Spitting chips over representaion

A NEW organisation that wants to formally represent potato growers must “step out of the shadows” and reveal its true identity, says Nationals Senator Barry O’Sullivan.
Nanjing Night Net

In a fiery statement to Fairfax Agricultural Media, Senator O’Sullivan demanded public transparency of the “unnamed” potato industry group and its membership.

He accused the group of lobbying to replace AusVeg as the $690 million potato industry’s eligible industry representative body – under federal legislation governing research and development spending – without proper public disclosure.

Fairfax Agricultural Media understands Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has asked for submissions from the two groups vying for the potato industry’s representative role.

They’ve been asked to make final submissions by February 27 outlining their individual credentials based on structure; governance; financing arrangements; membership, and how they’re best-placed to benefit levy-payers.

Mr Joyce has also held private meetings relating to the issue and is expected to conduct due diligence in considering the two applications before making his final response mid-March.

The situation shares sharp similarities to the long-running rivalry between Grain Producers Australia (GPA) and GrainGrowers over the grains industry’s Representative Organisation role.

Currently, GPA has legislative oversight of the Grains Research and Development Corporation which has an annual budget of $180 million; combining grower levies and matching government funds.

But GrainGrowers has waged a long-running campaign to assume the legislated representative role and displace the grassroots-based GPA, citing greater financial grunt and membership numbers.

Senator O’Sullivan said he’d been contacted by multiple potato growers across Queensland recently who’d expressed frustration and anger at the lack of transparency attached to the budding potato industry lobby group’s dealings with government and industry.

He said the lobby group would never have credibility in the eyes of Australia’s 1088 potato growers – which it hoped to serve as the new eligible industry body (EIB) under federal regulations – if they did not reveal their identities, plans and motives before the review was concluded.

“This group is actively lobbying to represent our potato growers, yet they are not willing to tell these same growers who they are,” he said.

“I have had many individual growers contact me fearing this unidentified group are controlled by processors, supermarkets or a cohort of big growers.

“They are demanding that government does not consider this lobby group unless grassroots growers are provided with an opportunity to assess who the group consists of and what their motives are as well as see a plan detailing how it can fairly and equitably represent the interests of the broader potato industry.

“This group will never be trusted by growers unless it is open and transparent about who they are and what they hope to achieve.

“I don’t care if it is potatoes, bananas, widgets or lollipops – without transparency we have nothing – it is time for this group to come clean and face the industry.”

But Potato Processing Association of Australia (PPAA) chair Peter Hardman confirmed he was heading a group that’s making a business case to be the potato industry’s peak body, under federal regulations.

“We’re not challenging AusVeg at all or replacing AusVeg,” he said.

“We are putting up a business case, or submission to the minister that we were asked to do as part of the HAL (Horticulture Australia Limited) review which was completed about 6-months ago.

“HAL have a new structure now but at the time of the review the minister decided it was time the potato industry had their own peak body.”

Mr Hardman said he believed the potato industry was “bit splintered” and had a large supply chain that’s “not fully represented”.

“For an industry worth $690 million, we believe we should have a stand-alone peak body and not one diluted by being under AusVeg,” he said.

“We believe potatoes should be represented as a stand-alone industry and it’s certainly big enough.”

Mr Hardman said he’d seen Senator O’Sullivan’s media statement which made some incorrect claims about his group’s membership and intentions.

He said potato processors and growers are involved in the group but not supermarkets.

“We’re part of an alliance of concerned potato growers and industry groups but the supermarkets are not involved,” he said.

“There are growers of all sizes, big and small.

“Each state is represented and each sector of the potato industry is also represented; seed growers, process growers, and also fresh market growers so that covers the three sectors.”

Mr Hardman – who also works for Simplot Australia – said it was decided not to identify the entire group “because we did not believe it was in interests of our business case”.

“The reason why we’ve kept it reasonably quiet is because we want our business case that we’re putting forward to the minister to be valued on its own merits and the same for AusVeg,” he said.

“We don’t want to get into a political fight or game, which it looks like they (AusVeg) and some parliamentarians are trying to do.

“We don’t want to make it a political fight or in the (media) fight and we want our submission to stand on its merits.

“We hope the minister will make a decision on who will be the peak body for potatoes based on those two submissions and not because of lobbying by parliamentarians and others.”

Mr Hardman said the PPAA was a peak industry body that represented potato industry processors.

He said the potato industry was unique in that growers and processers all paid the same levy of 50 cents per tonne which contributed to R&D projects with matching government funding.

“We were a prescribed industry body when HAL was set up 18 years ago, similar to AusVeg, and others,” he said.

Asked how he rated his group’s chances of becoming the industry’s peak body, Mr Hardman said he only hoped for a fair hearing from Mr Joyce.

“We’d like to think the minister takes a fair view of both submissions,” he said.

“We’re making a statement that we’re going to be an organisation that’s transparent and consultative with our grower base and accountable.

“We’ll be working with the grass roots growers and will look for genuine input from growers into R&D projects because we don’t believe that’s been happening.”

AusVeg CEO Richard Mulcahy said his group had held cordial discussions with the Minister about the matter and was “not particularly concerned by a few people with grumbles, which exist in every agricultural industry, and has always been the case”.

“AusVeg is one of the most successful groups in all of agriculture,” he said.

“We remain focused on getting the best outcomes for our growers.”

At a recent public hearing of the federal senate inquiry into agricultural levies, Mr Mulcahy said AUSVEG was the national peak industry body representing the interests of approximately 9000 Australian vegetable and potato growers who pay national vegetable and potato levies.

He said the vegetable levy contribution from growers for the last year was $7.56 million received and matching a Commonwealth contribution of $7.7 million.

He said potatoes had a much smaller levy, with total income of $926,000 and the government contribution was $808,000.

“Other income was $25,000, giving a total of about $1.75 million,” he said.

Mulcahy said levy funding – which contributed to projects that would otherwise not receive the required attention or investment – was “a major factor in the continued health of our agricultural R&D sector”.

“The R&D projects funded through this system provide very real and significant returns not just at the farm gate but across the industry as a whole,” he said.

“The disbursement of the vegetable and potato levies is subject to strict governance arrangements which ensure accountability and transparency.”

Mr Mulcahy said the levy system was generally working but he believed there are probably too many industry bodies.

“We have 150 commodities yet there are other industries like chestnuts and persimmons that have one industry body for one commodity,” he said.

“It just does not seem administratively very efficient.

“There are 43 bodies in horticulture; I would think you could get away with six… but not 43.”

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Sweet and sour side of Kandy

Sweet and sour side of Kandy Xavier Lane (left) and Marlowe Patch feed elephants at the Millennium Elephant park at Pinawella, Sri Lanka
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Sri Lankans gather on the beach at Pitiwella on a public holiday

Sri Lankans gather on the beach at Pitiwella on a public holiday

Jude Lane on a Sri Lankan train

Talking to the locals at Colombo train station: Lleft to right) Jude Lane, Xavier Lane, Melinda McMillan and Ivy Lane.

Xavier Lane at the turtle sanctuary.

Ivy Lane learns to drive a tuk tuk.

Jude Lane on a Sri Lankan train.

TweetFacebookTRAVEL in Sri Lanka with children is not for the helicopter parent, but if you are willing to take some risks, hold on for the ride and let go of your anxiety, it is a great family destination.

I had visited Sri Lanka over the summer of 1994-95 as a 25-year-old backpacker. I spent six weeks at Hikkaduwa, en route to India. My memories were of an unspoilt coast with an incredible surf break.

In Sri Lanka, I thought I had found paradise with very few tourists due to a civil war raging in the north. A war, incidentally, I was oblivious to at the time.

Returning had me filled with curiosity about how much this country may have changed since the end of the war in 2009, and the impact its fledgling tourism industry may be having.

This trip would be very different; I would be taking my children, 9, 10 and 14. I was more than a little afraid. I bought travel insurance and hoped for the best. It was their first overseas travel experience and they could not wait.

There are no direct flights to the capital, Colombo. The most direct and cheapest route is via Kuala Lumpur. We arrived in Colombo after 18 hours in transit, exhausted and ready to sleep.

Our accommodation had been booked online. When we arrived no one at reception knew about it. There was confusion, phone calls, and eventually a room. The lodgings bore little resemblance to the pictures on the website. Exposed electrical wiring, windows that didn’t lock, shards of glass in sills as crime prevention, and a courtyard was filled with rubbish dropped from the floors above. My danger radar went into overdrive.

“Is this what Sri Lanka is going to be like, Mum?”

The next day, with another family from Australia, we made our way by minibus through Colombo’s congested streets, dodging people, tuk tuks and dogs, for the train to Kandy.

Rail is the best way to see this country. Red rattlers with opening windows weave their way along the golden coast and up into hill country. The trains are old and not clean, and packed to the rafters, but they are cheap, and quite an experience.

On board, hawkers walk the isles with snacks – masala vadai, spicy vegetable roti and deep fried prawns – served in old newspapers. I tried not to think about poisonous ink.

Beggars might ask for a few rupee in exchange for a song and the locals love to chat and find out where you come from. The children couldn’t believe the sights and sounds before them on the trains. But it’s the scenery that is breathtaking as the train climbs towards Kandy, the spiritual home of Buddhist community, capital of the former kingdom, and with a sacred lake at its centre.

We spent our first night in a clean, well run, family-owned lodge, where the children delighted at the sight of tiny squirrels darting up trees and monkeys roving across rooftops. And we enjoyed our first home-cooked Sri Lankan meal.

According to travel guides, there are three “must dos” in Kandy: the relic of the Buddha’s tooth, a traditional dancing show, and an elephant sanctuary.

If you visit the relic, purportedly one of the Buddha’s canine teeth, you’ll be charged the tourist rate, wait in a very long queue and weave your way at a snail’s pace up into an very hot attic for a glimpse, from afar, of the tooth, barely visible.

There are several places to see a traditional dance show, five nights a week. I thought it was lacklustre but the kids enjoyed it.

The real highlight was the Millennium Elephant Foundation, near Kandy. It’s home to eight rescued elephants, which the children fed, rode and washed.

But it was Kandy’s bustling street life that really captured their attention: markets, food stalls and women in colourful saris, even an organ grinder with a monkey on a street corner.

The children wanted to be out and among it constantly. But there were dangers: the traffic was crazy and our 14-year-old daughters attracted a lot of male attention.

Determined not to deny the children a full experience, I sat back feeling sick as they stuck their heads and limbs out of trains. When a tuk tuk rider offered to teach my younger two to drive in peak hour traffic, I let them and they loved it.

Frequently, we were the only foreign faces in the crowd, and the locals are curious. There are rip-offs and confidence tricks, but the people don’t yet have foreigner fatigue.

With children, the food was an issue. Everything in Sri Lanka is spicy, even when the cook assures you it is not. It was hard to find foods they could eat.

Outside Kandy, at Aladeniya, we spent four nights at an old whitewashed colonial home called The Mansion. Our arrival was quite British-in-India – we were met by young men in traditional dress bearing cool drinks and cold towels – and the massive rooms were decorated with colonial furniture. We were the only guests and enjoyed breakfast on the lawn and dinners in the courtyard. The food was fantastic. The children spent most of their time in the pool, which was, of course, unfenced. I read a book.

We went back to Colombo for sightseeing and shopping before retiring to a beachside villa at Pitiwella, near Galle, in the southern province. It was monsoon season, and we were blasted by winds and rains, but on the third day blue skies opened up. The surf was too rough to swim, but the pool was good. We made day trips into Galle’s historic fort area, where we shopped, enjoyed seafood and walked among colonial buildings and on the walls of the fort.

I took a day trip back to Hikkaduwa, which had been the cornerstone of my first trip. Sadly, the quiet beachside village had given way to cheap, ugly development. We tried to visit the tsunami museum, but for reasons that never became apparent our driver refused to take us. We had chosen not to stay at the beachside town of Unawatuna due to a bum steer from The Lonely Planet, which said it was over-developed. But when we visited, we discovered a beach protected from the monsoons, quaint streets, restaurants, cafes and a manageable level of tourism. We visited twice and the children finally got to swim in the Laccadive Sea.

On an afternoon trip to Kosgoda Turtle Sanctuary, the children learnt about the breeding program, toured the facility, and at sunset released baby turtles into the ocean. We finished up in luxury at the Hilton Colombo, where they soaked up hours of television, even though it was not in English, and enjoyed the plush rooms, room service and a huge pool.

On our last night we toured Colombo atop an open-roofed double decker London bus. We narrowly missed colliding with overhead wires, but made it back alive.

Sri Lanka was hard work with children. I had one goal: keep them alive. But they were blind to my fear, and experienced a culture unlike anything at home. It opened their eyes to another world and another way.

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How would Jason Day spend $10 million?

Some would splurge on a luxury car. Others would add to their investment portfolio. How would Jason Day spend $10 million? He’d get down to a local mall and pick up a few V-neck jumpers.
Nanjing Night Net

“I might buy a few more V-necks from Target, that’s what I usually do,” the Australian said, when asked what he might do with the epic payday that potentially awaits him in a few days’ time.

Then, asked

how he would describe his playing style, Day produced another killer quote that sums up why he is becoming one of the country’s most admired sporting figures..

“It’s like Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy had a baby – and I was it,” said Day, pointing out how his powerful ball-striking, or “length”, was comparable to that of world No.2 McIlroy, while his putting and chipping, “short game”, was comparable to that of world No.3 Spieth – golf’s new world order.

Day is so hot right now, he is even being ranked No.1 in the world for press conferences.

The PGA Tour’s media department have called the Spieth-McIlroy “love child comment” its quote of the year.

Day has the unwavering self-confidence – or “swagger” as the Americans call it – that you simply must have to become the world’s best golfer.

He didn’t even blink this week when described being “in the zone” right now, an American-ism sportspeople use for that magical mental state one enters and, once there, can do no wrong.

But that brashness does not define his public image (if fact it doesn’t even come close) because of the other side of Day – call it the “V-neck” effect – that portrays the humble qualities that make up a champion who has just as many kind words for those around him, as he does for himself.

His humility overpowers to the point where any cockiness that might unwittingly slip is endearing rather than jarring.

It’s why very few Australians would begrudge him possibly banking the biggest single-day payout a professional sportsperson from this country has ever seen.

Even though he is already a millionaire several times over – all up his career-earnings exceed $US28 million – we will be happy to see his him break the bank over and over.

Day has had some big days already this year.

But this Monday could be his biggest – maybe not in his eyes, but likely in those watching him back home in Australia.

Put simply, he could enter rare air. It’s not all about the money, clearly. But winning $16 million in one day (Australian dollars, that is) will create a lot of headlines back here and give him a unique place in our sporting history.

The $16 million bounty is the prize for becoming the first Australian to win the “FedEx Cup”.

The “grand final” for that end-of-season trophy is the last event of the PGA Tour – the “Tour Championship” – which starts on early Friday morning, Australian AEST, and ends early Monday.

Day cannot be the first Australian to win the Masters. He wanted to be, so much, and planned to scatter some of his father’s ashes at Augusta once he did to fulfil his dying wish.

He is world No.1 and Australia’s youngest ever, but he wasn’t the first, and we won’t know for a long time whether he can ever eclipse Greg Norman’s mark of 331 weeks as “the man”.

Those are the two achievements, winning a green jacket (which he hasn’t done yet) and becoming world No.1, Day holds closest to his chest.

He admitted this week that the money would probably “pop into his brain” (how could it not) but it’s never been what he plays for.

“I don’t really spend money, mate,” Day added to his “V-neck” comment.

“I mean I have some nice stuff. I might buy some new clothes because I’ve still got clothes five years old that I wear today. I am a very simple man. Just be able to put it away and save it.”

Yet it’s impossible for the Queenslander to know how big a story winning the FedEx Cup will be, for no one has done it in this country.

It does not have the history that makes the Masters so sacred. The concept of the FedEx Cup – golf’s version of the AFL premiership – was only introduced in 2007. But in time it will, and who knows how big its prestige might grow.

In terms of prizemoney – the $US10 million cheque handed to the winner is five times that of the Masters or any other of the other majors.

Looking back in 50 years’ time – when that $US10 million could be goodness knows how much – Day might think it neat he was the first Australian to climb this particular mountain. But first he must get there, and he will certainly need his swagger to swing it.

Part of the reason why the FedEx Cup does not sit at the same level as the majors in the Australian sporting public’s collective consciousness is the convoluted nature of its qualifying system.

Over the past three weeks, the world’s top 125 golfers have been cut to fields of 100 and then 70 over three “play-off” tournaments, leaving just 30 to contest this week’s Tour Championship.

Day has won two of those three events – The Barclays and the BMW Championship – amassing FedEx Cup points along the way that have ranked him No.1 in the standings.

He comes into this week on 6680 points, which is 2288 points more than his nearest rival, Spieth, and a seemingly insurmountable lead given the final event only offers a maximum of 2000 points for the winner.

However this is the kicker for Day. All points earned up to this week are actually wiped and then “reset” for the final event, based on each player’s final ranking.

It means Day’s No.1 position gives him the greatest chance of winning as compared to any of his 29 fellow competitors, but not an exclusive one.

Day will start the tournament at a “reset” points total of 2000, ahead of Spieth on 1800, Rickie Fowler on 1600, Henrik Stenson on 1440 and Bubba Watson on 1280 – the top five players in the standings who are close enough to snatch the cash from Day with a victory this week.

If none of those other four players actually win the event, the prime No.1 position essentially gives Day more scenarios in which he can to still finish on top of the standings – and claim the $US10 million bonus – should he also fail to win the Tour Championship.

For instance, Day can finish as low as 29th in the 30-player field and still win provided the right player wins for that to happen. Spieth, on the other hand, can only finish as low as sixth and still win provided all other placings fall his way. And so on.

Here are a few other need-to-know facts about the event that could become Jason’s biggest Day.

– The player who entered the Tour Championship ranked No. 1 – which Day has this year – has won the FedEx Cup three times out of eight times. No one has done it since Tiger Woods in 2009.

– Day would not be the first player to win two “play-off” events but not the FedEx Cup. McIlroy won the second and third lead-up events in 2012, but American Brandt Snedeker stole the big prize by winning the Tour Championship after solid placings in the other play-off events put him in the frame.

– Day would be the only player ever to win three out of the four play-off events if he were to add the Tour Championship to his wins at The Barclays and BMW Championship.

– A score of 13-under in the Tour Championship would elevate Day’s combined under-par score for the four play-off events to 60-under, which would beat Woods’ current record of 59-under set in the 2007 play-offs.

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TONY BUTTERFIELD: Reserves get chance to atone


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THE Knights NSW Cup team and Wyong Roos have made the grand final! A local derby. Good stuff.

Congratulations should be extended to connections from both teams representing, as they are, the combined central and north coasts with distinction in the big show on Sunday afternoon in Sydney.

But getting to this point and winning are two vastly different challenges for the guys.

One is the marathon – three months of pre-season plus 26 exhaustive rounds.

The other is the one-off, live-the-moment performance of your life.

For Newcastle, bitter memories of last year’s substandard performance in the corresponding match against Penrith no doubt drives those still involved and hopefully challenges the new soldiers.

Coach Matt Lantry has his players on a roll from seventh place, but they were unconvincing in last week’s semi-final against Mounties.

They will need to lift their intensity or a well drilled, give-ya-nothin’ side like Wyong threaten to swamp the Knights late.

Wyong aligned recently with the Roosters. They missed the minor premiership this year only on points difference and are thriving in the expert hands of serial premiership-winning coach Rip Taylor, in part due to the additional resources now at his disposal. One of the form teams all year, they must start favourites.

I’ve a declared soft spot for the Knights but wish both clubs a hard but fair battle befitting the biggest day of the year. May the best team on the day win.

I’VE attempted to bring what I thought was my not insignificant knowledge of the game to bear picking winners in recent weeks. Hopeless. But surely among my fair-minded readers some will agree a portion of blame lay at the feet of a few very average calls (but you get that).

Meanwhile to week three.

The Roosters head to Brisbane tonight in a game many thought would be the grand final match-up next week.

Significantly, the Roosters, as only they can, have covered for major injury absences Mitchell Pearce and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. Right on cue, Kevin ‘‘Horrie’’ Hastings’ young bloke arrives on the seen like he’s old Horrie with a bad haircut.

Likewise, Boyd Cordner has risen to the occasion assuming the leadership mantel from Hargreaves, himself becoming the most damaging forward in the game.

I pick the Roosters.

Melbourne in Melbourne between 8pm and 9.30pm spells wet, slippery and cold. How well Johnathan Thurston’s boys adapt to the huge change in conditions will weigh heavily on this result.

They’re smart and well coached, these Cowboys. But if they get caught in the Storm’s wrestling web, their tempo and flow will be upset and their chances will ebb away.

My tips is the Storm.

Looked at another way, Queensland’s entire representation gone in 24 hours. No chance, right? What would I know?

I NOTE the lucky escape of a few young footballers earlier in the week and am not surprised at the procession of well intentioned investigations that will no doubt ensue. Thankfully the boys will recover and a lesson will be hard learned.

The police, the NRL integrity unit, the Souths club, the Fourth Estate and the league public at large will all make up their own minds as to what happened and what should be done about it.

From my vantage, the truth may be not much more than a group of young blokes preferred to stay at home, avoid the cost and any drama and enjoy each other’s company. A quiet get-together after a long, painful season.

Nothing to see here except legally supplied pain-killing pharmaceuticals might have been ingested beyond their prescribed limits. Reports have it that the two best mates were nearly dead (by misadventure) mates.

By nature young men of certain persuasions will experiment and take risks. It’s the reason many of this cohort succeed at modern sporting or business pursuits. This risk taking is as old as Adam and Eve.

So if one or more of our sons or daughters have needs beyond pain management, say, to enjoy a party sober, surrounded by drunken mates, he or she will find a way. Whether we all like it or not.

In response, punishments have and can be applied with limited and sometimes adverse effects. My view, as left-field as it may be, is pragmatism and honesty. This pretence that all drugs and all drug users are somehow bogey-man ‘‘bad’’ is outdated, ineffective and can sweep these problems under the carpet.

Why can’t people at risk of taking these cocktails feel comfortable asking qualified people for accurate information on dosages relative to body weight, allergies, energy drinks or whatever? At least their physician or chemist will be better informed about their patient.

Risk takers need information that is health-based, not dogma-based. It’s not condoning; it’s reality.

Rather than preaching the often-ignored social construct of right and wrong, this complex, divisive and sometimes tragic subject demands open discussion.

To positively influence choice, education-based solutions will prove far more sustainable and effective in the long run for our precious sons and daughters.

COUNTDOWN to the grand final . . .

1990: The Raiders make it two in a row, beating an emerging Penrith team 18-14. The Phil Gould-coached Panthers had been building for six years with a crop of youngsters from the local district (Alexander, Geyer, Cartwright, Izzard, Van der Voort and Fittler).

1991: Great though they were, the Raiders are later found to have breached the salary cap of $1.5million by $600,000 in 1990. At year’s end they would lose many stars and a grand final but keep their 1990 title, unlike Melbourne in 2007. In their first premiership since formation in ’67, youth combines with experience (Chris Mortimer, Peter Kelly, Paul Clarke and stalwart Royce Simmons) and the Panthers finally walk the district with their heads held high after beating Canberra 19-12.

1992: After only four years in the premiership race, Brisbane’s corporate-backed approach, ably supported by coach Wayne Bennett, a host of rep players and a whole state, crack it for their first premiership. Their opponents, the Dragons, reach the GF after playing two semi-finals in which no tries are scored (Newcastle 3-2, Illawarra 4-0). GF score: 28-8.

1993: The Broncos make it two in a row, again against the Brian Smith-coached St George, 14-6.

1994: Retiring captain of three premierships Mal Meninga goes out in a blaze of glory by flogging the Bulldogs 36-12. One of the modern game’s all-star line-ups includes Daley, Stuart, Clyde, Kevin Walters, Brett Mullins and Dave Furner – to name but a few.

1995: The 1994 runners-up would not be denied in ’95, beating Manly 17-4. With the drama of the Super League war heavy in the air, retiring legend Terry Lamb is determined to go out on a high note after 328 first-grade games. 1996: Manly coach Bob Fulton is determined to return a premiership after his central role in the Super League fiasco. Taking on St George, the Geoff Toovey-captained Sea Eagles make up for the disappointment of last year by winning 20-8 against a desperate St George team.

1997: The competition is split and it’s argued the stronger of the two leagues is the ARL. Regardless, players are tasked with playing whoever is in front of them. Ten years after their second coming to the NRL, Newcastle win in the dying seconds against arch enemies Manly 22-16. Along with ’75, my personal favourite!

1998: Despite finishing equal minor premiers with Brisbane, the Knights can’t progress beyond a preliminary final against the Bulldogs that ran 20 minutes of extra time. The leg-weary Bulldogs are no match for the mighty Broncos, losing 38-12 in a 20-team competition.

1999: It took the News Ltd-backed Melbourne Storm an astonishing three years to win their first premiership. In front of 108,000 fans at the new Olympic stadium, the Storm trail St George for most of the match before controversy strikes St George centre Jamie Ainscough after he takes out opposite Tony Martin. A penalty try and an extra kick in front win it 20-18.

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Live export opens Angus options

File photo.STRONG export demand for Angus heifers has provided an important marketing option for stud and commercial breeders in recent years.
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Angus Australia chief executive officer Peter Parnell says recent price rises in the domestic market may reduce the numbers available for live export trade in 2015, but in the longer term the trade would remain important.

“It helps buffer fluctuations in supply and demand, especially during poor seasons,” he said.

Dr Parnell says there are tremendous opportunities in China, with almost 30,000 Angus heifers certified for export there last year.

Strong demand is expected to continue in 2015, especially under the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, which will open up further markets.

“When they really get serious we are never going to be able to supply the numbers they need,” he said.

“We have seen the demand from their dairy industry with the importation of Holstein heifers for years but it is only just starting in the beef industry.

“Fortunately for us and Australian Angus breeders their breed of choice appears to be Angus, which comes down to the global recognition of the quality of Angus genetics.

“Across a range of climates where beef herds are expanding they are all choosing Angus.”

Kazakhstan and Russia have been major destinations for Angus heifers from 2007 to 2013 on the back of government incentives to develop their breeding herds.

However, falling oil prices have lead to a downturn in the Kazakhstan and Russian economies, making this funding more difficult. Political and trade restrictions in Russia were further obstacles.

Dr Parnell said it was unlikely this trade would resume in the foreseeable future.

Several large shipments of Angus bulls were exported to Russia last year, along with a very large shipment of feeder steers from southern Australia.

It was possible there would be further orders for feeder steers to Russia to utilise the feedlots and processing works they had built.

Dr Parnell said Angus Australia had provided support to the livestock agencies facilitating orders through pedigree certification of these breeding heifers.

Since 2007, more than 130,000 Angus heifers had been certified, in conjunction with the Australian Cattle Genetics Exports Agency.

Most of these heifers – about 90,000 – were exported by several shipping companies to a single enterprise in Russia, Miratorg.

Angus Australia has also provided support to several of these overseas herds by performance recording their cattle on Australian Angus Breedplan to create estimated breeding values on these animals.

Angus Australia staff had also assisted the Kazakhstan Angus Society develop its protocols and business model.

Dr Parnell said they would continue to work with these overseas customers of Australian Angus cattle.

“These people have chosen to source Angus cattle out of Australia rather than New Zealand, Canada or the United States so we see it as a good investment that we work with them so they will keep coming back here,” he said.

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Down to the wire for UDP

IT’S crunch time in the United Dairy Power auction, with almost all final bids now sitting in front of receiver PPB Advisory.
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The dairy processor fell into PPB’s hands in November, when Hong Kong businessman William Hui failed to stump up further capital to support the business. Mr Hui acquired the group for $70 million in February 2014.

Australia’s biggest dairy exporter, Murray Goulburn, is in the race but is understood not to be interested in all of the assets. Canadian heavyweight Saputo again stated its intent to pursue acquisitions in Australia at its quarterly earnings update last week.

Saputo snared Warrnambool Cheese and Butter last year after a fierce bidding war with Bega Cheese and Murray Goulburn. However, Saputo is understood to be sitting on the sidelines in the UDP process.

There has been some interest from offshore, but it is unclear if anyone is keen to bid for the entire business or just wants to pick off individual assets. The facilities come with a reputation for being old plants that Japan’s Lion could not get to work. The milk supply is valuable in a market fighting fiercely for farmers’ milk, but some players think they can win the suppliers over without needing to go through UDP.

Sources said if the plants do sell, they will probably get prices closer to asset values rather than multiples.

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Lamb exports reach $1.7b

AUSTRALIAN lamb exports in 2014 hit $1.7 billion, reports Meat and Livestock Australia – up 30 per cent from the previous record set in 2013. The rise was fuelled by record lamb slaughter, record lamb export volumes and the weakening $A.
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The US was the largest market, with the value up 31pc year-on-year, at $458 million, while as a region, the Middle East was the second largest destination, at $403 million dollars, up 22pc.

Within the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates ($117 million), Jordan ($78 million) and Bahrain ($75 million) were the three most valuable markets.

The value of lamb exports to China lifted 23pc year-on-year, to $220 million, while a significant increase (42pc) to Japan saw the 2014 value hit $88 million. Despite volumes being constrained by quota, the value of exports to the European Union increased 27pc, to $117 million.

Further contributing to the value of the Australian sheepmeat industry, mutton exports reached $870 million in 2014, up 38pc year-on-year, also assisted by greater volumes exported and the weaker $A. The most valuable individual markets were China ($207 million), followed by the US ($79.5 million) and Saudi Arabia ($78.7 million).

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Beef export hits record $7.79b value

UNPRECEDENTED Australian cattle slaughter underpinned record beef and veal export volumes in 2014, which helped the overall export value finish the year at a $7.79 billion – 36 per cent greater than the previous record set in 2013.
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Meat and Livestock Australia reports the United States alone accounted for $2.43 billion, up 138pc year-on-year, with almost 400,000 tonnes shipped weight exported to the US during the year. Assisting the strong market was the low point in US beef production, coupled with strong global demand and the weakening $A.

Japan was the second largest export market, both on a volume and value basis, with export receipts up 15pc year-on-year, to $1.65 billion, with over half (54pc) of the value accounted for by chilled boneless product, at $894 million.

The export value to Korea in 2014 finished the year 20pc higher than the year before, at $945 million, while to China, the value declined 9pc, to $660 million.

Export values to the Middle East ($374 million) increased 13pc year-on-year, despite a slight reduction in the volume exported, while Indonesia ($280 million) increased 45pc, assisted by a significant volume increase.

The EU export value jumped 38pc, to $279 million, coinciding with a slight increase in volume, and remained the most valuable large market on a dollar per kilogram basis, at $10.53/kg.

The forecast weaker $A will assist export values in 2015, yet the anticipated tighter supplies are likely to underpin an overall decline in export values this year.

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EYCI firm on 450.50c

AT THE close of Monday’s market the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator (EYCI) finished at 450.50 cents, firm on where it finished on Friday, reports Meat and Livestock Australia.
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Trade steers were unchanged on 233c while medium steers improved 1c to 222c a kilogram. Feeder steers and heavy steers were firm on 247c and 237c, respectively, while medium cows averaged 194c, back 1c/kg.

Numbers at Toowoomba Elders in Queensland declined 23 per cent to 1130 head. Quality was very mixed and additional supermarket competition joined the usual panel of export processor, feeder and restocker buyers.

Buyers were more selective on light weight yearlings and prices declined, however strong demand from lotfeeders and the trade pushed medium and heavy weights dearer. Medium C2 yearling steers onto feed improved 6c, averaging 251c, while the heifer portion eased 5c, averaging 236c and selling to 258c/kg. Medium grown steers onto feed were up 2c, averaging 229c, while heavy D4 cows were firm on 221c/kg.

Tamworth, NSW, yarded 2250 head, back 18pc week-on-week, and quality was generally good – however there was quite a spread of condition scores.

Restockers and feeders were active on light weight lines of yearlings but were mostly not willing to pay the same prices as last week. Medium and heavy yearlings and grown cattle saw greater support, with most lines averaging firm to dearer. Light weight (280-330kg) C2 yearling steers to restockers averaged 244c, back 6c week-on-week, and light weight heifer lines to feeder buyers averaged 225c, back 10c/kg. Light C3 grown heifers improved 3c, averaging 223c, and medium D3 cows improved 3c, averaging 197c and selling to a top of 215c/kg.

Consignments to Wagga Wagga, NSW, increased 14pc to 6975 head for another large yarding. Southern and northern feedlots competed strongly on secondary and well finished yearling steers and a northern export processor showed strong interest amongst the usual panel of export and domestic processor buyers.

Prices mostly averaged 5c/kg either side of firm compared to last week. The large supply of over 1000 head of heavy C2 yearling steers to feeder buyers eased 2c, averaging 242c, and the heifer portion eased 1c, averaging 225c/kg.

Heavy C3 grown steers to slaughter improved 3c, averaging 233c and selling to 244c, and grown heifers followed a similar trend, with heavy C4 lines up 1c, averaging 214c/kg. Cows mostly eased week-on-week, with heavy D3 lines back 5c, averaging 187c/kg.

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NBN chief pushes future of internet

NBN chief pushes future of internet “Digital Eruption”: NBN Co chief Bill Morrow said that the NBN rollout would prepare Australia for the ongoing development of digital technology.
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TweetFacebookThe CEO of NBN Co, Bill Morrow, has used an address at the National Press Club to espouse the future advantages being offered by the rollout of the government’s NBN plan.

At the speech last Wednesday, Mr Morrow addressed the enormous effect the development of technology is having on businesses, industry and the economy.

“Those trends are only going to exacerbate with the connection of every Australian home and business to high speed broadband,” he said.

“The NBN network that is currently being rolled out is set to be available to all 12 million premises over the next five years.”

Mr Morrow said that, rather than “being cowed by the digital disruption”, the development of the internet and broadband connectivity throughout the country has opened up opportunities through online services and communication.

“Right around Australia we are experiencing the beginnings of a seismic digital eruption – an innovation-led economic impetus that looks likely to help Australia maintain its high standard of living and enable us to lift it even higher,” he said.

“Beyond our capital cities, whole communities are adopting this new mindset.

“Take Geraldton for example, where the first commercial data centre has been built in regional WA, offering high speed internet business services and cloud computing, data management and disaster recovery solutions to businesses throughout WA.”

Mr Morrow said that currently 10 per cent of the country had access to the NBN, with the full roll-out expected to be completed by 2020.

“Governments, councils, businesses and individuals have their role to play too in continuing to drive innovation,” he said.

“But we have seen what an nbn mindset can do for a town or community. Imagine what it can do for an entire nation.”

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Michael Diamond’s road to Rio

Michael Diamond, left, takes aim at the Upper Hunter Gun Club at Scone last weekend.THE road to Rio is paved with gruelling qualifying rounds, and for dual Olympic men’s trap-shooting champion Michael Diamond, it is no different.
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That is part of the reason the Fingal Bay shooter travelled to Scone last weekend to take part in a competition hosted by the Upper Hunter Gun Club.

Looking out from the ridge line east of the town, where the clay-target shooters from Cassilis, Mudgee, Murrurundi, Scone, Muswellbrook and Tamworth competed with others from the Lower Hunter and Central Coast, the view was breathtaking.

Here, the man ranked sixth in the world in the trap, the long-range event for the shotgun, was able to kick back with a small group, spend a few days in the caravan and sit by the campfire at night after nearly 12 months of international competition.

Diamond said heading to the bush helped him recalibrate.

– MICHAEL DIAMOND

‘‘Shooting clay targets is my passion, and I love it, but here it’s different because there’s nothing up for grabs and there’s no strain and I really like it,’’ he said.

‘‘Having said that, the wind is really testing today, very challenging, and if you don’t get that target in the first four metres, it will lose velocity and the wind plays havoc with it.’’

The concentration, discipline and accuracy required to consistently shatter an 11centimetre orange disc in mid-air accelerating at 110km/h at different angles from an underground bunker is bewildering.

Diamond has turned it into an artform. He has won Olympic gold medals at Atlanta and Sydney, countless Commonwealth gold and half a dozen world titles.

He has represented Australia at six Olympic Games. Although he did not win a medal at the London Olympics, he shot a world record-equalling 125 from 125 targets in the qualifying round.

The 43-year-old is vying to win selection to his seventh Olympics next year in Rio and, if his silver medal at the recent World Cup in Acapulco is anything to go by, he is right on target.

In Acapulco, Diamond secured one of the two quota places for the Australian men’s trap team during the qualifying period for Rio.

‘‘We can only take two people per shooting discipline, so it’s now up to my teammates to win the other quota spot.

‘‘We have one more chance at the Oceania Games coming up in November where Australia will face off against the Kiwis, the Fijians and a number of other Commonwealth countries.

The ‘‘other half’’ of the Diamond success story is his MX8 Perazzi, a competition clay gun.

‘‘I call her Betsy, and she’s 20 years old, and back then it was the latest technology, but she is still a remarkable Italian-made machine.

‘‘However, after two decades I will be moving on to a high-tech revolution Perazzi, because everyone around the world is now using that style of gun.

‘‘Betsy is my old faithful, but I will retire her for 2016 and start using the high-tech Perazzi, which is worth about €15,000 [$23,000],’’ he said.

Back at the humble tin shed of the Upper Hunter Gun Club in Scone, president Ron Wakem said he was chuffed to see Diamond drive up the gravel road to the clubhouse last weekend.

‘‘Michael Diamond has been a great representative for Australia and he currently holds the world record of 2049 clay targets before he missed a shot and, let me tell you, that takes concentration,’’ Wakem said. ‘‘It’s great for the sport and it’s great to see an Olympian share his skills with our local competition shooters.’’

What advice would Diamond give them? ‘‘Well, anybody can hit a clay target, but you’ve got to do it all the time, and that’s where the psychology is. It’s up here,’’ Diamond said, pointing to his head. ‘‘This is where you win.’’

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Nufarm changes pique agri interest

Former Nufarm boss Doug Rathbone.THE changing guard at Nufarm has attracted strong interest in the agribusiness sector, with fertiliser and explosives business boss James Fazzino at Incitec Pivot noting his admiration for the retiring Doug Rathbone.
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Nufarm chief executive and managing director Mr Rathbone stepped down from his roles on February 4 after leading the company for 15 years. He will receive a termination payment of $1,643,193 plus statutory entitlements.

“As a chief executive officer, when you look back, ultimately you want to stand and say: what have you built? Look at what Doug has achieved,” Mr Fazzino said.

“He’s taken a very small crop protection company and turned it into a globally significant one”.

Agribusiness investment advisor David Williams at Kidder Williams, said Mr Rathbone’s relentless travel habits had allowed him to steal a march on the competition.

“He put a lot of leather on the pavement. There are numerous acquisitions where major ag chemical companies didn’t know businesses were for sale and Doug bought them,” Mr Williams said.

Tassal Group chairman Allan McCallum described the Nufarm veteran as an “an inspiring person who enthuses people”.

Incitec’s Mr Fazzino noted “industries need people like Doug Rathbone”.

“He’s built a pretty amazing business and makes pretty good wine, too,” he said.

However, the Rathbone Wine Group, which includes Yering Station, Xanadu and Mount Langi Ghiran, has been a drain on Mr Rathbone’s personal cash reserves.

Last year he sold $31m worth of Nufarm stock to shore up the wine business, which was under pressure from financier ANZ Bank.

He said he planned to continue helping out in the vineyard business, run by his son Darren, but in his new freed-up role he was also looking forward to spending time with his boating interests, which include owning a marina.

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Pressure builds for Snowy Hydro

Snowy Hydro chief executive Paul Broad.SNOWY Hydro chief executive Paul Broad says the pressure is on to prove the worth of the energy supplier’s $834 million acquisition spree and achieve the growth he predicted.
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Last year’s $600 million purchase of Lumo Energy from Infratil, and the $234 million acquisition of the Colongra gas-fired power plant in NSW, have almost tripled government-owned Snowy’s debt to about $1.2 billion. Its BBB+ rating is unchanged.

Mr Broad said convincing his board of the merits of the Colongra purchase was “more complex” than for Lumo.

“The board has put really tough numbers around us to achieve the synergies that we can achieve, the targets we said we were going to achieve. We have to now go and do it,” he said.

“It’s a very exciting time to be part of Snowy. It’s stressful but it’s exciting. We’ve now got debt and we’ve got to prove by performance that was a successful strategy.”

But Snowy will not be chasing growth for the sake of it and will does not expect to challenge the dominance of the big three suppliers, AGL Energy, Origin Energy and EnergyAustralia, but focus on expansion in the retail market.

“We don’t want to get big and go broke. Our job is to really focus on how we grow our business, and we don’t want to just play numbers,” he said, pointing to failed telco One.Tel.

“We’d like to grow our business in a targeted way that is successful. We are not chasing market share at all.”

Snowy initially considered bidding for the Vales Point coal-fired power station, which the NSW government sought to sell at the same time as Colongra, but pulled out. An offer to contract base-load capacity on the Vales Point plant was also rejected, causing Snowy to back away from any ambitions to supply large commercial and industrial customers, and focus instead on “mum and dad” customers.

“C&I is a tough market. We love the big, ugly, peaky loads and we’re still very competitive in that space but in big base loads we’re not competitive. We’re very happy in our space, and very happy with Colongra.”

Colongra has only run for about 300 hours since it was built five years ago, and rising gas prices means it may run even less often in the future. But Mr Broad said it would prove its worth as “an insurance product” alongside Snowy’s hydro-electric system in the Snowy Mountains, primarily used to fill shortages elsewhere in the market due to high demand or plant outages.

Mr Broad, a former chief executive of Infrastructure NSW, said Snowy was not interested in further acquisitions as it has the assets it needs to fulfil its ambitions in retailing and generation. He ruled out any interest in Alinta Energy, which will be sold this year by private equity owner TPG Capital.

“Our job is to make what we’ve got work. And the early signs from Lumo are terrific. I’m very, very happy.”

With about 1 million customers between Lumo Energy and Snowy’s Red Energy brand, Mr Broad said he saw scope for growth mostly in the key markets of Victoria and NSW, but outside the tough, competitive market in and around Sydney, where the major three retailers battled for market share. Rather, the focus was “on the fringes” in rural markets where the Snowy brand was strong.

Snowy’s recent acquisitions triggered speculation its owners, the NSW, Victorian and federal governments, may be considering a fresh push to privatise the business, after abandoning the last attempt in 2007. But Mr Broad, whose support for privatisation is well known, said there was no talk of any such move.

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