Australia and New Zealand ski season 2015: Who has the best snow?

Who has the best ski season – Australia or New Zealand? Photo: iStock Who has the best ski season – Australia or New Zealand? Photo: iStock

Who has the best ski season – Australia or New Zealand? Photo: iStock

Who has the best ski season – Australia or New Zealand? Photo: iStock

How quickly we skiers and boarders forget once the snow finally comes in. A month ago Australian snow lovers were shaking fists at the snow god Ullr​ for favouring our siblings across the ditch with mega powder while leaving us devoid of snow.

It doesn’t seem that long ago, three weeks to be exact, that I was skiing on artificial snow because that’s all there was in the Australian ski-fields, artificial snow on a paltry few runs infested with school holiday skiers. Now thanks to a few steady weeks of snowstorms (including 80 centimetres of snowfall in Perisher this last week) we’re claiming “best powder day ever” with a collective amnesia that doesn’t recognise the last time we said “best powder day ever”, which truthfully was just last season.

It would seem Ullr loves us after all. But who does he love more just under two months into the ski season – New Zealand or Australia?

The challenge to that question lies in the snow depths and each resort measures these differently. Thredbo and Perisher use Spencer Creek’s snow depth chart which as of today is measured at a mere 58 centimetres despite resort measurements of 70 centimetres of snowfall in 48 hours on July 26. That snowfall is on top of already established snowmaking and previous weeks’ snowfalls in July.

Falls Creek and Hotham in Victoria use a combination of snowmaking and natural base measurements and claim 100 centimetres at Falls Creek and 93 centimetres at Hotham with Mount Buller doing the same and claiming 82 centimetres. But the truth is wind drifts create even deeper powder stashes.

In New Zealand they measure the lower base of the mountain and the upper base of the mountain. Mt Hutt near Christchurch says 75 centimetres for lower and 105 centimetres for upper, Remarkables near Queenstown is 100 centimetres and 150 centimetres and Coronet Peak also near Queenstown is 75 centimetres and 175 centimetres.

The really big numbers are towards Wanaka with Cardrona claiming a minimum of 70 centimetres and a maximum of 250 centimetres and Treble Cone saying 91 centimetres on Home Basin and 248 centimetres in the Saddle Basin.

We all know that numbers mean nothing if we’re talking about actual snow conditions. You can have metres and metres of snowfall but if the weather turns tropical warm and brings rain then cold the snow base is not going to be fun to ski. Lucky for both parties on either side of the Tasman that another storm is predicted with up to 40 centimetres of snow coming both our ways over the next week so clearly rain and ice is not our problem this season so far.

Not so lucky for Australian ski resorts is the Trivago杭州夜网 survey that revealed this month that New Zealand snow accommodation is 80 per cent cheaper than snow accommodation in Australia. The same survey did note that Australians can save over 50 per cent on accommodation prices by staying in a town just outside the resorts.

But I always think comparing ski-fields is like comparing apples and oranges, it all depends on which you prefer. If you like to stay in ski-in and ski-out accommodation in mountain villages then you can’t beat Australia for convenience and alpine living simply because New Zealand doesn’t generally offer that option across the board at their commercial fields.

Skiing and snowboarding in New Zealand require a car and an iron will to tackle the roads to the mountain but you will be rewarded with simply spectacular alpine and lake views plucked straight from Hollywood.

Though check the mountain status each morning as snowstorm skiing is not always possible due to the exposed nature of the Kiwi fields being high above the treeline. The good news in that is if you can’t ski that day no one else can so no one is poaching your fresh powder lines before you get there.

It is great to see Australian ski resorts finally back in the game this season. The start was far from pretty but there is no doubt from the videos and photos flooding social media that we are looking pretty spectacular about now, if we do say so ourselves. Instagram2Win a ski trip to Whistler

We’ve partnered with SkiMax this season for the annual #misssnowitall Instagram competition. You could win seven nights for two at the swanky Fairmont Chateau in Whistler, plus lift passes for two people at Whistler Blackcomb​ for six days and return flights for two from Sydney to Vancouver thanks to SkiMax.

Just tag your winter-inspired Instagram pics #misssnowitall #skimaxholidays to enter. We’ll publish five finalists each week, with one winner at the end of the season. See this week’s top entries in the gallery at the top of the page.

The Fairmont Chateau in Whistler.

Pro photographers can win a Sony 4k Action Cam with Helmet Side Mount and Board Mount worth $697 (they are not eligible for the Whistler prize) by tagging their pics #misssnowitall #skimaxholidays #pro. We’ll choose one pro shot a week as a finalist with one overall winner at end of season.

The Sony 4k Action Cam.

Click here for competition terms and conditions. See the latest entries below.

Follow on Instagram and Twitter @misssnowitall

See also: Ten ways to tell you’re a snow addict See also: What to wear (and what not to wear) at the snow

Follow on Instagram and Twitter @misssnowitall  

Hugos Lounge in Kings Cross set to close due to revenue decline

Better times: Hugos Lounge attracted a well-heeled crowd to Kings Cross for 15 years. Photo: Luke Latty One of Sydney’s highest-profile nightspots, Hugos Lounge in Kings Cross, is set to close after being placed into voluntary administration on Wednesday, suffering a 60 per cent decline in revenue.

The bar, nightclub and pizza restaurant – a popular hangout for the city’s well-heeled for 15 years – is likely to join the growing list of venues that have shut their doors since 1.30am lockouts were introduced in February last year.

Owner Dave Evans said administrators HLB Mann Judd would keep the club trading this weekend before shutting shop next week unless an interested buyer could be found.

He said revenue had declined 60 per cent since 2012, when an initial batch of alcohol restrictions was applied specifically to Kings Cross. The business had since cut trading hours and shed 100 jobs; its remaining 70 staff were summoned to a lunch meeting on Wednesday and told they would likely lose their jobs.

Mr Evans – brother of celebrity chef Pete Evans – blamed the state government for singling out Kings Cross with “anti-competitive” regulations. The lockout and 3am “last drinks” laws in the Cross, CBD and Oxford Street had compounded the difficulties faced by venues, he said.

“We said it would destroy business, we said it would destroy staff,” he said. “And here we are.”

Hugos Lounge drew a largely upmarket crowd, with high security, ID scanners and a strict dress code. The Bayswater Road venue, which once saw 6000 patrons a week through its doors, had never received a strike against it under the government’s “three strikes” liquor licensing regime.

“Hugos had no trouble with alcohol, which as it turns out is more than Barry O’Farrell can say,” Mr Evans said, referring to the former premier’s resignation over his failure to declare a gift of Penfolds Grange.

The lockout laws and associated measures, brought in to combat alcohol-related violence following the deaths of Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie, have helped reduce assaults in the city, Darlinghurst and Kings Cross.

But crime statistics also showed alcohol-related assaults on licensed premises more than doubled in Pyrmont over the 12 months to March, and climbed 60 per cent in Newtown. Meanwhile, City of Sydney research found footpath traffic in the Cross had decreased by about 80 per cent from 2012 to 2014.

Mr Evans and other operators have called for the lockout laws and other restrictions to be applied everywhere or not at all. A spokesman for Deputy Premier Troy Grant noted the laws would be reviewed in February and that “since their introduction there has been a 32 per cent reduction in alcohol-related violence in Kings Cross”.

Chief executive of the Kings Cross Liquor Accord Doug Grand said the demise of Hugos was “pretty devastating” and foreshadowed further decline in the once-bustling red light district.

“The area itself is a ghost town from what it used to be,” he said. A dozen nearby venues have been sold or shut down including Soho, Trademark and the Backroom.

Hugos licensee Adam Hart said he and his colleagues were “pretty upset” and would face unemployment in an industry with fewer and fewer jobs. “The government doesn’t really want these businesses to exist,” he said.

Other venues in the Hugos group, including its Manly restaurant, are unaffected.

HLB Mann Judd was contacted for comment.

Sydney Harbour Control Tower at Barangaroo to be demolished

Due to be knocked down: The Sydney Harbour Control Tower. Photo: David PorterFollow more Sydney news on Facebook

Former PM Paul Keating wanted it gone, and the National Trust fought to save it.

One proposal even suggested the oft-derided structure could become a bungee jumping “adventure tower” in the centre of Australia’s largest city.

But fate of the Sydney Harbour Control Tower at Barangaroo was sealed on Thursday when the state government granted approval to knock it down.

A statement from the office of Planning Minister Rob Stokes said the Barangaroo Delivery Authority sought to remove the tower “in order to achieve a naturalistic form and character for the reserve that is consistent with the site’s concept plan”.

“The proposal was exhibited last year and submissions were carefully considered,” the statement said.

The tower would be replaced with a “interpretive historical display” focusing on maritime history and Millers Point, it said.

Variously called a “concrete mushroom”, “the Pill”, a “hypodermic in God’s bum” or just an eyesore, the tower has been an 87-metre high landmark at Barangaroo since 1974, when it was installed to control berths in the harbour.

It was closed in 2011 when vessel control services were moved to Port Botany.

But the National Trust argued the tower symbolised more than 200 years of shipping trade in Sydney and should be conserved.

The NSW Heritage Council recommended that it be listed on the state heritage register, affording it the highest level of protection. This push was recently rejected by Heritage Minister Mark Speakman.

The council’s advocacy set it on a collision course with the former prime minister, who is such a champion of the headland park that in April its lead landscape architect referred to him as the site’s “client”.

In December, Mr Keating said a government report outlining other potential uses for the tower, commissioned on behalf of the heritage council, was a “complete abuse of process” and the “sort of exercises that truly give heritage a bad name”.

This had proposed re-use options including an adventure or viewing tower, plus a restaurant with sweeping views over the harbour.

“[The tower] does not have a shred of heritage about it,” Mr Keating said at the time.

The National Trust’s Graham Quint said on Thursday the detractors had “won out again and Sydney is the worse for it, for losing its industrial heritage”.

“Unfortunately, because the building is an example of industrial heritage, a lot of people just don’t like the look of it,” Mr Quint said, nominating Garden Island’s Hammerhead Crane as another case.

“We’ll have no evidence of Sydney ever being an industrial port, and it’s very sad that we just can’t keep that sort of history.”

The Department of Planning and Environment had recommended a number of conditions to address impacts resulting from the demolition, Mr Stokes’ office said.

The Barangaroo Delivery Authority would now begin preparing the tender documents for the demolition, a spokeswoman for the agency said.

“The tower will be carefully deconstructed to minimise the impact on public use and the local community,” she said.

Sam Smith tells his fans the Australian film Holding The Man ‘changed my life’

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The Australian film Holding The Man has a firm and proselytising fan in Grammy-winning soul singer Sam Smith.

The Neil Armfield-directed feature, which was a major success at the recent Sydney Film Festival, and the Timothy Conigrave book on which it’s based, “changed my life” said the British soul man in a long Instagram post.

“The most powerful thing for me was how this book captured what it’s like to grow up gay and all those confusing scary and amazing moments I had coming out and realising who I was,” says Smith. “And THIS FILM has captured that, and has captured Tim and Johns story so perfectly. PLEASE watch this film when you can.”   Holding The Man. I’m going to try to put this into a short paragraph. But I could talk about this all day. I can’t tell you all enough how much this book and film have meant to me over the past half a year. This project and piece of work is the most breathtaking thing I have ever seen. As a gay man, it’s very difficult sometimes to find films that I can properly and truly relate to. Although I can’t relate to the awfully sad ending to Tim and Johns story. The most powerful thing for me was how this book captured what it’s like to grow up gay and all those confusing scary and amazing moments I had coming out and realising who I was. And THIS FILM has captured that, and has captured Tim and Johns story so perfectly. PLEASE watch this film when you can. And please spread the word. I long for the day when there are way more films about gay relationships, straight relationships, bisexual and transgender relationships and life stories. But for now support THIS film. Because this book and film pretty much changed my life. Hope I kept it to a short paragraph. Big up to my boys @rycorr and @craigmstott and Neil Armfield and everyone involved xx all my love xx oh and thank you to my bezzie @trentoz for introducing me to this, I love you xA photo posted by Sam Smith (@samsmithworld) on Jul 28, 2015 at 8:26pm PDT

Conigrave’s memoir, which was adapted for the stage – to acclaim in Australia and many international productions – and then for film by Tommy Murphy, chronicles the long love affair, begun in at school in the mid 1970s with football-playing John Caleo. It’s a story which takes them from Victorian school and university to Sydney’s vibrant gay community and the way tragedy touched it in the 1980s and ’90s.

When shown as the closing night screening at the Sydney Film Festival audiences were in tears but also very warm in response and Smith is as enthusiastic, urging his followers to not just seek out the film but spread the word.

“I long for the day when there are way more films about gay relationships, straight relationships, bisexual and transgender relationships and life stories,” Smith writes. “But for now support THIS film.”

While initially more constrained in his commentary on LGBT issues at the start of his career, Smith now feels not just a freedom but an obligation to say more. As he says in a Twitter post “Sorry to get so deep, but it kills me. I don’t understand why more of us aren’t doing something about it. I’ll leave it there. But f***k.”

The online response buoyed him considerably and he responded enthusiastically. “Reading through all your comments. So happy so many of you are on the same page as me. Doesn’t feel so lonely right now x” Reading through all your comments. So happy so many of you are on the same page as me. Doesn’t feel so lonely right now x— SAM SMITH (@samsmithworld) July 29, 2015

Queensland ‘ripe’ for tech boom

Queensland is fertile ground for a technology sector boom, according to a new report launched by Deloitte Access Economics and the Australian Computer Society.Want a job in Queensland in the next five years? Get those information and communications technology skills up to scratch and you’d be in with a good chance.

A new report launched by Deloitte Access Economics and the Australian Computer Society has found with projected growth in Queensland for ICT professionals at 1.6 per cent annually, compared to the national average of 2.5 per cent, Queensland is fertile ground for the burgeoning ICT industry.

Which is what the Palaszczuk Government is banking on.

Annastacia Palaszczuk made it clear she wanted the knowledge and research industries to be the “core” of her government’s first budget, with its $180 million Advance Queensland policy to form the foundation of its plan.

The Deloitte/ACS report, due to be released on Thursday afternoon, found Queensland sits third in the ICT sector rankings, presently employing just under 97,000 people.

But with the mining sector in decline and Queensland hunting for its next boom, ACS president Brenda Aynsley expects to see demand for ICT skills jump.

“Queensland is an economy in transition which makes it the perfect place for the digital economy to make an impact,” she said.

“With the slowdown in resources employment, there is a real opportunity for organisations in Queensland to develop a new and vibrant workforce.”

Which is exactly what the minister for science and innovation, Leeanne Enoch wants to see.

“An important aspect highlighted in the report is the declining number of ICT graduates in Australia over the past decade – a decade that has been fuelled by incredible advances in technology,” she said.

“Fortunately, Queensland is in a better position than some of the other states – for example, we’ve had the collaborative Digital Careers initiative operating since 2007.

“Queensland has led the nation in promoting the rewarding nature of digital-related studies and careers to our younger generation.

“… We want to continue in the right direction. A future schools review will look at how we can expand STEM, coding, computer science and robotics into our schools.

“The challenges and opportunities raised in the report will require a committed effort from government, industry, business and education institutions.”

Ms Palaszczuk, in announcing her Advance Queensland package, Ms Palaszczuk said she “firmly believed” early stage robotics should be taught in schools, along with coding and computer science.

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Queensland budget boosts business confidence: CCIQ

Confidence has rebounded after a dip in the March quarter “as businesses realised that a change in the government does not necessarily mean a change in Queensland’s economic fortunes”, the CCIQ says. Photo: Glenn HuntWhat a difference three months can make.

On the back of the budget no one is talking about, Queensland businesses have reported a six-point bump in business confidence figures in the latest Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland Pulse survey, up from a six-year low of 37.7 per cent in the survey released following the election of the Palaszczuk government.

Confidence in the Queensland economy rose to 42.7 per cent in the Westpac Group CCIQ survey of 500 businesses between July 1 and July 17, but the state still lags behind confidence levels Australia wide, which stand at 48.1 per cent.

Treasurer Curtis Pitt’s first budget was delivered on July 14.

CCIQ Director for Advocacy Nick Behrens described business confidence as improved, but “fragile”.

“Businesses have responded positively to a state budget that provided more clarity on economic and fiscal policy direction,” he said.

“… Unquestionably, the federal and state budgets have boosted Queensland business confidence.

“Following the state budget announcement, there was 6 per cent increase in the proportion of businesses that expected the Queensland economy to strengthen over the next 12-months.

“It must be noted however, that the June quarter results are somewhat of a correction to the March quarter as businesses have realised that a change in the government does not necessarily mean a change in Queensland’s economic fortunes.”

But with the resource sector down, the drought, and “subdued” consumer spending, keeping that confidence up would be “challenging”, Mr Behrens said.

The Abbott government’s small business package also helped deliver that boost, Westpac Queensland business banking manager Peter Cooper said.

“We are seeing many small businesses taking the opportunity to replace or upgrade plant and equipment to secure future business prospects and increase revenue,” he said.

But Mr Pitt is taking the survey findings as a win.

“The CCIQ survey specifically acknowledges that business sentiment has improved on the back of a balanced state budget,” he said.

“It reveals that general business conditions improved in the June quarter and that businesses are more optimistic about our economic growth prospects.

“Business, industry, unions and community groups have welcomed our first budget and its positive plan to promote jobs, growth and investment.”

The Opposition is taking a wait-and-see approach, having criticised the government’s “raiding” of the public service superannuation pool to help meet its budget requirements, a move it has pointed out can only happen once.

The Pulse Survey also shows that business confidence is still 10 points lower than it was a year ago under the Newman government.

Under the first few months of the Palaszczuk Labor Government, the Pulse Survey showed business confidence for the March Quarter had sunk to a record low,” Shadow Treasurer John-Paul Langbroek said.

“That’s why it’s heartening to see the results from the June Quarter move in the right direction, however Queensland is still not out of the woods.

“The outlook is still in negative territory and 10-points lower than in June last year under the LNP Government. Business conditions are also far weaker than they were 12 months ago.”

Regionally, business confidence improved everywhere except the central coast, which, at 33.7 per cent, remains the lowest in the state, with the slowdown in the resource sector chiefly to blame.

Brisbane businesses are more confident, with 42.6 per cent expecting to see improvement in the next year, but central Queensland leads the way in optimism, with almost half, 49 per cent of business respondents, positive about the year ahead.

The Gold Coast, which largely remains LNP heartland, was less optimistic, with just 38.4 per cent of businesses expecting to see an improvement, five points behind the Sunshine Coast.  Far north Queensland at 45.4 per cent and north Queensland, 44.1 per cent, have also responded positively, as did the south west, with 43.4 per cent predicting things could only get better.

Ashes 2015: Australian players unhappy Brad Haddin was left out for third Test

Match report: Aussies skittled for 136Voges snares unbelievable catchBaum: More swing, more roundaboutsAshes 2015 scoreboard: day one as it happened 

Birmingham: Chris Rogers has done little to dispel suggestions of discontent about the sacking of Brad Haddin among Australian players, with the wicketkeeper controversially overlooked for the third Ashes Test after missing the second match of the series to be by the side of his ill daughter Mia.

As the tourists teetered at 5-77 on a disastrous first day for the tourists on Wednesday several commentators noted that it was just the kind of situation that Haddin had rescued them from in the glorious home Ashes of 2013/14.

Of course, the Haddin of more recent times had not enjoyed the same effectiveness with the bat, but there are players who agree with the sentiments expressed by Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden, Ian Healy, Shane Warne and others in the past 48 hours: that the veteran, in the circumstances, deserved to be reinstated at Edgbaston.

Whether he could have done anything to mitigate the damage as Australia folded for 136 on Wednesday will never be known. He would have been hard pressed to go in more meek fashion than his replacement Peter Nevill, who left a ball from a red-hot James Anderson only for it to move back a bit off the seam and crash into his off stump. Nevill scored only two but he was hardly alone in a largely clueless outing against a moving ball.

Then again, as argued by the national selector, Rod Marsh, who made the decision to retain Nevill here with head coach Darren Lehmann in consultation with fellow selectors Mark Waugh and Trevor Hohns, Haddin had been in poor form with the bat.

“(It was an) amazingly hard call, but we have to try and do the best thing for the country and the selection panel believe that was the best thing for the team, for the country,” Marsh said.

“I’ve known Brad for a hell of a long time. I had Brad at the academy back in Adelaide at the turn of the century, even before that. He’s a fantastic player with a fantastic attitude but he’s averaging 15 in his last 12 Test matches, we needed runs down there, he didn’t keep well and he’ll admit that at Cardiff and the new boy did very, very well at Lord’s, so in my way of thinking, we didn’t have an option.”

However, while there was an argument for not changing a winning team and thus, at Haddin’s age, making generational change, there are players who are said to be disappointed that he was not given the special treatment they believe his particular family scenario warranted.

Asked whether players were unhappy, Rogers said after the first day’s play: “I don’t really want to talk about that. That’s something for the selection panel. Maybe at the end of the series I can think about that. But at the moment I don’t  really want to talk about that.”

Test captain Michael Clarke said before the match that selectors had told him that Haddin would have played at Lord’s had he not withdrawn to be with his sick daughter Mia, who was diagnosed with the childhood cancer neuroblastoma three years ago and was in hospital in London in the days before the second Test.

The likes of Ponting, Hayden, Healy and Warne have in the past two days questioned whether the so-called “family first” policy promoted by the Australian hierarchy was being followed in the decision on Haddin and there are some players that are believed to privately agree with those former Test greats. Warne said in commentary on Sky TV on Wednesday that the decision didn’t sit well with him, while Hayden, the strongest of the critics, had said that Haddin had “been through hell”.

Family is a central plank of the culture of this Australian team. The now retired Ryan Harris missed last month’s Caribbean tour to be at home for the birth of his first child, something that Lehmann insisted on him doing. The issue the Haddin axing has raised is whether other players’ places will be safe in future such cases.

Although the official family period is over on this Ashes tour – during the first two Tests there was a second team bus being operated, such were the number of partners and children accompanying players and staff, all paid for by Cricket Australia – there remain some families still on tour paying their own way.

Haddin himself is unlikely to speak out on the matter. A noted team man, that’s not his style. As disappointed as he will be at his replacement by Nevill and the consequences of that – short of a broken finger in the coming days and weeks it’s likely to spell the end of his 66-Test career – the last thing he will want to do is rock the boat, particularly midway through an Ashes series.

After all, following a first day to forget at Edgbaston, Australia have enough problems on their plate.

Cecil the lion: Jimmy Kimmel breaks down on air as he condemns animal’s killing

Upset: Jimmy Kimmel. Photo: Screen grabCecil’s killer in the middle of online hate stormMia Farrow tweets dentist’s addressUS tourist Walter James Palmer kills iconRich tourists kill hundreds of lions – and it’s legalLocal charged over Cecil the lion death

He’s usually known for his cutting wit, but US talk show host Jimmy Kimmel has choked up on air as he condemned the death of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe.

The comedian was on the brink of tears as he discussed on his late-night talk show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, how US dentist Walter Palmer had killed the animal on a hunting trip in early July.

Kimmel at first denounced the actions of the dentist, who has closed his dental practice in Minnesota and gone into hiding since it was revealed he paid $US50,000 ($68,000) to kill the lion, one of the oldest and most famous in Zimbabwe.

“The big question is: why are you shooting a lion in the first place? I mean I’m honestly curious to know why a human being would feel compelled to do that? How is that fun?” Kimmel began.

“I’m not against hunting if you’re hunting to eat, or to help keep the animal population healthy, or it’s part of your culture or something. That’s one thing.

“But if you’re some a-hole dentist who wants a lion’s head over the fireplace in his man cave so his douchebag buddies can gather around it and drink scotch and tell him how awesome he is, that’s just vomitus.”

Cecil had been fitted with a GPS collar so scientists from Oxford University could study his movements.

As Kimmel urged people to donate to a charity to help those researchers, he had to pause to regain his composure.

“If you want to make this into a positive, you can…,” Kimmel trailed off, his voice wavering.

“Ah … sorry … I um .. OK. OK. Make a donation, support them.

“At the very least, maybe we can show the world that not all Americans are like this jackhole, here, this dentist.”​

Liberal fundraising club was run by Kevin Andrews staffer

Kevin Andrews faces further questions over fundraising after it emerged a former staffer ran the club that backed him in opposition. Photo: Glenn HuntThe Liberal Party fundraising club that supports Defence Minister Kevin Andrews was run by one of his staff members while in opposition, raising new questions about the appropriate use of parliamentary resources.

Filings with the Australian Electoral Commission filings show that former Andrews staffer Adam Wojtonis was secretary, treasurer and contact point for the Menzies 200 Club from 2010-11 until 2012-13.

The club, an associated entity under Commonwealth electoral law, raises money to support Mr Andrews’ political career, and the Victorian Liberal Party.  Mr Wojtonis also registered the Menzies 200 Club website in 2011, records show.

At the same time, Mr Wojtonis worked as media officer to Mr Andrews who was opposition spokesman on families, housing and human services. He has since left Mr Andrews’ office for the private sector.

Mr Wojtonis’ dual roles raise questions about whether he was using taxpayer-funded parliamentary resources to raise money for Mr Andrews and the Liberal Party.

News of his involvement in the Menzies 200 Club comes amid a row over the gambling industry’s $75,000 in donations to the club as Mr Andrews oversaw development of the Coalition’s gambling policy before the 2013 election. And it adds to concern about the apparent use of Mr Andrews’ electoral office for Menzies 200 fundraising.

Mr Andrews has denied the donations influenced his decision making and Fairfax Media does not suggest otherwise.

On Tuesday, Mr Andrews said Mr Wojtonis worked for Menzies 200 in his own time. “Many staff members of MPs occupy voluntary positions within their respective parties which they undertake outside their work hours,” he said.

“One only needs to look to the Australian Labor Party and [shadow environment minister Mark Butler’s] occupancy of their national presidency as an example of this.”

Last week a staffer in Mr Andrews’ electoral office told Fairfax Media that the Menzies 200 Club was run from the office. For some years the telephone number of the electoral office was filed with the AEC as the contact number for the Menzies 200 Club.

Mr Andrews refused to answer directly when asked if the Menzies Club was operated from his office, but stressed it was run by volunteers.

The MPs’ entitlements handbook allows the use of electorate offices by community groups but it specifies that such use is “for non‑fundraising purposes”.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon said the row around  the Menzies 200 fundraising was further evidence that the MP entitlement rules need an overhaul. “The rules should be unambiguous to say MPs cannot use their electoral offices for fundraising.”

Senator Xenophon said the rules were unclear about MPs themselves using their offices for fundraising.

He said the use of parliamentary resources for fundraising is a big and unfair advantage to incumbents.

“There is no reason that MPs staff and offices should be involved in fundraising at taxpayers’ expense. It would be quite easy to do it away from electoral offices.”

Fairfax Media revealed this week that Clubs NSW donated $20,000 to the Menzies 200 Club in 2013 as Mr Andrews led formulation of the Coalition’s poker machine policy.

Another $10,000 – possibly representing a Menzies 200 Club membership – was donated in June 2014 after the Abbott government took office.

This donation was made three months after a bill repealing tough poker machine regulations introduced by the former Labor government, introduced by Mr Andrews as Social Services Minister, passed the Parliament.

Fairfax also revealed a $45,000 donation from the Australian Hotels and Hospitality Association (AHA) to Menzies 200 in 2012.

The revelations led to a call by Labor leader Bill Shorten for reform of donations laws, and a push for a Senate inquiry by independent senator John Madigan.

Windows 10’s Wi-Fi sharing feature a potential security concern

Wi-Fi Sense could be a disaster waiting to happen.Windows 10 review

Starting this week, Microsoft is offering most Windows 7 and Windows 8 users a free upgrade to the software giant’s latest operating system — Windows 10. But there’s a very important security caveat that users should know about before transitioning to the new OS: unless you opt out, Windows 10 will by default share access to your Wi-Fi network with any contacts you may have listed in Outlook and Skype — and, with an opt-in, your Facebook friends!

This brilliant new feature, which Microsoft has dubbed Wi-Fi Sense, doesn’t share your Wi-Fi network password per se — it shares an encrypted version of that password. But it does allow anyone in your Skype or Outlook or Hotmail contacts lists to waltz onto your Wi-Fi network — should they ever wander within range of it or visit your home.

I first read about this disaster waiting to happen over at The Register, which noted that Microsoft’s Wi-Fi Sense FAQ seeks to reassure would-be Windows 10 users that the Wi-Fi password will be sent encrypted and stored encrypted — on a Microsoft server. According to PCGamer, if you use Windows 10’s “Express” settings during installation, Wi-Fi Sense is enabled by default.

“For networks you choose to share access to, the password is sent over an encrypted connection and stored in an encrypted file on a Microsoft server, and then sent over a secure connection to your contacts’ phone if they use Wi-Fi Sense and they’re in range of the Wi-Fi network you shared,” the FAQ reads.

The company says your contacts will only be able to share your network access, and that Wi-Fi Sense will block those users from accessing any other shared resources on your network, including computers, file shares or other devices. But these words of assurance probably ring hollow for anyone who’s been paying attention to security trends over the past few years: given the myriad ways in which social networks and associated applications share and intertwine personal connections and contacts, it’s doubtful that most people are aware of who exactly all of their social network followers really are from one day to the next.

El Reg says it well here:

“That sounds wise — but we’re not convinced how it will be practically enforced: if a computer is connected to a protected Wi-Fi network, it must know the key. And if the computer knows the key, a determined user or hacker will be able to find it within the system and use it to log into the network with full access.

In theory, someone who wanted access to your company network could befriend an employee or two, and drive into the office car park to be in range, and then gain access to the wireless network. Some basic protections, specifically ones that safeguard against people sharing their passwords, should prevent this”.

I should point out that Wi-Fi networks which use the centralised 802.1x Wi-Fi authentication — and these are generally tech-savvy large organisations — won’t have their Wi-Fi credentials shared by this new feature.

Microsoft’s solution for those concerned requires users to change the name (a.k.a. “SSID”) of their Wi-Fi network to include the text “_optout” somewhere in the network name (for example, “oldnetworknamehere_optout”).

Wi-Fi Sense has of course been a part of the latest Windows Phone for some time, yet it’s been less of a concern previously because Windows Phone has nowhere near the market share of mobile devices powered by Google’s Android or Apple’s iOS. But embedding this feature in an upgrade version of Windows makes it a serious concern for much of the planet.

Why? For starters, despite years of advice to the contrary, many people tend to re-use the same password for everything. Also, lots of people write down their passwords. And, as The Reg notes, if you personally share your Wi-Fi password with a friend — by telling it to them or perhaps accidentally leaving it on a sticky note on your fridge — and your friend enters the password into his phone, the friends of your friend now have access to the network.

An article in Ars Technica suggests the concern over this new feature is much ado about nothing. That story states: “First, a bit of anti-scaremongering. Despite what you may have read elsewhere, you should not be mortally afraid of Wi-Fi Sense. By default, it will not share Wi-Fi passwords with anyone else. For every network you join, you’ll be asked if you want to share it with your friends/social networks.”

To my way of reading that, if I’m running Windows 10 in the default configuration and a contact of mine connects to my Wi-Fi network and say yes to sharing, Windows shares access to that network: The contact gets access automatically, because I’m running Windows 10 and we’re social media contacts. True, that contact doesn’t get to see my Wi-Fi password, but he can nonetheless connect to my network.

My suggestions: Prior to upgrade to Windows 10, change your Wi-Fi network name/SSID to something that includes the term “_optout”.After the upgrade is complete, change the privacy settings in Windows to disable Wi-Fi Sense sharing.If you haven’t already done so, consider additional steps to harden the security of your Wi-Fi network.Further reading:What Is Wi-Fi Sense and Why Does it Want Your Facebook Account? UH OH: Windows 10 Will Share Your Wi-Fi Key With Your Friends’ FriendsWhy Windows 10 Shares Your Wi-Fi Password and How to Stop itWi-Fi Sense in Windows 10: Yes, It Shares Your Passkeys, No You Shouldn’t Be Scared


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