Steve Carell as you’ve never seen him before – angry, activist and very gay

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Stacie Andree (Ellen Page) and Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore) in a scene from Freeheld Photo: eOne Steven Goldstein (Steve Carell) in a scene from Freeheld. Photo: eOne
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This is Steve Carell as you’ve never seen him before – angry, activist and very gay.

In this clip from the drama Freeheld, based on a true story, Carell plays Steven Goldstein, a lawyer and gay rights activist in New Jersey who acted in a landmark case for police lieutenant Laurel Hester (played here by Julianne Moore) and her partner Stacie Andree (Ellen Page).

Hester had been diagnosed with cancer, and wanted to leave her estate, including her police pension, to Andree, but the elected officials of Ocean County – known as freeholders – refused to allow her pension to pass to a same-sex partner.

“What these freeholders are doing is unconscionable,” he tells Andree, Hester and fellow cop Dane Wells (Michael Shannon).

Goldstein floats the idea of a gay pride parade, to “show them we’re a force to be reckoned with”.

When Wells tells him he doesn’t understand the conservative nature of this community, calling him “Steve”, Goldstein responds: “It’s Steven, with a V – as in very gay – and when people disrespect my gay brothers and sisters, I rain terror on them. Shock and awe. Shock and awe.”

Zach Galifianakis – like Carell, an alumnus of Saturday Night Live (though Galifianakis joined as a writer and lasted only two weeks) – was originally slated for the role of Goldstein but dropped out last August due to a scheduling conflict.

The real Goldstein told New Jersey’s The Auditor he was delighted with the casting decision.

“I’m so glad Steve Carell is playing me in Freeheld, rather than The 40 Year-Old Virgin,” he said.

Though this is the most out-and-proud role Carell – who is married (to a woman) and the father of two children – has played, technically speaking it isn’t his first gay role.

In 1996, he and Stephen Colbert provided the voices of Gary and Ace in an animated superhero comedy series called The Ambiguously Gay Duo.

In 2006 he played a gay Proust scholar recovering from a suicide attempt who is forced to go on a family road trip to a juvenile beauty pageant in the downbeat comedy Little Miss Sunshine.

And in 2014, he starred in Foxcatcher as John E. du Pont, the mega-wealthy wrestling enthusiast who shot and killed Dave Schultz in 1996, and whose relationship with his protégé Mark Schultz (played by Channing Tatum) in the film is tinged with a repressed homosexuality.

Freeheld, which is based on an Oscar-winning short documentary of the same name from 2007, opens in Thursday November 5.

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The two Chinan girls and their mother living in ‘jail’ at Villawood detention centre

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Villawood detention centre in Sydney. Photo: Jessica Hromas’Dad, why are we here?’ No life and a baby on the way on Nauru
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Salwa Abas stands out in the busy school drop off: she is the only child escorted by a guard. Classmates tease the five-year-old for living in a “jail” and when she returns home, each pocket of her bag is searched.

Salwa and her sister Yasmin, 3, are n citizens. But they have been living with their mother behind locked gates at Sydney’s Villawood detention centre for almost a year, after the federal government cancelled their mother’s visa.

In doing so, the government acknowledged the decision was not in the children’s best interests. Their mother Zahra, who is pregnant with her third child, has begged Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to intervene.

“They were happy n kids, why [did the government] do this to them, they don’t deserve to be here,” she told Fairfax Media from inside the detention centre.

“[My children] are really upset inside and they are asking me ‘What are we doing for Christmas, are we getting out? Why are we here?'”.

Ms Abas, originally from Iraq, arrived on a boat from Indonesia in 2009 with other family members. They were taken to Christmas Island then granted protection in .

Her father, known as Captain Emad, arrived in in 2010. He fled two years later, after ABC’s Four Corners program alleged he was running a people-smuggling racket from Canberra.

The case cast a spotlight on his family, and the Department of Immigration determined Ms Abas, who was 19 when arriving in , had falsified information on her visa application, including the reason why she needed protection.

Ms Abas said this week her father was “abusive, controlling and angry” and told the family to lie to immigration officials about their names and background.

“In Indonesia he wanted to break my legs because I wanted to run away from him, and he took a hammer and hit my leg and I got stitches from it,” she said.

“He told us to tell un-genuine information and I did, but my intention wasn’t anything bad, I just wanted to live [in] freedom without him abusing me any more.”

Under the former Labor government, the department said while Ms Abas had breached her obligations under migration law, her visa would not be cancelled.

But in December last year when the Coalition was in office, then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison personally intervened to cancel Ms Abas’ visa. She was informed on Christmas Eve.

In a letter to Ms Abas, the veracity of which the department did not dispute, Mr Morrison wrote that she had been living in Malaysia for many years, rather than in Iraq where she claimed to have suffered persecution, and should not have been granted a protection visa.

He said there was no evidence she was under duress from her father when applying for a visa.

“Notwithstanding that the best interests of the dependent children would be served by a decision not to cancel the mother’s visa, this is outweighed by the seriousness of the non-compliance,” Mr Morrison wrote.

Ms Abas was taken into detention in January, and lives in residential-style housing. Her n citizen husband suffers medical problems and depression after an accident and cannot care for the children, forcing them to live with their mother at Villawood indefinitely.

Ms Abas’ husband visits the family in detention and she is 21 weeks pregnant. She is also severely depressed and fears for the future of her unborn baby and young daughters.

Salwa, once a bubbly child with many friends who loved the film Frozen, is now lonely and suffers nightmares. Yasmin has become unhappy and clingy.

“Every day [Salwa] says ‘I had a really bad day, I hate this school, I hate you, I hate this place’, and then she goes in her room and cries. She doesn’t want to go out, she doesn’t want to eat,” Ms Abas said.

“It’s like a jail – you have no freedom, no control over your life or your children’s life.”

Mr Dutton and the Department of Immigration refused to answer questions regarding Ms Abas, or explain why she was the only family member being detained. A spokeswoman for Mr Dutton said his department was “managing” the case.

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Mafia history of Gino and Mark Stocco’s alleged victim Rosario Cimone revealed

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Mark and Gino Stocco, who were captured on a property where Rosario Cimone’s body was also located. Photo: NSW Police Gino Stocco is led to a prison vehicle after appearing in Dubbo Local Court via video link. Photo: Wolter Peeters
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Mark Stocco is led to a prison vehicle after appearing in Dubbo Local Court via video link. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Mark Stocco at Dubbo police station on Wednesday. Photo: Nine News

Body of Rosario Cimone found on remote property​How the Stoccos evaded police​The tip-off that led to the final hide-outWill o’ the wisps in Kelly Gang country

The long-awaited capture of father and son fugitives Gino and Mark Stocco has taken another bizarre twist as links have emerged between their alleged victim and the Italian Mafia, long-term cannabis cultivation and a fatal electrocution last year.

The pair, who had been on the run for eight years, were charged on Thursday morning with the murder of Italian-born farm caretaker Rosario Cimone, 68, on October 7.

They did not appear in Dubbo Local Court on Thursday and magistrate Andrew Eckhold ordered they remain behind bars until their case returns on January 20.

Mr Cimone’s decomposed body was discovered in a shallow grave at Pinevale, a remote property near Dunedoo, in central western NSW, just hours after police captured the Stoccos in a dramatic, covert operation on Wednesday morning.

The elusive pair had worked on the extremely isolated property with Mr Cimone, who was reported missing to Green Valley police by his daughters, Maria and Vicenza, on October 8.

When a white ute, similar to the one allegedly stolen by the Stoccos, was spotted in bushland behind the property on Tuesday, police had their “final pieces of the jigsaw” and descended on the 385-hectare spot.

Fairfax Media can reveal Mr Cimone, from Green Valley, was a cannabis cultivator with a string of past convictions and a long history with the Calabrian Mafia in .

His son, Phillip, 35, was also convicted in 2013 of cultivating more than 1000 cannabis plants on a remote property near Bundarra, in the northern tablelands,

Rosario, known as Ross to his friends, was charged with cultivating substantial cannabis crops in the early 1980s, charged with the sale of cannabis in the mid-1980s and convicted in 2003 of a $30-million cannabis operation at a property in Nimmitabel, in far southern NSW.

He was sentenced to four years in prison for growing 14,000 cannabis plants and possessing unauthorised firearms.

He was one of a group of prisoners to be given early release, in exchange for bribes, under the corrupt 1980s prison boss, Rex Jackson.

One of his seven co-accused in the Nimmitabel drug gang, Mario Cataldo, 58, was killed in October last year when he was electrocuted by an illegal hydroponic set-up in Bringelly, on the western outskirts of Sydney.

He lay dead in a shed for two days, and his body was eventually found when his family called an ambulance because they had not heard from him.

Former friend, Giuseppe Mammone, said Mr Cimone was “a nice man” who used to own a butcher’s shop in Edensor Park in the 80s and loved going to the Marconi Club when he was in Green Valley. 

Former assistant police commissioner Clive Small, who is writing a book on the Calabrian Mafia in , said Mr Cimone played a “mid-level” role.

He had been working in the Dunedoo area in recent months but it is not known whether drugs were being grown on the rugged, isolated property, described by locals as a “perfect hideout”.

A neighbour, who asked not to be named, told Fairfax Media that she had made calls to CrimeStoppers in recent years to report suspicious people working on the property, that had no farms.

It’s not known whether the Stoccos had direct involvement but Mr Small said they would most likely have been considered too unreliable by the Mafia.

They were erratic, conspiratorial characters who were known to move frequently, barely staying on farms for more than a few weeks.

“When [the Mafia] are recruiting people to be pickers or cultivators … or crop sitters, that is, people who might go there to plant the crops under supervision with others and just sit there and make sure no one steals it, they tend, generally, to deal with people they have had experience with in the past or whose families they know.”

He said the Mafia was well and truly alive in and had a violent but little-known history.

“There are probably a number of reasons why they’ve been able to get away with it,” he said. “If you deny it’s existence, then you don’t have to do anything about it.”

In addition to murder, Gino, 57, and Mark, 36, are each charged with 17 NSW offences, including shooting with intent to murder, dishonestly obtaining property by deception, police pursuit and discharging a firearm with intent to resist arrest.

Wanted for a string of property and violent offences in Queensland, NSW and Victoria, the men became the focus of a large-scale manhunt after police were shot at during a high speed pursuit near Wagga Wagga on October 16.

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Sydney doctors walk off the job in protest at detention of children

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A drawing done by a child being held in detention. Photo: SuppliedDoctors and staff at Sydney’s two children’s hospitals will stage a joint protest on Friday to raise awareness of the serious damage being done to their child patients who are being held in immigration detention.
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Paediatricians David Isaacs, from Westmead Children’s Hospital, and Karen Zwi, from the Children’s Hospital at Randwick, told Fairfax they could no longer condone the increasing damage being done to their patients.

“They are in a traumatised, agitated state and it is getting worse and worse the longer we leave them there,” Dr Zwi said. “We have really reached crisis point.”

She said the average time children were held in detention had now reached 417 days, with about 113 children being held in detention around .

“They become more and more distressed over time, they become depressed and think life is not worth living … they wet the bed, they can’t concentrate and they have nightmares.”

“There is really no medical care for a child who is distressed, they really need to be in a safe, nurturing environment,” she said. “Otherwise it is impossible for them to make a recovery.”

Dr Isaacs said the group wanted to meet to encourage the public to reject the ongoing detention of children.

“We think it’s torture,” he said. “It is immoral for us to be condoning it, whatever the reasons”.

He said that given the government claimed it had already stopped asylum seeker boats, there was no reason to continue to keep children in detention.

He also said releasing the children to Nauru was not an acceptable solution.

“It is a scary, scary place and girls are being raped,” he said. “They are also only being given temporary visas, they are only allowed to be there for five years and then they have to leave.”

The staff and some medical students will meet at 12.30pm on Friday in front of the two hospitals, where a group photo will be taken.

Daniel Holdom in relationship with key suspect in Karlie Pearce-Stevenson’s identity fraud

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Daniel James Holdom, the man charged with murdering Karlie Pearce-Stevenson. Photo: Facebook Karlie Pearce-Stevenson and her daughter Khandalyce. Photo: NSW Police
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Police believe toddler killed just after mother

Daniel James Holdom, charged with murdering Karlie Pearce-Stevenson, was in a relationship with a woman who allegedly hijacked Ms Pearce-Stevenson’s identity after she was killed.

Investigators suspect Ms Pearce-Stevenson and Holdom, who has also gone by the names Daniel Bishop and Daniel Marshall, were also at one stage romantically involved.

Holdom, 41, appeared in Cessnock Local Court on Thursday charged with the murder of Ms Pearce-Stevenson, 20, whose remains were found in the Belanglo State Forest, south of Sydney, in August 2010.

He has not been charged in connection with the death of Ms Pearce-Stevenson’s daughter, Khandalyce, whose remains were found in a suitcase in Wynarka in South in July.

It is understood police were able to trace Holdom’s mobile phone as being in the forest at the time Ms Pearce-Stevenson was allegedly killed.

Fairfax Media can reveal Holdom was also at one time in a relationship with a woman who police believe was one of those who stole Ms Pearce-Stevenson’s identity and stole $90,000 after her alleged murder in December 2008.

It is understood she is the woman who attended a credit union in June 2010 and convinced staff she was Ms Pearce-Stevenson after showing her identity documents.

The relationship between Holdom and the woman is believed to have ended after his four-wheel-drive rolled in South  killing two of the woman’s young children.

Holdom was given a 12-month good behaviour bond and lost his licence for a year over the late-night crash on the Stuart Highway at Marla in the state’s north.

Ms Pearce-Stevenson travelled to and from Alice Springs between 2006 and 2008 before making her way down to the southern states.

She was seen in Adelaide in 2008 but the last confirmed sighting of her was in the Canberra suburb of Charnwood in December of that year.

Police believe during her travels, Ms Pearce-Stevenson met up with Holdom, who was living in Hillbank in South in 2008/2009.

Hillbank was one of the suburbs police targeted last week in a series of raids as part of the double murder investigation.

Holdom also has links to the ACT.

Detectives are trying to establish where Khandalyce was killed, whether it was in the same state as her mother or in South where the child’s body was dumped.

Police believe two women may be involved in the identity fraud and used Ms Pearce-Stevenson’s mobile phone to provide false proof of life to her family and friends.

A woman also pretended she was Ms Pearce-Stevenson and convinced her mother to send money into her account. The money was then withdrawn.

Rugby World Cup 2015: Wallabies wingers Drew Mitchell and Adam Ashley-Cooper making experience count

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Winging it: Drew Mitchell, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Julian Savea and Nehe Milner-Skudder. Photo: Getty Images RWC Schedule: When is the Rugby World Cup final?Full coverage of the 2015 Rugby World Cup
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LONDON: Power and poetry in one corner and two blokes on the wrong side of 30 in the other.

The World Cup final will pit four of the world’s best wingers against each other for an explosive 80 minutes of take-no-prisoners physicality on Saturday night. There’s the steam rolling Julian Savea and twinkle-toed Nehe Milner-Skudder for the All Blacks and a 113-Test veteran and former card-carrying Fat Club member for the Wallabies. How is that a fair match up?

Because Drew Mitchell and Adam Ashley-Cooper are in the form of their careers, according to former Wallaby Rod Kafer, combining peak physical fitness with maturity in their play. And while Mitchell admits Savea and Milner-Skudder – nominees for try of the year and breakthrough player of the year, respectively – can “make you look silly”, Kafer believes the Wallabies’ defensive structures and attitude are enough to limit their space.

“They won’t get that amount of space [they have found in other matches] against ,” Kafer said. “And the more pertinent question is can the Wallabies continue to dominate ruck ball? If we can do that we can dominate on the wings. One-on-one I’d probably back the All Blacks [wingers] to be fair, but that actually doesn’t matter because it’s a team game, not a one-on-one battle.”

The All Blacks wingers have attracted heavy hype for their individual skills throughout the tournament. Savea scored a hat-trick against France, while Milner-Skudder, already a star in Super Rugby, rose to prominence on the world stage. Their combination with replacement Beauden Barrett in the semi-final against South Africa gave New Zealand a lethal versatility.

“Beauden Barrett makes these left-footed kicks from just past halfway with 10 minutes to go … he brings a completely different element from the others,” Kafer said. “If you want all-out attack it’s Nehe Milner-Skudder, whereas Savea gives you wet weather capability and a player who can damage teams just with his physicality.”

Mitchell has pulled off a feat of his own this World Cup, managing to hold off a returning Rob Horne to retain his starting spot in the Wallabies’ knockout games. The Toulon winger left at the end of 2013 but had not played a Test that year. His form had not recovered from an ankle injury he suffered in 2011.

But any concerns the 31-year-old rode into the Wallabies set-up on friend and teammate Matt Giteau’s coat tails were put to bed with Mitchell’s wending cross-field run through six Argentina defenders to put Ashley-Cooper away for his third try last week.

“This is his best form since he broke his ankle and he was in great form then, leading Super Rugby for tackle busts and was scoring tries, and it’s probably taken him the four years to get back to that form,” Kafer said. “Now there’s that physicality he’s brought into his game, his defence has been excellent and by his own admission he’s come back and transformed himself into a cut-down leaner version.”

Ashley-Cooper has had plenty written about his class, longevity and versatility. He too, at the ripe old age of 31, appears to be running with added pace, showcasing it in his three-try effort against Argentina in the semi. But whether the 170-odd Test caps between them can outwit, if not outpace, their All Blacks rivals, remains to be seen.

“I would hope that I’m a more rounded player and with the experience that I’ve picked up on the way can find myself in positions that I probably wouldn’t have been able to when I was at that age,” Mitchell said.

“These guys [Savea and Milner-Skudder], as young as they are, still seem to find themselves in some pretty good positions. I don’t know the trade-off, perhaps we’re a little bit slower than these guys.

“We’re most certainly not as big as, well, one of them, and probably don’t have the footwork as the other, but we’d hope that we bring our own skill sets and one that benefits our side.” 

Travel tips and advice including Dubai-Abu Dhabi transport and a US road trip

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WE ARE VISITING FRIENDS IN ABU DHABI IN DECEMBER AND WOULD LIKE TO KNOW THE LEAST EXPENSIVE WAY TO GET FROM DUBAI AIRPORT TO THE CORNICHE IN ABU DHABI. WE WOULD ALSO LIKE TO GO TO A DESERT DINNER, DEPENDING ON THE COST. WOULD YOU RECOMMEND ONE FOR US IN ABU DHABI? A. AND M. JOBBINS. KURRI KURRI
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Your best option is to take the metro from Dubai’s International Airport to the Al Ghubaiba​ Metro station. This station is on the green line so you’ll need to change from the airport train, on the blue line, at Union Square. From Al Ghubaiba metro station make your way to the Al Ghubaiba Bus Station, just a couple of blocks away. Apart from a break between 1-5am buses depart from there for Abu Dhabi about every 20 minutes. The trip takes just over two hours, the buses are airconditioned and very comfortable, and keep in mind that the back seats are for men only. From the bus terminal in Abu Dhabi you should catch a taxi to your friends’ residence. The Evening Desert Safari and Dinner from Get Your Guide http://www.getyourguide上海龙凤论坛m gets good reviews. After a pick-up from your hotel about 3:30pm, you’ll be taken to a camel farm and out for a spot of four-wheel-drive dune bashing – hold on tight – before trying an Arab shisha, a water pipe, and sitting down for a barbecue dinner under the stars with live entertainment, and look inconspicuous or you might be invited onto the floor by the belly dancer. The price is $129 a person.

WE ARE VISITING OUR SON IN THE UK FOR CHRISTMAS AND CONTINUING ON TO EXPLORE AMSTERDAM, COLOGNE, MUNICH, NUREMBERG AND SALZBURG FOR TWO WEEKS. WHAT ARE THE MUST-SEE ATTRACTIONS IN THESE CITIES AND WHAT CLOTHES AND SHOES SHOULD WE TAKE? I HAVE NO IDEA HOW COLD IT MAY BE. S. GAVIN, CASTLE HILLS

Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, Cologne Cathedral, Schloss Nymphenburg​ and the Residenzmuseum​ in Munich, Kaiserburg​ Castle in Nuremburg and Hohensalzburg​ Castle in Salzburg all rate as highlights on your itinerary, but you can find plenty more wonderful advice on each of these cities if you go to the Traveller website (traveller上海龙凤论坛m.au) or the Lonely Planet website http://www.lonelyplanet上海龙凤论坛m/ and key in your destinations in the search box. You could also go to the national tourism websites for Germany, the Netherlands and Austria and find more of the same.

It’s going to be seriously cold, between minus 5 and 2 degrees in Salzburg and only slightly warmer in Amsterdam. Typically in northern Europe, you’ll be going from freezing temperatures outdoors to overheated interiors, frantically shucking off clothes in restaurants and shops. It makes sense therefore to dress in layers, with a bottom thermal layer, shirt and trousers, jumper or fleece and a coat or parka on top. Wool is my favourite but no matter how many clothes I take I’m always caught napping by how cold it is in Europe and I end up buying more. If this happens to you, January should be a great time to buy, with sales of winter gear and smart and desirable fashions that you won’t see back home.

WE SIX ADULTS INTEND TO DO A SIX-WEEK ROAD TRIP IN THE USA IN AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER. WE PLAN TO START ON THE WEST COAST AND WOULD LIKE TO END WITH A TRIP ON CANADA’S ROCKY MOUNTAINEER. WHERE POSSIBLE WE’D LIKE TO AVOID FREEWAYS AND LARGE CITIES, ANY SUGGESTIONS THAT WOULD GIVE US A GOOD RANGE OF SCENERY, NATIONAL PARKS AND PLACES OF CULTURAL INTEREST? DO WE NEED TO BOOK ACCOMMODATION WELL IN ADVANCE? D. MOFFATT, SAFETY BEACH

What a great adventure this is. I’d be using a book to plan this journey, the National Geographic Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways. This is the ideal guide for tailoring a trip through the US in the slow lane, with lots of photographs and maps that will help you plan a sensational journey through the American West. The book is available through Angus and Robertson’s online bookstore, http://www.angusrobertson上海龙凤论坛m.au,  priced at $45.99, with a delivery time of 1-2 weeks.

My own preference would be a wandering journey to take in the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone,  Grand Teton National Park, Zion National Park, Santa Fe and Bryce Canyon National Park.

August is going to be very busy and you can expect big crowds at the scenic spectaculars such as the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. September will be quieter, especially once the school holidays finish early in the month, but you need to book accommodation and vehicle hire as soon as possible. If you have any flexibility in your travel dates you might consider starting your journey at the end of August or early September to avoid the worst of the peak season.

On the Rocky Mountaineer, your most likely starting points are either Banff or Jasper, finishing in Vancouver. You’re likely to incur a heavy one-way charge for your hire vehicle if you pick it up in the US and return it in Canada but this might not be too much of a problem if you’re travelling aboard a single vehicle and the charge is shared between six. If not, what you might do is drop it at a city airport in one of the western US states and fly to Calgary, from where it’s just a short trip to Banff, which would be my preferred starting point for your journey aboard the Rocky Mountaineer.

CONVERSATION

OVER TO YOU…

The question was “Next question: There are a couple of websites that buy business class seats using frequent flyer points and sell them at a big discount. Ever been tempted, or better still, taken the plunge?”

A. Danilov writes, “I found a recommendation for one of these websites called Fly Business For Less, and I emailed them about a flight I wanted to take. I didn’t receive any reply for a week or two, then a message saying they’d had troubles with their site, and to re-send my request, which I did. After no further replies or suggestions for some weeks, I gave up and booked my economy flight. Now all I get is newsletter emails from them which don’t interest me in the slightest, so I’m less than impressed with them.”

From P. Carison, ‘I’ve been tempted but I’m cautious. I’ve heard that some airlines frown on the practice and what happens if they refuse to honour my ticket? Would the seller come to my rescue?”

N. Morrison writes “I’ve not purchased tickets from any of these operators but I’ve found plenty of negative reviews from people who have. Mainly the problem seems to be US airlines in particular refusing to honour tickets issued by these discount operators. My feeling is don’t touch them. If something looks to good to be true, it probably is, and these offers definitely fall into that category.”

Next question: What was your first overseas holiday, and does it still bring back special memories?

Send response to [email protected]上海龙凤论坛m.au. The best response will win a Lonely Planet guidebook.

SEND US YOUR TRAVEL QUESTIONS

Include your name and your suburb or town and send it to [email protected]上海龙凤论坛m.au. All published questions will win a Lonely Planet guidebook.

Rugby World Cup 2015: Talk is cheap for Wallabies captain Stephen Moore as he chases title

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Proud dad: n captain Stephen Moore kisses his son Theodore after his team’s 29-15 win over Argentina in their Rugby World Cup semi-final at Twickenham. Photo: Christophe Ena Humble approach: Drew Mitchell, Stephen Moore and Sekope Kepu make their way to training. Photo: Dan Mullan
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Natural leader: Stephen Moore. Photo: Dan Mullan

RWC Schedule: When is the Rugby World Cup final?Full coverage of the 2015 Rugby World Cup

LONDON: Stephen Moore knew when he took the Wallabies’ captaincy that it was time for action, not cheap talk or bold statements.

That’s why you won’t hear him crowing about their transformation from a rabble 12 months ago to World Cup finalists this week. The most respected voice in the n team says anyone caught looking at the past will be caught “standing still” as the Wallabies attempt to make their own history.

It’s a poignant declaration given Moore has been the Wallabies’ public voice of reason in recent years, who has stood tall at controversial moments to uphold standards in the Test ranks. But it’s what goes unsaid now that defines Moore’s leadership and has made him one of the strongest captains in recent times.

“We’ve tried to stress that it’s not about talk through this whole year,” Moore said. “It’s not as though we woke up yesterday and said we don’t want to be talking, we want to do it. That’s really part of what we want to be about. I’ve always been aware of the importance of actions. There’s no magic or secrets. It’s just being honest with each other and working towards the same philosophy.”

The Wallabies have a diverse mix of players from, as coach Michael Cheika put it this week, “jokers, lovers and fighters”. Moore falls somewhere in the middle as the serious captain, but that doesn’t mean he’s not bursting with excitement.

It might be hard to see through the steely exterior of a driven man, but Moore knows the Wallabies have a chance to create history by becoming the first country to win the World Cup three times. “I am excited. It’s a dream to get this opportunity. A lot of work goes into getting to this position,” Moore said. “But the minute that you’re looking back at that, you’re standing still a little bit. I’m not allowing myself to do that this week, keeping my head down and trying to get better.

“As a player, there’s a clear road map for how we go about it.”

Few people gave the Wallabies’ hope of being in the World Cup final after the drama of the past three years. They’re on to their third coach since July 2013 and have churned through more than 70 players to try to find the right mix.

Moore says the job’s not done and they’re determined to lift the Webb Ellis Cup and put the past to bed.

Robbie Deans’ time in charge was dogged by off-field grumblings in the playing group and Quade Cooper’s infamous “toxic” environment tweet. Ewen McKenzie took over but his downfall was swift last year when a text-message drama emerged. That brought Cheika and Moore together as the Wallabies leading voices and it has paid dividends.

Asked how he wanted to be defined as a captain, Moore said: “I don’t have stuff stuck on my fridge or anything like that. I don’t have any real grand plans or long-term visions. I’ve been looking short term to every day, week or game and dealing with it all in the moment.

“This week’s the same. No matter what the hype is, it’s a game. And my job as a leader is prepare them to be their best for 80 minutes. That’s what it will take.”

Moore made his Super Rugby debut in 2003 and played his first Test in 2005. He became just the seventh Wallaby to reach a Test century in the World Cup-final two weeks ago.

But despite his decorated career, Moore has played in just one grand final in the past 13 years. “The attention around a World Cup final is unavoidable. It’s a bigger stage. But you’ve got to park that to one side and make sure you’re not leaving anything to chance.” 

Rugby World Cup 2015: Bernard Foley wants to inspire new generation of Wallabies

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Key player: Bernard Foley. Photo: Stuart WalmsleyRWC Schedule: When is the Rugby World Cup final?Full coverage of the 2015 Rugby World Cup
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LONDON: Bernard Foley got up in the middle of the night 16 years ago to watch the Wallabies win the World Cup and spark the inspiration for his rugby career.

He remembers the tired eyes, the late nights and the moment John Eales lifted the Webb Ellis Cup after the Wallabies beat France in the final. Now he wants to give the same memories to a new generation as he chases his own slice of World Cup history in a blockbuster final against New Zealand.

Fans in will have to wake up at 3am on Sunday to see the Wallabies go for glory against the defending champion All Blacks. That has not been lost in the World Cup bubble, with players making a point to acknowledge the supporter base back home.

“I think this will be the highlight of my rugby career,” Foley said. “It’s something I’ll look back on and as a kid when I was growing up during that 1999 World Cup, I was really inspired by the Wallabies. I got up in the middle of the night to watch those games. For me, it’s replicating that and hopefully I can inspire 12 year olds to get up, get them excited to watch the Wallabies and be passionate.”

The battered and bruised Wallabies are rising again for their moment to shine in the World Cup spotlight. New Zealand are favourites to take the title and farewell greats Richie McCaw and Dan Carter with a perfect Test send off.

But the Wallabies want to spoil the party, and while has struggled in Bledisloe Cup matches for more than a decade, there’s a contingent of players who know what it’s like to spoil a Kiwi party.

The NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds beat McCaw and Carter’s Canterbury Crusaders in the 2014 and 2011 Super Rugby finals respectively.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was in charge of the Waratahs when Foley booted a last-minute penalty to break Crusaders hearts last year. “You can draw on those big games for sure and it’s great to win those, but you can’t really compare that to this week or the momentum,” Foley said. “What we’ve done as a side here has been great, we’ve really enjoyed it and what we’re trying to do is be really proud to go out there and put on a display for all the ns getting up in the middle of the night, the ones making a late dash here or the expats that are here already. I don’t think you can compare the two games, [but] you can take confidence that you’ve been in those games before but this is a new magnitude.”

Foley said the Wallabies were “battle ready” after a road to the final which has included wins against England, Wales, Scotland and Argentina. Most of those games have gone down to the dying minutes, with the exception of a Foley-inspired 20-point drubbing of England.

In contrast the All Blacks cruised through their group stages with easy wins against Georgia, Namibia and Tonga before belting France in the quarter-final. “As a side we’ve always had a great belief in our preparation and groundwork … putting that in place during games, the belief definitely grows,” Foley said. “We can draw on those challenges and times we’ve had in games when we start to face it again on Saturday. You can’t count on past wins or losses to help you.”

Foley joked that Wallabies attack coach Stephen Larkham had been showing replays of his 1999 semi-final winning drop-goal, as well as highlights from a 102-Test career, in team meetings. Sixteen years ago then Wallabies assistant coach Tim Lane pulled Larkham aside before extra-time and told him to take a drop goal attempt if the opportunity came up.

The result was a kick etched in history and the moment that spurred the Wallabies to World Cup glory.

Foley has scored 75 points in his five World Cup games and it’s not lost on him that his kicking moment could come against the All Blacks.

“[Larkham] hasn’t spoken about that in depth. It just comes down to the context of the game and as a playing unit out on the field, we will talk about it,” he said. “If the time is right to hit a field goal, we will take that opportunity.” 

The APS’s ‘gap in capability’

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Digital Transformation Office chief executive Paul Shetler wants better design and delivery in online services. Photo: Christopher PearceMore public service news
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Public servants feel under-equipped to meet the challenge of the digital reforms about to sweep through the bureaucracy, according to the n Public Service Commission’s State of the Service report.

About a third of staff said they had not received training, while 28 per cent were learning on an ad-hoc basis as they did their job.

A quarter already had the skills needed for their job and 15 per cent were receiving formal digital skills training.

Digital Transformation Office chief executive Paul Shetler, whose agency will help agencies make digital reforms, said the survey identified a clear gap in capability.

The results showed only parts of some agencies were digitally capable while others had not developed capability.

“The need for comprehensive digital planning across the APS and the need to ensure digital strategies are integrated with broader agency strategic planning,” Mr Shetler said.

“What’s been lacking until recently has been a clear mandate for the way forward, a road map for the steps to take, and strong government support for the – sometimes small, sometimes radical – changes that need to be made.”

He said his office would play a major role in providing the road map.

Agencies have been working on “digital transformation plans” and putting together project teams to change the way they dealt with the public online.

“We’ll be working to increase our digital knowledge and capabilities right across the service,” Mr Shetler said.

“Digital transformation doesn’t need to be huge and overwhelming.

“Yes, some of us are dealing with services that cost millions of dollars and affect huge numbers of people.

“But we don’t need to change the world overnight.”

The survey found nearly two-thirds of federal public servants used their agency’s suite of digital technologies for carrying out tasks and interacting with colleagues.

Eighty-three percent believed digital technologies gave them greater access to information.

You’ll often hear me say, think big, start small. Part of our approach is picking out small parts of those large, complex services; getting an improved basic version out very quickly; then making incremental changes that can be tested, improved and gradually scaled-up.

Wallabies hope NFL-style restart gives them the edge

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LONDON: It’s the gridiron-style tactic from Michael Cheika’s bag of tricks that has got the World Cup talking and it looms as a Wallabies weapon for the final.

The Wallabies will use their kick-off set-up against New Zealand in the World Cup final to ensure they are in the right mental frame for the trans-Tasman contest. The men in gold have mastered Cheika’s innovative restart, more familiar with the NFL than rugby union, to better challenge for possession at every opportunity.

That means lining up 10 metres behind halfway and hitting full speed by the time five-eighth Bernard Foley launches the ball into the air. Cheika used the same move at the NSW Waratahs to instil a new mentality from kick-offs, and winger Drew Mitchell said it was the “trigger” to be ready for action.

Instead of ambling down the field, wingers Mitchell and Adam Ashley-Cooper fly through the pack and attempt to leap above opposition players to pinch the ball, or at least put on extra pressure. “It’s one of those things where it can become a real tool,” Mitchell said.

“If you can put pressure on the receipt, or the kicker or wherever it may be then you may get a better outcome. For us it’s more of a trigger of a mindset thing than anything. If we’re starting on the 10-metre line and we don’t put in a hard chase then we’re even further off. It’s a good way for us to trigger the mind and say, ‘OK, we’re on here’ … really show our intent.”

There’s a method behind Cheika’s madness. He introduced the kick-off technique to the Wallabies when he took over the top job last year and said: “It’s symbolic, we’re prepared to run 10 metres to gain 20 centimetres at the other end if that’s what it takes.”

New Zealand kicker Dan Carter is an expert at giving his teammates plenty of time to chase through the kick-off and win back possession. It’s an area of the game that can often be neglected. But Wallabies five-eighth Foley said had poured hours of work into their restarts to make them a weapon instead of simply handing the opposition the ball.

“Those kicks we have worked on to maximise hang time and make them land where we want them to, and on players we think are maybe vulnerable,” Foley said. “We have a whole calling structure where we identify where the best place is to kick, and where [opponents] may be uneasy kicking out of. That’s a good mentality for us to be able to try and put them under pressure.” 

Why Sam Burgess is poised to return to South Sydney Rabbitohs

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Peter Dutton casts doubt on Russell Packer’s NRL return
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South Sydney’s fall from grace this season may be the catalyst for Sam Burgess’ expected return, with the English dual international motivated by the challenge of helping the Rabbitohs win another premiership.

After being given time off by Bath coach Mike Ford to consider his playing future, Burgess could finalise a switch back from rugby union to the NRL before his scheduled return to training next Monday and officials from England’s Rugby Football League are believed to be helping with the move.

With Burgess wanting to re-join brothers George and Thomas at Souths and money no real problem for a club in which James Packer and Russell Crowe are owners, the only obstacle to him returning is a release from the remaining two years of his contract with Bath.

Ford is believed to be keen for Burgess to stay and continue his development in the forwards but few clubs will stand in the way of a player who wants to be elsewhere – especially when they could earn up to $1 million compensation, which is the amount Bath reportedly paid the Rabbitohs last year to release Burgess.

The NRL has confirmed that any transfer fee Souths pay Bath will not be included in their salary cap, nor will Burgess become the first player to benefit from the governing body’s ability to centrally contract stars it wants playing in the competition.

As a value will be placed on Burgess by the NRL, the Rabbitohs will have to make some adjustments to their 2016 roster to accommodate him but the departure of star hooker Issac Luke to the Warriors and Glenn Stewart to Catalans means the salary cap won’t pose a significant problem for the club.

Stewart was signed from Manly as a replacement for Burgess but failed to provide the same impact as the 26-year-old, who inspired Souths to their first premiership in 43 years after playing the 2014 grand final with a fractured eye-socket suffered in the opening tackle.

Had the Rabbitohs won back-to-back premierships, it is less likely that Burgess would want to return so soon but after they slumped to seventh place this season he has a desire to take the club back to the pinnacle he helped it reach last year.

The decision of twins, George and Thomas, to extend their contracts with Souths until the end of the 2018 season was viewed as an indication that Sam would return to the club at some stage in the next three years. But Fairfax Media has been told that moves for that to happen immediately hit a wall last week after Bath stood firm in their refusal to release him.

However, Burgess’ future was thrust into the spotlight when he attended last weekend’s league Test between England and France as a special guest of the RFL at the same time Bath were playing Wasps in Coventry. He was photographed sitting alongside England coach Steve McNamara during the record 84-4 win at Leigh Sports Village.

Burgess and his n fiancee Phoebe Hooke were in the same corporate box as RFL chief executive Nigel Wood and sources say they discussed with him and other high-ranking officials his wish to return to the NRL after a frustrating 12-month stint in rugby union, in which he was continually subjected to heavy criticism over his transition to the code as a centre.

With doubt surrounding the future of England coach Stuart Lancaster and backs coach Andy Farrell, who had convinced him to make the switch after the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, Burgess may be without the support of his two most powerful backers at international level next season.

Besides George and Thomas, Burgess’ elder brother Luke and mother Julie also live in Sydney, as does Hooke’s family.

Burgess would be a certain selection for England in next year’s Four Nations and while a stint with Super League premiers Leeds has been ruled out, RFL officials believe his return to league would significantly boost the chances of McNamara’s men winning the World Cup in the following season.

McNamara, who turned down a role as an assistant to Ford at Bath after the 2013 RLWC to join the coaching staff at Sydney Roosters, has a close relationship with Burgess after giving him his Super League debut as a 17-year-old with Bradford in 2006.

However, there is little chance of Burgess joining the Roosters or any other club as a clause in his deed of release from Souths gives the Rabbitohs first option on his services if returned to the NRL.

Gambling credit still available to punters despite Coalition pledge to ban it

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Bookies are still able to offer credit to punters, despite a Coalition pledge to ban it. Photo: Erin JonassonOnline bookmakers are still offering thousands of dollars in credit to punters more than two years after the federal Coalition promised to ban the practice because it was contrary to responsible gambling.
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The August 2013 “Coalition’s Plan to Help Problem Gamblers” policy said responsible gambling was “all about people gambling within their means”.

“Extending lines of credit to gamblers runs contrary to this principle and the Coalition will legislate to prohibit the practice,” the policy stated.

Victorian Liberal MP Alan Tudge​, now an Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Social Services, championed the cause of banning credit betting after a constituent racked up an $80,000 debt with online bookie Sportsbet.

The Wantirna man said he had been lured to the bookmaker by free bets. Sportsbet took him to court to recoup the debt but a settlement was made out of court.

It is illegal in many states, including Victoria, for bookmakers to offer credit to punters but most online gambling companies are registered in the Northern Territory where such a ban does not exist so Victorian punters can still get credit.

Bookmakers can offer credit to a punter to keep betting when they have exhausted funds.

Before the September leadership spill, the federal government announced a review of online gambling laws, to be chaired by former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell.  The focus of the review was on illegal offshore bookmakers.

Mr Tudge told Fairfax Media that banning credit betting would be informed by Mr O’Farrell’s review.

“As a basic protective measure, you cannot get credit at a casino, and nor should you in the online space. It is too much of a conflict of interest for a gambling provider to also be a bank. It can lead to devastating consequences,” Mr Tudge said.

The peak body for financial counsellors in August called for urgent action to be taken against online corporate bookmakers.

“The most appropriate, and the strongest reform, would be to prohibit credit for gambling purposes,” the report said.

The Financial Counselling report Duds, Mugs and the A List, said without a ban government should change credit laws to include sports betting groups.

The n Wagering Council says it understands community concern around credit – what the industry refers to as “deferred settlement facilities” – but said the industry was already highly regulated.

“Any future policies developed to regulate the wagering industry must be evidence-based,” a spokesman said.

The council said that credit should not be offered to punters on an unsolicited basis.

Earlier this month the NT government set up a new code of practice for credit as condition of a bookmaker’s licence. It includes rules that credit can only be sought by the punter, not offered by the bookie.

Credit betting is not the only unfulfilled Coalition problem gambling election pledge.

In a move that enraged gambling reformers the Coalition promised to set up an advisory council made up of representatives from the clubs lobby to meet quarterly with the responsible minister to develop a detailed plan for the roll-out of appropriately targeted counselling and support services.

The states and territories would also be engaged to work on a self-exclusion process, where punters can have themselves banned from pokies venues.

The government is still considering establishing the advisory council and the Victorian government says it has had little correspondence with Canberra on other measures to curtail problem gambling. 

The Turnbull government says the O’Farrell review will investigate the effectiveness of existing protection measures for gamblers, including warnings, information resources and public information campaigns.

The Coalition did quickly fulfil its promise to stop the trial of a mandatory scheme in the ACT which forced gamblers to preset how much they were willing to lose on the pokies before playing.

Instead it pledged to support a national system where punters could opt to preset a limit if they wanted to – the policy said it would talk to the industry on how best to introduce a venue-based system of precommitment.

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