In a win for old-fashioned paper books, new research has found children with access to a range of e-reading devices are less likely to read.
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The findings will serve as a wake-up call for parents, and schools, which have rushed to buy expensive devices to boost children’s literacy.

Giving children devices such as Kindles, iPads, computers and mobile phones inhibits reading, according to the study.

“Reading frequency was less when children had access to a greater range of these devices,” the research said.

Mobile phones were particularly problematic, and linked to reading infrequency.

Murdoch University lecturer Margaret Merga said her research, which was published in the Computers and Education journal, challenges the myth that children are digital natives who prefer screens.

It found that daily readers who had access to e-reading devices preferred paper books.

“There has been a knee jerk reaction that all children prefer to read on screens and that has led to school libraries removing all paper books,” she said. “That is not necessarily the case.”

Why do young people prefer paper books?

Previous research by Dr Merga suggests that it comes down to children liking the sensation of picking up a book and “feeling the weight of commitment”.

She suspects young people are also judging books by their covers, making the paper variety more attractive.

There’s also the benefit of fewer distractions.

“Reading on internet search enabled devices, such as tablets, also opens up easy opportunity for distraction, allowing engagement in the practice of media multi-tasking, which has been found to detrimentally impact on student comprehension and concentration,” the study said.

Nine-year-old Benji Mazzone said he prefers paper books because he likes turning pages and “being taken somewhere else”.

He reads one to two books a week and can be found browsing the shelves of the Little Bookroom in Carlton North most nights after school. He writes reviews for the children’s bookshop, and helps staff wrap up presents.

With the help of his mum, he set up his own book club last year, where he discussed the popular Tinklers Three series with his friends.

“I’m a bit of a bookworm,” he said. “I read for two hours a day – I do some in the morning and after school.”

Ten-year-old Madeleine Hayen, from Annandale, has mixed views on the merits of paper and electronic reading.

“I don’t mind what I read as long as it’s interesting,” Madeleine said. “I reckon I’ve got over 200 books on my bookcase.”

The Year 5 student goes to Glebe Library once a week with her grandparents to pick up a new batch of books.

“I used to read a lot of books and stuff, but ever since I found Kindles, I kind of enjoy that more because it’s a lot lighter and easier to take around with me. When I go to school in the morning I can just read and it’s a lot easier to use,” Madeleine said.

“When you read paperbacks and hardcover books, you can actually see the pictures which informs you a lot about what the story is trying to say.”

The study involved 997 Western Australian students in years 4 and 6 who were asked how often they read books in their spare time, whether they owned iPads, Kindles or mobile phones and whether they used them to read.

It coincides with the increased take up of e-books in Australian schools, with an estimated 34 per cent of schools purchasing e-books in 2015 compared to 28 per cent in 2013, according to The Australian and New Zealand School Library Survey.

Bring Your Own Device policies have also made it easier for students to access e-books.

Dr Merga said parents had been put in a difficult position and were targeted by aggressive marketing which suggested that technology improved children’s intelligence.

She said there was no scientific evidence to support this.

The research follows a 2015 OECD report which found that investing in computers and iPads in schools fails to boost numeracy and literacy skills. The OECD report went even further, saying that frequent use of computers in schools was often associated with lower results.

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EMBARGOED UNTIL 15TH MARCH 2017. Sally McManus will be the first female secretary of the ACTU. Photographed here in the banner room at Sussex street HQ. Thursday 2nd March 2017 SMH photo Louie Douvis . Photo: Louie Douvis
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ACTU secretary Sally McManus has admitted she made an error when she accused building company Grocon of “killing workers”, but continued to defend her stand against unfair industrial laws.

During an interview on the ABC’s 7.30 Report last week, Ms McManus said Grocon was fined $300,000 for “killing” five workers.

“While it was not accurate to say ‘Grocon was fined $300,000 for killing five workers’, it is accurate to point out that the huge discrepancy in fines paid by the company and the CFMEU is a glaring example of the inherent unfairness in our industrial relations laws,” Ms McManus said.

In a statement issued on Monday night, Ms McManus said Grocon did not have the best record for workplace safety.

The March 2013 collapse of a wall on a Swanston Street construction site in Melbourne led to the death of three passers-by. The incident followed the death of a construction worker on a nearby Grocon site the previous month.

It was convicted and ordered to pay a fine of $250,000 – less than a quarter of the maximum available penalty.

“This compares with the almost $4 million in fines levied on the CFMEU over a similar timeframe for protesting Grocon’s record and taking action to stand up for worker safety on construction sites,” Ms McManus said.

Grocon issued a statement on Friday saying it did not deny tragic deaths had occurred on its sites, but insisting it had not caused them.

“Findings on the public record are that Grocon has not caused the death of any individual,” a company statement said.

“It is beholden on Ms McManus to publicly correct her statement and Grocon will be writing to her seeking this correction.”

The company said the Victorian Coroner’s Court confirmed in 2014 there were no workplace safety issues involved in the death of a crane driver, William Ramsay, on Grocon’s Emporium building site in February, 2013.

It said WorkSafe had also confirmed Grocon’s conduct did not cause a wall to collapse on a Swanston Street footpath, killing three people. However, the Swanston Street case did see a Grocon subsidiary fined $250,000 after it pleaded guilty to failing to ensure a safe workplace.

Ms McManus sparked controversy when she told the ABC on Wednesday that she believed in the rule of law “where the law’s fair, where the law’s right, but when it’s unjust, I don’t think there’s a problem with breaking it”.

Unions have thrown their support behind Ms McManus by challenging the fairness of industrial laws that outlaw strike action to achieve better pay and conditions.

The Coalition has strongly criticised the ACTU secretary as a law unto herself in promoting unlawful conduct.

The Labor Party has also opposed breaking the law, saying it is better for parliamentarians to work towards changing unfair legislation.

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Up to half a dozen players could make their debuts for Carlton on Thursday night, as the Blues’ rebuild begins to take shape against old rivals Richmond at the MCG.

And young gun Patrick Cripps has won his battle with injury and will play in the AFL season opener.

After an off-season during which the dramatic reshape of the club’s list been scrutinised, the Blues hope the next generation of Carlton players can cause a major upset by knocking off the Tigers in front of a massive crowd.

Former GWS players Caleb Marchbank, Jarrod Pickett and Rhys Palmer will all play barring any training mishaps, while former Cat Billie Smedts has cemented his spot in Carlton’s best 22.

The 21-year-old Cripps looked a long shot to take the field for round one after being diagnosed in late November with a stress reaction in his lower back.

The injury required a 12-week rehabilitation, which severely hampered the bullocking midfielder’s preparation.

But Cripps was able to feature in the past two games of the pre-season series to convince medical staff of his fitness.

“I can confirm that Patrick Cripps has got through and is ready to play for us (against Richmond),” coach Brendon Bolton told Fox Sports News on Monday.

“We’re rapt with the work that he’s done and the conditioning staff to have him up and ready to play.

“He’s terrific for us in and around stoppages, we know he wins the contested footy and he’ll be important for us on Thursday night.”

Harrison Macreadie – who also has ties to the Giants after being part of their academy – is also in the frame.

His selection will largely depend on whether Bolton wants the flexibility to throw Jacob Weitering forward.

New draftees Cameron Polson and Zac Fisher remain in contention, but they are considered less likely to debut.

While the Blues would like to settle Weitering in defence, where they see him playing the majority of his career, they are also aware of their inability to score freely.

The Blues are likely to start with Levi Casboult, whose struggles in front of goal have been well-documented, up forward along with second-year players Charlie Curnow and Jack Silvagni.

If that combination isn’t potent enough, Bolton would like to be able to throw Weitering into attack as he did at times in 2016.

A bumper crowd of more than 70,000 is expected at the MCG for Thursday’s season opener, which is a Carlton home game.

That would be a strong start to the opening round, with the AFL hoping to break the record attendance for a single round by surpassing the 400,000 mark.

While there have been doubts as to whether two sides that didn’t make the eight last year can draw such a big crowd, both Carlton and the AFL are confident the figure will be reached.

More than 75,000 were at the corresponding match last season, which saw a wasteful Carlton lose by nine points.

In 2015, 83,493 turned out to see the Tigers down the Blues by 27 points.

Carlton haven’t beaten Richmond in round one since 2012, when captain Marc Murphy amassed 32 disposals and Matthew Kreuzer earned three brownlow votes.

Murphy will lead his side out on Thursday night for the first time since injuring his ankle against Geelong nearly 10 months ago, and the Blues will be desperate for Kreuzer to return to dominant form.

While a fully fit Marchbank has been earmarked for Carlton’s best 22 since making the move from GWS, Pickett has been a pleasant surprise to many at Ikon Park.

The number four pick in the 2014 draft missed last year with a foot injury, after an impressive first season yielded 26 goals in 17 NEAFL games.

The West Australian speedster was in solid form during the JLT series, before kicking three goals in the final hit-out against Fremantle.

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Gina Rinehart has consolidated her position as Australia’s wealthiest person with the prominent magazine Forbes saying the mining magnate’s net wealth jumped to $US15 billion ($19.4 billion) over the past 12 months.
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In what was a record year for the number of uber-wealthy around the world, Forbes said Ms Rinehart’s position on their annual index skyrocketed from 127 in 2016 (with a fortune of $US8.8 billion) to the 69th spot in 2017, making her the only Australian in the top 100. According to the index, her wealth has climbed by $US6.2 billion ($8 billion) over the last year.

It was a different story for the newly minted US President Donald Trump, whose wealth shrunk to $US3.5 billion on the back of a softening New York property market. It sees Mr Trump tumble more than 200 spots to no.544 on the list.

The magazine said Ms Rinehart was the female billionaire who had the “best year” but noted that with Ms Rinehart’s wealth built on iron one, “her fortune can either jump or plummet depending on the price of the commodity.”

“Unlike all the other women ahead of her, Rinehart also has bragging rights for actively building her fortune. Rinehart took her late father’s bankrupted estate and rebuilt it into something much larger,” says Forbes.

Ms Rinehart is the daughter of late iron-ore developer Lang Hancock. She owns shares in the Ten television network and cattle stations in Australia’s north.

But the West Australian is a controversial figure in Australia because of her links to prominent right-wing politicians and support for lower wages for Australian workers citing international competitiveness. Last year Ms Rinehart praised Mr Trump’s election and called for a replica of his policies in Australia, in a speech delivered on her behalf by the former Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella.

Ms Rinehart is a personal friend of the deputy prime minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and attended his maiden speech when he switched from the Senate to the lower house in 2013. In 2011, Ms Rinehart flew Mr Joyce and the deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop and another coalition MP to India to attend a wedding in the wealthy Reddy family.

Property developer Harry Triguboff was Australia’s second highest ranked billionaire at number 153 with a net worth of $11 billion.

The founder of the Australian software firm Atlassian debuted as the youngest on the Billionaires List. Mike Cannon-Brooks is said to have a net worth of $2.7 billion.

Forbes says it calculates the wealth of the listed billionaires by using stock prices and exchange rates to calculate their net worth as of February 17, 2017.

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates topped the list for the fourth time in a row with a net worth of $112 billion. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg moved up into fifth position.

The magazine said it was a “record year” for the world’s richest, with the number of billionaires increasing by 13 per cent to 2,043 and their combined value jumping by 18 per cent to $9.9 trillion.

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Insurance companies are charging up to $1700 more than each other for home and contents policies covering identical houses in the same suburb, prompting calls for greater transparency.
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But the industry argues the variations are due to different types of coverage and are evidence of healthy competition.

Research by the Emergency Services Levy Insurance Monitor, which surveyed premiums across 11 suburbs, found an average variation of $1100 between insurers for “basic home and contents polices”.

In Medlow Bath, the highest quote of $2794 was from GIO, two-and-a-half times larger than the lowest quote of $1106 from Coles.

In East Gosford and Bradbury, near Campbelltown, the maximum quotes were 2.4 times more than the lowest, a difference of $1461 and $1700 respectively.

The monitor, Professor Allan Fels, said suburbs have different characteristics “and you would expect to see price differences across locations”.

“But it’s very concerning there are such big differences in prices quoted for the same property,” he said. “It suggests that competition is not fully effective in this industry.”

Professor Fels says insurers “are ignoring” calls to list the previous year’s policy cost in their renewal insurance notices – a measure being introduced for UK general insurers from April.

Insurers had also resisted establishing home insurance price comparison websites.

Insurance Council of Australia chief executive Rob Whelan branded the monitor’s comparisons “misleading” and said that “each insurer’s policy is different”.

“They offer varying inclusions and exclusions, with different limits,” he said.

“Further, several insurers quoted offer total replacement, which usually has a higher premium, while most insure for agreed value.”

Mr Whelan said insurers are “exploring the feasibility” of listing last year’s premium on renewal contracts and the council had organised a trial.

He said comparison websites “do not best serve the interests of consumers” but the council will conduct an “industry review of product comparability options” to improve customer understanding of differences.

However Susan Quinn, senior policy officer with the Consumer Action Law Centre, said a comparison website “would be a good first step and an improvement on transparency for consumers as it is”.

“What’s really needed from the industry is to accept the onus for consumers being able to compare policies,” she said.

Professor Fels has been appointed to oversee the change in funding the NSW fire and emergency services budget from a levy on insurance contracts to an annual tax on property from July 1.

The monitor is charged with ensuring insurers drop residential insurance premiums by up to 20 per cent and can apply penalties of up to $10 million to companies breaking the rules.

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When is the gender pay gap, the correct gender pay gap?
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Australia seems to lack consistency when it comes to reporting the difference between what men and women are paid – that is, the gender pay gap.

Often the underlying figures and methodologies are not well explained.

As it stands, the data most often used to reflect the national gender pay gap is based on average weekly full-time earnings data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

From this we get a 2016 gender pay gap of 16 per cent.

This figure comes from a sample of about 5700 employers, designed to represent 8 million full-time workers, of which only 2.9 million are women.

While the ABS does not produce its own gender pay gap, it’s easy to calculate from its figures. The 16 per cent gap is recognised by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and is also used in the Financy Women’s Index.

But it’s not the same figure reported globally by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which has Australia’s latest gender pay gap at 15.4 per cent, based on 2014 data.

The difference comes from the fact that OECD uses the latest available median data and they take non-managerial adult ordinary times hours from the ABS.

Why? Because the OECD likes medians – the middle point – more than averages. The median tends to be closer to typical, while averages can be distorted by outliers.

However, most management positions in Australia are held by men across most industries. This means the data is skewed by a concentration of women in non-management roles, and the absence of higher earning workers in management or top level roles.

WGEA on the other hand, also promotes another gender pay gap figure on the front page of its website that stands at 23.1 per cent.

This is based on its own research from more than 12,000 organisations and 4 million employees, which is less than half the number of people in the ABS figures.

WGEA says it produces its own gender pay gap figure because the ABS data does not cover total remuneration.

“The agency uses our own data, based on non-public sector organisations with 100 or more employees, to calculate gender pay gaps using base salary data and data for total remuneration,” says Andrew McMahon, executive manager of research and analytics at WGEA.

“The advantage of the agency’s data is that it allows us to look at the gender pay gap when discretionary pay, such as bonuses and allowances, are included. When these payments are included, we see the gender pay gap in favour of men increase to 23.1 per cent.”

For about a decade, Australia’s national gender pay gap based on average full-time weekly earnings has been sitting in the range of 16 to 18 per cent in favour of men.

The latest 16 per cent figure is the lowest it’s been over this period, but the best result was in 2004, when it fell to 14 per cent.

ABS experts suggest this is because wages took off with the mining boom and the gap expanded as more men took to the industry.

Even today, more than eight out of 10 people working in mining are men.

Mining is Australia’s highest paying sector. The average advertised wage for people working in mining is about $115,000, according to 2016 data obtained by jobs website SEEK.

By contrast, health and education, which are female-dominated, pay an average of $88,000 and $78,000, respectively.

Bianca Hartge-Hazelman is the founding editor of women’s money website financy南京夜网419论坛.

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addresses the media after his tour of the Snowy Hydro Tumut 3 power station in Talbingo, NSW, on Thursday 16 March 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Photo: Alex EllinghausenI don’t know what sort of juice they’re drinking over at the Treasury, but I sure wish I could get some. Perhaps they just delight in watching normally intelligent people treat economic forecasts as if they’re actually based on something more than political wistfulness or a stab in the dark. It’s easy to imagine the chatter over cappuccinos in the morning.
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“Can you believe it? They’ve swallowed our projections whole,” the first says.

“Yes,” the person next to him in the queue responses, slapping his thigh in delight. “Wages growth (currently the lowest on record at just 1.9 per cent, although Australian Bureau of Statistics data only goes back to the late 1990s) has been stuck below 0.6 per cent a quarter for the past three years. Then, without bothering to give any reason for the change (other than suggesting it will ‘revert to the long-term average’), we assert it will suddenly zoom up and almost double. By 2020, it’s more than 1 per cent higher than inflation, yet no one bats an eye. The figures are quite literally incredible!”

A woman behind them isn’t so sure they’ve done the right thing. “But aren’t you worried we’ll be exposed? After all, the Australian National University’s Dr Anthony Swan pointed out (to the aid budget breakfast) that the last five budgets also confidently predicted a line to recovery using almost exactly the same 60-degree angle. Of course it’s never happened. Isn’t there a danger someone will twig and we’ll become a laughing stock?”

This conversation would never happen, of course, because, first, people don’t speak using parentheses and, second, no one need worry that the Treasury will be exposed. After all, it’s not in anyone’s interest to do so because pulling one card from the pile would risk seeing it all collapse.

That’s why the banks, the housing industry and Labor are engaged in reinforcing this conspiracy of silence over the great property swindle, each for their own reasons. The opposition doesn’t want to expose the fragility of the data because it would ricochet back to hit them.

And the banks need to keep lending. Last weekend, a Melbourne apartment above a busy restaurant in Collingwood sold for $740,000. Fair enough, except that exactly the same apartment sold in 2007 for $497,500. Because I’m not mathematically gifted, I can’t be bothered working out how this converts to an annual inflation rate. Nevertheless, what is obvious, even to me, is that these numbers bear no relationship whatsoever to official inflation statistics.

Yet housing forms the foundation of family finances. That’s why it weighs far more heavily in our perceptions of economic security than the part it plays in the composition of the mythical basket of goods and services used to calculate inflation statistics. Is it any wonder most Australians treat these as a joke?

Last weekend, the national auction clearance rate rose slightly to 77 per cent, while Sydney recorded a $9.3 million sale. In Canberra, a Red Hill house that sold for $1.38 million two years ago went under the hammer for $1.54 million. Are you surprised no politician wants to touch negative gearing? The backlash if anything happened to the housing market would be horrific. It means those with money – the very people who are doing increasingly well out of the current system – will continue to benefit from everything remaining exactly the way it is.

The system is broken. The only way this will change is if someone from outside the establishment, a non-politician politician, comes to change it. That’s the appeal of the Donald Trumps of this world.

But the people who’d vote for him aren’t buying this newspaper or paying my salary. So let’s move quickly on from their concerns and worry instead about the other substantial problems with the budget’s accounting.

Both Shane Wright in The West Australian and Peter Martin in Fairfax Media have already exposed the Treasury’s ludicrous pretence that, for some completely unspecified reason, government spending in 2019-20 will suddenly plunge by $6.3 billion compared to the previous budget. This deus ex machina arrives just in time to deliver Scott Morrison’s much-hyped path to surplus.

The problem is it relies on national disability insurance scheme spending dropping by $2 billion; pensions plunging another $2 billion; and the remaining savings coming from slashing carer support and defence equipment spending. The final saving is, perhaps, plausible, if not something this government would wish to boast about. The other savings rely on discovering both the fountain of youth and also an elixir to heal the lame. It’s difficult not to conclude such figures are pure fantasy.

Once again, no Treasury officials has leapt to back the predictions by wagering even a small portion of their salary on the integrity of these forecasts. They won’t, either, because they know full well exactly what witches brew the politicians have churned out.

I certainly don’t want to be the one destroying this heroic chimera. After all, look at what the budget’s promising me: wages up 2.5 per cent next year, 3 per cent the following year, and 3.5 per cent the year after that. I just hope someone’s told the editor. In the meantime, let’s have another cup of the Treasury juice. No substance perhaps, but plenty of froth and bubble.

Nicholas Stuart is a Canberra writer.

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Architectural styles that are modern classicsMelbourne architects share concern for rapid city developmentCould apartment living be the key to happiness?
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What sold out a new residential building in one of the hottest spots in St Kilda was not its benchmarking embedded energy efficiencies that sheet back cost-savings to the body corporate and therefore the residents, but, admit the developers upfront, “it’s the location”.

That’s a no-brainer. For the nine-level, 151 apartment building – known as “181” because that’s the address – has a long north-facing frontage to Fitzroy Street, opposite Junction Oval.

And that means “never to be built out” views to Albert Park and the city. But that’s just one of the brochure boasts that became redundant virtually as soon as news of Pace Development Group’s “lifestyle destination” project got around three years ago.

“The building,” according to PDG’s operations manager, Ian Burke, “sold itself, and quickly”.

Indeed, aside from being on the ever-gentrifying boulevard that’s becoming Melbourne’s mini version of New York’s Park Avenue; the high end design courtesy of S.J.B Architects – for the building, and Carr Interiors – for the fitout, it was a high representation of property industry insiders who lined up to pay from $425,000 for one-bedroom units to $1.7 million for three-bedroom penthouses.

One buyer combined two penthouses, and another was one of Pace’s corporate bosses, which is quite the endorsement considering how many buildings the company has in creation around the town.

Location was the biggest drawcard for many buyers.

The brochure images of the rooftop’s infinity swimming pool and the building’s reverse outlook, over the entire southern bayside, are also virtually superfluous marketing tools now, given that only five apartments came back onto the market after the December settlement, and that only two of those remain to be resold.

And though the photographs show a movie-worthy setting, they don’t do justice to the pool and barbecue deck’s 360-degree panorama that makes the viewing platform possibly the best of any residential building in Melbourne. And I’ve seen a few. Yet outlook and irresistible market appeal is not all we are here to discuss about this revolutionary building.

The pool and barbecue deck’s 360-degree panorama make its possibly the best of any residential building in Melbourne. Photo: Jonathan Bermann

Aside from the to-be-shared red and electric-powered four wheel drive vehicle charging up in the basement garage and belonging to the body corp, 181’s energy performance marks, the developers believe, the first occasion in which a network provider, Origin, was roped in from the get-go to help Pace build in now invisible attributes that, according to Ian Burke, “was about getting the best energy and financial pay-offs for our end users, the tenants”.

With photo voltaic panel capacity, half of the power used for the common area lighting and for charging the electric car is coming in free of charge.

Only five apartments came back onto the market after the December settlement.

With Pace negotiating highly competitive bulk energy buy in rates with Origin, Origin’s Stuart Osbourne says “having gas hot water, gas cooking and electricity all supplied as part of a centralized energy really benefits the residents.”

While such a close working partnership is a novelty, and while Pace says it did have appeal to 181 buyers interested in lower costs and lower carbon footprints, Osbourne says such value-adding energy initiatives in the context of multi-residential buildings are still very much in their infancy.

The ever-gentrifying boulevard is fast becoming Melbourne’s mini version of New York’s Park Avenue. Photo: Jonathan Bermann

“But the energy market is moving so fast at the moment that while the development of battery storage for a building like this is a work in progress, it’s evolving.

“Energy autonomy for large buildings,” he adds, “is a way off but we keep moving closer to greater and greater efficiencies because there are so many more renewable things that we’ll be able to do.”

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Dr Tim Soutphommasane Race Discrimination Commissioner addressed the National Press Club in Canberra on Tuesday 7 July 2015. Photo: Andrew Meares Photo: Andrew MearesThe Singaporean investors behind alleged medicinal cannabis stock, Stem Cell United, have finally announced how they will reward the man – King of Cannabis, Nevil Schoenmakers – who has given the stock one hell of a high since it announced his appointment as a strategic adviser.
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It is giving him 10 million shares, with escrow arrangements stretching from 90 days to 12 months, plus a $5,000 per month advisory fee.

The stock will give Schoenmakers a four per cent stake in the company.

But given the gyrations over the last week following the company’s announcement that it is hoping to enter the medicinal cannabis market – with Schoenmakers to guide them – what his stock would be worth a year from now is anybody’s guess.

The day before the announcement, his 10 million shares would have been worth $130,000. 40 hours later those shares would have peaked in value at $10.85 million.

The stock had another big fall on Monday, but Schoenmakers’ stake is still clinging to the million-plus mark. It could be a long, long year. No discrimination

CBD assumes Commonwealth bank boss Ian Narev will not be straying from the script when he hosts the Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, on Tuesday for the launch of the Leadership Council on Cultural Diversity.

It will help celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

“The Council is an initiative that brings business leaders together to advocate for cultural diversity at senior levels,” says the blurb from Soutphommasane’s office.

Yes, like how about a few more Aussies running one of our Big Four banks for starters given Narev is one of two Kiwis who have claimed the top job in our biggest financial institutions.

But CBD could not help but note that Narev will be on a panel with openly gay author and journalist Benjamin Law.

What are the chances of Law posing a cheeky question on same sex marriage just to see if Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is listening in for any more bullying by our CEOs on this issue.

Even better, Law could ask fellow panelist and ABC boss, Michelle Guthrie, what her views are on this issue. That should go down well with the Libs. Off switch

It has been a bad start to the year for the female board members of our commercial TV operators.

No less than four women have left the boardrooms of the public companies which own Seven, Nine and Ten, starting with Sheila McGregor’s controversial exit from Seven West Media last month.

Nine Entertainment chairman Peter Costello has redressed the balance a little by appointing former Deloitte partner, Sam Lewis, to its modest board which will now have two women. Nine lost two female directors, Holly Kramer and Elizabeth Gaines to other commitments.

The Ten and Seven West boards are down to one woman each after recent resignations, with Siobhan McKenna leaving Ten last week for a full time role at Rupert Murdoch’s Foxtel.

And we still haven’t heard from McGregor who is keeping a very low profile after resigning just before Seven West announced the results of an investigation which cleared its CEO, Tim Worner, of wrongdoing over an affair with office staffer, Amber Harrison. AMPed up

What do you pay the man who presided over its first financial year loss at AMP since Saddam Hussein was running Iraq?

On the surface, it does not look like AMP chief, Craig Meller, has taken much of a hit. His full year remuneration of $4.8 million, is not far short of last year’s $5.28 million.

But the devil is always in the detail – like how much is he pocketing now and how much is still “at risk’ as they like to say.

Meller took home close to $3 million in salary and cash bonuses in 2015, compared with a $1.8 million last year.

What kept his remuneration at respectable levels last year were his share based payments which hit $2.8 million.

The good news is, these performance rights could be worth even more if the company is performing really, really well.

Boy would that be a surprise to its investors.

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The Federal ALP, Greens and Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie will introduce a Bill on Tuesday to invalidate the Fair Work Commission’s decision to reduce Sunday penalty rates for retail and hospitality workers.
Nanjing Night Net

The bill aims to protect Sunday and public holiday penalty rates at their present levels and is identical to one Opposition Leader Bill Shorten introduced into the lower house of the Federal Parliament on Monday.

The bill will be introduced in the Senate on Tuesday and is expected to be debated this week. Although it is unlikely to pass through the lower house where the Coalition has the numbers, it is designed to draw out crossbenchers Nick Xenophon, Pauline Hanson and Derryn Hinch and test their positions on cuts to penalty rates.

Opposition employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor said Labor was giving the crossbench, including One Nation, Nick Xenophon and Derryn Hinch, “a chance to put up or shut up”.

“We know that the Turnbull government supports the devastating cuts to penalty rates but by introducing our bill to protect penalty rates in the Senate, we will also know where the crossbench sits,” he said.

“Senators Hanson, Xenophon and Hinch can’t say they support penalty rates when they’re in their electorates and not vote to protect them in Canberra.”

Greens workplace relations spokesman Adam Bandt said after “leading the charge to protect penalty rates in law, the Greens have reached agreement with the Labor Party on a bill that will stop the Fair Work Commission’s decision from coming into effect”.

“Now it’s time for Nick Xenophon, Pauline Hanson and Derryn Hinch to decide whether they stand for protecting wages or cutting them,” he said.

“If the conservative crossbenchers have the guts to vote with us, this bill could pass the Senate this week and the government would be under huge pressure to pass it through the house before the cuts come into effect.”

The Fair Work Commission has decided to reduce Sunday penalty rates for full-time and part-time workers in retail from 200 per cent to 150 per cent of their standard hourly rate, while casuals will go from 200 per cent to 175 per cent.

Hospitality employees will face a reduction in Sunday pay from 175 per cent to 150 per cent, while casual hospitality workers’ pay will remain unchanged.

Fast-food employees’ Sunday rates will go from 150 per cent to 125 per cent for full-time and part-time staff, and casuals will go from 200 per cent to 175 per cent.

Holiday penalty rates for full-time and part-time employees in hospitality and retail will also be slashed from 250 per cent, or “double time and a half”, to 225 per cent.

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Community resistance affecting supply of affordable housing, experts sayIf you’re serious about affordable Sydney housing, Premier, here’s a must-do listA housing affordability crisis in regional Australia? Yes, and here’s why
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When you think of affordable housing tenants Sydneysider Alice Anderson probably isn’t the type of person that springs to mind.

While the 27-year-old works five days a week, her moderate income means she’s one of a growing number of Sydneysiders struggling to afford to rent in the area she grew up in and works.

“People assume you have to be on welfare [to be in affordable housing],” she said. “One of the biggest misconceptions about it is that nobody works, everyone’s lazy.”

“Sydney is expensive, and with rents rising above incomes it means it’s becoming harder to comfortably live in the city you’re working in,” she added.

While Alice welcomes proposals to increase the supply of affordable housing, she thinks more needs to be done to educate people on what affordable housing actually is.

Often confused with social housing, affordable housing is built for very low to moderate income households and priced so they are able to meet other basic living costs. While affordable housing tenants do not have to be eligible for social housing, people who are eligible for social housing may also be able to qualify for affordable housing.

If it wasn’t for her Everleigh studio apartment at City West Housing’sPlatform Apartments – where rents are capped at a maximum of 30 per cent of a household’s income – Alice believes she’d struggle to get by and would have had to move away from the friendship groups and services she grew up with.

“When I moved in two years ago I was on about $40,000 annually, now I’m almost on $55,000,” said Alice who currently pays about $284 rent a week.

“My rent has increased since then as my wages have gone up. There will probably come a point where I’ll be earning too much and will have to move out, but this has given me a good chance to save.”

An affordable housing tenant living alone can currently earn a maximum gross annual income of $59,900, according to the Centre for Affordable Housing’s eligibility guidelines.

With the maximum income for a household increasing by $30,000 for every additional adult and $18,000 for every additional child, a couple with four children could still be considered as moderate earners with a combined income of $161,900.

City West Housing tenancy services manager Christina Hough said a diverse range of tenants and household types lived in the housing provider’s 731 affordable homes, which house more than 1400 people, including key workers like nurses, teachers and emergency service personnel.

She said the widening gap between the eligibility for social housing and the rising cost of the private rental market, meant there was huge demand for more affordable housing.

“We’ve got hundreds of people on our waitings lists, and we don’t even promote them,” she said, noting that with an estimated 60,000 people on the social housing waiting list at least 100,000 additional affordable housing properties were needed in NSW.

Andrea Galloway, chief executive officer of community housing provider Evolve Housing, said an estimated 44 per cent of NSW households were living in financial stress, and noted there was a huge shortage of affordable housing, particularly for single person households, which are forecast to significantly increase in the coming decades.

Of the 603 properties managed by Evolve Housing, 40 per cent are occupied by singles, 30 per cent by single parent families, 20 per cent by couples with children and just 10 per cent by couples without children.

She noted apart from giving low to moderate income workers the opportunity to find affordable accommodation close to where they worked and providing an opportunity for some households to save for a house deposit, affordable housing also provided a stepping stone for social housing tenants into the private rental market.

When Felicia Heggarty moved into one of Evolve Housing’s 170 studio apartments two years ago with her fiance Adrian Cooper, the pair had been sleeping rough for a year and a half while waiting for social housing.

Benefit payments initially enabled the couple to cover their below market rent for the studio but they upgraded to a two-bedroom apartment after securing work – Adrian as a full-time driver for a crane company and Felicia as a part time cleaner.

Earlier this month, the pair, who are expecting a child in May, were able to move back into the private rental market and are now renting a five-bedroom home in Penrith.

“When this lease ended we were no longer under the income bracket and wouldn’t have expected to stay in that place when it could be helping other people, so that they can one day have the ability like us to go out and rent properly.”

She said the couple’s time at Evolve enabled them to develop a rental history and use their income to save for a bond, buy white goods for a home and improve their qualifications.

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1. FBI confirms Russia investigation
Nanjing Night Net

It has been an extraordinary few hours in Washington where FBI director James Comey has been giving what has been an, at times, gripping testimony to the congressional House Intelligence Committee.

Donald Trump spent his Monday morning tweeting extensively about “FAKE NEWS” pushed by the media and Democrats in relation to Russia, in anticipation of Monday’s hearing.

Comey’s confirmation that the FBI is investigating whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians during the US election was widely expected – but nevertheless still sensational. [Fairfax]

Comey also shot down Donald Trump’s claims, made via Twitter, that Obama “wire-tapped” him in the lead up to the vote. [Key moments/Politico]

And he said Russia used a “cut out” with WikiLeaks to dump hacked emails belonging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee. WikiLeaks suggested on Twitter it was “educating” rather than “interfering” by publishing documents related to Clinton. Did WikiLeaks ‘educate’ or ‘interfere’ with the 2016 US election by publishing Hillary Clinton’s paid speeches and other statements???? WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) March 20, 2017 Photo: Chris J. Ratcliffe

It was also a big day in London with Downing Street confirming the date for the triggering of Article 50. Prime Minister Theresa May will start the formal break-up next Wednesday, setting up two years of formal negotiations about Britain’s exit from the European Union. [My report/Fairfax]

Prominent Remainer, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, was under pressure in the Commons over his decision to take up the editorship at the London newspaper The Evening Standard. [BBC]

Meanwhile in opposition ranks, the charismatic deputy Labour leader Tom Watson was today’s casualty of the battle for the party’s heart and soul. [Kate Proctor/The Independent]

As Labour’s civil war rages, the Tories today led the opposition by 19 points in the polls. 3. Aus politics

Cabinet has landed on what looks to be a viable option for reforming section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act, striking out the offences of “insult” and “offend” but adding “harrass”. [Simon Benson and David Crowe/The Australian]

But will they pass the Senate crossbench? [James Massola/Fairfax]

New ACTU boss Sally McManus. Photo: ABC

The new leader of the ACTU, Sally McManus backed the campaign to boycott Israeli goods. [Brad Norington/The Australian]

McManus has backed down on the other inflammatory comment made during her ABC interview that construction company Grocon “killed workers.” [Ewin Hannan/The Australian]

McManus is creating serious headaches for the ALP, at a time when the Coalition is finding confidence to go on the front foot on industrial relations.

The defection of Cory Bernardi and behaviour of Tony Abbott has consolidated Turnbull’s position, writes the friend of the former PM, Catherine McGregor. [The Daily Telegraph] 4. Gina stuns rich list

Bill Gates is ranked the world’s richest man in Forbes 2017 Billionaires List for the fourth year in a row. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg moved up to fifth spot. [The World’s Billionaires]

In the context of the inequality debate, it’s worth noting that 2017 rated as the best for the rich with the number of billionaires jumping 13 per cent to 2,043 from 1,810 last year.

Forbes says it is the first time the magazine has pinned down more than 2,000 ten-figure-fortunes.

“Their total net worth rose by 18 per cent to $US7.67 trillion, also a record.” [LuisaKroll and Kerry A. Dolan]

Western Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart. Photo: Jim Rice

But it was Australian Gina Rinehart who was catapulted up the rankings. She was 127 in 2016 and position 69 in 2017, with her wealth almost doubling. [Jennifer Wang/Forbes] 5. French presidential debate

I really regret not keeping up with my French in high school. The five top presidential candidates face-off in a televised debate at 9pm local time. It’s likely to shape up as a showdown between the two frontrunners – the liberal Emmanuel Macron and far-right Marine Le Pen. [Nicholas Vinocur/] 6. Jesus tomb reopened

A restoration team has peeled away a marble layer for the first time in centuries in an effort to reach what it believes is the original rock surface where Jesus’ body was laid. Photo: Dusan Vranic

After months of restoration work, the tomb where Jesus was buried in Old Jerusalem is being reopened to the public. [Reuters]

And that’s it from me today, you can follow me on Facebook for more.

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RANCHI: They’ve been at the centre of arguments over the decision review system, a shoulder injury and now it’s India’s team physiotherapist caught in the crossfire in Steve Smith and Virat Kohli’s feud.
Nanjing Night Net

In a peculiar twist to one of the strongest rivalries in world cricket, Kohli has accused the Australian captain of showing disrespect to Patrick Farhart.

???It follows the bitter dispute which erupted over Smith’s inappropriate use of DRS in Bangalore and the Australian captain being falsely accused of making light of Kohli’s shoulder injury.

After the storm which followed the second Test, the latest allegation is small fry but underlines how much each leader gets under the skin of the other.

It has emerged Kohli was unhappy the Australians made references to Farhart while the India skipper was at the crease and let Smith know as he made his way to the pavilion. Farhart and Kohli had been working closely to manage the star batsman’s shoulder injury which he suffered during the first day.

That Kohli would choose the moment straight after a cheap dismissal to argue with an opponent is puzzling.

“It is funny, all our guys ask about cricket and the first thing you ask is controversial. But it is ok,” Kohli said after the drawn third Test when asked about the issue by an Australian reporter.

“These things happen on the field. Four, five of them take Patrick’s name. I don’t know why. His job is to treat me. I did not find the reason behind it. I could not understand. You must ask him why they started taking his name.”

Smith said he was not showing disrespect to Farhart, who is close to several of the Australian players through his 19-year career as NSW’s physio. He also held the same role at the Sydney Sixers up until January 2015.

“I am a bit disappointed, I didn’t actually do anything,” Smith said.

“Virat was having a go at me out in the middle and saying how I was disrespecting Patrick Farhat when actually it was the exact opposite.

“If I was to do anything I think he did a pretty terrific job to get Virat back on the field after that shoulder injury.

“I think he’s a terrific physio and does a great job for their team.”

Despite what was at stake on the last day, tempers were largely kept in check apart from a dust up in the first session involving India fast bowler Ishant Sharma.

Sharma had been unhappy Matt Renshaw backed away from the crease when he well into his run up, prompting the bowler to bounce the ball through to the wicketkeeper.

???Smith said Renshaw had withdrawn after seeing Murali Vijay, who was fielding at mid-wicket, take steps to his left as Sharma was running in. Sharma had the last laugh in that battle by claiming Renshaw’s wicket later that over.

“So that put him off and he’s entitled to back away,” Smith said.

“I’m not sure what happened with Ishant, he obviously wasn’t overly happy but to be fair he bowled pretty well after that.

“Whatever it was made him a bit angry and he bowled pretty well the couple of overs after that.”

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