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Australian Minister of Communications Malcolm Turnbull attends a mass to pay respect to the victims of the Martin Place siege. Photo: Daniel Munoz/Getty Images Australian Minister of Communications Malcolm Turnbull attends a mass to pay respect to the victims of the Martin Place siege. Photo: Daniel Munoz/Getty Images
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Australian Minister of Communications Malcolm Turnbull attends a mass to pay respect to the victims of the Martin Place siege. Photo: Daniel Munoz/Getty Images

Australian Minister of Communications Malcolm Turnbull attends a mass to pay respect to the victims of the Martin Place siege. Photo: Daniel Munoz/Getty Images

Sydney siege ends: live updatesMartin Place attack leaves two hostages deadSurvivors from all walks of lifeMan Haron Monis was on bailVideo shows moment Lindt cafe was stormed

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has made an impassioned plea for Australians not to be “corrupted by hatred” following the Lindt cafe siege.

An emotional Mr Turnbull was speaking after a memorial service held at Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral on Tuesday afternoon to pay tribute to the siege victims.

Lindt cafe manager Tori Johnson and barrister Katrina Dawson died after being held hostage for most of Monday in the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place. The gunman, Man Haron Monis, also died.

“I was on a train this morning, and you could feel the numbness in the carriage,” Mr Turnbull said.

“Everyone was thinking the same thoughts: shock, horror, imagining how those people suffered during that terrible night.

“Thinking about the courage of the two young people that were killed.

“And yet I feel that everyone was also filled with love. There were something of determination on that train; a determined love; a recognition that it’s love for each other, it’s love for our country which binds us together and makes us the most successful, harmonious society in the world.

“I felt that there was, as the train rattled across the Harbour Bridge, I felt that there was a quiet determination that we weren’t going to be intimidated by such hatred.”

Tuesday’s memorial service was led by the new Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, and attended by NSW Premier Mike Baird and Governor-General Peter Cosgrove.

“I thought today’s service was so beautiful,” Mr Turnbull continued.

“Because it was all about love. It was about that love, that love of God … the loving example of Jesus that should inspire us all not to be corrupted by hatred and violence, and to remain united as Australians, now and forever.”

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The man who left Myer on his first day as an executive on the back of allegedly false credentials also faked his work history to gain high-ranking positions at four other organisations, a court has heard.
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Andrew Jeffrey Flanagan was variously hired as a university lecturer, an executive in charge of overseeing a hospital redevelopment and a manager appointed to implement cost-cutting measures for fashion retailer Rivers, when he was not qualified to work any of the jobs, Melbourne Magistrates Court heard on Tuesday.

The court heard that between 2011 and April this year, Mr Flanagan worked as an executive manager at Bendigo Health, lectured in business at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE and held management positions at the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Rivers, where he was paid $106,000 on a three-month contract to oversee the merge of the Sydney and Melbourne offices.

Apart from leaving NMIT after serving a one-year contract, the court heard, the three other employers discovered Mr Flanagan had falsified his resume to gain the jobs.

He left two of the jobs over claims of misconduct, the court was told, and left the chamber of commerce after its board discovered “inconsistencies” in his resume.

In June Mr Flanagan was hired by Myer on a $400,000 salary as the group’s general manager for strategic and business development, but left on his first day when it was discovered he had falsified his resume, Detective Senior Constable Craig McIntosh told the court.

Mr Flanagan, 46, was on Tuesday committed by Magistrate Jennifer Bowles to stand trial on four charges of obtaining property by deception and single counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception, attempting to obtain property by deception and theft.

The dual Australian-American pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Detective Senior Constable McIntosh said Mr Flanagan began working at Myer on June 23, after the company had earlier announced his appointment on the Australian Stock Exchange.

The detective said senior Myer management approached Mr Flanagan hours into his first day and told him one of the companies he had listed on his resume – global fashion retailer Inditex – had reported it had never employed him.

Mr Flanagan told his employers he had proof that he worked at Inditex but had to go home to retrieve it, Detective Senior Constable McIntosh said.

He never returned to Myer and was not paid any money by the retailer, the court heard.

Charge sheets tendered to court allege Mr Flanagan was hired on a $180,000 salary at Bendigo Health after impressing a panel of seven at interview, gained a $140,000 salary at the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry and earned $20,000 as a casual lecturer at NMIT.

The charge sheets allege he was paid about $32,000 by the chamber of commerce and $10,000 by Bendigo Health respectively, before he left the jobs.

He is also alleged to have stolen a $1500 laptop from the chamber of commerce.

Rivers brand director Jane McNally told the court she recommended Mr Flanagan be hired in February, largely on the strength of his resume, which claimed he had worked in a management role at Zara, another international fashion house.

Ms McNally said she found Mr Flanagan “charming, courteous and presents smartly” at interview and that he had the apparent credentials to work as the company’s chief operating officer.

But soon after his appointment, the court heard, Mr McNally found the accused to be disorganised and that he “failed to follow through” on his plans. He was sacked from Rivers in April because of an inappropriate message he sent a colleague, the court heard.

Mr Flanagan left Bendigo Health after inappropriate behaviour and an altercation with a colleague during a work trip to Brisbane, the court heard.

Suzannah Moss-Wright, who succeeded Mr Flanagan as chief executive of the chamber of commerce, said the accused quit his job on the day he was asked to meet with the board after it was found he had falsified a reference and that he never had three jobs he claimed he did.

The court was told while at the chamber of commerce, Mr Flanagan also employed an associate, Gustavo Copelmayer, a man who had also acted as a referee in previous job applications.

At one point Mr Copelmayer was listed as an alias, Gustavo Ortega, when he gave a reference while claiming to be the chief executive of Intidex, which helped Mr Flanagan land the Myer job.

Senior Detective McIntosh said he wanted to speak to Mr Copelmayer, but he had flown to New Zealand days after Mr Flanagan was arrested and his whereabouts were unknown.

Mr Flanagan, a father of four, had his bail extended to appear at the County Court for a directions hearing on Wednesday.

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Barramundi poached in spiced coconut sauce with noodles – one the new Qantas economy class meals. Photo: Supplied An angry passenger scalded a flight attendant with hot noodles. Photo: Quinn Rooney
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An angry passenger scalded a flight attendant with hot noodles. Photo: Quinn Rooney

Barramundi poached in spiced coconut sauce with noodles – one the new Qantas economy class meals. Photo: Supplied

An angry passenger scalded a flight attendant with hot noodles. Photo: Quinn Rooney

Barramundi poached in spiced coconut sauce with noodles – one the new Qantas economy class meals. Photo: Supplied

An angry passenger scalded a flight attendant with hot noodles. Photo: Quinn Rooney

First-class nut case prompts resignation

Beijing: As if “nut rage” wasn’t bad enough, Asia got another dose of air rage this week when Chinese tourists went berserk on a flight to Thailand, scalding a flight attendant with noodles and hot water and then threatening to bomb the plane, apparently because they were unhappy about their seating arrangements.

Chinese authorities say the tourists could face severe punishment for badly damaging “the image of the Chinese people”, after a video and photographs of the incident were widely circulated on the internet.

It comes at a time when Chinese people are travelling more and more widely but gaining a reputation for unruly behaviour. Authorities have been urging them for years to behave with more civility when abroad, although with limited effect.

The plane, a budget Thai AirAsia flight from Bangkok to the Chinese city of Nanjing, was forced on Thursday to return to Bangkok, where the pilot asked four passengers to disembark. They were reportedly unhappy about not being able to sit together on the plane and continued to berate cabin staff even after alternative seating was organised.

In a video uploaded by a passenger and later broadcast by China Central Television, a man is seen angrily shouting and pointing, cursing and threatening to bomb the plane, and insisting that he had money to pay for better seats. “You think a big boss can’t afford to spend some money,” he says at one point, referring to himself.

The woman who took the video can be heard remarking that she had to post it online because it was “shameful”.

Earlier in the week, the daughter of Korea Air’s chairman was publicly shamed after ordering the head steward to be removed from a flight after being served nuts in a bag rather than on a plate. That story seemed to show the arrogance that comes with the power of South Korea’s huge conglomerates.

The Chinese version showed that tycoons travelling first-class are not the only people behaving badly on airlines these days, with tempers often frayed on tightly packed budget flights all over the world.

But it is also being seen here as another example of how some Chinese tourists are letting their country down with a lack of civility abroad. Last year, a Chinese teenager won notoriety for carving his name on a 3500-year-old relief at Egypt’s Luxor Temple, while other tourists were photographed washing their feet at the Louvre in Paris.

On a visit to the Maldives in September, President Xi Jinping effectively apologised for the behaviour of his fellow countrymen, saying China should educate its citizens to be “civilised” when travelling abroad, telling them to refrain from tossing water bottles or damaging coral reefs, and urging them to eat more local food and less instant noodles.

In a statement issued on Saturday, China’s tourism administration did not say what punishment the tourists could face but suggested that the tour group leader could also be punished for failing to issue proper behaviour guidelines and that the tourists’ “personal credit record” could suffer.

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A patient in a seclusion room. Photo: Eamon GallagherThe solitary confinement of mentally ill people is declining in Australia, a new report shows, but advocates say greater efforts are needed to eliminate the outdated technique.
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Data to be released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on Wednesday show a patient was confined by themselves in about one in 20 occasions in which people were admitted to public hospitals for mental health-related care in 2013-14. The average duration of a seclusion event was six hours.

Nationally, rates of seclusion have declined by an average of 12 per cent per year since 2008-09, when seclusion data was first collected.

Former NSW chief psychiatrist John Allan, who is now Queensland’s chief psychiatrist and the chairman of the Safety and Quality Partnership Standing Committee, said while the decline was “pleasing”, he would like to see the reduction in seclusion accelerated.

He said seclusion was “not really a treatment, but just a way of controlling behaviour”  that could be “quite harmful to the patient”, leaving them feeling “lost and helpless”.

“It isn’t really therapeutic – it might change the person’s behaviour but it doesn’t make them feel better about themselves,” Associate Professor Allan said.

He said it was important to prevent people from becoming so unwell that seclusion was considered necessary.

Reducing or eliminating the use of seclusion has been a priority of Commonwealth, state and territory health ministers for almost a decade.

Despite this, the National Mental Health Commission says the issue is regularly raised with it by individuals and their families as well as service providers and policymakers.

In its national report card on mental health last year, the commission said seclusion was “not therapeutic and not in line with human rights”, and it expressed disappointment that the nation was so far from its target of ending the practice.

The commission plans to issue a position paper on seclusion early next year.

While it is sometimes considered necessary to protect patients and staff, seclusion can also cause distress and trauma.

The NSW Ministry of Health says seclusion, which involves locking patients in a room alone, should be used only as a last resort.

In Victoria, the Office of the Public Advocate had called on the state government to eliminate the use of seclusion in its mental health facilities.

Nationally, there were eight seclusion events in mental health facilities per 1000 bed days in 2013-14, down from 15.5 per 1000 bed days in 2008-09..

Children and adolescents had the highest rate of seclusion, at 9.6 seclusion events per 1000 bed days, with an average duration of 1.3 hours. Older people had the lowest rate – 0.5 seclusion events per 1000 bed days and an average seclusion duration of 3.5 hours.

Forensic services confined patients at a rate of 5.3 seclusion events per 1000 bed days. The average duration of a seclusion event in a forensic service was 64.7 hours.

In NSW, across all public mental health facilities, there were 7.4 seclusion events per 1000 bed days, and the average duration of seclusion was 6 hours. Seclusion occurred in 5.3 per cent of occasions in which a person was admitted to hospital for mental health-related care. Of those occasions that included a seclusion event, the average number of seclusion events was 1.8.

In Victoria, across all public mental health services, there were 9.2 seclusion events per 1000 bed days. The average duration of a seclusion event was 9.5 hours – the highest average duration of any Australian jurisdiction. A patient was confined in 6 per cent of occasions in which a person was admitted to hospital for mental health-related care in the state. Of those episodes that included a seclusion event, the average number of seclusion events was 2.3.

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A luxury $650 million development featuring a five-star hotel has been given approval in Brisbane’s inner-north.
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Australian private property trust Wentworth Equities was given the go-ahead for the four-tower project, by Economic Development Queensland.

The company said the development, known as ICON, would sit on a 7637-square-metre site and become the centrepiece of Northshore Hamilton.

The design was selected after a national competition.

The winning concept, by Australasian design firm Custance, features four distinctive towers and a connective sky-bridge.

The buildings will have 567 residential apartments, an international standard five-star 227-room hotel, a retail and restaurant precinct, an open air public realm and community civic plaza, known as Hamilton Place.

Wentworth Equities executive chairman Sameh Ibrahim said the time was right for significant investment in Brisbane, as it was now growing into a recognisable new world city.

“Brisbane’s diverse economy, growing population base, great employment opportunities, excellent relative housing affordability and availability, climate and natural attributes really make it the place to be,” Mr Ibrahim said.

“The recent G20 Leaders’ Summit further enhanced Brisbane’s international profile and we see only good things for the city’s future. Leveraging this global spotlight, ICON will set a new architectural, lifestyle and economic benchmark for Brisbane, supporting its ongoing transformation into a sophisticated, world-class city.

“As part of Northshore Hamilton, the gateway to Brisbane CBD, ICON will be the jewel in the crown of Australia’s largest waterfront urban renewal project and Brisbane’s premier riverfront precinct, representing a unique lifestyle opportunity for astute buyers looking for style and sophistication.”

The development will be located seven kilometres from the Brisbane airport and also close to the Brisbane cruise ship terminal.

Custance design director Craig Shelsher said ICON’s design was based on four key principles: water, people, place and connectivity.

“Designed to create a visual link to the water, ICON will connect the Brisbane River to Hercules Street Park and onwards to Kingsford Smith Drive, enhancing accessibility to neighbouring developments and throughout the Hamilton northshore precinct,” he said.

“All residences, from studio and one-bedroom apartments, through to three-bedroom luxury villas, will provide views of the river, park or Hamilton Place, which will feature boutique shopping, alfresco dining, a lawn area, subtropical planting and water features.”

Tower one will be 34 storeys and include the 227 five-star hotel rooms. Tower two will be 31 storeys, tower three 11 storeys, and tower four, 18 storeys.

For more information go to http://www.wentworthequities上海龙凤419m.au/portfolio/icon/

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CRS Property has sold 33 Church Street at auction for $5.37 million. A 945-square-metre site opposite Epworth Hospital has sold at auction for $5,200,000.
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CRS Property has sold 33 Church Street at auction for $5.37 million.

A 945-square-metre site opposite Epworth Hospital has sold at auction for $5,200,000.

CRS Property has sold 33 Church Street at auction for $5.37 million.

A 945-square-metre site opposite Epworth Hospital has sold at auction for $5,200,000.

CRS Property has sold 33 Church Street at auction for $5.37 million.

A 945-square-metre site opposite Epworth Hospital has sold at auction for $5,200,000.

SALES

RICHMOND

A 945-square-metre site opposite Epworth Hospital has sold at auction for $5,200,000. Fowler & Co stationery group put 80-82 Bridge Road on the market with vacant possession through Andrew Morley, from Morley Commercial, and it was sold to publicly-listed Primary Health Care.

GLEN WAVERLEY

Ray White Commercial secured the highest commercial sale in Glen Waverley’s “activity centre” this year with the auction of 54 Montclair Avenue for $5.105 million. More than 100 people attended the auction, with 11 registered bidders starting at $2 million and moving in $100,000 increments, commercial manager Ryan Trickey said.

SURREY HILLS

Two adjoining properties at 463-467 Canterbury Road, covered by three titles, with a combined area of 1091 square metres, have sold for $1.83 million. CVA Property Consultants’ Ian Angelico co-ordinated the owners of the two lots to arrange a sale to arboricultural service The Tree Company. The site, on a prominent corner of Canterbury and Robinsons roads, has development potential.

BRIGHTON

CRS Property has sold 33 Church Street at auction for $5.37 million, for a yield of 3.5 per cent. “The sale reflected the strategic nature of the property, for a retailer requiring in excess of 230 square metres to get into this lucrative Church Street market in the next 2-3 years,” Ian Robertson said.

ORMOND

Gross Waddell has sold three office suites for a total of $2.64 million over one week in a series of transactions managed by Benjamin Klein, Jamie Stuart and Alex Ham. A vacant office suite of 300 square metres at Unit 1, 596 North Road, Ormond, went for $830,000; three office suites at 22 Horne Street, Elsternwick, sold in one line on a return of 7 per cent; and an office suite of 252 square metres at 5-7 Compark Circuit, Mulgrave, sold with a lease in place on a return of 8.9 per cent. All three properties were bought by Melbourne-based private investors.

GLEN WAVERLEY

A 161-square-metre shop at 100 Kingsway sold at auction on a 90-day settlement for $3.3 million. The property, in a sought-after retail strip, achieved a yield of 2.23 per cent, Cameron Industrial Commercial’s David Johnson said. In another deal, a 323,700-square-metre block of land at 1005 Frankston Dandenong Road, in Carrum Downs, sold for $4.435 million.

CARLTON

Colliers International’s Ben Baines and Jeremy Gruzewski have sold a small Carlton office development site for $1.25 million, 40 per cent above the vendor’s reserve. The office at 113 Cardigan Street was sold with vacant possession by receiver PWC to a private investor.

LEASES

CBD

287 Collins Street has secured three new tenants after a refurbishment by new owner BGH Group. Kingfisher Recruitment took 392 square metres for five years, Marks and Clerk Lawyers moved into 392 square metres for six years and Fenton Communications has 392 square metres on a 10-year lease in deals negotiated by JLL’s Will McLaughlin and Simon Dick, along with CBRE’s Mark Bolis, Scott McGlone and Milly Stockdale.

PORT MELBOURNE

A 546-square-metre office/warehouse/showroom at 8 Rogers Street has been leased to a marketing company for $80,000 a year net, plus outgoings and GST, by Kliger Wood’s Andrew Thorburn. Mr Thorburn has also leased another factory/office, at 1/37-39 Lexton Road in Box Hill, to the Melbourne Cheer Academy on a five by five-year lease and $90,000 annual net return, plus outgoings and GST.

CBD

Windsor Smith Shoes has walked into a prime shop with a basement in Bourke Street Mall. The shop, vacated by Petra Hair Care, will be refitted on a rent of about $9000 a square metre, said Allard Shelton director Patrick Barnes. Colliers International’s Mike Crittenden and Ben Tremellen were joint agents.

MULGRAVE

Gross Waddell’s Jamie Stuart and Benjamin Klein sold a ground-level strata office suite at 1b/5-7 Compark Circuit to a private investor for $870,000 on a solid 8.8 per cent yield circa. The office had a passing rental of $77,000 a year (net) and was leased to international software company Ascribe on a 3 x 3 x 3 year lease.

DANDENONG SOUTH

Minus 1 Refrigerated Transport has snapped up a surplus hardstand area on a neighbouring Brickworks yard at 53-59 Elliott Road for $80,000 a year on a five by five-year lease in a deal negotiated by Colliers International’s Luke Jesson, Gordon Code and Justin Fried.

PORT MELBOURNE

Mining manufacturer Fenner Dunlop has taken a three-year lease in GPT Group’s Citiport Business Park at 294 Salmon Street. Colliers International’s Vincent Tran declined to comment, but office rents typically fetch about $250-$350 a square metre in the area.

MOVERS

Renowned petro-chemical valuation expert Ronald Newton, owner and founder of Ronald A Newton and Associates, has merged his valuation practice with Opteon Victoria and will head up its newly formed Petroleum division.

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Supermarket chain Coles has no plans to ease up on discounting after admitting its treatment of more than a dozen grocery suppliers was “unacceptable”.
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Coles has put paid to suggestions its offer to settle two major unconscionable-conduct cases brought by the ­Australian Competition and Consumer Commission could bring an end to the grocery price war.

Industry players said Coles’ ­admissions of unconscionable conduct and its offer to refund suppliers who were forced to pay extra rebates to fund a supply chain program could curtail its ability to extract further price ­reductions from suppliers.

However, Coles said its strategy was to continue to reduce prices for ­customers by funding reductions from cost savings, productivity gains and long-term supply agreements.

“We won’t step away from that ­commitment,” a spokesman said on Tuesday as the retailer waited to learn whether Federal Court judge Justice Michelle Gordon would consent to the terms of the proposed settlement.

“That’s our stated target, there are no bones about it – our strategy is to continue lowering prices and improving relationships with suppliers,” he said.

Industry sources have also ­suggested that suppliers beyond the 200 smaller companies involved in the Active Retail Collaboration (ARC) program could take advantage of Coles’ admissions to seek recompense for past wrongs.

As part of undertakings made to the ACCC, the retailer has established a ­formal process that will enable small suppliers to seek recourse if they believe they have not received benefits from the ARC commensurate with the costs.

The process will be led by former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett, who will appoint an independent audit firm to conduct a cost-benefit analysis for each of the 200 small participants. It will be up to each supplier to decide whether to seek reimbursement.

Separate to these undertakings, Coles has established a supplier charter and put in place measures whereby aggrieved suppliers can request an independent review of their dealings with the group. The dispute resolution process, which is also overseen by Mr Kennett, may enable more suppliers to seek refunds.

The Coles/ACCC settlement has ­further convinced analysts that a ­$1 billion profit transfer from grocery suppliers to the major supermarket chains may be coming to an end.

According to Morgan Stanley, supplier profits have fallen from $6.1 billion to $3.7 billion over the past few years, while Coles’ and Woolworths’ profits have risen from $3.1 billion to $4.4 billion. “The profit shift from suppliers to the major supermarkets – Coles and Woolworths – has been a considerable source of profit growth,” said Morgan Stanley analyst Tom Kierath.

“While Coles has been found in violation on this occasion, we understand that the ACCC is investigating similar actions by other grocers,” he said.

“As the Australian Food and Grocery Council implements the grocery code of conduct in 2015, we believe suppliers will have firmer grounds to stand on in dealings with the supermarkets.”

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Nothing holding him back. Vosseler has turned hardship into motivation. Looking sharp…Jesse hits the pads under the watchful eye of his trainer.
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Vosseler had aimed for the Olympics in his youth.

Despite losing his leg to cancer at 16, Brisbane boxer Jesse Vosseler rolled with the punches and has now joined the ranks of Australia’s professional boxing elite.

Vosseler turned professional after defeating competitor Jesse Saavedra at Ipswich’s Big Fight Night competition at the Grand Hotel in Yamanto on November 19.

Becoming professional has proven a long road, after having his leg amputated from the knee down as a result of a cancerous tumour.

Pursuing boxing for “personal strength” at 18, Vosseler eventually grew strong enough to jump in the ring seriously at 24.

And despite admitting he never thought he’d get this far, he has shown no signs of slowing down.

“When I first got back in the ring, I just wanted to get in once and fight and I wanted to prove to myself I could still do it,” he says.

“Now, I’ve had over 20 fights back in the ring and still going.”

The amputation put “a big dint” in Vosseler’s confidence, a passionate pugilist who grew up with Olympic ambitions.

While acknowledging he could have gone “a lot further” with the sport, Jesse is proud of all he has achieved during his comeback.

“I’ve still managed to accomplish some good heights even though I’ve lost my leg and I overcome it to fight for an Australian title in the Australian Amateurs and turn professional,” he says.

For Jesse, boxing is an outlet that alleviates him from his disability. He cites a pure “love of boxing” as the key driver that motivates him to get back in the ring.

“When I’m boxing I don’t feel like I am disabled in there. I feel like a fighter, a warrior. When I’m in there boxing I forget all about my leg. It’s a different world for me, that’s what I love about it,” says Vosseler.

He credits fitness and a healthy lifestyle for helping to re-build his confidence and self esteem during his recovery.

“Even if it isn’t a sport, if your just getting fit again and going to the gym or something like that just to build your confidence up…If you’re fit and healthy even after a loss of limb it’s amazing for your confidence and how you feel about yourself,” he says.

Sean Reynolds, Manager and head trainer at Tuff Technique Boxing and Fitness at Chermside believes Jesse is a “huge influence and inspiration to people and a lot of kids” because of his persistence and dedication to the sport.

Reynolds foresees a prosperous future ahead for the up-and-coming lightweight.

“I’d rate him as a kid who will go very far in boxing,”

Mr Reynolds described Vosselor’s boxing year as “gruelling”, winning 10 fights and wrapping up the year by turning professional.

After taking it easy leading up to Christmas, Reynolds foresees Vesselor stepping back into the ring in March next year.

“He’s a brilliant boxer and yes I’d say people will look out for him because he’s going to go places.”  

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The acquisition of the stake in Chevron’s $US29 billion Wheatstone LNG project in Western Australia is set to increase Woodside’s production.Woodside Petroleum chief executive Peter Coleman is eyeing more potential acquisitions in the depressed oil and gas sector after striking a $US3.75 billion ($4.56 billion) deal to buy Apache’s stakes in two LNG projects and a Western Australian oil field that will add future as well as immediate production.
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News of the deal, which had been rumoured in the market for several weeks, came as Woodside delayed the timing of its Browse floating LNG venture in WA, as it seeks to take advantage of the subdued services sector to cut costs at the expensive project.

Woodside will pay Apache $US2.75 billion in cash plus about $US1 billion to cover some of the US company’s sunk investment in the Wheatstone LNG project in WA and the planned Kitimat LNG terminal in western Canada.

Also included is Apache’s stakes in gas fields off the WA coast and a half-share of a huge shale gas resource in western Canada, the Australian player’s first entry into unconventional gas.

The immediate lift to production will come from Apache’s 65 per cent stake in the small but valuable Balnaves oil venture off WA, which started up in August at about 30,000 barrels a day.

Wheatstone LNG is due to start production in late 2016 and Woodside’s new 13 per cent stake will provide another step-up in LNG production after its own projects at Browse and Sunrise have been delayed.

The “blue sky” in the deal comes through Apache’s 50 per cent stale in the proposed 10 million-tonnes-a-year Kitimat export venture on Canada’s Pacific coast, which is at an early stage with no certainty of development.

The acquisition counters criticism that Woodside lacks growth in its portfolio, having last year abandoned the James Price Point LNG project in WA, while the Sunrise venture in the Timor Sea remains stalled.

Efforts to buy into growth have had mixed success with several new international exploration entries countered by the abandonment in May of the proposed $US2.5 billion investment in the Leviathan gas venture in Israel.

Mr Coleman described the Apache assets as a “natural fit” for Woodside, pointing to the rareness of the opportunity to buy a stake in a “world-class” venture such as Wheatstone.

But the deal met with a downbeat response from some quarters, with Bernstein Research analyst Neil Beveridge pointing to the risk of cost blowouts at Wheatstone and the likelihood Kitimat LNG will “struggle” in an environment of lower oil and gas prices.

“We see this as a reasonable transaction for Woodside but not significantly value accretive (at this stage)”, he said.

Woodside’s share price slid 2.8 per cent to $34.40, but its peers were also lower as global oil prices extended their dive southwards.

JPMorgan analyst Ben Wilson assessed the deal as at “a fair price but no fire sale” and estimated the Wheatstone stake could lift Woodside’s 2017 output by 15 per cent.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Andrew Wiliams said the deal “ticks some boxes but it doesn’t tick others”.

“It’s not a needle shifter per se,” Mr Wiliams said.

Significantly, both the major parts of the deal bring Woodside into close partnership with former bitter rival Chevron, which leads the Wheatstone project and is the other half-owner of Kitimat.

Under previous chief executive Don Voelte, Woodside was often publicly at loggerheads with the US energy giant. The rivalry between the two led to the separate development of the immediately adjacent Wheatstone and Pluto gas fields in the Carnarvon Basin in two competing LNG projects that many saw as ideal candidates for a single venture.

Mr Coleman said he was eager to forge new relationships with energy majors, given such links for Woodside are currently limited to Shell and BP.

Expanding those links to include Chevron “can only be a positive”, he said.

On the financial front, Woodside can comfortably fund the deal from its mounting cash reserves and existing debt. Its 80 per cent payout ratio for dividends is unaffected by the deal, as is its BBB+ credit rating.

Moody’s said that while a key ratio between cash and debt would weaken to “close to our tolerance level” in 2015, it would return to more comfortable levels the following year.

“Offsetting the negative financial impact of the transaction is the expected strengthening in Woodside’s business profile, as the acquired assets will grow production capacity for the company at a time when we were expecting limited, if any, production growth from existing assets,” the ratings agency said, while also citing increased project executive risk until Wheatstone is completed.

Construction of Wheatstone is about half complete and Chevron has flagged a budget review within the next few weeks, with wide expectations it will see some increase from its original $US29 billion price tag despite being more protected from blowouts than the US company’s larger Gorgon project, also in WA.

At Browse, where Woodside is partnered by Shell, BP, PetroChina and a venture between Mitsubishi and Mitsui, the date for a decision to start engineering and design  (FEED) work has been put back to mid-2015 from late this year.

A final investment decision on Browse floating LNG, which is expected to cost more than $US40 billion, has also been deferred, to mid-2016 from late 2015.

Mr Coleman said the delay would allow the partners to progress approvals for the project, and reach an agreement with the WA government on domestic gas supply requirements

The WA government is insisting that the Browse floating venture supply gas into the WA market alongside its LNG export plans, posing a hurdle that is yet to be overcome.

The delay to Browse came as no surprise to the market given the plunge in oil prices, which has raised doubts around the economics of the floating plan, and the absence of customers that have signed up for LNG.

“In the current pricing and capex environment and with partners having multiple supply options, we expect that Browse could be further delayed,” Bernstein’s Mr Beveridge said.

Mr Coleman said the deal “doesn’t preclude anything” in terms of future acquisitions and signalled Woodside could be interested in increasing its stake in Wheatstone should Chevron look to reduce its interest, or in other Apache assets in WA if they came onto the market “at a price that made sense” and didn’t trigger objections from the competition regulator.

Apache, which is refocusing on its North American interests, will still have several energy interests in WA, including its Harriet gas venture, and activities in the Carnarvon, Exmouth and Canning basins. It also retains its 49 per cent stake in fertiliser producer Yara Holdings.

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When it comes to the currency, it seems there is no pleasing Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens.
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This time last year he got traders’ pulses racing by calling for the dollar to fall to about US85c, when it was fetching US90c.

It has done that and much more since, reaching four-year lows near US82c, but Stevens remains frustrated. Last week he said he would prefer to see it trade near US75c, a level not seen for 10 years.

What’s going on?

At first glance you might think these two rare statements – it is unusual for the governor to nominate a preferred currency level – are inconsistent.

But it’s not that simple. In fact, what they really show is just how big a headache the dollar remains for the economy, even though it has fallen so sharply recently. And unfortunately for Stevens, the causes of this headache are largely out of his control, and they don’t look like fading any time soon.

So, why does Stevens remain so troubled about the dollar when it has tumbled 14 per cent in the year, even lower than the target he offered last December?

There are a few reasons, but a big one is that the importance of the United States dollar is overstated in much of the public discussion about the exchange rate.

We’ve been hearing the RBA and other economists bang on for several years about how a lower exchange rate would be good for the economy,   because it would assist exporters and businesses that compete with importers.

When they say this, it is easy to assume they are talking about the much-quoted exchange rate versus the US dollar.

But how the Aussie fares against the greenback isn’t nearly as economically significant as the media and financial markets would have you think.

The rate that matters most to the economy is the trade weighted index. That   measures our dollar against the currencies of our biggest trading partners, which are weighted according to their share of trade with Australia.

By this measure, the exchange rate has fallen much less than might be imagined.

The dollar is down 14 per cent this year against the greenback, but it has fallen only 3 per cent when measured on the trade weighted index.

The index has dipped so slightly because much of the dollar’s recent decline has been a case of US dollar strength, not Australian weakness.

Against the Japanese yen, the currency of our second-biggest trade partner, the Aussie has been rising throughout the year and last month hit its highest level in more than a year.

It’s a similar story against the euro. One Aussie dollar today buys about 66 euro cents, slightly more than it did at the beginning of the year.

Dwelling on the trade weighted index sounds technical, but the point is the dollar is doing a rather poor job as a “shock absorber” for the economy. For example, businesses exporting to Japan, or domestic companies competing with imports from Europe, are not getting much relief from recent changes in the currency.

And if ever there was a time when we needed the dollar to act as a shock absorber, it is now.

The price of our biggest export, iron ore, has crashed by 30 per cent since May, while the coal exported to power stations is down 15 per cent.

That takes us to the second reason Stevens has changed his tune and wants a US75c dollar now. National income is being crunched by plunging export prices and a weaker dollar would shield the country from some of this pain.

The government’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook on Monday forecast the terms of trade – export prices relative to income prices – would decline by the most since official records began in 1959.

These plunges in export prices, and the prospect of more pain, explains why Stevens has changed his tune to push for a US75c exchange rate, instead of US85c. The goal posts have shifted, because commodity prices are far lower than a year ago.

Throughout history, our dollar has tended to move in line with commodities that we export, which cushions us from swings in export prices such as these. But this relationship is much weaker now, partly because of the actions of foreign central banks.

The US has ended its US$4.5 trillion program of buying government bonds, but central banks in Japan, and to a lesser extent Europe, are pumping money (or liquidity) into financial markets in an attempt to encourage borrowing and economic activity.

The Bank of Japan is on track to add a staggering 355 trillion yen in currency and electronic money by the end of next year, while European Central Bank has expanded its balance sheet and is also under pressure to start buying government bonds.

All this money needs a home. AAA-rated Australia still looks good, despite Stevens’ protestations.

Get it? The Aussie is being buffeted by the policies of overseas central banks at a time when the biggest source of national income is plunging.

Stevens and the RBA board have a lot of power in their ability to set official interest rates, but there is only so much that will do in fighting this battle. It is little wonder he is getting frustrated.

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The Amcor paper recycling mill in Fairfield. The Amcor paper recycling mill in Fairfield.
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The Amcor paper recycling mill in Fairfield.

The Amcor paper recycling mill in Fairfield.

Delays caused by negotiations to widen the notorious Chandler Highway traffic bottleneck are putting pressure on developers of the former Amcor paper mill site in Fairfield.

Developers Glenvill and Alpha Partners were forced to resubmit draft plans for the site after VicRoads intervened mid-year, seeking to acquire a portion of the land to widen Chandler Highway.

“These unexpected and lengthy delays have put pressure on the contractual deadlines that the site proponents have with Amcor, including triggers for superlot sub-divisions and trunk infrastructure completion of certain stages by December 2015,” a council report suggests.

The Chandler Highway bridge is one of Melbourne’s main east-west Yarra River crossings and becomes snarled frequently in peak-hour traffic.

Its unpopularity with motorists prompted the newly elected Labor government to promise voters a $110 million upgrade of the bridge, with two more lanes.

Alpha Partners, run by former Macquarie bank executive Guy Nelson, and Glenvill paid $120 million to Amcor last year for development rights of the 16.5-hectare prime riverside property, which fronts Chandler Highway and Heidelberg Road.

Glenvill founder Len Warson said VicRoads’ intervention had held up the project.

“We’re in the middle of negotiations. We’re getting the land valued that they’re looking to acquire. We’re awaiting that,” Mr Warson said.

The development consortium has started to demolish the large factory on the site but will be forced to spend millions of dollars to clean up contaminated land.

The billion-dollar paper-mill project, which is one of Melbourne’s largest infill developments, will include 2720 new dwellings housing up to 4800 residents, plans show.

They also show a large retail centre with 20,000 square metres of floor space for supermarkets and speciality retailers. That is much larger than originally proposed, which has prompted a council review of its suitability as a neighbourhood activity centre.

The site will also house 12,500 square metres of office space, documents show.

Other key proposals include:

An integrated community facility and 80-place early learning centre.

A 180-place prep to year 2 school.

5 per cent of housing (135) for affordable homes.

4.5 per cent of the site for a new riverside park, an industrial heritage plaza, two parks and a piazza.

There are doubts about funding for the school and affordable housing proposals and they might not be developed.

Nearby, work has started on the four-stage Hemingway project, which will turn a 9160-square-metre site on the corner of Perry Street and Heidelberg Road, formerly the run-down Jika International Hotel, into multi-level luxury homes.

The $47.5 million, 55 two- and three-bedroom townhouses developed by Tim Gurner sold within weeks.

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Woolworths will roll out a new convenience concept store at 160 Swanston Street. Woolworths will roll out a new convenience concept store at 160 Swanston Street.
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Woolworths will roll out a new convenience concept store at 160 Swanston Street.

Woolworths will roll out a new convenience concept store at 160 Swanston Street.

Retail heavyweight Woolworths has made its first land grab, as it rolls out its new convenience store strategy in Melbourne.

The retail giant has signed up for two CBD locations on Swanston and Flinders streets for the scaled-down stores, prompted by a wave of new apartment and office-block-conversion dwellers living in the central city.

Woolworths will roll out a new convenience concept store at 160 Swanston on a gross rent believed to be around $2030 a square metre in a deal negotiated by Allard Shelton’s Patrick Barnes and CBRE.

Another deal is understood to have been negotiated by Colliers International for 700 square metres at 262 Flinders Street in a space occupied previously by an IGA store.

The fully fitted shop has links to Melbourne’s famed Degraves Street.

Woolworths was coy when asked about its strategy to take over smaller city retail spaces.

“Our stores vary in size and are designed to best meet the needs of the community they serve,” was all a Woolworths spokeswoman would say.

Last week it opened a small concept store at 302 Elizabeth Street in Sydney.

It was modelled on another in Crown Street, Woolloomooloo, the original template for the Woolworths Small Format branded corner-store push.

The supermarket behemoth plans to ramp up its rollout in both cities with stores that offer a limited range of products and act as feeders for its medium-line Woolies Metro outlets like the one in Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station.

Agents say the group is looking for multiple sites between 200 and 400 square metres in size.

Woolworths and competitor Coles regard central-city neighbourhoods as big growth areas.

Their push to cater for the shopping needs of city dwellers has followed the rapid expansion of another Sydney-based convenience store chain and competitor, EzyMart.

EzyMart will open its fifth Melbourne store this year, after signing a lease on the corner of Queen and Little Collins.

Savills Australia’s Michael Di Carlo said new store followed the success of its other CBD offerings.

“EzyMart is very well established in Sydney and is now making its presence felt in Melbourne, with several recent store openings,” he said.

The push by the big retailers is likely to hurt traditional smaller-format operators like 7-Eleven and IGA and comes amid concerns from suppliers about the large retailers’ misuse of market power.

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Sea turtle hatchlings will draw thousands to Mon Repos near Bundaberg. Photo: Paul HarrisTurtle power has been on display up the Queensland coast as shelled reptiles young and old entered or re-entered the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem.
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Izzy, a 120-kilogram green sea turtle, spent a year in hospital at the Reef HQ Aquarium after she was attacked by a crocodile and hit by a boat.

Her release back to the wild coincided with the start of turtle hatching season down the coast at Bundaberg.

Reef HQ Aquarium director Fred Nucifora said most turtles needed to be rehabilitated for up to six months, but Izzy’s injuries meant her stay was more than a year.

Izzy and 53.4-kilogram Evie, who was found stranded in mangroves in July, were released in Bowen, where they both were found.

“Our staff develop connections with our turtles but we know our end game is to see them go back fit and healthy into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park,” Mr Nucifora said.

“So while the release day is tinged with a touch of sadness, it’s more happiness when we see them go back.”

One of those staff members was turtle carer Krystal Huff, who helped nurse both Izzy and Evie back to health prior to their release in the waters off Bowen.

“The green sea turtles are actually loyal to a feed ground and a breeding ground and they will swim between these two,” she said.

“So we have brought them back to Bowen where they were found, hoping that this is very close to their feeding ground, so they can just go back to their normal life, without having to swim all the way here.”

A satellite tag has been attached to Izzy so researchers can follow her progress.

Down the coast on Mon Repos beach near Bundaberg, tiny loggerhead turtles have started to make their way into the world.

Thousands of visitors are expected to travel to Mon Repos Regional Park, the largest turtle rookery in the South Pacific, to see the hatchlings as they emerge from the rookery and take on the surf for the first time.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service ranger-in-charge Cathy Gatley said the first turtle tracks were spotted last month.

Already, 180 loggerheads and three flatback turtles had arrived to lay their clutches of eggs.

Bundaberg North Burnett Tourism general manager Rick Matkowski said he hoped more than 28,000 would visit the rookery this season.

“There is no better place in Australia to experience this extraordinary natural encounter, so we expect this to be a huge drawing card for tourists, both locally and internationally,” he said.

“The opportunity to get up close and personal with these amazing creatures is once-in-a-lifetime for most people, but witnessing them lay eggs, or even watching the first breaths of a hatchling, is jaw-dropping.”

Last season, 372 loggerheads, 12 flatbacks and two green turtles came ashore at Mon Repos.

Rookery tours at Mon Repos will run until March 22, 2015.

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