AFL steps in to fix infighting at Lions

Former Lions coach Michael Voss and club chairman Angus Johnson. Photo: Chris Hyde Leigh Matthews Photo: Getty.
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The AFL has stepped in to try and fix the mess that is the Brisbane Lions board, scheduling a mediation meeting between the warring parties in Melbourne next week.

With the Lions remaining locked in a Mexican standoff following a boardroom coup lead by Paul Williams, Mick Power and former coach Leigh Matthews, AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick said there was a need for “high-level intervention” from the code’s governing body.

Current chairman Angus Johnson has refused to step down and the matter had seemed destined for a fiery extraordinary general meeting. But Fitzpatrick wants the matter sorted in a far shorter time period.

“The AFL’s preference was for this matter to be resolved internally through negotiation and compromise but this hope appears to have receded in recent times,” Fitzpatrick said.

“It is crucial that the club’s leadership and direction is settled as quickly as possible to provide the Lions with stability at a time when it is actively planning for the 2014 season and beyond, including the appointment of a senior coach and the development of new facilities.

“As the Lions sign or re-sign key players, recruit members and seek out corporate support, they need a board that is pursuing a clear and united vision for the club.”

Brisbane are in the middle of trying to find a head coach to replace sacked mentor Michael Voss and are also fighting to retain players, with a number of youngsters, including Jared Polec, already leaving the club.

Fitzpatrick said the AFL didn’t want to see the matter end up in front of members at a special meeting, which would be held to decide the fate of the current board.

“It is pleasing to note that the club’s regular operations are continuing as normal, as is the process to identify a new senior coach for the Lions,” Fitzpatrick said.

“But it is the AFL’s belief that the interests of Lions members and supporters are best served by resolving the board dispute as quickly as possible to enable the Lions’ sole focus to be on strengthening the club and its prospects for success, both on and off the field.”

In a statement, the Lions welcomed the move from the AFL and recognised “the importance of stability and is keen to see the matter resolved ASAP”.

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Warm spring to stoke early-season fire risks

Fires threatened Sydney’s outskirts on September 10. Photo: Nick MoirThe exceptionally warm start to spring for south-eastern Australia is likely to extend well into October, breaking more records and exacerbating early-season fire risks, according to Weatherzone.
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Both Sydney and Melbourne – and much of the nation – are well on course to set record temperatures for September with weather models indicating next month will also be unusually hot, said Weatherzone meteorologist Ben McBurney.

“Our fortnightly models indicate it’s going to be a very warm end to September, so it’s very likely we’re going to see the warmest September on record for Sydney at least,” Mr McBurney said.

Sydney’s maximums this month are running at about 23.6 degrees, well above the long-term norm of 20 degrees, and eclipsing the previous record of 23.3 degrees in 1980. The Bureau of Meteorology predicts days will average about 24 degrees over the next week. Minimum temperatures are also well above previous records.

Melbourne’s maximums are running at about 19.5 degrees, just shy of the 2006 record of 19.7 degrees, but the mercury is likely to reach an average of about 21 degrees or more for the next week. “There’s a good chance they’re also going to break their [September] record as well,” Mr McBurney said.

Central heating

The Bureau of Meteorology said it was possible September would see more monthly records fall.

“The area of most-abnormal warmth has been inland central and eastern Australia,” said Blair Trewin, senior climatologist at the bureau. “A lot of that area has been 4-6 degrees above normal for September to date.”

Alice Springs is running at about 3 degrees above the previous record for September. “It’s just been ridiculous,” Mr McBurney said.

Australia’s record heat over the past year has surprised climate experts, not least because it has occurred in a period without an El Nino weather pattern over the Pacific Ocean, the conditions that typically see national temperatures spike.

Outgoing chief climate commissioner Tim Flannery also highlighted the unusual heat and the early start to the fire season around Sydney on Thursday when he disclosed that the new Abbott government had axed the commission.

Dr Flannery said it remains important that the public continues to get “a reliable, apolitical source of facts” on climate change, a task he said was made harder by the commission’s demise.

Fire worries

Weatherzone’s Mr McBurney said weather models indicate the potential for more early-season fires remains high, particularly in NSW.

“September has been quite hot and our models suggest October will also be very hot,” Mr McBurney said. “The early part of the fire season could be quite bad.”

There could be more potentially bad fire days by the middle of next week, with temperatures likely to approach 30 degrees. “Those westerlies will come in and dry things out again,” he said.

There’s also little sign of rain over the next fortnight for the Sydney region. Melbourne can expect close to average rainfall for September “but the further north you go, it’s pretty dry”, he said.

Melbourne has received about 44 millimetres of rain so far in September, a month that typically sees about 58 millimetres for the city. Sydney’s rain tally of 35.8 millimetres is about half the long-run average of 68.6 millimetres.

As of Friday afternoon, the Rural Fire Service was reporting 19 active fires across NSW with just two of them uncontained.

Weatherzone is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of this website.

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Sydney auction market braces for big weekend

Antony Lawes’s Hot Auctions: 88 Campbell Street, Surry Hills, About $550,000. 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 0 car spaces. There should be at least eight paddles being waved for this unrenovated terrace, which is on the market for the first time in nearly 50 years. Agent: Ray White Surry Hills, 0438 332 088. Auction: 9am. Antony Lawes’s Hot Auctions: 357 Catherine Street, Lilyfield $1.1 million+. 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 2 car spaces. It’s likely there will be more than five bidders for this double-fronted cottage close to the light-rail station. Agent: Pilcher Residential, 0425 216 043. Inspect: 9.30am. Auction: 9.45am.
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Antony Lawes’s Hot Auctions: 28 Westcott Street, Eastlakes $890,000+. 3 bedrooms, 1 bathoom, 1 car space. About eight bidders are expected for this bungalow in a quiet, convenient location. Agent McGrath Coogee, 0415 647 111. Inspect 11am. Auction 1.30pm.

Sydney is set for another big weekend of auctions, with 565 properties scheduled to go under the hammer.

Though slightly below last weekend’s post-election bumper day, when 637 homes went to auction, this weekend remains well above the same Saturday a year ago, when 504 auctions were scheduled.

Despite the high listing number last weekend, the Sydney weekend home auction market recorded yet another extraordinary result, with a clearance rate of 84.1 per cent.

Sydney’s weekend clearance rate has now exceeded 80 per cent on nine of the past 10 weekends – a rate of 79 per cent was recorded on August 24.

This Saturday, Sydney’s upper north shore is the most popular region for auctions, with 89 scheduled, followed by the inner west with 82, the south with 72 and the city and east region with 71.

Paddington in the eastern suburbs will offer the most properties for sale of any Sydney suburb – eight homes are scheduled to go under the hammer.

A number of suburbs have seven auctions listed, including Strathfield and Marrickville in the inner west, Coogee in the east, St Ives on the upper north shore and Kogarah in the south.

The most popular Sydney suburbs this weekend for unit auctions are Coogee with six, and Randwick and Paddington with five each.

The solid listings numbers again this weekend will present the Sydney spring selling season with yet another stiff test.

However, buyer demand shows no sign of abating so expect more sellers to take advantage of the strongest auction market in 10 years.

Dr Andrew Wilson is senior economist for Fairfax Media-owned Australian Property Monitors.

Twitter: @DocAndrewWilson

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Michael Mosley’s five biggest health myths

No need to slog it out at the gym: Michael Mosley discovers the benefits of the fast fix. Photo: act\karen.hardyMichael Mosley is arguably the most famous human-health guinea pig on the planet.
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The BBC journalist, doctor and author of the best-selling 5:2 diet has been studying health and the human body for the past 20 years.

But for all his knowledge and self-experimentation, the self-confessed “sugar addict” has not been particularly healthy.

“I needed to be told I was diabetic to change, despite everything I knew,” he says.

Instead of resorting to medication, Mosley decided to get drastic with his diet and see whether he could effect any change.

Turns out he could.

Through intermittent fasting, upping his greens and shifting the way he exercises, he has lost 12 kilograms and his blood sugar has returned to normal. “I can fit into a dinner jacket I haven’t worn since I was 25 and I’m enjoying life,” says Mosley, who was in Australia this week to promote the release of his book in Australia as well as his new BBC documentary series, What’s Your Body Hiding.

The basic concept of intermittent fasting, where for two days of the week you restrict your calorie intake to about 2500 kilojoules a day, is that it gives your body a break from processing food and a period where your blood is not filled with glucose.

The diet, which Mosley insists he was initially sceptical about, is not the only interesting discovery he has made through his research for the series.

Some of the others relate to fairly common knowledge, for instance, that we have to drink two litres of water a day or that eggs raise your cholesterol: “Now we know that’s absolute rubbish,” he says.

Other discoveries are more surprising.

We need five small meals a day

This is “completely, awfully, terribly false,” Mosley says.

The idea behind eating regularly is that we speed up our metabolic rate and prevent the body from going into starvation mode. But the body does the opposite, he says.

The origins of this myth come from a study done in the 1950s, when a group of young men survived on approximately half their normal calories for six months.

They lost significant amounts of weight, but while their body fat went down to 5 per cent they also started to experience significant problems.

Relatively short periods of going without food, however, is a different story, Mosley says, and can have a positive effect on us – physiologically and psychologically.

Doctors know it all

While he was studying to become a doctor, Mosley was surprised to hear that, within 15 years of completing his six-year degree, half of what he had learnt would be out of date.

For this reason, he says, exempting those who are specialists or make a concerted effort to keep abreast of the latest science, many doctors lack knowledge in certain areas.

Nutrition and weight loss is one. In fact, he says during his years of training he was required to attend just one class on nutrition.

Despite this, and although some doctors are open-minded about the latest research, “some are happy to pontificate about subjects they know nothing about”.

He mentions one study comparing various methods of weight reduction where the group who received advice from their GP actually put on weight.

Sugar is the devil in disguise

In a media briefing this week, Mosley said he disagreed with the stance of I Quit Sugar author and host of the event, Sarah Wilson.

“Sugar is one of my greatest addictions,” he acknowledges. “Pretty much every tooth in my mouth has been drilled and replaced. If there’s chocolate or biscuits in the house, I’ll eat them.”

In this sense, he says: “I do generally agree that we eat far too much of it.”

That said, he feels sugar has become a “massive thing” and is wary of being “evangelical” about it.

“Do we know that fructose is as demonising as we say? No, the evidence is contradictory.”

Besides, he believes it’s not about completely avoiding foods, but forgiving yourself when you do falter, being aware of the impact of certain foods and “knowing you’ll be constantly tempted and finding strategies around it”.

Mosley’s strategy involves no longer keeping biscuits or chocolate in the house.

Exercise is the best way to lose weight

“Exercise is a bad form of weight loss,” Mosley says, pointing to research on compensatory eating and relaxing, where “basically you’re knackered, so you sit down” for the rest of the day.

The problem with people believing that exercise is a good way to lose weight is that they get disenchanted and stop doing it, he explains.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t exercise.

According to Mosley, the real benefits are the effect exercise has on insulin sensitivity and aerobic fitness. “Which means a longer and healthier life,” he says.

There’s “preliminary” research that high-intensity interval training burns more fat, so “you will look more gorgeous at the beach”.

But for those who don’t do the recommended daily amount of exercise – about 80 per cent of Australians – Mosley wanted to know “what’s the least you can probably do”.

“One of the gurus I spoke to said you can get most of the benefits from three minutes a week,” he says. “I was absolutely sceptical about it.”

Mosley now does a short, sharp workout, pushing as hard as he can for 20 seconds, taking a break and repeating. The entire thing takes him a measly four minutes.

The effects of these quick hits of exercise persist for up to 36 hours after, he says.

Mosley has also increased his incidental activity. Just taking the stairs and getting up regularly has a surprising impact on fat and blood sugar levels.

“We need to move every 30 minutes,” he says. “Get off your arse and go for a short stroll.”

Everyone needs to eat breakfast

Not true, Mosley says.

He mentions studies where some people, when they are forced to eat breakfast, actually put on weight. “It depends on what your body likes to do,” he says.

Which is why Mosley ultimately believes in becoming your own guinea pig. Depending on our own physical make-up and routine, we reap benefits differently. It’s a matter of absorbing the information and trying it on for size.

But if you’re making a change or trying to break a bad habit, don’t expect to be transformed within 21 days.

“That’s completely made up,” Mosley says. “I’ve looked into it.”

What’s Your Body Hiding? season, from October 6 on BBC Knowledge

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‘Remember what happened to Skase’

In happier times: John Hancock with his mother Gina and sister Ginia Rinehart. Photo: Supplied A hard man to track down: Christopher Skase fled to Majorca after his business empire crashed. Photo: Supplied
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One of Gina Rinehart’s closest lieutenants in the Hancock Prospecting empire warned her son he would be hunted down like Christopher Skase unless he ceded control of the family’s multibillion-dollar trust to his mother.

Hancock Prospecting chief financial officer Jay Newby sent a series of explosive emails to John Hancock a day after the mining magnate warned her four children they would be bankrupted if the trust was allowed to vest.

In one email, Mr Newby wrote: ”Remember what happened to Skase when he tried to escape being brought back to Australia when bankrupt. The government simply doesn’t let people off for not paying due taxation.”

Christopher Skase became a fugitive when he fled Australia for Spain in 1991 after his business empire collapsed.

In the same email Mr Newby says: ”Please don’t think for one second this means you can enjoy your Thai palace should a court-appointed designate be appointed for your bankruptcy.”

Mr Hancock later received a private binding ruling from the Australian Tax Office that said no capital gains tax was payable by the beneficiaries on vesting of the trust.

Mr Hancock had been living with his family in Thailand in a house he helped build using a loan from Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd (HPPL), which is partly owned by the family trust. HPPL holds the title deed.

In a bitter court dispute, Mr Hancock and one of his three sisters, Bianca Rinehart, are applying to remove their mother as trustee of the Hope Margaret Hancock Trust, alleging she has acted ”deceitfully” and with ”gross dishonesty”.

A trial is set for October 8, unless they reach a settlement beforehand.

The trust was set up in 1988 by Gina Rinehart’s father, Lang Hancock, with her children as beneficiaries.

It was due to vest on September 6, 2011, when the youngest child turned 25, giving them financial independence.

Three days before, Mrs Rinehart wrote a letter to each of her children warning them they would face a capital gains tax bill that would bankrupt them if the trust was allowed to vest.

Mr Hancock questioned whether the beneficiaries would face a tax bill. He wrote to Mr Newby: ”Nothing I’ve heard makes me believe the CGT fabrication.”

Mr Newby said: ”We don’t take any chances with tax – the stakes are simply too high. You cannot take positions in tax based on incomplete information – the advice considers all relevant matters … The tax position presented in the trustee’s letter is absolutely correct, and is not a basis for negotiation.”

In court this week it emerged that Mr Newby told PwC to prepare two versions of its advice. In one version he requested they remove any reference to the possibility that shares in the family company, which were to be distributed to the children, could be pre-capital gains tax.

In an email sent on September 2, 2011, Mr Newby told PwC: ”I would like the ‘sanitised’ version signed and sent please.” According to an internal email from PwC, this version was ”for provision to the children”.

Mrs Rinehart failed in a last-ditch attempt to stop the trial and send the matter to private arbitration. The attempt to derail the trial came days after Mr Hancock was given access to hundreds of pages of documents between Mr Newby and PwC.

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