Sunday, April 23, 2006

cyclone watch : tc monica update

At 10 am CST SEVERE TROPICAL CYCLONE Monica CATEGORY 5 was located about 160
kilometres east northeast of NHULUNBUY, and 270 kilometres east of ELCHO ISLAND,
moving west northwest at 10 kilometres per hour. The cyclone should remain close
to its current intensity as it moves towards the west, just north of the north
coast during today.

The VERY DESTRUCTIVE core of SEVERE TROPICAL CYCLONE Monica with gusts to 320
kilometres per hour is expected to impact islands of northeast Arnhem Land,
including ELCHO ISLAND later this afternoon and tonight. 
 
TC Advices
http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/wrap_fwo.pl?IDDP0002.txt
 
TC Threat Map
http://www.bom.gov.au/products/IDD65011.shtml
 
TC Forecast Map

http://www.bom.gov.au/products/IDD65811.shtml

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

cyclone watch : tc floyd

A tropical low off the North Western Australian coast intensified to cyclone strength this morning. Currently a category 1 cyclone, TC Floyd currently does not pose a threat to the Australian coast and may intensify at a later stage.

TC Advices

http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/wrap_fwo.pl?IDW24000.txt

TC Threat Map

http://www.bom.gov.au/products/IDW60281.shtml

Friday, March 10, 2006

bloody hell! sensitive poms rein in our ads

Trust the bloody Poms, they can dish it out but they can't take it. More than four centuries after the word "bloody" first appeared in English, British authorities have rejected its use in an advertising campaign to promote Australia as a tourist destination.  The controversial $180 million campaign, which asks tourists "where the bloody hell" they are, has been deemed too blue to go to air.  Australia's top tourism body will be forced to take the word out of TV ads and posters before its debut next week, a move that has delivered Tourism Australia something of a publicity coup.  It is taking out full-page ads in the British press directing readers to the website where the full "uncut" version can be seen. Such is the anticipation around the ad that Tourism Australia is already claiming 100,000 British visitors to its website.

More than 700,000 Brits visited Australia last year, spending $3.4 billion, making Britain the most valuable market.  Tourism Australia managing director Scott Morrison said the ban was a massive boost. "We thank the UK authorities for the extra free publicity and invite them to have a bloody good holiday in Australia, especially with the Commonwealth Games now on and the Ashes coming up later in the year," he said.  But the agency behind the ad, M&C Saatchi, is less amused. One of its partners, Bill Muirhead, points out that the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre, which vets all British TV ads, has allowed ads from companies such as FCUK to go to air.  "It's bloody pathetic," said Mr Muirhead, an Australian working in London. "When you look at what's on air generally (in programming) then look at the sort of ads that get through, then it's ludicrous. We are going to see if we can take legal action."

Next week he will join tourism executives to put pressure on the British TV networks to override the clearance centre's decision. Australia's high commissioner, Richard Alston, has already complained to the body.  In Australia the ad has attracted some complaints on which the Advertising Standards Bureau will deliberate soon. At least four ads with the word bloody are on air in Australia. The bureau's chief, Fiona Jolly, said: "We've never upheld a complaint before, but we look at each ad on its merit."  The ads had a $6.2 million research budget and were endorsed by focus groups in Britain, China, Japan, the US, India and Germany — as well as New Zealand, where they are already running.  Mindful of possible cultural problems, Tourism Australia filmed alternatives to the phrase, including one in English asking: "So where the hell are you?" This will now be used in the British television commercials.

Macquarie Dictionary publisher Susan Butler said bloody's origins in English dated back to 1676, when it referred to someone who was a "drunk as a blood", colloquial for a noble. "Now that variations of the F-word have taken over from bloody, it's now considered mild and quaint," she said.  Federal Tourism Minister Fran Bailey said: "The regulators have clearly misplaced their sense of humour — and this from a country that brought us Benny Hill, Two Ronnies and Little Britain."

- With AAP - By Julian Lee - theage.com.au

Thursday, March 09, 2006

police unimpressed by pins

Commemorative pins issued to police for their contribution to the Commonwealth Games effort have been described as a "slap in the face", with some already appearing for sale on the internet.  Police Association secretary Paul Mullett was unimpressed with the decision to issue officers with the pins, while continuing to deny them compensation for being forced to work at the Games.  The circular pins, which feature the Victoria Police logo and '2006 Commonwealth Games' on the top, are fetching close to $150 on online auction site eBay.

The first of the 12 pins on eBay was put up for sale last Thursday - the same day police received the pins in their payslips. By 11.40am today, the bids ranged from $1.25 to $142.50.  A card which accompanies the pin states it has been issued "in recognition of your invaluable contribution to the biggest operation ever undertaken by Victoria Police".  It also states that officers should wear the pin "with pride" directly under their name badge.  But Sergeant Dave Spencer, of media liaison, said Victoria Police was not concerned that some officers had put the pins up for sale.  "The bottom line is that we don't have a problem with it," he said.  "It's not a uniform item, although they are authorised to wear it on their uniform if they choose to do so, but basically you can do with it what you will."

When told of the top bid of $142.50, Sergeant Spencer said: "We're glad to see that somebody appreciates it and places it under such high value."  The identities of the sellers are not disclosed by eBay, although it does reveal that some live in Geelong, Clifton Springs, Yallambie and on the Mornington Peninsula.  Senior Sergeant Mullett said the Police Association had been contacted by a "substantial" number of members angry at the issuing of the pins.  "On one hand, the Victoria police force have had our claim for nearly two years ... and that was rejected. On the other hand, they get this pin thanking them for their commitment to provide resources for the Commonwealth Games, which in our view is a bit of a slap in the face," he said. 

Senior Sergeant Mullett said he did not oppose officers selling the pins, provided it was not a breach of police guidelines.

- theage.com.au - By Jesse Hogan

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

comm games : thorpe girl power

This is one headline you can play with courtesy of the HeraldSun.  You could play to the fact considering our Thorpee is a male, yet they decided to have the girls say that we can do it, why not have a bunch of guys instead.  Well there has been the issue for quite sometime that Thorpee is part of the sisterhood and this could only play with that general topic.  Mind you I do find it rather disheartening that the girls do not have hope that our male swimmers will be able to perform properly since Thorpee won't be able to grace his presence in the water and that they will carry the hopes of swimmers instead.

You just never know what will happen in the pools or out of them.  But as we know, the media love playing our minds.  Thorpee is just one of the girls.

there's a whole latte love, but espresso's new buzz

 

The sort of coffee you drink says a lot about who you are and where you're from.  According to a report by industry analysts BIS Shrapnel, the caffe latte is the drink of choice in the inner, more affluent, suburbs of Melbourne, while the cappuccino is king in the outer suburbs.  The hard-core espresso is preferred by young males and the flat white is more likely to be ordered by older drinkers.  "When they go out, the older people tend to have the equivalent of what they are used to drinking at home, so a flat white is the equivalent of an instant coffee with milk," said report author Sandro Mangosi, leader of BIS Shrapnel's international food service study team. "There is a reluctance to change, which increases with age, while younger people get on with the new trend."

For those looking for the next coffee craze, Dr Mangosi tips the espresso.  "It won't be long and we will see the introduction of variations with straight coffee," he said. "In Italy, there are at least five types of espresso, and this is gradually developing here."  Dr Mangosi also predicts that coffee will cost $5 a cup in a few years.  "In Australia, the coffee is still very cheap," he said. "The price is creeping up."  His report, Coffee in Australia, 2006 to 2008, values the Australian coffee industry at $840 million — marking a 65 per cent increase in a decade. Dr Mangosi said the arrival of coffee chains such as McDonald's McCafe and Gloria Jeans had made a big impact on the industry, opening up additional sectors of the market.

But not all coffee chains are sharing the spoils of the nation's coffee addiction — each Australian consumes about 2.4 kilograms of the stuff a year.  Dr Mangosi said the US chain Starbucks was suffering in Australia, its presence limited to 58 outlets. By contrast, the number of Gloria Jeans and McCafes doubled between 2001 and 2005, to 309 and 269 respectively.  "It is possible that Starbucks didn't know the Australian market as well as the others," Dr Mangosi said.  "The American formula, which had worked well for them elsewhere, for some reason didn't work here. The Australian market may be a bit small for a chain like Starbucks."

More than 1.2 billion coffees were served in Australian restaurants and cafes last year, the majority — 350 million — in cafes.  But there are more coffee drinkers in Finland, Italy and Japan. The Finns consume 11.2 kilograms of coffee per head a year, the Italians 5.4 kilograms and the Japanese 3.3 kilograms.  At Degraves Espresso Bar, which serves up to 400 coffees a day at its city store, the caffe latte is the most popular drink.  "The elderly drink the cappuccinos and the teenagers to the 40-year-olds drink lattes," said assistant manager Sandor Gallus.  "And men drink more long blacks than women."  Business peaks in the morning, when city workers and students are making their way to the office and the campus, he said.
 

(I don't really think much of the wording for the next bit, but I'll leave it in, and I'm a latte lover with occasional times with espresso and I do play with flavours - Will)

 

WHO DRINKS WHAT:


WELL-OFF INNER-CITY FOLK

Caffe latte

POORER, OUTER-SUBURBAN FOLK

Cappuccino

YOUNG MEN

Espresso

YOUNG WOMEN

Caffe latte

OLDER FOLK

Flat white

TRENDY YOUNG THINGS

Variations on the espresso

 

Photo: Craig Abraham
By Bridie Smith

- theage.com.au

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

comm games : thorpe out

Ian Thorpe has announced he will not compete at the Commonwealth Games.  Citing ill health, the Olympic gold medallist informed the Australian team last night he had been unable to recover from a long running illness.  Sounding hoarse and looking drawn and tired, Thorpe today told a press conference he had been struggling to recover after a bout of viral bronchitis and a blocked and runny nose.  "It's been a very trying time, a very difficult time, as I realised how this was slipping away from me, trying to get back and get ready for the Commonwealth Games," Thorpe said in a prepared statement.  "It's very frustrating, it's very disappointing that I can't be part of the team now competing in Melbourne.  "It was difficult coming to terms with not being able to complete but in the end it was the only decision I could come to."  "As of yesterday, I realised that, the position that I have on team, I'm actually going to be of very little, if any, benefit to the team."

Craig Stevens has been added to the Australian squad as a replacement..  Thorpe said he was pleased Stevens would have the opportunity to swim in Melbourne.  "I know with the work that he's done, he'll do a very good job and I look forward to watching Craig swim," he said.  Thorpe said he hoped to get to Melbourne to watch the swim meet but his main priority was his health.  "I've never taken as many tablets as I have in the past few weeks...but I'm getting better, which is a good thing."

Last week, the Thorpe camp revealed the star swimmer has been battling a respiratory illness that has limited his ability train for the past two weeks.  Thorpe, alongside Susie O'Neill, holds the record for the most gold medals in Commonwealth Games competition with 10. At the Manchester Games in 2002 Thorpe won seven medals including six gold.  Thorpe hasn't represented Australia at a major meet since the Athens Olympics in 2004 where he became the first male swimmer in 100 years to win medals in the 100m, 200m and 400m freestyle.  The loss of both Grant Hackett, to a shoulder injury, and Thorpe has left the under performing men's squad vulnerable.

Matt Welsh is the only other Australian male to muster a medal in an individual event at the past two world championships.

- theage.com.au

Sunday, March 05, 2006

comm games : rebels urged to sing royal anthem

By Chris Tinkler
05mar06

The Commonwealth Games opening ceremony could be thrown into chaos with tens of thousands of royalists launching into a full rendition of God Save the Queen.  Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy are urging spectators to show their annoyance at the royal anthem's exclusion in the loudest way imaginable.  Prof David Flint, convenor of the group, said yesterday there would be no shortage of royal cheerleaders to launch a rousing impromptu rendition.  The Sunday Herald Sun last week revealed that M2006 had decided not to play the royal anthem at the MCG, even though the Queen will launch the Games.

The story made headlines across the world and prompted repeated calls from Prime Minister John Howard for the anthem to be played, in line with Australian protocol.

In a mini-backflip, Games Minister Justin Madden said eight bars of the anthem would be performed as part of a medley.  But now the 100,000-strong crowd is being urged to take off from where the eight bars end for a barnstorming people's version.  Even if only a third of the crowd sings the anthem, it is expected to drown out the remainder of the medley from opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. 

The choir call echoes Mr Howard's comments when organisers of the Rugby World Cup tried to ban Waltzing Matilda from matches.  "You try and stop 82,000 Australians singing Waltzing Matilda -- you'll only make their night," Mr Howard said at the time.  Prof Flint said the rebel chants were to be expected.  "Having said they weren't going to play the anthem, it seems ridiculous to then turn around and say they are going to play eight bars," he said.  "It shows it can be done, so why can't it be done all the way through?  "It seems perfectly understandable to me that if they stop after eight bars then the crowd should sing on right the way through.  "It would be a way of people showing that they don't approve of others trying to muzzle them.  "And it is in line with protocol. Who could blame them? We certainly support it."

National Party leader Peter Ryan has also called on spectators to sing the anthem.

- heraldsun.com.au

Friday, March 03, 2006

what are you playing?

Well I got a bit of a surprise when I turned on the Foxtel pop radio station through my stereo only to discover that the music was different (well after the 2nd song it sounded different), so I went to turn on the TV to see what was happening and expecting to see a completely blank screen (this happened since Foxtel IQ was installed), except to see an actual picture on the screen saying 'Air'.  Well I realised straight away they had performed an upgrade to the system, but only to the radio stations.  I went to find the right channel and much to my surprise it now shows the song they are playing, so you can actually keep track.  About bloody time.

Yes this is the only exciting thing to happen to me today so far.

hollywood hunks : josh duhamel

For those who are familiar with the show 'Las Vegas', you would have noticed a very attractive, hot and yummy star who plays Danny McCoy (Josh Duhamel, “All My Children”), as he deals with card-counting cheaters, costly streaks of random luck and rival casinos stealing their big-money players as part of a surveillance team for the Montecito Resort & Casino.

Well enjoy.

comm games : opera star to sing god save the Queen

Opera star Dame Kiri Te Kanawa will sing about eight bars of God Save the Queen in a musical tribute to Her Majesty at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.  But ceremony organisers deny the move is a compromise following mounting calls, backed by Prime Minister John Howard, for the British national anthem to be played when Queen Elizabeth opens the Games on March 15.  Games organisers have resisted the calls, saying they have the backing of Buckingham Palace to play only Advance Australia Fair.

However opening and closing ceremonies artistic director Andrew Walsh said the musical number, including the bars from God Save the Queen, had been decided months ago.  "It's not something we've suddenly thrown in ... we just didn't reveal what she was doing," he told AAP.  "(The Queen) is the head of state of Australia, and as such we want to respect that and we want to honour her pending status as an octogenarian.  "So (Games chairman) Ron Walker wanted to acknowledge that she has a milestone coming up and acknowledge that she's head of state, and do it in an elegant and low-key manner."

Mr Walsh said the Australian national anthem would still take pride of place at the ceremony.  "(God Save the Queen) doesn't replace Advance Australia Fair, so you might hear a few bars of the royal anthem as part of a tribute to the Queen, but it's not ever played in its entirety," he said.  "There is probably eight bars of God Save the Queen ... it's part of a larger musical tribute."  Mr Walsh said the tribute, which would be backed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the Melbourne Chorale and the National Children's Choir Gondwana Voices, would run for about 90 seconds.  He said organisers had decided to reveal the plan in the face of "so much chat" over the anthem.  "We thought, it's better to have everybody understand what we are doing and there's less speculation and we can get on with what we are doing - which is producing one of the best ceremonies Melbourne and the world has ever seen," he said.

Yesterday, Mr Howard, backed by avowed republican Senator Vanstone, said playing God Save the Queen in the presence of the monarch was protocol and "just good manners".  But Mr Walker stood firm, saying arrangements for the opening ceremony had been made in consultation with Buckingham Palace, following Commonwealth Games Federation protocol.

- AAP - theage.com.au

 

quake felt in canberra

Canberra residents have been shaken a little but not stirred by an earthquake centred about 60 kilometres from the nation's capital.  Measuring 3.5 on the Richter scale, the quake stuck at 5.15pm AEDT yesterday, and was centred 8km southwest of the earthquake-prone town of Gunning.

A tremor was felt in Canberra, but Gunning residents described a loud bang, and said the shaking lasted about six seconds.  Australian Seismological Centre chief Kevin McCue today said the earthquake-prone area may be "waking up" after 20 years of seismic inactivity. "This is actually the second earthquake the area has had in two weeks," Mr McCue said.  "The first one was very small, but I thought that it was interesting, because it was the first one the area has had in a fair while.  "But this one was much bigger - it could indicate that the area is 'waking up' again.  "We're not sure what's triggering the tremors, whether its changes in the ground water levels or just general tectonic tremors, but hopefully they don't keep growing in magnitude."

Gunning was partially damaged in 1934 by an earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale - roughly the same strength as the devastating 1989 Newcastle quake.

- AAP - theage.com.au

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

$2.4 million train upgrade

Australian's longest-running interstate passenger train, The Overland, is to get a $2.4 million upgrade.

The Overland, which runs between Melbourne and Adelaide, will be refurbished in a joint effort by Great Southern Railways, the South Australian Government and the Victorian Government.

Victoria's Transport Minister Peter Batchelor said the changes would include a new cafe, seating and lounge cars and would be completed this year.

There is also a new timetable. The Overland will travel during daylight, which will give people greater flexibility and a chance to see the magnificent countryside, Mr Batchelor said.

- heraldsun.com.au

no smoking at rail, tram and bus stops

Ashley Gardiner

Today marks another nail in the coffin for smoking in Victoria because having a puff under railway station shelters is now illegal.  At midnight, smoking in covered tram and bus stops also became an offence. 
Public transport ticket inspectors have the power to issue fines to offending commuters.

Bus Association of Victoria marketing manager Russell Coffey said the new regulations would be difficult to enforce at bus stops. He said the association had only four inspectors, while few bus companies had their own.  "It's going to be hard to police because we don't have the coverage on the ground," Mr Coffey said.  Bus drivers have not been instructed to remind offenders of the new ban, he said.  But every bus shelter will have a no-smoking sign installed.

The new bans, passed by State Parliament last year, also outlaw tobacco promotion including so-called buzz marketing and non-branded tobacco advertising.  Smoking and the sale of tobacco is also outlawed at under-age music and dance events from today.  It also extends to enclosed workplaces, except for pubs and clubs, where smoking will be banned next year.  Sole-operated businesses not frequented by visitors, the interior of vehicles, prison cells and exercise yards, immigration detention centres and Crown's high-roller rooms are exempt from the bans.  Australian Hotels Association chief executive Brian Kearney said hotels were preparing for the introduction of further smoking restrictions on July 1 next year.  Mr Kearney said hotels would have legal alternatives including balconies, beer gardens and courtyards.  Smoking bans have had an affect on hotel business when introduced elsewhere.  But Victorian hotels have had time to prepare for the new bans next year, he said.

- heraldsun.com.au

trams in the twilight

Last week was a busy week for me doing the last of the organising for the first 'Trams in the Twilight' event at the Bylands Tramway Heritage Centre.  Doing the last work on a couple of the new information display boards and sprucing up part of the display area and all the running around trying to get the new entrance sign and the new museum brochures, which unfortunately were not going to be ready for the event, thankfully the sign was ready and turned out a complete treat (well so did the brochures when I picked them up today).  The night beforehand would turn into a real treat for myself.  Thanks to the guys at Clockwork Media, they donated the use of three lights for the night.  I decided to do a light test to see how I would determine what and where everything would go.  The results of that night are shown by the photos below, but on the main night in general, I didn't take any shots.

The big day had arrived and it was going to be a busy day.  Starting off with a working bee, most of the volunteers would be doing the emergency track work on the main line whilst I and anyone else would be cleaning the trams that would be in use in the event.  Our main concern was the big black cloud that was fast approaching Bylands and after consulting the Bureau's radar, we had very limited time before the heavens opened up and put on a great show with a ripper of a storm, I myself lucky not to get hit by a lightning bolt but this storm opened up my eyes on how dangerous the place can be in a storm (no I couldn't take any shots).  The unfortunate thing was that the storm hampered our activities in trying to prepare for the event.  After surveying the area, I gave it the all clear that we would still be going ahead as planned, and much to my surprise people had already started to arrive (as the storm was still showing us it's delights quite close to us).

It wasn't long till we managed to get ourselves into gear and get into action as the cars arrived with many people to savour the delights of trams that they don't normally see in service or just the variety of trams that they can admire operating together.  The rain came once again, but that didn't deter people from enjoying the BBQ inside the kiosk and having rides on the trams and taking photos of the trams and conversing with all the other patrons, until it was time for me to turn the lights to reveal a different atmosphere.

I've learnt and observed many things organising this event and I know that the next 'Trams in the Twilight' event will be even better.  There were other things that I did want to do with this event, but couldn't go ahead due to the rain factor.  But these are all obstacles that I will have to address for the next event.

This wouldn't have worked without the help and support of the volunteers and the patrons who made the effort to attend the first event.  Now I can relax this week before heading back to work (hence the lack of posts).

 

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

the fattest big macs

Hong Kong

Big Macs in Hong Kong contain more fat and cholesterol than those being served anywhere else in the world outside the United States, the fast food giant's website says.

Each Hong Kong burger weighed in at 560 calories, the same as in the US but 80 calories more than Australia, 67 more than Britain and 60 more than the Middle East, according to nutritional information on the company's website.

The Chinese territory's Big Macs had the highest cholesterol content at 85 milligrams each compared with 80 milligrams in the US, and total fat of 31 grams, also the highest in the world, it said.

Nutritionist Georgia Guldan warned against high fat diets that could lead to heart disease and high cholesterol.

"If you eat out ... try to learn something about nutrition recommendations," she said. "Don't just go out ignorantly and eat anything that's cheap."

AFP - theage.com.au

Saturday, February 18, 2006

doggy patrol

Dogged pursuit


Victoria Police have warned passengers to expect an increased police presence on public transport in the lead up to the Games – and that includes four-footed officers.  A dedicated officer, ready to put his life on the line for our safety – and that goes for his human handler as well.  Members of the Victoria Police Dog Squad will be conducting searches on public transport using highly trained ‘explosive detection’ dogs.
 

Officers from the Transit Safety Division will also be taking a much higher profile.  “Transit Police are onboard public transport every day of the year,” said Superintendent Kevin Sheridan. “It you’re a regular public transport user you can expect to see more of us around in the lead up to the Games.” 

Dog Squad officers put their canine partners through their paces last Tuesday to show public transport users how they operate on a train in service. They boarded a train at Flinders St, with media, and rode down to South Yarra. 

If you’re wondering why dogs are so useful at detecting explosives, drugs and a packet of M&Ms being opened ½ km away … they have about 220 million scent cells in their noses,  compared to about 5 million in humans. Depending on the breed and the scent being detected, their noses are between 10,000 and 10 million times more effective than ours.

- connexions

Friday, February 17, 2006

coming to a train, tram or bus near you

From the new Victorian anti Tobacco legislation comes into effect from the 1st of March, 2006 smoking will be banned from all covered areas at bus and tram stops and train stations. It means that customers will be able to smoke on platforms but only in an unsheltered area.  That effectively means there will be no smoking at Flinders Street or Southern Cross Stations.  How it's going to be enforce, well we'll find out soon.  The reaction by the public will be as interesting as the staff reaction. Time will tell.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

wining on water

Well I've been a little slow updating my happenings on here, mainly because I need to be more awake when I play with photos than playing around with news articles (but that's always the case when I'm on morning shift).  Last Saturday I ventured down to Waterfront City in the Docklands for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Wine on the Waterfront event.  There was plenty of wine to taste and much more talent to look at.  I even finally managed to meet the cute son who works at Pizzini since I did miss out on seeing him when I actually visited the winery a few years ago with a wine club.  The unfortunate thing about the day was that I was there by myself.  Everyone else was either busy, working, overseas or recovering from a hangover from the night before.  However I did taste my fair share of wine and did enjoy myself until I had enough standing in the brilliant and warm sun, and restricted myself to buying only 3 bottles (one from Pizzini) and then made my way down to St Kilda to meet up with friends for more fun and entertainment for the night at the National Theatre.

These pics were taken on my phone (much better than the last phone since it has a better camera)

Stud from Pizzini

The Enterprize was just sailing around the harbor.   This ship will also carry the Queens Baton for the Commonwealth Games.  The HMAS Yarra will be its escort.

Yes it's me.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

praise for $1.3bn rail sell-off

Diversified industrial company Wesfarmers is to sell the Australian Railroad Group (ARG) for $1.3 billion.

Wesfarmers said on Tuesday it had reached an agreement with its joint venture partner, US-based Genesee & Wyoming, to sell ARG to investment group Babcock & Brown and to Queensland Rail (QR).  Analysts welcomed the sale of the underperforming ARG, saying it created space on the diversified industrial's books for more acquisitions.  Following the deal, Babcock & Brown will own and run ARG's rail business in Western Australia, mainly track and infrastructure, while Queensland Rail will own and run the rail haulage business and infrastructure. 

Wesfarmers managing director Richard Goyder said on Tuesday the sale would create a second major national rail operator.  "The increased capacity to be delivered by this transaction, bringing together as it does the second and third participants in the Australian freight sector, will provide the scale needed to be competitive in the national market," Mr Goyder said.  Wesfarmers said the $1.3 billion price tag covered freight operations in Western Australia and contracted services operating in NSW and Victoria.  It also included the remaining 43-year lease on the WA rail network.

ARG's South Australian freight services business, accounting for about 15 per cent of the business, would be separately sold to Genesee & Wyoming (G&W) for $20 million.  G&W originally bought the SA rail network in 1997, combining it with the WA assets three years later to form ARG.  "Wesfarmers' share of sale proceeds from the transaction after payment of debt will be approximately $425 million (subject to completion adjustments)," the company said.  "And it will record a pre-tax profit of approximately $235 million on the transactions."

The deal, which is subject to the expected approval of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, is expected to be completed by the end of this financial year.  Commenting, Shaw Stockbroking analyst Brent Mitchell said on Tuesday divesting the asset was a positive move for Wesfarmers.  "We couldn't see too much in the way of synergies with the other business units," Mr Mitchell said.  "It hadn't been a great performer - in fact it was a terrible performer."  He said Wesfarmers had secured a good price for ARG.  "The price they got was a lot higher than we'd expected from it," he said.  Divesting ARG showed Wesfarmers was not afraid to sell assets which did not fit with the company, he added.  Wesfarmers would either consider more acquisitions, he said, or put some of the cash towards capital expenditure programs.

DJ Carmichael industrial analyst Wendy Chesson said she would like to see the company bolster its energy division.  "It is just a matter of time of what they are looking at doing and where they are going to grow next," she said. Wesfarmers is due to report its interim profit later on Tuesday with analysts tipping a jump in profit on the back of booming coal prices.

Meanwhile, Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said QR's end of the deal, worth $446.5 million, would be financed wholly through QR borrowings.  He said this was the only move available to QR if it was to survive in the competitive national market.  "If QR is to survive, prosper and continue to contribute healthy dividends back to Queensland taxpayers, it must look beyond traditional state borders," Mr Beattie said.  "Rail is a national industry and QR must be able to take advantage of opportunities in the national marketplace in the same way that its competitors are doing.  "With this acquisition, QR will become one of the major rail freight organisations in Australia, reinforcing our reputation as a hub for business and industry, and delivering a range of flow-on benefits to our economy."  Mr Beattie said the deal assured future job security for QR staff, and he encouraged unions to embrace the deal.  QR chief executive officer Bob Scheuber said the deal completed months of hard work and elevated QR into the top two rail freight haulers in the country, enabling it to challenge Pacific National, owned by the warring transport and logistics groups Toll Holdings and Patrick Corporation.  "This strategic acquisition is a critical step in cementing QR's position as a truly national major player," Mr Scheuber said.  "It helps ensure we can meet the needs of customers throughout Australia, who are increasingly looking for an alternative operator to provide seamless services from Cairns to Perth."

ARG's "above rail" assets include 121 narrow and standard gauge locomotives, more than 2000 wagons, terminals and depots in Western Australia, South Australia and NSW.  About 820 ARG staff, mainly train crew, will also be employed by QR.

- aap - afr.com.au

QR to purchase ARG’S above rail business

Saturday, January 28, 2006

rabbits defy roosters in year of the dog

Every dog should have his or her day in the Year of the Dog beginning on Sunday, the Chinese New Year's Day.

But the outlook for three pretenders to high political office in Australia suggests that this won't be their year, according to the annual predictions from a Chinese Oracle in Hong Kong.

The Liberals' Peter Costello and Tony Abbott, and the ALP's Kevin Rudd were all born in 1957, a Year of the Rooster in the Chinese 12-year cycle.
And the Oracle, supplying his forecasts through the Hong Kong Tourism Board, has this message for Roosters: "Think before you speak and be more realistic in expectations of others, as well as your own ambitions. In an unforgiving period, it is better to live and let live while preparing for the future and gaining from experience..."

Meanwhile, for Rabbits such as Prime Minister John Howard, born in 1939, the Year of the Dog outlook is continuing fair. The Oracle writes of popularity and progress and opportunities for "career success" for Dogs, with exciting travel experiences. (Could this mean further meetings for Mr Howard with his friend US President George Bush, a Dog born in 1946?).
As for the ALP leader, Kim Beazley (1948) is a Rat facing "a challenging year ahead" but is counselled to "keep calm and disciplined".

Meanwhile, other prominent Australian Dogs include Ian Thorpe, preparing for the Commonwealth Games in March, and actor-comedian Barry Humphries, enjoying success in the United States with his alter ego, Dame Edna Everage.

The Oracle says good fortune "favours the brave Dog who seeks opportunities and a wealth of opportunities before they slip past ... earnings should swing up ..."

In sport, Mark Viduka, who will lead the Socceroos in their long-awaited World Cup bid in Germany, is a Rabbit, like Mr Howard.

Cricket's Shane Warne (1969) is another Rooster facing a year of challenge and may consider the Oracle's advice to "budget carefully in what could be an expensive year". His wife Simone, reportedly seeking a $10-million divorce settlement from the champion bowler is also a Rooster although born in 1970 - her birthday is in mid-January some days before the Chinese New Year, otherwise she would have been a lucky Dog.

Here are the Oracle's predictions for the Year of the Dog; the Hong Kong Tourist Board says that while it has endeavoured to ensure that the information is correct, "no warranty or guarantee, express or implied, is given to their accuracy":

For the full article click here.  Shown are the dog and horse (being mine).

Dog:

birth years 1910, 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994

This is your year and it holds excellent prospects, so man's best friend should forget past setbacks and seize the day. Good fortune certainly favours the brave Dog who seeks opportunities and a wealth of possibilities before they slip past. It is time to forget earlier disappointments, resist your temperamental mood swings and move forward. Also, encourage other members of your "pack" at home or work to share your ambitions. They can be a great help with valuable advice. Keep a keen eye on finances, however. Your earnings should swing up but stay vigilant and try to save. Travel opportunities are bright and you may even decide to move home. Your natural loyalty and honesty will win new friends and closer relationships. Both socially and romantically, your year is better favoured than it has been for a long time.

Horse:

1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002

Your galloping spirit is well suited for the busy year ahead. Run swiftly at the front of the field to capitalise on exciting opportunities when they present themselves - but don't speed too far ahead of yourself or waste your energy on the latest craze. Sometimes you are too independent for your own good. Career prospects are especially promising and even though wealth holds little interest for you, finances are favourable so long as you are prudent with spending. Draw comfort and support from the companionship you crave. Both relationships and home life should make you appreciate what's in your own backyard, with some memorable highlights. Despite your roaming nature, curb restless tendencies - your life is active enough and the year is lucky if you accept the support of those closest to you.

- theage.com.au

picture of mum's dog Foxy.

Friday, January 13, 2006

strange but true

Just a few interesting bits of trivia on this our most superstitious day.

• More than 80 per cent of high-rise buildings do not have a 13th floor.

• Gate 13 is missing from many airports. Melburnians are safe – gates at Melbourne Airport are numbered 1-12.

• Many aeroplanes don’t have a 13th aisle. For example Continental Airlines, Air France, AirTran, KLM, and Iberia.

• It’s not unusual for hotels to skip room number 13.

• Italians omit number 13 from their national lottery.

• House numbers in Florence jump from 12 to 14 – the number 12 ½ replaces 13.

• In France, a group calling themselves Quatorziens (Fourteeners), offer their services as 14th guests for dinner parties, should the guest total unexpectedly stop at 13. It was believed that the first person to rise from a table of 13 guests would die within a year, but could avoid this fate if all guests rose at the same time.

• NASA’s ill-fated moon mission, Apollo 13, was launched at 13:13 hours, from pad 39 (3 x 13), and aborted on April 13.

• Thirteen letters in a name brings the devil’s luck: Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy.

• Lawmakers in Indiana once decreed that all black cats wear bells on Friday 13th.

• Friday was Hangman’s Day in Britain; hangmen were once paid 13 ½ pence, particularly if it falls on a Friday.

• One hundred years ago, in an attempt to abolish this maritime superstition, the British government commissioned a ship, named HMS Friday. Critical stages during its commissioning were conducted on a Friday: laying the keel, launch, and crew selection, including one Captain Jim Friday. HMS Friday embarked on her maiden voyage on a Friday, and was never seen or heard from again.

(Herald Sun)