IT price wars: government no white knight

The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity – $999 in Australia, $600 in the US. Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon – starts at $1999 in Australia, $1299 in the US.
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A diagram explaining price discrimination.

Tech companies have given the proverbial middle finger to those complaining about high prices in Australia, leading the consumer group Choice to demand strong government action.

But despite firms showing little interest in reducing their prices based on political pressure from the likes of the Labor MP Ed Husic, a new submission to the parliamentary IT pricing inquiry by the federal Treasury warns any direct regulation of prices by government could do more harm than good.

Last week Lenovo launched its ThinkPad X1 Carbon in Australia, which it says is the world’s lightest 14-inch Ultrabook. It will start at $1999 here, compared with $US1299 in the United States.

Earlier this month ASUS released its Transformer Pad Infinity tablet in Australia at a recommended retail price of $999 – much higher than the US price of about $US600.

Lenovo said it priced its products to ensure they were “competitive with local market offerings” and that by buying Lenovo products in Australia consumers were “supporting local Australian jobs” as well as securing local support and warranty.

Asus trotted out the same line frequently used by vendors to justify gouging Australian consumers: smaller market, logistic and shipping costs, exchange rates, promotional costs and training. All of these excuses have been unpersuasive to consumer groups and the Productivity Commission.

Choice’s head of campaigns, Matt Levey, said the IT pricing parliamentary inquiry was a “great start” but wouldn’t amount to much if it did not produce “strong recommendations which prompt equally strong action”.

“Unfortunately aph.gov.au is littered with examples of detailed reports into significant issues which sit around collecting dust,” he said. “It’s not so much the inquiry which is the problem, but how the government responds.”

Huge mark-ups for Australians

Choice studied more than 200 prices for IT products and identified an approximate 50 per cent price differencebetween what Australians and US consumers pay for more or less identical products including music downloads, games and computer hardware. Dell computers were 41 per cent more expensive while Nintendo Wii games were up to 88 per cent more.

Since it conducted its analysis in July consumers have written to Choice with further examples; in some cases they could see the lower price on the US site but the sites blocked them from bypassing the Australian price when ordering:Norton Internet Security two-year subscription: $149 v $US79Roxio Easy VHS to DVD for Mac: $139 v $US79.99Asus laptop (same specs): $1400 v $US680Garmin GPS: $189 v $149

Choice wants the government to investigate whether tools to stop consumers accessing lower prices in overseas markets – such as “geo-blocking” on websites or region-coding – are anti-competitive.

In many cases, the wholesale prices charged to Australian retailers by multinational vendors are significantly higher than those offered to overseas retailers, meaning there is no way they can offer a competitive price. In the case of prices for music downloads, Apple blames the record labels while music industry sources say Apple’s market power gives it the ability to set the price.

The Labor MP Andrew Leigh wrote a submission complaining that Amazon’s range of books for the Kindle in Australia is hundreds of thousands of titles smaller than in the US, and the books that are sold in this market are significantly more expensive than everywhere else.

Monash University’s chief information officer, Dr Ian Tebbett, said high IT prices in Australia diverted resources from research and education, and particularly for students of low socio-economic backgrounds, “the costs of IT in Australia will add to their decision not to take up higher education”.

Price discrimination maximises profits: Treasury

Treasury wrote in its submission dated August 9 that price differentials that aren’t based on differential costs of supply will “generally decline over time, providing there is sufficient competitive pressure or low barriers to entry”.

But while the internet allows consumers to detect when firms are charging higher prices in one country – and buy from cheaper overseas markets – in general there were “incentives for suppliers, in the form of profits, to engage in price discrimination”.

Treasury said the evidence suggested Australian consumers pay higher prices for IT products than consumers in some other markets, but not necessarily the highest globally.

“To that end, improving local competition and increasing access to international markets are ‘no regrets’ measures that can assist in ensuring Australian consumers and business have access to goods and services at internationally competitive prices,” Treasury said.

But it warned against “more interventionist measures” that seek to dictate terms on which consumers and business transactions take place, saying this may stifle innovation and reduce competition further. It said firms should generally be free to set the prices they want

The Competition and Consumer Act (previously the Trade Practices Act) used to prohibit some forms of price discrimination by firms but the prohibition was repealed in 1995 because it reduced price flexibility and was detrimental to competition.

“Treasury considers that the current competition laws are capable of addressing anti-competitive conduct without the need for a specific price discrimination prohibition,” Treasury said.

Vendor excuses don’t hold water: Productivity Commission

The big tech companies, largely through the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), blamed retailers, market size, freight costs, warranty differences, rents, taxes, wages, penalty rates and importation and transport costs as some of the reasons why Australian prices are higher.

But the Productivity Commission, politicians and consumer groups have all said these cannot possibly explain the huge 50 per cent and higher mark-ups faced by Australians on some products.

The commission found that arguments made by international suppliers to defend regional price discrimination are “not persuasive, especially in the case, for example, of downloaded music, software and video where the costs of delivery to the customer are practically zero and uniform around the world”.

Adobe, one of the worst offenders when it comes to price discrimination on software products, has yet to contribute a proper justification for its pricing to the IT pricing inquiry, instead using its submission to state it had already provided feedback to the AIIA.

Other big tech firms like Apple and Microsoft refused to appear at the first public hearings for the inquiry late last month. Apple’s written submission to the inquiry was confidential and therefore cannot be published.

The Productivity Commission acknowledged that there were extra costs of doing business in Australia and the size of the market meant retailers in countries like the US – which buy larger volumes – were able to obtain goods for less.

“While Australia may be relatively close to manufacturing centres in Asia, costs can depend on trade volumes rather than distances travelled, meaning that Australia’s trade routes can be more expensive than those for other countries,” Treasury said in its submission.

Treasury also noted that the recent strength of the Australian dollar has meant the prices of goods in overseas markets are now cheaper in Australian dollar terms. And while exchange rate fluctuations occur instantly, prices of goods aren’t as easily or as quickly changed to reflect this.

This can cut both ways. In 2008, following the depreciation of the Australian dollar, Australia was the cheapest place in the world to purchase an iPod, the Commonwealth Bank has said.

Mr Husic said there would be another public hearing for the inquiry in the coming weeks.

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US masterclass: how to grow as a retailer

High-end homewares store Williams-Sonoma is a remarkable story of growth.ANALYSIS
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The launch or rumoured launch in Australia by an international fashion apparel retailer has become a numbingly regular event. Speculation about how badly the bully boys of global retail, like Zara and Topshop, will beat up the local retailers has become a favourite sport of the retail experts.

Now, Williams-Sonoma’s impending arrival switches the focus to a different kind of fashion – upscale home furnishings.

Williams-Sonoma, a retailer that has become ubiquitous in American shopping centres since its founding by Chuck Williams in Sonoma, California in 1956, is to move into a 2000 square metre space on a pedestrian mall adjacent to Sydney’s Bondi Junction early next year.

But rest assured that it has not come to Australia to set up just one store.

Anyone associated with the retail industry – especially a small retailer with growth aspirations – should make Williams-Sonoma one of their first case studies. It is a remarkable example of how a specialty retailer can grow from one humble store into a multi-concept, multi-channel international powerhouse.

It has accomplished this using a step-by-step process of market segmentation, concept incubation, brand launch via catalogue/e-commerce and then finally, a measured store rollout. By opening stores at a slow tempo rather than helter-skelter, it has ensured limited damage in a couple of instances where a concept has underperformed and needed to be shuttered.

Laura Alber, the CEO, reportedly gushed about the company’s prospects in Australia, observing, among other things, that there was only limited competition in the Australian market. This is a truly remarkable finding considering Australia’s affluence and high rate of home ownership.

It’s also an astute and correct one.

Alber doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of home furnishings stores in Australia. She means that none are anywhere near as targeted to specific population segments and lifestyles as Williams-Sonoma is.

Williams-Sonoma has shown expertly over the years how to use catalogues and e-commerce for market research, and how this information can in turn be used to reduce real estate risk for retailers across the world. E-commerce is not just a sales channel but a way of understanding where the response to your product is strong enough to lob a chain of physical stores.

In this instance, Australia is Williams-Sonoma’s strongest e-commerce market outside North America. (The company has e-commerce in approximately 75 countries and 44 per cent of its $US3.7 billion revenues in 2011 were derived from e-commerce and catalogues.)

This knowledge doesn’t guarantee success for the company’s Australian stores but it does lower the probability of it having to exit with its tail between its legs.

But what makes Williams-Sonoma such a masterclass in growth for ambitious retailers is its ability to segment consumer markets and develop individual retail concepts and products for each.

Williams-Sonoma currently operates 579 stores under five different banners and a further in North America. Four of these concepts – the namesake Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids and West Elm – are to open cheek-by-jowl in the forthcoming Bondi Junction space.

While Williams-Sonoma itself sells upscale kitchenware, the other three sell furnishings to customers in different life phases. West Elm is the smallest of the four with only 40 stores, but possibly the most interesting and instructive from the standpoint of a retailer case study.

Initially launched as a catalogue in 2002, the first West Elm store opened two years later in the d.u.m.b.o (‘down under the Manhattan Bridge’) neighbourhood of Brooklyn, New York, where the local population included many aspirational, design-conscious, but not-quite-yet-affluent young professionals living in small walk-up apartments. The furniture was perfectly adapted to this lifestyle group – well designed, edgy, urban, compactly sized for small living spaces and priced accessibly for a professional household on the cusp of “making it” in New York without actually being there yet.

There’s a market for that in Australia’s biggest cities.

Williams-Sonoma will not open stores willy-nilly in Australia and it should not cause tremors among the existing home goods retailers in the market. But it will add design flair and choice for some underserved segments of Australian consumers.

And for entrepreneurs who want to understand how to grow a world-class specialty retail business – this is a great case study.

Michael Baker is principal of Baker Consulting and can be reached at [email protected]南京夜网 and www.mbaker-retail南京夜网.

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Gillard’s $4 billion dental fix

The $4 billion dental health package will begin in 2014.The federal government will pour $4 billion into a dental package to provide millions of children and millions of adults on low incomes or in rural areas access to government-subsidised dental care.
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Health Minister Tanya Plibersek this morning announced that more than three million children would be eligible for the scheme, which will begin in 2014.

For adults on low incomes, $1.3 billion to fund an additional 1.4 million services will be available in the six-year package.

The changes have been made possible with the support of the Greens, who have insisted on big expansion as grounds for axing the current Medicare chronic disease dental scheme costing about $1 billion a year.

The funding comes on top of the $515 million announced in the 2012-13 budget.

”Labor believes we have a responsibility to ensure Australians who are least able to afford to go the dentist, and particularly children, should be given access to government-subsidised oral health care,” Ms Plibersek said.

Greens health spokesman Richard Di Natale flanked Ms Plibersek when she made the announcement in Sydney.

Ms Plibersek said the ‘‘unprecedented’’ package would tackle increasingly poor dental health among low-income people.

Eligible children would be able to get basic dental treatment capped at $1000 a child over two years to address dental decay, which, she said, had been increasing since the 1990s in Australia.

The package includes $2.7 billion for the treatment of children.

“While Medicare and free hospital care have been a basic right for Australians for decades, millions of people in this country still go without adequate dental care,” Ms Plibersek said.

“Labor believes we have a responsibility to ensure Australians who are least able to afford to go the dentist, and particularly children, should be given access to government-subsidised oral health care.”

The government would also provide $1.3 billion to states and territories for expanded dental services for low-income adults but the funding would depend on them at least maintaining current levels of dental services.

There would also be $225 million for dental infrastructure and workforce expansion in outer metropolitan and regional and rural areas.

Ms Plibersek said the public dental scheme would now be able to focus on prevention measures.

‘‘Many more low-income Australians will be able to get not just crisis treatment, when their teeth are falling out or gums abscessing, but actually moving back to a period … of prevention and early intervention,’’ she said.

‘‘The investment today will bear rewards in 10, 20, 30 years’ time.’’

Senator Di Natale said for a wealthy country, Australians had poor oral health. ‘‘Poor oral health leads to a range of complications … one in 10 visits to the GP are because people can’t afford to see a dentist,’’ he said.

Ms Plibersek confirmed the government would close the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme, set up by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott when he was health minister under the Howard government.

‘‘It’s been one of the most widely misused schemes ever designed in our public health system,’’ she said. ‘‘I’m very pleased to see the back of it.’’

The scheme was initially estimated by the Howard government to cost $90 million a year, but massive over-servicing and rorting had led to it costing $80 million a month, Ms Plibersek said.

The Medicare teen dental scheme would also be closed and replaced by the broader scheme for children aged up to 18.

Ms Plibersek said the 2012/13 budget allocation of just more than $500 million would be spent first, before the children’s scheme started from January 1, 2014 and the adult scheme from July 2014.

Ms Plibersek said the changes would need new legislation but would be brought to parliament as a change of regulation, which had the backing of the Australian Greens.

Asked where the funding would come from, she said the government would find savings in the budget which would be outlined in the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook later this year.

‘‘We have a very good record of finding savings in the budget,’’ she said. ‘‘We found $30 billion of savings in the last one.’’

The government remained committed to delivering a surplus budget in 2012/13, she said.

Ms Plibersek predicted Mr Abbott would say no to Labor’s dental reform ‘‘like he says no to everything’’.

She said there were capacity restraints in the current system and that was why the reforms would come into effect in 2014.

‘‘There’s some parts of the country where you can’t find a chair and there’s some parts of the country where you can find a chair but not a dentist,’’ she said, adding it would take time to improve access to services.

‘‘This is a bedrock scheme. It can be built up over time.’’

with AAP

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Toyota rolls car manufacturing out of Vic

The pain from Toyota’s long-awaited Australian exit is forecast to stretch far beyond the car manufacturer’s 2600 out-of-work employees.

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After the last Camry rolled off the Altona North production line on Tuesday, a sprawling network of supply chain workers also prepared to embrace joblessness.

“All up today, there is about 6000 Victorians going to lose their jobs because Toyota is shutting down,” the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union’s Dave Smith told reporters.

Ballarat-based OzPress, for example, was “95 per cent Toyota”, owner Mark Dwyer said.

“We’ve gone from 30 people to five,” he told AAP.

“We’ll keep going in a small way and, hopefully, rebuild over time.”

Toyota’s departure marks the end of more than 90 years of Victorian car manufacturing, which began with Ford at Geelong in 1925.

The nation’s car manufacturing industry will reach the end of the road when Holden rolls out of Adelaide on October 20.

Newly unemployed Toyota workers are optimistic, but concerned about the future.

“A lot of us haven’t had a job interview here for 20-odd years. It’s changed since we came here, filled out a bit of paper and walked in the door and started the next day,” Matthew Kinson told reporters.

“My concern now is that the job market is casual. We’ve got it good here, we’ve got good terms and conditions and very good wages.”

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said the car industry was a crucial part of the Australia’s advanced manufacturing industry and Toyota workers were “betrayed” by the federal government’s failure to value the sector.

“You can import a car, but you can’t import a generation of people of who have built up critical skills over a lifetime in manufacturing,” she said.

The AMWU said only about half of Ford’s workers – who lost their jobs when the manufacturer left Victoria a year ago – had moved into permanent, full-time work.

Toyota announced its departure from Australian car manufacturing in 2014, and says it has since put more than 2200 workers through a job skills program, which will continue for another six months.

About 260 workers previously indicated they would retire after Tuesday, while 130 were being deployed into other areas of the company.

“The company will continue to provide the Australian market with a diverse range of high-quality vehicles,” Toyota Australia president Dave Buttner said in a statement.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says the loss of the car industry “did not have to happen”, but the move was forced when the government stopped financially supporting car markers.

But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says car manufacturers were leaving in response to changing markets, not a lack of subsidies, valued at about $7 billion since 2001.

Victorian Industry Minister Wade Noonan says the state government has spent more than $100 million on targeted assistance programs for automotive workers.

Record rain heralds Qld storm season

Queenslanders are being urged to prepare for storm season after an intense cell brought record-breaking rain and a swathe of destruction to the city of Bundaberg.

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More than 340mm fell on the Wide Bay region on Monday, causing flash flooding and breaking a 64-year record by more than 60mm.

Residents described cyclone-like winds that downed trees and power lines, smashed windows and wrapped trampolines around power poles.

Acting Police, Fire and Emergency Services Minister Anthony Lynham said the devastating event had resembled a “mini-tornado” in some parts.

“Some of the damage is quite significant,” he said in Bundaberg on Tuesday, as the community rallied to clean up the area.

“I’m pleased to say there have been no injuries, but there has been three houses inundated and over 20 houses with minor damage.”

SES volunteers spent Monday night responding to almost 200 calls for help, while Queensland Fire and Emergency Services crews helped people who had lost their roofs.

Ergon worked to restore power to more than 4000 homes.

State disaster co-ordinator Peter Martin said Bundaberg residents also deserved “very special praise” for heeding the weather warnings.

Mr Martin said that was the reason there weren’t any deaths or more significant damage.

“No community can withstand over 300mm of rain in a very short period of time without suffering some impaction,” he said.

“We really need to be vigilant, we really need to be prepared and we really need to heed the warnings and the lessons.”

Mr Lynham urged people across Queensland to prepare themselves for the upcoming storm and cyclone season.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services chief superintendent Michelle Young also asked people in the Bundaberg area to stay off the roads while the clean-up continued.

“It’s just causing more problems,” she said.

Conditions eased across Wide Bay on Tuesday as the weather system moved off the coast, with less than 1mm of rain recorded at Bundaberg Airport by late afternoon.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Julian De Morton told AAP isolated showers and thunderstorms were expected to continue on Wednesday, but should ease from Thursday.

Falls of more than 250mm were recorded in communities between Bundaberg and Maryborough, while the system brought welcome falls to parts of the southeast.

The inland town of Roma also experienced minor flooding.

SA motor racing future around the bend

A new $110 million race track at Tailem Bend, east of Adelaide, will provide the perfect launching pad for local racing prospects, South Australian Supercars driver Nick Percat says.

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The Bend Motorsport Park will host its first Supercars event next August, doubling South Australia’s presence on the championship calendar.

Percat, forced to move to Melbourne to follow his racing dreams, says the state-of-the-art track will allow the next generation to cut their teeth just a short drive up the freeway.

“Now we have a facility where Supercars teams will be here and at the Adelaide 500, and you’ll be able to put yourself in front of them,” the Brad Jones racing driver said.

“There’s plenty of people who want to do it but we haven’t got the track, so this is amazing.”

Organisers have signed a three-year contract for the Super Sprint event to be run on the 4.9km circuit.

The race will feature two legs, one of 120km and one of 200km, and will be run in addition to the Adelaide 500 street race which traditionally opens the Supercars series.

“This will be a spectacular event that will showcase the Bend Motorsport Park to a huge national and international audience,” Jones said on Tuesday during a tour of the precinct.

“This track is completely different to the street circuit used in the Adelaide 500 and we’re confident that with its world-class design, the racing will be just as exciting and memorable for fans.”

As well as the Super Sprint circuit, the complex can also be configured for a longer 7.7km track and features a drag racing strip, a drift circuit and an off-road track.

A 110-room hotel will be built on pit lane, while caravan and camping facilities will be provided to cater for 10,000 people.

The park will begin hosting international events from January.

Sydney congestion tax won’t work: expert

Sydney’s traffic problems won’t be solved by an area-based congestion charge as traffic jams spread far beyond the CBD, a transport expert says.

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The cordon-based congestion tax proposed in Monday’s Grattan Institute report would charge drivers for entering the CBD and would only solve traffic jams within a small area, University of Sydney’s Professor Michiel Bliemer told AAP on Tuesday.

“It is clear that we need to change the way we pay for road use, but I do not think that a cordon-based charging scheme is the right solution for Sydney,” the transport planning and modelling professor said.

“It is only a local measure while congestion spreads far beyond the CBD.”

The report found that in Sydney, CBD commuters from Balgowlah in the north and Hurstville in the south could expect delays of about 15 minutes on an average morning, far longer than commuters from other parts of the city.

A congestion tax has been implemented in London, Stockholm and Singapore and has been suggested for Melbourne as well.

The fee would work like an e-tag with drivers charged as they pass into the congestion area during peak times.

But Prof Bliemer believes the city should consider a kilometre-based charging system which would replace existing registration fees and possibly road tolls.

Payments under such a system could be based on odometer readings similar to those in electricity and water bills, Prof Bliemer says.

“This would be a fair system that provides an incentive to drive less across the entire state,” he said.

Similar to the findings in the Grattan Institute report, Prof Bliemer insists something needs to be done soon to ease congestion in the city.

“A time and location-based congestion tax would make car drivers reconsider their options and provides an incentive to drive less, switch to public transport, switch to off-peak hours, or work from home,” he said.

The NSW government isn’t sold on the idea.

“This government will not be introducing a ‘congestion tax’,” acting roads minister Andrew Constance told AAP on Tuesday.

“Our targeted approach to encouraging people onto public transport has reduced the number of vehicles coming into the city by 11 per cent in the peak.”

Lever’s AFL trade preference ‘irrelevant’

Adelaide are set to play hardball with young gun Jake Lever after he nominated Melbourne as his preferred AFL trade destination.

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The 21-year-old has declared he wants to play for the Demons, who have reportedly offered him a five-year, multi-million dollar deal.

“I’ll be going back to Melbourne to be with my family and friends,” Lever told the Seven Network on Tuesday.

The key defender had been widely-expected to seek a return to Victoria after putting off contract talks earlier this year.

But his decision to nominate Melbourne has angered the Crows, who bluntly described his preference as “irrelevant” and would not rule out forcing him to take his chances in the pre-season draft.

“There’s 10 clubs in Victoria, so we’ll just negotiate with whoever’s going to give us the best value,” Adelaide football boss Brett Burton told reporters.

“As a footy club, we’re in a good position at the moment … we’ll take whatever measures are deemed necessary to do what’s best for the club.”

Burton said the Crows became aware Lever intended to leave in the weeks leading up to their shattering grand-final loss to Richmond.

He claimed Lever and his partner were happy with life in Adelaide and said the decision to reject a lucrative offer that would have placed him among the Crows’ top-earners was clearly “financially motivated”.

“We don’t think it’s fair on the rest of the playing group that we make him our highest-paid player,” Burton said.

“Right now, we’ve got a list that is evolving and we need to make decisions that are fair to the rest of the playing group so we can continue to improve.”

The Crows were expected to demand two first-round draft picks for Lever, who led the AFL for intercepts per game in 2017.

Such a trade would leave Adelaide in a strong position to make a fresh play for Carlton midfielder Bryce Gibbs.

Melbourne have pick No.10 at their disposal in this year’s draft but could be forced to also offer up a future first-round selection.

Burton confirmed that Collingwood had also spoken to Adelaide’s list management team about a potential deal for Lever.

Lever could nominate for the pre-season draft in the absence of a trade to Melbourne but would risk being snapped up by a team with a higher pick.

WA police to get shoot-to-kill powers

WA Police will get stronger powers to shoot and kill terrorists as a pre-emptive measure to avoid casualties.

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The state government announced the new laws in which police at a scene would be authorised to use the lethal force powers once Police Commissioner Chris Dawson or his deputies declare a “terrorist incident”.

The changes to the Terrorism Act are a response to the confusion and criticism around the 2014 Lindt Cafe siege in Sydney when police snipers did not shoot gunman Man Haron Monis before he opened fire on hostages because they were worried they could be charged.

Police officers will have clear legal protections that will help reduce any “doubt or ambiguity” in their minds if they are required to use pre-emptive force in terrorist incidents, Premier Mark McGowan told reporters.

“We can’t allow a situation to develop where there is a terrorist incident and police don’t know whether or not they can take lethal action against the perpetrator,” he said.

“I want West Australians to be absolutely assured that if there is a terror incident with hostages or victims involved, that police can shoot to kill the terrorist or perpetrator involved.”

Police around Australia are already armed and allowed to use force deemed reasonably necessary but the new laws, which NSW has already announced, would allow them to do it at an earlier stage to combat terrorism with legal immunity.

Mr Dawson said police attending a scene still required him or his deputies’ permission to authorise lethal force, but that could be done quickly if an incident was deemed terror-related.

The new laws were announced ahead of a special counter terrorism meeting of the Council of Australian Governments on Thursday.

Mr McGowan said he thought Sydney and Melbourne had more problems with terror-related radicalisation than in WA, citing numerous terror plots on the east coast.

“We want to have as harmonious a society as possible,” he said.

Stoinis in Ashes reckoning: Graeme Hick

Australian batting coach Graeme Hick says Marcus Stoinis’s string of solid performances in the one-day international series loss to India will boost his Ashes hopes.

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While Glenn Maxwell is the incumbent Test No.6, being dropped after a poor ODI series against India has cast doubt over his Ashes selection.

Stoinis and Hilton Cartwright appear to be strong challengers for the position, given their medium pace could be favoured ahead of Maxwell’s offspin on Australian pitches.

Stoinis was a reliable hand coming in after a string of collapses, making scores of three, 63no, 27no, 15no and 42 in the 4-1 series defeat.

“It’s certainly putting his name in the hat for that position,” Hick said.

“I think there’ll be a few players thinking they’ve got a chance and I think it’ll come down to those first few (Sheffield) Shield games.

“I think the guys who are in form will be picked.”

Hick said Stoinis had shown he was suited at No.6 and ODIs, giving the 28-year-old confidence ahead of his Shield homecoming to Western Australia.

There will be three first-class games leading up to Australia’s first Test against England from November 23 in Brisbane.

Maxwell averaged 33 in two Tests in Bangladesh before his ODI axing.

Hick says the equation is simple for the big-hitting allrounder.

“You either get plenty of runs or plenty of wickets – Maxi knows it,” Hick said.

“Hopefully, the selectors or the skipper has relayed that to him.”

Shaun Marsh has thrust himself back into the conversation with scores of 132 not out and 88 for WA in the domestic one-day cup.

But the desire to have an allrounder at No.6 might hurt his chances.

Cartwright was the last player used in the role on Australian soil, while Test discards Mitch Marsh and Moises Henriques would also provide a seam-bowling option.

Premier dismisses WA gold jobs scare

The West Australian government has rubbished claims almost 3000 jobs will be lost under a gold royalty hike, describing it as “inflamed rhetoric”, but the industry lobby group denies running a scare campaign.

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The WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy claims more than 10 per cent of workers will lose their jobs, plus a loss of $44.9 million in royalties through the closure of several mines if the 50 per cent royalty increase announced in the state budget is imposed.

But Premier Mark McGowan said the gold industry was very prosperous and, like every other part of the community, must share the budget repair burden.

“This is completely overblown by the CME and by the gold industry,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

“I’d be surprised if there was any job losses over this.

“It’s rhetoric and it’s not based on fact and they’ve shown no analysis.”

Treasurer Ben Wyatt, who has met with industry leaders, says he is yet to see any independent analysis showing the royalty hike will have a “dramatic impact” on the sector.

“I think most people can understand that this is a fair and reasonable decision,” he said.

“You look at the market, you look at the banks and they know the gold sector can very much absorb this.”

CME deputy chief executive Nicole Roocke rejected Mr Wyatt’s claim that the group was running a scare campaign.

“When additional costs are imposed on a business, those costs have to come from somewhere,” she said.

“Payroll is the first area where companies look. They also look towards exploration, which is a discretionary spend.”

Saracen Mineral Holdings managing director Raleigh Finlayson said the company had just developed its second project and doubled its production on the basis of a 2.5 per cent royalty.

“We’ve invested more than we’ve earned in the past two years in development and exploration,” he told reporters.

“We may not have developed those projects and certainly deferred exploration, so it leaves us in a predicament now where we have to review our entire business.”

A vote in parliament on the royalty increase could happen next week and the government needs the Liberals to support it.

Rocker Tom Petty dead at 66: family confirms

Tom Petty, the heartland rocker whose classic melodies but dark storytelling created a string of hits over four decades, died Monday of cardiac arrest, his family said.

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He was 66.

His family confirmed that Petty passed away surrounded by loved ones after a confusing day in which several media outlets reported and then retracted premature news of his death.

“On behalf of the Tom Petty family we are devastated to announce the untimely death of  our father, husband, brother, leader and friend Tom Petty,” a family statement said.

American rocker Tom Petty has died after suffering a cardiac arrest. (AAP)AAP

Petty early Monday suffered cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu, just a week after he closed his career in a triumphant fashion.

The rocker had played three sold-out shows at the iconic Hollywood Bowl to wrap up a tour celebrating 40 years of his band the Heartbreakers.

He closed the encore with one of his earliest and best-known songs, ‘American Girl’ which tells of an ambitious girl “raised on promises” now contemplating suicide, set to guitar harmonies from the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll.

The song was one of many by Petty about struggling to overcome long odds.

‘I Won’t Back Down,’ perhaps his best-known song, took on a second life as a US patriotic anthem after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The singer and guitarist – recognisable for his shoulder-length blonde hair – delivered his vocals in short punches that let on an underlying anger, such as on ‘You Don’t Know How It Feels.’

Full statement: pic南京夜生活,/FGCVI5yIaa

— Tom Petty (@tompetty) October 3, 2017

The rocker’s characters – small-town Americans full of aspirations but running into a wall of setbacks – reflected the hardscrabble early life of Petty.

His grandfather was a logger from Georgia rumoured to have fled south to Florida after axing a man to death in an argument.

Petty was born in Gainesville, the university town in northern Florida, to a belligerently drunk father who sold wholesale tobacco and candy.

Petty once recalled that his father, intoxicated and unimpressed by his son’s passion for music, once smashed up the boy’s record collection.

The future rocker said he told him, “Dad, if you’ll just leave me alone, I’ll be a millionaire by the time I’m 35.” It was a prediction that proved prophetic.

Rock as early escape

Petty, speaking in 2015 to ‘Men’s Journal’, credited his mother Kitty with saving him by making sure “to show us there was more to life than rednecks.”

“She read to me a lot. And she liked music: She had a record player and would play Nat King Cole and the ‘West Side Story’ soundtrack. I think of her every time I hear those songs,” he said.

But he remained consumed by inner rage. 

“Any authority I didn’t agree with could just make me go crazy,” he said of his early life haunted by his father.

He struggled with depression most of his life and formed an addiction to heroin, although later in his life his only vice was marijuana and he instead embraced transcendental meditation to calm himself.

Petty embraced the country influences of the South, especially when he crafted the 1985 concept album ‘Southern Accents.’ 

Touring the United States, he flew a Confederate flag on stage – a decision he later regretted, telling ‘Rolling Stone’ that “people just need to think about how it looks to a black person” as he likened the controversial symbol to a Nazi swastika.

In a speech in February as he was presented a lifetime award at the Grammys, Petty said he owed a debt to African Americans such as Chuck Berry whom he credited as the creators of rock ‘n’ roll.

But like so many music fans of his generation, he discovered rock ‘n’ roll via Britain when he saw The Beatles perform on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1964.

“I had my eyes opened like so many others and I joined the conspiracy to put black music on the popular white radio,” Petty said.

Campaigner for artists

Petty in the late 1980s joined one of The Beatles, George Harrison, in a supergroup, the Traveling Wilburys, that also featured Bob Dylan. The project was short-lived after the death of another member, Roy Orbison.

Fresh from the glory of the Wilburys, Petty – long backed by the Heartbreakers – in 1989 released his first solo album, ‘Full Moon Fever,’ which featured the wistful ‘Free Fallin’ and ‘Runnin’ Down a Dream’ as well as ‘I Won’t Back Down.’

Other major hits by Petty included ‘Don’t Come Around Here No More,’ written with David A. Stewart of New Wave duo The Eurythmics.

The track’s playful video, themed around ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ cemented Petty’s reputation as a favourite among stoners.

The three-time Grammy winner was steadfast on artistic control and had a reputation for battling with the music industry, most memorably with the 1981 album ‘Hard Promises’ after he was angered by his label’s plan to put the store price higher than usual.

More recently, English singer Sam Smith agreed to credit Petty as a songwriter on his worldwide hit ballad ‘Stay With Me’ due to the similarities – coincidental, by all accounts – in the chorus to worldwide hit ‘I Won’t Back Down.’

 

Woman jailed for killing ex, mutilating his penis

A mother of two who cut off part of her former lover’s penis and flushed it down the toilet has been sentenced to a minimum of three years and nine months in jail.
Nanjing Night Net

Jian Chen pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Jin Xiang Peng, 48, after she drugged his soup with sleeping pills, bound his wrists and feet and stabbed him at her North Ryde home on February 9 last year. He died from multiple stab wounds.

The NSW Supreme Court accepted Chen’s criminal responsibility for Mr Peng’s death was reduced from murder to manslaughter because she was suffering from a “substantial impairment” of the mind at the time of the killing.

The court heard Chen thought Mr Peng, the father of her youngest son, was a “serial predator” and conman who got wealthy women such as herself pregnant in order to extort money.

Chen, who did not give evidence in court but gave an account of her relationship with Mr Peng to several forensic psychiatrists, said her former de facto partner emotionally manipulated her for many years.

In previous years, Mr Peng had taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from her. He had an affair with another woman in China.

“He uses his penis to harm woman [sic] and children. Something inside me said, destroy his weapon, don’t let him harm anymore women and children,” a psychiatrist’s report, tendered to court, quoted her as saying.

On the day before she killed him, Mr Peng had turned up at her house and made threats. She felt she had no legal options to stop him.

As she prepared dinner, the idea of spiking his soup came to her and, soon after he ate, he was unconscious.

When he awoke several hours later Chen bound his hands and feet and stabbed him a number of times in the neck and groin before attempting to cut off his penis and to castrate him.

He had lacerations to the left side of his groin and his penis had been scalped, Justice Monika Schmidt said.

The judge said the act was not premeditated but neither was it impulsive, as Chen thought for hours about what she would do.

Mr Peng was conscious when his genitals were mutilated and she flushed part of his penis down the toilet so “it could not be undone” before she called an ambulance.

Justice Schmidt found Chen’s fear and anxiety was exaggerated by a long-time underlying depressive illness such that her “capacity to understand events, or to judge whether her actions were right or wrong, or to control herself, were substantially impaired”.

However, Justice Schmidt said “her illness does not excuse what she has done” and she needed to be punished with jail time.

Chen was given a maximum sentence of six years and nine months. With time served, she will be eligible for parole on November 8, 2014.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.