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Newcastle Knights make play for Cooper Cronk

IN DEMAND: Melbourne Storm halfback Cooper Cronk. Picture: Getty Images NEWCASTLE Knights will do “everything withinthe club’s power”to sign Cooper Cronk if the Melbourne star decides to continue playing in the NRL next season.
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Cronkdropped a bombshell last month when he revealed he will quit the Storm at the end of 2017 to be closer to Sydney-based fiancee Tara Rushton.

The Queensland and Australian star is weighing up retirement and a career in the media after recently penning a deal with Fox Sports.

Chief executive Matt Gidley confirmed that the Knights had “very recent talks” with Cronk’s management and were formulating a proposal to present to the superstar playmaker.

“Are we interested in Cooper Cronk?Absolutely.” Gidley said. “Everyone is aware that he is looking to relocate and move closer to Sydney next year. We will certainly have a conversation with Cooper, and if he is interested in playing next year then we will do everything within our power to try and get him to our club.”

Asked if living on the Central Coast would be an option for Cronk, Gidley reiterated: “We will do everything in our power”.

Cronk was noncommittal about his future on Fox Sportspanel show Sterlo On the Couch on Tuesday night.

Newcastle Knights make play for Cooper Cronk TweetFacebook Cooper Cronk’s career in picturesPictures: Getty ImagesHis manager,George Mimis, has indicated that the dual Dally M winner willmake a decision at end of this year’s Origin serieson July 12.

“At the appropriate time there will be discussions had and we will make it very clear how interested we are in bringing him to our club,” Gidley said.

Cronk is the fourth marquee player the Knights have approached after missing out on Jack Bird, Matt Scott and Kieran Foran.

The Knights they are one of a few clubs with room in the 2018 salary cap for the $1 million price tag Cronk is likely to command.

A veteran of six grand finals, he has been linked to Parramatta, St George Illawarra, Canterbury and WestsTigers. Those clubs have either re-signed players or recruited other halves.

“Most clubs have already strengthened their rosters,” Gidley said.

Cronk would be the biggest signing in the Knights’30-year history and,with the uncertainty over the future of Trent Hodkinson, is seen as the ideal man to groom young halves Brock Lamb, Jalen Feeney and Jack Cogger.

As well as Cronk, the Knights are also in talks with Canterbury captain James Graham.

“Cooper and James,in terms of the qualities they bring to a club on and off the field, are exactly what we are after,” Gidley said. “They are super talented players, they are both experienced and bring genuine leadership traits which is what our young squad is in need of.There are obviously some challenges to work through to make that happen.”

Graham,31, is contracted to the Canterbury for 2018 but could be squeezed outas the Dogs look to free-up $2 million in the cap to accommodate the arrival of Kieran Foran and Aaron Woods.

“Weneed to respect the fact he is contracted to the Bulldogs,” Gidley said.“But if circumstances change there,he certainly knows how we feel and how much we would love to have him at the club.”

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How to catch ‘target’ sharks without killing other marine life

The latest marine bycatch data shows drum lines are more effective at catching target sharks and safer for all marine life than shark nets, prompting the Greens to call for an immediate end to the North Coast shark net trial.
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But despite committing to increase the number of drum lines deployed on the North Coast from 25 to 35, Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair insists a decision has not yet been made about the fate of the nets, which are to be removed on June 13 at the end of what will then be a six-month trial period.

Former premier Mike Baird announced a shark net trial in October 2016 on five beaches in and near Ballina after a series of shark incidents alarmed the north coast community.

It was just two weeks after the government had committed to using “smart drum lines”, which use GPS technology to alert Department of Primary Industries scientists when a shark is caught.

The shark net trial announcement came just two days after Mr Baird’s backflip on banning greyhounds.

Critics of nets claimed they would be lethal not just to sharks, some of which are endangered, but to other forms of marine life, including humpback whales.

In the five months from early December to early May, 127 “non-target” animals were found dead in the five trial nets at three Ballina beaches, Seven Mile Beach and Evans Head Beach, including an endangered green turtle. Another 117 animals were released alive.

Six target sharks were caught – two white, one bull and three tiger sharks – and three were tagged and released alive.

In the same period, the 25 North Coast drum lines, which are designed as a non-lethal shark “management tool”, caught 29 target sharks, 24 of them white sharks, with just one found dead after it was tangled in the line.

Two non-target animals – grey nurse sharks – were caught and released alive.

The department says that potentially dangerous sharks caught on the drum lines are tagged and relocated at least one kilometre offshore.

“Recent tracks from tagged sharks shows that they often head further offshore immediately after release (for the first 24 to 48 hours), so in addition to minimising any threat of an interaction with water users, having them move offshore after release further enhances the utility of SMART drum lines as a non-lethal bather protection tool,” the department’s website says.

NSW Greens marine environment spokesman Justin Field said: “The evidence is in – shark nets are little more than floating death traps for all marine life while SMART drum lines appear to be an effective means of catching target sharks.”

Mr Field called on the government to end the shark net trial early and backed the use of drum lines “supported by other non-lethal shark management techniques” such as Shark Watch, better resourcing lifeguards and personal deterrent devices.

But Mr Blair said the nets would continue to be used until mid-June and the community, the federal government and DPI shark scientists would be consulted before a final decision was made by early spring.

“When the nets are removed, we will increase the number of SMART drum lines to 35 (currently 25) – this will also be the most effective measure as the whale migration period begins on the North Coast,” Mr Blair said.

Helicopter surveillance would continue to operate on the north coast on weekends and there would be daily flights, supplemented by drones, during the July school holidays to provide shark surveillance at popular beaches, he said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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After Molly, Hoges and Bondy, let’s forget about the rich and famous for a while

Let’s think for a minute about all the strong films based on real lives that Australia has produced over the years. It’s a list that goes from Breaker Morant and Shine right up to Rabbit Proof Fence, Mao’s Last Dancer, Tracks, Lion and Hacksaw Ridge.
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At their best, they’re compelling emotional stories about people who weren’t well-known when these films were being made.

Then let’s consider the commercial television equivalents. Samuel Johnson’s lively performance as music guru Ian Meldrum was the best thing about the mini-series Molly. And, after the patchy Hoges on Paul Hogan, House of Bond, about Alan Bond, was another disappointment.

Despite plenty of talent both behind and in front of the camera, the popular genre of dramatising famous lives has rarely risen to any great heights. It includes shows about Bob Hawke (Hawke), Graham Kennedy (The King), Ita Buttrose (Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo), Kerry Packer (Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War and Power Games: The Packer-Murdoch Story ), INXS (Never Tear Us Apart), Peter Allen (Not The Boy Next Door), Gina Rinehart (House of Hancock) and Mary Donaldson (Mary: The Making Of A Princess).

It’s hard to be optimistic about coming shows on Olivia Newton-John, Shane Warne and the Easybeats.

Dramatising lives should be incredibly rich material for both the big and small screen.

Every year bio-pics and stories based on real people compete for best picture at the Oscars. This year the semi-autobiographical Moonlight and Hidden Figures were nominated alongside those two Australian films, Lion and Hacksaw Ridge.

Recent years have included such solid films as American Sniper (Chris Kyle), The Imitation Game (Alan Turing), Selma (Martin Luther King), The Theory of Everything (Stephen Hawking), Bridge of Spies (James B. Donovan), The Revenant (Hugh Glass), 12 Years A Slave (Solomon Northup),Philomena (Philomena Lee), The Wolf of Wall Street (Jordan Belfort), Lincoln (Abraham Lincoln) and Moneyball (Billy Beane).

When film-makers deliver a good bio-pic, there is vast difference from what screens on Australian commercial TV. Even if they fictionalise elements of the story, they aim to say something truthful about their subject – the flaws that fame reveals, their internal conflicts, their struggles, their courage against the odds or the gap between the public image and the private person.

But the likes of Molly, Hoges, Never Tear Us Apart and House of Bond largely dramatise the myths about famous personalities.

They trade on nostalgia and curiosity rather than going deep into the light and shade of real lives.

The so-called golden age of television came about because American cable channels challenged what the traditional networks were doing.

Instead of seeking a mass audience who watched free, they chased smaller audiences who were prepared to pay for quality. Rather than familiar ways of making shows, they let stories breathe – hiring great writers, giving directors a decent budget and focusing on cracking stories.

Instead of homogenising these stories so families could watch them together, they pushed them into adult territory. The result has been shows that viewers around the world talk about.

With the federal government scrapping the commercial networks’ licence fees, it’s time for them to step up. Time to aim for world-class dramas that work for audiences here then sell internationally on the strength of the storytelling.

What about more TV dramas about ordinary Australians who’ve had extraordinary lives? Lion shows how stories like that can really strike a chord around the country.

Unless there’s a cracking yarn – the dark side of an icon or a genuinely inspiring tale – let’s just forget about the rich and famous for a while.

Twitter @gmaddox

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Customers unlikely to escape the bank tax

Whenever businesses are hit with a nasty new tax, there is a predictable response: we’ll pass it on to customers.
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Sure enough, the early signs are that banks expect at least some of the budget’s $6.2 billion tax on our five biggest lenders will also be worn by the millions of people who bank with them.

But just how easily can banks really offload a cost like this?

No doubt anticipating such a reaction, the government designed the tax so it would not apply to most household deposits. It’s also asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to launch an inquiry into home loan pricing over the next year.

Will these steps be enough to stop lenders sharing this cost with anyone with a bank account?

Essentially, the bank tax is a 0.06-percentage-point levy on all the money the big banks have borrowed to fund their lending (liabilities, in the jargon), excluding deposits of less than $250,000. It only applies to the five biggest banks: Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, National Australia Bank, ANZ Bank, and Macquarie Group.

Treasurer Scott Morrison has been keen to point out that it excludes the vast majority of household deposits, and it is not a tax on mortgages.

But managing partner at Arnhem Asset Management Mark Nathan says that is not relevant, because banks don’t put their different types of funds in such pigeon holes.

“Banks are going to look at their aggregate funding costs and say, our costs have gone up because of this tax,” Nathan says.

There are three potential responses to an increase in costs, he says: to pay customers less for deposits, to charge more for loans, or for the business to make a lower return.

“I suspect it’s going to be a combination of all three, but the first two are going to wear the brunt of it,” Nathan predicts.

Martin North, of consultancy Digital Finance Analytics, also believes banks will ultimately pass on the levy to customers. He thinks the mortgage market is where they are most likely to do this, because that is where the big four have the most power to set prices.

Morrison probably saw this coming, and as well as setting the ACCC onto the banks, he has pointed out customers can take their business to smaller banks if they think they are being gouged.

Separately, the government will overhaul the body for sorting out disputes between customers and their banks. It is creating a “one-stop shop” that will deal with disputes spanning financial advice, superannuation, insurance and banking.

Such intense political scrutiny is likely to stop the banks from instantly raising prices and saying it is a direct response to the government.

But that doesn’t mean the lenders they won’t pass on the cost indirectly, such as by increasing rates and blaming other policies, such as a crackdown on their lending to customers with interest-only loans.

Banks’ mortgage decisions have been debated for years in this country, and it will be difficult for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to determine if such hikes are legitimate or otherwise.

What about Morrison’s point that customers vote with their feet? The tax will not apply to institutions such as Bank of Queensland, Bank of Bendigo, foreign-owned banks or credit unions.

Shopping around makes sense, but some small lenders often find it tempting to match their larger rivals.

When big banks faced tougher capital rules in 2015, which they responded to by raising home loan rates, some smaller banks were happy to also raise their mortgage rates, even though the new capital rules did not apply to them. North also argues that even with the tax, the big banks can still under-cut the smaller lenders, who have to pay more for money.

None of this is to say shareholders will get off the hook completely.

Bank shares plunged on news of the tax, which is equal to about 5 per cent of the industry’s profits.

Even though banks have shown themselves to be adept at passing on higher costs to customers, it is also a fact that their return on equity – a key measure of profitability – has been sliding.

Bank shareholders will no doubt have to wear part of the tax as well, which is of course why the industry is protesting so loudly. iFrameResize({checkOrigin:false},’#pez_iframe’); var frame = document.getElementById(“pez_iframe”);

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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