Just whose reputation got smeared in the property porn battle?

Domain’s catch-up in commercial real estate would easily provide a trigger for more aggressive tactics by News Ltd. Photo: Pat ScalaFairfax is calling it dirty.
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At the very least it’s intriguing that a particularly salacious porn site that was found to contain pop-up redirects to the Fairfax-owned Commercial Real Estate property website has been discovered by The Australian newspaper.

The paper’s owner Rupert Murdoch’s, News Corp, is also the majority owner of the website’s arch commercial rival REA Group, which runs realestate南京夜网南京夜生活.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that The Australian newspaper’s information came from an executive at REA.

There is nothing wrong with healthy competition between these two media groups.

But if Fairfax correctly states that it was not behind this move to redirect porn watchers to its real estate sites, we will see the mother of all investigations.

In a statement from Fairfax on Monday that makes it abundantly clear that it sees The Australian’s editorial attack  as commercially motivated it said: “News Limited (Corp) has never had any shame about using their media platforms for attacks on competitors. They dress up their bile as news and bore the rest of the industry with their seemingly endless appetite for gutter dwelling.”

The gist of the story published in The Australian on Monday was that Fairfax’s real estate portal, Domain, was buying advertising space on porn sites to inflate audience figures.

But inspection of the screen shots from these sites – which News Corp supplied to Fairfax on Sunday – show that they did not contain advertising but redirected those on the sites to Commercial Real Estate.

In the world of digital media – where advertising or redirects can be generated by algorithms rather than by the decision of an advertiser – things are less easy to control. But Fairfax says it has in place systems to prevent this kind of event.

The story in The Australian initially claims that, “it shows how Domain is using greasy tactics to lure internet users from sites advocating ­por­no­graphy and other illicit actions”.

Then, however, it goes on to say: “There is no suggestion that Fairfax, led by chief executive Greg Hywood, and Domain knowingly funded these sites. It is likely the ads were delivered to the sites by intermediaries ­including ad networks and ad ­exchanges.”

Fairfax IT technicians were unable to find the redirects from the sites – an outcome that only adds fodder to theories that  their appearance was maliciously generated.

If one ignores for a moment how these click-throughs ended up on porn sites, the other question that needs addressing is how that has impacted audience levels.

Fairfax says spam or bot traffic (from these kind of sites) is a tiny fraction of total sessions.

The growth in traffic that has pushed the Fairfax site to be almost level pegging with its News Corp rival has come from organic traffic, Facebook and referrals from Fairfax mastheads such as  The Age, SMH and The Australian Financial Review.

“As we do with many large and small businesses in Australia, we work with Domain to ensure that its content is targeted and that it resonates with audiences that are valuable and relevant to their business”  a Facebook spokesperson for Australia said.

“The growing success of Domain can be attributed to the high calibre and focus of Domain’s digital marketing team, the quality of Domain and the considered use of the Facebook platform.”

“We’re proud to play our part in their continuing success.”

While The Australian claims that the rising Fairfax real estate online traffic bolstered the audience numbers, the fact is that the official measurements taken by Nielsen ignore any traffic from these sites.

Thus, Fairfax would have no reason to push traffic via these sorts of sites.

The fact that the ferocious competition between the two  media operators is being played out on the digital property battleground is no accident.

With the decline in print-based advertising, both companies are increasingly reliant on revenue from their growing online real estate business.

Domain’s catch-up in commercial real estate would easily provide a trigger for more aggressive tactics by News Corp.

Meanwhile another motivation could have come from speculation that Domain would be spun out into a separately listed company.


Ardent Leisure raises $126 million from sale of d’Albora Marinas

The d’Albora Marinas portfolio comprises seven high-profile marinas. Ardent Leisure’s chief executive Deborah Thomas at the reopening. Photo: Tammy Law
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?Dreamworld chief executive Craig Davidson at the reopening on Saturday. Photo: Tammy Law

The reopening of the Dreamworld and WhiteWater World theme parks on the Gold Coast, called “Open Hearts – Open Doors” on the weekend helped raise $157,225, which will be given to the Red Cross.

More than 6000 people attended the park, which has been closed since October 25 after a tragic accident.

Ardent Leisure, the owner of the parks, said the donation will be distributed to those affected by the tragedy through the GIVIT Appeal Independent Distribution Committee.

Ardent Leisure’s chief executive Deborah Thomas said the group will continue to offer “our support to the families who lost their loved ones”.

“Our talented Dreamworld team were ready to reopen our doors and were touched by the warmth and kindness shown by so many of our visitors this weekend. Altogether, we welcomed back over 6000 guests,” Ms Thomas said.

While not all the rides were open on the weekend, Ms Thomas said $25 from every guest entry fee from the charity weekend will be donated to the Red Cross and Dreamworld will also contribute the $25 donation on behalf of all pre-paid ticket and pass-holders.

Dreamworld chief executive Craig Davidson said “every single attraction that opened had passed an unprecedented multi-level safety review, encompassing Workplace Health and Safety Queensland’s audit, Dreamworld’s internal engineering review, Pitt & Sherry’s independent review and the external peer-review by UK-based theme park safety specialists, LTC”.

This comes as Ardent has sold its d’Albora Marinas portfolio after a long process.

The d’Albora Marinas portfolio comprises seven high profile marinas located in premium locations, including Spit Junction and Rushcutter’s Bay in Sydney, and Victoria Harbour and Pier 35 in Melbourne.

After an open expression of interest sale process, the group has sold the d’Albora Marinas business for $126 million. That represents an 11 per cent premium over current book value of $113.5 million.

The purchaser is a special purpose vehicle jointly owned by Sydney‐based Balmain Corporation and Goldman Sachs. Completion of the transaction is expected to occur before June 30, 2017 and is dependent upon securing landlord consents for the transfer of the head leases.

The sale process incurred transaction costs of about $3.3 million and a commitment to complete about $5.6 million of pre‐planned capital expenditure projects prior to completion.

“The group’s decision to prepare d’Albora Marinas for sale with extended lease tenure, targeted capital works and a transparent sale process has ensured that the maximum value for investors has been realised. The agreed sale price of $126 million represents a premium to current book value and will improve the balance sheet capacity of the group,” Ms Thomas said.


Australia v Pakistan: Nathan Lyon urges restraint with pink ball Test revolution

Lighting up: Nathan Lyon impressed with the pink ball in Adelaide but wants Test cricket’s traditions maintained. Photo: Cricket AustraliaNathan Lyon has urged against overkill with day-night Test cricket, saying Australia’s players supported the concept but wanted to keep the format “as traditional as possible” and have the pink ball used only occasionally.
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The Australians are preparing for the second consecutive Test under lights, against Pakistan at the Gabba starting on Thursday, and an official announcement of the first day-night Ashes Test is imminent, with Cricket Australia expected to this week confirm next summer’s Test schedule against England.

Players are no longer staunchly opposed to the pink ball as they once were. A survey taken by the Australian Cricketers’ Association after this season’s first day-night Sheffield Shield round found that 57 per cent of players believed the quality of the ball had improved in its latest, black-seam incarnation. According to the poll 68 per cent of players felt the day-night conditions affected the outcome of matches.

Despite being more open to the innovation, after successive pink ball Tests in Adelaide, players do not want to see it infiltrate Test cricket.

“I don’t think we need to overkill it,” Lyon said on Monday. “It’s been a great success down in Adelaide but I think it’s quite important we leave Test cricket still a traditional game … [that] we don’t come in and overkill the pink ball.

“I know the game is moving forward but I’m a big believer in trying to keep Test match cricket as traditional as possible with the odd pink ball game. I’d hate to see a five Test match Ashes series next year, all pink ball.”

That won’t happen – it’s likely there will be only the one during the Ashes, in Adelaide, after England agreed to a day-night contest – but Cricket Australia will be pushing for at least two in home summers to follow, as they have scheduled this season.

Ambitious targets have been set for crowd numbers at the Gabba, which have been dismal in non-Ashes years lately, a problem that led the Brisbane Test to be switched from its usual place at the front of the home summer to mid-December. But while ticket sales are encouraging the attendance this week will not challenge the total attendance of 125,993 over four days for the third Test against South Africa in Adelaide last month.

A total crowd in the region of 70,000, up on the 53,572 who witnessed the first Test between Australia and New Zealand last summer, is considered a more realistic expectation.

Razzle-dazzle: Matthew Wade stumps Kagiso Rabada in Adelaide. Photo: Getty Images

Lyon could not be blamed for not wanting to change something that’s not broken at the Gabba. He has a better average at the ground than any other Australian Test venue and his strike rate in Brisbane is superior to even Shane Warne.

“I do like the concept,” the off-spinner said of the pink ball. “I think the ball has improved from last year but I think there is still room for improvement there and I know Kookaburra is working hard on that.”

Meanwhile, the ACA have expressed major concern at proposals outlined by CA for a new memorandum of understanding after the first of two days of meetings between the parties in Melbourne.

CA intend to scrap the 20-year-old percentage-of-revenue pay model, which guarantees players a 24.5 to 27 per cent share of turnover, and propose to set the payment pool for players themselves.

“This will clearly be a very long negotiation and a very detailed discussion,” ACA chief executive Alistair Nicholson said. “CA have shared some information regarding the positions they hold, but we are still to receive full financial information regarding CA’s submission which will underpin the negotiations.”

“We will take time to initially consider their position, but for now we are very concerned by some of the responses, and encouraged by others.”

Lyon said the players would leave it to their union to negotiate with the governing body over pay.

“The players are working with the ACA,” Lyon said. “They’re doing a fantastic job to look after us and we’re purely focused on the pink ball game here,” Lyon said. “Whatever happens will happen, it’s out of our control. We’ll leave all the higher stuff to the big fellows and we’ll just worry about playing cricket.”


Sport concussion class action closer with website launch

A professional sports concussion class action in Australia is a step closer after the launch of a website seeking expressions of interest from former athletes.
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The website concussionmatters南京夜网南京夜生活 is by outspoken concussion campaigner Peter Jess, the veteran player agent who has long railed against perceived inaction from the AFL in relation to head injuries.

The website asks players to detail their condition and diagnosis. “We want to help you and provide an opportunity for you to obtain medical support and adequate compensation,” the website says.

“If you suffered concussion/head injury while playing sport – AFL, Rugby League, Rugby Union, Soccer, Basketball or other professional sports – we want to ensure you have access to proper medical support and are compensated for the effect this may have on your life – now or in the future.

“Concussion Matters will contact everyone who registers and will arrange to test those most at risk using multi-modality analysis using objective and validated neurological testing methods.

“In addition to diagnosing potential medical issues, Concussion Matters will seek to develop a Class Action to compensate those people who have been affected.”

Concussion has become an increasingly sensitive topic in Australian sport. The Australian Athletes Alliance – a conglomerate of Australian player unions – recently established a concussion working group with the aim of funding independent research into concussion. The AFL has helped bankroll research into the effects of head knocks to players, although a timeframe for the release of data has been elusive.

The league also sent a contingent to the recent International Consensus Conference on Concussion in Sport in Berlin.

Several AFL players have retired in recent seasons as a result of concussion, including Brisbane Lions pair Matt Maguire and Justin Clarke, North Melbourne’s Leigh Adams and Geelong’s Sam Blease. Melbourne’s Heritier​ Lumumba had much of his 2016 season wiped out because of concussion, and is set to retire as a result. The prospect of the former Collingwood player taking legal action against the Demons has been mooted.

Cricket Australia has also upped its game in terms of concussion management, recently introducing a concussion substitute – one of the recommendations to come from an independent report into the death of Phillip Hughes following a blow to the head from a bouncer in November 2014.

The extent of the concussion problem is however contentious. Earlier this year, Associate Professor Paul McCrory – who is part of the AFL’s concussion working group – slammed the media for “over-simplifying” the issue, particularly in the US where the NFL finalised a $US1 billion settlement with thousands of former players.

There is also a divergence in views surrounding the management of concussions.

A recent Harvard University study into the health of American football players questioned practices surrounding club doctors, and whether players, suggesting that players better utilise personal doctors. “Club doctors are clearly fundamental to protecting and promoting player health,” the report said.

“Yet given the various roles just described, it is evident that they face an inherent structural conflict of interest. This is not a moral judgment about them as competent professionals or devoted individuals, but rather a simple fact of the current organisational structure of their position in which they simultaneously perform at least two roles that are not necessarily compatible.”


Newcastle Jets: Coach confident Ben Kantarovski will bounce back from latest knee surgery

SIDELINED: Jets medical staff examine Ben Kantarovski’s knee after the midfielder aggravated an injury against Sydney FC. Picture: Marina NeilLUCKLESS midfielder Ben Kantarovski had arthroscopicsurgery on his troublesomeright knee on Monday and faces up to six weeks on the sideline.
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The 24-year-old consulted a specialist on Thursday after aggravating a cartilage problem in the 2-0 loss to Sydney 10 days ago.

It wasthe fourth operation on his right knee since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in 2010.

“It was a minor tear and they nicked it off,” Jets coach Mark Jones said. “The knee was actually in much better condition than they thought. He should only be out for four to six weeks.”

Kantarovski, who is off contract, injured the sameknee in the first encounter with Sydney in round four and missed Newcastle’s next two games.

“Kanta is a fairly positive guy,” Jones said.

“He just wants to play regularly. It is disappointing for this to happen but it was only a minor thing. It was probably the best outcome. However, he needs to get through the remainder of the season without any injuries.”

Midfield is an area where the Jets have depth.

“Steve (Ugarkovic) and Mateo (Poljak) were very good against Perth,” Jones said. “Midfield is Johnny Koutroumbis’spreferred position. Browny can obviously drop back there, although I thought he wasmagnificent as a 10.”

Jones also had high praise for Koutroumbis, who has has made seven straight appearance since joining the Jets from Adelaide as a injury replacement.

“He is a young kid thrown in a little bit early than he needs to be but he has done a job,” Jones said.“Whensomeone like that firstcomes into the league, they make mistakes and they turn things over. But if you don’t give them an opportunity and don’t stick by them, they never get to step up. No matter what happens that kid gives 100%. He has something about him. He has an undying belief but he is also very critical of himself and doesn’t accept when he makes mistakes.”

Kantarovski is the seventh player to suffer a serious injury in 10 rounds.However, most are either back or about to return.Dan Mullen (knee) and Andrew Nabbout (ankle) were outstanding in their come back game against Perth. Morten Nordstrand (hip flexor) and Lachy Jackson (ankle) will be available for the clash against Adelaide at home on Friday.

Skipper Nigel Boogaard, who travelled to Perth but didn’t play, will also have another week of training under his belt.

“All of a sudden, we start to have some depth in positions,” Jones said. “There is competition which will help us maintain the level we showed against Perth.”


Verdict in Ahok blasphemy trial likely to put Indonesia’s democracy in the dock

Tens of thousands take part in a prayer at Jakarta’s National Monument during the December 2 rally against Ahok. Photo: Dewi Nurcahyani Security forces stand in the rain during the December 2 rally. Photo: Dewi Nurcahyani
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A man wearing Indonesian flag colours and Islamic symbols prays at an anti-Ahok rally. Photo: Dewi Nurcahyani

Female protesters against Ahok gather at the national monument in Jakarta. Photo: Dewi Nurcahyani

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, centre, is photographed as he joins the demonstrators on December 2. Photo: Dewi Nurcahyani

Demonstrators pray in the rain at the December 2 rally against Ahok. Photo: Dewi Nurcahyani

Jakarta: On December 2, students at a junior high school in Purbalingga, Central Java, were asked this question in their multiple-choice history test: “What is the name of the current gubernatorial candidate who insulted the Koran?”

The “correct” answer was d) Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, widely known as Ahok, the embattled governor of Jakarta whose blasphemy trial for allegedly insulting Islam begins on Tuesday, December 13.

The right of individuals to be considered innocent until proven guilty is enshrined in Indonesian law and the teacher was forced to apologise after the Muhammadiyah (the second-largest Islamic civil organisation in Indonesia) schools board learned of the question.

But it illustrates what many commentators fear: that Ahok’s conviction (he faces a maximum five-year jail sentence) is a foregone conclusion.

Police have confirmed that maximum security measures will be in place during the trial, after three massive rallies spearheaded by Islamic hardliners, one of which ended in violence, called for Ahok to be jailed.

But there are real fears Indonesia could become what Tempo magazine dubbed a “mobocracy”.

The respected magazine, banned under the Suharto regime as a threat to national stability, wrote in a rousing editorial: “A legal system that bows to pressure from the masses would turn Indonesia into a mobocracy …  Such a state of affairs, [Aristotle] declared, is nothing short of anarchy.”

More worrying than the fragile state of the rule of law in Indonesia, the magazine says, is the likelihood of the Ahok case becoming a precedent, with anyone being indicted because of mass pressure: “Nobody in their right mind would allow this to happen.”

The most recent rally on December 2 was attended by about 500,000 protesters, some carrying dramatic banners dripping with painted blood that demanded Ahok be jailed.

The controversial governor – the first openly ethnic Chinese Christian to occupy the role – opened a Pandora’s box when he allegedly provocatively told voters they had been deceived by his opponents citing verse 51 from the fifth sura or chapter of the Koran, al-Ma’ida.

Some interpret this as prohibiting Muslims from living under the leadership of a non-Muslim, although others say the scripture should be understood in its context – a time of war – and not interpreted literally.

Radical Islamic organisations have long opposed Ahok because they refuse to be led by a kafir (non-Muslim) but he proved stubbornly popular with his policies on reducing traffic congestion, flood mitigation, bureaucracy reform and free healthcare, appealing to middle-class Jakartans.

After inheriting the role of governor when his boss and political patron, Joko Widodo, was elected Indonesia’s president in 2014, Ahok looked set to win in his own right in the gubernatorial elections next February.

His opponents, former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s son Agus – whom a Jakarta Post columnist snidely suggested was being marketed largely on the “handsome factor” – and former education minister Anies Baswedan, were trailing in the polls.

But then Ahok’s inflammatory comments gave those who opposed him the ammunition they were looking for and profoundly changed the political landscape.

After a November rally calling for his imprisonment turned ugly, police declared Ahok a suspect, whilst admitting expert witnesses and investigators were divided over whether his comments were in fact blasphemous.

The move was widely interpreted as an attempt to appease the masses, with President Joko sufficiently alarmed about the civil unrest to cancel a state visit to Australia and commence a “political safari” of party and state institution leaders urging calm.

But the mob was not satisfied and another political rally – the biggest demonstration in Indonesia since the fall of Suharto – went ahead on December 2 demanding that Ahok be put behind bars.

The national police chief, General Tito Karnavian, appeared to play into their hands telling the cheering crowd: “We have done the maximum. Imagine, several times he was investigated by the KPK [Corruption Eradication Commission], but [Ahok] wasn’t able to be named a suspect. Handled by the police, he can be named a suspect.”

“In Ahok’s case, by demanding that the police have been too slow, Islamists put pressure on the police to hasten the process,” Dr Melissa Crouch, an expert on Indonesia’s blasphemy laws from the University of New South Wales, writes in policyforum.net.

“By demanding that the Attorney-General arrest Ahok, they are already presuming charges will be laid. By a show of force in the capital, Islamists issue an implicit threat to the judiciary who may hear the case – we will mob your courtroom next.

“So much for a fair and impartial hearing.”

At the eleventh hour President Joko made the abrupt and controversial decision to join the prayers at the December 2 rally alongside the radical Islam Defenders Front and then address the crowd.

This was applauded as a canny tactical win by many, although others argued it legitimised political extremists.

To an extent he was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t – his decision not to meet with protesters at the earlier November rally served to inflame tensions.

“[Joko] demonstrated considerable courage in rising to stand before a giant, largely hostile crowd,” analyst Kevin O’Rourke wrote on the Reformasi website.

“Nevertheless, [Joko]’s actions do nothing to aid his former running mate and political ally, Purnama [Ahok].

Ahok has never been afraid of ruffling feathers. He is loathed as much as he is loved, with his policy of evicting slum dwellers angering the urban poor and his plans for the reclamation of Jakarta Bay attacked by environmentalists.

His political rivals have successfully exploited anger over the alleged blasphemy comments to undermine both Ahok and his ally, President Joko. Ahok is now behind the other gubernatorial candidates in some polls.

There is also little doubt racism is at play. Only around 1 to 4 per cent of Indonesia’s 250 million people are ethnic Chinese, but their economic success has caused resentment to bubble away for centuries. Ahok has been described as both a “Chinese bastard” and “the Chinese Infidel”.

“Anti-Chinese sentiment has been growing during Jokowi’s presidency as unprecedented  Chinese investment pours into the country,” writes Associate Professor Greg Fealy from the Australian National University.

He writes that it is now difficult to imagine that Ahok can avoid being found guilty because the government cannot afford for it to be otherwise, given Ahok has become so reviled a figure in the Muslim community.

“Over the past decade Indonesian democracy has been regressing on numerous fronts, including religious freedom,”  Professor Fealy says.

“The Ahok case and mass mobilisation that has surrounded it represents yet another reversal. The events of the past two months give a hollow ring to Indonesia’s claim to being a moderate Muslim democracy.”


VCE 2016: Albert Park’s inaugural Year 12s are first class

Albert Park College inaugral Year 12 students (left to right) Nicky Tzouvanellis , Jasper Blake, Campbell Rider, Chelsea Saw and Katie Lewis. Photo: Joe Armao, Fairfax Media.Campbell Rider is one of thousands of students in the public school system who watched on, as news of the VCE results achieved by Victoria’ top private schools rolled in.
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The 18-year-old student is one of about 150 students who were the first to graduate from Albert Park College, which opened in 2011.

Enrolling in the fledgling school in Year 7 was a “risk”, he admits.

But Campbell has finished school with an ATAR of 99.2 and is among 20 per cent of his year level that achieved an ATAR over 90 – the top 10 per cent in the state.

The school’s median subject score was 31 and the dux ranked 99.6 – their results rivalled some of the high performing private schools.

Campbell said the stellar grades at the new government school set an important precedent for the rest of the sector.

“No one would leave this school without a sense that public education is something we need to stand up for because this [the school’s VCE results] proves that … government schools should be supported and protected,” he said.

“Albert Park College shouldn’t be the exception, it should be the benchmark … all these articles coming out about the elite private schools or select-entry schools which get these exceptional results, well, of course they do, no one is surprised by that.” .

There is plenty to learn from Albert Park College, a zoned school that is bursting at the seams, taking students from Port Melbourne, South Melbourne, Middle Park and St Kilda West. In five years it has grown from 150 to 1100 students, and has 430 students applying to enrol next year, despite only having room for 230.

Steven Cook, principal of the school, which opened a new campus on Bay Street this year for year 9 students, said there has been a steady year-on-year increase in demand of about 100 enrolments.

When the school was founded, it was one of the first to see teachers and students shift their curriculum online and adopt a “Mac only” approach, said Mr Cook, who introduced iPads for students in 2011, soon after the 2010 release.

“iPads seem mainstream now, but at the time it was quite radical,” he said.

The school, which offers two SEAL classrooms in each year level, has prioritised arts and creativity, said Mr Cook, by promoting subjects such as philosophy, sociology, music (a third of the students play an instrument), dance and performing arts throughout secondary.

A highlight for many students is the “Da Vinci Project” – a program for year 9 students wherein they tackle environmental issues over the course of the year and come up with solutions to the global problem.

Mr Cook said the graduating class were the guinea pigs for these new school initiatives.

“They were our first group, everything we tried was a new experience for them so to achieve the results they have speaks to their strength of character.”

Education Minister James Merlino also promised in October to expand the site to accommodate another five classrooms.


Don Dale detention royal commission: Dylan Voller evidence vindicates PM’s decision

Commissioners Mick Gooda and Margaret White during a tour of Don Dale. Photo: Elise Derwin Dylan Voller at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre. Photo: ABC Four Corners
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The first hour of gripping testimony alone by Dylan Voller vindicated Malcolm Turnbull’s snap decision to call the child detention royal commission and put a human face to a national scandal.

In clear, succinct and mostly detached responses, the 19-year-old has painted a horrid picture of institutionalised cruelty in a system hopelessly ill-equipped to deal with those supposedly in its care.

It is one thing to see the shocking, stark image of a boy shackled to a chair in a spit hood, an image that belongs in some other country and another age.

Or the grainy footage of a group of child detainees being tear-gassed in a detention centre.

Or to hear testimony from experts about systematic failures in a juvenile justice system, overwhelmingly and increasingly populated by Indigenous offenders, over many decades.

But it is another altogether to hear that boy, now a young man serving a sentence in an adult jail, tell his story of a young life in detention in calm answers, punctuated by blinking eyes and an involuntary shoulder twitch.

The only moment his composure is threatened is not when he revisits an almost endless catalogue of shocking physical degradations and deprivations, but when he recalls the taunt of the case worker who told him his family did not care for him.

That is when his eyes welled, his voice faltered, and counsel assisting the commission, Peter Callaghan SC, offered a respite from questions that was politely declined.

“For a long time I started believing it, I guess,” he said of the taunt, before making it plain that he did not believe it now. That would have come as some relief to members of his family in the body of the court.

The impression is of a person ashamed of the very bad things he has done, who has been let down by the system from the age of 10. It is of a young man in an ill-fitting suit and too-big shirt with nothing to hide, a young man who is not seeking retribution, but to spare others his experience.

To those who say this is about things done in the past, the message is that it is about what was happening right now, in both the juvenile and the adult justice systems.

There is no doubt that many of the things Voller described will be contested by those in positions of responsibility, but it is difficult to consider him as anything but a credible witness. Certainly, that seemed to be commissioner Mick Gooda’s impression when he thanked Voller for his testimony and his bravery in coming forward.

And it is more difficult to avoid the conclusion that Voller’s experience is the experience of many others; that change on multiple levels, in systems and in attitudes, is urgently required.

The Prime Minister’s decision to call this royal commission was branded too hasty by Tony Abbott because it came as an almost knee-jerk response to a Four Corners investigation, amid complaints that the expose lacked balance and the story was not new.

“Normally governments should not respond in panic at TV programs,” Abbott said. Former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett, went further, saying the program was “unprofessional” and used the same word to describe Turnbull’s decision to call a royal commission.

Now it is those judgments that are revealed as utterly ill-considered and premature.

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Hong Kong Chief Executive resignation unlikely to herald democratic change for territory

Beijing: The surprise announcement by Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying that he will not seek a second term as chief executive has ignited political manoeuvring by those seeking to replace him next year.
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Mr Leung has been Hong Kong’s most unpopular chief executive since the territory’s handover from British rule in 1997, according to local polling data.

What Beijing wanted was a steady pair of hands who could maintain economic and political stability. Instead property price inflation, low wages growth and a lacklustre economy exacerbated anger over inequality, while the spectre of Beijing’s rising influence has spawned toxic divisions and anti-mainland sentiment, and the rise of a nascent independence movement.

“He is very unpopular – the society has become very polarised under him and the situation has become almost ungovernable,” Willy Lam, a political analyst at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said.

While Mr Leung cited family reasons for his surprise decision on Friday not to stand for re-election, Hong Kong-based analysts said it was also likely he had lost political backing from the Communist Party leadership.

“I don’t think any Hong Kong person will believe that he declined to stand because of his family problems. Generally Hong Kong people believe that Beijing refused to support him and therefore he decides not to run,” said Joseph Cheng, a retired political science professor at the City University of Hong Kong, and a long-time pro-democracy advocate.

“And to a large extent Hong Kong people are very happy about it, and they certainly are a bit relieved that Beijing understands that it is extremely difficult to support a very unpopular chief executive.”

But hopes for a more conciliatory, inclusive replacement are moderated by what has been a consistently hardline approach from Beijing under President Xi Jinping.

Rather than permit a free vote to allow the Hong Kong public to determine their next leader, the Communist Party’s decision in 2014 to effectively vet chief executive candidates saw massive demonstrations cripple the city streets for months. The central government in Beijing, and Mr Leung, refused to negotiate with student protest leaders, and the demonstrations ultimately faded without any concessions from the government.

A more radical independence movement formed, which then led to two pro-independence lawmakers elected. They were subsequently disqualified from office for failing to take the oath of office properly.

The next chief executive will be selected by a committee of 1200 people, which has long been criticised as giving disproportionate powers to business elites and the pro-Beijing establishment.

The three serious frontrunners in the race are all pro-establishment candidates: Chief Secretary for Administration Carrie Lam, legislator Regina Ip and Financial Secretary John Tsang.

“On the whole the general sentiment on the part of the pro-demorcracy legislators is that none of them are worth supporting – in any case they have to toe the Beijing line,” Joseph Cheng said. “How can we trust them to fight for the interests of Hong Kong?”

Regardless of the winner, Professor Lam says it is likely the move to pass controversial national security law Article 23 will be revived. The article will criminalise sedition and subversion as a counter-measure against nascent independence movements.

The Hong Kong government pushed for the law in 2003 but was forced to shelve it after mass street demonstrations were organised in opposition. New mass demonstrations are unlikely now given the fractured nature of the pro-democracy camp and “protest fatigue”, analysts said.

“No matter who is elected the Article 23 is the top priority so [they] have no choice but to push through it,” says Willy Lam. “But [they] might do it in a less confrontational manner [with] more consultation with pro-democracy lawmakers, intellectuals, college professors and so forth.”


Media, hack this president

Donald Trump’s successful campaign relied on a combination of his public appearances plus constant social media engagement. Photo: Evan Vucci Illustration: Andrew Dyson
南京夜网

The election of Donald Trump broke new ground in the way information has been used and abused, presenting a historic challenge to the media.

Few moments highlighted this better than when Trump – confronted with the fact that the Russians had hacked his opponent Hillary Clinton – invited the Russians to hack Clinton some more.

Trump later brushed off the outrage by claiming he was only being sarcastic.

But the impact of the stream of emails on Clinton was real. Now there is a President-elect, with a demonstrated hostility for the media, who will bring to the White House a web of potential conflicts of interest between the world of business and governance. Murky relationships and unanswered questions about ties to foreign leaders abound.

The challenge to the media now extends to a Trump presidency; four years in which corruption or the potential for corruption can eat at US government and society.

The media have been criticised for taking Trump literally but not seriously during the campaign, while his voters took him seriously but not literally. But real news runs on facts. Without them, reporters are reduced to speculation.

If the media are going to support and defend the openness and accountability a law-based society depends on, they need hard facts to work with.

To get those, they need to adapt to the new reality of the information age and the way Trump’s campaign exploited it.

For the first time since the early 1960s, a presidential candidate has refused to divulge his taxes to the public during the campaign.

The potential conflicts of interest behind the billionaire-turned-president are historic in scale.

In this world, the media should consider a limited, surgical hacking of Trump to learn about his financial holdings, especially as they relate to foreign companies, leaders and governments.

I’m just kidding, of course.

But no reasonable observer can claim the public doesn’t have the right to know who Trump is in bed with financially, who he owes and who owes him, and how this influences the decision-making of his presidency.

Simply being outraged by the little that is known is not enough.

It’s also not the place of the media in the 21st century.

Crusading, activist journalism doesn’t make up for a lack of facts to report, Russian-American author Masha Gessen says in discussing her experience of authoritarian Russia.

The prospect of hacking – both its effect on the election and its potential for clearing up some of the mystery of Trump’s wealth, holdings and international relationships – speaks to the broader effect technology is having on the relationship between the presidency and the world.

Trump’s successful campaign relied on a combination of his public appearances plus constant social media engagement. It was fed through an army of online partisan supporters, networks of bots, and pushed and defended by trolls – some based far outside the US.

They themselves were only part of the alternate digital reality constructed with the help of Breitbart, racist alt-right activists, propaganda, misinformation, outright lies and possibly even some moderators on Reddit.

If the fact-seeking media are feeling outgunned in this world, it may be because Trump’s support relies on networks that have cut the media out of the loop.

The problem will only get worse. As it does, both Trump backers and Obama backers will find even their opponents’ legitimate victories harder to believe.

The media, confronted with the new digital reality, seem to be unsure of how to proceed. Cover all of Trump’s statements, as has been the protocol of days gone by? Or cover none because words often don’t mean what they say?

There is no substitute for hard facts.

Hacking Trump’s financial documents – just joking, folks – would not only uncover the scope of the President-elect’s conflicts with the international business world, it would put the media on a more equal footing with Trump. This is important in a democracy.

Of course, hacking the president to gain information which is legitimately in the public’s interest could lead to a whole set of new problems.

For example: is it possible to limit such an action? What would be off-limits? Would this be the new normal? Would it set the US and other liberal democracies down a slippery slope to lawlessness? Or is this the new way of the world?

The ethical, political and legal ramifications multiply outwards in many directions, almost calling for one of those media talkfests the industry seems hooked on.

But navel-gazing, introspection, self-flagellation – this isn’t what the media need now. Aggressive reporting that never reaches the minds of the uncritical masses won’t help much either.

In this world, reshaped by the internet, the media must adopt new thinking.

How new? If the public and the media mirrored the Trump campaign’s messaging approach, it might work like this:

Rather than The New York Times, Washington Post and other major outlets just competing with each other for big scoops, they would also coordinate with each other to maximise the respective exposure each outlet gets. When one outlet had a revealing story, the others could work to help amplify it, taking a patterned approach, until the White House fully addressed the issue reported.

In this climate, the media would be wise to concentrate on any potential wrongdoing and not get distracted by what is simply new and unprecedented about a Trump White House.

In this new information reality, such media efforts wouldn’t be confined to US outlets, either.

Trolling on behalf of Trump was globalised. Fair reporting for liberal democracy can be, too.

Individuals who support responsive democratic government – anywhere in the world – would then jump onto social media, tweeting every criticism of Trump’s actions, boiling down every aspect of his conflicts of interest into catchphrases, hashtags, ideas and even memes.

They would coordinate their messaging, too. Like Trump’s fans, they would create a digital culture around their political identity.

Those running vast networks of bots would program them to re-post material about the relevant story or topic, reflecting the latest development. They don’t call it “computational propaganda” for nothing.

And those who support liberal democracies – in which any problem that can be measured and understood can be addressed by a government that has the consent of the governed – would become advocates for such values in politics.

The liberal values crowd can confront those who have disappeared down a rabbit hole of irrationalism, which, to be fair, has been made more attractive by the unequal experience of globalisation and free market fundamentalism.

These defenders of liberal democracy would understand that in this world, it’s not simply the truthfulness of the message but the volume, velocity and momentum with which it is delivered that make all the difference. This realisation matters for a free press in the 21st century charged with reporting honestly and insightfully about a shadowy billionaire with authoritarian tendencies who happens to be President of the United States.

It’s a big challenge. And frankly, it may be much more a technical than a journalistic one. But the fate of democracy depends on it. So it’s worth acting on it now. That is an idea I mean seriously. Literally, too.

Chris Zappone is a Fairfax Media foreign editor.

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