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A former government lawyer who resigned after spectacularly falling out with ex-attorney-general George Brandis will do battle for ACT Labor senator Katy Gallagher as her citizenship case goes to the High Court.
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Justin Gleeson SC, who left his role as solicitor-general following a public deterioration in relations with Senator Brandis, will argue the case for Senator Gallagher after she was caught up in the dual citizenship fiasco that has ejected multiple parliamentarians.

Mr Gleeson also acted for Tony Windsor in the High Court, fighting the former New England MP’s nemesis, deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, as the Nationals leader’s citizenship case was heard in October.

The Senate voted to refer Senator Gallagher to the High Court over her dual British citizenship in December, when she also stood aside from her responsibilities on Labor’s frontbench until her case was resolved.

A finding on her eligibility could have implications for other Labor MPs under a cloud over dual citizenship claims, but the ALP says it won’t consider a High Court ruling on Senator Gallagher as a precedent.

Senator Gallagher said she believed she had taken all reasonable steps to renounce British citizenship by descent from her father, but delays in processing her case by the UK Home Office meant she was a dual citizen at the time of nomination for the 2016 election.

Documents provided to the Senate this month showed she was “at the date of her nomination for the 2016 election, a British citizen by descent” and that her moves to renounce in April 2016 took until August 16 to be completed by UK officials.

Labor has enlisted Maurice Blackburn as Senator Gallagher’s solicitors and it is understood the High Court will decide whether the ALP or the government bears the costs for her legal representation upon making a ruling.

Batman Labor MP David Feeney’s case will also go to the High Court after he admitted he could not find documents proving he renounced his British citizenship.

Mr Gleeson argued in Mr Joyce’s High Court case the Nationals leader should be disqualified as an MP, warning the High Court that chaos and uncertainty accompanying Parliament’s dual citizenship crisis will be repeated in future if the court accepted that ignorance was a valid defence.

Section 44 of the constitution required strict “undivided loyalty” from MPs and dual citizenship did not need to be “voluntary, chosen or felt” to create a split allegiance, Mr Gleeson said.

Clearing Mr Joyce and other MPs on the basis that they were ignorant of their status would set a dangerous precedent, he said.

The High Court will hold a directions hearing for Senator Gallagher’s case on January 19 in Brisbane.

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Kuala Lumpur: An Australian grandmother who was the victim of an online romance scam has been acquitted of drugs charges in Malaysia.
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Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, 54, would have faced execution if found guilty in Malaysia’s High Court on Wednesday, despite lawmakers in Kuala Lumpur voting only weeks ago to give judges discretionary powers in individual cases.

The new law passed in Malaysia’s parliament on November 30 would not have saved her because it has not yet been formally gazetted.

Prosecutors told Exposto’s lawyers on Wednesday night they had decided to appeal the acquittal, meaning she will not be allowed to immediately return to Australia.

Earlier prosecutors had asked for her to be deported with days.

Ms Exposto insisted she was duped into flying into Kuala Lumpur’s international airport from Shanghai in December 2014 with 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine in her luggage.

Defence lawyers say Ms Exposto, a mother of four from Cabramatta in Sydney, was the victim of a sophisticated US military romance scam that has entrapped thousands of people.

She told Malaysia’s High Court in September she fell for the scam after building an online relationship with a supposed US soldier and Afghanistan veteran named “Captain Daniel Smith” who asked her to marry him in 2013.

She said her relationship with her husband was “getting a bit sour” at the time.

Ms Exposto said she was lured into carrying a bag from Shanghai to Melbourne – transiting in Kuala Lumpur – which she believed to contain only clothing by a supposed acquaintance of the soldier.

“He (Smith) made me feel loved, he made me feel wanted,” she said.

The scam involved the supposed soldier sending her photographs .

“Smith would sing to me a few times a day and send poems as well,” she said.

Defence lawyer Shafee Abdullah told reporters that Ms Exposto’s testimony revealed what she strongly believed was a close relationship with the fictional Smith.

“There are probably thousands, mostly women, who have (been) conned in similar situations,” he said.

Ms Exposto arrived in court on Wednesday wearing a black blazer, white top and black slacks, having lost weight during more than two years in a Kuala Lumpur jail.

She smiled and chatted with lawyers before the verdict was delivered.

A judge said he found that Ms Exposto had no knowledge of the drugs in the bag, rejecting a prosecution submission that her story about the love scam was an afterthought.

The judge said he believed Ms Exposto’s love for the online scammer was genuine and that they been in contact for two years.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has warned that scammers targeting Australians in love scams will go to “great lengths to gain your interest and trust, such as sharing personal information and even sending you gifts”.

“Scammers may take months to build what seems like the romance of a lifetime and may even pretend to book flights to visit you, but never actually come,” the ACCC said.

The commission warned there are dozens of scams including those involved in dating and romance, identity theft, get-rich investments, money transfers, jobs and employment.

Fraudsters often personalise scams to fit the profile of their victim.

Often scammers use fake webcams, video changing programs and photographs of other people to build a false identity and then prowl the internet for victims.

The US military has described the scams as a “growing epidemic”.

Australian defence personnel have also had their identities stolen by scammers.

Defence lawyers say Ms Exposto, a former social worker in East Timor, has never wavered in her account of the scam.

Mr Shafee said Ms Exposto is a “responsible mother” who told him she is so anti-drugs that if her four children ever got involved in drugs she would kill them herself.

Her family and friends in Sydney, including a son who travelled to Kuala Lumpur for the verdict, were shocked by her arrest after she volunteered to put her bag with the drugs through Customs screening.

The drugs were sewn into a hidden compartment in the bag and she insists she never knew they were there.

Malaysia has hanged more than 440 convicted drug offenders since 1960.

Two Australians, Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers, were the first Westerners to be executed under Malaysia’s then new drug laws in 1989, after being arrested with 141.9 grams of heroin.

Michael McAuliffe, another Australian, was hanged in Kuala Lumpur in 1993 after being found with heroin in his pocket at a Penang airport checkpoint.

Malaysian government officials say despite the law change giving judges discretionary powers on capital punishment, authorities are not going softer on drug trafficking.

“We do not want the judges’ hands tied,” said Azalina Othman Said, a minister in the prime minister’s department.

After the acquittal, Ms Exposto was sent back to jail on Wednesday night.

Lawyers said her passport had expired while she was awaiting trial and they would apply for another from the Australian embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Mr Abdullah told reporters after the verdict the case was “clear cut”. He said there was overwhelming evidence she was tricked into carrying the bag.

Leaving the court, Ms Exposto’s son Hugo said: “I am very happy.”

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Long-viewed as Australia’s next coach, Justin Langer says it is way too early to think about whether he will take over the role when incumbent Darren Lehmann stands down at the end of the 2019 Ashes.
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Lehmann, who was appointed Australian coach after Mickey Arthur was sacked shortly before the 2013 Ashes series in England, this week confirmed in an interview with Fox Sports that he would not seek a new deal when his current contract expires in less than two years.

“That will be it,” Lehmann said. “It will be a case of too much time, too much travel.”

Lehmann’s former Test teammate Langer, who coaches Western Australia and the Perth Scorchers, has seemingly been on the path to replace Lehmann, having already filled in for Lehmann in white ball series.

Langer’s record with the Scorchers is terrific, while he also led WA to the most recent one-day title in October.

However speaking after the Scorchers continued their unbeaten start to the season with a win over the Melbourne Stars at the WACA on Tuesday night, Langer said the job wasn’t on his radar.

“It’s all hypothetical. It’s two years away,” the long-time gritty Test opener said.

“Had we lost [against the Stars], I would be a rubbish coach and not even considered for it.

“So I know how fickle it is. It’s so fickle. It’s all about timing. Life’s about timing. A lot happens in two years.”

Asked specifically about whether his family situation would prevent him from taking the job, he played a straight bat.

“Honestly I don’t even have to think about it at the moment. It’s two years away. Honestly, I love my job here [in Perth].”

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Good-Hearted: Myles Young, of the University of Newcastle, will run a project on reducing the risk of heart disease. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers Exercise would be the most widely prescribed medication on earth if it could be condensed into a pill, University of Newcastle researcher Myles Young says.
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The benefits of exercise are paramount in Dr Young’s new program to tackle a trio of serious health problems in men.

“Obesity and depression are two of the largest contributors to heart disease in men,” Dr Young said.

“While exercise alone won’t solve all of men’s health concerns, it’s an effective strategy to improve physical health, mental health and overall quality of life.”

Dr Young said exercising for only one hour a week “appears to provide some protection” against depression.

“The more exercise you do, the stronger this effect becomes,” he said.

Dr Young’sprogram is calledSHED-IT: Recharge. Participants willbe recruited mid-year.

Read more: Mixing up exercises is great for the muscles

The program features an online program designed to reduce cardiovascular risk factors in men, who are overweight or obese and experiencing depression.

The program will show men how to lose weight through “sustainable behaviour change, without having to attend face-to-face consultations”.

“We think our study will be the first internationally to evaluate a program designed to reduce cardiovascular risk factors in men with obesity and depression,” he said.

Confusion about diet, exercise and health is common among men.

“Unfortunately a lot of Aussie blokes think that being healthy means they have to eat like a rabbit and work out at the gym every day.

“However, men can lose weight and reduce their risk of heart disease without having to completely overhaul their current lifestyle.”

The program is designed to be sustainable.

“We argue that everything you do to lose weight, you need to be prepared to do for the rest of your life,” he said.

Read more: Why exercise isn’t fun anymore, and what we can do to fix it

Overall, 70 per cent of Australian men are overweight or obese and 80 per cent are not meeting physical activity recommendations.

About 97 per cent of men don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables and almost 50 per cent experience regular sleep difficulties.

Additionally, about 12 per cent of menhave a current diagnosis of depression.

“We expect there are a lot more who are having difficulties, but are not seeking help,” Dr Young said.

These factors were key causes ofthe high rates of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in Australian men.

“Obesity and depression are chronic health conditions that exist in a complex, linked relationship,” Dr Young said.

“They don’t always occur together, but a recent study found that men who were overweight or obese were 30 per cent more likely to develop depression than those who were a healthy weight.

In the reverse scenario, men with depression were 43 per cent more likely to develop obesity – suggesting the two conditions may be linked.

“Obesity and depression also increase the risk of heart disease through a range of biological processes,” he said.

They also make it harder for men to exercise and eat healthy food.

Research shows that men are more likely to participate in programs designed specifically for their preferences and interests.

The project aims to show that men can reduce their risk of heart disease, improve their mental health and lose weight by making small changes to their lifestyle and thinking.

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THURSDAY, December 28, 2017, marks the 28thanniversary of the 1989 Newcastle earthquake, an event that will stayforever in the minds of those who lived through it.
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It is a day seared into the brain of every person who found themselves that morning in the city centre, or in Hamilton, or the various other hot-spots of shaking and damage that radiated across the region.

Despite its importance to those who were there, the relentless march of time means that a generation of adult Novocastrians will go about their business this anniversary with no direct experienceof one of the most extraordinary periods of our history.

For them, and for children and teenagers today, the 1989 earthquake is a matter of history, something to be experienced through story, or film footage, the written word or photographs, rather than something that was felt through a dawning realisation that the world was shaking, and that something was terribly, terribly wrong.

If there was one extraordinary aspect of that earthquake, it was that so much damage was wrought across such a broad area, with only 13 deaths and 160 or so taken to hospital.Coming three days after Christmas, it meant the city had far fewer workers than would normally be the case. People were out of the areaon holidays. The evening of the 28th, rock band Split Enz had been scheduled to play in the main auditorium of the workers club, which collapsed, its roof hitting the floor, in the shaking. As bad as it was in the end, things could have beenmuch worse.

As is often the way in times of adversity, the earthquake became a salve for our community –a community that pulled together when things were at their worst. In this era of hi-visibility vests and endless workplace safety protocols, it is worth remembering that much of the work on quake day was done by volunteerstoiling alongside the official rescue services.

Everyone who could, pitched in.

It took literally years for the scars of the damage to be erased from the streetscape, and history shows it was the flood of insurance money that poured into the city –reckoned at the time to be more than $1 billion –that began the rejuvenation of the inner city and its surrounding suburbs.

Todaywe live in a very different-looking Newcastle, with stronger building codes. Even so, we arestill a city susceptible to the unpredictable tectonicforces of nature.

ISSUE: 38,685.

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According to Jacinta Tobin, a Darug woman from western Sydney, without even being aware we all speak at least a little of her traditional language.
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“You say things like wombat, wallaby, corroboree, boomerang,” she says. “Place names, like Bondi.”

And now Tobin is on a mission to expand our knowledge beyond that rudimentary vocabulary, breathing fresh life into the ancient Darug language.

Along with Joel Davison, a Gadigal and Dunghutti man, she is gearing up for a second year teaching Darug at a Sydney Festival program called Bayala, after the Darug word for “speak”. The program includes classes, an exhibition of historical records and a singing ceremony.

“I believe our ancestors are walking with us and trying to bring the language out of our mouths,” Tobin says.

Last year, Bayala was a huge hit with festival-goers, with spots selling out within the first week. This year, the number of beginner places has been doubled and organisers have added a more advanced course focusing on grammar and language structure. Both will be run in Parramatta as well as in the CBD.

The enthusiastic students covered a broad range of ages and ethnic backgrounds and even included an Irish professor who was interested in how Australia’s language revitalisation efforts compared to those of Ireland.

Tobin and Davison have reconstructed the sounds of the language from written historical material.

“We don’t have native speakers any more who have learnt it since childhood, that we can just grab and say, hey, teach these classes,” Davison explains.

Language revival and reclamation has generated a host of startlingly diverse benefits for Indigenous communities.

“There have been studies that have shown that when you give an ethnic minority that have lost their language their language back, it results in a lot of health improvements and resolves a lot of issues they have with cultural and personal identity,” Davison says.

Ahmar Mahboob, an associate professor of linguistics at the University of Sydney, agrees.

“There’s a growing body of evidence that demonstrates that empowering Indigenous languages empowers Indigenous communities and reduces economic, health and legal issues.”

There have been similar findings from indigenous communities around the world.

Researchers in Canada, where suicide rates in First Nations communities are up to 11 times the national average, found rates of language competence could be used to predict the suicide rate of a community more accurately than many other cultural factors.

In communities where most members could speak their language at a conversational level, the suicide rate dropped almost to zero – below the national average.

Closer to home, at the University of Adelaide, linguists and medical researchers are investigating how language revival in the Barngarla community correlates with incarceration rates, school performance and even the prevalence of diabetes.

Mahboob and Professor Jakelin Troy, Director of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research at the University of Sydney, are planning ambitious research with indigenous communities from Asia, Europe, South America and Australia to explore the relationship between health and wellbeing and indigenous language use.

While Mahboob calls the Bayala programs “a fantastic initiative”, he also stresses the need for an expanded approach to language revival that emphasises practical, real-life applications, “such as through mother tongue-based multilingual education and integrating Indigenous languages into the linguistic landscape of the communities”.

Tobin and Davison, who also work with schools throughout the year, have noticed that teachers themselves are among the keenest to learn.

“The thing that I’m most proud of is that consistently in our classes there were educators, and they ranged from preschool educators, to K-6, to high school and university educators,” Davison says.

“Most everyone that has come [to the classes] sends the message to me that it gives them something to be proud of beyond 200 years of white Australian history,” he says. “In our eyes, 200 years is a very short period of time.”

The Bayala language courses will take place on January 10-12 and 23-25 in the CBD, and January 17-19 in Parramatta, while free one-hour language classes will be held on January 6, 13 and 20 in the CBD, and January 14 in Parramatta.

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History was created in Adelaide a few weeks back with the first day-night Ashes Test (for men) but we’re unlikely to see one played under lights in the 2019 series.
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Despite the concept’s success in Australia, the England and Wales Cricket Board is keen to stick with tradition when it comes to cricket’s oldest rivalry.

It is a surprising stance given the success of the maiden day/night Test held on English soil, against the West Indies, this year. Despite finishing in three days, host club Warwickshire, which exceeded its commercial targets, gave the game a resounding thumbs up.

The 2019 series will start later than usual due to the World Cup, also held in England, not finishing until July 15.

While the ECB is keen to continue floodlit Tests, they may deem the pulling power of the Ashes sufficient to draw a decent crowd.

“It’s to be decided but it’s unlikely to be honest,” ECB chief Tom Harrison said on ABC Grandstand. “We’ve got a formula which works brilliantly well for us in Ashes cricket in the UK. Right time, right place, right conditions are the rules for day/night Test cricket. We’ll wait and see but unlikely, I would say.”

Boxing Day Test reunion for Marsh, Curran

Tom Curran joked that the only way to make up for missing out on David Warner as his first wicket would be to get Steve Smith instead.

That he did, though it would also have been fitting had his maiden Test scalp been Mitchell Marsh.

The pair have history, of the good kind, we must add. It dates back to Geoff Marsh’s time as coach of Zimbabwe from 2001-04, and Kevin Curran his assistant.

When the Currans were kicked off their family farm by Robert Mugabe, they were taken in by Marsh, who was living in a house in Harare belonging to the Zimbabwe cricket board. Mitchell was also there at the time and became good friends with Tom and his younger brother Sam, who is also a player of promise.

The trio will be reunited next year after Marsh signed a contract to play at Surrey for 2018.??? Lovely news this morning that @mitchmarsh235 is coming to @surreycricket next year, great memories of us all growing up [email protected]_TC59pic.twitter南京夜网/NSZ4Ru0nw2??? Sam Curran (@CurranSM) October 20, 2017 Photo: Reuters

The Tonk is hoping Bouchard sees the ball better at Melbourne Park next month.

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The Eaglehawk CFA captain suspended after a female teenage volunteer was allegedly manhandled has resigned from the firefighting organisation.
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Hayden Allen, who was one of four men suspended earlier this monthwhile an investigation into the November 25 incident took place, quit the organisation last week.

It is understood Mr Allen resigned because of concerns he had about the way CFA management handled the investigation.

News of the investigation and the men’s suspension was revealed by the CFA on December 6.

Hayden Allen

CCTV footage from inside the Eaglehawk station showed the men pulling the hair of the 17-year-old girl, pushing her to the ground, feigning to kick her and rolling her under a truck to wet her with the its sprinkler system.

Several other bystanders watched the incident take place but did not intervene.

It is believed none of the other three suspended volunteers have quit the CFA at this time.

First LieutenantDuncan Murley will now take on the role of captain.

Police who investigated the incident laid no charges, saying the young woman did not want to pursue the matter.

Still, CFAchief officer Steve Warrington said the behaviour of those who made contact with the girl, as well as those who watched on, was unacceptable.

“People, this stuff belongs in the past, full stop,” he said in a video message earlier this month.

“We can’t tolerate this behaviour in CFA anymore.”

A CFA spokesman today said the investigation was still underway and that it would be inappropriate to comment at this time.

Mr Allen was also contacted but declined to comment.

The allegations against the suspended men renewed calls from political leaders for the release of aVictorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission report on theculture of the state’s fire services.

Previously subject to a court challenge from the United Firefighters’ Union, the report is now set for release next month after VHREOC was deemed to have both the power and appropriate methodology to studyequity and diversity in the CFA and MFB.

“[The]decision means that the stories, experiences and insights from men and women across the CFA and MFB will be heard, and will help set the agencies on a meaningful path of cultural reform,” commissioner Kristen Hilton said after the court handed down its decision.

“We will publish the full report in January 2018,” Ms Hilton said.

Bendigo Advertiser

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FINISHING SCHOOL: Dimi Petratos crunches a volley at Newcastle Jets training on Wednesday. The Jets face a hectic schedule of four games in 14 days. Picture: Jonathan CarrollCOACH Ernie Merrick has stressed the importance of ‘picking uppoints’ as the Newcastle Jets embark on a helter skelter four games in 14 days which could prove pivotal in the race for the A-League premiership.
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The Jets take on a resurgent Melboune Victory at AAMI Park on Friday night.They then back up on the road against leaders Sydney FC next Wednesday (January 3) beforehome games against Central Coast (January 9) and Brisbane (January 12).

The Jets, sitting second on 26 points, are five points adrift of the Sky Blues, whose work load will increase in Februarywith the start of theAsian Champions League Group stage.

Significantly, the Jets, who haven’t made the finals in seven years,have a seven-point buffer to third placed Melbourne City and are 14 points clear of the Mariners in seventh.

Launching pad: Four games in 14 days chance for Jets to shoot clear TweetFacebookDimi doing what Dimi does best! @[email protected]@ALeaguepic.twitter南京夜网/7uXrIDih34

— James Gardiner (@JamesGardiner42) December 27, 2017Jason Hoffman with the finish and then the header. @[email protected]@ALeaguepic.twitter南京夜网/8HaVUzlc7t

— James Gardiner (@JamesGardiner42) December 27, 2017

“It is the ‘summerfesitival of football’yet everyone is losing players to an under-23 competition that is really, worthless,” Merrick said.“It would be ideal to have our full squad so we can rotate players but we don’t have the numbers. Usually in these situations the senior players are the ones you rely on to hang in there. With a couple of boys back from injury, at least we have a couple of spots we can rotate.”

Victory, after a slow start to the campaign, have found their mojo, winning three of the past four games to move to fifth spot on 16 points.

“We did a video session this morning,” Merrick said.“We looked at our last game against Wanderers. We also looked at how Victory set up against Melbourne City and we also looked at how we played against them last time.You obviously want to repeat that type of performance.”

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Can you please clarify the capital gains tax aspects of the following situation? My wife and I separated in 2012. She lives in one of our two properties, I in the other. Both titles are as joint tenants. One property, purchased in 2001, was operated as a bed and breakfast until 2008. The other was purchased in 1999 as the marital home. We are both nearing 80, so need to consider the implications of selling one property when one of us dies. The survivor could live in either. Any thoughts you have on this would be appreciated. P.O.
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Being the marital home, the 1999 property will be fully exempt from CGT until 2012 when one of you moved out. If we assume that it is you who continue to live into it, then your 50 per cent remains exempt.

If your wife now claims the other property as her main residence, then her share of the original home became subject to CGT since 2012. She should try to obtain the market value of the home at that time. Market value is used to establish a cost base when you lose your entitlement to an exemption for the main residence. However, if her 50 per cent share can be passed to you as part of a court order or a financial agreement under the Family Law Act, it can be rolled over into one name without any CGT liability. I understand that married couples need to apply to the Family Court for a property adjustment within 12 months of a divorce becoming final, but I’m not a lawyer.

The 2001 property was fully liable for CGT until 2012 when one of you, let’s assume your wife, moved in. Since it became her main residence, her 50 per cent share became CGT exempt. When a property is first rented and then you move in, the capital gain must be apportioned by time of ownership.

Again, if full title is moved to her as part of a court-ordered settlement, then the period from 2012 on should become CGT exempt, but there will still be a CGT liability created while the property was used as an investment. In each case, I am assuming no capital losses.

You and your wife can choose to talk to a lawyer or you approach the Family Court directly and even jointly file for divorce online. Google “Family Court How Do I apply for a divorce”.

My wife and I are both 50 with one child (13). My annual salary is $120,000 gross plus fully maintained car and salary continuance insurance and my wife is self-employed earning approximately $3000 a year. We have a mortgage on our home of $150,000 at 4.55 per cent with $210,000 in our offset account and monthly repayments of $1800. Current value of the property is about $550,000. We have $35,000 in bank savings. My super is currently $200,000, with regular after-tax annual contributions, and my wife’s is $40,000. She is not considering full-time employment at the moment. We are considering a few options in the near future: retain the current property as an investment and upgrade to a bigger home, or increase wife’s super with after-tax contributions, or invest funds now in a savings account in shares through a high-growth managed fund, or set up a savings plan for the child’s tertiary education. I understand that some of our objectives may not be appropriate from the tax benefit perspective but we simply do not understand the full tax impact and how to manage our plan. I hope that you may be able to suggest changes or how to prioritise our strategy, as we hope to have at least another 10 years before considering any retirement plan. V.J.

I suggest you have a short-term objective, which is to enlarge your living space, and two important long-term objectives, which are to retire debt free and have enough money in super to support your lifestyle in retirement.

If more space is a necessity, your choices would be to either sell and upsize, or knock down and rebuild your home, or put on a second storey to your existing home. Living in a capital city, you are unlikely to be able to buy a larger, second home and have it paid off by retirement, even if you work to 65 or 70.

The last option would probably be the least cost and you might be able to cover it using your savings, including the money in the offset account.

Looking at the remaining $150,000 mortgage, it should easily be payable over 10 years as your $1800 monthly repayments would even cover an average interest rate of 7.7 per cent.

Then, to build up your super from the current $240,000 to a minimum of, say, $1 million, over 10 years, would require you to make the maximum deductible contribution in your name, starting at $25,000 this year, plus a $3000 spouse contribution into your wife’s super fund (allowing you to reduce your tax with a $540 tax offset) plus a further $17,000 non-concessional contributions. That third contribution will probably be impossible but if you can make the first two contributions, your combined super will add up to around $750,000-$800,000 in 10 years, assuming a 5 per cent return on funds. So you will probably decide to work through to age 65 or even later. By then, the age pension age will be 70.

I am 68 and during the year ended 30 June 2017, I received a gross annual pension of $68,590 and my transfer balance credit has been calculated at $1,097,440. In addition to my pension I worked for 40 hours to satisfy the work test and for this work I received a gross amount of $885. As I satisfied the work test I made a contribution of $33,000 to my accumulation account prior to 30 June 2017. After completing my income tax return, but before lodgement, I notified the fund that I would be claiming a tax deduction in the amount of $30,500 and this has now been processed by the fund. I have two pension accounts with AustralianSuper and at 30 June, the sum of these was $466,714. I also have an accumulation account that had a balance of $39,529 at 30 June. The three pension accounts come to $1,565,154 and as such I have assumed that I fall within the $1.6 million maximum, however I am now unsure. My questions are as follows: 1. Am I correct in assuming that I fall under the $1.6 million limit or do I need to include the amount of $39,529 that I had in the accumulation account? 2. If I need to include the funds held in the accumulation account then the total becomes $1,604,683 and what are the ramifications of exceeding the limit? 3. What are the implications going forward of the $885 I received for doing my 40 hours work during the 2017 income tax year? 4. If I satisfy the work test for the year ended 30 June 2018, will I be able to make a $25,000 contribution to my accumulation account and claim it as a tax deduction? I have been having sleepless nights worrying about my situation and even though I have phoned AustralianSuper for advice they were not able to answer my questions. B.L.

The $1.6 million transfer balance cap or TBC only refers to super funds “in the retirement phase” as it is now quaintly put. It sounds as though your $68,590 annual pension is a defined benefit fund and that, multiplied by 16, gives a debit to your transfer balance account of $1,097,440.

As you say, your two allocated pension accounts with AustralianSuper take the total that counts towards your TBC to $1,565,154, which is within your $1.6 million cap and therefore you have nothing to worry about. You could, in fact, create another pension holding $34,840 from your accumulation account if you wish, but you cannot add more than that without running into problems with the ATO.

You can continue to make concessional, i.e. deductible, contributions each financial year that you meet the work test, such as the maximum $25,000 contribution in 2017-18 and the amount you earn is irrelevant. If you are paying more than 15 per cent tax on income from your work and defined benefit pension, then leave the accumulation account in existence, just don’t convert it into an allocated pension. Rather, take out lump sums as you need to spend it.

There is another account of which you need to take note and that is your “total superannuation balance” or TSB. Simply put, this is the sum of all your retirement phase pensions and accumulation accounts, (the latter includes transition to retirement pensions, now taxed since last July). Since your TSB is now over $1.6 million, a number of restrictions come into play, not all of which affect you. Those that do may include:

1.You cannot make any further non-concessional contributions or NCCs (which also means that you can no longer claim the government co-contribution of up to $500 for an NCC of up to $1000 nor, if you were under 65, could you use the “three year bring forward option”).

2. You will not be able to use the “unused concessional contributions cap carry-forward option that comes into force from next July. In fact, to be able to carry forward, and use in a later year, up to five years of your unused concessional contributions cap, from July 1, 2019, your TSB must be under $500,000 as at June 30 of the previous financial year.

Those restrictions that do not, or are unlikely to, apply to you include:

1. If your spouse’s TSB is greater than $1.6 million at the end of June 30 of the previous financial year, or if he or she has exceeded their $100,000 NCC cap in the financial year, then you are no longer able to claim a tax offset for a spouse contribution.

2. If you were the trustee of an SMSF or small APRA fund, you could not use the segregated assets method for determining the taxfree income.

3. For a person who wants to use the “three year bring forward rule” for non-concessional contribution in 2017-18 and later years, then:

(a) you will only be able to bring forward the full $300,000 NCC over 3 years if your TSB at June 30 is less than $1.4 million (a figure that will be indexed up in future years); and

(b) if your benefits total between $1.4 million and $1.5 million, the maximum bring forward amount will be $200,000 over two years, and

(c ) If your balance lies between $1.5 million and $1.6 million, your NCC cap will be $100,000 alone.

We have recently sold a home unit, an investment property. We now have some $300,000 to invest and would like to know the best option for maximising a return? Our financial assets include combined allocated pensions totalling $622,000, a super fund of some $16,000, and some $20,000 in term deposits. We currently draw a combined pension from our allocated pensions totalling $31,460. We own our home and have two cars and a caravan. We previously received a small Centrelink aged pension of $3564 combined which was not insignificant and formed part of our budget. This was withdrawn when the government moved the goalposts last year. We need the interest on this investment of $300,000 to form part of our budget, as we did previously; the rental income netted us about $7600 annually. Can you advise the best way to invest this $300,000? We have checked out term deposits but the return is not enough to generate sufficient income. What other secure alternatives are there? What do you think of annuities for such an investment? What are the rules re adding capital to superannuation? This might be a possibility for one of us as one partner is still working, be it only one day, casually, a week. Are there any other alternatives which do not involve risking the capital investment? R.H.

If your working partner can manage 40 hours in 30 days (it might require working two days in one of the four weeks), then he or she can make a $100,000 non-concessional contribution into a super fund each financial year.

Term annuities, notably from Challenger, can offer somewhat higher rates than bank term deposits. If you want a guaranteed capital return and also want frequent access to some capital, my preferred strategy is to invest one third of the money ($100,000) into each of three annuities, at first for 1, 2 and 3 years, Then, when one matures, roll it over into a three-year term so that, after two years, you have trio of term annuities, each with a three-year term, one of which matures every year. Last time I checked, Challenger was offering 2.52, 3.11 and 3.27 per cent respectively, which would initially give you some $8895 in the first year and thus more than you were getting from rent. Lifetime annuities exist, but lock you into historically low rates.

If you are able to cope with investment fluctuations, my preference would be to place the money into a selection of, say, five or six “multi-sector” i.e. balanced and diversified funds in, say, the Colonial First State Investment fund which allows you to stipulate what monthly payment you need, e.g. $650, thus receiving a mix of capital and interest in some months. Other funds exist, of course, such as wrap accounts, while the current fad is for listed platforms such as Hub24 or Netwealth although, in many cases, they require an adviser to be attached to the account.

Such multi-sector accounts have earned between 5 and 8 per cent compound a year over the past three years, far exceeding term deposit or annuity rates.

If you have a question for George Cochrane, send it to Personal Investment, PO Box 3001, Tamarama, NSW, 2026. Help lines: Financial Ombudsman, 1800 367 287; pensions, 13 23 00.

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Women Michaelia Cash walk behind Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Terri Butler MP to the White Ribbon Breakfast in Parliament House in Canberra on the 4th of December 2017. Fedpol. Photo: Dominic LorrimerLabor says it would consider forcing employers to turn casuals to permanent staff after six months, halving the amount of conversion time ordered by the Fair Work Commission earlier this year.
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In comments that are set to further inflame tensions between Labor and business groups as they kick-start another year of battle over industrial relations, the Opposition’s employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor accused some employers of being “their own worst enemy”

“They employ hundreds of casuals and then they wonder why the turnover in their workplace or their business is so high,” he said on Wednesday.

“One of the reasons why turnover happens so quickly is because people cannot live indefinitely in work that’s so precarious.

“They have no guaranteed minimum hours and they have no capacity to get decent wage increases.”

Mr O’Connor said he would look at time frames to convert casuals to permanent employees just hours after the Australian Council of Trade Unions announced it would campaign heavily on the issue.

“I think we need to sit down with stakeholders including unions and employers to discuss that,” he said.

Business groups have slammed at the proposal, warning that such a move would make staff management impractical, particularly in areas such as hospitality, retail and healthcare where up to one-in-five employees are casual workers.

“The Business Council does not support simplistic, one-size-fits all solutions to complex industrial relations issues,” a spokesman for the Business Council of Australia said.

“Workplace regulation should provide protection against unreasonable or unfair working conditions, but it should not create a barrier to employment for those who need flexibility to enter the workforce, including older workers or those with caring responsibilities.”

The Australian Industry Group said many casuals opting to maintain their higher hourly rates of pay over benefits when offered permanent positions.

Federal Minister for Jobs Michaelia Cash accused the union of scaremongering after revealing the Turnbull government would switch its slogan from “jobs and growth” to “let’s keep Australia working” on Wednesday.

“Casual and part-time work helps to create new jobs and gives people flexible working options,” she said.

“It’s a genuine and fulfilling choice for many people, particularly those balancing work with studying.”

Senator Cash said figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed casual work had been broadly stable, at 25 per cent, since 1996.

That is true, but ABS figures also show that the underemployment rate for 25-34 year olds (those who are employed but would like to work more hours) reached 7.9 per cent in May, a 30-year peak that is higher than the recession of the early 1990s or the global financial crisis.

In July, the Fair Work Commission rejected the ACTU’s proposal to force employers to convert casual to permanent employees with access to benefits, such as sick leave, after six months of regular employment.

The union had argued that a “significantly large category of workers” were being employed as casuals despite their pattern of work reflecting those of permanent employees.

The ACTU won the right for employees to ask to be made permanent after 12 months, but also gave employers the right to reasonably refuse the request.

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ROOM TO GROW: The Beresfield Baiada plant is seeking permission from Newcastle City Council to ramp up its operations. Picture: Marina NeilPoultry giant Baiada is pushing to ramp up production at its Beresfield plant, lodging a proposal to generate an extra 166,000 tonnes of feed each year to keep pace with demand.
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Under plans lodged with Newcastle council, a mill that forms part of the Beresfield operation would produce 416,000 tonnes of feed per annum, up from the existing 250,000 tonnes.

The plan could set Baiada on a collision course with neighbouring residents, who have already flagged concerns over traffic, noise, odours and declining property values.

But the company insisted those concerns had been considered and addressed in its environmental impact statement.

“The increase in production will enhance the efficiency and value of the operation and deliver economic benefits to the region, including an additional five staff positions,” it said.

A dust impact assessment commissioned by Baiada indicated particle emissions could be kept within guidelines if an access road was sealed and “enhanced housekeeping strategies” were adopted.

An acoustic report predicted “minor exceedances” of the noise criteria by up to 2 dB at properties immediately to the south and east. Those would be addressed by using shipping containers as noise barriers and providing acoustic covers to grinders.

“The site is located near major arterial roads, a busy rail line, and other industrial operations and the residential neighbours have chosen to live in this location knowing that they would be exposed to noise from nearby industry,” the company argued.

The plan is expected to generate an additional 100 truck movements on a weekday along Anderson Drive. The company said it would liaise with council about an upgrade of the road.

Under the plans, the mill’s approved hours of operation would not change – at 24 hours a day, seven days a week – but an additional shift per day would be necessary.

The Beresfield plant has had an eventfulhistory, facingpast allegations over the underpayment of workers. Achlorine leak last year saw 42 workers hospitalised.

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Pyrmont is one of Sydney’s most densely populated suburbs, its sandstone cliffs studded with apartment towers and luxury units angling for a glimpse of the shimmering harbour.
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But nestled behind the Star Casino, on a development site in Harris Street, is an excavation project which provides a glimpse into Sydney’s colonial past.

Over the past six months, machines have buried metres into the earth, clearing away the upper sandstone crust to access the “yellow gold” beneath.

It is not precious metal they are harvesting, but the coveted yellow block sandstone used to build many of the city’s great public buildings during the mid-19th and early 20th century.

The State Library of NSW, the Australian Museum, the GPO building, the QVB building, just to name a few, were all hewn from Pyrmont’s yellow block sandstone.

Troy Stratti, managing director of Bundanoon Sandstone, the company excavating the Harris Street site, said the value of yellow block was in its link to the past. There is little commercial demand for it otherwise.

“It is sought after in the sense that it is a stone needed now for heritage restoration,” he said. “It’s important not to look at it in commercial way. There’s a social responsibility here.”

Human-sized saws have already sliced and diced some 2000 cubic metres of sandstone into geometrically-precise blocks.

Mr Stratti is hopefully the total yield will be double this, and some 1300 blocks will be extracted before the project wraps up early next year. At that point, developers TWT developments will begin building high-end terraces on the site.

Most of the stone, he said, will be used to replenish the government’s dwindling yellow block supply at the government-run Ministers Stonework Program, where it will be used by stonemasons to restore the city’s heritage sandstone buildings.

It will likely be used in restorations works for Sydney’s Town Hall, the University of Sydney and the Queen Victoria Building.

The Harris Street quarry could boost the government’s yellow block supply by another 10 years, Mr Stratti said. Future projects, however, would boil down to a race for access to sites before they are entombed by development.

“The important story here is the government needs to move quickly when these opportunities come up, and they need to look at what their part in making it happen needs to be,” he said.

More than century and a half ago, the Pyrmont peninsula, spanning the colonial streets of Ultimo to the headland, was pock-marked with quarries harvesting sandstone for the city’s public buildings boom.

From the mid-1800s until the early 20th century, quarrymaster Charles Saunders and his son ran the three most famous sandstone quarries in the area. They were named Paradise, Purgatory and Hell Hole by the stonemasons, a reference to the quality of the stone and the difficulty involved in extracting it.

The best “paradise” stone was yellow block. It was prized for its strength and easy manipulation. When freshly harvested the stone is soft and grey, but it hardens as it oxidises and changes to a rich honey colour over a number of weeks.

Mr Stratti is confident more yellow block is buried beneath the Fish Market carpark and the derelict Rozelle Rail Yards – both of which have been slated for redevelopment.

He has already discussed the Fish Market site with government representatives, framing it as the government’s social responsibility to consider the harvesting potential before development occurs, he said.

The Rozelle Rail Yards pose an even greater challenge. It is slated to be repurposed for the WestConnex motorway project.

“There’s opportunity there, but it’s really hard to disrupt the pathway of development,” he said.

“When you’ve made a decision at a high level to put a freeway somewhere, try jumping in front of that.”

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