Fair Trading cracks down on illegal tongue studs at Paddy’s Markets

Consumer protection officers from the NSW Department of Fair Trading force a stall owner at Paddy’s Markets to remove magnetic tongue studs which pose a swallowing danger. Photo: Ben Rushton A stall at Paddy’s Markets selling tongue studs. Photo: Ben Rushton
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A stall at Paddy’s Markets selling tongue studs. Photo: Ben Rushton

You may not have heard of it, but an illicit trade in fake tongue studs is alive and well in NSW – and the Department of Fair Trading is cracking down on it.

Plainclothes consumer protection officers from the department conducted a sting on sellers of the illegal studs at Paddy’s Markets in Sydney’s Haymarket on Thursday.

Although the tongue studs may not appear to be a pressing issue for consumer protection bureaucrats, the items in question – namely magnetic or suction suds – are potentially quite dangerous, the department says.

“There is a strong concern that consumers could be harmed by these small devices and we are strongly urging people not to purchase or use these,” Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe said.

Unlike traditional studs, which poke through a  hole in the tongue, these newer studs do not require a piercing, instead using magnetic or suction force to stay attached. Because they are not permanently fixed, they can be swallowed.

In the case of the magnets, the department is concerned they can do bowel damage if they connect up with each other, because of their strength.

The woman who sold the earrings, which have been illegal since 2010, claimed she did not own the market stall.

She claimed they were not for tongues, but for earlobes.

“What [the sellers] tell you is rubbish,” director of Fair Trading’s Consumer Protection, Compliance and Enforcement Division, Michael Cooper, said.

“These items are [often sold by] spray-on tattoo artists, and fake tattoo artists,” Mr Cooper said.

They were often sold at fairs, he said,

The department fined the stall $550 for each piece of jewellery sold for “supplying a good in contravention of a prohibition order”, Mr Cooper said.

Consumer protection officers procured two items from the stall, so issued a fine of $1100. Offending sellers can contests the fines.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Former prime minister Malcolm Fraser dead at 84

Former prime minister Malcolm Fraser.Obituary: a towering figure who crossed the political divideMalcolm Fraser condolence bookMalcolm Fraser: full coverageLive coverage
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Former prime minister Malcolm Fraser has died.

“It is with deep sadness that we inform you that after a brief illness John Malcolm Fraser died peacefully in the early hours of the morning of 20 March 2015,” a statement from Mr Fraser’s office read.

“We appreciate that this will be a shock to all who knew and loved him, but ask that the family be left in peace at this difficult time.”

Mr Fraser was prime minister of Australia and leader of the Liberal Party from 1975 to 1983.

He was Australia’s 22nd prime minister, taking the job in events so dramatic they still reverberate decades on.

Mr Fraser was sworn in as caretaker prime minister in 1975 after the Whitlam government was dismissed in a constitutional crisis that followed months of budget deadlock in the Senate.

He led the Liberals to victory in the 1975 election before being succeeded by Labor’s Bob Hawke in 1983.

While the political left loathed Mr Fraser for his role in the 1975 “coup” against Gough Whitlam, the pair developed a close friendship post politics.

Mr Whitlam died in October last year.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, said Mr Fraser’s death marks “a sad moment for all Australians”.

“It’s a particularly sad day for all who cheered Malcolm Fraser on in those stirring days when he led the fight against what many of us thought was a bad government, the days of 1975,” he said.

“He was, as he put it, determined to turn on the lights and to restore Australia’s economic fortunes.”

Treasurer Joe Hockey said “history will be much kinder to Mr Fraser than many of his critics have been over the years”.

“He was a very strong character who was not afraid to stand up for what was right. The Liberal Party will be mourning his passing.”

“I think many Australians will be mourning his passing because he provided stability and reassurance at a time when Australia had gone through incredible upheaval,” he said.

“It is the end of an era, two towering figures,” he said, in reference to the deaths of political rivals Mr Whitlam and Mr Fraser.

Former prime minister John Howard, who also served as treasurer in the Fraser government, spoke to the media, paying tribute to the “remarkable strength and capacity Malcolm Fraser displayed in holding the Coalition together” during the constitutional crisis of 1975.

“Anybody who achieves what Malcolm Fraser achieved in his life deserves respect as a quite extraordinary Australian. He brought to the government of this country, he brought great integrity. As chairman of cabinet he had a fiercer knowledge of any submission that came across the cabinet table and pity help any minister who hadn’t sufficiently read the submission that had been prepared for him or her by the respective department,” he said.

Former prime minister Julia Gillard issued a statement of condolence, saying: “Malcolm Fraser in and beyond politics was a leader in the fight for racial equality.

“His brave stance against the evil of South Africa’s apartheid helped changed the world for the better. Malcolm will always be remembered kindly for his commitment to multiculturalism and his specific actions to resettle Vietnamese boat people in Australia.”

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd issued a statement honouring Mr Fraser’s achievements in fighting apartheid in South Africa, advancing the interests of Indigenous Australians and the passage of the Human Rights Act in 1981.

“Prime Minister Fraser will be remembered as a compassionate Australian, who cared for people at home or abroad, who had little or nothing to protect them,” he said

In recent years, Mr Fraser had become an outspoken critic of the Liberal Party and quit the party in 2010 over the party’s lurch to the right on issues such as immigration.

In a statement, former prime minister Paul Keating described Mr Fraser’s death as a “great loss to Australia”

“He detested what he saw as our strategic subservience to the United States and our willingness to be easily led from the path of a truly independent foreign policy.

“His public life also enshrined other important principles: no truck with race or colour and no tolerance for whispered notions of exclusivity tinged by race. These principles applied throughout his political life,” Mr Keating said.

Just last month, Mr Fraser wrote in Fairfax about what he saw as a worrying expansion of ministerial powers over asylum seekers.

Mr Fraser was a prolific user of Twitter in recent years.

His last message, a day ago, linked to an Australian National University website story: “Time for a new China vision – Asia and the Pacific – ANU” MPs pay tribute

In a statement, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Mr Fraser would be remembered, among many achievements, for introducing the Aboriginal Land Rights Act in 1976 and for his fight against racism.

Mr Turnbull said Fraser’s passionate belief in immigration and multiculturalism enabled large scale migration from Asia, including more than 50,000 refugees from Vietnam, and the establishment of multicultural broadcaster SBS.

“In office and out of it he showed himself to have a big and compassionate heart,” he said.

“Modern Australia would be very different without his vision and leadership.

“Whether one agreed with him or not, in whole or in part, one thing was never in doubt. Malcolm Fraser was a passionately patriotic Australian with a big, liberal vision for our country and its people.”

Attorney-General George Brandis credited Mr Fraser for inspiring him to enter politics when as a teenager he was struck by his dramatic resignation from the Gorton government in 1971.

“Although in his older years he was a very emollient figure, perhaps even more fondly thought of by the left than by the right, in his early days he was actually a divisive and rebarbative figure. He was the opposition leader who was responsible for the blocking of supply in 1975, so it just goes to show that in the course of a long life and in the course of a long career, people can mellow and soften as Malcolm Fraser undoubtedly did.”

Father of the House, Philip Ruddock, pleaded for people to look past the way Mr Fraser came to office in the wake of Gough Whitlam’s dismissal.

“Those who recall the manner of his election discouragingly should remember Malcolm as a liberal on issues of race and human rights,” Mr Ruddock tweeted.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne said: “Vale Malcolm Fraser. A life dedicated to the service of our country. We will be poorer without him. Thoughts are with his family.”

Assistant Education Minister Simon Birmingham wrote: “Though many disagreed with him at different times #MalcolmFraser was a man of conviction & compassion who gave much to public life – vale.”

Human Services Minister Marise Payne tweeted: “Vale Malcolm Fraser. A Liberal leader, great Australian, mentor to many in the political generations who followed him.”

Labor senator Doug Cameron was shocked to hear of Mr Fraser’s death on Friday, having only recently dined with the former prime minister and his wife Tamie.

“I am just devastated that Australia has lost a great voice for human rights,” Senator Cameron told reporters in Canberra.

Liberal Party pollster Mark Textor passed on his condolences on Twitter.

“Rest In Peace Malcolm #Fraser. A Man of considerable dignity and rare gravitas.”

Senior Labor MP Michelle Rowland tweeted: “Malcolm Fraser provided strong leadership on matters of multiculturalism and racial equality. May he rest in peace.” Time for a new China vision – Asia and the Pacific – ANU http://t上海龙凤419/vbSJiGDcmW — Malcolm Fraser (@MalcolmFraser12) March 18, 2015The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

YVONNE CAMPBELL: Taxout of house and home

THE NSW Greens propose to reinstate the vendor duty introduced by the former Labor government in 2004 but abolished in 2005.
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The 2.25per cent tax was payable by the seller of land where the sale value exceeded the purchase value by more than 12per cent. (The family home or farm was exempt).

They say reinstating the duty would raise $645million a year. But this is flawed thinking.

Last time round, the vendor tax stalled the real estate market.

Then the thriving investment property market, driven largely by mums and dads, turned into a ghost town overnight. That extra tax on the already over-taxed property market caused them to flee to other asset classes.

Scroll forward a decade and little has changed. The industry is still heavily taxed and much of the burden falls on owners.

In recent times, we’ve been given the message ‘‘don’t rely on a pension, invest to prepare for retirement’’. And many mums and dads have done just that – buying investment properties to fund their own retirement and, in the process, providing much needed housing stock for renters.

Investors bear a heavy burden – stamp duty, lender’s mortgage insurance, legal fees, interest, maintenance costs, property services costs, and capital gains tax when they sell.

Is it any wonder many see a more liquid, less costly share portfolio as a better bet?

But that doesn’t increase housing supply.

Greens NSW MP John Kaye said, as before, the vendor duty would not apply to the family home or farm, and would help prevent first-home buyers being priced out by another housing bubble.

But that is simplistic, to say the least.

First-home buyers are not being priced out of the market by increasing property prices alone, but by general economic circumstance.

Those first-home buyers who choose to buy new property are supported into ownership through grants and stamp duty relief.

Those who are struggling to get onto the property ladder do so for reasons other than purchase price. The lack of employment, too little deposit, too many debts or not enough income to qualify for a loan are common reasons. Or they are resistant to buying new properties over old, better located ones that don’t attract grants and stamp duty relief.

The Greens assume revenue would be in the order of $645million a year, over four years.

But that is assuming that investors continue to buy property. History shows they do not.

With unemployment now over 6per cent, the Reserve Bank has been confronted with a dilemma: how to stimulate job growth without fuelling a renewed property bubble in Sydney.

The Greens say their package offers a unique response: ensuring that lower interest rates and new spending will stimulate jobs, not speculation.

Stimulating jobs should be the focus of any policy, but it should not involve taxing those who are trying to plan for their retirement.

Jobs growth needs to be aimed at our youth, not at infrastructure schemes that benefit big business, which can then argue a need to employ foreign skilled labour at the expense of our own unemployed.

And while the Reserve Bank may have its hand on the interest rate brake, that is of no use in controlling Sydney’s property market.

What will, though, is the market forces.

Major banks will eventually put a brake on that market by tightening lending criteria, so they are not exposed to too much risk.

Real Estate Institute NSW president Malcolm Gunning has warned that the government should not turn to the property market every time it needs money.

“The data from the last time we had a vendor duty is clear. The NSW government will be significantly worse off, as revenue from total tax collected will reduce because the property market will freeze up as it did last time,” Mr Gunning said.

NSW Labor’s policy to allow first-home buyers to pay stamp duty in instalments is also flawed. Many elect to roll that cost into their home loan. When interest rates rise, which they will, those young homeowners may find the looming stamp duty instalment difficult to pay, along with other regular housing costs such as insurance, rates and maintenance.

Deferring paying a tax that shouldn’t be as high in the first place is not going to pave an easier path for next generation home owners.

NAB faces criminal investigation over fees

National Australia Bank has potentially committed more than 100 criminal offences over charging hundreds of thousands of customers fees without providing a service.

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The corporate regulator is investigating “suspected offending” by NAB as part of the wider fees-for-no-service scandal across the financial services industry, documents before the banking royal commission reveal.

NAB denies committing any criminal acts.

In the documents about the fees-for-no-service issues, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission accused the bank of failing to report significant breaches of its licence on time on 110 occasions.

Failing to comply with breach reporting requirements is a criminal offence, although the regulator can take a range of administrative, civil and criminal actions.

The number of late breach reports was disputed by NAB, which told ASIC in May it identified 84 significant breaches reported outside the required 10-day time frame.

In the documents, ASIC also said it was concerned NAB contravened sections of the Corporations Act and ASIC Act – some of which may carry criminal as well as civil penalties – over the issue of fees wrongly charged to superannuation members.

NAB CEO Andrew Thorburn apologised to customers via Twitter over the revelations at this week’s royal commission hearing, which include the bank charging more than 4000 dead superannuation customers $3 million in fees.

In an email to all staff on Thursday, Mr Thorburn said: “We do not believe that we have committed any criminal acts”.

NAB’s superannuation trustee NULIS is paying $120 million to compensate about 300,000 customers charged a plan service fee for general advice services when they had no adviser linked to their account.

The royal commission documents show ASIC may still take action despite the compensation program.

“As we have said, ASIC does not consider remediation to be the only regulatory action required to address the conduct that has resulted in harm to the plan service fees members,” it said in a letter to NAB and NULIS in June.

Other documents tendered at the inquiry showed ASIC believed NAB was out of step with some of its major peers over fees-for-no-service remediation.

Commissioner Kenneth Hayne QC on Thursday rejected NAB’s request to suppress all or part of seven documents related to the extent of it charging fees for no service and its approach to compensating customers.

He said while it would be in NAB’s interests to pay the least sum available by way of mediation, it would be in the interests of customers charged fees for no service to be provided with adequate compensation.

Senior counsel assisting the commission Michael Hodge QC criticised NAB for producing more than 3000 documents to the inquiry last week.

Automatic AFL punch bans coming: Higgins

North Melbourne veteran Shaun Higgins can see a time when the AFL will be forced to automatically suspend players for punching an opponent, regardless of the force of the blow.

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The Kangaroos star, who is routinely targeted physically by opposition players, feels punches thrown to the body are part of the game that should be eradicated.

The practice – carried out in a bid to establish a psychological edge, put an opponent off his game or shake a tag – has been in the spotlight following Andrew Gaff’s eight-game ban for breaking Andrew Brayshaw’s jaw.

At his tribunal hearing, the Eagles highlighted several incidents where Gaff was targeted off the ball before he lashed out at Brayshaw.

Gaff also admitted to punching Brayshaw in the chest to give himself some space before the ugly incident played out.

Under the current guidelines, players are fined if they intentionally strike an opponent with low impact to the body.

But Higgins feels that’s not enough of a deterrent.

“I think it’s probably going to get to that stage,” Higgins replied when it was put to him that bans for any sort of punch were required.

“We probably went down that path 12 to 18 months ago, didn’t we? Then we’ve sort of backtracked a little bit for whatever reason.

“I would imagine that most players, the AFL and clubs would agree that there’s no place in the game for punches being thrown.”

While Higgins is all for outlawing niggling punches, he still feels there’s room for a level of physical aggression.

“It’s still a contact sport,” he said.

“It’s a physical sport but I think punching we can definitely eradicate from the game.

“Bumping and trying to get mentally on top of the opposition and physically trying to impose yourself is still part and parcel of the game but there’s definitely a line there.

“It’s probably been crossed a number of times this year.”

Government risking rift with crossbench

Liberal Democrats senator David Leyonhjelm has accused Malcolm Turnbull of breaking a deal with him.The Turnbull government could face increased pressure from crossbench senators on a range of issues after being accused of breaking a deal with key supporter David Leyonhjelm.

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The Liberal Democrats senator wants Malcolm Turnbull to honour his agreement to guarantee a vote in both houses on legislation to lift the ban on territories legislation on voluntary euthanasia.

Senator Leyonhjelm said it was a matter of honour for the prime minister.

He pointed to the implications that reneging on the agreement could have for “future trust and co-operation” between the crossbench and government.

Mr Turnbull argues the deal was only for a vote in the Senate, not both houses.

But Senator Leyonhjelm says the prime minister gave him his word in face-to-face discussions.

The deal was for his crucial support on re-establishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

“Knowing that it hasn’t stuck to its deal in this instance would be somewhat significant to many of the crossbench,” Senator Leyonhjelm told AAP.

“That will affect the government’s relationships in the Senate.”

Souring relations with the crossbench could get messy for the government.

The coalition needs eight of the 10 independent, One Nation and Centre Alliance senators to pass its legislation.

The upper house is set to debate Senator Leyonhjelm’s legislation on Tuesday lifting the ban on NT and ACT controlling their own euthanasia laws.

After it is dealt with, corporate tax cuts will be on the agenda, with the government still trying to garner crossbench support for the policy.

Muesli boss jailed for killing colleague

The loved ones of a Melbourne woman may never know the motive for her murder in a “frenzied stabbing attack” by a man she considered family.

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On the morning of July 25, 2017, Peter Pavlis – the founder of established food brand The Muesli Company – fatally stabbed his business partner Jennifer Borchardt six times in the kitchen of her Richmond home.

He tried to clean the crime scene and pretended to colleagues that he was concerned about Ms Borchardt’s absence from work.

He changed his clothes and lied about the reason he had a fresh knife wound on his thumb.

The same afternoon, Ms Borchardt’s partner returned home to “find the lifeless body of the woman he loved”.

The reason Pavlis killed the 49-year-old remained “opaque”, Supreme Court of Victoria Justice Lesley Taylor said during sentencing on Thursday.

It was previously suggested to the court he was perhaps jealous or angry about Ms Borchardt’s new relationship, although there was no evidence to support the theory.

Pavlis also told a psychiatrist he had found a box full of $100 notes in Ms Borchardt’s home and believed she had engaged in financial misconduct, although the cash was never discovered at the crime scene.

“I do not accept that it was ever there,” Justice Taylor said.

“I am unable to discern the true motive for your behaviour.”

She denounced Pavlis’ betrayal of Ms Borchardt’s trust, loyalty and affection.

“You were a man very much trusted by her. She had started to work in your company as a teenager and grew to become your business partner,” Justice Taylor said.

“She was encouraged to think that she was part of your family.

“Your actions in attempting to clean the murder scene and your other deceptions about your involvement were callous and cowardly.”

At a previous court hearing, Pavlis described Ms Borchardt as a “nice person” and said “I still can’t understand how I did it”.

On Thursday, he was sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 12 years, as Justice Taylor admitted there was a “very real chance” Pavlis would die in jail.

“We are pleased with the result today and glad the court has recognised that Peter Pavlis is a cold-blooded murderer,” Ms Borchardt’s niece Carlie Smith told reporters outside court.

“All those years of hard work and dedication and that was the thanks that she received, to be buried in a grave early when she still had half a lifetime to live.”

Oscars introduce new popular film award

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is instituting sweeping changes to the Oscar broadcast as it tries to find ways to bolster ratings for the flagging telecast.

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In a message to its membership, the group’s president John Bailey and CEO Dawn Hudson said the broadcast will now include a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film.

The organisation’s initial announcement raised more questions than it answered.

The Academy later issued a statement clarifying eligibility concerns. Films can be nominated for both Academy Award for best picture and for outstanding achievement in popular film, with the new category to be introduced this coming year.

At one point in its history, Oscar voters routinely named blockbusters such as Titanic or Gladiator as the year’s best.

But recent best picture victors such as Moonlight, Spotlight, and the 2018 winner The Shape of Water have been firmly ensconced in the art-house world, whereas well-reviewed hit films such as Guardians of the Galaxy or Star Wars: The Force Awakens have only been recognised for their technical achievements.

“We have heard from many of you about improvements needed to keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world,” Bailey and Hudson wrote in a note to members.

“The Board of Governors took this charge seriously.”

The Oscar broadcast has also been slagged as a tedious affair, filled with speeches, musical performances, and montages. To that end, the Academy’s board announced that future broadcasts will be three hours long.

The 2018 awards show, which clocked in at almost four hours, was the least-watched Oscars to date. Though it pulled in a sizeable 26.5 million viewers, the ratings were down 19 per cent compared to the previous year.

To accommodate a three-hour ceremony, select categories will be presented during commercial breaks. Winning moments will be edited and later aired during the broadcast.

The moves are likely to be controversial, particularly the decision not to televise certain awards and the creation of the popular film category.

In particular, it’s unclear if financially successful films will now get the cold shoulder from voters assessing the year’s best picture because blockbusters have been given their own award.

Kids in US compound trained for shootings

Two men charged in the abuse of 11 children found malnourished at a ramshackle compound in New Mexico were training the children with firearms to commit school shootings, prosecutors say in court documents.

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One of the suspects, identified as Huraj Wahhaj, is the father of a young boy whose disappearance from his home near Atlanta months ago prompted the investigation that led authorities to raid the compound, located north of Taos, New Mexico, last week.

Remains believed to be that of the boy, who was three years old when his mother reported him missing, were found at the property on Monday but have not yet been positively identified, authorities say.

Wahhaj, a second man accused of harbouring him as a fugitive, Lucas Morton, and three women presumed to be the mothers of the 11 children, who were taken into protective custody, were each charged with 11 counts of felony child abuse.

The five defendants made their initial court appearance before a local magistrate on Wednesday. They were due to be arraigned later in the day.

Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe told reporters on Tuesday that investigators found a shooting range built at one end of the squalid compound, located on the outskirts of the community of Amalia in northern New Mexico, near the Colorado border.

Wahhaj, 39, whose first name is alternately presented in some court documents as Siraj and is the person described as being “in control” of the compound, was heavily armed when taken into custody, the sheriff said.

A foster parent of one of the 11 children told authorities that Wahhaj “had trained the child in the use of an assault rifle in preparation for future school shootings”, prosecutors alleged in an expedited motion for pretrial detention.

The document further stated that Wahhaj was “under investigation for the death” of a 12th child at the compound, as well as for “training of children with weapons in furtherance of a conspiracy to commit school shootings”.

The court filing also states he “transported children across state lines for the purpose of children receiving advanced weapons training to commit future acts of violence”.

Similar allegations were levelled in a motion prosecutors filed seeking expedited pretrial detention of Morton.

No mention was made of ideology or motive in initial court filings. The sheriff in comments over the weekend referred to the suspects as “extremists of Muslim belief” but he declined to elaborate on that characterisation when asked about it by reporters at a news conference on Tuesday.

According to CNN, Wahhaj is himself the son of a prominent Muslim cleric in New York.

Dylan sings but doesn’t speak at WA show

Bob Dylan chose to let his music do the talking as he kicked off his Australian tour at Perth Arena.Bob Dylan’s eloquent lyricism may have earned him a Nobel Prize in literature but he had nothing to say to his fans as he began his Australian tour in Perth.

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Instead, the famed musician let his meaningful songs do all the talking during his almost two-hour concert at Perth Arena on Wednesday night.

Dylan’s excellent band was not even introduced and the show overall lacked any spectacle at all.

There wasn’t even a screen for fans at the back of the venue to see him clearly.

But the 77-year-old has never been much of a showman compared to rock stars like Mick Jagger or Bruce Springsteen.

It has always been about the powerful message of Dylan’s lyrics, many of which remain as relevant today as they were when he penned them decades ago.

Some fans were probably disappointed that a few of his biggest hits did not make the setlist.

But there were some favourites including Blowin’ In The Wind, It Ain’t Me Babe, Simple Twist of Fate, Highway 61 Revisited and Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright.

Dylan barely sold out half the arena but it hardly seemed to matter as the audience cheered at the end of each song.

They were especially vocal when Dylan played his harmonica, but he spent most of his time behind the piano.

The Pulitzer Prize winner last toured Australia in 2014.

Given his age, and the fact that some of his contemporaries are embarking on farewell tours, this may well be the final time Australian fans will have a chance to see him perform live.

But for now, Dylan clearly still enjoys playing music in front of thousands of fans.

* Dylan will also visit Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Wollongong, Newcastle and Brisbane.

Labor wants faster drought aid for farmers

The federal opposition wants the government to get cash help to drought-stricken farmers faster.Labor has called on the federal government to deliver its cash support payments to drought-stricken farmers faster.

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Sunday up to $12,000 for eligible households spread across two payments on September 1 and March 1.

But with a dry spring and summer forecast, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten believes farmers should have the option of bringing the entire payment forward to next month.

“We support this package but it needs to be rolled out faster – farmers need immediate financial support,” Mr Shorten said.

The lump sum payments are on top of the Farm Household Allowance, which totals about $16,000 a year.

But the allowance’s application process has been criticised, with the government urging about 19,000 potentially eligible farmers to speak to rural financial counsellors.

Mr Shorten said he was deeply concerned government cuts to Centrelink would cause delays in processing applications.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the entire state of NSW is affected by drought, as is 57 per cent of Queensland.

There are severe rain deficiencies in Victoria and South Australia.

Mr Shorten will kick off a tour of some of the worst-affected areas of Queensland on Thursday, alongside his wife Chloe and the opposition’s agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon.

Labor also plans to implement a $20 million regional economic development fund which invests in projects to stimulate country economies.

“The regions have a bright future and Labor wants to ensure they have all the help they need to get back on track,” Mr Shorten said.

The Labor leader will travel to Longreach and Barcaldine on Thursday before going to Emerald in Queensland’s Central Highlands on Friday.

Victorian Auditor-General’s Office critical of youth justice system

The audit findings were based on a sample of young people incarcerated in the first half of 2017, some of whom were at Malmsbury Youth Justice Precinct. Picture: DARREN HOWETHE Victorian Auditor-General’s Office has found the state’s youth justice systemlacking in its efforts to rehabilitate young people and reduce re-offending.

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“Young people in detention have not been receiving the rehabilitation services they are entitled to and that are necessary to meet their needs,” the public sector watchdog concluded.

“Asaresult, youthdetentionhasnotbeeneffectivelypromotingreducedre-offending.”

Inadequate service levels and facilities were named ascontributing factors, as was a ‘lack of complete and focused case management and needs assessment’.

VAGO also identified ‘a focus on security that impairs access to education and health services’.

“Failure to fully assess and provide for the needs of young people in detention misses a critical opportunity to positively intervene in the life of a young personwho, given his or her situation, clearly needs support,” it stated.

In its 95-page report, released on Wednesday, VAGO made a number ofrecommendations for the Department of Justice and Regulation, which manages Victoria’s youth justice system, and for the Department of Education and Training.

Incorporating education and program needs into case planning, andmonitoringthe development of case plans and the achievement ofgoals were among the recommendations.

Other includedadopting a performance measure for school and implementing new reporting requirements to monitor service levels and demand.

VAGO also highlighted a need toreview and facilitate young women’s equitable access to education andrecreation activities, consistent with recommendations in theyouth justice review.

Findings byPennyArmytageandProfessorJames Ogloff in July 2017 prompted a $50 million investment inyouth justice systemreforms.

VAGO’s report acknowledgedthe Department of Justice and Regulation was in the process of implementing‘necessary’ reforms.

“Substantialwork has begun to strengthen performance reporting and data collection,increase service levels, develop new service delivery models, improve caseplanning, and respond to the recommendations of the Youth Justice Review,” it read.

About 200 children and young peopleare incarcerated in youth justice centres at any time in Victoria, according to the report.

The majority –68 per cent –have been convicted of an offence, while about 32 per cent are on remand and awaiting trial.

Young people who had received a sentencespent an average of 58 days in youth detention from November 1, 2017–January 31,2018.

Young people on remand were detained for an average of 25 days in the same period.

“A key aim of youth detention is reducing young people’s risk of re-offending,” the report stated.

“Addressing the underlying causes of offending, ensuring good primary andmental health, and enabling education are all steps that can reduce re-offending.”

INFOGRAPHIC: Primary health waiting times

The auditor-general’s office investigated how wellrehabilitation services were meeting the developmental needs of children and young people in the youth detention system and reducing the risk of re-offending.

Its findingswere based on a sample of young people incarcerated in the first half of 2017, some of whom were at Malmsbury Youth Justice Precinct.

The Malmsbury Youth Justice Precinctaccommodates boys and young men aged 15 –24, and isis one of two youth detention centres in the state.

ParkvilleYouth Justice Precinctaccommodates boys aged 10–17 andgirls and young women aged 10–24.

The state government plans to open a newfacility, Cherry Creek, in 2021.

INFOGRAPHIC: Issues affecting young people in detention

“While [the department]has made improvements in the short time it has been responsible for youth justice, it does not currently understand future service demand and needs, or whether outcomes are being achieved,” the report stated.

It said the department did not receive any data or other information from the Department of Health and Human Services when the responsibility was transferred in April 2017, ‘which could have assisted it to analyse service demand.’

Furthermore, VAGO wrote, gaps in the breadth of assessments completedmeant some needs might not have been identified.

“[The department]’s planned expansion may be insufficient and further resources may be required. This is because the extent of need is currently unknown,” the report said.

INFOGRAPHIC: Causes of disruptions to Psychological Rehabilitation Team sessions at Malmsbury Youth Justice Precinct

The report outlined numerous instancesin which vital records about the young people in detention–from case plans to health assessments–were incomplete.

“[The department] cannot assure itself that all young people are receiving high‐quality rehabilitation services in line with case management requirements in the Youth Justice Custodial Practice Manual,” it stated.

Auditors also found numerous instances in which services were not available in a timely manner, with young people at the Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre Senior Site advising of difficulties accessing the Youth Health and Rehabilitation Service and feeling their health concerns were not always addressed.

VAGO’snine recommendations have been accepted, with work already underway to improve services.

Minister for Families and Children, Jenny Mikakos,welcomed the report.

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Cycling star Ewan confirms team transfer

Australian cyclist Caleb Ewan has moved teams from Mitchelton Scott to Lotto Soudal.Sprint ace Caleb Ewan has confirmed he will leave Australian team Mitchelton-Scott and join Lotto Soudal.

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It is no surprise, with speculation starting several weeks ago that Ewan would join the Dutch squad.

Mitchelton-Scott controversially left Ewan off their Tour de France team, after announcing last December that he would make his debut in the race.

Ewan said that the final decision left him devastated.

Mitchelton-Scott are adamant that the backflip on taking Ewan to the Tour was based purely on form.

They are shifting their focus to general classification goals in the Grand Tours and their No.1 focus at the Tour de France was team leader Adam Yates.

Ewan replaces German sprint ace Andre Greipel as Lotto-Soudal’s main sprinter.

The 24-year-old, one of cycling’s hottest young prospects, has signed a two-year deal.

He will continue riding for Mitchelton-Scott until the end of this season.

“The decision to take this path with Lotto Soudal has been a logical one if you take the emotion out of it, but we have much hard work ahead to make sure it becomes the perfect match,” Ewan said in a statement.

“I do feel the path Mitchelton-Scott are now on is one not suited to me, but I have nothing but appreciation and respect for the riders and entire organisation.

“I have learned and experienced so much during the past four years, I have many life-long friends there and I am sincerely grateful to them.”

Ewan’s transfer comes a day after Australian cycling star Simon Gerrans announced he would retire from competition at the end of the season.

Richie Porte is also yet to confirm that he will leave BMC and join Trek-Segafredo.