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.

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.

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.

Monica Lewinsky was ‘patient zero’ of online bullying, TED conference hears

Monica Lewinsky has delivered a powerful speech about the devastating effects of online harassment, describing herself as “patient zero” of cyberbullying  and pleading for more compassion on the internet.
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In a rare public appearance, at a TED conference in Canada, the woman who will forever be remembered for her time as a White House intern described how her 1998 affair with then-United States president Bill Clinton erupted on a global scale overnight.

The now 41-year-old said not a day went by that she wasn’t reminded of the affair she had as a 22-year-old, a mistake she regretted “deeply”.

But she said coverage of the scandal occurred at a time when digital media was emerging, and led to an international public shaming that at the time was unprecedented.

Now, with the saturation coverage of digital and social media, it was becoming all too common for people to become the victim of cyberbullying, which could have devastating consequences.

Ms Lewinsky told the conference she “was patient zero, of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously”.

“At the age of 22, I fell in love with my boss. At the age of 24, I learned the devastating consequences,” Ms Lewinsky said at the TED conference, held in Vancouver on Thursday, local time.

“Now I admit I made mistakes – especially wearing that beret – but the attention and judgment that I received, not the story, but that I personally received, was unprecedented.

“In 1998, I lost my reputation and my dignity … I lost my sense of self.

“When this happened to me, 17 years ago, there was no name for it. Now we call it cyberbullying,” she said. “It was the first time traditional news was usurped by the internet, a click that reverberated around the whole world.”

Ms Lewinsky, who has rarely spoken publicly since the scandal emerged 17 years ago, said she found herself being attacked online by people she did not know.

“The public humiliation was excruciating. Life was almost unbearable,” she said. “I was branded as a tramp, tart, slut, whore, bimbo and of course ‘That woman’. I was seen by many, but known by few.”

She also pointed to recent scandals, including the nude photo leaks involving Jennifer Lawrence and the Sony hacking scandal.

“Public humiliation is a commodity and shame is an industry,” she said. “And what is the currency? Clicks.”

The suicide of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, a US college student who killed himself a day after other students secretly streamed footage of him kissing another man, had also prompted her to speak out in an attempt to help others deal with the pressure, she said.

What saved her at the time, Ms Lewinsky said, was compassion shown by family, friends and sometimes even strangers.

She called for a “cultural revolution”, away from the “culture of humiliation” and towards an internet community of empathy and compassion.

“Anyone who is suffering from shame and public humiliation needs to know one thing: you can survive it. I know it’s hard. It may not be painless, quick or easy, but you can insist on a different ending to your story,” she said.

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

Malcolm Fraser dead: Condolence book

Death announced: Malcolm Fraser. Photo: Brendon ThorneMalcolm Fraser diesObituary: a towering figureLeave your tributes belowMalcolm Fraser: Full coverage
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Former prime minister Malcolm Fraser has died at the age of 84.

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 prolific on social media in his later years, taking to Twitter with gusto.

Following is a selection of tweets from among the thousands paying tribute to him. though many disagreed with him at different times #MalcolmFraser was a man of conviction & compassion who gave much to public life – vale. — Simon Birmingham (@Birmo) March 19, 2015 Those who recall the manner of his election discouragingly should remember Malcolm as a liberal on issues of race and human rights. #auspol — Philip Ruddock (@philipruddockmp) March 19, 2015 So sad to hear about the death of Malcolm Fraser. He’d become our wise Twitter granddad. I know that sounds silly, but it was the real deal. — Briony Kidd (@BrionyKidd) March 19, 2015 So sad to learn of the death of @MalcolmFraser12 who was such an advocate for displaced people. A voice of sanity in these idiotic times. — Monique Mayze (@moniquemayze) March 19, 2015 My younger self wld never have believed that I wld one day say this – am deeply sad to hear of passing of #MalcolmFraser our last statesman? — Magda Szubanski (@MagdaSzubanski) March 19, 2015 The last time I saw Malcolm Fraser, he bought me a double single malt, and chuckled when I protested that it was lunchtime. — Jess Gabriel (@ConstantStars) March 19, 2015

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

Tony Abbott asked why he keeps saying ‘stupid things’ in fiery ABC interview

Tony Abbott has defended himself from the criticism he keeps saying ‘stupid things’. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Tony Abbott has defended himself from the criticism he keeps saying ‘stupid things’. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
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Tony Abbott has defended himself from the criticism he keeps saying ‘stupid things’. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Tony Abbott has defended himself from the criticism he keeps saying ‘stupid things’. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has denied being a bully when asked by an ABC radio host what credibility he has to front an anti-bullying conference.

Mr Abbott released a video addressed to the “boys and girls of Australia” telling them that as Prime Minister he is behind victims of bullying.

“There’s no place for bullying on the playground or on the internet,” Mr Abbott says in his pre-recorded video.

“If you are being bullied I want you to know that I’m behind you, your teachers are behind you and your family is behind you as well,” the Prime Minister said.

ABC local radio host Jon Faine interviewed Mr Abbott while the Prime Minister was on his way to an anti-bullying conference in Melbourne on Friday morning.

“What credibility do you have on bullying – you’ve been accused of it so often yourself?” Faine asked.

“Without foundation, I would say Jon,” Mr Abbott replied.

“This is where I think our country would benefit from a little bit more fair-mindedness.

“We are at the moment a somewhat querulous country and I think if we counted our blessings a little more, saw ourselves more in the way the rest of the world sees us, we might have a better public conversation, we might in the end have much more constructive debates.”

“You yourself admit you have an aggressive streak – isn’t that the core of bullying?” Faine insisted.

“Well I’m not so sure I have ever said that in so many words,” Mr Abbott responded.

“Obviously when I feel strongly about things I argue strongly for them but of the things I’ve always tried to do is give credit where it’s due,” he said.

Earlier in the often tetchy interview, the ABC radio host asked Mr Abbott why he kept on saying “stupid things” when he is a Rhodes scholar.

“Mr Abbott, for a Rhodes scholar, how come you say so many stupid things? ‘Lifestyle choices’ has enraged Aboriginal community leaders, and yesterday, bringing Goebbels into the Parliament?” Faine put to the Prime Minister.

“I withdrew and I apologised and I did it straight away, there was no hesitation. I accept that in the context of history and the way things have developed that was an over-the-top remark and I straight away withdrew and apologised,” Mr Abbott responded.

“But why do you have this foot in mouth disease, what’s going on?” Faine asked.

“All of us from time to time in the heat of debate, and you know how heated the Parliament can get, sometimes can go too far,” Mr Abbott said.

Mr Abbott’s comment sparked outrage when Jewish Labor MP Mark Dreyfus was kicked out of Parliament for protesting against the remark. Another Labor Jewish MP Michael Danby stormed out of the House in anger.

“At least 11 Labor members of parliament have made a similar reference including one of those who was outraged last night, namely Mark Dreyfus,” the Prime Minister noted.

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

Sydney’s new furniture gets top rating from man who has slept on it

The expert: Ronny Ng poses on a new bench, part of the City of Sydney’s $3 million suite of city furniture. Photo: Joosep MartinsonSelf-described “survival artist” Ronny Ng is Sydney’s pre-eminent expert on the city’s best public seats and benches. After sleeping rough on Sydney’s streets for 17 years, he rates the city’s new modern furniture as close to perfect.
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“It is a great idea, I can sleep on it,” he said.

He said the new bench’s sleek design meant he could lie down without an uncomfortable bar in the middle. The pared-down design of the arm rest meant he could stretch out: “I can put my feet through the hole.”

The new suite of city furniture is designed to encourage people to “explore and linger”. Costing about $3 million in total, it is part of a plan to encourage residents, workers and visitors to explore the city on foot, said Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore. “This is about making our city more accessible, and we hope the increased foot traffic will be a boon for local businesses,” she said.

The new suite includes bubblers, benches like the one where Mr Ng stopped to sit and roll a cigarette on Tuesday morning, a pedestrian light pole, three bollards, tree guards and grates, and bins.

Designed by Tzannes Associates, the pieces will be rolled out across Sydney as needed in new developments and as older furniture needs replacing. The company’s design director Alec Tzannes said the suite had been designed to reflect Sydney’s outdoor lifestyle.

“We wanted the pieces to have a real sense of casualness – we wanted to capture how people live in Sydney, how you can enjoy the city’s terrific climates and open public spaces,” he said.

When he lost his job as an advertising consultant, 60-year-old Mr Ng’s life unravelled. He lost his home soon after, and has since sat and slept on most of Sydney’s benches and chairs.

Another favourite spot of his is a bench in Hyde Park: “I like the trees. They gave me a lot of inner peace.” When anybody asked him about his sleeping arrangements, he said he always responded: “Just enough for one person”. One common problem is rolling off the bench, and landing on the ground.

Some of the new furniture was installed behind Town Hall on Kent Street a few months ago. It will be rolled out across Sydney as streets are upgraded or new infrastructure projects take place.

The replacement of existing furniture would be done on a case-by-case basis and in consultation with the city’s heritage experts.

“Much-loved or heritage pieces will be preserved,” said a spokesperson for the city. This included historic wooden benches on Glebe Point Road and the old cast iron bubblers, such as the ornate bubbler in Beare Park, Elizabeth Bay.

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

Five amazing things we’ve been promised ‘within five years’

A prototype of a Google driverless car: The company is building cars that don’t have steering wheels, accelerator pedals or brake pedals. Photo: suppliedThe head of Google’s self-driving car unit says his team is committed to getting autonomous vehicles on the road within five years. That’s a wildly ambitious goal, considering Google has a long list of technical, production, and-perhaps most difficult-regulatory roadblocks to overcome. Five years may seem like an arbitrary time frame to promise delivery of a controversial, unproven product, but it turns out to be a sweet spot for business leaders’ technology predictions. In the past year or so, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and other tech executives have chosen five as the magic number of years for their big predictions to come to fruition. Sometimes these estimates do come true: Mobile carriers in the US are on track to deliver on President Obama’s five-year promise from 2011 to cover 98 per cent of Americans with high-speed wireless internet. Just don’t get your hopes too high. In 2001, Bill Gates told us we’d all be using Windows tablet PCs in five years. Another Microsoft exec, Nathan Myhrvold, predicted the five-year demise of Windows, starting in 1999. By next year, IBM should be bringing us mind-controlled computers. Good luck with that. Why five? When you consider that there were no iPads or mass-market electric cars five years ago, it shows how much can be accomplished in a half-decade. A cynic might say it’s because nobody will remember a crazy prediction five years from now. Five might be the favourite number among technologists (and, incidentally, Joseph Stalin), but it’s not the only measurement for prophecies. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman frequently and infamously predicted during the height of the Iraq War that “the next six months” would be critical to determining success or failure. More recently, an Italian neuroscientist says it’ll be possible to transplant a head onto someone else’s body within two years. Senator Harry Reid predicts the Washington Redskins will change their name”within the next three years.” A NASA astronomer thinks we’ll find evidence of aliens within 20 years. A group of scientists predicts that a volcano could make Japan “extinct” within 100 years – or maybe the entire planet will face mass extinction, according to another group. Those are cheery thoughts. While this isn’t a comprehensive list – we haven’t forgotten about 5G, Star Wars holograms, a universal flu vaccine, or Myanmar’s first satellite launch, which will be no easy feat for one of Asia’s poorest countries – here are five of the most amazing (and horrifying) things we’re supposed to get within five years. 1. Google self-driving cars on the roadChris Urmson, the director of Google’s self-driving car project, gave a presentation at TED Talks on Tuesday, where he said the company is aiming to get its vehicles on the road within five years. Urmson has a personal reason for picking that deadline: His 11-year-old son will be eligible to get his driver’s license in about four and a half years. “My team and I are committed to making sure that doesn’t happen,” he said. Few people are as optimistic about the road to autonomous vehicles as Urmson. A director of General Motors’ self-driving car research lab at Carnegie Mellon University said they’ll be common within 15 years. An analyst at Morgan Stanley went with 2026. Musk, who’s not shy about making predictions, avoided nailing down a time frame for autonomous vehicles this week. The chief executive officer at Tesla Motors, which has been developing its own autopilot system, said on Tuesday that we’ll “take autonomous cars for granted” in a short period of time. 2. Netflix everywhere in the worldTed Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, told a UBS media conference in New York in December that the company would like its streaming service to “be completely global, available everywhere in the world” within five years. Netflix is currently available in 78 markets, mainly in the Western Hemisphere, and about to launch here in Australia. 3. Zuckerberg’s vision for a mostly video FacebookSmartphones are making it easier for people to shoot video, and the latest server tech is making it possible for Facebook to store and deliver more of it than ever before, Zuckerberg said in a public question-and-answer session in November. “Now, most of Facebook is photos,” the CEO said. “Five years ago, most of Facebook was text, and if you fast-forward five years, probably most of it is going to be video.” If it turns out to be anything like the Ice Bucket Challenge of last summer, we’ll go back to Friendster. 4. Musk’s killer robot nightmareThe Tesla and SpaceX CEO started sounding the alarms about the risks of artificial intelligence last year. Elon Musk joked at a Vanity Fair conference in October that an AI system designed to get rid of e-mail spam may determine that “the best way of getting rid of spam is getting rid of humans.” Then in November he penned a dystopian prediction on the website Edge上海龙凤419. “The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year timeframe. 10 years at most,” he wrote in a comment that has since been deleted. Musk, along with physicist Stephen Hawking and many researchers in the field, co-signed an open letter pushing for “maximizing the societal benefit of AI” to avoid a doomsday scenario 5. Amazon drone deliveryBezos announced Amazon上海龙凤419m’s delivery drone in December 2013, saying the company may start using them within five years, pending US Federal Aviation Administration approval. That’s turned out to be a big “if,” and a year later, Amazon told the FAA it may move drone testing outside of the US. On February 15 the government agency introduced a proposal to open the skies to unmanned flight. But the rules would prevent companies from flying the vehicles outside of the operator’s line of sight. That kind of eliminates the point of delivering packages via drone. Meanwhile, Alibaba has been flying drones over Beijing to deliver ginger tea. Bloomberg
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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

A towering figure who crossed the political divide

Malcolm Fraser in his office at 101 Collins Street in 2007. Photo: Rebecca Hallas Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam share a platform at a rally in 1991 for the Save the Age campaign. Photo: John Lamb
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JOHN MALCOLM FRASER, AC

POLITICIAN

21-5-1930 — 20-3-2015

No Australian politician became Prime Minister in more controversial circumstances than Malcolm Fraser, whose name will be forever associated with the dismissal of the Whitlam government, and no prime minister’s accession to power has been more hotly debated ever since. Certainly, few political events convulsed the nation as that did.

Yet, however shocked and outraged people were at the time, at the subsequent election, just a few weeks later, on December 13, 1975, the electorate ignored Whitlam’s appeal to “maintain the rage”, and confirmed Fraser in office with the largest majority in Australian history.

From being  opposition leader, Fraser, who has died aged 84, won his way to The Lodge by blocking Supply and creating a House of Representatives-Senate deadlock, which Governor-General Sir John Kerr broke by dismissing the Whitlam Labor government and appointing Fraser as caretaker prime minister until an election was held.

But  Fraser’s seven years in control of the Treasury benches were dogged by turbulence, contention and a difficult and intractable economic situation. Even so, he won three elections and was the Liberal Party’s longest serving prime minister after Menzies until John Howard surpassed that record.

He revealed himself to be one of the Liberal Party’s most progressive leaders. Yet after his defeat by Labor’s rising star, Bob Hawke, at the March, 1983 election, he was disparaged and cast into the wilderness for nearly a decade. Even his own party kept its distance. When he offered himself as the Liberal Party’s federal president in 1987, he withdrew when soundings indicated clearly that party preference was for businessman John Elliott. His role in the dismissal of the Whitlam Government still rankled, even among some Liberals. He again withdrew in 1993 when Tony Staley became a candidate. In some eyes, Fraser’s reputation also was still smudged by his resignation as defence minister in 1971 — an act that led to the downfall of his leader and Prime Minister, John Gorton.

He had precipitated that crisis by charging that Gorton had been disloyal to a senior minister (himself) and was not fit to hold office. Added to that was his move to topple Billy Snedden as  opposition leader. He failed in his first attempt, but succeeded in his second bid on March 21, 1975, when he won a party-room ballot by 37 votes to 27.

All these events left a mark. Perhaps more so, because he was never a popular figure, though respected for his strength and political authority. So he was politically excommunicated, dashing his hopes of fulfilling an elder statesman role in Australia. Full public rehabilitation did not come for him until  the Liberal Party decided to bring him in from the cold in June 2000 and bestow the party’s highest honour, life membership. Even John Howard, whom Fraser had criticised savagely a week earlier, was prepared to be magnanimous, declaring him to have been a “great Liberal leader”. Howard’s praise for his former leader stopped there.

Even though Fraser went on to win public support for his strong anti-Howard stand on humanitarian issues and other social causes, Howard never publicly criticised Fraser. That restraint probably stemmed from the fact that when he became prime minister, Howard was concerned about the way Fraser had been treated. One of his first actions was to offer Fraser a diplomatic appointment, but it didn’t suit the former prime minister’s lifestyle and commitment at that time.

The 1990s also saw a reconciliation between Whitlam and Fraser. In a speech paying tribute to Fraser’s strong anti-Howard stand on humanitarian issues, Whitlam said: “Malcolm Fraser has now replaced me as Public Enemy Number One in the demonology of the Australian right wing. I must say I am much more relaxed about being supplanted by Malcolm Fraser for a second time than I was the first time”.

Fraser won respect for seeking to use his post-PM years constructively. Much of that respect emanated from his role in establishing the CARE organisation in Australia, thus enabling him to make a major impact on overseas aid, both through the Australian arm and the worldwide body, CARE International; he led both at different stages. He was also outspoken on affairs of the day, ranging from media ownership, the rights of asylum seekers and their detention, the treatment of Aborigines to the role of the High Court, to name  a few.

Fraser faced a tough task after winning the 1975 election with a mandate to curb the excesses of the Whitlam years, restore order to the economy, confidence to investors and sound government. To do this, he set about slashing public-sector expenditure, reducing the tax burden and initiating a drive to beat inflation. But the economic recovery he sought eluded him. It foundered on unemployment, demands for higher wages and developing globalisation. The challenge of globalisation demanded deregulation, whereas Fraser, ever the traditionalist, put his faith in regulation. He also failed to take the opportunity to reform the industrial system.

Nevertheless, he chalked up significant achievements in other areas of government. He championed multiculturalism; revived Australia’s flagging immigration program, accepted thousands of Vietnamese boat people as refugees and accepted by regular refugee entry more than 50,000 others; extended native land title rights and appointed three particularly sensitive Aboriginal Affairs ministers in Fred Chaney, Ian Viner and Peter Baume.

In foreign relations, he strengthened Australia as a middle power able to punch well above its diplomatic weight, and for most of his years as prime minister, he was the leading figure in the Commonwealth of nations.  He played a prominent part in negotiations that saw Zimbabwe become an independent nation, staring down British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the process.  However, he missed out on the Commonwealth secretary-generalship because then Prime Minister Hawke was heavy handed in pressing Fraser’s nomination and because many saw it as “Africa’s turn”.

On other fronts, where Whitlam had failed, Fraser negotiated a practical border arrangement between Australia and Papua New Guinea. He also supported environmental undertakings, reformed the family support system, established the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), and banned whaling around the Australian coast.

After his retirement Fraser admitted “the major mistake we made was not to go for full industrial power for the Commonwealth in 1976”. A radical approach was needed and Fraser never took it. He also felt he made a mistake with the timing of the 1983 election by setting it in March rather than later in the year. A further error of judgement, he  admitted,  was his decision to quit politics immediately after the 1983 poll. If he had stayed on for a time, he believed the Liberals might not have spent a decade locked in a destructive leadership struggle between Howard and Peacock.

As Prime Minister he was in the Menzies mould.  His philosophy in politics was to “stay totally in control all the time”.  He ran cabinet meetings on the basis of “consensus by exhaustion”. He had complete command over the machinery of government, was a stickler for due process, while his ability to master briefs and his cross-portfolio knowledge was said to be “awesome”.

Tony Eggleton, who worked closely with Fraser as director of the Liberal Party’s Federal Secretariat and was a political adviser,  has a vivid recollection of Fraser’s determination, which could be translated into bloody-mindedness. “I still smile”, he said, “when I remember Big Mal striding across the ballroom at the Savoy Hotel in London, convinced that he was taking a short cut to his suite. Despite the protestations of personal and hotel staff, Malcolm headed for a door and disappeared into the broom cupboard to an accompanying clatter of mops and buckets. Despite some loss of dignity, he managed to crack a smile”.

Fraser was a formidable and aggressive politician, a patrician with a high sense of public duty, ambitious for himself and his country.  He was also his own man, uncompromising but compassionate. He did not dodge controversy and didn’t place great store on personal popularity. Though often described as a “poor communicator”, he could, and did, make effective public speeches. With his wooden, Easter Island like face, he was shy and uneasy with people at a personal level and had no small talk at social occasions. His tendency to be “a loner” was noted during his school days and undoubtedly emanated from his early childhood.

Fraser was born in Melbourne  into a wealthy Victorian pastoral family with a background in politics. His grandfather, Sir Simon, whom he came to greatly admire, had served in the Victorian Parliament and then as a senator in the first Commonwealth Parliament.

His early childhood was spent on his parents’ 11,000-hectare grazing property, “Balpool-Nyang” on the banks of the Edward River, near Moulamein in the NSW southern Riverina.  After his only sibling, his sister Lorri, went away to boarding school, Malcolm was very much on his own. The only other child nearby was the rabbiter’s daughter, with whom he played occasionally.

In 1940, he was plucked from that environment, where he had developed a robust self-sufficiency, to board at Tudor House on the outskirts of Moss Vale in the NSW southern highlands. He flourished there both academically and at sport until the end of 1943. Then it was Melbourne Grammar in 1944, after his parents sold “Balpool” and moved to “Nareen” in Victoria’s western district.

Fraser disliked the atmosphere at Melbourne Grammar, which he found repressive. Then it was on to Oxford and Magdalen College, where he took the modern greats tripos — philosophy, politics and economics, rather than law, which his father had done. He struggled with the economic component of his degree, but finished with a third — not a bad result.

Fraser developed an interest in politics at Oxford, and not long after he returned to Australia in 1952, he joined the Liberal Party while working with his father on “Nareen” until the opportunity came for pre-selection for the seat of Wannon.  He eventually won in 1955, and in the following December he married Tamara (Tamie) Beggs, daughter of a grazier from Willaura, near the Victorian town of Ararat.

An elegant and engaging woman with her social ease and charm, Tamie turned out to be Fraser’s best political asset. She supplied the touch with people that her husband lacked. Soon after they married, Fraser became one of the first MPs to set up home in Canberra. The Fasers moved into rented accommodation, which they occupied during parliamentary sittings.

When he took his seat in Parliament, Fraser, at 25, was the House of Representatives’ youngest member, but he had to wait 11 years before advancement came his way. He was frustrated and puzzled when people such as Billy Snedden and Peter  Howson, who had also entered Parliament in the same year that he did became, ministers ahead of him. However, his chance came with Harold Holt in 1966 as minister for the army. He handled the portfolio with flair and competence during the testing Vietnam war, before becoming minister for education and science 1968-69, then minister for defence 1969-71. He served again in education and science under McMahon until the Coalition lost the 1972 election to Labor.

Fraser left his mark in each portfolio, but particularly defence, where he had a strong rapport with the departmental head, Arthur Tange.  The fruit of their cooperation came with the Tange Report of 1973,  which was adopted by the Whitlam Government  and led to the abolition of single service departments;  their responsibilities merged under a single Defence Department. He also initiated planning for what became the Australian Defence Force Academy and was a strong advocate of forward defence.

Fraser was prepared to sacrifice ministerial rank by moving against Gorton.  For a time he pondered whether he had any “future at all in politics” until  McMahon brought him back into the ministry. In so many respects a strong leader, he was a complex man of many contradictions. Doing the right thing was always important for him, yet many of his actions could only been seen as questionable. While demanding personal loyalty from his colleagues, they couldn’t always be sure that it would be reciprocated.

His aloofness alienated many within the Liberal fold and beyond. Yet  he had a natural rapport with people of other races. As then senator Fred Chaney once famously remarked, “He doesn’t have a racial bone in his body, otherwise I wouldn’t work for the bastard”.

Fraser’s third term in office was not an altogether happy one. It was marked by damaging leaks, reshuffles and forced resignations. Several of the resignations, insisted upon as a matter of principle, were not really necessary, especially those of Senator Reg Withers over impropriety but not illegality, Michael MacKellar and John Moore over a customs issue. But most destabilising of all was the resignation of Andrew Peacock as minister for industrial relations in April 1981.

Earlier, as foreign minister, Peacock had been at odds with Fraser over the government’s recognition of Cambodia’s Pol Pot regime. Then, having been shifted to the industrial relations portfolio, Peacock, who favoured a more diplomatic approach, took exception to Fraser’s confrontationist stance against the 35-hour week and resigned, electing to go to the backbench.

Fraser had always seen Peacock as a potential rival, and relations between the two continued to deteriorate, until Peacock finally made a direct challenge in 1982. But at the subsequent party meeting Fraser convincingly retained the leadership, defeating Peacock 54-27. These ministry upheavals not only rocked the government, projecting an image of instability, they also showed up Fraser’s poor management of people.

For decades, Fraser was stalked by his celebrated enjoinder to the Australian people, “Life wasn’t meant to be easy”. What few people realised was that the quote from George Bernard Shaw’s play Methuselah continued “but take courage child, for it can be delightful”.

Wherever Fraser’s name comes up, so, too, does the  incident in 1986 when he was robbed of his passport, money and trousers in a hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. Reports, which were greeted with hilarity in Australia, said he had wandered into the hotel lobby wearing a towel and saying he thought he had been drugged. His biographer, Philip Ayres, has suggested that Memphis softened and reduced Fraser: softened the image of the man, reduced the stature of the politician.

It certainly depicted him as more human, as did the emotion he showed when making his speech conceding defeat in the 1983 election — his voice faltered and his eyes became wet.

In retirement,  Fraser also had to deal with the future of his 3500-hectare family property. “Nareen” had been in the family since 1944, but neither of the Frasers two sons, Mark and Hugh, wanted to take on the place. To boost the property’s income, the Frasers turned it into a bed and breakfast establishment, while retaining their own privacy. Finally in 1997 they decided to sell and in 1998, and moved to a property at Red Hill, on the Mornington Peninsula.

Many people thought the move would be a wrench,  but he had never felt for “Nareen” as he did “Balpool”, which he loved. So he and Tamie quite happily settled into their new home, which they called “Thurulgoona” after the property in Queensland where Fraser’s grandfather had drilled the first bore that inaugurated the artesian well system that was to so benefit Australian agriculture. There, too, among other things, Fraser always found time to practice his wood-turning hobby in which he was quite skilled — another unexpected side of the former prime minister.

As his retirement years progressed, there was greater appreciation of the constructive and positive nature of his post-prime ministerial contribution. His international stature went unquestioned, being enhanced significantly by his determined, and ultimately successful, efforts to secure the release of three CARE Australia aid workers — Steve Pratt, Peter Wallace and Branko Jelen — captured and imprisoned by Serbian forces during the 1999 Kosovo crisis. Fraser flew to Belgrade where, in two separate meetings, he argued and negotiated with the then Serbian President, Slobovan Milosovic, for the men to be set free.

There was also a growing respect for his liberal and forthright views on domestic issues. His was the voice that was most often heard when he felt that the government of the day was acting inappropriately at home and abroad. He did not hesitate to register his concerns when, in the context of the terrorist threat, he felt the Howard Government was introducing measures that impinged on basic rights and were a betrayal of Australian principles of a “fair go” and the abrogation of UN conventions.

History may be much kinder to Malcolm Fraser than opinions in contemporary times suggest. In some respects at least, he might well be judged as having contributed as much, if not more, than John Howard.

His wife, Tamie, sons Hugh and Mark, and daughters Angela, Phoebe and their families, survive him.

John Farquharson is a longtime Canberra journalist. 

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

Russian Church secretly funds cartoonish anti-Western propaganda video

An image from a Russian propaganda video which has been viewed millions of times. An image from a Russian propaganda video which has been viewed millions of times.
Shanghai night field

Another image from the video.

Another image from the video.

Another image from the video.

The video was framed as a message to US President Barack Obama.

An image from a Russian propaganda video which has been viewed millions of times.

An image from a Russian propaganda video which has been viewed millions of times.

London:  A slick, wildly popular Russian propaganda video that casts Russians as heroic invaders and warns the West “don’t mess with me” was secretly funded by the Russian Orthodox Church, its makers have claimed.

The church commissioned the video from a viral internet studio established as a kind of Russian “Funny or Die” – previous hits include a man groping 1000 women’s breasts then shaking hands with Vladimir Putin.

The same group is almost certainly behind a video released late last year that features Mr Putin riding a bear firing laser beams out of its eyes, and which blames Ukraine and the West for shooting down MH17 in an attempt to provoke a war.

“I – Russian Invader”, the latest video that went viral in the old Eastern bloc with over 5.5 million views in the three weeks since its release, unapologetically paints Russia as a nation of invaders and occupiers who improved every country they conquered.

“I once occupied Siberia. Now they produce oil, gas, aluminium and other useful stuff,” it says. “I invaded Central Asia. In bare steppes I built canals, factories, spaceports, hospitals and stadiums.

“I occupied Ukraine. Together with the Ukrainians I built aircraft engines, ships, tanks and cars. I was asked to leave them. Now they are destroying all that is left.

“Yes, I’m an occupant! And I’m tired of apologising for it! I’m an occupant by birthright, an aggressor and a bloodthirsty monster. Be afraid!”

The video, which is framed as an email to Barack Obama, rejects “freedom”, “democracy” and “Western values”, which it portrays as a scrapbook of Pussy Riot, CIA renditions, Charlie Hebdo, Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst and a book on gay parenting entitled Daddy, Papa and Me.

The Russian hero narrator is portrayed as a computer hacker with a machine gun resting by his keyboard.

“I politely warn you for the last time – don’t mess with me! I build peace, I love peace, but I know how to fight better than anybody else.

“Sincerely, your Russian occupant.”

The video provoked outrage in the West, in news outlets such as Newsweek and the New York Times (which noted that the text had been adapted from a prose poem published last year by Russian writer Alexei Ivanov). US ambassador to NATO Alexander Vershbow called the video “astounding” and “imperialism for dummies”. Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin tweeted a link to his followers.

At the time it appeared that the Invader video, and the MH17-themed one before it, had been created by ‘Evgeny Zhurov’, a Russian video blogger in Novosibirsk, Siberia.

However Russian website Medialeaks.ru saw a clear similarity to other videos produced by the Russian professional video studio My Duck’s Vision (MDV) – and a producer from the studio confessed it was their work.

The producer did not reveal who had funded the project, saying only their customers were “associated with the state” and “at the top”.

However when contacted by Fairfax, an MDV spokesman revealed their identity. “It was an order from [the] Russian Orthodox Church,” MDV spokesman Damian Degtyarev said in an email. “It was not our idea.”

“It was an order we’ve been paid, but still for us it’s just a stupid script, we’ve made [it] for fun.”

Many senior figures in the Russian Orthodox Church are strong supporters of the Putin regime. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow once famously called Mr Putin’s long rule “a miracle of God”.

The character of the Siberian blogger that hid the true identity of the video’s creators was “just part of a deal for a while”, Mr Degtyarev said.

The studio advertises itself as “professionals in video production, advertising, public relations and secret media operations”: “You need an advertising campaign? Virus? Then you’ve come to the right place.”

Mr Degtyarev said his favourite of the studio’s previous work was the man who touched 1000 breasts, “cause it went viral! And boobies,” he said.

But is the new video just outrageous propaganda or does it conceal a subtle satire on Russian patriotism and Western gullibility?

Back in 2009, MDV’s Yuri Degtyarev, in an interview with Radio Liberty, was asked about a viral video that pretended to be a job ad for undertakers at a funeral home in Jacksonville, USA – saying it would be the perfect job for Russians who hate America: “You will have the opportunity to personally bury more than 300 Americans in just one year.”

He said the basic idea had been to satirise the old Soviet habit of blaming everything on America, and to “make fun of the Russian patriots who do not make a damn thing, just go to marches . . . if anti-Americanism is used as a marketing joke it ceases to be radical”.

Asked about the studio’s previous work satirising the same attitudes expressed – apparently in earnest – in the new video, Damian Degtyarev told Fairfax: “Yeah, we like to confuse people :)”

“It was humour for sure, for trolling,” he said.

The entire message in the video came from the commission and “we didn’t agree at all” with the sentiments in the video, he said.

So was this propaganda? Or satire? Or just a massive exercise in trolling the internet? In modern, weird-turned-up-to-eleven Russia, is it even possible to tell?

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