Slater & Gordon Chairman John Skippen leaves the company’s AGM in Melbourne. Photo by Jesse Marlow. . GRECH BRW 080515 MELB PIC BY JESSICA SHAPIRO… Andrew Grech, manageing Director of Slater & Gordon in his Melbourne office this morning. FBM FIRST USE ONLY PLEASE!!! SPECIALX 84853
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA 14 NOVEMBER 2013: Photo of James MacKenzie who is retiring as Chairman of Mirvac, during the company’s AGM meeting in Melbourne on Thursday 14 November 2013. AFR / LUIS ASCUI
Paying Slater and Gordon’s former chief executive Andrew Grech a remuneration package of $1.5 million in a year when the company almost collapsed isn’t a good look.
That the company is valued on the market at $28 million, after overseeing a strategy that resulted in the decimation of billions of dollars of shareholder funds, doesn’t help the optics.
Nor does a board decision to shell out a $1.6 million package to the chief financial officer, Bryce Houghton, whose resignation coincided with the company’s announced full-year loss of $547 million, including an impairment charge of $350 million on its disastrous UK acquisition in 2015.
The way executives are paid, in good times and bad, speaks volumes about a company’s culture. It also says a lot about the board.
Slater and Gordon went on a debt-fuelled acquisition binge that almost destroyed it. But along the way it forgot its core values, which include deep ties with the labour movement and representing the underdog, the victim.
This was epitomised by a decision in 2015 to spend millions of dollars on a high-profile, five-year sponsorship of the Olympics, at a time when money was precious.
Besides being a poor use of shareholders’ money, during the period of Slater and Gordon’s sponsorship, the AOC has been at the centre of a series of scandals in recent years.
Not the least being controversies around AOC president John Coates, including when Coates wrote to senior AOC staff that a young, female employee, who was being treated for cancer, should “get out in the real world” because the AOC was not a “sheltered workshop”.
How the Slater and Gordon board and senior management could have thought such an expensive Olympics sponsorship was a good fit with a law firm that represents blue-collar workers is hard to fathom. That it didn’t pull the plug after the scandals erupted is equally curious.
Grech resigned as managing director on June 29 as part of a recapitalisation agreement with hedge funds. That agreement included Grech remaining on the board as non-executive director until the completion of the recapitalisation agreement.
But a remuneration report released on Thursday night reveals Grech will continue to receive fees equivalent to his base salary as managing director at $560,384 until he leaves.
It says the board’s approach to remuneration is “balanced, fair and equitable”.
The question is fair to who? Shareholders who will be diluted to 5 per cent after the rescue plan is completed in mid-November?
Interestingly, directors, including chairman John Skippen, took home a similar level of director fees in 2017 as those approved by shareholders in 2015, back when the company was valued on the sharemarket at $2.8 billion.
It meant Skippen pocketed $240,000 during a year when the company had a negative cash flow, massive losses, was under investigation from ASIC and shareholders had launched a class action.
Skippen was chairman when the company received a “first strike” on its remuneration report in 2016 after thinking it was a good idea to pay bonuses to executives as well as issue performance rights to Grech when the company was essentially in a death spiral.
Part of Grech’s $1.5 million includes an expatriate allowance paid while he was in the UK trying to fix the mess and an “end of service benefit”, which he will receive when he ceases being a non-executive director.
In anyone’s books, this is a lot of money for running a company that almost went belly up from poor strategy and execution.
The board, particularly those members who signed off on a series of debt-funded acquisitions over the years, can’t escape blame. The role of the board is ultimately to take responsibility for strategy, culture and reputation.
In the case of Slater and Gordon, the $1.2 billion acquisition of a British personal injury law firm just shy of its own market capitalisation was a big risk. At the time of the announcement, I wrote that it would give it a “massive short-term sugar hit, but the long-term aftertaste could be a concern”.
Britain is a tough market, with a number of n companies losing a fortune. Hubris and greed would add Slater and Gordon to the list.
The consortium of international hedge funds that will take ownership of Slater and Gordon, in a plan announced on Thursday night, will appoint company director James MacKenzie chairman and clean out the other directors.
It will also roll out a new business strategy, which will make the company leaner and take it back to its roots. The strategy will involve growing its personal injury practices in Queensland, NSW and Victoria, improving and restoring its relationships with the union movement and leveraging third-party relationships to build referral networks.
It sounds simple enough but will take deft work and an ability to stop the exodus of good, high-profile lawyers.
Some of the decision makers have already jumped ship, getting off scot-free. Some have stuck around, for now.
But the rise and fall of Slater and Gordon, and the hopeful rise again, will be one for the corporate history books.
The rescue package means Slater and Gordon will remain a listed entity, with lead hedge fund Anchorage Capital committing to remain a shareholder for at least three years. The UK business has been hived off, the class action settled. Now it is a matter of wait and see.
What a joke. A scholarly article in Treasury’s latest Economic Roundup has admitted that all the years of handwringing over our poor productivity performance was just jumping at shadows.
Turns out all the angst was caused by not much more than the figures being distorted by the mining industry’s construction boom.
This after our top econocrats gave speech after speech urging “more micro reform” to improve productivity and keep living standards rising. (They’d have advocated more reform even if productivity was improving at record rates; its supposed weakness was just a convenient selling proposition.)
Meanwhile, the business lobby groups, led by the Business Council of , claimed – without any evidence – the supposed weakness had been caused by the “reregulation” of wage fixing under Labor’s evil Fair Work changes, and demanded the balance of bargaining power be shifted yet further in favour of employers. (A claim even the Productivity Commission wasn’t convinced by.)
Even at the time, it seemed the contortions of the mining industry during the decade-long resources boom were a big part of the story, but that didn’t stop people who should have known better going into panic mode.
“Despite concerns”, the paper by Simon Campbell and Harry Withers, says with masterful understatement that “‘s labour productivity growth over recent years is in line with its longer-term performance.
“In the five years to 2015-16, labour productivity in the whole economy has grown at an average annual rate of 1.8 per cent.
“This compares to an average annual rate of 1.4 per cent over the past 15 years, and 1.6 per cent over the past 30 years,” says. A productivity primer
Let’s take a step back. Productivity compares the quantity of the economy’s output of goods and services with the quantity of inputs of resources used to produce the output.
When output grows faster than inputs – as it does most years – we’re left better off. This improvement in our productivity is the overwhelming reason for the increase in our material standard of living over the years and centuries.
Productivity can be measured different ways. The simplest (and least likely to be inaccurate) way is to measure the productivity of labour: growth in output per worker or, better, per hour worked.
Labour productivity improvement is caused by two factors. The first is by increases in the ratio of labour to (physical) capital used in the economy.
This known as “capital deepening” – translation: giving workers more tools and machines to work with, which makes them more productive.
The second driver of labour productivity is improvements in the efficiency with which labour inputs and capital inputs are used, arising from such things as improved management practices. This known as MFP – multi-factor productivity.
In recent years the figures have shown multi-factor productivity growth to be zero or even negative, causing great concern among some economists, including the Productivity Commission.
But Campbell and Withers argue this focus on MFP is misplaced. They remind us that MFP is calculated as a residual (the product of a sum), meaning its likelihood of mismeasurement is high.
And they criticise the conventional view that physical capital should grow no faster than output – known as “balanced growth” – because capital deepening is an inferior source of productivity improvement to MFP. Forget ‘balanced growth’
People take this view because (making the unrealistic assumption that the economy is closed to transactions with foreigners) increased investment in physical capital must come at the expense spending on consumption.
The authors point out that achieving improved MFP isn’t costless, while the price of capital goods (most of which are imported) has fallen persistently relative to the price of consumption goods.
“This has allowed to sustain its high rate of capital deepening without forgoing ever higher levels of consumption,” they say.
Actually, they say, our economy has never fitted the “balanced growth” story. Of the 30-year average of 1.6 per cent annual growth in labour productivity, MFP contributed only 0.7 percentage points, while capital deepening contributed 0.9 points.
Next the authors examine the causes of the ups and downs in labour productivity improvement overall by breaking the economy into six sectors: agriculture, mining, manufacturing, utilities, construction and services (everything else).
They find that labour productivity in agriculture is now 2 1/2 times its level in 1989, but it’s too small a part of the economy – 2.5 per cent – for this to make much difference to the economy-wide story.
The utilities sector showed strong productivity growth until the turn of the century, before steadily declining through to 2011-12, mainly because of one-off developments such as the building, then mothballing of many desal plants. The key factor
The story of mining is well-known: its productivity fell because of the delay between companies hiring more workers to build new mines and gas facilities and that extra production coming on line. Since 2012-13, however, mining productivity has shot up. What a surprise.
Productivity in manufacturing and construction has grown at similar rates to the economy overall, as has productivity in the services sector (hardly a surprise since services now account for 70 per cent of gross domestic product).
Over the past five years, more than half of our total labour productivity improvement was attributable to the services sector, compared with about a quarter attributable to mining.
Apart from productivity improvement in the various sectors, overall productivity can be affected when changes in the industry structure of the economy cause workers to shift from lower-productivity sectors to higher-productivity sectors, or vice versa.
Because mining, being highly capital-intensive, has by far the highest level of labour productivity, the authors say it’s really only when workers move in or out of mining that structural change has much effect on economy-wide productivity.
“These movements of labour into and out of mining have been the key driver behind the fluctuations in … aggregate labour productivity growth,” the report concludes.
Now they tell us.
Ross Gittins is the Herald’s economics editor.
There has been a lot of talk about Parramatta in the press of late, and for a good reason.
The level of construction activity is in the billions, the offices are full, shop tills are ringing and industrial landlords are snapping up any land they can find.
It’s not having a day in the sun, more like the rest decade, if all the projections come true.
One of the latest projects is the $876 million South Quarter development by Dyldam, which includes a $225 million commercial hub, covering offices, retail and hospitality outlets over 39,000 square metres.
GPT Group is building a $230 million office tower, while Walker Corporation and Charter Hall are part of the revamp of the $6 billion Parramatta square development.
According to Savills’ research, getting a foothold in the office sector will be no mean feat with the private sector competing head-on with an expanding array of government offices all wanting space.
In the latest data from the Property Council of , vacancy for premium-grade office space is zero, while B-grade is filling up fast.
JLL’s director of leasing, Scott Butler, said Parramatta was undergoing “phenomenal regeneration”.
All this activity is leading to solid rental growth.
JLL Research is forecasting above-average prime gross effective rental growth over the next year, with prime grade vacancy zero, no prime-grade assets and only 10 secondary grade assets with more than 1000 sq m of space availability.
“Not only have we seen commercial values appreciate very strongly over the past three years in Parramatta, but the net increase in stock over the next three years will likely be the largest of any of Sydney’s commercial markets.”
Mr Butler said Parramatta is the geographic centre of metropolitan Sydney, and a key piece in the formulation of government infrastructure policy. This will include development of the Parramatta Light Rail, as well as early feasibility works under way for the Sydney Metro West.
However, Parramatta’s occupier profile is diverse. JLL’s head of research, , Andrew Ballantyne said Parramatta already had a strong representation of corporate , with seven of the top-20 ASX-listed companies in its CBD.
“Western Sydney is a population growth corridor of NSW and will record strong growth in the working age population. We believe that organisations are increasingly undertaking more sophisticated workforce population mapping exercises and will consider Parramatta as a strategic location to assist with the work-life balance of employees,” he said. Retail booming
Knight Frank’s senior research manager, NSW, Alex Pham said the Parramatta CBD was experiencing a massive development boom, with more than 21 DA-endorsed mixed-use developments in the pipeline. According to the City of Parramatta, projects could yield nearly 9200 extra dwellings and about 170,000 sq m more commercial floor space.
The retail vacancy rate in the Parramatta CBD retail core measured 2.8 per cent as at July 2017, marginally higher than that in the Sydney CBD at 2.6 per cent.
“Currently dominated by food outlets, we expect the tenant profile in Parramatta to change over the coming years as a larger variety of fashion, footwear and technology retailers take up space in the Parramatta Square development. With the Parramatta light rail linking surrounding suburbs, Parramatta will become a more attractive retail destination for western Sydney residents,” Mr Pham said.
“Food retailing was the most dominant retail category in Parramatta as at July 2017, accounting for 27 per cent of the total tenancy mix.”
Knight Frank research shows most food retailers were street-front takeaway shops, restaurants and cafes, which accounted for 82 per cent of the total number of food retailers in Parramatta. Clothing and footwear retailers had the second-largest presence in the city, representing 19 per cent of the total retail units. This is in contrast to the Sydney CBD’s retail tenancy mix, which has clothing and footwear as the most dominant retail category, 39 per cent, followed by food retailing at 18 per cent.
Radwa Magdy, 35, holds up a picture of her husband on her phonewho disappeared during the dispersal of Rabaa massacre egypCairo: Four years on from Egypt’s bloodiest day, Egyptians are still looking for their loved ones.
“When I pass by [Rabaa Square] I feel hurt in my heart like this is where someone’s spirit left their body, or someone saved their friend, or a mother lost her son,” Sara Ali, now 26, tells Fairfax Media.
“??? and now cars just pass by casually. Even though it has changed physically, history will always bear witness that Rabaa was a massacre.”
Rabaa Square is where thousands of people, mostly Muslim Brotherhood supporters, protested against now Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s overthrow of Mohamed Morsi in a month-long sit-in in 2013.
It turned into a battle zone of tear gas, stray bullets and blood spilling from clashes between citizens and a militarised state in the urbanity of Cairo.
Ali, a diminutive postgraduate student, sat in the square in the searing heat for days and laments how authorities have elided the atrocities committed since then.
More than 800 people were killed as the government cleared the crowds on August 14, 2013, the largest mass killing in modern Egyptian history.
For Ali, Rabaa is especially painful because days later her father disappeared. She remembers him being grabbed by state security personnel.
“It was a Saturday when they took him and it was the hardest day of my life,” she says. “I couldn’t process what was happening and since then I haven’t seen him.”
He had been to Rabaa and survived the violence, but a few days later he was captured for his supposed links to the Brotherhood in Zagazig, Morsi’s hometown where there is a large Islamist constituency. She remembers the day well.
“I could hear my sisters’ screams coming from downstairs while I was running down dragging my mum. I saw elite forces lined up outside our house just like what you see on TV. It felt surreal, like an action film,” she said. “What was weird is that the soldier gripped my father’s arm while firing his AK-47 up in the air several times, like he was parading him in front of us to scare us.”
She has been leading the search for him, along with her five sisters and brother, ever since. She has even sued the state to find out where her father is but the final hearing was delayed last week yet again.
“For the past four years, my life has been on hold. I can’t even remember my life before they snatched him.”
Ali diligently travels every week to Cairo to connect with other families of the disappeared, as well as to approach official bodies in search of her father, a surgeon.
“Now I’ve become a man. I have taken on duties like a man, going from one institution to the next all in the hope of finding my dad,” she says referring to strict gender roles still prevalent in Egypt.
She is incensed that authorities have not responded to her requests and is adamant she will find him.
Egypt has used enforced disappearances to stifle dissent since the overthrow of the Brotherhood. Amnesty International estimates that at least 1700 people have disappeared, with hundreds ending up in secret detention facilities or executed without their kin knowing.
Sisi’s crackdown is even more repressive than those under Morsi’s predecessor, deposed president Hosni Mubarak, with more than 40,000 political prisoners and hundreds of critical websites shut down in recent months.
Fairfax Media contacted the Egyptian Ministry of Justice and the Attorney-General’s Office repeatedly for a comment on enforced disappearances to no avail.
No security official or political figure has been held accountable for the atrocities at Rabaa.
The Muslim Brotherhood – an Islamist group founded in Egypt in 1928 – has always had a Faustian pact with the rulers of Egypt, striking a balance between growing political influence and their grassroots social programs.
Yet, since Rabaa, the group has been decimated, forcing many to go underground or flee overseas, mostly to Turkey or Qatar.
“We are talking about the largest state massacre in modern Egyptian history that happened all in one day,” says Abdullah al-Arian, a history professor at Georgetown University in Qatar who has researched the Muslim Brotherhood extensively.
The Brotherhood was declared a terrorist group in November 2013 by Egyptian authorities and Sisi’s administration has lobbied Britain and the United States to follow suit.
After the overthrow of Morsi and the Rabaa massacre, many Brotherhood youths ended up in Syria fighting alongside jihadists or planting bombs, and even burning churches as a form of retribution .
“You have to go back to 1954 under Nasser’s rule to find the closest moment where something like this has happened. You’re not only just being outlawed but being actively pursued and hunted down by state security services,” Arian added.
Radwa Magdy, who speaks quickly, feels constantly under siege. She runs a support group for the families of the disappeared, helping them with the legal process of tracking down their relatives. In recent weeks, Magdy has become more attuned to the draconian measures of the authorities because her co-founder and friend was arrested in May as she searched for her own husband in a prison.
It is an all too familiar scenario for Magdy.
Minutes before security forces snatched her husband as the sun was setting over billowing smoke, corpses and panic in Rabaa Square, Magdy spoke to him on a borrowed mobile phone.
“He survived the whole day of the clearing of the square when the mosque was burnt and the stage demolished. He was there updating me all the time ringing from people’s mobiles and since that fateful day I haven’t heard from him,” she tells Fairfax Media.
Her husband Abdelaziz, an Arabic teacher with al-Azhar University was caught up in the violent melee.
Hailing from a small town in the Nile Delta, around 100 kilometres north of Cairo, Magdy, 35, has turned into an amateur archivist of legal documents and has become well-versed in Egyptian laws in order to find her husband.
Every couple of weeks, she takes a few days off her job as a civil servant to shuttle between the Attorney-General’s Office, the state-backed Human Rights Council and lower courts to lodge paperwork that would allow her to know where her husband is.
“I just want to get to the truth.
“We are talking about the soul of a human being. If he was killed then where is his corpse? I have been looking for four years straight, leaving no stone unturned, so where is he? He is absent.”
The Turnbull government is set to crack down on schools and universities that send their students to volunteer in overseas orphanages, amid fears that they may be contributing to a new form of modern slavery.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham says he is appalled that well-meaning students could be unwittingly caught up in child exploitation through orphanage tourism and shonky volunteer programs.
Global demand for so-called “voluntourism” experiences is fuelling the targeted recruitment of children who are unnecessarily separated from their families to solicit profit from Western visitors.
Experts warn that it is not uncommon for recruiters to be sent into villages to convince families to give up their children for money or the promise of a better life.
Once the children are taken, parents are often encouraged not to visit their child or are told they no longer have custody rights; papers are often falsified as children are trafficked between facilities; and children are effectively exploited for profit through forced “cultural” performances for tourists, forced begging, or forced interaction with visitors.
“It disgusts me that well-meaning students seeking to help vulnerable children overseas might be unwittingly signed up for scam volunteer programs and orphanage tourism that risks further child exploitation,” Mr Birmingham told Fairfax Media.
“The national government has a leadership role to play in setting education policy but I hope that we will enjoy co-operation from states and territories, non-government school authorities and universities to ensure that due diligence occurs before groups take-off.”
Figures from child protection agency Lumos suggest that there are more than 8 million children living in residential orphanages around the world, while UNICEF estimates that four in five of them have at least one living parent.
But with many n schools and universities continuing to visit, volunteer or fundraise for such facilities – often in partnership with third-party operators – the government concedes that part of the solution involves raising awareness about the risks involved.
In a bid to tackle the issue, Mr Birmingham has asked his education department to work with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on a suite of policies to put on the agenda at the next COAG Education Council with his state and territory counterparts.
The government is also considering introducing a Modern Slavery Act, modelled on a similar law in the UK, which would force large businesses to report on the measures they are taking to stamp out slavery in their supply chains.
While modern slavery generally refers to exploitative practices such as sex trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage, or wage exploitation, some within Coalition ranks, such as West n senator Linda Reynolds, are pushing for orphanage tourism to be an internationally recognised form of slavery.
A 2016 mapping study by Rethink Orphanages found that almost 58 per cent of n universities advertised orphanage placements through international volunteering opportunities. Meanwhile, in Victoria alone, almost 16 per cent of public high schools and 13 per cent of private high schools fundraise or take school trips to orphanages.
However, education chiefs have defended their involvement, insisting their students are not getting caught up in child exploitation.
Overnewton Anglican Community College principal James Laussen??? said his school had sent students and staff to Zambia for years to support an orphanage in Chibobo. He said this had not only given participants the chance to understand the challenges the local community faced, but also led to funding of a medical clinic, construction of a new school, and other supportive partnerships.
Deakin University pro vice-chancellor John Molony said: “We recognise some countries offer programs that do not have strong protection measures in place for children, so we deliberately work only with organisations that have undergone Deakin’s rigorous due diligence processes to ensure we do not engage with organisations that could put children at risk.”
But Rethink Orphanages spokeswoman Leigh Mathews said there was no such thing as a “good orphanage” because the model of institutional care in itself was inherently harmful to children “no matter how high quality the care provided is”.
HAVOC: Barges are secured by tugboats in the flood-swollen Burnet Bay along the Houston Ship Channel in the southeast of the US. Picture: APA Ballarat man has been caught up in floodingthat is devastatingthe UScity of Houston.
Tim Pope was based in the Texan metropolis for work before Tropical Storm Harvey hit this week.
“As an n that has seen fire and flood as well as being an ex-serviceman involved in disaster relief, I can say I have never witnessed anything like the current disaster in Houston,” he said.
“The easiest way to describe it would be to say most of Melbourne, Geelong and Ballarat were either under flood or flood affected in some way.”
TROPICS: Ballarat man Tim Pope is staying in an apartment complex for work in flood-ravaged Texas as Tropic Storm Harvey wreaks havoc.
More than 500mm of rain has fallen over large swathes of the state, with some experts calling it a1-in-1000-year flood event.
The death toll climbed to at least 47 people by Friday afternoon.
But the community has rallied in the face of the disaster, Mr Pope said.
TROOPS: A US Border Patrol air boat moves through a neighbourhood inundated by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston, Texas, where crews have rescued more than 450 trapped people this week. Picture: AP
A group of civilian volunteers formed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina called the Cajun Navy has come to the aid, towing their boats from Louisiana to help flood victims.
“On a positive note, I have witnessed some of humanities finest moments,” Mr Pope said.
“They drove three to five hours from Louisiana, even though the hurricane was heading their way.
“They knew the risks in leaving their own are but saw the need to head to Houston and help their neighbours.
“I take my hat off to them.”
The Houston apartment complex Mr Pope was staying in had yet to be affected.
But there were fears about the release of excess water within reservoirs in the coming days.
Ballarat man Tim Pope
The Wallabies put up a gallant fight against the All Blacks, restoring some pride after the Bledisloe Cup opener. Photo: AAPYou wonderful Wallabies. You bloody beauties. No, you didn’t beat the All Blacks last Saturday night in Dunedin, but your performance was a triumph regardless. Having been blown away in the first half of the first Test in Sydney just the week before, the fact that you were able to strike back in that exhilarating manner, against the strutting and haughty Blacks in their own heartland, and be leading them with just two minutes to go, was extraordinary. It gives us all hope that you might have at last turned the corner. Congratulations. We all look forward to the third Test!
Professional coach needed
Dunno about Brad Fittler as Origin coach. What do we actually know about him? Fabulous footballer, great bloke, seems to have done fairly well with the limited coaching opportunities he’s had. What did we know about Laurie Daley before he was appointed? Fabulous footballer, great bloke, seemed to have done fairly well with the limited coaching opportunities he’d had. Would it not make more sense to give the gig to a hard-bitten coaching professional, maybe one with a track-record of both success and intensity – the latter of which might be more manageable for his charges when exposed to it for only a couple of months of the year?
Yes, Des Hasler is a much more obvious choice to me. But whether it’s Fittler, or Hasler, or another, there will be a clean-out of the rest of the coaching and management staff. And so there bloody well should be! For here is my principal question. Who the HELL, was the genius that decided Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson should room together? Honestly, in the history of sports management, was there ever such a brain-dead decision as that? Let’s room Kieran Foran with Eddie Hayson! Put George Best on a bunk in the wine cellar. Shane Warne in the pantry, right by the store of baked beans.
You just know it is going to end badly and stink up the joint, and so it did with Dugan and Ferguson. The new coach must say to both: “Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry, and please never darken our towels, or puke on our tiles, again. Goodbye.”
From bad to worse
Since TFF’s item a fortnight ago about Marc Reichler-Stillhard, the young lad with Down Syndrome from Yamba who has been happily playing as a 12th man for the Yamba u/14 side, I have been besieged by queries from readers wanting to know how he is getting on. You will recall the yarn about how, wonderfully, all teams in the Clarence Valley comp were happy to bend the rules to allow Marc to run around with Yamba as an extra, until a couple of parents from a rival club complained and North Coast Football upheld the complaint.
Your humble correspondent had a rant along the lines that this was – to use the technical expression – freaking ludicrous. Emblematic of the amount of influence I wield, I can report that the NCF not only didn’t blink, but when the Grafton City Heat team announced they would wear yellow armbands, (Marc’s favourite colour,) as a gesture of support for him, they were advised by NCF that if they did, they would be going against uniform regulations and may face disqualification.
That is, if I might use another technical expression, weird shit, from officials that just don’t get it.
Obviously an issue that goes just beyond Marc, surely we can establish a nationwide protocol whereby, in junior sport, all the major sporting codes are encouraged – most particularly if they want federal funding – to embrace polices of inclusiveness to those with disabilities.
Brissie misses out
Let’s face it. When of the eight finalists in the AFL, two are from Sydney, two are from Adelaide, one from Perth, and with just three from Melbourne, the game truly is national. And the main thing remains: none are from Brissie, which is one in the eye for those uppity Queenslanders!
Haka a big hit
The scene was at the Valley Bowls Club in the Perth suburb of The Vines, last Saturday arvo before the Bledisloe. The crowd, a mix of born locals and expats from all over, are joyous, anticipatory, eager for the match to begin as the two teams file out to the roar of the crowd – both coming through the tv, and from the room. But wait, what’s this? Even as the All Blacks form up for the mighty Haka, so too do five enormous Maori expats form up in front of the crowd, right by the tv. And, sure enough, as the All Blacks do their haka, so, too, do these five Maoris, in perfect unison. The crowd, as they say in the classics, goes off!
Grand tiger tale
With the football finals upon us, it is time to reminisce, about great grand finals past, and how funny I should say that, as this week I was sent Ian Heads’ latest book, The Great Grand Final Heist, which recalls the biggest boilover in Sydney rugby league history – when the Balmain Tigers upset the Rabbitohs in 1969. As Heads recalls, the big SCG crowd heard from the Eastern Command Military Band, enjoyed the marching girls and … umm … that was pretty much it. Ah, but, meanwhile, in the Balmain dressing room, some serious negotiations were taking place between the Tigers’ injured centre, Harold ‘Hal’ Browne, and the club secretary Kevin Humphreys, on a matter that would change rugby league forever!
“When the players were out warming up,” Browne would recall to Heads, “Kevin Humphreys called me over. ‘Hal, I want you to do something,’ he said. He was holding a tiger suit. I had one look and said, ‘No, no, shove it up your arse. I can’t do that.’ Anyhow, he talked me into it. So, I put the bloody thing on and walked out onto the field ahead of the players. They didn’t even know it was me. Out in the middle, [Souths halfback] Bob Grant ran past. Bobby and I had known each for almost our whole lives; we went to kindergarten together at North Annandale School.
“I called out to him, ‘Hey, Bobby, come here!’
“And he said, ‘Who’s in there?’
“‘Bobby,’ I said, ‘it’s me ??? Harold.’
“And he said, ‘Don’t you come near me, Harold, or I’ll upend you!’ Eventually, I headed back inside to the dressing-room. I took off the suit and nobody knew.”
Strange days indeed. Most peculiar, Mama.
Vale Mike Cockerill
TFF was very saddened to hear of the death of my long-time colleague and friend Mike Cockerill, late on Thursday evening. “Cocko,” as we all knew him had a warm heart, a great nose for a story, and was very passionate for the sport that he believed had been too long ignored by the media in – football.
While never being a mere FWT, “Fan With A Typewriter” – he broke big stories, many of them troublesome to the ruling powers of the code at the time – within the realms of Fairfax he was the driving force for the constant coverage that helped wake the sleeping giant from its decades of torpor.
Personally, he was a sardonic presence, engaging company, quick with a quip, a laugh – or a light barb to puncture whatever pomposity your correspondent was guilty of lately.
I cannot quite believe he is gone, and offer my personal condolences to his first wife Deb, his second wife Jo, and his two children, Daisy and Toby. Vale, Cocko. You were a good’un, and will be missed. What they said
Kerry O’Keefe, on a contributing factor to Bangladesh’s stunning victory over the n Test team: “John Howard could have taken wickets on that pitch.”
Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart: “Laurie Daley is one of the greatest legends of Origin football, and being a Blue he should have been treated with a lot more respect than the way it was done. I thought it was disgraceful how it was done. He deserves a lot more respect …” Personally, I am not sure how such a difficult exercise can be done gracefully.
Michael Cheika on a gallant defeat to the All Blacks: “It’s all good. But the gallant loser thing is not on. We should have won that game. We know it. I am not angry. I am just very, very disappointed.”
Josh Dugan on the latest Origin story that he and Blake Ferguson, as room-mates, damaged a hotel room in the lead-up to Origin II: “There is absolutely no truth to it at all and all these allegations have done is smear more mud on myself and Fergo. Fergo and I have been made the scapegoats. That’s becoming pretty obvious.” The goats part, at least, is the most obvious of all.
Johnathan Thurston on the Maroons culture by comparison: “It’s a mutual respect between the coaching staff and the players. That’s the difference in the culture, I believe when the coaching staff give you those days off you do it in the right way and in the right manner. Some of the boys will go play golf, some of the boys go sit at a cafe or whatever. But certainly we’re not on the piss five days out from a game.” Ouch.
NZ netballer Maria Tutaia, fianc??e of Israel Folau: “We both wished each other luck but I just wished him luck, not his team – go the ABs.”
South African Springbok legend, Frik du Preez on his long-time rival on what the late, great Sir Colin Meads was like to face on the field: “Imagine the man you would least like to play against.”
Asked the difference between MMA and boxing, Conor McGregor replied: “The cheque.”
McGregor’s mother Margaret: “I’m just so proud of him I really am. Can’t wait to spend some of his money.”
Maria Sharapova after beating No.2 seed Simona Halep in the first round of the US Open on what she took away from it: “Behind all these Swarovski crystals and little black dresses, this girl has a lot of grit and she’s not going anywhere.”
So ran the headline in Rugby News on Saturday, above a piece on club rugby by Brett Papworth, distributed among the faithful at the Shute Shield Grand Final: “Rugby’s heart beats strong.” And so it does, as the record-breaking crowd would attest to. Brett’s heart, however, not so much. The following evening he was rushed to the hospital for a heart operation. He is now, mercifully, on the mend, after two operations.
Illustration: John Shakespeare
Horse trainer Peter Moody on egalitarian in his entertaining autobiography, A Long Way From Wyandra: “In England there were all these strappers and stablehands calling me ‘guv’nor’ and ‘sir’. Someone asked me if stablehands in did that and I nearly fell over. ‘Call you “sir”?!’ I said. ‘They’d more likely call you a c**t than sir!”
Jason Gillespie recalls his own double ton against Bangladesh: “Michael Clarke was not out at the other end, and was very happy for me. As we walked off (we declared) I decided to give the young Pup a piece of advice after our embrace. ‘Son, that’s how you score a Test double ton.'”
Cronulla five-eighth James Maloney, on the NRL salary cap being so much lower than the players want: “You wonder where the money’s going. There’s no one accountable for the spending. The players are your most important commodity. Without them, there is no game. Everyone who works around it are just accessories.” Team of the week
Bangladesh. Beat in the first Test, despite David Warner tearing off a great ton in the second innings.
Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios. The two most extravagantly gifted players of their generation, both eliminated in the first round of the US Open.
Warringah. First Shute Shield since 2005 in a touchingly emotional victory for the Rats following the passing of Lachlan Ward. The Grand Final itself, at North Sydney Oval, was a triumph of grass-roots rugby.
Daria Gavrilova. The n tennis player won the Connecticut Open.
Hawthorn. I give up – how did they manage to beat the Swans twice and lose to the Suns twice in the same season?
Wallsend South Public School. Won the Paul Kelly Cup girls final after defeating the Holy Family Primary School of Kelso in the final at the SCG.
Clovelly Eagles Junior Rugby Union Club. In the heartland of the Roosters, Rabbitohs and Swans, this tiny club has had four players – Finn Wright, Ben Donaldson, Marco Bell and Will Harrison – selected in the n Schoolboys Rugby Union team to play NZ Schoolboys and Fiji Schoolboys in October.
Nathan Buckley. After inheriting a Collingwood side that won the grand final – and taking them to 4th, 6th, 11th, 12th, 12th, 13th since – has been reappointed for another two years as coach of Collingwood.
Cameron Smith. Equals most NRL games record with his 355th game when the Storm host Canberra Raiders in Melbourne.
RIP Dean Mercer. 1969-2017. The younger of the likeable brothers from the ‘Gong who were dominating the Ironman titles three decades ago, died at Gold Coast University Hospital on Monday morning after being rushed there by ambulance after a seeming heart attack at the wheel of his car. The Herald sends its deepest condolences to his wife Reen, and four young sons.
RIP Mike Cockerill. 20 November 1960 – 31 August 2017. Beloved sports journalist for Fairfax and Fox Sports, passed away on Thursday, after a battle with cancer. (See tribute.)
American indie artist Colleen Green It used to be that visiting musicians were buttonholed as soon as they got off the plane by eager reporters keen to know what they thought of . These days, they just get thrown in the slammer.
That, at least, was the fate that befell American indie artist Colleen Green, whose n tour has been called off following her detention and deportation by immigration and border control officers in Melbourne.
Green had been scheduled to kick off her short n tour in Byron Bay on Friday night, with gigs in Brisbane, Sydney, Wollongong and Melbourne to follow, before winding up the tour with a show in Ballarat on Sunday September 10. Alas, it was not to be.
Green posted about her experience on Facebook on Friday afternoon, describing the past few days since leaving Los Angeles as “emotional, exhausting, and tumultuous”.
She arrived in Melbourne this week, via Auckland, with no guitar but a few pieces of merchandise in her luggage. That was enough to make the immigration officials suspicious.
“The promoter of my n tour told me he had secured a visa for me and to just say I’m visiting friends and everything would be fine,” Green writes. “I really had no reason to doubt this as I have travelled all over the world to perform and have done so many times under the pretence of ‘tourism’ with no incident.”
However, “after a very thorough search of my bags, the officers decided I was lying. They took my iPad, phone and passport. They looked up my tour dates on the internet … they took me to an interrogation room where I waited, was interrogated on tape, waited more, was interrogated more, waited more, and finally was told that my visa was being cancelled.”
About seven hours after stepping off the plane, Green was driven to an immigration detention centre (presumably in Maribyrnong, though she says only that it was about a half-hour journey), where she was photographed and fingerprinted. She has no complaints about her treatment, saying “the officers at the centre were actually really nice and fun”.
The following morning, she was taken back to the airport for deportation.
Being escorted by half a dozen immigration officers determined to make sure she left the country wasn’t all bad, Green admits, “because I didn’t have to wait in any of those wack ass lines, and I also got to board the plane first”.
But it wasn’t all good, either. “I felt like a totally busted criminal dummy, when all I had been trying to do was play music and see a new country.”
A spokesman for Bone Soupsaid the small promoter was “deeply saddened” by this situation, and said refunds were being automatically sent to all ticket buyers.
He added that Bone Soup was “deeply embarrassed” that it had failed to arrange the appropriate documentation in time.
“Letting down an artist and having her experience what she has, as well as letting her fans down, is a terrible thing,” he said.
“This has been a harsh lesson and we have made a mistake that we will never make again. We are doing our best to allay the situation and reschedule a tour for the future.”
The calendar might say that spring has arrived but the weather tells a different story, with central Victoria infor awet and chilly week.
Damaging winds are forecast for parts of the region over the weekend, which will also herald the return of showers that look set to continue for several days.
Bureau of Meteorology senior meteorologist Chris Godfred said cloud would begin increasing from the west from Saturday, along with isolated showers that would move eastwards across the state.
Mr Godfred said winds would increase ahead of a cold front that would sweep across Victoria on Sunday, with elevated areas most at risk of damaging gusts.
A severe weather warning has been issued for damaging northerly winds across parts of the Central and North Central forecast districts, which covers such towns asMaryborough and Castlemaine.
The severe weather warning area, highlighted in yellow. Picture: Bureau of Meteorology
The BOM expectswinds averaging 60 to 70 km/h with peak gusts of up to 100 km/h will develop in these areas during Saturday afternoon and evening.
Mr Godfred said temperatures would begin to drop on Sunday.
“The main effect of this cold outbreak’s going to be during Monday and Tuesday, with the probably the core of the coldest air moving over central Victoria late Monday to Tuesday morning,” he said.
He said this meant there could be more snow on the way for the region andtowns such as Macedon and Trentham could be in for a fall or two on Monday night and Tuesday morning.
Bendigo is expected to reach a top of 15 degrees on Saturday, with a medium chance of showers in the morning and afternoon.
Similar conditions are forecast across the region, with Maryborough forecast to reach 15 degrees, Castlemaine 14 degrees, Kyneton 13 degrees and Echuca 17.
The weather will be much the same on Father’s Day, but on Monday daytime temperatures will plummet.
A top of just 11 degrees is forecast for Bendigo on Monday and Tuesday.
The days not looking likely to warm up by the end of the working week, with Thursday expected to be the warmest with a forecast maximum of 13 degrees.
There was secrecy in the air at the auction of a modest freestanding cottage in North Sydney on Saturday – even after the property successfully sold for a handsome $2.6 million.
The early morning auction was one of the first homes to go under the hammer this weekend, kicking off Sydney’s spring selling season.
There were 649 properties listed to go under the hammer on Saturday. By evening, Domain Group reported a clearance rate of 67 per cent from 438 reported auctions. It was a marked drop compared to the same weekend last year, when Sydney recorded a 76 per cent clearance rate.
The North Sydney home last sold in 2010 for $1.742 million.
The seller – a local investor – was not on site for the 9am auction, while the buyer, in his 40s, declined to be interviewed after the hammer fell.
Selling agent Tom Scarpignato, from Belle Property Neutral Bay, said the seller did not want his employer to know about his sideline in property investment, and that the buyer was a “private individual”.
The auction took place on the upper level, on a large timber deck with a leafy outlook that had been touted as a major selling point during the campaign.
Other appealing features in the compact three-bedroom home included secure off-street parking and a whole-floor parents’ retreat with ensuite on the lower level.
The four bidders did not seem phased by the motorway noise that was clearly audible from the deck, quickly bringing the price up from the opening bid of $2.2 million to $2.5 million.
At this point, two bidders retired, leaving the eventual winner to battle it out with a young couple. ‘Market has lost its energy’: Sydney enters spring with whimper’Stop pretending’ everyone will own a home, experts say
“We had two local up-sizers and two down-sizers, one local and one from the Hills District,” said Scarpignato.
According to the agent, that mix of prospective buyers is typical of North Sydney, which often flies under the radar of North Shore investors.
“It really is varied around here,” Scarpignato said. “The up-sizers are people who are coming from nearby apartments who want a bit more space or a back yard but still want the convenience of being so close to the city and to the North Sydney CBD.
“Then you’ve got the down-sizers who have come from big blocks of land on the Upper North Shore – Chatswood, Epping and the Hills District – in search of convenience and a slightly smaller block.”
Scarpignato said that, until recently, many prospective North Shore buyers were unaware that North Sydney even had houses, assuming the suburb was comprised solely of apartment blocks and commercial buildings.
But as value became harder to find in Sydney in recent years, North Sydney’s profile grew.
“Houses rarely come up in North Sydney, which I think is why they’re so well contested when they do become available,” he added.
According to 11 Doris Street’s auctioneer, Andrew Robinson, who auctions property across the North Shore region, North Sydney is holding up well amid a broader market slow-down. “The Lower North Shore has delivered some strong results recently, particularly in North Sydney,” he said.
Domain Group chief economist Andrew Wilson agreed, but said the Lower North Shore felt less hot than it did in 2016.
“It’s still a very strong market,” he said. “It’s now the best-performing market in Sydney. But I don’t think it’s as crazy any more.”
Dr Wilson noted that, although 11 Doris Street sold for $400,000 above the opening bid, the reserve price on the house was actually $2.5 million.
He said the balance of power between sellers and buyers is shifting. “It’s certainly a much more balanced market.”
But he said the Lower North Shore will continue to be a relatively good performer compared with other parts of Sydney.
“The Eastern Suburbs and the Lower North were a little late coming to the party when the boom began and they’ve been making up for lost time over the past year or so,” he said. “Particularly this year.”
This weekend marked the start of the spring selling season, which experts predict will be more subdued, pricing-wise, than last year’s energetic spring.
But volumes this weekend were high, with 715 scheduled auctions, compared with 637 at the same time last year.
“I was fully booked today with 12 auctions,” said Robinson. “I’m busier than I’ve ever been before. Stock levels have certainly increased – there’s no doubt about that.”
Robinson says agents were generally pleased with the day’s trading. “The results today have been relatively strong,” he said. “We’re certainly not seeing the out-of-line results that we were seeing six or nine months ago, but it’s still strong.”
He added: “Quality properties are still selling very very well, there’s no question about that.”
And he revealed that prospective buyers should prepare for significant variety this season. “I’m fully booked up until the end of October. There’s going to be a lot of stock on the market.”
Location: Korda Studios outside Budapest, Water Tank. Time: 2049, Night. Main cast on set: Ryan Gosling as Officer K of the Los Angeles Police Department; Sylvia Hoeks, evil henchwoman. Warning to all cast and crew: there are journalists on set.
A scene from Blade Runner 2049. Photo: Alcon Entertainment
The newBlade Runner, possibly the most feverishly anticipated film ever, is 65 days into shooting. Another reporter and I have slipped out of the tent where we are supposed to be watching proceedings on a viewing monitor to stand out in the cold on the edge of the tank and watch the real thing happening. It’s so vast, so dark, so wet: actually, it’s thrilling. The local Hungarian publicity assistants come out every couple of minutes and ask us would we not like to come back into the tent rather than stand here in a couple of centimetres of water. No, we wouldn’t.
Here’s what we can see. There is a car “crashed” on a sea-wall constructed on the edge of a tank big enough to look like the sea, with three rigs under the water surface creating waves, two cranes on dry land that can swing the car around and a vast scaffold rising out of the water with wings like a crop-duster that intermittently sprays rainstorms over two people grappling on the levee. Roger Deakins, the director of photography and an acknowledged genius, has lit the scene apparently only from within the car and a semi-circle of strip lights at ground level, which means that the pugilists move in and out of visibility, one moment in a blare of yellow light and the next plunged into the black.
Ryan Gosling as K in Blade Runner 2049. Photo: Stephen Vaughan.
We can only just make them out, to be honest; we’re a good hundred metres away. As far as I can tell, there are stunt doubles who do the real fighting and roll into the water. Then they move off and Ryan Gosling, face bloodied, swaps feinting blows with newcomer Hoeks, whose strength and impeccably coiffed hair recommend her as a replicant. Filming this fight, we are told, will take three nights.
It must be getting cold up there; between takes, Gosling throws himself down on the cement and does some speedy push-ups while Hoeks trots with the briskness of a harness racer, ponytail swinging. Another wave, generated by a contraption of rotating buckets that could have been designed by Heath Robinson, surges over the car. Whoosh! The next level of wrangler comes and tells us we should go back to the tent right now. We won’t and we don’t. This is the newBlade Runner. We’re not missing this.
Ridley Scott’sBlade Runner, released in 1982, now ranks alongside Stanley Kubrick’s2001as one of the two greatest science fiction films of all time. Opening with a sweeping shot across a glinting, glassy cityscape dominated by a vast advertising screen, fireballs of filth pumping through a fug of pollution and a crowd of doomed, desperate and deformed people scurrying around hundreds of metres below, it remains an unmatched vision of a near-future hell.
From left, Denis Villeneuve, Ridley Scott, Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling on set. Photo: Stephen Vaughan
The story was simple enough. World-weary policeman Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, pursues four “replicants” or humanoid robots that have gone rogue and returned from the space station where they are mechanical slaves to Earth, home of their original manufacturer, to demand longer, human-style lives. All replicants are retired after four years; they come with a selection of supplied memories and if they function for too long, they can also develop independent feelings. The escaped four want freedom. Deckard’s job is to “retire” – read “murder” – them.
Based on Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novelDo Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the film raised intricate questions about identity, memory and mortality: whether, for example, we are all just the sum of our pasts. It is hard to believe now thatBlade Runnerwas initially a critical failure that also did badly at the box office, given that we have been chewing over it in all its official versions – there have been five – ever since.
Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford and Denis Villeneuve on set. Photo: Kata Vermes
The big question that has preoccupied the fanboys is whether Deckard himself is a replicant. It is this question that invests the current film with such urgency: surely, finally, this question will be answered. Ridley Scott, who directed the original and returns as executive producer this time around, said from the beginning that Deckard obviously was a Nexus 6, something he maintains to this day; Ford has always insisted he’s human; Hampton Fancher, the original scriptwriter and co-writer of the new film, has hinted that he might be a replicant after all.
Comic-Con’s kids and all their cohorts clearly need to know. But in what is surely a unique convergence of interests, the same issue is central for the numerous academics – not just film theorists, but philosophy and political science boffins – who have madeBlade Runnerthe subject of endless critical thought. Because if the faltering, conflicted Deckard is not human, what does human mean?
We have no idea what the story in the new film will be. The trailers released since the set visit a year ago have given some hints. On set, we visit a bleak prairie house that the trailer reveals is a refuge from the authorities for a character played by Dave Bautista. The trailer also features Robin Wright as a government authority figure, saying (tantalisingly, given our current real-world situation) that “the world is built on a wall that separates kind – tell either side there’s no wall and you’ve bought a war”.
Jared Leto is the bad guy: a replicant manufacturer who declares that every great society required a slave class. It’s not a great deal to go on. On set, the producers hold a press conference at which nobody can reveal anything. “You’ll have to excuse me, we’ve been sworn to secrecy for years,” says Gosling, stumped by a “how’s it going?” question. “I have no idea how to approach not talking about it.”
At least there are fewer night shoots this time around, says Ford. “Of the 50-day shooting schedule on the original film, 35 were nights,” he says. “Which is a brutal regimen.” Ford’s fury at the end of that 1982 shoot has passed into legend, along with his terse dismissal of the film itself – “It’s a film about whether you can have a meaningful relationship with your toaster” – but he’s here anyway, playing Deckard 35 years on.
Robin Wright and Sylvia Hoeks in Blade Runner 2049. Photo: Stephen Vaughan
“Ridley and I have long since made our peace with each other,” he says gruffly. “Whatever the circumstances were during the original film, I have great respect for Ridley and admiration for his work.” Ridley Scott is not here, but his name is over everything: the script for which he is credited as story developer, the producer credits, people’s minds. We are all replicants here, holding on to a firmly implanted photographic memory.
When Alcon Films producers Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson bought the rights to make aBlade Runnersequel in 2010, they imagined that Scott would direct it himself. “The first thing we did was call Ridley,” says Kosove. “He wanted to be involved.Blade Runnerwas never intended to be a one-off, but because of the contentious nature of the first production between Ridley and the financiers, nobody was talking to anyone.” Scott’sBlade Runnerwent way over time and over budget by a then-stupendous $30 million, after which the studio re-cut the film, added a new, upbeat ending and insisted Ford record a voice-over, which he did through twice-gritted teeth. “The acrimony was so great. It was like the Middle East,” says Kosove.
Alcon’s initial proposal was to make a prequel that would show the apocalypse that resulted inBlade Runner’s despoiled world. “But Ridley and Hampton got into a room and started rehashing ideas and came up with this amazing central concept hinted at in the first film, something nobody has ever talked about,” says Kosove. “It was like discovering a key to a bank vault; we’re very fortunate to have found the key that would bring them back together.” Scott was busy withPrometheus, however, so he couldn’t direct. The job passed to Quebecois director Denis Villeneuve, whose earlier films includeEnemy, Sicarioand last year’s sci-fi revelation,Arrival.
Where Scott is abrasive, Villeneuve is emollient, a mix of Gallic charm and Canadian niceness. “Denis is a very different kind of director from … what was his name?… Ridley,” growls Ford. “He is very direct and straightforward with the actors on the set. He either deeply, deeply loves something or thinks it is dog pooand it becomes almost immediately clear. I have had a wonderful time working with him.”
Villeneuve is too busy to do an interview, we are told, but he makes a point of leaving his impossibly complicated fight sequence to have a word. Recognising me from a recent interview, he gives my arm a companionable squeeze. That’s it, I think: permission to stand here and get as wet as I want.
A dystopian vision in brown defines Blade Runner 2049. Photo: Alcon Entertainment
Villeneuve’s line is that this is an indie film with a non-indie budget. “This is a very special set – I’ve never had this amount of toys. It’s like Christmas,” he says. The firstBlade Runner, he has said on more than one occasion, was the film that made him want to be a director in the first place. So is he feeling a certain pressure?
“I had pressure earlier in the process, when I agreed to do it. Then I met Ridley Scott and I met Hampton Fancher, who gave me a lot of advice and comforted me a lot. But the pressure I cannot think about, because I would just run and hide under my bed.”
The originalBlade Runnerwas set in 2019. The glass towers and legions of indigent street dwellers imagined by Fancher, designer Syd Mead and effects whiz Douglas Trumbull – the two design giants of the pre-CGI era – have come to pass, even if we have yet to deal with flying cars or “skin-job” robots. Technology in their own business moved on, however, in ways they couldn’t have imagined. Villeneuve is keen to keep to the spirit of the original by creating most of his effects in the camera.
The dominant palette is decidedly brown. “We worked with colour a lot, even though it seems there is no colour,” says costume designer Renee April. “One thing Denis and Roger have done is make this dystopia, which is horrible, then make it look beautiful. It took a while to find cohesion, because the costumes had to go with the set, the lighting, the feeling of it – how sad or dirty or crazy it would be. Finally, we made a ton of big overcoats.”
Props master Douglas Harlocker shows us around a collection of guns and the so-called “memory maker”, a device that looks like a steampunk camera lens. A dog-like construction of scrap iron with a head like a scanner is apparently designed to sniff out replicants. Whoops, we’re not supposed to know that. “Our inspiration comes largely from the director’s cut, but also from other versions of the firstBlade Runner,” Harlocker says. “And from things they had in their heads but never used.”
In designer Dennis Gassner’s office, we are surrounded by drawings and photographs of cities in fog. “I asked Denis ‘can you give me one or two words?’ and he said ‘I like chaos. We live in chaos today and we have to deal with it’,” says Gassner. There will also be extensive use of models. “To have something to light is incredibly helpful,” he says. “I love miniatures. I used miniatures to build the whole of New York City inThe Hudsucker Proxy. It’s interesting what sci-fi is going back to. It’s all about tone.”
We live in a cinematic age dominated by action films and, more particularly, by superhero action films: a long way, in other words, from Ridley Scott’sBlade Runnerwith its ambiguities, moral twists and bottomless philosophical potholes. The trailers released so far by Warner Bros begin with Ryan Gosling pointing his futuristic revolver at us, followed by a lot of fighting.Blade Runner 2049has to offer something more complicated than bad guys smashing through a skyscraper window, however, if it is to do anything like justice to the original. Denis Villeneuve can do that. He doesn’t have final cut, but surely nobody would try to dilute or tamper withBlade Runneragain. They have to deliver something extraordinary. And this time, we’ll be ready for it.
Blade Runner 2049opens on October 5.
A number of elderly people have died in a North-West nursing homeduring an influenza outbreak, director of public healthDr Mark Veitch has confirmed.
He said it was a “sad event”for the families affected, but could occur among frail people during an influenza season.
“Elderly people are susceptible to influenza, particularly if they have chronic medical conditions.,” he said.
“For this reason, Public Health Services wrote to all nursing homes in Tasmania earlier this year reminding them to prepare for the influenza season, recommending vaccination of residents and staff and reminding them of the national influenza outbreak guidelines.”
He said the nursing home –reported to bethe Strathdevon aged care facility in Latrobe, near Devonport –advised Public Health Services of this outbreak.
“Advice and support was provided in accordance with national guidelines,”Dr Veitch said.
“The influenzaseason in Tasmania this year has been moderately severe. Tasmanians are reminded to stay away from schools, work and health and aged care facilities if they are unwell.”
There had been more than 1500 confirmed influenza cases in Tasmania so far this year.
Influenza A outbreak at LGHReminder to get your jab ahead of 2017 flu season in Tasmania | PollOpposition accuses Health Minister of ignoring LGH warningsOn August 31, Dr Veitch said therehad been 1536 “laboratory-confirmed” flu cases in Tasmania so far in 2017.
According to the Pharmacy Guild of ’s Tasmanian president John Dowling this year’s flu seasonhas been a “severe” one, as a particularly virulent strain of the virus continues to tighten its grip on the nation.
He claimed that the strain of the flu virus currently causing problems was potent enough that it could still affect people who are immunised.
Sport100m runner Melissa Breen at the AIS track in Canberra.Photo: Rohan ThomsonThe Canberra Times.1 April 2015 Sport100m runner Melissa Breen at the AIS track in Canberra.Photo: Rohan ThomsonThe Canberra Times.1 April 2015
Parking, start times, road closures: everything you need to know for The Canberra Times fun run
‘s fastest woman wants to break her own national record, but sprint queen Melissa Breen will be unusually slow when she races on Sunday.
Breen will walk the five kilometre Canberra Times fun run to raise awareness for the Heart Foundation more than a year after her dad, Mike, had a heart attack.
She will walk as part of her active recovery as she continues a five-month training plan of 12 sessions per week, edging closer to a 100 metre sprint return in the coming months.
The two-time Olympian has set her sights on the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and her first competition races in the United States next year.
But the motivation driving her racing comeback is the goal of beating her personal best time of 11.11 seconds after he broke a 20-year-old n record three years ago.
“I really just want to run fast, that’s all it comes down to,” Breen said.
“Breaking that record again and getting as close as I can to getting under 11 seconds is what drives me every day.
“I know it’s hard to run that fast – no one did it in 20 years. It requires something special but I’m working hard every day to get back to that and be a bit better. That’s my driving force.”
Breen will be part of the thousands competing on Sunday morning for the annual fun run event.
She has teamed up with the ‘Heart Racers’ program and will walk five kilometres, giving her plenty of time to reflect on the reason she’s doing the fun run.
Mike Breen thought he had hard burn last year and drove himself to the emergency department the following mornings. Doctors told him he had a heart attack and there was a 90 per cent blockage.
“Dad won’t be doing the fun run, but it’s a cause close to my heart,” Breen said.
“We’ll catch up for our regular Sunday night dinner afterwards … family is a big part of my life and they’ve given me so much support to chase my goals.”
Breen hasn’t raced at competition events since the start of the year, but is expected to make her comeback in October or November.
She has one eye on making the Commonwealth Games final on the Gold Coast before testing herself in the US for the first time in her career.
“I didn’t think I’d have a chance to race at a home Commonwealth Games, so to be chasing that is something words can’t describe,” Breen said.
“I’ve always wanted to compete in America as well, so we haven’t locked in any plans yet but because of the Commonwealth Games timing, it opens up the rest of the year.
“It’s been a big training block, but I am fit and the body is handling it so I’m getting that itch back to race again.”
It is hoped The Canberra Times will raise $125,000 for more than 250 charities. There will be 14 kilometre, 10 kilometre and 5 kilometre races, with all events finishing at Rond Terrace.
CANBERRA TIMES FUN RUN
How to get there
The 14km and 10km start lines are on Yamba Drive near Launceston Street, while the 5km starts on King George Terrace in front of Old Parliament House. But all events end up at the finish line on Rond Terrace along Lake Burley Griffin.
Those in the 5km event can jump on the shuttle bus from Rond Terraces, Commonwealth Park. If you’re sticking it out for the 14km and 10km, head to Parkes Place West in Parkes to catch your bus.
Buses run from 10am until noon. Don’t worry – there will also be shuttle buses operating from the finish line to take you back after putting in the hard yards.
Where to drop your gear
If you’re in the 5km run, head to gear collection at the event village on Rond Terrace. Just make sure you’re back at that line on King George Terrace before your 9:30am start.
Those taking on the 14km or 10km runs can drop their things off between 7:15am and 8:10am at the finish area on Rond Terraces.
It’s recommended runners arrive at the start area at least 30 minutes before the starting gun goes off.
Where to park
For the 5km race, head to the National Library car park, or the Treasure building. There are also open car parks at the John Gordon building and Parkes Place West.
Those heading out for the 14km or 10km should head to the Hellenic Club for spots.
Or, if you’re looking to tuck into some food at the event village, try Anzac Park east or at the CIT car park.
What the weather will be doing
After a low of four, Sunday is warming up to a blustery 19 degrees. But, expect a few showers to cap off the day.
There’s a 70 per cent chance of a downpour during the evening. Of course, many runners will be safe and warm in the pub by then!
Which roads will be closed
For those driving rather than running, expect a few detours throughout the first half of the day. Areas affected include Parkes, Phillip, Curtin, Yarralumla and Capital Hill.
From 6am until 1 pm, there will be closures on the northbound lanes of Kings Avenue and Wendouree Drive between Constitution Avenue and Kings Avenue.
Road closures for the 2017 Canberra Times Fun Run. Photo: Canberra Times Fun Run
From 6am until noon, the following road closures will be in place:
Yamba Drive, northbound lanes between Kitchener Street and Yarra Glen Yarra Glen, northbound lanes Yarra Glen, southbound lanes between Carruthers Street and Melrose Drive Melrose Drive, between Theodore Drive and Yarra Glen Launceston Street, between Easty Street and Yamba Drive Adelaide Avenue, northbound lanes State Circle, northbound lanes Parliament Drive, at the entrance to State Circle and Commonwealth Avenue Federation Mall, between Queen Victoria Crescent and Parliament Drive Walpole Crescent, between Queen Victoria Terrace and King George Terrace Queen Victoria Terrace, between Walpole Street and Langton Crescent Langton Crescent, between King George Terrace and Queen Victoria Terrace King George Terrace, between Langton Crescent and Kings Avenue.
Intersections impacted by these closures include:
Yarra Glen with Caruthers Street and Cotter Road Wisdom Street with Yamba Drive Adelaide Avenue with Novar Street, Hopetoun Circuit and Empire Circuit State Circle with Perth Avenue, Rhodes Place, Flynn Drive, Commonwealth Avenue and Kings Avenue Kings Avenue with Walpole Crescent, King George Terrace, King Edward Terrace, National Circuit, Macquarie Street, Blackall Street and Bowman Drive.
Barriers as well as warning and diversion signs will be in place.
For information on changes to Transport Canberra bus routes visit www.transport.act.gov.au.