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Indian citizens head immigration queue for Australia

Almost twice as many Indians applied to migrate to Australia compared to British applicants. Photo: Erin Jonasson Man in charge: Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
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Indian citizens are flocking to Australia to work, beating the once-dominant British expats, while the granting of Australian citizenship is at a six-year high, according to migration figures released this week.

The statistics from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development show there has been 46.6 per cent increase in the number of people becoming Australian citizens. During 2012-13,123,400 pledged to become citizens of Australia, the highest number since 2011-12, the International Migration Outlook report said.

Australia’s Migration Program has also seen a significant increase, with 40,100 India citizens applying to migrate during 2012-13, while China had 27,300 applications and the United Kingdom 21,700.

According to Migration Law expert Sharon Harris, there is a growing trend of Indian and Chinese citizens seeking citizenship in Australia for greater global movement.

“India and China is without any doubt the most prolific source countries for pursuing visas and ultimately citizenship,” she said “With an Australia passport, this opens up greater travel access globally.”

Ms Harris, who has been a migration lawyer for 20 years, said the change in governments was particularly popular with Chinese citizens, who were attracted to the Abbott government.

“With the change of government they have more confidence in a stable political environment,” Ms Harris said.

But the report also showed that 62,700 people whose temporary visas had expired or had been cancelled were living illegally in Australia.

Jobs which only offer cash in hand such as in the hospitality industry or agriculture contributed significantly to the number of workers who went “missing”.

‘”This is a huge issue but the Department of Immigration did not have the resources to find these people.

“They do checks in area of high concern such as farming and hospitality, where those employers are happy to pay cash in hand.”

In October, it was revealed by a Fair Work Ombudsman that more than an estimated 20,000 workers on the skilled 457 visa had gone missing.

The audit assessed 1807 skilled workers on 457 visas and found 338 – or about 20 per cent – were no longer employed by their sponsor.

India has now replaced the United Kingdom as the top origin country applying for 457 visas, the OECD report said.

According to the latest 457 visa figures, Indian citizens comprise almost a quarter of the skilled visas, at 23.3 per cent. This was followed by the United Kingdom at 18.3 per cent; the People’s Republic of China at 6.5 per cent and the Republic of Ireland, 7.2 per cent. The number of American citizens applying for the skilled visa was at 6.2 per cent.

Pitcher buzzer beater hands St Augustine’s thrilling win in boys basketball final

What are the odds of the same two teams, playing two double overtime games, in the space of five days?
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St Augustine’s College couldn’t care less after a buzzer beater from Daniel Pitcher sealed an Australian Schoolboys Championships final win over Sacred Heart College at Tuggeranong on Friday.

Incredibly, the sides featured in another double overtime epic in a preliminary match on Monday, with the Sydneysider again prevailing over the South Australians.

With just two seconds left point guard Pitcher scored the decisive lay-up, a fitting finale after a fine 33 point (11-19 FG, 6-11 three pointers), six rebound, four assists and ten steal display.

St Augustine’s looked set to cruise to victory after big matches from Jonathon Marsh (25 points, 10 rebounds), Denis Radosevic (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Tom Savage (18 points, five assists) guided them to a 12-point lead after three quarters.

Sacred Heart stormed back late to force extra time, only for Pitcher to break their hearts and clinch a maiden title for St Augustine’s.

“I was pretty nervous but ended up getting the ball and finishing it off. It’s probably one of the top moments of my life,” Pitcher said.

“We played them in the round games ,which was also double overtime. Once we got them in the final we knew they were going to be tough and would have to work hard every possession.”

Pitcher’s opposing point guard Isaac White scored 34 points for Sacred Heart, while his brother contributed 26.

But 31 turnovers by Sacred Heart eventually proved their undoing.

St Augustine’s will not have much time to celebrate their win. They fly out on Saturday for a tour against US schools.

The girls’ main final was less dramatic, with Victoria’s Rowville Secondary College accounting for Queensland’s John Paul College.

Rowville’s wider range of options and selflessness eventually proved the difference, with four players scoring in double figures.

John Paul College relied too heavily on their go-to players, Jayden Fuiava (23 points) and Carleigh Patrick (17).

FINALS

Boys championship: St Augustine’s 102 (D Pitcher 33, J Marsh 25, D Radosevic 18, T Savage 18) bt Sacred Heart 101 (I White 34, S White 26, A Deng 23)

Girls championship: Rowville 73 (T Lee 14, S Dirito 14, R Noller 13) bt John Paul College 62 (J Fuiava 23, C Patrick 17)

Banks offer a glimmer of hope in ‘terrible’ week for Australian shares

These are the percentage move of the ten sectors that make up the ASX\200.The market finished 0.42 per cent higher for the week, staging a spirited mid-week comeback after a disastrous 2 per cent drop on Monday and a further 0.60 per cent fall on Friday.
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Once again, energy stocks were the worst performers, with the sector dropping 5.36 per cent for the week as investors absorbed the reality of oil at $US65 ($77.35) and further falls probably to come.

The broader All Ordinaries Index closed 0.60 per cent lower on Friday but closed up 0.29 per cent for the week to 5313.60. The ASX200 closed 0.62 per cent lower on Friday, finishing the week 0.45 per cent higher at 5336.70.

“The main story is the terrible week for energy stocks and mining stocks in general,” said BBY senior private client adviser Henry Jennings. After the “horror” day of Monday, the market came back “quite dramatically”, he said. “It’s mainly on the back of the resurgence in the banks and a hope that the Murray report on Sunday is somewhat more benign that what people were expecting a month or so ago.”

Wednesday’s dreadful GDP figure – which showed the economy expanded only 0.3 per cent in the September quarter – might have helped financial stocks, said Mr Jennings.

“There’s the assumption that because the economy’s so bad we’re going to get some sort of rate cut next year,” he said. As well, “the market is quite skittish, it’s a little bit nervous. When you get nerves people go to quality, which is the banking sector. It continues to really hold the market up.”

Among the banks, National Australia Bank closed 0.61 per cent lower for the week to $32.40, Westpac rose 1.41 per cent to $33.01, Commonwealth Bank lifted 1.14 per cent to $81.64 and ANZ increased 0.56 per cent to $32.10

Among energy stocks, Origin fell 8.16 per cent for the week to $11.25 and Santos crashed 16.83 per cent to $8.40.

Origin Energy’s BBB credit rating from Standard & Poor’s has escaped unscathed by the cut in oil price forecasts, though the position of some other oil and gas players such as Santos is understood to be under review.

Among other energy stocks, Sundance collapsed 21.43 per cent to 55¢, Senex dived 14.93 per cent to 28¢, Horizon Oil fell 7.50 per cent to 19¢, and Beach Energy dropped 9.76 per cent to 93¢. Woodside dipped 0.11 per cent for the week to $35.71.

Mining stocks also had a poor week. BHP fell 1.62 per cent to $30.42 while Rio Tinto did worse, slipping 3.32 per cent to $57.14.

It was announced on Friday the two mining giants are on the verge of securing a long-awaited land-swap deal allowing them to build a huge $US6 billion copper mine in the United States. The US House of Representatives voted overnight to approve a transfer of federal government land to the Rio-BHP joint venture in the state of Arizona. Both companies, however, fell on Friday despite the news.

Mount Gibson shares were smashed on Friday morning after it cuts its sales target and suspended operations on Koolan Island, flagging job cuts. The mine was shut after extensive flooding in October. The miner was the week’s worst ASX200 performer, its share price collapsing 50 per cent to just 21 cents.

Gold stocks finished the week higher even after the failure of the Swiss referendum that would have led the Swiss National Bank to massively boost its holdings of bullion. Newcrest closed 0.87 per cent higher for the week at $10.43 and Regis Resources finished 2.43 per cent higher at $1.48.

Elsewhere in the market, shares in aged-care operator Estia plunged after listing on the ASX, finishing the session at $4.74 from their $5.75 issue price in a horror market debut.

The company raised $725 million in the fourth-biggest IPO of the year. The float was priced on a multiple of 21 times forecast earnings and gave Estia a market capitalisation of $1.035 billion.

Engineering and construction company Bradken was a star performer on Friday, rocketing 36.45 per cent on the day to $4.53 on the back of a takeover offer by private equity firms PEP and Bain Capital. It finished the week 24.79 per cent higher.

Australia’s largest fertility clinic operator, Virtus Health, finished 4.73 per cent higher for the week at $7.31 on the back of news it acquired a controlling 70 per cent stake in Tasmania’s only IVF provider, TasIVF.

The Australians regain their bounce

Australia chose a park on the edge of the town for their first training session as a group since the death of Phillip Hughes.
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It was a torpedo punt from Adelaide Oval, the venue for the rescheduled first Test, but with no grandstands and a low-key atmosphere.

“It’s a nice ground. We could have gone there [to Adelaide Oval]. We just decided to come here in the open air,” coach Darren Lehmann said after strolling down to the park from the team hotel.

There were still plenty of people watching, cameras trained on the middle of the ground where the fast bowlers went through their paces.

For the record, Josh Hazlewood bowled the first bouncer at 2.46pm and it sailed over the head of Shaun Marsh. Before the session, players and support staff formed a big huddle in the outfield, where Lehmann addressed the group and so did Barry “Nugget” Rees, a cherished companion of Australian teams and part of the inner sanctum whenever they are in Adelaide.  The emphasis of the three-hour training session was on enjoyment rather than intensity.

During the warm-ups the players broke off into pairs and spun each other around in circles until dizziness kicked in.

There was yelling and laughter, a boisterousness that had been missing since the cricket stopped at the SCG 10 days ago.

A fielding drill took the form of a game of soccer, except with a cricket ball and underarm throws. David Warner performed a handstand.

With three nets and a centre wicket in operation, some players were picking up a bat and ball for the first time in a week.

Warner was one of the first into the nets, facing throw-downs from batting coach Michael Di Venuto.

Ryan Harris faced the spin of Nathan Lyon, and Steve Smith faced a handful of local net bowlers.

In the middle of the ground, Hazlewood, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson did not seem to hold back. Hazlewood sent another bouncer past the helmet of Shane Watson, Marsh ducked under another from Siddle and Chris Rogers fended a rearing delivery from Siddle away from his face.

As far as this reporter could see, Johnson did not bowl a bouncer, but he did knock over Rogers’ stumps.

Lehmann said the first session was a  chance to blow away cobwebs and clear heads after the distressing events of the week, but the intensity would build on Sunday and Monday.

The overriding sentiment was that the players wanted to get back on the park, any park.

Whether they will be ready to get back into Test cricket on Tuesday remains to be seen.

“It’s our first crack out in the middle today. They’re not too bad,” Lehmann said. “They are looking forward to getting back out there and playing some cricket, training and getting ready for a Test match … Only time will tell, mate, but we’ll get back out there and see how we go.”

Paceman James Pattinson cleared for bowling comeback

The meticulous plan to get James Pattinson back and playing for an extended period reaches an important milestone on Saturday when he resumes bowling in a match for the first time since his latest back injury.
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After three months bowling in the nets, and extensive testing of his new bowling action crafted to reduced his risk of injury, the 24-year-old has been cleared to bowl for Dandenong in its Premier Cricket Twenty20 match against Monash Tigers at Glen Waverley.

“It’s a big milestone for him,” Victoria’s bowling coach, Mick Lewis, said. “He’s worked so hard over the past six months to get his body strong, and to actually come back and start bowling balls [in a match] it’s a big credit to him.

“He’s not full tilt yet – he’s on a little bit of restriction of what he can do – but we think it’s important he actually gets out and tests his new action in a game situation against batsmen who are going hard at him.”

Pattinson has not bowled in a match since March, when he played a key role on the final day to seal a Test series victory for Australia in South Africa. When he emerged from his Test comeback with more lower-back problems it was decided a major analysis for his bowling was needed.

The reason Pattinson has struggled with back injuries, experts believe, is that while his feet were suited to a front-on action, his upper body was twisting for a more side-on action. When testing showed his level of counter-rotation was nudging 50 degrees it was determined he had to reduce that to at least the mid 30s to not remain at high risk of injuring his back again.

Pattinson’s road to recovery began in August with a meeting between Cricket Australia physio Alex Kountouris and Test bowling coach Craig McDermott and Lewis and academy coach Tim McCaskill from Victoria, in which all four resolved to follow the same long-term plan for Pattinson. This involved a gradual increase in bowling workloads, such as permission to bowl faster and then having to bowl off a longer run-up at the same pace.

Every two or three weeks since then Pattinson has flown to Brisbane for testing. His improvement has been steady, to the extent his counter rotation was last measured at 26 degrees, half of what it had been beforehand, thanks to his hips and shoulders being better aligned.

“It’s good, positive reinforcement for him, to see the testing’s all done and he’s still hitting the markers and actually still bowling at good pace,” Lewis said.

“It’s an amazing response [to the technical advice] that he’s actually done it.  He’s put a lot of hard work in and it’s starting to pay off for him.

“We’re just hoping it holds up under pressure, and we’re pretty confident it will.”

Jaffas to play Japan’s Blue Samurai at Cessnock in January

NORTHERN NSW National Premier League major premiers Lambton Jaffas are ‘‘buzzing’’ with excitement after confirmation they will play defending Asian Cup champions Japan in a closed trial at Cessnock Sportsground on January 5.
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Japan will be based at Cessnock for their Asian Cup campaign, which includes a pool match against Palestine at Hunter Stadium on January 12.

The match will be one of two trials Japan, who arrive in Cessnock on January 4, are set to play on Australian soil but the only game against local opposition.

Japan will also play New Zealand club Auckland City FC on Sunday, January 4 from 6pm at Cessnock Sportsground in a match open to the public.

They will then back up the following morning to take on the Jaffas behind closed doors.

Northern NSW Football chief executive David Eland said his governing body was asked to provide Japan with the most competitive fixture possible as a trial.

Eland said the NPL minor premiers, the Newcastle Jets Youth side, were not considered an appropriate opposition due to their National Youth League commitments, so the honour fell to the grand final winners.

Former Newcastle Jets A-League captain Jobe Wheelhouse was man of the match for the Jaffas when they defeated Weston 2-0 in the NPL grand final in September.

Jaffas coach David Tanchevski said ‘‘the boys are absolutely buzzing’’ about the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take on a national team and players like Milan star Keisuke Honda.

‘‘It’s obviously exciting for the club and for the players,’’ Tanchevski said.

‘‘We’ve been told Japan are going to field a fairly strong team, so players like Honda, I believe, are going to be playing.

‘‘There should be a number of first-team players there.

‘‘It’s a great opportunity for the boys to play at the strongest level they will ever play.

‘‘Even Jobe, who played in the A-League, never had an opportunity to play a team like Japan.’’

Tanchevski said his side wanted to increase their training load after hearing of the potential match and were keen to give the Asian champions a solid hit-out.

‘‘We actually had a break and we were just having a kick once a week to stay fit in the off-season, but the players have asked to ramp it up to three times a week before Christmas to prepare for the game,’’ he said.

‘‘It shows that they are motivated and want to get themselves ready for the game.

‘‘Japan are obviously coming to this major tournament and we’re at the start of our off-season, so there’s going to be a fair difference in fitness levels, but we’re doing a bit extra.’’

The Jaffas have lost No.1 goalkeeper Danny Ireland and forwards Dino Fajkovic and Kale Bradbery from their grand final-winning side.

Keeper Brad Swancott, Hakan Canli, Josh Sansucie and Joel Grenell have been added to their roster, while ex-Toronto and Broadmeadow forward Ricki Metcalfe is training with the Jaffas.

Abe Wheelhouse is back at the club but potential back surgery could force rule him out for 2015.

With the additions and the return of Luke Remington, who missed the decider with a shoulder injury, Tanchevski believes his squad for the Japan match will be stronger than the one which defeated Weston.

Voyager of the Seas cruise ship relaunched after $80 million makeover

Royal Promenade: The marble-floored boulevard on the Voyager of the Seas. Royal Promenade: The marble-floored boulevard on the Voyager of the Seas.
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Royal Promenade: The marble-floored boulevard on the Voyager of the Seas.

Makeover: Voyager of the Seas at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre in Singapore.

All the tricks: Flowboarding champ Adam Wildman.

Interior stateroom: Features include a virtual balcony.

Italian style: Giovanni’s Table.

Royal Promenade: The marble-floored boulevard on the Voyager of the Seas.

One of the world’s biggest cruise ships, Voyager of the Seas, comes home to Sydney on Monday,  fresh from its $80-million makeover in the shipyard in Singapore. It’s the ship’s third season Down Under and we’re the first passengers to see the new features that were added in its dramatic transformation.

Royal Caribbean specialises in “firsts at sea”. When it was built in 1999, Voyager was the biggest cruise ship in the world. It was the first of the line’s 22-strong international fleet to have an ice-skating rink, outdoor climbing wall and a Royal Promenade. This four-deck-high, marble-floored boulevard hosts parades of “live” cartoon characters such as Shrek and Kung Fu Panda during the day and dance parties at night, and is where you go to shop, have a beer in the Pig & Whistle pub, or pop into a cafe for a snack.

Updates on Voyager of the Seas include new digital signage to help you find your way around  (it’s so big it’s easy to forget where you are) and to check out what’s happening. Wi-Fi is now available all over the ship and there are flatscreen televisions in every stateroom. While the ship doesn’t have its own satellite, as does the newly launched Quantum of the Seas, it’s a big improvement.

But perhaps Voyager’s most attention-grabbing firsts is its new surfing simulator, the FlowRider, and inside Virtual Balcony cabins. The ship has also been fitted with three new restaurants – Royal Caribbean’s signature Chops Grille, Izumi and Giovanni’s Table – a 3D cinema, giant outdoor movie screen, and a new Diamond Club for Crown and Anchor Society members.  Voyager is also the first ship in the fleet to offer The Tavern, an upmarket gastro pub-sports-themed bar.

The ship  will be in Sydney until March 2015, when it departs on a 16-day cruise to Fremantle. After that it heads to Singapore, then to Hong Kong, where it will be based until October. Having the ship in our waters gives first-time and seasoned cruisers the chance to sample attractions that are otherwise offered only on ships based overseas. Great news for the budget-conscious and holidaymakers who don’t love long-haul flights, too.

If you’re good at surfing (or willing to give it a go), flowboarding is stand-up surfing. The less adventurous can opt for body boarding, or just have a good laugh watching the wipeouts from the poolside stadium. Water is pumped into the 12-metre-long, 9.75-metre-wide FlowRider at a high speed (up to 72 kilometres an hour), which creates the waves. It is free to use; when you sign up for your first go, instructors walk you through a safety session that includes tips for staying upright. If you want to hone your skills, there  are private lessons. Or take some advice from Aussie flowboarding champ Adam Wildman, who learned all his tricks on Freedom of the Seas when he was a teenager. “It’s one of the best experiences you can have in the middle of the ocean.” Be prepared to join a queue.

Don’t have the budget for an outside or balcony cabin? If you book one of Voyager’s new inside virtual balcony cabins you’ll be able to see and hear the ocean (and port noises when the ship’s docked) through the virtual  balcony,  a floor-to-ceiling, high-definition screen set flush to the wall that shows views from digital cameras mounted around the ship. The HD screen is framed by curtains, which makes it look even more realistic (and you can draw the curtains or turn the screen off when you go to sleep).

Your view depends which way the screen faces; if it’s on the wall facing the ship’s bow, you’ll see the view from the camera on the bridge, and if it faces aft, you’ll see the ship’s wake from the camera mounted at the back.

Again, it’s  another industry first for Royal Caribbean; virtual balcony cabins were installed on Navigator of the Seas as an experiment before being fitted on all 373 of Quantum of the Seas’ inside cabins. The sound of the waves is piped in and you can control the volume, or switch it off. All the system lacks is a fan to simulate a fresh sea breeze.

The new dining options are Izumi (an Asian-fusion restaurant with a distinctly Japanese flavour), Giovanni’s Table (Italian cuisine) and Chops Grille (upmarket surf ‘n’ turf). I’m not a big meat-eater  but I love the small filet mignon at Chops Grille and can’t resist the rich,  French onion soup and lobster bisque for starters. Pork, veal, lamb and chicken are also on the menu, served in classic steakhouse style.  If you have room for dessert, you can’t beat the chocolate mud pie – tomorrow we diet.

Giovanni’s Table has different menus for lunch and dinner, but you can choose light options at both sittings. Antipasti, pasta dishes and fresh Italian salads are perfect for lunch, and for dinner pasta mains include an excellent mushroom risotto, spinach and ricotta crepes, and crab ravioli. Other mains include such classics as ossobucco, stuffed chicken breast, veal tenderloin parcels and lamb chops.

I prefer the decor and atmosphere in Giovanni’s Table to the other new restaurants, although Izumi’s is smartly turned out in mod-Asian style and offers a sizeable a la carte selection of sushi, noodles, dim sum, soups and sashimi. The hot rock grill dishes are particularly good.

The writer was a guest of Royal Caribbean International

TRIP NOTES

CRUISING THERE

Voyager of the Seas is sailing a series of itineraries in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands between December, 2014 and April, 2015, ranging from three to 16 nights. Fares for three-night Voyager of the Seas sampler cruises departing Sydney on January 22 and February 19 cost from  $671  and $649 respectively. Prices are per  person twin share and include meals (specialty venues extra), entertainment and activities such as FlowRider, rock climbing and ice skating.  Fares for an 11-night Sydney round-trip calling at Noumea, New Caledonia, and Lautoka and Suva in Fiji, departing Sydney on March 5, cost from  $1220. This includes seven sea days – plenty of time to enjoy all the fun stuff on board. Phone 1800 754 500 or see royalcaribbean杭州龙凤419m.au.

MORE INFORMATION

royalcaribbean杭州龙凤419m.au

MORE VOYAGER OF THE SEA FEATURES

FUN OF THE FARE   There are 13 restaurants and cafes on Voyager of the Seas. Five of them are included in your fare: the main dining room, Windjammer Cafe, Boardwalk Doghouse, Park Cafe and Cafe Promenade. Extra charge restaurants are Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table, Izumi Asian Restaurant, Johnny Rockets, Rita’s Cantina, Samba Grill, Chef’s Table and Ben & Jerry’s.

CHILD’S PLAY There are seven age-appropriate kids’ clubs, catering for babies from six months old to teenagers. Royal Babies (six months to 18 months); Royal Tots (18-36 months); Aquanauts (three to five years); Explorers (six to eight years); Voyagers (nine to 11 years); Teens (12 to 14 years); and Teens (15 to 17 years).

The ice rink isn’t just    for practising your moves –  check out the spectacular ice shows performed by professional skaters. Acrobats show off their aerial skills in the atrium and every night you’ll find live music and comedy in various spots around the ship. Big razzle-dazzle Broadway-style shows and musicals are staged in the 1347-seat La Scala Theatre, an impressive show lounge that was inspired by the lavish La Scala in Milan.

MIX IT UP Royal Caribbean has turned Voyager’s former Champagne Bar into the ’60s-style “retro-chic” R Bar. Get frocked up for the evening and enjoy a traditional pre-dinner martini, or ask the mixologists to create something special for you. It’s fun and a bit cheeky.

AT THE MOVIES It’s all the rage on Voyager’s sister ships Allure, Oasis, Liberty and Freedom of the Seas, and now passengers on Voyager can take in blockbusters and new-release movies in  3D. Special glasses are provided.

The 67-square-metre outdoor movie screen by the pool complex on Deck 11 shows music videos, documentaries and sports shows during the day, and at night  has movies by moonlight. It’s also used for video game challenges.

VOYAGER OF THE SEAS IN NUMBERS

137,276 Weight in tonnes

3284 Total number of passengers

311 Total length in metres

38 Total width in metres

15 Number of passenger decks

642 Number of staterooms

Debra Wolfgram’s killer jailed for 22 years

THE man who killed Debra Wolfgram with a flurry of drunken punches in a Hamilton South unit was jailed for 22 years on Friday after Justice Robert Hulme described the attack as savage.
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CRIME SCENE: The unit in Hamilton North where Debra Wolgram died from a ‘flurry of drunken punches’ delivered by Michael Bruce Clarke.

Michael Bruce Clarke, 44, will be eligible for release in 2030 after he was sentenced to a non-parole period of 16 years and six months.

He, Ms Wolfgram and others had been drinking and socialising at the unit block on September 18, 2013, when Clarke went to bed at about midnight, Justice Hulme said.

Clarke would later tell police that he was awoken by a figure standing over him, which he punched several times.

He said he awoke again later that morning to find Ms Wolfgram dead.

He told a friend that day what he’d done and that he intended to dispose of the body in the Belmont sand dunes.

He also rang a woman to ask if he could borrow her car.

Justice Hulme said the ‘‘fatal assault occurred on the spur of the moment’’, but added that ‘‘it must have been an attack of significant savagery’’.

Justice Hulme said there were still a number of unanswered questions such as why was Ms Wolfgram’s clothing removed and placed in a bag and was Clarke serious about disposing of the body.

Ms Wolfgram’s mother Monika Teterin said the case was tragic for both families.

‘‘Maybe now there will be some kind of a healing,’’ she said.

‘‘We will always miss her, each and every day.’’

Debra’s brother Gregory Wolfgram said the justice system had served the family well.

‘‘I just feel sorry for [Clarke’s] parents,’’ he said.

‘‘They’re absolutely heartbroken, but they can visit their son. I can’t visit my sister.’’

Ms Wolfgram’s family wore red roses on Friday.

Gregory Wolfgram said the red rose represented love and that was the perfect symbol for Debra.

He told the court earlier in the day of Debra’s loving, trusting nature.

Mrs Teterin also spoke about Debra’s ability to heal others without judgment.

‘‘She thought everyone was her friend,’’ Mrs Teterin said.

Ricky Muir’s anguish on asylum vote

“I am forced into a corner to decide between a bad decision or a worse decision – a position which I do not wish on my worst enemies”: AMEP Senator Ricky Muir.Ricky Muir says he was placed in a position he would not wish on his “worst enemies” in having to cast the final vote that allowed Scott Morrison’s controversial asylum seeker laws to pass through the Senate.
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The new laws mean refugee children will no longer be held in detention, although critics claimed Mr Morrison already had powers to release those children.

The low-profile senator for the Motoring Enthusiast Party says he was confronted by “a choice between a bad option and a worse option” in agreeing to support legislation critics say dramatically weakens protections to refugees.

Describing the decision as one of the hardest he had ever had to face, he told the Senate he had voted to help end the uncertainty for some 30,000 asylum seekers who arrived before offshore processing and resettlement became entrenched last year.

“I am forced into a corner to decide between a bad decision or a worse decision—a position which I do not wish on my worst enemies,” Senator Muir said before the legislation was passed late on Thursday night. Had he maintained his opposition, the legislation would not have passed.

Refugee advocates and lawyers expressed alarm at the passage of the laws, which restore temporary protection visas for the “legacy” caseload of 30,000 asylum seekers who arrived before July 19 last year and will allow those detained on Christmas Island to be transferred to the mainland.

The legislation also dramatically strengthens the government’s powers to detain asylum seekers at sea and take them “anywhere in the world”, introduces a new safe-haven enterprise visa and includes fast-track processing that Amnesty International says will see “some refugees returned to the hands of their torturers”.

Senator Muir and other crossbenchers said they had supported the legislation because the government had said that, if it did not pass, the 30,000 would be “left in limbo” and 1550 who arrived between July 19 and the election would be sent to Nauru.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young launched a scathing attack on Mr Morrison saying he had “successfully blackmailed” the Senate cross bench by holding refugee children hostage.

“Tonight we saw children on Christmas Island being handed the phone number of Senator Muir, and they were asked to call that number and beg that senator to let them out. If that is not treating children as hostages, what is it?” she told the Senate.

A spokesman for Senator Muir said he had not spoken to any children on the island and a defiant Mr Morrison replied that he did not take moral lectures from Senator Hanson-Young or Labor leader Bill Shorten. “They have proven themselves irrelevant and impotent when it comes to having solutions on border protection,” he said.

Refugee lawyer David Manne said the new laws were “patently unfair, undermine the rule of law and will endanger lives”.

Origin Energy says it will escape oil pain

Origin Energy chief executive Grant King says its $24.7 billion Australia Pacific Liquefied Natural Gas project in Queensland would remain profitable even after the sharp drop in prices. Photo: Bradley KanarisOrigin Energy chief executive Grant King says dividends to shareholders and capital spending plans will escape an impact from the oil price slump, thanks to the company’s limited exposure to the commodity.
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Mr King also insisted the economics of Origin’s $24.7 billion Australia Pacific Liquefied Natural Gas project in Queensland would remain profitable even after the sharp drop in prices.

“Lower prices mean lower revenues and lower returns but that doesn’t mean it is uneconomic,” he said. “We are still comfortable with the project.”

Mr King’s comments tie in with the decision by Standard & Poor’s earlier on Friday to leave Origin’s BBB credit ­rating unchanged even after slashing its oil price assumptions.

S&P said on Friday that its reduction in assumed prices for Brent crude oil has only “limited impact” on Origin’s financial metrics in 2015-16, the key focus of its analysis. It has a negative outlook on Origin’s rating.

In contrast, ratings on some other oil and gas players such as Santos are understood to be under review.

Earlier this week, the ratings agency reduced its assumptions for average Brent crude oil prices for 2015 by $US10 a barrel to $US80 (95.20) a barrel, and cut its 2016 average assumption by $US5 to $US85 a barrel.

Price drop will have little impact on Origin

Brent crude was under $US70 a barrel in the Asian trading day on Friday. Mr King said the drop in prices would have relatively little effect on ­Origin.

“It’s not that big an impact because we’re just not that big an oil producer at the moment, and we won’t be a big oil producer in two, three or five years, it’s just the fact that LNG is linked to oil.”

Origin’s APLNG project is due to begin production in mid-2015, and some analysts have estimated that rates of return would be well down into ­single figures at current prices.

Others say those calculations ignore the offsetting impact of the weaker ­Australian dollar, and the protection built into its LNG sales contracts through so-called “S curves”, which include a floor for oil prices.

Mr King said Origin had believed for some time that the inexorable rise in US shale liquids production would have an impact on global crude prices, but it had been very difficult to say when.

“History tells us that when prices of any commodity move, they tend to move dramatically,” he said.

Santos the worst hit

Mr King noted that the recovery in commodity prices could also be swift, but he voiced no confidence in any rapid rebound in crude oil. “I’m not sure I’d say oil is going to be a hundred bucks in six months,” he said. In contrast to the stability of Origin’s ratings, ­Santos is widely expected to see ­pressure on its BBB+ rating with ­negative outlook as a result of the lower oil price assumptions.

Santos has been the worst hit of the larger listed energy stocks from the slump in oil prices, losing 27 per cent of its market value since last Thursday.

The impact is due to its lower-margin portfolio of projects, as well as the perceived risks to its credit rating, although shorting of the stock by hedge funds is also being blamed.

“Santos has been heavily attacked by hedge funds shorting the stock since oil price started falling,” said John Colnan at Shaw Stockbroking.

“Over the last month and on many given days, 30-50 per cent of traded ­volume is shorting.”

The hit to the shares of Origin and Woodside ­Petroleum has been mild in contrast, with Origin falling by about 15¢ over the past week and Woodside by 7.3 per cent.