Jul 18

Photos of the weekDecember 30

Photos of the week | December 30 Christmas 2016. Pictured: Peter Ward, 9, holding Ashlea, 7 wks, Isabelle, 5, and Jacob, 7, holding Imogen, 7 wks, all celebrating Christmas in the Botanic Gardens. Picture: Amy Paton
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Madi Ratcliffe. Pictured: Warrnambool hockey star Madi Ratcliffe is home for Christmas before heading back to Perth to train for championships. Picture: Amy Paton

Warrnambool Grasscourt Open. Pictured: James O’Sullivan slices his return in the 14 and under game. Picture: Amy Paton

King Cole Fruit Supply burglary. Pictured: Crime scene officer Shannon Kavenagh grabs supplies from the police van for the inspection. Picture: Amy Paton

Swimming. Pictured: Warrnambool swimmer Blake Turner is getting ready for the Swimming Victoria country championships. Picture: Amy Paton

Windy weather. Pictured: A large tree branch has fallen down near Kings College. Picture: Amy Paton

Lost and Found Warrnambool. Pictured: Property officer and Leading Senior Constable Deane Owen with multiple years worth of lost property, including hundreds of car keys, a scooter and a skateboard. Picture: Amy Paton

Holiday Campers. Pictured: 10 families have been camping in 10 adjacent campsites together at Shipwreck Bay Holiday Park at Lake Pertobe for the past 27 years. Picture: Amy Paton

Penshurst Races. Pictured: Narelle and Jason Hill from Minhamite soak up the sunshine at Penshurst Racecourse on Boxing Day. Picture: Peta Jolley

Penshurst Races. Pictured: Three generations of Edwards – Phil, Alan and Stephen Edwards – enjoy the day out at Penshurst Races. Picture: Peta Jolley

Penshurst Races. Pictured: Warrnambool’s Sinaed Finck won the ladies fashions on the field competition for the second consecutive year. Picture: Peta Jolley

Penshurst Races. Pictured: Bill Abrahams, from Warrnambool, attended his first races. Mr Abrahams won the mens fashions on the field title. Picture: Peta Jolley

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Jul 18

Why Carrie Fisher’s Leia deserves a place among the Disney Princesses

Moana isn’t yet in the official pantheon of Disney princesses, but she’s typical of where they are heading. Photo: Disney Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, with Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and Harrison Ford as Han Solo. Photo: Twentieth Century Fox
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Creepy though it is, there’s something fitting in Carrie Fisher making a digitally face-lifted guest appearance at the end of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I say fitting because in that moment Leia finally takes her place among the pantheon of Disney Princesses she has arguably helped shape.

Some readers may find that an outrageous statement on at least two counts. First, the term “Disney Princess” is generally reserved for the studio’s animated mythic royals. And second, it’s doubtful that a spot in their ranks was what George Lucas had in mind when he created the character of Princess Leia Organa, hero of the Rebellion, 40-odd years ago.

But times change, and princesses change with them – and even a slow-moving monolith such as Disney has to try to keep up.

Officially, there are 11 Disney Princesses, spread across three eras. Snow White (1937), Cinderella (1950) and Sleeping Beauty’s Aurora (1959) are from the so-called “classic” era, typified by weak white women waiting for a prince to wake them or bring them fancy footwear and thus rescue them from a life more ordinary.

The “renaissance” phase gave us The Little Mermaid’s Ariel (1989), Belle from Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin’s Jasmine (1992), and the title characters of Pocahontas (1995) and Mulan (1998). More ethnically diverse, these women were generally a lot more active even if they were still largely waiting for their man.

In the modern era, there’s Tiana from The Princess and the Frog (2009), the Rapunzel of Tangled (2010) and the bow-and-arrow-wielding Merida of Brave (2012), strong-willed women who imagine a destiny that might include, but definitely isn’t limited to, marriage.

There’s also Elsa and Anna, the sisters at the heart of the studio’s most successful animated movie of all time, Frozen (2013). Hailed for their independence of spirit and the fact their great love is for each other rather than some wet Prince Charming, the sisters are honorary, though not official, members of the studio’s Princess hierarchy.

And now we have the heroine of Moana (2016), the ocean-faring daughter of a Pacific Island chief who sets out to restore environmental balance and rekindle her people’s pioneering instincts, with the putative aid of a god who more often than not needs her help. Her place in the canon has not yet been confirmed but she sure looks like a Disney Princess in the new mould.

But “new mould” is the crucial thing here. Post-renaissance, Disney’s princesses have steadily traded passivity for action, predestination for self-determination, hearth and home for the wider world beyond. Or, to put it more bluntly, they’re a lot less freakin’ useless than they were.

There are lots of academic studies that plot the evolution of the Disney princess, from being “thin, graceful, young, submissive, and attractive to romantic suitors of the opposite sex”, as one puts it, to something more complex (albeit invariably still young, thin and attractive). There’s a consensus that “Disney movies remain some of the most influential sources of gender role images for children”, even if the stereotypical Disney princess – “innocent, beautiful and passive” – is no longer seen as a positive role model.

Enter Princess Leia.

She wasn’t the first feisty woman on screen – film noir is full of them, and if you really want to see old-school tough broads in action, check out Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge in the delirious Johnny Guitar (1954) – but she may have been the first one made for an audience of kids and teens.

Of course, she didn’t start life as a Disney character, but that’s what she has become, since the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012 for $US4 billion or so (George Lucas took half as stock in Disney, so in reality he pocketed a lot more than that). And while Lucas complained last December that he had sold his “kids” to “white slavers”, in some respects Disney has set Leia free – by showing her as a mature woman, and by granting her a legacy as role model for younger ones.

The pantheon of Disney princesses (absent: Merida of Brave). Photo: Disney

Much as she has been heralded as a breakthrough action heroine, the Leia of Star Wars (1977) was also a teenage boy fantasy – one who didn’t even wear a bra because, Lucas told Fisher, “there is no underwear in space”. Ridiculous hairbuns aside, the abiding image of her is in a metallic bikini, on the floor and chained around the neck to the gross, salivating form of Jabba the Hutt in The Return of the Jedi (1983). Liberated? Not exactly.

But Leia was more than just a fanboy fantasy. She was undeniably smart, strong, resourceful. She had a love interest in Han Solo, but she was her own woman. She sometimes needed to be rescued, but then who in this saga didn’t? She was, above all, a commander.

Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) with Jabba the Hutt in Return of the Jedi (1983). Photo: Lucasfilm

(For all the character’s independence, it was a bitter irony never lost on Fisher that she got no cut of the vast merchandising revenues from the films, because Lucas had her sign away the rights to her likeness when she was just 19. “Every time I look in the mirror,” she bitterly joked in a speech at an awards dinner for him in 2009, “I have to send you a cheque for a couple of bucks.”)

Maybe it’s a coincidence that Disney princesses began to display some of those Leia-like traits in the second wave, and many more of them in the third, but I can’t help think she forced their hand at least a little. At any rate, the studio was not entirely deaf and blind to the fact the world had moved on, and that many women and girls – and, hell, even some men and boys – didn’t find all that much to admire in the weakling princesses of old. 

There’s no doubting, though, the influence of Leia on the Star Wars films Disney has given us so far. Both are driven by female action heroes, for whom romance is not a central concern and barely even a peripheral one. Young, thin, attractive? Yes, Rey (Daisy Ridley) of The Force Awakens and Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) in Rogue One are all that, but they are also strong, strong-willed, decisive.

They may not be actual princesses (well, not that we know of), but they are clearly descended from one.

Princess Leia, we salute you. You deserve a place in the pantheon.

Karl Quinn is on facebook at karlquinnjournalist and on twitter @karlkwin

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Jul 18

January 1 price rises and benefit cuts: what you need to know

Australians will awake on Sunday to a host of increased fees, changed regulations and reduced benefits. Photo: Dominic LorrimerThey say life can change in an instant.
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Never is that more true than when the clock strikes midnight on December 31.

Along with hangovers and dark circles under their eyes, Australians will awake on Sunday to a host of increased fees, charges, changed regulations and reduced benefits.

Get set to pay more and receive less.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Pensioners

A shake-up of the test that determines whether people are eligible to receive the age pension, the disability support pension and the carers pension will mean reduced payments for more than 230,000 pensioners and payments ceasing altogether for about 90,000 more. Pensioners affected by the change should have already received a letter from Centrelink.

Some pensioners – about 170,000 – will actually receive a pension boost, because the government is lifting the total value of assets – cash, shares, investment properties – pensioners can own before their pension rate is reduced from the full rate. The family home remains excluded, as always.

But many more will lose out under the changes thanks to an increase in the rate at which pension payments are reduced once assets exceed the threshold value. Currently, for every $1000 of assets a pensioner owns above the asset threshold, their fortnightly pension payment is reduced by $1.50. This will increase to $3 on January 1 – returning it to where it was before the Howard government made it more generous in 2006.

Dental care

Three million children who live in families that receive Family Tax Benefit Part A will, from January 1, have their entitlement to free dental services capped at $700 over two years, down from $1000 previously. Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley says only 30 per cent of children who are entitled to the payment actually use it, and the average claimed per patient is just $302. However, 8 per cent of children eligible for the subsidies are expected to be affected by the change – leaving about a quarter of a million kids worse off.

The new year also brings reduced funding for adult dental services, after the federal government announced just before Christmas that it would give the states just $107 million in funding each year for the next three years, down from $155 million this funding year. The Gillard government had originally pledged $391 million for the coming funding year.

The new year brings reduced funding for adult dental services. Photo: Quentin Jones

Minister Ley was unable to get the states to agree to her $1.7 billion, four-year, combined Child and Adult Public Dental Scheme and announced the reduced funding agreement just before Christmas instead. The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association says public dental services will be “severely compromised” as a result of the funding cuts and estimates 338,000 Australians will lose access to public dental services as a result.

Prescription drugs

The new year will herald higher co-payments for prescription drugs. The co-payment per script will rise to $6.30 for concession cardholders (up from $6.20) and to $38.80 for general patients (up from $38.30). A 2014 Coalition plan to increase the general co-payment by another $5 remains on ice however, one of several “zombie” measures in the federal budget that have yet to pass through Parliament.

But it is older Australians and frequent prescription users who will suffer the most in the new year as their free drugs safety net resets.

“There’s two ways people will pay more for drugs from January 1,” a spokesman for the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Greg Turnbull, said.

“First, there will be an increase in the co-payments, which increase each year with inflation. And second, when the clock strikes midnight on December 31, people who have been enjoying free prescriptions because they reached the safety net at some point during this year will start paying co-contributions again until they hit the safety net in 2017.”

Welfare crackdown

As part of the Coalition’s $6 billion omnibus savings bill, passed in September, people who have received welfare overpayments will start paying interest of 8 per cent on their debts from January 1, unless they are complying with a repayment plan.

People who owe money to Centrelink will also be able to be ordered not to leave the country until they pay, similar to arrangements in place to stop parents who skip child support payments from skipping the country.

January 1 also ushers in a host of new changes to welfare eligibility criteria, including that: Fringe benefits received from employers will now be included in the income test for family assistance and youth payments (unless your employer is a not-for-profit);Child support payments will now be included in the income test for youth allowance;Age pensioners who move into aged care and rent out their former home will now have this rental income included when determining their age pension payments;New recipients of the carers allowance will lose an ability to have their payments backdated.New migrants who arrive under the family reunions channel will now need to serve a two-year waiting period before they qualify for income support payments.Backpackers’ tax

The Turnbull government’s controversial backpackers’ tax will finally come into effect from January 1. People aged 18 to 30 who come to Australia as temporary working holidaymakers will start paying income tax of 15 cents from the first dollar they earn.

Previously, backpackers were taxed the same as Australian citizens, meaning they could earn up to $18,000 without paying tax. The Turnbull government’s May budget sought to align them to the tax treatment of non-residents, which is 32.5 cents from the first dollar they earn, but the government watered down the measure after a backlash from tourism and regional businesses.

Vocational education

Eradicating dodgy vocational educational providers is the aim of a revamped student loans scheme which comes into effect from January 1. The new VET Student Loans program will replace the old VET FEE-HELP scheme, under which loans increased from $26 million in 2009 to $2.9 billion last year as unscrupulous providers sought to sign up vulnerable students to courses of questionable value.

Students enrolling in vocational education institutions this year will need to double check with the Australian Skills Quality Authority that their institution remains an eligible provider, or they will be ineligible for a student loan this year. There will also be a new cap on loan amounts and stronger criteria for which courses are eligible.

The cost of a new passport will increase from January 1.

Passports

Bad luck for those who have booked holidays but not yet arranged their passports. From January 1, the cost of each new passport will increase by $20 for adults and $10 for children and seniors. The fee for priority processing of passport applications will increase by an even heftier $54.

Nannies pilot

Due to an overwhelming lack of uptake, the government’s pilot program to pay subsidies to families who employ private nannies will cease to accept new families from January 1. The government booked a saving of $170 million in its December mid-year budget update by winding back the number of places set aside and closing the scheme to new families from January 1.

Asthma drugs

Good news for an estimated 370 severe asthma sufferers who will benefit from the listing of a new medicine, Nucala, on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from January 1. Previously, patients with this severe form of asthma would have to pay $21,000 each year to access the new treatment, which involves monthly injections. The listing will cost $25 million over four years.

Youth allowance

Every little bit helps. About 1 million recipients of Austudy, Youth Allowance, Carer Allowance and young recipients of the disability support pension will wake up to a few extra dollars a week thanks to the regular annual indexation of their payments.

Youth Allowance recipients will get between $2.40 and $5.70 extra a fortnight. Austudy recipients will get between $4.30 and $5.70 a fortnight. Payments increase with inflation, rather than the more generous measure of average wages growth which pensioners enjoy.

Opal fares will remain frozen until July. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Transport

Opal fares remain frozen until July, but the cost of some other trips will rise.

Tolls will increase between 1¢ and 8¢ for cars using the Hills M2 Motorway, M5 South-West Motorway, Westlink M7, Eastern Distributor, Cross City Tunnel and Lane Cove Tunnel.

An increase of between 4¢ and $1.89 will also apply to trucks using these roads, as part of the regular quarterly adjustment to tolls.

Trips on the privately contracted Manly Fast Ferry service will rise by around 10¢ per trip as part of an agreement for regular annual inflation increases.

The vehicle tax for light vehicles will rise by between $3 and $10, depending on weight and whether it is for private or business use. Other registration fees and charges remain the same.

Solar bonus scheme

The NSW Solar Bonus Scheme will end at midnight on December 31, meaning drastically reduced payments for solar panel owners.

The scheme was only supposed to attract 42,000 households, but 147,000 households ended up signing up for the scheme which earned them 60¢ or 20¢ for every kilowatt hour of power they supplied to the grid.

The new year will see these “feed in tariffs” earned by solar panel owners reduced to just 6¢ for AGL and EnergyAustralia customers, 10¢ for Origin customers and 12¢ from smaller players like Enova Energy.

Foreign property investors

The Baird government’s new Foreign Investor Land Tax Surcharge will come into force from January 1.

Foreign investors who own residential real estate in NSW will be slapped with a new and ongoing additional surcharge of 0.75 per cent of the unimproved value of their land, in addition to the usual land tax.

There will be no tax-free threshold, meaning if a property has an unimproved land value of $1 million, the foreign owner will, from January 1, pay a foreign investor surcharge of $7500 per year.

Land tax bills

There is some relief in sight for investment property owners, however, as land tax thresholds are increased from January 1. The threshold at which property investors must start paying land tax will increase from an unimproved land value of $482,000 to a value of $549,000. The premium threshold will increase from $2,947,000 to $3,357,000.

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

Jul 18

2016 was the year of the celebrity open letter, personal essay

Call them open letters, call them personal essays, call them whatever you want: this year has seen more female celebrities express their thoughts in 1000+ words of passionate letters and punctuation marks than ever before.
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From equal pay, to racism, to what was or was not currently inside their uterus, 2016 was the year famous women ditched publicist statements to find their voice in long-form pieces.

Here are 10 of the best:

1. Jennifer Aniston: ‘For The Record’

Huffington Post, July 12

Aniston responded to over a decade’s worth of pregnancy rumours.

“The sheer amount of resources being spent right now by press trying to simply uncover whether or not I am pregnant (for the bajillionth time… but who’s counting) points to the perpetuation of this notion that women are somehow incomplete, unsuccessful, or unhappy if they’re not married with children. In this last boring news cycle about my personal life there have been mass shootings, wildfires, major decisions by the Supreme Court, an upcoming election, and any number of more newsworthy issues that “journalists” could dedicate their resources towards.”

2. Kim Kardashian West: ‘Happy International Women’s Day’

Own website, March 8

After a (censored) nude selfie saw the reality star face steep criticism, she cleared the air with a long-read.

“It’s 2016. The body-shaming and slut-shaming – it’s like, enough is enough. I will not live my life dictated by the issues you have with my sexuality. You be you and let me be me.”

​3. Rose McGowan: ‘Open Letter To Scott Baio And Those Like Him’

The Talkhouse, July 21

McGowan laid into Happy Days actor Scott Baio after he called Hillary Clinton the C-word.

“If you can’t open your mind, at least stop hurting us, because if you slander one woman, you slander all.”

4. Renee Zellweger: ‘We Can Do Better’

Huffington Post, August 5

The Bridget Jones actor denied she had been under the knife, and questioned how the social implications of the false story.

“The ‘eye surgery’ tabloid story itself did not matter, but it became the catalyst for my inclusion in subsequent legitimate news stories about self-acceptance and women succumbing to social pressure to look and age a certain way. In my opinion, that tabloid speculations become the subject of mainstream news reporting does matter.”

5. Lady Gaga: ‘Head Stuck In A Cycle I Look Off And I Stare’

Own charity’s website, December 8

After revealing she had been diagnosed with PTSD, Lady Gaga penned a “personal letter” to reveal what the condition meant for her.

“I believe that the most inexpensive and perhaps the best medicine in the world is words. Kind words… positive words… words that help people who feel ashamed of an invisible illness to overcome their shame and feel free. This is how I and we can begin to heal. I am starting today, because secrets keep you sick.”

​6. Meghan Markle: I’m More Than An ‘Other’

Elle UK, December 12

The Suits star, who recently made headlines after striking up a relationship with Prince Harry, reflected on her mixed-race identity.

“My teacher told me to check the box for Caucasian. ‘Because that’s how you look, Meghan,’ she said. I put down my pen. Not as an act of defiance, but rather a symptom of my confusion. I couldn’t bring myself to do that, to picture the pit-in-her-belly sadness my mother would feel if she were to find out. So, I didn’t tick a box. I left my identity blank – a question mark, an absolute incomplete – much like how I felt.”

7. Lily Allen: ‘Why the Press Want to Stop Celebrities Like Me Talking About the Migrant Crisis’

Vice, October 26

Allen hit back at British tabloids who described her as a “sobbing luvvie” during a visit to a refugee camp in France.

“The furore about whether or not some refugees may have lied about their ages is not really about whether these refugees can enter the country; it’s about creating the narrative that people trying to come here aren’t asking for our help, but trying to dupe us, take advantage of the system.”

8. Victoria Beckham: ‘Game Changers’

Vogue Australia, November issue

The pop star turned fashion designer was one of several successful women to write first-person pieces about their lives.

“I have a great team and I have a husband who is incredibly supportive. We support each other, and this is about being good partners. When I am away working, David makes sure he is here, and when he is away working I prioritise being at home.”

9. Mila Kunis: ‘You’ll Never Work In This Town Again’

A Plus, November 2

Kunis reflected on the time a director told her she would never work again after refusing to pose semi-nude for a men’s magazine, and the gender biases that exist within Hollywood workplaces.

“Throughout my career, there have been moments when I have been insulted, sidelined, paid less, creatively ignored, and otherwise diminished based on my gender. And always, I tried to give people the benefit of the doubt; maybe they knew more, maybe they had more experience, maybe there was something I was missing. I taught myself that to succeed as a woman in this industry I had to play by the rules of the boy’s club. But the older I got and the longer I worked in this industry, the more I realised that it’s bullshit! And, worse, that I was complicit in allowing it to happen.” 

10. Björk: Untitled

Facebook, December 21

After being criticised for moving around too much in her DJ sets by reviewers, the Icelandic singer posted an explosive response on her Facebook page, saying no man had ever received the same criticism and alleging critics disliked her because she wrote songs about things other than “boyfriends”.

“Eat your Bechtel Test heart out.”

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