Gerry Harvey’s retail operation Harvey Norman has no explanation for why its shares tanked badly on Monday.
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The company was responding to a please explain notice from the ASX after its shares dropped more than 8 per cent on Monday – wiping hundreds of millions from its market cap – with no obvious explanation for the rout.

In a statement to the ASX, Harvey Norman said it was not aware of any information which could explain the recent trading.

Gerry himself should be looking for an answer given his personal wealth was down more than $100 million on the day. He even tried to shore up the share price, buying two million shares for $8.7 million and posting a notice to the ASX within hours.

But what caused the rout?

Let’s go through what we do know.

Long time Harvey Norman executive, David Matthew Ackery, issued a directors notice earlier on Monday announcing he had sold $1.5 million worth of shares to pay off an ANZ loan which was secured against his stake in the retailer.

It was the second share sale by a director in less than a week with Gerry’s wife, Harvey Norman CEO Katie Page, selling some stock last week.

Trading in the stock has been heavy since she announced her sale.

The other news of interest on Monday was some research from Credit Suisse predicting who would be road kill when Amazon finally comes to town. iFrameResize({enablePublicMethods : true, heightCalculationMethod : “lowestElement”,resizedCallback : function(messageData){}, checkOrigin: false},”#pez_iframeA”);

Harvey Norman gets a mention, but the impact would not be as bad for the retail giant as would be for rival businesses like JB HiFi, Myer and Super Retail.

Harvey Norman is probably the best insulated from any Amazon threat, according to the Credit Suisse report.

Could it be the markets got scared by a report in Saturday’s Australian Financial Review by Neil Chenoweth?

It raised fresh questions about the byzantine structure that governs Harvey Norman’s franchisee business and the transparency of the company’s accounts.

Especially in relation to the jaw dropping 110 franchise operations which fail each year, and how the losses of these failed shops are recorded in its accounts.

The ASX query asked the retailer about some of the information in the report, including the line in the report about ASIC investigating how the retailer reports its exposure to these losses and troubled loans.

Harvey Norman offered a typically blunt response.

“The AFR article makes false statements and assumptions and then proceeds to make assertions and draw conclusions, which are also false, based upon those false statements and assumptions.”

It might not be enough to head of the short sellers that Gerry was lambasting at the company’s AGM in November, and if the reports of ASIC’s interest in Harvey Norman’s accounts are true – the market might just be waiting for the other shoe to drop.

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Just one slice of a seemingly “healthy” bread in the supermarket can contain double the typical amount of salt in a packet of chips, a new study shows.
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Researchers at the George Institute for Global Health analysed nearly 1500 bread products, including loaves, crumpets and flat breads, over the past seven years and found “healthy” options such as rye and sourdough had alarming levels of salt.

They found some loaves contained more than one-third of the daily recommended salt intake of five grams in just two slices.

One of the most concerning products was Schwob’s Dark Rye, which had 1.2 grams of salt per slice (70g). To compare, a small packet of Kettle’s sea salt chips has less than half the amount.

“We know that excess salt in our diet increases blood pressure and the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, so our findings are incredibly worrying especially as many of the products that have the highest levels of salt are perceived by families as being the healthiest,” lead author Clare Farrand said.

Bowan Island’s Wholemeal Sourdough was also highlighted for its salt content, which at 1.6g of salt per 100g, was nearly three times saltier than the best option, Bill’s Certified Organic 100 per cent Wholemeal Sourdough.

The researchers found flat breads had the highest average sodium content in all breads analysed in 2017.

They found the worst option was Mission’s Chapattis Garlic, which at 2.3g of salt per 100g, was 23 times saltier than the best option – Mission’s White Corn Tortillas.

Mission was attacked in an advertising campaign last year by Goodman Fielder that sought to promote its “healthier” option, Helga’s wraps.

At the time it claimed: “If you choose to eat the leading wrap product on the market (Mission Original Wraps), you’ll add 90 teaspoons of salt to your diet every year.”

Ms Farrand said they found “huge” variations in salt levels in each bread category, which showed there was a clear opportunity for manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt in their recipes.

For example, two slices of Schwob’s white sourdough had nearly 80 per cent more salt than two slices of Aldi’s Baker’s Life Super Soft White Sandwich Bread.

She said in good news the research revealed salt levels in breads and bread rolls had dropped by about 10 per cent over the past seven years.

In 2009, the federal government set salt reduction targets for three major categories, including bread, in a bid to achieve the World Health Organisation’s aim of reducing global salt intake by 30 per cent by 2025.

The target for bread was set as 400mg of sodium (1g of salt) per 100g.

The researchers found 81 per cent of breads covered by the Food and Health Dialogue (FHD) initiative met the target in 2017, compared to 37 per cent in 2010.

But only two-thirds of breads in their study were covered by the targets. When it came to those excluded, such as flat breads, only 49 per cent met the targets,

“What Australia needs is a consistent drop in salt levels across all processed foods, not just in some breads,” Ms Farrand said.

“This can only be achieved if we have comprehensive government and industry supported salt reduction targets for all product categories.”

Gluten free breads were excluded from the initiative, but a third failed to meet the 400mg of sodium per 100g target. Gluten Free Crostini Bread Rolls contained double the target amount.

The research was released to mark the 10th World Salt Awareness Week.

David Cummings, owner of Sydney-based Bowan Island Bakery, said he was interested in the study’s findings and they had begun a review on sodium levels across its range.

Schwob’s Swiss Bakery did not respond to a request for comment by deadline. Savvy Consumer – Interact with us on FacebookLatest consumer affairs news

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So after another day of the unexpected, in a series of the unexpected, we go to an unexpected decider. The way the series has escalated, every session feels more important than the the last, and every day, and every match, and so the stage for fourth Test is set. In Dharamsala, nestling in the Himalayas, it will feel like a summit.
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Australia had the better of this draw in the sense that they will feel like they won something, India that they lost something. Now India must win, Australia merely draw again. That won’t be their mindset, of course. But already in this series, they have demonstrated to themselves the joy of virtues they once scorned, patience and restraint. Last time in India, the further behind they fell, the more they rapped out their motto about the need to play their natural attacking game. They lost 4-0.

This time, it has been different. This day, they had to do as Donald Trump plans – invest all they had into defence. This day, by playing out of a somewhat mythologised Australian character, they showed even greater character. This day, instead of trying to swallow the elephant whole, they did it bite by bite. Fortunately, it was an Indian elephant, slightly smaller than the African.

Peter Handscomb will make many lesser Test hundreds than his four-and-a-half hour, 200-ball 72 not out on a fifth-day pitch in India. Ditto Shaun Marsh and his 197-ball 53, for the balls counted for as the runs. Marsh is a sub-continental specialist, Handscomb a learner, a fast learner. Each has his own way, founded in his personality. For Marsh, it is absence of extravagance, for Handscomb inner conviction.

Together, but each in his way, they had to deal with a thousand variations of pace, line and trajectory, not to mention spin and bounce, and fieldsmen in the corner of their eyes, and Indian captain Virat Kohli’s slights and provocations from slip, and periodically the screeching appeals of Ravindra Jadeja. Sometimes when the spinners were operating, it must have been like facing one of those oriental gods with many arms, all whirling. They came through.

Do not forget the Herculean effort of the bowlers to draw out India’s innings for long enough for this result to become remotely within reach. Every part of a Test match connects to every other part.

And fie upon you who would outlaw the draw. Only in the AFL must it be that a match cannot stop or even slow down, and always finish in a breathless climax. Test cricket mostly hums along at a good pace now anyway, so that fifth days are rare, and draws rarer, and when they happen along usually constitute an authentic result anyway, not just an unfinished match. This was one such.

Thinks back over the day and its multifarious factors, grinding up against one another like tectonic plates. An avalanche of runs was never likely, but a shearing away of wickets was. There was the erosion of the pitch, the deterioration of the ball and then its renewal. There was the vigilance of the batsmen, the guile of the bowlers, the temperament of both. There was the passage of time, the dwindling stock of overs, the diminishing deficit and then the growing margin, the distant refuge of the draw, giving succour for Australia and urgency to India.

Informing these, there were immutable features, left-hander and right-, left-armer and right-, this end but not that, over the wicket and around, each combination making for a different game within a game. Once, Ravichandran Ashwin even bowled to Handscomb a leg-spinner. There was odd rogue bounce, though in truth fewer than predicted on a pitch that like the series confounded even Indian experts, who like real estate doomsayers continued to predict a crash that never came. There was the tactical intrigue, played with cards face up.

There was luck – one DRS reprieve each for Handscomb and Marsh by “umpire’s call” – and momentum and nerves and their conquering, and because of all this there was the knotting of all stomachs not just for minutes at a time, but hours, and they did not really start to unwind until the last hour and the truce became apparent.

Australia’s achievement is that only once did a wobble appear in the force field they created. After an hour-and-a-half of watchfulness, Steve Smith and Matt Renshaw were settled. Each “no” was not just a call, but an announcement, intent, of denial. Then Renshaw baulked Ishant Sharma in his run-up, prompting a kerfuffle with just a hint of the contrived about it. Three balls later, Ishant’s in-slanter trapped Renshaw lbw.

Three more balls later, Smith shoulder arms to a Ravindra Jadeja ball pitched outside leg-stump and was bowled off-stump. Considering the burden Smith has shouldered on this tour, it was possible to think that he had not so much padded up as buckled at the knee. Would it have been any wonder? Fatalism settled over the Australian camp.

But Renshaw and Smith had shown the way, and Handscomb and Marsh followed faithfully in their footsteps. The sun beat down, the roller wore off, the pitch crumbled apace, but the batsmen’s minds did not. Handscomb waited 78 balls to hit a four, Marsh was no less fastidious, but what were these few hours beside eternity? Kohli squandered a review, and missed a trick, bowling Ashwin too sparingly. India tried a second time to foment and distract, but it did not work. Finally, Marsh prodded a catch from Jadeja and Glenn Maxwell quickly followed, but these wickets served only to highlight the perils Australia already had safely negotiated. Kohli,for contrariness’s sake, delayed the ceasefire.

Nothing has been won yet, so it would be folly to overplay Australia’s exploits. But it should be acknowledged that against the might of India at home, Australia was fielding five men each with fewer than 10 Tests, including one who has not played for two-and-a-half years and another who has not played for five, and are without their best fast bowler and for now bearing along their next best batsman after Smith, and yet they are taking this series to the finish line. By such deeds, in such a crucible, careers are born, and sometimes eras.

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Aviation workers are sleeping on makeshift beds amid squalid conditions in the bowels of Sydney International Airport while they wait for their next shift.
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Footage obtained by the Transport Workers Union shows bed rolls and bedding, hidden behind a baggage carousel laid out on a grubby concrete floor in what has been described as “Third World conditions”.

Workers who sleep here are employed by one of Australia’s largest aviation services companies, Aerocare, which offers baggage handling, aircraft loading, towing and other aviation services for some of Australia’s biggest airlines including Qantas and Jetstar, Virgin and Singapore Airlines.

The Transport Workers Union says workers are spending more than 14 hours per day at the airport, under a split-shift arrangement aimed at cutting costs.

Under the system workers can be told to work more than one shift in a single day. One former worker, Jason, said sometimes there was a six-hour wait between shifts.

“The employees, on their split shifts, just made little nests with airline blankets and waited,” he said

“All the other staff know that’s where Aerocare go on their shifts. Really you shouldn’t even be at the airport after your shift.”

Split shifts are allowed under a 2012 agreement that unions challenged.

Fair Work Commission vice-president Graeme Watson approved the enterprise agreement in February 2013, saying it passed the so-called better-off overall test. The test ensures workers are better off overall under a proposed enterprise agreement than they would be under the relevant award.

A former partner at law firm Freehills, Mr Watson was the last remaining Coalition appointee in a senior role at the commission and a strong dissenter in favour of business. He said the commission was “partisan, dysfunctional and divided” when he announced his resignation from it in January.

In his decision, Mr Watson said the minimum three-hour shifts under the Aerocare enterprise agreement was a “disadvantage” to workers compared to the minimum four-hour shifts required under the award.

“I do not believe that a three-hour work period followed by a subsequent one-hour unpaid meal break is consistent with the award requirement that employers roster part-time employees for a minimum of four consecutive hours on any shift or the minimum payment of four hours for casuals,” he said.

“I propose to consider this change as a detriment to both part-time and casual employees.”

However, considering all the circumstances, Mr Watson said he was satisfied the advantages within the enterprise agreement outweighed the disadvantages.

“In my view the benefits of the agreement are substantial,” he said.

However, Jason said Aerocare workers were being paid so poorly they “didn’t care about their jobs” and safety standards had started to suffer.

“The pay and conditions were pretty bad, but my main issue was the safety issue, the fact that people are being so poorly remunerated they don’t care about their jobs,” he said.

“They are budget providers and this is not an industry that you should employ people on a budget.”

TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon said the footage showed “the reality of work behind the shiny facade of our airports”.

“Workers are struggling on slave wages and sleeping on bed rolls because they have to spend long days at work to support their families,” he said.

“This is being allowed to happen because airports and airlines are outsourcing work to low-cost companies and not giving a damn about the workers in their supply chains that it affects.”

In February, Qantas posted a statutory net profit after tax of $515 million, down 25 per cent on the previous year’s result.

Aerocare said it was negotiating a new workplace agreement.

Chief executive Glenn Rutherford said he was focused on improving its rostering system and securing more contracts to help employees get longer shifts.

“It obviously isn’t our preference to have shorter shifts but rostering is driven by the needs of our customers, with rosters determined by flight schedules and noting that it generally takes three hours to fully service an international aircraft,” he said.

But any suggestion its employees were being “forced” to camp out in secure areas of Sydney airport while they wait for their “split shifts” was “false”.

“No Aerocare employee is forced to do anything and it is difficult to comprehend how anyone could make such a claim given that last year alone we had over 180 safety and security related audits – all of which were passed,” Mr Rutherford said.

“We would never knowingly allow any of our employees to sleep at the airport as the safety and well-being of our employees is paramount to our operation.

“Our employees enjoy improving wages, and safer conditions than those offered by many of our competitors and we have spent millions of dollars improving our rostering system to maximise the duration of employee shifts.”

A Sydney Airport spokeswoman said it worked closely with airport partners, including the AFP and Border Force, to ensure a safe and secure environment.

“Any matters raised at the airport are resolved in consultation with our partners, in accordance with the relevant legislation,” she said.

Jetstar, which is owned by Qantas, said the union claims were part of negotiations for a new pay deal between Aerocare and their employees and was “a matter between them”.

“Aerocare’s airline customers like Jetstar do not determine the pay and conditions of Aerocare’s employees,” the spokesman said.

“Aerocare has advised us that their employees are not required to work multiple shifts in a day.”

Aerocare supplies aviation services to Jetstar, QantasLink and other Australian and international airlines at airports around the country.

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Ranchi: Steve Smith has boldly declared the momentum of the series is firmly with Australia heading into the decider after the visitors defied the odds to save the third Test.
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The Australians were under extreme pressure from the moment India rescued their innings on day three through to the finish but are buoyed by their escape.

India, however, will also have tremendous belief in their camp after recovering from a tricky position to get themselves to the point where they were hot favourites to win the game.

Smith was fearing the worst after his dismissal shortly before lunch but was saved by dogged half-centuries from Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh. Smith rated Handscomb’s unbeaten 70 as worth 140 due to the conditions and the perilous state of the game.

They batted for eight minutes shy of four hours to turn what appeared impending defeat into a fighting draw, ensuring the series remains locked at 1-1.

What seemed unthinkable a month ago – Australia retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy or even winning a series in India – remains in play going into the fourth Test in Dharamsala starting Saturday.

“If there’s anything called momentum, it’s with us at the moment,” Smith said.

“India coming into today would have expected to bowl us out. I’m sure they’re hurting a little bit in their change room.”

India captain Virat Kohli said his team had plenty to take out of the stalemate. They were playing to win whereas Australia were saving the game.

“It’s a matter of individual perception. I will see the positives I can draw from it. We’re happy where we positioned after them after the first innings, did not have to play the second innings,” Kohli said.

“They were playing for a draw. They’d notice their positives. One match left, both sides would give their best.”

Handscomb and Marsh embodied the resilience the captain believed was missing during the team’s horror run against Sri Lanka and South Africa and in past failed missions to the subcontinent.

“I’m very proud, they had game plans, they backed their defence for a long period of time. To see the game out for as long as they did was an outstanding performance,” Smith said.

“That’s one of the things we’ve been talking about – being resilient and sticking out the tough times. The way Petey and Shaun did that was magnificent.”

The match appeared headed for a swift finish when opener Matt Renshaw and Smith departed in the space of four balls

“It wasn’t ideal to lose two set batters at once. That’s something we always talk about here in India to not lose wickets in clumps,” Smith said.

“It wasn’t ideal but I have faith in the boys behind me. Peter’s looked very good in every game so far without going on to make a score.

“Today the way he did that, his 70 not out is worth 140 in my eyes. I thought he played beautifully and Shaun as well.

“They stuck to their plans throughout and never shied away from it.”

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Pressure on China’s leaders to cut pollution from coal is likely to intensify – potentially hurting Australia’s exports – with new research showing Beijing’s air quality will get worse with climate change.
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The Chinese capital’s ring of mountains to the west and north naturally traps pollution, especially in winter.

But a warming world is projected to increase the frequency of the most severe pollution events by half, according to research published on Tuesday in the Nature Climate Change journal.

The duration of events similar to the “Airpocalypse” of January 2013 – when pollution levels soared to beyond 20 times the level recommended by the World Health Organisation – will rise by 80 per cent, the study found.

Using 14 climate models, the research predicted a more stagnant air mass over northern Asia and a reduced land-sea temperature difference during winter, leading to weaker north-westerly winds, said Wenju Cai, a senior CSIRO scientist and lead author of the paper.

“If the air becomes stable, the air pollution cannot rise up and the wind is not there so it cannot be taken away,” Dr Cai said. “Then it becomes a serious problem.”

While the pollution had been getting worse in recent years, there was not enough data to determine how much climate change had already had an impact, he said.

Even so, the expected pattern may already be playing out. These include northerly winds often failing to reach Beijing and sometimes being replaced by southerlies that dragged in heavy industry pollutants from cities to the south that cloaked the capital, he said.

The chart below shows PM2.5 particulate levels compared with recommended levels of 25, and the 150 marker that triggers “severe pollution” warnings. Australia rarely reached a level of 25, Dr Cai said.

The research projections suggest the Chinese government will have to do a lot more if emissions cuts already planned are to make a difference in Beijing and many of the nation’s northern cities.

The municipal region this week closed the last of its coal-fired power stations and has forced other big polluters out of the capital in a bid to quell growing public concerns about pollution.

China imports about 10 per cent of the coal it burns, with Australia among the suppliers. A drop in coal consumption in China could affect Australia’s other markets, particularly if China resumes exports.

“Cutting coal would be quite effective – it cuts both particulates and greenhouse gases,” Dr Cai said.

The research indicated China had an incentive to encourage emissions cuts beyond its borders, he added: “Solving Beijing’s air pollution problems requires everywhere and everyone around the world.”

Teng Fei, an associate professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing who specialises in energy and the environment, said the government’s policy to replace coal with gas-fired power in Beijing itself was now complete. More distant provinces also provided electricity from renewables, coal and other sources.

“Most people expect coal consumption will stabilise [in China] in coming years, but whether it will reduce … we’re not too sure,” Professor Teng said.

He is doubtful, too, that China will use its global clout to nudge nations to do more to reduce greenhouse gases than they have committed to as part of the Paris climate agreement.

The 2015 accord, which came into effect last year, relies on a voluntary “bottom-up approach based on commitments by each nation”, said Professor Teng, who served on China’s negotiating team.

“China will not force other countries to do it,” he said.

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The head of the competition watchdog, Rod Sims, is fighting union claims he broke the public service code of conduct by publicly endorsing Colin Barnett’s $11 billion power privatisation plan just four days before West Australians went to the polls this month.
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Australian Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd has received an official complaint against Mr Sims, the chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, alleging he breached his responsibility to remain “apolitical” during the WA election.

During the final week of the WA campaign, Mr Sims’ comments in favour of the Liberal Party’s planned sell-off of Western Power were splashed across the front page of the state’s only daily newspaper, The West Australian.

“If Western Power was privatised, that would lower power prices because the new owner would be more efficient,” Mr Sims told the newspaper. “The new owner would not be allowed to just increase prices.”

Mr Sims had agreed to an interview to talk about the release of an ACCC report on airport monitoring but was posed questions on the red-hot privatisation debate, Fairfax Media has learned.

An ACCC spokeswoman said he had “paraphrased” previous comments he had made about Western Power as far back as October last year.

In its complaint, the Electrical Trades Union alleged Mr Sims had contravened rules around public servants remaining above the political fray but also revealed its annoyance that his intervention overshadowed a union-sponsored report that backed Labor leader Mark McGowan’s anti-privatisation push.

“[Mr Sims’] comments coincided with the release of economic modelling that showed that the Barnett government had overstated the budgetary benefits of the privatisation of Western Power,” ETU secretary Allen Hicks complained in his complaint letter to Mr Lloyd.

“These comments had the effect of neutralising the impact of the report’s release and ensuring that the day’s coverage favoured the incumbent coalition on a vote-changing issue only days before the state election.”

The union is comparing Mr Sims’ intervention to the complaint upheld against NBN chairman Ziggy Switkowski, who was accused of breaking caretaker conventions in a forthright opinion piece published by Fairfax Media during the last federal election, in which he defended calling in the police against leakers.

A spokeswoman for Mr Lloyd confirmed the complaint had been received.

“The Commission does not comment on the status of allegations or investigations,” she said.

Mr Sims has been locked in a rolling battle with the ETU and the Australian Services Union since January when they used audio of a speech given by Mr Sims to back the anti-privatisation case in radio advertisements.

The ads featured Mr Sims saying: “When you meet people in the street and they say I don’t want privatisation because it boosts prices and you dismiss them; no no, they’re right. Recent examples suggest they’re right.”

But he claimed to have been taken “right out of context” because he was talking about port sales, like the Port of Newcastle, not electricity assets where prices remain under the control of regulators.

“Mr Sims views on privatisation are well known and had been discussed in relation to Western Power as early as October 2016,” an ACCC spokeswoman said.

“His comments published on March 6 were made during an interview with the West Australian on another topic: an annual ACCC report on airport monitoring. Mr Sims was asked a question about his previous comments made regarding Western Power and he paraphrased what he had previously said.”

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Home doctors fear the axe is about to fall on Medicare-funded, after-hours visits to millions of Australian households each year, resulting in after-hours patients being pushed towards already stretched hospital emergency departments.
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The National Association for Medical Deputising Services is so concerned about the signals emanating from Health Minister Greg Hunt and his departmental bureaucrats, it has commissioned polling to gauge the popularity of the home visits – which have their own Medical Benefits Schedule numbers.

Television advertising is scheduled to start from this week.

It says the polling conducted on behalf of the organisation has found 74 per cent of Australians would view a reduced home-visits program as a violation of Mr Turnbull’s no-cuts-to-Medicare pledge.

The issue is caught up in complex medico-political positioning. One suggestion is that the government will move to truncate the service by requiring that all visits be conducted by a GP – rather than a trainee emergency doctor, as happens at present.

Competitor doctors’ organisations, which could stand to benefit from a reconfiguration, share the government’s concerns that the service has allowed too many call-outs to be classified as “emergency” visits, triggering a much higher MBS payment than doctors would receive from the standard attendance fee.

The doctors who undertake the home visits through the small hours of the night and morning, assert that reductions would result in patients having to attend hospital emergency departments, thus causing cost-shifting and increased risk.

NAMDS President Dr Spiro Doukakis said: “Doctor home visits are an essential Medicare service and are relied on by two million Australian families – especially carers of people with disability, the elderly and young children.

“Since 2005, the percentage of unnecessary emergency department visits (lower acuity category 4 and 5 GP-type presentations) have reduced from 54 per cent to 47 per cent.”

Health industry sources confirmed the review currently being led by former Australian Medical Association boss Steve Hambleton, is likely to recommend changes to the program amid concerns within the government that the scheme is being “rorted”.

Mr Hunt said his commitment to after-hours medical access was “rock-solid”.

“But we also have a commitment to ensuring that every service provided is genuine and that every doctor is up to scratch,” he said.

“I am concerned about reports that some doctors are claiming to be providing urgent services when they’re not urgent at all.”

“The advice from the AMA and the RACGP is that some of these junior doctors and corporate firms are claiming for items which are not genuinely urgent.”

But Dr Doukakis argued it was actually saving money.

“Whereas the growth in emergency department presentations for genuine emergency issues have grown by an average 26 per cent over the past five years, growth in non-emergencies has basically stopped at 3 per cent off a base of 19 per cent per annum prior to 2011. That shows this is good health policy and its doing its job of easing pressure on hospitals.

“The savings to the health system were calculated by Deloitte Access Economics at $724 million (net savings) over four years. Of course, the savings are to the benefit of state health budgets.”

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High-flying executives at the Australian Public Service Commission would be distressed if details of their salaries, each running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, were made public, the commission says.
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The APSC is the the government’s federal workplace enforcer, responsible for policing the Coalition’s hardline policy on pay and conditions that have seen more than 90,000 Commonwealth worker face an effective wage freeze since 2013.

It also publishes an annual remuneration survey of the 155,000 strong Australian Public Service, a snapshot of who is earning what in the federal bureaucracy.

But in response to a Freedom of Information request from a member of the public, the Commission says details of the salaries of its own nine “senior executive service” public servants are off-limits.

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Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd’s band of senior executives have had two pay rises, along with the agency’s rank-and-file, since November 2015.

A “band 3” executive would have seen their wages topped up by $12,600 during that period.

Further down the pay scale, a band 1 executive, at the top of their band, has seen their wage grow by nearly $9000-a-year.

But that is all the detail that will be forthcoming, if the commission gets its way, with the FOI request, for executive pay slips and group certificates to be made public, running into a polite but firm refusal.

“Disclosure would breach the privacy of individuals and would cause stress on the individuals,” the commission’s FOI decision maker Clare Page wrote to the applicant.

“Disclosure would reveal the individuals’ remuneration to the public.

“None of the relevant individuals has consented to the disclosure of the documents.”

Ms Page, whose own salary details would be disclosed if the FOI application was successful, conceded that it may be in the public interest to release the documents, but only to a “certain degree”.

“In my opinion, disclosure of the relevant documents would advance, to a certain degree, the public interest in government transparency and integrity,” she wrote.

But Ms Page, commission’s group manager, also claimed her agency’s ability to haggle over wages with new recruits to its executive ranks would be harmed if the going rate for an SES at the commission became common knowledge.

“The disclosure of information about remuneration paid to each of the APSC’s SES employees could reasonably be expected to undermine the APSC’s negotiating position with current and future SES employees,” she wrote.

“The public disclosure of this information would fundamentally alter the APSC’s relative bargaining position.”

Mr Lloyd’s salary package, of about $680,000 a year, is public along with that of departmental secretaries and some agency heads.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly quoted Clare Page of the APSC as writing “Disclosure would breach the privacy of individuals and cause distress on the individual. The correct quote is “Disclosure would breach the privacy of individuals and would cause stress on the individuals.”

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???As it happened, scoreboard
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???RANCHI: Australia have passed a searching examination of their mettle by overcoming India’s spin masters on Ranchi’s so-called craters of doom to secure a backs-to-the-wall draw in the third Test.

The visitors appeared destined for a morale-sapping defeat when Steve Smith’s off stump was sent cartwheeling before lunch but the maligned Shaun Marsh and newcomer Peter Handscomb saved the day.

Australia were comprehensively outplayed in the second half of the match but displayed a level of resilience seldom seen by the men in baggy green in this part of the world. Impressively, they accomplished the mission without a major rearguard from Smith.

Playing for draws has not been the Australian way. The last time they overcame a significant first-innings deficit for a stalemate in Asia was in 2011 when the late Phillip Hughes and Michael Clarke scored centuries in Galle to keep Sri Lanka at bay.

Australia lost just four wickets on the final day on a pitch that was far from unplayable despite the ominous signs late on the fourth day.

Ravindra Jadeja captured 4-54 from 44 pressure-packed overs but could not produce enough of the magic balls that sent alarm through the Australian dressing room on Sunday night.

There was a late twist when Marsh and Glenn Maxwell departed in quick succession with Australia leading by only 38 with a minimum of seven overs remaining but India had run out of time to conjure a miracle. Australia were 6-204, leading by 52, when the match was called off with two overs left.

India had their opportunity to finish off Australia but lacked the knockout blow. They will be ruing Karun Nair’s dropped chance off Handscomb when he was on six. It was difficult but one they could not afford to squander on a surprisingly benign fifth-day track against an opponent up for the fight.

There will now be renewed confidence in the Australian camp they can retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy when this stirring series reaches its climax in the foothills of the Himalayas in Dharamsala.

That the series is locked at 1-1 with one to play is a feather in the caps of the Australians, whom many believed were staring at another humiliating whitewash in India.

Few would have given them any chance of escaping such a dire situation 24 hours ago but Smith’s inexperienced team showed character beyond their years.

For that they can thank Marsh and Handscomb, two men at opposite ends of their international careers but still proving their worth at the highest level.

The pair added 124 for the fifth wicket but more important was the 374 balls they took out of the game. First they had to tame a rampant Indian team that had their tails up after rolling Matt Renshaw and Smith in the space of four balls.

They were also brave enough to attack anything loose, which was vital in erasing the deficit and preventing Virat Kohli from suffocating them with a ring of fielders in close.

They also overcame a testing period of reverse swing as well as the constant danger of the rough, which was more concerning to the left-handed Marsh.

“You try not to think about it too much, you play the ball,” Marsh said of the rough.

The Western Australian’s 53 should go a long way to ending his reputation as one of the underachievers in Australian cricket. Marsh, who is in the finest phase of his career, batted for nearly four hours in a performance up there with any of his Test centuries.

Marsh narrowly survived a stumping chance on 38 in the first over after tea but was otherwise stout in defence.

His partner, Handscomb, made a seamless transition to Test cricket during the home summer however this tour had thus far been punctuated with starts but nothing of substance.

That changed here after a 261-minute long display of defiance. It will not go down as his prettiest knock but was arguably more important than any of his efforts against the hapless Pakistan.

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