Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Good for business; good for savers:  Australia has sound money

Officials figures to be released today are expected to show inflation remains well within the Reserve Bank's comfort zone.

The median estimate from a Bloomberg survey of economists is for the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to rise by 0.4 per cent in the December quarter, continuing the trend of inflation tapering off in the final three months of the year.

The survey predicts the annual rate of inflation will hit 2.4 per cent.

Deutsche Bank chief economist Adam Boyton says the rate is exactly where the Reserve Bank wants it and another rate cut is unlikely.

"The RBA has done a pretty good job of keeping inflation almost right in the middle of that 2 to 3 per cent target band," he said.

"It tells us that the economy was probably running a little bit below trend but it doesn't really suggest an enormously weak economy."

Mr Boyton says cheaper fruit will offset more expensive vegetables in the December quarter, while a rise in the tobacco excise will also be a factor.

"While fewer and fewer people are smoking, the cost of cigarettes is going up, so there is still a bit of a weight there in the CPI for tobacco," he said.

"But it's also just the size of the increase. Even if something's relatively small in the inflation basket, a reasonable change in price can have a little bit of an impact on the bottom line."

He says cheaper fruit will offset more expensive vegetables in the December quarter.

Inflation would have to be significantly lower for the Reserve Bank to consider another cut, Mr Boyton says.


Mandatory eight-year minimum for drunk punchers

MANDATORY minimum jail sentences of eight years for alcohol or drug-fuelled "coward punch" crimes will be introduced by Premier Barry O'Farrell today.

In a bid to tackle alcohol-related violence, the Premier will finally bite the bullet after The Daily Telegraph's Enough campaign called for tougher penalties in the wake of the deaths of Daniel Christie and Thomas Kelly.

Attorney-General Greg Smith's one-punch laws, which were to include a 20-year maximum, are now ­expected to also contain a minimum term if alcohol or drugs are involved - a first for NSW.

The maximum if alcohol is involved will now be 25 years.

However, if the assailant was unaffected by drugs or alcohol there will be no mandatory minimum sentence and the maximum will be 20 years.

The legislation was initially compared to laws in Western Australia - where no one has received the maximum sentence of 10 years jail.

Mr O'Farrell has been under pressure to introduce mandatory minimums for "coward punch" offences and to bring in Newcastle-style 1am lockouts to stem the violence in Sydney particularly in Kings Cross.

But it is believed his announcement today will fall short of calling for a reduction in trading hours. Yesterday Mr O'Farrell held one of the longest cabinet meetings in his time in office - about five hours - to deal with the issue. He said he was "confident the package being taken to cabinet addresses community concerns and will make a difference".

The announcement is also expected to include a "risk-based licensing scheme" under which pubs and clubs would pay extra if they had records of violence, if they traded for longer or were in designated danger spots.

Testing assault offenders for drugs and alcohol is also under consideration so that those who engaged in alcohol or drug-fuelled violence would receive tougher penalties under the legislation's "aggravating factors".

The testing would also identify to what extent the use of steroids and methamphetamine - known as "ice" - played a part in violence.

The Attorney-General's Department, in its submission to the Foggo review of the Liquor Act presented to the government last year, said that under the existing licensing scheme there was "no ongoing requirement to prove (premises) are fit to trade".

It recommended fees determined according to compliance with liquor laws.

The department also recommended tighter responsible service of alcohol training and compulsory refresher courses for bar staff, saying "some licensed premises continue to sell alcohol to intoxicated patrons".

"Around half of all non-domestic violence assaults reported to the police are alcohol related and a significant proportion of these took place within 50m of licensed premises," it said.

Labor leader John Robertson called for the government to bring in the Newcastle lockouts: "The Premier : "We have a Premier wholacks the courage to stare down the liquor industry."


Probe on academics uncovers new concerns

As UQ is where I got my first degree,  this bothers me.  It invites the skinger of forn to be pointed at all UQ degrees

AN investigation into two University of Queensland researchers accused of faking a landmark Parkinson's disease study has uncovered more concerns about alleged academic shortcomings associated with the pair.

Neuroscientist Bruce Murdoch and speech pathologist Caroline Barwood resigned from the state's top university last year, after a whistleblower complained there was no evidence their Parkinson's research was ever carried out.

UQ's vice-chancellor Peter Hoj was forced to ask the European Journal of Neurology to retract the 2011 article, after ordering a misconduct investigation.

The university could not find any data to prove the study -- entitled Treatment of articulatory dysfunction in Parkinson's disease using repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation -- was conducted.

Professor Murdoch, who has published 13 books in the field of neurologically acquired speech and language disorders, was the lead author of the study, while Dr Barwood was listed as its third author.

The University of Queensland probe then examined more than 100 published papers associated with the pair -- as co-authors and separately -- since 2007.

The Australian understands the UQ investigation raised concerns about 11 papers published in seven journals. One of the papers has been repeated across two journals, a practice that is not allowed in academia. Another two are literature reviews based on the discredited Parkinson's research, while a third contains an apparent statistical anomaly.

"The university discovered no (further) instances of research not supported by data or of research undertaken without ethics approval," Mr Hoj said in a statement released yesterday. "It has, however, identified some concerns about the attribution of authorship of a small number of papers and the statistical approach taken in one paper. We have provided relevant details to the editors of the journals that published the papers. In all cases it will be up to the editors to determine what action to take now. There have been no formal responses from editors at this stage."

The Australian understands authorship issues can broadly refer to decisions about which academic is listed as lead author on a certain published paper. The lead author is usually the academic who undertakes the lion's share of the work.

The University of Queensland has not made findings of misconduct against either of the researchers. That part of the investigation was concluded after the academics had left the institution.

The Crime and Misconduct Commission is still investigating.

Neither of the researchers have spoken publicly about the allegations. The university also returned the first two instalments of a $300,000 bursary awarded to Dr Barwood by the Lions Medical Research Foundation. Foundation chairman Anthony Hodgson said yesterday the incident would not stop the organisation from financially backing the university's academics in the future. "We accept that it's a one-off thing," Mr Hodgson said.

The university's reputation has suffered after the airing of nepotism allegations relating to former vice-chancellor Paul Greenfield.


Miss Pinup Australia: A beauty pageant with a difference, from a time when more was left to the imagination

I remember the 50s well and agree that there was much good in them.  I even still have some 50s furniture  -- JR

It seems that going backwards is the only way forward.

More than 100 women will compete in this year's Miss Pinup Australia, a nationwide contest that promotes "good old-fashioned values", says founder Miss Pixie, who goes by her persona to avoid unwelcome public attention. This is the competition's fifth year.

In flowing full skirts and flawless make-up, contestants will flaunt cinched waistlines and evoke the opulence of a decade characterised by conservatism and an emphasis on femininity that would make any modern feminist cringe.

Authenticity is the key: entrants are required to dress, act and present themselves in true 1950s style.

It is a chance for women of all shapes and sizes to find their "inner pin-up", Miss Pixie says.

Hopefuls compete in a state heat in their nominated categories, proceed to a state final and then go into contention for the title of Miss Pinup Australia.

Lamenting a lack of self-respect in today's society, the 45-year-old dance instructor and photographer said the competition was bringing back the lost art of modesty. "We like to be treated as ladies but to be treated as ladies, you need to act like one," Miss Pixie says.

Turning the adage "less is more" on its head, she imparts traditional values on her clients because - as far as the '50s go - more is, in fact, less, she says.

"I think there is nothing wrong with covering your knees. A woman is a present. If you wrap the present and allow a man to use their imagination, then you'll find that you'll get the respect that you deserve."

However, it is not all about glamour, immaculate hairstyles and ruby-red lips. For Miss Bells B Ringing, 33, embracing a '50s persona has become a way of life.

"We can look at it [the '50s] in hindsight, but we're actually living it right now," she says.

Getting "pinned up" every day has emboldened her, "especially being a bigger girl [because] it's been hard for me all my life to try to find a confidence within myself, and I really love the way I look now," she says.

Miss Candy Floss, 28, believes there is much to be learnt from an era in which poodle cuts and pointed busts reigned, and she admires the way women conducted themselves with dignity.

The competition is not just open to the fairer sex; men are encouraged to channel their inner James Dean.

The live events will run between April and August, and members of the public are welcome to attend the shows.


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