under-20s coach Justin Holbrook will follow Price’s lead and make the jump from the Holden Cup to first grade assistant after coaching the youth side for the past two years. Holbrook, who played 17 top grade games for Newcastle, Penrith and Sydney Roosters between 1999-2002, also coached Canterbury’s NSW Cup team to successive premierships before joining the Dragons last year. Former St George Illawarra captain Paul McGregor is also expected to rejoin the club’s full-time ranks again as another assistant to Price. McGregor has spent the past two seasons in charge of the Dragons NSW Cup side, Illawarra Cutters, having been part of Nathan Brown’s coaching set-up before Wayne Bennett’s arrival at the Dragons in 2009.

Their vacancies are expected to be filled by recent retirees Ben Hornby and Dean Young. Hornby is likely to take control of the under 20s from next season while Young will replace McGregor. After retiring last year, the duo coached St George and Illawarra’s respective SG Ball under-18 sides this year before Hornby moved on to the under-20 team’s set-up and Young the NSW Cup, when their short seasons ended in April.

A loss to the high flying Sydney Roosters on Saturday could result in the Dragons slumping to last on the premiership ladder.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.