July, 2019

OPINION: Researching 30 years of change in Hunter

FAREWELL: Dr Wej Paradice outside the Hunter Valley Research Foundation. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers FAREWELL: Dr Wej Paradice outside the Hunter Valley Research Foundation. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
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WHEN I joined the Hunter Valley Research Foundation in 1982, the Hunter Region had a population of 473,000 people. Newcastle’s population had declined from 145,000 in 1976 to 140,000 in 1981.

The Hunter’s population now stands at 630,000 people. The Central Coast population was only 94,000 people in 1981 and this has now grown to over 320,000 people.

Between the Hunter and Central Coast we now have a combined population of almost one million people, a sizeable market in Australian terms. Tasmania has only 511,000 people while the Northern Territory has 231,000.

Up to the 1980s, Newcastle and the Hunter Region were synonymous with the image of iron and steel making and the dominance of basic heavy industries. Yet the seeds of change had well and truly been planted.

While BHP was then employing over 11,000 people, the writing was on the wall that this would not continue forever. The State Dockyard was beginning to wind down operations, with its last two ferry construction contracts for Manly ferries almost complete.

However, alternative industries were already developing, with aluminium production having begun at Kurri Kurri in 1969 and construction of the Tomago smelter under way with completion in 1984.

Saleable coal production from the region was about 28 million tonnes and the Port exported only about 13 million tonnes (133 million tonnes in 2012).

Most of the coal came from underground mines. Also at this time the Electricity Commission of NSW was still building Eraring and Bayswater Power Stations.

We found unemployment in the 1980s region was in the order of 16 per cent or more. Getting to year 10 was aspirational for students in the region.

As you can tell, the Hunter Region was a very different place. Even though I had grown up in the Upper Hunter, I was fortunate to be able to gain an even better appreciation of the Hunter by having spent time away, both outside the region and outside the country.

I lived in Sydney when you could pick up a townhouse in Paddington for $15,000, as well as a number of years in the US, all of which was great preparation for working for the Hunter Valley Research Foundation.

One of my early tasks on joining the foundation was to assist in recording data from the foundation’s weather station. The task was to take weather readings at 9am and 3pm every day, 365 days of the year. The data was recorded in a weather book and then a phone call to the post office was made in the morning and afternoon to send a telegram to the Bureau of Meteorology with the recorded readings.

Reflecting upon these types of memories gives one pause to consider the significance of the changes we have experienced as a community and as an organisation over these last three decades.

The Hunter has changed dramatically, moving from a heavy industry base to an economy in which services, innovation and creativity are the key generators of jobs and wealth.

BHP was the previous paternalistic presence within the region, but now the university, alongside major health institutions, are the employers of note, while trade and capital investment have been the characteristics of the resources sector that have been contributing to the local economy in recent years.

Technology, and the digital revolution, has played a critical role in how we relate to each other and how we do business. When I was undertaking my PhD we stored data and ran statistical programs through main-frame computers using punched data cards.

These major changes in the structure of the regional economy and how we all do business have meant redefining what information the foundation collects and how we collect it.

In those early years the foundation had a focus on collecting physical resource information. As the needs of the community changed so did the demands on the foundation. The community wanted current information that was relevant to their needs.

As a result, the foundation developed its regional economic monitoring program, which collected information directly from households and businesses and which could be benchmarked to similar information collected at a national level.

Over the last decade the foundation began its work to track the overall well-being of our community. Our research demonstrates that personal relationships, individual health and perceived relative wealth are the main contributors to a person’s feeling of life satisfaction.

In closing, I would like to remind those in decision-making roles that investing in regional research is an investment in the future of NSW. The foundation has been an integral part of the evolution on one of Australia’s pre-eminent regional economies and should serve as an excellent example of how governments can help regions to help themselves.

Let’s hope we can re-establish that partnership in the near future.

Low-cost TV rules as networks chase cheap news

New data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows why commerical free-to-air broadcasters love news and current affairs: it’s dirt cheap.The reason free-to-air commercial broadcasters are so fond of news, current affairs and sports programming was made abundantly clear in new data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday – it is dirt cheap.
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According to the data, the FTA commercial networks produced 57 times as much news and current affairs programming in 2011-12 as they did drama – more than 36,000 hours versus 632 hours. TV news and current affairs costs just $14,000 per hour to produce, one-fortieth the cost of an hour of drama at an average of $560,000.

The figures will add fuel to the production sector’s concerns that recent changes to the commercial licence arrangements – in which the FTA commercial broadcasters were given a permanent 50 per cent discount in return for showing more Australian content, but of any sort at all – is likely to produce an increase only in low-cost programming rather than the more expensive drama, documentary and children’s content.

The ABS analysis showed that news and current affairs is by far the largest contributor to the commercial networks’ programming slate, comprising almost half of all programming. Sport is a close second, with “sport and other” content accounting for just over 40 per cent of all broadcast hours. Although the number of hours for this category was not given – on the grounds of “commercial confidentiality” – the maths suggest it was 31,513 hours – about 40 per cent of the total broadcast hours – at a total cost of $450.3 million. That equates to just $14,289 per hour.

The licence fee discount granted by Senator Stephen Conroy in March has been estimated to be worth about $130 million a year collectively to the networks. In return, each is required to broadcast an additional 730 hours of Australian content across its digital channels next year, rising to 1460 hours in 2015.

At an average cost of $14,000 an hour, that suggests they will be between $68 million and $99 million a year better off. If they fill their quotas with repeats – which they legally could do – the bottom line could be even better.

The survey of the film, television and computer games industries, which was last conducted five years ago, produced some other surprises.

The subscription television sector is now worth almost as much as the free-to-air commercial sector, both having estimated income of just over $4.65 million in 2011-12.

Total income in the film and video production sector – those companies and individuals actually making content – was $2.19 billion, an increase of 38 per cent since the last survey in 2006-07. The sector employed 13,414 people, an increase of 23 per cent.

But the value of the post-production sector has declined by 25 per cent over the same period, to $329.6 million, despite a 30 per cent rebate that has helped attract foreign film productions, such as the current Will Smith sci-fi adventure After Earth, to the country. Employment in the sector dropped by 21 per cent over the same period, to 2346.

But the hardest-hit sector was game development, which has shed almost 60 per cent of its workforce – down from 1431 in 2006-07 to 581 in 2011-12 – as large foreign computer games developers have shifted work back home or to other cheaper markets in response to the high dollar. Total income for the sector was down from $136.9 million to $89.4 million.

The sector was offered some small solace, however, as the first recipients of the federal government’s new interactive games fund were announced at a Screen Australia conference in Canberra.

Ten companies received a total of $6 million in enterprise funding, designed to help them develop as viable businesses over the medium term. Six of the companies were from Melbourne, further cementing the city’s reputation as a hotspot for app and game development.

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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Officers break down in court over shot colleague

Shot dead while on duty: Senior Constable David Rixon. Photo: Barry SmithA police officer lying bloodied on the ground, colleagues frantically trying to help him, and an alleged gunman groaning while curled up in the foetal position.
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Two Tamworth police officers became emotional in court on Thursday as they recalled that scene, which confronted them the morning Senior Constable David Rixon was shot near a block of units on Lorraine Street.

Inspector Kylie Endemi, who was rostered on as duty officer on the morning of March 2, 2012, recalled Senior Constable Rixon lying on his back, with two colleagues kneeling by his side trying to resuscitate him.

At times, her voice cracked as she gave evidence.

That morning, 49-year-old Michael Allan Jacobs, the man accused of shooting Senior Constable Rixon, was also lying on the ground injured, having been shot by the officer, the court heard.

Jacobs has pleaded not guilty to murdering Senior Constable Rixon.

The jury has been told Jacobs blamed another man, Terrance “Terry” Price, for the shooting when police arrived at the units.

Inspector Endemi said she instructed other officers to locate Mr Price, and they later took him into custody.

Crown prosecutor Pat Barrett has previously told the court Mr Price denied having anything to do with the shooting, and police did not find any gunshot residue on his hands.

The court heard Mr Price told police who arrived at his home: “I’ve been here with my missus all night. I didn’t shoot anyone.”

Under cross-examination from Jacobs’ defence barrister, Tim Hoyle, SC, Inspector Endemi remembered seeing Jacobs lying on the concrete outside the units.

“He was lying in the foetal position on his right hand aside,” she told the NSW Supreme Court in Sydney. “He was groaning.”

Constable Hayley Simshauser said she saw Senior Constable Rixon lying on the ground with blood on the front of his body.

“When you got there the picture confronting you was obviously a very distressing one. There were a lot of police there and Senior Constable Rixon was clearly very badly injured and people were doing what they could to help him?” Mr Hoyle asked.

“Yes,” Constable Simshauser replied, before briefly breaking down.

“Your attention was focused on this rather than making precise notes on what happened?” “Yes,” she said.

She said she was instructed to tape off Lorraine Street, before later going with other officers to take Terry Price into custody.

Jacobs’ trial continues before Justice Richard Button.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

‘I would have thrown away the key’: father’s feelings of deja vu as man who killed his daughter allegedly attacks woman at bus stop

Killed: Vanessa Hoson. The bus stop where the alleged attack took place. Photo: Ben Rushton
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Murderer on parole ‘trying to kill again’

If it was up to Keith Hoson, the man who raped and murdered his daughter Vanessa in 1990 would have been locked away forever.

“I would have thrown away the key, for sure,” said the heartbroken father who has spent the past 24 years coming to terms with an event that tore his family apart.

Instead, the 46-year-old convicted rapist and murderer was released on parole last August and on Wednesday night was arrested for allegedly bashing, stabbing and attempting to rape a woman at a Hunters Hill bus stop in an attack that was interrupted by a passing motorist.

Terrence Leary has been charged with eight offences and is accused of wounding the woman with intent to murder.

A horrible sense of deja vu came over Mr Hoson when he received a call from the NSW State Parole Authority on Thursday morning to tell him that Terrence Leary, the man who raped Vanessa in their Kenthurst home, bashed her with a hammer and dumped her body in a Dural car park, was once again behind bars.

“When he had his trial originally, the psychiatrist said he didn’t think he could ever be rehabilitated,” said Mr Hoson, 68, who moved to the mid north coast when he retired 14 years ago.

“Each time he came up for parole, I would go down to Sydney for the parole meetings and they rejected him for about eight or nine years. From what I understand he wouldn’t admit to what he did and he wouldn’t take on any courses or anything like that.”

But Mr Hoson is not angry that Leary was eventually released on parole after serving 22-and-a-half years of his sentence.

He would rather that than he be kept in prison until January 2014 when his sentence would have been completed and he would have been released into the community without any monitoring.

Instead, he despairs that Leary would ever be allowed out of jail at all.

When the sentence of 24 years with a non-parole period of 15 years was handed down, Mr Hoson said he had “lost respect for society”.

“We don’t know why it happened. There’s nothing I can say to explain it – we’ve just lost all respect for society,” he said in 1990.

Vanessa’s mother Helen, who lives in Sydney, said at the time that she prayed the killer would get a life sentence.

“You are supposed to die before your children,” she told a newspaper.

The judge said Leary suffered an abnormal personality and had consumed alcohol and probably smoked marijuana before he left a Kellyville party, drove to the Hosons’ home and climbed in Vanessa’s bedroom window.

The judge said Leary was a “danger to the community” and would not be released during the maximum term of 24 years unless assessments showed he was no longer dangerous.

These days, Mr Hoson has accepted the fact that the punishment was the maximum penalty available to the judge at the time but it is still cold comfort for him.

“I didn’t get vicious until about 12 months after Vanessa’s death,” he said. “It’s the sort of thing that affects people in different ways. At first it just stunned me but then I got really angry and if I had’ve got hold of him then I’d have probably ended up in jail too.

“There was a time when I could be driving down Parramatta Road and all of a sudden I’d burst out in tears. It’s something you handle in different ways.

“I think after a while, you come to realise that all you can do is adjust for the fact that he’s been given what he’s been given and there’s not much you can do about it unless you know somebody very important.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Yield spread narrowing rapidly

The yield advantage on Australian sovereign bonds may crash to the least since 2001 as the Reserve Bank bank shows it’s willing to cut record-low interest rates even further, CBA says.
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The extra yield benchmark Australian notes offer over US counterparts will shrink to 80 basis points by 2015 and may drop to as little as 50, Commonwealth Bank forecasts.

Economists expect the to narrow to 87 basis points by September 2014, according to a Bloomberg survey, after touching 107 yesterday, the least since November 2008.

The Reserve Bank said this week it retains scope to cut rates as the economy is dragged down by the end of a record mining investment boom and manufacturing struggles to fill the gap. Lower borrowing costs would further reduce sovereign yields and weaken the Aussie dollar just as the US Federal Reserve signals it may reduce monetary stimulus this year.

“We are going to have a slowdown in Australia, and if things go badly, it could turn into a recession,” said Philip Brown, a fixed-income strategist at CBA. If the run of poor data continues in Australia against the backdrop of a resurgent US, a spread of 50 basis points is plausible, according to CBA.

The 10-year rate was 3.63 per cent this afternoon, compared with 2.35 per cent for similar-dated US Treasuries. Australian sovereign debt returned 1.2 per cent from the end of March to June 18, while US bonds handed investors a 1 per cent loss, Bank of America Merrill Lynch indexes show.

The gap to Treasuries reached 51 basis points on March 28, 2006, the least since May 2001, before soaring to a decade-high of 277 in February 2008.

“The inflation outlook as currently assessed might provide some scope for further easing, should that be required to support demand,” the RBA said this week in minutes from its June 4 meeting, when it left its benchmark at 2.75 per cent.

The central bank repeated that resource investment was near its peak and would remain high for the next year or so. There was “considerable uncertainty” beyond that, it said.

Manufacturing has failed to signal it can pick up the slack. It contracted for a 15th month in May, after dropping to a four-year low the month before, according to purchasing managers surveys by Australian Industry Group.

“It’s the transition phase in the Australian economy that’s concerning the market,” said Steven Mansell, the Sydney-based head of Group of 10 rates strategy for the Asia-Pacific region at Citigroup. “The market will hold on to expectations of lower policy rates, whereas the only way is up in the US.”

Swaps markets are pricing in 28 basis points, or 0.28 percentage point, of RBA cuts over the coming year, while they see the equivalent of 16 basis points of tightening at the Fed, according to Credit Suisse indexes.

US economic growth has trailed Australia’s since 2006. It will recover to match the South Pacific nation by 2015, with both nations’ output increasing 3 per cent that year, according to the median forecast of economists polled by Bloomberg. Strategists raised their forecasts for the possibility of an Australian recession in the next 12 months to 10 per cent this month, from 5 per cent in May.

“With all the liquidity awash in the world, and an uncertain world with no growth, what you do is search for yield, and Australia’s triple-A bond market was one of the primary beneficiaries,” said Sam Tuck, a senior foreign-exchange manager at ANZ. “Now that can start to unwind.”

Bloomberg

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.