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Friends reunion: Comic artist develops robot to generate new Friends episodes

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

Not yet perfect … A sample of a possible Friends script generated using artificial intelligence and previous episodes. Photo: Andy HerdLondon: With everyone waiting for the Friends reunion (which was widely reported but turns out to be not really be a Friends reunion), our computer overlords have taken it on themselves to write new scenes of the hit TV sitcom.

Dundee comic artist Andy Herd fed the scripts of every existing Friends episode into an artificial intelligence known as a “recurrent neural network”.

He then asked it to generate new scenes, based on the patterns it sensed in the old ones.

The results speak for themselves:

[scene: Monica and Rachel’s, they’re running outside.]

Monica: I’m ran off.

Rachel: I know.

Rachel: (To Monica) Wow, you still have to get married. I –duck to work!

Monica: Hey Ross, come here!

(they kiss)

Phoebe: No! I would like to propose to my kid?

(They all stand in bed, them is upset.]

[Time lapse.]

Joey: Seriously give me a clown on the table that’s all.

Monica: (whispering) She’s in London. i fed a recurrent neural network with the scripts for every episode of friends and it learned to generate new scenes pic.twitter老域名出售/RIPvYuzEJM— Andy Pandy (@_Pandy) January 18, 2016

Nevertheless, Herd wrote on Twitter that “I reckon I could tweak this a bit and sell it to a network”.

“All I’d have to do is push a button and BAM, top quality sitcom fodder ready to go.”

He said Friends was good material for machine learning, because the cast is fairly small and there were a lot of episodes to sample.

Herd told Fairfax he had been “reading about machine learning in my spare time. It’s a really fascinating subject with all sorts of interesting possibilities, and I’ve always been interested in random and procedural generation”.

He once created a ‘random comic generator’.

Then he came across an article on the “unreasonable effectiveness of recurrent neural networks” so he wrote a similar program and “chucked in all the Friends scripts”.

“The program takes one letter at a time and predicts which letter is likely to follow, given what it has learned from the provided data,” Herd explained. “There’s a lot of complicated stuff going on under the hood that I barely understand, it’s cool stuff.

“One day I hope to create an artificial intelligence that will basically think up good tweets and funny comics for me, so I can stop worrying that I’m not funny online.”

We reckon it doesn’t have quite the magic of the old Friends series, though it makes marginally more sense than the one where Emily went through with the wedding even though Ross said Rachel’s name. Or the fact that they’re all friends with Phoebe.

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Tour Down Under: Sean Lake follows through with pledge to showcase cycling talent

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

Happy convert: Sean Lake. Photo: John VeageCaleb Ewan makes winning look easy

Sean Lake expects to feel a “little bit lacklustre” after the former rower’s first outing in a World Tour event on Tuesday, that being in stage one of the Tour Down Under in South Australia.

And so the Uni SA-Australia rider from Victoria should after spending 124km of the 130.8km stage from Prospect to Lyndoch in front before being caught, only to see Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEDGE) win from fellow NSW rider Mark Renshaw (Dimension Data) and Dutchman Wouter Wippert (Cannondale).

For of those 124km, Lake spent the last 20km alone after his two former companions in the initial three-rider break that formed just after the start dropped off his rear wheel as the oppressive 40°C heat, strong northerly wind and accumulated effect of their brazen move all took their toll – the first being, Dutchman Martijn Keizer (Lotto-Jumbo) with 42km to go and Frenchman Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r) soon after.

But with the peloton closing in from an earlier two-minute-plus gap to about a minute, not even Lake’s time trialling prowess – he was third in the recent national elite title – could stave off the inevitable; his capture with six kilometres to go.

But he did not finish empty-handed for his effort. After finishing 108th and in the peloton led by Ewan, he was awarded the blue and white polka dot jersey as King of the Mountains for passing Tea Tree Gully Hill 12.8km into the stage in first place.

“It was a really tough day, especially the heat was the main factor,” Lake said after.

“But being an Aussie, gave me an advantage … being in the heat all summer.

“I saw the other two guys [in the break] were just sweating heaps and had salt all over their clothes.

“They were just really struggling. Towards the end they were really tired.

“I was biding my time throughout the day. It was a shame the peloton was keeping it [the margin] really close in check, so when it was time for me to go I only had 50 seconds which is never going to be enough; but it was worth a shot anyway.”

Lake has only been cycling for two years after giving up rowing in which he represented Australia as a lightweight rower in three world under 23 championships.

For Lake, for two months coached by Mark Fenner and who will ride the National Road Series with Avanti-IsoWhey, Tuesday confirmed again that he made the right decision to switch sports.

“No,” he said when asked if he had regrets. “I am absolutely stoked with my decision. And I think cycling seems to suit me better so far.”

Judging his first day in a World Tour race, Lake said: “Today went pretty well to plan. Obviously, it would have been perfect had I stayed out there, but I am stoked.”

Dave Sanders, the Uni SA-Australia national team sports director, believes Lake’s best is still to come. “Don’t ever underestimate that lad,” Sanders said after the stage.

“We are going to see a lot more of him. He has got a steam train of an engine.”

Meanwhile, going into stage two on Wednesday, 132km from Unley to Stirling, Ewan leads the tour overall by 4s over Renshaw and Gougeard whose two wins in the intermediate sprints during the break with Lake gave him a vital time bonus.

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull greeted warmly by Barack Obama

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

All smiles: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and US President Barack Obama. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull meets with President of the United States Barack Obama in the Oval office of the White House. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

One US president, five PMsAmerica is stronger than ever: Malcolm Turnbull

Washington: The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was welcomed to the White House by a Marine Corp honour guard on a freezing Washington, DC, morning, before sitting down for a 90-minute meeting followed by lunch with the US President, Barack Obama.

Marines bearing flags lined the driveway on the White House’s north lawn in minus 5 degrees on Tuesday morning as Mr Turnbull arrived from nearby Blair House, the president’s guest house.

Sitting with Mr Turnbull in the Oval Office, Mr Obama said few countries had as much in common as Australia and America.

“I want to thank all the people of Australia for the extraordinary hospitality and graciousness that they’ve shown me every time that I’ve had a chance to visit your wonderful country,” said Mr Obama in the White House.

“I’m glad to be able to reciprocate. I will note it is a little bit colder here than it was Down Under.”

Noting that Australia had made the second greatest contribution in the fight against the Islamic State of any nation, Mr Obama said that he was keen to hear Mr Turnbull’s views on progress in war against IS and violent extremism more broadly.

“We’re going to talk about how we can strengthen our cooperation, both in Syria and Iraq, the state of affairs in Afghanistan, but also countering violent extremism globally,” he said.  “And Australia will be a very important partner in that process.”

Mr Obama said he also wanted to discuss the rebalance to the Asia and Pacific region, and in particular the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a topic which Mr Turnbull has made central in his visit to the US. During a speech earlier in the day to the US Chamber of Commerce, Mr Turnbull discussed the importance of the agreement and the rise of China, and he is expected to lobby on behalf of the TPP in meetings with Congressional leaders, who have yet to approve it.

Speaking in the Oval Office, Mr Turnbull echoed the President in discussing the close ties between the US and Australia.

“Our alliance, our relationship is founded not just on national self-interest, not just on economics or kinship, but on shared values,” he said.

“We define our national identities by reference to common political values of freedom, the rule of law, democracy – real democracy, which empowers the majority, but constrains them so as to protect the minority.  So we have those strong values in common.”

He noted he had enjoyed productive meetings with US defence and intelligence, but said he was concerned that the alliance combating IS had to improve its online counter-terrorism efforts.

“Archaic and barbaric though they [the Islamic State] may be, their use regrettably of the internet is very sophisticated. And so I’m pleased that we’re going to be working on even closer collaboration there.”

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Push to ban Israel lobby trips for NSW Labor officials

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

Recognition of Palestine “if there is no progress to a two-state solution”: Bob Carr. Photo: Ryan Osland NSW Labor leader Luke Foley has directed that state MPs must spend equal time in the Palestinian areas if they accept assisted travel to Israel. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Israel trips are aimed at “indoctrination”: Shaoquett Moselmane. Photo: James Alcock

Divisions within the ALP over Middle East policy are set to flare at next month’s NSW conference over a push to ban Labor MPs, officials and Young Labor members from accepting subsidised trips to Israel.

The proposal has been put forward by the group Labor Friends of Palestine.

The motion states that while Benjamin Netanyahu’s government “continues settlements, refuses a Palestinian state [and] brutally mistreats Arab residents of the West Bank”, that no ALP officer, MP or Young Labor member “accept a paid trip from the Israel Lobby”.

“To do so in the circumstances is an insult to the Australian community who support our party,” it says.

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and similar groups regularly organise subsidised trips for journalists and politicians to Israel where they undertake guided tours.

The push is in response to a perception of an increase in approaches to Labor MPs and officials to take the trips following the passage of resolutions at recent ALP conferences.

At the 2014 NSW conference, former foreign minister Bob Carr – a patron of Labor Friends of Palestine – successfully moved a motion calling on a Labor government to move towards recognition of a Palestinian state “if there is no progress to a two-state solution”.

Last year’s national conference passed a similar motion put by Right faction powerbroker and shadow finance minister Tony Burke.

In September last year, Queensland Labor went further, passing a motion calling for a future Labor government to “immediately” recognise a Palestinian state.

NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley has directed that state MPs must spend equal time in the Palestinian areas if they accept assisted travel to Israel, but this does not apply to party officials, many of whom have taken the trips in recent years, or Young Labor.

The NSW Right faction is deeply divided on the issue, with the strong views of influential powerbrokers of Lebanese heritage clashing with those supportive of Israel.

Upper house Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane said he supports the push to ban the trips, but believed extending the Foley directive to officials and Young Labor is “a more feasible and balanced approach”.

Mr Moselmane said the Israel trips are aimed at “indoctrination”.

“If they want to have party members travel to Israel, then they should also be taken to Palestine, to the West Bank, where it’s safe and possible to do so,” he said.

Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff said all tours include visits to the West Bank and participants are briefed by “top-level Palestinian officials”.

“This ensures the integrity of the program and gives Australian delegations an opportunity to see for themselves the reality on the ground,” he said.

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Chris Gayle launches stinging attack on critics on Instagram as BBL season finishes

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

As well as thanking his supporters and saying he may have played his last innings in Australia, Chris Gayle had some choice words for his critics on Instagram. Photo: Supplied Ten Network reporter Mel McLaughlin during the uncomfortable exchange with Chris Gayle. Photo: Channel Ten

‘Teaching the bruv some manners on speaking to women in oz!’: Jarryd Hayne came out in support of Chris Gayle on Instagram. Photo: Instagram: jarrydhayne38

Chris Gayle makes record-paced half-centuryJarryd Hayne backs Chris Gayle

Chris Gayle has launched a stinging attack on critics in a long-winded rant on Instagram in which he takes aim at “past and present” cricketers he claims failed to support him in the aftermath of his infamous post-innings interview.

The 36-year-old West Indian cricketer drew sharp criticism earlier this month after making a pass at Network Ten journalist Mel McLaughlin during a live TV interview.

The Melbourne Renegades star was condemned for making inappropriate and sexist comments and was fined $10,000 for “disrespectful” behaviour.

After signing off his Big Bash League season at the Etihad Stadium with a record-breaking half-century from 12 deliveries, the #UniversalBoss posted a rambling message to his Instagram account, thanking supporters and taking a swipe at those who “don’t have the balls to stand firm”.

“Ppl think I may have played my last innings in Aus but my memory with the fans will live on forever!! The real ppl who stand by Gayle worldwide through the so call [sic] BS against me in the media, thank you! To the media, thank you all so [sic],” he wrote.

“The haters, I thank you even more.

“I think a lot of past and present cricketers who smile in front my face could’ve have [sic] there [sic] say in the public when my so call [sic] issue was going on, but y’all don’t have the balls to stand firm when it matters.

“But yet when u [sic] see me you’re like, Chris that’s BS against you, it was blown out of proportion.

“Don’t tell me, tell the media and public!”

But Gayle left his harshest retort for those that publicly criticised him.

“The past cricketer who say I make myself look like a chop, the other who claim I was no good to the youngsters while playing for the thunder, the next one who said he expect that sort of behavior from Chris – Y’all can kiss my ‘Black Rass’.

“I love Australia and I will be back again.”

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What The Big Short movie can teach ordinary people

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

Margot Robbie explaining CDOs in The Big Short. Investment bankers arguing in The Big Short.

In the film, The Big Short, you are invited to imagine yourself in the shoes of a handful of maverick traders who bet against the US housing market a decade ago.

Since we all know – spoiler alert – that the subprime mortgage boom of the mid 2000s ended with the global financial crisis, it is easy for the audience to identify with the few people who warned that the bust was coming.

It all seems obvious in retrospect.

But as I watched, it struck me that the heroes were distinctly unlike you and me. Ordinary people don’t really feature in the movie, except as willing participants in the housing bubble; the stripper from Florida with five houses and a condo, for example.

The reason for that is that ordinary people were in no position to do anything much about it.

The traders were shorting – or betting against – CDOs. (Collateralised debt obligations, which means a bundle of mortgages packaged into an investment security).

That’s not something an ordinary investor can do directly, even if they know enough to know they want to.

Even the two traders from Colorado with a $30 million fund did not meet the capital requirements to make such a trade, until they roped a wealthy neighbour into their plans.

There are some eerie parallels between the situation in 2007 and now and not just because the banks are again trading CDOs, even if they’re called something else.

By analysing the mortgage lending practices of the early 2000s, California fund manager Michael Burry correctly predicted the housing market would crash in 2007 when the higher adjustable rates kicked in and over-extended homeowners would default.

It should give pause for thought to analysts of the Australian housing market because of the rise in interest-only mortgages.

In Australia, one in four owner-occupier loans and two in three investor loans are interest-only, according to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.

The total amount borrowed in interest-only mortgages was $88.7 billion in 2012, and $142.8 billion in 2014.

Often the interest-only period is an introductory rate for an initial five years, after which time the principal payments fall due. Banks look at what percentage of the property value is debt, so negotiating a further interest-free period is sometimes an option but only when prices are going up.

A number of people who took out home loans with an introductory interest-only period in the housing boom of 2012-2015 will have to start paying the principal in the next few years.

Fingers crossed that interest rates stay low and employment figures are stable, or things could get nasty.

If watching The Big Short leaves you feeling scared, the question is what you can do about it.

There are some managed investment options that allow you to invest in hedge funds, but you don’t have much control and returns are not always stellar.

You can choose to stay in or out of the housing market, but while that makes sense for investors, I believe it’s a dangerous choice when you’re talking about your home.

I know people who sold their homes at the peak of the market and are renting until prices drop again. I know people who sold their homes at the beginning of the boom and are probably permanently locked out of the areas they want to live in. And I know people who have been waiting since 1998 for prices to drop.

It’s risky to presume that you can pick the top or bottom of the market with something as important as your home.

Better to buy when you’re ready and spend what you can afford. And if you’re already a home owner, dig deep and try to pay off the principal now while interest rates are low.

Perhaps too we should change the way we think about home ownership. The point should be to buy shelter (with tenure) for the next decade and beyond, not to make a killing.

Fear and greed are never good investment strategies, unless you make like Warren Buffett and you’re fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.

For me, the only thing in The Big Short more frightening than the spectre of the subprime crisis returning, was learning at the end of the film that Burry’s current big investment is water – he’s speculating on something we all need to survive.

Caitlin Fitzsimmons is the editor of Money. This is a new weekly column.

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Debit cards more popular than ever but Australians still hooked on credit

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

The abstract nature of credit means people feel less emotionally connected to the money. The abstract nature of credit means consumers feel less emotionally connected to the money and are more prone to the risk of blowing their budget. Photo: Michel O’Sullivan

Australians have embraced low-cost debit cards for everyday transactions but are still racking up more than they can afford in bank fees and interest because of an unhealthy reliance on credit cards for big ticket purchases.

It seems the strategy of getting a debit card to limit reliance on credit is being undermined by the temptation to keep a credit card “in case of emergencies”, and that is then used for impulse purchases and overspending.

The latest figures from the Reserve Bank of Australia show the number of transactions paid for via debit card in November 2015 was 373.3 million, compared with 202.2 million purchases put on credit cards.

Our preference for debit over credit on smaller everyday transactions has grown over the past decade since the number of purchases paid for with debit cards overtook those made on credit cards in 2005.

The number of debit card accounts nationally sits at 41.2 million, up from 23.9 million when the RBA began recording the data in 2002.

“It’s promising that debit cards are now twice as popular as credit cards, as this indicates Australians are preferring to use money that is actually theirs and not borrowed,” Finder’s consumer advocate, Bessie Hassan, says.

However, a closer look at the statistics indicates the strategy is only proving successful for smaller purchases, she says.

The average credit card purchase sits at $127, while the average amount spent on debit is just $53.

“It is great to see the shift in culture towards more people using debit cards to pay with their own money, but credit card debt remains as the most common cause of financial hardship,” Anna Dooland, from Financial Counselling Australia, says.

It is perhaps not surprising given that banks are still marketing credit cards over the less profitable debit cards, she says.

Wealth Enhancers co-founder Sarah Riegelhuth​ encourages all her clients to cancel their credit cards.

“Unless you are paying the bill in full at the end of each month, having a credit card is not working for you,” she says.

“The best strategy is to have an emergency pool of funds set aside in a high-interest savings account to use for those so-called emergencies and not have the need to rely on a credit card.”

The abstract nature of credit, as opposed to hard-earned cash in the bank, means people feel less emotionally connected to the money and are more prone to falling into the trap of blowing their budget, Riegelhuth says.

“Even among those who manage credit well and pay the account in full each month, almost all subconsciously end up spending more.”

Australians borrowed $27.5 billion on credit cards in December, spending $3.2 billion on Christmas gifts alone.

The average cardholder is expected to take five months to pay their monthly bill, Finder’s analysis shows.

Clancy Yeates is on leave.

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Manila calling: Public Service’s Philippines frolic revealed

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

The Australian Taxation Office has been quietly sending some of its work to the Philippines.More public service newsShared services, back in backroom businessBarton to Bangalore: offshore APS a step closer

The Australian Taxation Office has been quietly sending some of its work to the Philippines for several months as the Australian Public Service moves closer to operating in Asia on a large scale.

The office insists the offshore “application development” by outsourcing giant Accenture is done in a secure facility and that no data on taxpayers is being sent to Manila.

But the main public service union says the ATO is taking unacceptable risks by moving any of its work overseas.

The news of the Philippines deal comes as the Commonwealth is openly canvassing the idea of following the lead of the NSW government and sending some of its work to India.

Accenture first came to to ATO in 2014, asking if it could take some of its work for the giant revenue agency to one of the private players’ vast “service centres” in the Philippines.

The idea was considered and rejected at the time, according to an ATO spokeswoman, but not before senior public servants were dispatched to Manila for a tour of inspection.

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The spokeswoman told Fairfax that the present arrangement, where Accenture is helping to develop new IT capabilities for the office, was temporary and had been in place for several months.

“Earlier this financial year the ATO commenced a short-term arrangement with Accenture to use their Philippines Delivery Centre to increase our IT capability in application development for new policy implementation,” she said.

“This additional capability is being used at peak times to temporarily support the ATO’s workforce and existing onshore arrangement with Accenture.

“The offshore development is being conducted in a secure facility that has been inspected by ATO staff and conforms to government physical and data security requirements.

“There is no taxpayer data going offshore and only anonymised development data being is being used via secure channels.

“The arrangement is expected to continue to December 2016.”

Accenture and the ATO have history, with the company reaping fees of $677 million for its work on the office’s trouble-plagued “change program”, which blew out in cost from an initial “fixed price” of $230 million in 2004 to $756 million when it concluded in 2010.

Community and Public Sector Union national president Alistair Waters says he is not convinced by the ATO’s assurances about data and security.

“It will be very concerning to the Australian community that the ATO and the Turnbull government took this decision without letting Australians know it was even happening,” Mr Waters said.

“The reality is that the ATO is now transmitting data overseas and this increases the risks of individual Australian’s privacy being breached.

“Offshoring ATO IT development appears completely at odds with what the Prime Minister has said about supporting and developing Australian innovation.

“If this government had not cut the jobs of around one in five tax workers, this so called ‘support’ in the form of sending tax work overseas may well not be necessary,” Mr Waters said.

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Australian CEOs gloomy about 2016 as world drowns in $200 trillion in debt

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

“The threat that we see, first and foremost, is the economy,” says ASX chief executive Elmer Funke Kupper. Photo: Daniel Munoz Mirvac’s chief executive Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz pointed to the threats including “terror, mass migration of human beings in Africa and Europe, technological change, political change”. Photo: Nic Walker

Airtasker’s Tim Fung wants a “level playing field” on tax. Photo: Jesse Marlow

Australia could be “part of the economic powerhouse in the decades ahead” says Wesfarmers chief Richard Goyder. Photo: Philip Gostelow

“I’m quite concerned about the overall state of the global economy and particularly the level of debt that we have.”: ASX chief Elmer Funke Kupper. Photo: Jessica Hromas

The world is burdened by $200 trillion in debt that won’t get paid back and will ultimately destroy emerging market economies and global growth, according to ASX chief executive Elmer Funke Kupper.

Mr Funke Kupper’s comments come as a new survey shows Australian CEOs are less optimistic about growth in the world economy, as well as their own company’s ability to make money in the coming year.PwC’s 19th Annual Global CEO Survey, launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, showed that just 31 percent of Australian CEOs are expecting an increase in global economic growth this year, down from 38 per cent in 2015.

The survey is based on interviews with more than 1400 CEOs of large companies in over 83 countries, including 49 Australians.

Just over one third of Australian CEOs are ‘very confident’ they will see revenue growth in the next year, well down from 43 per cent last year.

“The threat that we see, first and foremost, is the economy,” Mr Funke Kupper said in response to questions posed in the PwC survey. Debt will lead to crisis

The Australian economy was going through a transition, and while it was “so far so good”, it was not risk free.

“I’m quite concerned about the overall state of the global economy and particularly the level of debt that we have,” said Mr Funke Kupper, who is also a director of the Business Council of Australia.

“I think the world is burdened with about 200 trillion dollars’ worth of debt which is an amount of money that simply is not going to be paid back.”

This was happening in an environment where there were “record levels of quantitative easing and record low interest rates”.

“But one day that’s going to unwind, and when it’s going to unwind, I think we’ll see some forces at work that could really damage some parts of the world, particularly emerging markets economies.” Australia a powerhouse?

Wesfarmers chief Richard Goyder was more upbeat saying Australia could be “part of the economic powerhouse in the decades ahead”.

“Let’s be real, the Australian economy’s growing and has been growing for nearly 25 years now. That’s not a bad record,” he said.

“I think there are some risks but it’s still an economy I’m happy to be doing business in”.

Australia was a “fantastic place to live”, had an abundance of natural resources and highly educated workforce, Mr Goyder said.

“We’re now on the doorstep of the growth economies of the world: China, India, South-East Asia,” he said.

But the survey found that 78 per cent of all CEOs surveyed see more threats today than they did three years ago. CEOs cut costs, hire less

The greatest concern was over cyber threats (82 per cent), technological change (73 per cent) and the availability of skills (65 per cent).

CEOs are responding to such threats through cost-reduction initiatives (73 per cent), ahead of entering into a new joint-venture or alliance (53 per cent). This has seen a big shift in hiring intentions, with 41 per cent of CEOs saying they will reduce headcount in 2016, compared with just 12 per cent in 2015.

The survey also found that 82 per cent of CEOs believe business success in the 21st century will be redefined by more than financial profit.

Mr Goyder said the economy was “more dynamic, more volatile now than it ever has been”.

This was not just through economic factors but because of “terrorism, climate change and a whole lot of geopolitical factors”. Make or break year?

Mirvac chief executive Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz also pointed to the “threats of terror, mass migration of human beings in Africa and Europe, technological change, political change” as creating greater volatility.

PwC chief executive Luke Sayers said it would be a “make or break year” for Australia.

He called for action in areas including tax reform, infrastructure development, and investment in science, technology, engineering and maths.

The survey found 61 per cent of Australian CEOs ranked a “clearly understood, stable and effective tax system” as the top priority for government, but only 18 per cent see the government as effective in delivering on this.Mr Goyder defended Wesfarmers record on paying tax, and urged the Turnbull government to cut the company tax rate, which is currently at 30 per cent for large business.

“Corporate tax rates in Australia are too high and as a consequence, they don’t incentivise investment,” he said.

“At the end of the day, we all look at what the after-tax proceeds are or cash flows are from an investment. If the tax rate’s higher then those cash flows are lower.” Tax less, motivate

Mr Funke Kupper said companies should be transparent about the taxes they pay. He also called for tax changes that “motivate investment”.

“It [the tax system] should allow for infrastructure investment, it should allow for a basic safety net for the most vulnerable in society, and of course it should be simple and easy to administer,” he said.

“Unfortunately those are all objectives that are tied together so there is no simple solution. But I think it needs quite radical simplification and reform to meet all of those objectives.”

Airtasker CEO Tim Fung said sharing economy services such as Uber would have to pay GST to ensure the tax system remained fair for everyone.

“It’s all about creating an even playing field for all of the players in the market,” he said. Diversity push

Almost four in 10 of the Australian CEOs surveyed said they are making changes to their diversity and inclusion strategy in order to attract and retain talent.

This is compared to just 22 per cent of their global counterparts.

NewsLifeMedia chief executive Nicole Sheffield said the biggest issue for her personally was childcare reform.

“The reality is we lose too many men and women between the ages of 30 and 40 because actually the cost of childcare is prohibitive,” she said.

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Fighting fundpoll

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

AFTER more than three years of often bitter division, the warring factions of the Port Stephens political establishment have called for a “truce” in order to combatplans for a forced merger with Newcastle City Council.

Port Stephens councillors voted unanimously on Tuesday night to spend up to$200,000 –up from the $150,000 originally planned –on a campaign to fight theproposal.

Mayor Bruce MacKenzie invoked the spirit of World War One, telling a packedgalleryto “come together” to help the council to stand alone.

“I look down the back and I see representatives of several groups that, over the years, we haven’t been your favourite child,” he said.

“I think I can saywith some confidencethat the knives have been out against the council.

“I think we should actlike back in thethe First World War[when] the Turks and the Pommies would come and collectthe bodies of the men who had been killed.

“They would have have a truce [and] thenext day they started the war again.”

Earlier in the day, Kate Washington,the state member for Port Stephens and vocal critic of Cr MacKenzie and the council,said she would work withthe mayor to stop the merger.

“It’s going to be an unlikely alliance that I stand with my council in opposition to the amalgamation,” she said.

“I’m always happy to speak with Bruce, he’s not so happy to speak with me [but] I’m happy to sing from the song sheet in the interest of our community and that’s what we now have to do in the situation that we’ve found ourselves in.”

The council called the extraordinary meeting to pass the funding because state government guidelines for councils facing a merger dictated that a public vote was required for any public information campaigns.

The initial proposal was to spend $150,000, but Cr MacKenzie moved a motion at the beginning of the meeting to lift the sum to $200,000.

The money will be spent on hiring a firm to prepare a “comprehensive submission” to state the council’s case for standing alone, as well as a public information campaign which would “provide to the community of Port Stephens relevant information and data on the impacts of the proposed merger”.

The councillors voted unanimously to oppose the decision. Councillors Geoff Dingle–who has stated he wants to run as mayor of an amalgamated Newcastle and Port Stephens council–andJohn Morello, didn’t attend.

Councillor Paul Le Mottee warned that Port Stephens assets base would be used “to fix the drains in Wallsend”.

“Make no mistake, this is not an amalgamation, this is a takeover,” Cr Le Mottee said.“It would amount to a progressive stripping of assets.“If there was an amalgamation, Newcastle would have three times the voting numbers we do … we would become a ward.”

Port Stephens officials were caught off guard by the merger announcement after being found Fit For the Future, and Cr MacKenzie saidthe decision was “a grubby political decision” and “a betrayal of the people of Port Stephens”.

He revealed he was only told of the decision at 9.20am on the morning of the announcement.

“Someone from the minister’s office called me and said ‘you’re being merged’, I could have run off the road,” he said.