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Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos has said the Liberals are philosophically committed to performance pay for public servants Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Former Treasury secretary Ken Henry was denied a bonus in 2007 when his speech criticising water policy was leaked. Photo: Sasha Woolley
Nanjing Night Net

Australia’s top public servants have refused for almost three years a directive to pay themselves bonuses.

As Malcolm Turnbull prepares to form government, a Fairfax survey shows the bureaucracy brushed aside a Coalition promise made during the previous election campaign: to pay officials bonuses based on how much “red tape” they cut.

The pledge remains Coalition policy, though Liberal ministers would not discuss it this week.

But the Australian Public Service’s 20 largest workplaces effectively ignored it: each confirmed they don’t give executives the extra payments.

One official who works on remuneration said the policy was “bizarre … and impossible to implement. It was never going to happen,” adding it would be easy to game the scheme.

Before the 2013 election, the Coalition said it would “link remuneration of senior executive service public servants, including future pay increases and bonuses, to quantified and proven reductions in red and green tape”.

It met resistance almost immediately. In his first brief to the Abbott government, then public service commissioner Stephen Sedgwick warned of “practical challenges in implementing” the plan.

Yet ministers went on to write to all agency heads, telling them to set up the bonus system.

Bonus pay has become a partisan issue in the past decade.

Senior Liberals, including Arthur Sinodinos and Eric Abetz, have argued in favour of financial incentives for government staff, saying they help get the best out of them.

Seven in 10 senior federal bureaucrats received bonuses under the Howard government. The average payments in 2007 was $9900 for the lowest level (SES band 1) and $19,600 for SES band 3 staff.

However, Kevin Rudd abolished performance pay for department heads after he won office in 2007, saying it persuaded bureaucrats to say what ministers wanted to hear rather than what needed to be said.

Labor also began to wind back bonuses for SES staff. By the end of 2014, only one in eight senior officers were still receiving them.

Campbell Newman’s conservative government in Queensland also introduced bonuses for agency heads, but Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk axed them almost immediately after taking office.

She said she valued public servants’ expertise “but I also think our most senior public servants are paid well enough that they don’t need generous bonuses on top of their salary”.

Labor’s federal employment spokesman, Brendan O’Connor, said this week the bonuses that never happened were “just another Liberal Party policy which seeks to deliver more to the haves at the expense of the have-nots”.

“The biggest issue confronting the public service isn’t bonuses to senior executives,” he said.

“It’s the massive number of workers who have had their pay frozen for three years and working conditions attacked because of the Liberal Party’s unfair bargaining framework.”

Asked why the bureaucracy had refused to implement bonus pay, the Public Service Commission said agencies had “considerable flexibility to manage their senior executive remuneration arrangements, within the boundaries of government policy”.

“For a number of senior executives, the success of deregulation initiatives would be a factor in their performance management and assessment arrangements,” a spokeswoman said.

All of the agencies surveyed said they had implemented the “cutting red tape” agenda, and many said they assessed senior staff’s commitment to deregulation in their annual performance appraisals. But each refused to pay bonuses.

Former department head Allan Hawke, who served under the Howard government, was a fierce critic of its performance bonuses, saying they were “at odds with public service culture, ignore the complexity of how the public service actually works [and are] bad for morale and teamwork”.

He said this week: “Bonuses are not the issue. What’s important is to have performance agreements that help to deliver the results required and development of each person towards realising their potential.”

One incident that encouraged Labor to ditch bonuses was the treatment of then Treasury secretary Ken Henry, who was denied a bonus in 2007. It was widely reported to be a punishment for criticising the Howard government’s water policy in a speech to staff, which was later leaked to the media.

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

Supernatural fiction with Colin Steele
Nanjing Night Net

SMOKE. By Dan Vyleta. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. $29.99.

Smoke has echoes of Charles Dickens, Philip Pullman and J. K. Rowling in its settings and characterisation. In an alternate Victorian England, people’s “sins” are measured by the amount of smoke that physically issues from their bodies. The rural rich pay to become “pure” and largely smoke-free, whereas the poor and uneducated live in a profusion of smoke in the cities. Boarding school friends Thomas and Charlie combine with young aristocratic Livia to uncover the truth behind their world’s dark smoking mirrors. Smoke is an intriguing and complex novel, only marred by too many subplots.

HEX. By Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Hodder and Stoughton. $32.99.

Bestselling Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt originally set Hex in his native Netherlands. For the English translation, however, the location is changed to the Hudson Valley town of Black Spring. Hex begins with the tragic story of Katherine van Wyler, sentenced to death for witchcraft in 1664. Her ghostly presence has quarantined the small town’s residents ever since from the outside world. But when teenagers post videos of Katherine on the internet, ancient supernatural evil is unleashed, as well as the town’s internal conflict. Hex is an unrelenting, yet compelling, supernatural horror story.

VIGIL. By Angela Slatter. Jo Fletcher. $32.99.

Australian author Angela Slatter has won numerous Australian and international awards for her short stories. Vigil, her debut novel, the first of the Verity Fassbinder trilogy, is located in an alternate Brisbane. Verity is half human and half Weyrd. Her dead father was a “kinderfresser”, a man who killed children for bizarre reasons. Private investigator Verity atones for her father’s crimes by maintaining the balance between humanity and the Weyrd. But when more children go missing, the acerbic Verity has to tackle many issues, including dark angels, a golem and an evil Weyrd. Vigil is a rich paranormal dark fantasy.

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

Topdrops

Chapel Hill McLaren Vale Shiraz 2014, $28-$30. Photo: Supplied Bit o’Heaven Think Outside the Circle Chardonnay 2016, $20. Photo: Supplied
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Pizzini King Valley Nonna Gisella Sangiovese 2015, $21.50. Photo: Catherine Sutherland

Bit o’ Heaven Think Outside the Circle Chardonnay 2016, $20

This wine comes from Brian Mullany’s Bit o’ Heaven vineyard in the Hilltops district, near Young, NSW. Mullany tends the vineyard, but sends the grapes to Cumulus Wines, Orange, for winemaking. The blend comprises 90 per cent chardonnay and 5 per cent each of viognier and muscadelle. The viognier component, though small, plays a big role in the wine’s texture and flavour. What would otherwise be a good, full-bodied, fresh young chardonnay, gains exotic apricot-like viognier varietal flavour and a slippery, smooth texture.

Pizzini King Valley Nonna Gisella Sangiovese 2015, $21.50

Fred Pizzini released his first sangiovese in 1996. Twenty years later, the family produces a range of wines from the variety along with many other Italian-inspired wines. Winemaking includes cold maceration ahead of a hot fermentation – a combination that captures rich, bright fruit flavours and introduces more savoury characters to the wine. The wine has a light to medium colour and a mouth-watering, medium-bodied palate suggestive of plums, with a light dusting of herbs and fine tannins drying out the finish.

Chapel Hill McLaren Vale Shiraz 2014, $28.50-$30

Variations in growing season temperatures largely account for the diversity of Australian shiraz styles. The big influences on temperature (including intra-day variations) are latitude, altitude and proximity (or not) to large bodies of water, especially the sea. Broadly, cooler areas produce more fragrant, spicy, lighter bodied wines than warmer ones. On that spectrum, McLaren Vale occupies its own special place, reflecting its warm climate, tempered by the cooling influence of St Vincent’s Gulf on its western boundary. The 2014 provides ripe, full drinking, with cherry-like fruit flavour and the Vale’s distinctive savoury tannins.

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

ONE-POT CHICKEN WITH SPRING VEGETABLES
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Serves 4

1.5-1.6kg chicken

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp runny honey

1 tsp lemon juice

300g baby new potatoes, scrubbed and any larger ones halved

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole

200g baby carrots

300ml hot chicken stock

300ml white wine

100g frozen peas

2 tbsp tarragon leaves

Salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Put the chicken into a large, shallow ovenproof dish or skillet. Drizzle over the olive oil, honey and lemon juice and season. Roast for 30 minutes until lightly golden brown, then add the potatoes, onion, garlic and carrots and toss to coat with the olive oil, honey and lemon in the dish around the chicken,.

Pour the stock and wine over the vegetables, then put the dish back in the oven for a further 45 minutes, until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through and the vegetables are tender (you might need to cover the chicken with foil if it is getting too brown). Add the peas and cook for a final five minutes.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with tarragon before serving.

APRICOT, PECAN, RAISIN AND CHOCOLATE COOKIES

Makes 20 cookies

100g unsalted butter, softened

100g light soft brown sugar

1 large egg

150g porridge oats

75g self-raising flour, sifted

A pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

50g dried apricots, roughly chopped

50g raisins

25g pecans, roughly chopped

100g dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4 and line two large baking sheets with non-stick baking paper.

Cream the butter with the sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy, then add the egg and beat again. Fold in the remaining ingredients until well incorporated.

Shape the cookie dough into 20 balls. Place on the prepared baking sheets, well-spaced apart, and press down slightly to flatten. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden but still slightly soft in the middle. Leave to cool on the sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Suitable for freezing once baked

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

Bush Heritage Australia has forfeited the inheritance of a 350-acre property near Bega and lost numerous donors as they face backlash from a planned kangaroo cull at Scottsdale​ Reserve, south of Canberra.
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Regular supporters of the non-profit organisation have pulled donations following reports of a cull, with one referring to the organisation as “hopeless frauds”.

Bush Heritage aims to “conserve biodiversity” at properties either purchased or donated across Australia.

However, the Australian Society for Kangaroos unveiled a practice of culling which has left supporters feeling lied to.

“I’ve cancelled my donation forever,” one email read, in correspondence with ASK.

“If so-called saviours of the bush can’t do it without this slaughter they shouldn’t be doing it. Hopeless frauds.”

Another person emailed ASK to say they would no longer be leaving their “precious” property to Bush Heritage in their Will.

“Following what seems to be a constant stream of horror stories [including] secretive native animal culling, we have now changed our Wills by omitting any reference to Bush Heritage,” the email reads.

Bill Taylor, of Bywong, said he was a contributor to the non-profit for a number of years, before “pulling the plug” when the organisation didn’t respond to questions about kangaroo culling he raised in reference to their annual report.

In response to the protests, Bush Heritage Australia has cancelled the kangaroo cull, which was approved by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

Science and research manager at Bush Heritage Australia, Jim Radford, said kangaroo culls had been undertaken at the Scottsdale Reserve in the past, however the planned cull was called off due to, in part, concerns for public safety.

He said one the main concerns was “unauthorised access onto the site”.

“We didn’t have any direct evidence of that and we weren’t approached directly but we considered there was a risk,” he said.

He said Bush Heritage had a range of ways to manage the kangaroo population, but as a last resort they turned to culling the macropods.

“Under certain circumstances we do need to reduce the pressure applied by an excessive number of kangaroos,” he said.

The Scottsdale Reserve is home to a variety of flora and fauna classed as vulnerable or critically endangered, including the Rosenberg’s monitor and Yellow-box grassy woodland.

Mr Radford said the kangaroo population in the grasslands at Scottsdale Reserve was at more than twice the recommended level for maintaining ecologically sustainable populations.

“I think there is a great misunderstanding out there,” Dr Radford said.

“In some landscapes there are hugely elevate and unsustainable numbers of roos.

“We aim to maintain a healthy, resilient kangaroo population but there comes a point where their a risk to their own welfare from starvation stress. But to be honest our primary concern is the other species that are potentially impacted.”

He said there would not be a kangaroo cull undertaken in the “foreseeable future” at Scottsdale Reserve.

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

Helena Chen’s eyelids have been left scarred and damaged after an alleged unregistered practitioner performed surgery in her bedroom. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer Ms Chen’s eye after the botched surgery. Photo: Supplied
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A still from a video posted on WeChat advertising the services of an alleged unregistered practitioner. Photo: Supplied

A photo posted to WeChat advertising the services of an allegedly unregistered cosmetic practitioner. Photo: Supplied

Blood-borne viruses warning after cosmetic surgery raidCosmetic surgery safety regulated in NSW

The skin around Helena Chen’s eyes is scarred, swollen and bruised.

Her left eye is now larger than the right and she will have to wait months before she knows if she has been permanently damaged after she had double eyelid surgery in March.

Ms Chen is a victim of a growing wave of backyard beauticians with no Australian medical qualifications who are performing cosmetics procedures on clients lying on beds and couches in Sydney flats, leaving real doctors to clean up their botched jobs.

Ms Chen found Pu Liu (also known as Mabel Liu) via WeChat, where the alleged unregistered practitioner posted before-and-after photos of cosmetic procedures almost daily.

“It felt like she used my eyes for practice,” Ms Chen told Fairfax Media.

“She said there would be no bruising, no bleeding, no down time.

“I thought ‘oh that’s easy surgery. It must be safe’. I was so excited I didn’t think too much.”

Ms Chen said she was ushered past two cats in Ms Liu’s apartment and towards a single bed in one of the flat’s bed rooms.

“She told me to pay first in cash. I paid $1500. Then she asked me to lie down.”

Ms Liu allegedly washed her face with water and a cotton cloth, injected an anaesthetic agent around her eyes and started suturing.

“Three times she stitched my left eyelid, then pulled [the sutures] out, then re-stitched them.

“I screamed at her … I yelled out I need more pain killer injections.”

The surgery lasted eight hours, Ms Chen said.

“She’d do a stitch then she’d pick up her phone and open a door and leave the room,” Ms Chen said. “Then she’d come back in and start stitching again without washing her hands.

“I was so angry. It’s painful. It’s really painful.”

When it was over, she told Ms Liu she didn’t like the results, but Ms Liu said she would have to come back in a month for another session once the swelling had gone down, Ms Chen said.

After seeing three cosmetic physicians, Ms Chen was told she would need to wait six months for her eyes to heal before they could properly assess the damage.

“I was stupid to trust her,” she said.

Cosmetic doctors are increasingly taking in women who have come away from black market cosmetic “clinics” with scarring, bruising and hard clumps of unknown materials injected into their faces.

The unregistered operators, who predominantly target Asian Australians and recent Chinese migrants, allegedly inject clients with imported counterfeit fillers and perform cosmetic surgeries, including double eyelid suturing, nose lifts and liposuction, in their private residences.

“They call themselves doctors or nurses but they don’t have any qualifications,” said Sydney cosmetic surgeon Zion Chan. “People don’t know they are visiting unsafe and illegal practices.

“It’s getting much worse. I would say it is rampant in Sydney.

“Every week I see a new patient with a complication. People with product injected into their face that was just a bad mimic [of approved fillers]. It would be lumpy or hard or move around [under the skin].”

Another Sydney-based cosmetic specialist clinician said he saw as many as five complications a week due to the handiwork of unregistered practitioners.

“In terms of the really bad cases, like blepharoplasty [eyelid surgery], I’d see every two months … it’s incredibly dangerous,” said the physician with strong ties to the Chinese community who declined to be named. “They could have been blinded.”

Individuals found guilty of administering botulinum toxin (botox), hyaluronic acid (dermal fillers) and anaesthetic injections face $1650 in fines or up to six months in jail for each offence under the Poisons and Therapeutics Goods Act.

For some prescription-only medications, the penalties can be up to $2200 or up to two years imprisonment.

But some home clinics flout Australian laws and post videos of their procedures and before-and-after photos on the China-based social media platform WeChat.

“They can be quite blatant with their advertising,” said Sydney CBD-based cosmetic physician Anthony Yap.

“But the really clever operators are more subtle, just posting after photos and groups of girls sitting around living rooms having a good time.” .

Footage seen by Fairfax posted on WeChat shows cosmetic procedures carried out in carpeted living rooms on beds and couches. One video shows a cat passing behind a woman as she works on a client. Several WeChat posts show residential apartments full of young women who appear to be waiting their turn.

“It’s incredibly dangerous,” said another cosmetic physician after watching footage of one operator using a syringe to pierce a woman’s forehead. Separate vision shows a syringe pierce a woman at the temple.

“There’s a risk of haemorrhage … severe skin necrosis, and at worst blindness,” he said. “There is no duty of care to the people they are treating.”

Many alleged unregistered practitioners charge the same rates as legitimate clinics.

“It’s part of their strategy,” the physician said. “They don’t want people to suspect they’re not real doctors.

“Their clients’ English is often very limited … they won’t be as vocal when things go wrong. They won’t go to the authorities. They just want it fixed.”

Health authorities are investigating Ms Liu after raiding her Five Dock premises last week.

Fairfax Media has attempted to contact Ms Liu. The apartment she allegedly worked from has been put on the market.

Backyard procedures are becoming increasingly common and the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission has issued a public warningand reported a rise in the number of complaints about cosmetic procedures being performed in residential properties by practitioners unqualified or unregistered in Australia.

But once an in-home clinic is raided, some operators have simply moved to new locations, posting notices on WeChat informing their clients they will reopen in weeks, according to patients and WeChat posts.

“The commission recognises the issue of displacement, hence its decision to issue a public warning on this matter,” a spokesman for the HCCC said in a statement.

NSW Health’s director of health protection Jeremy McAnulty said the public should “absolutely avoid these places”.

“Infection control is our major concern,” Dr McAnulty said.

“There’s a risk of blood-borne viruses and other infections being transmitted from the environment, or from the person performing the operation, or between clients when equipment and vials are being reused.

“Then there’s the botched jobs. If something goes wrong – which can happen at the best of times with experienced surgeons – you can permanently have a deformed face.

“Our message to the public is don’t undertake these treatments lightly. Talk to your GP about being referred to an experienced clinician and, if you’ve had a botched procedure, report it to the HCCC and or [the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency],” he said.

Individuals can check if a practitioner is registered in Australia via the AHPRA website.

The NSW government recently introduced tougher laws regulating the cosmetic surgery industry to provide greater safeguards for patients.

The regulation means any private health facility that carries out cosmetic surgery procedures, including breast enlargement, tummy tucks, liposuction and facial implants, will be subject to strict licensing standards.

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

There is no GST on investment-grade gold bullion that has been stamped into bars and coins. Photo: Steve CassellNobody had dealt with the two mysterious men before, and they didn’t like answering questions about their business.
Nanjing Night Net

But they bought a lot of gold. And they paid in cash.

The duo would fly around the eastern states and buy bars and coins by the kilogram, sometimes spending more than $100,000 at a time.

They’d move from dealer to dealer in a capital city, eventually collecting enough bullion to fill a carry-on suitcase. With dozens of gold traders in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, there were plenty to choose from.

This was early 2015. After their week-long buying spree, they’d disappear again, only to do the same thing the following month.

Even for the murky world of private gold trading, a free-wheeling market prized by legitimate investors and criminals alike for its secrecy and lax regulation, these big cash transactions attracted a lot of attention.

Why? Because, since 2012, authorities have realised that the gold industry is at the epicentre of one of the biggest tax frauds in Australian history. They estimate it’s already cost the public more than $550 million. And, despite an exhaustive, four-year investigation, it seems virtually impossible to stop.

The scam is laughably simple, but very lucrative.

When someone buys investment-grade gold bullion that has been stamped into bars and coins, no GST is payable. But the 10 per cent tax does apply to so-called “scrap” gold, which can be anything from cheap jewellery to fragments of 24-carat (pure) gold.

The fraudsters figured out that stamped, GST-free bullion could be smashed into pieces or melted down into scrap, making it suddenly eligible for GST when it was sold on to precious metals dealers and jewellers. The 10 per cent tax was paid by the new buyer, then pocketed by the seller, never reaching the Australian Taxation Office.

These so-called “missing traders” found they could easily reap profits of $1500 to $2500 a kilogram of gold, industry sources say.

But the scam grew exponentially when established players in the gold industry realised it was also possible to claim a GST tax credit after buying bullion that had been melted or even just re-labelled as scrap.

“When word got out you could make a lot of money on this, it spread like wildfire,” a gold industry insider says.

“Criminals and con men have always been a problem in the industry. But they’ve flooded in to make a quid.”

The result was the creation of a series of what the ATO has called organised criminal syndicates – buyers, dealers and refiners – who sourced vast amounts of gold bullion from around the country to fuel the fraud.

Hundreds of kilograms of gold began to flow in questionable transactions between members in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane each week, then recycled back through the legitimate industry in order to repeat the process.

The demand for gold became so intense that some participants allegedly faked transactions, creating paper trails for bullion and scrap gold that never actually changed hands. And by 2013, the ATO had been flooded with GST claims that it had flagged as suspicious or potentially fraudulent.

The crackdown, known as Operation Nosean, began in October that year. The ATO, Australian Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission staged more than a dozen raids in Victoria and NSW.

At that point, the fraud had cost taxpayers $65 million. Another $65 million was levied in fines and interest as the ATO sent out penalty bills to gold industry players around the country, who they have refused to name.

The AFP launched proceeds-of-crime actions against at least 10 individuals and companies involved in one of the Sydney-based syndicates. A Supreme Court judge has refused Fairfax Media’s request to review the court file.

But the scam carries on.

The ATO reports the cost to taxpayers has now ballooned to more than $550 million and continues to grow. Based on volumes, industry sources guess it may be twice the size. This would make it the second largest tax scam to hit Australia after Project Wickenby, which yielded $985 million in tax and prompted 46 convictions.

While the ATO believes the conduct in the gold industry is fraudulent, traders argue they are just businesses playing the margins. While the suspected criminal activities of at least one syndicate have been referred to federal prosecutors, so far not one criminal charges has been laid.

Fairfax Media understands that, in late 2014, authorities raided a commercial office in Sydney that houses numerous major gold industry traders. Another six “new significant cases” were under investigation by 2015.

But despite all the attention, gold industry sources say that, in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, the trade goes on, albeit on a smaller scale.

“You still see strange people buying bullion and then a few days later trying to sell scrap in approximately the same amount,” a source said.

“The scam is so easy to run and not get caught. By the time the ATO catches onto a missing trader, they’ve shut down and moved on to a new company or a new false ID.”

Many of the gold industry businesses allegedly involved in the GST rebate rort since 2013 – who cannot be named for legal reasons – continue to operate, despite being hit with enormous tax bills, which are being contested in the courts.

The ATO, which has declined to comment on the effectiveness of Operation Nosean, said a “number of syndicates” had been identified since 2012.

“The high value of gold and relative ease of availability provides significant opportunity for exploitation, particularly by organised networks,”  ATO assistant commissioner Ian Read said.

“The Australian Taxation Office continues to review various entities in the gold bullion industry to verify their entitlement to GST credits and to ensure they have reported GST correctly.”

Questions about the escalating size of the scam were put to Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan by Senator John Williams during a Senate committee hearing early last year.

Senator Williams: Would they not be liable for fraud charges?

Mr Jordan: If it was fraud we would have taken action with the Australian Federal Police. What they would be arguing, though, is they would be asserting they were doing what the law allows.

Fairfax Media understands a major problem hampering the ATO is the difficulty in distinguishing between legitimate operators and potential fraudsters in an industry that is only lightly regulated.

Gold trading is a volume industry and mid-tier bullion dealers sell three to five kilograms worth of gold on a regular day. No licence is required to trade in gold bullion, a situation that has allowed organised criminals and professional fraudsters to infiltrate the industry.

Brisbane precious metals trader Robert Bourke, a self-confessed “middle man” in a one of the alleged GST syndicates, was a veteran criminal with more than 20 fraud, dishonesty and theft convictions and yet was still able to act as a gold buyer on behalf of self-managed super funds.

Bourke was accused of orchestrating the theft of 100 kilograms of solid gold, but died of cancer last year before he could face court. Investors and creditors lost more than $20 million when his business collapsed.

Another veteran convicted conman, Rocco Calabrese, and a bankrupt Sydney businessman have also been implicated in the GST scam.

In a licensed industry – financial planning, pawnbroking, used cars or real estate – convicted criminals and bankrupts would face (and fail) a “fit and proper person” requirement.

But the GST scam has only exacerbated the infiltration of organised crime figures into a business that is already being exploited to launder money and hide the proceeds of crime.

Under current laws, no identification needs to be presented when buying or selling less than $5000 worth of bullion. Dodgy gold traders can easily circumvent this rule by allowing customers to conduct multiple deals below the threshold.

Deals of more than $10,000 require customers to present ID, and the transaction must be reported to the federal agency, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre. But that is no major obstacle for criminals given the easy availability of false identification papers.

Like the world’s central banks, criminals have also realised that gold is the ultimate form of money. Compact, anonymous and highly valuable, it is used to pay debts, hide money and buy drugs and weapons, sources say.

One kilogram of gold is worth more than $58,000 and is about the size of an iPhone 5. In comparison, the same amount in $50 bills would fill a shoebox.

Unlike cash, property or luxury cars, gold is effectively untraceable. It can be melted and moulded into any shape and it won’t degrade when buried or submerged in water.

Stolen jewellery is easily melted down in smelters that can be bought on eBay or from jewellery supply shops for a few hundred dollars, tools also used by “missing traders” to convert their bullion to scrap.

The Australian Crime Commission reports that some criminals have even had gold melted into the shape of nuts, bolts and tools, and ship large volumes of gold internationally disguised as metal parts.

Gold bullion has also been turning up in police investigations around the country, seized along with drugs, cash, casino chip and firearms.

“Criminals consistently seek to exploit financial products or sectors that are perceived to be more lightly regulated than other areas,” Austrac reports.

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

If you have recently grabbed a pack of Coca-Cola cans at Aldi you may have noticed you’re paying less for eight more cans than you would at Coles or Woolworths.
Nanjing Night Net

But there’s a catch. The cans are smaller – 12 per cent smaller, in fact.

Unless you’re a born mathematician, different product sizing makes it difficult to compare pricing between the supermarket giants.

So who wins the diet Coke battle? 

Aldi diet Coke is sold in packs containing 330ml cans; Coles sells the standard 375ml. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Aldi’s case of 18 smaller cans costs $11.29. At Coles, it is $12.30 for a  full-size 10 pack. Aldi’s cans come out at 19 cents per 100ml, compared to 32.8 cents per 100ml at Coles. But Coles and Woolworths sell in packs of 10, 24 and 30  cans of 375ml each  – and you never have to wait long for it to be discounted. This past week Coles was selling 24 packs for $14.10 and Woolworths 30 packs for $20. Final score: Aldi 19c per 100ml, Woolworths 17.8c and Coles 15.7c.

Fairfax Media’s survey of six popular products sold at Coles, Aldi and Woolworths found differences between size and price for each one – making it difficult for consumers to easily compare and figure out how to get the best deal. And, as the diet Coke example shows, Aldi, per 100ml or 100g, isn’t always the cheapest.

A Coca-Cola Amatil spokesperson said it  works “with retailers to supply products that best meet the needs of their customers,” and are able to supply cans and packs that can be modified to a variety of sizes. 

Coles’ Milo comes in 750g; Aldi’s 385g. Photo: Edwina Pickles

When it comes to Nestlé’s Milo, Aldi sold it at one size – 385g – at $1.35 per 100g.  Coles and Woolworths both offered three different sizes – 200g, 750g, 1.25kg. The 750g can is sold at $1.30 per 100g at Coles, making it a better deal.

When it came to Nestlé’s Uncle Toby’s oats, Aldi was cheaper on the smaller size product.

Aldi sold one size – 660g – for 54 cents per 100 grams, while Coles and Woolworths offered two sizes – 500g and 1kg. While Coles’ smaller pack was 75 cents per 100g, the 1kg pack almost matched Aldi’s price, per 100g.

Coles oats are sold at 500g and 1kg, Aldi’s at 660g. Photo: Edwina Pickles

“Coles offers customers a range of products, some of which are in different sizes,” said a Coles spokesperson.

Consumer advocate Christopher Zinn said the difference in sizing was to accommodate different types of people who shopped at the supermarket giants.

“The market is segmented, everyone has got a different optimum of what suits them best,” he said.

Aldi has captured 12.1 per cent of the Australian market, trailing leader Woolworths (37.3pc) and Coles (32.5pc), according to Roy Morgan as at December 2015.

Aldi usually offers a single size as they are about the “simplicity of offer”, having to find a size that “suits most of the people, most of the time”, said Mr Zinn.

An Aldi Australia spokesperson said Aldi tailors its products so it can “meet the needs of tomorrow’s consumer”.

Coles coffee capsules, sold in 52g packs, and Aldi’s, in a 128g pack. Photo: Janie Barrett

Mr Zinn said unit pricing is a “consumer’s friend” as it indicates the price of the product per 100g or litre. The inclusion of the unit pricing in stores was introduced in Australia in 2009, but is often not prominent.

Multipacks can also make it difficult to compare across stores. A packet of coffee capsules sold at Aldi and Woolworths contain 16 capsules of 8g each, whereas packets at Coles contained 10 capsules at 5.2g each.

The price per capsule for each box is roughly the same, ranging between 37 and 39 cents, but when unit pricing is used to compare the three boxes, Aldi was a bargain with a price of $4.68 per 100g, compared to Woolworths’ $4.91 per 100g, and Coles’ $7.12 per 100g.

Aldi cornflakes are sold at 750g; Coles at 500g. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Home brand cornflakes are sold in different sizes. Aldi’s box is 750g, Woolworths’ is 550g and Coles’ 500g. Coles and Woolworths (both 36c/100g) were more expensive than Aldi (33c/100g).

Ian Jarratt, who spearheaded the introduction of unit pricing in Australia, said while unit pricing can be helpful, it’s not the most important factor in buying groceries.

“It’s all a matter of relative value,” said Mr Jarratt.

While families may find that a particular product may be more expensive, it might still be better value because it accommodates for their weekly needs, said Mr Jarratt.

Aldi cake mix, 380g, and Coles cake mix, 340g. Photo: Edwina Pickles

The classic vanilla cake mix sold at Coles and Woolworths come in packs of 340g, while at Aldi the mix is sold in a pack of 380g. Aldi’s cake mix was valued at 21.3 cents per 100g, whereas Coles and Woolworths were 22.1 cents per 100g.

So not only do you get a cheaper deal at Aldi, but a bigger cake too.

(Prices were compared at Aldi and Coles at both Castle Hill and Broadway shopping centres and with Woolworths online, which charges the same price as in store, over the past 10 days.)

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

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (MA) 2.5 stars
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Jane Austen has done well enough, but if she wanted to be really popular with modern audiences, she would have found a way to incorporate the living dead into her work. Seth Grahame-Smith did it for her with his monster mash-up, one of a series of such literary larcenies, here filmed by writer-director Burr Steers.

A zombie plague has been threatening 19th-century England for some time, but people still have to get on with life and the Bennets are no exception. Mrs Bennet (Sally Phillips) is, as in the original story, concerned with marrying off her daughters well even as they train in weaponry and martial arts to battle the ongoing menace.

Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) and newcomer Mr Darcy (Sam Riley), as expected, meet and don’t get along from the start, but circumstances keep bringing them together even as the very fabric of society is threatened.

The film is quite well made, played admirably straight by all concerned and has a pretty good cast, though Riley seems somewhat out of place. It stretches the conceit of the title about as far as it will go but ultimately it’s pretty thin stuff. If you want a good adaptation of the original book or a good zombie movie, you’re much better advised to look elsewhere, but if you’re curious how the hybrid plays out, it might be worth a look.

The only extras are a blooper reel and deleted scenes.

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Daniel Ricciardo qualified behind his teammate for the first time this season. Photo: Mark ThompsonFor the first time this season Daniel Ricciardo has qualified behind a Red Bull teammate and will start fourth in Sunday’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
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Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton claimed his third consecutive pole position ahead of his teammate Nico Rosberg in 1.29.606.

Ricciardo’s qualifying pace has been a highlight of his season so far, but on Saturday he struggled to match Max Verstappen throughout the three sessions. The Dutchman ended qualifying with a best time of 1.30.313, ahead of Ricciardo on 1.30.618.

“Just wasn’t the best day out there for me,” Ricciardo said on Fox Sports. “Still, tomorrow is all to play for and still pushing.”

Reminded it was the first time he’d been out-qualified by a teammate this season, Ricciardo said:  “That sucks. It sucks getting beat in any case … you’d like to go through a perfect season … just the low speed at the last chicane, I just couldn’t get through there.”

The Australian said Mercedes again looked well ahead of the rest of the field, but he felt third place was  up for grabs.

“That’s that, I didn’t really get the 100 percent out of it today but tomorrow is obviously points day … and get on the podium that’s my target,” he said. “I think Ferrari will give us a bit of a run for our money in the race, but I think that third place is up for grabs.”

For his part Verstappen seemed not surprised to have bested Ricciardo saying:  “I think in general I’ve been unlucky the last two qualifying … I really enjoyed it, the car was performing.”

Turn nine, among other corners, caused problems for drivers throughout the day, with officials enforcing track limits that caused some to have their lap time deleted.

Hamilton fell foul of the ruling in the final qualifying session and had his first fast time struck out and was forced to do one flying lap. As usual the world champion rose to the challenge, putting in  a blistering lap that clearly put Rosberg in the shade.

It was Hamilton’s fourth pole position at his home race, a feat he was clearly delighted with.

“I think we had really good pace … the penultimate lap was a very good lap, which unfortunately was taken away,” Hamilton said. “A lot of pressure for that last lap, but I was just sitting in the garage and I knew i couldn’t let the guys down.”

Rosberg said he would look forward to a better performance in the race itself.

The Ferrari’s of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel finished fifth and sixth fastest in Q3, but Vettel will start from 11th after copping a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.

Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat had another day to forget, finishing qualifying two in 15th position, while his temmate Carlos Sainz went into the final session and finished Q3 ninth fastest.

Kyvat started the year as Ricciardo’s teammate at Red Bull but was dropped in favour of Verstappen after a scrappy start to the season.

Earlier, the final practice session was delayed when Swedish Sauber driver Marcus Ericsson crashed heavily on the exit of Stowe corner. He  was taken to hospital for medical checks and did not take part in qualifying. He will need permission from officials in order to start in the Grand Prix.

Going into the race, Rosberg leads the world championship on 153 points from Hamilton on 142, with the Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen both on 96. Ricciardo is fifth  on 88, with Verstappen closing in on 72 points courtesy of last week’s good form and his win earlier this year in Spain.

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