Archive for July 2018

The price of cask wine could double within 18 months, with major drinks companies and health experts lobbying the Abbott government to revamp a tax system that unduly favours bulk wine sales.
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The federal government is considering changes to rebates for the wine equalisation tax  in the May budget, which could signal the first moves towards a broader volumetric tax on alcohol sales in Australia.

Changes to the wine tax rebate – targeting large producers of bulk wine and New Zealand-based producers – would reap only a little more than $50 million for the government.

But with a tax white paper looming, there is potential for the longer-term removal of anomalies in Australia’s tax system that are considered to favour the big players in the wine industry. Such changes could reap as much as $600 million a year, and double the cost of a five-litre cask of wine.

“I wouldn’t expect too much in this budget, but we are certainly looking at anomalies in the tax system that favour large producers of cheap alcohol, and the health issues associated with those anomalies,”  a senior adviser to the government said.

“We give a quarter of the wine taxes we collect back to the industry as rebates. The trick will be to lift the tax on cheap wine without impacting the wider industry.”

Treasury data shows wine is about a third of alcohol consumed in Australia, but brings in only a seventh of alcohol-related revenue for the government.

The wine cask was invented in 1965 by South Australia’s Angove family. A five-litre cask is among the cheapest forms of alcohol available, containing up to 50 standard drinks and selling for as little as $11.

The federal government collects just 4 cents in alcohol tax per standard drink of cask wine, but beer drinkers pay more than 40 cents per standard drink in excise. Consumers who buy pre-mixed spirits pay more than $1 per standard drink in alcohol taxes.

Health bodies have welcomed moves by the government to re-examine how alcohol is taxed.

“Cheap cask wine is a serious health issue in many communities,” said Rob Moodie, Professor of Public Health at Melbourne University.

“There is good evidence that increasing the price of bulk alcohol such as cask wine is a good approach, as it improves health outcomes. There is also an enormous tax benefit for the government and for society, so I am glad they looking at this issue.”

Michael Moore, chief executive of the Public Health Association of Australia, said tax reform was needed to help address many of the health and social issues associated with alcohol abuse.

“The price of alcohol has a strong correlation to the harm it causes,” he said. “We have gone to two elections calling for these very reforms to alcohol pricing and have seen how companies are using loopholes to produce new products aimed at the youth market that are based on wine, to try and get around the taxes.”

He said one product, called Divas V Kat Raspberry, was marketed as “100 per cent Australian made from real Australian wine grapes, allowing it to be priced as fortified wine, yet it tastes and smells exactly like top quality vodka”. A bottle costs $12, it contains 11 standard drinks, and the tax collected is just 16 cents per standard drink.

Some products marketed as cider are also made from a wine base to reduce the amount of tax paid.

Treasury has called on the major alcohol companies to make submissions to the government’s white paper on taxation. A special task force will consider a volumetric tax on all alcohol, with a decision to be announced later in the year.

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Much of our knowledge of the conflict in World War I is based on images captured by early filmmakers such as Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, who was portrayed by James Callis in the TV miniseries Gallipoli.More Big Picture columnsMovie session timesFull movies coverage
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A middle-aged woman stands on the deck of a ship, holding a bunch of flowers, unsmiling and implacable. She has a wide black hat, matching her black dress. It is a mourning outfit. She is one of a group who took part in the St Barnabas pilgrimage voyages to Gallipoli in 1926 and 1927. We don’t know which year these images are from. Until recently, we didn’t even know what film this was from, but it has a striking power to evoke the grief that engulfed Australia after World War I.

The Armistice had been in place for 10 years when  this unidentified woman went halfway around the world to remember her loved one, at great expense. He may have been her husband or her son. The now famous words “We will remember them” could hardly be more potently evoked.

I came across this woman, a few seconds of footage, six years ago when researching the World War I films held by the Australian War Memorial. I spent a year delving into the dozen or so films, about which little is known. All of that work – practically a book –  appears on a government-funded website for schools, Australian Screen Online, with detailed notes and clips of the films (aso.gov419论坛). I solved a few questions but one that held out was the origin of the so-called “AH Noad film”, a silent compilation running 64 minutes, sold to the war memorial in 1939 by a Mr A. H. Noad, a film technician. No-one knew the origin of this compilation beyond the obvious: there was a lot of World War I footage, including images from Gallipoli after the war, the first Anzac marches, the St Barnabas pilgrimages and some of Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett’s footage, shot during the Gallipoli campaign, from July to October 1915.

Bartlett was a high-flying British war correspondent who was commissioned by London impresario Sir Alfred Butt to shoot images of the campaign for use in Britain. That footage was shown there in January 1916 and later in Australia. It is often described as the only motion picture footage taken during the battle, but that’s probably wrong, for reasons I will explain.

I was looking into a feature film called Spirit of Gallipoli, made in 1928. Using Trove, the digital database that allows you to search Australian newspapers, I came across references to another film from 1928 called Gallipoli. This was a compilation by an Australian film-maker named Arthur Tinsdale, who went to England in 1923 and had some success there with Australian films, including footage of cricket tests. Tinsdale’s Gallipoli was shown around Australia in the winter of 1928, but it appeared to be lost. The National Film and Sound Archive held a fragment, which includes titles and 10 minutes of footage, but this was a feature-length documentary about the conflict. In fact, it was the first long-form attempt at telling the story in factual terms, even though the term documentary barely existed. Surely this would be preserved somewhere: how could it not be?

The newspaper reviews on Trove sounded familiar. Some descriptions matched footage in the Noad film. The conclusion was obvious: Noad might be Tinsdale’s Gallipoli, minus the name title. About this time, I had a call from Michael Kosmider, then a film preservation officer at the War Memorial. He was researching the Ashmead-Bartlett film himself. In fact, he had already found several new fragments from that film, and some were in Noad. I mentioned my theory that Noad was actually Tinsdale’s Gallipoli. A few days later, he came back after looking up correspondence files at the AWM. This is where it got really interesting.

There were more than 400 pages of correspondence, dating mostly from 1926 to 1929, in which Tinsdale tried to get the War Memorial to help him with his proposed film, without success. Crucially, the papers included a detailed plan for the film with titles. The first two titles on that list corresponded word for word with the first two titles on the Noad film. Other references took it beyond doubt. Noad is Tinsdale’s Gallipoli, or a version of same.

I was chuffed, but where did that get us? Well, in the three years since we made that discovery, Kosmider has gone further. He believes he has found another four to six minutes of previously unacknowledged Ashmead-Bartlett footage. That isn’t just significant. If he’s right, he has extended our knowledge of one of the most culturally significant pieces of film the nation possesses. What’s more, he believes there is also Turkish and French footage.

The original 1916 cinema compilation of Ashmead-Bartlett’s footage was re-edited in 1919 by the founder of the war memorial, Charles Bean, who wrote new titles, some of them wrong. Military historians have long argued about what this edited footage shows. Tinsdale probably worked from a copy of the same 1916 assembly that Bean did, but he chose different bits to leave in or out. That 1916 cut is now lost; what we have left is Bean’s re-edit. Now, Kosmider believes he has found a lot more of Ashmead-Bartlett’s original – a startling discovery.  And by identifying the Tinsdale Gallipoli, we can start to think about reconstructing the first feature-length Australian documentary about Gallipoli and trying to find out what it shows – like the identity of the woman in black.

Tinsdale is largely forgotten in Australian film history. Having reached Gallipoli’s 100-year anniversary, it’s time we changed that.

Twitter: @ptbyrnes

 

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The food and wine cruise run out of Sydney by P&O, leaving on a Friday night and returning on a Monday morning, is one part gourmet treat, another part swill bucket.
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For a $49 cover charge, the more discerning eater can have a top seafood dinner at Luke Mangan’s Salt Grill. For the passenger who simply wants to gorge, throw it all up over the side and gorge again – just like the Roman empire in its last grand days  –there’s the buffet upstairs.

In other words, here is all of Australia with knife and fork in hand – or in some cases, face-planted in a bowl – seeking transcendence and stupefaction.

On a recent cruise, I watched a young woman working her way through two dinner plates, set side by side, and piled high with potatoes and noodles and stews. By way of a side dish, a burger in its wrapping sat lonely on a bread and butter plate.

She worked her way through the lot. The more I stared, the less she looked like a dumpling, and more like a monk from the Middle Ages toiling prayerfully at a sacred illustrated manuscript, such was the seriousness, the thoroughness of her devotion.

For here is the truth of things: religion remains the comforting opiate of the masses, it’s just that God has largely left the table, leaving polenta crusted spatchcock with green olive and lemon salsa (for the aesthete into eats) or just a big pile of mush (for the modern-day flagellants we label obese) as the object of worship.

Food, glorious food, is the new godhead.

Professor David Tacey is an interdisciplinary scholar at La Trobe University whose areas of study include religion and spirituality, and sociology. He has written extensively on the recovery of meaning in this rudderless age. “For centuries, in the Christian tradition, spiritual nourishment was represented by food,” he says.

“It’s there in the Christian Eucharist: open your mouth and take in the bread and drink from the cup. It’s there in the best-known prayer: ‘give us this day our daily bread’. Food was a symbol of the spirit.”

But with the much-hyped death of God, and the decline in belief, “food has replaced the spirit. Or put it another way, spiritual nourishment has been usurped by literal nourishment”.

Tacey believes food has become “fetishised” and a touchstone of obsession. “It’s not only overladen with expectations and desires, it has become desire. I think it has replaced sex.”

Where food becomes an actual religion, is where it provides a sense of belonging for devotees to particular dietary movements. “Instead of being a Catholic, you’re a vegan or a paleo,” says Tacey. “And the people heading these dietary movements are given messianic status.”

Social researcher David Chalke​ has observed and chronicled how the “massive decline and splintering of traditional belief systems” is being offset by the rampant ability of individuals to “self curate” their own religion courtesy of their smartphone and internet. He agrees that food has become a fetish and notes that “all these food cults have their own language of inclusion and exclusion. It’s not enough to belong… it’s about feeling special because you belong and the heathens don’t.”

Before we get carried away with the idea of Paleo Pete Evans as the new Messiah, forget about it: he’s more a haughty boy, a breakaway visionary, like Joseph Smith of the Mormons. The noisy battle between Pete (who says grains are killing us) and the scientist-founded Facebook page Block by Pete (they say he’s off the planet) is but a crusader-style skirmish.

So too the endless argument between bikini-wearing US-based Food Babe Vani Hari (who says chemicals in food are killing us) and a long parade of scientists (who says she’s scare-mongering).

Belle Gibson, likewise, hanging from her cross of apparently manufactured suffering, beatifically urging cancer sufferers to eat their way to recovery, is but a sideshow to  the bigger more universal picture.

The novelist Lionel Shriver, best-known for the school-shooting book We Need To Talk about Kevin, published another book two years ago called Big Brother, about a man who had eaten his way to enormity. Soon after its release, Shriver – who believes everyone has an eating disorder – wrote a short essay in which she talked about how “the British and American underclasses” were using food as a distraction from their low-income, limited-future lives.

“Caloric satiation induces a convenient stupor,” she wrote. “All appetites being ultimately circular, gorging feeds the appetite itself, reinforcing the illusion that what is missing in one’s life is not meaning, purpose and communal regard, but a fudge brownie.”

That is, food becomes one’s path to meaning, purpose and belonging.

For the aspiring middle and affluent classes, Shriver says, “the food-as-opiate equation is more complex”. It provides distraction, but in the form of conversation.

“Rather than get irate over inadequate banking regulations,” she writes, “the educated today will happily while away whole hours in earnest debate over whether to add anchovies to a marinade for skirt steak.”

The same dynamic is alive and well in Australia.

David Chalke​ heads AustraliaSCAN, the annual snapshot of attitudes has been running for 20 years, and involves interviewing 2000 randomly selected citizens weighted to latest ABS population estimates on age, gender, location and education.

One of the questions subjects are asked, every year, is what new thing or experience are they most interested in finding.

The most popular response among Australians who prepare the evening meal – about two-thirds of the population – is, and has been for 20 years, “finding new foods to eat at home”.

Not only find and cook the new foods, but talk about them. After all, everybody has an opinion. Even bemused social researchers.

“Kale, a superfood,” growls David Chalke, who began his working life as a microbiologist. “You may as well eat a doormat.”

You could say the same thing about the wafer put on the tongue at Communion.

John Carroll is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at La Trobe University and author of Ego and Soul, a book in which he analyses the substitutions for religion in today’s society.

He says that the decline of the big-G God has led to the proliferation of small-g gods, in which people find meaning in “what you might call vocation”. As in vocational calling, which priests often speak of.

Carroll says that the popularity of MasterChef, structured around a master-apprentice relationship, has inspired countless people, young and old, to create beauty, even magic in their own kitchens – with an attendant feelings of transcendence when everything goes just right.

We can’t all have fulfilling jobs, but in producing a wonderful dish, a creation that is fresh to your imagination, “you sort of transcend your clumsy everyday self… it’s just like the perfect sporting moment.”

All of this is healthy, he says.

It’s when a movement like paleo or Belle Gibson’s wellness creed spills over into playing big-G God, says Carroll, “where people try to find redemption, and food becomes sinful, that’s when it tips over into pathology.”

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In a world first trial, Melbourne doctors have started beaming magnetic fields into the brains of depressed teenagers in the hope it will treat their illness and improve their cognitive function.
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Head of Child Psychiatry at Monash Health, Michael Gordon, said his team was recruiting 40 adolescents with severe depression to see if 20 sessions of magnetic stimulation over four weeks would improve their mental health.

While the technique, known as transcranial magnetic stimulation, has been effective for about 35 per cent of adults whose depression does not respond to other treatments, it has only been tested on 19 adolescents across the globe.

The treatment involves placing a figure eight-shaped coil on the patient’s scalp  at the front of their head. Over about 25 minutes, it delivers magnetic pulses to the frontal lobe of the brain thought to control depression.

While the patient is given ear plugs to reduce a tapping sound made by the machine, it does not involve needles. The most common side effects are twitching eye brows, a slight headache or ringing in the ears.

Dr Gordon said previous studies had suggested that depression slowed the activity of nerves in the left side of the frontal lobe and that speeding them up with magnetic stimulation alleviated symptoms of the illness.

“If we address the asymmetry (in brain activity between the right and left side of the brain), we think people become less depressed,” he said, adding that magnetic stimulation of the right side of the brain tended to reduce anxiety in adults.

Between 5 and 9 per cent of teenagers are affected by major depression, which often involves more than two weeks of persistent sadness, withdrawal, sleeplessness, difficulty concentrating and low self-esteem. Major depression tends to occur twice as commonly in females than males.

While most teenagers are encouraged to try psychotherapy to help them change unhealthy thinking habits first then proceed to antidepressant medications if that fails, Dr Gordon said up to 40 per cent do not respond to either of these treatments.

Untreated depression in teens often causes great disruption to their lives in a tender developmental stage when they would ordinarily be studying or entering the workforce. Some become suicidal and take their own lives.

For this reason, Dr Gordon is hoping to find a new treatment.

He said although magnetic stimulation may remind people of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which uses electricity to induce seizures in people, magnetic stimulation very rarely induced a seizure.

“This is nothing like ECT… It is very low burden. The adults I’ve seen drive in, have their half an hour of treatment and drive home themselves,” he said.

The study, which was funded by a charitable donation from Woolworths, is currently open to people aged 13 to 18 who have a current diagnosis of major depressive disorder.

All participants must be actively managed by a clinician outside of the study (private child psychiatrist or public child adolescent mental health clinician) during their participation. They can be on antidepressants and have the magnetic stimulation as long as the dose remains unchanged while they are having treatment. However, they cannot be pregnant nor have a neurological illness such as epilepsy. People will also be excluded if they have metal in their head such as a cochlear implant, a medication pump or any other implanted electronic device.

For more information, visit: http://梧桐夜网monashhealth.org/page/Adolescent_depression or phone 0420 371 052.

For help or information visit beyondblue.org419论坛, call Suicide Helpline Victoria on 1300 651 251, or Lifeline on 131 114.

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“I’ve been sharing my inbox with a stranger who doesn’t even know it.” “I’ve been sharing my inbox with a stranger who doesn’t even know it.”
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For the past few years I have had an email doppelganger.

I’ve been sharing my inbox with a stranger who doesn’t even know it.  I receive emails meant for another person with the same name as me a few times a month, and I’ve never been sure what to do with them.

When you see one email that you know nothing about, you worry about identity theft or fraudsters. But when the emails keep coming, there’s something else at play.  And it’s not just other people getting email addresses incorrect – my doppelganger can’t seem to remember his own address.

I know a fair bit about him. He’s an English bloke who likes caravans, has a gas stove that plays up and has recently got into e-books.

I had thought I had an uncommon name, but my English doppelganger isn’t my only one. There was a guy in Queensland, and more strangely, receipts for church donations from a Leighton King – a churchgoing American with poor typing skills.

We worry about online privacy and metadata, but with human error, there is so much personal information that goes astray.

Last week I got an email with my English doppelganger’s home address.  I have thought about writing him an old-fashioned letter. But what would I say? Return to sender

You have to feel for people with common names. There are only so many permutations of John Smith available for email addresses. With so little defining information contained in an address – and no human postmaster checking the details – lost emails are bound to happen.

US technology ethicist David Polgar knows the feeling.

“As it happens, I just received an email today that was meant for another David Polgar,” he replied when I emailed him this week. “The problem of receiving emails meant for someone else is going to grow in the next couple of years as email addresses become more publicly available.”

For misdirected emails, Polgar says it is best to stick to the “return to sender” philosophy of the postal service.

“If you receive an email accidentally, your obligation is to reply back to the sender and indicate that they have the wrong person. You do not have an obligation to find the right person, especially since you might make a mistake.” A cautionary tale

Stray emails are even more of a problem for people who only use their first initial for their email, instead of a first name.

Carla Bissett, of Maroubra, has a host of doppelgangers –  Cheryl, Cheri, Chad, Collette, Chris, Christopher, Cate, Conrad and Carol – using the account she set up years ago using her first initial, chosen to protect her privacy and remain gender neutral.

“It’s a cautionary tale,” she says.

She knows a lot of personal details about a host of strangers.  One of her most regular doppelgangers is an American woman called Cheri.

“I know everything about her. I even have the blueprints for her bathroom,” she says.

One Valentine’s Day a few years ago, Bissett received an email from a US online dating site.

“Cate had signed up for eHarmony,” she says. “It was so sad when I realised the date. She’d obviously thought, ‘I’m going to take matters into my own hands and sign up for eHarmony’ and then she put the wrong email address in.”

Bissett returns emails to the sender if it’s personal, and she has   exchanged emails with a few of her doppelgangers if she’s found out their correct address.

“Sometimes they want to talk about genealogy. One tried to be friends and said ‘Oh, I know some Bissetts in Australia’, but I wasn’t interested.” First contact – or not

So what should I do about my email doppelganger? I have no way of working out what his real email address actually is. Most of the emails are from do-not-reply addresses so I can’t return them to the sender.

I’ve thought a lot about getting in touch with a letter, but that seems too familiar since our relationship (if you can even call it that) is so one-sided.

Polgar says even though people with the same name often know of each other’s existence online, it still seems weird to get in touch.

“I have thought about reaching out to another David Polgar, since he comes up often in Google searches. I know who he is, and I can assume that he knows who I am,” he says. “I worry that reaching out would seem too creepy. The same goes for your letter. It would shatter the fiction that both parties don’t know the other exists.”

But the power of the internet can connect strangers in strange, unpredictable ways.

In 2000, comedian Dave Gorman aimed to meet 54 Dave Gormans as a bet with his housemate. He turned the quest into a stage show and book. He’s now met more than 100 of his namesakes from all over the world.

Last month, New York-based Buzzfeed journalist Matt Stopera became a minor celebrity in China after he visited the man who had inadvertently bought his stolen iPhone. Chinese social media users helped track the identity of the mysterious Chinese man through the pictures that had started to appear on Stopera’s photostream. The pair were swamped by fans and photographers during his visit and a strong cross-cultural bromance bloomed, despite the language difficulties.

Would it be like that if I sent a letter to my email doppelganger? Probably not. I’d be surprised if I heard back. I probably wouldn’t write back to a stranger who wrote to me. We definitely wouldn’t be friends – we have nothing in common besides a name.

So things will probably go on as they have, with me sharing my inbox with a stranger who doesn’t even know it, and perhaps my doppelganger wondering where all his emails go. I’ll never know. Tips for avoiding an email doppelganger  Technology ethicist David Polgar suggests not using a full stop in your email address – they confuse people. “They create too many opportunities to enter the wrong email address,” he says.If you have a common name, choose a smaller email provider. “They may have more availability with a first name-last name combination,” Polgar says.Be careful when typing your address, especially when signing up for newsletters. For every stray email you get, there’s a chance you’re sending them as well.

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Gemma Ward poses for photographers in the lead-up to the Ellery show at Australian Fashion Week, the model’s first catwalk appearance in six years. Photo: James Alcock Gemma Ward (right) with Kate Waterhouse. Photo: James Brickwood
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Australia’s Gemma Ward was discovered at 15 soon one of modelling’s most sought-after faces, becoming the youngest model to appear on the cover of US Vogue. She has also appeared in movies from The Strangers to Black Balloon. Ward, 27, recently returned from a six-year break from modelling as an ambassador for Coca-Cola Life and last week walked for Ellery at Australian Fashion Week. Kate Waterhouse caught up with the Perth-born model to chat about her break, being a new mum and returning to the catwalk.

What are you up to at the moment? I’m an ambassador for Coke Life, I am doing a bit of modelling, [I attended] Fashion Week and I’m developing a website, and obviously looking after my baby.

Tell me about your website. It will probably be centred around my travels with my partner and we’ll be shooting fashion. I also want to do a shopping app; it’s just in development at the moment.

What was it like to be back on the Australian catwalk? Oh gosh – it’s pretty surreal because I was 15 last time I was on the Australian catwalk, but it’s also pretty cool to support Kym [Ellery].

You have returned to the fashion industry. Are you back modelling full time? Well, I’m open to things. I am juggling working and being a mother. So I do the [jobs] I love … I think it’s really nice to have an enriched life with lots of different things going on.

You were one of the most in-demand models in the world. Was it hard to turn away and take a break? No. I made the choice to do it. I wanted to step back and there were a few things I wanted to do. I took those chances and then I just kind of kept going with it and it became like this long, novel, kind of interesting and kind of crazy thing that I was exploring. It was so fascinating. I was really delving into who I was and finding the strength and just writing and playing music and exploring the world and falling in love and doing all kinds of things.

Did you ever have any regrets? No, because it was something that I needed to do. As much as it was a choice, it was also a necessity for me as well. So I took the time and I was happy, too. I felt like it was the right decision for me. I came out a lot stronger. I’m glad that I took the time.

Tell me about your beautiful daughter. She is pretty much the light of my life. She has changed my life considerably. I think just experiencing bringing a life into the world, there’s nothing else like it. It’s crazy. I mean, I didn’t think that it would happen at the time that it did. And then her personality has been so fun to get to know. I’m really loving learning more and more about her as she grows up.

What has been the biggest surprise for you being a new mum? How transformative it would be. I didn’t know that it would affect me so much.

How do you juggle your career and being a new mum? I have my partner who is very supportive. And then his mum helps us out and my mum will help out, and then we have friends as well.

What do you do for fun? I’ve really been getting into painting. I find that it really calms me. And I love yoga and meditating. I like going swimming and surfing with my boyfriend.

What has been your biggest career highlight? The American Vogue cover was pretty big and very special. And doing some of the movies I did. I didn’t think I would be working on some big movies like that.

What was it like to be the youngest person ever to be on the front of Vogue? It was pretty cool. I mean, I didn’t know that I’d make it onto the cover. But yeah, it really did change things for me. It was kind of bizarre.

Will you continue acting? I’m definitely open to different projects because I’ve always had a passion for classics. I spent a long time watching all the classics and studying them and deconstructing them. I’ve done acting classes for a long time. But whether I’m doing acting or whether I’m not, I’ll direct my own little things. I started writing some stuff. I’ve also pooled some short stories that I found really interesting for short films. I’m 27 now  – I’ve still got a lot of years.

If you could play any role, who would it be? I would love to play this model who was Monet’s muse. That would be amazing. I thought she was really interesting. She was playful and would dress as a boy. It was all during the time in France when things were really changing for women. She then became a painter after that. And I love Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly.

Who inspires you? I like people who cross different fields and disciplines as well. Nick Cave is really inspiring, his music and then doing films and soundtracks; people like Stanley Kubrick who create whole worlds with their vision.

BITE SIZE WE WENT TO Palm Court at The Langham, Millers Point.

WE ATE Scones with jam and cream.

WE DRANK Coca-Cola Life and English breakfast tea.

GEMMA WORE A Roksanda dress.

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Alpha is summery by day; low-lit and buzzing by night. Photo: Jennifer SooWHO Cheryl Akle, Mornings book reviewer, from Petersham
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WHERE Alpha, Sydney CBD

WHY “It’s my all-time favourite.  I’ve been there 20 times since it opened. The beauty of it is that you don’t have to always eat a full meal, sometimes I’ll just go there for a drink and mezze.

I love the space and the decor, it’s in the city, there’s not a lot where you can just walk in off the street to that calibre. Of course, I’m absolutely crazy about the food, I think it’s sensational – simple and fresh.

You know how they always say if you walk past a Chinese resto and there’s lots of Chinese in there, it must be good? Any time I walk past Alpha, there are large groups of Greeks, celebrating either a baptism or engagement. I don’t think I’ve ever been there when there hasn’t been a celebration going on. it’s wonderful, it’s a celebration of foods.”

WHAT “The signature dish is the slow-roast lamb, which I love, but my favourite is the roast chicken.

I always have the tarama with pita  bread. It’s nothing like the stuff out of a pack. I love the octopus;  it’s twice cooked, it’s really yummy, served with spinach, and I like the spanakopita.

I think the wine list is also interesting, it’s Greek. The sommelier will match your taste to a style of Greek wine.

The roast lamb shoulder is available in a small or a large, I quite like that. If you are just there for lunch, you can share the small.

And the Greek donut balls – you absolutely can’t have them on your own, they are so delicious and rich and lovely.”

ABOUT “Last night, I felt like cooking a Sunday roast. I sent out a family text asking if anyone was interested in roast chicken tonight and 12 people came for dinner. I’m very lucky, I have a very large family, so lots of cooking. I’m Lebanese, so I cook a lot of Lebanese food. We’re very similar to Greeks, not necessarily in the type of food but in the way we celebrate with food, the way it brings people together.

I run a business called Better Reading, also I’m doing the book segment on Mornings on Channel Nine. It’s fortnightly. I chat with presenters about a book that I recommend. I used to do the book segment on The Circle many years ago. I swim every morning and walk to work.”

ALPHA 238 Castlereagh Street, Sydney 9098 1111, alpharestaurant苏州美甲美睫培训学校419论坛 Entrees,$2-$16; mains $13-$58; desserts $12-$15. $80 for two, plus drinks.

Four out of five stars

Where does it end, when it comes to the Greeks? Their rich history of doric columns, democracy, deities and dodged defaults won me over long ago. Especially attractive is Greece’s beautiful grasp on including the young and old in all social occasions, its wholesome verve in those celebrations, its love of thalassotherapy and the human form, its vivid white-against-blue-sky villages, its food.

Sired by the irrepressible Hellenic Club onto which it backs, Alpha is a bit of all of these things. Never has Cheryl Akle visited without seeing a group celebration underway – and my time there was no different, when a table of about 20 Greek women sang a raucous happy birthday to their day’s demigod.

Bright and bold, the modern Greek haunt instantly garnered a devoted following after opening in 2013. We can see why. Summery by day, low-lit and buzzing by night, lights are fashioned from fishing nets and baskets, the room kept mostly white but for the wall of ancient Greek-esque “ruin”. What might be kitsch elsewhere works fabulously here.

A board of fresh pita in piles, charred and silky, arrives alongside a small bowl of taramasalata, rich and tangy. As Cheryl Akle said: not at all how those who have never had the homemade stuff might imagine.

On the way to the toilets, one passes the counter where chefs line up naked spanakopitas in cast-iron pans, ready to be broiled to golden crispiness. Ours arrives hot and in its skillet, is deftly cut into six by our waitress and we are left with a full half to take home, neatly packed without the blink of an eye. We try a glass of Peloponnese rose and a roditis from Kir-Yianni Estate, both about as far as is possible from the dubious retsinas many tourists may remember.

Groups of business lunchers make enthusiastic work of the house favourite: spiced, slow-roasted lamb shoulder, paired with tzatziki and horiatiki. Our marinated sardines seem almost a side-show to the sweet zucchini fritters they accompany – a bright and sunny dish, though sardines, in my mind, are often best kept simple.

Twice-cooked octopus with toothsome white beans loaded with lemon, oregano and olive oil is surely enough for the diaspora to write home about. And a salad of cos with anchovy, smoked mackerel and dill is far more than the sum of its parts.

Groups, such as our birthday ladies, can have a go at “Yiayia’s table” – an epic banquet with the option of matching wines.

I will have to take Cheryl’s word that the loukoumades are as fabulous as they sound, because I left without wanting to ruin the Greek summer’s afternoon flavour and the citrusy sparkle on my palate.

From alpha to omega, it couldn’t do much wrong for me.

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South Yarra Station, which could be bypassed by the new Metro rail tunnel.One of the city’s busiest train lines could be re-routed as part of the Melbourne Metro Rail project, leaving thousands of passengers without a direct service to South Yarra and Richmond stations.
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As the Andrews government starts planning how trains will use the new tunnel, one option is for the Cranbourne-Pakenham services to skip South Yarra and Richmond and travel directly from Hawksburn to Domain, one of the five underground stations that will be built as part of $11 billion project.

If adopted, the realignment is likely to prove contentious given the number of people who use the two interchanges to get to work or sporting venues such as the MCG.

On one hand, it would require many commuters to find an alternative train service to reach their destinations, but, on the other, it could also free up some space at the ageing South Yarra Station, which users say is already stretched and in desperate need of refurbishment.

Stonnington Mayor Melina Sehr said she was not aware of the proposal to redirect the Cranbourne-Pakenham train lines, but added that bypassing South Yarra seemed “bizarre” given the extraordinary growth of residents who would require more trains to stop at the station in coming years, not less.

“And it doesn’t change the issue, that the station needs an upgrade,” she said.

Public Transport Users Association spokesman Daniel Bowen said if the government was planning such changes “they do need to explain it more clearly and justify why the decision is being made”.

The government declined to comment when asked about the proposal on Saturday. However, Premier Daniel Andrews was keen to talk up the Metro Rail Project earlier in the week, when he revealed the underground rail line would travel beneath Swanston Street in a 10-metre-deep tunnel.

The long-awaited Metro Rail project involves creating a cross-city tunnel with five underground stations: Domain, CBD South, CBD North, Parkville and Arden. Once built, it will connect services from the Cranbourne-Pakenham lines (in the south-east) and the Sunbury line (in the north-west), thereby freeing up capacity in the City Loop to run more trains from other suburbs.

However, digging up the popular thoroughfare of Swanston Street is likely to cause years of disruption, forcing the government to create alternative tram routes in the city’s west and potentially consider compensation for lost trade. It is also not yet clear how the project will be funded by the state, or to what extent the private sector would be willing to invest.

Asked how trains on the Cranbourne-Pakenham lines would connect to the new tunnel, a spokeswoman for the newly-formed Melbourne Metro Rail Authority replied: “Upon completion of Melbourne Metro, trains on the Cranbourne/Pakenham to Sunbury line will access the new Domain station via the Melbourne Metro tunnels. A new station at South Yarra is not part of the Melbourne Metro project, however that does not mean that improvements to South Yarra Station will not occur in the future.”

Opposition transport spokesman David Hodgett warned Mr Andrews not to turn the Metro Rail into “another Myki or Desal Plant disaster”.

“Melbourne is growing at almost 100,000 people per year and this is an incredibly important project that we have to get right,” he said.

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Victoria is set to join NSW’s medical marijuana trials aimed at helping children with epilepsy, the terminally ill and people on chemotherapy, in a bid to build the case for the groundbreaking treatment.
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Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy confirmed to Fairfax Media that her government would work with NSW Health so Victorians can take part in the trials.

“Many Victorians with terminal illnesses or life-threatening conditions want to use medical cannabis to relieve their pain and treat their conditions, but currently cannot legally do so,” she said.

“By supporting and participating in these important trials with NSW, we can help the evidence building around medicinal cannabis.” Ms Hennessy said in some cases, parents were forced to choose between breaking the law and watching their child suffer.

“It is vital that we look at this issue thoroughly so that we can ensure a safe and secure supply of medicinal cannabis,” she said.

NSW Premier Mike Baird announced the three trials last December, which are expected to cost $9 million and include hundreds of people. It is understood Mr Baird discussed the trials at a meeting of state leaders in Canberra on Thursday. A spokesman for Mr Baird said NSW was “open to extending the trial to participants in other jurisdictions”.

The trial for children with severe epilepsy, who have not responded to traditional medicine, is expected to start first in NSW.

It would be followed by trials for adults with terminal illness and people with nausea induced by chemotherapy.

The NSW government is also instructing police not to charge adults with terminal illness who use marijuana, or their carers.

It is examining options to import cannabis for the trial, or have it grown under controlled conditions by contract from the government.

Health Minister Jillian Skinner has previously said the trials would not involve the use of crude cannabis which has “serious potential ill-health effects… this is about looking at derivatives of cannabis that can be useful in treating these conditions”.

A NSW Health spokeswoman said it had identified several research groups that could conduct clinical research in two areas: chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting that is resistant to standard treatment, and symptom control in palliative care.

The Sydney Children’s Hospital Network is working to establish the epilepsy trial.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill​ said his state supported the NSW trials and “looks forward to considering the results”. The office of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk did not respond to request for comment.

​Ms Hennessy said the Victorian government has already commenced work to legalise medicinal cannabis for use in exceptional circumstances in Victoria.

It has also asked the Victorian Law Reform Commission for advice by the end of August on how the law can be changed to legalise and regulate the use of medical cannabis so it can be used to treat people with terminal or life-threatening conditions.

Ms Hennessy said Victoria is well placed through the work of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute to support and actively participate in the paediatric epilepsy trial.

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Some Anzac-themed memorabilia has fallen foul of the Veterans Affairs Department. Photo: Brianne MakinThe Disneyfication of the Diggers
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The Church of Scientology has topped a list of organisations and businesses that have been blocked by the government from exploiting the Anzac legacy for profit and self-promotion.

Ahead of the Anzac Centenary, the Veterans Affairs Department has been inundated with more than 380 requests to use the Anzac name on everything from footy jumpers to an “ANZAPP” iPhone app and bottles of hard liquor.

The vast majority of the applications — nearly 80 per cent — have been approved because the product or event was deemed to be respectful of the ANZAC legacy. Many also promised to donate a portion of any money raised to respected ex-service organisations like the RSL or Mates4Mates.

But several dozen proposals were knocked back as “inappropriate” or cynically commercial. Among those rejected include ANZAC-branded bottles of port, stubbie holders, the “FANZAC” photosharing project, and a commemorative medallion with no historically significant design.

The Church of Scientology was the most high-profile of a small number of offenders that appropriated the Anzac legacy without permission, attracting the ire of Veteran Affairs Minister Senator Michael Ronaldson.

In September, the controversial religious organisation was caught offering to issue the rank of “ANZAC” to members who donated $10,000 to build a new Scientology centre in Auckland, New Zealand.

The church was forced to remove the promotional material after being reprimanded by the minister.

A Scientology spokeswoman said the error had been made by an individual who was unaware about rules governing the use of the Anzac name.

“No funds were raised from this action. Once the church was notified of the use of the term, an apology was sent forthwith and the term was never used again, nor will it be,” the spokeswoman said. “We meant no disrespect to anyone, particularly those people who gave their lives for both countries.”

Online custom-merchandise retailers Teespring and Zazzle were also forced to remove products that had been emblazoned with Anzac themes without permission.

Competitor Redbubble, which has been warned by the government previously, continues to offer some Anzac-themed clothing, including T-shirts that say: “Anzac Kin”, “Anzac Descendant” and “Thank you Anzacs. Lest we forget April 25”.

The US and Melbourne-based company did not respond to a request for comment. The government is currently investigating the matter.

Even the organisers of officially sanctioned Anzac events have been caught out misusing the name. The federally-funded Camp Gallipoli event, which will see more than 40,000 people sleep outdoors on Anzac Day eve, was recently ordered to remove from sale beanies, hooded jumpers, stubby holders and a swag that had been branded without permission.

The Veterans Affairs Department reported that most groups were unaware they had violated the 94-year-old protective regulations and immediately removed the “offending content”.

The government has not recently used its prosecution powers to enforce the regulations, which include a penalty of up to 12 months in prison and fines of up to $10,200 for individuals and $51,000 for businesses.

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