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    Cricket World Cup 2015: Toss can go either way on home-ground advantage

    2018 - 11.21

    Live coverageSteve Smith’s golden run continuesFinch battles to shake slump with hard-fought 81

    Australian cricketers playing in India used to have to contend with dysentery, hepatitis, dengue fever and rodent-infested hotels, not to mention crowd riots and questionable umpiring.

    Times have changed: for an away game against India this week, they can sleep in their own beds and travel no further than Moore Park.

    Such is the globalised (or cricket-globalised, meaning Indian) nature of the ICC World Cup, Thursday’s much anticipated semi-final will have India hosting Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground. India have outdrawn Australia in Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne.

    Their Swami Army is but a division in the masses they bring to Sydney. The crowd is likely to be dominated by pale blue shirts, in numbers and also in decibels.

    Former Australian fast bowler Gordon Rorke once likened the noise at an Indian cricket match to “having a radio on at full blast in your ear all day”.

    “Even when you weren’t playing in the match, it was exhausting.”

    Australian venues have been getting an earful of India ever since a rejuvenated M. S. Dhoni’s World Cup juggernaut woke up and got rolling more than a month ago.

    World Cup cricket is different. Even the SCG wicket will withhold any home-ground familiarity from the Australians. Preparing pitches in the autumn, with winter coming, has seen curator Tom Parker lay out fresh, fizzy strips in the past fortnight that have also been soft enough to offer hope to spin bowlers. India are prepared for both, with two wily spinners, R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, to complement a wound-up pace attack led by Mohammed Shami. Australia, comparatively, have all their eggs in the fast-bowling basket.

    A final in Melbourne awaits on Sunday. The Black Caps will be there. Which of the black hats will meet them? New Zealand have played their cricket in a notably amiable spirit, as did their semi-final opponents, South Africa.

    For the relentlessly combative Australia and India, who have been quarrelling since November, there is no such pax. Each side has a kennel of attack dogs. Whose will be let out first – India’s Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma or Australia’s David Warner and Shane Watson – will depend on who first begins to feel desperate.

    With India undefeated in the World Cup and amnesiac about their troubles against Australia during the spring and summer, this could well be the last game of a season for the Australians that started in grief and will end, whatever the result on the field, in sorrow.

    It has been a long four months since Phillip Hughes lost his life after being knocked down on this turf, and for that reason alone his teammates will regard it as theirs to defend.

    Their truce with India only lasted days, but at the end of this match they will each be able to lay down their equipment and call it quits. For the veterans on the losing side, the coloured clothing will be put away for good and the quiet reflection will begin. For the winners, whoever they are, there will be home-ground advantage on Sunday.

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    Bookshop displays the stuff people leave behind in books

    2018 - 11.21

    Who are they? For 12 years bookshop owner Ben Kemp has been collecting stuff that falls out of secondhand books, including photos of weddings, families and even a man pointing a gun. Photo: Simon SchluterA St Kilda bookshop has built a large collection of stuff found in old books.

    If you look twice, says Ben Kemp, co-owner of Bookhouse, it’s more than a pile of photos, locks of hair, weird notes and letters. “Each one’s a story.”

    A circa 1940s bride, in full veil, white dress and bouquet, beams out from a black and white wedding photo – which has been torn. Was there a bitter divorce?


    In a colour photo, a bald man wearing bling and a leather coat points a real-looking gun at the camera (below). Is he rehearsing a drug deal? Or a gangsta music video?


    In a note Mr Kemp found, a woman called Nicole apologises to someone, for making a pass at them the day before. She awkwardly makes light of it, suggesting they go swimming today, as “friends”.

    In more than a decade, Mr Kemp and wife Margot McCartney have collated 400 items, posting some online on Instagram, https://instagram苏州美甲美睫培训学校/lostbetweenthecovers/ and on the wall of their shop, in Robe Street.

    Among them is a photo of what looks like former politicians Frank and Simon Crean and their family (below).


    A jubilant teenager with a blonde perm and Jenny-Kee style jumper sits on the bonnet of her snazzy 1980s sedan. It must be her first car, or is the day she got her licence?


    A young couple gazes blissfully at each other (below). You wonder, was it their first date? Are they still together? Or did they have a terrible row and split up the next day?


    And who is Friederich Benjamin (below)? Presumably the elderly man behind the sign among a large group of people. Are they his family? His employees? Or is he a loved church elder?


    Mr Kemp also has photo negatives of a “very well known Australian pop-rock star” posing on a boat “with a whole lot of naked girls”, but he’s not naming names. “I thought we might send them back to him, anonymously.”

    Recently Mr Kemp’s own son, Bede, recognised a blonde woman photographed sitting on a bed eating from a plate, and it turned out to be his mate’s mother in younger days.

    A circa 1930s letter mentioned a mural on a wall of a backyard in South Yarra. Ms McCartney sent the letter to the current owners of the house, and they scraped back the paint on the same wall to find the mural, just as described.

    In other books Mr Kemp has found money, mainly old $1 and $2 notes – “I’m waiting for the big one” – and a white powder in a plastic pouch that may have been drugs.

    There are more than 20 locks of hair, “always in a little envelope”. Usually hair comes without a note, so we’ll never know if they’re keepsakes of an adoring grandma, or a fetishist who snipped them off train passengers.

    One of the most intriguing finds was a white DVD, labelled in green texta: ‘Mitch and Rob’s Massive Bangkok Adventure’. Mr Kemp hasn’t viewed it – he’s afraid of what he might find.

    Another strange one is a carefully hand-written letter from a boy named Lachlan informing someone called Ali that he fell off a friend’s motorbike. Lachlan’s letter contains one of the actual medical stitches he got on his knee, and a sketch of the wound.

    Mr Kemp can’t bring himself to discard any item in case they mean something to someone. To claim one, there is no fee or interrogation. “You just have to say, ‘that’s me’ or ‘I know who that is’ and I’ll give it to you.”

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    How an Australian building’s unique design inspired a scientific breakthrough

    2018 - 11.21

    ANU researcher Andrey Miroshnichenko outside the Nishi building. Photo: Graham TidyLike hundreds of commuters  Andrey Miroshnichenko drives past the Nishi building in Canberra every day on his way to work.

    But the ANU physicist now looks at the building in a whole new light after he and a team of researchers were able to re-create its unusual zigzagging exterior on a small scale to provide the breakthrough they needed on their quest to put a perfect bend in light.

    “One day… about September or October last year I looked at it and thought this is exactly what we need for our next step,” he said.

    Dr Miroshnichenko and his fellow researchers, led by Professor Yuri Kivshar, found that by arranging a single line of particles in a zigzag shape light was forced to the edges of material.

    The building inspired Dr Miroshnichenko to think of replicating the effect with multiple zigzags allowing light to travel unhindered by irregularities over a 3D surface.

    Creating a topological insulator could lead to an improved computer chip using light and may also be used in microscopes, antennas and quantum computers.

    The concept has already been applied to electronics, but the new approach could allow an optical version to be created.

    “We expect it should help to propagate light around sharp corners which is required in optical chips to make computers work by light not by electrons,” Dr Miroshnichenko said.

    “To make them [the chips] compact sharp corners have to be fabricated and usually with conventional materials such sharp corners are bad regions because light tends to escape around corners, it doesn’t want to bounce.

    “With this type of material… the full information can be transmitted from one end to another without the loss of any bit of information.”

    It took a year to build the first experiment with the single line of particles and now the researchers will build a prototype using multiple zigzags.

    “It’s expected the next Nobel prize will be awarded for the discovery of such materials [to transmit electrons] now a similar hunt exists to create similar structures for photons, for light,” Dr Miroshnichenko said.

    “In electronics now they use the process to make really good wires where electrons can propagate fast without a loss in communications.”

    The researchers have found the zigzag topology can be recreated with any material and still have the same effect on light.

    Dr Miroshnichenko admits the breakthrough has changed the way he looks at the Nishi building.

    “My wife actually hates the building, I know inside it’s beautiful… but from the outside it looks unfinished,” he laughed.

    “But now maybe there will be something good associated with it, at least in our minds.”

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    All talk and no action on greater workplace flexibility, research finds

    2018 - 11.21

    Challenging times: Human resources director Shey Hooper. Photo: Edwina PicklesIt took Shey Hooper six months before she could find an employer willing to employ her  part-time  after she had children.

    While there has been a lot of talk about making work more flexible for women returning from maternity leave, a new University of Sydney study has found the talk has not filtered through to the coal face.

    The research, to be published in the UK journal Employee Relations, has found that fewer than one in five employees had a detailed knowledge of flexible work policies.

    Ms Hooper, a human resources director for a commercial real estate firm with two young children, said she recently secured a challenging part-time role as a senior executive, but it was difficult finding a senior position that offered flexibility.

    “In the six months that I was searching for a new position, there were no part-time roles that were advertised or that I was able to apply for.

    “I presented myself as a candidate who could work for three or four days. Many were not open to the idea and just wanted a traditional full-time resource. But fortunately, this company was willing to consider a flexible working arrangement.”

    Rae Cooper, an associate professor in Work and Organisational Studies at the University of Sydney Business School, said the study, based on long interviews with 44 employees and 22 line managers, had identified a significant gap between what should happen in theory and day-to-day practice in workplaces.

    “In the last 10 years, we have had more policy development around flexible work, both at the national and the organisational level, to allow for a more meaningful combination of work and family life,” she said.

    “If you don’t allow women to do that in a meaningful way, you lack a capacity for women to build a career and have children.

    “Unless you make it possible for women to make their career trajectory work, you are going to have women working at a lower level or dropping out. Mothers will often choose to work at a lower level over longer hours.”

    Professor Cooper, who co-authored the study with university colleague Professor Marian Baird, said less than 20 per cent of employees had a good working knowledge of policies designed to improve workplace flexibility.

    Because many managers were not versed in policies to improve flexibility, they were not being implemented.

    “Line manager support is critical for making flexible arrangements acceptable, encouraged and manageable for working parents,” Professor Cooper said.

    “It is in the interest of senior managers to educate people about these policies.

    “We have formal policies – but informal negotiations about them because people often don’t read them.”

    Professor Cooper said women were more likely to go to family and friends and mothers groups for advice instead of approaching their human resources department, a union or a specialist advice line.

    When it came to negotiating more flexible working arrangements, they were more likely to say they wanted reduced hours, but rarely had a conversation about how their performance would be measured or how they would deal with work they could not complete within those shorter hours. This often led to women doing many hours of unpaid work.

    The new study, funded by the Australian Research Council, comes as national figures show the gender pay gap in Australia has increased from 17.8 per cent to 18.8 per cent since 1985.

    But Diversity Council Australia chief executive officer Lisa Annese said Australian data published by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency said many employers are still failing to maximise their female talent.

    “There’s no quick fix here – employers need to do the hard yards. Strategies like actively sponsoring women and other diverse talent into leadership positions, addressing bias at every level, adopting broader definitions of what leadership looks like, and public accountability via reporting on measurable outcomes will actually deliver results,” Ms Annese said.

    “It is concerning that underemployment has increased from 5.3 per cent to 11.2 per cent in the last 30 years.

    “Once you have been sidelined off a full-time career path, it is hard to get the employment level you want.”

    Ms Annese said women often had to settle for lower wages because they were seen as aggressive when making a case for an increase.

    “Women are often told they should speak up more, but when they do, they are often punished for it,” she said.

    “Some of it is downright discrimination and some of it is not conscious.

    “The fact that the gender pay gap is increasing shows it is insidious.”

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    Public servants stripped of compo rights in Comcare crackdown

    2018 - 11.21

    “The flaws in the system were highlighted in lurid terms by the infamous ‘hotel room sex case’,” said Senator Eric Abetz. Photo: Andrew Meares “The flaws in the system were highlighted in lurid terms by the infamous ‘hotel room sex case’,” said Senator Eric Abetz. Photo: Andrew Meares

    “The flaws in the system were highlighted in lurid terms by the infamous ‘hotel room sex case’,” said Senator Eric Abetz. Photo: Andrew Meares

    More public service news

    The Commonwealth’s 160,000 public servants are to be stripped of some of their generous workers’ compensation benefits as the government moves to end the “rorting and malingering” that has dogged the bureaucracy for years.

    The government says the Comcare scheme is seen by the community as a “soft touch”, “that invites rorting”.

    There will be a crackdown on mental injury claims, taxpayer-funded alternative therapies, public servants spending years or even decades away from their jobs and compensation paid over the “reasonable actions” of departmental bosses.

    Under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment Bill 2015 workers seeking a payout will have to prove their injury is work-related, in a change designed to prevent any repeat of the infamous “sex-in-a-motel” legal saga that cost taxpayers $600,000.

    But lawyers are furious with one of the profession’s peak groups, the Australian Lawyers Alliance, describing the proposed changes as harsh, unfair and an attack on the rights of injured workers.

    Reform of the scheme has been on the cards since 2012 when a review urged sweeping reform to try to contain the cost of Comcare which at the time was running at a half-a-billion dollar loss.

    Comcare has clawed its way back into the black, largely through a sharp rise in insurance premiums charged to government agencies, to $411 million in 2014, causing bitter resentment at the top of the cash-strapped public service.

    One big premium payer, the ACT Government, lost patience with the pace of reform and announced in February it was taking its 20,000 employees out of Comcare after being slapped with a $95 million bill in 2014-2015.

    Launching his legislation on Wednesday, Employment Minister Eric Abetz said Comcare was a “good scheme” but claims like the motel sex case had been undermining the system and ruining things for the vast majority of public servants who did the right thing.

    “There are too many cases like this,” he said.

    “They simply encourage rorting and malingering, waste taxpayers’ money and undermine the thousands of hard-working public servants who do not try to take advantage of the loopholes in the system.”

    If the government can get its bill through the Parliament, future claimants will face tougher requirements to take part in rehab programs and “injury management” as well as rules that any therapies will have to be “evidence-based” if taxpayers are to foot the bill.

    Compo-funded expatriate lifestyles will be curtailed with payments cut off if the claimant is absent from Australia for more than six weeks.

    There will be higher lump sum payments for employees with severe or multiple injuries, and lower payments for those with minor injuries, taking into account pre-existing conditions, according to a fact sheet distributed with the legislative changes.

    There will be caps on medical and legal costs and taxpayer-funded carers will have to be qualified. The legislation will also introduce a “three-stage sanctions regime” enabling a claimant to be kicked off benefits if they refuse to comply with the insurer’s directions.

    But ALA National President Andrew Stone blasted the changes on Wednesday, saying Senator Abetz was using isolated example of extreme cases to justify an attack on the care and rehab of injured workers.

    “The reality is that the changes proposed will make it more difficult for employees to get the care and rehabilitation they need, compounded by injured workers also facing greater pressure to re-enter the workforce prematurely,” Mr Stone said.

    “This includes through proposed harsher rehabilitation requirements, a reduction in the current weekly wage-loss payments, and the introduction of a harsher test workers will have to go through in proving work was a significant contributing factor to their injury.”

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