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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.

Washington Post

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Volatility is the word of the day. Photo: Laureen Brabant Volatility is the word of the day. Photo: Laureen Brabant
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Local shares are poised to open higher as a rally in global energy shares lifted sentiment in Europe and Wall Street, though volatility remains the watchword.

What you need2know:

• SPI futures up 30pts at 5184

• AUD at 82.14 US cents

• In late trade, S&P 500 +0.3%, Dow +0.4%, Nasdaq -0.1%

• In Europe, Euro Stoxx 50 +2.3%, FTSE +2.4%, CAC +2.2%, DAX +2.5%

• Spot gold up $US1.21 or 0.1% to $US1194.44 an ounce

• Brent oil down $US1.20 or 2% to $US59.86 per barrel

What’s on today

Australia Westpac leading index; US consumer prices, Federal Reserve meeting, current account balance; Japan exports, trade balance, imports.

Stocks to watch

Deutsche Bank has retained a “hold” recommendation on Leighton Holdings and a price target of $19.40 a share after it announced an agreement to sell its John Holland business.

Hartleys Research has initiated coverage on CUE Energy Resources with a ‘speculative buy’ and a 12-month price target of 14¢ a share on the oil and gas developer.

Ord Minnett and Shaw Stockbroking have been appointed to explore an initial public offering for software development company Readify, the Australian Financial Review reports. The deal will kick off in early 2015 with the raise said to be about $30 million.

Currencies

The Reserve Bank of Australia has reiterated that further falls in the Australian dollar are needed to help the economy adjust to falling commodity prices. Easy Forex senior dealer Francisco Solar said: “Even with these falls they prefer it to be somewhat lower, so that’s definitely another excuse to keep the Aussie capped on the upside.”

The rouble plunged more than 11 per cent against the US dollar in its steepest intraday fall since the Russian financial crisis in 1998 as confidence in the central bank evaporated after an ineffectual rate hike. It has now fallen close to 20 per cent this week, taking its losses this year against the dollar to more than 50 per cent.

White House economic adviser Jason Furman on Tuesday called the weak global environment a “headwind” for the US economy. But he focused on the euro zone, Japan and China, and noted that US exports to Russia account for only one tenth of 1 percent of the nation’s economic output.

Indeed, many analysts continue to expect that when Fed officials release their statement at 2pm in Washington on Wednesday, they will have removed language pledging to wait a “considerable time” before raising US interest rates, a long-awaited edit that would show faith in the economy’s path.

Commodities

US crude oil futures bounced off 5-1/2-year lows, and hovered around $US55 a barrel in volatile trading near that price, with US options set to expire later in the day. Global benchmark Brent crude also pared losses after plumbing a July 2009 low below $US59, but remained stuck below $US60 a barrel as major oil producers said they were in no rush to cut production and curb a growing glut. Front-month January Brent expires later in the day.

Aluminium prices hit their lowest in two months, while copper also slid after poor industrial data from China, the world’s biggest metals consumer. Three-month aluminium on the London Metal Exchange ended down 0.81 per cent at $US1906.50 per tonne, having earlier hit a two-month low at $US1900.75.

LME lead struck its lowest since August 2012 at $US1911.25 a tonne and ended down 2.44 per cent at $US1920 a tonne. Lead has been weighed down by lower growth in electric bike sales in China and high finished stocks of batteries, a trader at a hedge fund said.

United States

US stocks rose in a volatile session as energy shares rallied and investors bet the Federal Reserve will be cautious in removing support in the face of a more fragile global economy. The 43 components of the S&P 500 energy sector were in positive territory.

“There were many, many stocks, especially in the energy sector that were just trading at absolutely ridiculous prices to their fair market valuation,” said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist at Windham Financial Services in Charlotte, Vermont. “That is really what started the rally, when investors really started to come into the energy stocks.”

Market participants also said bets on the Federal Reserve’s next move were giving stocks support. Fed officials will decide this week whether to make a critical change to their policy statement that would widen the door for interest rate hikes next year. In October, The Fed repeated that benchmark rates were unlikely to rise for a “considerable time”.

Europe

European shares staged a late rebound as the rouble recovered much of the day’s losses against the dollar. Traders pointed to comments by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who said Russia had made constructive moves toward possibly reducing tensions in Ukraine.

“Shares in Europe saw a mild recovery on Tuesday shaking off concerns of further oil price depreciation thanks to a record trade surplus for the Eurozone as well as an improved manufacturing and services industry outlook,” said CMC Markets UK analyst Jasper Lawler.

German investment sentiment rose sharply in December after a rebound the previous month, driven by a weak euro and plunging oil prices, a survey showed Tuesday. The investor confidence index, calculated by the ZEW economic institute, jumped by 23.4 points in December, after rising for the first time this year in November, ZEW said in a statement.

What happened yesterday

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index and the broader All Ordinaries Index each lost 0.7 per cent on Tuesday to 5152.3 points and 5131 points respectively, as BHP Billiton tumbled to a fresh five-year low. Shares are now at their lowest point since February and are now 3.7 per cent lower in 2014.

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Fairfax front pages: Wednesday, December 17 Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney, NSW
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Newcastle Herald, Newcastle, NSW

The Age, Melbourne, Victoria

Illawarra Mercury,Wollongong, NSW

Australian Financial Review

The Area News, Griffith, NSW

The Daily Advertiser, Wagga, NSW

The Leader, Wagga, NSW

The Observer, Coleambally, NSW

The Armidale Express, Armidale, NSW

The Advocate, Tasmania

Western Advocate, Bathurst, NSW

Bay Post, Batemans Bay, NSW

The Border Mail, Albury-Wodonga, NSW/Victoria

Bombala Times, Bombala, NSW

Braidwood Times, Braidwood, NSW

Cowra Guardian, Cowra, NSW

Cootamundra Herald, Cootamundra, NSW

Canowindra News, Canowindra, NSW

Canberra Times, Canberra, ACT

Central Western Daily, Orange, NSW

Daily Liberal, Orange, NSW

Eastern Riverina Chronicle, Henty, NSW

Goondiwindi Argus, Goondiwindi, NSW

Goulburn Post, Goulburn, NSW

Grenfell Record, Grenfell, NSW

Hawkesbury Gazette, NSW

The Examiner, Tasmania

Hunter Valley News, Hunter Valley, NSW

Merimbula News, Merimbula, NSW

Moruya Examiner, Moruya

Domain

Dubbo Mailbox Shopper, Dubbo, NSW

Narooma News, Narooma, NSW

Narromine News, Narromine, NSW

Nyngan Observer, Nyngan, NSW

Parkes Champion-Post, Parkes, NSW

Southern Highlands News, Bowral, NSW

South Coast Register, Nowra, NSW

Northern Daily Leader, Tamwoth, NSW

Tenterfield Star, Tenterfield, NSW

Tamworth Times, Tamworth, NSW

The Weekly, Mudgee, NSW

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Wellington Times, Wellington, NSW

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The Avon Valley Advocate, Northam, WA

The Bellingen Shire Courier-Sun, Bellingen, NSW

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Beaudesert Times, Beaudesert, Queensland

Barossa Herald, Gawler, SA

Blue Mountains Gazette, Blue Mountains, NSW

Country Cars

The Advertiser, Cessnock, NSW

Camden Haven Courier, NSW

Northern Argus, Clare, SA

Dungog Chronicle, Dungog, NSW

The Esperance Express, Esperance, WA

Gloucester Advocate, Gloucester, NSW

Great Lakes Advocate, Great Lakes, NSW

Jimbooba Times, Jimbooba, Qld

Mid-Coast Observer, NSW

The Maitland Mercury, Maitland, NSW

Manning River Times, Taree, NSW

Merredin-Wheatbelt Mercury, Merredin, WA

The North West Star, Mt Isa, Queensland

Express, NSW

Port Macquarie News, Port Macquarie, NSW

Redland City Bulletin, Redland City, NSW

Border Chronicle, Bordertown, SA

The Flinders News, Port Pirie, SA

Coastal Leader, Kingston, SA

Wingham Chronicle, Wingham, NSW

The Advocate, hepburn, Victoria

The Courier, Ballarat, Victoria

Bendigo Advertiser, Bendigo, NSW

The Standard, Warrnambool, Victoria

The Wimmera Mail-Times, Victoria

Yass Tribune, Yass, NSW

The Young Witness, Young, NSW

Newcastle Star, Newcastle, NSW

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Republican presidential contenders – a full list 
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Washington: Jeb Bush, son of the 41st president of the United States and younger brother of 43rd enjoyed a normal family Thanksgiving last month, he reassured Americans in a Facebook updated earlier today.

“We shared good food and watched a whole lot of football,” and later he “decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.” If he won he would be Bush 45.

Anyone keeping half an eye on US politics already knew that this was a possibility Jeb Bush has been actively exploring for some time, but in making the announcement he has edged very close to starting up the full machinery of a presidential campaign.

Though the field of possible Republican candidates is vast, Jeb immediately vaults to the front of the pack and the possibility of a Bush-Clinton 2016 election is now considerable.

Should he run, Jeb will begin his campaign both buoyed up and weighed down by his family name.

Many supporters of both parties are appalled by the rise of dynasties in American politics, a sentiment captured by his own mother, Barbara, who said last year, “There are a lot of great families. It’s not just four families, or whatever. There are other people out there that are very qualified. We’ve had enough Bushes.”

One of his brother’s former advisors, David Frum, tweeted earlier today, “In this magnificent land of opportunity, anyone can aspire to the presidency, provided only that an immediate relative had the job already.”

But the Bush name also gives Jeb access to a formidable political network, instant name recognition, the support of much of the Republican Party’s Washington, DC establishment, and an insight into the rigors of a campaign and the job itself.

Indeed it is often said that Bush Snr – and Barbara for that matter – always expected Jeb to be president rather than his older brother.

Then there is the Bush record in office to consider.

Bush senior, or 41 as he is often referred to as, was the last US president to win a fast and decisive war, but many Republicans never forgave him for not finishing the first Gulf War by storming Baghdad. Many others mistrust him for increasing taxes to cut the deficit.  When the independent Ross Perot split the Republican vote in 1992 Bush Snr lost office after one term, leaving the nation in recession.

Bush 43 won two terms but left a nation mired in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and facing a financial catastrophe.

Despite this the savagery of the popular Republican backlash against the Obama presidency has had led to some reimagining of the W’s era in the White House. A popular line of Republican merchandise has an image of W. Bush with the slogan “Miss me yet?” underneath it.

Jeb Bush’s own political record will cut both ways too. As governor of Florida he ran a conservative administration – small on government, big on death penalty – but since he last ran for office the Republican Party has been dragged further to the right by the Tea Party.

Jeb now finds himself on the wrong side of two major Republican issues – education and immigration.

Jeb supports what is known as the Common Core education standards. This is a set of nationwide standards that states are required to meet. This has become a flashpoint for many Tea Party Republicans who see it as federal government over-reach.

But it is on immigration that Bush stands apart from the pack the most. Bush has lived in Venezuela, done business with Cuban-Americans and married a Mexican. During the height of the debate over immigration earlier this year when many Republicans were calling mass deportations and a militarised southern border, he said of undocumented immigrants,  “Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family.”

That is to say that Jeb Bush has a record that could significantly eat into the election-winning advantage Democrats have among America’s rapidly growing Latino population, but could cost him a Republican primary.

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Although Jeb Bush has taken a step towards announcing plans to run for president, the field of Republican contenders for the White House in 2016 remains open. Below is list of possibles candidates.

Jeb Bush – The only two-term Republican governor of Florida and the son and brother of a president.

Chris Christie – Governor of blue New Jersey and an early front runner, but now tainted by scandal involving punishing political opponents.

Rand Paul – Libertarian first-term senator from Kentucky, who has taunted Chris Christie as the “king of bacon” for his alleged fondness for spending that benefits New Jersey.

Ben Carson – Retired African-American neurosurgeon, who emphasises cultural issues and currently polls second among Republicans for the 2016 nomination.

Scott Walker – Wisconsin governor, who has won three state-wide races and is known for his fierce assaults on public unions.

Rick Perry – Governor of Texas for over 14 years, he foundered as a presidential candidate in 2012, but is back courting Tea Party voters.

Bobby Jindal – Governor of Louisiana, who is liked by social conservatives and is positioning himself as an education and energy policy reformer.

Paul Ryan – Wisconsin congressman, who is a tireless tax cutter and served as Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential candidate in 2012.

Ted Cruz – First-term Texas senator, who is the darling of the Tea Party, but is disliked as much by the Republican establishment as he is by Democrats.

Marco Rubio – First-term Florida senator mostly famous for being young and Hispanic, and probably out of the running if Jeb Bush is in.

Lindsey Graham – Three-term senator from South Carolina, who is close to John McCain and would run almost as a clone, but without the respected war record.

John Kasich – Budget-slashing governor of Ohio, who spent 18 years in Congress and six years as a pundit at Fox News.

Mike Pence – Governor of Indiana, well liked by the Tea Party, Koch Brothers and social conservatives.

Mike Huckabee – Former Arkansas governor, who finished second in the Republican race in 2008 launched a successful talk radio and TV career.

Rick Santorum – Christian “theocon” (theocratic neoconservative), who is a former Pennsylvania senator and presidential candidate famous for his opposition to abortion, birth control and gay marriage.

Mitt Romney – His wife says the entire family is “done” with politics, but “the acid reflux candidate” – because he keeps coming back – is still talking like a candidate.

Donald Trump – Property developer and big-mouth reality TV star, who says he will decide in 2015 whether he will run for president. Famous for championing Obama “birther” conspiracies.

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Knox: Can captain Smith keep the dogs barking without vets?Harris: Smith looked like captain material way back in 2008Wu: Shaun Marsh wants end to boom or bust days 
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Just over three years ago, Michael Clarke made an impassioned plea on social media on behalf of Steve Smith.

“Trying to find a date for Steve Smith to take to the AB medal?” Clarke tweeted to more than 80,000 followers. “You can tweet me with your expressions of interest.”

That was late January 2011. Australia had just been chewed up and spat out by the monster that was England in the final two Ashes Tests in Melbourne and Sydney. Smith didn’t quite know it then, but he was about to be scalped and locked out of the Australian team for the next two years.

The shy and unassuming kid from the Sutherland Shire also didn’t quite know it then that he’d meet someone who would turn it all around.

Someone who would make his captain’s role as matchmaker redundant, and also set him on that path that will see Smith replace the injured Clarke as captain for the foreseeable future, starting with the second Test against India starting in Brisbane on Wednesday.

“We met three years ago at a bar during the first season of the Big Bash League,” says Smith of Dani Willis, a law and commerce student at Macquarie University.  “She has been amazing. She’s always there for me when I’m around. She always gives me good advice, and tells me the truth. It’s nice that you have some honest feedback to come home to all the time. She’s been terrific for me over the last few years.

“I try to occasionally learn some law lingo. A few words here and there, which is always interesting. Most of it goes over my head. I’m not quite smart enough for that. But I try my best.”

It’s a common theme emerging in modern sport, with apologies to Cat Stevens: find a girl, settle down, if you want you can marry … go on and win a footy premiership or cement your place in the Australian Test team. Clarke broke it off with Lara Bingle, found Kyly Boldy, won the Ashes. Dave Warner found Candice Falzon and just notched 1000 runs for the year.

Love used to be a battlefield. Now it seems as fundamental to sporting longevity as an ice bath.

Ask Smith if his partner has provided much needed balance in his life and he says this: “She has. It’s nice to have someone to come home to and get the honest truth about all aspects of life.”

Hard truths?

“Occasionally,” he admits. “She watches everything: all the press conferences. She always tells if I’ve done something wrong – and if I’ve done something well. It’s nice.”

For someone admittedly addicted to the game, balance is the reason behind Smith’s renaissance as a cricketer and elevation to the captaincy ahead of veteran Brad Haddin.

Four years ago, Smith was part of the Australian side playing in the Twenty20 World Cup in the Caribbean.

The team was based at a luxurious resort in Barbados, and on a day off the likes of Warner and others could be found on jetskis out in the turquoise ocean, or lazing beside the large pool.

Not Smith. He was in his hotel room, watching every ball being played elsewhere in the tournament.

“I’m a cricket nuffie,” he admitted to the small band of Australian reporters on that tour.

He says now: “I would call myself a cricket nuffie. I love watching cricket. But I’ve found other things in my life.”

Nevertheless, the next captain of the Australian cricket team seemingly doesn’t covet the glossy magazine and red-carpet lifestyle that Clarke has been often unfairly criticised for. You’ll see the 25-year-old in the general admission area at Royal Randwick on raceday, wearing a pair of thongs and a form guide in his back pocket.

He owns a share in four racehorses – three with leading trainer Chris Waller and another with old-school horseman Les Bridge – and calls it a “hobby”.

If he’s not there, you might see him at the Clovelly Hotel in Sydney’s eastern suburbs having a chicken schnitzel and quiet schooner – even if beer conflicts with the high-fat, low-carb diet that sees him as lean as a greyhound these days. “There are a lot of carbs in beer,” he grins. “When I’ve been doing the diet, I’ve had my alcohol consumption pretty low. I’m not a huge drinker.”

By his own admission, Smith wasn’t ready to become Australian cricket’s next big thing. As a leg-spinner taking private lessons from Shane Warne who could also bat, he found himself in the Test, one-day and Twenty20 sides at 21.

“I started too soon,” he says. “As a batsman [in Test cricket], I played too many shots. I didn’t have the patience. I just tried to score a hundred off 50 balls. So I got the opportunity to play state cricket [for NSW]. Try to get some big scores and bat time. That was the best thing for me at that stage.”

He now belongs in the Test side as much as any player, but is he ready to lead? At 25, some have doubts. Others say he’s the right man for the job.

During a match as captain of the Sydney Sixers in their first season, he once put veteran Stuart MacGill firmly back in his box.

MacGill had taken exception to Smith asking him to field at fine leg.

“MacGill said he was sore and he was there to bowl,” former Sixers boss and Test quick Stuart Clark told The Australian this week. “Smithy said, ‘Look mate, I am the captain, you do what I say, now f— off and get down there’.”

Smith barely recalls the incident, but he will offer this: “I’m not afraid to do that. It comes with the job, and everyone understands that. I think he [MacGill] was a little surprised at first. But then he went to the position I had said.”

Now, though, comes a more onerous task: captaining a Test side still jangling with emotion since the death of teammate Phillip Hughes. Smith was in the stands at the SCG that afternoon late last month when Hughes was struck by a bouncer that claimed his life. He wasn’t playing for NSW because of a quad injury.

As he sat on 98 during the first innings of the Adelaide Test, waiting for a long rain delay to end, he looked at the big “408” painted on the outfield.

“I thought if I got two more runs, I thought it would be a nice tribute for my little mate to go over to the 408,” Smith says.

And then he did. Sometimes cricket and life are one and the same.

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If Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, not to mention the states, were to pay attention to the OECD, they would raise GST rates and take away incentives to negatively gear and to avoid paying tax on super payouts.
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They would introduce new taxes on land, mining super profits, congestion and death. And at the same time as doing all this, they would reduce company and personal taxes.

The question of which economic and tax policies are best for Australia is, as usual, at odds with the reality of politics. Most of these suggestions are not vote winners.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s two-year Economic Survey of Australia is aimed at dealing with one core issue for Australia – how do we grow and prosper as our resource treasure box keeps dwindling?

“We don’t really have easy solutions,” OECD senior economist Phil Hemmings said.  “We try to make sure policy makers know what the economics say, what direction things should be heading in. There are varying degrees of difficulty in implementation.”

Among the most difficult is lifting the GST, given our leaders have promised repeatedly they won’t. But the OECD says it makes sense. Its report suggested room for a more growth-friendly tax mix that could include broadening the base and raising the rate of the goods and services tax and increasing the use of state-based land taxes. These changes, it suggests, could be combined with a reduction in the company tax rate and personal income taxes.

“With a rate of only 10 per cent and fairly widespread exemptions, GST raises only half the revenues, as a share of GDP, compared with the OECD average and significantly less than the countries making the most use of such tax,” the report said.

While it did not advocate a specific rate, it said New Zealand and Israel had wide bases and rates of 15 per cent and 18 per cent respectively.

Mr Hemmings said somewhere between 15 and 18 per cent would make sense, but would have to be accompanied with compensation to lower-income households. The current system of not having a raft of goods and services taxed was that, despite them being well meaning, they are very inefficient, he said.

“If you’re not charging GST on bread you’re not charging it on bread bought by everybody, including the wealthy,” he said. “It’s far better to have targeted policies that make transfers to low-income households.”

The report also suggested lower personal tax rates, but at the same time stopping those on high incomes claiming concessions to reduce their marginal tax rates. It took particular aim at high-income earners who could lower the tax they paid by salary sacrificing cars, through superannuation concessions and deductions for rental property.

It suggested incentives to negatively gear could be reduced.

“For instance, the Henry tax review recommended a discounting mechanism that would lower the reduction in taxable income from net investment loss.”

Mr Hemmings said those on higher incomes benefited most from rental deductions. He also raised issues with the fact there was no tax on super payouts for over 60s. The report said the current tax treatment of pensions was unusual.

“Making superannuation income tax-free has meant that sizeable sums of public money are implicitly being spent in a way that largely benefits middle and upper income earners,” the report said, adding that for 2013-14 the spend was estimated at about $32 billion, the equivalent to about 2 per cent of GDP.

“There’s room for tax savings on that front,” Mr Hemmings said. “[Australia] is extremely light on tax at the payout of superannuation.”

The report also suggested the Abbott government review the current paid parental leave plan and look at other tax incentives to encourage workforce participation by women. It did not mention tax-deductible child care, but Mr Hemmings said this could be a good option in addition to other forms of support for child care.

In terms of lowering corporate taxes, the report welcomed the Abbott government’s promise to cut the corporate-tax rate. It did not signal a perfect rate but Mr Hemmings said it could go low as 20 to 25 per cent, and be coupled with a tax system that stopped companies profit shifting.

“Campaigns against tax evasion and aggressive avoidance should continue,” the report said.

It also said tax policy should not be a one-way street favouring immediate business interests and called for a tax on miners’ “supernormal profit” despite the Coalition’s big campaign to get rid of the mining tax introduced under the former Labor government.

Some combination of a super profits tax and greater state-based royalties would make sense, Mr Hemmings said.

“With a supernormal profits tax the government only gets revenue when companies are making profits, whereas with royalties they always get revenue, as it’s based on volume. We think a combination of the two would work.”

Other taxes called for in the report included increasing the fuel excise, the introduction of a congestion levy, and a possible new tax on death to stop rich people bequeathing assets to younger generations.

“It’s an issue worth exploring, but one of the problems with death taxation is various forms of avoidance,” Mr Hemmings said. “People start transferring wealth before they die. So you’d also have to look at taxation of gifts. It’s a complicated area.”

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Does the OECD know what it’s talking about? You bet. It might be a committee of Paris-based outsiders, but it works out what to say by talking to Australian bureaucrats. Officials from the Treasury, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Reserve Bank allow it to say in public what they are only allowed to whisper in private.
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The Australian Treasury posts an officer to Paris full time in order to influence the content of OECD reports. It gets a look at (but not the final say over) their wording.

The OECD is concerned that the proposed free market in university fees will not be free at all. If they compete on price it might work, but many of them might not find it in their interest to seem cheap and less attractive.

The OECD says the Abbott government’s plan to pull young Australians off the (already modest) dole will have to be watched to make sure it doesn’t significantly hurt low-income households.  Its plan to increase pensions by only the consumer price index runs the risk of being unsustainable. Eventually the pension will have to be lifted, something not accounted for in the budget’s 10-year projections.

Australia’s superannuation tax concessions are monstrous (2 per cent of GDP) and pretty ineffective. They are directed to high-income Australians who were always going to save and to the compulsory component of super contributions which were always going to be collected.

And our GST is too low. If it was higher and income taxes were lower we’d put in more hours, something the Henry tax review would have told the last government had it not rigged its terms of reference to prevent it.

It’s worth listening to what OECD says. The cone of silence imposed on Australian bureaucrats mean it is one of the few chances we get.

Peter Martin is economics editor of The Age.

Twitter: @1petermartin

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Success? Christopher Pyne’s plan to allow universities to charge more for courses will work only if there is genuine competition, the OECD says. Photo: Alex EllinghausenThe Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has taken aim at a raft of Australian budget measures, describing one as potentially unsustainable and another as requiring close monitoring.
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It has also urged Australia to shake up superannuation tax concessions and to lift sharply the goods and services tax to cut income tax.

The Paris-based organisation’s biennial review of Australia found the balance of risks facing the Australian economy contained more substantial downside than upside.

“External risks, chiefly from commodity markets, combined with speculative activity in the housing sector and uncertainties in the responsiveness of non-resource sectors, could conspire to generate a period of weak macroeconomic activity,” it said.

The Abbott government’s decision to restrict access to Newstart for young Australians might not work as intended, it said.

“The proposals will certainly motivate some to seek and take up work or go into further education.  However, the precise impact of such reform is difficult to predict. Close monitoring, and adjustment as appropriate, is important.”

The report described Australia’s fixed-rate, means-tested Newstart benefit as “modest”. Two years ago it suggested it should be increased.

The report’s lead author, OECD economist Philip Hemmings, told Fairfax Media the Newstart change could have a significant impact on low-income households and had to be watched closely.

The government’s proposed cut to pension indexation was likely to be unsustainable over the long term, he said. Australia’s aged pension replaced only 60 per cent of half Australia’s average wage, which was low by OECD standards.

The government’s plan to remove the link between the age pension and wages would cause its value to drift down in relation to average incomes, Mr Hemmings said. At some point it could “cross socially acceptable limits of adequacy”.

Australia’s tax treatment of superannuation was unusual, the report said.

A Howard government decision to make most superannuation payouts tax free meant sizeable sums of public money were implicitly being spent in a way that largely benefited middle and upper income earners, it said.

The report said Australia’s superannuation tax concessions cost about $32 billion, which is about 2 per cent of GDP.

The government’s plan for fully paid parental leave is expensive and should face a “careful impact assessment” to check that it stacks up against alternative plans that would funnel more money toward child care.

The success of its government’s plan to cut university funding while allowing universities to increase their fees would depend on whether universities competed genuinely on fees. “Monitoring of the reforms will be important to ensure access to higher education is not compromised, particularly for students from disadvantaged backgrounds,” the report said.

Australia’s goods and services tax is low by international standards, raising only half as much of gross domestic product as the OECD average. As a result, Australia’s tax burden falls more on other taxes, including those on labour and business. The report said New Zealand and Israel were good models for Australia, with GST rates of 15 per cent and 18 per cent respectively. To the extent that a boosted GST disproportionately hurt low-income households, the impact could be softened by boosting benefits and carefully designing income tax cuts.

The report backed the Abbott government moves to give the states more control over their hospitals and schools and more direct access to tax. It was critical of Rudd government programs that tied grants to outcomes. Australia’s states had good room to lift their own taxes without help from the Commonwealth, it said.

Excessive exemptions meant only 5 per cent of Australian businesses were eligible for state payroll tax. Local government rates were an exceptionally efficient tax but were underused. Other states should emulate the Australian Capital Territory in boosting local government rates while they lowered stamp duties, the report said.

The decision to replace the carbon tax with direct action grants for businesses that cut emissions could work, having the same effects as a carbon tax at the margin, providing difficulties in establishing baseline emissions and checking the achievement of emissions reductions were overcome, it said.

The report suggested establishing a “secondary market” for direct action grants, which would allow the Abbott government to harness market forces in the same way as Labor’s emissions trading scheme was going to.

While supporting of the government’s plan to spend more on infrastructure, it said the projects approved must be backed with robust and transparent cost-benefit analysis, to ensure economic use of the existing stock and appropriate selection of new infrastructure projects.

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Broken pledge: Joe Hockey. Photo: Alex EllinghausenTreasurer Joe Hockey has broken a pledge to impose tough new tax avoidance rules on multinational companies that shift billions of dollars in profits between Australia and their international subsidiaries.
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The practice of global corporations loading up subsidiaries with debt and then claiming relief from the Australian tax man on the interest paid gives an “unfair competitive advantage” over local rivals, Treasury said in 2013.

“When some taxpayers avoid or minimise their tax in a sustained way, the tax burden eventually falls more heavily on other taxpayers,” a Treasury issues paper found at the time.

The Gillard government announced the abolition of deductions under section 25-90 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 as part of a package to combat tax minimisation by global corporations, at a projected benefit to the taxpayer of $600 million.

In November last year, Mr Hockey and the then Assistant Treasurer, Arthur Sinodinos, announced they would not legislate Labor’s package, saying it would impose “unreasonable compliance costs on Australian companies” with subsidiaries offshore.

The current loophole favours the largest companies operating in Australia. Mining industry sources suggested they include Swiss-based Glencore and Anglo American.

Instead, Mr Hockey – who has trumpeted a global tax crackdown on multinationals through the G20 process – and Mr Sinodinos pledged in November to “introduce a targeted anti‑avoidance provision after detailed consultation with stakeholders”.

But in Monday’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, a single line on page 117 revealed: “The government will not proceed with a targeted anti-avoidance provision to address certain conduit arrangements involving foreign multinational enterprises, first announced in the 2013-14 MYEFO.”

While companies like IKEA and Apple have been in the news for “offshoring” billions of dollars made in Australia, tax experts told Fairfax Media it was Australia-based global players that will benefit the most from the government’s backdown.

Companies with significant operations overseas get a “double bonus” under the existing law, introduced by the Howard government in 2001, because dividends from their international subsidiaries are tax exempt yet the interest on borrowings used to grow overseas operations is tax deductible.

One of the loudest opponents of the plan to abolish deductions was major Liberal Party donor Paul Ramsay, now deceased, who complained it would make it more expensive for his company Ramsay Health Care to use debt to invest in Europe.

On Tuesday, shadow assistant treasurer Andrew Leigh accused Mr Hockey of “sneaking in another giveaway for multinational companies” despite presiding over a near doubling of the deficit in 2014/15.

“Yet again the Treasurer has shown that he is happy to let big companies off the hook while hacking into foreign aid, schools, hospitals and pensions,” Mr Leigh said.

Mr Hockey’s office referred questions to Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who took on Mr Sinodinos’ portfolio after he stood aside pending upcoming findings by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption.

In a statement, Mr Cormann insisted “No promise was broken” by the announcement in MYEFO on Monday

“Following consultation with stakeholders and the Australian Taxation Office, it became very clear that a targeted anti-avoidance provision would be ineffective,” he said.

“It is important to remember that the proposed changes to section 25‑90 were never advocated in isolation, but were part of a broader package to address profit shifting by excessive allocation of debt to the Australian operations of multinationals.

“The government has implemented key elements of this package, including tightening the thin capitalisation safe harbour limits and ensuring the foreign non-portfolio dividend exemption for Australian companies only applies to returns on equity.

“As a result of these changes, all debt used to fund Australian operations, including debt used to fund offshore investments which give rise to 25-90 deductions, is now subject to the binding constraint of the thin capitalisation rules, which provide protection against abuse of section 25‑90 deductions.”

John Passant, an outspoken tax expert from the Australian National University, recently wrote about the government’s decision not to abolish section 25-90 deductions.

“It is unfortunate in the extreme that the Treasurer and Treasury have listened to a group of rent seekers being unjustly rewarded by not repealing section 25-90. But since this is a government of the 1% that is not surprising and we can conclude in fact that Hockey’s bluster about addressing tax avoidance by his rich mates is just that – complete and utter bluster,” he wrote.

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Social Services minister Kevin Andrews says it’s not yet possible to tell whether six months is enough time for the government to come up with a revamped paid parental leave package. Photo: Andrew Meares Kevin Andrews Photo: Andrew Meares
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Kevin Andrews Photo: Andrew Meares

Kevin Andrews Photo: Andrew Meares

The federal government’s new paid parental leave scheme may not be ready in time for its scheduled July 1, 2015 start date, Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews has indicated.

Mr Andrews has told Fairfax Media that it was not yet possible to say whether six months would be enough time to come up with the revamped package, after Prime Minister Tony Abbott earlier this month said he would be making further changes to his scheme. Mr Andrews said the government would not know what the timetable is until it had worked on the policy over the summer holidays.

“Until we do that work and know exactly what it looks like and what the parameters are, then we can’t make that assessment.”

Mr Andrews said it was still the government’s “aim” and “aspiration” to meet the July 2015 start date.

“But you have to be realistic about it as well.”

This comes as paid parental leave researcher Marian Baird expressed strong doubts that the government would have enough time to devise the new scheme.

“I can’t see how they can possibly write the new legislation and have it ready by July, unless they continue the current scheme,” the Sydney University professor of employment relations said.

The current scheme, introduced by Labor, provides women with the minimum wage for 16 weeks. One suggestion from PPL critic and Nationals Senator John Williams has been to expand this to 26 weeks and add superannuation.

Mr Abbott has said he remains committed to paying women their “real wage” under his policy. Professor Baird, who is a member of the team evaluating the current PPL scheme, said it would be very complicated to work out what a recipient’s income replacement wage would be.

Earlier this month, Mr Abbott announced that he would be making changes to the paid parental leave scheme that he took to the last two elections over the summer break. While he did not give any specific detail, he said the government would be putting more money into childcare, to come up with a “holistic” families package in the new year.

The Social Services Minister said that the government would be working in a “careful, methodical way” to come up with something “positive”.

He added that childcare had been the issue that voters had been giving him feedback about.

“That’s the issue that people that a lot of people are concerned about. Costs have blown out, it’s difficult for a lot of families,” he said.

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