Former Murray Goulburn managing director Gary Helou (centre) in happier times with former prime minister Tony Abbott (right) and former Victorian premier Denis Napthine. Photo: Penny StephensMurray Goulburn’s chairman, Philip Tracy, claims the co-operative’s board and management were vigilant at all times, despite it posting a monstrous profit downgrade and slashing milk payments to farmers.
Murray Goulburn’s managing director, Gary Helou, resigned this week after he massively overestimated sales figures, sparking anger from farmers.
The co-operative, Australia’s biggest milk processor, will now struggle to meet half of its net profit forecast outlined in the prospectus for its partial float on the ASX less than a year ago.
But Mr Tracy did not blame Mr Helou, who has been replaced by former Fonterra executive and Murray Goulburn’s business operations manager, David Mallinson.
“The sheer size of the miss between the forecast and what the actual outcome caught us all by surprise, including Gary,” Mr Tracy said.
But this did not mean Murray Goulburn’s board had been lax in its duties, Mr Tracy said.
He said the gulf between the forecast and actual figures came after sales of its Devondale-branded milk powder surged 300 per cent in the six months to December 31.
Mr Helou thought the co-operative could generate even more growth this half because it could not produce enough powder to meet demand. But after increasing production, a slowdown hit during Chinese New Year in February.
The board discovered the gap last Tuesday when it reviewed the sales figures for the March quarter.
“We saw a bit of a recovery in March …but it wasn’t the growth we were expecting or required to meet our targets. That’s why we need to make more inquiry,” Mr Tracy said.
Sales were knocked further in April after China’s introduced new regulations on cross border online sales, leading to some Murray Goulburn products being temporarily withdrawn from Alibaba’s Tmall, a popular Chinese website.
“Naturally when you’re in a rapidly developing market – we had seen 300 per cent growth in … adult dairy powders in the first half – you need to be vigilant and the board and management were vigilant,” Mr Tracy said.
“I think Gary certainly owned his forecasts and said “these are my numbers”. That’s why I think he took the action he took [resigned].
“For the board, I say, it certainly crystallises the need to really focus on the process and execution of the strategy and also to get as much transparency of the data and as live as possible.”
Mr Tracy also said the cut to farm gate price – the first since the financial crisis – from $5.60 to $4.75-$5 a kilogram, would be much lower if the company didn’t switch from commodities to consumer brand products.
In the past 12 months, the price of global dairy commodities has tumbled 45 per cent, compared with Murray Goulburn’s cut to the farm gate price of as much as 15 per cent.
“Look far at bulk commodities have fallen. Even after this adjustment – the comparison is still stark, so we know the strategy is delivering.”
Murray Goulburn expects to generate full year net profit of $39 million to $42 million. This compared to its prospectus forecast of $89 million, and is significantly lower than its revision released to the market two months ago of $63 million.
Farmers and investors have criticised Murray Goulburn’s communication to the market.
For example, the co-operative issued a statement to the ASX last Monday saying it did not expect China’s new regulations to e-commerce to materially hit earnings. Meanwhile Mr Helou was upbeat about Murray Goulburn’s long-term prospects at The Australian’s Global Food Forum last Wednesday – a day after the board raised its concerns about the co-operative’s sales.
Respected agribusiness analyst Belinda Moore said Murray Goulburn’s sales and profit forecasts had been “overly aggressive” and the co-operative had been caught out “overpromising”.
“The downgrade is particularly disappointing given management’s recent announcements to the ASX and press comments”.
But she believed units in the co-operative’s listed trust, which have plummeted more than 40 per cent $1.25 this week, had been oversold.
Ms Moore said Murray Goulburn’s debt levels were within the limits of its policy and its spending on factory upgrades were underpinned by long-term contracts, such as 10 year deal to supply Coles with its home brand milk and cheese.
“However, until new management is in place and there is greater certainty over the company’s strategic direction and financial price, we move to a hold and a $1.38 price target.”
Michael Gill was declined cover by CommInsure which ruled his rheumatoid arthritis had an out of date definition. On Tuesday the federal budget will officially double the funding of the $2 trillion super fund industry’s Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT) in an attempt to tackle a backlog of customers who have been waiting up to four years to have their disputes, including life insurance matters, resolved.
Unfortunately, the Turnbull Government has decided to kick some other pressing issues years down the road, which has done consumers a disservice. These include addressing financial planners’ educational qualifications and professionalising the sector after a string of financial planning scandals which exposed lax education standards.
Currently, planners can sit the basic RG146 regulation to qualify as a financial planner, which can take less than eight days to complete in an open-book, non-supervised environment. They are then legally qualified to advise on people’s life savings.
On Thursday assistant treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer quietly put out a press release on her website saying the beefed up education and exam requirements that were supposed to be effective from July 2017, will be delayed until 2019 and existing advisers will have until 2024 – almost a decade – to reach degree-equivalent status. A joint parliamentary inquiry chaired by David Fawcett recommended higher education standards back in December 2014.
This isn’t a transition, it is capitulation at a time when the opposition is calling for a royal commission to clean up the mess. Those financial planners who are degree-qualified and sign up to a code of standards to act in clients’ best interests above the law, have basically been sold out.
The government has also delayed changes to the size of upfront commissions paid on life insurance advice and didn’t deal with some significant recommendations relating to ASIC in its response to the Capability Review.
It has however agreed to give a one-off $5.2 million funding injection to the SCT, partly in response to the opposition’s call for a royal commission into the financial services sector.
The financial scandals have put the spotlight on a number of shortcomings in the industry. Unfortunately, when things go wrong for customers, the dispute resolution bodies available to them are far from adequate.
Last week the Turnbull government said it would establish an independent panel to review the role of the SCT, the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) and the Credit and Investments Ombudsman.
Under the current system, customers of poor advice or dodgy insurance policies can wait up to four years to get a determination from the SCT and up to two and half years from FOS.
The SCT has 1500 open complaints, some dating back to 2012. It is a statutory body set up in 1992, funded by the industry via an APRA levy, but ASIC provides the resources and allocates its budget. Under the current structure it doesn’t have a bank account. This dispute resolution tribunal, which effectively serves millions of Australians who belong to a super fund, has had to operate on a budget of a few million dollars.
A cut in resources from ASIC has resulted in the SCT having to cut back the number of panels held for determinations, hence the backlog. The budget cuts have come as the volume and complexity of complaints has increased significantly.
FOS, which is funded by the industry, has its own set of issues, including lack of resources and caps on how much can be claimed, which means if there is a claim that exceeds a certain amount of money, the victim has to apply to the organisation for compensation or take legal action.
It means hundreds and possibly thousands of customers are left out in the cold. In heart attack victim James Kessel’s case, who had a $1.2 million trauma policy with CommInsure, FOS was not an option. (CommInsure recently paid out Kessel’s claim and updated the definition, albeit backdating it only two years, after being exposed on Four Corners and in Fairfax Media.)
Michael Gill, a former director of Cisco Systems who suffers from crippling severe rheumatoid arthritis, waited almost two years before FOS made a determination on a trauma policy he had with CommInsure.
The definition of rheumatoid arthritis is years out of date. The trauma insurance policies require customers to be “deformed” by the condition, and meet other criteria, including blood tests, before they can receive a payment. However, modern treatments prevent many patients with severe rheumatoid arthritis becoming deformed, even as they continue to suffer from the pain and debilitation brought on by the condition.
Medical classifications relating to rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that affects 1 per cent of the population, have not required a patient to be “deformed” by the condition since at least 1987.
FOS didn’t challenge this definition. It agreed he had severe rheumatoid arthritis but said he didn’t meet the policy criteria, even though it was common knowledge, including reports seen by FOS by specialists, that the criteria applied by CommInsure was no longer accepted.
CommInsure updated its definition of rheumatoid arthritis in March, following a joint media investigation that exposed widespread misconduct. It backdated it to May 2014, despite the definition being years out of date.
Gill asked CommInsure to review his claim. It was again rejected on the basis that “it fails to meet the definition as set out in the relevant policy document.” If it had backdated the definition beyond 2014, Gill might have received a more favourable response.
Victims like Gill illustrate deficiencies in the complaints handling process.
Another area of concern are the so-called forgotten people who fall through the cracks. According to FOS more than $15 million worth of compensation applications should be paid to victims but the organisations have either gone belly up or their professional indemnity insurance doesn’t cover the payouts.
These are people who have suffered due to the collapse of a fund or entity and as a result of rogue advice. These people include victims of Timbercorp who received dodgy advice, had their lives destroyed and are now facing massive loan repayments.
Other countries including Britain have a compensation scheme and ASIC raised the concept in a submission to the Financial System Inquiry.
If one message comes out of the raft of financial services scandals, it is that it affects too many lives, has caused too much pain and is too important to be swept under the carpet.
It seems that politicians aren’t interested in independent advice. Photo: Michele MossopFederal budget 2016: Latest news and analysis
I’m totally confused about the tax debate. Deep down I’ve always thought negative gearing was wrong because it has unintended consequences. It was established to create new housing stock for young people who were not ready to purchase but in the end it worked against them by pushing up house prices. In the 2003 Andrew Olle lecture I made the point that our children would not be able to afford homes as we could and that’s now true.
It seems to me that cutting out negative gearing is a good idea. One in 10 taxpayers get the benefits, nine in 10 miss out. It’s plainly being used by those who have plenty of cash left after meeting their weekly commitments. The more they have the more they negatively gear. Charlie looked up the figures that have been tracking disposable income in federal electorates since 2003. Surprise surprise. Top of the list is Kooyong where 77 per cent of adults say they have money left after commitments. Kooyong is held by Liberals’ rising star Josh Frydenberg. The top nine electorates on the list are held by Liberals, including Curtin (Julie Bishop); Wentworth (Malcolm Turnbull); and Warringah (Tony Abbott). The average for these three electorates is 69 per cent.
At the other end of the scale are the Queensland electorates of Wide Bay and Wright (both held by Nationals) where the average is 35 per cent. Bill Shorten in Maribyrnong is Mr Average (51 per cent) as is Barnaby Joyce in New England (52 per cent).
And on top of that, research by an ANU poll just released said that 41 per cent of voters preferred reducing negative gearing if the government had to make changes to tax. The government wants negative gearing, and any critic soon cops it. I notice the Victorian Liberal Party president Michael Kroger turned on this week’s Grattan report on the matter, sniffing that it was “intellectually lazy”.
Chief economics writer for Fairfax Ross Gittins said of the Grattan report that we are “very fortunate to have an independent umpire”. But it seems that politicians aren’t interested in independent advice.
Especially when their policies are criticised by the likes of Chris Richardson, of Deloitte Access Economics, Ross Gittins and John Daley of Grattan Institute whose founding supporters include the Australian Government and BHP.
My good friend Tony Stewart from years ago in advertising land, has some sobering facts. Of Australia’s 24 million people, 9 million don’t work because they are either too old, too young or unemployed. Five million are on government-funded payrolls and while they pay tax, it leaves only 10 million workers to balance our books from commercially generated income.
And the problem is, we still don’t raise enough money to meet our needs, let alone our expectations.
At the moment there are more than 100 taxes: sales tax, fringe benefits tax, payroll tax and so it goes.
Without them, the cost of goods and services would reduce dramatically.
The system is a mess.
Tony’s got a scary solution that no one would be game to do but it’s worth airing.
He wants a two-pronged attack to raise enough money and eliminate the pain and cost of getting it.
First, no one person should pay any income tax at all. This would mean no tax returns to complete and no costly bureaucratic resources to collect it.
Secondly, we introduce a 30 per cent GST to eliminate the deficit and create simple, cheap and stress-free income generation. Yes that’s right, 30 per cent.
You only pay tax when you spend. Individuals and companies pay 30 per cent on everything they buy. A big GST would be fairer for everyone because many goods and services will be cheaper as they don’t have more than 100 hidden taxes built into them.
The big-spending rich become bigger taxpayers and people with modest and low expenditure will pay less with the boosted tax revenue able to increase the pension and other essential benefits.
We need to be considering some new, big and bold ideas. Fiddling at the edges isn’t going to do it. Roll on budget Tuesday. Let’s hope all those people under pressure get some help and that the comfortably well-off are the ones who help them. “I think not,” says Louise.
Gordon Smith’s Palm Beach weekender. Photo: Supplied Ben Melkman’s Anadara penthouse at Barangaroo. Photo: Supplied
Hetti Perkins has renovated her Darlington terrace and is looking for another project. Photo: Supplied
Hetti Perkins has renovated her Darlington terrace and is looking for another project. Photo: Supplied
Hetti Perkins has renovated her Darlington terrace and is looking for another project. Photo: Supplied
Bob Seidler’s Mosman home is up for grabs. Photo: Supplied
Bob Seidler’s Mosman home is up for grabs.
Bob Seidler’s Mosman home is up for grabs.
The Potts family are selling their Darling Point home. Photo: Supplied
The two Greenwich houses, Rockleigh house, far right, and its neighbour, are for sale. Photo: Supplied
Lower Serpentine Road, Greenwich. Photo: Supplied
Gordon Smith’s Palm Beach weekender. Photo: Supplied
Greenwich locals will appreciate the significance of this one: two homes owned by Edeltraud Grill idyllically set on the beach at the end of Greenwich Baths are up for a combined ask of $15 million.
The heritage-listed sandstone residence, Rockleigh, dates to 1882 when it was built as an inn for book binder and printer Charles Jerrems, before it was bought in 1905 by the Lyons family, who were best known for running a crude oil tug service for Shell.
It last traded in 1978 when WorleyParsons chairman and BRW Rich List-er John Grill bought it for $180,000. Fourteen years later he and Edeltraud had another residence built next door by architect Alex Tzannes as their contemporary home. Edeltraud took possession of the landmark residence and its contemporary neighbour following the couple’s high-profile divorce in 2008, and selling $185 million worth of her Worley shares two years later. John, meanwhile, moved to Woollahra and his record-setting $16 million digs.
Sotheby’s Tony Barron and Harriet France take them both to auction on May 28 with a guide price of between $6.5 million and $7 million for Rockleigh, and $8 million to $8.5 million for the Tzannes designer digs.
Incidentally, the suburb record was reset at $8,525,000 late last year when the McMurdo family sold their lavishly renovated, north-facing waterfront reserve home to Amanda Roche, wife of SNP Security boss Thomas Roche.
Lap of luxury
Palm Beach’s luxury market scored another high-end listing this week, care of the waterfront weekender of rag trader Gordon Smith. The glamorous retreat was designed by architect Walter Barda and built by Shane Kavanagh, the same well-regarded team who collaborated so successfully on the nearby property, Corella, which was sold by former ALP powerbroker Laurie Brereton and his wife, retired judge Tricia Kavanagh, two years ago for $3.8 million, to chief of Assetz Property Ben Salmon.
The timber and stone build with the waterfront garden and swimming pool was commissioned by the Smiths in 2010, long after they bought the double block in 1999 for $1,625,000 from Judith Larcombe, when the property’s main feature was its big old boat house. Peter Robinson, of LJ Hooker Palm Beach, is asking $12 million.
Meanwhile, on the surf side of the peninsular the Toohey family have sold their long-held property, 54 years after they bought it for £19,000.
Home to the late Marie Toohey until she died two years ago, it was bought by her parents Irene and Vincent Toohey, who built the original Time and Tide Hotel in Dee Why in the 1960s.
There was no disclosure of price, but shortly before it sold Ken Jacobs, of Christie’s International, had dropped the asking price to $3.95 million, which did the job.
Aussie expat Ben Melkman’s penthouse is set to test just how well things have performed for Barangaroo’s off-the-plan buyers of three years ago.
Melkman clearly has no need for the $10.5 million spread he bought atop the Anadara building in 2013, given he’s still based in Geneva as partner and senior trader at one of the world’s biggest hedge funds, Brevan Howard. Expect to pay $12 million for the penthouse through McGrath’s Hamish Robertson, reflecting a 10 to 15 per cent rise in values since 2013.
Art curator Hetti Perkins, daughter of Aboriginal activist Charles Perkins, has done such an impressive renovation of her Darlington home she plans to flip it at a May 9 auction and do the whole thing again on another project locally.
Having paid $1,055,000 for the Wilson Street residence in 2012, Perkins set about beautifully transforming the Victorian terrace, with all the details in House of the Week this week.
Expect to pay $2.2 million through BresicWhitney’s Darren Pearce. .
Simpsons boutique owner Keith Wherry has taken the lead from Potts Point property investor Heidi Onisforou’s recent knock-out $13 million terrace sale to set his own record on Victoria Street at $5.3 million.
The partially renovated terrace next to St Vincent’s College has been Wherry’s since 1998 when he bought it for $772,5000 from the Sisters of Charity.
Jason Boon, of Richardson & Wrench Elizabeth Bay, has done well from the local demand for housing of late, confirming he sold Wherry’s Victorian-era home in an off-market deal to an eastern suburbs buyer.
Onisforou’s nearby Challis Avenue property set a national record this month for a terrace, almost double the $7.3 million high paid for the Paddington terrace of designer Collette Dinnigan in 2011. Onisforou’s place is only across the road from the luxury boutique of Wherry and his wife Marie Harland.
Downsizing from Mosman
Former Leightons chairman Bob Seidler, AM, and his wife Elaine are downsizing from their Mosman home.
Seidler, chairman of the Hunter Phillip Japan transaction and advisory business, bought the two-storey property in 2007 for $3.35 million from the former owner of the Australian College of Applied Psychology Lionel Davis and his wife Dhurva.
A May 21 auction has been set for the Balinese-style home, and a price guide of $3.9 million to $4.29 million, through McGrath’s Priscilla Schonell.
Sale precedes auction
Bauer Media’s recently appointed chief Nick Chan has no sooner returned to his ACP stomping ground (back when the Packer clan owned the magazine stable) than he has sold his Roseville home, scoring more than $5 million ahead of next week’s planned auction.
McGrath’s Philip Waller was unable to confirm the rumoured sale price but said it sold to a north shore family who were moving up the train line, lured by that rare Roseville tennis court east of the train line.
The sale coincides with word from Mosman that Chan and his wife Peggy are the rumoured $4.6 million buyers of the beautifully renovated Federation residence of Moelis managing director John Garrett and Caroline Garrett.
The Darling Point home of Bambini Trust and Bambini Wine Room owners Michael and Angela Potts has already drawn strong interest, so Title Deeds isn’t confident it’ll last until its planned May 12 auction.
The couple, who started Bambini Trust 20 years ago, are “busier than ever”, although they did make time for a renovation of the home in more recent years.
The north-facing home with a lift, lap pool, billiard room and home theatre was built as part of the Babworth Estate by jailed fraudster Nati Stoliar’s Kimberley Securities before it was sold in 2004 for $4.18 million.
The Pottses are bound for Rose Bay where they have their eye on a renovation project. This has prompted the sale of their Darling Point home through Raine & Horne Double Bay’s Martin Maskin, and a $4.2 million to $4.5 million ask.
677/2 Cooper Place, Zetland Photo: Supplied 3518/2 Wolseley Street, Zetland Photo: Supplied
A host of new residential buildings are complete, the shopping centre is a hit and residents are embracing their inner-city lifestyle, now proud to call Zetland home.
The suburb has come a long way since the 19th century when it was little more than swamps and sandhills. In the 20th century brickworks, factories and the Victoria Park racecourse prevailed, then in the 1970s Zetland slowly became a commercial zone.
Now the area has been transformed again, this time into a high-density, vibrant residential hub.
Morton Zetland agent Damian Kennedy says the suburb has proven equally popular with owner occupiers and investors.
“It’s quite central, being so close to the CBD, and not far from the beach and the airport,” he says.
“Apartments are really selling quickly, even one-bedroom apartments are selling before they get to market, and vacancy rates are very low.”
According to data from the Domain Property Group, unit prices in Zetland rose more than 10 per cent in the 12 months to March, to a median of $900,000.
Kennedy says the opening of the East Village shopping centre 18 months ago has been pivotal in securing strong sales.
“The East Village shopping centre blew everyone’s expectations out of the water,” he says. “It’s really brought a sense of community to the area which was lacking before. Now with the restaurants, the gym and the big Coles people aren’t travelling up to Surry Hills and the CBD anymore, in fact people are now travelling here to have dinner.”
Chris Helich, of Sydney Sotheby’s International Realty, believes prices will continue to head north in 2016.
“The area has really come to life since East Village opened,” he says. “Zetland is popular with people from all walks of life and has become a growth suburb. I think there’s plenty of capital growth left for the year ahead.”
1. 56/2 Hutchinson Walk Guide: $1.55 million – $1.6 million 3 bed 2 bath 2 car Built 2006 Size 161 square metres Strata levy $1325 a quarter Inspect Sat, 11am-11.30am; Thu, 5pm-5.30pm Agent Sydney Residential Metro, 0412 381 239 For sale By negotiation Last traded for $850,000 in 2010
With a generous floor size, a northern aspect and leafy views over Joynton Park and the surrounding district, this bright apartment in Form is a great lock-up-and-leave proposition for downsizers, but equally attractive for share households or couples looking for a guest bedroom and home office.
A collaboration between Sydney architects Turner & Associates, Bolles + Wilson from Germany and National Associates from Melbourne, Form comprises 240 apartments within four buildings arranged around a large central garden with communal pool. The security complex has an onsite manager and is pet-friendly.
This apartment on level seven has a large, carpeted living room which opens via sliding doors onto a wrap-around balcony positioned to capture day-long sunshine. The open-plan kitchen has stone benchtops, stainless steel appliances and a gas cooktop. The space adjoining the kitchen would work well as a dedicated study nook. Each of the three bedrooms has built-in storage, the main bedroom with an en suite and access onto the balcony.
There is a walk-in laundry, a family bathroom with a shower over the bath, airconditioning, and lift access to tandem parking and a store room.
Room for improvement: Install floating floorboards in the living spaces.
See more at: domain上海龙凤419m.au/2012732889
2. 677/2 Cooper Place Guide: $1.1 million – $1.2 million 2 bed, 2 bath, 1 car Built 2014 Size 140 square metres Inspect Sat, noon-12.45pm; Wed, 5.30-6pm Agent Morton Zetland, 0420 371 860 Auction May 7 Last traded for $607,000 in 2014
If you like the idea of convenient, low-maintenance apartment living but still yearn for your own piece of the great outdoors, this as-new property delivers on all fronts. Set on the north-east corner of the sixth floor above the East Village shopping centre, the apartment comes with its own broad, elevated and decked courtyard. Fill it with potted plants, install a vegetable garden or enjoy the space for barbecues with friends. And if you need further room to stretch your legs, the sixth floor is also home to the building’s unique 6500-square-metre sky park. Inside, the home is all about modern, streamlined spaces, with shadowline ceilings and a neutral colour scheme. The living room has timber-look floor tiles and floor-to-ceiling windows and the kitchen features stone benchtops, stainless steel appliances, a gas cooktop and mirrored splashback. Each bedroom has an en suite bathroom and while the main has a walk-in wardrobe and access onto the main deck, the second bedroom has a private balcony.
Room for improvement: Add a wallpaper feature wall in the main bedroom.
See more at: domain上海龙凤419m.au/2012718908
3. 3518/2 Wolseley Grove Guide: $1 million 2 bed 2 bath 2 car Built 2008 Land 107 square metres Inspect Sat, 11am-11.30am; Thu, 6-6.30pm Agent Sydney Sotheby’s International Realty, 0406 541 645 Auction May 14 Last traded for $755,000 in 2008
A collaboration between LFA Architects and Marchese Partners interior design, Prominence is a complex of 202 apartments directly opposite Tote Park. This two-storey apartment on the fifth floor comes with open-plan living spaces and a partially enclosed balcony with a leafy outlook.
The stone-topped kitchen has Smeg appliances, a gas cooktop, a mirrored splashback and an island bench with double sink and dishwasher. There is an integrated fridge/freezer plus a large pantry. Fresh paint and carpet in the airconditioned lounge area means you can move your furniture straight in. There is a bedroom and a bathroom on each level, adding extra appeal for renters. The master is upstairs and includes a built-in wardrobe and a small, north-east-facing balcony. “It’s a wonderful two bedroom apartment in one of Zetland’s best streets,” says agent Chris Helich. “It’s in immaculate condition and it has two parking spots plus a huge storage cage.”
The secure, pet-friendly complex comes with lift access and well-maintained common gardens.
Room for improvement: Add a built-in wardrobe in the second bedroom.
See more at: domain上海龙凤419m.au/2012744456
Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) hide from Ramsey in Game of Thrones. Photo: SuppliedWARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
A lot happened in the season six premiere of Game of Thrones. And also not very much at all.
Once the shivery feeling of hearing the opening titles’ music had dissipated this episode was all about plot set-up, a mix of this-is-where-we’re-up-to, this-is-where-we’re-heading and this-is-how-dead-Jon-Snow-is.
For months now, the world has waited for the new series of Game of Thrones mainly because it wanted to know if Jon Snow was really dead. Stabbed by traitors at the end of season five, the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch was left to die on the snow, blood leaking around him like a ragged red rug.
This episode showed that Jon Snow is still dead. He remained dead for the whole episode, just lying there on a table surrounded by a meagre but determined band of followers lead by Ser Davos Seaworth (also known as the Onion Knight, appealingly), being all dead. Ghost could be heard baying desolately.
But will Snow stay that way? If he doesn’t, which he probably shouldn’t, it will show that GoT’s showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have played fans’ curiosity to the hilt. Either way it had better be resolved soon or our patience about the show’s prettiest cadaver will wear thin.
This episode was titled “The Red Woman”, referring to Melisandre, a priestess of the Lord of Light, who may be a pivotal figure in season six. The show’s climax featured her pinging open her dress to reveal bosoms as perky as morning sparrows before removing a necklace and ageing a million years on the cusp of bedtime.
Why? Who knows. Was it exciting and unexpected and, as all good drama should be, an invitation to think of a million possible plot journeys ahead? Absolutely.
Watching episode one was akin to rapid-fire channel-hopping between nine kingdoms. From the frozen Wall it whizzed to the zestfully malicious Ramsay Bolton showing a skerrick of emotion on viewing Miranda, his dead lover, the kennel master’s fearless daughter who, he recalled lovingly, once “smelled of dog”.
Ramsay is pure evil. When his big-eyed face flashes on the screen I feel sick with fear in the stomach. There are few TV characters as vile and easy to hate as Ramsay. He makes yucky King Joffrey look like a kitten with a ball of wool.
Melisandre, aka the Red Woman. Photo: HBO
Then – whoosh – to Dorne to watch Ellaria Sand knife her brother-in-law, Prince Doran, before – zing – Cersei discovering the fate of her daughter Myrcella, brought back by Jaime after some swift poisonous kissing by Ellaria Sand
Cersei has lost virtually everything, including access to a good wigmaker. Her scenes with lover and brother Jaime were almost marred by her wearing a giant’s toupee, found in a bin and combed with a spade.
But I don’t think I ever felt more empathy for these two as when Jaime extolled, “F— everyone who isn’t us.”
And when Cersei’s conniving, scheming diva exterior was peeled away to show a mother mourning the death of a daughter so beautiful and pure she wondered if she “wasn’t a monster”.
True to form, episode one was full of shocks. Never has a death seemed more like an X-rated version of Disney’s Pinocchio than when Obara the Sand Snake lanced Trystane through the back of the head. It took a full five seconds (a long time in GoT comprehension) to realise he hadn’t magically grown a bright red elongated nose.
And perhaps the most stirring and uplifting moment was Sansa reuniting with Brienne, as the latter gave a kneeling pledge to protect her.
Game of Thrones’ great skill has always been delivering mammoth and many storylines with grace within a frame of shock and awe. This episode promises a storming continuum of that.
THE MURDER INVESTIGATION
Michelle Leng, 24, a Chinese international student who studied at UTS, has been identified as the Snapper Point murder victim. Photo: Facebook
Michelle Leng was stabbed at least 20 times before she was bundled in a car, driven more than 100 kilometres and dumped in the ocean, police will allege.
On Friday afternoon, her uncle, Derek Barrett, 27, was arrested by NSW homicide detectives and charged with her murder. He was formally refused bail in Parramatta bail court on Saturday.He will appear in Burwood Local Court on Wednesday.
Mr Barrett’s arrest came amid rampantand tenuousspeculationthatMs Leng had been communicating with an online love interest which ended in a fatal encounter after she went missing on Thursday April 21.
Instead, police believe Ms Leng – a 25-year-old Chinese international student – returned to her Campsie home on Thursday afternoon, where she lived with her uncle, aunt and cousin, after spending the day shopping in Sydney’s CBD.
It is inside the family home that she was allegedly murdered.
She valiantly attempted to fight off her attacker, and suffered a number of defensive wounds, but was overpowered and killed with at least 20 stabbing blows, the autopsy revealed.
It is believedCCTVfootage captured a car entering the Lake Munmorah national park, almost two hours drive from Campsie, around 7am on Sunday morning.
Inside the car, police will allege was MsLeng’sbody.
MsLeng’snaked body was spotted by a tourist floating face down in the Snapper Point blowhole around 10:30am last Sunday.
She remained unidentified for three days until police matched a computer generated image of her with a missing person’s report lodged by her family on Anzac Day.
Earlier in the week Detective Chief Inspector Gary Jubelin revealed his team had thoroughly canvassed the area.
“We’re very creative in the way we can capture what has gone on in the area,” he said. “We are getting a pretty good understanding of what occurred in that area during that time.”
Policeare now reviewing furtherCCTVfootage todetermine Mr Barrett’s movements betweenFriday and Sunday, Fairfax Media has been told.
As police released CCTV footage on Friday showing Ms Leng’s final public sighting at Campsie train station about 4.30pm on April 21, detectives quietly narrowed their focus to the family’s Campsie residence.
By Friday afternoon, the Campsie home was established as a crime scene.
Earlier in the week, Ms Leng’s aunt told an Australia-based Chinese-language news site her niece’s Facebook chat records revealed that, unbeknownst to them, she had recently met an Australian boyfriend.
“We looked at those photos, blonde hair, white skin, his eyes were very fierce, he didn’t look friendly, lives in Wollongong,” she said on Thursday in an interview that has been translated.
“If this boyfriend did something bad to her, Michelle would fight back, plus she never had a boyfriend before, this is her first.”
When Fairfax Media asked the NSW police on Fridaywhether they were pursuing this lead, a police contact confirmed it was not their main avenue of inquiry.
Ms Leng had moved to Australia from Sichuan, a province in southwest China, five years ago to study at the University of Technology, Sydney.
Her mother and brother, who are travelling to Australia in the wake of the arrest, were struggling to comprehend the news of her death, Chief Inspector Jubelin said on Friday.
“I don’t think ‘devastated’ properly describes it. It’s very difficult and even more traumatic for her family that they are so far away at this time.”
Thomas Middleditch, left and Josh Brener star in HBO’s series “Silicon Valley.” Glengarry Glen Ross
Hyper Light DrifterAll platforms
HYPER LIGHT DRIFTER ALL PLATFORMS An early contender for most beautiful game of 2016, Hyper Light Drifter finds you controlling a tiny man with a sword adrift in a ruined land depicted in a riot of oversized pixels. Its look evokes “platformers” of old – deliberately blocky, with a crude, top-down, point of view – but amped up with incredible colour and scale. The story is neither here nor there – basically, you explore and fight things – but the enjoyment really lies in making your way into one stunning environment after the next, then figuring out the path forward. It has echoes of Monument (the phone puzzler that was one of the best games of 2015) and 2001’s Ico, where you guided a similarly little chap through a similarly ruined landscape. Creative, ethereal and highly recommended. AH
Allan Dwan’s gripping 1954 Western unfolds in something close to “real time” as a band of supposed lawmen arrive in the town of Silver Lode to arrest the hero Dan Ballard (John Payne, suggesting a sullen cousin of Jimmy Stewart) during celebrations for the fourth of July. Dan denies the charges, but when his friends turn against him he’s forced to fight for his life, while racing across town in search of sanctuary. Some critics have interpreted this as an allegory for the anti-Communist witch hunts of the era, not unreasonably given that the screenwriter Karen deWolf was blacklisted soon after. More significantly, the film is a showcase for Dwan’s genius for mapping out action sequences, which marks him as a precursor to Hong Kong’s Johnnie To: power dynamics illustrated through compositions in depth, characters moving between contrasted adjoining spaces or disappearing into hiding spots just offscreen. Dwan, like To, is frank in his use of stock situations and types — all the better to reduce the plot to an unsettlingly arbitrary diagram that can be redrawn from one sequence to the next. JW
GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS
The real-estate business was never as cut-throat as in David Mamet’s Pulitzer-winning play, brought to the screen in James Foley’s all-star 1992 production, which resembles a war movie where sprays of obscene language substitute for machine-gun fire. The characters are a crew of desperate salesmen willing to do whatever it takes to clinch a deal; collectively they exist in a kind of hell, but the theoretical gloom is offset by the sheer brio of the cast, including Jack Lemmon as a craven has been, Kevin Spacey as a despised office manager, Alec Baldwin as a gung-ho motivational speaker, and Al Pacino as the alpha male of the group. Foley adds his own brand of visual pizzazz, punching home Mamet’s dialogue rhythms with circling camera movements and rapid back-and-forth cutting. Keeping a distance from realism, he gives the first act in particular the heightened atmosphere of film noir: rain streams down glass, trains rattle through the night, and James Newton Howard’s jazzy score underpins a series of declamatory scenes which, in acting terms, often seem like one flamboyant solo after another. JW
ROADSHOW (SERIES TWO), MA15+
This tech-world comedy maintains the momentum from season one without missing a beat. While there is a lot of jargon about computers, it is really about how people – how they interact, how they solve problems, how they value loyalty (or don’t). Cast as nerdy misfits backing a start-up company that has developed a sensational new product everybody is going to need, they are constantly exposed as normal human beings with poor social habits. It may be stereotypical, but it’s funny as hell. They constantly get into awkward situations, and usually squirm out of them intact, the dream road to gaining financial support and making their product commercially successful, still in front of them. The ensemble of Thomas Middleditch, TJ Miller, Amanda Crews, Martin Starr, Kumail Nanjiani and Zach Woods is powerfully zany. Matt, as Gavin Belson, their evil archrival, is equally as good. Guest appearances throughout from the likes of Silicon Valley celebs like Eric Schmidt, Jason Kincaid, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. The show is already into its third season, so rest assured the ride isn’t over yet. JK
MAY 5, ABC2, 10PM
If you haven’t seen Broad City yet – either in its original form as a web series, or this Comedy Channel incarnation, co-produced by Amy Poehler – now’s the time to catch up. Chronicling the lives of two broke 20-something best friends, Abbi (Abbi Jacobsen) and Ilana (Ilana Glazer) – who created the series – in New York, Broad City is sharper and cruder than Girls (plus it actually features characters who are likeable), the storylines of which feel affected compared to the almost zero narrative arc here. Tonight’s episode see the Abbi and Ilana – who smoke lots of pot, drink, and enjoy casual sex – trying to scrape together cash for a pop-up Lil Wayne concert, no matter how much they need to demean themselves. This is female-centric comedy with a difference, one of the best shows of its genre in recent years. KN
The way handsome Italian Edoardo Perlo sees it, Sydney was far enough from his tiny home town of San Remo in Italy that he could finally have some peace from his family.
And his cousin Stefano de Blasi agrees, though the pair didn’t quite count on just how successful their burgeoning Italian gastronomic empire in Sydney would become when they started five years ago.
On Wednesday night they opened their fifth Salt Meats Cheese outlet, on Broadway. In August they hope to open a sixth outlet, in Bondi Junction.
“Every time we say we are going to take a break we find another new venue and end up opening there … it is crazy,” Stefano admits.
Indeed the affable cousins’ mystery trip to Australia in 2008, following a path of so many young Europeans seeking sunshine and surf, was not your average backpacker experience for the pair.
“We have worked very hard over five years and there have been some very big challenges … but you know we have learned so much about business in that time … we just tried to take small steps to where we are today,” Stefano says.
But with their empire chugging along nicely, and with both cousins single as they approach their respective 30th birthdays, Stefano agrees it might be time to really settle in Sydney, and find a girlfriend.
“I am more the marrying kind,” Stefano jokes, adding that his cousin “likes girls too but I don’t know if is ready to settle down just yet.”
Indeed both men have probably been too busy to focus on their romantic lives with about 80 staff feeding thousands of Sydneysiders each week
“I’m not quite sure our family back in Italy realises just how well this business has gone for us … they know we have done something good but I’m not sure they realise just how good,” Stefano says with a broad smile.
Looks like they won’t be going home to mama any time soon.
There has been tension between Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison recently. Photo: Alex EllinghausenScott Morrison’s relentless rise to power
Political life might have turned out very differently for Malcolm Turnbull if a plan hatched by Scott Morrison when Mr Morrison was Liberal party state director had been implemented.
The plan would have parachuted Mr Turnbull into the NSW upper house to take over the position of state opposition leader, with a switch to a safe lower house seat after an election.
The plan, confirmed by Mr Morrison in an interview for Good Weekend, was sketched out in early 2002 as a “Plan B” if then NSW opposition leader Kerry Chikarovski – up against a seemingly impregnable Bob Carr – had faltered in the run up to the 2003 state election.
But the plan was abandoned after the NSW party made a surprise decision to dump Ms Chikarovski and elect a then 33-year-old John Brogden in her place.
Mr Morrison, who delivers his first budget on Tuesday, told Good Weekend that the Turnbull-for-NSW plan was “not very advanced. I don’t think either of us [himself or Turnbull] thought it was going to go anywhere. I mean Kerry was Plan A, and I was very committed to Plan A”.
Mr Morrison’s unhappiness about the switch to Mr Brogden was known to senior Liberals at the time, though the Treasurer insists he regarded Mr Brogden as a “brilliant campaigner”.
Of recent strains in his relationship with the Prime Minister, Mr Morrison says “Malcolm and I have a longstanding friendship that survives all the normal exchanges you would expect between PMs and treasurers. I would go further and say that the strength of our relationship coming into these roles would be greater than that of any of our counterparts over the last 20 years or so.
“That does not mean we have always agreed on everything. It’s not surprising that there will be tensions from time to time between prime ministers and treasurers, But we have a reservoir of a relationship to drawn on to move through all of that.”
Mr Morrison’s preselection for the seat of Cook in 2007 was turbulent, and occurred after the party abandoned the originally anointed candidate, right-winger Michael Towke, and ran a second preselection contest in which Mr Towke alleges he came under extraordinary pressure from the party hierarchy to withdraw. Good Weekend can reveal the existence of a secret legal deed signed between Mr Towke and then state director Graham Jaeschke in which Mr Towke (who’d been bombarded with allegations questioning his fitness to stand) agreed not to recontest the preselection in return for having his good name restored. Mr Towke says he was also offered a job in Mr Morrison’s office – though Mr Morrison denies this.
Former state MP Marie Ficarra said what was done to Mr Towke was “unjust and unfair”, and demonstrated why the party should move to plebiscites for preselections.
“Preselections based on factional warlords’ control of party branches have to come to an end [to ensure] that what happened to Michael Towke will never happen to anyone else,” she said.