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.

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

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.

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

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

Follow the National Times on Twitter

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

Australia mourns with US over ‘shocking’ Las Vegas attack: Turnbull

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Deadliest mass shooting in US history: Vegas death toll hits 59, more than 500 injuredGiffords calls for stricter gun laws in wake of Las Vegas mass shootingWho is the Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock? Las Vegas gunman’s brother ‘dumbfounded’

The prime minister offered his prayers to the families of the more than 50 victims and wished the 500-plus injured a swift recovery.

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“We stand with you and we mourn with you in this difficult time,” Mr Turnbull told a maritime defence conference in Sydney on Tuesday.

“This was a cruel and callous attack on innocent people at a concert.”

It was the worst mass shooting in America’s history at the hands of 64-year-old Stephen Paddock.”

This is a reminder that we must constantly work to stay ahead of the threat – whether the motives of those who seek to do us harm,” Mr Turnbull said.

He noted the government released in August its new strategy to protect crowded places so that Australians could go to events like concerts without fear of being harmed.

With the Las Vegas massacre reigniting debate about gun laws in the US, Mr Turnbull acknowledged that thanks to the strong leadership of John Howard more than 20 years ago after the Port Arthur massacre, Australia has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world.

“And we remain ever vigilant to maintain them,” he said.

Australia just completed another national gun amnesty, with more than 25,000 weapons surrendered.

State and territory leaders will also meet on Thursday for a special national security summit.

“We must constantly improve our laws and our techniques to stay ahead of those who seek to do us harm.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten described the scenes out of Las Vegas as horrifying.

“Australians holding our American friends in our hearts tonight,” he tweeted.

Horrifying scenes in Las Vegas. Australians holding our American friends in our hearts tonight.

— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) October 2, 2017

It’s not know whether any Australians were hurt in the attack.

“If you have any concerns for the welfare of family and friends in the Las Vegas area, you should attempt to contact them directly,” a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman told AAP.

No Australians have been identified at this stage as victims of the Las Vegas shooting massacre, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says.

“We know that a number of Australians were in the vicinity or are in the vicinity, but at this stage and the situation is evolving, no Australians have been identified amongst the victims or those injured,” she told Nine.

0:00 No Austrlaians identified amongst victims: Bishop on Las Vegas shooting Share No Austrlaians identified amongst victims: Bishop on Las Vegas shooting

People unable to make contact with loved ones should phone the DFAT emergency hotline: 1300 555 135, or +61 2 6261 3305.

Meanwhile, Las Vegas police said they had cleared Marilou Danley, 62, reportedly an Australian and the gunman’s girlfriend, of any involvement.

0:00 Vegas Shooting: People flee as gunman opens fire Share Vegas Shooting: People flee as gunman opens fire

‘Vegas is strong’: Hundreds line up to donate blood after Las Vegas massacre

Sixty-four-year-old Nevada resident Stephen Paddock opened fire on an open-air country music festival on the Las Vegas strip on Sunday, killing at least 59 people, and injuring more than 500.

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The shooting began at around (0500 GMT).

Las Vegas authorities called for blood donations over social media, urging people to attend designated blood banks rather than local hospitals, which remain overloaded after admitting more than more than 400 victims of the attack.

If you would like to donate blood for the injured victims of the Strip shooting visit the Labor Health & Welfare Clinic, 7135 W. Sahara.

— LVMPD (@LVMPD) October 2, 2017

The residents of Las Vegas instantly responded to the calls. In the early hours of the morning after the shooting, hundreds of people lined up at blood banks, with many reporting on social media that their local bank was completely full. 

Reporter David Schuman posted a video to Twitter, saying that at 3:48am, the blood bank on West Charleston Boulevard was completely full with people wanting to donate and help:

LOOK: parking lot of blood donation center on Charleston is full. At 3:48am. #Vegas is strong and compasionate. @BethFisherTV @ktnv pic南京夜生活,/ltcQ3P6a9K

— David Schuman (@david_schuman) October 2, 2017Another pic of blood center. My friend there says line is out the door. Again, this was at 4:15. People care. @KTNV pic南京夜生活,/Was1prG8Ml

— David Schuman (@david_schuman) October 2, 2017

Erik Hill, the regional director of United Blood Services, said that he noticed people lining up in the carpark of the Charleston donation centre from around 2am, and has been drawing blood since 4am:

A large crowd at United Blood Services on W Charleston, regional director Erik Hill speaks a about donations. pic南京夜生活,/kRFCDjVG23

— Bridget Bennett (@bridgetkbennett) October 2, 2017

Other residents also tweeted their amazement and appreciation about the amount of people who showed up to donate blood:

I am so proud of this city. Look at the line for blood donations! BATTLE BORN #Pray4Vegas @X1075 @985KLUC @Mix941 @Q100Vegas pic南京夜生活,/pd1otshPpN

— Aj Sanchez (@A_blah_J_blah) October 2, 2017This is Vegas!!!! Line wrapped around United Blood Services, waiting to donate blood this morning #vegasstrong pic南京夜生活,/3061LtwaiY

— kathleen Sweeney (@3morethanfiddy) October 2, 2017This is the scene at one of the local blood banks (United Blood on W Charleston). Vegas is an amazing community. Our city is coming together pic南京夜生活,/Xk7zTZWOR6

— Dave Farra (@DaveFarra) October 2, 2017The line at the united blood service on Whitney Ranch location. So happy to see so many people coming out to help. #LasVegas #mandalaybay pic南京夜生活,/Xo8X3Qu661

— Jourdan Lasko (@Heilos) October 2, 2017It’s 6:40 am, and there is a line out the door and around the block. People waiting to donate blood at United Blood Services. #RJ pic南京夜生活,/sGRMpUOHXc

— Bridget Bennett (@bridgetkbennett) October 2, 2017

The line to donate blood is now wrapped around United Blood Services. Hundreds of people coming out to help in any way they can pic南京夜生活,/GA6O2R37LS

— Yasmeen Hassan (@YasmeenTV) October 2, 2017

United Blood Services posted a message of gratitude on their Facebook page, reminding people to continue to donate over the next few weeks so blood is readily available to those who are injured:

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Country stars express horror over shooting

American country music stars have expressed their horror after Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas turned an open-air festival into a scene of carnage, and one says it forced him to change his opposition to gun control.

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The Route 91 Harvest festival, promoted as a “three-day neon sleepover”, attracted fans from across the United States to hear country’s biggest stars, including Jason Aldean, Eric Church and Sam Hunt.

At least 59 people were killed by a 64-year-old gunman who released a hailstorm of bullets into the festival site.

Caleb Keeter, a guitarist with the Josh Abbott Band, which played the festival earlier on Sunday, said he had been a lifelong supporter of the right to bear arms “until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was.”

“We need gun control RIGHT. NOW. My biggest regret is that I stubbornly didn’t realize it until my brothers on the road and myself were threatened by it,” Keeter said on Twitter.

Aldean, the Sunday night headliner, had just taken the stage when bursts of gunfire rang out, sending thousands of people diving for cover.

“Tonight has been beyond horrific,” Aldean, 40, who was unharmed, said on Instagram.

“It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night.”

Country singer Tyler Reeve says he was backstage when a volley of shots rang out.

He and other singers took cover in a trailer while bullets struck tour buses, equipment cases and the stage.

Reeve and others lay down on the floor and turned the lights off.

“As we were lying in this trailer, I was thinking, ‘This can’t really be happening’, and it just went on and on. I can’t even describe the feeling, just absolute terror,” Reeve said.

After about 45 minutes, Reeve and his friends left the trailer and ran through the streets to the MGM Grand Casino.

“It was just shoes and clothing and blood and bodies,” Reeve said.

“It was a war zone.”

Singer Jake Owen, who performed minutes before Aldean, tweeted: “Shots were ringing off the stage rigging and road cases. No one knew where to go.”

Owen told Fox News in an interview early on Monday: “This isn’t what America is supposed to look like.”

Taylor Swift, who started her career as a country singer, said on Twitter there were “no words to express the helplessness and sorrow my broken heart feels for the victims”.

Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert and Shania Twain tweeted they were heartbroken, while veteran singer Brad Paisley said “there are no words right now that suffice,” and Australian Keith Urban said he was “stilled and speechless”.

Wildcats not thinking about NBL three-peat

Star Perth Wildcats import Bryce Cotton says his team can’t afford to get caught up in the growing hype about their chances of landing a rare Championship three-peat.

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The Wildcats will start the NBL season as one of the title favourites following the surprise retention of Cotton, who turned down more lucrative opportunities in Europe in order to return to Perth.

Melbourne United loom as Perth’s biggest title threat, with the star-stacked outfit boosted by the signing of former Wildcat Casey Prather.

Cotton averaged 23 points per game last season and he shapes as Perth’s most critical player as the club attempts to win three straight titles for the first time in their history.

The 25-year-old, who scored 45 points in game three of last season’s grand final series, said he and his teammates weren’t focusing on the three-peat potential.

Only the Sydney Kings (2003-05) and NZ Breakers (2011-13) have won three titles in a row.

“Honestly I don’t think any of us think about it,” Cotton said.

“It was the same thing last year when I got here.

“There was a lot of people talking about, ‘Oh, can we repeat?’

“We just blocked that out. I don’t think that’s something you should play in your mind, because it can become distracting.”

The loss of Prather leaves a huge void in the Wildcats line-up.

Coach Trevor Gleeson is confident new imports Jean-Pierre Tokoto and Derek Cooke Jr will be able to fill the gap.

Cooke Jr hasn’t been able to play a single pre-season game because of visa issues.

But Cotton said that could prove to be a blessing in disguise for the Wildcats, who open their season at home against Brisbane on Saturday night.

“We have the upper hand because we know a little bit more of what he can do than they do,” Cotton said.

“Hopefully we’ll catch some of the other teams by surprise.”

Gleeson predicts Tokoto will become the best athlete in the NBL this season.

Cotton said Cooke Jr was also an athletic freak.

In pictures: The panic, chaos and aftermath of the Las Vegas mass shooting

At least 59 people have been killed and more than 500 injured after Stephen Paddock, 64, opened fire on a crowd at a Las Vegas country music festival.

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Police said Paddock, a retired accountant, killed himself before a SWAT team entered his room in the Mandalay Bay Hotel overlooking the festival venue.

Las Vegas Sheriff Joseph Lombardo law enforcement were working four separate crime scenes: Paddock’s room at the Mandalay Bay hotel, the concert venue, the gunman’s house in Mesquite, and another house he owns in northern Nevada which a SWAT team was poised to raid.

Here are some of the photos of the chaos and the aftermath:

Warning graphic images

People run for cover after gun fire was heard at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada.Getty Images North America

People scramble for shelter at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.Getty Images North America

A man lays on top of a woman as others flee. A photographer later witnessed the man and woman get up and walk away.Getty Images

More reading

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police officers run down Tropicana Ave near Las Vegas Boulevard after the shooting.Getty Images North America

A woman cries while hiding inside the Sands Corporation plane hangar after a mass shooting in which dozens were killed at the Route 91 Harvest country festival.AAP

Police officers advise people to take cover near the scene of a shooting near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip.AAP

Debris is strewn through the scene of a mass shooting at a music festival near the Mandalay Bay resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip, Monday, Oct 2, 2017.AAP

People light candles at the Ascend Amphitheater for a vigil honouring the victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas on October 2, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.Getty Images

More reading

(L-R)US President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, wife Karen Pence and White House staff take part in a moment of silence.AFP

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo updates the death toll to 59 killed and 527 injured during a press conference at the Metropolitan Police Department.Los Angeles Times

Vanuatu volcano stabilises but still not safe for residents to return

The entire 11,000 population of Ambae, in the north of the Pacific archipelago, was ordered to leave last week after the Manaro Voui volcano rumbled to life and rained rock and ash on villages.

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New Zealand volcanologist Brad Scott is in Vanuatu and flew over the Ambae volcano on Monday  – one of three active in the area.  

He observed a small lava flow, up to 80 metres long, pouring into the lake surrounding the summit. 

While the level of activity has stabilised, it has not decreased either. 

“The eruption is not escalating and growing any more. The local government has taken a precautionary measure for public safety. How long the evacuation will last, unfortunately there is no way to tell,” Mr Scott said. 

RELATED STORY:Evacuation ahead of schedule

The evacuation to nearby islands was scheduled for completion by this Friday but the Red Cross said it was likely to wrap up on Wednesday.

It said villagers were exiting the island on a range of locally-commissioned boats – from barges carrying hundreds of people to smaller ferries shipping dozens at a time.

“You have got a huge range of boats that are transferring 11,000 people from Ambae to the three surrounding islands. For a country this size it is a very big operation,” Red Cross spokesman Joe Cropp said.

“It was orderly. People realised that they need to leave, there is a lot of patience among the community.”

Children walk onto a boat as they are evacuated from the Pacific island of Ambae, which is part of Vanuatu.AAP

Most of the island’s residents have been sheltering in evacuation centres since the volcano first sent up a plume of steam and ash about a week ago.

They are leaving from three coastal locations and the point on Ambae’s western edge had already completed its evacuation on Monday.

The Red Cross is delivering water to the island after ash from the volcano contaminated fresh supplies.

While an orderly evacuation was still a priority for those remaining, attention was now turning to the strained resources at the islands to which people were being relocated, Cropp said.

The relocation facilities on surrounding islands are “starting to handle” the situation, “but we need to step up quickly, we need to get the resources in to provide the shelter, water, food and sanitation that people need,” he added.

An Australian naval ship is expected to arrive on Wednesday, while New Zealand has sent a Hercules C-130 to airlift supplies into the area.

Vanuatu lies on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.

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Watts hopeful of staying with Demons

A frustrated and disappointed Jack Watts remains hopeful he can continue with Melbourne next season.

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Demons coach Simon Goodwin has publicly and privately urged Watts to explore his options elsewhere after 153 games in nine seasons with the club.

Watts has struggled to live up to the expectations that came with being the No.1 pick at the 2008 draft, but produced his best season last year.

He signed a new three-year deal heading into the 2017 season but found himself on the outer with the new coach.

Citing inconsistencies in his application to training, Goodwin overlooked Watts for pre-season matches and dropped him late in the home-and-away season.

But the 26-year-old told reporters on Tuesday he is confident his best football is ahead of him and he hopes that will be with Melbourne.

“I see a really strong future for the Demons so it would be pretty disappointing if I have to miss out on that after everything we’ve gone through,” Watts said.

“Of course, I want to stay. We’ve had (trade) options over the past four or five years (but) that love for the club and love for the boys has kept me there.

“That hasn’t changed.

“Obviously I’m still contracted at Melbourne for the next two years … I love the club and I love the boys, so we’ll wait and see.

“I might still be there next year.”

Watts was tight-lipped on reports he has met with Port Adelaide and Sydney to discuss a potential move.

Goodwin has expressed frustration about the unchanged cycle of expectation and pressure on Watts and the club over the years as he’s struggled to get the best out of himself.

“That’s Goody’s opinion,” Watts said.

“I guess I found it hard to get that consistent sort of form (this year), especially when some key people at the club were thinking that, that’s their views and their attitude.

“I’m really confident with the footy I can play – that I was playing in the middle of this year.

“Seeing where the club is at the moment and where they can go … playing finals next year will be a real goal.

“It will be a shock to the system if I’m going to miss that.”

‘Enough is enough’: Guitarist at Las Vegas country festival backflips on gun control after mass shooting

Caleb Keeter, a lead guitarist in the Josh Abbott Band, said he was a proponent of the second amendment before the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas on October 1 that killed at least 59 people.

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Mr Keeter said he feared for his life all night and has changed his mind on gun control in the United States, claiming it was “out of hand”.

“I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd amendment my entire life. Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was. We actually have members of our crew with [Concealed Handgun Licenses], and legal firearms on the bus,” Keeter tweeted.

“They were useless.”

pic南京夜生活,/0NFjHf3PW2

— Caleb Keeter (@Calebkeeter) October 2, 2017

Mr Keeter said his crew members were too scared to grab their guns for protection, out of fear the police might think they were the shooter.

The country star said he regrets his stubborness when it came to relaxed gun laws, finishing off his Tweet with a fervent call for strict gun control.

“Enough is enough,” he added.

0:00 Vegas Shooting: People flee as gunman opens fire Share Vegas Shooting: People flee as gunman opens fire

“Writing my parents and the love of my life a goodbye last night and a living will because I felt like I wasn’t going to live through the night was enough for me to realize that this is completely and totally out of hand.

“These rounds were just powerful enough that my crew guys just standing in close proximity of a victim shot by this f***ing coward received shrapnel wounds.

You are all absolutely correct. I saw this happening for years and did nothing. But I’d like to do what I can now. 南京桑拿,南京SPA,/5mYA7D90X3

— Caleb Keeter (@Calebkeeter) October 2, 2017

“We need gun control RIGHT. NOW. My biggest regret is that I stubbornly didn’t realize it until my brothers on the road and myself were threatened by it. We are unbelievably fortunate to not be among the number of victims killed or seriously wounded by this maniac.”

The band released a statement on its Facebook page claiming everyone in the band and crew were safe following the mass shooting.

MORE NEWS:

‘We were very scared’: Australian Miss Universe finalist caught up in Las Vegas massacre

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Australia mourns with US over ‘shocking’ Las Vegas attack: Turnbull’Bullets flying everywhere’: Eyewitnesses describe Las Vegas carnageGiffords calls for stricter gun laws in wake of Las Vegas mass shootingWho is the Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock? Las Vegas gunman’s brother ‘dumbfounded”Vegas is strong’: Hundreds line up to donate blood after Las Vegas massacre 

Two young women from Darwin have been caught up in the deadliest mass shooting in US history.

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Sharon Kamber and her friend, Miss Universe NT finalist Artia Ratahi, were dining on the Las Vegas Strip close to the country music festival where a gunman shot dead at least 59 people on Sunday night.

The pair, both 21, had just ordered at the Outback Steakhouse, a five-minute drive from the Mandalay Bay hotel, when the restaurant went into lockdown.

“We were stuck in the restaurant for a good three hours, until about 2am,” Ms Kamber said.

“My friend was able to be a lot more calm than I was. I called my parents… half in tears, telling them I loved them.”

Darwin woman Sharon Kamber (R) and her friend, Miss Universe Australia 2017 Northern Territory finalist Artia Ratahi (AAP)Sharon Kamber

More than 527 people were injured in the shooting and Ms Kamber said at the time there were rumours of two more shooters in the area.

“They told us that nothing’s clear but we could leave at our own risk,” she said.

“We were very scared. It was hard not to break down.”

The two-minute walk back to her hotel was “horrifying”, with police lining the deserted strip every few metres.

“It was an eerie feeling – such a lively place was so dead.”

Miss Universe Australia 2017 Northern Territory finalist Artia Ratahi who has been caught up in the deadliest mass shooting in US historyAAP

The Northern Territory promotions worker said it was a “very American” way to end a six-month trip to the US, and she was happy to be flying home.

“You always see on the news that America has issues with their guns laws, it’s just crazy they’re not doing much about it,” Ms Kamber said.

“I wasn’t too surprised that something like this was happening, which is saddening to say.”

50 dead, hundreds injured

US officials reacted cautiously meanwhile to an IS claim that Stephen Craig Paddock, 64, had carried out Sunday night’s massacre on the Las Vegas Strip on behalf of the jihadist group.

Police said Paddock, a retired accountant with no criminal record, smashed windows in his 32nd floor hotel room shortly after 10:00 pm and trained bursts of automatic weapons fire on thousands of people attending a country music concert below.

Investigators recovered 23 guns, including assault rifles, from Paddock’s room at the Mandalay Bay hotel, and another 18 firearms along with bomb-making materials at one of his two homes.

Consular staff from across the US are helping in the search for any Australians caught up in the deadly Las Vegas mass shooting.

No Australians have so far been identified as dead or injured but Australian authorities are working with their Canadian and British counterparts and contacting hospitals.

“We’ve increased our consular staff in both Los Angeles and Las Vegas. We are sending staff from our Washington embassy, experienced consular staff,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told ABC radio on Tuesday.

This undated photo provided by Eric Paddock shows him (left) with his brother, Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock (right) (AAP)AAP

0:00 Police scanner of the moment officers raid shooters room in Mandalay Bay Share Police scanner of the moment officers raid shooters room in Mandalay Bay

President Donald Trump denounced what he called “an act of pure evil” and said he would visit Las Vegas on Wednesday.

But the White House said it would be “premature” to reopen the US debate on tighter gun controls in the wake of the shooting.

“A motive is yet to be determined and it would be premature for us to discuss policy when we don’t fully know all of the facts or what took place last night,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

0:00 ‘Act of pure evil’: Trump decries Vegas mass shooting Share ‘Act of pure evil’: Trump decries Vegas mass shooting

Broken windows are seen on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino after a lone gunman opened fired (Getty)Getty

Victorian mechanic admits stealing Ferrari

A luxury Melbourne car restorer has admitted stealing his long-time friend’s vintage Ferrari.

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Sandro Terzini, 48, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to theft of the 1970 Ferrari Daytona Coupe in 2013 from his friend of 20 years.

The County Court was told Terzini’s mate asked the motor mechanic to securely store the luxury car at his business, Terzini Motore, which restored and traded exotic cars.

But while the owner was overseas, Terzini went behind his back and sold it for $450,000, without telling him.

It was only 16 months later that the owner – who had still been paying insurance premiums for the vehicle – learned it had been sold.

Crown prosecutor Jonathan Manning said the owner initially asked Terzini to store the car at his Brighton business – after buying it from the UK for 150,000 British Pounds – as he had done with previous vehicles.

Four years later, he asked Terzini to find potential buyers for it.

But the owner had a change of heart and told Terzini he no longer wanted to sell the Italian marque, days before Terzini sold the vehicle for $450,000 without his consent, transferring $400,000 from his business to personal bank account.

The car has changed hands a further four times and is now in the UK, the court was told.

Mr Manning said the value of the theft and the deceit was significant.

“He obviously didn’t tell the victim what had happened,” the prosecutor said.

Defence barrister Samuel Tovey said at the time of the theft, his client’s life was spiralling downwards, with large debts, a marriage break up and heavy cocaine use.

He argued it wasn’t a crime motivated purely by greed and said it stood no chance of remaining undiscovered.

But Judge Rachelle Lewitan countered: “It’s a gross breach of trust, isn’t it?”

Terzini will be sentenced at a date to be fixed.