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AAP buys Margaret Gee’s, Who’s Who

Australian Associated Press has bought Crown Content’s directories business in a move which brings the Margaret Gee’s Media Guide and Who’s Who in Australia publications into the AAP stable.


AAP chief executive officer Bruce Davidson said Crown Content’s seven online and print directories brands will be incorporated into the AAP Medianet communications solutions business.

The acquisition will strengthen Medianet’s product suite and is expected to deliver increased efficiency and savings through integration of management, sales and production.

“The acquisition of the directories business will create an enhanced value proposition for our clients – including the 1500 current clients of the Margaret Gee’s Media Guide,” Mr Davidson said in a statement on Tuesday.

“By combining the two offerings we intend to market the full spectrum of the media and stakeholder intelligence market – from one-off communications needs to the ongoing requirements of our government, corporate and community clients in Australia and New Zealand.”

The Crown Content stable also includes Who’s Who in Business in Australia, Who’s Who of Australian Women, the National Guide to Government, the Directory of Australian Associations and the Australian Local Government Guide.

Medianet managing director Michael O’Connell said the depth of information available in the Crown Content directories and databases would enhance Medianet’s reach and influence.

“AAP also understands the need for accuracy and is well-placed to continue the high levels of research required for these quality publications,” Mr O’Connell said.

Report sparks WA shopping debate again

Independent grocers say a report recommending further deregulation of retail trading hours in Western Australia will be a “catastrophe” for small business.


The Economic Regulation Authority (ERA) conducted an inquiry into microeconomic reform in WA to improve productivity, and the report was tabled in parliament on Monday.

It recommended retail trading hours be deregulated, with the exception of Christmas Day, Anzac Day morning and Good Friday – similar to the models in Victoria and Tasmania.

“Consumer choice, rather than government regulation, should determine which shops open and when,” the report said.

“Small retailers have already adapted to substantial liberalisation of trading hours in Western Australia, and the structural adjustments that would arise from full deregulation are not anticipated to be as significant.”

But WA Independent Grocers Association president John Cummings said if the recommendation was adopted it would see national retail chains “sweep away” small retailers under a “one-size-fits-all” model.

Mr Cummings said it was wrong to suggest all retail marketplaces and consumers in WA were identical regardless of whether they were in the city, suburbs or country towns.

He said the winners would be national shopping centre chains, while the small and medium sized retailers would struggle, especially in regional areas where there were fewer resources to compete against the chains.

Independent research into the effects of existing trading hours proved current weeknight and Sunday trading was already harming small retailers, Mr Cummings said.

The study, conducted for IGA grocers, showed most small retailers suffered reduced profits and sales since the introduction of weeknight and Sunday trading in 2010 and 2012.

The survey revealed almost 60 per cent of small retailers suffered falls in profits, while almost one third reported nothing had changed, Mr Cummings said.

Air Algerie pilots asked to turn back

France says the pilots of the Air Algerie passenger plane that crashed in Mali, killing all 118 people on board, had asked to turn back.


“What we know for sure is that the weather was bad that night, that the plane crew had asked to change route then to turn back before all contact was lost,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters in his latest briefing about Thursday’s disaster.

It had previously been known that the crew asked to change route due to bad weather conditions, but the revelation they then demanded to turn back is a new development.

Speaking hours after the black box flight recorders of the McDonnell Douglas 83 jet arrived in Paris from Mali to help investigators on Monday, Fabius added that air crash experts currently on the remote desert site of the accident were toiling away in “extremely difficult conditions”.

France’s transport minister, meanwhile, warned that analysing the crucial black boxes that record flight data and cockpit conversations could take “weeks”.

Fabius said more than 20 air accident experts were currently in Mali’s remote, barren Gossi area where the plane came down, working in tough conditions to determine why the plane plunged to the ground and to try and recover remains of the victims.

“The (human) remains are pulverised, the heat is overwhelming with rain to boot and with extreme difficulties in communicating and in transport,” he said at the foreign ministry, where the flag flew at half-mast in mourning for the tragedy that saw entire families wiped out.

Video footage of the Gossi area showed a scene of devastation littered with twisted and burnt fragments of the plane.

France bore the brunt of the tragedy, with 54 of its nationals killed in the crash of flight AH5017, which had taken off from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso bound for Algiers.

Victims also hailed from Burkina Faso, Lebanon, Algeria, Spain, Canada, Germany and Luxembourg.

Several towns across France that lost entire families or couples to the tragedy also announced they would pay hommage to people they held dear.

The central village of Menet, where a family-of-four perished in the crash, said a silent march would take place on Friday in front of the places where the victims used to go, such as the school or certain shops.

“People in the village can’t quite realise what happened. For us, the footage we see on television is extremely violent,” said the mayor Alexis Monier.

The accident is the worst air tragedy to hit France since the crash of the Air France A330 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in June 2009.

Cheika happy to claim underdog tag

NSW Waratahs coach Michael Cheika is happy rather than insulted some pundits rate the Crusaders as favourites over his red-hot side heading into Saturday’s Super Rugby final.


Cheika on Tuesday named an unchanged starting side for the game at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium, which has already drawn ticket sales of more than 38,000.

While bookmakers on both sides of the Tasman have the Waratahs as marginal favourites, plenty of chatter from New Zealand suggests the seven-time title winning Crusaders should enjoy that status.

“I would have expected that’s how they would have thought,” Cheika said on Tuesday.

“I suppose probably part of our history has tended them to lead to that conclusion, that we won’t deliver on the day.

“But I suppose we’ve been told now for a while.

“Everyone thought we’d fall over at some stage.

“We’ll just go out there and play as we have all season, the best we possibly can.

“We’ll try and play really attacking footy and see if we can give them some trouble.”

Asked if he was insulted a team riding a eight-match unbeaten run and home advantage could be considered an underdog, an ebullient Cheika said “usually we’re trying to play for that status, they are just giving it to us perfectly.

“We don’t even have to worry about it, we don’t even have to fight for it.

“I’m not insulted. They are the ones who have been in the finals the last 11 years or whatever.”

Cheika doubted the Crusaders would be haunted by any demons by not having added to their record tally of titles since 2008, having lost in a semi-final or final every subsequent year.

“I doubt it very highly, you get a certain air of confidence when you are continually in the finals,” Cheika said.

NSW lost both their previous finals away to the Crusaders, but Cheika didn’t intend broaching that subject with his players.

“I don’t think so, what’s the relevance?” Cheika said.

“It’s not even worth addressing last week at this stage because that’s over.

“You’ve got to stop taking the pats on the back and reading all the good things, even though they are nice.

“Just focus on the challenge that’s going to come up on Saturday night.”

Cheika had some simple advice for any of his players tasked with tackling giant Crusaders winger Nemani Nadolo on Saturday.

“You’ve just got to put your hiking boots on and try and get in there and hang on,” Cheika said.

Waratahs: Israel Folau, Alofa Alofa, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper (capt), Stephen Hoiles, Jacques Potgieter, Kane Douglas, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson. Res: Tola Latu, Paddy Ryan, Jeremy Tilse, Will Skelton, Mitch Chapman, Pat McCutcheon, Brendan McKibbon, Matt Carraro, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Peter Betham (two to be omitted).

Who in the G20 is (not) afraid of the big bad Russian wolf?

By Fabrizio Carmignani, Griffith University

The downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 has considerably increased the strain on the relationship between Russia and the European Union and United States on the other side.


Following the escalation of the Ukrainian crisis earlier this year, the EU and US had already adopted some “phase two” sanctions, including travel bans and some asset freezes affecting Russian individuals and companies. Russia was also suspended from the G8, whose summit should have taken place in Sochi in June.

The scope of “phase two” sanctions is now being expanded, although the European Union has rejected the push for so-called “phase three” sanctions directed at entire sectors of the Russian economy, for now at least.

Australia has also taken a firm stance against Russia, with foreign minister Julie Bishop succeeding in obtaining a unanimous resolution at the UN Security Council (including permanent member Russia) condemning the downing of the flight and demanding an international, independent investigation.

Even before the plane disaster, there were suggestions that as host of the G20, Australia could possibly remove Russia from the G20 Summit in November. These suggestions are now stronger than ever.

Asked whether this might effectively happen, Prime Minister Tony Abbott replied that he would “… wait and see what will happen” and that:

we want to ensure that visitors to this country have a good will to this country, visitors to this country are people who have done the right thing by this country.

In a meeting with Russian’s trade minister, Abbott went further, saying:

Australia takes a very dim view of countries which facilitate the killing of Australians, as you would expect us to.

Abbott spoke directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin before the approval of the Security Council resolution, but clearly the tension between the two countries remains high.

A unanimous decision made by 19 members of the G20 to remove Russia from the summit would certainly have a significant impact. It would mean that there is a strong, compact anti-Russian coalition capable of enforcing tough sanctions, which extend well above and beyond asset freezes and travel bans (which are standard “phase two” sanctions).

The economic threat for Russia would be credible and would come at a time when its economy is particularly fragile. In 2014 only, some US$75 billion worth of capital has fled Russia. The rate of economic growth decreased to less than 1.5% in 2013 and it is now close to zero.

With the country on the edge of a recession, the prospect of very harsh sanctions sustained by all the largest countries in the world might be enough to convince Russia to change its approach to the Ukrainian situation.

But this is simply not going to happen. At this stage, it seems very unlikely, if not impossible, that all 19 other members of the G20 could agree on excluding Russia from the summit.

When the hypothesis of exclusion first circulated earlier this year, China, India and Brazil issued a statement warning of their concern about Australia’s intention. Only a few days ago, Mexico stressed that blocking anyone from the G20 would be bad for the group.

The European front is also not necessarily unanimous. Countries like Germany, the Netherlands and Italy, which heavily depend on Russian energy exports, might be less willing to ramp up sanctions against the Russian energy sector. France currently has a $1.6 billion contract to sell military helicopters to Russia and might be therefore less prepared to support sanctions that involve an arms embargo.

Given this situation, it might not be a good idea for Australia to insist on excluding Russia. Certainly, as a sovereign state, Australia has the right to deny access to any undesired person, including eventually President Putin and the Russian delegation.

But such a unilateral action would almost certainly split the G20 and lead to its collapse. This would be a real loss for the global community.

Over the past few years, the G20 has proved to be a useful mechanism for coordinating economic policy in response to global shocks. Its demise would make macroeconomic cooperation more difficult, with adverse effects for all countries.

Moreover, the G20 is an open channel of communication between Russia and the rest of the world. Shutting it down would only make the dialogue more difficult, with the risk of returning to a Cold War situation.

Conversely, by bringing leaders together, the summit could create an opportunity to engage in diplomatic negotiations. Something like that already happened last year, when the St Petersburg summit provided the context for addressing the Syrian situation.

All in all, while the strong rhetoric of Abbott and the Australian government is understandable, using the G20 to take an adversarial stance against Russia is likely to do more harm than good. It is instead within the UN Security Council that strong action should be taken to ensure a peaceful solution to the Ukrainian crisis.

Fabrizio Carmignani receives funding from the Australian Research Council for a project on the estimation of the piecewise linear continuous model and its macroeconomic applications.

Wimbledon semis run motivates Raonic

Reaching his first Grand Slam semi-final earlier this month at Wimbledon left seventh-ranked Milos Raonic disappointed in his effort and more motivated to capture his first major title.


The 23-year-old Canadian begins his push to the US Open, what he calls “a very important Slam for me”, this week at the $US1.9 million ($A2.1 million) ATP and WTA Washington Open.

“I felt I could have done much better in that situation,” Raonic said of his 6-4 6-4 6-4 loss to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon semi-finals.

“It has been a lot of frustration, anger and disappointment with the semi-final. It has been transformed into a lot of motivation.

“I hate losing. The stinging stays with me.”

That pushes Raonic, the second seed at Washington behind fifth-ranked Czech Tomas Berdych, as the huge server looks forward to the US Open on his favourite hardcourt surface and coming off his best Slam efforts, his Wimbledon breakthrough and a French Open quarter-final run.

“I can play better than I did at Wimbledon,” Raonic said.

“That doesn’t put me very far away from being able to win the tournament (US Open).”

Raonic looks forward to testing how his game has evolved and how to better exploit his tremendous serve, which has him ranked second in ATP first serve points won on 82 per cent and third in aces with 567.

“I believe I have a better understanding of the damage I can do,” Raonic said.

“People don’t like to play me. I better understand how to use that to my advantage and get more wins from it.

“I have improved in a lot of areas, whether that be technically in shots or as an athlete.”

Raonic sees a major chance to make a jump into the top five for the first time in his career, although he admits French Open winner Rafael Nadal and Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic remain a class apart.

“The biggest barrier is the threshold that Novak and Rafa have on the 1-2 spots. The rest I think, specifically, are up for grabs.”

Final can be decided in a flash: McCaw

Crusaders flanker Richie McCaw knows from past experience, both sweet and bitter, that a crucial moment can decide Saturday’s Super Rugby final result against the Waratahs in Sydney.


“When it comes down to one or two moments, the teams that are good enough to take those opportunities are the ones that win,” the All Blacks captain said.

“If you drop your guard for one or two moments, you’ll come second.”

He will be making his eighth Super final appearance, the first being in 2002 against the Brumbies when the Crusaders won the competition for the fourth time.

McCaw can recall some of the key moments in the finals he’s played.

In 2011, when they lost against the Reds in Queensland, it was when halfback Will Genia scored a try out of nowhere.

In 2008, the last time the Crusaders won a final, also against the Waratahs, it was when they thought they’d scored a try, but the referee pulled play back because of an earlier punch thrown by Brad Thorn.

McCaw said he could see the opposition lift after that.

“That was probably the moment that could have really cost us, but it didn’t.”

The Crusaders displayed their characteristic resilience on that occasion, partly honed by thorough pre-match preparation.

“Everyone says, ‘y’know, you’ve got to go through the process of the week like you always do’ and I think that’s true,” McCaw said.

“I think we’ve got to turn up on Saturday with all the detail of how we’re going to play sorted.”

McCaw admits that even with his years of international experience he still gets nervous ahead of big games.

“It’s a good sort of nervous though,” he said.

“These are the moments that you want to be involved in and the games you want to play in.

“You go through all the hard work for three or four, five months to give yourself a shot at this game.”

The Crusaders have gone five seasons without a title, and are desperate for there not to be a sixth come Sunday.

McCaw said this side were different from recent ones that had made it to the semi-finals then hadn’t performed.

“At least this year we’ve given ourselves a chance and now the big job is to perform when it really counts.

“That’s what champion teams do, and that’s what we’re really keen to do.”

$800 spent on doorknob in unused government room

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-redacted 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 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 door knob.

Mokbel ‘helped pay’ for Hodson murders

Former drug kingpin Tony Mokbel paid $50,000 to have a police informer killed on behalf of a Victorian detective, an inquest has been told.


Terence Hodson and his wife, Christine, were found shot dead at their Kew home in May 2004, months before he was due to give evidence in a criminal trial against drug squad detective Paul Dale.

A man, known only as witness M, told the inquest into the Hodsons’ deaths that hitman Rodney Charles Collins had once boasted of getting rid of “brain tumours” for a police officer.

Witness M said he later understood that removing brain tumours meant shooting the Hodsons in the head.

Mokbel later told him he had put in $50,000 towards “Dale’s medical costs, if you know what I mean”, witness M told the Victorian Coroners Court on Tuesday.

He said Mokbel told him he had known the detective for a long time and was confident of extracting information about police investigations.

Mokbel then said “Skinny” – meaning gangland killer Carl Williams – had contributed the rest of the money for the hit, witness M said.

Witness M said the Hodsons’ names were never mentioned in the conversations, but he was left with a clear inference about who Mokbel and Collins had meant.

Detective Senior Sergeant Sol Solomon said witness M’s story had checked out, rejecting a suggestion from Mr Dale’s barrister, Geoffrey Steward, that it was fanciful.

“That’s more than plausible in relation to witness M. It happened,” Det Sen Sgt Solomon told the inquest.

Mr Steward accused Det Sen Sgt Solomon of being “completely blinkered” in relation to his client’s connection to the murder.

“Absolutely I disagree – 240 people were spoken to,” Det Sen Sgt Solomon replied.

“Paul Dale was spoken to on day one, gave us his alibi and we never went near him for three-and-a-half years.”

Mr Dale and Collins were charged with the Hodsons’ murder in 2009, but the charges were withdrawn the following year when Williams was murdered in prison.

Williams claimed Mr Dale paid him $150,000 to have Mr Hodson killed.

Both Collins and Mr Dale have denied involvement.

Det Sen Sgt Solomon said police did not believe that a criminal who had been implicated by Mr Hodson was responsible for his murder.

“I never got the impression that they harboured that amount of ill feeling towards him because of his informing,” he said.

“There was never any outward angst or hostility expressed.”

Det Sen Sgt Solomon said the crime was committed by someone with “supreme proficiency in the art of killing people”.

Mokbel is serving a 30-year jail sentence with a minimum 22 years for drug crimes.

Collins is serving two life sentences for the murder of Dorothy and Ramon Abbey, who were shot dead at their Melbourne home in 1987.

The inquest, before State Coroner Judge Ian Gray, continues.

Waratahs have seized their destiny – Cheika

The Waratahs host the Canterbury Crusaders in the Super Rugby title-decider on Saturday, bidding for a maiden trophy in their first final on home soil.


The most consistent and entertaining team in the southern hemisphere competition, the Waratahs have come a long way since their ‘annus horribilis’ in 2012, when they managed just four wins and were jeered off the ground by their own supporters.

Cheika, who took over in the wake of that dismal season, doubled the Waratahs’ wins in his first year in charge and has been credited for turning a once-demoralised roster into an industrious and joy-filled team that prides itself on hard work.

The 47-year-old, who guided Irish team Leinster to their first Heineken Cup trophy in 2008-09, is reluctant to take credit for the team’s transformation but said his players had absorbed one lesson from his staff – the need to take responsibility for the club’s fortunes and failures.

“I don’t know if I turned the morale around,” Cheika said in a phone interview. “I think what we just did, we got in there and said ‘let’s take a bit of ownership as to what’s happening’.

“Everything goes a bit better if someone owns it. We’ve got some skin in it. Let’s take some sacrifices and take ownership.

“Because it’s not like a privately-owned team. There’s no owner standing there saying ‘come on, you’ve got to do this and that or whatever’.

“We as players and coaches have got to take ownership and take it personally and live it. I think that’s what we’ve tried to do.

“If you do that, you get more involved and it becomes more a part of you so you feel everything a little bit more and you get more attached and therefore you give more effort and it’s a bit of a circle in that way.”

Though having reached the 2005 and 2008 finals, both times beaten away by the Crusaders, the Waratahs did appear to suffer a ‘tragedy of the commons’ in the final years of coach Michael Foley, with a talent-laden playing roster seemingly unable to translate abundant resources into on-field success.


Slammed by local media for playing an unappetising brand of rugby, Sydney fans stopped turning up for games amid reports of dire financial troubles at the club.

Saturday’s clash may surpass an Australian record for a Super Rugby match and the fans have returned in droves this year as the Waratahs, powered by a sometimes breathtaking running game, stormed to the top of the standings at the end of the regular season.

Like fullback Israel Folau and his Wallabies team mate Kurtley Beale, hot properties in world rugby and wooed by Australia’s National Rugby League competition, Cheika’s future at the Waratahs is also a matter of speculation.

Reports have linked the former Randwick number eight with a role at French giants Toulon, though he has laughed them off.

Winning the title for long-suffering New South Wales fans might be the perfect send-off, but Cheika said his vision for the Waratahs extended far beyond Saturday’s final siren.

“I’m very circumspect about the word ‘dynasty’. There’s a bit of thinking about ruling over an empire with that type of thing,” he said.

“What’s important is that we’re leaving something for the next season’s team, something around our behaviour, our culture if you like. About our play, our identity, all those things.

“Last year’s team worked hard on leaving something good for this year’s team to build on.

“And (it’s the same) for next year’s team to build on. It’s about not just working for the short-term. A lot of guys come into the game wanting a professional contact (anywhere) but we want guys coming through wanting to play for the Waratahs.

“We can do that by keep pushing our identity and making it very clear for anyone that if you want to play here, this is what you’re going to get.”

(Editing by John O’Brien)