The war that was supposed to end all wars

The Boer War was the first, the war on terror the latest, Vietnam the longest and World War II the biggest.


But 100 years ago, an innocent Australia prepared for what would prove to be its bloodiest war by far.

World War I cut a swathe through the youngest nation’s youngest and ablest men.

From the trenches of Gallipoli to the horrors of the Western Front, almost 62,000 Australians laid down their lives, compared with fewer than 40,000 in World War II.

More than 330,000 Diggers fought for king and country, and two out of every three were killed or wounded.

Now they are all gone, friend and foe; when British-born sailor Claude Choules died in Perth in 2011 he was the last survivor of the 70 million men who fought in World War I.

Of all the battles Australians waged, the doomed Gallipoli campaign is the one that has stirred patriotic hearts through succeeding generations, partly because it was the first.

But though 8700 Aussies never came home from that abortive venture in Turkey, the death toll in France and Belgium, on the Western Front, was four times heavier.

On the Somme in 1916, Australia lost as many casualties in eight weeks as would be lost at Gallipoli in eight months.

As the Battle of The Somme opened on July 1, 1916, Britain suffered its heaviest losses ever in war – 19,240 dead among an appalling casualty list of 57,420 in a single day.

In five months of grim warfare featuring the world’s first tank battles, the Allies succeeded only in pushing German forces back 65km to the heavily fortified Hindenburg Line.

The Western Front was deadlocked from a few months after the war’s start in 1914 until a few months before its end in 1918.

It stretched in a continuous line of trenches from the English Channel 700km to the Swiss frontier.

Armies millions of men strong measured advances in terms of a few kilometres gained over several months.

Casualties from each big attack, or “push”, ran into hundreds of thousands on both sides.

The first mass global war of the industrialised age cost more than nine million lives and, according to one estimate, around $260 billion – six times the sum of all the national debt accumulated in the world from the end of the 18th century to 1914.

Australia, federated only 13 years earlier, was unquestioning in its loyalty to empire, with Andrew Fisher, the Labor prime minister, vowing to back Britain to “the last man and the last shilling”.

If Gallipoli was an ultimately futile baptism of fire, then worse was to come in France.

In 1916, Australians went through hell at Fromelles, where their enemy included a young Adolf Hitler, and in poison gas attacks at Pozieres, where Gallipoli hero Albert Jacka again distinguished himself.

In 1917, Diggers attacked famously at Bullecourt, and across the Belgian border at Messines and in the muddy battles of Passchendaele.

In 1918, commanded by Lieutenant General John Monash, they helped to stop the German March offensive and then to lead the advance to final victory.

One of their finest hours came in the attack that liberated Villers-Bretonneux on the third anniversary of their April 25, 1915, landings at Gallipoli.

Most Diggers came home appalled by war, but believing strongly in the need to commemorate it.

“The younger generation didn’t know the horrors of war. They need to be reminded,” said Ted Matthews, the last survivor of the original Gallipoli landings, who died aged 101 in 1997.

“That’s what their forefathers died for – to preserve their freedom and way of life.”

If the futility of the so-called Great War is puzzling to modern generations, its cause is even more baffling.

The spark was the clumsy assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, on a bridge in Sarajevo.

After decades of imperialist and nationalist tensions, backed by myriad treaties and alliances, it was all that was needed to draw in the great powers of Europe.

The assassin’s bullet was the “shot heard around the world”, but who today who could name the man who fired it, Serbian Gavrilo Princip?

The guns of war finally fell silent on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

World War I was widely expected on all sides to be over by Christmas 1914.

It was supposed to be the war to end all wars, but it served to set the stage for another global conflagration.

Within two decades the great powers were arming themselves for World War II.

Victorian Greens Senator-elect Janet Rice

The Victorian Greens Senator has since played a main role in the formation of the Greens in her home state.


She was a founding member of Australian Greens Victoria in 1992 and took a seat on the City of Maribyrnong as a Greens councillor between 2003 and 2008.

Though she acknowledged the two experiences are very different, she told SBS her time in local government will help her adjust to the Senate,

“I think the experience is very relevant,” she said.

“If you’re open to be working collaboratively and find other people that are also in that case, you can make some really good progress.”

Listen: Stephanie Anderson speaks with Janet Rice.

As a life member of the Greens, Rice said she would be sticking to party lines when to came to legislation, working against cuts to welfare and voting to retain the carbon tax .

“We are passionate about taking very serious action on addressing global warming,” she said.

“We’re very open to be working with any people who are interested in pursuing similar agendas … If there is the opportunity to be working with the crossbenchers, we’ll be pursuing them.”

In addition to environmental issues, Ms Rice said she would be joining Senator Sarah Hanson-Young in campaigning against the “warped priorities” in the Abbott Government’s immigration policy.

“For me, it’s something that I’m passionate about,” he said.

“We as Australians, we can afford to be putting out a helping hand and providing a caring approach to refugees… It’s cheaper to be treating people well and fairly rather than locking them up.”

Senator Rice has since taken to Twitter to celebrate her first day in the job.

Here I am! Day 1 being Senator Rice 南宁桑拿网,南宁夜生活,/mjH5NzVYj7

— Janet Rice (@janet_rice) July 1, 2014

Laver warns against Kyrgios hype

Australian tennis legend Rod Laver is excited by Nick Kyrgios’ potential but has warned against trying to predict how much the rising teenager can achieve.


Laver, an 11-time grand slam champion considered one of the game’s greatest ever players, believes 19-year-old Kyrgios will be competitive against world No.1 Rafael Nadal in the last 16 at Wimbledon on Tuesday.

However he says predictions of a single-figure ranking and grand slam glory in the future could be detrimental to the Canberra teenager’s development.

“That’s a mistake, it’s just people talking cheap news,” Laver said at the All England Club launch of his autobiography Rod Laver: A Memoir on Monday.

“Otherwise he (Kyrgios) is going to think, ‘I don’t have to work as hard now’ and that’s sort of the reverse you want him to be in.

“He has to try and practice even more and even harder.”

Laver was impressed when he saw Kyrgios play at the Australian Open in January, where he reached the second-round before falling in five sets to Frenchman Benoit Paire.

The 75-year-old believes Kyrgios’ run to the fourth round at Wimbledon shows he’s developed from a talented kid into a fierce competitor with character and an ability to play under pressure.

Laver doesn’t expect Kyrgios to beat Nadal but believes he can definitely trouble him.

“If he takes a set, it might be an upset in time,” Laver said.

“He’s got all the shots, Nick, so why not win?

“Even if he loses, if it’s close, he’s going to know how much he needs to do to really get to that next level.”

Another Australian legend, Ken Rosewall, said there was no reason why the confident Kyrgios couldn’t trouble two-time Wimbledon winner Nadal.

“Some players have performed well against Nadal because they’ve kind of hit him off the court,” four-time Wimbledon runner-up Rosewall said.

“I think Nick has the power to do the same thing, so it’s just whether he can do that power and technique and consistency long enough.”

Asked what he thought of Kyrgios’ potential, Rosewall said Kyrgios was “young enough to have a fair amount of improvement in his game.”

Kyrgios is bidding to become the youngest man to reach the quarter-finals since Bernard Tomic in 2011 and his run to the fourth round means he will break into the world’s top 100 for the first time.

Panthers turn to rookie half Smith

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has turned to rookie NRL playmaker Will Smith to help solve the Panthers’ halves injury crisis and arrest their late season form slump.


Former Newcastle under-20s player Smith will make his first grade debut at five-eighth in Friday’s round 21 clash with Canterbury at ANZ Stadium, after Peter Wallace was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.

Wallace joins other halves options for Cleary Tyrone Peachey (pectoral muscle) and Isaac John (Achilles) as casualties for the remainder of the year.

However, winger Josh Mansour (ankle) is a welcome inclusion for Penrith.

Considered one of the fastest players at the Panthers, the 22-year-old Smith can cover fullback, centre and halfback or five-eighth, and signed a two-year deal with Penrith starting this year in a move from the Knights.

Smith’s first NRL assignment will be coming to terms with the Bulldogs’ NSW playmaker Josh Reynolds, who returns from suspension for the vital top four clash.

Captain Michael Ennis said Reynolds’s return was a welcome boost for the Dogs who, like Penrith, have lost their past two matches to slip from the competition lead.

“Josh is a wonderful guy to play with, he brings so much to the sides that he plays in,” Ennis said.

“He will be a real welcome bonus back into our side.”

Josh Morris hasn’t been named to return from his knee injury suffered in State of Origin I but is a chance to play.

North Queensland’s late-season resurgence has been boosted by the return of Australian prop Matt Scott from a cheekbone injury he suffered in Origin I.

Scott has been named alongside James Tamou, for Saturday’s match with Gold Coast in Townsville after his fellow representative bookend overcame a neck injury scare.

Winger Jorge Taufua has been named to return from a foot injury for top-of-the-table Manly’s clash with Brisbane at Brookvale Oval on Friday.

Paul Gallen is still two weeks away from a return from a biceps injury for Cronulla, who host Parramatta at home for Fui Fui Moi Moi’s 200th NRL game.

NSW centre Michael Jennings returns from a back injury sustained in Origin II for the Sydney Roosters match against St George Illawarra at Allianz Stadium.

Shaun Johnson (groin) and Feleti Mateo (calf) are back for the Warriors trip to Canberra on Sunday.

South Sydney are yet to name a replacement for captain John Sutton (knee) who will miss their home clash against Newcastle in Cairns.

Kurt Gidley will replace Jarrod Mullen (stomach muscle tear) at five-eighth for the Knights.

Chris Lawrence (ankle) hasn’t been named for Wests Tigers fixture against Melbourne at Campbelltown Stadium on Monday but could be a late inclusion.

Another Qld tiger handler bitten at work

A tiger has bitten a handler at a Queensland zoo for the second time in eight months, with the latest puncture incident occurring on International Tiger Day.


Juma, the biggest tiger at Australia Zoo, bit Mark Turner, 42, on his left leg as the animal was being moved to a new area.

The 10-year-old, 130kg male Sumatran tiger, named after the Indonesian word for mountain summit, is described on the Sunshine Coast enclosure’s website as “a fitting name for an animal equally as powerful and stunning”.

However, the tiger born in captivity in NSW is also described as having a “very laid-back personality”, making him ideal for filming.

Mr Turner is in a stable condition but is reportedly undergoing surgery following the incident shortly before noon on Tuesday.

It is the second biting incident involving a tiger and a handler at Australia Zoo since November last year.

That’s when a 114kg Bengal tiger, Charlie, became “over-excited” and bit his handler Dave Styles on the neck and shoulder during a tiger show, keeping him away from work for several months.

Australia Zoo, owned by the family of the late crocodile hunter Steve Irwin, announced the incident on Twitter.

“Keeper has tooth puncture wound but is fine,” it said.

“First-aid protocol was followed, the same as Australia Zoo renders all staff, and the keeper is going to be fine.

“Juma the tiger is fine as well.”

A Queensland Ambulance Service spokesman said the tiger handler was taken to Nambour Hospital, on the Sunshine Coast, in a stable condition.

Nine News reported that he was undergoing emergency surgery.

Vickery happy with four-week AFL ban

Richmond’s Tyrone Vickery expressed relief after the AFL tribunal gave him a four-week ban for clocking Dean Cox.


Vickery’s striking charge was referred directly to the tribunal, whose members retired for six minutes on Tuesday night before agreeing on the penalty.

Both AFL legal counsel Andrew Woods and player advocate Michael Tovey QC had agreed a ban of five weeks, reduced to four with a guilty plea, was correct.

The 24-year-old pleaded guilty at the start of proceedings, while the three-man tribunal panel were given a transcript of his public apology to the iconic West Coast ruckman on Sunday.

Vickery was given a penalty of 495 demerit points, meaning 95 carryover points will be hanging over his head when the Tigers play Sydney at ANZ Stadium on August 30.

The forward will miss matches against GWS, Essendon, Adelaide and St Kilda before being available for selection in the final round of the season.

Vickery, who knocked out Cox while the veteran was watching the ball at a boundary throw-in, was happy with the result.

“I got a fair trial and a fair hearing. That (four weeks) was the conclusion and we accept it,” Vickery said.

“Very happy to now have a conclusion to it. I’m able to train hard for the next four weeks and give myself a chance to potentially play in the last round.

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to potentially play again this season.”

Vickery said he was glad the incident was over and pledged to “play hard and aggressive, but not overstep the mark which is what I owe – especially to my teammates”.

Speaking on radio station 3AW, 1988 Brownlow medallist Gerard Healy suggested Vickery could consider himself “a very lucky man”.

“For mine, five weeks was the minimum, six wouldn’t have surprised,” Healy said.

Vickery joins Brian Lake in copping a four-week suspension – the sternest punishment handed out by the tribunal this season.

But as opposed to Lake’s case, when the Hawthorn defender unsuccessfully argued he was trying to grab Petrie’s guernsey and not his throat, this time it was all very agreeable at the tribunal.

Tovey made the point no bones were broken and that the incident was on the lower scale of severe impact.

But both he and Woods agreed the blow was intentional, severe impact and high contact – and Vickery was not called on to testify.

Earlier on Tuesday, Sydney’s Jeremy Laidler accepted a reprimand and 70.31 points towards his future record for striking Hawthorn’s Jack Gunston during Saturday night’s MCG clash.

West Coast’s Luke Shuey and Mark LeCras both accepted $900 fines for engaging in misconduct when they remonstrated with Vickery.

Aust police abandon MH17 site attempt

Australian and Dutch police have been forced to abandon a third attempt to reach the MH17 crash site because of escalating tensions between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian militia.


However, Prime Minister Tony Abbott is still hopeful they will soon be able to reach the Donetsk area toward Ukraine’s eastern border where the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was downed on July 17.

The 200 strong unarmed police contingent was on Monday forced to turn around for the second day running due to shelling and gunfire.

Mr Abbott was briefed on Tuesday afternoon about talks to provide a safe corridor for investigators.

“We were optimistic,” the prime minister told Fairfax Radio.

But in the end, investigators didn’t get to set out on Tuesday.

“The team decided not to attempt to travel to the site as fighting had intensified in recent days and had led to the mission being aborted on both previous attempts,” the Australian Federal Police said in a statement.

“The mission will again attempt to enter the crash site when suitable arrangements are in place to provide an appropriately secure area.”

Mr Abbott on Tuesday attended a meeting of the national security committee of cabinet to discuss the “confused situation on the ground”.

He pointed to a commitment by the Ukraine government and pro-Russian separatists fighting on the eastern border to use “their best endeavours” to make the site safe enough for the Dutch-Australian team.

“And it’s high time those commitments were honoured,” Mr Abbott said.

Alexander Hug, the deputy head of a monitoring team from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, expressed the his team’s frustration and anger after the second turnaround.

“We are sick and tired of being interrupted by gunfights, despite the fact that we have agreed that there should be a ceasefire,” he said.

Dutch police chief Gerard Bouman believes the chances the police can recover all the remains and evidence is “not very good”.

Mr Abbott spoke with his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak on Tuesday afternoon and the leaders agreed on their “absolute determination and commitment” to gain access to the site to fulfil a “moral mission” to bring home the bodies of the dead.

The Ukrainian military has seized back a number of villages in the Donetsk region but a spokesman for Ukraine’s national security council has denied Ukrainian forces were fighting within the 20km radius around the crash site in the Donetsk region and blamed the shelling on pro-Russian forces.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Australia’s special envoy Angus Houston have met Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko to push for an exclusion zone and humanitarian corridor.

Ms Bishop also wants the Ukrainian parliament to this week ratify a deployment agreement she’s signed with her counterpart, Pavlo Klimkin, that would allow Australia to send in armed police or soldiers.

Ukraine and the 11 countries which lost 298 citizens – including up to 39 Australian residents – have also agreed to set up a joint team of prosecutors to examine possible criminal charges against those who downed the plane, which is believed to have been shot down by pro-Russian separatists using a surface-to-air missile launcher.

Europe’s judicial cooperation agency Eurojust will be involved in the process.

Dutch investigators are expected to release an initial report on the plane’s black box recorders this week.

US President Barack Obama and European leaders are considering toughening up sanctions against Russia, particularly in the areas of access to capital markets, defence, dual-use goods and technology.

Qantas sticks to flights over Iraq

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

Qantas is reassuring its passengers that it’s still safe to fly over Iraq, despite network partner Emirates’ deciding to reroute its fleet away from the conflict-torn nation.


The Dubai-based airline says it’s made the decision over fears that militants Iraq may have surface to air missile capabilities.

Abby Dinham reports.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

“The tragedy of flight MH17 has changed everything.”

Those are the words of Emirates Chief executive Tim Clark.

The airline is expected to re-route its fleet out of Iraqi airspace within the next ten days.

But Qantas says it has no plans to change the routes of its planes, a decision that’s angered some in the security industry.

Roger Henning is founder of the private company, Homeland Security Asia-Pacific.

He disagrees with Qantas’ decision.

“Deciding the risk is out of bounds in eastern Europe, but OK in the Middle East it’s Russian roulette.”

Qantas’ Dubai to London flight enters Iraqi airspace.

An airline statement says there is no information to suggest that there’s a risk to commercial aircraft passing over Iraq, particularly at the altitudes its planes fly.

But Mr Henning suggests passengers should be vigilant about researching their airline’s flight paths.

“Anyone flying to Europe from Australia should think very carefully about getting on any airline that is openly flying over a warzone between Australia and London.”

Emirates is reportedly considering longer routes over Saudi Arabia and Egypt, instead of Iraq.

But some aviation experts say Iraqi airspace could be a better option.

Airspace author Geoff Thomas says avoiding conflict areas in the Middle East is a tough ask.

“If you don’t fly over Iraq you’ve got to fly over Syria, or got to fly over Lebanon, or you got to fly over Gaza. The other side you have to fly over Iran, you have to fly over Afghanistan, you have to fly over Pakistan, the whole area is what you would call a turbulent zone.”

Other major airlines including British Airways, Etihad, Lufthansa and Qatar Airways also continue to fly through Iraqi airspace.





Russia ordered to compensate for bankrupting Yukos

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

Russia has been ordered to pay billions of dollars in compensation over the expropriation of now defunct oil producer Yukos.


The court ruling is another blow to the government’s finances, as Russia faces increased sanctions over its actions in Ukraine.

Abby Dinham.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

It’s one of the largest arbitration cases ever.

GML Limited – once the biggest shareholder in the Yukos Oil Company – has been awarded $54.1 billion.

Their lawyer, Emmanuel Gaillard, called the ruling a major victory.

“Today is a great day for the rule of law. A superpower like Russia has been unanimously held accountable for its violation of international law by an independent arbitral tribunal of the highest possible repute.”

In 2003, President Vladimir Putin levelled massive tax claims against the country’s largest oil company – then owned by the country’s richest man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Unable to pay, Mr Khodorkovsky was imprisoned and his company’s assets seized.

The move was widely seen as retaliation for the businessman’s support for opposition political parties.

GML executive director Tim Osborne says Russia’s motives were never about taxes.

“The attacks by the Russian Federation on Yukos Oil Company, its founders – including Mikhail Khodorkovsky – and its employees, were politically motivated, and that the primary objective of the Russian Federation was not to collect taxes but rather to bankrupt Yukos and appropriate its underlying assets for benefit of the state.”

Mikhail Khodorkovsky spent ten years in prison before he was pardoned by President Putin in December last year.

He’s released a statement, saying “From beginning to end, the Yukos case has been an instance of unabashed plundering of a successful company by a mafia with links to the State.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says the government will appeal the decision, claiming it was merely seeking payment for back taxes.

“You said it yourselves that the trial is not over yet and appeals are to follow. The Russian side and the government departments representing Russia at this trial will certainly use all possible legal means to defend their position.”

The ruling further damages Russia’s international standing at a time when relations are at their lowest ebb since the end of the Cold War.





Microsoft and China: Impossible bedfellows?

UPDATE: China has confirmed it is conducting a formal investigation into Microsoft.


There’s a definite chill in the air.

American technology firms operating in China have felt it ever since Edward Snowden spilled the beans, alleging that America’s National Security Agency was spying on Chinese leaders with the help of US tech companies.

Now, Microsoft is the latest company to suffer the backlash.

Officials from China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce, the body responsible for enforcing competition laws, have met Microsoft managers in four Chinese cities.

The meetings could signal the beginning of an antitrust investigation into Microsoft’s possible monopoly over China’s operating system market.

One news agency, AFP, quoted a source saying that some Microsoft offices were raided as part of an investigation, though neither Microsoft nor the Chinese AIC agency has confirmed this.

“Microsoft is happy to answer the government’s questions,” the company said in a statement, without providing any further details.

The company hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing. And, AIC officials sometimes visit industries under government scrutiny but take no action.

However Qualcomm Inc, the world’s biggest mobile phone chip maker, is facing penalties that could exceed $1 billion, after being accused of overcharging and abusing its market position in China.

It’s too early to say whether the Microsoft meetings will result in an antitrust investigation, says Joe Sweeney, an analyst with Sydney-based IT advisory company Intelligent Business Research Services (IBRS).

“Who really knows? I wouldn’t be able to make a guess on that one. What I will say, however, is that the timing is more than coincidental. There are rising tensions, economic tensions, between the US and China and I think this incident forms at least part of that story.”

Mr Sweeney says those tensions have been rising for the last two decades as China moves from an industrial third world economy to a first world knowledge economy, putting foreign IT companies in the firing line.

“It’s about China is flexing its economic muscles, absolutely. Now that means that companies like Microsoft, like Google, are going to be facing an increasingly difficult time.

“Some months ago China announced that its government would no longer procure Microsoft Windows and would be moving towards the Linux-based operating system which is manufactured and developed in China. So we are seeing a great deal more emphasis on domestically-developed technologies for the domestic market.”

And part of Microsoft’s problem says Peter Grant, a former Microsoft State Director for Queensland and now analyst at IBRS, is that the company hasn’t encouraged compatability between its products and other technologies.

“Microsoft’s previous CEO was famous for saying that Windows is the air that Microsoft breathes. So they were encouraging all of their products to be run on Windows and for people to lock themselves in to a Windows environment,” Professor Grant says.

“Well, good business would say you wouldn’t do that in 2014 and the Chinese, being a green field, will almost certainly make that choice.”

But the Chinese government’s decision to bypass Windows is also a political one.

In May, a State Internet Information Office spokesman said “governments and enterprises of a few countries” were taking advantage of their monopoly status and technological edge to collect sensitive information.

The country’s state-run broadcaster recently aired a program that questioned the security of Windows 8, with Chinese experts alleging that Microsoft was cooperating with US government cyberspying activities.

Some say that’s retaliation for the US Justice Department charging five Chinese military officers with hacking American companies’ computers and stealing trade secrets.

The political angst between the US and China is not Microsoft’s only worry.

IBRS’s Joe Sweeney says consumers, not businesses, have become the main drivers of technology and that’s impacting those who’ve traditionally supplied businesses.

“It’s not uncommon to see police, ambulance, rescue personnel using their mobile phones instead of their workplace radio or file storage system. It’s not uncommon to see staff taking in their own mobile phones, with their own network connectivity to work and using their own personal technology rather than the company’s technology. The consumer technology is, in their minds, superior,” Joe Sweeny says.

“This is changing how companies buy their technology and Microsoft has to address that.”

To keep up, Microsoft has to persist in the smartphone market.

It bought Nokia earlier this year but last week announced it was shedding 18,000 jobs – 14 per cent of its workforce – and most would come from Nokia.

That’s indicative, Joe Sweeney says, of Microsoft’s struggles to make Nokia work.

“Microsoft has made, in past years, major fundamental mistakes about how it approaches the mobile phone space. It still continues to make those mistakes,” he says. “The issue here is that Microsoft believes that your mobile experience should be the same, or very, very similar to, your desktop experience. And while it does sound like a good story in reality consumers don’t actually want that. What they want is a highly optimised experience for the device they’re working on.”

Chinese smartphone users are no different, says Peter Grant, and so if Microsoft is to thrive in the Chinese market, it has to overcome that obstacle as well as the political ones.

“Smartphones is where the industry’s going and if you want to be successful in China that will be a cornerstone of how that’s done. People want to access as much as possible from mobile devices. So, smartphones and that market segment are absolutely critical.”

Discount website offering 40 per cent off private school fees

Inspired by website wotif, a site offering last minute cheap hotel deals, ‘School Places’ is the world’s first online marketplace for private school places, helps families search for and secure a discounted place in a private school via a transparent and simple online enrolment process.


The site launched in Victoria in April, receiving 35,000 hits on its first day, but the Association of Independent Schools NSW has raised concerns.

Executive director Geoff Newcombe said discounted fees may cause create resentment amongst full fee paying parents and lead to an environment where parents choose not to wait on a list, instead opting for last minute specials. 

“If large discounts on fees are being offered the school needs to explain the rationale for this to its existing parents and school community,” he said.

“Heavily discounting fees may not be a sustainable practice since schools need to maintain their educational offerings to meet parent expectations.”

But the operators of the site said the system could help schools.

“The cost of running schools is growing faster than family incomes,” chief executive Natalie Mactier said.

“The kinds of fee increases we’ve seen in recent years just aren’t sustainable. Schools need to find new ways to increase their revenue and ensuring every vacant place is filled is a very good option.”

Several schools in Victoria and a handful in NSW have signed up, offering discounts of 10 per 40 per cent. So far more than 500 NSW parents have registered to be told when their school of choice has a discounted vacancy.

Parents can also search the site and filter results for location and enrolment year.

Registered schools pay a commission to the site when a vacancy is filled. 

Hughes scores double ton in AusA win

Phil Hughes’s double century has helped Australia A beat South Africa A by 148 runs in one-day match at Marrara Oval in Darwin.


Hughes made an unbeaten 202, the highest score by a male Australian in a list-A fixture.

He brought up his ton in the 38th over, then went on to score his second 100 in 47 balls, finishing the innings with a six to bring up his double ton.

Moises Henriques supported Hughes at the crease with a career best 90 runs to help Australia A finish their innings at 3-349.

Despite the knock and some instantaneous calls for his return to the top team on social media, Hughes is taking a wait-and-see approach to his chances of joining Michael Clarke’s side once more.

“That was a great feeling to come back, after being away for a week and to get 200. The first time I have ever scored one in this format – it’s a day I will never forget,” Hughes said.

“To help the boys get over the line today was a real good feeling.”

Making the innings more memorable was the battle Hughes faced on a pitch that was a little unpredictable early in the innings, and he was ecstatic with the knock and the one played by Henriques.

“Our plan was to get through that first 15-20 overs, build a partnership and cash in at the end,” he said.

“Moises played beautiful and showed really good intent from ball one, and made my job easier at the other end.

“All I have to do is continue to score consistent runs and help set up and win games for Australia A.

“Everything else is out of my hands and out of all the boys hands. The boys are putting some really good performances on the board individually. It comes down to the selectors at the end of the day.”

Hughes, who has been dealing with family issues dedicated the knock to his ‘pop’.

“I can definitely dedicate this to my pop, especially my dad as well. It’s sad times for the family, but that’s life really and I can give this one to pop.”

Kane Richardson performed with the ball again, taking 4-45 while Cameron White and Cameron Boyce both picked up two wickets each as South Africa A were bowled out in the 38th over, 148 runs short of their target.


*202 not out from 151 balls at strike rate of 133.77

*Moved from 110 to 202 in the final 10 overs of Australia A’s innings

*Scored 18 off the last over, and 19 off the 48th over

*Hit 18 fours and six sixes.

Govt pays $330,000 for media briefing room

Taxpayers have forked out close to $330,000, including $800 for a doorknob, for a border protection media briefing room that hasn’t been used since its completion 10 months ago.


Construction and fit-out costs for the high-tech theatrette totalled almost $235,000 while the annual cost of having it on stand-by is running at about $100,000.

The government is leasing the premises, next to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s aid office in Canberra, until June 2016.

It is also paying $10,000 a month to hire audio visual equipment on top of a $30,000 bill for rented stage lights, according to documents obtained by AAP under Freedom of Information.

The heavily blacked-out documents reveal the facility was ready for media briefings in October 2013, but it has never been used for that purpose.

It is understood the room was intended for Operation Sovereign Borders media briefings presented by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison until late last year.

Instead, the weekly briefings were held at commonwealth offices in Sydney.

The briefings ended in December, coinciding with reports of asylum-seeker boat turn-backs which the government refused to discuss.

In Canberra, Mr Morrison has mostly used Parliament House facilities for border protection-related press conferences.

In mid-July, he launched a national border targeting centre at the Customs and Border Protection headquarters, located across the road from the briefing room.

He addressed reporters after the launch in a Customs room.

The unused media centre has large LED monitors, a projector, spotlights, two podiums with microphones, audio splitters and space to fit four television camera tripods and seating for 20 journalists.

Invoices show $800 was spent on a single doorknob.

In a statement Customs said that cost was for “large metal grab handles fixed to both the inside and the outside of a glass panel door”.

It also claimed the annual operating cost of the room for 2014/15 would be around $37,000 and it would continue to be used for internal meetings and as a media conference venue as needed.