Two-thirds of NSW government agencies are failing to properly safeguard their data, increasing the risk of improper access to confidential information about members of the public and identity fraud by cyber criminals.
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The finding has emerged from an audit of dozens of government agencies, including those holding highly sensitive personal information collected from millions of citizens, such as NSW Health, the department of education, NSW Police Force, Roads and Maritime Services and the justice department.

While the report by auditor-general Margaret Crawford does not name the agencies failing to properly manage privileged access to their systems, it highlights the potential consequences.

“Personal information collected by public sector agencies about members of the public is of high value to cyber criminals, as it can be used to create false identities to commit other crimes,” she says in the report.

“Despite these risks, we found that one agency had 37 privileged user accounts, including 33 that were dormant. The agency had no formal process to create, modify or deactivate privileged users.”

Overall, Ms Crawford’s report found 68 per cent of NSW government agencies “do not adequately manage privileged access to their systems”.

In addition, she said, the audit determined that 61 per cent of agencies “do not regularly monitor the account activity of privileged users”.

“This places those agencies at greater risk of not detecting compromised systems, data breaches and misuse,” the report said.

The audit found 31 per cent of agencies “do not limit or restrict privileged access to appropriate personnel”. Of those, just one-third monitor the account activity of privileged users.

It found that almost one-third of agencies breach their own security policies on user access.

The report warns that if agencies fail to implement proper controls “they may also breach NSW laws and policies and the international standards that they reference”.

These include the Public Finance and Audit Act, which says agencies must have effective internal control systems.

Ms Crawford’s report also finds there are different approaches to how agencies record and report cyber attacks, including applying different definitions, which means “the number and nature of cyber attacks is unknown”.

It says that NSW government agencies “should tighten privileged-user access to protect their information systems and reduce the risks of data misuse and fraud”.

A spokesman for finance, services and property minister Victor Dominello said the government “acknowledges the findings”.

“As recommended in the report, a review of the Digital Information Security Policy is currently under way and a new Cyber Security Strategy is due to be completed in 2018,” he said.

The spokesman said the review is being led by the government’s chief information security officer, Dr Maria Milosavljevic, whose position was established in May “to bolster the government’s capacity to prevent, detect and respond to cyber threats”.

The findings follow a report in February to the NSW Parliament by then acting NSW Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Coombs.

In it, Dr Coombs noted: “Misuses of personal information and data breaches are not random events; they result from poor organisational governance and practice, and the conduct of employees and contractors.”

Dr Coombs said that “data breach notifications and complaints to my Office are increasing”.

She noted that, last year, the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission “revealed that the misuse of confidential government information was not just one of the most common corruption allegations made, but [was] an increasing percentage, having almost doubled from 2014-15”.

“Members of the public have every right to expect that their personal information is not being placed at risk by poor organisational practices, nor accessed by or disclosed to anyone who does not have legitimate authority to use it,” she said.

Her report highlighted gaps in NSW privacy legislation and recommended changes “to increase the accountability of employees and contractors”.

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Some of the most iconic sights of Kings Cross, including the historic old former Bourbon & Beefsteak and the building that housed Les Girls, would be demolished in a massive redevelopment program poised to change the face of the area.
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Four buildings along Darlinghurst Road between the El Alamein Fountain in Fitzroy Gardens and the landmark Empire Hotel on the corner are proposed to be pulled down in a $47.5 million development application before the City of Sydney.

Already the application, described as “the single most important plan to be considered by council for this area in the last half a century” is provoking alarm from some residents.

“This will completely change the face of Kings Cross and its social structure,” said Andrew Woodhouse, president of the Potts Point and Kings Cross Heritage Society.

“It breaches 40 planning rules and heritage conservation guidelines. We adamantly oppose demolition of the white Bourbon building. This is not a DA; it’s an EA – an Exploitation Application.”

The plan, by developer group Piccadilly Freehold, calls for the demolition of most of the existing structures along the block, apart from parts of the white-arched Bourbon fa??ade.

In its place would be an eight-storey block of 83 apartments with basement parking for 100 cars. There would be new cafes, restaurants and shops on the ground floor, with the units over them.

Developer Sam Arnaout, also the CEO of IRIS Capital, says the 700-page DA is part of a massive revitalisation of a “decaying” part of the city and its transformation into a new food and entertainment complex, with laneways and luxury apartments.

“There’s no doubt that it will really significantly add to, and improve, an area that has long been decaying,” Mr Arnaout said. “Of course, some people will hate the idea of it but others will love the fact we’ll be renewing an area that’s already in a state of transition.

“We’ve been working very closely with the council over the last 12 months to come up with a plan that will integrate into the area very well. It’s going to be an amazing part of the revitalisation of Potts Point that’s been going through a renaissance for a while now and coming back into its own.”

Construction is set to take three to four years, with the shops and cafes opposite already talking about demanding compensation from the city for custom lost through noise and dust and disruption. The Bourbon and Empire bars would return but on a smaller scale.

Local architect and resident Simon Gollon said he was shocked when he examined the small print of the DA, which allows comments only until January 24.

“It’s incredible that this might be allowed to happen in a heritage conservation area,” he says. There are such iconic buildings here, with both Victorian architectural and cultural merit but they’re set to go.

“Places like the Bourbon and the building that housed Les Girls, and where Carlotta started, are such institutions from the past, they should be treasured, rather than knocked down and replaced with such a generic building with a blank wall that could be anywhere in Sydney. It looks as though the developers are trying to maximise the floor space to fit in as many apartments as possible rather than ever considering good architecture.”

The existing buildings exhibit elements of Victorian, Mid Century Modern and Federation detailing, with the Bourbon building dating from the 1880s.

Mr Woodhouse says the Woods Bagot building proposed for the site does nothing to add to the streetscape for which Kings Cross is so well known. “The quality of the design reminds me of Robyn Boyd’s 1960 architectural bible, The Australian Ugliness,” he says.

“It’s a Lego-like, bland building block with no design merit. “To claim this bold behemoth, even allowing for part retention of the fa??ade of a backpackers’ hostel, can add to the fine-grained texture of the area and adds vibrancy to the streetscape is a nonsense on stilts.”

But Mr Arnaout insists that the Kings Cross area of Potts Point is going through a rebirth, and this plan will contribute hugely to that vision. “This will help create much more of a village atmosphere with a boutique lifestyle.

“Where the transition is happening in parts of the area, there’s a huge vacuum left in others. It’s now time to fill that vacuum to contribute to its rejuvenation and to make that commercially viable, we need to build apartments and retail too.

“This area will be a great complement to the city and once people realise how significant and important this development will be, I think they’ll be supportive.”

At an estimated $47 million, the project would be assessed for approval by the City of Sydney Council. The development’s proposed height would exceed the current height limit of 22 metres in places.

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The year 2017 seemed to be the year when property finally overtook pornography as the dirty secret of everyone’s browser history as the entire nation indulged in unrealistic fantasy play regarding their housing situation.
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You could hear the late night guttural moans echoing through the rental belts of the biggest cities, the blue glow of laptops illuminating their twisted reveries: “oh yeah baby, that’s right: three bedrooms, close to public transport, schools and a hospital; local auctions are clearing in the mid-six figures, a mortgage would basically be less than we’re currently paying in rent ??? and only a 40-minute commute to work! YES YES YES OH GOD YES!”

Of course, regular readers would be aware of these dangerous delusions and have more realistic ambitions: we know that if we work hard, apply ourselves and live with the ascetic frugality of a particularly clutter-averse monk, we too can enjoy watching prices skyrocket far beyond our reach until that magical day the landlord informs us we have 60 days to get out before they knock our place down for a block of luxury studios.

But that was only one of the stories of the past year. However, if you listened very, very carefully at the rhythms of 2017 you may have discerned a few common beats that seemed to play out with predictable regularity. So what were the big property story trends this year? 1. Everything is going to be perfect forever, cash register noise!

Every weekend a new auction record was set as some clown paid a Taylor Swift ransom for an unliveable hovel, almost as though they were providing a valuable Aesop’s Fable-style service about how savagely everyone needs to adjust their expectations.

“Can you believe someone paid $2.6 million for a derelict shanty on the Rozelle virus-pits,” readers would scoff, “despite it being undevelopable because of the quicksand and restless ghosts?”

Ka-ching! Photo: Henry Zwartz

However, the message to those already in the housing game was simple: your property was constantly rising in value because of your wisdom and nous. Indeed, we are now a nation of pharaohs sitting within mighty pyramids of pure gold and precious leverage. If anything, you should buy more investment shanties – when it comes to property values, the sky is the limit! 2. The property crash is coming and we’re all doomed!

Of course, then there’d be a weekend where not every auction ended with the exchange of a comically Scrooge McDuck-style vault of riches, at which point the story would abruptly change: clearly this is the inevitable beginning of the inevitable correction, and everyone is dangerously exposed through their profligate borrowing and once interest rates move up a percentage point the rate of defaults will bankrupt our entire financial sector and condemn us to roaming the barren wastelands hunting real estate vendors for food – like Cormack McCarthy’s The Road, but not as toe-tappingly upbeat.

What property crash? Photo: Erin Jonasson

The message to those already in the housing game was simple: you were damned fools to borrow so much cheap credit and now the hubris train is a-coming, as it does for all who attempt to serve their own selfishness and greed by quick-fix get rich schemes.

Why oh why didn’t you sell up and put everything in bitcoin instead? 3. Increased supply is about to fix everything for renters, muffled laugh

As more non-buyers stayed in the rental market, that increased demand made renting in the bigger cities increasingly impossible for those earning wages from lesser professions such as baristas, fast food workers, cleaners, teachers, police officers, dentists and surgeons.

In fact, it got to the point where even federal MPs were priced out of their own inner-city electorates in what would pass for poetic justice if politicians appreciated either justice or poetry.

Supply, supply and more supply. Photo: Eddie Jim

Fortunately other groups of politicians asserted that there was a solution at hand: encourage developers to build more apartments, which would increase supply and therefore drive down prices.

State and local government went out of its way to make this possible for developers, who ensured that they kept prices at a rate that was affordable for those on lowe ??? nah, just kidding: they merrily accepted the perks of making “affordable housing” such as building boarding houses right up until the thing was built, at which point they whacked as high a price on it as the market could bear.

The answer, however, is clear: we haven’t given developers enough incentives and must free up all currently non-developed land to curry their good graces. And what’s all that green space doing at Taronga, anyway? Why should those sweet harbour views be wasted on those uppity giraffes? 4. ‘Sydney’ suburbs still affordable to first-home buyers are hardly even in Sydney

In 2017 it seemed that every month or so there would be a story about the suburbs where a young family can afford to buy their first property, and each time the accompanying graphic would sport a larger and larger ring whose radius began 12 kilometres further from the CBD than the last time around.

The Central Coast ??? is technically Sydney. Photo: Supplied

It’s a trend we probably need to knock on the head since we’re getting closer to the era of think pieces asking “is it realistic for Sydney homebuyers to live and work in the same time zone?”

It’s time that we start acknowledging the unquestionable future of Sydney as a fly-in-fly-out city where workers sleep in gridlocked Ubers around Mascot and whose sole affordable suburb is now Bordertown, SA. 5. Telling us to all move to Hobart

Yes, we get it Tasmanian property stories: Hobart is very nice and also cheap. It has a lovely MONA, bracing Antarctic winds and convenient access to people who claim to have seen thylacines – and in numbers that put Melbourne and Sydney to shame.

Hobart is the new black. Photo: Tourism Tasmania

However, it also has a population of 225,000, which means that a) it can’t possibly cope with an influx of more than a dozen or so people before the infrastructure collapses, and b) it all seems like a cunning way to create forward sizzle for content in 2018 about how Hobart used to be cool before all these mainlanders turned up and ruined its charmingly creepy Twin Peaks ambience.

That said: sorry, how much for a beachside bungalow? And no ghosts, you say? Maybe I’ve been all backwards on this???

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Almost 100,000 Australian homes and businesses will be disconnected from their internet and landlines in January if they haven’t moved over to the national broadband network.
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Next month, premises across the country will be reaching the 18-month NBN cut-off date, with potentially 95,590 homes and businesses affected if they have not yet made the switch.

Usually, when an area is declared “NBN ready” a resident has a year and a half to choose a provider and a plan and to move onto the network before their home or business is disconnected.

Now, 173 suburbs across the country are reaching this crucial cut-off point.

In these areas, Telstra home and landline services, excluding some velocity lines, and home and landlines from any other company utilising Telstra’s copper phone lines will be switched off.

Services from any provider offering ADSL, ADSL2 and ADSL2+, Telstra BigPond cable internet services and Optus cable internet and phone services would also come to an end.

Victoria would be hardest hit by the upcoming cut-off, an analysis by comparison website Finder found. There could be more than 22,000 Victorian premises impacted.

This was followed by Queensland, with up to 19,988 and Western Australia with 17,670.

The most affected suburb in the country is likely to be Melbourne satellite suburb Pakenham, where 15,482 homes are expecting disconnection. !function(e,t,s,i){var n=”InfogramEmbeds”,o=e.getElementsByTagName(“script”),d=o[0],r=/^http:/.test(e.location)?”http:”:”https:”;if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=r+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var a=e.createElement(“script”);a.async=1,,a.src=i,d.parentNode.insertBefore(a,d)}}(document,0,”infogram-async”,”https://e.infogram南京夜网/js/dist/embed-loader-min.js”);

Murray Bridge in South Australia, Edmonton in Queensland and New South Wales’ Terrigal and Nelson Bay were also in the top five most affected, Finder spokesman Angus Kidman said.

In these areas, the ‘take up rate’ of the NBN is of critical concern as provided every household has made the move to the network at the end of the 18 months, no one will be left without internet or phone services.

While many in these areas have already made the switch, Mr Kidman said some Australians still think the NBN is optional with survey results showing 44 per cent of those not on the NBN don’t realise they need to connect within the 18 month time period.

“There has been a lot of talk about the NBN in recent months but Australians remain confused about the broadband network,” he said.

“It’s worrying to see almost half of those not on the NBN aren’t even planning on making the switch.” !function(e,t,s,i){var n=”InfogramEmbeds”,o=e.getElementsByTagName(“script”),d=o[0],r=/^http:/.test(e.location)?”http:”:”https:”;if(/^\/{2}/.test(i)&&(i=r+i),window[n]&&window[n].initialized)window[n].process&&window[n].process();else if(!e.getElementById(s)){var a=e.createElement(“script”);a.async=1,,a.src=i,d.parentNode.insertBefore(a,d)}}(document,0,”infogram-async”,”https://e.infogram南京夜网/js/dist/embed-loader-min.js”);

Foxtel Pay TV will not be affected if provided over Telstra Cable or satellite, but anyone accessing it through the internet – such as a smart TV – will need to update their internet connection.

Those using a landline or internet connection over another fibre network may also not be affected, such as a network provided by a private enterprise, building owner or non-Telstra or Optus cable network.

The latest roll out data from the NBN Co shows 3.35 million premises were activated in December, 6.05 million were ready to connected and 7.02 million were in ready for service areas.

An NBN Co spokeswoman said there were around 97,000 premises set to reach the end of their migration window in January.

“The take-up rate across these areas is on track to meet NBN Co’s target of approximately 73 to 75 per cent connected homes and businesses at the end of the 18 month migration window,” the spokeswoman said.

At the moment, the take-up rate is on target with more than 74 per cent of homes and businesses connecting after 18 months of the network becoming available.

“For those yet to make the switch, it’s important to know that accessing services over the NBN network is not automatic,” she said.

It’s understood there is usually a surge of activity within the first six months of the NBN being available to connect to, and then right before the end of the 18 month cut-off period.

The switch to the NBN has seen some providers land themselves in hot water with the regulator over when to turn off customers’ services.

In December, Optus was taken to court by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission over allegations the provider misled 20,000 customers by telling some they needed to switch to the NBN sooner than was necessary and in some cases switched off their services before it had to do so.

An Optus spokesperson said it made the decision in late-2016 to move customers off its broadband cable network to the NBN as soon as the area was serviceable.

“During this process, we provided some customers with insufficient notice of their options to migrate. As a result, some customers were disconnected before they migrated to the NBN,” the spokesperson said.

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Franchisees across the scandal-ridden industry giant Retail Food Group are questioning how millions of dollars of advertising funds collected from them, across brands including Gloria Jeans, Michel’s Patisserie, Brumby’s and Donut King, are spent.
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It comes as advertising funds across the $170 billion franchise sector are under scrutiny, with evidence building that some franchisors are misusing the funds to artificially boost profits. Some industry experts estimate that more than $1 billion a year is collected from franchisees in marketing fees.

Under the Franchising Code, a franchisor must prepare an annual financial statement for each advertising fund, detailing all the fund’s receipts and expenses for the past financial year then releasing a set of audited accounts.

It sounds good in theory, but the reality is the marketing fund accounts are often scant in detail, lack transparency and are left to the franchisor’s discretion, including how much they allocate to overheads and administrative costs. This lack of rigorous external governance means they can be easily manipulated and misused – and they are.

In October the competition watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, sent a note to 2500 members of the Franchising Information Network, reminding them about their obligations when it comes to marketing funds. It noted that a common source of tension in franchise networks was how marketing money was spent.

It’s not hard to see why. Franchisees contribute anywhere between 2 per cent to 6.5 per cent of gross sales to a marketing fund. When franchisees are struggling financially, and see little evidence of marketing support, resentment can build.

In the case of RFG, hundreds of its franchisees have gone to the wall but still contribute to marketing. Brumby’s requires a 3 per cent contribution, while Pizza Capers’ is a hefty 6.5 per cent.

Franchisees from Michel’s, Gloria Jeans, Brumby’s and Donut King claim they submitted complaints over the years to the ACCC requesting an investigation of RFG, including its treatment of the marketing fund.

In late 2015, a group of disgruntled Brumby’s franchisees formed a group known as the High Horses and wrote to the ACCC requesting help. In one letter it said: “If you review it nearly 60 per cent of the fund has been allocated to costs to offset those of the Franchisor like admin, operating expenses, rent! Whilst acceptable under the Franchising Code does it pass the ‘pub test’!”

Some Gloria Jeans franchisees have also complained. One franchisee who studied the latest marketing fund accounts questioned why marketing wages ballooned from more than $400,000 in 2015 to $2.35 million in 2017. He said administration expenses jumped from $54,000 in 2016 to $841,000 in 2017. “How is this possible, can you please explain and – again – send all relevant copies of invoices etc.”

Earlier this year, RFG shocked the market when it was forced to restate its accounts partly due to a change in the way RFG must treat expenditure previously charged to marketing funds (but not collected).

Its annual accounts revealed it was never justified in spending money out of the Michel’s marketing funding on supply-chain efficiencies. These supply-chain expenses had been booked as a receivable and passed on as a cost to franchisees. When franchisees couldn’t pay it, RFG wrote it off. But this time round it also restated its accounts in 2015 and 2016, which raised questions as to whether these amounts should have been booked as receivables in the first place.

Fairfax has obtained copies of the 2015, 2016 and 2017 marketing fund accounts for each of the brands. It found each marketing fund treated payroll differently, despite using the same auditor. For instance in Michel’s, payroll is lumped in with packaging as part of marketing expenses, while in Gloria Jeans’, payroll is separated out and included in administration expenses. This creates a very different picture of how much is being spent on advertising. RFG failed to respond to questions about the high payroll costs, their dramatic increases, or how many people worked in marketing on each brand.

There is much wrong with the franchise system. Agreements are drafted in favour of the franchisor, who can then slowly increase the heat. Marketing funds are one of the ways they can do it – and they do.

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Australian farmers have hit out at a new 30 per cent tariff introduced by the Indian Government on imported chickpeas and lentils, describing it as a “gut-wrenching” end to the season after battles with mice, frost and severe dry conditions during the year.
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The move is a blow to Australian farmers because the crops are big earners, with the total value of all Australian chickpea exports in 2016-17 about $1.92 billion. Australian chickpea exports to India in 2016-17 were valued at more than $1.1 billion, while lentil exports were valued at almost $200 million.

Farmers also expressed frustration that the move by India went in the opposite direction to steps taken around the world to reduce trade barriers between nations.

In response to the new trade barrier, Australian farmers could have no choice but to grow less of the “premium” crops.

David Jochinke, president of the Victorian Farmers Federation, said a “drop in price was the primary concern”, as well as a drop in demand for the Australian products.

Asked how farmers felt about the new Indian tariff, Mr Jochinke said: “They’re absolutely gutted that this is going to be the case. They’re really hoping that the federal government can try to get a concession for Australian growers, or try to assist the Indian government to allow our imports to proceed without having the tariff.”

Mr Jochinke said Australia was a very large exporter of chickpeas and lentils, most of which went to the sub-continent.

Australia’s chickpea industry had grown strongly over the past decade, he said.

“We are asking the government to use the relationship its got with India to try to get a better deal for Australian farmers. Because in many regions (of Australia), chickpeas are the premium crops that people grow,” he said.

The crops are significant ones in Victoria, particularly in the fertile Wimmera district. In northern New South Wales, around Narrabri and Moree, chickpeas are a major crop.

“Because these are such important crops to us and so widely grown, farmers are looking for this to be resolved as quickly as possible,” Mr Jochinke said.

The tariff blow is something of a double-whammy to many growers, coming after a difficult year in which some battled severe dry conditions, frosts and mice problems. Some Victorian farmers lost so much crop to mice they had to re-sow entire paddocks, while some NSW crops were so dry they were not harvested.

For many growers, the crops are grown on a substantial scale. Mr Jochinke, who farms in the Wimmera, grew about 600 hectares of lentils and about 150 hectares of chickpeas.

“We got hit by frost as well, we lost about 70 per cent of our chickpeas to frost and about half of our lentils to frost. So we’ve been hit quite hard as far as production goes. And to have this come on top really does take the shine right off the season for them,” he said.

Derek Schoen, president of the New South Wales Farmers Association, said the Indian market was a “lucrative market” for Australian growers.

“It’s disappointing to see that India is moving to a more protectionist type policy setting. And it’s not just on pulses, it seems to be across the board that they are heading this way,” he said.

“The rest of the world seems to be moving to a more and more free trade type environment. And it’s not as though there is an enormous domestic production (in India), so it’s also going to force prices up in India as well,” he said.

Mr Schoen said the Indian market had strengthened in recent years, giving farmers more optimism to plant bigger crops.

“To sort of have the rug pulled from underneath them like this, it’s very unfortunate because people had geared up to higher production of chickpeas and lentils,” he said.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) show that chickpea exports in 2016-17 were estimated at $1.92 billion.

But the forecasts for 2017-18 – released well before the tariff decision was revealed – are for a 32 per cent decline in the value of chickpea exports, to $1.31 billion. The volume of chickpea exports to India are projected to drop 27 per cent in 2017-18.

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ABC Summer Comedy Binge


To find any new comedy on Australian free-to-air channels these days is like looking for love on Tinder. You will spot a lot of dicks before striking gold with a talking vagina in a red sequinned dress.

That sassy lady garden belongs to Nakkiah Lui’s character in Kiki and Kitty, one of seven new short-form shows commissioned for the ABC’s new comedy channel.

They are not all gold – more on that later – but what they are is original content at a time when comedy on the commercial channels seems to be an endless stream of panel, quiz and reality shows, plus the unintentional comedy that is Channel Nine’s cricket commentary team.

Whereas the Brits and the Americans are able to pump out sitcoms at a steady rate, our commercial channels seem to have lost their taste for them, instead wallowing in endless Big Bang Theory repeats and self-flagellating with Matt LeBlanc’s latest effort (Man with a Plan – just don’t).

So it’s through that darkness that most of these new short-form comedies – Aussie Rangers, #CelesteChallengeAccepted, Kiki and Kitty, Other People’s Problems, Mychonny: The Chinaboy Show and Virgin Bush, plus new episodes of Fresh Blood – should be viewed. Yes, they are not perfect but they are new – new ideas, stories and faces. And they are worth watching.

Lui’s Kiki and Kitty is the perfect example. Not all of the jokes work, but where else will you find a talking vagina (the give-her-all-the-shows-now Elaine Crombie), a passionate ice-skating instructor (Rob Carlton), and a show’s writer and star, Lui, in bondage gear? Throw in barbed jokes about race (top marks to Harriet Dyer who plays Lui’s co-worker Cherise) and you have a comedy that wouldn’t get past the front door at Nine, Ten or Seven, but is the most original show seen in a long time.

Coming in a close second is the delightfully silly Aussie Rangers. Jon Bell (best known for Black Comedy, but he also wrote the under-appreciated Gods of Wheat Street) plays Wally Wilson, the head ranger of Black Stump National Park, who is on the hunt for the rare quokkacoot. Bell manages to cram more quality gags into each episode’s roughly six-minute running time than most long-form comedies.

Of the other new shows – Mychonny: The Chinaboy Show is great and features an unknown (to me) cast, and Other People’s Problems gets by on the strength of its star Maria Angelico.

The most disappointing is #CelesteChallengeAccepted, which turns Celeste Barber’s witty and original Instagram account that parodies ridiculous photos of celebrities into a fairly dull four-minute show.

That leaves Virgin Bush as the biggest dud. The premise is simple enough – city boy goes to regional Australia, meets the locals and cracks a few gags.

Unfortunately said city boy – comedian Neel Kolhatkar – is dead on arrival. His jokes are about as original as a photocopied piece of paper and his gormless mugging to camera only deepens the irritation. In the first episode (one of of four) he heads to the shearing sheds of Carinda in far northern NSW, where he (rightly) fails to impress the hard-as-nails boss Bronco.

A cringingly awkward trip to the pub is the icing on an undercooked cake. In the interests of fairness I pressed play on the second episode but lasted only two minutes.

As I said, it’s not all gold but it is an investment in Australian comedy, something the ABC should be applauded for and something the other free-to-air channels should try sometime.

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Chris Jordan, Commissioner of Taxation at the ATO, at the 2016 Self Managed Super Funds Conference, Adelaide Convention Centre, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia. Wednesday 18th February 2016. World Copyright: Daniel KaliszMore than year after a massive failure of Tax Office IT systems, a review has found the situation had a “disproportionately significant impact” on services because such a meltdown had not been planned for, while remediation efforts might not be effective.
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An independent review by consulting firm PwC, released this month, found multiple component failures on a key data storage system on December 12, 2016, had caused the significant outage and blocked applications and services being available to members of the public.

In June, a separate report found technicians failed to effectively respond to the outages for nearly four hours, adding to chaos caused by warning and back-up systems that were not fully operational. Latest public service news

The new report found initial actions taken in response to the failure were not successful because of a previously unknown issue with one of the storage network components, a lower than expected “resilience posture” and some features having not being fully implemented.

The response was further hampered by the fact some control, management and monitoring systems were inaccessible because they were dependent on the hardware which had failed.

It said a level of residual risk still exists due to the absence of definitive evidence on the conditions that led to technical failures in the first place.

“Once notified, the ATO initiated escalation and response activities to remediate the issue and restore services as quickly as possible,” the report said.

“This response was generally executed in accordance with documented recovery and crisis management procedures, and included working with its service providers who supported the SAN and service management functions.

“Determination of the root cause of these component failures is subject to specific technical analysis which is yet to be completed by the service provider.”

A failure to plan for an incident of the nature and scale experienced in the crash had not been explicitly considered by the ATO or its external service providers, resulting in insufficient readiness levels for recovery.

In a statement responding to the report, an ATO spokesman said strong progress had been made to ensure ongoing performance of IT systems.

The PwC findings and a June report into the IT elements and business impacts of a string of recent systems outages are being considered.

“The ATO is well-advanced in implementing the recommendations of both reports, including fixing irritants and enhancing systems performance, refreshing the tax and BAS agent portal to better meet the needs of the tax profession and improving our IT design and governance.

“We will continue to build on this progress in 2018 to provide a better experience for all taxpayers, tax and super professionals, and digital service providers who use our systems,” the statement said.

Labor’s shadow assistant treasurer Andrew Leigh has called for explanations from the government, blaming 4600 job cuts for the failures.

This year’s tax period has seen 11.6 million tax returns lodged to date, up 4 per cent from the same time last year, as well as 8.7 million refunds issued, worth more than $26.3 billion.

The ATO said 81 million pieces of information have been pre-filled in tax returns, up 1 per cent from the same time in 2016.

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On Christmas night US time, Kim Kardashian West shared a series of images to her Instagram stories. The first one revealed her leg, which is healing very nicely from psoriasis.
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The next was a close-up of a small box, which was filled with Amazon gift vouchers, a Disney Mickey toy, Apple headphones, Netflix gift cards and Adidas socks. At this point, Kim, intimated that she had to pretend to be touched, apparently telling her husband, “That’s so sweet!”

“But then” she continued, “I open the next box and it is stock to Amazon, where he got the gift card, stock to Netflix, stock to Apple where he got the headphones, Adidas stock and Disney stock.” She captioned the entire thing “Best husband alert”

According to reports, the stocks looked to be worth as much as $US200,000.

Kim Kardashian West has been married to her husband, Kanye West for almost four years now, and in those four years, West has always gone all-out on gifts. Who could forget the room of flowers this year? The wall of flowers for Mother’s Day in 2014? The $6 million ring that was sadly stolen in the French burglary?

But his most recent present to his wife reveals a lot, we think, about marriage — theirs, yours, ours, and the state of the world today. It also raises some tough questions we’re not sure we are ready to hear answers to just yet.

We know it’s hard to get the woman who has everything, (including a daughter on the way) anything meaningful. Walls of flowers are one thing, but flowers, as you may or may not be aware, die.

The tone of this gift might be read as West’s understanding and appreciation of his wife as a savvy business woman, something that is undeniably true.

But, may we put to you a counter theory: we understand from basic psychology that the infatuation stage of any relationship – also referred to as ” limerence” lasts for as little as 18 months or as long as three years, although it can last decades. We know the Wests have a pure, deeply romantic relationship, but we also know they are human, well, for the benefit of this article, let’s say they are.

Is Kanye West signalling, even in a sub-conscious sense, that he has exited limerence? Stocks, while sturdy, and a huge signifier of wealth, are still the rich man’s version of a voucher.

And so, in rich people terms, Kanye West just gave his wife a Target gift card.


Gift cards and vouchers are what married people give each other when they feel secure; even cosy in a relationship. A more cynical person might call this stage “giving up”, a less cynical person might term it surrender. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a stage wherein surprises become few and far between, in favour of routine.

Vouchers are the greatest emblem of an almost sit-com version of “security” (AKA the underwear on the couch period) as they lack any sort of personal touch, or insight into your partner’s interests or passions. It is, simply put, a gift of convenience. West actually gave literal vouchers, but then it seems he thought better of it. Or did he?

Maybe this is all one big joke! Maybe. West has compared himself to Walt Disney and to Steve Jobs, so maybe these vouchers and stocks are symbolic of West’s inner life, his feelings about his own creative genius.

They might also be read as a tribute to the longevity of their marriage. Stocks are a big, long investment, after all. and this is the man who wrote the lyrics to Gold Digger – so giving money in any form to his partner is a sign of deep trust, and healing of past issues.

There is one more reading of the gift and this is the least favourable. West has spoken openly of being in serious debt. He once tweeted that he was $US53 million in debt, in fact. A month later, his wife informed the public that she had just earned $US80 million from her latest game app and was happy to transfer $US53 million into their joint account.

Is Kanye, um, poor? Is he so aware of his debt to his wife he knows that any gift he gives her is essentially spending her money? Has he been reduced, then, to gifting her stocks that he himself has held onto for his deals with Adidas, et al?

No, that is a terrible thought to have of icons such as these. They are the millennial Camelot, and for richer or poorer, we are committed.

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You better Believe it – it’s looking like superstar singer and actress Cher will headline Sydney’s 40th gay and lesbian Mardi Gras in March.
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While it is understood a contract is yet to be signed, sources close to the event have told Fairfax Mediathe 71-year-old gay icon is almost locked in to perform at the world-renowned gay pride festival.

Organisers typically seek out big overseas acts on major anniversaries – the 30th Mardi Gras was headlined by Cyndi Lauper – and this year’s will take on extra significance given the historic legalisation of same-sex marriage just weeks ago.

Cher, a leading gay icon, is known for hits such as ”Believe” and ”If I Could Turn Back Time”. Photo: Aaron Lee Fineman

The rumour mill has been in overdrive, especially after the If I Could Turn Back Time singer hinted at the deal on her official (and ever zany) Twitter account, teasingly posting: “Where am I going in March!?”

And it was helped along last week when the Australian Radio Network appeared to break an embargo by publishing an online story declaring Cher was “officially coming to town” for Mardi Gras. It was swiftly retracted but remains viewable in cached form.

Officials made it clear that while Cher was being courted as “plan A” for the after-party, dealings with megastars were always precarious and fallback options were in place.

Already, the 40th anniversary Mardi Gras parade has been swamped with interest and overbooked. Organisers copped heated criticism for rejecting the NSW Teachers Federation – a long-time participant in the parade – before bowing to pressure and granting the union a float once another group pulled out.

About 12,000 people from 200 groups are expected to march along Oxford Street on March 3, which will mark 40 years since the political protest and gay pride march began.

Organisers issued an apology to those unable to participate, citing safety and security concerns that imposed strict limits on the number of people and vehicles involved in the parade.

Brandon Bear, co-chair of Sydney Mardi Gras, said the chief barrier to expanding the size of the parade was the limited space allocated for pre-parade marshalling on College and Liverpool streets, around Hyde Park.

“If there are more people in there, it does actually become less safe, and it becomes very unpleasant,” he said.

“We’re part of Sydney, we’re not separate to it. It’s about making sure that we can be as fabulous as we can, but not ruining the space for everybody else and keeping the city operational.”

Mr Bear declined to confirm Cher’s involvement in the festival, saying only that “no announcement has been made” and “part of the excitement of the party is waiting to find out who the headliner will be”.

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