ACCC cracks down on ‘free’ apps that trick kids

About 30 ACCC staff will examine the 300 most popular free apps among Australian children.The competition watchdog is cracking down on potentially misleading “free” computer games and apps that trick children into spending their parents’ money on in-game purchases, such as gem stones, tickets and doughnuts.

About 30 ACCC staff will examine the 300 most popular free apps among Australian children on Tuesday to see how they are being promoted and if children and parents were being misled, deputy commissioner at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Delia Rickard, said.

It will use the results of the survey to pressure the companies that sell apps through their online stores, Apple and Google, to improve transparency for Australian consumers.

“Staff are looking for apps that are free but in fact involve in-app purchases. Looking at the disclosure that exists in the app store, when you download it, does it tell you that there are in-app purchases? And even if it does tell you, does it give you any details? Many have purchases in apps that kids use that are over $100 [with] just a swipe of your finger,” she said.

“We are looking at the whole issue of whether or not this is misleading,” she added.

The ACCC also wants to raise parents’ awareness because many did not realise the games their children downloaded for free could end up costing money as children pay for rewards or tools.

“It is really very large real money for virtual, transient things,” Ms Rickard said.

Although the ACCC has only received a “handful of complaints” about in-app purchases, Ms Rickard said she believed that was just the “tip of the iceberg” because most parents would complain to the app store or their bank instead of the ACCC.

The regulator has scheduled meetings with Apple and Google in coming weeks to present its findings.

“At a minimum we hope that they will improve their disclosure – at the moment I think it is fair to say that Apple’s [App Store] disclosure is better than Google’s [Play Store], which is extremely patchy – I think we will probably have a range of issues that come out of the sweep.”

Ms Rickard said it was difficult to publish a list of the worst apps because apps appear and disappear all the time. And popular free apps may introduce in-app purchases, such as Angry Birds.

“There is an app a minute being developed, and the majority are being developed overseas. So the most effective way to try and improve standards here is to work with both those stores to try and improve the disclosure they have on their websites and have them put pressure on the app developers.”

The ACCC has published a website giving parents step-by-step instructions to disable in-app purchases and advice on how to minimise the financial damage if their child does play a game requiring purchases to complete.

A Google spokesman said: “to help users prevent unauthorised transactions, the default setting on Google Play requires customers to enter their Google account password when they make a digital content or in app purchase on Google Play”.

“Users can also request refunds of in-app purchases when children make unsupervised purchases.”

Apple declined to comment.

A spokesman for the Australian Communications Communications Action Network said it wrote to ACCC chair Rod Sims in May alerting him to potentially misleading and deceptive apps.

“ACCAN research has uncovered several game apps which engage in these practices, including The Simpsons: Tapped Out, The Hobbit: Kingdoms and Tap Paradise Cove. In The Simpsons: Tapped Out, ACCAN found a situation where the player is required to either wait 90 days for a crop of corn to grow, or purchase 1,060 doughnuts for $48.58 to complete the task instantly. The research also found disclosures around in-app purchases on both the iTunes Store and the Google Play store were often minimal and inadequate,” spokesman Asher Moses said.

“ACCAN requested the ACCC investigate these practices and we have been consulting with the regulator since then. We also outlined our concerns in a submission to the Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council Inquiry into App Purchases by Australian Consumers.”

One mother told Fairfax Media her nine-year old son racked up a $3000 bill on her credit card within three days by playing the Simpson’s game.

“I was alerted by emails from the Apple store about transactions made in the middle of the night in Singapore when they were processed. I initially thought someone had hacked into my iTunes account. I went straight to the bank who cancelled my card so the pending transactions were stopped. My son confessed, making the connection. He thought he was playing with game money not real money. I also contacted the iTunes store and had everything reversed. It was really difficult to work out how to contact them, and it is by email only so took some time,” Moira Simic said.

She successfully argued to Apple that her son had no authority to make the purchases. Apple told her to disable in-app purchases in future and warned it would not reverse the purchases again.

“I have stressed to both my sons to be very careful and have used the restrictions settings to turn them off,” Mrs Simic said.

Meanwhile, in the US Apple agreed earlier this year to settle a $US100 million lawsuit brought by five parents that alleged “Apple failed to adequately disclose that third-party game apps, largely available for free and rated as containing content suitable for children, contained the ability to make in-app purchases.”

Apple gave 23 million parents the option of a $US5 iTunes voucher if they lost less than $US30, or agreed to refund payments, but only if purchases were made within 45 days of each other and prior to Apple introducing password requests.

Have you been caught out by in-app purchases? Email us. 

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

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Ex-Socceroo to add steel to the Heart

It was, by his own admission, a bit “last minute杭州夜生活m”, but, having only arrived in the country two days ago, former Socceroo centre back Patrick Kisnorbo is already training with his new Melbourne Heart teammates and looking forward to Wednesday night’s pre-season practice match in Western Australia against Perth Glory.

The 32-year-old defender, who has played for some of Britain’s well known clubs – Leeds United, Hearts in Scotland and Leicester City – says that he opted to come home to finish his career and find regular football rather than take up offers he had from England’s Championship, lower divisions and abroad.

Heart boss John Aloisi, who played with Kisnorbo in the national team, believes Kisnorbo is exactly the sort of player he needs to provide steel, toughness and aggression to a defence which far too often crumbled under pressure, particularly in away games, last season.

Kisnorbo, as he readily acknowledges, is a no-frills player. He was known in England for his toughness, his preparedness to take knocks for the team and to do a job for the manager: the most used photograph of him, one in which his head is swathed in bandages after he took a bad knock but continued playing, is an eloquent testimony to his major attributes: courage and commitment.

Aloisi wants him to provide that, and leadership, another commodity Heart often seemed to lack last season on the road, a campaign in which it did not win a single away game.

“He’s someone that adds experience, he’s a great defender, he’s a leader. He captained Leicester. I spoke to Paddy four months ago about coming back, he was weighing up options in Europe and Asia. We recently got back in touch with him, and he wanted to come back and play. He’s still only 32 and he’s desperate to play football,” Aloisi said at a training session on Tuesday morning.

“I know what he’s like as a character, a person and a player, he will be good for the squad and he will fit in quickly.

“Last year I feel that we won our games when we played well, but sometimes you have to win when you are not playing all that well. Paddy’s that sort of player, he’s played a lot of football and he knows how to win ugly, win when you are not at your best. He relishes the challenge, and he likes defending. He’s a defender that loves defending, and I think you will pick up a lot of points with players like that in your side.”

Kisnorbo has endured plenty of highs and lows in a career that began as a youngster at South Melbourne in the old NSL. He had forced himself into the starting line up for the Socceroos under Pim Verbeek, and looked a certainty to go to the 2010 World Cup before being struck down by an Achilles injury.

Subsequently he also sustained an ACL injury, but, he said on Tuesday morning, he is now fit and well and over any problems he might have had in the past.

“The main thing about coming back here was that I wanted to play games. I had a few injuries a couple of years ago, so I thought why not come home and play with a great coach and great players,” he explained.

“I did have options to stay in England, but I have just had a family so I thought I might as well come home, bring the family and hope I can do well.

“I haven’t been injured for the past year and a half, when I did my ACL.”

He is relishing the chance to re-establish himself in the domestic scene, and while he dismisses talk of a national team recall – “I am not realy thinking about the Socceroos. I just want to play as many games as I can and let the rest take care of itself”‘ – he will certainly bring a wholehearted commitment to the A-League.

“The English game is rough and quick, and that’s the the sort of player I am. I am a defender, and I have had a few battle wounds … I am not one of those fancy footballers, I just want to do a job and do the best I can.”

Looking back on the World Cup campaign that never was, he admits that it was the biggest disappointment in his career.

“I was told that I was in the team, we knew a couple of months beforehand what was happening. It was the biggest disappointment, every kid growing up wants to go to the World Cup and play for their country. But you have to get up and keep fighting and playing.

“Certain things happen, for good and bad. Its just part of football. I looked at it positively. I played professional football for 12 years for some great clubs against some great players.”

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

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Clubs oppose priority draft pick for Melbourne

Paul Roos is announced as Melbourne Football Club new coach with CEO Peter Jackson. Photo: Angela Wylie AJW The Demons have failed to capitalise on its previous high draft picks. Photo: Joe Armao

Demon decision.

Vote: Should Dees get pick?

The AFL Commission will have to ignore the unanimous pleas of the 17 other clubs if it is to award Melbourne a priority draft pick.

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou has revealed every club has been in contact with the league to express its disapproval of the Demons’ bid to secure another prized selection in this year’s national draft.

‘Melbourne, which finished 17th with only two wins, has lodged an application for a priority pick, and a decision by the AFL Commission will be made on September 23, the day of the Brownlow Medal count.

When asked what the feedback from clubs had been about the possibility of the embattled Demons receiving another free pick, Demetriou (who is also a Commission member) said the clubs had made their position clear.

“Of the 17 clubs that are not Melbourne that have spoken or written to me, it’s fair to say there is a fairly consistent view … They all say ‘no thanks’,” he said on SEN on Tuesday.

It has been revealed that a priority pick does not have to be among the first handful of selections, as has been the case in the past. The pick can be slotted into the end of the first round of the draft, for instance.

Former AFL football operations manager Adrian Anderson said on Sunday Melbourne did not deserve a priority pick and doubted that its request to the league would be successful.

Demetriou said installing the “four pillars” common at most highly successful clubs – a “strong and capable” chairman, chief executive, coach and captain – would make a far greater difference at Melbourne than any priority draft pick could.

“If you get those four things aligned and you get everyone on the same page, normally you are on the road to success,” he said.

Demetriou said Port Adelaide was the perfect example of how quickly a club could turn itself around by appointing the right people.

Melbourne last week secured former Sydney premiership coach Paul Roos to be its new senior coach and has the highly respected Peter Jackson as its chief executive.

Port Adelaide had won just eight games in the previous two seasons before mass change at the club sparked a resurgence this year that has Ken Hinkley’s team taking on Geelong in Friday night’s semi-final.

Melbourne has managed just six wins over its last two completed seasons.

“I’m glad you mentioned Port Adelaide because their transformation is nothing short of remarkable,” Demetriou said.

“This is a club that we’ve had to support, with the SANFL, to the tune of millions of dollars,” he said.

“It started when they appointed Keith Thomas as CEO … They’ve got a new chairman, he’s come in, David Koch, and the whole place has changed.

“From the day he walked into that place, he’s got a new board, a new coach, he’s got a new captain in Travis Boak and they’ve got a completely new culture.”

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

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Chinese tourists’ favourite destinations revealed

Chinese are continuing to travel in overwhelming numbers, with Hong Kong their favourite destination.

On a list of their top 25 destinations in 2012, Hong Kong rates No. 1 with 15.1 million visits, followed by Macau with 7.9 million and South Korea with 3.3 million.

Australia is 15th on the list released by Euromonitor International, with 626,000 visitors in 2012.

Euromonitor, a global market research firm based in London, says Hong Kong’s proximity to mainland China, a wide choice of international shops with competitive prices, a good exchange rate and common language are among the reasons that Chinese travel there en masse.

Gambling is another enticement, according to Euromonitor’s Michelle Grant.

Australia is capitalising on the Chinese boom, with last week’s International Visitors Survey by Tourism Research Australia showing that Chinese visitation hit 646,779 for the year ended June, and spending has risen 19.5 per cent to $3.4 billion.

China has become the second-largest source of tourists for Australia, behind only New Zealand, and Chinese visitors spend more here than they do in any other country.

But Euromonitor suggests the high spend may be partly due to “high accommodation costs and skyrocketing retail prices in Australia”.

The survey also showed that the overall number of international visitors coming to Australia grew by 5.1 per cent in 2012-13, with spending increasing 5.8 per cent.

The chief executive of the Tourism and Transport Forum, Ken Morrison, said the results are a good sign.

“We have seen growth in arrivals from every region, despite relatively uncertain economic times throughout much of the world over the year.”

Top 25 destinations for Chinese in 2012

Destination – (,000 trips) – 2012 % growth

1 Hong Kong – 15,110.4 – 11.1%

2 Macau – 7,958 – 8.4%

3 South Korea – 3,383.2 – 55%

4 Thailand – 2,820 – 62.2%

5 Taiwan – 2,590.7 – 47.1%

6 Singapore – 2,054.2 – 30.2%

7 US – 1,593.5 – 46%

8 Japan – 1,506.5 – 44.4%

9 Vietnam – 1,428.7 – 0.8%

10 Malaysia – 1,369.3 – 24.6%

11 France – 1,288 – 15%

12 Russia – 830.4 – 16.4%

13 Germany – 762.9 – 19.7%

14 Switzerland – 663.4 – 33%

15 Australia – 626.4 – 15.5%

16 Indonesia – 585.2 – 16%

17 Austria – 356.4 – 37.1%

18 Cambodia – 335 – 35.2%

19 United Arab Emirates – 300.8 – 23.7%

20 Philippines – 291.4 – 20%

21 Italy – 253 – 12.9%

22 Canada – 243 – 2.7%

23 New Zealand – 215.4 – 48%

24 UK – 206.6 – 17.5%

25 Mongolia – 203.8 – 2.5%

Source: Euromonitor International

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

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Watching my partner unravel

The author’s wife, Sharron.My first marriage ended after my wife, who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, left me. I was a 36-year-old single father of four children, one of whom has Rett Syndrome. Life wasn’t easy and love was certainly the last thing on my mind.  When I discovered a woman at work was interested in me I was filled with giddy excitement. Her name was Sharron Albone, she was 35, and she was beautiful.Our relationship moved quickly and soon not only I but also my children were absolutely besotted with Sharron. They even called her ‘Mum’. We became engaged and were looking forward to spending the rest of our lives with each other.In February of 2001, about a year or so after our engagement, Sharron began experiencing regular headaches, fevers and energy loss. Having suffered asthma and bronchial complications most of her life, Sharron’s immediate thought was that she was suffering another bout of the flu. However the symptoms refused to abate and the blood tests ordered by her doctor failed to identify anything specific, so she was simply told to hang in there.Four months later and Sharron’s mood and general wellbeing were suffering, however as the medical tests showed no signs of anything sinister or specific. We just put it down to life: a busy family, a demanding job, both our impending divorce proceedings and concern about her fathers ailing health.  Sharron booked tickets to Neil Finn’s Melbourne concert and for weeks the anticipation of the concert buoyed her spirits. She was finally going to see her school-girl crush live on stage.  All through our dinner before the gig it was like talking to a teenager, she was beside herself. When we arrived for the show her frame of mind changed and she became irritable, suggesting we leave midway through the performance.  I encouraged her to stay a little longer, but at her insistence we left. Sharron’s mood had become increasingly dark and sinister but the conversation during the journey home was what terrified me most. Out of the blue she said “Neil’s son said everything was going to be all right”. Thinking I must have misunderstood, I asked her to repeat what she said but received the same answer.  Processing the night’s events in my mind to isolate when this conversation could have happened, the truth became blatantly clear. Fear gripped me and my stomach churned with an overwhelming desire to vomit. Sharron was hallucinating.The enormity of this realisation sank in as I remember my ex-wife’s disturbing behaviour many times before her bouts of psychosis. Sharron’s state of mind was deteriorating rapidly and the woman I loved so much was losing her ability to think rationally. Staring into Sharron’s eyes and realising the woman I adored wasn’t looking back filled me despair.The next morning it was obvious her predicament was still acute. Eyes glazed, she darted speedily from room to room in an unnatural robotic motion, rather like watching a video on fast-forward. Sharron’s condition continued to worsen. Patrolling the house like a wounded tiger her demeanour grew more aggressive and her conversation incoherent.  Her dialogue was morose, continually speaking about the prospect of facilitating her own death.I took Sharron to the doctor who instantly admitted us to St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne where she was diagnosed as suffering a psychotic episode.  The doctor told me to take her home and observe her during the night. I begged them to let her stay and they finally relented and admitted her. The next day she was heavily sedated to such an extent her speech was slurred and saliva was constantly dribbling down her chin. She couldn’t stand on her own and her wrist and ankle joints showed signs of stiffness and rigidity, all effects of the medication.  Over the next few weeks and months Sharron’s mental state and physical condition completely deteriorated and it was sheer torture to watch. Endless medical tests and teams of specialist doctors assessed her and many different forms of treatment were trialled on her ailing body.  Sharron died on 20 October 2001 from complications after an initial attack of a rare neurological condition, encephalitis lethargica.  Sharron’s legacy of life, love and laughter continues to burn brightly within my heart.Almost half of all Australian adults (45%) are affected by mental illness at some time in their life.  The Australia’s Health 2000 report notes that disorders of the brain (the field of neurology) and mind (the field of psychiatry) impose the greatest burden on Australian health of any disease group, contributing over 22% of the aggregate losses, well ahead of cancer (11.3%) or heart disease (9.9%).  My goal now is to raise awareness and funds for brain and mind disorders to the same level of community consciousness as cancer and heart disease, to improve treatment plans for sufferers and bring hope to their carers and families.Doug’s book, Eyes of Silence, is a diary of Sharron’s treatment and a tribute to his love for her.This article first appeared on Daily Life.

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

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Julia Gillard to end self-imposed exile at two public forums

Former prime minister Julia Gillard. Photo: Mal FaircloughFederal Election 2013 coverageFederal Election 2013 results

Julia Gillard is set to end her public silence in an interview with journalist Anne Summers at public forums at the Sydney Opera House and the Melbourne Town Hall in the next few weeks.

The 90-minute interviews will take place at the Opera House on September 30 and the Town Hall on October 1 and include 30 minutes of questions from the audience at each venue.

Dr Summers, who was an adviser to Paul Keating during his prime ministership, has been one of Ms Gillard’s most outspoken defenders – before and after she was replaced by Kevin Rudd after serving three years and three days as prime minister.

‘We treated our first woman prime minister disgracefully while she was in office and, now that she has been driven out, it seems she is going to be denied having her achievements recognised,” Dr Summers wrote after Ms Gillard was removed.

Ms Gillard has not been interviewed since a dignified appearance before the Canberra press gallery the night she was defeated by Mr Rudd in a caucus ballot.

She chose not to deflect any attention from Labor’s campaign for re-election by avoiding any media contact during the campaign period.

”I want to give Ms Gillard the opportunity to share with us what it was really like to be Australia’s first female prime minister, her proudest achievements in office, how she dealt with the harsh treatment by media and fellow politicians, and her feelings on being voted out of the job,” Dr Summers said on Tuesday.

”Ms Gillard served longer as prime minister than Gough Whitlam and she was our most productive leader, passing 590 pieces of legislation, including carbon pricing and DisabilityCare – despite leading a minority government. And she did so while enduring relentless vilification.

”It’s time to hear Julia Gillard speak for herself.”

Dr Summers said she would also ask Ms Gillard about her future plans.

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

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Allgood’s Mad Monday charge

Mitch Allgood, left, pictured on Monday with Ben Smith, centre, and Luke Kelly.Parramatta Eels player Mitch Allgood has been charged with mid-range drink-driving following his team’s Mad Monday celebrations.

Fairfax Media obtained a picture of the 24-year-old drinking with teammates Ben Smith and Luke Kelly just hours before he was arrested and charged.

An official statement from the club said Allgood was “incredibly remorseful and understands the danger he not only put himself in but also the general public”.

Police allege that Allgood returned a blood-alcohol reading of 0.131 after he was pulled over by a motorcycle response team at Parramatta about 7.40pm.

After allegedly failing the roadside breath test on Ross Street he was taken back to Parramatta police station where he was formally charged.

His licence has been suspended and he was ordered to appear before Parramatta Local Court on September 23.

It is understood some of the Parramatta players drank beer together on Sunday night after their loss to the Newcastle Knights.

The celebrations continued on Monday, when a number of players gathered to drink in the Parramatta area.

Officials at the club confirmed the Allgood incident in a statement on Tuesday morning.

An internal investigation was under way and the matter had been flagged with NRL integrity unit.

“This is a police matter and will be dealt with accordingly,” the statement said.

“At the completion of an internal investigation, the club will consider the appropriate disciplinary action for this breach of the NRL and Club Codes of Conduct.

The incident came after Parramatta’s’s interim CEO, Matt Phelan, issued a statement about Mad Monday celebrations.

“The NRL season is a long one, so today is a day for the players to unwind and bond in a controlled environment.

“There is nothing wrong with the boys enjoying themselves – but no matter what day of the year it is, the players are expected to abide by the NRL and club’s code of conduct.”

The club said it would not be making any further comment.

with Adrian Proszenko

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

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Former Victorian premier Steve Bracks sacked by Julie Bishop in ‘vindictive’ decision

Former Victorian premier Steve Bracks has been sacked from his appointment as New York consul-general by the incoming Abbott Government. New Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Federal election 2013 coverageBishop opts for payback politics

Former Victorian premier Steve Bracks has been sacked from his position as Australia’s consul-general in New York – before he officially started in his new role –  in a decision described as ”petty and vindictive” by Labor.

Fairfax Media understands that one of incoming foreign minister Julie Bishop’s first decisions in her new position was to sack Mr Bracks on Monday.

Mr Bracks concluded previous employment in preparation to take up his position, which was to start this month.

Former prime minister Julia Gillard appointed Mr Bracks in May and the decision was immediately met with opposition from the Coalition.

Ms Bishop said in May that the timing of the appointment was ”inappropriate” because of its proximity to the election, and warned that any decisions would be reviewed.

She described Labor as ”arrogant” for appointing Mr Bracks without consulting the Coalition.

Fairfax Media understands there were two main reasons why the incoming Foreign Minister Julie Bishop decided to fire Mr Bracks.

First, it is understood Ms Bishop thought it inappropriate that she was not consulted about Mr Bracks’ appointment given the election was only a few months away. Nor was she impressed that Mr Bracks made no attempt to contact her.

Second, Ms Bishop thought it inappropriate that Mr Bracks was weighing into Labor politics during the federal election campaign, given he was now a diplomat. In July, Mr Bracks backed the one-time candidate Geoff Lake for pre-selection in Hotham.

While Ms Bishop did not oppose political appointments per se, the Coalition felt that people appointed that way should have the ear of the government of the day, which Mr Bracks would not have had with the Abbott government.

Acting foreign minister Tanya Plibersek condemned the decision in a statement saying it was ”petty and vindictive”.

She said in a statement that it was ”telling” that the first act of Tony Abbott in foreign affairs was to fire Mr Bracks.

”It is telling that the first act of an Abbott government is to play party politics in international affairs,” Ms Plibersek said.

”It also reflects a new low in diplomatic practice,” citing the Liberal appointment of former minister Amanda Vanstone as ambassador to Italy, and allowed her to continue her term.

Ms Vanstone was appointed in April 2007, seven months before the election in November 2007.

Ms Plibersek said Mr Bracks was eminently qualified for the position and questioned who would now be sent in his place.

”Is there a current or former Liberal MP on a promise for a diplomatic role?” she asked, adding that the government was not in caretaker mode when the appointment was made.

Mr Bracks said in a statement that he had been informed of Ms Bishop’s decision in a phone call on Monday night from the department secretary.

He said he had started in the role in August and spent the past month consulting business and government leaders.

”I was pleased with the support I received during these consultations, where there was significant recognition of my background as premier of Victoria for eight years and as one of Australia’s leaders in the funds management industry for the last six years,” he said.

Mr Bracks added that he would look for more work in funds management.

Later, Mr Bracks appeared to put on a brave face.

He told Channel Seven: “It’s a new government, they make their decisions. I was happy to serve in that role, I thought I’d do a good job … but I’ll leave it up to them to find someone else for that role.”

Ms Bishop’s office has been contacted for comment.

But incoming Attorney-General George Brandis said Labor had given Mr Bracks the job as ”a gift”.

”Mr Bracks has no obvious credentials for that job,’’ he told Sky News on Tuesday.

Incoming Coalition minister Malcolm Turnbull criticised Labor for making appointments such as Mr Bracks’ ”literally on the eve of the beginning of the caretaker period”.

But outgoing special minister of state Mark Dreyfus said in a statement that the Coalition’s view misunderstood the caretaker conventions, saying claims that the government should have consulted the opposition on Mr Bracks’ appointment are wrong.

”In this election, the House of Representatives was dissolved on 5 August 2013 at 5.30pm – the signal for the start of the caretaker period. Mr Bracks was appointed on 16 May 2013, that is, more than 11 weeks before the start of the caretaker conventions,” the statement said.

”There is no basis for the suggestion that months before an election is called the Opposition should be consulted about appointments.”

Victoria’s Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said the decision was a partisan, petty and vindictive first act for a new government.

‘‘To axe Steve Bracks from this position simply because he is not a Liberal really does Julie Bishop and Tony Abbott no credit at all – it is petty, it is partisan, and it is not the sort of national leadership that Tony Abbott promised,’’ Mr Andrews said.

‘‘In many respects they have fallen at the first hurdle.’’

Mr Andrews said he would be surprised if Premier Denis Napthine endorsed the decision.

‘‘I would have thought that Denis Napthine would be able to recognise that Steve Bracks had given significant service to our state and was well placed to serve our nation in this important position in New York,’’ he said.

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

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Chris Lilley’s new show already a King hit

Can a single name ensure a television series becomes a mammoth hit? Can Ja’mie King carry a TV show on her teenaged, private school-educated, high-school-encumbered shoulders?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is also yes. With this postscript: writer/actor Chris Lilley, who created Ja’ime and has played her in two TV series already, clearly knows when he’s on to something.

Ja’mie King was the breakout star character of We Can Be Heroes, Lilley’s mockumentary about the search for Australian of the Year.

Almost every character in the series stood out, notably skeletal dysplasia sufferer Pat Mullins, but it was King whose affected manner, snobbery and one-liners cemented her place in the national consciousness.

King was an overachieving private schoolgirl whose nuances, including the sponsorship of 85 Sudanese children through the fictitious charity Global Vision, held a wry mirror up to modern society.

She returned for a second outing in Summer Heights High, now transferred to a public school as part of a student exchange, in an exercise which peeled open Australian life with an even sharper razor.

As tipped by Fairfax Media back in February and confirmed this week, King will return for a third outing in Lilley’s new series, Ja’mie: Private School Girl.

The series, a co-production between the ABC, the BBC and HBO, is the highly anticipated follow up to Lilley’s last series, Angry Boys, which received mixed reviews when it launched last year.

Delivering a fourth series with an audience-tested favourite might seem like an easy road. Certainly Lilley and longtime collaborator, Melbourne producer Laura Waters, must have examined the very broad reaction to Angry Boys in detail.

The truth is most sketch comedies – and Lilley’s comedies, though they possess linear narratives, are born out of the sketch genre – are hit and miss. Even the iconic French & Saunders seemed to hit the mark in roughly half of their sketches.

The hit and miss rate of a sketch comedy isn’t a measure of good or bad performance, but rather, a reflection of the jagged nature of the genre. Angry Boys, while engaging at times, felt stretched.

And some of its characters, while humorous, lacked the humanity which made King, and other Lilley characters, such as schoolboy Jonah Takalua and prison guard Gran Sims, very rich platforms for humour and pathos.

Those three are, by a long measure, Lilley’s most successful characters. Pat Mullins would be a close fourth. All worked because underneath their function as comedy characters there lurked a vast well of humanity to mine.

The death of Pat Mullins was a sucker punch to the audience. Takalua’s story in Summer Heights High ended with a heart-wrenching finish. And the imperfections of Ja’ime King’s world complete a mosaic that hints at a far more complex emotional heart than first meets the eye.

In a sense, Ja’mie: Private School Girl seems perfectly timed. Though Lilley could have most likely predicted the outcome of last week’s election, as did most people, Ja’mie King is a delicious prism through which we can examine the new contemporary Australia.

Like the new Liberal government, she is same, same, but different.

Ja’mie: Private School Girl a television hit? Unequivocally.

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

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Why we can’t help finishing off the whole can of Pringles

Ever wondered why that single square of chocolate after dinner is never enough? Why it’s impossible not to consume the whole damn slab, even to the point of nausea?

Scientists no longer blame the tendency to binge on high-fat, high-sugar foods on sheer greed or lack of self-control. Rather, the urge to finish off the Pringles is now thought to be due to hedonic hunger – a powerful physiological response over which we have little control.

‘‘People shouldn’t feel guilty for not being able to resist certain foods,’’ says Zoe Griffiths, a dietitian and head of public health at Weight Watchers UK.

‘‘It’s not a question of not being strong enough.’’

Experts believe there are two drivers behind what and how much we eat. The first, the homeostatic system, regulates appetite according to the body’s need for energy. Homeostasis is controlled by communication between the brain and the digestive system: hence when we are in an energy deficit we get signals such as shakiness (caused by low blood-sugar levels), stomach rumbles and hunger pangs.

But the second driver, hedonic hunger, can override the former. It is defined as a physiological response, involving the brain’s ‘‘reward centres’’ to smelling, seeing and thinking about certain foods. The result is that we eat not according to energy needs, but purely for pleasure.

Richard Lowe, professor of psychology at Drexel University in Philadelphia, says neuroimaging studies have shown that in the presence of high-fat, high-sugar or high salt food, areas of the brain related to pleasure ‘‘light up’’, in a similar way to the brain changes seen in drug or alcohol addicts. The release of dopamine, a chemical strongly associated with the brain’s reward system, is also involved.

Ghrelin is a hormone normally produced by the stomach when the body needs energy, to stimulate feelings of hunger; but scientists have found it is also released in the presence of high-fat, high-sugar foods – even when the body does not need calories.The latest studies, from Oregon Research Institute, indicate that with time, dopamine release in the presence of such foods gets stronger, but starts to decline when we actually consume them. In other words, we need more of these foods to get our ‘‘hit’’.

The hedonic system is thought to have evolved from the time when humans were hunters and foragers and did not always know where the next meal was coming from. Primitive man developed the need to override homeostasis and to eat more than the body required. But today, experts believe hedonic hunger has become a liability, responsible for mounting levels of obesity. In response, Weight Watchers UK has changed its strategy to put more emphasis on how we can control our ‘‘personal food environment’’. That means taking simple steps such as not keeping cakes and biscuits on the desk in the office; or, if you have a long commute, ensuring you have healthy snacks such as fresh fruit available.

‘‘Simply understanding about hedonic hunger seems to help people make better choices,’’ says Zoe Griffiths.

‘‘Obesity is a natural reaction to the food environment we live in. When people understand that, they feel empowered to make better food choices.’’

The Telegraph, London

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

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