Sydney traffic: Easter exodus causes 21km traffic jam

Sydney traffic conditionsAre you stuck in traffic? Email us, message us on Twitter @smh.
Shanghai night field

Queues of traffic stretching for kilometres are causing lengthy delays for holiday-makers across Sydney and around the state.

A 21-kilometre traffic jam heading west on the Great Western Highway in the Blue Mountains showed no signs of easing by 2pm.

The Transport Management Centre said traffic was also banked up near Wiseman’s Ferry in Sydney’s north-west, around the fish markets at Pyrmont, on Pennant Hills Road from Carlingford to Normanhurst and on Hawkesbury Valley Way in Richmond.

There was a 2.5-kilometre queue on the New England Highway between Beresfield and Hexham, the TMC said.

On the Princess Highway at Kiama, motorists were facing 90-minute delays due to an 11-kilometre line of traffic.

On the North Coast, the queue was eight kilometres at Macksville, headed north, and five kilometres in the southbound lanes of the Pacific Highway at Ewingsdale, near the turn-off to popular holiday spot Byron Bay.

“Additionally, northbound traffic on the Pacific Highway at Cooperabung on the state’s mid-north coast is heavy due to a two-car accident and broken down truck nearby,” the TMC said.

“Northbound traffic is queued up to 18 kilometres.”

In the Hunter, eastbound traffic on the New England Highway approaching the Hexham Bridge was queued for more than four kilometres at midday, adding an extra 25 minutes of travel time.

At the same time on the North Coast, north-bound traffic on the Pacific Highway at Macksville was queued for eight kilometres, adding an extra 30 minutes to journeys.

Southbound traffic on the Pacific Highway at Ewingsdale was queued for 4.5 kilometres, adding an extra 30 minutes of travel time.

Additionally, traffic on the Pacific Highway at Cooperabung was heavy due to a two-car crash and broken down truck nearby. Traffic was queued up to 10 kilometres in each direction at 12.30pm.

Healthy Easter treats

Sweet: naughty but nice treats. Photo: _ta’_Whether you are a raw foodist, part of the popular Paleo brigade, going au naturel with your food or are on a sugar-free crusade, you don’t have to miss out on the foodie festivities over Easter.
Shanghai night field

In fact, healthful eating can be a treat.

“At Easter, most people opt for the popular chocolate brands on the shelves that have been refined and processed to the point that anything remotely healthy has been removed,” says nutritionist and author of Changing Habits Changing Lives Cyndi O’Meara. “Instead, why not make your own chocolate treats so you can ensure that you know exactly what you’re eating.”

We asked Cyndi and a handful of other healthful foodies to share their favourite Easter recipes. Warning: these taste naughty even though they’re nice for our bodies.

Sugar-free Ferrero Rochers

“Most store-bought chocolates also contain bad oils and additives, and retain less nutritional value than hand-crafted or homemade chocolate as the cacao has been heated and refined,” says Sarah Wilson on I Quit Sugar. “The upshot: it’s best to make your own chocolate.”

If using bought chocolate for cooking, however, she suggests using the darkest chocolate you can find as it has the least amount of nasties and the highest cacao/cocoa content, which means added antioxidants.

Photography by Jane Costin

Ingredients

2 x 200g packet of hazelnuts2 x 100g 85% dark chocolateThe filling1 cup hazelnuts1/4 cup coconut oil1/4 cup rice malt syrup1-2 tablespoons coconut milk1/4 cup raw cacao powder1 teaspoon vanilla powder

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Place all hazelnuts (including ones for filling) on an oven tray. Cook for 8-10 minutes until roasted and skins are beginning to fall off. Cool slightly. Rub skins off using a tea towel.2. Place 1 cup of hazelnuts and remaining filling ingredients in a food processor. Process until smooth.3. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile place half of the remaining hazelnuts in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Place on a plate.4. Roll filling mixture into balls and insert a whole hazelnut inside each ball working quickly so they don’t melt. Place back in refrigerator for 1 hour.5. Simmer some water in a saucepan on the stove top. Place a heatproof bowl on top and gently melt the chocolate (or melt chocolate in the microwave).6. Dip refrigerated balls into melted chocolate to coat, then sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts and place back in refrigerator on a tray lined with baking paper. Allow to set for at least 2 hours.

Paleo-inspired coconut choc fudge

“We love this recipe,” say Scott Gooding and Luke Hines, authors of the Clean Living Cookbook. “You’d never guess it was healthy, it just tastes so good. It’s clear proof that a healthy dessert really doesn’t have to be bland or tasteless.”

Ingredients

1 cup coconut oil, plus a littleextra to grease the tin1 cup almond butter1/2 cup shredded coconut, plus a little extra to sprinkle1/2 cup rice malt syrup1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped1/3 cup raw cacao powder1/4 cup cacao nibs

Makes 16 pieces

Method

1. Line the sides and base of a 20 cm square cake tin with baking paper or grease it with coconut oil.2. Put your coconut oil, almond butter, shredded coconut, rice malt syrup and vanilla seeds in a food processor and combine really well.3. Scoop half of the mixture into the tin and smooth it out with a knife or spatula so it’s even all over. Place the tin in the freezer for 20 minutes until the fudge has firmed up slightly.4. Now it’s time to make your second layer. Turn the food processor on again and add the raw cacao powder. Blend until chocolatey and lovely, then spoon this mixture onto the already prepared layer in the tin.5. Put the fudge back in the freezer for about 20–30 minutes, then take it out and cut it into squares.6. Serve topped with the cacao nibs and extra shredded coconut.

Tip: We recommend that you use vanilla seeds scraped from the bean. If you don’t have a vanilla bean, just replace the seeds with 1—2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.Variation: Putting a layer of smashed raspberries between the two layers of fudge adds colour and a great tart flavour — try it out sometime.

Raw Cross Buns

“These treats are a cool raw vegan take on the traditional Easter favourite,” says Sadhana Kitchen’s Maz Valcorza. “The psyllium husk powder is the real key here, it draws the liquid into the dry ingredients, binding them nicely creating as spongy a texture as you can get with raw unbaked goods.

“When you pop them into the dehydrator [or oven], the smell will waft through your house just like the ‘real thing’. They’re awesome served warm and fresh out of the dehydrator.

“Enjoy some with an organic chai made on your favourite cold pressed nut mylk. This recipe makes at least a dozen hot cross buns depending on the size.”

Photography by James Watkins.

Ingredients

Buns1/2 cup psyllium husk powder (if you can’t find any, just mill psyllium husk in a spice grinder or high speed blender)2 ½ cups almonds ground into a flour1 cup cashews ground into a flour1 cup flax meal1 tbs cinnamon1 tbs cardamom2 tsp nutmeg1/4 tsp ground cloves2 tsp vanilla powder1 cup raisins1/2 cup chopped dates1/2 cup chopped dried apricots1 tsp Himalayan pink salt or Celtic sea salt2 cups of organic cold-pressed orange juice (juiced with skins on – must be organic)

Sweet Orange Glaze1 cup of organic cold-pressed orange juice (juiced with skins on)3/4 cup medjool dates2 tbs coconut nectar1/2 tsp all spice

Cross Frosting1 cup cashews1/2 cup finely desiccated coconut3/4 cup filtered water1 tsp vanilla powder2 tbs lemon juice2 tbs lemon rind2 heaped tbs coconut oil1 tbs psyllium husk powder1 tbs lecithinpinch of Himalayan pink salt or Celtic sea saltstevia to taste (add little by little, it’s potent stuff!)

Method

Sweet Orange GlazeBlend all glaze ingredients in high-speed blender until super smooth and place into a bowl ready for basting.Buns1. In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly combine all ingredients except for the orange juice.Make a well in the middle, add orange juice and knead into a dough.2. Press into a rectangle about 1 inch high and cut into buns using a knife or cookie cutter. Your buns can be whatever shape you like, but we moulded ours so that it resembles buns that have stuck to each other whilst baking :)3. Place onto mesh dehydrator tray and baste with orange glaze.4. Dehydrate at 38°C for 10-12 hours basting every few hours until the buns are ready Note: If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can set your oven to the lowest setting (if you have a fan-forced even better!) and leave the door cracked open.Cross Frosting1. Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth. It’s a good time to use the blender’s tamper as the mixture will be quite thick.2. Pour the mixture into a piping with a small round attachment or a plastic zip-lock back with one of the bottom corners snipped off.3. Pipe crosses onto your buns and add a good dose of good vibes. Your raw vegan hot cross buns are now ready to nom! Enjoy.

Easter treat truffles

Ingredients

200g fresh dates210g organic canned coconut cream2 tbsp seeds or nut meal (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds or hazelnuts)70g raw cacao1/8 tsp seaweed salt1 Vanilla Pod

Topping flavour for rolling in: Coconut, sesame seeds, nuts, hemp seeds, cinnamon or blend an equal amount of rapadura sugar to cacao until fine, with a dash of cinnamon and use this to role the balls in.

Method

1. Chop the dates finely and set aside2. Warm the cacao, seaweed salt and coconut cream in a pan until the cacao is melted(do not boil, best done in a double boiler).3. Add dates, chosen seed or nut meal, melted cacao and coconut mixture into ablender and blend until smooth.4. Transfer mixture to freezer for 20 to 30 mins (don’t leave any longer or they will be toofirm to roll)5. Roll in balls using wet fingertips so the mixture doesn’t stick to your hands6. Place in refrigerator to chill

The Darwin raid that changed Australia

CARRIER ATTACK: DARWIN 1942By Dr Tom Lewis and Peter Ingman. Avonmore Books. 368pp. $49.95.
Shanghai night field

This absorbing and comprehensive account of the first enemy attack on Australian soil is subtitled The Complete Guide to Australia’s own Pearl Harbour.

It refers to the ferocious Japanese attack against Darwin by carrier aircraft on February 19, 1942. There are surely further questions still to be answered, but with Carrier Attack Lewis and Ingman make a major contribution to our knowledge and understanding of that day.

The authors acknowledge other accounts of the Japanese air raid on Darwin, but they point out that their book is the first in-depth analysis to draw on the Japanese official history, and other newly translated Japanese documents.

They have also made excellent use of the transcripts of evidence given to the royal commission appointed to investigate all aspects of the raid, including both military and civilian issues.

The Japanese raid on Darwin has become part of Australian folklore and Lewis and Ingman not only try to give the facts but also to debunk myths.

There is, for example, a story that a Coastwatcher Lewis and Ingman named John Gribble sent a warning message from Melville Island about the approaching Japanese attack some 20 minutes before the genuine warning of Father John McGrath, a Catholic missionary on Bathurst Island. But there is no evidence to support the Gribble story.

Another persistent myth is that there were many more deaths than the approximately 235 officially counted in the two raids on Darwin on February 19, 1942. Some have suggested there was a cover-up, and that more than 1000 people died. But again, there is no support for such a claim, as military historian Dr Peter Stanley stressed in a talk on the 70th anniversary of the attack, in 2012. Stanley states that news of the raid was diminished but not suppressed by the Curtin government.

Even the 2008 film Australia appears to show Japanese infantry landing on Australian soil. They did no such thing, but for those who learn their history from movies, this could be the making of a new myth.

The raid began with 179 Imperial Japanese Navy machines overhead, and another nine engaged at the other end of the harbour, launched from four aircraft carriers less than 400 kilometres away. They were, the authors tell us, the experienced warriors who had destroyed Pearl Harbour two and a half months previously. Those aircraft, and another 54 Japanese bombers later in the day, left Darwin in ruins, and the survivors were resigned to sharing the fate of Singapore, which fell a few days earlier.

Many people assume, as I did, that this was a rather insignificant action. But the authors stress that by the standards of the Pacific War this was a very significant air attack indeed.

It would remain the largest air attack ever conducted by the Japanese in the South West Pacific during the entire war. About half of the dead were Americans, and 88 of them were from the now-sunk destroyer USS Peary.

After introductory sections detailing the rise and expansion of Japan as an ally of Germany and Italy, and the steps that led to the Pacific War in 1941, the authors give an hour-by-hour account of the fateful day. They examine accusations of unpreparedness and inefficiency towards the civilian and military forces in the north and ask how justified these accusations were.

The main conclusion about the motive for the raid was that the attack was not a prelude to an invasion of Australia. Rather it was believed by the Japanese Command that the modest naval and air forces based in Darwin represented a threat to the Timor invasion operations scheduled for February 20, and therefore had to be neutralised. The Japanese attack on Darwin eliminated this threat to the Timor operation, which then went ahead comparatively smoothly.

In spite of the fact that the air raid did considerable damage, the authors conclude that the raid might have been more effective had fewer attacking aircraft been used.

They conclude that, from the Allied perspective, the Darwin attack could easily have been more catastrophic.

But Darwin was a victim of its own geography, brushing up too close to events of strategic necessity to the Japanese.

The authors say that, while it was a tactical victory for the Japanese, the Darwin raid mattered little in a strategic sense. But the raid dramatically affected Australians’ notions of their own vulnerability and defence became, and remains, a matter of national pride.

Carrier Attack is beautifully produced, copiously illustrated and has fine colour maps.

An apocalyptic future from many angles

SHOVEL READYBy Adam Sternbergh. Headline. 243pp. $29.99.WOLVES By Simon Ings. Gollancz. 295pp. $29.99.PROXIMABy Stephen Baxter. Gollancz. 455pp. $29.99. SF GATEWAY OMNIBUS. Bob Shaw. Gollancz. 519pp. $35.SF GATEWAY OMNIBUSBy James Blish. Gollancz. 302pp. $39.
Shanghai night field

Sci-fi stories of the 1930s and 1940s were essentially optimistic, with a belief in scientific progress, but the nuclear bomb and the Cold War saw an upsurge of dystopian, or apocalyptic, SF from the 1950s onwards. This trend has continued with increasing intensity through to now, as well as seeping into mainstream readership, notably in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Adam Sternbergh, the culture editor of The New York Times Magazine, sets his debut novel, Shovel Ready, in a dystopian world, extrapolated from current concerns about climate change, migrant intake and societal divide. A terrorist dirty bomb explosion, in Sternbergh’s near-future New York, contributes to the ”incremental apocalypse” from which the rich escape to the alternate ”limnosphere”.

Sternbergh’s deliberately minimalist prose effectively reflects a largely barren New York landscape. Here his ”damaged hero”, the Spademan, a former garbage collector turned contract killer, is hired to ”take care of” the daughter of America’s richest evangelist. The Spademan finds himself ultimately defending her in classic Philip Marlowe and Dashiell Hammett (remember Sam Spade) noir tradition. Shovel Ready is an intriguing mixture of genres, especially hard-boiled crime and dystopian SF.

Simon Ings’ near-future people ”still live in a world of affordable plenty … Soon they will wake to discover that, blinded by fictitious capital, they have been torching what few riches were left”. Wolves is essentially a personal odyssey for the main character, Conrad, in which his past and present intersect. Conrad works on the technology of augmented virtual reality (think Google glasses to the nth degree), which comes to overlay the real one. It offers each individual their own world view, but will they realise the real world is slipping away.

Conrad notes ”the human world falls apart, not through catastrophe, but from mounting internal failure”. Wolves juxtaposes Conrad’s personal failures and the possible murder of his mother with his development of alternate reality. The two narrative lines don’t always connect in a deliberately elliptical novel, which echoes J. G. Ballard’s surreal near futures.

British ”hard SF” writer Stephen Baxter takes the reader out of this world in Proxima, the first of a duology. The convict transportations to Australia are reworked in a one-way 60-year journey, from an Earth dominated by China and nations aligned to the UN, to Proxima C, a planet in the Alpha Centauri system.

The colonists, mostly white-collar convicts, soon fragment into small warring communities. Baxter’s main characters, Yuri and Mardina, a female security officer from a ”dried-out, emptied, China-dominated Australia”, break away, both to survive and to explore the planet’s alien biology and flora. Baxter superbly evokes the planetary challenges but then, in typical Baxter fashion, takes his couple through wormholes back to solar-system politics alongside discourse on topics ranging from the development of artificial intelligence to the origins of the universe. Too heady a mix for overall narrative coherence, but no one could ever doubt Baxter’s ability to evoke a sense of SF wonder.

The Gollancz Gateway series bring back some of the best 20th-century SF writing, both in print and digital form. Bob Shaw (1931-96) will be probably best remembered for his ”slow glass” concept, but the selection of Orbitsville (1975), A Wreath Of Stars (1976) and The Ragged Astronauts (1986), will not disappoint readers. Their mixture of scientific detail and imaginative plotting follows in the Arthur C. Clarke mould.

James Blish (1921-1975), one of the leading SF writers of the 1950s and 1960s, is best known for his classic A Case of Conscience (1958). Unfortunately, the current compilation does not include it, nor any of his epic Okies quartet. Instead Gateway reprints his reworking of the Satanic myth in Black Easter (1968) and The Day After Judgement (1971), which Blish regarded as one novel. The Seedling Stars (1957) highlights Blish’s interest in biology with linked stories reflecting his concept of ”pantropy”, whereby humanity must evolve to colonise deep space.

Matildas coach victim of player power

Gone … former Matildas coach Hesterine de Reus. Photo: Peter RaeThe stand-off between players and coach Hesterine de Reus for control of the Australian women’s football team was ended abruptly on Thursday afternoon when the Dutchwoman was sacked as head coach.
Shanghai night field

Football Federation Australia announced this month it would investigate the complaints from the players regarding the coach, with speculation shortly after that de Reus’s fate was inevitable.

At lunch on Thursday, FFA chief executive David Gallop released a statement confirming her reign had been brought to an abrupt halt.

“After a review by FFA it was determined that a change in coaches was in best interests of the Matildas program,” Gallop said.

Into the breach steps the well-credentialled Alen Stajic, a veteran of women’s coaching – most recently with Sydney FC – and much more popular figure among the players.

He will take charge of the team for next month’s Asian Cup in Vietnam on an interim basis, and is a chance to keep the job permanently for next year’s World Cup in Canada.

Ex-coach Tom Sermanni is also contender to resume the Matildas role, having been fired from his job as coach of the US women’s national team a fortnight ago.

A “comprehensive review of the Matildas program” will be launched by the FFA as soon as the Asian Cup, which the Matildas won in 2010, is complete.

It is known that several players have been agitating for change for some time – some appealing directly to the FFA and their union, Professional Footballers Australia, to intervene.

The recent Cyprus Cup in March was a flashpoint for tensions, with disenchanted players claiming de Reus kept an unusually tight rein on their non-training activities, such as going out for lunch or coffee. However, the PFA said the issues ran much deeper.

“Members of the Matildas have professionally and discretely raised with the PFA a number of important issues regarding compliance with the Matildas’ collective bargaining agreement [2013 – 2015] between Football Federation Australia and the PFA as well as worrying workplace practices,” PFA chief executive Adam Vivian last week said.

Eleven key points of contention were addressed by the PFA, most notably the “disregard for player wellbeing and development and commitments outside of the game”, as well as the “intimation of non-selection if players take overseas contracts”.

Given the shortness of the W-League season, playing abroad is the only way several top players can earn a year-round living from the game.

Known for her uncompromising style, de Reus was brought in to create a more ruthless environment than that under Sermanni, generally considered very accommodating towards the players, especially regarding work or family commitments.

However, not everyone in the game had it in for de Reus. One critic of the recent process has been former Matilda Joey Peters, who took to Twitter to vent her frustration.

“Such drastic measures with so little explanation. #pleaseexplain,” she said. Peters then addressed the FFA’s own press release, which suggested the decision was somewhat mutual: “‘Leaves’ means ‘of own choice’ which is hardly the case. If they have taken such drastic measures, why don’t they name it as such?”

When Peters suggested “If it ain’t hard enough for women in sport, we turn on each other”, former international teammate Julie Dolan replied: “Not a culture that I care to know, Joey. And not one built by many, many former Matildas.”

Alicia Molik confident ahead of Fed Cup tie

Australian captain Alicia Molik believes she has the team to reach the nation’s first Fed Cup decider since Liz Smylie, Wendy Turnbull and Anne Minter lost the 1984 decider to Czechoslovakia, with Sam Stosur to lead off the semi-final against Germany in Brisbane on Saturday.
Shanghai night field

Stosur will attempt a reprise of her 2012 defeat of German No.2 Andrea Petkovic in the 2012 qualifying tie on clay in Stuttgart when the hardcourt fixture begins on Pat Rafter Arena. Casey Dellaqua will then play world No.7 Angelique Kerber in the second match, with the reverse singles, and doubles scheduled for Sunday.

“I think we can win,” said Molik, who predictably nominated three-time grand slam finalists Dellaqua and Ash Barty as her combination to play Julia Goerges and Anna-Lena Groenefeld in the fifth rubber.

“As per the last time Australia played Germany, it will be very clear in the Germans’ minds that Sam had the edge, so I think as an opponent it’s always difficult going into a match knowing that you lost the last encounter, so I’m hoping that they remember those matches very clearly.

“And if you look at matches won over the last four or five months, I think Casey would almost be leading the charge out of both teams with the amount of matches that she’s been able to put together, both through qualifying, main draw, and she had a big summer, played a lot of challengers, a lot of matches, so you can’t buy that time on the match court and that’s something that I’ll make sure that I remind Casey of tomorrow.

“But we’ve got the team to win. No doubt about that.”

Stosur, ranked 19th after a lean start to the season, said the Australians did not feel burdened by the weight of history, despite having not won the female equivalent of the higher-profile Davis Cup since Evonne Goolagong Cawley inspired a 2-1 defeat of the US in 1974.

“I don’t think that’s going to be a crucial factor that’s going to make us any more nervous or feel more pressure,” said Stosur, the former US Open champion. “Obviously we would love to break that drought, but we’re going to go out there and play just as we would if we were in the final last year. So it’s not going to, I don’t think, determine how good or bad we do, but of course we would like to get through to that final.”

Family’s plea to find missing Garywho vanished from Sydney’s east

Gary Moana Payne had been staying with his aunt in Sydney’s eastern suburbs when he walked out of the front door one day with a mystery man.
Shanghai night field

That was 13 years ago. The New Zealand man has not been seen or heard from since that day.

After years of not knowing what happened to their loved one, Mr Payne’s family are hoping a member of the public can shed some light on what happened after he left his aunt’s house in Matraville in January 2001.

Mr Payne was 37 when he disappeared and, if he is still alive, would have turned 50 this year.

“Mr Payne’s family in his native New Zealand are at a loss to explain his disappearance,” said Detective Inspector Stacey Maloney, crime manager at the Eastern Beaches Local Area Command.

“It has been over 13 years and that is a long time to worry about a loved one. They just want to know where he is.”

Police have not been able to identify the man who was with Mr Payne when he left his aunt’s home, or whether that man can provide any clues about Mr Payne’s disappearance.

One report made to Crime Stoppers suggested that Mr Payne may have been living in Perth in Western Australia.

But Detective Inspector Maloney said that line of inquiry had been ”exhausted.”

“Inquiries with other agencies have yielded no information as to Mr Payne’s whereabouts or his activities,” Detective Inspector Maloney said.

Mr Payne is described as being of Pacific Islander/Maori appearance, about 181 centimetres tall with a large build, short dark brown hair and brown eyes.

Police have urged anyone with information about Mr Payne’s disappearance to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or use the Crime Stoppers online reporting page.

Vixens trying to get on right track at home

By discussing it, coach Simone McKinnis does not want to overstate its significance, but here are the facts: four of the Melbourne Vixens’ five wins this season have come on the road, and both their losses have been at home. A: Why? B: What needs to be done?
Shanghai night field

Last year, when a similar pattern was emerging, there was talk of spending the pre-game night together in a Melbourne hotel, to simulate the team bonding that happens routinely when the Vixens travel. This week, the subject was discussed after the last leg of a timely treble of away victories, and before Saturday’s meeting with the defending champion Adelaide Thunderbirds. At Hisense Arena. Home.

Part of captain Bianca Chatfield’s theory is that road trips give semi-professional netballers – the majority of whom combine their sport with a day job – the chance to channel their full-time inner athlete. There are no meals to prepare, bosses to placate, or obligations to juggle, which leaves the focus purely on preparation and performance. At home, real life distractions can sometimes intrude.

“Yes, it is a bit like that,” agreed McKinnis. “And we spoke the other night about the fact that when we do get together on Saturday just to be really mindful right from the word go about being together and working together like we would be if we were somewhere else. It’s hard, it’s tricky, actually. I’ve sort of been thinking about it a bit this week.

“It’s difficult to put the finger on [the reason], But, also, we don’t want to make a big deal, an issue, out of it. Everybody’s mindful that the preparation and everything has to be spot on this week, like every week … So, yeah, a big game for us this Saturday.”

And a big week for the five Vixens selected in the preliminary Commonwealth games squad for Glasgow, including seven-gamer Liz Watson, while former Diamonds’ vice-captain Cath Cox played an exceptional second half in Sunday’s late charge past the NSW Swifts that returned the Vixens to the top of the ladder. The Thunderbirds, in contrast, have logged three consecutive losses for the first time in their ANZ Championship history, while losing wing attack Leigh Waddington to a season-ending knee injury and failing to quite cover the off-season departure of key defender Sharni Layton.

Midcourter Emily Beaton has been sidelined throughout with a foot injury, and veteran Wendy Jacobsen was drafted from the Victorian Netball League for the upset loss to the West Coast Fever in the T-birds’ last start. McKinnis is unsure whether Beaton will return in this, round eight, and also whether Adelaide coach Jane Woodlands-Thompson will opt for Kate Shimmin or Sam Poolman at goal keeper.

What she knows, however, is that, regardless of recent results, the team that beat the Vixens twice in 2014 – including by 10 goals in last year’s major semi-final – will provide formidable opposition. “It’s always just really tough,” McKinnis said. “They’ve had the bye and it would be hurting them that they’ve had those three losses. You know they’re always going to be really well-prepared, and we really do need to put out the quality of netball that we have in the last couple of weeks, and even more so.”

The past three have steadied the Vixens’ season after successive stumbles against the Firebirds and Magic, but the eye-catcher was last week’s stirring 56-50 overhaul of the Swifts after trailing at every change, and by nine during the third quarter. “I was super-pleased about that win in terms of what we learnt about ourselves as a team and what we’re capable of.” McKinnis said. “To be put in a really challenging position – anybody watching would have said ‘we’re gone’, and we could easily have been gone – and pull back from that and to do it so well, and to then pull away with the game, it says a lot about the guts and determination and just the team spirit, and that’s why I really enjoyed that win.

“It was back towards what we are capable of and what we should be putting out there … I mean, Swifts were playing really good netball, yet we were still able to just keep going at our job. There was nothing magical about what we did, it was just plugging away at our game and we got ourselves back into it.”

Hockey’s new trick: cutting is really spending

“This challenge is political as well as economic”: Hockey’s 2014 Budget Photo: Alex EllinghausenAs the storm clouds gathered in 2008, Labor was told to spend the lot.
Shanghai night field

“Go early, go hard, and go households” came the now famous advice from Treasury. It was like a licence to become popular.

This week, with the clock ticking down to the Coalition’s first crucial budget, there was another piece of advice kicking around. Former Treasury official and now director at the firm Macroeconomics, Stephen Anthony, urged Joe Hockey to “cut early and cut hard”. Not quite as pleasant perhaps, but equally clear.

Anthony went on to say, “there will never be a better chance than now to fix the budget”.

It has been rather hard to get an accurate read on the government’s pre-budget positioning given that through the earlier part of this year, Hockey has at times flagged a mild, even stimulatory budget, rejecting any sudden contractions that would “undermine improving economic growth in the budget”.

“We’re not going to do that. We want the economy to grow faster, to give people more jobs. That’s what we want,” he said last month.

If there is any confusion in voters’ minds, it is because Hockey is planning a budget which does both – stimulate now and cut later – which will be a pretty neat trick if he can pull it off. The pitch involves convincing people that cutting is the new spending – the only lever left to governments across the developed world.

Monetary policy has no leeway left in it with the cash rate already at rock-bottom. Ditto for fiscal policy with the Commonwealth’s balance sheet, like so many countries, already heavily in the red ruling out significant new spending.

His answer? Structural reforms aimed at trimming costs and bridging the remaining fiscal shortfall with new activity making for new revenue. Or as Hockey put it this week: “Real reforms to our economies in order to lift the overall level of growth and therefore everyone will benefit”.

In the frame are the projected growth rates of several massive expenditure programs – some of which will start to really bite into the budget towards the end of its four-year cycle and beyond – the national disability insurance scheme, the promised return to 2 per cent growth in real terms of defence spending, and increased Commonwealth expenditure on school education.

Along with the burgeoning bill for health and the aged pension, these things add up to a worsening structural deficit – a permanent and widening gap between what we raise in tax revenue and our fixed costs every year.

Treasury boss Martin Parkinson nailed the problem a fortnight ago noting that the NDIS and “Gonski” school reforms will add $3.1 billion and $2.8 billion to total spending over the forward estimates. But it’s beyond that four-year period that the costs really begin to gallop with the NDIS rising to be $11.3 billion annually in 2023-24.

“What is less well understood is that total Commonwealth expenditure on health is anticipated to rise from $64.7 billion in nominal terms to $116 billion in 2023-24,” he told the Sydney Institute.

“Similarly, our three main pension payments – the aged pension, disability support pension, and carers’ payment – grow at an annual rate of 6 per cent per annum in nominal terms over the forward estimates, adding around $13 billion to annual payments by 2016-17, and another $39 billion by 2023-24.”

Anthony estimates the task of making the budget sound again will necessitate phased but nonetheless rapid spending cuts equal to $16 billion a year – that is a permanent reduction in fixed outlays of around 1 per cent of GDP.

Clearly this challenge is political as well as economic.

Tony Abbott has made it clear he intends keeping his promises – all of them, with no exceptions.

Yet there are strong signals that the aged pension, about which he made an ironclad promise of no change before the election, is to be trimmed. Choices on the table include a lower indexation arrangement, a new assets threshold involving the family home, and delaying the eligibility age to 70.

There is also speculation that some taxes will be increased, and middle-class welfare cut – Family Tax Benefit B in particular – as well as other welfare supplements.

Abbott knows many of these changes can only commence after 2016 if he is to keep his promises, giving the electorate a chance to cast judgment.

But to many voters, it will feel like betrayal anyway.

Follow us on Twitter

Good Friday footy “inevitable”: Demetriou

Andrew Demetriou concedes Good Friday is “inevitable” Photo: Wayne TaylorEven the most stubborn opponents of Good Friday football  now concede that it is “inevitable” an AFL match will soon be played on the Christian holy day – in all likelihood beginning next year.
Shanghai night field

Outgoing AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou confirmed on Friday morning that he believed a game on Good Friday was an almost certain proposition in the near future, although as Fairfax Media earlier reported, the teams involved and match’s starting time were considerations yet to be contemplated by the AFL Commission.

“I think it looks like it’s probably going to be inevitable, when it’ll happen I don’t know, we haven’t made that decision, and what time we play the game and who plays the game, those decisions haven’t been made yet,” Demetriou said on Radio 3AW.

The league chief refused to speculate on which teams might participate in any potential game, and scoffed at reports that had indicated Victorian clubs such as North Melbourne, Carlton, Essendon and the Western Bulldogs were frontrunners for a pioneering role on Good Friday.

“[A decision on the teams] will be made in time for next year’s fixture. The commission already said and announced late last year that we’d review the Good Friday position for 2015 so that’ll be decided some time before we release the fixture in October,” Demetriou said.

Despite maintaining his longstanding personal conviction that Good Friday should be remain a rare empty public holiday on the AFL calendar, Demetriou admitted he could understand the potential positives that could stem from a game being scheduled to fill the void.

“I think my views have been pretty consistent, I’ve always thought that it’s not a bad thing to have a day off and that just because everybody else does it doesn’t mean that we should do it,” he said.

“I understand the Peter Gordon argument that says that it’s maybe a good opoortunity for the smaller clubs to get an event, but I also undertand the argument that it should be played at night as opposed to the day, but I also understand the argument that it shouldn’t go up against the Royal Children’s Hospital, so there’s a lot of pros and cons to the argument, that’s why it’s a complex issue.”

Demetriou emphasised that although gate takings from a Good Friday game could go towards the Royal Children’s Hospital Appeal, that should not be a major consideration taken into account when making a decision.

“The clubs are always very supportive of the Royal Children’s Hospital anyway, regardless of whether there’s a match or not,” he said.

The appeal needed however to maintain its primacy, Demetriou argued.

“If you are to play the game, it’s probably best played in the evening, but again if you do play you do come up against the Royal Children’s Hospital, which is an institution, it’s a very important part of the Melbourne’s fabric, and it goes to a very good cause, and I don’t think we should be looking at jeopardising that.”