Whistleblowers at CSIRO forced out and ‘bullying rife’

Gone … Maarten Stapper.TWO of three CSIRO employees who blew the whistle on alleged ”criminal or civil breaches of the law” by the scientific organisation were later made redundant, it has been revealed.

But those officials who were the subject of the complaints remain employed, the CSIRO has confirmed.

The details have emerged after a group of former CSIRO employees began a campaign for a change in culture at the science agency, alleging mismanagement and bullying are rife.

Last Thursday, a parliamentary inquiry examining workplace bullying in Commonwealth agencies published the group’s submission. It claims the group is aware of 60 cases involving top-flight scientists and other officials who were bullied or otherwise forced out of the organisation.

This list has names on it such as Maarten Stapper, a soil scientist allegedly pushed out because of his criticism of genetically modified crops, globally recognised oceanographer Trevor McDougall, and award-winning entomologist Sylwester Chyb, who has begun litigation against the CSIRO for misleading conduct and unlawful termination.

The CSIRO has declined to respond to the allegations, but the group says some of those forced out had tried to report misconduct or maladministration. Among the group’s recommendations is improved protection for whistleblowers.

”Current whistleblower legislation does not adequately protect from persecution those making public interest declarations,” the document says. ”This is particularly true in circumstances in which it is hard to identify a direct link between a whistleblower complaint and subsequent, seemingly unrelated adverse action against the employee in his or her workplace.”

The organisation is also grappling with a spike in the damages it has had to pay as a result of occupational health and safety claims made to the Commonwealth OH&S regulator and insurer, Comcare. The increased costs of the claims has meant that the premiums Comcare charges the CSIRO have nearly tripled from $1.9 million in 2011-12 to $4.9 million this financial year.

”The CSIRO has consistently achieved lower than average claim frequency and claim cost but has had an upward trend in the average cost of its claims,” a Comcare spokesman, Russ Street, said.

At a budget estimates hearing in May, the Tasmanian senator David Bushby asked the CSIRO about its handling of whistleblower complaints and those who made them. In answers provided last month, the organisation confirmed two complaints were lodged in 2010 and one in 2008, all of which made serious allegations about unlawful activity.

But while the CSIRO did not retrench any of those against whom allegations were made, it did retrench the complainants.

”One CSIRO employee, who had lodged a whistleblower complaint on March 10, 2008, was made redundant on August 23, 2010, as there was an insufficient volume of current and projected work to sustain the position,” the CSIRO said.

”A second employee, who lodged a whistleblower complaint on February 23, 2010, was made redundant on September 4, 2011 as CSIRO no longer required the job be performed by anyone because of changes in the operational requirements of CSIRO’s enterprise.”

A CSIRO spokesman, Huw Morgan, declined to describe the nature of the allegations made by the whistleblowers, saying it could help reveal their identities.

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Older mothers take a bow: study finds your children get better start

Helen Perks with four-year-old Eva and her seven-year-old Max.HELEN PERKS has heard all the negatives about being an older mother. But she isn’t buying them.

”Some people say you’re going to be old and exhausted, but it works in the opposite way,” said Ms Perks, a web designer who had her first child, Max, when she was 40, and her second, Eva, when she was 43.

”In fact, it encourages you. You think, ”Well, I’m going to be older when I have my kids, so I have to keep myself healthy’.”

According to a major study, the children of older mothers are getting a better start in life in a variety of ways.

The British study said children born to women over 40 benefited from improved health and language development up to the age of five. It also found increasing maternal age was associated with children having fewer hospital admissions and accidents, a higher likelihood of having their immunisations by the time they were nine months old and fewer social and emotional difficulties.

Older mothers tend to be more educated, have higher incomes and be married – all factors associated with greater child wellbeing, said the study from University College London’s Institute of Child Health, which looked at data covering more than 78,000 children, and was published in the British Medical Journal.

In Australia, 4 per cent of the almost 300,000 women who gave birth in 2009 were aged 40-plus. Gino Pecoraro, a spokesman for the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said older mothers tended to be more established, educated, mature and financially settled, helping with language development and the potentially improved supervision of children.

”At least, for a change, the headlines are pointing out something good about being older as it is usually all so dismal,” said Hannah Dahlen, the associate professor of midwifery at the University of Western Sydney and national spokeswoman for the Australian College of Midwives.

Ms Dahlen gave birth to her daughter a few weeks before her 40th birthday.

”It is well known that this phenomenon exists with children born to older mothers but most of the association is due to higher education and social advantage,” she said.

”The higher educated a mother in particular is the more financially stable she is and the more likely you will see children with better linguistic skills.”

Ms Perks said she was a more grounded person in her 40s than earlier in her life.

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Turnover, new leaves

Cuts the mustard … Tony Mann nurtures rare herbs at Petite Bouche in Ingleside.To everything there is a season. When June Henman sold the Salad Farm in 2010, her abundant crop of leaves entered its winter. It had been a thriving supplier of rare and decorative leaf varieties to some of the best restaurants in Sydney, but under the new owners, the property fell into disrepair. The plants died.

Then, in September last year, Tony Mann, a Flemington Markets salad agent, bought the Ingleside farm, near Mona Vale, and renamed it Petite Bouche. Now, in spring, a lush carpet of herbs thrives beneath the greenhouse canopy, Henman has come back as an adviser and chefs are once more clamouring for produce.

”I wanted to create something different,” Mann says. ”A lot of the chefs are going to the market now a lot more than they used to. It’s about producing something new.”

Petite Bouche is a dedicated herb farm, with exotic seeds imported from around the world. Many of them are not grown anywhere else in Australia, and they are treated delicately, grown hydroponically using recycled rainwater and harvested with hairdresser scissors. Wandering down the rows on a sunny morning, Mann and Henman fall upon each of their treasures with naked pleasure.

”This is my baby,” Mann says, pointing to an ice plant, which is named for the illusion of frost on its succulent leaves. ”We didn’t know if we could do it, we didn’t know if it would germinate. We put some samples into the market and the chefs are like, ‘Oh my god, this is something else.”’

Stridolo, also known as ”the forager’s herb”, is a wild Italian herb with a flavour as meaty as mushrooms. ”It’s just completely alien, isn’t it?” Mann says.

Land seaweed, or okahijiki, grows in Japanese marshlands and looks like skinny worms. The texture is crunchy.

Borage – ”the herb of gladness” – dates from the 1400s and was used to flavour ales. Henman likens the flavour to oysters.

Mustard plants grow in England and France, and to eat them is to experience the odd sensation of munching a table condiment. ”There are just so many different types of mustard, and we’re the only ones doing it,” Mann says.

The prize for the herb least likely goes to the sweet cicely, known more exotically as myrrh, which grows wild in England. With growing conditions at odds to its natural environment, Mann and Henman had no idea whether it would germinate on Sydney’s northern beaches, but they decided to try.

Their success rate for germinating untried herbs is about 70 per cent, but they start with low expectations. ”We kind of, like, don’t expect it to happen,” Mann says. ”It’s very much pot luck.”

Once the sweet cicely seeds arrived, Mann and Henmann planted them in soil and put them in a freezer set at minus 6 degrees. After a few weeks, they brought the temperature up to zero , then plunged it back to minus 6, then finally brought it up to 4 degrees.

To their surprise, the seeds started to shoot. ”When we saw the sweet cicely come up, we were blown away,” Mann says.

O Bar and Dining (formerly the Summit), Est, Quay and Oscillate Wildly are among the restaurants that use herbs from Petite Bouche.

While most of his customers are providores, Mann has noticed more chefs at the markets and buying direct, possibly as a result of difficult economic conditions.

He alerts them to the latest produce via Twitter. A recent post reads: ”Chinese flowering greens, tiny yellow flowers, sweet choy sum flavour, available at the market tomorrow.”

Mann and Henman bring complementary skill sets to the business. Henman is the green thumb. She reads seed catalogues like novels and is emotionally invested in the farm. When she saw its state of disrepair before Mann bought it, she nearly cried.

When the sweet cicely germinated, they cracked open the chardonnay. Mann is a former chef, and spends months putting together salad mixes.

The owner and chef of O Bar and Dining, Michael Moore, is often asked where he sources his herbs, particularly after using them on television shows.

Petite Bouche has been a boon to chefs looking for unique herbs of a consistently good quality, he says.

”They’re gorgeous, they look fantastic and it really adds to that element of freshness.”

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Greedy for the truth

Miraculous … Carluccio recommends toast with anchovies in green sauce to sate a salty craving.In Antonio Carluccio’s memoir you can hear the gruff voice of that larger-than-life quintessential Italian you’ll know from television. But you’ll also discover a lifetime of recurring depression and attempts at suicide. This is a man for whom outward bonhomie has hidden a terrible underlying despair.

In conversation with Carluccio, he lets that low voice run on, answering questions as directly and fully as you could hope, so you get a sense of the man who loves people and communication. He says he has come to terms with the difficult parts of his life. So much so he has finally come clean on a crisis that made newspaper headlines four years ago when an injury to his chest (he stabbed himself with scissors) was announced as a kitchen accident. It was, in fact, one of at least four suicide attempts he recounts, since he took an overdose of sleeping pills as his first marriage fell apart in the mid-1970s.

Yes, Carluccio agrees, it takes courage to lay bare this part of his life, but he feels settled enough now to say it happened. The crisis with the scissors, he says, was ”the result of the moment”, the break-up of a relationship sparking a whisky-fuelled moment of madness.

As we speak, Carluccio is in the garden of his cul-de-sac home in London, where he says the day is a bit murky, but the garden is quiet and he is battling with squirrels for peaches. ”I try to defend the peaches with all my guts but I lose the battle,” he says. ”I know the right one is to share with nature but I am fed up with it.”

Writing his memoir has helped him understand his life, he says. And it’s all there for the reading – well, most of it. ”Absolutely what I wanted to achieve was to write the real thing, and there are some few bits and pieces that I didn’t enlarge or go in deep, for example, my relationship with the Conran family [Carluccio married Priscilla Conran, sister of Terence Conran, a big name in design and architecture]. Anyway, I did another version.” This second version is an oral history, where Carluccio recorded hours of interviews, now in the British Library with a stipulation they not be made available for 20 years. ”If somebody wants to know more of the nitty-gritty they can know it, but in 20 years’ time,” he says with a small chuckle.

One of the striking things about Carluccio’s memoir (among many, including the number of women in his life, the ease with which he fell in love and the inevitable collapse of the relationships, although eventually he settled into a 28-year marriage to Priscilla, from whom he split in 2008) is the circuitous route he took to a career in food.

After moving to London in 1975, he had to find work (he got a job selling Tuscan wine) and learn a difficult language, and he attributes a heart attack at 38 to the stress of it. By this time also, Carluccio had had his first depressive crisis in which he took an overdose of sleeping pills.

”My sadness has often played out in self-destructive ways as it’s not in my nature to inflict how I am feeling on others,” he writes. ”Indeed, I would go to great lengths, often at my most distressed, to keep how I was feeling from those around me, telling jokes and playing the convivial host when I felt quite desperate inside.”

He traces this sadness partly to the death of his younger brother in 1960. He was closest to his brother Enrico, whom he looked after.

”Of all my siblings, I found him the most similar in temperament to myself. He was a little quieter than the others … but with a strong imagination and sense of adventure, an urge to fly away and discover new places.”

When Enrico drowned while swimming at age 13, Carluccio says his heart was ”cauterised with grief”. Enrico’s death isolated members of the family. His mother seemed to ”collapse in on herself as if her life, too, were over”, and soon after, she turned to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, as did his sister, a conversion that apparently still rankles with Carluccio.

The day after his brother’s death, Carluccio bought a bunch of parsley and a kilogram of salted anchovies and set about the methodical task of rinsing and filleting the anchovies for bagna cauda, or salsa verde. He describes this as ”perhaps the first time I remember actively turning to the preparation of food in an effort to create some sort of meaning and purpose in my life when otherwise there was none”.

In London, Carluccio moved in restaurant circles, through his work selling wine and collecting mushrooms, and through brother-in-law Terence Conran, who owned the Neal Street Restaurant. He was encouraged to enter a newspaper cooking competition, and made it to the final. Conran asked him to manage the Neal Street Restaurant in 1981, and ”everything came together, and my professional career started 25 years ago”, Carluccio, now 75, says.

He eventually bought the restaurant, taking on Gennaro Contaldo, who became a lifelong friend and his offsider on BBC TV’s Two Greedy Italians, and also, briefly, Jamie Oliver as a pastry chef. Carluccio started a string of eponymous delicatessens then cafes in the 1990s, with phenomenal success (he no longer owns the chain). With television shows and books, his success in the food world was complete, but he was not happy. He felt his life was spiralling out of control and he had lost his name to a brand. In 2007, the Neal Street Restaurant was forced to close and Carluccio took to gambling – ”sheer, expensive escapism” – but, after an ultimatum from his wife, booked into an addiction centre. But 2008 was to bring another crisis, when his marriage to Priscilla finally ended and depression took hold again, along with gambling and whisky. ”It was an instinctive reaction to the intolerable pressure under which I found myself,” Carluccio says of the moment when he locked himself in the bathroom and used his body weight to shove scissors into his chest, penetrating the pleural cavity in his lungs.

During his recovery, Carluccio says, ”I don’t think I have ever felt more abandoned or alone or angry”.

At least he had something to look forward to that year, he writes – of all things, an invitation to Tasting Australia in Adelaide, ”which went some way to restoring my enthusiasm for life”.

Carluccio loves the simplicity and authenticity he finds in Australia’s food, in line with his philosophy: ”Minimum of fuss and maximum of flavour”, a line he truncates to ”mof mof”.

When Carluccio arrived in Britain in 1975, he confronted the era of freeze-dried mashed potato and instant puddings, but also the beginnings of an interest in Italian food. Carluccio describes what developed as ”Britalian” food: dishes such as spag bol, made with minced beef, rather than tagliatelle al ragu bolognese, which he says should be made with minced veal and pork.

Now, in Italy there’s a return to some of the traditional food, but he also points disapprovingly to the introduction of ingredients from other countries – oysters with chocolate! Carluccio is down on fusion in any guise, not just in Italy. He wants British cuisine to be true to its roots and he clearly likes food to be recognisable and simple. He’s not a fan of dishes that describe a long series of ingredients, many of which appear only fleetingly on the plate. Nor is he a fan of the style epitomised by Heston Blumenthal, whose food he doesn’t believe will stand the test of time. For Carluccio, food is not something ”banal to play with”.

He regrets not having children, but he has a girlfriend now, and he’s happy with his lot. Why wouldn’t he be, he asks, listing the good things in his life: a lovely garden and house, the ability to travel and meet people as he wants. Writing a memoir, he says, ”you see the life running just like a film”, which helps you discover the things that make you happy and the things that make you unhappy – and you learn that while you might wish for things to be different, you can’t change them.

”I was able to forge a life that was true to me,” he writes. ”And with my hand on my heart I can say, this is my story and I am happy with it.”Anchovies in green sauce

Various salsa verde or green sauces have been developed over the years by non-Italian chefs, which may be delicious, but which do not always correspond to the Italian taste. We normally use parsley, basil or rocket as the green base, and this one is made with parsley. When you come home and feel a little peckish for something salty, these anchovies on toasted bread are miraculous. Naturally the dish can be served as part of an antipasto.

300g perfect anchovy fillets in oil (Italian or Spanish are the best)

Salsa verde

1 fresh white bread roll

About 2 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 big bunch flat-leaf parsley, very finely chopped, without the stalks

1 small medium-hot chilli, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, peeled and pureed

10 little cornichons (mini gherkins), very finely chopped

15 salted capers, soaked, drained and very finely chopped

Extra-virgin olive oil, as required

Drain the anchovies and put a layer of them in the bottom of a narrow ceramic container. You want to have several layers of anchovies, so don’t use too large a dish. To start the salsa, cut off the crust from the roll, and soak the inner crumbs in a little vinegar for a few minutes. Squeeze as dry as possible, then finely chop. Put into a bowl with the parsley, chilli, garlic, cornichons and capers and mix well, adding enough olive oil to achieve a sauce consistency. Cover the anchovies with a layer of green sauce, then top with another layer of anchovies. Repeat this until all the anchovies are covered with sauce. Add enough olive oil to cover everything and keep refrigerated for a day, after which you can start to use them. Keep refrigerated for up to a week. Serve with cold meats or as a dip with other canape-type dishes.

Makes a 300g batch

From Antonio Carluccio: A Recipe for Life.

Antonio Carluccio: A Recipe for Life (Hardie Grant, $39.95) and a new recipe collection, Antonio Carluccio: The Collection (Quadrille, $49.95), are published on October 1.Meet the man

Antonio Carluccio appears at the World Chef Showcase at the Crave Sydney International Food Festival in Sydney on October 6, see cravesydney苏州美甲学校

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Pods of plenty

Green jewels … broad beans and mushroom with yoghurt dressing and parsley.WAYS WITH BROAD BEANS

Serve a simple starter of blanched, peeled broad beans drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with salt flakes, a few slices of prosciutto and salami and chunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano with crusty bread.

Puree cooked broad beans with garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Lightly brush salmon pieces with olive oil and cook in a grill pan until just tender. Serve the salmon on a bed of rocket leaves drizzled with olive oil and top with the broad bean puree.

Cook macaroni in lightly salted boiling water until al dente then drain, reserving a few tablespoons of cooking water. Toss pasta with cooked broad beans and peas, crumbled ricotta, grated lemon zest, halved baby artichokes (preserved in olive oil) and a splash of the cooking water. Serve topped with torn basil leaves.Broad beans and mushrooms with yoghurt dressing and parsley

300g button mushrooms 1 tbsp lemon juice 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil Salt and pepper 800g broad beans, podded 60g toasted pecans 1/4 tsp ground cumin 1/3 cup Greek yoghurt 1 tbsp tahini paste 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley

Slice mushrooms and place in a bowl. Mix lemon juice with two tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl, add to mushrooms and toss gently to combine. Set aside. Cook broad beans in boiling water for two minutes then drain and rinse under cold water. Slip each bean out of its skin and add to mushrooms with pecans. Stir well.

Combine cumin, yoghurt, tahini paste and remaining olive oil in a small bowl, season with salt and pepper and stir well. Serve vegetables topped with a dollop of yoghurt dressing and finish with parsley leaves.

Serves 4 as a side dish.Follow Cuisine on Twitter

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A fare go this Christmas

Making edible goodies for Christmas gifts is a lovely and gratifying thing to do, but it’s good to plan ahead. Although the silly season is still months away, now is the time to start thinking about what to make and how many jars to sterilise.

Preserved lemons are easy to prepare, look great and can be personalised by using your own blend of aromatic spices. In three months, the lemons will be soft and mellow. They are the gift that keeps on giving, as a little goes a long way and they last for ages once opened, if they are stored in the fridge.

Australian tamarillos are arriving on the market now and make rich, fragrant chutneys and jams. The following recipe has Asian ingredients that give it a lift from the average chutney but this version is still the perfect condiment for leftover ham and turkey sandwiches.

Last but not least is the ultimate Christmas treat, a freshly baked fruit mince pie. If you prepare the fruit mixture now, it gets better and better the longer it has to marinate in brandy and spices. Make the pies when you’re ready to give them – homemade pastry takes patience and care and has good wishes written all over it.

Jane StrodeTamarillo chutney

Serve this tangy chutney with eggs, hard cheese, seafood and Asian-style curries.

600g tamarillos 30g fresh ginger, grated 120g spanish onion, finely chopped 3 small red chillis, chopped 250ml rice wine vinegar 150g brown sugar 1/2 tsp salt 2 bay leaves

Blanch tamarillos in boiling water for one minute. Refresh in iced water and remove skin. Roughly chop and place in a heavy-based saucepan with remaining ingredients. Stir to dissolve sugar and bring to the boil. Simmer, stirring regularly, until chutney has thickened, about 30 minutes.

While still really hot, place chutney in sterilised jars. Secure lids firmly and turn jars upside down – this creates a seal. Leave upside down until cool. Store in the cupboard for three months before using as gifts.

Makes two 300ml-capacity jars.


To sterilise jars, put through the dishwasher on a hot cycle or wash well in hot soapy water, rinse then place in a pre-heated oven on 150C for 10 minutes.Chicken and preserved lemons

Spices that can be used to add flavour to preserved lemons are cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, coriander seeds, star anise, bay leaves, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and cardamom.

1kg thick-skinned lemons, washed 150g table salt 600ml lemon juice Vegetable oil 4 chicken thighs and drumsticks, 8 pieces in total Salt and pepper 100ml olive oil 3 small spanish onions, finely chopped 6 garlic cloves, sliced 1/4 tsp chilli powder 1 tsp smoked paprika 1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed 1.2kg tin whole peeled tomatoes 1 tbsp brown sugar 10 thyme sprigs 400g tin chickpeas, drained 1/2 cup green olives 50g feta 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley 1/4 cup finely chopped coriander 1 tbsp finely chopped preserved lemon rind

For preserved lemons, cut lemons into quarters without cutting all the way to the bottom. Spoon about a teaspoon of salt into centre of lemons. Squash into sterilised jars, fitting in as many lemons as possible. Cut lemons in half to fill jars if needed. Top with remaining salt, lemon juice and spices of your choice so jars are full. Secure lids and store in a dark place until lemons are soft, about three months.

For chicken, heat a little vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan. Season chicken pieces and fry on both sides to brown. Remove from heat and reserve. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over a medium heat and add onion, garlic, chilli, paprika and coriander. Season and cook until soft, about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes, sugar and thyme. Simmer for 20 minutes to reduce. Add fried chicken and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 40 minutes. Add chickpeas and olives. Sprinkle with feta, herbs and preserved lemon before serving.

Serves 4-6Mince pies

Leftover fruit mince can be used the following year or added to Christmas pudding and cake recipes.

500g mixed fruit 230g slivered almonds 100g dried apricots, chopped 250g golden syrup 75g brown sugar 1 tbsp grated lemon rind 1 tbsp grated orange rind 1 1/2 tbsp mixed spice 250ml brandy 450g butter, cold and cut into 1cm pieces 165g castor sugar 600g plain flour 1 tsp salt 150ml water

Place fruit, almonds, apricots, golden syrup, brown sugar, rinds, spice and brandy in a large bowl and stir to combine well. Place in a container with a lid that seals in aromas and store in the fridge for three months. Turn fruit over every so often – if it looks dry add a little more brandy.

For pastry, place butter, sugar, flour and salt in a food processor. Pulse to make a coarse crumb. Add water and process until pastry just comes together. Wrap well in cling film and rest in fridge overnight or for at least two hours. Roll out in between two layers grease-proof paper to ½-centimetre thickness. Rest for one hour. Pre-heat oven to 160C.

Line small tart shells with pastry rounds that come about ½-centimetre over the edge. Fill with fruit mince mix and top with pastry cut into large star shapes. Bake until pastry is cooked through and golden, about 30 minutes. Cool, dust with icing sugar before serving.

Makes 24 with some mince left over

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Everett’s anti-gay parent comment outrages

Rupert Everett was once a trailblazer for gay actors after he came out as a homosexual 20 years ago.British actor Rupert Everett has stunned the gay community by telling a UK newspaper that he “can’t think of anything worse” than having two gay parents.

Everett told the Sunday Times Magazine that although his mother Sara had met his boyfriend, she “still wishes I had a wife and kids.”

“She thinks children need a father and a mother and I agree with her,” he said, according to the UK’s Telegraph newspaper.

“I can’t think of anything worse than being brought up by two gay dads.”

Everett was once a trailblazer for gay actors after he came out as a homosexual 20 years ago. He went on to star in Shakespeare in Love, My Best Friend’s Wedding and The Next Best Thing.

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the gay rights group Stonewall, told the Daily Mail, “Rupert should get out a little bit more to see the facts for himself. There is absolutely no evidence that the kids of gay parents suffer in the way they are being brought up or in how they develop.”

The interview also included comments from Everett’s mother who said she wished her son was not a homosexual.

According to the Daily Mail she said, “In the past I have said that I wish Rupert was straight and I probably still feel that … I’d like him to have children. He’s so good with children. He’d make a wonderful father. But I also think a child needs a mummy and a daddy.”

“I’ve told him that and he takes it very well,” she added.

According to CNN, Everett reportedly told The Observer in 2009 that he wished he hadn’t come out because it had hurt his career.

“The fact is that you could not be, and still cannot be, a 25-year-old homosexual trying to make it in the British film business or the American film business or even the Italian film business,” Everett said.

“It just doesn’t work and you’re going to hit a brick wall at some point. You’re going to manage to make it roll for a certain amount of time, but at the first sign of failure they’ll cut you right off.”


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Nickel price breathes life into Mirabela

Beleaguered Mirabela Nickel has been buoyed by a rise in the nickel price, gaining as much as 12 per cent on the Australian Securities Exchange.

Mirabella, which operates the Santa Rita nickel mines in Brazil, ended up 10.6 per cent, adding more than 2 cents to close at 36.5 cents.

After months of pain for nickel producers the price made a timid recovery in recent days to above $US8 per pound after falling under $US7 last month.

However, Mirabela’s managing director and chief executive Ian Purdy remained conservative about the short term outlook for the commodity.

“We’d like to see that we’re back at a floor price, but as we’ve seen from the last week nickel is volatile,” he said. “Longer term in two-years plus the view is that even modest stainless steel recovery will see the nickel market fall into deficit in the supply side and we’ll see strengthening of the nickel price.”

Nickel producers have been under cost pressure since May when the price fell more than 40 per cent from just under $US10 per pound in February.

Others to show strain included mining giant BHP Billiton, which last month announced a $US450 million write-down for Nickel West, adding fuel to persistent speculation of a sale.

But as a pure play Mirabella was one of the most exposed, shedding almost 80 per cent of its value from $1.12 in December to 25 cents July and losing 30 per cent in one day on May 9.

Mr Purdy said Mirabela’s cash cost reduction from $US7.37 per tonne to $US6.03 had also lifted investor confidence around the company.

“We’re moving into full production levels in the second half of this year and our cash costs have come down steeply,” he said.  “The market has just been waiting for a recovery in the nickel price.”

Citigroup resource analyst Daniel Seeney said Mirabela’s performance had also been lifted by the weaker Brazilian real which has held at about 2:1 against the $USD.

“The two macro factors which they have no control over, the real and the nickel price, have started to move in their favour,” he said.

Mr Seeney said despite the cash cost reduction Mirabela would still need a substantial price recovery at about the middle of next year.

Citigroup has been bullish on nickel forecasting a recovery in the fourth quarter when Indonesian nickel export bans are expected to begin limiting supply to China’s nickel pig iron producers.

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Full disclosure: the $169m man

Toni Poli … reported pay $572,000, realised pay $169.4 million.THE accountant-turned-mining boss Tony Poli last year enjoyed a $169 million windfall from Aquila Resources, the iron ore interest he oversees, even as its annual accounts show he was paid only $572,000 for his role.

Mr Poli’s pay day, which came after he cashed in on options issued five years earlier, is a stark example of the real pay packets of corporate bosses, compared to disclosures in filings.

The figures are contained in an analysis by the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, which advises the biggest superannuation funds, of the top 200 companies.

Other gaps in reported and realised pay include the chief executive of BHP Billiton, Marius Kloppers, who last year was Australia’s highest paid chief executive on $11.8 million. But after taking account of a deferred bonus payment, his realised pay was $17.3 million. Last year the ANZ chief, Mike Smith, realised $4.36 million more than the $10.03 million disclosed.

The chief of Commonwealth Bank, Ralph Norris, was reportedly paid $8.64 million but in fact realised $12.69 million.

Minimum disclosures fail to take into account the upside chief executives often receive from extra packages such as deferred bonus shares or cashing in on options, which is a right to acquire shares in a company often at a heavily discounted price.

The report, released today, reveals that during the past decade, the pay of chief executives has grown at twice the pace of the average Australian and more than three times as fast as inflation.

Since 2002, the fixed pay of the average chief executive of $1.94 million is up 120 per cent compared to the 60 per cent rise in average incomes. The average total pay for a chief of a top-100 company is $4.72 million.

But signs of austerity are emerging. The study shows that fixed pay for the bosses of the top-100 companies has held steady for the past year but bonuses fell as profits slipped.

The chief executive of the council, Ann Byrne, said: ”I think there is a mood for change on executive pay. In the market conditions, it is clear that boards have been listening to investor views.”

Not all chief executives enjoyed the upside, particularly those at companies with a high bar for option-based benefits. Nicholas Moore at Macquarie Group realised only $6.21 million last year, compared to the $8.69 million the investment bank said it had paid out.

Rowen Craigie of Crown received less than half the $7.71 million the gaming company had set aside to pay him.

Ms Byrne said there was a recognition that options were part of the pay of most chief executives but they should be designed to reward excellent performance.

”They need to be rewarded with really demanding hurdles. We also think there should be the potential for investors to claw back benefits if something substantial changes.”

In Mr Poli’s case, he exercised the options in December 2010, paying about 95¢ a share. Aquila shares were then changing hands for more than $9.20. But the value of the shares has since plunged, closing yesterday at $2.77. Mr Poli could not be reached for comment.

Ms Byrne said that while Mr Poli’s windfall was likely to have fallen this year on the lower Aquila share price, investors did not want to be ”surprised” about the size of the payments.

BRW estimates Mr Poli’s wealth fell to about $600 million last year from more than $1 billion in 2009 and 2010.

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Qantas wins approval for extension of South African code-share deal

QANTAS has won regulatory approval for its code-share alliance with South African Airways on flights between Australia and Johannesburg to be extended for two years.

However, the ruling by the International Air Services Commission falls short of Qantas’s request for the alliance to be approved until March 2016.

Under conditions imposed by the regulator, the two airlines will have to operate at least 13 flights a week between Australia and South Africa.

The alliance has long been a bone of contention because Qantas and South African Airways are the only airlines that have direct flights between the two countries. Rivals, such as Singapore Airlines, which offer flights to South Africa via their home ports provide the only competition.

The regulator has previously raised concerns about high fares on the route.

In its decision, released yesterday, the commission said the code-share deal was not likely to ”remove incentives for competition” in the next two years.

However, it said the deal had the ”potential to delay competition” after 2014 because it would reduce incentives for South African Airways to introduce its own services between Sydney and Johannesburg. Likewise, Qantas would be discouraged from flying its own aircraft between Perth and Johannesburg.

The International Air Services Commissioner also said a code-share deal was likely to deter other airlines from offering direct services on the route in the longer term.

”The commission is concerned that [the code-share] may deter or delay the introduction of competing services, particularly on the Sydney route, and increase barriers to entry,” it said.

”The commission is not satisfied that the code share would be of benefit to the public beyond 2014.” The code-share agreement involves South African Airways pre-purchasing a fixed block of seats on Qantas’s services between Sydney and Johannesburg.

The price paid for the seats is determined by the equivalent percentage of Qantas’s total costs of a flight. South African Airways carries a loss if it does not sell enough seats to cover the cost of the pre-purchased block of seats.

The same applies to the blocks of seats Qantas buys from South African Airways on its flights between Perth and Johannesburg. Qantas does not need regulatory approval for the pair’s code-share arrangement for flights on that route.

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