Herald Breakfast – February 13 2015

The forecast rain may spoil some weekend plans, but the clouds provided a stunning morning sky for Instagrammer @boskophoto. Beachwatch:As far as the date goes it might be a black Friday but we willsee plenty of blue sky, so another good day beachside. Thewind will be light from the north at first before heading eastto north-east and freshening while the swell is from the eastaround 1 to 1.3 metres. Once again wave conditions at mostbeaches will be a bit lumpy with the northern ends being thebetter value.
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Weather: Showers in Newcastle on Friday (26 degrees) with the rain expected to linger into the weekend (27 degrees Saturday, 29 degrees Sunday). Similar conditions in Maitland across the weekend (30 degrees and a shower or two Saturday, 33 degrees and showers on Sunday) while Scone is expected to receive just an afternoon shower or two on Friday (31 degrees) and possible showers on the weekend (33 degrees Saturday, 34 degrees Sunday).

Traffic: No major incidents reported on Hunter roads.

Trains: No major incidents or delays reported on the Hunter or Newcastle lines. Buses replace trains between Newcastle and Hamilton.

Morning Shot: The forecast rain may spoil some weekend plans, but the clouds provided a stunning morning sky for Instagrammer @boskophoto.

Newcastle man dies after waterfall fall: THE24-year-oldNewcastle man died while on holiday in Thailand.

Huntlee draws ICAC’s eye:THE NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption has the controversial Huntlee housing development in its sights.

Bright signs for Hunter economy: HUNTER manufacturers and tourists will continue to benefit from the lower Australian dollar and dramatic drop in unleaded petrol prices, the Hunter Research Foundation’s latest economic indicators reveal.

Hunter Bandidos chapter boss among 10 drug arrests:PHOTOS, VIDEOTHICK wads of hundred-dollar bills, a kilogram of cocaine, pistols with home-made silencers, knuckle dusters, steroids, a doctor’s prescription pad and pills of Viagra.

Griffiths blasts Stubbins in emotional outburst:PROFESSIONAL Footballers Australia has warned the Newcastle Jets they could be sued for ‘‘bullying and harassment’’ if five unwanted players are not allowed to join their teammates in full training.

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Barack Obama resorts to selfie-stick in BuzzFeed video to sell health insurance

Barack Obama shows off a new level of cool in the BuzzFeed video. Photo: BuzzFeed US President Barack Obama captures himself on a selfie stick in this still from the video. Photo: BuzzFeed
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Barack Obama shows off a new level of cool in the BuzzFeed video. Photo: BuzzFeed

But he isn’t above poking fun at himself either. Photo: Supplied

Barack Obama doodles his love in the spoof video. Photo: BuzzFeed

Barack Obama shows off a new level of cool in the BuzzFeed video. Photo: BuzzFeed

Barack Obama shows off a new level of cool in the BuzzFeed video. Photo: BuzzFeed

Using a selfie-stick, posing in front of his mirror, doodling pictures of his wife Michelle and playing imaginary basketball in his office: these are the things United States President Barack Obama supposedly does when he’s alone.

That’s the premise at least of a video he has recorded for BuzzFeed, the news, pop culture and listicle website, in a calculated and apparently already successful effort to reach young voters.

Like his controversial appearance on the Funny or Die web series ‘Between Two Ferns’ with Zach Galifianakis in 2014, Obama participated in the self-mocking BuzzFeed video, published on Thursday in the US, as part of a strategy to sell his healthcare policy to young Americans.

BuzzFeed shared the video of Obama on their Facebook page with the message: “How did we get Obama to use a selfie stick? Oh, because he wants you to go to https://www.healthcare.gov/.”  Things everybody does but doesn’t talk about, featuring President Obama http://t.co/Kd6qUbauxmpic.twitter南京夜网/6nYMfeKDXv — BuzzFeed (@BuzzFeed) February 12, 2015 President Obama wants YOU to #GetCovered by February 15: http://t.co/GNfbft9Ewv Watch → http://t.co/edMm328sv2pic.twitter南京夜网/Ws1rTHRDC6 — The White House (@WhiteHouse) February 12, 2015The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon in a comedic segment called ‘Slow Jam The News’, where he performed with Fallon and the band The Roots, to promote his policy on student loans.

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Mobile data hands Telstra Corporation profit lift

Surging data usage has helped Telstra record its strongest mobile revenue growth in three years as the telecommunications provider increased half-year profits to $2.1 billion.
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That result compared with a $1.7 billion net profit in the prior corresponding period even as total income fell slightly.

That meant, having increased its dividend in the two prior reporting periods, Telstra kept its half-year return to investors at 15¢ to be paid on March 27.

Telstra will also offer shareholders the chance to invest their payouts back into the company through a dividend investment plan following the final dividend payment in September.

“We want to have sustainable long-term growth in dividends and that’s really important. As the ramp in the NBN, we do get more cash, but I just want to stress that hasn’t happened yet,” Telstra chief executive David Thodey said in an indication he will look to raise dividends in the future.

Telstra said it expected full-year earnings to be in line with last year’s, excluding a $561 million gain it made from the sale of Hong Kong mobile provider CSL.

Growth across the company would offset the loss of CSL’s operating revenue, the telco said. Total revenue from continuing operations edged up 0.7 per cent to $12.7 billion. Total income from continuing and discontinued operations fell 1.1 per cent to $13 billion.

Mobile revenue was the stand out performer increasing 9.6 per cent to $5.3 billion, the strongest growth rate in three years. The number of mobile subscribers jumped 366,000 in the six months to December, taking Telstra’s mobile customer base to 16.4 million. Postpaid churn increased 1.4 percentage points to 12 per cent.

Revenue growth in mobile was driven by customers increasing their mobile spend. Average revenue per user for postpaid mobile increased 4.4 per cent to $69.71, excluding MRO (mobile repayment option).

Mr Thodey said that customers in mobile and fixed line were increasing their data plans.

“Customers are using these services more and they are willing to pay more for it,” Mr Thodey said.

By Comparison, SingTel-Optus, which on Thursday reported its results for the three months to December, saw its subscriber base fall by 12,000 users to 9.4 million.

Mr Thodey conceded that mobile subscriber growth has been higher, however, he was still pleased with the result.

“Yes, it wasn’t the same as it was half a year ago, but in anyone’s language it’s a good strong result. Churn was up a little bit, but it’s still world class,” Mr Thodey said.

Margins in Telstra’s mobile division held at 40 per cent.

“As you have a recontracted base and you’re not spending as much in terms of handset subsidies you’d expect that [margins would increase],” Mr Thodey said.

“There are some other aspects you’ve got to take into account at the same time; pricing pressures et cetera. But, we’re very focused on margins and making sure we get a good return for investment.”

Fixed-line revenue continued its steady decline, falling 1.7 per cent to $3.5 billion. The network applications services portfolio, which includes cloud storage and IT services, increased revenue by 18.1 per cent to $1 billion.

“I think they just want to give an option to the shareholders, instead of getting cash and getting taxed for it, you might as well just participate in getting more shares in the company,” CLSA analyst Roger Samuel said.

Mr Samuel said he thought some retail shareholders would have preferred an increase in Telstra dividend.

“I think the reason they may have held the dividend back is they may have to do something in terms of pricing given that Optus is getting more aggressive in mobile and fixed broadband, so I think they’re a bit more cautious with Optus waiting in the wings.”

Telstra shares finished the day down 0.6 per cent at $6.45. Interest in Australia’s largest telecommunications provider has seen shares swell more than 26 per cent over the last 12 months and hit a 14-year high of $6.735 earlier in February.

Telstra’s shares were trading at a significant premium compared with other telcos around the world, however domestic market factors should support earnings, investor returns and the share price, Citi analyst Justin Diddams said.

“The near-term operational outlook looks encouraging for Telstra, with continued market share gains, cost levers and acquisitions driving earnings growth,” Mr Diddams said.

“At the same time, the NBN deal starts to provide incremental cash for reinvestment and/or increase shareholder returns.”

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Telstra earnings exceed forecast as upgrades pay off

The superiority of Telstra’s network has successfully differentiated it from the rest.The billions Telstra has spent on its mobile network and new spectrum have allowed it to further open its lead on competitors and deliver earnings that were ahead of market expectations.
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It continues to increase its number of mobile subscribers but more importantly, customers are spending more money on these devices as the 4G and 4Gx-enabled phones become more widely available and customers ramp up data use.

Revenue increase in mobiles was  particularly strong at 9.6 per cent  in the December 2015 half – the clear driver in overall revenue lift of 1.1 per cent relative to the previous corresponding period.

Normalising the result for the distortion created by last year’s sale of Telstra’s of Hong Kong business  CSL – thus comparing apples with apples – this result would represent a 6.2 per cent improvement in income and a 3.5 per cent lift in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation.

And this now seems the kind of result  the market will be expecting in the full year – on a  normalised basis.

This is a stellar result for a company that houses large legacy assets in structural decline and for which the next generation of growth business is still in its relative infancy.

Having said that, the decline in fixed-line voice (PSTN) was not as steep as it has been in recent years.

There are plenty of headwinds facing Telstra but it seems that competition from its traditional mobile rivals, Optus and Vodafone, is not one that the management is too concerned about.

The superiority of Telstra’s network has successfully differentiated it from the rest and enabled it to increase subscribers in a fairly mature market – albeit not at a break-neck rate. And it also managed to retain margins in this business steady at 40 per cent.

Optus reported strong quarterly revenue growth on Thursday but its mobile subscriber base dell slightly, when mobile broadband numbers were included.

Thodey said he was pleased to see Optus investing money in building its network and noting there would be additional competition in some segments but overall, he said “nothing has changed in the past five years and we don’t think it will change in the next five years”.

But not all Telstra’s gains were market-share related. The trend towards multiple phones, multiple sims for one handset and the addition of devices using sims – such as tablets – has also given subscriber numbers a boost.

Meanwhile Telstra scored some positive results from its emerging business division, Network Application Services, where revenue rose 18 per cent.

The other climbing revenue generator is payments to Telstra from the NBN. It contributed $385 million in the half, up from $294 million, and while Telstra boss David Thodey is canny about providing an outlook on revenue from NBN, it will only be growing as compensation for customer transition and access infrastructure payments continue.

This result will provide those dividend-thirsty investors with some hope that there will be room for further capital management.

Telstra had a relatively modest $1 billion buyback last year – one that was unsurprisingly oversubscribed.

If the data-driven improvements in the mobile business continue at this pace, the pressure to increase shareholder returns will rebuild. No one is expecting another buyback soon but a bit more generosity in dividend payments is anticipated.

Balancing shareholder desire for improved dividend yield against Telstra’s desire to invest in new growth business will always create some tension. But Thodey remains steadfast that the capital management parameters remain clear – the company sticks within its articulated payout ratio while utilising its franking credits.

The company also reintroduced its popular dividend reinvestment program, which it said was a response to feedback from shareholders at the company’s previous annual meeting.

The phenomenal growth in Telstra’s share price during the past couple of years, to the point where its trades on a  price earnings multiple that is well in excess of the broader market, creates its own set of pressures.

On Thursday, Telstra’s share price barely responded to the positive earnings result. It is another stock that is priced for unattainable perfection.

Meanwhile Thodey joined the growing chorus of company executives calling for political certainty and stability from our leaders in Canberra.

He didn’t necessarily  blame the ruckus in politics for the current lack of consumer confidence in Australia but said he wanted politicians to move forward and provide the stability needed “so we can start planning … so we can create jobs”.

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Qantas boss Alan Joyce might face a board revolt from ad guru Todd Sampson over the new dress code for its airport lounges

Qantas passengers could soon face another lockout from the flying roo.
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No, the airline’s boss Alan Joyce is not planning to ground his fleet again to bust the unions.

With the coffers starting to look rather flush, Joyce has decided it is time to keep the riff-raff out of Qantas’s premium lounges.

“In response to customer feedback, our minimum smart-casual dress guidelines will be more closely applied to all visitors entering our Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney Qantas Clubs or Business lounges from April 1, 2015,” the airline said.

“Entry may be refused at the discretion of the lounge staff if visitors do not meet the appropriate standard. We want to create a comfortable atmosphere in our lounges that all visitors can enjoy.”

We can’t wait to see what happens when Qantas board member and  T-shirt-wearing ad guru Todd Sampson fronts at a Qantas lounge in April.

After all, Sampson made no concessions to “smart casual” for the annual meeting of CBD’s publisher, Fairfax Media.

Then again, he can always fly Virgin, can’t he?  Playing tough

RBA enforcer and assistant governor Guy Debelle lived up to his tough-guy reputation at the FX Week Australia Conference on Thursday, where he laid down the law to the foreign exchange industry.

Debelle was part of the working group that  put together a report last year on forex benchmarks to “reduce the scope for manipulation” and he warned the market to embrace these reforms, or else.

“There is a strong expectation that these recommendations will be implemented to deliver an improvement in the execution of foreign exchange transactions referencing FX benchmarks and the integrity of the benchmarks themselves,” he said.

“If these recommendations are not implemented, then the likelihood of a regulatory response will increase,” a menacing Debelle said.

As a sign of how seriously he is taking the matter, Debelle, who has played rhythm guitarist and singer for the RBA’s in-house band, The GFC, did not even make room in the speech for one of his favourite bands – Australia’s seminal punk group The Saints.

He famously referenced the The Saints’ song Know Your Product at a securitisation forum in 2011, but he wasn’t offering FX attendees any punk poetry with lines like: “In our preliminary report, the group had sought market feedback on the development of a central netting utility to maximise netting opportunities and reduce the need for customers to provide orders in advance of the fix to dealers.” Test of clout

The NSW Liberal Party has chosen Valentine’s Day to stage the preselection for the ultra-safe seat of Ku-ring-gai, held by wine-loving former premier Barry O’Farrell.

It could provide a good test for the clout billionairess Gina Rinehart, with her media adviser and former radio host Jason Morrison among the contenders this Saturday.

Morrison was playing his cards tight when contacted by CBD: “It’s been a busy week for me with Hancock Prospecting,” he emphasised.

Nothing wrong with a solid Plan B, huh.

If successful, it’s safe to say he won’t be missed by Rinehart’s children, John Hancock and Bianca Rinehart, who have battled their mother, and Morrison’s spin, in their legal battle for control of their inheritance.

They nicknamed him GP – Gina’s Puppy – because he got rewarded for spinning the media against them in the court case. Building stake

The plot thickens at Onthehouse, with its latest corporate activist, Ezidebit founder Michael Dempsey, building his stake in the real estate data group to 19.2 per cent this week.

It should help the cause if he actually gets around to launching another attempt at spilling the board, which only recently added the last round of activists who were baying at the gates.

This included Sandon Capital’s Gabriel Radzyminski and Gannett Capital’s Glenn Poswell, who is in league with Justin Liberman, of the billionaire Liberman family.

Pity all the activism has not helped the share price, which is barely more than half what investors paid in its 2011 IPO.

Got a tip? [email protected]南京夜网.au

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ABS chief David Kalisch: Don’t take the employment numbers too seriously

The new head of the Bureau of Statistics, David Kalisch, wants several hundred million dollars from the government for an entire technology refresh. Photo: Rohan ThomsonThe new head of the Bureau of Statistics has a disarming reply to people who complain that the bureau’s unemployment data is unreliable. It’s to not rely on it.
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The January unemployment rate was 6.4 per cent. David Kalisch says the media and markets should focus instead on what the bureau calls its 95 per cent confidence interval, reporting that the bureau is confident the true rate is between 6 per cent and 6.8 per cent.

It would mean reporting that the total number of Australians in jobs did something between sliding 72,200 in January and climbing 45,800. It would mean reporting that the number of Australians unemployed did something between climbing 74,900 and falling 5900. It would mean acknowledging that the bureau’s employment estimates are even less accurate than is widely believed.

And he says even those broad ranges should not be treated as gospel. “You’ve got to look at whether the numbers are in line with other economic conditions. You’ve got to ask: does this number have a clear alignment with other economic indicators and expectations?”

Kalisch comes to the ABS from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare where he was chief executive. An economics graduate from the University of Adelaide, he has specialised in labour markets for the past three decades, working in Canberra for the Australian government and in Paris for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

He says there’s a good case for merging the ABS with the organisation he used to head,  a move that would bring the bureau more money, more staff and a more externally focused culture. It’s a “live issue” currently before the government.

His immediate priority is more money, a lot of it. When his predecessor as Australian Statistician Brian Pink left in January 2014, he wrote that the bureau had barely enough cash to “keep the lights on”.

Instead of replacing him promptly, the Treasurerand the Prime Minister’s offices tossed around options and deferred the decision until December when they finally gave the job to Kalisch, one of the original applicants from earlier in the year.

Without a chief executive for the best part of a year, the ABS faced a crisis over the arrest of a staff member who later pleaded guilty to insider trading in the labour force figures and a convulsion in the figures themselves, which in August reported an unlikely jump of 121,000 in employment followed in September by what would have been an extraordinary slide of 172,000 had the bureau not disowned the figure and substituted it with something less volatile.

Kalisch says he believes those problems are behind the survey, but he says people need to recognise that it is just that – a survey, of  about 26,000 households conducted once a month. “Any sense that the number is exactly whatever we report to the second decimal point is not an accurate use of those numbers,” he says.

But when asked whether the bureau’s numbers were accurate to even the first decimal place, he deflects the question and says it is “wisest to look at  the published confidence intervals”. They show the bureau is not always confident to first decimal place. They put the true unemployment rate at anywhere from  0.4 of a percentage point lower to 0.4 of a percentage point higher than the published rate. Kalisch says there’s nothing new in this. The range has always been wide.

The bigger problem with the figures is that they are still being prepared on outdated stand-alone computer systems. Some are up to 40 years old and can’t easily talk to each other. They are kept going by the idiosyncratic knowledge of the ABS staff who have nursed them for years. “To make things work requires a number of people with insights into that particular way of, operating,” Kalisch says, acknowledging that “knowledge retention is an issue”.

The calcified operating systems can’t quickly accede to demands to do things differently. They are built to produce things in the way they have always been produced, not to experiment.

Kalisch wants several hundred million dollars from the government for an entire technology refresh – almost as much, but not quite, as the ABS annual $312 million budget.

The project will take at least four years – Kalisch has been appointed for five – and will draw from the experience of other organisations, such as banks, that have had to retool while continuing to deliver their core service.

It will also provide an opportunity to change the nature of the bureau, from an organisation that primarily conducts its own surveys to one that makes greater use of outside data, curating it and turning it into useful products.

The bureau is already using supermarket scanner data to help compile the consumer price index, relying less on its own staff scanning shelves with clipboards.

His vision is for the bureau to mine so-called administrative data held in places such as the tax office, Medicare and education systems to deliver products that tell us things we don’t yet know, such as how a child progresses through the school system, and perhaps how that child gets ill along the way.

These days the ABS is in an environment awash with information, he says. In the 1980s it was something of a monopoly provider.

Kalisch says he has found the staff up for change. “I am finding a workforce that understands we need to engage with a changing world and wants to be part of it. I am seeing more enthusiasm for change than I probably expected.”

Coincident with his arrival, the government is considering merging the ABS with his old employer, the Institute of Health and Welfare. The 2014 Commission of Audit recommended merging the Institute with smaller health organisations. Kalisch thinks the ABS could be a better fit.

“Both organisations have a strong adherence to statistical standards,” he says. “The institute has a strong reputation for engaging with other stakeholders, and it is that dimension that I would like to see more pervasive in the bureau. If government was to accept that as an operating model then I think there would be some synergies in the way both organisations operate. I think they would benefit each other.”

He gives the impression the ABS he will leave in five years will be an organisation different from the one he has just joined.

Peter Martin is economics editor of The Age.

Twitter: @1petermartin

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Gogglebox review: Reality TV passes through the looking glass and it’s weirdly compelling

Gogglebox has all the hallmarks of a hit: great casting, sharp editing and zeitgeist-friendly. Photo: Channel 10 “Would it help to talk about it? Probably. Would it help that it’s happening on television? Probably not,” said Symon. Photo: Gogglebox Instagram
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With Gogglebox, reality TV has passed through the looking glassand perhaps finally landed in the place it always needed to be.

In the 15 years since the genre first landed en masse on our screens, the question has been: why do we want or need ordinary people doing mostly ordinary things beamed in to our living rooms every night? Schadenfreude? Envy? Prurience? A base desire for invading the privacy of others? Those and many other things. And Gogglebox – in which viewers are invited to watch other viewers watching television and observe their reactions – both answers the question and indulges the original instinct in a strange blancmange of televised humanity that works brilliantly in spite of itself.

It should, by rights, be unwatchable – as should some of the dross the Gogglebox viewers are watching for our entertainment. Instead, it’s weirdly compelling. It is also very difficult to review, given that the cast assembled by co-producers Channel Ten and Foxtel often come up with cracking one-line critiques that put we professional critics to shame. One might suggest that in lieu of giving these people a television show, they could have been given a television column and let loose with their observations.

There was this critique of a tattooed father-to-be on One Born Every Minute: “He looks like he’s about to steal the children and sell them on eBay.”

And our older couple, wine-sipping art lovers Mick and Di, watching the same show: Mick: “I recall changing nappies.” Di: “Well it certainly wasn’t our children.”

The producers wisely included big news events of the week, one of them being coverage of the Liberal leadership crisis from Canberra, an event which provided an instant national focus group that wouldn’t have gone over well in the PM’s office.

“Wake me when it’s over,” was one offering.

“He’s an idiot, that man,” was another.

“You’re a dickhead.”

“Big Mal. Get him in. Solid unit.”

And so forth.

Ten nobly avoided making the program all about its own programs. Seven’s My Kitchen Rules got ample airtime, as did Nine’s 60 Minutes and its competing version of the Sydney siege survivors story. If you were wondering how this played in living rooms across the land, here was your answer – it was gruelling, gut-wrenching television that prompted some surprisingly insightful commentary.

“Would it help to talk about it? Probably. Would it help that it’s happening on television? Probably not,” was the view of Symon, one half of the larrikin-mates duo Symon and Adam.

Of course, Ten’s own current offerings did get a healthy look-in – notably, I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here – during which we learned that there are indeed Australians who wouldn’t mind being buried alive and infested by a battalion of rats. And that the return of a middle-aged Marcia Brady to our screens has been both entertaining and traumatic: “Watching her on this has spoiled my whole Brady Bunch experience.”

Whether Gogglebox does the same for our wider experience of TV viewing, or whether it enhances our nightly gathering around the living room camp fire, will be revealed in the ratings results. The show did good business with its Foxtel debut on Wednesday, and is likely to show good returns for Thursday’s free-to-air debut on Ten.

It has all the hallmarks of a hit: great casting, sharp editing, zeitgeist-friendly and effortlessly adaptable to the changing television environment. It is extremely funny, at times oddly moving and suggests reality TV needed to go this step too far. Could it be that what we needed to see was not just real people on the telly – we needed to see just what it is about them that makes us tick? Who knows – perhaps the answer will come when we see the inevitable Gogglebox sequel – people watching people watching people watching television. You know it’s going to happen.

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Surgery team replaces valve on beating heart

Medical experts at St Vincent’s Hospital implant artificial valves while the patient’s heart keeps beating. Photo: Peter RaeSydney doctors have repaired leaking valves on two hearts that were still beating in a pioneering procedure that will save the lives of people at risk of heart failure.
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Rather than stopping the hearts and using a bypass while the valves were repaired, doctors implanted artificial valves inside the old leaky ones while the hearts continued to drum.

Each patient suffered from mitral valve regurgitation, a common condition whereby the valve between the left ventricle and left atrium does not close properly so the blood runs back into the lungs instead of going to the aorta.

Surgeon Paul Jansz said the procedure would improve the quality of life of people who were not good candidates for surgery and buy them more time before their hearts gave out.

“The significant thing is that we don’t have to stop the heart, so we don’t have to put the patient through all the extra rigors of heart surgery,” Dr Jansz said.

The first patient was operated at St Vincent’s Hospital in late November, and after six weeks without complications doctors performed the procedure on another patient on Wednesday.

Sixteen people filled the operating theatre for the second procedure on Wednesday, including surgeons, echocardiographers, anaesthetists, nurses and the industry engineers who designed the device.

Dr Jansz made an incision through the ribs, and head of interventional cardiology David Muller implanted the device that would act as a new valve, guided by anaesthetist Marty Shaw.

Shaped like a flower, the device consists of an artificial valve fashioned from the heart tissue of a pig, which is sewn into a metal cage and tethered to the apex of the heart with string.

As they moved it into position, the team’s patter resembled boatmen easing a craft into the water: “We need to come in a bit more centrally” – “That’s better” – “Little more away, little more in the same direction” – “Clockwise” – “One more little squeeze” – “Big squeeze” – “I’m not going to do any more. I think the orientation looks good.”

Dr Muller said doctors had been able to replace aortic valves for seven or eight years, because they became calcified so a new structure could be easily wedged inside.

“But the mitral apparatus is much more elastic and it changes its diameter with each contraction, so to have something sit there it would fall out without having something there to hold it,” Dr Muller said.

“The unique part of this device is that it’s tethered to the apex of the heart.”

It was also easily removable.

“So there should be no downside to putting it in and trying it. It’s a much less invasive, much better tolerated procedure for patients who are not well.”

Patient Michael Dwyer, 73, was groggy in the aftermath of his operation, but recovering well and expected to be discharged from hospital within days.

His wife, Cheryl, said the procedure had saved his life, after he suffered major organ failure in December.

“He was slowly dying,” Mrs Dwyer said.

“Having this procedure, which is a groundbreaking, revolutionary surgery, it’s a miracle really.”

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Duo hope to be Google of streaming

Tech entrepreneurs Scott and Andrew Julian at their office in Melbourne. Photo: Scott Barbour Tech entrepreneurs Scott Julian (L) and his brother Andrew Julian have developed an app called Gyde, a search engine for multiple TV streaming services. Photo: Scott Barbour
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What if finding good streaming video to watch on your TV was as easy as searching for answers on Google? Now an Australian duo thinks it is.

Melbourne brothers Andrew and Scott Julian have created an app they want to be the Google for streaming shows – a sort of universal remote control for internet TV.

In the next few months, Australians will have access to unprecedented sources of new and old TV shows and movies as Netflix joins Foxtel Presto, Stan, Quickflix and Dendy Direct in offering online entertainment via set-top box, smart TV, portable device, or devices like Chromecast and AppleTV.

Navigating this new, hectic, entertainment pool in a Google-like way is something in which the duo with established data and start-up pedigrees has invested many late nights.

Their search app, Gyde – for the moment only available on iOS devices – allows viewers to define their preferences so it can search multiple streaming providers accordingly. It uses algorithm, user behaviour and content preferences to create content recommendations.

Depending on content provider, users can click straight from the Gyde app to open the provider’s app and watch their selection, or go from the app to the provider, say, the iTunes store, to buy or rent the content, says Andrew Julian who acts as product lead. Users can favourite shows and add favourites to a watch queue.

“Gyde is an app that integrates the increasingly fragmented industry. We aim to unite content from streaming providers with their natural audiences.”

Australian audience demand for international releases, synchronised new season TV content from the US and a tendency for piracy and binge viewing has meant an avalanche of internet-based content options for the new on-demand age.

The imminent launch of dominant global streaming player Netflix in Australia alongside local aspirants Presto and Stan – a joint venture between Nine and Fairfax Media (publisher of this article) – have traditional broadcasters nervous.

Gyde co-founder Scott Julian predicts the Australian streaming market is likely to develop in much the same way as broadcast television did.

“Consumers will find that only having one [streaming] service won’t satisfy them,” he said.

The brothers’ other ventures – Gate13, an online shopping cart started with Scott after Andrew dropped out of university and sold for $1 million when he was 23 and now part of Australia Post, and media analytics company Effective Measure, among others – gave them the tech know-how for Gyde. Their partner Darcy Laycock, one of the key developers of Apple music search app Discovr, added his search and design nous.

The app already claims 100,000 users in the US  where it finds content from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and other providers. The company plans to open an office in Los Angeles this year, to be closer to Hollywood.

Laycock said, unlike the music industry, licensing complexity for movie and TV content makes it impossible for a video version of something like Spotify to exist, hence Gyde.

“This complexity is likely to force consumers to subscribe to multiple sources to get the content they want. If the industry is serious about combating piracy it needs need to make it seamless for people to not only find what to watch but also where they can watch it, making it an easier alternative than the piracy route.”

Foad Fadaghi, managing director of research firm Telsyte, agreed.

“There is a plethora of ways for consumers to access content both legally and illegally which is creating challenges for entertainment providers and consumers alike,” Fadaghi said.

Gyde, already with 100,000 users a month in the US, also has an option aimed at content providers.

“This will help streaming broadcasters gain a deeper understanding of what people want to watch, on what platform and how their content catalogues meet this demand,” Fadaghi said.

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NSW to build first public high-rise high school in Parramatta

An artist’s impression of Arthur Philip High in Parramatta’s CBD Photo: SuppliedThe state’s first public high-rise high school will be built in Parramatta to replace an ageing and overcrowded school that will be swamped with enrolments over the next two decades.
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Arthur Phillip High, in Parramatta’s CBD, will be totally rebuilt by 2019 and its neighbour, Parramatta Public School, will also be rebuilt as part of a $100 million development announced on Thursday by the Premier, Mike Baird.

The new schools will cater for about 3000 students. But Mr Baird said the “world-leading schools” would only be built if his government was given a mandate to sell the state’s electricity poles and wires.

“We have waited a long time to have the funds to ensure our schools are not just leading the nation but leading the world,” Mr Baird said.

“Here at Arthur Phillip High, we will have a high school that is world leading. It will combine two campuses, Arthur Phillip and Parramatta primary, and it will provide an opportunity to  cater for the growth that is coming to this region.”

Mr Baird said the new schools would be “the envy of the world”.

“My question to the people of NSW is pretty simple: why do we have to wait for these type of schools?” Mr Baird said.

The Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, said the Parramatta development would be “the biggest single investment in a school in the state’s history”.

“This is all about improving student results. We have a world-class teaching profession, we are investing in teacher quality and we need the facilities to allow that quality teaching to occur,” Mr Piccoli said.

Mr Piccoli said the new school would be “incredibly amazing”.

He said students would move in to the new school at the beginning of 2019 and although there would be disruption to students, the Department of Education would work hard to ensure “minimal interruption”.

“When the plans are finalised, you will see the recognition of the importance of physical activity has well and truly been catered for,” Mr Piccoli said. “It’s not just going to be a rectangular building.”

St Andrew’s Cathedral School, a private school in Sydney’s CBD, is the only high-rise school in NSW.

The principal of Arthur Phillip, Lynne Goodwin, said the school desperately needed more space but was confident that students would enjoy learning in a high-rise school.

“They’ll love it,” Ms Goodwin said.

Several of the heritage buildings dating back to 1875 would be retained but the 1960s blocks would go, she said.   What it’s like inside a vertical high school

On my first day at St Andrew’s Cathedral School in the city, my mum and I spent half an hour looking for the right turn into Bathurst Street. Being in the heart the city, right next to Town Hall in a nine-storey building, students at my school face a variety of challenges while being afforded many unique opportunities that you wouldn’t find at a flat school in the suburbs.

These opportunities manifest themselves in many different ways  – from having a wealth of food establishments to pick from at lunchtime, to being able to use the city’s resources as learning tools in excursions. Being in the centre of Sydney’s transport network, we can easily travel from nearly anywhere and be sure we’ll arrive on time. Furthermore, students in the younger years can use our unique rooftop playground to enjoy the city views while they eat and play at lunch-time. These advantages are contrasted to a variety of challenges that you would be hard-pressed to find at another school.

From a young age, the phrase ‘stranger danger’ is drilled into student’s heads, nearly as much as “Don’t cross Kent Street on a red light or you’ll get a detention”. Safety is a major aspect of our school, as is crossing traffic appropriately. The busy city is traffic is nearly as dangerous as trying to go down the east stairs when there’s a whole junior school class in your way. Rules have to be very specific, in accordance with our exceptional circumstances.

For instance, we’re not allowed to use the lifts to go down, only up, except for the little kids in junior school.  To get a lift pass, you have to be injured or be carrying a large or delicate musical instrument.

These opportunities and challenges award us unique learning options that would certainly be unavailable to people at other schools. I believe that being in a nine-storey high-rise building makes St Andrew’s Cathedral School a privilege to learn in and that without its countless flights of stairs, it wouldn’t be the same.

Lachlan Renwick and Jordan Barnes

Lachlan and Jordan are year 11 students at St Andrew’s Cathedral School, Sydney.  

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