Neighbours TV show: Airbnb to give fans chance to sleep on set

Story on The Neighbours Bus Tour that takes tourists to the street in Glen Waverley where Neighbours is filmed , to go with story on Kylie Minogue being diagnosed with breast cancer. Pictured is Christine Alexander , Operations Manager of The Neighbours Bus Tour. Picture by Pat Scala pds Wednesday the 18th of May 2005. AGE NEWS RAMSAY STREET NEIGHBOURS SPECIALX RAMSAYST Photo: Pat Scala

Enjoy a stay at the Willis household from Neighbours.

Guest will spend the night on the Neighbours set.

Story on The Neighbours Bus Tour that takes tourists to the street in Glen Waverley where Neighbours is filmed , to go with story on Kylie Minogue being diagnosed with breast cancer. Pictured is Christine Alexander , Operations Manager of The Neighbours Bus Tour. Picture by Pat Scala pds Wednesday the 18th of May 2005. AGE NEWS RAMSAY STREET NEIGHBOURS SPECIALX RAMSAYST Photo: Pat Scala

Story on The Neighbours Bus Tour that takes tourists to the street in Glen Waverley where Neighbours is filmed , to go with story on Kylie Minogue being diagnosed with breast cancer. Pictured is Christine Alexander , Operations Manager of The Neighbours Bus Tour. Picture by Pat Scala pds Wednesday the 18th of May 2005. AGE NEWS RAMSAY STREET NEIGHBOURS SPECIALX RAMSAYST Photo: Pat Scala

For years Neighbours fans have flocked to Pin Oak Court, in Melbourne’s Vermont South, the real-life street that plays the role of Ramsay Street in the long-running soap opera.

Now, for the first time, they can get even closer by spending the night inside one of the characters’ homes.

A special Airbnb listing offers the opportunity for fans to stay in Ramsay St and enjoy the hospitality of the famous neighbours themselves in early September.

Guests will be hosted by Alan Fletcher (Dr Karl Kennedy) and Chris Milligan (handyman Kyle Canning), as well as visiting Harold’s Store, The Waterhole and Lassiter’s Lake.

They’ll then enjoy dinner with Alan and Chris at the Willis family house, before bedding in for the night on set at the studios in Nunawading.

While it’s not an actual house on Pin Oak Court, it’s as close as the fans will get to sleeping in the actual (fictional) homes of the characters.

For a chance sleep on the Neighbours set, hopefuls need to enter on the website and say why they’d like to stay on Ramsay Street in 25 words or less by August 28.

For those that miss out, there are always the popular Neighbours tours that take fans to Pin Oak Court or to the sets.  See also: Airbnb: The blind dating of travel

Buy as a home, a business – or both


Expressions of interest

Address: 10 Doree Place.

House: Mini Orb and Colorbond on 936square metres.

Inspect: Today 11am to 11.30am.

Closing date: Friday, October 16.

Price guide: Around $900,000.

Agent: McGrath Warners Bay, David Westerman, 0428482767 and Hannah McInerney, 0424233876.

LOCATED in a cul-de-sac overlooking the waterfront and offered to market for the first time, this beautiful home was conceived with the aim of designing a building which could be many things, including an architectural billboard for Mason Architects.

Positioned between the medical centre and the heritage-listed circa 1898 Parker house, John Mason’s own brief was to have a landmark home which could also accommodate the practice, as well as a bed and breakfast business.

The unusual design mirrors the heights of both adjacent buildings, ensuring that it is sited beautifully, and lightweight construction materials such as a two-way ribbed floating concrete floor have been used to minimise its impact on the landscape.

The timber frame has been clad externally with horizontal corrugated Colorbond and feature points in vertical Mini Orb, complemented by cedar-framed windows with double glazing to the south and on the higher level to minimise heat loss in winter.

Soundcheck plasterboard lines both interior and exterior faces with two layers to the interior. Spread over two levels, the upper level comprises a large living area, beautiful kitchen and a deck overlooking the water. There is a main bathroom on this level with a large bedroom and a walk-in robe.

On ground level are three bedrooms, two of which have en suites and a living area with a bar, CCTV and deck behind overlooking the private north-facing backyard, which has a pergola and a shed.

Also on the ground level is a large office which connects to the third bedroom and its en suite.

The double remote garage has parking for six cars and accesses a large internal laundry.

In a stand-out position within easy travel distance from Newcastle and Sydney, this house could suit a family, someone who wants a work-from-home proposition or who balances their time between the two cities but needs good access to local services.

In the heart of the commercial precinct with its shops, train station and facilities, this lakeside position offers both lifestyle and convenience in one cleverly designed package.

Where to eat in Tasmania: Chef Hugh Whitehouse

High Whitehouse showcases the best of Tasmania’s offerings. Photo: Supplied

High Whitehouse showcases the best of Tasmania’s offerings. Photo: Supplied

High Whitehouse showcases the best of Tasmania’s offerings. Photo: Supplied

NSW country-born Hugh Whitehouse studied classic French cooking in Europe before heading Sydney restaurants Milsons and Jaspers. Whitehouse took Darley’s at Lilianfels​ in the Blue Mountains to a two-hat level and to a Best Regional Restaurant of the Year award. At Saffire Freycinet, he creates an acclaimed dining experience using seasonal and local produce. See saffire-freycinet杭州夜网


Sitting at the bench in full view of the kitchen at Franklin, Hobart.  I love to watch the chefs prepare and cook amazing food.  It’s one of the best dining experiences I’ve enjoyed in recent times. See franklinhobart杭州夜网


One of the team here at Saffire has a chestnut orchard and beehives on the family farm. After sampling their orgasmic chestnut flower honey, I have created a dessert around this amazing product, featuring locally grown persimmons and almonds.


My own kitchen. Living in Coles Bay, there’s nowhere else to dine. I often have friends and family stay and I enjoy cooking with them and showcasing the best of Tasmania’s offerings.


The big smoke. The last few years have seen Hobart secure itself as a great food and wine destination with new venues opening regularly. Some a little quirky, the food and personalities really defining Tasmania’s style. I love Willing Brothers wine bar in West Hobart. See facebook杭州夜网m/willingbros.


Right now, it has to be Tasmanian black truffles. With the oldest truffle farms in Australia on our doorstep, there’s nothing I’d rather top my breakfast eggs with. We buy ours from Truffles of Tasmania near Deloraine. See greatwesterntiers杭州夜网.au/food-and-wine/deloraine/truffles-tasmania.


Anything in a pie warmer and restaurants serving fish from Asia.


Not much, it’s the middle of winter. However, enjoying a Tasmanian single malt whisky by the fireplace at Saffire is where you’ll find me on a cold winter’s day.

Deadline passes on PNG police threat to arrest Australian managers on Manus Island

The Manus Island detention centre.Arrogance rather than the threat of the death penalty drove the federal government’s decision to allow three Australian workers on Manus Island accused of sexual assault to return home, a national lawyers group says.
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It comes as a Thursday afternoon deadline set by Papua New Guinean police for the return of the three men passed. It was unclear late on Thursday if police intended to carry out their threat to arrest Australian managers at the Manus Island detention centre if the workers were not returned.

At about 5pm, sources on the island said they were not aware of police action at the centre.

In mid-July, three Australian detention centre guards were allegedly found naked with a woman who claimed she had been drugged and sexually assaulted. The guards are now back in Australia.

They were employees of Wilson Security, which is contracted by the detention centre’s operator, Transfield Services. The woman was a local employee of the centre.

Rape convictions can attract the death penalty in PNG. However, the nation has not carried out executions since the 1950s.

Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesman Greg Barns, a barrister and former Liberal Party staffer, did not believe the death penalty was a “live issue”.

Rather, the conduct of immigration officials was “just typical of the arrogance” of the federal government, he said.

“This would appear to be another example of the Australian government and its contractors essentially regarding Manus Island as an Australian jail … the PNG police and legal system is treated with contempt,” he said.

“The conduct and attitude [of Australian officials] flies in the face of statements by the Abbott and Rudd governments that this detention centre is a partnership [between the two nations].”

PNG police have expressed anger that the three workers were allowed to leave while the incident was being investigated.

On Wednesday, the ABC reported PNG police had confirmed the attempted rape allegation and demanded the Australians be returned by close of business Thursday.

Provincial Police Commissioner Alex N’Drasal reportedly accused the managers of allowing the Australians to leave the country, which “prevented the course of justice”, and threatened to arrest them.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has showed no signs of complying with that request, but says it is cooperating with PNG police.

On Thursday, a department spokeswoman  said the allegations were subject to a police investigation and it would make no further comment.

The department has previously said no criminal allegations were made at the time it became aware of the incident, but the alleged behaviour was not considered appropriate and the male staff were stood down and returned to Australia, with the knowledge and agreement from PNG police.

The department has rejected suggestions it engaged in a “cover up”.

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Trans Pacific Partnership to impose new rules on Australia Post, NBN

Trade Minister Andrew Robb: searching for a compromise. Photo: Alex EllinghausenLeaked details of the Trans Pacific Partnership talks under way in Hawaii suggest companies such as Australia Post, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the National Broadband Network could be caught up in provisions designed to impose “additional disciplines” on state-owned enterprises.
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WikiLeaks has published previously secret details of a draft chapter on state-owned enterprises that would require government-owned corporations to act “on the basis of commercial considerations” and to be subject to “impartial regulation”.

The provisions would apply to government-owned energy companies, communications companies and financial institutions such as the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Renewable Energy Agency.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade broke with its usual practice of not commenting on leaked documents to say that national broadcasters such as the ABS and the SBS will not be affected by the provisions because they are not recognised as state-owned enterprises for the purposes of the TPP.

Trade expert Jane Kelsey, from the University of Auckland, said the proposed rules went beyond anything required by the World Trade Organisation or existing free trade agreements including the one between Australia and the United States.

“The text has been totally US-driven,” she said. “Clearly, some governments were still reluctant at the time of this paper in late 2013, as it states ‘a majority of TPP countries’ support the additional disciplines.”

The revelation came as the US made an initial offer to Australia to provide additional access for Australian sugar under the agreement.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb said both countries had made “suggestions” to each other on extra access. He said they were searching for a compromise.

Another source told the Inside US Trade newsletter that Australia had rejected the initial offer.

Australia wants an increase on the 87,000 tons of sugar it is allotted in the US quota.

Mr Robb said sugar was a “do-or-die” issue for Australia, along with restricting the period of data exclusivity for so-called biologic drugs and securing safeguards to prevent health and environment measures from being caught up in investor-state dispute settlement procedures.

The Philip Morris tobacco company is currently suing Australia in an outside tribunal over its plain packaging legislation using an investor state dispute settlement clause in a Hong Kong-Australia trade agreement.

Observers on the sidelines of the Trans Pacific Partnership talks say Australian officials have been fighting hard to limit the period of special patent protection for biologic drugs to five years rather than the eight or 12 demanded by the US.

An increase above the present five years would need special legislation which might not get through the Senate.

The Trans Pacific Partnership agreement would take in Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam, between them accounting for about 40 per cent of world trade.

Sources close to the negotiations put the chances of success at 60 per cent.

The proposed restrictions on state-owned enterprises are designed to prevent countries such as Vietnam with large state-owned sectors from competing unfairly against foreign firms.

Professor Kelsey said the restrictions were intrinsically problematic. State-owned enterprises were almost always state-owned because they had functions that were more than merely commercial, such as guaranteed access to services.

Mr Robb’s office said they would not require government-owned firms to be privatised and would not restrict Australia Post’s universal service obligation.

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The death of a lion king

Cecil the lionCECIL the lion would have known instinctively that one day he would meet a bloody end. The wilds of Hwange national park, in the far western corner of Zimbabwe, where he lived his 13 years, are a brutal place.
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Male lions are constantly on the lookout to extend their territories and force out rival prides. Cecil bore the scars of many fights on his mammoth frame – and even an animal as impressive as he could not hold on to his hunting grounds forever.

Protesters hold signs during a rally outside the dental clinic of Walter Palmer in Minnesota, US. Picture: Reuters

Yet, when death came, it was not the result of a rival’s teeth or claws, but an arrow fired from the compound bow of a Minnesota dentist, Walter Palmer, who is believed to have paid £35,000 for the privilege. Cecil limped on for another 40 hours before he was found once more by the men and dispatched with a hunting rifle. The 220-kilogram animal was skinned and decapitated.

When his body was recovered by the team of British-led researchers who had mapped his movements for nearly a decade, it was a headless skeleton – picked clean by hyenas and vultures – surrounded by vehicle tracks and blood-stained sand.

“You could tell it was a lion,” says Brent Stapelkamp, one of the team, “but everything had gone.”

That included the GPS collar that Stapelkamp and his fellow field researchers had fitted Cecil with to plot his progress around the national park. Contrary to some media reports, the tag had not been recovered and, at the time of death, abruptly stopped emitting both satellite and its backup VHS signal, which was monitored by the Hwange Lion Research Project as part of Oxford University’s world-renowned Wildlife Conservation Research Unit. It is presumed destroyed.

Johnny Rodrigues of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force

While working, that GPS tag recorded every detail of Cecil’s rise to become the king of lions in Hwange. Cecil was one of around 100 animals fitted with the collar in the 14,650-square-kilometre national park, formerly the 19th-century hunting grounds of Ndebele warrior-king Mzilikazi, which is estimated to be home to around 450 lions.

Stapelkamp, a 37-year-old Zimbabwean who has worked for the project for nine years, recalls when a young Cecil walked across their radar back in the winter of 2008, accompanied by his brother. Researchers estimated the pair were born around 2003 and had left their pride to seek out new territory – something males do when they reach about 3½ years of age.

The pair were first spotted in the southern boundaries of the park near a watering hole called Magisihole – which translates as “white man’s pan”.

As a result, Cecil was named after Cecil Rhodes, the founder of Rhodesia. His brother was called Leander, after Sir Leander Starr Jameson, another prominent British colonialist who once helped rule the country.

Despite such grand names, Stapelkamp remembers the pair as “very sheepish”. “They were on the radar and we knew when they were around but they were very nervous. Only when they became more confident and moved into one of the main study sites we decided to collar them for the first time.”

In 2009, Cecil and Leander strayed into a different part of the national park, which was overseen by an old grizzled lion called Mposu and his sons; one of them, a young lion called Judah, was of equal magnificence to Cecil – although he too fell victim to poachers back in 2012. A fight broke out between the rival families, during which Leander was killed and Mposu badly injured.

Cecil, nearly fully grown, was forced into the south-eastern corner of the park, near the Linkwasha safari camp, where, says Stapelkamp, he flourished. “He became dominant there for a long time, and at one point he had 22 lions under him, which is about as big a pride ever gets in Hwange.”

Cecil became the star attraction of the park, a swaggering presence whose black-streaked mane featured in the photograph albums of thousands of visitors lucky enough to catch a glimpse of him. Sometimes, it was not difficult. Lions typically have a range of around 300 kilometres, but the size of Cecil’s pride and availability of buffalo and impala meant he did not have to stray very far.

Such was his sheer bulk that Cecil was also unafraid of humans. Indeed, safari trucks regularly had to swerve off the road to give his prostrate form a wide berth.

Walter Palmer, above, with a leopard taken during a hunt in Zimbabwe, from the blogger site Trophy Hunter America.

“That lion was so amazing because people could get quite close,” says Johnny Rodrigues, the 65-year-old head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, who saw Cecil in the wild three times, most recently shortly before Christmas. “His family would walk alongside him like little soldiers and just the way he carried himself you could see he was king of the jungle. It is such a pity to lose that iconic animal.”

Rodrigues says Cecil is the 24th collared lion from the park to be shot in the past nine years. “When you have seen him and you have seen what happened to him, it leaves a taste in the mouth I really can’t describe.”

With rivals always snapping at his heels, even a lion as statuesque as Cecil could only maintain a hold over the area for so long. About 2½ years ago, he was displaced by two young males and forced into an area of grasslands known in Afrikaans as the vlei, on the eastern fringes of the park. Here, he teamed up with another old lion, one year his junior, called Jericho, and together began re-establishing a pride.

“They are not related but formed an alliance and took over the whole area,” says Stapelkamp, who last month took the final photograph of Cecil and Jericho lounging in the grass together. “They were still dominant when he died.”

There is concern over what will happen to Cecil’s pride of three lionesses and six cubs without his protection. Professor David Macdonald, who founded the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University, said Cecil’s death would lead to a “cascade” of others.

It is a testament to those conservationists who seek to protect the Hwange lions that we are able to know so much about Cecil’s life. His death, however, is an act far more senseless and brutal than anything nature could ever conceive. The Daily Telegraph London

Third Karrabing Film Collective short makes Melbourne film festival debut

The Karrabing Film Collective short “How The Dogs Talked” will screen at the Melbourne International Film Festival. Photo: Supplied Elizabeth Povinelli and Linda Yarrowin film the latest Karrabing Film Collective project. Photo: Supplied
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In “Windjarrameru, the Stealing C*Nt$”, a group of young Indigenous men are wrongly accused of stealing beer. Photo: Supplied

The Karrabing Film Collective is a collective in the true sense of the word. All 25 to 30 members function both as actors and crew in their films; all have equal footing in their projects.

“We’re trying to develop a different mode of film production in which everyone has a specific role and an individual role,” says director Elizabeth Povinelli​, who has travelled back and forth between New York – where she is a professor of anthropology and gender studies at Columbia University – and outer Darwin for the past 31 years.

“But at the same time, we do it all together as one: that’s the Karrabing, it’s not like self or collective, it’s self and collective.”

Povinelli is the only member who stays behind the camera. The decision to cast her as director was made early on, when her filmmaking colleague Liza Johnson came to co-direct the collective’s first short.

“Liza said to us, you grew up together, I don’t mean to get in your business, but if Beth [Povinelli] is there on screen everyone’s going to make it about about the white person. But we really wanted it to be about what it is to be Indigenous in the shadow of the intervention and to not lose that focus,” says Povinelli.

Karrabing does not refer to a tribe or geographical place: rather, it’s an ecological condition describing the point when the tides are at their lowest. Most members of the Karrabing hail from the Belyuen​ region of the Northern Territory, just east of Darwin.

On Friday, 10 representatives will fly to Melbourne to see two of their short films screen at the Melbourne International Film Festival on Saturday night. How the Dogs Talked explores the complexities of hanging on to cultural traditions in contemporary life, when the community’s sacred lands and government housing are under threat.

In Windjarrameru, the Stealing C*Nt$, a group of young Indigenous men hide in a polluted swamp after being wrongly accused of stealing beer. Meanwhile, miners continue to contaminate their land.

The films aren’t scripted; the storylines are mapped out and then the cast perform what Povinelli calls “improvisational realism”, where they riff on events similar to their own experiences.

“It’s close to reality but it’s not a documentary,” she says.

“We just all put our two cents into it until it shapes up into a movie.”

Claude Holtz​ has acted in all three Karrabing films to date.

“I think after being half homeless, it’s good to show people what we’ve been doing in life, what the reality is,” he says.

“I remember making the first one, I didn’t really know what to say or what to do, but as we went along and started getting together we came good. It was a really good experience, something different.”

The Karrabing’s inclusion in  the Melbourne film festival this year follows the selection of their first film Karrabing! Low Tide Turning for the 2012 Berlinale​ Shorts Competition.

“I think it’s really fantastic the festival is giving these films recognition – our budgets are $100,000 at most, we’re talking about real people whose income is between $10,000 and, if you have a job, $30,000 a year,” Povinelli says.

“…It’s not just that the films do social work – they do – but the films also really capture the will and determination you have to have when you’re bumping into a variety of slapdowns and governmental policies.

“We’re stubborn people. That makes us resilient.”

Karrabing Film Collective Shorts screen 6.30pm on Saturday, August 1, and Tuesday, August 4, at the Kino. 


Melbourne International Film Festival’s got the long and short of it

Ernie Biscuit: The story of a lonely quest for love. Photo: SuppliedQuiet Mujo will play at MIFF. Photo: supplied
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Under the Sun: Confrontation between two families. Photo: Supplied

“It’s one of the best films in the festival, and it’s 19 minutes long,” according to an enthusiastic staffer at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival.

This recommendation – for a film called Under The Sun – highlights one of the key ingredients of MIFF, one that’s easy to overlook: its rich selection of short films. The festival’s prizes go only to shorts, and the winners in three of the categories this year are eligible to submit their films for the Academy Awards.

This year’s line-up includes short fiction, experimental shorts, documentaries and animations, works by student filmmakers and films from well-known feature directors.  The psychedelic program has a shorts session. And some strange and idiosyncratic films that can’t easily be categorised are screening under the title of WTF Shorts.

Under The Sun, that festival highlight, was the graduation film made by writer-director Qiu Yang when he was a student at the Victorian College of the Arts. Shot in China, it’s a slowly developing, quietly explosive narrative of confrontation between two families, against a backdrop of corruption and abuse. In its short duration, it has the density of a feature. It was selected for screening at Cannes this year.

Some well-known directors have shorts in MIFF. French-Swiss filmmaker Ursula Meier (Sister) has two – Quiet Mujo, about a boy and a soccer ball, and a portrait of Kacey Mottet Klein, the young actor from Sister.  Among the works in the experimental shorts program is Peter Tscherkassky’s​ The Exquisite Corpse, which references in its title the surrealist technique of shared composition and combines footage from a range of sources, all erotic films of one kind or another. The psychedelic shorts session is host to Ken Jacobs’ singular Seeking The Monkey King, a frantic, hallucinatory vision of 500 years of American history in 40 minutes.

Alison Klayman (Ai Wei-wei: Never Sorry) has a 29-minute documentary portrait, The 100 Years Show, that features an artist to whom recognition has come late. Cuban-born New Yorker Carmen Herrera, who has just turned 100, makes hard-edge geometric work that  began to be recognised 10 years ago. It’s a warm, engaging portrait of Herrera, who now does not leave her home but still makes work every day.

Some shorts are screening alongside features, rather than in shorts programs. Among them is a new work from Australian animator Adam Elliott, whose Harvie Krumpet won an Academy Award in 2004; his latest production screens with Stories I Want To Tell You In Person, an adaptation of the play by Lally Katz.  Shot in luminous and deftly detailed black-and-white, Ernie Biscuit is a companion piece to Harvie Krumpet that follows the quest for love of its lonely title character, a French taxidermist, as he leaves Paris for Venice but somehow ends up in Australia, accompanied by a duck.

Another short screening with a feature is Voila L’Enchainement, directed by French filmmaker Claire Denis (Beau Travail) from a script by Christine Angot. It’s a series of short, tightly shot scenes, some of them monologues, about the intimate, disintegrating relationship of a couple – played by Norah Krief and Alex Descas, a Denis regular  – that embodies confronting issues of race, class and difference. It screens with South Korean director Hong Sang-soo’s feature, Hill of Freedom.

The late French actor Pierre Clementi was also a writer and filmmaker, and one of his experimental shorts, Visa de Censure No. X, made in 1967, can be seen at MIFF this year. It’s showing with Carmelo Bene’s Salome, a highlight of the psychedelic selection.

The Accelerator program, which began at MIFF in 2004, brings a group of emerging filmmakers to the festival to help them bridge the gap between making short films and commencing a first feature. Films from this year’s participants can be seen in two sessions, and there’s a selection of works by Accelerator alumni in a program called  Australian Shorts.

A selection of this year’s MIFF prizewinners will be screened at the awards session on August 9. www.miff上海夜网

From small beginnings…

Shorts that grew: films (and a TV series) that had their basis in a short film.

The Babadook: Jennifer Kent’s tale of haunting, motherhood and loss was first explored in a short called Monster.

Fatal Attraction: James Dearden’s screenplay for Adrian Lyne’s film had its genesis in a Dearden short film about infidelity called Diversion.

Bottle Rocket: The debut feature from Wes Anderson had its origins in a short of the same name, co-written with Owen Wilson.

Boogie Nights: Paul Thomas Anderson made a short, The Dirk Diggler Story, that paved the way for Boogie Nights.

Raising Victor Vargas: Filmmaker Peter Sollett’s tale of a boy growing up on the Lower East Side was first told in a short called Five Feet High And Rising.

The Evil Dead: Sam Raimi made a “prototype” called Within the Woods    to help find investors for his horror classic.

UnREAL: The pilot for this TV series about reality shows  was based on a short film called Sequin Raze, written and directed by Sarah Gertrude Shapiro. What you’re saying about MIFF

JOANNE McCARTHY: Hiding among the mob

THE scene was Bondi Beach, September 24, 2000. The time, 9am. Around me people were shouting. I was shouting. The man on the sports ground in front of us was strutting and shouting.
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Suddenly we were on our feet with our hands in the air, then back in our seats again. Laughing.

We’d met the challenge. We hadn’t broken the Mexican wave.

In front of me now is the ticket from that day – $105 for seat 15, row 7, aisle 109 of a Sydney Olympic Games beach volleyball session. Photos show at some point I watched a rather improbable match between Portugal and – seriously? – Switzerland.

Anyway, there I was, part of a mob on a glorious day doing what mobs do best – enjoying being with others who were enjoying the same things.

Everyone talked with everyone. Photos show I was with people from around the world. All shapes, colours, creeds. The only constants were hats, sunnies, zinc swipes and grins.

From memory there were 123,000 Mexican waves that day which were almost as entertaining as the beach volleyball.

Were we, as a mob of many thousands, up to jumping up and down with our hands in the air for hours?

That was our challenge, as clear as day and without any discussion.

Who started it? I have no idea, but it didn’t matter.

We were at the beach volleyball on Bondi Beach during the Sydney Olympics and our job was to watch the event, laugh, shout, take photos, talk to people about how great the Games were, and maintain the Mexican waves.

When people bailed from exhaustion and the wave faltered there were good-natured shouts, but others further along would keep the wave going.

I can’t hear the words beach volleyball these days – and I wonder how the Swiss team is going? – without thinking of the Mexican wave.

And I can’t bear to think of what Adam Goodes has been enduring on too many sportsgrounds in Australia, and for much too long, without thinking of the mob mentality of crowds – the good, like at Bondi Beach, and the appalling, turning against an Indigenous man.

There is a whole branch of psychology dedicated to crowd behaviour, and a whole sub-branch dedicated to why it took so long for science to consider how individuals can act very differently when part of a crowd.

It’s worth looking at as public debate about the treatment of Adam Goodes has become mired in claims and counter-claims about whether it is racist or not, and Goodes has indicated he is considering immediate retirement because of it.

In crowds we can be anonymous. When individuals believe they will not be called to account for their actions they can – and I stress can – be more likely to do things they would otherwise refrain from doing.

In crowds you can feel that you don’t have to take personal responsibility if things go wrong – and again I stress that you can feel that way, not that you inevitably will.

Clearly, crowds of people gather every day, around the world and in most diverse situations, without suddenly running amok.

There is no inevitability about crowds turning rogue. But Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists last year used brain scans to show that some individuals are more susceptible to the negative aspects of crowd behaviour.

The MIT group scanned the medial prefrontal cortex of people’s brains, which light up when we think about ourselves, or self-reflect. Self-reflection is tied to our sense of self, which in turn determines our moral compass.

The scans showed that while in groups, the medial prefrontal cortex in some individuals was more inactive than others, meaning their moral compass was more likely to be challenged than others.

A subsequent part of the study, during which people were asked a series of questions about moral judgment both as individuals, and while they were competing in groups, backed up the scans by showing that those with less active medial prefrontal cortex areas showed the least goodwill.

Other research shows that crowds can be dramatically influenced by the behaviour of individuals – both good and bad.

Which is the point here.

Whether individuals within those football crowds have booed Adam Goodes because he is an Indigenous man, because they wanted to fit in with the people booing around them, because they’d had too much to drink, because his sporting ability was an affront to their own sense of self, or for some other reason, by joining that booing group they’ve lost a part of themselves.

This issue – the treatment of Adam Goodes, an Indigenous man – is a test of each of us as individuals.

Are we in the group that stands by, silent, waiting for others to do something, or do we speak to people about why, in Australia in 2015, it is shameful that anyone is treated this way?

As Goodes said in his Australian of the Year acceptance speech, it’s about the choices we make.

Bronwyn Bishop expenses scandal: Tony Abbott goes to ground as Speaker finally says sorry

Tony Abbott at the Boao Forum for Asia in Sydney. Photo: Michele MossopApology too little, too lateBishop apology only about ‘saving her job’: LaborA lesson in eating humble pieExpenses controversy: Full coverage
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Tony Abbott has spent a third full day away from the media spotlight as the travel allowance scandal engulfing his hand-picked Speaker finally brought an apology from Bronwyn Bishop and with it a request that the Department of Finance examine all her travel claims.

However, Mrs Bishop vowed to fight on and has no plans to resign.

Despite several other issues of public interest running in the national space, the Prime Minister has kept an uncharacteristically low profile all week, even departing a trade function in Sydney on Thursday via a side door without speaking to reporters about Mrs Bishop’s case.

While the question of his continued confidence in Mrs Bishop as the chief guardian of standards would inevitably have arisen, Mr Abbott also would have faced questions about the racism furore around former Australian of the Year Adam Goodes, and developments regarding the aviation disasters of MH17 and MH370.

Leadership on the poor treatment of Goodes was instead left to NSW Liberal Premier Mike Baird, despite the issue’s importance to national cohesion and the maintenance of social harmony.

Ms Bishop’s apology has been greeted with bemusement by colleagues, who say after nearly three weeks of the Speaker refusing to say sorry, her mea culpa was too late and self-serving.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten wasted no time dismissing it as a tactical manouevre aimed at Mrs Bishop’s own survival.

“There’s a difference between saying sorry because you mean it and saying sorry because you’re about to get the sack,” he said.

He said if Mrs Bishop was genuine, she would not have previously refused to apologise.

The Speaker – who is set to face a no-confidence motion if she survives in the job until Parliament resumes on August 10 – used a doorstop press conference in regional Victoria to admit for the first time that her use of a charter helicopter to travel to and from a Liberal Party fundraiser in Geelong, at a cost of more than $5000, was “just ridiculous” and “inexcusable”.

“It was too much money,” she told reporters. “It just looked wrong. Although it’s within the rules, it just doesn’t look right and therefore I am apologising and repaying.”

Senior Coalition figures are in no doubt as to the scale of the confidence crisis around the Speaker, with such ministers as Treasurer Joe Hockey displaying frustration at having to answer questions on the subject.

In recognition of the collapse of public confidence caused by Mrs Bishop’s performance, rising Liberal star and potential frontbencher Kelly O’Dwyer called for the Finance Department’s investigation into the Speaker’s travel claims to be fully disclosed.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton appeared to set a new low watermark for public accountability of politicians and how they claim entitlements by declaring the allowance rules were adequate, that merely paying back the money if caught was sufficient, and that deliberate breaches were unlikely.

“If people breach the rules, even inadvertently, there’s a penalty you pay; you repay the money,” he told Macquarie Radio.

“But there are no crooks in politics in my judgment.”

Privately, Liberals are incensed that the “choppergate” scandal has not been resolved, with many arguing it is a distraction that has crippled the government’s public messaging.

One MP said it could only end one way, with Mrs Bishop’s resignation being “clearly” in the best interests of her party.

In April 2012, Mr Abbott himself laid out the reasons why the then prime minister, Julia Gillard, should intervene because of charges over travel entitlement abuse and sexual harassment claims associated with Peter Slipper.

“The Speaker is the guardian of parliamentary standards,” he said.

“The speakership is one of the most important offices in the Parliament. The Speaker is there to uphold the integrity of the Parliament and now we have very, very serious allegations against the incumbent Speaker … The prime minister, to uphold the integrity of the Parliament, needs now to require the Speaker to step down until these matters are resolved.”

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The Bronwyn Bishop scandal: A timeline of quotes

“The Speaker had a number of meetings during her visit to Victoria and always seeks to fit in as many meetings and events into her schedule as possible. It is because of her concern for the country, she works as hard as she can and wishes she could do even more.”
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Spokesperson for Speaker Bronwyn Bishop, July 15

“Look, instinctively, it doesn’t [pass the sniff test]…”

“It’s not a good look. I think the Speaker needs to explain the matter.”

Treasurer Joe Hockey, July 16

“When I saw that large amount clearly it was unacceptable and that’s why I have repaid it … I think the biggest apology one can make is to repay the money.”

“The fact of the matter is I was a guest speaker and speaking about the Parliament and how it works … it was done within entitlement but as I said, the amount of money was clearly far too large and that’s why I’m repaying it.”

Speaker Bronwyn Bishop, Saturday, July 18

“I can really understand why people are unhappy about this. Frankly, I’m unhappy about it as well.”

“She has been a strong Speaker … she has been a strong servant of our country, she has been a good servant of the Coalition and so she does have my confidence but like everyone who has done something like this, inevitably, for a period of time, they are on probation.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Monday, July 20

“I understand that the Labor Party will seek to use this to destabilise question time, for example, and I’m sure Speaker Bishop will take that into account as she considers her position.”

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, July 29

“The Speaker is not resigning.”

Spokesperson for Speaker Bronwyn Bishop, July 29

“I want to apologise to the Australian people and say sorry for my error of judgment. You know, that helicopter, yes I was short of time, but it is no excuse…”

“On all these things, although it’s within the rules, it just doesn’t look right and therefore and I’m apologising and I’m repaying the money.”

“I won’t be resigning but I will be working very hard to make sure that I mean my apology to the Australian people and I will be putting in all that hard work.”

“I wish I had [apologised] earlier.”

Speaker Bronwyn Bishop, Thursday, July 30

Parramatta Female Factory Precinct to be assessed for National Heritage List

The Female Factory was where “the most depraved held sway”. Photo: Fairfax Photo Library The Female Factory, pictured in about 1938, was built to house female convicts. Photo: Fairfax Photo Library
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Australia’s earliest female convict site, the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct, is being eyed for inclusion on the National Heritage List.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt will announce on Friday that the three-hectare site next to the Parramatta CBD will be assessed for the highest heritage listing in the country.

The precinct has been at the heart of a battle waged by heritage advocates against the NSW government’s property development arm, which aims to build thousands of apartments in area.

The Female Factory was established in 1818 and was the first destination of all unassigned convict women sent to colonial Australia.

The colony’s second governor, John Hunter, described convict women as the “disgrace of their sex”, saying they were “far worse than the men” and “generally found at the bottom of every infamous transaction committed in the colony”.

The prison is within a largely neglected and inaccessible precinct that includes a collection of historic buildings that reflect the formative years of the NSW colony.

Among them is the former Roman Catholic Orphan School, which was established by the government in 1844.

An orphanage later became the Industrial School for Girls and then the notorious Parramatta Girls School through which about 30,000 young girls passed before it was closed in 1974.

The precinct has been nominated for heritage listing previously, but has now been selected for a two-year assessment.

“The inclusion of the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct in the Australian Heritage Council’s work plan is an important first step towards possible national heritage recognition of this remarkable place,” Mr Hunt said.

Australian Heritage Council former chair Tom Harley said it was highly likely that the precinct would be added to the National Heritage List. He could not think of an example where a site had been knocked back after being nominated for assessment.

The precinct is on the state heritage register but being add to the national list would afford it much greater protection as well as access to a bigger pool of funds and grants. The listing would require the creation of a management plan to set out how the heritage values of the site would be protected.

“What it means is that this is one of the most significant places in the country,” Mr Harley said.

Parramatta Female Factory Friends president Gay Hendriksen, who has nominated the site to be added to the National Heritage List two times, said the news was “absolutely brilliant”.

The group has been calling for the site to be preserved and turned into a living museum, similar to the World Heritage listed Port Arthur convict settlement in Tasmania.

But those rallying against UrbanGrowth NSW’s North Parramatta Urban Transformation Program may be disappointed if they hope the possible listing will change a proposal to create 3900 dwellings in buildings up to to 30 storeys in the area.

A spokeswoman for the agency said the project, which is being considered by the Planning Department, would not change and restoring and adaptively reusing the heritage buildings was one of its primary concerns.

“The process of assessing the precinct and potential National Heritage listing will not set back UrbanGrowth NSW’s plans for North Parramatta,” the spokeswoman said.

The assessment of the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct is due to be completed by June 2017. The National Heritage List contains 103 sites, including 23 in NSW.

Charges dropped against UberX drivers, but government warns of campaign to come

Uber: the fight continuesFollow more Sydney news on FacebookLuke Foley: Engage with the shared economyMore NSW news
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In an embarrassing defeat, the NSW government has been forced to drop charges against 24 UberX drivers after a bungled prosecution.

But the government says it will be ramping up its campaign against the ride-sharing service, including through random roadside checks in the next couple of weeks.

Roads and Maritime Services had been attempting to prosecute 24 UberX drivers for breaches of the Passenger Transport Act, under which the drivers faced fines of up to $110,000.

But the government was forced to drop these charges this week after what it called “evidentiary issues”.

In a statement on Thursday, RMS Director of Safety and Compliance Peter Wells said drivers of ride-sharing services like UberX were breaking the law, “it’s as simple as that”.

“They are not regulated, not authorised and are not subject to ongoing criminal checks like taxi, hire car and bus drivers are,” Mr Wells said.

“It is only a matter of time before an incident occurs and a driver faces the possible denial of insurance cover, leading to substantial financial loss.”

Uber welcomed the dropping of charges.

“No one should be penalised for providing safe and reliable rides in their city,” a statement from the company said.

“The people of Sydney are voting with their feet – almost 4000 Sydneysiders are now earning a flexible income on the Uber platform and hundreds of thousands are choosing Uber to get around their city,” the company said.

But the chief executive of the Taxi Council, Roy Wakelin-King, said: “If Uber thinks that this is a win, then they are deluded. This fight has a long way to go.”

The NSW Transport Minister has announced a review of taxis and ride-sharing services.

Both Uber and the taxi industry were positive about the prospect of the review, with significant uncertainty running through the industry.

NSW Labor leader Luke Foley has endorsed the Uber model.

Opposition transport spokesman Ryan Park said: “The Baird government’s policy on ride-sharing is a shambles: its current case against Uber drivers has fallen apart, and yet it’s still left the door open to prosecution.

“The government needs to regulate the industry to make it safe and fair, or risk staying stuck in the slow lane and getting left behind by the hundreds of thousands of Sydneysiders already using the service.”

Uber does not breach the Passenger Transport Act in facilitating its UberX platform, in which drivers take lifts through their regular cars.

But the drivers do, because they are not accredited as either taxis or hire cars.

Mr Wells said enforcement against UberX drivers would be targeted at known hot spots and during random roadside tests.

A Transport for NSW spokesman would not explain the issues with the prosecution. “To ensure future prosecutions are not jeopardised we cannot comment further,” the spokesman said.

In a release issued on Thursday night, Uber said no court in Australia had “held that any UberX driver partner has committed any offence under any passenger transport laws, including the NSW Passenger Transport Act”.

The Uber statement said a magistrate “at the Downing Centre Local Court recently ruled that NSW Roads and Maritime Services did not have authority to prosecute the alleged offences under the Passenger Transport Act”.

“About a week after that ruling, we were notified that RMS would be withdrawing all of its remaining prosecutions against uberX partners in NSW,” Uber said.

“These matters should never have proceeded to court and have been a waste of taxpayers’ money. Had costs been sought against the RMS, this would have meant even further waste.”